Soul Growth // Next Level Life

I’ve made it my business—my mission and sole purpose, really—to become the best me I can possibly be in this lifetime.

This is serious life work. It is bucking the trend toward mediocrity and refusing to be a slave to the status quo. It’s a rejection of merely going through the motions of a cold and robotic existence—one in which all responses are set to autopilot. And it’s a definite vote in favour of living with awareness and staying open to the full spectrum of what life has to offer, all the way from unspeakable bliss to excruciating, heart-wrenching pain and everything in between.

This commitment means being present with my feelings during the best of times, and even more so, the worst of times. By allowing my heart to remain wide open throughout times of my own pain and discomfort, I’ve learned that magic does, in fact, exist in this world, and that beauty can be found in the least likely places for anyone who is determined to find it.

Take it from me: there are many valuable life-affirming, soul expanding lessons to be excavated from the bottom of even the largest rubble heap, although it may require some serious digging, and perhaps also a very large shovel.

Living consciously and with awareness is no joke—and it’s definitely not something I get right 100 per cent of the time. Not even close! Being a student of yoga and meditation has given me some valuable tools for making the most out of my human experience. And these tools never fail to remind me that life itself is a practice, and the universe always delivers the circumstances that are in the best interest of my soul’s continuous growth. In other words, in spite of what things may look like on the surface, I know life is always giving me what I need to become the next best version of myself.

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But how do you explain this concept, or even propose to justify it, in light of why bad things happen to good people?
Well, I’m certainly glad you asked, because I recently had a conversation with a friend around that very subject…

And it went a little something like this:
Friend: “Have you ever noticed how good, honest, self-aware people seem to experience challenge after challenge and hardship after hardship, and yet there are others who do the most immoral, inhumane (and even illegal) things and somehow always seem to escape without having any consequences imposed against them for their actions?”

I was very intrigued by this subject, and got pulled into the conversation even deeper by the demands of my heavily bruised ego, having recently been a player in a number of different situations in which I felt like other people, who don’t seem to have any reservations or remorse about their own unscrupulous actions, had grossly abused their power and left a plethora of pain and suffering in their wake.

This is where I entered my default of the victim mode mentality. Over time, it has become increasingly easy for me to recognize this, as I’ve gone there many times before and I went there again in this particular moment. As someone who makes an honest effort to be a good person, to make good choices, and to always be kind to my fellow humans, I find it perplexing and hard to digest when I think about the injustices I’ve seen, both up close and from more of a wide-angle lens in the last while.

BUT when I take a step back and allow a moment (or two, or five) to process my feelings, rather than operating from my default or reactive mode, I am able to see another side to this story:

The challenges that get placed along our path—and the associated discomfort we  experience—are good for us. Although often painful, these experiences are gifts that help to move us from who we once were to who we are becoming. When we remain open, willing to feel, and ready to receive the lessons that are meant for us, our pain can be transformed into something greater, and our challenges become a powerful catalyst for helping us advance to the next level of our lives.

Consider your own answers to the following questions:
Is your pain and suffering ruling or serving you?
What if you were able to stop judging and labeling an experience as either a good or bad?
What if, instead, you deeply knew and truly believed that, no matter what experiences life gives you, it is exactly what you need? (Yes, and I do mean ALL types of experiences, including adversity, illness, job loss, accidents, financial stress, and even death.)

If we are to agree that soul growth is always the highest goal and the ultimate purpose on this journey, we must be willing to take full responsibility for ourselves, knowing that blaming others for our plight is nothing but a cop-out. We must also come to terms, solidly and squarely, with the understanding that life isn’t always going to be easy, nor should we expect it to be. Rather, in doing so we only set ourselves up, time and time again, for major disappointment and failure. And if we insist on living comfortably and in a constant state of complacency, never faced with or willing to face our problems and difficulties, we are also never in a position of adapting or expanding into our next level self to meet the demands of any new situation we might be given.

However, when we learn to see our obstacles not as barriers or deterrents to our own progress, but instead as challenges to positively overcome, (and that the process of doing so will undoubtedly make us stronger and more resilient beings), that is growth in and of itself.

I am a student of life, and perhaps one of my biggest lessons has been in learning to be grateful for every experience, even the stuff that doesn’t feel so good. Even when it’s not obvious and I can’t see it, I am learning to operate from the belief that life is not happening to me, it is happening for me.

