Hope in her backyard in Dancer Pose
We have all said it to someone, had someone say it to us or even said it to ourselves in a moment of self realization: You need to take better care of yourself, take more time for you and maybe even learn to say no.
We do in fact get too caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday living that we forget that if we do not pay attention to our personal needs and well-being there will quite simply be no us, no you, no me. Within this honoring, this mindfulness we are in-acting towards ourselves it has been very apparent to me that this act of selflessness needs to be coupled with an intention, awareness and consideration of those around us as well.
We often times get too caught up in our own "stuff" we forget that what we do, the choices we make and the things we say affect those around us.
Consciousness of who we are, what we are doing and how we live is something we must choose to do each day and then act or react accordingly.
I have found myself lately in situations that have been teaching me about my own consciousness and how I am in fact playing into others lack thereof. I ultimately care so much about my foresight has been that I will sacrifice myself for others to move forward. But I have noticed lately, more than ever, that there is seldom a return on this (when you are not truly honoring your own being). Now I know some of you will say “sure there is”. But what I have ultimately found is that the self sacrifice I am referring to is the one where we are in fact enabling those around us to stay stuck, even though they may get what they need: a ride, some money, help, or a hand out with our having asked, but within that process we end up sinking our own beings to help them stay afloat with nothing in return.
Many times we (the enablers) make choices and act in such ways because we feel we may be inconveniencing others and in return they may not want to buy something of yours or come to your party or help you when you are down and out. What we often times forget is that in doing such this, with these intentions and mindset no one wins. Sure that person is down on their luck, in a bind or struggle but if you keep helping them how will they learn, and if you keep helping them how will you learn? When we act I this way we are actually holding the other people involved back from growing, we are enabling their karma to never fully meet with them face to face because we feel bad or we want to help because we feel guilty or they pull out the victim card on us. And as much as we are trying to help them honor themselves by assisting them in making the right choices, helping them heal from a crisis, we need to turn that around towards us and ask ourselves if we are doing the same thing?
The truth is we all have problems; we all have rough patches, bumps and mishaps; now some come in the form of cancer, dis-ease, financial loss, martial or family problems, and self insecurities that may in turn become horrible self destructive addictions. But these are purely learning lessons, some very difficult, some sudden, or seemingly unfair, but if you can step back from them a bit and trust that everything is in its perfect place and a learning opportunity we will only move forward leaving no one accountable for our actions except ourselves. My life has screamed this for as far as I can remember. As a young child I felt the need to fix everything, in my teens I struggled with a paralyzing eating disorder and then early into recovery our first daughter Faith at 28 weeks gestation was diagnosed with a irreversible condition that left her with a short life spent in my arms (and my husband’s). I had to choose each time to not see myself as a victim, to not blame everyone around me and to not blame myself. I choose at each moment (literally) to see what the silver lining was, to see that life was teaching me, Faith chose this life and chose me and my husband as part of her path and we to hers. She gave me personally many great things that I am grateful for and she would have not given me them any other way. Just like your current life and situation is giving you something right now to grow from, to help change your life and work through your karma.
So when we learn to honor ourselves, and act in a self-less way, we need to ask ourselves this “am I helping or hurting”, these choices should hold us accountable to our actions, words and thoughts. Remember the lady in McDonalds with the coffee, I believe that this episode paved the way for people to believe that self integrity, self responsibility and accountability will not get you what you want, we now live in a society that would rather divorce than admit that they were wrong, sue every company, person and organization than step up and do a little hard work and grow. Much of the ownership in today’s society comes in all the wrong forms. Respect is bought, stolen, or cheated, we are taught that honesty will not get you far in life, and we are taught to be enabled from early on.
Simply put, when we learn to respect ourselves, see the greater good in ourselves and lead by example what seems so hard, unfair or impossible only becomes the biggest stepping stone in your karmic journey. Sink or swim, look around is anyone really pushing you under? For me (during my eating disorder) I found I was letting myself drown, and manipulating those around me to keep me afloat just enough not to have to change.
So go out and take better care of yourself, but in that process seek awareness and understand that we are only given what we need and have asked for ourselves through our own choices and actions.
Pigeon is a yoga pose we all love to hate. Its dynamics are intense and liberating at the same time.
Pigeon can aid in a laundry list of issues and symptoms, but for many, pigeon is a pose that we often just flop into with no real direction or understanding of how we should position our body and why.
Pigeon is about unlocking our deepest fears, traumas and anxieties, a pose that releases the pressures put on our lower two chakras.
These lower two chakras, the root and the sacral; house our relationships with ourselves and our relationship between you and me (one on one).
It’s our grounding potential: our needs for survival, intimacy, trust and stability reside here.
