Monthly Archives: September 2014
Last week’s blog talked about rituals and how their purpose is to connect us. Communal rituals connect us with society, our community, family and friends. The connection is more external. Personal rituals, on the other hand, are more internal connecting us with our deepest desires. They are more spiritual.
Ritual. What thoughts, emotions, and images come to mind for you with this word? Other words for ritual include structured activity, ceremony, community and celebration. Rituals need to have meaning for us and engage us at every level. Just going through the motions of ritual has no meaning and generally gets discarded as soon as practical. I’m sure you can come up with examples in both camps.
There are two categories of rituals: communal and personal. Ever since the beginning of human kind communal rituals have been the glue that holds society together.
Rituals can be religious in nature or not. Think of all the ritual surrounding football (Go Broncos!) or other team sports like soccer or hockey. Celebrating and being together with people of like mind, passion and purpose gives meaning to our lives. We feel connected and human.
What communal rituals do you participate in? Where do you go to feel connected and part of a larger whole? We really need to feel a sense of belonging. In ancient times, it was critical to our very physical survival. Nowadays, it’s more of a psychic need. Either way, it is a key element to healthy aging and long life.
While communal rituals connect us with society and like-minded people, personal rituals connect us with ourSelf. Personal rituals inspire us and move us toward our deepest dreams, aspirations and values. They can include things like being in nature, prayer, yoga, meditation, journaling or anything that internalizes your focus and helps you find meaning.
I am a very early riser and really love being up before dawn. It’s my quiet time, my time for reflection. It’s that wonderful time before the daily to-do list kicks in and I treasure it.
My personal ritual has evolved over the years and I enjoy letting it be fluid. Several months ago, I started keeping a Gratitude Journal and each morning write down one thing for which I am grateful. (It’s fun to go back and re-read my entries, especially on those days when I’m feeling less than grateful.)
Then, I journal for a few minutes about something that is personally meaningful and causes me to reflect. My business coach recently introduced me to Selves In A Box®. It’s based on the concept that we are all made up of many “selves”, i.e. we have many dimensions. Some of our “selves” are primary and some are disowned. Each morning I randomly draw a “self” card from the box and read the passage that explains that “self”. Then, I journal my thoughts and feelings. One time I drew the same card 3 mornings in a row. Hmmm!
Next is my yoga practice with pranayama and meditation. My personal ritual space faces east and many mornings I see spectacular sunrises. Inspirational!
Personal rituals are, well, — personal. Where is your quiet space? What fills you with inspiration and gratitude?
Enjoy and Breathe Easy
We have been exploring the elements of well-being that create a healthy lifestyle. Both modern medicine and the ancient yogi’s grouped these elements into the same 5 categories. They just describe them a little differently. (My 4/30/14 blog has a detailed description of each category.)
We’ve looked at four of these five components of a healthy lifestyle. Following is a synopsis of each element. You will quickly see the similarities between our modern and the ancient recommendations.
|The Physical Body||Stay active; keep moving||Move with asana (postures)|
|The Energetic Body||Breathing techniques for general health & life management||The same|
|The Intelligence||Life long learning to keep a sharp mind||Chanting and memorization to keep a sharp mind|
|The Personality||Meditation for clarity and stress management||Meditation for clarity and refinement of the personality|
The fifth and final lifestyle element is The Heart. Notice how we’ve moved increasingly inward from the physical body to our “heart” or emotional body. This is the part of us that finds meaning in life and gives purpose to our life. It is what brings joy and happiness to us and is our reason for being.
Passion. Heart’s Desire. Inspiration. Relationship. Connections.
These are some of the words modern medicine currently uses and ancient yogi’s used to describe this fifth element. There have been studies done on the oldest old. People who are healthy and living into their 90’s and 100’s. The common thread among them all is having a passion, an excitement for life. They still feel connected and valuable.
What are your passions? What inspires and motivates you through the good times and the bad? What keeps you connected?
Since the beginning of time, humans have used ritual to stay connected and develop relationship with themselves and others. How can ritual help us create a healthy lifestyle? We’ll explore that question in the coming weeks.
Enjoy and Breathe Easy!
