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I am 38 weeks pregnant. 38 weeks of hormones, physical changes of the body, and growing a new bundle of love. I would be lying if I said I am one of those women that dotes over every moment of her pregnancy. Honestly I do make the EFFORT to use these changes as an opportunity to be a little more gracious, contemplative, and grounded.

Obviously this topic is consistently intertwined in mine and Timaries posts. I guess if it were simple to practice, neither of us would be teaching yoga!

So my post today is about patience. At 38 weeks, most pregnant women are ready to get the show on the road. All those little physical ailments start to interfere a bit with daily activities, and it can become quite exhausting.

When I went to the doctor this week and they told me nothing was happening yet labor wise, at first I was irritated. Why not? This is my second baby, surely my body and mind know what to do.

That’s exactly right. They know what to do. This week has encouraged me to really truly practice patience, be content with what is going on in my life NOW. Not anticipating what’s next.

How often are we stretching, obsessing and reaching towards the future, only to find we have lost the magic of the very moment we have? I encourage you to do the same today. It is such an uplifting thing to do, to stop the worry and start the contentment.

Today and now, I have a loving (and very patient!) husband who is here to help, love and support me. I have a precious son who is constantly reminding me to be fully present and has the innate innocence to back it up. I have a roof over my head, food on my table, and family and friends who love and support me in each of their own unique ways. What do you have NOW?

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I don’t know how many of you love the digital age, but most of the time I am very thankful for the convenience.  This afternoon, however; I spent about 4 hours sorting through and cleaning up all the pictures we have taken with our digital camera since my son Ryder was born.  Um yeah…Ryder was born almost two years ago.  So I went through and cleaned up 1900+ photos.  It was rather time intensive to say the least, but at the same time very enjoyable.  Watching our son grow from newborn to toddlerhood encouraged me to reflect on the love I feel for my family.  The reason I was sorting through these photos was to make room for the baby daughter we will be having in three months.

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At one point, an overwhelming amount of fear and self doubt overcame me.  Could I love my daughter as much as I love my husband and son?  Did I have enough space in my heart to love another human being this much?  And why had I conjured up in my head that there wasn’t enough room left in my heart to love another so much?

For those of us that practice yoga, we all know that we alone are fully responsible for finding and becoming more aware of this space.  Most of us start a physical practice to find more openness in our bodies.  Then, as we start to open up more in our bodies, many of us start to draw our attention inward.  We start to realize that just as the body is organic and can change through our will, so can our hearts and minds.  We start to peel off our protective armor we have created for ourselves through the practice of meditation, compassion, forgiveness and love to name a few.  And with practice, we start to give our hearts more freedom to fully love.

It is the natural human condition to want to both give and receive love.  Sometimes, we allow our minds to get in the way of our hearts.  Through past experiences and memories, future stressors and worries, we convince ourselves it is not okay to just BE and FEEL sometimes.  And that is what I think children teach us.  It is what I think yoga teaches us.  It is such a basic lesson, yet it requires constant reminding and practice.

So where did this fear about not loving my daughter originate from?  I don’t know, but I guarantee it had nothing to do with the present moment.  Just as we continue to have new family members and relationships as we age, our ability to love more people grows with us.  Love is expansive, endless, and forever growing within each of us…if we allow it to.

I encourage you to give yourself permission not to always lead with your head.  We were given a heart and soul for a reason.  Trust it and give it a little more freedom.

Ahhhhhhh…the holiday decorations have been put away, the gifts have been put away, thank you cards have been written, and the house is clean again.  Most of you are probably back in your usual routines, or at least acclimating back into them.  January is the month of new beginnings…resolutions have been set, and many people genuinely stay or try to stay committed to them.

January can also be a tough month for folks.  The holidays can create a bit of a “high” for people, between the loved ones, the food, the gifts, ect.  But what goes up, must come down.  And often times this time of year can be difficult, as there is no distraction left from old man winter.  The house may seem a little too empty and things may seem a little too quiet.

oldmanwinter                                         He’s Baaa-aaack!  Old Man Winter

I myself am guilty of having the “winter blues,” and for any of you who have found yourself in a hole, ultimately we are the ones who have to take initiative to dig ourselves out.  I know what some of you (who may not know my crazy self well enough) are thinking…

”But you are a yoga teacher, don’t you teach others how to stay out of the hole?  Aren’t you always happy since you have all the tools and knowledge to stay away from that hole?”

