Saturday Yoga

jk rowling quote

I’ve been thinking about my class yesterday at Rikers. After class a woman who had been watching asked me what yoga was all about. I told her that yoga is a way for me to unite my body and breathing so I can be in the moment. I told her that in many ways it saved my life, which is why I wanted to serve by teaching yoga to isolated communities.

‘Really? It saved your life?’ Her tone wasn’t suspicious but curious.

In that moment it really hit me. Yoga had saved and changed my life. Four years ago I was spiritually at rock bottom.

I had been shoving down feelings of loss over someone who had died.

I was avoiding feelings of confusion over my career. 

I was scared to admit that as a full fledged adult I did’t have a fracking clue who I was outside of said career. I was disconnected from myself. 

But yoga helped me connect. Now I get to teacher yoga teachers about teaching yoga inside prisons. I’m teaching yoga teachers about teaching therapeutics, mindfulness and trauma. Yoga led me to opening a massage therapy business. Yoga has given me the ability to speak to groups of people about getting and staying healthy through mindfulness and meditation.

Last week my friend Kathleen and I were catching up about yoga and life (which is thankfully these days the same thing). She said something like once you decide what you want to you just have to reach out and grab it.

I’m not saying that all I did was roll out my yoga mat and magically things rearranged. However, by being mindful and in the moment I had a better sense of who I was therefore making better decisions about following a path that honored me.

I’m grateful that I felt so miserable four years ago. Had I felt even a little bit better I would have taken another job and worked hard everyday without purpose. I know now that everything we do is on our own path to enlightenment if we are seeking a better way.

Happy Saturday.

 

Namaste y’all.

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Tuesday Yoga – Stop Shoulding on Yourself

should

“The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.”
― Albert Ellis

I woke up this morning at 6 instead of 5:30. I rushed to do a morning sit. I know- rushing to meditate? Doesn’t bode well. I sat on my block and silently began to chastise myself as soon as the bell rang.

I should’ve gotten up earlier.
I should’ve taken a shower first.
I should’ve turned on the washing machine.
Suddenly I remembered what one of my teachers said during my yoga for cancer training.
‘We need to stop ‘shoulding’ on ourselves.’
Peace crashed down. Things were as they were supposed to be, because if they were to be different I would have made different choices. I returned to my breathing. My steady in breath and out breath softened the tops of my shoulders. I began to unhook from tension and eased into the morning. I heard birds. Then a truck backing up. Then a passing bus. And always I came back to my breathing.
What started out as a tight morning resulted in the ability to reclaim the moment. And that’s what meditation is about. When I can recognize what is going on and investigate it I allow for a chance to let. it. go. Sometimes this is the yoga. It’s not about asana. In yoga we talk about Ahisma, practicing non-violence. This means being kind to others and the one’s own spirit.
No more shoulding on myself.
Namaste y’all.

Friday Yoga – Reminders from Yourself

 

minute you choose quote

I received mail from myself. Really. Several months ago, I took a meditation course. One Friday afternoon, we wrote ourselves a letter. It was a reflection on what we have learned so far and to remind ourselves of the power of being present. Emily, our teacher said that she would mail them to us. I had completely forgotten about it.

When I opened the mailbox and saw the chicken scratch a huge smile came across my face. I sat in the lobby of my building and read the letter. I’d never felt so intimate with my thoughts. It’s one thing to have a journal. It’s another to get them via the US Mail.

The last line read-

You have been living more authentically than you have in your life. Don’t stop. I love you.

-Oneika

I placed the letter on my meditation altar. Sometimes we are our own best teachers.

Choose.

Namaste y’all.

Friday Yoga – We start where we start…

dont-compare-yourself-quote

I had to walk my dog in a different direction due to construction. Even though I’ve been walking her for years, she gets a little panicked when we wander too far from home or take a different route. Dakota plants herself on the ground, stops walking or sometimes even tries to turn back. I’m not sure if it’s the past trauma she’s suffered or anxiety. Years ago, it was really bad and we couldn’t go very far- but now I have her sit and pause. Then we resume our walk with some encouragement from yours truly. After a few minutes, the anxiety dissipates and her dog smile appears. She transforms- no longer worried about where’s she’s going but enjoying dog stuff.

The next time I have that anxious feeling about starting again- I’m going to remember the furry creature that lives in my space.

We all start where we start.
Namaste y’all.

Three Ways to be Mindful at Work

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There’s a lot of talk these days about being more mindful. What is mindfulness? While there are myriad ways experts define what being mindful means one thing is clear, to be mindful is to intentionally bring awareness about thoughts, actions and emotions in the the present moment without judgment.

It means letting things be as they are without changing them.

Anderson Cooper discussed his experience with mindfulness and John Kabat-Zinn on 60 Minutes. We’re hearing more and more about how meditation can not only change your life, but a Harvard study suggests that it may actually change your brain. The wonderful thing about being mindful is that you can start small. And it doesn’t require adding anything to your life, but simply opening yourself up to what is happening in the moment.

