Weekly Words of Wisdom – BREATHE

B is for BREATHE – If I had to choose my single most favorite thing about yoga it would be challenging because…well…it’s YOGA! There are so many reasons to love the practice, but if I had to pick just one thing it would definitely be breath work (Pranayama). Learning to connect with your breath can literally be life changing.

If you’re new to yoga, controlling the speed and depth of the breath can be tricky at first. I always encourage new students to simply notice the way they’re breathing – notice the inhale, then notice the exhale. Once comfortable with that, we can begin to take a little deeper breath in, and a slower and more complete breath out.

A regular practice of deep breathing is soothing to the nervous system; reduces symptoms of stress; relieves insomnia; improves circulation; lowers blood pressure; and boosts the immune system. It’s also great for adjusting the attitude as well.

Did you know that my daughter is getting married in less than four months?! Wedding planning is really ramping up now that the holidays are behind us, and we are finding many opportunities to pause and take a few deep breaths throughout our days.

So, for a word of focus this week I chose BREATHE. I’ll keep this little card in plain sight this week as an extra reminder to return my focus to the way I’m breathing.

YOUR TURN: How comfortable are you when it comes to controlling the speed and depth of your breath? It would be well worth your time to give it a try on a regular basis!

PS: Click here to learn a simple technique for slowing the exhale called fog-the-mirror breath.

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Weekly Words of Wisdom for 2018

For the past 10 years I have joined in the tradition of choosing a word of focus for the year. The idea is to choose one word that symbolizes where there is opportunity for personal growth, and then keep that word alive as your main affirmation and inspiration for the entire year. Past choices for me have included: CHILL, SHINE, TRUST, BUTTERFLY, PERMISSION…

I’d been tossing around the idea of choosing a word for 2018 and was about to make it official by posting it on social media, when inspiration came and took me in a different direction.

Introducing: Weekly Words of Wisdom

That’s right. I’m not just choosing one little word to last the whole year – I’m choosing a whole new word at the beginning of every week. I’ll use that word as an affirmation and opportunity for growth for the duration of the week.

I plan to document my weekly word by creating a small piece of artwork, and then adding some journaling to the back of it – just reflecting on what the word means to me. Some weeks I may share a yoga pose that fits with my word, or a photograph I love. I’m excited to see how this project unfolds!

To keep it fun and challenging, I’ll choose words in alphabetical order. My word for week one will begin with the letter “A”, and continue through the alphabet every week until I reach “Z.” That will put me at the end of June, and then I’ll start over with “A”. {Perfect that 26 letters multiplied by two equals 52 weeks of inspiration.}

Now – here is your invitation to be inspired!

I would love to have you join me in choosing your own Weekly Words of Wisdom.

At the beginning of every week, choose one word that inspires you and then document it somehow. It can be as simple as jotting it down on your weekly calendar page and taking a moment to contemplate what that word means to you. Maybe you write it on a post-in note and put it somewhere in view for the week. Keep a weekly journal and jot down some notes about the word you chose. Or maybe you go all out and create a little piece of artwork that showcases your weekly word of wisdom.

It’s just once a week and we don’t need to overthink it. I bet if you wrote out the alphabet and started jotting down words next to each letter you might surprise yourself with inspiration.

What word of affirmation or inspiration would you choose for the letter “A” this week?
I chose ANGELS.

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Be careful. I love you.

From Atlantic to Pacific, gee, the traffic is terrific…

I live in a large metropolitan area where the traffic is… well… I suppose you could call it “terrific.” The holiday season brings a heightened sense of urgency, and over the past week or so I’ve noticed a shift in the way folks are driving.

I wonder, how do you react when another driver accidentally (or seemingly intentionally) cuts you off in traffic? Are you courteous or easily agitated? What words do you typically speak out loud?

Aggression and anger is defused by love and compassion.

Imagine you were a passenger in a vehicle being driven by a loved one. And imagine said loved one was in a really big hurry and driving a bit aggressively. Perhaps you’d speak these words to them:

“You must be in a really big hurry. Be careful. I love you.”

Today I invite you to change the way you react to a stranger whose driving doesn’t meet your expectations. How would it change things if you were to speak the same words for them as you would to a loved one?

The power of prayer and intention is an amazing thing. When we respond to aggression with compassion, we shift the energy for ourselves and others. Consider an aggressive driver as someone who could really use a dose of love and compassion.

I have an invitation for you. When you venture out onto the roads, be a sweet driver and say these words out loud if/when someone cuts you off in traffic: “You must be in a really big hurry. Be careful. I love you.” And then notice how your own attitude is softened just a bit.

Be sweet, be safe, be careful. I love you.

