Ever since I learned the Courageous Heart Mudra a couple of months ago, I find that in times of stress, fear or anxiety, my hands naturally come to my heart and form this mudra. Mudras are ancient hand gestures that link to different emotions, chakras, body parts, etc. Not only are they symbolic gestures, but they also aid in a wide variety of physical sensations, ex. digestion, heart opening, relaxation, etc.
To practice Courageous Heart Mudra, or Abhaya Hridaya as it is called in Sanskrit,
1. Bring your hands to your heart in prayer position.
2. Cross the right wrist in front of the left, so that the right wrist is closest to the heart.
3. Interlace the pinkies, ring fingers and index fingers. Skip the middle fingers.
4. Touch the middle fingers to the thumbs to complete the circuit.
Close your eyes, roll the shoulders down the back, root through the sit bones, and breathe easily.
Notice the beating of your own courageous heart. Feed off this energy to solidify the body for the tasks ahead.
Go out into the world with an open, strong heart and live your truth!
I recently attended the Minneapolis Yoga Conference. I had no idea what to expect and showed up on the first day with one goal for the weekend: “do not compare yourself to others.” I heard the quote by Theodore Roosevelt, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” several weeks prior, and had not been able to stop reflecting on this statement.
How much of our suffering derives from comparison? We drive ourselves crazy comparing ourselves to our peers, family members, celebrities, perfect strangers, etc. “She’s prettier, funnier, skinnier than me.” “He’s stronger, richer, kinder, more successful than me.”
During the three-day conference, my little experiment banning comparison revealed three lessons to me:
1. I had so much more time. I realized I had been spending so much energy and time focusing on my shortcomings, as well as the successes of others. When I let go of this toxic habit, I created room for what I love to do, yoga!
2. I could be present with ease. Many times when I start letting my monkey mind run with a comparison, I lose my present focus. I think about how I need to get skinnier, prettier, more flexible, etc.. in the future. I lose my present peace of mind. Without the monkey mind, I was able to focus on the people in front of me and make heartfelt connections without thinking about what was to come.
3. I was happier. Releasing comparison invites self-acceptance to emerge. The reason why we compare ourselves to others is an overwhelming sense of inadequacy. When we relinquish this feeling of unworthiness, abundance wells up inside to fill the void. We are enough. We have enough. We are worthy to receive.
Everyday we are faced with unexpected challenges and surprises. No matter how diligently we try to control every facet of our lives, shit happens. Many of us immediately react to these unforeseen crises viscerally. But what if there was another way?
We have the power to CHOOSE how to react. What if everything is happening just as it should? What if every so-called calamity or upset can be turned on its head into a positive/learning experience? Here is a recent example of my own. I was driving a friend home from work the other day and hit a pothole that was so deep it popped my tire upon impact. The next day, I was stranded downtown with a flat tire, no one to call, and a packed day of yoga classes with no way to get to them. I immediately reacted and panicked. I let my mind run.
Eventually, I calmed myself down and got the help of a roadside assistance company. Everything was fine, the wild stories I had created, hyperventilation, and panic was all for naught. Did I really have to experience all of that? The answer is a resounding “no.” I had the choice to react that way. We are not vehicles of our emotions. With practice, we can hold dominion over our monkey minds.
The world is as you are. When your perception opens up in here, so does everything out there -Deepak Chopra
So many of my yoga students are living in a state of chronic stress and anxiety, reacting to every blip in life. So many of us have fallen victim to our surroundings, believing certain reactions are necessary and out of our control. Here are a few examples: reaction before a big test-anxiety, reaction to a missed flight-anger, reaction to relationship issues-jealousy, reaction to not getting your dream job-sadness. The list goes on and on.
By no means am I advocating not feeling every emotion that comes your way. But instead of absorbing each story, thought, emotion, etc. and letting it define you and change your day, be the master of your mind. Watch your reactions like a movie, without judgment. Observe, feel fully and then let go. I used to have a volleyball coach that encouraged each player to slap the court floor with every mistake we made to symbolically let go of the last play and move on without absorbing our mistakes and letting them affect our future moves. What if we took this approach to our daily lives?
Next time something seemingly shitty happens, feel any emotion that pops up, experience it fully and then let it go. Slap that shit to the floor, and move on with your day. You are more than your mind and more than your body.
Have you ever hit a lull in your yoga practice and needed a new challenge? Or, let’s be honest, have you ever wanted to impress your friends with a freaky looking move? I have just the posture: Fallen Angel. This is one of my personal favorites to teach and practice. There are so many variations and the final posture utilizes strength, flexibility, and balance. Give it a spin!
a. Start in a low squat with hands at heart center in samastiti. Find a strong foundation by deepening the breath, relaxing the shoulders, and creating a tall spine by engaging the core muscles.
b. Keeping core engaged, on the next exhale, twist from the upper body and bring the elbows to hip and knee. Glue the elbows to the leg and spread all ten fingers wide and plant hands on the ground.
c. Make a shelf with the elbows and shift the heart forward, lifting one foot at a time, trying not to dump into the arms. Utilize that core strength!
d. Here’s where it gets tricky. From Side Crow, drop the head to the floor, cheek down. Activate the core to shift the hips skyward. Both knees will be resting on one arm and feet are pointing to the sky.
e. Final step. Lengthen one leg, engage both feet to straighten the legs and TADAH you did it!
I have been thinking a lot lately about how we communicate and connect to one another and I have witnessed one too many relationships strained by the reliance and dependence on technology. Many people seem to come alive behind the screen, saying things they would hardly ever repeat to someone’s face. If we had to relay every text and email to the recipient’s face, would we say the things we do? There seems to be a false confidence gained behind the protective barrier of a computer/phone screen.
One recent example comes to mind. A customer at a local coffee shop had a bad experience, and immediately wrote a vehement complaint on her computer while she was still in the shop. After receiving the complaint electronically, the manager confronted her and asked what he could have done differently. Being faced by an actual human being, the girl buckled under pressure and shed her tough online persona to reveal a shy girl incapable of addressing the problem in person.
One of my yoga instructors once said, “Which version of yourself would you choose to be in a room full of your dearest friends, every family member, coworkers, and strangers?” If we are truly living authentically and being present in every moment, there is only one version of ourselves; there is no choice. However, more frequently, we adapt to our surroundings, try on different personalities and adopt new traits depending on whom we are with. Living with authenticity requires practice, awareness and determination.
Tune in to the beautiful people in front of you. You will never have this moment again. Each day is precious and each person deserves to be seen. Your phone does not love you and should not be used as armor to hide behind. Speak your truth from the heart without fear and the world will reflect your goodness.