Monthly Archives: January 2013

How to Heal the Mind, Body & Soul with Reiki

The two words, “Rei” and “Ki,” stand for universal life force in Japanese. Many of us may be familiar with “Ki” as in “qi” or “prana.” But, what does this really mean when it comes to healing our bodies, minds and souls?

In yoga, we learn about the subtle bodies, the sheaths or koshas that make up who we are. Usually, we’re all focused on the physical (annamayakosha), because it’s the most tangible — we can see it, touch it, feel it. Yet, there’s also the wisdom body (vijnyanamayakosha), the mental-emotional body (manomayakosha), the energetic body (pranamayakosha), and best of all, the bliss body (anandamayakosha).

Reiki is a form of healing that supports the energetic body, and can ultimately carry over to our other koshas. Developed by Mikao Usui to promote stress reduction, relaxation, and healing, this practice is based on the belief that we are all born with an abundance of energy (prana) when we are young. Initially, these stores of energy are easy to replenish early in life, yet becomes harder to restore as we age. When our life force is not at this fullest, we’re more prone to illness and emotional dis-ease, or simply become unable to live to our greatest potential.

In yoga, the breathing practice of pranayama is similar to Reiki, in that it aims to enhance the life force flowing within us. Once a Reiki practitioner is attuned to the various levels of the practice, we can help cultivate life force energy within our clients by channelling the Universal energy around us through the palms of our hands, also known as a “laying on hands” technique.

If it’s a little hard to wrap your brain around this, think about what happens when you have a stomach ache or when you stub your toe. What do you do? You’ll likely place your hands on the parts that hurt to alleviate pain and encourage healing, which is the same premise in energy healing. We all intuitively have the ability to help ourselves thrive.

When I work with clients, I remind them that I’m simply a vessel for Divine energy to flow through me to them in exactly the way that they need and when I hear about their experiences after our sessions, it reminds me of how it’s truly an honor to be able to support them in any way. Common feedback includes:

“I began to see a vision of myself in the future, of where I feel I’m meant to move my career towards.”

“I started to remember things in the back of my brain that I haven’t thought of in years and years.”

“I felt flushed with loving energy.”

“I began to see such incredibly vivid colors in my third eye the moment you placed your hands on me.”

“I’ve never felt so revitalized and relaxed all at once.”

“How are your hands so hot? They feel like they’re on fire!”

“It felt like I got a massage, even though you barely placed your hands on me!”

If you’d like to learn more about Reiki for yourself, here’s a great book to explore:The Reiki Bible by Eleanor McKenzie. Or, if you’d like to experience what Reiki is like for yourself or have any questions, please feel free to visit my website or contact me at


Building Girl’s Self Esteem through Mother-Daughter Yoga

I have recently been reading a lot about girl’s self-esteem and come across some alarming statistics, which sadly highlight a plummet in how young girls think about themselves. For example, The Journal of Psychosocial Nursingreports that children as young as five are showing a preoccupation with body image and weight. Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty conducted a global study in 2005 and found that an overwhelming 70% of teenage girls who feel bad about their looks respond by withdrawing from life. They avoid school and feel afraid to speak up in class. published similarly alarming numbers: 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner and 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat.

What’s going on?????

Self-esteem has everything to do with how we identify and evaluate ourselves. These statistics highlight the fact that young girls’ self-esteem is in danger. I believe media plays a prominent role in the development of a girl’s self-image. These days, there is no doubt that girls are drenched in media images that portray popular celebrities photo-shopped to perfection. No wonder girls worry about how they look. They are up against impossible standards. However, despite media saturation young girls are still deeply connected to their families and very often, it is their mom, not their favorite celebrity, who is the number one influence on self-esteem.

Moms have an opportunity to help their daughters develop a healthy body image and stronger sense of self. How? Through ongoing communication, modeling healthy habits, and sharing the practice of yoga!

Why yoga? Unlike competitive sports, yoga provides a safe place for girls to discover and develop strength in their bodies and minds without a fear of losing or failing. Yoga encourages tolerance and understanding, which I see as key components to maintaining positive self-esteem, especially in a world where expectations are high (often unreachable) and the tiniest imperfection can be criticized.

