Practicing No-ga (or Saying No, So You Can Say Yes)

I must admit that one of my favorite words to say is, ‘No.’ Sounds strange, right? It might be to some. We have become a society where we are told to say ‘yes’ to everything. Don’t miss out! Don’t ever offend anyone! Don’t speak your Truth if it is at the expense of everyone else!

Well… I say, ‘no’ to all that nonsense.

Five years ago, I was one stressed out yoga teacher, writer, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and dog mom. I said yes to teaching at seven o’clock at night and five thirty in the morning. I said yes to writing projects that were uninspiring, but paid the bills. I said yes to phone conversations, lunch dates, and parties that always left me feeling drained and full of anxiety afterwards.

I could tell my life wasn’t working as well as it should. I teach yoga for Pete’s sake. I should not be this keyed up! So, I took the steps to figuring out how to sift through the parts of my life that weren’t working.

I sought out books and online resources to help redirect me. I sat for hours in meditation even on the days where I didn’t want to do it at all (those are the days you really should sit and for longer). I started practicing yoga twice a day – once at the studio and rolling out my mat at home in the afternoon before my husband came home. And what I found was this – I was saying ‘yes’ to all of the wrong things and had no time to say ‘yes’ to all of the things I wanted to manifest for my life.

So, the next step was to decide what I needed to say ‘no’ to. This was not the easiest part of streamlining my life. I didn’t want to disappoint or upset people, but I was also aware of the fact that that might happen no matter what I did.

I made a list. It contained everything I complained about on a daily basis. Then I went through the list and noted what things I could change (schedules, commitments I was only half-hearted about, etc.) and the things I couldn’t (people, people’s perceptions of me, situations that were out of my control).

I changed the things I could. To complain and not do anything about the things you have the power to change is the definition of madness. And then I slowly started to say ‘no’ to the things that weren’t working for me anymore. It was easier than I thought it would be. Most people in my life understood when I said ‘no’ to something and were not offended by my answer when it wasn’t exactly what they wanted. A few people slipped to the periphery of my life and now, five years later, are not part of it, as people are meant to come in and out of your personal journey. Only a few people stay for the long haul. I wish those people well – the best, in fact – and I hope they are doing the same for me.

And with this change in direction, I had time. I had balance… most days. (Balance can be elusive and not always possible.) I was able to achieve the goals that I knew in my heart I should be going after. ‘No’ became easier to say as I saw the positive changes start to take place. This small, yet powerful word, helped me to establish healthy boundaries with the people and situations in my life.

Lately, I’ve realized that there are a whole new slew of things not working in my life once again. Nothing major, but small tweaks I need to make to move forward in a positive direction. And I have found myself saying ‘no’ more and more. That way I can say ‘yes’ to all of great things out there just waiting for me to make space for them.

So, this week, I hope YOU take the time to say ‘no.’ Maybe to just one thing. Try it out. Because the ‘yes’ that is waiting for you when you make that kind of space in your life, could just take you the distance.


Love the blog? You will love the book! Follow my yoga journey and the accomplishments of five of my students, as well as, recount some of the most popular blog posts in my first book: Views from the Podium: The Life & Times of a Hot Yogi. 

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