Take it Easy…

I workout about 5 – 6 times per week. My weekly routine consists of 4-5 days/week of a 20-minute cardio workout, followed by light weights and some abdominal strengthening exercises. I also an incorporate few backbends into my daily routine and some stretching. I usually practice Yoga about 3 days/week and incorporate 15 to 20 minutes of meditation into my daily routine most days of the week.

Because I teach Yoga, I spend even more time than this stretching daily when I am demonstrating certain poses in class, or even sometimes joining in on the Yoga practice with the class to flow with them from time-to-time.

The reason I’m sharing all of this with you is that I am becoming increasingly aware of how overexertion or being imbalanced in our physical wellness routine can affect us and be detrimental to our overall goals physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Last night, as I was teaching Yoga, I was speaking to the class about being balanced and taking time to rest. That when we do too much we create imbalance and this can be counter-productive to what we intend to create…

As I said this, I heard a voice inside of me say, don’t workout tomorrow. Take it easy tomorrow and rest. Do nothing. What?! What I find though, is when I give myself permission to rest, when I do return to my daily regimen of health and wellness, I feel much stronger, calmer and energized than before.

We experience this all the time when we let ourselves come into Child’s Pose in Yoga class. One of the most challenging parts of creating balance in our lives is actually giving ourselves the permission to get down on our knees and put your head on the ground and just let go and DO NOTHING.

So often my Yoga teacher will mention how the benefits of DOING NOTHING can be way more powerful and transformational on every level of our Being than overexerting ourselves to do something, i.e. making sure we get our workout/yoga practice in, etc. How overexertion can produce unhealthy levels of cortisol in our body which has the body be unresponsive to our efforts. She uses the imagery of the person who goes to the gym every day and yet never seems to change anything. Their bodies are stressed out and the only way to bring the body back to a balanced state is through a relaxation promoting practice like Yoga, Meditation, Massage, etc.

With this being said, I thought you might enjoy reading this article about stress from overexertion and how it affects our Body, Mind, and Spirit.

Take time to take it easy…

Cortisol and Stress: How to Stay HealthyFrom Elizabeth Scott,
Your Guide to Stress Management.

Cortisol and Your Body
“Cortisol is an important hormone in the body, secreted by the adrenal glands and involved in the following functions and more:

-Proper glucose metabolism
-Regulation of blood pressure
-Insulin release for blood sugar maintenance
-Immune function
-Inflammatory response

Normally, it’s present in the body at higher levels in the morning, and at its lowest at night. Although stress isn’t the only reason that cortisol is secreted into the bloodstream, it has been termed “the stress hormone” because it’s also secreted in higher levels during the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response to stress, and is responsible for several stress-related changes in the body.

Small increases of cortisol have some positive effects:

-A quick burst of energy for survival reasons
-Heightened memory functions
-A burst of increased immunity
-Lower sensitivity to pain
-Helps maintain homeostasis in the body

While cortisol is an important and helpful part of the body’s response to stress, it’s important that the body’s relaxation response to be activated so the body’s functions can return to normal. Unfortunately, in our current high-stress culture, the body’s stress response is activated so often that functioning often doesn’t have a chance to return to normal, producing chronic stress.

Higher and more prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream (like those associated with chronic stress) have been shown to have negative effects, such as:

-Impaired cognitive performance
-Suppressed thyroid function
-Blood sugar imbalances such as hyperglycemia
-Decreased bone density
-Decrease in muscle tissue
-Higher blood pressure
-Lowered immunity and inflammatory responses in the body, as well as other health consequences

Increased abdominal fat, which is associated with a greater amount of health problems than fat deposited in other areas of the body. Some of the health problems associated with increased stomach fat are heart attacks, strokes, the development of, higher levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and lower levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL), which can lead to other health problems!

To keep cortisol levels healthy and under control, the body’s relaxation response should be activated after the fight or flight response occurs. You can learn to relax your body with various stress management techniques, and you can make lifestyle changes in order to keep your body from reacting to stress in the first place. The following have been found by many to be very helpful in relaxing the body and mind, aiding the body in maintaining healthy cortisol levels:

-Guided Imagery
-Journaling
-Self-Hypnosis
-Exercise
-Yoga
-Listening to Music
-Breathing Exercises
-Meditation
-Sex
-Other Techniques

Cortisol secretion varies among individuals. People are biologically ‘wired’ to react differently to stress. One person may secrete higher levels of cortisol than another in the same situation. Studies have also shown that people who secrete higher levels of cortisol in response to stress also tend to eat more food and food that is higher in carbohydrates than people who secrete less cortisol. If you’re more sensitive to stress, it’s especially important for you to learn stress management techniques and maintain a low-stress lifestyle.” From: http://stress.about.com/od/stresshealth/a/cortisol.htm

Isvara Pranidhana-Let go and let God…

Since the time I was a child, I can remember praying at night and saying, “God, please give me a voice, please give me the opportunity to make a positive difference.” I would pray this relentlessly. Then, one day five years ago, I took a Yoga class. It was like I came alive again, my inner child reawakened and I felt full of life. Not long afterward, I took my first job in an Advertising Agency in Corporate America, at the age of 23. It seemed the natural path, my dad had owned his own advertising agency for over 30 years in Cleveland, OH. However, I found myself at work, feeling unfulfilled, and spending a great deal of my time surfing the web and reading about Yoga, my true passion.

