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November 28th, 2013

10 Reasons To Be Grateful For Your Yoga Family

By Manduka Ambassador, Patti Cocciolo

As the holidays creep ever closer, thoughts of family come to mind: the family you are born or adopted into, the family of friends and co-workers you choose, and maybe, a family of your own making.

This year, I’m especially grateful for my yoga family. In the wake of a move, I’ve found a new community of yogis, while managing to deepen the relationships with my yoga brothers and sisters in far-flung parts of the world. So, in honor of this feeling of gratitude, here are 10 reasons to be thankful for your own yoga family:

1. Your yoga family accepts and even encourages the wearing of stretchy pants - to any and all occasions.

2. Your yoga family uses peer pressure to get you to do things that are good for you, like reading philosophy and practicing meditation. Your yoga family wants you to eat healthier foods, get massages, do a cleanse, and see an Ayurvedic doctor. Self-care is a real and important thing to these relatives.

3. Your yoga family wants you to stay in school forever. No one asks, “Another workshop? Haven’t you finished yoga yet?”

4. Your yoga family doesn’t care what you do for a living or how much money you make. They really and truly just want you to do what makes you happy.

5. Your yoga family is all over the globe. Anyone who practices, anywhere in the world, is your soul sister/brother. Sanskrit is your common tongue.

6. Your yoga family is non-denominational. We’ve all been to several houses of yoga worship, and learned something from each place. It’s all about the journey – not necessarily which prayer book you’re using at a particular time.

7. Your yoga family notices when you get a new pedicure. They appreciate that you made the effort. (This goes for you, too, guys.)

8. Your yoga family celebrates the best you…at that very moment. They’re not remembering your awesome pincha from yesterday. They honor that you made it to class at all and that you did a wicked child’s pose – because it’s exactly what you needed at the time.

9. Your yoga family tree extends back for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. No matter your lineage, you are one in a long line of yogis descended from the most sage, most learned teachers in history. And the more you learn about them and the more you read their teachings, the more humbled you feel to be one of their descendants.

10. Your yoga family helps you to be the best person you can be, and this goes well beyond asana. They are there to support your desire to transcend the obstacles of the physical world, and connect with the divine that already resides within you. (Note to self: This one is the biggie.)

And an extra bonus? The more you see your yoga family, the better your relationships become within all those other family groups who claim you as their own. Try it out this holiday season and see what happens. The peace and calm you find on your mat? Take it with you to your in-laws’ house. It will help. I promise.

So, as the holidays come, don’t lose touch with your yoga family. You’re gonna need them. And after Thanksgiving, you really might appreciate that open policy on stretchy pants.

November 26th, 2013

5 Yogi Tips For Staying Healthy During The Holidays

By Manduka Ambassador, Rosie Acosta

Tis the season of delicious food and amazing people! This is by far one of my favorite times of the year. I do find it a bit of a challenge to keep it together during this time of year. It’s hard not to go overboard on all the glorious food that is readily available. I try to keep a very wholesome eating regimen for the most part, however I take full advantage of the special holiday foods that anywhere in sight. Yes…I have fallen prey to the “food coma” on more than a few occasions.

This is the best time of year to practice good eating habits, and a little self-care in action. I love reading my fellow Manduka Ambassador blogs about Gratitude and how this affects their lives. I find it to be the best time of year to be grateful for everything around us. It is way to easy to fall into the rabbit hole of “Holiday Stress”. That being said, I wanted to share a few tips that help me stay healthy during this time of year:

1. MOVE YOUR BODY: We all know that now is prime time to keep it moving. Taking a yoga class, going for a bike ride or a run can be a great way to take your mind off the stress that comes with overeating or your “holiday duties”. This is such a huge thing for me to be able to release any stress or tension, it makes it a little easier to eat the good stuff as opposed to the vegan chocolate peanut butter cupcakes {this works 70% of the time}.

2. SLOW YOUR ROLL: When you eat, its best to remember to SLOW DOWN. I used to feel so sad when I was done because I felt like I didn’t even get to taste my meal? I have learned to slow down. Take a few breaths between bites, and remember that your food is not going anywhere. Portion control is also key during a Thanksgiving Day feast. Plus, you can enjoy a wider variety if you serve yourself smaller portions.

3. BYOD: Because of my food allergies, it is challenging for me to go visit friends and family during this time. I do NOT want to be the person inquiring AT the dinner table what specific ingredients they used to make a very thoughtful meal, as I examine the dish thoroughly {which I have done in the past} Instead, I opt to build my own dish that I know I can eat. Plus, it’s also a way for me to bring something to the table.

