Meet Your Kula: Mikaila Cruz

Meet Your Kula: Mikaila Cruz

Part of what makes us so unique are the amazing members of our Yogi community, our kula. Each month, we’ll feature one member of our yogi community, chat with them about their practice, learn more about what draws them to yoga, and get to know each other a little more.

Meet our Drishti Yogi, Mikaila Cruz.

Tell us about yourself!

I was born and raised in New York City. Both of my parents had backgrounds in finance, and belonged to a military family. I learned to be an independent thinker early on, yet followed the straight line of attending school, then attaining a good paying job.

What started your yoga journey?

When my Dad arrived in Manhattan he learned Ashtanga Yoga, and when I was five years old he taught me how to come into a headstand. I knew nothing about the yoga philosophy, but thought it was fun to come into an inversion.

When I was 16 I started running, and when I hit my goal of 12 miles a day I began feeling pain in medial part of my right knee. I went to see an orthopedic surgeon who gave me the option of surgery or practicing yoga. Being that all I knew of yoga was a headstand I thought that was it. The surgeon recommended I look online for various yoga poses. After a few days I decided to begin my yoga practice.

When did you decide to become a yoga instructor?

While at a friend’s house one morning she asked how to come into Urdhva Dhanurasana (wheel pose). I thought about it for a moment, and guided her through the breath first, then the pose. Afterwards she exclaimed, “You should totally be a yoga teacher!” I returned home and looked up various yoga teacher programs in the area. Nine months later I became certified.

What type of yoga do you teach? What drew you to this particular form of yoga?

The yoga teacher training program I was accepted into specialized in Vinyasa yoga, which I teach Vinyasa Yoga. My classes incorporate various postures from the Ashtang method as well. I do have students who are fellow runners and athletes, so I also teach restorative yoga and focus on alignment and flexibility.

How has the practice of Yoga affected your life? Spiritually? Mentally?

Spiritually, the yoga practice enhanced my view of the world. After my survival of 9/11 my mind was lost, but the yogic path found me once again.

My mind still experiences triggers from 9/11, so from a mental standpoint yoga in the form of meditation helps me stay in the present moment.

Tell us what Drishti means to you - how do you practice this in your day to day?

I view Drishti as a focal point found not only on the mat, but when focusing on daily tasks as well. A mentor once said that one needs to be laser focused on what is important, and put 100% of effort into it. When the mind is overwhelmed with thoughts it is imperative to use the Drishti to attain mindfulness.

How has this understanding changed over the years?

My understanding of this not changed but broadened my knowledge of the importance of Drishti.

Looking over your own journey, is there any advice that you would give to someone struggling to find their focus or footing in their practice?

I myself have struggled in finding focus and footing in my practice. Practice ahimsa whenever possible. Be kind to yourself, as the yoga journey is a path of oneness and not to be compared with another.

Do you have any inspirational quotes or mantras that you use to center yourself?

The quote that helped me along my yoga journey is by Lao Tzu: “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”

Where can we find and support your work?

You can find my blog, yoga teaching, social media platforms and other works on my website.

You can connect with Mikaila and follow along with her journey at @mikaila_nyc

You can also practice alongside Mikaila this month with the Chandra Namaskar or Moon Salutation and our mantra:

I am enough, I focus on the perfectly imperfect fullness of my self with utter love.

 


trigger points self-massage|yogi surprise

Self-Massage Benefits and Handling Delicate Trigger Points

I'd put getting a trigger points massage right up there with oysters and champaign for dinner. It's extremely necessary to lead a happy life and be in optimal health.

There's nothing to argue here. If you can swing it, go get yourself a professional massage once a month. If that's not in the budget, perhaps you have a willing partner or friend who's game to quid pro quo with you.

When none of this is feasible, you've always got yourself to rely on. And self-massage has loads of benefits, so we should be doing that anyway on the reg.

