relationships

I have a secret. I am a counterfeit. A fraud. My sordid secret? I seldom make it to my yoga mat. There, I said it. I can offer a million reasons why, but mostly, they will be make-believe half-hearted excuses to hide the real truth. The truth, for me, and I suspect countless others, is that the act of arriving on the yoga mat is a daily battle. It isn’t just my full schedule, or the countless pulls on my time and energy. No. It is much harder to admit that the act of showing up and being with myself, in that way, is what I find harder to confront. 

There have been times in my life when I showed up to my yoga mat every damn day and felt transformed by the dedication, physically, mentally, and spiritually. During those years, I even began to teach, such was my devotion to my newfound passion.

 I moved from California to Nicaragua, discovering, much to my delight, a mother/daughter team leading yoga out of their living room right in the center of town! I was elated. I had discovered yoga before leaving California and it felt good to move my body that way. What a blessing. Imagine – yoga in a small coastal town in Nicaragua! I showed up every day, 6 days a week. Some days the teacher looked disappointed. I was the only one there. Smiling. Keen as ever. ‘Come on in’ she would say, sweetly.

Then, without any warning, life changed in an instant. One morning, I arrived for class and my mother/daughter team announced that they were leaving San Juan del Sur. Shock. Horror. After class that day, my mind was racing. What would I do? How could I survive? The transition into Nicaragua from my pretty plush life in California had not been easy. In fact, some days it was downright impossible. Power outages, water shortages, parasites, heat, humidity, bugs, dengue fever. You get the general idea. Life was pretty third world. Add on first world complaints of missing my family, a warm bath, a Costco type store with all your consumerism needs under one roof and you have a recipe for discontentment. But I had yoga. Or did I? My teachers were about to leave Nicaragua and take my yoga class with them!

So, as you might guess, that is how I came to teach. I was never cocky enough or even trained enough to think I should teach. It just organically evolved out of necessity to keep up the practice. Being an extrovert through and through, there was no way I could do it alone. Especially at that time in my life. Everything was better with others! Before they left, my mother/daughter teachers handed me David Swenson’s, ‘Ashtanga Yoga’ Manual and there, the legacy began. I would go on to lead a modified version of the primary series with a whole ton of chatarangas and that was where it started.

I moved into the house my teachers moved out of and placed a sign on the gate to the house, offering yoga and a cup of tea for a few dollars. I quickly became known as the “yoga teacher” in town. Hotels would call me to lead private classes for their guests. For the first time in my life I was doing what I wanted, I was living a purposeful life. I still had that sinking feeling that I was a fraud. If a “real” teacher came through town, I would ask them to lead the class, as I was certain they had more knowledge than me. The strange reality was that I was starting to build a little following and my regular students would get upset when I would have someone else lead the class. They would say they came for my class. Wow, that was surprising!

Over the next few years, I became officially trained by a man named Vedantin out of San Francisco. He led several teacher training courses in Nicaragua and would let me partake as time allowed. Eventually he pronounced that I was indeed certified, from a combination of his teachings and the fact that I had indeed already been teaching for a few years. The majority of my learning though had been self taught, from books and life experience.

Over the next decade life provided plenty of excuses to forgo my own yoga practice. The most obvious was also the most challenging and without a doubt most rewarding role I had yet to take on. Motherhood. I had three babies in the last decade and I will not down play what that requires. In short, kids drain your life force, if you nurse they literally suck the calcium from your bones!  Simultaneously they feed your soul and grow your capacity to love.

My yoga practice for the first two years of each of my boy’s lives was just that. Being their Mom. Working through the night. Nursing around the clock. Trying to keep calm and steady while they required so much of me. Even as I write this blog, my third boy (yes, all boys!) has been sick with diarrhea. He’s plain pissed off. My middle son has pink eye. Life is a barrel full of laughs at present. Which reminds me of something I always tell my students. Something I need to take heed of myself…

Suffering comes from resisting what is. When you want something to be different than it is.

It was true when my teachers were leaving and it is true now as my kids are sick. Wanting things to be different than they are is a great discontentment feeder.

The sweet reminder that I am doing the best that I can, can not be uttered often enough. My Mother-in-law told me once that she wants her headstone to read, “She done all she could”. I love this. Aren’t we all doing the best we can?

I suppose, the truth is that I can teach even without my own consistent practice. For at the end of the day, I am practicing. I am showing up every day to my life. I am breathing, moving, loving, crying, laughing, growing, shrinking, “MOMing”, reflecting, meditating, being still, running in every direction,  in short I am doing the best I can. 

Eventually, my path led me to open the first “official” yoga studio in San Juan del Sur. Although for me there was and will always be the memory of our first little studio right in my living room, in the middle of the market square in San Juan del Sur, where it all started. When life was so much more simple. When my day required only that I show up to my mat and nothing more. I can not say I miss those days. How can you miss what you were fully present for? Rather, I am grateful beyond measure that I had that time. It allowed me to really know myself. It prepared me for what was to come. It stamped the memory on my heart of the sweet self care time. It gave me a home to return to, time and again, as life became more complicated. 

