March Madness

The other day I was watching a Knicks game with my boyfriend and I noticed one of the best players on the team was starting to unravel. I could see in his face that he was losing focus and getting caught up in his head. He ended up missing too many shots, became frustrated as a result, and soon fouled out of the game.

This month begins the NCAA college basketball tournament. Although, I’m not usually interested in basketball I have become fascinated with the players and how they cope with their successes and frustrations on the court. If an NBA player is susceptible to letting himself get lost in his head during a game, I am sure that experience is only exacerbated with the college players. However, the question is really how they handle the frustration after the experience. How do they snap back into focus and be fully there for themselves and their fellow teammates?

By now you are probably asking yourself – what does this have to do with yoga? Well the same thing can happen in a yoga class, if you come in and allow your mind to run wild and lose focus on the breath, the postures, and what you are doing you won’t foul out of class, but you would lose the benefits of yoga stilling the mind or worse you could end up with an injury. When you come to a class, private or group, set an intention and try your best to stay present. We all have our days when we loose our focus and just can’t concentrate to save our selves, but this is all part of the practice. It is easy to focus when we feel great, we love the teacher, we love the postures – but the true practice comes when things are not so easy, when we have to break through the cloudiness of our minds and find the flexibility in our mental bodies to allow us the compassion and persistence to stay present.

Of course playing in a college or professional basketball game has that competitive difference that yoga doesn’t, but we end up competing with ourselves, or even others when we let ourselves. Next time you are in a class become a witness to yourself, and see what goes first – does your mind wander easily? What can you do to bring your mind back into the present?

Shanti,

Liza

Mar01

The Chakras

Chakra translates to wheel or disk, and there are 7 majors ‘wheels’ located in our bodies. These chakras, or energy centers in our body correlate to our levels of consciousness, starting at the base of our spine with the most primitive level of consciousness and moving up the body to the 7th, or crown, chakra and the highest level of consciousness. The seven chakras are: Muladhara (root), Svadhisthana (sweetness),  Manipura (lustrious gem), Anahata (unstuck), Vissudha (purification), Ajna (Command Center), and Sahasara (thousand fold).

By looking to and studying the chakras we are able to find a deeper understanding of ourselves. To begin the path of better understanding ourselves we look at the foundation of the chakras, Muladhara or root support. The first chakra is located at the base of the spine and relates directly to our feeling of safety and our need for survival. When the Muladhara chakra is balanced one is comfortable in their body, well grounded, and has a sense of trust in the world.

If this chakra is out of balance it manifests in excess as hoarding, greed, and fear of change. Deficiency shows up as anxiousness, restlessness, and poor focus. A healing strategy to bring this chakra back into a place of balance is to ground yourself by reconnecting with the body through physical activity, such as hatha yoga.

Grounding is a process of dynamic contact with the earth. Without grounding we are unstable. We loose our center, can fly off the handle, or are lost in a day dreamy fantasy world. Through our connection with the earth, our roots we are able to gain nourishment, stability, and growth. Here is a simple exercise of grounding to try out:

Real life Practice: Come to standing position, straighten your legs and allow your feet to root into the earth. Close your eyes and feel the connection with the floor, the texture of the earth beneath you. With each inhale lengthen your body and each exhale press your feet strongly and evenly into the support of the floor. Slowly open your eyes and notice if you feel more grounded, secure, and free.

The task of mastering the first chakra is ultimately an understanding and healing of our bodies. Learning to accept our body, feel it, validate it, love it – these are the changes that await us here. That is why hatha yoga is the yoga of this chakra. It reconnects us to our roots, to our physical selves. We can begin to love and appreciate our bodies and move past the bonds of discomfort, hate or even disconnection from the body.

Curious to learn more? Join me for the Learning to See Yourself Workshop where we will cover the chakras in more detail. The workshop begins Thursday March 3rd – sign up today! Or come to my weekly group class at YogaWorks Union Square where each week the theme has a different chakra. This Sunday March 6th 5:30pm-7:00pm we will be focusing on the Manipura Chakra (Lustrous Gem).

I also update my Online Yoga Center weekly with videos about the chakras and practices to bring them into balance. The first and second chakra videos are already posted – check them out here. You can also subscribe to the LizaLairdYoga Youtube channel to see these inspirational videos.

Check this blog next week for a post on the second chakra – Svadhisthana.

Shanti,

Liza

Mar01

Commit and Let Go

On a dark and rainy Thursday night I gathered with friends on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for ‘An Evening of Conversation with Elizabeth Gilbert’ sponsored by The Academi of Life. Elizabeth Gilbert is the Author know best for her books Eat, Pray, Love and Committed.

