Intuition; Your Map to the Universe

Intuition is that little voice that tells us things that we wouldn’t normally know. Sometimes it leads to great transformation, sometimes it means I make my train. Either way I am better off listening to my intuition than I am ignoring it. Here’s why you will be too.

 

I usually get 4 questions when it comes to learning how to tune into intuition.

  1. What does that mean, “tune into intuition?”
  2. Does it really work?
  3. Do I have to shave my head and become a monk to do this?
  4. How do I start?

 

I’ll start with question number 3. No, you don’t need to be a monk, you don’t need to shave your head, nor do you

Blackboard concept for leaving your comfort zone behind and moving in to the real life

even need to be a vegetarian or vegan. As for question number 2, yes, it really does work, although it requires practice, patience and a willingness to step outside of what is likely your comfort zone.

 

What does it mean to tune into your intuition? I view intuition as the uplink to the universe. It demonstrates our connection to everyone and everything else. That little voice that speaks up and tells you something is a bad idea, or that turning left instead of right is the better choice. Intuition is our insight into the larger world at a deeper level of consciousness that has fewer prejudged filters in place.

 

I’ll share an example of one of the uses I have for my own intuition. I drive from my house to the train to commute to work. I drive the same route every day at the same time every day. One day as I am about to get in the lane to turn right, as I always do, I hear myself inside my head saying “go left today.” That was it. Three little words. But I listened, got in the lane to turn left and as I entered the intersection, I saw that there was a massive backup of traffic and if I had gone right, as I always did, I would have been stuck and missed my train. Instead, I heeded those three little words, went left and made my train.

 

Questions arises suggesting there were some other clues that might have prompted me to turn left. Not really. The traffic was moving fine and even the first few cars to turn right seemed like they were going to move as normal. There were no sirens, nothing on the radio, a normal day. Just that little voice in my head. To further reinforce it, I don’t like going left because it means I have to later turn left onto a two way main road that feeds the train station. And that is never a pleasant nor expeditious route so I take great care to avoid that route.

 

As for how to start tuning in, that’s the easy and hard part. All you have to do is listen. Quiet your chatty conscious mind and let the signals be heard. I say it’s both the easiest and most challenging because it sounds simple enough; quiet your mind. However that is one of the most challenging thing for us to do.

 

To help start you off, I have a few exercises to help get you going.

 

Exercise 1: Get comfortable with your own mind

Human head withred ladder to opened sky window

In today’s world of digi-distraction and the constant bombardment of visual and auditory stimuli, it’s very easy to avoid the tough questions and the fears that we collect in life. But the first step to being able to hear your intuition is clearing out this clutter. And the only way to clear it out is to face it.

 

To do this, I like long runs by myself with no electronics. My mind flits from thought to thought for a bit but it eventually gets bored. And when the mind gets bored, that is when all the nasty stuff starts bubbling up. Doubts, fears, limiting thoughts all undercutting our confidence and goals. But this is only a distraction technique. It isn’t real and once you can face these thoughts without retreating, you begin to silence them. Once you start quieting those negative thoughts, you make room for your intuition to be heard.

 

Exercise 2: Count your breaths

Image courtesy of kootenaycommunityyogatherapy.blogspot.com.

Image courtesy of kootenaycommunityyogatherapy.blogspot.com.

This one is deceptively more challenging than it appears. The concept is simple. Sit or lay comfortably and count your breaths. One to twenty-one. When you get to twenty-one, start over again at one. If you lose count, simply start again at one. Once you can make it through this exercise for at least 5 minutes (set a timer so you don’t have to worry about tracking that too) without losing track or chasing random thoughts and having to start over, you will have built your concentration skills up enough to begin the third exercise, learning to listen.

 

 

 

 

Exercise 3: Learn to listen

Image courtesy of Moyan_Brenn   / Flickr.

Image courtesy of Moyan_Brenn / Flickr.

If you’ve gone through the other two exercises, this one will be much easier than attempting it without them. When I describe the thoughts in my head, I think of them in terms of quality of thought. There are the garbage thoughts such as anything negative about myself or others, the whiney thoughts such as my muscles are tight don’t go for a run or the distracting thoughts such as I bet I can get the next level of Game X if I started right now.

 

Next come the medium thoughts such as I’m hungry, did I leave the stove on when I left the house or wow, I’ve got a lot of work to catch up on. While not detrimental, they are still distractions.

 

At the top are the high quality thoughts. These are the ones that are insightful, helpful, positive, and show me options to challenges I otherwise might not have come up with. This is where intuition lies.

