gratitude is the answer practice|yogi surprise

3 Truths Proving Gratitude is the Answer You're Ignoring

We are all very well aware that gratitude needs to be a dominant force.

But when shit goes down, and we're in the throes of anger, frustration, and feeling a lack of control, gratitude is typically the last place we go. Even though it's very difficult to remember saying thank you in the face of adversity helps, it's exactly what we need to train ourselves to do.

When we suffer, gratitude is the answer

Think back to the last time you felt sadness. For most of us, it's a daily thing. Even if it's minor, we suffer over things both large and tiny. It's not hard to get worked up. Traffic pisses everyone off to varying degrees. Saying hello to someone you pass on the street who doesn't respond doesn't feel good. Emailing a client who gets back to you but doesn't answer any of your carefully crafted questions is annoying. Trying an arm balance in yoga class and landing flat on your face sucks. Even though at the end of the day these occurrences are small potatoes, at the moment, they bother us. Gratitude is the last thing on our minds.

Saying thank you holds all kinds of power

Let's revisit a couple of the above examples and insert gratitude as the answer. If you're walking down the street, feeling super and sunny and you say hello to someone who fails to respond, be grateful you're feeling friendly and warm. Be cognizant you have no idea why they chose not to respond. Remembering you offered kindness by saying hello. Allow your intention to be about them instead of you.

If you email a client and they don't address your questions, saying thank you out loud will mitigate feelings of irritation. Maybe they were in a hurry. Maybe they didn't know the answers so they chose to ignore your questions. When gratitude is the answer, you see opportunity instead of aggravation. Email them back thanking them for responding. Phrase your questions again a bit differently and use the opportunity to improve your clarity. See it as the teachable moment it could be.

Easy to preach, hard to live

Do we always take our own advice? Hell no. I can road rage with the best of them. Taking things personally is one of my most developed muscles. So we practice. We practice daily. Some days we do better than others. But owning the fact that gratitude is the answer can only help us. Gratitude never harms.

3 strategies for believing gratitude is the answer and how to listen

It sucks to feel upset. I know a few people who seemingly don't get upset easily and I admire them for it. This is what I've learned from these chill folks who live just a little more comfortably than I do:

  1. Don't care so much. It sounds strange to encourage others not to care. We must care. But we must not care about every little thing. Mark Manson wrote a very well-received and popular book called, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ckHe details this concept artfully and expresses saying thank you that you don't care so much about everything as the way to go. We have to conserve our energy for what and who really matters.
  2. Locate the opportunity. When we choose gratitude as the answer instead of anger, opportunities prevail like a glistening rainbow framed by calico kittens. If you try to execute an arm balance in yoga class and you fail, saying thank you will lead you down the path of informative assistance. Getting pissed and giving up will never make that posture yours. Failure just means you need to go about it differently. You're smart. And you're humble. Be thankful these things are true and try again after acknowledging the things you didn't employ the first time.
  3. Recognize truth when it's staring you in the face. Think about the last time you had a fight with a loved one. It's jarring and typically, both people are wrong in some way and defensive. Instead of focusing on what they should think, feel, do, and say, turn the mirror on yourself. "How can I see this differently? What could I have chosen not to say? Why am I being defensive?" These questions will almost always lead us to take personal responsibility, unveil our truth, and solve some of the hurt feelings. Being grateful we are capable of doing this can only lead to good. When we're very busy being right, we're also attached to suffering.

We're promised difficult moments every day. The difference in the varying degrees of said challenges is recruiting gratitude. Please comment on how this practice goes for you today. We all learn from example.

 

 


Kundalini yoga benefits|yogi surprise

3 Mind Blowing Kundalini Yoga Benefits: Scratching the Surface of this Miraculous Practice

I was a skeptic. I'd heard all about how magical and transformative Kundalini yoga is, but somehow never felt compelled to give it a go.

Since I'm a writer and believe in writing from experience, I decided to finally take a Kundalini class.

It knocked me sideways and shocked my system. I have never left a yoga class or any other experience with such a lightness and giddy sense I'd stumbled into something that would irrevocably change my whole perspective on how I cope with and experience life.