I guess I am not a fraud after all. For a fraud sets off to fool you. I never meant to do that. I only ever wanted to learn more and give my best. Fourteen years and multiple certifications later, that is still true. Maybe more true. Maybe the definition of a fraud is one who thinks they have it all figured out. If that is the definition, then I could never be a fraud because the longer I teach the more I understand how much I have to learn and then the process starts all over again.

Started writing this 2017, just reread and published 2019 ~ Vanessa Pattison

If you want to be happy and healthy and have great relationships, there are many different things you can improve in your daily habits to achieve that. There are obvious ways to take care of ourselves like exercise and diet, but there’s one simple exercise that boosts all of these things simultaneously and that most of us simply don’t know. What’s that? Being thankful. We are grateful for all of the amazing people that have participated in our yoga retreats and training. Gratitude is a gift that we share every day and the following 12 tips are a great way approach your daily life and practice on and off the mat:

Benefits of Gratitude

HAPPINESS

surf yoga - gratitude
Toronto Photographer

1 – Increases your happiness. Counting your blessings leads to heightened well-being, especially positive mood.

2 – Brings you happiness that Lasts. In fact, an attitude of gratitude can not only help you increase positive emotion, but also sustain it long term.

3 – Protects you from stress and negativity. Gratitude is associated with decreased anxiety and depression and increased social support.

4 – Reduces your materialism. One reason gratitude boosts our well-being is that it reduces materialism which is a good thing because materialism is linked to less happiness.

RELATIONSHIPS

friends yoga - gratitude

5 – Makes you more socially intelligent.

6 – Leads to better relationships. Gratitude strengthens your relationships and helps you create and maintain good relationships and feel more connected.

HEALTH

green smoothie yoga - gratitude

7 – It even improves sleep quality and duration – in part because you have more grateful/happy thoughts before you go to sleep. Count blessings, not sheep!

8 – Strengthens your willpower to make better decisions. Gratitude makes you stronger and helps you achieve your goals and make smarter long term decisions.

9 – Benefits you at all ages from adolescence to adulthood.

IMPACT

legs up yoga - gratitude

10 – Makes you a better person. It makes us better, more altruistic, moral, and ethical people. We become more helpful and kind to others.

11 – Makes others better people too: those we thank are more likely to become more ethical people too.

12 – Makes the world a better place. When you express your gratitude to someone, that person will go on to be kinder to others.

Don’t feel grateful? Don’t worry. Gratitude is accessible to anyone. Whether we’re sick or well, old or young, employed or unemployed – if our heart is beating, air is flowing in our lungs, and we have had a meal today, we have something for which we can be grateful. “Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude” (A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh).

Practicing Gratitude

It’s good practice to take the time to be grateful every single day, but what better holiday than Thanksgiving to jump-start your efforts to be more grateful? Here are some simple ways to strengthen your thanking muscle throughout the rest of November and beyond:

1 – A powerful way scientists have found can increase your well-being is by simply making daily gratitude lists. Write down five things you feel grateful for every day. This simple act can significantly increase your happiness.

2 – Another way you can boost your gratitude is by spending a few minutes out of your day devoted to gratitude.

3 – Gratitude meditation: Another way you can boost your gratitude is by spending a few minutes out of your day devoted to gratitude. Here’s a gratitude meditation put together by Emma M. Seppälä Ph.D, the original author of this article, that you can download and try for yourself today.

Original article is from Psychology Today.

Cross a Visit to Nicaragua off Your Bucket List – join us for the Bucket List of Bliss Retreat with Cher Aslor on March 19th.

And don’t forget to share this blog with someone you are grateful to have in your life!

It is a few minutes past 5 a.m., the beginning of my daily yoga practice. My right leg is lunging forward, the right foot pointing to the front. My left leg is placed straight and solid behind me. I breathe in and raise my arms, stretching them slowly out toward both sides. I look over my right hand, all of its fingers stretching themselves in one line away from my right shoulder. This is Virabhadrasana, or the Warrior II yoga pose. I feel good.

Bounding into the Yoga Pose

A relationship is like a yoga posture. Getting into a relationship, everything is rosy bliss. The stars glitter in one another’s eyes. You feel like the glorious hero of an action movie who has just saved the world from a great enemy. Sunlight is like the beloved’s warm embrace and rain is liquid happiness. There is a story to Virabhadra’s yoga pose. As told in the Mahabharata, the great Hindu spiritual epic, Lord Shiva’s beloved, Shakti, happened to be the daughter of his enemy, Daksha. Shakti’s father openly refused the marriage. Shakti was so grieved of her father’s disapproval that she took her own life. The warrior Virabhadra was born out of a lock of Shiva’s hair he had dashed to the ground while avenging his wife’s death.

