The Scribble to Success

Now that we are at the end of January, you’ve probably heard any number of people in your life – friends, family, coworkers, or that stranger you struck up a conversation with at the grocery store – mention new goals that they’ve set for themselves, or resolutions they’ve made to kick off 2016.

But keeping a resolution or achieving a goal is not always easy. There are distractions, there are ways to procrastinate, we get busy at work, or a personal crisis throws us off our balance. It’s too easy to hit a bump in the road and after breaking the resolution once (or a few times), and then blame ourselves for not having enough willpower when we fail to live up to our own, often very high, expectations.

I have never been much into resolutions, in part because I don’t want to become a statistic (University of Scranton research suggests that just 8% of people achieve their New Year’s goals) but also because I believe that there is more to a self-improvement than an outcome or result.

Many of my own roads to success are not only not smooth, they are downright Escher-like. Whether it was getting into an eka pada koundinyasana or finishing that online Introduction to Programming class, some monkey always throws a wrench into what was supposed to be smooth sailing. In my experience, these roads are not straight and steady slopes to the top. The path to success is more akin to a two-year old’s first experimentation with crayon on the wall – it’s rough and looks like a massive scribble. Every minor or major obstacle – bumps in the road, if you follow the analogy – can lead to failure, to setbacks, and can make you feel like you’re back where you started.

I firmly believe that every journey will involve some amount of scribble, and by that definition, recognize that failure is almost always a prerequisite for success. I believe that the many infinite moments of a journey are what transform a person, and not just that single instance of success.

So be kind to yourself and enjoy the scribble – even you do not always know where your journey will take you.

Sankalpa – a.k.a. a bit of wisdom from Papa.

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As a child my father taught me to reflect on my day before going to bed. I can still hear his words: “Always reflect on your own actions and contributions. Make the necessary adjustments to realign yourself. Clear any unwanted feelings so that you can go to bed with a clear conscience. This alone will help you live a happier and fuller life.” His advice didn’t just focus on resolution – he emphasized a process that begins with the ability to “reflect”. The “3R’s” technique that I use for our TYS™ Aerial Yoga originated from this simple concept, but I simplified it to “3R’s” – Release, Realign and Rebuild.

My father’s teaching also reminds me of yoga. We are all good, but we need adjustments to keep us on track. The Sanskrit word sankalpa means “will, purpose, or determination.” To make a sankalpa is to set an intention, like making a Near Year’s resolution but with a yogic twist. This is similar to my father’s teachings, which did not focus on the negative. He was more interested in the root cause of the negativity; therefore he began with reflecting on his actions. Once he understood the cause, he could make the necessary correction or realignment.

The year 2016 is fast approaching. Although my father passed away many years ago, I still remember his words and have shared his bits of wisdom with my own daughter. Instead of making a New Year’s resolution this year, how about trying a healthy dose of sankalpa – also known as a bit of wisdom from Papa?

Developing Focus

Yoga provides numerous opportunities for developing focus. Practicing drishti requires finding a point of focus for the eyes. Applying dharana, single-pointed attention, helps quiet chattering in the mind. Pratyahara, withdrawing the senses, can allow for enhanced relaxation and self-awareness by focusing inward. Maintaining focus throughout a yoga class can be challenging, but taking these same principles of focus and using them in daily life can be an even greater challenge.

I’ve always taken pride in my multi-tasking abilities and busy schedule of projects, hobbies, and activities. However, I’m slowly realizing I don’t need to accomplish so much to feel successful. In fact, it’s the simple things that bring an overwhelming sense of joy and success. There will always be challenges but now I’m more aware of how my focus determines my sense of success and fulfillment.

When faced with challenges of productivity I try to keep these ideas in mind to focus my energy and attention:

Slow down and simplify. It might seem counter-productive to slow down but it has made me more mindful and present in all aspects of life.
Do one thing at a time with full attention. When I’m fully engaged in a single activity I don’t miss the chaos of multi-tasking. Instead, I’ve found a new sense of accomplishment in being completely present.
Turn everyday occurrences into moments of awareness. By identifying occasions of gratitude, I’m more aware of the beautiful and joyful moments as they occur.
We all have aspects in our lives that demand our undivided attention. The challenge is to see them as opportunities to focus and reap the benefits of an enhanced awareness of self, success and fulfillment.

Schedule & Teacher Changes

Getting Into Lotus

If you have trouble getting into a full Lotus pose, try this deep 6 lateral rotator stretch. This group of muscles are deep in the buttock area. The most popular muscle, piriformis, due to its relationship to sciatic nerve. Here, I am using blocks to work on Lotus preparation. Over time, you will find ease and comfort while in Lotus. If you haven’t try this with me, you can practice on your own as well. Once you are setup, then hold for 5 breaths folding forward, then another 5 breaths to the side where you are facing directly above the top foot. Happy stretching.

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Finding Gratitude

Let’s take a moment to find gratitude for the abundances in our lives.

