Saturday, September 7, 2013

Peace Not Perfection

I had a dream the Dalai Lama was performing a ritual similar to a foot washing ceremony. He said to me, “You did very well on tests in school?” To which I replied, “Yes.” He then said, “Life isn’t a test to perfect.”

My dream reminds me to be ok with mistakes, let go of control, and to stop over-analyzing everything and everyone. With that story in mind,
  • What are you trying to perfect or control in your life?  How can you loosen the grip? 
  • Is there a pose or sequence in your asana or physical yoga practice that you can enjoy for what it is today?
I think life is better experienced lightly. Taking things too seriously or making things personal blocks my view reducing joy and peace in my life.

May we lighten up and enjoy this moment for all that is, as is.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Fuel Level

The other day my car let me know its fuel level was low.  I began to wonder...
  • What are the signs my fuel level is low?
  • What happens if I ignore them?
  • What do I do to refuel, recharge and restore myself?
For my car, the first flash of this warning means 48 miles to empty and the second less than 30.  I go to the gas station before it reaches zero and there is no problem.  If I ignore the the signals from my car, it's toast.

My body and emotions warn me with sugar cravings, lethargy, irritability, aches, extra emotional responses, lack of patience, pains, etc.  Of course, I can blame these things on a number of things like stress from work, family or lack of sleep; however, blame does not fix my low fuel level.  Instead I turn to my yoga practice, music, book, or a friend.  Oftentimes a walk outside lifts my spirit and calms my nerves; however, when time or location do not allow I use my mind's eye and within a few deep breaths I'm there.

What will you do today to recharge?  Will you take a couple deep breaths right now?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Almond Milkshake [Dairy & Sugar Free]

Summer begs for us to satiate our sweet tooth with a cold treat. This milkshake is easy to make, full of flavor and filling. The vitamins, minerals and other nutrients come from their root source which allows the synergistic effects to help your body absorb and embrace the benefits.

I don’t follow a diet but rather make choices in what I eat to best support my mind, body and spirit. Sounds like it could be called a holistic diet then. Anyway for me, eating foods free from dairy, gluten, sugar, chicken and rice keeps me strong and full of life. I’m hoping you’ll love this treat too!

Almond Milkshake

Makes 2 servings

  • 1 cup almonds (soaked)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 cup (wet measure) medjool dates [about 15 medium sized dates]
  • 3 Tbs. almond butter 
  • 3 Tbs. raw cacao powder
  • 2-3 tsp. vanilla extract 
  • 1 Tbs. coconut butter
  • Pinch sea salt
  1. Make almond milk by blending 1 cup soaked almonds with 3 cups of water and a teaspoon of vanilla extract.
  2. Pour 1 cup of the almond milk in ice cube tray.  2 cups of almond milk should remain.
  3. Add 1/2 cup medjool dates as a wet measure.  To do a wet measure add the dates into the milk and measure by how much the liquid rises. With 2 cups of almond milk, you will add the dates until the milk rises to 2 1/2 cups. Make sure the dates are fully immersed in the liquid.
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients (almond butter, cacao powder, vanilla, coconut butter & sea salt) to the blender of milk and dates.  
  5. Blend well to emulsify the dates.
  6. Chill the milkshake.
  7. Add 1 tray of the creamy almond milk ice cubes 
  8. Blend on low to break up ice cubes.
  9. Pour & enjoy =)

Recipe inspired by Chaya-Ryvka.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Opening Our Hearts

How are you sitting?  Is your spine round or tall?  Is your chest open or closed?  We reverse this slouch with yoga by arching the back in back bend poses like cow or cobra.  In our asana or physical yoga practice, heart-opening has become synonymous with back bends.  My Holistic Approach to Wellness, embraces the triangular factors that influence each other in creating balance or imbalance; meaning when we work with the physical body in our asana practice, we also work with the emotional and chemical body.

Not only do we sit slumped over our keyboards but also when we stand, walk and eat.  Is it any wonder that a majority of us are hunched over physically guarding our hearts?  Are we afraid others will hurt us or that they may be disappointed to see who we really are?  I wrote about my experience in opening myself after experiencing hardship in the article Trusting to Bend Back.  Back bends or heart openers have a way of showing us the courage that lives within while exposing our vulnerabilities.

Those often strong poses that build heat and energize also have the potential to give us feelings of hope and strength.  What does it mean to open our hearts?  My cues in practice usually include, "Tuck your tailbone.  Lift the shoulders and glide the heads of the arm bones back.  Lift your heart by squeezing the bottoms tips of your shoulder blades together.  Strengthen your back body to open the front."  I may even add, "Soften your heart.  Feel the warm space in your chest."

