Balance

This week marked my very first speaking engagement at a conference as a yoga professional.  I had the pleasure of engaging a group of over 100 parents, caregivers, teachers, and health professionals at the Children Come First Conference put on by Wisconsin Family Ties in Wisconsin Dells.  The topic of my presentation was Mindfulness and Yoga geared toward helping kids (and those who love them) cultivate mindfulness as a tool for confidence, lessening stress, minimizing anxiety, finding patience, and nurturing peace.  Let me tell you this:  what a wonderful group (and a bunch of you signed up to follow this blog, so Hey Everyone!).  

During the drive home after my workshop session, I thought a lot about balance.  The people who attended my session are juggling a lot.  So are all of you.  We are told to put on our own air masks before we help the person next to us, but let's be honest.  You don't do that, and either do I.  The craziest part about that is we know that in order to care for our family members or to be on the top of our games at work, we need to make sure we take care of ourselves.  We.  Know.  That.  But.......we don't do it consistently.  Let's start.  I'm in if you're in.

Balance

I love to do balance work in my yoga practice.  It doesn't let me lie.  If I fall out of tree pose, I know it's because my equilibrium is OFF.  Yoga makes me take a hard look in the mirror of self care.  I love/hate that about yoga.  

So, as the season of doing-everything-for-everyone-else-and-wearing-yourself-down arrives, join me in taking balance checks for your mental, spiritual, and physical well-being.  My family was inspired on a trip to the UW-Madison campus to photograph the poses for this post.  

Tree Pose

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Grounding and Liberating (Grow your roots by making your foundation strong with your standing foot.  Liberate yourself by extending through your crown and growing your branches.)

 

Plank

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Your core is strong.  Bring your shoulders back and shoulder blades toward each other to keep your shoulders safe.  Look forward and breath.  If you choose, challenge yourself to send your elbows straight back and close to your body as you lower to within an inch or two of the ground.  

Headstand/Standing Split/ Handstand

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The power is in your hands.  Place your weight there.  On all three, reach through your legs and feet.  More weight is in your hands than your head.  In the tripod pictured above, pull elbows toward each other.

Arm Balance

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Be a little crazy and try a crow or a baby grasshopper.  The worst that can happen is that you won't be able to do it this time.  The best thing is that you will surprise yourself.

Warrior 3

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Lift through that core and press through the foundation foot.  Play with your arm placement and feel the strength.  You are a warrior!  (One of my all time favorite poses)

 

Speaking of balance, please consider joining me for Sankulpa Yoga's very first weekend retreat.  The theme is Renewal....and that's all about finding balance.  It is going to be a wonderful weekend with lots of yoga, an iconic setting, awesome spa opportunities, delicious food and refreshments, some hygge, relaxation by the fire, excursions, whatever you want to do.  Read more HERE. 

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Peace and Light,

Lori

The Big Chill

It happened again.  The warm weather has ended, and cold is creeping in for the season.  If you are a winter person, then this is outstanding news for you!  If you are more of a summer person, then....well.

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There is something we can all do to combat the effects of the cold on our bodies.  Whether young or more mature, cold weather tends to stiffen our joints.  If you take a few Yoga Breaks throughout your day, I promise that you will feel a difference and more comfort in your body.  

5 minutes total, and you are set:

Begin with a thought of gratitude toward something in your life.

Cat/Cow - Standing, table top pose, or seated works just fine.  Inhale shoulder blades toward each other, tailbone lifted, head back.  Exhale drop head and tailbone with shoulders forward and back rounded.  Repeat slowly with full breaths 5-7 times.

Forward Fold/Monkey Pose -  Exhale into a forward fold (you can stand or sit....maybe try both).  Knees can be slightly bent.  Let upper body hang heavy.  (Great way to let gravity unkink your neck).  Inhale halfway up, straightening legs, looking forward, sending shoulders back.  Repeat sequence with your breath 3-5 times.

Side Stretches - Stand tall and inhale arms straight overhead.  Exhale as you lean your upper body to one side.  Inhale back upright.  Exhale to other side.  Repeat slowly with your breath 3-5 times on each side.

Knee Hugs / Wrist Rolls / Ankle Rolls - Standing or seated, inhale to hug one knee straight in toward your chest.  If you are standing, lengthen through the opposite leg to also sneak in a hip flexor (psoas) stretch.  Take 5-7 slow breaths.  Release on an exhale and switch sides.  With your breath, take some slow wrist and ankles rolls in each direction.

Finish with a reconnecting to the thought of gratitude with which you began.


Awesomeness Coming Up With Sankulpa Yoga:

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Spaces are filling up for Sankulpa Yoga's first weekend retreat. 

This year's theme is:  Relax, Refresh, and Renew

Learn More and Register Here

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Mindfulness and Perspective

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Coming to you from St. Louis, MO!  I'm here for a softball tournament for my daughter with the whole family (minus Riley, the golden retriever love of our lives).  The weather has been cold for softball, but it's a new city for us to explore, and we are having fun.

Mindfulness and Perspective.  These two words have had a larger than average presence in my life recently.  I've been challenged with deciding what my purpose is supposed to be and with how to deal with a kick-to-the-gut realization.  But really, all of you have dealt with things like this.....and more.  I have a friend who is finishing chemotherapy for breast cancer this month.  She's a warrior.  Talk about mindfulness and perspective, right?  Send her some love and positive vibes, please.

Mindfulness allows us to "live in the moment" and to be present.  Perspective encourages us to take a look at where we are and to be honest about what we need to do with our circumstances in that moment.  Not easy.  And truly, everything is relative.  We can't discount our own sadness, fear, anxiety, worry because someone else might be suffering in a different way that we consider to be "more".  We need to be ok with acknowledging the shit we are wading through.  No wallowing.   Just accepting so that we can wade through to the other side and move on to better things.  

So, be kind to yourself as the days get shorter.  Be calm when the tides get rough.  Be sympathetic to yourself and to others around you,  We are all wading through something, and we can find unity through that at the very least.

I have a couple of lovely opportunities coming up to help you to be mindful, find perspective and be good to yourself.  Sign up if one (or both) sound right for you:

I'm teaching an Aromatherapy and Yoga workshop at Trillium Yoga in Antioch on November 11.  Read more about it and sign up here .  I think you might love it.

