A blog about yoga, life, health and healing.
When I was walking my dog the other day, she had a confrontation with a labrador retriever. Since both dogs were on leashes, the fight didn't escalate.
After the two dogs were separated, each of them shook vigorously as if to release the energy that had built up from the altercation. Then they both went back to sniffing the ground and peeing on fire hydrants as if nothing had happened.
If the confrontation had been between the dog owners instead of the dogs, what happened afterwards could have been dramatically different. The two people would most likely have gone over the scene in their minds over and over again long after the fight ended. The ego would have stepped in to defend its position thereby keeping the energy of the fight alive and possibly growing.
When two people have an interaction, whether it's negative or positive, there is an exchange of energy. The energy will either be stored or released. Animals instinctively release the energy. Humans tend to hang onto it.
Our negative interactions are much more likely to be stored because we replay them over and over in our minds which gives them more strength. The stronger the energy, the harder it is to let it go.
When the negative energy is stored, it can eventually manifest itself into an emotional, mental, or physical issue.
Physical exercise, yoga, and working to consciously release stored energy will help to prevent "issues from storing in your tissues".
You might also create a ritual of releasing negative energy. Some people use a body brush in the shower or imagine the warm water cleansing them of negativity. Any ritual that you create will bring awareness to the process of letting go of negative energy which then makes it possible to do so.
Learning to protect yourself from taking in negative energy in the first place requires setting the following boundaries.
Telling someone flat out that you are not interested in participating in their negative talk, complaints, or gossip, is a verbal boundary and will likely stop the person or redirect their focus.
When you can't tell a person (your boss or sister in law) that you are rejecting their negativity, you can set an intention to do so. Visualizing yourself in a protective pink bubble, or seeing the negative arrows that are slung your way bouncing off of a protective shield can keep you protected emotionally.
If all else fails, you may have to walk away from an argument, leave a job, or end a relationship. Sometimes the only way to protect yourself from negativity is by setting a physical boundary.
Your energy is precious and valuable, and protecting it is an important part of self care. Remembering this truth will keep you healthier physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Yoga Sutra 1.12
"practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to for a long time, without break, and in all earnestness"
I still remember my first yoga class. I was in Vail, Colorado and I took a class called "Yoga for Athletes". I was very into working out, lifting weights, and running back then so this class appealed to my ego.
After class, the yoga teacher asked me if I was a runner. She noticed that my hamstrings and gluteal muscles (my butt!) were very tight. All the running, lunges, and squats were creating an imbalance in my body.
As I was leaving the studio that day, I noticed a poster of a girl in a beautiful uttanasana (forward bend). She was completely folded in half and looked so peaceful. After an hour of struggling to reach my toes, I thought to myself, "I want to do that someday".
Fortunately for me, I was hooked on yoga after my first class. I did yoga as often as possible and began studying it and teaching it as soon as I could.
I totally forgot about that poster and my desire to be in a perfect forward bend until one day about ten years later. I was in a class thoroughly enjoying my uttanasana (forward bend) and a flash of that poster came to my mind.
I realized that my "goal" had been attained! It took ten years of a committed practice but it actually happened.
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali tells us that we must commit to our practice regularly, for a long period of time and with full attention.
Had the yoga teacher told me after my first class that it would take me ten years to do uttanasana, I am not sure that I would have believed her. I may have even said "well then forget it, that's way too long!" Having patience is an important and necessary quality that yoga teaches us. When we are patient, our mind is calm and settled so anything that we are doing will benefit by our centered state of mind.
Patanjali also teaches us to fully attend to our practice. Its almost impossible to practice yoga without full attention. Try standing in tree pose and thinking about how long you are going to have to stay in tree pose. This will surely cause you to fall out of the pose. So our full attention requires that we let go of our attachment to the outcome. If we are in a pose and focusing only on when the pose will end, we are not giving our full attention to the pose. This can relate to any goal that we hope to achieve in life.
So practicing yoga requires the qualities of patience, devotion and faith, which in turn TEACH us the qualities of patience, devotion and faith.
