I’m sitting here in the garden, listening to the sounds of birds, enjoying the beautiful smell of spring and watching my furry kids soaking up some sun…being here and appreciating this “simple” moment makes me realize how life is full of little wonders and that we can find happiness in each moment…and while there may be a million of things to be done, finished, achieved, I am feeling how beautiful it is to stop for a moment and just listen to the silence, occasionally interrupted by birds chirping, breath of my boys or the sound of the leaves rustling in the breeze…what a treasure to be found, the silence and peace, among all the rush, jumping from one thing to another so that life “could go on and not collapse”…it strikes me how much importance we give to things which may not even bring us joy and we take away the precious gift to be present to the beauty around us…even in moments when we can “afford” to stop and enjoy the stillness, we keep moving and chasing the next thing…how big part of our lives do we “have to” keep running so that in the end we can realize that we don’t have to run at all and that we can find happiness here and now?…how big part of our lives do we “have to” keep chasing one thing after another so that in the end we can realize that we can take time to be truly a part of our lives 🙏 (this beautiful photo with the amazing white Kousa Dogwood tree was taken in the gorgeous The Braes garden ❤)
If there is something I would love to teach our kids (when we have them one day ;-)), apart from love and respect for nature and all living beings, is not to lose their playfulness and zest for life when they “grow up”…life is so much better when we can make fun of ourselves, laugh at our awkwardness and just do things that feel natural to us instead of holding back...there's so much in a good laugh, a little tease, cheekiness…there's so much beauty in letting go and being spontaneous, at least from time to time…every day of our lives can be full of amazing little and big adventures, it’s only up to us how we decide to approach each day...and if we create space for things that make us laugh and leave us feeling alive ❤
What a beautiful video and beautiful project...LOVE ❤
The beauty of yoga asana practice (the physical postures and movements) compared to other physical exercises is that it makes us fitter, stronger and more flexible but if practiced correctly it also works on much deeper level than our visible physical body. It helps to open/unblock energy channels (nadis) and energy centres (chakras) within. These channels carry prana/chi (life force) and if the channels are not congested, they enable prana to freely flow throughout, keeping us at good physical and mental health, helping us to live longer and to be more mindful, contented and peaceful. All these three “don’ts” (don’t overtense, overstretch and overbreathe) are very important in our practice. In this little article, I would like to share with you a little bit more on why not to overtense our bodies and why it is so essential for creating a “yogic” experience. Soon, I will write more about the other two, why not to overstretch and overbreathe.
We need two opposing qualities in our practice which are “sthira” (meaning steady, firm) and “sukha” (meaning easy, soft, relaxed). You may have heard me saying in class “see if you can find the balance between effort (firmness) and ease (softness) ” - sthira sukham asanam, often translated as "yoga posture (asana) [should be] stable (sthira) and comfortable (sukha)", as it is mentioned in Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (sutra 2.46) (one of the most important yoga texts). In our yoga practice, we are supposed to use only as much sthira to be able to find stability in yoga poses and movements but then create a lot of softness, especially in parts which are not actively involved in keeping us stable (like our face or our throat). The balance between effort and ease will change with every pose, every movement, every practice and every person. As everything in life, apart from our inner light of awareness (purusha, also called the Self, pure consciousness), everything changes constantly. Some days we may feel tired or injured and we will need to use more effort to tense our bodies more to find stability and strength in our practice. Other days we may feel anxious or overwhelmed by everything happening in our lives and we will need to actively find more softness in our bodies. By finding the balance between effort and ease, we find comfort in yoga poses and movements and we feel a sense of lightness and freedom. Tensing our bodies (sthira) should never create pain. If the pain is created, we cannot be at ease and won’t be able to find the balance between sthira and sukha in our asana practice. If we are not at ease, our mind will be distracted and we won’t be able to find a quiet focus and experience meditative aspect of our yoga practice.
How much to tense our bodies and to learn to create the muscle control to only tense what we need takes a bit of learning and time (so stay kind to yourselves when experimenting with it, it gets easier when we practice longer). With some injuries, tensing the muscles around a particular joint may work as a protective bandage for that joint and may keep that joint stable and help to recover. From the physiological point of view, by tensing a particular part of our body, blood and energy will be pushed away from that part. This is totally ok and healthy if we also know how to relax this part when it doesn’t need to be engaged anymore. The blood and energy will be pushed away but after releasing new blood and energy will enter this space and will help circulation and healing. However, often in our practice and through the lifestyle we lead, we keep way too much tension in our bodies for extended periods of time and we actually discourage the flow of blood and energy. Unfortunately, this can eventually manifest in some kind of illness or injury. This is also one of the reasons why I have started to teach to keep our bellies soft throughout the practice as much as we can. Especially our bellies are often overtense and it is so important to have enough blood and energy circulating through this part of our bodies to keep the inner organs nourished.
