Thursday, September 10, 2020

Root Connections


 From my first yoga class 20 years ago to now, yoga continues to change my life. It has opened up my awareness on how I see myself and others, and how my thoughts and actions influence everyday life. As I learn and grow, new understanding shifts how I practice, teach, and share mindfulness and movement. Increased insight has provided me with discernment for participating in systems that continue oppression. This realignment is still in process as I reflect on what was, what is, and what will be. Presently, what I offer is my personal approach to yoga, but part of my journey is to honor the culture, history, and spiritual practices for which it is derived, and practice from a place of truth and integrity. I accomplish this by staying current with world events that invite participation and action towards non-violence, global injustices at the intersection of feminism, racism, and fighting climate change. As I focus on staying open to new ways of being, my heart is grounded in remembering my roots. 

In 2005, I chose to study a style of yoga known as Hatha yoga, which is the most modern branch of yoga derived from The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali's eightfold path. Hatha yoga is translated as the effort, force or exertion within the physical practice of yoga that finds inspiration from nature and the movements and behavior of animals. A daily physical practice of yoga postures will bring strength and health, allowing one to move deeper through this path, connecting to the other seven 'limbs' of yoga, and the invisible, energetic layers of the body. I trained with yoga practitioners whose lineage is connected to Saraswati Chandra, later known as Swami Kripalu who began studying asana, ayurveda, physiology, psychology and the ancient texts at the age of 17. In 1941, he was initiated as a renunciate and renamed Swami Kripalvananda meaning 'compassionate one'. His teachings on love and self development continue to inspire my personal practice and the merit of my teachings. 

"Serve with a full heart. By making others happy, you make yourself happy.
The key to your heart lies hidden in the heart of another."
Swami Kripalu
(1913-1981)

My gratitude for yoga continues as I share and teach in my community and beyond.


Tree pose is a posture to honor our root connections and 

celebrate the earth energy of September.

Vrksasana (vrksa meaning tree and asana meaning pose) is a balancing pose that strengthens the muscles of the legs, opens the hips, stretches the inner thighs and uplifts the spine. To bring balance to the standing leg it is important that the whole foot is grounded into a solid foundation. Visualize the toes of your standing leg pressing into the floor and extending away like the roots of a tree deepening into the earth. The heel and the ball of the foot maintain stability, while gravity draws the standing leg downward, the spine is lifting upward, lengthening from the waist.

For safety, practice near a wall or chair to assist in your balance.
Listen to your body and connect to your breath. 
This pose is not recommended for those with hip or knee injuries.

Begin in Tadasana (tada meaning mountain and asana meaning pose), also known as Samasthitih (sama meaning equal, level, or balanced and sthiti meaning stand), take time to feel into the soles of both your feet, distributing your weight equally into all four corners of each foot. Keep your gaze down or focus your attention on an unmoving object. Begin to shift your weight into the right foot, lifting your left foot off the floor. Engage the muscles of your standing right leg by gently flexing the knee, not locking the knee. Slowly lift the left foot higher while externally rotating the left hip to place the sole of the foot below the right knee or above the right knee. Find the center line of your body by pressing the left foot into the right leg and the right leg into the left foot. Keep your hips squared to the front and continue focusing your gaze to help keep your balance. When you feel steady, lift your arms up over head, and breathe into the sides of the body. Press your palms together and place your hands at your heart space. Connect to breath and enjoy the stretch. Slowly release and try the other side. 

When you feel more comfortable in the pose, play around with the extension of your limbs. Get creative with your hand placement and connect to the energy centers of your body. For an extra challenge, try closing your eyes. Shift and sway as trees do in the wind. The Fall Equinox is a seasonal transition of earth energy into air energy. As October approaches, allow your limbs to feel into the air that surrounds us. The cooler temperatures and the force of the winds assist the tree leaves to change color and fall away preparing for winter. The seasons of life teach us lessons about ourselves, our connection to other living beings, and our place on earth. 

As humans, we are meant to grow and change, 
expand and strengthen, like the trees around us. 

"Be like a tree. Stay grounded. Connect with your roots. Turn over a new leaf. 
Bend before you break. Enjoy your unique natural beauty. Keep growing."
Joanne Rapits


Free Guided Meditations

Movement, Breathwork and Meditation Practices

With love and care,

Michelle

Monday, August 31, 2020

Summer Courage

 

As we enter this last month of summer in 2020, we can feel into the seasonal shift of autumn coming. The coolness of the morning air, the sunshine that warms the day, and the brightness of the blossoms still in bloom. As the colors of each sunset expand orange, pink and and purple across the evening sky, we slowly lose incremental minutes of daylight towards the next season of change.

For me, this time of year moves quickly. There are many transitions with work, life and school schedules. Although things will be different for many of us, together we push towards our dreams, and what it means to plan for the future that is unknown in many ways. 

This summer, I have been reading selected books alongside my sons. We have enjoyed the stories and discussions together, which have opened our thinking to themes that include gratitude, expectations, and hope. One author stands out among the rest, an author that writes for the potential of all of our youth, and the remembrance of the dreams that still exist in our hearts and minds. 

In his stunning poem, A 'Firelight' For Every Dreamer: Jason Reynolds writes 'For Every One'. 

Take time to watch and listen to Jason read this beautifully filmed poem. Share this poem with a coworker, a friend, and your family. His message is simple, caring, and personal. "If you somehow find truth, comfort, or anything at all within this ramble, keep it close and use it for firelight for this long and often dark road."

