YAMAS AND NIYAMAS – 03.03.15 (Svadhyaya – Self Study)

We enter into the month of March continuing our study of the Yamas and Niyamas.  Svadhyaya, or self-study, asks us to look inside.  Self-reflection and self-study can be difficult to swallow.  We may find ourselves drifting back into the past and filled with regrets spiraling down into depression.  We may find ourselves looking to far forward into the future and becoming filled with anticipation that takes off into anxiety.  So let’s take a look inside our box …

The analogy of a box allows us the safety of the interior and the unknown of the exterior.  Our physical bodies are represented by the box.  My physical body has many forms.  I am a hockey player.  I am a guitar player.  I am a teacher.  I am a triathlete.  I am a friend.  And I have so many more roles in life.  Our bodies are quite sturdy and capable of withstanding a decent amount of what life can throw at it.  Our box may be kicked, punched, yelled at, screamed at, defaced or covered with graffiti.  The world can see the damage done to the exterior.  The world cannot see our interior.

The safety of the interior can initially seem like a prison.  I am guilty of becoming trapped in my own thoughts and becoming stagnant in my life.  It was not until I became comfortable with what was on the interior of my box that I began to smile more, give more and love more.  As we look deeper into our box, a place where no one but ourselves can dwell, we must become comfortable with what we find.  Do we love ourselves?  Even when the world attempts to destroy us, what beauty is inside the box?

No one will ever truly see the inside of our box.  A family member, friend, loved one, spouse … we will share some of what is inside, but the lid will never be fully open.  We are the only person with knowledge of its contents.  As we take a moment to look in our box, do the contents make us smile?  make us laugh?  make us fall in love with ourselves?

Svadhyaya – Self Study

Svadhyaya, or self-study, is about knowing our true identity as Divine and understanding the boxes we are wrapped in.  This process of knowing ourselves, and the boxes that adorn us, creates a pathway to freedom.

The yogis teach that we, as human beings, are packaged much like this diamond ring.  We are, at the core, divine consciousness.  Around this pure consciousness, we are packed in “boxes” of our experience, our conditioning, and our belief systems.  These boxes are things like how we identify ourselves, what we believe to be true, our preferences and dislikes, our fears and imagination.  All of these boxes are informed by country, culture, gender, town, ancestors and family history, groups we belong to, and our personal experience.

We suffer, the yogis tell us, because we forget who we are.  We think we are the boxes we are wrapped in and forget that we are really the Divine “holding” inside.  We can find clues about our boxes by watching our projections, by the process of tracing our reactions back to a belief, and by courageously looking at life as it is.  This process of knowing ourselves, and the boxes that adorn us, creates a pathway to freedom.

Book – “The Yamas and Niyamas” by Deborah Adele

PERFORMANCE YOGA – 03.02.15 (Body Language – Part 2)

Take a moment to check out these body language statistics.  Pretty cool.  http://publicwords.com/the-body-language-infographic/

There is a motto that states, “fake it ’til you make it.”  It is an interesting motto.  There are a number of us that live by this motto.  I’ll dare to ask … why?  Life isn’t easy.  I agree.  I’ll dare to ask … when was the last time we smiled?  Something that made me smile today was this …

IMG_20150303_111554419_HDR

I’m extremely blessed to be a middle grades educator (in my twelfth year) by day and a Yoga instructor by night.  Are middle schoolers perfect every day?  Nope.  Do they make me laugh, get frustrated, cry, get upset, and get out of my comfort zone?  Yep.  My scholars see me every day.  They see my body language.  If I come into class without a smile, then they know something is wrong.  Their day may be negatively affected by my mood.  I may truly be having a bad start to my day, but the present moment is an amazing place.  In the moment that they enter our classroom, we transform from individuals into a family.  We bring all of us to the room, but we respect that the moments we have together.  So we smile … a lot :).  Not because we are faking it, but because we find the beauty in our moments together.  Isn’t that a beautiful moment above?  #fishface

