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Lumi Power Yoga by Barb Durand - 3M ago

In the world we live in, being still is looked down upon. How busy you are has become a marker of your success. Multi-tasking, juggling, and occasional double-booking are expected. The idea of stopping just to be still seems almost inconceivable. Why stop, when you could be achieving something else?

But what are you afraid would happen if you did stop? If, for example, you woke up ten minutes early to sit and meditate. It wouldn’t affect your productivity, but would it be uncomfortable? Would it allow those thoughts in the back of your mind to start to come out? Because you’re doing amazing at keeping all those balls in the air, but deep down, how are you really feeling?

Often, staying busy is a way of running away, of hiding from the truth. In the moment, it makes us feel like we’ve accomplished something, like we’re worthy. But every moment is inevitably followed by another, when the satisfaction of crossing one thing off the list is replaced by the anxiety of starting the next, and the deeper knowledge that the list will never be complete.

When you pause, you allow yourself to listen to what’s really going on. You give yourself the chance to be honest, to consider how you’re living your life—the ways you treat others and yourself, the ways you react in stressful situations, the ways you spend your days. As Ram Das said, “the quieter you become, the more you can hear.”

What you find might be uncomfortable at first, but only when you find it will you have the opportunity to make a choice—to begin to align your actions with who you truly want to be. Meditation means “remembering”. Remembering to come back to your breath. Remembering to come back to how you feel. Remembering what works and is best for you. Remembering to listen to and follow your truth.

And you don’t have to sit down for formal meditation to find stillness. You can start on your yoga mat, in any pose. Notice that even there it’s often hard to stop—when a pose gets uncomfortable, you shift, your eyes dart from your hand to your foot to the ceiling, you do anything to distract yourself from the feeling in your body. But also notice that when you do stop, when you focus your eyes on one point, deepen your breath, and settle into the pose, only then can you hear what your body really needs—and only then do you find the possibility of true expansion.

The more you know the feeling of stillness and the truth it brings you, the more you can come back to it even in the midst of the daily whirlwind. When you find yourself overwhelmed, swept up in the stress of planning, or reaching to the nearest comforting thing to help you forget, just pause. Take a breath, come back into your body, find a moment of stillness, and remember. Then you can take your next step from your heart.

It can be helpful to have an anchor, or a reminder. I often wear a beautiful ring my sister gave me. When I look at it, I think of her poise and wisdom. And whatever I’m doing, I try to recenter, to come back to myself. This morning, I was trying to finish up several important emails. My partner was eating breakfast, and I kept getting annoyed that he was interrupting me. Then I looked down and reminded myself to pause. I remembered how little time I get to spend with him, and how much he means to me. So instead of pushing him away, I joined him for breakfast. It took me away from my emails for ten minutes, but it made my morning.

It’s almost as if our default is to be underwater. When we learn to find stillness, we learn to stick our head up above the waves. And as our ability to drop into stillness grows, we realise we are floating through even the darkest of storms.

To choose stillness is not to be “unproductive”—it is the greatest gift you can give yourself.

The post Be Still and Know appeared first on Lumi Power Yoga.

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Lumi Power Yoga by Barb Durand - 3M ago

“How can I not be true to myself”, you ask? “I’m me.” Yet haven’t you ever done something that felt good or easy in the moment, but deep down you knew wasn’t really what you wanted? Something that felt wrong not because someone else told you it was wrong, but because it went against something which, in your core, you knew to be right?

Being true to yourself means listening for and to that something in your core—that voice illuminating the truth. Of course, it’s often hard to hear. There are so many things we ‘want’ in our lives that it’s easy for the short-term wants to drown out our deeper needs. In each moment, we crave what is easy and comfortable. Our immediate desire to satisfy a craving, or please someone, or quit something difficult often seems so pressing that we don’t listen any deeper.

Yet if we were to pause and ask ourselves what we truly want, who we want to be, we might find something bigger—a desire to challenge ourselves, to take care of ourselves, to grow.

Of course, once we hear that voice, we have to trust it, to believe and honour what it’s telling us. Then we have to act. And that is the hardest part.

