“Have A Seat”
My Secret Love Affair with Chair Yoga
Okay, if I’m being PERFECTLY HONEST here chair yoga was never on my radar when I began teaching yoga. And when I say it wasn’t on my radar let me be ABSOLUTELY CLEAR; I had no first, second, or even an inkling of thought about it. My mind was more on teaching a gentle style of hatha yoga to the people and totally going into the “Zen Zone” on my sticky mat. Now indulge me while I paint you a Mind Picture of what I envisioned my mat yoga class would consist of.
Smooth Jazz or Reggae music
Aromatherapy: The sweet smells of scented Lavender, Sandalwood and Orange wafting throughout the room
A total Chill Mood followed by an Unhurried, Decelerated, Yoga Session.
Ahh, so sweet.
Well we’re all familiar with mat yoga and I’m personally going to “Keep it Real” and let you know that I tend to do mostly mat yoga in my own personal practice. But let’s be flawlessly transparent here; the beauty of Chair Yoga is Undeniable. I mean seriously, anyone can do chair yoga-Age, Weight, and especially the Location Factor is Not an Issue. Come as you are; PJ’s, Workout Gear, Office Wear, Shoes on-shoes off, not a problem-You’re Ready! All that is required is the mindset to live a better, healthier lifestyle.
I also need to say that these days I teach more chair yoga than mat yoga; maybe it’s because chair is both Convenient and Functional to all. Chair Yoga has the unique gift of allowing everyone, regardless of ability to Do Yoga, due to the fact that it’s super Accessible. It’s available for “EVERY BODY” and Everybody. There really is a level for every person and you can ramp it WAY UP, or you can modify it to make it more User-Friendly to each individual (yogi’s choice).
So it’s your call, mat yoga or chair yoga “BOTH” provide for better health, no matter which Path you want to venture down. Being able to integrate the breath with your movement, turning the senses inward, and combining the mind-body element through the breath is a path for living a more Focused, Balanced, and Centered life.
A Few Reasons to Fall in Love with Chair Yoga
- Chair yoga is accessible to all.
- Improved range-of-motion achieved from being able to sit in a chair.
- Chairs make great, inexpensive props. They allow you to feel secure, steady and grounded, all while aiding in balance with standing poses. Also adds a safe prop for Chair Assist Standing Poses.
- Chair yoga’s adaptations for the classic yoga poses; such as Down Dog, the Warriors, Lunges, and Triangle Pose (in addition to countless others) makes the traditional poses more available with the support of a chair.
- Helps in achieving physical and mental fitness, all while promoting strengthening and flexibility.
- Allows people seated at a desk, possibly for hours on end, the opportunity to exercise in a limited amount of space with just the aid of a chair.
- As with mat yoga, chair yoga benefits stress and anxiety relief, helps in managing pain, minimizes hypertension, strengthens the bones, improves body awareness, lung capacity and mobility, it lessens inflammation, promotes better sleep and increases balance-All While Slowing the Aging Process (the benefits are many and the list is long).
- Great Rehabilitation tool.
- It also has the effect of keeping those excess pounds in check by improving your willpower because you’re simply shifting your focus in the direction of wellness, and away from instant satisfaction.
- Lastly, let’s just face it- “IT FEELS DAMN GOOD TO MOVE YOUR BODY and Yoga is the Pill You Don’t Have to Take”!
So in the end Chair Yoga gets a big “Hell Yeah” in my book because it can be done ANYWWHERE! And, being accessible to all is a great thing, wherever you are both PYSICALLY and EMOTIONALLY in your journey. Be it your office, the break room, the gym, the park, the plane, your home, the car, even while standing in the grocery store line-yoga can and should be modified to fit your unique situation.
So remember me telling you about my initial yoga “Mind Picture”, well it hasn’t changed one bit-let’s just say I’ve simply Expanded My View. Chair Yoga and Mat Yoga occupy the same dreamscape in my head NOW;
Smooth Jazz or Reggae music
Aromatherapy: The sweet smells of scented Lavender, Sandalwood and Orange wafting throughout the room
A total Chill Mood followed by an Unhurried, Decelerated, Yoga Session
“Same Destination, Same Purpose, Just a different Path”
SO Remember– Life’s s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Slow down and take your time to really smell the roses. Peace
NOT United over United’s Airlines “SEXIST” Dress Code
What does Good Morning America, The View, Twitter, Facebook, and a host of news sources have in common? They were all aghast over United Airlines decision to stop two girls from boarding a flight. The girls were well behaved, they apparently posed no threat to their fellow passengers, they didn’t even conduct themselves in a shady manner; their crime you’re wondering-THEY HAD ON LEGGINGS!
Up until now I thought Lululemon Athletica took the award for the “Most Asinine, Stick-Your-Foot-in Your-Mouth company response”! But not to be outdone, United Airlines has officially edged them out-BIG TIME. Let me briefly refresh your memory. Back in 2013 the CEO of Lululemon’s comment on blaming women’s bodies for the shortcomings of some of their yoga pants was a Jaw Dropping Moment. Instead of taking ownership of the unintentionally see-through yoga pants that the company had produced, Lululemon’s CEO, Chip Wilson doubled-down, choosing to focus on the shape of some of its customer’s thighs by criticizing larger women. Truly a HANG YOUR HEAD IN SHAME MOMENT!
But as I said not to be outdone, a United Airlines gate agent on Sunday, March 26, 2017 decided to bar two teenage girls from boarding a flight from Denver to Minneapolis due to their inappropriate choice of leggings as travel attire. Okay I get it, this is a joke and I’m in an alternate universe; but is the year really 1950? It sure seems like it is.
So, if I’m asleep “PLEASE WAKE ME UP”!!!
Another head-scratching moment was that the girls were traveling with their Dad who just happened to be wearing a pair of shorts and that wasn’t cause for concern by United Airlines standards.
In the interest of presenting both sides, I will say that supposedly the girls were traveling with “buddy passes” and were in essence “guests of employees”, and thus were subject to the company’s employee dress code. The airlines dress code states that there is a ban on “form-fitting lycra/spandex tops, pants and dresses”, among various other restrictions. The airline goes on to state that the girls were held to a different standard due to the type of pass they were traveling with. But different standard or not, when did leggings and yoga pants become so SEXUALIZED ?
PASS TRAVELOR DRESS CODE
Not Acceptable in Any Cabin/ First Class or Coach
Shorts or T-Shirts, Sweatshirts or tank tops, Micro-mini skirts, Jogging suits.
Workout clothing or leggings, Bare-midriff or provocative/revealing/see-through clothing.
Beach clothing or footwear, flip-flops.
Clothing with offensive terminology or graphics, Clothing with holes/ragged or cutoff edges.
FYI- I have “NEVER” been in compliance when flying if I refer to the Company Dress Code!!!
As I’m sure you know, this issue isn’t just about “Not” wearing yoga pants or leggings. It’s about fighting back against the restrictions on what is and isn’t acceptable clothing for women. It’s about the concerns that women face every single day that are far deeper than what is covering our collective asses, such as Women’s Rights and Gender Equality. It’s about that unconscious misogyny that can sometimes be hard to spot but is still called “Sexist”.
So, whether encompassing Comfort, Style, or Tradition; from our yoga pants, hijabs, midriff tops, sari’s, miniskirts, tichels (wig, hat or kerchief called a “tichel” by orthodox Jews), jeggings (jean leggings), kimonos, burkas, etc. it really does fall into the category of MYOB translation–Mind Your Own Business. Namaste.
SO Remember– Life’s s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Slow down and take your time to really smell the roses. Peace
“The Wonder, Allure and Seduction of the Misunderstood Yoga Pant”
“And the Absurdity of it All”
Ahh the yoga pant; I’d be lying to the world if I said that I don’t have a mild OBBSESSION with this ubiquitous pant. You know those pants that have become the new “Go-to-Outfit” for the grocery store, gym, mall, coffee shop, and just about anywhere that style and comfort needs to meet function. It’s also the New Age Mom Jean and for my Mother in particular; a very dressy classic pant that fits her “ASS” like a glove.
I can’t tell you how much I love the ease, the thoughtless simplicity, and the feeling that I get when I have on these “I-Look-Fit” yoga pants. Really except for my husband (who I know secretly wishes I’d change my “uniform”) I don’t know anyone in my circle who doesn’t like them. Confession Alert/ I suppose I’m somewhat weak because I can’t walk into a Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, Dillard’s, or any department store for that matter and not walk straight to the workout wear as if in a trance. Yoga pants are my personal addiction; so I guess you could call it my Drug of Choice.
Think about it just for a second-the Comfort, the Convenience, the Affordability, the (in my humble opinion) style of that simple Design is beautiful. Literally two pattern pieces and a portion of elastic SEWN together has turned this pant into a style staple in most Americans closets-GENIUS.
The yoga pant has far surpassed its name, it’s the equivalent of the LBD (Little Black Dress) in its necessity and function. I mean really, what women doesn’t have this garment in her closet or drawer. I don’t know about you but a comfy pant totally gets a thumbs-up in my book! It even has a non-workout title now; it’s called Athleisure Wear.
But with its simple style comes so much unwanted and unneeded Controversy.
The first problem was a bill that was in essence thrown out for (in my opinion) being down right “Ridiculous”. I remember as far back as 2015 when Montana State Rep. David Moore (R) waged a personal war against of all things YOGA PANTS. H.R. 365 is at this time tabled because sensible minds prevailed http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2015/02/12/many-new-yorkers-scoff–at-montana-proposition-to-ban-yoga-pants/. The bill didn’t directly state that yoga pants we’re the so-called “TARGET” but they were in fact clearly covered in the bill.
In a nutshell the proposed ban challenged the indecent exposure laws which would have included yoga pants due to their revealing, body forming nature (REALLY). And if we labeled yoga pants as provocative where do we actually draw the real line. Would bikinis and speedos still be allowed on the beach, when would a miniskirt be considered “Too Mini”, what about shirtless males; is that considered indecent?
His fight wasn’t against war, it wasn’t concerning our economy, climate change and global warming, not even the war on drugs; it’s against our ability to wear yoga pants and other So-Called revealing attire in public-Seriously how Dumb Was That? There was no war against bicyclist’s attire, tennis apparel was definitely considered acceptable, even running shorts were deemed OKAY; yet all those sports outfits are pretty minimalist in my opinion. Can we spell “Consistency” here?
My second issue is School Dress Codes, boy there’s a lot of Wiggle Room in those policies. I mean you damn near have to be a lawyer or vocabulary linguist to decipher the meaning of “What Not to Wear”. Truthfully though, I can actually see a need for school districts to promote a style of dress that encourages uniformity in how the students are dressed and groomed. I also feel it’s important that advocating a positive learning environment and not disrupting the educational activities and processes of the school is of the utmost significance. But give me a break-Yoga Pants are just not that Big of Deal.
Many school dress codes cover but are not limited to the following, for example:
- The prevention of vulgarity on clothing.
- Prohibiting gang-related clothing and overly-saggy pants.
- Having approved skirt lengths.
- Tank tops and shirts are not acceptable except in physical education classes and in some schools tops and shirts must cover the entire shoulder. Also, they must be modest and not revealing or distracting.
(FYI-Not practical since this blog originates in the HOT and HUMID state of Florida)
5. Girls’ pants and/or slacks must be worn at the waist, translation/high-rise. (Really, when was the last time you saw a preteen or teen girl with pants positioned at her waist?)
With that being said, many school districts though prohibit the wearing of yoga pants. That also means stretch pants, leggings, or any pant that although comfy could possibly tempt a young males mind into contemplating thoughts of forbidden sexual acts and forgetting that he has a looming math test to contend with.
Seriously let’s be real, we’re talking about an UPDATED version of those elastic waist pants that our Mom’s wore; just made with a better material. Is the male population so easily swayed by the yoga pant that they just can’t handle the feminine form? “I THINK NOT” and I’m going to go out on a limb here by saying that the Male Species is much deeper than that. Women are not Jezebel’s lurking in seductive clothing deliberately waiting to tempt the desires of innocent, unsuspecting men, even writing it sounds pretty RIDICULOUS! These school dress codes unfairly punish girls and young women as a whole because the “Powers-That-Be” feel that today’s current mode of dress is far too revealing and that my friend is an Outdated Load of Dung!
Lastly, who doesn’t love a “Parade”? Well maybe you don’t when the purpose of the parade is the result of a letter one gentleman wrote to the local paper (The Barrington Times in Barrington, R.I) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3881156/Yoga-pants-critic-stands-letter-sparked-parade.html http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/10/21/yoga-pants-outrage-rhode-island-parade/92509852/. The so- called “Yoga Pants Parade” was primarily the result of a letter penned by a local resident. Alan Sorrentino stated his opinion in a public forum that yoga pants belong in the yoga studio and should not be worn in the public by women over age 20 (is this guy serious?). This gentleman described yoga pants as the worst thing in women’s fashion since the mini skirt. He went on to say that he found it “bizarre and disturbing” to see the outfit on “mature, adult women”. He did however offer an alternative for the “Oh so Sexy Yoga Pant”; “a nice pair of tailored slacks” or jeans (what year is this?). Not a big deal right? Well due to his remarks hundreds of women, girls, and other supporters put on their yoga pants and strutted their stuff; peacefully protesting in “HIS” neck of the woods (more precisely-on his block).
Well it’s no surprise that every Action has a Reaction and this gentleman got way more than he bargained for. I totally believe in Free Speech, it’s our Constitutional Right but be ready to defend what you have to say. And just for the record, every mouth should have an EDIT BUTTON preinstalled.
With so much push back on his remarks to the paper, Mr. Sorrentino has received a vicious response from the public and he now states that it was all meant as a Big Joke. In actuality, the Yoga Pants Parade was the result of a much larger movement against both misogyny and men dictating how they think women should dress. Don’t get me wrong, this event is certainly not the equivalent of a movie goer screaming FIRE in a crowded theatre but “You Just Can’t Say Anything”. And you certainly cannot verbally attack an entire segment of the population and have no repercussions, just ask the letter writer. My personal advise-KEEP YOUR SO-CALLED JOKES TO YOURSELF.
First things first, the yoga pant “IS NOT” going anywhere and Why Would It? For so long women have foregone comfort for the sake of what someone else thought was acceptable (think pantyhose). To the viewing eye if you REALLY STREEEETCH the imagination, you could very well find something sexual about yoga pants. I mean really– you could also think that the formation of a cloud, the froth on top of a latte, or even the tea leaves formed on the bottom of a teacup have a deeper, more soulful meaning, but alas- IT DOESN’T. It just is what it is-“A COMFY ASS PAIR OF PANTS”!
SO Remember– Life’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Slow down; smell the roses and I’ll see you in a few weeks. Be kind to yourself, Peace and Namaste.
ALL WE NEED IS LOVE
AT THE VERY LEAST A STRONG DOSE OF “LIKE”
With Global Warming burning up our political climate I feel the need to scream, “Enough Already”!!! At present I’m so sick and tired of all this DIVISION and we are not even close to the year 2020 yet. Think back to the days when John Lennon along with the Beatles sang “All You Need is Love”, so many years ago. That slogan was a powerful anti-war statement then and it’s still a compelling mantra now. WOW– the world was a vastly different place in 1967. With the Vietnam War in full swing, The Civil Rights Movement sending a powerful message to the world about race relations, along with Thurgood Marshall pissing a whole lot of people off by being sworn in as the first African American Supreme Court Justice-life was No Joke! And, then that simple song appeared on our musical radar DURING THAT SUMMER OF LOVE.
Well with Valentine’s Day just a short time away I was wondering “Where is the Love”? Sure we’re planning multiple Romantic Dinners, sending Love letters out about our undeniable feelings, buying enough Flowers to make 1-Eight Hundred-FLOWERS richer by the stem, and purchasing way too many expensive Valentine’s Day Cards. However, even those kind loving gestures pale when I think of what John Lennon sang about back in the “DAY”.
Talk about seeing into the future; did John have a crystal ball predicting that our upcoming years needed some heavy duty work? I believe John is correct though, all we need is love right? “IMAGINE”. Sure, maybe he was a just a dreamer but dreams “Do Come True”. Maybe believing that We Could Live As One was a pipe-dream but I don’t ever want to believe we’ve come to that point in our lives. And YES, envisioning no “Greed or Hunger”-sounds pretty damn awesome to me on any given day. In addition, the thought of a “Brotherhood of Man” and “All the People Sharing All the World” can’t ever become just a wishful dream because if that’s a dream then “PLEASE” let me stay asleep.
The question I’m asking since our hearts are grasping for love on this holiday where the primary function is to show love (or at the very least a “Hella Strong Like” ) is, “Why Do We Still Have to IMAGINE A BETTER WORLD”? John Lennon/The Beatles did publish that song in 1967 and that was practically 50 years ago. So many things have happened since then and we still have the opportunity to make a huge difference in our world. Love has got to be deeper and far more reaching than the small piece of real estate that we personally occupy and call home.
So what is the moral to this story? While the whole Valentine’s Day craze is meant ideally for couples, I think that Love is Love; be it Romantic Love, Family Love, Friendship Love, or Companionship Love. Call it what you will, but I do know that love is Compassionate, Kind and Considerate. Love knows No Boundaries, No Religion, and No Race– “IT JUST IS”. We can all do so much more to show love to our fellow World Inhabitants (remember, we are just one of many who make up our planet earth). And, please understand that I’m totally not frowning in the face of romance, I love a chill-out passionate dinner and a shared glass of wine as much as the next person, but I just want to note that World Love is really WHERE IT’S AT!
So maybe we don’t totally buy into the whole Valentine’s Day Mania on February 14 this year and just do what we can to show love on a daily basis to everyone-
ROMANCE NOT REQUIRED!
WE CAN CHANGE THIS WORLD FOR THE BETTER
LOVE IS STILL ALL WE NEED
THE AGONY OF “DE-FEET”
Alright ladies we’ve all been there but I’ll paint you a picture anyway (I love picturing in my mind the displays of life’s events).
Do these scenarios sound familiar?
1. We’re looking FINE (at least in our heads). Make-up is “Fierce”, clothes are “On Fleek”, we smell “Scent-sational”, and you’re rocking those incredible heals that you JUST got at Dillards Add’l 30% off clearance sale-Life Truly is Good! But, in your head as you drive up to that restaurant you begin to ponder The Journey. What journey you may be asking? The journey from your car door to the restaurant’s front door in those new 4” heels. DAMN YOUR FEET ARE KILLING YOU but for the sake of style you muscle on!!!!
