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.

I was robbed! How to stay in the Present Moment when things aren’t Rainbows and Unicorns

I had the privilege to spend last week on retreat with my teacher, Beryl Bender Birch. This retreat is something I look forward to each year. It’s at a wonderful resort in Costa Rica right on the Pacific Ocean. I was anticipating amazing weather and connecting with other inclusive and inquiring health-minded individuals. Perhaps, most of all, I was looking forward to taking a break from being a teacher and studio owner. To getting to practice yoga and being in the present moment 24/7. Just being a student for a whole week!  

Yoga is all about how to get our attention into the present moment. And when everything is rainbows and unicorns, like this retreat was promising to be, it seems so much easier to do! This is one of the things I value most about going on retreat. Time spent practicing being in the present moment when it’s easy helps me stay in present moment when the situation is not as idillic. 

Well, I was certainly presented with opportunities to practice being in the present moment, but not because the trip was all rainbows and unicorns. I started  the trip with a bang by getting sick literally just as the plane touched down in Costa Rica. I had to bolt to the bathroom and beg the flight attendants to let me in the restroom. 

Aboard the shuttle bus to the retreat center, I wasn’t feeling much better. Eventually, I had to ask to stop the bus so I could be sick by the side of the road. Luckily someone sitting next to me realized the shuttle driver needed to hear my request in Spanish.  I felt a little weak after that, but overall much better. I started really paying attention to the present moment and everything there was to be grateful for: The offers of tissues and cough drops to soothe my throat from my fellow shuttle riders. The fact that I was in sunny, warm Costa Rica. Most of all, I was appreciating the opportunity to just be sick without having any students to teach or work to do at the studio!

Shortly after arriving at the resort, however, a message came from Beryl saying her flight was delayed and she wouldn’t  be there until the next day. Beryl asked me to work with another of her students, Debra, to welcome the group of almost 40 students that evening and then lead meditation and yoga posture classes the next morning. Time to let go of my attachment to how great not teaching would feel and work on getting my attention in the present moment!

I was very grateful and honored that Beryl trusted me to get the retreat going.  And leading a group of enthusiastic and dedicated yogis all ready to dive in is definitely a real treat.  I still wasn’t feeling all that great, however, so as the evening welcome session approached, I realized that I wasn’t feeling well enough to do anything at all. Especially not welcome people and explain why it was me and Debra, but not Beryl welcoming them!

Debra was, of course, just fine getting started without me and also leading meditation at 6:30am the next day so I was able to have a nice, long sleep. In the morning I felt much better and was able to get up and lead the yoga class after breakfast. It was quite a thrill leading a group of focused and dedicated yogis through practice. I felt revived and, with my teaching done, it was easy to be in the present moment.

We were all happy to welcome Beryl to Costa Rica later that day. To enjoy the privilege of having her lead the group and work her magic and make everyone feel included and welcome. I was delighted to be able to turn the reigns back over to Beryl and to get back to just being a student. 

I really couldn’t have picked a better place to recover from whatever was wrong with my stomach. The weather was lovely, the food was great, and it was simply an amazing group of people all gathered together with the intention of being in the moment. We meditated, did pranayama, practiced yoga postures, swam and walked on the beach, listened to the howler monkeys, watched iguanas sitting in the sun, ate healthy vegetarian food, and just enjoyed life. Now that everything was so perfect and I had Beryl reminding me to do it, it was easy to be in the present moment. 

Partway into this wonderful week, news of a  big storm projected for the Northeast US reached our ears. My airline was looking for people to change flights for no charge. I decided to delay my return to the States and join another member of our group scuba diving the morning after the retreat ended. What could be better? The flight change was free and I had some points on a credit card I could use to reserve a hotel near the dive site. Wow, I thought, I’m going with the flow. This being present in the moment just gets better and better!

The hotel I stayed at near the dive site was spacious and convenient. Unfortunately, my room lacked a functioning safe. I wasn’t sure what to do with my valuables. I ended up choosing to take my computer, noise cancellation headphones, phone, credit card, cash, and passport all with me to the dive site. While we prepared to go out in the boat,  I left them in the locked rental car. In retrospect, I can think of lots of better ways to have dealt with this, but I didn’t choose any of those at the time.

