Yoga has enabled me to truly love myself. Daily morning meditation is a necessity for me. Here’s a mudra I learned from one of my great teachers, Shiva Rea. This is an excerpt from her book, “Tending the Heart Fire.” Wonderful for both heart and mind.
Daily rituals help us maintain an inner peace, which seems imperative to happiness in our constantly fluctuating worlds. In our personal lives and in the world, change – whether expected, intended, or surprise, and whether perceived as positive or negative – is inevitable. In the midst of confusion and difficulty, we can remain stable and steady in our inner most selves. And in happier times we can realize deeper states of joy and gratitude, simply because we are truly present. Practicing daily rituals hones this ability to be present. They can be anything from a daily outdoor walk to keeping a daily journal; a morning and/or evening meditation; reminding ourselves of things we have gratitude for and dwelling in that feeling. Yoga (and through yoga, Ayurveda) has taught me to keep daily rituals that have resulted in the best health and happiness I’ve experienced yet. I’ll share mine with you. What are yours?
* waking up around the same time every day without an alarm clock
* tongue scraping
* oil pulling with coconut oil, 10 minutes morning and night before brushing**
* 20-minute meditation
* warm lemon water
* plant-based diet and taking time to appreciate each meal
* cooking with whole foods, lots of fresh seasonal vegetables from my garden and local farms
* preparing and drinking herbal teas (sometimes from a tea bag but it’s fun to experiment with mixing herbs & spices – see the picture above!)
* taking care of my plants, in the garden and indoors
* walking outdoors
* asana practice based on my energy level – sometimes very restorative/lunar, sometimes more solar flow and challenging
* listening, loving, and appreciating my partner and whoever I’m with (animal or person!) fully – paying attention
* being attentive to natural beauty and small pleasures
* doing art or playing music (always listening to music)
* going to bed around the same time each night
So much healing happens when we share our tools and stories. I hope to hear from some of you! What are some practices that have brought you peace? Thank you for reading. Love to you all!
**I’ve seen and heard lots of skepticism about oil pulling. I’ve been doing this for months now, though, and have seen stains disappear, my teeth are whiter, my skin has improved, and I haven’t been sick (I used to get colds every fall)
Good morning! Hope you are living in peace and ease during this transition into fall (if you’re located in an area where that applies right now). It’s the hardest transition for me and I’m determined this year to really take it easy, live in tune with what my body and mind are telling me, and support my health with yoga, meditation, celebratory time with friends and family, and nourishing foods, herbs, and teas. More to come on those things! For now, the other day in the herbal medicine class I’m taking we did an awesome activity that I’d like to share. We chose partners, and then shared with each other what is going on for us in that moment and in our lives in general. Then based on the themes/feelings we were working with, we created herbal teas to help fortify us and give us what we needed in that moment. Afterwards, we shared our process with the larger group, discussed our teas and why we chose the specific herbs we did, and passed around the mugs for all to try. I’d like to translate this practice into a partner yoga exercise – though you could do just the mirroring part alone and receive a lot of benefit!
So, choose one or two partners and find a nice, comfortable place to relax and talk. Outdoors is great – we did our mirroring on the farm by the lavender and tulsi – but anywhere you can be unbothered is fine. Next, take turns sharing for 3 minutes. Have someone set a timer (you don’t want to be watching the clock). Now while one person is sharing, the other is to listen completely and intently to the words and feelings without judgment. Really be present with that person, allowing them space to be open and honest. Afterwards, you will repeat (mirror) back to that person, almost verbatim if possible, what he/she has said. Try not to let you own interpretations or experience get in the way. Just listen. For the person sharing, it can take some courage. There may be things you feel slightly uncomfortable sharing, but getting them out may be exactly what is needed. Go with your heart and just let the words arise. After each person has talked about what’s going on for them, sit in silence for a few moments. Let the feelings sink in. Notice any energetic shifts that have occurred. After the silence, mirror back to the person what you heard. Then allow more silence. Once everyone has shared (again, it’s really best to do this in groups of two or three at the most), decide what will support you as a team in terms of yoga asana, meditation, mantra japa, pranayama, and then practice together, offering hands-on assists if you know them.
In order to come up with a yoga practice, you need some familiarity with different asana groups (standing poses, backbends, forward bends, for example), pranayama (ujjayi, nadi shodana, breath of fire), chanting, and meditations. If you are just starting out, there are so many references it can be overwhelming. A good place to start may be the Yoga Journal website, where they have listed many yoga poses and their anatomical benefits and therapeutic applications. There are detailed step-by-step instructions on all the poses, as well as articles on pranayama, meditation, and other aspects of yoga and a healthy lifestyle. You Tube obviously has tons of information as well – you can find videos on almost anything! Use your discretion – I’m sure there’s a lot of bad information out there as well. Feel free to ask me for other references or check out the “resources” link on this blog. There are way too many excellent books and videos out there to list here.
