5 Ways Yoga Can Help You Fall in Love with Your Body

child bodyWhen I first started doing yoga, I really didn’t like my body very much. I rarely had any positive thoughts about it. Mostly when I thought about my body I felt frustrated, or ashamed. These sound like big things to feel but in my experience talking and working with women these are some of the most common ways us women feel about our body. When we give ourselves the time and space to really listen to what we tell ourselves about our body, it’s surprising what we hear. It’s unusual for us to have thoughts like “I love my body,” “My body is amazing,” “I appreciate everything my body does for me.” Mostly we think things along the lines of “I wish my body were different,” “I don’t like this part or that part,” and “I’m too big.” What if there were a way to go from body-bashing to body-loving? What if you could go from wishing your body was different to seeing how amazing it is? It’s all in the approach. I’m not going to say that yoga is the be-all solution. But practiced with an awareness of how it can help you love your body, yoga can be a powerful force of positive transformation. 5 Ways Yoga Can Help You Fall in Love With Your Body

  1. We realize how we talk to ourselves about ourselves. When we do yoga, we have to be with our body and our thoughts about our body. There’s no distraction from the thoughts of self-judgement or rejection. We become keenly aware of what we say about our body. And that’s the first step to moving from believing those things to realizing they’re untrue. Takeaway:Start to notice what you tell yourself about your body.
  1. We must choose to stop feeding those thoughts. Body-bashing thoughts, like most thoughts that pull us down, can feel really attractive. There’s a part of us that leans into them, relishing the way we feel. To continue growing and learning in our yoga practice, we need to shift our focus to what how we’re growing and what we’re learning. And we learn how to be in a very body-focused environment without feeding those body-bashing thoughts. Takeaway: Focus on what you’re working on in your yoga practice, not the thoughts about your body.
  1. We learn to use our body in a different way. During our yoga practice, our body becomes a tool for physical strength and flexibility. It becomes a part of us that enables us to do a handstand, rise into tree pose, or arc into a backbend. It becomes a part of us that supports us as we learn something new, and then master it. Takeaway: Notice what you’re doing now, that you weren’t doing before.
  1. We start to appreciate what our body can do. Seeing our body in a whole new way helps us to appreciate what it can do. We’re less likely to take it for granted, especially since we can experience such a dramatic change in how we feel after practicing yoga. We start to appreciate what our body can do for us. Takeaway: Make a list of reasons why you appreciate your body.
  1. We learn to see our body in a different way. Rather than looking at our body only as something to be assessed, measured and compared to others’, we start to see it as a part of us that helps us gain inner and outer strength, access deep peace and contentment, and even begin to live from a place of love. Takeaway: See your body as a way to access an inner state that begins to impact your world and how you experience it.

Yoga is one of the things that helped me powerfully transform the way I feel about my body. It’s not often that I think negative thoughts about this incredible vessel I’m honoured to live in. From this place of gratitude, it’s rare for me to see my body as something to be assessed and compared to others’. I just look at it and think “Thank you.” And for that, I am eternally grateful. I hope these tips help you, too, xL

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Editor’s note: This was a guest post from the amazing Lindsey Lewis–life coach and yoga teacher. Stay up to date with her latest at www.libreliving.comFacebook, and Twitter.   Photo credit: TeenyTinyOm

Theming your yoga class, theming your life…

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Theming is an integral part of the class-planning process if you are a yoga teacher, whether it is done consciously or not. Some people prefer to prepare a short story or inspirational reading, others choose a word or anecdote to share. However, even if you’re not intentionally putting forth the effort to plan a theme for class, theming still occurs.

A conversation that came up during my training a few weeks ago had to do with the topic of theming. How necessary is a theme, even? What makes a good, or a bad, theme? Christina Sell dropped some wisdom on us that I found both comforting and challenging. Whether you choose a specific theme or not, a theme has already chosen you. The way that you speak, the words you choose to use, your sequence, your adjustments…are all part of who you are as a teacher. Compassion, grace, perseverance, and courage are all your themes, and if you teach as your most authentic self, every aspect of your class carries your theme.

One of the ways that I intentionally theme classes is with a playlist. I choose a word, or maybe a holiday, to base the playlist off of, and then spend hours swimming through music and choosing just the right combination and sequence. It’s one of my favorite parts of planning a class.

In the case of this coming Independence Day, I’ve created a playlist entitled ‘Freedom’. On it are songs that speak to Freedom from many different angles. They beg questions like “What is freedom to you?” and “What cost are you willing to pay for that freedom?” and more lightheartedly, “What would freedom look like if I were a Dragonfly?”

