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Hello 2014

perfectHappy New Year! I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions but I like to acknowledge the idea of a fresh start. There is something really freeing and exciting when I think of new beginnings. It feels like once again, anything can happen. In honor of this, I am practicing Sankalpa. Sankalpa is an ancient Ayurvedic practice in which we honor the deeper meaning of our life. So even though I have intentions of losing the 8 pounds that I have gained since Halloween, the practice of Sankalpa asks us to dive deeper with our intentions.

The process is simple but certainly not easy. We need to come from the knowledge that we already are who we need to be to fulfill our life’s purpose or dharma. We only need to peel back layers of resistance and old patterns that are no longer serving us. Like I said, simple but not easy. Ideally we can bring forth a statement or vow that we can call upon to remind us of our true nature and guide our choices.

The first stage is to listen in meditation to your heart’s desire. What is it you truly want? This desire is already present within you. You don’t need to create anything. Next, welcome the desire. Feel it with your whole being. The final stage takes courage. The final step is to take the action required. Think about actions that you can commit to that are consistent with this heartfelt desire. Some of the actions will require a strong warrior spirit mixed with loving compassion. This is already a part of you. Let it out.

Balancing tip-So what about that 8 pounds? This is a perfect time to do a mini home detox. When we cleanse in the winter, we want it to be gentle (especially for those of you who are living in colder regions). My plan is to incorporate some self-care practices into my day for the next few days. This will include skin brushing, oil massages, neti, and daily yoga and meditation. I will be drinking at least 1 green juice and/or smoothie each day. I will be drinking herbal teas and limiting caffeine. I will be taking some cleansing herbs and I will be eating plenty of vegetables, mostly leafy greens. My protein and carbohydrate requirements will come from a classic Indian comfort food called Khichadi. It consists of white Basmati rice and yellow mung dahl beans mixed with Indian spices. It is delicious and I will eat it twice a day. This dish is very easy to digest which will give my digestive system a much-needed break from the holiday chaos. The mung dahl beans are soaking as I write.  I (or my husband) will be making the Khichadi tomorrow. If you are local and would like to try a serving, let me know. The recipe makes a lot and I am happy to share.

Feel free to contact me if you would like try something like this for yourself and have some questions.

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Finding My Breath

Art and Science of Pranayama

Art and Science of Pranayama

Breathing is something I think about a lot. As a massage therapist, I watch the breath of my client. I use the rhythm of their breath to pace my movements. I allow my breath to sync with theirs and encourage them to breathe when they want to hold their breath.

As a yoga teacher, I tell my students that breath is primary in the practice and that movement or postures are secondary. In yoga we encourage ourselves and others to breathe through difficult situations which hopefully allows for some ease within the challenge. We hope the lessons learned during our practice will translate into our everyday life so that we can stay calm when life throws us the inevitable curveball.

As a meditation facilitator, I have taught many people to become more in tune with their breath. I’ve created countless visualizations to allow the breath to move freely in the body, releasing stagnant or negative energy and allowing an unobstructed flow of life force energy.

When my friend, Emily Seymour from Mind Body Mandala, recently invited me to take a telecourse she was offering in Pranayama (the ancient practice of breath awareness and control), I was eager to find out more. Emily not only has over 1000 hours of yoga training but she holds a Bachelor’s degree in Traditional Eastern Arts. Emily’s approach is always thoughtful and deliberate. I knew this would be an excellent resource for me. My big concern was the time commitment as I am in the processes of learning to not overextend myself. She assured me that it would be no more than 20 minutes a day for a week. I was in.

I had initially expected her to teach me some far out, advanced breathing techniques. I quickly realized this wasn’t the case. It was subtle. Really subtle. The more I opened up to it, the more open I became. I had huge shifts in perspective during the time of the course. At one point, Emily instructs to breathe into my back. I can’t. I try again. Nothing. I am able to feel breath in the entire front of my body but nothing goes to my back. A flood of metaphors fill my mind: what in my life am I turning my back on? What am I ignoring? Etc. Tears flow and I return once again to the breath. Breathing through the discomfort, finding ease in the challenge, sitting in the unknown.

Each day of the teleclass builds on the one before and I could feel my practice getting stronger. This class brought me healing on many levels. Emily is truly a gifted facilitator. I now incorporate pranayama each morning with my meditation. In discovering a part of myself that I had ignored or forgotten or maybe never even saw before, I have found a greater connection between mind, body and spirit. Breath being the common thread.

If you are interested in learning more about pranayama, you will want to check this telecourse out. Emily is offering it at a discounted rate for a limited time. You can find out more by following this link: Art and Science of Pranayama. Make sure you tell Emily that I said “Hello.”

Saluting the Moon

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Saluting the moon

Saluting the moon

As we begin to lead a healthier lifestyle, many people begin to notice that they feel better when they are in line with the rhythms of nature. The art and science of Ayurveda gives us guidelines to follow to help establish routines that correspond not only to the rhythms of the day, but also the month and the season. It is for this reason that we will include this flow tonight in our restorative yoga class at ReFlex Arts. Today is a very powerful full moon. Sometimes just taking a few minutes (or rounds of salutations) to pause, reflect and appreciate the beauty and infinite wisdom of the universe can bring serenity to our mind. When this happens, our whole energy field shifts to a higher vibration as we come into balance with Mother Nature.

