“Knowing others is intelligence;
knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength;
mastering yourself is true power.”
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
Fear is the antithesis of personal power. We experience fear for so many reasons, often fear of the unknown, equally often, I believe, as fear of re-experiencing past pain. Our past experiences so often dictate how we live our future. This can be a great tool for our own protection of course – if we touch a hot stove as a child we won’t ever do it again! However, it can also be a block to how we conduct ourselves authentically.
When I was a teen, a couple of guys once said that my friend was the one with the personality and that I was the one with the looks. Highly hurtful to both of us. I think, especially in our teen years, we often place a higher vale on looks, she likely felt a great deal of pain from this and completely overlooked that I also did. And for my part, I didn’t feel comfortable expressing my own pain from that comment – because I got a compliment (so did she, but again, higher value on looks). The truth is, though, that comment stayed with me and still comes up from time to time in my mind as one of the most hurtful and damaging comments I ever experienced, even now at 51. I’ve been through a lot in my years but for some reason that stands out.
When that guy made that comment he essentially told me that my personality sucked and that all I was worth was my body, my looks. I was a shy kid and a bit on the awkward side, and called weird more than once. So I was already sensitive to this and trying my best to fit in. I tried to fit in through alcohol and drugs mostly, so this simple comment solidified my choices, I needed booze to fit in, to come out of the shell.
I gave my power away.
Now all these years later, and 19 years sober, I have learned and grown so much. I’ve finally come into a place where I feel authentic and have allowed the real Reena to show up. And finally, finally, realized that what people think of me is none of my business. What I think of me, however, is vitally important. Over the years I’ve worked on myself through yoga, reading countless books on spirituality and self-esteem and you name it! I’ve educated myself, taken course after course after course and got to a place where I felt like maybe I had more than a body and looks to offer (thankfully – I am 51 after all lol). There was still a piece of me that felt like I wasn’t enough though.
How many people, particularly women, feel this way? Staggering amounts! So how do we reclaim our personal power? For me, it started when I looked at the ways I was I was not living in accordance with my own values. My values are tied up in a sense of justice for all, in equal opportunities, in freedom, in authenticity and truth (for a start). So when I looked at the ways in which I was stepping out of my values and committed to changing that, I ended up changing a lot! I was finally ready to give up some things in my life that were causing conflict within. I stepped through a lot of fear and claimed my space. I did this through coaching, mindfulness as well as my meditation and yoga practices. It allowed me to see who I really was from my core and find the courage to live from that.
I reclaimed my power.
I’d love to hear how you are going about your own journey to personal power, please leave your comments!
Have you ever started on a road to make changes that will benefit you greatly, only to find yourself waining far too quickly? Losing motivation and deciding it isn’t worth it after all? Have you thought much about why you do that?
Self-sabotage often take the form of fear. I know when I go down that road of “it’s too much” or “I’m not ready” and other like thoughts, it’s typically fear based when I get to the root. Allowing fear to hold us back from the changes we want to make in our lives, however, is optional. And we are the only ones who can stop the process, albeit often with help.
This is one form of self-sabotage. There are others, but fear seems to be the biggest one. Weight loss sometimes comes with fear that others won’t want to hang out with you if you aren’t eating ‘fun foods’. Finding success in career might come with the fear that you’ll lose friends because you’re peer group will change or others will reset your success. Any change that we make has a pay off – but so does not changing.
Consider the benefit of staying exactly as you are right now and ask yourself if that benefit is stronger than the possible outcome of making change. Imagine how it would feel to obtain the change, regardless of what it is. If the emotional impact would benefit you, isn’t it worth getting over your fear?
While touring his kingdom, King Visvamitra stopped by the hermitage of the sage Vasistha. Vasistha invited to king and his army to dine with him that evening. Visvamitra wasn’t expecting much of a meal and was surprised at the feast that was presented to him and his men. He asked Vasistha how he managed this and Vasistha explained that he had a magical cow that had been gifted to him from Indra. The cow, Nandini, provided the sage with anything he needed. Visvamitra decided that such an animal should be with a king rather than a sage. He asked Vasistha to give it to him. When Vasistha refused, the king became enraged and decided to take the cow by force. Nandini understood what was happening though, and stood on her hind legs and out came an entire army of fierce warriors. These warriors swiftly defeated Visvamitra and his army. This incident made a deep impression on the king and he renounced his kingdom and lived in isolation as penance. He wanted to become a great sage like Vasistha. Unfortunately each time he progressed and was given yogic powers his temper got the best of him and he was again was left with nothing. After many trials and starting over many times, he finally obtained the title of Brahmarishi (a member of the highest class of sages) from Vasistha himself.
