Thursday, June 30, 2016

Maintaining a Long Termed Practice

photo credit: Renee Choi

You may think it's hard to practice in the beginning when the body is tight, but it's easy compared to what happens when the growth spurt has past and it seems like nothing is happening. That is why a strategy for long-termed practice is so important. I spoke on this topic for Land Yoga's Five Year Anniversary Chai Talk. These are the notes from that talk.

Patangali says in yoga sutra 1.14 "sa tu dirghakala nairantarya satkara asevitah drdhabhumih" that in order for practice to be effective it should be long termed, without interruption, and devotional.

Long-Termed means for the course of the life-time (and future life-times) until Enlightenment is attained. Any practitioner will tell you it's the accumulation of years of practice that brings the immense benefits. It's widely recognized that the base of the practice is the first ten years and I've even heard Sharath say that's how long a student should wait before teaching.

Uninterrupted means of course without starting and stopping. The point of the practice is the practice which means we put our whole energy in and let go of expecting any specific results. Understanding and accepting this concept of non-attachment helps with not taking a "break" from practice when we aren't getting certain expected results. We invest in the process.

Most people take their first break from practice due to illness. One shouldn't practice the physical aspects of Ashtanga yoga if one has fever.  (Other issues like colds and injuries can be practiced around.) It's important to know that your physical practice may need to be modified or shortened during certain periods because of life circumstance. This shouldn't stop you from getting on the mat.

The danger around taking a break even for fever is that the pause from practice causes that little window of dullness to open, sending us down a dangerous cycle. It's amazing how even a short break in routine can knock years of habit off course! Patanjai explains it well by listing the predictable obstacles that get in the way of practice:

Illness - Dullness - Doubt
Negligence - Laziness - Cravings
Misperceptions - Loss of Resolve - Instability

You can see how these lead one to the next until the practitioner finds herself moving backward. 

The antidote to the obstacles is one pointed focus. Knowing about them in advance will also help  the practitioner be prepared and be able to identify when then they are activated sooner.  This will help her to avoid a long slump. Patanjali suggests cultivating faith,  putting great energy toward your goal, using your memory, having deep concentration, and developing crystal clear discrimination to help you to avoid obstacles. (y.s. 1:20) These characteristics will make it easy for you to know when you are not in practice because your mind has cunningly taken you off track verses because you are truly ill. 

Starting practice over and over is painful and much harder than cultivating an ongoing habit. To help avoid interruptions of practice, understand early on what kind of practitioner you are: mild, medium, or intense, and practice accordingly in respect to your energy expenditure and time. It's much better to commit to a medium level, short daily practice each day that you can promise to maintain for a lifetime than to go full force and burn out in two weeks. Think long term and know yourself! That is what the practice will teach you anyway. 

Devotional means offering up your practice in service to the Highest Good, and knowing that it isn't about you at all. You've been called to the practice and so you must do it. Once touched, a practitioner will always hear the call to come back.  It's much easier to know and remember that and never stop than to stop and start again. If it isn't feeling great or looking great, that doesn't matter because the goal is to be unattached to the results of the practice and focus only on the energy we bring to it. Each day is a new day and I look at my arms in wonder as they lift up over my head and give thanks. Finding and remembering that feeling of gratitude that came easily early on will help you too when challenges arise later. 

Just like we shower, sleep, and brush our teeth each day, so do we practice, because it is what we do. The practice is like an internal shower, releasing unprocessed emotions and setting us free to experience the now without forgone conclusions. As we move through our practice year after year the distractions will change and different challenges will arise, but as long as we know we are in till the end, we will never take those hurdles too seriously. Just knowing you are committed makes each challenge not even a blip along the way to enlightenment. 

For more helpful tips on practice a living your best life, make sure to check out my main website and blog www.landlaraland.com.






Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Positivity Problem...



It is time to call on our yogis, self-helpers, and wellness folks to value check and tweak the current yoga messaging to include, accept, and honor all seekers as they move through and observe their moods excepting themselves, embracing others, and constantly working to live a more authentic life. It is in this space that we can grow as a community toward a more anchored positivity and share that experience with others. If we can do this, in fact, we will all be just a bit happier!

Please see this call to action in latest Huffington Post article linked here. Your comments and shares on and from that page are greatly appreciated! Remember to follow me at @landyoganyc on Instagram for more insights as well!