I am really excited about offering a unique opportunity for moms and their tween daughters to share the practice of yoga and engage in meaningful conversations around topics like body image and self-esteem. Mother Daughter Yoga workshops involve creative movement and open, honest dialogue to help moms and daughters grow more connected and informed. These workshops will fill young girls’ self-esteem tank with positive messages while planting the seeds for healthy habits. To learn more and to attend a workshop, visit Inspire Balance 4 Teens.


5 Ways to Master King Pigeon Pose & Strengthen Your Alignment

Kapotasana (King Pigeon pose) is an amazingly deep chest opener that also strengthens the lower back, groin, and inner thighs. This pose functions internally to stimulate the abdominal organs and is particularly beneficial for women, as it realigns the uterus. Although it can seem intimidating at first, Kapotasana can become much more accessible with regular practice and thorough preparation. Take 5 or more deep breaths in each of the poses below.

1. Prasarita Padottanasana C

Open shoulders are crucial for griping the heels in Kapotasana. The arm and hand alignment in Prasarita Padottanasana C (Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend) is ideal for getting the shoulders ready.

With your feet parallel and wide apart and the legs completely engaged, clasp your palms together behind your back and lengthen upward before folding forward. Tuck your chin to lengthen the neck and bring the crown of your head to press on the ground. As the arms move up and over the head, the hands release forward and down behind the head. Bring your shoulder blades together to facilitate a powerful stretch across the tops of the shoulders.

2. Wall Urdhva Dhanurasana

Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel pose) is an amazing foundation for Kapotasana, as it opens the chest and prepares the inner thighs and lower back to work. Using a wall to press the chest open is a great shortcut to getting deep into the pose.

Starting with your head close to the wall, place the hands flat on the floor on either side with your fingers pointing towards the shoulders. Keeping your feet hip-width apart and parallel, move upward into the pose. Encourage the arms to completely straighten and press them flat against the wall, bringing the chest forward to meet them.

3. Ustrasana

As a much less intense version of the same basic form, Ustrasana (Camel pose) is an obvious preliminary pose for Kapotasana.

Begin kneeling with your knees and feet hip-width distance apart and your hands supporting your lower back. The feet should be flat, with the toes spreading and pressing uniformly against the ground. As you press the thighs and hips forward, lengthen your neck and arch back, moving the hands to the top of your heels and focusing on expanding the shoulder and chest muscles.

4. Laghu Vajrasana

Laghu Vajrasana (Little Thunderbolt pose) comes directly before Kapotasana in the Ashtanga 2nd series and provides both the opportunity to stretch and lengthen the back and neck and to engage the hamstrings, inner thighs and calves.

Prepare for the pose as you would for Ustrasana, moving the hands to grasp the ankles or lower calves. Once your chest has become parallel with the ceiling, begin to move the upper body back towards the feet, lengthening, rather than arching the spine, eventually bringing the crown of the head to rest on the ground. Engage your leg muscles and core to press back upright.

5. Kapotasana

Again, align your body as you would for Ustrasana, and spend a few moments visualizing yourself in a deep and satisfying Kapotasana before working your way into the full pose. Bring your hands into prayer position and raise them above and then behind your head, pointing them downwards to support the occipital region. Creating as deep of an arch as possible, stretch the head, hands and forearms down towards the heels, aiming to place your head between your feet. Grab the heels, one at a time and draw in the elbows together, trying to keep knees drawing in towards parallel. Once you have achieved the heel grip, take 5 or more slow and deep Ujjayi breaths. To release the pose, place the hands flat on the ground behind you, as in Urdhva Dhanurasana, and hold for 5 more breaths before lengthening back up.

Michelle is featured in the Gemini Eco Yoga Tank & Leo Fitted Pants.

Photos taken with gratitude by Trevor Hawkins at Bergamot Yoga in Encinitas, California

The Power of Intention: Create Your Vision for 2013

Having a clear and strong vision for a more purpose filled, enriched life is the basis for achieving it. I constantly keep myself in check by asking myself, ” Is what I am focusing on now going to help me attain the abundant life I desire?” One way I keep myself on track is by creating a vision board. A vision board can help you stay focused on what you want out of life, and it can be a constant reminder of what makes you happy. Creating a vision board is the first step: setting intentions, then, all that is left is doing the work.

There are multiple ways to creating a vision board. This is one of them:

1.  Gather 3-6 friends

2. Supplies: construction paper, glue, scissors, and plenty of magazines

3. Sit for 5 minutes of meditation to empty your mind (and your canvas)

4. Start browsing through magazines, and cut out anything grabs your attention

5. Watch your vision board take a life of its own

6. Finish it by sharing it with your friends

7. Post it somewhere where you see it daily

8. Let it be a reminder of what you like, what makes you happy, and what you are focusing on this year.

Here’s mine, and what I’m committed to this year:

1. Living on the edge

2. Being open to love and support

3. Peace of mind

4. Travel

5. Yoga

6. Focus on strength

7. Meditate

8. Sleep like a baby

9. Build community

10.Eat healthy

Nowadays we are constantly distracted by endless to-do lists, social media, and our everyday routine. Focus on what makes your life richer.

Expanding from Within: How to Reach Your Potential and Flow with Change

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.” ~Fred Devito

For me, the idea of New Years resolutions provokes undue stress. What will you change this year? How will you be “better”? All of it insinuates that we’ve been doing wrong or that we aren’t good enough so that the pressure of making a resolution is just that, pressure. Stress. So instead of the negative, we shift to the positive; to gratitude. What do you love about your life that you would like to see more of? Focus on what you already have and more of that will unfold in your life. We’re moving into an Age of Enlightenment. It is time to actualize our fullest potential. You may have already noticed a shift in the air around you; the Universe wasting no time at all to tell you to wake up. Eckhart Tolle once said, “The whole universe is waiting for you to awaken, that is how important you are.”

The energies on the planet are stronger and moving more rapidly than ever before. Maybe a little too rapidly? I have found myself confused, doubtful, and uncomfortable during these first few days of the year. When I stop to observe my discomfort I can feel a guiding hand gently pushing on me from behind. “Move into the space you seek,” it says. “Go there! Don’t be afraid!” 

But I am a little afraid.

My fullest potential? Am I ready for that? What is this hesitation? The hesitation is in my DNA. It’s the fear of vulnerability. The fear of change. The fear of judgement. As I write those words it is so clear that I am not honoring my authenticity and I know the time to expand from within is NOW. That is why the energies are strong; collectively pushing us into the unknown and challenging our habits, our Samskara.

One of the most beautiful things we learn from yoga is that strength comes from within. We expand from the inside out. We breathe from a heart-centered place of love and compassion, rather than any place of fear, anger, or self-doubt. BKS Iyengar said, “Control your mind. Move your thoughts from perceived discomfort into a place of peace and ease.” In order to reach new heights we must be vulnerable and unapologetically authentic. Go there! Don’t be afraid! Observe any discomfort. Breathe deeply. Settle in and let it be. Shift into gratitude by focusing on what you already have and more of it will unfold in your life. 

7 Phenomenal Pre-Yoga Warmup Stretches for Runners

Running before a yoga class is a great way to warm up the body, however the muscles in the legs and hip region can tighten and shorten, making the muscles less stable and more prone to injury. The following sequence of poses is designed to release these muscles after running and prepare them for an asana practice. For optimal effect, hold each pose for at least 5 deep breathes.

1. Bottom of Feet

Sitting on the knees, use your hands to manually curl under each toe, feeling an intense stretch from the base of the toes to the arches of the feet.

2. Front of Feet

With the feet flat, use your hands to firmly press the knees upwards, lengthening the facia along the top of the feet and front of the ankles.

3. Achilles Tendon

Starting in a low lunge, nestle your bent knee next to your chest and use the corresponding shoulder to press the knee forward, keeping the spine straight and the chest lifted. until you feel a stretch from the heel to the top of the achilles. Repeat on the opposite leg.