There are trigger points lurking, waiting for you to find them

They're not hidden. They're just not always obvious. The excitement lives inside the self-discovery of what feels insanely good to you. It's also pertinent information to know what's really irritable in your body and how to handle those delicate spots. Do you like it when someone tickles your arm? A lot of people love it.  I dislike it so much it makes my hair grow in different directions. Trigger points are different for each of us. So we need and deserve to spend some time in self-exploration.

What exactly are trigger points and how do they work?

According to Massage Envy, trigger points are "tight areas within the muscle or connective tissue that cause pain in other parts of the body. Trigger points massage therapy is specifically designed to alleviate the source of irritation through cycles of isolated pressure and release. The massage receiver actively participates through deep breathing and identification of the exact locations and intensity of discomfort."

I don't want to be in pain, do you? Releasing and mitigating pain removes distraction in our bodies and help us redirect that energy elsewhere. Learning to do this for ourselves is important daily work and a form of self-care that may be missing from your life.

Benefits of Self-Massage

According to the Yoga Healer, these are some of the numerous benefits of self-massage:

  • Calming of the nerves
  • Lubrication of the joints
  • Increased circulation (yes, please!)
  • better sleep
  • Toning of the muscles

I'm sold, you? The Yoga Healer recommends using oil (such as sesame oil), long strokes over limbs and circular strokes over joints, chest, and your belly. You can use your hands or a hand-held massage tool to assist you in finding the right pressure to manage your own trigger points.

Add this to your self-care routine. We require an arsenal of ways to take the very best care of ourselves possible. When we take the time to attend to ourselves, we have so much more to offer to the world at large. We know this. So we must.

What's your favorite way to take care of you? Please comment so we can all benefit and learn from your techniques.

 


sitting poses yoga|yogi surprise

Sitting Poses Give You A Lotta Bang for Your Buck in a Yoga Practice

Tis true, sitting poses are the most versatile

Nobody needs to get up in arms defending standing poses, arm balances, balance postures, and inversions. I didn't say they were the best. I said they are the most adaptable and accessible. I'm also not arguing about if they should be called seated or sitting poses. They are the same and it's a preference.

When I broke my leg in an ATV accident 4 years ago, sitting poses were my very best friend and savior from insanity. Sounds dramatic, but when you teach yoga for a living and practice daily, having options are vital when you can't walk or stand without crutches. That's when I first discovered

Here's a short list of the many ways sitting poses can offer a well-rounded practice:

  • You can work hard or hardly. I absolutely love that it's a choice in sitting poses. And no one knows except for you how much you are choosing to chill or that you're busting ass. That's pretty delicious.
  • If you have a foot, ankle, tibia, fibula, or knee injury, you can still do sitting poses. You can work your core and allow the injury to heal. You can engage your quadriceps and continue to build those muscle groups isometrically.
  • Sitting poses are fabulous for working into your hamstrings, hips, and core.
  • They are a great place to transition into several arm balances, backbends, and core strengtheners. From the sitting pose of Janu Sirsasana (head to knee forward bend)
  • They stabilize. Sitting poses offer a much stronger sense of security. Distraction goes away and the ability to focus is easier when you're not concerned with falling out of a pose. We get a bigger base to work from and being much closer to the floor helps us shift our goals.
  • Perspective shifts lead us to new ideas. Seeing the world from the ground versus standing helps us consider things in a different way. If we always operate from the same point of view, we'll miss possibilities and cut off our creativity.

Try this seated postures yoga sequence for strength, flexibility, and for the enjoyment and benefits they offer.

 

 


types of yoga styles|yogi surprise

Which of The Most Popular Types of Yoga Is the Best Fit For You?

There are so many types of yoga, it can feel beyond overwhelming

You gotta love how many interpretations there are and all of the various ways we can enjoy and explore yoga. I was really blown away as a new student when I began to delve into just how many schools, styles, and types of yoga there were to choose from. I took the trial and error approach before landing on Vinyasa as my jam.

Luckily we don't have to choose just one style. But most of us determine a preference and pursue it with fervent ardor. Below is a list of the most popular types of yoga and the pertinent deets you need to know.