PS: Practice this breathing technique to calm yourself while waiting for a red light to turn green.

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Let the dead leaves drop

I really love that Rumi quote. “Be like a tree and let the dead leaves drop.” It’s such a great metaphor for allowing things that no longer serve us to drop and drift away.

As humans, we have a tendency to hold on to old news. We hold on to past hurts and stories, trauma and drama, he said/she said…

Let the dead leaves drop?
Ahhh…if  only it was that easy…

I keep a small garden in our backyard, and I’ve come to know tomato plants. Tomato plants don’t shed leaves as effortlessly as trees. Rather than the dead leaves (and branches) dropping, they continue to cling to the mother plant. It takes the help of a gardener with the right tools to come along and snip them off.

What happens next always seems like a miracle to me. A plant that was once weak and overtaxed with sustaining all the live parts while continuing to support the dead, will flourish and thrive once freed from what no longer serves it. A more abundant crop is then produced.

And so it is with humans. When we learn to release our old stories – when we let the dead leaves drop – we are free to flourish and thrive.

Is there something you could begin to let go of? Maybe it’s time to forgive someone (or yourself) for a past mistake. Maybe now would be a good time to let bygones be bygones and start creating new space in your life for something new and wonderful. What might you grow and nurture instead? How will the fruits of your labors be realized?

Let the dead leaves drop. And if you need the help of a “gardener,” I would love to lead your yoga practice to help you work on dropping what no longer serves you. {View a list of my weekly class offerings by clicking here.}

Be like a tree! Stand tall, drink lots of water, enjoy the view, and let the dead leaves drop.

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The day after 100 Days of Yoga

This 100 Days of Yoga project came about during a casual conversation with my daughter, Carrie. I was in need of a project – a little motivation – and she suggested I take on a 100-day challenge. “Maybe you could draw a mandala every day. Or post a yoga pose for 100 days…” she offered.

Oh, dear. The thought of sharing a photo of myself in a yoga pose for ONE DAY made me super squirmy, let alone ONE HUNDRED DAYS! It felt so vulnerable to even think about…no way…nuh-uh…

But then I had an idea. Rather than the slant of ‘here’s me in a yoga pose’, what if I posted something for 100 days with the intent of teaching the practice? What if I could share yoga in a way that would make it seem more accessible to more people?

So that’s what I set out to accomplish.

The first 10 days of my project were the most challenging. I fussed and fretted over photos of myself. I spent a lot time thinking about poses that my body could hold, and then judging my alignment in photos of myself. Around day 15, I freaked out a little and wondered how in the world I’d be able to see this project through. Could I really come up with another 85 days of yoga?

Also around day 15, things began to shift. I started receiving comments on my daily posts that validated my purpose with this project. I was sharing yoga in a way that made it seem normal and attainable. I began to feel more comfortable with my voice as a yoga teacher, and I began to feel more comfortable posting photos of myself in yoga poses. By stepping out of my comfort zone and moving through my own vulnerability, I was able to show others what was possible.

The majority of my daily posts were written on the same day I shared them. Some days I felt ahead of the game because I at least had a few photos to draw from. Other days I woke up feeling a little anxious, not knowing what I was going to share. Every day I felt a sweet sense of accomplishment when I clicked the button to share yoga.

Some poses warranted a bit more explanation and instruction, but there’s a 2,000 character maximum on Instagram, so I was challenged to keep it short and sweet.

Photos were also a bit of a challenge. The majority of my photos were self-portraits taken by beating the 10-second timer on my phone camera. I also enlisted the help of friends and family members, and they were so gracious about lending a hand.

So, what’s next? Well, I now have a nice collection of 100 yoga-related blog posts to draw from. I plan to group these practices into sequences to share at later dates. (For low back pain, practice days 10, 12 and 30…)

I’m also much more comfortable being “seen”, so I will continue to post photos and descriptions of other yoga poses in the future. I even have some ideas for videos that I’ll be sharing.

And!!! I’m working on a “100 Days of Yoga” book! I’ll be compiling my 100-day project into a self-published book, complete with photos and a few extra practices that weren’t shared during the 100 day timeframe.

My goal as a yoga teacher has always been to share the practice in a gentle and healing way. I believe that yoga has something for everybody. Every body. I want everyone to know the benefits of the practice, so I’ll keep walking this path and doing what I love to do.

I am so grateful for the love and encouragement shown to me over the past 100 days. Many thanks to those who left comments, liked my posts, and even shared them on the daily. I’m also very grateful to my yoga students who cheered me on throughout the past few months. You blessed me so with your support!

I hope you’ll continue to follow my yoga journey, and I sincerely hope your own journey will include a personal yoga practice.

With love and gratitude,

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