Also, I'm leading my very first yoga retreat.  It's Sankulpa's Yoga for Renewal Retreat, and I'm holding it at The Abbey on Lake Geneva during the first weekend of February.  Please join me.  I promise to make it the yoga retreat that you need in order to Relax, Refresh, and Renew.  Register here.  Contact me if you have any questions.  I would love to have you attend.  

Please find the small moments for gratitude, pleasure, and peace this week.  You deserve it, and this earth benefits from you being kind to yourself.

Namaste,  Lori

Promises

"She was an American girl, raised on promises........."

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And so the song goes.  (RIP, Tom Petty)

Do you feel like you were raised on promises?  Ideas of what your life should be, could be, would be....if only?  If you were, what are the promises you were raised upon during your formative years?  And, most importantly, where did these promises come from?

If anyone other than you made promises about how your life would ultimately turn out, then your disappointment in the lack of fruition can only be blamed on one person.  Sorry, but yes, that person is you.

Make promises to yourself.  Keep them.  If you seek a healthier version of yourself, then make a plan and stick to it.  If you desire a way out of your job, then train or apply or think outside the box.  If there is a relationship in your life that is unhealthy, then sit down with that person to fix it or get the hell out of there.  Am I oversimplifying?  Sure.  But, your life is your one shot to do what you need to or want to do on this earth.  Do not squander it.  If this last couple of years has taught me anything, it's to value your people, take the leap, speak your mind, and dance when you are presented with the opportunity.  

Just promise me one one thing.....that you will keep a promise to yourself that counts.


 

Please join me for our first Yoga for Renewal Retreat.  It'll be great!  I honestly cannot wait to share this weekend retreat with you.  And if you are an educator, you can sign on for the one credit companion course too.  Contact me with any questions.  :)  And have a beautiful week.

 

 

October is Here - Do you have 5 Minutes to Spare?

I love October in Wisconsin.  The weather, the landscape, the flavors, the sweaters to wear....sigh.  I.  Love.  It. 

October is the beginning of the cozy seasons - autumn and winter.  While I love sunny and warm, crisp and chilly is pretty wonderful too.

And here's something to think about this month........

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If you are reading this blog, you must be at least a little bit interested in yoga.  Lots of people tell me that they want to begin a yoga practice, but they are busy, not flexible, old, tired, uncoordinated, self conscious, overweight, and the list goes on.  The thing is, bringing yoga into your life is possible in spite of any of those excuses and more.  And when I say the word "excuses," I say it with no judgment.  

You can start your practice this week (today!) with five minutes of yoga. 

Begin by sitting in comfortable stillness while you breathe through your nose with even and slow inhales and exhales.  Focus on just paying attention to your breath.  When other thoughts find there way in, gently dismiss them.  (1-3 minutes)

Move on to the next part of this 5-minute practice.  While seated, inhale and reach up.  Exhale and float your hands down to your sides.  Repeat slowly 5-10 times.

Now stand in Mountain Pose and begin the following flow:  Inhale to upward facing salute (arms extended overhead and looking up). Exhale to forward fold. Inhale to unfolding halfway. Exhale to forward fold.  Inhale to upward facing salute, just as at the beginning of this flow and repeat the whole thing 3-5 times.  Move slowly and with your breath.  After your last upward facing salute, exhale hands in anjali mudra (prayer pose with hands near heart) in front of you.  

And here are some photos to guide you from the Sankulpa Yoga archives.

Mountain Pose

Mountain Pose

Forward Fold (Modification:  Knees bent with hands on shins)

Forward Fold (Modification:  Knees bent with hands on shins)

Unfolding halfway (hands may be on shins)

Unfolding halfway (hands may be on shins)

Let's build upon this next week.  If you want more, great!  Go for it!  However, 5 minutes every day will have a positive effect on your life.  I promise.  <3  


If you haven't yet, please, please read about Sankulpa Yoga's very first retreat.  I hope you can join me, and if not, will you please share it on social media?  I'm working to make this a first in a line of many yoga retreats designed for everyone.  Everyone:  meaning everyone.  Thank you.

Planned Spontaneity

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Well.....hello.  We are settling into fall and getting comfortable with the change in schedule that a new season brings.  It always feels like summer will be laid back with lots of free time, doesn't it?  But that's never how it goes, and I should know better by now.  I'm grateful for the busyness that is summer for us, because it's a lot of fun stuff.  When autumn does roll around, however, I am usually ready for a schedule that is more defined.

Yoga is similar for me.  There's something to be said for coming to my mat and just letting the practice develop by "going with the flow" rather than planning sequences.  That is difficult for me.  I struggle with just letting things happen on the mat.  If I begin with a goal, it goes better for me.  For example, if I know that I'm going to focus on hips, then I can flow better.  I've got to have a plan in my spontaneity, and I'm literally rolling my eyes at myself as I write this, but it's true.  And, honestly, it's just fine that that's what I need for my practice to flow and to keep growing it.

When I do judge the way I approach my practice, that makes it harder to get to my mat and to stay there.  The I should be's and the Why don't I's can undermine our best efforts.  So, with my first post after a month and a half of getting lost in the rhythm of life (and liking it), I invite you to try with me to find your own flow, accept it for whatever it is, and.............just see where it takes you........you might find yourself on a wonderful new path.

And now, announced here first for my wonderful Sankulpa Yoga blog subscribers and readers.......

Yoga for Renewal Retreat

The Abbey Resort and Avani Spa

February 2-4, 2018

You guys!  It's my first retreat, and you are invited.  I will officially announce it later this week, but it's announced here first and open to anyone 21 or older, no matter your yoga experience (and definitely keep reading if you are an educator):

Included in Registration:  6 ALL Levels classes of different platforms (essential oils, restorative, vinyasa, vin, etc), 2 nights' lodging at the Abbey Resort, Friday dinner, Saturday/Sunday breakfasts, 15% off spa appointments on 2/2 or 2/4, and a special welcome bag of gifts.