My point in sharing them with you is that we all have jobs that are hard.  We might have a frustrating boss, a co-worker that can push our buttons to the point of tears, or that person or team that always seems to know how to defeat us.  Do we “fake it ’til we make it” or do we choose our BEST?
1.  https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-body-blog/201411/don-t-fake-it-until-you-make-it-7-zen-habits
2.  http://www.inc.com/christina-desmarais/why-fake-it-til-you-make-it-bad-advice.html
3.  http://darrenhardy.success.com/2014/08/dont-fake-it/

We can challenge ourselves to change the motto.  Perhaps we can roll with “love it ’til we make it.”  Each moment affords us a chance to create so many sweet life pictures.  Our next training session allows us to fall back in love with our sport or hobby.  It gives us that moment to remember why we truly love what we spend hours and hours upon.  We were only able to capture one brief moment above.  Let’s take this brief moment to smile, show our BEST and display the amazing person that we are.  Our body language says more about us than our words can ever say.

Body Language – Make a Golden Impression (Part 2)

1.  Just smile, you’ll feel better.  Findings from a 1988 research study by psychologist Fritz Strack and his colleagues revealed that simply creating a smile by clenching a pen lightly between the teeth will almost immediately make people feel happier about what it is they are doing.  So keep this discovery in mind when you need a quick boost in mood.  Put a big confident smile on your face!

2.  Always give your BEST.  Psychologist John Clabby has coined a handy acronym for giving one’s BEST – “Body Language, Eye Contact, Speech, and Tone of Voice.”  Working on them at practices will make them automatic in competition.

3.  Dress for Success.  Wear your uniform with pride.  Deion Sanders excelled at the highest level in both football and baseball.  “If you look good, you feel good.  And if you feel good, you play good.  If you play good, they pay good.”

Techniques to build your mental strength in practices and games include utilizing the BEST routine, valuing your appearance, and putting on a smile to push you past your perceived physical limitations.

BOOK – “The Champion’s Mind:  How Great Athletes think, train and thrive.” by Jim Afremow  (BUY IT!)

YAMAS AND NIYAMAS – 02.24.15 (Tapas – The Control Burn)

Farmers use the concept of a “control burn” or “agricultural burn” to clear their fields of material that is no longer needed.  Growth has occurred and the crop has been since taken away.  What is left no longer serves a purpose and it must be removed to make way for new growth.  The removal of the waste material is the foundation for new growth.  Fire provides that transition.  In the presence of the fire, the organic material releases energy from the burn and cycles through the Earth.  In the wake of the destruction, new life grows and the waste has been the foundation!  

http://www.kinston.com/news/local/controlled-burning-prepares-ground-for-season-s-crops-1.160681

In the article, there is a quote that stands out.  “The only thing the farmers have to be really careful of is making sure that the fire doesn’t hop over that fire break and get into nearby surrounding woods,” Adams said. “On rare occasions, that does happen.”  The fire itself is all consuming and some of us are just not ready for the transformation.  Transformation cannot be forced upon us.  Maturity through Tapas happens when we are ready to let go.  I ran and ran from Tapas for a majority of my life because of the fear of what I would lose in the fire.  We all hold something with a tight grip because of fear.  A memory, a possible future, a person, an object … and we are driven by fear to not let go and possibly miss the experience of what may rise from its burning.

When we enter into Tapas, we are entering a field that is on fire.  We may not be aware of what that fire will consume about us, but we rest assured that we will be changed for the positive.  This doesn’t occur magically once in our lives, but becomes a routine.  As farmers practice this annually, what can the practice of Tapas grow in us each present moment?

Tapas – The Control Burn

Somewhere we forget that we had to learn how to walk, like young birds had to learn to fly.  We forget how many times we fell.  We forget that things take practice.  Ray Charles was asked later on in his career if he still practiced and prepared for concerts.  He replied that he played scales everyday, because when the scales were in his fingers, he could play anything.  The question becomes for us, what are we practicing for?  When is the last time we asked ourselves this question?