Kundalini yoga really is that deep

And now I get why people often have trouble explaining Kundalini yoga. How do you find the words to label something that touches you on levels you've never quite located before? I'm very new at this, so perhaps the effects don't land quite so intensely after a while. Although, talking to others after class leads me to believe I'm not alone in my excitement. They too are thrilled they've found this practice and want to share it with as many other people as they can compel to try it.

Kundalini yoga basics

First, a brief primer about Kundalini, or 'The Yoga of Awareness'. There are no strict dogmas or philosophies. The goal of the Kundalini yoga practice is to help each individual reach their higher self and to connect on a deeper level. There's lots of room for interpretation and creativity in the delivery of a Kundalini yoga class. There are mantras, chanting, mudras, kriyas (Sanskrit for 'effort' or 'action' kriyas are a meditation technique of energy and breath control), asanas, and meditations to uplift us and encourage self-awareness and a stronger sense of connection to self and the world around us.

Kundalini yoga was brought to the U.S. by Yogi Bhajan in the late 60's. A basic Kundalini yoga class is typically structured by beginning with chanting, breath work, and gentle movement. The middle phase is more dynamic asana and breathing techniques. The last portion of the class is meditation and rest.

Sounds pretty fab, does it not? Attending a Kundalini yoga practice with others heightens the experience, as any class does. But chanting, mantras, mudras, and involved kriyas that aim to harmonize our energy systems have a powerful accumulative effect that's very different from other asana practices. Incorporating Kundalini into your home practice might be the very best way to get yourself to practice even more.

Kundalini is a Sanskrit word that translates into 'coiled snake'. The idea is to wake up dormant energy sources within and get them talking to one another and working together.

Kundalini yoga coiled snake|yogi surprise

There are numerous reasons Kundalini yoga is growing in popularity

Let's focus on just a few of the emotional benefits of this practice. Yes, we all want our central nervous system to function well. Of course, we care deeply about digestion and that everything works well there. This practice is credited with so much good and looking at all the ways it can benefit our health is both amazing and overwhelming.

We've come to grips with the fact that our emotional health is suffering. We know we need more effective ways for feeling as balanced and grateful as we possibly can find. Kundalini is focused on enlightenment and the obtainment of spiritual awakening. Here are just a few ways that plays into your happiness and contentment:

  • Calming energy goes hand in hand with a deeper understanding of ourselves. When we take on our truths and treat them with love and respect versus judgment and criticism, we can relax into who we truly are and connect with our dharma.
  • Effort pays off. When we try something new, we let go of old stories and they diminish in power. But this requires new ideas, practices, and an open mind. Removing obstacles creates new roads and clearer paths towards understanding and wisdom. Kundalini yoga is a very different type of yoga practice. Willingness to make room for a practice that encourages more emotional and spiritual work will bring you different gifts than those you receive from a more rigorous practice, such as Vinyasa yoga.
  • Meditation works. I promise. It works for everyone and you can move and chant while you meditate. It doesn't have to look one way. Many yoga practices don't prioritize meditation and the other practices that connect us to our more subtle bodies the way Kundalini yoga does.

The innumerable new experiences awaiting us beckons. You have everything to gain. Scratch the surface with us and share what you learn!

 


tantra yoga defined|yogi surprise

Does Tantra Yoga Promote a Healthy Sex Life?

Tantra yoga: does it really have anything to do with sex?

I'd heard of tantric sex before, but never tantra yoga. It confused me because tantric sex has become a relatively known thing. Still knowing very little about it other than apparently the musician Sting digs it, I knew it had some kind of connection to breath work. But I couldn't conceptualize the connection to what kind of yoga practice it is. So I investigated...

Tantra yoga doesn't have a direct relationship to sexuality

The definition of tantra means to be woven, entwined, and to feel true freedom. This practice stems from Vedic texts that encompass every aspect of yoga to experience the truest reality of oneness and to create a bridge to unite our feminine and masculine sides. That connection between Shiva and Shakti (the masculine and feminine deities associated with tantra yoga) may be where there is a thread linking sexual connection to the practice of tantra. The physical practice often utilizes partner poses. Regardless of gender, tantra yoga addresses the feminine and masculine sides of each of us and how to strengthen the support and connection they offer one another.