My humbled answer is no.  I am human, and a teacher who only teaches what she knows and what she has gratefully learned from other teachers.  And in this human experience, it’s these moments like the winter blues that challenge me to go back to the books and teachings and meditate and pray to revisit the lessons learned.  So, like the blazing Texas sun is a reminder for Timarie, the grey overcast sky is a reminder of the lessons learned for me.

What this entry really is about are some helpful pointers to keep Old Man Winter at bay.  So here goes:

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1-Move it!-I am assuming if you are reading this blog, you might already practice yoga.  I am referring to aerobic exercise, or cardio.  Movement that gets your heart rate up for an extended period of time is what is going help the brain actively release those “happy hormones,” or endorphins.  Shoot for 30 minutes a day most days of the week.

2-Bundle up-Even though, baby it’s cold outside.  Fresh air is really good for a healthy mind.  Maybe try a walk over your lunch break?  Or you and your honey could go for a 20-30 minute walk together when you get home from work.  One way or another, fresh air is proven to increase those happy hormones.

3-Real Human (NOT cyber) interaction-When one is in the hole, the last thing you want to do is be around people.  Often times it’s the lack of connection to others that makes us blue in the first place.  So give yourself a gentle kick in the pants to get involved in your community, whether it is a club, church, meetup, ect.  And if you don’t want to venture out, then invite your friends over!

4-D as in Dog-Vitamin D deficiency is a contributing factor to a dip in serotonin levels, aka happy hormones.  Have you had your Vitamin D levels screened?  If not, I encourage you to get the test done.  Best way to get Vitamin D is to soak up the sun, but considering the time of year a supplement may be necessary too.

5-Grub-After coming off the holiday season, we have a tendency to be somewhat addicted to carbs and simple sugars.  Ensure you are eating a colorful diet including lots of leafy greens, fruits and vegetables.  Your palate might not crave it right now, but your body still does!

6-Your indoor environment-There are a few changes you can make to your living arrangements to ensure your winter cave is conducive to a healthy mind.  Draw the blinds open and let the light in!  You can also add a little color therapy into your rooms by adding in some bright, cheerful colors.  Don’t forget to change the air filters and perhaps run an air purifier, too.  And lastly, perhaps reorganize your furniture to provide a more open feeling.

9-Sit Still!-Even if you can only sit and breathe for 5 minutes a day, take that time to oxygenate your body and mind!  Ever notice how happy children always seem to be?  This is not a coincidence!  They are pros at living in and embracing the present moment.

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Sources:

Bodyandhealth.com

Inhabitat.com

Acsm.org

Ill bet most of you are running one hundred miles per hour right now, getting ready for the holidays. Whether its last minute shopping, traveling across country, making those last minute recipes, or preparing yourself for seeing a lot of people in a short period of time…one thing is for sure. It can be a busy sometimes stressful time of year!

When we are practicing yoga poses, ever so often we will get more wrapped up in DOING the class. We listen to the teachers prompts, try to find more space and openness within each pose, and go through all the motions. We even set our intention before class. But it seems it is what happens in between all of these motions is what really matters. We start to breath deeper, we may find a longer moment of stillness within our minds, we may discover something new in our practice that was always there but we are just noticing with broader awareness for the first time.

As yogis, why don’t we try to try to be more aware of what goes on between all the typical holiday stuff? Soak in the whole experience with an open heart. Be more aware and sensitive to the stuff in between. Be more compassionate, more patient, more grateful for the little things that happen in between the usual holiday stuff.

There is nothing wrong with usual holiday stuff…there is just so much more to experience and enjoy if you give yourself permission to.

This week my husband and I found out the sex of the bun in the oven.  It turns out we are having a girl, and we both are extremely excited!  Since I already have a little boy, as a mother this will surely be a change of pace for me.  I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit nervous about bringing more Yin into the family dynamic!

Hearing the news of our baby girl has encouraged me to take a step back this week and reflect on both the feminine and masculine aspects within my life and my yoga practice.  Why is this important?  Because in order to truly have balance within the body and mind, there should be balance within both the masculine and feminine components of oneself.yinyang

As yogi Sadhguru  Jaggi Vasudev explains, we live in a masculine world right now.  He further explains that one is not any better than the other and ultimately we should strive for balance between the two.  He states that masculine ideals are becoming more dominant in our world because the world is driven by the economic engine.  So the focus is survival, which is a masculine trait.  According to Sadhguru, being nurturing and spiritual is feminine and is not in balance with what is happening in our current world.