Sunday, January 31, 2016

Iceland Adventure: A Journey Through Nature

Iceland - August 8 - August 13, 2016
ICELAND ADVENTURE: A JOURNEY THROUGH NATURE







Under six hours from New York City is another world. Join me in exploring the glaciers, volcanos and lagoons of Iceland and find yourself as you dive deeper into nature. This six-day retreat retreat will open your soul and connect you to your spirit in ways you’ve yet to experience.
BOOK NOW! — THIS RETREAT WILL SELL OUT! — Email to reserve lara@landyoga.com

$2210 (based on 15 people attending), Single room supplement $373.46, Triple room discount ($100/per person)
$500 Deposit Due March 1st
Balance Due May 1st

Retreat includes:
*4 days of excursions on a private bus with English speaking guide
*5 nights accommodations in 3 star hotels in rooms
*Breakfast daily, Three dinners, and Four lunches
*Entrance to the Blue Lagoon
*Entrance to the Skogar museum
*Horseback riding tour with coffee and traditional homemade cake (Kleina) *Yoga, Meditation, & Healing

Day 1: Blue Lagoon geothermal spa
Krysuvik geothermal region in the middle of the fissure zone on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge

Day 2: Horseback Riding through the meadows, lava fields and through a small river in Vik Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss Waterfalls and Folk Museum
Walk on the black sand beach of Reynisfjara
Drive to the Reynisdrangar Cliffs which rise up from the sea

Day 3: Golden Circle
Geysir hot spring Stroker which ejects water into the air every 5 minutes Iceland’s most famous waterfall, Gullfoss
Pingvellir National Park
Hraunfossar and Barnafoss Waterfalls
Reykholt

Day 4: Snaefellsnes peninsula
National Park and Snaefell Glacier
Buoir Village
Arnarstapi fishing village
Djupalonssandur beach
Stykkisholmur village overlooking Breidafjorour bay

Day 5: Free day in Reykjavik
(Optional Whale Watching Tour)
(Optional Half-Day Excursion Inside the Volcano) 

Monday, December 28, 2015

No Resolutions Please: Why Starting and Failing at Resolutions is WAY worse than never having them at all.



Success begets success. Confidence builds upon itself and guides a person toward her dreams. You never want to teach yourself that you don’t do the things you say you will do. You never want to create the story in your subconscious that you lie to yourself, don’t complete your actions, fail. For these reasons it is of maximum importance that you only make promises that you are GUARANTEED to keep, especially those you make to yourself. 

Many people are great at keeping their word when it comes to others, but fail horribly with the stories they tell themselves. The time has come to acknowledge where you have been letting yourself down and make a full stop. No resolutions please. Before you resolve to do a thing this year, you must ask yourself some real questions. One of those is going to be if the thing you are resolving to do is really something you believe in at all. I know your immediate reaction is that ‘of course it is’, but if you have resolved at this change before and failed, you may not be as sure inside of your reasons as you think you are. Any doubts will show up as excuses to quit later. Make sure the changes you are trying to make aren’t just because of outside influence.



To know something isn’t working, you need to feel it deeply. Instead of resolving to start yet another diet this January, just eat as you eat, but more consciously. Notice and sit still in the way you really feel when you overeat. Recognize without shame the way your body and clothing feel when you’ve not taken care of yourself. Be real. This practice of adding consciousness can transform any negative behavior. 

When you take the time to feel you’ll know the next and natural step or goal to make in your personal development. That’s when you make it. Declare it if that helps. Write it down. Tell people. Make yourself accountable, but only if you can’t fail. Instead of giving up chocolate totally, give up chocolate on Sundays, or in your home, or when you are eating alone. Make the tiniest step and bask in the glory of your success. Don’t reward yourself with “treats” that counter your goals. Let the feeling of accomplishment be the reward itself. Feel how good it feels to be a person who knows herself and honors herself and is true to her word. Know that by being that person you are teaching your friends and children that’s how they too should behave. You are setting the tone for authenticity and success.  


Do mistakes come? Sure. It’s how we handle them that makes all the difference long term. Brush off any slip up quickly and never use it as an excuse to dump your whole resolve. The better you get at this, the better you’ll be at resolutions, but we’re not making those of course!

For more on training yourself in the habit of success, attend my Train Your Brain workshop this January. More details HERE.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Temazcal and New Years