Jason has inspired me and my sons to read more, write more, and to honestly reflect on what is really important in our lives and in the lives of others. All it takes is courage. His writing prompts have been a guiding light to keep us thinking. The offering is this: "A Place Worth Being," a writing Spark that prompts one to think of themselves as a place, turning their body and mind into an environment through writing. As someone who expresses themselves through action, intentional breath and foucused attention, I relate this prompt to my movement and meditation practice. As a whole being, my body is my home. This beating heart inside emotion surrounded by muscle, bones, and skin is a universe alone. When I connect with others, reach out, form bonds, and engage in meaningful experiences my universe extends, providing a sense of worth. 

We are here, now. Do what makes you feel good. Do what makes you feel true. Find your place that is worth being, and extend that worth to help others find theirs. We are in it together. 

Finding your worth takes courage. There are many different types of courage ranging from physical strength, mental stamina, or emotional awareness. For some of us, everyday tasks can fulfill an act of courage. Following your heart, persevering in the face of adversity, and standing up for what is right are all acts of courage. Letting go of our comfort, feeling pain, suffering or grief with dignity, and believing in yourself all take great amounts of courage. In our embodied world, there is courage and there is fear, but they function together, and when the two combine an impermeable force is born. 

Here are some offerings to move, breathe and meditate, while harnessing our courage. 

This short video is meant for inspiration, there are no guided verbal prompts. Perhaps, watch through and then move your body from a place of intuition. I invite you to reflect on how you feel before, during and after. The poses are listed in the description. The video ends with self holding techniques (reiki) intended to help bring intention and awareness to areas of the body that may need more attention. The hand positions highlight the low back, upper and lower abdomen, and heart space.

Slow Stretch



These video offerings are free. A donation has been made to 826 National, an organization that amplifies the impact of youth writing, publishing centers, and the words of young authors. 

With love and care,
Michelle

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Move with Fluidity

"MOVEMENT is the SONG of the body. This song, if you care to listen to it, is beauty. We could say that it is part of nature. We SING when we are HAPPY and the body goes with it like waves in the sea." 'Awakening the Spine'  Vanda Scaravelli

These days there are many obstacles and challenges that are forcing us to think about things differently, to come up with solutions for new ways of living. Simple tasks can bring reactions of frustration, delayed outcomes, and try our patience. These feelings can be present most days with social distancing from family and friends, work issues, unknown school plans, and ordinary gathering of food and wellness needs. Compound that with the general lack of common sense leadership and decision making that is affecting our global health and safety, and with the continued violence, disasters, unrest and inequality, many people are feeling overwhelmed.

These are external experiences that affect our emotions, which then transfers to an internal experience. For example, notice how the body feels when you are angry, irritable, or sad. As we all have experienced these emotions, the effect on the body is one of clenched rigidity and tension. Conversely, when we are happy, calm, and at peace there is a sense of ease and relaxation in the body. For many of us, the practice of moving, breathing and finding stillness (meditation) enhances the ablity to focus, to stay steady in times of stress, and respond to difficult situations with more compassion. Yoga is a multifaceted practice that provides tools and resources for one to cope in this ever changing, tumultous world we are living in. 

In short, yoga helps us move with more fluidity on and off the mat.

Fluidity is the physical property of a substance that enables it to flow. This quote by Lao Tzu sums up the properties of water in relationship to our mental, physical, and emotional body. 

"Water is fluid, soft and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong."

Water is made up of two hydrogen molecules and one oxygen molecule, it is found all over our planet, and is the main constituent of most living organisms. Our bodies are composed primarily of fluid. The average percentage of body weight that is water will remain greater than half for most of our lives. The cells of our tissues live in an internal sea of interstitial fluid that moves, surrounds and permeates all of our functioning bodily structures and systems. The movement of the mind flows through thought, emotion, sensation, creativity, and our relationships with others. These internal actions are all similar to physical movement.

The breath is a good place to start to bring a more mindful approach towards moving with fluidity, as the breath is an action of movement. The air we breathe creates a current of inhalation and exhalation that releases fresh oxygen into our blood, tissues, bones, organs, interstitial, and lymphatic fluid. 

When we attune to what is happening inside our bodies it opens up a synchronistic exchange between the internal and external movement of our bodies through space. 

Connecting this internal and external awareness of how our bodies flow, we can use the imagery of how water flows to move with more fluidity in our lives. If we move like water, we stay open to possibilities. Water moves under, above, around and through many obstacles. Water flows in places that we may not be able to see right away, opening to new opportunities, and new pathways.




The focus of this yoga offering is to flow with fluidity. To move and breathe like water. Breathing freely and in coordination with movement builds adaptability, flexibility, and resiliency. This video ends in rest pose. Feel free to listen to my newest guided meditation 'Calming Ocean Meditation'' on Insight Timer as you seal in your movement practice.

These breath, movement and meditation offerings are free, your donations to our local yoga studio and charity of choice are encouraged. 

With love and care,
Michelle

Monday, July 20, 2020

Comets, New Moon Mandalas and Yin Yoga!

Comet Neowise is visible to the naked eye until July 23! This frozen ball of ice won't return to our inner solar system for 6,800 years! Look up at the northwest skies about an hour and a half after sunset. Find the Big Dipper and follow its ladle as it arcs in the direction of the horizon. The Comet Neowise will be about as bright as a constellation's stars. Over the next few days, the comet will move higher in the sky and be easier to see, reaching its apex on July 23, when it makes its closest approach to Earth. I have been watching out for it over the past few nights, but the sky has been too hazy. The pictures that have captured the comet on the move have been amazing! The image above is from a New York Times article that details the comet Neowise. Let me know if you see it, I'll keep looking too.


Today is our July New Moon, a celestial awareness of reflection that we are in constant transition every moment of every day. Change isn't coming, change is here. As a way to honor these constant evolutions and our collective growth in life, the boys and I created two New Moon mandalas out of our collections from nature. Creating art as intention brings in a divine quality to our everyday actions. Mandala in Sanskrit, means 'circle'. It is a symbol that focuses one's attention on establishing a sacred space. We created these mandalas as a representation of the greater universe that surrounds us. We will keep them together for a few days to remember that we are a part of something much bigger than ourselves. Try it for yourself. See what you have lying around your home, arrange the found pieces in a circle inside or outside. Notice how the image changes for you as you go about your week.

