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December 10th, 2010

Test Of Character

By Trish Washburn

Sometimes, things can happen to us that test our inner character, along with a lot of other virtues we think we have.

Over 18 years ago, I had a surgery performed — soul surgery.

I received a phone call that would change my life forever. My brother Ryan had been in a car accident and he was still alive on the Flight for Life helicopter that was on its way to Madison. His vitals were barely detectable, but he was alive.

In this time of crisis, I discovered who I really was. I walked into that hospital fearful of the monumental decisions I could be facing, yet determined to handle the situation. I was the only family member in town, my parents were away on vacation.

I didn’t have to face any decisions though, because Ryan did not make it. I was left with the ugly job of having to call my parents and inform them of the bad news.

As devastating as reality was at that moment, I knew my brother Ryan was in Heaven. That belief stemmed from a conversation that we had two weeks before.

He told me that I did not have the answers I was looking for and that God was the only one that had them. I asked him how he knew that and how he was filled with faith. He simply told me he knew it in his heart and when he died he was going to Heaven.

Well, that certainly made me search deep inside. My courage came to the surface, and entered my heart and soul.

I took a hard look at the path I was on and the person that I had become. I had to face the fact that the ONLY person I had trusted with my whole self, my authentic and nasty self, was Ryan. I had to own up to the fact that I did not trust people and that I was defiant in every way. I was on a lonely road and was in need of a change. I found that change within my soul and I am forever grateful to Ryan for repeating over and over his faith-filled statement.

Why do I now choose to share this tragedy with you? What is the real purpose?

I have one reason for sharing this private event. First, how do we handle life’s situations no matter what they are? What happens when someone you love more than anything is suddenly taken away from you? What happens when your proverbial life’s rug has been pulled out from underneath you and leaves you sitting on the floor dazed and confused? What happens when you look before you and all you see is black and you feel like you are walking through Jello?

You see, it's in those moments when we discover - perhaps for the very first time - that we have some work to do on ourselves. That's when we must become our own surgeon, our own advisor and our own mentor. The process of personal development is never over, so when adversity strikes, give thanks that you have discovered the need to work harder on yourself than on anything else. This is your opportunity for growth and perhaps this can be considered as a ‘healthy pruning’.

We must trust our faith and know that good will come out of all our experiences. We were made to endure and made to succeed. We must trust that we are made to have abundance. What we are determines who we are, and that disclosure should cause us to look into the mirror and not at the faults we find in our circumstances, our God, or someone else. It is in these deep, dark and lonely moments that we discover our greatest weaknesses and through that, we discover our greatest strengths.

My mat became my sanctuary; a place to uncover and discover the deeply rooted hurt that would be my companion......forever. Yoga helped to clear the sadness and the anger from my being and to see the gifts from my dark valley experience. Yoga helped me to deepen my faith and let go of myself so that God's love could ever so carefully mend my heart. My practice helped me to change my view of life, of myself and of others to a more loving, more forgiving. and more peaceful way. Yoga meets me on my mat and conforms to who I am THAT day in the THAT moment. I am thankful....OH SO EVER THANKFUL for having 17 years with my brother, Ryan, and for having that monumental faith conversation with him. I am thankful that my daughter bears his name and that my son was born on the 10th anniversary of his death, bringing light back to a dark time and space.

We need to understand that we are perfect in our moment, even in our mess, and even through our most horrific thunderstorms we are… and always will be…meant to bloom.

December 3rd, 2010

Aligning Passion With Purpose

by Stephanie Stano, Founder of Recycle Your Mat

Aligning passion with purpose is a continuation of yoga in our everyday lives.

One of the reasons I cherish yoga is that it is so many different things to so many different people. You can see this reflected in the responses to Manduka’s #Practice Campaign. It really is quite amazing that in a class where we all are doing the same poses and same breathing techniques, the experience is uniquely personal.

There is at least one thread of continuity that runs between all practitioners and it is the ability for yoga to help us focus internally and tap into that fire that burns within us all. In the body’s stillness and in the space between thoughts, I heard the calling of my divine purpose. Aligning with my purpose helped clarify how I might best serve our culture and our society in a way that is a full expression of the gifts I have to give.

It has been said that a successful culture provides opportunities for its citizens to be able to fully express their potential and understand how it ties into the over whole of the culture. In this time of greater unemployment and chronic underutilization of employees’ abilities, many of us are looking to find other ways to express and fulfill the potential burning inside.

As with yoga, many of us will find our own outlet varies greatly from others. For me, it was creating Recycle Your Mat as an outlet to project and live aligned with my innate sense of environmental caring and reverence for nature. For others it may be service through volunteering, climbing the corporate ladder or pulling away from society all together. We all have value and an opportunity to express our unique internal fire regardless of our employment, financial or social status. Doing yoga has helped me listen to and share the passionate flame that is unique to me. May yoga continue to help each of us find our flame and give us the courage to let it brightly shine!

December 2nd, 2010

When Yoga Hurts Instead Of Heals

By Jill Miller, ERYT, Creator of Yoga Tune Up®

Pain, numbness, tingling? Do any of these describe the feelings you have when you come out of an asana? Please heed these warnings! Not all yoga poses are safe for all people. Just follow expert yoga teacher Patricia Sullivan’s story in the October 2010 issue of Yoga Journal. She painfully details a journey of denial in which her headstand caused (yes caused) crippling nerve pain that eventually culminated in her falling asleep at the wheel and driving off the road into a lagoon. At last she had a doctor examine her and they found “ extensive damage, including a reversed cervical curve, disk degeneration, and bony deposits that were partially blocking nerve outlets.” By her own admission, “my longing to excel both in my asana practice and as an asana teacher, had led me to ignore my body’s signals and cries for relief.”

Asana Addictions

Patricia had to relearn how to use her entire body and come to terms with her mind, heart and ego. Headstand’s benefits were so powerful, that they seemed to outweigh the daily pain she suffered. Like an addict “jonesing” for a hit of headstand….she could not see past the negatives it wrought on her body. But until she literally “bottomed out” in the lagoon, she was unwilling to give up her “monkey.”

She is definitely not alone in this journey, I have been “addicted” to poses that damaged my body. A love of “drop backs” into the wheel pose from standing upright destabilized one of my spinal vertebrae 6 years ago. I happily NEVER do them any more. Before I had destabilized my back, I could not imagine practicing without finishing up with my coveted “drop-backs.” How ironic that the “drop backs” CAUSED my back to drop!

In surveying my last Yoga Tune Up® Teacher trainees, several raised their hands when I asked the question, has Yoga hurt you? Two of them admitted that constant ringing in their ears has been caused by excessive time spent in shoulderstand and plow poses. They rationalized the EXACT same way as Patricia…the “benefits” outweighed the “negative effects.” Another admits that despite constant sciatic pain, he cannot give up doing long held forward bends.

What are we doing to ourselves if yoga hurts?

With yoga’s enormous popularity, more injuries are occurring more than ever. If we hope to enjoy a pain-free lifelong practice, then we must take some precautions. All teachers and practitioners must educate themselves about what the poses are doing physically to a body. So many “traditional” poses cause extreme joint torque, shearing and weakening of soft tissues, and their effects need to be understood through a biomechanical lens. As yoga teachers, we need to responsibly analyze the positional peculiarities on a student-by student basis and be truthful with our students if we feel a pose is inappropriate for them. As a student, we need to listen to our body’s signals and not push past a point that continues to give us unresolved pain. We need to take an honest look at the poses that still cause pain while we are in them, and reach out to professionals who can help us to understand what we are actually doing to ourselves.

WHAT TO DO IF YOGA HURTS
1) Admit you are in pain
2) Seek out a health care professional, get the x-rays or MRI if needed!
3) Follow the health care professionals protocol
4) Seek out a qualified Yoga Therapist (www.iayt.org)
5) Listen carefully to your body as you build a new practice, and refrain from doing any pose that your body is not prepared for.

Patricia has completely revamped her approach to headstand. Yes she does still practice headstand, but she has created multiple variations where her head never touches the ground (see YJ issue). BRAVO!

What will you do?

December 1st, 2010

#Practice Reflection

Another year draws to a close – a time to reflect on friends and family, goals and feats, fingers and feet. View our mats as mirrors that invite us to shift, stretch and fly. When you look back on this year, who do you see? Who has helped you become you in 2010? As we move into 2011, Manduka asks you to #practice reflection.

We invite you to celebrate those who have helped shape your year - returning the kindness to the person who brought you where you are today. On our Facebook and Twitter pages, tell us who your #practice reflects and what this person has inspired in you. If your nominee is also on Facebook or Twitter, tag their name in your post. At the end of the month, we'll randomly select ten of your nominees and thank them for their contributions to your year with a free Manduka kit including an eKO Mat, Mat Sling and Stainless Steel Water Bottle to make 2011 a beautiful year for yoga.

For each of the first 100 nominations we receive, Manduka will donate $10 to charity: water. 1 in 8 people live without access to safe, clean drinking water, putting them at risk for dehydration, disease and limiting their ability to rise from poverty. Bad water kills more people than any form of violence, but together we can change that. It takes just $20 to give one person clean water for 20 years, and Manduka is on a mission to hydrate a whole village! Find out more, or donate directly, at mycharitywater.org/manduka

Head over to Facebook.com/MandukaYoga. Start practicing reflection to make for a radiant 2011.

