Whenever a new student takes my class I always ask them to to stay in the room, even if the class gets challenging or overwhelming. I ask this for important safety reasons: 1) I want to know students are safe, which means being able to SEE them; and 2) exercise without proper cool down, can increase the feelings of discomfort. But, there is also an important psychological factor; the sense of accomplishment that comes from sticking out a tough class, even if that means briefly taking savasana (corpse pose) or simply putting your head between your knees.
Setting a goal, and sticking to it, should feel empowering! Use physical activity to combat feelings of self-doubt and fear. Let your yoga practice, or any other exercise regime, become brain training for taking on challenges outside of the room. Recall a time when you overcame an obstacle or finished a difficult task. Boil that experience down to one word: determination, perseverance, focus, etc. Use that word as your intention each time you hit the mat or lace up your shoes. Let each session be a reminder of how mentally and physically strong you really are.
In the last two weeks I've started coaching a group of yogis, leading a healthy eating challenge, started a new personal training certification, and launched this website and blog - while continuing to work at my 40+ hour per week job. Needless to say, I haven't been practicing balance.
But, my "lap dog" Niko has take on the role of guru today by encouraging me, in his own subtle way, to slow down. I felt like going to a grinding yoga-sculpt class today before heading to work. Niko had other plans. Instead we enjoyed a long winter's walk around the neighborhood and an extended cuddle session. When it was decided that I would miss class, I thought I would instead take to the mat at home. Niko splayed across it. No home practice today.
And now, as I write, he's curled up, half on my lap. Moving to occupy a new task is impossible without disturbing his peace. So, I am forced to enjoy stillness. Niko, has made it so.
Ancient folks didn't need scientists from Harvard or Yale or graduated doctors of psychology to tell them when something was good for you. They relied on their senses. I'll admit it. Personally, I feel that mine have been a bit dulled.
So, to bring some spark back into my sensory experience at home, I turned to Vatsu - the ancient Indian wisdom of space design. The goal is to create a space that encourages positive energy, and combats negative - or worse neutral - energy. (For the skeptic: Check out this article discussing patient welfare at hospitals that have reevaluated the design of their patient rooms. Positive, warm, energy-enhancing design statistically supports patient well-being.)
One primary component of Vatsu is the incorporation of nature in the home. Being a person that likes to break things into baby steps, this is where I started. I brought into my home a few new house plants, including an aloe plant with a punkish "hair-do." These little guys have personality and have brought renewed energy to our apartment. Even my boyfriend, and housemate, Tim has begun saying, "Hello!" to our new additions.
To all my friends battling through the Chicago winter like me, I suggest you buy a houseplant and see how quickly your new green friend will turn your frown upside down.
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Bend Into Shape
For people who love dogs, yoga, good food and/or great parties ... that covers everyone right?