Saturday, November 29, 2014

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things: Yogi Gift Giving

I'm not saying that you have to get me all of these for Christmas, but I wouldn't hate you for it if you did!

Whether you're shopping for me or another yogi in your life, the following items would be great stuffed in a stocking or wrapped under a tree:

Clockwise:  Gecko Explorer Pocket Bralette Pocket Crop Leggings Free People Mixed Texture Wideband Goddess Ribbed Leggings No Limits Stretching Strap Gaiam Yoga Brick
Yummi Yogi Cookie Cutters

Friday, November 28, 2014

"Effortless = Meditation" - Sri Sri

I used to think that meditation would only help my mind, but the benefits are far greater.  Meditation has two important benefits:

1.  Meditation prevents stress from getting into the system
2.  Meditation releases accumulated stress that is in the system

Both of these happen simultaneously, leaving one refreshed and joyful.

Physical Benefits of Meditation
With meditation, the physiology undergoes a change and every cell in the body is filled with more prana (energy). This results in joy, peace, enthusiasm as the level of prana in the body increases.
On a physical level, meditation:
  • Lowers high blood pressure
  • Lowers the levels of blood lactate, reducing anxiety attacks
  • Decreases any tension-related pain, such as, tension headaches, ulcers, insomnia, muscle and joint problems
  • Increases serotonin production that improves mood and behavior
  • Improves the immune system
  • Increases the energy level, as you gain an inner source of energy

Mental Benefits of Meditation

Meditation brings the brainwave pattern into an Alpha state that promotes healing. The mind becomes fresh, delicate and beautiful. With regular practice of meditation:
  • Anxiety decreases
  • Emotional stability improves
  • Creativity increases
  • Happiness increases
  • Intuition develops
  • Gain clarity and peace of mind
  • Problems become smaller
  • Meditation sharpens the mind by gaining focus and expands through relaxation
  • A sharp mind without expansion causes tension, anger and frustration
  • An expanded consciousness without sharpness can lead to lack of action/progress
  • The balance of a sharp mind and an expanded consciousness brings perfection
Meditation makes you aware - that your inner attitude determines your happiness.

Other Benefits of Meditation

Emotional steadiness and harmony: it cleanses and nourishes you from within and calms you, whenever you feel overwhelmed, unstable, or emotionally shut down.
Meditation brings harmony in creation: when you meditate, you are in the space of vastness, calmness and joy and this is what you emit into the environment, bringing harmony to the Creation/planet.
Consciousness evolves: with the assimilation of meditation into daily life, your consciousness evolves and in time, is able to experience the higher and refined states of consciousness.
When your consciousness evolves and expands, the disturbances in your life become negligible. Anger and disappointments become fleeting emotions that occur momentarily and then vanish. You start living in 'the moment' and let go of 'the past'.
Personal Transformation: meditation can bring about a true personal transformation. As you learn more about yourself, you’ll naturally want to discover more about the mystery of life, this universe, etc. Then the questions that arise in the mind are - What is the meaning of Life? What is its purpose? What is this world, what is love, what is knowledge...?
Once these questions arise, know that you are very fortunate. These questions need to be understood; you cannot find the answers in books. As you live through answering them you’ll witness that life transformation to a richer level.
Cosmic consciousness dawns in you
With the assimilation of meditation into daily life, the fifth state of consciousness*, called cosmic consciousness, dawns. Cosmic consciousness - is to perceive the whole cosmos as part of oneself.
When you perceive the world as a part of yourself, love flows strongly between the world and you. This love empowers you to bear the opposing forces and the disturbances in your life. Anger and disappointments become fleeting emotions that occur momentarily and then vanish. You start living in 'the moment' and let go of 'the past'.
The confluence of knowledge, understanding and practice makes life complete. When you grow into higher states of consciousness, you become beautiful yet strong - a soft, delicate and beautiful blossom capable of accommodating different values in life without any conditions.

