Friday, August 29, 2014

The Universe is Wildly Abundant

Fact: the Universe is wildly abundant

Forget what you think you know (and your problems and your worries) and trust that the Universe (or God/Energy Force/Divinity, etc.) is always conspiring to give you what you need. The truth is most of us are too stubborn to sit back and let someone else do the driving. Be quiet, pay attention, and you'll see what I mean.  

I don't know about you, but I go through times where I'm down right confused about what the Universe has in store for me. I spend my time and energy fumbling for answers, whining and complaining, when really I should shut up and notice the gifts I'm given each and every day.

Upon recommendation from my yoga cowgirl friend Kathy Judd, I started reading Pam Grout's book E-Squared: Nine Do-it-Yourself Energy Experiments That Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality. The concepts of the book are not new, but she does a good job of making them tangible. In fact, the idea that your thoughts create your reality can be found in...wait for it...The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Yep, that's right. Master Patanjali spoke of these same concepts thousands of years ago. In truth, these ideas appeared in sacred texts way before Master Patanjali wrote them down. Pam Grout's version is a modern take on the power of your thoughts with valuable energy exercises you can do to see the results for yourself. Give it a try and you'll be a believer before you get through the first chapter. 

Basic premise: Ask and ye shall receive. 
Basic roadblock: We don't believe, so we don't receive. 
Basic fix: Be receptive and trust that everything is perfect. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

I'm Done with Fear | Getting Back to Me

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about fear. Not because I feel that I need to reflect on this concept, but rather, I've caught myself living in it. This is a topic I visited when I first started my blog in 2009 and discussed Pema Chodron's book The Places that Scare You in my post Facing Fear and again in 2012 with my post The Trouble With Fear Is | Working With and Growing From Fear.

It's hard to admit, but it's true and if there's anything I aim to be, it's honest.

You may be wondering what I'm so afraid of. Perhaps the birth of my baby or becoming a new parent? While those things certainly bring up a lot of emotions, I don't find much fear there. No, that's not it at all.

The past few months have been tough. To be honest, I'm tired of bringing it up, but when you go through something so heart wrenching, it lingers. Never one to stay down too long, I've finally managed to pull myself up by the bootstraps, put one foot in front of the other, and regain some ground. But there's still a lingering fear that has brought me to a place where, at times, I feel I no longer recognize myself.

It's scary to look in the mirror and see a version of yourself that you never imagined would show. Unfortunately, I spent a lot of time allowing other people opinions of me shake me down. Instead of finding my voice and speaking with conviction, I found myself acting from a place of fear, which is never productive and not something I normally subscribe to. I wake up in the middle of the night scared of the uncertainty swirling around me. When I reflected, I found that I shrunk.

I don't like shrinking. It's not really my m.o., but somehow I've allowed my fear to keep me from doing the things that I love the most--teaching and writing.

That's right, I've held back and even said "no" on occasion to opportunities that have presented themselves since I regained my health. While I'm still not 100%, there are plenty of things I can do. Why hold back? Because when I teach and write it comes from a place of authenticity, which leaves me vulnerable. Somehow I allowed myself to stay so wide open that the cuts were deep. Let's face it, I don't want to hurt anymore.

I'm so grateful to have a strong spiritual practice in place. While the dark side of all I've been living has made some days downright depressing, the light of knowledge gained over years of study and practice has aided in keeping some of those shadows at bay for long enough that the sun is starting to peer through again.

Here's my action plan for getting away from fear and back to my Self. 

1) Choose not to be afraid. I can't take credit for this idea. A few years ago, when telling my friend Brittanie about a personal issue I was having, she looked me straight in the eye and said "what if you chose not to worry?" I've used it ever since.That's right. Being afraid and worried is a choice. Certainly one should be aware if there are issues to handle, but to allow those issues to slip in to a place a fear does more harm than good.

I choose not to be afraid and trust that everything will work out. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Take a Deep Breath | Dirga Breathing or Three Part Breath (with a FREE audio download)

I'm telling you right now that it if it wasn't for Dirga Breathing (a.k.a three part breath), I'd never make it through this pregnancy. Thank goodness for pranayama!

