Sunday, December 30, 2012

Isvara pranidhana / Sweet and Painful Surrender

This one is big, so big it can't be grasped, or in my experience the minute you grasp's gone, like trying to hold sand. Have you ever tried to hold dry sand? It slips right out of your grasp, you will end up with remnants of little pieces of sand but the whole will be gone. For me that sweetness which is surrender, that moment in your meditation when you come to that place that honestly no words can express, you get giddy thinking "I found it!" and then you want to hold it, you want to feel this way all the time, and poof it's gone. Your memory is that of something so profound and pure that you will always try to reconnect to it and that keeps you going.
As with all my post I write from my perspective and cannot speak for others. I've been to this place so many times and I've been to the other side of this place a million more times. The other side for me is anxiety, distress, anger, frustration, fear, and all the other words that make my heart race, tears come to my eyes, and  cause me to feel out of sorts. We as humans all know the hard times, some more than others, but the truth is we are all connected. None of us gets out of life without pain of some sort. I don't care how rich you are with money, things, will have some pain in your life. Surrendering to God is the definition of Isvara Pranidhana.
What does it mean to Surrender? You will have to ask yourself, you will have to look into your soul to find out. I cannot give you the answers and no one else can, a teacher can do one thing for you, give you guidance. Because to surrender means one thing, you don't know, you don't have the answers. And to truly surrender we have to be in the now, the present moment.
Many paths can lead to this place, no headstand or down dog alone will get you there. It's a process, there is no easy answer. But what you do have to do to find it is this, start. Start doing something to find peace in your life. A yoga practice, a spiritual practice, a devotion, something that completely takes your mind off your troubles. I'd be lying to you if I said it can only happen through doing asanas, because the truth is it can be found in many places, but you have to be open to not knowing, to letting go, to surrendering to the moment, to be willing to try.
Below I will give you some things that have helped me and continue to help me every day, and some ideas and tools I use to help others. These are also things people have shared with me over the years.

Ideas to cultivate awareness, humility, surrender, modesty, and acceptance of a higher power. 

  1. Give thanks. Say thank you on paper or in your heart everyday for what you have been given. Several times in my life I have kept a gratitude journal, giving thanks for three things a day. 
  2. Be with positive people. When you have troubles don't go to a negative person for help, find someone who is honest and positive to talk to. 
  3. Get out in the sun and in nature and marvel at how the world and all the living things work to create a whole. 
  4. Watch a small child or an animal. Looking and observing someone or an animal that is not concerned with what others think of them. 
  5. Meditate: Consciously turning your mind off or finding something to focus on like a mantra (words repeated over and over for a time period, such as "peace"). There are tapes for guided meditation and there are many teachers. Allowing for quite time allows for creativity. I've heard it and experienced it, for every hour of quite time your working time seems to increase. 
  6. Listen and stop talking. You cannot learn when you are constantly talking. Evaluate your words and don't talk if you don't feel led. 
  7. Take in each of your senses, take time to fully appreciate good music by closing your eyes and feeling it, taste your food, enjoy and find things to wear that are soft against your skin, have good smells in your home and around you, make your space a place to feed your senses. A comfy bed loaded with comfy covers, a nice candle, good music, luscious natural food, beautiful things to look at that make you happy. 
  8. Keep your area clean and clutter free, clutter makes us anxious and weighs us down. 
  9. Enjoy a yoga class and cultivate how you feel in the poses.
  10. Take a deep long breath and exhale slow and long and get all the carbon dioxide out of your lungs. 
  11. Stop complaining, try to go a whole day without saying something negative. 
  12. Compliment someone.
  13. Help someone that needs your help.
  14. Smile at others.
  15. Be kind, everyone has their own struggles. That person that pulled out in front of you could have been up all night with a sick person or struggling with pain you have never known. 
  16. Give hugs.
  17. This is a big one for me: When I am in the throws of anxiety I think "God has always taken care of me. Yes I have had trouble in my life and I have lost people to death, divorce, and indifference, but I have always had shelter and food and someone in my life who loves me." The fact is things may be hard now but they do get better and life is not dessert everyday. If today is hard know that it won't always be this way. 
  18. Surround yourself with some community. Don't be alone all the time. It's not healthy. If you are single then find something to do that involves interaction, join a group, go to the gym, go to church, go to a yoga studio. Find your people. 
  19. Read something positive and put positive quotes in your path. I put positive sayings around my home and office. 
  20. Do something nice for yourself everyday. Make a cup of your favorite coffee, tea, or go for a walk. Make sure you carve out a little time each day that is not taxing or stressful. 
These are just a few tips, I am no expert. The truth is I've struggled with paralyzing anxiety my entire life and this is why I continually look for ideas that give me peace. I hope you have renewed peace now and in the coming year. 

