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Goodbye 2020

By Covid-19, Goal Setting, Health, Mindfulness, Transition, Values, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

I struggled to write an End of 2020 blog this month. What could I possibly say about this past year that hasn’t already been said? 2020 was over and I was over it. Not wanting to spend any more time or energy on the year that seemed to crush us all, I was thankful for the inspiration of Jennifer Aniston.

I love Jennifer Aniston. I’ve been a fan for years and still root for her to reunite with Brad. Scrolling through social media, I came across an article about Aniston. It featured a recent photo of Jen, kissing herself in the bathroom mirror, reminding us to give ourselves a little love. The article described how amazing Jen looks at age 51, attributing her beauty and wellbeing to her strict diet and fitness routine, her early morning lemon water and meditation regimen, and her collagen protein line. I found myself going down an all too familiar spiral of self-worthlessness: I am not enough. My downward spirals typically follow a sustained period of eating Hershey’s Kisses filled with Cherry Cordial Crème washed down with wine.

Maybe I should set my alarm for 4:15am to allow time for meditation before I teach. I could buy Jen’s organic collagen peptides, add spirulina to every meal, increase my cardio output, and ensure eight hours of quality sleep every night. I’m cracking the code to Jen’s secret!

My anxious spiral crashes into an epiphany: Jen doesn’t have two teenagers to raise and get off to college, a husband with a demanding and erratic work schedule, a small business to run in a remote alpine town, and goats to feed in -14F. Plus, LA’s climate is so much more forgiving on the skin, right?

Because Jen’s life is totally different from mine, there’s no reason I should hold myself up to her standards. I removed these out-of-place expectations and enjoyed a wonderful moment of real reflection and true contentment. I don’t need to change my life around to be like Jen or anyone else. I can keep meditating in the afternoons because that works for me. I can come to work with alfalfa stuck to my leggings—I love my messy, crazy life! And I’m grateful for my health! Knowing this euphoric feeling of confident self-love will likely be mercilessly fleeting, I decided to create one intention for this new year: contentment.

I will practice being content with where I am each and every day, even while I continue to grow, learn, and evolve. I’m not going to devise a detailed plan calculating the value of skinning up Mt. Werner, eating homegrown Fenugreek microgreens, climbing 1,000 vertical feet, drinking 18 ounces of freshly juiced celery, reading a New York Times Bestseller about personal development, or weighing the right amount by summertime.

As I reflect on this year at Rakta, I can honestly say I feel content. It has been a wild ride, but we have learned and grown so much. Offering online classes had always seemed like a good idea, but it wasn’t something I was inclined to add before 2020 forced my hand. Private and small group yoga also seemed like great ideas, but I was too busy establishing a perfectly cultivated variety of daily classes to pursue privates and small groups.

We had our moments though! When the mandatory mask rule was implemented this summer, class participation tanked. When the public health code decreased class size to 10% capacity, I wasn’t sure we would survive. Any time I began to question our ability to persevere, someone would inevitably express gratitude for the studio and our yoga community. People kept telling me Rakta was making a difference in their lives, and I found myself re-energized and ready to go again the next day.

The Rakta community has been amazing. The support (showing up on your mat), the trust (hanging in there with our virtual technical difficulties), and the dedication (continuing to practice yoga with us) have been such gifts. Our core community has become so connected. Although I used to miss the energy of a full room, there is a beautiful energy of practicing with our tight knit yoga family. I am content. And I am hopeful for a vibrant, healthy 2021 for all of us.

To those I haven’t seen since March, many blessings for a wonderful 2021. You are missed and I hope our paths will cross again soon. I want to end with the finishing quote from our final Fire Hot Series class of 2020.

“May Light always surround you; Hope kindle and rebound you. May your Hurts turn to Healing; Your Heart embrace Feeling. May Wounds become Wisdom; Every Kindness a Prism. May Laughter infect you; Your Passion resurrect you. May Goodness inspire your Deepest Desires. Through all that you Reach For, May your arms Never Tire. ” ~ D. Simone

In light and love, Sandy

Revisiting Our Core Values

By Goal Setting, Mindfulness, Values, Yoga No Comments

While I was teaching a yoga class recently, I demonstrated a handstand. I was trying to illustrate how to use the wall as more of a prop than a crutch. I was in the middle of the room, and it just so happened that I floated up without effort and I balanced. That may not seem like a big deal to you, after all, I’ve been teaching yoga for years and most yoga teachers have an advanced practice. However, I’m in the minority of super tight teachers who don’t effortlessly flow through advanced postures.

