The 8th Discipline of Yoga: Knowing God


Before I found yoga, I believed in God when life was good, and doubted His existence when life was hard. Everyone from my minister to George Michael told me, “you gotta have faith”…so I tried, but my faith often failed me.

I was disciplined about attending church. I could cite scripture. Knew all the words to the hymns. But try as I might, I didn’t feel like I knew God. Something was missing.

Until one day, on my yoga mat, in Sean Tebor’s class at Peachtree Yoga Center in February 2003, I felt Him. I felt God with me there, in Warrior 1, telling me that I was on the right path. It was so empowering. I’ll never, ever forget it.

Does that sound crazy? It seems a little strange to put it in writing, that God speaks to me on my yoga mat, but it’s true. That’s exactly what happened that night, and what has happened countless times since. The more I practice yoga, the more I feel like I know God, and He is present in my life. And that makes me really, really happy.

This knowing of God is the eighth and final discipline of yoga. It happens when our mind, body and spirit are aligned, and we are open and available to what is happening in the present moment, without ego or judgement. This is where we find God.

Patanjali tells us that we can access samadhi anywhere, at any time. This might be true, but in my experience, samadhi takes practice. It’s the reason I meet my mat every day. Because the knowing of God is worth fighting for. And the harder I work to access samadhi, the more frequently I notice God’s presence in my life.

These days, I still go to church, read my Bible, and pray. These disciplines are the framework for my faith, and samadhi is the glue that holds it all together. The more I practice yoga–from the first discipline to the last–the easier it becomes to keep the faith. The something that was missing in my youth was yoga, and now that I have it, I’ll never let it go.

Namaste, and happy last day of National Yoga Month!

Amber

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Photo: blogs.blueletterbible.org

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Yoga: The Alternative Lifestyle

I just returned from spending the weekend with my oldest daughter and her Girl Scout Troop at Camp High Harbour. It was really, really fun, and the best quality time I have had with my Sunshine Girl in a long time. We needed it.

But, I have to confess, I was pretty anxious about the prospect of integrating my crazy healthy life with YMCA camp life. I knew that, logistically, it would be challenging.

It would not be the end of the world if I missed a day of yoga, but food was definitely a problem. I am allergic to gluten, egg, beef, chicken, and dairy. Which is pretty much all that is served at YMCA camps, and everywhere else that large groups of people must be fed quickly.

I’d have to bring my own meals to Girl Scout Camp.

Would that be weird?

Could I make it not weird?

I had no choice but to pack my own meals, and packed my yoga mat, just in case.

After all that worry, it turned out that no one minded that I ate canned lentil soup in the cabin before dinner. Or that I munched on trail mix, while everyone else was enjoying fried chicken and biscuits. There was even an opportunity to practice yoga and meditate yesterday during free time. No big deal.

Why was I so anxious about this? It all worked out fine in the end, and led to a funny thought on my mat:

Am I living an alternative lifestyle? Has yoga stopped being something I do, and become a way of life?

I had to look it up. Thank God for Wikipedia, for validating that I am living an alternative lifestyle, and for putting it all in perspective, with this important insight:

“Alternative lifestyles and subcultures originated in the 1920s with the “flapper” movement, when women cut their hair and skirts short (as a symbol of freedom from oppression and the old way of living). Women in the flapper age were the first large group to practice…dancing, cursing, and driving in modern America without scandal following them. This was because this new flapper lifestyle was so popular that the flapper’s brash behavior became more normal than previously thought.”

Yes! Yes! Yes! That is what I want most…for these crazy healthy habits to become more normal than previously thought. For practices that heal our bodies to stop being scandalous (chanting, anyone?). True, yoga is less scandalous than the risqué behavior of the flappers, but it’s the exact same thing in theory: a battle against the old way of living.

In the old way of living, we believed that low cost, convenience, and great taste were more important than nutrition, awareness, and discipline. Thankfully, the flappers taught us that what we have always done, does not have to be what we always do. We can change the normal. There are alternatives. Isn’t that inspiring?

It makes me think that, if the flappers can free women from oppression with a haircut and a mini-dress, then I can change the world with lentil soup and a yoga mat. Yoginis ARE the new flappers.

