by Jennifer Fugo
At the ripe ol’ age of 20, I wandered into my first yoga class at the Equinox gym on 19th and Broadway in New York City.
I was attending college nearby and two roommates convinced me to go with them. Although I can barely recall the teacher and the actual class, I do remember how my body felt the next day. I had sore muscles in places that I’d didn’t even know I had muscles! Aside from a more peaceful sense of being, I loved that I could finally connect with my physical body in a way I’d not known since being an avid swimmer in grade school.
Although some people may measure the ‘greatness’ of a yoga class by the amount of sweat pouring from their body or the number of times they can leap into a handstand, I have found the value of a class far exceeds these physical feats. The deeper ‘pearls’ of wisdom to be gained from yoga are available to all practitioners — not just the superhuman ones!
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.
Ever felt yourself going through the motions of a yoga pose without focus or purpose? I think most yogis who’ve been practicing for a while have this experience, at least sometimes.
Several years ago, I found myself rushing through the Sun Salutation, praying for the series to end so I could move on to asanas I enjoyed more. I hated the way the pose strained my wrist and left me breathless, and it seemed to take forever to get through five or six of them. But since appreciating whatever you’re doing is a key spiritual teaching, I knew I had to do something to change my perspective.
On Oprah Winfrey’s last show she spoke about the many lessons that she has learned over the past 25 years. One thing she said really stuck in my mind. She said, “You are responsible for your life.” Now, I know that we all know that on some level, but do we really understand what that means?
I have practiced what I call “The Responsibility Factor” for many years, and I want to share with you my process. The moment anything happens in my life that is significant, good or challenging, I pause and ask, “What did I do to create this opportunity to grow”? Usually, when I ask that question, the answer comes quickly and easily. When it doesn’t, I sit down and “stream of consciousness” journal. I put down my fears, doubts, concerns, excitement and enthusiasm. What comes out always makes my heart smile, even if I see that I am on the “pity pot.”
Oftentimes people come to me and state that their intention is to heal. The definition of healing is to restore to health and soundness; to set right; restoration of that which is damaged to its normal function; regeneration (spiritual, revival, rebirth); and renewal of any lost part.
“The renewal of any lost part” caught my attention. During challenging times people are often seeking parts of themselves that they think have been lost, stolen or damaged. I believe that we are, inherently, whole, and that at the core of our being, beauty and peace exist. When my clients speak about wanting to heal, we explore the deep desire to remember that they are not broken or damaged goods. We talk about the fact that in every situation there is good and it is leading us back to a state of wholeness. When the Japanese mend broken objects, they fill the cracks with gold. They believe that when something is damaged and has a history, it is more beautiful. What if that were true of us? What if each and every aspect of our life stories was an essential ingredient that made us stronger and more beautiful?
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?
As we move toward Valentine’s Day, we oftentimes think about how love is manifesting in our lives or not showing up at all. Many of us fixate on having someone to remind us that we are important or valuable. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all remember that we are valuable because we exist? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be in such a state of love within ourselves that we radiated light in every situation?
I value feeling good and being at my best. When I am my best self, I can do the things I really love to do — and I can do them well.