Positive Thinking: Not Just a Fluffy, New-Age Term

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“When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite ones should be thought of.” ~Sutra 2:33

I wanted to expand a bit on my Instagram/Facebook post from yesterday regarding positive thinking. When I suggest thinking positively, I don’t mean in a fluffy, “let’s just pretend everything is okay” kind of way. We’re human, so we’re going to experience the full range of emotions no matter how much positive thinking we do; however, it’s our response to these emotions that matters. In The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Sri Swami Satchidananda, sutra 2:33 reveals the key to happiness—when you have a negative thought, simply replace it with a positive one. This is easier said than done, but gets easier with practice and is certainly worth the effort.

“Don’t let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace.” ~Dalai Lama

Negative thinking, whether it’s about oneself, one’s environment, or others, contributes to stress and health problems. Positive thinking, on the other hand, enables your mind to be open to more possibilities and can have a huge impact on your health. Have you ever witnessed road rage? That guy aggressively tailgating the driver who just cut him off—you can bet his blood pressure and stress levels are high. Imagine instead how much more at peace he’d be if he didn’t let another driver’s actions affect his mood so intensely. Next time you’re cut off in traffic, instead of thinking about what a jerk the other driver is, think instead that it’s no problem and be grateful for your safety despite the close call.

The super-inspiring Ashtanga yogi Kino MacGregor says that samskaras “are essentially habit patterns of the mind that have been practiced so much so that they run on auto-pilot, unconsciously generating the same cyclical type of interactions in the world.” Samskaras in and of themselves are not necessarily good nor bad, but we get closer to achieving samadhi, or bliss, if we become aware of our own samskaras. When you think in a certain way, that pathway in the brain becomes stronger and stronger, so if you typically think negative thoughts, those thoughts will be the easiest for you to think. It will be difficult to change your thinking, but it is possible. With practice you can form new, healthier pathways in the brain that will eventually become stronger than old, unhealthy pathways. Meditation is a great way to form new pathways, as it gives you time and space to notice your own thought patterns, and that awareness is what enables you to change them.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” ~Marianne Williamson

The power to change your life lies within yourself. The greatest opportunity for growth dwells in the small, everyday moments. Meditate. Notice your thoughts. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones. It may feel cheesy at first, but with practice it will become authentic and will change your life.

What No One Tells You About High Vibes

You’ve seen those yoga tank tops with “High Vibe” or “Vibe Tribe” or “Good Vibes Only” printed across the front, right? Don’t get me wrong, I love them. I even own one from Super Love Tees that I wear all the time. But there’s something that no one tells you about raising your vibration. You will lose people, maybe even people you were once close to. You will lose friends, and very likely some family members will stop associating with you.

So what does “raising your vibration” mean, anyway? It means taking a mirror to your soul and peering into the dark spaces you thought were unlovable, dragging them into the light, and loving your entire self, dark parts included. When you love all of yourself, you can then love others. Recognizing and acknowledging the dark parts of yourself allows you to heal and grow. When you open that door and knock down those walls within yourself, others will feel it in your presence and be drawn to it. Raising your vibration means not giving a damn about doing what others or society tells you you should do, but instead following your heart and soul on whatever crazy adventure calls to your deep, primal self.

This world doesn’t need another paper-pusher working 40+ hours a week at a job that accomplishes nothing but paying the bills. What this world needs is radical love, shameless honesty, and brave hearts to stand up against ignorance, bigotry, and fear. While most people will be drawn to your openness, there are some that will fear it and will pull away, friends and family included. Once you’re totally honest with yourself, that honesty reflects back on others, and they may not be ready or willing to see themselves without the sweet sugar-coating society tells us we need in order to be socially accepted.

Honest relationships aren’t all rainbows and unicorns—there’s a lot of pain and growth involved for a relationship to remain honest and healthy. I’d much rather have authentic, honest, open relationships than shallow ones any day. This means I’ve lost people. I’m not telling you it’s easy. It’s difficult and requires sacrifice, but it’s worth it. Yes, some people will no longer be a part of your life, but this will open up space for others to enter.

