Monday, October 13, 2014

Gratitude and Yoga

Happy Thanksgiving, Yogis!

Gratitude and Yoga are a perfect marriage. Every day on my mat I am reminded of what my able body can do. I give thanks to myself for coming to the mat. I thank my body for what it can do. Every night before bed I write a gratitude list. This list contains everything from my health, the roof over my head, the well being of my friends and family right down to being thankful for a song. This was a practice that my YTT instructor has us do during our training. And it has stuck with me ever since!

Practicing gratitude has been a therapeutic journey. There are days that I feel like everything has gone wrong and when I prepare to write my gratitude list I am humbled by how much I took for granted that day. I have my heath, I have a beautiful fiance that supports me, I have a warm bed to go to at night and I have a roof over my head. I never paid much attention to those things in the past but thankfully I am more aware of those beautiful little things every single day.

Thanksgiving is also a time of reflection. A time to look back on everything I have done this year and thank myself for taking all the steps to better my mind, body and soul.

Why save gratitude for just one occasion a year? How about you try a little challenge: Every night before bed for a week, write down on a piece of paper or just think quietly to yourself what you are grateful for that day. It can be something as simple as that good breakfast you had in the morning, or that you didn't engage in that argument with your spouse/co-worker/customer, etc. See how you feel by the end of the week.

What I am grateful for this day:

The time spent with family over the weekend
The wonderful Thanksgiving meal we had
Seeing my 3 nieces laugh and smile
My fiance and the wonderful support he gives me every day
My dogs and the unconditional love
My yoga practice
My able body
My health
The health of my family and friends
The roof over my head
My warm bed

What are you grateful for on this beautiful day?


Thursday, October 2, 2014

What Yoga Means to Me

My eyes are barely open and there is still sleep in the corners. My hair is sticking up in every direction and my body is stiff from the 7 or so hours of sleeping. I pad my feet into my too bright living room where the sun is beaming in through the windows. My eyes squint even more. I yawn as I unroll my yoga mat. A tiny part of me wishing I was still under my warm covers in dreamland. I settle in on my mat in child's pose and rock my head gently from side to side, massaging my forehead. My hips slightly wave back and forth as I breath into them, slowly waking my body up. My eyes open a little wider and I can feel the energy spiraling up and down my back and sending that energy throughout my body and mind. Wake up, Cathy. Greet the sun. It's a brand new, beautiful day.  As I slowly step my body to the front of my mat and stand into Samasthiti, I start setting my intention:

Ahimsa- The first Yama from Patanjali's Yoga Sutra. Non-harming. Compassion. Do no harm to myself on and off the mat. And do no harm to others.

Satya- The second Yama: Truthfulness. Stay true to myself. be honest with myself and others. Listen to my body on and off the mat. Satya brings me to Santosa(Contentment the 2nd Niyama). Accepting what my body can do on the mat that day. How many of us has had a practice where we could soar into crow effortlessly, only to fall or stumble out of it the next day? We must be content with what our body can do that day. Listen to yourself. Ahimsa, do no harm.

All of these thoughts make their way into my intention.  As I lengthen my spine and ground my feet. Spread my toes and feel the gentle sway in my body as it prepares itself for it's morning practice.

What my practice does for me:

Awareness: An opportunity to check into my body.

Release Tension: I'm a Yogi and I have stress just like everyone else! I don't turn to my mat demanding it to change me. I don't say to it: "I had a bad day, now fix it!". No, I don't count on it do to anything for me other than provide me with a softer surface to move around on. I turn to my mat as I would turn to a friend. We don't demand our friends to fix us do we? We go to them for comfort, solace. We turn to them for a laugh, a cry or a good time. My mat is my friend. When I need to release tension I just simply unroll my mat and move around a little or a lot! I just listen to my body and let it and my breath do the talking. Sometimes just standing in Samasthiti for a few breaths with my eyes closed is all I need.

Fun: Like I mentioned above, I turn to my mat like a friend. And a friend should not just be there for the lowss, but be there for the great times, too. What is better then a fun Yoga session? Trying out a few new transitions, learning a new pose, or even giving Laughing Yoga a try...Hey, it's out there!

Strength and Power, Inside and Out: Have you ever practiced Ashtanga Yoga? Halfway through the 90 minute practice, I am drenched in sweat. A part of me wants to take the easy way out and start modifying the postures so I can chill out. Or take a "quick" rest in Child's pose. Of course, if I were in discomfort, this is perfectly acceptable! But no, My body is feeling fine, it's my mind that is chiming in. The "I can'ts" and/or the "I don't want to's". Those thoughts creep their way in, but what is so powerful about Ashtanga is you get passed all of that. Ahstanga leaves me feeling purified. Refreshed. Renewed.

What Yoga has done for me is brought me home to myself. It has broken down my walls and allowed me to see my truest self. Yoga has made me the best version of myself that I can be. It has taught me to be kind and loving towards myself. But most importantly it has taught me to always remain a student. Always strive to learn more on and off the mat.

 As I mindfully move through my morning yoga practice, the feeling of wanting to be under the covers again disappears. As my body wakes up and moves through the postures, I am grateful for what it can do. I am grateful for everything I have in my life. I greet the sun with gratitude. I feel better, stronger, lighter and I thank myself for coming to my mat.