The Power of Choice and The Yoga of Action

Life is Good

I mean, really, REALLY GOOD. It is easy, however, to get caught up in the not-so-good – the suffering, the disaster and the struggle. With so many of us fighting just to pay the bills and to put food on the table, it can be comforting to commiserate and complain with others who are experiencing the same thing. Lately though, I have noticed that focusing on the struggle is actually counter-productive. It is overwhelming and frankly pointless.

Suffering is Optional

I am aware that struggles will continue to occur in my life. I also realize that how I respond to the struggle is my choice. Yoga and mindfulness practices have helped me get to the point where I can notice the things in life, and in the world, that are unfair, unjust or downright difficult. I can notice these things and not get wrapped up in the hopelessness of it all. In the midst of crisis, I can still feel connected and comforted. I am fully aware of the suffering in my life and in the lives of others but I also see the potential that lies in each and every one of us. It is empowering. It is inspiring. It leads to the kind of action that can make a difference.

Unsure about what action you should take? Join the club.

If you find yourself feeling confused or helpless, know that you are not alone. Take comfort in your choices, even the little ones. Making a choice to live a life of mindfulness is taking action. Making a choice to roll out your mat or sit on your meditation cushion is taking action. Whether the choice is to go for a walk, to help a neighbor, or to simply feel better about yourself, the choice itself is the first step towards making a difference. No matter how small or insignificant it may seem, when you claim your power of choice, it has a snowball effect in your life.

Why Yoga?

In yoga practice we confront ourselves both physically and mentally. We practice letting go of attachments in the simplest of ways. For example, we let go of thinking about our To-Do Lists and instead focus on breathing and relaxation. Yoga reveals to us our strengths, our limitations and our unhealthy patterns of thinking. It teaches us acceptance and shows us where we have room to grow. With that awareness, we are left with a choice. And just as we practice, we can choose to let go of fear and suffering and focus on solutions and potential instead. Take comfort in your choices because they contain your power for transformation, for change.

Every minute of every day is full of opportunity to claim your power. And it really is as simple as a choice – a choice, right now, between fear and LIFE. I choose life – fully awake, vibrant, healthy, active, compassionate life. And with that simple choice I am seeing evidence of my untapped potential. And it is good, really, REALLY GOOD.

So, how do you shift from worry and fear to decisive action? How does yoga practice help you make a difference in your life and the lives of others? I would love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment below.

Yours in Gratitude,

Lindsay

A Yoga Pose for Letting Go and Opening to Potential

 

Reclining Hero's Pose Variation

Practice moving into this pose with intention and deliberate placement of your body. Exercise your power of presence, choice and action.

 

supported hero pose supta virasana

Sit with your feet at the outsides of your hips. You can separate your knees as wide as you'd like to find a comfortable position for your knees. Keep your feet close to your hips with the tops of your feet on the floor and your toes pointed directly behind you. Place a bolster or  folded blankets behind you and begin to recline back, resting your upper body on the bolster. Your neck should be in a neutral position which means you may need to use additional bolsters or blankets to see that your head and neck are supported. Relax as completely and deeply as possible. Breath slowly in and out through the nose. Relax your shoulders down and rest your arms on the floor with your palms facing up. Allow your heart center to widen as if the skin and muscles of your chest and your ribs are opening side to side, exposing your heart and revealing your true nature, your choices in this moment, your power.

Yoga to the Rescue: Winter Warmth is Just a Pose Away

Snowed in and stir crazy? Or is it just me?

I am so restless in fact that I've moved furniture in the coldest room of my house so that I could have some space to get busy and heat things up yoga-style. I've even busted out the camera (and leg warmers and yoga socks ).

Here is a short yoga practice, about 20 minutes total, that I put together with the intention of heating up my body and soothing my nerves. The sequence includes a fire starting breathing technique, sun and moon salutations, strength building poses, deep hip stretches and backbends. And don't forget about final relaxation to help spread that fire to your whole body.

The audio and video quality is not the best but the information is there. This sequence (and my legwarmers) has been so helpful to me while I've been snowbound. I hope it helps you, too.

So, turn up the heat and move your body. Let's melt the snow together y'all.

Yoga for Winter Warmth Part 1 – The Warm Up

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Yoga for Winter Warmth Part 2 – Deeper Stretches and Heat Building Poses

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Post your questions or share your Yoga for Winter Warmth experience below.