If you are an educator looking to renew your license, you can also sign up for the Companion Course for this retreat through which you can earn a professional development graduate credit from Carthage College

Also Available for You to Do: take the free shuttle to Lake Geneva to shop or to attend their Winterfest events, sit by the bonfire at the Abbey (and maybe enjoy a s'more), book a spa service, hang out at the Avani Spa Atrium and Pool (adults only), hike, gather for evening social time, attend a dinner off-site with the group, and whatever else you'd like to do.  Too busy sounding?  Snuggle up by the fire with your book, sip a coffee on your own or wth a friend, take a quiet winter walk, heck..take a nap if you want to do that!  The point is, this weekend is for you to Relax, Restore, and Renew.

Registration Fee Information:

Double Occupancy $425 / Single Occupancy $550 - Add on the Companion Course for $100 (plus $10 admissions fee if you have never before taken a course from Carthage College)

Renewing opportunities for all.  :)  

Registration will open Monday, September 18.  Space is limited. 

If you register with payment in full and share knowledge of this retreat with a friend who also ends up registering and paying in full, you will receive a referral gift......and it's a good one! 

Please contact me directly or comment below with any questions you have.  (I hope you can join me!)

Road Trip!

We will be in Tennessee when this blog post reaches you.  Taking a road trip is always fun, and this one should be no different.  Everyone piles into the mini van (dog too), and we head out with snacks, knitting (me), and a sense of adventure for the whole family.  Solo road trips are fun too, especially if you are heading toward a fun event or fun people.

The only problem with this is..........figuring out how to maintain your yoga practice while on the road.  It is a challenge.  If flying instead of driving, taking a travel mat that folds into a suitcase is helpful.  Otherwise, lots of hotels have mats that guests can borrow or rent.

Then it's doing the yoga practice itself.  It would be fun to take a yoga class in a city you are visiting at a studio (and I'll let you know if I try that...would love to).  Otherwise, just free flow it.  Stretch and flow.  It might feel silly at first, but I'll bet it works out just fine.  The other option is to find a YouTube class that you like.  There are literally zillions.  It isn't the same as attending a class in person with a real live yoga instructor (like moi), but it has its advantages.  Two of my favorites on YouTube are Yoga with Adriene and Yoga by Candace.  If you try one of them, I'd love to know what you think.

I'll be thinking about you while I'm getting my yoga on in Tennessee and hoping that you are finding your practice too while I'm gone.

Peace,

Lori

 

A Little Yoga Sequence for Hip Comfort

There's a lot going on in the summertime.  Driving long distances for vacations, walks on sandy beaches, sitting on bleachers to watch games or concerts, and taking part in sports.  All of this stuff creates hip stress, if we don't give our hips some loving attention.  

Think about it.  Sitting keeps our hip flexors in the same position for an extended period of time.  Beach action means walking with a different gait on a somewhat unstable surface.  And becoming golfers and softball players or what have you after a more sedentary season of winter can surprise our hips into balking at all the sudden activity.

There's a way to do all these summertime grooving things, though.  Just stretch properly and build some strength.  And I'm talking to everyone.  If any of you have been following me long enough, you know I'm a hip flexor / psoas nerd.  This large muscle group can help us to feel comfort and peace or can cause us pain, stress, and anxiety.  A healthy psoas can be your best friend, and it's one of the secrets to a more easeful lifestyle.

Below is a little sequence with modifications for everyone interested in finding more comfort in their hip flexors.  I hope you enjoy.

Supine Psoas St-re-tchchchch - Hug in one knee and lengthen the other leg.  Flex both feet.  Relax your shoulders.  Now, reach the extended leg's foot toward an imaginary wall.  With each exhale, reach that leg a little longer.  This helps to gently stretch the psoas muscle on that side.  After 7-10 breaths here, inhale knees toward chest and exhale the opposite leg long to stretch the other side.

 

Gentle Sacrum Massage - Hug it in and make circles with your breath on the flat part of your low back, the sacrum.

Table Walk to Reverse Vinyasa - Come to tabletop pose and then walk your knees back.  Loop your shoulders so that your shoulder blades come toward each other on your back.  Send your elbows straight back as you exhale and lower your hips to the mat, then your belly, and then your heart space.  Once your forehead kisses the mat, inhale and reverse the flow back to table top.  Then exhale your hips back to balasana, child's pose.  Breath 7-10 breaths here.  (Uncomfortable?  Settle a blanket or cushion between your bum and your heels.)

Uttanasana / Ardha Uttansana Flow - My go to after sitting, before and after running, and when I just feel uncomfortable in general.  Give loving attention to the back of your hip flexors in order to ease the front. It's all connected....  So, exhale into forward fold (uttanasana).  Bend into your knees a bit, and send your belly toward your thighs.  Let your hands rest on the mat or your feet or a block (no dangling!) and let your head hang loose.  Now, inhale to send your thigh bones back and your hips.  Straighten into the legs and lift your upper body halfway.  Send your shoulders away from your ears and look forward.  Again, no dangling hands.  Support them onto your shins, thighs, or the floor.  Inhale and exhale as you  slow transition back and forth between these two standing poses.

Anjaneyasana -  From forward fold, step the left foot back and lower that knee to the mat.  Loop shoulders up and back and sent heart forward.  Exhale hips forward.  Play a bit here to see where the stretch feels right, but be gentle.  Before stepping forward to switch sides, take the next pose below.

Utthan Pristhasana - Taking a modified version of lizard pose, send the left hand to the inside of the left foot.  Walk the left foot toward the edge of the mat.  Stay here or lift your back knee off the mat.  Loop you shoulders back so that your heart leads the way.  Take 7-10 breaths here, or lower forearms to the floor (or a block) to deepen the stretch.  

Exhale knee back to the mat.  Walk left foot back in a bit, and move the left hand to the outside of the left foot. Inhale and step the back foot up to meet its mate.  Exhale to forward fold.  Inhale and root to rise (press feet into the mat) as you come to upward facing solute.  Exhale back to forward fold and take the other side for Anjaneyasana and Utthan Pristhasana.