So, if you need me, I guess I’ll just be over here, focusing on being a good human, being vulnerable, feeling my feelings, and expanding in response to change as I continue to ‘level up’ in my own life.

But first I’m just gonna run out real quick and grab myself a great big shovel. 😉

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Do you share this perspective on allowing your challenges to help you grow? I’d love to hear how you apply this concept in your life. Drop me a line in the comments below!

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Resting in The Ease of Being

It’s the final eve before our last day of our Maui family vacation. My daughter, son, and husband are all snuggled into their beds. I’ve just done some pre-packing to make life a little easier for myself tomorrow, and as I sit down with my feet up and a glass of red in hand, I am called to reflect on the last dozen days we’ve spent together here .

Maui has been good to us. Our accommodations were great. The weather has been fantastic. We’ve had some phenomenal food, including our fill of some of the freshest ocean-caught fish. We’ve enjoyed fun activities, and the wonderful company of family and friends, both old and new.

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And as I sit here sipping my wine, I can’t help but ask myself, “What has been the real story or theme of this vacation?” This is not a simple question to answer. Sure, I have some definite ideas on the subject, but it’s complicated, and I’m not even sure I fully understand. In any case, I’ll do my best to explain…

It’s an idea that seems to be following me around lately, wherever I go—even 5,000 kilometers from home across the Pacific Ocean. It first appeared a few months prior to this trip when a friend and I were discussing the contrast between the states of doing and being. The conversation centred around how we’d both been caught in the trap of constant doing, and were consequently feeling the effects of our (somewhat self-imposed) rat race; the pressure of accomplishing our goals crushing us with the constant plaguing thoughts of inadequacy and not measuring up to the world’s standards or our own potential. To put it bluntly, we were both a little…miserable.

The remedy to the loss of self and suffering that accompanies the extreme state and preoccupation with doing, we concluded, must be found on the flip side. That glorious place where thought subsides, stillness prevails, and we are…well, we just ARE. The shift to the state of being is synonymous with a move from being led by the thoughts in our head to following the truth of our heart.

In being, we are more likely to see the beauty around us, to find joy in simple pleasures, and to be content with the presenting reality, whatever it may be and regardless of whether that reality is considered good or bad. When we are in this state of being, we are more responsive to the richness of life in each moment, and more able to trust in the unfolding of the universe, opposed to feeling the need to manipulate and control situations to satisfy the needs and preferences of the ego. In being, we do not try to impress others by pretending to be something we are not. We are not looking to “be” any certain way; we just are the truest version of ourselves, pure and natural.

Given the sharp contrast between doing and being, it’s not hard to see how people get lured in by the charm of going on vacation; the saviour of taking a break from the craziness of their everyday lives and the busy-ness that comes to define not only their schedules, but also their identities. For many, vacations are the most personally and socially acceptable way of slowing down and moving from doing mode to just being.

It’s more acceptable to relax on vacation, versus the constant challenge of doing—the state of mind that focuses on getting things done, driven by what is desired, required, expected, or feared—that dominates the way we live in western culture. In other words, it’s not expected that we accomplish much, if anything, on vacation, whereas we have a never-ending list of duties, responsibilities, obligations, and goals in our day-to-day lives. We are almost always striving to achieve something, not only because this is how our society is run, but also because it is how most of us have come to define ourselves (based on the ego).

Seeing the polarity of doing and being as two completely opposite ends of a spectrum has highlighted for me how it’s not desirable to spend too much time at either end. Rather, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of each and to be aware of my own natural tendencies in order to stretch and flex myself from one side to the other, as the situation dictates, or even to find the middle ground when necessary. You know what they say about too much of a good thing, right?

“Life is an immense happening. You can go on a trip, you can go on vacation, you can go to the other side of the earth, but you can’t escape life. You can go to the moon, but you still can’t escape life. You can’t escape existence.”
~Adyashanti, Falling Into Grace

Having said all of this, I feel like I’ve achieved a healthy balance of doing and being over the past 12 days, and that I am inching ever closer to uncovering my authentic self because of it. I also believe this time of learning and self-reflection has been an important part of my metamorphosis. As I undergo these important changes below the surface, I can feel myself becoming more self-aware and aligned with the truth of who I am.

