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I’m getting stressed out trying to relax

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 6.20.39 AMRelaxing doesn’t necessarily mean taking a long nap. It simply means doing things that calm and soothe your mind, body and soul.

Like my yoga teacher once said, relaxation is a native plant that grows in your own backyard.

In fact, the word relax simple means to loosen and become less formal and decrease tension. The goal, then, is to engage in relaxation activities that are uniquely appealing to us. Whatever it takes to reach a state where we feel unburdened by his life’s troubles.

And so, the accountant who spends all day staring at numbers on a spreadsheet of might relax by sparring at the boxing gym. The art teacher who comes home from school covered in paint and clay might relax by doing crosswords that challenge her brain. The novelist who works in a home office and lives inside his ow head might relax by chopping wood in field behind his house. The surgeon who holds his patient’s lives in his own two hands spends lunch breaks at the yoga studio preparing his mind and body for surgery.

Each of these individuals has a commitment to their relaxation practice.

Where can you go that helps you relax best? How will you activate a unique tension releasing experience that’s inaccessible to you anywhere else?

The answer won’t save your life, but it will make the rest of your life happier.

Are you honoring your need for relaxation?

Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and work study volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope.

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Stay in the room

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Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

If the hardest part about practicing yoga is getting to the room, the second hardest is part is staying there.

Both literally and figuratively.

On one hand, teachers tell students to stay in the room because it’s just good yoga etiquette. The physical act of stepping off of the mat and tiptoeing around other people’s space can become distracting, disrespectful and sometimes even dangerous. Especially if there’s a nice little sweat angel materializing around your mat.

Just stay in the room. I know it’s tempting, but you’ll be fine. Unless it’s a true emergency, there’s nothing out there that’s going to save you. Not the water or the shower or the air conditioning or the cushy bench in the lobby. Everything you came for is waiting for you on the mat. The rest is a mosaic of attachments.

The other thing teachers tell students is to stay in the room mentally. Meaning, try not to spend the entire class planning out your dinner or rifling through your to do list for the rest of the weekend. Otherwise you won’t be present with your surroundings.

I struggle with this version of staying in the room on a weekly basis. To the point that I will start performing the wrong posture and not even realize it until I snap out of fantasy land and notice that I’m the only student still standing up. Woops.

But then I laugh and let myself off the hook and remember that it’s only yoga and nobody’s even paying attention to me anyway. And yet, for the next time, I still hear the mantra ringing in my head.

Stay in the room.

What are the mental obstacles keeping you from being present?

Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and work study volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope.

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

This is just practice, the real yoga is out in the world

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Anybody can meditate in the mountains.

Reaching enlightenment while the world around you is serene and inspiring and clean isn’t much of a challenge. The real test of inner peace is whether you can transform yourself into a force of calm in a time of turmoil. Whether you can attain mental stillness and physical relaxation in the face of impending chaos or, worse yet, overwhelming monotony.

It’s like my yoga instructor always says during class. This is just practice. The real work is taking this yoga out into the world. It’s one thing to relax in a studio, it’s another thing to relax in the middle of rush hour traffic.

Whether you’re trying to meditate, or whether you’re just trying to create, don’t expect the environment to do the work for you.

How quickly can you tap into your reserves when meaningless comes crashing in?

Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and work study volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope.

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Breathing through something difficult

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

My instructor recently said, the less breath you feed your fear, the bigger your fear gets.

And so, whether you’re on the mat or out in the world, as soon as you see the warning signs that you are getting into a crisis or losing control, just breathe. Three easy steps. Inhale, pause, exhale. Then repeat.

Even if it does sound like something a preschool teacher would tell an upset student who’s tempted to cry until she passes out on the floor, breathing is a highly underrated emotional tool. Because simply being able to breathe means being in control, albeit in a small form. And the heady rush of power that feeling in control provides is often enough to carry you through the moment.

That’s the beautiful thing about the breath. If doesn’t need to be told what to do. The goal is to get to the point where the breath is breathing you, not the other way around.

Remember, those of us who feel able to control ourselves feel powerful. Next time life gets a little too overwhelming, use the breath as a bridge. The sacred cord of life which binds the soul to the body.

When was the last time you successfully breathed through something difficult?

Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and work study volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope.

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Relate sanely with difficult times

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Directly above our yoga studio is a fitness boot camp.

People flip tractor tires and drag chains across the floor and hurl medicine balls against the wall, while a former military officer shouts slogans at them until they eventually crumble to the floor in into a puddle of sweat and tears. It’s one hell of a workout. If you’re into that kind of thing.

