How to Use Stress and Pressure as Motivation

pressureCulturally, we’ve had a conversation going on for quite awhile about the ill-effects of stress, but new research suggests that it’s our relationship with stress that causes the problems, and not stress itself. This is something I’ve suspected for a long time, because in my own life, I thrive when the heat is on. I like a little pressure, a deadline, a reason to show up. I don’t know if it’s the Type A in me, but I have always been this way. In college, I’d write papers in my head, but wouldn’t put them on paper until the day before they were due, so I could feel that tiny bit of frenzy. I think sometimes that just the right amount of that brings out the magic.

Today, I experience it in a different way. I write when my kids are in school. If I don’t get it done then, it isn’t going to happen. The pressure is built-in, but I no longer like to over-extend myself, or say yes when I need to say no. When I wrote the last book, I turned in the final draft two weeks ahead of schedule. Leaving things until the last minute is not appealing at this point in my life. I think a lot of our distress results from how we deal with pressure, and not the pressure itself.

Sometimes we’re suffering from pressure that we take on from our own expectations. We might think we “should” be able to give our all at work, and at home, and still find time to exercise, cook a great meal, nurture our friendships, and make sure the house is spotless. Sometimes you really have to pick your battles. Check yourself around the word “should”, because that’s a word that creates a lot of pain. Should you be happy around the holidays? Should your family of origin be able to sit around the table without anyone ending up in tears, or three sheets to the wind? Should everything look like a Norman Rockwell painting? I mean, all of that would be nice, but that doesn’t mean it’s in the cards.

You might remember that diamonds are made by high heat and lots of pressure. It’s good to think about where the pressure you feel is originating. Is it coming from within you, from your own thinking, or is it coming from your environment, partner, family, friends, or society at large? Are there things you’re feeling pressured about that you could put in your DGAF column? Are you overly worried about what other people will think if you drop your need to show up in a particular way?

I always think a great question is, “Who am I going to be in this situation?” because it puts you in the power seat. Instead of feeling victimized or overwhelmed, you get to think about what is being asked of you, whether it’s reasonable, and how you want to respond. Ultimately, I’d get very selective about the things you’re going to prioritize, because your time and energy are finite. When possible, I try to have a sense of humor about feeling the heat. If something doesn’t get done (or something doesn’t get done “perfectly”), is the world going to end? If you don’t show up the way someone else wants you to, but you’re at peace with yourself, isn’t that enough? If someone is going to judge you, have they lost sight of what it means to love you? Most of the stuff we freak out about is really meaningless. If you can take those things off your list, you’ll free up energy for the stuff that truly matters.

Sending you love, and wishing you peace,

Ally Hamilton

If you need help shifting negative thought patterns, try this!

Let’s Not Give Up on Each Other

eachotherThe last few days have been painful in our country, but in all fairness, for many people the pain has been real and heartbreaking for years. I needed a couple of days to process, because I was shocked by the result of our election on Tuesday, and in that shock, I needed time to recognize and think about  my own ignorance. When half the country votes in a way you never saw coming, you understand you have been out of touch with a huge segment of the population.

 

 

I am not confused about the pain in our country, and I was not unaware of it. Rampant gun violence, black men being shot by the police, women being paid $.80 for every dollar a man makes, I mean, you have to be asleep to miss the fact that we are not living as the country we purport to be. This is not the land of the free, everyone is not equal, and working your ass off does not mean you are going to realize the American dream, or even guarantee health insurance or a college education for yourself or your family. People are tired and angry and frustrated. Many feel unrepresented, disenfranchised, and enraged.

