Yoga

This little light of mine…

Confidence.

What can I confidently say about confidence? That was the task that I set before myself when preparing to teach this week.

Before I had even begun giving too much attention to my class this week, one word kept coming up: confidence. The idea resonated with me, personally, as I am manifesting changes in several areas of my life. In my yoga career, especially, I am recognizing more and more the importance of self-confidence and believing in yourself. It’s fundamental.

But how could I translate my inspirations about confidence into a yoga practice? I felt that the idea was worth exploring. After all, success would mean that one of my students might connect with her own sense of self-confidence in a new way.

‘Ok. Let’s do this.’

I decided to begin where any serious inquiry begins- on Google. I found pages upon pages of insightful quotes about confidence, most of which essentially boil down to the same thing: Have faith and confidence in yourself and anything is possible.

Believe in yourself. In your dreams, aspirations, and abilities.

All of it hitting right at the level of the solar plexus chakra (manipura, meaning ‘cave of jewels’). It is the chakra of ‘I can.‘ Of willpower. Of honoring one’s self. Its color is golden, sunshine yellow, and it radiates from the base of the sternum like a little, golden sun.

Twists are the category of postures most closely associated with the solar plexus chakra, so I included several twists (prayer twist, supine twist, and matsyendrasana).

We also returned to the visualization of the radiant, golden sun in standing poses, like mountain and warrior I.

Fearlessly shine that light of yours in every direction for all of creation to see.

Working with these exercises helped me experience ‘confidence’ in a new light in the days leading up to class. In my meditation and yoga practice, I began to connect ‘confidence’ to other chakras, too, especially the root chakra (muladhara) and the throat chakra (vishuddha).

The root chakra governs our sense of safety and security. Without a strong foundation, we cannot stand tall. How can we make the leap for our dreams and ambitions if we are standing on shaky ground? Standing poses strengthen the root chakra (mountain, warrior I, eagle, humble warrior).

Finally, I integrated several postures that activate the throat chakra (vishuddha). This is our center of communication outward, governing our ability to verbalize our thoughts and ideas and to speak our truth. Forward bends are the category of poses that is associated with the throat chakra. We paused in uttanasana and paschimottanasana for somewhat longer than other poses to allow a deep opening of the entire body and to stimulate the throat chakra.

Taken together, these three chakras and their associated qualities light the picture of confidence that came into focus for me this week. As I said before, this particular combination resonated with me most in this time of manifesting in my life and working to bring about positive changes. I know that these ideas hit home with many of you, too. So many of us are riding the seas of change and attempting to keep our balance. If you were not able to come to my class this week (or if you were), I hope that some bit of information that I have shared has touched you in some way and that you are inspired to recognize that you are, in fact, awesome and fully able to realize whatever you set your mind on.

Yes, my dears, you can.

Namaste!

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Yoga props for your home practice

Happy Wednesday! I made you a present. I initially intended to make this video in September (National Yoga Month), but I was sidetracked by illness for a little while there.

But I didn’t forget you, my dears!

I made this video for you to demonstrate ways that you can re-purpose items from around the house to use as yoga props. My home practice is the heart and soul of my yoga practice. It gives me the ability to spend time on my mat every day even though I am a full-time mommy.

Even if you don’t have time for an entire class, just spending a few minutes in postures that work the areas where you need it most can change your whole outlook. Or if you have a few minutes before bedtime, you can do a few restorative postures to let go of your day and prepare your body and mind for sleepytime. Use the props that I’ve suggested in this video or have a look around and get creative.

Here are links to the sites I mention:
~YogaGlo
~Yogis Anonymous
~My Yoga Online
~SoulTV

I don’t know about you, but my favorite part is the rainbow.

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Yoga this week!!

There’s a yoga party, and you’re invited!

Monday at 10am.

Don’t be tardy for the party.

ps- the word for this week is: Confidence.

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WWHSD? (What would Higher Self do?)

Well, my friends, we’re 10 days past the fall equinox now, and my fall check-in is over. The intensive period of “fall cleaning” has come to an end, and I have much more clarity about the work I have ahead of me in the remainder of 2012. As I was preparing to teach this week, I hoped to bring some of my new-found inspirations to the mat and share them with my students. So, what is my final answer? What bits of wisdom do I have to impart as we move ahead? In short, love, love, love yourself. When it comes time to choose, choose love!

