“Vacation, all I ever wanted! Vacation, have to get away!” ~ The Go-Go’s
Hello from Grand Lake!
Every year, my husband and I take a week vacation in Grand Lake.
In the calm of Grand Lake, I use the week to do nothing and decompress. It is only then that I feel like I have the space to recharge, reflect, and find a reset. I feel like the fog can lift and I can get in touch with who I am again and what is truly important to me. I can remember what it is that makes me happy and begin to see a way forward toward the life I want. I feel like I have the space to energize and get motivated again to move forward toward my goals. I feel like I can refocus my healing path.
I did a little searching around ye ole internet and discovered that the healing benefits of vacation are not just in my head. Vacations are extremely beneficial to health. Continue reading Vacation!
“Nothing can so pierce the soul as the uttermost sigh of the body.” ~ George Santayana
During a yoga class, a teacher said, “The body loves a good sigh.”
I did a big sigh and realized she was absolutely, 100% correct. I felt pretty good after that sigh.
When a yogi sighs in class, I can almost see the stress drain away from their body. They look a little lighter. And when I sigh in class, I, too, feel lighter.
When I’m teaching, I can always tell the pro yogis because they sigh. And those pro yogis aren’t always the ones getting into advanced poses. To me, pro yoga means that person gets the whole enchilada when it comes to yoga. They aren’t just there for exercise, or because they’ve been told it is a good thing to do for the body. Pro yogis understand they are there to release and heal.
And here’s the other important part. When these pro yogi’s sigh in class, it isn’t a quiet, dainty sigh. It is a sigh that starts as a huge inhale from the lungs and then asks the gut, “Hey, you want in on this action?” The sigh then releases as a full-throat, loud primal sound.
My new thing is paddle boarding, otherwise known as Stand Up Paddleboard, or SUP if you are one of the cool kids.
I was paddle boarding for the second time when I started observing how happy I was. Obviously, paddle boarding makes me happy or I wouldn’t have bought one. But, have you ever sat and asked yourself “why” something makes you so happy?
My logical brain says that paddle boarding should be a pain in the ass, especially for a girl under 5’ tall. Getting the 10’ board on the car and strapping it down, driving to the lake, getting the board off the car, carrying the 10’ board/paddle/sometimes with the dog to the water, getting it into the water, stepping into the water and getting dirty and wet…
But I’ve noticed that when I step into the water with my bare feet before I hop on the paddle board, I feel this surge of thrill. A feeling that reminds me of being a child runs through me. I’m excited.
And then I get on the board and I’m off.
Despite the other people in the water paddle boarding and kayaking, it is very calm and peaceful to be on the water. And when you do encounter people, everyone is very nice. It’s a very casual, brief conversation. A brief hello, or a comment on the weather or how cute your dog looks paddle boarding with you, and then they respectfully move on, giving you your space to enjoy your time on the paddle board.
I’ve been thinking a lot about food this week. Which has brought up some revelations and questions.
On Monday night, I taught a workshop on Mindful Eating. (For more information on Mindful Eating, click here.) The whole workshop revolved around the idea of being present while eating. As a society, we like to be distracted while eating. Most of the time it is in the form of a digital screen watching a show or reading social media. Which led me to wonder, “Is food really that boring? So boring that we need to be entertained in some way while eating?”
During the workshop, we practiced mindful eating. Everyone filled their plates with various bits of food to observe. We all took a minute to get centered and grounded, then started to eat. I guided them to first look at the food observing its color, its texture, its smell. They were then guided to take a bite and observe the flavor as well as the texture and sound. From there, everyone proceeded to eat mindfully for another 10 minutes. My conclusion from all of this was:
Crunchy food is really noisy.
Food isn’t boring.
Instead, it was a bit lonely to be eating in silence. Especially in a room full of people.
First, any diet type can participate. Even if you are vegan or paleo, you can participate. The basis of the program is eating clean – no sugar, alcohol, gluten, dairy, etc. So, if you are a meat eater, you can eat all the meat you want and if you are vegan you can eat all the beans you want.
Second, the cleanse focuses on being kind to your body. You eat foods in a combination that is easiest to digest. Vegetables easily digest through our bodies, so you may eat vegetables with anything. Meat, grains, nuts and seeds should be eaten separate from each other. The body uses a significant amount of our energy for digestion when eating the traditional American diet. So, the idea is to lighten up the digestion load so the body puts more energy to other functions like releasing toxins and healing.
Finally, you can eat as much as you want. The cleanse is meant to help you become more aware of your cravings and eating habits. They don’t want you to starve yourself.
There is a saying in mountain biking – at least I’ve heard there is one because I’ve never been on a mountain bike in my life. The saying is, “Where you look, that’s where you’ll go.” The idea is that if you look at the big boulder in front of you that is what you will run into.
I try to use this expression in yoga as well. It is all too easy to look at the floor when you are doing balancing poses in class. Students don’t want to look up because it is harder. But looking up, looking straight ahead is where you need to challenge yourself. It is where you need to look in order to work your mind/body connection. And it is true, that if you are doing dancer and you are looking at the floor, the floor is where you will end up. Furthermore, looking down means collapsing your spine a bit. By looking forward, you are keeping a long, neutral spine. At least in poses like tree.
It is so easy to take short cuts in yoga. Looking at the floor in balancing poses is one of them. But if you look at the floor, you will never fly off the ground. Where you look is so important, there is even a name for it: Drishti. Drishti is the yogic term for where your point of focus is for your eyes. Sometimes it is straight ahead. Sometimes it is up at your hands.
Eight years ago, I went through yoga teacher training. During that time, I was practicing yoga like a workout. I knew how to meditate before or after class started because of my training in energy healing, but the class itself was not very spiritual. Classes were all about “chaturangas”…
… and “knee to nose” ab workouts.
To be fair, I was in pretty awesome shape during that time. But life moves on.
Many people spend their entire yoga careers practicing with the goal of being physically fit. But, you can do numerous things to become physically fit. Yoga does more than that. Continue reading Yoga is for Everyone!
Since the beginning of the year, I have been trying to walk a new path in my life. A proactive path where I create my own life. If this sounds common, or ridiculous, please know that for a 9 on the Enneagram this is terrifying. As a 9, I like to merge with others. I am comfortable helping people live their lives. Which means, I’m not great on living my own life.
This might seem odd to you coming from me. Me, who took a risk and left the corporate world to become a massage therapist when everyone else told me it was a bad idea. But I’ll let you in on a little secret…sometimes 9s look fear in the face and say, “Don’t care.”
“What would you do if you knew you would succeed?”
Ever wonder who originally said this? Thanks to Quote Investigator, I discovered the original quote was from Robert H. Schuller, but the wording is different. “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” (If you want to read the whole Quote Investigator article, click here.)
That saying has always put my teeth on edge.
My new-found interest in this saying came about from an awesome yoga class. The teacher, named Jack Cuneo, took this saying and pointed out that it wasn’t very yogic. He said that all of the important growth we have in our lives comes from failure. Jack suggested we flip the phrase for a different, more yogic perspective. “What is worth doing even though you know you might fail?” Continue reading Failure = Success
Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it. ~ Confucius
As much as the media wants us to believe there is a single definition of beauty, it is simply not true. But knowing it’s not true in your mind and believing it in your body, in your heart…that’s a bit more difficult.
I think we, as yogis, often think of the breath and the pose as two different things. Because of this, the breath often gets left to the way side. Which is why I’m constantly reminding yogis in class to use their breath to stay centered.
Let’s look at this a bit. What if the breath is PART of the pose? I think that this is the true way to practice yoga. That, instead of thinking that the pose is cake and the breath is ice cream, think of it as ice cream cake. And who doesn’t like ice cream cake? Okay, well, maybe you don’t, but I do. Mmmm…ice cream cake….