This weekend I was fortunate to spend time with my adorable little nieces.
I watched in amazement as they practiced all of the new skills that they learned since the last time I saw them.
With support and encouragement from their parents, they learned how to take their shoes off and put them back on, color on paper instead of the walls, kick a ball across the yard, and say please and thank you when offered a snack.
As I marveled at these precious little creatures, I thought to myself, "practice makes perfect". I quickly modified that thought to, "well, almost perfect" when I saw the mischevious two and a half year old getting ready to color my couch a beautiful shade of crayola purple.
Anything that we do over and over again, we get better at.
It might be a skill like playing the piano, knitting a sweater, or playing golf. It might be a behavior like saying please and thank you, holding the door for someone, or exercising daily.
If we do anything often enough, it will become a habit. It might even become ingrained or automatic....something that we just do.
My nieces will eventually say please and thank you and put on their shoes without being prompted by their parents. Our golf swing will start to feel more natural, and our exercise routine will be a part of our daily lives.
The good news is; whatever we practice we get better at. The bad news is; whatever we practice we get better at.
We can unwittingly get better at things that we don't necessarily want to get better at.
If we often show up to work irritable or angry, we will get better at it. If we are afraid to try something new or step out of our comfort zone often enough, we get better at it. If we lose our temper with our kids each time they annoy us, we get better at that too.
Like the Olympic athletes who practice their sport so often that it becomes part of who they are, the state of mind that we practice often enough becomes part of who we are.
According to yoga philosophy, our natural state is one of peacefullness. Through the stilling of the craziness of the mind we will be able to discover this truth.
Yoga Sutra 1.12 says " these mental modifications (craziness of the mind) are restrained by practice (abhyasa) and non attachment (vairagya)."
Yoga Philosophy teaches that when we practice the eight limbs of yoga and let go of the results of our efforts, we will acheive this state of yoga or union with the self.
We can apply these wise teachings to everything that we want to get better at in our lives.
When my nieces payed attention to the process of putting on their shoes instead of being distracted by the goal of getting outside, the process of putting on their shoes was perfect. Their shoes were on the right feet and fastened securely. Staying focused on the task at hand, instead of the final outcome allowed them to get outside more quickly.
When we stay in the present moment and turn our attention inward on a regular basis, we will be more aware of our own "practices". With this knowledge, we can choose to practice only those things that we would like to get better at.
Each time we find ourselves getting better at anger, judgement, gossip, or fear, we have the ability to change that state of mind and instead choose to get better at patience, acceptance, compassion, and courage.
Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois, founder of Ashtanga Yoga said "Do your practice and all is coming."
This simple statement encourages us to commit to our practice and have faith that devoting ourselves to something greater will ultimately bring us exactly what we need.
All Abhyasa Ahimsa Aparigraha Asmita-Ego Attachment Baron Baptiste Beginner's Mind Bramacharya Carl Jung Clear Seeing Colorless Comfortable Discomfort Creating Spaciousness In Mind And Body Cultivate The Opposite Deepak Chopra Dharma Empty Your Cup Enthusiasm Equanimity Family Fight Or Flight Great Vows Inner-awareness Inner Critic John Kabbatzinnb2faff332d Listening Mirrors To Ourselves Monkey Hunting Non Stealing Patanjali Pause Pillar Pleasure And Pain Posseses Us Practice Pratipaksa Bhavana Pratyahara Present Moment Present Moment Awareness Respond Instead Of React Samadhi Samskara Santosha Satya Sauca Sensual Pleasures Shadow Side Spirituality Steadiness And Ease Sthira And Sukha Strength Sustained Attention Svadhyaya There You Are Thich Nat Hahn This Too Shall Pass True Self Uncertainty Universal Truth What We Possess Wherever You Go Wisdom Yoga Philosophy Yoga Sutra 1. 14 Yoga Sutra 1.33 Yoga Sutra 2.33 Yoga Sutra 2 37cfe9965fa2 Yoga Sutra 2. 46 Yoga Sutras