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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.

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.”

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. 🙂

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.

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

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