I’m sure you’ve been to at least one yoga class where the teacher ambiguously says to set an intention, leaving more than one person wondering what the hell she is spewing on about. An intention is the starting point of every dream. They are the fuel to bringing your goals and visions into reality. Identifying your intentions will help create more clarity in your life, provide insight into your purpose, and help you to stay focused, even in the midst of chaos.
Here are a few steps to most effectively set intentions, and follow them through:
1. Become very clear about something you want, and write it down, every little detail. If you can imagine it, it CAN become your reality.
2. Detach from the Outcome, don't worry so much about the ‘how’ but instead, Let the Universe Handle the Details.
3. Keep it positive, & keep it simple. You want to be focusing on something that makes you want to beam with joy.
4. Repetition is key. You are basically retraining your subconscious mind to take on a new belief, so repeat your intention often. Write it down over and over, place reminders all over the place!
5. Let go and be willing to receive.
You can set intentions all day long, for each different segment you experience. For example, while you are still in bed in the morning, you can set the intention to have a productive or smoothly flowing day. When you get in the car on your way to wherever you are going you can intend to arrive to your destination safely and on time. Before you enter your workplace you can intend to make an impact on your boss, or intend to be powerfully professional.
Some intentions that I use on a regular basis go a little something like this:
Before I begin my yoga practice I mentally repeat, “I am strong & flexible.” And I continue to repeat this with each breath in and out.
I have the intention, “Money comes easily & frequently” written out on pieces of paper and stuck to my computer, my planner and my fridge.
Throughout the day, as often as I can, I remind myself, “I am happy, healthy and open to receive abundance.”
Setting an intention is like drawing a map of where you want to go — it becomes the driving force of your higher consciousness. Without an intention there is no map, and you're just driving down a road with no destination in mind. By setting an intention, you make it clear to yourself and others, just what you plan to do.
What are some ways that you can think of to integrate intentions into your daily life?
We spend so much time procrastinating, putting things off until the very last minute, and even then, not getting the things done that we need to do. Well today, I am declaring the end to that old habit, & I urge you to join me. Lets stop waiting for everything to happen and start to m a k e s h i t h a p p e n instead. You with me?
1. The first step is IDENTIFYING what needs to get done. Take 5, 10, or even 20 minutes RIGHT NOW to reflect, t h i n k about & even jot down some of your goals for next year, this month, or even just for today.
2. WRITE IT DOWN. How will you know what you need to get done if all of your goals and ideas are just scattering around in your brain? As a visual person, lists are my savior. They turn my floating, jumbled thoughts into something tangible that I can use to actually get shit done. This allows me to organize & prioritize. So bust out your pen & paper, write a big TO DO on the top of the page, and let the ink flow, check boxes and all. If you are a more auditory learner, than consider creating a voice recording with all of your goals, so you can play it back and hear what you need to get done. If you have any other ideas or suggestions, please write them in the comments below!
3. GET ER DONE. Now that you know what needs to get done, take a few moments to re-organize what you've written, or recorded in order of most importance. Give yourself a little space to create some teeny, tiny & very feasible baby steps that can help take you in the direction of achieving that goal. Theres no need to feel like you have to get everything done all at once. Rome wasn't built in a day, you know? And who needs that kind of pressure anyways? Certainly not me.
4. FEEL GOOD. I mean, you're a whole 30 days ahead of the crowd, who, by the way, is binging on sugar and eggnog. Take a big exhale of relief because good things are on the way, and you are making sure of that. Do those squats, and wrap those gifts now so in 3 weeks when the rest of the world is running around like headless chickens, you'll be straight chillin. Oh yeah.
what does it mean to be vulnerable? to really allow yourself to be seen, exactly as you are? how does one find the courage to speak their truth?
I write to you from a changed perspective on life. This is coming from someone who has spent the last 8 years of her life in one relationship after the next, with the idea that I needed someone else in order to be whole. To validate me. I believed I needed to give myself away in order to find happiness, rather than giving said happiness to myself.
Life is constantly shifting. Each breath, each breeze, each blink. Nothing ever stays the same. That is just the nature of the world.
The last few months have been painful. And yes, they were also amazing and filled with joy and love, but underneath the smiles and the laughter, there was a silent ache; a longing in my deepest intuition which was desperately trying to reach out to me, to which I constantly rejected and ignored. Large shifts have taken place recently, which has inspired these words to you all.
