Living yoga: Dharma and activism

Yoga teaches us to take the seat of the observer. Whether a student of yoga or not, this type of awareness helps one live life wholeheartedly. On my most recent trip to Boston, my intentions were to learn something new, take photos of important moments to remember and find ways to connect deeply to my higher self. Travel has always had its way of uplifting my spirits by opening the channels of inspiration to bring to the surface what makes me the happiest.

Joseph Campbell said, “If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living.”

But how do we know that we are doing this?

In ancient yogic texts, dharma is described as the cosmic order of all things. This is your life’s purpose, path or duty. Standing in conviction and letting our true-self shine can be a daunting task, but this is what it means to be liberated by living from a place of truth. When we decide to live from a place of truth, we are asking questions like “Who am I in this?” “What is my purpose here?” “What in life brings me the most joy?” To put simply, dharma is finding your highest happiness through acts of authentic, wholehearted living.

What would make me happiest is to feel better about the current state of the world and to know that I am making a difference toward the people around me. I want to show up in a way that is kind, courageous and zealous. I want to share my love for the planet and inspire others to do so too.

Here is what I have been doing lately in an effort to follow my bliss and lead a dharmic life.

Environmental Activism — The quote “Live less out of habit and more out of intent” really hits home for me. In yoga, one of the goals is to understand who we are and work on ways to better ourselves through self-inquiry so that we can give back to those around us.

Today’s statistics about plastics in our ocean are frightening. By 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in our ocean (pasticpollutioncoalition.org). It is time to shift our consumption habits because this amount of plastic in the ocean is having a significantly negative effect on wildlife and our personal health.

I am a part of a movement to end marine pollution and here is why: I pledge to ban as many plastics from my life as possible. The ocean is a sacred place for healing, community, and inspiration. It is also the home of many beautiful animals who deserve love and protection. In order to make a difference, I have taken an active interest in redesigning my lifestyle by reducing my use of single-use plastics.

Here are four helpful tips found in this month’s issue of LA Yoga Magazine. My hope is that this helps spread awareness of how you too can make a difference- 1) Swap out daily basics like plastic baggies and straws for reusable options. Give your plastic bags a second and third life. 2) Eat plastic-free by using a BPA reusable bottle and taking your own reusable utensils. Bring your own reusable to-go containers when you eat out. 3) Design a life of plastic free body care by supporting companies that make earth-friendly products with plastic-free packaging. 4) Become an advocate. Start sharing what you do with your community to inspire others!

Since becoming more of an activist, I have discovered that others in my own community are also taking steps toward helping mama earth; our beautiful blue planet. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me know that so many people are making lifestyle changes. It gives me hope to know that we as a society can shift our consciousness to a higher one by living with intent. The more we share statistics, trade tips with friends and volunteer, the better our future will look. I don’t know about you, but I can’t bear to see a world worth living in without magnificent, powerful creatures like the whale to be humbled by. We are one!

There are as many paths to truth as there are heartbeats, leaves, fireflies in summer twilight – Danna Faulds

 

 

3 ways to take yoga outside!

For many, summer is the time for travel, leisure and spending more time outdoors. Do you feel the surge of life around you? The sun’s bright light and heating energy tend to wake up life on earth. This seasonal shift is a great time to pause and give thanks for existence! Feel the warm light sink into your skin and notice the wind blowing through your hair; summer is here, let’s celebrate!

As we increase activities for summer fun, our yoga practice in the studio and at home may decrease. Patanjali’s first sutra (sutra 1.1), explains that yoga is to “yolk” the mind and body. What this means to me is that at any given time, I have the opportunity to become centered and feel balanced in my mind and body.  Yoga is the connection of our mind, body, and soul and this concept can absolutely pertain to activities outside during summer.

Take a moment to observe the next 3 offerings. Try them,  get some ideas and watch how including an outdoor practice can supplement your daily summer activities!

