Yoga and Mindful Parenting

childrenimitateNot long ago, I was in a parking garage walking to my car, and I saw a young mom, struggling with her daughter who was wailing. “I miss Daddy!” Her mom was yelling back, “It’s not a daddy day, you’ll see him this weekend!” My heart hurt. I felt badly for both of them. I went back and forth as a kid, three nights at my mom’s, four at my dad’s, switching that fourth night every other week. When I was at my mom’s I’d miss my dad. When I was at my dad’s, I’d miss my mom. I wanted to go over to the mom and say, “Hey, it’s so normal. She loves you, you’re her mom, but she misses her dad. Maybe a phone call to him would do the trick?” But I have found most people are not very receptive to suggestions when they’re in a heightened emotional state. So, I sent them love, and felt grateful, for maybe the millionth time, that when I had my kids, I’d already been practicing yoga and seated meditation for fifteen years. It helps so much in those moments when you want to pull your hair out, are feeling vulnerable, tired, or tested, or just aren’t sure what you should do. Parenthood asks us to be our best selves in every moment, twenty-four hours a day, but of course, that isn’t going to happen! For me, my practice has given me the tools to show up with the best of myself for the greatest percentage of time I can manage. If I’d had my kids before I had a long-standing practice, I have no doubt I’d have been screaming at them in parking garages.

I think there are plenty of articles out there that are shaming and judgmental when it comes to parenting. This won’t be another one. Maybe you only let your kid play with organic wooden blocks, and maybe you let your kid watch tv, and maybe you eat only avocados and maybe you let your kid have sugar sometimes. You won’t hear any gasping from me. There’s no formula for perfect parenting, you just do the very best you can with the tools you have. If you love your kids to the moon and back, and they know it, you’re doing pretty well! Here are some tools I’m grateful to have as a result of yoga and meditation practice, and I hope they’ll be helpful to you and your littles, too.

1. The ABC’s of Non-Reactivity

Sometimes WE need a timeout, so we can tune in! One of the greatest parental superpowers you can work on on your yoga mat is the ability to breathe deeply and stay calm when you feel challenged. Maybe you’re exhausted and your kid just asked you his ten millionth “why” question of the day. Maybe your teenager just tried to walk out the door in shorts so short her butt is hanging out, and when you said no, she told you all the reasons you know nothing about life. Perhaps your infant will not settle no matter what you do. Whatever stage you’re at, parenting is no easy gig! When you learn how to hold a lunge for twelve deep breaths even though your quadriceps are on fire, that power will be there for you when you walk through the fire in other areas of your life. So much of the physical practice is about being aware of physical sensation, and exploring it with curiosity. Eventually, this shows up for you when you’re feeling intense sensation that is a result of intense emotion. That ability to breathe deeply and stay calm is the difference between lashing out and saying something you’ll regret, making threats you don’t intend to keep, or thinking about your kid’s point of view, or whether there’s been a misunderstanding, or not!

2. Starve your loud inner critic

You might say to your kids, “Do as I say, not as I do”, but the truth is, our children integrate and internalize what they see day in, and day out. If you’re very hard on yourself, they’re not going to miss that. And if you’re hard on yourself, you’re likely to be hard on them, too, and then they’ll be hard on themselves. Author and inspirational speaker Peggy O’Mara has a quote, “The way you speak to your children becomes their inner voice.” Quite the responsibility, right?! When we live with a harsh inner dialogue, it’s only natural that it slips out sometimes. Whatever we’re filled with is naturally what we spread. If you work on being more forgiving toward yourself, you’ll find that ability is strengthened when it comes to other people, too, especially your children. When you make a mistake and you have an inner cheerleader instead of an inner witch, that cheerleader will be there when your kids spill their smoothies down the front of their shirt, or come home with a “needs improvement” in some subject or another. When we feel safe to make mistakes, the foundation of trust is built, and the knowledge that we are loved for who we are, and not for what we accomplish, is driven home.