My revelation led to a resolution: no more hiding my crazy healthy. I’m gonna pin my alternative lifestyle to my sleeve.

Join me in this crazy healthy life, and together we’ll free the world from the old normal. Kinda like the flappers, but much crazier, and a lot healthier.

Happy National Yoga Month, for one more day!

Namaste,

Amber

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The 7th Discipline of Yoga: Just Be

When I was in yoga teacher training, one of my classsmates, Charlie, became the Yoda to my Luke Skywalker.

At the time, he had been practicing yoga and veganism for 25 years, and I was still relatively new to yoga. We ate lunch together at Whole Foods, every other Saturday for five months. He saw potential in me, and I enjoyed his company.

We talked about his wife, my husband, our new dog, yoga, meditation, and food. Charlie was mild-mannered, and easy to tallk to. Most of the time. Every now and then, Charlie would ask a question that totally rocked my world. Forever.

Like the time he casually looked up from his salad, and asked me, “What is your life?”

My mind fumbled for an answer. I told him that my life was working at my marketing job, spending time with my husband, walking the dog, and practicing yoga.

Without flinching, Charlie said, “That’s your history. What is is your life?”

I could feel my face getting warmer, as I squirmed in my seat. I considered the question again, and finally told him that my life was about helping people heal, and becoming the best person I can be.

He looked at me through his soft gaze, and said, “No, Amber. Your life is not what you did yesterday, or what you hope to do tomorrow. Your life is what is happening now. Right here, at this table. Eating this food, talking to me, this is your life. You can’t change what happened yesterday, and you can’t control what will happen tomorrow. But you can command how you live in each moment. This is you living, right here, right now.”

It took me a couple of days to process what that meant, but once I did, it changed everything I believed about who I was. I realized that I had been clinging to the traumas of my past, and letting them define me.

Charlie’s question taught me that we are not really living, if we are preoccupied with what was, and what might be. It helped me cultivate awareness, and inspired me to seek that feeling of just being in my yoga practice. And the more I learned how to just be on my mat, the sweeter life became off my mat.

This is what the seventh limb of yoga, dhyana, is all about. Practicing the art of living in the moment. It is what happens in meditation, when we are no longer forcing our attention to a single point, and we are being without doing. Our minds are aware of what is happening, but we are not reacting to any of it. We are living in the now, and there is room for God to fill our mind, body and spirit.

The discipline of dhyana helps us live a more full life. It teaches us awareness, and cultivates gratitude. We learn to value stillness. It’s finally ok to just be. And we notice things we have not noticed in the past. The sky is bluer, the flowers smell sweeter, and we feel grateful for the day we have been given.

It is the most peaceful feeling we can experience, to be in the moment, but not of the moment. Thankfully, it doesn’t just have to happen on our yoga mat. We can practice dhyana all day long, by paying attention, and not reacting, to the world around us.

I’ll never forget Charlie’s face, and what a relief it was to realize that I had the power to change my story. By practicing dhayana on my mat, I learned what it means to really live.

What’s your story? Could dhyana make it different?

Namaste,

Amber

Caribbean yoga woman

photo: peacefulpose.com

T.G.I.F. (Thank. God. It’s. Funny.)

T.G.I.F.

Thank. God. It’s. Funny. Yoga, that is.

Because, if yoga wasn’t funny every now and then, I might just explode from all of those mantras, sutras, and niyamas occupying my brain.

After a long week of work, I thought we could all use a little yoga humor, to start the weekend off on the right foot. Or the left foot, if you started last weekend off on the right (see, it’s funny, isn’t it?).

Here’s a few of my faves: 

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May the force be with you. 

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Does this hit home for anyone?

 

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This one is painfully true.

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Hilarious, if you spend any time at all around kids.

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I love irony. Yoga on, Jeremy Piven.

And, if you haven’t seen these videos, you really must:

Shit Yogis Say

Yoga Girl

Keep calm, and yoga on, my friends.

Happy weekend!

