Thinking Yogi

The intersection of two loves: yoga and writing.

Posted by on in Writing

Sometimes it's just all too much. News, email, social media, not to mention actual work - do you ever feel bogged down by your virtual obligations, overwhelmed by all the content that streams into your life?

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Once I identified my sensitivity to virtual overwhelm, I made a conscious choice to limit my intake. I still occasionally worry I may be missing something important - the latest news story, or a friend's Facebook post about an important life event they'll never think to share with me offline - but the trade-off is worth it because I feel so much more balanced when I'm not constantly in intake mode.

 

Yoga has a fancy term for this: it's called pratyahara, withdrawal of the senses. Though you'll find it in dusty old yoga philosophy books, it's not some quaint, outdated concept. It's the reason you sigh in relief when your teacher invites you to close your eyes, it's why your shoulders and neck relax as the room gets quiet and dark and still for savasana.

 

With all the virtual voices out there today, I've decided to step back and figure out how my own contributes to the conversation (or noise). I'm taking a little break from Thinking Yogi, but I certainly won't be taking a break from writing. I have a project in the works....more to come on that soon!

 

In the meantime, feel free to check out five of my most popular past Thinking Yogi posts:

 

 

Here's to health, happiness, and your own version of balance. 

 

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Posted by on in Writing

 

      I've spent the past four days

not

      doing the one project I really needed to get done.



      Every morning I put it on my to-do list, but once I sit down to work something else always seems to take priority. Even when I schedule time into my calendar to work on the project, I find that other shiny objects - a fun conversation that emerges in

the studio

      , the new article a friend recommended, or that thing I've been meaning to research - pull my attention away from buckling down to just get the work done.



      I've been frustrated at my procrastination because it feels like I'm continuously breaking a promise to myself. 'This time,' I said yesterday morning, 'I'll really get it done.' But my behavior didn't change to support the promise, so another day went by with my task list unchanged, the project grew even more monumental in my mind, and I began to think maybe I wasn't suited to completing it.



      Why do we procrastinate?



      It’s not necessarily because the task at hand is all that difficult or time-consuming, in fact it's often quite the opposite.

 

 

      I procrastinate when I’m afraid of bringing important work into a state of completion because it means of putting it out in the world to be evaluated and judged. I don’t want people to think this is the best I can do, so I convince myself that if I just had a little more time I could do better. This is where the perfectionist meets the procrastinator, and when the two traits team up it makes for a paralyzing combination.



      One of the most important things I've learned from 17 years of yoga practice is that the best I can do is to show up and be the fullest expression of who I am right now, however imperfect or out-of-shape or tired or overworked I am. Yoga is not about wishing for what could be, it's about being with what is.



      When I place my body in a yoga pose, it doesn't matter what the pose could look like on another body. When I practice conscious breathing, it doesn't matter how full my breath is compared with the person next to me. What matters is that I'm practicing awareness in my body and in my breath rather than being carried away in my thoughts. Yoga is a practice of consciously choosing what to do and what

not

      to do from moment to moment.



      I understand how to do this on a yoga mat, so I found it frustrating that I was having trouble translating that to my worklife.


      Recently my friend and colleague

Tina DeSalvo of The Soul Purpose

      introduced me to a tool that has become key in my anti-procrastination toolbox. It's called the NOT To Do List.



      Every morning after I make a plan for the three things I hope to accomplish in my day's work, I also list (mentally or on paper) the things I will not do in that particular work session. There are always so many things pulling at me, so many deadlines going at the same time, and it can be tough to realistically prioritize. The NOT To Do List is a way of acknowledging the fact that all those shiny objects will be distractions from the work that needs to get done. Identifying them makes it easier to avoid unconsciously slipping into that behavior.



      On my NOT To Do List for today was: responding to every email in my inbox, researching the

Chicago Symphony Orchestra family matinee series

      a friend just told me about, searching for a slow cooker, watching a new TED talk, and finishing up revisions to a story I've been writing.



      It's not to say that these things aren't important to do. They're just not important to do today.



      The NOT To Do List gives you permission to prioritize, to set boundaries, and to consciously decide how to spend your time on a moment-to-moment and day-to-day basis. It empowers you to make conscious choices rather than feeling as if you're constantly breaking promises you've made to yourself.