 

This election season has been the ugliest I’ve ever lived through; I have never seen anything like it, and hope I never do again. As a country, we embarrassed ourselves on the world stage. The level of conversation was so low, it is hard to fathom how it could have dropped any lower. In my view, the hatred, rage and fear that were enflamed were done so intentionally. There’s plenty of it out there, I just did not realize how much, and that is the part that has shocked me and broken my heart. I think a lot of people feel the system is broken, Washington is owned by rich people who don’t give a shit about them, and all politicians are liars and cheats. It seems half the country felt the best idea was to send in somebody from outside the system to blow things up from the inside. I really get that, I just don’t believe this was the right somebody. I understand frustration. I understand distrust, we all do. The problem for me is many-fold.

 

Hate speech against minorities and women is absolutely never okay in my book. Ever. That is not leadership, that is bigotry, racism, sexism and misogyny. When you rile people up in that way, when you feed on the worst in us, you never bring out the best. The people who feel heartbroken right now are heartbroken about that, it isn’t even the political piece. The people who are afraid right now are the people who have been watching and listening to the kind of speech that makes us all wonder what is going to happen now. Whose rights are going to be violated, or taken away completely? We were already in trouble, and now we wonder, can this person who said such hateful things about so many of us, any of us who aren’t white Christian men, possibly bring our torn country together again? Or shall we prepare ourselves to watch everything we hold dearest go up in flames?

 

It is too easy to label anyone who voted differently than you as crazy or ignorant. I know it’s tempting. I understand some of us are absolutely flabbergasted, but what’s vitally important to grasp, is that the people who voted differently feel the same way about you. They cannot fathom how you don’t see what they see. They cannot understand why you don’t feel the way they feel. When we don’t even try to understand, to find a thread of commonality, we’re lost to each other. That doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t feel your fear. I feel it. I’m concerned about our Supreme Court. I’m worried that the hate speech we heard will become commonplace. I am scared for my children, especially my daughter. My son is a white, blonde, blue-eyed kid, and he cried his eyes out Tuesday night. It hurt me to see my child affected that way, but it also gave me hope. His tears were not political, his tears were emotional. He has friends at school who are worried their parents are going to be deported while they’re playing handball at recess. He understands compassion already, at ten. He does not understand racism or sexism or bullying, it makes no sense to him, or to my daughter, and I hope it never does. His tears pained me, but they also comforted me, and that’s the first time my child’s tears have ever done that. We need the next generations to come up and fix the things we’ve gotten so wrong.

 

I know we want to point fingers and lay blame and separate ourselves from each other. The Canadian immigration website crashed Tuesday night. I saw many people posting about Australia. I, myself, thought maybe now would be a good time to go to Ireland, which has been singing a siren song to me for years. Calexit was looking good to me. The truth is, though, I would never leave right now. We need to stay and work this out, and we will not get there in fear. We will not get there by labeling half our country as insane. We will not get there by only worrying about our own families and our own lives. We are each other’s keepers and we have not been doing a good job. We have not been hearing each other, but my God, we are hearing each other now. Don’t scream into the void. Don’t join the hatred and rage. Try not to label and villainize people, it won’t help anyone. Try to understand, try to listen, try to hope. Take action where you can, and where you feel called to do so. Fight for the things that are meaningful to you, speak out whenever you see someone or something that insults your soul. Treat your neighbor as the family member she is. Understand that we are one people on one planet, and no one can change that or take that from us. Where you don’t understand that, pause and reflect. You get to decide how you’re going to rise up in this situation, and who you’re going to be. We’ve had dark days in our country before, and we will get through this together.

 

Sending you love, and a big hug,

 

Ally Hamilton

 

If you need help coming back to center, try these classes:

https://yogisanonymous.com/videos/meditation-intro-to-meditation-ally-hamilton-2586

https://yogisanonymous.com/videos/meditation-complete-breath-for-peace-john-sahakian-3097

https://yogisanonymous.com/videos/meditation-blessing-of-connection-sifu-matthew-cohen-2880

How Does Yoga Help You Get Rid Of Jealousy (FOR GOOD)?

williampennJealousy is nothing more than an expression of fear and an acknowledgment of vulnerability. It’s the fear that we aren’t enough, that someone else may be “more” in some way; it’s the fear that something or someone we cherish can be taken from us. These are human fears and insecurities, and they’re normal, but the way this emotion manifests itself tends to lead to unhealthy thinking and behavior.

