By Laura Mills
I recently had the pleasure of a vacation. As comfortable as one can be at home, itís rejuvenating to take a break from the day-to-day routine of work, errands, chores, and other obligations. Whether one's vacation involves campfire cooking outside a tent in the midst of a majestic wilderness, or gourmet meals at a restaurant across the street from an exquisite hotel, we plan our vacations according to what we believe will interest and entertain us. No wonder we look forward to them so much!
But I don't think it's the fun or simply the change in routine that rejuvenates us while on vacation. I think itís the fact that vacations place us outside our element.The unfamiliar, no matter how entertaining or interesting, still unsettles us at least a little bit. Our vacations may involve sights we haven't seen before or at least not for a while, languages we don't speak, activities we haven't tried before, and food we've never eaten or perhaps never even heard of. We are no longer experts, no longer able to just go through the motions of day-to-day existence. And suddenly, at least at some level, we then look forward to returning to the opportunities we have at home to go to a familiar workplace, eat food we know we like, and talk to people we love. Suddenly, those opportunities seem just a little more special.
I had a great time on my vacation, for sure. But while I cherish the time I had there, itís REALLY good to be home.
THE CRUCIAL STEP BY GUEST BLOGGER LAURA MILLS
I unrolled my mat and made sure the music I wanted was ready to go. Greatly anticipated, it was to be a quiet hour of yoga with a friend at my home, and thus I took great care in creating the perfect atmosphere and space. As I waited for my friend to arrive, I sat down with a jotted sequence of poses; reading over it, somewhere between Tadasana and Uttanasana the words "I love yoga" floated through my mind. I paused, struck by the words' abrupt appearance, their simplicity, and the fact that my thinking them didn't surprise me at all.
Indeed, as my practice has deepened, but most especially in the last six months as I've embraced the role of yoga teacher, such incidents have occurred more and more often--not always in the form of an unbidden thought, but definitely in a way that integrates seamlessly with the flow of the moment. One evening, for example, while mentally reviewing a class I was to teach the next day, I found myself suddenly up on my feet, moving from Virabhadrasana I to Humble Warrior to Virabhadrasana I to Plank...with joy, I had sprung out of my chair and into the sequence. With nothing in my mind except the love of the practice, my body had just started flowing.
And this tendency, for lack of a better description, hasn't restricted itself to acute incidents, either, but sometimes occurs in the form of a new pattern. One of them I notice during my early-morning home practices.... Without fail, every practice, my body and mind fight the 5:30 am clock chime, the first glow of candlelight and hint of incense, the extra effort coupled with the creaks and cracks of those initial stretches. But by the end of the first wave, my body and mind pulse with peace, content with the flow and happy in the practice. And by the end of the 60 or 75 minutes, I don't want to stop.
Another new pattern occurs each evening, when I attempt to fall asleep. Whereas I used to try to take deep breaths while I replayed the day's events and convinced myself not to let anything bother me, now I settle myself by releasing one long, deep exhale and opening myself to a rush of gratitude. No matter what occurred during the day, I truly believe I am blessed with the privilege of just breathing, of having had another day to live...no mater what. The day's events, whatever they were, don't matter nearly as much.
I definitely didn't feel this way before.
When I first started practicing yoga, it was something I set out to do on a regular schedule--go to class, then go home, then pick up the day where I left off. And though I enjoyed yoga from the beginning, knowing I did something so, so good for me in so, so many ways, with time I began to actually feel yoga: the unbidden thoughts, the joy in the practice, the peace in knowing I am, as yoga teaches, only a small part of something much greater. Feeling yoga like this is what, for me, especially since I began teaching, has distinguished between yoga as a hobby and yoga as a defining quality of who I am. And significantly, because of the yoga I love so much, little by little I've learned to love myself so much better. I hope that now, in the role of yoga teacher, I might inspire others to learn the same for themselves.
May you feel your yoga, too... Laura
HOME PRACTICE HOW IT HELPS TO REVISE OUR MYTHS
FIRST THINGS FIRST. Think of some myth about yourself you’ve bought into? Like “I’m not strong enough, I don’t have enough time, I’m not old enough, I’m not young enough, I don’t have enough money, I’m not flexible enough, I’m not ____________________________. This practice helps us to unfold our own myth (Rumi). It has us bump up against the myths or self-limiting beliefs we have about ourselves. But as Yogananda writes, “What you are is much greater than anything or anyone else you have ever yearned for. Spirit is manifest in you in a way that Spirit is not manifest in any other human being. Your face is unlike anyone elses’s, your soul is unlike anyone else’s, you are sufficient unto yourself; for within your soul likes the greatest treasure of all – Spirit.”
You see “We no longer have a choice about including practices in our daily lives that create health and spiritual growth. If we want a world worth living in today, as well as one worth leaving to future generations, we must take responsibility to create health in our lives, as well as to support others as they choose healthier lives for themselves. It is up to each of each of us to lovingly transform the world simply by first transforming ourselves.” (Judith Lasater)
But we have to see the myths that hold us back for what they really are. “We are responsible for what we are and whatever we wish ourselves to be, we have the power to make ourselves.” (Swami Vivekananda) Practicing even 5-7 minutes of yoga helps us to not remain victims of old habits, we begin to do the work of washing away the myths. What is required is that we work harder than our pain or made-up limitations.
“Mines of power lie unexplored within you. You use this power unconsciously in all things you do, and you achieve certain results; but, if you learn how to consciously control and use the power within you, you can accomplish much more.” (Yogananda) When it comes to picking out what poses to do you have to begin by asking yourself what you need: self-reflection creates self-awareness and reinforces self-love. Tonight’s class will teach you a (1) Hip Opening Flow, (2) Backbend Flow, (3) Sun Salutation C, (4) Forward Fold/Twist Flow so you have 4 sequences to work on at home when you need them most. Love and light! Silvia
FORWARD FOLDS. These are calming, quieting in their impact. They are restful poses to calm you down when you feel agitated or hyper and restful when you are fatigued.
SUN SALUTATIONS. Energizing for your emotional body and can help lift you out of lethargy, depression, mental fatigue.
STANDING POSES. These are very grounding as well as energizing. They immediately engage your body-mind connection and bring you into the present moment. They are good to do when worried, distracted or agitated.
BACKBENDS. These are energizing, uplifting poses. They create more energy when you are tired. If you are already nervous they can make you over stimulated if they are difficult so you can also practice passive backbends. These poses also open you up emotionally which may cause strong emotions to arise.
TWISTS. Cleansing and balancing. They help release stress from your body-mind.
HIP OPENERS. These are very grounding and balancing. They help release tension and bring you into the present moment.
INVERSIONS. These are soothing, balancing and centering.