Through the training I have been doing with Yoga Synergy, I have found out that the reason we have been taught to keep our bellies engaged in all the different fitness areas is because of a study done by a group of physiotherapists in 1970s. They studied two groups of people, one with lower back problems and the other one with healthy backs. They found out that when these people were asked to lift a heavy object, the people from the healthy group would see the object, engage the belly and then reach for it to lift it up. People from the other group with lower back issues would see the object, reach for it and then engage the belly. Since then, the news spread into the world and everyone was instructed to engage their bellies in all sorts of fitness industries to keep their lower backs protected. It was a very well meant advice, however, engaging the belly is quite a vague term in a way. Physiotherapists later realized that different people will engage their bellies differently, some lower belly, some whole belly and sides, some more, some less and it has led to a lot of other health problems. There will be definitely situations in everyday life and in our yoga practice when engaging our belly (maybe with a bit more instructions) would be beneficial. But keeping our belly tense throughout the whole practice seems to be doing more harm then help, by discouraging normal diaphragmatic breathing (I have mentioned the 5 main characteristics of the natural (diaphragmatic) breath in the June/July newsletter, you can find it here (at the bottom of the newsletter).
Why do we want to keep natural diaphragmatic breathing? Natural breathing into our bellies stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which relaxes our bodies, compared to the sympathetic nervous system, also called fight-or-flight, which prepares us for high intensity activities that require a quick response. If you had a chance to come to our movie night last year where we watched “The Connection: Mind Your Body” or you watched it on your own, you may remember that one of the doctors was comparing fight-or-flight response to seeing a tiger. The only thing the body wants to do in that moment is to survive. So only the systems that are necessary for us to fight or flight will be bursting with energy, whereas other ones we don’t need at that moment, like digestion system, immune system and reproductive system will be shut down. The problem is due to our fast lifestyle, being stressed, anxious, our nervous system is overactive and our bodies are in the fight-or-flight state even when the real tiger is not actually there. It is very taxing on our bodies and we often realize when a real damage, manifesting itself as an illness or injury, appears. We really need to learn how to relax our bodies and our yoga practice is a beautiful place where we can do so.
When we learn to find balance between sthira and sukha, we find a lot of comfort in our practice. The practice should be a beautiful experience, leaving us feeling relaxed and energized. See if you can take time over the next few weeks to experiment with the above. Notice how you feel after your practice when you tense your bodies a lot throughout, and notice how you feel after your practice when you create a little bit more softness. Also, as with every new experience, see if you can stay gentle and kind to yourself in your thoughts. Whenever we start creating a new habit, it may take a little bit of time for the body to relearn what it has been doing, for some of us for years. Take it as a beautiful learning experience, learning about your body and what makes you feel good in your practice.
Sometimes I feel we are like neverending books with so much depth to us…with every page we read we get more understanding into who we are and how we affect ourselves and other people, yet we never reach the end of our book…sometimes reading a particular page again and again, meeting the same experience in our lives over and over, doesn’t really help us to get further…we just can’t see what that experience holds for us…and we need to go through it on several occasions in our lives to understand that it is happening for a reason, and to be more open next time to what that particular experience is trying to tell us…life is a miraculous and a “well thought-out” process in a way, it will always bring our way the experiences we need to go through and present opportunities for us to grow…that’s the beauty of life…each moment is a beautiful and unique gift for us to keep learning about ourselves and life…and if we can do that without getting too attached to the experience itself, especially those ones creating negative emotions in us and see them still as light in darkness, we will be able to experience life on a much subtler, finer level…what a gift to wake up every morning and keep learning 💛
I am thinking how strange it is that we live in the world where what should seem natural and easy often isn’t. How many times did you catch yourself wanting to do something kind and beautiful for another person, someone you maybe barely knew, yet your doubts and how your act might have been perceived by that person or others made to stop you? How many times you wanted to say to someone how beautiful person they seemed to be to you or how much you appreciated them being in your life but in the end you didn't? Why kindness and love are things that are sometimes so hard to openly “show”? Or is it that we live our lives so much for ourselves that we have stopped caring? Same as with abundance of everything else, do we take people in our lives too much for granted, believing that they will never leave or that there will be always new people coming into our lives? How many breaths do we still need to take to realize that our lives keep moving forward and that one day there will be our last breath left and we won’t have time to tell to the people we've loved and cared about that we always have? There is always a risk that there might not be ready to “welcome” the kindness or love we feel for them. But what is a bigger loss? Losing a face in front of people who are not ready to be a part of our lives or losing the opportunity to create some beautiful deep connections with people who would love to walk along but maybe we don’t create an opportunity for them to join us? Life should be rich, deep and blissful but how much do we give from ourselves to find that richness? I hope enough…🙏😊💜
