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.
I consider myself an educated person. I have a Master's Degree in Education and have used technology since the days of the Wang wordprocessor (If you remember that-let me know!) I've successfully integrated technology into my classroom, that is when I had a classroom (see post Your Contract Has Not Been Renewed) and have used technology and social media to get the public educated into the ways of yoga. When it works-it's great! When it doesn't...
Let me begin last Sunday. My old flip phone that I use for business is coming up for renewal. Why not upgrade to a newer phone, I thought. So online I go to research phones, saw one at Walmart for an excellent price, ran it by my son for his opinion ("Looks OK") and off I went to get it. I successfully transferred my minutes and phone number to the new phone and turned it on. Then I started reentering my contact info. (Isn't there an easier way to do that?) Three hours later, I found that I hated this new phone! It was not friendly. It was not easy. I wanted my old phone back. Thus began the NIGHTMARE OF THE OLD FLIP PHONE. I could not transfer it online. I could not reach a live person on the customer service line, no matter how many times I dialed. I even tried the Spanish option, hastily trying to get the translation of my problem while waiting for the next representative (which was a phone prompt again-not a real person). I finally reached a chat line agent who advised me that my phone had a problem(Huh?) and would be out of order until I received a new SIM card.
While I was on hold waiting for the phone teleprompter, I noticed that my website had an error in the footer. Why not just update that while I am on hold? But wait-where is the option to do that? It was there a few months ago. So I began my frantic search for the right menu option, and the internal chatter that accompanies situations like these i.e. "Where is it? Why can't I find it? I know I've done this before. What's wrong with me?" And thus was added the sequel RETURN OF TECHNOLOGY WOES ( see woman flip out when her phone and website both are not working! Hear the anguished screams of frustration! Not for the faint of heart-tune in if you dare!) The upshot of all of this was more time spent in a phone queue waiting for the web host technical support,being disconnected after holding for seven minutes, being sent to the wrong department, finally reaching a person who didn't fix the problem, being on hold again, finally reaching another person who said it was a theme error (i.e. Not our fault). This led to me contacting my web person, who said it was a hosting error ( i.e. Not my fault) but did offer to fix it and suggest I switch hosts. It's still not 100% fixed yet but getting there.
Throughout all this frustrating technology problems, I had to practice the yoga principle of ahimsa, non-harming, both for myself and for thoughts I was having while trying to deal with things beyond my control. I had to practice many calming breathing techniques, even more when I thought the problem was fixed and then it started all over again a few days later. Perhaps I should take my own advice (See post What's Stealing Your Time?), keep sipping my lovely summer alcoholic beverage and thinking calming, cooling, positive thoughts that the technology gods would look favorably upon me soon.
PS. It is now a week later and I'm hold again-seems some application is not working on the phone preventing me from making and receiving phone calls. Breathe in, breathe out...
Summertime and my mind is not easy. For the second time in 19 years I am not filling my summer with professional development courses, curriculum updates, classroom refurbishment, and preparation for the new school year. The first time doesn't count as I was moving cross country from Washington state to Massachusetts. This summer it is because I don't have a classroom to go to. It's unsettling. Suddenly my days are filled with trolling the education job boards, sending out resumes to a faceless electronic abyss, getting the same electronic rejection letters back ( 27 and counting), and finding solace with inspirational pictures and quotes on Facebook. Losing a job is right up there with other major life changes and it's not a comfortable place to be. Random thoughts start to intrude-anger, grief, loss, unworthiness, self-doubt-all of which are normal and should not be ignored. It's when these feelings start to overwhelm and manifest themselves into physical and mental blockages that you need to take action. Here's how yoga can help:
1. Start your day before you even get out of bed, setting an intention. It does not have to be a laundry list of chores, but it should be one thing you wish to accomplish. I like to link my breath with my intention, i.e. as I breathe in say to myself "I am" and as I breathe out state my intention.
2. Be with people-even ones you don't know! I find its when I'm alone that I feel the worst, so I walk or get in the car and get myself to a public place. Talking to a random stranger about anything is better than talking trash about your situation when you are alone! And when that lady at Dunkin Donuts smiles at you or the librarian says, "Have a good day", it can change your mood.
3. Take the high road. It is so easy in this day and age when you can electronically skewer people and institutions you don't like or have a grudge against. Even if it is justified,you might feel vindicated momentarily but what goes around comes around-and that holds true for the people who got you into this situation to begin with.
4. Practice a yoga pose. Promise yourself that you will do it faithfully until you master it or want to move on to another. There are plenty of poses for relaxation, depression, stretching, and calming the mind. (You can find lots of them in my book, YOGAMINUTE)
5. Plan out your job renewal. Make a list for your perfect job and don't hold back! Create everything you want-location, responsibilities, hours, and money. Then list what you can realistically do to get it. Granted, job searches are not fair and there are many things beyond your control, but what can you control? What can you do to make your job manifest itself for you? Once you are certain exactly what you want, don't keep it a secret. Now is a good time to use Facebook and Linkedin and let people know how they can help.
It has been a month since I lost my job but in reality five months since I knew that my last job situation did not serve me, nourish me, or sustain me (except for my colleagues who are fantastic, hardworking, underpaid professionals!)I am using yoga for my job loss . Try it for yourself and let me know what you create!
Have you ever heard these words? Yesterday, I did. And even though I knew they were coming and even though I knew months ago that I did not want to remain in this job (love the work-hate the politics), those words still are hard to hear, witnessed by the fact that I up at 3:30am writing about it.
I love teaching yoga, writing about yoga, giving workshops, and doing community service events but the fact is, job #1 pays the bills. Seeing some of my colleagues whose jobs were also cut or downsized sobbing in the faculty room was also a blow. Just like any breakup, you want to be the one to do it first, you want to be the one to call the shots. Having it forced upon you is not the Hollywood version I pictured. Then an hour later, learning about another job that I thought I had a good shot at was already filled, was also a blow. The reality is that the combination of my age and experience against new graduates makes my chances for getting a new teaching position next to impossible. Even so I have been preparing for this eventuality, brushing off the resume, reconnecting with old colleagues, getting the word out, staying focused, positive, and professional. Hopefully I will remain so.
But -cue Gloria Gaynor-I will survive. Last night after I left work, I taught a yoga class and then had an event at my local library talking about my book. One of the attendees took the time to talk to me about how much she enjoyed reading my blog and posts on Vibrant Nation. Sorry, I didn't get your name but you made my day. Thank you!
It is interesting what the universe will send you when you are open to the possibilities. I am open and ready for the next contract and thanks to yoga, I will keep positive that better opportunities await.
Last year at this time, I was sipping coffee, enjoying my first day of spring vacation, and watching the preparations for the annual Boston Marathon. As I watched all the preparations, I was inspired to write an article for this blog and published it just as the runners were beginning their long trek. Little did I know that just a few hours later, some of those same runners and their spectators would be changed forever with a senseless act of violence. I and countless others watched the news, transfixed on the endless replaying of the bombs exploding on the Boylston Street finish line, the terse comments of the reporters, the pictures of families running in horror, and the spectators who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. In the days that followed, I was further horrified by the senseless shooting of the MIT security officer, Sean Collier, and then the shoot-em-up and subsequent manhunt in my hometown of Watertown.
Now a year later, the stories of unbelievable courage and sacrifice abound. These stories tell of the people who were injured and endured long months of physical rehabilitation. Then there's the stories of the countless others who happened to be in the right place at the right time. Not just the medical and law enforcement officials, whose jobs demand automatic and unselfish action, but of ordinary people out enjoying an afternoon of fun turned tragically wrong. It great to have a visit by Vice President Biden and good to see the politicians stop fighting long enough to honor these people. It's doubly terrific to celebrate the World Series Champion Boston Red Sox and have them also honor those victims of the Marathon Bombing. But mostly for me, it's a celebration of human goodness, sacrifice, and willingness to be of service to others. We must remember that we share this earth and our actions on it are overreaching.
I am not part of the Boston Marathon race but I am part of the human race. Let's all be racing towards our peaceful coexistence on our beautiful planet as we celebrate both the anniversary of the bombing and Earth Day this week.
Last week I showed up to teach my yoga class and this book was sitting there with a note from a friend. Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi by Brian Leaf, is a laugh out loud account of a young man's search for meaning through yoga. Along the way, he finds he can refocus his ADD, heal his colitis, find the keys to his happiness, and discover a meaningful career. At times he literally stumbles into his misadventures (he thinks a prostitute is a real massage therapist) and other times he is truly enlightened by the people and events in his life.
Besides being a fun read, Brian's search for happiness through yoga also gives the novice yogi some tips for meditation, and intro to ayurveda, a peek into volunteering in an ashram, and eventually his realization as to how to use his gifts tutoring students. As a seeker, teacher and yogi, Brian's path resonated with me and whether you are a novice or expert yogi, I think it would for you as well. Since these adventures, Brian has expanded his life to include a family, and his new book, Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi will be out in May, 2014.
Check out the original and let me know what you think!
When I do workshops and ask people the question, "What is yoga?", many people answer, "Feeling calm." "Relaxation." "Stretching." Since media has brought yoga into the mainstream, thankfully this has been the prevailing view. Unfortunately there are still those who view yoga as a secret sect of lunatics sitting cross legged on a mat, burning incense, chanting, and singing to weird looking, multi-limbed deities.
Yoga is not a religion!
The practice of yoga embodies universal principals. These include non-violence, truthfulness, being of service to others, clean living, non-stealing, cleanliness of mind and body, and ultimately, surrender and union with a higher power. How could anyone of any faith tradition argue with that?
Unfortunately, some do. This week as I was celebrating another store selling my yoga book, school administrators wanted to make sure I wasn't doing "that" in my classroom. Imagine the consequences! Teaching kindness in a classroom! Horrors!!
Oh well. As I write this, even I find it hard to practice the yoga principal of non-judgement sometimes. I'll let you decide.
Read more about the yogic principals and how to incorporate yoga into your busy lives in my book Yogaminute.