Happy Sunday, February 16, 2020
Happy Sunday! I hope you are all doing well. Another Valentine’s Day is in the books. If you did not celebrate it with another person, you should have at least celebrated yourself with some love and self-care. I hope you did one or both! Life is short, enjoy it. It’s great to be alive!
I want to share my thoughts about Yoga. It revitalized my life; mind, body and spirit. I am confident you can feel energized and empowered by the benefits. The word yoga means ‘unity’, ‘to join’ or ‘union.’ It is a science of living that has existed for thousands of years. It is not a religion or exercise. It is a right way of living. Yoga has many health benefits physically, mentally and spiritually. It was first documented in the Yoga Sutras by Sage Patanjali between 500 to 200 BC. Before that it had been verbally handed down from generation to generation. Patanjali wrote it down and transformed it into a system. Yoga was brought to America in the late 1800’s, then re-introduced in the late 1950s. It was westernized into our society and grew as an exercise or workout. Understanding the true philosophy of yoga and integrating it into your life, ultimately leads to better health. If followed, it can clear your mind, bringing you to better decision making in support of health and happiness.
My first introduction to yoga came in January 2010. I attended the FBI National Academy in Quantico Virginia. I lived in a dorm room for three months during my stay at the FBI training facility. The National Academy is an amazing and once in a lifetime experience. Law enforcement executives from all over the world attended this prestigious training. The Monday through Friday training is filled with classes, fitness and some socializing. The weekends were mine to complete class papers, explore, have fun and relax. The gym always is a good place to relieve stress and gain some muscle. The winter was cold and snowy that year. There was so much snow, the entire base closed for a week. That is a lot of snow! Running in the cold and snow was so much more fun and exciting; especially for a guy from southern California. They announced an FBI agent would be teaching yoga early weekend mornings. I was intrigued to say the least. I knew next to nothing about yoga. I shared the belief of most men, that yoga was for women. After my very first class early that Saturday morning, my entire thought process changed. There were three men in that class; and our female instructor. She took great care with us, explaining the philosophy and working us through each posture. I attended classes every weekend they were offered. At the end of my three month stay, my muscles, joints, body felt better and stronger. My mind was clear and focused. What an amazing transformation in a short time period.
I returned to my fast paced career and life in Los Angeles. I took a handful of yoga classes over the next five years. In 2015, I met my girlfriend and my life changed. She re-introduced me to yoga and a new life. I attended classes regularly. I mixed a variety of yoga classes, presented by different instructors. The variations included vinyasa, hot yoga, slow flow, yin, restorative and others. The better my body and mind felt, the more I wanted to learn about the yoga and its philosophy. I read books, talked to instructors and gained further insight from my girlfriend. The quest to better myself, physically, mentally and spiritually lead me to seeking out yoga teacher training. I completed my 200-hour training in Bali. It was an incredible, amazing and enlightening experience. Two Indian Yoga Masters lead the course and training. They are inspiring, spiritual and gifted men. We shared many conversations, laughs and tears. They opened my heart to the philosophy and purpose for yoga. It is interesting how the western world bent yoga into a new shape. As with most things, we have commercialized the yoga industry. There are amazing teachers and blissful studios out there. You just have to seek them out. Doing a hand stand is not required.
Being shown a new path by two men who had grown up with yoga was an awe inspiring experience. They are my yoga gurus. I learned so much more than poses, postures and how to make them flow. These men shared a philosophy, spirituality and practice handed down from their ancestors. I discovered the benefits of proper joint alignment and the stimulation of internal organs. Meditation, breathing and just clearing the mind became a new source of bliss and enlightenment. I learned what is most important and significant about life and myself. As much as this was a journey of learning, it really was more about my pathway to self- discovery. Yoga is often misunderstood by many, and I can understand why that has happened. It is much more than something to benefit the body. Yoga is a misrepresented science that has become a part of our western workout regime. That is not the purpose or why yoga was created. Strengthening muscles and clearing the mind to discover bliss during meditation is the foundation of yoga.
Attending yoga training in Bali provided an extra benefit I never dreamed imaginable. I met the Balinese people. I shared their culture, food and graciousness for a month. They are a wonderful society bound in kindness, humility and love. They have little (in possessions) as compared to the overabundance of America, yet their happiness is vast. They cherish and value life, including everyone and everything around them. They are spiritual; with their souls rooted to the earth and universe. Everywhere I went, people approached me interested in saying hello and talking. Initially, my background and attitude made me hesitant. I quickly discovered there was no hidden agenda or purpose. They are honestly friendly people; curious and seeking to know more about you and what your world is like. I enjoyed and welcomed the many conversations. Happiness is not based on what I have. It is formed internally by my own state of mind. I am responsible for my happiness. When you become aware and responsible for yourself, the world is a better and happier place.