And so I find myself here in this very sweet vacation-induced spot that rests delicately in the balance between the doing and the being. From this beautiful place, I’d like to offer a quick recap of a few of my favourite moments from our Maui vacation:

  • All the awesome “un-ness” of being on vacation—being completely undone, unscheduled, and unplugged (to a greater degree than normal) has allowed me to unwind and has been undeniably relaxing and rejuvenating, like a magic reset button for my central nervous system. Aaaaaaahhhhh.
  • I am grateful for having had the luxury of doing what makes my soul happy (and not feeling guilty that I should be doing something else instead), such as reading while lounging poolside, yoga, running, daydreaming, dining out, and napping.
  • Being wrapped warmly in a soothing blanket of the sun’s rays. I bow in reverence to the mysterious healing power of the sun—its light and heat a balm to my soul, not to mention how it melts away my hard, jagged edges and transforms me into a kinder, gentler version of myself.
  • Witnessing the ever graceful beauty of the palm tree port-de-bras, as the fronds dance and sway gently in the breeze, reminding me that it’s better to bend under pressure, than it is so to break from resistance.
  • The tranquility of going with the flow of floating above a coral reef teeming with colourful fish while entrusting my safety to the universe, given the strength and direction of the current.
  • Traveling over 5,000 kilometers from Edmonton to Maui to get together with a friend, who happens to live about five kilometers away from me at home.
  • Having a first-hand appreciation of the meaning of “Maui midnight.” Given all of the fresh air, activity, and time spent outdoors, I don’t think I was ever awake later than 10:00 p.m., and that’s saying something cause just staying awake until 9:00 in Maui is a feat in and of itself!
  • The commanding presence of the surf and sea. You can’t help but be in awe of its power and the emotion it evokes. I dare you to try.
  • The magnificence of the vegetation and trees along the road to Hana, branches growing toward each other from the outer banks of steep valley gorges to form a lush canopy of green. Their beauty is surpassed only by their majesty.
  • Being reminded that all living things, in their natural state, are a reflection of love. I am comforted in the knowledge that love is the natural state into which I was born and also where I will ultimately return, in this life and beyond.
  • Knowing how amazingly blessed I am to experience all of these things, as well as to be able to witness, with sincere appreciation and gratitude, the significance of it all.

So as the sun sets on yet another magnificent family vacation, my final parting thought is one of deep gratuitude to the island of Maui for sparking my inner fire and allowing me to see the natural beauty in all living things, for showing me the importance of balance, and for helping me to remember I am love.

Mahalo
xo

 

 

Reinventing with a Single Word for 2017

The practice of choosing a word to guide us into and through a new year has become quite common—sort of a more fluid update to the alternative resolution setting, if you will. The word should be something important and meaningful, and serves as a thematic focus or guidepost for how you want to live. As the underlying intention for your choices and actions, the word represents a feeling, sense of being, or something else you’d like to attract or create more of in your life.

The process of choosing my word for this year was surprisingly efficient, which hasn’t always been the case for me, as I am prone to chronic over thinking and analyzing these types of things until the cows come home. But this time was different. On December 29, a friend posted on Facebook asking who had chosen a word for 2017, and while I hadn’t given it much thought at that point, my word hit me very suddenly—entirely organically and with almost frightning velocity.

But it felt right. It also felt enormous and heavy, and if I’m being honest (which I generally am because it’s the only way I know how to be), it made me a touch uncomfortable. But that’s also the reason why I knew I had found the right word for me this year.

In science and biology, metamorphosis is an incredible process of change that a living creature endures after its birth, transforming it from one physical form to another entirely different state. Most commonly, we think of it as the process that changes a squiggly little tadpole into a mature frog, or a slimy caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly.

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While all of this science stuff is unquestionably true, my word for 2017 has a slightly different meaning to me. I am madly in love with the idea that we as humans can be ever-evolving and changing. We can even completely reinvent ourselves if we choose. With this in mind, I can no longer stay inside the comfort of the container in which I’ve been living. I’ve become too much for the shell that surrounds me. Shedding layers and a “skin” that no longer feels like home, this is the year I will emerge, transformed—a new and improved version of myself. Cha-cha-changes!