Then, September 11th happened, and I began to realize I was spending my time and energy in a career I was not passionate about. And, that my life was precious and too short to be spent that way…

So, in February of 2002, I decided to follow my heart, regardless of the price, and quit my job to teach Yoga. After moving back in with my parents for a while to lessen the blow from the loss of my corporate income, I eventually relocated to downtown Dallas (without their financial support) where I moved into a pretty crappy, old apartment. I worked at a restaurant, initially, to give myself “enough” income so I could afford to live and teach Yoga. It was a life of struggle, living in efficiency apartments and crying many tears over the pain of not really being able to afford anything, except the bare necessities, and barely even that.

At one point, when a check had bounced in my bank account, I sat with the few dollars I had in my hand at my desk, and crumpled them up, threw them and said, “I hate this stuff, I hate you, God, why do you have to make the world like this, this materialistic place where all that matters is money, why does it have to be like this.”

Even though the struggle, I managed to open up my own studio, under the guidance of a “friend.” This person told me he’d pay the first few months rent, though he never did. For a year, I struggled to keep it alive. But, after a year and without any capital left, I hit rock bottom this past September.

Overcome with financial struggle, I was talking to my friend on the phone and told her, “I’m going to slit my wrists.” Not knowing what to do, she called the cops and at about 1 am in the morning, the police knocked on my door. Though I had absolutely no intention of hurting myself, and of course realize the detrimental effect of saying these words carelessly, it was a cry for help. It felt like I was going down and no one was there to save me, not even my parents. Actually, that was the first time in my life I had called my parents, and they did not return my phone call the same day. It felt like I had no one.

When the cops arrived, I began to cry. I told them I was going through a hard time, letting go of a relationship, my business was suffering, and I was financially devastated. They told me I must call a family member or friend to stay with that night. So, when I finally got a hold of my brother, the police drove me to his house about 15 minutes away from downtown. It wasn’t easy showing up at my brother and his fiance’s house at 1:30 in the morning with the police. In fact, it was one of the most humbling moments in my life, where I felt completely revealed and naked. Like I could hide nothing.

But, from that point forward, I let go of the wheel. I decided to stop steering and to truly let God lead my life. I decided to let go of my wants and needs and thinking I know what is best for me, and chose to let the Divine Force of Life move me in the direction of my highest good. The interesting part is I thought I’d been doing this all along, but realize now, I hadn’t. I’d been trying to run the show my way.

In Yoga, this letting go of control is called Isvara pranidhana, or Surrender to God’s will. It can be a difficult process to get to this place…we can fight it and struggle with it for some people that may mean months and years, for others maybe even a lifetime. But ultimately, at some point in our journey, all that remains for us is to surrender our Ego and let go of our own interests to be lead by our Highest Good.

“After one has exhausted one’s own resources and still not succeeded, one turns to the Lord for help for He is the source of all power. The student prays: ‘I do not know what is good for me. They will be done.’ Others pray to have their own desires gratified or accomplished.” Light on Yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar

As long as we are consumed by our own “needs” we can not see there is something Greater intended for us. We have our pride so wrapped up in itself, we will often take ourselves to a place of desolation before we will let go of the steering wheel. Most of the time, we just keep thinking things are going to get better, we can turn the car around, and we keep hoping this is so. But, at some point, Authority/God steps in and says, “If you want to get his life turned around, you’re gonna have to let me drive.” When the cops came to my house, I could feel it was really God working through them.

I share this with you today, because of the radical transformation I’ve experienced in the few short months since I let go and let God. Letting go of having a studio was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made. My entire identity/ego was wrapped up in being a Studio Owner and a business owner in Dallas, TX.

Once I allowed myself to surrender my identity, my ego, my life began to open up in ways I’d only dreamed was possible. In two weeks, I’m going to be traveling up to Ohio for the New Year to see my grandmother, sister, nieces, and nephews, who I haven’t seen in over 2.5 years, as well as, dear friends. When I was doing things my way, I never felt like I could afford the trip up there. Now, I have the resources and the time, thanks to God.

I’m getting to realize my dream of doing what I love and earning a living at it. Maybe one day I’ll have a studio again, but for now, I’m listening to the voice within me and allowing myself to be guided by that, rather than listening to other people tell me I need to do certain things (like own a studio) in order to be successful.

And, most of all, I’m getting a second chance, an opportunity to start over, wiser and stronger than before, and share my love of Yoga to even more people with an abundance of opportunities before me. Above all, I feel grateful. Grateful for the fresh start, grateful to be able to make a difference more and more all the time, and grateful to have struggled, only to awaken to a new appreciation and joy for living that’s sweeter and deeper than ever before. This year really will be a Happy New Year.

Click here to listen to a song about letting go and letting God:

Namaste!