More about Shakti and Shiva

Shiva, both the creator and destroyer, represents our masculine energy. Considered one of the most powerful deities in Hinduism, Shiva's third eye is believed to have the ability to destroy all of the evil that exists in the world. Shakti is our feminine energy and yields strength through the utilization of creativity and nurture. Tantra yoga is the embodiment of all that is grace, power, and interconnected within ourselves. Shiva and Shakti are intrinsically linked and their intense power can provide an internal fire that creates unlimited potential and desire.

How tantra yoga can indirectly improve our sex lives

When we feel whole and more connected to ourselves, we have a much greater ability to fully unite with others and invite that bridge through the strength of vulnerability and a willingness to be open. We crave truth and desire to know ourselves as completely as we can. We embrace the notion it will be a life-long quest because we will continue to change. By practicing tantra yoga, we slow down in our physical movements and share them by going at our own pace and exploring our feminine and masculine sides with equal fervor and by allowing another being into our practice space and allowing it to be a partnership.

If an improved sex life is a priority in your life, this might be the practice you've been needing and not even known it. Ideally, this is something you and your partner can enjoy together. Practicing breathwork and partner yoga poses can lead to a stronger bond. Inviting physical pleasure by supporting the exploration of your body at your own pace and simultaneously holding space for your partner to do the same in the pursuit of what feels exquisite and not some ideal understanding of what a posture should look like will prime you to believe that pleasure is a priority and that you deserve it.

There are so many types of yoga out there. It's so exciting to continue to learn more about the vast world that is yoga. Investigate as much as you can. It will only add to your knowledge bank and help you stay the course of discovering your very best life and self.

 


7 chakras guide practice|yogi suprise

Fun 7 Chakras Guide

The first time I heard the term 'chakras' I was mostly concerned with how to pronounce it

I was new to yoga and taking a class where the teacher was discussing the chakras meaning. She zeroed in on the root chakra, Muladhara, and explained this was where everyone needed to begin. Without stabilizing and balancing this first chakra, she clarified, a secure and sound foundation could not be laid. This terrified me. I was certain my root chakra was a mess and I was doomed to have a low-functioning chakra system. I'd never become enlightened or experience less suffering.

So I started to do some research. A lot of research, actually.

Question everything and know that everyone has a slightly different interpretation of the chakras meaning and how the system works. And our various chakras shift in balance constantly because our lives do.

We are always evolving and growing. We change our minds, hearts, and beliefs. The main thing is to consistently be in the role of learner and remain endlessly curious. Sure, balance is a damn fine endeavor. But when life creates a tsunami, your system just may experience a bit of turbulence. Studying the chakras gives us an emotional framework to connect to our bodies and the indicators something is off so we can address it. That's all. The goal is not perfection and maintenance is required.

So where to begin? That's what I wanted to know too

Let's begin with the basics. Just a few clutch pieces of information offering you a 7 chakras guide to tiptoe into the meanings, functions, and practices to find more balance. For now, wrapping your minds around the vital components will allow you the time to process and scratch just a little below the surface.

7 Chakras Guide: quick and easy

Root (Muladhara) Chakra

The root (first) chakra is located at the base of the spine (the pelvic floor). To be clear, the indication of where each chakra lives is about our subtle body, not our actual physical form. Our root chakra's main job is to provide a strong foundation and offer us a connection to our most basic needs and a sense of security that these needs are being filled. Our survival is our most basic need and the instinctive urges we feel, hunger, thirst, sexual satisfaction, sleep, and safety are all indicators of this chakra being in balance and offering us a strong infrastructure on which to build the fortitude of the ascending chakras.

Root chakra basics: 

  • Element: Earth
  • Sense: Smell
  • Color: Red

If you're looking to strengthen your root chakra, try this guided meditation for healing. To stay grounded, practice yoga postures that help you stand in your truth and strengthen, such as Tadasana, mountain pose.

Sacral (Svadishthana) Chakra

The second chakra is positioned in the lower belly and associated with the sacrum.  The sacral chakra is about our emotional and sexual connection to ourselves and others. This chakra is where our creativity lives and thrives. When this chakra is in harmony, we feel joy, expressive, and energized.