The sheltered state of being and the span of time during which I have been inwardly focused on deep growth has served its intended purpose in bringing me here. In fact, I wouldn’t be where I am right now if it were not for taking the time and space to process, heal, and grow beyond what I once was. For the most part, these changes have happened in darkness and isolation, just like the pupa stage in the life of a butterfly. And now, as a result of having undergone the lessons and changes, the time has come for me to emerge from my chrysalis, with a renewed sense of purpose and confidence in myself.

Trusting the timing of my life and summoning all the courage I have inside, the time has come to push my way out of the walls that have enclosed me. And as the light seeps in through the cracks of my cocoon, I’ll slowly begin to make my way out. Once free from my enclosure, I will follow the cue of a butterfly, gracefully spreading my wings to show my true colours. And then, I will fly.

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And so it happened just like this: the question was posed and I quickly found my word, or perhaps it’s more accurate to say my word found me. All of this transpired in the same day, maybe even the same hour. Energized by this newly cemented positive intention, I had created a new vision board for myself, with metamoprhosis as the central focus, before the time I went to bed on December 30.

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As the board reflects, my transformation has and will continue to include regular yoga and meditation practice, writing, learning from nature, listening to the voice of my intuition, along with generous doses of fun, happiness, simplicity, confidence, grace, balance, inspiration, power, and of course love.

Now that I think of it, metamorphosis is more than my word for 2017; it’s the real and powerful process in which I’m currently immersed. It’s my intention or drishti (focus) and my mantra for continued growth during the year that lies ahead. It signifies both where I am and the direction in which I want to go. And I think it goes without saying that I’m super stoked to see what will happen next. It also doesn’t hurt that, according to numerology, 2017 is a “1” year—a year of manifestation and new beginnings, as well as creation, love, intuition, and success. I have a feeling it’s going to be an amazing year!

Have you chosen a word or theme for yourself? What plans and goals, resolutions and intentions will you be nurturing this year? I’d love to hear from you about what you’re cooking up for 2017!

56 Intentional Days

Although summer technically started a couple of weeks ago, in many ways I feel as though  summer with my family is just beginning. And with the kids slated to return to school on August 30, we have eight weeks, or 56 days to be exact, to enjoy our summer to the fullest.

Now, I don’t mean I’ll be scheduling and over programming every moment, because that certainly is not the case. That would be tedious and grueling and pretty much no fun whatsoever.

However, I’m also cognizant of going to the other extreme—not making any plans, flying by the seat of our pants, and leaving everything to chance. I speak from experience when I say this approach is dangerous. This amount of boundless freedom has a tendency to lure me into a state of submission, inducing an intoxicating false sense of security, which in the end only leaves me feeling lazy and lethargic.

I’ve finally come to appreciate that I’m a creature of habit. I crave routine and structure. I thrive on predictability and order. I’m at my best when I’ve got something specific to hold my attention and focus.

When I contrast my affinity for structure and routine against the fact that I’ve habitually been making time my arch nemesis, it’s really no wonder I’ve been feeling a little stuck in a continuous loop of “there’s never enough time in a day to do all of the things that I really want to do.” And as I’ve been working with a fantastic coach to help me unravel this and some other limiting beliefs, I feel like the time has come for a 360 degree turnaround and re-framing of my opinion about time.

I know some of you may be nodding your head in agreement with my time-as-enemy mantra, but I honestly believe this is just one of those things we all say to make ourselves feel better.

Because the truth is there’s plenty of time available when we: get intentional about scheduling our time according to our priorities, minimize the negative effect of distractions (insert social media here), and don’t let our limiting beliefs cloud our vision.

I’ve suddenly been able to put the pieces together and see, with amazing crystal clarity, my blockage about time for what it really is. It’s not that I don’t have enough time. Pppffffff! The truth is I have trouble putting myself and my needs ahead of everything and everyone else. And because of this, all the stuff I’ve been talking about—my deepest desires and the whispers of my heart—often end up at the bottom of my list.

With this new understanding I see an opening—an opportunity to form a new habit of making myself a priority, more often. As I see it, I have 56 days ahead of me right now when I can both be present for my children AND make myself and my needs a higher priority on my to-do list.

