Thursday, May 21, 2015

Snap Shots of Emotion Motion

I recently learned that the lifespan of an emotion is approximately 90 seconds (see Jill Bolte Taylor's "A Stroke of Insight). In other words, it takes an emotion about one and a half minutes to run throughout the nervous system. After this time, it is only the mind and its emotional thoughts that continue the emotional response. Sometimes we even resurrect emotions long after they've disappeared, giving them renewed life and energy. Often emotions are experienced and acted upon habitually and without consideration. We spend time merely reacting to our emotional thoughts; living within these emotions without recognizing that they "died" long ago. We treat them as if they are a reality in and of themselves - and a factual reality, at that! Many times we even become our emotions; embodying them. It only takes a brief analysis of our language to realize how much life - our life - we give to emotional thought.

How many times have the words "I am happy" or "I am mad" parted from the lips? This type of language identifies the whole person with and as an emotion. In a sense, as the emotion travels throughout the body our language depicts us as that emotion. Think about it:

Sitting at the department of motor vehicles to renew my drivers license. I take a number, take a seat and wait...and wait...and wait for my number to be called. As I sit, I watch the clock, minutes ticking by. I have things to do. I have places to go. Why does this process always take so long? Who is holding up the line? Or perhaps the people working don't realize that I have a schedule to keep today. I become annoyed. Irritated. Then my number is called and I march up to the desk, frown on my face, license in hand.

"Name?" asks the depleted employee from behind thick glasses without looking up.
"Angry," comes my reply. After all, I am now angry.

Does this scenario seem unlikely? Although we may not outwardly identify ourselves with the name "angry" we may, in fact, be inwardly telling ourselves "I am angry". We effectively become our emotions through our thoughts; thoughts that our language then reinforces.

Now, here is some good news. There is some space between what Tara Brach calls impulse and action. Discussing the research of Benjamin Libet, Brach notes there is about a quarter of a second between the unconscious neurological activation of an action and the conscious realization that we are going to act. Prior to outwardly acting on an emotion the body is inwardly responding to it. There is another quarter of a second between the conscious realization and the outward action. This means that the body unconsciously prepares to act 1/2 a second before the action AND there is 1/4 of a second during which we are conscious of our intent to act before acting. A quarter of a second seems like a minuscule amount of time to realize the external trajectory of our thoughts and decide to proceed or not. In such a short time the opportunity for change seems bleak. The opportunity presents itself and passes, quite literally, in the blink of an eye. But in this 1/4 second there is the potential for magical transformation.

I'll use photography as an analogy. We can think about this 1/4 second opportunity for choice and change similarly to taking and viewing a picture. Consider the shutter speed of a camera (the length of time the camera's shutter is open to light when taking a picture). The standard shutter speed for a 35mm camera on auto focus will create a still picture of a moving subject without blur. Even though the subject is in motion at the time the camera is clicked, in the subsequent photo the subject will appear still - frozen in time (provided the camera is held still). Take the picture of the pinwheels on this post. The image furthest to the left shows a pinwheel frozen in time. There is no motion associated with it. However, if the shutter speed is adjusted to remain open for 1/4 of a second the picture may appear blurred as it reflects the motion of the moment, shown in the other two images. Now consider a nighttime picture of a freeway - you will see the car lights trailing in the direction of movement when the shutter speed is slower. You can see the movement. And when we are able to consciously see our movements - when we begin understanding what is actually happening - we can choose to change. This is the 1/4 second opportunity. The choice is to be on auto-focus or to adjust the shutter speed to see our thoughts as objects in motion.

Why does the faster shutter speed produce a picture frozen in time versus the motion shown in the slower speed? Light. When the shutter is open for less time, less light enters the lens, solidifying that moment in time without movement, without motion. It is a version of an event, a fraction of a second, an emotional thought. A longer shutter speed means more light and more movement in the resulting picture - a version of the event as is happening. Granted, the slower shutter speed may produce a blurry picture...at first. But proficient photographers learn how to use this light to more clearly show the motion of the subject. We can then use these images to understand the transition of our thoughts into action and, ultimately, begin recognizing the connection between thought and action. We can then use that 1/4 second to change the emotional trajectory.

