Monday, October 10, 2011

Enjoy the Disconnect

I'm back! 24 hours of social media silence...that I voluntarily extended to 48 hours. (I did check my email on my phone once yesterday, but that's it.)

And I was right...I SURVIVED! And, it felt great!

I was greeted by 59 emails, none of which were all that important. I think I deleted at least 15 without even opening them, looked at another 10 more, responded to two or three, left the rest sitting in my inbox.

I only had ONE notification on facebook! (There were others that FB decided not to "notify" me about-- I think it was trying to help me in my quest-- but only the number "1" appeared in that little red box.)

Nothing brings you down to Earth faster and reminds you of your truly insignificant place in the universe than signing back on to Facebook after 48 hours and seeing that no one really missed you while you were gone.  I think it's a good thing to remember-- I need to live my life to live it and enjoy it, not to post about it on Facebook and see what other people think of it.  I think too many of us live with our noses glued to our laptops/smartphones waiting for someone to notice us. A short two days showed me that I'm getting dangerously close to being one of those people.

There are a million things to do other than sitting at the computer and scrolling on your smartphone! I did a bunch of them this weekend, and it felt great! I woke up and meditated with the most intoxicating breeze on Saturday morning.  Then, I went to an amazing yoga workshop on arm balances, and I did things I didn't know were possible-- it was exciting and felt great! (Pictures to follow...we'll focus on some specific poses in weeks to come) I cleaned the kitchen and went through the mail.  I had dinner with the Husband's grandma on Saturday night, and we got to spend Sunday with my grandparents-- mass, breakfast, wedding pictures, chatting-- my spirit was happy when I left! Spent the evening in my backyard raking leaves and enjoying the weather last night.  Then I fell asleep next to my Husband cheering for his Packers. Perfect.

And I know myself. There were at least 10 times that I saw my laptop sitting in the living room and thought, "I'll just check my facebook while I wait for him to come downstairs," or "I can check twitter while my tea is brewing."  Those are the times that "just checking facebook" would have extended into an hour of nothingness. Look at everything I did instead!

I ENJOYED BEING DISCONNECTED, and I was a little sad to break the silence today  I think that too many of us use social media to brag about our own lives, or compare what we know/do/say/think to that of others to make ourselves feel better about our own position.  That is all about ego.

My challenge, and what I challenge all of you with as well, is to stop. To disconnect from that ego-stroking and time wasting.  Because every moment of time we are wasting is a bit of our lives that we are wasting.  And comparing ourselves to others never truly honors the people that we are-- all it does is highlight inadequacies, either in ourselves or in others.  Challenge yourself, as I am challenging myself, to be happy with my life (and myself!) as it is, and to enjoy every moment!

"If we are ever to enjoy life, now is the time, not tomorrow or next year." 
~Thomas Dreier~


Friday, October 7, 2011

My 24 Hour Challenge

So, a recent small but meaningful argument with the husband regarding Facebook, as well as a total procrastination breakdown when I need to be my most efficient, has got me really thinking about how technology has taken over our lives.  Do we need to check our email/facebook at every stop light?  What will happen if we don't?

I then started to think about the proverbial "epidemic" of attention disorders and learning disabilities that are plaguing our society. Is it any wonder? We do not know how to just be. If there isn't something pressing our attention, we need a laptop, iPad, smart phone, computer, or game console at our disposal now to fill the void, even if said void is a mere minute.

I noticed the effects of ignoring this pull towards constant stimulation when we gave up TV over a year ago. At first I felt as if I was detoxing from a drug. I was cranky, having mood swings, and I didn't know what to do with myself.  However, now, I do not want TV back. We watch movies together, or watch the occasional Hulu show, but even then we feel like we've wasted time.  I like living my life, not watching someone else's on TV.

Multi-tasking has become the new vogue character trait, and it has come at the expense of actually being able to focus on anything.  I often get frustrated because my mind wanders during my yoga practice or when I actually try to sit and meditate.


