Archive for the ‘Gratitude’ Category

Namaste

Have you ever wondered what the word “namaste” means? Yoga teachers use it all the time, but not everyone knows its meaning.

Namaste is a traditional greeting used in India. It is often accompanied by a bow with the hands at the heart in Anjali mudra (prayer position). Anjali mudra is a sign of respect across Asia.

In India, it is not necessary to say “namaste”, as the bow with the hands at the heart means the same thing.

Namaste is a Sanskrit word that literally translates to “I bow to you”. To bow is to acknowledge respect to the person in front of you.

But namaste means more than that to yoga practitioners.

What’s love got to do with it?

That the hands are placed at the heart chakra gives a deeper meaning to the phrase namaste. The heart chakra is where the ancient yogis believed love flowed.

Have you ever felt warmth in your chest after hugging someone? Yogis would say that is love flowing in your heart chakra.

Namaste can also be translated to something along the lines of “the divine spirit in me honors the divine spirit within you”.

In yoga, and in many of the world’s greatest philosophies–or all for that matter–love is a state of being. Love and happiness are our natural state, and everything else is an obstacle to that natural state of being.

By saying namaste to someone, we are also honoring that natural, divine state. When we honor that divine state, we honor the similarities we have as humans.

The below image explains it very well: “Namaste – I honor the place in you in which the entire universe dwells. I honor the place in you which is of love, of truth, of light and of peace. When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, we are one.”

What can namaste do for you?

Understanding the deeper meaning behind the custom is a start to realizing that yoga is not just about the postures. There is a rich philosophy behind yoga.

As a yoga teacher, I wish for everyone to find that true state of love and happiness if that is their desire. That is why I teach, that is why I blog, and that is why I post positive affirmations on Facebook and Twitter.

With that in mind, I say to you, “Namaste”.

“There is no way to happiness – happiness is the way.”  ~Thich Nhat Hanh

With love,

~Amber

 

The Giving of Thanks

How was your Thanksgiving? I hope it was full of love, laughter and gratitude.

Have you ever wondered why gratitude makes you feel so good? Well, the emotion of gratitude releases levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain. These are chemicals that make you feel good.

Not everyone has a healthy relationship with their relatives. For some, holidays are stressful and toxic.

But even if your Thanksgiving was not full of love or laughter, if it is at the very least it was filled with gratitude, then the holiday should make you feel good physically.

More importantly, giving thanks makes other people feel good. They will in turn hopefully give thanks to others, setting off a chain reaction of positive vibes.

So, try it today. Try paying forward some positive energy and see if it makes you feel good inside. It surely will help others feel good.

Posture: Matsyasana

For this week’s posture, I would like to discuss Matsyasana, Fish Posture.

Matsyasana, Fish Posture

Matsyasana can be performed with effort or restoratively. It is also a heart opener.

As the name suggests, heart openers pull your shoulders toward the backside (posterior side) of your body allowing for the muscles of the chest to open. This posture also opens the intercostals.

When the chest muscles are opened, the back muscles contract, so this posture activates the trapezius muscles, latissimus dorsi, the rhomboids and the posterior deltoids. When the legs are extended straight forward, the quadriceps are also engaged.

 The Practice

To practice Matsyasana with effort, begin on your back with your legs extended. Then follow these steps.

  1. Tuck your tailbone under to broaden the sacrum and lengthen the lumbar spine.
  2. Flex your feet and activate your quadriceps
  3. Place your hands under your sitting bones.
  4. Draw your shoulders away from your ears, lengthening thorough the cervical spine.
  5. Press into your elbows to lift your chest up. Imagine a string is attached to your heart center pulling your chest upwards. Continue to press into your elbows. There is very little weight on the crown of your head.

To practice Matsyasana restoratively, place a block at your shoulder blades (not in your low back) and one block underneath the back of the head (optional). Let go of effort.

You can also place your feet in Supta Baddha Konasana, Bound Angle Pose, by letting the soles of the feet touch and the knees fall out to either side of the mat. Try to relax, breathe, and release tension.

You could even try practicing gratitude here with your heart open, a metaphorical posture showing your willingness to give.

Benefits

  • Fish posture helps relieve anxiety and stress.
  • This posture increases your ability to take a fuller longer breath by opening the intercostals muscles and the chest muscles (pectoralis major).
  • This posture also can help improve posture by opening the shoulders.

Happy Heart Opening!

Love,

~Amber

It’s A Family Affair

Someone wrote me and asked me to write on the topic of family. He pointed out that I have a great family, so how do people who are not as fortunate as me stay positive when it comes to having a dysfunctional family.

