Friday, October 30, 2015

You Have Only 1 True Purpose in Life

"It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else's life with perfection." ~ Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita.
I first read this quote in the Bhagavad Gita in my teens, and I was blown away. It meant I didn't have to be perfect, I just had to be "me." I wasn't certain who "me" really was, but there were some things I knew for sure. I was kind, thoughtful and loving, and most of all I was audacious and vivacious! I was full of life and fun. So I went with that. I did that which brought me joy, and shared it with those around me.

I came across two quotes today that say the same thing. I took it as a sign that I needed to write about this topic. The first one was by Herman Melville, the guy who wrote Moby Dick, an amazing book, by the way. That quote I found in a magazine about creativity, a Dutch magazine called Flow Weekly. (I love that magazine!)
Melville said, "It's better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation."
The second was from the Buddha and was found in a book about writing.
The Buddha said, "Your work is to discover your work, and then, with all your heart, to give yourself to it."
It took me years to officially discover my purpose. When I looked back on my life, I found that when I did what I felt was important, and gave me joy, I was doing my work, my purpose. Even though I am an introvert, and need long bouts of solitude to recover, I have to work with people. I have to help them learn to live better, more complete lives. I work with people who hope that life can be better, and sometimes I work with those who have no hope at all, but show up anyway. And the real catch of the thing is, I am not even the one doing it. I am like a conduit for Spirit, a big, fat garden hose for Universal intelligence to flow through. It is my job to let the Divine work through me. It just might feel the same way for you.

Another part of my work is engaging in arts and crafts. For that I, primarily, knit and write, both of which give me immense joy in the doing and again when I share the product of my creativity, when I give that joy to another. I also serve the animals in, and outside of, my community by volunteering and activism. Being creative and serving animals feels like Spirit flowing through me, as well.

The other part of these quotes, which I didn't understand as a teenager, is that we cannot do another's purpose. We are born for OUR purpose alone. We are born with that purpose because that is what the world needs from us, and it is what we need to give. Each of us is a unique being, with our own hidden and unique talents, skills and desires. Each of us has a unique gift to give. Without our gifts, the world is incomplete.

I'm not sure if I can say the right thing to help you to discover your purpose, other than to look to those things that give you the most joy, or in which you lose sense of time. Have you ever felt like time stopped, like you were in the flow? Have you ever looked up at the clock to see hours have gone by? Maybe you were so enthralled with what you were doing you forgot to eat? These provide clues to what your purpose may be. Think of those activities and see how you can use them to serve others. That will be a big hint to your purpose.

And remember, you don't have to be perfect, only perfectly you.

Please comment below. Have you found your purpose or work? What is it and how do you feel about it? Do you need help finding your purpose? Do you have some clues or ideas?

Namaste and Blessings to you and yours.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

33 Ways to Break Out of Your Yoga Comfort Zone: Get Out of That Rut and Reclaim the Joy

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. - Neale Donald Walsch

There are times in the evolution of your yoga practice, just as in life, you will get in a rut. Too much routine can take all the joy out of life! Chances are you have some techniques to get yourself out of a life rut and get back to the joy in life.  But what about your yoga practice? What do you do when your yoga practice becomes too routine? I call it a yoga comfort zone. It is a period of time that can make you want to abandon your practice. Outside your comfort zone is a place of empowerment and joy. It reminds you why you practice yoga in the first place.

The biggest reason to get out of a comfort zone, in yoga or in life, is that you cannot grow inside a comfort zone. You can feel that, can't you? You cannot make progress in your practice, learn about yourself and of what you are capable. You cannot reap the ultimate benefits of yoga practice, if you stay in the comfort zone.

If you notice that during your home practice you do the same poses all the time, or you feel bored or uninspired, chances are you are hanging out in your comfort zone. Have you stopped challenging yourself in your practice? Could be a comfort zone. No one is immune, not your favorite teachers, the "celebrity teachers," that student in class who looks like she does all the poses perfectly, and certainly not me. What do you do to break out? You acknowledge it, then take action. Be introspective. Ask yourself what is going on. What you are feeling? Are you bored, frustrated, overwhelmed, tired? Your answers may provide the insight you need to bring the joy back to your yoga mat. If you need some help, here are thirty-three ideas to reclaim your practice.

