Category Archives: yoga

Mind, Body, and Soul Nourishment

The garden is a refuge, a place of quiet contemplation, a source of nourishment for mind and body alike. — Dean Pailler

My garden is nature, books, love, laughter, fruits and vegetables, and coconut milk ice cream. It’s writing and yoga and the vibrant life intermixed with the sounds of vibrant silence. I nourish myself with these things daily.

photo by Konejita.

Do you feel nourished in your life, work, and love? Is nourishment something you seek on a daily basis? How do you nourish yourself? Nourishment to me, consists of incorporating elements of mindfulness, love, compassion, and peace throughout my day.

I have had a lot of moments of sadness in the past couple of weeks yet I have still been able to keep myself nourished. It’s a matter of practice. If we breathe deeply in yoga class and it becomes an integral part of our practice, then we can breathe deeply in moments of stress when in the past we would have been more likely to shut down or attack. If we nourish ourselves in the moments of joy, then we can do it in the moments of sadness.

There is always joy in every moment of sadness and the key is to find it. It’s embedded in acceptance, surrender, and love. When we accept our current situation, we can use it as a tool or anchor on our path rather than becoming a victim on our own path. We gain the control in our lives and manifest our dreams when we are the love and happiness we seek in life because we know that this hardship, this challenge will pass, but we have an unconditional faith and love in ourselves that is always present.

So even if you hate your job, you do not feed yourself that hate by focusing on that, you focus on all that you are grateful for that this job allows instead. You allow a path to be created each day through that gratitude that brings you closer to the career you are seeking. The same is true for people we find ourselves hating as well. Create boundaries, spend less time with the person, and have no expectations or attachments to a certain outcome where that person is concerned. We can let these situations limit us or we can let them teach us areas where we need to let go a little more and let more love into our lives. Love is the only thing that will lead us to more love in our lives.

Believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.
— Rainer Maria Rilke

Create this love in your life. Feel this love for yourself and let it be unconditional regardless of your perception of yourself or of your life.  Let this love be a constant that inspires and nourishes you. Let it create a spirit of limitlessness in your life where your obstacles become your stepping stones and where your enemies become your teachers.

— lissa

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super star divine goddess teacher

This piece also appears on elephant journal. Happy dance. Check it out over there too :)
photo from bouddha.

You don’t need to be a super star divine goddess of perfection to teach yoga. You don’t need to be able to do handstand effortlessly in the middle of the room for five minutes before you feel like you can teach. You don’t need to have every single skill or experience on the advertisement for your dream job before you apply for it. You are always good enough in every moment to go after and get what you want so long as you believe in yourself and your ability. Know that.

Most of my upbringing emphasized the need to be so outwardly fantastic and to hide all my flaws that I never wanted to try at anything because perfection isn’t something I’ve had for even one day. I’m clumsy. I’m quiet. I’m tall, black, and nappy. I know these things are beautiful now but I certainly did not always know this.

Can you look at yourself differently? Can you see your weaknesses as strengths and teachers?

My clumsiness is a sign of my journey, never a sign of my lacking grace. It was only through the practice of yoga and bodywork that I realized that my balance issues had much to do with alignment issues deep in my muscle and faschia and the way I had stored energy and emotions in my body than anything to do with me. My quietness is a sign of my power; never a sign of my being less than. It has strengthened my ability to observe, my ability to listen to my intuition, and has given me such a better understanding of myself and others.  My ethnicity is a sign of my uniqueness; never a sign of my not fitting in or not being welcome. It was only after going to countless non-diverse yoga classes that I realized that my ethnic differences from most of the students was not a hindrance but a gift. I could bring something new to my classes. I could reach out to a demographic that for so many reasons has not fully embraced yoga yet.

Never listen to outside sources who tell you that you are ready or not ready. Always look within and listen to yourself. Only you know when the time is right.

A year and a half ago when I was in my kundalini teacher training, I had a guest teacher who I had a private healing session with who told me that I was not ready to teach. He did not know me. He had not seen me teach. He had not seen me in my practice. He was seeing me during a bad break up and a bad financial and professional point in my life, and he was judging me and limiting me and I let him. He told me what I had been telling myself all along: I was too quiet and not good enough to teach. He told me the immense work I would need to do to become good enough as a person and a teacher instead of just telling me to believe in myself. That really was all I was missing.

