Lesson 8: Be the Warrior---Yogi Style

When I get on my mat, it’s a rare day when one of the Warrior poses isn’t a part of it. I love reminding myself that mindfulness, meditation and lovingkindness practices are useless if I only use them when I’m feeling sunshiney and life is going my way. Really, mindfulness, meditation and lovingkindness is a badass inner sport. It’s not for the faint of heart and we need warrior resilience, laser focus, and inner equanimity to navigate the choppy waters of relationships, cultural climate and life's curveballs. 

Give me an example, Lindsay! Why, I’m so glad you asked. Here’s an easy one. When was the last argument with your significant other? When where you last scrolling FB and felt triggered by something someone else posted? What happened during your frenzied morning between you and your kiddos?

Our spiritual practice is only as good as our skill in relationships around us---included our SELF relationship. 

It’s hardcore to be WILLING to be triggered to learn/engage. It’s hardcore to see that the triggers are the teachers. But that's the next level shift. It’s how we will transform into the open-hearted, strong and capable beings we were meant to be.

Get yourself right now into Warrior II. Just do it. One foot forward facing, bent knee. Other foot back and facing outward. Torso balanced and ready. Arms extend strong over the legs and the gaze travels down the front arm and over the fingertips. One pointed focus. Take 3 deep breaths there and connect with YOUR inner warrior. 

Be ready to engage your triggers, the teachers, today. Lean in. Trust yourself to breath and sit with the discomfort. Be uncomfortable AND ok. Tap out if you need to, but keep at it. You have nothing to prove---the most seasoned warriors know that. Each day---do what you can. Soon, this centered focus and inner discipline will become a part of the fabric of your soul. You won’t need to control your circumstances (or TRY to!) any more, because you aren’t afraid of challenge.You celebrate it, because you know that challenge is a secret code---it’s code for “I’ve trained for this, now let’s see what I can do”. 

P.S. Much of the inspiration from this warrior intention was shaped by learning with respect from my partner---a warrior by trade in the military years ago and a warrior at heart forever. He generally doesn't picks a fight, but isn’t afraid of one either. I remember when he was enlisted. Being stateside and training took WAY more patience than combat. Once deployed---although the loss and hardship was NOT easy, of course---I remember him sharing that there also was a sort of satisfaction in actually BEING on the field doing what you’d been training for. On a way lesser scale, it’s probably the satisfaction a marathoner feels in actually RUNNING the race they’ve been practicing for day in a day out. I’m no soldier—not even a marathoner—but I do look at life as training ground for challenge. I want to be anti-fragile. Every day, when I wake up, I’ve got a choice. Go with default mode and react to every situation as it hits me (or ball up defensively and hide out!) or go with intention, direction and focus. Set my attention for the day as I create a training ground and when situations arise---engage like the strong, calm person I choose to be. There’s satisfaction in that, my friends. That's resilience. And...the resilience in me sees and honors the resilience in YOU. 

 

Lesson 7: The Power of Focus

In yogic philosophy, there is the concept of dristi or focal point. In yoga, we can intentionally place the focus of our eyes on different points and experience a different experience as a result. For example, in downward facing dog: the dristi is traditionally on the naval---reminding us to tap into our innate intuition. Sometimes though, I might invite my students to shift their gaze point to the top of our mat---looking forward to where we are going. By doing so, they create a different focus and a different path of energy. Bringing the power of dristi OFF of the mat holds the same possibility and power.

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Lesson 6: Motivating with Love

When I would go to yoga class, I would spend the first breath or two releasing the drive to “get better”. I’d tell myself that just for today, and just on my mat, I could just be me. If I didn’t ever get into splits or headstand, I’d really truly be just great.

I told myself that over and over again---anytime I’d practice.

Pretty soon, I found myself remembering this concept OFF of my mat. I’d remember that my heart was in the right place and that as long as I was showing up in my life---that was enough. I started to trust that I could just be myself in my life OFF of my mat and enjoy growth just because. It was at that moment that the magic could REALLY begin.

