The power of having a choice

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My life lately has really been upside down. So many things have changed, so many things happened. And it shook me up. Big time.

When life takes turns you did not expect, we can become overwhelmed not being able to see clear. And especially when we are overwhelmed with the circumstances we often ‘forget’ that we have choices. Because it seems like this circumstance has taken over our life and there is only one way to deal with it: your default way.

One of the most powerful things in the past few months to me was the reminder that we do have choices. Often we cannot change the circumstances. If we are in traffic to our work everyday, we cannot change the traffic. If the train runs late, we cannot make it arrive earlier. If your friend cancels for dinner, you cannot make him un-cancel. But we do have a choice in how we deal with things.

You can choose how much it will affect your life.

You can choose to give up or you can choose to keep on going.

You can choose to focus on being the victim or you can try to see what you can learn from this circumstance you are in.

You can choose to deal with it alone or you can choose to get help from friends/family/therapist

There are so many choices you can make, but still we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed. We allow ourselves to dwell in what is in front of us. We choose to not have a choice. We choose to not deal with the circumstances but complain instead. We choose to not accept. We choose to take medications. ALL choices we make, without us even realizing we do so.

I am most definitely to blame in this too. I noticed I did it quite often. But once I rediscovered the power of choice, that’s when I was able to turn my life back around. I was able to flip the switch, feel powerful, strong, knowing that I was in charge. And even though I did not have control over what was happening in the external side of my life, I did have control over the internal side of my life.

So this blog is just a simple reminder to all of you out there. YOU are in charge of your INTERNAL world. You have CHOICES. You can choose to be STRONG, you can choose to be POSITIVE. You can choose to LOVE. You can choose to LEARN.

Goalsetting and yoga

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We live in a goal oriented world, one where we are constantly working towards something. We are constantly comparing ourselves to others, their goals and their achievements. Sometimes that makes us feel good and other times it makes us feel absolutely shit. It’s our ego that gets inflated or our ego that gets hurt.

So what do we say in yoga about setting goals and achieving them? The most important lesson comes from the Bhagavad Gita.

“You have a right to the work alone, not to its fruits” – Bhagavad Gita 2.47

The sentence goes on by saying “You should never engage in action for the sake of reward, nor should you long for inaction. Perform work in this world, Arjuna, as a man established within himself—without selfish attachments, and alike in success and defeat. For yoga is perfect evenness of mind”.

Since the future is unknown, we don’t know what the outcome will be, we can only guess for it. When we set goals and we are merely focused on achieving that goal, without allowing it to be whatever it will be, we set ourselves up for disappointment, failure and suffering.

So what does this really mean? Let me explain this with a story:

I’ve planted an apple tree in my garden, because I would love to have apples that I have grown myself. I prefer my apples to be red and yellow, juicy and a little sweet. I did my research to find the perfect kind of tree and so with the upmost care I’ve planted it. In the next couple of months I’ve taken care of the tree, by watering it, by changing the soil, by protecting it from the wind, the hail storms, the drought, the termites, etc. I’ve put my heart and soul into it and I did my work.

One spring morning I wake up and there are apples on my tree. I am beyond excited, jump out of my bed, run outside and admire dozens of red yellow apples.

I pick a couple of them and take them inside. Before I a take a bite, I remember how I wanted them to taste, but I also realize that it might be very different. And so to not get disappointed or overly proud I tell myself the following:

  • The taste of the apple can be what I wanted, it can be different but equally good, it can be better or it can be worse.
  • Whatever it will be, I’ve put in the work every day
  • I’ve tried to protect it from external factors caused by nature, but I am not sure what the effects have been.
  • The soil I used was the best I could find, but the weather conditions in my region weren’t the perfect ones for this apple tree.

All we can do is put in the work in the moment. We can set a goal for ourselves and take the steps necessary towards that goal, but we should let go of the outcome. Which is easier said then done, right?

How is it possible to do something you care about without feeling attached to the result?

When you do the work for the sake of the work itself, instead of doing it for that one desired outcome, you are less likely to become disappointed if things didn’t go the way you had planned or hoped. You will suffer less from stress and anxiety about the outcome and are able to accept the outcome, whatever it will be.