Fortunately, every moment of your yoga practice is an opportunity to be true to yourself. In down dog, your teacher might be telling you to bring your hands shoulder-width apart. And everyone around you might have their hands shoulder-width apart. But if your shoulders feel pinched, remember that you are not necessarily most people—and you don’t need their approval, or your teacher’s approval, to know and do what your body needs. So if it’s telling you to widen your hands, widen them. You might not look like anyone else, but you’ll feel like yourself.

And when you look around again, remember that each person around you is on a different path, in a different body. You can appreciate the expression of their truths, but only you can express your own. That’s why the sound of “om” is so beautiful. It’s everyone speaking in their own voice—no one the same, but all committed to the truth.

So listen to that sound, and carry it with you off your mat. When the crowd is yelling in one pitch, remember that you have the right to speak in another. And while going against the grain may feel awkward or uncomfortable in the moment, it will never match the deep satisfaction of feeling truly comfortable in your own skin, of doing what you know is right.

Remember, too, that being true to yourself may mean disagreeing with others, but it doesn’t mean disregarding them. Your truth may be to treat everyone with respect—yet the highest form of respect is not to please others, but to be fully honest with them. As Shakespeare wrote in full, “This above all, to your own self be true, And it must follow, as the night follows the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” You respect others by respecting yourself.

The post Be True To Yourself appeared first on Lumi Power Yoga.

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Lumi Power Yoga by Barb Durand - 3M ago

When I was younger, I couldn’t catch a ball to save my life. Every time I saw the ball coming towards me, I panicked. I either so badly wanted to catch it that I tried too hard and couldn’t actually focus on catching it, or I was convinced I’d never catch it anyway, so didn’t really try at all. Only many years later did someone give me a piece of advice that seems to universally apply: just take a breath and focus on the ball.

It sounds so simple, and yet it can be so difficult. We often encounter the same thing on our yoga mats. We dread a particular pose in the sequence. And when the time comes to do it, we either struggle, straining and frustrating ourselves (and finding only strain and frustration in the pose), or we just do the pose half-heartedly, believing it’s not really possible for us anyway.

But what if we just took a breath and focused on our bodies? If instead of forcing or avoiding the pose, we relaxed into it? It is in those moments, when we let go of our thoughts and just stay with each inhale and exhale, noticing our muscles, our discomfort, our boundaries, that we realise we are truly in the pose.

Paradoxically, it is when we surrender that we find our power.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we can always just shift from being tense to being immediately relaxed. It’s ok to ease our way into it. Our bodies tighten for a reason. We have boundaries for a reason—to protect ourselves from harm. But often our bodies, and we, are overly cautious. We have to be reassured that we’re not going to fall off a cliff before we can take a step forward. But if we show our bodies and ourselves that we’re all right when we let go a little bit, soon we’ll find we can let go a lot.

This is wonderfully visible in almost any forward fold. When we first reach toward our toes, a cell in our hamstrings sends an alarm to our brain, signaling that we might be in danger of tearing our muscles. Our brain responds by making us feel pain, encouraging us to stop. But if we relax for a moment, then stretch a little further, our cautious little hamstring-protector cell sees that we’re actually ok—no tears! So it gives the go-ahead for us to go a little deeper. And if we do this a few more times, allowing our bodies to slowly relax into the pose, soon we’re surprised to find our hands on the ground.

As with most everything we learn from yoga, this is true not only when it comes to touching our toes, but in doing anything that we’re afraid of, anything that takes us outside of our comfort zone. When we encounter a challenge in our lives, it’s natural either to back away or to try to muscle our way through. But sooner or later we realise that both just make us more stuck. To get unstuck, we can only face the challenge, breathe, and take a small step forward. Then do it again. After all, as John Kabat-Zinn said, “You can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf.”

The post Relax With What Is appeared first on Lumi Power Yoga.

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Lumi Power Yoga by Barb Durand - 3M ago

Knowledge is important. It gives us a solid foundation, allows us to have a basic understanding of how things work. We can’t do anything if we don’t know anything.

But anyone who has ever done anything great has gone beyond what was already known.