Well, to be honest with you, there are entire sections of my family tree whose branches have been severed. It happened when I was very young, and it was hard to deal with then.

What ended up happening, though, was that people who were not even related to me by blood became family. That’s right. Some of my closest relatives are not even related to me by blood or marriage.

I could care less about the DNA, to be honest with you. I love them with all of my heart and they are my family.

What is Family?

Family is a cultural construct. That is what I learned in my studies of anthropology, my major in college.

In some cultures, first cousins call each other brother and sister. The anthropological definition of family is “two or more people who define themselves as family”.

If you are a product of a dysfunctional family, you could try to create your own definition of family. Struggling performers in New York City do this all of the time by celebrating the holidays together because they cannot afford to go home.

I know lots of people who made the healthy decision to sever ties with family members who were abusive. Personally, I applaud any choice that removes people from detrimental situations.

Making Room For The Good

In yoga, after a vigorous asana practice, we lie down in savasana, or corpse pose. It is the final relaxation pose where all we do is try to let go of tension, and to expand the moments in between our thoughts.

Savasana – The Final Relaxation

What that means is we try to just be, instead of thinking about how we should be.

Savasana is meant to be a metaphorical death where we surrender the things we no longer need, so we can make room in our lives for the good things that will benefit us.

What or who do you need to let go of in your life in order to be happier?

This is your life for the making.  I do not recommend holding on to things that are not good for you, be that stress, anger, rage, resentment, jealousy, or unhealthy people in your life.

Even if you still deal with your dysfunctional family, you do not have to let them have power over you. You can choose to live your life for yourself and for the people who are good for you without letting unhealthy people control your actions or your emotions.

When you let go of that which you no longer need, you now have room in your life to accept love, joy, gratitude, happiness, and healthy family members, blood relatives or otherwise.

Family, like life, is what you make of it.

Love,

~Amber

Savor The Flavor

How Many Licks Does It Take to get to the Tootsie Roll Center of a Tootsie Pop?

What’s the best part of a Tootsie Pop? I say it’s the Tootsie Roll in the center. Or maybe it’s that sweet spot where you lick half lollipop and half Tootsie Roll. Yummy!

Have you ever thought what it takes to get to Tootsie Roll Center of a Tootsie Pop? Well I propose that it takes effort to get there, but at least you are enjoying the ride along the way.

Friends, the journey of life can really be that sweet. When we slow down and look at all the things we have in our lives, that awareness can be as sweet the lollipop. And with a little effort, as long as we enjoy that candy-coated, slow ride, we will eventually accomplish our goals.

Yoga teaches us that the enjoyment of the journey that is called life is just as important as the end results.  Please ponder a few questions:

  • Do you only focus on a particular goal and miss the moments that it took to get you there?
  • Do you suffer from a lot of anxiety until you finally achieve your goal?
  • Do you get frustrated that the goal isn’t manifesting fast enough and give up?

I would like to offer you an alternative, because where I come from, that is a lot of drama to endure in reaching your goals in life.  Wouldn’t it be much more pleasurable if, instead of suffering from the every day stresses of life that it takes to get you to your goal, that you slow down and enjoy the journey along the way?

I have a co-worker who once asked me why time passes so slowly when we are kids, but flies by as adults. I believe it is because as kids, we only really focus on the events that occur in the present moment. But as adults, we juggle so much that we often lose sight of the present and only worry about the past or the future.

The present, my friends, is a present; it is a gift.

Life happens in the here and the now. The past is a memory and the future is not a guarantee. Yoga’s really big secret to the enjoyment of life is to take all that energy we expend worrying about the past or the future, and use it to enjoy the present moment instead.

How can I do this?, you might ask. Well the first suggestion I have is to breathe. That’s it; it’s that simple. Every time you are stressed out and your mind is running 100 mph, take a long slow deep breath. In fact, take 20 long, slow deep breaths.

Then think of a few things that you are grateful for. I bet if you do that, you will find a smile appearing on your face. It is nearly impossible to focus on something that you are grateful for and not smile.

Once you have done those few things, then try resuming what you were doing. I would bet money that you will notice the task at hand is a little sweeter, and that any anxiety you were feeling becomes a distant memory.

Life is delicious when we focus on the moment. It is as delicious as the lollipop on the way to the Tootsie Roll!

So how many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?  Who cares as long as you are enjoying the ride!

Love,

~Amber

Self-Identity

Self-identity is a curious thing. This is especially true when we hold on to the things that define us as individuals as if our life depends on it.

Invariably, those things end. When they end, if that is how we define ourselves, we are in for a world of hurt.

