We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit-Aristotle
It is September and many are saying good bye to the frivolity of summer and returning to school, work, and fall activities. September is serious.
Yet September can also offer you the opportunity to begin again. Why would you want to? As a beginner you are curious, open to new ideas, and want to put your best foot forward. As a beginner you realize that it is sometimes better to take a step back, observe, and listen. As a beginner you are excited and that excitement carries over into your relationships with your customers, colleagues, and family. Here are some tips:
When you talk can people understand you? Or are you immersed in jargon and corporate speak that very few can decipher? What are you trying to prove? Communicate directly and simply.
Get off your pedestal
It's happened to me (more than once!) and will probably happen to you sometime in your career. Everyone can be replaced. When you decide to rest on your past achievements rather than seek new ones, your outlook and output is stale, predictable and boring. Look ahead rather than over your shoulder.
America was built on achievements and ingenuity. We celebrate and glamorize winners. But accomplishments built by deceit and at the expense of others are empty. As much as we like to glorify, we also take gleeful satisfaction when someone's dishonesty or ill treatment of others is exposed. In this day and age it is a matter of seconds before your lack of integrity (or real or perceived) is blasted over social media.
In yoga we talk about returning to the beginner's mind as an enhancement to your physical and mental practice. Imagine carrying this over to your business and personal life, greeting each day with enthusiasm, purpose, and energy. Return and begin again to experience the joy your work can bring!
Spring is almost here and that means it's time for what I call "Test Insanity". Schools around the country are preparing their students to take standardized tests by doing endless practice tests, drills, and targeted instruction designed to give students an edge in the test. In Massachusetts, we are also introducing the computerized PARCC Test, which requires instruction in keyboarding and computer applications. For months, the teachers, specialists, and literacy coaches have been talking about this test. Though the students are told, "Just do your best", there is an underlying hint of hysteria as harried and already overwhelmed teachers try to fit in one more thing into their daily schedules.
This past week, I was honored to be asked to present at a test preparation assembly, but my preparation technique involved breathing, being quiet, and calming the body. Students were introduced to simple breathing, mindfulness, and stretching that helps to calm the body and mind. I feel that this skill is not only a useful strategy for test preparation but also a life skill for the challenges beyond. Why does yoga need to be in schools? Yoga can:
- Help students to self regulate using simple breathing techniques
- Helps decrease anxiety and nervousness
- Teach non-violence, honesty, and service to others
- Promote self confidence
- Teach students to set goals
and of course there is the added benefit of increasing strength and flexibility and teaching healthy living.
The beauty of incorporating yoga into our schools is that it doesn't require a lot of space or special equipment or even a time commitment. I provide ten to twenty minute yoga breaks at my current school right in the classrooms,- no mats, chanting, or incense required! Everyone has responded positively and the students are eager to show me what they have learned as I pass them in the hallway or see them in the cafeteria and playground.
If we have to tack on "one more thing" into our curriculum, let's make it a positive, enriching experience. More yoga, less tests!
If you agree contact your local school superintendent, school committee member, or PTA representative today!
The month of February is known for Valentines, hearts, chocolates, and love. In yoga, your heart center is also known as the anahata chakra. Here is a Heart Center Meditation that you can do for yourself.
Heart Chakra Meditation This heart chakra meditation is a simple technique to release sadness and fear and to bring compassion and love into your life. Sit in a comfortable position, either cross-legged on the floor or in a chair. Sit up tall with the spine straight, the shoulders relaxed and the chest open. Inhale the palms together and lightly press the knuckles of the thumbs into the sternum at the level of your heart (you should feel a little notch where the knuckles magically fit). Breathe slowly, smoothly and deeply into the belly and into the chest. Soften your gaze or lightly close the eyes. Let go of any thoughts or distractions and let the mind focus on feeling the breath move in and out of your body. Once the mind feels quiet and still, bring your focus to the light pressure of the thumbs pressing against your chest and feeling the beating of the heart. Keep this focus for one to five minutes. Next, gently release the hands and rub the palms together, making them very warm and energized. Place the right palm in the center of your chest and the left hand on top of the right. Close the eyes and feel the center of your chest warm and radiant, full of energy. See this energy as an emerald green light, radiating out from the center of your heart into the rest of your body. Feel this energy flowing out into the arms and hands, and flowing back into the heart. Stay with this visualization for one to five minutes. After you feel completely soaked with heart chakra energy, gently release the palms and turn them outwards with the elbows bent, the shoulders relaxed and the chest open. Feel or visualize the green light love energy flowing out of your palms and into the world. You can direct it towards specific loved ones in your life or to all sentient beings. To end your meditation, inhale the arms up towards the sky, connecting with the heavens, then exhale and lower the palms lightly to the floor, connecting with the earth. Take a moment or two before moving on with the rest of your day. To download a recording of this meditation please go to www.hlthwiz.podamatic.com. I hope that you take the time to give yourself this Valentine and may you have abundant love in your life always.
Yoga Anita is honored and excited to be part of this list!
Popexpert is excited to recognize the Top 20 Mindful Life Coaches to Watch for 2015, chosen for their meaningful contributions to the mindful living movement and dedication to creating online learning opportunities for people around the world. These coaches are on a mission to help the world live, work and be more mindful in all aspects of life.
The list is comprised of distinguished popexpert experts, authors, business owners, contributors, and speakers across diverse categories of life. From nutrition to fitness, meditation, relationships, parenting, yoga, happiness, and more, all of these coaches have in common a dedication to teaching their clients a more mindful approach to living.
These coaches are all known for:
- Contributing significant thought leadership to the mindful living community
- Creating and facilitating incredible education opportunities through speaking engagements, blogging, and teaching
- Bringing awareness of the conversation around mindful living styles to the forefront of the health & wellness industry
As we rapidly enter a new era of mindful living, we’ve seen a large trend toward people, businesses, and governments around the world acknowledging the importance of living a well-balanced, meaningful life. The landscape continues to evolve at an increasingly fast pace with the proliferation of online education opportunities. Through their involvement in the professional community, whether speaking, blogging, or teaching, these leaders are empowering people to learn and grow.
In conjunction with this announcement, we asked these top emerging mindfulness leaders to share the single most important focus area that will help anyone at any level live more mindfully in 2015. We’ll be releasing their insights in a series of upcoming blog posts over the next few weeks.
See story here.
I live in the Central Massachusetts area and am currently looking at snow falling outside my window again. For most people, the forecast of snow is tantamount to a major disaster. Store shelves empty as people stock up on essentials ( chips, dips, snack and junk food). Favorite programs are pre-emptied so that we can all gaze at a weather map with colored bands, prediction amounts, and large font warnings. Serious looking news anchors report on the same doom and gloom scenarios, turning it over to long suffering weather people who must pump enthusiasm into their reports over and over again. Have you ever wondered what those poor newscasters did that relegates them to the outside during these storms?
Snow and blizzards happen. It can be a nuisance, especially if the power goes out, and I am sympathetic to those who live in an area where the weather could destroy their property. I also have heightened awareness as to how the weather affects the services my elderly parents receive in their home and know that we must prepare in advance if meals on wheels cannot make their deliveries and make sure that there are plenty of their medications on hand. But like when I lived in Galveston, TX where hurricanes are a way of life and again in Seattle, WA, where there is the potential of earthquakes, preparation is key. So if you are warned and prepared, why not use yoga instead?
Use the yogic principle of Asteya(non-stealing) and Aparigrapha(non-hoarding) while preparing for the storm. Obviously, you are not going to steal food or other necessary items, but taking more than you need is unnecessary. How many bags of chips do you need? Before going out to shovel practice yoga asana to help gently warm up your body and stretch to avoid injury. Practice Seva (service to others) by checking on and perhaps extending your shoveling efforts to include your neighbors. I have a neighbor who has to be 80 if he is a day, and he takes great pride in being able to still maneuver his snowblower. I see him doing driveways of others, even neighbors on vacation! Finally, practice Santosha(contentment) as you watch the snow billowing and dancing around. It really is beautiful and peaceful. And believe me, as a teacher, it never gets old to have a " snow day"!
A few weeks ago two young women showed up a few minutes before my yoga class and announced that they were here for " the yoga". I love welcoming new students but I could tell right away that they were probably in for something that they didn't expect, starting with the fact that they glared at me when I asked them to remove their shoes outside the door and to turn off any electronic devices. They barely glanced at the stack of yoga blocks, extra mats, blankets and straps I offered them and settled themselves as far away from me as possible. They eyed me suspiciously when I asked everyone to come to quiet and to breathe deeply. They moved through their practice as if they were getting points for being the fastest, secretly looking at the other students in the class and smiling when they could extend their legs higher or balance longer. By the time it was savasana, I could see they were eyeing the exit doors and sure enough, they beat a very hasty retreat before the last "namaste" was uttered. I doubt that they will be back any time soon.
The popularity of yoga in this country is a double edged sword. Yes, it introduces potential students to the fact that there is an alternative healthy way of living and moving the body. But it also popularizes an unreal expectation, clad in Lululemon and bending into unrealistic poses. Yoga is so much more than that. Yoga is not what you do on the mat, but off of it.
Believe me, I do not fault those two young women because I was just like them when I was their age. I didn't think I worked hard enough unless I was feeling the "burn" and/or sporting an ace bandage on an injury like a badge of courage. But hours in the gym and counting fat grams did not make me a better person. Only being older, wiser, and studying yoga helped to set me on the right path to inner strength, wisdom,contentment, peace, and happiness.
So I do not offer a yoga class with a rap beat, techno music, or even turban clad sitar players, but hopefully I can share the practice of yoga in a safe, non-threatening, non-judgemental environment that is accepting and welcoming to all. I hope that you can find your true yoga someday as well.
To read some more facts about yoga is please go here.
Today is Columbus Day. It the semi-holiday for selling things Columbus never ever imagined existed in his time. Don't you imagine what would have happened if old Chris had GPS or even radar? Anyway, the point of this holiday is not celebrating his mistake but rather his conviction and stubbornness to prove a point.
The one thing that was around during Columbus's time was yoga. It is doubtful that he and his crew practiced yoga or even heard of it but if they did they might have made a few more discoveries.
Here's what you can discover by starting (or continuing) a yoga practice:
1. How to calm the mind and body
Yogis know how to center themselves and learn to use their breath to bring blood flow and oxygen to the muscles. Yogis can find themselves in a serene place even amidst chaos around them.
2. How to be patient with oneself
Yogis learn that their bodies are ever changing and so what they may have done on the mat the week or day before might not be the same on the mat today. Yogis can tune out and go within. They honor their bodies and learn to adapt.
3. How to create intentions
Yogis learn how to set intentions in their lives. It might be as simple as "I am calm" or as complex as finding a new career.
4. How to reach beyond oneself
Part of the yogic principles include doing seva or service. Yogis know that they are part of a community and everyone and everything is linked.
5. How to live yoga off the mat
Yogis know that yoga isn't just a Hollywood fad but a way of life. Yoga is something you do for your mind, your body, and your spirit.
Happy Columbus Day! I hope that you discover all that yoga has to offer you.
If you live in my area, check out the FREE class tonight!
Back in January, I was teaching a yoga class when I suggested that we formulate a positive intention as a prelude to meditation. As the teacher I usually don't participate, so I can be ready to guide my students through the meditation steps. But that night, I decided to add my own intention too. The thought, " I am worthy" popped into my mind uninvited, but I went with it and continued the meditation and class without giving it another thought. What happened after is truly amazing.
