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.

The best gift I ever gave my children.

In 1999 I still thought I had to be perfect: I was a full-time over-achieving graduate student. Almost entirely by myself, I managed a household and parented three children ages 6, 8 and 10.  I volunteered at the elementary school. My house was immaculate. And the list could go on.

As a preacher’s kid from a small farming community in Wisconsin, I lived constantly with the idea that people were watching and judging me. And I thought hat I needed to live up to their expectations. I wasn’t hooked into following conventions that didn’t make sense to me (for example, I didn’t have a t.v. in the house for many years​), however, everything I did do had to be perfect.

Not surprisingly,  I did not find joy in my life.

Everything seemed grey to me. I needed to take painkillers most nights in order to sleep because my hips hurt almost all the time. My back would spasm so badly sometimes that I couldn’t get off the floor. I felt guilt or some other negative emotion the instant I woke up in the morning. I was unreasonably irritable and angry with my children. My marriage had been completely devoid of physical contact for 6 years. I was depressed.

I lived with the assumption that there was really nothing I could do to change any of these things. My hips must hurt because arthritis runs in my family I was bound to get it. Back pain must be inevitable in tall people.  I believed I really was a horrible mother so, of course, I should live with feeling guilty and bad all the time.  And, certainly, it followed from this that I didn’t deserve to be touched or loved. It simply didn’t occur to me that there was anything I could do to change any of these things.

Somewhere inside me, however, I must have known there could be more to life

because when an acquaintance mentioned a new yoga studio she’d been going to, I decided to try it out.  I had been doing some yoga poses on my own for more than ten years at that point, but I had never really considered going to a class. What I found at the group class at this studio was something completely different than what I had been doing on my own. The first class I went to happened to be an intermediate level power yoga class that completely kicked my butt. For that whole class time, my mind was only on those postures. Nothing hurt, I didn’t feel guilty or inadequate. When the rest came at the end of class, I felt a miraculous sense of well being. I was hooked.

I kept going back to classes. When I couldn’t manage to find classes that fit into my schedule while the kids were in school, I took them with me and sat them in the waiting room with some books​. ​

Little by little, my body and mind started to change.

I felt that I was physically and mentally becoming more myself. Feelings of guilt and inadequacy were pushed back to a dull roar.  My hips stopped hurting all the time. My back didn’t go out anymore. I was much more the loving and patient parent I wanted to be. The transformation I experienced was so  pronounced that  the kids would announce, “You need to go to yoga today, Mom.” ​whenever I started to go back to my old cranky ways.

These changes inspired me to do even more things to care for myself.  I started getting massage and talk therapy.  These worked together with practicing yoga to help me see that I did not have to live in a world that felt gray all the time. By the time I separated from my husband and began a long and difficult divorce in 2002, I had the tools to be able to be act with some compassion and mindfulness​.

My process of transformation is ongoing.  The tools I’ve learned through yoga continue to help me be more present in each moment. They help me to set appropriate boundaries for myself. It’s much easier to remember that I have a lot to be grateful for. Yoga postures help me feel better in my body. I’m much quicker to forgive myself when I screw up.  And my life is no longer grey most of the time.  I am grateful to have loving and respectful relationships with my children and grandchildren and husband.​

I think my children would all agree: The best gift I ever gave them was to take care of myself.

Self Care: Why Studio Owners Need To Do Yoga Too

Wondering why you are seeing me in class more lately? Me too (…kidding). I’ve been making a huge effort to commit to self care over the past few weeks.

And you may (or may not) have noticed that one of the ways I’m doing this is by making an effort to get back on my mat.

When I’m having a bad day (or week, or month), getting on my mat and sharing a yoga practice with other like-minded individuals is one of the few things that helps me stop feeling disconnected. There’s nothing quite like sharing breath and energy with a room full of people doing yoga to alleviate loneliness.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with a little back story:

As a yoga studio owner, people often assume I’m in great shape. I’m a yoga teacher, so I must spend a lot of time doing yoga. I (supposedly) do a lot of yoga so I must be really healthy and fit. Some of these things may be true some of the time.