Handstand has been a journey for me. I remember practicing yoga years ago in a fabulous studio in Denver that offered Forrest Yoga which is a lineage of yoga created by Ana Forrest. It’s a physical yoga with lots of arm balances and inversions. I would kick up over and over again trying to find the wall, making a loud thump with each attempt. Everyone else effortlessly held a handstand while I crumpled in child’s pose, sweaty, out of breath, and feeling defeated.

Perseverance is one Rakta’s core values. In my handstand journey, I’ve spent countless hours practicing L wall dog, kicking into handstand, and working on various prep postures for handstand. I have found that perseverance and not overthinking are a fabulous combination for success. It amazes me that things can come together when you least expect it. Perseverance means working through injuries and staying committed even when you don’t want to continue a process. It’s gritty, not glamorous. Perseverance is what makes the Procter and Gamble Thank You Mom campaign so touching.

Precision is just as important as perseverance. In my handstand journey, I practiced between two walls at home. I learned from the feedback of great teachers and watched videos on technique. I took workshops on inversions. I feel fortunate that Rakta’s team of teachers is so dedicated to precision that they actively seek out continuing education, workshops, and trainings and they maintain home practices as well as the discipline of writing out class plans, learning from other teachers, and thinking about logical, safe, and effective sequencing. Our instructors embody precision in their teaching and in their philosophy of yoga.

Passion is what drives both precision and perseverance. Passion is the fire in your belly, and it helps you persevere during challenging times. I feel fortunate to be able to do something I’m passionate about–supporting people in their quest for health. These three pillars of Passion, Precision, and Perseverance create the foundation of Rakta Hot Yoga. Even a skill like handstand takes all three components: the unwavering desire to do handstand; the discipline to learn the foundational basics and technique; and the commitment to practice.

As we move into spring, a few new offerings will be added to the schedule. We’ll have wall yoga with a special wall/inversion class to create a time for people to practice different inversions and help them on their journey. We’ll continue to offer impromptu classes combining sculpt and flow with cardio boxing or cardio dance. Boxing and dance are two different activities I’ve loved and practiced for years, and I believe in the physical and cognitive benefits of both as we move the body in different planes of movement.

In your own life, what is your passion? How do you support it with precision? And how do you persevere?

In light and love,

Sandy

Be the goat

By Goal Setting, Health, Mindfulness, Seasons, Values, Yoga No Comments

Recently while teaching class, I realized I wasn’t aware of any yoga posture named after a goat. How could this be? We have a cobra and scorpion, cat and dog, camel and cow, pigeon and eagle, butterfly and peacock pose. How could such a fun, spirited animal like a goat be omitted. What was Buddha thinking?!

No goat asana? No problem! I started analyzing postures and concluded the closest semblance of goat is a variation of horse stance (vatayanasana). In horse pose, grasp your ankles with your hands and align your back so it’s parallel to the earth. It’s the perfect platform for a goat to jump on, and off, and on again.

So, maybe we don’t need an actual goat pose after all. But, I believe we have a lot we can learn from these quirky little creatures. And if we channeled just one or two of their many great qualities into our lives, what would that look like?

Goats are curious. They explore every single thing there is to explore. They live in the present moment. They don’t fret over their numerous epic fails—even though they’re broadcast all over social media. They think outside the box to unlock every gate. They persevere.

Goats rely on their herd for protection and companionship. If there’s noticeable irritation between herd members, they still band together. They settle disagreements immediately: let’s butt heads and move on. They don’t hold grudges.

Goats are open and excited to greet people they don’t know. They embrace a fiber rich diet (a healthy goat is never constipated) and chew their food thoroughly, twice. They cherish a good nap.

As we step into a new decade, where can we find more playfulness in our lives? Can we take a leap even though we may fall flat? Can we greet the day with more curiosity? Can we let go of an old grudge? Can we live in the now? Can we persevere ridiculously?

Moving into 2020, my hope for our Rakta yoga community is that we support each other’s different needs. Let’s look out for our herd. Let’s be aware of those around us. Make space for someone to put down his mat. Whisper when the woman beside you is peacefully meditating. Extend kindness and consideration on and off your mat as you navigate through the studio, into traffic, or down a shopping aisle.

