God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

I’ve started praying again, in the traditional sense. The one where you address God by name and He sits on clouds behind Golden Gates high in the sky. A cosmic overseer of what will happen in your life, as if you have no control over it.

It’s strange, because I haven’t prayed this way since I stopped going to Catholic Church six years ago, around the same time that I started doing yoga. To be honest, I stopped regularly practicing the religion four years prior when I met people in college whose war stories of faith left scars.

It’s not that religion and yoga are mutually exclusive though for a while, as I tried to define my new “faith,” I thought they may be. It’s just that you can’t talk about yoga without bringing up faith, at least in the yoga classes I teach, so I’ve had to adapt. I’ve had to rediscover my nondenominational beliefs about life.

Over the past few years, I’ve dabbled in a lot of things — from kirtan to cosmology — and yet? Here I am praying to the white-bearded God of my youth, maybe for the same reason that my mom still tries to get me to believe in Santa Claus.

Sometimes, relief comes from believing in illusions.

Prayers vs. intentions – to-may-toe, to-mah-toe?

When we pray or intend, we’ve voicing our wants, needs, concerns, questions to Life Itself. This is how I feel — hear me! It’s quite childlike, actually, as it should be. And Life responds in kind. Though it may not happen per our time frame, it happens. Always.

So is prayer the same as intention?

Maybe, maybe not. Prayer, to me, feels like asking for something while feeling a bit powerless to make what you want happen. Yogic intention also comes from a place of asking coupled with trust that you will manifest your desire.

One’s in your control, another is not. This is how I break it down: Intend so that you may thrive; Pray so that others may thrive.

What your intentions have to do with your prayers is this: You can use what you can control (your behavior) to uplift others over whom you have no control. Know someone who is depressed or pessimistic or drains your energy? You may want them to snap out of it, but that’s not gonna happen unless he or she intends for it. Better to use your prayers than to get caught up trying to change them (because you can’t).

Likewise, better to intend for yourself to snap out of a rut than hope someone else swoops down to rescue you. The lifesaver you’re looking for is you.

15 beliefs for powerful intentions

Whether you pray or intend, what do you really believe about life? About yourself? Do you ask for the same things over and over and never get them, feeling like the Big Guy in the Sky doesn’t listen? Maybe you aren’t listening to yourself and what you really believe is possible.

Since I’ve practiced yoga, here are my new revelations that may (already) be yours.

  • You must speak your truth. If you don’t, it will find alternate routes in order to get you to listen. Don’t wait for the stomach ulcers.
  • Everything always works out for the good of all involved, even when it doesn’t seem like it. (aka Everything is going to be okay.)
  • It’s never too late to apologize (sorry, Timbaland & OneRepublic).
  • You are not an introvert or extrovert, a positive or a negative person. You are a person, but if you chose to define yourself as one of these, that you will be.
  • There’s no reason to beat yourself up for not being able to remember what you ate for lunch yesterday.
  • You can change your beliefs and habits at any time. It doesn’t have to take 21 days, though it helps.
  • Joy always comes in the morning. Hold on.
  • You should always be kinder to yourself.
  • You never know what someone else might be experiencing, so be kinder to others, too.
  • When you meet resistance the first time, say hi and keep on moving. If you come up against resistance at least three times, it’s time to rethink your actions.
  • Life is a whole lot more fun when you say “yes” more than you say “no.” (click to tweet!)
  • Your worth is not measured by winning or achieving. It’s measured by how you feel about yourself when you don’t.
  • Where you are right now is exactly where you need to be, even when it sucks.
  • Love.
  • If at all possible, avoid ironing clothes. (Okay, so this last one is for my mom.)

It’s your turn: What do you really believe? What do you know without a doubt is true in this life? I’m eager to hear in the comments.

Try this: Eagle Pose, Garudasana

Why Eagle Pose? Blending religious beliefs plus what you learn through yoga requires balance and an open mind, both of which are necessary for this pose. If you teeter totter over, jump right back in to it to hone your concentration as you deeply stretch the hips and shoulders.

Modifications: If you find it difficult to hook your toes behind your calf, simply cross at the knees and use your toes for balance on the floor or hovering by your calf. If the arms present a challenge, focus on squeezing the elbows together and forget about straining your wrists together.

  1. Firmly root in to your left foot, and cross your right knee over the left, pointing the toes and hooking them around your calf or as support on the floor by your left foot. Lift up in the low belly to keep your spine tall.
  2. Bring your left arm to 90 degrees in front of you, fingers pointing up. Cross your right elbow underneath the left, winding the forearms together and hooking your right fingers on the left palm. If the fingers don’t reach, place the backs of the hands together. Gaze straight through your arms.
  3. Move the elbows up shoulder height and slide the shoulder blades down your back. Squeeze your elbows together and snug your legs to the midline of your body.
  4. Stay for 5 deep breaths, then unwind the arms and lower your leg to the ground to stand in Tadasana. Shake out your left ankle and leg before moving to the other side.