How To Get The Benefits

To experience the benefits of meditation, regular practice is necessary. It takes only a few minutes every day. Once imbibed into the daily routine, meditation becomes the best part of your day!
Meditation is like a seed. When you cultivate a seed with love, the more it blossoms. Similarly, the sapling of consciousness is within you. It needs to be nurtured with simple meditation techniques. Some palm trees yield in three years, some in ten years. And those that aren’t nurtured - never yield! They simply exist.
Busy people from all backgrounds are grateful to pause and enjoy a refreshing few minutes of meditation each day. Dive deep into yourself and enrich your life.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Partnership of Practicing Empathy & Acro Yoga

This video and the following message were recently shared within my acro yoga community and the concept of the practice of acro yoga and empathy absolutely needs to be shared:

"Acro is a movement practice but it is all about empathy and connection. The more empathetic the partnership the easier it is to navigate struggle and failure. In that way the practice of partner acrobatics and acroyoga can teach you to be sensitive to someone else's experience. When you fall, you help your partner land safely. When you succeed, you have someone to share that joy with and high five. I believe in acro because it helps people connect in a very real and healthy way. If yoga is about your relationship to yourself, acro is about how you relate to other people."

Empathy is not so much about sympathizing with people and making them feel better with things or with stories to please their ego.  It's about getting to the core of things with people.  Connecting with them, feeling what they are feeling, relating to them and bringing no judgement into the situation at all.

Next time you are the ear that listens, provide words that don't fulfill an ego/mind story and see how much of a difference it makes for the other person.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Beginner's Guide to Meditation

Amazing article from Yoga Journal about beginning your meditation practice:
Although you don’t need to formally meditate in order to practice hatha yoga—nor is the practice of hatha yoga mandatory in order to meditate—the two practices support each another. Through your practice of yoga, you’ve enhanced both your abilities to concentrate and to relax—the two most important requirements for a meditation practice. Now you can deepen your understanding of what meditation is and begin a practice of your own.