The evening was inspiring, entertaining, and light. Elizabeth (Liz) is an amazing speaker, and the time flew by. Her latest book, Committed, is not just about her marriage to her sweetheart but her commitment to her writing, her continuous effort to write no matter what the result. What stood out for me and made me appreciate the book Committed so much more was how truly and fully dedicated she it to her craft, her writing and how in that one aspect of her life she is enlightened, but in all other respects of Liz’s life she still struggles like the rest of us. Liz is blessed to be so one pointed and focused, and as she called her self ‘not multi-talented’. Her dharma is clearly defined for her and there is no confusion on what she is set to do in her life.

During the Q&A someone asked her what they needed to do in order to get published and I appreciated her answer. She said first of all you need to write something, and make it as good as you possibly can make it, then find publishers/editors and write them extremely nice and warm letters, and then let it go – forget about it completely. This answer and much of the wisdom she imparted on us that night reminded me of my favorite quote from the Bhagavad Gita:

‘You have a right to your actions,
but never to your actions’ fruits.
Act for the action’s sake.
And do not be attached to inaction.

Self-possessed, resolute, act
without any thought of results,
open to success or failure.
This equanimity is yoga.

Action is far inferior
to the yoga of insight, Arjuna.
Pitiful are those who, acting,
are attached to their action’s fruits.

The wise man lets go of all
results, whether good or bad,
and is focused on the action the action alone.
Yoga is skill in actions.’

Bhagavad Gita , Verses 2.47-2.50

Don’t attach to the fruits of your actions – Liz made it clear that is how she worked and works with her writing. The journey is much more important than the end result. Her first few novels took 3-4 years to write and spent only a week on that front table in Barnes and Noble. But that didn’t bother her and it didn’t matter to her. What mattered were the 3-4 years, the journey of her writing, the work of passion that resonates, not the end result.

Of course it is easier said than done, to completely let go of the end result, but why not try it? Look at one aspect of your life, one project, one task and see if you can savor the journey and then completely let go of the fruits of your actions. Rather than obsessing over what will happen once the project is complete, enjoy the journey that you are currently on.

This reminds me of my current knitting project I am working on. I started it back in December 2009, and I am still working on it. It is not a difficult pattern, but early in the process I decided I would enjoy and savor each stitch rather than rush to get it done. The project has been a meditation of two years rather than just another knit item I can stack into my closet and sometimes show off. I of course have my moments when I just want to finish it, but now that I have only 6 inches left to knit I’m really savoring and enjoying the last leg of the trip.

So here is the practice for you to try out:
Commit to a project or task, savor the process, and ultimately you completely and utterly let it go.

Shanti,

Liza

Feb25

Practicing at Jiva Yoga Center

When traveling it can be hard to find a great local yoga studio to practice at. Although, it can be a good time to continue to work on your home practice, finding a new studio and teachers can help you develop your practice by being guided in a new way.

I was blessed this holiday season to spend almost two weeks at the Jiva Yoga Center on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. It has been an amazing experience to share yoga with my family and give myself time to connect with my practice outside of where I normally am. In NYC I have a multitude of studios at my fingertips, but Jiva offers an abundance of love and warmth that is hard to find. Jean Rioux, the owner and an amazing teachers welcomed my mom, dad, aunt, and I into her classes. We are all at different levels and her classes offered something for everyone. The classes were packed, with less than 2 inches between us, but you didn’t feel like you would be given the evil eye if you accidentally stepped on your neighbors mat or even tapped them with your foot while in 3 legged dog. The playful atmosphere helps yogis of all levels to enjoy their yoga practice how they need to at that moment.

The sense of community at Jiva makes you feel like a local, and not at all like a stranger. Jean and Ken Rioux have created a beautiful and welcoming space. Classes with Jean were inspiring, as were the classes with Laura Petersen, and Vicki Rickard – each teacher offering their own unique voice. The classes begin and end with 3 spectacular OMs, creating a sacred and spiritual space for all to practice in. The students are so grateful and eager to be in classes that the collective energy creates a powerful class for everyone. Class ends with Namaste and an enthusiastic and heartfelt applause – you can’t help but leave grinning ear to ear.

While practicing at Jiva I also took advantage of the massage therapy they offer. I received a massage from Catherine Cook, and it was so fantastic that I had another massage the very next day. I can’t tell you how much I want to stay here to enjoy more of this community and even try and bring it back to NYC. There were a few cold days in SC, but the studio’s warmth kept me full of joy for those cold days we had here.

If you are ever in the SC and the Hilton Head Island area I highly recommend heading to Jiva Yoga Center for a class and a massage!

Happy New Year!

Liza

Jan01