“May I always cherish the dance that is within my heart!” – Unknown

3 ways to take your yoga outside for summer

= 1) Outdoor Sun Salutations – Surya Namaskar means Salute to the Sun! Traditionally sun salutes are a series of postures linked together to unite the body, mind, and spirit in celebration of our life on this planet. You can choose 2-3 postures or you can practice the whole sequence. Start slow and work your way up. When you practice sun salutes, you are able to connect to your inner vitality. You can detect the fire within as heat builds and the breath moves throughout. If you are outside, you have the sun shining above you and the earth supporting you from below. Notice the unity that is happening between your inner being and outer self. If it is your first time practicing in public, allow yourself the space to feel a little silly. Recognize the discomfort and lean into it with grace. After practice, take a few moments to reflect on the accomplishment and honor your existence and your light on this planet. We all share a home here and you belong. Finish your practice by kissing the back of your hands a couple of times to show yourself some deep gratitude and love.

= 2) Five senses orientation meditation – This meditation is a short and effective way to center yourself. Rejoice in the beauty around you by appreciating it through your senses. To begin, find somewhere to sit comfortably for a few moments. Use your five sense to observe your surroundings. Notice the way the air feels on your skin. Is there a breeze? Are there any smells in the air like fresh pine, the sea salty beach or newly cut grass? Keep your eyes open to observe the textures and shape of the clouds as they float by or you can close your eyes and notice the way the light bounces off of the inside of your eyelids. What shape does the light make? Can you taste anything specifically unique to where you are? Have a mindful moment to yourself by eating a fresh orange and really tasting the qualities of the fruit. Practicing the five senses orientation meditation is an effective way to find peace as a whole being. Our body and mind start working together as one unit that moves us towards an awakening of our truest selves.

= 3) Earthing – Everything is energy!  Our electrical devices like smartphones, computers, and radios are sending out electrical energetic waves at all times.  The cells in our body are sending electrical signals to each other. Our beautiful blue planet has its own special energy too; earth energy. Research over the years has shown that connecting to the energy of the earth grounds the energy of all things on the planet. For us, grounding often results in a reduction of pain, stress, inflammation, and scattered mental patterns. The Deepak Chopra website says “The Earth is like a gigantic battery that contains a natural, subtle electric charge—a special kind of energy present in the ground. For safety and stability, most everything in the electrical world is connected to it, whether it is an electric power plant or your refrigerator. That’s what the term “grounded” means.” Our bodies are energetic too and therefore need grounding for safety, stability and, balance. To ground, simply take your shoes off and stand on the earth! Put your feet in the sand, stand barefoot in a few inches of water or walk in the grass. If you don’t have the ability to go outside, spend some time with indoor plants, touching their leaves and potting them with fresh, warm soil. Breathe deep and take time to reflect on this practice over the course of a few days or weeks to notice any shifts!

“Your body is precious. It is our vehicle for awakening. Treat it with care.” – Buddha

Invest in rest! 3 ways to embrace a restorative pause.

If you had asked me 3 years ago to talk about my yoga practice I would tell you that it was mostly a physical practice. I was and still am very proud of all the yoga poses I could perform and I love to teach asana! The physical is so much fun. Getting sweaty in class, breathing deeply, flowing smoothly from pose to pose through vinyasa and exploring all the crazy shapes I could make with my body took me away from all my worries. I found something so special because it made me feel alive!

A yoga practice can do that for you too, but it is not just the poses that create such big waves of transformation and freedom. 

It wasn’t easy to detect this at the time, but what I didn’t know was that I was pushing myself too hard for the sake of feeling accomplished. I became determined to learn how to balance upside down, twist my body and move my hips in ways that were out of my reach. I think that the “all play and no rest” philosophy didn’t just show up on my yoga mat, but in my working life and personal life too! Eventually, all the hard work and no rest caught up and I got injured.

Read more about my injury

With injury comes the gift of time. In the time I spent recovering, I found the joys of being in stillness and how important it is to invest in rest.

Stillness offers an opportunity for introspection, healing, and rejuvenation. It gave me a chance to absorb everything that I had learned and also process it so that I could discriminate between what parts of my practice were life enhancing and which parts were debilitating and energetically depleting.