So my question is, what can we do within our practice to find balance within ourselves?  The world will continue to turn, and if this is the physical world we live in, we still have this wonderful opportunity to restore balance within ourselves.  The change has to start with oneself.

When we use our muscular energy to place ourselves in a yoga pose, we are working with our masculine energy.  Coming into alignment, using strong breathing, and a strong will to hold and progress the pose are all masculine.  But what would your practice be like if you didn’t flow between any of the poses, didn’t use your intuition to guide your body into the right space, or didn’t keep the breath moving throughout your practice?  OR didn’t allow yourself to have fun?  You guessed it…these are all feminine qualities of our practice.

We are blessed in that most of us live in a place and time where survival within our bodies and minds is not where it needs to stop.  We have this wonderful opportunity to progress spiritually as well.  Same goes for our yoga asana practice.

Next time you take a yoga class or practice on your own, observe which qualities in your practice are more dominant.  Are you gentle and nurturing with yourself, to the point of not allowing a pose progress?  Or do you have a tendency to muscle through it all, are very good at finding your alignment, are constantly creating goals for yourself, but don’t allow any room for creativity or intution?  Whatever you discover, chances are a similiar thing is happening in your daily life, too.  I encourage you to strive to find more balance in both!

For those of you that have interest in starting a meditation practice but are not necessarily sure how to start, this blog entry is for you!  Let me preface this by saying I am by no means what would be considered “good” at meditation.  What gives me encouragement is many individuals who have a consistent practice also claim they are not good at mediation, either.  Besides, what defines being good at meditation anyways?  Most would probably say having the ability to be fully present in the mind and body.  Here are a few guidelines to get you started:

1) If you are just getting started, begin by laying down.  Yes, I know what you are thinking…”But that’s not what it looks like in magazines or in movies!”  You are correct.  But many of these individuals have been practicing for some time.  Start laying down so that the physical body does not become a distraction.  When you are asked to sit in lotus position with a straight spine, I can assure you it becomes distracting very quickly.  You may work towards this position with time.

2) Close your eyes and do a head to toe scan of your physical body.  Start at the crown of the head and work your way down to the toes. Anywhere you feel tension, take a few breaths and send the breath there.

3)  Turn your attention inward by steadying the mind with a focal point.  A great focal point to work with is the breath.  Just observe how the breath moves in and out of the body and let the natural breathing pattern occur.  If this isn’t enough, start to count your breaths.  You could also use a mantra (a word or phrase of words that you repeat over and over again.)  Another nice option that I did in my training with Sunstone is to use binaural beats.  These are sound waves that help to calm and steady the mind and you can download many free apps that offer this option.  Just make sure you use your headphones or it doesn’t work properly!

4)  Meditation is a judgment free zone, so if the mind wanders, just gently guide your awareness back to your focal point of choice.  This is something to be celebrated, not frustrated over!  One of the biggest challenges in meditation is to recognize when the mind has wandered so if you do this, be happy you noticed.

5)  Start slow-maybe just 5 minutes to begin and then build up the time.  Meditation is a skill, so it takes practice.  Also know that some days it will be easier than others.  This is because our minds and bodies are never in the same state, so accept what your practice is every time.

6)  Keep practicing!  Find a time that works best for you every day if you can.  In the yoga world, the best time to meditate is dawn but many of us like our sleep or are already out the door by this time.  Perhaps try before bed or even over your lunch break.

7)  Lastly, know that you are doing very good things for the body and the mind.  Meditation is excellent in calming the nervous system, as well as the cardiovascular system.  When we take the time to be still, we get a little closer to our true self.  When we get closer to our true selves, we have the ability to reason better and understand ourselves and others better.

Enjoy!  We would love to hear how your journey in building a calmer, more fully present mind works for you.

My son, Ryder loves when we play the piano together.  Notice I said together.  It’s actually quite commical, as he doesn’t like it when either him or I play alone.  He will not sit on the piano bench alone, and will beg “Mama, sit!”  over and over again until I join him.  If I am on the bench alone and start to play, he says “Mama, noooooo!”  and then he climbs up the bench and places his little fingers on the keys, smiles up at me and then gives me the green light by saying “Okay!”

I am forever and continuously grateful to my son for reminding me what is important in life.  The lesson HE has taught ME with piano is to stay in touch with my creative/artistic side.