But, is it any wonder? I have not trained my mind to be still or to focus on one thing at a time.  If my mind is not juggling more than one idea and task, it does not know what to do with itself.  We need to stop and train our minds to settle.

It is in that spirit that I have chosen to undertake a 24 hour challenge-- tomorrow, Saturday, October 8 2011-- I will not utilize email, Facebook, Blogger, Twitter, etc. I will carry my phone with me for telephone emergency purposes only. That's it.

I already have a plethora of plans that involve everything but sitting and wasting time trolling social media outlets.  Yoga workshops, time with family, husband fun.  I am going to spend tomorrow enjoying my life and the people in it.

I'll check back in on Sunday. But, you know what? I bet I'll survive. Would you? Could you? Challenge yourself!!

Have a great Saturday, everyone!  ~Namaste~

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bringing Our Yoga Off the Mat: @Work (Part 2)

I try to bring my yoga spirit off my mat and to work-- in my one short month of blogging, this is already my second post about it!  I need peace and serenity when working with 85 pre-pubescent 7th graders. They're CRAZY!  (Sometimes I wish I could have peace and serenity pumped through my veins directly via IV!)

But alas, we need things to help us find that peace in the work place.  I find it in the moments I take to breath and say a prayer in my mind. Sometimes I find it in the smiles on my students' faces when they understand something new-- or their laughter! I don't even care if they're laughing at me (which they do...a lot), their laughter is a gentle reminder of pure peace. It makes me happy.

How do you find it? Are you sitting hunched over a computer all day, destroying your wrists, shoulders, and back? How can you straighten out? Are you in a cubicle surrounded by the sounds, sights, and sometimes smells of others wanting to escape...or scream...or both? How do you drown out those distractions for even three short minutes to regroup?  Sometimes I wish it was as simple as biting into a peppermint patty...but I don't think it is.

The answer is THE LITTLE THINGS!! The small prayer, the smile...or maybe it's the two minutes you take to close your eyes and rub your temples-- the five minutes you take to focus on your breathing and nothing else-- the one minute you take to stand up in your cubicle...and stretch for the sky!

In the spirit of helping you find little things to pave the path to bringing yoga into your workplace, check out Yoga Journal's Office Yoga series.  They are on day 2, but it's not too late to sign up. It will provide you with a simple yoga pose that is office (and non-yogi) friendly, like today's tadasana (Mountain Pose). It will also provide you with a tip at the bottom to help de-stress your work life.

 Courtesy of Yoga Journal © 2011,

The best part about this is that EVERYONE can benefit, even if you don't consider yourself a "yogi."  Check it out, and sign up-- it could keep you sane!!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Yay for Yoga Aid!

First- congratulations to Kim who SUCCEEDED IN HER 30 DAY CHALLENGE!! She made all 26 practices, and I am amazed by her. WAY TO GO, KIM!

Yoga Aid was yesterday, and it was excellent! I had one of my best friends on one side of my mat, and my husband on the other, and I made it through the entirety of an intense two hour practice.

Mary didn't just stick to traditional A's and B's for sun salutations; she threw in some change-up and kept us moving. I felt (surprisingly!) great for the entire two hours, and was even able to try some new things and hit some sequences I've never gotten before!  (flow --> crow --> head stand --> tripod --> crow --> flow) I was riding my excited train until we went home.

On top of that, I raised almost $350 for Headstand. Thank you to everyone who helped me surpass my fundraising goal and for all your thoughts and prayers. It felt great to challenge myself and know that in working to make myself a better person, I was helping students do the same thing!  Check out my fundraising page to see how you and others came together for such a great cause (and there's still time to donate if you can spare a few dollars!).

But of course, the high wore off last night and the soreness and pain set in. "Life" came back full force this morning, and I was faced with all the stress that that entails.  My challenge is to keep the spirit of what I did yesterday with me this week-- keep that feeling of good, that peace, at the front of my mind.