HERE ARE MY 3 TOP FAVORITE WAYS TO INVEST IN MY REST

-1) Savasana – Corpse pose, though seemingly simple can be quite the challenge for someone who is learning the art of rest. Considered by some to be an advanced yoga pose, all you do is lie down, get comfortable and do nothing.  To do nothing, in this current world climate, is so brave, courageous and rebellious!! What a gift it is that at the end of your yoga class, you get to lie down, rest well, be well and simply do nothing. How often do we get this precious opportunity to feel the contrast between rest and being busy? This pose helps to soothe your sympathetic nervous system, rejuvenate your whole body, and refresh your mind.* The next time you are in yoga class or practicing at home, notice if you are savoring the moment of rest. Are you allowing yourself to be present with how you feel when you are resting or are you getting carried away by thinking about the next activity for the day?

-2) Minimalize – Identifying my “needs” v.s my “wants” and embracing them! I’ve learned that living minimally can mean so much more than letting go of material things. It is very empowering and rejuvenating to notice which aspects of life are energetically enhancing, which are depleting and to let go of what is not serving my best and greatest self. Examples of this can be work, food, friends, family, the list goes on. In her article What if all I want is a mediocre life?, Krista O’Reilly Davi-Digui says “And to see so many others with what appears to be boundless energy and stamina but know that I need tons of solitude and calm, an abundance of rest, and swaths of unscheduled time in order to be healthy. Body, spirit, soul healthy. Am I enough?” The answer is YES!

-3) Meditate – In terms of yoga, meditation is one of three parts that make up a practice (the other being the breath). The word yoga comes from the root word “yuj” – to connect, to unite, or to bring together.  Take a few moments of your day to sit down, take a breath and mindfully connect your mind and body through meditation. Here are 3 tips for starting a meditation practice.  

 

*Reference – The woman’s book of yoga and health by Linda Sparrowe

What if I can’t do downdog? How and why to practice supported yoga poses.

A yoga practice is more than an active way to move the body, breathe and feel good. It is also a way to prepare you for how to respond to the changes that happen in life. In general, as we age, so will our practice. Injuries can often occur in yoga too, which can feel debilitating when you can’t do the poses you love. How well we can make adjustments and modifications will determine the longevity of our practice and there is so much to learn when we are open to other ways of seeing. Let’s take a look at one of the most popular yoga poses in our practice — downdog — and one way we can practice it differently to suit our needs.

Downward Facing Dog Pose or Adho Mukha Svanasana

Effects* – This pose increases circulation and calms your mind. It also strengthens and elongates your back, shoulders, and legs. Doing this pose unsupported brings a sense of accomplishment and helps to ground you in the present moment. It is effective for calming the nervous system when feeling anxious.

These benefits are so wonderful and useful, but what happens when we are not able to feel comfortable in the unsupported downward facing dog pose? Let’s explore the other option.

Iyengar Rope Wall-Inspired Downward Facing Dog Pose

Effects* – This supported version of the pose offers you the ability to elongate the back through traction to the spine which can be helpful for those with low back pain. Circulation is increased to the pelvis and lower lumbar spine. This pose brings a sense of expansive relaxation and helps to ground you into the present moment. The wrists and shoulders are not at risk because there is no weight bearing into the hands. The pose is effective for calming the nervous system and clearing the mind.

What differences and similarities did you observe between the two descriptions?

Ready to give it a try? What you’ll need:

  • A yoga strap that’s at least eight feet long
  • A blanket or towel
  • A door with a sturdy doorknob.

Turn your strap into a very a large loop and place the loop around the doorknob on the outside of the door. Hold on to the loop from the inside of the door, and then close the door. I like to use my front door as it is stronger and more sturdy than the bedroom and bathroom doors in my home. It also has a deadlock, so I can feel certain that the door is securely closed and locked.

Step inside the loop with your back to the door and then adjust the loop accordingly. Adjusting the strap loop size may need to happen a few times before you get it right. I am 5 feet, 6 inches tall and I measure my distance standing around 2-3 feet away from the door.