As part of my fall check-in, I listened to Doreen Virtue’s Chakra Clearing: A Morning and Evening Meditation to Awaken Your Spiritual Power (available on iTunes) regularly. It was a great addition to the process, doing the kind of clearing energetically that the fall winds are working on outside right now. The segment related to the sacral chakra resonated most with me.

In that segment, she asks the listener to release their appetites and desires to the light within, aligning the listener’s personal will with the One Will of their Higher Self and Source.

Two of the most active fronts of my fall check-in involved my efforts to give up caffeine and sugar. At times, I would catch myself pre-assuming that hitting the drive-thru for a big, tall, sugary drink was part of the plan. My habits and appetites were over-riding my power of choice without me even noticing. So, along with a regimen of hip-opening poses (balancing for the sacral chakra) on the mat, I relied on the affirmation that I shared with you last week:

“I am harmoniously aligned with the ceaseless flow of supply and love that springs from the golden fountain of light from within my center. All of my desires are perfectly balanced right now.”

It became like a kind of WWHSD (What would my Higher Self do)? And, guess what? The answer was nearly always the same: Make the choice that is kind, loving, and life-affirming. Doing so now will have ripples of positivity far into the future.

I had chosen to let go of caffeine and sugar because, despite an initial boost, they leave me feeling depleted and… just plain yucky. More and more lately, those trips to the drive-thru would end with me feeling sick, anxious, and jittery. Each time I saw the same result, I would wonder why on earth I was making the same mistakes over and over- and treating myself so unkindly. Rather than dwell, I decided to make a better choice, and the habit of turning to my Higher Self in moments when I was tested was supporting that process. After I had been working with that for a few days, I came to a new level of understanding… while browsing videos on YouTube. YouTube was recommending a video from Doreen’s Angel Detox Month. The title or description asked something like, “Has your Higher Self been guiding you to give up alcohol?”

Click!

Had my Higher Self been speaking to me all along (though I wasn’t getting an A+ at listening)? Had it actually been my Higher Self asking me to make more loving, healthy choices for myself? Had my choice to focus on phasing out caffeine and sugar been guided by my Higher Self?

Of course.

I became more intent on being open and present to the wisdom of my Higher Self. Then, pop! The same word kept coming up over and over- Ahimsa. To be more in tune with the wisdom of my Higher Self is to be dedicated to observing Ahimsa, or non-harming. Always make the kind, loving, compassionate choice, beginning with the choices I make for myself.

As all of these pieces began to fall into place, I came across and article by Erica Rodefer, 5 Questions Before Going Deeper. In her article, she explores the practice of Ahimsa on the mat. She interprets the Sri Sathya Sai Baba quote, “Before you speak, think- is it necessary? Is it true? Is it kind? Will it hurt anyone? Will it improve on the silence?,” for the practice of asana.

The points she brought up in her article served as a great springboard for introducing Ahimsa into my class this week. I offered her questions to my students as a way to bring their attention back to the present moment, back to their breathing, and back to a place of listening to the cues they get from their bodies, as well as from the wisdom within.

I encouraged them to be open and honest with themselves in determining the version of the poses that suited them best. After all, going into a deeper expression of a posture can, even will, come over time with dedication and mindful attention to the body’s cues. Making the safest, most loving choice for your body right now will lead to being able to go deeper after time. The inverse, however, is not true. Pushing to go deeper now will not lead to good form in the future. In fact, it will likely lead to an injury in time. It may momentarily flatter your ego or satisfy some appetite, but is that worth making a choice that may endanger your well-being in the long run? If you pause to ask yourself- is it kind? is it necessary? will it hurt anyone?, and then listen for the wisdom of your Higher Self, the answer will be clear.

Namaste!

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Yoga this week!!

October is here!

It is one of my very favorite months. I get to celebrate with all of the wonderful, beloved Libras in my life, including my little man. And, man, birthdays can be fun when you are four. Like- magical.

At least, that’s how I remember it. Lucky me! I get to take part in that with my son soon.

Halloween’s also a major celebration in my house. I would venture to say that it is second only to Christmas. Big. Time. Stuff.

So, join me on Monday, October 1 at 10am to kick off this exciting month with yoga!

You know you wanna 😉

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To balance? To fall?

Whoa! Did you see that?!!

That was the fall equinox that just went whizzing by.