My month of training, plus several more weeks abroad, brought me home in a most relaxed state of peace and harmony. My mind, body and spirit have reached new heights of energy, flexibility and strength. Yoga brought balance to my mind and body. It works in unison, improving and complimenting my workout routines, including weight lifting, running and biking. Meditation is now much easier and relaxing; allowing enlightenment and mindfulness. I am able to think more clearly and resolve problems with new solutions. Stress, anxiety and depression are non-existent. I have become more focused on living in the present. I discovered my new bliss.
I spent so much time conditioning my physical body during the past, that I neglected my mental and spiritual health. I have been guided in a new direction the last five years. The journey has forged a clear path to imagine a new and better me. Now I am achieving a balance with my physical, mental and spiritual well-being. I engage myself in the moment and live fully as life unfolds before me. I have not forgotten the past, but I do not dwell on it. Instead of trying to create my future, I am content to allow it to unfold while working toward new dreams and endeavors.
My nutrition is better, as I make healthier food choices, while still having fun and enjoying good food. Living healthier brought new vitality, better health, more energy and an overall better feeling for me. My life flows with a vibrant boost each day. There will always be life issues to deal with along the way. Now I am much more relaxed and capable of dealing with each one as it arises. There is little to no stress or anxiety in my life. I am able to remain focused on me, self-care, self-love and be happy in each moment. This has empowered my relationships with those I love. Imagine yourself happy, just because you are.
We are all aware many more women attend yoga sessions than men. I now know men can benefit from yoga just as much as women. I also know why it is difficult to get men into a yoga class. Yoga was traditionally male dominated when it began thousands of years ago in India. When it was introduced to western society, it was packaged in such a way as to draw more women. In the 1950’s and 60’s there were many more ‘stay at home’ women; often raising children. Men participated in physical activity that shared an athletic or competitive appeal. I do not believe stretching or flexibility was a major concern discussed by men back then. Guys were busy being tough and displaying that macho attitude. Why would a ‘manly’ man be caught in a yoga studio filled with women and a female instructor. It just didn’t happen.
As yoga and society has progressed, so has the view about its benefits. It is evident that the rewards, physically, mentally and spiritually are real and lasting. My body and mind were beat up from life and nearly 34 years of police work. Once I put aside my ego, competitive nature and opened myself to the practice, the benefits began to pour into my body. I do not concern myself with what others are doing in practice. I only focus on me and what I am doing and can do. I learned to calm my mind and body, mostly by controlling my breathing. I could only reach my shins in a forward fold during that first class. My back was tight and sore; as was most of my body. When I bend forward now, in a standing position, I can place my palms on the floor. There is no more back pain, joint or muscle pain. I am much more flexible and free feeling. I am focused on maintaining a health spine and back. That keeps me standing tall and happy.
My advice to anyone just beginning yoga (or any exercise regime) is to start slow with the basics. If you have not exercised in some time, you may want to check with your doctor before you start. Do your own research. Talk to people about studios, classes and instructors. Begin with a slow flow, restorative or Yin class. Let the instructor know you are new. Tell them about your goals and share any physical issues (injuries) or pains. Be guided by their instruction. If you need help or do not understand, ask questions. This is your practice. Practice at least twice a week, more often if you can. Results only happen when you make it a routine. You are always welcomed to reach out and ask me for advice or assistance too. I am here for you.
Yoga is not a workout, exercise, course, retreat, training or religion. Yoga is a way of life; loving and living the true meaning and blessings of your life. It isn’t about going to a yoga class once a month and expecting results. Commit to your health investment. It is about making minor alterations in your lifestyle. The physical yoga practice will increase your strength, allow more joint flexibility and boost self-esteem. The mental practice will reduce stress, improve concentration and stimulate your immune system. The spiritual practice will bring calmness and a sense of well-being. That is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. It is all about you, how you treat your body and how you treat others. Make it about a better life for you. In turn you will view the world in a new and brighter light.
Please tune in and join me again next Sunday for more! The healthy life puzzle is always in rotation. Let’s be healthy and strong mentally, physically and spiritually!
Thanks for your love and support! Embrace Life! Be sure to get outside and enjoy nature!