The pose named for Visvamitra is a tough one, requiring flexibility, core strength and a steady mind. An arm balance, twist, hamstring opener, hip opener and shoulder opener all in one. It takes time and patience to build up to such a pose, just as it took Visvamitra time and patience to become a sage. When we are willing to let go of the need for immediate gratification, we allow things to progress as they should naturally. Using force rarely gets us to where we need to be. When I look at the times in my life both on and off the yoga mat where I tried to work my will and make things happen, I’ve often been met with disappointment (or injury in the case of pushing too hard in yoga). It just doesn’t have the same feel to it. Alternatively when things come about naturally there is a sense of ‘rightness’; that this is exactly what is meant to be.
To take visvamitrasana, you need to be very warm, it should be done closer to the end of practice. For details on getting into this pose, see an earlier post here.
It’s very common to feel overwhelmed these days, and we easily burn out from all that needs to get done. From parenting to work even to our social lives, keeping up can be damn hard. Add on to that all the ‘shoulds’ and we have a recipe for anxiety, depression and other concerns around our mental health and our physical health as a result.
There are ways to deal with feelings of overwhelm and here are a few:
We all have our ways of coping, and as we grow emotionally, spiritually and through wisdom, they change. Finding the healthiest ways for you is key.
If you are ready for a coaching session, book a free one with me at this link: Breakthrough
It’s the first day of summer, which moves us into the season of pitta in ayurveda. For a little more on doshas, ayurveda and seasons, rad my previous post on Spring.
Ayurveda is a traditional Hindu medicine that is referred to as the science of life. It seeks balance of mind, body, spirit and recognizes that everything we encounter effects this balance. Like increases like is a simple way to look at ayurveda. If you have a pitta dosha, then having more pitta enhancing foods, exercises or even seasons is going to bring you further out of balance. In order to balance you want to then decrease your pitta and increase another dosha in this example.
Summer is the time for pitta. Pitta is associated with heat, it’s elements are fire and water. It makes sense then, that as the temperature starts to climb, and in some areas like where I am, so does humidity, our pitta increases as well. Since pitta enhancing foods tend to be spicy, sour, oily, and salty, we want to reduce these in summer. Start choosing tastes that are bitter, sweet, and astringent tastes calm pitta. This would include apples, cucumbers, grapes, dairy and other such items. Heavy meats should be avoided too. Rather than a roast, try more fish or put some kabobs on the bbq.
Cottons and linens are great choices to wear in summer because of their breathablility. Try to avoid synthetic in the summer to keep cool. Even think about the colors you are wearing or surrounding yourself with if you are particularly sensitive this time of year. Go for cooling colors like white, blue, green, silver and gray.
Sitali is a form of pranayama (breath work) that is cooling. If you find yourself heated up or your temper has flared (a sure sign of a pitta imbalance) try this out: Make an O shape with your lips and curl your tongue lengthwise. Imagine your tongue is a straw and ‘sip’ in the air. Breath until the lungs are filled and then bring the tongue back into the mouth and close the mouth. Hold the breath for a few seconds and then exhale through the nose. Do this several times and you’ll cool off like magic!
Do you know your dosha? Try a dosha test like this one: Discover Your Dosha Type
Have you ever gone through a period of time and eaten badly, didn’t treat your body right and felt generally gross as a result? (Haven’t we all?) Often we beat ourselves up over treating ourselves poorly, about being ‘bad’ , dropping off our prescribed feel good plan etc, etc. What if, instead of beating ourselves up, we find the gift that is awareness?
When we begin on a journey of increased health and wellness we start to realize that how we had been feeling wasn’t so good. I have health coaching clients who are quite amazed that they didn’t know how poorly they had been feeling, in fact. We can get used to anything – including feeling like a bag of sh*t! When we know better, we do better as the saying goes.
When we then take a detour down the old path, which by the way, is completely normal and expected, we are once again confronted with the realization that, yes, that feels gross! This is a time when people generally have a choice: beat yourself up, decide that you failed and go back to the way things were because, ‘hey, I just don’t have what it takes to maintain a lifestyle like this’ or realize the gift that you’ve been given – more deeply rooted awareness into the difference food, exercise etc has made for you! You experimented, essentially, and have discovered again ‘yup, this way feels a whole lot better!’
Change doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time and small steps. Eating healthier, more nourishing foods is no exception! Beating ourselves up about it only makes us feel worse, it doesn’t spur us on to better choices long term. When we are completely rigid in our thinking around health we are setting up the scenario for failure. Every time we make choices that are not as optimal for our health, we can look at it as an experiment, nothing more. It isn’t good or bad. It’s a choice. Period. It indicates nothing about how the rest of your life will proceed. It is more awareness.
