Off Your Mat

Bringing yoga off your mat into your life, one pose at a time.


2 Comments

Dear Prince,

I learned of your death on my lunch break. I opened the news and read the headline. I found myself blinking back tears. I did not realize how connected I felt to you until you were gone. You were my high school and college soundtrack, you were the song I always turned up.

prince__1_

I texted my sister and friends. I listened to tribute stations. I poured over every article. I was grateful for the collective grief. I was glad Paris and New York were lit up in purple. You deserve it.

The news soon turned, first speculating, then confirming your overdose. In the little I have learned about your purposely private life, I can only guess that you would not have wanted these articles picking apart your every move, examining your family, describing your lonely body, silent and still in an elevator.

I know when the toxic hand of addiction wraps itself around a person’s heart and seeps into their blood, it is godless, soulless, friendless, without empathy, and brutally selfish. It steals away our most loving, talented, smart and kind people. They become vacant, then gone.

If you were struggling with an opiate addiction, I know your wealth, fame, need for privacy, and insistence on complete control could have made it difficult, if not impossible, to get the kind of help you needed. I also know the people closest to you might not have had the skills to understand what was happening. Without a clear working knowledge of what you are looking at, opiate addiction is hard to see close up. Addicts can be brilliant at blurring the lines and boundaries between help and hurt.

If the reports about some of the doctors are true, I have no words for them. They had an opportunity to help you. They didn’t.

Even while you were surrounded by a team of people, I’m sure you felt alone. Even with seemingly limitless resources, I’m sure you felt trapped. Despite your carefully cultivated aloof image, there must have been a terrified part of you that could see what was happening. There must have been another equally terrified part of you that could not stop. You might have felt shame and fear of being exposed. You might have made promises to yourself or God and found you could not keep them.  You might have rationalized away the choices that frightened you.

On stage, you never slipped up. You were perfection, always in command, lovingly inclusive with your collaborations, joyfully pushing limits. We looked to you, knowing you would transport us. You always delivered, bringing us with you every time. You became something a little more than human.

Prince-1977-6

As far-fetched and naive as it sounds, I wish we could have helped you. For all the joy, release and affirmation you gave, I wish all the millions that loved you could have known that our perfect song genius, our James Brown-Jimmy Hendrix love child, our beloved matador-harlequin-pixie-minotaur-pimp-daddy-preacher-soul-funk man needed help.

I wish we had known just how human and vulnerable you were, just like us.


1 Comment

Stolen Car Pose: 5 Lessons Learned

I made a foolish decision.

On a frigid Friday morning, I pulled into a bustling convenience store parking lot, found a spot right in front of the double glass doors, grabbed my wallet out of my purse, left my car running and ran into the store for a tea. Less than 5 minutes later I came out of the store and found an empty spot where my car had been.getty images car thief

I felt like such a fool. My typical Friday morning turned into an absurd nightmare. Standing in the middle of a busy and bright morning scene I was horrified and overwhelmed. The store manager called the police and let me use the store office phone to make calls while I waited for the police to arrive.

It was an awful situation. Although my foolish decision does not justify the thief’s decision to steal my car, I do realize that my choice offered up the opportunity.

What was surprisingly evident to me was the amount of strangers that stepped out of the woodwork to help me. Employees of the store noticed me loitering near the manager’s office and asked if I was alright. They offered the use of their cell phones and helped me look up phone numbers I needed. They helped me get in touch with my friends and family. Random customers paused to commiserate with me and wish me luck. It reminded me there are more people out there looking to help than looking to hurt.

I came away with 5 clear lessons:

1. Never ever leave your car running unattended anywhere, regardless of the non-threatening zip code.

2. Keep a copy of important numbers in your wallet. If your phone is in your car when its stolen you are going to need them. Numbers to consider…your phone company’s customer service line, your insurance company’s number (with a copy of your insurance information!), the numbers of at least 2 people who you would want to contact in an emergency. I had some numbers in my wallet and it made the whole situation a little less stressful.

3. If your house keys are on your key ring when the car is stolen, change your house locks immediately. That’s right. If the thief has the cojones to steal your car, they might very well figure out where you live and check out what you have to take there.

4. Think about what might have been in your car that could be a potential breach of online security. Get online and change your passwords.

5. If your check book was in your car get to the bank and change your account information.

Most car thefts are crimes of opportunity. The thief does not have a clear plan and in most cases they will abandon the car within 48 hours. Which is exactly what happened in my case. In fact, my car was abandoned with all of my belongings inside of it, my purse and checkbook intact.

I’m a bit embarrassed about how thoughtless I was, walking away from my running, unlocked car. I hope sharing the story might keep someone from making the same mistake. In the end, I was pretty lucky. It was mostly a huge inconvenience and a vivid reminder of how quickly the material can vanish.

learnfromothers-quotecard.sized


2 Comments

Talking ’bout a Resolution

new year resolutionsHere are the numbers:

According to a government survey, over 30% of people give up on their resolutions before the end of January, and another 30% quit before the end of May. In fact, only 8% of people regularly succeed in keeping the promises they made as that ball dropped.

The top resolutions for 2015 are to lose weight, get organized and spend less money. Sadly, the majority of these promises are abandoned within 8 days of January 1st. This poor showing happens because people make lofty goals without the plan to execute them.

The New Year’s Resolution is not a magical wish granted by the Baby New Year Genie. Like any other goal, our resolutions take planning and effort to achieve.

