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Yoga On The Go…
Easy tips to help you stay committed, consistent, and at home in your yoga practice when you’re abroad
The yoga sutras teach us that the level of achievement we will receive from our practice depends on the intensity with which we bring ourselves forth. Sutra 1:22 says The time necessary for success depends on whether the practice is mild, medium or intense. The Sutras also tell us that we must practice earnestly and consistently (Sutra 1.12). (The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Sri Swami Satchidananda).
In other words, these practices only work when we do! Yoga requires us to sometimes put the practice first, to catch ourselves when we’re making excuses not to get on our mats, and to cultivate consistency and follow through amidst our busy lives. In the throws of weekly schedules, this task is already a challenge for some.
So, when things are really shaken up (like when there is family in town, and you just can’t get to class— or when you’re literally across the globe), how do you remain steadfast in your yoga ritual?
As a traveling yogi I have found a few helpful solutions to this conundrum… Throughout my career I have spent weeks at a time in hotel rooms in foreign countries, have woken up early for 5am flights, and have been sleep deprived and jet lagged before teaching 4 hours of workshops. The title may sound luxurious, but sometimes it takes all the gusto I’ve got just to keep going on with a smile. And the amazing thing is this: I could never do this without my practice. The act of coming to my mat, and into my heart by way of the breath…. there is no cup of coffee (even in Italy) that can do the same thing.
Here are my best tips to keep you consistent when you’re on the go. You can use these practices in your everyday life at home, when daily life is shaken up, or when you’re traveling short or long term.
- Invest in a light weight yoga mat – Make sure you pack a mat in your bag! There are many travel mats that are under 1lb, and super easy to pack in a carry on. Make this item as necessary as your tooth brush. When you arrive in your hotel room, lay it out in a welcoming place as you are putting away your clothing and toiletries. When you wake up the next morning, step on your mat and commit to staying put for at least 15 minutes.
- Keep your practice simple – Not sure what to do when you’re practicing on your own? Find familiar patterns of movement, and make those your ritual. Sun Salutations, Gentle Core Work, Supine Twists… Just begin moving, and see where your body takes you. If you are not confident creating your own flow, there are literally thousands of online and digital classes to follow along with! (I have a few here)!
- It’s all about the breath – Whether you’re sitting still or scurrying through train depots, your breath is always, always, always available as an object for your awareness to settle upon. A simple breath technique to use on the go is the Box Breath. To perform this breath, inhale on a slow count of four, hold for a count of four, exhale for a count of four, and hold out for a count of four. Repeat up to 12 times. To help your mind remain centered on your breath, you can internally say to yourself, “Breathing In, Breathing Out,” with your in and out breaths respectively.
- Ideal times to practice – Before you let your mind jump into planning mode, remind yourself to settle down and tune in! Practice first thing, only after using the bathroom and drinking some water. It can be challenging to get back to your mat once you allow yourself to carry on with the day. To avoid bypassing practice, make it your first and last activity of the day. The mind and body usually experience a bit of stress while traveling, making deep sleep more challenging and less satisfying. Restorative yoga before bed will combat the wear and tear of travel, and will help you to rest well.
- Keep a journal handy – Svadhyaya (self study) is an integral part of the yoga practice. Journaling while you travel is a fabulous way to document novel experiences, and to keep track of your inner experience. When we travel we are faced with so much new information, thoughts, and ways of being all at once. Keeping a journal will help you to sort through and make sense of these impressions.
- If nothing else, Meditate – If you have time for none of the above, take (at very minimum) five minutes in the morning and in the evening to practice sitting meditation. Set your timer, and commit to sitting with ease for just five minutes. Tune in, listen deeply, release the tension of the body, and feel your aliveness. Your body, your breath, and your awareness are beautiful miracles that deserve your attention (no matter how busy you are). If you need assistance in meditation, there are a number of apps and podcasts that are available free of charge.
….et Voila! You are all set to roam the globe without leaving your yoga practice at home. Your body, mind, heart, and yoga teachers will all be glad you remained consistent 🙂
And Remember: The outer and inner journeys are yours to explore, learn and grow from. Wherever your path takes you, enjoy the ride.
Practices to Balance Pitta Dosha
(How to Beat the Summer Heat!)
The summer heat has really began to kick up here in SoCal; and with this rise in heat, we are also experiencing a rise in Pitta energy. In Ayurvedic Medicine, the sister science of Yoga, Pitta is fire, heat, and transformation.
And just like we need the warming heat of Summer, we need the warming heat of Pitta. Balanced Pitta is joyful, energetic, clear, concise, vital, and productive. And when in balance, it properly controls and regulates digestion, metabolism and energy production in the body.
Pitta out of balance (in excess), on the other hand, can lead to dehydration, high acidity, inflammation, heartburn, irritability, anger, and impatience! So, you can see why keeping our fire in balance is so important!
It’s not “good” or “bad”… It’s all about balance!
Just like a good fire, we want our Pitta to remain steady, bright and smoldering… Too hot, your fire will burn up all of the energy it needs to sustain itself. Too cold, energy will remain stagnant and sluggish.
Don’t know your Dosha? Use this easy to follow guide to find out!!
How to balance Pitta Dosha:
In Ayurveda, opposites are used to heal and bring balance to areas of imbalance. So, to balance Pitta- the energy of fire- you would want to use the cooling energy of water – the Kapha Dosha. This could look as simple as taking a cool shower, going for a dip in the ocean or a cool lake, or drinking a big glass of water!
Movement, breath and conscious consumption are all tools to call upon in your healing. Whatever you preferred method, there is a way to keep your Pitta in balance.
MOVEMENT and BREATH:
Cooling Asana: Very gentle backbends which shape the thoracic spine, like Cobra Pose, Cow Pose, and Fish Pose are cooling for the body and nervous system.
Breath: Practicing the Sitali Breath is exceptionally cooling. In this practice, you can literally feel the cool breeze coating your lungs. It’s as simple as rolling your tongue into a “taco” and inhaling. If you can’t roll your tongue, breathe in gently through your teeth. You can release your air through your mouth or your nose.
Stay Hydrated! This is perhaps one of the most important steps to take in calming Pitta. Drink lots and lots of water (slightly chilled or room temperature), especially in the summer months. On days you know you’ll be active, drink even more water than usual.
Take A Dip: If you have a cool body of water close by, take a dip in the evening when the sun isn’t so intense. You can also try doing a Cold Rinse after your shower. Just turn the knob all the way to Cold, and soak your head and full body in the chilly water for 30 seconds – 1 minute. (This is also a great trick for calming inflamed, sore muscles)!
Cooling Tea: There are many blends you can choose from, but Pitta balancing teas often include fennel, peppermint, cardamom, cilantro, coriander, hibiscus flowers, rose petals, and chamomile flowers.
Food Is Medicine: Eat more foods that are astringent, sweet and bitter. Cold foods like salads, veggies, fruits and coconut oil! Avoid foods that are spicy, sour, salty, hot and dry, like coffee.
There you have it! Easy practices to bring your fire-water energy back into balance.
May your summer be balanced and bright!
The Three Doshas of Ayurveda
What is your Dosha?
Before we dive into the Doshas, let’s talk a little bit about where they come from- the science of Ayurveda.
Like Yoga, Ayurveda comes through the teachings of the Upanishads & the four Vedas. The ancient science constitutes the oldest and longest medical texts in the world! There are specific branches of Ayurveda, similar to Western Medicine; Internal Medicine, Surgery, Pediatrics, Eyes, Head & Throat, Toxicology, Psychology, Rejuvenation and even Aphrodisiacs!
Ayurveda uses the Pancha Mahabhutani (The Five Great Elements) as its guiding force. Each of the five elements can be thought of as principles of density, manifestations of ideas, and fields of expression.
Pancha Mahabhutani: Air, Ether, Fire, Water, Earth
When combined a certain way, the elements create different, unique constitutions- which we call The 3 Doshas.
The Doshas can be applied to all physical life- from the ocean to animals, the change of seasons, and even our own bodies. Each season, life form, and person usually has one dominant Dosha.
The three Doshas:
VATA (Elements Air and Ether)
PITTA (Elements Fire and Water)
KAPHA (Elements Water and Earth)
To find out your primary Dosha, just fill out the questionnaire below!!
Note: This post and quiz is meant to act as an initial guide to your discovery. This is not a substitution for a true Dosha screening by an Ayurvedic doctor, nor is it meant to act as medical advice. To learn more about Ayurveda and the Doshas, research a local Ayurvedic practitioner in your area.
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The ABC’s of Teaching Yoga
An Effective Teaching Practice is as Easy as A-B-C
A is for Alignment and Awareness:
Align The 3 Platforms of the Body:
Yoga Alignment is both intuitive and subtle, as well as intelligent and physical. Let’s take a look at the physical alignment principles, as most teachers will be guiding students through physical Asana.
The three platforms must be in proper alignment in order to have a safe and injury free practice over time. Many people get away with doing postures out of proper alignment for a long time- but then they pay for it with bad knees, achy backs and stiff necks! Alignment is as much about prevention of injury as it is about having an effective practice here and now.
As you guide your students through Asana, cue your students to Align–>Stabilize–>Elongate through the three platforms of the body. Tip: Start with the foundation! Always cue your students through postures from the bottom, up. (Meaning in inverted postures, you’ll begin with the neck and shoulders!)
Tadasana is a great posture for your students to examine their alignment at the beginning of class. It also serves as a good check-point throughout practice to see how things may have shifted.
Align the feet and ankles. Properly aligned feet and ankles will protect the knees from torquing, over-extending, or folding in an undesirable way.
Align the hips. This will guard the low back, and subsequently the rest of the lumbar and thoracic spine.
Align the shoulders. Shoulders in good alignment will protect the neck and cervical spine from injury.
It’s Not Yoga Without Awareness:
Awareness is truly what makes yoga Yoga. Without the element of focused awareness, yoga can easily become a glorified calisthenics practice. Here are some methods of inviting your students’ minds to tune-in to their bodies and tune-out what is not serving their practice. Tip: Do these exercises in the very beginning of class. Make it a priority to move awareness from the external to the internal.
- Simple Guided Mindfulness: Sometimes busy minds are in need of shepherding. Create a channel for your students’ minds to flow with ease. This can be done through mindfulness of body (moving from head to toe), mindfulness of breath, or even a more creative visualization.
- Deep Breathing: Never underestimate the power of a few deep breaths to calm the mind and reel in focus. The Nadi-Shodhana Breath is very balancing and calming, as is a simple 4-count in and out breath.
- Just Sit: This can be challenging for some… But, the fruits of the practice are plentiful once the practice becomes established. Take the first five minutes of class just to sit comfortably in stillness with your students. It will benefit your students, and you!
One of my favorite ways to establish focus in my classes is with the recitation of Mantra. A Mantra is simply a repeated word, phrase, statement, or sound that can be voiced aloud or internally. The process of repetition provides focus, plasticity, adaptability and concentration to the mind; just as asana does for the body. I usually do this with my classes in a call-and-response method, in which I say a line of a chosen mantra (or chant) and the class repeats it back aloud. In my personal practice, I have found the use of a Meditation Mala to be very helpful in my awareness/meditation practice. You can find Meditation Malas in my shop HERE.
B is for Breath and Balance:
Breath Is The Best Barometer:
This is the constant thread of the practice. The breath is always, always, always available as an object of awareness. In every posture, from simple sitting meditation to the most complex twist or balance, the breath is there and willing to guide you deeper into awareness. Try it now! Close your eyes and try to follow your breath for three in-and-out cycles. You may be surprised how tempting it is to get off track- just do your best to keep coming back- it will always be there for you.
Teaching your students to be aware of their breath is essential. It is their best gauge in knowing if they are “pushing it” beyond a safe limit, or if they are slacking off when they should be “up-ing the ammo”. Tip: Offer reminders throughout practice for your students to check-in with their breath. Sometimes a suggestion to be aware is all a student needs. If students need more encouragement, up your own use of breath- exaggerate the sound of the Ujjayi Breath as you flow through Asana with the class.
Always do your best to cue every gross movement with breath. (Example: “Inhale, lift your arms overhead. Exhale, draw your low ribs in and extend your tailbone towards your heels.”)
Balance Is Key:
Yoga Sutra 2:46 states, Sthira Sukha Asanam. This can be translated into Each posture should be done with a balance of both effort and ease. This idea can be applied to each posture, as well as the trajectory for a full class.
Teach in a way that creates balance for your students by cuing postures sequentially. Reinforce the foundation of each pose before encouraging more challenge in complex postures. Even in a “challenge class” or “power yoga” class, you can offer a full warm up and cool down, so students feel both energized and relaxed at the end.
While many students are eager to fit themselves into the “perfect yoga body”, remind them that they are right where they are supposed to be. Encourage stability before flexibility, and tailor postures to fit the needs and balance the imbalances of the practitioners in your class.
Another Note on Balance: It is absolutely essential that, as a teacher, you are balanced in your own practice. Many teachers jump head-first into a heavy teaching schedule, leaving no time for their own practice. This leads quickly to burn out… and your students feel that! Make sure you are taking care of yourself, and doing your own practice diligently.
C is for Coordination and Connection:
The Art of Coordination:
Sometimes yoga can feel like a full-on body teaser, akin to rubbing your belly while patting your head! You know… you’re trying to balance on one foot, draw in Mula Bandha, focus your eyes, and breathe– all at the same time! Many students can feel overwhelmed by the complexity of it all. Remember that their coordination is being guided by yours.
As a teacher, learn to listen to your students’ subtle body language. Notice if they are hearing each cue you offer, and implementing them, before you move on to the next. Tip: Give Universal/General instructions prior to specifics. Gross motor movements should come before the fine-tuned energetics of each pose.
Always give your students enough time to integrate what you’ve said before moving on. It may take time before you, as a teacher, feel confident in your art of coordination- especially if you are teaching all-level classes. Overtime you will learn to read the room and coordinate your classes to fit the needs of those in front of you.
Connection, Inner and Outer:
As a yoga guide, you are helping your students find their own inner-connection. But it is not just your words and suggestions that they will listen to. Your own inner-connection becomes evident as you share with a group, as you speak aloud, and as you demonstrate postures.
Strive to deepen your own connection to your light within. Your personal practice becomes your teaching practice. In diving in deep to your own inner-space, you are subconsciously giving permission to your students to do the same. Tip: Share Your Energy and Authenticity. Students want to learn from you. Connect to your true voice.
Making an “outer” connection with your students can also help to transform their practice. Let your students feel fully seen and supported by making eye contact and personalizing cues when appropriate. Always make sure you are visible to your class, as many students are visual learners. Mirror your students if possible, so you remain face-to-face with the group.
Beyond The ABC’s….
A little bonus for those of you who are ready to take your teaching practice all the way to Z… Because the true art of teaching is more than mastering a few skills. It takes an honest commitment to the practice, willingness to evolve, and the ability to listen to the needs of your students. To effectively transmit the embodied teachings of yoga, practice being a teacher, not just an instructor.
Instructor VS. Teacher
Instructor: Passes on knowledge usually in a scripted manner, similar to reading from a curriculum, and may not have true understanding of what or why. They likely think, “this is how I was taught to do it,” without questioning.
Teacher: Understands the how and why behind the material, and presents material to meet students where they’re at. They modify their teaching to address different learning styles, and to engage every student. Material is never passed on without knowing why – for safety, for tradition, for challenge and self-growth, etc.
Included here is an example Asana Sequence to show how the ABC’s can be directly implemented into the flow of a class:
Begin in Tadasana: grounds students in alignment and awareness from the foundation
Open with Breath + Chanting: bring the body and mind away from the external and into the internal
Ardha Surya Namaskar: build up in repetition, with emphasis onalignment and breathv
Flow through Dynamic Asanas: warm up thes and educate areas of the body that will be opening more deeply as class progresses
Surya Namaskar with Variations: add a twist/get creative, building up from simple to complex
Virabhadrasana-2 (Warrior 2): flow with externally rotated standing poses to open the hips and build strength in balance
Prasarita Padotanasana (Wide-Legged Forward Fold): bridge between right and left, elongate the muscles that have been strengthening and engaging
Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon): Cue with other options (use of props or different posture for less advanced students) with an emphasis on coordination
Garudasana (Eagle’s Pose): Move from simple to complex, with optional use of props
Svarga Dvijasana (Bird of Paradise): Continue to challenge coordination and balance
Bakasana (Crow Pose): Give options to keep the class connected and not lose the flow of the practice. Note: Know if you are turning it into a “workshop” or regular class on the schedule. There’s a difference…
Backbends: simple to complex. Be inclusive!
Seated and supine poses: restore the body and calm the nervous system before savasana
Full Savasana: Encourage your students to completely let go, and give into the deep rest they have been working towards all practice
Closing: One of the best times to deepen connection to the practice and to something bigger than the self.
Definitions from Oxford English Dictionary:
Alignment: Arrangement in a straight line, or in correct or appropriate relative positions.
Awareness: Knowledge or perception.
Breath: An inhalation or exhalation of air from the lungs.
Balance: An even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady. Stability of one’s mind or feelings.
Coordination: The ability to use different parts of the body together smoothly and efficiently.
Connection: A relationship in which a person, thing, or idea is linked or associated with something else.
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Yoga for Athletes
Taking Your Practice from the Mat to the Court
Last Thursday I was gifted the opportunity to meet with about 50 high school basketball players through West Coast Elite San Diego . WCE is directed by one of the top basketball coaches in the country, Sterling Jones. Sterling trained my son Tommy from the time he was in middle school, and continues to work with him when he is home on break from Harvard.
Tommy McCarthy of Harvard VS. University of Kansas
I’ve seen through my children, as well as through my own experience, the kind of camaraderie that forms through the challenges of training. Trust and intimacy evolve naturally as teammates (and coaches) witness one another breaking through mental and physical barriers. You gain a deep respect, and often adoration, for those you see grow, and for those who see you grow through the process.
Paired with camaraderie, however, is often a big dose of competition, extreme rigor and pressure to excel, leaving many athletes overly sore, burnt out, or full of anxiety (which all translate into an impaired game). This is why I’ve found it so important for athletes to supplement their intense training with practices that offer balance, and an opportunity to work – alone or as a team – in a less goal oriented, high pressure way.
Yoga, I’ve found, is the perfect supplement.
So, let’s go back to Thursday when I met with dozens of young, high energy, tight, sore, and rigorous athletes… I came out to help these boys develop greater muscular balance in the body and learn how to discipline their mind through focus and concentration.
They were all attentive, respectful, and along for the ride. There was also an element of hilarity as they were moaning and groaning with every stretch… But, this just confirmed it even more! Athletes, who are so used to go-go-going strong all the time, need the practice of slowing down and listening.
The result of a balanced approach to training is agility, calmness during stressful situations, ability to move and react quickly, intuitive efficiency, and stronger teamwork!
The boys were extremely receptive to the lessons, and I can’t wait to see how they apply what they learned in their game.
If you are a yoga teacher working with athletes, or an athlete doing your own practice, take these thoughts into consideration:
1. Use Your Breath First : Athletes are often used to moving from their “outer” body first, without much consideration for the feeling or deep rooted cause of the action. In yoga, the movement comes as a result of the breath, so each posture is formed from the inside-out. With long, deep, full breaths you can move deeper into a stretch in a safe way. In most sports the breath speeds up, but in yoga the breath stays slow, even and rhythmic.
2. Find Your Edge : In yoga, “the edge” is the place where you’re working at the top of your body’s ability on any given day. If you worked any less, you’d be slacking off; any more, and you’d be risking injury. Only you know where your edge is, so take the time to listen carefully to what your body is saying from pose to pose. Practicing “the edge” helps athletes struggling to balance ambition in their lives, and can be a potent remedy to the perfectionist mentality.
3. Change The Mental State : Many athletes deal with judgment, competitiveness and criticism on a regular basis. This can facilitate and contribute to stress. The yoga practice helps to counter this type of training, as it is deeply personal and should be self enhancing. Yoga is a time to let go of being a goal-oriented competitor and just be present in the process of where you are today.
4. Use Everything, Overuse Nothing : Yoga teaches a balance between Strength and Surrender- both mentally and physically. In the body, for example, notice how you can contract an opposing muscle from the one being stretched, by pulling it closer to the bone. i.e.: contract and lift the kneecap and quadriceps toward the top of the thigh and inward toward the femur to open the hamstrings.
5. Don’t Envy Flexibility / Show Compassion : Flexibility comes to people in varying rates. Some athletes experience a steep learning curve in increasing flexibility. A focused practice of utilizing the breath while stretching muscles may be brand new. These athletes need to be reassured that it takes time and consistent effort to get results. Be careful not to compare flexibility. For many it takes years to achieve a supple, flexible body. It is not easy to be flexible if you train. Training makes you tight! You have to work hard to get tight, so don’t be embarrassed by it.
Whatever you play and however you train, I hope you are able to apply these yogic lessons to your practice. There is value in intense training, and value in slowing down. Ultimately, work for balance in your life so that you can play at your highest potential.
How knowing my star sign taught me to be my Highest Self
I’ve never been much of the “woo-woo” sort. I didn’t get into yoga because I wanted everlasting peace. I was an athlete, a bit of a gym rat, and a physical go-getter. Yoga came to me by accident, and just so happened to completely change my life.
When I stepped foot into my first yoga class, I had no idea what Sanskrit was- or why it was important to chant it at the beginning of every practice. I had no idea what bandhas were, and no idea why everyone was so “peaced-out” after class. I just knew it made me feel good. So I kept on going to class, immersing myself in the experience of each asana, and listening carefully to what my instructors were saying.
At first, the depths of yoga entered my being subconsciously. And it wasn’t until my beloved teacher Dom asked me to sub his class that I had even considered I could teach it.
Teaching my first yoga class was an enlightening experience; in that moment, I felt like I knew why I was created.
Since that day, over 30 years ago, yoga has opened me up to countless realities I had never before considered as real. It taught me about the power of my thoughts, the wisdom of my true nature, and the infinite possibilities that show themselves when we trust in the mysterious unfolding of life.
Yoga introduced me to a number of other ancient practices which were all rooted in the same understanding that all of life is connected. One of these practices, which came much later in my life, was Astrology.
Now you may be thinking, “Ok, I get Yoga- it’s a physical practice! But… Astrology?”
At first, I thought that too. But when I met Leslie McGuirk of Lucky Stars Astrology at Rancho La Puerta Spa in Mexico, I had the same kind of life changing moment as when I taught my first yoga class.
The way she could describe the meaning of the stars was so new to me. Before I had known astrology only from the single sentence fate-tellers in the daily newspaper— and I wasn’t so convinced. What first changed my mind was hearing Leslie akin astrology to owner’s manual: “Astrology is one of the most useful tools for increasing self awareness and inner peace. Think of it like the owner’s manual in your car’s glove compartment; you have the key to your vehicle and you are the driver.”
“Astrology is one of the most useful tools for increasing self awareness and inner peace. Think of it like the owner’s manual in your car’s glove compartment; you have the key to your vehicle and you are the driver.”
I was intrigued. I was so curious to know what could the stars teach me about myself that I don’t already know. So, I decided to dive in deeper, and booked a private reading with Leslie. What she revealed to me wasn’t anything incredibly new. But it was incredibly transformational… I’ll explain.
What I found out was that I am a double Virgo! Meaning not just my Sun sign is Virgo (my primary characteristics), but my Moon sign is also Virgo (my emotional and intuitive characteristics). Although not super uncommon, most people have different Sun and Moon signs- which usually offers more dynamic and balanced outer and inner worlds. But I am a full-out, full-fledged Virgo…
Subnote: If this is totally new for you (like it was for me) here’s a little more background: Your Signs reveal the unique relationship that the sky, stars and planets had to the Earth at the moment of your birth. For thousands of years, people have been using astrological science as a way to learn about themselves and the workings of the natural world. There’s nothing too “woo-woo” about it once you get past the vague, generic descriptions.
So, as I began learning more about what it meant to be Stacy, the double Virgo, I began to know how to work with -rather fight against- the traits that were an undeniable part of my person. Virgos are typically very careful, methodical, hardworking, resourceful, well spoken, problem solvers who are not afraid to speak their minds. But they’re also typically very shy, overly critical, worrisome, sensitive and fragile.
Before I was equipped with this knowledge, I would unknowingly fight against the traits I thought were weaknesses. I would force myself to be less sensitive, or belittle myself for speaking my mind so fiercely. I didn’t know it was my true nature to be a go-getting business woman with a soft side that also needed tending to. With this awareness, I have been better able to consciously work with and even transform my more challenging traits, while enhancing and using my best traits to their fullest.
In this way, learning my star sign has helped me to grow into my highest self- all “woo-woo” aside.
Not only have I been able to embrace my double-Virgo mind, but I’ve also made a dear friend. Leslie continues to help me foster my best self, and acts as a sort of technician who helps me read my owner’s manual with greater clarity.
I’m a fan and I want everyone to know just how powerful this practice is. You too can be fueled by the awareness of who you are in relationship to the cosmos.
Leslie will be the guest speaker for the next A Day of Namaste (themed Count Your Lucky Stars) on Sunday, April 8, 2018. She will be talking specifically about the planet Mercury and its role in the way we communicate. You won’t wanna miss out!
May the stars bless you,
With all my love,
A Day of Self Love
Be Your Own Valentine
I am passionate about helping people create lifelong rituals which ensure their success, wellbeing and sustaining ability to thrive. Establishing healthy habits takes practice, persistence, and patience- whether it’s taking on a new diet, exercise regime, or adopting a new mindset.
The process of gaining lasting Self Love is no different. It takes time, practice, and many ups and downs to test if we’re really doing our homework.
Yes, love is work. Sometimes. But what better work could there be?
Honing the ability to love ourselves fully – no matter the external circumstance – is priceless. Self Love breeds contentment, joy, health, ability to be of service, and the ability to love others fully. It is only from offering ourselves love that we can offer it to others.
Remembering the importance (and vitality) of Self Love is especially important in times when society asks us to show our love with boxes of chocolates and flowers. Not that these things aren’t lovely… but they’re not L-O-V-E, Love. To truly experience Love, we must go past the image of love, and dive deep into the embodiment of love.
This state is cultivated from deep within, and only from within. To me, loving self is akin to looking within through eyes of love, a gentle heart, and a nurturing mind.
Below you’ll find some of my favorite Self Love Rituals. These are the practices that help me nurture myself, that give me care when ego says I’m not worth it, that nourish me so that I may nourish my family and students. They are by no means the only way to cultivate Self Love, but they are a few.
Feel free to take a full day going through all of these practices together; or just add in one per day, and feel how even a moment of offering yourself love makes such a world of difference.
1. Loving Kindness Meditation
My go-to, always, everyday. Love of any kind starts with Self Love. This meditation, practiced in three parts starts with self, then extends to an individual of choice, then to all beings. The order is not to create a hierarchy, but to validate the importance of giving within before giving abroad. I like to begin each morning with this meditation.
May my heart be filled with Loving Kindness.
May I be well.
May I be peaceful and at ease.
May I be happy.
(Repeat 2x, replacing “my/I” with “your/you” and then “our/us”)
2. Abhyanga + Hot Bubble Bath
Your body is your temple, and showing it a little love will go a long way. Taking a moment to clean your body and pamper yourself with pleasure is a beautiful act of Self Love. Immerse yourself in a hot bubble bath, with candles, your favorite calming music and essential oils. Then, for a few minutes, slather melted coconut oil over your entire body- don’t miss an inch! Tend to the spaces that normally don’t get looked at. Massage away tension. I promise you’ll feel good… and your skin will love it.
3. Take Time to Do Your Practice
Rid of what is not serving you, and make space for what you love. If you have four appointments scheduled in a day, but aren’t taking 10 minutes to care for your body and mind- rethink how you’re prioritizing your Self Love. Reschedule an appointment, and instead go take a yoga class, call a girlfriend to have lunch, close your eyes and listen to your breath… When we are over scheduled and overwhelmed, we simply can not offer our best selves. Quality over Quantity. Work can wait, but habitually not taking care of your body will eventually mean that you can’t work at all.
4. Nourish Your Body
Eat well. Feed your body beautiful foods. Feed yourself lovingly. Be aware of what you consume. Have a sensual experience with your food by eating slowly, and savoring all the flavors, textures and subtleties of your cuisine. Don’t eat on the go. Eat purposefully, graciously, and with ease. Your body will better assimilate the nutrients of your food, your digestion will improve, and you’re weight will very likely balance out on its own.
Try this little something extra for you sexy food lovers… Beaming Cafe’s Sexy Mayan Smoothie! I was more or less obsessed with this smoothie when it was first launched. It’s perfectly rich, a little spicy, gives a nice boost to your heart health, and invigorates the senses! Blend all ingredients in a blender or Vitamix- Savor and Enjoy!!
Sexy Mayan Smoothie:
1 cup almond milk – homemade sprouted or organic boxed
1 T Beaming superfood plant protein (with or without greens)
2 T cacao powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 cup frozen banana
1/4 tsp sea salt (optional)
1/2-1 cup ice
Ok. There you have it. A few of my all time favorite Self Love Rituals. Now it’s up to you to make space for Self Love in your heart by doing your practice.
Sending you all lots and lots of love.
Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodha
In a media world – How do we practice yoga authentically?
I have a friend who is just starting his yoga journey. He began practicing yoga to improve his health, but when he looks at yoga on social media he’s left with the impression that yoga is only about touching his toes, twisting into a pretzel, or hand-standing on a perilous cliff… Encouraging, right?
I think he’ll find some solace in this….
The research is valid that a consistent practice of yoga can relieve back pain and lower blood pressure; and the most recent study published in Frontiers in Immunology suggests that yoga and mediation can actually “suppress inflammation-promoting genes and genetic pathways, and can actually undo the physical and mental effects of stress, and reduce the risk of disease, at the genetic level.”
This is the yoga that yogis have practiced for centuries, and is detailed in the second verse of Patanjali’s yoga sutras: Yoga Chitta Vrtti Nirodha (Yoga ceases the fluctuations of the mind). The ancient practice of yoga is not about touching your toes, it’s about liberating your mind from the redundant, recycled, unnecessary thoughts that constantly pass through our heads.
The power of yoga is its ability to connect us to the deepest part of our inner self so that we may finding lasting health and peace. When we heal the mind, we heal the body.
The past decade has seen the packaging of an ancient practice in a way that makes it accessible and attractive to an emerging yoga community. The modern yogi’s challenge, then, is staying faithful to the antiquity and integrity of the teachings, not slipping into commercialism or diluting the practice.
So. How can you make sure you’re really practicing yoga, and not just glorified calisthenics?
For me, I practice authentically by practicing awareness of mind. If my mind is racing, competing, or judging the person on the mat next to me, I know I’m not doing my practice. If I am going over my to-do list for the day (or for the next three months), I know I’m not doing my practice. If I am still mulling over the guy that cut me off on the way to class, I am definitely not doing my practice.
But when, in the midst of the effort of each pose I am serene, focused, and full of breath, I know am doing my practice. When I choose to love my body, even when I’m tired, achy or injured, I am doing my practice. When I tune in and feel more than I judge and think, I am doing my practice.i
I come back to the teachings. I come back to the Sutras, like Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodha.
The real practice of yoga is deeply intimate. Only you, yourself, can truly tell if you’re immersed in the depths of stillness that come from complete surrender to experience. Only you know when your mind is still. And only you can attest to how that makes you feel… But I’d bet it makes you feel pretty darn good. I bet you breathe a little easier, that your heart rate normalizes, that you sleep better at night, that your injuries heal faster…
So, don’t worry about what the social media yogis are doing. They have their practice to do- and you have yours.
Yoga is so much more than handstands, and so much more than a weekend get-away. It’s a lifelong commitment to bettering yourself, a constant inner-looking (Svādhyāya), a daily remembering of the power of your thoughts, and lasting peace that comes from the stillness of the mind.
Yoga Chitta Vrtti Nirodha. Yoga is stilling of the fluctuations of the mind.
Do The Twist!
Bharavadjasana – Simple to Complex
Just as important as backbending and forward folding, twisting is an integral part of a balanced yoga practice. A well balanced practice will take the body in all directions available, so that you end feeling balanced and whole.
For some, however, twisting brings up many concerns. If shoulders, low back, or hips are tight, it’s likely a challenge to twist in a way that feels good. And if you’ve ever had a neck or back injury, twisting may down right scare you…
But! The good news is this: Twisting is accessible for almost everyone!
You don’t need to go into the deepest expression of a pose to reap the rewards. With the use of simple modifications, props and good instruction, you’ll be doing the twist in no time.
Before we jump into posturing, let’s review some of the benefits and fundamentals of twisting:
Twisting the body is a little like ringing out a wet towel- the process of rotation helps to squeeze out toxic fluids and make space for new, fresh fluids to take their place. In this way, twists detoxify the body. Incorporating twists into your daily practice will increase your spinal flexibility and strength, give more dynamic strength to your core muscles, create more space for breath, and will actually help to “ring out” your internal organs (aka: healthier digestion, more regular bowel movements, and easier processing of nutrients).
Twisting postures range from simple to complex. Keep in mind that twisting is all about elongating (2/3 Lengthening, 1/3 Twisting)! As you twist, lengthen gently with your inhales, and then rotate gently with your exhales. Remember that you can’t move into a twist if there is “no room”.
*Please Also Note: Contraindications to twists include bulging or herniated disks, sciatica, severe scoliosis, any back or neck injury that is upset by twisting movements, pregnancy, menstruation. Always listen to your body. If there is any glimpse of pain in a posture, do not practice it in that moment. Consult an experienced yoga teacher, physical therapist or physician should you need further guidance.
One of my favorite twisting postures is Bharavadjasana. This seated twisting pose opens up the low back, hips and shoulders all in one, and acts as a great example of how to modify any twisting pose to suit your ability.
Bharavadjasana, Simple to Complex:
Variation A: Seated on a Block / Front leg in Sukhasana variation / No bind of arms
When you need to focus on gently opening up the back and hips, and elongating the spine, this is the variation for you. Sitting on the block will give space to those with less range in their hips, and will help keep the pelvis in proper alignment. As you twist, take the opposing hand to the thigh of the front leg. The back hand will act as a reminder to lift (hint: do NOT dump your weight onto this hand- this will throw off the alignment of your shoulders and bring unwanted lateral flexion to the spine).
Variation B: Seated on Mat / Front leg in Sukhasana / Bind of back arm to front arm
This variation is for those whose hips and low back feel comfortable seated directly on the mat. (hint: both sit-bones will be evenly weighted, and the pelvis in proper alignment). As you twist, the opposing hand will meet the front thigh, while the back arm will gently internally rotate from the shoulder in order to wrap around the mid-back. The back hand will meet the front arm, just above the elbow crease. (hint: keep your shoulders opening gently away from the heart center, and breathe as evenly as possible into both sides of the lungs).
Variation C: Seated on Mat / Front leg in ArdhaPadmasana / Full bind of arms
The final variation of Bharavadjasana is for those with open hips and shoulders; whom need a little more intensity from their seated twist. The front leg is bound in ArdhaPadmasana, offering greater opening to the front hip (hint: as in the previous variation, make sure both sit-bones have even placement on your mat). As you twist, the opposing hand will reach to the front knee, while the back hand will reach for the bound foot. Some find this connection at the big toe, and others can reach around the full foot. (hint: use your inhalations to consciously lengthen, while keeping the pelvis weighted, and the exhalations to gently deepen the twist).
There you have it, yogis.
Get on your mat + Happy Twisting!
With Love + Namaste,