Yoga Night Out

Last month I taught Yoga Night Out at Soul Tree.  It's a monthly community event, each time a different teacher and different live musician.  Afterwards we pair up with different local businesses and get discounts on money and drinks.  I taught, Rebecca Abraxas sang and afterwards was Art Walk on main street.

It gives me a super squeamish feeling to watch myself talking.  But I'm going to try and just get over myself so I'm posting it anyway! xx

 

When In Doubt: Sun Salutation A

Sadhana Day 3
Whenever I am getting back into my home practice groove I always start super simple. I just get on my mat and bust out as many Sun Salutations as I can. I usually start easy and get more challenging; I've included all three levels in this video.

Sun Salutation A, or Surya Namaskar A is an great way to practice at home. It's repetitive and easy to remember, effective, heating and a wonderful way to focus on the breath.

Go through a few rounds (try at least 10) and then see where your practice leads you! (Somewhere awesome).

Holding Space for Myself

I had some much needed self-reflection today. As a teacher sometimes it can be challenging to hold space for myself and give myself the time to practice and meditate. I've really felt the lack of a strong personal practice recently. It seems like a good time to re-dedicate myself to my mat. In YTT right now the students are starting their month long sadhana, or home practice. I've decided to join them! We are all teachers, we are all students.

Orange Dreamcicle Smoothie

This smoothie is super yummy and a nice balance of protein, natural carbs, and healthy fat.  Give it a try - you will not regret it!

Ingredients:

1 small banana
1 tangerine (or any other citrus variety)
1 cup lowfat greek yogurt
1/2 scoop Vega One Protein vanilla protein powder
1/4 cup almond milk
1 - 2 tbsp of melted coconut oil
water as needed for consistency

Blend and enjoy!

xx, m*

I Know What Karma Means, It Means You Owe Me.

Based on a brief search of internet memes I've come to the conclusion that we on the internet have a complete misunderstanding of what Karma is.  Karma friends is NOT a cosmic retribution for your sins and transgressions.  It is not a philosophical piggy bank that you store up good deeds in to take to the Karmic Coinstar and exchange for blessings.

Karma is basically: something happens, then something else happens in response.  It is a pebble in a pond.  It is cause and effect.  Pure and simple.  Now could you argue that good pebbles cause good ripples and bad pebbles cause bad ripples?  Sure. Knock yourself out.  But here's the thing: all pebbles cause ripples.  There is no way of knowing what effect is caused by the cause.  Bad deeds can create good outcomes.  Good deeds can create misery.  And, now here's the important part, doing something good just to get good in return is not helping your Karma.

The point of your good deeds should be to create goodness and harmony and ease in your being and the lives of beings around you.  The residue of your bad deeds should (hopefully) carry a lesson that you can learn and grow from.  Continue this growing and goodness and you will start to elevate your knowledge and spiritual state.  An elevated spiritual state means fewer lessons to learn in each progressive lifetime (if you're on board the reincarnation train).  Finally when you've burned through all your lessons and release all your habits and tendencies (or Samskaras - but that's another post) enlightenment will be achieved.  Hmmm now how to express that on a meme?  Ok I can't.  But here is one anyway because Karma and Morticia.

Disclaimer: This is a simplified breakdown of my understanding of Karma so far.  If there any hard core Karma scholars out there that take issue with this feel free to message me with your notes. xx

I Contain Multitudes

"Do I contradict myself?  Very well then...... I contradict myself:

I am large ......... I contain multitudes."

We are all (alot of us are) familiar with these lines from Walt Whitman's, Leaves of Grass, it is probably the most famous portion of the epic poem.  I am fine tuning my Yoga Nidra workshop this week and that quote sprang to mind to help describe our actual state of being - beyond our identifying roles and traits and characteristics.  We contain multitudes, not WE ARE multitudes.  There is a mixup in our awareness between what we do and what we are.  What we are is infinite.  What we do is finite.  In yoga this confusion and misidentification is called avidya - or wrong knowledge; ignorance.