So, how do we incorporate the breath into the pose so it becomes part of the pose, just as much as putting your feet in the proper place and relaxing your shoulders? One way is to incorporate movement with the breath in the pose. For example, in most poses you can lengthen the spine with each inhale. The exhale can be placed in many places. Maybe exhaling while pressing the feet into the earth, or exhaling and going a little deeper into the pose. It’s important to remember that these “movements” are micro-movements, more of an intention of movement than actual movement. For example:
Dancer/Standing Bow: Inhale and puff up the chest. Exhale and kick deeper into the pose.
Half Tortoise: Inhale into the back of the lungs expanding between the shoulder blades. Exhale and draw the belly button into the spine to stretch the lower back.
What about poses that you are truly stagnant? For example, balancing poses like Tree? You can use the same idea: inhale and lengthen the spine, exhale and engage the abs or press the feet into the ground. But I think there is another use of the breath in a balancing pose like Tree.
Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor. ~ Thích Nhất Hạnh
The breath can be used as an anchor. It keeps you calm and steady. When in balancing poses like Warrior 3 or Eagle, focusing on the breath can help maintain the pose. It takes you deeper into the pose so you can be aware of every detail while balancing. The breath turns a balancing pose into a meditative pose. You can use the breath to keep the mind from wandering and taking you out of the pose.
The wisest one-word sentence? Breathe. ~ Terri Guillemets
Finally, breath is a part of the pose because, in most cases, when you forget to breathe, when you hold your breath, you are not optimizing the pose. In most cases, if you are holding your breath, you are clenching your muscles. And, in most cases, if you are not breathing and instead clenching, you are most likely clenching your neck or jaw. Our body thinks that holding the breath and tightening these muscles will help keep you upright. In reality, you are just wasting energy. Instead, it’s important to focus on breathing and retrain the body to tighten the muscles you are actually using in the pose, such as the abdomen and leg muscles. So, breath is an important aspect of the pose itself. Just as it is important to make sure you have the proper pose alignment, it is important to make sure you are breathing.
I noticed every time I felt overwhelmed, I would hold my breath. I had to learn to stop, relax, and take long deep breaths, and within seconds I would feel more clear and ready to deal with the situation in a more loving way. ~ Gisele Bundchen
Let’s take the idea of breath a step further into the “pose of life.” In reality, our yoga practice is just a reflection of our day-to-day life. And our day-to-day life is a reflection of our practice. This is why doing yoga keeps us calmer off the mat. And this is why it is harder to relax in our practice when we are having issues in our day-to-day life. However, learning how to relax on the mat teaches us how to relax in life. And learning how to breath in a pose teaches us how to breath in life.
Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths. ~ Etty Hillesum
For example, when you get into an uncomfortable pose, breathing helps to calm the body and breathe through the uncomfortable. If you hold your breath when you are uncomfortable in a pose, it just makes everything worse. The same is true for uncomfortable situations in life. Often times, in life, when we are faced with an uncomfortable situation we tense our muscles, hold our breath, our mind starts to spin and we forget to think. This just makes the whole situation worse. But if we remember to take three deep breaths we can find calm again. If we have learned on the mat that breathing helps keep us calm and in the moment, we can take that lesson to that real life situation. AND, just like a yoga pose, the uncomfortable moment will not last forever. So just breathe through it.
The quality of our breath expresses our inner feelings. ~ TKV Desikachar
Breath is the key to everything. It is the first thing we do when we come into this world, and it will be the last thing we do when we leave. It is with us every day, every moment, even though we aren’t paying attention to it. It is a powerful tool that no only keeps us alive, it helps us cope and it helps us stay focused. It is a signal when something is wrong and we hold our breath or breathe faster. It is a signal when something is right when we sigh with contentment.
Take some time to pay attention to your breath. Take some deep breaths and feel the love it gives back. Feel the life that comes with it. Feel the gratitude it brings. Just as breath is a part of the pose, the breath is a part of life.
Breathing is the greatest pleasure in life. ~ Giovanni Papini
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