Give Thanks

Dark early mornings, crowded stores, and frantic (to say the least) shoppers come to mind when we think of the unofficial holiday that sits at the heels of Thanksgiving. However, the rising sun, a warm room with zen music, and yogis on their mats made up my Black Friday this year.

Teaching yoga while I am home for holidays breaks is more than “convenient” or “a great set up,” it’syoga rejuvenating, grounding, and incredibly rewarding.

Although I have the opportunity to teach yoga at school as well, there’s a comforting nostalgia when I am able to come back to the studios where I gained so much experience early on in my yoga career. I remember the summer days I taught on the outdoor deck, telling my students about my first year away from home, and working on remembering my sequences without looking at my written out plan for the class.

Remembering these classes reminds me how much has changed in the last four years. As college students, we don’t always realize how much we change and grow. I think it’s because we forget that we are growing- we forget we’re young- so we can’t imagine ourselves much differently than who we are today.

Regardless of age or stage in life, I think we all forget to take a moment to recognize how far we have come. We are always thinking about what’s left on the to-do list, what title we haven’t accomplished, and the places we haven’t seen. However, it’s what we have done, who we’ve become and where we’ve been that set the stage for everything that is to come. Without recognizing this, we lose the opportunity to learn from and appreciate each and every experience.

In an age of new not being new enough, there’s something to be said for going back to the basics.

gratitudeThanksgiving wins year after year as my favorite holiday, I find so much charm in its simplicity and values-based celebration.  We spend time, rather than money; celebrate the gift of life, rather than new possessions; and fill our plates, rather than our greed.

However, with the holiday shopping season starting earlier and earlier every year, we run the risk of this holiday- and this grounding mindset- being lost in the shuffle. Regardless of stores’ opening hours, I believe expressing gratitude, whether its to others or to yourself, preserves the essence of Thanksgiving.

No, we may not be able to avoid the consumer-crazy season. However, remembering the value in what you already have may be even more intriguing than shiny and sleek items. Who knows, maybe you’ll even put down the to-do list down and cross a few items of your wish list instead.

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3 Years, 5 Lessons, Countless Downdogs

Passion has been a bit of a buzzword for me lately. It could be from creating inspiration boards with kindergarten-3rd grade students, the Greek Awards recommendation letters I’ve been writing, or from the Tazo tea called Passion that I drink daily.

More than anything though, I think it’s credited to the recent Downdogs for Diabetes event. If you aren’t familiar, this is my sorority’s annual fall philanthropy event; a yoga class, led by yours truly, that benefits the Alpha Gamma Delta Foundation. I’m simply unable to explain my involvement and energy surrounding this event, without touching on passion.

DSC_56The Alpha Gamma Delta Foundation benefits diabetes education, research and awareness; along with many other initiatives to support Alpha Gam alumnae in need. The University of Minnesota Alpha Gamma Delta chapter (Delta) holds 2-3 fundraising events each year to support the Foundation. Downdogs began three years ago, and I’m thrilled to see that it’s had staying power.

Even for those not studying public relations and/or with a love for events, Downdogs has taught me a few things over the years, all of which I couldn’t have learned if it weren’t driven by passion. As graduation approaches, and people of all stages in life continue to stress about the future, I think tapping into passion may be just as calming as a downward facing dog-

1. Stay on brand– Downdogs for Diabetes has been successful as a fall philanthropy because it stayed true to Alpha Gam. Our Purpose, which is like a values based mission statement, outlines the importance of health and wellness. Focusing on what you value- and what you don’t- can put things into perspective. This along with the yoga classes held in our living room, Alpha Gam and yoga go hand in hand. Although it had not been done before, this event wasn’t a huge stretch (no pun intended).

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The first Downdogs for Diabetes, 2012.

2. Shake it up– From the lines outside Mesa at bar close, to the club meetings that advertise with only two words- free food-we’ve all seen (and experienced) how people are motivated by food. As a result, this event was pretty unconventional compared to other fundraisers for our chapter and for the community. However, risk taking is essential for innovation and allowed our chapter to discover a new tradition.

3. Authenticity is key– This ties in with numero uno, and is probably the most important of them all. Downdogs wouldn’t have started or succeeded had I not had genuine enthusiasm and trust that it could. If your vision is authentic, you’ll be able to get others to envision it as well.

4. Details can come later– When I originally planned Downdogs for Diabetes, I wasn’t sure exactly where it would take place, if people would like it, or what impact it would have. I just knew there was only one way to find out, which rings true for professional and personal life scenarios. You won’t make any strides forward or try anything new if you’re waiting for guaranteed success.

5. Gophers can’t be tamed– Okay but actually. Goldy attended this year’s event, and was a bit more rambunctious than mygoldy average yoga student. Rather than letting his surprises (i.e. pretending to change the music, bringing a ladder to his yoga mat, and spraying people with their water bottles) throw me off, I rolled with the punches. As much of a planner as I am, there can be a point where preparation no longer serves you. 5 year plans are great- especially for when someone asks you what’s your 5 year plan– but it needs to be able to adapt to the new experiences and growth you will be fortunate to have.

One of the greatest things yoga has taught me is to keep my mind as flexible as my hamstrings. Whether it’s planning events or planning your future, letting go of certainty in order to embrace and appreciate surprises makes life a bit more zen, and a lot more enjoyable.