Tag Archives: mindfulness

Exhale

sky

 

 

Ahhhh!  Doesn’t that feel better?  This is a time of year when our ‘to do list’ gets longer and longer and we run around practically holding our breath.   Sometimes in Urban Zen we advise a patient/client to notice their exhale.  This can often slow their breath rate and relieve feelings of anxiety.  When we exhale we release CO2 and other toxins and, create space for fresh oxygenated air which feeds our cells.  As we exhale consciously, we can release thoughts that are not serving us in that moment creating spaciousness for the present.   I invite you to take time to exhale.  Maybe you pause several times a day and take 3 conscious breaths allowing your mind to focus on each exhale and feel your feet on the ground.   I wish you and yours a healthy, happy Holiday Season!

Living with Intention

I’ve really missed being here!  I hope this finds you and yours well!  This past summer I set an intention to spend quality time with my kids and I did just that.  We had a wonderful summer together!  My kids for the most part got along.   We didn’t go on any extravagant vacations, we simply enjoyed each others presence, visiting local attractions, enjoying  trips to Jeni’s for delicious ice cream, and hiking through our local parks.

 

photo Elise and Liam

Intention according to the dictionary is: An aim that guides action.  At the beginning of many of the yoga classes I teach and attend, the teacher offers a moment to students to set an intention for their practice.  Often this intention comes from asking oneself, “why did I come to yoga today?”.  This intention creates an “aim” or focus for one’s practice, and, maybe even one’s life off the mat.

I have found  the act of setting daily intentions  allows me to maintain my focus and move through my day with purpose and connection to my family and students.  By no means does this mean that I live a “perfect” life without regrets.  Living with intention provides me a “road map” so, when I take a wrong turn I can find my way back.

As we head into the Holiday Season it is my intention to stay present and to enjoy time with my family.

Balance On and Off the Mat

sunset

Ardha Chandrasana has become one of my favorite yoga poses.  By engaging the core and finding the strength of the standing leg, I can open into freedom, into a feeling of bliss.  I often tell my students that by practicing balance poses we can find balance in our life off the mat.  Hmmm….  With my children home for summer and my erratic work schedule, I seek balance on a daily basis.  As I mentioned in my post Disconnecting to Connect, I set aside a day each week to just be with my children fully engaged and present.  This helps me to have some balance between work and family time.   A recent trip my family and I took to Lakeside, Ohio offered me just what I needed to feel firmly planted and open.   At Lakeside, there is very limited access to Wi-Fi, the local coffee shop is the only place that offers Wi-Fi, so I refrained from my daily activity on email, only using my phone to tell my daughter when to return to the cottage.  Our days were spent riding our bikes, walking down to play by the lake and sitting on the porch reading and greeting the passer-byes.  I felt firmly rooted with an open heart and mind to be present for my family and myself.  Returning home I had a busy week of Yoga for Girls Camp yet, I felt so grounded and open to each moment of the week.  I’m still enjoying a sense of balance as a result of this week that my family spent away from the chaos of our modern life fully engaged and balanced.

How do you find balance on and off the mat?

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.”  Thomas Merton

 

Disconnecting to Connect

IMG_1449A Heart of Love made by Gail Spirit Sky

 

 

It is etiquette to turn off your cell phone upon entering a yoga studio.  This practice helps us to drop into the present moment and tune into our breath, sensations and the community in the room.  I’ve taken this practice off the mat and into my life.    This summer I’ve dedicated Tuesdays to spending time with both my kids.  During this time, I’m not checking email or Instagram, I’m present to my kids and our experiences together.  Our connections have strengthened from this practice of disconnecting from the digital world and connecting to each other.   We laugh and “play” together.   I get to really listen to my children and bear witness to their hopes, dreams and thoughts on life.  I’ve noticed how my teenage daughter is also able to stay present to us and, not check her phone every time she hears a chime signaling a new text.  I notice I feel less stressed and therefore, my family is less stressed.  I know this time with my kids is so precious and fleeting.  I want them to know that I’m really there for them.  I also want to instill a practice/habit in them that they learn to stay connected to those in front of them instead of the virtual world.    I can’t help but wonder, what message are we sending our loved ones when  they are trying to talk to us and, we are so focused on our phone.

Your children need your presence more than your presents. ~Jesse Jackson

“We’re living in an era where capturing moments using our phones is more important than actually living these moments with whoever is beside us.”  Unknown

Bhramari

bee

Bhramari (pronounced brah mah REE), which means the “buzzing of the bees” according to Dr. Timothy McCall.  Bhramari is a breath practice that activates the parasympathetic nervous system, the calming nervous system by lengthening the exhalation.  Bhramari can help reduce anxiety and bring one’s focus into the present moment.    I recently taught Bhramari in my prenatal yoga classes.  I often teach them pranayama practices that lengthen their exhalation to bring about a sense of calm as well as relax the muscles of the body.  These practices are helpful in labor as well when a woman needs to stay calm and relax the pelvic floor muscles.   Even if you’re not pregnant, you can still benefit from Bhramari breath.  I invite you to give it a try.

Practice:  Sitting comfortably with the natural curves of the spine, close your eyes if it’s comfortable and feel the parts of the body in contact with the floor, feel the hips resting on their support, and notice your breath moving in and out of your nose.  Inhale through the nose and exhale through the nose making a humming sound.  Repeat maybe 3 more times then, on the last round, cover the ears and feel how the awareness of the vibrations increases.  Sit in silence for a few more breaths noticing the silence.

This is a great practice at the beginning of your meditation session to quiet the mind.  Children enjoy this practice too!

