Acceptance

There is no denying the transformational power of yoga practice. People often start yoga looking to change their lives or change something about themselves. They come to yoga looking to lose weight, get stronger, improve balance, or feel better about their bodies. Some begin yoga looking to reduce stress, get more relaxed, or quiet their minds.

It isn’t often that someone starts out with yoga looking to stay exactly the same as they are.

But as much as yoga is about change and transformation, yoga is also about cultivating acceptance, or santosha.

Santosha is a combination word in Sanskrit, derived from Saṃ and Tosha. Sam means “completely”, “altogether” or “entirely”, and Tosha, “contentment”, “satisfaction”, “acceptance”, “being comfortable”. Combined, the word Santosha means “completely content with, or satisfied with, accepting and comfortable”.
Accepting reality and seeing things as they really are does not mean stopping or giving up. Rather, it means accepting how we actually are and how we feel each day in a gentle and loving manner and moving forward from there. Sounds great, but how can we begin to cultivate this?
A  great place to begin is to cultivate acceptance each time you step onto the mat. For example, one day you might come to your mat feeling great. Your practice feels amazing, you are able to keep your attention on the breath and flow seamlessly through your practice. Another day you might have a completely different experience. You may be working with an injury or other physical limitation that prevents you from doing the classic expression of a posture. You might be grouchy or tired or sore. Maybe you have a lot going on in your mind or something stressful is happening in your life. When we practice acceptance, we acknowledge the body that we stepped onto the mat with today and how we are feeling. And then we proceed with the practice.
Sometimes, students start yoga and are frustrated that their bodies aren’t able to do things they think they should. At Yoga in ME, many of our students are ages 50+. The majority of the participants in our Free Yoga for Veterans class are Vietnam or Korean War veterans. Many of these individuals have been athletes or very physically active in the past and are frustrated that their bodies won’t do just as they could 5 or 10 or 40 years ago
Our bodies are not the same as they were 20 years ago any more than they are the same that they were yesterday or last week. The body, the breath, and the mind change all the time. These changes are normal and expected!
Practicing santosha does not mean giving up on the practice or the possibility of transformation. And it doesn’t mean getting nothing out of the physical postures. It means accepting that the practice is different each time.  Whether you have some limitations, or are in a bad mood,  you keep practicing. Accepting that each time finding that place between “nothing” and “hurting” is going to be a little different.

If you are continuously running negative stories through your mind, it might not seem possible to bring acceptance and contentment into all aspects of you life.

But practicing acceptance each time you are on your mat, can help develop the skills you need to bring this quality of contentment into the rest of your life. With time and practice, you will begin to distinguish between the stories you tell and the reality in front of you. Once you can do this,  you can begin to create distance between your story and who you truly are. 

And, as you begin to discern the difference between your story and what is actually going on in front of you, you will make the space to live in the moment, to accept what comes, and to create a brand new story about yourself—one that reflects your highest self, rather than a habitual or outdated yarn.

That is when santosha becomes possible.

What is Boomer Yoga?

Boomer Yoga is one of our most popular classes at Yoga in ME. It’s no secret that this is one of my favorite classes to teach. The group of yogis who attend this class are enthusiastic, welcoming, and committed to this practice. It is so much fun to be in the room with them! I feel that they have taught me as much or more than I have taught them.

When students first come to our studio, they often wonder what exactly this class is. It is not, as many people assume when they first hear about it “easy” or “just for old people”. True, most of the students who attend this class are in their 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and beyond. But this is by no means an “easy” practice.

Our Boomer Yoga class is thus named because it follows a sequence that is based on Beryl Bender Birch’s book: Boomer Yoga. It is meant to be a dynamic and athletic practice. This sequence allows us to offer many options in order to be accessible to all students, regardless of age or ability. We encourage students to do as much or as little as they choose to do. The only thing they have to do is: breathe.

We do our best to offer options in every posture. As we go through the sequence, we encourage students to try different things and learn what feels right in their body. As students become more familiar with this practice, they start to learn their preferred variation for each posture.