Hold the loop at about hip height and place your folded blanket over the strap—this blanket serves as padding and support for the groins. Walk forward until the blanket rests at your hip crease, then fold forward over the strap, letting the padded strap press into your hip creases and support your weight. Bend down to come towards downward facing dog pose. Walk your hands forward and your feet back until your heels are touching the wall —it will feel like you are wearing high heels in a downward V shape.  Lengthen the sides of your waist and the crown of the head down towards the floor as you allow the strap to lift your pelvis and upper leg bones up towards the door.  This will help to traction your spine. Play with keeping the knees bent or straightening the legs. Both options are great depending on what feels best in your body. The strap is lifting and supporting you in the pose so that you can surrender into the feel-good aspects of down dog. Notice the stretch you get in your back, the space that is created between the ribs and the opening of the hamstrings. Breathe here for 3-5 cycles of breath, and then slowly make your way back to standing. If you get dizzy, turn around to face the wall and place your forehead on the door until you feel better.

Happy downdogging!

*Reference – The Woman’s Book of Yoga and Health by Linda Sparrowe and Patricia Walden

My top 5 self care strategies.

On my journey, I have found that it is constructive to return to sacred strategies of self-care because they provide me with the tools I need to stay centered, balanced and whole when the going gets tough. How do you thrive when you are not feeling your best?

I thrive on being gentle, kind and compassionate towards myself. Honoring my imperfections means that I am accepting the asymmetrical nature of being human.

Here are my top 5 sacred strategies for self-care aka honoring my imperfections:

1) Taking good care of my body and mind through yoga and mindful meditation is the key to wholeness and wellness. I practice mindful breathing exercises (pranayama) daily to calm feelings of anxiousness. I explore different types of yoga practice to cater to how I am feeling each day. On days when I feel less energetic, a restorative or therapeutic practice happens to be just what I need to restore my body, mind, and spirit.

2) Spending time in nature. It centers me. A simple stroll in your local park or nature center is very effective for grounding into the present moment. Grounding has a powerful way of calming the whole body and honors our need to simply slow down at times, breathe and relax.

3) I cook wholesome healthy food in my kitchen. Lately, I have taken a keen interest in Ayurvedic cooking and I have been having so much fun trying new ingredients and recipes! Trying out new recipes or ideas in the kitchen allows us to be creative and have fun all while nourishing our insides with good food choices.

4) I hang out with my friends and family. There is nothing like seeing the people that I love most to fill my heart with gratitude and joy. When was the last time you spent time laughing and enjoying the presence of your loved ones?

5) I treat myself. I buy myself flowers and take long hot baths with sea salt and essential oils. The pure bliss of feeling special and pampered is magical!

I have found that I have more energy and worry less when I slow down and choose to practice one or two of these self-care techniques on a regular basis, especially when I am not feeling my best.

Man is made or unmade by himself. In the armory of thought, he forges the weapons by which he destroys himself. He also fashions the tools with which he builds for himself heavenly mansions of joy and strength and peace. – William James

A simple way to reduce anxiety

The breath is a mighty tool for reducing anxiety. Pranayama or breathwork is a way to intentionally use the breath. By using the breath, we are able to feel how powerful the breath can be for soothing and calming the mind and body.

The Square Breath – Samavritti ratio

Benefits: This breathwork calms the mind and soothes the nervous system by focusing the mind in a positive and productive way.

Practice: Find a comfortable seated position, either in a chair or cross-legged on the floor. Sit tall and relax the shoulders.

  • Begin by taking a breath in
  • Exhale for a count of 4
  • Hold the exhale breath for a count of 4
  • Inhale for a count of 4
  • Hold the inhale breath for a count of 4

Flowing at your own pace, practice square breath for a few rounds, paying attention to the quality of each inhale and exhale. See if you can maintain an unbroken quality for each cycle of breath. After a few rounds, relax and breathe as you would normally. I find that practicing for 30 seconds is a good place to start

If while practicing square breath, you find that holding the breath is uncomfortable, simply omit the retention and just breathe evenly until it feels more enjoyable to hold the breath. Over time, you can increase the square count as your lung capacity expands.

