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

Self-Study

I have not yet found a Hallmark card for Valentine's Day that reads a little something like this:

Roses are Red,
Violets are Blue,
I accept me for myself
And love myself too.

Valentine's Day has always about showing your love for someone else, right?  Or your "like like" for others....I have a teenager in the house, so I'm trying to figure out the different levels of liking someone.  It's complicated.  

The point is that none of that loving or like-liking can happen truly unless we..............yep, unless we love ourselves first.  

And honestly, it makes me so uncomfortable to say it.  Loving myself.  I guess that's because it sounds narcissistic and a little creepy.  But that's wrong.  It isn't either of those things.  It's healthy to love the person you are with all your flaws and scars and to be able to admit that you are pretty great in some ways too.  That's fortunate....and the opposite of creepy.  It's just that it's not something we go around yelling from the rooftops....and that's probably for the best.

So, how do we get to that point in our lives where we can see what our true nature is and are able to be comfortable with it?  The process is one of the five Niyamas of yoga, and it's called Swadhyaya.  Please don't ask me to pronounce it and sound like I throw around the term in Sanskrit every day, because I don't.  However, I can tell you what it translates to mean.  Swadhyaya is the sacred study of the Divine through sacred readings, spending time in nature, and introspection.  

Whoa, you might say.  The Divine?  I am not the Divine.  The Divine is way beyond me.  I am not worthy.

Well, actually you are.  In the study of yoga, we are all a little piece of the biggest picture of all in the universe.  That wholeness is the Divine.  Swadhyaya helps you discover how to ascend to your highest level of being.  That can be interpreted in many, many ways.  And that's for you to decide.  Maybe you see this a religious quest, or maybe you see it as relating to Maslow or one of the great philosophers.  Whatever you see in this is great.  Go with it.  Swadhyaya is much deeper than the gist of this post covers, but for the sake of keeping it light and on the fun side of things, I'm sharing just a little nugget of it.  

Swadhyaya discovery comes in many forms.  Introspection through meditation and journaling, is an example.  Hiking, biking, walking your dog, or going for runs with Mother Nature are some others.  Studying sacred scripture?  Traditional sacred texts are methods self discovery.  I add to that zillions of other books I've read by an enormous range of authors on a dizzying number to topics.  Almost every book I've read has taught me a little something about myself.  Many books have brought me thunderclaps of self-realization.  

Swadhyaya is a Process with a capital P.  It's ongoing, and it's a worthwhile journey for yourself too.  So, go get your Swadhyaya on this week, and send yourself a little Valentine's Day love.

XO,

Lori

Feel the Burn

Ah, Tapas.  It's the heat and fire of the path toward your best version of yourself. Third of the Niyamas (our individual evolution toward harmony), Tapas is where you dial it up a notch.  Practicing self-discipline in order to achieve a personal goal is a part of what Tapas is all about.  It's often full of discomfort and the heat of a challenge in the moment but leads us to a better place and a feeling of peace over time.  

When your self discipline butts heads with your desires, that's when the fire of Tapas heats up and goes into action.

image courtesy pixabay.com

image courtesy pixabay.com

Take for example quitting an unhealthy habit.  If you've ever quit smoking or drinking alcohol (or soda) or adopted a healthy diet, you know what I'm talking about.  The first days and weeks are often HELL.  Your body and mind resist the change, and you might be seen as a fire-breathing dragon by those nearest and dearest to you.  However, over time, if you stick with it, the constant heat of the challenge mellows as your body and mind accept the newer, better pattern that you've chosen.  In the end, you might even wonder how you ever had been a smoker or had lived with such such a terrible diet or drank whatever it was that you gave up.  

It is then that the heat of the Tapas subsides and takes you deeper into Santosha (contentment and peace).  The magic of it all is that you choose.  If you are like me, then you are a master in the art of justification.  One more chocolate?  I'll find a reason that it is warranted.  Half a glass more of wine?  Well.....of course!  But when I actually am honest with myself, then I need to recognize the beauty of the struggle and let it play out without giving in so easily.

What's your Tapas fire telling you?  Is it the struggle of getting out of bed and to the gym to achieve the peace of body and mind that you know is waiting for you at the end of the workout?  Is there a habit that you know will compromise your health eventually that you keep putting off quitting?  Maybe it's staying stuck in a situation that is making you miserable, but the thought of making the change is exhausting and frightening.  I don't know what yours is, but I do know that we all have something.