Use Yoga to Soften Communication in a Relationship

In that flash of energy, Lord Shiva must have been practicing yoga. A yoga breath technique couples can use to help maintain a happy relationship is called the “Hmmm!” breath. This breath technique can instantly calm the mind and a relationship when the tension mounts. To practice “Hmmm!” breath: begin by taking refuge in a quiet corner. Simply cover the nose and mouth with a handkerchief and, say “Hmmm!” loudly with the mouth closed. Repeat as necessary.

Yoga Allows Love to Happen

partner yoga acroyoga

In yoga as in love, the trick is allowing the process to happen. This is the “yes” mind. “Yes” is the balance needed to create a haven of communication, a space to rest in the relationship. “Yes” to each other means, “yes” to giving each other space, and “yes” to just being together in silence. It means saying “yes” to each other’s mistakes, unforeseen expectations and weaknesses. This spiritual wisdom can bring the strength not to fall out of the yoga pose.

Elevate your relationship to new heights in our Couples Only AcroYoga Retreat with Anthony Alcalde

Staying Centered in the Yoga Pose

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of The Art of Living, says, “Love is not an emotion. It is your very nature.” Through practicing yoga, pranayamas (yogic breathing exercises) and Sudarshan Kriya , a stress-relieving breathing technique of The Art of Living, this truth has become more obvious to me. With each day of yoga practice, I realize a smile and that warm fuzzy bliss I feel after a restful meditation is the real me. This sense of calm, of quiet observance, is the same as a successfully balanced yoga pose.

A Little Wobbling is Natural

Sometimes in the Warrior II yoga pose, I feel a pinch in my back, the result of long hours spent working on a computer. Waves of uneasiness radiate from the crunched muscle tissues in my back, and I close my eyes. Breathe, I tell myself, allowing myself to practice yoga, to be a witness to this uncomfortable feeling. The muscles are caught unsure of what to do, confused by this new situation. Suddenly, things stop feeling natural, something is not quite right. I begin to lose balance. Taking deep breaths, I agree to be a witness to the discomfort, and with some wobbling and wiggling in the pose, I come back to balance.

Witnessing the process of a relationship, of a yoga pose, needs faith and strength. Sometimes I must make extra space between my shoulders. That means slightly adjusting one here and maybe lowering the other there. Watching my breath. There is discomfort, but these are my shoulders, and they are not going anywhere.

Yoga & Doubt

Whether it is a yoga pose, or a relationship, doubts may come up when something unexpected or disappointing happens. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says even doubt can be positive. “You know, if someone tells you that they love you, you say, ‘Really?’ Isn’t it so?,” says Sri Sri. “But you take it for granted when someone expresses their hatred towards you. If someone asks you, ‘Are you happy?’ you say, ‘Well, I am not sure.’ We doubt in love. You never doubt your depression, but you always doubt your happiness. So a doubt is always about something that is positive.”

The Yoga of Love

In a relationship, Sri Sri says, “There are two secrets: one for men, one for women. Women should always pump the ego of a man. When he is tired, when he finds blame everywhere, the only place he turns to is his wife to find solace. She should support him 100 percent and not put him down.” For men, Sri Sri advocates, “Men should never step on the emotions of a woman. Never say bad things about her family, her childhood, her past, or her hobbies. If she wants to go for a meditation, anything religious, never say no, because these are very dear to her. You just be stable, smile.”

A Space of Love

yoga smiles

A smile shows on the surface of the “yes” mind. A couple can take the time to nourish their smiles both together and individually. Practicing yoga together, and being engaged in volunteer service are two ways to stay spiritually connected. And that generosity in service, giving of oneself in love will flow back into the relationship. It is a law of the universe.

Allowing for time off to be alone individually is as important as the relationship. “For love to blossom, there needs to be longing…and longing needs a little space,” says Sri Sri. “Though it is a little painful, longing is inevitable. If you don’t allow longing, then love does not grow. So, give them some space…and take some space yourself.”

Like the balance of the five elements in nature, in the Warrior II yoga asana, I balance between the five points of my body: my head, two arms and two legs. In this yoga pose, sometimes I find myself paying more attention to adjusting my hands. At other times, I want to deepen the connection of my feet to the ground. Nourishing a support group of friends and family nourishes a relationship. Spending quality time with friends, spending time alone with nature, or just being in quiet solitude can deepen the relationship with one’s Self.

Honoring Time

As time passes in a relationship, a couple witnesses that expectations and attitudes change. The relationship can become better with more yoga and meditation practice. We can learn how to communicate better in the relationship, to be more patient and forgiving. Again and again, the cycle rotates from rosy and glorious bliss to momentary shakiness. There may be confusion when little earthquakes shake. Commitment is what holds the yoga pose together, when you decide not to fall. Spirituality is what gives the strength to see it through.

And even Lord Shiva was a witness to this cycle. His beloved Shakti eventually did return to him, reincarnated as Parvati in her next life, though the same soul.

Written by Marilyn Galan for Art of Living.

Want to attend a yoga retreat on your own and build new relationships? Check out our Ignite Your Light Retreat with Laura Beth Power and Teresa Butler.