I encountered the concept of letting go early on in my personal yoga practice....it often occurred at the beginning of a class, coincidentally at a studio that was run by the woman who later took the helm at the Cleveland Clinic School of Yoga; at the time, I would never have imagined I would earn my yoga certification there. As we prepared to begin our asanas (or postures), the teacher would ask us to go inside our minds and begin letting go of limiting beliefs. Beliefs about what we could or could not do on the mat. But more than that, letting go of negative thoughts that don't serve our greater good, limiting self-concepts, people who drag us down. Letting go physically, intellectually, emotionally.
In some of the early classes I taught, I asked my students to close their eyes, imagine holding two suitcases as they pass through a gate. One suitcase is negative thoughts, the other negative people. Just before walking through the gate, I would instruct them to drop each suitcase and free themselves from both of these...pass cleanly through the gate and into the practice without these burdens. Later, we would leave the practice and pick up two beautiful new suitcases, hope and love - and walk back into our lives.
You don't have to be in a yoga class to let go. When you are feeling pressured, overwhelmed, or just contemplative, stop and still yourself for a few minutes. Sit a little taller, take a few deep breaths. Give yourself the gift of affirming that you are letting go of whatever is holding you back in the moment. Affirm what you do want. And most of all, be gentle with yourself.
** If you want a wonderful reading companion to this concept of Letting Go, pick up The Language of Letting Go, by Melodie Beattie. It contains one year of daily meditations on self-care and owning your own power.
What exactly is meditation? For some of us, it may sound kind of "out there", but in actuality, it is simply providing an opportunity for the mind to become quiet. Research is quantifying the benefits of meditation. Mental clarity is increased, stress reduced, calmness induced....wouldn't you like this in your life?
There are MANY types of meditation and there is a plethora of information you can find with a simple search. It becomes quite fascinating and I really enjoy guided meditations which take me on a mental journey, releasing me from my own stories for the moment. For today, we will focus on an extremely simple introduction to a very silent meditation.
Developing a habit of daily meditation is actually easier than you might think. Beginning any habit does require discipline, but as the old saying goes, you can eat an elephant a bite at a time. Start with five minutes - you and your mind are worth it.
Find a quiet place and a chair, pillow, or just the floor. Clear away any clutter in this space and place something of beauty (like flowers, plant) or a candle in front of where you will sit. Set a timer for 5 minutes (or longer) if possible so that you don't keep looking at the clock. When you are ready, take a seat (on floor with feet crossed, on chair with feet uncrossed flat on the floor), straighten your posture so that your spine is long from your tailbone to the top of your head. Place your hands gently on your lap. As you draw slow breaths in and exhale, repeat the simple words "in" and "out" continuously (in your mind) or choose "Om" and "Ah" - symbolic of the universe and God. If thoughts creep in, just notice them and replace them again with "in" and "out". You can focus your gaze on the special item you have in front of you or close your eyes. When the timer goes off, notice how your body and mind feel....try to do this several days in a row to establish a habit, extending the time to ten minutes....
....and comment below.
Peace to you today as you move about the world!
Mindfulness is one of the trendiest "buzzwords" today. I recently bought this shirt that relays the spirit of mindfulness. In it's simplest form, mindfulness truly is just becoming attuned to your surroundings as you experience them, letting go of other thoughts that interfere with the enjoyment of the "now". Noting sounds, temperatures, lighting, things, breezes, aromas, textures, and of course, living creatures in their regalia and personality.
One of the easiest places for me to experience being totally in the moment is with music. For me, it is absolutely delicious to all of my senses and it allows me to totally get out of my head and into the moment. The pure vibration alone creates a desire to move and experience the rhythm; the beauty of the mixture of instruments, melody, harmony bring immense pleasure to my soul; the message within the lyrics connects me to emotion. When I listen to music, I am so entranced that I am moved to sway, dance, and even sing with abandon.
A challenge for you today - take a color walk. It could be in your workplace, outdoors, in a mall -anywhere you choose. Set a timer, perhaps on your phone, for 15 minutes. Pick a color, start walking, and stay silent as you observe your surroundings and discover things you may have not noticed before. After your walk, think about how you feel. If you are inclined (which would make this more fun) leave a comment in the space below . We can share our discoveries. I will be posting later after my walk today!
Update 2:30 pm - I ended up making it a color drive and looked for orange (also affiliated with the root chakra) while driving. Interesting observations - many signs have orange in them, there is orange on reflectors and some automobile lights, the line down Columbia Road was startlingly bold and orange, of course, orange cones abound...orange in some books and binders I noted as I left my vehicle and went to appointments. Orange has a tremendous number of hues, from subtle to bold. I felt enlivened and focused as I observed...it made me realize how out of touch I am as I go about the day. Something to work on as I "live in the moment"....
Here's a concept for you to contemplate: Your body is your vehicle. As a part of some of my first "practice" yoga classes during my training, I began talking about proper alignment in relation to the body and compared to a car. When a car is out of alignment, many parts of the vehicle can experience unnecessary or improper wear and tear. The same goes for our body. A lot of what goes into the alignment of the body starts with posture, but then shifts to walking and carrying out activities with our arms and legs. And when we slip into "habits" and lose awareness of our posture, we can experience pain and progressive debilitation.
A recent video on the internet demonstrates just how powerfully life changing postural awareness and focused yoga therapy can be. An older woman had experienced a pronounced hump in her back due to scoliosis and accompanying loss of strength and posture. The severity of the before picture would have led me (even with my love of yoga) to believe that significant improvement would not be attainable at her age and at this stage. The ensuing video (linked below with article) and after picture show just how the improbable can become possible. The results of a slow and deliberate progression of yoga therapy created dramatic changes.
Back to alignment - as part of an effective yoga class, I stress the importance of developing an awareness of proper alignment so that your body can take you anywhere you want it to take you in life. Proper alignment alleviates pains in many joints and additionally neck/back pain. Learning to employ appropriate alignment during the yoga practice transfers to life, as your body develops muscle memory and your brain starts to remind you of these best practices.
On a personal note, my mother suffered from osteoporosis and eventually developed a "dowager's hump". This left a strong impression on me and was one of the reasons I have been dedicated to keeping my vehicle in good condition. Besides attention to posture and alignment, developing a strong muscular structure to hold the skeleton together has been a priority for me. Prevention is the best strategy. Incorporating healthy practices like yoga have been instrumental for me to keep my vehicle in excellent working order.
So here's a simple description of this protocol: Stand up straight, stack your body in this manner - knees over ankles, hips over knees, shoulders over hips, spine long from tailbone to top of head - pull your head back toward your shoulders as you lift it and push the crown toward the sky. And of course, breathe. It's easy when you simplify. Take care of your vehicle so that it can take care of you!