We can relax in the awareness that no matter what, we can love ourselves through all the ups and downs of life, as a best friend would, compassionately and lovingly. It’s time to treat yourself like your own best friend.
The very heart of yoga practice is ‘abyhasa’ – steady effort in the direction you want to go.” ~ Sally Kempton
I’ve written about this subject in a variety of way, from a discipline point of view, from a yoga philosophy point of view and a coaching one as well. I was reminded once again of this subject when I was in a workshop on personal leadership the other day.
The presenter, Mara Vittuzzi from New Avenue Leadership, who spoke of ‘ineffectives’, the ways that we distract from what needs to happen to move us in the direction we want to go. Everyone has their ways, for me it’s often puttering – you know, this must be cleaned right now, this must be put in its spot, this window suddenly looks dirty lol. The other thing I do is take courses; I’m a course junky. Not that taking courses is a bad thing; but they aren’t always helpful in the journey I’ve chosen and are usually on a whim. They do distract. (By the way, I am not saying that courses are a bad thing here. They create more knowledge, more openness in the mind and are often quite enriching. I just happen to be in courses literally all the time and even though most of them are ‘do at your own pace’ courses, my own pace is to absorb myself fully until it’s complete sometimes at the exclusion of other things that need to happen- I can be a tad obsessive).
There are times that I turn away from something because it just seems so overwhelming and I somehow think that I need to do everything alone. (It’s funny, because as a coach this is something I help others with. Proof that just like you shouldn’t be your own doctor, you shouldn’t be your own coach!) Although I’m very driven in terms of building my business, I simply don’t always know what needs to happen.
This workshop that I did was part of a program that I’m in that is for women entrepreneurs to accelerate their business growth. After the workshop my business was in the limelight to explore and for others to offer guidance and I became so overwhelmed that I was crying (Lord I cry easily these days!) I was reminded by this beautiful group of women that I am not alone. They are there to help. I already had one person reach out to give me feedback on my instagram page and my website. I am not alone.
I have always relied on my family to be there for me, and they have been in a big way. But to get help from other people is difficult for some reason. I’m quick to offer compassion and friendliness and a non-judgmental space for people, but I’m not quick to trust people to be there for me. I know where this comes from, it doesn’t take a lot of analysis if you know my background. But it’s so deeply entrenched and I’m realizing more and more how it’s affecting me still. My business, my services in other words, is all about creating a safe, non-judgmental, often fun and spirit-centered space for people to become healthier versions of themselves and to learn to love themselves. What I’m discovering about myself along the way (let’s face it, when we teach or offer up services, we always learn too) is that the only people I trust fully is me and the family I grew up with. That is a sad truth and one I don’t really like to put out there, but I’ve always been brutally honest on this blog and I don’t intend to stop now. My next job then, as I create this safe space with all the qualities I spoke of, is to create it for me too. And part of that is to trust people to help me out and to let go of this idea that I need to do it all alone. I am not alone. My new mantra – I am not alone.
There are many ways to do twisting postures; in lunges, standing, seated, and laying down. The supine or reclining twists tend to be a little safer for people because of the support from the floor. A few of the more common twists are shown below.
In this first version called supta matsyandrasana or reclining lord of the fishes or simply knee down twist. The participant lays on the floor with one knee bent to start. An option is to give the twist a ‘head start’ by picking the hips up and placing them a couple of inches to the side you are twisting away from. Take the bent knee over to the opposite side. The arms can either extend in a T position along the floor or you can extend one and place the hand of the other over the knee to add a little weight which makes the twist a little deeper. The head can look straight up at the ceiling or you can look in the opposite direction to twist through the cervical spine in the neck as well. Only twist as far as feels comfortable. If letting the knee hang in the air is too much a bolster or block (or pillow- whatever is available) can be placed under the thigh or knee to add another level of support.
A deeper version is to take both knees to the side. You can come up onto the hip that you are twisting toward in this version or go to wherever is comfortable for you and your spine. The knees can drop to the floor as can the feet. To get a little work in the obliques on the sides of the abdominal wall you can drop the knees but leave the heels up. Looking away from the twist is always optional.
A third option for this pose is to take the legs in garudasana or eagle position. The upper body stays the same as the previous versions but the legs twist around each other. The top leg will wrap under the bottom leg in this version. The extra weight of the leg makes this a deeper version of the previous ones.
Whichever reclining twist you decide on, make sure that you are using compassion for yourself. Only go to the point that feels comfortable. These twists are not meant to be hard work, they should feel good. You should have no pain in your back, spine or anywhere else. Breath deeply allowing the the abdomen to expand as you inhale and contract as you exhale. Allow the upper body to fully relax and feel heavy.