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It may be argued that these days, our society is much too focused on “self”– the self has become the important idea, and community has been forgotten. However, in contemplating this, one realizes that self-esteem and self-confidence– or what I like to refer to as strong inner posture – is far beyond “selfishness”. These ideas are deeper than the modern-day definition of “ego”. When we speak about raising our children to love themselves and be strong within, we don’t mean to encourage undeserving accolades and award or to have children link success with external reward. Building self-esteem and self-confidence – though these words can be overused – requires some planting and gardening at the very core.

Self-esteem, in my opinion, runs much deeper than simply “feeling good about one’s self” (and we could also argue that selfishness, self-entitlement and self-centeredness may actually stem from feelings that lay on the opposite end of self-esteem). I want to extend self-esteem to include self-belief, self-trust, faith in one’s self… strong “inner posture”.

Yours is the energy that makes your world. There are no limitations to the self except those you believe in. ~Jane Roberts

As a naturopathic doctor, I get to meet a lot of people and learn a lot about causes and contributors to disease and dis-ease. Something that I come across quite frequently is a hard outer shell, but a deficiency within. A deficiency in trust in one’s own abilities and capacity – sometimes physical, sometimes functional, and often mental. A deficiency in the sincere belief that we can attain our visions (truly can) and achieve ________ (insert vision here – good health, success, a good partner… etc.). Faith in our bodies and mind and the human capacity. Respect for our Selves and for all that we are. And THIS, to me, is strong inner posture, self-esteem, and self-confidence.

Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are. ~Malcolm S. Forbes

This week, I challenge you to assess, understand, and strengthen your inner posture during your yoga practice. I challenge you to see beyond the hard outer shell, and begin to cultivate not only vision, but trust that you have the resources required to achieve that vision. Let’s marvel in the human body and mind and it’s capacity to overcome so many obstacles. And then, we will take it off our mats to achieve even greater things.

When I’m trusting and being myself… everything in my life reflects this by falling into place easily, often miraculously. ~ Shakti Gawain

Low self-esteem is like driving through life with your hand-break on. ~ Unknown

Asana of the week:  To achieve this week’s asana of the week, it is important to work from the bottom up to find stability, security, strength, and, most of all, trust. The first chakra, located at the base of our tail bone, is responsible for feeling grounded, safe, secure. With a deficient first chakra, the core cannot fully form. The first chakra is where we learn to trust. So, take a seat today, before your practice, tall and perched on your sit bones. connect to this first chakra by rocking back and forth, left and right, to find your sit bones. Breathe here to begin. In any core conditioning posture, first bring your attention to your inner thighs and pelvic floor, firm those areas, and then move up from there. This approach will help you more effectively activate your core and will help ensure proper spinal alignment as well.

Kakasana (Crow) and Bakasana (Crane) are our apex poses today. For many people, this can be a tough one. “I don’t have the arm strength,” “I’m going to fall flat on my face,” – these are comments every yoga teacher has heard a thousand times from students. And those are the comments that are expressed aloud. I like to start with kakasana (crow) pose, as there is a very slight difference (which I cannot seem to find a resource for anywhere online) from crane, and requires more core, less brute strength, and can be a little less scary.

I like to start in a wide-knee squat, toes and heels together. Take the time to stretch here – walk your arms forward… way forward… while you press your sit bones back. Then drag one hand back, bending your elbow towards the back of the room, and snuggle the upper arm (tricep) into the upper inner thigh. Try to get it as far back as you can, as high up the arm as possible (yes, this is a big hip opener too). Drag the other arm under the other thigh, and get compact. Use those strong inner thigh muscles to squeeze the arms.

Then, look past the front of your mat, and start to move forward in space. Don’t think “up” with your hips yet, and don’t think “down” with your face (whatever you do!). Slide along a horizontal plane with the earth. You’ll reach a point where there will be no more movement.

Experiment by picking one foot off the floor – but keep squeezing those thighs! Try the other foot. And then, with courage and trust in your heart, see if you can bring both feet off the floor, heels and toes together. Keep thinking “forward”, not back or up or down. Keep the body compact, heels and buttocks close – don’t aim for lifting the buttocks high. Keep using the strength of the legs to secure you to your arms. The more you engage your inner thighs, the more you engage your core.

The next step would be to squeeze those thighs so much that your abdomen and bottom start to rise up towards the sky. Here is where I say bakasana (crane) begins. In bakasana, the hips are raised higher, the spine rounds forward, and the knees are sitting on the shelf of your triceps. BUT, you are still looking FORWARD. Then, for the full expression of the pose, you start to straighten your arms.

You are very powerful, provided you know how powerful you are. ~Yogi Bhajan

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We  move up through Earth and Water, two downward flowing elements, to Fire… the element of empowerment, action, will, autonomy. This week, we challenge our definitions of power by shifting from the power we know in external forces, power OVER something, to our power within, that which transforms US and ignites our own lives with purpose. Power does not have to be associated with war, power plays, and money. Power is living authentically and consciously.

The Right to Act, to be an Individual

Our third chakra, manipura (lustrous gem) chakra, transforms the inertia of matter and movement into willed activity. Just as movement requires mass, action requires both of the above. We build past simple instinctual chakras to a chakra that helps build self-sufficiency, individuation, and autonomy. Now that we have seen what the world has to offer, and we feel safe and at home in it, we can start to change it by confronting uncertainty, taking on challenges, and transforming.

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world” ~Gandhi

Proactivity

Located at the solar plexus, manipura chakra is a source of energy. It is the spark that we need to make our own decisions and fulfill our own destiny. The expression of this energy within is action. Action requires desire from the second chakra and intention from the chakras above. These meet in the middle, where we find will in a healthy third chakra– the spark that will set everything alight. Excesses in this chakra create reactivity; deficiency creates inactivity. A balanced third chakra makes us proactive– and confident enough to be.

“Increased excitation is perceived as an urge to organize feeling into action.” ~ Stanley Keleman

Ego & Self-esteem

In spiritual and esoteric practices today, ego is a popular “thing” that we are told to transcend, to avoid. Although letting go of this ego is an important step in attaining universal consciousness, we cannot get there if we do not first have a healthy ego to support this transcendance. Ego helps to unite the unconscious self and the world around us, it helps us make decisions and orient our energies towards a goal. Excessive escape from this ego can be equally detrimental as excessive attachment to and limitation by our ego. Ego and self-esteem must be nourished, and it is through the third chakra that we do it. If we think of the first posture we take when we are feeling low in confidence, we see the collapsed mid-section, shoulders slouching forward, belly deflated, defeated. A healthy ego and self-esteem are important to empower us to make the right decisions, change things where needed, and integrate with the world around us.

Manipura Chakra Homework: Make a list of activities in your daily life, and reflect– which ones energize you? Which ones leave you drained? Consciously increase your time with the activities that leave you feel energized, motivated, and confident this week. Make this decision on your own, and make sure you are listening deeply to your body. Sometimes that which we first think of doing is not that which we need.

Wear yellow.

Just me…

2010 Journey

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