Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The more I let go

"I am given more life, more hope, more moments, the more I let go. The more I let go, do without, reduce, the more I feel. The more I let people be who they are, instead of cramming them into what I need from them, the more surprised I am by their beauty and depth. "

Monday, March 3, 2014

Week 5: yoga on and off the mat

Asana: crow
Pranayama: Ujjayi 
Limb of yoga: saucha 
"When done properly, Ujjayi (translated as "victorious") breathing should be both energizing and relaxing. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali suggests that the breath should be both dirga (long) and suksma (smooth). The sound of Ujjayi is created by gently constricting the opening of the throat to create some resistance to the passage of air. Gently pulling the breath in on inhalation and gently pushing the breath out on exhalation against this resistance creates a well-modulated and soothing sound—something like the sound of ocean waves rolling in and out."

"The root of your problem may be as simple as the effort you exert to perform Ujjayi. It is important to remember that the key to Ujjayi breathing is relaxation; the action of Ujjayi naturally lengthens the breath. Some small effort is required to produce a pleasing sound, but too much effort creates a grasping quality and a grating sound."

"To practice the inhalation, focus on creating a soothing and pleasing sound that is unhurried and unforced. I suggest working on your Ujjayi breathing in a seated, relaxed cross-legged position. Imagine sipping the breath in through a straw. If the suction is too strong the straw collapses and great force is required to suck anything through it. Once Ujjayi breathing is mastered in a seated position, the challenge is to maintain the same quality of breathing throughout your asana practice."

"The second of the eight limbs of yoga is the Niyamas, translated as the observances or how we treat ourselves. The niyamas are about self- regulation – helping us maintain a positive environment in which to grow. 

Saucha is purity that operates on many levels. We aspire to cleanliness for our bodies by washing ourselves, maintaining clean and orderly homes, eating healthy food and drinking clean water. We aspire to cleanliness in our minds and speech by not polluting our minds or speech with negativity or grasping after emotionally and physically charged obsessions.

In addition to the obvious advantages, there are a number of side benefits to eating unadulterated food, breathing clean air, having the ability to clean ourselves within and without and residing in clean homes and neighborhoods. Cleanliness and order lift our self-esteem, reinforce our knowledge that we are worthy of good experiences, and improve our personalities so we can experience balanced self-awareness. When we feel pure and clean, we can be clear about our intentions, unencumbered by gross and subtle imbalances."

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Much more than exercise

I recently watched the documentary Yoga Is - a documentary of a transformational journey by Suzanne Bryant. 
I enjoyed it so much I actually watched it twice to write down some of my favorite parts the second time through. It is available on instant stream through netflix. If you do not have access or time to watch it right now here are some great things to think about and apply into our lives:

We are all searching for happiness and the only constant thing is change. Change is always happening. 

Yoga is connection. Once yoga is open it is open.

The deepest relationship you will ever have is with yourself. You can't find love anywhere unless you can find it within yourself.

All stress happens from being disconnected from ourselves.Yoga says perhaps there's another way.

You run from your fears for so long until you turn to them and say I'm not going to fear it anymore. Lead me from untruth to truth.

The more I see the less I know. The world we live in is a projection of our own thoughts.

Yoga offers us a route back to our truth. There's a flow to life.

All we need is a little clear space and some fresh air. Life is not that complicated.

Anyone that can take any situation and turn it into bliss is the true yogi.

I challenge you to read each of the following again. After reading one of the quotes close your eyes and repeat it to yourself as many times as it feels right. Then move on to the next and do the same. You may repeat a quote only once and the next a hundred times. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Week 4: yoga on and off the mat

Asana (pose): chair 
Pranayama (mindful breathing): the breath of joy 
Limb of yoga:Pratyahara- turning inward 
Here's what we learned this week on pranayama:

Breathing can shift the body from flight or fight to relaxation. 

Your breathing reflects the state of your mind and body. 

The breath of joy reconnects to inner joy. Breathe in with a soft smile and imagine your heart expanding. 

When you learn to breathe in a way that supports feelings of comfort, safety and joy you choose those over suffering. 

The best way to practice breath awareness is just to close your eyes and notice what you notice.

The breath can be the anchor that keys you grounded and safe in a storm. 

