Cat From The Mat

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

Good Grief

It's Halloween, which is considered the Celtic New Year.  Samhain (pronounced "sow-in") is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter, the darker half of the year.  It's a time of looking back with appreciation and assessing all that has transpired.  It's also a time of seasonal transition, as we segue into longer nights and shorter days.  Whether beginning a new year, relationship, or phase in your life, in order to move into the next thing, an ending is inevitable.  Endings mark beginnings.  They involve stages that we must go through and cannot skip, in order to set the scene for the next creative endeavor. 

The life you have been living has outgrown its form, and must die so new energy can be released. May you undergo a death within your self. You are always free to resist, but remain mindful that the new life is always greater than the old. Prepare then for opportunity disguised as loss.” -The Rune of Termination and New Beginnings

2013 has been a year of dissolution for me.  Things that had been working, or just hobbling along, finally reached a tipping point.  Radical revision has been required, something with which I struggle.  I like consistency and routine to keep me anchored.  Yet, life has a way of uprooting us all.  Yoga is the practice of being comfortable being slightly uncomfortable, especially during shifts.  Change is the constant.  We are always in a cycle of adjusting and readjusting, whether at the beginning, middle, or end of any situation.  This often takes time and doesn't occur overnight.  Are you cognizant when you are in a transition?  Can you appreciate the discomfort, knowing that transformation is afoot?  This is a honed skill of the yogin.

Throughout the year, foundational tectonic plates have been moving beneath my feet.  I have been grieving…the death of loved ones, the end of long-standing friendships, and breakdowns in health, to name a few.  In the book "On Death and Dying," Elizabeth Kübler-Ross explains that there are five stages of grief.  She hypothesizes that when faced with the impending death of someone or something, we experience the sequence of: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  To miss any of these stages is to not completely move through the sorrow.  However painful and downright unpleasant, the act of experiencing each part of the cycle fully is the quickest and most informative way to process shifts in our lives.  This can carry us to a new starting point with a profound and iterative understanding. 

We practice these five stages every time we step onto the yoga mat.  We are invited through the full cycle in each and every pose.  In fact, when we conclude each class with the corpse pose (savasana), we embrace an ending, the ultimate act of letting go…acceptance.  It is from this disintegration that we reintegrate and move back out into our lives with a fresh perspective. We begin anew.

As we transition from fall into winter, we savor the fruits of the harvest while planting seeds in the dark.  The death of the ripe fruit contains the seedling for the future generation, while fostered in the fertile soil of change.  This requires constant cultivation and attention.  There seems to be a change of consciousness in the autumnal air.  What are you holding on to so tightly?  What would you like to release into the ether?  How would you like to design your life, so that your losses can fuel your growth?  I myself am looking forward to what's next.  I don't know exactly what it is.  But having practiced letting go thus far, I feel more prepared.  Good grief, I'm ready!


Cat From The Mat

Oct/Nov 2013