Freedom is the ability to choose in whatever moment you're in.

by Jessica Sliman in

Last night in my yoga teacher training class we started diving into the Yoga Sutras. The Yoga Sutras are one of the primary texts for studying yoga philosophy. Someone jokingly referred to the sutras as the original self help book. There is some truth in that statement. Our teachers kept saying, "here are 195 sutras to help change your life."

We talked about so many different sutras and I have a lot of digesting to do. Each sutra is short and can be understood on a variety of levels. Seriously...I'm kind of on information overload. To help curtail that, I want set a weekly intention based on something we learned in class. Just something little.  So this week, I'm focusing on discernment.

It was said last night that "freedom is the ability to choose." Whatever moment we're in, we use our discernment to choose between suffering and joy. Through yoga, we become conscious of our patterns or samskaras and from there, we can question whether these patterns work for us. Just being aware of our habits is a huge step but I love that simple awareness can help us make better choices. We're making the unconscious conscious.

These samskaras can be simple or complex. I crave sugar. I eat too many cookies. Then I have an upset stomach. So I notice the upset stomach, notice the pattern, and bring that awareness into my next sugar craving.  Sometimes it takes a lot of suffering to realize you should just walk away from the Girl Scout cookies (I speak from a lot of experience here). I'm feeling stressed out so I zone out in front of the TV. I'm in a hurry so I get snippy with my kids. I am at a bar so I drink a bunch of beer. I mean, fill in whatever you want here. It can be anything.

So then we ask ourselves, is this pattern working or not working? How do we break the patterns that aren't working for us?

A few more examples of discernment from this week:

Something as simple choosing not to buy the $20 skirt is discernment. It may not seem like a big deal but deep down, it's breaking up a pattern that doesn't bring joy. The pattern is shopping without thinking, it's listening to marketing rather than listening to my mind.

Here's another example. On Wednesdays for my class, Donovan needs to be home to take care of  the girls. My parents invited him and the girls over for dinner and we had some miscommunication on where we were meeting to switch cars. When we discovered this, I was at my parents house and he was at our house. I started to feel anxious because I might be late. While I waited for him, I took some deep breaths. When he got there, we swapped keys, and I was on my way. I didn't allow the anxiety to create tension in our exchange (although, admittedly, in the moment, I wanted to). A few minutes later,  I realized I wasn't going to be late after all and felt good about the fact that I hadn't blamed the miscommunication on him. Honestly, it wasn't his fault. And it wasn't mine. I was just feeling stressed because I don't like being late.

They're such little things. I get it. But in each of those moments, I made conscious decisions. I used discernment. I can think of a handful of ways I've already employed this today - some good decisions and some not so good (please, someone come remove the cookies from my house?)

Not only is yoga the connection between breath, mind, and's not just the physical's not just figuring out the fluctuations of the's not just controlling the's also having the freedom to choose in whatever moment you're in.

Isn't that a seriously beautiful thing?


On not buying the $20 skirt at the mall

by Jessica Sliman in ,

Yesterday, the girls and I went to the mall to wander around. This isn't something we do often but we had a good time riding the carousel, throwing coins into the fountains and wandering around. South Coast Plaza is a pretty fancy place and so there's a lot of good people watching.

I had a skirt to return to Madewell (which I purchased online during a sale  - it wasn't at all necessary - note to self, continue unsubscribing to brand emails - and so, back it went) and managed not to buy anything. We wandered into the Disney store and the Lego store with strict instruction that we could look but that was all. No meltdowns were had. We then popped into Uniqlo - a store I've read about but never been in.

It's a bright, well organized store with pretty cute basics. And let me tell you, I was tempted.

Here's how it went down:

That skirt is so cute and only $20. A year ago, I would have purchased that skirt. And maybe a second in a different color. But this time, my impulse waned as my mind filled with questions.

Who made this skirt and under what conditions? Is he paid a living wage? Does she work 15 hour days? Is the factory safe or is her life endangered just being there? Am I comfortable continuing the consumerist trend that makes fast fashion a viable model?

Is this skirt well made?  Is the cotton soft? Are the seams straight? Are there loose threads? Does it feel like it would last more than a couple of cycles through the washer and dryer?