In yoga, having a daily disciplined practice is referred to as Sadhana and is much like doing a small controlled burn on ourselves.  It is the discipline of putting ourselves in places where the old debris that has collected in us can be removed.  We engaged in this process when we pay attention to the amount and kind of food we put in our body, when we move and exercise our bodies through walks, yoga, and other activities, or when we expand our mental ability.

Lord make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
– St. Francis of Assisi

This is a profound plea to change us from haters to lovers and from disturbers of peace to makers of peace.  This is the prayer of Tapas, and it invites us to be in life in a different way.

Book – “The Yamas and Niyamas” by Deborah Adele

PERFORMANCE YOGA – 02.23.15 (Body Language – Part 1)

A key topic in the business world is a term called “power pose.”  It’s all about body language.  It’s all about the persona you project.

The TED Talk above does a great job of explaining the detail to which body language has been studied.  And it has been researched to quite a deep level.  The speaker explains how these postures can truly change our body chemistry.  It is incredible to see (literally) how our physical posture can either aid or damage our body.

1.  Increase in Testosterone – http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/benefits-testosterone (Benefits of Testosterone)
2.  Decrease in Cortisol – http://www.adrenalfatigue.org/cortisol-adrenal-function (Dangers of Sustained High Levels of Cortisol)
3.  Study Proving Data – http://www.people.hbs.edu/acuddy/in%20press,%20carney,%20cuddy,%20&%20yap,%20psych%20science.pdf

Tonight in class we took the time to hold postures a little longer than we typically do.  We were very powerful.  Airplane, Warrior 2, Side Angle and Reverse Warrior asked us to be strong, open and powerful.  Why did we do this?  Because we knew the benefits, internally and externally, that our bodies would absolutely thrive on.

Western culture asks us to hunch over our computers, curl in to look at our phones, and slouch down in our couches.  I’m guilty of all of these (even as I sit here typing this).  Am I saying that we should refrain from all?  No.  “Everything in moderation, including moderation” is the popular phrase from Oscar Wilde.  So let’s hunch over our computers in moderation, curl in to look at our phones in moderation, and slouch down in our couches in moderation.  With amazing benefits of increased testosterone and decreased cortisol, how will we let the world see us?  

Pregame is always an interesting time in a sporting event.  Players and coaches usually do the “eye test.”  They watch one another closely for information.  Incredible to think that posturing prior to games isn’t “show-boating” … there’s science here that proves that it has profound positive effects.  So it’s fourth and goal … game is tied and you have one free throw left … penalty shot is called and the goalie looks on … what will we show the world?  Show power!  Nothing can beat us … no matter what!

Body Language – Make a Golden Impression (Part 1)

Body language is a two-way process:  Your own body language reveals your thoughts and feelings to others; and other people’s body language reveals their thoughts and feelings to you.

On game day, what is your body language saying?  What image do you want to project?

Positive/Upbeat Body Language – Smiling, Chin up, Shoulders back/Chest out, Standing tall, Walking strong.

Negative/Glum Body Language – Frowning, Shaking your head, Eyes downcast, Shoulders hunched, Dragging your feet.

When you are gassed at practice, stand tall and walk strong.

Your body language will send the right message to the opposition:  You can’t be mentally beaten or fazed – no matter what happens.

BOOK – “The Champion’s Mind:  How Great Athletes think, train and thrive.” by Jim Afremow  (BUY IT!)

TRAUMA RELEASE PROCESS – 02.19.15 (When Life Turns Up the Heat)

Stress and anxiety can cause us to miss out on so much in our lives.  One dwells in the past while the other makes us fearful of the future.  It appears like a never-ending battle attacking us from both sides.  Both are overwhelming, both slowly destroy our physical body, both cause our mental body to distort fiction and nonfiction and both are capable of being lessened by focusing on something.  The something is …

NOW!  🙂  Okay, that was a little too enthusiastic for 6:50am … but it is exciting!  The Now provides us an opportunity to ask a question.  Why are we here?  This isn’t a call to discuss our reasons for humanity on Earth, but rather an opportunity for us to look at our lives as they are … now.  Here asks us to look at the present moment and not stray back into the past or too far into the future.  The focus on the past can bring stress (even from positive memories) and the future can bring anxiety (again, even from pleasurable thoughts).  Both of which have negative effects on us.  Living for the moment and consistently asking ourselves, “why am I here?”

