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Gratitude

Today’s theme was gratitude. We started our yoga practice bringing to mind something that we felt incredibly grateful for. This could have been anything: a person in our life, a situation we were happy with, or even the fact that we made it to a yoga class this morning. We focused on this idea until we could actually feel a swell of emotion in our chest. It was easier for some, but we all felt the energy. Once this feeling was recognized and cultivated by continuing to keep our awareness there, we began to move our bodies and engage the breath. Our goal was to open energy channels in the body to allow this feeling of gratitude in our chest to expand freely through our whole being. We wanted to end the practice feeling like large vibrating balls of grateful energy. As we came to areas of tightness and constriction we had an option of focusing on the discomfort or focusing on this beautiful flow of gratitude. When we chose to focus on the discomfort, it grew. When we would shift our focus and reconnect with that feeling of gratitude, that’s what grew. We laughed during some particularly difficult postures and thought we would never be able to get back to feeling grateful.

This was one of my favorite classes that I have ever led. As we move through the rest of our week, I hope we can remember to focus on gratitude as opposed to the problems we are dealing with at any given moment. It doesn’t matter if we are in a class or living our daily life, our focus causes expansion. What do you want to expand?

Balancing Tip-Ayurveda tells us that incorporating hot spices into our diet can stoke our digestive fire. We call this fire Agni. Using spices early in the day can keep our digestion humming for the whole day. An easy way to add spice is by adding cinnamon, black pepper, nutmeg, and ginger to our smoothie or oatmeal or any hot cereal in the morning. Don’t be afraid to eat nontraditional breakfast items in the morning. We had blackened salmon last night and I took the left overs and put it over a salad this morning. The spice was a nice addition to the taste but I also know that my body will be effectively breaking down everything else I eat today. ūüôā

What is Ayurveda?

The translation of the word Ayurveda is the science of life. It is the traditional healing system of India. This system is over 5000 years old. Ayurveda is the sister science of Yoga. The two systems often work hand-in-hand. An Ayurvedic consultation will help you to understand your own body type and ways in which you can work with your body to preserve and maintain wellness. Digestion is a big focus in Ayurveda. Proper nutrition and the use of herbs can help us to get our digestive system in order. Because food is our fuel, we need to be able to assimilate it properly in order to get the benefits of our diet. I can help you figure out which foods are most beneficial for you and explain how incorporating healing herbs into your diet may support you in moving towards wellness.

In addition to dietary recommendations, an Ayurvedic consultation will include lifestyle suggestions, stress management strategies, and advice on exercise¬†options for your current fitness level. An Ayurvedic practitioner can give advice and support on many levels because it is a system of healing that gives attention to body, mind and spirit. I am happy to be able to offer this not only to local clients but to anyone interested in learning more about how this ancient art can improve their health and well-being. You don’t have to settle for less than vibrant health!

I am giving away a FREE 45 minute Ayurvedic consultation via Skype or phone in exchange for some feedback about detoxing. In my previous post, Free Ayurvedic Consultation, I stated the steps to take in order to be in the running to win the consultation. I noticed that plenty of people were viewing the post but not many were commenting. I am hoping by explaining in some detail about what an Ayurvedic consultation is, we may get some more comments on the post regarding issues with seasonal cleanses. The winner won’t be drawn until the middle of November 2012, so there is still time to get in on it. I look forward to hearing what you have to say.¬†

Balancing Tip-Pay attention to the words you choose today. Try to find positive ways to say things even if the situation is less than positive. Our words have tremendous power. Choosing our words carefully can have a big impact on how we perceive the world around us. Namaste.

Inviting Ease

A yoga class.

A yoga class. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another lesson I have recently been incorporating from my yoga practice is inviting ease and flexibility into my daily life.
I heard myself telling a class in the middle of relaxing in a restorative yoga pose, “scan your body, notice if there is anywhere inside you that may be holding resistance to the posture. Explore what small movement or movements you could make to allow greater ease within the pose. It may not even be a physical movement. It may be more of an idea or awareness that brings softness and flexibility to any given area of the body.”
This dialogue became a theme in my classes for a couple of weeks, not just in restorative classes but also in my other yoga classes. One day, in the middle of guiding students through this process, it hit me–this isn’t just about a posture. This is something to bring out of the class and into daily life.
When I find myself in uncomfortable situations, when I find myself getting tense, I think about inviting ease and flexibility. I scan and decide if there are small movements I can make to bring some softness into my body. Even if I am not actually moving, the awareness alone helps.
This body awareness has made me realize how much I physically react to emotional stressors. It is amazing how much information I can gain from a particular situation by taking a quick scan of my body and noticing what is happening. Some common physical symptoms that we are responding to an uncomfortable situation are: shallow and /or fast breathing, lifted shoulders, clenching our fists or our jaw, pressing the tongue onto the roof of the mouth, a lump in the throat, pounding heart, and tight or queasy abdomen. At any moment we may be experiencing one or more of these symptoms but we are so caught up in the situation that we often don’t even notice. Tuning into our bodies gives us an opportunity to make small movements to find more ease, to create more flexibility in our thoughts. There are situations in most of our lives that required us to stay in a situation that caused stress, but there are also plenty of times in our lives that we could just walk away, completely remove ourselves from the situation and thereby gaining ease.
Turning toward or moving into ease doesn’t mean we are lazy and looking for the easy way out. Inviting ease allows us to deal with the tough situations in life with grace. Ease let’s us apply the oxygen mask to ourselves before helping the small child next to us.
I am finding this so powerful that I have even started to begin my day with an invitation to ease and flexibility.
Balancing tip–Morning Affirmation: Today I invite ease and flexibility into all areas of my life.

