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Reflection

Olympic Lessons for the Rest of Us

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Discipline. Dedication. Determination. These are the three descriptors that comes to my mind when I think Olympic athlete. What we see is only a small snapshot of their sport; we don't see the tears, the disappointments, the missed social opportunities, and the sacrifices of their families and friends. What we see is a fleeting glimpse, oftentimes just a few seconds, of what it takes to be an Olympian. Sometimes it's triumphant; sometimes it's not.

I watched in awe the achievements of these men and women. For a few weeks, Simone, Ally, Michael, David, and many others became part of my family. I can't help but reflect on how these athletes overcame the physical and mental challenges of their sports. I can't imagine what pressure they were under with the whole world witnessing. I can't help but wonder in what direction their lives will turn now that the flame has gone out.

How can the common person, you and I, honor our Olympians? Use the achievements of these Olympics to define what and who you want to be. Change something that needs changing. Take a leap with no regrets. Release the past and create a new future. Take just one challenge and overcome it with the same inspiring, goal setting, work ethic. Redefine what we see as an obstacle and reinvent it into a goal. Whether it is career, family, relationships, and yes, your yoga practice, all of us can use the Olympics as a model.  I challenge you to challenge yourself.

 

Yoga Mat Reviews

Need a new yoga mat? Here is a post that gives you all the pros and cons, ratings, and everything you need to know when you make this purchase. Thanks to Review.com for sharing this with us!

 

Have You Lost Your Holiday Joy?

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It is that time of year again when we are bombarded with ads, music, movies, and TV specials all guaranteed to make us joyful, happy, and part of the holiday season. In between the ultimate gift guides, retail sales, and all types of food and home preparation, is the underlying belief that this holiday will be the BEST EVER (marketers capitals, not mine) if only this or that item is added to your life, shopping cart and credit card.

But there are many among us who do not welcome the holiday hoopla and in fact become more depressed and stressed the more they think about it. Perhaps it's because their loved ones are no longer part of the celebration or perhaps they have health or financial considerations. For many, this season is more dreadful than joyful.

Have you lost your holiday joy? These tips might help:

1. Acknowledge

Don't try to hide it. If the holidays are not for you, acknowledge it. Don't apologize for how you feel.

2. Give yourself Permission to say No

Say no to parties you don't want to attend. Say no to cooking up a massive feast. Say no to decorating. Say no to shopping and overspending.

3. Gift Yourself First

Give yourself the gift of time if you are grieving. Give yourself the gift of quiet if you are stressed. When people ask, "Is there anything I can do?", throw away your pride and accept their help.

4. Look Beyond Yourself

There are so many opportunities to give of your time, talent, and treasure. Helping others helps ourselves.

5. Let the Joy Come to You

Every day think about one thing that makes you smile. For me, it's my dog, teaching yoga, my morning coffee, and my cozy bed at night. Perhaps when you are ready and willing, the joy might return.

Let the light that's within you shine forth from your mind, through your words, and from your heart. Namaste.

Being Thankful in a Thankless World

Being Thankful in a Thankless World

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This month we celebrate both Veteran's Day and Thanksgiving. On Veteran's Day, we are reminded to express our thanks to the brave men and women who dedicated their lives to serve our country. The day of Thanksgiving reminds us to show appreciate for all that we have. But what about the rest of the year? How do we show thankfulness, especially in our world of entitlement, instant gratification, and apathy?

We can not change the people around us directly but as yogis, we can be more mindful of how we express our thankfulness. Here are three simple ways to do that:

  1. As you wake up in the morning and before you even get out of bed, say to yourself, "I am thankful."
  2. As you go throughout your day, add the words, " I am thankful for...." and name one thing. Keep it simple, direct, and don't over think it.
  3. Lastly, set a purpose or intention as you say, "I need to be thankful for..." again keeping it simple and direct. How often do we think about our blessings and worse still, sincerely express our thanks?

Setting your affirmations (I am thankful) and adding your intention (I need to be thankful for...) helps you to be a conductor of positive energy. Think about how acknowledging your thankfulness will impact your life and the people around you. Send it out and see what returns. I thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read my words. I hope in some way they resonate with you and you can be a catalyst for change in your home or work environment.

Peace,
Anita

Return and Begin Again in Work and Play

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit-Aristotle

zen

 

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:

Simplify

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.

Practice Integrity

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!

 

 

 

Yoga Needs to be in Schools!

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Raise your hand for yoga in schools!

 

 

 

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!

 

A Yoga Valentine for You

heart chakra

 

 

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.

Anita

Guess Who Made the List?

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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.

Yoga in a Blizzard

Winter yoga session in beautiful mountain place

 

 

 

 

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"!

Not Your Average Yoga

RumiA 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.