Monthly Archives: March 2013

True Confessions of a Yoga Mommy

Exploring my path to spiritual awakening didn’t start until my after my 32nd birthday. You could call me a late bloomer. If I had nothing else to do but meander along the path and practice yoga all day I would be happy for you to call me a blissful warrior. However, I do have things to do. They are 4 and 7 years old and I call them Cardiff and Ella. So meandering along the path and enjoying the spiritual journey, that (for me) is the essence of Yoga, has to be planned and fit our family schedule. I am often perplexed by this schedule and guilt-laden when it comes to the amount of time I spend nurturing my own soul verses the amount of time I spend nurturing their little souls. I feel like Gumby being pulled in two directions of passion; my path and my children. So, what else is a yogi to do than to meditate and set intentions! I know all the answers lie within. It’s called intuition. Here’s what I surmised once I stopped over thinking and just listened.

1. My goal as a mother is to provide my children a safe and loving environment to embrace their authentic, compassionate, and creative ways. Period. I must show them. Thus, my mantra is…Lead by example! Not only is it okay, it’s necessary.

2. Nothing at home is in balance if Mama (or Papa) isn’t in balance. Give yourself permission to take the time you need to be on your path. If that means getting to a class, reading or writing quietly at the cafe, or scanning Pinterest for inspiration…then DO it!! Find a way. It may mean paying for a babysitter and is worth every penny.

3. My children don’t need me to be the centerof their Universe. Beyond providing shelter, food, and unconditional love, their worlds are boundless and so is mine. As much as I like to think I’m in control of them, I know I am NOT.

4. When I don’t take time to nurture my Soul, to expand and grow, and learn and love life, from avenues outside of my home, I am also depriving the soul expansion of my children.

5. Picasso said, Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. I didn’t notice it happening, but I went and got all grown up. This doesn’t mean I can’t paint anymore or write a creative story. In fact, I must! The laundry can wait and a sign of a well lived life is a messy house. Remember who you were born to be.

 


Look for the Good First: How to Redirect Negative Thoughts

On my first day of teacher training, there were five of us in the room. We waited, pencils poised over notebooks, for some bit of wisdom that would transform us into real yoga teachers. And my teacher did not disappoint. I have kept this little gift of five words close to my heart ever since.

Those words are marked at the top of page one in capitalized and underlined letters.

“LOOK FOR THE GOOD FIRST.”

Plain and simple. Just like that.

Even if nothing else stuck from those long months of training, learning to recognize, believe and act from this perspective would have been plenty.

Even if it sounds naïve, what this simple sentiment conveys is priceless, yet it does not discount that some days are harder than others.

Even if we want to head back to bed and stay there some mornings, try to remember that we were once again given the gift of another day on this earth, and in this body to discover what we were meant to do and how were meant to serve.

This straightforward phrase,“Look for the good first”, has the potential to redirect an impending ugly mood. A moment to rethink and retreat from the dark tunnel of pessimism is invaluable.

Let’s consider an example. Some days, the arm balance that you desperately want is going to be out of reach. Period. And, what if you tripped on the sidewalk spilled your coffee on your new pants because you were rushing into class that ended up being covered by an unexpected substitute for your favorite teacher.

Instead of berating yourself over the asana, and acting like a hazelnut-smelling petulant child, retrieve that little nugget from the top of this blog.

Take a moment to honor the fact that you carved out time to care for yourself, that your pants will wash clean (or that you were even able to afford a warm, delicious cup of hot coffee before class) and that you, and no one else was hurt in your race to the studio.

Or just maybe the unfamiliar sub may offer you an insanely delicious assist or some little bit of insight you will keep close to your heart too.

So, that may be a bit much, but pick something, anything good to be grateful and happy about and be willing to let that reset your perspective. Look to that first and notice how even a little shift in attitude can make a big shift in your day.

Give yourself that much. Let yourself see what is good in life. There is always something there to remind you of the good first, even if some days you need to look just a bit harder.