Sacral chakra basics: 

  • Element: Water
  • Sense: Taste
  • Color: Orange

To really connect with our sacral chakra, we have to remain open and flexible to change and acknowledge where fear arises and possibly holds us back because we don't want to fail. Connecting to ourselves with passion and enjoying pleasure without guilt or too much need is an incredible way to find balance in the second chakra. Try nurturing the second chakra when eating, truly tasting and savoring your food, enjoying every morsel without hesitation. Spend time with loved ones and give into being fully present, putting down the phone, turning off the TV, and avoid multi-tasking. Just be with that person and enjoy the time you have with them.

Solar Plexus (Manipura) Chakra

The solar plexus chakra is the third primary chakra. It's located between the belly button and sternum. The solar plexus chakra is all about our self-worth and personal power. In a balanced third chakra, we have a sense of willpower and self-control. We aren't afraid to speak our truth and we own our success with confidence and an understanding that we've earned it.

Solar plexus chakra basics: 

  • Element: Fire
  • Sense: Intuition
  • Color: Yellow

To balance our solar plexus chakra, we need practices that help us to accept ourselves and love ourselves unconditionally. Practice yoga poses that make you feel peaceful and glorious, happy to live inside your own body. Use mantras to stoke the internal fires that bring you alive and continue to feed your inner conviction.

Heart (Anahata) Chakra

The heart chakra is the fourth in our system and its location, you guessed it, is by our heart and lungs. Compassion, connectedness, joy, and transformation govern our center chakra. Our heart chakra is a bridge between earth and spirituality. It's where we foster happiness and connect our sense of self with absolute love and beauty.

Heart chakra basics: 

  • Element: Air
  • Sense: Sixth Sense (Higher Self)
  • Color: Green

 

To find a greater sense of stability in the fourth chakra, connect fully to a pranayama practice and devote more time to meditation to center yourself. Practice loving acts and thoughts and commit to self-care rituals and random gestures of kindness.

Throat (Vishuddhi) Chakra

The 5th chakra is located at the throat. This is our communication center and affects our voice box, speech, hearing, thyroid and parathyroid glands, which regulate our metabolisms. We develop our ability to both speak our truth and communicate effectively as well as hear others utilizing the throat chakra.

Throat chakra basics: 

  • Element: Space
  • Sense: Sound
  • Color: Blue

There are many ways to create symmetry within the throat. If you have trouble talking, practicing chants and speaking up for yourself are the practices for you. If the opposite is true, a silent meditation retreat could do wonders for you. Get outside and enjoy nature, noticing the details and astounding beauty all around you. Being with yourself and quietly contemplating your good fortune is another way you can find an energetic shift here.

Third Eye (Anja) Chakra

Our sixth chakra is located near our eyebrow line. This is our command center, where our senses and intellect meet. Growth, stillness, intuition, clarity, and openness are the qualities that exist in a balanced third eye chakra. Self-knowledge and consciousness are fully realized.

Third eye chakra basics: 

  • Element: Light
  • Sense: Sight
  • Color: Indigo

Alternate nostril breathing (nadi shodhanam) is a helpful practice here for finding mental clarity and insight by balancing our subtle energies and opening us up to a more profound level of consciousness. When we can find stillness in both our bodies and minds, we are free of distractions that keep us from the continued pursuit of truth and knowledge. Meditation and calming restorative practices that allow the subtle shifts to happen are best utilized to encourage balance in the third eye.

Crown (Sahasrara) Chakra

Finally, the seventh chakra. Our crown chakra is positioned beyond the realm of our bodies and mental functioning. It's beyond our physical selves yet it's also the height of where we can reach with our consciousness. Some refer to the crown chakra as the state of enlightenment. When we as human beings can reach beyond ourselves and our individual experience to live on a higher plane far past what we could previously imagine, our seventh chakra is balanced.

Crown chakra basics: 

  • Element: Oneness or Transcendence
  • Sense: Beyond Consciousness
  • Colore: Violet

The practices here encompass all of the other 7 chakras. To celebrate and encourage ourselves to go beyond and become inspired. Gratitude for everything and affirmations steeped in our spiritual connection are how we encourage this chakra to open and flourish.

There is a vast world to explore when delving into the realm of the chakra system. Keep learning and seek out information and practices to assist you with alignment and sense of your place in the universe. For a more in-depth look at a 7 chakras guide, visit The Chopra Center to continue your studies.

For more information about each of the chakras, see the complete guides:

 


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.