the guru within

I had the honor of giving one of my teachers a massage the other day. She is a beautiful, mature woman who is a shining example of someone living their truth. Although she probably teaches a great yoga class, I have never been to a class of hers. She has been to plenty of mine. I learn something from her every time we meet. During her session, we chatted about family and yoga. We discussed wellness and the practice of Ayurveda. As the conversation got deeper, we started to focus on the fact that we all already have infinite knowledge. That we have the ability to tap into everything there is to know. And that even in this lifetime, most of what we learn is a relearning or a remembering.

I ran a couple of yoga workshops this year called Honoring the Master Within. It was this same idea. That we don’t need to look for answers outside of ourselves. That we don’t need to find an external guru. We are the guru! The more comfortable we feel with our guru, the easier it is to ask questions and pay attention to the answers. How do we get more comfortable with our inner guru? Silence. Stillness. Meditation. It’s simple but not easy. Sometimes we feel as if our mind is going a million miles a minute. If we can see these thoughts as a storm in the sky, a passing whirlwind, and focus on what is behind the storm. The ever-present sky. Always there in the background. Unchanging. That is the big mind, or no-mind. This is where the answers are. This is our birthright.

Buddha, Kamakura, Japan

Buddha, Kamakura, Japan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Balancing tip-commit to 5 minutes of meditation a day for 28 days. Pick a time that could work for you on most days. Pick a spot that feels comfortable. Make it happen. Once you are sitting, just focus on your breath. Maybe focus more specifically on the opening of the nostrils. Bring your awareness to the cooling feeling of the inhale, and then the warmth of the exhale. If you find yourself lost in thought, just gently bring yourself back to the breath. It’s ok if you spend the whole time trying to get back to the breath. You are building a muscle. Let me know what happens!

Summer Loving

So I took the summer off from blogging. I decided to focus any extra time I had on my family. It has been a great summer. We took a couple of vacations as well as enjoyed the beauty Sarasota has to offer. I continued to work and even had the opportunity to teach some yoga on the road. School starts on Monday and I think we are all feeling restored as individuals and as a family. During this time, I’ve made some new connections and strengthened existing friendships. Reflecting on the past couple months, I would have to say that this time has been about relationships with others.

There has even been a shift in my relationship with my husband. I feel we have grown as a couple because of our willingness to look at each other with appreciation, to give each other the benefit of the doubt, and to look for ways to find solutions instead of proving a point. After seeing the impact yoga has made on my life, spiritually, emotionally and physically, my husband is getting ready to start a yoga teacher training program. I am super excited for him! He really has no idea what he is getting himself into, but I think he will love it if he lets himself fully experience even half of what this program has to offer. I feel like this will expand our relationship even further. I look forward to sharing ideas with him about the deeper meaning of the Sutras, about the physical practice and about how the study of this practice can impact our family. I am content in knowing it will all unfold just as it should.

Balancing Tip- cha, cha, cha Chia! Yes, that’s right. The same seeds many people spread on ceramic heads and animals years ago are what we should have been eating all along. Here is a link to a great article on the wonders of chia seeds and a couple of ways to incorporate them into your diet. http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-4353/6-Reasons-Why-You-Should-Eat-Chia.html

practicing off the mat

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Often overheard in any of my yoga classes is a statement about feeling appreciation for all of the things our bodies are doing right in any given moment. We often neglect to observe this phenomenon in lue of focusing on what is going wrong. Many times pain in one area of the body will become our primary focus(understandably so). If we can widen the lens even just a bit, we may begin to see that there is more happening, which may then bring a small amount of relief. I have found for myself and others that once our focal point is slightly shifted, we can create the space for miracles to happen. This can happen within a posture as well. We may feel frustration because our hamstrings are too tight for us to be able to bend over and touch our toes. In widening our focus, we can see the interconnectedness in our bodies. We can back off slightly, breath through some discomfort, and put ourselves in a position of allowing that may even let us sink a little further. Incorporating feelings of appreciation will bring ease to the movements and we may find that we go further than we ever thought we would in a relatively short period of time.

