Cat From The Mat

For A Wild Ride, Mind The Gap

The Chinese lunar calendar breaks down its 12-year cycle, represented by different animals: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig, in that order.   Each animal sign merely indicates how others see you or how you choose to present yourself.  According to the system, the universe is made up of five elements – earth, water, fire, wood and metal – which interact with the 12 animals, resulting in the specific character of the year ahead.  Water can help Wood grow. Wood can help Fire burn. Fire can burn into Earth.  Earth can cover Metal. Metal can hold Water.  After last year's Water Snake, we have just crossed a threshold into the beginning of the Year of the Wood Horse.  

A Horse year is considered a fortunate year that brings luck and good thingsA horse likes to move and take action. Its energy is free spirited, wild, willful, as well as intuitive.  Under its strong influence, there is no middle ground, as it holds true to principles.  According to the Chinese zodiac, the time for pondering and diplomacy was in the watery snakelike movement of 2013.  The Wood element is about reaching onwards and upwards, planning ahead.  Like bamboo, both its strength and flexibility help it seek growth.  Often in life, when change and expansion are needed, there can be a gap between where you are and where you want to be.

Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point addresses that breach between intention and fruition.  The book explores how epidemics spread, from topics of disease to lowering crime rates to fashion trends. Gladwell highlights the patterns found in the "tipping" of any outbreak.  He investigates how some great offerings never make it past the gate, while others flood our pop culture.  The issue at hand is how to traverse the chasm between a good idea and its manifestation.  This takes skill in action. 


This success of any action is connecting the necessary ingredients in a specific sequence, while knowing what is missing from the recipe.  According to studies, when something "tips," it happens quickly.  This is not to say that out of the blue something sticks.  For change to occur all of sudden, there is a lot of preparation that helps to pave the way, to propel movement, and to contain the shift.  

In the yoga asana practice, some poses seem to just appear one day, like the methodical tilting into an inversion.  But all of the preliminary work on the mat has paved the way for the posture to become the next organic step.  All of that preparation holds what is to come…whether sticking handstand in the middle of the room, receiving accolades for hard work, or holding the space to stay humble as a celebrity or public figure.  Without the initial priming to embrace the flip, then there's no containment for the next phase.  If you practice going upside down every day, regardless of success, then the mental, physical, and emotional groundwork is being laid.  And at some point, doing the inversion becomes the new normal…the tipping point.  

If you are anticipating an overturn this year,  consider  that your precursory efforts are needed to securely embrace change.  Your water serpent self then might be ready to gain land legs and begin to trot, canter, or gallop in the intended direction of your year.  When this happens, it will occur quickly, so hold on. 
To 2014, a year full of wild rides… Kung Hei Fat Choy!

Happy Chinese New Year of the Wood Horse!

Cat From the Mat
February 2014

Freshly Squeezed OJAS

It's a new year.  A time for new beginnings, new intentions, New Year resolutions.   It can also be a time of ramping up and revving the engine, assuming your gas tank is full and you have had a tune-up over the break.  But if you feel like you "just made it through the holidays,” then perhaps you could benefit from some freshly squeezed OJAS. 

Ayurveda (the science of yoga) defines the three necessary ingredients for vitality: a healthy body (Ojas), innate intelligence (Tejas), and energy levels (Prana).  Balancing these essential forces is the key to your longevity and resiliency.  Tejas is the discernment of your body and mind, which directs your use of energy, like your thoughts and how you process life. Prana is useable energy, known as your life force.  Your oxygen intake is an example of how prana feeds your system, not to mention how food enriches.  And Ojas is the glue that binds together your heart, mind, and body.  

 

Ojas is a Sanskrit word that means "vigor."  It is the fluid of life.  According to wikipedia, "Ojas is the ultimate refined result of digestion, metabolism, absorption and assimilation. It is a wholesome biochemical substance that nourishes all body tissues and has a direct influence on the nature and quality of physical, mental and emotional life.  Depleted ojas can result in weakness, fatigue, and a compromised immune system."

 

If this sounds familiar, you are not alone.  Daily stress zaps your energy, if you do not take time to replenish.  Do not, however, confuse self-care with self-indulgence.  Put the oxygen mask on yourself first, and then apply it to others. You will have more to offer, from a place of abundance.