Raising your vibration doesn’t mean you’re happy all the time. All emotions actually become more intense, sadness and joy included. The difference is that your mind is able to remain calm no matter what emotion(s) you’re experiencing. These high vibes are world-changing, because the change begins within, and that’s the only kind of real change that exists. So become intensely self-aware, practice yoga, meditate, chant, spend time in nature. Parts of your journey will be suffocatingly lonely, but somewhere the magic will happen and you’ll come to embrace and enjoy the loneliness, which will then enable you to enjoy the company of friends, lovers, and family even more.

Let’s change the world together. I’ll see you on the high side.

Allowing Healing

Sometimes all you can do is allow. Yoga poses cannot be forced. Growth cannot be forced. Healing cannot be forced. These things must be allowed. With time, patience, perseverance, and compassion, these things are then allowed to happen through us. This is what it means to go with the flow. Sometimes you must work hard and row with the current, but don’t try to row against it, or you’ll end up drowning. Other times you rest, still flowing, but enjoying the the river’s eddies just as much as its rapids. Allowing is just as much work, if not more, as trying to force things. The difference is, allowing brings results. Forcing brings only frustration. Allowing isn’t easy. It requires grace under pressure, breathing into the tight spaces, and accepting when you’ve gone as far as you can in this moment. So allow yourself to change at your own pace. Allow yourself to try and fail. Allow yourself to fall. Allow your heart to break. Then allow yourself to try again, to get back up, to become stronger, to put your heart back together, to heal.

What Happens When We’re Too Busy

My body totally knocked me on my bum today. I had all kinds of plans, including hopefully taking some horse yoga photos at the new barn, but when the body says no, there’s no arguing with it. I’ve been unbelievably busy the past two weeks, and it finally caught up with me. So guess what I’m doing today–nothing. I totally ran out of prana, and my body became sick. I think our society glorifies being busy. Unfortunately, the art of resting, observing, and doing nothing has very much been lost. I’ll learn from this and give myself a break before my body breaks down next time. It’s difficult to change our lifestyles in this society to accommodate living a less busy life, but we must do everything we can to fight against the current that says being busy is a good thing. Horses are great teachers in the art of doing nothing. Let’s be more like them. 

Dealing with the Neighsayers

Neighsayer – noun: An internet troll who says negative things about horse yoga.

No matter who you are or what you do, there will be those who criticize you. The internet has enabled complete strangers to say just plain mean, ignorant things to each other. Most people who find me on Instagram or my other social media pages are very positive and supportive; however, there are a few who are critical and negative, saying that what I do with Snowy is abusive to him. Yoga’s first yama is ahimsa, or nonviolence. If Snowy didn’t enjoy our yoga sessions and if they harmed him in any way, I wouldn’t be doing yoga with him. The truth is that Snowy enjoys our yoga sessions just as much as I do. He’s given me very clear signs that it feels good and he’s happy to be my yoga partner. You can watch my YouTube videos to see how relaxed and happy he is.

So when people who don’t know me or Snowy say that I’m abusing my horse and practicing yoga with him just for attention, it gets under my skin. Let me clarify—usually neighsayers’ comments don’t bother me. Yoga teaches us to keep our mind calm through the good and the bad, so I work to appreciate the positive comments without letting them go to my head and to shrug off the negative ones. Every now and then, though, a neighsayer will leave a comment that actually bothers me a little bit. When this happens, I find the best thing to do is laugh it off. These neighsayers don’t know me or my horse and clearly have issues of their own that lead them to leave such hateful comments about a person they don’t even know. So I laugh it off and send them love.