Namaste,

Lindsay

Yoga for Clarity YouTube Video

Yoga to the Rescue: The Other Side of Confusion

Have you made your resolutions for 2011?

I can't say that I've ever been in the habit of listing my New Year's Resolutions at the years end. For one, I am constantly striving to be a better me. My goals and inspirations come to me throughout the year. However, this awareness of my un-involvement in, and in fact apathy for this very popular tradition has me indulging in introspection.

Is it because in the past I haven't seen myself as the deliberate creator that I am? Am I prone to a victim mindset (you know, faulting the economy, the job market, my upbringing, and other endless excuses)? I am simply too lazy to take responsibility for my life?

The question often contains the answer

Ouch. The truth sure stings sometimes. Still, I prefer it to living a life of illusion (not the Joe Walsh song – actually, I really like that song). With all of this in mind, I have begun a new practice, a "resolution" if you will. When I have a tendency to question, I turn it into a statement. The result is that I find clarity where there was previously floundering. With clarity I am more likely to take action. It is like this: When I state that I haven't recognized my power for intentional living and that I use excuses to let myself off the hook and that I can claim my power and my responsibility at any moment, a pretty wonderful thing happens. I know what my next step is.

Practice is the key word here. I am not always as present for myself as I intend to be. Fortunately, my default response to feeling knocked off my center is internalization and questioning. And as I mentioned earlier, the question and the answer are usually very close indeed.

Bonus: I always have my yoga practice which continues to reveal me to me.

Yoga Sequence for Clarity and Inspiration

I have designed this short asana sequence to relax and sooth stressed nerves and reveal a clear headed, confident state of mind. Practice when you feel confused or unclear about what you want, your life purpose or simply what you should do next.

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So there it is, my gift to you as we enter this new year (and new decade!). Please return to it whenever you need. I plan on posting more videos soon. Please let me know if you have any requests.

Also, I would love to hear your thoughts about this video or about your New Year's resolutions. How do you find clarity amidst the chaos? Please share!

Happy New Year!

Lindsay

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bringing Your Yoga Practice Off of Your Mat

In the sacred space of the yoga room, you are provided with a safe place to get to know yourself, your body, your fears and your strengths.

Yoga class can bring many lessons and a variety of experiences within the span of but 60-90 minutes. Learning how to apply your experiences in yoga class to your life outside of the yoga room can bring that bliss-filled-yoga-class-clarity to other areas of your life, too.

Here are a few examples of how to grow your yoga practice into your day-to-day moments.

Notice your breath.

Something that is repeated in yoga class after yoga class is bringing your awareness to your breath. Also, incorporated in a class is pranayama or yogic breathing exercises. This is a helpful and powerful practice that carries over into everyday life almost by default. With regular practice, you begin to notice how you are breathing in any given situation. For example, "Is my breath short and shallow or slow and steady?"

The awareness that yoga practices brings and the ability to return to your slow flow of breathe can be extremely helpful. A relaxed breathe promotes a relaxed body and ultimately a relaxed mind. Try it next time you are stressed while sitting in traffic or facing a deadline at work. First, notice that you are stressing out (that seems pretty obvious). Then, notice your breath. Let go of everything else and breathe slow and deep. What usually comes next is a sense of serene clarity and the ability to to handle whatever it is that has you stressed. The alternate nostril breath is a brilliant "stress-buster" (I have been known to do this while driving).

Release unnecessary tension.

In the same way that awareness of your breath is helpful, so is awareness of your body. The cues given by yoga teachers in class are relevent in many situations daily. That "dawning" you have in class when you finally understand what it means to release your shoulders back and down holds true in life – release unnecessary tension. In other words, find where you are "leaking" energy with tense muscles, let go of the tension, and you might just find that you have more energy and clarity as a result.

Let go of what does not serve you.

In the most literal sense yoga class helps you relieve the physical tension that leads to energy "leaks." In yoga class you are often confronted with your criticisms, comparisons and judgements of yourself (and sometimes others) as well. You can either continue those patterns of thought and be miserable or you can let go of those things (even if just for the span of the class) in order to have a better class experience. This becomes a practice for life as well. Can you let go of certain patterns that you may have outgrown?

Accept yourself as you are.