What Is Meditation?
An exquisite methodology exists within the yoga tradition that is designed to reveal the interconnectedness of every living thing. This fundamental unity is referred to as advaita. Meditation is the actual experience of this union.
In the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali gives instruction on how to meditate and describes what factors constitute a meditation practice. The second sutra in the first chapter states that yoga (or union) happens when the mind becomes quiet. This mental stillness is created by bringing the body, mind, and senses into balance which, in turn, relaxes the nervous system. Patanjali goes on to explain that meditation begins when we discover that our never-ending quest to possess things and our continual craving for pleasure and security can never be satisfied. When we finally realize this, our external quest turns inward, and we have shifted into the realm of meditation.
By dictionary definition, “meditation” means to reflect upon, ponder, or contemplate. It can also denote a devotional exercise of contemplation or a contemplative discourse of a religious or philosophical nature. The word meditate comes from the Latin meditari, which means to think about or consider. Med is the root of this word and means “to take appropriate measures.” In our culture, to meditate can be interpreted several ways. For instance, you might meditate on or consider a course of action regarding your child’s education, or a career change that would entail a move across the country. Viewing a powerful movie or play, you may be moved to meditate upon—or ponder—the moral issues plaguing today’s society.
In the yogic context, meditation, or dhyana, is defined more specifically as a state of pure consciousness. It is the seventh stage, or limb, of the yogic path and follows dharana, the art of concentration. Dhyana in turn precedes samadhi, the state of final liberation or enlightenment, the last step in Patanjali’s eight-limbed system. These three limbs—dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (ecstasy)—are inextricably linked and collectively referred to as samyama, the inner practice, or subtle discipline, of the yogic path.
Recall that the first four limbs—yama (ethics), niyama (self-discipline),asana (posture), and Pranayama (life-force extension)—are considered external disciplines. The fifth step, pratyahara represents the withdrawal of the senses. This sensual withdrawal arises out of the practice of the first four steps and links the external to the internal. When we are grounded physically and mentally, we are keenly aware of our senses, yet disengaged at the same time. Without this ability to remain detached yet observant, it is not possible to meditate. Even though you need to be able to concentrate in order to meditate, meditation is more than concentration. It ultimately evolves into an expanded state of awareness.
When we concentrate, we direct our mind toward what appears to be an object apart from ourselves. We become acquainted with this object and establish contact with it. To shift into the meditation realm, however, we need to become involved with this object; we need to communicate with it. The result of this exchange, of course, is a deep awareness that there is no difference between us (as the subject) and that which we concentrate or meditate upon (the object). This brings us to the state of samadhi, or self-realization.
A good way to understand this is to think about the development of a relationship. First, we meet someone—that is, we make contact. Then by spending time together, listening to, and sharing with each another, we develop a relationship. In the next stage, we merge with this person in the form of a deep friendship, partnership, or marriage. The “you” and “me” become an “us.”
According to the Yoga Sutra, our pain and suffering is created by the misperception that we are separate from nature. The realization that we aren’t separate may be experienced spontaneously, without effort. However, most of us need guidance. Patanjali’s eight-limbed system provides us with the framework we need.
Ways to Meditate
Just as there are numerous styles of hatha yoga, so there are many ways to meditate. The first stage of meditation is to concentrate on a specific object or establish a point of focus, with the eyes either opened or closed. Silently repeating a word or phrase, audibly reciting a prayer or chant, visualizing an image such as a deity, or focusing on an object such as a lighted candle in front of you are all commonly recommended points of focus. Observing or counting your breaths and noticing bodily sensations are also optional focal points. Let’s take a closer look.
The Use of Sound: Mantra yoga employs the use of a particular sound, phrase, or affirmation as a point of focus. The word mantra comes fromman, which means “to think,” and tra, which suggests “instrumentality.” Therefore, mantra is an instrument of thought. It also has come to mean “protecting the person who receives it.” Traditionally, you can only receive a mantra from a teacher, one who knows you and your particular needs. The act of repeating your mantra is called japa, which means recitation. Just as contemplative prayer and affirmation need to be stated with purpose and feeling, a mantra meditation practice requires conscious engagement on the part of the meditator. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Transcendental Meditation (TM) espouses the practice of mantra yoga.
Chanting, an extension of mantra yoga, is a powerful way to enter into meditation. Longer than a mantra, a chant involves both rhythm and pitch. Western traditions use chants and hymns to invoke the name of God, to inspire, and to produce a spiritual awakening. Dating back to Vedic times, Indian chanting comes out of a tradition that believes in the creative power of sound and its potential to transport us to an expanded state of awareness. The rishis, or ancient seers, taught that all of creation is a manifestation of the primordial sound Om. Reflected in an interpretation of the word universe—”one song”—Om is the seed sound of all other sounds. Chanting Sanskrit often and properly produces profound spiritual and physical effects.
