March 10, 2014
Spring is right around the corner, and it finally feels like it’s here in Charlotte. With the weather changing, we are all outside more and Nature can be so healing for our body, mind and spirit! It reminds me of all the practices that are a part of self-care. Self-care practices really have to become routine in your schedule, or they will be missed. So, I’m urging you during this season of change to examine how you are taking care of yourself and if needed, make some changes too. Maybe we also re-examine our perception about what is a luxury and what is appropriate as a healthy self-care regime, as without our health, we have nothing. When your body is being taken care of regularly, you keep your immune system in optimal condition. Here are some suggestions and practices that are part of my schedule that you may like to add to your own:
- Daily meditation. Yes, every day. You DO have time, even if it means 5-minute increments.
- Eating only foods that provide good prana (life-force). No sugar, nothing processed, of course.
- Of course Yoga asana. Yes, every day. Take a couple of lead classes weekly, then practice on your own too, you’ll be glad you did.
- Daily self-massage with seasonal oil (after your shower or bath). www.banyanbotanicals.com has an excellent selection of organic body oils.
- Monthly professional massage. That’s only 12 times a year, and it is very detoxifying, re-balancing and practical.
- 30-minutes of good aerobic exercise at least 3 times a week. Get out and walk briskly, maybe throw a run in there.
- Regular energy healing/cleansing practices (Reiki, Kinesiology, Thai Yoga Therapy, Reflexology, etc.) These can be scheduled once every 4-8 weeks depending upon your situation. Do yourself a favor and add some of these, you deserve it and will feel SOO good. Here are my favorite providers: Reiki and Kinesiology: www.awakentobliss.co; Thai Yoga Therapy: www.bodhiseedwellness.com; Reflexology: www.divineshantiyoga.com Yes, I give myself treatments, why not? 😉
- Designate time for self-nurturing hobbies, whatever it may be, don’t let life get away from you! Life is precious and short, so take care of it wisely! (reading, gardening, dancing, singing, whatever takes you deep within)
- Leisure time with friends and family on a regular basis. Only you can know how much time with loved ones you need, it is not too much to do something fun EVERY day!
February 10, 2014
Here in Charlotte, we are expecting an unusual snow storm coming through the area this week. We can choose to complain about the change, or embrace it creating loving moments that will be lasting memories. Here are a few of my favorite things to do on a snow-day, keeping my heart, body and mind warm. I invite you to try some for yourself. Enjoy!
- Drinking hot tea and savoring it.
- Baking delicious bread or muffins, or trying a new soup recipe I’ve been thinking about (maybe both).
- Turning on my favorite Pandora channel, and hand-writing cards to loved ones.
- Making paper snowflakes and hanging them over my kitchen sink to admire.
- Spontaneous dance party, just because.
- Rolling out my Yoga mat. No explanation needed.
- Lighting candles all over the room and snuggling four-legged babies with a good book.
- Clearing something out in the house. Re-organizing a drawer, cupboard or closet. So rewarding.
- Taking a hot bath. There’s no better practice for gratitude, to have a whole tub full of hot water just for your body!
- Catch up on phone calls. It feels better to hear your loved one’s voice.
- Anyone else who needs snuggling, it’s the best time to do it!
- Bring it, Mother Nature! Love-tank is full.
January 23, 2014
- Olive oil
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 1/2 quarts broth of choice
- 1/2 head cabbage, chopped coarsely
- 3 carrots, sliced thinly (not shredded)
- 1-2 roma tomatoes, pureed (or a can of diced tomatoes)
- 2 cups of soaked and cooked navy beans
- Salt & Pepper, to taste
Saute onion and garlic with oil in large saucepan until tender. Add broth and cabbage and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring once. Add sliced carrots, tomatoes, beans, salt and pepper and simmer for another 10-15 minutes. That’s simple, delicious, and warming for these cold temps of winter! Even my hubby love this soup, and he doesn’t typically like cabbage! Enjoy.