Contraindications: Never strain the breath. If you are pregnant, practice breathing evenly without holding the breath. Check with your doctor if you have blood pressure or heart conditions.

Fun Fact: The Navy Seals use this technique too! Called 4X4 breath or Box Breathing, the Seals utilize their breath to manage stress and anxiety. This ultimately comes in handy when in potentially life-threatening situations.

How to use mindfulness and ease into change.

Spring season offers a great metaphor for change. New leaves begin to grow on the branches of trees and flowers sprout up from seeds buried deep in the earth during winter. I don’t know about you, but the inner child in me pops out as if she’d been trapped indoors for months and can finally go outside and play! If you have lived in a region of the world where you are able to experience the stark contrast of the seasonal shifts, then you know what I mean! Here in California, it takes a keener sense to observe the more subtle shifts, but they are there.

The practice of yoga allows us to awaken to the changes that are occurring within. For example, I love that moment at the beginning of class when I close my eyes, drop into my breath, quiet myself and just be present because it allows me to acknowledge the truth that I am forever changing. Breathing in and out, I notice that no two breaths are the same. In the physical body, cells are dying off just as new cells regenerate. When we look closely at our thoughts, we will see that the perceptions we carry of the world inside and outside of us are always shifting. We are evolving just like the seasons and existence is a constant cycle of life and death. So, in the time we allow ourselves to be mindful at any given moment, there is a great opportunity for deep acceptance of ourselves exactly the way we are. On my journey, I have found that embracing change allows for more contentment and flexibility in the world around me.

The most
radical act
in a world
that is sleeping
and numb
is to wake up
and feel.

– James McCrae

Self-care tips for a healthy heart!

In our modern day life, feeling overwhelmed and underwhelmed tend to be the norm. This can put a strain on our circulatory system, nervous system and ultimately our hearts. In this post, I will offer you some tips on how to take special care of your heart by creating rituals using yoga poses, breathwork, and meditation to bring you into to a place of contentment, time and time again.

It is becoming a daily ritual of mine to take more walks in nature. My walks offer an opportunity for me to relax into the present moment and lean into the sounds and sights. I take off my shoes and walk barefoot just to feel the wet ground beneath my feet; to connect with the soil. I’ll find somewhere quiet to sit and then look with my eyes to see what I see. I feel the warm sun on my skin and the cool wind at my back. I listen to the birds and even watch the behavioral patterns of bugs. The clouds are always making some kind of interesting picture to entertain my imaginative mind. Nature holds space for me to let go into this moment, and just be. When I am there, I don’t feel overly eager or bored; enthusiastic or disinterested. I just feel full of peace and full of pure joy. I am practicing Santosha or contentment.

Take a few moments for your self to step out into nature and discover that happy medium between the two polarizing feelings. See how what is usually mistaken as a humdrum feeling can instead be seen as one of balance, happiness, and aliveness in the heart center.

ASANA – Yoga postures for a healthy heart

Let us start by learning about some yoga poses designed to regulate heart rate, improve breathing, boost confidence, reduce anxiety and manage depression!

Soft Fish Pose (Matsyasana) -Effects* – Supporting the body with three folded blankets allows for you to relax completely into the pose. Keeping the knees bent is a kind choice for an achy lower back. Taking full breaths into the heart space is comforting and will help to relieve anxiety or nervousness.

Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) – Effects* – This pose can be done in a passive or active way, therefore the effects will vary depending on how you implement the pose in your practice. Pictured is a version of bridge pose with one leg extended upwards (Eka Pada Setu Bandha Sarvangasana). This version tones your muscles strengthening the shoulders, back, and legs. It reduces back pain, regulates your heart rate and can help with symptoms of depression.

Upward Facing Bow Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana) – Effects* – This exhilarating pose can give you a rush! It promotes a feeling of joy by opening up the whole front of the body. This pose improves breathing and blood circulation around the heart. It also helps to build emotional stability and self-confidence. I am showing a version of the pose (Eka Pada Urdhva Dhanurasana) by extending one leg upwards. Before attempting this pose, one must prepare the body and mind by learning and practicing the preparatory poses regularly.