Thus far, I've been fortunate to have copious amounts of energy.  Growing up, I could have been one of those kids on a leash.  Whether traveling to teach yoga or a filming on-location, I often find myself voyaging from one place to another, one project to the next.  I get so involved in the creative process that I forget to fill up my reserve tanks.  When I am out of gas, I am not as effective as I might be.  And this past year, I found myself deficient in vim and vigor.

Yoga builds ojas, tejas, and prana.  It also helps sustain homeostasis on physical, mental, emotional, and energetic levels.  So if you are feeling run-down or needing more nectar in your life, consider ways to recharge.  Your yoga practice is whatever helps you connect inside, whether asana, meditation, biking, running, dancing, cooking, singing, laughing, sleeping, to name a few.  Identify what nourishes you and take care of yourself.  Find ways to make life juicier, drinking in more ojas.  It's not just for breakfast anymore!

 

Happy New Year!

Cat From The Mat

January 2014

The Overwhelming, Ever Changing, and Circuitous Path

I recently experienced Iceland…the land of Vikings, indescribable terrains marked by geological activity, and a unique home of Norse origin.  En route back from my European yoga tour, I stopped off in Reykjavik (which in Icelandic means “smoky bay”) to meet up with my husband for an anniversary trip. Off on an adventure we went in our rental car, with local krona currency, an ice-chest, and an exploring appetite.  Together we have driven through majestic mountain ranges of the US, played on hills of gypsum, and have traversed fresh lava fields.  However, nothing quite compares to the exceptional environs of Iceland! 

Overwhelming destinations: I had one of those speechless moments when I saw the gargantuan glacier the feeds into the Glacial Lagoon in the southeast region of the country.  From the highway, the frozen flow of water was colossal and awe-inspiring, which only enlarged as we approached the enormity of the tip of the iceberg.  Its immense presence made my eyes jump out of their sockets, adding to my gaping maw.  

My response reminded me of how often I can feel overwhelmed.  Some challenges in life may seem insurmountable at times.  It’s easy to become paralyzed, not knowing how to move forward.  Yet, small, tangible steps bring me closer to my destination without focusing on the final goal.  As I approached the glacier and took my first stride upon the delicate, breakable ice, I tread lightly.  An environment like this commands respect.  How insignificant we are in contrast to the big wide world in which we live!  And yet, the steps we often take are huge…to us.

Ever-changing typography: Our daily itinerary took us through diverse territory, from green-covered volcanic moonscapes, to exploding geysers and steaming hot springs, to productive farmland and windy sandstorms at the beach.  The sheep population has learned to live in both lush and barren land, finding food in all situations.  The quest for the yogin is to also find the nourishment in every encounter, whether palatable or not.  Resiliency is not only the key to survive, but it’s an important tool to evolve as beings.  Being adaptable to what is around you requires an abundant perspective and luckily lots of opportunities to practice.

Circuitous routes: One local suggested we hike up the mountains to find a gem of a hot springs river.  We set off for what we thought would be an easy jaunt.  However, with the short daylight hours and confusion of where the path originated, we started our trek later than expected.  As we began our ascent, we noticed fellow hikers descending, looking refreshed from a hike and soak.  Each person indicated that we were not too far away from our destination.  But every time we turned a corner revealing river steam ahead, the path would then lead us further away from our intended target.  The lesson seemed painfully obvious…that just because the path seems to be taking you in the complete opposite direction of your trajectory, doesn’t mean that you are not staying the course.  After about two hours, we finally made it to the river frustrated and exhausted, but happy to finally jump into the hot bathing river, even if only for a quick well-earned dip.

 The return down the mountain went much quicker.  We had no flashlights and had to hurry before the sun set.  In Iceland, outside of the major towns, there are no highway lights to guide the way.  This can be disconcerting when trying to find your destination in the dark.  But this blackness is what allows for the colorful Aurora Borealis (The Northern Lights) to be seen.  

Yoga teaches us to generate luminosity to see amidst the dimness within and without.  It’s an ongoing cultivation of awareness.  When you always know the way, you are less inclined to open to the unknown.  As you approach the winter solstice on Dec 21st, the longest night of the year, you are invited to generate more inner brightness, to match the holiday lights wrapped around the trees, houses, and store fronts.  If Icelanders can find cheer amidst long winter nights, lava-field sheep can find feast over famine, then I encourage you to find levity along your path in life.  It may be overwhelming, ever changing, and circuitous, but the trail is unmarked, unspoiled, and unbelievable!

 

Happy Holidays!

Cheers,

Cat From The Mat

December 2013