Amber

Photos: iwastesomuchtime.com, quinncaya.com, thejay.com, elephantjournal.com, cartoonstock.com

Videos: smogandfog.com, lululemon.com

The 6th Discipline of Yoga: Where Meditation Begins


Believe it or not, I was in a sorority when I was in college. I proudly wore the wine and silver blue, and chanted the Pi Beta Phi creed, every monday night at Chapter Dinner:

“Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things.”

I didn’t go to church when while I was away at school, so chanting these words from Philippians was the closest I got to scripture during four of the most transformative years of my life. I’d like to say that this weekly reminder to think virtuous thoughts kept me honest, but like most people, I had more than a few ungodly moments in my college days.

Now that I know what I know about dharana, the sixth limb of yoga, I wish had taken these words to heart during those years, and actually spent time contemplating what was virtuous, and what was worthy of praise, and less time losing my soul at mixers and keg parties.

The word dharana means concentration. It is the act of focusing our mind on a word, or a set of words, that we would like to absorb into our soul, in preparation for connecting with God. We practice it in savasana or seated meditation, and it really is as simple as it sounds. We tune out the world around us, and focus our minds on the mantra we have chosen to meditate upon.

Dharana is where meditation begins, and where a lot of confusion arises about whether Christians should practice yoga at all. Yoga arose from Hindu and Buddhist traditions, so it is true that dharana was originally practiced by chanting verses from eastern scriptures. But that was then, and this is now, and other religions have explored yoga as a practice that deepens relationships with God. Personally, I don’t see any reason why dharana cannot be a Christian practice.

Words are just words, and they don’t actually mean anything until we associate a meaning with them. God knows our hearts, and by focusing our mind on His words, such as peace, love, forgiveness, and salvation, we draw closer to Him.

Perhaps more importantly, I believe, with all my heart, that God wants us to practice dharana. He gave us beautiful psalms, and insightful parables, and timeless wisdom. Why wouldn’t He be thrilled if we chose to dedicate time each day to think on these things? They are powerful, and we honor Him by purposefully focusing on His guidance through the fifth limb of yoga, dhrarana.

Namaste,

Amber

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Photo: jimmiescollage.com

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The 5th Discipline Of Yoga: Making Space For My Soul

Sometimes it feels like my brain is broken. Like there is a disconnect between what I know I should do, and actually doing it. And between what I should think, and what I actually think. For example, last night I promised ZiZi that I would wash her school t-shirt, so she could wear it on today’s field trip to the zoo. I left in in the middle of the hallway, so I wouldn’t forget.

I walked around that bright red shirt twenty times before I went to bed, yet I still forgot to wash it. Because my brain is broken. And because my brain is broken, my 8 year old went on a field trip to the zoo in a shirt stained with last week’s peanut butter. And in my broken brain, I am thinking that the chaperones on the field trip, parents that I see all the time, must think that I am the worst mom ever.

I know I they probably don’t think that, and that dirty laundry does not make me a bad mom, but I do think this way sometimes. Thankfully, I have confirmed that I am not the only one with a broken brain, and other people also have these feelings from time to time.

The good news is that there is a remedy for broken brain syndrome.  All we have to do is create a little space between what the world thinks we should be, and who we really are.

This is what the fifth limb (discipline) of yoga, pratyahara, is all about. The word pratyahara is sanskrit for “withdrawal”, and the practice of pratyahara teaches us how to create space between ourselves and our attachments to the relentless chatter of the world. It makes us aware of the stories circulating around us, and opens us to the possibility that some of them are not true.

Pratyahara is difficult to explain, if you have not experienced it before.  It’s more of a belief, and a feeling, than something we do. When we believe that we can quiet our minds, we make it possible to tune out the chatter that separates us from God.

It’s that thing that happens in savasana, when you forget that there are other people in the room. You know that you are physically there, but you are not there. You are floating in space, and it feels free, and nothing else matters besides staying in that space where you are neither here nor there. Just like any other discipline, pratyahara becomes more rewarding, the more frequently we practice it.

Knowing how to create this space between us and the world is especially helpful, as we navigate the messy details of our busy lives. Like when I gave birth to three children in 39 months, and they were all in diapers at the same time. My days were a blur of bottles, music classes, homemade baby food, and Baby Einstein.