I must warn you that I am a great lover of solstices and equinoxes, and I get pretty worked up for each one. To me, each is like a mindfulness alert from the universe- a reminder that things are changing and evolving and a push to align with the times. How does ‘change’ manifest in my life at the moment? What can I do to address it? I find that this quarterly practice of ‘checking in’ truly elevates my actions and choices. It brings them into resonance with a bigger picture and gives greater meaning to everything I do.

So, here we are again. It’s fall. And I’m a few days into my fall check-in. So, what’s coming up?

My son is at a stage of learning and understanding that I’m rather enjoying. He will ask questions that make the needle in my brain skip sideways. He asks ‘why?’ about nearly everything. And he also asks questions that force me to stop and think about things in a way that I’ve not done for a very long time. Like, “What does ‘about’ mean? What does ‘an’ mean?” I’ve realized how much I take for granted in my words and the ideas, thoughts, and concepts that generate them. The more words and complicated explanations I throw at him, the more lost we get.

Instead, I must get to the heart of the thing, even approach it symbolically. What is the underlying essence of this thing, beyond the words I know about it? Repeating this exercise day in and day out has made my mind much more limber than it was a few years ago- more ready for the next curveball little man throws my way. My mind is more open to setting aside preconceived ideas about things and connecting with the sweetness that makes them what they are.

I was practicing this yoga for the mind (of moms. Of 3-year-olds.) while meditating on ‘fall.’ I get so excited at the beginning of every season- excited to experience the unique sweetness that makes fall fall. As it usually happens, I was drawn to the outdoors, to see how Mother Nature is doing it (because she does it best).

The leaves are falling. The winds are picking up. The time for the harvest has arrived. This is the ‘reaping’ time in the cycle. The seeds that we planted in the spring and tended in the bright, summer sun are now ready to be plucked from the vine and enjoyed.

Also in nature, I see the transition from the hot summer sun to cool fall winds beginning. From a pitta (fire) season to a vata (air) season, according to Ayurveda.

I am vata. Very, very vata. Moving into fall can throw me off balance if I am not mindful that Mother Nature is piling on extra vata. The equinoxes are a time of balance. The hours of dark and light are equal. So, I like to go with the flow and work with a vata-pacifying diet and focus on grounding postures in my yoga practice. I also bring my mindful awareness to any other habits or situations that may be throwing me off further and focus on letting them go.

To aid me in my efforts, I have been relying on an affirmation that I would like to share with you. It is from Doreen Virtue’s Chakra Clearing: A Morning and Evening Meditation to Awaken Your Spiritual Power (available on iTunes).

“I am harmoniously aligned with the ceaseless flow of supply and love that springs from the golden fountain of light from within my center. All of my desires are perfectly balanced right now.”

Happy Autumn, everyone! Here’s a free dosha quiz if you would like to learn more about your Ayurvedic dosha.

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Can I get a witness?

Very soon, it will be a year since I began my yoga teaching career in earnest. Looking back over this year, I have learned an enormous amount about living life as I’ve tried to discover my unique voice as a teacher. I’ve become much more of a teacher to myself than I had been for a long time. That is wonderful and needed. I know it is work that will continue for the rest of this lifetime. And now, I’m ready to have some other students, please. Ha. But no really, I feel like I’ve had a great year, and I am ready for more. After a year, I am committed to expanding as a yoga instructor more than ever before.

So now what?

Sometimes, phrases or concepts or images will buzz around like bugs in the summer. Do you ever get that? Something will circle around my head over and over until finally I have to pay attention to it. One of those things lately has been the idea of discovering my own unique voice as a teacher. What do I wish to say and how do I wish to say it?

I became a yoga instructor for the love of it and its ability to deepen my understanding of life. But I can’t just tell my students or anyone who will listen to do what I do and expect them to receive the same kind of benefits that I do. What is it about yoga that has captured my heart and imagination for so long and how can I translate that as a teacher?

My first step, I decided, would be to go back to where the love affair began- my mat. Like I often say, “I forget the question, but yoga is the answer.” So, I’ve gotten on my mat more faithfully than I have since before my son came along. My practice is stronger than it has been in more than 5 years. It’s not just more advanced, it’s richer.

My focus grows day by day. I am relearning my body. Not everything is where I left it, so the experience is that much fresher. It’s like a whole new world. I see its ripples out into other areas of my life, too.

So, that’s all great for me, personally, but what does it mean for me as a teacher? What about this experience do I want to share?