So there you have it. Let the light in. Take this 1/4 of a second to shine a light onto the motion of your mind. With this picture in your minds eye, choose to maintain the trajectory of your thought or emotion into physical action or choose to change. The body's emotional response will last up to 90 seconds. The opportunity to change the physical reaction lasts about 1/4 second. And the repercussions of this action? The emotional thoughts prolonging this response? Their lifespan is a choice. Your choice.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Left Wanting

A couple of questions for you:  Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas? What do you want for yourself or for others in 2015? Are those New Year's resolutions going how you want them to go? Do you find yourself often "wanting?"

I try to give a lot of attention to language; the language I use outwardly with others, the words I use inwardly with myself, as well as the word choices others use towards me. I love words. I love how words roll off the tip of my pen, how they appear on the screen from the tips of my fingers and how they roll off the tip of my tongue. In the yoga studio, the language we choose sets a tone for the class. It gives students a clear (or unclear) direction. (Lets face it - some of the language used in yoga class is much too vague and defies specific meaning). Being mindful of language is being mindful of the thoughts in your head and how they can affect yourself and others. For example, a couple of years ago during a yoga workshop the class needed yoga blocks. I told the yogis on either side of me that I would be happy to grab one for them while I grabbed one for myself. The instructor noticed my language choice and was quick to (gently) bring awareness to my use of the word 'grab', stating that "We try not to grab things in the studio. Rather, we find or locate or get what we need." Hmmm...I'd never thought about this. The word 'grab' carries with it a feeling of aggression or grasping. It is somewhat desperate; less considerate or mindful. It is not a desirable tone for the yoga studio. I'll give myself a pat on the back here for working hard over the past two years to remove this word from my "yoga lexicon."

More recently, my awareness surrounding language and word choice was piqued during a holiday stay with friends in New Zealand. The constant monologue spewing from my youthful offspring centered around what they wanted for Christmas. "I want this. I want that." It was constant and desperate. The idea of Santa misunderstanding their location had the boys on the edge of anxiety. Kirsten - one of our hosts - asked my oldest if he understood the idea of "wanting." My ears perked up. She continued with the caution of being careful what you wish for using "wanting" as synonymous with "wishing." You see, often the things we think we want never quite turn out how we expect. We tend to feel disappointed rather than elated; deflated rather than fulfilled. As so we are left with wanting something more or something different. The moral is that when there is a "want," it is the feeling of wanting that is granted, rather than the thing, itself. Her advise? Rather than "I want", try "I would like" or "I would prefer."  'Like' carries a connotation of being suitable or agreeable; what is suitable or agreeable for you. 'Prefer' carries a similar tone. When we "would like" we are simply stating what is agreeable to us. 'Want', on the other hand, denotes a deficiency, a lack or a desire and carries a slightly negative tone. 'Want' concentrates us on what we do not have (and likely do not need!) rather than simply stating a fondness or proclivity.

Change the language. change the thought, change the expectation, change the outcome. And, as a cherished friend of mine says, "If nothing changes, nothing changes."

So begin paying attention to your language. What are you really saying? It will give you an idea of what you are thinking or, more importantly, how you are thinking.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Making an Asana of the Self

Sometimes I am a Facebook junkie. I like to peruse the status updates in my news feed, checking out what my friends have going on in their lives. I look at all of the precious baby pictures, see the glow of love on the faces of new parents. And get a kick out of the classic comments about sleepless nights, pajama-clad days or the morning hustle from bed to breakfast to daycare, work and home again. Busy, busy, busy seems to be the pervasive mantra. But one recent comment stuck with me. It touched a cord. It made me grumpy. It went something like this:

"Yoga? What is that? Since having kids I no longer have time to practice."

