Tag Archives: yoga

Resiliency

What was 2020, if not a test of resiliency. After I started writing this post, Ontario announced another lockdown. Here we are again – another test! This pandemic has thrust us into some of the biggest changes and challenges of our lives and despite our many differences, we are contending with many of the same fears and hurdles. What has helped you through this time? 

Through my greatly narrowed window to the outside world, I have marvelled at the fortitude and ingenious ways we have continued to find joy and support. Resiliency is a term that can be defined as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties”. We practice yoga to increase the resiliency and adaptability of our body and mind. This work helps us determine what is useful and to discard what is not helpful.

Uncertain times test our perseverance and resiliency. We see individuals donate to the food banks, and those who never needed food assistance before, now use the food bank. We have theatre online, work and school online, grocery online, doctors online, and community groups online and socially distanced. More people took to camping and spending time in nature. We made nests of our homes and we continue to find brilliant and creative ways to adapt. Many like me found support in nature, in family, and online. I Skyped, Facetimed and Zoomed to keep connected. I enjoy solitude but I needed to see my family, my friends, clients and students. Humans need contact. Pandemic or not, life will always be a rollercoaster of joys and sorrows and the practice of resiliency is vital to ride the highs and lows.

During times of hardship, we often will put our head down and barrel through the tough times until we feel our circumstances change. We ignore how we are truly feeling. Listening and respecting how we feel, both good and bad, is a part of resiliency. Without respecting and listening the entire breadth of our feelings and experience, we are not whole or resilient. We are denying and there is no way to move from our current situation and we risk being further entrenched and stagnant. The experts have many different ways to explore adaption and resiliency. Yoga too has many concepts. Here are a few to ponder. 

            Brahmacharya: Broadly, Brahmacharya can be considered “wise use of energy”. It is a Yama, or a restraint as detailed in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Wise use of energy – what does that look like for you? Take a moment to consider the direction of thought energy and physical energy. Is it serving you? How is it helpful and can it make of greater use of the mind and body elsewhere? 

            Vairagya: Vairagya translates to dispassion. It is doing everything that needs to be done (think best practices) and not concerning ourselves solely with the results of the outcome. Think about a marathon runner concerned more about winning a race than determining the proper training and engaging in the appropriate practice to achieve their best in the race. Logically, we know that planning and training is key. It is being in the moment and letting go of expectation. Vairagya or dispassion allows us to concentrate on the productive practice and release the worry and grasping of the results. Here we can enjoy the process and each small moment, and we can apply this to all the aspects of our life. 

Kama: Kama is desire, wish, love, pleasure or affection. When hardship comes our way, it is easy to forget and forego the joys and desires of life. For example, we forget that going for a walk in the moonlight makes us feel joyful. Kama is considered one of the four aims of life known as the Purusartha. Find time to spend focused on Kama, our wishes and our loves. We must ponder our deepest desires. Consider the senses, and what would pleasure them. Think smells, sights, touch, hearing, and taste. Think dance, music, tasty food, touch and affection, working with wood or wool, joyous smells, inspiring and awe making views and vistas. It could be painting, hiking and smelling pine trees, cooking, companionship, reading a story and noticing how old paper smells. Find small joys and experience glimmers of light and even make that light ourselves when we are burdened with a sea of darkness. Remain open to joy.

The practice of yoga allows space for us to be aware of the uncomfortable feelings and sensations and to also encourage change and the open the door to experience small joys. In our journey, may we continue to ask for help and give help. May we find space for our feelings and notice where we feel most comfortable and take time there. May we rest in resiliency in our deepest driving desires. 

 

           

       

The way too serious ego

The ego takes life very seriously. It says, “How am I perceived, and can I look better, be better, and do better than someone else”. The ego is a ladder climber even if it has you climbing a ladder you really have no true interest in climbing. You then ask, “How did I get here?” That is the ego in a nutshell. The ego is a big topic, and this is a small ponder. It is worth the short consideration, so here we go. 

Most of us spend a good portion of our days living from our ego and our unconscious patterns or habits. We see “successful” and “popular” individuals as happy, which they may, or may might not be. The grass is always greener is the ego talking to us. I feel like many of us at some point have experienced being at the top of our family/work/social life however we still experienced unhappiness and discontent. That means there is something else, something deeper. It isn’t the good job, the spouse, the raise, and the praise that makes us happy. This makes me so curious. How do we increase happiness and where does it come from? 

