Summer is a time for relaxation and fun with more open schedules, warmer weather, outdoor activities and vacations. However, there can also be a sense of pressure and stress in trying to meet our expectations of a laid-back season.
Just the other day, I looked at my calendar and felt overwhelmed by all of the activities on it. Delving deeper, I realized that I needed to create some space to simply be: read a book, go deeper into my meditation practice, savor the smell of a peach as I cut into it or the smell of flowers while sitting in my yard.
Taking the time to be present in the moment is a beautiful practice in its own right, and yoga and meditation are two ways achieve that goal by creating a space within, bringing your attention inward and turning your thoughts away from distractions.
I live for my morning cup of coffee. Sometimes I get excited about going to bed at night just because it means I can wake up and drink coffee. When my alarm goes off, I climb into my terrycloth robe and shuffle downstairs, my dog Ellie at my heels. I savor every part of my morning ritual, from the first whiff of the ground beans as I scoop them out of their tin, to the quiet sitting while I wait for my coffee to brew. I take my mug to the couch and prepare for the first sip, which feels like my own private moment with God. Ellie puts her head on my lap and we sit there in silence in our little church by the window.
This sacred time gives me the space to be with myself; it encourages me to listen to me — the voices in my head are too sleepy to chime in with their usual agenda and commentary. And that’s a good thing because I like to spend my mornings doing nothing in particular. If I’m in the mood, I’ll putter around my house and tend to this or that. Maybe I’ll water the plants . . . or not. Maybe I’ll write . . . or not. The rest of my day is directed by obligation — things I have to do, or “should” do — which makes the guiltless moments of my morning feel even more precious.
Our home practice can be a lot like my cherished morning time. No one telling us what to do. No agenda to follow. It’s just you and your breath in that vehicle we call the body, cruisin’ wherever you wanna go.
With more than 20 million yoga practitioners in the United States alone, yoga is becoming part of mainstream culture — and making its own news headlines! Here’s what you should know when you hit the mat:
Naked Yoga Class Offered in New York City
No yoga pants? No problem! Yoga studio Bold & Naked in New York City is offering classes where students can practice completely naked.
If you practice yoga, chances are someone is going to ask you what yoga is and why you do it. I have answered both of these questions time after time over the years and it never ceases to amaze me how much misinformation is circulating, based on stereotypes or without thinking.
I was talking to my brother a few weeks ago, expressing how great yoga would be for my niece who is a very flexible athlete. His response? “She’ll start yoga when she’s 50 and starts to slow down.” You would think I would have taken this opportunity to inform him of the various styles of yoga available, the mental and physical benefits of yoga for all ages, and the need for an athlete to balance sports strength and power with the flexibility and healing benefits of yoga—but I didn’t. Instead I sat there stunned.
You may stare at that rectangle in disdain. Or maybe you hit the mat, but can only think about the thousand other things that you would rather be doing. Sometimes you may not even be aware you are in a rut until — epiphany — a rut!
We all get there sooner or later, but the trick is out to get out of it. Below are nine suggestions for getting out of the yoga rut:
I have been making friends with impermanence. It may sound silly, but after a profound meditation experience, I came face to face with the realization that I am a control freak, and while that control has helped me in some ways, it has also caused me much suffering. I’ve opened up to the reality that everything is in a state of impermanence — the seasons change, each day is different from the previous one, all living things grow, relationships change, the years go by.
At first this was rather scary to me, as it brought up all of my fears of the unknown. I wanted to hide in my usual pattern of planning in order to maintain some power over the future. Then it dawned on me: My life is in a much better place than it used to be, and that is due primarily to the moments over the past few years when I let go and went with the flow.
Before the holidays is a great time to detox. It can stave off weight gain and put you in a healthy mindset to help you resist temptation. And detoxing after the holiday “re-tox” — no matter how much carnage was left on that Thanksgiving dinner table, or how much stress crept into your weekend — is as easy as unrolling your mat. No matter when or on what level you could use a little realigning, this sequence is for you.
The other night, I was looking at my tree, decorated with the small number of ornaments that are meaningful to my family and me, and thought about how I grew up with a tree full of ornaments, each covering the one behind it. It was one of those moments of clarity for me, watching the tree in the dark of night with the lights sparkling: Less is more. Too many trinkets distract. It’s not about what you get or have. It’s about what you give, and the quality, not quantity behind that sentiment.
I’m just going to say it … I think the holiday season needs a radical overhaul.
We see ads for the perfect holiday meals, served in a lovely setting where everyone is smiling, especially the gracious host. Truth is, in order to achieve this type of perfection, we nearly kill ourselves with stress trying to get that end result.
I’m sure your mind, like mine, is kicked into high gear this time of year to attend to the million things you have to accomplish between now and January first, but time is limited and your body begins to suffer. It will only be a short time before insomnia and exhaustion set in. Instead of enjoying our time with loved ones, we can wind up emotionally unavailable and stressed out.
Holidays are a time for family, friends and — let’s not kid ourselves — food. I love to go away for a few days and eat things I normally don’t in amounts that would shock a Sumo wrestler. Hence, it may be the season to be jolly, but it’s also a time when it’s all too easy to pack on the pounds along with the cheer.