Many beginners find using a mantra in their meditation very effective and relatively easy. Chanting, on the other hand, can be intimidating for some people. If you feel awkward chanting on your own, use one of the many audiotapes of chants on the market, or participate in a group meditation where a meditation teacher leads the chant and the students repeat it. Although chanting in Sanskrit can be powerful, reciting a meaningful prayer or affirmation in any language can be effective.
The Use of Imagery: Visualizing is also a good way to meditate; one that beginners often find easy to practice. Traditionally, a meditator visualizes his or her chosen deity—a god or goddess-in vivid and detailed fashion. Essentially any object is valid.
Some practitioners visualize a natural object such as a flower or the ocean; others meditate on the chakras, or energy centers, in the body. In this type of meditation, you focus on the area or organ of the body corresponding to a particular chakra, imagining the particular color associated with it.
Gazing: Another variation on the use of imagery is to maintain an open-eyed focus upon an object. This focus is referred to as drishti, which means “view,” “opinion,” or “gaze.” Again the choices available to you here are virtually limitless. Candle gazing is a popular form of this method. Focusing on a flower in a vase, or a statue, or a picture of a deity are other possibilities.
Use this technique with your eyes fully opened or partially closed, creating a softer, diffused gaze. Many of the classical hatha yoga postures have gazing points, and the use of drishti is especially emphasized in the Ashtanga style of hatha yoga. Many pranayama techniques also call for specific positioning of the eyes, such as gazing at the “third eye,” the point between the eyebrows or at the tip of the nose.
Breathing: Using the breath as a point of focus is yet another possibility. You can do this by actually counting the breaths as you would in pranayama practice. Ultimately, however, meditating on the breath just means purely observing the breath as it is, without changing it in any way. In this instance, the breath becomes the sole object of your meditation. You observe every nuance of the breath and each sensation it produces: how it moves in your abdomen and torso, how it feels as it moves in and out of your nose, its quality, its temperature, and so on. Though you are fully aware of all these details, you don’t dwell on them or judge them in any way; you remain detached from what you’re observing. What you discover is neither good nor bad; you simply allow yourself to be with the breath from moment to moment.
Breath observance is the predominant technique used by practitioners of vipassana, commonly referred to as “insight” or “mindfulness” meditation. Popularized by such renowned teachers such as Thich Nhat Hanh, Jack Kornfield, and Jon Kabat-Zinn, this is a form a Buddhist practice. The word vipassana, which literally means “to see clearly” or “look deeply,” is also interpreted to mean “the place where the heart dwells,” and reflects the premise that thought arises out of our hearts.
Physical Sensations: Another way to meditate is to watch a physical sensation. Practice this with the same degree of detail as you would when watching the breath. In this context, you will look deeply at, or penetrate, a particular sensation that draws your attention, such as how hot or cool your hands feel. The increased sensitivity you gained due to your asana practice may provide you with other points of focus: the strength of your spine or the suppleness you feel in your lower body, for example. Observing a particular emotion or any specific area of discomfort is also a possibility. Whatever you choose remains your point of focus for the whole practice. You may find that observing a physical sensation can be more challenging than observing the breath. For most beginners, mantras, chants, and visualizations offer more tangible ways to replace or calm the scattered thoughts of our minds, which seem to be perpetually on sensory overload.
Meditation Postures
Sitting: Although you can meditate, or become fully absorbed in any activity or position of stillness, sitting is the most commonly recommended posture. There are a number of classic seated poses, butSukhasana (Easy Cross-Legged Pose) is obviously the most basic. More flexible meditators prefer Padmasana (Lotus Pose).
Sitting in a chair also works. It’s no less effective and certainly no less spiritual, and it’s often the best choice for beginners. The most important things are that your spine remain upright and that you feel steady and comfortable, the same two qualities necessary for performing asanas. To maximize comfort on the floor, place a cushion or folded blanket under your buttocks to elevate them and gently guide your knees down toward the floor. This helps support the natural lumbar curve of the lower back. Some people prefer kneeling “Japanese-style.” You can buy small, slanted wooden benches for this position.
Relax your arms and place your hands on your thighs or in your lap, with the palms in a relaxed position facing up or down. Roll your shoulders back and down and gently lift the chest. Keep your neck long and the chin tilted slightly downward. Depending upon which technique you are following, the eyes may be opened or closed. Breathing is natural and free.
Walking: A moving meditation—highly recommended by many teachers—may be an enjoyable option for you. The challenge of this form is to walk slowly and consciously, each step becoming your focal point. Destination, distance, and pace are all incidental. Relax your arms at your sides and move freely, coordinating your breath with your steps. For instance, you might breathe in for 3 steps and breathe out for 3 steps. If that feels awkward or difficult, just breathe freely. Although you can practice walking meditation anywhere, choose a setting you particularly love—the ocean, a favorite park, or a meadow. Remember, getting somewhere is not the issue. Rather, the complete involvement in the act of walking becomes your meditation.
Standing: Standing is another meditation practice that can be very powerful. It is often recommended for those practitioners who find that it builds physical, mental, and spiritual strength. Stand with your feet hip- to shoulder-distance apart. Knees are soft; arms rest comfortably at your sides. Check to see that the whole body is aligned in good posture: shoulders rolled back and down, chest open, neck long, head floating on top, and chin parallel to the floor. Either keep your eyes opened or softly close them.
