18 comments on “Yoga Wisdom: Warrior Tales Inspiring You On And Off Your Mat”

Yoga Wisdom: Warrior Tales Inspiring You On And Off Your Mat

Excerpt from Yoga Wisdom: Warrior Tales Inspiring You On And Off Your Mat
by Stephanie Spence (Skyhorse Publishing)


Introduction

The setting: a luxurious villa on the Caribbean island of St. Barts. A wife and husband, along with several of his clients, are partying on a terrace overlook­ing the glittering ocean and sun-kissed beach. They flew in from Pittsburgh aboard his private jet that morning. The woman seems to have it all—she’s a self-made success story, wife, and mother. But beneath her mask of contentment and complicity, she hides a terrible secret: the price she’s paying for this glamor­ous life is that she is living a lie. Their friends and acquaintances would say that she and her rich, powerful husband of twenty-five years never argue. Well, she doesn’t argue. Why? She is terrified of being bullied, verbally dismissed, and belittled.

As usual, she is expected to entertain her husband’s guests, which means fulfilling their every desire—no matter how illegal. Submissive and compliant, her everyday mantra. Soon, the revelers want to kick things up a notch with Thai Stick, some of the best opium-laced marijuana money can buy. And they expect her to join in.

She takes the Stick, feels her stomach rebel. Her mind screams in protest. She brings the smoldering joint to her lips . . . and hesitates. Her husband, waiting his turn, nods for her to take a hit.

She parts her lips, ready to obey. Wait. What am I doing? she thinks. Selling her soul. Giving herself away.

Putting toxic substances into her body because her husband expects her to be the life of the party. She drops the Stick in a most deliberate way, oblivious to the gasps and protests. No. No more.

She is done with drugs, drinking, and ass-kissing. Ignoring one man’s dash to grab the Stick, now rolling across the patio, she turns to the man who had once vowed to honor and love her. His mouth moves, trying to form words in his shocked outrage.

Before his drug-hazed mind can produce the vitriol he so clearly wants to spew, she blurts out, “I want a divorce.”

A startled hush falls over everyone as they wait for his reaction. She’s pre­pared for the worst of his explosive temper. Instead of denigrating her, threatening her, or pretending that he cares, he simply walks out of the villa. Minutes later, she hears him drive away.

She excuses herself and holes up in one of the guest rooms to await his re­turn. The waiting is its own torture, and it’s for nothing. She finds out that he boarded his jet and left her behind.

But he wasn’t done. The following day, he sends her an email with only one sentence: “Your life as you know it will never be the same.”

My name is Stephanie Spence, a.k.a. Yoga Road Trip Girl, and that wife was me. That brave, bold declaration was only the beginning. As any survivor of abuse, whether physical, emotional, or mental, knows, you can’t go from living as a shell of your former self to empowered in a day, a week, a month. For me, it’s an ongoing journey of triumphs and failures, of heartbreak and joy.

I set off on my new life with nothing but a rental car and the clothes on my back and slowly rebuilt my life with the only lifeline I knew: yoga.

My daily yoga practice grew into so much more than perfecting a pose. Yoga became transformative, teaching me to live a fearless, authentic life of purpose and potential.

When I felt alone, it reminded me that I was part of a world-wide community. When I was hard on myself for falling out of a pose, it reminded me that this is a practice, not an end goal. When I felt powerless to master a pose, it reminded me to surrender to what is. When I hurt, it helped me to heal. And when I did master a pose at last, it applauded my strength—and showed me that I am a warrior at heart who can save myself.

When we are ready to grow, the Universe puts “coincidences” on our path to help us or send us in the right direction. These can be people, places, or events that your soul attracts into your life to help you evolve to higher consciousness or place emphasis on something going on in your life. Synchronistically, I met spiritual teacher Gahl Sasson through my yoga studio. My session with Gahl was infused with Kabbalah, the ancient Jewish mystical interpretation of the Bible. Gahl’s depth of wisdom and devotion inspired me to deepen my spiritual prac­tice, along with my yoga practice. I devoured the exercises in his book, A Wish Can Change Your Life. Starting from the first chapter, I had visual, emotional, and physical confirmation that the book was working. This was unlike any other self-help book I had read. I immediately saw results. For the first time in my life, I had a clear direction for my future.

