Two Yoginis

A journey of yoga, friendship, and transformation


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The Yoga of Happiness

On Saturday, Ali and I were buzzing as we walked arm-in-arm down 7th Avenue. We were reflecting on the last three hours of teacher training with our guest lecturer, Harshada, on meditation and the yoga of happiness. His energy was peaceful with a mixture of vigor and humor. He laughed at himself and helped us laugh at ourselves as we probed the topic and explored our inner bodies and emotions.

We began class by answering the question as to what brought us to yoga. My answer was simple. I found the yoga mat during a dark period of my life, when I was searching to feel better. I recognized that regular practice created a positive feeling and, therefore, I returned regularly. My classmates also shared their reasons, and, as our attention returned to our teacher, he recapped what everyone was pointing at. What was it that everyone was searching for? We all described this idea differently, but inherent to each answer was a very simple point: we were all searching for a greater sense of happiness and well-being.

We were searching for ways to be deeply happy and the day would be dedicated to giving each of us the tools to manifest this happiness.

As I mentioned in my last post, our society focuses so much on a need to be busy. Beyond the constant need to remain busy, we put ourselves down regularly as to what we should do, didn’t do, or should not have done . Whether expressed verbally or as part of our internal dialogue, we look at ourselves critically every day. “I don’t make enough time to workout,” “I always lose focus,” “I eat too much.”

Where is the wiggle room in such absolute statements? Our teacher suggested that, instead of phrasing our critical thoughts in this way, we should preface each statement with the words “up until now.” These simple words create the wiggle room to allow the self to define itself how it truly wants. We stop identifying with the harsher, more critical self and, instead, leave some room to change.

The day continued with guided meditation sessions that led me on a path I never imagined. I felt as though I tapped into something deeper than ever before. I was watching my breath with my eyes closed and actually feeling emotion that was stuck inside my heart. I was starting to become ultra sensitive to what was blocking me from feeling truly happy. I was searching for my true north, a step toward finding deep, lasting happiness.

What Ali and I were ultimately buzzing about, as we walked outside (besides the fact we were both totally engaged with the lecture) was that this teacher training was affecting us on a much deeper level than just providing us with tools to teach yoga. This training was shifting and changing the way we see the world and ourselves. When we shift internally, we can start to see things show up differently around us.

Up until now, I did not know what my true north was. However, just showing up and doing the work is bringing me one step closer to knowing and refining my inner compass. My true north will likely change many times, but even going in the wrong direction is a clue to finding the right one.

Look out for happy road.

happy road


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Let Me Hear Your Body Talk

When spring comes around, we often think about cleansing our bodies and our desks and our closets, but what about our thoughts? What about detoxifying our minds?

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Spring in the City

This weekend, during teacher training, we talked a lot about how we practice yoga “with the body but for the mind.” By focusing our attention on the meticulous details of each posture, we are able to quiet the mind from its usual chatter. When our minds are busy making sure that each body part is doing what it’s supposed to, we don’t have the bandwidth to consider what we’d like to have for dinner, or who commented on our Facebook status, or how we’re going to get our latest work assignment done. (And, if we’re able to think about these things we’re not practicing yoga.)

Yoga also reminds us that we have a body; that we’re not just a jumble of racing thoughts. When was the last time you mentally scanned each part of your body to see how it felt? When was the last time you consulted your body for an answer to a question or a solution to a challenge (rather than exclusively tuning into the whirring activity of your mind)? When was the last time you put your hands on your heart or your belly and really felt your body inhale and exhale?

Not only do we have a body, but our bodies (if acknowledged and cared for) can become sensitive tuning forks, constantly sending us signals as to what we like and don’t like, what we want and don’t want, and what tastes good, looks good, smells good, and sounds good. Our bodies often know what we want before we do.

When the mind and the body work together as one team, we become unstoppable. It is in this state that we finally figure out what feels good, and stop filling ourselves with junky food, junky experiences, and junky thoughts. It’s when we realize that a cold, or insomnia, or a headache is not merely an acceptable side-effect of modern life; that it’s our body’s sophisticated system delivering a clear signal that something is out of balance. This is when we can start to consciously choose what actually feels good over what we think feels good. And when we feel good, everything around us begins to shift.

This week, let’s practice focusing only on that which makes us feel good. Let’s tune into the messages from our bodies and let our minds take a break from thinking so darn much. In the spirit of spring, let’s allow our bodies (to borrow a phrase from Bryn) to “till the soil” of our minds, thereby allowing fresh ideas to sprout. If you’re in need of a little hand-holding (myself included), nothing could be more perfect than this free 21-Day Meditation Challenge with daily, guided audio sequences narrated by Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra (that I’ve been recommending to everyone I know).

Or, you could just watch this Olivia Newton John video:

Happy spring, yogis!


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Clear the Cache

There are days I feel like a Beth-bot. Like a computer program automatically set to reply all. I imagine Beth-bot like that rotisserie infomercial where you “set it and forget it.” This past week, on more than one occasion, I found myself answering people with one word answers: “yes,” “cool,” and “yeah.” I knew I had entered bot land, and needed to find a way out.

Set it and Forget it

Set it and Forget it

Without fail, Ali will cause me to LOL when she exclaims: “Is this a bot? Where is the real Beth?” I know exactly what she is referring to when she asks me this question. I can feel myself drift away into Beth-bot land as the one word answers take over. This usually happens when I am doing too many tasks at one time, and begin to feel overwhelmed by the amount of things on my plate. It becomes my way of partaking in the conversation without really being involved.

Tonight in yoga class, my teacher, Christina, began the class with a message to “clear the cache.” She reminded me how often we become computer-like and need to clear the cache or fully re-boot in order to function properly.

The poses quite literally twisted and cleared our bodies. With every sun salutation I could feel the cache empty. I felt as though the stress was falling away and clearing space to be present again. Each breath created a bit more space for full sentences to form. My computer screen was no long freezing with e-mails in my outbox, I hit re-boot and Beth-bot was slowly disappearing.

We all need to clear the cache, sometimes, even if it seems like a scary idea to lose all the saved history. Sometimes we become attached to the operating system we are most familiar with, even if we know it is not working optimally. I know from experience that I become attached to the “stuff” and sometimes need an extra push to actually clear it out.

However, clearing out means there is room to be present and to let go of whatever was taking up so much space in the first place. A simple child’s pose or seated meditation is a really easy way to clear the mind. We ended our class in a cross-legged meditation with our eyes closed and our breath deep. I realized this was the ultimate way to clear the cache.

Namaste

Namaste