Reclining: Even though lying down is associated with relaxation, the classic Corpse Pose, Savasana, is also used for meditation. Lie down on your back with your arms at your sides, palms facing upward. Touch your heels together and allow the feet to fall away from one another, completely relaxed. Although your eyes may be opened or closed, some people find it easier to stay awake with their eyes open. A supine meditation, although more physically restful than other positions, entails a greater degree of alertness to remain awake and focused. Therefore, beginners may find it more difficult to meditate in this position without falling asleep.
The Benefits of Meditation
Research has confirmed what the yogis of ancient times already knew: Profound physiological and psychological changes take place when we meditate, causing an actual shift in the brain and in the involuntary processes of the body.
This is how it works. An instrument called an electroencephalograph (EEG) records mental activity. During waking activity, when the mind constantly moves from one thought to another, the EEG registers jerky and rapid lines categorized as beta waves. When the mind calms down through meditation, the EEG shows waves that are smoother and slower, and categorizes them as alpha waves. As meditation deepens, brain activity decreases further. The EEG then registers an even smoother, slower pattern of activity we call theta waves. Studies on meditators have shown decreased perspiration and a slower rate of respiration accompanied by a decrease of metabolic wastes in the bloodstream. Lower blood pressure and an enhanced immune system are further benefits noted by research studies.
The health benefits meditation produces naturally reflect the mental and physical effects of this process. At the very least, meditation teaches you how to manage stress; reducing stress in turn enhances your overall physical health and emotional well-being. On a deeper level, it can add to the quality of your life by teaching you to be fully alert, aware, and alive. In short, it is a celebration of your self. You are not meditating to get anything, but rather to look at and let go of anything you do not need.
Starting Your Own Meditation Practice
We highly recommend a period of daily meditation. Add it to the end of your asana practice, or set aside another block of time. The important thing is that you find a time that works best for you. Don’t do too much too soon; you’re apt to get discouraged and stop altogether.
When and Where to Practice
To establish consistency, meditate at the same time and in the same place every day. Choose a place that is quiet, one that is pleasant, where you’ll be undisturbed.
Traditionally, the morning is considered the optimal time because you are less likely to be distracted by the demands of your day. Many people find that a morning meditation helps them enter the day with a greater degree of equanimity and poise. However, if a morning practice is a struggle, try an afternoon or early evening meditation.
If you are new to yoga and meditation, you may find adding five or 10 minutes of meditation at the end of your asana practice enough. When meditating independently of your yoga practice, a 15- to 20-minute time frame seems manageable for most beginners.
Choose a position that works for you. If you prefer sitting, either on a chair or on the floor, keep the spine erect and the body relaxed. Your hands should rest comfortably on your lap or thighs, with the palms up or down. If you choose to walk or stand, maintaining good posture is also critical, with your arms hanging freely by your sides. When lying down, place yourself in a symmetrical and comfortable position with the appropriate support under your head and knees if needed.
Decide on your point of focus. If sound appeals to you, create your own mantra, silently or audibly repeating a word or phrase that is calming to you, such as “peace,” “love,” or “joy.”
Affirmations also work. “I am relaxed” or “I am calm and alert” as you breathe out. Using a tape of chants or listening to a relaxing piece of music are also options.
If you choose imagery, visualize your favorite spot in nature with your eyes closed, or gaze upon an object placed in front of you: a lighted candle, a flower, or a picture of your favorite deity.
One way to observe the breath is to count it: Breathe in for three to seven counts and breathe out for the same length of time. Then shift to simply observing the breath, noticing its own natural rhythm and its movement in your torso.
Whichever posture and method you choose, stick with them for the duration of your meditation period. Indeed, once you find what works for you, you’ll want to maintain that practice indefinitely.
Do not be surprised or discouraged by how frequently your thoughts wander. When you realize that your mind has become distracted, simply return to your chosen point of focus.
How Do You Know If It’s Working?
At the beginning you might feel uncomfortable meditating—sitting for 20 minutes may cause your legs to fall asleep or cramp up, walking slowly may bring up feelings of impatience or agitation, and reclining poses may merely make you fall asleep. Conversely, you may have some profound experiences the first few times you sit, only to spend the next few frustrating days trying to duplicate them. Relax. Meditation shouldn’t cause you to feel unreasonably stressed or physically uncomfortable. If it does, reduce the length of your practice time or change your position (from walking to sitting; from sitting to standing). If that doesn’t work, go back to incorporating a few minutes of meditation into your asana practice instead of holding onto a formal practice. After a few days, try returning to your normal meditation routine.
If you continue having trouble with your meditation practice, you may need to seek the guidance of an experienced teacher or the support of a group that meets regularly to meditate together. Indications of your progress, with or without a teacher or group, are feelings of mental calm and physical comfort, and the ability to be present in all your experiences.

