Be brave, be gentle, be yourself
Being brave is to live with spirit and to do everything we do with our whole heart, even if there is a possibility that it won’t work out the way we intend. This is another one of our core values at Live and Breathe Yoga and we are always amazed and constantly inspired by the courage of our students who come to our classes – especially the ones who keep showing up no matter what. It takes grit to commit to a yoga practice because it’s not just physically challenging – it gets us on a mental, emotional and even spiritual level. When I ask students the number one reason they fall off their yoga mat they say it’s because life just gets in the way.
That feeling of deep peace we get at the end of our practice is not just going to come to us if we keep doing everything else BUT our practice. The only way we are going to find peace in our lives and feel really, really good, is if we make the time for what nurtures our spirit and this takes courage on a day to day basis.
Some ways we practice being brave at Live and Breathe Yoga are:
- we try to teach every class wholeheartedly and with spirit, enthusiasm and energy.
- we show our vulnerabilities and fears and we ask for help when we need it.
- we share our own experiences honestly and encourage others to do the same.
- we enjoy practicing side by side with our students
- we stand up for what we believe in
- we don’t compare ourselves to others, instead celebrate our uniqueness
Last year, I was asked to teach yoga to the company dancers of Dance North. If you haven’t been to see a Dance North performance please do. They are incredibly talented and dedicated and their productions are a breathtaking display of grace and strength. Ok gushing over! At first I was so excited to have the opportunity to teach at such a level, but quickly I got nervous and worried that I wasn’t good enough. In the days leading up to that first class, I was constantly thinking about what I would say and how I would teach. When I walked in, the dancers were all sitting in a big circle on the stage where they perform, with eyes closed and doing pranayama exercise (breathwork). Instantly I felt a wave of fear and wanted to run away. I thought to myself “Oh no they already know more than me. Who do I think I am! Why did I agree to this? I should have sent Harry!” But, I was there and had agreed to teach and I’m a girl of my word – so I walked in nervously and introduced myself.
I taught the class (constantly wondering what they were all thinking) and by the time it came for me to chant the closing mantra in relaxation (like I do in every class as I’ve done for over ten years) I took a breath and thought maybe I won’t do it today. I took another breath still not sure whether to do it or not, worried about not being good enough. It took me an extra 5 breaths to get the courage to finally do it. After that class I was so happy that I stepped into my fear and did it anyway. I’ve been teaching the dancers now for many months and I love it! Just last week one of the girls said to me “Oh we remember that first class when you started singing to us at the end and we all thought “WOW!” And I laughed at myself as I remember that day like it was yesterday and how I nearly didn’t do it. Aren’t we silly sometimes?
The practice of ashtanga yoga has given me so much courage to be myself. This practice has grown up with me and has been like a good friend encouraging me to keep going and keep trying even when I think I have reached my limit. Time after time it proves me wrong and that I can do what I think is impossible, it just takes courage, persistence and faith in myself and the practice.
This month at the studio our focus is on being brave and living life wholeheartedly. We will be opening our hearts with extra backbends, building our courage by practicing a few new and challenging postures, all while being kind to ourselves and honest about where we are at right now. I’ve come up with a few ways you can practice being brave on and off the yoga mat.
Write a list of all the times you have been brave in your life. You will surprise yourself too and realise you are braver than you think! Now work through that list and remember how it turned out each time? Most likely it turned out just fine – maybe not how you initially thought it would but you survived nonetheless.
In preparing for this blog, I started doing this and I was surprised! I’ve done heaps of brave things like moving to the UK with no money and no job, going back to uni after having to defer a year after my car accident, travelling to India on my own, asking out a few of the Mum’s from Elsie’s Kids in Harmony class for coffee, speaking at a business women’s breakfast just to name a few. All of these experiences have worked out and sometimes even better that I ever could have imagined! Looking back, usually we have a pretty good track record and this pattern is more than likely to continue into the future.
Start before you are ready
Basically, we are never truly ready and if we wait until we think we are ready, that day will never come. Don’t be paralysed by preparation or held back by fear of the unknown. Take the leap and the net will appear! You can figure it out along the way!
