Monday, January 30, 2012

Playing 5-7-5

I recently came across a giveaway contest that asked for yoga haikus to win.  Thought you would enjoy the four I came up with.

deep breath open heart
within sweet serenity
on and off the mat

goddess warrior child 
strength and softness in balance 
full breath surrender 

mindfully living
here in the present moment
life's joyous embrace
arms extend reaching
for the stars, feet on the earth
much more than a pose

I enjoyed playing with the 5-7-5 syllable poem and think you will to.  Give it a try and add your ideas in the comments below.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Things I Learned From... The Kitchen

You can taste love.

More does not equal better.

With intention anything can have magic... including sea salt.

There are no limitations only choices.

Cooking & dishes are best done with love and breath.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

My Thoughts On... Yoga Mats Our Magic Carpet

Ah the mat... it's like a magic carpet.  It's where our yoga journey begins.  We are given the opportunity to explore our potential both physically and mentally.  It is no wonder we treat our mats and those of our neighbors with respect.  It is very rare for someone to step on another's mat.  This mat etiquette is a nod to the honor we bestow on the practice on our magic carpet.

With this in mind, I share with you my thoughts on yoga mats.  Yoga mats come in various thicknesses.  A mat too thick may lead to balance challenges.  A mat too thin will not provide a supportive cushion for positions on your back or knees.  I find that Goldilocks... I mean most yoga practitioners, including myself, enjoy a 5mm thick mat.

I recommend you invest in a mat made from TPE (thermoplastic elastomer).  Due to its non-porous nature it resists moisture and prevents bacterial and fungal growth. This material is PVC/latex-free, takes less energy to manufacture than standard yoga mats, and will biodegrade in a landfill.  In this link you'll find products I recommend including yoga mats.

Please be aware that the inexpensive mats you find at any local store are typically made of PVC. The main ingredient in PVC is vinyl chloride, which is a known carcinogen. Other eco-friendly and health friendly mats would include those made of jute and rubber. I have found that jute mats are too thin and show wear and tear quickly. Rubber mats emit a smell that never seems to go away despite the claims to the contrary.

Oh and one more thing... this yoga mat for sale ad on Craig's list gives me a giggle every time I read it.

May you enjoy the ride of your magic carpet!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

True Beauty

What is your response to the comment, "You look beautiful"?  Do you shake your head or say something like "Me... today... no way."?  Guilty of this myself, I wonder why so many of us overlook our own true beauty.  Perhaps the answer can be found in our photoshop-ed vision of others or the illusion of what true beauty is.

Beauty lies within as well as in what you see in the mirror.  From the sparkle in your eyes to the glow in your smile, your beauty cannot be disguised.  It always shines through (even on those couch potato days).  Oh and the beauty within you radiates with the gifts you share with those around you from the listening ear, thoughtful thank you or yummy meal you prepared.

Over the past few years, I have worked to change my response to one of gratitude and thanksgiving instead of deflection or negativity.  Recently, I have found the need to step up confidence in my own beauty with the intention:  I am a beautiful expression of the divine.  This statement is one of humble recognition for the person I am inside and out.  An intention to express gratitude and acceptance for what God has graciously given me.

I invite you to join me in honoring our true beauty.  When you look in the mirror, see your beautiful eyes and the glow of your smile.  Acknowledge the value you bring to our community.  Maybe at the next yoga class choose your intention to be I am a beautiful expression of the divine.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Things I Learned From... My Dinner with Vicki

Magic doesn't only exist at Disney, it's in a friend's smile.

It is perfectly acceptable to ask for World Peace.

A hug shared heart to heart is strong.

Friendship can be unconditional and lasting.

Time must be made for passions and friends.

Writing and reading connects more than the author and reader.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Hike Within

Hiking gives me the opportunity to observe. On the map, the path appears to be the same but the trail is always changing. I take in the sounds, colors, textures and life that surround me. Immersed in nature's beauty, I find myself in meditation. Not only aware of my outer surroundings but what lies within.

This December invited me to a deeper reflection. My marriage was coming to a respectful end presenting the opportunity for transformation and exploration. As with winter, my divorce was a death of sorts. In the midst of my relationship ending, I chose to release what was holding me back. I let go of limiting beliefs and emotional baggage, giving myself the independence and freedom to be and to do. My hikes - my meditation - became a time for me to explore what I want in life.

As I journeyed outside, I set the intention of opening to the possibilities. With the echo of leaves crunching underfoot, every step forward meant a step away. I no longer had to be or do. Any restrictions on me had been self-imposed. It was time I walked away from those leaving them on the trail. In an effort to let go, I affirmed myself – I am strong and capable. Courage is within me.

The path takes me up and down at each curve a new question. What am I holding back? What am I being called to? How do I share my light with the world?

Standing in the timber, the world so still, I realized it was not just the trees that had become dormant. My gifts, more so my charisms, were hidden by the branches and shadows of disbelief and limiting thoughts. "That's it!" I felt my spirit exclaim. The brisk winter wind swept away the burden of what to do and my spirit took over. I feel strongly that charisms, divinely given and inspired talents, are meant to be expressed with grace and love. How could I have strayed from this? My spirit guides me back to the path; I must walk a little farther. What are my charisms?

Unaware of the hill, my heart beats with more vigor. I am energized to connect with my charisms. I am an empathic teacher and expressive writer. I connect with others with ease and long to help others identify and connect with their potential. As I write this I am exploring the many ways I can express my charisms from blogging, to teaching yoga and wellness. The possibilities are endless; the path always changing. Moving forward my intention is to be a good steward of my charisms.

