Thursday, November 19, 2015

How Yoga Helps Me Be Kinder to My Family

by Gabriella Cascone, CSOY alumni Class of 2014 and Teacher based in Southwest Iowa

Photo by Lauren Renner

The Holiday season is upon us and even the most well-coordinated and compromising of families are bound to disagree over the proper recipe for stuffing or what the price limit should be for the family gift swap. It’s a time for some filled with feelings of joy and gratitude and for others stress and anxiety. Or some combination of them. In times of familial gridlock or when I’m feeling frustrated, I turn to my mat. I practice yoga because it helps me be more kind to myself – it teaches me how to seek patience rather than frustration, disappointment, or fear.  
“My crescent lunge sucks today.” “Why can’t I balance without my foot wobbling in this standing split? I did it last week.” – the kind of negative self-talk you might hear in the mind of a yoga practitioner. Or worse – comparing ourselves to others:  “How does she get her hips so low in hanumanasana?”
This is totally normal. Most often when we see a disconnect between reality and our expectations of ourselves or others our inclination is to throw a pity party. When I am practicing yoga my goal is to do the exact opposite – to breed compassion and seek opportunities to gain confidence and strength both physically and mentally.  So, I try to bring it back to Ahimsa.
“Ahimsa” is one of the core guiding principles of a yogic lifestyle which teaches us to practice non-violence towards oneself and others in both our actions and thoughts.  
Some people may think the intention of either a physical yoga practice or seated meditation is to wipe one’s mind clear like a fried hard drive. That’s not really how it works. Rather, recognizing that little voice that tells you how much you suck while you are just trying to get your extraordinary consciousness on and resisting the temptation to fuel its fire is more accurate. Reminding yourself – even for a moment – about ahimsa and not engaging in negative talk towards ourselves and about others helps us get there.   
In my family coordinating who is hosting Thanksgiving dinner and what the menu consists of sometimes involves an elaborate game of telephone that, as my sister says, starts in New York with “who is bringing the turkey?” and ends in Chicago with “shit chicken.”     
When feelings of frustration or anxiety bubble up, bring it back to Ahimsa. Think about it - does engaging in negative self-talk help solve the problem? Or does it better both yourself and the relationship you have with others to resist frustration and to seek patience instead? Sure, this isn’t easy. That’s why it’s called a practice – both on and off your mat. “Ahimsa” doesn’t need to be your exact mantra. Just try it on for size as a guiding principle this Holiday season and you may find that a little bit of patience and understanding goes a long way.

Learn more about Gabriella Cascone and her offerings at http://sassyandspicy.com. For more information on Colorado School of Yoga programming, please see our website www.coloradoschoolofyoga.org.