Last week, I found myself focusing on what another person was doing wrong. This person is close to me and my attention to the undesirable behavior was making me unhappy. After a day or two of this, it hit me: my attention to this matter was only impeding me from my own bliss. Why was I choosing to focus on this one issue when there were tons of things that this person does right all the time? I instantly felt better. That little shift in awareness made a huge impact on my mood and my ability to see things objectively. This doesn’t mean that I don’t need to deal with the undesirable behavior, but I can deal with it from a place of love and with a clear head. By taking a step back, I created some space for my own healing. I immediately connected this with what I find myself saying in classes all the time and was amused by my humanness. Progress, not perfection.

Balancing tip-remove MSG from your diet. Reading labels can be intimidating, but if you can remember just one ingredient to find on the label and then return that product to the shelf, make it monosodium glutamate. It is a flavor enhancer added to many of the foods we all love. The problem is that MSG causes obesity. Sadly, everyone in the food and drug business seems to be aware of this. When doing studies on obesity, scientists use rats and mice. These animals aren’t naturally overweight. To get them to gain weight, they are fed diets enhanced with MSG. This ingredient alone causes obesity in the study animals. I found this information to be really disturbing but true. It is up to you to read labels!!!! Eliminating MSG is a huge step in the right direction towards better health. If large amounts of the population stop buying products containing this killer, the food industry will be forced to change. I would love to hear about what you discover as you begin to read the¬†labels of your staple foods.

keep coming back

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In AA gatherings, when someone conveys an air of know-it-all, we often say, “Keep coming back.” ¬†This is meant with love and humor, knowing that the more people come, the more they grow and change.What I thought was truer than true in my first year of sobriety has dramatically changed over time. From my experience, I assume I will have yet another point of view before too long. I have learned to become more patient and tolerant and to become more inclusive. There was a time that I didn’t even want these qualities. I didn’t know this way of life was an option. I listened, though, and kept coming back.

I find this happens in yoga, too. People come into a class with their own ideas of what exercise and fitness is about. They don’t need an instructor to tell them how quickly (or slowly) to move and they certainly don’t want to be told how to breathe, or heaven forbid, sit still for a minute to notice the breath! I love these people because they are me. I am reminded of where I have come from and I want them to keep coming back so that I may witness this journey in others. It is such a beautiful thing. And like the caterpillar, they don’t even know where they are headed or how gorgeous it will be to emerge as the butterfly.

Earlier this week, I had a woman in class who, despite my gentle promptings to slow down, pushed so hard during the first half of the class that she exhausted herself and had to just lay on the mat for the second half of the class. As we were cleaning up, I mentioned that I noticed how hard she was pushing herself. She smiled and said, “I don’t get to exercise during the week, I need to fit everything into this class. But don’t worry, I’m Type A–it’s fine.”

My reply: “Keep coming back.” And I will, too.

Balancing tip–Avocados. Incorporating avocados into my diet has helped me to stay on track. Because they are fatty tasting, avocados seem like a treat. Each serving contains monounsaturated fats (the good kind), vit K, folate, potassium, vit E, lutein, magnesium, vit C, and vit B6. My usual way to eat them is super simple. I cut up a whole avocado into large chunks, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle lightly with pink salt, and indulge! You can find out everything you ever wanted to know about avocados at www.avocado.org.

vulnerability

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I have hated being vulnerable. I have spent much of my life trying to resist any movement until I was sure of the outcome and that I would look good from the beginning until the end of the situation(I often failed miserably at this). I like to do things in a methodical fashion. One thing at a time and everything in its place. Add two kids, a husband, two dogs, a career, etc. and things get messy. I’m learning to love messy.

When I teach yoga classes, there are a few things I often say. “Do what feels right for your body today.” “Listen to your body’s feedback.” “Honor where you are today.” I’m sure you get the idea. Yoga is a practice. You never arrive. There is always more to explore and ways to go deeper. But each day is different and when we tune into ourselves, we can find out if we need to slow the practice down today or if we need to push a little harder. When I am feeling strong and motivated or when I know I need some extra energy, I can incorporate a dynamic flow sequence into my practice or push a little harder during a class. When I feel like I need some nurturing or support, more restorative poses are in order. No matter which it is, I have begun to see that both have value and that I don’t need to be annoyed with myself if I need to bring my practice down for a couple of days. In a yoga practice we try to release rigidity, not only in our bodies, but in our minds as well.