I love teaching yoga, but my full time career is being an elementary teacher. I should also reveal that I am a Cancer and I don't like change. I was content to teach in a low paying position at a private school, even though I have an advanced degree and almost 20 years experience. It was close to home. I worked with great people. I knew my job inside and out and could probably do it in my sleep. Yes, there were demands placed on my time and patience, new policies and programs to learn, and some nastiness from parents when things didn't go their way, but that's the life of a teacher. I figured I could muddle through for the next seven years, or until I could afford to retire. Each day, month and year became like the next. Each student ceased to be an individual and became instead a "grouping" or a "label". The art of teaching became mired in performance expectations, interventions, responses to interventions, standardized and ever changing curriculum, added initiatives, endless meetings, lesson plans, common core standards, and curriculum mapping. Time on learning were the buzz words one year. Common core standards the next. Parents who felt they should have access to you 24 hours a day and on weekends. Added duties, longer teaching days, no subs, no raises. And then I sent out those words, "I am worthy" and the universe answered. I was forced to quit my job and that was very scary.
I had to quit my job when I realized that I am worthy of so much more. I am worthy of being supported and honored in my career. I am worthy of receiving a decent salary and a living wage. I am worthy of having private time, holidays and weekends. I am worthy of being honored for being a teacher and a yogi instead of being put down and told, "You will not mention yoga in this school". I am worthy of sharing my success as an author with my colleagues instead of having my poster announcing my book being torn down from the teacher's lounge bulletin board, ripped up, and thrown in the trash. I am worthy.
The job search was not easy. I knew that I was competing against new grads, with less experience (i.e. cheaper to hire). I knew that there would be a lot of rejections. I faced interviewers who said they would call me the next week and never did. I was paneled a number of times by interviewers who I knew had no interest in me and were just going through the motions to fill a quota. I was offered low paying jobs with no benefits and in a moment of desperation, almost accepted one. Then I remembered that I am worthy.
Yoga helped me to see that I am worthy and that I do not have to settle for complacency. Yoga helped me get through the despair of rejection after rejection and the rudeness of potential employers. Yoga helped me create the perfect job for me, define what and where I wanted to do it, and helped me to stay patient until I got it. And I did. In addition to teaching remedial reading and math to small groups of children, the principal asked me if I was willing to try yoga with a group of students who experience high anxiety. How perfect is that?
I am worthy and yoga helped me to see it, feel it, and manifest it in my life. Yoga got me the job.
This week many people are getting ready to go back to school. Whether you are a student, a teacher, or a caregiver for school age children, don't forget to bring yoga with you. Here are some benefits:
Yoga can relax your mind as well as your body. Simply taking deep breaths when you are nervous or stressed will help to lower your blood pressure and reduce anxiety.
Yoga can stretch the body. Taking the time to do some simple yoga stretches will help you feel renewed and refreshed. This is especially important if you are crammed into a desk for hours expected to think, create, and produce. You will find yoga will actually help with your work output.
Yoga aids your spirit. It brings you to a place of peace which in turn, you bring to your dealings with others around you. What goes around will definately come around in a good way!
My motto is Calm the mind, stretch the body and invigorate the spirit.Try yoga!
Want to learn more? Preview my new book: YOGAMINUTE.
The untimely passing of Robin Williams this week, brought home the very real effects of depression. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), about 9% of Americans have feelings of hopelessness, despondency, and/or guilt that generate a diagnosis of depression. (http://www.everydayhealth.com). About 30,0000 Americans have depression severe enough to result in suicide. Obviously severe depression needs to be treated medically, but there are some preventative poses in yoga known to help depression.
For a type of depression that tends to make people brood or withdraw, vigorous asanas such as Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar) will help stimulate the breath. The physicality of this asana challenges the body so the mind is focused on completing the poses, rather than the turmoil within. For the types of depression where people are restless, unfocused, and almost manic in their inability to control their thoughts, backbends are more helpful. These people find it very difficult to relax and remain still in Savasana or in a meditation and they might find that closing their eyes actually produces more anxiety. These people need to understand that the eyes do not have to be closed and relaxation can be achieved through a more supported or counter pose.
For more in-depth look at how depression can be helped with yoga, please see Yoga as Medicine by Dr. Timothy McCall.
Depression is a very real and insidious ailment and though it feels helpless, there is help available. In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Please use social media for good and pass this along.