 

7 types of yoga commonly loved and practiced

Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga technically falls under the umbrella of Vinyasa, but it's a set series of postures broken down into primary series, second series, and four advanced series. A set series means you'll do the sequence in the same order every single time.  Ashtanga centers around the sun salutations and it's a rigorous physical practice.

Ashtanga-lovers are often equated to the Type-A personality as lovers of discipline, hard work, and perfectionism.  The further a practitioner gets into this practice, the more wild and complicated the poses become. If that sounds like your bag, Ashtanga might be the perfect style for you.

Vinyasa Yoga

After my first Vinyasa class, I left feeling such a sense of joy because it was so much FUN. Vinyasa means one pose linked to another by breath. That provides tons of room for creative and dynamic flows that will get your heart rate up and stretch and build every muscle, ligament, and tendon in your body.

Vinyasa tends to appeal to the athletic yogi who appreciates creativity and variety. And there's always killer music playing to help the whole experience feel a bit like a dance party.

Hatha Yoga

Technically, Hatha yoga is the umbrella term for all types of yoga that involve movement. But what you can expect from a Hatha class is a slower pace and holding basic standing and seated postures for at least several breaths if not minutes.

Hatha is great for beginners and for those who are looking to stretch but not sweat. The focus isn't usually on building muscle but more on opening up and finding more space in the body.  If you're looking to keep it simple and leave class feeling refreshed and renewed, Hatha is a wonderful choice.

Bikram Yoga

The most controversial figure in the entire yoga realm is Bikram Choudhury, the founder of Bikram yoga. Yet his 26 set posture series with long holds in a room set at a temperature of 106 degrees has prevailed as a very popular type of yoga practiced all over the world.

If you love building muscle and have the attitude of the hotter the class, the better, Bikram might be a perfect fit for you. And you don't want to have to use your hands to balance your body weight, the classic 26 posture series includes no arm balances. So if you're recovering from an injury to your hand, wrist, elbow, or shoulder, this practice is an option as you heal.

Hot Power Yoga

Of all the types of yoga, hot power yoga feels the most like a workout. Music pumping, room set to between 90 and 100 degrees,  and powerful, challenging movements leaving the practitioners drenched and happy as they leave class satisfied they worked their asses off. It's becoming increasingly more challenging to find non-hot classes as more and more students crave and seek out the heat.

Try hot power yoga if you love to exercise, sweating, and are invested in pushing yourself physically.

Yin Yoga

Gooey. That's the word that always comes to mind when I think of or practice Yin yoga. Yin postures are held for anywhere from 3-7 minutes and the aim is to get into the tight connective tissue called fascia. Postures that gently twist the spine, open the hips, shoulders, and hamstrings with the use of lots of props and a restorative approach are what Yin yoga exists to achieve.

Try Yin yoga if you need to slow things down and find more ease and space in your body and mind. It's a kind practice.

Kundalini Yoga

Kundalini yoga is a very interesting practice. And it's a little hard to describe because it's such a unique experience. There's various types of breath work, chanting, mantras, Ayurvedic practices, and moving subtle body energy to increase balance in the central nervous system and create a sense of well-being within.

Of all the popular types of yoga, this is the practice that is most likely going to stay with you well beyond the physical work. Try Kundalini if you're looking to ignite your spirit and work to empower and invigorate your mind.

The only way to really figure out the types of yoga that will work best for you is to try everything

We might be shying away from a particular practice because it's exactly what we need. Or maybe not, but the only way to know for sure is to give everything a try and not assume you won't enjoy it. The joy is in the delving into the unknown. There's so much out there to explore. Enjoy it.

 

 

 

Header image courtesy of Personal Trainer Academy

 


Achievement or Experience: What's Going to Make You Happier?

I want to be happy. Don't you?

I'm going to take a leap here and suggest we'd all appreciate being happy and content, yet we pretty consistently get in our own way. I can give you at least 17 examples every day of things I do to get in my own way.

Can you relate?

In yoga, we practice the state of being present and non-attachment. Lovely, yet lofty goals these are. It's too easy, even in the midst of our practice, to get bogged down by anxieties and the pressure of feeling we aren't doing enough. We're not enough. We haven't achieved or experienced enough. And I believe it boils down to priorities. That and how we define achievements and experiences in their relationship to happiness.