By the time I finished the book, I knew that my dharma, my soul purpose, was to educate and inspire as many people as I could to try yoga and embrace it as a way of life. I loaded up a rented RV and headed on a month-long journey I dubbed the “Yoga Road Trip.” Waking up daily in my moving cocoon of yoga, I felt powerful and free. My morning ritual of writing and playing house in my adopted home electrified my soul. It dawned on me that this was the first house I had ever picked out and lived in that was truly my own.

Whether my morning meditation was in a shabby trailer park, busy parking lot, or overlooking the ocean, I had a space that was all mine. I embodied the new freedom and adventure I had always longed for but had never been able to manifest on my own.

As I made my 4,000-mile pilgrimage from Southern California all the way up the West Coast and into Canada, I had a simple mission: video-interview and practice with a different yoga teacher every day. Instead of solely words and pictures on my blog, I hoped the moving images would resonate on a more in­timate level with the viewers, bringing them closer to these wise souls, my ex­perience, and me. Hungry for emotional connection, I believed the world of online sharing would resonate with the yearning for kinship that I believe is at the root of all social media. I pictured the blog more as a vlog (video log) from a vision I had while in Savasana. I also wanted to capture their wisdom and en­lightenment to help me discover a part of myself I had never known. The me that I was before life taught me destructive love. I had never learned to listen to and trust my spiritual self, the wise and loving voice of my intuition.

WARRIOR WISDOM

I reclaimed my lost self on the road. I understood for the first time how to thrive instead of merely survive. I regained my unique power and my voice. And most important, I had a road map for physical, mental, and spiritual health to give others. The impressive souls I met on my Yoga Road Trip, and those I have en­gaged with as I continue my journey, are at the heart of this book.

I became a Warrior when I embraced the understanding that I had to crash so I could transform my life. I scoured the globe to find top yoga teachers, truly authentic givers, who make yoga a way of life just as I do. They have huge hearts and simple wisdom driven by compassion, experience, and kindness. We all hope Yoga Wisdom inspires the whole world to embrace yoga as a way of life, one person at a time.

Yoga Wisdom takes you on the road of life with people who are full of self-love and radiating balance, so you can create that for yourself. Once you meet these life instructors, you can manifest everything you need to make a differ­ence in your life and the lives of those around you.

Physically showing up on your yoga mat is just the beginning. With determi­nation and patience, the real secrets and power of yoga come with time. We’re here to inspire you to not only show up for class, but to become a yogi, too—a yoga devotee full of love and light.

It’s time to unleash the Warrior inside you.

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Editor’s note: With an eye towards the future, but steeped in wisdom from 38 years of practicing yoga, Stephanie Spence is a Yoga Educator, Author, Inspirational Speaker, Activist, and Creative Leader. Based in Coronado, California, Stephanie is a trail blazer with an inspiring and empowering approach to self-inquiry and personal development. Stephanie is committed to helping ignite the desire for others to create a life of health and joy for themselves through a sustainable practice of yoga for a lifetime of transformation. Connect with her via her award-winning yoga blog, one-with-life.com or @Stephanieyogini. Her book “Yoga Wisdom: Warrior Tales Inspiring You On And Off Your Mat” is now available wherever books are sold. 

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7 comments on “Nourishing the Way: Feeding the Birds”

Nourishing the Way: Feeding the Birds

Excerpt from The Magic Ten and Beyond by Sharon Gannon

The secret to wealth is to give generously to others. Whatever we give will come back to us many times over. 

Remembering God and being kind to others is the most important job that any of us has in this life. Being kind to others is the essential ingredient to being able to remember God— to be able to see ultimate reality. Developing kindness and compassion toward others is the sure way to happiness. But how does that work?, you might ask: Doesn’t being kind to others in a charitable way only benefit the others? No. Kindness benefits both the other and yourself. Others do not exist independently; they have come from your past karmas. They only exist in your life because you see them as existing. The Hindu sage Patanjali explains this in the Yoga Sutras: vastu- samye chitta-bhedat tayor vibhaktah panthah PYS IV. 15. This can be translated to mean: each individual person perceives the same object in a different way, according to their own state of mind and projections. Everything is empty from its own side and appears to you according to how you see it. 

When you are unkind to someone, you plant a seed to see unkindness. For example, you judge someone as a greedy person. As soon as you think or say that, you plant a seed that will ensure that greedy people will appear in your life. 

