Love is…

There is something about love that seems to be ignored; personally, I believe that we can’t truly love (or have love) if we don’t also have compassion and the ability to empathize with others in equal measure. Peace of heart requires that we both know and experience love deeply and right now we seem to be living in a society in which we have to fight for every ounce of love that is available to us. (Sigh…)

The good news is that there are beautiful practices being implemented in the revolution against allowing others to strip our love(s) away from us. Born out of the hope to end a pattern of bullying and isolation, acts and feelings that we know lessen a student’s ability to learn and perhaps live their life, came the buddy bench. The young man who brought the buddy bench idea to his school was inspired by practices from other countries to create a safe place for students to find a friend with whom to play. And, this is just one example of demonstrating loving kindness on a macro-level within their school community. 

Love comes in so many forms: familial, friendship, romantic and self, but what about love for the community? We’ve mentioned it before, but with recent events across my home state of Minnesota, both happy and devastating, and last week’s International Yoga Day festivities, it seems as good a time as any to bring it up again… Loka samastah sukhino bhavantu, is a mantra, a sacred sound repeated by a person to achieve something, which expresses a hope that all beings everywhere know and experience peace and harmony, and that we (as the individual repeating the mantra) contribute to that peace. 

The buddy bench is a perfect example of this concept, see a kiddo sitting alone and ask them to play. It’s incredibly simple, and it’s just one of the many ways this country’s next generation is showing they care, in spite of the example adults these days are setting for them. Although this is an awesome step, it takes so much more effort to create a peaceful and harmonious world: we have to begin living lovingly towards all of the people we encounter, not just other students on the playground. We need to have tough discussions about some of the bad things that happen, why they happen and what we can do to make it better the next time. We also, have to celebrate even bigger when something beautiful happens, and all beings are accepted for exactly who they are.

Yoga teaches us to be accepting; it teaches us to love one another and to work to always hold kindness in our hearts. It does so by first teaching us to feel safe and supported, and then by finding the confidence needed to know that we are good enough just as we are. Then, we can know that others are good enough as they are ultimately teaching us to stop the judgment and simply find peace. We love you; now, go and spread that love, make a new friend or hold the door for someone, it doesn’t matter the size of the gesture because each act of kindness helps us all grow. 

Go outside and play, after you read this post of course…

Let me start off by saying that I am not entirely a fan of nature; in fact, my general idea of nature has been to stare out at it from the comfort of my apartment or while riding along in someone else’s car. And, let me be clear, I live in the city so nature typically means a park or the couple of stand-alone trees planted along my residential street. That said, I’m coming around…

The other half of this Playful Yogi pair, Emily, we’ve talked about her before, is a huge nature person, so much so that she and her husband travel to state parks around the country. These two nature adventurers check out all of the cool offerings, and that’s inspiring! Yoga asana (posture), when translated into English from Sanskrit (an ancient language from India), they often take on the names of items in nature, having been inspired by shapes in nature.

Now, I am by no means a Sanskrit scholar, but I know that, while teaching yoga at the very least, Vrkasana refers to tree pose, a single-legged standing balance pose for which the sole of the foot of the lifted leg is pressed along the ankle, inner shin or inner thigh of the standing leg. And the Svanasanas: Adho Mukha and Urdhva Mukha referring to the downward facing and upward facing dog poses, respectively.

Further, each of the five elements: earth, water, fire, wind and space, play a role in our lives, bodies and yoga practices. It’s no secret that the ancients found a clear connection between living a fulfilling life and communing (sharing thoughts and feelings with someone or something in a special way to bring you closer) with nature. Western research has also started to re-embrace this lifestyle, offering green spaces in view from hospital room windows to help recovering patients get well soon.

If nature works to help sick and injured people to get well, just think what it can do for those of us who are, at least on a surface level, completely healthy. We all have stress and pain in our lives, and it’s important that we address those things before they get out of control. One way to heal our bodies, minds and souls is to go outside and hike, bike or play. Give it a try, and if you have a friend you know needs support in getting to these awesome areas of nature ask your parents if you can invite them along. After all, we all need nature, but unfortunately, we can’t all get to it, so let’s try to help each other out; tell us how you commune with nature find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Summer is hot, stay cool! 

It’s summer(!), ok so that’s an unofficial designation, but in Minnesota we’re experiencing beautiful 85-degree temperatures in the first week of June and so I am in fact calling it. Summer is a time filled with playdates and activities as parents (typically) are working their 40-hours (or more) a week jobs and kiddos are left with nothing to do. There are amazing ways in which the nation’s out-of-school children can enjoy, and stay safe in the summer months: sunscreen applications every 75 to 90-minutes, adequate hydration and (of course) ice cream – all things in moderation, right? But, did you know that yoga has huge benefits in keeping cool and calm while the temperature soars? 
Yoga has a complementary partner in science, and this partner’s name is Ayurveda (a traditional Eastern practice used to help restore vitality and balance to the body). This Eastern practice is centered around the Doshas (three energies that make up a person’s physical, mental and emotional characteristics). The energies are known as Vata (relates to movement and change), Kapha (relates to holding steadfast and static), Pitta (relates to fire and heat). Typically, each individual has one or two, most frequently two, manifesting (showing up) in their body, mind and soul from birth, and throughout our lifetime our doshas may even shift to favor one over another to the detriment of our being. 

In yoga and Ayurveda, we say that, “Like increases like,” meaning that we are drawn to what we know, what is comfortable to us and when we are out of balance we do so in a further imbalanced way. During our firey Pita season that like increasing like principle increases in environmental heat can both increase our tendency to get angry as well our internal body heat. The good news is that yoga can help! 

One way to practice during these hot summer months is to slow down. Consider taking a cooling Yin Yoga or Restorative Yoga class, these are excellent practices for calming the mind and body; in particular Restorative Yoga works to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, the anti-venom to our body’s flight, fight or freeze response. But, even more active practices like Vinyasa (to place with intention) can be slowed down, practice fewer firey twists and more cooling forward folds. Or do as the Playful Yogi’s do and take a new appropriate to your practice, doodle!!! Have a great summer and stayed tuned for next week’s installment of the Playful Yogi.