Do you have goals for 2015? Resolutions? Are you rethinking your approach to an important area of your life? Chances are good that you are, because what better time to realign ourselves than at the beginning of a whole new year.
I have many goals for the new year, and I'm excited to share this one. Over the years as a practicing yogi, I've learned lots of poses, or asanas. I've learned both how to shape my body into them, how to teach others these shapes, and what these shapes are called ...in English. Because my teacher training program encouraged the use of English names only in order to make the poses more accessible to Americans, I have so far learned very few in Sanskrit. Various teachers at various studios I've attended used Sanskrit names repeatedly in class, and through that repetition, I picked up some. But I want to learn more, so...
My goal for this year is to learn a new pose in Sanskrit each week, and use the Sanskrit name in my practice and my teaching. Each week I will focus on a new pose, tell you the Sanskrit and English names, describe the physical shape and the mental benefits.
Why take on this task? Is it important to learn these poses in Sanskrit? Well, this is a question I've asked myself lots of times over the years, and obviously my answer until now has been "no, not really, not important enough." But I've changed my mind for one simple reason. Using Sanskrit honors the antiquity and wisdom of the practice. Honoring the practice is an important way to keep ourselves balanced within it.
So here's the first pose I will present in Sanskrit, as I get a head start on the new year! And I get a two-for-one because this pose has two names.
In this pose, stand balanced on your two feet together or hips-width distance apart, depending on which version allows the most stability and focus. Feel the four corners of each foot grounded into the earth. Engage the thigh muscles and turn them inward. Tuck the pelvis, and feel the abdominals engage. Lift the spine toward the sky, and pull the shoulders back slightly and allow the shoulder blades glide down the back. Relax the neck and forehead, and gaze forward.
Tadasana tests our ability to engage only as much as necessary, and focus on the simplicity of standing upright. It may help you understand when your desires are out of balance. For instance, if you stand in tadasana and find yourself wanting to move out of it immediately, ask yourself what would you rather be doing right now? If you'd rather be doing a push up or a headstand, you may over-desire movement. If you'd rather be sitting or lying down, you might tend to over-desire stillness. If you'd rather be checking items off your to do list, you might over-desire work. And so on. Tadasana teaches us to be here now in lightly engaged stillness.
I've been hearing a lot about stress and anxiety from clients lately. So I decided to record a guided meditation today with a little intro on the basics of meditation. Enjoy! Please let me know if it's helpful/not helpful, etc. I'd love to hear feedback.
So this discontent that accompanies the holidays is another example of paradox in life...that along with joy comes pain, along with celebration comes sadness, and along with community comes isolation. Do you allow yourself to experience the not so joyful part of the holidays or do you avoid it? Do you accept your dissatisfaction or do you attempt to force yourself and others to be jolly? Is there a way to accept the imperfections of our families, friends, jobs, finances, and moods this holiday season so that we can then have a different... and better... experience?
Here are three ways to process and accept the not-so-jolly feelings this time of year.
1. Name the negative feelings. Sad, Mad, Guilty, Ashamed, Rushed, Frantic, Afraid. Those are just a few of the many emotions we feel any time of year. But these "bad" feelings seem particularly closeted around the holidays, because really, who wants to be around an sad person at Christmas, or a mad person at Thanksgiving? But there's an important distinction between bringing others down and simply owning your emotions. By naming the feeling, recognizing when it's present, writing about it, painting a picture about it, talking to someone about it in an effort to move past it, you are coping in a healthy way. Complaining, whining, brooding, sulking, exploding, getting drunk or high...these are not healthy ways to express negative emotions because they impair relationships. These methods of expression send your loved ones running for the hills at the prospect of spending extra time with you this time of year. Take time to understand this distinction, then process the negative stuff in a way that will free you from it rather than creating more of it.
2. Choose one negative experience you've had around this time of year that may still trouble you, and write about it in rich detail. Really delve into the memory of it.... with the following important caveat.
Have a loved one or a professional within reach if your memory is extremely painful. Don't attempt to go at this alone your memory is traumatic, meaning it involved physical or psychological violence, a natural disaster, accident, combat, sexual abuse, or something equally disturbing. Use this checklist to help you recall traumatic events in your life. If you have experienced trauma, a mental health professional can help you work through it safely.
If you're memory is not traumatic, rather just unpleasant, continue this rich description process. Remember where you were, who was around (if anyone), what the surroundings looked like, particular objects, scents, and sights you recall from the day. Identify what upset you most. Was it specific words that were spoken, tone of voice used, and/or facial expressions that bothered you? Maybe you had a very negative experience and you were alone. What was the hardest part? Do you recall what was going through your mind? If your event involved the actions of others, what reactive thoughts do you recall having as the event was happening? What feelings did you have? It's important to distinguish thoughts and feelings here. Feelings get imprinted onto a memory and your later recollections of it, like at subsequent holiday gatherings or certain times of year. The feelings are the proverbial "baggage" that we carry. Once you've described your memory in detail, choose the least disturbing detail and bring it into your awareness while consciously relaxing for one minute. Set a timer on your phone, and sit in a relaxed state as you keep ask yourself, "is it possible to not pour more negative energy into this memory?" Then over the course of the next few days or weeks, successively bring the more troubling aspects of the memory, one at a time, into your awareness as you practice relaxation. You are re-training your brain to process the memory in a different way, and eventually it will become less uncomfortable.
Kambria Kennedy-Dominguez, Counselor and yoga teacher specializing in mental health, substance abuse and wellness.