"Believe and act as if it were impossible to fail" - Charles F. Kettering

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

See the Good

How many times in life you've been hurt by someone you trust or someone close to you?  It's hard when we don't understand someone's actions: apparently contradictory or over the top angry, distant, aggressive, hurtful, etc.  Makes you think whether you have really known someone.  Many times our reaction will mirror what we receive, things escalate quickly and over time we eventually disconnect.  What you do and how you react in those situations can determine the outcome of a marriage, friendship, working relationship, relationship with our children, etc.

I don't remember how it all started but today I consciously choose to believe people are good.  I do that as far as I can remember.  I'm always trying to understand the reason why someone is behaving in a certain way that seem incompatible with a situation or my expectation.  I tend to believe there is always something else going on that while may not justify the behavior will at least explain it.

I have a great friend who for a period of time seemed distant and uninterested in cultivating our relationship.  In the beginning I thought giving space to my ego: "I'm not calling him anymore.  If he's interested in the relationship he has to initiate the contact going forward.  It can't be always me.  I have other things to do and can't afford to invest that much time in an unilateral relationship".  Eventually I paused and chose to take a simple step: ask.  I insisted a few more times and then explained how I was feeling.  I asked what was the reason he was behaving that way.  I found out he was having serious family problems.

Most of the times we don't want to ask because we think it's all about us.  Many times we believe we are the center of the universe and it's all about us.  We should not go the extra step, it's the other person's turn.  That way we miss opportunities to keep relationships and sometimes even help other people.

I've been in the opposite side, where I was the one behaving in ways my friends, or spouse would not understand: "what is wrong with you?" some would ask.  That's when I also found out many times people don't have it clear.  They don't know they are behaving in a certain way and when asked they don't know why they are doing it.  There are many things that affect the way we react in a given moment that sometimes we can't even connect the dots.  How many times I reacted in exact opposing ways to the same situation.  An easy example is my relationship with my kids.  There are times they will do something that will really tick me off.  I get angry and sometimes end up regretting the way I reacted.  Another time they do the exact same thing and I react like a Tibetan monk: master of patience and wisdom.  Why?

Every time I have composure to stop and think through my reaction I end up being able to trace the cause.  I'm running late to do something, or hungry, or it's something that is unresolved at work I didn't consciously realized was still in the back of my mind, etc.  Yes, we are not perfect.  If we don't give a second chance to each other imperfections it's difficult if not impossible to build and maintain relationships.

That's why I choose to believe people are good and there is something that can clearly justify a behavior we can't immediately understand.  Making assumptions is a very dangerous approach.  Our assumptions can be far from reality.  It's easy to make assumptions than spend the time talking, after all we are sometimes hurt or irritated by someone's behavior.  However, in many occasions it's worth it.  Take the time.  There may be cases where it is how it feels.  Not always it will work out.  However, it's better to be certain than lose someone you love.


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Vinicius da Costa has almost 46 years of experience in life ;-), teaches at and helps building Synergy Yoga & Wellness into a place you feel good and welcomed to grow your yoga journey.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Relax, Nothing Is Under Control

I have heard many times of people who get lost when faced with a major life changing event.  I have felt myself that way many times.  In all cases I eventually found myself, which gives me confidence I can consistently overcome it.  Nonetheless, when it happens it’s painful.

That feeling of emptiness in your chest, lack of motivation to do even the things you like, wanting to stay quiet and isolated, sadness and no direction to go.  How to get out of it?

(Side note: that’s a perfect time to write a story.  The suffering is a greatly inspiring tool to write something deep and dramatic).

I observe this very often when people retire or are let go, in empty nesters, in broken relationships, when one is living someone else’s dreams, etc.  The common place in all those situations is a temporary lack of a meaningful goal in life.

I’ll share my own recent story as an example.  For half of my life I dedicated myself to create a family and be able to give them a solid foundation that would make our lives better.  This was such a powerful intent that any sacrifice seemed minor.  Moving away from my parents and siblings, my culture and everything else I had was somewhat easy.  I did everything that I deemed required to support that goal.

Then, without much notice my marriage was over, my kids taken away from my daily life.  All of a sudden all the sacrifice that seemed minor before became a big question mark.  I was stuck in a place with no family.  My kids were away, my mother and siblings much farther away.  The natural question in my mind was: what do a do now?  All the things I was doing were in support to a goal that no longer existed.  That’s why everything felt empty.  The goal is what fills our hearts.  Once it’s over the only thing that remains is the empty skeleton we built around to support it.