Yoga begs us to take the practice off the mat.  In a Ted TalkBrene Brown suggests we honor what is ordinary in our lives as an idea to open our hearts.  Her work dives into individuals' willingness to numb themselves to avoid vulnerability suggesting that it comes at the cost of experiencing happiness.  The cues that guide us to opening our heart continue with practicing gratitude and awareness of the present moment.  By expressing ourselves, we accept the ultimate invitation to vulnerability and open our hearts to ourselves as well as those around us.

What is your asana or physical yoga practice making you aware of emotionally?  Are you protecting your heart?  What from?  How can you embrace vulnerability?

I leave you with this final tip... hug your friend, spouse or child to the right to align your hearts creating a physical and emotional connection.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

What I Mean

I am continually asked, "How often do you practice yoga?"  To which they get an answer much longer than expected.  Most people define yoga as the physical practice or asana.  I practice yoga everyday; however, to me yoga is much bigger than a physical on my mat practice.  I love taking advantage of a teaching opportunity, so I explain the difference between yoga and asana then circle back to their intended question which I will elaborate on more in a later entry.

Here I have defined a few words I use often in class and writing:
  • Yoga - to yoke or union of mind, body, & spirit; to put to active and purposeful use; to hitch up. Essentially, yoga has come to describe a means of uniting, or a method of discipline. 
  • Sanskrit - an ancient Indic language 
  • Hatha - describes a type of yoga which encompasses meditation, pranayama and asana 
  • Meditation - the observance of life 
  • Pranayama - breath control exercises 
  • Asana - physical poses of yoga 
  • Spirit - mind, consciousness, essence, divine, or other definition you find applicable 
  • Savasana - deep relaxation that typically occurs at the end of class 
I thought you might also like this nice resource of 200 Key Sanskrit Terms as defined by Yoga Journal.

May you find your practice of yoga more frequent than your time on the mat.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Chair Yoga for All

A little yoga in a chair reaps benefits for just about everyone. From increased feelings of relaxation and mental focus to improved circulation and energy levels, taking a little time to practice yoga will GIVE you time. Try one or all of these at your desk, dining room table or in any other chair.
  • Sit with good posture. From a Seated Pose, sitting close to the edge of the chair with your knees bent at a 90 degree angle. The ankles below the knees and the feet hip width apart. Lay your hands on your thighs or knees. Roll your shoulders back and blades down resting them on your back. Lengthen your spine by lifting your torso towards the sky beginning with the crown of the head. 
  • Feel your breath. With mouth closed, inhale through your nose allowing your belly to expand and chest to lift. Allow the air to fill your lungs. When your lungs are full, exhale through your nose allowing your chest to lower and belly to contract. Do not strain to hold or release the breath. Invite your breath to be smooth and even - inhale matching the length to your exhale.
  • Move your spine through seated Cat Cow. Lay your hands on your thighs, palms down. As you exhale, round your spine pulling your belly button toward the wall behind you. Release your head forward, but not forcing your chin to your chest. As you inhale, lift your chest toward the ceiling, allowing your belly to push forward and look up. Repeat. 
  • Seated Forward Fold.  Inhale, and keeping the front torso long, lean forward from the hip joints, not the waist. Your hands will rest on your thighs as you extend your torso over your legs. With each inhalation, lift and lengthen the front torso just slightly; with each exhalation release a little more fully into the forward bend. As you bend, continue to reach your sternum out past your knees.
  • Move your arms. Inhale inviting your engaged arms to lift out at your sides and up towards the sky with your palms facing up. Your gaze follows. On the exhale, lowering your arms and gaze to the earth.
  • Bend to the side. Rest your left hand on the seat of the chair. Inhale raise your right arm toward the sky. Reach your entire side body up. Exhale to bend to your left. Stay as long as you would like with a free flowing breath. Repeat on the other side.
May you find peace in your body.

Friday, February 1, 2013

A Sweet Gift

Yes, YOU are the sweet gift. It is you who shares a smile so bright it lights up the room. Just by being you, a sweet gift is given to others - one of love, happiness and peace.

Your inner beauty inspires me to share more ideas to balance and connect with your brilliant being. I want you to know how valuable you are... not because you "did" anything... but because you are you. I am truly honored that in your times of joy, stress and celebration you choose to practice with me. I enjoy being welcomed into your holiday, wedding and family gatherings and maybe even more so into your every day.

I want to give you opportunities for rest and relaxation. Let me take over the plans of food and weather. Let me give you an afternoon to connect with your spirit. Perhaps it is time for you to give to yourself or suggest to another (for Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, graduation, or ...) that you would like a retreat. Perhaps a retreat is just what you need to nourish your body and soul.  I have completely changed the "structure" of my Illuminate You Yoga Retreats and will be posting the details for the 2013 opportunities soon.

Those useful suggestions, intentions and links you have come to appreciate are always streaming in my social media outlets as well as my blog Always a Yogi. As always let me know if you have any questions. I hope to see you soon... remember a mat is always open to you no matter how long it has been or your current physical/experience level.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Perfection... Be In Your Pose

I've caught myself doing it... looking at that girl on the other mat rocking out her Warrior I and I'm struggling to twist my hips AND ground my back heel. I know there is no perfect pose but there beside me I'm reminded that she's a little closer, a little better than I. In yoga, we practice non-judgment and strive to look at ourselves and others with the eyes of awe and compassion.

My practice then moves to a place of balance… striving for the pose and allowing myself to be in my pose.  I make mistakes and I am not always in control on or off the mat. My head and heart know perfection is not something I can reach; however, my inner dialogue sometimes says otherwise. It’s not that these thoughts are always active, but they creep in. Sometimes I catch them as the “reason” for some of my actions or emotional spirals. With this awareness (thanks to my meditation practice), I am able to find the exit out of the spiral.

Humble Warrior
My reading consists of spiritual, philosophical and teacher type sources. The pattern I see over and over again... the authors seem to have it ALL together. So I share; we don't. I’m not perfect, and not all of my choices are the best.  I continue to try my best.  I teach from my own journey; sharing my challenges and intentions with an open and courageous heart. It is my intention that by telling my story, you can relate. Hopefully learning or taking an idea with you on your path. Together we move forward, past the illusion of perfection onto a path filled with lessons and equipped with the breath and tools of mindfulness.

As the Japanese philosophy Wabi Sabi suggests, beauty lies in imperfection. We live in a world filled with imperfection. Instead of that being our excuse, let’s make it our adventure. Be your best; strive for your best pose. Then enjoy it; let go of what should be or could have been. Appreciate where you are. Play with the ideas that are brought to you. Don't make the same old mistakes. Make new ones. We're going to make 'em, so let's learn something new as we do!  Know that you'll find your way to your best pose or position in life.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Good Savasana... Yoga Nidra

You know those days when you have a good savasana?  For me it's that sweet bliss that sometimes makes my head tingle and my whole body feel warm and free.  Yoga Nidra or yogic sleep is a practice that takes me to that place regardless of how I began.

Yoga Nidra is a meditation technique that, like other meditative practices, will guide you deep within to an inner radiance and deeper awareness independent of anything else.  Freeing you from anxiety, stress, fear and other feelings we label as icky.  

In the yoga tradition, Yoga Nidra is a state of consciousness beyond meditation that is entered through exploration of the senses.  In the practice, it is not uncommon to fall asleep at different intervals.  Typically, this practice will contain five elements to help you arrive at this deep state of consciousness:
  • Breath awareness:  By focusing on the breath we are able to reduce the effects of stress and calm the nervous system.  This calmness creates a clear mind and inner balance.
  • Sankalpa or Intention:  This portion allows you an opportunity to set your personal intention or affirmation.  Living a life of intention helps you to be and share your best self.   
  • Muscular relaxation through 61-points:  This section will help rid the body of unnecessary tension and stored emotion in the body at 61 points.  It allows the body to loosen and let go of sustained muscular contractions.
  • Chakra & energy awareness:  This section will open the chakras or energy channels of the body from the base of the spine to the crown of the head.  It will also help you feel your body as energy.
  • Yoga Nidra:  This state you will achieve a complete awareness neither denying emotions, thoughts and perception nor taking them for anything else.  It is a state in which we realize the subtle energies in the body that gives life to our physical, spiritual, emotional and mental well-being.
Here I will guide you through this beautiful practice.  Prepare yourself to be sweetly rewarded for being you.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Give New Meaning

Chances are you have one too; a day that carries the weight of a painful memory.  Maybe it's the anniversary of a death or ending of a relationship.  Maybe it's the day you received bad news or your life seemed to turn upside down.  Perhaps it is not a day but an object.  The other day I wrote about Choosing Your Focus.  This day we take it another step to give new meaning.