It’s not so important to me that the class even notices the theme of the playlist, but that the intention and energy that went in to making it is expressed.

I’d love to share my Freedom playlist with you, in honor of the 4th of July. Throw it on, and find freedom on your mat.

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post from DCOY contributor Sean Devenport. She is currently completing her 500-hour RYT.

540217_698781320137845_1802831051_nA quiet and curious observer by nature, Sean was drawn to human psychology as an undergraduate at Ripon College. Determined to learn just what it is that makes people “tick”, she travelled the globe studying some of the ways we, as humans, can be – spending a semester on the golden beaches of Australia, and another in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, Sean returned home to discover the key ingredient  to understanding others was first to understand the Self. Since 2009, Sean has been a dedicated practitioner of yoga and life, dabbling in every style from Bikram to Kripalu. As a former dancer and dance enthusiast to this day, the fluidity and dance-like quality of Vinyasa was what really spoke to her soul. After studying under Gioconda Parker in 2011, Sean began teaching her own personal style of Hatha Flow, a melding of Vinyasa, the dedication to precision and alignment of Anusara, and Iyengar, and the core teachings of Hatha Yoga. Sean was highly influenced by William J Broad’s 2011 best seller The Science of Yoga, and strives to offer a safe and judgement-free environment for practitioners of every level to seek higher understanding of themSelves. Sean encourages students to pour the compassion and love that they cultivate for themselves on their mats, in to their every day interactions with others. Under the guidance of Gioconda and Christina Sell, Sean is currently pursuing her 500-hour teaching certification, The Alchemy of Flow and Form, at the San Marcos School of Yoga. Connect with Sean on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Photo credit: Laura Sykora on Instagram

10 Things I Learned From Destination Yoga Teacher Training

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1. I am stronger than I know. I spent hours upon hours, day after day doing insane amounts of intense yoga. My body did not let me down. On the contrary, it surprised me almost daily by how much it was able and willing to do. There was a point in the week where my body seemed to tell my mind to “STFU. I got this. Quit telling me what I am incapable of. Enjoy the ride.”

2. We are all in this together. One of my favorite moments of the week was laying on the ground in savasana, singing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” while holding hands with a drag performer from Seattle and an architect from Boulder. We had nothing in common; we have everything in common. It is amazing how many friends you find when you realize the only thing that matters is we are all human.

3. That story you tell yourself, the one where you are not good enough, not smart enough, not ready, not worthy? Stop. It is old. It is boring. And it is a lie. It is also holding you back. It is impossible to be where you are, to believe more is possible, to write another chapter when you are busy reading the previous one. So whatever your past is, leave it there. The mf-er is heavy. And you have things to do.

4. Forgive. Tell the truth. Do unto others. In other words, live the golden rule. With yourself and with others.

5. You are responsible for the energy that you bring into a space. So that bad mood, your sadness that you have not dealt with, the unresolved fight with your sister, the frustration from not following your dream, it is not just your business because you are hauling into every interaction in your day.

6. If you want something new, you can not create it from old stuff. Nor can you create anything at all, until you clean your sink. The best analogy of the week, the one that landed with me the most, was the sink full of dirty dishes. It is really hard to tackle when it is overflowing, yet totally doable when there is only one or two. This is life. Deal with the dirty dishes as they come. Do not let the sink get overloaded or it becomes overwhelming and you do nothing.

7. Friends absolutely change everything. In a good way. This applies to all kinds of friends—BFFs, just met you friends, boyfriends, friends that are boys, friends in your city, friends far away, friends you talk to daily, friends you wish you talked to daily. Because what they all have in common is a willingness to take a little bit of your load, your story and leave you with a more manageable amount.

8. Inspire somebody. Like air masks on an airplane, start with you. Then spread that inspiration to your kids, your friends, your spouse, the random guy in line behind you at Starbucks. Let your life be an example of what is possible.

9. Listen to the ultimate teacher. No matter who is leading class or discussion, the teacher is you. You know your body and heart most, you can be your own guru.

10. Practice yoga. Daily.

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Christina Russo, a new contributor to Daily Cup of Yoga. Find more of her work at LittleWindmillYoga.com.

Photo credit: Cam Lee on Facebook

10 Benefits of Gratitude

gratitude_silviaRick Foster and Greg Hicks set out on a three-year journey to study extremely happy people. In their book How We Choose to Be Happy, they found that there are nine choices happy people make. One of those nine is to practice Appreciation.  The other of the nine choices includes: Intention, Accountability, Identification, Centrality, Recasting, Options, Giving, Truthfulness, and Synergy.