“There is always more to find, always something left in you when you would swear on your soul you’ve been emptied out.” A beautiful part of a poem by Tyler Knott Gregson (the whole poem at the end 😊) I can totally relate to. I absolutely love my job, teaching yoga and creating a beautiful experience for my students to light up their souls a bit more so that we can all share a bit more kindness and love in this world. As with every human, even us yoga teachers (no, we are not spiritual fairies who are zen all the time 😉) have days when we wake up and we feel like “how can I possibly teach a class and give to people when I feel like I don’t have more to give?” And it’s a beautiful experience to find out that even when you are at your lowest (maybe not the super lowest), with no sleep, with life being crazy, there’s always more we can give…not that I would feel low right now but there were definitely moments when I was feeling like I couldn’t possibly teach a nice class…but surprisingly I always did (at least what I can tell from the feedback of my students ;-)). It’s beautiful to realize that when we actually start giving, everything starts turning around and we start feeling better…as one of my favourite quotes says “The love we give away is the only love we keep” (by Elbert Hubbard) ❤ So keep sharing, keep giving, keep smiling because life is way more fun this way 🌼
Here is the beautiful poem:
“I have a few promises to offer you,
the believing is up to you,
the proof will emerge,
but I cannot say the when.
Here is what I have,
my sincere offering,
and burned into me:
when you think you can’t,
you positively can,
when you think it’s over,
it may be beginning.
There is always more to find,
always something left in you
when you would swear on your soul
you’ve been emptied out.
Finally, and most exquisitely important,
I promise you it is worth it,
it is always worth it,
every drop of ache and sorrow,
every perfect pinch of joy,
it is worth it.
Promise me you will keep waking up,
keep finding it,
and finding the strength in you
to believe me.”
“Which part of yourself do you think is so precious that you will fully lose if you move forward?” I was watching a video the other day while doing something else and this few words from a preview of a recording at the end of the video “Rise of the Lightworkers” (by Lee Harris) had stuck in my head. We do really feel very precious about ourselves so many times in our lives and we often don’t make that step forward…and sometimes it is a wise thing for sure, sometimes we need more time to tune in and decide whether it is in alignment with our values, sometimes there are other living beings involved and it could cause more harm…but there’s also so many of the other times when we know deep inside with certainty that we want to move forward and we know it’s the right thing to do…and many times we don’t… our mind gets in the way…the fear of “losing face” gets in the way…in reality though what is really precious is not keeping our “status”, precious is OUR life…life is really quite short and I wonder how many of us will at the end of our journey say, “I didn’t do the things I wanted to but at least people loved me.”…while we don’t want to hurt other people, we don’t really live our lives for them, our lives are our own responsibility…we can decide in every moment if we “betray” ourselves by not doing what we want (or doing what we don’t want) or whether we fill it with meaningful things that nourish our soul…life is a beautiful thing but it will only feel this way and feel real when we become true to ourselves….and that takes some courage 💜
The richness of our experience doesn’t really need to change with the experience itself…it can change with us…it changes with the depth of our presence…How much life can we perceive in that little moment?... truly the most beautiful moments for me or the most beautiful days are not those when I do something extraordinary, something special (even though I love those too)…it’s more those moments, those days when I do normal things but I feel more connected to everything around me and within…and the only way this happens is when we stay truly in that moment and perceive it, experience it as deeply as we can…life is actually quite simple and happiness is always within reach, we just often look for it too far away from ourselves…
A poppy flower…a gift to you…I love their crumpled petals when the flowers open to see the light of the world…there’s this beauty in being simple and fragile…I love their softness…they are to me like a reminder of fragility and impermanence of every life…a reminder that we can bring light and happiness to others by just being but also hurt other living souls by not acting from a place of love…we don’t always find that place within…but we can at least try…to love without conditions, to give without expecting something back in return, to see the world through eyes of kindness, to approach experiences in our lives with gentleness…stay open, stay gentle to life…it’s such a blessing to be here every day and to be “love”…🌸
Last night I was thinking about my yoga practice and about all the energy and drive I have now after having a few weeks off when I was chilling back home in Europe :-) …and while the intention was to practise and meditate every day there, it only happened rarely in between all the celebrations and meeting some beautiful souls.
