Take your mind off the gas pedal

namaste license plate

As is often the case, today’s blog post was inspired by a conversation with a friend.  Ironically, we were discussing the topic of yesterday’s post, Refilling your patience carafe.’  We were talking about keeping our cool when despite our best efforts to maintain a peaceful attitude, life still comes at you.

He told me about a recent incident he had when he was in the car with his kids, and found himself to be the object of someone’s road rage.  At first he was able to rise above, but the other driver had long gone ’round the bend’ (pun intended), and soon he found himself feeling taken over by the same frustration. He was able to stay out of the chaos, because he was concerned most with his children’s safety, but was still seething long after he’d gotten of the road.

How often do we relinquish control of our happiness or unhappiness to someone else?  When we allow someone else to control us, we’re really just giving ourselves over to ego, to the monkey mind.  “How dare he do that to me?”  “Who does she think she is?”  “I’m never going to pass that test.” “Where am I going to find the money for that?”

When we replay conversations or situations that didn’t sit right with us over and over, it’s like we’re stepping on a thought accelerator.  And once you find yourself in this obsessive ’round about’ it’s hard to see the exit. How often are we really just mind racing ourselves?

I found myself in a sort of ‘thought loop’ the other day, and decided to take an online class with Marc Holzman targeted at grounding yourself after a hectic day.

The poses were delicious, of course, but it was a quote he kept repeating that really helped me to let go.  The saying had been passed to his teacher from the Maharashi, and then passed down to him

“Oh my mind, be kind to me.”

Sometimes something as simple as an inspiring quote can unlock a new door.  I love this quote, and will definitely incorporate it often into my practice and my teaching.

How else can we find our way out of the roundabout?  Be aware of your physical and emotional reaction without trying to change it.  Awareness is distance from attachment. And give your mind something to do like focus on your breath.

The breath tells us a lot about the mind.  If your breath is wobbly, labored or short, so goes your mental state. You can begin to let your mind off of the gas pedal and cruise by witnessing your own breath.

May your mind be kind to you, and your breath help you shift into neutral.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Recycledartco / Etsy)

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Rest your soul with yoga nidra (and Sara Ivanhoe)

yoga nidra

This weekend, I had the pleasure of attending Sara Ivahoe’s Yoga Nidra workshop at the Southeast Yoga Conference.  I wasn’t quite sure what I was in for, as I had not experienced a yoga nidra practice, but when it comes … Continue reading

Is Aerial Yoga Cirque Du Soleil?

aerial-pigeon-pose-yoga

When I tell someone new to yoga or someone who doesn’t know me that I’m on my way to take or teach an aerial yoga class, the conversation inevitably goes something like this…

“Where are you going?”

“I’m on my way to teach an aerial yoga class?”

“What’s aerial yoga?”

“Well, I teach many of the same poses that I teach on the mat, but students are either partially or fully suspended in a silk fabric hammock or sling.”

“Really? Like Cirque Du Soleil ‘n shit?”

“Not exactly.  We aren’t flying around the room tossing and catching each other from a high flying trapeze under the big top.”

“Is it better than regular yoga?”

“Not really, just different.  Students often find that they can sink more easily or deeply into a pose than they can on the floor.  Plus, it’s fun.”

“Oh my god, I could never do that.”

Continue reading

Laugh Yourself Healthy

Remember when you were little and you found something funny?  Remember how you would just guffaw, without regard for how you looked or horse-laughingsounded.  Maybe you snorted.  Maybe a little drool fell out of your mouth.  Maybe you even tinkled your pants a little?  Are you smiling yet?

When was the last time you laughed so hard your sides literally hurt?

Try this.  Stop what you’re doing and force a ridiculous, loud outburst of laughter.  Who cares who’s around or who might be watching or hear you.  Just do it.  Did you try it?  Did you notice, that reflexive laughter took over?  Do you feel better?