Abraham Lincoln reminds us that, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” And he was a pretty smart guy.

Life is practice. Practice is Life. Namaste.

 


Taking Yoga Off the Mat and onto the Rocks


As rock climbing continues to grow in popularity, a new trend is popping up in climbing gyms across the country: yoga. While climbers build great physical strength to overcome difficult routes, they still require the flexibility that yoga provides. As climbers spread themselves across the rocks, many routes require the hips and legs to be extremely flexible. Additionally, balance is critical for those times when climbers find themselves centered over just one leg. The meditative aspects of the yoga practice transition perfectly to climbing. Bringing that meditative focus into the moment and the route ahead is one of the ways that yoga assists climbers in reaching new heights. As a yoga teacher and a climber, I’ve had the privilege of assisting climbers in gaining the flexibility and focus they need to continue to reach those heights. While a well-rounded yoga practice is recommended to achieve optimal results, here are a few postures that are of benefit to climbers:

Warrior I, II, and III
Wide-legged Forward Folds
Pigeon
Triangle
Tree Pose

Finding your balance in a climbing shoe adds a challenging element to the pose

These postures assist in relaxing and stretching the muscles in the hips and legs, providing the flexibility required in tackling more challenging routes. The including balancing postures not only assist in building balance of the body, but also provide opportunities to focus the mind.

If you’ve never tried rock climbing, I encourage you to find a local climbing gym and give it a go. The thrill of completing your first route is addictive. Climbing allows you to focus completely on the obstacle ahead, pushing all other worries away. In that moment when you achieve your goal, the thrill is worth all the hard work that came before.

Laura takes fitness to new heights, sporting the Leo Fitted Pants.


Sweet Sweet Savasana: How to Tune out and Tune In to Yourself in this Restorative Pose

Most of us have a favorite yoga pose. An asana that feels delicious and welcomed. For many of us, this yummy pose changes regularly, depending what’s going on in our bodies or in our lives. Sometimes I love the intensity of King Pigeon. My heart is open to the heavens and my hips settle into a deep stretch. I feel present and alive! Other days, I love using the bolster for a soft, gentle, supported twist. The beauty of yoga is that there is a pose (or poses) for every mood, body type, and physical or emotional need. However, I have one pose is a constant favorite. It’s a pose that requires little physical effort but is full of meaning and opportunity. It’s typically offered at the very end of class, as it’s easy and consoling on the body. It’s not savasana. It’s the pose that comes after the gentle reawakening from your deep relaxation; when you are on your side, head resting heavy on your bicep, eyelids still softly blanketing the eyes. The body is curled up, cozy, safe, and receptive in a supported fetal position.

Most of the time, yoga teachers instruct students to roll onto their right side after savasana, which is great for opening up the left nostril and calming the body. Turning to the right side for supported fetal position is nice for balancing the body after a vigorous yoga flow. However, if you roll to your left side, your right nostril opens and stimulates the body. Resting on the left side complements a slower, more restorative class. No matter what side you turn, pausing in supported fetal position offers an opportunity to contemplate and reconnect. While you lie on your side, supported by the earth and your own body, you have an opportunity to observe what insights or release your yoga practice brought your way. You may discover subtle shifts in your body and mind. It’s here that you have time to return to your intention or dedication, honor it, revise it, or set a new one for your day. Ultimately, it’s a chance to consider how you want to emerge and rise up off your mat. You can choose what insights, revelations or feelings you would like to take away and carry into your day for it is these gifts of yoga that help us to better serve ourselves and others. Even more important, while in supported fetal position you can also decide what no longer serves you- negative emotions, thoughts, or habits- that you can leave behind.

Ultimately, the reason I love this pose is because of what it symbolizes- rebirth. So the next time you are resting on your side after savasana, pause. Consider what you need. Tune in to and accept the gifts that yoga offers. Let those gifts soak into your body and mind so you can leave your mat with a new perspective and emerge from your practice with lightness and optimism in both the body and mind.