The only solution is to find a new meaningful goal.  The trick is that during a period of time we will long for that lost goal that was filling our hearts, providing motivation to our brains and energy to our bodies.  You take that away and it will work as a power switch.  It will shut down everything else.

What can I do to change that situation?

In the beginning we will only see all the reasons why we can’t change.  Over time you start to find little things here and there that will try to spark the fire within.  Similar to a car engine that doesn’t run for a long time those small sparks may not get it going.  Like the dormant car engine there will be some care required for the spark to get it rolling: cleaning, oil, battery, fuel.  That’s where you must take control.
Sparks are free and happen all the time around you.  Prepare to leverage them:
  1. Care for your visual: my grandma always told us to look nice, clean and well dressed.  She said it was even more important when we were not feeling good.  The act of taking care of your look and the visual cues coming from it will re-energize you.  She was right.
  2. Do more of the things that make you feel good: think about those things that every time you do you feel better.  One rule applies though: they must be healthy!  Many times they are the simplest things like going to the movies, calling a friend, yoga, dancing, listening to music, etc.
  3. Do less of the things you don’t like: or even stop them completely if possible.  There are many things we don’t like that we can’t stop but we can definitely reduce or plan to reduce.
  4. Care for your body: stay active, move, eat well.
  5. Care for your mind and spirit: pray and meditate.  Be patient with yourself.  Do yoga, which will take care of body, mind and spirit at the same time.
These 5 steps will get you ready to your next big thing.  When you least expect you’ll start noticing all these opportunities around you.  Your engine will be ready and these sparks will make it roll.  From there just enjoy the ride again.

As for me, life gave me Sara, my wife and soul mate, a great stepson, awesome extended family, and a new home.  I stay as close to my kids as humanly possible, trying to learn there are things I'll never control.  As I read the other day "Relax, nothing is under control".


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Vinicius da Costa has almost 46 years of experience in life ;-), teaches at and helps building Synergy Yoga & Wellness into a place you feel good and welcomed to grow your yoga journey.

Friday, January 31, 2014

How did I get rid of all problems in my life

Hints: I didn't completely yet but getting there.  Yoga in its full teachings has a lot to do with my journey to be free of problems.

During my almost 46 years of life experience I realized something critical.  No matter how perfect my life was at a certain time, one thing always happened: a problem would eventually come up.  Can you relate to that?  You are cruising in peace and happiness, you are growing in your job, your kids are doing great in school, your family is healthy, you reconciled with your parents after a long time, your sister finally got a job and left your house, etc, and all of a sudden, out of nowhere you get big news: your spouse talks about divorce, someone close to you was diagnosed with some disease you haven't heard of, your company is acquired and you lose your job, you find drugs in your kid's room, one of your parents passes away or anything else in a multitude of bad things that can potentially happen to us.

Yes, I thought: "No matter how perfect my life seems to be, something negative will come up".  And that thought was exactly what triggered my journey to find a resolution.  I broke that idea down and a single word stood out from the rest.  Guess which one was it?  Negative.

That was my break through, my a-ha moment.  As I looked back in my life I was able to identify a trend.  There was a close relation between how badly the problem affected my life to how negative I perceived it to be.  If I thought that my life was going to be critically affected, my life ended up being critically affected.  When I thought I was going to be able to recover quickly, I recovered quickly.  The outcome was greatly impacted by the way I thought about it.  So the solution was easy, right?  See everything in a positive way!  Well, no.  It is not that simple.  I mean, that's the idea, however, it's easier said than done.  Some problems are really bad and can't be underestimated.  But in the end it does matter how you look into it.

I was always a very anxious person.  The fact I was constantly expecting a problem to come up made me very apprehensive, and the actual problem made me depressed.  So I decided to find a solution.  I came to yoga because of that and some other reasons, and a few yoga concepts helped me to change my view of the situation:
  1. Breathe - it's amazing how shallow and short our breathing becomes when we face problems.  That triggers a "panic" reaction in our body and mind to do something immediate.  It's there to (or try to) save us from a bear in the forest, but unfortunately in the modern world we can't just run from all our problems (as much as we wish we did many times).  Problems have this stubborn way to find us again because no matter how much we run it's in our mind.  Changing scenery does help though but that's a topic for another post.  So, just breathing properly takes away a lot of the intensity of the problem.  Trust me.  It does sound too simple and it is.  Think about it.  Breathing is the source of life.  The way we do it has major impacts in the way we live.
  2. Stay in the moment - anticipation and overthinking has a lot to do with how big the problem becomes in our mind.  Another great learning in my journey was that no matter how big the problem was there was always a solution and an end.  The anxiety and depression caused by the problem made it bigger than it actually was.  Some problems are already big enough so you don't want to make them even bigger.  Meditation and asanas helped me focus on the moment and see the problem under different lenses.
Honestly, I still have problems.  I now look into them as an opportunity.  Breathing and staying in the moment helped me see them that way.  I know bad things will happen.  I also know they will go away.  I'll look into them as a way to grow personally and will jump into them head on.  This doesn't mean I don't suffer, but make it more bearable and reduce the length of it.