A March 8, 2005 at the American College of Cardiology recommends that we laugh on a regular basis for our health. Dr. Michael Miller of the University of Maryland, School of Medicine in Baltimore said, “Thirty minutes of exercise three times a week, and 15 minutes of laughter on a daily basis is probably good for the vascular system. The recommendation for a healthy heart may one day be to exercise, eat right and laugh a few times a day.”

Some fitness gurus even claim that a good hearty laugh is actually like a little workout.  Your abs are engaged, your heart rate increases bringing oxygen to tissue, and you actually burn calories just like when you’re on the treadmill.   And, most importantly, when you’re laughing heartily you are immersed in the present moment.

Just like taking a few breaths in the midst of crisis or anxiety, finding humor in the situation can minimize emotional and physical reactions to stress.  Being able to laugh at yourself is an exquisite talent.   As one of the worlds clumsiest people, I had to learn at a young age to laugh it off like the time I stepped on a moving treadmill at the gym and went flying off like a bad ’70s sitcom scene.

If the thought of shrugging off some of your most embarrassing moments with laughter seems too lofty a goal for now, start simple.   Fill your environment with items that make you smile or laugh.  Watch a funny movie every week.  Surround yourself with people who laugh a lot.  Laughter is, in fact, contagious.  The company you keep affects the way you feel. 

In yoga, try lion pose in the mirror and let me know if you can keep a straight face.  If you can’t seem to get it together in Warrior III, chortle, rinse and repeat.

Whatever gets you cracking up, do it.  Do it daily.  If you need something to get started, I leave you with this video…Quad Babies Laughing.

Nama-Silly.

– Your Charmed Yogi

Keep Your Cool Amidst Chaos

yoga-easy-seated-pose

You know the old idiom, “a watched pot never boils?”   While we all know water will boil in the same amount of time whether or not we’re hovering over it, the true meaning of this phrase is more about patience.  If you stare at the pot, time appears to be at a standstill.  Of course, if you occupy yourself with something else while waiting for the pot to boil, it will be boiling over before you know it.

But, when it comes to emotional reaction to mind activity or external stressors, I say WATCH the pot!  When a simmering mind full of thought  goes unwatched, it most definitely can boil over in the form of fear, anxiety, depression, anger, etc.

Being aware of physical reactions to stress and keenly observing thought patterns can quickly take the wind out of your mind’s sails, and the reaction itself becomes diminished.

Instead of trying to push the thoughts,  feelings, or physical reactions away (we call this resistance), bring your awareness to them.   Notice what happens with your muscles, particularly in your shoulders, between your eyes and in your jaw when you’re stressed.  And, release.  Notice what’s happening with your breath.   Is it short and shallow?  Are you holding your breath subconsciously?  Without making a conscious effort to change these responses, notice how simply bringing your awareness to them results in relief.

If you’re amidst an acutely powerful stress reaction, talk to someone.  Take a step out side and connect with the earth — literally.  Sit on the ground, hold a rock, ground yourself.    Once you’re able to bring attention to the physical, see if you can observe your thought process.   Note: you are not your thoughts.     Listen to your own mental chatter as often as you are aware of it, and see how you can’t be thinking it and reacting to it at the same time.

Meditation or even just sitting in silence and connecting with your breath for five minutes a day helps show incessant thoughts the way out of your head.  If stress has you feeling down and diminished, try a restorative practice.  If you’re feeling particularly antsy and agitated, a power yoga class might help you get rid of the excess energy.    On the other hand, if you always gravitate to a restorative class, try mixing it up with a more vigorous flow and vice versa.  We all hold onto energy in different ways.

However you choose to find balance and bring silence into being, watch your pot carefully.

“Not to be able to stop thinking is a dreadful affliction, but we don’t realize it because almost everybody is suffering from it, so it is considered normal.  This incessant mental noise prevents us from finding that realm of inner stillness that is inseparable from Being.”

ECKHART TOLLE, The Power of Now

Namaste.

-Your Charmed Yogi