Sunday, February 28, 2010

Inspiring 2010 Olympic stories

Athletes who win medals may appear to have it all - the glory, the talent and the gift of loving what they do. But there are stories behind each performance that show the adversities that many athletes had to overcome to achieve their goals.

Just two before her free style Olympic skating event, Joannie Rochette's mother unexpectedly died of a heart attack. Joannie was struggling emotionally before she got on the ice, but she was able to dig deep inside to use her mother as an inspiration and give a brilliant performance. She won the bronze medal. At the end of her skate, Joannie blew a kiss to the sky and her sadness touched the hearts of the audience who could feel her pain.

Six weeks before the Olympic snowboardcross event, Sean Wescott couldn’t even walk. In December he’d jammed his femur into his pelvis in a crash on the slopes that left him debilitated and in terrible pain. His low seeding in the Olympic event was another disadvantage. Through most of the course Seth was in last place, biding his time, and looking for his opportunity. His lagging gap would have caused most to give up, but he was able to stay focused and found the right moment to make his move and win the gold medal against all odds.

As a child Shaun White had a heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot, requiring two major surgeries. He also had to wear leg braces to correct severe bow-leggedness. He began snowboarding at age 6 and with the dedicated support from his parents, incredible drive and determination, he ultimately won gold medals in two consecutive Olympics.

Practicing yoga may present obstacles that are difficult to overcome. Tight hamstrings, quads and hips make many poses difficult. Just calming the mind and focusing on the breath is a challenge for most. But these obstacles can be viewed as opportunities to create more openness, strength and deeper focus. Yoga is about the union of opposites. It is about calming the mind and using the breath to find power and tranquility. It is about pulsing between difficulty and peacefulness. It is about acceptance and pushing and redefining our edges.

Life is not always easy. Most people have their share of hardships, some more than others. How we use these hardships determines whether we let the suffering overwhelm us or inspire us to dig deeper into who we are and what we can achieve. Let the Olympians inspire you. Know that life will have challenges but it has its victories as well.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Going for the Gold

"If it was all about one jump, they'd give us ten seconds to go out and do our jump not four minutes forty seconds. I was working every moment to put in the extra footwork to rack up the extra points. It was hard, very hard." Evan Lysacek

Who ultimately deserves the Olympic gold medal, the athlete with the best tricks or the athlete with the most artistry?

In the 2010 Olympics this question was hotly debated in the men's figure skating competition. The gold medal was awarded to Evan Lysacek in a close match with Evgeni Plushenko.

Evan Lysacek skated brilliantly with artistry throughout his whole routine. He never lost focus or control of his movements. It was grace in motion.

Evgeni Plushenko, the reigning gold medalist from the previous Olympics, landed a quad jump of extreme difficulty, but the rest of his performance did not have the smooth flowing quality of Lysacek's performance.

Plushenko put his hopes on the the difficult quad and the rest of his performance suffered from his effort and possibly unbalanced focus. Lysacek focused on the whole performance, making each move and jump equally important, including even the smallest details of his footwork. This gave him the freedom to express his inner joy of skating, rather than placing most of his concentration on performing one difficult move.

Every moment counts and being in the moment and loving what you do gives an athlete the edge to win the gold. Our focus and intention play an important role in what we do and how we do it. The top athletes have discipline, focus, and artistry. They move from their hearts digging deep inside themselves to offer something that is uniquely their own.

Top athletes know how to breathe fully, use their energy efficiently, and visualize their performance. They don't give up when things get tough. They respect the importance of the mind/body connection. They also have a support system in place - their family, coaches, and team members.

Olympic athletes know that nothing is certain. The gold medal is a gift that may be given to only one athlete out of a number of possible athletes for that Olympic event. If their only reason for competing was the gold metal, the disappointment of not getting it would devastate them. Years of intense training are necessary to develop the mental and physical skills needed for competition. And the competition itself is often over in a matter of minutes.

For Olympic athletes even though winning is extremely important, it is not the only reason they practice their sport. It is more about being the best they can be. It is about exploring the limits of their sport and their abilities, and creating new limits. It is about the excitement of being part of the Olympic event with the energy of hundreds of athletes from all over the world coming together to test their abilities. It is about accepting the outcome of whatever happens knowing that the journey was worth it.