Constructive Rest Pose - After second side, settle onto your back for a savasana variation.  This one is called CRP (pretty technical, right?)  It stands for Constructive Rest Pose.  Settle the sacrum onto the floor.  Place your feet parallel and slightly wider than your hips.  Send your knees straight up to the sky.  Nestle your shoulder blades beneath you and place your hands on your belly.  Breathe and rest for 5 minutes (or as long as you are able)

Wishing you peace and happy hips.

Namaste!

 

 

Hygge

Close your eyes and picture your perfect setting for peace, comfort, coziness, and ease.  The scene varies from person to person.  For many of us, the scenario includes people we love.  There might be warmth from the sun or a fireplace.  Certain food or drink might be involved.  

The Danes have this scenario down to a science.  They call it hygge.  Pronounced "hoo-gah",  many credit it as one of the big reasons that Denmark consistently rates among the happiest countries in the world.  I'm intrigued by the concept and am reading up on it in The Little Book of Hygge.  Its author Meik Wiking (also CEO of Copenhagen's Happiness Research Institute) refers to hygge as "the art of creating intimacy," "the absence of annoyance," and my personal favorite, "coziness of the soul."

That last one hits home for me, because it is exactly how I would describe the effects of a consistent personal yoga practice. People practice yoga for different reasons, and I practice for several reasons.  However, that coziness of the soul definition is the circumference around all of the reasons I practice.  

Yoga can make us feel more physically comfortable in our bodies.  I can sit, stand, and move with greater ease when I practice regularly.  I feel like my body is something powerful and a tool to help me accomplish my goals.

Yoga gives one a feeling of lightness.  It's not as if I walk around surrounded by rainbows and blooming flowers, but I find that regular yoga better enables me to access that little space inside where I cultivate peace and happiness during my practice whenever I need it.  I am less anxious and feel more joy with regular practice.  And funny about the lightness is that good lighting is one of the big pieces of hygge.  The Danes love their lighting and their candles.  I agree.  It's just a softer and prettier way to view the space around us.

I'm really working on maintaining a daily yoga practice.  So far, so good for the last three weeks or so.  Some days, rather than taking a yoga class (rare lately) or doing a home practice, yoga happens with my students in yoga classes.  Other days, it's a yoga-inspired running warm up.  Occasionally, I only take 5 minutes of sitting still and breathing mindfully.  It's all yoga, and it all counts toward the good stuff that yoga does for me.  

Pretty soon, a little yoga sequence will appear each week in this space with the blog.  I hope that it will bring you hygge and inspire a regular practice.  I am convinced that yoga can enrich every person's life.  I'm here to help you get started.

Peace and Light,

Lori

 

 

The Mental Game

I'm writing this from a hotel room in Naperville, Illinois with my daughter Delaney sleeping one bed over.  We are here for a softball tournament, and tomorrow holds a 5:30 a.m. wake up call.  I had planned to write about something else this week, but lately Delaney's softball and her brother Aidan's baseball experiences have led me in another direction for this blog post.

You may or may not know that in sports, the mental game is at least as important as the physical game.  The brain can be your biggest asset or your most potent adversary in sports. 

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Lately, they've both been struggling at the plate.  It happens to everyone on or off the field.  The s-l-u-m-p (we don't say the word out loud) began innocently enough with a couple bad games of striking out.  As the games of disappointing at-bats continued, other problems began to creep into both their games.  They were inside their heads with worry and stress over not hitting, and it spread like a virus to fielding.  The cause of the problem was letting the fact that they weren't hitting get to them....and fester with rumination.  It seemed that the harder they worked to correct the problem, the more it persisted.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Rome wasn't built in a day, and the s-l-u-m-p will not be corrected in one at bat for either of them.  At the advice of her coach, Delaney has been picturing positive outcomes before each at bat.  I've been walking Aidan through some guided positive visualization on the way to practices (He does this with a peanut butter sandwich in one hand sometimes.  I'm not sure if that helps or hurts the process).

The idea of visualizing positive outcomes is powerful.  I think the reason it works is because it knocks us out of the downward spiral of negative self talk......and negative language.

For example, instead of telling themselves, "Don't strike out," we encourage them each to say, "I will get a hit."   (Like I try to remember to tell myself, "I'm going to let it go," instead of, "I'm not going to get mad about that.")  Negative words bring about negative thoughts....no matter the context in which they are used.  Better to self talk in positive phrases.  

I feel like Delaney is really working on being mindful of the positives.  Aidan is going through the motions, but I'm confident he will get there.  That's the difference between being fourteen and just barely eleven years old.  They will both come out the other side of this, and Delaney is already seeing the light on the other side of it.  Hopefully, in the long run, they will be wiser for having gone through this challenge in that they realize the power of using positive thinking and self talk skills to help them out throughout their lives.  I hope I remember to do it more often too, because it works.


Update:  Last week's Try it for a Week post was a fun experiment.  I did cut way down on my scrolling on social media, but I caught myself doing it more often than I liked.  I noticed that I scrolled when I was tired.  I'm not sure what that means, other than that I am less likely to make good decisions when I'm not awake and alert.  I will continue to work on this one, because I noticed really being able to be more present.  How did your little experiment go?

Next up?  #yogaeverydamnday for 30-days.....and beyond

 

Try It for a Week

Happy Summer!  This past week saw the summer solstice and International Yoga Day.  Historically, summer solstice is seen by some as the coming of happiness.  This has to do with the seasonal coming out of darkness into the light.  I like that.  So, not only do I challenge you to do something this summer purely out of happiness, but I also challenge you to seek the happiness you crave.

One way to do this is to try new things.  What is something simple that you've wanted to try?  Reach your daily step goal?  Go to bed earlier?  Cook at home more often?  Allow yourself to dismiss minor irritations (or irritating people)?  It must be something.  

Take a look at this short TED talk below that I listened to last week.  The idea is making small changes to work toward sustainable habits.  Then, think about choosing something today that you want to commit to doing (or not doing) for the next seven days, starting today.  Maybe you try a 30 day challenge after that - or even starting with July 1.

For me, a big challenge is the ability to not get sucked into social media.  I might go onto Facebook to post a yoga class reminder.  Twenty minutes later, I'll find myself scrolling through the feed without ever having achievement my purpose of making that post.  This mindLESSness makes me irritated with myself.  It's a time suck.  I also am apt to find a comment that upsets me while I'm scrolling. 