We were all standing about 10 feet away from the car talking and getting ready to go. I realized I wanted to leave my pants in the car,  so I went back to the car and put them in. I locked the car again and went back to the group. As we started heading out to the boat a few minutes later, I remembered  my hat was in the car. I walked back to the car once again.

This time, when I open the door and reached in for my stuff, nothing was there. Confusion set in. It felt impossible to process what was going on. I walked all around the car opening every door, looked in the trunk, dug under the seats, and found nothing. The only thing left in the car, thankfully, were my prescription glasses. In the space of about ten minutes and about ten feet away from where I was standing, a thief robbed us! 

I was completely floored. I felt incredibly stupid for leaving my things in the car – especially my passport. I’d like to think that that last time back to the car, I was going to get my passport and phone to keep with me. But I’m not really sure about that. I just wasn’t thinking that morning. I went out to the boat, got in, and shared with everyone what had happened. There didn’t seem to be anything I could do so we all continued with the diving trip.

I remember at this point congratulating myself for how good I was at this being in the present moment stuff. Look at me, I’d just been robbed, but I could still enjoy a diving trip. I could deal with the issue of how I was going to get back home later. What could I do anyway without my phone or any money? I might as well enjoy the diving.

When we got to the dive spot I put my gear on and jumped in and started to go down.  In order to dive safely, however, I had to be able to keep my body out of flight or flight response. Once under water, it became obvious I couldn’t do that. I was way too freaked out to safely dive. 

Back in the boat again, I was aware that this was another opportunity to practice being in the present moment. Someone took my stuff and there was nothing I could do to change this fact. I knew that, without a passport, I would not be able to get home. I wasn’t in a position to do anything about a new one until we got back to shore.

But knowing I couldn’t do anything about it did not make me feel much better. I felt anxious and upset and I began judging myself for this. Like somehow I should just be feeling grateful to be in this beautiful place and that feeling anxious meant I wasn’t doing a good job of being in the moment.

I had to accept that the way I felt was also part of the present moment.

Once I was able to accept that my feelings of anxiety and fear were part of the present moment, I was able to find some moments of joy. I marveled at a pod of leaping dolphins, a ray jumping up out of the water, a needlefish flying above the water to escape some predator. 

Back on shore again, I learned the only way to get a new passport was to drive to the American Embassy in San Jose.  Figuring out how I was going to get to San Jose and how much money this was going to cost was definitely not rainbows and unicorns. It was not at all easy to be present in these moments. It was, on the other hand, easy to feel grateful.  Grateful for my husband back in the States arranging a hotel in San Jose. And to have a friend willing to drive me several hours to the hotel. And then turn around and drive back for his own flight from Liberia.

The entire drive to San Jose was an opportunity to practice being in the present moment. To allow myself to be upset, scared, and anxious. To practice not adding to the difficulties of the situation with negative self talk.

In the moments where I was able to accept how upset I was, I was also able to find joy. Joy in a beautiful drive through the mountains of Costa Rica with pleasant conversation and music.

 

Early the next morning, I took a taxi to the American Embassy. While I was waiting for the Embassy to open, my driver, Oscar, returned to tell me where he was parked. He was back again a few minutes later. Oscar was concerned I didn’t have enough money to pay for my new passport and wanted to loan me money. I initially tried to refuse, but he insisted and I realized he might be right. I was so touched by this kindness that I almost completely broke down in tears in front of the Embassy.  

As Mr. Rogers said,  “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”: My husband and daughter arranging things at home, the taxi driver loaning me money, my friend loaning me money and driving round trip about ten hours to get me to the embassy, the young woman at Newark airport who trusted me to borrow her phone at 1am in Newark airport.  I continue to feel gratitude for all the help I received that got me back to my home in Maine again.

I’m now the proud owner of what must surely be the most unflattering passport photo ever. It will cost a small fortune if I choose to replace my lost electronics. I have a ton of work to do to re-do all my online accounts and bank accounts that we closed. But I am safe. None of my personal information appears to have been successfully stolen. I am back home in Maine now, marveling at the beauty of this moment. The quiet beautiful end of an amazing March snow storm where everything is beautifully covered with clean, white snow.  How lucky am I to be in this present moment?


Interested in a retreat that won’t involve getting stuck out of the country? Lydia & I are leading a weekend retreat at Aryaloka in Newmarket, New Hampshire. March 16 – 18, 2018. We’d love to have you join us for a weekend of present moment awareness.

Power Outage? A Great Opportunity To Practice Yoga!

