recommended yoga readings 2018: svadhyaya

At any one time, I’m concurrently reading a slew of books: half-finished books about yoga, spirituality, meditation, brain-based research, Harry Potter and random novels litter my house. (It’s immensely more reasonable now that I have a Kindle and can check out as many e-books as I want. I can hide an entire library in my backpack!)

This natural inclination toward curiosity, seeking and reading led me to hundreds of inspiring texts when I first started teaching yoga and studying philosophy. Twelve years later, my bookshelves are bursting with insight and wisdom.

In yoga philosophy, the study of great texts is called svadhyaya and it is one of the five niyamas (personal considerations). The other niyamas are: saucha (purity), santosha (contentment), tapas (exploration) and isvara-pranidana (devotion). Svadhyaya invites serious yoga students to continue their study of yoga off the mat on your own time— seeking out wisdom from sources other than your direct teacher.

This is practiced by studying texts from your personal faith tradition, from the yoga tradition or any other work that inspires and deepens wisdom. It also means “self-study,” as in, literally studying the self.

Svadhyaya is any activity that cultivates self-reflective consciousness. It means developing the reflexive skill of refining your perpetual thoughts and habits (vritts) to live more authentically and in line with the yamas and niyamas.

Because I love love love books, I always have a list of recommendations — these books are approachable reads that will inspire your continued study and a happier, healthier life.

You are Here by Thich Nhat Hanh

Miracles Now by Gabrielle Bernstein

Real Love by Sharon Salzberg

Small Victories by Anne Lamott

Finding Your True North Star by Martha Beck

The Path of the Yoga Sutras by Nicolai Bachman (this one is for sale at Westport Yoga KC — come in and grab one after your next yoga class!)

Also, check out my recommended svadhyaya reading list from 2014 (start with these books if you are interested in learning the roots of yoga.)

Happy reading, can’t wait to find out what you learned!

-lisa

cancel your cable TV.

TV Commercials are my downfall. Advertising firms should be proud– every time a commercial comes on, I am immediately sucked in: slack-jawed, eyes glued, ears tuned in to the Very Exciting! Limited Time! Opportunity to spend money!

Canceling cable TV was a game changer. A conscious choice to reduce my mental clutter by limiting TV and its addicting commercials (and wearying newscasts) helped me commit to saucha.

Saucha, as introduced in the previous two posts, means clarity and self-care. It is not a directive to condemn anything as ‘dirty’ or ‘impure.’ It is simply the practice of reducing mental and physical clutter so that your mind is clear and focused.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with TV, but omygosh who can focus after watching  neon flashing signs and political rivalry and New Cars! and all the incredible cleaning product demos that are like MAGIC?

Cancelling cable TV was one extremely effective way to reduce mental clutter and practice saucha. And, four years later, I’m happier for it.

What is yours?

Culling your Facebook feed? Turning down the radio? Deleting your Twitter app? Limiting social media to once a day? Taking a walk? Practicing yoga outside?

This article series examined 3 aspects of saucha: keeping the house tidy, making loving food choices, and reducing mental turbulence. I’d like to hear your stories: what actions are you taking to promote clarity, self-care and self-love?

What small “one-minute action” will you take to reduce mental turbulence and increase health and happiness?

Happy Cancelling,

-lisa

satya: self-care and self-talk.

When it comes to self-care, chugging organic juices and getting tons of physical activity is the easy part for me. What’s most challenging (and perhaps more important) is listening skillfully and responding honestly to my self-talk. More important than massages, pedicures and all the other self-care rituals I absolutely adore is the practice of satya: truthfulness, integrity and sincerity in my own internal narrative. 

(We started talking about satya, the second yama of the yoga philosophy, in the previous two posts: satya: say no to junk e-mail and so you don’t eat meat?)

Practicing satya means that I listen to my self-talk with honesty and a healthy does of skepticism. For example:

I can’t EVER seem to make it anywhere on time, it just takes me FOREVER to get out of the house and I ALWAYS feel so unorganized.” Um, False. What’s true is this: some mornings, I’m really distracted and I spend time putting away dishes instead of getting organized to leave the house.

or

“I’m ALWAYS SO TIRED and NEVER have enough energy to be a good dog mom or good boss or good wife.” Again, False. What’s true is this: some evenings I’m really tired because I’m lucky enough to have a job that is physically active and I already walked Russell Clive three miles that day.

or

I’m ALWAYS missing important texts and e-mails; the teachers who work for me probably all think I’m a slacker.”  Double False. What’s true is this: it’s good for me to have a “no-phone day” where I’m focused on being with my family and actually, no one hates working at Westport Yoga because our community is so welcoming and our yoga classes are amazing!

or

“I CAN’T afford that. There’s just no way. And I’m NEVER going to be able to.” Possibly true, but mostly false. Some things (i.e. a new Subaru Crosstrek and daily acupuncture sessions) are just way out of my budget. But purchases are always a choice; choosing how to spend resources can be empowering. Saying “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t” only plants seeds of frustration in my mind (and wallet).

or the last one, which is the kicker. And something I hear ALL. THE. TIME. (Not exaggerating.)

