Sunday, October 25, 2009

Lessons from Merlin

Cats know exactly who they are and they know exactly what they want. Merlin, my feline companion, has a regal air as he trots around with his luxuriant tail held high. He moves with grace and ease. When he snuggles with me and I feel the vibration of his purring, a sense of peacefulness fills me.

Merlin has taught me many lessons over the years:
  • Purr softly and relax with the sound of your breath.

  • Be patient; wait for the right moment to spring into action.

  • Make your desires known.

  • Take good care of yourself.

  • Set your sights high. You never know how high you can leap.

  • Step softly. You don’t need to be aggressive to get attention.

  • Have fun with even the simplest of toys.

  • Explore new territory. There are an infinite number of places you can use for a cozy nap.

  • Move with grace, dignity and ease.

  • Keep your senses alert. Life is more exciting this way.

  • Stretch deeply. Savor your long flexible spine.

  • Fully delight in the small things in life.

  • Be curious. There is always something new waiting to be discovered.

  • Enjoy the company of friends and snuggle quietly together.

  • If you fall, be quick to land on your feet and bounce right back.

  • Believe in yourself. You are beautiful!
Let the energy of the cat inspire your yoga practice. Be curious about how to make subtle changes in alignment and how your mind and body feel with those changes. Delight in the small details of the pose and move with grace and awareness as you transition from pose to pose. Honor your body - do not push yourself beyond your limits. Know that pain is an indication to stop and not a challenge to keep going in the same direction.

Be patient. Changing habits and attitudes takes time. Let the energy of the cat inspire you to walk softly with power, be curious even about the things you see everyday and spring into action when the right moment arrives.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Practice of Resilience

Resilience is necessary for survival. It helps us adapt to change. Life is not always easy. We are going to fall. We are going to fail. We do not know what will happen as the future becomes our present. But if we can pick ourselves up, if we can weather the storm, if we can come back from adversity, that is the practice of resilience.

Turtles have been around for 215 million years. They are a symbol of resilience. There has been a lot of change on this earth over their existence but they have been able to survive. Turtles adapt their internal temperature to the external conditions. On land they move slowly, but they are willing to stick their neck out to get where they want to go.

When life is difficult, or when things change in unexpected ways, what do you do? Do you retreat into your shell? Or do you stick your neck out and look around and then slowly begin to move in some direction. Going into your shell metaphorically is OK. The shell is there for protection, relief and recovery. But eventually we need to embrace or at least accept changes and move forward with our lives despite the setbacks and hardships.

Yoga helps us to be resilient. Part of being resilient is being flexible. Part of being resilient is being strong. And part of being resilient is being sensitive to our internal and external conditions.

Many yoga poses are difficult. They put our bodies in positions we are not used to. But this helps us to become more flexible. We need to engage our muscles to move safely into these new positions. This helps us to build strength. As we go deeply into a pose we will reach an edge. This is a place we need to respect or we can injure ourselves. So we need to be sensitive to where we are physically and mentally each time we practice a pose.

Cultivate your ability to adapt to change. Take time to breathe and notice how you are feeling inside and what is going on around you. Be willing to move slowly at times. Challenging times are inevitable, but if you are flexible enough to bounce back these challenges become opportunities.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Reaching for the Roots

Reaching for the roots allows you to reach for the sky. First you need a solid foundation, then you can soar! Sometimes you need to look where you do not expect of find what you seek.

Roots support all plant life. Although they are typically hidden underground, roots always send shoots above the ground. It is the roots that bring nourishment and support to the biggest of trees. A tree cannot live without its roots.

Roots are mysterious because we cannot see them. They live in the darkness. The seed first grows roots before it can send energy above ground.

Humans do not have physical roots. But we do have spiritual roots. They are the hidden parts of us that nourish and support us. It is easy to be distracted by the physical world around us. Going inward requires slowing down which is difficult in our hectic modern world.

In yoga we need to establish a strong foundation as the basis for any pose. So we send rooting energy downward to allow us to lengthen upward. Prana is the vital life force we have within us and that which breathes through us. There are different Prana vayus or functions. Two of the Prana vayus are apana vayu and prana vayu. The apana vayu is the root energy that moves downward from the pelvis. It is associated with the exhalation. The prana vayu moves upward from the heart. It governs the inhalation. Together they lengthen our spine and create a feeling of expansion. Together they give us life.

Examining our roots can mean looking into our past but it also means going deep inside. When we can feel our roots, we have strength and power. Places that may seem mysterious and not fully understood are where we find the answers that have the most meaning for each individual. Just as the roots of tree need the dormancy of the leaves to begin growing again, we need to slow down our busy lives to allow our spiritual growth to deepen. Enjoy this stillness as a time of expansion and awakening.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Being yourself

Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.
Oscar Wilde

Who are you? A dancer, a teacher, a carpenter, a banker? Or is who you are something deeper, something harder to define, something that is unique to each individual?

Being yourself sounds easy, but try it! It is easy to wish you were someone else, someone who has more talent, more intelligence, more money, more wit or more beauty. We are programmed by our society to be competitive, to judge others and to define ourselves by what we do. Are you a human-being or a human-doing?

There is pressure in our society to conform and to be something we are expected to be by others. But trying to be someone we are not will feel like something is missing in our lives. For example, if you have strong creative talents and you try to be a banker, you would feel frustrated because your creativity would be held back. And if you loved numbers and working within a tight structure and tried to be an artist, you would feel lost.

We all need to eat, drink, play, sleep and but how we do each of these things is different for each of us. Just as every flower, every snowflake, every bird in nature is different, each of us is unique. That is the marvel of creation.

Being with your breath in yoga brings you to the stillness where you can feel the pose. Thinking is necessary to get us into the pose initially, but ultimately we can lose the thought and find the pose. The pose becomes a reflection of who you are.

Being yourself requires loving and accepting yourself. Let go of the notion of being defined by what you do. You are the perfection you seek. When your heart feels open, when your life feels in balance, then you have found the freedom of being yourself.