Furthermore, it's been my observation that we're a society in dire need of grounding, releasing and developing trust. Moreover, it will be difficult to trust others if you don't trust yourself.
Having spent most of my life in recovery, I never really understood what that meant until I myself realized that I did not trust myself, honor myself and (to be blunt) like or love myself in any shape or form.
The anxiety I'd feel in pigeon was the same anxiety I was feeling in life, in those tight uncomfortable situations, and as I practiced and journeyed down the road of recovery I began to notice a huge parallel in the two experiences.
To me a big part of yoga is allowing yourself to feel, and what I mean is not just coming into class, flying around your mat for 75 minutes and then laying down and calling it a day.
Feeling on your mat means that yes you get in touch with your emotions, but also feeling in your body what is actually going on both on a physical level and an internal level. As we better understand what a pose is trying to offer us we can then better appreciate the need for it and maybe even sustain a longer period of time in the pose.
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Happy New Year! With each New Year comes yet another opportunity to regain a sense of self. Regain a sense of purpose and right attitude. I do my best to stay away from the news and adrenal overload fed media messages, but even when avoiding that stuff I am amazed at how much we as people feed into it. Commercials and television shows, new fitness fads and crazy diets. And somehow we as a people believe that this is a means to regain our sense of self, get our lives back so to speak. And what I have observed even more is that for whatever reason I notice people constantly saying in the new year or next week after such and such I will change this or stop doing that. So I wonder to myself what is so special about a day that we put off something we absolutely need or desire to do, to only self-sabotage for a few more days. So along comes the infamous New Year’s day and then for some reason the punishment starts; diets, boot camps and unhealthy “healthy” fasts and workout that are called insanity. Are we insane? Take a look at the few things I listed and notice what they all have in common…..one, they all are crazy and two, none of them offer us a sense of self-esteem, slow continuous change and an understanding as to why we are feeling the need to do these things in the first place.
Each year people ask me what my client retention is at the studio after the first of the year, and usually reply oh good, like anything we of course have a few new people come and a few old people come back and after a few months we have a few of those new people fade away and a few old people do the same. And what I continually remind people is that neither one outcome is good or bad but rather an important thing to remember is that change takes time, and change is hard, and real change takes effort and does not happen overnight. I struggled with an eating disorder for over ten years and I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I tried to stop, to cold turkey turn away from this daunting habit, an addiction-what I know as pure hell.
And maybe some of you are like me and wake up in the morning and say today I’m going to stop doing XYZ, only to find that three hours later you are doing the exact thing you said you were not going to do. And maybe you are also like me in that you get something in your head and instead of finding a healthy balance you go to the extreme and practically kill yourself in the hopes of getting the results you want at literally all costs.
What I am getting at is you can do all the Jillian Boot Camps and go inane on your insanity videos, cut out carbs, gluten, and drink only juice, but none of these things will help you to understand why in the first place you are doing the things you are doing or not doing the things you desire to do.
What you choose to offer yourself in the New Year should allow you to dig deep, be slow and steady and help you change your mind set and attitude. Because what good is a killer body if the person living inside it is rude, negative, insecure or scared.
So for the New Year consider five things:
1. Try adding something to your life that will nourish your soul a bit more.
All that bleeping, shouting, arguing, hitting we accept as normal, is not only imposing violence in us as adults but into our children as well. Choose to step away, and it is as simple as turning off the T.V. and turning on a family conversation.
2. Don’t start a gratitude journal. I love the idea, but to be honest, sharing what you are grateful for with those you love is much more empowering and nurturing for everyone involved. Plus if you have kids it shows them what gratitude really is and for a partner that may not see the light quite yet, may come around sooner than later.
3. Stop with the excuses. My yoga has allowed me to notice the large amount of excuses I was using at one time and now how many the world uses. One thing I have been working on for quite some time is to stop making excuses. Excuses as to why you haven’t been to yoga or why your kids are out of control, why you’re stressed or say you have no time. Realizing my excuses has allowed me to take back responsibility for my life, stop blaming and start living. I don’t get all done I would like but, I know it’s me that can change that, not everyone else.
4. Finally, commit to something. We all have these crazy big plans for the new year, class every day, health harming diets, earlier bed times, no candy for our kids, just to name a few, and the reality is that we just need to commit, and once we commit, realize that we need to start slow in order to find long term results. Few students I have that come three to four times a week started that way initially. Over time they saw value in the classes they were taking and they over time noticed their bodies change as well as their minds and relationships change. And most say it usually just happened without force.
So if you are forcing something in your life I urge you to step back and take a breath because an all or nothing attitude will usually leave you with all stress or nothing left to give.