 

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Lesson 5: The Practice of Self-Care

Yoga as self care? Maybe obvious--but I want to go deeper. Self care means something different to everyone---and it can change over time. If you had asked me years ago what it meant to me, I would have said the usual: “bubble baths, going for a massage, taking it easy, time alone, etc.” Yoga might have made the list—but as a treat rather than a practice. 


I still think all of those things and more can be self care, but they are also just scratching the surface. My practice on the mat, as it has evolved over the years, has taught me the value of CARING for myself. To be able to “hang out” with myself just like I would with another person and just be ok with who they are. I can see myself as real human being and not just a DIY project—and because of that I can notice my energy levels, whether I’m in a good space or not and I can ask, “what is needed here?” and to me THAT is self care. It’s noticing and doing what is needed because I value myself just as I’d value another human being: the difference being, I can take responsibility for myself FAR more than I am meant to of another. 

Self care on the mat practiced in THIS way can look like lightening up a bit on my drive to improve. It might look like NOT practicing poses on the mat that day but sitting and meditating instead. It might look like trying something new: a new class, a new yoga video, or a new way of moving (yeah—yoga can be a dance!) because I need inspiration. It might also look like challenging myself and sweating harder than normal because I really need to get out of my head. It might look like letting myself fall and fail doing something I’ve not tried before because I need to remember I am most alive when growing. All of that and more is self care---because from the perspective of the mat---self care is placing high value on what would nourish, support and energize me most at that moment. That is the OPPOSITE of indulgently selfish. In fact, being able to just be with myself patiently, to notice with curiosity what’s going on and to offer wisely what would be best in that moment—I’m strengthening the muscle to be able to do that with other people. What does it feel like to you to have a safe space where you can be yourself, to have someone in your corner who has your back no matter what and who seems to know just what to say or do? To me that’s priceless love and acceptance. When I have this from another human being, it inspires me to spread my wings with enthusiasm. I wonder what would happen if we could also offer this to ourselves? I wonder what would change if we could then offer this to others? 

To me—THAT’S a lesson from the mat. 

Lesson 4: Coming Together, Hands at Heart Center

Throughout class----we move, breathe, sweat, wobble, fall, get back up and conquer---it’s pretty amazing and magical. Something happens----we start to see ourselves as a community. Now, it might be a small casual community that will NEVER come together again. But for that one class---we are all in it together. We can look around and see

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Lesson 3: Have Your Own Experience

There was this sense that everyone knew what to do---except for me. I was the newbie. 
I remember looking desperately for a space somewhere in the back---a corner. No luck! The only spot left was torture as an introvert---the middle of the room. I contemplated leaving---but that seemed like it would make more of a scene. I just wanted to be invisible, to blend in---I wanted to belong.

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Lesson 1: Learning to Just BE

As I mentioned in my intro, I came into yoga as a “pusher” and “do-er” and a “self shamer”. No matter what I did, it was never enough and as a result I was never enough. The first pose that I remember really wrestling with was Savasana or “Corpe Pose” (or as we call it in my classes now, Nap Pose). It’s that pose at the end of most yoga classes where you outstretch on your back, legs relaxed out and arms down your sides and just close your eyes. The teacher would say “just BE”. I remember thinking, “yeah, ok----this feels silly and like I’m doing nothing.” I found myself fidgeting to get comfortable,

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Welcome to my Lessons from the Mat: the Bridge between Practice and Living

The first time I remember doing “official yoga” (whatever that is ;)) was on my own. It was about 10 months or so after my daughter’s birth and I was having trouble feeling like “me”. My back hurt, my core was weak, my neck and shoulders were chronically bent over and I just felt OLD. (I was in my mid 20’s so that’s not an ideal feeling.)
I had been active running and trying to lift weights pretty consistently. However, the WAY I did these activities was to

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