Tag Archives: yoga

Attitude of Gratitude–Day 5–Sunshine

In yoga savasana is considered one of the hardest postures because it is requires you to relax our ultimate body part, the brain. It is also one of the most loved postures, because we relish the rarity of giving ourselves 15 minutes of total relaxation. In our culture it is frowned upon to slow down. Slowing down costs time and money, and in a society where we are always searching for more of both, it can seem utterly impossible to pump the brakes.

Winter is the savasana of the seasons. It is a time to rest, absorb and repair.

Which is why, for many of us, winter is the ultimate test.Can we think of it as a time to rest and relax, or is our monkey mind already on to the following season? With these past few days of record breaking cold, I’ve felt particularly exasperated by my inability to move my body. I’ve been cranky and emotional and bored and uncomfortable. So when the snow last night threw a wrench into my plans, I felt betrayed for the umpteenth time this month by mother nature.

As in a yoga class, there are many times when forces outside of your control make you feel uncomfortable. Maybe your balance isn’t perfect that day or you have a particular thought that is dominating your mind and keeping you from concentrating on your breath. The feeling of imperfection in a yoga class is comparable to the feelings I’ve been experiencing these last few weeks. A judgment of sorts of how I like it best or how it should be.

Today, though, was a different story. I woke up and it felt like spring was in the air. It was a balmy 45 degrees outside and the sun was shining. It was literally a breath of fresh air and a reward for struggling through the last few weeks. Not wanting to miss any of it, I put on my snow pants and coat and walked through a field of calf-deep snow out to the ocean. It felt so so so good to walk and even better to bask in the sun.

So today I am grateful to the sun, for providing me with a healthy dose of vitamin D and for the nice nature walk to ground and center me. It reminded me that I can be both still and active, and that finding a proper balance of the two is truly the only way to be.

Salute to the sun!

Sun-Salutation-Surya-Namaskar

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Managing changing relationships. A yogi toolkit!

Dear readers, I’m pleased to announce that all of this writing I’ve been doing lately has paid off! I’ve been published in the Elephant Journal! Please click the following link and give a read! Thank you all for you inspiration and support! Lots and lots of love!

Lizzie

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2014/05/managing-change-in-relationships-a-yogi-toolkit-lizzie-guerra/

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 35: #love #selfie

Love is an all-encompassing word–so very meta, if you will. And while it’s not an easy word to pinpoint a definition to, though believe me I’ve tried, it is something that is very easy to offer some gratitude!

How is it, that if I can’t quite define it, I can offer it gratitude, you ask? The answer is so simple it’s almost silly. If love is everything, within every particle of the universe,  than my offering up of gratitude to anyone or anything at all, is an offer in love’s name.

With that being said, I’m staring at my blank canvas of a word processor, and trying to decide where in the world I’d like to direct some gratitude-filled love today. Whilst this topic is so vast, I’m going to stay inside the box, and offer gratitude to a little thing called self-love.

Self-love is one of those things that seems easy in theory, but  I can’t explain how many times I’ve gotten advice from friends telling me, “All you really need to do is just love yourself a little more…” And I’m like, “I know, I knooow. Of course.  Sure. You’re so right. Definitely.”

But I’d be fooling myself if I could say I had the answer as to HOW best do that.

Let’s not get me wrong here, I think I’m pretty awesome, and I definitely don’t hate myself. But there have been situations that have occurred in my life, where I do not put my well-being or convenience first. I have been known to dance around people’s wishes, aiming to please, forever looking to compromise, and while I don’t think this is a character flaw of mine in the least, I do recognize that there comes a point when I need to say,

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Because today was one of those days for me, I’m grateful that I took the time to see where my energy was being zapped by other people. Letting others control my feelings and/or environment is the opposite of self-love. For me, it takes a lot of heart to admit when  it’s happening, but usually I can feel it in my body. Recently my second, fourth and fifth chakras have felt  blocked up ….And by that I mean, I’ve been experiencing a  feeling of deep discomfort residing in the pit of my stomach, around my chest and in my throat.  Recognizing this discomfort and telling myself stop and settle into it has been the first step.  Discussing with those who have had an impact on my dis-ease, well, that’s a whole different ball game,  but I’m on my way.  I’ll get there, but not before  making a couple of pit stops to: the massage therapist, yoga studio and amazon.com’s spiritual self-help book section. Hopefully by the time I reach step two, I’ll have worked out a few tense muscles in my shoulders and will be yielding my smoking gun of spiritual wisdom and infinite patience.