Yoga teaches us that we are not our ego and that seeking recognition (conscious and unconscious) is unhelpful to live joyfully. The ego is not our truest self, even though it feels that way. The ego is always on the ready even if we feel we are ego free we just might be moving from old patterns formed by the ego. The ego can be controlling and powerful. I am always curious when I feel, or I see others need to be recognized and validated and how we consciously or unconsciously invalidate others? The ego is strong with us humans. Why do I care if my family recognizes that I cleaned the floor? This is a complex, layered concept to navigate. 

There have been scholarly non yoga books written on this very subject where we learn many stories of finding purpose and joy. One researcher relayed that he learned that the happiness of his subjects was attached to acting with innermost purpose and drives and not from recognition. For example, one successful executive he interviewed found happiness when they followed a deep interest to help people declutter and never looked back! That is one fantastic and brave leap to greater happiness.

In part, The Bhavagad Gita and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra speak to where we can focus our attention. There is a seed and fruit analogy used in yoga. I have simplified it below and it can be a useful framework to help us make choices. It helps fine tune where we have control and where we can act. There are three broad groups listed in the texts. 

  • Dormant seeds waiting to be sprouted. They might not ever sprout, and they are currently hidden. Think both positive and negative.
  • Seeds that have sprouted. These are actions already in play. Think of your current physical experience, mental experience. This moment cannot be changed. 
  • Seeds we are planting. We can plant positive or negative seeds. This is the only place where we can make change to our lived experience. 

Each moment we can plant a new seed and take a new direction. We have a choice on seeds we are planting and which direction we are going. The texts say we can make our decision:

  • Without attachment to the benefits of the action
  • From the ego mind
  • With dullness of mind and without moral consequences

To stay focused our side of the grass, non-attachment is vital. If we are attached, we are in the ego mind.  If we are in the ego mind and are looking at our neighbour’s grass. Non-attachment is where we experience greater satisfaction and happiness.

If the exploration into the ego and your happiness interests you, decern small seeds (actions) to plant. Plants seeds that highlight your innermost joys. You will know it is right because it will be more effortless. Listen to the deepest parts of your heart. Finding more quiet time to establish a relaxed state for the nervous system and the mind will help set the stage for you to listen deeply and plant incredible seeds.  

Act from a place of wonder, peace and curiosity. Giving our amazing gifts without strings can make one feel less confined and it will allow for feelings of happiness and openness to arise. Still, the grass will seem greener on the other side at times. That is part of the fluctuations of the forces of our nature. These forces (guna) are always in flux. We can be moving toward stability, toward inertia/stagnation or moving for the sake of moving. Keep up the effort and continue to turn your boat to ride the waves toward stability. This is where my efforts lie.

Dig deep to uncover those innermost desires and let your joy sing out loud. Kindness and attentiveness for yourself and others. Have fun! We mustn’t take ourselves too seriously…that is the egos job. 

The Yoga of Emptying a Dishwasher

Yoga can be defined as union. I love the feeling when I have a sense of harmony, and wholeness. My body, my mind and my energy are moving at the same speed and toward the same purpose. I am connected directly to my focus or my purpose.

Sometimes my purpose is to empty the dishwasher. :/

If you hang around my house, you might hear me lament loudly about my dishwasher and kitchen duties. These duties often appear to be endless. I have a small European style dishwashing machine, and I seem to be standing over this appliance much of the day. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for this little miracle machine that makes my plates sparkle! I am completely aware that this is a first world problem. My reaction of frustration rightly proves that I am not always in the state of yoga.

The state of yoga allows us to cope and thrive through the ups and downs of life. When we are in the state of yoga, we let the external information come into our mind and consciousness but it does not consume us. When we are in the state of yoga, we have right actions. When we are in the state of yoga there is an efficiency and lightness that wells up in us. One has focus. A soft kind of focus that can overcome disruption, and the usual and unusual happenings of life.