Are you game for a short questionnaire?

Answer the questions below to determine if achievement or experiences are more important to you currently. 

*Side note: we change our minds. Sometimes it's achievement, sometimes it's experience. But knowing where you are right this moment and connecting it to your overall sense of well-being might help enlighten you to some shifts that may be beneficial. And also, sometimes it's both. We really can have it all, but often we don't need both. We just need the one. Let's explore this further.

  • Are you currently doing some type of project? This can be completing a degree or remodeling your bathroom. If so, are you enjoying the experience or mostly focused on the end result?
  • Are you traveling soon? Is it for work or pleasure? What are the goals for this trip?
  • Name the last thing you did just for the experience of it and describe how it made you feel. Did it have a positive or negative impact on your happiness? Or was the impact either neutral or minimal?
  • List the last thing you did that gave you a sense of achievement? Write down every adjective about how it caused you to feel. Was it worth all the effort required to meet your goal? Are you happy with the level of achievement you reached?

Experiences have the deep potential to completely alter our lives. It just depends on how often we seek them out and how big or small we play it. Have you ever been on the fence about going to a dinner party or event and ultimately decided to go and met someone who straight up changed your life? Conversely, have you ever opted no for something and always wondered what if? And on those occasions, we've opted for the experience of being along, reading, walking in the woods, meditation, yoga practice, or anything else we enjoy and that enriches us. There is no such thing as missing out. If we do thing A, we can't do B or C. It's the equation that drives us and choosing wisely is how we increase our happiness.

Achievements also vary widely in degree and impact. If I've achieved not eating any dairy for a week, do I notice the results? Do I feel any different? Am I proud of myself for doing something a little challenging in the same way I felt challenged training for and completing a marathon? I was happy about both, but one took a hell of a lot more effort than the other.

The key is always balance. Small yet meaningful achievements and experiences daily feed us and propel us forward. Big goals met and deep, meaningful events can have long-lasting effects and even change the course of our lives. So can achievements. Let's celebrate them all and keep bringing them on.

Achieve the practice you deserve! Sign up for our monthly yoga box to receive implements to experience the practice that leads you to a deeper understanding of yourself.


Morning Practices to Turn Mindfulness Into Second Nature

Practicing mindfulness is kind of like being your own therapist

You bear witness to your choices, thought processes, reactions, and decisions. And from there, you have the opportunity to assess if you like how you feel as a result. If you don't, you understand different thoughts and actions must be taken. Sounds easy, right? But we all know it's not. It's a practice that requires constant attentiveness and that can feel overwhelming.
Mindfulness is a vigilant practice that requires us knowing the various versions of our past selves and shining a spotlight on who we are right now in this moment. We keep adding to our experiences and draw on our past choices with the retrospective eyes of someone who knows better and differently. Employing wisdom is one of the key elements to mindful living and thinking. Doing our very best based on what we understand is an essential element for living our greatest life.

Mindfulness and self-awareness are basically synonymous

It's easy to get caught up in our habits, routines, and the stories we create in our heads.  Developing daily practices the help us strengthen the muscle of awareness is the springboard to turning mindfulness into how we go about every moment of the day. When it becomes second nature, it no longer requires so much of our emotional and mental energy.
By incorporating mindfulness into our daily rituals and applying it to the actions we take daily, it becomes less of a practice and more of who we are as human beings. Mindfulness requires we examine our motives, feelings, beliefs, and how all of that translates into action. It's reading others and seeing our truth reflected in their reactions.
So how do we do this? How do we practice meaningful mindfulness as we move through our day? Let's begin at the beginning.

What happens the moment after we wake up?

  • What's the very first thought you think? Waking up with a grateful thought, even something as simple as a general 'thank you' will promise an approach to the day that continues in the vain of gratitude. If there is something specific you are feeling extra loving about, then take a moment the second your eyes open to spend a few moments choosing loving grateful thinking.
  • What's the next action you take? Do you hug your partner? Do you sit quietly with a cup of tea or coffee and take some dedicated breaths? Do you practice a few yoga postures? Whatever you do, do it with thoughtfulness and observance as to how it makes you feel.