You can be more mindful at home, with your family and even at work. Here are three ways that you can bring mindfulness to your work day.

  1. Be present. Easier said than done. Mindfulness teaches us that by being in this moment we can truly accept things as they are. When this happens we can think about making real lasting change. Of course there are times when attention is divided, but it may be worth asking yourself if it always has to be. Soemtimes distracting ourselves and being ‘so busy’ is a way to avoid bigger issues that really need our attention.
  2. Breathe. I know. We are always breathing. But when we pay attention on purpose to how we are breathing the effects can be transformative. Find a place to be still and inhale for a count of four and then slowly exhale for a count of four. Do this three or four times and you may find that you are more calm and relaxed.
  3. Take a moment for yourself. Sounds like another luxury but taking a minute to stop doing and start being can improve your outlook. It can be done anywhere. Before flying out of the car to run into the office, set a timer for one-minute, close your eyes and listen to yourself breathe. You don’t have to do anything to how you are breathing. Just listen. You may be surprised what you hear.

Make 2015 your year of living mindfully. Namaste y’all.

If you would like to learn more and listen to a beginner meditation, click here

3 Things My Meditation Practice Isn’t

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According to Jon Kabat-Zinn , “mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgmentally.”  When I meditate I’m working on staying with what is happening. When my mind wanders, I draw my attention back to the present. In theory this sounds like a piece of cake or a cake of peace (ouch). The reality is every ‘sit’ (meditation practice) is different. Some days I sit and feel an overwhelming sense of calm. I leave my sit feeling renewed. On others I’m left feeling frustrated and hyper-aware of my environment.

And that’s okay. Meditation isn’t supposed to be bliss. This journey of learning to be more present has been a more difficult and rewarding journey than my asana practice. However, without my asana practice, I wouldn’t be where I am now. It’s like Pema Chödrön says everything we do is on the path to enlightenment. I get lots of questions about my practice. How long do I do it? Is it hard? Do I feel better? Do I see God?

Here are three things my practice isn’t.

1. My practice isn’t easy.

squirrel

I am distracted easily by shiny objects. This is part of the reason why I do yoga. My mind can wander during meditation. But when it does I come back to the breath.

2. Fun

On some days my meditation practice leaves me with a sense of peace. On others, not so much. There have been times that in connecting with my breathing buried emotions arise. When this happens, I’ve learned to deal with what has come up.

3. Inconsistent

I sit on most days. I feel the diffenrece when I don’t sit for two days in a row. The homework for my meditation course requires a daily body scan of forty minutes. I didn’t do that this week. But I did wake up every morning and sit quietly for 20 minutes before I started my day. That’s progress. Mindfulness requires commitment. Commitment takes times.

There are no short cuts. It’s only recently that I’ve begin to appreciate this. When there aren’t ways to get ‘there’ faster, there’s no place to be in this moment. As a woman in her 40’s I’m in no hurry to run the clock down. Paying attention on purpose provides a new respect for the notion of time. Try this experiment. Stand firmly with your arms down by your sides for 3 minutes. Resist the urge to fidget or tug at your clothes. Keep your eyes open and gaze soft. Notice the fluctuations that happen in the mind. Notice the things you begin to say to yourself. After the three minutes set the time for three minutes and resume what you were doing. It’s funny how fast time flies when we aren’t present. And listen, I get it. We are busy. It’s not possible to be present every moment of every day. But imagine the rich texture life can have when we take moments to stop and be here now.

2015 is my year of living mindfully.

Namaste y’all.

Do you have a meditation practice? Have you just started one? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Adventures in Meditation 5am

cold street

At 5am there isn’t a lot of noise on my typically busy city street. But today as I sat in meditation it was my mind that was full and endlessly moving. At first, it was connecting with my breathing. Noticing how the air was moving in and out of my body.

Staying steady. Holding. Being. And then a distraction.

An announcement of the next stop from the bus outside.

I came back to my breathing. Noticing the expansion and contraction of my diaphragm. Another distraction. My dog’s breathing. And a thought. Is she asleep? A new sensation rose up. Heaviness and tingling in my eyelids. I think I am sleepy. Gently, I bring myself back to my breathing.

I notice the inhales and exhales, how the air moves inside my nose. My nose is dry I think. It must be the heat. And then another thought. Is it cold outside? Gently I bring myself back to my breathing. A sensation, this time in my belly. It feels soft and I feel a pang of shame. My stomach is not flat enough. Pretty enough. And a surprise. Instead of another thought there is another sensation. Tightness. In my chest. And a thought which is expected. I am not enough. I am not doing enough. I am not successful enough. 

More tightness. And then something changed.

I came back to my breathing and decided to stay with this emotion. I noticed the tightness and shame and stayed with it.