Happy people actively exercise gratitude and choose to live with an attitude of gratitude. They don’t buy into what geneticists say, that we have an unmovable “happiness set-point.”

The happiest people, according to behaviorists, can move beyond that biological set point through practices such as Yoga and gratitude meditation. In fact, many studies suggest that gratitude can be learned by anyone to transform our lives. This means that by actively practicing gratitude, we can actually raise our “happiness set-point,” regardless of the situation, and no matter the circumstance.

Appreciation makes us aware of the blessings present in our life moment to moment. There is always something to be grateful for if you are fully engaged in what’s happening right now instead of replaying the past or worrying about the future. Besides a higher happiness set point, other benefits of gratitude include:

  1. Feeling more connected (less lonely)
  2. Stronger immune system
  3. Improved emotional equilibrium
  4. Better sleep
  5. Increased energy
  6. More confidence in ourselves
  7. Deeper relaxation
  8. We are more attractive
  9. Increased creativity
  10. Easier bounce back from difficulty

To experience these benefits we must consciously choose to practice gratitude. Include one of these exercises in your life:

  1. Set your intention to maintain a Gratitude Journal for one week. Every morning, start your day with a simple gratitude exercise that involves writing down 3-10 things you are grateful for, both big and small.
  2. Set the timer for three minutes and sit still. Quietly think about all that you appreciate in a free-form stream of consciousness, without any editing. Don’t worry if it makes sense or not.
  3. For a week write one thank you note per day to tell someone how much you appreciate them and why.
  4. Practice self-appreciation. Take time for seven days in a row to write yourself a note of gratitude.

You will be amazed at how effortless recognizing these moments of grace becomes. Taken together these small blessings cultivate a beautiful “just right” abundance of love and joy. What’s even better? Studies prove these gratitude exercises will increase your sense of well-being by at least 10%. Don’t take my word on it, or even believe the scientists behind these studies, try it and find out for yourself. Love yourself, love your day, love your life! ~Silvia

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Screen Shot Front Silvia CardEditor’s note: This is another amazing guest post by Daily Cup of Yoga contributor Silvia Mordini, E-RYT, retreat leader, happiness coach, and yogipreneur. Enthusiasm to love your life is contagious around Silvia. Her expert passion connects people to their own joyful potential. Silvia lives her happiness in such a big way that you can’t help but leave her classes, workshops, trainings and retreats spiritually uplifted! Born in Ecuador, raised traveling around the globe, she is an enthusiastic citizen of the world and spiritual adventurer. She has over 10,000 hours and 15 years of teaching experience, owned a yoga studio for 9 years and after being run over by a car used yoga to recover physically and emotionally. Silvia leads Alchemy Tours Yoga Retreats and Alchemy of Yoga RYT200 Yoga Teacher Training.

Silvia can be reached on the Web at www.alchemytours.com or www.silviamordini.com, or via email at silvia@alchemytours.com. Twitter: @alchemytours@inspiredyogagal; Facebook: Silvia Mordini; YouTube: lovingyourday; Pinterest: Silvia Mordini; Intagram: alchemytours.

Photo credit: @inspiredyogagal on Instagram

The Yoga of Acceptance

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Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. – Lao Tzu

The beauty of a yoga practice is that it helps us learn acceptance. Initially, I found that my practice was helping me learn to accept my body as it was that day in that particular moment. Every time I would go to class, my teachers would remind me, remind us all, that a piece of doing a posture was simply about focusing on where our bodies were right then. Not where they were the day before. Not where we wanted them to be. Right then.

It was a hard lesson to accept. When I first began my practice three years ago, I was happy to just show up and do anything. I was excited about the possibilities for each posture. I looked forward to seeing what the next class would bring.

But the more time I spent in the studio the less accepting I became of my body and what it could do. I wanted my tight hamstrings and hips to open up so that I could go deeper in certain postures. I found myself frustrated with the time it was taking and the lack of progress I perceived myself to be making.

I had developed a goal-oriented practice.

My practice had moved away from self-acceptance and enjoyment and into one where I thought the only way to be happy was to obtain full expression of a posture. No, not every posture. I just had certain ones I loved and thought were beautiful that I wanted to achieve. The rest of them, well, they didn’t really concern me. If a posture wasn’t on my list of favorites, then it was something I simply had to do in order to get to one of those that was. I was just passing time.

