I recently sat a full Vipassana Meditation course in Menomonie, Wisconsin and loved it. I highly recommend it, even though I wanted to quit everyday because it was really hard work. Today I going to make a St. Patrick's Day post on Instagram and was going through some images looking for something good. The first thing that came up was an image of a shamrock and I immediately remembered when a fellow meditator gave one of the best gifts I have ever received.
If you ever sit a Vipassana course you will take a vow of noble silence, which means that for most of the time you are there you will not speak to anyone or touch anyone or make eye contact with anyone for the duration of the course. During your time there you really have an opportunity to become very quiet and very clear. I honestly recommend it and think you should do it when you feel called to sit your first course. I loved it and have been vibing out on the benefits of Vipassana meditation all winter long.
After days on end after being silent for so long, deprived of human contact & connection, it must have been day 7, 8 or 9, it was a beautiful day outside and we were on a break between meditations. During breaks you are encouraged to take a walk on the path on your designated side of the retreat center, or rest in your dorm. I was outside deep in thought and out of nowhere the woman who sat behind me in the meditation hall, walked up to me and made eye contact with me with her sparkling blue eyes, and took a breath and handed me a four clover and then continued her walk.
I was completely overwhelmed by the human connection of eye contact, the touch of her hand and also overjoyed by the sight of a four leaf clover, which I had never seen in real life before. My current meditated state allowed me to feel all of the emotions of human connection and receiving gifts in this way that I had never experienced before. I felt a myriad of emotions: overwhelming joy and gratitude, longing, peace and complete overwhelm, along with the fear of tarnishing my Vipassana record with now having broken my vow of noble silence even though I was just sitting there and my gift giver broke it for me. All of my joy of receiving this beautiful, lucky gift took over and I decided to not create more drama by fretting over this brief encounter of human connection and just let the joy flood in.
Peace, and then more anxiety started forming. At that moment I felt like I had never received such a pure, authentic, beautiful and genuine gift. I didn't know what to do with it. I couldn't take a picture of it, because that wasn't allowed, and I was following the rules. The question that came to me was "should I keep this to myself or share this beautiful gift with someone else?" I ran through the different scenarios in my head if I kept it, then I'd be the only one to knew the true bliss of this shamrock. If I gave it away perhaps the recipient would also pass it on and so on and so forth until it got back the original gift giver and then all the women in the camp would have experienced my joy and gratitude.
I quickly decided to share my joy with the woman who sat directly in front of me in the mediation hall because she walked past me at the exact right moment. I called her "Secretary," in my mind because I hadn't met her prior to my noble silence vow and didn't know her name. (I gave everyone I didn't know secret names.) Immediately after I gave my gift to her I felt remorse because I no longer had my blessed and perfect four leaf clover and I also had no way of knowing what the Secretary would do with it. I was so stressed out because I felt like I had made the wrong decision. I had to process all of those feelings, all because of this gift!
I had to make peace with the fact that I gave it away, and that was that and I wouldn't know what became of my little four leaf clover until the final day when we could break our silence. I remembered that in the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo says that a once a gift has been given and received, it has served its purpose, to be given. It is gift -- its purpose is lived out.
There was so much emotion and anxiety and guilt all wrapped up, excuse the pun, in receiving this one little gift. All I could do was sort through that because I was on my silent meditation retreat so I had plenty of time to think about it.
One of the many lessons I learned during my 10 day Vipassana course was about gift giving. I learned that the joy of giving and receiving gifts does not come from creating judgement or getting what one expects, it's about receiving kindness from another human being. SO no matter if you are given a four leaf clover from a silent, unknown friend, or sapphire earrings from your husband, that you never plan on wearing, it is not about the value of the gift, it is about the value of the effort, thought and energy given from one human to another. So I thank you for reading this. Happy St. Patrick's Day! This blog is for you!
For each petal on the shamrock.
This brings a wish your way
Good health, good luck, and happiness
For today and every day.
Elizabeth Camp, Founder of Yoga Camp
I recently completed a full year of handstands. Yes, I did a handstand every single day in 2016 and documented it. Every single day. The world looks different now.
1) You will make incredible progress on your handstand journey!
My orginal handstand goal on Janurary 1st, 2016 was, "work up to a 10 second hold and leg variations."
I have gotten a lot stonger and a lot more consistent in my handstands. I have to tell you right away that I have not yet acheived my original goal. I am a lot closer. I can consistently hold a handstand now for 1-3 seconds. I can't yet really do any intentional leg variations.
I thought I would reach my goal, but I can assure you, I am in no way dissappointed in myself. I am actually very proud of myself for staying committed and for the progress I have made.
2) You will explore your city, and the world and yourself.