2. Ever feel sad for a fellow sister because “She Wore the Wrong Shoe”? Your heart truly goes out to her because the pain in her face is so unmistakably real. Your shared “Girls Club” alliance is solid because you don’t have to say a single word, you’re reading her mind. As she walks from point “A” to point “B”, you can (in true sisterhood spirit) feel her PAIN! How can anything look so good but feel so bad? Her shoes are drop dead gorgeous and she’s sadly walking like a Wobbly New Born Baby Deer. My heart goes out to her!
Some would argue that our “SPINES” are the most important feature in our bodies, I mean really-they do support us and all. And, I’ve heard it said “That you’re only as young as your spine”. But in my head I’m only as young as my “FEET”. The erector set that makes up our foot structure is a super complex collection of 26 little bones, a multitude of fibrous connective tendons, and a host of Muscles, Joints, and Ligaments. I mean really, the job of the foot is to provide us with the Support, Balance, and the Mobility that we need to keep us “Erect” and I’d say that’s a pretty weighty role.
Well, whatever you feel our most noteworthy bodily feature is, one thing is for certain-OUR FEET TAKE A LOT OF ABUSE! We pound, we cram, we squeeze, we jump, we turn on a dime, we adjust, we’re constantly moving, and on top of that we swear we wear a size 8 but that “8 1/2” sure feels good. Hands Down-our foot is an amazingly complex piece of work but soothing our irritation doesn’t have to be. So if you want a few ways to tackle foot discomfort and NOT allow your foot woes to become your Achilles Tendon (pun intended) READ ON.
Affordable Foot Solutions
Bonus/ they really feel GOOD
1. Point and Flex your Feet. This simple, easy exercise really stretches out those muscles on the soles of your feet, with an added bonus of improving circulation. Periodically stretching your feet is a great preventative measure.
2. Tennis Ball Massage. This inexpensive (translation-cheap) self-massage technique is a great way to both massage the foot and release tension in the muscles of the foot and fascia.
The cool thing is that anytime you have a spare few minutes you can whip out your Tennis Ball, Yoga Tune-Up Balls, or even your Spikey Massage Ball and have at it. One of my clients confessed that she takes her dogs tennis/rubber balls to roll out her feet.
BONUS-You can do this massage standing holding onto the back of a chair or sitting at your desk, just make sure that you can comfortably remove your shoes. Spend a few minutes a day just testing what feels good to your tootsies; perhaps rolling the foot back and forth-from toe to heal, draping the toes over the ball, or maybe even massaging the sweet spot under your arch. Try it, the results can be amazing!
3.Frozen Water Bottle Roller Massage. Been on your feet all day? Your feet will love you for this frozen treat! Simply fill a water bottle (drink the water you just paid for first) about three quarters full and plop it in the freezer until frozen solid.
Now place a towel on the floor, place the bottle on it, and have at it. Just sit back and unwind into the chilling sensation of rolling out the tightness in your feet. Don’t forget the other foot. Ahh Yes!
4. Toe Stretch
Sit cross legged on the floor or in a chair. Take your foot in your hand and spread the toes apart, letting your fingers intertwine to fill the spaces between the toes. Hold for a few breathes and release. Repeat on the other foot.
5. Having A Ball
This one is so amazingly simple that it borders on FUN ! This pose is great for giving shoe-cramped toes some relief and it also has the added bonus of strengthening your calves! Simply stand behind a chair, holding onto its back-INHALE and lift up on the balls of your feet. Exhale and lower down. REPEAT -10 TIMES
6. Stretch the Foot from the Comfort of Your Chair
Get the benefit of a Seated Pigeon pose (which is a great stretch for tight hips) and a foot stretch at the same time.
1. Sit tall in a chair about midway in the seat (# lean a little forward so you’re not
leaning into the back of the chair).
2. Position ankles directly below your knees.
- Rest your right ankle on your left thigh, just above the left knee.
- Flex the toes and press out through the balls of the right foot, bending the toes back towards the shin. Notice that sublime stretching of the band of tissue that connects the bottom of the heel to the ball of the foot.
- Relax the foot and continue to sit tall. Repeat on the other foot.
7. Toes Pose or Toe Breaker (Don’t like the name but “LOVE THE POSE”)
This intense stretch is NO JOKE but the muscles on the soles of your feet will thank you for it. This is a Yin Yoga Pose.
1. Begin by sitting back on your heels. Tuck the toes under and basically position your behind to sit on the back of the heels. Hands resting on the thighs.
- Take your time with this pose because initially the hold time will be very short, work up to longer holds.
SO Remember– Life’s s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Slow down and take your time to really smell the roses. Peace
REMEMBER: Always Exercise Caution When Performing the Poses (or any activity for that matter)! It’s also good to check with a trained physician if you are planning on becoming physically active.
Tips to Adopt for 2017 and BEYOND
“No” These ARE NOT RESOLUTIONS!
Call it what you want- Growth, Progress, Development (you name it) whatever you call it, it doesn’t necessarily appear at the beginning of the coming New Year-it’s a CONSTANT. Maybe your choice to reach a particular point in your life comes on July 28, but here’s the question-do you wait for our National Resolution Day? Absolutely NOT! Real life doesn’t dictate that you postpone until January 1 what you can start today, or as old Benjamin Franklin said, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today”.
I like to look at the aims in my life as a way to step off Auto-Pilot, Pay Attention and really Focus on the genuinely important things. In yoga we set “Intentions” for our practice on the mat. So I like to take that thought process a step further and set intentions for my life as a whole. When I set an intention it takes my practice off the mat and into my life. Thus making my yoga practice more than “Just A Workout”, it’s more about a life choice. Bear in mind that intention setting is not a goal setting event-you shouldn’t have to work at it, it’s your FOCUS. Utilizing the power of intention setting can be a constructive vehicle for Positivity and Change.
It’s also good to note that these intentions are not resolutions because I simply “DO NOT” believe that resolutions are truly attainable! And FYI– just because January 17, the so-called “Ditch New Year’s Resolution Day” is now a legitimate made-up holiday that should probably give us a clue that resolutions might not be the way to go. I mean really why set yourself up for failure-we really just don’t need that kind of stress. So, Resolve to just Chill Out, Resolve to Relax, Resolve to have a glass of wine, and Resolve to Ponder the truly meaningful things in life!
Here’s my “EVERY DAY” List of Intentions–ENJOY!
(Feel free to explore your own list but until then you’re welcome to use mine)
- Be Positive
- Pay Attention to Your Breath
- Display Gratitude
- Be Present
- Rethink Judgement
- Text Less-Talk More
- Listen More-Talk Less
- Value Relationships
- Slow Down
- Sit Up Straight
- Spend Time With Yourself
- Exercise Acceptance
- Seek Patience
- Spend time with people who don’t look like you, differences are good and you might be enlightened.
So at this point if the Standard Resolutions of Losing Weight, Exercising More, Quitting Smoking, Saving Money, or maybe even Getting Organized don’t seem quite within your reach-maybe you should concentrate more on the “Intentions and Less on the Resolutions”. You could find that the change you so desperately crave is “Already Within You.”
Ditch the Resolutions
Modify Your Intention Whenever and Wherever You Feel the Need!
“Love Always trumps Hate”
Epitome of Class Sorority
For the past few months I’ve been hanging out on Saturdays with an amazing group of young ladies who belong to an organization called, The Epitome of Class Sorority. Well I bet you think that’s quite a LOFTY, AMBITIOUS name for any organization today but the name actually does fit because this group is NO JOKE! The words; Determined, Go-Getting, Motivated, Striving, Purposeful, and Impressive all come to mind when I think of these amazing young ladies and their main Cheerleader, Kendra Johnson.
The Epitome of Class Sorority consists of a group of women who dedicate their time to make a difference in the lives of young ladies who range in age from 12-18. These young ladies meet bi-monthly to discuss and deal with the real-life issues that affect our youth today. They address things like social networking, bullying, interviewing skills, exercise, purity, healthy relationships, etc., and the result is that the additional “MOMS” are helping these girls succeed because “This village is making a positive statement”.
The Epitome of Class Sorority first came on my radar when one of my good friends attended an event called The Black Expo here in the Jacksonville, FL area. She knew how I felt about giving back to the community and she thought this would be a good fit for me-SHE WAS RIGHT! When she told me about Kendra and some of the things that made her tick, such as making a difference in the lives of young ladies, I was intrigued. Then with some additional research on my part (I Google everything) I believed I could help this organization achieve their mission if given the chance. So after playing a few rounds of email-tag, Kendra and I set up a meeting at a local Starbucks; the coffee was good but the conversation was better. It flowed like I’d known her for years and I genuinely liked her thought process-she was real. I left thinking, what a Focused, Strongminded women (my kind of person) and I was so happy we’d met!
Since my focus is yoga I wanted to bring that mind-body component to the Epitome of Class Sorority. Over a period of the three months we spent together I introduced breathing techniques, gratitude journals, meditation, mindfulness and stopping to take mental vacations (FYI-slowing down), and of course “YOGA” to the young ladies. I familiarized them about what yoga is and isn’t. I further explained how yoga Instills Compassion, Teaches Body Awareness, Builds Self-Esteem, Builds Lasting Friendships, Teaches Us to Have a Healthy Body Image, all while Teaching us How to Relax through Breath Awareness.
I have to say that it was interesting to watch the interaction of the young ladies with the various mentors present on the meeting days. Let me paint you a picture of a meeting we had one Saturday prior to Election Day. I vividly recall the incident because I was both biting my tongue and chewing my cheek to keep from chiming in my “DISTRESSED ALARM”. You see, I live in the world of “if you don’t vote-You Don’t Complain”! So I can’t begin to tell you how I had to employ every fiber of my being to KEEP MY MOUTH SHUT. I mean really, I was there to teach yoga, not sound in on personal issues such as this. But I quickly found I had no need to worry because the group of “Moms” present had the situation under wraps quicker than I could say, “What do you mean you are not registered to vote”?
So here’s the deal, one of the young ladies forgot to register to vote in enough time to play a part in the past election and let’s just say it was a MAJOR ISSUE IN THAT ROOM. Those women said EVERYTHING that I even thought I wanted to say and more! But what I found even more remarkable is that even though they showed her that no excuse was acceptable, they did it in a loving way that still got the point across. Not just Kendra, but Terri, and the group as a whole will step up to insure that no one falls through the cracks, and that’s a “Beautiful Thing”. So if you need a soft place to land, The Epitome of Class Sorority can positively be that place!
When telling Kendra about my desire to write about the sorority I asked her to answer three questions for me. In essence, I wanted to get inside her head to know what moved her to do what she does. My first question was:
What inspired you to begin this program for the girls and how long has it been in existence? Here are some excerpts of Kendra’s answers:
I started EoC 4 1/2 years ago after watching on TV and listening on the radio to what seems to be the popular message being sent to our young ladies. One of the messages is that they are only as good as their physical appearance which must be altered to be more physically attractive. These alterations including (but are not limited to) long straight hair, lighter skin, and bigger-barely covered body parts. After seeing this continuously on channel after channel, I became disgusted with the false narrative that their pretty wasn’t pretty enough. I also believed that as this lesson is taught, it skewed the real life that our children are going to have to live as adults. It was important for me that I showed the girls that their pretty is not only pretty, but in fact Beautiful.
At the same time I believe that some real life lessons that are required to live in today’s society are essential for their physical, mental, and emotional health. Such as impacting the maturity needed during some of the most developmentally important years of their lives.
I asked Kendra to tell me a bit about her background:
Kendra who is originally from East Cleveland, OH knows a thing or two about how the images we are fed as kids can make a powerful statement about how we perceive life in general. Kendra’s life up to age 11 was what we all want our households to mimic, a loving and hardworking family. But at times “Life gets in the way of life” and it can become unimaginably chaotic, as her life unfortunately was. After graduating from high school she attended Alabama State University and that is where she saw firsthand how your home life can affect your life going forward.
Due to some troubling past events, she stopped going to classes, eventually dropped out of school, made some questionable decisions, and had to move off campus and get a job, but with those decisions came even more dire consequences for her life. Looking at her world down the road Kendra knew that it was time to write a different story; a better story with a happy ending, and that’s exactly what she did. Her life literally took a complete U-turn, hell-she paved a “New Road”. She is now the married mother of two beautiful children with many life lessons to share-and SHARE SHE DOES, with all her girls! Her personal history qualifies her for her life’s work; which is growing young ladies who will make a positive difference in this world of ours.
When I asked her the question of where The Epitome of Class Sorority is headed in the future, she said:
In the future, I see EoC as a nationwide brand, just like Boys and Girls Club or Girl Scouts. There are so many girls who need mentoring as it seems that the messages that they are receiving are becoming more potent. The next home for EoC will be East Cleveland, where it all started.
If Kendra’s back story isn’t moving enough maybe you should know that the organization also received the Positively Jax Award in 2013 for basically being AMAZING! This program is a partnership between Channel 4 and Memorial Hospital and it recognizes individuals and businesses that make a positive impact on the community. Also I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you to check out the News4Jax segment on the web called: The Epitome of Class Sorority, part 1.
Drum Roll Please…………this is a totally FREE program for the girls which is AWESOME!!
So let me sum up my feelings about program; if you started your recipe with showing “How to be Accountable for Your Actions”, you’d be on the right page.
Next, combine that with a healthy measure of “Respect”.
Add in a little “Compassion and Empathy” to the blend.
Stir in a good helping handful of “How to Be Comfortable in Your Own Skin”.
Definitely include some “Philanthropy work” to this tasty mixture (remember it’s not all about you).
Incorporate a heaping dash of “Gratitude” to smoothly blend out the proportions.
Mix together a touch of “The Girl who Leads Instead of Follows”.
Now finish that tasty gumbo with a good helping of “Common Sense”, and you would probably end up with the recipe for “The Epitome of Class Sorority”. And that my friends are the makings of a damn good spread. Peace!
Want to get in touch with Kendra Johnson to learn more about “The Epitome of Class Sorority”, here’s how: email@example.com
The Epitome of Class Sorority is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization
“Yoga On the Cheap”
Not 100% Sure Yoga is for You?
Okay, here’s the deal-sometimes you don’t want to spend a fortune to look “Legit”. What does legit mean you may ask? Well it means having the PROPER equipment.
When I initially started taking yoga classes I thought, buy a cheap mat and your good to go; which is exactly what I did. I mean really, you go to class, you roll out your mat, and you join the ranks of the Zen-World, Right? Well that was probably a tad premature on my part because my bargain basement mat started fading, separating, and looking a bit second-hand; but who cared it did the trick. Unfortunately though, it was pretty obvious by all who spied my mat that it was not purchased at Athleta (my yoga store of choice) or LuLuLemon, but since I dance to my own beat I was good!
Well after I decided that the world of Yoga had my name on it, that cheap mat was a tad of an embarrassment. I mean really, you can’t expect to be taken seriously in the world of yoga and your mat has an imprint on it that was once a peace sign (it’s not all about appearances “BUT” that peace sign now looked like a stamped on stick-figure due to the missing circle around the inverted “V”-I’m just saying).
You also don’t have to invest in a boatload of equipment though to undertake the practice of yoga. I mean really, what if you don’t like it? For example, I had (emphases on the word “had”) a rowing machine, a palates reformer, a stationary bike, and a weight bench; they are all now distant memories that I’m sure someone else had to donate.
Oh yeah, come to think of it I also recall the Barbell Strength 125 lb. Stack Home Gym System that so imposingly took up residence in our garage. It was so large that we had to PAY someone to take it away (not money well spent). The only work-out purchase that is still relevant in my life now is my trusty treadmill, which was a well-thought-out purchase that I don’t regret for one second (It’s hot and humid as HELL here in Florida, so you can’t always take a leisurely stroll outside). My point here is, you don’t want to invest a ton of money until you’re way sure that’s the sport for you!
So let’s check out some more frugal ways to invest and enjoy the practice of yoga without busting your bank account.
Check Out a Trial Kit on the Cheap and Then Make Up Your Mind
“Nice to Have but Not Necessary”
Jade Harmon Mat / $79.95, 3/16” thick, providing great traction and cushion while still providing stability for standing poses. Full Disclosure-This mat is AWESOME and is totally my mat of choice.
Yoga mat towel/ $19.99, 72 inch x 24 inch, with Carrying Mesh Bag.
YogaDirect Deluxe Mexican Yoga Blanket/ $18 to $26 depending on pattern.
Rectangular Yoga Bolster / $39.00 Removable Canvas Cover with Carry Handles.
Yoga balls/ approximately $16.10. Jill Miller’s Therapy Balls
Yoga Blocks / Beginning at $10.00 approximately. Sturdy and Dense Foam (set of 2) – Slip Resistant, 3 x 6 x 9 Inch.
Exercise Yoga Strap / 6ft, 8ft, 10ft – Pick Your Color and Size/ Beginning price $8.99
Eye pillow/ lavender scented /– set of 4= $19.99 LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, THESE EYE PILLOWS
Toe Talk- Toe Talk BE MINDFUL Non Slip Grip Socks / $10-$12.00 for Yoga Pilates & Meditation.
These are my YOGA-SOCKS-OF-CHOICE, but there are more affordable ones starting at $4.99 at Marshalls.
InnoGear- Aromatherapy Essential Oil Diffuser / $29.99, 200ml
Aromatherapy Top 6 Essential Oils / approximately $14.00. 100% Pure & Therapeutic grade – Basic Sampler Gift Set & Premium.
Home Grown Yoga Equipment
“On-the-Cheap Starter Set”
Yoga Mat/ approximately $8.99-$10.99 Marshalls or T.J. Maxx (great selection of yoga accessories).
Belt or Robe Sash/ You already have these items on hand. Cost- FREE
Yoga Blocks/ Substitute a phone book or old encyclopedia, which NOBODY uses anymore anyway (perfect utilization of outdated books -can we say hello smartphones). Note: you can also stack folded blankets as a yoga block alternative. Cost- FREE
Blankets/ (Walmart approximately 3 for $10.00 or simply raid your linen closet).
Tennis Balls/ (Set of 3 is approximately $2.49, or maybe you have some lying around that the dog didn’t chew).
Firm Pillow/ (you probably already have a pillow you can grab but if you need a firmer one, head on down to Marshalls-approximately $7.99). Can you tell I love Marshalls?