My initial response to this post was confusion. Since having children, my yoga practice has flourished. My life demands that I practice every single day. I practice humility when I make a mistake and apologize to my children. I practice grace when they become frustrated and can't understand their math lesson, thinking that I am the one who must be wrong. I practice compassion when they are quick to anger or fight with each other over Legos. I practice trust when they run outside to play in the neighborhood. I am called to step into the flow when my daily routine is in shambles, grateful for an opportunity to practice "vinyasa." The days are brimming with the practice of cultivating awareness; with the practice of yoga.

Then a thought occurred to me that made my brow furrow and my arms cross. The thought that the term "yoga" has come to mean, simply, "asana." To take on a physical form. To move through a series of physical postures. In short, "yoga" has come down to making an asana of the Self.

I did a quick Google image search to (unscientifically) confirm my suspicion. I typed in the term "yoga" and came up with hundreds of images of poses on beaches, in grassy meadows, in beautiful studios. Postures in bikinis, postures with babies, postures on paddle boards, even postures with cell phone in hand! Don't get me wrong - I love that yoga is everywhere. I am not arguing against asana practice - it is a great part of yoga! But it is just that - a part of yoga. And often it is an initial introduction.

I can recall teaching weekly vinyasa flow classes at a gym. The participants attending class tended to be quite fit and came to class for a good work out. And it was! But it was also so much more than that. Week after week they returned to class sharing stories of discovery. They often commented that they "didn't know that they had that muscle." Their bodies began speaking to them, sometimes very loudly! They were becoming more aware, gaining the choice to listen more closely. A choice to modify poses. A choice for self-honoring. Through asana they embarked on another path - one of self-study or svhadhayaya.

Practicing postures on the mat creates an opportunity to realize how we position ourselves in daily life. Can we humbly recognize when balance is lacking and nudge a bit closer to the wall? How much grace can we muster when the poses just do not flow for us? Do we push when we are in pain or can we respond with compassion and modify the pose? When the mats are rolled up and the props put away, does trust reside outside the studio walls?

Asana is an essential element of yoga practice. It creates strong and limber bodies - fit vessels to house the multitudes within each of us. Asana is a safe way to begin exploring our bodies and our minds. It is the opportunity to shift the tone of our physical being as well as the spectrum of our thoughts. And when we move this energy off of our mats and into the moments of our lives we yoke our mat-based lessons to our daily life practices. This union is called yoga.

I don't recall whose comment struck this cord, but I have gratitude for this "friend." Initially sparking a bit of negativity within me, the comment encouraged thoughtful exploration of my personal, daily yoga practice off of my mat and into the everyday moments of my life.

Namaste


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Whitman Wrote It. Do You Believe It?

This past weekend I witnessed some astounding athletic feats during two 12-hour endurance events. On Saturday, October 25, I marked laps for 35 individual racers and 15 teams who were biking for 12 hours. On Sunday I watched 35 individuals and 15 teams running for another 12-hour challenge. Some racers even signed up for both events! The objective for each race was to see how many laps could be completed in the allotted amount of time. Amongst these racers were a number of local youth, ages 10 to 17! All of the racers were remarkable in their perseverance and positivity.

It is a common assumption that physical ability is the foundation for successful endurance racing. From my personal experience as a racer and an observer, physical ability is very little of the whole picture. Yes, physical strength and stamina are key elements of endurance racing. BUT mental tenacity is the cornerstone of success, starting with a single question: "What are my limits?"

This, of course is a "trick question" (have to throw in a few tricks - we are approaching Halloween, after all!). Chances are the answer(s) to this question is in your head. And that is where your limitations exist - in your head. They are the result of interpersonal communication or self-talk. So here is a second question: "What do you say to yourself on a daily basis?"