When you get too caught up in the successes or failures, you trigger the negative side of your ego. You can become so goal oriented that you forget to maintain the integrity of the task. Or, you can become scared, paralyzed, freaked-out which leads to you making bad decisions or no decisions at all.

Detaching yourself from the fruits of your work, is detaching yourself from your ego. You are detaching yourself from your ego’s need to claim your successes or to the feeling of defeat or fear of failure.
Obviously this isn’t an easy task, we all get caught up in it and it is not something we learn overnight. We need to work for it; we need to create the awareness. And that work is done over a lifetime, week by week, day by day, hour by hour.

In the end we have to come to an understanding that you have to do what you love and love what you do. It is liberating, because there is space to be genuine. And if you can detach from the desired results, people will notice this and admire you for whatever the outcome of your work will be. Because every successful person has faced failure, but they have learned that failure is not something to be scared of, it is a way for us to learn, a way for us to move forward, it is simply another outcome of the work we have done.

 

 

How yoga has changed my life

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Since I made the decision to dedicate my life to yoga, I have often got the question: how did yoga change your life?
Most of the times followed by the question: who inspired you to do this?

This week I was signing up for a next step in my yoga life, a 500 hour teacher training. As part of the sign-up I had to write a short essay on these two questions. So it only seemed logical and fun to share them with you. No edits, no changes, the pure and honest answers!

  1. How has practicing Yoga affected you and your relationship to the world around you?

Yoga has an effect on every single part of my life, physically, mentally and emotionally. The most important thing it has affected is self-love and the relationship with myself. Before I became a yoga practitioner, the last relationship I would take care of, was the relationship with myself. Which had a tremendous impact on my health, my outlook in life, my happiness and the relationships I formed with others.

Through yoga I learned that the relationship with the Self has to come first. Once that relationship is established, you are able to perceive the world differently. Nature and my connection to it has started to play a bigger role, the understanding that you are part of something bigger, something larger then yourself.

I have learned how to take care of my health, notice what goes on in my body, my mind and translate that into my personal needs, in order to be the best I can be.

Yoga changed me internally, or maybe not changed me, but made my connection with the Self stronger, and because of that I can be a better person. A loving, kind and honest human being for my husband, my family, my friends, my students and even strangers on the street and in traffic.

So yoga did not only change my physical body, it changed the way I perceive things. I am able to differentiate the states of my mind and can therefore see more clearly. And it changed me emotionally, to someone who is connected, grounded and able to share her love.

  1. Who has influenced you on your Yoga path?

I have been influenced by a variety of teachers. Below the most important ones:

  • Martyn Hoogstra: my first yoga teacher who blossomed my love for yoga, philosophy and taught me the importance of a regular and serious practice.
  • Hansaji Jayadeva Yogendra: The leader of the Yoga Institute in Mumbai. She was the one who really sparked the connection of yoga and health. Yoga as a way to take care of myself.
  • David Lurey & Mirjam Wagner: They were my teachers for my 200 hour ‘Find Balance’ Yoga Teacher Training. They helped me set the foundation for the teacher I am today, as well as they showed me what it really means to love myself.
  • Leslie Kaminoff: an enormous influence when it comes to understanding the body, the anatomy (and not just the bones and muscles). I did his online course and after every class I experienced an ‘Aha’ moment. He opened my eyes about how my body functions, how I could potentially help others and how interesting discovering yoga can be.
  • Kate Holcombe: an amazing and incredible teacher specialised in Vini Yoga and Yoga Therapy. She studied and lived with Desikachar for 6 years and she accepted me as her mentee to get a deeper understanding of the yoga philosophy (in particular the yoga sutras) as well as yoga as a therapy. I also finished an advanced yoga and cancer training under her guidance.
  • Stephanie Snyder: she is an amazing flow teacher, who’s weekly classes teach me about humility, joy and kindness. She is an example for how to sequence a class and add philosophy, joy and singing at the same time.
  • Sri Dharma Mittra: I got introduced to Sri Dharma Mittra by Gerson Frau (who teaches in Brasil, where I lived for a couple of years). I have only met Dharma Mittra once during a class in New York, but I was blown away by his personality, the love and kindness that shown through. I have been a long time online follower and I am inspired by what he does and puts out in the world. I would love to bring his influence a step further into my life.