the most important yoga pose.

sitting

An organizer and lesson-planner at heart (and by degree) I try to be 110% prepared for each class I teach. My notes are illegible to anyone else– lots of arrows and stick figures and Sanskrit abbreviations– the usual. But lately, well.. my lesson planning book has been 110% BLANK.

It’s not like I haven’t been thinking about yoga all the time: I completely immersed myself for 5 days by studying with my teacher in Philadelphia and you know, that whole owning a yoga studio thing. But somehow last week, I found myself showing up at Westport Yoga KC with a blank lesson book. <awkwardly-embarrassed-grimace>

Here’s what you missed:

Me: Uhhhmmm… lis? Are you kidding me? What the heck are you teaching today? You don’t have a flow sequence and detailed lesson plan?!? What have you been doing all day?

Me:  Yeah, I know… don’t rub it in. I’ve been working all day.

Me: Great… but still?!? What are you going to teach today?

Me: Calm down, lady. I know Yoga. I know breath. I know meditation. I know how to connect with my Divine Light. That’s what I’m going to teach.

Because what I did I need to remember? YOGA is in the mind. It’s not in the super cool arm balances and super-amazingly-detailed sequence leading to a brilliant peak pose break through. Yoga doesn’t care how well I am prepared to teach some poses in a certain order. The poses are just some ways to PRACTICE my yoga, so that when I show up for life, sometimes unprepared, I still respond with compassion toward myself and toward others.

I’ve found repeatedly, that the most important yoga pose, of all time, is just sitting and getting prepared to approach all the chaos within myself with a sense of grace and compassion. The most important yoga pose is sitting still long enough to be present, to feel yoga.

It’s freaking difficult. It requires so much vulnerability. It requires so much forgiveness. It requires so much tenacity and so much courage. But, I promise you: it’s so worth it. Because you’ll learn to love the choas within and the choas without.

As Swami Rama reminds us:

Yoga teaches you what no one else can, how to love yourself.

If sitting still (quietly) is torture for you, try some of my Guided Audio Meditations (which I even listen to when my mind is going nuts!)

Here’s a good one: “Sat Nam”

And more can be found on my guided meditation page

Go sit outside… take a deep breath… get prepared.

seated

-lisa

how yoga helps us love ourselves. #MeditationThoughtMondays

understanding pic

Real-talk confession (read: moderately judgmental but totally honest statement): I cringe when I hear anyone equate ‘taking a yoga class’ to ‘going to the gym.’  Something along the lines of, ‘Oh, I’m not going to pay for a yoga class because I already have an unlimited gym membership and I work out there all the time.’

I mean, I’m glad you’re moving.  Sitting is the new smoking, so please, run and bike and walk and jump around on boxes and over tires and in front of swinging kettle-balls-of-death during your gym-rat time as much as you want.  But please, don’t equate that workout to yoga. 

Yoga is not an exercise routine, it is a path to finding freedom from self-inflicted frustration and a path to uncovering your heart’s desire.  It is a science that requires deep introspection and examination of all the mental patterns which generate your daily reality and create the lens through which you see and understand the world.  It is a path to understanding yourself, your habits, your behaviors and learning to love yourself through that understanding.

“Understanding is love’s other name.  If you don’t understand, you can’t love.”  -Thich Nhat Hanh

Through yoga, I’ve learned to understand and love myself despite my tendencies to be self-judgmental, anxious and worrisome.  I’ve learned to understand and love myself even when I’m not perfect and feel inadequate.  I’ve learned to understand how I automatically respond to guilt, shame, and fear, and love myself into being more vulnerable and forgiving.  It was a lot of work.  It required commitment, daily practice, and trust in my Teachers.

The meaning of yoga is ‘to become whole’.  We only become whole when we are truly capable of understanding.  Understanding how we came into this world, why we are here, what life is for, and how we can love ourselves.  Then, we get to love others with abandon… and that’s the fun part!

I challenge you to understand yourself better.  I challenge you to move into becoming whole and by learning to love yourself.