I wanted to be the perfect mom, but when you have three tiny humans that are totally dependent on you, it is impossible to be perfect! Somebody was always crying, I was on sensory overload, and my broken brain couldn’t figure out which way was up. People were quick to give me the stink eye if my babies cried at the store, even though I was clearly outnumbered. Strangers gave me breastfeeding advice, as if it was something I couldn’t figure out on my own. It was all so overwhelming, and withdrawal from the chatter was the only way I could begin make sense of the chaos.

When I needed a break, I would strap the girls into whatever bouncy seat or johnny jumper would hold them safely for a few minutes, and stretch on the floor, while they watched Dora. If my husband was home, I would escape to the basement and meditate. And, when I was lucky enough to have a sitter, I would find a yoga class and get my pratyahara on in public.

Little by little, I chose to make space for my soul. I learned to recognize the difference between what was essential, and what was not, and got really good at saying “no” to anything, and anyone, that might make me feel less than enough. I realized that I don’t have to be everything to everyone, and sometimes “no” is the right answer for me, even if it’s not what other people want to hear.

My kids are older now, somehow things are even busier, and my brain feels just as broken as it did when they were babies. I kinda doubt that my brain will every get fully unbroken, at least not as long as we still have kids in the house. But it does find peace when I practice yoga, and it’s good to know that peace will always be there for me, as long as I remember to make space for my soul.

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The Thin Line Between Selfish And Selfless

The hardest thing about being a wife and mother is figuring out where you end, and your family begins. It’s like, as soon as two become one, and then two becomes three, four, and five, we wake up and realize that we are only one fifth of the person we used to be.

We have new loves, and the things that we used to love are suddenly the source of our greatest guilt.

We feel bad for sleeping in. We blame ourselves for not doing enough for our families. And we squeeze time with our friends into the spaces between loads of laundry, grocery shopping, and carpools.

This is not me complaining–I know I am blessed. This is me observing that moms have a hard time defining boundaries.

I know I do. And I’ve talked to enough mom friends to know that I’m not alone.

This is why I am such a huge proponent of yoga for moms. It helps us accept that taking care of ourselves is not selfish…it’s actually the most selfless thing we can do.

Yoga keeps us grounded in reality. Regular practice teaches us to observe our thoughts, determine which ones are valid, and reject the ones that are false. It also makes us stronger, wiser, and more flexible…literally and figuratively.

We ultimately learn to flip the question. Instead of:

Is it selfish to take time away from my family to work out?

we find ourselves thinking:

How could I not work out? My family needs me to live a long, happy, healthy life.

We must put the oxygen masks on ourselves first, if we hope to support our families when they need us the most.

The truth is that sometimes I still feel guilty asking for a hall pass to go to yoga. I am thankful, however, that yoga has taught me to observe that thought, without reacting to it. It comes and it goes, and reminds me that choosing to fortify myself is the most selfless thing I can do.

IMG_9149 copyMy girls are the reason I practice yoga every day…

so I can be the fun mom who wants to ride the Alpine Slide in a dress!

God’s Hour

This is not a blog about religion. At least I never intended it to be.

But the more I have written, the more I have realized that it is impossible to separate my faith from what I know to be true about this crazy healthy life.

When I began my quest to get healthy, I was mostly focused on external appearances. I wanted to lose weight and look great in a bathing suit. It was a self-centered approach to fitness that ebbed and flowed–a constant struggle that left me feeling like I could never quite measure up. No matter how hard I tried, I could not sustain pursuits that were all about me.

After I had kids, however, I found new reasons to get healthy, that were more focused on serving God’s purposes for my life. My focus shifted from pursuing my needs, to the meeting the needs of my children. I wanted to be able to pick them up and carry them, when they grew tired of walking to the zoo. I wanted to have enough energy to play games with them after school. I hoped to be someone they admired. And I especially wanted to live long enough to meet their children.

Ten years later, I still feel all of these things, and I am keenly aware of the tremendous responsibility that has been entrusted to me. I want to be a great Mom to them, so I have to put the oxygen mask on myself first. In order to do this, I have to get right with God spiritually, as well as physically and emotionally.

