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Values

Brene Brown, Netflix, and my Rabbit Hole

By Brene Brown, Values, Vulnerability, Wellness No Comments

As many of you know, I’m a huge BBF: Brene Brown Fan. I love her books, Ted Talks, and most recently her Netflix documentary, Brené Brown: the Call to Courage. She’s a born storyteller and as she humorously shares stories, you almost don’t realize how much learning, contemplation, and reflection you’re experiencing. In her documentary, she talks about what it means to dare greatly, or to be vulnerable.

Because I believe the world would be a better place if everyone watched Brene’s videos and read her books, I enthusiastically encouraged students to watch her as I began teaching class the other day. I even used the quote that inspired the title of her book Daring Greatly. While I could easily conjure up so many past examples of being vulnerable in my life, it seems ironic that I didn’t see my very next experience in vulnerability and shame as I was heading right into it.

Over spring break, I changed up my flow and it had some tricky transitions. I had already taught it successfully a few times, but this time I ad-libbed some new poses and I got lost. Getting lost in teaching happens—you lose your train of thought, miss a posture, confuse the left with the right, no big deal. But I was really lost, completely disoriented, and without traction. I was so far down the rabbit hole that I couldn’t get out. I was distracted by stories and thoughts in my head: “I’m not good enough to teach” and “I don’t belong here.” After class, a friend who gives very honest feedback told me the class wasn’t as bad as I thought it was, but I was a complete mess. I know it’s just a yoga class, but I still felt inadequate, embarrassed, and ashamed.

Any kind of teaching is generally considered a vulnerable experience. You put yourself out there—your knowledge, ability, values, and emotions. By nature, I’m an introvert. I’m fairly shy. Big parties overwhelm me. When I’m not teaching, I spend a lot of time alone.

Even though teaching yoga isn’t rocket science, time and care go into creating a playlist, theming a class, coming up with a sequence. You don’t really know until you’re in the middle of class if things will come together as you planned or fall apart. I was watching myself fail and it was a perfect reminder of Brene Brown’s lessons. I started my class with her wise words and stumbled into a rabbit hole. I was living her Netflix documentary in my 60-minute flow.

As we approach the two-year anniversary of Rakta Hot Yoga, I think back on all the times I felt vulnerable as I ventured through the process of starting a business in a small town. I’m so glad I chose to dare greatly. I’m so thankful to the Rakta community for all the love and support we have for each other. Brene Brown emphasizes the value of embracing the ordinary versus always chasing the extraordinary. After traumatic events, she says, it’s the small and ordinary things we don’t have anymore that we miss the most—the unremarkable moments that hide between the momentous occasions.

I feel privileged to be able to spend ordinary days with this community coming together on our mats. I do love the extraordinary gatherings (goat yoga, guest teachers, donation classes), but it’s the everyday classes and connecting with people that I love the most.

As we enter into a new year, I vow to continue to dare greatly. I vow to keep taking chances and trying new things. I vow to keep being vulnerable, and I invite you to do the same. Let’s not miss the ordinary for chasing the extraordinary. Let’s allow for vulnerability on our mats, through our flows, and in our lives.

In light and love,

Sandy

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

Getting Old, Getting Connected

By Values, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

This week, I turned 49. Do I feel old? No. I feel like I’ve been blessed with one heck of a fun adventure I get to call life, a wild and unscripted road trip I couldn’t have planned if I tried.

As I see so much suffering, uncertainty, and unease around me, I often ask myself: why do I feel blessed when others seem to struggle? With physical health, emotional or spiritual health, or mental health? When I turned 40, I remember thinking how old 40 seemed. Entering my final year of my fourth decade, I truly believe these 10 years are ones of growth and maturation. I finally found my stride and figured out who I am. I followed dreams and made bold moves (like move to Steamboat and open a yoga and wellness studio).

Our lives and the people in them are to be celebrated everyday. I don’t view my daily responsibilities of cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, mucking stalls, and managing behind the scenes tasks at Rakta as chores. Maybe with the exception of after school pick-up at the middle school (truthfully, it gives me angina), they’re parts of my life that fulfill me.