Erica is featured in the Leo Tank and Virgo Eco Pants

 

 


How to Surrender to Your Radiance, Integrity and Grace

Be aware of what you feel. What you seek. Trust it will unfold better than you imagine.

I’ve had many ah-ha moments recently and so many tests. I watched and became aware as issues from the past resurfaced, and watched as I got more clarity around obstacles and places I held fears and uneasy emotions toward. Circumstances that seemed so hurtful and undesirable, with time, eventually became lessons and learning experiences to teach me about what I was holding onto, and what I now need to let go off. So interesting what you can learn with some reflection and awareness! Before the full moon, I was in a place where I felt like I finally connected to my flow, things were all coming together as I had set my intention for. Then some silly contrast and opposition showed up that surprised me. Sometimes you just need to sit back, feel, watch, and learn as life shifts and the universe begins to spark more clarity by what it brings…

This week I’m practicing surrendering. Surrendering to spirit, and connecting back to that harmonious ebb and flow. Relaxing. Letting things come about exactly as they should… Fear less, feel more, stay content, open, and trust in the divine magic that unfolds… The one thing I am certain about is who I am and what I believe. And sometimes I need to accept that what I think I want, is not always necessarily best. It’s those contrasting moments that may be challenging to define in the moment, will help ignite more clarity around what I truly seek and align with. I trust myself, but I trust in a higher power that will guide me along my journey. When I allow myself to be me, to feel good, and to act in ways that align with what I truly want, I know the universe will provide everything, and more in, ways beyond what I imagine.

Breathe easy in these last few weeks of Winter. Rest and relaxation help clear the clutter and confusion. The time is now to surrender. To restore yourself, your purpose, and your spiritual strength. Rather than resisting the inevitable change and rather than highlighting when things don’t go as planned, brighten your story to reinforce your trust in you and in the universe. Know you have aligned, that the pieces are coming together, the signs are there, and when you tune in and become more aware to the larger illusion, things become more pleasant. You continue to evolve and align. Practice your yoga in life with these transitions. Connect from a deeper place, find your rhythm of ebb and flow, and breathe easy despite circumstances that may stem as we unwind from Winter and begin to awaken more for Spring.

 

 


Living from Your Heart: How Yoga Teaches us Trust & Devotion

There is an old proverb that says, “Trust in God but tie your camel.”

One of the niyamas, the second limb of yoga, Isvara Pranidhana is the Surrender to the Divine. As stated in Sri Swami Satchidananda’s translation of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, one of the ancient texts of yoga, “Isvara Pranidhanam is a life of dedication, of offering everything to the Lord or to humanity. Why do I add humanity?… When we dedicate our lives to the benefit of humanity, we have dedicated ourselves to God…Either give everything to the world, to the community of your fellow people, or give everything to God.”

Using the philosophies of yoga to connect to the Supreme Self, the place within each us where all doing stops, where you can rest in a peaceful state, regardless of anything happening in life. Turning worries over to the deep-rooted faith that everything is as it should be and all will be ok. Devotion to something bigger than yourself and trusting in the flow of life to take you where you are meant to be.

Often times this gets confused with completely stepping aside and not actively participating in life or in what choices you have in life. Instead of sitting back and watching life unfold, this is an active surrender. The kind of surrender that takes foundation, strength, courage and trust. Trust in yourself to make the right decisions at the right time and trust that whatever decision you make will lead you exactly where you need to be. Trust in your community to support you, so that you can open up and follow your own light. Trust in a higher power to guide you and light your path. Letting your light shine bright so you can ignite the light in others.

An asana to practice working with this philosophy:

Ustrasana (Camel Pose)

The perfect blend of opening your heart and trusting in something bigger (the back body = community) to support you. Begin kneeling, with knees at hip width apart. Curl the toes under and press heels back. Engage quadriceps, gently internally rotating the inner thighs to create a widening in the sacrum.