Bath Towel / (we all have bath towels, so raid the closet). Cost- FREE
Wash Cloth/ (you already have this and it’s a great substitute for an eye pillow. Just dampen the face towel and stick it in a sandwich bag to cool in your frig, so relaxing). Cost- FREE
And, if Chair Yoga’s your thing don’t run out and invest in a genuine Backless Yoga Chair starting at approximately $29.95-$64.98. Initially, I’d begin with a dinette chair or even a folding chair purchased from a second-hand store (remember you’re only sitting in it for your yoga practice-and it’s certainly not adding a thing to your décor). When you determine you are seriously loving chair yoga, then by all means go out and grab that backless chair but maybe at that point you’ll figure out that what you have works just fine.
So you be the judge, an expensive 74” yoga mat that costs $79.95 is a great investment piece, but in the end all you actually need is an $8.99 yoga mat. All the stuff, the accessories, the trappings, or the tools of the trade are just that, extra “STUFF” (although COOL) that just takes up a ton of space in your closet. Ask yourself if in fact you really need all the “Paraphernalia” that goes with the practice of yoga? A regular yoga practice will increase your emotional and physical balance, it might help you attain a greater sense of mental clarity, and it may even aid in helping you slow down and become a bit more mindful. However, it’s essential that we remind ourselves that a “MAT” and an “OPEN MIND” is all we really need to practice this very Spiritual, Calming, and Ancient Art Form.
SO Remember– Life’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Slow down; smell the roses and I’ll see you soon. Be kind to yourself and take care! Peace and Namaste
“What a Difference a Day Makes”
Weathering the Storm-Matthew Style
The time says 6:00 P.M. on Thursday, October 6 and I’m earnestly awaiting Matthew, and no it’s not a dinner date. Okay if you’ve been checking out the news Matthew just happens to be Hurricane Matthew, followed a little too closely by his mischievous little sister Nicole (time to separate those two evil siblings). I figured I better write this shout out blog right now before I lose power to my trusty computer.
Today has been a bear, I’m telling you this hurricane stuff is not for the faint of heart. Here’s just a brief rundown of my day and it wasn’t pretty.
- I’ve already been sitting in gas lines, they ran out of regular but I got premium– CHECK.
- I’ve gone to not one, but 3 stores looking for 6-Volt batteries (Note to self: get rid of those lanterns needing a 6-VOLT BATTERIES because 6 volt batteries no longer exist-I’M JUST SAYING)–CHECK.
- After going to not one, but six stores- EUREKA, I’VE FOUND ICE–CHECK.
4. I got pizza before they closed up shop at 3:00 P.M. (Love Papa Murphy’s)–CHECK.
5. I gathered all my important “Stuff”– you know insurance papers, checks, mortgage info, birth certificates (Another note to self-put them in the safe deposit box), Marriage Certificate, my daughters diplomas, dog food, bird food, and UNDERWARE (life is always better with clean underwear)-CHECK, CHECK.
Alright, I believe I’m ready for Matthew’s arrival; BRING IT ON!
Friday, October 7 and we are bracing for Matthew, his sister Nicole is no longer a threat to us but Matt (we’re now on more familiar terms) is kicking the Florida Coasts Ass BIG TIME! I say “we” because we have friends and family riding out this ordeal with us, plus an adorable dog named “Paco” that “Oscar”, my miniature dachshund just can’t quite figure out. What a bummer, our power went out around 1:00 P.M. and the struggle became real, NO-TV! NO-CNN! NO-Blue Bloods (DAMN)! And, I’m now on reserve power on my computer (DOUBLE DAMN).
Sorry FOLKS but my computer, that I sometimes take for granted- is DYING.
I NEED THE ELECTRICITY TO COME BACK ON RIGHT NOW!
(I NOW KNOW WHAT A JUNKIE FEELS LIKE)
TO BE CONTINUED!!!!!!
Now I unfortunately have absolute proof that I take some things for granted. I say this because I keep going into each dark room flipping on the lights. I also laughingly keep watching my daughter put food in the microwave, then watch her as she remembers that it needs power to work (I heard her silently whisper the word “DAMN”)-Too Funny! I woefully find myself sounding like the “HOT WATER MONITER” because I am now reduced to rationing the hot water amongst our group. Sadly, I keep mindlessly staring at the freezer (knowing that the small investment in rib eye steaks at $8.99 LB. is slowly defrosting-THEY WERE ON SALE). I’m also secretly embarrassed about the number of times I’ve chastised myself for going into the garage and hitting the garage door opener to get outside (I’m living on AUTO-PILOT). As my daughter so bluntly put it, “This electricity thing is a 1st World Problem”, but to me “THE STRUGGLE IS REAL GUYS”!
In all seriousness, my concerns are nothing in comparison to the devastation that Hurricane Matthew has placed on our brothers and sisters in Haiti. Still not fully recovered from the massive earthquake of 2010 and still staggering from an already feeble infrastructure, this was the last thing the tiny country of Haiti needed. With Matthew causing massive death counts, extreme flooding, destruction of homes, and the fear of a Cholera outbreak; that tiny country is in desperate need of Food, Housing, and Water, so Please Help if You Can! Check out: UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders, and a host of other charities-but Do your homework and “CHECK THEM OUT THROUGHLY”!
Please Pray for Haiti!! And if you can DONATE-DONATE-DONATE!!!!
As I sit now reflecting on this storm you know one thing that makes me smile is the pure, simple, unadulterated, kindness of strangers. As I frantically searched for batteries I called a BJ’s Store praying for any sign of “BATTERY LIFE” and the lady at customer service was a gem. Now I know she’d been inundated with all manner of requests, questions, and demands that morning and she remained calm-pleasant-and oh so patient. Her voice was so soothing that I didn’t want to hang up the phone! She ended our conversation with, “You drive safe sweetheart-we’ll be here for you”.
Then there was the man who got in front of me when “I FINALLY FOUND ICE” (thanks to Publix’s). I was prepared to let him have it because finding ice in a hurricane zone is no joke. But to my surprise he only stepped in front of me to help lift the 20 LB. bag from the freezer-not to cut the line-my bad. He then looked at me, smiled, and left. WOW!
I again recall asking another gentleman who was WAY-WAY-BUSY stocking some very empty shelves about the location of a product. He stopped what he was doing and attempted to show me where it was, I was actually taken aback by his actions. I of course said that wasn’t necessary but what was so astonishing was how he so sincerely said, “The weather is so bad out there, so please be safe mam”. The point I’m trying to make here is that everyone appeared both genuinely and authentically concerned with their fellow man, and for that brief moment in time, “WE WERE ALL FAMILY”.
Well today is Sunday, October 9, the power just came back on, and I’m fairly certain I’ve missed something. But you know what, in the scope of what really matters it’s just not that important. My family and friends are all safe and I’m eternally grateful to the powers that be. Now all Florida has to survive is this Nov 8th election which could be even more frightening than Matthew. No worries there though because I think we got this!
REALLY IS A COMPLETE SENTENCE
How to Get a Handle on Saying It
Yes Person /JES-p3: (r) sen
- an affirmative* I really wanted you to say yes
- a human being * this is too difficult for one person to complete
Synonym: people pleaser, person who finds difficulty in saying the word no
I figured I’d look up the combo word “Yes Person” and give you “MY” definition of a person who is unable to say “NO”. I mean seriously, the condition starts at an early age and if you don’t get a handle on it, the suffering, burden, and hardship it can cause one is devastating to your health and welfare. You can’t sleep, you struggle with uncertainty, and making decisions become an effort. It can cause someone afflicted with “Yes Syndrome” to doubt their self-worth, and all this is for the sake of making someone “ELSE” happy. Okay, I’m being a little frivolous and tongue-in-cheek here but you get the point-“Not Being Able to Say No, Can Be Hazardous to Your Health”.
Tell me if this sounds familiar (feel free to add your own “Say No” topic but for now just use mine). Your child’s school is having their annual Halloween Bake Sale and the lovely ladies of the PTA volunteered you to make your famous peanut butter chip cookies with a ghost design stenciled on top. Sure you’re secretly flattered, I mean really-They Want What You’ve Got. But the reality is on the day of the bake sale you’re already committed- REMEMBER. The company you work for is in a severe downward cycle and you’ve got a meeting planned with the Powers-That-Be to find solutions for the company moving forward. So here’s the million dollar questions:
A. Do you wimp out and bake the cookies?
B. Do you tell the PTA President that you have a previous commitment as in-Take a hike?
C. Do you go to the grocery store and buy 4 dozen cookies, take them out of the box, and pass them off as homemade with “NO” ghost decoration added (personally-my kind of lady)?
Well, I’d like to report that you chose “B” or “C” since those are the two RATIONAL answers. But if you truly have “Yes Syndrome” then there’s a strong probability that you chose “A”, thus WIMPING-OUT and making your famous, scrumptious, cookies. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling you out as a doormat but “You Are Officially a “Pushover”.
Trust me when I say the mind-blowing pressure “WE” put on ourselves to do things we can’t or don’t want to do is “MADDENING”! Sadly though, if I sound like I know way too much about this alarming condition it’s because that “YES” person use to be me (envision me hanging my head low). At one time, I had this overblown image of myself being all things to way too many people and truthfully I was a bit CRAZED! Financing, picking up, dropping off, feeling like a complimentary Marriott Hotel, and just being a support system when you yourself “NEED” a support system can be downright CRAZY! Sure you want to come to the aid of everyone in your world. I mean really we’re hardwired to want to help others, but the guilt of not being able to can sometimes leave you feeling powerless (and at times like a Mark, as in Big-Time-Chump). And here’s the thing-WHY SHOULD YOU WE FEEL GUILTY, YOU DIDN’T DO ANYTHING?
My inability to say the two letter word “No” caused so much STRESS and Uneasiness in my life that it really left me feeling just a little used up (and Hecka tired). But let me tell you that once the word “NO” entered my headspace, “It Was As If the Clouds Opened Up To Reveal a Sun Filled Sky”. IT WAS BEAUTIFUL!
And, sure it’s Nice-To-Be-Nice but if it comes at the cost of your sanity, then you should probably RETHINK that decision. No one is advocating being an unkind, hard-hearted, insensitive individual but the expense of being a “YES PERSON” is just plain exhausting.
“Pointers for COMFORTABLY Saying NO”
- Ditch the guilt, someone else’s emergency doesn’t necessarily constitute one for you.
- Say what you mean and mean what you say. Translation-GET TO THE POINT and BE DIRECT!
- Tell the truth (lying takes WAY too much energy).
- Don’t feel the need to over-explain.
- If you’re having a face-to-face conversation, look him or her directly in the eye. Avoiding eye contact can give the impression of dishonesty or guilt.
- Don’t be a dodger; answer that phone call, text, or email. Give them the respect of an answer so that they can move forward and possibly find an alternate solution.
- Watch your tone of voice, the word “NO” doesn’t have to sound unfeeling or mean spirited.
The word “No” is such a pint-size, negative, 2 letter pronouncement that carries a major Punch. So many times we say “Yes” but what we really want to say is “No” and sometimes “HELL NO” (all caps) feels way more appropriate. Seriously though, saying “Yes” really is easier, you’re viewed in a much more positive light, the receiver of your gesture is happy, and all is good in “THEIR” world. You on the other hand can’t sleep, we second and third guess our decision, hell-we just feel uneasy as we ruminate on life in general, asking ourselves the question, “Should I have just said “NO”? But the good news is saying “No” really does become easier over time (BONUS). So for your sanity, peace of mind, and general well-being learn to be at peace with the word “No”.
This is what I believe, you can’t be of assistance to others if you don’t self-nurture and be genuine to yourself. Sometimes saying “No” to the people in our world is a good way of saying a resounding “Yes” to your own peace of mind and protection. Always be Caring, always be Giving-if and when you can, always Offer a non-judgmental ear, always show Empathy, and when all else fails-SAVE YOURSELF ! Namaste
“No” May Sound Negative
Learning to Say It
Might Be Just The
Prescription You Need To Say
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE YOGA COMMUNITY
“IN CASE YOU HAVENT NOTICED I’M…………………BLACK”
As a Black yoga instructor (as in African American) I think I’m uniquely qualified to conduct a survey among black women on “WHY MORE BLACK PEOPLE DON’T TAKE YOGA CLASSES”?
Top 6 answers in no particular order:
- The music is so “BORING”, I think I could easily fall asleep.
- As soon as I walk in the door “I feel out of place”.
- Black people “Don’t Do Yoga”.
- No one helps me when I know I’m doing that shit “WRONG”.
- All those women are skinny as hell, young, and dressed like they’re going to the club when they leave.
- NO ONE IN THAT DAMN ROOM IS BLACK!!!!!!!!!! Can we have a Black or Brown face in attendance; honestly anyone who remotely looks like me?
I feel they’re pain because some of it is my pain. I’ve been practicing yoga off and on since the 90’s, I got registered in 2013 as a yoga teacher and it’s been a Long, Lonely Road. With African Americans and Latino Americans being the largest racial and ethnic minorities in the United States, it really infuriates me (Translation-Pisses Me Off) that this is even an issue in 2016. We are quickly becoming a Minority Majority Nation but where’s the acknowledgement? Words such as Oblivious, Hypocritical, Invisible, and Unconscious come to mind because we are so “Overlooked” as a culture by the yoga community who appears “ASLEEP” at the wheel.
If it were possible to look at the world of yoga through my eyes maybe you’d get it. My rage is the equivalent of an INTERNAL SCREAM, a shriek that only I can hear but the sensation penetrates deep to my core. Up until very recently I recall popular yoga and sports magazines (I won’t mention the names but you know who I’m talking about) not depicting black or brown people, even A-list yoga stores didn’t represent “US”. Hell, I just now opened up a booklet for a yoga retreat and I counted 27 white people in various yoga poses, 2 of a non-descript race, and 1 of Indian decent pictured who was teaching a class- this is NOT COOL. This organization didn’t forget to add people of color, they in essence conveyed they didn’t need people of color. The brochure goes on to say, “It’s their wish to be a place of all races, faiths, and philosophies” but who are they fooling? If you are indeed that place than show it, have different ethnicities representing your retreat.
Maybe it’s just me, but I think I notice race so much more conspicuously due to the “ABSENCE OF VARIETY” in yoga classes. Diversity is more than just serving up “Lip Service! It’s also more than chitchatting about being inclusive, you actually have to DO IT, and seriously-isn’t that just RIGHT! I hope you feel my anger because it’s maddening to have so much respect for a philosophy and practice that on its surface doesn’t appear to openly respect me. But even though I’m disappointed in my community, I refuse to walk around with a “CHIP” on my shoulder. This exclusive “New Girl’s Club” mentality is just a sad by-product of yoga committed by supposed “Well Intentioned Individuals” who just don’t quite get it. You see, people of color don’t expect or want “Special Treatment”, what we want is a welcoming seat at the table-Period.
Now let me tell you what I feel when I’m a student in a yoga class. I really don’t profess to be the “Voice of Black People” but this particular black lady is on a “LOW SIMMER” because every damn time I go to a yoga class “I Am the Token Black Person” in the room. Believe me when I tell you that I practice yoga at the very least three times a week in a classroom setting and I seldom see a person of color in attendance. Don’t get me wrong, there have been those times when there is another black or brown person in the class and it’s as if we’re distant cousins. We openly acknowledge each other and a secret kinship is established without even saying a single word. Unfortunately, for whatever reason that other “Person of Color” typically doesn’t continue to attend and I often wonder if they also feel just a little out-of-place.
If you want to improve a situation you first have to believe there is a problem,
“BELIEVE ME-THERE’S A PROBLEM”!
Now as a teacher of a yoga class I’ll tell you a little “SECRET”. One of my first student inquires was from a white women that I was remotely familiar with and I felt as if I should covertly “Warn” her that I am in fact a black yoga teacher. She never came to my class and I’ve since asked myself “Was that my anxiety, or hers”? I’ll never know for sure but I’ll also never “Warn” a client again. In the past I’ve always felt that my class had to be better, with more content, and effort put into each practice because I was fearful that more was expected of me because I am black. I had a classic case of “Over-Deliverer Syndrome”. But now I’m happy to report that “I don’t roll like that any longer” because I no longer hold myself to that ridiculous standard. Ultimately, my standing invitation to anyone taking my class now is to find joy in what your body can do, feel a little happier, be more at peace, and experience a greater sense of relaxation than when they started their day-That’s All, END OF STORY!
You want to take a walk through my dream? I’m teaching this kick-ass yoga class, I mean it’s deep, the philosophy is moving, everyone is focusing on their breath, we’re building on the postures, the vibe is CHILL, and there’s all varieties of people in attendance. I’m talking Black people, White, Asian, Latino, Middle Eastern, Young, Old, and “ALL” abilities just hanging out together-NO JUDGEMENT (just how you’d want our world to be). And no one is thinking “Wow, the teacher is Black and she was so good”, they’re simply saying “What a cool ass class”!
I want being a black yoga teacher to be the “NORM, NOT THE EXCEPTION”. We can start by reaching across the aisles, sort of like Democrats and Republicans should have been doing all along and finding common ground. That could mean advertising through non-traditional community-based circulars, hiring teachers “OF COLOR”, offering diversity and inclusion training for yoga studio/gym employees, have donation based or reduced rate yoga classes once or twice weekly (classes are expensive and we “ALL” have bills-so let’s get real), or maybe just start by being more welcoming to people who don’t look like you. No one is saying to walk on eggshells around “FOLKS” (Black and Brown People) but we need to make strides as a “COMMUNITY” to be better. Obviously we’re not there yet, “HELL” maybe we’ll never be, but remember “YOU ARE TAKING THIS WALK THROUGH MY DREAMS”. Namaste.
“I challenge each and every one of you to look around your world. Life is not Black or White, life is a Kaleidoscope of Beautiful Colors and Cultures”
Enjoy the Mosaic!
When the Mind Says “YES” but the Body Screams a Resounding “HELL NO”
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!
The following is a dialogue between my Mind and my Body:
Mind: Wow, my instructor just said, “Inhale and twist a little deeper, she wants me to focus my breath into the twist. I’m so feeling this!
Body: I don’t know about this going deeper and breathing into the stretch thing, I think I’ve twisted enough-I’m Good, it’s a wrap. And, honestly how do you direct your breath into a particular appendage? Is this what they call, “Flowery Yoga Speak”? I don’t like it!
Mind: Shut up, I Got This!
Body: Ouch! I just acted a fool and over-directed my twist, now my damn back is THROBBING ! I knew I should have listened to my body.