Refocusing My Practice

As the quote from Lao Tzu says, “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes,” and sure enough, I experienced one that helped me refocus my practice.

About six weeks ago, I was doing some back-bending at home. I shouldn’t have been doing it. It was cold outside, I was cold, and I was not properly warmed up. But my back felt tight from sitting all day, and I just wanted to stretch it out. The result? A pulled muscle in my lower back.

That pulled muscle impacted nearly every single posture. Anything I could have done in a posture previously became non-existent. Yes, I could go to class, but I had to move slowly and evaluate what was going on with my body. Most postures I could barely get into at all, and there were several I flat out couldn’t do for weeks because of the pain it caused in my back.

I didn’t want to give up my practice, and it was recommended to me that continuing, and doing anything I could, was better than doing nothing at all. Some movement is better than no movement.

The first week was the worst. I cried several times because of the pain and the physical limitations it put on me, but then, somehow, I managed to fall into acceptance. I started to find the joy in going to class and doing what I could without expectations. I became excited again about what the next day would bring. Some days I could do more, and others I could do less, but I learned not to get upset by this.

I started to appreciate each posture for its own beauty and what it brought me each day. Since I couldn’t do my favorite postures to the extent I was used to, I had stopped focusing on when they would show up in class. I was simply being.

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post by new Daily Cup of Yoga contributor, Leigh A. Hall. Leigh has been practicing Bikram Yoga for over three years. She blogs regularly about her practice at www.mybikramyogalife.com.  You can find her on Facebook,  Twitter, and Pinterest.

Sacred Sound: Mantras & Chants

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Many years ago when I started a yoga practice, I had no idea what it would reveal to me. I was just hoping for a little extra strength and flexibility, and I did what I could to avoid all the spiritual trappings of the practice. But, somehow, as it does, the yoga did its job. Over the years it brought me through physical, psychological, and emotional revelations that I can’t imagine would have taken place otherwise.

One of the most powerful insights has come through the use of sound and mantra as a basis for the practice. I was born with a hearing impairment that gave me a unique relationship to sound. As a child, I would feel sound, vibration, tone, and intonation in order to more fully access my world. This was second nature to me, but through my studies of yoga (and physics!), I suddenly found a reason behind my special relationship to sound. Just as important, through yoga’s rich mythology, I also gained context and meaning to better understand how the inner and outer practices of yoga work. It is from this perspective that I have always practiced and taught, fueled by the belief that sound has the power to harmonize us and myth brings forth what is alive within us. It is in this spirit that I always end my lectures and workshops with these words: Don’t miss the vibrations.

Mantras and Chants

A mantra, as it relates to the yogic and Vedic traditions of India, is a Sanskrit phrase that encapsulates some higher idea or ideal within the cadence, vibration, and essence of its sound. A mantra can be as simple as a single sound — such as chanting the well-known sound — or as complicated as chanting a poem that tells a grand story or gives instruction. Whatever mantra is chanted, no matter how long or short, the purpose is the same: it is meant to act like a skeleton key to help you bypass the mundane matters and mental chatter of the day-to-day mind in order to reach a transcendent state of awareness and self-realization that is, quite frankly, indescribable. Every yogic practice provides the means for us to do this — such as äsana (postures), meditation, and präëäyäma (breath work) — but mantra practice and näda yoga are uniquely simple and universal. If you can form a thought, you can do a mantra practice. The simple act of thinking a mantra is a start to a genuine practice. The silent repetition of the sound while driving, for example, can be a starting point. Eventually, our practice might grow to include chanting while meditating, attending lively mantra-based musical performances (kirtan, or kértana), or perhaps even chanting a longer mantra 108 times aloud to celebrate the New Year. As I’ve said, there is no wrong way to use a mantra.

In the United States, mantra has gained popularity largely through the musical kirtan (kértana) tradition. Popular kirtan musicians such as Krishna Das, Deva Premal, and Dave Stringer have brought these Eastern chants to life by giving them some good old American rock-and-roll flair. While the kirtan tradition in India began around the ninth century, its look and feel hasn’t changed much even as it has evolved to incorporate Western musical proclivities. It has always had (and still has) a fairly simplistic call-and-response-type format, where the leader will chant a phrase that is repeated by the audience. This typically becomes more lively and fast as the chant continues. In India, various instruments are used — typically the harmonium (similar to an accordion in a box), the tabla (classical Indian drum set), and the cartals (tiny cymbals). Those instruments are still present in many kirtan settings today, yet the music is often Westernized through the incorporation of all sorts of instruments, like the guitar, bass, and even a proper Western drum kit (like how Chris Grosso and I perform!). What is wonderful about many of these yogic and Vedic traditions is that they are quite malleable. So long as the intention is still sealed within the practice, the practice — even if it is modernized and Westernized — does not lose its efficacy.

