Sunday Morning Yoga with Gus, at the Green Monkey, Naples

My right elbow gave out on me today during a physically challenging hot yoga class. I had my right knee to my right elbow and flying, and suddenly my elbow gave way; it buckled and I fell, landing first on my boobs, then everything else collapsed onto my mat. I was lucky to have not face planted and quickly had gratitude for being well-endowed.

When I got back home after class, I had a texting conversation with a friend, one of my also “well-endowed” friends, and I shared with her my experience. She was concerned that I might be too hard on myself, especially since that particular elbow had a previous surgery. Our conversation sparked some thought and reflection, and then I picked up my pen and wrote.

First, I want to share, it is okay to fall out of a pose, and like life, when you fall, you just get back up and pick up where you left off. Secondly, I didn’t fall because I failed. I fell because “it” failed, regardless, it being my elbow, my strength or balance. I believe that if you go through life not experiencing failure, then you aren’t pushing your limits, exploring your edge, or expanding your comfort zone.

Although the yoga class was hard in a challenging way, I didn’t feel I was hard on my body. Our teacher, Gus, started the class with warning us he had consumed a large amount of caffeine, and in being honest, I felt some resistance flare up in me and immediately thought, “Oh no, this is going to be tough. I knew I shouldn’t have had that second glass of wine last night.” I released that feeling just as quickly as it came up and giggled with an attitude of “Here we go.” No exaggeration, 30+ Sun A Salutations later and only minutes into the class, I was sweating profusely and continually refocusing on my breath. Gus hit us hard for an hour of the 75 minute class, and we delivered.

Not every yoga class I attend is a heated power practice, but when I commit to showing up for my practice, I am all in. These tough classes challenge me and push me beyond my comfort zone. It is in these moments that I exceed my expectations, or more often, my self-limiting beliefs. I surprise myself with endurance and determination. My breath sustains me.

I might be a power yoga junkie, but I’m no superwoman and certainly check my ego at the door. And yes, like everyone else, my mind lies to me, too, and says, “You are going to die. Come out of the pose. Give up. You can’t do it.” But I tell those negative thoughts they aren’t welcome on my mat, and I release them and replace them with, “I’m not dying. I’m not quitting. I can do it.” Then, I do it, not always so gracefully, but I do it.

My yoga practice has helped me become a better person, equipped with more compassion and kindness. But this doesn’t mean that my authentic self is not often inappropriate or that I drift through life seeing all roses and rainbows. The truth is, that today during practice when our teacher had us hold an imaginary beach ball while in extended side angel pose, triangle pose, and revolved triangle pose, I also imagined throwing it at his head. If you ever see me giggle on my mat, it is because I am thinking something inappropriate and I truly crack myself up. There is a cartoon that says, “I am glad my thoughts don’t appear in bubbles over my head.” Well, boy am I glad they don’t because I would be in BIG trouble all of the time! I can’t undervalue a good sense of humor, and often resort to it when I need not take myself so seriously.

I leave my yoga mat stronger every time. I’m stronger physically and mentally, because I also do the inner work, that essence of my being that worked just as hard as my body. I leave class fulfilled with a deep satisfaction, a radical self-acceptance and self-love. Today, I also left class with tears in my eyes with an abundant gratitude for my teacher and our practice. And my boobs.

As a yogi, our spiritual journey doesn’t keep us from experiencing difficult times or facing times of darkness. My yoga journey has instead taught me how to use those dark or difficult times as opportunities to use compassion and kindness, as well as opportunities to learn and grow. It is our challenges, our struggles that make us stronger. Yoga has helped me embrace my reality, deal with it, sometimes gracefully, other times not so much, but I don’t run or hide. I show up for myself and deal. Our strength lies in our ability to accept, let go of what we think it should be, and surrender to what it is.

Today I am feeling strong, physically and mentally, and I am grateful for the gift of yoga in my life.