The trail beckons throughout the year; the call to go outside truly invites me in. With love in my heart, I seek to explore the ever changing path.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Breath of Life

Deep Breath.  I hear myself say this so many times and not just in yoga class.  The breath brings us to the present moment.  With a deep, intentional breath, we release our grip on the past and move away from the concerns of the future.  Our breath can serve as our anchor; grounding us when our mind seems scattered and ego in control.  

Breathing is an autonomic or automatic function of the body that begins at birth. It is said that life begins and ends with the breath. That does not mean the breath is optimal. Reverse or shallow breathing or even holding the breath will all change the effect on the body, mind and spirit. 

Did you know the body takes 20,000-30,000 breaths a day? It is no wonder that our breath can affect so many aspects of our body including emotions. We’ve heard and even said, “Take a deep breath.” Reminding us that the breath can help calm the mind and increase clarity. Pranayama or breath control exercises have been found to be effective in reducing irritability, muscle tension, headaches, poor concentration, stress and fatigue.

As we inhale, the body opens or expands as the diaphragm (a sheath-like muscle that separates the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity), lowers creating a vacuum for the lungs to take in air. On the exhale, the body folds or contracts as the diaphragm lifts and lungs release waste. By connecting the breath with movement, we increase the efficiency and benefits of our yoga practice.

The breath can be explored with movement, in a seated position, lying down or in whatever position you wish.  Below are two breath exercises I encourage you to play with.  

Even Breath
  • Lengthen the spine. 
  • With mouth closed, inhale through your nose allowing your diaphragm to push down expanding your belly and rib cage. Your chest will lift slightly as your lungs fill with air. 
  • When your lungs are full, exhale through your nose. Your chest will lower. Contract your belly to release the remaining stale air. 
  • Do not strain to hold or release the breath. 
  • Invite the breath to be continuous, smooth, and even as you continue. 
  • As you focus on the breath, become aware of the two qualities of an even breath and make adjustments accordingly.  An even breath consists of 
    • the length of your inhale matching the length of your exhale.
    • a consistent volume of air flowing throughout the breath.
Breath with Finger Tap  
  • Lengthen the spine. 
  • Allow one palm to face up. 
  • Inhale touch your thumb to your index finger. 
  • Exhale. 
  • Inhale touch your thumb to middle finger. 
  • Continue tapping your thumb to each finger for 8 breaths or more. 
  • Feel free to make this an even breath.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

My Divorce... Apologies Not Needed

I am divorcing my husband of five years.  My marriage was wonderful in so many ways.  For me, divorce meant failure.  I have not failed and neither did my relationship.  A once life-giving relationship has come to a respectful end.  This part of my journey has redefined divorce.  Divorce now means a closing, ending and a death of sorts.

A relationship, my relationship has concluded presenting the opportunity for transformation and exploration - new life, rebirth, space and freedom.  This divorce... my divorce is a release of all that has held me back.  I let go of limiting beliefs and emotional baggage, giving myself the independence and freedom to explore, to be and to do.

In life, we experience an ebb and flow - life, death and rebirth.  I have mourned this loss, the death of my marriage.  I choose to honor the present moment.  I am embracing the beauty that surrounds me everyday and exploring new depths of love and friendship.  I flow with the current of life... surf the waves of joy and endure those of sorrow.  I am Always a Yogi and will continue to play with the balance in my life.

With my divorce, I take back my name - Lynn Marie Cunningham, initials LMC.  (There is no coincidence that my name has "ham" in it.)  When I share I am in the midst of a divorce, it is inevitable the first thing said is, "I'm sorry".  This is said even after I share my joy with my current situation.  I am grateful for the undying support of my friends, family and teachers, but when we talk next, don't apologize for my going through a divorce.  Feel free to acknowledge my situation; but please remember apologies not needed.  I am well and enjoying the journey of life.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Journey Within

Those who dream touch the stars.

A new year is a widely celebrated time we look at the past and find our path for the future.  The new year is not the only time we can reflect and set intentions, but it does present a wonderful "scheduled" opportunity.  

Self reflection creates a window for you to look at your emotions, reactions, habits, behaviors, etc. Rather than moving on to the next 'task' we can observe, learn and make changes. Self reflection can happen in many different ways. Choose a medium that works best for you: video, blog, paper journal, etc.  I reflect when I drive often finding a topic I wish to explore in meditation or a written journal.  I later take my thoughts and type them to share with you in this blog or my newsletter.

A specific type of journaling often called free writing or a brain dump can become a practice of observing the mind. Free writing can be a practice of writing for 5 or more minutes on a topic without stopping, thinking, or worrying about grammar, spelling or anything else. If you run out of ideas when free writing you can write “I don’t know what to say” or something similar until you start to come up with more ideas. This process allows you to access the deeper recesses of the mind. It can help you find really good ideas that you didn’t know you had.

I encourage you to document your journey by taking time to reflect. This may help keep you accountable to yourself and inspire you to see your own inner beauty.  In changing journals this weekend, I took the opportunity to read stories from my past.  Stories from point of view in the midst of it all.  I was surprised and amazed at the patterns that was presented in my reflections.  Like many of you, I struggle to see my own beauty and gifts.  Reading about my journey, thoughts and general musings inspired me.  I inspired me.  Today, that was a gift.  

This month I am exploring the following in my personal reflection (and I am definitely not limiting myself to these ideas):
  • The year of 2011... the challenges that have become accomplishments, my personal growth and the influence and depth of love.
  • My gifts and charisms... more to be shared in a later post.
  • What I want to do
  • My Intentions
  • Goals 
I am happy to share my reflections and hear about yours... what has been on your mind and in your heart?