Sean's mandala is called 'Seacrest'.

Will's mandala is called 'Moonmagic'.


MOVE ~ BREATHE ~ MEDITATE

Yin Yoga: Heart/Lungs/Intestines




This yin style practice focuses on the energy lines of the heart, lungs, and intestines. Yin connects with a slower moving energy of the interior-what lies beneath the surface. Yang energy is faster moving and closer to the surface. In nature, we see yin energy as roots, earthbound, oceanic and phased with the moon. Yang energy is in the bloom of a flower, the heat in air or fire, and in the radiance of the sun and sky. In the body, the heart energy connects with the small intestine, and the lung energy connects with the large intestine. Enjoy these yin poses that bring awareness to the chest, rib cage, spine, upper and lower abdomen. The goal is to bring balance into the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of the body. 

This video ends in relaxation with legs above the heart. To enhance the experience, listen to your favorite relaxing music or Soften & Shine, a free guided meditation intended to ease your transition into summer.

Set a timer or flow with your intuition. 
Settle, sink, and stay.

As we enter the middle of summer here in NE, be gentle with yourself. Take time to stay cool, rest and relax. If we push ourselves too hard, the motivation runs low and becomes depeleted. My hope is that these simple offerings bring you deep connection with yourself and with the world around you. 

Change is here. 

A donation has been made to The Bail Project, as a gift to all the prayers, hopes and dreams that exist in the hearts of those who are risking their lives for freedom. The National Revolving Bail Fund is a non-profit organization, it is a critical tool to prevent incarceration and combat racial and economic disparities in the bail system. 

"You cannot be afraid to speak up and speak out for what you believe. You have to have courage, raw courage."
John Lewis
2/21/1940-7/17/2020

With love and care,
Michelle


Sunday, July 5, 2020

Summer Slow Flow, Full Moon and Lunar Eclipse!

"There is no science in this world like physics. Nothing comes close to the precision with which physics enables you to understand the world around you. It's the laws of physics that allow us to say exactly what time the sun is going to rise. What time the eclipse is going to begin. What time the eclipse is going to end."
Neil deGrasse Tyson
We are settling into the full moon bloom of summer. The July full moon, also known as the "Buck Moon" or "Thunder Moon" was preceded by a prenumbral lunar eclipse within a few degrees of Jupiter, the largest planet in the universe. This subtle eclipse visible to most of North America, western Europe, Africa, all of South America, and New Zealand produced only a dim or partial eclipse due to the positioning of the moon between the earth and the sun. Despite the lackluster eclipse, the full moon energy of this month shines bright.

This season we have already endured some heat, humidity, thunderstorms and heavy rain that July can bring. The summer continues our conservatism of washing, masking and distancing in hopes to prevent a viral surge, and the important revolution for racial and social justice! The actions and emotions that unfold from such a dramatic year, the changing weather, ongoing environmental crisis, increased pollen, and fluctuating barometer pressure can affect each of us differently. Some of us may feel weighted down and sluggish, while others may feel increased energy and stamina pulling in the heightened vibration of this full moon phase. Whatever you are feeling, when you observe and listen to what the body needs, it is the heart of self care.

Here are 3 short, separate sequences to practice that give opportunities to move, breathe and meditate. 




Part 1: This short practice uses the support of the wall to lengthen the spine, open the hips, and release the lower body.



Part 2: This short sequence builds strength and balance coordinating movement and breath.



Part 3: This session is a guided meditation for relaxation. Pentacle pose, also known as Starfish pose is encouraged to fully embody the experience. This guided meditation is taken from Soften & Shine available now on Insight Timer.

May we continue to move, breathe, and meditate our way through this powerful transitory time that will bring change and awareness to our world. 

A donation has been made to BEAM in honor of this summer slow flow series and the July birthdays of inspiring friends Michele and Jenn. BEAM (Black Emotional and Mental Health) is a training, movement building and grant making organization dedicated to the healing, wellness, and liberation of Black and marginalized communities. 

All offerings are free, your donations are encouraged. 

With love and care,
Michelle

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Soften & Shine: Holding Light




"When the sun is shining I can do anything; no mountain is too high, no trouble is too difficult to overcome."
Wilma Rudolph
6/23/1940-11/12/1994
Wilma was acclaimed as the fastest Black woman in the 1960's and the first American woman to win three gold medals in a single Olympic Games. She was a role model for Black and female athletes, and her Olympic successes helped to elevate women's track and field in the United States.
She was also regarded as a civil rights and women's rights pioneer.
Her nickname was 'The Black Gazelle'.
I first heard of Wilma in 1994, the year she passed away. I was graduating high school and had been participating in track and field since I was in middle school. I remember watching a news special about her life and accomplishments. Her story impacted me and influenced how I would take my first steps as a college student.

Summer is here in the northern hemisphere and it's the longest day of the year. As our part of the Earth turns her face toward the sun, the light lingers longer. On June 20, 2020 at 9:43pm the sun will be directly above the Tropic of Cancer and the season of summer begins. The warmth, the green, and the light are all part of this season's gifts. This transition of spring into summer is also a New Moon Solar Eclipse, visible across parts of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. The summer solstice which means 'sun standing still', is a time to soften your body and allow the sunshine to ignite a renewed sense of purpose and increased energy into your life.