Think of Einstein. He was taught that light is made of waves. But when he allowed himself to drop what he knew and think bigger, he realised that light can also be made of particles. And his discovery opened the door to a whole new world of knowledge and understanding called quantum physics. Einstein couldn’t have made his discovery without knowledge of physics. But that knowledge served only as the beginning, only as the building blocks, of his true work.

On our yoga mats, it’s helpful to know the basic mechanics of each pose. But if we try to move our bodies so they look exactly like the picture in a book, so that every limb and muscle and joint is aligned in the way they’re “supposed” to be, we might miss out on what a yoga pose can really be for us.

In Extended Side Angle, we’re often told to keep our back foot at 90 degrees. But it turns out that some people gain greater access to their core, and therefore are able to more fully open their front body, if they turn their back foot in to more like 60 degrees. How will you ever know what’s right for you if you keep trying to do the pose “right”?

At some point in our practice, we have to drop what we think we know and simply listen to our bodies and our intuition. We have to release the constraint of what has been done before and pay attention to what can be done right now. Only then can we discover our own full, individual expressions of each pose. All the knowledge in the world can’t get us there, only we can.

Of course, that means we have to have faith in ourselves. Knowledge can often serve as a safety blanket. If we do everything by the book, we must be doing everything right, which makes us good and acceptable in the eyes of others. We’re afraid of what would happen if we did things differently, as we felt deep down they should be done, because that might open us up to criticism or ridicule.

But what would that matter, if our own way worked, opened doors, allowed us to grow? From the other side of those doors, we might even begin to feel sorry for those who would criticise us for following our own path. We might understand that they too are probably just afraid to drop the security that comes from having a defined worldview.

Paradoxically, once we let go of needing to know the right answer, we’ll know what to do. Once we stop looking outside of ourselves for the right way, the path inside us illuminates. As Baron Baptiste says, “Drop your brain, drop your expectations, and just let go and flow.” And ask yourself, what could be your equivalent of quantum physics?

The post Drop What You Know appeared first on Lumi Power Yoga.

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Lumi Power Yoga by Julia Voortman - 4M ago

Growing up, we hear it over and over—tell the truth. Yet it is so easy to build our lives on lies. You might not feel like, or want to admit, that you’re lying, but just ask yourself this: How many times have you told yourself, inwardly, that you’re not good enough? And how many times have you told everyone else that you’re just fine—great, even?

We tell these lies because it’s hard to tell the truth. First and foremost, it requires being vulnerable. It requires coming to terms with how we’re living our lives, recognizing all the ways we aren’t or haven’t been there, the ways we’ve hurt ourselves and others. It takes courage to see the truth of where we are and what we’ve done.

But it takes even more courage to take the next step—to forgive ourselves, and to recognize that it’s never too late to start over. It is only then, when we surrender to and accept our mistakes and imperfections, that we can move forward and begin to live authentically.

Meditation teaches us how to seek the truth on a small scale. Every time we meditate, our thoughts are bound to wander (or even run…) off. But the practice is simply to recognize when that happens and then start again. If we judge ourselves, or tell ourselves we’ll never be able to “get meditation right,” we just stay stuck in thought and anger. On the flip side, if we meditate for five minutes and keep our mind blank, we might feel great—but if we chase that high for the next five minutes, we’re bound to grow disappointed. The goal isn’t to always have a clear mind; the goal is to do our best to come back into presence, again and again, without judgment.

We do the same thing on our yoga mats. Every pose is an opportunity to listen to our bodies and be honest about where we are and how far we can go. But if we compare ourselves to the yogi next to us, beating ourselves up because we can’t lift our leg as high or reach our hands as low, we mentally leave our practice and lose out on what we actually are capable of. Similarly, if we have an established yoga practice and start feeling comfortable in a pose, we tell ourselves we’ve mastered it and move into auto-pilot, losing the opportunity to engage in the true practice, which is to be present with our body and do what it needs, today.

But while we might even go through most of a yoga class in judgment or on auto-pilot, it’s never too late to seek truth in the next pose. Rather than getting frustrated that we weren’t there in the way we wanted to be before, simply say: it’s ok, this is where I am now. Surrender to the truth. Then keep doing it, day after day.

For that’s perhaps the silver lining—that the truth is always there, inside you, and it only takes one moment to let it shine through. After all, as the Buddha taught, “Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth.”