 

Today, I bow to myself in deep, loving gratitude,

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 29: Leggo my ego

Like any self-driven human being, I set standards, expectations and goals. It’s a way for me to measure my successes and to track my personal growth. Though the legitimacy of my progress is evident with just the slightest bit of self-reflection, I often run the risk of not living up to my own expectations. What’s more, I am also frequently let down by the actions of others whose standards, expectations and goals do not match my own.

Today I’m writing this post for multiple reasons, though particularly as a chance for me to acknowledge the fact that yesterday I failed to write. Not writing yesterday isn’t something I feel any panic about, though I do feel a sense of self judgement and disappointment because I didn’t complete my task sans flaw. I know I could just write two posts today and call my guilt good, but I’ve decided against that course of action because I want to reflect on the validity of leniency and letting go.

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Every so often we need to cut ourselves some slack. I once had a yoga teacher who said, “I don’t make my classes hard because I want you to push yourselves beyond your limit. I make them hard so you can recognize where your ego is telling you to do more than you are capable of on this day. When you find your personal limit, you are not weak for backing off, you are strong for telling your ego to let go.”

I remember being wowed by this statement, and it has never left me. I needed this reminder while I was walking the Camino. One day I pushed myself too hard and walked 40km. My tendonitis flared back up and, though it killed me to do so, I had to let go of the idea of walking every kilometer of the trail. It wasn’t going to be possible in the time frame that I had so I took the bus. GASP. But the lesson I learned that day was perhaps more valuable than the walking itself. I had to tell my ego, which wanted to boast that it walked EVERY SINGLE STEP, to be quiet. On that day, I couldn’t physically walk and I was stronger for recognizing this and taking the necessary measures so as not to hurt myself any more.

This lesson can and should be applied to ourselves as often as possible, but it is also very useful in relationships with others. I’ve had relationships, both friendly and romantic, where I’ve pushed myself to my limit in the search for perfection. My ego, is the part of me that registers disappointment in others. It’s a comparison of my desire with theirs that, when unequal, generates hurt. When my ego rears its head, which it does every so often, it takes the strongest part of me  to tell it to back off. My ego wants to attach itself to a story of disappointment, but my higher Self is so much bigger than that.

Letting go in relationships is probably the most challenging thing we, as humans, can do. In an attempt to control and perfect, we fail to see that everyone is on their unique journey through life. I’ve seen this with parents who push their children to be something they don’t want to be for the sake of monetary gain and “success”. I’ve also seen this with friendships and romantic relations where, though their paths have diverged, one or both of the people cling desperately to the past out of fear for the present.

What I’ve learned through both observation and experience is that the healthiest relationships are those grounded in non-attachment. This doesn’t mean that we don’t  care for and communicate to our friends, families, and partners, rather, it recognizes that their journey is transpiring simultaneously alongside our own. In order for them to live out their personal truth, they must go forth, alone, with your blessing, support and love. Attachment stunts those we love. Ego is attachment, love is its opposing force.

So today, my dose of gratitude is for yesterday’s non-post. I am grateful, once again, for the life lessons I’m learning through this writing experience. Sometimes these lessons come from a place of quiet awareness and non-action, and I’m grateful that I was attentive enough today to see this. I am truly grateful to my higher Self, which took the opportunity to learn as opposed to judge, and I am grateful to my ego for letting go of its self expectations.

 

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 25: Old Fashion Fun

Today, as my body and mind caught up with itself from last evening’s reunion booze-fest, I committed to myself, for what seems to be the hundredth time in my life, to never drink again. Though the evening was filled with lots of beauty–wonderful connections and a reunion of of Stowe High School’s finest (the Boston chapter)–my aging body just can’t drink like it used to in college, which is something to be thankful for in and of itself. Drinking seems to fulfill very little purpose in my life, and I rather despise the idea of getting “white girl wasted” on a Friday night. I’d like to think I am more classy than that…

However, with my daily routine out the window whilst here in Boston, I’ve adopted a “YOLO” attitude. You only live once; go big or go home; carpe diem, or whatever inspirational motto suits you best. Thus, I’ve taken to eating chocolate cake after lunch, lavishing myself with salmon dinners, and drinking Manhattans like they’re going out of style. But waking up this morning with what tasted like a mouth full of cotton balls and a dull throbbing in my temples, I vowed that it was time for some old fashioned fun, and that no drinks would be necessary for Saturday to be considered a successful day. I’ve swung to an extreme and it’s time to reel it in. Because there’s no moment like the present to start such an undertaking, I made sure that my Saturday would be a day of self care.

