Pose of the Week: Peaceful Warrior

Peaceful Warrior.jpg

Peaceful Warrior

SHANTI VIRABHADRASANA

“There is no path to happiness. Happiness is the path. There is no path to love. Love is the path. There is no path to peace. Peace is the path.”

~Dan Millman

After the incredible amount of violence this week, it only seems fitting that the pose of the week would be peaceful warrior. I love that traditional yoga often centers around the warrior postures. It reminds us, we do not need vengeance to be strong. We do not need to inflict pain upon another to be triumphant. It reminds us that we do not count our victories as the number of wars have defeated on the battle field, but rather the amount of wars we have overcome within ourselves.

My heart goes out to those suffering right now at the hand of another. I feel so removed from that reality, I can only say this: The war stops externally, when the war stops internally. Peace is a choice. And it is possible. Do not lose faith. Do not lose your smile to grief. Draw inward and we will be triumphant. ❤

om shanti om shanti om shanti om.

Benefits of the Pose:

  • Strengthens the Legs
  • Stretches abdominal muscles and engages core
  • Stretches and supports the lungs
  • Opens Chest & Shoulder
  • Opens Heart

Asana Break Down:

Come into Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II), check your alignment with the front ankle. Make sure it is in alignment with the arch of the back foot. The back foot should be flat at a 45 degree angle. Bend deeply into the front knee. Make sure your front knee does not go past the front ankle. Draw the thighs together, squaring the hips, as if they were being pressed between two panes of glass. Arms should come out directly from the shoulder blades. Turn the hands towards the sky and bend backwards. Back and highly presses into the back leg. Most of the strength is being drawn from the core; the weight is not on the back knee. Open the chest and the heart lifts and spreads. Front arm comes over head, gaze comes towards the sky or the thumb.

 

Above, I have a chant you can say out loud or silently to yourself, either in this posture or sitting quietly. Om shanti translates into “om” the divine universe and “shanti” translates to peace, as a phrase it means may the divine creator, energy, and wisdom grant eternal peace to all things.

Mistakes: A Step In The Right Direction

It is a misconception to think any one of any stature is ever free from the capability of making mistakes. Mistakes can arise from even the most sincere intention or the smallest lapse in judgement. The importance of mistakes is that they give you feedback and new direction.

Growing up, I was a girl who strived for perfection and deeply criticized myself, my worth, and my merits if I did not meet the impossibly high standard I had set for myself. Interestingly enough, I did not have parents who pressured me to act this way nor was anything else in my surroundings urging me to do this to myself. It came from with in. This unfathomable fear of being wrong. I would say today I can at least pat myself on the back for not being a perfectionist, but I still do strive to answer the question, “What is the most right?”.

I remember this summer, I briefly took a job as a barista at my favorite coffee house. I really had no business being there, however. I knew nothing of coffee, nor did I even drink it myself. On one of my first days, I kept making a series of mistakes that lead to lots of spilling and clean up. I was so embarrassed, but relieved when I apologized to one of my co-workers who replied, “That’s okay. Mistakes are where life happens.”

Even recently, when I moved in with my partner — a move I may not have truly been ready for in my heart, but quickly learned to adapt to — he said to me a quote of similar nature: “Mistakes are unavoidable so you might as well have fun and enjoy the ride.”

Naturally, the part of my brain that has in some way or another programmed itself to strive for perfection was being overrided by the notion that a mistake could possibly been a good thing.

Mistakes are bound to happen. They hurt ourselves and they can hurt others, but they are ultimately how we learn, where we grow, and are what makes our journey unique. I recently lost a job I cared about deeply for a careless mistake, a mistake compatible to that which you make on a math test and think to yourself, “Really? I can’t believe I forgot to do that!”. It’s with a heavy heart that I step away from there, deeply regretting my actions. But I’d like to think that nothing happens without reason. Even mistakes. Yes, even mistakes are divinely orchestrated and can lead you to exactly where you need to be.

This post isn’t to say that you should purposefully make mistakes, but, perhaps, when you do make them, give yourself some room to breathe. Give yourself permission to mess up because that’s where life happens. When you find yourself in the midst of self-ridicule try to change to tone to one of self-compassion and have a little faith. Even though, you may feel deeply sorry for your actions, trust that all is as is because the universe is as is. And, ultimately that it will be okay. Have trust in your actions and faith in your merits. ❤

Gratitude: An Infectious Way of Thinking

gratitude

When I was younger, I used to suffer from severe depression. I expressed my sadness to my father one day and said, “I feel so depressed all the time and I don’t know why or how to stop it.” With loving eyes he handed me the sandalwood Mala you see in the corner of my yoga mat. He said,”take this and every time you feel sad, hold a bead and think of one thing you are grateful for. Keep moving through the beads and your saddness will go away.” And he was right. So now every time I practice I keep my Mala in the corner of my yoga mat to remind me that happiness is a choice and gratitude is the key component in making it a part of our everyday life. I’ll admit, I still struggle with depression. It haunts me all the time. When I drop into that place it’s nearly impossible to be grateful or find anything to have gratitude for. But, for me, it’s just another part of the practice. Being a yogi doesn’t mean happy all the time. Being a yogi means making a continue choice and using continual effort to express truth and find divinity within the aspects we find to be most human and banal.