Balancing tip-Join us tonight! If time or space prohibits you from joining us this evening, I invite you to move through this sequence. Move slow enough to be able to decipher your body’s feedback and make sure you keep breathing. Allow curiosity and awareness to take the lead. Be fully present to be able to truly experience the practice. Let me know how it goes. Namaste.

**Unfortunately I can’t find a link to the source of this photo to be able to give credit. The name says Susie Anderson so I will just say, “Thank you, Susie Anderson.”

looking for clear skies

Clear sky and clouds

Clear sky and clouds (Photo credit: Archbob)

When we practice mind-body techniques we can fairly quickly start to see some benefits. Whether it’s yoga, tai chi, qigong or meditation we will notice a sense of peace and calm. This isn’t just an emotional response. The  emotional response comes from the physiology in our body actually changing. Our respiration slows and lengthens, blood pressure drops, feel-good neurotransmitters increase, stress hormones decrease, etc. The result is that sense of peace and calm. When we continue to practice whichever techniques we are drawn to, more profound changes begin to take place in our bodies and in our minds. We begin to see that stressors occurring in our lives have less of an impact on us. We feel that we can handle tough situations with some ease. We may even start to feel that we have the ability to overcome long-standing issues. Then, maybe one day after practicing for some time, we have the realization that we are not our thoughts, our emotions, or our titles. We start to familiarize ourselves with who we truly are: the vast being behind all else. This being is not influenced by our idea of reality. This being could be compared to the sky. Always present in the background. Our thoughts could be like clouds. Sometimes light and fluffy and sometimes dark, low and dense. Issues that we struggle with are like storms in the sky, sometimes seeming like they will never pass. But they always do, they pass and the sight of the sky returns, unchanged. Just as the sky seems endless, so is our true nature. There is always more to explore, ways to go deeper. Our access point can be as simple as the breath.

Once we connect to this vastness, we no longer need to be reacting to things around us. We can begin to take positive action and see things on a larger scale. We can let things go that seem minor. We can allow someone else to win the argument or get in front of us in line. We can apologize first and know that we are not less of a person for doing so. When we release fear, we can build others up knowing that their strength will not make us week. This connection is a total game changer. It allows us to widen our lens and change our perspective and see what is really important. Once we stop reacting and start acting with love, we will find we have much more control over our lives. We can stop playing the victim and step into a place of power. I often say “I’m so lucky”, but the truth is that I’m not lucky at all. I have consciously made a series of decisions over the course of years that have led me to the situation that I am in now. My situation may or may not appeal to you, but I am very happy to be exactly where I am today. We do not need to be victims of circumstance. We are powerful beings navigating through a world of illusion. The answers will never be in the illusion, they are always within.

Balancing Tip-Check the ingredients in your vitamins and supplements. Since my friend, Jackie, recently wrote a great article on this topic, I am just going to put the link here for you to enjoy her writing  🙂   The Truth about Vitamins

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!

An Evening with the Lama

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This evening I had the pleasure of listening to Anyen Rinpoche speak about emotions and difficult situations. Anyen Rinpoche is a Tibetan Buddhist Lama based out of Denver who travels and teaches ancient Buddhist wisdom. He was soft-spoken, intelligent and full of humor. He explained that we, as Westerners, are attached to a certain idea about what life is and should be. When events happen that differ from our idea, suffering happens. The truth is that we live in a world full of impermanence, yet we continually conceptualize things to be static. Continued suffering. This is not only true in our situations and relationships, but also with our own bodies. Anyen Rinpoche said, “The physical body is only a guest of our Consciousness.” Coming to terms with the fact that we will eventually die can ease much suffering. He briefly spoke of the concept of Samsara which is the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. This idea of reincarnation allows for a continuous flow and less attachment.

Releasing attachment to our ideas of what should be is the first step to equanimity. The next step, as Anyen Rinpoche suggested, was to use the breath. This can be a simple as paying attention to the inhales and the exhales for four or five minutes. Even when in a rush, taking that time will make the remainder of the day markedly better. The third step deals with thought. Not resisting the thoughts and emotions that arise, and at the same time, not chasing the thoughts and emotions. Number three is the hardest for me. When I am feeling strong emotion, good or bad, I have a hard time letting it go. This is where a daily practice of meditation helps. When I am practicing regularly, I have a much easier time allowing things to flow. When I fall off the meditation wagon, I am often in a state of resistance or holding onto something. He spent a little time speaking of the importance of exercise. He spoke specifically of yoga and tai chi. He was quick to add that although exercise can be helpful, we can’t just focus on the physical aspects. Breathwork and meditation are essential to our well-being.

I was able to receive a personal blessing at the end of the talk. The tradition is to present the Rinpoche with a white silk scarf called a Kada. He may keep the scarf or give it to you to keep. I was trying to not be attached to that outcome, even though I really wanted to keep the Kada. He gave me a blessing and gently put the scarf around my neck. I felt lucky for both the blessing and the scarf!

Balancing Tip–You guessed it–Juicing! I think this topic deserves entire posts dedicated to this art. For today, I just want to say that I have begun to incorporate it into my daily life and love it. I haven’t found the best tasting recipes yet, but when you are drinking something that looks like the picture shown, you know you are doing the body good. It also eases the guilt for ordering pizza tonight because I had somewhere important to be!

Namaste.

“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

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