Breathing. Letting this be as they were. No changing. No shifting. No squashing down.

Things dissolve. Tightness lifts.

Just because I feel shame does not mean I will die from it. And if I sit with the feeling it will pass.

More thoughts and feelings came and went. And each time I came back to my breathing.

In 35 minutes the bells chimed indicating that my meditation was over. Normally, I feel a sense of completion. But today, I felt something new. A sense of renewal, that this was the start of something new.

Something present and mindful.

It was a challenging sit. However, I felt more like myself than ever before. Pena Chödrön says that mediation is a way to befriend who we already are.

I beginning to see the glimmer of something. 2015 is my year of living mindfully.

Namaste y’all

Saturday Yoga – Be Mindful

be all there

 

I’ve been talking non-stop about 2015 as the year of living mindfully. And I meant it.

But on Tuesday I left Rikers and got on the bus to start my trek back and realized that I had left my wallet inside the prison.

This required me to get off the bus, hop on another and go back.

Had I been truly present, I would have done a quick scan to ensure I was leaving with everything I brought in.

I was initially frustrated but let this feeling turn into understanding.

This has led me to shake up my traditional Saturday routine. I’m going switch up my normal class and do home practice at a different time.

Everything can be a lesson. I can’t just talk about being mindful, I must be mindful.

 

Namaste y’all.

Money Yoga

money and life

 

 

Money and Life is a documentary that talks about where money comes from (thin air) and how it’s been turned into the way we live our lives and what we can do about it.

 

 

 

Money & Life Extended Trailer from Katie Teague on Vimeo.

It got me thinking about my recent change in my relationship with money.  In the past two years I’ve let go of a lot of things that most think are big measures of success- my luxury condo, my car and lots of stuff that wasn’t serving me.

 

This isn’t to say that I don’t think that I should move on a commune away from society. But I have shifted my paradigm of thinking when it comes to how I measure my success and what I want to offer to the world. I’m more interested in the inter connectedness of the world rather that trying to squelch someone’s chances of success for my own gain. That kind of thinking works off a thought process that there isn’t enough. When in fact, there is enough. There is enough food, money, success, happiness for everyone.

I’m not talking about Law of Attraction woo woo stuff here. But one thing I have realized is that I used to put a lot of focus on accumulating stuff and not living life. And though my lifestyle has changed drastically from the one that I was living a few years ago- I’m more centered and more content than I have ever been.

I don’t think I’m fooling myself either, because the more I connected with the work I want to do, I created opportunities for myself.

In the beginning of the new year most of us look to cleanse our bodies. But what about cleansing for we spend and live? Life gets busy and our routines could use a shake up. When was the last time you checked in with your kids about how they understand money? Have you taken a look at how you are saving for retirement? Are you spending excess money each week without knowing it? Regardless of how tight you may think you manage, it’s a good idea to check-in.

Beth Kobliner, probably best known for her book Get a Financial Life encourages people to do a ‘money fast’ at the beginning of each year. After paying necessary expenses, can you spend the month with spending any money? It’s a great way to see what’s important and what’s not. It may also challenge your idea of what is important.

If you are serious about jump starting your financial health. Levo League has five great tips to get you started on a 30-day financial cleanse.

1. Introduce yourself to the bare necessities.

Cut out all frivolous spending, so you can get to the bottom of your relationship with money. You can spend on groceries, bills, transportation, and health expenses—nothing more.

2. Convert to cash

When we use cash, we become more aware of our spending. It might sound counterintuitive, but managing your spending habits becomes simpler without a credit or debit card. Either your wallet is full, or your wallet is empty. You see the flow of your money in real time.

3. Monitor your spending

Over the course of a week, you can begin to monitor what you really miss and what you are surprised you can easily live without. You’ll be motivated by the amount of money you’re saving in the meantime, and you’ll likely think to yourself, “This is a lot easier than I thought!”

4. Learn to forgive, in order to learn

Even with all the progress you’ve made so far, you’ll most likely slip up and purchase something you didn’t mean to. It’s very important to forgive yourself.

Like I said, our habits become very automatic and as soon as we let our guards down, we may catch ourselves swiping a credit card on something we are in the habit of buying. Take this moment to truly consider your motivations behind your spending.

5. Reassess your values

Understanding your values and what’s really important to you is the key to financial wellness. Your spending and use of your time should point to your values—meaning, you should be spending the majority of your time and money on things of utmost importance.

If you’re not, you’re unaligned with your spending and have the opportunity to use your money in much more meaningful ways. For example, if family is really important to you, but you spend no time with them and no money on spending time with them, you’re missing out on very fulfilling spending.

You may want to plan more trips with them, or even plan to visit them if they aren’t nearby. I call this putting your money where your heart is.

 

 

 

Check out the entire documentary Money & Life below.  It’s great to watch with the family.