3. Being present is the best gift you can give

We are all crazy-busy, and trying to find that elusive work-life balance can be challenging. Personally, I am not sure that really exists, I think it might be an urban legend. What I think it comes down to is priorities. One of the things we work on during the physical yoga practice is focal points. Each pose has one, and when you train your mind to focus on one thing at a time, that’s the same skill you use when you decide to put down your device and focus on your child. It’s the same skill you use when you’re in a crowded restaurant, but really want to hear about your kid’s day, or whatever is on her mind. Our attention, affection, love and presence are really the things our kids long for and thrive upon. Having the skills to be there fully means you’re not going to miss the moments, and your kids are not going to miss the love you feel for them.

There are so many things we work on in the yoga practice that make us better people for ourselves, and all those we love, and the world at large. Ultimately, it’s a breathing and listening practice. We breathe and become present, we listen to the body and respond with compassion, acknowledgment, respect, acceptance, patience and understanding. If you strengthen your ability to do those things for yourself on your mat, if you fill your tank with love, that’s naturally the same stuff you’ll have to offer your children, and that is gorgeous!

Sending you, and your littles, so much love,

Ally Hamilton

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Does Yoga Teach You How to Trust Yourself and Others? YES!

trustMy parents divorced when I was four. The broad strokes about my childhood experience after that are as follows–my dad liked women a lot, and my mom liked Chardonnay a lot. There was more to it than that, of course, but I spent a lot of time feeling bewildered and concerned about both of them.

Working Through the Confusion

I spent most of my growing-up years care-taking and peacemaking, and trying to be perfect so everyone would be happy. There wasn’t a lot of time or room to think about how I felt about anything, or to value my feelings. By the time I reached young adulthood, I had no clue how I felt about anything. I didn’t know what made me happy, scared, or inspired. I didn’t know what my gifts were, or how I should go about sharing them. I knew I didn’t want to be abandoned. I knew how to make myself indispensable to romantic partners. I knew how to be the good girlfriend, best friend, sister, daughter, student, but I had no clear sense of who I was, not really.

Dealing with the Pain

Needless to say, I found myself broken-hearted and pretty lost in my twenties. I was depressed a lot of the time, or anxious. I had frequent, debilitating migraines. I’d be in the kind of pain that makes you crawl around on the floor, vomiting, unable to see. I had a doctor give me a prescription for Percocet at seventeen and tell me to take it whenever I felt any pain coming on. It became hard to figure out the difference between an impending migraine, and normal stress, tension, or any uncomfortable feeling, so I took Percocet a lot. Basically, I was in a lot of pain.

Learning to Trust Myself Again With the Help of Yoga

When I started practicing yoga during my senior year at Columbia University, I was recovering from a horrendous relationship that had stirred the pot of all my childhood wounds. I had played out a lot of my history, looking to rewrite it, and find my happy ending, only to crash into a brick wall. On my mat, I started focusing on my breath. I was amazed at how that quieted the racket in my head. I started to pay attention to how I felt, and to figure out when my body was saying, yes, and when it was saying no. It took time and dedication, but I decided to place importance on the messages I was receiving from my body, and to reignite a conversation between my body and my mind that I’d been ignoring for years.

The reality is the body is full of wisdom and information about who we are, how we feel, and what we need to be at peace. The mind, while interesting, is full of ideas and opinions about how we should feel, or what we should need or want to be at peace. Some of those ideas are not even ours. A lot of the time we’re so used to being what other people want us to be, we’ve forgotten how to be who we are. And how can you possibly trust yourself if you don’t know yourself? Time and again, I’d put myself in reckless situations. I wanted to be happy, I wanted to be loved, but I did not treat myself kindly. I did not protect myself from people or situations, even when my intuition was saying “RUN!!!” I let my mind override my gut feelings for years, because I didn’t trust my gut, I’d been taught to doubt myself. At a certain point, that isn’t on anybody else, including your parents. At a certain point, that’s on you.