The post Seek The Truth appeared first on Lumi Power Yoga.

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Lumi Power Yoga by Julia Voortman - 4M ago

If you have ever owned a plant, especially a fickle one, you know how hard it can be to keep it alive. It requires regular check-ins, watering, grooming, re-potting. It requires daily work and patience.

When you put in that work, you see the immediate results: green leaves, new growth, maybe even a blossom. And when you don’t—when it’s so tempting just to go on vacation for a week and leave the plant be, or when you just get swept up in the busyness of life—you see the immediate consequences: wilting, browning, crumbling apart.

This, of course, is true of everything we do. If we want to improve our tennis game, we have to practice regularly. If we want to learn another language, we have to do our homework. We will never run a faster marathon by just setting a goal; we have to put in the daily miles.

Similarly, if we want to experience personal growth—if we want to feel more connected, more present, and more fulfilled in our lives—we have to commit to showing up, every day.

There’s no shortcut, no cheat code, no secret that will take away the repetition and the time that it takes to live the life we want to live. And if we keep thinking that there is, that we’ll be better off if we just give up and try something new, we’ll end up never learning anything. If we’re always looking for something better, we’re doomed to be perpetually dissatisfied, to spend our days looking, rather than living and loving. But if we truly commit to something, we will see results.

If we wake up early every morning to practice yoga, even when it’s hard, it’s not the practice that’s the reward. The reward is who we are becoming—more disciplined, committed and life-embracing human beings. And the more we grow, the more faith we have in the power of showing up and staying, and in our own potential to keep growing.

The key is that we have to believe it’s worth it. If we only go to yoga because it’s something we think we “should” do, or to please other people, then the daily practice will be a chore. We will build up resentment until we inevitably walk away from the whole endeavor and never look back. But if we truly desire growth, then we can approach our practice with conviction, knowing that we are committing to ourselves.

Of course, commitment doesn’t mean achieving immediate perfection. If you try, and fail, to kick up to handstand, over and over again for months, before finally doing it, that doesn’t mean you are plagued by repeated failure. It means you succeeded: you worked hard and you grew.

That’s why commitment requires constant self-compassion and non-judgment, the ability to approach each “failure” not as a shortcoming, but as a step toward improvement. Remember that we always have the power to shape our own experiences: if instead of seeing our mistakes as roadblocks, we see them as lessons that helped us learn something about ourselves, we will keep moving forward. Day by day, we will find ourselves becoming who we want and know we can be. So remind yourself, as Carl Jung did: “I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”

The post Commit To Growth appeared first on Lumi Power Yoga.

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Lumi Power Yoga by Julia Voortman - 4M ago

In physics, energy is defined as the capacity to do something, to cause movement or change.  It is potential, and it is in everything around us, including ourselves.  When our universe began, it was a vast ocean of formless energy.  It may have seemed empty, but in fact it was full of possibilities.  Then, one step at a time, those possibilities began to take shape: what already existed was rearranged to create something new.  Atoms emerged, then chemical elements… stars, planets… and finally, life.

Now, our world is made up of the same energy that has always existed, just in the unique configuration we see around us.  But that configuration is always changing, as energy shifts from one form to another (like ice to water to steam) and combines with other energy to create new and unexpected things (like hydrogen and oxygen make water itself).

In this sense, forward moving energy is a law of nature.  Energy keeps shifting and evolving in the universe, whether we like it or not and whether we do anything about it or not.  Yet we can choose how we use our energy, into what forms we convert it.  In doing so, we can create change, can propel ourselves forward into new realms.  And in doing so, we can see the true nature of the universe.  We can realize that we are riding the waves of the ocean of energy—always the same, yet always moving forward, taking new forms.       

One way we can experience an energy shift is by physically moving forward.  In physics, a classic example is a ball rolling across the floor—the faster it rolls, the more of its energy is converted from stored to expressed.  Like the ball, we too can move forward on our yoga mats.  When we flow through a vinyasa series, we express energy outward.  And something new and magical happens when we become wholly swept up in that movement:  with each breath we slide from one moment to the next, always in the present with no thought of the past or future.  We are neither stalling nor rushing, simply moving forward.  

