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Yoga Is a Journey, Not a Destination

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Although most people come to the practice of yoga with some sort of goal, it usually becomes clear that there is so much more to the practice than any one particular goal can encompass. But it can still be easy to fall into a pattern of striving to achieve a certain (fill in the blank here) with our practice, especially when it comes to the yoga postures, or asanas.

You may have seen someone doing a pose that looked, to you, perfect. Or maybe you admired a photo or video of a yoga practitioner demonstrating a “perfect” pose. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the desire to achieve that which others have achieved before you. Unfortunately, when your mind is preoccupied with such a goal, your yoga practice will suffer.

Instead of striving to attain a perfect pose, let your practice be one of observation and acceptance of your current state. By moving your perspective from a hypothetical future situation—you striking the perfect pose—to your current, real situation, you will begin to notice the perfection of your imperfection. Notice your attachments and aversions, and try to let those dissolve as you fully embrace where you are right here, right now.

You will begin to see that this practice is not about getting anywhere or checking anything off your list. It’s about coming back to yourself in a raw, real, and nonjudgmental way. Let go of your preconceived notions about where this practice is taking you. They will only distract you from where you are really going. Yoga is a journey, with every step along the way meant to be the destination.

An Ocean Accepts All Rivers by Lisa Ahrens

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“Unified Consciousness results when the gunas return back inward because the Ascendant’s purpose is fulfilled, or when the Absolute Self is permanently stabilized in the Divine Power of Pure Consciousness.”   The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Sutra IV.34

Of all the definitions of yoga that I have come across, the one that resonates with me the most is: union of individual consciousness with universal consciousness. From this perspective, connection to something higher than oneself is the ultimate, attainable goal.

I once heard it said, “An ocean accepts all rivers.” Imagine how interconnected we are: to each other biologically, to the Earth chemically, and to the universe atomically. In essence, we are constantly exchanging energy with all of creation, seen and unseen. In fact, just as the Earth’s energy field travels at the speed of light, 186,000 miles per second, so, too, does our human energy field, connecting us to the entire universe–synchronistically.

One subtle, effective way to physically experience union of individual consciousness with universal consciousness is by walking barefoot on the grass, at the beach, etc., in the morning or evening.  Research has shown that along with directly connecting us to the roots of Mother Earth, this experience also stimulates the absorption of life energy from the sun and neutralizes free radicals and balances cortisol rhythms. Because we are designed to co-exist within the universe, when we are in harmony with nature, we are naturally practicing yoga.

Yogi of the Month—Amy Judy

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I was born in upstate New York and moved to Florida with my parents at the age of nine. I remember telling people that I would never move back. My fondest childhood memories are from that time in New York and, while I love where I live, there are pieces of me that miss “home” every day. Regrettably, my skin has become far too thin to tolerate temperatures below 50 for any length of time, so here I will stay. Also, I love the ocean and Florida seems to have an abundance of it—win!

I first started practicing yoga in my mind and with DVDs many years ago. I was in the throes of an eating disorder and knew yoga could help, so I practiced. At the time, practice meant groaning through 10 minutes of a 20-minute sequence, and then quitting. As you can imagine, I was not benefitting greatly from this. I began practicing in earnest just before Earth Day in 2013. My eating disorder was as controlled as it will ever be. I was growing tired of my current fitness routine, which consisted of miles upon miles of running followed by miles of biking. Though it had gotten me through my battle with bulimia, the physical exertion was not sustainable. I turned to yoga, and I have not turned back.

I started in the gentle and level 1 classes to get my form, function, and terminology down. The instructors at TYS do an amazing job in all of these areas. When I got a bit more comfortable, I progressed into more advanced offerings. Now you can see me in any mixed, flow, or level 2 class that my schedule allows. Confession: Some of my favorite classes have been the Yin classes. They are delicious!

Before yoga, I had quite a bit of physical discomfort. My hips and lower back were suffering from the intensity of my other exercise modalities. Yoga has helped to greatly alleviate these unpleasant sensations. I feel longer, stronger, and much more flexible. We all know that yoga is replete with physical benefits, but the emotional benefits are staggering. I have found myself more engaged, receptive, adaptable, and kind. I have even found the Magical Pause Button. No idea what I am talking about? It’s that thing you can push when something (a situation, a request, a confrontation, etc.) is hurtling at you and you feel the need to react immediately. I found the ability to pause, to analyze, and to decide an appropriate course of action. Honestly, it doesn’t work every time, but it has worked many times, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Outside of The Yoga Sanctuary I spend my time as many of you do. I work to pay my bills. I raise a family. I worry about working, and I worry about my family. It is incredibly difficult for me to loosen the reins on responsibility. I am a work in progress, always. Along for that wild ride are my husband Patrick and our two boys Jordan and Joshua. Some of you have met them. As a family we have seen some very trying times, but I wouldn’t change a thing. They are my world, my sanctuary.

One of my favorite quotes is from Hemingway: “The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed.” I find great beauty in truth. It is difficult to live honestly, but it is the only way to truly live.

The Year in Review

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This time of year is filled with so much hustle and bustle that it’s easy to get caught up in the commotion as we move from one event to another. Before we know it, the year is over, and we are thrust into the New Year, a time when we look forward to the year ahead and consider all that we want to accomplish. Unfortunately, many New Year’s resolutions fail because we have not taken the time to consider how far we have already come.

This year, why not take some time to review your past year? What were your major (and minor) accomplishments this year? What strengths did you develop? What brought you the most joy? And, conversely, what hardships did you endure (and how did you grow as a result)?

Try to not get distracted by thoughts of the year to come and all you want to achieve. Let this be a time exclusively for self-reflection. Where are you now compared to where you were a year ago? Although you may feel as though the year has gone by too quickly, and that there are still so many things left unaccomplished, you will find that there are many ways in which you have grown over the past year. Focus on those.

By taking stock of your year in review, you will gain a more accurate understanding of your growth patterns so that you can move into the next year with a strong affirmation about your accomplishments rather than an apprehension about all the things you haven’t yet achieved. It’s a healthy way to view your life—full of abundance rather than wanting for more.