This summer, I am choosing to make friends with time by seeing it as a gift. No longer will a replay the broken-record soundtrack of “not enough time” over and over again in my head. This summer, I am choosing to be intentional about how I spend my time. And this summer I will value myself and my self-care needs by making time for me a priority.

Over the next 56 days, my intention is to dedicate some time every day to my passions and the activities that make me feel more alive and whole.

Starting today, movement (yoga and exercise), stillness (meditation), and words and language (reading and writing) have moved from the bottom to the top of my to-do list.

No attachment to objectives, no entanglement in specific outcomes. Just a dash of intrigue and a touch of excitement to see what changes and possibilities the next 56 days will bring.

Coincidentally, one of the first blog posts I wrote was about my perceived lack of time to do all the things I want to do in life. It’s kinda cool to see how much I’ve grown and how much my perspective has shifted from October 2013 until now.

Wishing you all a happy and intentional summer!

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Life as a Practice

I think most people are familiar with the terms ‘yoga practice’ and ‘meditation practice’, but has anyone ever heard of a ‘life practice’? I’ve been thinking it would be not only wise, but also prudent to view my own life this way—as a practice. Let’s just think about that for a moment, shall we?

Quite simply, a practice is something you do over and over on a regular basis. Practice. All life really asks is that we continue to show up, day after day, and give it the best we have. Practice. Life asks us for the consistency of showing up and putting in our best effort. Practice.

Many people live by the mantra that practice makes perfect, but I’d like to suggest that it’s really not about perfection at all. In fact, sometimes we’re so busy trying to be perfect in our daily lives that we miss out on the spirit of what it is to practice. In all our attempts to attain the elusive ideal of perfection, we forget that doing our best and then releasing—physically, mentally, and emotionally—is the better way.

By the way, I think this is the actual mathematical formula for the practice of life:

(Showing Up) + (Doing your Best) + (Releasing [x Infinity]) = The Practice

I am coming to understand how this is one of the most important (and perhaps also the most challenging) lessons we are meant to learn during our time on earth. It isn’t always easy, but that’s why we practice. Anything more than the practice is excessive and controlling. Anything less is a copout. Both extremes block the flow of life and the ability to surrender to our own inner guidance.

Distractions, challenges, and off days are guaranteed to come your way. But when we start to see these distrurbances as part of the practice, that’s when the magic starts to happen. They are gifts from the universe, lessons in disguise, if you will. They provide opportunities to dig deeper and learn to know ourselves better. They create momentum for our continued forward movement. And so, when we feel lost, tired, weary, or frustrated, all we need to do is have faith and keep showing up.

Having an off day, week, month, or year? No biggie. Be aware, assure yourself the world is not ending (because it isn’t), and then bring yourself back. You may figure out the lesson right now, or you may not. There’s no need to worry, regardless. That’s the beauty of the practice: as long as you keep showing up, life will keep giving you another chance to try again.

There is a quote often attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson that says: Life is a journey, not a destination. To me, this means focusing on the here and now, or emphasizing the process, rather than putting all your eggs in one basket and placing greater importance on specific outcomes. Rather than rushing through life, each moment should be given the proper care and attention it deserves. It means the whole of life is greater than the sum of its parts, so to speak.

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The joke related to this quote is, when I met my (now) husband and he was still living at home with his parents, he had these words typed on an 8.5 x 11” sheet of paper attached to his bedroom wall. There was a typo on the page, and all I ever saw when I looked at it was the mistake. At the time the meaning was entirely lost on me. I suppose the punch line is that I’m finally getting the message over 20 years later.

Continually looking ahead and putting our energy into the next route marker or destination only robs us of today, whereas being here now for life allows events to unfold naturally. Approaching life as a practice is about enjoying the journey and being ‘all in’ for the ride. It is surrendering to the richness and fullness of the experience.

It goes without saying that I haven’t always had this understanding. Life as a practice is something relatively new I’m learning (and practicing) because I’ve lived the other way. I’d like to share this idea with others so they, too, can see how life is like a two-sided coin.

When you allow your life to be a coin toss and it comes up heads, you are ruled by the head (logic and ego); you resort to controlling; you need to be right; and perfectionism is your nemesis disguised as your ally. However, when you allow your coin to come up tails, you can be ruled by the heart; guided by the force of love and the knowledge of your soul; you open yourself to learn the art and magic of surrender; you trust life and go with the flow. This is what it is to practice life.

I’ve personally experienced the limitations of living from my head and ego, constantly striving for perfection, and being so attached to specific outcomes that I could no longer see the big picture. The costs were steep: losing my place in the present and sacrificing my happiness for some  far off place in the distance.

I now know better and I’m choosing another way—living from my heart. For me, life has become a practice that I must show up for every day. My practice is my commitment to let go, cut myself some slack while I hold myself accountable, and relish the sweetness of each day.

Do you approach life as a practice?

How are you showing up for life today?

To September and New Beginnings

Ah, September is here again, and this new month has filled me with a tremendous sense of hope and possibility.

September has always felt like the perfect time to reflect on the cycles of life, as well as to take stock of my blessings and recount all the things for which I am thankful. And because of the many transitions and new beginnings that occur at this time of year, I’ve always thought of September the way many others view January 1, as the start of a new year.

In almost seemingly perfect unison with the turning of the calendar page, the signs of the new season have begun to show themselves. The most obvious of these is how the leaves have begun to change colour, and some are even falling to the ground. And there’s also that familiar crispness in the air in the morning and at night.

With these changes I’ve noticed how many folks complain as they struggle to let go of the ease and warmth of the summer months, regarding this period of change solely as the coming of cold and darkness. But I prefer to view the approaching season for its more optimistic symbolism, as a season of ripeness, maturity, wisdom, freedom, change, and balancing the darkness with the light.

Selfishly, I’m quite pleased my family has returned to the structure and predictability of our routine-driven lives. And I’m ecstatic to once again be able to focus my energy on meditation, writing, and exercise—the activities that speak to my soul and keep me relatively sane in this crazy world.

On a more serious note, in all its deep and gloried hues of rust, orange, and gold, the fall provides a vivid reminder of the impermanence of our world. And as the leaves begin to release their hold on the branches from which they grew, we humans ought to heed the wisdom of the trees with our own willingness to release old patterns and shed the layers that will no longer serve us on our journey.

The concept of letting go continues to be a strong theme in my life. Almost daily, I need to remind myself of the need to get out of my own way and let spirit take charge. This idea applies as much to my writing as it does to all other areas, as I continue learning to trust in the magic of surrender so the work can naturally flow through me.

And with that said, I’m going to let you all in on a little secret: I am going to be a student once again, as I will begin a 200-hour yoga teacher training program, starting exactly one week from today. For me, this is a huge leap of faith and very much one of those feel-the-fear-and-do-it-anyway kinds of things.

I’m still unsure if I will ever actually teach a yoga class, but regardless it’s something I feel deeply called to do. When I release my attachment to the outcome of what will happen at the end, I am over the moon excited about deepening my personal knowledge of yoga and Ayurvedic philosophy while enhancing my own physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual growth. So, even though I’m scared as hell and my voice is shaking, I raise my glass (of green juice) and say: cheers to September and to the magic of new beginnings!

What new beginnings are coming your way this fall? Drop me a line by commenting below or on Facebook…I’d love to hear about what fall means to you and what’s going on in your world.

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Five Lessons Learned in Yin Yoga Class

Lately, I find myself being taken up with several new and varied fascinations—one of these being Yin. The concept comes from the Eastern philosophy that duality (Yin and Yang) are both present in all living things, essentially meaning there are two complementary parts to every whole. The idea further states that the whole is greater than the assembled parts.

Here’s a quick and dirty on Yin and Yang: While Yin is generally viewed a symbol of earth, femaleness, darkness, passivity, and absorption, Yang is revered as heaven, maleness, light, activity, and penetration. It is undesirable to have deficiency or excess of either yin or yang.

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Yang, as it applies to yoga, is more commonly practiced in our western world, focusing on movement and poses (asanas) that emphasize strength and muscular contraction. Yin Yoga, by contrast, targets the connective tissue of the hips, pelvis, and lower spine based on the premise that this tissue responds best to gentle stress over a long period of time. This is why Yin postures are generally held for anywhere from three to 10 minutes per side. Yin practice complements the more muscular yang style of yoga, and is said to restore energy, calm the nervous system, and helps individuals learn to sit in meditation. Further benefits of the practice include calming the mind, increasing mobility, reducing stress, assisting with TMJ and migraines, and promoting deep relaxation.

I was not really surprised to learn Yin is less popular in the west. In fact, I dismissed the thought of attending a class for quite some time, myself, not really understanding anything about the practice and ignorantly viewing it as an inferior form of yoga better suited for old people. However, as I was introduced to the benefits of meditation and became more aware of the state of my body’s energy system independent of my yoga practice, I was naturally and almost magentically drawn to try Yin.

Continuing with my practice over the past several months, I’ve come to understand how Yin is steeped in physical, mental, and emotional intensity. For me, Yin has become a weekly ritual of creating space to get safely uncomfortable, examine my own darkness, and gracefully release guilt, shame, and a host of other emotions that had become lodged in my hips, pelvis, shoulders, and sacrum.

In the safety and warmth of a candlelit room, the following realizations have continued to come up for me as lessons that I believe can be equally applied off the mat. I’m not generally a fan of the gimmicky nature of the Internet/blog post numbered list of reasons to do this or not to do that, but in my ongoing endeavor to be less rigid, here are the five lessons I’ve learned about life in Yin Yoga class (sometimes you just ‘gotsto’ break your own rules).

1. There is power in softness.
There is a time for power and a time for softness, both in yoga and in life. The balance lies in the contrast and knowing when which of the two is most appropriate. Yin Yoga is a lovely and gentle reminder of the place and purpose of softness, and the power that can be derived from it, because releasing resistance and allowing yourself to be passive without forcing, are, at times, what you need most. The act of surrender has long been a challenge for me, and I still struggle when it comes to putting this concept into practice off the mat. However, I am also reminded of how constant pushing, forcing, and attempts to control outcomes will eventually take their toll, culminating in exhaustion and burnout.

2. There is beauty in stillness.
As Yin Yoga poses are held for an average of five minutes, one of the most challenging aspects of the practice is remaining still, without moving, fidgeting, or adjusting. The ego-driven mind is a powerful adversary, delivering the temptation to move, scratch, or reach for a sip of water during these longer-held stretches. But when you can get to the place where you notice the thought of the desire for movement without actually giving in to it, the thought will often pass. What is left in that space, which would have otherwise been occupied with scratching or some other movement, is beautiful stillness.

3. There is freedom in accepting and “being” with discomfort.

“Yin Yoga is not meant to be comfortable; it will take you well outside your comfort zone. Much of the benefit of the practice will come from staying in this zone of discomfort, despite the mind’s urgent pleas to leave.”

Yin requires a high level of intimacy with the self—with our feelings, sensations, and emotions. While these feelings may also come up in other styles of yoga, it’s much easier to avoid them in classes that move at a faster pace. When subjected to longer periods of time in uncomfortable positions in Yin yoga; however, we have little choice but to “be” and “accept what is” in that given moment. The perspective Yin Yoga has provided me in this regard has been tremendously valuable, as I have noticed a strong aversion to feeling my own physical and mental pains. The lesson I’ve learned, though, is when I am mentally stuck in my everyday worry and frustration, I can bring the same kind of attention to the sensations in my body. Most importantly, by observing these thoughts and reactions and deliberately staying with them, they will eventually go away.

4. There is life in each breath.
Breath is life, and the highly meditative nature of the Yin Yoga practice requires that participants keep coming back to this fundamental truth, which I suggest is equally important off the mat. By focusing on each inhale and exhale, noticing the quality of the breath—whether it gets caught in a certain place in the body, is rough, or jagged, or it is fluid, smooth, and even—we remain grounded and focused in each moment Just keep coming back to the breath, on your mat and in your life.

5. There is growth in playing your edge.
The body’s edge in yoga is the place just before pain, but not pain itself. Consciously bringing the body to its various limits or edges and holding it is the way to gently nudge it toward more openness. In this way, time and awareness are the fertile soil in which the slow process of expansion will begin to blossom. As the range expands and the edges move, we gently push the envelope toward growth and change beyond our limitations. This concept requires a high degree of mindfulness, striking a balance between the body’s physical cues and how they are perceived by the mind. Just like in life, the key to growth lies in listening, honouring, and accepting. For me, this requires practicing a heavy dose of patience, too, which is yet another valuable lesson we all can apply off the mat.

I hope you enjoyed this list, and maybe even learned something that resonates for you.

Namaste.