 

Whether you like to sit at home, in nature or add this on to a meditation practice, sitting quietly and listening to your thoughts will move you in the direction of telling your thoughts apart. This exercise of just sitting with your thoughts allows you to listen to everything that is going on in your head and enables you to identify the higher quality thoughts from the lesser ones. This in turn allows for you to identify them in the midst of daily chaos when they come up again.

 

What’s next?

Going through the first two exercises taught you to quiet your mind and built your level of concentration so that you

group of man and women during hiking excursion in woods, walking in a queue along a path. Low section view

could start sorting the garbage thoughts from the rest. I was surprised to find so much extra room in my head when I started dumping the garbage thoughts. It was like driving around with your windshield completely dirty and then suddenly it’s clean and you can see where you are going.

 

It will likely take a little time to adjust to the “clean windshield” you’re developing. Something pops into your head and you question it or second guess it. I recommend taking note of those times, what the thought or direction was and what you did, with a note about how it turned out. It’s been my experience that in hindsight, those odd thoughts were some really good recommendations. You won’t always take them, and that’s fine. As you track your thoughts, you’ll learn to trust this new insight more.

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Essential Tips for Beginning Yoga Students

Yoga can be intimidating. Walk in to a class filled with bendy, twisty, super in shape people with designer clothes, personalized mats and a language of their own. Throw in the Sanskrit, chanting and occasional harmonium and it can feel like walking into an episode of The Twilight Zone.

Image courtesy of wisdomquarterly.blogspot.com.

Image courtesy of wisdomquarterly.blogspot.com.

 

My first few yoga classes were unsettling to say the least. Incense, strange musical instruments (the harmonium), lots of Sanskrit chanting and a little bit of over-sharing were what met me. But with some encouragement, I kept going back and today, I’m comfortable in that environment, chanting, Sanskrit over-sharing and all, even if I don’t always participate.

 

I thought about what might have made my entrance into this world a little less traumatizing, and I’ve written a brief Beginner’s Guide to Yoga to (hopefully) help others with the transition. I’ve broken this down into three sections; Entering the class, During the class and Leaving the class.

 

 

Entering the class

  1. The Yoga teacher will be friendly; genuinely friendly, it isn’t a mugging or a con.
  2. The funny smell tickling your nose is incense, it’s supposed to calm your energy; it still makes me sneeze.
  3. The front of the room is for the people who want to be seen typically; beginners are better off moving to the sides; it’s a great vantage point and the whole class won’t be looking at your butt.

    Image courtesy of NazarethCollege    / Flickr.

    Image courtesy of NazarethCollege / Flickr.

  4. Grab props (blocks and a blanket especially) if available, and if the teacher recommends anything else, grab that too; props are your friend.
  5. Introduce yourself to anyone who isn’t meditating or face down in some odd looking stretch. This is a community environment (most of the time).
  6. Don’t take it personally if someone you try to strike up a conversation with ignores you; Namaste!

 

 

 

 

During the class

  1. Don’t compare yourself to others in the class – some of them have been going for years, and looking around to see who is better is just going to distract from the purpose of yoga, being in the present.

    Image courtesy of shootingafly.blogspot.com.

    Image courtesy of shootingafly.blogspot.com.

  2. Be kind to yourself – yoga can be challenging, both physically and emotionally, accepting that every day is different and working to your best for that day is the best thing you can accomplish.
  3. Leave the outside world outside the door – for whatever time there is in class, forget the outside world and connect with yourself.
  4. Don’t worry about the sanskrit or the chanting – whether you choose to learn the sanskrit or develop/have an interest in chanting, neither is required for yoga.
  5. Yoga (unless otherwise stated in the class description) isn’t religiously affiliated. It promotes good, nice, friendly things (except for that person that ignored you in #6 above); you are not required to shave your head, get an Om tattoo or anything else that doesn’t feel comfortable.
  6. Be prepared to sweat. Yoga is hard work and uses muscles most beginners either forgot or didn’t know they had in the first place.

 

After the class

  1. Give yourself a minute before jumping up and running out. The first few classes can be very tough, and a good savasana can make you loopy in the head.
  2. Talk a moment and talk to the instructor; especially if the class felt comfortable to you. Learn to tell what makes a good class for you so you can find others like it. It’s also good to occasionally experience classes you don’t feel so good about so you know what to avoid.
  3. Ask questions about the teacher, the studio and other classes. Especially if you liked the class and the feel of the studio.
  4. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Water is your friend, especially if it’s a hot yoga class.
  5. Be ready to be a little sore later.
  6. Don’t take it too seriously – yoga is about personal growth and improvement. The most authentic and wisest people are also the funniest in my opinion. Laugh at yourself, laugh for no reason, laugh when you fall and laugh when you soar. Like Om, laughter is a universal sound. You don’t believe me; try not laughing when a baby starts giggling uncontrollably.