I had a nice omelette to kick off the day right, perused the Boston Science museum, watched some golf on my friend’s leather couch, added 5 books to my Amazon basket (which I never purchased, but enjoy doing nonetheless), took a yoga class and went to see the newest Wes Anderson film. I, of course, did all this in the company of my best and dearest friend, Kelley, and nothing could have been more lovely!

So today I am grateful for a fun-filled day of coming back to center. It’s possible to enjoy ourselves, but it’s important to keep in mind the value in a more wholesome kind of fun. Most importantly, I’m happy to have had the pleasure of spending my day finding balance in the good company of Miss Kelley one of my oldest, truest and bluest friends.

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Centered

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 18: All the Things!

Today, I have not had to stretch to find things I am grateful for, so instead of my usual thematic post I am just going to let my cup runneth over with all the things I would life to give thanks for today!

This fine Saturday:

I’m thankful for the early morning alarm that prompted a yoga class to stretched out my sore muscles.

I’m thankful to Ms. Paula for taking me plant shopping, and for helping me pick out some green life to fill my apartment with!

I’m thankful to the healthy home cooked meals I ate today that nourished my body.

I am thankful for a visit from my parents and my puppy, and to finally live somewhere close enough to them for a weekend drop by.

I am thankful for the beautiful walk on the beach and a seaside meditation to remind myself of the infinite ocean of love within my heart.

I am thankful for a nice conversation with Wendy and Virginia, my role models and friends who always inspire to be true to mySelf.

I’m thankful for all the light hours of the day, that I’ve had to do all of these wonderful things!

And, last but not least, I’m grateful for the 70’s…. for this:

 

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Attitude of Gratitude — Day 16: Back on My Mat

Today was the first day in over a month that I’ve shared in the collective energy of a yoga class. And let me tell you, I can’t even begin to explain how grateful I feel right now. These past few weeks have been so full of change that I haven’t been able to remain very present. Going to class today reignited the fire within me to focus on the power of the moment. Being in a class of 40 sweaty, om-ing yogis was the exact kind of energetic lift that I needed to remind me to come back into my body and find center.

This practice of being present and centered is a life skill that I began exploring through yoga. When I began practicing I was swimming in the shallow end of what I like to call the “yoga pool.” Granted, I was never averse to the om-ing or philosophical side of yoga, but I loved the physical aspect of it, and that was what always brought me back class after class. As I began to see my body change slowly over time, and I could access new postures like chaturanga (push-up) or sirsasana (headstand), I began to swim into the deep end of the pool. Along with developing higher physical capacities, I also began to open up my mind and heart to the higher levels of yoga.

This is how turned my life upside down(ward facing dog). I began to devour spiritual texts and to meditate outside of the allotted savansana in class. I started reflecting and developing a true practice that used the Vinyasa concept of flow. Moving with the breath, linking the postures fluidly with the inhale and the exhale. An hour of concentrated breathing through difficult postures on the mat, allows for us to flow through life’s challenges when we are off the mat.

I flow in and out of this relationship with the divine, as I can easily become wrapped up in being human. These past few months for me have been very human. I’ve known that somewhere in my heart I can always tap into my divine if I choose, but I have been busy and have made little time for my practice. But today was the kick start that I needed. All it took was a room full of devotees to unleash the divine within me and remind me that I can always tap into infinity.

Today I am grateful for getting myself to yoga, for our teacher, Scot at Yoga to the People, and for all the yogis who got got their butts kicked along side me as I shakily attempted postures that I once took for granted, and sweated out all wine I’ve drunk in the last 2 weeks!

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Namaste!

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Attitude of Gratitude — Day 15: Cleanliness and Order

After a few weeks of what feels like a chaotic shift from my routine schedule, I sensed a glimmer of hope that sometime soon I will have things more organized. Disorder = my least favorite thing–ever. And this week, my life has made very little room for me to do me, leading to complete and utter dysfunction in my personal space.  Leaving for work this morning my bed was left unmade, my sink was sink full of dishes, and my laundry strewn across the floor. I haven’t worked out in weeks, and I’ve had no less than one glass of wine every single day. Let’s just say that I haven’t been feeling at my personal best, as my daily organized routine took the back burner in order for my brain and body to show up and be present as I learn the ropes at work.