As I was pacing my friend through the first of the final 2 laps (13 miles) of the 12-hour running race, (her goal was to complete 50 miles or 8 laps), she commented that she did not think she could complete the eighth lap. This comment was insightful; (1) she was in the future rather than in the present; (2) she was limiting herself with her thoughts. In the moment that she uttered those words we were running at a pace that suggested ample time to finish an eighth lap. She was heading towards her goal with time to spare! But rather than giving herself credit for her efforts, she chose to focus on her perceived limitations. She turned "I am" into "I can't." After helping her redirect her thoughts more positively, she was able to focus on the present, recognize her accomplishments (40 miles of trail running!) and open the spectrum of possibility. I can't" became "I am" and "I can." These are powerful thoughts that shaped her reality, bringing her to the finish line with a smile on her face and a new understanding of her limitless potential. I was honored to be the voice outside of her head helping to recognize and change the voice inside of her head.

Self-talk, also called "intrapersonal communication," is a key component in how we view ourselves and, thus, perceive our limitations. Upon reflection, I began wondering if "I can't" was perhaps a stock response. When we find ourselves in challenging, uncomfortable or difficult circumstances, what is our response to our Self? Is it "I can't?" Or perhaps it is "I'm not good enough." When making a mistake, does "Geez, that was stupid" surface? How often to we underestimate our potential with belittling or negative self-talk? And how long have we been engaging in this type of inner dialogue?

What we say to ourselves on a daily basis is a template for our mindset, our perceived limitations and our self-worth. Self-talk is an indication of self-love.

It is difficult to catch ourselves in the act of self-degradation. It is almost an auto-pilot response; a default setting that creates a negative mental state. This negativity becomes our "normal" and can be so pervasive that we sabotage our potential for physical, mental and emotional abundance. So what can we do about it? Be present. Observe your thoughts. Understand what you are telling your Self ABOUT your Self.

One activity I find helpful is to first recognize what I am thinking about myself and then turn it inside out. I ask myself if what I am saying internally would be a compassionate and understanding response to someone externally - a friend or a family member. Often times I find that it is not. Would I have told my running friend that, indeed, she cannot meet her goal? That she is not good enough? Or that she was "stupid" for trying? No. Absolutely not. I offered only the utmost support and encouragement to my friend during her attempt. And success followed. Offering the utmost support, encouragement and compassion inwardly will also lead to success. Personal success.

Once you've begun realizing your self-talk, take the time to congratulate yourself on the times that you are compassionate and pleased with yourself. Recognize the self-talk that is positive, motivating and energizing. Notice how a smile creeps onto your face in these moments. This is our response to love! Then, begin recognizing any irrational or distorted thoughts. These thoughts do not serve. They do not honor, they are not loving towards. They can be released from the mind. Let them go - you do not need them! In fact, replace them with more productive ones. Rather than "I can't" give yourself credit for what you are currently doing. Recognize the worth of your current actions. Replace "I'm not good enough" with "I am enough." Re-evaluate a mistake with "I am learning" or "I am trying" rather than "I am stupid." You will find that reshaping your thoughts will reshape your life and release limiting views.

There are many authors and teachers offering similar observations about self-talk and techniques for positive mental shifts. Byron Katie offers "The Work: Learning to Love What Is" which is a step-by-step guide to recognizing and changing negative mental patterns (http://www.thework.com/index.php). Louise Hay offers interesting perspectives on how our thoughts affect our ability to live healthy and fulfilling lives in her book "You Can Heal Your Life" (http://www.louisehay.com/about-louise/). Another interesting investigation of self-talk aired recently on NPR (http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/10/07/353292408/why-saying-is-believing-the-science-of-self-talk) These are just a few resources helping me recognize and release the limitations I've placed on myself through my thoughts. Ultimately, I've learned that my limitations are all in my head. And so are yours!

Walt Whitman was right in 1855. I am large. I contain multitudes.

