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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

We now come to our middle- the fourth chakra, Anahata chakra. We have spent 3 weeks setting the foundation for growth into a world that is more interactive, in which we are starting to reach out beyond ourselves. With security, desire, and action (Root, Sacral, and Solar Plexus Chakras), we move outward into the world and past ourselves. The heart chakra is the middle ground between Heaven and Earth, between the necessary grounding in individualism built in the lower chakras and the expansion into a universal consciousness that the upper chakras promote. Thus, Anahata chakra is all about balance: taking and giving, loving and being loved, empathy and self-protection.

The Right to Love and Be Loved

As in our bodies, love holds the world together. We have all heard the songs… “Love makes the World go Round…” Without love, there is no integration; without the heart chakra, there is no connection between our roots pushing towards the earth and our beautiful green branches pushing up towards the heavens. The act of reaching out to others to share our life experiences requires a healthy, stable foundation in the first three chakras; yet, it also requires that extra compassion and consideration that comes with discovering relationships. To be loved by another increases our own self-worth and fuels an awakening that has inspired songwriters, artists, authors, poets throughout human history.

Balance

Love is certainly about balance- this is something we often forget when getting caught up in the drama, the ups and downs, and the occasional roller-coaster ride that we experience in relationships (of all kinds). Nature seeks balance. Yet, for a relationship to last, both involved must understand that balance is not static– it is a constantly fluctuating play between anima and animus (a more “gender neutral” masculine and feminine concept), reaching out and taking, self and other, attachment and freedom. When this is accepted and appreciated, a relationship becomes flexible, fun, and completely life-affirming. It is also important to remember that balance within a relationship can not be achieved without finding balance within too.

“Balance is the underlying foundation of longevity in all things.” ~ Anodea Judith

Compassion

Although different spiritual beliefs interpret the concept of compassion on a spectrum- from the complete non-harm of all beings including the smallest of insects, to the reaching out to our fellow human beings- compassion has the potential to support a peaceful existence on earth. If we all “had passion for” our fellow humans, our earth, and our ecosystems, we would be in a much better place. To reach beyond ourselves and try to understand another’s needs allows for an expansion of inner being that holds the space for change to occur. Compassion does not mean that we have to fix things– sometimes we simply cannot– but often understanding and empathy can mean the difference between peace and war.

“And the day came when the need to remain closed became more painful than the risk to open.” ~ Anonymous

Anahata Chakra Homework: Take some time this week to sit with yourself and create compassion and peace within. Start by contemplating the various parts of yourself- especially those that tend to argue or create turbulence within. Give them each an identity. For example, one might have a curious child, a free-spirited vagabond, a practical parent, an analytical worker, and any number of other people within. Write down each person and their desires, their wants. Begin to consider the relationships between your “inner family”. Who relates to who? Who creates the most conflict? How might they relate and converse in real life? And most importantly, how can they come to a peaceful co-existance? Can you create compassion for each to ensure that they each have a place within, that they are each having their needs met? How might this relate to your external relationships? remember, love always starts with love and compassion within. Start with self-love.

Wear Green.

New Years resolutions. Some are kept, some are forgotten (sometimes in the first week!). Some are useful… others are not at all. Every year, I take a different stance on the whole phenomenon of “New Years resolutions”. Often I consider that resolutions set us up to failure, disappointment, self-deprecation, self-doubt… self-defeat. This is not a life-affirming practice. However, do resolutions have to mean disappointment? If our resolutions were not so goal-oriented, would we still follow them? Maybe they should be more realistic? And perhaps if we took them one at a time?

This year, a looser definition of “resolution” is going to apply. There will be no “I-will-work-out-5-times-a-week”, no “I-will-do-homework-every-night”. I am resolving to resolve differently. There will be forgiveness, yet real, palpable, and most of all, life-affirming goals to keep in mind at all times. Goals that apply to quality of life, without focusing on small details such as waist size, grade point average, or strict rising times.

For this session of yoga, we will be going through some of my “new” New Years resolutions—ones that I think everyone can relate to—as the focus for each class. This way, I am reminded weekly as we explore together. So, this first class, we are all going to resolve to resolve differently. This means being loving to ourselves and others, and changing some of our goals from unforgiving (“By February I should be able to hold bakasana for 1 minute”) to supportive, encouraging, and infused with light and joy (“I will enjoy the strength I have everyday, physically, while holding bakasana, and mentally”).

Just me…

2010 Journey

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