Be kind with your words to yourself and others. Strive to improve one thing about yourself every day. Enjoy each day for exactly what it is. Try not to wish away the present for the future or dwell in the past. As we approach December’s winter solstice, find time to be quiet and still. Find the beauty and magic in this season. Take care of those around you.

In light and love,

Sandy

Pushing Through Fear

By Goal Setting, Health, Yoga No Comments
Becky Kuhl
Becky Kuhl: strong and perfectly imperfect.

I love fitness. And now, I can officially call myself a fitness professional. I decided to change my career in my 40s which was super scary, but that’s not what I want to focus on right now. I eat, breathe, and dream about different exercises, programs, and playlists. I wake up in the morning and put on workout clothes. I’m 100% passionate about teaching Yoga Sculpt and training people one-on-one. What I do is important to me, and helping people through whatever they may be going through is where I want to be in life.

For continuing education credits for my personal training certificate, I decided (with encouragement from a good friend) to take the Level 1 CrossFit Trainer course. I’ve wanted to do it for a while, but it’s expensive and quite honestly I was nervous and scared. I saved my pennies and mustered up the courage to do it.

I showed up the first day nervous but ready to go. The coaches were absolutely amazing and inspirational. We broke out into small groups to practice movements and fine tune them. Very quickly I realized that my ability to perform certain movements to perfection was extremely challenging, if not almost impossible. Now what I’m about to say is not an excuse, but rather a reality. I have mobility issues in my shoulders and thoracic spine. I also have a pronounced lumbar curve. I even have a partial knee replacement, but that wasn’t causing my issues in these particular movements.

I went through the day trying my best to achieve perfection, but to no avail. It just wasn’t happening. That evening I went back to my parents’ house where I was staying and bawled. How can I coach and instruct others to do movements that I can’t achieve to perfection? My confidence was shattered, and what I eat, breathe, and dream (my passion) was being challenged.

After I got all my tears out, I was able to think more sensibly. First I thought about body mechanics, and how achieving the perfect position in a few of the movements was not ideal for me. I decided that those positions are good goals to work toward by working on my mobility issues, but knowing in the end, although I may improve, it may not be the perfect standard. Then I thought about what is safe. My lower back was aching that evening, so I knew that something was out of whack. I realized that forcing myself into a few different positions was not necessarily good for my body. I believe that body mechanics and technique are very important for injury prevention, but that may look a little different for different people and different bodies.

My last thought was: how great is it that I can have a different perspective? Ultimately, it will make me a better coach and instructor because I understand that everyone has different issues to work on and not everyone has the perfect athletic body, including myself! So, by the second day I had my confidence back along with a new perspective. Sometimes it takes a few tears to be able to overcome difficulty.

My point of sharing this is to hopefully build up your confidence. When you walk into yoga class, whatever modality, remember that you’re on your own journey. It doesn’t matter what the yogi next to you is doing or looks like. What matters is that you showed up because you want to improve, whether physically or spiritually. You have strengths and weaknesses. So does that person next to you who looks absolutely perfect. So stop judging yourself. And definitely stop comparing yourself. It’s been said that, “The enemy of contentment is comparison.” Give yourself some grace and high five the yogi next to you because everyone has their stuff that they may be hiding. Physically and emotionally. Even in that person who looks perfect. Encourage each other, love extremely, and have confidence that you’re right where you’re suppose to be.

Although my weekend started off rough, I was able to turn it around and become more empowered. I’m so happy I pushed past my fear. You never know what you may miss if fear holds you back.

Stay strong.

Love, Becky

Refining my List

By Goal Setting, Health, Mindfulness, Values, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

I just joined a book club and went to my first meeting. We discussed Brene Brown’s latest book Dare to Lead. I’m a huge fan of Brene’s work and Dare to Lead was especially timely for me.

One of the exercises from the book is to examine our values. Our group passed around a list of about 100 values. From the list, we each picked our top ten values and then the top two we thought defined us. This exercise was extremely challenging—all the values listed seemed to apply to me (trust, learning, achievement, financial security, faith, family, personal satisfaction). It was hard to find my top ten, then even harder to pick my top two.

We went around the group and discussed our selections. It didn’t take long before we noticed that I didn’t choose health as a value. How could I overlook health? I’ve dedicated more than 20 years of my life to studying health and working in the industry in various capacities.