Your list does not have to be long – it can be as simple as being grateful for your life journey; your communities – friends, family, passions; your yoga practice.

Taking an extra moment to acknowledge your gratitude is not only a wonderful gift for the person you are grateful for, but it is something that can have a positive impact on your own psychological and physical health.

But what about when we are angry, hurt or sad? When we are busy fostering a grievance or building a grudge, it may seem that there is no room for positivity at all. It may be easier to yell and hold onto that anger, especially if you were hurt by someone you care about. But if you try to cultivate gratitude in your life, especially when it is hardest, you may find healing will come to your heart and body much sooner than it otherwise would.

This practice of gratitude doesn’t have to be complex – it really can be as simple as writing down five things you are grateful for in a journal every day.

One of the things I am most grateful for in my life is my yoga practice. Since yoga has become my physical vehicle for self-exploration and introspection, I’ve often been able to carry the lessons I learn from my mat into my life, and vice versa. Looking back over the past few years, I can think of many cases when my struggle or fear with a particular pose translated from something that had happened off my mat – and how in working through the pose physically, I could begin to work on my own emotions and take that lesson back into the other parts of my life.

Revisiting and Relearning

As the summer rolls into August, we near the time of the year when many of us or people close to us – children, friends, parents, and colleagues – get ready to go back to school.

You can also look at your yoga practice through the lens of “going back to school”. Sometimes the poses, transitions, breathing techniques, or meditation we learn in class or explore on our mat are completely new to us, but other times they are combinations of elements we have already explored.

Our yoga practices (as well as any other movement lifestyle) are not static and unchanging, nor are they linear journeys. Each day in our lives we experience change emotionally, mentally, and physically – and every change, no matter how small, can in turn affect the state of our mind and body on any given day. And over a longer period of time, the many incremental changes add up to what can be monumental, incredible changes.

In the spirit of embracing this perspective, why not revisit an old pose or try something new (again)? You may find that in revisiting an ‘old’ pose, you will find subtle nuances that you didn’t feel the first time around, or you will be able to explore a pose more deeply because your practice has evolved. If you didn’t like a particular style of yoga the first time around, maybe give it a second or third try – a few months or a few years after the first experience, you may find that you can appreciate and even love what those practices can do for your body. Or maybe try that difficult arm balance or pose that wasn’t accessible to you a year ago and see how it feels now.

The Benefits of Gentle and Restorative

We have many active and strong classes at TYS® for individuals who are seeking a sweaty, powerful practice, but there are many benefits to including a gentle or restorative yoga class in your weekly schedule.  This month Jain is sharing with us about these two styles of yoga and what they can do for you.

Jain WangThe gentle practice invites you to slow down and drop into your body. This slower paced yoga practice offers you the opportunity to take the time to feel the sensations that arise within the body during each asana. We practice moving breath around the body, exploring all corners of the lungs. As we take time with each posture, we work on lengthening, and as we hold the posture for several breaths, we are working on strengthening. Each asana works on different parts of the body to maintain mobility and open up space. We also work on balancing the body using simple postures to bring more harmony to both sides of the phyical body as well as bringing balance to the mind. Gentle, the new advanced yoga practice.

Leaving your worries and “to do” lists at the door, the restorative practice offers a retreat from the outside world. We invite you to surprise yourself with the gift of how relaxed you can actually feel. The poses are held for several minutes working to relax the deep tissues of the body with the help of lengthening the breath, engaging the parasympathetic nervous system. By cradling the body with props, the muscles feel supported, and the stretch then begins to deepen, allowing the bones to drop, drawing the body deeper into the pose. As you practice letting go of the outer layers, you will begin to find yourself in a calm and quiet place. A place that resides deep within you. By holding each pose for several minutes we are also practicing patience -­ patience to stay with the breath, patience to stay with your experience, and perhaps the patience to let go just that little bit more. Rest and restore.

If you’d like to join Jain in one of her gentle or restorative classes, you can view Jain’s teaching schedule at our studio by following this link.

Spring Into Action

Cindy Campbell

According to the calendar, we just entered into the season of spring. Spring is a time of renewal. It is a time when we are in transition from the dark winter forces and moving into lighter energies. When we think of spring, what comes to mind is rebirth. Flowers and plants start to cultivate new life. Animals give birth to young ones.

In Northern California, we have not made a drastic transition from dark, cold days to the warm, sunny weather. Our spring season started earlier than most of the country. Nevertheless, you can still use this time to start letting go of what no longer serves you physically, energetically and spiritually and bring in anew those practices that will satisfy your soul.  A few suggestions that may help you:

  • Renew your commitment or balance your yoga practice. If you regularly practice yang styles of yoga (Vinyasa, Level II Aerial, Hot Yoga, Ashtanga, etc) to generate heat in the body, introduce some yin or gentle practices. Or use your yoga practice to detoxify the body of any toxins that you stored during the winter.
  • Cleanse your body by changing your diet. During the fall and winter, we eat heavier comfort foods. In the spring, foods are lighter. They help refresh and hydrate the body. Start eating artichokes, asparagus, walnuts, apricots, strawberries and avocadoes.
  • Open yourself to new possibilities. Find something joyful that you always wanted to do and develop a plan to make it happen. Trust your heart in setting your intention and give that intention your attention and love.
  • Build community. In winter months, we tend to keep indoors and stick to ourselves. Spring is a great time to connect to those around you. Consider volunteering at a local non-profit or joining a community project.  By giving to others, you will always get something more in return.

