One woman learned that saying yes is the secret to living a happier, more exciting life.
Yesterday morning, sitting at my desk, hard at work, I would have never predicted that by late afternoon I'd be sitting on a boat with Yogic Arts creator Duncan Wong, eating watermelon and floating down the Hudson River. But that's exactly what happened.
That morning, my manager, Ava, called, inviting me to hop aboard the meditation and reiki cruise that Captain Ike and his Spirit Seeker Journeys crew does weekly. "Get to the boat basin at 79th Street," she said. "Life awaits!"
At first I said no. I had far too much business to attend to, I was comfortably at home with my tea, my computer, and Google, and it seemed unfathomable to peel myself out of the chair and make such a big trek. Not to mention that getting from Brooklyn to some uptown Manhattan dock during rush hour is an almost impossibly long journey.
When I hung up the phone, though, I began to reconsider. I could always work, but a boat, a willing captain, and an available body of water is not always as easy to find. I took a deep breath, got up, and went to find my sunblock.
When I got to the boat, I was pleased to see Duncan and Ava there, along with some new friends and yoga teachers I looked forward to getting to know. And bond we did. The day was gorgeous, our ravenous yogi appetites cleared out Captain Ike's cupboards, and we had so much fun that a scheduled 7:30pm return became 11:30pm! It was a special day, magical even, and lying on the deck watching the moon hide and reappear between skyscrapers, I was so thankful I'd chosen sailing over Googling.
I realized that as yoga practitioners, we have more choices than we might think about the quality with which we live our lives. It's so easy to fall into our samskaras, mental and emotional patterns that can drive the habitual actions and default settings we've been doing for so long. Sometimes it's like we're on we're on autopilot, and that the way we're living is the only reality there is.
But once in a while, we get the opportunity to choose again, to broaden our perspective of what our day could be like, or how our lifestyles, our relationships, careers and ways of perceiving the world could be brighter, more abundant, and could serve us in the absolute best ways possible. Sometimes I hear myself saying "no" to the unknown adventures that might be found on a different track, because I think, "I can't possibly do that." My rational mind then proceeds to tell me why.
Well, what if, just once in a while, we let our spirits answer with the big "Yes" born of the question: "Why not?" Doing exactly that yesterday, instead of returning phone calls a little faster or making my deadlines a little earlier, manifested a memory I will cherish for a lifetime. After all, life isn't always going to give us the peace and happiness we want. Sometimes we have to create it from the inside out by doing something revolutionary.
So, next time you find yourself deep in a samskara that might be comfortable but not pushing you to be as powerful and vital as you'd like to be, see if you can jump out and say "Yes!" to something radical, exciting, and new. After all, life awaits.
Core Pose: Shakti Kicks
I call these Shakti Kicks in honor of the creative fire they spark at your center. If you want to bust out of a rut, this energetic pose is a fast-track to transformation! I use it to help students strengthen the upper body for arm balances and inversions as they practice courage and the hugging into center it takes to re-track towards power and grace.
Note: You don't have to kick this high. I encourage you to start very mindfully, going slower and lower than you might think you can. All my asanas are built from the ground up, specifically to give you the best chance to remain in the integrity of your body's healthy structure and respect your individual process, even as you're moving and growing in the pose. So try little hops, and chip away at this pose until you are going farther but still in full alignment.
From Down Dog, firm your fingertips into the floor and walk your feet together. Press your big toe mounds into a bandha, or lock. This activates your inner thighs and keeps your legs hugging in for more control as you hop.
Bend your knees on an inhalation and look forward between your hands. Draw up through your lower belly as you take small or larger hops. If you're building strength, or if your wrists or shoulders won't support hopping, then pretend to hop, grounding the hands down and lifting your hips higher with the low and mid abdominals on each exhale. Otherwise, aim your heels for the sitting bones and land with bent knees. As you hop, exhale strongly for more core support, and keep your shoulder blades naturally down the back even as your hands press into the floor.
Eventually, your hips may hover over your arms and you'll be able to tuck your tailbone and lift your belly as you root down through your hands and set your feet down lightly. However, even if you're kicking low, you can still find the dynamic earth-to-core connection that allows you to lighten your landings as you float between the hands.
Try 5-10 kicks then fold forward for a few back-body stretching breaths in Uttanasana.