4. ENJOY: What is the point of this traditional feast if you can’t enjoy yourself? I know that for myself there have been times when the inner critic gets a little loud when I’ve surpassed the ‘indulge’ phase. The truth is, it happens. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you do. Stay positive and just allow yourself to enjoy your meal. One or two pieces of pie isn’t the end of the world. It is a perfect time to practice Ahimsa (non-violence), and remember you are a sacred living being ☺.

5. GRATITUDE: Having gratitude is a particularly amazing experience for a yogi. We live our lives to find joy in everything we do and with every person in our lives. What a great way to show our appreciation for just BEING. Give thanks to everything and everyone around you.

I wish you all the best Holiday Season, with love… Rosie

November 21st, 2013

On Gratitude

By Manduka Ambassador, Brian Hyman

“Thankfulness is the soul of beneficence.” – Rumi

My favorite way to express gratitude is to recite a gratitude list each evening before I go to sleep. I begin by thanking the universe or God for allowing me one more day to be a son, brother, friend, student, and teacher. Next, I give thanks for my senses, which may sound something like this:

I express gratitude for my eyes. Thank you for green trees, pink flowers, and brown mountains. Thank you for blue skies, white clouds, and red earth. Thank you for smiles on the faces of those I meet.

I express gratitude for my ears. Thank you for birds singing and children laughing. Thank you for dogs barking and hummingbirds buzzing. Thank you for ocean waves kissing the shoreline.

I express gratitude for my nose. Thank you for the smells of flowers, coffee, and chocolate. Thank you for my breath.

I express gratitude for my mouth. Thank you for the opportunities to eat, speak, and smile. Thank you for the ability to chant, sing, and teach.

I express gratitude for my skin. Thank you for the sensations of warmth when being embraced by friends. Thank you for the heat of the sun upon my face and shoulders.

I then give thanks for all things that brighten my day, like when my three year-old niece says, “I love you, Uncle Bwyaan!”; thanks for things that make me think about life in a different way; thanks for people who challenge me to grow spiritually; thanks for my yoga practice; thanks for my mother, a guardian angel; thanks for foods that sustain me; thanks for second (and third, and fourth…) chances; thanks for the power of forgiveness; and thanks for the wind, sun, stars, moon, and animals that I observe with wonder.

I give thanks until I come to the present moment, lying in bed. I finish the list by giving thanks for one more day that I was able to share experience, strength, and hope with others. Then I turn off the lights and go to sleep.

Gratitude – alongside yoga, prayer, and meditation – is an integral part of my daily spiritual practice. Gratitude helps me be less selfish and more selfless; less self-centered and more other-centered; less scattered and more grounded. Gratitude teaches me deep lessons about humility, integrity, and interconnectedness.

A list is one of many ways to explore gratitude. Other suggestions include offering a smile to a stranger; saying hello to someone who seems sad; cleaning trash at the beach; writing a letter of appreciation to a favorite author or teacher; and sending a card or flowers to someone who seems lonely.

Also, you can thank yourself each day for being an amazing mother or father; a terrific employee or employer; and a generous friend or lover.

How does gratitude play a role in your life? Share your “attitude of gratitude” below in the comments section, we would love to hear from you! Namaste.

November 19th, 2013

Gratitude And Graciousness

By Manduka Ambassador, Dana Damara

Twelve years ago, I stepped on my yoga mat for the first time. Ten years ago I became a yoga teacher. Nine years ago I was officially a mother of two. Five years ago I woke up to what yoga really meant. Three years ago I left my marriage. One year ago I moved from Portland, Oregon to Northern California. Presently I am a single mother, making my way in Northern California and loving every minute of it!

The road has been extremely bumpy and continues to take twists and turns that sometimes leave me a bit nauseous. However, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Even when the days are long, and the girls are tired, and I’m looking at my pile of things to do thinking, how will that get done?… I give thanks for the abundance in my life and every single lesson that has brought me to now.

Where do I feel the most gratitude these days? I bow down and give thanks for my mother-in-law. Thirty days after my husband and I told everyone we were splitting up, my mother-in-law decided to move from North Dakota to Portland to be near her son. After years and years of begging her to move closer to her only grandchildren, I couldn’t believe this was happening. Why would she wait until now? What good was it going to do me, inquired my ego.

