Santa Mandala Yin Practice

Greetings, yoga friends!

We’re only a few days out from Christmas, and I hope this finds you calm, cool and collected. Standing tall and breathing deeply, yes?

One of my favorite yoga teachers posted a timely video yesterday about creating a yin practice in the midst of holiday yang energy. It was timely for me because I’d found myself feeling the things he described for this time of year – a little burnt out and kind of resentful. With so much on our to-do lists, maybe not eating as healthy as we’d like, rushing from one activity to the next…well, it had begun to take a toll on me.

As I listened to my teacher’s words, I paid close attention to his suggestion to do something exquisite for myself. He encouraged listeners to find an activity with yin properties – something to relax and soothe the body, mind and spirit. When called to think of way to relax, my mind goes straight to mandala drawing. So I pulled out my sketchbook, mapped out the base of a blank mandala and began.

And the next thing you know, I’d drawn a ring of Santa faces and felt myself settle in. I love how the Universe provides what we need at just the right time. My teacher’s video, a reminder to return to my mandala practice, sitting quietly and allowing creativity to take the reins…it was just the shift I needed.

Perhaps you could use a little time-out yourself. What feeds your soul when you need a little yin time? I uploaded a copy of my Santa mandala that you can print and color if you’d like. (Find it by clicking here.)

And if you’re still caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday rush, do take good care and be kind to yourself. I believe you’ll find the results well worth the effort.

Merry Christmas, yoga friends!

See all the hearts

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My husband, Doug, and I have the good fortune of having a young person in our lives. Aaron is the 7-year old son of our daughter’s boyfriend, and we’ve taken him under our wings with much joy and affection.

One of the things Aaron loves to do when he visits our house is play pool with Doug. We have a short cue stick that Aaron uses – it’s “his” stick – and Doug is teaching him the proper way to play the game. They’ve worked on hand placement, cue stick holding, rules of the game and terminology. Aaron will tell you, “I won from Doug one time because he scratched on the eight ball.”

Last week Aaron created a homemade birthday card for Doug, complete with a drawing of our pool table and a picture of Doug wearing a shirt with a deer on it. (Makes me smile to even type that!) You’ll notice that the pool table is surrounded by many hearts.

As Doug opened the envelope containing Aaron’s card, the sweet little boy covered his face with both hands and said, “Don’t see all the hearts,” suddenly embarrassed by the fact that he was expressing affection toward Doug.

Doug said, “I like the hearts” and I added, “You don’t have to be embarrassed, Aaron. Doug really likes you too.”

When Doug confirmed, “I do,” Aaron dropped his hands from his face. His entire little body relaxed and opened, softening into a space of safety and acceptance for his kind gesture. All those hearts!!!

Having a seven year old boy express, through his drawing, the depth of his admiration for Doug was such a sweet and selfless gift. And as if all those hearts weren’t generous enough, Aaron also included a nickel from his own piggy bank, taped to the side of the card. What a little treasure Aaron is to us.

How often do we miss the opportunity to express our love and affection for someone because we are embarrassed to show our hearts? We hold back out of fear and habit, resisting the vulnerability of sharing freely. Yet when we take the risk and let our feelings be known, both parties benefit. There is validation that we are here for each other, that we care and we are making a difference in someone’s day, week, life!

When we allow ourselves to generously express our love and appreciation, we are taking the time to validate to someone that they matter. I can’t imagine a greater gift.

So draw hearts for your people! Let them know the ways they are special to you. Give them the gift of love and affection and let them see all the hearts!

So grateful for you – Thanksgiving Mandala

 

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Happy Thanksgiving time, Yoga Friends!

My heart is full-to-bursting with gratitude this November. If you’re reading my words, know that I am so grateful for you. Thank you for visiting me here, for supporting me on my journey even if from afar. I am particularly grateful this year for the yoga students who attend my classes. Your dedication to the practice blesses me as I’m allowed to witness the way yoga is changing your lives. I’m happy every time we practice together.

Last year I drew a gratitude mandala for the kids to color on Thanksgiving Day. It was fun to see a few adults joining in too, and I was inspired to draw a new one to print out this year. I thought I’d share this year’s gratitude mandala here on my website in case you’d like to print it for your guests to color too.

I added a space for name and date, and I offer you this suggestion: Have each guest write what they are grateful for in the blank space on the page. After the holiday, tuck these in with your Thanksgiving decorations so they’ll resurface in future years for trips down memory lane.

Here’s a link to print your own copy: Thanksgiving Mandala 2016

Have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving holiday, my friends!

Give, receive, repeat

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When a grocery store clerk asks if I’d like help out with my groceries I always politely decline. “I have to unload them by myself when I get home,” I muse, and I push my cart out to the parking lot because, you know, I can do it by myself.