Practicing purification with mindfulness

 
  • What are your body cleansing rituals? Do you dry brush then shower? Do you use the bathtub and soak with a cup of tea and an inspiring book? The physical act of cleaning ourselves has a myriad of mindfulness opportunities. Everything from the soap we choose (is it ethically made? Handmade? Does it have a scent that calms and soothes us?) to how slowly or swiftly we wash ourselves has an impact on our nervous system, mood, and a general feeling of washing away negativity. Taking our time as we move through the purification process leaves us with a sense of accomplishment and thoughtfulness. Everything from using a fresh towel and making sure our tub is clean impacts us.

Breakfast

 
  • What we eat and how we eat sets the tone for our day. Do you eat whatever is easiest and incorporate eating into getting dressed? Choosing to take the time to select something nourishing and healthy as well as eating slowly and delighting in every delicious bite automatically changes the course of our day. If we begin hurried and not even tasting our food it's harder to savor the moments ahead of us. Slow, thoughtful eating encourages those same ideas to flourish in our work, conversations, travel methods, and various other decisions we have to make every single day. Try sitting without stimulation and choose to notice the flavors, textures, and pace with which you eat. Once you've finished, take a moment to observe how satisfied you feel and carry that with you to encourage a sense of contentment throughout the day.

Speaking

 
  • What's the first thing you say out loud each morning? If you live with someone, choosing both words and tone that are full of kindness and positivity will help you choose those intentions as you move through your day. "Good morning, I love you. How did you sleep?" If you live alone, perhaps calling someone you love each morning to wish them a lovely day and inquire how they are would be a perfect way to practice mindful speech. Our words, volume, tone, and intention when we talk affect others more than we know. We've all be the recipient of a gruff hello or complaint first thing in the morning. And it never feels good. Even if you wake up feeling less than excited for the day, seize that moment to decide you're going to turn that initial feeling into something good.
Before we even leave our home, mindfulness can permeate our every thought and choice. Setting the tone for our day at the very beginning will lead to our new normal. Negative thoughts will encounter the barriers that mindful living kindly creates with loving boundaries. Go have an incredible day!

singing bowl healing|yogi surprise

5 Ways a Singing Bowl Can Benefit Your Home Practice

I remember the first time I heard a singing bowl

I was still fairly new to yoga, and still getting used to the entire vibe and all of the accouterments that were commonplace in the yoga world realm.  The instructor, Christina, had an ethereal energy and I was enthralled with her. We were in a silent savasana, and I was dwelling somewhere in between the plains of awake and asleep. And then I heard it. One clear, bright, soul-stirring sound. One note. It not only brought me back to awareness of my surroundings. It touched on something deep. Something I didn't know I could feel.

As I found my way back to a seat and listened to her words of wisdom and encouragement, I could still feel that singular note resonating within. Everyone around me began rolling up their mats and putting props back in their proper place. But I didn't want to move. I wanted to be with this new, exciting feeling.

Eventually, I packed up too. But before I left the space, I asked Christina about the sound and how she created it. She smiled and signaled for me to follow her to the front of the studio. She handed me the bowl and mallet, encouraging me to try it out. My first attempt did not produce anything other than a clunking noise. She laughed and showed me how to hold it delicately in the palm of my hand. She encouraged a confident yet gentle touch. I tried again. This time, I received a song. But it didn't sound the same as what she produced.

She explained the singing bowl is capable of many notes depending on where exactly contact is made and how it's made and by whom. She equated it to playing any instrument. She compared it to a guitar and how depending on who's playing, it can sound incredibly different and evoke totally unique emotions.

I was blown away by this, and officially hooked.

5 Ways to Include a Singing Bowl in Your Practice

If you already have a home practice, then you're likely always looking for new ways to give it more meaning. Singing Bowls offer a myriad of benefits.