Your resolution is a promise to yourself. It is just as important as a promise you would make to a friend or a family member. Here are few tips for a making a resolution that won’t get tossed out with the tree.

1) Make small specific goals instead of a big whopper.

Instead of saying “I will lose 25 pounds,” say “I will take the stairs instead of the elevator.” Or “I will walk for 40 minutes after dinner.”

Instead of saying “I will be more charitable,” say “I will participate in one coat drive and one food drive.” Or “I will contact my neighbor who does a turkey drop every year and ask her if I can participate.”

When the goals are broken down into small, less intimidating steps, they will simply become part of your to do list.

2) Set a schedule.

Work your goals into your daily calendar. They will become concrete tasks instead of an idea that can be put off for another day.

If your goal is to be more connected to your friends, note it in your calendar. Schedule time to make phone calls or write emails. Schedule an hour for lunch with a friend. These things don’t happen unless you make the time.

If you are trying to save money, set up an automatic deposit to your savings account. If you are giving up an expense, create a schedule around it.

For example: “Instead of going to Starbucks everyday, I will only go on Mondays.” Or “I will pack my own lunch Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.”

3) Make it social.

Don’t isolate yourself. Your resolution is not a punishment.

If you committed to being more organized, set a date with a friend to clean out your closet. Or block out 2 hours with your kids to declutter the basement. Make it an event and treat them to something afterwards.

If fitness is your goal, make a weekly workout date with a friend. Join a class with a friend that you wouldn’t normally do alone.

images

Most importantly, remember, this is your promise to yourself and it is just as important as a promise that you would make to any loved one.

Want some more resolution tips? Take a look here.


1 Comment

The Judgment Pose

I’m most relaxed and focused in my yoga practice when I’m not worried about what other people think of me.

If I suddenly become self-conscious or worried that I might be judged, the pleasure I derive from my practice can drain away. I begin to see myself through the eyes of the people looking at me, and in my insecure moments I might imagine that they only see my flaws.

The reality is, the most critical eye in the room is the instructor who is looking to assist and he or she needs to use judgment to do so.

group yoga class

Tree Pose (Vriksasana)

Here’s a quick example. At first glance the above photo is of attractive people practicing yoga. However, as I look closer, I find flaws. I can spot three yogis placing their foot against the knee of their support leg. That can injure the knee. As an instructor I would gently remind my class to place the foot either above or below the knee. I used my judgment to identify a threat and then protected others by pointing it out.

Humans are hard-wired to judge, it is a survival skill. Thousands of years ago the first humans had to judge and assess most things in their environment for threat. They didn’t have the luxury of assuming changes and differences were ultimately good.

Akakus - Sahara Desert

Akakus – Sahara Desert

Fast forward to the present. We still judge. There are still physical dangers that we need to assess. However, we use our judgment in countless other ways. It is the way our minds work. We observe, we assess, we make judgments. It is what we do with those judgments that can either be helpful or hurtful. That choice is up to the individual.

People judge. It’s what we do. We cannot control what another person might do with their judgment. If a person makes judgments and uses them to degrade or humiliate an individual, then that is an example of judgment gone wrong.

So here’s the take away: Yes. People will judge you. No. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. Ultimately, it is your own judgments about yourself that should resonate loudest.

Maybe the best approach is to adopt the philosophy of Wayne Dyer and remember, “What other people think of me is none of my business.”


1 Comment

The Out of the Mouth of Babes Pose: The Practice of Listening

Erin Hanson Poem

The above poem has gone viral. It has been pinned & tumbled across the internet. I came across it today in someone else’s blog. Having been a poetry buff, I was annoyed with myself because I was sure I knew the poem, but I couldn’t figure out who had written it. I was confident it was a portion of a poem of someone I read in college and the name had since faded from memory.

So I googled it. Only to discover the prose was written by a 19-year-old (That’s right. 19.) Australian girl called Erin Hanson. Here she is…

You can learn more about her in this interview with Julia Mason. She is inspiring. Along with writing and managing her poetry blog, she does crafts and tutors kids in math and was a gymnastics coach. She makes me want to go back in time and give my 19-year-old self a serious talking to.

This young woman is a reminder that age isn’t the only path to wisdom and sometimes young eyes find the truest path. She (and her poem) make me hope that as my small daughter grows, I am careful enough to listen to her dreams and brave enough not to stifle them.


3 Comments

The Practice of Perspective

plane window photo

A view from above

Time does more than tick mindlessly, measuring out moments and rationing minutes. It heals too.

I remember as a teenager being embroiled in a heartbreaking social tangle. I sat at my childhood kitchen table lamenting the situation with tears welling in my eyes. My mother reassured me saying, “I can tell you that in a few years this will mean nothing.”

She was right. All I can remember from that moment is my mother’s words. I have no idea what actually caused the tears.

Now my daily life hustles across a grid marked by time. School drop off at 8:30, work by 9:00, 60 minutes for lunch, pick up by 4:45, swim class by 6, my eyes search out the dashboard clock as my own digital sherpa.

street chalk art optical illusion

I rarely notice how this endless current of time is slowly softening edges and smoothing rough spots. If I choose to stop and think about what might have had my stomach in a knot last year at this time, it becomes really clear that things have changed and that particular worry has dissipated on its own.

It causes a reevaluation of current worries. If they don’t matter a year from now, do they matter at all?

Even time, that is often viewed as a taskmaster, can be re-framed as a gentler force, kind enough to ease fears and tensions just by keeping its constant measured pace.

Reminding us, that a little perspective can change everything.