yoga around the world

I want to take a break from our regularly scheduled Italy postings to talk about yoga. In particular, to plug my online yoga teacher from New Zealand.

I found Marianne Elliott through a blog that I follow. I remember thinking "an online yoga class, for real?" I wasn't sure about signing up (and paying) for a class where I didn't actually get to meet the instructor. But, Marianne's reviews were amazing and she was doing it all for a good cause (she donated ALL revenue from my session of the class to a fantastic woman's health organization).

From the moment class began until the final day, I was in awe of how organized, thoughtful and helpful the course was. I took the class last October, when the stress/logistics of our move abroad we taking over what seemed like every minute of my day. I looked forward to turning on my computer every night and practicing my yoga with Marianne.

So, just how does the course work? When the course starts, you pick the routine you want to practice for the length of the course. You download a video and a few bonus items for that particular practice and you get to work. Even though she wasn't physically present, I felt a responsibility to Marianne to show up every night and practice my yoga. Eventually, I felt a responsbility to myself to make it happen. Pretty cool transition, right?

I definitely keep my best and most consistent yoga practice in the structure/routine of a class, but I've found actually going to a studio is usually disappointing for me. I don't know why, it just is. Taking an online course with a great teacher is the best of both worlds for me.

Marianne's near daily emails of encourgement during the class was also wonderful. I was also assigned a yoga buddy from halfway around the world. The sense of community amount the class was awesome.

The online course is for everyone -- newbies to yoga, long-time yogis and everyone in between. I cannot recommend it enough. If you're interested, head over to Marianne's site and signup for a class today. You won't regret it.

Here are some serious words of wisdom from Marianne. Check out her site for more awesomeness...

Self-kindness is the secret to a consistent, and effective, home yoga practice

Some of my 30 day yogis and yoginis have wondered about the wisdom of this approach. Some wonder whether self-kindness might not slide too easily into self-indulgence, which they suspect will be the enemy of – rather than the secret to – their home yoga practice.

Here’s what I say in the course about self-kindness vs self-indulgence:

Let me ask you all a question. Imagine you met a child who was resisting doing something because she was afraid of the loud criticism she encounters every time she tries. What do you think would best help her to overcome that fear? More criticism? Or kindness?

I’m voting for kindness.

But then again, I vote for kindness pretty much any time I get to vote for anything.

But how can you distinguish kindness from self-indulgence?

Well, self-indulgence isn’t always kind. If the messages in your head are that you should give up because you’ll never be good enough anyway, then indulging that voice is not kindness.

Kindness would be to remind yourself that you are absolutely okay just as you are. Kindness would be to meet your body exactly where it is and give it what it needs.

And here’s the kicker – if, like most of us in the urbanized Western world, you live a largely sedentary life then nine times out of ten your body will need to move. Giving your body what it needs will most often mean moving it.

So kindness does not mean skipping out of the practice. Kindness means carving out a space for yourself to practice in, a space in which that judging mind is not in charge. I’ve found there is no point in trying to silence the critical voice, it only shouts louder. But if we instead keep connecting with our truest voice, the voice that arises as our heart opens in kindness to ourself, then we can avoid getting snared by the critical voice.

And here’s the best part: the more yoga you practice the more able you’ll be to tune into and hear the true voice of your body. This gets easier and easier the more you do it!

So I’ve been preaching self-kindness as the secret to a more consistent home yoga practice for 18 months now, and I’ve even gone so far as to claim that it’s the approach that will work for you when nagging, bribing or guilt-tripping yourself has failed.

So you can imagine my delight this week when I read in the New York Times that scientific evidence now supports my findings!

The research suggests that giving ourselves a break and accepting our imperfections may be the first step toward better health. People who score high on tests of self-compassion have less depression and anxiety, and tend to be happier and more optimistic. Preliminary data suggest that self-compassion can even influence how much we eat and may help some people lose weight.

Well, yes. Exactly!

It’s about embracing our unique and ‘imperfect’ home practice, one that actually supports and sustains a healthy balance in our unique life situation (taking our family, work and physical ability into account). This is the first step towards finding and sustaining a home yoga practice which improves our well-being rather than adding yet another sense of obligation, or another thing to fail at, to our already busy lives.

Yoga is not a form of self improvement.

Yoga is about meeting ourselves where we are, in all our beautiful imperfection.