Meditation Challenge:

  1. Set your timer for 10 minutes and have a journal and a pen nearby.
  2. Find a comfortable seated position
  3. Speak your intention aloud. Ask: “How can I love myself more fully?”
  4. Sit quietly and listen. When the timer goes off, write down whatever you are thinking.
  5. Repeat for ten days. At the end of ten days, review what you have written in your journal.  Make a new habit, a new thought pattern, and start loving yourself more… immediately!

Happy Understanding,

-lisa

Happy International Day of Peace.

Today, September 21, is the best day of 2015.  (So far. I’m assuming Christmas 2015 is going to be epic.)  But today is the best because It’s the Official International Day of Peace.  

peace day

The first International Day of Peace Peace Day was observed in September 1982 by the UN and is held annually on the third Tuesday in September.  You can read more about it’s inception here.  The basic premise?  Teach Peace.  “The United Nations invites all nations and people to honor a cessation of hostilities during the Day, and to otherwise commemorate the Day through education and public awareness on issues related to peace.”  My kind of day.

Even though it may sound naive, I believe if each individual practices discernment through meditation and compassion in action, peace is not only possible, but it is inevitable.  Someone has to believe it.  Someone has to live it. If we all believed it, it would be true.

I’m not the only one who believes it.  Ever heard of His Holiness the Dali Lama? Here’s what he has to say in the foreword of a book you need to buy, Peace is Every Step:

“Although attempting to bring about world peace though the internal transformation of individuals is difficult, it is the only way.  Peace must be first be developed within an individual.”  -Dalai Lama

Today, you don’t have to create world peace.  You just need to try your best to create inner peace.  Start your day off with the right intention.  This one works well for me!  Know that today is a precious gift.  Remind yourself that you have 24 hours to bring peace, joy and happiness to ourselves and others.  Radiate loving kindness to every person you meet.  Make today the best day.  If you really love, peace is inevitable.

“Every morning, when we wake up, we have twenty-four brand new hours to live.  What a precious gift!  We have the capacity to live in a way that these twenty-four hours will bring peace, joy, and happiness to ourselves and others.” -Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace is Every Step

Happy Peace Day,

-lisa

what you think, you become. #MeditationThoughtMondays

what you think, you become

I’ve had some water in my basement this year.  And by ‘some’ I mean a puddle big enough to go swimming in my basement.  I tried not to complain because the rain also watered my garden and lowered my water bill. Two thumbs up for these unexpected perks… but not fun to be in a musty basement using a broom to sweep water toward the (already full) drain.  And not fun to empty the de-humidifier every twenty minutes.

The other day as I was trudging through my sloppy backyard to get to my basement and empty the dehumidifier, I had this thought: “Man, I’m so efficient!”  My mind did the endless ‘task-ticking’ it does when I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed with my to-do list.  I mentally made a list of all the chores I’d just rushed through that morning to boost my confidence in my ability to maintain a (not flooded) household and work-too-much and, and, and, and.  But really, the mental list making made me feel slightly more anxious and overwhelmed.  I had to stop and think for a minute: What words did I actually want to use to describe myself?

The law of subconscious means that what we think—we will become.

So, if we make a list of all our greatest attributes and constantly describe ourselves as such, we will eventually manifest these attributes in our life. 

what you think, you become

Yes, I’m efficient.  But, when I look back at my life in 87 years (yoga makes you young and Beet Smoothies make you healthy, so I’m planning on living to 116 years old, thank you very much) how do I want to describe myself and my life? 

This is a really important question.  What you think, you become.  Turns out, I don’t think I want to be described as ‘efficient.’  That’s a word used to describe a process– a machine.  My world is highly mechanized, that’s true.  I spend many hours with my fingers on my keyboard and my mind hooked to the internet.  But I wish for a world that is more human and less mechanical.  I wish to cultivate attributes that are more empathetic and relational.  So, I’m going to start thinking about what I wish to become.

I wish to describe myself as:

Flexible and Fun (I think I’m one of these)

Caring and Courageous  (again, I think I’m only one of these)

I’m challenging myself to imagine these attributes in my life and start describing myself with these words.  I’m challenging myself to imagine cultivating flexibility and courage in my own life.