 

Yoga is different from other forms of exercise in many ways. It also has a number of similarities. My best recommendation is to go in with an open mind, ignore whatever is just too weird at the moment, be kind to yourself during the class and have fun. Worst case, someone looks at you like you are a barbarian because you eat meat. Best case, you find a new fun way to build your mind, body and spirit and quite possibly, make a new friend.

By MIT-Libraries [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Flickr

By MIT-Libraries [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Flickr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fear of the unknown is a terrible reason not to do something. Not liking it after you’ve tried it is perfectly fine; you tried it. I have yet to find a yoga studio that kidnaps innocents out of the classes for brainwashing and robe fittings; at least they don’t do it on the first day. So try it out. You might just like it.

Appealing to Men; What Might Draw Us In

Yoga marketing, clothes, classes and support seem to me to be geared towards women.  However the benefits gained from a regular yoga practice are universal.  How can men become more interested in yoga so they too can also benefit?

HardtailadmenyogaclothesConsider these two adds I pulled from websites for yoga clothing for both men and women.  While thumbing through the sites, the one for the women had *tons* of pictures in active, friendly, community (just appealing in general) poses.  For us guys, this model had this and one other pose for everything he wore.

 

The women’s ad was pulled from HardTail, and the men’s from Vickerey.

 

 

 

 

In addition to the clothing ads, I have thought about this quite a bit.  I have a number of friends who are men and yoga teachers and they have all had various levels of success in trying to attract men into their classes.  I am left wondering where the disconnection is.  So today I would like to explore what might be a man’s more ideal yoga class.  For this, I go back to my own first impressions of yoga studios, what I did and did not like at the time and what kept me coming back.

First, some dislikes:

  • The music –singing about goddesses made me feel uncomfortable.
  • The sayings and posters – they were geared towards women and I felt like and outsider invading a foreign land.
  • Chanting, Bells and Sanskrit – forget about a feminine refuge, I felt like I had stepped into some sort of church and I nearly ran from the room; I don’t want to subscribe to a religion here.
  • The lack of optional postures and modifications – and I will preface this with not being true of every studio, but the ones I started with were not so strong here.  As a beginner, I was strong and flexible, but not familiar with the postures and there were new ways of moving my body.  Sometimes a modification was needed to get me into using new muscles or stretching differently.
  • The sometimes openly suspicious looks from the female students – yes, sad but true.  It’s a yoga studio; isn’t it about peace and acceptance and growth?  Then why did I feel like I needed to justify being there?
  • The clothes – there are just not enough decent yoga clothes for men.  I like tighter fitting stretchy mid-thigh shorts.  Way too few options here.  The basketball shorts that are being pushed today just aren’t comfortable to me.

What kept me coming back:

  • The staff – the people working the front counters and the teachers were always friendly, down to earth and funny.
  • The workouts – they were typically pretty good.  With the caveat noted above, I would have liked more options for modification of the postures when I was struggling to understand them.
  • Curiosity – why is yoga so popular?  What draws all these people back time and again?  What am I not understanding?

And last for today, what might make it more inviting for men:

  • “Ease into it” classes – these are classes specifically designed to not have chanting, more popular style music and focused on the class; offering appropriate options, props and a good sweat.
  • Throw a masculine targeted poster up – Goddess Heart Opening Retreat to Express and Experience Your Natural Femininity 2013 posters are creepy to me; and very uninviting.  Mix in a few posters covering the story behind the Warrior series of postures.  Something that does not make men feel they are in a strange and foreign land.
  • Male only classes – this is something that is already starting to take off, but I hope continues to grow.  There are entire gyms that are dedicated to women who want the freedom to work out without feeling like they are being watched.  I completely agree that that type of environment should exist.  The flip side is that guys might also benefit from a similar environment with yoga.

I am not saying the chanting, Om’ing and stuff needs to go.  It has grown on me and I now prefer classes with that experience.  But not when I first started.  My idea of getting in touch with my feelings was punching a bag really hard.  I know I needed to ease into this type of environment.  If it can be made a little more guy oriented, I truly believe that more men will find their way to yoga.  And in my opinion, that can only be a good thing.

natureyoga

 

I would love to hear your thoughts on this.  You agree, disagree, think I have missed the boat completely?