When you see yourself as poor, as not having enough to be able to share and be generous to others, you plant seeds for seeing yourself as a victim of poverty, and that will become your reality as you continue to nourish that perception of yourself. You have a choice: you can see yourself as an enlightened being or as a victim, but you can’t have both. If you eventually want to see yourself as an enlightened being, then begin that process by seeing others as holy beings. How you treat others will determine how others treat you; how others treat you will determine how you see yourself; how you see yourself will determine who you are. 

If you want to rid the world of greed, you must destroy the seeds in your own mind that cause greed to appear in the world. In other words, you must do your best to be kind to others— to take care of others as if they were your own self. Other- centeredness is the secret to overcoming the disease of self-centeredness. Put others before yourself. Be more concerned for the happiness of others than for your own happiness. This will dissolve otherness and reveal the oneness of being.

Kindness is the key to Yoga. 

Without the development of kindness toward others, you cannot make progress in yoga. Taking care of others is a sure way to increase your own happiness. When we do things with the intention, first and foremost, of making ourselves happy, we only increase our identification with our small self— our body, mind, and personality. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali cites this identification as the major obstacle to Yoga, calling it avidya, which means ignorance or mistaken identity. The yoga practices are designed to help you drop your self-centered concerns and become more other- centered. Being more other-centered expands your sense of self and increases true self-confidence. If you observe unhappy and depressed people you will find that they usually are self-obsessed. The key to uplifting yourself is to do what you can to uplift the lives of others. 

Why birds? When you feed the wild birds, you karmically assure that you will always have enough to eat and that wildness will not die inside you. Birds as well as other wild animals are having a hard time surviving in a world dominated by self-centered human beings. When you nourish wildness in another you keep it alive within yourself. Most people assume that birds, being wild, know how to take care of themselves, and feel that taking care of them should not be our responsibility. But the fact is, we have polluted with pesticides or destroyed most of the wild forests and fields where they might have been able to find an abundance of nourishing food. Birds require so little to live— a few good organic seeds and a couple of drops of fresh water— and while it may not be much, it can mean the difference between life and death for a feathered person. 

THE PRACTICE Before you feed yourself— even before you drink a cup of coffee or tea in the morning— feed the birds. Fill up a bird feeder outside your window or at least put some organic seeds or bread crumbs on a windowsill. If wild birds aren’t nearby, feed your cat, dog, or other family member.

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Editor’s note: Published by permission of the author.

0 comments on “Blessing the Way: Giving Blessings”

Blessing the Way: Giving Blessings

Excerpt from The Magic Ten and Beyond by Sharon Gannon

When we are at peace with the other people in our lives, we can be at peace with ourselves.

The other people in our lives exert a tremendous amount of power over us. Thoughts of them fill our waking and our dreaming life. We become sad, angry, jealous, or depressed by focusing on the faults and shortcomings of others. We dwell on the insensitive way they are treating us or have treated us in the past. We often blame others for why we aren’t succeeding or why we can’t achieve the happiness we deserve. We feel treated unfairly by others, unloved or not loved enough. We think that we deserve better. We often feel sorry for ourselves and long to be surrounded by loving and supportive people who think we are amazing. Right? And our excuse is always, “If only he would stop . . .” or, “If only she didn’t do . . .” We too often feel that other people are in our way— in the way of our happiness. The others in our lives are actually providing us with the way. But we must be willing to see them in that light.

To be free of all the nasty people in your world is possible.

Have faith in the knowledge that all the nasty people in your world can change. But don’t wait for them to change on their own, or you’ll be waiting forever! You must change them yourself. If you want someone to be a holy being, you must see him or her as a holy being. They actually only exist in your own mind anyway. They have come from your own past karmas and appear according to how you see them.

How you see anyone or any situation in your present life is due to your past karmas— how you have treated others, in your past. When the great saint Ramana Maharshi was asked, “How should we treat others?” he replied, in yogic fashion, “There are no others.”