January 20, 2014
My dream for all humanity…is that we do not value even a segment of our self-worth based on the judgments and opinions of others. Being accepted, approved of, graded or judged is part of all things in life that are temporary. You cannot take these with you when this embodiment is over.
The ego will identify with the parts of yourself that change. Everything from your body (we age), appearance, status, worldly accomplishments and even your job-title, which are all temporary, become the way that we identify with the self. We at times distress over them, and at other times celebrate them. This is a perfect example of what Patanjali describes in Yoga Sutra II.6 as asmita, or false-identification. Sometimes translated as “ego”, asmita is the second of the five mental afflictions, or klesas, outlined in the second chapter of the Yoga Sutra.
Realize your very existence is miraculous! You’ve already “made-it.” You are the quiet place within you that does not change. You are a shining star…a Divine spark in your corner of the Universe, and your natural ability to love and to serve is your highest purpose. You know how this makes you feel, you don’t need someone else to confirm or deny you. What anyone thinks of you, is none of your business.
Yoga teaches us that your true essence, or higher Self remains stable, no matter what happens around you or to you. With practice, we can get glimpses of this, and sometimes it stays for a while. This is why we practice. Asmita is when you mistakenly believe, on some level, that how you look or feel, what you do for a living or even what you’ve accomplished in the worldly realm has something to do with who you are and that these things define you, instead of recognizing your true Self…at your core…which is unchanging.
A healthy ego will teach us that we can recognize the magnitude of our very existence as a human incarnation, and not squander our lives away. The ego is the immediate voice and the “seer” in your mind, it keeps us going…but with practice, we learn to explore ourselves deeper…where you will find your true essence, your higher Self. You don’t need an “approval board” for life. You know when you are squandering, or when you are in alignment with your true life’s purpose.
Listen to your innermost Self, you may call this your inner-guide, or your deepest intuition. It is highly likely that you will hear a calling to love and to serve in some way. Aside from the judgments, approvals, and acceptances of other people or groups, your deepest Self lights the way. Can you imagine a world where we all are just guided by this true inner-Self, instead of the temporary and changing standards of society? When we give up our energies on trying to “fit in”, “make the cut”, or “be approved”, we realize that we have already arrived…at our own birth. How will we live? Can we practice being still and listening deeply? We just might hear how to love…and serve one another. The Beatles have a way with words; “You may say I’m a dreamer….but I’m not the only one.”
January 3, 2014
Happy New Year! As we have done the past several years, I invite you to choose an “intention” for the year. This will be your mantra for 2014, just one word to “hang out” with for the year. There are no goals, nothing to strive for, just a word to channel your energy around its meaning. Where your attention goes, your energy flows. There is no magic formula for determining your annual intention, just ask yourself what it is that you need more of in your life. One word.
Mine for the year is “Prana” (Life-Force). What this means to me is: Only feed my body with foods and things that provide good prana. Surround myself with people and experiences that nourish my prana, rather than take away from it. Remind myself of the importance and value of being filled with abundant life-force energy.
Last year, my intention was “Fitness”. The year before, it was “Music”. Some other ideas to offer: “Self-Care”, “Creativity”, “Balance”, “Celebration”, “Laughter”, “Surrender”, “Let go”, “Journal”, “Cherish”, “Gratitude”, “Love”, “Dance”, “Trust”, “Forgiveness”, the possibilities are endless! What do you need more of in your life?
If nothing feels natural and fitting, then maybe your intention for the year is simply “Open”, or “Listen”…the Universe will provide all that you need to hear or realize.
In a few months, your intention for the year may feel boring, and you may want to change it. This is when you know it is beginning to work! Keep it the same throughout the whole year. You will be rewarded by the power of single-pointed awareness of the energy that you have been generating and expanding into the Universe.
Each and every breathe is a new opportunity to connect with your mantra for the year. Say it to yourself with each breathe & throughout your day, when you sit for formal meditation, sit in traffic, stand at the checkout line, before surrendering to sleep, whenever you remember to. A new breath = a new opportunity to check in.