Today is the first anniversary of the finalization of my divorce.  Knowing this day was coming, I felt my sadness and disapproval of self grow through the week.  Emotions of being unworthy, unlovable and unwanted find me.  I know that I am worthy of good things including love; however, in my meditation, I become aware of my feeling unworthy.

Feel it to free it.  I feel the emotions in all their beauty and sometimes uncomfortable glory so that I may let them go.  Two sentences make it sound so easy... trust me it took lots of deep breaths and a few tears.  Then I chose; what meaning should this day have?  Thanks to a good friend who reminded me that this day is a celebration of me making the choice to give myself more.  That I am worthy of great love and desire.

So instead of this day being a reminder that one man did not fully share his love with me, it is a celebration of my worthiness and joy.  I give this anniversary new meaning.  Today I celebrate the love in all its depth.  Last year I tweeted, "Feeling the good in good bye."  Today, the good has come from giving this day new meaning.

Is there a day, an object or something else that you could give new meaning?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Drishti... Choose Your Focus

With a thirty minute commute, I can arrive to work to work frazzled or cheerful and at peace.  This morning reminded me the importance of my focus.  Heading West all I could see was a gloomy cloud covered sky.  Yet in the mirror I caught a glimpse of bright orange.  When I took a peek behind, I saw a vibrant, colorful sunrise.

On the mat, I remind us to choose our drishti or focus.  In some cases, we choose where our eyes rest but it's often the internal focus that makes the biggest difference.  Call them what you may... mind monsters, mental termites, tree branches for the monkey mind to swing on... they can all distract us from the beauty and joy that's right in front of us.  In fact, we can punish ourselves by pursuing these negative thoughts or acting in ways that go against our spirit's truth.

Don't get me wrong this morning I had a semi going 48 in a 55 and a school bus get in front of me.  Huffy was right there, but I chose my focus to be on the magnificence of the sunrise upon the fields.  Then the soccer mom cut me off on the interstate.  I caught myself wanting to shout a few words then looked to my East and redirected my focus.  

Abraham Lincoln said, "If we magnified our successes as much as we magnify our disappointments we'd all be much happier."  Imagine if instead of complaining about what's left or sharing what's wrong with your day, you focus on what was good and what you accomplished.

On my commute, had I kept my head forward I would have stayed in the cloudy, gloomy mindset.  Since I kept my eyes open to all that was around me and chose my focus, I arrived at my destination filled with joy by the color and beauty that could only come from the divine.

Is there something you've been dwelling on, getting anxious or beating yourself up about?  After giving it the full attention it needs in this moment, will you change your focus?

And in case you were wondering... the picture is today's sunset.  I didn't take it while driving this morning.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Mindfully React

It's humbling to hear a friend share my words back to me.  I teach and write what I am learning and am surprised others remember what I have shared.  Even I, the professional breather, need reminded to take a deep breath and to let it go.

In debating my next move a friend asked me, "What good can come from this?"  My words back to teach me.  My inability to answer took me out of my head and away from my self-centered ego.  I was drawn straight to my heart.

This question gave me the opportunity to mindfully react or choose my response.  My rant debate included many ways of overreacting that would have served no one.  Chances are I would have regretted it and hurt others in the process.  If no good can come from words exchanged or actions completed, why say or do them?

Instead of my friend telling me what to do giving me advice, he asked the question that led me back to my intentions.  What good can come from this? Be the light, share the light, ignite and fuel the light of others.  Don't extinguish.  It was obvious what I should and shouldn't do.

My hope is that you'll find this question helps you or a friend mindfully respond and choose a path of love rather than fear, anger or revenge.  Next time you're plotting debating your next move take a deep breath and ask yourself, What good can come from this?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Do It Today

My little sister Olivia, age six, came over for a sleepover a few weeks ago.  She picked up an empty journal and said let's write.  She didn't get caught up in the color of the pen or the design of the journal.  She just wanted to write.  On our way out the door to hike she said, "WAIT!  We need our journals."  Sure enough we stopped by the lake to write and trace leaves.  It was our fourth entry of the day.

Have you ever got caught up in the "how" that you never get to the "doing."  Like printing a recipe only to find it in a drawer or stack of papers 7 months later.  Or buying fitness equipment that only gets used by dust bunnies because you didn't have the perfect 30 minutes to workout.

I'm all for making and working towards SMART goals; however, sometimes our need for the perfect opportunity stops us.  We become the obstacle of our own success.  So let's stop that and do it today.  We can learn as we go.  Make the most of the little time or money we have and make it happen.  Little by little we'll get to that place we so wished we could have started at but let's not wait.  Let's do it today.