Here's what we learned on our limb of yoga:

Pratyahara, the fifth limb, means withdrawal or sensory transcendence. It is during this stage that we make the conscious effort to draw our awareness away from the external world and outside stimuli. Keenly aware of, yet cultivating a detachment from, our senses, we direct our attention internally. The practice of pratyahara provides us with an opportunity to step back and take a look at ourselves. This withdrawal allows us to objectively observe our cravings: habits that are perhaps detrimental to our health and which likely interfere with our inner growth.

"Pratyahara is related to all the limbs of yoga. All of the other limbs — from asana to samadhi — contain aspects of pratyahara. For example, in the sitting poses, which are the most important aspect of asana, both the sensory and motor organs are controlled. Pranayama contains an element of pratyahara as we draw our attention inward through the breath. Yama and niyama contain various principles and practices, like non-violence and contentment, that help us control the senses. In other words, pratyahara provides the foundation for the higher practices of yoga and is the basis for meditation. It follows pranayama (or control of prana) and, by linking prana with the mind, takes it out of the sphere of the body."

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Pregnancy could never be considered a disease because of the beautythat shines from a mothers body

I've shared my pregnancy journey before:

and was reminded how beautiful pregnancy is while taking maternity photos for a friend. 

Pregnancy is the time more than ever to nourish your body and baby with nutrient rich foods.
Becoming a parent means you are making decisions for someone else now. It starts with birth, educate yourself on your decisions. 
Pregnancy is often viewed as a "disease". Diseases are ugly. Pregnancy is beautiful and no where close to a disease. 
Birth is an endurance activity, keep your body active throughout pregnancy. 
Pregnancy may be something a woman experiences once or multiple times in their life, make it one of the healthiest times of your life. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

There's always something to be thankful for

Below is a post I read from Cara Viana after attending a meditation workshop she taught. Two of my friends and I have started a group email of the "thankful three". It's a lot of fun for us to be apart of each others day when we live in different areas of the world. Our "thankful three" email also makes us look to the positive when we may be in a negative day. 

The Gift of Gratitude: A Story About Learning To Fly

We all get life choices. Some of them are big, hairy, tarantula-sized choices. You can choose to sit stagnant in the same place, never diverging from what is comfortable. Or, like a fledgling bird, leap off the highest branch, spread your never-used wings, and attempt to fly! Those first flying moments feel like the most exhilarating experience; the wind, the freedom, feeling brave and invincible. Then you look down. Now you’re plummeting and all you can think is, “Oh shit, I want back on that branch!”

That was me; a little bird oscillating between courageous soaring and panicked plummeting. Between feeling like a brave warrior karate-kickin’ my fears in the gonads, and just wanting to hide back on my safe branch!

I had just moved across the Pacific Ocean, leaving my hometown for the first time. The move, initially made with my long-time boyfriend, was freaking hard enough, but then the realization came that it was time to let go of the relationship I had clung to. The baby bird in me had walked to the end of the branch, was looking out, and could feel the wind calling. As I let go of the relationship that was my safety blanket, I took the flying leap.

I was single and alone for the first time in my adult life. And way effing far from home.

My friends and family were looking on from afar (a literal ocean away), watching me take this flying ninja leap into… aloneness? Independence? I didn’t know. But I’m sure they were terrified for me. They all reacted in different ways. My immediate family surrounded me with love and emotional support. One of my best friends broke down crying and said, “Who is going to take care of you?” That was the big fear, you see. I’d had a very rough couple of years before moving and the man I just left was the one who had seen me through it all. My friends were scattered about the country and very worried about me. All I knew was that I had started my journey.

Ruby, one of my best friends since the age of 12, reacted proactively. She had just jumped off of her own branch, moving across the country and starting law school. She was having her own rough go of it. When she sat at the kitchen table at midnight with her books spread before her, holding a coffee cup in one hand and Pepto-Bismol in the other, wondering if it would make good creamer, she found herself plummeting.  She realized it was time to do something about it, both for her and for me.

A friend had given Ruby the idea of sharing positive daily moments. Knowing I was also in desperate need of a healthy dose of positive energy, she asked me if I would be willing to e-mail with her each day three things that I was thankful for. I readily agreed. I mean, if we were both drowning, maybe clinging to each other would serve as a life preserver… right?

One heck of a life preserver it turned out to be! At the beginning, it gave me a daily connection to someone I loved. The positive energy we sent each other in those sometimes only three-word e-mails was a huge gift to both of us. Even after I got solid in my rockin’ independence and Ruby successfully conquered law school, we kept up our daily “Thankful Three.”

