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
I AM SO HAPPY
"I am so happy, I cannot be contained in the world; If the foot of the trees were not tied to earth, they would be pursuing me;But like a spirit, I am hidden from the eyes of the world. For I have blossomed so much, I am the envy of the gardens." RUMI as translated by Keshavarz
SEPTEMBER 1, 2010. More than ever I aspire to this feeling of spirit day in and day out. I've tried looking outside myself for this experience, and through my yoga practice I've made time to look within. As you know, this last month I took it to a new level. I've had regular yoga teachers that took a month out for their own development every year whether it meant traveling to Thailand to be with their teacher or going on month long silent retreat or just taking a time out from teaching to more deeply commit themselves to the Yoga of Relationship. So I did all of that this last 31 days. And I am so happy I did! I attended an awesome yoga teacher training and practiced many styles of yoga with many, many teachers, I spent time in quiet contemplation/meditation in nature and most importantly I consistently practiced unconditional love for my best friend. I learned how to expand my capacity to be more fearless in loving someone and allowing myself to be loved in return. This is the trinurti (3-fold) nature of yogic practice like a tripod that needs all three legs to remain standing: study, practice, teach.
I have blossomed so much.
I went into this personal sabbatical with many questions and in some way as a spiritual seeker I was looking for answers. I return with more questions than I did when I took time off. What I do know is "I am so happy"! Making ourselves important and setting aside time to design our intentions is not easy. It is hard work to still the mind in order to get to that point of asking the questions, it is what Elizabeth Gilbert writes about in her book Eat, Pray, Love, "You cannot see your reflection in running water, only still water." I can see better who I am, what I want in my life and I am asking better harder questions of myself.
Why would I put myself through this? Because I want to keep evolving my happiness. A little happiness is not enough for me, I want a lot of happiness and I deserve that today be the best day of my life and I take this to a new edge tomorrow, just like we do in bending our knee in a warrior pose. And I realized my happiness would remain stunted if I kept repeating old patterns or ignoring what those patterns in my mind or actions are. As Miss Gilbert writes, "Take care of the problems now, or else you'll just have to suffer again later when you scew everything up the next time. And that repetition of suffering - that's hell. Moving out of that endless repetition to a new level of understand - there's where you'll find heaven." Fundamentally this is where Yoga holds our hands and encourages us to be happier than we ever thought we could be by quieting our minds, helping us see the old problems and moving beyond them to our best lives ever. So thank you dear students, friends, teachers for understanding my desire for personal growth and evolution and as you support me, please know with great passion and simple love I support you in your journey's as well. Love yourself, love your day, love your life! Silvia
If you need a break consider joining me on Yoga Retreat in Tuscany October 24-30 or Moab November 4-7, or in December either Pagosa Springs or Hawaii
SUSTAINING WEIGHT LOSS AND YOGA
JANUARY 24, 2010: The healthy link between yoga and weight loss is not so much only about normalizing weight as much as it is about sustaining weight loss. But first yes, one of the most effective and ancient ways of promoting health and effecting transformation is to practice yoga, especially poses, breathing and meditation. Increasing research in the fields of health and well being indicate that the stress-reducing effects of yoga practice are significant and powerful in normalizing WEIGHT. And as Judith Lasater writes, “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.”
Through the practice of yoga, we can begin to feel connected to ourselves, to our body’s rhythm, our breath, and our emotions. We can tune into how we feel about ourselves and to what degree our eating is emotionally based. According to studies the number 1 &2 reasons for weight gain is emotional stress and habit. And then once we’ve gained the extra weight we get dissatisified which may develop elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn ENCOURAGES stress-related eating (known by scientists as FOOD-SEEKING BEHAVIOR). Which results in more weight gain which may fuel more stress and stress–related eating. Gosh that’s the pattern? Yup.
I hope this class helped to make sense of some things. And that you will join me again week after week to maintain this awareness and learn to be the best YOU possible! With love in all ways, Silvia
So how does the Yoga work? Here’s a quick summary we talked about in class:
- Yoga burns calories by doing poses and breathing techniques which make metabolism more efficient (food + Oxygen = fuel)
- Yoga is proven to fight stress (and lower cortisol levels). Cortisol makes conversion of calories into fat (especially fat in the abdomen) more efficient.
- Yoga helps us see clearly. Before you can change something you have to acknowledge it for what it is which can be a problem (Study 1992 New England Journal of Medicine study looked at obsese people who considered themselves resistent to diets they told doc’s they exercised and limited calories but when asked to keep a food journal the patients had on average underestimated their food intake by 47% and overestimated their exercise 51% (They were tricked by their own minds)
- Patterns (samskaras) – the behavior grooves we dig through repeated actions. Many people who overeat are on autopilot. Yoga helps us be mindful of the moment, which helps us notice and savor our food instead of gulping it down.
- Also the mindfulness helps us realize when we are not hungry but simply eating out of habit or emotional neediness.
- Consider this (relapse rate on most diets is 100%). If you lose one ounce/day that’s almost half a pound/week which = 23 pounds in a year. To lose an ounce/day you’ve only got to burn about 250 calories more than you take in. (Breath how it works)
- Many people view food as the enemy. Yoga view of food is that it is a manifestation of the divine, a gift from God. In the Upanishads, food is equated with the divine force in the universe, Yoga would say food is one of life’s great pleasures.