We cannot escape our past karmas— the actions we have already done— but we can start now and do our best to plant the kinds of seeds we want to see grow in the future. Cultivating forgiveness, kindness, and friendliness toward others results in spiritual strength. So much suffering comes from seeing ourselves as a victim of others— as a repository for their selfishness, cruelty, greed, insensitivity, and so forth. We see the world as “out there,” coming at us, instead of taking responsibility and realizing that the world we see outside of us has come from inside us, from how we have treated others in our past. Others provide us with a karmic projection— a mirror in which to see ourselves.

The way of the yogi is to dive deeper. The nature of the eternal soul is joy, and this is the only true reality; everything else is temporary. When one realizes the nature of his or her own soul they discover the true Self— that which can never be harmed by anyone. Through the practice of giving blessings to others you come closer to the experience of the power of your own soul— the power of goodness.

When we hug someone we pull them toward us and hold them against our heart. We communicate that we want to be at peace with them, and that we wish them well. To hug someone is to bestow a blessing from the goodness of one’s heart.

It is a well-known fact that only saints give blessings. Well, how do you think a saint becomes a saint? Yes, it is through the practice of giving blessings. As the blessing comes through you, it changes you. By giving blessings to someone else you change the negative perception of that person in your own mind and you also change the perception of yourself as someone who sees negativity. Giving blessings is an anonymous way of changing your world— it can turn devils into angels. And it can all happen in the privacy of your own mind— you don’t have to “meet them for coffee” and talk it out. If you aren’t willing to see someone as a good person, how can you expect him or her to be one? The power is in your hands— well, actually, your mind. The question is, how willing are you to forgive, to let go, and to allow love to lead the way?

Compassion is infinite; you won’t run out, so don’t be stingy with your blessings— give your blessings to everyone— to the people you don’t like as well as the ones you do like. Blessing the ones you love and seeing them as holy beings ensures that they will remain holy, blessed beings in your life.

THE PRACTICE

Allow the image of someone you know to arise in your mind. As you inhale, silently say, “Blessings and love to—” and as you exhale, silently say the name of that person. Continue focusing on that same person or allow other people to float into your consciousness. As you give the blessing try to visualize the person filled with joy and surrounded by light.

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Editor’s note: Published by permission of the author.

10 comments on “5 Kid-Friendly Yoga Poses That Will Open Hearts and Minds”

5 Kid-Friendly Yoga Poses That Will Open Hearts and Minds

By Sara J. Weis

Love is in the air, and now is the time to let your heart shine. Yes, flowers and candy are a lovely thought for adults this season, but it is also a good time to open your heart and show acceptance and compassion for others.

These heart-opening exercises are especially beneficial for kids and adults who spend the majority of their day slouched in desks at school and work or with their heads bent over screens and books. These exercises take only minutes and will help improve posture and release back and neck tension as well as create an openness in your body and mind.

  1. Cat to Cow Pose: Begin on your hands and knees. Next round your back and tuck your chin into your chest as if you are a cat. Then look up, arch your back and open your chest into Cow Pose. This is a great way to strengthen your spine and begin to feel your heart opening.
  2. Updog Pose: Lie on your tummy. Place the palms of your hands next to your shoulders and look up. Slowly straighten your arms and open your chest. It is okay to keep arms bent as well.
  3. Bridge or Wheel Pose: Kids love trying to get into Wheel Pose, but this huge heart opener is not easily accessible for all. For an easier but still effective heart opener, try Bridge Pose. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Rest your arms alongside your body, tuck your chin into your chest, and lift your back to create a bridge.
  4. Camel Pose: Take this pose slowly and feel your heart open. Get on your knees, lean back slowly, and place your hands on your lower back or ankles. Tilt your head back, open your chest, and breathe.
  5. Bow Pose: Lie on your tummy, bend your knees, and lift your chest. Reach your arms back toward your toes and hold onto your feet. Let your heart shine!

Show the little ones you care about and give your own body some love by trying these 5 kid-friendly heart opening yoga exercises.  These poses will help you open your own heart and mind, and by practicing them with kids you will also help them let their heart shine!

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Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Sara J. Weis, author of Go Go Yoga for Kids: A Complete Guide to Using Yoga With Kids and the creator of The Kids Yoga Challenge. She is a certified kid and adult yoga instructor and holds a master’s degree in education with over 18 years of teaching experience. Using all of her knowledge and experience Sara has created and kid-tested hundreds of yoga games, lessons, and movement ideas that will help instill the lifelong benefits of yoga in all kids.  Find more information at gogogyogakids.com.