We can experience the same flow off our mats, when we engage in any activity.  When we lose ourselves in the expression of energy doing anything we love, we lose all concept of time.  In these moments, we so appreciate the present that moving forward on our wave of energy is almost like flying.

Yet we can also experience forward moving energy not by moving forward, but by standing still.  In physics, heat is another form of expressed energy.  And when we hold a yoga pose past the point of discomfort, we too can create an inner fire, or tapas.  That heat then burns a path into a new world, the next moment, where we realize we are capable of more than we thought.  

To create heat on your mat, keep in mind that the moment you want to come out of a pose is the moment to challenge yourself to stay in it.  Ask yourself:  how much of your desire not to leave your comfort zone is driven by fear of failure?  And remember that the moment you choose to persist, you quiet the part of you saying “I can’t” by showing it that you can.  When you see what you can do, that’s when you have a breakthrough, when your energy creates something new.  You shift from struggling to shining (and not just with sweat ;)), and when you finally come out of the pose, you are buoyed forward by the positivity you created.

You can experience the same shift every time you push yourself outside your comfort zone.  This doesn’t mean taking physical risks—it simply means, in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “do[ing] the thing you think you cannot do.”  For you, could it be smiling at a stranger who looks sad?  Submitting a short story you wrote to a competition?  Apologizing to a friend?  Signing up for a half marathon?  However you embrace the discomfort of stepping across your own boundaries, they are almost certain to dissolve from solid to steam, disappearing behind you.

Every time you step onto your yoga mat, let it be an opportunity to remember the true nature of things, to become aware of your own energy and to use it to shape this ever forward-moving universe.  As Albert Einstein taught us, “Life is like riding a bicycle.  To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”      

The post Forward Moving Energy appeared first on Lumi Power Yoga.

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Lumi Power Yoga by Julia Voortman - 4M ago

Many people come to yoga because they want to see some change in their lives—maybe in their body, maybe in their mood, maybe in their connection to others.  Recognizing that you want a change and taking the time and effort to come into the yoga studio is huge, an accomplishment in itself.  But once you’re on your mat, you can’t just keep wishing for change.  You have to do the work.

So how do you do the work?  The first step, as with almost everything, is commitment.  And that requires believing that you can do the work and that you’re worth doing the work.  It means trusting yourself—your own abilities and your own value.  

The next step is showing up—physically and mentally.  Doing the work doesn’t mean performing every pose perfectly.  It means doing your best.  It means directing your energy towards staying present and meeting your edge in every pose—not just the ones you like—connecting with and directing your body, your breath, your gaze.  And bringing your mind back into focus, without judgment, every time it wanders away (and it will!).

What happens when you do the work?  Being present and committed to your practice frees you from the distractions and default thoughts and actions that usually take over.  The more you show up and do your best on your mat, the more you see what you are capable of, how amazing you are and how much you can grow.  You realize how much freedom you have to shape your body, your mind, your experience.  And doing the work on your mat helps you understand that you have the power to direct your energy to build the life you want to live.  

The first time you experience that sense of freedom is incredibly empowering.  But take that moment when you’re feeling your best and see it as a sign to keep working.  Of course you can and should feel like you’ve accomplished something—you have!  But to stay in that state of liberation and possibility, and to discover what more you’re capable of, requires continuing to be present, continuing to work.   

In this way, doing the work of yoga simply becomes doing the work of our lives.  Because contrary to what we often think, discipline doesn’t mean depriving ourselves of freedom, but allowing ourselves to truly experience it.

The post Do The Work appeared first on Lumi Power Yoga.

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Lumi Power Yoga by Julia Voortman - 4M ago

You may not realize it, but you are always impacting others, through your presence and your energy, as well as your words and your actions.  Everything you do contributes something to the world and the people around you. 

If you want to contribute goodness and happiness and joy to the world around you, you have to start by contributing those things to yourself.  You can only give what you already have.  When you criticize yourself, tell yourself that you’re not good enough or not doing something right, you are planting seeds of negativity within you.  And from that negativity, only negativity can grow.  But when you appreciate and encourage yourself, when you take joy in who you are and what you are doing, you plant seeds of kindness and joy that can radiate outwards.  The more you love yourself, the more love you have to give. 

