Yoga, Ethics, and Integrity: a Recipe for a Saner Life

Yoga, Ethics, and Integrity: a Recipe for a Saner Life

Do you have something you are avoiding right now? Something you promised to do, or some emotion you’d rather not feel? If you say no, I’m pretty sure you are lying (if only to yourself). Every one of us is out of integrity in some way. The state of being human is also the state of imperfection. Our willingness to look at and own these imperfections is what keeps them from unconsciously owning us and is a key piece of the elegant system for living that we call yoga. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, the word integrity has two definitions: “the quality of being honest and fair” and “the state of being complete or whole”. Unfortunately, it seems we have interpreted the first definition too loosely and disregarded the second. Honesty and fairness have gotten mixed up with morality and virtue and in doing so, we’ve lost track of why they are important. Integrity is not about right and wrong, it’s about what is functional. Offering to help others even when we know we will drain or deprive ourselves is not functional. Neither are breaking promises, chronic lateness, or shoddy work. Making time for self care is functional. Burning the candle indefinitely at both ends definitely is not. The more that we live our lives with integrity, the worthier we will feel. Not the sort of worthiness that implies a hierarchy (as in, worthier than thou) but the worthiness that we all share as living beings. An internal sense of this kind of worthiness helps us to enjoy the preciousness of our own lives and see other lives...
The Breakfast Dilemma

The Breakfast Dilemma

Breakfast. Sometimes called the most important meal of the day, I call it the most troublesome. When I wake up in the morning, I feel groggy and it takes a while for my brain cells to settle into their proper places. I do try to get up extra early to compensate for this, but still rarely have the time or energy to cook a complicated breakfast (much less clean up afterwards!). Aside from the few enviable ‘morning people’ who spring out of bed each morning with bright eyes, most of us face a similar conundrum. I believe this lack of mental clarity in the morning leads us to make more emotional and less rational choices for what to eat in the am than we do at other times of day. In this article, I will share several solutions that have helped me to deal with the breakfast dilemma. At the end, I will share my family’s top-secret recipe for a quick and easy breakfast that is nutritious, detoxifiying, and delicious. The problem with cold cereal No wonder so many people resort to cold cereal, pop-tarts, or cereal bars. They are quick, tasty, and look – the box says “fortified with essential nutrients”. But even the advertisements for cold cereal state that it is “part of a complete breakfast” – not a breakfast by itself. And if we had the time and energy to cook that complete breakfast, well we probably wouldn’t choose cereal in addition to eggs and toast. Many argue the place of these heated, sugared, and extruded grains in our diets at all. Nourishing Traditions is one...
Mado’s top 4 tips for getting the most out of your hip openers.

Mado’s top 4 tips for getting the most out of your hip openers.

Since most of us spend a lot of our days sitting, ‘hip openers’ have become a popular focus of yoga classes, videos, and workshops. However, our sedentary hips become weak as well as tight and a thoughtful, balanced approach is necessary to keep this large and stable joint healthy and functional.  Read on for my advice on how to get the most out of your hip openers. #1 Listen to your low back Your hips are the joint that connects your legs to your pelvis. Many of the muscles that move your hips affect the tilt of your pelvis. If those muscles become imbalanced, they often pull your low back into an overly rounded position, an overly arched position, or sometimes both at once! Therefore, the health & wellbeing of your low back is directly connected to the health and wellbeing of your hips. When you practice hip opening poses, pay special attention to the sensations and mobility of your low back. If you find yourself in a position where you cannot move your low back forward into its natural lordotic curve, you are likely placing your back under unnecessary stress. This is different from consciously choosing to round your low back during a hip opener, which may be a very helpful and enjoyable position. #2 Make time for downtime Even though most of us live safer lives than our ancestors, we spend more time with our SNS (sympathetic nervous system) activated. The SNS is the part of our nervous system that ensures our survival (the fight or flight response). It causes us to be alert, watchful, and ready...
Hips feel Stuck?  This might be the reason why…

Hips feel Stuck? This might be the reason why…

Some people walk into their first yoga class, press the soles of their feet together and boom – their knees fall right to the ground for a perfect bound angle pose. Other people practice for decades and still need to sit on something to get their knees to level with their hip bones – the measure for this pose to be safe for your spine. Often, the latter group will ask their teacher “will my hips ever open?”. The answer is, most likely, no. That doesn’t mean you should stop stretching them – but it might change how and why you stretch them. If your hip mobility is limited when you first begin yoga, there is hope of improvement. However, if you’ve been working on it for years or even decades, the problem is most likely the structure of the joint itself. Just as human beings come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so do their bones. The largely ignored consequence of this diversity is that human movement varies greatly from person to person. Your ability to perform many traditional yoga poses is determined more by the shape of your bones than the stretch of your muscles. While there is infinite variety in the human form, there are two main structural differences in the hip joint that inform your ability to perform yoga poses. The first is the size of your femur head & the depth of your acetabulum (hip socket). People with a deeper hip socket tend to have less mobility in their hips because the bones with encounter limitations more quickly. In the photograph below you...
One small trick for dealing with big emotions

One small trick for dealing with big emotions

I hate crying! I’m not talking about the occasional tear of either joy, empathy, or sadness. I’m referring to the racking sobs that make my face puff up, my nose stuff up, and my brain shut up. I’m willing to admit that such cathartic release of emotions is probably healthy on some level but the physical sensations plus the mental reaction that follows cause me to avoid anything that might trigger such a downpour. I think I spent nearly a decade of my life doing just that. I can’t remember crying, really crying, between the ages of about 15 and 24. At 24 the catalyst that re-opened my tear ducts for real were the hormonal changes of pregnancy. All of a sudden I was crying all the time. Really crying. And I hated it. What happened to me, little by little, over the ten years that followed my emotional re-awakening, is that I figured out that most of the suffering I experienced through these “negative” emotions was caused by my resistance to them. I learned this on an intellectual level as I studied yoga philosophy and related wisdom traditions, but that type of knowledge only goes so far – we can know a great number of things intellectually that we have no idea how to put into practice. I also learned it on a subconscious intuitive level, which it turns out was much more practical. In the yoga sutras, patanjali describes aversion (dvesha) as being one of the five kleshas or causes of suffering. Perhaps you have heard the saying “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”. This concisely points...
Why You Should Befriend Your Shadow

Why You Should Befriend Your Shadow

Do you have a part of you that just creeps you out? An aspect to your personality that you’d rather nobody knew about – even yourself? Do you have a persistent dysfunctional pattern that you keep thinking you’re over – until it pops up again? Of course you do. We all do. And it’s often referred to as our “shadow”. Just like everyone’s body makes a dark reflection on a sunny day, all of us have a dark element to our selves. For most of us this is not news, but the idea that you should actually explore this element of your self might be. And it’s no surprise that our shadows tend to come out around the people we love & trust the most. The people we least want to hurt. The ones whose shadows are spilling out over us in return. In service to them and to ourselves, the icky sticky work of befriending our shadow is a worth endeavor. I’ve learned to recognize my own shadow by my desire to run away, hide my head, and look at anything else but that. In fact, I feel a resistance to even writing this post. But the problem with running away & pretending it doesn’t exist is that it doesn’t do any good. No matter how much we run, hide, or pretend, our shadow will catch up with us. In fact, it is unlikely to ever go away completely. So like it or not, our shadow side is a constant companion. Sometimes silent & unobtrusive, other times impossible to ignore, our shadow has the most hold over us...