Life is short. I’m almost half a century old already! And with everything I’ve experienced and lived through, all the old clichés make more sense, become obvious. Live every day like it could be your last takes on a different meaning when you’re suddenly faced with an ailing parent, the death of a friend or pet, or the reality of cancer as it spreads through your community. Over this past decade, I’ve learned to be truly grateful for parents, family, good friends to confide in, great food and wine, the joy of cooking, the serenity of a walk with my sweet dog, and the sound of my goats greeting me. All the little things that happen before and after the big events—that’s where the beauty is.

My vision for this year is to create more real and deep connections with others and to tune in to my own innate wisdom about what I need in my body and life at this moment. The yoga studio is a magical space where we can connect with others through intention and breath but also have a truly unique and individual experience. In yoga, being united and together doesn’t diminish the power of individuality. It’s taken me 18 years of yoga practice to own my body’s strengths, injuries, and weaknesses. I’m no longer defined by how long it takes me to skin to the gondola or run a 10K, or how open my hips are in Pigeon or Lizard Lunge Twist. I choose to define myself by how I treat all living creatures on this earth. That’s what it’s about.

Moving into fall and winter—seasons that are darker and colder, I recognize that many people can feel isolated or lonely, disinterested or disconnected. In our social media-driven society, it’s easy to get lost in virtual misinterpretations and unhealthy comparisons to unrealistic ideals or imagined realities.

But Rakta is real, and open, and welcoming! We’re here to provide connections through asana, community, health, and new experiences. There are so many things about yoga that I love, and there are so many benefits to regular practice. Look for Rakta’s next challenge, some social sweats, and happy hours. We’ll coordinate some social ski and skate-ski days in addition to our existing book clubs, teacher trainings, and wellness lectures.

We’re all better when we’re together, feeling connected to ourselves and each other.

In light and love,

Sandy

Motivation

By Death, Mindfulness, Values, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

Recently I’ve been thinking about the underlying motivation in different areas of my life. As much I hate to admit it, my interest in fitness first started by reading Cosmopolitan and Glamour magazine articles in high school and college. Thankfully, I evolved beyond that and found running and hiking to be great stress relievers for all of the pressures of Physician Assistant school. If I saw a hill, I couldn’t wait to run up it and clear my mind. Rollerblading, another trend of the times, also gave me a feeling of freedom.

With so much running and no time allocated for stretching, I found yoga as a way to relieve my back pain. My first yoga classes were with a wonderful man at Bally’s Total Fitness in Denver. His yoga was a fusion of Tai Chi and gentle yoga, and I felt so much better on a physical and emotional level. Eventually, I found a yoga studio in Cherry Creek and it became my yoga home. I entered what I like to refer to as my “posture collecting phase.” I was obsessed with inversions, arm balances, and backbends to the point that I ultimately sustained injuries (which have changed the way I now practice yoga). When my kids were babies, then toddlers, yoga was my anchor as I navigated my work-mom balance. I didn’t yet know how to apply yoga off my mat, so I needed classes to create space in my mind.

When I turned 40, things changed. My kids were in school, we sold our business, and I was questioning lots of areas of my life. In addition to doing yoga, I started going to a Lagree Pilates studio and kickboxing gym. I was addicted. Both places provided great physical release, and I became more fit than I ever imagined I would. As I started my journey into teaching yoga, pilates, kickboxing, and personal training, my workouts were an escape for me. With exercise, I was shutting out issues in my marriage, frustrations around parenting, and nagging questions about my career satisfaction and my overall identity. On the outside I looked healthy, but psychologically I was obsessed and borderline panicked by the threat of missing a workout.

As I enter the last bit of my 40s, nutrition, meditation, spending time with my kids, and running a business keep me busy. I still have time to be active, but it’s a healthier mix. I no longer feel the need to do certain things just because I can or should.

The passing of Herald Stout last week has been on my mind. He was a gifted yogi, yoga teacher, and father. I keep asking myself why—he lived a healthy lifestyle and yet was taken way too soon. It’s a reminder that nothing in this world is certain. Harold’s passing inspires me to hone in on my motivation. What are my real priorities and passions? A speaker at the Feel Good Summit I attended in June suggested ditching the Bucket List for a F**k it List—for all those things we know we don’t want to do even though somehow we feel like we should. It’s a list of things we can let go of. This can help when we consider fitness. Do we exercise and do yoga to support our health, to exert control over some aspect of our life, to escape, or to connect with what truly serves us?