When yoga happens and I am emptying a dishwasher, I notice nothing else around me. The only experience I am having is between me and my sparkling cutlery. I am unconcerned with an email I need to send or even a piece of dirt on the floor. These thoughts float by me to be brought back at a later time. I direct the plates, cups and bowls to their homes in their shelves and drawers. Here is where is gets interesting. With a soft eye, I notice how the plates and cups and bowls are stacked and my body/mind/breath are connected and attentive. Without consciously thinking, my body chooses a specific hand to pick up plates and stack them gracefully knowing the mixing spoon can go in the other hand and then there is no juggling or extra steps to get them to their homes.

I love how much joy I take in this little flow or vinyasa of movement and how the dishes, spoons and pots all find their way back to their places in the most effortless way. When I am in this state, I notice the dishwasher is emptied faster and I am calmer. This chore is very different when I am not in the state of yoga. I am rushing, stomping and, dare I say, grumbling.  These times when I have something else on my mind – the experience is loud and inefficient.

I thought my “yoga of dishwashing” experience was something only I noticed. It so happened that I was hosting a visitors from overseas and she watched me while I cooked a breakfast for a house full of people. She said that she found it interesting to watch me work and she commented that no movement was wasted and each task was fluid and calm. The experience, she said, compared to watching a ballet and it was peaceful and efficient. We know it when we feel this, don’t we? Time flies by. We do not feel tired. She caught me on a good day. A day of yoga.

Being present can be heavy lifting but it is worth the practice. With this practice, we will be most efficient, most calm, and most happy. I invite you to watch yourself and others. Look for a connection. When you see it in others, you will feel calmer. When you focus on only the task in front at hand, you experience it yourself and you will feel more easeful and so will others around you. Start with the small things in your day. Focus on one thing and enjoy it. We are always pushing ourselves to work on the big stuff. Perhaps start with the small stuff like emptying the dishwasher, watering the plants, and grooming the dog to find that sweet connection.

Our yoga off the mat is the most important aspect of our practice. The little things add up. My wish is that you take time to cultivate and enjoy a time in yoga today.

________________________________

Kimberly Mantas

Find Kimberly at Mantasyoga.com. Kimberly is a certified yoga therapist, meditation and yoga teacher and teacher trainer. Contact Kimberly at Kimberly@mantasyoga.com

Becoming more You – Riding the waves of change

I’m happy you are here! Building the capacity for inquiry is important for our positive evolution. We must learn to discern, evaluate and adapt our yoga and life practices to serve our current needs.

Yoga is a personal experiential practice to me, and my practice is woven within me in a way that brings a comfort that I would find hard to explain. Yoga is personal but it isn’t necessarily solitary. The many beautiful souls and wise people I learn and evolve from, the shared conversations and practices and the time spent in community all make my journey such a joy and a gift. My teachers, students, family and friends all make up my experience where I explore how to become more “me”. I am thankful that you all hold me in your sphere of influence and allow me to learn, grow, question, succeed and fail. If I want to make changes and I am unsure how to proceed I speak with my teachers, my friends and other professionals. I look to make the best decision in the moment, and I endeavor not to “put up” with a lack of function or a physical or emotional difficulty. I want to build new positive patterns.

Do I fail? Yes, I mostly fail, but with each effort I make I am building successful patterns.

Yoga and Ayurveda tell us that everything that is manifest is in transition. The seasons change, our body makeup changes, our mind and thought processes develop and decline. So, if this is the case, why would we keep our practice the same season to season and decade to decade. If we are always changing, then what is best for us is also changing. Then we must try to be aware and in the present to help us make the best decisions and to adapt and grow. Don’t get me wrong, we must have a sustained regular yoga and meditation practice, but we must also evolve with our changing needs. Jumping from idea to idea isn’t a great or productive tactic and it will not serve to help us develop efficiently. That is why during the change of seasons, it is a natural place for me to take a pause and make small thoughtful changes.

I am always evaluating what might be best for me, but during these natural transitions, I take time to evaluate my practice to help me serve my higher purpose and improve my lived experience. I have many considerations I think about to help me evaluate.

As an example, I consider some of the following. You can also take some time to consider your answers to these questions and how your practice on and off the mat is helping you enjoy and manage the ups and downs of your life?

Do I:

-recover and stay balanced with the joys and the sorrows of life?

-have an injury that is not healing?

-feel like I am going in the same circle?

-feel inspired and joyful?

-sleep well?

-generally feel sluggish, or restless?

-feel my body is feeling energetic and without discomfort?

-startle easily or do I feel numb?

-have a good digestion process?

And:

-How is my relationship with myself?

