Yoga with Mirella Nicholson

Yoga with Mirella Nicholson

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Challenges galore!

 What do you do when that realization hits you that the theme of your day is going to be Challenge?  If you're a good yogi you smile and graciously accept each challenge as an important lesson on the spiritual path.  BLAH! Today I feel more like Lizzie McGuire than a good yogi. 

Do you remember the Lizzie McGuire show?  It was about the trials and tribulations of a teenage girl.  The girl has a little cartoon "Lizzie" that narrates from the perspective of her internal self.  The little cartoon Lizzie would be freaking out about what was going on around her while the other Lizzie is smiling and acting like everything is great. 

On my way to yoga class this morning I was stopped at a stop sign when I was rear-ended.  The little cartoon Mirella began the internal freak-out "Damn it! Now I'm going to miss yoga and I really need yoga today!"   I'm grateful that there wasn't any damage to my car and no-one got hurt.  I get back into my car and continue to yoga where the challenges continued.  

The bhavana for today's class was about letting go of negative desires.  The little cartoon Mirella is saying "I don't have any negative desires"  Really??  As I move through the practice I'm aware of my thoughts.  "I'm uncomfortable. If I could move my mat I'd be more comfortable"  "Why doesn't that student cover his mouth when he coughs"  "What is that dirty tissue doing on the floor. I wish someone would pick it up".  "Oh, I hate plow pose.  I wish we weren't doing that pose"  "OMG! I feel like I'm going to spontaneously combust! why is it so hot!  I wish the window was open!"  On and On...... The entire class I was having an internal freak out.

Did you notice a pattern?  I did.  Each thought was a desire.  A desire for things to be different than what they were.   Holy Hell!! I do have negative desires!  OMG! You know that desire I feel to slap people who get on my nerves?  That too falls into this category of negative desires.   My need to avoid the challenges that are presenting themselves to me today - also a desire. 

What do you do when that realization hits you that the theme of your day is going to be challenge? 
I go back to the Lizzie McGuire show.   We watched the show and we saw the external scene at the same time we watched the internal scene (the little cartoon Lizzie).   We were watching and we were relating to that internal freak out and noticing how silly it was.   To clarify the lessons here:

Lizzie McGuire yoga lesson #1:   Step back and watch your thoughts
Lizzie McGuire yoga lesson# 2:   See the humor in the internal freak outs. Notice  how silly the crazy thoughts are when we don't rein them in.

The challenges continued.  The realization has hit me now what am I going to do?  The little cartoon Mirella is screaming  "Go back to bed! pull the covers over your head and stay there for 3 months!!"

Lesson#1 -  when I step back from that thought I realize that would be pointless because in 3 months the challenges would still be there.
Lesson#2 - Seeing the humor - Staying under the covers for 3 months is ridiculous!  Who would take care of my family.  Besides, they would never let me stay in bed, under the covers that long!

What do I do when I'm challenged on the yoga mat?  I breath and move.   My breath brings me back to my heart center and I continue to move forward.

Lesson#3 - Breath deeply - bring the focus out of the mind and into the heart.
Lesson#4 - Keep moving forward.  Don't get stuck in negativity   (oh no, there's that little cartoon Mirella again - THAT'S EASIER SAID THAN DONE).   That may be true, it's easy to say don't get stuck in negativity and I know for sure it's harder to do but ultimately that's the key.

Looks like even when I'm not feeling like a good yogi I can still appreciate that there are lessons to be learned from every challenge.

**NOTE:  The faster you learn the lessons the faster you can move through the challenges. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fitting in

Let's take a little stroll down memory lane shall we?  Just humor me for a second and think back to high school.   Remember how everyone fit into some "clique".    Last week-end, after watching VH1's  I love the 80's marathon I watched Sixteen Candles (and yes, Michelle I still remember every word of that movie) and I was having high school flashbacks about that feeling of not fitting in. 

I'm sure you're wondering what the heck this has to do with yoga but be patient, I'm getting to that. 

This past week-end I found myself having that very same feeling.  The feeling of not really fitting in or belonging.   Only this time I was aware of the feeling but I wasn't so much effected by it (does that make sense?)  Here I was at a place where I've grown more and more comfortable being.  A place where I really truly feel like I belong and yet this old nagging feeling of not fitting in snuck up on me.  Once I recognized this feeling I tried to step back from it and sort of analyze it. 

Okay, here's where the yoga part comes in. 

Yoga fact #1:  It's just a feeling and therefore, doesn't really need to be analyzed but rather acknowledged and released.  Well, that may be the best approach but of course I can't let things go so easily so I'll analyze it first and then try to release it.  

Yoga fact #2:  I realized standing there in that room that it wasn't so much the other people that were making me feel like an outsider but rather my own idea that "they" belonged more than me. 

Yoga fact #3:  There was a lot of ego in that room but I will venture to say that none of it had to do with me.  More likely these folks have their own insecurities they are dealing with and were so wrapped up in their own thoughts to even give me a second thought.

Yoga fact #4:  I acknowledge the fact that my brain is much better at taking in negative impressions than positive ones.  Why is it that I'm obsessing over the feeling of not fitting in that I was experiencing in my my own mind rather than allowing myself to feel good about myself for all the nice things people said to me?

Yoga fact #5:  Listen up- this is the most important one- Some things just can't be figured out.   Just have the experience and know that it's just that - one experience and one experience does not define who we are. 

The bottom line is that through the practice of meditation we can learn to separate our crazy non-sense thoughts from the truth.  It is only through meditation that we can see past the maya of separation - us against them to the reality of oneness.  We all struggle with a sense of insecurity about ourselves.  For some that manifests as a huge ego while for others it manifests as a feeling of not belonging.  What links us both is the sense of insecurity.  This insecurity comes from the sense of separateness therefore the solution may be to shift the focus to the oneness.

Just think how much better high school would have been if you knew then what you know now. 
Well, let's not waste time thinking about that but instead let's teach our children how to feel good about themselves and how to handle feelings of insecurity so maybe they will have a better high school experience.

Enough analyzing, now I'm releasing.   Om Namah Shivaya!  Om Namah Shivaya! Om Namah Shivaya!

Thursday, October 14, 2010


This week I learned that a yoga student that attended my class regularly passed away suddenly.   She was a perfectly happy, health woman one day and dead the next. I've been thinking a lot about her this week.   I've been thinking about all the students that I've met over the last few years. 

When I began teaching yoga I had this crazy idea that I would have some positive impact in the lives of the people I was teaching.  I was going to show them the way to enlightenment.  What I didn't expect was just how much I would learn from the students.  I never gave much thought to how they would impact me back then.  Now I know that they have just as much if not more to teach me. 
On Tuesday evening I shared the sad news of Pam's passing with the other students.  It was the hardest class I've had to teach.  How do I take such sad news and use it as a bhavana to inspire a yoga class? By God's grace we made it through the class.  The bhavana was staying present and savoring each moment with an open heart.  This is one of the lessons I learned from Pam.  Some days she would show up for class and apologize for missing class the week before saying that she was enjoying the time with her granddaughter.  Although yoga was important to her she knew that savoring each moment with her loved ones was just as important.  She also had an incredibly open heart.  She was so sweet and open to sharing her journey of self-discovery with the others in class.
Staying present and keeping an open heart is, I believe, also important to remember when I'm teaching a yoga class. Staying present helps me to support the students in their practice and keeping an open heart helps me to connect with the people who show up for class.  This connection with the students is where the real learning and teaching happens.  It happens in a very fluid, organic way, this exchange of energy, this exchange of knowledge.  It's a reciprocal exchange and it's a beautiful thing! 
The other thing I've been thinking about a lot is that life is short.  We have no guarantee of tomorrow.
With this in mind, how do we want to spend this moment?  Do we want to dwell on the negative? Thinking about all the things in our lives that aren't working.  Or do we want to count our blessings?
With an open heart, be present in the moment and witness the grace of the Divine in your life.  One minute you are the teacher and the next you are the student.  Learning and teaching, teaching and learning.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Would it sound egotistical for me to say that I have a direct connection to God? Well, at least that was my experience this morning. My little one just started CCD (formerly known as Sunday school). This is his first year so he's learning the basics of the Catholic religion. I was raised Catholic but I've been exploring eastern spirituality on this yoga journey I'm on. I feel like it's important for children to have some formal religious education but it's equally important for them to be exposed to other religions and philosophies so that they can find the path that calls them. Who am I to tell them how they should worship God?

So back to my direct connection to God. I've been reading this book called Jesus in the Lotus, The mystical doorway between Christianity and Yogic Spirituality. While I was driving to church this morning I was contemplating this idea of "inter-spirituality" as Russell Paul calls this fusion of religions with regard to my son's religious education. Yesterday we were in a little shop and my son says "look mommy, it's Shakti" - It was actually a statue of Durga (a Hindu Goddess). I'm okay with him being aware of all forms of the Divine Mother but how will his CCD teacher react if he draws a picture of Durga as his representation of the Divine Mother? Just imagine the discuss I'd have to have with the priest if Jake draws a picture of Kali!! (Kali is another aspect of the Divine Mother but she is a fierce scary Goddess)

While listening to the readings and the Gospel today another crazy thought went through my head.... "Don't tell the Vatican but Father so and so here is a yogi!" LOL! The bhavana for today's mass was faith. One of the reading was about the potential that is in each tiny little mustard seed. That potential is in each and every one of us. All we need is faith. During the homily Father talked about Jesus on the cross and how even his faith was shaken at one point but then he surrendered in faith "not my will but thy will be done". I have to say that I was moved by the homily today. It felt like God was confirming the things I was reading in this book. Christianity and Yoga are teaching me the same things. Maybe the words are different, the prayers are different but the essence is the same. Father so and so was talking about the grace of God, he was talking about the union of God and man, about having faith that during times of despair God is there, he talked about how during times of great challenge we may not be able to see God's presence in our lives but afterwards we look back and even if things don't turn out the way we wanted we can see that with God's grace things are even better then we could have imagined. It takes faith to believe that everything in our lives is perfect.

Doesn't that sound yogic? Of course! these are the same things we learn on the mat and on the meditation cushion. Doesn't Yoga mean union? Isn't the message the same? At the end of mass the priest says "Now go and love and serve the Lord". Isn't that Amma's message? Love and Serve? The priest says love and serve the Lord which we all know means loving and serving others as well.

Since I was a little kid, singing in church was my favorite thing to do. I guess that's why I'm so drawn to kirtan (devotional chanting). I was waiting outside the restroom for Jake and I noticed a sign on the bulletin board that said "The Holy Name is Alive". How's that for a direct connection to God. I asked and he answered!

"Come to the feast of heaven and earth. Come to the table of plenty. God will provide for all that we need, here at the table of plenty...."

Even when are tables seem pretty bare - keep the faith and know that God will provide for all that we need.

(Funny.... my spell check isn't working.... Is this God telling me to have faith in my spelling ability?)