Yoga is an invitation to grow, to wake up, and to experience your life in the most fulfilling way. The true transformation is more than just a physical change in your appearance, it’s an awakening of your inner strength, freedom, and perception. There are no guarantees to this awakening though. You have to be willing to do the work, to stay the course when you hit a wall or plateau, and to allow your yoga practice be about more than your body. If you are seeking to bring your practice to the next level and truly grow beyond the physical benefits, here are a few things to try:
1. Let yoga be more than your workout. Yoga will help you stay fit, but if you approach your practice with only fitness in mind, you might miss all the rest. So when you come to your yoga mat, open yourself up to all that the practice can reveal to you about your mental patterns, emotions, and even your weaknesses, so that you can transform them.
2. Focus less on how you look in each posture and more on how you feel. Feel your way through your yoga practice. Leave no room for ego or perfectionism. Do your best to achieve your optimum alignment and depth, but also give yourself space to be, breathe and accept where you are. Align your mind with the moment, let go of vanity, and work to find mind, body, and spiritual freedom in each posture, instead of seeking perfection.
3. Let your practice be more of a surrender, and less of a struggle. All too often we push and pull ourselves into a posture. We fight for it. Instead of pushing your way into a posture or even thinking your way through it, step back into your breath and your softness so that you can feel balanced. Give to the asana/posture, but receive from it as well.
4. Hold an intention. Donna Farhi wrote, “In truth, it matters less what we do in practice than how we do it and why we do it. The same posture, the same sequence, the same meditation with a different intention takes on an entirely new meaning and will have entirely different outcomes.” Before you begin your practice, set an intention or devote your practice to something (anything). If you have trouble coming up with something, simply ask yourself, What do I want from my practice today? Know that no intention is too big or too small.
5. Find a new level of awareness. Use the asanas/postures and the practice of yoga as a tool to see yourself and your patterns more clearly. Pay attention to any repetitive thoughts or emotions that come up during your practice. This will lead to awareness, and awareness leads to change.
5. Don’t give up. As the saying goes, don’t give up just before the miracle. If you feel like you want to give up for any reason, DON’T. You might just be a few breaths, practices, moments, or steps away from transformation. Change and epiphanies are about to happen, so devote yourself to your practice and you will get to the other side.
Best of luck my friends! Namaste.
Lately I have come to appreciate the power of positive affirmations. Simply speaking a sentence aloud a few times can change our state of mind. Once we change our state of mind we can start to feel the positive emotion behind our words. When we harness the emotion, our energy shifts and so does our reality.
It seems simple enough. Right? I promise you it’s worth a try. So I thought I would share a few of my favorite affirmations with the hope of inspiring you. Here goes:
1. There is more than enough time in a day to accomplish all that I want to do.
Think of how many times you have heard yourself say the opposite! The more you say it the more it will be true (this works both ways).
2. I love my body and treat it as the house of my spirit.
I try to say this one before I am about to go to Starbucks, skip yoga, or buy potato chips.
3. I am beautiful.
Yup! I said it.
4. The world is full of love and opportunity.
Keep repeating this one while you watch the news. We have to keep believing in love.
5. I am exactly where I am supposed to be.
You are on the path. Nothing is a mistake.
6. Anything is possible for myself and my life.
I realize this is a big one. Keep saying it. Start believing it.
Try to become aware of your conscious language and start reflecting upon what you are affirming regularly. PLEASE share some of your thoughts or favorite affirmations in the comments box below.
Living a healthy life is very simple, inexpensive, and accessible. While you may have heard all 12 of these ways before, you may or may not be actually practicing them. Allow this list to serve as a call to action to carve time out of your day or week for your own health and wellness.
1. Breathe deep. Try it right now. Just inhale completely until you are full of breath. Pause. Now exhale all the way until you are empty of breath. Do that two more times. It is really simple, but challenging nonetheless, as our thoughts often interrupt the process of conscious breathing. Deep breathing calms your nervous system, reduces stress, and catapults you into a state of relaxation. Take at least three deep conscious breaths every day, and experience a sense of calm.
2. Be conscious of what you eat and drink, and why you are choosing it. A little awareness goes a long way. Just be aware of what you put in your body every time you consume something and ask yourself, “Is this going to feed my body with nutrients?” If your answer is “no,” and you eat it anyway, then ask yourself why you choose to feed your body with anything less than the best.
3. Drink Water. I promise you that you will feel better on the days that you drink water (at least 8 glasses) than on the days that you don’t. You will be more awake, more aware, less hungry, and more energized when you are hydrated. Try it!
4. Move Your Body. Whether it is walking, going to the gym, or practicing yoga, make time to move your body in a conscious way at least three times per week. Move your body with the intention of health instead of vanity.
5. Meditate. Take at least five minutes per day to STOP what you are doing, and sit down on a chair, against a wall, or on a cushion to clear your mind. You do not need to be by the ocean or somewhere pretty to find calm. You can meditate anywhere. Set a timer if you need and just allow your mind be clear. Five minutes is hardly any time at all, and we have all wasted more time doing something less meaningful. Meditation will clear your mind, help you put things in perspective, decrease perceived stress, and improve focus.
6. Go outside. Take time to get to nature at least once per week whether it is in your backyard, at a park, or in the mountains. Look around you at the trees, rocks, plants, and grass, and stars, and take nature in. Nature can invigorate your spirits and remind you of the beauty in the world.
7. Practice yoga and stretch. As we age we lose elasticity in our muscles. One of the best things we can do for our physical body is stretch. At least once per week practice yoga or stretch at a local studio or gym, or download online yoga classes at yogadownload.com (20 minute classes are free).
8. Read. Stimulate your mind as much as you can by taking time away from television or work to read a book. Reading can help you escape from your regular thought patterns and inspire you. Challenge yourself to read a book or magazine at least 2 times per week.
9. Pray. Connect with something bigger than yourself each day with gratitude, service and intention. This can take under a minute, or more if you feel devoted.
10. Give and receive touch. Whether it is a hug, a massage, or a pat on the back, allow yourself to give and receive touch every day. If your budget allows, schedule a massage every 1-3 months.
11. Think happy thoughts. You might not fly from thinking happy thoughts, but you will eliminate the stress that negativity can cause. You do not have to be unrealistic in your thinking, but become aware of negative thoughts and words you might be accustomed to. This can help you change your perspective, reduce stress, and connect to the joy in your own life.
12. Actually practice everything on this list. While you may have read or seen all the above ways to be healthy before, and even know them to be true, are you actually practicing them? Knowing and doing are two different things. Let go of any excuses or limiting beliefs around health like lack of time or money. I invite you to put forth the effort that it takes to add all of the above components to your day or week to create health and vitality in your life.
Feel free to add to this list or share your experience and challenges in the comments box below.
– By Jackie Casal Mahrou
Recently I attended a commitment seminar (Landmark Forum), and we were asked to make a list of what we are committed to in our lives. “Easy enough,” I thought, so I wrote down things like, health, yoga, teaching, being a good wife, love, contentment, learning, saving money, and a few others.
Next, we were asked to reflect upon our moment-to-moment and day-to-day actions to see how they corresponded with our declared commitments. Then came the wakeup call. My day-to-day actions revealed that I was instead committed and addicted to being busy, working, watching reruns on tv, sipping on Starbucks and wine, spending money, and lots of other things that did not exactly line up with my desires.
It takes a moment of authenticity and awareness to admit that we might be devoting our time and energy into actions that may not be in alignment with our intentions, and therefore chasing our own tails. Simply pausing to examine our day-to-day actions will reveal to us what we are really dedicated to in our lives, and allow us the awareness we need to redirect our life should we find any misalignments. I invite you to take a moment and reflect on your own life. You can journal or meditate on the following questions:
1. What are your desires, commitments, and intentions for yourself and your life?
2. What do you spend your time doing each day? What are you devoting your energy to?
3. Are your daily actions in service of your desires, commitments, and dreams, or are there areas of misalignment?
If your actions are in alignment with your commitments then celebrate. If you find areas where you are misaligned then you can now begin the process of redirecting your life. Having awareness of what you desire, and what you are directing your energy towards will catapult you into a space of growth and possibility.