No, I’m not confused. I know it’s not 2015 – at least not technically. But, this time of year does feel like new beginnings. It’s a new school year. The seasons are changing. There’s a new, more focused energy as people think about goals and to-do’s and gear back up after the more relaxed feel of summer. A friend thinks September 1st would make a much better “official” start to the year than January 1st when people are worn out from the holidays and it’s cold outside. I agree.
Speaking of goals, I’ve been reviewing and tweaking mine in honor of the “new year”. As I was reflecting on them, something a friend said to me many years ago came back. We were having a goals discussion and he was cautioning me against getting too attached. If I let that happen, he explained, I would feel really great about myself when I succeeded and really bad when I failed. He pointed out that I was still the same person not matter what the outcome. This conversation happened many years before I started practicing yoga, and I really didn’t understand what he meant.
Since then, his meaning has become much clearer to me. It relates to last week’s blog discussion about separating our small “s” self from our capital “S” Self. Our “self” sets goals, has dreams and ambitions. My wise friend and yoga say that is all fine as long as we don’t totally identify with these things and attach our Self-worth to their outcome.
I used to love riding and racing my road bike. My dream was to compete in the Senior Olympics and I was well on my to qualifying. Notice these statements are in the past tense.
About 7 years ago, I was out on a training ride when I crashed hard. I hit a gravel patch that caused me to flip my bike and I landed full force on concrete shattering my left elbow into 32 pieces.
I was so lucky. My doctor saved my arm and 3 surgeries, a bone graft, countless hours of physical therapy and a year later my arm was healed. As my doctor said, it’s not the way God created it but it’s functional. I decided to give up racing and my dream of the Senior Olympics.
The outcome could have been much worse and I’m extremely grateful that it wasn’t. But, competing athletically was a big part of how I defined myself. It’s been a major adjustment for me to redefine that aspect of me.
Goals come and go. Who we are at our core – our true Self – remains constant.
Enjoy and Breathe Easy
There are many reasons for wanting a yoga class that’s just for you. As you can easily tell from this picture, it is impossible for one teacher to give individualized attention in a large group class. In a private session, all the teacher’s attention is focused on you and practices are tailored for you and your needs.
There is nothing wrong with group classes. They serve a definite purpose and can be very beneficial. Since they are designed for the group as a whole, it is important that each student knows how to modify the generic postures to fit his/her individual situation. The Golden Rule for all yoga instruction (public and private) … if you feel pain, stop immediately.
It’s true. Private yoga sessions are more expensive than group classes. Before investing your time, energy and money, it’s a good idea to get your questions answered and find a teacher who resonates with you. Following are some questions and considerations to help you in your search. I’m sure you can think of more.
- Does the teacher offer a complimentary consultation, either by phone or in person, to discuss your needs and explain her/his process?
- There are many styles of yoga from the athletic to restorative. What type fits your needs and does the teacher offer it?
- What are the teacher’s credentials? How many hours of training does she/he have? A general rule of thumb is a minimum of 500 hours from an accredited school to teach privately. What was the emphasis of their teacher training? Do they have areas of expertise? How long have they been teaching?
- What sort of assessment process do they have? Do they ask questions about your health and lifestyle? Is a range of motion analysis completed?
- Do they ask questions about your goals and reasons for wanting private lessons? Do they have the expertise to create practices that help you achieve your goals?
- How available are they between sessions to answer questions and clear up any confusion?
- Will you receive tools for use outside the private sessions? For example, when you attend group classes, will you know how to modify the generic posture to fit you?
- Can your schedule be accommodated? When and where will you meet? (your home, office or a studio)
- What is the cost? In Denver, a general rule of thumb is $75/hour. Ask if there are packages available.
There are many reasons for wanting to take private yoga classes. It’s a very personal decision. Here are some of the reasons my students enjoy private yoga lessons:
- They want to learn the “right” way to do the posture for their body
- They have a specific issue that needs personal attention
- Their schedules are too hectic to fit into a regularly scheduled group class
- They feel uncomfortable in group classes
- They want to achieve a very specific goal such as an athletic or health goal
- They want to take their practice to the next level
- They love the personalized attention
The right teacher is essential to a successful yoga journey. This is even more true when working privately with a teacher because it is a much closer relationship. Yoga is a gift that will change your life. Enjoy the journey.
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