By Laura Mills
The other day, while driving to an appointment for which I was nearly late, I found myself coasting behind a car traveling way under the speed limit. While I normally would have switched lanes and passed, on this day a police car traveled immediately behind me...so I stayed in my lane, squeezing the wheel, gritting my teeth and watching the clock.
Something that surprises people—including me, when I first began my practice—is that yogis still get stressed. And we get stressed about more than only life’s greatest challenges. The simplest, everyday things like running late, needing to drive more slowly than desired, misplacing keys, realizing the cat avoided the litter box again…no matter how advanced in yoga our practice, by virtue of our humanness we still experience stressful moments. And for me, such moments include the rise in blood pressure and quickening of the heart that I used to believe I practiced yoga to eliminate. In fact, in the wake of such moments I used to think, “What kind of yogi am I? What’s going on?”
Thankfully, today I know a lot more about what yoga really is…most definitely not a collection of poses and breathing exercises that automatically fortifies one against stress. Rather, yoga is a method of opening body and mind, both on the mat and off, to make space within for the present. Yoga won’t keep me from experiencing stressful moments, but the space yoga creates frees up my awareness and reveals that I will survive regardless of them. Processing stress is, I believe, a practice as much as taking any series of asanas. And while even the most physically capable yogi can always go deeper, so can even the most stressed-out.
Remembering that—eventually—I relax my grip and enjoy the ride.
Cast of Characters
By Laura Mills
Why does it feel so good to step outside, even for a moment, on a summer morning? Many answers exist for me. I like the fresh air, the sense of renewal that drifts through my nostrils as well as the screen door and replaces the stale air-conditioned air of previous hours. I also like the sounds. I adore crickets, locusts and birds most of all, but the sounds of cars and planes and neighbors’ activities soothes me, too. And I love how I feel not-quite-so-contained, as if the simple act of opening the door and stepping onto the porch enlarges my space and physically connects me to everything else “out there.”
I know our relationship with nature has been talked and written about countless times. But it’s definitely worth discussing: at the very least, so many of us feel good when we see, hear, smell, or otherwise experience the outdoors. With our indoor worlds so full of stuff (noise-making-, light-blinking-, often-practical-but-sometimes-just-extra-stuff), whenever we reconnect with nature we plug back in to something powerful and real within ourselves. Nature speaks not in words but in feelings, and we don’t need to translate to be able to understand. It just feels good. It reminds us that we are included in a greater universe, and just like all living beings play a part in the big picture.
If we try, we can all be the “Best” at our own particular roles.
HOW TO REDUCE NEGATIVITY AND WORRY
FEBRUARY 28TH: In the Yoga Sutra’s Pantanjali gives us a four part process to help us clear our hearts of any negative energies as a means for quieting our minds and reconnecting to the deepest reservoirs of unconditional love. The sutras advise we:
1. cultivate maitri (friendliness) toward pleasure and friends;
2. karma (compassion) for those who are in pain or suffering, yourself included;
3. mudita joy for those that you are happy and whom we admire;
4. and upeksanam equanimity toward those who have hurt us.
So simple. Try it this week as we learned it in class today and see for yourself if this doesn’t indeed change your life! May you feel the power of transformation grow. Peace to you, Silvia