However, today I was able to make a small dent in the things that make me feel better put together. I worked in the office long enough to get one of my new projects underway, and then I went to the gym. I came home and ate a nice healthy meal, cleaned my dishes and organized my laundry. Thus, it’s the little things, like cleanliness and order, that I’m feeling grateful for today.

Keeping my personal space clean and organized is also quite metaphorical, as I can work at ridding my mind, body and soul of the clutter that inevitably piles itself on through time and space. According to the yoga sutras, saucha (cleanliness) is the first niyama, or guide for yogic conduct. It is thought that through yoga we work continually to cleanse ourselves until we are nothing but light. While today I’ve made time to cleanse my environment, I also hope to thoroughly purify my body and settle my mind in the coming weeks so that the chaos and clutter in my life can subside.

I’m making small, but valiant steps!

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Sirsasana; On turning my life upside down

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“Yo this is story all about how my life got flipped right upside down.”    -The Fresh Prince

There have been countless moments in my life where I’ve felt like everything I’ve known to be true and/or comfortable has been flipped on its head. Some of these key moments include my freshman year of college in a big new city, the first time I ever traveled to a developing country, the first time I had my heart broken, the few (very special) times I met and connected deeply with soul friends, the first time I felt my beliefs lined up with those of an organized religion (!), my first yoga class, the first time I felt like my life was unplanned and completely up to  my discretion, and most recently, my first headstand!

I can still remember the day I “got into yoga.” My good friend and I were studying at a café and we decided that we should take a yoga class that evening to unwind and let go of all the stresses brought on by our fully loaded schedules. Like any good generation-y children would do, we Google searched yoga studios in the San Francisco area, and booked ourselves for the evening class at The Yoga Garden. That one class was all it took for me to become a sort of yoga addict. The Yoga Garden, and it’s community of wonderful teachers and zen yogis and yoginis became my refuge from the daily onslaught of school and work, and an place where some beautiful friendships blossomed like  lotus flowers. It was also the place where I began to track my slow (but steady) mental, physical, and emotional progress.

My yoga journey, like any good journey, has had its ups and downs. At the beginning, I was practicing 3-4 days a week at the Yoga Garden under the supervision of some of some incredible, loving and experienced teachers. I saw my physical form change, my concentration  deepen, and my heart open. I practiced regularly for a year and a half before I left San Francisco and relocated to France.

If SF was a peak, France was a valley. My practice became stagnant, I slept constantly creating knots in my once supple shoulders, and almost all together gave up my practice. And then, as fate would have it, I found myself months later in a bar in NYC where I had a chance meeting with one of my aforementioned soul friends. He encouraged me back to my mat, and for that I am eternally grateful to him. I practiced all summer long, surrounded by all the leafy green vegetation that beautiful Vermont has to offer, and in no time I was climbing back up a new, very different yoga peak.

Now, here I am, three continents later, hanging out upside down in Morocco. Yes! I finally (FINALLY!) did my first headstand.  This is how it all transpired: I was scared. I kicked off. I hovered. SO CLOSE. Then I fell flat on the tile floor. Fuck. But I knew I was almost there… and I knew I needed to trust myself more. So I prepped myself again. I kicked off. My feet hit the wall behind me. I did it! I had the support of the wall, but hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day… and support is a good thing anyway. When I came down my face was flushed and I was so proud I literally wanted to high five myself.

The headstand (according to my Google search) is the king of the asana poses, as it represents the masculine qualities of will power, clarity of thought and sharpness of the brain. It should shortly thereafter be balanced by the feminine shoulder stand which creates harmony and happiness. Who knew that these two inversions could bring such wonderful benefits to my life!?

I’m grateful for this new knowledge and this new level of my yoga practice. I’m certain that it will be very useful upon my next scary life transition, where I can most certainly expect to have everything I know to be true and comfortable  flipped on its head. Whatever the challenge or the fear, I now know that if I trust — even if I fall — turning my life upside can be an exhilarating and deeply gratifying experience.

High five,

Lizzie

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