Here is a link to last year’s New Years thoughts: https://divineshantiyoga.wordpress.com/2012/12/31/being-present-happy-right-now-regardless-of-what-calendar-day-it-is/
December 8, 2013
This year it seems as though the holidays are compressed into a smaller window of time to accomplish all that we need to. I am feeling the squeeze, the rush, the chaos, the busyness of the season in full force and I bet you all are feeling it as well. As with all sensation, we are being given a gracious opportunity to slow down and observe, to feel, to notice from a place of neutrality and non-judgment. This season offers us a delightful chance to practice our Yoga off the mat, to simply observe what’s happening, and to practice non-reactivity to all of the hustle and bustle. Through this practice, we can allow space for gratitude and true joy to find it’s place in our hearts. It is really refreshing to take a step back, to notice what our senses can take in, and to connect with deeper sensations of the present moment.
By filling our hearts and minds with the attitude of gratitude, we are naturally content with where we are and what we already have. Here are just a few ways to practice slowing down and being grateful for each day:
- Give thanks for EVERY meal that you nourish your body with. Slow down, appreciate your food. Feed your body with healthy nourishment and plenty of green vegetables.
- Acknowledge that every food item that you take in carries with it a long line of working hands, earth elements (earth, sun, rain, etc.), transportation, stocking, bagging, preparing, cooking, the list goes on. Be grateful for all efforts that provide you with food.
- Notice each other. I mean, REALLY feel your connection with friends and family, people who share a Yoga class with you, people who share a waiting line with you, everyone. Nobody is insignificant in this Universe. Be grateful for even people who have hurt you, for they have taught you how to be stronger.
- Be in awe of the planet, Mother nature’s majesty, be grateful for the crazy weather, all of it. As the winter solstice approaches, each day is becoming darker and darker. The day after solstice (usually December 22nd), each day becomes more and more filled with light, leading the path into Spring. Celebrate this beautiful process. Light up your life! Wahe Guru!
- Are you currently warm, or able to keep yourself this way? Be grateful that you have the capability to be warm and comfortable during the chilliness of the season. Maybe your daily gratitude mantra is simply “sweaters”, “blankets”, or “warm socks”. Ahh….
- Be grateful for LOVE. Remind yourself that “All resonance is light. All resonance is love.” You ARE light. You ARE love. Isn’t this remarkable?! Bask in the realization that you are already whole…just as you are. There is nothing to strive for. No conditions to being love, and being loved.
Wishing you all a healthy, joyful, safe, warm, nourishing holiday season filled with gratitude!
October 23, 2013
As plants grow, they depend on sunlight and fertile earth for nourishment. They actually have the ability to lock in life-force energy derived from the sun and earth. We can harness this life-force, and if properly preserved, essence from plants and flowers can have a powerful effect on us and our environment. Essential oils are made from the very essence of the plant, not just plant material. This life-force element explains why real plant essences and oils, rather than those that are artificially made, have beneficial effects.
When we surround ourselves with natural essential oils in our homes, offices, our bodies and personal energy can benefit from the nourishing, positive vibrations. Essential oils can be made into a room spray, a body spray, burn in an oil burner, or sprinkle on some actual dried flowers or organic material.
Here are some ideas on where and when to use them in your environment:
To Energize and Stimulate: ginger, rosemary, peppermint, cinnamon, clary sage
For Warmth and Security: ylang ylang, clary sage, lavender, tangerine
To Refresh and Uplift: sandalwood, lemon, rosemary, rosewood
For Romance: ylang ylang, jasmine, vanilla, orange, geranium, sandalwood
For Mental and Memory Stimulation: grapefruit, lemon grass, cardamom, camphor, patchouli, basil
To Balance and Restore: neroli, geranium, rose, lemon, cypress
For Relaxation and Sleep: lavender, chamomile, rose otto, ylang ylang, orange, geranium
To Clear and Purify: tea tree, thyme, juniper, eucalyptus, rosemary, lime, pine
For Insect Deterrent: citronella, thyme, lemongrass, basil, peppermint, cinnamon, cedarwood
For Meditation and Protection: sandalwood, frankincense, cedarwood, lavender, rosemary
October 4, 2013
This blog entry is not going to describe Savasana in the typical way, of stating how to practice this pose or what the MANY benefits are (although I encourage you to research this if you don’t already know how to do this, or why you should). Let’s look at this posture with a new lens for a few moments.