Monday, November 24, 2014

"Sometimes It's Better To React With No Reaction"

I once dated a man, for a very brief period of time, who could NOT handle my reactions.  For example, he would make almost hurtful comments about the noises I'd quietly make under my breath as I climbed aboard his ginormously lifted truck.  He would mockingly laugh at the frustrated faces I'd pull when we were golfing and I'd swung poorly.  And he never failed to tell me when get the picture.  In summary, I'm an expressive and reactionary person.

Practice is making me change that, however.  I'm finding that where I once blushed in shame and glanced around to see if any eyes spotted me losing my balance, I no longer give a crap.  I find, now, that where I once gave an exasperated sigh, I maintain my ujjayi.  And I no longer give a crap.  I am there for my practice.  I am not there for anyone or anything else.  My only reaction is to refocus.

How interesting would life be if we applied that concept to everything else.  Every snide comment. Every sarcastic "joke".  Hurtful moments between hearts.  Every situation that would merit a "downtrodden" or "exhausted" reaction would, instead, get a calm, meditative, energetic, and cleansing lack of reaction.

Now there's a challenge.  Are you game?


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Count Your Asanas Instead of Counting Sheep

For the last 7+ years, I've worked for a  large healthcare organization in the state of Utah.  Because of my employment, I'm exposed to amazing benefits and am constantly educated on healthcare. But when I accepted a promotion 15 months ago, my eyes were completely opened to what I'd been missing: relationships with doctors.

No, not Grey's Anatomy TV show relationships.  I'd never date a doctor.  Personal preference.  I'm talking personal relationships with caregivers.  

My job directly puts me into these relationships with the caregivers at my hospital because I hire them!  About this time last year, I began working on the onboarding of a doctor who would help to change my life and health.  She was completely pleasant in all of our interactions and always was timely with deadlines and requirements.  After our time together was done and she was officially off and running in her position, she still managed to stop in to visit with me and retain that relationship that we'd formed.  It was because of that relationship that I felt confident in asking her to take me on as a patient and requested that she become my primary care provider.

I was as enthusiastic as she was and I honestly was psyched for our first exam.  She did the basic exam and checked my vitals, but the rest of the time was all verbally connecting.  She asked questions and learned more about me than she probably ever initially thought she would.

One of the key items that she honed in on was that I'm a diagnosed insomniac who has been on everything from OTC to prescription sleeping pills for approximately 5 years.

She told me that we were going to take me off the pills and completely reset everything about me. Recommending that I evacuate my bedroom of any unnecessary distractions, art, and furniture, she also made one strong recommendation:  Do yoga.  Every day.

I've embraced everything that she recommended that I do and have not taken a sleeping pill in approximately 3 months.  I can't believe how much my nightly yoga practice, either in a studio or at-home setting, has truly helped me to relax, quiet my mind, and get some restful sleep.  

I found the following image in a search and it's extremely similar to my own nightly routine.  Give it a shot for a few days and see how incorporating some simple yoga postures before bed can give you a restful night!


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Yoga & Taco Bell: What Works & What Doesn't

Class last night was...interesting.  If I'm being completely honest, it was the first time that I could not wait for class to get over.  I went into last night with strong intention, a clear mind, a clear heart, and open eyes that were ready to learn from a new instructor.

I got there early, selected my spot, and began to ground myself.  A few of us talked and provided feedback to newcomers who were unfamiliar with the studio and class set-up.  My mind stayed quiet and I was excited to learn from this new teacher.  Class began.  That’s when it all went wrong.  There was no plan.  There was no structure.  There was no real flow.  It threw me off and clashed with my practice needs.  For the first time, I felt “ahead” in class and could anticipate the next asana.  I felt stronger and able to hold the poses longer without much direction or positioning.  To some that would be great.  For me and my purpose, it didn't work.  I want to learn.  I want to be challenged.  We finished our hour with a chant and collective “Namasté”, and I rolled my mat as quickly as I could.  I thanked our teacher and set out into the frigid night. 

As I collected myself in my car, I instantly let the frustration take over and the usual smile and glow was replaced with a grimace.  And a desire to go to Taco Bell.  I know.  Don’t judge.

I sat on the floor in my living room consuming disgusting nachos and Diet Pepsi and thinking to myself that the night was a total waste.  I thought of the book that I’m slowly peeling through and how I could have been reading it.  I thought about the piles of laundry that could have been folded.  I thought about my storage unit and how I could have cleaned it out to organize my chaos.  And then I heard someone screaming.

“It wasn't a total waste, you idiot!!!!!!!!!!”

The “me” I’m trying to become obviously had something to say.  The “me” I’m trying to overcome obviously had something to learn.

My night wasn't a total waste.  I might not have gotten out of class what I had hoped for or wanted, but I was able to take a step closer to finding my own practice.  Too often we fixate on what went wrong or what didn't meet our expectations, when all along we should be focusing on the new path that little misstep is now leading us on.

