Balancing Practice

So if you follow my blog, you know I like yoga.  Kind of a lot.
There are a LOT of reasons, which I am happy to tell you about if you ask, but I’ve been thinking about one reason in particular.

I’m a perfectionist.
It’s not a good thing for me.
I’ve struggled with my performance mentality for a long time, and as an adult I’ve had to teach myself how to break the habit of beating myself up when I don’t do it “right” or “perfectly.”
(Incidentally, this was really driven home by my read and study of Brene Brown’s book: The Gifts of Imperfection” which I highly recommend if you find yourself relating to this post at all.)

Yoga, at it’s core, is a practice.
It’s never done. You never get it “right” or “perfect.”
And there might be a day you do a pose really well, and then literally the next day you can’t do it if your life depended on it.
And that’s all ok.
It’s all a part of the practice of yoga.

While I do daily yoga, I only go to a public class once a week.
Though she says it a lot, yesterday my instructor reminded me that the only way our bodies learn is by falling.

There’s a pose – Warrior 3 – where you balance on one leg and make yourself into a T shape.
Warrior-3
Here’s the thing – your hips have to be level.  Like balance a cup of water on your low back level.  When you start the posture, your non-standing-leg hip wants to go up just a little.  And so the practice in this pose is to get those hips on the same plane.  So you adjust, and adjust and adjust, and usually, you adjust a bit too much and fall out of it.
But that’s where the magic happens. That little space between falling and balancing is the sweet spot, but you never get there without going past it first.
And if you’re anything like me, wanting perfection… that should blow your mind.
Because I think we’re so afraid to fall, so afraid of not doing things “right” that we don’t ever take the risk, and then we never learn anything new.
The only way we learn is to fall.
The only way we learn is to fall.
Seriously.
This fear of failure that we’ve built into the culture is bad for us.
It’s bad for creativity.
It’s bad for health.
It’s bad for us period.

This is why I love yoga.
Yoga is where I learn stuff like this and then take if off the mat and into the world.
Perfection isn’t the goal.
The practice is the goal.
Learning is the goal.
So I try stuff. I imagine, I dream big.
Sometimes I fall.
A lot of times I fall actually.
But I can’t be afraid of it.
And I know that falling is how I learn.
So I get up, try again, try something new and – sometimes, sometimes I get it just right.
I balance on the edge of safety and falling… and it’s beautiful.
I mean really, really beautiful.

There are things happening in my life right now that feel like big impossible dreams.
And I’m finding myself on the edge.
The easy thing would be to back up.
To move back into a safe place where balance is easier and things are not so scary.
But I know that growth doesn’t happen back there.
It happens here, balancing on the edge.
Trusting in the practice.
If I fall, well, that’s just a part of learning and growing.
Fear has no place in my yoga practice.
And it has no place in my life either.

Why You Should Have (or begin) a Yoga Practice

For my entire life I’ve struggled with exercise.
Going to the gym, swimming, running, ultimate frisbee, even completing a half marathon.
I did it all.
But I never loved it.
I exercised to be healthy, or to eat ice cream, but never because I couldn’t NOT exercise.

So it comes as quiet a shock to me that lately, I’ve been getting up before the sun, at 5:30am, to continue my daily yoga practice.
And it’s amazing.
20150914_060924
Look at that.  Sheesh.
I never thought I’d appreciate the slow lighting of the sky but man, it’s amazing.

Almost exactly two years ago, I began a daily practice.
I can honestly say I have never been in better shape and never have I felt better, and I know it is all a result of my daily practice.
It hasn’t been easy, and obviously I’ve missed some days due to illness or travel, but in these two years I have learned a few things.  So here are the reasons why you too should have (or start!) a yoga practice.

1.  It’s not just a fad
I know, I know.  Yoga pants are everywhere.  And it really can SEEM like everyone            is doing yoga lately.  But yoga has been a physical and spiritual practice for                        centuries.  It’s not new, and for those who legitimately practice, it’s not going                      anywhere.  Know that it’s been around this long for a reason, and it’s not the                      clothes (though they are a bonus).

2. It’s so much more than exercise.
Yes, yoga will increase your strength, flexibility and balance.  I’ve literally never                    been as strong as I am now, even more than the times in my life I weight trained at            the gym. I can bend and twist my body and do poses I always assumed were                      beyond my reach.  Yes, yoga is amazing exercise. But yoga isn’t just about that                  stuff.  It’s also about awareness.  This one thing has changed me more than the                  strength and flexibility and balance that yoga brings.  Those other things are                        awesome don’t get me wrong – but learning to listen to my body, to become aware              of how I feel and why I feel that way has been astounding.  I eat better, not                          because I HAVE TO or because I’m on some crazy new diet, but because I know                what things make me feel good and what things don’t when I eat them.  I am aware            of how I feel before I get on the mat and how I feel afterwards.  It is this awareness            that keeps me coming back to my mat. Morning after morning.  Day after day.                   Yoga just makes me feel good.  Really good.  Why wouldn’t I want that all the time?

