Yoga for over-thinkers Week 2 – Satya

Hello Friends,

I really enjoyed teaching week 1 of my class last Thursday. Five wonderful students joined me and were able to help me practice my cue-ing and my teaching. I’m so grateful for that.

This week we will focus on satya or truthfulness, the second of the yamas of yoga. I have in mind some physical practices to allow students to experience their true range of motion. In soma yoga, we are taught to start with the center. So this means we start with a stable pelvis and build the poses from the central axis or spine, and then radiate outward.

soma-yoga-movement-yoga-north.jpg
From my Yoga North SomaYoga Guidebook 

Too many students (myself included) have had the unfortunate experience of getting “pushed” by a yoga class to go too far. We go beyond our true range of motion (ROM), and may find ourselves injured. Our body instinctively protects itself. Our range of motion may even decrease over time because our body knows the truth (even if our mind wants to make the image of the yoga teacher standing in front).

Life is like this too. Our bodies sense and know truth often before our minds’ start to manufacture stories and explanations. When we get quiet, and listen internally, we can detect truths emerging from within.

However, truths are not always comfortable or convenient. Sometimes a deep yearning for growth can mean that we must leave certain people behind in our lives. As humans we are biologically wired to seeking belonging, as it was part of our early survival. At the same time, our brains are wired for growth and change as adaptation is necessary.

Thus there can be some tension here, in terms of the actions we must take in our lives. We want the comfort of belonging. We also know that by not risking some discomfort, we are in danger of stagnating.

There was a time when I identified strongly as being a runner. It served me well. I got to “run out” the craziness of my mind when I felt stressed by work or life. I met my husband (9 years ago) and a wonderful community of running friends, many who are still close. I still run and enjoy the occasional race, but do not feel compelled to build up my mileage each week.

Yoga beckoned much more strongly as I sought to integrate my body and mind, rather than simply escape the busyness of my mind. Running can still feel like a cleansing process for me. And at the same time, yoga helps me direct and focus that energy in a mindful way.

So the truth is not an either/or proposition, but in this case a both/and situation. Getting current with ourselves and knowing what we need in our lives is part of satya. Tuning in regularly to ask ourselves what we most need is a practice which serves us in the long run. At times our bodies crave motion, dance, action. Other times they crave rest, pausing and turning inward.

Being able to embrace satya in each moment leads to freedom.  If you feel internal resistance you might ask:

What truths am I avoiding? Is there anything I may not want to see about my situation?

And of course, applying ahimsasome self-compassion will go a long way here in allowing those truths to emerge.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Yoga for over-thinkers Week 1 – Ahimsa

Hello Friends!

This week I will start teaching my 5-week class on Thursday mornings. I have a good number of sign ups, and a couple of yoga teaching friends that may drop by, and I am excited to start.

Since I am preparing for that, I will be writing a weekly series on Wednesdays in October focusing on the 5 Yamas, Sanskrit for “restraints” which are part of the gems of wisdom making up yogic philosophy. These are: nonviolence, truthfulness, nonstealing, nonexcess and nonpossessiveness.

Yamas and Niyamas
This is the book we studied in YTT-200 teacher training, highly recommended if you want to learn more.

The first week we start with Ahimsa, or nonviolence, literally to “do no harm.” This is so fundamental to the practice of yoga. Yet it is not always respected in our desire to “get things right” or to imitate our teachers.

We do violence to ourselves when we strive for perfection rather than balance, when we overdo rather than just do. The hardest part for me in this lesson was realizing how hard I was being on myself. My inner critic became apparent when I started listening to the thoughts in my mind more often.

Learning to bring some compassion to those “sub-personalities” that were driving some of my behavior, I have embraced a new pattern of nonviolence by becoming curious about that critical voice. Rather than believing it, I realize it often comes from that protective part of ourselves that is driven by fear and by the conditioning of our families of origin, and society as a whole.

By directing our attention to the breath and the body, getting “out of our heads” for a moment, we can step back from that inner dialogue. The mind’s stories create a cacophony of noise that is not the REAL self. Developing compassion for that inner voice, rather than criticizing ourselves for having it, allows us to move forward with greater ease.

This is in line with Kristen Neff’s work on Self-Compassion which I explored in an earlier post. There is a way in which treating ourselves with kindness flows out to our relationships with others as well. As Deb Adele’s book on The Yamas and Niyamas points out: “If you are a taskmaster with yourself, others will feel your whip.”

What I have noticed in practicing self-compassion with my flaws and short-comings is that I have so much more compassion for others as well. In this way, ahimsa becomes a powerful foundation for living well.