So while some choose to chant mantras in a kirtan setting, others have long used mantra in spiritual practice in accordance with daily rituals, meditation, or as a way to bind fellow students of a tradition. Many use a mantra during their morning worship practice to invoke an intention or particular deity. Many practitioners also stay focused in their meditation practice by silently or quietly chanting a mantra. And some traditions claim certain mantras as part of their tradition — almost like a secret handshake. In many Eastern spiritual traditions, it is common at the beginning and end of a spiritual practice to chant a mantra or . Mantras are also commonly used as prayers for peace, health, or well-being. Mantras can be used to focus the mind and empower whatever spiritual practice we embark on. Mantra is fuel for the inner spiritual fire.

I encourage you to simply begin a mantra practice in whatever way that feels right, using my book Sacred Sound. and/or the mantra library on my website (www.bit.ly/mantralibrary), as a guide . Start simple, such as with om, and incorporate other, longer, or more complex mantras as they resonate with you. Some mantras may appeal to you because of their sound, while others may become attractive as you understand their context, underlying mythology, and intention. Over time, as you use each mantra in your life and practice, it will become like a friend whom you come to know more and more deeply. The mantra may start out as a little gem that lightens your day, but after years of saying it, it may also become a bright light that guides you through the darkest of times. Through practice, we make these mantras our own so they help us on our spiritual journey.

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AlannaKaivalya2_cEditor’s note: This is a guest post by Alanna Kaivalya, author of some of my favorite yoga books, including her recently released Sacred Sound. She is the yoga world’s expert on Hindu mythology and mysticism. Her podcasts have been heard by more than one million people worldwide, and her Kaivalya Yoga Method melds mythology, philosophy, and yoga. Visit her online at http://www.alannak.com.

 Adapted from the book Sacred Sound © 2014 by Alanna Kaivalya. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. www.newworldlibrary.com.

How Yoga Teaches Generosity

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If you have a candle, the light won’t glow any dimmer if I light yours off of mine. ~ Steven Tyler

Yoga has changed my view of generosity. I have learned to give without expectation and to always remain mindful of the quality of my generosity. After all, generosity in yoga is based partly on two of the five Yamas:

  1. Generosity is the opposite of taking (Asteya) whereby we share freely with a focused, quality effort.
  2. A generous person sees life through a prism of abundance instead of scarcity. In yoga this is known as Aparigraha: there is enough for everyone.

One of my favorite stories about the value of generosity is called Stone Soup.

There are many variations on the story of stone soup, but they all involve a traveler coming into a town beset by famine. The inhabitants try to discourage the traveler from staying, fearing he wants them to give him food. They tell him in no uncertain terms that there’s no food anywhere to be found. The traveler explains that he doesn’t need any food and that, in fact, he was planning to make a soup to share with all of them. The villagers watch suspiciously as he builds a fire and fills an enormous pot with water. With great ceremony, he pulls a stone from a bag, dropping the stone into the pot of water. He sniffs the brew extravagantly and exclaims how delicious stone soup is. As the villagers begin to show interest, he mentions how good the soup would be with just a little cabbage in it. A villager brings out a cabbage to share. This episode repeats itself until the soup has cabbage, carrots, onions, and beets, indeed, a substantial soup that feeds everyone in the village.

This story teaches us that sharing is especially important when we perceive a limitation. This is normally when we tend to constrict, hoard or withdraw. This principle can also apply to sharing energy, putting conditions on giving love, or holding back our ideas (perhaps because we are afraid that others will “copy” us).  The traveler represents the potential within each of us to inspire others to be more generous.

3 Ways to Be More Generous:

  1. The one thing that we all value is “time.” Take a moment to think of ways you can be more generous with your time.  Can you start by being generous with yourself? Can you give yourself the gift of a yoga class every week so you feel the goodness of your own heart? Then share your time by calling someone to listen, offer to walk a friend’s dog, babysit, go grocery shopping for a friend, volunteer at a soup kitchen.
  2. Consider the quality of your generosity. It’s one thing to give away things you don’t like or are bored with, but what about something more important? It is easy to get caught up with the idea of having or doing MORE for the sake of more. However, this more-is-better philosophy forsakes quality. Go beyond this by pulling a couple things from your closet that you love, and give that away.
  3. Be more open about sharing ideas.  One has to look no further than what happened to Encarta after Wikipedia opened the floodgates of information. I applaud other professionals, such as Chase Jarvis, who operates an open business model for budding photographers. For years I have shared class plans, yoga playlists, philosophical class themes, posted detailed yoga retreat itineraries online with the intention that they inspire others. I consult for free to help others cultivate new business ideas. I want students to build on what I do to create something even better. To me imitation is flattering. It is our responsibility as members of a human tribe to be as generous as possible in sharing our intellectual currency.