The most recent neighsayer suggested I do yoga “on a bucket or something” instead of with Snowy. So here’s to all my neighsayers out there. May you find your own peace and sense of humor. And to all my supporters, thank you ❤

3 Reasons to Get in Touch with Your Inner Child

Yoga without a sense of play isn’t really yoga, at all. If you fall out of a pose and can’t laugh at yourself (as long as you aren’t injured), this creates more “vrittis,” or disturbances in your mind, and the whole point of yoga is to learn how to quiet your mind and eventually reach samadhi. Horses appreciate a human’s inner child, too, as it encourages a sense of wonder and awe.

Here are three reasons to get in touch with your inner child, whether you’re a yogi and/or equestrian or not:

1. So you can live in the present moment.

If you haven’t checked in with your inner child in a while, he or she may have a few things to say. You may need to get in touch not just with your inner child, but your past self. Events that caused you great pain as a child could still be affecting you today, even if you’re not conscious of it. I have issues surrounding separation and expressing my emotions because of things that happened when I was ages six to twelve. I’ve known for a few years now that six-year-old me was affecting the way I reacted sometimes, but I didn’t start doing serious work to heal and grow from that until recently. The work isn’t fun, but it’s essential to being able to truly live in the moment. Growth is uncomfortable and, many times, painful, but it’s always worth it.

2. So you laugh more.

Children laugh way more than adults. Laughing forces you to breathe. When you’re tense and stressed out, your breathing moves up into your chest. Laughing encourages the breath to move back down into the belly, stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest system). So lighten up and laugh a little. Actually, laugh a lot. As Oscar Wilde said, “Life is too important to be taken seriously.”

3. So you can keep learning and growing.

Children possess such open, unprejudiced minds. Think about how much you learned during your childhood. Think of what your life could be like if you were willing to continue learning like that. With yoga, horses, and life in general, I’ve realized that the more I learn, the less I know. Keeping an open mind is essential to growth.

Your inner child calls to you when you stop to notice a dandelion, when you’re stuck in traffic and see the person next to you singing her heart out and feel an urge to do the same, when you listen to the animals, and when you listen to your heart. Let that child come out to play.

 

Balasana (Child’s Pose)

 

Horse Yoga Isn’t Vaulting–Here’s Why

I’ve had quite a few people compare horse yoga to vaulting and ask me if I’ve ever tried vaulting. Let me begin by saying that vaulting looks super fun and I would love to try it! Vaulters are very talented and awesome! However, vaulting and horse yoga are not the same thing. Vaulting is gymnastics on horseback and horse yoga is, well, yoga on horseback, so saying they’re the same thing and that doing yoga on horseback is stupid because vaulting is already a thing is like saying that gymnastics and yoga are the same thing and doing yoga is stupid because why not just do gymnastics? See how that logic just doesn’t work out?

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I have nothing against vaulting, and again I’d love to try it, but yoga on horseback is its own special practice that differs from the sport of vaulting in many ways. First of all, yoga isn’t a sport—it’s a practice, a spiritual, emotional practice and journey. Vaulting is done while the horse is in motion. I usually practice horse yoga with my horse standing still. Sometimes I’ll do some seated poses at the walk, but for the most part Snowy gets to hang out and be still. Vaulters typically use a surcingle, while horse yogis usually practice bareback or with just a bareback pad.

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So there you have it—horse yoga and vaulting are not the same thing. They’re both awesome, but they’re awesome in different ways.

Out of the Woods…And into the Garden

Ever since I returned from Costa Rica at the beginning of December, I’ve been searching my heart and trying to figure out what to do with my life and how to use my gifts to best serve others. I felt like I was lost in the woods. I took steps to get another “real job,” but I felt quite a bit of anxiety about it. My passion is with yoga and horses. So I made what some would consider the not-so-smart decision and turned down the “real job.” I had faith that I would find a way to do work that spoke to my heart.

Well, I asked and the universe answered. I’ll soon begin work with Wheatland Farm as its barn manager. It provides therapeutic riding and an array of other services and activities. I’m thrilled to be a part of such meaningful work.