I did not need to become perfect to teach. People don’t relate to perfection. They relate to realness and humanness. They relate to your strengths and your weaknesses lesser strengths. Why call them weaknesses when they’re not weak? They’re areas that we need to look at differently and place more emphasis and energy on. It’s the effort of embracing our strengths and lesser strengths that allow us to become whole and shine. What isn’t beautiful about people who can embrace every aspect of themselves and make things that are not as strong seem just as beautiful and strong by the complete acceptance of who they are? That’s unconditional love. That’s absolute surrender.

If there’s something that you’ve been holding back from doing or trying, look within yourself and ask yourself: Am I truly not ready for this or am I holding myself back out of fear or shame? Sometimes, maybe we’re waiting for a supervisor or someone close to us to tell us we’re ready. We could be waiting for that validation forever. Have the courage to tell yourself what you need to hear. Believe in yourself and go after what you want right now. What’s the worst that can happen by you trying? Certainly, you’ll have a better outcome than when you don’t try at all.

Let the things you call weaknesses or mistakes be your teachers. Never let them hold you back. The only way to truly be a super star divine goddess teacher or person is to be yourself, to teach from your experiences and your voice, to stay in the present and never allow yourself to be limited by the past, and to keep removing the layers and obstacles keeping you from being yourself.

— lissa

What is YIOM?


be all that you are seeking

Our actions define us. The choices we make, resist, embrace, clutch, and surrender make up our world. What you’re willing to die for hopefully mirrors the things you’re willing to live for now. Go after those things and LIVE.


happy earth day! photo by janusz l.

The past few days, I really wasn’t living. I made choices that did not serve my general well-being. I did not write on my blog. I practiced asana minimally. I took on too many projects at work without just being honest and saying it was too much. I chose to take on my fatigue, stress, and worry rather than practice mindfulness and let each moment stand for itself. I think I felt like since I am going on a week vacation today to Massachusetts and Kripalu, a yoga retreat center, that it didn’t matter if I took on too much and did not practice because I would have a week devoted to rest and practice coming up.

My awareness of this was truly the key. I started to inject pieces of yoga where I could: pranayama here, handstand there, journal writing, laughter, and self-care. Doing those little things gave me the focus to come to my mat in supta baddha konasana for forty-five minutes and observe my breath and let go, let go, let go.

Moments where stress gets the best of us and we get off track in our practice happen. They’re not a bad thing. They just show us areas where we need to put a little more work in and spread more prana and love. We do the work and self-care every time we step on the yoga mat, sing, write, draw, create, love, cook, etc. We do that work so that in moments of stress we’re prepared and we know how to keep breathing. We know how to let go of the stress so that it does not consume us. A client that I visited yesterday says that he has panic attacks almost everyday. He says that he tries to practice the breathing techniques we teach him but that it doesn’t work. He feels too overwhelmed in those moments of panic to be able to breathe. The thing is you cannot learn to breathe during an intense moment of stress. You have to work on breathing to your full capacity throughout the day so that it’s automatic when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

If you’re feeling stressed, tired, or off balance in some way, give yourself small moments throughout the day where you sit with yourself and just be. Visualize what you need and spread it to those areas that need it. Spread love, spread compassion, spread joy, spread strength. We are never lacking. We always have the ability to give ourselves what we need.

Look inside yourself; Everything you want, you are already that. — Rumi

Be all that you are seeking so that you never go without.

— lissa

What is YIOM?


variations on letting go

You only lose what you cling to.— Siddhārtha Gautama


photo by Daisypops1.


***

I wanted you to make a jar
for certain dark sections of the heart…
and a jar open on all sides — a freedom jar —
that would hold only what wished to be held.

— Stephen Dunn

What if that was the way we held onto everything in life — a touch that both held and let go at the same time? Is that the essence of a life truly lived?

***

I love this song by Gaura Vani and as Kindred Spirits. I listen to it almost every day and try to listen to myself to find what I need to surrender. What is holding me back? What is pushing me forward? What can I do to be here in the present?