So this line in the poem, which resonates because it so perfectly distills our complicated nature, is actually coming after a passage that is even more interesting and beautiful when viewed through this lens of yoga philosophy and the process of Yoga Nidra specifically (with which I've been viewing everything this week : )

It reads:

"There is that in me.... I do not know what it is.... but I know it is in me.
Wrenched and sweaty..... calm and cool then my body becomes;  I sleep.... I sleep long.
I do not know it.... it is without name... it is a word unsaid, It is not in any dictionary or utterance or symbol.
Something it swings on more than the earth I swing on,
  To it the creation is the friend whose embracing awakes me.
Perhaps I might tell more.... Outlines!  I plead for my brother and sisters.
Do you see O my brothers and sisters?
  

It is not chaos or death... it is form and union and plan... it is eternal life... it is happiness."

Perhaps you know that yoga means union and it's very aim is to reach beyond words, names, symbols and "the earth I swing on" to that awareness that contains everything.  That awareness that is our true nature.

Our true nature that contains multitudes.

 

So put that in your pocket for a rainy day. xx

Come Back To Balance

Lately there has been a lot of travel in my life.  As awesome as that is it can be difficult to transition back into the day to day routine and schedule.  I have been suffering from a little bit of an adventure hangover, which means not practicing regularly, not eating the healthiest meals, and in general not taking the time to take care of myself and find my center.  The changing season and the darker days just add to this general sense of unrest and the feeling of being out of balance.  So, having recognized that I am not where I'd like to be I've taken several basic steps to come back to balance.  I thought I'd share them here for anyone else who may be needing some helpful reminders. 

1. Make your bed.

This is so basic but so effective.  A smooth bed and neat room add to a mental state of calm.  So make your bed as soon as you get up, put things away, tidy your space, light some incense or candles.  Make your space a clean, calming sanctuary.  It helps.

2. Make a healthy meal

Also a no-brainer.  When we are out of balance we tend to make decisions that push us further out of balance, noticeably with food.  It is easy to snowball into nachos and pizza for every meal, especially if life is busy and there is no time to make a time intensive yet healthy option.  Take the time.  Make the healthy option.  Best yet make that healthy option a giant meal that can be eaten or added to other meals over the following days.  Choose a lot of fresh veggies, and if it's your thing, lean protein.  Make the time, enjoy the process and you won't regret it.

3.  Invite in whimsy

This is my favorite and nearly always something that is overlooked.  What I mean here is do something small for the sweet enjoyment of it.  Read a favorite poem, print a happy photo and put it on the fridge, make a cup of tea, pick some flowers, copy an inspiring quote and put it up where you can see it, pull a card (tarot, angel, animal, goddess, whatever!).  Do something that has no purpose other than your own personal pleasure.  We get so locked in to being functional and achievement driven that we forget the simple pleasure of just being and experiencing.  Be whimsical, enjoy it.

4. Do a brief guided meditation

There is a misconception that meditation is hard and/or to truly meditate it has to be for at least 30 minutes, in silence, sitting in lotus.  This is not true!  There are a million guided meditations out there of varying lengths.  Sitting comfortably for 5 - 10 minutes and focusing your awareness on something can be perfect.  There is no one way to meditate. The important thing is to do what works for you.  When I personally followed this list of steps I did a brief guided meditation. It took about 10 short minutes but shifted my entire day.

5. Get some fresh air

Even if you don't want to, even if the weather is bad; just bundle up, put on some rain boots, go take a walk.  Being in nature does wonderful things for the brain and mental health.  And what is good for the mind is good for the body.  Studies have even found that being outside can increase immunity boosting white bloods cells.  This on top of the fact that it helps with stress, depression and overall outlook on life.  So go outside, take some deep breaths, connect fully to the world around you even if it's just a walk around the neighborhood.

4. Take a hot bath/shower

If you have a bathtub throw in some Epsom salt and essential oils, if you don't try using a new sugar scrub in the shower.   Hey we take it for granted but simple indoor plumbing and hot water is a huge luxury in the scheme of things!  Take your time, luxuriate.  Don't just use this as a space to clean up but a space to enjoy and relax.

5. Get plenty of sleep

Turn off your devices, cut out the TV and take some time before bed to wind down and feel peaceful.  Turn all the lights off (including the digital glow from appliances or chargers) and give yourself at least 8 hours of sleep.  This is important.  Probably the most important thing and the most neglected in our culture.  We do not value sleep.  But if you're feeling out of balance, make it a priority.  Get comfortable, get calm, get cozy.  Get some sleep.