(Special thanks to Dr. Kristen Gullicks McIntyre whose Facebook post inspired my thoughts on this blog)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Pinning down the wind

"And you? When will you begin that long journey to yourself?" ~ Rumi
Lately I have felt ungrounded. I have felt that the plans I was so sure about yesterday are the frayed ends of a rope today and will continue unraveling tomorrow. My mind is the leaves falling from the trees, swept up and carried off on the wind. I lack concentration and focus (where did I leave my keys?). As the days get shorter I feel increased pressure to gain control with less time and energy to do so. This leaves me feeling out of control, anxious, frustrated and stressed. Like the birds flying south, like the animals preparing to hibernate, I am in a time of great transition. My instinct is to hold on more tightly to what I want and to what I expect of my plans. To force these plans to come to fruition, even if it means trying to pin down the wind. Sometimes I vainly make more plans to gain a feeling of control! I call these efforts "spinning." Round and round I go. Where I'll stop, I don't even know! Life happens while we plan it. This can leave us feeling anxious, nervous and/or fearful. How do we ground ourselves while the winds of change blow? The more external we become, the more ungrounded we feel, filling our lives with distractions that remove us from the foundations of our existence: our Self.

Paying attention to our foundation is essential during times of change. A strong foundation offers a feeling of support, comfort and security - even during times of of great transition.

Think of a yoga flow session on your mat. More specifically, think of a sun salutation. During this sequence we flow through a variety of postures: standing, forward-folding, plank, back-bending, inverting (yes! downward facing dog is an inversion!). The beginning practitioner may experience insecurity, discomfort and even aversion to this flow. Mentally, there may be thoughts of doubt and confusion about what they are doing versus what they are "supposed" to be doing (don't worry - it is called "yoga practice"; not "yoga perfect!). But with practice, we learn to identify and utilize our foundations - our hands and our feet - building strength, confidence and security while shifting from pose to pose. Additionally, we practice focusing our mind on the breath - a constant source of stability - to increase our mental focus through each transition. We use this foundational strength to root down into our mat in order to shift and rise up from it. Now, take this practice off of your mat.

Our plans are our postures. They shift. They change. They transform. How will we step into this flow of our life? By establishing and strengthening the foundation that is our Self. You know, the part of you that is YOU, regardless of the external details - the plans, the thoughts, the decisions. Knowing the Self and truly listening to what is needed is an honoring process that strengthens the foundation.
Each time we connect to our Self we establish roots that reach into the foundation for stability and security. A strong foundation helps us recognize what is actually happening rather than chasing the stories that ride on the changing wind. And sometimes this means recognizing the chase!

From this foundation we can grow into the flow of our life without getting blown away. We can maintain our internal compass without becoming overwhelmed by external factors. The wind can blow as hard as it may without uprooting who we are. In this way we can be open to the many choices, experiences and opportunities - positive and negative - that may blow their way into our lives. We can see them all, watch them spin around us and let them be carried off on the wind without being carried with them.

How do we make this connection to the Self? Through the Breath.

Try this breathing practice:

1. Find a comfortable place to sit. If you choose to sit on the floor, feel the sits bones reaching down to create a firm foundation. If you are sitting in a chair, place the feet firmly on the floor. Your hands can rest comfortably in the lap.

2. Close your eyes. Bring the corners of your mind into the corners of the space around you. Take several breaths here to calm the mind and body, releasing the earlier moments of the day and placing your proverbial to-do list face down.

3. Now bring the corners of your mind onto your breath. Inhaling, say to yourself "I know that I am breathing in" and exhaling, say to yourself "I know that I am breathing out." Take several breaths here, aligning the mind and the body through the breath.

4. Concentrate on the exhales. Imagine each exhale creating a line of energy from the crown of the head, down the spine and deep into the belly - the seat of your Self. As you imagine this connection with the breath, feel your sits bones or feet become more securely anchored towards the earth. You are becoming grounded.

5. It is normal to have thoughts pass through your mind during meditation. Recognize any thoughts entering your mind's eye. Ask yourself if they serve your intentions for this breathing practice. If the answer is "no" let them go. Do not connect them to your breath - you do not need them fastened to your roots.

6. As you breath here, concentrating on the exhales, allow each breath to extend from the depths of the belly into the earth. Feel the anchoring of each exhale securely connecting you into the soil. Let each breath become a strong root securing you to your foundation and then securing your foundation into the depths of the earth. Breath here and connect to your Self.

