Tag Archives: Yoga

Embracing honesty, on and off the mat

Yoga. You’ve probably heard me mention it before. You’ll definitely hear me mention it again if you stick around for future blog posts.

Everyone has their own ideas regarding what yoga is all about. I’m not going to sit here and say I know everything about it. In fact, quite honestly, I still have very little actual knowledge of yoga: its history and its many physical and philosophical tenets. But that lack of knowledge hasn’t stopped me from reaping some serious benefits from practicing yoga.

Obviously, there are physical benefits to being stronger and more flexible. But what about being stronger and more flexible mentally and socially? What about being more balanced in life? Yoga isn’t about being able to stand on one foot. As I’ve heard at least one teacher say, it’s not about whether or not you fall out of a balance pose; it’s how you handle the fall. Do you curse yourself for not being better? Or do you gracefully accept that some days things just don’t go as you may want them to and smile?

There are many lessons learned on the yoga mat that carry over to real life. For me, practicing the postures and attitudes of yoga—especially when surrounded by other people who are striving to be more giving, happier human beings—leads to an improved sense of well-being, a better life. And I’m pretty confident that when my life is better, that carries over into the lives of those around me. Improvement starts within and ripples outward.

One of the aspects of yoga that I’ve found truly critical is the ability to observe and be completely honest with and about myself. So when I heard one of the Kenyan women in this video from the Africa Yoga Project say she is “achieving big things” in her life now because she’s being open and truthful with herself, it hit home with me. For anything to change, we must start with the truth.

Watch the video. Catch a glimpse of the kind of self-empowering change a new attitude, a new approach to life, can have, even for those living in circumstances we can’t even imagine.

P.S. If you’re interested in supporting the Africa Yoga Project, let me know. I’ll be participating in an event on February 18 to raise funds to continue its life-changing work. And if you ever want to join me for a yoga class, let me know that too!

Finding yourself in a song

Do you have certain songs that you reach for when you’re looking for support? And no, I’m not talking about slow grooves by Barry White or Marvin Gaye when you want help getting your significant other “in the mood.” (Not that I have anything against that, mind you.)

Rather, I’m talking about songs that you find helpful when you need emotional, psychological, or spiritual support—songs that lift you up, songs that make you feel like you again.

Perhaps it’s a tried-and-true hymn, something you’ve heard your entire life. Or a silly pop song that was all the rage when you were in middle school and makes you smile every time you hear it…  or start singing it in the shower. (Come on, you know you do.) Or maybe it’s “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah,” from Disney’s classic movie Song of the South. That’s one of my sister’s favorites.

In an earlier post, I talked about the jazz song “Start All Over Again.” Well, another song I find myself reaching for at times is Peter Cetera’s “One Clear Voice.” When I’m feeling off-balance or lost, this song’s words bring me back to knowing who I am and feeling more secure in my ability to navigate life’s sometimes tricky waters.

Of course, I’m not 100% positive what the lyricist had in mind when he wrote these words, but for me, this song is about finding one’s own inner voice. (Or maybe it would be more accurate to say uncovering that voice, as it is always there, in the same place.) Our inner voice, or our intuition, always knows the right answer, the right path to take. We need only stop all the commotion long enough so that we can hear it.

Of course, that’s not always easy. Often the hardest commotion to quiet is the chattering in our minds. That’s my experience, at least, and I’ve heard the same from many friends. You can find a quiet room somewhere, at least for a few minutes. The challenge becomes how to quiet your mind. Maybe it’s spending some time on your yoga mat, taking some conscious breaths, or just giving the right song your full attention.  Whatever works for you, find it—and use it, often. In the stillness, you will find yourself, your truth. And while the truth isn’t always easy, it will lead you down the right path and to peace of mind.

What song do you reach for when you need to find yourself?

One Clear Voice
The whole world is talking
Drowning out my voice
How can I hear myself
With all this noise
But all this confusion
Just disappears
When I find a quiet place
Where I can hear
One clear voice
Calling out for me to listen
One clear voice
Whispers words of wisdom
I close my eyes
‘Till I find what I’ve been missing
If I’m very still, I will hear
One clear voice
I’m always searching
For which path to take
Sometimes I’m so afraid
To make mistakes
From somewhere inside me
Stronger than my fears
Just like the sound of music
To my ears, I hear  (Chorus)

Whatever you look for, you’ll find

Yoga has been, and continues to be, my teacher in many ways. One of the core tenets I’ve taken from yoga is the idea that everything, everyone, is connected. This idea that we’re all one community—and you can translate that to your family, your neighbors, the people driving next to you on the highway, the people across the globe—is a powerful concept, one that can have a significant impact on how you perceive and interact with those around you.

So how do you act within your community? When you look at the people around you, are you looking for differences, or are you looking for similarities? If you look for differences, you’ll find them. (Thus the separation begins and perhaps the criticism and resentments.) If you’re looking for similarities, you’ll find those too—perhaps many more than you would have imagined. After all, each one of us is a human being, and we struggle with similar challenges, both external and internal. Seeing the similarities, or at least realizing that they’re there, helps us connect to one another and understand one another better.

Last night, I went to a concert because of a song that communicates that very idea. A few years ago, I saw Ronnie Dunn sing the beautiful story “Believe” on television, and I was struck by the raw honesty and emotion that he is able to communicate with his flawless voice. A little earlier this year, I saw him perform the new song “Bleed Red” on the Country Music Awards, his first appearance as a solo artist after leaving the hugely successful duo Brooks & Dunn. Again, I found his singing brought tears to my eyes. And so when I saw that he was going to be at Pier Six in Baltimore, I jumped on the chance to see him live. Although he did not sing the song that prompted me to go, he certainly did not disappoint: his performance was impeccable. He definitely fits my concert-going requirement of “sounds even better live than on the recording.”

Even if you don’t usually like country music, I ask that you listen to the words of this song, as I think it offers all of us a good reminder to look for the similarities, rather than always focusing on the differences.