1. Do your yoga practice with a friend or group. Friends don't let friends miss yoga! Be accountable to one another. If you feel comfortable, set up a schedule for each friend to lead the "class." Or, everyone can do one's own thing.

2. Do a different yoga video.

3.  Play some new music, or try practicing without music.

4. Do your practice outside or in a different room in the house.  You could even do it in the same room facing a different way.

5. Try a different style of yoga. If you normally do a flow/vinyasa practice, try holding the poses or take a yin or restorative yoga class.

6. If you are trying to be perfect, stop.

7. Learn a new pose.

8. Learn about a new aspect of yoga, such as the eight limbs or anatomy. Read The Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, Bhagavad Gita, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, or any other book on yoga. Find some new inspiration.

9. Be extra mindful in your practice. I like to close my eyes as I hold the poses. Consciously let that mindfulness come off your mat and into your daily life. What does yoga do for your life? You may want to journal about it.

10. Learn a new pranayama technique.

11. Read a book about yoga and try out some of the things in the book.

12. Stop for a short period of time and explore a new hobby. Then come back to your yoga mat with fresh eyes.

13. Make a list of all the ways yoga makes you feel good. Post your list on the wall so you can read it every day.

14. Try going back to the basics; learn the finer points of some of your favorite poses. Back off and use props, to learn Trikonasana (Triangle) in a different way, for example. Spend some time deepening your knowledge of the poses. It is impossible to completely master any pose.

15. Take a workshop or go on a retreat.

16. Deeply explore your breath in the poses.

17. Learn a new chant.

18. Do you need some rest? Take a longer Savasana or do a restorative practice. Sometimes we need more rest, more quiet.

19. Try a class with a different teacher.

20. Look on YouTube for different classes. There are videos with many different styles and sequences.

21. Yoga can be a mindful walk, meditation practice or journaling.

22. Get some index cards and make some "yoga pose cards" by writing or drawing poses on each card. Shuffle them up and pick some to make a sequence. (Poor sequencing can be educational!)

23. Hold each pose for four minutes.

24. Go to a class you think you won't like, it may remind you of what you cherish in your practice, or you may like it.

25. Think of five things in nature, or five different animals. Do your practice from the perspective of that animal or thing. For example, notice the tree in your back yard. Do tree pose from that tree's perspective, not your human mind perspective. How would a squirrel experience locust pose?

26. Add different pranayama sequences, cooling and heating, during your practice. Try pranayama in different postures, such as seated meditation postures, standing poses or in Savasana.

27. Bring a ritual or other object to your practice, such as a candle, feather, or mala. Ask that you be guided in your practice. Be open and receptive. You may wish to journal during this practice.

28. Read, or write, poetry during your practice.

29. Dedicate each pose, or your whole practice, to a friend or family member who needs healing.

30. If you don't have an altar, make one. It doesn't have to be a big deal, just a few things that mean something to you. If you do have an altar, change out a few of the objects for new ones. Feel your altar, feel Spirit, observing your practice, taking it in.

31. Listen to music you think would never go with your yoga practice. I once made a classic rock playlist which included Van Halen and AC/DC. It worked so well I made another one! They are two of my favorite playlists when I choose to listen to music during my practice. (What works so well is that I "dance" in the poses and feel them differently.)

32. Before your practice, read a passage from a book you enjoy. Feel that passage as you practice. (There are many books of "meditations," for example.)

33. Think about your five senses and what would please each one. Touch: Think about your clothes or a shawl wrapped around you in meditation or sitting poses. What fabrics feel good on your body? Taste: Have a nice cup of tea or flavored water with you. Smell: Incense? Candle? Essential Oil? Hearing: Music? No music? Birdsong? Water? Sight: Inside or Outside? Altar or no Altar? A certain picture? Play with your senses and find something different and appealing.

Please comment below. Which of the above are interesting to you? What do you want to try first? Do you have more ideas? What do you do?