Happy New Year 2013, 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Svadhyaya- Contemplation and Education

    Svadhyaya -- Self-study.   Spiritual self-education.   Contemplation and application of the scriptures or sacred texts of our chosen path.

This is a picture of my sweet, dear friend Stacey Faught R.Y.T. reading a psalm at the Lilias Folan workshop we attended together.

    Being a yoga teacher it is extremely hard not to mix your business and your personal life. If you truly try to live out your yoga then it's in everything you do and who you are. What I love about yoga is that it is always a "practice". I don't have to perform, and I am not expected to do anything perfectly. Though my faith is Christian I tend to study many texts and philosophies. I find that in doing so I often hear the voice of God through those words. Often the messenger is in a reading, a meditation, and often the messenger is a human or an animal or an event. In doing our asana practice and studying our yogic philosophies or any sacred text we can learn to care for ourselves and open ourselves up to hear God, our higher power, the universe, speak to us. For me yoga philosophy has given me great "Self Talk" and "Self Love". Anytime I need to fill my tank I can read the Yama's and NiYama's and find what I need. Now my challenge this past year has been taking the time to go there before I get out of sorts. It's okay, we all go through cycles. Yoga allows for forgiveness, of self and of others. The others has been tough for me this year, I will admit it, but I know because I have been given this path that I will be more compassionate to someone else who needs some lovin through a tough time. 
    When we practice all eight limbs of yoga we allow ourselves to tune our minds and bodies to our inner voice. I hope you find your inner voice and that you have lots of self love and positive self talk in your life, and have peace in knowing that you and no one else has to be on a pedestal, you can get up when you fall down and dust yourself off and start again. Your yoga practice will be there for you, it won't talk back, it won't argue, it will give you comfort, it will give you love, and you will always have it..everywhere you go.

    Namaste and Hugs, 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Tapas- Light the Fire Baby

Tapas- Austerity, discipline, lighting your own inner fire. 

This has been an interesting time for me, I chose to write about the Yama's 
and Niyama's over the period of one year, little did I know that within a day of 
doing so my life would completely change. I wrote my first post on the 
subject and within an hour my life completely turned around. Being a wife and a mother, a business owner, with a part time job working 12 hours a week teaching yoga and managing yoga classes for the local YMCA was my old life and within a few days everything changed. My husband and I split up, I'm still a momma but now I am a single mom, my business if flourishing but I am much more reliant on others and have hired more help, and I took on 
more work at the YMCA working 28 plus hours a week. 

So you may be thinking "I thought this was about discipline or tapas, why is 
she rambling on about her life?" Well because that is how we all relate, from 
our own personal viewpoint. This divorce has made me be in the moment 
and adopt a new sense of trust in the things I cannot see, the give and take, 
God, the energy of action and reaction. My personal practice of asana is not 
as strong as I would like and often I only get 20 minutes or so at a time. My 
physical body is weak from stress and my stamina is lacking. My practice of 
pranayama or my breathing is more of a tool that a practice right now, 
I literally live Ujjayi breathing, I am victory breath.I often catch myself 
breathing loudly around others to relax or simply to keep myself calm. 
My focus on the Yama's and Niyama's is stronger than ever but is constantly 
at a point of complete perplexity: how does one follow that feeling of 
contentment when your kids are hurting and you are hurting? How does one 
follow a place of non grasping when you feel like your whole world is slipping 
threw your fingers. Well you just do. You just trust, you self talk, you talk to 
friends, I pray, I tell myself "Today you are okay, and likely tomorrow you will 
be okay." Most of my 41 years God, the universe, has taken care of me and 
my children and I continue to trust in that. 