Yoga is a practice of coming home to yourself. It’s a process of dropping anything you may have taken on that really doesn’t belong to you, like ideas about yourself or other people, or the world at large, or ways of being that aren’t serving you. It’s a daily choice to tune in and see what’s happening within you, to look at your raw, sometimes jagged places with compassion, patience and honesty, and to be accountable when your fears get the better of you.

When I started practicing yoga at twenty, I had very low self-esteem. I was often anxious or depressed, I had frequent, intense, debilitating migraines, disordered eating, and poor body image. When I entered relationships, I never put myself, or my needs or wants into the equation, I focused solely on the other person, and tried to figure out how I could be “perfect” or indispensable so that I would not have to worry about being betrayed or abandoned. Guess what happens when you enter relationships that way, with a sense that you are broken, or somehow not enough, and that your job is to bend over backwards to manipulate the outcome you want? They don’t go very well!

Here are three observations about how yoga helps you overcome jealousy for good:

1. You learn to love, honor and value yourself.

There are seven billion people on this planet, but only one you. No one else can ever be you, and that is incredible and amazing. Once you understand that, you won’t worry about not being enough. You won’t come from a place of lack and fear, instead, you will understand that you are unique, valuable, precious. This is something that happens over time, as you show up on your mat every day, and start responding to your body with care and consideration. It could be that right now, you aren’t very kind to your body. Maybe you have terrible thoughts about it, but the truth is, your body is your home, it’s where you live. Yoga is a listening practice. You listen with curiosity, your respond with kindness. Over time, that caring about yourself will follow you off your mat.

2. You start to recognize the folly of control.

You will never get what you want by forcing. If you force poses on your mat, you’re going to get hurt. If you force situations in your life, guess what? You’re going to get hurt. True love is never the result of force, manipulation, or an unwillingness to see and accept reality as it is. You might start your practice by forcing poses, or making it all about whether you can do tricky arm balances and inversions, but over time, you will understand it’s not about the poses, it’s about your process. It’s not about how it looks, it’s about how it feels. If it feels “off”, you’ll back off. Once you grasp in your body that forcing things leads to injury, you’ll stop doing that in your life as well. If you are so insecure in your relationship with yourself and other people, romantic partners, close friends and so on, you’ll begin to understand that you need to explore the source of your feelings that you don’t measure up, rather than acting them out all over the place.

3. Sometimes we’re feeling jealous because a friend is achieving success that we want.

That’s such an awful feeling, when you cannot be happy for someone else’s good fortune. When that happens for you, the best thing to do is to get that person in your mind, and wish them well. Their success has nothing to do with you, it will not prevent you from succeeding, because no one can take up your place in the sun. No one else is you. Sometimes jealousy rears its head in romantic relationships, where one partner is checking the other’s texts, emails, pockets. This is death for a relationship. Every time you do something like that, you hammer another nail in the coffin. If there’s no trust, it will never, ever work. If you always pick partners who cheat on you, that’s on you. You are going to have to figure out what that pattern is about, and why you’re attracted to people who seem untrustworthy, because there are always flags. Why are you driving by those flags with your arms and legs and heart open? Because you are not valuing yourself. Yoga is a system of getting real with yourself. At a certain point, we all get to a place where we say “enough!” If you are not happy, then your work is to figure out why that is, because your job here is to shine. “Svadhyaya” means self-study. The willingness to understand what’s driving you, so you can go forward making different and better choices.

Yoga is not about standing on your head, or having the most open hamstrings. It’s about understanding that you are a unique strand in a gorgeous mystery, a valuable participant in a huge story, a shining light once you uncover your joy, and the purveyor of gifts only you can bring to this world. Once you get that, you will never be jealous again.