It could be as simple as … “I’m here to do the best dang job of cleaning this dishes in the history of now.”  Yeah, a bit of a stretch, but think about it.  No comparison to the past and no thinking about doing the dishes for the millionth time.  Alleviate stress.  Alleviate anxiety.

It could be as complicated as … “I’m here because I am making a difference in the lives of others right now.”  The difference could be as a parent, as a friend, as a concerned stranger … the possibilities are limitless.  

So … why are you here? 🙂

When Life Turns Up the Heat

Stress and anxiety are not the same, although they are close companions and often trigger each other.

1.  Stress comes from the feeling that a certain set of circumstances should not be happening.

When we believe something in our life shouldn’t be the way it is, we go into a mindset of resistance.  We mentally oppose what’s happening.  This is the feeling we identify as stress.  Something has come up, and we want to get it over with, get past it, get it out of the way.  In other words, we are in flight from the way our life is right now.

2.  Anxiety stems from from the feeling that something should be happening that clearly isn’t.

When we believe something ought to be happening, we yearn for it, ache for it, often to the point that our longing eclipses our ability to enjoy what’s presently happening in our lives.  Longing for something that isn’t happening causes us to be dissatisfied with our life as it is right now.  The effect upon our mental wellbeing and our health is the same as that of stress.

In both stress and anxiety, our inner experience is that we want to be somewhere other than where we are.

BOOK – “The Revolutionary Trauma Release Process” by David Berceli (BUY IT!)

PERFORMANCE YOGA – 02.09.15 (ANXIETY MANAGEMENT – Part 2)

I’m an analytical person.  I know for some folks this is hard to believe.  I like checklists, to-do lists, procedures, the volume to be at an even number, my clothes organized by the color spectrum and to have my cleaning supplies organized by brand name.  Yep.

There are discussions among Yoga instructors that want classes to be organic and create themselves from the moment.  There are other schools of thought that look to research and preparation along with reviewing notes while teaching.  Athletes do the same.  Some will state how practice is a waste of time and that you grow in the heat of competition.  There are others that work religiously to perfect their skills in practice to bring them to fruition in game time.  I believe there is a place for both … and I have taught and competed from both.  For me, I type all of my class flows so that I can carve them up with feedback from participants and self-reflective words.  I like being prepared.

The reason I do this is because I deal with anxiety after I do things.  Most people enter into an event being anxious and nervous.  I end a lot of classes and tennis matches, hockey games, and races with “what if”s and “should have”s.  Anxiety management is important to me so that I do not end such a great experience (win or lose) with negative self-talk.  My love of checklists loves the content below.  Eight different strategies to help deal with anxiety.  Read, use and have fun!

Anxiety Management:  Go from Panicky to Pumped! (Part 2)

1.  Be well prepared.  Nothing helps build confidence more than knowing that you are ready for the challenge at hand.

2.  Nerves are natural.  No matter how calm your opponents may appear, they are likely experiencing the same level of anxiety – or more so – than you are.

3.  Ally with the anxiety.  Tell yourself, “My body is preparing itself to perform,” and “I’ve done well before, and I can do it again now.”

4.  Breathe evenly and deeply.  Good breathing reduces anxiety by clearing your mind of fog and by reducing physical tension.

5.  Get creative and use your imagination.  Understand that you are bigger and more powerful than this anxious feeling.

6.  Stay in the here and now.  Monitor negative “futurizing” and worrisome thoughts about winning or losing.

7.  Stay on a positive thought channel.  Flip the switch from negative to positive self-talk when you are emotionally spiraling down.

8.  Take yourself lightly.  Always remember that sport is what you do and not who you are.  Smile.  Laugh.  Have a good time.  Ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that can really happen?”  If the worst does happen, ask, “What can I do to cope?”

Remember that FEAR means to “Face Everything and Respond.”  To perform at a champion’s level, let the butterflies fly in formation!