Having gone through my prenatal certification in 2012 and then, of course, watching many of my friends carry and have babies of their own, I thought I was prepared enough for the changes about to occur in my own body when I became pregnant. Logically I knew that my body would need to stretch and expand to make room for the little one, but having never experienced that particular sensation before, I wasn't really ready for that moment when the stretching and expanding actually began.

No one ever tells you about the stretching in the way that you need to know about the stretching. At least no one told me. Everyone tells you that certain postures or movements make it more comfortable for you and for baby, but it wasn't until I experienced it myself did I really understand what that meant.

Enter my daily practice of Dirga Breathing. This breathing practice is great done on its own or in postures like Balasana (Child's Pose), side stretches or yummy restoratives like Supta Badha Konasana. And you don't have to be pregnant to get the benefit of this practice. Anyone can reap the rewards. In fact, this breathing is this foundation for many other techniques.

Balasana, Child's Pose

Among many down sides, shallow breathing (or chest breathing) leads to anxiety, asthma, low oxygen in the blood stream, tension in the chest and shoulders, and a bevy of other health related issues.  The most natural way to breathe is by bringing fresh air in to our entire torso. Ever seen a baby breathing? Notice that their belly moves up and down. As we grow up our environments and experiences make us unlearn our natural, healthy breath pace. However, with practice (and a little help from me) you can learn to breathe easy like a baby again. 

Dirga Breathing is really simple. In fact, if you've gone to any yoga classes at all, then you're probably familiar. New to yoga? Here's your daily how-to. 

  • Begin lying or sitting in a comfortable position with your hands resting on your abdomen. Take a slow deep inhalation and feel the abdomen expand. When you exhale, feel the abdomen relax. Repeat two times, focusing on the expansion and contraction of the abdomen. 
  • Next move your hands to the ribs. When you inhale feel the abdomen stretch and the ribs expand into your hands. When you exhale, release and allow the ribs to come back towards one another and the abdomen to relax. Repeat two times. 
  • Finally, inhale to feel the abdomen expand, the ribs stretch and the chest rise up. Exhale and release starting from the chest, then the ribs, then the belly. Continue with a slow and steady pace for 5-10 rounds. 
  • Remember: inhale abdomen-ribs-chest, exhale chest-ribs-belly

Like to listen and follow along? Check out my prerecorded session made especially for you! 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

5 Steps to a Simple Home Practice Space

My mat during Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training

We are currently converting the yoga room in our house to a nursery in anticipation of Baby Carr's arrival. When we first made the decision I thought, "where will I practice now?" Our office is sort of cramped and the basement ceiling is low enough that even at 5'4" my fingertips graze the ceiling when doing sun salutations. Additionally, I have few a props or two, including my much beloved harmonium and a bookcase dedicated solely to yoga books and study.

Clearly, making space for baby is much more important at this time, and I'm having tons of fun planning out the nursery, but as I seek to find balance in what is sure to be a new-crazy-amazing-time in my life, I had to stop wonder, what will my new practice space look like?

My beloved harmonium

Let's stop right there. If I took away all the yoga accouterments, what would I be left with? My mat? Okay, I'll give you that, but then, why am I letting my mat define my yoga practice space? The answer-I shouldn't. I've had plenty of amazing practices sans yoga mat, what's different now? My goal with practice is beyond the rectangular mat space as I aim to incorporate the basic yogic principles, or ethical rules of yama and niyama, in my day-to-day and live the life of a yogi to best of my ability. Who needs a mat for that?

Since I do need a place to store said accumulated yoga paraphernalia, I decided that my new practice space will be shared with my office. I'm always inspired there--it's where I do my best writing and thinking. When I'm feeling like I need more space, I'll find some!

Here are my top five tips for creating a simple home practice space.

1) Size doesn't matter. Can you sit, breathe and move comfortably?  You do not need an entire studio space for your personal practice. That being said, you want to be able to move around without injuring yourself and without being distracted by the stack of books or pile of papers on your desk. Find a space that fits your needs without taking over the whole house.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Compare & Contrast | Intentions Revisited

Remember this post: Comparison is the Thief of Joy. It appeared on my blog in January and was rewritten for the Dharma Yoga Center in early March.

I began 2014 setting the intention to stop comparing myself to others. You may also recall from that post, that I also came to the conclusion that I should stop caring so much what other people think about me.