Re think your plan of action for the new year and consider stepping back before going all in, because is what you are diving into going to help you resolve what the real issue is, and give you the long term happiness? The happiness we all are craving.
Image provided by: Quotes to Live By
With the New Year quickly approaching, it is hard not to hear people talking about change and New Year’s resolutions. Typically, people try to use the New Year as an opportunity to break old habits and take on something new. Whether this is how you feel or not, this year, instead of taking on something new, simply let go of your old ways and simplify your life.
Let go and you will discover a new you.1. Clear your closet. We hold on to our wardrobe for all sorts of reasons: lack of funds, memories, status, and sometimes a personal attachment. Seems harmless enough. But there’s emotional clutter that comes with busting closets and basement storage bins of clothes that are simply holding you back and keeping you from a better flow of energy, a new you. Let go of these clothes: a good rule of thumb is that every time you want to go shopping you have to purge a few things; when items are worn, torn and simply falling apart, retire the items to painting clothes, rags or, if in well enough condition, a thrift store.
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We all want it, that feeling, where we are overflowing with so much joy we cannot contain it. In the end, after we scrape away all the fluff of our desires, wants and needs, we all do really want the same thing: JOY. Pure blissful joy; a joy where our hearts sing and dance free from judgment; pure and simple joy.
If yoga does really mean to unite, a uniting coming from the Sanskrit root word yuj, it's important to understand that we're also working to unite with the Universal Consciousness, that which is all encompassing.
This uniting in some ways may have become a new catchphrase in yoga, an assumed understanding that we are one. And if you are like me, it can be difficult to truly understand this yoga without understanding the all-encompassing truth of what yoga is.
If you have ever traveled to India or have met someone from India and have had the ability to have a conversation with them about yoga, you may have discovered something quite astonishing. They laugh and haven’t a clue what you're talking about.
To them yoga is a way of life: do you not breathe every day? Do you not interact with the world around you, eat your food, drink your water? Are you not listening to your body’s daily needs? This is all yoga.
To me, yoga is simply a way to live, a guide to keep me moving forward, not just a once a week asana practice.To read the rest of this article by Hope Zvara visit MindBodyGreen
1. Performing sit-ups will increase back health. In all reality there is very minimal research and true testimony to support this concept. The quality of actual core development you receive during core work on your back with full flexion of the lumbar spine in combination with excessive and repetitive disc stresses; this can in fact lead to lumbar damage in most people. National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health states that repeatedly compressing the spine to levels higher than the NIOSH standards in a repeat fashion has been shown to increase the risk of low back disorders (Axler and McGill 1997).
2. Strengthening your back will aid in protecting your back from injury. You would think this to be true and many use this catch phrase to assure people that what they are teaching is helpful rather than hurtful. But it is important to understand that muscles work as a team and just because you are strengthening your back does not take into account that you won’t throw it out again or that your chances of injury will be lessened. Your back is a part of your unique core circuit and when I care for my own body and other people’s bodies, I try to make it a point to help people understand that they body should not be segmented into tiny little muscles or controlled areas, but rather seen as a unit. Think of back care as full body care. Many of times the need for back care is really an issue with the hip flexors, or sacrum, hamstrings, even the arches of the feet.
3. Stop crunching your vertebrae. And I mean exactly that. As a yoga teacher and educator in core health, I have seen huge success and head way for those who change their approach to back bending. Most of us lean back and call it a back bend, only to leave the back, particularly the lower lumbar and sacrum to suffer. Now that suffering may not be felt today or even in the next year, but that build up of negative compression over time will eventually lead to an unexpected pain or injury. Utilizing your pelvic floor and leading with your pelvis can allow you to feel a more complete spinal opening and also receive release in the groin, an area we have muscles attaching in and locating their opposite ends at our lower back and ribs. So stand up, find neutral, activate your pelvic floor and torso circuit and inhale raise your arms and leading with your pelvis lean back. Let your spine, neck and head follow in the action of the pelvis rather than the neck and head flailing back as a means to go deeper.
4. Strength and stretch simultaneously. When you work with back care do you find you have separate moves for strengthening and separate moves for stretching? If so, why? What if every pose was its own counter pose, what if what you were doing was able to work the entire body and the back reaps the benefits.
5. Our back muscles cover our kidneys which is an area all about detoxifying and letting go. You can do all the physical exercise you want, but sometimes the physical ailments you are feeling are of something much deeper. Look at your person body, mind and spirit. When I work with students one-on-one or in a group, I am constantly reminding them that their life and issues are not separate of their physical bodies. Our bodies are like a filing cabinet, and if they have not been emptied out in thirty years, well then, I think you get the idea.