Stop hiding yourself and denying your valid emotions to please anyone else, or to try and fit yourself into anyone's mold. You are better than that. You deserve happiness and love and light in every single day. Stop stifling yourself, your magic, your bliss. Stop looking to be saved. Stop tossing aside your voice, and belittling your beliefs.
You are enough.
Know that within each of us, is a God or Goddess. Allow yourself to awaken to the possibility that you are already complete, regardless of any external situation, relationship or lack thereof. Make the commitment to yourself to seek higher truth. Transcend ego, and break open the shell around your heart. Let yourself be heard, with no regard to the reaction of others. Do it for you. Life is short, and each day is far too precious to be wasted on sadness. Discover your divinity. Embrace your unique talents and share them with the world.
Do not e v e r let anyone tell you who you are, or what you are capable of.
A large part of the transformation that happens in yoga practice takes place mentally. We are often confronted with obstacles, most of them presenting themselves as physical challenges, but the challenge really comes from how we mentally approach these situations. Over time, our minds create pretty rigid thought patterns than snap into action when faced with difficult circumstances. AKA, how we ‘automatically’ react. Unfortunately a lot of these thought patterns can have negative tendencies. How often have you thought, “I can’t do this?” Or, “I’m not good enough.” These thoughts or tendencies can be physical, cognitive, or emotional and can vary greatly from person to person.
The good news is that you have a chance to erase some of the damage that might have incurred over the years of repeating any one of these self-deprecating thoughts.
Introducing : Tapahs. This idea comes from Patanjali’s sutras and can be defined as “purification through heat; fire of change through which practitioners expose themselves as a means to shift identity towards true self and away from ego-construct.” In other words, it is to allow yourself to be vulnerable, with a willingness to change, even if it means you might encounter some discomfort along the way.
Now its important not to get this term confused with himsa. Himsa translates to unnecessary harm. While we want to make sure to never consciously harm ourselves, this discomfort that you might experience by ‘putting yourself through the flames’ is just a reconstruction, or a disintegration of old tendencies that the ego loves to hold onto. The ego can sometimes create beliefs that aren’t true in order to keep you in wanting. To keep needing something else to feel complete… that you aren’t enough. But you are. And it might take some shifting of mind patterns to get you to realize that.
How, you might ask, does one go about changing such rigid patterns? Luckily, Patanjali offers a few options.
Pratipaksha bhavanam, in two words. Lets break it down.
Pratipaksha means the opposite side, while bhavanam means causing to be, or manifesting. The two together offer insight on how to literally change your mind.
So we’ve established that there are thought patterns that need to be changed. (and we all have them, whether or not we’d like to admit it.) The next step is catching yourself in the act, and having the willingness to change. Pratipaksha suggests to simply do the opposite. If you’re thinking some negative thought about yourself or your life… do the opposite. Replace it with a positive one. If you have a negative habit of overindulging… do the opposite, refrain from indulgence. It seems too simple to be true, but it really is that simple! Just do the opposite.
Ok, for the second method of using pratipaksha bhavanam, it can be translated in sutra 2.34 as “also reflecting on the truth that thoughts or actions which cause harm, whether done or approved of, whether incited by greed, anger or confusion, mild or intense are based on ignorance and result in pain.”
So if you want to take back the control in your life, bring back the happiness and move towards a less confrontational existence, start by tracing the source of your thoughts. Patanjali describes this ignorance as avidya, or ignorance of the true self.
Know that you are already a boundless, eternal, divine being… but perhaps you have just forgotten.
Test yourself next time you’re in a predicament where you might automatically respond negatively, either out loud, or just in your head. See if you can catch that pesky thought and replace with one that stems from your ‘authentic self.’ The Self that operates out of love, and harmony.
The practice of drishti, or vision (also translates to point of view, intelligence/wisdom), is a gazing technique that develops concentration. Perhaps you have heard a teacher casually tell you to 'find your drishti' in the midst of a class with no further explanation... well, let me explain.
We humans are predominantly visual creatures. Where our eyes are directed, our attention follows. The visual world can be addicting, over-stimulating, and ultimately distractive. We get caught up in the outer appearances of things, instead of keeping awareness inward. How often do you find yourself going through the motions of the poses in a yoga class while your eyes wander around the room - glancing at the girl's leggings in front of you, or at the guy who is growling and definitely not ujjayi breathing - instead of tuning into your own body and breathe? To counteract these habits, we must learn to take back control and focus the attention. One way to effectively do this is through implementing the technique of drishti in your yoga practice. Through the practice of drishti, you can cultivate a deeper level of concentration, find steadier balance, and limit your intake of external stimuli so as to manage your mind instead of letting your mind manage you.