I spent a few hours today at the bucolic Oatlands Historic House and Gardens. I’ll be teaching yoga there every Sunday (except the first Sunday of the month) beginning February 21st. On the first Sunday of each month, my yoga mentor, Denise Moore, will be teaching, and I highly recommend attending her class, too. During the colder months, we’ll practice in the cozy greenhouse among the refreshing energy of the plants. Once it’s warm, we’ll practice outside in the lush gardens.

Stay tuned for more yoga classes to be added to my schedule. They’ll be posted here. There are lots of other exciting things in the works, and I can’t wait for them to come to fruition so I can share them all with you.

I’ve always followed my heart, and it has yet to lead me astray. We all have gifts, and it’s up to each of us to figure out what those gifts are and how to use them to serve others. If you spend your life chasing money, power, fame, and material objects, you’ll never be happy. Spend your life instead sharing your gifts, helping others, making this world a better place, bit by bit. Follow your heart and the rest will fall into place.

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What’s the Time?

Last night’s new moon provoked an emotional journey into the past and a night of very restless sleep. All kinds of memories about my pony Sugar Maple came rushing back to me, and the grief felt as fresh as it did the day I said goodbye to him forever. Grief is not something you get through; it’s something you learn to carry. Some days the load is light, and others it’s crushing.

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When I finally did fall asleep, I had a dream the moon herself must have sent me to help me feel better. The Dalai Lama came to me and I asked him for his most wise piece of advice. He replied, “The only time is now.” I recently had a realization that I was letting certain things in my life stop me from being happy—that I was actually stopping myself from being happy. Truly the only moment is this present one. Focusing on NOW makes it easier for me to recognize how much I have to be grateful for instead of focusing on what I’ve lost.

I had the privilege of attending a yoga class with my most favorite teacher, Denise Moore, this morning. She led my 200-hour teacher training, and to practice pranayama, meditation, and asanas led by her this morning was such a treat. Towards the end of our practice, Denise guided us through a lovingkindess meditation. We silently repeated to ourselves, “May I be safe. May I be happy. May I be healthy and strong. May I live life with ease.” We then extended the intention out to our loved ones (including our four-legged loved ones!), and then out further to our town, our state, and I eventually thought of the entire earth, humanity, animals, plants, and insects. I felt a serene oneness with the earth. When Denise mentioned living life with ease, she pointed out that this doesn’t mean challenges don’t arise—it means that when they do, we continue to let go.

I’ve learned that letting go doesn’t fix everything, but it does give me the strength to listen to my inner wisdom and find creative solutions to whatever challenges I’m facing. Letting go doesn’t mean going down the river without a paddle; it means accepting that you’re going down the river no matter what, but that you can choose which rapids to go over.

What’s stopping you from being happy? I’m going to bet that deep down, it’s you. So get out of your own way and let yourself feel joy and love and compassion. Life isn’t always rainbows and sunshine, but as Vivian Greene said so well, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

What’s Yoga Really About?

  

I want this to be the year people stop using the excuse of being inflexible for the reason they don’t do yoga. My urdhva dhanurasana didn’t look like this when I started practicing eight years ago. There were poses I never thought I’d be able to do that are now easy for me. My strength, flexibility, and balance have all improved through my years of practicing. And the great thing is, there’s always room to grow, no matter how “advanced” you become. 

Let’s also remember that yoga is not even about being flexible. We’ve become obsessed with contortion yoga, and aspiring to look like some of the people out there who can bend their bodies certain ways can really be harmful for those whose bodies don’t move like that. Let’s remember that yoga is about quieting the mind. Let’s remember that yoga is not just the asanas (postures), but also meditation and pranayama (breath work). Let’s remember that truly any BODY can do yoga. Let’s make 2016 the year yoga feels accessible to anyone. The year we focus on proper alignment instead of contortion. The year we remember the importance of pranayama and meditation in our daily practice. The year we remember what yoga is really about.