This moment in time is one unlike ever before. We are still in the midst of a global pandemic, with uncertainty as to how to reopen, socialize and reconnect. Our world has been turned upside down and many of us are still struggling to find our next steps with work, school, and reuniting with friends and family. The increased time at home has given us more space to explore what is happening in the world around us. We have a long history that doesn't align with equity, justice or freedom despite the words written on our country's documents. We are being called to awaken to this great need for change. We need to rise up, speak up, stand up with those who have been oppressed for hundreds of years. The question lies within our own hearts; do we choose to strive for peace and act upon the transformation required? or do we turn away and allow those in power to continue to control other people through unjust systems based solely on the color of their skin?

I choose peace, which means I choose action. 

Those uprising in protest are using their voices and their bodies to make change happen, take the time to educate yourself on our country's African American history, and make a plan for how your presence can evoke the continued support needed for global equality and to begin the important work of breaking down the systems in place that prevent full freedom for Black Lives. Consider signing up for Nicole Cardoza's Anti Racism Daily emails which offer a clear and concise understanding on how to approach the revolution to dismantle white supremacy. Like yoga, daily efforts toward anti-racism work is a practice, it takes time, commitment, and a willingness to do the work. The force of energy is high as the sun continues to shine over the next few months, let's keep it going until all that is hindering the path of peace has been cleared.


Here are some movement and meditation offerings for 
our summer of action!

Yoga for Increased Energy




This short practice is meant to bring increased energy into the body. 


'Soften & Shine' is available now on Insight Timer
This guided meditation is intended to ease and honor the transition of spring into summer. Reconnect your mind, body and breath through stillness and sunlight.

Let's keep the momentum of this important time going, we have so much work to do. This energy flow is dedicated to 'Juneteenth' and a donation has been made to Black Visions Collective. BLVC believes in a future where all Black people have autonomy, community-led safety, and are in right relationship within the current ecosystems. BLVC is committed to a longterm vision in which ALL Black lives not only matter, but are able to thrive. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Reiki: A Compassionate Meditation

REIKI is positive intention sent through the hands. 



For me, the mind~body~breath connection happens in the heart - at the center of it all. When you place your hands to head, ears, eyes, neck, shoulders, arms, hands, upper chest, belly, hips, legs and feet it is a compassionate practice that extends from the heart.

The lines of energy in the body may be invisible, but they are felt with our senses.  Listening on a deeper level of internal awareness, feeling sensation whether it is comfortable or uncomfortable, connecting with ourselves and our place in the world, and reaching out to others is a meaningful human connection.

This is my Reiki practice, this is my meditation.

The power of a smile can have an amazing effect on the human spirit. Next time you are out, running errands, at work, or interacting with other people, just smile. Smile with a genuine, sincere, present moment connection. The sensation of it will surprise you, and will open the hearts of others too. Smiles and laughter are good for the body, heart and mind. Laughter is said to be the best medicine. When faced with worries, problems, life's difficulties, laughter allows the body to relax and release feel good hormones. A smile is positive energy sent from the heart.

An authentic practice of self care increases your capacity to be of service to others.











Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Slow Flow Yoga: Stand up and Reach out

Stand up ~ Reach out

If you have experienced a yoga class with me, you know my style is a mashup of slower moving shapes guided by comfort and breath. I like to focus on the in between spaces, add in opportunites for longer held poses, and give choices within each pose or transition of poses. I hold a space of safety and support for people to connect to their bodies. Quality time is spent on the breath to center the mind, and give the body time to pace with the rhythm of inhale and exhale. For me, the mind body breath connection happens in the heart - at the center of it all. When you place your hands to head, ears, eyes, neck, shoulders, arms, hands, upper chest, belly, hips, legs and feet it is a compassionate practice that extends from the heart.

After some years of teaching mindful movement, breath and meditation, I like to cultivate a flow that invites opportunities to challenge the effort, sit in discomfort, and find true gratitude in the rest. At the end of a class, the body needs time to re-establish its equilibrium. Try not to skip this part of the practice, it is meant to be a whole experience from centering on sensation and breath to coordinating breath and movement. I share these practices to explore the power of listening and observing to uncover the language of the body. In movement and stillness, the flow is an interpreter for enhanced mind and body communication. All parts working synergistically together towards wholeness.

My goal is to offer a free video class on movement, meditation or breathwork every few weeks until we can meet again in person. Please consider donating to your local yoga studio, business, restaurant, or charity as compensation for this offering. Take this time to educate yourself, look deeply into your heart, and find a way to use your voice and create action for what and who you can support. We must stand up for racial and social injustice and reach out with open hearts. Remember, the purpose of self care is to sustain our capacity to be of powerful service to others.

For a list of organizations to donate to and more details on this 'call to action', please read my previous post.

We carry each other.



This flow focuses on softening into the areas of the body that have built up resistance.
Note: This video ends before relaxation. Please follow up with the guided meditation link below.



Guided Meditation/Rest



This video is meant to provide closure for Slow Flow: Soften and Release. Lie down, or find a comfortable position to relax body and mind. This meditation can be used independently of a movement class to assist in deep relaxation.

Thank you for reading and listening. You can find all my videos on YouTube under Michelle Heron Yoga and free guided meditations on Insight Timer. If you take the time to watch or listen, subscribe and leave me a comment. I would love to hear from you. 

Warmly,
Michelle

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Where does your path lead?


Where does your path lead?

When I'm feeling anger, frustration, sadness, grief, apathy, I go into the woods. I don't go to hide away, I go to observe, to walk with what grows and thrives. I go to find clarity and truth. Nature gives me time and space to listen, to learn how to find my place, how to step forward on my path, how to speak up, how to guide my kids, how to help with the turbulence, how to care for and carry others who need support, and how to bring what is heavy in my heart as action in my hands.