  • mental clarity
  • calming the central nervous system
  • improving concentration
  • inspiring internal vibrations and a deeper connection to your chakra system

Once you begin to incorporate them on a regular basis, you'll likely find the benefits increase.

Try any of these 5 ways to incorporate a singing bowl into your yoga practice

  1. Use it at the very beginning of your practice so your brain and internal system respond with readiness. It's a learned indication it's now time to practice.
  2. Use it at the end of practice in the same way. It offers a conclusion that resonates even after you've stepped away from your mat. Try choosing a number of times you'll ring the bowl. Once may be enough, but if your lucky number is 3, go with that.
  3. Use your singing bowl in harmony with other singing bowls. Collect a variety of sizes and bowls made with different materials to evoke a symphony that you create.
  4.  If you're practicing slower yin or hatha-style, you could ring the singing bowl between each pose or mini-sequence to reset and refresh your attention.
  5. Use a singing bowl before attempting postures that are difficult or not yet obtainable. Ring the bowl to indicate to yourself that you can embrace any challenge that comes your way.

If you've never tried it, I'm already so excited for you. Who knows what kind of reactions and emotions lay in wait that you've yet to feel.

 


3 Techniques to Permanently Shift Your Inner Dialogue

Real talk about self-talk: most of us are kinda cruel. Observe your thoughts about yourself even for 20 minutes. Write down the kind ones and the rude comments. Which list is longer?

Those uncharitable thoughts hurt us more than we realize

None of this is new information. We know this, but how many of us are actively doing something to change our inner dialogue? How long are we going to suffer through untrue assessments of ourselves and continue to allow the thoughts in our head to shape how we see ourselves?

We need to decide enough is enough and take a stand. Choosing this as our practice right alongside asana. Hell, above asana. This has to stop and the time is now!

Okay, cool, so everyone's on board, yes? Now, how to do fix this internal bug once and for all? We need a strategy. We might need several. The only place to begin is at the beginning.

Why are we addicted to thinking unkind thoughts?

I decided to do a little research on this. Not internet research, but old school asking individual people what their beliefs are about this incredibly important issue. Some of the answers may resonate, and some may surprise you.

  • We don't feel worthy. This can apply to anything from love to money, accolades, talent, success, travel, and even good health. When we don't feel we deserve it, the thoughts that prove us right just won't stop coming. It's like a thought avalanche is happening on a constant basis to ensure we continue to feel this way.
  • We feel pushed to challenge ourselves. By being hard on ourselves, we strive to do better. When we get too self-congratulatory, we rest on our laurels and think we're finished growing. Since we'll never fully actualized, critical thoughts propel us to constantly try harder. Hmm, not sure about this one, but more than a few people I talked to had arrived at the same conclusion. Seems like the same thing could be accomplished with encouraging thoughts....
  • We are afraid. If we try and fail because we convince ourselves we can do it, then we have to come to the unwelcome conclusion that we were kidding ourselves. If we fully accept our flaws and deficits and don't try, then we can't fail.

Okay, obviously the common thread here is THIS IS SAD AND WRONG. None of this is going to help us become the best versions of ourselves. Remember the first time you stepped on a yoga mat? Was it a shit-show? Yeah, me too. But I believed with practice and time I'd get better. And I did. So did you. We have to try and we have to believe we are worthy and no amount of criticism is going to help us live the greatest lives we can. So what does work? What actually will help us permanently change our inner dialogue to a positive tune and achieve the outcomes we really desire?

1. Daily Pep Talks

Pep means positive y'all. Personally, I think it helps a ton to come up with a pet name for yourself or a term of endearment you apply only to you. You can borrow mine if you can't think of one. I use 'cutie pie' because it makes me laugh and smile. When I catch myself in rumination mode, I stop and give myself this speech: "C'mon cutie pie, knock it off. You accomplish nothing but wasted time by spending yours on these thoughts. You are smart, talented, and loved. Go do something cool."

Or, you can build this into your first thing in the morning routine so you set the day up for success. "Cutie pie, you're going to have a fantastic day. You can see, hear, taste, smell, walk, talk and you just rolled out of an actual bed with sheets, pillows, the works. You have food to eat, things to drink, and interesting experiences to look forward to today. Go do good!"

