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

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.