***

For the first time in my yoga practice, I went into balasana (child’s pose) and stayed there for a large part of the sequence. The students surrounding me flowed into virabhadrasana one, prasarita padottanasana, sirasana and I breathed and let go into the floor, feeling the way the pressure of their feet into the wood softly moved me ever so slightly from side to side, feeling the way my breath allowed me to slowly let go of the tension I had been carrying.

The teacher had told us to return to child’s pose if we needed to rest but also if we started to drift out of our self and our practice into the practice of someone else in the crowded room. It was the first time I had heard of using child’s pose in this way to return to yourself.

Instead of shaming myself for taking this rest, I let go of my expectations and opened my heart to my gratitude for the practice, my gratitude for my coming to class when I was so tired, my gratitude to just be with myself in this room full of people who wanted to be with themselves yet together at the same time.

***

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali talks about the effort of practice and non-attachment in yoga. We must practice for a long time, unceasingly and with love to secure the long-lasting effects of peace and quieting that yoga has on the fluctuations of the mind but at the same time we must not be attached to the outcomes of our practice. Our practice is a freedom jar in a sense.

Yoga, as well as life, is the work of practicing, working, growing while simultaneously letting go, detaching from expectations and desires. The alternation between working and letting go can be seen in each cycle of breath we take. We fill and grow on each inhale and release and let go on each exhale. We can’t fight the exchanges of breath. We accept each new cycle of breath, giving and receiving with all of those around us and accepting our interconnectedness with each new breath.

–lissa

I-15What is YIOM?


close your eyes and live…

Close your eyes. Forget the realities, the obstacles, the fears, your mind, and just listen to your heart. What do you want right now in your life? What do you need?


photo by Ben Heine.

***

You can give yourself anything you need in life. The thing is you have to know what you need rather than how you feel. Your feelings are not even a quarter of the picture; there is a story underneath them waiting to be seen and heard. You have to feel what you feel and then let your feelings go and move beyond them to connect with the heart, soul, and core of you — that is where the answers lie.

In Jack Kornfield’s book A Path With Heart, he quotes Carlos Castanenda: Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself… Does this path have a heart. If it does, the path is good. If it doesn’t, it is of no use.

If we are still and listen deeply, even for a moment, we will know if we are following a path with heart. — Jack Kornfield.

A path is every choice we make in our lives. The small choices we make throughout the day create our lives; those small actions determine how we will act in the bigger moments: choosing to remain silent when someone says something about us that is untrue, choosing to stay in rather than go to a dinner party where we won’t know a lot of people, choosing to go out when our body is saying all it wants is a night of rest… If we repeatedly make decisions that don’t honor what we need, will we then have the strength to leave an unhealthy partner or apply to that dream job we’ve always wanted?

For me, finding our path and following it is at the heart of the meditation practice. Sit with yourself, be with yourself, and give yourself what you need. Be aware of the parts of you that feel vibrant and strong and send more breath and prana to them. Be aware of the areas that feel hollow or tired or sad and send more breath and prana to them. Whether your form of meditation is asana, chanting, running, knitting, creating art, do not be afraid to leap into those moments of stillness for all of our truths lie in those moments.

–lissa

What is YIOM?


letting go is love

If you want to be… let go.

Letting go is not getting rid of. Letting go is letting be… In the end, we discover that to love and let go are the same thing. Both ways do not seek to possess. — Jack Kornfield

***

My old apartment had a spot on the living room floor that radiated warmth. It probably was in close proximity to a radiator in the apartment below mine, but I liked to think that it existed for the sheer pleasure of my feet’s touch.

I would trace my feet along its boundaries, feel the divide between warmth and cold, and wonder if it was a love story meant for only a few tiles to share. It didn’t matter that the whole room wanted to be loved. I wanted to be loved.

Every time I rediscovered it, it put my entire body at ease. Sometimes, I would lay my whole body on the floor. The warmth could hold my hands, cheek, chest, and the beginning inches of my waist all at once.

I would curl my body as tightly into the fetal position as I could and try to contain the warmth. Slowly, my body would start to shake. It was time to let go, and this fact never changed no matter how much I struggled. It always escaped me too soon, and the cold would run up my spine like a shiver.