I know I can't oversimplify or underestimate other people's problems.  I know there are situations that would be unbearable.  Reducing the stress of the other ones will at least keep me strong to face them.

Try this.  Find a comfortable and quiet place.  Take a long deep breathe, hold for a second and then exhale slowly.  Exhale twice as long as your inhale.  Keep going slower every time.  Close your eyes and travel to a place that is naturally peaceful for you: a beautiful and warm beach at sunrise, or the mountains.  Stay there and breathe.  If your problem tries to come back to your mind, don't wrestle it.  Allow it to fly away.  As you come back, notice how strong you are to face the problem.  You are stronger than you think.  Trust me.


Vinicius da Costa has almost 46 years of experience in life ;-), teaches at and helps building Synergy Yoga & Wellness into a place you feel good and welcomed to grow your yoga journey.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Building a Yoga Foundation

Have you ever wondered why Synergy Yoga named its beginner yoga classes Foundations?  Whether you like the name or not, or dont care one way or another, the Foundations name was by design.

The main reason that we (the owners of Synergy and those of us teachers who happened to be present for this discussion) came up with the Foundations name is that in yoga, the foundation or base of the pose, is the most important aspect of your pose besides the breath.  As I tell my students, if the foundation of your house is lopsided, and you try to build your house atop a crooked foundation, your structure will be unstable.  Likewise, if you build your yoga pose upon an unsound foundation, your pose will be unstable.  Were taught as teachers when we see a student that looks off in the pose to check their foundation first.  Often the foundation is all that needs to be corrected, and the pose then corrects itself.

Foundation can refer to the base of the pose, or to the base of the practice itself.  Its important to build a strong foundation for your yoga practice, through the basics in yogabreathing, alignment, and basic standing and seated posturesbefore you try more advanced postures.  This is not to hold you back or to make you feel bad about yourself.  Quite the opposite!  Its important to build the strength and the stamina in the body and the integrity in the base poses first, before moving on to more advanced asanas so youll feel confident when youre ready to attempt them.  Sure, you still may have fear when you go upside down, but at least youll know your shoulders and core strength are strong enough to keep you up.  More importantly, its to keep you safe!  If you attempt a headstand, for instance, when your neck, shoulder and abdominal muscles arent strong enough, you risk serious injury.

Yoga is very different than other physical practices we do.  Its not like football or tennis or other competitive sports.  And its different than our working environment where competition is the norm.   So its hard to come to our mats and turn all that off.  Were very driven by our minds and by our egos, and we want to perform well.  Were used to competing, and to winning.  (Flash of Charlie Sheen, Winning!)  In fact, were so driven in our society to win or not fail that for some people its hard to admit theyre beginners.  I have found in my 10 years of teaching that many new students would rather jump into intermediate classes and risk injury than be labeled a beginner.  So, just for a moment, go inward and notice if being a beginner in something whether its yoga or something else makes you feel somehow, less than?

Now take a deep breath in through the nose, and then exhale through the mouth and let it all go.  Let out that need to win.  Let go of that feeling of being less than.  Let go of that fear of failing.  Yoga gives us permission to let go.  Does that mean you cant work to be better in your yoga practice!  Of course not!  We celebrate your effort!  And we celebrate your successes!  You can too!  Yoga just asks us not to get attached to them.  

Every single day you come to your mat is a different day.  And really, every single moment youre on your mat is a different moment, so how can you expect it to be like the moment before?  Let each moment be a new exploration of your body, your breath and your practice.  Dont be in a hurry to get the pose.  Enjoy the small victoriesthe mastering the breath; being able to balance longer on one leg in Tree pose; the getting a little deeper in a forward bend; suddenly finding your heels on the ground in Downward Facing Dog; or your hips on the floor in Hero pose.  Maybe you notice you dont fly off the handle as much when someone provokes you?  This too is marker of progress in your yoga practice.  If you remember the journey is as important (and as much fun) as the destination youll enjoy the practice so much more!  


Barbara James is ERYT-200, RYT-500 ceritified, Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher at Synergy Yoga & Wellness.