Dear Beautiful Yogi,

Happy New Year!

Saturday I was teaching my regular morning class in Larkspur. It was January 4th so the room was full and the enthusiastic energy of the new year was palpable. The holidays are over and with the start of a new year and a new decade everyone seems ready to make some changes.

The philosophical theme emerged naturally as I was teaching: how can we become more conscious? As someone who has been teaching a long time, without break, I see a lot of bodies. I see the places in students’ bodies where they are unconscious. Whether it’s simply not understanding how to practice a certain pose or it’s a habitual or chronic area of compensation, I can see where people lack awareness.

I do my very best with words, sequencing and some adjusting, to help people “wake up” those areas. I try to help them move their shoulders in a different way or access their core strength versus overworking other areas of the body. I try to help them understand what actions we want to use in any given pose.

But the real work in my opinion is in taking that interest, curiosity and presence of mind in our bodies out into the world and our daily lives. How can we live with more intention, clarity, awareness, and empowered action?

To me, that’s the real gift of yoga. And, it’s been a natural evolution in my practice. The more I am aware of my body and creating or realigning positive movement and strength/flexibility patterns, the more I am interested in creating positive behavioral patterns in all areas of my life.

Instead of running on autopilot, allowing life to happen to me and simply trying to get by, I am interested in being more actively aware and clear with my intentions in everything I do. This applies to the small, daily mundane tasks and also the big picture, important decisions.

I think we become more conscious by asking ourselves questions and staying tuned in for the answers. I know one powerful question that helps me stay on track through the day and keeps me awake. I ask myself this “Am I aligning myself with what is ultimately going to leave me feeling good?” Notice I said “ultimately” because sometimes the best choice doesn’t feel great at the moment.

For example, sometimes I get caught in a debate with myself in the mornings once the kids are out of the house. If I don’t have a class to teach, I have time at home to be productive. I always have a million things to do with my online business and marketing, from tech stuff, to posting on social media, to responding to emails, to creating videos and more. Our dog always needs a walk or a run and as you can imagine, there is always housework or dishes to do. So, some days I can’t decide what I should do first or what is most important.

That’s when I check in. Instead of autopilot or repeating what I always do even if it isn’t the best choice, I ask myself what’s really going to feel good. Sometimes making the dog wait a bit and getting to that pile of emails (even when I don’t feel like doing them) is ultimately going to make me feel the best because the pile up is causing me distress. I know I will feel so good because I got them done.

These little things make a huge difference. Sometimes by checking in with myself I realize how I am feeling down deep and I can make a skilled decision from there. This process is making me more conscious!

It also helps me to steer away from negative habits that I want to change. When I stop to ask if it’s really going to make me feel good, I often realize it won’t and catch myself before I make an unconscious choice. (This week it happens to be reaching for the extra sugary treat I could really do without now that the holidays are over!)

Of course, I apply this question to the big decisions too. Where do I want to be in 5 years? What do I want to do with my business? What brings me joy and feels purposeful? What is draining, depleting or out of alignment with my personal goals?

I think you get the picture. It’s possible to be more conscious in every facet of our lives if we keep checking in and asking the questions. The results? We make better decisions. We make decisions that feel right and are in alignment with our highest good.

What makes you feel good? What brings you joy and satisfaction? What is downright horrible in your life that needs to go? These are essential questions to ask yourself as you move into a new year. Do more of what fills you up and less of what brings you down. Practice being more conscious off your yoga mat with everything you do!