6. Finally, in the end how you care for your back is really a mental change even more than a physical one. We as a society (this is just a generalization, not everyone) have a: give it to me now, quick fix attitude. And that attitude will reflect in our bodies’ responses to healing. If you want to improve flexibility, strength, or heal an injury, we need to start understanding and addressing that those things take time, both as the student and as the teacher to develop and maintain. A little goes a long way. Be detailed in what you are teaching and ask questions as a student. Just getting the movement done is not enough and just because something is hard or you are moving quickly doesn’t mean it’s healthy. So if your back could talk what would it say to you today?
Staff of Brahman is a wonderful warm up or wake up that can leave you with every muscle stretched and toned in just a few minutes. Replace your Sun Salutation today with Staff of Brahman and give your body something new to talk about.
Our voice is such a powerful tool as teachers. We can direct the class towards a certain feeling or experience simply by changing the tone of our voice.
Our voice is also our fifth chakra the Throat Chakra, our voice center, our center of communication, of speech, of being heard. And as a yoga teacher how you express yourself in your voice can and does make a world of difference in the effectiveness of your teachings. So speak up and speak out.
Watching the tone of your voice, and changing the inflection to help facilitate your point or emphasis on the pose or the message you are trying to get across can help by leaps and bounds when guiding students into a deep and meaningful practice on all levels.
By changing your voice tone you also help catch wandering minds and bring them back. Because if you don't seem very enthused to be there--why should they? We often see yoga and think "zen" and yes that is true, but also remember that you are creating a dialogue, so to speak with your students. So know that it is OK to laugh, to get excited, to show power in your voice and show sympathy, all through how you speak.
As a yoga teacher speaking up entails way more than you would normally think. As a yoga teacher you are asked to speak your truth, share your heart and empower yourself with the energy and knowledge that life is teaching you. To be a yoga teacher will push your boundaries more than you will ever imagine and it is unlike any other teaching because you are offering a part of yourself in a way only yoga can offer it.
I am a huge communicator and love the concepts of communication, public speaking, writing and expression on all levels. Yoga is a practice that thrives on this and to be an effective yoga teacher you really must be an effective communicator. And if for some reason you can't speak due to a cold or whatever that voice has to come out through mindful actions and breathing. If you don't seem too enthused to be teaching, don't expect your students to be too enthused to be on their mat with you.
So start your class off on the right breath and introduce yourself to new students, ask about issues or concerns, why they are in class (create that dialogue), use your voice and pitch while teaching to emphasis your point and direction and never to forget to offer gratitude and thank students for coming, for there efforts, and a little humbleness along the way never hurts as well.
So go out and be mindful, speak up!
Let me know how your communication is communicating!
1. Location, location, location. Think of where you would want this space. Somewhere tucked away, somewhere you pass daily in your home or office. Your night stand, a living room shelf, maybe a set aside room. For me I have 2, my kitchen sink, here I have displayed sacred, meaningful things that remind me to get centered. And my second is my office/yoga room; here my books and yoga mat and props are waiting for me each day. If you are going to practice in that space maybe consider facing east if you are going to practice in the morning and west if you are to practice in the evening.
2. Create an altar, or some sort of stand or focal point. Where can you look to as a reminder each day a mini temple of sorts.
3. Go green, plants that is. Having live foliage is a wonderful way to clear the air and give a feeling of new life and energy. Choose plants that are soothing, uplifting and centering.
4. Daily inspiration at your fingertips. Have available and waiting things like angel cards, devotional prayer books, meditations, possibly your rosary or mala; something that you can go to each time you step into the space.
5. Photographs of teachers, places family and friends. These are all good reminders to keep you grounded and remember you have a great support team.
6. Meaningful items. Is there anything meaningful to you that you use for inspiration, centering, keep that in your sacred space. A letter from a close friend, a favorite stone, a memento from a passed elder or teacher. Something that allows you to connect.
7. A journal. If it allows journal daily and this is the perfect place to do this, your thoughts, intentions, desires and what it is you are hoping to release. Here it can manifest in a safe, healthy environment.
8. Don’t forget to clear the clutter. Our energy can often times get misdirected when clutter is present. Remove old useless items, garbage, and put away items that have been left out before and after you use the space to keep good energy flowing.
9. If possible have a no cell phone policy. If this space is going to be the place that you go to refuel and reload, if possible keep the electronics at bay, if possible place a sign on the door that says do not disturb. Even just 5 minutes for you a day can make a world of wonder.
10. Use the space. Remember to create a space in a space that will be user-friendly to you and workable for your lifestyle. For me that is why I have two spaces, one that is solely mine and one that is more of a family space. No matter what you do, or where you decide to create this space know that it will hold everything for you that you put into it. Namaste.