The end of 2016 is here, and what better time to reflect on the past year. Today during yoga class, our teacher told us to take inventory of our year without judgment, without labeling as good or bad. I encourage my readers to do the same. Find a quiet space, sit comfortably, and reflect. Don’t label; just acknowledge and feel. When you stumble on something that is weighing you down, commit to leaving it behind in 2016, and let it go. Don’t bring what doesn’t serve your higher purpose into the new year. You have the power to choose your thoughts and to choose your perception of the events in your life. Find the silver lining throughout the difficult times of 2016 and focus on what you learned, your growth. If you are experiencing a setback, then search for the meaning in it and create your plan to move forward.

Our teacher today also had us make an intention for the year of 2017. One word, although, I chose two being the overachiever that I am. I couldn’t decide between the two, so I stayed with both. Repeat that intention to yourself every day. I intend to _________. Or, I am ___________. Write it down and carry it with you. Put it on your calendar. Set is as a daily alert on your phone to remind you to live your intention. Truly commit to cultivating that intention throughout 2017. Write it on a post-it and stick it to your bathroom mirror. Use a magnet to hang it on your refrigerator. If you spend a lot of time in your car, stick your intention inside your car. Hang it up at work.

I challenge you to reflect on 2016, without judgment, find the silver lining and opportunities for growth, and leave behind what doesn’t serve you. If you need to forgive, then forgive. If you need to tell someone you love them, tell them. If you want a clean slate, clean it. I challenge you to set an intention and live and cultivate your intention in 2017.

As 2016 ends and I bid it farewell, I do it fondly, with gratitude. I welcome 2017 as I commit to living my yoga practice, creating my life with joy and abundance, respecting my journey, and living with intention.

Happy New Year!

Namaste,

MaryBeth

Meditation

If you haven’t tried meditation, I encourage you to give it a try this holiday season. There are many valuable benefits of being at peace with your mind and thoughts, and feeling calm and centered. Don’t be intimidated by not being able to clear your mind. It is a misconception that meditation requires clearing of the mind. Meditation is much more than that. It’s something that requires an open mind, patience, dedication, and time. One is not simply “good” or “not good” at meditating. It is just simply an exercise, a practice. Another misconception is that meditation and mindfulness are associated with religion. Practicing meditation is not associated with any belief. It is simply a technique to learn mind control. There are many different types of meditation. The most common is meditating in a quiet space, however, a walk or jog can also be a form of meditation. Some people meditate with their eyes closed, some with their eyes open. There are also guided meditations you can find on phone apps, YouTube, and other internet sources and outlets.  

Mediation is not about stopping your thoughts or blocking them. You simply let them come and then let them go. Try to see your thoughts as clouds floating through the sky of your mind, and then watch them drift by as other clouds move in. This mindful practice helps you realize just how impermanent your thoughts really are, and takes away their power to rule over your life. It teaches you the important and valuable truth that you are not your thoughts. Regardless of where, how, or the duration, meditation can help you find stillness. It can help you become aware of your thoughts, and can help you take back control of your mind. Meditation helps you relax and connect with the present moment. Meditation offers you clarity and increases your ability to focus.

If you are new to meditation, I would encourage you to start with just five minutes a day, and then increasing to 10 minutes, and then eventually 15 minutes. Here are a few helpful mediation tools: a comfortable cushion, a mala, a daily meditation book, a timer or even better, the Insight Timer App. The Insight Timer Meditation App is free and available on App Store and Google Play!

If you are interested in learning more about meditation, there are a plethora of articles written on the benefits of meditation. Both yoga and meditation have been popular topics in magazines and on television. On a recent segment of the popular TV show, The Doctors, they were discussing the implementation and many benefits of yoga and meditation in schools and how effective it has been for the students, their families, and educators. They stated, “one in five kids have stress related symptoms, and through yoga and meditation, the students dealt with stress better, had improved behavior, improved focus, higher test scores, better attendance and slept better at night.” To watch this segment on The Doctors, visit the following link:  http://www.thedoctorstv.com/videos/should-meditation-replace-detention-in-schools

By taking time for meditation, prayer, solitude, and silence, you connect with what is in your heart. Meditation helps me set my mind, like a reset button. I encourage you to give it a try by setting a goal for daily meditation throughout the month of December. There is no better time than now, especially with the holiday season upon us! Meditation will make you feel more calm and relaxed, and it is when you don’t have time to relax that you need to relax the most!

