“Practice kindness whenever possible; it is always possible.”
Dalai Lama

How closely do you look at yourself?

How closely do you look at yourself?

Do you find yourself spending time looking in the mirror picking at your flaws? Have you criticized the way your clothing fits, the way a patch of skin hangs, or the way a spot on your face crinkles when you smile? We are truly our own worst critics.

What if we changed our attitudes? What if we focused on letting our gratitude shine through? What if we thought about how lucky we are to have clothes, grateful to have working body parts, and proud to be part of so much laughter that the remnants have etched marks into our face? What if we got out of our own way in our minds as well as with our actions?

It’s often the first steps that are the most difficult. You may wrestle with exhaustion and struggle to get out of bed in the morning, but once you hit your workout you’re exhilarated. You may be too fearful to take yourself to that movie, but once the film begins you’re too enthralled to be concerned. The fear and the angst of anticipation is what holds us back. How can we push that fear aside and move ourselves closer to the people we want to be today?

“Worrying won’t stop the bad stuff from happening…it just stops you from enjoying the good.”
—anonymous

Amy Caldwell - photo credit courtesy of Yoga One[1]

Amy Caldwell. Photo by Yoga One

Enter yoga. By connecting body to mind to breath, yoga intensifies awareness along with increasing our strength and flexibility. The benefits are endless. As a practicing yogi, I’ve seen and felt the benefits of sharper awareness, greater strength and flexibility, better posture, and overall improved health firsthand. The more than 5,000-year old philosophy encourages a practice of health, wellbeing, and attention. No, you don’t have to flexible. No, it’s not super expensive. Yes, you can practice anywhere. Yes, it offers something for everyone. Never once have I regretted a moment spent on my mat.

To see what someone with more detailed knowledge had to say, I chatted with Amy Caldwell, who along with her husband, Michael, owns Yoga One in San Diego, California. In addition to practicing, studying, and teaching yoga for two decades, Amy has collaborated on the best-selling iYoga Premium for iPad and iPhone. She also leads the annual yoga class aboard the historic USS Midway, is the head teacher for the acclaimed Yoga One Teacher Training, and has twice been featured on the cover of Yoga Journal. Here’s what she has to say about yoga and its benefits.

“One must always be prepared for riotous and endless waves of transformation.”
Elizabeth Gilbert

Amy Caldwell. Photo by Shadow Van Houten

Amy Caldwell. Photo by Shadow Van Houten

SC: How does the idea of ‘getting out of your own way’ merge with the practice of yoga?

AC: Yoga, an ongoing practice of inner listening, works to find a balance between being grounded and remaining open. These tools help us “get out of our own way” by deeply connecting to our Self (“Self” with a capital S indicates big energy and spirit, a higher self). By the time the student makes it to a yoga class, she has already taken the first pro-active step towards self-care.

SC: How do you encourage students to “take their first steps and then leap?” 

AC: Life happens during our present moments, and the practice of yoga teaches people to consciously participate in those present moments. Students are invited to notice with increasing attention what is happening here and now. The next step is to balance that awareness with relaxing into what is: meeting yourself where you are each and every day, and moving forward from there.

The intentions and tools experienced and developed in a yoga practice carry off the mat into daily life.

“Health is not a mere absence of disease. It is a dynamic expression of life,  in terms of how joyful,
loving and enthusiastic you are.”
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Amy Caldwell. Photo by Nancee Lewis

Amy Caldwell. Photo by Nancee Lewis

SC: What are some beginning, advanced, and intermediate actionable steps women can take to lessen fear and add more joy to their life?

AC: Practice self-care. Take a few minutes every day to simply “be” rather than to “do.” This can be going for a walk, a few yoga poses, five minutes of meditation, or really, doing anything at all with the intention of being fully present.

Schedule something weekly that strengthens the muscles of careful listening and being present. This can be as simple as listening to whomever is speaking to you without interruption and with full attention, a yoga or meditation class, or any art form that encourages mindfulness.

Make time for things that bring you joy (for me it can be spending quality time with my family, being in nature or taking a fun dance class). Pay attention to whatever it is that helps you connect to a deep sense of vibrant aliveness and make time to do it! We can all carve out an hour or two a week for our well-being and healthy enjoyment.

SC: What are some of your go to resources for choosing love and life over fear?

AC: Anything written or produced by Eckhart Tolle and A Year of Living Your Yoga: Daily Practices to Shape Your Life by Judith Hanson Lasater.

SC: How have you seen the skills learned in the studio translate into other parts of student’s lives? In other words, why is yoga worth a try?

 AC: The practice of yoga offers people tools to understand themselves, get in touch with the present moment, enhance their own well-being, reduce stress, and increase flexibility both mentally and physically. Yoga isn’t about how “good” you are at performing the shape of a posture; it is more about creating the best shape for your life on a daily, moment-to-moment basis.

 

Whatever your fears, whatever your struggles—give yourself a chance to reach your fullest potential. Change your mind, act with your full heart and get out of your own way. Take a risk, grab a mat and see if yoga is something for you. Let your strengths shine. We can’t wait to hear what you’ve been up to. See you soon.

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