Monthly Archives: January 2016

The Ahimsa of Doing Less

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Pressure to do more comes from many sources; work, school, family, friends all place demands on our time, and this is compounded by the crafted images on social media that make it seem like everyone is doing more than us and in better lighting, too. It’s easy to ignore the subtle signals of the bodymind that ask us to slow down, to nourish ourselves with quiet and stillness.

The problem with ignoring those messages is that they tend to grow louder the more they aren’t heeded. Sometimes to the point that, in an effort to get its needs met, the body insists we stop by way of illness or injury. Once we have no choice, then, we rest. But it doesn’t have to come to this! We can listen to the quieter expressions inside and heed them to foster a healthier, kinder practice and way of life.

I spend a good part of my time when teaching encouraging students to do less. Now that yoga is in popular consciousness in a major way, we all have seen images of common poses and maybe have an idea of what they “should” look like. But each body is different, and striving to, say, get your nose to your knee in janu sirsasana, is not right for every body, every day. Only an honest look inside can tell you how deeply to express a pose to the greatest benefit to you at that particular moment. This svadhyaya, self-study can help us practice in the spirit of ahmisa, non-harming. Cultivating that compassion through awareness is one of the greatest lessons we can learn on the mat. When we look inside and really feel with curiosity and gentleness where we are at a particular moment, we’re able to really intelligently, safely move our practice to a deeper place, without fear of going too far, too soon and setting ourselves back with an injury. Conversely, when we attempt to go further than the body wants, we often get out of alignment or let go of crucial support (core connection, anyone?) to get to a particular place and risk hurting ourselves in the process.

This can apply to life in general, too. Where are you pushing beyond the edge? Finding yourself overwhelmed and unable to function? Could you pull back a little, extend yourself some compassion by taking a deep look at what is really serving you and letting go of things that are taking away your energy without giving back? This kind of self-care can help us to live more fully in our truth. The start of a new year is a great time to take stock of what is and is not serving you, and in the spirit of compassion, dedicate yourself to taking on only those things that nourish you. This doesn’t mean that every moment will be filled with ecstatic joy. Someone will still need to clean the bathroom, of course, because sometimes things that serve you aren’t fun. But a spirit of inquiry and intentionality can help us to do less when less is what is needed.

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Congratulations, you failed

It’s a new year, time to take stock of what was and look forward to what’s to come. Over here, it was a hard year to top- the arrival of our new baby, some exciting new career opportunities, really good times spent with family and friends. 2016 is looking pretty great from here and I’m so excited to see what’s next!

But that’s not what I wanted to talk about today.

It’s likely that there’s a lot of talk in your yoga life about intention-setting, about letting go of the past, about being mindful of what you invite in. Yes. Absolutely. But I want to talk about failure.

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In our practice as in life, we set goals. We strive. We work hard. And sometimes circumstances do not conspire in our favour- we fail. But here’s the thing-¬†that’s where growth happens. This is where we are challenged to take those intentions from our yoga practice, equanimity, non-attachment, the ability to be “alike in victory and defeat,” as Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, off the mat and into our lives. It’s easy to get down, to fill your head with negative self-talk and decide not to try anymore. What is hard is to stare into the eyes of failure and say, “Thanks, what were you trying to tell me exactly?” If it’s an asana we’re talking about maybe it’s your body telling you to take more time to warm up, or to back off that edge a little more and take it easy. If it’s a life goal, maybe the goal wasn’t fully in tune with your path. Maybe the road you took to get there wasn’t the road for you. Failure is a chance to take a look inside and to line up your actions more closely with that which is most true to you. To this end, we can embrace the gifts that failure has for us and use them to live that truth, fully and joyfully.

I hope all your best wishes for 2016 come true. But if the don’t, don’t get down. Look for the wisdom in the failure, and get going on your path to awesome.

 

In the spirit of newness this time of year embodies, I have two new classes at Nova starting this week- Happy Hour Tuesdays at 4 PM and Buddha Babies for moms and their pre-crawling little ones on Fridays at 10:30 (this is a six-week pre-registered session-to sign up go here: https://clients.mindbodyonline.com/classic/home?studioid=12800)

See you on the mat! Happy new year!