“I am SO BUSY, so overwhelmed, and I’m ALWAYS working… I just don’t have the time to do yoga or meditate.” False. Here’s what’s true: time is something I choose how to spend. And if I want to opt out of an activity because I don’t think it’s the best use of my time, then that is honest and a practice of satya. Opting out of an activity is different than lying to myself with, “I’m so busy; I can’t,” The true story is that I have the same minutes as everyone else in the day and I get to choose how to spend those minutes.

The practice of satya requires that I practice sincerity and honesty in how I talk to myself as a way of caring for myself mentally and emotionally. It asks me to listen to my self-talk with understanding and then respond with compassion as a way of self-care (remember the first yama: ahimsa.) It’s really important!

How do you practice satya in your self-talk? What limiting self-beliefs are you listening to that just aren’t true? How can you practice a self-care by listening with both understanding and skepticism?

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

self-care and six dollar juices.

self care picture for site

Here are some life-skills I learned in school: how to make garlic toast, how not to make garlic toast, how to put out an electrical fire, how to call for help in an emergency, and how to take care of someone hurt in an accident.  Here’s a skill I didn’t learn in school: how to take care of myself.   

The concept of “self-care” is trending right now; for good reason. Most of us (and probably all of you who are reading this right now) have attained a level of proficiency in meeting our basic needs of food, water, shelter and Google Fiber.  But most of us are nowhere near proficient in meeting our emotional and spiritual needs. 

Civic organizations provide a structure to engage generously with our community at large, but sometimes the act of giving leaves us feeling depleted. And spiritual communities take care of each other; but a vast majority of millennials and yuppies (no malice intended, I’ve adopted this label wholeheartedly) aren’t actively participating in faith organizations at this time in our lives, so: who’s taking care of us?

HI pic

a moment of self-care: yoga and nature! my two favorite things.

My overarching New Year’s Goal (remember this article about Big Dreams?) was to practice better self-care. Just because I look young and fit, doesn’t mean that I’m ‘on point’ when it comes to self-care. One of my biggest challenges is developing habits and sticking to them.  My work days are long and I’m racing to get to sleep after teaching so I can wake up early again the next morning; my self-care bedtime routine is sporadic at best. So, vitamins? Yea, I take them… I think. Herbal supplements? Definitely.  At least, I took them last month.  Revitalizing skin cream (I am getting older, after all)  For sure I use that, when I remember to.  Brushing my hair? Cutting my fingernails? I can do that in the car on my way to work.

These might seem like trivial, inconsequential examples, but it’s the intention behind the action of self-care that matters. What matters is that I’m channeling energy into caring, loving, life-affirming interactions with my body.  When it comes to self-care, we only get one human body. Which is why I’m a proponent of practicing yoga gently, of sitting in meditation daily, and of setting micro-intentions throughout our day.

This Instagram infographic caught my eye and reminded me just how multi-faceted the concept of self-care really is:

self care (2)

It doesn’t feature “Treat Yo’ Self” (read: expensive) spa days, six dollar juices, or shopping sprees.  (Although, yes, you should get a massage. Everyone should get massages!)  It highlights intangible gifts we can give ourselves:

Presence, support, awareness, prioritizing, adjusting environment, mindfulness, and slowing down.

Just being there for ourselves and using a little mindfulness to prioritize what’s really important in life is an act of self-care. Adjusting our environment to be more life-affirming is an act of self-care. Saying no to extra events, even if they sound like exciting opportunities, is an act of self-care. Saying yes to slowing down is an act of self-care.  Setting boundaries with supervisors and co-workers is an act of self-care.  Becoming aware of our negative self-talk and mindfully choosing positive thoughts is an act of self-care.

This year has been emotionally arduous for me, to say the least. (Remember the old maxim: if you pray for patience then God will give you something to be patient about? That’s kinda how I felt.)  I confronted my deep-seated fear of failure with the “New Dog Debacle” (remember Sir Kevin-barks-a-lot?) but ultimately decided to choose self-care and found the Little One a new home.

I encountered incredible resistance at work, which triggered insecurities about my self-worth but ultimately found courage to stand up for myself and speak my truth. I learned to prioritize my vocational aspirations and choose more time for myself and my family, as opposed to feeling like I needed to work every single day of the week (I mean my studios have incredible teachers on staff and you, dear reader, can practice at home; you love me, but you don’t need me). And I took a brave step forward in healing by addressing some chronic health concerns. (Believe me, if you spent your childhood in doctor’s offices like I did, the mere act of calling to make an appointment requires herculean effort.) Oh, and I figured out a 2:00 pm routine for taking my vitamins and supplements that hasn’t failed me yet.  (I still show up to work without my hair brushed, but whatever: your hair doesn’t look too primped at 6 am classes, either!)

self care picture for site

So, why I am sharing all of this super personal info with you?  (Besides the fact that I’m honest to a fault? Thanks, Mom!)  I want YOU to broaden your understanding of Self-Care.  I want the concept of self-care to be separated from ‘indulgence’ and be seen as a skill worth learning, pursuing and perfecting.  I want self-care to be so ingrained in your daily routine that you feel present, supported, aware, mindful and courageous on a daily basis.  I don’t want you to feel guilty for putting yourself, your emotional health, and your mental well-being as the top priority in your life.

Tell me, how are you going to practice Self-Care today?  Tomorrow? Next week?  What new habit are you going to set that will only make your life more wonderful?

I can’t wait to hear about it!

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a moment of self-care: take time to stop and look at the beauty around you

-lisa