If I had to distill it into a short answer, I guess I would choose: learning to approach life from the heart-space. Or shorter yet, witness consciousness.

I have not only been practicing more “advanced” postures, I’ve also been exploring in the other direction, balancing vigorous vinyasa practices with restorative ones. I’ve discovered that my sense of the beauty of yoga can be experienced in a challenging arm balance or the most lulling restorative pose. The ways of getting there may be different, but when I’m “doing it right,” I arrive at the same place-the stillness of my heart.

From there, I am able to witness the big picture more fully and objectively- without getting caught up in the mental gymnastics that my ego finds irresistible.

It was a breakthrough for me the day I realized that I did not need to silence my stream (sometimes cloud) of thoughts. Rather, I could just give up paying them so darn much attention. Turn down the volume, as it were.

The more I acknowledge my thoughts and let them go, watching them float by from my heart-space, the more I adept I become at approaching the present as a witness rather than an ego.

If there’s any part of my yoga practice that I hope to share in my teaching, it’s that. It’s not the most complicated asanas or transitions. Approaching the present moment with an open heart, regardless of where your limbs are positioned and what your mind might want to say about it, and witnessing a bigger picture.

Lucky thing for me- when you teach from that place, you are much more able to teach about that place. So, I am staying faithful in my asana practice and striving every day to practice the qualities that I want to be able to teach to others. I must say- I’m looking forward to the next year. I feel positive about what experiences it has to hold.

Want to connect more deeply with your heart center right now? Sit in a comfortable seated position. If you are in a chair, place the soles of both feet flat on the floor. Hands can rest in your lap. Focus all of your attention on the area of your heart. Take 5 slow, deep breaths, matching the length of your inhalation and exhalation. Feel as if you are able to gently draw the breath in through the heart center and release it gently through the heart center.

Namaste!

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Yoga this week!!

It’s that time again… Sunday. And I bet you are just burning up with curiosity about when on earth I’ll be teaching this week.

Well, wait no longer, my darlings, my dears. Monday. I’ll be teaching my regular class this Monday at 10am.

I am quite certain a lovely time will be had by all. I hope. Ha.

See you tomorrow, mes amis!

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Kamelien loves you!

“Anyone who practices can obtain success in yoga but not one who is lazy. Constant practice alone is the secret of success.”

~Svatmarama, Hatha Yoga Pradipika

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Inhale from the tips of your toes

WARNING: The video may not be for you if you are squeamish. Personally, I find information about human anatomy to be a great way to deepen my practice, but I know it’s not for everyone. So, that being said…

Conscious breathing is the foundation of my yoga- the yoga I practice, the yoga I teach, the yoga I carry with me throughout my day. Pause right now and bring your attention fully to your breathing for 5 slow, deep breaths.

How did that feel? Did anything open up that seemed stuck before? I don’t find many situations that can’t be elevated by taking a deep, conscious breath before you step into them.

That is most likely why I love this video so much. It is one of the lessons from my teacher training that has stayed most alive for me- transforming my body and breathing awareness in such powerful ways.

Often in my classes, we take a good, long pause when we first come to stand in tadasana. I like to take my time to build the pose from the ground up, beginning with the soles of the feet connecting with the earth.

I was teaching a new student last week. She’s relatively new to yoga, but she is already great at staying present in her breathing. In fact, she asked me several times about ways to connect more deeply with her breathing. I had to become that much more present and aware in my practice to answer her.

One of those moments was when she asked me about breathing in tadasana. The ‘deep front line’ guy immediately popped into my head. As I was finishing my teacher training last year, I was simultaneously training for my first 5K. During my training for the race, every run became a kind of meditation on tadasana.

I’m not so young and springy as I used to be. In order to keep things from creaking and popping when I ran, I tried to stay fully in my body as I took each stride. I took the lessons I had learned during ‘quiet time’ in tadasana and hit the road with them. I felt better acquainted with every bone in my foot. I had a better understanding of the muscles in my leg. I remembered the ‘deep front line’ guy and took each inhale from the soles of my feet to the tip of my tongue- drawing strength and power up from the ground below. Just like I had done in tadasana.

Try it after you watch this clip. Stand up straight and tall in tadasana (barefoot is best). After you feel settled into the pose, take a few deep, conscious breaths- feeling as if you are drawing each breath up through the soles of your feet.

Namaste!

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