Yoga in ME is currently experiencing a power outage. At the time this post was written there were 484,000 customers without power in Maine. For some of us, it sounds like it might be a while before it comes back. This is a little bit daunting. But, bear with me on this one, this power outage is also a great opportunity to practice yoga.

How, you might ask? I can’t do fully bound lotus without heat! Well, you don’t have to! At Yoga in ME, we think it’s very important to remember that the practice of yoga is not just doing the asanas (or postures). According to the yoga sutras, Yoga is: the attempt to still the fluctuations of the mind.

In other words, all you have to do to be practicing yoga is put effort towards being present in the moment.

That’s right, folks. As long as you are present with what you are doing in the moment, you are doing yoga. This applies no matter whether what you are doing is a yoga posture, meditation, or something more everyday and mundane like folding laundry or preparing a meal.

For some of us, a power outage is our worst nightmare.  Basic things that we have come to rely on like heat, running water (if you have a well) and refrigeration no longer function. This can be very stressful and even dangerous in some circumstances. But a power outage is also a great opportunity to slow down. We are forced to unplug, and be present with what we are doing.

So how exactly does this work?

Well, when the power is out, it simply isn’t possible to be reading an article on your phone while watching something on TV and also playing solitaire on your tablet. In other words, we are forced to do fewer (and often quieter) things at a time. Instead of engaging in multiple activities at once, we might spend our time doing something like reading a book or playing a board game with the family. We are less stimulated and more able to be present with the people around us. THIS is yoga!

Not only are we forced to unplug and do fewer things at once, we are also forced to do many everyday things “the old fashioned way.”. Read, slower and more mindfully. Doing the dishes becomes a much more mindful task when you have to heat water on the camp stove. Washing and rinsing in basins rather than doing everything in the quick instant hot water of the sink!

Are you practicing yoga during the power outage? Tell us how in the comments!

My Yoga Life – A Work in Progress

My Yoga Life – A Work in Progress

Written By Rachel D.A.

Three years ago, I was, mostly sitting in a chair at home watching TV all day long. I did have an office for business that I visited a few days a week, yet mostly I was just sitting around even there. My whole body hurt pretty much 100% if the time. I was very overweight and was walking with a cane. One of the reasons I spent so much time in a chair was that I could barely get up from the chair. When I did, it was painful.

I shared office space with a Chiropractor. At the time she had some patients (a mother and daughter) who owned a yoga studio down the street. The mother, Nancy Garnhart, kept inviting me to try yoga, “Just try it” she said. She even offered me a free class. I was reluctant and told her why. I explained that I could barely get up from a chair, how was I going to get up from the floor? Nancy kept saying, “All you need to do, to do yoga, is to breathe.” Well, I was sure that I was still breathing.

I knew that I had to do something because, essentially, I was just sitting around waiting to die and while I was no longer young in years, I was too young to feel this way. That sounds extreme, yet, at that time, that was how I felt. I had no direction and couldn’t figure out how to get out of the rut that I was in. Finally, my curiosity got the best of me, and I decided to take my free pass and give yoga life a try.

I’m not going to lie. When I first started, I hated holding a posture for 5 eternal breaths. I couldn’t handle the perspiration that  poured down my face burning my eyes. I basically felt like a baby elephant caught in a ditch.

For some reason, I kept going and kept going. I didn’t really care so much how I looked, or even how uncomfortable I was. The thing that I noticed was that afterward I felt better. So, I kept going and going and going.

Now, three years later, I no longer use a cane or sticks to walk with, I am about 85% pain free. I released 21” and 3 clothing sizes and have learned how to eat mindfully (which is the key to weight loss and maintenance). And I have learned so much more.

I have heard people say that yoga saved their lives. I’m not sure I can entirely claim that. What I do know to be true is that yoga has changed my life forever. It is true that most come to yoga for the physical aspect first. Often, they stay for all the other benefits.

For myself, the yoga life benefits are vast. Surely the calming of the mind is helping me to balance my life. Going deeper with practice is also having a positive effect. I am almost at the end of my 200 Hour Teacher Training Class. I feel that, at my mature age, I have new reasons to go forward and thrive. Now, I am looking forward to getting certified and teaching what I know about yoga to others.

~Rachel

 

Getting Down with Your Dog – Practicing Yoga With Your Dog

Yoga with your dog, not for your dog!