Some quotes to inspire you in your reflection:
“What is the story you tell, and what is the story you wish to tell?” – Jeanie Manchester
“An ounce of performance is worth a pound of promises.” – Mae West
“Authenicity is the alignment of head, mouth, heart and feet – thinking, saying, feeling, and doing the same thing – consistently.” – Lance Secretan
– By Jackie Casal Mahrou
We were all born with flexibility. It is life experience and stress that tightens up our bodies, rounds our shoulders, and gives us neck and back pain. Imagine if you would have learned yoga postures and deep breathing techniques when you were a kid. How might your body and mind be different today? While we cannot go back in time to change our own lives, we can offer the opportunity of learning yoga to our children. These days children live a fast paced life of school, homework, sports, music lessons, and other activities that combined together can cause stress. Kids yoga can provide an opportunity for children to slow down, stretch, and connect to their inner joy so that they can learn to cope with stress, and stay flexible. Here are more ways that children can benefit from yoga:
- Increased strength, coordination and flexibility: Children learn many different yoga postures that increase strength, balance, and flexibility. Yoga postures strengthen the muscles along the front and back of the spine, allowing children to have better posture. Balancing postures increase core strength, allowing children to be less likely to injure themselves.
- Enhanced concentration and focus: It takes a child’s full attention to learn a yoga posture. Each posture involves balancing, breathing, and coordination. During balancing postures children focus their eyes on a certain object to help them stay balanced on one foot. This teaches them how to maintain focus and awareness.
- A sense of peace and calm: Even the most hyper children have an inner calm. Yoga teaches kids how to access this inner calm at any given moment. Through breathing techniques children learn how to calm themselves down, self-soothe, and cope. Deep breathing naturally brings children into their parasympathetic nervous system, quiets their mind, and helps them get centered. When children learn to slow down and breathe deeply, they can become more relaxed in challenging situations.
- Increased self-confidence: Children are encouraged to stay focused on their own bodies and breathing, instead of comparing themselves with others. As they continuously practice yoga they begin to see positive changes in their strength, balance, and flexibility. They become stronger in both body and mind.
Yoga is for all ages, but the earlier we begin practicing the earlier we can begin to absorb the many benefits. The goal of kids yoga is to preserve both the flexibility and the joyful heart we were all born with. Children can carry the mind and body lessons of yoga with them into adulthood, so that they can lead more peaceful and centered lives.
By – Jackie Casal Mahrou
Download a yoga class just for kids here!
If there is one yoga posture that tests our patience, flexibility, and dedication, it is Hanumanasana, or the forward splits. Unless you are a dancer or gymnast, it can seem ridiculous to even attempt such a huge stretch that can take years to achieve, but therein lies the magic of the pose. While I doubt Hanumanasana is anyone’s favorite pose, we cannot ignore the physical, mental, and spiritual power that this posture can evoke.
The story behind the posture
No matter what our spiritual beliefs are, the stories derived from ancient Indian texts can inspire us as we journey through each posture. The posture, Hanumanasana, was named after Hanuman, a devotee of Rama, the king of India in the ancient Sanskrit text, the Ramayana. According to the story, a demon king abducted King Rama’s wife, Sita, and a huge battle began. During this battle, Hanuman was asked to help find Sita, and to find an herb that was needed to save King Rama’s brother who was wounded in battle. Hanuman was asked to do the impossible, and he questioned whether he could accomplish this task. The moment before his journey he remembered his own power and devotion, and was then able to take a gigantic leap across the Indian Ocean to rescue Sita. When he learned of Rama’s brother being wounded, he took another giant leap from India to the Himalayas, and picked up an entire mountain that the sacred herb was growing on, and carried it over his head as he leaped back to India to save Rama’s brother.
This story of courage and dedication can inspire us to stay committed as we practice this posture that resembles a giant leap. We might think such an opening is unachievable, but if we pause and connect to the power and devotion we have within ourselves, we can find the courage to try. After all, the postures that are the most challenging are always the ones that yield the greatest rewards.
Since Hanumanasana is an asymmetrical posture, it can be a tricky one to warm up to. It requires not only an opening on the hamstring of your front leg, but also a lengthening on the quadriceps of your back leg. The posture tests our will and patience, while accessing one of the tightest areas in our bodies, our groin and hips. The beauty of Hanumanasana as with any pose, is that as we continuously practice, we become more flexible, patient, and devoted people.By- Jackie Casal Mahrou