PRANAYAMA – Breathwork for a healthy heart

Next, let us discuss breathing practices. The heart center is governed by the element of air. Yoga postures aimed at balancing the heart center involve working with the supporting muscles and organs around the heart to give the chest cavity space in order to breathe fully! Taking conscious inhales and exhales relaxes the body and mind. One technique I like to use for this is alternate nostril breathing. By practicing alternate nostril breathing, we are working towards bringing balance to the polarized energies we each have within us: heating/cooling, male/female, fight or flight/rest and digest.  For those heart heavy days, it is amazing how a simple practice such as this one can change how you feel for the better! Heres how to practice two cycles of Nadi Shodhana.

Come to sit in a comfortable position, either on a chair with feet flat on the floor or on a cushion in a cross-legged position. Sit up tall. Using your dominant hand, fold the first and middle finger in towards the palm, leaving the ring finger, pinky finger and thumb extended. Now, take the thumb and ring finger to the bridge of your nose, and then slide the fingers down the nose until they meet the place where the nostrils flare.

  • Plug the left nostril and inhale through the right.
  • Plug the right nostril and exhale through the left.
  • Inhale through the left nostril.
  • Plug the left nostril and exhale through the right.
  • Inhale through the right nostril.
  • Plug the right nostril and exhale through the left.
  • Inhale through the left nostril.
  • Plug the left nostril and exhale through the right.

Let both hands rest on the knees and breathe normally for a few cycles of breath. Notice how you feel. You can practice this for more than two cycles at a time, but before you finish, make sure you exhale through the right nostril first, then relax and breathe normally.

ANAHATA – A meditation for the Heart Chakra

Anahata means unstruck or unhurt. This chakra is located behind the sternum bone in the center of our chest and it is associated with the glowing color of emerald green. Anahata is connected to our sense of touch so the hands directly communicate with our heart. To tap into your heart center, bring your two hands together in Anjali Mudra, a hand gesture that symbolizes love and peace. It looks just like prayer hands. Place your hands in front of your heart. In connecting the right side with left, we complete the circle of energy between the hands and the heart. This balances the right and the left side of the brain thus bringing us into a place of total awareness. Sit for a moment, breathing consciously and focusing your attention on the heart center to see what thoughts, sensations or emotions come up.  Allow yourself to just experience them for what they are, without any judgments and then let them pass.

*Reference – The Woman’s Book of Yoga and Health by Linda Sparrowe and Patricia Walden

*Reference – Guiding Yoga’s Light by Nancy Gerstein

What exactly is yoga?

The new year is here and as they say, out with the old and in with the new! We see yoga everywhere and hear of its many benefits, therefore there is no better time to start a yoga practice than the present moment. If you are considering the practice or wondering if yoga is something for you, you might be wondering about the different styles of classes and which one(s) is right for you.

Yoga is defined as the union between body, mind, and soul. Physical postures, breathing exercises and quieting the mind (also known as meditation) are practiced together with the purpose of understanding ourselves on a deeper and more spiritual level. It is through the practice that we learn what causes discomfort like pain, anxiety and stress. The practice teaches us how to develop the life skills needed to lessen our suffering. To put it simply, yoga is for everyone and can benefit us all on different levels. The yoga that you practice will be much different than that of the person next to you because no two people are alike. The most wonderfully relieving aspect of yoga is that you do not have to be a certain color, sex, gender, weight, height, body type or religion to practice. There is something for everyone if you so choose to explore the vast amount of styles and techniques that are out there.

As a teacher, I have had many of my students ask, what is the difference between Hatha Yoga and Vinyasa Yoga? The two styles share many similar qualities so it is common to have this question. Here are the big differences between the two that I believe will bring awareness to what each practice is for and how it can help you.

