11 things to try in 2011

Here are 11 things to try out in 2011. They are in no particular order. Try 1 or all 11 and see what lightness you can bring into your life in the new year!

1. Yoga + Wine in Tuscany

2. Yoga Therapy Sessions

3. Private Yoga Classes

4. Walking 20 min a day

5. 5 min meditation in morning and evening

6. Practicing patience with the one person you can’t stand

7. Taking a few deep breaths before sending an email, text, or phone call. What is your intention for communication and does it represent your true self?

8. Yoga + Yarn

9. Start reading the Yoga Sutras

10. Practice graditude daily. Write or think of 5 things you are greatful for.

11. SMILE!

Dec31

What’s the rush?

The last day of the year is upon us! Only a few more hours of 2010 to reflect on the past year and look ahead to 2011. I have been taking time over the past month to look back on the year to see what went well, and what went not so well. I wanted to use this time of reflection as a way to help write the last newsletter of 2010. As I was going through this process I began to repeat a new mantra daily: What’s the rush?

Early in December the theme of my classes was the practice of patience. I was finding that as the end of the year came closer the sense of urgency increased in my friends, students, family, and the mass of strangers running all over New York City. When teaching the practice of patience I could feel the tension my students were holding begin to evaporate. Though the tension may have left only for a little while, they were beginning to see how patience can bring greater ease on the yoga mat and ultimately use that practice outside of the yoga studio.

With the winter blizzard changing holiday plans it is apparent that practicing patience and realizing that there is no rush can offer greater ease in these uncertain times. So before diving into the new year without taking a moment to pause or breathe, I invite you to explore your past year and the year ahead.

Try to complete this practice before or during sunset tonight. Allow the slow, serene beauty of nature to guide you in your presence and patience during this practice. Set yourself up outside or near a window at a desk or a comfortable seated position on the floor. Have a notebook, pen, and timer.

Take 10 minutes to look back on 2010. What are the 10 greatest things of the year and what are the 10 things you would like to improve on in the new year?

Now take 11 minutes to set your intention for 2011. Remember, what is the rush? Take your time as you look at your future and how you want shape your world for the next 12 calendar months.

May we all live light, because everything is already okay.

Om Shanti,

Liza

Dec31

The practice of gratitude

Today is not just a day for stuffing our faces with food, but a day filled with gratitude. It is a time for us to offer our thanks to those close to us.

This is my family’s first Thanksgiving without my grandmother and sister. My grandmother passed away in June and my sister and her husband moved to Singapore in September. These absences at our Thanksgiving table remind me that anything can change at any moment in life, and that I have no other choice but to be grateful for everything that I have right now. Sutra I.23 in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is Isvara pranidhanat va  — “through complete and total surrender to a higher power”. This is one of nine recommended ways to steady the mind and free the self from suffering in the face of obstacles — or what may look like obstacles to you.

Isvara pranidhana
is the practice of trusting the order of the universe and not trying to deny your circumstances. It is not a blind acceptance that everything will work out for the best, but a realization that none of us are free from illness, injury, or death. It is a recognition that the order in the world may be beyond our understanding, and we may not ever be in a position to mold that order to our demands and desires. A peace is found in that recognition — our destinies may be out of our control, but that also means that however desperate or sad we find ourselves to be in one moment, we have no reason to believe that desperation or sadness will continue indefinitely into the future. Happiness and peace find us more easily than we find them.

Yoga chitta vritti nirodha
, Sutra I.2 — “yoga is the quieting of the fluctuations of the mind”. Through the practice of controlling our thoughts we make it more likely that peace and happiness find us. By controlling our thoughts, we can use our mind to create the reality around us. As a well known Sanskrit saying goes: “As the mind, so the man; bondage or liberation are in your own mind.” If you believe you are bound, then you are bound. If you believe you are liberated, than you are liberated. What you think is what you manifest in your life. By weaving gratitude and positive thoughts into your Thanksgiving celebration, you help promote a liberated mindset throughout your daily life. It’s not about your current circumstances; acknowledge those circumstances as they are, and then see if you can change your perspective on them. Are you feeling bound or liberated at this moment?

There was recently an article in the Wall Street Journal, Thank you. No, thank you.’: Grateful People Are Happier, Healthier Long After the Leftovers Are Gobbled Up. The article highlighted that gratitude may help your mental and physical health. Adults who are regularly grateful are more optimistic, less envious and depressed, have fewer physical complaints, and exercise more. Children who are often grateful tend to have better grades, more satisfaction in their lives, and are less materialistic. Yoga is the practice of controlling the mind and altering habitual thought patterns or samskaras. Samskaras are our personal tendencies — the mental and emotional patterns we are born with. These samskaras can be positive or negative. In Western Psychology these samskaras are similar to cognitive distortions. A negative cognitive distortion is a habitual or automatic thought pattern that can cause us to feel overwhelmed and terrified even when it is not warranted. Researchers are finding that practicing gratitude can change our moods and alter our habitual patterns, causing us to be more optimistic and less depressed.

Before you dig into your big turkey or tempe dinner take 10-30 minutes to reflect on a few questions:

What you are grateful for? (Try to come up with 5 things!)
Who in your life could you thank more often?
What experiences in your life are you grateful for?
What is different today than it was a year ago that you’re thankful for?

Try writing these questions and answers down and when you reach your family or friend’s home for the big meal take a moment to say one of the things or people you are grateful for out loud. Find gratitude in the food that is in front of you and savor each bite – don’t rush through it!

Take this holiday to start or build on a practice of gratitude. Allow yourself to see all of the light that is already within your life.

Have a happy, gratitude-filled holiday!

Shanti,
Liza

Nov25

What are santosa and samskara?

Santosa is the attitude we have towards our current state and activities. It is the acceptance and peace in the current moment. Santosa, is not wanting or desiring more, but being in the present.

Samskaras are our personal tendencies — the mental and emotional patterns we are born with. These samskaras can be positive or negative. In Western Psychology these samskaras are similar to cognitive distortions. A negative cognitive distortion is a habitual or automatic thought pattern that can cause us to feel overwhelmed and terrified even when it is not warranted.

Feelings of low-self esteem or taking everything personally are samskaras that can keep you from santosa, the feeling of contentment. Samskaras are the roadblocks, but we can learn to by pass and move beyond to reach santosa. The more we make it our everyday practice to be content the easier it will become to be at peace in the center of all the chaos. Too much of our time is spent with these samskaras or cognitive distortions of comparing ourselves to others, thinking ‘what if’, and blaming that we get lost in the mind and are unable to enjoy the wonderful life at hand.

What samskaras are playing over and over in your head and how can you change them to help find santosa?

Shanti,

Liza

Nov25