      Procrastination is nothing more than an excuse for holding back. As long as I have a sprawling To Do List waiting, I can reasonably tell myself there’s no way I can take on that bigger project I've been putting off - a project that might require me to open up, to be brave, to change, to be vulnerable. As long as that To Do List is waiting, nagging, there’s always a valid reason why that other bigger project can’t happen.



      But in the end, it can happen if you want it to, if you make time and space for it. It's all about priorities and making conscious choices regarding how you spend your time.



    To do, or NOT to do. That is the question.
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Elephant Journal just posted my article "Why the Olympics would Ruin Yoga" about the renewed interest in making yoga an Olympic event.

Every four years when the Olympics roll around, an insistent group of yoga practitioners make a case for why yoga should be an Olympic event. My article looks at why this would be a devastating thing to happen to yoga.

Comments are very welcome, just scroll down to the bottom of the article on elephant journal to continue the conversation!

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 In my gentle class this week, we spent a long time in supta padangusthasana, reclining big toe pose. The pose provides a relaxing way to stretch the hamstrings and strengthen the legs, while allowing for a deep release in the hips, back, and neck. Much as I love this pose today for the perspective it has given me on and off the mat, it still brings back some painful memories.

As someone who is naturally flexible, when I first started yoga I delighted that many of the poses played to my strengths. I moved deeply into forward folds, bent myself into tight backbends, and pursued the goal of making my poses look like whatever the teacher demonstrated or whatever a yoga book pictured. I exploited my flexibility, played with the line where a stretch crosses into the danger zone, and then pushed further, impatient to see a visible 'improvement' in my pose.

You might be able to guess what happened next.

My poses didn't so much improve as they served to teach me some valuable (though painful) lessons. As the teacher led us into supta padangusthasana, I went through the first side following the cues, a little bored as we were instructed to wait and work our way into the pose gradually. When I came out of the first side the teacher had us compare the two, giving us perspective on how far we had come. That first side felt incredible!

But when we started in on the second side, that leg felt stiff, dull, and reluctant. With the memory of the after-effects of the first side so close, I just didn't want to have to wait to get that feeling again. So I tried to skip steps, forcing my leg deeper into the stretch, and that's when I felt a snap in the back of my leg.

Having not yet learned patience and perspective on the yoga mat, I was forced to practice these virtues as I waited for my hamstrings to heal. My injury was a waiting-period, an imposed time to reflect on the true aims of the practice and how I was approaching it. Weeks later as my hamstrings began to feel close to normal again, my approach on the mat became slower, more measured. I found that waiting was not, in fact, boring. Rather it gave me perspective that a rushed approach would have never allowed.

The patience and perspective I've since practiced on the yoga mat has helped more than my hamstrings. Whether in the context of the writing process or in decisions pertaining to my role as director at Bloom, I've made my fair share of rushed decisions because I felt the pressures of time or expectations. When I'm on a deadline, it doesn't seem practical or possible to wait and process. Particularly now that the speed of personal and business interactions has so rapidly increased, when I take extra time it feels like I'm shirking my responsibilities, so I rush to some sort of action. Without exception, the hasty decisions have not turned out to be the best ones. Without the benefit of time, there is always some element that I forget to consider in my process.

Now when some time-sensitive situation comes up in my personal life or at the studio, I imagine the decision is the second side of supta padangusthasana. I reassure myself that a little extra time will help rather than hurt, I send feelers out, and contemplate the issue from a variety of angles. But mostly, I just wait. I'll often experience moments of panic as the deadline looms, worrying that I'm not actively 'doing anything' to resolve the issue. But sometimes doing is not what is required. Often patience and perspective are more effective.

As my experience on and off the mat has shown, you can't rush a good thing. I've come to trust that. I practice being okay on the mat during in the in-between time when my hamstrings are not yet open, I give myself permission off the mat to slow down and wait until a decision becomes clear. In this age of quick replies and instant everything, I now savor the chance to productively wait.

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Posted by on in Writing

It's been a while, so I may be a bit rusty.....After four years off I'm feeling the Thinking Yogi itch again, so I'm reinventing my original monthly column on Bloom's website and giving it a new home here.

My hope is to explore and share the intersection of two of my great passions: yoga and writing. I'll also sprinkle in a little bit about motherhood, life in Lincoln Square, exploring creativity in daily life, staying healthy and active, etc. I hope you'll join me on my blog-a-riffic adventure!

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