Last weekend, despite the stormy weather, I was fortunate to be able to go for a yoga retreat with Tara Stiles at the Standard Spa in Miami. After arriving late on Friday night, the next morning I decided to go out for a walk by the waterfront. The resort was still quiet and asleep then, and the only sound I could hear came from the waves and the morning breeze. Standing before the vast expanse of water with no other human being in sight, I felt a deep, calming silence, and a peaceful solitude.
If we live in a busy place or have a hectic schedule, silence and solitude can easily become luxuries that we have to purposely seek to obtain. Most of us, myself included, have the tendency to evade solitude and fill silence with noise. When we are alone in silence, we are most likely faced with our true selves. Negative thoughts or anxieties about ourselves would usually surface during this time, when we are away from distractions. It is often much easier to escape these thoughts by leaving our solitude in exchange for others’ company, or by drowning our silence in distracting sounds. When we choose to dwell quietly in our solitude, however, we may find that it is not as frightening as we may expect, and we may even find some comfort in it.. They could take sometime to get used to, but silence and solitude give us the opportunity to get to know ourselves, to discover our strengths as well as our weaknesses, and to accept purselves for who we really are.
Yoga and meditation are probably among the best ways I know to integrate silence and solitude into our daily life. They help us to remain within ourselves, free from distracting thoughts (at least most of the time). The movements in yoga require us to focus so that we barely have any other choice but to pay attention to ourselves at the present moment. During the retreat, the classes were stretched to two hours long, and Tara - with her usual eloquence in delivering the instructions - made it easy for us to remain centered, even as we were going through the most challenging poses. By practicing tuning into ourselves, we learn to create space for silence and solitude without having to isolate ourselves in a secluded place.
Being calm and centered is of course a good thing, but aside from this, the magical effect from being centered is the ability to become more present to others. The more we feel fulfilled and at peace with ourselves, the easier it becomes for us to be there for those who need us. It is not selfish for us to spend time in solitude, for it encourages us to shift from asking others “what can you do for me?” to asking the question “how can I help?” As Henri Nouwen writes in his book The Way of the Heart: “Silence is primarily a quality of the heart that leads to ever-growing charity.”
Monika found her passion for yoga at Strala, a place she considers as yoga home immediately after her first class. When not practicing at Strala, she invests herself in discovering simple and easy ways to live a healthier lifestyle. To combine her interests in writing and healthy living, Monika contributes regularly to the Strala blog, through which she hopes to share her experience and help others in their journey to wellness.
Just felt like reaching out and connecting with all the readers here on our growing-like-a-weed Strala blog. Quite an amazing culture has developed around not only the studio in NYC, but around the globe and it’s so exciting to see. This blog has become so special and taken on a life of its own so quickly, but I should get used to that time warp happening. When things are in the flow, time adjusts, and things develop very fast. I’ve experienced this “being in the flow” in the last several years of having the pleasure and amazing opportunities and outlets to share how I know people can change their lives through an easy going approach to yoga and meditation, which spirals into a riduculously happy and healthy lifestyle that is contagious to anyone and everyone you’ll ever be in contact with. Happiness has the ability, power, and potential to spread in the same capacity as hurtful feelings, or harmful viruses. With that in mind, spreading happiness is much more interesting and downright effective for lasting positive change not only in us individually but exponentailly into the people, the planet, and the world.
As science can show us that an object changes as we change the way we perceive it, when we begin to change the way we perceive ourselves for the better, our lives expand accordingly.
This time for me is nothing short of a whirlwind. The NYC studio is growing like a wild weed. Many leaders have stepped in and fulfilled inspiring roles and are so lovely encouraging others to step into their full potential. The people who come for yoga regularly are getting so crazy strong, open, calm, and capable, we have to keep “upping” the sequencing to meet the challenge. We’re in the process of expansion and growth to other cities and in sports clubs, which will be super exciting to bring Strala to the gym scene on a global level. The clothing line I’ve been working on with Reebok, more like a yoga baby, is about ready to be born, and we’re so proud and excited to share with the world. My schedule has shifted from the occasional work-to-shoot-a-yoga-project-trip once a month or so, to becoming more like a ping-pong-happiness-ball on a mission to help as many people as possible connect inward, trust themselves, and get in the flow!
Last weekend we were lucky to be at the Standard in Miami doing yoga, signing books, and having a LOT of pool time with such awesome people. This week I just finished shooting the Reebok campaign for our yoga line. Next week I’m off to Illinois to shoot a documentary of my farm town family doing yoga for LiveStrongWoman. And then I head to LA for a couple TV projects that are secret until they air. From there I get to hang at Strala NYC for a few days until I’m off to the Netherlands for the Dutch translation Tour. Then back for a couple days, off to Reebok headquarters for an event, back to LA for Forbes conference, and then off to London for the UK and German release of This is Yoga, my new DVD series. And then we’ll take Nov and Dec from there until we begin 2014. Deep breaths. Careful what you wish for everyone, it will probably come true.
My concentration is also on finding the ease, not just reminding others to do so. If I can’t be easy, whether the movement is challening or simple, whether the day is frantic, or restuful, then what good am I to anyone else? Not much! My main job is to always practice and live how I guide and instruct others to live, because I believe in the Strala Culture, I see how these ideas help so many, and I want in on the action too!
So tell me, how do you find the ease? How do you see the culture of Strala and how do you fit in?
We’re expanding the blog soon too to a new look so we all can stay more connected and continue to be inspired by each other.
Thanks for sharing your inspirations with me. Much appreciated and lots of love!
p.s. make sure to wear sunscreen! Or just hang out under a bunch of towels while reading your favorite Deepak Chopra book :)