Practicing yoga with the focus of an Olympic athlete can inspire us to a new understanding of ourselves and each pose. Put your heart into each movement, be curious about what you can do with your body and mind working together. Use each pose as a way of going deeper into your own unique individuality. Appreciate the support you have from your breath and the energy in the people in your life.

The powers of visualization and intention are often underrated. But they play such a huge role in our growth as an individual as well as our performance of any given task. Willingness to accept the outcome of our efforts also affects our commitment and self-image. If the only reason to do something is to win or be better than someone else, then it is not worth doing. Be the best you can be. know that life is not about doing the best tricks, it is more about loving what you do and living fully in each moment.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Celebrating Valentine's Day every day

Love is a symbol of eternity. It wipes out all sense of time, destroying all memory of a beginning and all fear of an end.
~Author Unknown

Valentine's Day celebrates the special love between couples. But everyday can be a Valentine's day of sorts celebrating the many loves in our lives. When your life is filled with love it is buoyant and alive.

Hug a friend. Express your inner joy. Even if you do not feel joyful, a hug can bring you joy and transform your day. Let go of inhibitions and judgments by hugging someone you are uncomfortable with. See how that feels.

Life is not meant to be lived safely. We have to go out on that proverbial limb not knowing what will happen. If our intention is good the outcome often follows our intention. Give love freely without attachments. If you truly love yourself, you can survive any hurt from others.

True love goes deeper than passion and romance. It is not just about feeling jittery and excited to see someone. It is more about feeling connected and getting to know that person with their gifts and their faults. We crave love and instinctively want to love. Resisting those natural impulses brings pain into our lives.

Even the pain from loving is valuable. It is part of being alive. There will always be the pulse between opposites bringing joy and sorrow in our lives.

Love is not just about people loving people. It includes loving the natural world around you. Appreciate the strength of the trees, the song of the birds, the playfulness of dogs, the power of the ocean, the brightness of the stars. Be filled with wonder for life in its diversity, complexity and simplicity.

Yoga can be practiced with love. Just being fully mindful of our breath connects us with the bigger power that is breathing us. What could be more loving than giving the gift of life. Don't take this gift for granted. Be curious and really feel each pose physically, emotionally and spiritually. Feel how connecting with the pose brings you to a deep sense of yourself and being supported and connected to a bigger power.

"Love is all there is." This famous quote from the Beatles rings true in its simplicity. If we hide from love for fear of pain, then we miss out on the essence of life. We must love ourselves first and we must learn to forgive ourselves again and again and again. Give yourself a hug, squeeze the day and be open to the multi-faceted experiences that love will bring into your life.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


... the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred...

Why do some commitments soar to amazing heights while others fall by the wayside? Why was Thomas Edison able to invent the electric light bulb, while many people cannot even complete their tax forms? What is the driving force behind commitments that succeed?

First we commit with our minds. We think about doing something. But sometimes it never goes beyond the thought of doing it.

Next we commit with our body. We actually take action towards our goal. But how often do we give up when the first few obstacles appear?

When we commit fully, we commit with our heart as well. When we commit with our heart, we are committing from a deeper place. There is a passion that fuels the commitment. Obstacles do not stop us. We become more creative in the face of difficulties.

Then the Universe comes to our aid. Unexpected opportunities present themselves. People help us in ways we never could have imagined. It is like we are connected into a flow that has energy, power, and magic.

When a trapeze artist lets go of his swing to catch his partners hands or the next swing, he cannot second guess or change his mind in mid-air. His focus must be laser-sharp and he must have a deep trust in his abilities and his partner. Intuition developed after years of practice allows the trapeze artist to fly with ease.

We can commit to our yoga practice with our minds and bodies. But if we do not feel it with our hearts the practice is limited. We can go through the poses following a form, but if we commit to our practice with our hearts we learn so much more.

In yoga we lead with our hearts physically and metaphorically. Connecting our shoulders with our back physically opens our chest. This allows us to breathe more deeply. When we integrate our shoulders with our backs we are connecting with the bigger muscles on our backs. Opening our chest is the physical manifestation of opening our hearts. When we open our hearts we connect with a Higher Power that inspires all of us.

True commitment is not fueled by obligation. It flows freely from our hearts. It manifests in our thoughts and actions. It can be felt by others. Committing with your heart leaves no room for doubt and opens the doors of perception to see the opportunities around you.