Meditation and My Winter Discovery by MaryBeth Tipton

October is winding down, central Ohio has reached its peak season for the fall color on our trees, and cooler weather is upon us! Part of me is resisting the change of season, while another part of me is relishing in it, and another part of me is looking forward to and already planning for the holidays. It is such a struggle to stay present.

Today during my meditation, I chose to keep my eyes open and stare out the window at the beautiful trees. I recognized my resistance to the upcoming barren trees and winter weather, and felt myself wanting to hold onto this season, as if my desires had anything to do with mother nature. It is in these moments that we find ourselves feeling an attachment to an idea or a comfort we so desire, that we must surrender to our lack of control and accept that change is the very nature of life. During meditation I had to continually redirect my thoughts to savor the moment, savor today, the colors still present on the trees, the coolness before the shiver, and allow myself to truly enjoy it without missing it before it is even gone, and without dreading the winter weather that is to come. Thinking more on my resistance during meditation, I went deeper and thought about why I was feeling so resistant, and decided to release that feeling and replace it with curiosity.

In my self-discovery, all I could come up with was “I don’t like winter”. Then curiosity hit me. What do I not like about winter? I could only list 3 things: I don’t like being cold, I don’t like driving in icy conditions, and I don’t like to have to wait in long lines when shopping. Is there anything to like about winter? Why not just change how I currently feel about winter and decide to like it? Why must I feel differently about winter as compared to the other seasons? Suddenly I realized I had an attachment to a belief, a belief that I don’t like winter, and that belief was preventing me from enjoying the outgoing season of fall and the incoming season of winter. That belief was interfering with my presence, making me feel melancholy about what is pending.

Once I allowed my curiosity to run rampant, I shifted my perspective and discovered I actually love winter. I love shopping and gift giving, and that just happens to be associated with Christmas and the holiday season. I love fires and curling up with a blanket. I love winter because Courtney and Kyle were both born in the winter, and we get to celebrate their birth in January and February. I love winter because I love to decorate the house with snowmen and the color red, and I enjoy my sparkling Christmas trees. I love winter because I tend to spend more time at home during the shorter days which lends to me spending more time in my kitchen, and more time with Larry and Jack. I love winter because I am more apt to take a luxurious bath with candlelight and classical music playing. I love winter because Larry is more likely to want to cuddle with me. I love winter because at Christmastime I look forward to receiving cards in the mail from friends and family I haven’t seen in years. I love winter because our family spends time together at Christmastime. I love winter because I get to wear my boots, cozy sweaters and scarves. I love winter because I get to see a few Columbus Blue Jackets hockey games. And finally, I love winter because during the winter months, I spend many days, okay weeks, in sunny Florida! I know, that one stung a little, but I had to add it because it’s the truth!

So to get to my point…If you find yourself unable to stay in the present moment, and looking ahead with anticipation that prevents your enjoyment of today, then recognize what you are doing, dig a little deeper with curiosity as to why, and then change your perspective. If you are holding onto yesterday and unable to truly live with vitality in the present, then shift your perspective by looking in front of you, not behind. If you find yourself dwelling too long in the past or the future, then just reel yourself back to the present moment. The very act of recognizing your thoughts and feelings, releasing them, and refocusing is meditation.

Meditation is a magical time of self-discovery that can lead to a much more peaceful existence. Meditating for just ten minutes feels like pushing a reset button on your day, allowing you to regain control of your thoughts and feelings. That time you spend in silence, looking with curiosity within yourself, will help you grow and develop as you begin to process the events of your life and the meaning that you have given them that might not necessarily be true. You might discover a false belief, a fear or an attachment that you can now release and move through. Transformation takes place when you drop whatever story you are telling yourself and open your heart to the truth. Our awareness of self and the act of working through those layers can be both uncomfortable and liberating. But in the end, the reward is truly a much happier, peaceful life, and it all starts with mindfulness and meditation.