In Yoga, there are 9 fixed points of gaze you can take, traditionally, one prescribed for each pose. Lets break them down.
- Thumb, or Angusthamadhye, as used in Upward Salute in the sun salutations.
- Tip of the Nose, or Nasagre, as in upward facing dog.
- Hand, or Hastagre, as practiced in many poses such as Trikonasana, triangle pose, or Utthita Parsvokanasana, extended side angle, where the hand directs the energetic reach.
- Sideways to the right and to the left, or Parsva drishti. This gazing point is slightly more ambiguous than the others, but is used mainly in twisting postures, such as Ardha Matsyendrasana, or Half Lord of the Fishes pose.
- (See above)
- Upward, or Urdhva drishti. This drishti as well as Parsva drishti ask you to gaze more into infinity rather than a specific part of your body. This can be practiced in Warrior 1, or Chair Pose.
- Navel, or Nabhichakra. The navel is considered the center of power in the body, and focus is brought here in poses such as Downward Facing Dog.
- Toes, or Padayoragre, as in Seated Forward Fold, or Utthita Padangusthasana.
- The Third Eye, or Brumadhye. Here, eyes are halfway or even fully closed gazing toward the space between the eyebrows. This can be practiced in Purvotanasana, reverse plank, or in any meditation.
- INNER DRISHTI - this is my bonus add on, but my most favorite. Closing the eyes in any asana is almost forcing your attention inward, and allows us to become aware of how we are excessively expending our energy outwards, rather than replenishing from within.
In every asana, there is a prescribed drishti which is intended to assist in concentration, aid movement, and help orient the energetic body in the right direction. Drishti is more than what 'the eye can see,' but rather a technique which can be used to look inward, and become aware of how our brains only let us see what we want to see - a projection of our limited thoughts, if that is what we continue to allow. Never force your gaze, in a way that strains the eyes, body or mind, instead use it as a tool to see the divine in every movement, every breath, every thing.
Some poses in which you can practice and master your drishti are in any balancing poses such as Tree, Eagle, Warrior 3 or Half Moon Pose. Play around with the difference of focusing your gaze on a fixed point, to moving it around, to even closing your eyes. Observe the differences that arise, without attachment or judgement. By beginning to fix your gaze on an unmoving point, you shall assume the characteristics of steadiness, stable and balanced.
*** See if there are any other areas in your life in which you can practice your drishti .Perhaps you can apply this intense focus to goals you would like to achieve. Let me know if you notice any changes.
xo - M
As you may have noticed, I LOVE backbends! However, they didn't always love me. (sad face)
But with a lot of practice, and even more patience, my body began to open up in ways I could never have even imagined for myself (happy face!!!)
Camel, or Ustrasana, is a great backbend, that has so many options and modifications, so that you can begin to deepen your backbends no matter what level you are at. Follow along...
I have dubbed this new set of 365 days as the (#)Clean15. 2015 will be the year of cleansing Mind, Body and most importantly, Soul. A cleaner home to declutter the thoughts and create a space to generate more creativity. A cleaner, more mindful consumption to keep the body energized and healthy. A cleaner palate for the spirit nourished and sustained through meditation. Lets join together in this new year to clear out all of the old, tiresome junk that we carried all of last year and cleanse ourselves making space for all of the abundance that life has to offer us this year.
We’ll start small, making tiny changes that can be sustained on a daily basis over long periods of time. Doing anything this way has been proven to show real results. I find that when my house, car, or even my purse is a mess I’m more likely to get anxious, or allow my own life to get just as messy. For this week, set one, achievable goal. Clean out your purse, backpack, or even just your wallet. Maybe go bigger and go through your closet, donating anything you didn’t wear in 2014. Or sift through all of those files you know are stuffed in some drawer somewhere. Clean out your storage space and dust out the cobwebs of your life. There are so many physical ways to declutter your life, to give the space for your mental sanity to take a great big breath of relief! It feels so good!