A few months ago I pushed a full cart of groceries out to my car. As I lifted the back hatch of my car I heard a voice, “Here, let me help you with that…”

I turned to see an elderly man, small in stature, already lifting the box of cat litter out of the bottom of my cart. “This one’s heavy,” he said.

He seemed so joyful about unloading my groceries, I didn’t have the heart to refuse his help. And when the groceries were loaded into my car he said, “I’ll take your cart for you. Have a nice day!” and off he went, pushing the empty cart across the parking lot and into the store.

His kind and simple gesture lifted me in the sweetest way. And watching him walk toward the store entrance, pushing my empty grocery cart with a little skip in his step, I know he was lifted too.

When we give we receive, and when we receive we give.

I lead yoga classes at my local community center and a few times a year I purposely incorporate props as a class theme. So many times I’ll invite my students to use blocks for better alignment in lunges, or to use a blanket under their knees for comfort. So many times I see students struggle, too proud to reach for a prop that could provide support; too caught up in the mindset that accepting support is a sign of weakness. (Plus, new yoga students may not know how to use the props, so revisiting this theme is good in that way too.)

When I teach a “props class” we use all the props – blankets, blocks, straps, the wall – whether we think we need them or not. I love witnessing my students “give it up for the props” and enjoying a bit more stability in poses where they once had struggled. Even advanced students feel poses differently when invited to use blocks. It’s a simple class theme and one that always goes over well. In the weeks that follow a “props class,” I’ll notice that my students are more apt to reach for support and then it wanes. And then I’ll remind them again and the cycle continues.

My friends, the next time someone offers to lend a hand – the next time support is offered – may you accept it with a great big open heart. No matter how small the gesture, accept it and then generously express your gratitude. Notice and appreciate how good it feels to not have to do everything all by yourself – whether you think you need the help or not.

No act of kindness is too small. Consider the man who helped with my groceries that day – I’m still lifted by his gesture. Had I dismissed him and refused his help, he would have missed out too.

When we give we receive, and when we receive we give.

Give, receive, repeat.

Yoga off the mat for holiday survival

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And just like that, the holiday season is upon us!

Making time for a yoga practice can be challenging when things get busy and there are so many distractions begging for our attention. Even though an hour-long yoga class with the guidance of a teacher can do wonders for us, sometimes that’s just not possible.

The great thing about yoga is that we can practice anywhere and anytime. Here are six things you can do when your schedule gets a little out of control and you need to take a step back:

  1. Sit up tall and roll your shoulders back and down. Creating a habit of checking our posture helps create more space in the lungs, enabling us to receive more air. Sitting tall also strengthens our core, and rolling the shoulders back and down a few times can relieve tension in the neck and upper back.
  2. Take a deep breath on purpose and with purpose. Checking in with how you are breathing is another great habit to create. I wanted to make this item number one, but it’s best to sit up nice and tall first, making more room in your lungs for an even deeper inhale.
  3. Put your phone down. I realize you may be reading this blog post on your phone, so when you’re done I invite you to step away for a bit. But while you’re here reading, notice your posture right now. Is there room for improvement? Too much time on our phones means an awful lot of time hunched over. Take some time to stretch your hands, wrists, shoulders and neck, and then refer to items #1 and #2.
  4. Cultivate a mindfulness practice. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just take time to really notice what you are doing at any given moment. While washing dishes, I focus on the way the warm water and soap bubbles feel on my hands. During my morning walk, I notice when each foot hits the ground and the way sunlight streams through the leaves of trees. Simply be present and notice what’s going on around you because while you’re busy being present, your mind won’t be so preoccupied with busy noise.
  5. Find an activity you love and schedule it into your day. I realize this may be tricky if your schedule is already too busy for a yoga class, but if you can choose something to escape to for a few minutes you’ll feel refreshed and better for it. For me it’s drawing and coloring mandalas. I have a friend who loves to knit, and another friend who loves to read fiction. Choose an activity that helps take you out of your head for a few minutes.
  6. Establish a peace practice by setting a timer. I have an alarm on my phone that chimes every hour, reminding me to check in with myself. I notice my posture, my breathing, and my thoughts. Checking in on a regular basis helps establish healthy habits that can help us manage stress in a conscious way.

When we’re busy-busy-busy it’s hard to remember to take a step back, but the best time to relax is when you don’t have time for it. May you find some time during the holidays to attend a yoga class. And if you can’t, be sure to practice yoga off your mat. Check your posture, breathe with intention, and simply be mindful! Your feet don’t always have to be on your mat in order to enjoy the benefits of yoga.

Peace, love and good vibes, yoga friends!