Comparisons and goal-oriented mindsets are part of our nature. We want to strive, we want to achieve. No different with our yoga practice. We have reasons for practicing, for example, weight loss, peace of mind, or a deeper spiritual connection. It is easy to slip into a mindset of "achieving" or in other words "wanting" and thus living in the mental space of "not having" You won't be able perform the most advanced or physically challenging poses in the beginning, nor would you want to (ouch!). However, you can realize that the beauty is, in fact, in the unfolding – the opening up to yourself.

When you realize that where you are in your ability is perfect and exactly were you need to be, a miraculous thing happens. You accept yourself as you are instead of fighting your limitations. Your focus shifts from that which you do not have (wanting mind) to that of appreciation for what you are. And in this space, you are open to way more possibilities than those stringent goals you set in the first place. Why limit yourself in life? Be easy about it and give yourself the freedom to allow infinite possibility.

Please share your thoughts about bringing yoga union to your off-the-mat life. I would really love to hear from you.

Love,

Lindsay

If you'd like to read more, check out this post where I discuss the subtle ways in which my yoga practice helped me deal with chronic depression.

 

 

 

youtubeforgiveness

The Yoga of Relationships – Moving from Anger to Forgiveness [VIDEO]

The Yoga Microcosm Effect.

The more I practice yoga, the more I see my body as a symbolic representation of the non-physical me. While in a yoga pose I notice the subtle relationships in my body, for example, the relationship between the breath and the tension in my body and also the relationship between my feet and my spine. Honesty and good communication are important elements in a healthy relationship and the key to those things is awareness.

In this short video, I discuss how yoga and cultivation of awareness can be a useful tool in creating the kinds of relationships you want in your life. Specifically, I describe how I moved from anger and pain in a relationship to forgiveness and freedom.

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I would love to hear your thoughts about this. Have you noticed the lessons of a yoga pose having an effect on your life outside of the yoga mat? How has yoga helped you create healthy relationships in your life?

Post your comments below.

Lots of Love,

Lindsay

 

 

How I Came to Understand Children’s Yoga ~ My elephantjournal.com debut!

My elephantjournal.com debut!

I am so excited about this. The community of bloggers and thoughtful people over at elephantjournal.com are a huge inspiration to me. It is one of my favorite places to hang out online and if you head on over there and look around a bit, you will see why.

I would be truly honored if you would read my very first post for elephantjournal.com and leave a comment there and even share with your friends and social networks (that would be awesome!).

My Children, My Gurus

As a mother of two, I know parenting to be one the most challenging and rewarding endeavors one can experience in life.

I am grateful to have found myself seeing the world through my children’s eyes as they explore with reckless abandon and plenty of giggles. There’s nothing quite like a big squishy hug and an “I love you, Mommy” after a long day of enforcing boundaries and worrying about their safety.

As a yoga teacher, I find sharing yoga with others to be incredibly rewarding as well. You can learn a lot by having to explain something to someone and by seeing people become empowered to participate in life mindfully and compassionately. Why it never occurred to me that combining the two (children and yoga) could be such a profound experience is beyond me.

So, it happened by chance that I stumbled upon the amazing gift of teaching yoga to children and I have my beautiful 6 year old daughter, Tobin, to thank for it. Continue reading on elephantjournal …

Thanks for your support!!

Previously published here on my blog in December 2009.

Strike a Pose Saturday: Dancing with Your Inner Warrior

I am feeling all nostalgic for South Florida, the ocean and Hot Yoga Teacher Training.

So, this week’s Strike a Pose feature includes a picture of me yoga-posing it on Ft. Lauderdale Beach, in the thick of teacher training.

Jimmy Barkan’s Yoga Teacher Training was a life-shifting experience for me, symbolized here by the funny camera angle.

Reverse Warrior

I know this pose by several names: Reverse Warrior, Exalted Warrior and Dancing Warrior. I like all three names and use them interchangeably. Depending on the mood and the moment, each name can be appropriate.

Yes, I could have my right knee a little more bent in the picture above, with my thigh parallel with the sand but 3 weeks into the training, my legs and hips were ridiculously tight from the hours of yoga practice every day. Not to mention the sand and the surf – they made things a little tricky, too (hey, where’d my feet go?).