BOOK – “The Champion’s Mind:  How Great Athletes think, train and thrive.” by Jim Afremow  (BUY IT!)

TRAUMA RELEASE PROCESS – 02.05.15 (A Really Different Approach)

I recently saw the movie “Big Hero Six” and was really amazed by the main themes of dealing with the trauma of loss and the ability to look at life from a different view.  If you haven’t had a moment to see it, then I strongly suggest that you do :).  We all need to smile and feel.

And the long-haired character that shouts out “We’re being attacked by a Super Villain people!” … yeah, his name is Fred! 🙂

What I am getting at is that we all deal with loss and hardship, but will we choose to react in anger and rage or will we reach out in love?  The main character and the villain in the movie both suffer loss.  Each reacts in a very interesting way that is easy.  Hate is easy.  Revenge is easy.  We want back what someone took from us.  We have to question … did what was lost truly belong to us?  How many will we hurt in the wake of our hate and revenge?  Will we run away or stay and face ourselves?  The movie asks these questions  and asks us to “take a different approach.”  

In class last week, we looked at four significant individuals in world history and how they took a different approach.  How can we look at our lives in this present moment from a different perspective?

** Oh yeah … and friends are awesome! 🙂

A Really Different Approach

I realized that the way they dealt with their truly tough times was different from the way many of us handle such times.  These people actually plunged into their most trying experiences, exploring the depths of what had befallen them, feeling the pain of their situation in its immensity, and staying with the difficult time they were going through instead of running from it.

1.  Mahatma Ghandi.  How did this profound insight come out of such intense suffering?  How did imprisonment produce a message that invited humans to rise to a new level of consciousness?

2.  Martin Luther King, Jr.  How did these two simple yet powerful words (“civil disobedience”) – words that were to change the consciousness of a nation – arise from such suffering?

3.  Mother Teresa.  Why would she embrace such a difficult lifestyle?  Of what benefit was this to her?  What did she expect to receive from such sacrifice?

4.  Nelson Mandela.  Why didn’t he leave prison bitter, angry, and even more in conflict with the government of his nation than when he was first incarcerated?

But I have become convinced that, in our avoidance, denial, and fear, we push away the very experiences that seek to stimulate the evolution of our consciousness.  In fact, we deny ourselves the opportunity to become the person we yearn to be and are ultimately destined to become.

BOOK – “The Revolutionary Trauma Release Process” by David Berceli (BUY IT!)

YAMAS AND NIYAMAS – 02.03.15 (Tapas – Self Discipline)

The social and personal ethics of Yoga, the Yamas and Niyamas, allow us observe how we treat ourselves and those we interact with.  If I could have a favorite, then it would be Tapas.  I have gone through my life playing competitive sports and the concept of “burning” is not new to me.  In my adult life, I have continued with the several athletic hobbies that I have listed before.  I am in love with the “burning” sensation that I feel in my muscles from a long bike ride, the third period of a hockey game, and the final set of a tennis match.  Love it!

Where I had to look at Tapas from a different perspective was in regards to my habits.  Stress is a funny thing.  Sometimes we tend to live with it for no apparent reason.  We hold on to thoughts and feelings that are either rooted in the past or present.  When we do that, it affects our physical bodies.  Not cool.  

So I have a choice … continue to damage my physical body staying lost in the past and possible future I may manifest or use the “burning” to remove those choices and habits to become active in the present moment.  Which will we choose this moment?

**  Side note … anyone got any good soup recipes? 🙂  Tapas always makes me hungry for some reason too.

Tapas – Self Discipline

Tapas literally means “heat,” and can be translated as catharsis, austerities, self-discipline, spiritual effort, change tolerance, or transformation.  Tapas has the sense of “cooking” ourselves in the fire of discipline to transform ourselves in the fire of discipline to transform ourselves into something else.  It is our determined effort to become someone of character and strength.  Much like cooking an egg denatures the egg, changing it into a different structure, Tapas eventually changes our nature, turning us into a cauldron that can withstand any of life’s challenges.  Tapas is the day to day choice to burn non-supportive habits of the body and mind, choosing to forsake momentary pleasures for future rewards.