Yoga Is Sweeping the Nation

Yoga is sweeping the nation. More books on yoga are hitting the shelves, more news broadcasts are doing segments on yoga and its many benefits, and more celebrities and athletes are accrediting yoga for their abilities. You’ve heard about yoga from Oprah Winfrey, and you’ve watched episodes about yoga on Rosie O’Donnell and Good Morning America. Just last week, I watched the Today Show as Hoda Kotb was getting fitness advice from a model and doing boat pose in her dress. Outside of yoga studios, yoga classes are being offered in country clubs, health clubs, and even in corporate offices. In 2014, approximately 2.5 billion dollars was spent on yoga instruction and an estimated six billion dollars was spent on yoga products.

According to a Roper Poll, six million Americans were doing yoga in 1994, and a more recent estimate places the current number at 12 million. Los Angeles Times estimates there are more than 70 yoga studios in Southern California alone, with some of the bigger ones pulling in as much as $30,000 a week. The popular Jivamukti Yoga Center in Manhattan offers over 108 classes a week, with an average of 60 students packed into every class.

The Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Lenox, Massachusetts draws close to 20,000 guests a year, for an annual gross of about $10 million. A search on Amazon.com pulls up more than 1,350 yoga book titles. Other than Dr. Oz, more doctors are recommending yoga and some insurance companies are actually paying for it. Fortune 500 companies offer yoga to its employees over their lunch hour, and I have recently taught some of these lunchtime yoga classes. Psychotherapists recommend it to reduce stress, and more counselors are referring school-age children with ADD and ADHD to yoga teachers and studios. Yoga and meditation are being taught in AIDS centers, hospice locations, corporate boardrooms, women’s shelters, inner city churches, just to name a few. Yoga is currently being researched at several universities including Harvard. In the Harvard Health Publications, Dr. Marlynn Wei wrote, “Mind-body practices like yoga and meditation have been shown to reduce your body’s stress response by strengthening your relaxation response and lowering stress hormones like cortisol. Yoga has been shown to have many health benefits, including improving heart health and helping relieve depression and anxiety.”

Stephen Cope, author of Yoga and the Quest for the True Self and scholar-in-residence at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health says, “People who come here don’t only want to get into their bodies—they want to get into their bodies so they can get connected with the meaning and purpose of their lives. They want their whole lives to be transformed in some way. On opening nights of programs, you have people saying things like ‘I want to find my true voice. I want to find the self I’ve lost touch with.’”

We are a culture that’s obsessed with our bodies, but sadly, out of touch with them. Yoga taps into our lust for physical perfection, and at the same time, gives us a feeling of balance and peace. Other than the physical workout, yoga aims to calm your mind and open your heart. Seasoned yogis will tell you that yoga is much less about the poses and much more about one’s awareness of self, self-acceptance, and self-love. Yoga teaches presence in and gratitude for the world we live in, but without an attachment to it.

For most beginner yogis, yoga just makes them feel good, and they like to feel good. And if it makes them feel better about their bodies and their looks, then they are all for that as well. Many new yoga goers are searching for relief from physical pain and tension, an inner calm and relaxation, and/or the ability to be more present in their relationships and more focused in their work. I can truthfully say that yoga delivers.

For thousands of years, yoga has asked that we get quiet enough to look deeply at exactly what is within us and around us. While cultures have changed almost beyond recognition, the human heart has not. The ultimate challenge of yoga remains to come into direct contact with our own unruly and ever-changing minds, and our fragile and impermanent bodies.

As both a yoga student and teacher, yoga has not only helped me become more flexible and physically stronger, but it has also helped me become more calm, aware, and mindful. At some point during my yoga journey, I became more accepting, accepting of myself and accepting of life in general. Yoga has been extraordinarily helpful in bringing mindfulness and presence to my daily life, giving me the ability to feel and release, letting go and shifting perspective. I’ve developed a friendship with myself, not just on my mat, but off my mat. I’ve become more connected, less attached, more peaceful, and much happier. I have found strength in something so simple as my breath. I have gained clarity and more control over my thoughts. I feel that yoga has made me a better person, and continues to challenge me to look within.