Philosopher Maimonides pictured giving on 8 spiritual levels. The first two get to the heart of yoga right away.

  • “The motivation for real giving finds its source in the internal self, not in the expectations of others.”
  • “Anonymous giving – happy people don’t expect a return. They give because it comes from the heart and they believe that joy and happiness are abundant. They aren’t going to run out.”

Let’s come together and open our hearts to all the ways we can be more generous with our spirit, our positive energy, our kind thoughts, our love, our time. And remember your personal understanding of the value of sharing is a reflection of who you are.

Love yourself, love your day, love your life,
Silvia

“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”
~ John Wesley

 

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Screen Shot Front Silvia CardEditor’s note: This is another amazing guest post by Daily Cup of Yoga contributor Silvia Mordini, E-RYT, retreat leader, happiness coach, and yogipreneur. Enthusiasm to love your life is contagious around Silvia. Her expert passion connects people to their own joyful potential. Silvia lives her happiness in such a big way that you can’t help but leave her classes, workshops, trainings and retreats spiritually uplifted! Born in Ecuador, raised traveling around the globe, she is an enthusiastic citizen of the world and spiritual adventurer. She has over 10,000 hours and 15 years of teaching experience, owned a yoga studio for 9 years and after being run over by a car used yoga to recover physically and emotionally. Silvia leads Alchemy Tours Yoga Retreats and Alchemy of Yoga RYT200 Yoga Teacher Training.

Silvia can be reached on the Web at www.alchemytours.com or www.silviamordini.com, or via email at silvia@alchemytours.com. Twitter: @alchemytours@inspiredyogagal; Facebook: Silvia Mordini; YouTube: lovingyourday; Pinterest: Silvia Mordini; Intagram: alchemytours.

The Advanced Yoga Practice for When Things Fall Apart

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Crap happens. Things fall apart. Life gets hard.

This is about the advanced, accessible yoga practice that will help you when that happens. Read on…

We make life harder or easier depending on how we think about what’s happening. We can’t change what happened to us, but we can change how it impacts us. The shift from the toxin of “This is terrible” to the cleansing “This is what it is” is relief.

We go from fighting our reality to letting it be what it will be. It will be that, whether we fight it or not. We get to choose whether we have that experience in peace or in turmoil.

On our yoga mat, stuff happens. Our postures fall apart. We get asked to do something difficult. It gets hard.

We make it harder or easier depending on how we think about what’s happening. If we’ve chosen to listen deep, and taking our guidance on what and where to go next from the person at the front of the room, we’re not in charge of changing what happens to us. But we can change how it impacts us.

This shift from “I really don’t like this pose,” or “Why is she getting us to do this?” to the cleansing “This is what is” is relief. We go from fighting our reality to letting it be what it will be. It will be this posture, that flow, this arrangement of arms and legs—whether we fight it or not.

In turmoil, we create an endless loop of stress-inducing thoughts. Thoughts that take what’s happening and make it worse. Much worse. It’s possible to experience things that we’d like to call terrible or awful and just call them life.

Just as it’s possible to experience a yoga posture we’d like to call frustrating and too tough and just call it yoga.

Hang in. Breathe deep.

Don’t run from it. Our yoga practice gets challenging. Things fall apart. It’s what life does.

It changes. It grows. It surprises us. And so do we.

Joseph Campbell said: “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” We’re not meant to stay stagnant. Not meant to hang onto the ways we think life should be.

We’re meant to to unfold, to gently rise up from resistance and angst and into peace. A lotus arcing into bloom.

Lotuses grow in the muck. The messy, changing, layers of mud beneath a body of water. They root down and then steadily press upwards through the lake, rising into bloom when they reach the surface.

Butterflies strain and bite and press against their cocoon until they emerge–with strengthened wings. Ready to fly. Every seed cracks open before the new growth can come out.

This is what the tough things do for us. This is what life does for us. This is what our yoga practice can do for us.

It helps us to emerge from the cages we’ve created. By showing us where we’re holding the bars in front of our own faces. Every time a certainty dissolves–something we held to be true about life–we emerge into a new terrain.