So if you’ve been feeling depleted and run-down, a gentle, restorative practice is best. You might just sit in a heart-centered meditation; you might use lots of props like bolsters and blankets to relax into supported forward bends and take a long shavasana. On the other hand, if you feel tired but it’s not because you’re necessarily run-down or have been ill – you just feel stagnant maybe, you can do a more active practice with sun salutations, standing poses (warrior I, II, II; triangle; standing splits) and backbends (bridge; wheel; reclining hero pose). If you feel constricted with too much contraction physically or emotionally, you might try some heart-opening poses and meditations (like the Inner Smile Meditation). Hopefully you get the picture.
As I mentioned, even just doing the mirroring part of this exercise is extremely beneficial. How often do we get the chance to honestly speak our minds and be thoroughly 100% seen and heard? How often do we listen completely to someone who is speaking with us? How often are we truly present, not thinking about our own interpretations or what we will say in response? Sharing is powerful; being validated and heard is healing. Sometimes just speaking about something aloud allows it to transform and make more sense. Being on both sides of the process is very therapeutic – and this exercise allows intense PRESENCE to arise, which is the doorway to lasting peace and one of the main goals of yoga.
I’d love to hear your feelings on this practice if you try it! Enjoy!
Thursday is traditionally associated with the color yellow and the planet Jupiter. Ayurvedic teachers recommend various practices involving these aspects on the days they’re associated with as it’s said to attune our microcosmic selves to the macrocosm of the universe*
* Rea, Shiva. 2013. Tending the Heart Fire. Sounds True Inc.: Boulder, CO. p.179
Direct your attention into the body. Feel it from within. Is it alive? Is there life in your hands, arms, legs, and feet — in your abdomen, your chest? Can you feel the subtle energy field that pervades the entire body and gives vibrant life to every organ and every cell? Can you feel it simultaneously in all parts of the body as a single field of energy? Keep focusing on the feeling of your inner body for a few moments. Do not start to think about it. Feel it. The more attention you give it, the clearer and stronger this feeling will become. It will feel as if every cell is becoming more alive, and if you have a strong visual sense, you may start to get an image of your body becoming luminous. Although such an image can help you temporarily, pay more attention to the feeling than to any image that may arise. An image, no matter how beautiful or powerful, is already defined in form, so there is less scope for penetrating more deeply.
The feeling of your inner body is formless, limitless, and unfathomable. You can always go into it more deeply. If you cannot feel very much at this stage, pay attention to whatever you can feel. Perhaps there is a slight tingling in your hands or feet. That’s good enough for the moment. Just focus on the feeling. Your body is coming alive.
From Tolle, E. 1999. The Power of Now. Namaste Publishing and New World Library: Novato, CA, 236p. (at p. 112)
Hi! I hope you are all doing well. I haven’t been posting as regularly because lots of changes are happening for me and I’m busy with the transition and just trying to stay grounded and focused! A few people have asked, though, and I truly appreciate your interest! I hope you always let me know what has been helpful or not as well, and if you have any specific topics you’d like me to explore.
I have been studying and practicing more Ayurveda lately, so I thought I’d share some of the techniques I’ve tried. I hope you enjoy them, too! Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old medical system that focuses on natural health and the individual’s power to establish and maintain good health. It is “the art of daily living in harmony with the laws of nature … to maintain the health of a healthy person and to heal the disease of an unhealthy person … Both prevention (maintenance of good health) and healing are carried out by entirely natural means” (Lad, 1998, p. 1). Ayurveda and Yoga go hand-in-hand.
Some of the daily morning practices I’ve espoused and found to be very effective are tongue scraping, oil pulling, drinking warm lemon water, meditating and/or doing yoga asana (usually sun salutations or variation) for about 20-30 minutes, and starting the day with a green smoothie. I also dry brush my skin before bathing and do self-massage with oils on a regular basis. Ayurveda recommends doing this before a shower, but I usually do it after. It’s important to find what works for your specific constitution. It gets easier as time goes on. Making many changes at once can be daunting, so I’d recommend starting out slowly and enjoying the process, not putting pressure on yourself. Try one or more of these practices and see if they make a difference in your life!