Wishing that for you, and sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

Try this series of classes now:

from-pain-to-peace

How to Stop, Embrace the Moment, and Keep Going

alameddineYesterday as I was driving along Arizona Avenue, something caught my eye. There was a huge, furry spider with red markings that suddenly dropped from behind the window visor, and appeared in the compartment just next to my steering wheel, where you can place your wallet, phone and so on. It was empty but for this sudden tenant. Now, I grew up in New York City, and I freely admit, I’m a little petrified of spiders, have no idea which ones are poisonous, and am especially wary of ones with “fur”, my love for Charlotte’s Web notwithstanding. I know that spiders are amazing, I just don’t particularly want them in my house or car. I remembered that red markings were part of the black widow description, though I felt fairly certain black widows were shiny and not hairy. Nonetheless, I had a mini adrenaline rush, noticed there were cars behind and in front of me, put my blinker on, and moved to the side of the road where I decided it was okay to block a driveway for a moment if it meant saving my life. Yes, you can laugh.

I jumped out of my car and stood staring at this arachnid, wondering how to get it from my car to the street. There were two guys working on the building where I’d pulled up, and I called out to them and asked for help. I told them there was a huge spider in my car. They looked a little bewildered and started walking over, but then I thought, “Really? Do I really need help with this?” I took a look at the passenger seat, grabbed a postcard that was sitting there, and managed to flick the spider onto the card, and then gently fling it onto a bush. Neither of us died, so I consider that a success.

When I got back in my car, I realized this is the second time in a matter of weeks that I’ve dealt with big spiders, as a black furry one with a white back crawled across my desk not long ago. My kids were home, and I instructed them NOT TO MOVE while I caught it in a jar, and took it outside. No one died that time, either. My friend Jessica, who knows all about spiders, had a good laugh at my expense, though, so I also consider that a success. I have this story I tell myself, that if I were married, my husband would be dealing with the big bugs, and he’d also be there to help me unload groceries from the car. I don’t have pity parties for myself very much, but for some reason, those are the two experiences that make me feel sad that there isn’t a man in my life. So yesterday I thought, “those are some really dumb stories you’re carrying around, and maybe it’s time to check them.”

The truth is, many of my married girlfriends have told me that they deal with the big bugs and the groceries, too. Of course, there are other fabulous reasons to have a partner, so don’t get me wrong, I’m just trying to point out that sometimes we tell ourselves things that aren’t true, or that are weakening, or that might have been true at one point, but aren’t anymore.

Here’s another example: a couple of days a go, I taught a benefit class for Breast Cancer Awareness month (ladies, check your boobies!), and you never know who’s going to show up when you teach at these big events. Usually, you’ll see people you’ve known for years, and experienced yogis, along with people who’ve never done yoga before but have come out for a cause. So I’m teaching, and I look up and see this woman front and center, and she’s in Warrior 1, but she’s scrolling on her phone. Lower body in Warrior 1, upper body focused on the device, standing up on her mat. I see a few people around her looking on incredulously, and one woman made eye contact with me. My first reaction was, “Whoa. That is so rude!” I mean, I’ve seen people with their phones next to their mats, surreptitiously checking it in down dog, but this was a new one on me.

Then I looked at the woman, and she just looked sweet, and I thought, “She has no idea that that’s rude, that isn’t where she’s coming from.” Now look, I’m no saint, I’ve just been practicing yoga for twenty-five years, and the good news is, it helps you catch yourself quickly. If you feel triggered, for example, a long, consistent practice teaches you to perk up and pay attention, instead of lashing out and doing or saying something you might regret. It also reminds you that most things are not personal. She wasn’t being rude to me, her behavior had nothing to do with me. So I waited until everyone was in down dog, and went over to her and whispered, “Are you a doctor?” She looked at me in utter confusion and said no. I said, “Okay, I was just wondering if you were ‘on call’ or something, or if you’re dealing with an emergency. Otherwise, why don’t you put your phone away for a little bit so you can have some you time!” And she smiled at me and said, “Oh, okay!”, and put her phone away. After class, she came and thanked me and hugged me. Total win-win.