My discipline with my practice has not been a fire I have had to try to light, 
because I have needed it so badly the past seven months. I have needed to 
focus on the now, on the moment, on the philosophies and on my own 
internal health and wellbeing while being conscious of the fact that I still teach others and guide others and I want to be the honest/ authentic teacher they need. 
Below you will see what I thought was an excellent definition of Tapas: and below that I have included ways I have incorporated that fire in my life. 

"Discipline is having enough respect for yourself to make choices that truly 
nourish your well-being and provide opportunities for expansive growth. Far 
from being a kind of medicinal punishment, tapas allows us to direct our 
energy toward a fulfilled life of meaning and one that is exciting and 

1. Get enough sleep. I try to get 7 to 8 hours a night, and if I 
am tired I rest. 
2. Accept that everything does not have to get done now. 
Make a list and prioritize. Make good use of your energy. 
3. Eat very healthy. Everyday I try to make sure I'm eating 
veggies, fruit, yogurt, grains, nuts, and healthy low fat 
meals. If I am eating out I try to make a wise choice and 
eat a small meal or only half of my meal. 
4. Watch consumption of alcohol and sweets. I do enjoy a 
glass of wine or a drink occasionally but I limit myself to 
only once in while and no more than two. It never fails 
that I feel terrible the next day no matter if I only have 
one. Sweets are the same. I feel just awful when I have 
them. This is something that I believe when we 
develop self awareness we are more in tune with how the 
food we eat makes us feel. 
5. Spend time with people you love and who love you back. 
6. Be in nature. The past six months I have been out in 
nature a ton, taking lots of country drives, sitting on the 
porch, and taking long walks with no music just the 
sounds of the world. 
7. Listen to your heart. I am a social person, however lately I 
just don't feel like being very social. Before this life 
change I organized large events, went to art galleries, 
music events, and more, lately I just don't have that 
desire. It's almost like it's to much stimulation and I am in 
a place that I don't want to talk about the divorce, and 
often I find myself not knowing what to say. So I honor 
that and I stay back and nourish myself with time with one 
or two people, reading, watching movies, or spending 
time with my kids. 

Love and Light, 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Santosha or Santosa = Contentment

Santosha is a state of self acceptance of life the way it is. It is a place where you feel that you can accept and be present in the now, whatever that now is. Santosha is not being stagnant, or complacent, but understanding that where ever you are that is where you are supposed to be and it's okay not to know all the answers.
Going through major life changes myself I have recently developed a sense of what this means in a very full and real way. My kids are teenagers (yes, all four of them 14,15,16, & 18) and I am going through a long and painful divorce. My future is uncertain, however isn't that true for all living beings? Through pain we often develop a sense of peace once we move through the stages of grief onto acceptance.  This peace surpasses "easy breezy it's a good day peace" but an understanding that in the midst of trial you can find stillness. Many days my mantra has been "I'm okay right now".  When I look back over the past 41 years of my life I can say for the most part I've been okay most of the days of my life.
Yesterday my kiddo's and I went to my parents house for lunch. They live on a beautiful lake and my mom's partner asked the kids to go fishing on the dock. My second born son, Cole was fishing and he hooked a very large catfish. There was this long wonderful moment when I had all my kids with me, my family was there, everyone was cheering for Cole to bring the catfish in. We were all trying to help and encourage and this sense of completely being in the now, appreciating the now, loving the now, and accepting that being right there with my kids and nature that we were all "Okay right now".

*The big catfish was a mamma with a pregnant belly, she was released back into the lake right after the big fish picture was taken.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Green Juice - Detox Drinks

Hello, Hope this finds you well. Many of my friends and students have asked me for the recipe for Green Detox Juice.   I found one similar on Pinterest today. . Pinterest is a web organizing site that lets you put all your favorite things in categories to easily find and share. I LOVE IT!!!!
The juice recipe is really easy here but I would encourage you if you don't have all the ingredients: Make it up.
I find as long as you have some fruits and veggies your good. The ginger and lemon are the big cleaners and always having something green is good. If you know me personally you know I'm a big picture gal and I don't get bogged down in details: I work with people who do to balance me out, like a good yogini. So that being said your goal is to get more fruits and veggies.
As one of my favorite GURU's says "Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!" - Ms. Frizzel (The Magic School Bus, PBS)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Purity and Simplicity

Hello Yogi's,
 Hope this finds you well. As some of you know my life has taken a huge change in the past four months and I have been going through a divorce. It's been hard for me to write or even speak much lately, as my humanness and vulnerability seems very present at all times. Often my energy is used up in a day caring for the kids, the house, and work. So when it comes to writing, I want to, I really do, but I just can't seem to put things together. However, there are so many things that touch me and have helped me lately, and so I find it best for me to share those, because sometimes we are in the winter season, when things are quite, cold, and dark and gratefully there are those people out there who are in their spring or summer flourishing right along with generous amounts of wisdom. 