Ryder and I playing Claire De Lune

Why do many of us lose touch with our creative side as we age?  Perhaps it is a result of getting caught up in the daily grind and we just don’t have or make the time.  Maybe it’s because we exist in a world where being a creative individual is not as acceptable as it used to be.  Or maybe living in the midst of a massive technology boom makes it too easy not to be creative.  Whatever it is, one thing is for sure:  many of us are not being creative.

In our yoga practice, we honor and celebrate both the collective self and the individual self.  In other words, we not only practice to improve our relationship in our external world, we also practice to improve our relationship with and within ourselves.  So why then don’t we do the same in our daily lives?  It’s easy to blame others, but ultimately at the end of the day we always have the opportunity to improve our personal relatioship with ourself.

Which brings me full circle to why the creative process is important for each of us.  Being creative enables us to fully express ourselves, to be intuitive, and to trust ourselves.  It enables us to get in touch with the true self, that inner voice within each of us that we can listen to and get to know better from a place of nonjudgement.

So beyond your yoga mat, I encourage you to start or get back to something creative.  Perhaps painting, pottery, sewing, writing, singing, dancing, playing an instrument…the list goes on.  Whatever it is, shake the dust off and enjoy.  You might surprise yourself with what type of creative process shows up!

Have you ever been in one of those situations where you reacted without even realizing you did it?  For example, some sort of crisis or temptation hits and before you can even take the time to register what happened…you’ve already acted.  Sometimes this seems to fare well, other times we wish we had the chance to relive the scenario so we could change up our reaction.

We beings are still, even in 2012, wired for survival.  Our brain is not only a highly functional, crazy intelligent tool to help us survive, but in other ways it can be rather prehistoric.  (Think caveman running to get away from a predator and be quick on his feet.)  I won’t get into the amazing anatomy of the brain, limbic and nervous system’s wiring and how it affects our every move throughout our day.

But what I do want to talk about are those moments we have the opportunity to potentially override this “amygdala hijack,” a term coined by Joseph E. LeDoux, a neuroscientist who describes the part of the brain that causes these emotional responses as immediate and overwhelming.

Isn’t this basically what we are striving for in yoga?  To have the ability to be aware of and in better control of our reactions to stress?  It is always encouraging to me when what we are practicing is not only in the yoga teachings, but also within scientific evidence.

Yes, we practice this on our yoga mats.  My leg is quivering, I am sweating, and physically I feel I could fall out of this pose…but I will not.  I will breathe.  I will relax the muscles in my face.  I will teach myself to sit and stay with this pose until eventually one day it will be physically less challenging and perhaps even enjoyable.  Does this conversation sound familiar to any of you?

But what about in our daily lives?  Can you do the same?  The first challenge is to recognize when this so-called hijack is about to happen.  This takes practice and patience with oneself.  Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun and teacher refers to this hijack as Shenpa or getting hooked.  She encourages us to have the ability to recognize getting hooked with practice, then to sit with and in it.

I am not an expert at this by any means.  I find myself getting hooked more than I would like to admit.  But I also can say I don’t get hooked as much as I used to.   So, how do we sit in such a cloud of strong emotion?  The breath.

Next time you can identify and find yourself in the process of getting hooked, wait.  Don’t react yet.  Make the time to take three or more deep breaths.  Practice ujjayi breathing, in and out of the nose with the mouth closed.  Try to make each breath as slow, deep and calm as possible.  Then reassess the situation.

How do you handle getting hooked?  Or when you have the opportunity to do this exercise, we would love to hear from you!

Currently, I am sitting on a log in the forest meditating.  It’s gorgeous out here…thick, lucious moss.  Huge pine trees, a babbling brooke running along side me.  And I am about 200 miles away from the closest human being.  Um, in my mind!  I mean, let’s be real.

I whole heartedly respect those individuals that have or create the time to go live in isolation and reconnect with their true selves.  Often times I envy those yogis that have the freedom to hop on a plane and follow whatever guru they choose.  Many of the teachers in our country that have gone to India for a period of time to get right at the heart of the quinessential liberated experience are those individuals I look to for guidance and try to pass their teachings along to others.