Growing Trust for Yourself & Others

The key to growing in trust for yourself and trust for others has to do with listening closely, and responding with compassion, honesty and kindness. These are things you can start to practice on your mat, as I did. If you’re in a pose and your body is saying. “That’s too much”, you back off, you find a place where it’s manageable, where you can breathe. Instead of striving and forcing your way into difficult poses, you give your body time, you work with it, you develop a bond there. You place more importance on the relationship you’re having with yourself than any pose. The more you loosen your grip, the less you get intense about having to “nail” a pose, the more your body opens. You’re not likely to find balance right-side-up or upside-down if there’s no foundation of trusting yourself. If you build that first, you’ll be surprised about where your body will go and what it will do for you, and you’ll also realize that getting your ankle behind your head is not the key to your happiness. Trusting yourself is, though.

When you know that you’re placing importance on how you feel, when you trust that your feelings have an impact on your actions, choices and the direction of your life, you can relax. My mind is full of interesting ideas, and sometimes I enjoy them a lot. Other times, I laugh at the absurdity. As far as choices about where I want to be, how I want to spend my time and with whom, what it is I’m trying to offer up, whether a situation or relationship feels right, or not so much, I always listen to my gut feelings now. I still get migraines occasionally, but the frequency and intensity have lessened so profoundly, they aren’t a meaningful problem for me at this point, and I don’t have any desire to numb out. I want to be awake for my life, and open to all my feelings as they arise, even the ones that are challenging; I don’t want to blur the edges or be in a fog. I changed the way I eat, I make sure I get enough sleep, and when I need to rest mentally or physically, I rest. Having an open and ongoing conversation with your body makes life so much easier. Life is mysterious enough, you really don’t want to be a mystery to yourself!

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

Want to start opening that conversation between your gut feelings and your loud mind? Try this class. It’s called Follow Your Intuition or Get Burned! Preview it here.


 

Or, try a full course…

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Why Finding Peace in Life is Easier with Yoga

bhagavadgitaWhen I started practicing yoga twenty-five years ago, I had a lot of misconceptions about what it was, and what it was not. Mostly, I thought yoga was stretching on the floor, or that it was something “hippies” did, or that I might have to buy a sitar and change my name to something spiritual.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was way off, and that yoga was not just about the poses, about challenging my body and increasing my strength and flexibility physically, it was a way of increasing my strength and flexibility mentally, too. It was a way of moving through the world, a process of coming home to myself, a practice that rightly seeped into every aspect of my life and gave me the tools to shift the tendencies that weren’t serving me. It took me years to understand why and how my practice on the mat was helping me change patterns in my life, and I think if someone had explained it to me in terms I could understand when I started practicing, I might have made positive, meaningful changes sooner, and with greater awareness and ease.

Here are three things I wish I’d understood about yoga sooner:

#1. The breath is the foundation of the practice; it teaches us to be present and engaged with what is happening right here, right now.

It also calms the nervous system, creating an environment where all kinds of thoughts and feelings may arise, so that we can look at them with some distance. Prana means “life force”, and yama means “control”; pranayama is the practice of bringing our inhales and exhales to the forefront–of taking an unconscious process (breathing), and bringing consciousness to it–lengthening and deepening the inhales and exhales, creating the “ocean sound” by learning how to engage “jalandhara bandha” (the throat lock), finding pauses at the top of the breath and the bottom of the breath–essentially, engaging the mind with something that is occurring in our now. This ability eventually follows us off the mat so we can be more present with our loved ones, when we’re in conversation, driving, sitting in a meeting or going on a hike. The mind is always pulling us into the past or into the future, but having a breathing practice helps us draw the mind back to the present, and that’s a gift!

#2. Learning how to breathe through intense sensation gives us tools to breathe through intense emotion.

When you train yourself to breathe deeply in a lunge you’re holding for ten or twelve breaths, you’re also teaching your mind and nervous system to stay calm and breathe when you’re faced with challenging emotions. Emotions create sensations. If we’re enraged, that’s not an idea in the mind, those are feelings in the body–the heart races, the jaw or fists might clench, the shoulders go up around the ears, the blood pressure rises giving us a “hot head”. That time spent in the lunge when your quadricep was on fire serves you when your heart or your mind are on fire. The same holds true for any emotion–fear, longing, depression, anxiety. Having a breathing practice gives you the opportunity to explore your emotions without fearing you’ll be overwhelmed by them. That way you can know yourself.

