Regularity: Creating Bliss with Consistent Practice

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The second virtue of the Eighteen ities, is regularity.  Regularity has always scared me.  I pride myself in being free, flexible and able to go with the flow.  I do not want to feel or be seen as rigid.  Sticking with a set schedule not only seems boring, but generates a fear in me of missing out on things.
Fears of being uncool aside, regularity forms the backbone of our yoga practice and creates a strong foundation in our lives.  Finding routines and consistency, rather than pinning us down, creates freedom through stability.
We all have different demands and life gets messy and unpredictable.  Setting up consistent practices can begin to help ground us amidst the chaos.  Rather than trapping us in obligation, regularity in parts of our lives will help us stay connected to our foundation while we rise to meet the challenges of life.
When choosing practices to reinforce, be realistic and find balance.  Begin with rituals which feed your soul or nurture your body.  If your schedule does not allow for a regular bedtime, work to have a regular wake time.  Create consistency around your morning and evening routines and meals.  Meditate or pray and practice pranayama each day.  A few minutes is enough.  Practice asana each day.  Try not to sabotage yourself with the expectation of what your practices should look like or how long they should be.
Some habits will bring you peace and feel natural.  Those practices will be the ones you will be able to savor and stick with easily.  Other efforts will be unsuccessful.  Avoid judgment and negative self-talk.  Keep coming back to them for as long as it takes to establish a positive pattern.
It is a choice to be rigid.  Regularity is not the same thing as rigidity.  This week, choose just one change to make.  Start small.   Invite regularity into your life as a way to ground and strengthen your foundation.  Consistency is a pathway to true peace, freedom, and bliss.

What regular practices support your life?
 #TheItyProject

5 Ways to Cultivate Serenity, Now!

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It sometimes seems as though we spend much of our time searching for peace and serenity in our lives.  But are they really sensations we need to grasp for?  If we could just finish this project or complete that task, would we finally be more at peace?  Or are they intrinsic qualities each of us possess, but perhaps have simply gotten buried under every day stress and the busyness of life?
This week, do NOT attempt to solve the mystery or fix anything in hopes of finding SERENITY NOW.  Make a conscious shift towards cultivating existing serenity and peace.  Awaken to your innate serenity.
  1. Find a space that already exists in your life that creates a sense of peace.  Remember, we are not fixing anything, so no effort has to go into creating this space.  Rather, can you remember or take note of where this place is for you?   Try to spend at minimum 5 minutes in this space.  Maybe close your eyes and breathe deeply and slowly.
  2. Take note of rituals which calm and nourish you.  Do you love the smell of your morning coffee or the warmth of a mug of tea?  Do you find a meditation in your daily walk or preparing dinner?  Notice how even the seemingly mundane rituals such as brushing your teeth, washing the dishes or putting laundry away can nourish our souls.
  3. Cultivate moments of connection and community throughout the day. We often meander through our days coming into contact with others without truly connecting and acknowledging them.  Remember, we can put down our devices and look people in the eyes.  Smiles are free.  Asking someone about their day or sharing a story are opportunities to feel part of a bigger community and thus more at peace with the world.
  4. Eat mindfully and move each day.  Even if we have very few resources it is possible to eat our food consciously and nourish our bodies with movement.  Finding gratitude for our bodies, despite challenges, can bring peace into our lives.
  5. Find stillness and rest each day.  Allowing ourselves time to restore and relax does not require visits to fancy salons or exotic resorts (although, wouldn’t that be nice?)  Take time each day to find moments of stillness. When we pause to take deep breaths or find stillness, we begin to form the habit of coming back to our center and finding our foundation.
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And We Have Lift Off. . . Finding Flight in Mayurasana: Peacock Pose!

Mayurasana-SEY

 

Finding a sense of balance often means tapping into our deeper selves and beginning to move from our true center. Few poses in our asana practice illustrate this idea better than Mayurasana, Peacock Pose.

Initially, Mayurasana seems like a feat of impossible strength, after all, we are essentially creating a flying plank pose with just our hands and arms as the foundation. It only takes a couple of attempts though to realize it is much more.  This pose requires patience, perseverance, an ability to soften, a willingness to fall, and a sense of humor.

As with most things in life, if we try to muscle our way in, use brut strength and push ourselves too far – we wind up flat on our faces! Mayurasana teaches us to soften our bellies so we might access our deeper core muscles, and to leverage our upper and lower bodies against gravity using finess rather than force.

Once we transfer our focus to our true center, energy can radiate differently. In addition to the balance we learn to strike between strength and grace, Mayurasana shifts the attention of our breath from the front line of our bodies to the back lines. We are suddenly very aware that the compression of our upper arms into our bellies and diaphragm, requires us to shift our breaths focus to the back sides of our lungs. We learn that we are capable of expanding the backs of our rib cages and can tap into using the full capacity of our lungs.

 

What needs to be open? 

Shoulders, wrist and mind!

What needs to be strengthened or active? 

Legs, glutes, arms, deeper core muscles, sense of humor!

Some Helpful Prep poses:

Plank, Chaturanga – mid pushup,  shoulder openers ie Eagle – Garudasana, wrist openers, Firefly – Titibasana, Rabbit – Sasangasana, Double Wind Removing Pose – Pavanamuktasana

Variations:

Hamsasana – Dove Pose : fingers pointing forward

Padma Mayurasana – Peacock Pose with Lotus Legs

Uttana Padma Mayurasana – Intense Stretch Lotus Peacock Pose: essentially shoulder stand with lotus legs

Pincha Mayurasana – Forearm Stand


Let’s Play:

1. come to hands and knees

2. reverse fingers so they point towards knees

3. open wrists by finding subtle movement back and forth

4. bend elbows and work to the soft part of the belly below the navel

5. relax the superficial belly muscles and soften them around the bent elbows (elbows will slide off against overly engaged abdominal muscles and can cause more discomfort)

6. option to press the big toes together as leverage and tilt forward (knees may still be down)

Mayurasana Variation2-SEY

or

7. lengthen legs out into a plank pose (toes still on ground)

Mayurasana Mid Plank Prep

8. stay here and breathe

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9. continue to tilt into upper body, activating leg and glute muscles, breathing steadily, try to work weight forward until toes leave the earth (play with placing forehead on the ground and finding a teeter-totter effect, this can help find your center of gravity)

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10. another option is to enter through low lunge (as you might when flowing postures) – in low lunge, reverse the wrists and bend the elbows toward belly, activate both legs engaging inner thigh muscles and pelvic floor, lean into elbows and step the forward leg back – this controlled momentum can help move the energy forward (similar to entering Koundinyasana or Hurdlers Pose from a 3-legged Down Dog in a flow)

Mayurasana Lunge Prep

Cultivate your sense of play!  Remember to have patience!