To do that, I spend at least 60 minutes each day investing in the body that He created for me. It doesn’t have to happen all at once–it can be broken into smaller time commitments–but an hour each day is what He needs from me, to help me fulfill my purpose in life.

God’s Hour

Here are the daily disciplines that have helped me sustain a healthy lifestyle, while juggling family and a career:

1. Exercise (30 minutes)

Corinthians reminds us that we are not our own, and we are to “Glorify God in your body.” Our bodies are gifts from God, and should be treated as such. Just as diamonds are created through heat and pressure, we must also use resistance to become the treasure that God wants us to be. Thirty minutes of vigorous, resistance-based exercise each day is necessary, for us to be our best for God. For me, this means yoga, but it might mean something different for you. I don’t think it matters what we call it, as long as we intentionally connect with our physical body, for the purpose of building strength and overcoming resistance, every single day.

2. Nourish (20 minutes)

God gave us everything we need to fuel our bodies when He created the earth, yet we eat more packaged foods, than the kinds that come straight from the farm to the table. The foods God created are rich in phytonutrients, amino acids, and minerals that our bodies need to remain in good health, and should be the foundation of our diet. These foods also take more time to prepare, but this is the sacrifice we must make, to be in good health. Taking time to prepare and enjoy food from the earth glorifies God.

3. Meditate (5 minutes)

Psalm 46 tells us “Be still and know that I am God.” It is essential to put ourselves in “time out” once a day, so that we can reconcile with who God is, what He has done, and what He is capable of. Meditation is the act of surrendering our mind, body and spirit, so He can fill us up with His purposes. This can be as simple as closing our eyes, and quieting our mind, or we can meditate on specific concepts from scripture (heaven, love, or peace, for example). This practice is best done sitting on the floor, but can also be practiced laying on the ground, with our arms at our sides, and palms facing up (as long as you don’t let it turn into a Scooby Nap).

4. Pray (5 minutes)

Pray throughout the day, with the intention of seeking His guidance. Get in the habit of praying upon waking, before meals, and at bedtime, as well as any other times that you want to connect with Him. Simple prayers work just as well as complex prayers…God knows our hearts, and does not need fancy words or explanations. This practice is supported in Romans: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” We renew our minds by considering what God needs from us, asking Him for support, and practicing gratitude, in the form of prayer, throughout the day.

5. Practice discernment (takes no time at all)

Erma Bombeck once said, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I have not a single bit of talent left, and I could say, I used everything You gave me.”  We must ask ourselves every day, “What is happening around me, and what does God want me to do with it?” When we practice awareness, we create more opportunities to use our talents for God’s purposes, and draw closer to Him in the process.

What do you think? We can talk about it, if you’d like. Leave your thoughts in the comments below, or send me a private message through the Facebook page for My Crazy Healthy Life.

Namaste,

Amber

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Don’t Stop Believin’

dont-stop“The ability to believe is the most powerful force at mankind’s disposal. Everything that has been done, for good or bad, was done because someone believed it could be or should be done. Every problem that has been solved was solved because someone believed it could be or should be solved.” ~ Andy Stanley

I heard the most amazing sermon this morning at Buckhead Church. Andy Stanley spoke about the power of belief, and it literally brought me to tears.

Most of it had little to do with Jesus, God, or the parables. It was all about human nature. Andy talked about how the ability to believe is the most powerful force known to man. About how we constantly look for evidence to support what we believe to be true. And about how much easier it is to believe, when we live in a community that shares our beliefs.

Perhaps most importantly, Andy said that belief is the tool that God gave us, to become who we are supposed to be. We can use it for good, or we can use it for bad, but make no mistake…belief is a weapon.

I’m sure my jaw was on the floor, the whole time. In 35 minutes, Andy summarized all that I know to be true about this crazy healthy life.

You might be wondering what any of this has to do with yoga, since I committed to write about yoga every day this month. The power of belief has everything to do with yoga, because yoga gives us disciplines that sharpen our beliefs, and teach us to use them purposefully.

Andy’s sermon will be online at the Buckhead Church website sometime this week, for those who want to check it out.

In the meantime, consider what you believe. Do your beliefs ground you, and allow you to live authentically? The truth of who you are is already within you, waiting to be revealed, and it starts with being sure of your beliefs.