How to Move Forward: An Open Letter to Finding Comfort in Discomfort

Potensial

They say that the two of the most stressful things a person can endure are moving and the loss of someone close to you. On September 7th of this year my grandmother, a women whom I loved dearly and will miss eternally passed away. The grief still unfolds new for me everyday, unveiling a new layer of knowing the absence of her presence. Each day it becomes more clear that I can’t pick up the phone to call her, that I will never hear her Brooklyn accent, eat her roast beef, ride with her in the back of her cherry red car, or share my life with her. She was the most amazing listener and the dearest of grandmothers. When she passed, our cousin who lived near her said, “I want you to know that even though you live so far away, she breathed you everyday.” I remember hearing that and thinking to myself, “Wow. What a sacred thing to breathe someone.” To breathe someone, to know that no matter the distance, no matter the situation you are loved by one another. You are held by one another in a way that is as permanent and as impermanent as the breath.

In the coming weeks, I signed a lease with my boyfriend, Josh. We ended up in a beautiful little apartment right off Main St. I knew that it was because of her that we got the place. I just had a feeling: The odds of a college student with no credit and a mother as a second reference with a post-grad swamped with debt made us unlikely candidates. Yet here we are.

The idea of moving in together was not a new one, nor did it come into play silently without any debate. Very early in our relationship I decided moving in with Josh was something I wanted. For eight months I continued to nudge and ask for this move. Finally, Josh said yes. He saw part of him wanted to pursue our relationship in this way and that he needed to get away from his current living situation.

I have never lived with a partner before. Needless to say, everything feels entirely new and not entirely how I thought it would be. Everyday since we’ve moved in I have felt heavy in my heart, feeling as if I broke something that didn’t need to be fixed. I have yearned and yearned for my old room, my old house, and my old roommates, simply for the fact that they were familiar. Last night, my partner looked at me and said, “When are you going to arrive? I feel like I have been living here a week and my roommate hasn’t showed up.”

Crushed by my self guilt and the notion that I am letting him down, I recalled a conversation I had with my mentor earlier that evening. With loving eyes and little detail of my situation she said, “Expectations take you out of the present. You cannot find happiness where expectations lie. Furthermore, you’ve signed a year-long commitment with this person so you need to give it your 100%. By the time your lease is up you will know what you need to do.”

All of this leads up to writing this post this morning. I flashed back to the moment another yoga mentor of mine told me in the most arduous of poses, “This is life, right? It’s so painful and uncomfortable, but it’s all about how you approach it.”

So yes, happenings like death and moving may be some of the most stressful things one can endure, amongst many others. However it is not our circumstances that define our quality of life, but the way we choose to navigate them that counts. I noticed, the most painful things require a great deal of adaptability, for it is great change, I believe, that haunts us most in this life. Still, each day is a choice to stay in Duhka (suffering) or find Dharana (contentment). Finding contentment is a continual practice, one that takes conscious and undivided effort. It begins with showing up in the midst of discomfort and knowing that is shall pass. Knowing that change will change again and it’s all about how you approach it, so you may as well enjoy the ride.

grandma

Dedicated to Shirley Klein Harwood

When Life Gives You Lemons

We’ve all had those days…. The sours days that you wish you could just delete from the record or a string of really bad days that leave you feeling beaten and dejected. And sometimes it seems like everything just rubs you the wrong way. As a yogi, or as someone generally trying to be a decent person, when someone aggravates you almost want to skip over the anger. We try to cool our ego with compassionate lessons we’ve been taught: “Oh, we’re all one,” “They are just mirrors of my personality, so I’m really just aggravated by myself,” “They are doing the best they can,” etc. But, regardless of our best efforts we may still feel anger, and that anger turns to guilt and self-hatred. Before we know it, we have turned on ourselves. Unable to offer the same compassion and forgiveness that we are trying to give to someone else. And as the ego continues to churn out terrible thoughts, we are left with a choice: to either continue to run the hamster wheel of hatred until it spins out of our control, or find it with in ourselves to be with our emotions as they are. Sure, it is true we are all one and we are only hurting ourselves if we fail to see the fault within others is also a fault within ourselves. But if you can acknowledge that and, further more, accept those emotions as they arise, well…that is power my friend, and true self love. We do not have to be the angelic, passive, everything-is-always-fine yogi, because that is not our truth. Part of the beauty of yoga is being able to be firmly rooted in Satya (truth) and our truth is that we are beautiful human beings who are doing the best we can at our own level of awareness at any given moment. We find our lemonade in the sweetness of our own truth, emotion and owning ourselves as we are, regardless of whether or not we label that state of being as good or bad. So own your anger, and your bad days, and sit with it the thoughts and emotions as they arise with in. See what part is you, what part of it is ego, take the passive state as the observer, and when the anger and frustration ensue? Own it. Love it. And make lemonade.