Friday, June 12, 2015

Free Teleclass Tomorrow: Managing Chronic Pain and Fibromyalgia With Meditation

Hello Friends,

Tomorrow, June 13 at 11:00 a.m. Pacific time, I will be doing a one hour free teleclass on how to use meditation to help you with chronic pain and fibromyalgia.  If you would like to be on the call, let me know by emailing me at  If  you are unable to make the call, but would like to listen to the call, email me.  The call will be recorded and I will email you a link to listen to the recording.

During the teleclass we will talk about the connection between the mind and pain, the benefits meditation can bring you in managing pain, and one of the techniques I use to manage my own fibromyalgia and chronic pain.

I hope you are able to join me!


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Who Are You?

Yoga is the perfect opportunity to be curious about who you are.” - Jason Crandell

Jason Crandell is right. If you are on a path of self-exploration or introspection, yoga can help you in your quest. The first thing yoga can tell you is how patient or determined you are. As a new student, you will might feel stiff, infexible or weak, or you may instantly feel like you are home, right where you are supposed to be. However you feel is okay! Yoga is something to be learned, to be discovered, over time. You never stop learning. Long-time practictioners will tell you they are still students, even after 20, 30, or more years. You will find that just when you think you have learned to relax and surrender to a pose, you will find a different, subtler aspect you did not know existed. And that is just the asana limb of yoga!

While yoga asana, the yoga poses, is one of the most advertised and studied aspect of yoga in the United States, it is only a small part of the whole that is yoga. Yoga philosophy, of which part is the eight limbs, or Ashtanga (meaning eight limbs, and not referring to the type of asana practice prescribed by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois), allows you to learn even more about yourself than will just doing yoga asana (one of the eight limbs). For example, as you progress in your understanding of the concepts of asteya (non-stealing), you learn what stealing really is. Yes, it means to not take somethiing that is not freely given to you. One thing I learned about myself is that I interrupt people when they are speaking. That is a violation of asteya because I am stealing someone's opportunity to express him or herself, the opportunity for that person to shine. If you don't continue to practice yoga, or don't practice as often as you would like, you may feel you are stealing from yourself the opportunity for better health of mind and body. These philosophical principles are many-layered.

Meditation, the limb named dhyana, provides a wonderful opportunity to learn about yourself, beyond and including the physical discomfort of sitting for long periods of time. How do you deal with that discomfort? Do you stop or do you persevere? Do you find a way to be comfortable? Do you sit with the discomfort and see what comes up with it in your meditation? Do you get angry or give up, thinking meditation is not right for you or that you aren't doing it right? Do you ask a teacher or long-time student for advice? There are many ways to deal with discomfort during meditation! If you ask a teacher or long-time student for advice, you may learn ways to be comfortable, to relax and find ease in your practice. It may help you to know that I have been meditating since 1976. I still have days where it takes time to relax and concentrate on my meditation technique, and that is normal. No one is perfect. Some of us may sit there and look so still and relaxed, but it may be taking more time to rein in our brains. When that happens, we may ask ourselves what is going on. We can use that information, while letting our meditation be what it is that day. One key lesson about meditating is learning how to let your meditation be what it is at any point in time. That is one of many ways we learn about ourselves through meditation.

One of my favorite ways to learn about myself is to journal about my daily yoga and meditation practice. I keep my journal next to my mat as I practice. Sometimes I stop and write during my practice, recording how my practice feels in my body and/or mind, the thoughts and feelings that pop into my head, or a new way to describe a pose in class. I also write about my meditations and if I chanted how that felt or why I chose a particular chant. There are as many things to write as there are pieces of sand in the River Ganges!

You don't have to be a writer to journal your yoga and meditation practice. You can jot down a few words, list the poses you did, write as if talking to a friend, draw a picture. It doesn't matter if you don't write in complete sentences. You are the only person who will read your journal, unless you give it to someone else. You can keep one journal, with your practice notes and regular journal entries, or you can keep two journals. I started with seperate journals, but soon blended them into one.

One rainy day, when you are snuggling up with a cup of tea and a blanket, get our your practice journal and read it. You may be amazed at what you find out about yourself. You may be more patient or observant than you think you are. You may have used your experiences on the mat to resolve a deeper issue that you hadn't thought of for a while.

