Come as you are…..regardless of flexibility.

When I tell people that I teach yoga, the most common thing I hear is “I wish I could do yoga, but I’m just not flexible enough. I can’t even touch my toes.”

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NEWSFLASH!! Being flexible is not a prerequisite for yoga. In fact, that is why we do yoga: to find more flexibility. That flexibility is not just within our bodies as we lengthen and strengthen our muscles, it’s within our minds as well.

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Yoga is for every single person. The flexible and inflexible. The tall and the short. The skinny and the overweight. Man and woman. White and black. Strong and weak. As you start to practice you might actually discover that although you have tight hips, you have a flexible back. Or maybe you have really loose hips but extremely tight shoulders. Often times what we lack in some areas, we make up for in others.

Flexibility, or the capacity of muscles and connective tissue to stretch around joints and bones, is based on each individual persons genetic makeup. Our bodies are all uniquely made and there may be areas in your body that will never achieve full flexibility. Sure, I might be able to touch my toes but my left outer hip miscles are extremely tight and after years of yoga practice they aren’t getting any looser. But, between running and cycling I think about how tight they would be if I didn’t stretch them at all. So, I continue to work towards one day finding more freedom in my hip. With anything else that is worth having, it takes time to get it.

The great thing about the human body is how much it can vary from person to person. Women have a larger pelvis than men and the size of it varies at different rates among various people, some people have a sixth lumbar vertebrae (about 10% of the population), the way our femurs set in the acetabulum of the pelvis is not the same for everyone and a whole host of other issues including the size of our muscles and bones which could cause bone on bone, muscle on bone or muscle on muscle compression issues that are not easily corrected. We must also take into account what we do with our bodies on a daily basis. Some people sit at a desk all day while others stand on their feet. Some are very active and live athletic lifestyles while others spend most of their free time on the couch in front of the tv. Some people don’t get a whole lot of movement in their job while others have physically demanding jobs that require them to moving all day long.

We must learn to understand that we are all uniquely created and accept our bodies as they are.

“True yoga is not about the shape of your body, but the shape of your life-yoga is not to be performed, yoga is to be lived. Yoga doesn’t care about what you have been; yoga cares about the person you are becoming. Yoga is designed for a vast and profound purpose, and for it to be truly called yoga, it’s essence must be embodied.” Aadil Palkhivala

I often tell people that the first couple of yoga classes are a little awkward. It’s all about the experience and soaking it all in. My first few classes were definitely not pretty. I was so consumed with worring that others were judging me that I couldn’t relax. It didn’t help that I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I wasn’t sure what the heck the instructor was saying and it took me a few classes before I started to learn the cues to get into the postures. I always recommend setting your mat up towards the back of class so you can observe what others are doing. It takes a while to realize that nobody in the room is paying attention to what you are doing and the sooner you can come to terms with that, the more you will be able to completely be yourself and truly reap the benefits of your practice.

When you step on your mat, do so with an open mind. No expectations. Allow yourself to fully embrace your practice. Connect to your breath. Stay present and aware of what’s going on with your body. Observe but don’t pass judgement. Let every breath you take bring you closer to letting go of what needs to be gone and taking in everything you need from your practice. Remember, we are all unique and you’re practice is yours alone. It’s all about your experience with your body and mind.

Burning the Candle

The past few months have felt like I’ve been running around nonstop. Like most people, I’m a busy person always having tons of things on my to do lists (I love lists, I mean LOVE….OBSESSED- but, that’s a whole other blog post). To give you some background on me, I work full time for an oil and gas company and I teach yoga classes in my spare time at a couple of studios here in Oklahoma City. I also have a husband who races bicycles and with that is a lot of traveling to local and regional races. I enjoy cycling, running, reading and journaling as well as spending as much time as possible hanging out with my husband and friends.

While on vacation recently with my husband I had a chance to take a timeout from everything and evaluate just how I am spending my days. I realized that I wasn’t giving myself enough time to decompress and have “me” time and I was dangerously burning the candle at both ends. I had to do something quick or else I was going to lose it. The stress of not getting everything on my to do list done was starting to get to me.