Let’s begin with recognizing that this final resting pose in any Yoga class is perhaps the MOST important one to practice, and the MOST challenging for many people. You might be thinking “What do you mean it’s challenging to just lay there, still, with your eyes closed?”
Can you remember how foreign this may have felt the very first time to tried it? Have you been able to feel someone new to Yoga (or maybe not so new) lying next to you trying to relax and you can sense that they are wiggling around, looking around, or fidgeting? Yoga teachers know this all too well…the student who evens pops their head up a couple of times to look around the room, wondering if they should be doing something instead of just letting go into supreme softness and support. It’s not easy to let go.
As far as I’m concerned, what is impressive in a Yoga practice is how well someone is able to practice Savasana. How well can you let go of all of the mind chatter during this few minutes? How well can you surrender the weight of your body into the earth without the need to move? How deeply can you allow your energy to simple settle into a restful and peaceful state for a very limited time frame at the end of your Yoga practice? To me, this is the pose to practice mastery in.
By practicing a few minutes of deep relaxation on a regular basis, the body and mind will learn how to remain in this state of blissful peace more often throughout your life. Your coping skills will improve, your body will experience less pain, your stress level will decrease, and the list goes on.
As a teacher, teaching a class takes some personal energy. You are “on” for an hour, hour and half, maybe a couple of hours straight. The benefit of Savasana for the teacher is that when the group of practitioners fully allow themselves to go deep within their state of relaxation, the room begins to glow with a radiant light than nourishes the teacher, giving back tenfold the energy that was put into the teaching. Nothing is lost from the students, it is a collective energy from the Universe that is created from a group of bodies and minds that simply let go. It is palpable. Spiritual energy circulates, a deep resonance of peace infuses EVERY body in the room, and infuses the floors and walls of the space. Ahh….
So, I invite you to take this posture seriously, allow yourself this time to refresh your body, mind and spirit. And, if you are a teacher, PLEASE offer a substantial amount of time for this important practice. If it’s an hour class, allow for at least 5 minutes of corpse pose; for a 75-minute class, 7-10 minutes is nice; 90-minute class, 10-12 minutes please. A 2-hour class, can we have a whole 15 minutes? Trust me, you won’t regret it. 🙂 It takes some time to experience deep relaxation.
September 19, 2013
I’ve been gaining strength each day to write about all of the wonderful things about my dear friend, John Hutter. He left his body last Sunday from pancreatic cancer, and even up to the very last day, he was teaching me about grace, humility, love, acceptance and surrender.
Over the past couple of weeks, John’s family and friends have been visiting him, remembering him at his memorial service, sending letters and pictures, and have been leaving countless messages on facebook and on the local newspaper’s webpage, honoring such a vibrantly loved human being. A couple of days ago, my husband said to me “I had no idea that so many people knew John, and loved him so. What do you think it is about him that makes everyone love him so much?” My initial thought response was “Well, it’s only natural to love him, and I’ve never questioned why.” Upon more listening to my heart, I became flooded with all of the many reasons that I’m sure we all love John so much.
Here are some of them:
John was real, and authentic. You always knew how he was feeling, and in his presence, he gave you permission to also be authentically you.
He was adventurous. He would try just about anything once, and if he loved it, he would keep at it. (Yoga, for example)
John was health-conscious, and dedicated to being this way. He taught us all by leading by example.
He was inspiring, and loyal. He encouraged me get to Yoga class even when I didn’t feel like going, because it’s a new day.