#3. The focal points or drishtis give us the ability to follow through on our intentions.

Intentions are wonderful. We can make lists and vision boards and keep our journals, but if there’s no action in service to those intentions, there’s also no shift, no movement. In every pose on your mat, there’s a focal point. In Warrior 2 you gaze over the front fingertips toward the horizon, for example. Training your mind to do one thing at a time gives you the tools to direct your energy. Instead of being at the mercy of your monkey mind, you know how to pick it up, and place your attention on something of your choosing, like your passion project. This is the difference between setting aside an hour and really getting something done, or setting aside that same hour, only to realize too late you wasted it scrolling social media.

These are just three things we practice on the mat that directly translate into your life off the mat. I could write for hours about others (and did, actually, in my forthcoming book :)). Yoga is powerful and transformative because it gives us the tools to live in alignment with what is true for us, to be aware of ourselves and others, to learn how to speak calmly about how we feel, to listen deeply to ourselves and those we love. And you don’t have to change your name or buy a sitar (unless you want to)!

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

Here’s a practice that’s all about practicing habits on the mat that lead to wonderful change off the mat. Preview it here.

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Is Yoga Boring?

eckhartApparently, this is a popular search on Google, and as someone who’s been practicing yoga for twenty-five years, let me say, yes! Yoga is VERY boring if you are uninterested in who you are, what makes you tick, what’s blocking you, what you do when you feel afraid, confronted, or challenged, the quality of your inner voice, the state of the relationship you’re having with yourself which impacts all the relationships in your life, and whether you’re able to offer up your particular gifts in this lifetime, or not so much. If those things are not interesting to you, then yes, yoga is super boring!

If, on the other hand, you find those things compelling, then yoga is the LEAST boring thing I know. If you think you’d like to shift some things about the way you’re moving through the world, take a compassionate look at the stories you may be telling yourself which might or might not be true, heal some very old, very raw places within you that lead you to make choices that bring you heartache, then yoga is going to be very interesting to you.

The Biggest Misconception about Yoga

I think people who worry that they might be bored in a yoga class are the people who have misconceptions about what yoga is. Do I have to be ultra-spiritual and wear mala beads and chant while playing my sitar in the forest eating nothing but chia seeds all day with my ankles tucked neatly behind my head, and a beatific smile on my face? Um, nooooo. Anyone who describes himself or herself as “ultra spiritual” has gotten lost along the way. They may have taken a turn on “I Take Myself Way Too Seriously” Lane, and hopefully they’ll find their way back to “Let’s Get it Together” Road, because that’s what it’s about. Yoga is a practice that is all about coming home to yourself.

What Yoga Really Is…

“Svadhyaya” means self-study. If you want to feel comfortable in your own skin, you can’t be a mystery to yourself, right? If you want to figure out what fulfills you, makes you feel inspired and of use, gives you that reason to bound out of bed in the morning feeling grateful for another day, you can’t be stuck in the quagmire of your past, or the litany of things you might fear about your future. Yoga is a practice that trains us to be present and engaged with the moment, with the now of your now, because there really isn’t any other time. It teaches us to breathe steadily, creating a foundation of calm. It gives us the tools to be responsive instead of reactive. It teaches us to be patient with ourselves, and others, because most of us are just doing the best we can. Yoga, if you practice all eight limbs, is a way of being and of moving through the world with ease, grace and strength. Yoga teaches us not to think we’ve got it all figured out even if we’ve done triangle pose a million times, because we’ve never done it before in this moment. Yoga teaches us to listen deeply, and to be curious about our process, instead of attached to a particular outcome.