Moral to the story:
The Mind might say, “I’m going to do Dancer Pose, but the Body thinks a Preparatory Quadricep Stretch is way more doable”
“Listen to Your Body”
Allow me to give you some personal history. Some years back my body played this ridiculously cruel trick on me, “It didn’t work on command-BUMMER”. Let me explain. I hate to admit this due to my embarrassment, but once upon a time I thought that modifying my yoga practice would make me appear sort of inadequate, you know “Less Able”. I’d been practicing for years and I wanted to appear like a Yoga Rock Star on the mat (talk about an out-of-whack sense of self). In my head I thought modifying a pose was for the “OTHER PEOPLE”, certainly not me. And then I had the most humbling “yoga” experience of my life, I pulled my groin muscle (talk about PAIN). It’s the weirdest feeling when your mind says “I Got This” but your body says, “I Refuse to Cooperate”. No problem I thought, I’ll just muscle through it-NOT!
My doctor told me to rest it for a few weeks and prescribed the appropriate meds. In my head though I felt like she said “Months” instead of weeks. Please feel me when I say that her diagnosis was not received by me in a positive way and although I did as she requested, I was silently ALARMED. “What-If’s” flew through my head like a flock of escaped birds.
“What-if” the “Rest” didn’t work.
“What-if” the weeks turned into months.
And the ultimate “What-if” was, “what-if” I have to alter how I practice.
Hell, I felt like my body had literally betrayed me and I was worried. I’d always loved when people commented on the alignment of my down dog, or noted the width of my legs in a wide angle forward fold. But now my angle was much narrower and my “ego” (yeah I said it) had taken a major nose dive.
At that time, the word “Moderation” in my mind automatically conjured up terms such as Control, Restraint, Limitation, and Balance. At the point when I had the groin issue I didn’t want to deal with those words because it really wasn’t my reality. I viewed the injury like a “BIG RED STOP SIGN” letting me know that my body wasn’t going to cooperate with where I wanted it to be, but the sign in actuality had a message attached. My “Ah Ha” moment was, “Just because you are encouraged to go a little deeper doesn’t mean you have to”.
Don’t put the liability to fold a little deeper, or backbend a little further onto the instructors shoulders because ultimately it’s your decision. Keep the fact that this is “YOUR PRACTICE” in the forefront of your mind and if a pose seems a bit “Too Much”, remember “You Know How to Say NO”. Life is all about the choices we have the opportunity to make. For me, “Balance” was in fact my Wake-up Call-word because my “Ego” was way too wrapped up in me toning down my yoga practice. Nowadays, when I think of the term “Moderation” it points me in the direction of the word “SELF CARE”, because taking care of yourself is the best way to honor your mental, physical, and emotional health.
By the way, since I’m talking about the ”EGO” in relation to yoga, let me say that at one time I was “Overly Obsessed” about my mat neighbor’s practice (I was a side-eye spy), Pinterest Selfies, and monthly yoga periodicals showing off stylized bodies, in striking yoga poses, paired with great outfits. Hell, it was hard not to be a secret voyeur with so many images dominating my digital space. Don’t get me wrong, I still admire what the human body can accomplish but I no longer compare myself to them.
Wonder how I put the skids on my ego? I stopped looking at yoga like a competitive sport (I already knew that was a big NO-NO). I actively took my focus to the journey; so that leaves very little room for the ego and comparison to make an unwanted appearance. These days I breathe, I tune-out the external noise, I go within myself, and I practice “MY” practice; simply put- I JUST DO ME. Just like there will always be those people who are smarter, prettier, wiser, and stronger; there will always be those individuals who can flip into a “Handstand”, “Peacock Pose”, or “Bird of Paradise” at the drop of the hat and it’s “ALL” good.
Well as for the groin pull, it was “Soooooo” necessary because it’s now my personal cue to “LISTEN TO MY BODY”. I discovered that doing only what your body can “Safely” do is being a “ROCKSTAR YOGI”. And, although the “ache” occasionally still rears its painful head, I view it as an experience that I needed to undergo to show me (sometimes painfully) where I need to be. And “NO” I am not a masochist (smile) but the discomfort is a subtle reminder for me to slow down and really notice the dialogue my body is having with my mind. These days if you check out my website you’ll see my key word is “MODIFY”, I love that word. I have so much “RESPECT” for that word.
Why do I modify? Because it encompasses and accommodates all people and all situations.
Why do I modify? Because the word “modification” should be synonymous with moving safely in and out of poses.
Why do I modify? Because yoga is a very individual and personal experience, all our journeys are so unique-so wildly different, and that’s a good thing.
So Today, I’m Currently Where I Need To Be and Believe Me “I’m Listening”. Peace
Check out all the Modifications of The Classic Pigeon Pose
Know there’s an appropriate pose for where you are “TODAY”
REMEMBER: Always Exercise Caution When Performing the Poses (or any activity for that matter)! It’s also good to check with a trained physician if you are planning on becoming physically active.
The “Pulse Nightclub” Tragedy
STOP THE JUDGEMENT, STOP THE HATE, BEGIN THE HEALING
“ALL LIVES MATTER”
In the past I’ve written about the topics that resonate with me, such as Breast Cancer Month and Mother’s Day, with just maybe a slight nod to yoga and its teachings. Since this blog is called Yoga From a Natural, Life On and Off the Mat, this issue is to some degree, “OFF” the mat-but major “ON” my mind. Let me walk you through the events of this past Sunday morning (6-12-16). I had plans; plans to work on a yoga practice, plans to clean my dirty house, walk the dog, maybe talk my husband into going to the movies, you know basically mindless stuff. But all that changed when I went upstairs to make sure my daughter was awake. I couldn’t even get the “What’s up” out of my mouth before she said, “Did you hear about the tragedy in Orlando”? I immediately went downstairs, flipped on my TV, and proceeded to have my mouth drop open! The only difference from what she told me is that the number dead was much higher. This senselessness wasn’t in some foreign, war torn country that I hear about on the 6 o’clock news, this was in my own back yard. My day from that point on was as if I was shell shocked, simply marking time. I watched CNN, flipped to my local news, then back to CNN in disbelief. I remember the same clips playing on a loop over and over again like a bad movie.
Ahimsa-“DO NO HARM”
If only one person reads this, I’m good because writing this has proven therapeutic for me. Words such as Frightened, Sadness, Upset, and Overwhelming Grief are what I’m feeling. But on the other hand, words such as Bravery, Heroic, Fearless, and Unselfish are also what I see when I look at the community of people who stepped up to help out. What I do want is to use this blog as an opportunity to thank the many people who helped the various victims; such as all the first responders, ambulance technicians, EMT’s, paramedics, nurses, hospital workers, the numerous surgeons, club patrons who helped the wounded, the public who stood for hours donating their blood, and to all the people who prayed for the victims who made it, and those who didn’t. I liken their actions to a firefighter rushing into a building when everyone else is rushing out. So Thank You, you’re kindness and humanity will not be forgotten.
Want to help? There’s a “Go Fund Me” page sponsored through Equality Florida to assist the victims and the families of the victims https://www.gofundme.com/pulsevictimsfund. Go to a vigil, open your mind to other thought processes different then your own. Find a way to become part of the solution to fight the hate and judgement that’s permeating our society. Have a conversation; keep the dialogue moving. Don’t let this moment become another Charleston Church Shooting (2015), Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting (2012), Aurora Movie Massacre (21012), or Columbine High School Massacre (1999), Business-As-Usual Moment!
You know what’s funny (not “hah hah” funny but interesting), if you ask any number of people about the preceding events it’s hard to believe they might not remember them at all. But, ask them what’s up with Khloe Kardashian, who Zayn Malik is, or who won Best Dressed at the Met Gala this year and you just might get an answer (SAD). So let’s,
“DO SOMETHING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE–DON’T BE COMPLACENT”!
Let’s get off of our collective asses people because this begins with us; this is our lives, our children, parents, brothers and sisters that are all being affected by this insanity. Let’s not get used to living in a cocoon of fear! It’s up to all of us to diligently work to make this world a better place.
IN THE END HATE SHOULD NEVER WIN!
Be Aware, be Safe, but don’t lead a life of fear because that’s really no life at all. Let the loss of our Pulse Nightclub brothers and sisters be the incentive to help put an end to evil and intolerance everywhere! My message to all public places is to “Stay Open and Thrive”! So please take note because this message goes out to The Pulse Nightclub, Movie Theaters, Disney World, Universal, Shopping malls, etc., hell even walks in the park should remain “On the regular” because “Hatred” should never be endorsed by anyone. There really is so much good in this world, PLEASE don’t allow the actions of a few influence your headspace; otherwise the Bad Guys WIN! Peace and Namaste
“Raise Your Beer Mug and Toast
to the Love of Yoga”
I’m baffled by the horde of new-fangled yoga styles flooding the consumer market today and all in the pursuit of separating you from your hard fought cash. While the intent I believe is to fuse your love of various sports, hobbies, and leisure activities into one Awesome Pastime, I’m just not sure it’s doing the practice of yoga any good. On its face, one would think this could be real Cool, sort of like getting 2 for 1 (a twofer). Okay here’s my thinking, I’m a serious yoga enthusiast but just because I personally happen to love apple martinis, reading best sellers, and biking, doesn’t scream “THERE’S A YOGA PRACTICE TAILOR MADE FOR ME OUT THERE”.
Let me give you a brief rundown of some the original yoga styles I’m seeing and by “NO” means am I including all the new varieties:
“Doga Yoga”– I first heard of Doga Yoga a few years back and I thought it was a little extreme but I’m a dog lover so it got a “PASS” because of my dog bias. It’s the practice of yoga done with your furry family member. Through mediation, stretching, and massage, students of this style attempt to achieve greater synchronization with their dogs.
“Yoga for Dudes” (Broga for short)–This is a comfortable yoga class geared towards men. No Sanskrit chanting, just yoga based movement and traditional exercise with a lot of sweaty men, and the occasional women thrown in for good measure (no ACLU issues here).
“Nude Yoga”- This style is more popular and accepted in the West, so strip down to your birthday suit and enjoy the freedom of “No Clothes”. It’s all about being comfortable in your own skin and freeing yourself from the negative feelings about your body. In naked yoga it’s about knowing, awareness, a sense of freedom, and acceptance.
“Boxing Yoga”- Born in a boxing club this style abandons the more traditional style and focuses on a more streamlined movement. A merging of boxing and traditional yoga postures are the class structure. Think boxing delivering a one-two combination to yoga and you have boxing yoga.
“Pole Yoga” (Polga) – I’m sure you’ve figured out that this class is yoga-on-a-pole, demonstratively pole dancing meets yoga (sounds sensual doesn’t it). Cardio, strength, and stretch are combined in one physical class with the pole being the vehicle used to perform the movement.
“Aerial Yoga”- This class is a mix of inversion therapy, dance, yoga, trapeze, flexibility, strength, and balance training. No prior yoga experience is needed for this fun body workout.
“Stiletto Yoga”- This yoga class focuses on teaching people how to walk in high heels by strengthening your foundation (and “NO” the class is not taught in Stilettos-seriously, you’d never be able to get insurance). Basically by strengthening the muscles in the feet, legs, and back you are able to walk with less pain in high heels.
“Silent Yoga”–In this class you’re hooked up to a pair of headphones which may or may not glow-in-the-dark, these headphones funnel music and the instructor’s direction directly into your ears. The inclusion of the headphones are like you’re in your own private cocoon, reserves are lowered, the instruction becomes more private, and the music just takes over.
“Equine Horse Yoga”-This class is a fusion of horse and human interaction, integrating yoga postures with equine therapy. This is an opportunity to take your practice off the mat and feel a connection and union to the horse. Learn body awareness, flexibility, and balance training, all while learning about the horse’s body. No prior horse or yoga experience needed.
“Laughter Yoga”- Growing in popularity this style uses self-triggered laughter to promote quieting the mind, reduced stress, and encouraging a brighter outlook on life. Participants do not need a sense of humor, telling jokes is not a prerequisite, you don’t even need to be happy. You can actually just fake it until it becomes real or FAKE -IT- UNTIL- YOU -MAKE-IT.
In my opinion the most interesting new yoga style is Beer Yoga. Although I don’t really like beer the idea is “unique” and you should give credit where credit is due. It came on my radar back in 2008 and all I could think back then was “Gimmick”. But this gimmick has legs because I’m noticing more breweries and yoga classes teaming up and for good reason. Yoga is social and so is beer drinking, and who doesn’t like a good cold one after a workout-hence Beer Yoga. And are you ready for this-DRUMROLL PLEASE- there is even a beer, produced by the Dogfish Head Craft Brewery called “Namaste” http://www.dogfish.com/brews-spirits/the-brews/occassional-rarities/namaste.htm. It’s said to be bursting with “Good Karma” and it’s a combination of organic orange slices, fresh cut lemongrass and a tad of coriander-Sounds Yummy. The idea of a beer called “Namaste” is nothing short of brilliant, even if the idea of beer yoga is a bit promotional (in my humble opinion). I suppose whatever gets you in the door is good business, even if the carrot on the end of the incentive stick is a “Brewski”.
So here’s my one hundred dollar question (another Drumroll Please), “When does yoga stop being yoga”? The centuries old tradition of yoga is a beautiful art that is neither fad nor gimmick, and it shouldn’t be trivialized by people attempting to make a buck. As far as beer yoga goes, whatever you choose to do “AFTER” your practice is all good, hell I certainly like a good drink now and then too! Seriously though, when I think about all these modern, innovative yoga styles, such as pole yoga (though I’m sure it’s fun) and I juxtapose it with yoga’s teachings; such as the “Eightfold Path”, it all seems just a little disrespectful to a true yoga devotee (I’m just saying). Also, I venture to say that putting on a fierce pair of Manolo Blahnik’s, Christian Louboutin’s, or even a low-priced pair of Payless Shoe Source heels after a stiletto yoga class and walking around without “Your Feet Singing the Blues” wasn’t what the yoga masters envisioned. Ultimately, I feel that somewhere down the track “We Really Missed the Mark”. Cheers.
SO Remember– Life’s s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Slow down; take your time to smell the roses, and I’ll see you soon. Peace and Namaste
Dear Universe, Please Help Me Establish a Home Yoga Practice!
Signed, a Frustrated Yogini
I just left my yoga class and I feel wonderful, no rejuvenated is a better word. The mere thought of going to yoga puts a smile on my face, no really the outer smile is nothing compared to my inner joy. Let me break it down to you from beginning to end:
(1) Visualize this; I’m heading off to my yoga class and I’m experiencing the kid equivalent of going out for 2 scoops of ice cream (I can’t wait)!
(2) I get there early to secure my most perfect spot; not too close. You see I personally prefer the back periphery area, great sightline but not so close as to be spotlighted by the class.
(3) As the lights dim I begin to disconnect because I’m wholly committed to hanging out in the “ME TIME ZONE”.
(4) The instructor starts to warm us up, this is pure tranquility. I’m so feeling the serene, melodious, tone of her voice; which is usually enough to make me drop my stress level down a notch or two.
(5) Wow, the sensation of that satisfying stretch across my shoulder blades and the release in my neck is “AWESOME”.
(6) The rest is history-I AM NOW OFFICIALLY in the Zen ZONE, Peace out!
Now here’s my personal home practice……………..No, seriously I didn’t just get writers block and forget to finish the previous sentence, it’s been pretty much nonexistent until recently. Sure I’d get bursts of Sun Salutation madness and I definitely practice Tree Pose daily like “WHEREVER”, because it’s my challenge pose due to my balance issues. But a consistent home practice for those days when I don’t go to or teach a class is, well let’s just say “I’m not winning any prizes for consistency”. Also, it goes without saying that “I Love Yoga” but a regular practice for those non-class days didn’t seem quite necessary, until a short time ago.
I’m definitely no slacker though, I go to a yoga class on average 3-4 times a week and I practice cardio such as treadmill or biking at home (which for me is meditative), unfortunately just not much yoga. In my defense I miss the soothing voice of a yoga instructor when I practice solo. Actually any yoga instructor softly and pleasantly telling me to perform a particular pose, guiding me through a progressive savasana, providing an ever-so-slight adjustment, or just being present and accommodating is to me PURE BLISS!
Don’t get me wrong, I fundamentally understand why a home practice is a necessary component to your yoga experience, which is why I’m stepping up my game. Also, just because I’m not winning any Home Practice Trophies, I am trying, and I do consider myself a “Work in Progress”. So, here are a few of my go-to strategies that I’ve put into effect and steadfastly abide by to improve on my Frustrated Yogini ways.
- Commit to a minimum amount of time and a set number of days per week to work on your practice. Maybe it’s just 10 minutes, no sweat because you have to start somewhere. It’s possible that when you begin the practice you’re internal dialogue will be something like, “Let’s get this 10 minutes over with-QUICK”. But it’s also quite possible that your 10 minutes could become 15 or 20 minutes because it just feels right and you consciously lose track of time.
- Remember, YouTube is your friend. I’ve followed along countless times with my computer, IPad, and TV. Want a suggestion? Check out yoga with adriene on YouTube. Lots of content, lots of viewers, easy-relatable-fun style! She has my vote! There’s also DVD’s and online classes for a reasonable monthly fee. My personal favorite is Yoga International, great all around content, and it has a lot of FREE stuff for viewing.
- Make a date with yourself; morning, afternoon, you pick the time. Graphically putting pen-to-paper or entering an event in your tablet calendar says, THIS IS IMPORTANT!
- Log your progress. By recording what you did and how long you did it gives you a visual every time you open up that calendar.
- Set up a quiet place that is comfortable and relaxing to you, it doesn’t have to be fancy. My special spot is in my bedroom, I park my mat in front of my bed and customize my practice to what my body craves at that moment. Have everything you could possibly need at hand; strap, blocks, blanket, bolster, and any other prop you would normally use. Important Note: When my door is closed it screams out to the whole family, “DO NOT KNOCK ON THIS DOOR!”
- I know this is a tough one, so brace yourself: If the phone rings or the doorbell alarms, DON’T ANSWER IT! This special time is a commitment that you are making for yourself, honor it.
Practicing with a group of like-minded individuals is pretty cool, I happen to love it. You get a lot of good advice from the teachers, along with some pointers that you can recreate at home (even if you can’t sneak a quick peak at the “Intensely Heavy Breather” who practices directly in front of you-SMILE). Both live classes and home practices have their compelling advantages, also I’m finding that one without the other is a lot like reading a book and skimming through the pages. You need to put in the time to understand the nuances of the subject matter (ALONE). Also, it just makes the information that much more concise and personal. I believe it really is up to us to find that happy, middle-of-the-road place, where we are comfortable, focused, and challenged. The place between needing an experienced, feeling yoga teacher, and being able to forgo all the outside coaching to discover that quiet space within. That space where you intuitively “Listen to and Feel” what your body really craves right then in that precise moment in time, and just make it happen-“ALL BY YOURSELF”.