This is one of my favorite blogs I follow . It's full of helpful info to better your life. My goal in life is to find happiness. Living a simple life, one that has everyday joy is what is important to me. I can say even in my darkest days I find some joy in each one. Maybe it's a cup of coffee, a lunch with a friend, a hug, or very likely my yoga practice. 

Both of these post deal with living simply: Be more with less helps us think about how we can change the world, one small step at a time, and find happiness doing so. 
Then this wonderful excerpt from Donna Farhi explains Shaucha -Purity so beautifully that it's like reading poetry. 


Shaucha, or living purely, involves maintaining a cleanliness in body, mind, and environment so that we can experience ourselves at a higher resolution. The word pure comes from the Latin purus, which means clean and unadulterated. When we take in healthy food, untainted by pesticides and unnatural additives, the body starts to function more smoothly. When we read books that elevate our consciousness, see movies that inspire, and associate with gentle people, we are feeding the mind in a way that nourishes our own peacefulness. Creating a home environment that is elegant, simple, and uncluttered generates an atmosphere where we are not constantly distracted by the paraphernalia of yesterday's projects and last year's knickknacks. Shaucha is a testament to the positive power of association.

Practicing shaucha, meaning "that and nothing else," involves making choices about what you want and don't want in your life. Far from self-deprivation or dry piety, the practice of shaucha allows you to experience life more vividly. A clean plate enjoys the sweetness of an apple and the taste of pure water; a clear mind can appreciate the beauty of poetry and the wisdom imparted in a story; a polished table reveals the deep grain of the wood. This practice both generates beauty and allows us to appreciate it in all its many forms.

© Donna Farhi

Monday, January 23, 2012

Non Grasping
There are times in your life when your own words are not enough. 
Today is one of those times. My life has taken a huge turn over the past three and a half months and I've lost something I usually have in large reserve: My ability to speak fluently about the things in my head. It is as if my brain doesn't work with my mouth or my keyboad. So for this particular post on the last of the Yama's I am sharing from what I felt was a heart felt and touching description of Aparigraha. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. 

With Love, 

Aparigraha--Not GraspingHolding on to things and being free are two mutually exclusive states. The ordinary mind is constantly manipulating reality to get ground underneath it, building more and more concretized images of how things are and how others are, as a way of generating confidence and security. We build self-images and construct concepts and paradigms that feed our sense of certainty, and we then defend this edifice by bending every situation to reinforce our certainty. This would be fine if life were indeed a homogeneous event in which nothing ever changed; but life does change, and it demands that we adapt and change with it. The resistance to change, and tenaciously holding on to things, causes great suffering and prevents us from growing and living life in a more vital and pleasurable way. What yoga philosophy and all the great Buddhist teachings tells us is that solidity is a creation of the ordinary mind and that there never was anything permanent to begin with that we could hold on to. Life would be much easier and substantially less painful if we lived with the knowledge of impermanence as the only constant. As we all have discovered at some time in our lives, whenever we have tried to hold on too tightly to anything, whether it be possessiveness of our partner or our youthful identity, this has only led to the destruction of those very things we most value. Our best security lies in taking down our fences and barricades and allowing ourselves to grow, and through that growth becoming stronger and yet more resilient.
The practice of aparigraha also requires that we look at the way we use things to reinforce our sense of identity. The executive ego loves to believe in its own power but unfortunately requires a retinue of foot soldiers in the way of external objects such as the right clothes, car, house, job, or image to maintain this illusion. Because this executive ego is but an illusion created by our sense of separateness, it requires ever greater and more elaborate strategies to keep it clothed. Although the practice of not grasping may first begin as consciously withdrawing our hand from reaching for external things, eventually the need to reach outward at all diminishes until there is a recognition that that which is essential to us is already at hand.

This article was written by Donna Farhi on Healthy.net