So, in my ongoing attempt to be more mindFULL (pardon the intentional misspelling for the sake of impact, please), I commit to a "no scrolling" challenge for the next seven days.  I will have to go on social media to post for certain reasons, and there are people and groups with which I need to check in, but I will go directly to those pages on social media and not engage in mindLESS scrolling.  I'll let you know how it goes next week.  And, hey, let me know how your challenge goes too in the comments below.  If you want to share a 30 day challenge you plan to begin, I'd love to hear about it so that I can encourage you.  Who knows?  We might even start some good long term or lifelong habits this week to promote our happiness.

Please have yourself a week of kindness and peace.

Lori

 

image courtesy pixabay.com

No Way Around

Do you know what this is?  This, my friends, is a living metaphor.  The two-lane US highway outside my neighborhood has been completely torn up for construction.  This highway is the only route for us to get to civilization (ie:  grocery store, gas station, work, school, STARBUCKSFORCRYINGOUTLOUD)  Getting out of the neighborhood is not easy.  Sometimes getting back in is difficult.  Things seem to be behind schedule too.  <<sigh>>

On the day of this photo, I'd finally gotten out of the neighborhood to find myself stuck behind slow moving farm equipment.  However, like I always tell my kids, "Getting impatient and wanting farm equipment to move faster isn't helpful.  Remember that without farmers, there'd be no food."  So, I was ok with my situation.  However, seeing the orange cones that would have prevented a quick escape anyway just seemed too perfect a representation of life.  I could not resist a photo.  I was going so slowly that taking the picture while driving wasn't even remotely dangerous either.

So if a picture speaks a thousand works, then this one might say, "Slow down and don't pass.  Even if you could get around this obstacle, the road is too rough to go faster anyway."  (And that's only 22 words.)

How many times does your body or spirit tell you to slow your roll, take your time, think it through?   But then on the inside, you hear yourself saying, Let's go!  Hurry up!  Get out of my way!  Yep.  You're human.  That is going to happen.  But what if a rough road, orange cones, and slow farm equipment MADE you slow down.  What then?  Would you get irritated, or might you feel a little bit of relief in having the decision made for you?  (I pick the second one!) 

Author Iain Thomas said, "And every day, the world will drag you by the hand, yelling, 'This is important!  And this is important!  And this is important!  You need to worry about this!  And this!  And this!'  And each day, it's up to you to yank your hand back, put it on your heart, and say, 'No.  This is what's important.'"

Thank goodness for the season of construction and farm equipment on the country highways to help us remember that.  (She said honestly and without a trace of sarcasm)

If you'd like a little help slowing down, join us on Friday mornings at 8:00 am at the Pringle Nature Center for yoga.  This class is for all levels.  I'll modify for whoever comes to class.  The woods is our back drop and the birds are our sound track.  Preregister under the "yoga classes and workshops" tab.  I'd love to see you there.  <3  

(Happy Fathers' Day!)

Shape Shifting

I completely missed writing a blogpost last week!  When I realized my miss, I started to put something together a day late, but then I decided to just let things be.  What I did instead was reflect on the past year.  This blog is a year and a two weeks old.  It was born at the same time I was planning to begin Sankulpa Yoga and as I was finishing up my 6-months long yoga teacher training.

Last year brought other changes.  For one, my mom died after a long illness, and I spent my first Mothers' Day motherless.  That prompted me to spend a lot of time reflecting on my life and what I wanted to get out of it.  Yoga was a perfect teacher for that.  The continuous education of mindfulness in yoga is probably the biggest gift I've received over this past year.  I'm still learning, and I fail often, but I think I do a better job with stress and worrying than in the past.

Over the past year, I've worked on what I want Sankulpa Yoga to look like.  I've tried a few things that I ended up discarding, but that's a natural progression for growth, isn't it?  Slowly, a shape for Sankulpa Yoga is forming.   

We do this all the time in our lives too.  Every year that we live, our life shifts shape.  The shape changes over time, but it continues to form.  The beauty of getting older is seeing the shape your life has taken and loving it.  

But what if you don't love the shape of your life?  Well, you change it.  You take out the eraser and shave off the sides that don't fit you.  Then you let the shape reform.  Is it easy?  Few things that are worthwhile are easy.  We all know that.  But it is rewarding and life enriching.  Also, the process is yours and for you to decide.  What is the shape of your life?  What do you love about it?  What do you want to change?  What will your shape look like next?


Sankulpa Yoga's emerging shape:

  • Yoga for Athletes - training sessions available to teams 
  • Preschool Yoga - sessions at preschools and daycares for movement and mindfulness
  • Yoga in Schools - workshop for educators
  • Group and Private Yoga Classes (including community-based donation yoga)
  • Retreats and Half Day Workshops - Yoga, Reiki, and Essential Oils ....coming soon

photo courtesy pixabay.com

Mercury In Retrograde: A Good Time for Self Care

So, how has the last month gone for you?  Not so good?  I'm hear to tell you that you are not alone.  I mean, everything is relative, and one person's not so good month might be a lot better than someone else's not so good month, but.......the planetary alignment was not really treating anyone kindly.

Mercury was in retrograde from April 9 through May 3 this year.  

What does that mean?  Literally, it means that during that time, mercury, the planet that is nearest to our sun and that orbits it the fastest, appears to be moving backwards.  It's not really, but because of how earth's and mercury's orbits run in relation to each other, every once in awhile, mercury's speed seems to slow enough to make it look like it's moving in the opposite direction around the sun.  This is a real thing.  I read about it on Nasa's website.

The argument is whether or not mercury's retrograde phases effect our lives.  Scientific research says no, but it really seems otherwise.  I challenge you to look back on your life from April 9 through May 3.  As for me, I fell down the stairs, we had a variety of viruses run through the house, the dog randomly threw up a lot, we had an onslaught of carpenter ants in the kitchen, and a few other things that went wrong all in an amazing cluster of misfortune.  Nothing major, mind you, but it was irritating just the same.  

Whether mercury is in retrograde or not, it's important to take care of yourself.  Not only should you do this so that you can be better for the people around you, but do it for yourself and for yourself alone.  It's your life.  You deserve to get rid of the gunk and to savor the nice little moments that you create for yourself.  Yes, you do have time.  Please take 5-15 minutes a day this week to do something good for you.  Take more time if you can, but be religious about the 5-15 minute daily minimum.  And then continue doing that every week.  I guarantee that you will notice a change for the positive.

Yoga for Self Care

Ksepana Mudra to remove negativity:  Make sure your left thumb is on top of the right.  Take this mudra when you need to find positive thoughts, release negative experiences, and escape from depression or anxiety.  

ksepanamudra.JPG

Child's Pose for feelings of safety:  (Balasana) You can try this with knees wide or closer together.  Arms can be reaching forward for a good armpit stretch, down along your side body, or whatever pose feels good for you.  Deep and even breathing will enhance the benefits of the pose.

Standing Half Forward Fold for grounding and balance:  (Ardha Uttanasana)  Press into the ground with all four corners of your feet, and use the strength of your legs to fold forward (exhale) and to stand straight (inhale).  

Supported Bridge Pose:  (Salamba Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) to reduce anxiety and for restorative purposes.  Feet are parallel and shoulder blades slightly tucked underneath the body.  Left your chin away from your chest, but keep the back of the neck long.  Place a block or cushion underneath the flat portion of your low back (the sacrum) and breath evenly in this pose for 5 mins or longer.

Supported Savasana:  Support your back, shoulders, neck, and head during savasana.  Let go of your thoughts and pay no mind to your thoughts as you restore here for 5-10 minutes.  Savasana is said to be the most important yoga pose.  

The next time mercury will be in retrograde is August 13 - September 5.  Practice your self care from now until then, and you will be ready!

 

photo of mercury courtesy pixabay.com

supported savasana is photobombed by Riley, our relatively lazy golden retriever

Restore and Renew

Restorative Yoga is something I've been studying up on recently.  If you aren't familiar, it involves using props to allow your body to reap the most benefit from each pose.  Restorative poses are held for at least five minutes and can be extremely relaxing.  Even though it might feel like your body is on a mini vacation while you do restorative yoga, it is a practice that is exceedingly good for you in body and in mind.  The following article lists 15 great reasons for trying restorative yoga:  Click HERE to read it.

Top on my list of reasons to practice restorative are these:  

  1. It helps to relieve stress.  Since stress can make you sick and depressed and block your ability to enjoy life, you could stop reading this list right now and get into one of the restorative poses below.  :)
  2. It can help you get a better night's sleep.  Hmmm, sleep better to feel better rested and to look better (or younger)?.....Yes, I'll take that.
  3. It can improve your ability to focus.  Or your child's ability to focus.  Or your partner's ability to focus.  You can all do this together. 

Who wants to give it a try?  

Here are just a few poses to try.  You will need a few simple props and to be dressed in comfortable clothes.  Begin with gentle stretches and twists so that when you do get into the poses, your body feels at ease.  Once in a pose, close your eyes, clear your mind (to the best of your ability without becoming irritated if you can't), breathe evenly and a little more deeply that usual, and just stay there for 5-10 minutes.  The longer length of time for holding the pose gives your body the chance to release, so that you can restore and find yourself feeling renewed.  These things take a bit of time, you know.  Finish off with savasana for 5-10 minutes too.  Let me know how this works for you!  And if you want more, read below for a special class I'm offering......

Gentle Backbend Over Blankets

Tri-fold a blanket and lie down with your spine along the length of it.  Place a small roll of blanket beneath your knees.  Slightly tuck your shoulder blades beneath you to open your heart.  Find your head in a position so that both the back of front of you neck is long.  Turn palms up and relax feet.


Supported Seated-Angle Pose

Set up a bolster or two stacked bed pillows with a tri-folded blanket.  Sit with this in front of you with one leg on either side of the bolster.  Inhale your spine long and relaxed.  Exhale and gently fold your upper body forward, bringing your elbows to the ground and your hands to the bolster, holding it lightly.  Bring your cheek to the blanket.  At your halfway point of holding this pose, inhale to lift your head and exhale as your turn it to the opposite side and rest the opposite cheek on the blanket.  Click on the photo to see the photo to the right for variations that might be comfortable.  (For example, I might put the blanket rolls beneath my knees even if I do not use a chair or other raised object).  **If your lower back feels too rounded, place a folded blanket beneath your seat.**


Reclining Twist with a Bolster (or a cushion or with blankets....whatever you've got....maybe a sleeping bag rolled up)  *Be sure to do this one in both directions.

Place a folded blanket over a bolster or two bed pillows.  Sit with your right hip close to the bolster.  Bend your knees toward you, with your right foot behind your left.  Lower yourself to the bolster, using your arms and elbows.  Inhale as you press your hands into the floor and lengthen your body.  Exhale as you lower yourself to the bolster resting your cheek on the blanket.  Rest elbows on the floor directly below the shoulders (adjust for comfort).  Repeat on your left side. 


Elevated Legs Up the Wall

Sit with one hip against the wall and your knees bent.  Turn so that your legs go up the wall and your back meets the floor.  Place a rolled blanket under the small of your back or supporting your sacrum (low, flat portion of your back) and buttocks.  Place a rolled blanket to support your neck and head.  Cactus your arms and slightly tuck your shoulder blades beneath you to open your heart.  Slightly raise your chin.


Simple Supported Backbend

Sit in front of your bolster or double blanket roll.  Bend knees and recline, using your elbows on your bolster in the process.  (Or lie down on your side and roll to your back).  Support your Neck with one hand as you reach the floor and adjust a rolled blanket comfortably under your neck.  Your seat and and shoulders should comfortably reach the floor.  Open your arms away from you and slightly roll your shoulder blades beneath you, raising your chin. 


Speaking of Restoring and Renewing....... I'm excited to tell you that my yogi friend Sally and I are working on offering workshops and retreats to help you do just that.  More news soon!


Upcoming Special Class:

Gentle Yoga and Essential Oils  -  Saturday, May 6  -  9:00 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.  -  @ Sankulpa Yoga's studio  

This class that combines gentle stretches, twists, and poses (some of them restorative) with the application of various essential oils.  During the class, you will also learn about the oils used.  There are a limited number of spaces available, so please register by clicking here and scrolling down to find this class.


If it's not too much bother, please type a comment below to say hello or click to "Like" so that I know you've stopped by to visit the blog.  Thanks, and have a renewing week.

Namaste,

Lori

 

 

Slowing to a Stop

Man, did I ever have big plans for this past week!  Fun, new yoga sequencing to practice for classes, a new Pre-School Yoga marketing campaign to kick off, and exploring a possible weekend retreat locale for the near future were all things marked in my planner.  Big and Fun and Busy!  I also had a blog post planned in honor of Spring and Easter and New Beginnings and Fresh Starts.  (Yes, with all of those capital letters too....)

That all came to a crashing halt last weekend.  I was skipping away down the stairs to tell Rob something when I slipped off the last one, fell hard onto the landing and caught my low back on the edge of a step.  The pain was instant and intense, and Rob had to help me get up off the floor. 

What ensued were days of being forced to S-T-O-P.  No bending down to pick up something off the floor, no reaching up to get something off a shelf.  I couldn't even lie down, let alone teach a yoga class!  Everything was very slow and very limited.  It drove me crazy for two whole days.  On the third day, I decided that there was nothing else to do but embrace the experience and give in to it.  I found the chair in my house that allowed me to sit down and stand up most easily and did started doing this:

If you know me, you know that yoga and running are my happy places.  They are my "get out the crabbiness," "time to think or not think," "being alone time" things that I love to do.  Obviously, that's out of the question for now....even as this post is published.  I know people who are battling real life long term stillness due to illness or injury, and I do not confuse my temporary injury to their journey.  

As I slowly heal, we are rescheduling the visit to the possible retreat site (It's gonna be beautiful!!), and I mailed my marketing materials to area pre-schools a couple of days later than planned.  I even revamped parts of the Sankulpa Yoga website and added online payment options.  Take a look at it!  The week was by no means a loss in progress!

It's been easier to do the every day things as the days go on.  I'm allowing myself time to mull over, ponder, and reschedule.  In the process, I am finding that this is truly the best Spring-New Beginning-Fresh Start that I've had the opportunity to experience in awhile.  There's something to be said for slowing to a stop for a little bit and being content with what develops.

Wishing you a week of something new and hopeful. 

XO,

Lori

Why Bother Being Kind?

What is kindness?  I always think of this little face when I think of this word:  Kindness. 

 

Merriam-Webster defines kindness as "the quality or state of being kind."  However, I used to be an English teacher.  That means I can't leave well enough alone, because no student of mine was ever allowed to define a word with a form of the word itself.  So.......Merriam-Webster defines the word KIND as "of a sympathetic or helpful nature."  (Meaning that I was dead on with my picture definition of Riley above....)

Now we're getting somewhere.

Kindness:  The quality or state of being sympathetic or helpful.

The dictionary didn't mention anything about being "nice"  or about treating people the way we'd like to be treated ourselves when defining KIND.  Interesting.  Let's break that down.  

Many of us don't treat ourselves very well.  We belittle ourselves (or we give other people the permission to belittle us).  We think badly about ourselves if we don't move fast enough, don't think smart enough, can't find our keys immediately, or gain a pound or five.  Many of us are constantly thinking about how we should be better at lots of things.  What kind of a Golden Rule is that?  I don't want many people to treat me the same way they treat themselves.  Do you?  

And even more intriguing, "nice" doesn't even mean what I have thought it did.  For all these years I've been using it as the vanilla sort of word to describe someone as mildly kind with the absence of being "mean."  When I looked up "nice," its definition ranged from "exacting precision" to "socially acceptable" with "pleasing" thrown into the definitions somewhere toward the end.  I must have been some English teacher if it's taken me until now to learn that.

So, KIND is all about putting oneself in another's shoes and being helpful.  That means we have to listen and observe in order to know how to truly treat someone with kindness.  Otherwise, how could we possibly even know what sort of kindness someone needs or desires from us?

Here's something I feel confident about:  Treating others with kindness begins with treating ourselves with kindness.  And to make matters tricky, I don't think that true kindness discriminates.  I have a sneaking suspicion that the universe means for us to be kind to everyone (even the people who we accuse of making us feel anger or frustration or fear.....so complicated!).  

Don't you find, though, that when you are being kind to yourself, it's easier to share the kindness with others?  It sort of just flows out.  Not to get all new-agey on you, but wouldn't it be great if we increased that flow of kindness amongst us?  The world really seems to need it from all angles, if you ask me.  More than usual, even.  Riley is doing her best to spread kindness, but she's just one dog in a big world.  She needs an army of kindness warriors to help.

If this resonates with you and you'd like to practice increasing the flow of kindness in your daily life, I have an exercise for you. It could help make a natural habit of being kind to yourself, thus paving the way for you to be in a good place to share kindness with other people and the world in general.  It only takes 5 minutes each day.  You can do it just about anywhere and any time you can spare 5 minutes in a row (cheat and do it for only 4 minutes if you must or do it for 15 or 20 minutes if you'd like).


Step 1:  Take a seat in a position that allows you comfort in your body. 

Step 2:  Lightly close your eyes and place your hands in either the Kashyapa Mudra** for balance and protection against negative energy

or in the Apana Mudra** for inner balance, patience, confidence, and grounding.

Step 3:  Breathe easily and evenly through your nose.  As you do this, allow your shoulders to relax.

Step 3:  Allow your thoughts to drift past you like clouds.  Attach your attention to none of them.  (This takes practice.  Be easy on yourself and keep trying without forcing it.).  Continue your peaceful and even breathing.

Step 4:  Gently come out of your meditation (Yep, you knew that's what we were doing, didn't you?!) by opening your eyes and releasing your mudra by bringing your hands to your heart space.  Make a promise to yourself to be KIND to yourself and to all other living beings today.