Temazcal is a place where the elements, air, fire, water and earth intersect. Physically it is a small hut with a pit in the middle where rocks (typically volcanic) are burned along with medicinal herbs. The participants are encouraged to breath deeply in the steam produced, occasionally chanting sounds led by a Shaman guide. 
I did Temazcal with my New Year New You Yoga Retreat Group in Tulum. The ceremony opened by standing in a circle and conjuring the energies of the four directions each of which corresponds to one of the elements. After, we entered the small hut. Up to this point I was fine. I felt open and present under the night sky and close to my recently deceased grandfather who came to my mind as the Shaman referenced “Grandfather Wind”.
Inside the Temazcal I sat crossed legged and straight spined in back, waiting for what was to come. We were asked to share an intention or prayer for the ceremony which I did, choosing something deeply personal and setting the stage for an intimate experience. Then, without warning, the door dropped shut and the sound of a gong reverberated. I couldn't breath. The Shaman asked us to imagine the safety and warmth of the womb, but all I could think of was the claustrophobia of the casket I’d end up in if I hyperventilated. I crawled out not sure the Temazcal was for me.
Outside I considered returning to the hotel but knew I’d regret missing out on an important experience. I looked for an opportunity to return. That came fairly quickly, when between elements, the Shaman opened the cave door. I sat back down (this time close to the exit) ready to try again. I felt immediately more safe, knowing there would be breaks in intensity and reclaimed my spot in back.
What happened next can only be described as like what one experiences when hallucinating. Images so vivid I became them entered my sphere. I literally saw though my third eye, testing this often by making sure my physical eyes were actually closed. I was assured of my purpose, my ability to fulfill that purpose, and my connection to the Universe. I am forever changed.
I came out of Temazcal reborn and with the feeling of exiting a holy bath. My eyes were brighter which I photographed. It reminded me of the way my students look once a year after our New Years Eve Candle Lit Yoga and Meditation which also involves a lot of sweat and a fire ritual, though never before directly conjured the four elements. This year it will. I now know how I am able to transform others and how to do it more deeply and authentically and we will enter that Temazcal space this December 31st. I invite you to join holy bath and emerge in 2016 reborn.

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Little Death


We've come to the last of the eight-limbs, Samadhi. Samadhi is a concentration so deep, that only the essence of the object being observed radiates. It's as if the mind itself is no longer. In this sense, it is a death. The levels of Samadhi deepen until one merges with infinity, never again to return to a fractured state. At each stage something must die so that this joining can take place. 
Figuratively and literally we will all experience death in our lifetimes. Each time we let go of a personality trait, opinion, or limiting idea it is as if a part of us dies. As we shed what we are not, we come closer to the infinite, non divisive being that we are. For instance, to define myself as smart, I must have an idea that somewhere out there exists someone who is dumb. I need also a concept of intelligence which depending how I characterize it, may dismiss particular forms of knowledge. There will come a time when I discover my lifelong "certainties" to be incomplete and realize they have caused me to brush off people and experiences. Some get a glimpse of this and retreat deeper into their previous paradigm, looking for any evidence not to change. As a yogi I must move fearlessly forward. When I open my eyes to a new concept of wisdom the whole world will look different. I will also come to realize there are all these other assumptions I have made that are also limiting or incomplete. I will have to reexamine my whole life and let die what is not true.
Fear, is a reaction from our system that some sense of who we are is in danger of death.  Our ego wants to assert its separateness so it screams to be let loose. The beautiful thing is that each time we deny its hold on us and move through fear toward truth, we teach ourselves that we will be okay. We don't actually die. We can still find our way.
The little deaths we experience in our life are preparation for the ultimate letting go and show us that the more we surrender, open and accept, the easier and more blissful we will be.
 
It's been an absolute joy dissecting the eight limbs of yoga with you over the last year and a half. To see all the previous discussions visit www.youtube.com/user/alleightlimbs. I'll be doing a full review and offering more in-depth lessons as we aim for the highest expressions of ourselves in 2016.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

More Thanks. Less Full.


Happy Holidays everyone! With Thanksgiving and Holiday time coming up I wanted to share three of my favorite personal tips to keep from overeating.  I hope they help you to stay balanced and gorgeous during this hectic time of year.
1. Eat Breakfast. Many of you get in the mindset that you'll counter the damage of your afternoon feast by saving on the AM calories. This actually backfires. You'll end up eating so much more if you starve yourself during the day, so, even if it seems counterintuitive, eat a sensible breakfast though you know you'll be eating a lot later.
2. Crunchy Healthy Snacks. If your family is like mine, there is a whole period of hanging out munching before the main meal even happens. I keep tons of crispy vegetables out so that if I'm tempted to snack, it's on something healthy. My favorite are organic baby carrots which really take some time to bite into and have a fully satisfying crunch factor. When it's time to dip, I do it in my super simple Yellow Pepper Guacamole. 
3. Sleep. Do Yoga. Meditate. We all have the tendency to eat to fill a void emotionally. This kind of eating is certainly exasperated around holiday time which can be stressful and pull us into old habits. (What can make you feel more like a child than being back in your parent's house, right?) Prepare for these natural inclinations by getting enough sleep, practicing yoga (or some endorphin producing physical activity), and doing a bit of quiet reflection and centering before your meal. You'll thank me for it later! 
What are your best tricks to staying balanced during holiday season? Tweet them out to me at @landlaraland