So, questions for the comment section. What leads you to self-discovery? Do you keep a yoga and/or meditation practice journal? I am interested, so please comment below. :)


Saturday, September 06, 2014

Coming In Threes: A Tribute to B.K.S. Iyengar

B.K. S. Iyengar from his book Light On Life
Live happily, die majestically. - B.K.S. Iyengar

Through my life I have heard about all the things that "come in threes," celebrity deaths being one of them.  The last several weeks it has been Robin Williams, B.K.S. Iyengar, and just this past week, Joan Rivers.

Since this is a yoga studio blog, I will focus on B.K.S. Iyengar, who passed from this world on August 20.  It isn't that Robin Williams and Joan Rivers have no relation to yoga, because they do.  Laughter and watching a great performance are both wonderful ways to be in the moment, and they kept many of us in the moment over the years with their expressions of joy and wondrous art, even through their own pain and grief.  They will be missed by many around the world, and I wish for peace and joy to once again visit all their loved ones.

I never studied directly with B.K.S. Iyengar, nor did I meet him in person, but I have learned so much from him I can't even express it.  I am very sad he has passed.  His many books have been my teachers, with me reading them late into the night and early morning, sitting beside my mat while I practice, quotes and passages being underlined and meditated upon.  I have watched videos over and over, gleaning every bit I could, watching them again and gleaning even more.  If there is a book that has been my master textbook for poses, it is his Light on Yoga. I know many yoga teachers and students who keep his books on their shelves for quick reference.  Iyengar merged yoga and life the way it is meant to be merged.  He had a gift for teaching and love for his students.  Yoga is life and life is yoga.  In 2004, Time Magazine listed Iyengar as one of the "100 People Who Shape Our World."  Iyengar, who was 95, was such a light and still had much to give.  Guriji, thank you!  I am grateful for all you gave.
I started for health, then it became a dedicated service to humanity. - Iyengar
Many online sites and publications have paid tribute to Iyengar and his contribution to yoga and the world.  If you would like to see a slideshow containing the tributes of some well-known yogis, see that here.  Here is a video of an Iyengar interview giving a short history of his life, complete with early photos and video. To see a video of Iyengar talking about life and yoga, go here, and an interview at his school here, about education, and the importance of physical health and a harmonious mind.  These are just some of many opportunities to learn more about this great man.  I encourage you to look further and discover more.  Your life, your yoga, will be enriched.

Never forget that the pupil also teaches the master - Iyengar

If you would like to pay your own tribute, please feel free to make a comment below. 

Many blessings!


Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Quick Announcement About Wednesday Night Class Time

Hello yogis and yoginis! Wednesday night classes will stay at 5:45 p.m., and will not change per my previous blog post. What my students want, my students get. Awareness Village is here to serve you. :) Namaste and have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Resolving to Evolve With Sankalpa

It is a good bet that if you made a New Year's resolution, it has already been put to the side, until next January 1. That is unfortunate, but there is a way to turn that around by using yogic techniques to start an inner evolution, rather than an outward resolution.

A resolution is usually defined by attaining a certain result by changing something about yourself. But what if you could attain that result by being even more yourself, not by resolving to change something about yourself? That is what sankalpa does for you.

Sankalpa is a Sanskrit word for a statement of resolution or intention. But the format for a sankalpa is a bit different than the format for a New Year's resolution. The purpose of a sankalpa is to bring you to your authentic self, who you really are right now. As your authentic self, you don't need a New Year's resolution. For example, a resolution might be, "I will lose 20 pounds by June 1." A resolution speaks to something you will be in the future and you might outline some steps to eat right or get more exercise. A sankalpa might be, "I now treat myself with love and respect." When you keep your attention on treating yourself with love and respect, you take the necessary steps and fulfill your resolution to lose weight, and even more, like getting enough sleep, balancing your work and personal lives, whatever you can to do to fulfill your sankalpa. You may have more than one resolution, but with some self-inquiry you create one sankalpa to meet all your resolutions.

Starting in March, I will be teaching a new type of hatha yoga class where we will use sankalpa and other yogic techniques to achieve the goals you have for yourself. Intentional Yoga classes will be held at Awareness Village on Wednesdays, from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m., starting March 5. The classes will be suitable for anybody, including beginners. I look forward to helping you be all you can be!