There are so many great components to yoga; the breath, the poses, and meditation (which I’m still trying to master myself) to name a few. So if you’re not all the way there yet and you still don’t have a viable home practice, cut yourself some slack. You’ll get there because yoga teaches us to be mindful and seize the present moment, no judgement or criticism. Explore this solo mat time as an opportunity to tune in and pay attention to the messages your body is sending you.
As with anything that you’d like to become proficient (“kick-ass”) at doing, the classroom setting really isn’t quite enough. You need more, I needed more! Let’s take it off the yoga subject for just a moment, be it ballet, tennis, music, stand-up paddleboard-SUP, piano, gymnastics, foreign languages, math (you get the point) you need to practice; outside of the classroom. Classes are an important launching point, but if you truly want to master ANYTHING you need to put in the solo time to make it work. And you know the old adage, “Practice Makes Perfect”; and aren’t we all really just Lifelong Students! Peace and Namaste
There is no one giant step that does it,
it’s a lot of little steps. -Peter A. Cohen
is what gets you started
is what keeps you going-Jim Ryun
“Shout Out to Your Mom and Other Super Heroes”
Our Moms are the unsung heroes of our lives and let’s not forget the step-moms, mom surrogates, grandmothers, aunts, guardians, cousins, friends, and all those unnamed ladies who step up to the plate and take on whatever we preoccupied kids dish out. These wonderful ladies are our personal Sounding Boards, Cheerleader, UBER driver, ATM machine, Big Ben Timekeeper, Short-order Cook, Private Shopper, and Secret Keeper all rolled into a mostly efficient, although “Heck-A-Tired” individual, that we refer to lovingly as “Mom”. I mean really who in their right mind will go to every football game their kid plays, scream like hell, call the ref out of his/her name, and seriously HATE THE GAME OF FOOTBALL all at the same time?
One Mom I talked to gleefully admitted she still has a bag of her daughters baby teeth stashed away. What you don’t know is that her baby is a 32 year old, successful business owner, with 2 and ¾ kids (she’s pregnant). Also, these aren’t just any old baby teeth, their individually dated baby teeth; now that’s what I call Mother’s Love. I’m not judging though because my daughter found her baby teeth rattling in a bag, plus a lock of her hair that I had secretly tucked away years ago and asked if I was practicing some sort of weird dark ritual or something (smile). Truthfully, don’t all Moms save the baby teeth, foot and handprints, or hair?
Oddly enough, I feel the need to confess that I still have my old EPT Pregnancy Stick from when I found out I was pregnant-and NO I am not a hoarder but the stick reflects an achievement to me. Now that I think about it though, I guess the thought of saving an EPT pee stick tester in a plastic baggy is pretty gross and strangely uncivilized. Oh well sue me-it’s my memory box (smile).
I can also quite vividly recall driving my daughter (pre-driver’s license) to school dance practice every Monday through Thursday like clockwork. I prayed the whole time not to be stopped by a cop, get a flat tire, or at the very least asked any question that would require me getting out the car. You see the whole time I drove my daughter to practice I wore my PJ’s, and slippers, and if you watch the t.v show Blackish just imagine Rainbow and her daughters tying up their hair at night with a head rag. Basically that’s a visual of me, but I’m in my car. But really what else would I wear, it was still dark outside. Also, let us not ignore the fact that I was annoyed as all “Get Out” because I had to leave my warm cozy bed, and my warm cozy husband to drive approximately 3.5 miles to her school. My day was beginning way too awkwardly early; dammit my second alarm hadn’t even gone off yet! And, if asked if I’d do it all over again I’d say-HELL YEAH!
Well all us kiddies who are in good standing (and some of us who aren’t) know that Mother’s Day is quickly looming upon us again, which made me wonder, “I really know nothing about the holiday aside from I better do something pretty special to commemorate the day for my Mom-OR ELSE”.
Here’s are some Mother’s Day Fun Facts
- Anna Jarvis (1864-1948), founded Mother’s Day in 1908, in part due to the fact that she was just pissed off that most American holidays honored the achievements of males.
- Anna Jarvis (the ‘Mother of Mother’s Day’) never had children of her own but devoted her life to establish recognition of a day dedicated for honoring mothers.
- Congress made Mother’s Day an official holiday in 1914.
- Mother’s really have clout, it is literally the busiest phone holiday of the year,
- It seems that the second Sunday in May is the day we authorize as “Mother’s Day” and It’s pretty much the same around the world; such as Canada, Germany, Brazil, Japan, Australia, and Peru to name a few. FYI, In the UK, Mother’s Day is called Mothering Sunday. The celebration takes place on the fourth Sunday in the month of Lent, which means the date is not fixed. Who’d have thought our one of our closest allies would switch up the date and name so much.
- The white carnation is the official symbol of Mother’s Day.
- Anna Jarvis loathed the idea of Mother’s Day turning into such a commercial holiday. She actively criticized anyone attempting to make a buck off the holiday.
- According to the Nation Retail Federation’s poll we Americans will spend approximately 21 billion dollars this year on the celebration of our Mother’s. https://nrf.com/media/press-releases/families-spending-more-ever-mom-according-nrf-survey
So in honor of Mother’s Day I asked a few daughters the question:
“Name something that stands out in your mind that your Mom always said to you”?
Here are some of the replies to the question and FYI this section is MUCH longer than initially intended. When I put the request out in the text-sphere on very short notice, my phone started blowing up with the replies, and they were so good that I wanted to print them all. Thanks to all who sent responses and ENJOY!
“Just be yourself, if they don’t like you then their missing out” JH, age 7
“When someone shows you who they are-Believe Them” and “How do you suppose that out of all the children in the world the Lord gave me the very best one” RG, age 18
“The only people I have to please is myself and God” JS, age 20 (Interesting side note is that I also asked her Mom the same question and her Mom was told the same thing by her Mom- I like that)
“All my life I’ve heard my sweet Mother state these words, He sits high and he looks low and his arms are not to short that he cannot reach you”. CP, age 59
“When my Mom tells me she loves me and that she’ll love me no matter what” AMS, age 21
“We are the Bolden’s, we never give up” SB, age 20
“A man can go out, get drunk, lay in the gutter, act a fool, get up, and still be a labeled a man. A women will do the exact same thing and be viewed as low down” and “If you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything” VM, age 62
“Stay in the light and don’t take no wooden nickels” HM, age 27 (Side Note-she says she never fully understood what it meant when she was a kid but now that she’s older, she gets it)
“Know your worth” AS, age 21 (My daughter swore to me that Drake said it first, NOT ME-I don’t believe her though-smile)
‘If you can’t pay cash for it, then you can’t afford it”. EG, age 71 (Note- her dad who was her primary care giver said this and he DID NOT believe in credit cards)
Prayer is taking your worries and wishes to God. Faith is leaving them there. SMC, age 57 (Note-this heartfelt sentiment is from her “HONEY”)
“Always follow your heart, because even though it’s on the left side, it’s always right” and “You got to spend money to make money” SC, age 32
“Always keep your knees together” and “Be independent for yourself, go after what you want for yourself” DS, age 69
“Hold your head up high NO MATTER WHAT because you will always be my baby and I’ll always love you” DD, age 76
“She always told me I was beautiful, capable, and strong whenever I said that something was too hard or difficult” SB, age 49
“Be you, Do you” or “You can do anything and be anything” or “I love you” JM, age 61
“The only one you need to please is you and God” and “Make sure you leave the house with clean underwear on, you never know when you’ll get in a car accident” YS, age 53
“My Mom always tells me what a good vet I’m going to be because I take such good care of our dog Zeus and I pick up and take care of so many stray animals” KM, age 13
“Don’t burn bridges” and a comment, “Both my Mom and Grandmother are women of actions not words. They showed a lot of positive things in the way they treated people. Both are strong, loyal, and trusting” KS, age 49
“Never be dependent on a man. Always be able to take care of yourself” AA, age 64
“The best thing my mother ever said to me was nothing. It was when she was starting to decline and she could no longer speak. I told her that she was the best and that I was so grateful that she was my mom. She looked me in the eye and smiled while stroking my cheek, that spoke more to me than any words could ever”. BG, age 57
So there you have it, all completely different ages, themes, and intentions. The common thread here though is the deep bond of mutual respect, tenderness, and a special connectedness to something larger than themselves that these daughters share with their Moms. I don’t need to say that we Moms fiercely love our kids, and if we play our cards right; they love us right back. Overall, good thought provoking advice from some pretty worthy kids and some pretty lucky Moms! Bottom line-I guess our children really do listen!
We Moms take on a lot of mess and most of the time we’re OK with it, maybe we get a thank-you, maybe not, we sacrifice-no questions asked, and we literally hold the shit down (and NO this is not male bashing, but the truth is the light)! We’re tough, we’re resilient, we’re durable, we’re resourceful negotiators, earnest planners, and don’t get me started on how we’ve perfected the power to stretch a dollar. End result is that above all else- We’re PROUD Mom’s!
So when the chaos gets way too challenging and you’re ready to throw in the towel; grab a TUMBLER of wine, or at the very least a glass of champagne, put your feet up, gaze out the window, and RESET. Another possibility; take a moment to BREATHE; or just go outside, bring to mind your inner child and Remember How to Play!
Making the decision to
have child is
It is to decide forever to
have your heart go
walking around outside
“Life Can Be Such A Pain In The Neck”
Mental stress is the butt of so many neck issues, and if you’re anything like me my neck pain at times can give me the “Blues” (translation-hurts like hell). So if you consider “STRESS” to be the catchword of the 21st Century, then “TENSION” has got to be her evil stepsister. Just Google achy neck and thousands of possible explanations and solutions appear even before typing the last letters out in the word “neck”. And let me tell you when stress raises its ugly head, in my case my neck is the receiver of all that pressure.
So many things contribute to our neck despair. Our purses are too heavy, we cradle our phones with our necks to free up our hands, and can we all say POSTURE in unison! What about gazing at our computer screen, TV’s, looking down at the cell phone and iPad; damn just life in general is tough on our necks. And these are just some things we knowingly control. What about arthritis, disk problems, muscle strain, pinched nerves, and other trauma related to the care of our delicate neck region.
Think about your poor unprotected neck, it’s virtually under attack. According to http://www.brainstuffshow.com the average adult human head weighs between 10-11 pounds, that’s a lot. So all day, every day you walk around balancing a heavy globe the size of a bowling ball on top of the equivalent of a tree branch (I know the visual is alarming but I’m trying to get my point across). So factor in your posture and you will soon realize that it’s hard out here for a “NECK”. Consequently, we need to give the area between our head and shoulders some well-deserved love and extra attention!
Let me tell you a short tale about my neck. A few years back I spent way too much time visiting doctors about my neck pain. I even went to a physical therapist twice a week for a while with little to no positive results. At the time I was working long erratic hours, meeting ridiculous deadlines, questioning myself way too much, believing that I could do it all (but not well), and performing a hit or miss job of raising my family. Sure I was physically present at home but work was always in the back of my mind. Of course my Mom gave me a good old school work ethic so I was one of those people who showed up and did the best job possible-NO WHINING ALLOWED. I had been employed at my occupation for many years and job security was a no brainer, I was a Made Women. I also got lots of positive feedback from the powers that be, but the tradeoff was too much. Long story short- “I QUIT”.
No it wasn’t a drama laden, “Take this job and shove it moment”.
A loud Norma Rae, standing on the table proclamation that everyone has to hear and bear witness to (Norma Rae circa 1979– guess you can tell I’m a movie buff).
For you curious individuals (nosey), “NO”, I was not invited to leave; this was totally my decision.
Funny part was I was happy to be leaving, maybe “at peace” are the correct words. When I left the job I said goodbye to the people I didn’t tell in advance of that day, got in my car, took a very long breath (no tears), started my engine, and as I began my long drive home I noticed immediately that my neck wasn’t hurting anymore. Wow, feel my amazement. “My Neck Stopped Hurting”! Proof positive that every action has a reaction. So the moral to my tale is “PAY ATTENTION” and listen to what your body is delicately saying to you because the body/mind relationship is so authentic. Interested in learning more about the important mind body connection, check out WebMD to understand a bit more about how vital our minds can be in influencing the health of our bodies http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/tc/mental-health-problems-and-mind-body-wellness-overview. For me Stress and Tension proved to be a potent combination and also an overwhelming agent for possibly making a change in my life.
Sure, I occasionally still have neck issues but long before I visit my family doc and pay my deductible I check out a few self-fixes.
- Remember when your Mother told you to sit up straight- well she was right. Memorize this formula: Ears in alignment with the shoulders and hips.
- Heads Up! Today we are so connected to our tech toys but be mindful, do your neck a favor, and lift your head up.
- Pay Attention. Check in on the regular to your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being because the combination plays a significant role in your overall good health.
Here’s my 15 minute, Road Tested, Go-To, Yoga Neck Sequence
Go Slow and Enjoy!
Cat-Cow Pose/ This pose strengthens and brings flexibility to the spine all while stretching and lengthening the back of the torso and neck region. Both movements are done on either an inhalation or exhalation, alternating between a calming forward motion and a backbend.
Begin on all fours in tabletop position with a neutral (straight) spine. Align the hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips.Inhale: as you drop your belly and lift your gaze as your tail bone arches towards the sky (this is cow). Make sure to keep the chin in a gentle upward tilt, don’t put ANY strain on the neck.
Exhale: round the spine as if you’re going into a “C” curve (this is cat pose), and drop the head, taking your gaze to the navel.
Really get into this pose by flowing from cat to cow, almost like you’re dancing. If you LOVE one pose more than the other, feel free to hang out in that position a bit longer.
Child’s Pose/ From Cat-Cow kneel down on your yoga mat with knees together and buttocks resting on your feet. Rest your torso on your thighs and lower your head to either the mat or a yoga block. This pose relieves neck and lower back pain when performed with the head and torso supported. You can further modify this pose by placing a towel or blanket between the thigh and calves. This is a very soothing pose for both mind and body, so hang out here for a few. I hang out here for a least 5 minutes, so this 15 minute routine is simply my estimate of length (SMILE).
Come to Easy Seated, cross your legs, relax your shoulders, lengthen the spine, and relax your mind. Sit in Easy Seated for a few breaths to get grounded.
- Chin to Chest tuck your chin and lower to your chest (flexion X 4). I love this stretch so much that I usually hang out a bit extra. Note: Do Chin-to-Chest and Chin Skyward simultaneously
- Float Chin Skyward, initiating the movement from the base of your neck (extension X 4). IMPORTANT-BE SAFE: EXERCISE CAUTION WHEN HANGING THE HEAD BACK.
- Ear-to-Shoulder (lateral flexion- both sides X 4)
- Turn Head slowly right to Look Over Shoulder, come back to center (rotation). Look Over the Left Shoulder (do both sides X 4).
- Half Neck Roll, beginning with the chin facing down towards the right shoulder draw a “smile” across the collarbone to the opposite shoulder. X 6
Come to Standing (take your time, no need to rush-this is your time)
Forward Fold/ Stand in Mountain Pose, rest your hands on your hips and gently lengthen and fold forward from the hips (remember-don’t lock the knees). This gentle fold relieves tension in the spine, neck, and back. Want a more intense release? Grasp opposing elbows and just hang out for a few breaths or simply let the arms hang straight down in rag doll. Let your neck just hang loose, no tension allowed! OPTION: BEND THOSE KNEES IN YOUR FORWARD FOLD.
Note: Don’t force it, only go as far as what’s comfortable for your neck. No extra points for pushing past what your body wants and needs.
SO REMEMBER– Life’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Slow down, smell the roses, and be kind to yourself. Peace and Namaste
REMEMBER: Always Exercise Caution When Performing the Poses (or any activity for that matter)! It’s also good to check with a trained physician if you are planning on becoming physically active.
“MY MEASURED MINDFULNESS JOURNEY”
Recently I took a Mindful Mediation seminar in hopes of reaching new heights in my elusive meditation experience. I’ll break it down for you, it started on a Monday evening in a class of about 21 equally hopeful meditators. The instructor was a pregnant, quirky, individual who was just eccentric enough to possibly hold my attention and give me some magic bullet to aid in my meditating experience. I can’t tell you how pumped I was, I was actively pursuing something that I sucked at and I was optimistic about the outcome. More on this later though.
Here is a snapshot of my first Unproductive Meditation Experience years ago. I was instructed to hold a leaf in my hand and meditate over it. First I thought the instructor was a bit “BIZARRE”, but being that she was the teacher I bowed to her superior knowledge on this subject. So I took my leaf, found a private spot in the park, sat it down on my yoga mat, and commenced to meditating over the shape-feel-and even taking it further, the leafs purpose in the scheme of life. If you’re still with me you are probably as “BORED OUT OF YOUR MIND” as I was, and if you aren’t bored then I commend you for being so much more enlightened and deep than I am. My feelings at that time were:
- I was “PISSED”.
- I felt totally out of place.
- I’m second, third, and forth guessing this entire experience!
- I’m obviously, “NOT READY TO DRINK THE MEDITATION KOOLAID”
- and, This damn grass is “Wet”!
Back to my recent mindfulness session. As the weeks wore on the seminar I attended got a little thin; meaning not as many people were showing up. The last night had only 11 participants- they were dropping like flies. Maybe it was because the instructor used her cell phone as a timer/stop watch throughout the sessions (which I personally thought was weird). I don’t know, maybe it’s a generational thing since younger people don’t tend wear watches according to my daughter. From my mindfulness readings in the past though I got that your cell phone is “The Enemy”. Oh I know referring to cell phones as the enemy is a bit much but they really are digital distractors at times, and in my opinion cell phone use doesn’t necessarily denote meditation (I’m just saying).
Now don’t get me wrong, the seminar was mildly interesting but I failed to learn anything that would truly aid in fixing my “Meditation Woes” (my bad). I vividly remember one gentleman even asking, “What is the purpose of this whole Mindful Meditation thing”? What a great question, the whole class was hanging on her very breath for the answer. I also really wanted to hear her response because I thought all along we were going for the less stress thing (truthfully-that’s why I was there). Feel my struggle and imagine my surprise when I found that reduced stress is only a by-product of mindfulness.