The beauty and access to nature is my privilege. I live in a safe neighborhood with supportive systems who state they believe in welcoming and protecting all residents. I have the ability to work with enough personal protective equipment to keep myself and my family safe, to stay home when not working, and to practice social distancing. I have clean water, plenty of food, and health insurance. I have the freedom to run, walk, drive or speak out in public without the threat of detainment, arrest, or violence. This is my privilege and more.



If you stay awake and aware with what is going on in the world, then you know there has been a collective call to action. We can't stay silent, we must take an active effort to stand up for the platforms that need strengthening. The scales have been tipped for too long benefitting others over everyone. This pandemic has exposed more than our vulnerability, it has uncovered the root of why we are so misaligned, the cracks in the foundation can't hold a system designed to benefit some people and harm others. An unbalanced structure will fail. The problems that need addressing are prevalent; our unequal race, gender, class, education and employment systems, our dysfunctional healthcare and prison systems, violence, police brutality, racial profiling, our polluted Earth, and at the center of it all; our federal government. If we have learned anything during this pandemic, it is that we must pour our hearts into building a new foundation, and stand up for what is right, what is needed, call out and vote for change, promote hope, freedom, and justice for everyone. There will never be peace, love and light without action for authentic justice.




Our world depends on all of us.

I have a small platform here, but I feel I need to use it to speak out against racial and social injustice, systemic and implicit bias, and hold space to listen and learn. I've listed below ways I am taking action to make change.

It starts in my home and in my heart.
My husband and I tell our kids the truth about our country's history, black history, genocide, and slavery. We read books about cultural diversity, racism, world news, and discuss the impact that these events have on all of us. I am currently reading 'The Source of Self Regard' by Toni Morrison, and 'Stamped from the Beginning' by Ibram X. Kendi is next up on my bedside table. My boys have read age appropriate biography books on Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and Bob Marley, whose music goes over big in our house. My older son is reading 'Ghost' by Jason Reynolds, the biography of Muhammad Ali and George Washington Carver are in the wings. My younger son and I recently read 'The Water Princess' inspired by Georgie Badiel, which discusses access to clean potable water for villages in Burkina Faso. This beautifully illustrated book addresses environmental racism, colonialism, sexism, education rights, climate change and wealth inequality. We encourage a safe space to share thoughts and feelings on subjects we don't understand but wish to understand. We keep the conversation open and ongoing.

In my community, I have started seeking out ways to be informed and active in local events that confront implicit and institutional biases. I talk to family, friends and neighbors in an effort to recognize inequity/equity and exclusion/inclusion. I continue to call myself out when a thought or action has been stimulated by my own personal bias. I am on the list to take a course called 'White People Challenging Racism' through Pathways to Restorative Communities. I am following the actions of my city's Human Rights Commission and have attended meetings to increase my awareness of what I can do locally. I am a steward of a little free library that I stock with culturally and ethnically diverse authors that support all age groups. 

As a nurse, I care for patients with compassion, empathy and understanding. I am on alert for racism, harassment, healthcare bias and cultural judgments that are prevalent issues in my work and address any issues within my scope of practice. I attend and pursue continuing education annually for inclusivity and diversity on racial/ethnic and socioeconomic discrimination within my nursing practice. I support initiatives (see list below) that expose the discrepancy within black maternal healthcare, indigenous maternal healthcare, immigrant and refugee families. I work directly with patients who identify with the LGBTQ community, and I support and promote my hospital's non-discrimination policies. 

As a yoga teacher, I share movement, meditation and mindfulness as an accessible option for everyone and accommodate my language to be sensitive to all. I use self care and teach self care practices as a way to increase capacity to be of service to others. I fully acknowledge that I am a white woman teaching an ancient practice with rich philosophy and history that has been modified to fit in our modern society. I focus my education as a yoga practitioner to acknowledge my privilege and stay accountable to include the awareness of intersectionality and cultural appropriation. For more information on this topic, this article written by Shreena Gandhi and Lillie Wolff is a good starting point. 

As much as I support environmental protection, I realize the Earth won't heal until we address our broken humanity. We are killing each other with our hate, our silence, our words, and our inaction. Humanity must take priority here or nothing will change.

We are not powerless. We can use our voices to raise awareness, sign petitions for change, make donations to important charities and causes, vote thoughtfully to eject corrupt politicians out of office, educate ourselves, our children, and lift our hearts and hands toward a more compassionate and morally evolved civilization. The American history textbooks from my public school education did not offer the information that I have had to seek out as an adult. I was taught lies and my children are being taught lies in school. This glossing over of generational education is on purpose, it is a technique to keep people passive, uninvolved in the laws and politics of our countries. If you believe in justice, if you believe in dignity, if you believe in humanity, then stand up, speak up, and show up. As Mahatma Gandhi says, "Be the change you wish to see in this world."

I donate to organizations that uphold the beliefs I stand for to help bring what is needed for this world to heal. Listed below are some of the organizations I follow, have donated to recently and in the past. 
Rainforest Alliance
Ocean Conservancy

I'll make mistakes. I'll say and do the wrong thing. I will keep reading, learning, advocating and educating. I'll keep going, there is so much work to do.
This is where my path leads, where does yours?

#blacklivesmatter
#silenceisviolence
#nopeacenojustice
#intersectionalfeminism
#intersectionalenvironmentalism

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Energy Flow: Yin/Yang Yoga


"Though we all have the fear and the seeds of anger within us, we must learn 
not to water those seeds and instead nourish our positive qualities - 
those of compassion, understanding, and loving kindness." 
Thich Nhat Hanh

Staying present with mental, emotional, and physical sensations in the body is an ongoing conversation. Listening, observing, and acknowledging without reacting is a moment to moment practice of mindfulness. These days there is a lot to process externally, the way we live our lives is changing rapidly, and can become overwhelming quickly. Lately, I've been drawn to a quieter practice, one that allows me to mentally focus on sensation and breath while challenging my physical body. The shapes, when held for 1 minute or more, gently release muscles and connective tissues, while softening my overall disposition.