Photo: wp.streetwise.co

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You Have To Look With The Heart

“People where you live,” The Little Prince said, “grow five thousand roses in one garden… yet they don’t find what they’re looking for…

“They don’t find it,” I answered.

“And yet what they’re looking for could be found in a single rose, or a little water…”

“Of course,” I answered.

And the little prince added, “But eyes are blind. You have to look with the heart.” 
― Antoine de Saint-ExupéryThe Little Prince

I have been writing about yoga every day this month, as my way of helping to raise awareness about the benefits yoga, in support of National Yoga Month.

After fifteen years on my mat, and twelve years of teaching yoga to everyone under the sun — adults, children, the visually impaired, doctors, lawyers, musicians, and so many more — I have a lot of stories and knowledge that might help inspire you to explore yoga as a personal practice.

The truth about yoga, though, is that you don’t need me, or anyone else, to learn how to practice it.

We already know what we are supposed to do, at some level. Patanjali didn’t create the “Eight Limbs of Yoga”, he just pointed out that we have all of these opportunities for happiness within us, just waiting to be revealed. They might be covered up by our fears, our traumas, and too many hours on Facebook, but they are there.

Nobody owns our breath but us. Nobody can strengthen our bodies, but us. And nobody can focus our minds, and our emotions, but us. Teachers, and books, and DVDs can offer inspiration and point us in the right direction, but we are the only ones who can do the work.

The entire point of The Yoga Sutras, which is considered the most essential text about yoga, is that we must stop looking around for happiness…and start looking inside. Happiness is there, and it’s our responsibility to let it out.

I think that’s the point The Little Prince is trying to make. We don’t need more. We need to nourish what we have. We need to OWN IT.

And that’s why I love yoga. Because I don’t need anything but myself, and God, to OWN my life. Not even a yoga mat (although it does make things a bit easier.)

I choose happiness, every time I practice yoga.

You are the rose. Yoga is the water. Connect the two, and you will ultimately find that what you really, truly want, is closer than you ever imagined.

Namaste~

Amber

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Photo: deviantart.net

Share The Yoga Love

One of the greatest benefits of regular yoga practice is that it cultivates self-awareness. As we become more aware of ourselves, we realize that separation from others is an illusion. We are all inextricably connected, and we are all here to help each other.

It ties in well with the Buddhist concept that all of life is suffering. It’s an idea that was hard for me to digest at first, as a Christian, but now I appreciate the perspective it brings to the table.

On the surface, it sounds like the most depressing thing in the world, to believe that we are here on earth to suffer. Especially if, like me, you were raised with the positive messages of Christianity…things like “Jesus washes away our sins”, and “We are all going to heaven one day”.

In yoga practice, however, embracing the idea that we are all suffering makes us better yogis, and draws us closer to God. It cultivates compassion, love, and connectedness to the world around us. The idea that we are different is proven false, and we fall in love with humanity.

As as a Christian, I am certain that Jesus practiced yoga, and totally agrees with Buddha. It’s hard to love our neighbor as ourselves, if we believe that we are the only ones suffering.

Acknowledging universal suffering does not guarantee happiness, however. At least not in my experience. I know these things in my head–that we are all connected–but sometimes my heart still goes back to that dark place where I feel separate. The only way I know to escape it, is to practice yoga.

Yoga makes me aware of my suffering, and reminds me to reject the idea that I am not this, or I am not that. It’s just not true. I am enough. And you are, too.

That’s why I am so convicted about doing my part to raise awareness about yoga during National Yoga Month. I am writing about yoga every day, because I think people deserve to know about this powerful practice, that helps us accept that we are enough, just the way we are.

Even if you are new to yoga, you can make a difference during National Yoga Month, too. Here’s how:

1) Invite a friend to yoga class. There are over 2000 studios in the US that are offering one week free. Find out more here.

2) Commit to one week of daily home practice, and challenge your friends to do the same at their home. Twenty minutes is enough to start with, if you meet your mat every day. Afterwards, make a date with the friends that join the challenge, and talk about the experience.