There is no handbook for life, no hack that’s going to tell you everything, no red pill or blue pill that’s going to determine your future. However, there is this amazing practice which is the best system I’ve found for living life in a way that feels good, and offering up the very best of yourself. If that sounds boring to you, you should definitely not click the link below. Otherwise, want to try it with me right now?

Sending you love, and wishing you peace!

Ally Hamilton

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How to Live in the Present and Ditch Your Stress

Left to its own devices, the mind loves to time travel. It will pull you into the past, often with regret or longing and frequently resulting in feelings of depression, or into your future, inventing situations that may never come to pass, and leading to feelings of fear and anxiety. Ever geared yourself up for a problem that never arose, or spent time rewriting a conversation that already took place? Me, too! That’s time we can never have back.

A lot of people swing from one state to another, though–dwelling on the past and feeling depressed, or careening into the future and feeling anxious. Not a very davidmbaderfun ride! The ticket off that ride is free, simple, and available to you at all times, and it is called your breath.

How Does Breathing Help You Be Present?

When you become aware of your inhales and exhales, you’re also training your mind to focus on something that is happening right here, right now, in your present. Any sensation you become aware of is happening right now, which is why the yoga practice, including seated meditation, is so powerful. The trick is to catch yourself when the mind starts spinning, and to do it quickly; essentially, you want to stop the tape before it gets going.

Ending Prolonged Stress

There’s something called “negativity bias”, and it’s part of our wiring. Back when we had to worry about things like sabertooth tigers eating us for lunch, or whether there’d be enough food to eat for the next few days, or if a storm was coming, this made sense for our survival. Biologically, we’re wired to worry, but most of us don’t have to worry about being eaten by tigers or whether we have shelter for the night. We are also not built for prolonged stress–ten minutes while we’re running from said tiger? That we can do. Ten months when we’re obsessing over relationship or financial stress? Not so much. Rewiring the mind takes desire, effort and determination, but like anything, it gets easier over time, and with practice. Instead of allowing yourself to be wired for worry, you can decide you’d rather be wired for gratitude, and focused on all the things that could go right.

Start the Process with Seated Meditation

When you first start to sit and meditate, it’s likely the mind will continue its habitual pattern of heading into the past and future. You may tell yourself to focus on your breath, and find after three seconds that you’re having a sexual fantasy, or thinking about dinner. That is okay! Over time, the space between your thoughts will increase. You just pick the mind up, and come back to your next inhale. You, “begin again”. When you keep working on one-pointed focus, you are also working on the same skill you’ll use eventually to choose one thought over another. Whatever you feed will grow and strengthen, so why feed your worries? You can make a conscious decision to feed your peace instead. Ready to give it a shot? Let’s practice together.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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3 Tips to Find Peace in Your Present Day Situation

There’s no shortage of challenges or things that can just break your heart wide open when you look around the world, and the same can be said for any of us personally. Life is full of everything; sometimes we’re in a chapter that feels great, and sometimes we’re on our knees, wondering what happened. Most of us can handle the times that feel good pretty easily (more of that, please!), it’s when times get tough that we could use a little help and support.

Whether you’re going through a break-up, the loss of a job, the challenge of watching a loved one struggle, or you just can’t seem to find your joy, here are three tips that always help me find peace.

#1 Be open to accepting peace

There’s no point fighting reality. A lot of the time we suffer because we have a picture in our heads of “how things should be”, and the greater the distance between the picture and our reality, the more we suffer. The thing is, life is not going to bend to your will, and the more you contract against your experience, the more you increase the amount of pain you’re in. If you want to find peace in your life as you’re going through heartache, a better option is to open to circumstances as they are, and allow yourself to feel all your feelings around whatever you’re going through.

Culturally, we are taught to push down and edit out our feelings, but that creates a state of dis-ease within us. You can’t sit on an active volcano and expect to feel comfortable! Rage won’t kill you, and neither will grief, though it feels like it can sometimes. Pushing those feelings down, though, is a sure way to increase your stress levels, and create a disconnect between your mind and your intuition. The more you allow yourself to lean into your painful feelings so you can understand yourself, the more you create an environment of self-compassion. This is how we release the heat of our feelings, and come back to center.