Drawing the navel up and in, and roll the shoulders softly onto the back, opening the heart space. Place the hands on the low back with fingers facing down, heels of the hands resting on the low back. Gently use the heels of the hands to lengthen the low back down and out, as the shoulder blades come closer together, creating a beautiful arch with the upper spine. As you inhale, begin to lift the chest, being mindful to keep the hips moving forward and the inner thighs rotating back. Shoulders soften on the back as they draw closer together. This may be enough for beginners. The neck is extended and long, with the gaze (drishti), being up. Reaching the crown of the head behind you, being mindful not to dump into the neck. Breathing here.

If you are continuing on, as you exhale, slowly releasing the right hand onto the right heel, fingers pointing down to the toes, then releasing the left hand onto the left heel, fingers pointing down to the toes. Every inhale lengthens the front body, drawing the navel in and up, softening the front ribs down, every exhale, lengthens the sacrum toward the earth by drawing hips forward and reaching the tailbone down, creating more room for the upper back to arch and bend. The neck is long and extended, chin gently tucked, crown of the head reaching behind you, never dumping into the cervical spine. As you hold the posture, perhaps releasing one foot, then the other, so the tops of the feet are down, giving more space for the arms to lengthen and shoulders to soften. Breathing here.

To release, bring the hands one at a time to the low back. Engaging the thighs and core, drawing the chin toward the chest, leading with the heart and chest, slowly inhale the spine back to neutral. Release the sits bones to the heels, bring the hands to heart center, anjali mudra, close the eyes and breathe. Sending gratitude to your Self, to the Community and to the Divine. !

 

 


5 Astounding Health & Beauty Benefits of Coconut Oil

If you are at all interested in health and nutrition, you have probably heard a thing or two about coconut oil. It seems to be the newest rage in health products. If on the other hand, you have not heard the latest and greatest details about this wonder oil, listen up.

Coconut oil is a miracle worker. I have been doing quite a bit of research on the health benefits that are involved with consuming coconut oil. Believe it or not, it is astounding. From softer skin to illness resistance to Alzheimer’s prevention??? Here are some (not all!) of my favorite benefits:

(**Note: The specified benefits pertain to Virgin Organic Coconut Oil)

Hair: Coconut oil is an excellent conditioner that helps in the re-growth of damaged hair. It also provides the essential proteins required for nourishing damaged hair. Regular head massage with coconut oil ensures that your scalp is free of dandruff, even if your scalp is dry. It also helps in keeping hair and scalp free from lice and lice eggs. (It can be used on dogs too!)

Skin: Coconut oil helps in preventing premature aging of the skin due to its antioxidant properties. It effectively moisturizes all types of skin, including dry skin. It also helps in treating various skin problems including psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema and other skin infections.

Thyroid: Coconut oil can boost thyroid function which helps to increase metabolism, energy and endurance.

Weight Loss: Coconut oil fats are medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). It has been shown that breaking down these types of healthy fats in the liver leads to efficient burning of energy. A study found that women who consumed 2 tablespoons of coconut oil daily for 12 weeks did not gain any more weight. In fact, the women actually had lowered amounts of abdominal fat, a type of fat that is difficult to lose and contributes to more health problems. (Heart Disease is the number one killer for women!)

Make-Up Remover: Coconut oil is an excellent eye make-up remover. The added benefit is that it helps to eliminate wrinkles and restore elasticity to the skin. Bonus!!

Like I said, doesn’t it seem as though coconut oil is magic in a bottle?! I am constantly amazed by the new research that I read every day. I encourage you to incorporate this oil into your diet if at all possible. Just one to two tablespoons a day can be beneficial. Even if you only use it with cooking, you will be amazed at the great taste it provides.

If you have another use for coconut oil, share it with the grove and comment below!