Once you begin to take care of your mental health, begin to notice what you are consuming, and how that fuel affects the effectiveness of your body. I am personally way too addicted to chocolate, and unfortunately, when I eat it (in large amounts!) my body starts to respond by shifting moods quicker than I am sometimes prepared for, or by getting sluggish and slowing down when I really need it to keep working for me. This year I have vowed to myself to incorporate some more veggies into my diet. A salad for lunch instead of a sandwich. An extra side of asparagus with dinner instead of mashed potatoes. Already I feel a huge difference in my own body! I feel lighter, stronger and more energized. Again, there are so many ways to clean up your diet. Try drinking a couple more glasses of water per day, or switch out your morning coffee and creamer for a cup of hot water with lemon juice (so good). Switch out your chips for unsalted popcorn, or celery and peanut butter. Drink your fruits and juice your veggies. Don’t eat after 6 pm. Whichever you choose, try to stick with it for just one week… and then 2. And by 3 weeks, you might just love your new healthy habit so much, you wouldn’t even dream of going back to your old ways.
Now we have a clean home to keep our bodies in, clean bodies to house our spirits in, last but not least time to cleanse the soul just in time to manifest abundance in your new year. Meditation has always been a practice that I have touched upon irregularly, but each time I did it, it had profound effects on my happiness and clarity… and that’s something I would like to maintain as often as possible… so why not practice meditation on a regular basis? Fear? The unknown? Lack of commitment? Well it is time to clean up my act, and maybe yours too. The easiest time for me to settle my mind is before the business of the day sets in! While your eyes are still sleepy, and perhaps you are still partially in the dream state, grab a pillow and slide down onto the floor, propping yourself upright against the side of your bed. Rest your hands on your knees, or have a mala handy to slide your fingers over each bead in rhythm with your breath. Focus on your breath. Count your breath. Slow it down. Feel it fill up your body from the inside out. Allow the attention of your breath to take away from the whirling of the thoughts. Visualize yourself accomplishing your grandest and greatest dreams. See your hands around the wheel of that brand new car. Feel your nose pressed up against the cold airplane window as you fly to Europe or Brazil or Thailand. Listen for the sound of people cheering your name, or maybe whispering it softly into your ear. Whatever visions manifest behind your closed eyelids, don’t fight them, but rather allow yourself to be drawn into this dreamworld as though it were so real it were happening in that exact moment. Stay here however long you want, and when you are ready set an intention for how you want to feel that day. Happy. Energized. Grounded. Present. Productive. Feel it in your whole being as your open your eyes and begin with a freshly renewed mind, body, and soul.
Clear out all of the old, conditioned, restrictive patterns of mind, body, and spirit that are no longer serving you in this brand new year of growth, passion and manifestation. Give yourself the opportunity each day to begin again. One thing I learned growing up was to always leave the kitchen cleaner than when I found it… Imagine doing that for yourself everywhere you go and in everything you do? You’ll be squeaky clean, and sparkling from the inside out before you know it.
Stuffed on stuffing? Here are a few moves to help you feel gravy after that 2nd... Or 3rd serving of holiday ham.
Start lying on your back in corpse pose (which should feel really nice after all of Santa's cookies). Allow your body to completely relax, from your toes up to through the crown of your head.
Whenever you feel ready, and feel free to take your time, draw both knees into your chest, open your arms out to the side, palms face up, take an inhale, and let your knees drop over to one side as you exhale, coming into a supine twist. Inhale to bring your knees back to center and exhale to twist over to the other side. Twisting helps to aid digestion which might need a little boost after a food induced coma.
Bring your knees back to center and grab the backs of your thighs. Use a little momentum to roll back and forth along your spine until you come all the way up to seated. Cross your legs, lift your spine up tall and reach your arms overhead as you inhale deeply. On your exhale hinge forward at your hips and fold over your crossed legs. Let your neck relax here. As you inhale sit back up, place your hands in front of you and rock forward into a tabletop position.
Set your hands up so they're stacked directly under your shoulders, and your knees under your hips. As you inhale, tilt your tailbone up as you shift your gaze up towards the ceiling stretching your belly. As you exhale curl your tailbone down, press the ground away as you look in towards that beautiful belly button. Repeat this cat/cow stretch moving with your breathe for however many rounds feels good.
When you are ready, curl your toes under, straighten your legs and lift your hips up towards the sky for downward facing dog. Feel free to wiggle a little here, but then straighten your arms keeping your shoulders away from your ears and pressing your whole palm down.
