Dear Beautiful Human,
There is no debating, we are all experiencing unprecedented challenge. From extended shelter in place with small kids and online schooling, to loss of jobs and a sudden economic halt, to serious health uncertainties, we literally don’t know what to expect from day to day right now. None of us have experienced such a pandemic in our lifetimes.
Naturally my spiritual practices inform my experience of such times and sustain me when I feel overwhelmed by it all. I know from personal experience and many years of studying yoga texts, this is the time to strengthen our spiritual fire.
Here is the truth: none of us escape life’s challenges. Period. We all experience big and small challenges. It is a part of the human experience. The mark of an advanced yoga practitioner or wise human being is the ability to turn challenges or obstacles into lessons or strengths. It’s walking through the fire that makes us stronger and better.
Fire is symbolic across cultures and history. In yoga and Ayurveda, fire is central. Fire is the element of transformation.
Back in 2009, I went through my own personal crisis. My mom was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, I watched the home we just bought drop in value the month after we purchased it, and then I found out I was pregnant with my second child. Within 8 months my mom had passed, my beautiful daughter Riley was born, and I realized we had to let our home foreclose because we were so underwater. It was the lowest of the lows. I lived with fear, uncertainty and the unknown every day.
We got through it. One foot forward each day. Eventually, I was able to look back and ask myself, “what is the lesson here”? Both my husband and I knew what our mistakes were and what the lesson was: “Don’t make decisions out of fear”. We hadn’t trusted our own intuition and we made some big decisions out of fear.
When we use life’s challenges as a means to propel us forward and we take the hardship as a big lesson, we get better. The ability to not succumb to doubt, fear and endless negative mental stories, lies in the strength of our spiritual fire. Your spiritual fire is called bhuta agni and when we use it in very difficult times as a means of self transformation, it’s called tapas. One translation of tapas is “accepting pain as purification”. Tapas helps us burn through the challenges and use them to grow. Instead of fighting what is true right now, we accept it as a means of transformation. We embrace it for all it’s worth.
This is the time to increase all of your spiritual practices, particularly the ones that build strength, stability and clarity. Especially if you are feeling extremely scared, unstable and off center. If we build the spiritual fire, we can accelerate our movement through the challenge and not get stuck in repeating the pattern. We can learn the lesson and move beyond it. We get wiser.
These practices will help you right now, right here, and they are cumulative. They will build your capacity for strength and endurance and increase your stamina:
- Daily meditation. Sitting still helps us connect to what is on the inside. Sitting still helps us distinguish between the changing and the changeless, The more we know the changeless, the less overwhelmed we are about what is changing. The truth is everything is changing all the time. Right now the whole planet is feeling this extreme change, all together. But things have been changing dramatically all the time for individuals, it’s just right now it’s happening at a collective level. Meditation helps us know our innermost selves and it builds trust, faith and determination. It also soothes the nervous system.
- Practice pranayama. This is step 4 in Patanjali’s 8 limbs of yoga. Pranayama is controlled breathing practices. These practices give us direct access to our energy system and help us focus the mind. When your energy is positive and flowing healthfully, you feel good, you feel hopeful and creative and can see solutions to problems in a variety of ways. Energy is expansive and full of potential and therefore our experience of life is the same. Limits dissolve and we connect to endless possibility. Two simple recommended breathing practices: Ujjayi one to one (inhalation and exhalation equal lengths) and alternate nostril breathing (inhale through one nostril then exhale out of the other). I have a basic guided breath practice in my membership: Alternate Nostril Breath Practice
- Limit your exposure to negativity. This is so important. Do not listen to the news all day long. Stay informed yes. But let’s be honest, we know drama sells and the media and news cycles basically play repeat on the bad news and focus very little on the good news. Also be aware of the people in your life that cling to negativity and fear. Love them but move away from exposure to nonstop negativity. Right now it is very important to protect yourself from negative influences that drain your energy rather than boost it.
- Include naval center practices into your morning routine. The fire element is situated at the naval center and is connected to the 3rd chakra, manipura. This is your power center. Yoga practices that involve the naval center increase your personal power and give you access to your inner fire and strength. Are you familiar with uddiyana bandha? It’s a deep abdominal practice and leads to more advanced abdominal techniques. Add this practice into your morning routine. Have an empty stomach and be a little bit warmed up physically. After exhalation you hold your breath and suction the entire abdominal cavity back towards your spine and hold as long as you can. Repeat 5-10 times to stoke your inner fire. I have a tutorial on Yoga International on how to practice uddiyana bandha: Tutorial
We may not have the answer just yet, but the question to be asking ourselves is “what is this hardship teaching me?” Or, “how can I use this challenging time to make myself a more awake and skillful human-being?” In time the answers will come. In the meantime we can lean on our practices to support ourselves in the process.
Join me LIVE this week in my online yoga membership. Use code NikkiGift for a free month for new members.
- Wednesday April 1st at 9:30 am PT This hour long class will be taught all levels and recorded in case you cannot join me live.
- Thursday April 2nd 5 pm PT Restorative Yoga. Grab pillows, blankets, bolsters and anything cozy for this hour long restorative session.
- Saturday April 4th 9 am PT This hour long class will be taught all levels and recorded in case you cannot join me live.
Love & Yoga,