In yoga, it is recommended that we practice non-attachment. Experience the world but do not try to hold on to the people or experiences that happen in your life.

The “Self” Versus the “self”

The Self in yoga is a part of the Divine. The self (with a small “s”) is the identity that you think you have.

Yoga’s spirituality teaches us that you are so much bigger than your identity. We are all a part of something much larger than the self; we are a part of the entire universe.

That Divine part of you that is connected to everything outside of the self (small “s”), that is the part of you that watches your life occur like a play. That is what is meant by non-attachment.

Observe Your Emotions

Observe the events in your life instead of becoming attached to them. Experience them, do not try to hold on to them. Just be instead of trying to control what is happening around you.

This is the path of the yogi, and it is much more peaceful and less dramatic than the life I used to lead.

Before I found yoga, I used to get bent out of shape over everything. Now I witness my emotions. I watch them instead of letting them control me. I still experience them, but they do not run my life.

Smile Like You Mean It

A wonderful way to practice non-attachment is not to take life so seriously.

Sometimes you will be elated, and sometimes you will hurt. All of those emotions are a part of the spectrum of being human.

Be aware in the present moment, no matter what is going on, pain or pleasure. If life’s emotions become overwhelming, try practicing gratitude until it makes you smile.

Phoenix Rising

Remember you cannot truly appreciate good unless you know the bad, too. More importantly, when you experience the full range of emotions, maturity and wisdom are born inside of you, like a phoenix rising from the ashes.

What more, when you stay open to possibility, instead of running away from pain, you will find deeper parts of your true Self that you never knew existed.

Love,

~Amber

Develop the mind of equilibrium.
You will always be getting praise and blame,
but do not let either affect the poise of the mind:
follow the calmness, the absence of pride. -Buddha

Picasso, Self-portrait, 1972

All Good Things Must End: Re-Posted

In lieu of a new post today, I am re-posting. Today marks the end of an era for me. My brother’s band, Fools & Horses, will be performing their final show. Here is a blog I wrote for them the day after they announced their retirement.

All Good Things Must End

Everything ends. I am not expressing that to be morbid. I share this with you today as a reminder to enjoy every moment and appreciate it to the fullest, because one day, it will end.

Two days ago, my brother’s band, Fools & Horses, announced that they are calling their 9 year run together to a close. While this is not the end of a life, it is the end of a lifestyle for me and my friends.

As I look back on 9 years of shows, 9 years of parties, 9 years of road trips, and 9 years of amazing music, I am so grateful for all the joyful memories. At first, I was shocked and sad, but the end of the band gave me a chance to remember all of the good times. I was able to re-experience gratitude for all of these memorable events.

Moreover, I will always love the music they released. As a band, they created 4 studio albums, 1 remix album and 1 power hour album for their college friends. 🙂

Today, in the great yogic tradition of spreading joy and love, I would like to share with you the four studio albums and the remix album by Fools & Horses. They are truly worth a listen, and available on iTunes if you would like to own a track, an album, or the entire collection.

We have to live every moment to the fullest. Appreciate and enjoy all that life has to offer. Before I close, just remember something I have said before: if something special in your life comes to an end, do not be sad it is over. Instead, be very grateful that you were able to experience it in the first place, because nothing lasts forever.

I am so grateful for the 9 years I had with Fools & Horses. Matt, Tim, Kent & Steve, I love you always!

Love,

~Amber

Matt, Kent, Tim, Steve

Be Where Your Feet Are

In yoga, we have an expression, be where your feet are. It means to be aware of your circumstances and accept them.

Too often in our culture, people are miserable over not having everything they desire in their life. Sure, it is ok not to be 100% satisfied with your situation, but is it really worth being miserable over?

“Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.” – Dalai Lama

My father has a wonderful expression. If he is not perfectly happy with his situation, he calls himself happily dissatisfied.
What he means is that even though he may not have every thing he wants right then and there, he is still happy. He accepts his situation and chooses happiness anyway.

Just because you have discontent in your life does not mean you have to be miserable. Yoga teaches us that it should be our goal to be as happy as possible no matter what.

Yes, you will have bad days, and you will have good days, but do not lose yourself during either. We can often get carried away by elation and depression from the ups and the downs of life.

But remember, those are your circumstances; that is not who you really are. The true you, the internal you–your morals, your beliefs, your principles, and how you treat people–can exist contently despite exterior situations.

The next time something happens that is really bad or really good, try being where your feet are. Try witnessing what is going around you while being grounded in your true self.

Acting from your center, your truest self, will allow you to realize that you are bigger than your circumstances. You, my friend, are a miracle, so begin to act like one. 🙂

With love,

~Amber