I was baffled and honestly somewhat embarrassed.

Since the book club meeting, I’ve been asking myself questions:

  • What is health to me?
  • Is it absence of disease?
  • Is it a number on a scale?
  • Is it a set of laboratory values or how energized I’m feeling?

It’s easy to take health for granted until we get injured or sick. Our own community has experienced so many tragedies this year from cancer and suicide, infection and sepsis, to accidents and overdoses. The Winter Solstice is usually a powerful time for me for introspection and reflection. On the longest night of the year, I was able to reflect on what health means to me and where I can make changes to better support my health.

As we close the month of December and move into 2019, we can journal and contemplate shifts we would like to make in our lives. We can take inventory on exercise, personal and professional relationships, sleep, diet and nutrition, outlook on life, as well as habits, needs, and addictions. As a society, mental health and wellness are often overlooked, but chronic pain, anxiety, and depression can lead to substance abuse and suicidal ideation and they can decrease our immune systems, too. If you value adventure, curiosity, and learning but your partner values financial security, order, and routine, you can see how conflict can occur and how a survey might be an opportunity to create deeper connection. In the workplace, understanding how your core values differ from your co-workers’ may help explain sources of conflict and instill greater respect.

An honest survey of our values is such a beneficial exercise and a great way to kick off the new year. There are lots of online surveys available to take and download. Or dare to read Dare to Lead.

What does 2019 look like for your health?

In light and love,

Sandy

It’s 2018: Are you ready to goal?

By Energy, Goal Setting, Values, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

At the beginning of most yoga classes, we set intentions. Intentions bring awareness to qualities we hope to cultivate on and off the mat. Sometimes intentions are hard to choose and sometimes it feels like intentions choose us. Either way, they’re vehicles for yoga to permeate our everyday lives and help us become the kind of people we want to be.

How often during the day, though, do we reflect back on the intention we set at 6am? Do we catch ourselves being patient, non-judgmental, or receptive—or needing to be? Do we purposefully or indifferently set the same intention every day? What do we do with our intentions and how do we know they matter?

If you set a New Year’s resolution for 2018, you’ve either kept it so far or snubbed it. Maybe you didn’t set one because you typically fail, forget about it, or can’t choose one. Statistically, 25% of people abandon their New Year’s resolution after a week, 60% abandon it within six months, and the average person makes the same ill-fated resolution 10 times.

If intentions are more about cultivating virtues and resolutions seem bound to fizzle, how then do we make change? Research tells us that people who regularly write goals down are 42% more likely to achieve them. Our chances for success increase when we articulate our goals to someone we trust. A study about goal setting at Harvard University offers compelling data about why we should write goals down.

Students were asked if they had set clear, written goals for their futures and if they had made specific plans to convert their goals into realities. The baseline: 3% of students had written goals and plans to accomplish them; 13% had goals in their minds but hadn’t written them down; and 84% had no goals at all. Ten years later, the students were interviewed again. The results? The 13% of students who had goals but didn’t write them down earned twice the income of the 84% who had no goals. The 3% who had written goals were earning an average of 10 times as much as the 97% of the class combined.

The left side of the brain is the literal, analytical, sequential, precise, logical side. The right side of the brain is the figurative, creative, irregular, general, imaginative side. If we just think about what we what to achieve or the kind of person we want to become, we’re only using the right side of the brain. But if we think about our dream and write it down, we’re enacting the power of the left brain as well. Writing our goals down creates a greater level of clarity around them while the left brain helps us become aware of opportunities related to achieving them. If we only think about goals using the right brain, we may not see the logical steps or real-life strategies that lay right in front of us.

Writing goals down helps us sort through our thoughts, think big, and identify what we actually want. Written goals create focus and explicit direction. They’re also useful reminders when we get busy or distracted. While it may be true that energy flows where our focus goes, the act of writing goals down allows us to structure time and allocate resources. When we specify the exact, necessary steps to achieve our goals, it’s easier to recognize when we’re too ambitious or unrealistic. To build the resilience needed for eventual execution, celebrating the milestones we reach is equally important as granting self-compassion and a blank slate when we falter.

Goal setting is deceptively simple. It’s a process that requires discipline. We have to slow down, examine our values, and whittle away at the trivial. We have to make decisions about what we truly want. Goal setting isn’t an end in and of itself; it’s a starting point to live life with intention and direction.