The following is from a recent speech I gave May 24th, 2018 at Bailey Toastmaster in Euclid, Ohio
As most of you may know that I am a yoga teacher. I have been studying, practicing and teaching yoga for almost 20 years and I am initiated into the Satyananda Yoga lineage out of Bihar India.
I don’t know how much you know about yoga, but it has been around a long time and believed to be over 5000 years old.
However, longevity of existence, does not equate with universal understanding, and there tends to be a lot of confusion surrounding the word YOGA and more than a few “Yoga Myths” to be dispelled.
Here are a few…
Many people think
- Yoga is a religion.
Because of it’s origin in the region of India it is often associated with Hinduism, Buddhism, or other Eastern religions. However, taking up yoga should not make you undermine your own current religious beliefs. Yoga can be done by anyone with or without religious preference.
- You have to be flexible to practice yoga
Yoga is really for “every BODY.” Inherent in yoga postures are many movements that can be tailored to individual needs and current levels of flexibility and health. There is no need to be able to do the splits, wrap your leg around your head, or even touch your toes to practice yoga.
Speaking of wrapping your leg around your head…. Many people believe
Yoga is all about the Poses
While the poses tend to be the face of Western Yoga, there is so much more to yoga than downward facing dog or tree pose!
Yoga is really the science of right living providing us with tools such as breathing techniques and meditation practices etc. that are intended to be integrated into one’s daily life. Tools that can “WAKE us up to ourselves and the world around us.
Mr. Toastmaster, Fellow Toastmasters and Guests tonight we are going to look at some simple and practical ways that we can use yoga to Wake us up to life and help us be the healthiest, happiest version of ourselves.
The meaning of the word “Yoga” is “union” or “oneness” It is derived from the Sanskrit root “yuj,” (pron. “yug”) meaning “to join”, or to “to yoke”.
This union or yoke can be with God, the universe, a partner, or something as simple as the present moment.
Being at one, or in union with the present moment, the NOW of our lives, is often called mindfulness or present moment awareness.
Bill Keane the Author of the comic strip “Family Circus put it perfectly when he said “Yesterday is the past, tomorrow the future, but today is a gift, that is why they call it the PRESENT. And in that Present day gift…..
There are 1,440 “present moments…” 525, 600 in a year.
That’s A LOT of opportunities to be present! A lot of gifts to recognize!!
What does it mean to be present?
It means to be aware of what you are doing when you are doing it.
When you are walking, you know you are walking.
When you are eating you know you are eating.
When you are sitting in a Toastmasters meeting listening to a speech you are doing your best to truly listen, to be present with the speaker, to be where you are, to be in this room.
So, if you mind has already wandered to what you could have done instead of coming to this meeting, what you are going to do after this meeting, or if your thoughts have gone off on a tangent of something I said…
Come back to this room, come back to my speech NOW!
Paying attention, staying present with what you are doing is not easy. There are so many distractions-phones, people, noise, etc.
But like a muscle, if trained, properly nourished, and rested, your attention, your awareness, can regularly work at an optimal level.
So how can we train our awareness? How can we wake up to the present moment, wake up to our life with yoga?
One way is to make more connections to mind, body or breath throughout the day. And you don’t even have to go to a yoga class to do this.
Let’s go through a sample scenario
Let’s start with the 1st present moment of our day. The minute you wake up.
YOUR FIRST THOUGHT
What is your first thought in the morning? Is it one that is inspiring or one of anxiety or dread?
Our first thought in that first moment can often set up our day. Why not make it a positive one? Consider replacing it with a prayer, a positive affirmation? I have 3 mantras or chants that I bring to mind and repeat the first minutes I wake up. One for healing, one for wisdom and one to over come distress in life and to live in harmony with it. So when I find unserving thoughts creeping in…I go to to these first.
YOUR FIRST MOVEMENT
Instead of jumping out of bed and rushing to get ready, take your time. Make a connection to your body and wake it up slowly. You are going to ask a lot of it today.
Become aware of your feet and ankles and begin to slowly move your ankles in a circle. Slowly and carefully. This simple ankle rotation is from the the Pawanmuktasana series called Anti Rhuematics-they release energy blockages and are helpful for alleviating stiffness of joints and muscles. By moving your ankles slowly with awareness you are making a mind body connection to the feet. Preparing the feet that are going to literally carry you through your day. If you have ever had a foot ailment such as planter fasciitis, this is a MUST DO before putting your full weight of your body on your feet.
Hey, but don’t stop there…go to the wrists and the fingers attached to them. Bring the hands out in front of you beginning to bend them up and down at the wrists. Our hands do so much for us as work on our computers, text friends, drive a car, workout etc. Due to our constant use of of the fine motor movements in our hands many of us have or on the way to having overuse injuries. These injuries can be painful and limit our movement significantly.
THE FIRST BREATH
Before getting out of bed. Bring the awareness to the breath. Notice the natural breath. The life giving breath. You will take approximately 22,000 breaths today…pay attention to the next few and as many as you recognize throughout the day. Did you know that when you breath mindfully, it comes from a higher brain center then automatic breathing? When you are AWARE, when you know that you know that you are breathing, the parasympathetic nervous system’s flight of the the fight or flight is activated.. And because of that, your heart rate is lowered, your blood pressure lowers, cortisol levels, which are associated with stress, decrease. All of these heart healing benefits associated with mindful breathing. Take 3 deep. mindful breath, get out of bed, and carry the awareness of the mind, body and breath into you day.
Throughout the day you begin to notice spaces… where you can take a few deep breaths. Where you can connect with your body moving it carefully, keeping the energy going.
Spaces where you can see things from other people’s perspective. Choosing to remain silent when you realize you don’t need to make yourself known, you don’t need to defend or deflect. In yoga, this is called ANTAR MOUNA inner silence. The ability to watch and the thoughts as they surface but not necessary act on them. The ability CHOOSE or change your thoughts.
Flash forward to the end of the day
Lying downin bed… take a moment to think back through the day…from the first present moment until now…
You realize, the more PRESENCE you bring the more PRESENTS your receive. You very may well realize you have had ONE OF THE BEST DAYS EVER!
For the last time today, come back to the breath for a simple breath meditation. Bringing your awareness to your natural breath begin to count your breath backward from 108 down to one… It is a yogic way of counting sheep! Breathing in 108, breathing out 108… Breathing in 107, breathing out 107….so forth down…well deserved sleep is on its way.
“Yoga is bringing suppleness in body, calmness in mind, kindness in heart and awareness in life”
And with that…Sweet dreams… as you look forward to waking up with yoga to the best version of yourself tomorrow!