3) Wake your kids up fifteen minutes early, each day for a week, and practice yoga with them. My kids love this special time with Mommy, and yours will too. It doesn’t matter what you practice, and you can even let them pick the poses.

4) Have someone take pictures of you practicing yoga in random places, and share them on Facebook. Or send them to me, and I’ll post them on the page for My Crazy Healthy Life. They don’t have to be pretty, or perfect…some of the most inspiring photos are the silly, spontaneous shots that capture who we really are.

5) Buy a yoga book, and try to finish it by 9/30. Learn more about the books I love, in my recent post about how I got into yoga.

6) Subscribe to Yoga Journal, and read it cover to cover. It’s really fascinating, even if you aren’t a total yoga dork, like me.

7) Register for a yoga workshop or conference. One of my favorites, The Southeast Yoga Conferencein Atlanta, is coming up in the next few weeks. Join me there, or check out what Yoga Journal has to offer.

8) Take a private or semi-private yoga class. You will be amazed how much more you can learn through private instruction, than in a group setting. Let me know if you need help finding a qualified instructor in your area.

9) Share any blog posts about yoga that inspire you on your favorite social media outlets. I will love you forever if you share a few from My Crazy Healthy Life, but here are a few others that are worth checking out:

A Charmed Yogi

Daily Cup Of Yoga

All The Way Yoga

Amanda Green Yoga

My Yoga Blog

We’re all in this together. Let’s inspire each other by sharing our journeys.

Talk to your friends about yoga. Practice yoga with your family. Teach yoga in your kids’ classes. And, if you have a great yoga story to tell, share it in the comments below, or post it on the Facebook page for My Crazy Healthy Life.

As Jack Johnson likes to say, it’s so much better when we’re together. Happy National Yoga Month, my friends.

Namaste,

Amber

 yoga-love

The 3rd Discipline Of Yoga: Strike A Pose

Asana is the third limb (discipline) of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. It’s one of my favorite aspects of yoga, because it teaches us to overcome our fears.

Little by little, daily asana practice makes us stronger, and more self-aware. We learn to disassociate from “the story”, so that we can see the truth about ourselves and the world around us. Within these truths, we find the happiness we desire.

The word “asana” literally means “seat”, and implies the act of sitting. The original yogis, thousands of years ago, had only three asanas to practice, and all were seated. The intention behind these asanas was to quiet the mind and spirit, to prepare for consecutive days of uninterrupted, seated meditation.

I remind myself of this, any time I start to think that I am an awesome yogi. It doesn’t really matter whether I can hold a handstand, or lift my leg in a backbend. Real yoga is not about the poses, it’s about what happens in the poses. We learn to empty ourselves, so God can fill us up with what is essential.

In recent years, asana has become an umbrella term for the kriyas (physical postures that move energy in the body) and true asana (seated poses), that we practice on our yoga mats.

If you have ever taken a yoga class, you have probably noticed that most of the pose names end in “asana”. This is because Sanskrit is a mathematical and literal language. The word asana means “seat”, or a pose in which we “sit still”.

The prefix of pose names usually describe either the animal it looks like (“up dog” comes to mind), or the object in nature it resembles (such as “tree pose”). I think this is why we often hear people talk about feeling connected to nature on their mat…we are actually pretending to be objects in nature, when we practice yoga.

Like most modern yogis in the Western world, when I first “got into yoga”, I only wanted to practice asana. I tolerated the pranayama at the beginning of class, out of respect for my teacher, and completely dreaded savanasa, the closing meditation. But I really loved getting my asana on.

Over time, however, my energy shifted. As my asana practice taught me self-awareness, I learned to appreciate other opportunities for happiness, within the eight limbs of yoga.

Fifteen years later, I love all of the limbs, but I will always have a special place in my heart for my asana practice. Partly because I was recovering from a car accident when I started, and I had to work harder than most people, to learn the poses. But mostly because asana feels like a 15 year friendship. Asana knew me when I was young, and I can still count on it today.

The bottom line about asana is that it makes us stronger, shifts our perspective, and inspires us become more of who we are supposed to be. A little goes a long way, so practice often, and remember that, as Thich Naht Hahn once said, “Because you are alive, anything is possible.”

Namaste,

Amber

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