But in all honesty, I won’t have the abiity to do such pilgrimmage for a loooong time.  I prefer the sweet connections of sharing this life with my husband and waking up next to him every day.  Although some mornings are a bit too early for my taste, I love walking into my son’s room in the morning and him reaching out to me with open arms and a smile.  I like the fullfillment in keeping a house kept.  I adore the students I teach and learning from them and their stories.  In a weird way, I guess I’m trying to say I like the responsibility?

Do I go out in the forest?  Yes, to hike with my family or to do a quiet 30 minute trail run.  Have I ever traveled to India to explore and learn from where the roots of yoga originated?  Yes, in books and magazines I read:)  Have I ever had the opportunity to study with teachers that are dedicating their lives to passing their yoga lineages down the line?   You bet cha, they are what I like to refer to as “diamonds in the rough.”  It doesn’t matter to me whether or not they have a strong following (which most of them do anyways.)  What matters is do their teachings resonate with and make sense to me.

In the Yoga Sutras, there is a sanskrit terms called Svadhyaya…it translates to self study.  All of us that practice yoga know that understanding the inner workings of our minds is essential to functioning more peacefully in this crazy world.  This self study is a long, challenging journey that goes beyond our yoga mats.  As we peel the layers back within ourselves, we start to do a better job in having compassion and understanding  for ourselves.  Our so-called “shortcomings.”  And by doing so, our external relationships with others will begin to flourish.

Where the heck am I going with this you may ask?!?  I am encouraging you to share that same compassion you have for yourself with others.  You do not have to be a liberated guru to positively effect others.  Share that good energy.  Be open to building and creating new loving relationships with others.  Because we all know a loving positive person creates what I like to refer to as “the ripple effect.”  Sally feels love and joy in her heart.  Sally rubs those good vibes off on a pal and that pal picks up those good vibes and shares it with someone else.  And down the line it goes.

And if you don’t have room right now to share, that’s okay.  We all have those dark moments in our life where we just don’t have it in us to give.  That is what Svadhyaya is for, to recollect ourselves.  And I’ve been there-it wasn’t in India.  It wasn’t in isolation.  It was learning and growing in the here and now:)

I am your constant companion. I am your greatest helper or heaviest  burden. I will push you onward or drag you down to failure. I am completely at your command. Half the things I do you might as well turn over to me and I will be able to do them quickly and correctly. I am easily managed – you must merely be firm with me. Show me exactly how you want something done and after a few lessons I will do it automatically. I am the servant of all great individuals and, alas, of all failures as well. Those who are great, I have made great. Those who are failures, I have made failures. I am not a machine, though I work with all the precision of a machine plus the intelligence of a human. You may run me for profit or run me for ruin – it makes no difference to me. Take me, train me, be firm with me, and I will place the world at your feet. Be easy with me and I will destroy you.

Who am I?

I am Habit.

This riddle was read to me be my first boss in the corporate world.  Even eight years ago when I first heard this riddle, it “stuck” with me.

Breaking and creating new habits is HARD WORK.  Especially our thought and emotional patterns.  Yoga enables us to slowly chip away at creating more positive habits in both the body and mind.  And sometimes I do have those moments where I realize there have been positive changes.  The ego becomes less controlling, and we learn to become more selective in picking our battles.  We don’t get as worked up over the small stuff, and pretty soon we start to realize that what we once perceived as big stuff really only is small stuff.

But every once in awhile we get a good swift KICK in the face to encourage us to really evaluate how deeply we have broken/rewired those habits.  This past week was one of those weeks for my family and I.  This is the third big move we have done across country in 5.5 years, so one would think I would have created the right thinking habitual patterns when the unexpected (ie, selling/buying a home drama) shows up on my plate.  But here I was, for the third time in 5.5 years back in the same twisted ball of knots I experienced on the first initial move.  All the while I kept wondering, “WHAT is the lesson to be learned here?!?!”

Sometimes we just can’t see the lesson until we are out of the thick of it.  And maybe that’s why we were thrown into the thick of it in the first place.  To try again…to stay calm…to use the tools we have learned in our yoga practice to better cope…to have a higher threshold.

This DOES in fact happen in our physical practice.  Alex Korb, Ph.D. neuroscientist said, ” I came to realize that yoga works not because the poses are relaxing, but because they are stressful.  It is your attempts to remain calm during this stress that create yoga’s greatest neurobiological benefit.”

So back to the mat I go to try harder, to learn more, to learn to sit in the THICK of a week like this week.  To be the calm amidst the storm.  Maybe, just maybe like Timarie said last week I can learn to become the magician versus the tyrant.