Smile it up, yogi

Source: Pinterest

It’s said that laughter is the best medicine, and I agree wholeheartedly.  Like crying, laughter is an emotional release that can have lasting benefits.  Laughing reduces stress, relieves pain and even boosts the immune system.  Plus, a good hearty laugh can be a good ab workout.   Studies show that smiling releases endorphins, natural pain killers, and seratonin.  The sad truth is, however, we don’t laugh nearly enough. Continue reading

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Don’t skip to the next song

I’m a huge music fan.  I love music of all kinds, and am always looking to discover more music to please my ears.  So, of course I’m a huge fan of Pandora and Spotify as a way to find long forgotten hits or to find that great new sound.  Even though I love finding new bands or songs to obsess about, I do have my favorites, so there’s always a temptation to skip over a song I don’t know to find the one I can sing along to.  I was doing this incessantly until my own personal playlist was just a repeat of the same five or ten songs; a perfect metaphor for how we often live our lives. We’re on autopilot, always skipping forward to the next weekend; the next holiday; the next something.  Skipping over the unknown for the comfortable.  So, I broke the cycle for fun. Continue reading

Don’t bury your head in the dirt

dog yard statueIt’s only natural to want to shy away from conflict or avoid facing issues that cause emotional discomfort. However, facing your fears head on first thing in the morning may be exactly what you need to do to break the cycle of suffering.

In addition to my daily yoga (asana) and meditation practice, I recently added a ‘wake-up’ meditation and body scan. Several months ago, after I’d started my regular morning practice, I noticed that I still had some bouts of anxiety during the day that I couldn’t figure out. So, I began to practice awareness as soon as I awoke, and found that it was just the ticket for quelling anxious feelings I didn’t even realize I was harboring.

Stress and anxiety are both natural states, and part of being human, but there is a simple remedy to ensure you start your day in as relaxed a state as possible — by greeting you with gratitude.

Too often, we jump out of bed, head straight for the shower, turn on the television, or down a cup of coffee. Our body is in fight or flight mode and it hasn’t even had a chance to acclimate. No wonder, there’s so much tension in western society. Tomorrow morning, try something different. Set your alarm for about five minutes earlier than usual to allow yourself time to feel what it’s like to wake up, instead of feeling like you’re under attack.

Before you even open your eyes, just softly bring your awareness back to your environment. Gently wiggle your fingers and toes. Reach your arms overhead for a nice stretch, and rub your hands together vigorously to make some heat before cupping them over your eyes. Then, just lie there and notice. Notice if you have any tension anywhere in the body. Notice if you feel dis-ease as soon as you come into the world, and welcome whatever sensations you experience. Say thank you to any physical or emotional feelings good or bad. This different type of awareness, one of gratitude, can quickly dissolve feelings of angst. Treat your morning wake up as gently as you would a long, restorative savasana, and you’ll eventually arise with calm.

Just yesterday, I was talking about this new practice to my mentor from teacher training, and she even suggested bringing your hand to that place on the body in which you’re feeling turbulence, and saying, “thank you.” I love this concept of truly connecting with the self through touch, presence and thankfulness.

In Buddhism, there are four central teachings known as the four noble truths. One of these is dukkha or suffering. The belief is that humans share a bond of suffering, and that living a life of dharma protects us from suffering. And, embracing suffering for the teacher that it is, with gratitude, is the first step toward peace.

We can’t all be boddhisattvas on day one, but when we begin to notice that we are experiencing dukkha at the hand of our own thoughts, and welcome all that is, we begin to live a life of presence — a life without suffering. So, don’t bury your head in the dirt to avoid pain, face it, embrace it and leave it.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

In remembrance

Source: flickr.com via Lindley on Pinterest

Dedicating space in honor of all of the service men and women that have selflessly given of themselves so we have the freedoms we have today. With much love and devotion this Memorial Day,  I thank you.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

Yoga Mat Speed Dating (Product Review)

jade fusion yoga mat

Photo credit: Jade Yoga

I’ll admit, I’ve become a bit of a yoga gear junkie.  When I discovered yoga more than a decade ago, I towed around my $10 Gaiam mat, and it served its purpose.   As I grew as a student, and eventually became a teacher, my desire to expand my horizons in the yoga mat department grew exponentially.  Yes, I’m a yogini, so I’m supposed to be using less, and I do.  However, as anyone who practices yoga with any regularity can tell you, finding the perfect mat that can evolve with you, is like dating.  And, let me tell you, I get around.   So, thought I’d provide my own experiences in yoga mat courtship.  Continue reading

What is Your Heart Opening Yoga Practice?

As a yogini and a teacher, I always bring my practice back to opening the heart as a way to end suffering.  Everyday, we may not even be consciously aware of what we’re doing to sabotage our own happiness.  Things like attachment, aversion, and fear creep into our lives when we aren’t even looking.

Opening the heart happens off the mat and on through asana, spiritual practice, meditation, and nurturing our creativity.    During my classes, I often end class by reading an excerpt from a meditation book I’m reading, or poem by Rumi or Hafiz, or something I’ve written myself that speaks to the moment. Continue reading

when the yoga honeymoon’s over…

We’ve all experienced yoga burn out at one point or another, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.  You just may need to renew the spark in your yoga marriage.  Here’s a great article by Stephanie Carter, “when the honeymoon’s over…”

I’ve had a long, tumultuous relationship with yoga.  We first met in the early 90s and were inseparable, until a misguided physical therapist told me yoga was bad for my neck (boy was he wrong).  After going our separate ways, we reunited several years later and had a series of torrid on-again off-again affairs until about 10 years ago, when we finally settled down.  Like any relationship, we’ve had our share of ups and downs, but things have improved since I learned to navigate the ‘downs.’  Perhaps the trickiest part of a relationship is when the initial burst of bliss and excitement is over and the mundane sets in – that is, when the honeymoon’s over.

Maybe you’ve experienced this yourself.  You discover (or re-discover) yoga and it makes you feel good.  You wonder  – where has yoga been all my life?  You fall in love with the practice, the lifestyle – maybe you fantasize about becoming a teacher (or actually become one!).  All you want to do is yoga.  You commit to practicing X times a week, and you do it, happily.  You resent things like work that get in the way of practice. Then one day when nothing in particular is wrong, you don’t really feel like practicing.  Maybe you talk yourself into it – and maybe it turns out to be a great practice, or maybe it doesn’t.  Even your favorite teacher starts to seem a bit stale.  You’ve hit a wall – the honeymoon is over. At this point in the relationship, many people bail out in search of greener pastures (pilates anyone?).  But if you can steer through this tricky period you will be rewarded with a deeper, more rewarding relationship.

Read the full article, “when the honeymoon’s over,” on Stephanie Carter’s Yoga Blog.

If you’re happy and you know it, just sit there

woman happy yoga

“You are already happy. The reason you don’t experience it is that it’s covered up by layers of suppressed emotions and negative thoughts. Shift your attention and your inherent happiness flashes forth.” – Steve Ross The other day, I had … Continue reading

Like Mother, Like Daughter

mom and toddler at christmasWhen I was very little, my mom was like a Goddess. I thought she was the most magical, beautiful being in existence (still is).  She could do anything.  I wanted to do everything she did, wore everything she wore, be everything she was.  I remember rifling through her trunk of dresses like a tiny criminal just so I could try them on, and dance around just like her.   Even with the dresses in a crumpled heap on the floor covered in cookie crumbs, she never got mad.

My mom has always been the most supportive, compassionate person I’ve ever met.   She taught me how to ride a bike, make potato salad, and how to make a whistle from a blade of grass.   She was there for me through heartache and bullying. through prom and college.Always words of encouragement, always acts of love.  My mom has always been on my side, and has shaped who I’ve become.   She truly is one of the most beautifully selfless people I’ve ever known. Continue reading

Snuggle the Struggle and Be Free

child hugging herselfWhen I first began to practice yoga and meditate, I assumed that I would immediately realize a stress-free blissful existence in which my problems and struggles would no longer exist.  I’ll let you in on a secret, that didn’t happen.

What I learned from teacher after teacher was that yoga was about the present moment, and letting go.  But even that turned into a struggle as I felt some type of resistance to being still.  I felt frustrated that thoughts and feelings other than bliss snuck into my zen space.  I thought that my job as a good yogi was to push those ‘bad’ thoughts and emotions out and only have happy thoughts.  Wrong again.  What I was doing was creating a deeper resistance and suffering. Continue reading