There is a bumper sticker which states, “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” We can chuckle all we want, but there is great truth to this statement.  Tapas can take us to the place where all of our resources are used up, where there is nothing left but weakness, where all of our so-called “props” have been taken away.  It is in this barren place, where we have exhausted all that we have and all that we are, that new strength is shaped and character is born if we choose to fearlessly open ourselves to the experience.  It is perhaps the greatest gift life could offer us.

Book – “The Yamas and Niyamas” by Deborah Adele

PERFORMANCE YOGA – 02.02.15 (Anxiety Management)

Anxiety isn’t a bad thing.  It means that we care.  We’re worried that the goals that we’ve set for ourselves and the moments that come up in our lives.  Our humanity is defined by our ability to have compassion for others and ourselves.  So we’re normal (or whatever our own definition of that word is, ha!).

As a middle school math/science teacher for the past twelve years, I have witnessed countless forms of anxiety … test anxiety, athletic performance anxiety and social anxiety.  I’ve watched numerous young adults attempt to learn how to deal with anxiety.  I’ve seen anxiety turn to anger, panic and frustration.  All they want to do is their best.  They’re normal (or whatever is normal for a middle schooler, ha!).

Anxiety can drive us insane, but it can also drive us to peak performance levels.  Will we accept the moment and let go of a future that doesn’t exist?  When we allow anxiety to drive us to panic, we manifest a future that we truly do not desire.  When we accept each moment as an opportunity to display something new and amazing, we find ourselves so driven to excel.  Let’s not allow anxiety to bring about panic, but let’s bring the performance of the moment be brilliant, amazing and beautiful.

Anxiety Management:  Go from Panicky to Pumped!

Anxiety or excitement is proof that they, and you, care about performance and outcomes.

A panic response is thus an exaggerated mind-body reaction – a false alarm – that can be diffused or redirected.  Our instinctive responses to panic are always counterproductive, such as fleeing, isolating ourselves, trying too hard to relax, or beating ourselves up mentally.

What you truly fear, if you are willing to admit it, is embarrassment that you will fail to perform in the moment and because of that must suffer the consequences of anxiety and panic.

Panicking is not going crazy, but rather the manifestation of fear of a terrible outcome.

BOOK – “The Champion’s Mind:  How Great Athletes think, train and thrive.” by Jim Afremow  (BUY IT!)

Trauma Release Process – 01.29.15 (Life is Traumatic)

Last week we started a new book in my Thursday night “Flow with Fred” class.  “The Revolutionary Trauma Release Process” by David Berceli.  The first few pages do a wonderful job of discussing how each one of us has been affected by trauma.  Yes, the events that have happened to me may or may not be more traumatic than the events of your life.  Trauma is completely in eye of the one affected.  Therefore, we have no business ridiculing or simple pushing to the side the stories that friends, family and complete strangers pass entrust us with.

The stress we accumulate throughout our days is unnecessary.  When we stay at war with our past and future selves, we will stay anxious and become stressful.  There are several studies that outline the effects of stress on the human body.  Where we can find comfort is in the Now.  Let go of the difficult and tense and replace those thoughts with the excitement of right now!

We will all continue to experience trauma in our lives.  Where we have power is in how we choose to respond to the events.  Will we stay rooted in fear and anxiety or will we choose to remain joyful in the moments that we have?  Life is traumatic … for us all.  Please don’t feel like you’re alone in this world … because you’re not :).

Life is Traumatic

Throughout our lives, we continually face the possibility of painful experiences.  Though some of us lead easier, less stressful lives than others, none of us escape difficult times entirely.

By resisting what we don’t like, we actually compound our discomfort.  By being at war with ourselves, we make ourselves anxious and our days stressful.  Life gets more difficult, and we become even more tense.

However, it’s not the events that cause the damage to our health.  It’s how we respond to them.

BOOK – “The Revolutionary Trauma Release Process” by David Berceli (BUY IT!)