Tips

  • -The alignment of the bent knee is important to avoid straining the ligaments of the knee joint. Keep the knee centered directly over the ankle.
  • -Keep the straight leg very active and straight with the outer edge of the foot pressing into the mat (or sand … or whatever).
  • -Hips should be in a neutral position which means scoop the tailbone slightly and draw the navel and lower ribs in and up.
  • -Try not to lean into the hand that is on the outer thigh but rather lift up and stretch back.
  • -The tendency will be to straighten the front leg when you go back, so be mindful of the legs, with a little extra attention on that front knee, throughout the pose.

Benefits

  • -Increases the strength and flexibility of the legs, ankles and feet.
  • -Stretches the groin, hip muscles and connective tissue of the hips.
  • -Stretches the side of the torso and the arm.

Read last week’s tips for Wheel Pose.

Thanks for reading and please leave any questions or comments below (I love questions!).

Lots of Love,

Lindsay

By the way, please practice safely. These articles express my opinion and while I have over a decade’s experience with hatha yoga practice, intensive teacher trainings and hundreds of hours of teaching, always consult your physician before beginning any exercise regimen and to find out what activities suit your uniqueness. Because you are special and doggonit … I like you.

Strike a Pose Saturday: Bending Over Backwards Never Felt SO GOOD!

I don’t know about you, but I love backbends.

There is something about the inside-out feeling of bending my body in this way provides such a release (and relief!) for me. It didn’t come naturally, though, and it took some practice and mental focus to overcome the fear I had around opening my back and my body. Then, once I was clear and trusting that backbends were actually GOOD for me, my body had to catch up with my mind. There was years and years of tightness and patterns to work through (still working through, by the way), a journey which is as much emotional as it is physical. This disciplined practice of yoga asana (hatha yoga) is all about FREEDOM and that is what this pose has taught me the most – freedom in my body and in my thoughts and emotions.

Hi, my name is Lindsay and I’m a Hatha Yogi.

yoga wheel pose

Here I am in Chakrasana, Wheel Pose at Weaverville Yoga in Weaverville, NC

Benefits of Wheel Pose:

  • -Strengthens the wrists and arms as well as the legs, glutes (your yoga butt!) and spine.
  • -Stretches the whole front of the body, the front of the hips, the chest and shoulders.
  • -Great for an energy boost (Try Skull Shining Breath while in this pose. It’s like drinking 12 cups of coffee – seriously!).
  • -Counteracts depression (I wrote about this here).

Tips:

I heard someone say once in a yoga class that you know you’re a yogi if you have flexible armpits.

It’s true. For me, when learning this pose, the shoulders (armpits included) were especially tricky. For a long time, my elbows would bend and want to point to the outside (not ideal). I had to do a lot of preparatory opening before I could move safely into my Wheel. For some people tightness in the front of the hip prevents mobility in this pose. Also, flexibility of the spine develops with practice. Try to think of your spine as long and spacious with room to move between each vertebrae. Breathing helps.

Stretches You can do to prepare for Chakrasana, Wheel Pose.

-For the Hips – Low Lunge, Bridge Pose (this one is great for the spine, too), Splits

-For the Shoulders – Downward Facing Dog, Extended Puppy Dog, Shoulder Openers

More helpful tips from my yogi friends …

-Here are some really awesome tips and an incredibly effective shoulder stretch from Lucas Rockwood.

-And here is a video from Sadie Nardini where she demonstrates some more shoulder openers.

Please post any questions below and as always, thanks for reading!

Lots of Love,

Lindsay

P.S. You can read last week’s post for tips on Standing Bow Pose.

By the way, please practice safely. These articles express my opinion and while I have over a decade’s experience with hatha yoga practice, intensive teacher trainings and hundreds of hours of teaching, always consult your physician before beginning any exercise regimen and to find out what activities suit your uniqueness. Because you are special and doggonit … I like you.

 

 

Strike a Pose Saturday: King Standing Dancer, er, Bow Pose a.k.a. My Favorite

I know, I know … I’m not supposed to pick favorites … BUT … if I had to, this pose it IT. For so many years (over a decade now – sheesh!) I have been practicing this pose and every time I do, it reveals something different to me … about me, within me, and it’s always new.

In Hot Yoga, it is know as Standing Bow or Standing Bow Pulling Pose. In other yoga styles, it is known most commonly as Dancer’s Pose. Doesn’t matter to me. You can call it “Show me your butt and I’ll pick my nose pose” … I’d still love it. Yes, a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.

Here I am at Bikram Yoga Asheville. Janet Horn, one of the owners was sweet enough to stay after class and give me some tips. She even took this picture for me. Janet ROCKS.