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.

Asteya: Character Before Physicality

By Health, Values, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

Most of us who come to Rakta seek satisfaction from the physical aspects of yoga—the strength, flexibility, workout, and sweat. A lot of us are good at applying the spiritual or psychological teachings we learn in class to our personal lives. We often hear the phrase “on and off your mat,” which affirms that yoga is a tool for how we choose to live our lives.

Unless we’re in a teacher training, we generally don’t have time to talk about the yamas and niyamas. The yamas (the don’ts) and niyamas (the dos) are yoga’s ethical guidelines, a map to navigate our individual journeys. The spiritual teachings of yoga go much deeper than the physical practice does. But how much do we know about and focus on these teachings compared to the physical practice? And how aware are we of their daily application to our lifestyles, actions, habits, and relationships?

The five yamas are self-regulating behaviors that govern our interactions with other people and society. They include Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (non-excess), and Aparigraha (non-possessiveness, non-greed).

As we move into the season of giving from the intense and time-crunched month of gratitude (with Thanksgiving and the Self-Care Challenge), Asteya has been at the forefront of my mind. Stealing, when it’s less tangible than purposefully taking material items that don’t belong to us, can creep into our subconscious acts and everyday lives. One reason we constantly remind ourselves to live in the present moment is because when we aren’t fully present, we can fall prey to stealing other people’s time, energy, emotions, and resources.

When we don’t live in the present moment and experience life as it is (whether it’s good or bad), we’re stealing from ourselves and possibly others. To cultivate Asteya, we can act from a place of abundance (there’s enough to go around) instead of scarcity (I’m not good enough). When we remind ourselves that we have all we need, we’re less likely to look to other people, items, and activities to make us happy. Fulfillment comes from within.

So how do we practice Asteya in your everyday lives? We follow the Golden Rule, eliminate distractions, and avoid multitasking. Some other simple ways to practice non-stealing include:

  • Say no. If you don’t have the time or energy for a project, don’t commit to it.
  • Be resourceful. Think before you ask for help. Take personal responsibility to make things happen.
  • Be clear and concise. Make every word matter. Make it easy for people to understand and help you. Don’t steal other people’s time by not being precise, direct, or straightforward.
  • Be on time. Being late takes time, energy, and emotions away from others. Often times, it creates more work or chaos for others.
  • Choose silence. Speak only when your words are more important or powerful than silence.
  • Take only what you need. Let go of what you don’t need to make room for what you do need. Don’t steal from others by taking more than necessary.

For most of us, our goals in yoga have similarities, but truly they’re unique to each of us. Some of us come to class for the benefits to the physical body, some come to find peace or re-alignment, and some come for the community. But behind the asanas are higher teachings. Sometimes we simply feel and understand them, sometimes we can articulate and teach them, and sometimes we struggle just to identify them. The ultimate goals of Asteya are not to rob ourselves of life is it is and to benefit our community at large. Being aware of what we give and take can help us become better versions of who we are, inspire others to do the same, and create harmony through every interaction.

 

Life and Death: From the Heart With Tears

By Death, Health, Values, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

After a long, painful decline in his health, my uncle died today. He suffered with dignity, but he suffered for so many years and this year was by far his worst. I was able to say goodbye to him yesterday, and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to have seen him one last time.

My uncle had a gift of sincerely caring—asking what was new, genuinely wondering what was going on in your life. Sitting and listening, nothing was more important to him at that moment than your every word. It seems such a rarity in our world today to have someone’s completely undivided attention.

Several thoughts have stayed with me over the past 24 hours…. I don’t know how to say goodbye to a loved one who is dying. I wasn’t sure if my uncle knew he was living out his last moments, and it felt wrong to say goodbye if he didn’t know. I was at a loss for words. I tend to see things clinically, focusing on the medical aspects, but this time was different: it was my family and I felt clueless. As I left, my uncle’s eyes opened and met mine, and he gave me a little smile. His smile told me I was important to him, and I think he understood.