I’m challenging YOU, my dear reader, to answer this question:  “When I look back at my life in 87 years, how do I want to describe myself?”  Write 4 attributes you WANT to be able to use to describe yourself, even if you ‘think’ they don’t apply to you right now.  And then—apply them. 

Dare to think of what you can become.  Use these words in your morning meditation, your morning mantra, or just throughout the day when you are confronted with a stressful situation.  After a month, reflect on how you have changed.  If you think it – then you can become it.

Happy thinking,

-lisa

be captured by silence. #MeditationThoughtMondays

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you cannot capture silence

 

When it’s 95 degrees outside and you are a tourist in a country that doesn’t believe in Air Conditioning, the only logical course of action is to spend your Friday night inside an art museum. To protect the artwork on display, the museum keeps constant cool temperature and low light. To protect the beauty of the artwork on display, the visitors keep tones muted and tend toward silence.  Despite brash colors and daring impressionist strokes which scream of emotion and sensation in Van Gough’s masterpieces, the galleries were primarily silent.  It reminded me that it is human nature to approach that which we find beautiful with silence.

Richard Rohr, author of Silent Compassion, points out that, “If something is not surrounded by the vastness of silence and space, it is hard to appreciate it is something singular and beautiful.  If it is all mixed in with everything else, then its singularity, as a unique and beautiful object, does not stand out.”

Silence is elusive.  Right now, even as I write this in the quietude of my backyard sanctuary, the silence of the early morning is vibrant with sound.  Some of these sounds make me smile (remember this post?) and some of these sounds are fairly annoying. (My backyard neighbor is constantly hammering.  After a year of this, I can’t imagine he has a single board left to hammer, and yet, here he is at eight in the morning hammering away…I have a few questions about this.)  But beyond the sounds, silence is a presence.  Silence can be its own being.

Silence can be something to meet and create a relationship with. Even if you don’t have a comfortable relationship with silence, as I naturally do, I think we all do this naturally when we encounter something beautiful. 

Your challenge this week is to bring something beautiful into your meditation space.  I brought a small vase of three Missouri Primrose blossoms to my meditation class yesterday and challenged my students to quiet their minds simply by gazing at the simple beauty of the flowers.  No counting, no repeated mantras, no English, no Sanskrit, no striving—just meeting silence.  In this way, we became captured by silence.  I want you to spend some time thinking about this: how can I become captured by silence?  How can I find something beautiful in silence?

Again from Richard Rohr:

“Silence precedes, undergirds and grounds everything…unless we learn how to live there, go there, abide in this different phenomenon, the rest of things—words, events, relationships, identities—all become superficial.  They lose meaning.” – Richard Rohr

Silence, the primordial beginning and ending, bookends our most meaningful experience: life itself.

This week, let yourself be captured by silence, even if it is just for one minute.

Enjoy the beauty,

-lisa

you cannot capture silence

 

 

 

fill your heart with what’s important and lets be done with the rest. #MeditationThoughtMondays

fill your heart with whats important

Here are some things I think are important.

  1. Love
  2. Kindness
  3. Truth
  4. Integrity
  5. Dedication

Here are some things I think are not that important:

  1. Most everything else

Today, I want to challenge you to fill your heart with what’s important and ‘be done’ with everything else.  Meditate on the questions: “What’s most important to me?  How can I fill my heart with these things and let go of the rest?”  

For inspiration, I implore you to read this article, which features one of my favorite soon-to-be-fifth graders, Brayden Ingram.  I’m proud to call Brayden my cousin (he just graduated from being ‘my baby cousin’ this summer when I realized he’s only 2 inches shorter than I am!) because he chooses compassion and generosity with his peers.  This story is a perfect example of what it looks like when you fill your heart with what’s truly important and forget the rest. (You can read more inspiring stories here: Beyond the Spotlight.)