My instructor said, “Intentionally paying attention to the present nonjudgmentally” is what mindful meditation is all about. Be it washing dishes, brushing your teeth, or even taking a walk; put your mind (no pun intended) into it and mindfully do it without being attached to the outcome.
Let me give you an example; let’s take a mindful walk together, that’s walking without a goal or an intention. When you walk mindfully you are fully aware of each step and every breath you take. FYI, you don’t walk and jam out to the Bruno Mars song “UP TOWN FUNK” (enjoyable though it is) because you will want to sing and dance along to the music. What you do want is to put one foot in front of the other, slowly, concentrating on the present, in complete silence. You really don’t even need a destination, just walk. This form of mindfulness can be done alone, in pairs, or with a group of like-minded walkers. If you need more insight on mindfully walking check out this article from a wonderful publication called Mindful Magazine, it demonstrates just one variation of the mindful walking technique http://www.mindful.org/walk-this-way/.
Keep in mind, you shouldn’t expect to immediately empty your mind of anxiety and stress when you mindfully meditate, that would be really hopeful, and super unrealistic. Sure we all want immediate gratification but we’re not toddlers, so regrettably instantly reaching our goal doesn’t always happen.
In the past I’ve written about my mindful mediation undertaking (check out the 9-9-2015 blog) and I truly can’t quite say I’ve made vast strides since that post. Sure I still get sidetracked with thoughts of:
What’s Olivia and Abby up to on Scandal?
The man who jumped in front of me in the Express line at Publix’s (visualize my clenched teeth)
Is it going to rain tomorrow?
And even mundane thoughts about what I’m going to order from the DSW Shoe Warehouse command my attention. My mind is in overdrive and it’s SO exhausting! Busy mind, all these INVASIVE THOUGHTS, and I’m supposed to be meditating-Seriously! Bring your mind back and PAY ATTENTION.
BUT, I’m in this for the long haul! And, even though I publically condemn unnecessary dependence on cell phones (smile), I have to admit that with the help of a pretty awesome app for my cell phone/IPad, I think I might finally have a handle on this. Check out my favorite site at the moment, it’s called Stop, Breathe & Think (no, I get no cash for this endorsement) but the app is AWESOME. You begin by checking in mentally, physically, and emotionally. Then the app calculates your mood, suggests what you need at the moment, and hands you a meditation. For the “Meditation Challenged Individual” like me, it doesn’t get any better than that. It might suggest a Mindful Breathing Meditation–a Body Scan-a Relax, Ground and Clear Meditation-or a Mindful Walk to name a few. Really how cool and easy is that! Check it out, I bet you’ll be impressed too!!!!!!
Here’s some tips that I took away from the seminar and a few tips from my own personal meditation journey:
- Don’t sabotage the mediation process by saying “I’m practicing every morning for 20 minutes”. Start with baby steps, maybe just 5-10 minutes and build on that.
- When my mind wanders (and it always does), I file the thoughts away in a folder under the heading “To Be Revisited at a Later Date”. The files in my head are thick with sometimes mindless information but it works for me.
- Try not to expect miracles. Don’t focus too much on the outcome because it takes time to experience mindful meditations benefits.
- Your “quiet” spot is maybe not so tranquil? Focus on taking your attention inward, and place your awareness on the breath. Let go of the noise by not fighting it, just accept it, and keep it moving. My noisy parrot’s rants have become so commonplace when I meditate that it has now become just a part of the meditation-IT IS WHAT IT IS.
- Get out of your head because at times we can be our own worst obstacle to starting something new.
- Solo-task=GOOD, Multitask=BAD. “Solo-Tasking” is my new word of choice. Banish the word “Multitasking” from your vocabulary. SLOW IT DOWN.
- At the risk of sounding totally unoriginal, “JUST DO IT”!
SO REMEMBER– Life’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Slow down, smell the roses, and be kind to yourself. Peace and Namaste
“Making a time for formal practice every day is like feeding yourself every day.
It is that important.”
Jon Kabat-Zinn (scientist, writer, and meditation teacher)
“Happy Hallmark Day”
Or better yet
“JUST FALL IN LOVE WITH YOURSELF”
Let’s take a trip down memory lane to those bygone elementary school days where everyone was a winner on Valentine’s Day? You remember how it was; you’re sitting at your little diminutive desk and in your backpack you have a bag full of Valentine’s Day Cards with the names of “ALL” your classmates written on the little miniature envelopes. Those were the days when it seemed like the whole world loved you and life was full of endless possibilities. You felt like you were skipping on TOP OF THE WORLD and at the end of the day you marveled at what a great time you had! Couple that with the huge haul of cards you just got stating how, “You’re The Best”, “Bee My Valentine”, or the one featuring a cartoon of eggs with the saying, “You’re Grade A” on it. Back then unadulterated love filled your tiny universe and all was right in your world. I can’t help but have this image of Oprah screaming at the top of her lungs; “You get a Valentine’s Day Card” and “You get a Valentine’s Day Card”, over and over in my head. Well now that we’re all grown up life is not so simple-as adults we actually have to cultivate a relationship before you earn that coveted $4.99 Valentine’s Day Card!
Today as I scan the many ads taking up space in my inbox it’s hard to truly take them seriously. Really, “Love at first sight”. The subject matter is a watch-no I’m serious, it’s a watch. When I scrolled down further it said, “Fall in love”. Not fall in love with a real live, breathing, feeling person but a thing; an irrelevant thing (they were still referencing that stupid watch). Sure the watch was drop-dead gorgeous but I think we’re kind of missing the point here.
OK, here is my consumer reasoning for celebrating Valentine’s Day and it being a marketer’s dream holiday. With Christmas being at the end of December and no other major holidays approaching until Easter Sunday, that leaves a full 4 months for the “POWERS THAT BE” to declare some kind of money making holiday. Oh and I know what’s floating through your head right about now, I bet you’re scrolling down your computer, reading this blog saying to yourself, “Damn this women is hecka cynical”. Well maybe I am a tad suspicious of a holiday that seems too preoccupied with emptying the wallets of an unsuspecting populace, so here are some statistics to reinforcement my theory.
According to US News and World Report Valentine’s Day retail spending was expected to reach a record $18.9 billion in 2015. I had to check that amount three times because I thought it was a typo, WRONG! The primary reason for this enormous outpouring of love is the improving American economy last year (that’s good news). The average person shells out approximately $142.31 for this holiday in total. FYI, the more you make means the more you spend. So if you’re lucky enough to make more than $50.000 annually than you are no longer the AVERAGE PERSON and your Valentine’s Day spending jumps to a whopping $174.44. Meaning your Valentine’s Day big bucks are split between spouses, co-workers, friends, kids, your kiddies classes, and anyone else who needs to feel this sincerest form of flattery. Ain’t love Grand!
The moral to this little tale is on February 14 and beyond is to SIMPLY LOVE YOURSELF. Cultivate a feeling of gratitude, kindness, humility, and open-mindedness EVERY DAY! I’m a true believer of the saying that, “What you put out to the Universe is what you get back”. So we should all put out our best effort and think about what we can give; I trust the rest will just fall into place. Let’s make a sincere effort to not prompt disappointment on this very “OVERRATED”, “I DON’T HAVE A DATE”, “I NEED A NEW DRESS” inducing holiday! Peace and Namaste
“TAKE THE TIME TO FALL IN LOVE WITH YOURSELF and BUY YOUR OWN DAMN FLOWERS”!
“One love, one heart . . . Let’s get together and feel all right”
“Far too many people are looking for the right person,
instead of trying to be the right person”
“Love is the greatest refreshment in life.”
“SAVASANA REIMAGINED or REDEFINING THE NAP”
Ok, OK listen up because we’re going to poll the audience. If I had to ask any yoga practitioner “What is your favorite yoga pose”, what would you answer? Do you love losing yourself like I do in Down Dog? Or does the gentle dancing flow of an undulating Cat-Cow sequence leave you with a craving to stretch out your spine and neck just a bit more? Well, since this poll is unofficial I’d probably answer with just one word-Savasana. Just the mere word savasana conjures up muted smiles of longing and yearning from both students and teachers alike, and rightfully so. This pose quite simply allows the body to process all the things that happened during your yoga practice in a nourishing and healthful way.
A point that I find useful is that everyone’s savasana doesn’t have to be a carbon copy from someone’s how-to manual and “One Size Absolutely Does Not Fit All”. Try changing it up; try legs up the wall, practice side-lying savasana, it’s still a supine resting position and it’s all good. My suggestion and for the sake of comfort is to………
“Because you can’t rest your mind if your body is uncomfortable.”
I frequently use a yoga bolster under the knees to allow the spine to settle and the lower back to release. Another savasana alternative is to place a bolster at the base of your booty (sacrum) and float your body back over it, you get both a gentle backbend and a chillaxing stretch. You can also hang out in bound angle pose and prop up the knees with yoga blocks. I’m simply saying that there are so many choices and we’re not a gang of copy-cats, so “DO YOU”!
Want a sample of how my savasana feels? First thing is that my corpse pose always begins with bended knees and my feet are planted firmly into the floor. Fun fact is that my savasana looks like no one else’s in the room when I take a class and that’s OK, there’s no hard fought ruling on savasana appearances. Continuing on, my eyes are closed so that any interfering sights don’t command my attention (notice I’m slowly constructing my own private nest). Sometimes I trail my hands by my sides with palms open but often times I rest them on my chest. I’m open and accepting of what I’ve just experienced in my practice and tolerant of what is to come. My shoulders are relaxed and my chin is slightly tucked to take that arch out of my neck. I have a feeling of connectedness, from my head all the way down the landscape of my body. My thoughts go to breathing more completely; deeper. I’m actively working towards a sense of leaving it all “On the Mat”. Although I am resting, I never lose consciousness and fall asleep. I am acutely aware of all sounds and feelings in my space but my mind is at peace and my body is calm. I can actually say that this is where I relax, release, reset, and let go. This is “ME” time!
Keep in mind that you don’t have to perform a full-fledged practice to experience the RELEASE of taking a conscious nap, just hang out in savasana. It’s literally the art of doing nothing and that’s pretty damn hard when your mind is racing a mile a minute. Think about it; you’re chilling in savasana while thoughts of dinner plans and cleaning your dirty house run a marathon in your head. Focus! Focus! Alright, you’re mindfully relaxing every muscle separately as you travel down the highway of your body. Relaxing the crown of your head, relaxing your eyes back into their sockets, having an easy face, don’t forget to put gas in the car and call your Mother-WHAT THE….(fill in the blank)? Bring your focus back to doing nothing-Zip–Zilch–Zero. See, I told you it wasn’t easy but when you master it it’s as if the prettiest flower in the field is yours for the taking.
Sometimes when time permits and I haven’t even cracked a Sun Salutation or attempted a Warrior pose, I’ll do a 10 minute savasana (JUST BECAUSE). Just because I need that escape or just because; oh hell you really don’t need a reason! Savasana has the bonus of relaxing your mind and body ALL while giving you an unofficial TIME OUT. It’s my personal treat! So give yourself permission to take a few minutes a day to just CHILL; stretch out on the floor, bed, couch, wherever, and temporarily leap off the roller coaster of life.
It’s important to note that your mantra should always be, “NEVER SKIP SAVASANA”. It’s typically the last pose that you’ll do; often referred to as the final relaxation. It’s literally the icing on top of your yummy yoga cake in terms of getting the most out of your practice. Savasana is where your practice and your mind sync-up and regroup-and it’s such a unifying feeling.
SO Remember– Life’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Slow down and notice life, really smell the roses, and be kind to yourself! Let chat again in a few weeks. Don’t forget to check out the “Pose of the DAY”. Peace and Namaste
This pose offers the meditative benefits of relieving stress which makes it a winner in my book. Couple that with the ease of getting in the zone and you’ve got a pose that offers a delightful ending to your yoga practice.
So lie back and let your arms and legs find their “PERSONAL BEST” resting pose. Try hanging out in savasana for 5-10 minutes if possible. A technique I always use to relax into savasana is to scan my body from the crown of my head all the way to my toes. Savasana has the power of keeping me focused towards the present, all while helping me to not spend this private time planning my day (Smile)!
- I visualize my scalp and I focus my concentration into relaxing just that area, and then I let it go.
- Next I travel to my forehead, concentrating on relaxing that ever-present wrinkle, and I let it go.
- Relax your eyebrows, really breathing and sending your focus into that space. Now just let it go.
- Now I send my attention to my eyes, I think of the heaviness of the eyes as they rest in the sockets. I relax my eyes and then let it go.
- Center your attention on each individual part of your body. I literally work my awareness all the way down the length of my frame; if time permits maybe I get to my toes, maybe not. But the result is still a satisfying savasana. Peace
REMEMBER: Always Exercise Caution When Performing the Poses (or any activity for that matter)! It’s also advisable to check with a trained physician if you are planning on becoming physically active.
Picture of the waters of Grand Cayman
“Healthy Mind, Healthy Body, Healthy Year”
Want a Tip? NO JUDGEMENT
Happy New “Healthy” Year. So now that we have the formalities out the way let’s make an action plan! Not a resolution to be healthier, because unfortunately New Year’s Resolutions tend to be sadly broken. By the time you read this you’re probably already questioning your resolution decision.
As it goes, losing weight ranks as #1 and getting fit and healthy ranks #5 as two of the ten most failed resolutions (University of Scranton, Journal of Clinical Psychology /January 2014). There’s even a name for the downfall of our resolutions, it’s called Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day. Really I’m serious, the day is on January 17 (every year) and it’s considered the most common day to give up on your resolutions (didn’t take us long huh?). So why burden yourself with broken promises so early in the year, we really don’t need the stress. Don’t get down on yourself though- just don’t make them! I’m not saying don’t strive to be a better version of you, because we all want that. I’m simply saying cut yourself some much needed slack because LIFE HAPPENS!
If the New Year is your baseline start date for a healthier lifestyle you could begin by forming a new habit. A new habit takes roughly a minimum of 66 days to become automatic. Although an old myth said that “It takes a minimum of 21 days to form a new habit”, it’s just that a big time myth, so don’t believe the hype. Bear in mind and know that it could take longer, much longer to be correct; so setting your expectations anywhere from two to eight months is by far more realistic. So in summary the bad news is 21 days is wishful, and the good news is you’re decision to make a change (YAY). Maybe you could focus on one “change” at a time. Instead of making a long list of things to work on, focus instead on the most important goal. Maybe then everything will fall into place because let’s face it; starting ANYTHING new can be both a challenge and an opportunity.
Want a total mind body experience? If you’re not already doing so check out yoga, it’s my exercise of choice. The benefits: not much equipment needed (inexpensive) – a mat, couple of blocks, a strap, towel, water bottle, some inspiring music (I like smooth jazz , reggae, old school R&B), and it’s a go. Other benefits just to name a few are stronger bones, healthy weight, lower risk for heart disease, lower stress levels, anxiety relief, increased flexibility, lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar levels in diabetics, improved sense of balance, relief from chronic back pain, improved lung capacity, and last but totally not least-improved sexual function (SOLD, you got my vote). It really is the complete package; it nourishes both the mind and the body-translation Win Win!
SO Remember– Life’s s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Slow down; smell the roses, and I’ll see you soon. Don’t forget to check out the “Pose of the Month”. Peace and Namaste
“Pose of the Month”
STANDING FORWARD FOLD (Why? Because it’s super calming)
Check out these BENEFITS
Stretches your hips, hamstrings, and calves.
Strengthens your thighs and knees.
Massages your internal organs and helps improves digestion and cleanses mucous from the lungs.
Relaxes you central nervous system and helps calm your mind.
Helps relieve stress.
Helps reduces headaches, fatigue, and insomnia.
Helps relieve symptoms of menopause and is therapeutic for osteoporosis.
- From Mountain pose (Mountain Pose is essentially standing with feet parallel, kind of like skies pointing forward, arms at your sides with palms pointed forward). Exhale forward hinging at the hips, relaxing the muscles in your face. Bend the knees enough to bring the palms flat to the floor and the head pressed against the knees.
Note: Can’t reach the floor yet, no problem. Place your hands on your thighs or knees and only go as low as is comfortable.
- Feel the spine stretching/lengthening in opposite directions as you pull the head down and in and press the hips up. Hollow out your belly by pulling navel to spine. Work on straightening the legs to deepen the stretch in the backs of the legs.
- To release: bend the knees keeping the back straight, inhale the arms out to the sides and inhale the arms and torso up back into Mountain pose. NOTE: COME UP SLOWLY TO STANDING.
Want to modify this pose:
For an Easier Version– open your feet hip-width apart and keep your feet parallel.
Place yoga blocks under the hands to bring the floor closer to you. (See attached picture)
For a Deeper Version– take hold of the back of your ankles and wrap forearms on calves and allow assistance from your arms to increase the fold at your hip joint.
Don’t beat yourself up if in your journey to make a change you slip up. In yoga we say, “NO JUDGEMENT”. Just begin again the next day; we’re all entitled to another chance or two. The only failure is to do nothing!
Take One Yoga Breath and Repeat after Me,
“THANKSGIVING IS NOT PRE-CHRISTMAS”
I’ve just turned on my television and I am inundated with Christmas deals. I open my email and just because the holiday season is upon us it says I can have something to be thankful for; 25% off, 30%, 35%, BOGO+50% off my second item, and even just plain BOGO- I can literally “Shop Till I Drop”. Don’t get me wrong I love the meaning of Christmas, you know chilling with friends and family, but I just don’t get the feeling that this is it.
Even as I travel down the windy roads in my neighborhood I marvel at the beauty of the area, the pumpkins set out by the doors, the haystacks I see settled in one yard, and a couple of fall displays on some of the mailboxes. This neighborhood is truly suburbia on steroids. If anyone has ever seen the movie “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” Clark Griswold sets out to put on the ultimate Christmas display, that’s my neighborhood! There’s a beautiful Christmas tree with a huge adorning Santa in the window of one house and then there’s the “Griswold’s Yard”. It should have its own zip code, where do they store all that “STUFF”! There’s lights, there’s reindeer, massive candy canes, a freaking snow globe, music (who can’t tolerate 24-7 Christmas carols-Bah Humbug), a life-size snowman, and you know a giant Santa is the star of the yard. My problem is not the display but that it was there a full 10 days before Thanksgiving arrived. It’s all a bit confusing! My head is STILL hung low in holiday shame because my bland, unlighted, undecorated home is so not Christmas display worthy. Was there a memo or email sent to the community about skipping Thanksgiving and going directly to Christmas that I didn’t receive? Note To Self: Complain to the homeowners association!