What does this look like in practice, and how can you practice it on your yoga mat?  When you’re in a pose you might catch yourself being self-critical, thinking, “I’m the only person here who can’t do this pose; my body will never be able to move like that; why am I not flexible?”  Just notice it.  There’s no need to judge yourself for thinking this way.  They’re just thoughts!  And they’re not making you feel good, so don’t believe them.   

Instead, try shifting your attention to your body, and focusing on what you can do.  Breathe in and create space; breathe out and see where you go in the pose.  It might not be very far.  Your body might not look like the other bodies in the room.  But what you’re doing with it, and the attention you’re paying to it, that’s yoga!  And if you tell yourself, “Hey, I’m doing it; this is kind of awesome; I’m kind of awesome,” you might be surprised at the vibe you give off to the rest of the room.  In fact, you might be surprised at the mood you’re in after you step off your mat.  That belief and confidence in yourself might just be reflected in your smile, your body language, your attention.  Only a small percentage of what people take away from their interactions with us is what we say; what matters is how we say it with our bodies and our energy.  So just by being yourself you are contributing to others.

And when we feel secure in ourselves, we no longer have to spend our energy worrying about what we’re doing wrong or whether we’re not good enough or why.  We have this store of love inside of us and now we can actively channel it outwards.  Next time we’re on our mats, we might notice that the person besides us seems discouraged.  Knowing the feeling, we can offer a smile, or introduce ourselves after class.  We can express encouragement authentically, and in doing so may even find ourselves more encouraged.

Imagine a reservoir of water at the top of the mountain.  But there’s a dam blocking the reservoir, so none of the trees and plants and animals on the mountain can drink the water.  Now imagine you are the dam.  If you can open up and appreciate the water yourself, you will also let it flow through you and out to everyone around you.

It feels good to give, to share the water of life with those around you.  And when you give like this, you don’t need to receive a thank you, you don’t need to be given anything in return.  You are merely contributing from the reservoir of love that we all need and we all deserve.  The act of giving is itself a gift, and it creates a cycle:  the more we give, the more love we create, and the more we have to continue to give.  As the Buddha taught, “When you move your focus from competition to contribution, life becomes a celebration.”

The post Contribution appeared first on Lumi Power Yoga.

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What does it mean, to play?  When we watch children play, we see them being free and creative, exploring the boundaries of their bodies and their imaginations.  What if playing is simply acting without worrying about what you look like and what you accomplish?

Adults can’t afford to play, we tell ourselves.  We have responsibilities, duties – jobs, mortgage payments, children of our own.  We have to take life seriously.  There’s no time for play anymore.

But what if we allowed ourselves to play on our yoga mats?  We don’t have any responsibilities there.  That means the only thing holding us back is our fear of how we might appear to other people.  But do we really want that to hold us back?  Why should we let those people affect our happiness?  Actually, why should we let our assumptions about their thoughts affect our happiness?  Chances are, if other people are anything like us, they might want to play too.  And would you want your own momentary impressions of them to hold them back?

So the next time you do a pose, consider what if would mean just to have fun with it, to go with whatever your body felt like doing, or to explore a new variation you just thought up.  Let go of what you think you should look like, and be what you are.  Take a chance, come out and play.  Who knows, your boldness and joy might even be infectious.  You might inspire those around you to join in the game too.

Then pay attention to how it feels to play.  To let go of needing to be perfect, to listen to your intuition, to move confidently as yourself.  And consider how it would feel to take that feeling off the mat.

Ah, but those responsibilities.  What if you could play while you’re taking care of them?  Hum while you’re walking the dog.  Build a castle with your laundry.  Let yourself think through, write up, and even pitch that idea to your boss that you were afraid might have been a little too out there.  Think of every responsibility as an opportunity to explore, discover, and express yourself.  After all, as George Bernard Shaw reminded us, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

Because playing doesn’t mean you can’t take your work, your family, or your life seriously.  In fact, it can be a sign of commitment to them.  Playing allows us to find joy in what we do and to do it with our full hearts.  So believe in yourself, come out and play.

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