It was interesting how motivating the art of the challenge was for me. It enticed me to explore my city more than I normally would and take more trips. I also observed how it was fueling me as an artist.
Taking a picture every day for to share on social media was a unique motivator for a lot of reasons. Publically announcing my self-imposed challenge via social media kept me accountable and not only motivated to perservere, but also make my challenge as artistic as possible.
I am a fanatic about Instagrm and also the layout of my gallery. The idea of creating a grid that would flow together beautifully also played a role in mt journey. It drove me to seek out new places, different lighting, and explore different variations to keep my IG gallery beautiful. I don't think I would have stuck to the challenge if it hadn't been for my public comittment via social media, and I know it wouldn't have been so fun and motivating.
I’ve been a runner for over ten years now, and have completed three full marathons, one ultra-marathon, and countless half marathons. Nowadays don’t do so much racing, just short runs in my beautiful neighborhood, for the sake of running. It is a joy to be able to run! Before and after a run it is a must for me to have a yoga session, even if it’s only 5 minutes. So, let’s get down to business - Running and Yoga! You’ve seen articles, and suggested poses, but here’s a short list of 5 BIG ways yoga can REALLY help your run!
1. Develops Muscular Strength –
While yoga is not weightlifting, in the tradition sense, you are putting your body in many positions that need the support of your muscles, you essentially are lifting your own body weight during much of your practice. Because of this, yoga tones muscles all over the body, and it does so in a balance, harmonized way. In weight training, you often isolate one muscles or group at a time, and while yoga does this as well, most postures work a variety of muscles and groups. In many types of yoga you also hold poses for an extended period of time, this, in turn also helps with muscle endurance - an added plus!
2. Improves Flexibility –
A common phrase is, “I can’t do yoga, I’m not flexible.” And it’s sort of funny because this is EXACTLY why you should do yoga. Any amount of yoga can help your flexibility. Stretching your body is always beneficial, and with regular practice you will see results where you begin to improve your flexibility. By having more flexibility, you give your muscles and joints a greater range of motion. A supple, flexible body is less prone to injuries because it can better withstand physical stress.
3. Sharpens Mental Focus –
Yoga holds the power to transform our minds as much as it does our bodies and running, especially racing, is a VERY mental sport. The breathing and meditative exercises of yoga aim at calming the mind and body and keeping distracting thoughts away while you focus on your body, posture, breath, and the task at hand. By learning to keep your mind pointing forward, in the direction you choose, you find the mental focus and control to truly run on your own terms.
4. Upgrades Balance -
In yoga you hold poses that help you become aware of the shifts in your focus and how those show up in your body. You learn true body and breath control keeping yourself steady in mind and body. This translates very well to running as the roads change and you are bound to make an unexpected stop, maneuver through a water station at a race, or run into some other issue that causes your focus to shift and your body control to be tested. By being more in tune with your body you are more likely to avoid injury. Improving your balance by holding standing postures in yoga also tremendously helps your ankle strength which is crucial to running.
5. Skyrockets Breathing Efficiency -
Yoga is all about breathing and obviously breathing is very important to running! In yoga there are many types of breathing exercises and techniques you can use, and a runner could benefit for any one of them! Learning to truly breathe deeply and mindfully is incredibly beneficial for a runner.
All of these benefits help reduce the chance of injury for runners, so I say WHY NOT?! Give it a try, mix a little yoga in with your running! If you are wondering, “How in the world do I start?” check out @yogacamp on Instagram for our upcoming #YogaCampGoesRunning challenge that just started November 10th!
Yoga Camp Travel and Media Specialist
Our latest Yoga Camp Instagram Yoga Challenge, play along -- it's for a good cause!
Instagram and Yoga. Some people like it, some people hate it, some people are completely unaware of it. Nonetheless, it’s there, and it’s a huge community. I actually have Instagram to thank for the fact that I’m sitting here writing this blog, I met Elizabeth Camp, the founder of Yoga Camp, through an Instagram connection and now I am the Yoga Camp Travel and Media Specialist. Who knew?! Amazing!
You can probably guess that at Yoga Camp we are fans of mixing Instagram and yoga. While we could go on forever about this subject, we are choosing our top five reasons why you should think about joining the wonderful world of IG yoga!
1. It encourages you to practice daily or perhaps gets you outside daily, whatever way, it gets you movin'. – One of the most popular things in the Instagram Yoga world are the challenges. In these challenges, you take a photo or video of yourself practicing a pose or something assigned daily by the challenge hosts. This gets you to get up and do at least one pose a day (and hopefully some warm up). There is a challenge for everyone, from moves like arm balances, heart openers or twists, yoga with your child or dog, to yoga based on lyrics to your favorite song – There are PLENTY to choose from!