Yin yoga is a slower paced movement practice that incorporates the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, with specific poses that are held for longer periods of time.

There are 3 main principles of yin yoga.
1. Enter the shape to your appropriate depth of sensation.
2. Allow gravity to take you deeper into the stretch.
3. Stay in the pose for 1, 3, 5, or 10 minutes based on your comfort.

Start with shorter time increments and work your way up to longer time holds. Remember, your body sensation changes day to day, and each respective side of the body may have different boundaries.
The qualities of settling and sensing, sinking and staying, provides the basis for a 'needle-less' acupuncture session.

Yin Yoga: Liver/Gallbladder short session

This short yin session focuses on strengthening the liver/gallbladder meridian lines in the legs, pelvis, hips, low abdomen, chest, neck, and throat. In Chinese Meridian Theory, the liver/gallbladder meridians are paired to harmonize the elements of yin/yang energy. These organs work together to assist in the healthy flow of energy, when these organs are in balance, the flow is clear and unobstructed.

The liver is associated with our ability to change and adapt, to stay flexible with what life brings to our days. The gallbladder relates to our staying the course, to follow our path in life. It also relates to our capacity to regain equilibrium after inevitable disruptions. The combined emotional connections are anger vs compassion. This short session tackles the tension that can build up in hips and hearts. General discomfort in the upper shoulders and back (behind the heart), low back and hips are reflective of heaviness, a weight of discontent. Chronic anger, frustration, explosive impulsivity, defensiveness and resistance build up over time. These emotions must reside somewhere if not let go. Notice if there is a place in your body where you feel tightness regularly, now breathe into those areas with a gentle quality of tenderness. This is the first step in the practice. It is much easier to succumb to unhealthy coping skills by making choices that quickly relieve or numb. Begin with the breath, give yourself time, care, love and compassion without judgment. It is not the quicker fix, but it does chip away at the root of it all. The goal is to keep the energy flowing. The sense door for the liver/gallbladder channel are the eyes. Energy that flows swiftly and freely allows for clarity of vision. Look deeper into what you want, need and feel.

The poses chosen for this short yin session heighten the inner aspect of the legs, knees, hips, pelvis, groin, abdomen, chest, neck and throat. Set a timer and enjoy the yin flow.




Safety: This video focuses on the energy lines of the body related to the liver and gallbladder, it is not a replacement for conventional medical care if needed. Be guided by comfort and breath.

Music credit: Opus 23 by Dustin O'Halloran


Yang Yoga: Body in Balance

Balance in life is everything. We balance work, responsibility, decisions, choices, emotions, and actions. To find that sweet spot of homeostasis we need to breathe and move, elevate our hearts to receive. Strength and grounding requires a firm base for growth to take shape and flourish. Listening and observing what is needed day to day, or moment to moment allows for opportunities to cultivate an attitude of attentiveness, awareness and loving kindness. While yin yoga attends to our inner energy to build a slow and steady softening with static poses, yang yoga is mobile, creating space to warm up the joints, lengthen the extremities, progressing towards potential of adaptability and endurance and strength. Finding an appropriate edge to push ourselves to a point of challenge and effort without injury increases our body's capacity to evolve. 



Safety: This is a moderate grounding practice, stay safe and be guided by breath and comfort. 

With love and care,
Michelle

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Notes on Nursing

'Give me strength and wisdom, when others need my touch; 
A soothing word to speak to them, their hearts yearn so much.
Give me joy and laughter, to lift a weary soul;
Pour in me compassion, to make the broken whole.
Give me gentle, healing hands, for those placed in my care;
A blessing to those who need me, this is a Nurse's Prayer."

This is the view I want my patients to see, not the face behind the mask, the tight fitting respirator, the face shield, the gown, and the gloves. The social distancing, shielding, and mandatory mask wearing for every patient interaction is new world nursing, and it may continue for the rest of my career. As a daughter, sister, wife, and mama, I have been a caregiver for most of my life. I graduated nursing school at the age of 20 and had my first job in a hospital taking care of patients when I turned 21. Since then, I have had the pleasure of working in many different areas and with many wonderful people. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been functioning as a relief nurse in an urban community hospital, which means I am floated to where I am needed. If you are a nurse, you know that floating is a challenge. As professionals, we have the ability to specialize within the healthcare field, fine tune our nursing skills, and take pride in our experience practicing in the areas we thrive in. With 17 years working as an intensive care nurse, I tansitioned to post anesthesia nursing 5 years ago for a much needed reprieve from caring for patients and families in crisis. I work part-time and enjoy caring for patients having surgery. The skill set is specific, fast paced and full of health related teaching. Most of the patients go home, and that is good to see from a personal perspective. For the past few months, my job has changed every day. I have had to adapt, remain flexible, and expect the unknown.

This week marks a celebration of nurses and nursing as May 12 is International Nurse's Day. 2020 honors 200 years of modern nursing, led by Florence Nightingale on the day of her birth. Florence Nightingale was a war nurse, a British social reformer, a writer, a teacher, and a mathematical statistician. She is the reason every prospective nurse must take statistics in college. Her work focused on the very basics of health, including sanitation, hygiene, observation, and common sense.

The World Health Organization (WHO) designated this year the 'Year of the Nurse and Midwife', highlighting the role of nurses that make up the majority (more than 50%) of the healthcare force worldwide. An initiative of the WHO is to bring adequate healthcare to humans across the globe. The organization believes that nurses are the "bridge", a crucial link between the complex healthcare systems and the people in the communities. Nurses are on the "front lines" of healthcare, and are the key factor in achieving this goal. The nursing profession has been ranked the most trusted profession for the eighteenth consecutive year as noted by the Gallup poll. Nurses continue to uphold the highest ethical standards out of a wide range of professions, including doctors, police, and teachers.