Opening into your fullest self–strength, peace, power–means letting things fall apart.

So you can rise again.

xNamaste,
L

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Editor’s note: This was another awesome guest post from Lindsey Lewis–life coach and yoga teacher. Stay up to date with her latest at www.libreliving.comFacebook, and Twitter.  Sign up now to join Lindsey’s Power of Peace Challenge starting on May 1, 2014.

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Photo credit: Camillia Lee on Facebook

Is Your Yoga Earth-Friendly?

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In line with the principle of Ahimsa, which translates as “non-harming,” as yogis we’re continually looking for ways to live in a peaceful way on and off the mat. This includes seeking ways to minimize our impact on the environment.

Living green and remaining in balance with nature is not just something to practice at home. We have a responsibility to try to live it in all we do, all over the world—including how we do our yoga and where we go on vacation.  After all, why should we live at home one way, but lose our intentions while traveling or taking a yoga class?

What if we developed a personal Green Commitment for our lives and made a point to find the best green places and ways of life to support our mission.

As Yogis what can we do to celebrate Earth Day every day?

  • Seek out yoga products and clothing that are produced without using toxic chemicals, pesticides or nonrenewable resources.
  • Bring a reusable water bottle to yoga class.
  • Walk, bike, bus or carpool to class.
  • Clean your mat with a non toxic spray.
  • Reuse rather than discard your old yoga mat.
    • Encourage your local studio to offer non-toxic yoga products and organic clothing (like bamboo or hemp).
    • Only take a hard copy of the schedule if necessary, otherwise use on-line resources.
    • Make earth-friendly choices in all you do related to your yoga.

Why not green your vacation as part of your eco-lifestyle? 

Ecotourism is defined by The International Ecotourism Society as responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people. There are 37 voluntary standards that make up the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria, including employing local residents, minimizing disruption to natural ecosystems and protecting wildlife. These measures were adopted in 2008 by the World Conservation Congress as part of an initiative led by groups including the Rainforest Alliance, the U.N. Environment Program and the U.N. World Tourism Organization.

Ecotourism and greening your vacation automatically helps offset your carbon footprint and is a great way to discover new destinations.  It also ensures they’ll remain unchanged for future generations.  As Ayako Ezaki of The International Ecotourism Society puts it, “Ecotourism tries not only to minimize the negative impact of travel but to maximize the positive impact.  We all know travel experiences are rewarding for people who take the trips. At the same time we try to give back to the destinations and the people who make these experiences possible.”

Here are 6 Easy Tips To Stay Green On Vacation:

1. When offered less frequent Towel and Linen service, take it. 

Instead of having your bed linens changed everyday, consider reducing your request to 3 times/week.

2. Be conscious of creating less waste where you go visit. 

Bring a water bottle or travel coffee mug with you. Don’t take 10 paper napkins if you only need one.

3. Buy local and eat local. 

Contribute to the local economy by making sure you don’t purchase something that has been flown in from halfway around the world.

4. Walk! 

Instead of motorized transportation make a point to walk or ride a bike so you minimize your foot print.

As you look ahead to plan your next vacation, commit to supporting an eco-conscious way of travel. It’s good for you and the environment.

5. Show your appreciation.

Thank the hotel management for any green steps they take so they know you appreciate their efforts.

6. Research green hotels before you go.  

Research places where by purchasing carbon offsets they will reward you that amount for any spa service or excursion. Here are some useful links to get you started:

http://greenhotels.com/index.php

http://www.environmentallyfriendlyhotels.com/

http://www.ecohotelsoftheworld.com/homepage.html

As you look ahead to plan your next yoga class or vacation, commit to supporting an eco-conscious way of travel. It’s good for you and the environment. Together, let’s do all we can to minimize any negative impact on the health of our planet.

Love yourself, love your day, love your life (and love your planet)!
Silvia

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Screen Shot Front Silvia CardEditor’s note: This is a guest post by Daily Cup of Yoga contributor Silvia Mordini, E-RYT, retreat leader, happiness coach, and yogipreneur. Enthusiasm to love your life is contagious around Silvia. Her expert passion connects people to their own joyful potential. Silvia lives her happiness in such a big way that you can’t help but leave her classes, workshops, trainings and retreats spiritually uplifted! Born in Ecuador, raised traveling around the globe, she is an enthusiastic citizen of the world and spiritual adventurer. She has over 10,000 hours and 15 years of teaching experience, owned a yoga studio for 9 years and after being run over by a car used yoga to recover physically and emotionally. Silvia leads Alchemy Tours Yoga Retreats and Alchemy of Yoga RYT200 Yoga Teacher Training.