The thing is, a breathing practice is enormously helpful for this whole “being human” thing, because being human is not always so easy or straightforward. We’re always filtering information from the world around us through our own particular (and sometimes foggy) lenses, and we’re always dealing with our inner worlds as well, which are often full of ideas and thoughts and stories that are specious and worth examining. There’s nothing quite like developing a sense of humor about yourself, and all your occasional absurdities, and celebrating your humanness without embarrassment. Then you can shake your head, and get back to the business of opening to all the beauty around you.

Wishing that for you, and sending you love!

Ally Hamilton

breathing-practie

Using Yoga to Heal Heartache When You’ve Loved and Lost

 

waheedAh, heartache. No one invites you over and asks you to sit down for tea, and yet, we’ve all had times when you were our constant companion. One of the best things in life is shared connection, and many people seek to find that in their romantic relationships. Of course we have our family, our close friends, those people who truly know us and cherish us for who we are, and that is genuine intimacy. Those are the people who are gifts in our lives, and should never be taken for granted. It’s human to want to find that same connection in a special someone, and yet, it’s not always so easy.

There are a lot of ways we might sabotage our chances for true love. Sometimes our desire for it blinds us to reality, and we fall into a relationship with someone who seems amazing in those first few heady months, but then turns out not to be as available as we’d thought. I’ve worked with countless people who’ve fallen into that trap over the years, and I think it’s very common. Those first few months are supposed to be intoxicating, that’s how our species has survived all this time. The thing is, it takes quite awhile to get to know someone well, and it helps when the lust/dust settles, because it’s really hard to see when that stuff is flying all over the place! So maybe you let yourself go, and then realized too late that this person you thought you knew is not exactly what you’d imagined or hoped s/he would be. A lot of people can do the beginning, “fun” part well, but run when things get real.

There are a million other possibilities of course. Sometimes we’re betrayed, neglected or abused. Sometimes we find ourselves in relationships that are crushing the soul and the hope out of us. Sometimes we’re abandoned or rejected. Sometimes we’re left in the most profound way, through no one’s choosing. Whatever you’re dealing with, first, know you are not alone. We’ve all been through intense heartbreak. Secondly, take comfort in the fact that there are some tools related to the practice of yoga that can help you through this difficult chapter.

1. Trust that how you feel now is not how you will always feel

It’s a funny thing about heartache, depression and listlessness. Rationally, we might know that the feelings won’t last forever, but when we’re in it, it’s sometimes hard to remember that. One of the gifts of practicing yoga is that you hold a lunge for twelve breaths, and you feel that burning, uncomfortable feeling in your quadriceps, but you breathe through it and train your nervous system and your mind to stay calm and trust that you aren’t going to hold the lunge forever. Those same tools show up for you in life, when you’re going through tough times.

2. Remember that this is how you grow, and know yourself more deeply

None of us would ask to have our hearts broken, but I bet if you look back on your life, you can recognize that your most incredible times of growth sprung directly out of your most difficult and challenging periods. Sometimes it’s the hardest lessons that end up granting us the greatest joy, because we rise up. When I teach, I often give the cue to “root down and rise up”, but that’s not just a physical alignment cue, it’s an emotional one, too. You know about the lotus flower? This gorgeous white blossom that arises out of the mud. We all have “mud”. There’s a saying: “No mud, no lotus”. You get to decide how to grow beauty out of your pain. You get to determine what you’re going to do with this new information you have to carry forward with you. This will help you to stay connected to your intuition next time, and trust the “no” when you feel it, or trust the “yes” if it’s there.