Hatha Yoga commonly referred to as Sun-Moon yoga. “Ha” = Lifeforce. “Tha” = mental of the human form. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, an ancient Sanskrit text, outlines how to practice 33 physical postures called asana and also breath work called pranayama. Through regular practice of these postures and breathing exercises, the student will learn how to bring harmony and balance to the physical body and the energetic body. It teaches you how to access your inner energy and use it safely to control the fluctuations of the mind. Taking Hatha class will help you to refine your postures and your breath work because the pace tends to be slow and depending on the teacher, a lot of information and cues are given.

Vinyasa means “to place in a special way” and connects two or more postures together with breath. Vinyasa yoga places more emphasis on creating breath-body links to create a more vigorous practice. It flows like a dance and demands an understanding of ujjayi breath (victorious breath). A master Vinyasa teacher carefully and intentionally takes the student through a series of postures linked together with breath to intelligently warm parts of the body and to prepare the student mentally for what is to come next. Vinyasa yoga teachers create artful and creative sequences that will often lead you to a peak pose! There is now over 1,300 yoga poses so teaching vinyasa yoga gives the teacher an opportunity to incorporate many different postures into a sequence. Taking vinyasa class will help you to build the strength and stamina to advance your practice so it is important to first have a thorough understanding of the foundations of basic asanas.

I too had this question when I wanted to deepen my understanding of yoga. This helpful diagram shows other styles of yoga and outlines their differences very well! It even gives you a bit of a timeline for when each style was developed.

More recently, I have discovered the profound effects of therapeutic and restorative yoga. These styles of yoga are ideal for those who are looking for relaxation, stress relief, injury management and a slow meditative class pace. These practices invite you to drop into a restful state, allowing the nervous system to soften and restore to a place of harmonious balance.

In general, all yoga comes from Hatha Yoga and all are meant to prepare your body for deep meditation. Through meditation, we understand our true selves. When we understand our true self, we become more connected with the divine, source, the universe and thus, our suffering lessens.

Featured Image – Abstract Flowers 3X4

May the new year bring contentment

The tradition goes, when the New Year rolls around we are awarded a clean slate and the chance to start over by dreaming up fresh ideas and intentions. We get to plant the seeds of personal development and growth. We get to set our declarations to make the necessary changes in order to live the best life we can envision for ourselves.

I do like this tradition because it is a positive and motivating practice and as the saying goes, “thoughts are things, so choose good ones!” How I perceive the world around me affects the outcomes of my endeavors. Each year, I take time to make a vision board for myself and as the year goes by, I enjoy having this visual to record and see my achievements as they unfold. There is one problem though. After giving the New Year Resolution thing some deeper thought, I realized that in the efforts of setting intentions to make “necessary” changes to my life each year, I am also implying that I am not satisfied with how my life already is! Some might argue that I am subconsciously and simultaneously planting seeds of dissatisfaction and emptiness. I’ve decided that instead of resolving to change things about my life that I don’t approve of, I will give thanks that my life is just as it is. All year long I have been taking steps towards the things that make my heart and mind happy. This has been huge for me and so my plan is to simply continue to trust in my process and follow the path I have forged with compassion, unconditional love, and JOY. New Years is time to celebrate everything that I already AM.

In yoga philosophy, the word Santosha means contentment. Santosha is one of the 5 Niyamas; Niyamas are 5 principals for observing our internal behaviors. To practice Santosha, one chooses to view their reality from a place of non-judgment in order to see life just as it is through uncolored lenses. We see where we are along our path and where we would like to go. We then take mindful steps towards the goals and aspirations we wish to attain and in the process, resolve to be happy with whatever outcome the Universe has in store. The magical bonus feeling that comes from this practice is JOY — The ability to simply be happy with life exactly as it is. What an interesting phenomenon!

I’d like to share a quote from Buddhist teacher Michael Stone – I think what he had to say about mindfulness encompasses what I am hoping to express about Santosha and how it applies to the way we can choose to enter into 2018.

“When we accept what is in this very moment, without pushing or pulling, when there is no running after or running away from, we find in our practice a level of deep acceptance and peace.”

Happy New Year!!! May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be safe, may you be free of suffering and may you continue to walk down the path that leads to the greatest and truest version of yourself. Namaste friends — the light within me, sees and acknowledges the light that is within you.