Namaste

 


Friday, August 29, 2014

Going Through the Motions

Let me be honest. Sometimes I go through the motions. Sometimes I don't notice the small joys that accompany each day or each breath. Sometimes I don't count my breaths on my mat. And sometimes I don't know how many sun salutations I've done or even if I've practiced both sides of my warrior pose.

These distractions on our mats are common for most, if not all, yoga practitioners at every level of practice. But what about when you take these distractions off of your mat and into your day? Here is
my average day:

Each morning I get up around 7am and go out of the house to do something: yoga, running, cycling, paddling, swimming, etc. I return to my home by 9am to have my breakfast (always porridge, meaning oatmeal made with milk rather than water) and a few cups of coffee. While I eat my breakfast I generally read the local paper online, peruse the same websites and check various email accounts. When I am finished I prepare to homeschool my kids and, generally, make more coffee. Throw in different types of work on different days (sometimes I teach yoga, sometimes I teach public speaking, sometimes I teach health and wellness) and I've essentially created the last 7 years of my life.

The consistent sequence of my life sometimes reminds me of practicing consistent  sequences on my mat. I remember a performance I once saw that punctuated this point. I was at a Yoga Journal Conference in Estes Park, Colorado - what a breathtaking place to explore for 10 days of yoga bliss! Yoga Journal conferences generally include a Saturday evening event - like a concert or Kirtan or something. The 2007 conference showcased performances by the yoga dance troupe named Tripsichore. One performance in particular had a lithe yogi robotically walk into the middle of the stage, unroll her mat and begin sun salutations. Only there was no joy in the sun salutations, no lightness, no soul, no grace. Only movement. Robotic movement. She went on with her routine, moving through the opening sequence of the Ashtanga tradition choreographed to industrial electronica music.

A practitioner  of Ashtanga, myself, at that time, I laughed at the mechanical representation of the practice on stage. Ahhh, yes - we Ashtanga practitioners carry out the same sequence, day after day, week after week, month after month until we become proficient enough to continue into the next series which will also be practiced in the days, weeks and months to follow. During that time of my life the seemingly infinite days of future primary series taught me to focus on the present rather than getting caught up in the endless prospect of future poses. I learned the discipline of waking each morning to practice, even though at times my bed was a much more appealing prospect than my mat. My poses advanced. I grew strong and flexible. I grew to be a terrific asana practitioner. But what about the rest of the practice? The joy? The heart? The soul? Had I become the mechanical practitioner that I'd seen represented in Estes Park? Or worse, was this practice on my mat representative of how I live my daily life? Was I just going through the motions? The horror!

The truth is that sometimes we all go through the motions. Sometimes the objective is to just "get things done." I can't honestly say that I think about the individual blades of grass as I cut my lawn. And sometimes I don't pay attention to the water running down my hands or down the dish while I am at the kitchen sink. And yes, I admit, sometimes I am unaware of what my son has told me because I am mentally absent as he speaks. But when this practice becomes our way of life - when "sometimes" becomes "often" or "always" - we lose the heart of our practice. And we lose the feeling of life.

It is the blade of grass, the water and the listening moments that make up the simple joys of each day. We practice this on our mats by - you guessed it! - paying attention to our breath, one inhale and one exhale at a time. This is what keeps us in each moment. This is what ignites an awareness of feeling in a pose. This is the cultivation of awareness that allows us to slow down and take notice of what is actually happening around us and within us. This is the practice of yoga, on or off of the mat.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Cold Comfort for Change Exchange

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Source Yoga Studios in Winnipeg to train with a fabulously compassionate and caring teacher by the name of Dillon Cherrett. (As some of you may know,  Dillon has been my teacher for several years now. Access the Source Yoga studio schedule here)  The training was a 9-day intensive for yoga bodywork, which is derived from Thai massage. I've worked with Dillon in this modality over the past few years and was ready to dig deeply into this treatment in preparation for offering this service to others. I was excited to go!

I love Winnipeg! The restaurants are diverse and delicious, the green spaces throughout the city are gorgeous and I was invited to stay with my very close friends, known for their silly shenanigans. I belly laugh every time we are together. Everything about this trip screamed benevolence.