Jennifer Bradley, author of Beyond the Spotlight blog, writes:

“Missouri 4th grader Brayden Ingram is a “good kid.” In fact, he’s so “good” in school, that this year, he racked up piles of ‘good behavior tickets’ in the classroom. These tickets are the keys to unlocking all sorts classroom fun.

Brayden can use his good behavior tickets for special meals, fun events, and small prizes in the classroom. But it didn’t take long for Brayden to realize that the system that he benefits from is not entirely fair to other students. “I feel like the behavior tickets constantly leave someone out feeling hurt. I get sad when I see someone that didn’t get a prize. I get really sad when I see tickets being deducted from peers,” Brayden confided.

So this fourth grader decided to put his own spin on the system. He began to save his tickets so that he could share them with students who struggle more with classroom expectations and behaviors. “I got the idea when one of the boys at school used his tickets to buy me lunch in the classroom with him. Afterwards, I started saving up 110 tickets so I could buy lunch in the classroom for the whole class.” It took a month of saving up, but Brayden felt it was worth it to see the smiles on everyone’s faces.

But his generosity didn’t stop there. The fourth grade classes also held an end of the school year movie and party. Students were allowed to choose between 4 classrooms with 4 different movies, but there was a catch. They had to pay for admission and snacks, and admission cost 10 ‘good behavior’ tickets. Students who did not have enough tickets were to be sent to a separate room to read. Brayden thought that felt sad. He realized that some of his classmates did not have enough tickets for a movie, so he went around sharing his tickets with five of his classmates in the hopes that no one would be left out. He admits to feeling a bit nervous when he noticed so many of his tickets were being used, but he decided that if he was the one who needed to go read, he would be happy to do it for the good of the group. In the end, Brayden had enough tickets left over for his own movie and snacks. From buying lunch to his move at the movies, Brayden is a firm believer in paying it forward. “I did what I did to give other kids the opportunity to experience the fun events and to help them see kindness in the world and hopefully help them pass it on.”

And Brayden didn’t have to wait long for his kindness to spread.  His Auntie Jen teaches 3rd grade at his school.  Inspired by Brayden’s campaign, Jen decided to pay the library fines of 13 students so they could participate in the end of the year field day celebration activities. This story is so inspiring because Brayden not only practices caring and kindness in the classroom, but because at age 9, he was able to see how harmful seemingly “positive” reward systems can be for students who struggle with classroom behaviors.”

fill your heart with whats importantI know that Brayden and my cousin Jen (who has always been my ‘big cousin and someone I want to be when I grow up’) both spend time thinking about how to make the world a better place.  Brayden’s example of generosity, kindness, and dedication should inspire all of us to ‘pay it forward’ every chance we get.  One small act of kindness means one small decision for happiness.  Many decisions for happiness means we can pursue a small happy life, and fill our hearts with what’s important.

How are you going to ‘pay it forward today?’  How can you fill your heart with what is important and ‘be done’ with the rest?

-lisa

LOVE. #MeditationThoughtMondays

love sign bwThere is one simple rule: if you want more love in your life, then you must participate in LOVE.  Today, your MeditationThought is simply this: LOVE.

Sit in quiet, breathe, let the word “LOVE” become alive with every breath.  Let it permeate your thoughts.  Let it grow stronger with every moment.  When you walk down the sidewalk, imagine that you see the word LOVE posted on the light pole.  Imagine it plastered on the car that is parked too close to yours.  Imagine it written on the T-shirt of the person walking through the parking lot.  Imagine Love surrounding you.

Today: Fall in Love.  Practive Loving Kindness with this Guided Meditation from Sharon Salzberg.

love sign bw

this image will take you to the guided lovingkindness meditation

Happy Loving,

-lisa

freeing the heart. #MeditationThoughtMondays

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View More: http://janamariephotos.pass.us/lisa-ash-yoga

 

“Freeing the body leads inevitably to freeing the heart.” -gabriel roth.

 

It’s as simple as that.  When the pain has subsided in your body, you automatically feel free to choose healing and compassion in your heart.

Go.  Find Freedom. Move, run, laugh, talk, breathe, hug, and be free.

-lisa