Why is this blog-worthy you’re probably asking, especially since Thanksgiving 2015 is now history? Well I’ll let you in on a little secret, the date “WAS” November 1st when I first noticed that Thanksgiving had been forgotten by some. I was still gazing in admiration at the rubberized Halloween Black Cat, the skeleton hanging from the tree, a ghost swaying from a mailbox, and an Inflatable Witch down the block when I first noticed the “SKIPPING of THANKSGIVING”, and truthfully I felt a little sad. We can’t even wait to get those Halloween decorations back in the attic before we’re plotting our Black Friday Sale attack. It’s a wonder we don’t mix up the words Trick or Treat and Happy Thanksgiving with Merry Christmas. WHAT’S WRONG WITH US? What happened to Thanksgiving, is it just a placeholder for the more moneyed upcoming Christmas Holiday?
JUST A THOUGHT. Let’s toast Thanksgiving, Christmas, and life in general because we have so much to be thankful for. Let’s change things up and don’t wait for Christmas to get that giving feeling, it’s pretty easy give back. Unable to volunteer at a soup kitchen, church, or synagogue, can’t donate to a favorite charity, low on funds? No problem, because if you simply open your your heart the idea of giving back will just flow forward. It could be as easy as inviting over that neighbor who might not be enjoying a homemade meal, shoveling snow out of your neighbor’s driveway, wheeling the trash or recycling can up from the curb, carrying in those heavy bags for the man or women on your block who just can’t, hold the door, cook a meal for a shut-in that you know, be a listening ear, smile like you mean it- JUST DO IT!
“EVERY GIFT DOESN’T COME WITH A RECEIPT ATTACHED”
When you flip the script and just start helping people out, life just gets better! Instead of looking at JUST the holiday season as a time to honor your fellow man or women, think about it as the 12 Months (not days) of Christmas. You know why? Because people “NEED” all year long, not just during the holiday season. We can all change the meaning of the holidays from the “Pre-Thanksgiving Day Sale”, “Black Friday”, “The Season of Savings”, “Pre-Christmas” and “After-Christmas Sale” back to plain old “FRIENDS AND FAMILY” because that’s really what it’s all about! Generosity is sincere and luckily it’s contagious, so find your own special way to give yearlong and don’t wait for the giving season to pull at your heartstrings.
Retail Sales and the Holidays Experience should never be synonymous!
SO Remember- Life’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Slow down; smell the roses and I’ll see you soon. Be kind to yourself and don’t forget to check out the “Pose of the Month”. Peace and Namaste
Since the holidays bring on a lot of “EXTRA STUFF” let’s breathe a little calm into or lives. The way you breathe affects the whole body. Breathing exercises are a good way to relax, reduce tension, and relieve stress, also the really cool part is that it’s easy, inexpensive, and conveniently at your disposal (how cool is that). We’re going to begin with a very easy breathing technique called Abdominal Breath. This technique will help you take your life down a notch, bring your focus to the present, and calm the mind. You can also use this breathing technique to center yourself at the beginning of your practice or meditation.
Let’s begin to chill-out by lying on our backs, bending our knees, feet flat on the floor, and closing our eyes (you can also do this same exercise sitting upright).
- While lying on your back place one hand on your belly and the other on your upper chest.
- Breath as slow and deeply as you can. Full inhales and complete exhales. In through the nose-out through the nose.
- Focus your attention on quieting the chatter in your mind and just observe your breath.
- Notice the lift in your belly as you inhale and the slight compression as you exhale.
- Focus on the hand resting on your belly, notice the lift as you inhale. As you exhale notice the belly lowering.
- Try hanging out here for at least 5minutes. Just chilling out, calming the body and mind, and watching the flow of your inhales and exhales is So Relaxing!
REMEMBER: Always Exercise Caution When Performing the Poses (or any activity for that matter)! It’s also advisable to check with a trained physician if you are planning on becoming physically active.
Breast Cancer Awareness
YOGA FROM A NATURAL: JEANIE SALLAH
I remember the moment as if it was yesterday when Brenda G. my ride-or-die buddy said, “I need you to come feel my breast”. We were at work and I was on break, she had snuck upstairs to get me alone. We went into the restroom and with no modesty she raised her shirt (she wasn’t modest then and she’s still not). I remember feeling a large hard mass but I didn’t want to sound overly alarmed, DON’T GET ME WRONG I was so scared, I just didn’t want to scare her. My first inclination was to downplay the situation but it was tough. You see Brenda was only 24; the year was 1984 to be precise and 24 year olds just don’t get breast cancer-or so I thought. I’ll spare you the overly numbing details but she did indeed have cancer. How do you help someone you love deal with a devastating diagnosis? My friend had breast cancer and all I could do was watch her pain. Up until that point in my life only one other dear friend in my inner circle had to concern themselves with their own mortality but happily today life is going great for Missy (Yea!).
Fast forward to 2006; that’s when I met the most delightful lady at my daughters dance school, her name is Sonya B. and we both had 5th grade girls. You know when you’re sitting around waiting for your kids to finish dancing and you’re “FORCED” to talk to the other mothers, well Sonya was one of those mothers and she was a joy. They say when you get older it’s tougher to make new friends but this was an exception. You know in your 40’s and beyond you sort of reach your “New Friend Threshold” and you don’t so freely let people into your life. Well, I’m so glad we proved that theory wrong because the addition of her (and her family) in my life was a stroke of luck.
Anyway, I don’t know exactly how the conversation came up; it could have been when we were complaining about the overpriced fees we were paying the studio. Maybe it was when we were commenting on all the unnecessarily expensive costume changes needed for the recital (most were cute but one in particular resembled a life-size Skittle). Now that I think about it we really complained quite a bit about that studio, so it could have happened on “ANY” given day. Well the revelation about her having a mastectomy was said to me in a, “Oh by the way sort of fashion” that was both heartfelt and frank. The information was a “Wow”, wow because she trusted me about something that I never would have known otherwise. Wow because life is sometimes just downright cruel! The year was 1999 when she was diagnosed and she was only 33 years old with no family history of the disease.
The main thing these two women had in common was just that-They Are Women. We all have so many cutesy names for our breasts; ta ta’s, boobs, the girls, rack, etc., but we should make sure that we get the word out that we need to protect this important part of our anatomy.
The American Cancer Society Guidelines for Early Detection is as follows:
- Yearly mammograms starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health
- Clinical breast exam (CBE) about every 3 years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women 40 and over
- Women should know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any breast changes to a health care provider right away. Breast self-exam (BSE) is an option for women starting in their 20s.
Some women – because of their family history, a genetic tendency, or certain other factors – should be screened with MRIs along with mammograms. (The number of women who fall into this category is small: less than 2% of all women in the United States.). Talk with a doctor about your history and whether you should have other tests or start testing at an earlier age.
Here are just a few other things you can do to further take control of your health.
BE YOUR OWN HEALTHCARE ADOVATE and SPEAK UP! What does that mean? It means take control, don’t be PASSIVE about your health. The passive person is the person who is more likely to not get well.
Do monthly self-breast examines (Translation-Become up front, friendly, and personal with your breasts, you’ll be more inclined to notice a change if you do)
Don’t smoke, we’ve only been saying that since 1965.
Keep it moving-literally. Exercise regularly.
Limit your alcohol consumption.
Stay at a healthy weight.
Know your family’s health history.
Don’t be a stranger to the doctor’s office, get regular check-ups, screenings, and ask questions.
“And One More Thing”
Talk! Talk to your Mom, Talk to your Sisters, Talk to your Daughters, and Talk to your Friends about breast cancer awareness because that’s where it all starts. Brenda talked to me about her breast lump and she’s fine.
By talking we can all bring “AWARENESS” to this devastating disease!
Okay, let me give you an update on my friends Brenda and Sonya. Brenda had her initial cancer scare in 1984, followed by her second mastectomy in 1987, followed by ovarian cancer in 2004. She took the susceptibility Braca1 test and found that she does indeed carry the breast cancer gene (think Angelina Jolie). Today she is taking the necessary steps to make sure her daughter stays safe because her lifetime risk of developing breast/or ovarian cancer is now greatly increased. In 2013 Brenda got reconstructive breast surgery, she was beautiful before and she is still a beauty both inside and out.
Sonya is doing great today! She did have a mastectomy in 1999, it was Stage 2, no chemotherapy was needed but she took hormone therapy for five years after her surgery. She also took the Braca1 test and the results were that she didn’t have the gene. Even though she doesn’t have the gene she still makes sure her daughter takes the extra precautions to stay safe and healthy. In true mama protector fashion, her college age daughter has already had her first base-line mammogram and self-exams are performed by her monthly. In 2011 Sonya underwent a lumpectomy and it was benign. Sonya is fine, and by fine I mean she healthy, gorgeous, and pursuing her dream of becoming a journalist. Believe me when I say that the sister is determined (and we are all sisters in this fight)!
So two ladies, two incredibly courageous ladies, whose only obvious initial common denominator is that they are women who were ultimately dealt a horrific diagnosis and came out on top. Oh yeah, one more thing that they both have in common is that they kicked cancers “ASS” and kept it moving forward. Now that’s what I’m talking about, Bravo!
So much of my life revolves around yoga and what it can do for you, so here’s a thought. When you’re chilling at home, you know maybe you’re following a yoga DVD, a television yoga class, or just stretching and moving your body on your own-when you get to savasana (corpse pose) think about doing one more additional pose- A SELF-BREAST EXAM (you’re already on your back). Just once a month is all it takes and the peace of mind is AMAZING!
These step-by-step rules are courtesy of the American Cancer Society for doing breast self-examinations.
How to examine your breasts:
While lying down
Lie down on your back and place your right arm behind your head. The exam is done while lying down, not standing up. This is because when lying down the breast tissue spreads evenly over the chest wall and is as thin as possible, making it much easier to feel all the breast tissue.
Use the finger pads of the 3 middle fingers on your left hand to feel for lumps in the right breast. Use overlapping dime-sized circular motions of the finger pads to feel the breast tissue. Use 3 different levels of pressure to feel all the breast tissue. Light pressure is needed to feel the tissue closest to the skin; medium pressure to feel a little deeper; and firm pressure to feel the tissue closest to the chest and ribs. It is normal to feel a firm ridge in the lower curve of each breast, but you should tell your doctor if you feel anything else out of the ordinary. If you’re not sure how hard to press, talk with your doctor or nurse. Use each pressure level to feel the breast tissue before moving on to the next spot.
Move around the breast in an up and down pattern starting at an imaginary line drawn straight down your side from the underarm and moving across the breast to the middle of the chest bone (sternum or breastbone). Be sure to check the entire breast area going down until you feel only ribs and up to the neck or collar bone (clavicle).
There is some evidence to suggest that the up-and-down pattern (sometimes called the vertical pattern) is the most effective pattern for covering the entire breast without missing any breast tissue.
Repeat the exam on your left breast, putting your left arm behind your head and using the finger pads of your right hand to do the exam.
Standing in front of a mirror
While standing in front of a mirror with your hands pressing firmly down on your hips, look at your breasts for any changes of size, shape, contour, or dimpling, or redness or scaliness of the nipple or breast skin. (The pressing down on the hips position contracts the chest wall muscles and enhances any breast changes.)
Examine each underarm while sitting up or standing and with your arm only slightly raised so you can easily feel in this area. Raising your arm straight up tightens the tissue in this area and makes it harder to examine.
NEWSFLASH, “My Yoga Mat is Not a Path, It’s a Destination”
Yoga From A Natural: Jeanie Sallah
I Will Not Let
Through My Mind
With Their Dirty Feet
Picture me in a cocoon of stillness, I am so in the zone. I’m literally chilling in easy pose, you know quieting my mind, taking my focus inward. My eyes are closed-I’m plainly blocking out any sights and sounds that would distract me from tuning in and zoning out. My fellow practitioners are now flooding into the room, searching for that perfect spot in the vast open studio space. You need to understand the importance of finding that perfect unobstructed spot. There is a space-finding formula in yoga classes; you don’t want to get so close that you’re every move can be scrutinized by the class, yet not so far back that you need to strain your eyes because you just can’t see.
I cannot begin to tell you how much I need this today, my shoulders are up by my ears with tension and I’m wondering if that spa down the street still does that $29.95 intro deal (I really need a massage). The instructor enters the room and hooks up her iPod to the bluetooth speaker; soothing music begins to flood the room-I need this. The scene is the ultimate Zen setting, dim lighting, tranquility-I AM SO IN THE ZONE.
We’re now centering and OH HELL NO, DID SHE REALLY JUST WALK ACROSS MY MAT! This lady just bum rushed the room, she’s 4 minutes late (no I just peaked at the clock on the wall-5 minutes late), see my concentration is NOW broken-I really just looked at the clock. This women is making noise, clicking her keys and turning off her cell phone as she walks over my mat with her dirty tennis shoes in search of an open spot! Great aren’t I the lucky one- that spot is right next to me! In yoga I always say this is a “No Judgement Zone”. Seriously I don’t want to judge but OK I’m judging; that’s just plain nasty, in addition to being disrespectful and rude. SHE JUST WALKED ON MY YOGA MAT!
Now if you’re thinking I’m germ-a-phobic or I have a slight case of OCD you would be wrong (Ok I confess, I do wash my hands a lot) but really yoga mats are not for our shoes or even our dirty feet. Well now you know the problem on a very superficial level-stepping on other people’s yoga mats are in a word “YUCKY” and so not cool. Think about this, even if our own mats never come into contact with others we still need to be concerned about transmitting infections. Ok, let’s say it’s your personal germs and personal yoga mat that’s in question. You have an infection, you clear it up, and now you proceed to return to your yoga mat. Not so fast, if you didn’t clean your personal mat there is the possibility of re-infecting yourself with whatever got you sick in the first place. Now let me give you some gritty little facts that will have you racing to the bathtub to soak your mat and douse that sucker with a gallon of chlorine bleach!
Your yoga mat is an intimate, sacred part of your practice. You press into a down dog, plank, or locust pose at a moment’s notice from that yoga mat, but do you ever think of what germs are lurking where you lay your head for savasana (comforting thought). I don’t want you to harbor a picture of the studio or gym as a cesspool of germs, but buyer beware. Think of your feet or shoes coming in direct contact with the earth; peoples spit, sweat, animals poop and pee, and let’s just say everyone isn’t environmentally conscience, so any amount of nastiness is constantly lurking on the ground (unfortunately the grounds are also some people’s trash can). And please don’t get me started on the evils of using community mats; that is where you really get up close and personal with a variety of germs. I’m talking athlete’s foot, plantar warts, e. coli, fungus, and any number of skin infections and viruses; not an incurable death sentence but if you can avoid it by merely washing your mat and not using community mats it’s a no-brainer.
THIS POST IS A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUCEMENT (PSA)
Do yourself a favor: WASH YOUR MAT, WASH YOUR HANDS POST WORKOUT, and KEEP YOUR HANDS OUT OF YOUR FACE!
Help yourself and others by keeping your mat clean. Just because it doesn’t look dirty doesn’t mean it’s not. Your yoga mat is sort of like your favorite pair of blue jeans, you know their dirty but you keep wearing them anyway. I mean really they don’t look dirty-do they?
YOGA MAT RX:
- A cheap and easy way to clean your yoga mat is to take it outside and hose it down. Use a mild dish detergent with towel to scrub it and rinse again to remove all soapy residue. Let it air dry completely outside but not in direct sun light, you don’t want to dry it out. When it’s totally dry I give it a quick spritz of Lysol spray due to its disinfectant properties
- My yoga mat cleaner method of choice is to put it in the bathtub. I immerse it in cold water, use mild dish detergent (I use Dawn), and let it sit for about 15 minutes. I then drain the water from the tub and use the shower to rinse any remaining residue. Once again I let it dry naturally outside, or in the case of bad weather I hang it over my shower enclosure. End with a quick spritz of Lysol to disinfect.
- Short on time but need to clean that mat, I use disinfectant wipes when I’m in a pinch (Clorox wipes, Lysol Wet wipes and Great Value Lemon Scent Disinfecting wipes). I like these because the size is large enough to make me feel that I don’t have to use 10 little squares to get the job done. Just make sure it properly air dries.
- The internet has tons of ready-made yoga mat cleaners for purchase in addition to DO-IT-YOURSELF concoctions that are both easy to make and relatively cheap. Check them out.
If you follow my blog (and if you’re reading this you probably do-Thank You) you know that stepping on other people’s yoga mat is a major faux pas of mine and #8 on my Yoga Etiquette List. Not a tar & feather infraction but always picture other people’s mat with a flashing neon “No Trespassing Sign” attached.
Purchase your own mat. Cost is minimal, I’ve seen them as cheap as $8.99 at Marshalls, T.J. Max, and Wal-Mart (that’s a bargain price for peace of mind). They can also get pricey, mines cost about $75.00 (Jade Mat) but it will last for years and my feet don’t slip in poses- which is AWESOME for us slippery-feet yoga people.
I’ll end by simply saying “Be Safe”, don’t just roll up your mat until your next class-Clean It! Yoga is supposed to aid in our ability to take life down a notch and find that easy, quiet, safe place to land and chill. It’s also a great way to balance the mind and body. Worrying about germs takes up too much unnecessary space in our heads, so Wash You’re Mat, Relax, Release, and Let Go.
RSVP: Your germs are cordially not invited to my yoga class-Sorry.
SO Remember- Life’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Slow down; smell the roses and be kind to yourself. Peace and Namaste.
Yoga From A Natural- Jeanie Sallah
I’ve come to the conclusion that we’re just too damn Busy being Busy. We really no longer think it’s cool to just relax and do nothing, or at the very least slow down. From the minute the clock goes off in the morning we’re on a mad dash to beat the traffic (as if that were really possible).
If kids are a factor we have to hurriedly get them to day care, school, somewhere. Let’s add in getting to work or school early (with the slim hope of leaving ahead of schedule-NOT), maybe later making it to the gym for a little blow-off steam session. You know some Basketball–Zumba-a quick trek on the Treadmill, maybe a little TRX (talk about high intensity relaxation), and were back on the road again. Excitedly in route, we get to join the traffic line dance and slowly inch our way home. We’re now back home to deal with STUFF; maybe kids, significant others, bills, phone calls, house work, dinner, etc. Boy, now that was a relaxing day!!
We live in a 24 hour culture. Some grocery stores are now 24 hours, same goes for a number of drug stores and gyms. At work if you’re not on the fast-track you’re slacking. Stress levels are going through the roof, and doctor’s offices are making a killing keeping us “VERTICAL”. We multitask thinking we’re getting ahead but are we really? We constantly do 1-2-even 3 things at once thinking more is better, but is it? I think NOT!