The funny thing about intentions and well, the Universe really, is that when you put something out there, you have to make sure you mean it. As I reflect on the past half year, I see a common thread among some of the more challenging situations I've had to face--from negative feedback, to a personal health crisis and a pregnancy that is not going the way I envisioned. What keeps coming up in these situations, and happens to keep me afloat, is my intention of not comparing myself to others. It is a constant practice and in a way you could say, my intentions set the stage for the year ahead.

This has not been an easy task by any means. Believe me. I've been pretty challenged lately.

It's really easy to get sucked in to the comparison bubble. When something doesn't go the way you expect, you may ask "why me?" This simple question is one of comparison. Let me ask you this. In that moment of "why me" aren't we really asking ourselves "why not somebody else? why do I have to go through this and they don't."

First, don't believe everything you read, see and hear. For example, I know plenty of people that selectively choose what appears on their Facebook and Instagram feed. Very often it's only part of the truth, in order to support the version of themselves they want to present to the world. This is good marketing, but can lead to a distortion of reality,and mostly on the side of the reader. My advice, don't let their insecurities pull you down. You don't know the whole story, so don't get sucked in to it.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

I Really Love My...Pregnancy Essentials Bundle from Earth Mama Angel Baby Organics

With all that's been going on with my health, I decided to treat myself to a little something nice. Upon recommendation from a friend and fellow yoga teacher I just got in some prenatal products from Earth Mama Angel Baby Organics and I am in L-O-V-E!

At first I was only planning to get the Earth Mama Body Butter since this baby is making me feel like scaly monster, but after perusing the inventory, I decided to try the sampler pack and I'm so happy I did! Already the Heartburn Tea has come in handy (of which I will be ordering more of) and I absolutely love the way the Natural Stretch Oil makes my skin feel. I'm pretty sure I'll be using these products once baby arrives and beyond! 

All of Earth Mama's products are made from safe, zero toxin, hospital recommended 100% organic herbal products and it shows. If you or someone you know is expecting and/or baby has already arrived, then I highly recommend picking up some of these amazing products. They also have products for postpartum, breastfeeding, baby and more. 

By the way, no one from Earth Mama contacted me to say all these things in exchange for anything. I am genuinely enjoying their products!

Know of any other great pregnancy or baby products? Share them in the comments below! 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Release & Surrender: Journey through the Depths of a Health Crisis

from Doreen Virtue deck of Angel Cards
For the past month, I've been trying to put in to words the experience of moving through a recent personal health crisis related to my ulcerative colitis. I'm sure this singular post will not do it justice, more will surely follow.

Of all the things that have come up for me during this time, the one constant has been...release and surrender. 

These words carried me throughout my five day hospital stay in mid-May. The image of this angel (see image) card danced in my mind repeatedly throughout my stay. There was nothing I could do as I lay helpless in bed, hooked to an IV machine, poked and prodded every few hours and getting little rest. During this time my mantra became release and surrender.

Coming out of the hospital I was optimistic that I would quickly return to my normal activities, but that was not the case. It has been a  month since my time at the hospital and I'm now only starting to get small tasks done daily. When all the hard work I had done towards building my professional career seemed to fall out from underneath me, my thoughts went to release and surrender.

When I missed the opportunity to visit my dad, watch my niece graduate from high school, or welcome a new baby niece to the family, I reminded myself to release and surrender. 

I never imagined I'd fall ill so quickly. From what I've researched, some women experience complete remission of their colitis during the pregnancy. Unfortunately I fell in to the other, less-fortunate bucket who experience more severe symptoms. For the past 20 years I've manged my ulcerative colitis without ever having to be hospitalized. This was a first for me and hopefully the last. Coming off the excitement of sharing our baby news, landing myself in the hospital only a week later was not at all in my plans. While the baby has been okay throughout this entire ordeal, not much of my pregnancy has gone the way I thought it would. I'm learning to release and surrender to that too.

I had a feeling my colitis was acting up, but I never thought it would go out of control the way it did. In fact, I thought the disturbances I was feeling was because of the pregnancy and from having to drastically change my daily routine with regards to care because many of the things I was taking are not "cleared" for pregnancy. I saw my GI doctor and we determined a regiment, but it wasn't enough. At the same time, I was experiencing a lot of personal stress and working myself towards exhaustion. It goes without saying that my body finally crapped out of me.