2. Make a list

Build a list and keep adding on of things you love to do. Now go do one of them. That inner voice telling you unkind things can be silenced with action and participation. We all need a day to loaf around the house now and again. But for the most part, when we are engaged, active, and doing something we genuinely enjoy and feel good about, the critic inside takes a snooze. Start your list right now. There is no action too small not to cause a ripple. Walking your dog absolutely counts. Walking an elderly neighbor's dog is pretty great too. Everytime you think of something new, just add it. Don't do it mentally. Pen to paper, fingers to keypad, whatever works. But looking at your progressively growing list of activities that you love always gives you a directive when you're sitting on your sofa thinking all of the thoughts that pull you in a different direction than the one you really want to go.

3. Do something kind anonymously

If you've done this before then you know how delicious it feels. And I really do think that's the correct word here. It's a juicy secret that you're not bursting to share because it feels so good to be the only one to know it. Again, my life's mantra is no action is small. Get creative. Take a walk in your neighborhood and look for ideas. I offer many ideas on my blog on giving. But the anonymous part is really important because not needing credit or a pat on the back changes the inner dialogue to a soundtrack that reminds you that you're not just okay, you're wonderful.

 

 

 


amethyst guided meditation|yogi surprise

Utilizing Amethyst in a Guided Meditation for Contentment

Many of us love various crystals for their vast and intensive properties offering us anything from the attraction of money, healing, and protection to enlightenment, love, and creativity. We believe in their power and they've become an integral tool for our yoga and meditation practices.
Amethyst is one of the most interesting and potent stones on earth. I remember being very envious of my sister growing up because she was lucky enough to have amethyst as her birthstone. The deep purple hue is dazzling and as a child, I associated it with royalty and beauty. It's shine and magnetic energy are seductive in a way that makes it difficult to shift your eyes elsewhere.
Beyond its beauty, amethyst holds space for something many of us consider intangible: contentment. 
 
Amethyst shares its shade with our crown chakra, making it a conduit for the obtainment of enlightenment. And isn't this the path to contentment?
When I think of people I would describe as content, few of them are extremely wealthy, not monetarily. None of them are famous or super-models. Only one of them holds the title CEO or President. And when I think of their energy, it's always purple. And I can't get enough of them. They have the kind of wealth I hold so dear: gratitude and genuine appreciation for the present moment.
Amethyst has long been considered a crystal that holds the ability to calm the mind and encourage a meditative state. A calm, focused mind is much more inclined towards the state of contentment than an overactive and distractive one. Contentment means you feel whole, complete and satisfied with what you have. It doesn't mean you don't have goals or pursuits. It just means you can be present with what is without believing you should have more or be more right this moment.
How can you use amethyst to bring you closer to contentment? Simply being near it and thinking of your association with contentment is a beginning. But there's a more connected way to utilize its power.
A Guided Meditation Starring Amethyst
 
This meditation can last anywhere from 5-15 minutes. Best time of day is in the early morning so you can feel the lasting effects throughout the day.
Light a lavender candle and place tea lights in a circle around your meditation space. Lay down. Consider using props to make your body as comfortable and still as it's capable. Place an amethyst stone first at the base of your throat, right at the center of your clavicle. It all begins with communication, and our throat chakra is the center for fostering communication and bringing it into balance.
Begin by creating a visual room in your mind. Picture the lighting, temperature, size, and features. Begin building this space so that it offers you all you need to feel content. Maybe it's you and your dog, a book, a bathroom, and a glass of wine. Or perhaps it's all of the important people in your life, music, food, comfortable furniture, art, and laughter. Only you know everything you need to be content. Fill the room, don't hold back. Keep adding until it feels completely full.
Spend Time Dwelling in this Space
 
Really live and breath in this space. Drink it in.  Now that you've added everything and everyone you feel is necessary to feel content, begin to notice what you can subtract and still feel that same level of peaceful calm and happiness. Subtract until you are down to the only things and living creatures you need to sustain this feeling. Breath deeply into that sensation and move the amethyst stone to the center of your third eye. Keep breathing, visualizing, experiencing, and cultivating this all-encompassing sense of contentment.
You've now created your own mental living space that embodies contentment. You can visit and revisit anytime. It's always with you, waiting to console you any moment you feel out of whack or unsettled. It's yours.