But I’ll let you in on a little secret: I really struggle to take good care of myself.

Lately, I’ve been feeling stressed out, anxious, and depressed. I’ve noticed that I have been spending a lot of time zoning out on my phone using social media. I’m not eating as well as I should be. I’ve had a shorter temper with my kids and husband. I have been getting frequent headaches. And I have been feeling very stagnant.

Here’s my excuse: I have 3 young children. In fact, I have spent all except about a year (total) of the last 7+ years pregnant, breastfeeding, or both. One (or more) of my kiddos has slept in my bed every night for the last 6 years. “Me time” is non-existent. As a small business owner, the primary caregiver of my children, and partner to someone who travels frequently for work, I have a LOT going on.

And I’m a typical mom, taking care of ME is often my very last priority.

But guess what? When I fail to take care of myself, every around me suffers. Whether it’s because I have a short temper, or I zone out looking at my phone instead of playing, or I avoid going out because I don’t feel like getting dressed, my kids are impacted when I’m not feeling like myself. Furthermore, I am not setting a good example of self-care for them.

For many reasons, my partner and I are both making an effort to re-commit to taking some time for ourselves. We are both working to support each other in doing things together and alone that do not involve the kids. We are reminding each other that our self care needs to be a priority in order for us to provide the best possible care for each other and our children.

Here’s what I’m doing to improve my self care:

Reading instead of looking at my phone.

I’m committing to read a minimum of 50 books this year. I love to read and can’t wait to exceed this goal! Plus I am setting a great example for my kids and showing them my priorities.

Moving my body every day.

Even if it’s a 5 minute walk or maybe even sometimes I count steam mopping as exercise. Exercise and fresh air are so important for self care and happiness.

Making healthy eating choices most of the time.

Maybe you do this too? If I eat lousy in the morning, sometimes I decide the whole day is crap and why even bother trying to eat right for the rest of the day. I’m working to make healthy choices most of the time and not let one bad eating choice ruin the rest of my day. Sometimes I eat coffee for breakfast and those “snacking chocolates” from the target check-out line for lunch. But that doesn’t mean I can’t eat a healthy dinner. Good decisions add up!

Seeking out meaningful social connections.

If you know me, you might know I’m a little… antisocial. I almost always choose stay home over go out. But making meaningful social connections is very important to long-term happiness. I’m taking baby steps on this one and making an effort to meet a friend for coffee every couple weeks. And I’m working with Whitney to start up a Mindful Parents Meetup group at Yoga in ME. We’ll be meeting once a month. You can find more information about our first meeting here!

Getting back on my mat.

I hope to practice at least 3 times a week. I know that sometimes things will get in the way and this won’t happen. But I’m going to keep trying anyway. Not only is this important for my self-care, health, and family, it is also important for the studio. How can I honestly and authentically share this practice if I’m not practicing what I preach? I have seen students be positively impacted by this practice time and time again. I know that it works. So all I need to do is set a good example and DO IT!

What’s your favorite self-care practice? Tell us in the comments!

See you in class!

 

Valentine’s Day at Yoga in ME

It’s February and we’re thinking about love. Valentine’s day is near! Stores are full of pink and red decorations, cards, flowers, fluffy stuffed animals. But love doesn’t have to be materialistic! At Yoga in ME, we celebrate all kinds, shapes and sizes of love. We celebrate love between family members, intimate partners, friends, neighbors, and (maybe most importantly) self love!

This year on Valentine’s day, we invite you to give yourself a little extra love.

Drink a warm cup of tea, curl up with a good book, go for a walk. Spend some time practicing self care by doing something you love, just for the joy of it! YOU are worth it! You. Are. Enough.

Some of us may not “feel the love” this year, and we want you to know that is okay too! You are not alone.

We want all of our members to know that you are a loved and valued part of this community. Each and every person who comes to this studio is an important part of making us who we are. Whether you come once a season, or four times a week, your energy is a part of the greater whole and we are grateful for you!