Research shows that multitasking is not as efficient as once thought. Guy Winch, PHD seems to agree, he is the author of Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries. He states that “Moving back and forth between several tasks actually wastes productivity, he says, because your attention is expended on the act of switching gears—plus, you never get fully “in the zone” for either activity”. http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20707868_2,00.html. I’m not just picking on those of you who think you have to multitask, but it’s a starting (or stopping) point. Really the worst thing that can happen by not doing multiple things at once is that just maybe you’ll fully put you’re all into just one thing at a time.
You know what I think; I think slowing things down should be mandatory for you’re sanity. I’m not saying become a lazy, non productive slob but at the very least take life at a slower more relaxed pace. Life is not meant to be lived at such a speed that we miss the important, beautiful things that our existence has to offer.
At the risk of sounding mushy or overly sentimental I’m going to tell you a short story. I’ll make it brief because I bet your reading this while you’re doing “ANYTHING” but what you should be doing. Years ago when my daughter was about four years old I had just picked her up from her daycare. It was late (not so late that I got a fine from the daycare, but I cut it way too close). Anyway, we’re traveling down a busy street and after stopping to pick up dinner (too tired to cook); I got back in the car, my daughter dutifully strapped in her child seat and I hurriedly continued home. All of a sudden my daughter started loudly screaming for me to STOP the car. What, stop the car; truthfully, she was getting on my last nerve. I was tired, hungry, and I just wanted to transport myself telepathically to my house-NO KID INTERVENTION WANTED. Well she wouldn’t be quiet, so I pulled the car over. After making sure she was alright I asked her what was wrong and her answer can still make my eyes well up (and if you knew me you’d know that’s saying a lot). She said, “Mommy isn’t the moon beautiful”. Out of the mouth of babes, all I could say was WOW. This little four year old child forced me to pay attention to the little things in life that I took for granted. That instant was my “AH HAH MOMENT” of realization, forcing me to live more in the present, being able to appreciate something as spectacular as a full moon. If I hadn’t slowed down I would have missed not only the moon but the wonder my daughter saw in it (Priceless).
So when I end my blog each month with the same saying please remember that the moon setting really does hold a special meaning for me. The birds lighting in the trees, kid’s, parent’s, friends, and significant others wanting to reach out, the gentle movement made when a boat floats smoothly through the water; it’s all lost when we don’t truly live in appreciation of slowing down and connecting with a little simplicity. So pay attention, don’t make the mistake of not looking at the moon-It Really is Beautiful!
SO ONCE AGAIN REMEMBER– Life’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Slow down; smell the roses and I’ll see you in a few weeks. Be kind to yourself and don’t forget to check out the “Pose of the Month”. Peace and Namaste.
I chose this pose because since I’m speaking of slowing down, my vote is to Chill Out and raise our legs up the wall. This pose is a mild inversion which helps to renew the flow of blood and lymph drainage to the heart area. This pose is also a restorative pose, calming the mind, relieving low back pain, helping with those tired legs and cramped feet, and helping ease high blood pressure to name a few.
This pose is exactly as it sounds, I could “fancy” it up and call it by the Sanskrit term, Viparita Karani but it still means put your legs up the wall. I also must add that this pose feels GREAT!
1.) Lie on your back (use you’re yoga mat) in front of a wall (I always put socks on because I don’t want to wash the wall).
2.) While lying on your back scoot your behind as close to the wall as you comfortably can and extend your legs up the wall. BE CAREFUL WHILE GETTING YOUR BOTTOM CLOSE TO THE WALL! If the neck is straining place a rolled up towel underneath it. Arms can be spread wide at your sides or however is most comfortable, palms are up. Shoulders blades should be open. Focus on taking slow, deep breaths.
First Modification: Classic Legs Up the Wall Pose. If space permits you can slide your legs into a wide “V” to stretch your inner thighs.
Try hanging out here at least 10 minutes, although if you have only a few minutes it is still an advantage to calming your body. After completing the pose, carefully bring the legs down and turn to your side. Hang out here (resting) for a few breaths before coming up to a seated position.
REMEMBER: Always Exercise Caution When Performing the Poses (or any activity for that matter)! It’s also advisable to check with a trained physician if you are planning on becoming physically active.
“Why Can’t I Meditate!!!!? Translation-Stuff I Wish I Did Well”
Yoga From A Natural- Jeanie Sallah
First let’s get one thing perfectly clear, I WANT TO MEDITATE!!!!!! Okay, now that that’s out the way I feel I’m ready to continue (Breathe). These days the buzzword “Mindful Mediation” is to the yoga and meditation community what the words “Open Concept” is to home sales (can you tell I watch a lot of HG TV). OK here’s a fun fact, let’s say there’s this swanky dinner party being held at the Top of the Mark’s rooftop bar in San Francisco and the attendees are Ellen DeGeneres, George Stephanopoulus (Good Morning America), Tina Turner, Russell Simmons, Kobe Bryant, Russell Brand, Katy Perry (I know her and Russell are no longer together but Girl Power wins), Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan (Ohio), Oprah Winfrey, Arianna Huffington, Editor-in-Chief of the Huffington Post, and Soledad O’Brien. I’m sure the conversation would be both lively and full of character, but if it wasn’t they could all just sit and meditate together “OM”. I say that because they “ALL” meditate in one form or another. Be it mindful, transcendental, Zen, or any number of meditation types, they all have the common goal of keeping the mind and body in its most healthy form.
Here’s the deal, it’s an objective of mine to comfortably sit, breath, and meditate but let’s be honest here the act is “So Ridiculously Hard For Me”! I can’t tell you how much I’ve tried. I’ve attempted the 21 day Mindful Meditation series that Oprah did in conjunction with Deepak Chopra and got so far behind that I was in essence dropped from the webcast. Seriously, they blocked my access to go back and make up all that I had missed-which was a lot (Head Hung in Shame). But I didn’t give up, she offered another and I blew that too (Double Shame). I have bought so many books on the subject from Meditation for Dummies by Shamash Alidina, to a super great book by Dan Harris who is a news anchor on Good Morning America, appropriately titled 10% Happier. The books are a great motivating factor overall but I think I just need a really strong push in the ass to help me along (the struggle).
Actively doing nothing is the basis of mindful meditation, being quiet and tuning into your mind, no distractions. Just you paying special attention is what meditation is about. You are mindfully WATCHING YOU. When you meditate you encourage the busy mind to slow down, while at the same time getting some really cool benefits to make you a more focused and aware person. I especially like a statement that US. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) said concerning mindfulness, he said “Mindfulness puts your mind and body in the same place at the same time”. How simple and on-point is that definition, I like it a lot. Imagine how often our minds and bodies are disconnected; now imagine a way to connect the two that’s easy, convenient and affordable-really how great is that! Now maybe you see why I want to get better at this art form, I really think this is such a bonus to your health and general well-being.
If meditation is something you want to try I say Great and Congratulations, it can only prove to help in ridding those feelings of negativity and centering your existence. Maybe you could begin with baby steps, I’m still testing the waters, finding out what works and doesn’t work for me. One technique is a thing I started calling “Take Ten”, that means to take ten minutes to literally “Unplug”. Unplug from your phone, from your iPad, the computer, the television, technology as a whole (hard huh). Set a timer for 10 minutes and unplug from anything that will take your focus away from relaxing and releasing tension; that includes your kids, friends and significant others. I start my day by Taking Ten, but you can just as easily end your evening with it. Just try it, hanging out with your feelings and thoughts-no interruptions can be quite calming and also a little intimidating at the same time. But you know a little prize that goes along with meditating, FREEDOM. Freedom from always feeling that it’s necessary to be connected, it’s not.
One problem is that we’re too busy being busy, it’s just our culture. Our world is stressful, at times disturbing, and so challenging; so checking out mindful meditation might just be the right prescription. Put the words Mindful Meditation into Google Search and watch the flood gates open. For example, one site I checked out even had pre-recorded meditation podcasts, the site is like a personal teacher navigating you in the right directions http://marc.ucla.edu/body.cfm?id=51. So seek and you will definitely find, just approach with an open mind and prepare to be impressed. Service women and men, school kids, college students, your neighbors, yogis, prison inmates, teachers, and scores of open-minded people are checking out the art of mediation and joining the ranks of people trying to actively quiet the mind (it’s way cool).
Let me be the first to tell you that you will experience an internal conversation while beginning the practice of meditation. Also, speaking from experience if your anything like me it goes without saying that initially you will probably be ”Bored” out of your mind. Why? It’s not easy doing nothing. The steps for me went something like this:
1) You’re sitting quietly just chilling thinking this is so cool, I’m hanging out with my thoughts (Awesome).
2) Two minutes pass and boredom sets in big time and you think, “What am I going to cook for dinner?” “Is Macy’s Super Saturday this weekend or next?” “Is Scandal on at 9 or 10:00 tonight, is today even Thursday?”
3) You bring your focus back because your mind “WILL” wander. You think, “How long have I been sitting here getting in touch with my feelings?” You check you’re watch-damn only 4 insignificant minutes (Capitalized DAMN). Starting to notice a pattern yet?
4) Then you go back in search of inner peace.
5) My back is getting really achy; I change position and wonder if this is really working. I don’t feel very mindful I feel like I need to go to the bathroom, come on clock, hurry up!
6) Maybe you make 10 minutes, maybe not but there’s always tomorrow. Think “No Judgment”, well here it is in your face, front and center. Don’t judge yourself, just observe the experience and try again later because it’s worth it.
My thought is that it’s really hard to check-out, I know because I am a total work-in-progress. But we need to actively check-out so that we are able to check-in with ourselves. Let’s tune-in to the present moment, trying not to be too concerned with the past or the future and mindfully take care of ourselves now. My recommendation is that you try it out and hopefully you will be a lot better at it than I am-BUT I AM SO NOT GIVING UP, Practice Makes Perfect!
SO Remember- Life’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Slow down; smell the roses and I’ll see you in a few weeks. Be kind to yourself and don’t forget to check out the “Pose of the Month”. Peace and Namaste
Easy Seated Pose
The pose I picked this month is Easy Seated Pose, so simple and oh so relaxing. This is probably the most common pose for meditating so that’s why I choose it. The benefits of easy seated pose is that strengthens your back, gives a good stretch for the knees and ankles, and really helps you calm the brain and take it down a notch. Seat in easy seated and meditate for 10 minutes (close your eyes) and see if you can just Zen out! I should let you know that the name easy seated isn’t easy for everybody, so know that in yoga easy seated is ultimately what’s comfortable for you.
1) Sit with your legs in front of you and your pelvis in a neutral position, sit straight and cross your legs at the shins (sometimes called cross legged pose).
2) Your knees will be wide, place each foot under the opposite knee. Knees will be folded back towards your torso.
3) Ideally hands are on the knees with the palms pointing down. This however is not comfortable to everyone so I say place the hands wherever they are most comfortable.
4) Always remember to switch up the leg placement of the forward facing leg if you’re in this position for a bit. It’s necessary to give love to both sides of the body.
- A) I always sit on a folded blanket, but you can also sit on a yoga block, pillow, or bolster. Lifting the hips above your knees will reduce the discomfort in the hips, knees, and back. Lifting the hips will also aid in bringing the spine into alignment, helping you to hang out in easy seated for a longer period of time.
- B) If you need a little more support in this pose sit with your back against a wall.
REMEMBER: Always Exercise Caution When Performing the Poses (or any physical activity for that matter)! It’s also advisable to check with a trained physician if you are planning on becoming physically active.
“Aging Gracefully and Not Running in Search of that Imagined Fountain of Youth”
In the name of Beauty, Youth, and that Fresh-Faced Natural Glow; we exfoliate, we wash our face as if it were a fine piece of fabric, we moisturize, and we never leave the house without sunscreen SPF 15 or higher. For insurance and just to tip the scales in your favor, you buy the best cleansers, anti-aging creams, serums, and eye illuminating potions to ensure maximum beauty (you know you don’t want puffy dark circles under those gorgeous eyes). As you can see, I’m all for natural enhancements like Makeup, Lashes, Extensions, Weaves, Wigs, and such because a girl really does need a little help sometimes (You Know). What I’m not about is unnecessary Plastic Surgery, Pumped-Up Booty Shots, Lip Injections, or trying to squeeze your behind into your daughter’s outfits which are both off-putting, as well as a little “Side-Eye” weird. Seriously, they call it “Fake” for a reason. In our youth obsessed world do you sometimes feel like your scrambling to find your place; you know-that little smidgeon of evidence to convince yourself that “YOU STILL GOT IT”?
Well I think we do still have it, it’s just packaged a little differently. That packaging may not be as “Bad Ass” as you want it to be, but that’s Okay. Maybe I’m reflecting a bit more on age because July is my birth month and I’m really getting excited! I’ve always used it as a guideline to measure progress; sort of my barometer of growth in development, spirit, and clarity. Growing older in my view is a “Gift” that shouldn’t be taken for granted or frowned upon. Each year we hopefully grow a little wiser, learn to be more tolerant, change those things that needed attention, and appreciate the person we see in the mirror. Sure we focus on the outside because as ladies we never want to take our looks for granted, but learning to love the inside you is just as important as loving the person the world gets to see.
Maybe an attitude adjustment on aging is in order, similar to appreciating life through fresh lenses. If you want to see some incredibly beautiful, strong women, check out the Pinterest board “How To Age Gracefully”. I’m talking Tina Turner (those legs), Dame Helen Mirren (that body), Angela Basset (those arms), Diane Sawyer (TV personality), Meryl Streep (mind-blowing actress), Ernestine Shepherd (body builder), Carmen Dell’Orefice (working over 80 model), the list is endless and I’m in awe!!!
So you want to know what I see when I picture “ANY” older women? I see a life lived; be it good or bad. I see Experience, Tenacity, Style, Grace, at times Reinvention, Wisdom, Curiosity, New Beginnings, so much history, and so much future. Sure, age treats all of us differently but it’s not a plague to shy away from. We can help our situation along immensely by exercising, getting the proper sleep, watching what you put into your body, and being attentive to your overall health. Have an open mind, try to rethink judgment of others, mentally be present, try new things, be a good listener, and strive to be in the company of forward thinking people. That my friend is good advice for any age group!
So on the surface all we really need is a little Bare Minerals, Iman or Mac makeup, some concealer, make sure those eyebrows are “ON FLEEK“, rock that with a body that says “You Still Care”, glam it up with a killer outfit, definitely bring an “I Have Arrived Mindset” along for the ride, and you’re good to go. Oh yeah, let’s not forget to convey an attitude that exudes Confidence, Approachability, and some Kind-Heartedness thrown in for good measure.
In the end Aging Gracefully isn’t about minimizing those prominent smile lines, searching for the best way to shave ten years off our age, or even finding just the right fitting Spanx, it’s focusing on just being the “Best You Possible”. Loving what’s on the inside as well as the outside, and inwardly screaming at the top of your lungs “I’m here, I love myself and who I am; and I’m not obsessing over how old I am”, is real happiness”. Not fighting tooth and nail in search of that fairy-tale “Fountain of Youth” is true acceptance.
Let’s make a promise right now to embrace Whatever Age You Are; 20’s, 40’s, 80’s and Beyond. Life really is an unpredictable voyage and isn’t that a little bit of the beauty and mystique of the aging process? So let’s try not to trip on the number so much; let’s just be free to move forward, “Rejoice in the Process”, and enjoy the journey!
“Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art”
SO REMEMBER- Life’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Slow down; smell the roses and I’ll see you soon. Be kind to yourself and don’t forget to check out the “Pose of the Month”. Peace and Namaste!
Tree pose is my Nemesis, my Achilles’ heel, my Everyday Hurdle, my Necessary Battle, and one of my favorite poses. Necessary because it’s an ongoing challenge for me and working at what I personally find difficult shows me that through gradual progress all things are possible. I’ve finally come to accept the fact that Tree Pose is hard and I’m really just not that good at it. My single leg standing balance has a mind of its own and for me it’s so crazy challenging that it’s like attempting a sample test with “NO” answer key. The bathroom counter, kitchen counter, even my dining room table has served as stationary objects for my Off-Centered attempts at standing like a flamingo. Couple that with my outstretched arms and you are now witness to my Equilibrium Concerns. Not necessarily a pretty picture but I strive to keep it real!
So I invite you to try tree pose. Hopefully, you will grow to love it too for your own special reasons. Also, I’m going to include a modification for this pose, if in doubt do the modified adaptation and work up to a standard version of the pose at a later time. So have some fun with this pose, maybe escape into your thoughts and take a mental vacation (I do it all the time).
This is a picture of Labadee, Haiti where my family and I vacationed earlier this year. Believe me when I tell you that my family was “SICK” of me practicing (and falling out of) Tree Pose on the island. But who cares; remember it’s all about the journey. (SMILE)
1. From Mountain Pose stand with the feet together and the arms by your sides. Really establish your Mountain pose, don’t rush to get into tree pose, take your time. Savor each stage of your tree.
- Look down and find a gazing point, something fixed. Bend the right leg at the knee, raise the right foot and bring the sole of the right foot as high up the inside of the left thigh as possible. DO NOT PLACE THE FOOT ON THE SIDE OF THE KNEE!
- Balancing on the left foot slowly bring the palms together at heart center, hands are in prayer position. If you want to take it further, grow your branches (arms) by raising both arms overhead, keeping the elbows unbent and joining the palms together. Hold the posture while breathing gently through the nostrils for about 10 complete breaths if able.
Option: Practice next to a wall, have one hand on a chair, or bring the arms out to the sides for additional stability. Also, don’t feel the need to bring the leg up so high, having the foot resting on the calf or touching the toe to the ground is still a beautiful “Tree”.
- To release; lower the arms and right leg and return to the mountain pose (standing position) with feet together and arms at the sides. Breathe and hold for 4-8 breaths. Repeat on the other side. Take your time, don’t rush to end the pose.
Note: Remember: Establish your foundation, set your Gaze or Drishti, and maintain a calm mind throughout the pose. The challenge of the tree pose is supporting your standing balance on one leg. Poor balance is said to be the result of a restless mind or your attention being preoccupied elsewhere. If you take the time to regularly work on this pose it will help you develop a greater sense of awareness and balance.
REMEMBER: Always Exercise Caution When Performing the Poses (or any physical activity for that matter)! It’s also advisable to check with a trained physician if you are planning on becoming physically active.