Lindsay Fields in Standing Bow Pose at Bikram Yoga Asheville

Did you notice that my toenails match my shirt?

Some Tips:

Beginners – This is a very challenging pose so please, be patient. And rest assured that at any level, you can still find a correct position and receive all of the benefits of the pose. Work on lowering the upper body first. Then, you can think more about kicking the leg back and up. For most beginners, if you kick back too much at first, you will not be able to lower the upper body down quite as much. The standing leg hamstring requires care and attention to open up (necessary to lower the upper body).  Allow the arm that is holding the ankle to extend back and away from your body while the other arm reaches forward with the palm facing down, parallel to the floor. Keep your eye gaze up over the extended fingertips (not down!).

Intermediate/Advanced – Your standing leg hamstring is key. It is, in fact, 40% of the pose. Notice that if you kick the leg back too quickly the hamstring won’t allow you to lower the upper body. However, if you don’t kick enough in the beginning, you’ll lose the dynamic stretching (the reaching and kicking in opposite directions) and again your mobility will be limited. So basically, experiment with this understanding that 40% of the pose is in the standing leg hamstring, 40% is in the backbend (happens naturally) and the other 20% is in allowing the shoulder and hip to move up and back behind you (hips are NOT square by the way!). Your two heels will line up from top to bottom in the full expression of the pose. More advanced students may grab lower on the leg (away from the ankle). Think of your side body as long and stretching with both sides of the body equal in length. The side with the kicking leg will want to contract – lengthen by kicking back more.

Benefits:

Stretches the shoulders, chest, abdomen, hips, groin and hamstrings.

Strengthens the legs, ankles and feet.

Improves balance.

Opens and strengthens the lungs and heart.

Improves circulation.

 

See you on the mat!

Lindsay


Bonus! Here is my first YouTube video ever … Standing Bow Pose Example.

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By the way, please practice safely. These articles express my opinion and while I have over a decade’s experience with hatha yoga practice, intensive teacher trainings and hundreds of hours of teaching, always consult your physician before beginning any exercise regimen and to find out what activities suit your uniqueness. Because you are special and doggonit … I like you.

Strike a Pose Saturday: I Like to Stand on My Hands

A new feature on my blog … sort of my Wordless Wednesday or Photogenic Friday … but, you know, on Saturday.

I will be sharing a yoga pose, with some tips and info every week. Mostly, I am just posting what I am doing these days, places I am visiting, my current favorite (or darn it – why can’t I freakin’ do this?!?!) yoga pose.

Here I am at the Main Street Nature Park in downtown Weaverville, NC

yoga in the park

Still a little timid when it comes to handstanding it away from the wall but thanks to my friend, the tree here, I ventured out of my safety nets and the handstand practice I am accustomed to.

One of the biggest challenges with handstands is overcoming you fear of falling. Best way to overcome that fear? Just do it. And know that you are going to fall at some point. I have – plenty of times. Learning to fall correctly and safely is an important part of the process … but you will probably learn the hard way. For example, I fell once and broke my left big toe. The good news? My fears were realized. What I dreaded has already happened and now I can move on. Oh, and the falling incorrectly thing? It hasn’t happened again.

In the beginning, the hard part will be to straighten your elbows and have your arms be solid and supportive like tree trunks. You can prep yourself for this pose, strengthen your upper body and arms with other poses such as downward facing dog, plank, forearm balance, etc.

Benefits:

  • Strengthens wrists, arms and shoulders
  • Improves  balance
  • A good pick me up when you are feeling sluggish or down. Nothing quite like shifting your perspective – literally!
  • Invites playfulness

Cautions:

  • Back, shoulder, or neck injury
  • Serious heart condition or high blood pressure
  • Ladies – core muscles are crucial in this pose so better not to do it when your lower belly area is busy doing other, monthly, female specific stuff … chances are, you won’t feel like doing it anyway.

Please check out my first ever giveaway …. you can win a yoga DVD!!

Thanks and love!

Lindsay

By the way, please practice safely, especially with inversions and when practicing outside of the yoga room. These articles express my opinion and while I have over a decade’s experience with hatha yoga practice, intensive teacher trainings and hundreds of hours of teaching, always consult your physician before beginning any exercise regimen and to find out what activities suit your uniqueness. Becuase you are special and doggonit … I like you.