The challenge is, the rest of us are trying to meditate and relax and stay focused in our yoga postures, while upstairs it sounds like a zoo is is training dinosaurs. And if you’re not used to it, the thuds and vibrations can be highly distracting to your postures.

But it’s a powerful lesson for the students in the room. A reminder that frustration comes from our refusal to accept life’s moments as they come to us. And that at the heart of every disturbance is the collision of a wish with an unyielding reality.

Our job, then, whether we’re practicing yoga or not, is to love and even laugh at those distractions, instead of waging a campaign against them.

Be bigger than the moment. Don’t march out of the room in a huff every time the vibrations of the world throw your posture off balance.

Have you learned how to relate sanely with difficult times?

Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and work study volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope.

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Yoga as an expression of trust

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

I remember the first time I tried an inverted yoga posture.

When I bent backwards and extended my arms and exposed my chest cavity, I not only had to trust that my ankles would be there waiting for my hands to grab; but I also had to trust that my teacher was keeping an eye on my alignment and looking out for my body’s best interest and, if need be, could come over to correct my posture.

It took me eighteen months to finally build up the courage to try that posture.

But thirty seconds into the pose, I knew it was worthwhile. And every since that day, I’ve become much more likely to do things as an expression of my trust.

What might assist you in building trust with yourself, with others and with the universe?

Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and work study volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope.

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When in doubt, engage your core

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Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

My yoga instructor loves to reminds students, when in doubt, suck in your gut and squeeze your butt.

Meaning, if you’re loosing your balance and struggling to execute and feeling unclear about what the next action is, the smartest, easiest and most effective strategy is to engage your core.

It’s the default move. Because activating the midsection muscles always creates a foundation from which any posture can grow. No matter how long you’ve been practicing, no matter what injuries you walk into the room with, you can’t go wrong. If you did nothing else the entire class but focus on that, you’d still receive the benefits of the pose.

When in doubt, engage your core.

Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and work study volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope.

 

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

My inner monologue is a lot nicer to me these days

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

The hard part about yoga isn’t contorting your body, it’s confronting it.

I’m reminded of a suggestion my instructor made during a recent class. She said, when you see yourself in the mirror, stop and enjoy the view.

Consider the weight of those words.

Stop, meaning take the time to confront your truth, without shunning any part of your being.

Enjoy, meaning love yourself enough to live with your physique fully, regardless of size and shape and imperfection.

View, meaning respecting your body as something worth witnessing.

What a difficult thing to do. Because regardless of body type, there isn’t a person alive who doesn’t cringe a little when staring at their naked body in the mirror. I’ve been practicing yoga for eight years, and only recently has my inner monologue started to become compassionate towards my body.

But that’s the benefit of daily confrontation. As I learned from a brilliant sex therapist, the best way to increase body esteem is to develop pride through exposure.

And so, on the journey to becoming integrated and actualized as human beings, the kindest thing we can do for ourselves is to stop and enjoy the view.

Are you willing to believe the truth about yourself, no matter how beautiful it is?

Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and work study volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope.

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

If someone makes us angry, we are the losers

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Bikram famously reminds us that nothing can steal happiness and peace away from us.

If someone makes us angry, we are the losers.

It’s all about ownership. Refusing to give people you’re not even invested in more power over you than they deserve or should be allowed to have.

Also remembering not to take things personally, because people are only talking about themselves.

In yoga, in life, remember, hypersensitivity is an asset, but it’s also a liability.

Learn when to exert it, and learn when to holster it.

Are you allowing the words and actions of others to define your reality?

Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and work study volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope.yy

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

The brain is a bad neighborhood

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

That’s what my yoga teacher always says.

The brain is a bad neighborhood.

Stay out of it. Don’t allow yourself to become unceremoniously yanked around by your thoughts. Turn your attention to something else.

Yeats famously prayed, god guard me from the thoughts men think. But with so many questions and voices and ideas inside my head, spinning like plates on sticks, perhaps the thoughts of other men aren’t our problem.

Next time you’re practicing yoga, instead of tossing and turning and crashing and banging around and around on the endless racetrack of compulsive thoughts, firmly turn your attention to your body. Channel those neurons elsewhere. Make the mental railroad switch. Spend your energy on a new pursuit. And the voices will go away.

Do you tend to underestimate the extent to which your own hostile thoughts impact your practice?

Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and work study volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope.