Check out my latest article that I wrote for Compass Protocol, my dear friend's newest and personal website dedicated to natural and holistic chronic pain management. Check it out below and let me know how it works for you!
One of the most nourishing acts we can do for ourselves is to get a good night’s sleep. So many of us suffer from chronic sleep deprivation which is associated with high blood pressure, heart attacks, obesity, and other serious medical conditions.
Seated Wide-Legged Forward Fold:
Seated Wide-Legged Lateral Folds:
Flowing Bridge Pose:
Reclined Child’s Pose:
Get ready to stretch out your hips and relax with my latest video! To see all of my videos, visit Yoga TX: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLsB8Dk1Orvu0CrjxukwhnJDGP7wqfodwm
Hello, dear readers! May was a hectic month for me. Between traveling out of the country, updating my site, and working on some new ventures (which I'll tell you about in the upcoming weeks!), I neglected my blog. But I'm happy to be back writing.
Speaking of travel, I'm going to let you on a little secret. I really hate flying. I get nervous during turbulence and take off. Every time I fly, I know I have to endure air time and this really puts unnecessary stress on my trips. But this discomfort is the perfect place to practice advanced yoga, i.e. breathwork and meditation.
From take off to cruising altitude, I focus on breath control, specifically elongating my exhales to calm my anxiety. Longer exhales stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing the fight or flight reaction that cause anxiety. As I've discussed before, meditation isn't always a peaceful experience. Meditation is simply about being able to sit with your feelings, which often are difficult and not peaceful at all! On a plane, you are literally forced to take a seat and stay where you are.
What I realized with this forced meditation is that peace is a process and peace is where ever you are, even in the midst of turbulent times. It is not a place you reach and then inhabit forever; it is a verb, an action, a continual return to the present moment.
Most times when I fly, all I think about is being back on the ground. Imagining peace once the wheels touch the runway. Interestingly, thinking about this actually increased my anxiety and sense of instability. Time stretched out and my feelings of insecurity were prolonged. When I shifted my mindset to the idea that peace was right where I was, in the middle of the sky in a plane, I actually felt my anxiety dissipate. I didn't need to land to feel safe, I just needed to feel safe exactly where I was.
I'm bringing this up only because of the larger implications. This is such an acute and guttural example of what we do on a daily basis. We unconsciously are always thinking that peace will come once we've checked off everything on our to-do list or get on the other side of a project or find a resolution to a problem. But that's not the case. If we reflect on all of the to-do lists and projects we've finished and all the problems we've resolved, we see we're still not at peace. Sure, we may feel a momentary sense of accomplishment, but then we're off again, making an entirely new to-do list, thinking, "this time, though, I'll really be calm at the end of this".
It's so seductive to think that peace comes from having all of our ducks in a row. And, every now and then, the stars align for a brief moment and our life comes together as planned. We may think, "I've made it. Life is perfect. I'll never have to worry again." But we all know how this story ends. Because eventually things fall apart. And eventually after that, things come together. An endless cycle of falling apart and coming together. Really, no one cycle is better than the other. For things to grow and get stronger, situations must collapse. The yin and the yang. Both working together to make a life whole.
This process of peace is very much like balancing poses in yoga. I see it my students and my younger yoga self, this need to be perfectly still in yoga poses. But that's not how balancing works. Balance, like peace, is not a place but a process. There are ongoing, tiny adjustments your body is always making to keep you upright. And these movements are constantly feeding off each other, counterbalancing each other, coming back to center. In the process of returning we sometimes need to fall completely down in order to return to our center. This is human life, this is life on Earth. Life is not a place, life is process. Life is a continual return to center. Balance is the same. Peace is the same. A continual process of returning home.
Do you remember the last time you felt really heard by someone? It doesn't matter who it was. It could've been a family member or the nurse at your last doctor's visit. The conversation might have lasted 5 minutes or an hour. Time doesn't matter in this case.
Now that you've identified this, ask yourself what that person did to make you feel heard? Did they sit a certain way, give you eye contact? Was their phone put away? Did they interrupt you or did they simply listen with subtle body language letting you know that they were still with you?
I'm betting that you didn't feel judged, weren't given unsolicited advice, nor were you cut off while speaking. You felt accepted for who you were and the reality of the situation. You were actively heard by the listener with undivided loving attention.
Active listening is one of the most caring things you can do for someone. There's so many ways to cultivate and practice active listening but the number one way to begin is to develop a practice for yourself.
You might be conjuring images of talking to yourself or replaying a storyline in your head, but I'm talking about listening to your body. Usually, we only listen to our bodies when we're sick or in pain. And even then, we probably tell ourselves to 'push through it'. We live in a world that values the mind and thought above all else. Rewards are given to professionals who work 70-hour weeks, athletes who play despite serious injury, people who push themselves past their breaking points. How many times have we heard the mantra 'mind over matter'? The problem with always doing this is that we develop chronic conditions and sicknesses. We ignore our bodies' own needs, always following a top/head-down approach to living instead of integrating our minds with our bodies. This requires listening to our own bodies, a bottom's-up approach. Really, deep listening is multi-directional, back to front, side to side, and top to bottom. Everything is connected.
One way to begin listening to your body (besides talking to yourself like a mad person - there's always time for that), is to connect with your senses. You can do this anywhere and at anytime.
1. Begin by bringing gentle awareness to your breath, noticing the qualities of your breath without 'fixing' it. Just noticing it, like you're studying an animal in the wild.
2. Next, scan your body from the crown of the head to the tips of your toes. You will probably notice an area that is tighter or louder than others. Bring your attention there. Again, resist the urge to change this.
3. Imagine sending your inhale to that area of the body. Keep returning to the breath as your thoughts come and go. Maybe notice how your breath has shifted since connecting with sensation. Has it deepened, sped up, slowed down? Again, the way your breath may have changed doesn't matter. Your awareness is what matters.
4. Now, silently ask this area of sensation, what it has to tell you. You might think this is woo-woo but stick with me; it doesn't hurt to try. Ask this over and over again until you get an answer. It may be a word or an image or another feeling. It may be nothing. But whatever it is or isn't, watch what happens to your point of focus. Most likely, you will be given some direction, even if that means the pain deepens. Maybe that is your body telling you that need to get outside to help.
What I mostly find is that my experience of strong sensation, diminishes and moves somewhere else, gradually leaving my body. Sometimes, a word will arise in my mind that is some clue as why it's there. But whatever happens, I remain listening to my body just like I would to a child.
As I continue to practice active listening, I find myself making decisions rooted in mind/body collaboration instead of pure intellect. This has deeply enriched my life and made me more comfortable on my own path. Beyond this, I am now able to actively listen more freely with everyone in my life, from the people I love to the cashier at the grocery store. And they in turn, further deepen my daily grind, unknowingly offering little gems of wisdom.
I would love to hear about your own experiences of being heard. Share in the comments below or shoot me a message.
Sitting in meditation, I see the beginning of infinite parallel worlds, my arm reaching for the phone, my legs unfolding as I rise to walk away, my mouth opening as I explain my side of the story. All of these possibilities live out in other universes while I remain seated. Often, the entire time that I'm sitting in meditation, I'm bringing myself back to my breath. Telling myself to 'come here', like I would to a child.
Popular culture would have us believe that the goal of meditation is peace, stillness, and transcendence. As if our bodies and minds become a monolith, solid and rising above our earthly experiences. Here's the thing that no one tells you: meditation is simply noticing your mind wandering away and then gently calling it back. That's it. No big events take place (usually), no communion with some higher power, just simple mindfulness. I read somewhere that the most pure form of meditation is the moment when you realize your mind has gone astray and you bring it back home. That brief blip of awareness is what meditation is all about.
Though this may be simple in principal, it is challenging in practice and it can be really difficult if you are experiencing unwanted feelings. And that's ok. Sometimes you'll leave your meditation feeling more angry, sad, and confused then when you started. Other times, you'll walk away feeling excited, elevated, ungrounded by your inspiration. A lot of the time, you'll be bored and neutral and wonder what the point is. The point is not feel any certain way, the point is just to feel.
It's harder than it sounds. We live in a world of distraction and grasping. We seek entertainment to avoid feeling difficult emotions or being bored. We are sold fantasies to make us feel good and cling onto. How many times have we heard, even in the yoga community (maybe, especially), something like, "breathe in the good, exhale the bad". This reinforces the notion that we should want/grasp/strive for the positive, while rejecting the negative. We end up judging ourselves, shaming ourselves, telling ourselves to 'get over it' and think positive.
The most healing thing we can do for ourselves is to just learn to sit with what is true for us in the moment, regardless of whether we deem it good or bad. Next time you meditate, see if you can allow yourself to feel whatever it is that you are feeling. If it's difficult, see if you can soften and open into it, even just the tiniest amount. If it's really great, see if you can feel it without trying to maintain it.
What happens over time as we practice is that we create a home base. A place where we feel safe and comfortable no matter what is going on with our lives. Eventually, we fear our emotions less than before. We find more courage to directly experience our lives and we seek less distraction outside of ourselves. Living more does not involve exotic adventures, first class entertainment, or spending more money. Living more means feeling more. And that's no myth, just the truth.
You can't tell from this photo but this was hard for me. I was working, core engaged to support my low back, inner thighs squeezing together for stability, foot actively pushing into my hand. I felt so expansive and much more arched then I looked. When I saw the pic, I was disappointed and frustrated.
I almost didn't post this because ego told me that I should be more flexible, more arched, just 'more' because I'm a yoga teacher. But that's thing. Ego is always telling us that we should be more, or just that we 'should be' something other than what we are. This gets compounded when we are bombarded with pictures of perfect and seemingly effortless yogis online. But the thing is that we don't know the story behind that frame and person. How much work went into it or not.
In marketing myself as a yoga teacher, I struggle to find the balance between inspiration and accessibility for myself and my students. I also find that I learn a lot about areas I can work on in my physical practice through photographs and videos, but I also lose a little of the internal experience of practice when seeing my external form mirrored back at me. Which, doesn't that defeat the purpose? The feeling is what is important, the direct experience. Not some two dimensional image. Ego says 'should' but body says 'feel'.
When I remember how I felt in this pose, strong and in my body, I see myself in this photo as strong and centered. I become proud of myself because when I started my practice I was all over the place, and this was most definitely correlated with my psychological, energetic, spiritual state of being. Hyper flexible in my back and no core strength. I probably would have been more arched and maybe that would've photographed better but I wouldn't have been grounded or safe.
Remember that where you are and who are is enough. Remember that feeling and direct experience is the Truth, your Truth.
Just a quick reminder that the work we do on our mats is important. It's so easy to not do yoga even though we religiously attend classes and practice at home. When our mind is wandering and we're not in your bodies, then we're not actually doing yoga. We are performing poses and exercising, which is good, but we can get a work out doing other things.
What makes yoga special is our attention to our intention, our mindfulness on our movements and energy. I wholeheartedly believe and feel with my entire being that this practice, this mindfulness and acceptance of ourselves is what is needed to heal ourselves and the world. If we can learn to just sit with and move through our feelings on our mats without automatically reacting, then we will save ourselves so much effort and suffering. Soon, our efforts will bleed off the mat and into our daily lives, benefitting us and our relationships and maybe society, even in some small way. Imagine a life where we simply took ten deep breaths before reacting when we are triggered. Imagine a world where everyone did this. How many choices are made without a single moment's pause to consider the consequences?
Let's make a deal. Next time, and every time thereafter, let's ask ourselves what brought us to our practice, that day and moment. Let's return over and over to that reason for the duration of our routines. Let's be open to our intention shifting as we shift and uncover new pockets of being. This is what authenticity is! Stepping into who we are in the moment and moving through it with awareness.
This has been a public service announcement from your local yoga teacher.
"Everything has to be folded." - Nigel Tufnel
Unintended inspiration spoken by one of my favorite characters in one of my favorite movies. Yes, Nigel! Let's explore the concept of (un)folding in the context of your yoga practice.
Next time you're on your mat, try this thought experiment. Notice each time you fold in towards yourself, usually in forward bends, and also notice each time you open up in an expansive movement like a backbend or extending your arms and legs away from your body. Notice how you feel as you hold these positions and how you feel moving through them, from one endpoint to another.
What does it feel like to curl into and out of yourself on a physical level? Is one action easier for you than another? It might be the case that big expansive backbends are your thing. You like increasing your heartbeat and strengthening your back. Now, see if this correlates to a deeper part of who you are in some way. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. The point of this exercise is to begin to use our bodies mindfully, to find new connections within yourself.