DOGA, the term coined to performing yoga practices with your furry friend has become increasingly popular as niche markets in the yoga industry have greatly expanded—you can do yoga with just about anything these days! You can do yoga with beer, wine, goats, and even yoga with your dog!

Lately, there has been some anxiety and ambiguity when it comes to practicing with your dogs, most commonly being: “I can’t even get my dog to sit let alone Downward Dog!?” Or another big one: “OFF LEASH!?” The answer is simply, no we are not teaching your dogs how to do Yoga, but rather how to do Yoga with your dog.

The Intention of Yoga with Your Pup

Traditionally, any yoga practice or class begins with setting an Intention for that time, day, class, etc. Similar to a yoga practice, dog ownership is a commitment that also deserves Intentions; whether it be daily, monthly or yearly—every good thing in Life stems from a genuine Intention.

Now you may think, “well dogs can’t literally set an Intention.” Although they may not be able to verbally communicate this to you, their actions speak louder than their barks so to speak. Dogs by nature are excellent ‘vibe feelers,’ and for the most part their anxieties and reactions are developed from the vibrations the owners give off on a daily basis—whether you realize this or not, your dog absolutely senses what you are vibrating at any given time (positive or negative!).

By setting a positive Intention with your canine, your yoga practice has already set off to the right paw. Intentions for these furry practices can range from:

  • Letting go. Let go of all meticulous control of the animal and letting it just Be a dog
  • Acceptance. Accept where your relationship is now with your dog and openness to the direction it is going
  • Peace. Peace with who your dog is and peace with yourself as its caretaker

Intentions for practicing with your pets are endless, and perhaps starting out small like completing an entire class without correcting your dog’s natural behavior is just enough.

The Ups to the Downdogs

As an owner, practicing yoga with your dog may just be the best part about your day and there surely are more benefits to a playful practice:

  • You don’t have to feel guilty about leaving your fur friend at home
  • You can begin to build a more organic relationship with your pup; both stretching and rolling around on the floor, basically getting down to their level
  • You may even gain a new respect from your dog as your own energies and vibrations begin to stabilize, thus allowing you to be more present in your dog-parenting

From a Dogic point of view, this an exciting new activity they get to share with their most beloved human being, another excuse to play and love. So the next time you hesitate about practicing with your puppy or bringing them to a Doga class, check your ego, ask yourself where is the anxiety present, and how could an Intention alleviate that second-guessing so that both you, and your furry best friend, can receive the good vibrations of Yoga.

 

Paw-ma-ste,

 

Dannika & Ole Miss

What’s stopping you from practicing yoga?

From time to time we post an essays written by the students in our 200 Hour Teacher Training Program as part of their homework. This is one student’s essay.


The Monday before weekend two of our teacher training,  my mother was hospitalized in Massachusetts so I spent the week leading up to our training course at the hospital.  Initially, I was disappointed at the timing.  I was unable to attend yoga classes, engage in “my” practice at home or adequately prepare for the rigors of the weekend course.  But, as it turned out, the week was filled with opportunities to practice yoga 24/7.  The situation certainly demanded a calm, focused, and quiet mind grounded in the present moment.  It would have been easy to be overcome with scary thoughts of what the future might hold.  As luck would have it, I found the chapel and traveled there each day to breathe and meditate!  I tried to be self-aware, observing the flood of emotions that passed through me from day to day… I was sad…I was stressed…I was agitated…I was frustrated…I was scared.  But I tried not to wallow in these feelings – just acknowledge them and let them go.  I tried to stay PRESENT.  I surrendered control of what was happening to a source greater than I and trusted that events would unfold as they were divinely intended.

So it would have been easy to say I couldn’t ‘do’ yoga that week.  And the Sutras would have been right to label me careless, negligent, and lazy about my practice. Instead, despite the little time I had to do the postures, I found infinite time to “do the work”.

 

Your Yoga Practice: It’s the Journey, Not the Destination

Have you ever been in class and felt like you just can’t keep up? Every time you get settled into the posture, the teacher moves on to the next one. Maybe you keep your focus and continue with your practice. Or maybe you get frustrated. Your mind starts to wander. Suddenly you aren’t on your mat anymore but instead, as Beryl sometimes says, you’re on the “bus to Hawai’i”.

“What am I supposed to be doing?” “Why don’t I look like the person next to me?” “I did this easily yesterday”

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