Lift your right leg up on an inhale, and as you exhale, step your foot closer to your right hand. Set your left knee down. Walk both hands up to your right knee and once you've found balance, inhale to reach your arms overhead. Bring your hands together in front of your heart, and as you exhale twist, trying to hook your left elbow on the outside of your right thigh. Breathe deeply here. Set both hands down around your right foot and step back to downdog. Repeat on the left side, taking the same amount of time as you did on the right.
From downdog, walk your hands towards your feet, until you're hanging in a forward fold. Grab hold of your opposite elbows, and let your head hang heavy. Try swaying from side to side. Release your elbows, and separate your feet about as wide as the your mat, turning your toes slightly outward. Bend your knees until you are in a squat position. Bring your hands to your heart on the insides of your knees pressing your knees apart with your elbows and pushing your knees back into your elbows, creating a little resistance. Keep your belly button reaching towards your spine to engage your core and try to hold for a few steady breaths. Release onto your bum. Straighten your legs out in front of you, reach your arms forward, and as slow as possible keeping your chest lifted, lower all the way onto your back.
Lying on your back, bring your right ankle over your left knee. Reach your right arm through the triangle that you've created, either grabbing the back of the left thigh or the front of the left shin. Keep your right foot flexed, and your right knee reaching away from you, targeting a stretch in the outer right hip. Release and switch sides.
After stretching both hips, hug your knees into your chest, wrapping your arms tightly around your legs. As you inhale bring your forehead up to meet your knees holding your breath and squeezing everything from your toes to your legs to your arms to your nose. On a deep exhale out though your mouth release everything completely, and find yourself right back where you started, but hopefully feeling a little bit lighter than before. Rest in savasana for as long as you like, saying bye bye to those holiday belly blues.
In our modern, fast-paced world, we have spent the majority of our lives cultivating the skill of rapidly moving from place to place, or task to task. We are taught to view stillness as laziness, and surrender as giving up. But surrender does not mean weakness or powerlessness – instead it means meeting life where it is, without trying to change or manipulate it. Accepting the moment as is. One of the best ways to learn this is by cultivating stillness of both the body & mind.
How many times have you been swept up in the drama of the past, replaying events that have already happened and cannot be changed? How many times have you found yourself filled with anxiety, short of breath, worried about future events that may never even take place? Often times it is the ego, or the sense of ‘I’ that wants to take us out of the present moment, the only place where life truly exists. We are taught from an early age for the need to control our surroundings, to control outcomes of situations, to even control one another. How wonderful would it be if we could begin to let go of this ‘need’ for control, this false idea that having control brings happiness or power? Your highest power lies in the ability to let go.
In Sanskrit there is a term, “Ishvara Pranidhana” which translates to surrendering to a higher source. For Patanjali, Ishvara pranidhana is an infallible practice for dissolving the endless agitations of the mind, and in turn a means to experiencing the ultimate unified state of yoga: samadhi. How? Because Ishvara pranidhana shifts our perspective from the obsession with the ego, with “I”—with our narrow individual concerns and perspective—that causes so much of the mind’s distraction and creates a sense of separation from our Source. Much like anything else, applying this practice is easier said than done, especially if one has never had much experience with something like this before. This sensation of surrendering your control can be experienced in simple exercises such as learning to listen internally to the sound of your breath, becoming an observer to the processes of the body rather than controlling the outcomes with the mind.
For many people, the idea of effort is easy to accept. “No pain, no gain” is a familiar saying. But too much effort can cause implosion. Think again of the flight of a bird. How could it make its journey south for the winter without surrendering itself to the directions and power of the wind? It would never make it. Surrender is often defined as giving up completely to the power of another. But in yoga we find the “sweet” in the surrender. It is more of a softening to the moment, a release of tension, a belief in the idea that we are truly supported and cared for, an acceptance and love of our truest selves. We can’t fly without surrender. Effort without softening is over-effort. We need to accept that we cannot control everything.
When effort and surrender combine the result is pure ecstasy. If we approach our yoga with a playful attitude the balance of effort and surrender becomes second nature. The ego may want to perform a particular pose for show but the body or mind may not be ready. If we try to force the pose with our will, we may cause injury. It is easy to cling to physical ideals, but our bodies are all different. So instead of forcing your way into a pose, ease and explore your way into it with gentleness and compassion supported with a strong foundation of the awareness of your breath. Working from your center gives your pose its power. Playing the edges helps to rediscover your center. Yoga is dynamic. It pulses with the breath and with the beat of nature. There is always a new discovery, an awakening if you remain open to it. Bring this energy and attitude into your practice and feel your whole life blossom.