Cultivating Your Internal Environment

Fix Studio yoga teacher Ashley Handel talks about the practices she uses to create a balanced internal landscape.

We may not always be able to control the external circumstances in our lives but we are all capable of tending to our internal environment. These three practices - ritual, routine/consistency, and commitment to boundaries - are central in shaping the way that I approach my thoughts and feelings and the way I see the world.

The rituals, thoughts and musings I present have been influenced and adapted from material I am learning with Francesca Cervero, a private yoga teacher and teacher trainer based in the Washington DC area. She has a program, called The Science of the Private Lesson. Through this training I am not only learning how to teach better one-to-one yoga lessons, but I am learning how to take care of and cultivate my inner world. This work has been vital in my development as a grounded, articulate and fully present yoga teacher. 

First, Ritual. Every morning I drink a coffee, take between 5-10 minutes to journal (sometimes based on a prompt or question, sometimes letting whatever is on my mind guide me), 10-20 min of movement, and then 10 min of seated meditation. I like this ritual because of it's well-rounded nature: mental and emotional expression through writing, physical and energetic work through movement, and then a practice of stillness, which is necessary to integrate the work that's come before, and to be a grounded and consistently present yoga teacher. This ritual has helped me to check in with myself, befriend myself, and be more able to channel my energy throughout the day in useful and supportive ways. What's a ritual that you love, that's helped you? 

Second, routine and consistency. As someone with a spontaneous and impulsive nature, routine and standing weekly appointments have always been a difficult thing for me to imagine or sustain. As I get older, I have begun to embrace consistency, this showing up on a daily basis is comforting, supportive, and necessary. When my classes and appointments are consistent, I am able to be more playful and intuitive with my actual teaching. Routine was not something I looked for or wanted in my 20s, but it is now vital to me because it allows me to be more intentional with my energy. I don't always succeed at consistency, but I keep renewing my commitment to it. What is your relationship to routine/ consistency and has it evolved or shifted over time? 

Third, boundaries. It's not just about what and who you say "no" to, but what kind of support you give to yourself when you do say "yes". I'd say that consistently showing up grounded and present for all of my classes and private lessons is a boundary I've set for myself. To help me show up in this way, I try to get 8 hours of sleep each night. Eating the foods that nourish you can be a boundary. Practicing kindness and compassion for yourself when you "mess up" is a boundary because it asks you not to beat yourself up, which is often the easier option. So I'm thinking about how the boundaries we set for ourselves can help us live more freely rather than more restricted. What boundaries have you set for yourself that feel nourishing?  

The environment I've created within myself through ritual, routine, and boundaries has had such an impact on how I feel, on my perception of my internal and external environments. Being intentional about the practices and ways in which I care for myself and cultivate my internal world will continue to have a profound effect on the world around me because I will see it differently, and thus will make different choices about how I engage with it. Taking care of myself is a powerful thing because it is an act of love, and loving myself over and over again is and always will be a lifelong process.