Silvia can be reached on the Web at www.alchemytours.com or www.silviamordini.com, or via email at silvia@alchemytours.com. Twitter: @alchemytours@inspiredyogagal; Facebook: Silvia Mordini; YouTube: lovingyourday; Pinterest: Silvia Mordini; Intagram: alchemytours.

Photo credit: Camillia Lee on Facebook

Is Your Head on Straight?

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Freeze! Don’t move and notice your posture.

Chances are–­­if you’re reading this on a computer, tablet or smart phone–­­your head and shoulders are hunched forward and your spine is rounded. Your neck, jaw and dominant arm may also be tense.

This common habit, known as “forward head posture,” can lead to a wide array of ailments–­­from headaches, neck and back pain, to problems with respiration, circulation and digestion. Even dedicated yoga practitioners, who have wonderful alignment on the mat, often fall into this slump when they’re out in the world—sitting at a desk, the dinner table or behind the wheel of a car.

That’s why I like to teach “Yoga Sparks” – quick, simple micro­practices designed to help people integrate powerful yogic teachings into daily life. In my work as a yoga therapist and in my own practice — over more than 30 years — I’ve found that interweaving brief practices into the day can be transformative, turning ordinary activities into sacred rituals and bringing awareness to the precious gifts of body and breath.

The most basic Yoga Spark is a quick “Freeze” practice, geared to becoming aware of your posture and shining a light on unhealthy habits. Consider setting a timer to ring every hour—then when it sounds, stop and notice your posture: In particular, observe the shape of your spine—does it have its natural “S” curve or is it hunched forward? Where is your head in relation to your shoulders? What’s happening in your jaw, face, shoulders, hands and feet? Are they tense or relaxed?

If your head isn’t on straight, be kind to your spine (and the rest of your body) by paying attention to these posture pointers:

  • Balance your head over your shoulder girdle, so that–­­if someone were looking at you from the side–­­the hole in your ear would line up directly over your shoulder.
  • Extend the top of your head up, as if you were trying to touch it to the ceiling. Be sure to keep your chin parallel to the floor as you do this­­–don’t tilt it up or tuck it in.
  • Imagine there’s a headlight shining out from the center of your chest. Make sure it shines forward, not down in your lap when you’re sitting or toward the floor when you’re standing.
  • Relax your shoulders, so they release down away from your ears.
  • Sit on your “sit bones”– those two knobs at the base of your pelvis — not on your sacrum.

Good posture has the added bonus of creating an “instant weight loss” effect. Slouching causes the belly to protrude, so when you learn how to stand and sit properly, it often looks as if you’ve suddenly lost five pounds.

In addition, good posture can give you an emotional lift, since the way you hold your body affects the way you feel, and vice versa. People who carry themselves with good alignment seem confident and graceful, while those whose posture reflects a physical slump often appear to be in a mental slump as well.

YogaSparksCFb-249x350This quick “Freeze!” practice is adapted from my book, Yoga Sparks: 108 Easy Practices for Stress Relief in a Minute or Less (New Harbinger, 2013). There are Sparks that focus on each of the four main aspects of yoga practice: breathing, postures, meditation, and principles. Some primarily impact muscles and bones, others address behaviors and breathing, and still others center on thoughts and attitudes.

It’s important to recognize that yoga isn’t just something you do while you’re on the mat, then leave behind. As a practice of awareness that connects you with your innermost self, yoga can be done at any time, in any place. If you have a minute, you can practice Yoga Sparks and gain significant and lasting benefits. No matter your age or fitness level, if you can breathe, you can do Yoga Sparks.

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Carol Krucoff HeadshotEditor’s note: This is a guest post by renowned yoga teacher and author, Carol Krucoff, E-RYT.  Carol is a Yoga Therapist at Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, North Carolina, and an award-winning journalist. A frequent contributor to Yoga Journal, she is the author of several books including Yoga Sparks:  108 Easy Practices for Stress Relief in a Minute or Less and Healing Yoga for Neck and Shoulder Pain.  Creator of the audio home practice CD, Healing Moves Yoga, and co-creator of the DVD Relax into Yoga, she is co-director of the Therapeutic Yoga for Seniors teacher training, which helps yoga instructors safely and effectively adapt the practice to older bodies, minds and spirits.  For more information, please visit www.healingmoves.com.

Image credit: Camillia Lee Yoga

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