This year also marks the release of the first ever 'World Nursing Report', which provides an assessment of the 'fitness for purpose' relative to the General Programme of Work from 2019-2023 (GPW13). The leadership priorities are high, with goals to reduce global maternal mortality by 30% and reducing malaria case incidences by 50%. Gender equality, health equity, strengthened national, regional, and global capacity for epidemic prevention and protection, communicable and non-communciable diease prevention, mental health prioritization, and addressing the health impacts of climate change and its associated environmental risks are just some of the other outcomes this report hopes to achieve.

In addition to the WHO efforts, the "Nursing Now" campaign, endorsed by Kate Middleton, elevates the role of nursing in health promotion, disease prevention, and access to treatment. If you want to support this movement, you can join Nursing Now, pledge, raise awareness, and share your experiences.


As a young nurse, one of the first books I read about the profession was 'Notes on Nursing: what it is and what it is not' by Florence Nightingale. I recently re-read this book, as it had been over 10 years since I pulled it off my bookshelf. Originally published in 1860, it is amazing to me how her research on nursing remains the foundation for health care, prevention and treatment. She stressed the power of observation, experience, non-judgment, cleanliness, hydration, nourishing foods, healing environments, and strict sanitation as the fundamentals to becoming "a good nurse." Her "notes" were meant to provide knowledge and practical advice on the very basics of how to nurse, with the belief that anyone who has ever had personal charge of the health of others, is a nurse. The details to which she describes the importance of the health of one's house to keep families healthy is still valid today. In the section titled, "Health of Houses", she states the five essential points in securing the health of one's house:

1. Pure Air. 2. Pure Water. 3. Efficient Drainage. 4. Cleanliness. 5. Light.

With regard to ventilation and light, Nightingale states, "A dark house is always an unhealthy house, always an ill-aired house, always a dirty house. People lose their health in a dark house, and if they get ill they cannot get well again in it."

In addition to these essential points, Nightingale writes about how dirty, overcrowded hospitals often meant death for patients. Her observations of sick patients led to the practice of compassionate care, acknowledging the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects that make up a whole person. Hygiene, cleanliness and sanitation were top priorities. "Every nurse ought to be careful to wash her hands very frequently during the day. If her face too, so much the better." She promoted the importance of rest and sleep, pointing out that an environment filled with unnecessary noise and too many people is not a healing environment. She addressed the unethical situations of talking loudly, having conversations over patients, and generally having disregard for one's healing process related to overstimulation of their senses and emotions, an issue still prevelant today.

As nurses, we continue to uphold these standards and carry on a legacy of nursing that is filled with other inspiring caregivers. Here are a few examples of amazing nurses in history.

Clara Barton was originally a teacher, but became an independent nurse during the Civil War. She is most famous for her relief work with an organization known as the International Red Cross. Her statue at the State House in Boston, MA was an inspiring symbol to me when I first saw it on a fifth grade field trip with my class. 


Mary Jane Seacole was a Jamaican born Creole nurse who utilized traditional African and Caribbean medicines along with modern knowledge of medicine and infection. 

Dorothea Dix a teacher and mental health advocate helped provide humane housing and treatment for people suffering with mental illness during her lifetime. 

Mary Eliza Mahoney was the first African American registered nurse in post-Civil War era U.S. who paved the way for other women of color to receive formal nursing training. She held positions of respect and leadership, joined what is now known as the American Nurses Association, and was one of the first women in Boston to register to vote in 1920.

Lillian Wald founded the first organization of "Public Health Nurses" in New York, her focus was caring for immigrants, and people who couldn't afford healthcare. 


Walt Whitman was an American poet, essayist, journalist, humanist, and volunteer nurse during the Civil War. "The Wound Dresser", one of Whitman's "Drum Taps" poems, described his service as a nurse during this time. 



I don't know what the future of my nursing career holds, but I do know that for me, nursing has always been a practice of hopesupport, strengthening, caring, cheering, and empowering others to nurse themselves.

2020
~The Year of the Nurse and Midwife~
This post is dedicated to all essential workers, and to those who have taught me to nurse, and who continue to inspire me to be a nurse. 

Friday, May 8, 2020

Yin/Yang Flow: A balanced practice



Qi ~ Ki ~ Prana ~ Life Force energy is the spark that animates all living things. We are made of this energy that flows through our bodies weaving along our muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, connective tissue and organs of the body. Meridians are energetic pathways of flow. The goal is to have the energy flow freely, unobstructed and accessible. Life happens and our energy changes, the flow moves more sluggishly or stops completely causing symptoms, sensation and discomfort within the body. The practice of listening, paying attention and becoming aware of what is happening inside the body, as well as outside the body is just the beginning.

In Chinese Meridian Theory, Yin and Yang exist to keep the balance. Yin and Yang are adjectives to describe qi energy.

Yin represents the receptive, passive, darker, more hidden energy that is connected with the moon and the feminine aspect of things.

Yang represents the dynamic, active, brighter, closer to the surface energy that is connected with the sun and the masculine aspect of things.

The way we move at different times of the day is our body communicating to our brains what the preference of qi is day to day, and moment to moment. Noticing what types of movement your body needs and what feels right for you is a lifelong process. If you have a practice of moving, breathing and meditating then this information will help guide you toward balance.

These days there are a lot of unknowns, finding ways to bring stability, resilience, effort and ease into the body, heart and mind is an ongoing practice.

Below you will find two different styles of yoga. Take time to reflect and evaluate what type of movement will bring you into wholeness and enjoy the practices I have shared with you.