Now, become aware of your movement through poses, not as a way to get somewhere but as an experience all its own. Play with speed. Does it feel better to move slower or faster? Does that change based on what you're thinking or feeling? Do you prefer holding postures over transitioning from one to the next? Ask yourself again if this speaks to a deeper part of who you are. Open your ears and listen to the answer.
This physical practice we do reminds us that we are always in flux, continually opening and closing to life. The goal isn't to always remain open or closed, though, sometimes we need to dwell in one space for a while before moving on. The practice is to allow the process to happen, letting yourself be propelled by your own doing and undoing.
"Presence is more than just being there."
Recently, I have been feeling unfocused in my life. I keep trying to predict and plan what I *think* various people want me to be and act like. I keep trying to prioritize and plan (and prioritize and plan, and prioritize and plan, etc.) all my ongoing projects. So much thinking leads me to feel like a tangled mess. I'm left looking at my ass from below.
So, last week I took my seat to meditate and a short time later the phrase, "presence over personality", floated effortlessly into my mind's eye. (It continually amazes me that only a few minutes of meditation can bring infinite wisdom while hours of thought often yields little clarity.) What I realized in that moment is that we all want the same thing. We all want undivided attention, listening, and presence from the people in our lives, including our own selves. We want to be heard and seen for who we are without being judged.
This manifests in many ways: less talking/more listening, less planning about how we're going to respond when someone is done talking and more non-verbal acknowledgement of what they are saying. In other words, thinking less of how others will perceive us and more about how we can be an open vessel to receive their message. This turns the focus away from ourselves (I/me) and towards others (you/them). This benefits both parties.
First it takes pressure off ourselves to be or act a certain way. We simply arrive and open to the present moment and person. Secondly, being present for others lets them feel heard and loved. Our presence connects us to them and them to us.
When we identify with our 'personality', we limit our view of life and possibilities. This is especially true of our own relationship to ourselves. Maybe you want to try a new sport but think, "oh, I was never athletic" or maybe you want to try meditation but don't because you believe you're not a patient person. There are so many stories we tell ourselves as if they're immutable fact. Luckily, they are just stories.
Next time you find yourself overwhelmed with life or lost in thought while someone is talking to you, try to slow down. Focus on your breath, talk less, plan less, do less. Open your ears and your heart. Let your personality fade in the background and simply be present.
Ever wish you could have a compass that points you towards your true north? Me, too. We all do at times. Learning to trust that you're in the right place, even if it is confusing and uncomfortable, is a process.
You see, we are always where we need to be. The present moment is our true north. There's no other place, time, or 'other side' of a struggle that we need to get to in order to start living our lives. You might be reading this thinking, "No way am I supposed to be in this much pain!". And, it's probably true but the fact is that we all suffer at some point in life, which is not to diminish our experience of suffering by any means. It's just a fact of life. Now the question becomes, how do we begin to accept our circumstances? This is more useful than asking why, (Why is this happening to me?).
Let us return to the present moment. This term is used so much today and I don't think that we're given enough instruction on what it means and how to really 'be' in it, especially when we are going through tough times. One of the quickest and most direct methods of returning to the here and now is to come into your body, your field of sensational experience. Here is a little exercise that I practice to help get me out of my head and into the moment:
1. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
2. Take three deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.
3. Return to your natural breathing rhythm. Scan your body, starting with the crown of your head, down to your toes. Notice any sensation you physically feel along the way. See if you can feel it without wanting to fix or change it. Simply notice and continue on your way.
4. Now pay attention to your heartbeat. Is it fast or slow? Does bringing your awareness to your pulse change it in any way? Again, we're not going for anything here. Just beginning to experience our bodies without any agenda.
5. Return to one area of sensation, whether that's discomfort or pleasure. Open up to it by softening the muscles and skin around it. Notice your reaction to this. Do you clench up? Do you open up more to it? If you resist it, can you open up to your resistance? If you are able to go further, notice what happens to that sensation. Does it intensify or weaken? Does it move somewhere else in the body or dissipate?
6. Continue this for a few more breaths, minutes, or whatever length of time you need to explore.
7. When you feel you are done, release any focus you have and take a few moments to simply sit in your practice.
8. Reflect on how you feel physically, mentally, emotionally, and energetically. Even though your circumstances have not changed, how has your perception changed?
Please let me know how this worked for you by leaving a comment or emailing me at email@example.com
*Short video of a guided mediation below :)