If you’re also thinking about what kind of practice is best for you, maybe you’ll find the following guide helpful, too.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

10 Secrets for Yoga Beginners

You can get more out of your yoga practice, if you're a beginner like I am, or if you're even thinking about starting a practice, by following these simple tips from a well-respected yogi.
1. Yoga is not a religion. Because of where yoga came from and who practices it, some people think that it is a religion. But yoga is a way of life, a type of exercise, not a religion.  Yoga is all about moving your body, finding out who you are, not who the world says you should be.

2. Yoga is not a “push until you drop” practice. Child’s pose has an important purpose. Use it. If you cannot keep your Ujjayi breath steady and on point, it is time to drop to Child’s pose and regain your breathing and composure. If you are not breathing correctly, the yoga is not going to do what you need it to. It is okay to drop and meditate and get back on track.
I did not lose weight the first month. I was so frustrated. Thankfully I did not join to just lose weight. I started to get my life back from cancer, as a recovery, so I kept going. The second month I lost barely anything, but the third month I dropped 15 pounds. My theory is that those first two months I was developing so much muscle and muscle weighs more than fat. It is working, keep going! After 6 months of yoga practice I lost 30 pounds. Don’t stop. Get rid of the scale for the first few months.
Get a good mat. I used to doubt there is much difference in the mats. I was dead wrong. It completely changes your practice to have a mat that is thick and comfortable but most of all grips well. I believe a great mat is worth the extra money. I can be dripping with sweat and I still don’t budge from my poses. Get the mat. Pay the money. You won’t be sorry.

5. No one is watching you. Seriously, I used to be so paranoid about how I looked with my gut hanging out, etc. Once you really get involved in yoga you realize it is just you and your mat. Say hi to your neighbors when you get there, and then forget about them until the practice is over. Everyone else is in the same position. Do you have time to watch others? Not really. Close your eyes and dive in. It is just you and your mat. Stop worrying about others. The same goes in life.


When you wake up “too sore” to go to yoga, go anyway. One of the best things you can do for your soreness is stretch it out. You will learn to crave that soreness. The more you stretch, the faster it goes away.
 Always practice on an empty stomach. A light, healthy snack may be good before cardio, but this is not the case in yoga. You are bending and activating the core so much, you want to come to class with an empty stomach and an open mind. There is plenty of time for an amazing post-workout meal. You don’t want your breakfast to end up on your mat. Bring water, that is all you need.

Take pictures. I know a lot of you will never post any, and that is totally fine. I have found that when I am down on my practice or get discouraged, I look at old pictures and compare with current ones. It will shock you how far you’ve come so quickly. Getting involved in yoga challenges is great because you take pictures of the poses and meet other yogis. Even if you are not a social bee, take the pictures, you will be glad you did. I love laughing at old failures and celebrating new victories.
 That moment when you are stretching, it is painful, and you want to give up and get out of the pose, give it one more full Ujjayi breath, breathing into where the pain is. Try to surrender. If you can get past this and just surrender, the pain stops. It is a mind over matter game. Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose, but if you can push past that initial panic and use your breath to calm yourself down, that is when you can truly progress. That pain is just you fighting. Surrender.

10. Have fun. This is your journey. It is never over. How exciting that each day it is like we are born again. We get to try all over again with some victories and some failures that we learn from. Treasure your yoga. It is a gift.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Posture: Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are

This amazing presentation from Amy Cuddy is not specifically about yoga, but, yet, has everything to do with yoga.  Please watch this and think about how your body language shapes who you are.  We are truly influenced by our own non-verbals.  Open up.  Expand.  Let your body change your mind.

If you don't see how this can correlate to your own practice after watching this, watch it again.  And again.  And again until it sinks in.


Saturday, November 15, 2014


What is mindfulness?  A challenge.  That's what it is.  To keep my mind solely focused on the task at hand, just one, little, simple, easy thing, has always posed a problem for me.  The struggle to conquer our minds is a common one, so you should never feel alone if this focus in your practice is difficult, too.

As one of my teachers, Olin, reminds me, one of the joys and challenges of a mindful practice is to overcome the mind, the thoughts, when your body is so full of sensations.  As your body feels these sensations, as you are focused and engaged in holding a posture and finding your breath, it's easy for the mind to find a way in to distract you.

It's at these moments that I fall back on my intention:  I am resilient.  It becomes a broken record, a beautiful broken record, in my head.