For further reading from Harvard, visit the following link where you will find several articles on yoga. http://harvardguidetoyoga.com/our-articles/. You will also find many articles on yoga at http://www.yogajournal.com.

Get Twisted

3 Spinal Stretches & Twisting Poses

These poses are often taught to people with hip or back stiffness, sacroiliac imbalances, degenerative disks, arthritis, or sciatica. Perform each pose for five breaths on each side.

1. Simple Chair Twist

Sit sideways on a chair with your right hip facing the chair back and a block between your thighs. The chair will stabilize the lower back, pelvis, and legs, allowing you to safely rotate your upper spine. Place the hands on the chair back as you inhale and lift the spine. Exhale and twist, pulling with the left hand and pushing with the right. Allow the head and neck to follow the twist of the spine.

2. Revolved Triangle with chair

Place a chair in front of you and put your right foot between its front legs. Step your left foot back about 4 feet and turn it in 80 degrees. Place your hands on your hips and square them. Inhale, lift your torso, exhale, and fold forward, placing your left hand on the chair seat, in line with your right big toe. Place your right hand on your sacrum and twist to the right, bringing the right shoulder toward the ceiling and the left ribs forward. To go deeper, place the left elbow on the chair and raise the right arm.

3. Marichyasana III (Marichi’s Twist III), with chair

With or without a block, put your right foot on the block/chair with the toes facing forward. Place your left hand on your right knee and your right palm on your sacrum. Inhale and lift the spine, then exhale and twist to the right, allowing your neck and head to follow. Keep the hips even and twist from the upper spine. Press the right hand into the back waist to turn the torso more deeply.

For pictures of the poses and more twists, reference:

http://www.yogajournal.com/article/back-pain/easy-does-it/

 

Benefits of Yoga

Benefits of Yoga

PHYSICAL BENEFITS:

·         Accelerates weight loss by increasing the CALORIES you burn. The higher the intensity and the longer the duration of the yoga practice, the more calories you will burn. Calories burned per session are also dependent upon your body weight, body fat percentage (the more muscle you have the more calories you burn), age, and gender (men tend to have more muscle, so they burn more calories).

·         Increases metabolic rate, which is your overall ability to burn calories throughout the day.

·         Decreases body fat percentage.

·         Increases mobilization and utilization of fat as a fuel.

·         Builds lean muscle mass, which is metabolically active.

·         Improves muscle tone, agility, and flexibility.

·         Strengthens bones, ligaments, and tendons.

·         Yoga is a weight-bearing exercise so it helps prevent osteoporosis.

 

PHYSIOLOGICAL BENEFITS:

·         Cleanses, detoxifies, and brings nutrients to all your vital organs.

·         Improves circulation of oxygen and nutrients to active muscles.

·         Decreases resting heart rate.

·         Increases heart and stroke volume and cardiac output.

·         Increases total blood volume and oxygenates blood.

·         Increases maximum oxygen consumption and ventilation.

·         Increases lung capacity, as well as opens and aerates the lungs.

·         Reduces BLOOD PRESSURE.

·         Increases HDL (good cholesterol)

·         Decreases LDL (bad cholesterol)

·         Reduces blood glucose.

·         Helps prevent Coronary Artery Disease, Obesity, Osteoporosis, Type 2 Diabetes.

·         Improves arthritis.

·         Balances the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.

·         Helps to regulate and balance hormones.

·         Improves the function of the sexual organs.

·         Improves the quality of life and can lengthen longevity.

 

PSYCHOLOGICAL BENEFITS:

·         Decreases clinical symptoms of anxiety, tension, and depression.

·         Builds self-confidence.

·         Increases awareness, alertness and brain function.

·         Cleanses and purifies the mind and intellect.

·         Reduces stress and improves total well-being emotionally, physically and spiritually.