As part of the teacher training we were expected to attend Dillon's Sridaiva yoga class on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. The Sridaiva method is in its infancy and concentrates on opening the back body. Now, when I say "back body" I will take the liberty of assuming that many reading this will only read "back" as in the tailbone to the base of the skull. This is one of the most - if not the most - common areas of complaint for many. But the Shridaiva method energizes the back body, meaning from the sole of the foot (yes! the sole of the foot is included in the back body!), through the calves, into the hamstrings, focusing on an anterior tilt to the pelvis in order to extend up through the spine to the base of the skull. In effect, Sridaiva opens the front body by enlivening the back body.  I call it "yoga for Westerners" because it counteracts much of what we do throughout our day - sitting hunched over our computer, standing hunched over our phone, sitting hunched towards the steering wheel of a car and effectively closing the front body. Sounds good, right? It is. BUT I find it an extremely uncomfortable practice - physically, mentally and energetically. It is a marked change from my "normal" practice of sun salutations, downward facing dogs, triangles and the like. And as such, I struggled with the change.

Sridaiva, Day #1: A very physical struggle. The poses are demanding. My physical awareness is challenged to activate the gluteal by grounding down into the "magic button" - the space on the ball of the foot between the big toe mound and second toe and the golden ticket in this practice. This button is magic because it then allows the legs to root down into the earth in order to open the heart to the sky. I'll take Dillon's word for it - I'm still trying to find the magic of this button. Don't even ask me if I breathed during this practice. I'm alive, so my assumption is that I did but I have no recollection of being aware of it.

Sridaiva, Day #2: Adding the mental struggle to the physical one. The advantage today over previous practice is that I now know what to expect in this class. Part of the challenge is understanding how to activate the verbal cues. In other words, how to get the mind and the body on the same page. I tend to feel stupid and helpless when I cannot make this connection and my insecurities begin to surface. Put bluntly, I feel vulnerable. This class cracked this feeling wide open for me, surfacing in the form of tears streaming down my face throughout the practice. Something is moving. Energy is moving. Ahhh, the release feels divine.

Sridaiva, Day #3: There was laughter in class today. Unlike the last class with unfettered tears, this class was fraught with unfettered hysterics. These exploits at the back of the class (instigated by yours truly) commenced when Dillon commented on our "Stiffy Stifferton" attitudes in class. He was seeing our furrowed eyebrows as we tried to follow the class cues. He saw the corners of our mouths stiffen while we activated the magic button. The lift in our shoulders, the dropping of our chins and the general lack of flow in our bodies were telltale signs of our over-efforting. The joy of this movement was lost on such serious students. Leave it to laughter to loosen us all up. Smiles always brighten a studio.

Note: I generally place my mat front and center, eager to learn and practice. In this class, however, I found myself in the second to back row of the class. Hmmm...something to think about in the context of learning this practice. 

Sridaiva, Day #4: They say you have to do something for 21-28 days to create a habit. I would take issue with this "fact." I think it largely depends on the mindset of the practitioner. A couple of years ago I was given several 21-day meditation sadhana practices. With the end of each 3-week-long daily practice session came the end of my meditation "habit."Why? Because each session was a mental challenge that I was not ready to accept. My attitude going into each sit was one of hassle; of having to meditate as an "assignment." When my assignment was done, so was I.  But by practice #4 of Sridaiva I do believe I was hooked. My body felt more open, as did my heart and my mind. I felt like I was learning more about my Self. Mentally I was ready for this challenge. I recognized the worth in re-establishing my beginner's mind. Clearly, I had more to learn and was ready for the lesson.

I've brought a Sridaiva session home with me in the form of an audio cd. I am excited about exploring more on my mat in new ways, learning and growing. I am at the very beginning of this practice - still concentrating on the physical cues, still trying to remember to breath as I move. I am a beginner again, exchanging the comfort of my previous practice for the challenge of change and the opportunity for growth. I've gotta take the risk to reap the rewards.