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I decided to make some changes to my schedule and focus more on me. Doing more things that allowed me to slow down and spend time on myself. I wouldn’t say that I am a loner or homebody but I very much enjoy spending time by myself reading, journaling or studying. I like to light a candle, turn on some music and chill out. That was first and foremost on my priority list and now I make sure that I schedule time to do this a few days a week on my calendar. If I block out the time then I know for sure that I will be able to make it happen.

One thing I struggle with is agreeing to do something without thinking it through first. I commit to doing it, then when it gets closer to time I end up dreading it because it’s not really what I wanted to do in the first place. I just wanted to make the other person happy. I’ve made a commitment to myself to not immediately respond to invites and think it completely through first before accepting. This has been very helpful. Once I came to realize that people are still going to like me even if I don’t always do what they want me to, it made things a lot less stressful.

Here are some tips for slowing down and spending time on yourself. Trust me, you will be so glad you did these things.

1. Give yourself a little extra time in the morning for journaling, reading, yoga, mediation, quiet time, etc. If we can start our day doing things for ourselves, it sets the tone for the day. Spend a few minutes focusing on how you want to spend your time that day while being sure to throw in some extra time for yourself.

2. Simplify your tasks. Simple as that. Practice better time management. There are a ton of great resources to help with that.

3. Turn off social media!!!!! We spend far too much time on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Turn it off and commit to only checking it once a day. You could even choose to do a “social medial detox” and (dare I say it) spend a few days away from all of your social media feeds. Trust me, everything will be okay and the world will not come to an end without you obsessively checking in to see what all your peeps (who most of them you could really care less about-admit it!) are doing, who they are with, what they ate for dinner and where, what cute thing their kid or dog did or their latest politically, controversial rant.

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4. Run a hot bath, light a ton of candles and turn on some slow jams. You might even get a little frisky and pour yourself a glass of wine or a cocktail.

5. Just say no. When someone invites you to do something and you’re not up for it, just say so. That person would rather you didn’t come then show up and be a fuddy dud the whole time.

6. Block out “me time” on your calendar. This is important. It ensures you won’t book something else during that time and you will have no excuse but to do whatever it is that YOU want to do.

7. Ask for help. You are only one person and you can’t do it all. Delegate chores to your children or spouse. If you have the financial ability, hire someone to mow your yard or clean your house, take your clothes to the cleaners instead of dealing with it yourself, whatever you can think of to take some burden off of yourself.

Your time here on Earth is short and it flies by so quickly. Sometimes way too damn quickly. Value your time and spend more of it on yourself.

“At the end of the day, if we don’t value ourselves, what can we expect
anyone else?” Danielle LaPorte

Choose love: part 2

“But your so busy changing the world, just one smile can change all of mine.” Jack Johnson

A few years ago I would ride bikes with my dear friend Holly. We would ride on the path around our local lake where many people were also riding, running, walking, rollerblading, etc. When I first started riding with her I noticed that she waved and smiled at every single person she saw. Surely, she didn’t actually know all of these people. But I noticed that these people were waving and smiling back. This intrigued me. You must remember that I used to be terribly shy. The thought of making eye contact with a complete stranger seriously freaked me out. “Why on earth is she waving at these people that she doesn’t know?” I thought to myself.

As time went on and other things in my life were forcing me to break out of my shell, I thought I would give this a try. What’s the worst that could happen? The person doesn’t smile or wave back? It’s not like my world will come crashing to a sudden halt or anything. So, I tried it. I waved and I smiled and something really crazy happened. People were waving and smiling back at me. It was almost like a drug! Having this connection with a complete stranger for a split second. I didn’t realize how powerful eye contact and smiles could be.

So, I decided to take it off the bike and into grocery stores, banks, and restaurants. You see people out and about doing their thing and you have no idea what that person is going through in their life. But the moment you smile at them, and they smile back, there is this connection, a sense of community that arises. Your smile could have turned their whole day around. Or maybe not. But again, what’s the worst that can that happen? Smiles are contagious. They are like sneezes. And they are magical. They have the ability to completely turn things around for someone.

“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” Mother Teresa

Perhaps every time you smile at a stranger you plant a seed and they in turn smile at someone they don’t know. This could dramatically change our world if people were to choose love. This could open the door to so much. Next time you are at the store, bank and any other public place, make a commitment to yourself to smile at strangers that pass you by. Plant those seeds of goodness. Choose love.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest complaint, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
Leo Buscaglia