And there you have it!  My simple tried and true list of things to prioritize when trying to come back to balance.  Of course there are many more things to add into a daily routine but I find that starting simple is effective and not overwhelming.  Remember that life moves in cycles, it's ok to get thrown off track.  Start small and recenter, you'll be back in balance in no time. xx.

 

So Good Carrot Soup

Fall is in the air!  I put away our air-conditioner and turned the heater on for the first time since spring.  I don't know about you but pretty much the minute it starts getting cooler I crave soups and stews.  Here is one of my go-to recipes.  To be honest I don't even really like carrots, but I love this! It is rich and creamy, sweet and salty and just right for a chilly, rainy day.  Enjoy!

roughly chop about 1 lb. of carrots lengthwise

mix juice of 1/2 a lemon, 1/4 cup olive oil, tsp of honey, generous dash of cumin, garlic powder, salt and pepper

coat carrots in mixture and roast on a tray at 400, stirring occasionally until soft all the way through and browned on the outside.

meanwhile in a pot
mostly carmelize one small roughly chopped yellow onion (i use about a tbsp olive oil, start them off over medium high heat for about 5 minutes then drop it to low until they're browned, sweet and soft)

 add one finely minced clove of garlic near the end and sautee at least one more minute

season with salt and pepper

add two cups of water, the roasted carrots and transfer to a blender (if you want this to be creamier use 1cup water, 1cup almond milk)

blend until mostly smooth, adding more liquid if necessary

transfer the liquid back to the pot, bring to a boil, then drop heat to medium low

add 1 tsp apple cider vinegar and simmer until the whole thing is smooth (longer is better, but we never have the patience) 

season with salt and pepper as needed.

eat!

Ganesh Mudra ~ Power in Your Hands

This is one of my favorite mudras.  It just feels good.  Ganesha the elephant-headed god is one of the most beloved and worshiped gods in the Hindu culture.  He is the placer and remover of obstacles and the god of wisdom, science, and learning.

To take this mudra bring the left hand up to chest height (in front of the heart) and turn the palm out.  Bend the fingers.  Lift the right hand up palm face in, bend the fingers and hook them onto the bent fingers of the left hand creating a lock.  Inhale and as you exhale pull each hand away while maintaining the lock of the fingers. Inhale and relax the grip, chest and shoulders but keep the mudra intact.  Repeat this with the breath 6 times.  Then switch the grip so that the right palm faces out the left faces in, and practice 6 times with the breath, on the other side.

This mudra stimulates and strengthens the heart.  It strengthens and releases tension from the neck, shoulders and chest.  It opens the bronchial tubes, aiding in the release of any blockages there.  It stokes the fire of courage and confidence and bestows strength on it's practitioner.  Jai Ganesh!

A Mix for Twisting

I often get asked about the playlists I play during classes.  Here is the most recent request, from last weeks classes.  Last week I was teaching mostly twists, as I like to do in the days leading up to the new moon.  It's a great time for detox, release and elimination.  Twisting stimulates the liver, kidneys and digestive tract, plus they help create space in the torso for deeper, fuller breaths.  These classes are usually pretty sweaty and the music has to help keep everyone going!

School's Out

Our closing meditation circle

My year of training has come to an end.  This Saturday was the final day of 500hr YTT.  I still have some assignments and elective hours to complete but our core hours, and my class time with my fellow yoginis, has come to an end.  It was a very bittersweet day full of all emotions, lots of tears and lots of laughter.  
Doing the training this way - spread out over time with a small group of women - compared to the intensive way I did my 200 hour, allowed for a whole different level of absorption.  Both experiences were life changing but during this training I was truly living my yoga.  Every month brought new lessons and I watched the teachings unfold before my very eyes as life presented challenges and triumphs perfectly suited to what I was learning and the tools I'd just been given.
It was also so inspiring to learn and teach at the same time.  I was able to stay inspired and show up for my students consistently and with different knowledge to share and incorporate in my classes and sessions.
But most of all I am so thankful for the gift of my sisters in learning and life.  I feel utterly seen, supported and loved by all the phenomenal women who make up this tribe.  My heart overflows with awe and with gratitude.  It is beyond full.