***

To say the least, letting go is just something I did not do up until about five years ago. I carried every negative, shameful event and feeling that I could with me. It’s no wonder that so many parts of my body are so tight. I wrapped my story, the sad one that I would not let go of, into my hips, my hamstrings, my trapezius, anywhere I could fit it. This is one of the main reasons I don’t get discouraged with my limited flexibility in many poses. I know that those areas of tightness are old wounds, old sadness. I’m not going to force myself deeper into poses to get rid of them. I’m going to be patient and let yoga be a form of love for my present, past, and future and offer love, offer forgiveness, and offer acceptance in the form of my breath.

One of the things that I am most thankful for in my yoga practice is the lessons it has taught me in letting go. I feel like each exhale, each time I smile when I fall out of a pose, each time I close my eyes in a balance pose is a road map straight into the heart of letting go. My yoga practice has made me very aware of the things that I carry and the things I can let go of.

Letting go doesn’t mean losing or giving up. It’s a form of healing  and forgiveness. It’s a form of love and it creates space for more love.

What are some things that you do to let go?

–lissa

photo by Walkabout Wolf.

What is YIOM?


Love until all we are is love…

If we are to reach real people in this world… we shall go from love to love and peace to peace until at last all the corners of the world are covered with that peace and love for which consciously or unconsciously the whole world is hungering. — Gandhi

Is the whole world simply longing for peace and love? How do we go about covering the world with peace and love? Should it start with each individual? If each person had a strong sense of love and peace in the world within them than surely this, in turn, would create a different world around them.

Let’s start small big with you and me. Let’s do something to claim our peace and love today. Things we can do:

1. Read inspiring quotes like this one:

My love, he is here inside. He does not leave, He doesn’t need to arrive. — Mirabai.

Know that you never have to go far to feel love. All you have to do is go within.

2-6. Sing. Dance. Sweat. Laugh. Be creative.

7. Write:

I want a peace poem to exist within the spaces between our breath. I want our love to merge into a living breathing artform and our insides to vibrate sonnet-like love. I want to love until all we are is love…

I want to tag the moon and have it play chase with me all night. Imagine what the moon must feel like: majestic velvet expansiveness.  I want to be that. I want to lean into the moon, the trees, the beauty surrounding me and find out their secret. How are you happy? Why are you glowing when there is so much loss all around you and embedding you? Maybe they would whisper back, it’s simple, my love. Let go and love.


 

8. Release something holding you back: judgments, fears, emotions, the past.

I’ve learned that even when I feel sad, I don’t have to become sad.

Honor who you are in each moment. Be aware of how you feel but know that your emotions, fears, and judgments are not you. Emotions are meant to fluctuate and change. Observe them, recognize them, validate them, and then let them go. Meditation is the best tool to use to develop this process of awareness and surrendering.

If you would like to learn more about this, check out an enlightening article by Sally Kempton about letting go of sadness.

9. Pay yourself compliments often. Treat yourself to something you love whether that’s silence, a sports game, music, dessert, company, nature… Reward yourself every day with little things for the little things are in actuality the big things.

10. Practice Yoga. To truly embrace love, we need to know that sometimes, most of the time actually, our heart needs to lead the way. We need to trust that our heart is strong enough to stay open in the face of love as well as the opposites of love. You cannot protect yourself from fear/rejection/hate/abandonment without protecting yourself from love too. We think we’re safer by closing up when, in reality, the more open we are, the less we suffer. That is because being open indicates the practice of letting go and letting go is love.

If I’m feeling blocked and want to create the space to open up a part of me that is closed, I’ll come onto my mat and come into either a supported setu bandha sarvanagasana/bridge pose (block under my sacrum) or a supported matsyasana/fish pose (block long ways between my shoulder blades and another block under the bottom of my head; option: not to have the block under the head if no neck issues) and breathe through the space where I feel closed. A mantra you can use is a beautiful one I saw on @GaneshBaba’s twitter page: “Breathe in abundance; breathe out surrender.”

11. Help others.

–lissa

top photo: by ilsebatten.

bottom photo by risquillo.

What is YIOM?