The Gift of Yoga

This past Friday I got to do what I love to do the most – expose people to the wonderful gift of yoga. Had the studio at OmBodies filled with “old” and “new” CMU McNair Scholars. I feel blessed that I’m in a position to actually do this in my work, in addition to “planting seeds” with pretty much any person I meet or talk to. I took a risk and started incorporating yoga into our scholar programming almost five years ago now. You see, we strive to support our students in ways that go far beyond academics.

When I talk about McNair, I like to say that we’re in the business of developing confident individuals who have the wherewithal to achieve an advanced degree if they so choose. I also like to say that no matter what you have for a goal, you aren’t going to be busting out anything of any real magnitude if you don’t have yourself together with baseline self-care. I call it EAT SLEEP MOVE. If you aren’t taking care of how you are doing each, you’re not going to be in any shape to really flourish in your life.

The fact is, our scholars spend a lot of time working very hard in their classes, many have jobs in addition, and they just have really full schedules that sometimes don’t allow for things like downtime, exercise, healthy eating, etc.

So where does yoga fit into this picture? And what makes yoga special?

Most logically it fits into the MOVE category of self-care, but it’s so much more than just exercise. It’s a type of exercise that offers physical benefits like strength and flexibility, but it also incorporates things like breath work and present moment awareness that can really lead to significant shifts in the way we exist and move through our daily lives.

It’s really a “practice” that one develops over time that usually starts with the physical postures, but often ends up becoming a way to feel more connection among your mind, body and spirit. The physical practice becomes more like a “moving meditation” and allows you to become more in tune with yourself. Some people even say that yoga can help you discover your true self.

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Yoga helps me get rid of things that don’t really matter.

When you practice yoga, you begin to develop an “inner stature” or state of being in which your mind is at ease (thus, yoga is great for stress management). By going inward and focusing on the breath while engaging in the physical postures, you can, in a sense, train your mind to be more aware – more aware of how you might be feeling, more aware of external circumstances, aware of the constant flow of thought. The thing is, at the same time yoga teaches us how to become more aware, the goal is to not attach to any sort of outcome or desire. The goal of the moving meditation is simply to acknowledge what comes up and let it go – let it just float on by.

In talking with one of our scholars about what makes yoga great – she said, “It’s like cardio for the mind.” Brilliant.

This is where the real beauty is – as you go deeper inside yourself, you become clear on your intentions in life and who you are as a person. You also start to de-clutter the mind, getting rid of “stuff” that doesn’t really matter. Things in the past, things that might stress you out (that you can’t control), things that might not really matter all that much in the long run. You simplify. You simplify on lots of levels.

After I do yoga, I always feel wrung out. Wrung out on a physical level, but on the level of my mind too. It’s as if I’m getting down to the very nitty gritty of life, stripping away all the layers of bullshit that accumulate and getting down to my very core. Somehow, as I develop a sense of mindfulness, I’m finding myself letting go of things that don’t really matter. That might mean, something that someone said offhandedly that might have rubbed me the wrong way, to festering about the quiz that I didn’t do as good as I could have on, to being okay with where I’m at in my life, today. I think sometimes we can become so swept up in our daily responsibilities, our problems, our goals, that we can lose sight of the sweetness of life, that is, what is right at this very moment, right now.

That, in my mind, is the true gift of yoga.

lmc

Time and Time Again

What’s your relationship with time? Is it a good one? For me, I most often view time as the enemy, something to be battled against in order to attain some level of sanity in a pressure-filled world. Within the constant struggle, however, I always seem to lose. Almost rarely do I feel “on top of things” with regard to my to do list or feel “ahead of the game” when it comes to maintaining a functioning household and doing my “day job” well.

I find myself talking about this conundrum quite often – with my students, fellow moms and work colleagues. As a matter of fact, the topic of time comes up pretty quickly because I’m usually lamenting how difficult it is to “find the time” (can one actually do that??) to schedule in a meeting, a chit-chat, a regular “touch base” time with many a friend, colleague, student, that will keep us feeling engaged, connected and fulfilled by our relationship. The clincher here, if you will, is that when I become “overly scheduled” with such items, it quickly weighs me down, starts to feel constricting and leads to overwhelm.

What is the secret to organizing one’s self in such a way as to feel uplifted, triumphant, even buoyed by time? Perhaps the goal even should be to achieve a state of timelessness within the flow of our normal everyday. I know one thing for sure though; I’m tired of constantly racing against time.

I’ve taken to examining the myriad tips, tricks and tools out there that deal with the challenge of time management. As my continuous struggle has informed my own approach to managing myself, my responsibilities, my activities, I’m interested in applying these lessons learned to a new way of living with time.

Danielle LaPorte writes, “We’re obsessed with the doing of life, adrift from the being.”

She hits it straight on here and brings in another key issue related to time and my relationship with it – this idea of “present moment” – being fully present to what is happening, living in the moment instead of the mind constantly drifting to an analysis of the past or planning and worry of the future. Either way we get screwed out of actually taking in and enjoying the moment.

So this topic of time certainly will not be solved in one short blog post. I’ll conclude for the moment with this concept of setting realistic expectations. It comes from one of the books I’m reading on this topic of “time investment” (notice the shift in perspective here even in the title). I always talk about my “sickness” of creating unrealistic to do lists – and I do this ALL OF THE TIME. Seriously. I think I can do like ten things in five minutes (multi-tasking of course, oh so healthy) – especially in the five minutes that I should be using to arrive “on time” to my next commitment or activity (read: picking up kids on time from school). This definitely leads to constant rushing, feelings of defeat and being pissed off as well as general underlying frustration with my self and how I interface with the world.

What I’m paying close attention to this week: how I set myself up for success or failure when it comes to making choices about how I invest my time. I’m going to scrutinize my to do lists this week and notice how I’m feeling when working through them. I’m going to cut in half what I normally would try to do, each time I find myself setting out expectations for how something should go or what things I intend to accomplish. I’m making a wish that some real epiphanies emerge.

Now this could get interesting! Stay tuned.