-How are my relationships with others?

-Is there an activity or experience that I would like to do that you can’t do now?

The many practices of yoga are there to help us improve our lived experience. For me, I allow myself to rest in a quiet space and to see how I am truly feeling. Then I make changes to my practice. The considerations I make are not just the change of the seasons but for everything that is happening in my life. Sometimes I get things right and sometimes wrong, but I always make a conscious effort to continue to be patient with myself and others as I navigate becoming the most fulfilled and at ease in my skin that I can be.

One small piece of this change is how our personal doshic makeups and experiences are affected by the seasons. We are moving into Vata season (fall and winter) and this is where we look to counteract or balance the drying effects of the Vata time of year. I make some small changes such as changing my diet from fresh salads to warming soups and stews, and the root vegetables that are in season. I make sure I practice nadi shodhana or alternate nostril breath to balance my bodies and mind making me feel more less scattered and safer.  I incorporate warm oils in and on the body make me feel less achy and dry.

There might be changes you have made that have served you well. You intuitively knew what you needed. Take some time to consider what you need. Consider this statement in a heartfelt way and away from the cognitive process of the mind. You are looking for your ego to not be involved.

Take a moment in quiet meditation where you can rest in the space of acceptance and perfection. There, your most inner needs will unfold. Remember to listen.

Thriving through the kapha time of year

Spring sows a sense of renewal within us. At this time we become acutely aware of the feeling deep within ourselves to move our bodies and to cleanse all that has accumulated through winter.

Kapha season is defined by moisture, softness, and denseness. The earth is awakening. This is the unctuousness of the earth brings growth and transformation. These qualities are needed. However, the qualities that are naturally presiding in kapha can present challenges for the individual if we are not in balance. We must be mindful not to encourage through lifestyle choices that enforce the qualities of kapha such as heaviness, dampness, and congestion.

Often at during the kapha season we take the time to cleanse the body. Just as the earth is becoming soft and moving, so is our bodies and minds. During the kapha time of year there is a tendency toward congestion, runny noses, and colds. Those who are kapha dominant can struggle to maintain balance at this time of year. Consider if you are in balance within your own doshic constitution before making any large changes to work with the seasonal considerations.

Generally, in spring we look to move away from eating warm, heavy stews and consider lighter, cleansing choices for meals and snacks. My friends, my students and I have talked about how we often feel hungry in spring. The need to feel satisfied and content is a hallmark of kapha. We must listen to our bodies and choose to nourish ourselves differently. I include dandelion tea in my diet during spring which is very cleansing and also wonderful for pitta constitutions. Ayurvedic doctor and teacher Dr. V. Lad recommends avoiding dairy and cold drinks and to incorporate legumes, ginger, cinnamon, spinach, honey and spices. The spices should only be incorporated if they can be tolerated within your constitutional makeup as hot spices are agitating to vata and pitta dosha constitutions. Too much oil is Kapha promoting, ghee or clarified butter can be used instead. Light meats are suitable but heavy dark meats and seafood should be avoided as they are heavy on the system.

The kapha season is a time of renewal, to clear away stagnation and to sow the seeds to move into the growth and focus of purpose in the summer. Kapha must have stable nutrients for health to be maintained through the hot, focused, and intense time of the summer. Without a foundation of support and unctuousness from spring, we could feel frazzled and irritated when the demands of the heat of summer are upon us.

Beyond food we can support ourselves through this season by incorporating physical movement and activity. Without the heat of the pitta season, now it the time to find ways to move. I am a proponent of finding something you love to do that is suitable to your health abilities. It could be dancing, cycling, swimming, or hiking. Check with your physician if you plan to start something new. If you love your yoga practice, consider warrior poses, back bends and lateral movements. This is the time to also enjoy a beautiful sun salute practice and long strong holds in your poses. Breath practices needed for this season are cleansing in nature. Consider Kapalabhati or bhastrika breath. Both are cleansing and promote a sense of lightness to the body and mind. You can also consider a hasta mudra or hand mudras which balance that heavy downward movement.

Being mindful is key. Notice what you are feeling in the moment and if you are choosing food, activities and thoughts that increase the heaviness you desire due to the time of year. Take pause and see if you can lighten your meal and move your body to stoke the fire to decrease congestion and the feelings of stagnation in the body and mind.