If you’re looking for a way to give back to the community, consider striking up a conversation with someone at the studio that you haven’t met before. Many of us shy yogis need to feel invited into a conversation before we’ll participate. In honor of the season, consider “sharing the love” with someone new. You never know what’s going on in someone’s life outside the studio. A warm smile, a hello, or even a hug, can go a long way!

Wishing each and every one of you a happy Valentine’s day!

5 Opportunities to Practice Gratitude at Yoga in ME This Holiday Season

The opportunity to practice gratitude at Yoga in ME  is a very important part of our community. At the end of many of our classes, we offer an opportunity to take a moment of gratitude. Often, I will invite students to think of one thing that they are grateful for today. Practicing gratitude is a great way to improve your interpersonal relationships and spread positivity to others in your life. Practicing gratitude can also bring numerous benefits to YOU. Read more on the “selfish” benefits of practicing gratitude in this post.

Some of you may be thinking “well, that’s all great… but what does practicing gratitude even mean?”. There are many small ways to practice gratitude. Some of these include: keeping a gratitude journal, verbally expressing gratitude to loved ones, or even just thinking about things you are grateful for on a regular basis. Another wonderful way to practice gratitude is by giving back to your community.

If you’re looking for more ways to incorporate gratitude in your life, here are 5 opportunities to practice gratitude at Yoga in ME this holiday season:

1) Join us at our Veterans’ Day Outreach and Fundraising Event

Grateful for our veterans and want to support our FREE Yoga for Veterans Classes? Curious about the class? Now is your chance to try it out and/or ask questions – or just show up to show your support for this life changing program. This is a once a year opportunity for friends and family to join the class to see what it’s like – or to bring a veteran(s) you know that might enjoy their first class more if you were there to support them.

2) Come Practice Gratitude at Yoga in ME at our Annual Thanksgiving Day Gratitude Class

Take some time to care for yourself and cultivate gratitude before the distractions take over the mind. You may notice the rest of the day is truly something you can feel grateful for. Any donation appreciated.

3) Participate in Our Fall Food Drive

How lucky are we to have the opportunity to give back to others? Each year, we celebrate Yoga in ME’s birthday at our fall food drive. During this week long event, we collect a trunk load of food and other items (or more!) to donate to Footprints Food Pantry in Kittery. More information about this fun annual event coming soon!

4) Monthly Give Back Yoga Nidra

At this class, we support a different cause each month. We are grateful to Erica for donating her time to host this class and for the opportunity to give back to some awesome local organizations. We especially love to support local causes that our members are involved in, like End 68 Hours of Hunger. If you are active in a local non-profit please talk to Erica about how this class can help you!

5) Weekly By-Donation Community Class

We are so grateful to our teacher trainees for donating their time to teach this class and Rachel for volunteering to coordinate it! This class is a great opportunity to show your appreciation to these teachers (all you have to do is show up!). It is also an opportunity to support our FREE yoga for veterans program by donating.

Bonus opportunity: participate in our November Gratitude Tree! Read more about that on the blog soon!

We hope that you will join us for as many of these opportunities as possible. These are just a few of the ways that we are practicing gratitude at Yoga in ME this season. How are you practicing gratitude? Let us know in the comments!

5 Ways Practicing Gratitude Benefits YOU

Practicing gratitude is an important part of our community here at Yoga in ME. At the end of many of our classes, we offer an opportunity to take a moment of gratitude. Often, I will invite students to silently think of one thing that they are grateful for today. Practicing gratitude is a great way to improve your interpersonal relationships and spread positivity to others in your life. But did you know that according to this (very detailed) article (and a lot of research) practicing gratitude also has “selfish” benefits too?

5 Ways Practicing Gratitude Benefits YOU. Practicing gratitude has been shown to improve:

1) Your physical health.

That’s right, people who practice gratitude are actually healthier! Not only are the sick less frequently, they also sleep better! People who practice gratitude tend to exercise more, have more energy and even live longer!

