We can’t survive on candy: some good yoga advice.

Image via Flickr: Juushika Redgrave

I’ve been listening to this great song lately from Gavin DeGraw‘s new album. Not only is it catchy, but there is one line in particular that sticks in my mind. “We can’t survive on candy”, sings Gavin. How appropriate a reminder for this time of year, with Halloween candy at what seems like every corner.  It may seem like common sense, but you had to learn it from somewhere. I bet your parents spent some time when you were little trying to explain that candy isn’t good for you, and that you shouldn’t eat it all the time. I know mine did. In fact, maybe you’ve spent some time recently trying to explain it to your own kids. Why? Because it doesn’t provide the nutrients that a body needs to survive and be healthy. As an adult I’m sure you know this. But do you really listen to your own advice?

I’m going to guess that you probably don’t eat candy for breakfast, or most other meals. Good for you. Candy isn’t nourishing for your body, so it should remain an occasional treat. But what do you eat for breakfast? Something from the earth, or something from a factory? How far is what you’re eating really removed from candy? It’s not really about chocolate bars and gummi bears here; the point is that we can’t survive on what doesn’t nourish us. This includes not only what we eat, but how we live our lives. Are you surviving on stress? On television? On the promise of more money, or things? Are you choosing your yoga practice based on what will nourish you, or what will make you look good?

We can’t survive on what doesn’t nourish us. Your body needs rest and rejuvenation and a break from stressful ways, just as it needs vitamins and nutrients from food to not only survive, but thrive. Your mind needs time to rest and clear away the to-do lists and worries each day. And your heart needs time to connect with others who are important to you. So take a moment and examine your life; are you making time for nourishment? Or are you trying to survive on candy?

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It’s autumn — what are you harvesting in your life?

Image source: Chascar (Flickr)

With thanksgiving just around the corner and the leaves changing colors all around, it’s hard to forget that autumn is traditionally harvest time. In my neighbourhood apples are being plucked fresh from the trees, the last few blackberries are being hunted and picked, and squash are starting to appear once more. When I see all this bounty being reaped from the land, I can’t help but examine what kind of bounty I’m reaping in other areas of my life as well. What am I harvesting in my personal and professional lives? Success? Kindness? Love? Or Anger? Hurt? Disappointment?

It brings to mind that classic saying: you reap what you sow.

Come harvest time, farmers don’t wander out in the fields wondering what they will find. Will it be pumpkins or corn this year, I wonder? No, they know what type of bounty they’ll be bringing in, because they know what they planted. It seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? So naturally, it makes sense to look at the rest of our lives in the same manner. What you are harvesting in your life is directly related to what you are sowing. If you’re surprised by your harvest, by what you are bringing into your life this fall, then it could be time to examine what you’re putting out there.

Are you sowing kindness? gratitude? compassion and love? If you want to reap success and happiness in your life, then plant the seeds for it. If you are surprised by your harvest, then maybe it’s time to take a closer look at what you planted.

So this fall, at the very least, plant a smile. Whether it’s on you, or someone else, you’ll harvest the benefits immediately, and sometimes, that’s just the difference that can change your day around.

Return of the Yogi

I have returned to my mat.

Well actually, I never left my mat. I’ve been on it, I just haven’t been present. But yoga takes place not only in our bodies but in our minds too, and mine hasn’t been on the mat much lately. This past month or two, I’ve been thinking mostly about how to keep my food down, as I experience intense morning sickness and the tiredness that comes along with the first trimester of pregnancy. An important distraction, indeed.

Yoga, of course, doesn’t care if you are pregnant or feel as though an evil elf has taken over your insides. It’s there for you, no matter what you’re going through. And so I say thank you my dear mat. Thank you for being there for me even when my mind has been elsewhere. Thank you for allowing me to feel normal again, even just for 15 minutes at a time. And thank you for not judging my inability to get through a vinyasa without child’s pose lately.

I have returned to my mat. And really, no matter what else is going on around me and inside of me, or what my practice looks like now, isn’t that the most important part? I think so.

You can’t predict the future. So why be stressed about it?

I was reading a great post over at Spoiled Yogi today about stress, and it got me thinking about what it is that I stress about the most. Most of the time when I’m stressing, it’s about things that are coming up or about to happen in my future; events, people I’m going to see, and conversations that I need to have. And it occurred to me all of a sudden that I’m wasting a lot of time stressing about things that are in the future.

But here’s the funny thing about the future: it hasn’t happened yet.

In the yoga world, we often talk about living in the present, and immersing yourself fully in each present moment before it passes you by. We all know why it is pointless to live in the past: you can’t change it, you so have to accept it and move on. But what’s wrong with living in the future? Well, the future hasn’t happened yet. And because it hasn’t happened yet, you can’t predict what will happen. Which means that all that time we spend stressing about things in the future is wasted energy, because you have no idea what will happen anyway. Heck, you can’t even guarantee that the sun will rise tomorrow* so you might as well just wait and see for yourself. Maybe something that you thought might happen will happen; maybe it won’t. Maybe you’ll win the lottery; maybe you won’t.

So why waste time stressing about the future when you really won’t know what happens until you get there? From now on, when I’m worried about something upcoming and feeling stressed I will remember:

You can’t predict the future. So take a deep breath, let it go, and wait to see what happens. You never know, maybe something unexpected will happen.

*this is one of the great philosophical discussions I remember having back in University. See here.

