Open your heart, not your hips! 

A powerful practice in yoga involves opening your heart, not your hips! 

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Recently, I participated in a yoga workshop for yoga fundamentals. I thought it would be very important to "get back to the basics." Also in this workshop was a gal named Sue. Sue described to me how this was her 3rd workshop this year. She loved each experience, but felt inadequate because those around her seemed to advance in their practice and she felt stuck and inferior. I inquired about what her life was like when she started practicing yoga and if she'd noticed any changes since that time. It was as if I'd turned on a light within her. After a brief pause, Sue began spouting off how so many of the bumps and rough patches within her life were beginning to smooth out! 

Since that encounter, I’ve been doing a lot of reflection and have found myself struggling with how we measure success in our yoga practice. I’ve begun to question the means and markers that we all use to measure our "success". I had to really focus on what I was feeling at that very moment.

I have fallen victim to the mindset that your worth (when it pertains to your yoga practice), can be measured by the physical postures you are able to "achieve". I have had to catch myself and train myself to be aware of how deceptive these outward indicators of "achievement" can be. This allows me to be a better teacher because I'm better able to acknowledge how some of the most astounding changes often go unnoticed and typically unacknowledged. What I'd rather focus on is how the collective "we" measure progress toward kindness and respect for one another? I'd love to really get a pulse on the strengthening of presence and awareness rather than whether or not we can nail a handstand. Self-love comes first.

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I think it is important to reevaluate how we go about measuring our self satisfaction and the value of others in such a limiting physical form. If we are able to break free of the idea that we are "better" in our practice because we have mastered an arm balance or tackled an inversion, we will be able to release the hold that these biases have over us. Injuries, aging, life changes, and of course economics will impact what you can do today vs. what you will do tomorrow or have done yesterday --- that doesn't make anyone a failure in my book.

I believe that the practice of yoga is simple. Yoga is opening your heart. It is not about doing something correctly or "sticking a pose". I encourage anyone reading this to do your best to reframe how you measure success in your practice. Measure it not by how deeply you were able to stretch past your toes, but rather how deeply you were able to open your heart and stretch your arms out to another. 

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My partner tells me the purpose of Yoga practice is very simple: To open the heart. I can think of no better definition.When students query me about “the right way” and “doing things correctly,” I ask them to reframe their questions. I ask them to measure their success in their postures not by how far they went but by how aware they were in each moment. I ask them to judge the correctness of their positions not by what they look like but by what makes them feel most alive, most present, and most whole. 

Feel alive. Be present and kind...and you will be advanced. Better yet, you will be whole! 

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Meghan Ann Martin