As my sister-in-law reminded me this morning, I need to eliminate the negativity in my life.  While I know that I can't get rid of it, I can choose how I respond to it.  I can choose to see the good in any situation, or work to increase the positive rather than focus on the negative.  So, while she was trying to be snarky and hilarious by throwing my own "blog lessons" in my face when I choose to be a curmudgeon, she was absolutely right!

Think about the things that stress you out-- the things that seem to "erase" the good feelings you have, make you forget about the positives.  How can you "flip it and reverse it" so that those negatives don't have power over your mood or your spirit anymore? Think about it...


Thursday, September 29, 2011

The "Spirit" of Yoga

So, tomorrow is the last day of the 30 day yoga challenge, and I accumulated 14 classes of the 26 I needed. Not as impressive as I would have hoped, but if you average it out, that is a yoga practice about every other day...which is impressive. It got me to wondering...if I had merely dedicated myself to practicing every other day rather than trying to rack up doubles and such to hit 26, would my body and spirit have held up better? Perhaps if I had realized my limitations and accepted my body for what it is at the start of all this, I could have ended it in a better place.  So, I learned something!

I would like to give a shout out to Kimberly Loll, though! (Awesome yogi and author at the blog Sisters in Blogging)  She has two more days to complete her challenge, and I can't wait to see how far she gets! Her resolve and willingness to take her Child's Pose when she needed it were amazing! Good luck, Kim-- finish strong!

But back to the "spirit" part of all this...Last weekend I accepted that I wasn't going to force yoga anymore (finally, right?).  So when my amazing husband surprised me with an amazing weekend in Memphis, TN, I didn't force waking up early to drive around town looking for the one yoga studio he had found online; instead, I decided to sleep in with my husband and go enjoy breakfast at the most wonderful little cafe on 2nd street.

And my spirit thanked me.

I've often wondered about the spirit's connection to yoga.  So many people connect the idea of "spirit" to religion, and many people are hesitant to "buy into" yoga because of all the "spiritual mumbo-jumbo" that they perceive yoga to be based on.  But I think it's important to recognize that while some one's spirituality can inform his/her practice of yoga, it is distinctly separate from that person's spirit.\

Spirit has so many connotations in our society.  It can be based on our religion (ie. the "holy spirit"); it can also be based on our excitement or passion (ie. "spirit squad"); it can be based on a liveliness (ie. "she has so much spirit"); it can be about real and intended meaning (ie. "the spirit of the law").  I also believe and operate under the assumption that it can represent our essence-- My spirit is the essence of who I am as a person.  Healthy or ailing, happy or sad, empty or is my responsibility to take care of my spirit.

In that sense, I truly think that the spirit is yoga.  Yoga is the time we take on our mat to dedicate to our breath (finding balance and calm), our body (finding health and flexibility), and our mind (to focus on positive thoughts and healing).  When we consider all of those things together, we are taking that time to repair and take care of our spirits-- of ourselves.

None of that has to do with religion or faith.  It can do with religion or faith, if you choose for it to do so.  If your spirit, your essence, is rooted in a strong faith, then you will bring that to your mat.  Then your meditation, your breathing, your practice will reflect that faith. Your spirit will feel stronger because of that faith. I am a woman of faith, and I like to believe that my spirit and my faith are intertwined, and my yoga practice makes both stronger.

But, if you do not have strong faith in a religion, or any faith at all, does that mean that  yoga is inaccessible? is crazy zealotry? mumbo jumbo? No. If you think that, I encourage you to scroll back a few paragraphs. No matter what religion, philosophy, or doctrine you choose to follow or believe in, no matter if your life is faith based or science based or both, yoga is about spending the time on you to improve, repair, and take care of you

Your spirit-- the essence of who you are-- deserves that care.



Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Happy International Peace Day!

In honor of International Peace Day, I'm just going to encourage you to BREATH.

Our breath is the easiest way to find our peace.  Don't think about anything but your breath. Focus on your inhaling and your exhaling only.  Take care to notice how you feel before you start focusing on your breath, and then notice how you feel after...say...5 minutes?