It’s interesting to feel now so much of the enthusiasm, but also so much impatience…I know deep inside that the best is to get into everything slowly and keep the practice nice and gentle…and trust that I will get stronger, more flexible and my body will open a bit more again with a consistent practice…not that it should be in anyway important to be strong but my ego is screaming “Yes, I want you to be super strong…NOW!”. It’s interesting to notice this impatience which comes and goes, almost like the ego has been testing its boundaries and pushing my inner wisdom away. Sometimes the lessons that meet us on our path are subtle but they may be sooo relevant in that particular moment…it’s easy to miss them in between all what the ego needs to say and it takes practice (still learning ;-) ) to stay tuned into our inner wisdom…this is our home where all the questions can be answered, this is where the growth happens 💜
“When we grasp after pleasure, the possibility of pain is always there because the law of nature is that what appears also disappears; but if we can welcome pleasure and indeed enjoy it without grasping, then pain does not arise.” …loving this gorgeous section from a beautiful book “Mindfulness and Compassion: Embracing Life with Loving-Kindness” by The Happy Buddha …it’s something I am still learning…learning to enjoy things as they come but also letting them be when they pass…it’s a beautiful feeling when we are able to fully enjoy something that brings us pleasure and happiness but it’s also a beautiful thing to be able to let it go when it’s not there at that moment and be able to move onto the next thing, stay present to what is unfolding in the here and now, even though it may not bring us as much pleasure or joy…there’s this beautiful feeling of freedom and being one with life when we follow the natural flow of life, instead of when we grasp after things and then being one with life for a moment but fighting against it in another…💜
Because love is beautiful…and everything ❤️
Sending heaps of love to you all from my home country, fields of poppy flowers, warm sunrays and late sunsets, and can’t wait to see you all very soon :-) Back to teaching next Friday the 23rd ❤️
Waiting for a connecting flight in Seoul, I am thinking how I am loving life right now…the feeling of ease and flow and the acceptance of everything being as it is…this overwhelming feeling of being more than this physical body I have been lent for this life, the feeling of connectedness with everything around me, love, gratefulness…a thought arises in my mind about how silly it is to try to interfere with how life decides to weave its path…and I catch a smile on my face feeling happy, not wanting to change anything…just wanting to be a part of it…🌼
A beautiful video I have come across a few weeks ago...if you haven't seen it, this one is definitely worth watching...but be careful, it may change your life…enjoy :-)
Such a privilege to teach in this gorgeous space…beautiful sweaty class this morning with some gorgeous souls, fire, love and laughter ❤️…if you have never taken a class here, it’s so worth it…this place has a special vibe…beautiful welcoming safe energy…Blue Spirit Yoga and Healing Space, one of the most beautiful spaces in the mountains, with gorgeous garden in every season…plus some super lovely and amazing teachers as well ❤️
Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.
Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young boy paused, looked up, and replied, “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,“ the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”
The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”
The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!” (adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley). 💕
We may never know or find out but what if the kindness of doing something little for another soul will in the end grow into a beautiful big change…because kindness and love, and being caring have the tendency to travel from a person to another, at least for a little while…maybe it’s that ONE THING I or you, or both of us do today that will make the world a more beautiful peaceful place…:-)
We live in a world where we often think about how much we can get out of something…how much we can take…but what if life is not about “taking”…what if life is about sharing, giving…sometimes a smile can change another’s person world… sometimes a kind word can help someone to make it through a tough day…sometimes a hug can save someone’s life…LOVE is the little things we do…the little things we give…a smile, a kind word, a hug 🌸
I don’t particularly enjoy being sick (to be honest it makes me feel a little crazy as I love moving :-))…one of the good things though about being sick is that it gives us time to do things we otherwise rarely find time for…for me it is reading…I love finding a quiet moment and to read a little bit here and there but often my life gets filled with other activities and I just don't create time for it…when I was sick I reached for one of my favourite books “Happiness and How It Happens” by The Happy Buddha (I am pretty sure I raved about it before already :-))…I love reading little bits and pieces and then giving myself some time to think about it and process it…this book is perfect for it…on every page there’s so much beautiful wisdom shared…and it is also one of those books you can read over and over again and find new messages there which you hadn’t noticed before…I have come across this little section and just really enjoyed reading it ❤ Here it is:
“We bring an agenda to our spiritual practice as to how we want to be in the future, but if we practise well this agenda is doomed to failure. It’s OK to have an agenda for a while as it can motivate us to start to practise, but it will never be fulfilled, because agendas are of the ego: the little me. The ego always wants to become somebody, but practice is not about becoming somebody. Practice is about getting to know yourself and becoming free from suffering by doing so. This freedom can’t be achieved through our usual type of striving. Our true, happy, nature can be discovered only when we give up the struggle to be better, to be someone different.” 🌸💕
See what I’ve found this morning…a beauty covered in morning dew 💗…sometimes I feel we chase silly things in life while all the wealth is at our feet 🍁