Students in this class embrace the opportunity to develop a vigorous movement practice that is appropriate for their bodies. We also delve into some of the deeper aspects of yoga practice.

A large part of this class focuses on learning to pay attention and be present in THIS moment. We work in the right here and right now. We do this through the use of the “3 tools” of yoga.  If you’ve been in one of my classes you have probably heard me mention these 1 or 1 million times. The three tools are the breath, a steady, focused gaze, and the bandhas (a light engagement of the pelvic floor and lower abdomen). We talk about these tools frequently and use them to help towards our ultimate goal: attempting to still the fluctuations the mind (aka yoga!).

Notice how we say “attempting”, not actually doing it. We constantly remind our students that this is a practice, not a perfect!

A large part of why and how this class works is this element of teaching our students to pay attention and listen to their bodies. Our job is to create a safe space for students to find a practice that is somewhere between “it’s doing nothing” and hurting themselves. We often say: “if you are breathing, you are doing it right!” and we mean it!

Are you a student in our Boomer Yoga class? Comment below with your favorite thing about this class!

Top 3 Reasons People “Can’t Do Yoga” (And Why They Should Do It Anyway)

Whenever I get asked the age old question “What do you do for work?” My answer is: “I own a yoga studio!” Sometimes people are excited and want to know more – but more often, people’s faces fall. “Oh, I can’t do yoga” they say… followed by a reason why. These responses are so discouraging to me. Not just because I want people to come to my business. But also because people think that they can’t participate in this wonderfully healing practice for exactly the reasons that they SHOULD be doing this practice.

Here are the 3 most common reasons people give me that they can’t do yoga:

I can’t do yoga: I’m not flexible.

Guess what! Most of our students aren’t flexible. In fact, I probably have the tightest hamstrings in the room. Yoga is not just for people who can already put their foot behind their head. People who can’t touch their toes need to be here because yoga can help BUILD flexibility!

Strength and flexibility are both extremely important for our health, especially as we get older. And regular yoga practice is one of the best ways I know of to increase flexibility. Furthermore, “flexibility” can mean very different things to different bodies. Or we might be very flexible in some areas or not others. A well rounded yoga practice might not get you touching your toes in 2 weeks, but the best way to start working towards that goal is to start practicing!

I can’t do yoga, yoga is for young, skinny people!

Sorry, this excuse isn’t going to work on me either. First of all, most of our students at Yoga in ME are 50+! Most of us have regular human being bodies here, too. Second, yoga can age right along with you. Here are Yoga in ME, we base a lot of our classes on a sequence of postures called Boomer Yoga (taught to us by Beryl Bender Birch). The Boomer Yoga sequence is athletic, dynamic, and also takes into account that we can’t do all of the things that we could when we were 15. And that’s okay!

Furthermore, physical activity continues to be extremely (if not even more) important as we get older! Regular physical activity keeps us healthier. Plus, yoga improves balance, flexibility and even bone density! Yoga is also great place to make connections with other like-minded people and reduce stress.

I can’t do yoga, I don’t have time.

An old Zen proverb tells us: “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” The same principle can be applied to practicing yoga. If you don’t have time for it, you probably need it even more! Busyness is an unfortunate plague in our modern society. Most of us are on the run from sun up to sun down (and some of us all night too. And we are STRESSED out.

Did you know that yoga is great for stress and anxiety? Find out more about our upcoming series: Yoga for Stress and Anxiety here. Even if you don’t have time to come in for a class, these practices can be extremely beneficial. Sitting in meditation for as little as 3-5 minutes a day can have a huge positive impact on stress. If you’re looking to get started with a home practice you can schedule a private lesson with me to learn more about yoga and some tools that you can take home with you. Another option is to read about these techniques online or in books and start a home practice on your own!

Before you started yoga, did you think you couldn’t do it? Share why – and your experience when you did come to class in the comments below!