Ask for help
One of the hardest things for me to do is to ask for help. I am a control freak (just ask my family!) When I first had Elsie I thought I needed to do it all on my own. After a few months of slowly sending myself crazy, I started to ask for help and it was the best thing I ever could have done! Asking for help from a friend or family, getting counselling, or saying no to things can sometimes be one of the biggest acts of courage – to show our vulnerabilities is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. And you know what? You will find that the people who love you, love to to help you out!
I’m reading a wonderful book called ‘Grit’ by Angela Duckworth at the moment about her research into why some people are successful and others are not. Through her research, Angela has discovered that passion and perseverance are much more important than natural talent. The one factor that determines someone’s chance of success is “Grit”. To have grit is to have a growth mindset or the belief that the ability to learn changes positively with effort. People with grit don’t believe that failure is permanent and are willing to not be good at something because they believe in the process.
There are four key ingredients to getting Gritty:
- Passion – being deeply interested in something
- Purpose – knowing and believing in the bigger picture
- Practice – breaking the process down into tiny little parts
- Hope – cultivating resilience – how we be better tomorrow?
We should never ever compare our backstage with someone else’s front of house. What we see on the surface is usually not a true reflection of what is really going on in in the background. I often say, there is no limit on the number of headstands in the world. Just because the person on the mat next to you can headstand it doesn’t mean there is one less available in the world. Look to others for inspiration of what is possible not as competition and then celebrate your ability to have a go.
Always be true
One of the principles of yoga is Satya or truthfulness. If you know me you know I am unashamedly myself – I just don’t have the energy to put on a façade as I have more important things (like changing the world) to do. I don’t hang around people who also aren’t real and honest and true. One of my chanting teachers in India once said “Only speak the truth and everything you say will come true” and I live by it. I cannot stand it when people pretend to be something they aren’t – it’s so boring!
One of the hardest things about our ashtanga yoga practice and the set sequence of postures is that we are forced to face our limitations by practicing postures that are challenging and not just only doing the postures we feel good it. The practice helps us face our injuries, face our thoughts and our fears with honesty. The quiet of our practice can be scary. We can’t hide from the thoughts and distract ourselves with our phones. It’s just us and our thoughts. We can’t run away from them, they wont go away unless we are first aware of them, figure out if they are actually true, and then decide how we will react, if at all. Sometimes we need to react but most of the time we just need to sit back and watch our thoughts go as most of the time they aren’t true.
Our thoughts, words and actions are our own responsibility. You can choose how you want to feel and how your life is going to be. It takes a huge about of spirit to face difficulties but if we keep looking to othersfor blame, or to save us or to do the work for us then they will keep coming back. We must own our stuff and be honest about how we got there and what we are going to do about it in the future. This is why the Mysore method of yoga practice is so powerful. The student must take some of the responsibility for their own practice and not just ‘switch off’ and let the teacher takeover.
When we practice yoga we must do so with faith in our self, the practice and in our teacher. There has to be a belief that we are worth what we are working for and that it is actually possible for us to heal, grow and feel really really good. We must practice with our whole heart – with an unshakable courage, even when there is a possibility that it won’t go as planned or the way we want to to go. If we don’t have that faith in the beginning, we need to find a teacher who has that faith for us. They will believe in us and help to find that faith for ourselves.
When trying to decide whether to do something new, try thinking about how you will feel if you DON’T do it. This is a great tool to figure out how much something really means to you. The fear of missing out can be a powerful tool but we must be honest with ourselves when making the decision. If the risk of feeling a certain way when you don’t do something is worse than if you actually do it, then take the plunge and see what happens!
So how are you going to be brave this month? How have you faced your fears in the past? I came up with a few fun challenges you might like to try to practice a little more courage in your life:
- Go to the movies on your own
- Sign up for Be Brave for backbends workshop 😉
- Learn a new language
- Ask out that cute boy/girl for a coffee
- Commit to practicing Mysore classes for a month
- Pay it forward with buying a coffee for the next person in line anonymously
- Put your hand up for the next big project at work
- Start a blog
- Do cartwheels in the park in your lunch break
- Switch off your phone for a whole day
- Delete friends off facebook
- De-clutter your house
- Start a book club
- Go on a staycation
I’ll finish with one of my favourite quotes from Mahatma Ghandi “Be truthful, gentle, fearless”