#2 Trust your process

Some things will never make sense, and certain experiences will never go in your gratitude file, and that is okay. You do not have to be grateful for everything you’ve ever been through, or are going through. However, I’m willing to bet if you look back on your life, you will recognize that your times of greatest growth came out of your times of greatest challenge. There are some lessons we’d rather not receive, there are certainly a couple of experiences in my life I’d gladly give back, but we don’t get to choose. What we do get to choose is the way we respond to what it is we’re given. We can allow our heartbreaks to soften us and open us, or harden us and close us off. Opening feels a lot better. Trust in your ability to eventually grow beauty out of your pain, and have that much more empathy to offer to those around you.

#3 Take your time

I have a friend who’s going through some big life changes. She has two kids, and is a single mom. We were talking recently, and she said, “I just have to figure out the next right move, and then I can calm down.” And then we both started laughing, because of course the better idea is to calm down, and then figure out the next right move. It’s not always easy figuring out how to embrace change, though. I have another friend who lost her mother a year ago, and is still feeling the pain of that loss acutely, every day. Some of her friends have suggested she should be “moving on” a bit by now, and that maybe she should talk to someone. Personally, I think therapy is wonderful, and I think life-You-are-the-skycoaching can be great, too, but there is no timetable for grief and loss. One definition of stress is being in one place, and wishing you were somewhere else. Some people feel very uncomfortable around grief, because it reminds them of their own fragility. The reality is, we never know how much time we have, and the same can be said for all the people we love. The loss of an entire person is shocking, and depending on the depth of the love you shared, and the way the person was lost to you, the grief can be intense. You are not obligated to rush yourself through anything. If you have friends who need you to do that, those are probably not the friends who are going to be sitting in the rocker next to you when you’re ninety. Take your time, be kind to yourself, and have patience with your feelings. I don’t believe “time heals all wounds”, but I do believe we get to a place where we integrate the loss and the grief, and are more able to focus on the gratitude for having loved so deeply, and the beautiful memories we have.

The reason I love the yoga practice so passionately, is that it gives us the tools to face reality as it is, and to love ourselves as we are, even if we have work to do (and who doesn’t?!) Life is incredible and wildly interesting, but I don’t think anyone would argue that it’s easy. Having the tools to lean into your feelings when you’d rather take off, to know yourself, and to uncover your particular gifts so you can share them, well…that is the best stuff I know. If you need help getting started, or if you could use some comfort and support while you’re moving through some pain, please allow me to be there for you. Join me for online yoga and meditation classes and we can face reality together.

Sending you love,
Ally Hamilton

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Remember to Remember

You-cannot-stop-theRecently, I was driving in my car when an unwanted memory took over my brain. I’d been having a perfectly wonderful afternoon with my kids, and had just dropped them off to have dinner with their dad while I went to teach a class. We were laughing as they got out of the car, and I still had their wet lip-prints drying on my cheeks from where they’d left their big kisses. In the two minutes from the time I dropped them off, to the time I drove three blocks to pull into the studio garage, I suddenly noticed my shoulders were up around my ears, my jaw was clenching and I had an overall feeling of dis-ease in my body, and emotionally. Why was I suddenly feeling crappy on such a nice day, when nothing unpleasant had occurred? I realized the song on the radio was about being stabbed in the back, and without my consent, my mind had taken me on a little journey down memory lane, to a place I’ll call Betrayal Alley.

