Friday, December 9, 2016

Open your Heart this Holiday Season

News flash! It turns out the holidays aren’t really about buying presents, decorating trees, lighting candles or any of the other fun traditions we participate in.  In the darkest days of the season, just after the days are at their very shortest, we re-connect with the love in our hearts in order to cultivate something very important to our survival: hope. 

Yoga offers practitioners a way to open our hearts to love.  The outside world is a mirror of our inside world.  If we are fearful and angry, the world feels scary and frustrating.  If we are loving and hopeful, the world appears joyful and full of promise.  Here are four heart-opening poses to practice this holiday season.  As you practice, say to yourself “I love and approve of myself.”  After all, love starts with you.

1.  Penguin Pose (Reverse Prayer) (Paschima Namaskarasana)

In a seated or standing position, bring the palms of your hands together behind your back with your fingertips pointing up.  You can also grab opposite elbows (if so, switch your grip for an equal amount of time.)  This pose makes your arms look like penguin wings.  Breathe.  Spread your penguin wings. 

2.  One Handed Tiger (Eka Hasta Vyaghrasana)
Begin on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.  Inhale and stretch one leg back.  Exhale and reach the opposite hand forward.  Feel as if the action in your extended hands and feet are lengthening your spine.  If you feel stable enough, bend your knee and reach back to grab your foot.  Inhale and press your foot into your hand to lift and open your heart.  Breathe deeply, then switch sides.

3.  Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana)
From all fours, inhale as you slide your hands forward.  Keep your tail in the air.  Your arms are strong and straight.  Stretch your spine by pushing down on your hands while you reach your chest toward the ground.  Now you look like a playful puppy with your tail wagging in the air.  Yip!  Yip!

4.  Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
Lay on your tummy with your toenails pressing down.  Place your hands under your shoulders. Inhale and push into your hands to lift your chin, chest, and knees off the ground.  Only your hands and feet touch the floor.  Your bod
y should be curved like a ski jump. Look up and breathe deeply.  Exhale and press back into Downward Facing Dog or Child’s Pose.

When you finish your practice, no matter how long or how short, close your eyes and take a deep breath. Thank yourself for your time and effort.  May your heart be open and your holidays be full of love, hope and joy.  Namaste!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Lesson in Humility

After Tuesday’s election results, I was thrown into a toxic depression.  While I’m not registered for either major political party, I was so excited to finally have a woman POTUS.  What would it mean for the advancement of women’s rights to have the leader of a world superpower be a woman?  The implications were exciting and powerful.

But all those hopes vanished in an instant when I awoke Wednesday morning to the incredible news that Donald Trump had clinched the Presidency.  I cried, I lashed out at friends and family who supported Trump and I developed a 3-day case of Tourette Syndrome.  My mind, actions and words were a far cry from the peaceful and loving yoga lifestyle I strive for.

On Friday morning, I went to my studio and checked the mail.  Surprisingly, I found a hand-addressed envelope – not just a another bill!  I opened it to find a beautiful coloring of Humble Warrior from the Warriors Coloring Book submitted by Miss Michele Palumbo of Bay Shore, NY.  I was floored.

I am a strong believer in the idea that the Universe (or God, Providence, the Great Spirit, the Higher Self, or whatever you choose to call this phenomenon) teaches us spiritual lessons through the unfolding of Life’s events.  I was in a funk and a rage over something I had no control over.  I was feeling like a passionate warrior, ready to fight for the environment, human rights the cause of the voiceless (children & animals) and every other cause I perceived was now under threat.  But I needed to calm down, and the Universe called upon Miss Palumbo to deliver this message to me.

In humility, I now understand that it was the will of the American people to have Mr. Trump as our President, and as my President.  I have to accept that people who voted for Mr. Trump – my mother, cousin and brother included – all had their reasons for voting as they did.  Am I right and are they wrong?  They wanted to “shake things up.”  They wanted a citizen, a businessman, running the show, not another career politician. 

And so it is with grace that I must humbly accept the decision of the people.  This is what makes our country great and I must respect it.  I learned a valuable lesson in the aftermath of my grief.  I must humbly open my heart to all of life’s lessons, especially the painful ones.  It’s easy to live righteously and make good decisions when everything is going my way.  It’s what I do when things don’t go as planned that makes a real difference.

I hope that I learn from this experience.  I hope I do better next time, that I stop, grieve, breathe, meditate, do yoga and handle the adversity in a constructive, loving, humble and generous way.