November 18th, 2010

How's Your Love Life?

By Jeanne Heileman

When I first found yoga, I was just out of college and in an acting conservatory that used a lot of physical training to get us out of our heads and learn to use our body. We were often taught that our bodies were our tools, so we needed to know how to use them. I fell in love with my yoga class, for it was the one class where I wasn’t judged on how good I performed, or if I looked the part and was cast appropriately, or anything. I was allowed to be, to breathe, and to receive, instead of “do.” I truly fell in love.

Like any new relationship, I had to have my “love” in my life wherever I went. That meant with me in London, in Chicago, in Colorado, in Phoenix, anywhere and everywhere. If there wasn’t a specific class for me to connect with my “love,” I then instinctively did yoga on my own in my room. I was working on the relationship with my “love” and reaping the benefits. This relationship supported me through many good and bad boyfriends, changes that lead to stepping away from acting and going to graduate school, choosing not to marry the boy that I and everyone thought I would, to move back to Los Angeles, to leave a path of working in a field that never felt like a right fit, and towards the path of taking a yoga teacher training and becoming a yoga teacher.

They say that love ripens over time, and I gotta tell you, it really is true. After 11 years of being in love with yoga, I finally decided to take a teacher training and immediately found myself becoming a full time teacher. Love has a way of changing our world in more ways than we could ever imagine. My relationship with yoga became even deeper because I now knew so much more about yoga than I ever did simply by taking classes. I got to know more about each aspect of my “love” through the poses, the sequencing, the history, the philosophy; I was ravenous for more information. I could easily spend every waking moment with my “love,” and still learn more. The relationship that I had with yoga at this point was so much deeper than when we were in the honeymoon period, and I was so fulfilled.

After years of teaching almost every day, blended with a devoted practice every day, I found myself – gasp! – sometimes kinda sick of yoga. I never could admit it; who can admit that they don’t want to be with their most devoted “love?” Yet I longed for a conversation about something else – even finance would be interesting to me because it was different. So, after about five years of teaching constantly, I started to wonder what else was out in the world. Like someone who doubts their commitment to a spouse and starts meeting other nice people, I started to wonder what else is out there? It was around that time that amazing teachers started to cross my path, to bring new insights into my “love” and help me grow even deeper in love with my “love.” While honoring many (see my website, I list those who truly have made a significant impact), I must admit that Rod Stryker is the one who really helped me see that there was more to yoga than just the poses. Wow, so much more. It’s like saying there is more to a relationship than just sex and good times together.

I started to get to know my “love” and play and work with my “love” in so many ways that very, very few teachers in my community either know about or share. It’s as if I went to a relationship therapist, (a good one), with my “love” and we were in therapy for years. My practice deepened on so many levels, I discovered levels I never knew existed, and it (finally) started to show in my teaching. I naturally wanted to reach out and teach workshops on this material, to help others get more out of their “love” and deepen their relationships so that they could be as happy, too.

This bliss has continued for years. And every few years I still get that phase where I don’t like yoga. I want a break. Can I break up with yoga? What I’ve learned is that I get to give myself some space, without breaking up. I get to take a spinning class, or I get to sit on the couch and watch a movie instead of be on my mat. I get a specific amount of time to be away from my “love.” By giving myself this space, it always brings me back to my “love” with a renewed sense of appreciation and value.

My relationship to yoga has taught me so much about relationships in general. For one, a really, really good relationship is one that comes from the gift of time, and during that time, you may not like your beloved. Also, like deep relationships, I now see more inside my “love” than the on outside. It has taught me that I can love someone in my life, and not like them today, but not stop loving them. I feel more welcoming to those in my life, with less judgment and rules on how to behave. It has taught me that I can love my own self, while not liking certain behaviors in the moment, and not stop loving myself.

My devotion to my yoga is one that won’t ever stop. We made that commitment in 1985, but now I’ve learned that it will probably change instead of stay the same. What I used to do on my mat 25 years ago is different than what I do on my mat now. I’m absolutely fascinated with how I sequence my practice and play on my mat now, although I thought I had everything down years and years ago. This teaches me to not hold on to what I’m doing now, but be open to how things will change on my mat in another 25 years. I’ll still be on it, and I know it will be different, but I have a feeling that I will be so tickled with those discoveries, as much as now.

So, when someone asks me about my love life, I now answer that it’s absolutely great, and getting better each day!