Touching Your Toes Has Nothing to Do with It

What would you think if I told you that a paraplegic could become a sophisticated and very advanced yogi?

You might do a mental double-take: What? Don’t you have to be able to twist yourself into some insane human pretzel to be considered an advanced yogi? Don’t you at least have to be able to touch your toes?

No way, José.

The truth is, what we in the West consider to be “yoga” — the part where you move your body and stretch and strengthen and balance — is only a fraction of the full practice of yoga. One eighth, to be precise.

The Yoga Sutras, written by an author named Patanjali perhaps over 2,000 years ago, is considered to be one of yoga’s most sacred texts. In it, Patanjali lays out an eightfold path to attaining a higher state of consciousness, one in which the practitioner learns to still the craziness of his or her mind.

This path is yoga.

It’s often called the Eight Limbs of Yoga, but I like to envision it as a flower with eight petals. Below you’ll find my original interpretation (it’s really big so you can print one out for your fridge). If you like it, you’ll have to thank my teachers for passing on the lessons so very well.

patanjali's eight limbs of yoga

You’ll notice that the practice of asana, or the physical postures of the body, doesn’t even come along until the third petal! Furthermore, yoga scholar Chip Hartranft says to practice asana means to cultivate “profound physical steadiness and effortlessness in meditation.” So, really… touching your toes has very little (if anything) do with it.

I hope you enjoy looking over the eight petals of a flower I’m becoming increasingly infatuated with. Each of the individual pieces of information — each petal, each yama, each niyama — could be explored infinitely. This infographic barely scrapes the surface.

Which of the eight limbs (or petals) surprised you the most? Do any of them speak to you in some way? If you were already familiar with the eight limbs, I’d love to know your interpretations of the original Sanskrit. Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments below!

What does perfection look like?

Last week I was expecting the delivery of an important package. I knew the delivery window began at 11am, and I also knew that I had time to get to the gym and back before then.

But just in case it comes early, I thought, I’ll leave a note on my door.

The next thing I knew, I looked down at the coffee table and saw this:

please leave package with doorman

Ohforchristssake.

It happened like lightning. In the blink of an eye, I had written a note for the delivery person not once, not twice, but three times, all to get it just right. The first one was spaced wrong, the second one was a disaster, and the third one — well, I wasn’t happy with that one either, but by that point I realized how weird this all was and acquiesced.

And why — why had I wasted all that ink and paper, all that time? Was it because I thought the random stranger delivering the package would like me better if my note was polite and well-spaced, so that they might send me goodwill and treat my package with the tiniest bit of extra care? Or because I was thinking about all the people who live on my apartment building floor and all of the conclusions they might draw about me based on the color and cadence of my post-it note?

Well, yes; actually, yes.

And oh man, doesn’t that speak volumes about all the time I’ve spent in my life, all the tiny moments I’ve wasted, worrying about what other people think of me? It makes me exhausted just thinking about it. I may have made some pretty beautiful progress so far, but it’s little post-it moments like these that reveal to me how much work there is to be done.

If you could call it perfection Leza LowitzWould I have even known what the perfect version of that post-it note looked like when I saw it? Probably not. And that’s the trap of perfectionism. As long as I’m striving for some standard of perfection that does not actually exist, then my writing will never be perfect, my body will never be perfect, my relationships will never be perfect…

But if I can learn to embrace things as they are, flaws and all, and just call that perfection, then I’m side-stepping a whole lot of suffering.

So in honor of the theme of this post, I’m just going to publish it without sleeping on it or spending multiple days editing it. It might not be my best post ever, but that’s okay. It’s more than enough.

What are you going to do this week to eschew the flawed ideal of perfection? In your yoga class are you going to resist the temptation to take a pose into its more advanced variation, even if it’s accessible to you? When you notice a typo you’ve made in a social media post, will you resist the urge to edit it? Will you look at yourself in the mirror and call what you see perfection, knowing that right now it is really enough?

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2015

February is usually the most hectic month for me – more hectic than even the holiday season! Between my husband’s birthday, my birthday, AND our wedding anniversary, there’s plenty of celebration to be planned (and enjoyed), but it’s also the time of the year when perhaps the gusto with which I attack each January starts to catch up with me. Like, tell me again why I planned to start training for a half marathon while juggling a half dozen private clients, a brand new nutrition group, five public yoga classes a week, two non-profit jobs, and the mounting of a cabaret? In the dead of winter?!

No complaining here though. I feel invigorated, if a little frazzled, and I’m taking it one day at a time, one breath at a time, one break from the computer at a time — and always keeping an eye out for my MBP Daily Three.

NEDAwareness_2015_Shareable_IllusionsFebruary 22nd through the 28th is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, in which people across the country come together to “put the spotlight on the seriousness of eating disorders and to improve public understanding of their causes, triggers and treatments.”

One of my favorite offerings from NEDA so far this week is this Media Literacy Toolkit, which includes, among other awesome info, a quiz to help you determine your digital body image and examples of how to send your feedback to advertisers.

Also included in the toolkit is a pledge designed to “let people know where you stand on picture-perfect body images in the media.”

What do you think — would you take the pledge?

NEDA’s Body Positive Pledge:

  • I promise to move beyond society’s ideal body standards and embrace my own body.
  • I promise to tell myself one positive thing about my body every time I look in the mirror and appreciate that I am original and there’s only one me.
  • I pledge to respect my body and not try to fit media’s image of attractiveness.
  • I promise to keep a healthy and active lifestyle for myself and no one else.
  • I pledge not to judge people based on their body shape and size, especially if they do not fit the cultural body ideal.
  • I pledge to be proactive about negative body images and challenge unrealistic and demeaning body talk.
  • I pledge to advocate for positive body image messages—that includes not to buy from companies or support organizations that use unrealistic and unattainable body ideals to sell a product or promote a cause.
  • I pledge not to retouch my photos in order to enhance my appearance online.
  • I pledge to become more media literate and think critically about what I see, hear and read, especially on social media.
  • Finally, I pledge to love my body unconditionally.

If I’m totally honest with myself, holding to this pledge in its entirety would be a serious challenge. This is not easy stuff here, folks; we’re talking about reversing years of negative conditioning. But what a goal to work towards! Which of the above pledges will you work towards this Eating Disorder Awareness Week? Let me know in the comments below.

My Graffiti Mantra

When traveling from Brooklyn into Manhattan on the B train, there are a few minutes during which the subway cars emerge from the dark underground into the sunlight. It happens as the train crosses over the East River by way of the Manhattan Bridge, and the views can be pretty spectacular.

First you see the rooftops and water towers of Brooklyn; then the view looking north up the river, with Manhattan to the left, Brooklyn to the right, Queens and the Bronx beyond; and finally the train submerges once more, dipping into the crammed and colorful tenements of Chinatown and the Lower East Side. And this is only the view to the north – the view to the south is unbeatable:

Beautiful it may be, but whenever the train comes up for air on its journey over the East River, you can count on one thing: every single passenger will whip out their smart phone.

It is, after all, the only moment for many of us to get cellular service during our commute. And though it speaks to our collective dependency on techno gadgets, not to mention a certain jaded disposition toward the splendor of NYC, ultimately it’s kind of fun to see everyone – even the little old ladies – refreshing their Facebook feeds so they’ll have something to peruse for the remainder of their underground trip.

A few weeks ago, I happened to look up from my iPhone just as the train was coming up on the Brooklyn side, and I spied a bit of graffiti that hit me like a ton of bricks.

Jim Joe my heart is proud of its painOn the side of a building near the rooftop, clear as day, were the following words: My heart is proud of its pain. It was followed by a smiley face. I too was smiling. I spent the rest of my ride thinking about the pain we all endure just by virtue of being alive, but also of how we overcome, how we grow, and how we can build upon old patterns of suffering to create something better.

My heart is proud of its pain.

As far as I can tell, that piece of work is from an elusive street artist called Jim Joe, who’s been on the scene in NYC since 2010. Not all of his work is so straightforward, but it is typically clever, and often makes you think. Consider me a fan.

Now whenever I cross the bridge, I take a moment to find that scrawl before checking my phone. It reminds me to pause and check in with myself, to breathe a bit. It reminds me that suffering comes up for all of us, but that we have some control in how we respond to that suffering.

no mud no lotus thich nhat hanh

Can you think back on a time of real suffering and cultivate a sense of warm, loving pride that you were able to endure it? Imagine the beautiful lotus blossoms that bloom out of the mud and the muck; we are all capable of creating beauty and cultivating love, even in response to the most painful circumstances.

The Shadows of This Life

Here’s some Emerson for you this evening all about the getting out of your own way and getting out of your own head. If you’ve got nasty little gremlins in your consciousness talking trash and making a mess, let them know in no uncertain terms that it’s time for them to take a hike.

This design is totally inspired by a stunning piece of art I found on this equally stunning blog, Pony Gold. Pay PG a visit for some new inspiration.

Ralph Waldo Emerson quote standing in ones own sunshine

Happy New Year from MBP

When the sun sets on December 31st and the hours tick away into the night, nothing really happens. I mean, nothing cosmic happens.

new-years-roosterIt’s not like the planets align, or like it’s the longest night of the year. Father Time will not stop by to count your wrinkles, and Baby New Year is certainly not going to ignite a champagne bottle canon while a rooster crows in approval (if I’m wrong, I want to be at that party).

December 31st is just an arbitrary date; a natural conclusion to the Gregorian calendar.

Yet it means something to us. And since the collective consciousness accepts New Year’s Eve as a global reset button, perhaps it does hold a bit of magic.

I’ve never been one for New Year’s Resolutions, but a few years ago I wrote some things I wanted to let go of on little slips of paper and then watched them burn up and turn to ash in a cooking pot on a New York City fire escape. I liked that ritual. I still do.

Letting go is healthy. It’s important. The question of “What is no longer serving me?” is helpful to ask on December 31st and every other night of the year, for that matter.

I guess what I’m getting at here is that when it comes to this New Year’s Eve, you do you. If you feel inspired to set new goals and make sweeping changes, that’s great. But remember that there’s nothing stopping you from doing that right now, or on January 2nd, or on August 13th.

Every single moment is a new gift, a new opportunity to make choices in self-love and self-care, to let go of what is no longer serving you. Every breath is a chance to start over. You don’t need a calendar for that.

Thank you so much for being a part of the MindBodPlate community. Here’s to a New Year filled with love, joy… and consistent blog posts!

How do you feel about New Year’s Resolutions? Do you have any meaningful NYE rituals? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

Without Judgement

Do you consider yourself to be a “spiritual” person? If this quote by Swami Kripalu is to be believed, then I hope we can all someday consider ourselves to be “spiritual” people:

without judgment

Do you remember the last time you looked in the mirror and took in your own radiant awesomeness without judgement?