Remember what it feels like to be PEACEFUL.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Yoga is a Journey

About a week and a half ago, the pain started up again.  I was at practice #11 of my 26 in 30 days...2 practice away from my half way mark, when I noticed that Chaturanga was sending excruciating pain through my arm and wrist. By the time I went to bed, I thought I had broken it.  I tried practice #12...on my forearms and knees...and it became clear that I just couldn't do it.

It took the very wise and firm words of a good friend, a good husband, a good teacher, and a good mom to finally convince me to not go to practice the next day.  I had become so fixated on the challenge, so fixated on the number of days in a row that I needed to be on my mat, and the number of days I needed to do doubles in order to achieve my 26 classes in 30 days, that I had become burned out.

My body was burned out. My pain was already making my practice difficult before the challenge started, but somehow I thought that doing yoga every day (and sometimes twice a day!) would make me feel better...that somehow I'd become some super buff yogi chick who could do poses I had only dreamed of.  It did make me feel better for a while, but with little to no recovery time, my body (and my mother!) started telling me loudly that I needed a break.  But I wasn't listening to my body...

My mind was burned out.  I was thinking too much.  I know that yoga is not about competition or forcing anything. Yoga is about acceptance. It is supposed to make you feel good. It is about peace.  It is not about the asanas-- it is about the calm that you feel after you practice. I know that. But my mind was too tired to think about it.  I wanted to finish this challenge. I wanted to prove-- mostly to myself-- that I could do it.  My pain and injuries have already taken away so much. I can't run or exercise like most people.  I can't even rock climb anymore...I felt like giving up on the challenge would be giving up on myself.  My mind (and my good friend, Amy) was trying to remind me what yoga is. But I wasn't listening to my mind...

My spirit was burned out.  I didn't want to be at the studio anymore.  I was resenting the 35 minute commute to and from another town.  I stopped looking forward to yoga, but for some reason I kept forcing myself to go...because of the challenge.  My husband wanted me to stop going-- stop tainting the one thing I had come to enjoy. He wanted me to take a break and rest so that I could look forward to the time I gave myself on my mat.  I wanted to enjoy other aspects of life-- focus on my classroom, my students, my home, my friends-- without feeling guilty for missing yoga.  My spirit needed some alone time with me. But I wasn't listening to my spirit...

I finally gave in to my body, my mind, and my spirit and emailed my instructor.  And she told me to LISTEN TO MY BODY AND MY SPIRIT!!  So, I took a week off.  And it was glorious.  I stayed late at school and caught up in my classroom.  I went to a student football game.  I saw family and wasn't exhausted for a night out.  While I am still trying to accumulate as many practices as I can by September 30th, I will not be able to achieve 26 unless I do doubles every other day, which cannot happen. So, I need to be ok with that. Yoga is acceptance of what is, at this moment.

In coming to terms with the fact that I would not complete the challenge, I started to wonder what exactly I was supposed to learn from the challenge.  Is it a physical challenge? Very few athletic endeavors encourage you to practice constantly with little recovery time.  While is is physically challenging, I don't think that's it.  Is it a challenge to see how dedicated I am? I'm not sure that is it either.  I was dedicated to the point of hurting myself. It took multiple people to convince me to "give up," and yet I didn't feel successful.  What kind of challenge is it, then?

It took "giving up"...or more to the point-- LETTING realize the challenge.  The challenge was to accept myself as I am, limitations and listen to my body and learn, more than ever, what yoga really is.  Yoga is about being in the world and not of it. It is about living in the moment and accepting the body God gives you at any given time.  Some days God might give me a stronger or more capable body than other days.  But, I need to do the best with what I have that day, and most importantly, I need to accept that what I am doing at any moment is good enough. 

That is my challenge...and I don't think I've completed it yet.  My yoga is a journey.

"The greatest success is doing what you love and believing that’s enough."