Some things I have noticed on the day a loved one dies…. The sunset is more brilliant and personal, as if my uncle is communicating his peace. My spirituality feels more vibrant and personal. I feel God’s hand in my environment and life. I see the contrast of health, laughter, physical activity, playfulness, and peace versus darkness, pain, suffering, and loss of dignity.

Driving back from Denver I heard Tim McGraw’s song “Live Like You Were Dying.”

Someday I hope you get the chance

To live like you were dying…

Like tomorrow was a gift and you’ve got eternity

To think about what you would do with it…

In yoga, we practice staying present in our lives. On the day a loved one dies, this practice truly resonates.

Enjoy these last few weeks of summer. Do something a little bit outside your box. Be playful. Look at the sunset a few minutes longer. Call a relative or a friend and tell them how much they mean to you. Share a laugh. Most of all, give your whole attention to the person right in front of you. That’s where there’s meaning.

In light and love,

Sandy

In memory of John  ::  December 8, 1935 ~ July 30, 2017

 

Running From a Bull: Your Values and the 5 Whys

By Health, Values, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

I just got back from my annual summer trip to Creede, Colorado where I spent time on a working cattle ranch with my family and friends. As much as I love sitting by the ocean, I love sitting in a rocking chair on a back porch watching my momma and baby cow friends even more. Listening to their different moos, I try to figure out the herd’s social dynamics. Truth is, I have goats because my husband won’t let me have cows.

As I sat on the porch poised to write a blog on the benefits of Infrared heat, my mind kept returning to thoughts of motivation. What motivates me? What really makes me happy? Putting work and yoga aside, I took a relaxing run to mull over the ideas in my head. My run led me down a road through part of the cow herd. The rule of the ranch is to share space and pass by on bike, foot, or vehicle as unobtrusively as possible to keep everyone safe. I worked my way passed the cows, taking special care not to scare a really cute baby and her momma. The momma stepped aside and an extraordinarily large (in every way!) bull was looking right at me. He was not excited to have me in his pasture—I may have interrupted the beginning of a romantic interlude. I found myself wishing for a rodeo clown, cowboy, or pamphlet to tell me what do in a close encounter with an angry bull. I walked away slowly, staying close to the barbed wire fence. When I was far enough away that I thought the bull wouldn’t charge, I sprinted.

Our values come from our identity—who we think we are. We find our values by answering questions: What’s important to me? What really matters in life? To be happy, we must live in accordance with our values, otherwise our body, mind, and spirit fight against us. When we live in alignment with our values, we feel good and can realize our full potential. When we don’t live in alignment with our values, the opposite happens and we don’t feel good on any level.

Hopefully, the goals we set in life correspond to our values. Goals that don’t reflect our values are really challenging to achieve. If you value health and fitness, then setting goals around nutrition and exercise makes sense. A great way to understand your underlying motivation is to ask the 5 Whys.

I was first introduced to the 5 Whys in my master nutrition coaching class. You can apply them to everything from major life milestones to daily habits and rituals. Think of something you want to accomplish, ask why, and then follow up with four more whys every time you answer a question. For example, a client goal I hear a lot is, “I want to lose five pounds before my high school reunion.”

Why? “I want to look good in front of my old friends.”

Why is that important? “To show them that my life has gotten better since high school and to look like I could still be in high school.”

Why does that matter? “In high school, I didn’t feel confident.”

Why didn’t you feel confident? “Because I always felt like I wasn’t smart enough, good looking enough, athletic enough, or funny enough.”

Why does losing five pounds make you feel like a better person? “Because I’ll feel like I’m getting what I want out of life.”

What started as a seemingly simple quest to lose a little weight turned into a lofty mission of “getting what I want out of life.” A simple and fascinating series of links can provide great insight into what lies inside us.

While I was in Creed—detached from cell service, schedules, and my regular responsibilities and expectations of self, I applied the 5 Whys to my own yoga practice. My answers were surprising, unexpected, and revealing (potential material for a future blog!). The 5 Whys can initiate an intriguing journey into our deeper motivation and value system. Try applying this line of questioning to something in your life, maybe a challenge or a roadblock, and just see where it takes you. You may encounter a sweet baby cow and her momma, and you may come face to face with an ornery bull!

In light and love,

Sandy