May you, my lovely reader, practice ahimsa by noticing where you are not being as kind to yourself or others as you could be. In what ways can you more easily accept yourself as you are without judgment or criticism? 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Workplace wellness: say thank you

A few weeks ago I was at a gathering of colleagues who had lunch with one of the leaders of our growing department. One of the laboratory managers explained that many of the principal investigators at the University do not ever tell them the final results of their studies. Nor do they routinely thank the staff their for their contributions to their research projects. And yet, many of these projects could not be completed with the hard work of these staff.

image of thank you post-it
Image credit link

I found this appalling, as someone who has engaged a variety of multi-functional teams over the years for a global company. Thank you is a minimum. Thank you for me is just the floor for what you must do when you collaborate. Thanking people and also letting their managers know what a good job they did is next level.

Making sure you credit people in a published paper, a poster and/or a talk is another way to give credit. Though if the staff are not in the audience of that talk (because it may be directed at another audience), please find a way to thank them personally in another way.

Sometimes a hand written card can be appropriate. Other times a short email with a “I appreciate your work on …” is enough. We all depend on others to get our work done in this day and age. It’s true, sometimes people just do the minimum at their job. Maybe they didn’t put in any “special” effort, but they showed up and they delivered.

Consider how good it feels when someone takes the time to thank you, and to acknowledge how your work makes an impact. All of us enjoy being recognized for our efforts. Some of us don’t love the spotlight, so please don’t make us accept awards in front of big crowds… a simple and sincere thank you will do.

WORKPLace wellness on wednesdays

On the other side, consider how much you enjoy doing for those who express gratitude rather than those who are always griping. It’s worth considering this before you spending time critiquing what may not have been done perfectly.

Take the time to notice those efforts and your workplace engagement will improve. And yes, even bosses like to be thanked! If they give some helpful advice or feedback, or maybe help you see things in a new way, it does not hurt to tell them what you appreciate.

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cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Gratitude, my lovelies (anniversary post)

As I go on a long weekend with my hubby to Tofte, MN to celebrate our upcoming 2-year anniversary, I found a post I love from our honeymoon trip last year to the U.K. I am sharing an edited version below. 

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On Sunday night, after I had walked my dear husband for over 20,000 steps, I took him out for a nice dinner. I had the intention of walking the 90 minute coastal path from Cremyll to Cawsand, but we got lost once, adding steps. Since the path was winding, it was a bit longer than advertised, and took us closer to 2.5 hours.

We headed down to the Barbican with our tired legs after a rest at our AirBnB, finding a steakhouse on the far side of the Marina (even more walking). No matter, once we were there we were treated to a feast.

The meal was delicious, but even more so, the service was excellent. Our waitress (Elizabeth) took such good care of us for the evening, and she kept calling us “my lovelies” when asking if there was anything we needed. I told my husband how much that tickled me – I enjoy being called “my lovely.”

Just before bringing our dessert she asked us where we were from, admitting that she could not quite place our accents. We sheepishly confessed were were from Minnesota in the U.S., after saying we sometimes like others to think we are Canadian (you know the ugly American phenomenon?).

Happy anniversary board cropped

She asked if we were celebrating anything. We mentioned our 1-year anniversary coming up, along with my husband’s 50th birthday next month.

So for the final dessert she brought out beautiful dishes – one with “Happy Birthday” written in chocolate sauce and one with “Happy Anniversary” written on it. It was so very kind and thoughtful of her to find out why we were there and to take the special effort to make us feel so welcome. But we dearly appreciated it, and I am sure it will be one of the more memorable evenings of the trip.

It reminded me that when someone takes the time to make you feel welcome and appreciated, I respond in kind. I realize that this was her job, but she went several steps further than needed. Sometimes it may be an extra smile you give to someone, or a thoughtful and kind deed. But no gesture, in my view, is ever wasted.

Does it make your heart happy to delight others? In what way can you delight someone you love today? 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Wellness Wednesday – deep listening

Have you ever spent time gazing deeply into someone’s eyes while they were talking with you? Really paying attention to every word, doing your best to understand?

Rather than interrupt with question or let your mind wander off into its stories (the way minds do), you truly tried to feel the emotion behind their words?

If you have, then you might know what I mean about the power of deep listening to heal many ills of the world. As humans, we deeply yearn to be seen and understood by other sentient beings. It is deeply wired into our survival DNA as a species.

When we feel seen and deeply appreciated by another human being, we start to mirror back that feeling toward the world. We connect more deeply with others around us, and we start to heal the wounds we all carry, personally and collectively.

old lady listening
Photo credit link

I have to admit that listening deeply is something I have not practiced as consistently as I would like with loved ones. Listening without judgment and with true curiosity is an art and a practice. It requires awareness of your own mind, and the ability to stay present and return even when you feel distracted.

All I know is that when I listen deeply to people, whether my family or my coworkers or colleagues, I am transformed as well. When I have made that connection with intention to deeply understand not just the words but the emotion behind them, all of my relationships improve.

In an era where it is too easy to be distracted, try deeply listening to someone today. Ignore the pings and dings from your phone. Set aside the opinions and judgments. Just watch how this practice brings greater joy and ease to your life and your work.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com