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky.  Conscious breathing is my anchor.”  Thich Nhat Hanh

Yoga

Lately I’ve been seeing  so many photos of beautiful yogis in amazing poses that I can only dream of doing.  I know it is my ego causing me to feel insecure and less than.  I also know that yoga is so much more than a perfect body in a perfect pose.  After all I teach yoga to many populations that will never be able to attempt, Eka Pada Sirsasana, yet, they and I are still yogis and yoginis (female).   Yoga is more than the practice of asanas (postures).  It is also meditation and pranayama(breath practices).  I believe Yoga offers a set of tools to facilitate a life lived with presence and compassion.    I love yoga and am so grateful for finding yoga in my late 20’s!  I love how I feel after my practice and how yoga and meditation  help me to be more present and joyful in my daily life.   My hope is that if you have shied away from yoga because you are not fit, flexible, or are living with a disability,  you give yoga a try.  Find a studio near you that offers classes based on your needs and commit for at least 28 days and notice how your practice begins to affect you physically, mentally and spiritually.  It may just open your heart to yourself and the world!

“The success of yoga does not lie in the ability to perform postures but in how it positively changes the way we live our life and our relationships.” 

TKV Desikachar 

cobra

Urban Zen

UZ

“We believe that it takes a strong back and a soft front to face the world.”  Roshi Joan Halifax

Are you being called to serve?  Do you have a passion to help your loved ones who may be living with terminal illness?  Do you want to work with persons undergoing cancer treatment and be able to offer them comfort?   You may have heard me mention Urban Zen here.  Urban Zen is the calm in the chaos.  Urban Zen Integrative Therapy is a very powerful yet simple way to help people that are dealing with pain, anxiety, nausea, insomnia, constipation and exhaustion.  Let’s face it, all of us at one point or another have suffered from one of these issues.  Urban Zen is being offered in hospitals, outpatient centers,  rehab and hospice centers, universities, schools as well as, corporations and in other countries.  Urban Zen Integrative Therapy is meant to serve as a compliment to modern medicine and it really works.  For example, I have worked with patients suffering from nausea and pain at a level 8 on a scale of 1-10 and after 15 minutes of using the Urban Zen modalities, these levels dropped to a 4.   The modalities used in Urban Zen are, gentle movements, Reiki, Essential oils, Body scan meditation, Breath awareness and simple breath practices and, Restorative yoga poses.  I feel so blessed to have gone through this training and to be doing this work!  UZ has changed my life in so many profound ways!  I can nurture myself, my family and friends when they are not well.  I have developed the ability to be present and, let’s face it, being present for others, to really listen and see someone, is a missing piece in our health care system and  in our world.  I’m so excited to share this with you as there will be an Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Training this year offered in Columbus, Ohio through Yoga on High.  Here is the link to there site and more information about the training.  There is an informational conference call on June 3.

http://yogaonhigh.com/teacher-training/urban-zen-integrative-therapy-training#IS

 

 

On Children

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The other day while listening to  Super Soul Sunday with Dr. Shefali, Oprah read the poem On Children by Kahlil Gibran.  This poem really spoke to me!  I believe our children are independent souls and do not have to think and behave as we do.  We can love and learn from them and nurture them for who they are as unique beings.  My children inspire me everyday as I watch them grow.  I admire their confidence  and strong sense of self as they move thru childhood sometimes breaking from the cultural norms.

On Children

KahlilGibran

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

 

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,

which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them,

but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children

as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,

and He bends you with His might

that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;

For even as He loves the arrow that flies,

so He loves also the bow that is stable.

 

An AHA Moment

2012-09-16 15.42.00

 

I had a wonderful practice this morning.  As I laid down for Savasana my mind started to wander to posting here.  I was thinking that maybe I would post about setting intentions for practice, teaching and, living, for that matter.  I would share how I set my intention to be present and open to receive guidance.  Suddenly I had this “thought”,   not sure what to call it, that my body is truly just a vessel in which God’s love and work is flowing through. I felt this wonderful sense of comfort that I’m not really in control I just need to be and to remain open.  I began weeping.  I felt this overwhelming sense of peace, joy and freedom.  Surrendering control feels right, frankly, it feels amazing!  I’m sure I will move in and out of this comfort and freedom as life’s struggles appear but, for this moment, I’m celebrating this AHA Moment.    Have you had any AHA Moments?  Please share!

“Understanding dissolves fear.  When we understand the true nature of our being, fears dissipate.  We are spiritual beings not human beings.”  Brian Weiss

Parent and Child Yoga Minutes

The truth of the matter is that I have reaped so many benefits from my yoga and meditation/mindfulness practice that yes, I would love for my entire family to practice on a daily basis with me.  I will say, my daughter does enjoy going to class with me when she is not hanging with her friends.  My son well, I think if he could teach the class he would practice yoga.  And my husband would rather play his guitar.  I have discovered a way to incorporate yoga into my son’s life. After attending a 1 day Workshop on Yoga 4 Classrooms in which I received this lovely deck of cards, my son and I started our Yoga Minutes.  In the morning just before going out to the bus stop, he chooses a card or two.  The cards have a pose and a description of how to do the pose as well as benefits of the pose.  There are also various visualizations and breath practices in the deck.  He and I look forward to choosing our card and, giggling always becomes part of the practice too. Another tool for mindfulness in our mornings is an app I have on my phone that I can set to chime at certain times.  When we hear the chime, we stop what we’re doing and take a breath or do wiggly tree.  These Yoga Minutes have proven to be a great way to incorporate mindfulness and yoga into my son’s life and mine.  My hope is that these minutes will provide him with tools for his daily life to manage his emotions and the stresses that children incur in this hectic world of ours.

I would love to hear in the comment section how you and your family incorporate yoga and mindfulness into your lives.

 

yoga cards

 

“Simple practices like conscious breathing and smiling are very important. They can change our civilization.” Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace is Every Step