3. Yoga teaches us to open to reality as it is, which is not always as we’d like it to be

The best way to prolong your pain is to deny, resist, or repress it. It’s perhaps not the most intuitive thing, but the more you lean into your pain, allow it to arise, acknowledge it, and give yourself permission to feel all the feelings you need to feel, the sooner it will lose its grip on you. When we avoid certain poses in yoga, for example, because they’re confrontational, we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to grow and open. The same is true when we try to avoid painful feelings. Trust in your strength. The sad feelings won’t do you in, but trying to deny them might.

4. Move your body

Really, one of the very best things you can do is get in your body and breathe and sweat and open. Release some endorphins, open the space at the front of your heart, and breathe deeply again. It will clear your mind and create ease in your body.

Yoga has gotten me through more heartbreaks than I’d like to count, but it’s also given me the tools to come home to myself. I don’t need anyone else to complete me, I’m complete. I’m at ease within myself. It took years of work and dedication, but it was so worth it, because this is something no one can ever take from you. That way, when you enter a relationship, you do it out of want, and not need, and you do it with your eyes open. When you move through the exciting beginning, you enjoy yourself, but you don’t lose your center. When warning signals arise, you perk up and pay attention. You don’t sweep things under the rug, you bring them into the light so you can communicate about them. Beyond all of that, though, you learn to love and cherish your own tender heart, and that is the best intimacy there is.

 

Sending you love, and wishing you peace,

 

Ally Hamilton

heartbroken-yoga

P.S. If you’re in need of extra support, I do life coaching sessions over Skype. Email me at: ally@yogisanonymous.com for more information.

4 Ways to Practice Gratitude After Being Hurt by Someone You Love

eckhartthankyouLet me start by saying that before you get to gratitude, allow yourself whatever time you need to process the pain of having been let down by someone you love, and allow yourself to feel whatever pretty, or not at all pretty feelings you have around the experience. There’s nothing that prolongs pain more than not allowing yourself to feel it. Once you’ve given yourself time to clench your fists at the sky, or dig your hands in the dirt, once you’ve had your cry (or twenty), then you can get back to filling your tank with the good stuff, because it’s all there waiting for you.

1. Acknowledge that you have an open and trusting heart, and that you know how to love deeply.

There are people so fueled by rage, or so blocked by fear, they cannot allow themselves to put down the shield and open to love, and that it a very painful way to move through life. Even if your love was not met with the respect, kindness, tenderness and cherishing it deserved, you can still celebrate the fact that you know how to give your heart to this world, and to other people, and that is beautiful.

2. Remember all the people who’ve never let you down, even if there are only a handful of them.

The truth is, life is hard and strange and confusing and surprising and often wonderful and frequently heartbreaking, and it bends us all differently at different times. You may have crossed paths with someone who was in a dark place, and maybe you got burned, and that’s difficult and painful, but don’t let it overshadow those people who are always there for you. Maybe it’s your mom or your best friend, maybe it’s your dog, but there are those beings who never let us down and now is a good time to remember and appreciate them. Often, we take people for granted, especially if we know we have someone who would come if we called at 3am, or if we simply assume we have all the time in the world to make sure they know how much we value them. The truth is, nothing is promised and we never know, but don’t let that reality scare you, try to let it inspire you to take action. A phone call to let someone know you love them has the power to turn their day around, but also yours.

3. Remember that you get to choose the lesson.

There are certain things we’d rather not know, but we don’t get to choose. Whenever we’re hurt, we have two choices–we can let the pain harden us or soften us; I highly recommend softening. Empathy is a gift you offer to everyone you encounter, and though there may be some things we wish we didn’t understand, it is still powerful, beautiful and meaningful to be able to offer your hand to someone in the dark, because you’ve been there, too. Appreciate your strength and your insight and your power.