Teaching causes me to continue to think about yoga even when I am not in class. This has given me the opportunity to start to apply these principles to my life off of the yoga mat. Some days I feel strong and can do it all. Some days I need a little nurturing. Both are good. My life is a practice and I will never arrive. I will always want to expand in some way. I don’t foresee anything becoming tidy any time soon. But the cool part in all of this messy expansion is that I feel like this is what it’s all about–jumping in and getting dirty. Allowing vulnerability and disappointment to be mixed in with the safe and the fun. I believe that we are here on earth to experience all of it: the good, the bad, and especially the ugly. The more we experience, the richer we become. It helps to remember that everything passes–the good passes as well as the bad. The only constant, the one thing we can always count on, is change. Breathing through my rigidity and allowing for some flexibility of mind has opened things up for me.

When I tune into myself, check my motives, and come from a place of love, there is nothing to fear. Why not be vulnerable? Why not go deeper? I’ve been asking my daughter lately, “What do we have to lose by being honest and vulnerable?” Her answer is usually, “Nothing.”

Instead of a nutritional tip today, I have attached two TED talks for your viewing pleasure. If you haven’t seen them yet, they really are worth the time investment. Both are given by Dr.¬†Brene Brown and they are each about 20 minutes long. Enjoy!

The power of vulnerability

Listening to shame

“I apologize for my fat legs.”

During a massage earlier this week, my client apologized for her fat legs! I wanted to say, “Are you kidding me?” I feel so bad for people who feel the need to ask for forgiveness for their body. I suggested that she try to think of all the things her legs do for her on a daily basis and to begin to look at them with a feeling of appreciation. Through the course of the massage, we talked a little about how she put the extra weight on and how she is beginning to try to lose it. A combination of stress, entering menopause, and a medication that had excessive weight gain as a side effect, all contributed to her present situation. Because of the stress she was under, her blood pressure started to rise. She was put on a medication to control it. Each month when she returned to the doctor, she would say that she was concerned about the fact that she was packing on the pounds. The doctor ignored it for a while and then one visit he finally said to her, “Maybe you should have your stomach stapled.” BASTARD! She soon found another doctor and switched medications. She is left with high stress levels, fluctuating hormone levels, and a lot of weight to lose.

I explained to her that she needed to find ways to control the stress. Once the stress levels come down, losing weight is much easier. Stress is the leading cause of all disease. The good news is that there are many effective ways to help us control it. Part of the problem is that most of the solutions take more time and effort than taking a pill and most people feel they are too busy to do what is right for their body. I am not saying that this is the case with everyone, but I see a great deal of people with stress related issues who choose to stay right where they are and have a long line of excuses as to why this is the appropriate choice for them. Some of our options include:

  • yoga and/or meditation practice
  • tai chi
  • any excercise
  • taking time in nature
  • developing a spiritual practice
  • laughing
  • eating well
  • learning to let go of what we can’t control
  • simplifying life
  • getting organized

Most of these are easier said than done and although the list may look simple, it certainly isn’t easy. Many of the tools require effort and commitment to begin to see positive results. Once those results are felt, we wonder what took us so long.

My client left that evening feeling a little more relaxed and holding a schedule of classes that focus on stress relief. I really hope I see her around the studio soon.

Nutritional tip #6-try kale (a couple of times). This link from mindbodygreen takes you to an article that explains why kale is so good for you and provides some preparation options. http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-4072/Why-Kale-Is-the-Koolest-Vegetable.html

Recharging

Recharging

I went home this past weekend. It was my beautiful mother’s birthday. I didn’t realize how much I needed it. It is really easy for me to block out the fact that I miss my family. I stay busy by focusing on work and the needs of my kids. I love what I do, where I work, and the friends I have made, but there is nothing like hanging out with my family for a couple of days. They are the funniest people I know.

The trip was short and sweet and I was back into my routine in no time. I feel different though. I feel recharged. I feel supported. Most importantly, I feel a renewed connection to the people I have known and loved the longest. Because of this, I feel the need to make more regular visits to the Philadelphia/Cherry Hill area. In order to make this more cost-effective, I have decided to offer some services while I am in the area. I’m talking to a few different people about the details. So far, the services will include massage and Reiki treatments. There is also the possibility of a yoga workshop. I am shooting for the beginning of August and the plan will be to work for a few days and then hang out and relax for a few days. I love the idea of reconnecting with some old friends and clients as well as making new connections. I am excited about the possibility of recharging myself while supporting and helping others to recharge at the same time.

Once I have a firm date and location, I will start booking sessions. I would appreciate any ideas or feedback you may have.

Oops! I originally posted this without a tip! Nutritional tip #5-ginger tea. Ginger tea not only aids in digestion but helps to calm and ground us. I have found myself recommending it to quite a few people lately. It can been made fresh very easily. You take some fresh ginger root and peel about a half an inch of the outer skin. Slice the exposed area and place it in boiling water for a few minutes. Ta-da! Fresh ginger tea! You can strain it if you wish and add honey or agave to taste. Perfect for after dinner. Enjoy!

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