The Best Way to Find Inspiration

Inspiration is a powerful thing. It can spur you to action in many ways, and can bring joy to your life; which is why I find myself looking for inspiration some days when I’m feeling lost and bogged down by everyday life. It can really be helpful to go to the online world and get inspired – there are so many great and inspiring blogs and websites out there these days. But what I’ve discovered over the past few years is that my best source of inspiration is my own life. Sounds a bit contradictory, doesn’t it? When things in my life are weighing down on me, I search a little deeper to find the inspiration in my life. But that’s exactly why it is so powerful. If I turn to others for inspiration, I may certainly get inspired, but I may also get a lot of other unwanted stuff along with my inspiration – more things that I want to buy, jealousy over what others have, and frustration about the things I can’t change in my life. On the other hand, by turning inward and recognizing that I can find inspiration in my own life, I might get some unexpected benefits – gratitude and perspective, for example. So while I do think that finding inspiration outside yourself can be valuable and is something I wouldn’t give up, the best way to find inspiration (whether that is for yoga classes, recipes, career choices, or anything) is to start by looking to your own life. What can you see there that inspires you? What can you imagine others being inspired by in your life? What are some changes that you’ve made in your life that you are proud of?

Some of my inspiring things:

I love to bake. I can hardly believe that something so pretty and yummy could be made by my two hands.

Cooking and eating healthy yummy food. It wasn’t that long ago that the only thing I could make for myself (and therefore often the only thing I ate) was pasta from a box. Seriously. My eating habits are better and I also appreciate food so much more these days. It actually tastes better too!

If I can do yoga, then I can do anything. Enough said.

The beauty of nature: not everyone is as lucky as I am to live in such an amazing, gorgeous place. But there is always beauty to be found somewhere, no matter where you are. Even when I’m in cities I collect a list of beautiful spots in my mind that I know I can return to; a tree lined street here, a park there, etc.

Finding Success as a Yoga Teacher

Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the future. Okay, that’s not entirely true; I’ve probably spent most of my life thinking about the future (being present in the moment is a teaching of yoga that I have yet to master off the mat). But lately the question that keeps coming up for me is, what is success as a yoga teacher?

For those who choose a more traditional career in business, it seems like the path to ‘success’ is often better defined, even if it isn’t easy. You start at the bottom, and work your way up the ladder. There may be lots of different paths up the ladder, but many of them are right in front of you, and you can see the paths to choose one.

Finding success as a yoga teacher is much less straightforward. What does success as a yoga teacher really mean? Is it teaching a certain number of classes per week? Is having your classes packed full of dedicated students? Or is it gaining recognition? Traveling to teach workshops internationally?

Just like everything else in life, everyone has to find their own definition of success. So I’ve started by asking a couple of simple questions:

First, how do I spend my time? Not how do I want to spend it, because I can want to do something or to love something and still never do it. But to actually examine the way that I spend my time, and my free time in particular, brings some things to light. For example, I’ve discovered that I am happiest when I have the freedom to express my creativity in a way of my own choosing. This means that I like to be self-directed in most of my tasks. A perfect example of this goes back to my teenage years: every so often, my mother would tell me to unload the dishwasher, and I would always get upset. I hated it with a passion and would therefore avoid doing it as much as possible. But it was never the actual act of unloading the dishwasher that I hated, it was the being told to do it. In my own house these days, I unload the dishwasher all the time without complaint – the difference is that I am deciding to do so for a reason of my own choosing. So perhaps success for me will be best defined as something in which I am self-directed.

Second, is it my ego talking? Am I envisioning this idea of success because I will really love teaching workshops or owning a studio or traveling, or because it will make me feel important in some way? If you’re looking to do something because it will make you feel important, your interest will fade fast. Examine your motives.

I’m still working on my vision of what success means to me, but asking myself these questions gets me a little closer to living my  dreams. What is your vision of success?

How Car Shopping Can Lead to Yogic Wisdom

Have you ever spent some time shopping around for a car? Have you noticed that as soon as you start getting interested in a particular kind of car, you start to see it everywhere? And you start to become curious about the kind of people driving that car? Well I have lately, because I’ve been shopping for a new car.

Though there seems to be this idea out there that yogis are earth-loving ride-my-bike-everywhere kind of people, I live in an area where I require a vehicle to get around. So, I’ve begun a search for the right car.

But here’s the problem with car shopping: instead of searching for a machine to get me from point A to point B, I am looking for a an identity.

My husband the mechanic suggests that I get something cheap (read: old) and fuel efficient (read: tiny). But my last car was brand new when I got it, so I have become accustomed to certain features. I have standards to meet, I tell him. I don’t want to go backwards. I immediately rule out any kind of truck because I am not a small town hick. Sedans won’t do, nor will anything that resembles the colour gold because I am not an 80 year old grandmother. I want a hatchback that is maybe a few years old – I’m a young, independent woman. I want a car that fits me.

I do realize somewhere in the back of my mind that my husband is probably right; I should get something affordable and realistic. A car is just meant to get me somewhere, not define who I am. But I push these thoughts aside for the time being and focus my search on a few particular models that I like, trying to see just how much I can squeeze into my budget to afford them.

Then one day in the midst of all this, I come across a section in Meditations from the Mat about Aparigraha where Rolf Gates talks about how his career changed and his car became unaffordable, but he had been unwilling to let it go because it represented “the last vestige of the prestige that I had enjoyed” in a former career.

Uh, oh. This sounds familiar. I have been doing the exact same thing. I have been holding on to this one last piece of my former identity, looking for a vehicle that will reassure me that I am still a successful person even if I make less money than before.

It’s time to let go. Yoga teaches us not just to let go of our physical attachments, but also to let go of the story of ourselves. My life is far richer than it ever was when I drove a brand new car, because I am not making myself miserable in an unfulfilling career just to pay for it. A vehicle doesn’t make me a small-town hick or a successful city girl; it just is.

So, perhaps I will consider some of those cheap old cars. After all, what good is it having a husband who is a mechanic if he’s got nothing to fix?