 

Cindy’s classes for the month of April will focus on the theme of renewal. If you would like to practice with Cindy at TYS® and hear more of her thoughts, she teaches a Vinyasa class at noon every Wednesday at our studio.

TYS® Aerial Yoga is more than swinging pretty on a hammock.

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TYS® Aerial Yoga is more than swinging pretty on a hammock.

The class has a strong tie to traditional yoga asanas. Here, single leg standing pose can be challenging for many of us; working on balance and strength of the hips while one leg is standing and one leg is floating in mid air. The hammock serves as a prop like a block or blanket to help us find ease; a little help from the hammock to keep the upper body upright without swaying to the left or right, so we can focus on working the muscle groups involve with single leg standing pose.

The Magical Formula for Eating Like a Wellness Rockstar

Healthy Food

Do you struggle to figure out the best way to eat? Does all the nutrition “noise” result in confusion and making what you realize are some less-than-terrific food choices? The fact is, eating real food does not have to be complicated. And a whole foods diet provides your body with the fuel it needs to optimally function, as well as the raw materials to begin to detoxify and heal. Of course, there’s much more to living a healthy balanced life than simply the food we eat. However, it’s a great start! Here are some very basic principles to help you make your food work for and not against you.

The Magical Guideline for Eating Like a Wellness Rockstar:
Aim for 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fat. All day, every day.
About half the food on your plate should be carbohydrates—vegetables, healthy grains. Add a good portion of protein at every meal. Then, add some fat. It’s that simple!  Some more details…

CARBOHYDRATES (aka anything that comes from plants):

  • Vegetables: Eat huge amounts—you cannot overdo it here—especially lots of leafy greens. Go for rich color and variety.
  • Fruit: Eat moderate amounts of fresh fruit.
  • Avoid refined carbohydrates: Refined carbs (i.e. white bread, white rice, pasta, instant oatmeal) are grains that have had the fiber, vitamin E, B vitamins, bran and germ removed. Instead, try brown rice, whole grain oats, quinoa, amaranth, and millet.
  • Sweeteners: Minimal, very occasional. Less is best. If you must, opt for real sugar or maple syrup over anything artificial (NutraSweet, Sweet and Low…)
  • Avoid refined sugar. Refined sugar increases insulin and adrenal hormone production, depletes vitamins and minerals, feeds yeast and other “bad” organisms in the gut, leads to mood and energy swings, increases cravings, disrupts sleep, and increases pain and inflammation.

PROTEIN:

  • Pastured, organic, grass-fed meats, poultry, and eggs are excellent, healthy sources of protein, as are organic unsweetened whole milk dairy products (no low/non-fat).
  • Consider healthy sources of vegan protein as well: hemp, chia, pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame seeds, nuts, beans and legumes, and spirulina.

FATS:

  • For the past 60 years, Americans have been on low-fat and/or poor quality fat diets. We are a society extremely deficient in healthy fatty acids.  Additionally, the research from decades ago that suggested that fat consumption was responsible for heart disease, diabetes, and obesity has now been debunked as flawed and false.
  • Fats benefit our health and well being in so many ways: they satisfy our appetite, they are the building blocks of healthy hormones, they provide a long-burning source of energy, and they aid in the formation of anti-inflammatory substances in the body.
  • Good fats are vital for every aspect of health: nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, butter, avocado. Avoid “vegetable oil” or “canola oil”—no oils in clear bottles on the grocery shelves.

LIQUIDS: As a general guideline, drink half your body weight in ounces of good quality water throughout the day.  No sodas, juice, vitamin water, or sweetened drinks. Adequate hydration will improve a number of health problems including sinusitis, constipation, inflammation, allergies, fatigue, joint pain, headaches, and many others.

Remember: Always choose the best quality products possible.When possible, choose Certified Organic.
Avoid processed foods, fast foods, chemically treated foods, and industrially prepared foods. Pay attention to the quality of the ingredients that go in your mouth. Shop, plan, and cook for yourself. Just eat real food. (There is no pasta tree!)

About Ellen:
Ellen Lovelace, MPH, NTC helps health-challenged people to overcome the confusion and nutrition “noise,” and achieve optimal wellness through the use of a whole foods-based nutrition plan. She helps clients focus on what they CAN eat, finding good alternatives to not-so-good choices. Ellen specializes in digestion issues, food sensitivities, and general wellness counseling.