3. Breath
In yoga we learn that if you can control your breath, you can control anything.  You            can do anything with breath.  I love this.  Not only is it empowering but the breathing          steadily with movement of yoga has all sorts of positive impacts on your health –                physical and mental.  Stress goes down, happiness goes up.  I always feel so                    awesome after a long or especially focused practice.  And that feeling leaves the                mat when I do.  My connection to the breath and feeling like I can do anything as                long as I keep breathing – that stays with me into all the areas of my life.
On top of that, for me, breath is equated with spirit.  The Greek word we use to talk            about the Holy Spirit, “pneuma”, literally means breath.  Yoga is holy for me because          it physically connects me to the Spirit in a way I don’t often experience elsewhere.

So that’s it.
Those are (a few of) my reasons why I think yoga is great.  And why I think more people should do it.
I mean really – What if everyone were a little stronger, a little more flexible, and a little more peaceful as they went throughout their day?
What if everyone felt good more often?
What if people had a daily reminder of the presence of the Holy Spirit?
Maybe we’d feel more like this…
IMG_7351
Want to try and don’t know how?
Start here.  She’s my fave.
Not annoying. Not complicated or fancy.
Try her “Yoga for Complete Beginners”, “30 Days of Yoga” (if you want to jump into daily for a month), or go through any of her Foundations of Yoga vids to get details on poses.
You can do it.

Kindness Kula

I’ve been thinking a lot about kindness lately.  What it means to be kind, and how unkind the world would have us be on a regular basis.  
Now I know this is a strange thing to be thinking about but let me tell you why I’ve been stuck on it for awhile. 
Kindness, real, true kindness, is rare. 
Don’t believe me? 
Take a minute and browse facebook.  
Or even better, talk to a mom about another mom. 
The truth is, people are more often unkind than kind.  Being kind is not our default anymore. 
While I am a self-proclaimed social media addict, I think part of our problem is that we don’t have to look people in the face anymore when we interact with them.  And so we can judge. And we do. 
And then kindness flies out the window. 
But I have to tell you guys, I’ve found a community of the kindest, loveliest people.  
Here are the shockers.  
It’s online. 
and it’s NOT the church. 

No, this community is called a kula.  It’s a sanskrit word meaning clan or community, and my yoga instructor has created a kula of yogis going through programs together.  Let me tell you, the kindness and generosity of this kula has changed my perception of humanity for the better.  
As chaos erupts all around the world, this kula has come together and loves.  
When one can’t have an opinion on Ferguson or the Middle East or even motherhood without taking huge hits from those who believe other – this community is shockingly counter-cultural. 
We celebrate with each other.  Little things like finally mastering a difficult pose, and big things like getting pregnant or falling in love. 
We grieve with each other. When relationships end and test results are bad.
It is truly amazing the outpouring of love and kindness that comes from this group. 
It feels like church. 
There’s no judgement. No putting others down. 
No exclusion. 
It’s all the things that I have always wanted to experience at church. 
Now don’t get me wrong.  I have totally experienced this kind of church before.  
It happens on Sunday mornings a lot. Almost always. 
But that level of kindness doesn’t always stick around when we leave our pews.  
When we go out into our jobs, on the roads, and online, kindness is hard to come by. 

This morning, my favorite blogger, Glennon Melton, shared this thought on facebook when someone asked her how to go about being a more kind person: 
“When you’re angry or jealous or irritated, wait. You have better to offer the world than your knee jerk reaction. I’ve found that the difference between hurting and healing, nasty and kind, wisdom and foolishness isn’t some spiritual mystery. It’s usually about forty minutes.”

Funny, but so much truth. 
Let’s be kind today people.  
Let’s take a moment and breathe before judging.  
Let that mama make her own decisions before you tell her she’s wrong. 
Smile and wave someone in front of you instead of cutting them off and making sure they can’t get in.  
Take a breath before your lost patience causes you to say something you’ll later regret. 

It’s counter-cultural.  People are going to think you’re weird.  
But being unkind doesn’t help anyone, it doesn’t make anyone feel better, and certainly doesn’t change the world. 
Kindness can. 
Kindness does. 

So be kind. 
Let’s be a new kind of kula. 
The kindness kula. 
Who’s in?