John was candid and humble. There’s nothing more relaxing than being around someone who can laugh at themselves, and at you when you need it.
He had a great sense of humor. When John was leading a group of us in meditation once, he told us all to surrender into the moment (only with his N.Y. accent, it came out forcefully like “Just suwenda now!”), we all just rolled around laughing hysterically, including him.
John was one of the most caring and selfless people I’ve ever known. I still have a couple of saved voice mail messages on my phone from him, and even over the past couple of months when I would be asking him “how are you feeling today?”, his messages to me begin with “I hope you’re feeling good today.” What was most important to him was the well-being of everyone else.
He was sensitive. Many times over the years he would talk about his feelings, something that it not easy for many men. He also loved having his feet massaged and getting pedicures. (I think he’d be okay with me telling people this, even the ladies at the nail spa knew him personally)
John was loving, compassionate, fun, generous, easy-going, comfortable, and will always remain as a bright light in my heart. He was a wonderful friend, a joyful companion, a beautiful father, brother, brother-in-law, uncle, great uncle and a radiant spirit that continues to live on all around us, and in each of our hearts, for eternity.
His last words to me a week ago today when he was still able to speak were “I love you, and have fun.” Let us all honor his touching final message and love harder. And have more fun. This is truly who John is and what he wants to see…more love and more fun.
Thank You For Showing Us True Friendship. We Love You!
September 3, 2013
Over the past couple of weeks I have heard from more and more students how their stress levels have been increased and they just need a “release.” We are approaching the autumn season, the season of harvest, and change is in the atmosphere. We can think with our rational minds that when there is a dramatic change in nature, we too experience this change, as we are inherently a part of nature herself.
Your intuition may be stronger than you realize when you say that you need a “release”, I invite you to honor this state of being and practice letting go. Practice releasing it.
When we feel stressed, or frustrated, it is usually because something in life isn’t going the way we have expected it to. We have formed an attachment to a particular viewpoint about things are going to play out in life. When this doesn’t happen, we are riveted with discomfort in the many forms of frustration or stress.
- So, it seems like an important practice to first acknowledge that we have a viewpoint or expectation about a situation.
- Secondly, we can recognize that we do have an attachment to this expectation, of course we want it to go this way, that’s why it’s called an “expectation”.
- Thirdly, we learn that our minds have completely fabricated this expectation, and just as we have created it, we also have the power to let it go and just go with the flow.
- Lastly, we practice letting this go, we get out of our “mind-space“, and open to our “heart space“…we give ourselves the gift of experiencing life with contentment, being absorbed in the here and now with a sense of wonderment, gracefully accepting each and every moment.
Every event or action in life carries with it a neutral charge, and our own perception decides whether or not it is “good/bad, right/wrong”. So, choose to get out of your own way and just open to what is (without your attachments to a particular outcome).
We realize that when we hold onto these attachments, we will always set ourselves up for disappointment. Our expectations in life will not always be met. But by letting go, or releasing our attachment to these, we will create less suffering for ourselves and those around us. Then when something happens that catches you off guard or surprises you, or makes you frustrated, you can respond by saying to yourself “how interesting“, instead of “that’s not what’s supposed to happen.”
The loving teacher Ram Dass says in his latest book “Polishing the Mirror”:
“The art of spiritual growth has to do with how quickly you recognize attachments and how quickly you can release them. If you can admit that you can’t see clearly because of attachment, then the full wisdom of things will begin to shine through. As long as you have some desire about how you think it ought to be, you can’t hear how it is.”
Offer yourself time in meditation, letting go of trying to control what goes on around you. If you are outside; birds may fly by, a breeze may blow in, a bug may land on your leg, the sun may hide behind a cloud or a loud truck may pass by. If you reside in your “heart-space”, you will remain unaffected by all the change surrounding you, perhaps even notice the changes with a sense of childlike awe and fascination. This is where you allow true contentment and joy to enter…from the inside.