Several months ago, I began working on the development of some new products. As I began to contemplate a name that would encompass the product line, the words “Affirmative Living” came to me. I was really excited, so I shared the concept with my mastermind group. A couple of the people in the group didn’t understand what the phrase meant and asked me to rethink my concept.
It seems quite natural during the cresting wave of summer to take ourselves out of the unnatural walls of our indoor environments and into the outdoors, a place where the wild is at play. I believe that includes getting out of the yoga studio! During the warm summer months, we have the unique chance to take our practice into the living, breathing natural world where fresh air and precious stillness are abundant.
Albert Einstein urged us to “look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” The adventure of hiking and yoga is just that, the chance to explore and deepen our yoga practice against the beautiful backdrop of Earth’s endless landscapes. On the trails, nature’s rhythms bleed their way into our own and start to influence the way we move in the world — and the way we move on our yoga mats — which makes hiking and yoga a perfect summer combination.
SCENE: A yoga class. Students are standing in Mountain Pose like a Buddhist “army.”
Teacher: Breathe in…
Class: (A subtle, yet audible “sucking” sound is heard.)
Teacher: And breathe out…
Class: (A subtle, yet audible “whooshing” sound is heard.)
Teacher: Good. Now three more deep breaths just like that.
Class: (They are audibly compliant until…)
Teacher: Now step your right foot back.
Class: (The sound of 25 left feet strike the pose, and no more breathing is heard.)
Teacher: What, no more breathing? Let every movement be a prompt to remind you to breathe for the next 90 minutes.
Class: (Sound of breathing is amplified again, and class proceeds smoothly until … well, the class forgets to breathe again. And again. And again sporadically throughout the class.)
What’s going on here? Why do so many of us forget to breathe? Did you actually finish breathing?
It seems laughable, the notion of “finishing breathing.” Our nervous systems are actually built in such away that breath happens automatically, without us prompting our breathing muscles every few seconds. Think about it, a lot of mental energy is actually required to control every single breath (instead of letting it happen on its own), and our brains have a zillion other tasks to balance. But the breezy thing about breathing is that we can control it, and in so doing we can deliberately impact every system of the body.
My son is a dreamer. An absent-minded sort of kid who responds to every question with silence. Who’s always looking intently off in the distance or up at the ceiling. Then, when the question is repeated, he’ll look as if he’s just noticed you’re there and say, “Wha?”
It’s a trait that, not surprisingly, drives some of his teachers mad.
Inhale, pause… Exhale, pause… The pendulum of the breath swings effortlessly back and forth, in and out.
During these cold days of the year, we may catch ourselves fascinated with the phenomena of the breath. And in your child’s first year, you may be constantly listening to his or her sleeping breath.
But most of the time, the breath goes unnoticed. As yogis, we harness our minds and balance our bodies by observing the breath and the life force vibrations that travel inside the fabric of the breath.
Every winter, I yearn for a vacation. Surprisingly, ice and snow, the post-holiday blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder are not the chief motivators. What drives me is the chance to stop routines, habits and patterns — even the healthy ones: the dietary habits I’ll resume, the exercise routines I worked hard to put into place. Ever since I took my first meditation retreat over the week between Christmas and New Year’s, vacation has meant more to me than just fun and sun. It has meant permission: permission to relax, to reconnect inner body and outer body, and, most of all, to stop talking.
Meditation does not come naturally — at least, not to me. I’m easily distracted, there are a million things on my “mom mind” and I feel a little guilty when I’m not doing something productive. But I work at Gaiam: I have seen the benefits with my very own eyes, and the reasons to meditate are convincing! Besides, I work at Gaiam: Shouldn’t I at least try meditating?
I believe this is going to be a fabulous year that is filled with incredible opportunities. I, personally, am focusing on living at a high level of consciousness and choice.
There has been much discussion on how attitude affects experience. Today, I would like to ask us to consider how that focus affects our vibration and therefore informs us what we will attract into our lives.
This is it, that time of the year when we all decide to make changes … but how many of those changes are lasting? It’s so easy to have good intentions, but it’s the implementation of these intentions that separate the “start and stop” game that a lot of us love to play from actual lasting change.
I spent part of the holidays in Los Angeles this year, surrounded by a sea of asphalt and traffic sprawling for hundreds of square miles. Shuttling between relatives and friends on the maze of 14-lane freeways, I soon felt spiritually exhausted by the visual din of billboards, power lines, parking lots, storefronts, neon signs and cars blowing past at 80 mph.