Sending you Peace and Kindness,

Lori

P.S.  And now the next time someone tells me to "Have a Nice Day!" my brain will instead process "Have a Socially Acceptable Day!"  Sigh.  The struggle is real.  

Magical Lands

Last week, I was fortunate enough to take a trip back to one of my favorite places on Earth.  And this time, I took my people with me to share the beauty and peace that I experienced there last time.  I love Costa Rica.  It's an easy place to be.  It's beautiful.  I've only encountered Costa Rican citizens who are kind and helpful to outsiders like us.  They respect the environment and take good care of preserving it.  In fact, Costa Rica has one of the most perfect eco-systems on earth in which humans are present.  They abolished the army in 1948 in order to avoid civil wars, and they refer to themselves as "The Happiest Country."   They just do it right, I think.   We learned a lot from listening to our guides and just by watching the animals that were literally everywhere.

And there's a beautiful surprise around almost every corner.......

Scarlet Macaws squawk at each other incessantly.  Moral:  Flashy squawkers are fun to watch, so if you make a spectacle of yourself, be sure to prepare for constant scrutiny.  (They also mate for life....and they act like a squawky couple who need a little bit of space once in awhile.)

If you find yourself upside down, just grab on and enjoy the view while you are there........

Eventually, you will turn things around.  Just take your time and put one paw in front of the other.....slowly like a three-toed sloth.  Moral:  We all figure it out....just at our own pace.

Capuchins are the cutest creatures and the most mischievous.  We learned that one should not be a bad guest by bringing a picnic in to the national park, because the monkeys might distract you and then steal your lunch and then mess up the eco-system with processed food-laced poop and litter. The hungry, well-behaved guests enjoyed watching the plight of the picnickers.  Moral:  When you visit someone else's personal space, show a little respect, damnit.

The big, loud, scary sounding ones are sometimes only acting blustery on the outside to cover up a gentle heart, like the howler monkey.  They woke us out of a sound sleep with the most frightening and loud calls (several times in several nights).  They also start to make their macho calls when they hear trucks or chainsaws or other loud noises in order to fake machismo for bravery.  But when we saw them outside our room the next morning, they were just little babies trying to get some sleep.  Moral:  Get to know someone and don't judge their actions before you know why they act the way they do.  

This week, I aim to hold close the experiences and the simple life lessons that played out in front of me, my husband, and my children in Costa Rica.  Simplicity and purity of spirit are going to be my themes for the week.  I wish for you the same.

Pura Vida,

Lori

Sattwa for Spring!

This year, I was lucky enough to be able to teach 2 yoga classes on the day of the actual Vernal Equinox.  The first day of spring has always held meaning for me.  It's the beginning of a fresh, new time of the year.  

In yoga, there are three gunas, aspects of nature.  Tamas is a time of inactivity or state of withdrawal.  We tend to do this in the winter time, right?  (Or wish we could, at least)  Rajas is reflected in a bustle of activity, bringing to mind summer.  What lies between these two seasons is spring.  Likewise, the guna Sattwa lies between Tamas and Rajas.

Sattwa is translated as a sense of balance.  In Nischala Joy Devi's The Secret Power of Yoga, she explains Sattwa as the perfect moment between night and day.  

May this spring bring you whatever sense of balance you seek.  

In your yoga practice, poses such as Warrior 3 and Tree Pose are excellent to practice as a means to find your balance.  Ground through the standing foot and reach through the heel of the lifted foot.  Play with the rest.  Try different hand and arm positions.  See what you need to do to find the balance.  And, most importantly, enjoy the process.

Have a beautiful week,

Lori

*The above photo is of my Clever Yoga Liquid Balance mat.  My place of balance.

Spring Happenings at Sankulpa Yoga

Spring, a new beginning every year.......With that usually comes a desire to move more, stretch our legs, find a way to find more energy.

Yoga might be your answer for that.

I am taking this week's blog post as an opportunity to share with you what Sankulpa Yoga offers to yogis of all experience levels and ages.  Next week's post will resume its normal yoga content. Thanks for indulging me this week (and maybe for helping to grow my business....please read further...)

Yoga Classes

I've had a small tribe follow me through the winter, and we have room for a couple more yogis in our Tuesday evening class at my cozy Sankulpa Yoga studio.  (See calendar for details.)

If morning yoga is more your jam, there's a nice Vinyasa Flow class that I can share with you on Monday mornings at Wildroots in Salem, WI.  (See calendar for details.)

And soon....when the weather permits.....I will go back to the Pringle Nature Center in Bristol, WI for one outdoor yoga class each week.  (Your input of a weekly day and time will help me to determine when to hold this class.)

Additionally, I've begun to sub classes at The Yoga Effect in Grayslake, IL, which I consider to be my home studio, because it is where I did my yoga teacher training.  I will post classes I sub on my Facebook page.

Pre School Mini Yogis

I've been teaching yoga to three year olds for the past four months or so at a lovely local preschool/daycare, and I'd love to add a couple more on a weekly basis.  If you know or work at a daycare or preschool that might like to add yoga to the mix, please reach out to me.  If your help ends up in an ongoing teaching gig for me, you will get a finder's cash reward.

Yoga for Athletes

Yoga for your or your child's athletic team is a great idea.  Yoga helps to build strength, avoid injury, improve balance, and cultivate focus.  I work with teams and individual athletes with their unique needs in mind.  If your help ends up in an ongoing training gig for me, you will get a finder's cash reward.

Yoga in Schools Workshop

Yoga in Schools Workshop for Teachers is ready to go!  I've taught it at Carthage College and am ready to take it to the schools.  I would la-la-love your help in getting the word out.  This workshop is designed as a half day training, but I can tailor it to meet the needs of your school to a short or longer length.  We cover mindfulness, breathing, and yoga movements to help students focus, find calm, be the boss of their bodies, and more.  THIS is the number one reason I trained to become a yoga teacher.  If your school would be interested to discuss having me provide this workshop, I would love to deliver for you.  If your help ends up in workshop for me, you will get a finder's cash reward.

Please refer to the website for all that Sankulpa Yoga offers.

Thank you for your continued support for following my blog.  Please feel free to comment below to further the conversation (and click to like!)

Peace and Light to You This Week,

Lori