Here’s another one that feels pretty good (Lad, 1998, p. 252):
Lad, V. 1998. The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies.Three Rivers Press: New York, NY, 326p. Continue reading
I recently had the privilege of practicing with my lovely and amazing teacher, Shiva Rea, in Boston. You know that Buddhist proverb, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”? Well, that’s sort of how it happened with Shiva. In my early days of discovering yoga, I came across one of her CDs and practiced at home with it for months. I found it very challenging, but her voice was soothing and the poetic, spiritual quality she brought to her teaching I had never experienced before. I continued practicing heated power yoga in studios and gentler hatha and restorative practices at home. Some practices felt more mechanical than others. All were more fitness-focused than holistic.
When I moved to Cambridge, MA, I started going to Om City Yoga. That magic of yoga, which through breath and simple movements had the power to shift my entire being into a blissful, transcendent state, kept me coming back. I fell even more deeply in love with yoga when I discovered it could transform my state of mind and bring me closer to my spirit, as well as keeping my body healthy! Dee Greenberg, the owner of the studio (who is now in southern Florida), fostered the spiritual aspect of the practice that I was craving. One day, Dee was advertising a Yoga Journal conference workshop. I recognized the teacher’s name — it was Shiva Rea! Shiva was Dee’s teacher. I was intrigued yet a little nervous to go to an event that included seemingly esoteric practices, like chanting, which made me a little uncomfortable. Nonetheless, I signed up and I LOVED IT! Shiva was even more amazing in person (of course), and the group energy she cultivated, I’d never felt before. When I returned with new enthusiasm for yoga, Dee encouraged me to sign up for teacher training with Shiva. It was something I’d never considered, but truly transformed my life for the better and continues to do so!
Today I’d like to share a very simple, yet very powerful practice based on Shiva’s teachings: Prostrations, or what she calls “Pranams.” This practice can be done on its own or at the beginning (or anytime during) your regular yoga practice. The idea behind it is that you are bowing to a higher power, releasing your sense of control and being receptive to what arises. A prostration is an act of reverence and submission, an expression of devotion and faith. You don’t need to be religious in order to perform this act and receive substantial benefits. You are simply coming home to yourself, to that deep wisdom that resides within. Releasing yourself completely to the earth, feeling your forehead connect with the ground, and listening to your inner voice can lead to great transformation, acceptance, and awareness. Sometimes powerful emotions can arise in this process. Sometimes solutions to problems or other creative ideas spontaneously emerge. Pranams are powerful and accessible to all. Do one or do 108! It is all good! Enjoy this heart-opening practice:
In the first round, I show the first stage, bending the knees as you come out of plank down into chaturanga. Then you rise up into cobra pose, keeping the legs on the ground. Use the back and stomach muscles to rise up, not the hands — they are there to support you though you should be able to hold cobra without their help. In the second round, I show the next evolutionary stage, coming down into chaturanga with straight legs and then rising up into upward dog. Stand on the hands, shoulders away from ears, only the tops of your feet touching the ground. Notice how the hands stay connected to the body throughout much of the practice. I like setting a timer for 20 minutes in the morning and doing this meditative practice. I also do this practice when I am feeling too restless for seated meditation. Big changes are happening in my life and I am finding it very helpful to maintain this practice daily. It stretches your entire body, grounds you, and brings you in tune with your intuition. Rest your frontal brain to the earth in this grounding practice and feel what arises.
Have a great day, everyone, and let me know if you have any comments or questions!
Happy Full Moon in Scorpio!
The full moon is a great time to slow down, meditate, and practice “lunar” (more meditative, contemplative, and relaxing as opposed to solar, activating, and energizing) yoga. Try out this watery, lunar practice by my beautiful teacher, Shiva Rea, to connect with your deepest essence during this potent time. Just a few minutes of yoga can make a world of difference. Take a few minutes tonight to just gaze at the moon and let it rejuvenate your spirit!
This is a little off-topic, but I wanted to announce a couple of upcoming Spartan Race events. I love anything that supports teamwork, challenging oneself, and being healthy and strong! The Spartan Race is the global leader in obstacle racing since 2005, and has been voted the #1 obstacle race by Outside Magazine. Four levels of competitive obstacle racing allow you to tackle this challenge at the appropriate level. Get out of your comfort zone and have fun! Test your limits, and surprise yourself with your strength. Transformation happens when you can face your fears and have the courage to plow through them, and this race enables you to do that.
Check out the Hawaii Spartan Race Trifecta Weekend, now open for registration! The Spartan Race is also coming to my hometown, Boston, in August, and the Philadelphia stadium race and Tri-State NJ Super Spartan will take place in September. There are many events to choose from, and I have a code for a free race for one of my lovely readers! Just be the first to comment with what you’d hope to gain from this challenge and you’ve got it.
Use this link for 15% off any Spartan Race: http://bit.ly/spartanwarrior
Thanks for stopping by!