Today, Olin challenged us.  I love his focus on strengthening our ujjayi breathing and channeling the energy of qigong, but class today absolutely put my focus on mindfulness.

We held one solitary asana for two minutes. A difficult asana rather similar to this, but modified to challenge our minds and bodies.

"Focus on your breath," he said.  That focus has become easy for me - I find myself doing ujjayi all the time, and even at my desk - so I focused on my intent instead.

"I am resilient in this posture.  I am resilient and grounded.  I am resilient in my strength and rooted, deeply, strongly, and unwaivering like a tree.  I am resilient in my focus.  I am resilient in my view.  I
am resilient in my body for I know that it can endure.  I know it can last.  I know it can support me.  I am resilient.  I am resilient.  I am resilient.  I am....".  I hear Olin's voice creep back in telling us to exhale, come out of the posture, and find my expansive stance in Tadasana.

I was.  I was resilient.  I was stronger than my mind.  I was mindful.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Finding My Mala: I Am Resilient

I'd seen them in movies and on a few yogis, but I never knew what they were.  It wasn't until October of 2014 that I finally learned that the beaded necklace wrapped around his wrist was called a mala. He told me a bit about the significance and I immediately wanted to learn all I could.  As I perused the articles online, I was enlightened on the significance, symbolism, and meaning, and knew one day that I would be worthy to wear one.

Though absolutely acceptable to wear them for non-meditative and non-yoga reasons, I didn't want it to be a fashion statement or trend.  I wanted to deserve my own significance, symbolism, and meaning.  I wanted to find my mala.

When I came upon the Mala Collective website, I knew that I had found a special company, a special family.  I find an incredible amount of respect for companies that give back, practice fair trade, and treat their employees like family.  This alone compelled me to investigate their malas.

With my own practice being so young, I did not feel that I yet deserved a full 108 bead mala necklace.  I wanted something smaller to represent the infancy of my practice.  A bracelet would be ideal and sufficient visual representation of my intent.  But what was my intent?  What was I seeking in my practice?

I admired the beauty of the malas, studied the significance of the gemstones and rudraksha beads, and ultimately became confused.  Was my intention LOVE?  Was my intention STRENGTH & CLARITY?  Was my intention to ALIGN MY CHAKRAS?  Was my intention to find COMFORT, BALANCE & HARMONY?  Was my intention to find INSPIRATION & CREATIVITY?  Was my intention to FOLLOW DREAMS?  Was my intention to find INNER PEACE?

I found myself at a crossroads.

Days went by and I continued to pour over my options when, almost perfectly, a little curve ball was thrown my way in life.  I felt gutted for a few days and asked the introspective "Why?".  I told myself to get back up, keep going, put on a smile, fake it until you make it, and deal with it.  And then I remembered what I'd read about one of the bracelets and the word "RESILIENCY" echoed in my head.

I found my mala.  More like, my mala found me.  Its intent had quietly and subtly found its way to my mind and heart without me knowing it and I knew it was meant for me.

Before leaving the island of Bali, my mala bracelet was blessed.  "I am resilient.  I am fearless in following my dreams -- listening to my heart and intuition.  And when the universe provides an ebb and flow in my rhythm, I know that they are not barriers but merely guides.  So I bounce back with grace and continue on my journey."

My beautiful matte black onyx mala hardly leaves my wrist and I look to it both visually and meditatively when those ebbs and flows mess with my rhythm.  I've since learned that onyx is associated with resistance and persistence and helps the wearer manage and complete tasks with focus, willpower, strength, confidence and discipline.  Representing the Earth element, it's also known for balancing male and female polarity and increasing hormonal balance.  The black stone is said to help with objectivity and making intelligent decisions.  It's recommended during times of pain and sorrow and, additionally, is believed to help strengthen one's bones.

I am resilient, with or without my mala, but I love the constant reminder that it gives me to weather storms and continue persevering.  I look forward to my next mala and I finding each other.



Before you get any ideas about this blog, the intent behind it, the story, the motive, the anything, I want to tell you that this will not be some Eat, Pray, Love story.  As a relatively new practitioner of mindfulness, meditation, and yoga, I wanted a creative outlet with which to channel my experiences and ideas, while hopefully connecting with others seeking to incorporate the same in their lives.

This is my public journal.  Feel free to learn and grow with me as I do that exact thing:  learn and grow.