Fate would have it that just prior to her relocation, I was offered a job in San Francisco, California but I couldn’t take my daughters with me right away. They had to finish school. Guess who was going to be helping out with my daughters while I was away? My mother-in-law. At first the thought made me want to roll over and cry; cancel my trip; take the girls with me. But the funny thing is, I let go. I shut my ego up and said, let’s roll with this. Through clenched fists, gritted teeth and curse words when I was alone, I accepted that this was my greatest lesson: ultimate liberation from control.

You see, her and I never got along; ever. Fifteen years in a marriage and Jane and I never got along. We just tolerated each other. And here I was leaving my children under her care when my ex-husband couldn’t care for them.

What happened from the day I left was nothing short of astounding. I still get teary eyed when I think about it. My daughters got to experience the most amazing bond with their grandmother without me trying to butt into it. She drove them to school every single morning, picked them up almost every day, made Sloppy Joes on Wednesdays, took them to dance and went to every single soccer and volleyball game they played on the weekends.

My mother-in-law (who by the way raised her three, now grown boys on her own), got to be girlie for the first time in her life and experience girl drama just about every single day. When I told her how grateful I was for her and this gift, she admitted through tears, that this was the best gift I could have given her. She thanked me, after all those years, she thanked me.

When I let go, truly let go of it all, the grip we all had on what we were “supposed to be doing” dissolved. And from there, we were all able to see what was important, which was the girls and what example we were all setting for them about the dynamics in relationship.

I remember when I first heard that Jane was moving to be near us and I had to leave the room, hide in the bathroom and curse into the mirror with the door shut. Now, I am sending them off on a plane happily, to visit with their Nana because the joy that relationship brings to my heart is unparalleled to almost anything else in my life right about now.

Stepping onto our mats brings authenticity, truth and integrity into all relationships. Especially the ones we have with ourselves. The breath moves truth through us like a freight train and we can either get on board or try to stop the train with our ego. Personally I prefer getting on board. The healing that happens when we allow life to usher us forward is nothing short of a miracle. When we let go, we allow gratitude to bask over every experience and we see the light in it all. We may start out clenching our teeth or throwing a temper tantrum, but in the end, if we truly allow unconditional love in, everything flows to and from love. And that’s all you see… ever.

November 14th, 2013

The Car Ride

By Manduka Ambassador, Dana Damara

When you are beginning to grow in your spiritual awareness, some people who once resonated with you begin to drop away from your conscious circle. It’s nothing to be sad about, or feel bad about... it’s a natural progression of your own spiritual evolution.

You won’t be able to talk the same language anymore. You won’t like the same things anymore. Your awareness of what is real and your interests shift and if you keep in mind that nothing is permanent, it’s all okay!

Additionally, remember that every single person on this planet has a path. And their path is different from yours. Your paths can’t possibly be the same… you are uniquely you and they are uniquely them! It’s the way the world works!

This is why you work toward eliminating judgment from your thoughts. You can’t judge other people and why they make the choices they make, or why they do the things they do. It’s not your business.

This is an easy process—the dropping away—when you are talking about a stranger, co-worker, distant relative, or a friend that you don’t see that often. They aren’t in your face every single day, so their choices don’t affect you and yours need not affect them. It’s simple.

However, what happens when someone close to you is staying complacent in their growth and you are spirituality alive and growing? Then what? Did you feel that flip in your stomach? That’s because there is a need to take action on your part, but there is fear and turmoil about what to do.

I equate this situation to a car ride. When this happens, do put the car in neutral, stalling your own growth, hoping they will catch up? Do you feel like you are sticking your head out the driver’s side window saying, “Hey, c’mon! This is going to be fun!” If you are doing that now, stop it. It’s self-defeating to you and demeaning to the other person.

You can’t hope they will “catch up” to you. Maybe their path is completely different from yours. Allow them that space to grow on their own. Maybe they want to go down the dirt road and not get on the freeway… you don’t know!
Maybe you put the car in reverse and back up to get them. It’s not too far back there and honestly, you love this person, so it’s worth the time, right? Maybe they will learn something from this simple act of kindness and self-sacrifice you just demonstrated. NEWSFLASH! That is NOT spiritual growth—that is saying in clever way, “I am better than you and I am going to give you another chance to see it. Now get in!” Not OK.

The only way to deal with this type of thing when it happens is to continue along your path and go at a pace that is comfortable for you. It’s YOUR journey regardless of what role they have played in your life up until now. It’s THEIR journey regardless of what role you have played in their life up until now. Stalling or reversing won’t work for either of you. Your journey together may be over for this lifetime… or it may cross at certain junctions along the way.

It just is what it is. All spiritual growth comes with some separation. It’s okay… let go and keep driving.