4. Develop a daily gratitude practice.

Culturally, we are encouraged to focus on what we don’t have, or how we aren’t measuring up. We’re inundated with those messages all day long. Retrain your mind to focus on everything that is going well, that is flowing, that you do have. You woke up this morning, right? You’re reading this right now. You can breathe deeply. The sun is in the sky, whether you can see it right now or not. You have food to eat and a place to call home. Coming from a place of abundance feels so much better than coming from a place of lack. When you’re in pain and feeling hurt, it’s easy to spiral and start to feel hopeless, but hope is something you need in this world, and sometimes you have to stoke that flame. You might create a gratitude jar and fill it with little scraps of paper with snippets from your day that reminded you it’s good to be alive, even when we’re heartbroken. There’s still time, and how you feel now is not how you will always feel, and just around the bend, life might surprise you, because that’s how it works. You are never alone, even when you feel alone. We’re all in this together.

Sending you love, a hug, and the hope that you find peace in your heart,

Ally Hamilton

gratitude-yoga

How Does Yoga Teach You to Trust Yourself?

emersonAt its core, yoga is a listening practice. You breathe, but not the way you breathe all day, you breathe with awareness and intention. Your intention is to use your breath as a means of becoming present because your inhales and exhales are always happening right now; if you’re aware that you’re breathing, you’re also engaged with the present moment. You’re breathing deeply, which draws your attention away from the cacophony of endless thoughts, and into that realm of feeling and intuition. When you breathe deeply, you calm your nervous system, and create a foundation of steadiness and ease.

When you move on your mat, you do that consciously and with intention, as well. Hopefully the intention is to nurture and strengthen yourself, physically, mentally and emotionally. This means your practice will look and feel different on different days, and even if you practiced twice on the same day. It’s never the same Warrior I, because you are never the same warrior.

When you enter a pose, hopefully you do that with deep breath, and curiosity, and not attachment to the outcome, or the way the pose looks. The pose is just a tool, your process is the thing. You want to find that exact right spot, where it isn’t too much, and certainly isn’t painful, but where you’re feeling some nice sensation, and exploring it. You’re inviting your body to relax because you’re listening to it and working in partnership with it. So many of us do not have that respectful and compassionate relationship with our bodies. I’ve worked with countless people over the years who are at war within themselves, treating the body as a possession, or something to be feared, overcome, or controlled. I used to be one of those people. When you start to listen to your body, it will offer you all kinds of wisdom about who you are, how you feel, what you need in any given moment to feel safe, what lights you up, shuts you down, scares you or inspires you. When you treat your body with kindness, you ignite a conversation between your body and your mind that’s essential to your own well-being.

Whatever your tendencies are, they follow you onto your mat. If you’re hard on yourself in life, you’ll be hard on yourself on your mat, but you don’t have to accept that as the way you are. You could look at that, examine whether that mindset is hurting you or helping you as you move through the world, and feed that tendency or erode it. I used to think if I wasn’t hard on myself, I’d get less done, but I have found the reverse to be true. When I’m forgiving with myself, I relax and open. I rest when I need to, and then when it’s time to work, I have that much more to offer up, because I’ve filled my tank.

When you learn to work with your body, you grow in self-trust. If your body says, “That’s enough, that’s the right spot!” and your personality says, “Too bad, we’re going all the way!”, your body is going to tense up and hold on. You are failing to respect your own boundaries, and that creates a state of fear. If you have problems setting boundaries in life, or respecting your own or other people’s, this is something you can develop on your mat, as you practice. You can respect the signal to back off when your hamstring needs you to back off, and eventually, you’ll respect other signals your body sends you. If you have a pattern of letting people take advantage of you, that’s on you, not everyone else.

There’s no trusting yourself without self-respect; the two go hand-in-hand. For me, thinking about these things was not enough. In order to rewire my system, I had to be in my body, moving and breathing, while dealing with my mind. Shifting a way of being isn’t easy, especially if it’s ingrained, but it isn’t impossible, either. You just have to start. Ready?

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Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton