Balance your Chakras with these foods & exercises

Food & Spirit Chakra Infographic

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Fertility yoga: Asana and beyond [free online videos]

fertility yoga

One of my readers recently sent me a message asking about yoga for fertility. Admittedly, I’m not certified in pre-natal yoga, but I do know a few amazing teachers who are.  Jill Petigara, literally wrote the book on yoga and fertility.  Her book, Yoga and Fertility: A Journey to Health and Healing, delves into the role yoga can play in helping women conceive.

The book can be a great guide for soon-to-be-moms, and it includes exercises they can do at home. However, if you ARE trying to get pregnant, I highly recommend you find a yoga instructor or workshop that specializes in yoga and fertility.  A certified pre-natal instructor, particularly someone who specializes in fertility yoga can help guide you though an optimal practice for you. Of course, check with your doctor before starting any kind of exercise program.

If you can’t find a class specific to fertility, a restorative yoga class is a great place to start.  Many of the same poses are integrated, and the class is a gentle, nurturing, ‘restorative’ environment.  That said, there are some things in addition to the physical poses in yoga to help with fertility.

Trying to get pregnant can be stressful and emotionally trying, so it’s a perfect time to begin a meditation practice. A daily meditation practice, even for five minutes can help reduce stress and balance emotions and hormones. Keeping a journal to unburden yourself of intrusive thoughts also helps. You also may want to try acupuncture and massage.

Fertility Yoga & Meditation Videos

To help you along with your home practice, here are a couple of videos as you journey toward pregnancy and motherhood.

Yoga poses that aid fertility


Fertility Meditation through the Chakras

The most important thing to remember during this time is to let go of all self-judgement. Be kind to yourself, nurture yourself, and allow any emotions that arise to be.  Accept them. Breathe.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

Photo: Joyful Birth Babies

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‘No’ is a complete sentence

No

If you’re like me, you’re a people-pleaser.  You’d rather avoid disappointing someone, so you say yes to more than you should.  You’re afraid someone might think you’re not a good friend, employee, sister, aunt, yoga teacher, etc. if you say no.  The reality is, you can’t be everything to everyone.  And if you think you can. you’re probably not truly ‘being there’ for anyone, especially yourself.

A while ago, I had a conversation with a friend about a situation in which I felt guilty for saying no.  I decided to put myself first for once, and said no to substituting a yoga class. The person who asked gave me some “not-so-subtle” non-verbal cues to let me know of their disappointment.   I found myself trying to justify my decision, when in reality it was the other person’s issue, not mine.  They were upset that they’d be inconvenienced, and yet I somehow took on the responsibility and the guilt (my issue).  WRONG.

What my friend said to me when I told her the story was, “No, is a complete sentence.”  It was so simple, and it made me start to think about how many times I’ve felt incredibly guilty for saying no or putting myself first. How many times did I rehearse a conversation in my head or replay one to see how I could say no with the least amount of hurt feelings? There were a lot.

So, how do we walk the line of being charitable and giving of ourselves without depleting our energy? What I’ve found out is that the people in your life who really care about you, don’t love you because what you can do for them.  They just love you.  The art of saying no will also reveal who really is in it just for them.  Saying no recently led me to lose someone as a friend which tells me they weren’t really much of a friend at all.

In yoga, bramacharya is often — mistakenly — thought of as ‘chastity’ or a preservation of one’s sexual energy.  But it’s really about moderating all of our energetic resources; allocating them consciously.

Many of us need to learn to conserve our personal energy as much as we try to conserve the electricity in hour homes. When we do, our personal energetic battery has a chance to recharge.  Then we truly CAN be there for others in a deliberate, complete, loving way.  When you are at your most joyous and fulfilled, you will bring that light to everyone you meet.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

Photo: Ecosalon

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Solar eclipse yoga (and a new moon too)

solar eclipse

Today, we’ll experience the annular solar eclipse.  The moon will block part of the sun today for a sensational celestial sight for those who can see it.  So what does this mean for yogis?

Like during a full moon, energies fluctuate greatly during solar and lunar eclipses . Emotions can be heightened, and we can feel overwhelmed or even drained — even for several days before and after the eclipse.

We, ourselves, may feel these shifts intensely or we may simply feel the effects of everyone and everything around us in heightened states. Like full moon yoga, there are many different interpretations of what, if any, yoga to do.

For me, I’m often so full of energy that I’m buzzing like a kid on sugar only to crash from the overwhelming build up within me.  So, I tend to get on the mat and practice a steady vinyasa flow FULL of breath linked with movement.  This both helps to release and draw on some of the amazing energy circulating at the time in a healthy, productive way.

It’s also a great time to experience connectedness, and with the new moon, it’s a great time to shed what’s no longer serving you mentally and spiritually, and start anew.

Here’s a practice you can do for the next few days in celebration of the solar eclipse and new moon.  I recommend focusing on your breathing, flowing from each pose to the next on an in breath and out breath.  Feel free to sneak a vinyasa or your favorite transition in between the standing poses and inversions.

1. Kapalabhati Breathing – Here’s a video for those unfamiliar with the practice

2. Gentle warm-up – Whatever creatively moves through you to get the energy flowing.  Perhaps some cat cow, or hip circles or even some meditative, child’s pose to release tension.

3. 3 – 5 Rounds Surya Namaskar A Sun Salutations – There’s  a chart within this post if you need a reminder of the poses.

4. 3 -5 Rounds of Chandra Namaskar (moon salutations) – Here’s a post with a chart if you’re unfamiliar with moon salutations.

5. Tree pose – Hold for 5 breaths on each side.  Don’t be surprised if you’re wobbly, just stay with it. If you topple out of the pose, just get back in and laugh.

6. Child’s pose – Hold for as long as you need

7. Inversion of choice – You may want to pick something like headstand or shoulderstand.  If you’re energy is off and you’re feeling weak, go for supported shoulderstand with a block under your sacrum

7. Gomukhasana Cow Face Pose – Hold for 10 – 15 breaths, and switch sides

8. Savasana – Give yourself 10 minutes to integrate your practice

9. Meditation – If you have a meditation practice already, try doing 15 – 20 minutes.  If not,  you may choose simply to sit still and allow yourself to be present; you may choose to silently repeat a mantra or send an intention out with the new moon.  Or you could try this Solar Eclipse Kundalini meditation by CatalystYogi.

Enjoy your practice whatever you do, and take time to observe the energy swirling around you and within you.

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Colleen Pinski / Caters News) 

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Use what you have

use what you have

Every few months I take inventory of my ‘stuff’. I peruse my closet for clothes and shoes that are better served as donations;  I take a trip down ‘expiration date’ lane and go through vitamins, prescriptions, lotions, makeup, etc.; and, I take inventory of my physicality. That is, what am I not using very much that I SHOULD, what am I afraid to let go of, and what should change?

Let’s face it, when you hit 40, your body changes.  The exercises that used to come easy, may be the ones that could now cause injury.  And the workouts we shy away from, might just be what cures an ache or pain.

Not too long ago, I was a die-hard Surya Namaskar (sun salutation) junkie.  My mornings consisted of an asana practice that featured a lot of sun salutations with standing, balancing, twisting and inversion poses mixed in, but I noticed that injuries were creeping in.  “Is yoga bad for me?” I wondered?  No, my practice had become, in itself, a samskara — a pattern that wasn’t serving me anymore.

After some assessment, I found that I was gravitating to poses that were easy much to the demise of other parts of my body.  I also noticed that I was avoiding poses that caused pain — and rightly so. But, I decided to investigate the root cause rather than give up altogether.  I’ve since made adjustments to my practice that are specific to my body’s needs, and try to mix it up regularly.

While yoga IS very beneficial for everyone, it’s not once size fits all.  We all can’t be Kathryn Budig (God love her), but like she says, we can “aim true.”

Take stock of your life — physcially, spiritually, emotionally, and posessions-ally. Get rid of what no longer serves you, and use what you have to your fullest (safest) potential.

Namaste,

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: A Lifetime of Wisdom)

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Yoga when you can’t do yoga

sick teddy bear yoga when you're sick

Time and time again, a yoga practice of asana and meditation have proven to help people get healthier in mind and body. But having and keeping a healthy body sometimes means recognizing when it’s time to modify our yoga practice. If you’ve ever had a migraine, the flu, an injury or something else, you know that it can be hard to keep up with a yoga practice and that’s an important message to receive from your body.

As the song goes, you gotta know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em.  When we get a nice momentum or groove going it can be frustrating to take a step back for rest, but rest is important — especially when you’re sick. And then comes the dreaded ego sneaking in with messages like, “You can do it, it’s all in your head” or “If you take a break now, you’ll never get back into it” or even “If I want to look like Jennifer Aniston, I have to push myself.” None of which are factual or helpful.

I like this post from Mary Catherine Starr, yoga instructor &  studio director in Arlington, VA.  She writes about her own struggle with maintaining a yoga practice during a sinus infection, and has some great tips on how to practice when you can’t practice.

This inability to do exactly what I love when it comes to asana and the abundance of sick or sniffly people around me got me thinking, how do you still “practice” yoga when your’re under the weather? I have a few ideas, pulling from what I’ve actually done over the past week, and thought I would share them with you today. But let me also say that these tips are for people who are struggling with seasonal allergies or sinus infections–for people who, like me, can still go about their day, albiet uncomfortably, but are just under the weather enough to be unable to practice–not those who are so weak that they’re stuck in bed or unable to do much of anything.

Read the full post ‘Yoga for when you can’t do yoga‘ on her blog, Starr Struck.  And, here are some great yoga poses for when you have a cold from Yoga Journal. When all else fails, approach your practice like a beginner.  Once your’e feeling better, take it back to square one. Allow your body to re-experience the newness of yoga and get reacquainted with the poses.

The most important thing to remember is that yoga ISN’T just about physical poses.  When you’re sick or rundown, expand your meditation and pranayama practice (if it’s accessible).  Perhaps it’s the universe’s way of reminding you that there’s more to your practice than asana. Try some guided meditations or transcendental meditation in place of asana (or shorten your asana practice and opt for a longer meditation.)

It is better to perform one’s own duties imperfectly than to master the duties of another. By fulfilling the obligations he is born with, a person never comes to grief. ~ Krishna from The Bhagavad Gita

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Suddenly Susan)

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The scientific promise of yoga

Despite being recently called a fad by the BBC, yoga is an ancient practice that can be traced back more than 5,000 years.  It came to the U.S. in the late 1800s, but didn’t really begin to gain popularity until the 1960s.  The more we learn about yoga, the more we recognize what the yogis in the Indus valley already knew — it improves the health and function of the body and mind.

Yoga means “to join or yoke together,” and it brings the body and mind together in harmony, and its benefits are older than the science to support it. From fighting anxiety and depression to preventing heart disease and managing pain, the benefits of a well-rounded yoga practice continue to be discovered.   I found this wonderful infographic on the Promising Scientific Studies on Yoga & Health from Alison Hinks’ blog that sum up some of yoga’s many health benefits.

alison hinks yoga science graphic

For more information on these specific studies, visit Idea Fit’s research section. (Photo: Alison Hinks)

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

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The day I talked to a tree

girl talking to a tree

I’ve been blessed with great friends, including one with whom I’ve recently reconnected.  We reunited at a yoga workshop last year, and have stayed in touch ever since.  Our paths have crossed too many times to ignore, including our attending the same yoga teacher training program a decade apart. We’ve shared common memories of the program including some of the rites of passage that we experienced in our separate journeys. I’m honored to have this  guest blog post from my friend, fellow yoga teacher and inspiration, and truly one of the most authentic people I know, Amber Barry.

———————————————–

I’m an all-American girl, raised on MTV and Julia Roberts movies. Never spent much time in the woods before I got into yoga. So, when my yoga teacher training (YTT) mentor asked me to tell my life story to a tree, I thought he was out of his mind.

It was September 2002, the first weekend of YTT. I was working toward my certification, which meant 200 hours of classroom training in 5 months. I knew it would be a lot of work, but nothing could have prepared me for all it would entail.

In the first two days of YTT, I practiced yoga for twelve hours, cleared my chakras, experimented with transcendental meditation, and participated in a Native American smudging ceremony. I felt like Alice in Wonderland, tumbling down The Rabbit Hole, wondering what was next.

That first weekend of YTT was scary, fascinating, and overwhelming all at once. By Sunday afternoon, however, I was tired and wanted to go home. As we packed up our mats, water bottles, and notebooks, our homework was assigned:

Before we meet again in two weeks, spend a full day alone in the woods. Get there early enough to watch the sun rise. Tell your life story to a tree, and write an essay about the experience.

SERIOUSLY? I can’t do that.

I thought about quitting the course, but something inside me told me I shouldn’t.

The next morning, I pulled out a map, and made a plan. I worked full-time in Corporate America back then, so tree-talking had to wait until the weekend. I dreaded it all week.

Saturday finally came. The weather was cold and drizzly when I awoke at 5:30AM, so I packed a lunch and a raincoat. It was a 40 minute drive to Sweetwater Creek Park, and I spent the entire ride wishing I could call it off.

Instead, I walked into the woods as the sun rose. No compass (forgot it), no trails (huh?), and terrified that I might get lost.

Ok, so how do I know which tree I’m supposed to talk to?

I picked the fattest tree I could find, and sat down, and started talking.

It felt silly, baring my soul to a tree. I kept looking around to see if anyone was watching. I went back and forth between hoping someone would rescue me, and fearing what might happen if someone did find me. Why am I doing this?

I didn’t get it. But I did as I was told, and kept talking. From birth to age 30, I laid it all out. My hopes, dreams, and fears. Traumas and dramas that had never healed. Secrets I had never told another soul. Mistakes I had a hard time admitting, even to myself. And then I was done, with nothing left to tell. So I went home.