How about this:  You do you, and I'll do me.  And we will promise to reach out for help if we need someone to assist in keeping the fires in check.  Deal?  You've got this.  We are here for you.


Yoga for Tapas:

Feel the Burn at first.  Then Feel the Pride in noticing the burn being replaced with STRENGTH! Try this one daily (or as close to daily as you can manage.....) for two to three weeks.  I bet you will experience a noticeable change.  As always, if something hurts, then back off.  Begin in Tadasana, Mountain Pose.

1.  Forward Fold - Exhale Belly to Thighs

2.  Halfway Lift - Inhale long spine, thigh bones back, shoulders away from ears

3. Forward Fold - Exhale

4.  Step back into Downward Facing Dog for 10 complete breaths

5.  Come forward to Plank for 3 slow and complete breaths (Wrists directly underneath shoulders)

6.  Roll to Side Plank - Keeps hips lifted and stack the feet or lift the top leg.  Hold for 5 slow and complete breaths

7.  Come back to Plank  for 3 slow and complete breaths

8.  Roll to other Side Plank - See #6

7.  Back to Plank for 3 slow and complete breaths

8.  Push back into Downward Facing Dog for 10 complete breaths

9.  Step or Hop to Forward Fold - Exhale

10.  Rise to stand with a flat back - Tadasana

Repeat.

Repeat one more time.  Feel the Burn?  Savor your Strength (or the knowledge that strength will come)


Changes are happening at Sankulpa Yoga.  I'm releasing and taking in as I work to find the best fit for my evolving yoga lifestyle business.  I've suspended some classes that have been under represented in an attempt to make time for some other things.  I hated to let them go, but it was necessary.

Yoga and Aromatherapy Workshop - Coming in February.  90 minutes of yoga combined with essential oils, a little oil-to-go gift, and 15% off a Young Living Essential Oils Order.  Keep your eye on Facebook and this website for more details, but drop me a line if you are interested, and I'll make sure to give you first dibs to register.  

Yoga and Reiki Workshops and (eventually) Weekend Retreats - In the works now in collaboration with my fellow yoga teacher and friend Sally.  We are working on this and are really excited to share it soon!  Again, shout out if you want to be one of the first to be in the know.

Yoga in Schools Workshop:  The game is ON for marketing my Yoga in Schools Workshop to promote mindfulness and yoga practice in the classroom to give students a toolbox of coping and living skills.  If you or your school wants to know more, let me know, and I will share with you.

Pre-School Yoga - Looking to Grow:  Do you own or work at a pre-school?  I'm looking to expand my Pre-School Yoga program to a few more sites.  Please let me know if you would like to know more or if you have a good spot in mind for me. 

Yoga in the Park:  Spring will come!  When the weather is ready for us, we will return to taking our practice outdoors.  I'm planning one weeknight and possibly one morning Yoga in the Park classes beginning in May.

That's it for now.  Enjoy a week of sweet challenges.

Lori

Suck it up, Buttercup.

This weather.  Dark, dreary, damp.  I give it a D- for a Wisconsin winter.  Gross.  The snow has melted.  The sun has disappeared.  There's fog daily.  It rains and mists.  Ugh.  Cannot stand it.

But.

I can't do anything about that.  My griping won't change the weather; however, what my griping does accomplish is that it brings me down.  Complaining about the weather is a huge pet peeve of mine anyway.  All winter (in Wisconsin, remember), people complain about the cold.  About the snow.  About the ice.  Where do they think they live?  It's like people are surprised every year that winter came again.  

I love winter (the real winter with snow and cold and ice, not the current kind that we have).  The snow is sparkly.  If the weather is bad enough, we all get to stay home.  The cold air smells good.  There are many other weird little reasons that I love winter.  However, I have been known to complain about several days in a row of temperatures below -25 F.  My bad.

This (stupid) weather made me think about the second of the Niyamas.  The Niyamas are the five concepts that lead us toward harmony.  Together, they comprise the second of the eight faceted paths of yoga.  The second Niyama is Santosha.  It represents joy and contentment.  So, I am content with winter when there is a lot of snow along with cold, sunny days.  This year?  Not so much.  The trick with Santosha is that it challenges us to be content with what IS, not with what IS NOT.  (sigh)

So, how can I reach Santosha with this weather?  Well, I can run outside without slipping around.  My skin isn't as dry as it usually gets with normal winter air.  Driving isn't as dicey.  Does Santosha mean that I am now in love with the weather?  No, it does not.  However, it does mean that I can live with it and not be crabby about it.  The weather will change eventually too.  I can find contentment in that.  

My title doesn't really tell the story of Santosha.  This Niyama DOES NOT tell us to "suck it up," but that's usually what we do.  We grudgingly accept the current state of affairs.  We sort of find ourselves ok with things as they are.  Santosha isn't about trying to fool ourselves.  It asks us to truly find peace in accepting the current moment as it is, with all its possible not so shiny parts.

Now.  Let's not confuse Santosha with complacency.  Santosha is not an excuse to slack off or neglect or ignore.  We are still responsible for making an effort.  However, when things don't go the way we'd like, we don't get to throw a fit.  Maybe we sigh instead and accept some peace in the learning process and contentment for having tried.  Then we roll up our sleeves and get busy.

This is completely relevant with your yoga practice too.  Maybe you are frustrated because you can't seem to achieve a certain pose in the way you'd like.  You practice and practice, but you seem to be blocked.  That's when you remember Santosha.  Find peace in the process.  Let what you have achieved so far be good enough, and release the stress.  Funnily enough, that's when you will probably start to progress until one day, you realize you're there.  

Whatever you are working on, don't give up!  However, be gentle with yourself.  We are all a work in progress.  

 

Have a week of peace and contentment.

Lori

 

(Image courtesy of Pixabay.com)

A Little Break

Taking a little break this week from the blog post.  We are honoring an important holiday that coincides with a bittersweet anniversary here.

Dr. King was a man of action to make the world a safer and more peaceful world for everyone.  I'm going to hold my peeps close and work on something to recognize that.  

Peace to you, your family, and your community.

See you next week.  

Namaste,

-Lori

Happy Trails to You

During the fall and early winter (because winter has an early part, a later part, and a "where is spring?" part here in the upper midwest), we explored the Yamas of yoga in our weekly blog posts.  As a reminder, Patanjali, the yogi sage from a couple thousand years ago, taught them as five "constraints" that will reveal our true nature to ourselves.  The Yamas are sort of thought of as "do nots."  On that 8-faceted path of yoga, the Yamas come first, and Asana comes third (the poses and flows of yoga).  In between, comes the 2nd path......the Niyamas.

The Niyamas are constructive tools for cultivating happiness and confidence.  That is how Yoga International (.com) describes the Niyamas, and it was so perfect for our purposes here, that I chose to use their definition.  We all have daily opportunities to practice the Niyamas to benefit ourselves, those around us, and the world at large.  The trick is to recognize those opportunities and to act on them.  The Niyamas can really lead us on a "happy trail" if we pursue the five habits for daily living that they represent. 

The first of the Niyamas is Saucha, Sanskrit for cleanliness.  Saucha is a pretty big umbrella that involves cleanliness of body, spirit, and mind.  The idea is to work toward purity in our lives in order to be able to maintain a more tranquil state of meditation.  Even if you don't meditate, the peace and calm that Saucha promotes can benefit us all.  It has been said that Saucha is one of the primary aims of yoga.

I was thinking about Saucha the other day during a wonderful yoga class that I had the opportunity to take from my yoga teacher Mara Campbell.  As I rolled up my mat, I noticed that it wasn't as clean as it could be.  I've used it outdoors, and there were still some old stains from grass and soil.  Your yoga mat is your space.  It's like a rectangular-shaped sacred nest to grow, contemplate, and work things out.  Stepping on someone else's mat while it's unrolled for yoga practice is a personal invasion.  When your yoga mat is dirty, your practice can feel lacking.  In keeping with Saucha, I went home and gave my mat a good soak.  The fresh and clean quality of my yoga mat just makes me feel better about practicing on it.  

During college, I had to have a neat and clean dorm room or apartment before I could sit down to write a paper.  I had never heard of Saucha back then, but I knew that my mind felt cluttered if my space was cluttered.  It rings true.  My college apartments (and early professional life apartments) weren't what you would call beautiful.  They were old and dingy.  However, keeping them clean made them feel prettier and lighter to me.  As a result, while I was home, I felt more organized and just more at ease in general.  I felt like I was in my own little haven.

Besides keeping our personal and professional spaces neat and clean, another way to promote Saucha in our lives is by being kinder with our thoughts.  Thinking more along the lines of "the glass is half full" (rather than half empty) and promoting positive thoughts in our lives is practicing Saucha too.  I'll even go further and suggest that you try to go for the glass being more full and and containing a chocolate milkshake or something equally delicious.  There's a lightness in positive thinking that can encourage us to carry more joy and less emotional junk.  

Saucha encourages us to make mindful choices about what food we put into our bodies, what ideologies we choose to embrace, and how to spend our time.  As your body embraces Saucha, there is a benefit of greater health.  As the mind embraces Saucha, there is more clarity, peace, and happiness within us.

Here are a yoga pose and a mudra to help with your quest for Saucha:

This is the Lotus Mudra.  Aidan was kind enough to demonstrate it for us.  This mudra is intended to detoxify the body and mind.  Breathe mindfully with equally-lengthed inhales and exhales while you practice it.  You could easily do this mudra while practicing the pose below.

Legs up the wall is a great pose.  It helps us with our circulation, reduces swelling, aids in digestion, and is calming for the nervous system.  This pose offers the benefits of an inversion without turning yourself upside down.  Place a cushion underneath your sacrum (that flat part of your low back) to increase the health benefits and comfort level.  Delaney is demonstrating the pose as a mermaid.....so this variation can be called "Mermaid Tail Up the Wall."  Very intermediate level  :)  

I hope you enjoy a little contemplation on Saucha this week.  See you next week!

Namaste,
Lori

 

 

Don't Tell Me to "Let it Go."

The end of the year signifies something.  I'll give you that, but every single year, I am told to "Let it Go."  What if I don't want to let it go?  What if I've had a great year, and I want to hang on to it?  Or, more realistically, maybe I'm ok with letting go to some degree.  But, maybe I don't like anyone telling me what to do with my 2016 or how I should feel about it.  There was a lot of value to my 2016 that I want to keep, even if some of it wasn't awesome.

I think you know what I mean.  Every year is a mixed bag.  And, really, if we just keep "letting go" of every year come each December 31st, what does that say about the value we put on our life?  If we consistently "Let it Go," then we are eventually left with a void.  

Cue the music.  You know what song I'm talking about.  (I prefer the Demi Lovato version myself.  Now, there's a girl who's had her share of life experiences and growth, to be sure.  She gets it.)  Anyway, I'm letting myself get distracted here.

I am going to encourage us all to put a little shift on the popular mindset of letting go.  Let's try to use the word "Release" instead.  Maybe it's just semantics, but to me "Release" feels more mindful, more gentle, and more purposeful.  In releasing, I've acknowledged the value of the previous year, and I'm working on letting some parts of 2016 mellow with age in my memory.  I'm allowing them to sift out from heaviness into lightness ....... to soften from pain into poignancy.  I'm highlighting the happiness that has entered my life.  If I let my experiences of 2016 go, then how can I learn from them or value the richness of relationships that have been the result of them?  Well, it wouldn't be possible.  However, if I release.......then it's like a sigh.    

And after the exhale of a sigh comes an inhale.  

The inhale is a new breath of life with endless possibilities.  With no mistakes or hurt feelings or pain or sadness or stress and anxiety or things you wish you wouldn't have said or things you wish you would have said or ..........  Well, you get the idea.  The release leaves you with a clean slate like a blanket of new snow, but with the benefit of the previous year's sage advice firmly in place.  

I can't completely let go of last year.  It's brought me to the latest version of myself.  And that goes for you too.  Whatever 2016 dealt you, you are better for it in some way.  But only if you choose to see it in that light.  Damn it all.  You can't displace the blame onto the old year!  It's all up to you.  Last year doesn't get to decide you.  Although you might not get to choose the experiences you experience, you do get to choose what they do to you.  

Release.  

Here's the physical manifestation of Release.  There's a pretty large muscle group that can play havoc with our comfort, both physical and emotional.  It's the iliopsoas.  I'm going to simplify this a lot, because that's my level of understanding, but I can tell you that this is an interesting muscle.  This group of muscles connects our legs to our core body.  It is responsible for holding us together and for our abilities to physically propel ourselves forward and to center ourselves.  It's a remarkable part of our bodies.  The diagram below from spine-health.com is possibly more than you bargained for in a yoga blog, but I couldn't help it.  I mean, look at that!  The lliacus, psoas minor, and especially that psoas major are key players in our everyday movements as well as in our aches and pains.

 

When tight, the iliopsoas can make our low back hurt, give us hip issues, cause knee pain, and even effect our feet and ankles.  Even more interestingly, the psoas might be the culprit of much of our emotional distress.  Think about it.  When we are anxious or startled or stressed out, we tense.  We sit rigidly and stand differently, and we tighten up.  That psoas takes the brunt of it all, triggering fear and anxiety and other unhelpful feelings.  Therefore, a key factor in feeling more relaxed in body and mind is to give your iliopsoas some love and attention.

If you'd like to practice releasing your iliopsoas for physical relief and as a nod to Releasing What No Longer Serves You in Your Life for the New Year, then try this little flow I've put together.  It's something I try to do every morning (and sometimes in the evening too) while doing my best to clear my mind of everything except the inhales and the exhales.  So go ahead, slip into something more comfortable, and give it a try.  I hope you like it.

 

Sequence Notes:

-Throughout the flow, inhale and exhale evenly.  Exhale into twists and inhale out of them.  Take your time.  Be mindful of what your body is telling you before, during, and after this psoas-releasing sequence.

-Forward Fold to Monkey Pose Flow to gently stretch the psoas.  During the Monkey Poses (halfway lift), draw your thigh bones back.  During the Forward Folds, bring your belly toward your thighs, and bend your knees as much as necessary.

- Mountain Pose - Find your foundation first.  Knees over ankles (with kneecaps lifted but not locked), Pelvis over Knees (with pelvis not tipped), Shoulders over Pelvis (with shoulders down and shoulder blades down along your back).  Chin level with the ground.  Feel your body's alignment in this pose.

-Standing Psoas Stretch - Lead with your hips, and then let your upper body slowly fall back, and then your neck and head - as much or as little as feels good for you.  Take care not to clench around the tailbone.  Picture the low back broadening.  Come out of the pose slowly.

- Downward Facing Dog - In this sequence, the purpose is to pedal it out to gently stretch your hip flexors.

- Low Lunge Sequence with Twists - Exhale your hips gently forward in the low lunge.  Then find length in the spine before each twist, and take care to keep the knees in line with the ankles.  In other words, don't drift.  Twist at the navel.

-Switch Sides and Repeat

*If you are a woman in that in-between stage of life before menopause, the psoas might be even more relevant.  There are lots of good articles about heightened anxiety at this stage of life and the correlation to the psoas.  Do an online search or ask me to forward you some readings if you are interested. (I'm here to help a sister out.)


I wish for all of you a happy and peaceful 2017 that provides opportunities to accept joy and for personal growth.  


-Psoas info courtesy of Liz Koch's The Psoas Book and Craig Williamson's information on Muscular Retraining at somaticintegration.com.  "Flowers in Your Hair" by the Lumineers.


Please take a look at the calendar for new yoga opportunities.  (For example, I'm finally fulfilling my promise to offer Free Yoga for Caregivers twice a month due to the generosity of St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in their offering of a wonderful space.)  I'm also adding another yoga class to the itinerary for 2017.  Thank you for your continued support! 

 

 

Too. Much. Stuff.

During a quiet hike earlier this month, I arrived at a decision.  This holiday season I decided that I could not take all the clutter and tchotchke.  As a result, a lot of Christmas decorations went back into crates instead of going up and around the house.  The result has been liberating.  Less stuff means that we can really showcase the decorations that mean the most to us.  

I decided to extend the idea of "less is more" to other holiday rituals too.  Fewer cookies to bake, fewer presents, fewer commitments.  This is a weird Christmas for us....the first one since my mom died in January.  Maybe "weird" is the wrong word.  It's so many emotions though, that "weird" seems to be the best general descriptor.  Anyway, we needed a change from our regular Christmases and New Years celebrations and traditions.  Then, lo and behold, we come to the last Yama at the perfect time.

Aparigraha is the name of the 5th Yama.  It can be defined as 'non-hoarding."  In a material context, this one is pretty easy to understand.  It's sort of the "spring cleaning" Yama.  (It is also the Yama that I should be remembering when I'm online shopping after a crappy day.)  

Aparigraha cautions us against greediness and "over filling our plates."

Aparigraha is also figurative in meaning.  Sometimes when we sign up for everything because we want to help, what we are really doing instead is feeding our ego.  If you are the head of every committee or the person who always signs up for the most stuff to bring to do for an event, you might want to sit yourself down with a cup of hot cocoa and think about why you are doing this.  

I'm not suggesting that you see yourself as the only qualified person around, but the ego-driven over extending could point to something else.  Could the over extending and "hoarding" of busyness mean that you don't want to be still enough with yourself to think about how you feel? Could you be over extending yourself because, in reality, you don't feel like you are very important or deserving at all?  

Whatever the reason, it's a good idea to be gentle with yourself and to give yourself credit for being honest with yourself.  And then......sweep away those negative feelings with a good, energetic yoga practice, a brisk walk, a rousingly loud singing session, whatever.  Just do something to whisk away the extra junk that's bringing you down.

We are nearing the New Year.  Although it's cliche, the coming New Year really is a good time to evaluate what makes you happy and what you'd like to get rid of too.  This includes all the stuff about ourselves that is making us feel positive or, conversely, is not feeling making us feel so great.  You can do it!  I'm cheering you on as I work on my own "stuff" that I need to do too.  We are in this together, you know.  

I will be back in two weeks with the first post of 2017.  Until then, I wish you peace, love, and joy.  And, hey!  Don't forget about the Winter Solstice on December 21.  Try to squeeze in a sun salutation outside (?!), or at least for for a little walk on the shortest day of the year to soak in winter or to dream about spring.  However you connect yourself to nature that day, you can't go wrong.

Namaste,    Lori

Notes:

Classes:  Come practice with me.  Take a peek at the calendar to see the wheres and the whens

Next Blog Post:  The Powerful, Yet Mystical, Psoas

Everything in Moderation

 Discussing the idea of moderation during this holiday season is pretty timely, I'd say.  And this elf is a perfect example.  My husband and I halfheartedly brought him into our lives five or so years ago, because our household seemed to be the only one in our kids' biosphere that did not have an Elf of the Shelf.  

Enter:  "Elfie," my holiday nemesis.  

For those of you unfamiliar with Elf on the Shelf, we will call you "The Lucky Ones."  Please allow me to fill you in on what is missing from your lives.  The Elf magically arrives in your home on December 1 each year.  Every night, after everyone has gone to bed, he (or she...because we did not get suckered into getting Elfie a sister, but some people we know did) flies to the North Pole to fill in Santa about the activities of the children in the house.  Were they good or bad that day?  Then The Elf flies back to your home, positioned in a different place and position (and sometimes a very clever position....if you are an overachiever parent....We are not)  each and every morning until Christmas Day, when The Elf blessedly leaves your home until the next year.

Other important information about The Elf:  

  • The Elf's magic diminishes if anyone touches The Elf.  
  • The children of the household will spring out of bed every morning, eager to find The Elf.

Pro Tips:

  • If a child discovers that The Elf is still in the same spot as the day before on a particular morning (or on several particular mornings, as the case may be), the parents of the household might have checked the weather report between your house and the North Pole the previous night and advised The Elf to "call it in" to Santa for that night to avoid frostbite or being blown off course by the jet stream.  (You're welcome.)
  • The children of the household might sometimes try to send a note to Santa via The Elf.  If the note is still at your house in the morning, the children will think that Santa is mad at them.  Sometimes this makes the children cry and upsets the already delicate morning routine of the household.
  • The children of the household will begin talking about the annual Coming of The Elf at around Thanksgiving and will mourn his departure each Christmas morning, despite the presents under the tree and the strategic evidence that Santa had actually been at their house, eating their cookies, and feeding his reindeer.  Puzzling out why the children do this is a frustrating fool's errand.  Don't even try.

And One More Thing:

  • It is only funny for The Elf to be sitting next to a bottle of Jameson's with a straw if the more responsible parent catches The Elf in time and reminds him to quit his joking around before the children get up in the morning. 

So..........Moderation.  

This fun walk through my life provides a wonderful example of how wanting more can lead to more things to do, more responsibility, more things to worry about, more accountability.  Before The Elf, we already had plenty of great Christmas traditions.  It was already perfect.  However, we bought into the More mentality just a wee bit, and look where it got us. 

The concept of moderation is called Brahmacharya, and it brings us to the 4th week in our journey through all five of the Yamas.  This is how today's blog post relates to yoga.  (Don't lie.  You've been wondering, haven't you?)  I am writing this post on December 3rd, and Elfie has already forgotten to change places twice.  He's batting 0.000 so far.  I mean, he remembers at the last minute each morning to not sit in his same place, but it's gotten dicey.   

The lesson here is to practice Brahmacharya in our lives, especially during this season where Excess is leering at us from around every corner.  There are options for over commitment everywhere, more presents to buy and to want than necessary, overindulgences galore, etc.  It's all there in front of us for the plucking.  

And then, just as relevant is the strict "back to reality" dieting and working out to excess to "get back on track" come January 1 that might follow all of the over doing it during the holidays.  The gym is packed every year in January, and by February it always empties back out to a more moderate level of activity. It never fails.  Overcommitting on either end of this season of fun is NOT fun, whether it is in depriving ourselves or in the guilt that many of us impose upon ourselves in the wake of it.  Brahmacharya encourages us to neither deprive needlessly nor indulge to excess.  The balance comes in thoughtfully choosing what makes us feel satisfied.

I challenge you as I challenge myself:  Let's avoid the trap of MORE and welcome the wonderful feeling of ENOUGH.  I think we will all feel happier and more peaceful for it......until The Elf returns next December.  


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Abundance

Hello!  Thanks for stopping by this week.  We've been taking a little trip through the Yamas.  They are the "constraints" of yoga, taught by the yoga sage Patanjali at around the second century.  In today's world, they are food for thought and still completely relevant.  

The third of the Yamas is Asteya:  Non-stealing.  Seems pretty easy, right?  I mean, if you are not committing a bank robbery, you've got your Asteya on.  Yes?  Um, no.  Sorry.  

While Asteya does, in fact, apply to only taking what is freely given to you and what belongs to you, it takes us to a deeper personal level.  Asteya reminds us to act from a place of abundance in our lives.  Patience, love, compassion, our time, sharing what we have with those in need.....these are some of the ways Asteya weaves its way into our lives.  

Asteya tells us to remember that we have enough.  This time of the year is perfect for practicing this Yama.  It is so easy to fall into the trap of buying things that we don't need and only want in that moment.  Buying that extra gift to "even things up" under the tree is something else that I'm guilty of doing.

On a societal level, Asteya teaches us that generosity overcomes greed.  It is in opposition to exploitation and oppression.  It encourages us to act toward social justice.  The world could always use more of all of that.  

Here are some methods to bring Asteya to your practice.  I'm thinking about balance here.  When we practice together in the Sankulpa Yoga classes, I often talk about bringing a sense of balance in our lives through practicing balancing poses.  Below are some ways to encourage yourself to remember Asteya in your life. 

This Mudra is one way to begin your yoga practice, but is also available to you to do just about anywhere with some gentle pranayama (breath work).  Find a comfortable seated position on you knees or on your seat in easy pose.  Sit with a long but relaxed spine and your chin parallel to the floor.  Hands rest at your knees or thighs with your palms facing upwards toward the sky and fingers relaxed.  Open and upward-facing palms places you in a mudra of abundance and acceptance.  Inhale deeply through your nose and exhale completely either through your nose or mouth.  Make the inhales and exhales slow and at even lengths.

While breathing in this pose using your abundance mudra, you might want to practice using a mantra.  This is a positive short phrase that may be done silently or audibly.  Your choice.  Here are some examples of Asteya-promoting mantras:  "I have all that I need."  "Where I am right now is exactly where I am supposed to be."  "I am able to bring abundance to others in this world."  Something simple and to the point like that is nice.  Design one that works for you.

A pose for promoting balance for me is Virabhadrasana III (Warrior 3).  You can ask my family if this is true, but I'll tell you that I will often just do this pose in the middle of the house out of the blue.  It helps me to check in with myself.  It also helps me to find stillness either physically or when the negative self-talk that sometimes likes to visit me uninvited is starting to gain steam.  Cues for this pose are below.  They are extensive only so that you get the most out of the pose.  Read as much or as little of that as you'd like.

Start in Mountain Pose (Tadasana).  Inhale to make yourself long, arms reaching upward, fingers spread and reaching.  

 On the exhale, begin to tip forward at the hips with a straight back.  One foot presses firmly into the ground, while the other leg floats off the ground as you tip.  Lift the knee cap and quad of the foundation leg (without locking the knee).  The raised foot is flexed with toes pointed toward the ground.  Doing this engages your foot and assists in the balance.  

Spin the inner thigh of your raised leg up toward the sky.  Your gaze is focused on a stationary place (a drishti point) some place on the floor a few feet in front of you.  At the next inhale, lengthen the spine and find balance where you are.  With each exhale, tip more.  With each inhale, lengthen and seek balance.  Stay at your pinnacle point of balance for several breaths, wherever that might be, and playing with your arm positioning.  To come out of the pose, inhale up to standing.  Exhale back to Tadasana.  Give it a try on the other side.    

See......I really do love that pose.  Can't get enough of it.....does that mean I really need all the balance work that I can get?  Probably.  The truth is hard sometimes.  :)  

Want more?  Find a pose that you can't quite get, and work on it throughout the week.  This activity is a good way to work on "being ok with where you are right now" each time you practice.  It's also a nice way to see progress in your practice.   Examples of poses to work on depend upon what you are looking for.  If you want some ideas for a specific type of pose, or if you want help finding a pose but have no idea which one, please comment below.  I would love to give you some ideas and/or a tutorial.  

 I wish you a beautiful week ahead of abundance and balance.   

Truthfulness

 

Part of what I love about yoga is studying the multitude of ways it can provide guidance in our lives with its eight "limbs" or "faceted paths."  This week, we head back to the first limb of yoga, the Yamas.  

Satya is the second Yama, and it calls to mind "Truthfulness".  It urges us to live and speak our truth at all times.  It is the second of the Five Yamas.  Last week, we covered the first Yama, Ahimsa, or "Do No Harm."

You can see how Satya might conflict with Ahimsa, right?  Doing no harm sometimes seems to be in direct conflict with walking the path of truthfulness.  Sad but true.  Case in point:  "How does this look on me?"  When I ask my husband that question about an outfit that I already feel iffy about, I can almost see his Ahimsa and his Satya colliding with each other.  Why do I do that to him? 

Anyway, that's why there is an order to the Yamas.  It is important to work on Ahimsa thoroughly and to feel confident in our ability to embrace it before we delve into the deeper waters of complete honesty with Satya.  

Walking the path of truthfulness is difficult.  And, really, sometimes maybe we don't even want to do it, because it holds us more accountable than we might want to be.  If we force ourselves to find truth, to dig for it, we might have to make some hard decisions.  Looking Truth directly in the eye might make life uncomfortable.  It is easier and takes less effort to allow ourselves to simply close our minds and choose what we already want to believe in the first place.  Then we can proceed in the direction that makes us more comfortable or puts us in agreement with our friends, and we can lull ourselves into thinking that we really did find truth in order to get on with our lives as they always were to begin with anyway.

Satya makes that scenario impossible.  It forces us to constantly reevaluate our beliefs.  It prohibits making decisions simply based on the way we've always made them in the past.  It makes the world around us relevant and acknowledges that we do not live in isolation of that world but as a part of it.  Living our truth involves considering the rights and beliefs of others who share our family, our community, our country, our world.  

The Yamas stand united to force a mirror before us, and they make us constantly answer some hard questions.  "Is this who you want to be?"  "Is this your best self that the world needs you to be?"  And for everyone, the answers will be different.  And for each of us, different times and challenges in our lives will produce different answers.    

Yoga makes us see our truth, especially in balance poses.  If you suspect that you are trying to fool yourself about something, yoga will confirm if you indeed are doing just that.  It is as if the inner turmoil of truth seeking (or "Truthiness"......Shout out to Stephen Colbert) becomes more of a rolling boil inside of us if we try to either force it or ignore it.  Half Moon Pose is one that I like to use to "check in" with myself to see how I'm doing.  Sometimes, I can't even properly attempt it without losing my balance.  When that happens, I know that I'm trying to work out something.........some struggle with myself.  Or I'm just feeling so much stress over an issue.  Other times though, there is no problem, and I feel the balance solidly holding me in the pose.  Those are the times that I also feel calm and balanced on the inside.  Coincidence?  I think not.  

So, what are our options when the inner turmoil is boiling within us?  I say search for answers in every nook and cranny.  Make it your job.  Then EMBRACE the turmoil.  Accept the fact that you are dealing with a Satya crisis, and then let it be for awhile.  Let all that information drift around inside of you until it settles.  Do Not Attempt To Force It Away And Do Not Dwell On It.  Practice your pose.  Do your breathing exercises.  Meditate.  Have an ice cream cone.  Watch a movie.  Go for a run.  Hug your people and your dog.  Allow the crisis to ebb and flow as you do your best to live life with intentions toward Ahimsa and Satya.  Eventually, through your patience and self-honesty the truth will present itself to you.  When that happens, acknowledge it.  And then go and live that truth.  That is Satya.

Half Moon Pose (with an audience) - Checking in with myself

Half Moon Pose (with an audience) - Checking in with myself

graphics courtesy pixabay.com