4. IT Band

This half splits variation targets the iliotibial band, a group of fibers that run along the outside of the leg, from hip to knee. Begin in a kneeling position, bringing the front leg into half splits. Keeping the foot flexed, rotate the front leg outward until the outer edge of the foot reaches the ground. Bend forward with a flat back to achieve a delicious stretch along the outer thigh. Repeat on the opposite leg.

5. Quadricep

Noasana is a pose developed by one of my favorite yoga teachers, Josh Vincent (Bergamot Yoga in Leucadia, California) that is excellent at targeting the muscles in the front of the thigh. In a reclined pose with one leg extended out to the side, grip the toes or outer foot with the corresponding hand. Tuck the opposite leg under into half Virasana form. Extend and bend the free arm to grab under the opposite arm, creating a pillow for the head. Keep the knee of the tucked under leg coming in towards the body’s center line to feel a lovely pull along the quad muscle. This pose can be made more accessible by using a strap to grab the extended foot. Repeat on the opposite leg.

6. Psoas

To begin this forward fold lunge variation to release the muscle that travels obliquely from the spine to the upper leg, bring the forearms to the inside of the front leg, aligning your elbows with the front toes. Bend the back knee and grab the outer foot with the opposite hand and lean forward, pressing the foot to the hip and keeping the shoulders and hips square to the ground.

Repeat on the opposite leg.

7. Hamstrings

Release the back of the legs with this supported forward bend. Standing a foot away from the wall, press the hips back to rest against the wall. Lengthen forward, bringing the crown of the head towards the toes.

Photos taken with gratitude at the Ashtanga Yoga Center in Carlsbad, California.


Michelle is featured in the Gemini Tank and Pisces Crops

Taming the Beast – With Meditation

I had lunch with an old college friend the other day. After reminiscing about our party days at Chico State, I shared how much I enjoy my morning routine now. My husband and I wake up early, take a shower, drink warm lemon water, and engage in… meditation.
Not having a meditation practice is something I felt guilty about for years. Being that I am a yoga teacher and meditation is an ingrained aspect of yoga. It is not that I hadn’t tried. I’ve taken meditation classes and workshops; I’ve read about it; I’ve talked about it. But, it wasn’t until I met my husband that I was able to develop a daily practice.
He already had a daily meditation practice when we met. Meditation was not an option for him; it was part of his daily agenda. Seeing this made it easy for me to simply join in. Talk about teaching by example!
It has been over a year now since Gijs and I, and our cat, started sitting together, every morning, for 30-60 minutes. Meditation brings mindfulness to the foreground right at the start of my waking hours, and it sets the compass for the rest of my day.
“What do you do when you meditate?” -My friend asked. Well, every day is different. There are several techniques I can use to help me stay focused and present. But for the most part meditation is about being quiet, noticing what comes up, not judging it, letting it go, and allowing myself to rest in the space within.
Four qualities are present for me during meditation:
Tapas – Commitment to sit quietly for X amount of time. I always set a timer.
Pratyahara – Withdrawing the senses. I close my eyes; I feel my heartbeat and my breath.
Dharana – Concentration. I often use a mantra and mala beads at the start of my sitting.
Dhyana – Meditation, letting go, just being.
The benefits of meditation come in many forms. It could be as simple as feeling calm and open. It could be as practical as setting an intention for the rest of my day. Or it might be as lofty as connecting to God; listening to what God has to say. God’s voice doesn’t have to be mystical. And, it doesn’t have to be a deep male fatherly English-speaking type of voice either. To me, that voice has the sound of quiet inner knowing, the sound of intuition ready to guide me for what’s next. Getting clear on what I want, where I’m going, and what I am doing, are some of the most rewarding after-effects of meditation.
I wish for everyone to have a friend, a partner, or a whole community with whom to share their spiritual journey.
Xenia, featured in Wild Thing posture, flows through her practice in the Leo Tank and Gemini Pants.