It was an unforgettable day, that taught me something extraordinarily valuable:

We all have a story about who we are, and we tell it to ourselves over and over again, until it becomes our “truth”. The problem is that there is often great disparity between our “truth” and reality. The story is founded in perception, yet we build our entire lives around it. Through repetition, the story gains power, and ultimately prevents us from finding happiness.

With time, and a lot of yoga, I learned how to reject the story, so that I could live my life with clarity, awareness, and purpose. And in the process, I found that the happiness I craved was actually inside me all along.

(Photo: Jeremiah Morelli, Mor Jer’s Art)

Amber Barry is a yoga instructor, wellness coach, blogger, wife, and mother of three amazing girls. She has spent over 20 years learning how to be healthy, and loves inspiring others to do the same. You can find her blogging at mycrazyhealthylife.com, tweeting as @crazyhealthy, and updating her status at Come On, Get Healthy!

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This is 40: A safari of humor, humility and humanity

funny owl

Every once in a while I like to take a moment and write from a place of humor and humility.  So in today’s post, rather than waxing prophetic, poetic or prosaic, I thought I’d take you enjoy a glimpse into my humorous self discovery. Here are 40 hilarious & human observations about rounding the bend and why I’m embracing life with all of it’s cruel jokes, humor and beauty.

  1. I can no longer sit OR stand for two long, I’ve become a hovering nomad
  2. I still get to enjoy the occasional zit AND count the burgeoning crows feet
  3. I never thought the words “stool softener” would be part of my vernacular
  4. At 35 I woke up and my pert round butt was were my flat abs used to be and my flat abs were in back, I’ve since begun to turn them back around
  5. I get more comfortable in my skin each and everyday
  6. I don’t care how crazy people think I am, in fact the further from “normal” I appear the better
  7. I know who my friends are
  8. Almost everything makes me laugh, and if it doesn’t I can find humor in it tout de suite
  9. I get cold at 70 degrees and hot at 70 degrees depending on the day or hour
  10. I truly enjoy cooking and baking every Sunday, and making enough for 10 people should anyone ever stop by hungry
  11. I love to play Scrabble on Friday nights with my 70 year old neighbor, she’s like a second grandma to me but also a true friend
  12. I was never supposed to be here this long, and for that I’m grateful each and every day
  13. I have the ability to be in a complete panic and yet remain calm & strong enough to move forward
  14. The little things that set me off can be the same little things that I find funny 30 second later
  15. I no longer to succumb to peer pressure about anything, in fact, I find myself digging my heels in to resist if said pressure is attempted
  16. I don’t have to make excuses to go to bed early, I’m 40
  17. I’ve not only accepted my own quirks, I admire them fondly and wear them proudly
  18. I drink hot tea all the time
  19. I now order my meals at restaurants like Meg Ryan in ‘When Harry Met Sally’
  20. A night of dancing at the ‘club’ now feels like running a marathon in cement shoes.  There should be drink stands and free chair massages.
  21. No matter what, I cry when I see someone else cry
  22. I love my dogs like other people love their children
  23. I now understand what my mother meant when she would say the phrase, “You just wait. You’ll see…”
  24. My heart breaks when I see suffering and wells up when I see random acts of kindness
  25. My first 20 or so years as an independent adult, I accumulated.  Now, I try to lessen
  26. Parts that I didn’t know I had just hurt for no reason sometimes
  27. Some days I feel like an 85 year old teenager
  28. I can literally sit outside for hours doing nothing
  29. Gardening shuts off my brain
  30. Some days my mind is completely still and others in never shuts up
  31. I read food ingredient and nutrition panels like I’m studying for the SAT
  32. I realize that I’ve been masquerading as an extroverted introvert for much of my life
  33. I still learn something new everyday, and I’m wondering if it’s because I used to know it but have since forgotten
  34. No matter how old I get I will never be able to remove a dead rodent from my own home
  35. I buy my shoes and clothes for comfort over style, but hope I have both
  36. Life just isn’t that serious
  37. ‘Sleeping in’ on the weekends is 7:30 or 8:00
  38. No matter what time I sent my alarm for, my body wants to get up a half hour later
  39. I still need to learn to apologize less and forgive myself more
  40. Laughter really is the best medicine, and I’m a great subject. Nobody laughs at me harder than me

What have you learned about yourself in your hears on this planet?

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

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(Photo: Animalzfun Blog)

Which wolf will you feed?


yin_yang_wolf

There’s a story I love that has been around for ages, and has recently begun it’s resurgence in internet circulation. I love the simplicity of it’s message, so I thought I’d share the story of an old Cherokee chief teaching his grandson about life.

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.”

 “One is dark — he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt, and ego.”

 “The other is light — he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

 “This same fight is going on inside you — and inside every other person, too.”

 The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

 The old chief simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Which wolf will you feed today?

Namaste.

– Your Charmed Yogi

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(Photo: Photobucket.com)