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A reminder to tame the rajas

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As much as I like to avoid cliches, it’s hard resisting this one: tragedy takes us back to our yogic principles.

Blog by Francesca [Loveinvoke blogger-in-chief]

It’s such a trite thing to say after a tragedy.

“This (insert tragic event) really reminds us to treasure every day and enjoy every moment.”

It’s trite, but true. And it leads us back to one of the key teachings of yoga – the importance of being present.

This is something I’ve been grappling with over the past two months since I embarked on a journey to complete Invoke’s 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training program. The course has challenged me mentally and physically as I’ve learned more about the poses of yoga and worked on executing them with precision. But it’s also stretched me to contemplate the way I live my life and my day-to-day behavior that I’ve come to accept as normal.

The lesson of being in the moment came into play one night as I was preparing to do our written yoga training homework assignment. I had allocated  a window of time for completing it –a precise half-hour in between when I wrapped up my work day and the time I left the office to catch an evening yoga class. As soon as I read the assignment, though, I changed my plans for the night.

Our yoga homework was to learn about the three different states of nature present in humans: one of ambition and constant action (rajas); one of relaxation and inertia (tamas); and one of a harmonious balance of the two (sattva). Then we were to write about the one we most frequently experience.

All I had to do was think about my busy little evening agenda to realize how much I was inclined to let rajas take control. And with a sense of sheepishness, I decided to head home and enjoy the evening, instead of rushing from one thing to another.

When I got home that night, I tried to apply my newfound conceptualization of my rajas to my evening routine. As I made dinner, instead of throwing things in a pan on autopilot while talking on the phone, I took the time to enjoy the process of cooking: the cutting of vegetables, the preparation required to boil water, the smell of ingredients mixing together. I ate more slowly, too, and enjoyed the meal, rather than inhaling dinner and letting my mind rush off to the next thing on my agenda.

This practice – and my subsequent reflection on rajas through my yoga homework that night – illuminated how much I allow myself to zip from one thing to the next in life. I always think five steps ahead. I always try to do too many things. I often push myself beyond my capacity, failing to sleep enough or to take time to slow down and smell the roses.

I’m not alone. Many of us do these things.

And yet, there is so much joy in appreciating each moment for its unique value. As much as life can feel redundant at times, no moment is exactly like another. So why don’t we savor them more?

And why does it take a tragedy like the events in Boston this past week to remind us how precious – and how fragile – those moments truly are?

Life is best when we live in the present. I’m glad for the way that yoga reminds me of that.

Jarosz is a former journalist who loves to write, practice yoga, run and lead communications efforts for The Mind Trust, an Indianapolis-based education reform nonprofit. Follow her on Twitter @francescajarosz.

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A new perspective on New Year’s resolutions

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This year’s resolutions got you down? Erin Gladstone offers some tips on how to conquer negative thinking and reach your goals.

Blog by Erin [Invoke yogini, Pilates student, all-around fitness lover]

While in downward-facing dog pose toward the front of a packed yoga class, it struck me how amazing the arms of every single person in the room looked from that upside-down perspective. This got me thinking about how it is so easy to be critical of ourselves, particularly around this time of the year, while others see our beauty.

We’re now almost a full month into the New Year, and many of us have made resolutions to make improvements in our lives. Some of us may have vowed to reduce the velocity of our butt jiggle by 15 percent in 2013, or eat only celery, ginger root, and drink apple cider vinegar until we shed that final ten pounds (ideally by the end of January, right?). Perhaps we will do 500 crunches every night, run seven miles a day, or complete two-a-days at the gym, just to get back into the swing of things.

Many resolutions cause us to be harsh, and often downright cruel, to our bodies. They lend themselves to behavior that contradicts the yogic principles we practice on the mat: patience, acceptance, and persistence. We set ourselves up for failure by focusing on the outcome, rather than the process. We become unrealistic, and by mid-February, many resolutions return to being pipe dreams as the daily grind regains control.

Don’t let this happen. As you work toward your resolutions of 2013,  commit to developing or rekindling healthy habits that are sustainable, and treat your body kindly. So you consumed more than 37 dozen cookies over the holiday season (I know I did, and they were totally delicious) and got a little too festive in lieu of your regular workout routine. Accept it, but don’t overcompensate via a workout so intense you are 30 minutes late to work the following day because your legs are so sore it took you that long to walk from the parking lot to your office. Instead, treat yourself to a workout that will make you feel amazing and cause you to keep coming back for more (yoga and Pilates are both excellent options if you aren’t sure where to start).

And look at yourself through a different perspective. Don’t hone in on what you want to change, but focus on your strengths that you want to build upon. If you need to, bust out downward-facing dog in front of a mirror and check out those guns. I can assure you they look fabulous.

Gladstone practices yoga & Pilates at Invoke, where you’ll find her working the desk on Sunday nights. She’s also a program manager at IU School of Medicine.


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Loveinvoke: A forum for fitness conversations

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Blog by Francesca [New Loveinvoke blogger-in-chief]

When I first started taking classes at Invoke in September 2010, it was with an air of skepticism and without the intention to make yoga or Pilates a regular part of my workout routine. At the time, I was an unabashed cardio junkie. Running marathons. Cycling. Taking an intense spin on the elliptical. These were my definitions of exercise.

But then I got hooked — at first by the blissful rigor of Nicole Schoville’s Pilates classes, then by the joy of heated Vinyasa yoga. Not only did I enjoy these workouts immensely, I saw the transformative effect they were having on my other athletic pursuits, as well as my ability to handle stress and my overall life outlook.

Two and half years later, I’m fully a yoga and Pilates convert. And now I feel like there’s a huge void in my week if I don’t make it to Invoke at least a couple of times.

Perhaps some of you have similar journeys — or more interesting stories. Certainly many of you share a love for being well and staying fit and active and have incredible insights to share. This Loveinvoke blog is an outlet for all of that — a venue where those of us who love wellness can exchange ideas, inspire one another and perhaps light a spark in others to try a new fitness endeavor.

I’m excited to be taking over as Loveinvoke’s blogger in chief. You’ll find updates from me regularly, but, more importantly, I want to hear from you. If you’re interested in sharing your stories or have ideas you’d like this blog to explore, please email me at jarosz.f@gmail.com. To stay tuned into the latest on the blog, you can also follow Invoke on Twitter or Facebook. And I’ll be posting about the blog from my personal Twitter account.

Thanks for taking the time to check out Loveinvoke.com. I look forward to sharing our fitness journeys in 2013.

Jarosz is a former journalist who loves to write, run, practice yoga and lead communications efforts for The Mind Trust, an Indianapolis-based education reform nonprofit. Follow her on Twitter @francescajarosz.