We’ve all been betrayed; sometimes we’ve betrayed ourselves and our own truths, and sometimes other people have disappointed us. When these things happen, it never feels good, because it calls our own judgment into question. How could we have failed to heed the voice of our intuition, and how many times will we need to get burned before we listen? Or, how could we not have seen that this other person did not value us, or more specifically, herself or himself? A person who purports to care about you, but then lies to you, or does not consider your feelings before acting on his or her desires, is a person who is not respecting herself. In order to feel good about our reflection at the end of the day, when we’re brushing our teeth and looking in the mirror, we have to feel our integrity is intact. If we don’t, it’s because we’re in some kind of darkness, we’re fueled by selfish desires, we’ve decided “F&ck it! I’m grabbing some happiness for myself, and I don’t care about the rest of it!”, or we’re so desperate for relief we just aren’t thinking clearly. When we stifle the calm, clear, knowing voice of our intuition because our mind is jumping around with reasons about why it isn’t important or doesn’t matter, we’re heading for a brick wall, and some pain. It’s important to examine what’s happened when we move through these experiences; they’re markers for growth if we stop and explore. They’re signposts that let us know we’ve gotten lost, and they show us how we can get back on track. But they are not a scenic overlook, they are not places where we need to hang out, nor do we need to go back and visit or obsess or sit down for a beer; we do not need to send postcards from this edge. Once we’ve learned the lesson, it’s time to move on.

The thing is, we can make ourselves sick with our thoughts. Every thought we have creates a chemical reaction in the body. If you replay an upsetting conversation in your mind, your nervous system will not differentiate between the memory of the event, or the event itself. In other words, you can raise your blood pressure just by thinking about something that’s upsetting. There are times when it makes sense to replay a conversation or experience; if you’ve said or done something you don’t feel good about, it’s productive to examine what went wrong, so you can make a different choice next time. If there’s another viewpoint you want to consider, excellent. Beyond that, you’re just spinning your wheels and creating turmoil for yourself with no positive outcome. I had to laugh when I pulled into the garage. The mind is so nuts. There’s nothing more for me to learn about the crappy thing that happened years ago. I wish all parties well; one of them I would like never to see again, and that’s okay. You can forgive people without wanting to have them in your life.

One of the reasons I’m so grateful for my yoga practice is that I lost two minutes of available peace in my present, by dwelling on something lousy from my past, instead of two hours, or two days (and years ago, I might have lost two weeks). Every pose in yoga has a focal point, a place where you rest your gaze. They’re called “drishtis”, and they train the mind to do one thing at a time; they’re a tool that helps develop concentration. Culturally, we’re encouraged to multi-task, and if we don’t gain any mastery over the mind, it will pull us into our past, or take us on an imaginary trip into our futures, often with fear or anxiety. Have you ever worried about something that never came to pass? Yeah, me too. That’s time we don’t get back.

The other thing is, because we have a finite amount of time and energy, it’s nice to be able to decide where we’re going to spend those gifts, and upon what. In the physical yoga practice, we do “sun salutes”, a sequence of poses that build heat in the body, and start to open and strengthen every major muscle group. They aren’t called “sun salutes” just because they heat the body, though. We’re reaching for the sun in acknowledgement that we would not be down here if the sun were not up there. It’s a remembering practice, and we humans are so prone to forget. We forget it’s a gift to wake up in the morning. We forget it’s a gift to have a healthy body, to take a deep breath, to feel the breeze on our faces. We forget to remember the people in our lives who mean everything to us, in the midst of a busy day when we have so many “important” things on our to-do lists. We forget easily, so it makes sense to develop a practice of remembering. It’s a muscle, I think, or a way of being you can practice until it becomes ingrained. It’s a life-changer, and it’s one I feel grateful for every day. Right now, right this minute, I remember that it’s amazing to be here, even if everything isn’t “perfect”. It’s amazing to be in a body, and to see the white curtains in my office swaying in the breeze, and to hear my dog incessantly pacing around (will he ever turn in three circles and settle?!), it’s amazing that I have two beautiful, healthy children and a family and friends I treasure and love. It’s amazing I know all of you, and get to reach out to you in this way, and it’s amazing that you reach back. I really think remembering is what changes the world, and reminds us what a gift it is. If you want to practice remembering, you can join me here (I practice every day, because it’s so easy to forget!): https://yogisanonymous.com/videos/vinyasa-flow-the-complete-workout-ally-hamilton-2738

Sending you love, Ally Hamilton