We made it through the shitty moments in our lives and shared the plentiful joy-filled ones. The e-mails made us focus on the good things. Throughout the day, we paid attention to positive things we could include in our e-mails. We never ever used the e-mails to rant or cry about the hard stuff. Instead, we shared the hard stuff with each other by finding a bright side to be thankful for. Some days, the gratitude poured out easily, like a squeeze bottle of catsup. Some days, it was more like the glass bottle kind. But we always did it because we were accountable to one another. I can tell you there were many times I would have skipped it! There were days where I was stubbornly holding on to my pissy mood and did NOT want to be effing grateful [insert foot stomp!], but then I would see Ruby’s daily thankfuls pop up in my e-mail and they always made me smile. I knew I had to get off my pity train, or my PMS tirade, or whatever it was that day, and find some damn silver lining to write back about. Sometimes I didn’t even mean it when I was typing, but by the time I was done with those three little sentences, heck if I hadn’t taken a big step toward happy.

Some of our thankfuls would seem silly or insignificant. I mean, if your life is in seeming shambles around you, who gives a rat’s about saying you’re thankful for caramel rice cakes, the smell of fresh cut grass, and that you are getting a haircut next weekend? Well, you’d be surprised what talkin’ up those rice cakes can do!

These short daily e-mails not only kept us in touch but they also focused our friendship in a positive way. If our lives have challenges, we always know the other one is there, holding that vibration of appreciation for us. We lean on each other and ask for help, and if we bitch, we include a silver lining. It is amazing to look back at our daily three (we’ve both saved them) to see where we started and where we are today. Both of us free-falling, trying so hard to flap our wings and fly, but needing to know we weren’t alone in that big sky. The connection and positive energy of our daily emails gives us a boost, and over the years we have both soared!

I am pretty proud to say that it has been SEVEN YEARS and we are still sending our daily thankful three!

Today our e-mails reflect the different places we are at in our lives, but they still carry the same positive energy. This practice still has as much impact on our lives as it did when we started seven years ago.

We keep it up because we love it, because it keeps us close to each other, and because it brings so much love and smiles to our lives! Grab a loved one and give it a try. You will be thankful that you did.

Just for fun, here are a few actual thankfuls from then and now:

Ruby’s daily three from 8/1/07:

  1. Slinky black pencil skirts (even if I am in a bad mood, at least I can look good!).
  2. Good-smelling lotion.
  3. My Southern sweatshirt. It is my security blankie and something warm to cover my bare legs while I sit in my desk and freeze my ass off.

Cara’s daily three from 7/10/07:

  1. I am so thankful for good earplugs (which I am wearing in a crowded office full of people right now).
  2. Good health genes; my grandmother turns 80 today and is as healthy as ever!
  3. My probably-not-work-appropriate-shirt that got me lots of compliments today.

Now fast forward to 2013…

Ruby’s daily three from 8/13/13:

  1. The amazing love I feel for my son, even though I have only known him since Saturday.
  2. That even though it was scary to take him home from the hospital, we are doing well!
  3. That labor went well! Only 20 minutes of pushing! And the epidural was great!
  4. (Must have been a bonus!) That Jon is my husband and the father of my child :o)

Cara’s daily three from 8/13/13:

  1. Getting to teach mediation class to an exceptional and inspiring group.
  2. Making good decisions for what is good for me and what’s not and sticking to it!
  3. Sat for a minute today and watched Noah nap on the couch and just basked in the love that flooded through me.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Energy, accountability and living from the heart

There's a few things I keep in my house that I find to be inspiring and what I need when I need it. 
This is a gift I received from a friend for my birthday this year. This is the card I drew today:

Energy- " when you hold back and repress what you feel, your body and spirit become drained; when you try to please everyone and deny yourself, your life force wanes. If you strive to meet everyone's expectations but forget to honor your own needs, your energy field becomes full. Allowing your emotions and needs the freedom to be spontaneously expressed, however causes waves of energy to expand inside of you."
This is a changeable sign I received as a Christmas present last year. Each day as I feel inspired I draw a card from the bag without looking. This was today's card. 
I enjoy drinking yogi tea because of the message each bag has. This was my message today. 

How does drawing the card energy, choosing the sign be accountable and the message to live from the heart all come together? 

I should be accountable of my own energy in order to live from my heart.