2) Your emotional wellbeing

People who practice gratitude have been found to be more relaxed, resilient, and to just generally feel better. If you are more grateful for what you have, you may be less jealous of others. You also tend to remember things in a more positive light! That’s right, being grateful in the moment can change how you remember something!

3) Your social wellbeing

People who practice gratitude tend to be kinder and more social. Consequently, they have more relationships. Their relationships also tend to be deeper and healthier. Practicing gratitude is even related to having a happier marriage!

4) Your career

If you practice gratitude, you are more likely to make better decisions, manage better, and be more productive! People who are grateful also network better and are more likely to achieve their goals. Sounds like someone I would want working for me! No wonder people who practice gratitude have better careers!

5) Your personality

Yup, practicing gratitude might even make you a better person! Grateful people are more optimistic, spiritual, and feel better about themselves. They are also less likely to be materialistic or self-centered.

The end result is: practicing gratitude can make you feel pretty good!

Improvement in all of these areas of your life contributes to improve your overall happiness! Yes, practicing gratitude has been show to correlate with increase happiness! So why not try it out… it can’t hurt. And it most certainly can help! How are you practicing gratitude in your everyday life?

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

 

Do You Use Yoga As An Excuse To Think You Are Not Enough?

Sometimes I think I am not enough.

I have been teaching yoga for just about 3 years. To some people, this might sound like a long time. To others, it might seem like a very short time. Generally, I feel pretty confident in my teaching abilities. I get (mostly) positive feedback and students (generally) seem to enjoy my classes. But guess what? I still sometimes get the feeling that I am not enough!

For the past few months, I have been teaching one of the Boomer Yoga classes on our schedule. I LOVE working with this group and find all of the Boomers to be such a great inspiration for me – personally as well as in my practice. Many of the students in this class are a perfect example of one of the best aspects of this practice – using it to keep our bodies and minds working for us  (rather than against us) as we move through every stage of life.

But sometimes when I stand up at the front of that room to instruct these amazing Boomers, I am filled with doubt.

There’s nothing like teaching a class where everyone in the room is about twice your age to make you doubt yourself. Especially when one of them is your mom who has been teaching for over 10 years! And it’s not the students who are the problem here: it’s my internal dialogue. I think things like “why would these students take me seriously?”. Sometimes, I worry that because I have not experienced things in my body or in my life like they have, students don’t want to hear what I have to say. I tell myself, students are thinking I can’t possibly understand what they are experiencing.

Now, maybe all that is true. But it doesn’t mean that I have nothing to offer these students or that there is nothing they can learn from me.

I’m not writing all this to get your sympathy. I’m writing it because, after a conversation with my mom today, I realized that I am not the only one in the room having these feelings. Our culture teaches us to think that, no matter what, we are not enough.  And even if someone tells us this isn’t true or that we should feel otherwise, our feelings aren’t very likely to change . If we want to flip our perspective, we have to work at it.

What can we do to change this internal dialogue?

Focus on the positive.

Sometimes things that we think are negatives can really be viewed as positives! As one student was leaving today, they chastised themselves for having to lean on the wall to put their shoes on. But while doing that, they ignored the fact that they could do it standing up! There are many people who are not able to do this. Let’s celebrate what we can do instead of focusing on what we can’t do.

Breathe.

How many times have you heard us say “if you’re breathing, you’re doing it right”? Or “all you have to do is breathe”? These statements could not be true-er (is that word?). The purpose of this practice is to ATTEMPT to still the fluctuations of the mind – if you’re attempting to focus on your breathing, you are doing yoga!

Practice gratitude.

We are lucky to be alive. Lucky to be able to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and have food to eat. We are lucky to be able to do this practice! Remembering these things can go a long way towards shifting your perspective!

Do the best you can.

This changes all the time. From one minute to the next and one decade to the next. Do the best you can in that moment and don’t worry about what it is “supposed to look like”.

Practice, and all is coming.

And even if you don’t believe me – know that I know you are enough!

 

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