How often would I wear it? Do I have something like it already?

I could go on and on but needless to say, I put the skirt down.

It felt like progress.


Some more reading, if you're interested:

Uniqlo Criticized for Poor Working Conditions in Chinese Supplier Factories

Buying US Made denim

How to Assess the Quality of Garments




My first week of yoga teacher training

by Jessica Sliman in

On a whim, I signed up for a yoga teacher training course. I was searching for something to do for myself, something that would challenge me and and make me a better person, and this training which is steeped not only physical practice but also in philosophy, meditation, the sutras, and anatomy fell in my lap at the right moment. I attended an informational session and knew I wanted to do this program immediately.  My Libra brain often spends a lot of time weighing out the positive and negative points until I get confused or overwhelmed  but everything in my heart and mind was saying, "go for it." So I did. In spite of the fact that yoga was more of an auxiliary component of my life. In spite of the fact that neither my physical or spiritual practice is strong. In spite of my doubts and hesitations.

Because, honestly, at the worst, I wind up knowing a whole lot about yoga, improving my mental and physical conditioning, and have a teaching certification which I may or may not use in the future. It's like a four month long group therapy session in a lot of ways. One of the definitions for yoga which we talked about in class, "yoga is the ability to harness the fluctuations of the mind." Doesn't that sound amazing?

For a while now, I've struggled with motivation and fatigue. With being short tempered and irritated. Especially with Donovan and the girls. Sometimes it felt (or feels) as though I was standing at the edge of the cliff and the smallest thing, a loud noise or a forgotten returned phone call or the girls screaming at one another, led me straight off the edge. I could feel the heat, the irritation, instantly. And it almost always manifested itself in my yelling and losing my patience.

I've been working on bringing myself back from that edge of that cliff for months. It often feels like I take some steps backward only to find myself peering over the edge again after a few days. But already, a week into this training, I find my mind calmer and more present. I feel a difference that is not just situational. It feels like I'm getting back to my old self. And God damn, if that's not an amazing feeling.

So far, we've studied the definition of yoga, digestion, and the anatomy of the breath. We spent hours talking about pranayama breathing exercises - and practicing them - and a few minutes actually teaching them. We've discussed cleansing rituals. The class meets three hours each Wednesday night and then for two five hour intensives every other weekend.

My biggest takeaway from week one is the change to my morning ritual. I've always had ideas about how I wanted to start my day but I've never made an effort to make a lasting change.  I now get out of bed immediately upon waking in the morning and start the day with a set routine. It's only been a week but the effects have been so great, I can't see going back to my old ways.

So first things first, oil pulling.  There are many benefits to oil pulling, I've been hearing about them for years, but was always reluctant to try. And I'm still working on building up my tolerance for the exercise. I make it about ten minutes before I need to stop (twenty minutes is the recommended time frame). I then scrape my tongue and brush my teeth with an all natural toothpaste. I start the kettle and drink a glass of warm water with lemon which activates the digestive system. I've tried to add this to my morning routine for years but have never been able to commit. Right now, I'm actually preferring it to my typical cup of coffee. Weird, right? I figure the intentional nature of the rest of routine is helping me stick with this.

If I have the time, I spend 10-15 minutes on mediation and deep breathing exercises and if I feel a headache coming (I suffer from frequent headaches), I incorporate neck stretches. There are other things I'm contemplating adding but I don't want to push it too far yet. Already, the girls have woken up in the middle of the oil pulling - so here I am trying to talk though hand gestures and humming while I swish around foamy, warm coconut oil.

So that's it. I'm at the end of week one with fifteen more weeks of training to go.  I'm hoping my enthusiasm doesn't wane and honestly, I don't think it will. I'm so excited to learn and excited to share it with my family. I took the girls to a yoga class today and if you want to talk about a model for patience, try observing a yoga teacher working with ten kids aged 3-11.

I am going to end with one of the quotes that stuck with me from this week of training. In the words of my teacher's teacher, "Choose to be the hero of your life, not the victim." So simple but I love it. I'm repeating it in my mind whenever I find myself focusing on the negative.