Three Practices to Help You Find and Keep Stillness

Does being still require an exquisite landscape to study and absorb? I really hope not because a mountain view or ocean scape are simply not always accessible.

Stillness is a state of mind

If we accept this to be true, we can maintain stillness in a crowd or while with our families. We can find it while engaged in a conversation or during our yoga practice. Stillness doesn't mean we can't be moving or interacting with others.

"In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you." ~ Deepak Chopra

This sounds marvelous, Deepak, but how do we actually do this? Is stillness something we can practice?

Thankfully the answer is a resounding yes. We can practice stillness just like we practice everything else. But it's the willingness to cultivate it that might scare some of us. It doesn't feel natural so therefore, we decide we can't obtain it. But we absolutely can and the rewards are so worth it.

The Rewards of Finding Stillness

  • Happiness. Stillness helps us find calm. Our nervous system responds in a positive way. We move from a baseline of agitation to contentment and we spread this to others with our presence and state of mind.
  • Increase in energy. It's just like when you get enough sleep and you feel full of vitality. Stillness and meditation can help us acquire energy by assisting us in replenishing the wells that have become quite depleted.
  • A more connected relationship with ourselves. Think of someone who typically seems very confident and self-possessed. That could be you. Stillness provides clarity and allows our truths to rise to the surface. Once we connect with who we really are and cease hiding from what is, our confidence grows. By knowing ourselves better we calm down because we are no longer uncertain or confused about who we are and what we stand for.

Doesn't this all sound grand and illuminating? How could we not want these rewards? It's a matter of figuring out how to actually achieve this state of mind and not run away from what we learn. It's dedicating to this practice the same way we are committed to asana. So where do we begin? Deepak has a few more ideas about this that are worthy of contemplation and can serve as a starting point for the practice of stillness.

"We can actually accelerate the process through meditation, through the ability to find stillness through loving actions, through compassion and sharing, through understanding the nature of the creative process in the universe and having a sense of connection to it. So, that's conscious evolution." 

He makes it sound so easy. And maybe, eventually, it actually is.

Here are a few practice ideas to help you experience the often seemingly elusive state of stillness.

1. Do something for someone without telling anyone about it.

Not only is taking anonymous action a little bit like being a superhero, but it feels so gratifying to offer a kindness without needing credit. No action is too small. Placing a bottle of your yoga buddy's favorite essential oil in her coat pocket without a word or note. Leaving hand-picked flowers on your neighbor's front porch. Making a donation to charities you revere and believe in. Recommending someone for a job without telling them you did so. Paying off a debt for someone whom you know is unable to do so themselves. The list goes on and on. Make your own and take action. It will offer you the gift of giving without expectation of receiving in return. It will shift your sense of give and take and help you focus more on not what others do for you but all you can offer to the world.

2. Take the time to listen to another and stay with their words.

Conversations always require a back and forth. But it's the way we choose to conduct the dynamics that award us a sense of stillness. If you've ever experienced a conversation where you were more focused on what you wanted to say in response than in what you were hearing, then you've felt the frustration of not being present and ignoring the opportunity to learn. Listen to another. Really hear their words and digest them. Ask questions to keep them talking and sharing. The delight that comes from focusing on another expressing their ideas, views, feelings, and outlook brings a delicious sense of being present for another. The unrest that comes with focusing on being heard versus really hearing will go away.

3. Sit in silence with another person

We don't have to meditate on a mountaintop in lotus position. Being with someone else without having a dialogue quietly drinking in their energy and allowing them to share in yours will offer profound feelings of being close and interacting with our subtle bodies. Breathing together and having a shared experience without words offers a connection that goes beyond what we think interaction should be.

I hope you find some moments of stillness today. You deserve them.