Admittedly, I was once a master goal driver. One May, I ran my first five-mile course ever, and only a few months later, I ran a full marathon. I've always enjoyed proving myself. But soon after I began practicing yoga, I grew aware of how I've used my own strength to 'overpower' myself.
When I started taking yoga classes and was encouraged to 'do' a pose, I would earnestly take on this challenge and get excited about the opportunity to accomplish something, to have the chance to succeed. I remember one teacher who would say something like, "Feel your strength. You can do anything you really want to," and to me that meant "I'm strong, so I need to do everything." But some how, through my practice, I also was able to grow more aware that this approach was preventing me from 'listening inward'; it was further distancing me from relaxation, appreciation, acceptance and love. And this was inherently what I was deeply craving. Freedom to relax into myself, to be with myself. Fully.
I liked being strong. But what I needed to learn was how to be strong enough to be soft. Powerful enough to be open. Steadfast enough to slow down. Accepting enough to relax.
"Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you Are." - Chinese Proverb.
And that was the true shift for me. The beginning of my journey. Over the past 25 years, my practice has helped me recover from injuries, illness, and grief. It has helped me better understand my challenging relationships and become closer to the people who are important to me.
The more I've learned about how we 'push'... how our bodies work, how our minds work, and how stress is at the root of so much of our fatigue, burnout, anxiety, addiction, and illness, the more I've been able to organically incorporate that information into my teaching.
The yoga I teach and practice today still allows me to feel strong and energized, but there is now a greater focus on healing. And, even though I do teach and practice 'poses', I approach them from a totally different place then when I first discovered yoga. My mat is where I practice freedom from being goal-driven. Freedom from 'achieving'. I practice yoga slowly, mindfully, and compassionately. I use my strength to support myself in staying present and relax more, and to encourage myself to be kind as I guide myself back to this state - over and over again.
I practice every morning to attune myself in this way. Sometimes for over an hour sometimes for 10 minutes. But my approach is always the same. And what's amazing, is doing even a 10 minute morning practice, of just a couple of poses with lots of awareness and presence (as opposed to quickly rushing through a 10 minute practice to get a bunch of poses done), I can cultivate a more compassionate attention towards myself and others for the rest of the day. In turn, this creates even more opportunities to further relax, appreciate and connect more with others during my daily routine and even while attending to my list of things to do! This has been yoga's generous and transformative gift to me! A gift that I am so passionate about sharing through my up coming book Deep Listening releasing this October from Rodale Books!
In an effort to share this gift with you now, this month, in each blog, I am offering ideas and practices that can help us all return to this slower, more purposeful, relaxed presence. And stay tuned for some super gifts that we will be offering when you Pre-Order Deep Listening!
May we each find the freedom - to savor this season and all it's renewing beauty.
NO TIME TO SLOW DOWN? Slide one of these Three Easy Mindfulness Techniques right in to your daily routine.
STRONG ENOUGH TO SOFTEN: In this interview The Divine Feminine Yoga Conference 2016 - I discuss my journey of being a classic over achiever... and finally making room to hear the quieter softer callings with in.