Yin Yoga: Kidney/Bladder short session

Yin Yoga is a passive practice of staying with sensation and breath. Yin yoga uses gravity and time to bring release, softening and surrender into the body, heart and mind. This short yin session focuses on strengthening the kidney/bladder meridian lines, pelvis, low abdomen and low back. In Chinese Meridian Theory, the kidney-bladder meridians are paired to harmonize the elements to the yin/yang energy. These organs work together to maintain the vibrant quality of energy flow. The kidneys house our essence energy, known as jing which is inherited upon birth and displays our general constitution towards life. The emotional connections of fear, insecurity and mistrust must be balanced with knowledge, wisdom, experience and openness. The sense door associated with the kidney/urinary bladder meridian are the ears, listen to what your body is trying to communicate. Sink, settle and stay.




Yang Yoga: Slow Flow Style: Stabilize and Strengthen

Yang yoga is an active practice of coordinating movement and breath. Yang yoga uses props and awareness of comfort to flow safely. This specific flow is set at a slower pace to connect with alignment and breath, a practice of steadying to carry us into the weeks ahead.


A balanced yoga practice consists of moving into shapes or postures to stimulate the muscles, blood, and meridians that are housed in the connective tissue. Slow, conscious, focused breathing regulates the nervous system and enhances the energy coming into the body. Meditating can be done in many ways, finding the form that allows space to connect to sensation and breath is one way to focus the mind and stay with moment to moment awareness.

Newly published 'Awaken your Energy Body' free guided meditation on Insight Timer, check it out!

See you soon,
Michelle

Monday, May 4, 2020

May the 4th Be With You

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...

we held Jedi Yoga classes and workshops for kids to carry on the teachings of moving, breathing and meditating in a fun and creative way. The stories told by George Lucas in the epic saga, 'Star Wars' was based on the Zen philosophy of Mahayana Buddhism, which is all about understanding the world beyond thoughts and language. It also has roots in Taoism, which is a religion based on being true to our real nature, living in harmony with the universe, and cultivating qi, which is the energy the 'FORCE' is based on. This Life Force is our primordial energy, it creates life, and makes it grow. Other cultures in the world acknowledge this Life Force Energy as 'ki', 'prana', and 'mana'.

"The strongest stars have hearts of kyber."
Chirrut Imwe
We used 'selenite' crystals to symbolize our 'kyber' crystals, and received them upon completing Jedi challenges.
"The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, it penetrates us; 
it binds the galaxy together." 
Obi-Wan Kenobi

The main characters in the story strive toward a way of living in the 'light' which honor virtues of goodness, kindness, truth, patience and peace. Our yoga classes weaved in the yoga sutras or 'threads of knowledge', as well as Patanjali's 'eight limbs or branches of yoga to enhance the power of knowledge, wisdom, concentration, breath, balance and strength to build the merit of a modern day Jedi warrior. We had a lot of fun in the early days of 'Jedi Yoga', and in honor of our Star Wars day, here are a few ways to move with the 'Force'!

A Wing Pose
X Wing Pose

Y Wing Pose

Stand with your feet grounded into the mat, floor, or Earth for A Wing Pose. Engage the muscles that support the joints of your ankles, knees, and hips. Walk your feet out further than hip width, in a wide standing base. Once you feel strong and steady, inhale your arms up overhead. Press the palms together on the exhale. Try holding this pose for a few cycles of breathing in and out. For a challenge, keep your focus on a mantra.

A mantra is a repetitive phrase or word used to help focus the mind. 

Inhale: "I am one with the FORCE" Exhale: "The FORCE is with me"

X Wing Pose keeps the same position in the lower body, while the arms open out wider than the shoulders. Try holding this pose for a few rounds of breath. To bring movement into this pose, as if your are soaring through the sky, begin to shift the arms with the breath. Inhale arms up, exhale arms down, then coordinate the breath to move the arms side to side, as if you are navigating through asteroids. 

Walk the feet together for Y Wing Pose and stand firm with the feet aligned under the hips. When ready, inhale the arms up overhead creating the letter 'Y' with the shape of your body. Breathe in and out for 5-10 cycles. Practicing these 3 poses will lengthen the spine, build strength, steadiness, and stability in the body, and bring clear focus to the mind. Close your eyes, notice your feelings, and use the FORCE. When you feel complete, lower your arms down by your side, and try these next few poses to bring in a feeling of calm, relaxed energy.

Yoda Pose

Start to bend through your knees and lower your hips and pelvis into a classic yoga squat. Press into the feet, and try bringing the palms of your hands together. Pause, and breathe peace and patience in Yoda Pose, to awaken the Force within.


R2D2 Pose/Table pose

R2D2 Pose/Child Pose

Resting R2D2 Pose

Start in table pose, or hands and knees pose, aka R2D2 Pose. A blanket or padded mat is nice to use when resting weight on the knees. Begin to breathe into the length of the spine, while pressing down through the hands and tops of feet. Slowly rock forward and back warming up the 'squeaky' droid joints of the shoulders and hips. Exhale all the way down into child pose, resting the belly on the tops of the thighs. When ready to breathe in again, press into the hands and tops of feet and push back up into table pose. Flow in and out of R2D2 pose with the breath until you are ready to stay in Resting R2D2 pose. Stay in this pose for 5-10 cycles of breath. Observe how you feel in body and mind while breathing in and out.


BB8 Pose: Rock & Roll

Take the time to press up, cross the ankles, and sit up before gently lying down spine to mat for BB8 Pose. Draw both knees in toward your chest, and begin to rock and roll. Try rocking forward and rolling back and sway like BB8 would travel. As the movement slows, try rocking and rolling from side to side before settling in for a long resting pose. Have someone cover you with a blanket, and use props to support the weight of your body to bring in coziness and comfort. Close your eyes, and keep your mind awake, while relaxing all the muscles of your body. Set the timer for 5-10 minutes, or if you are settling in for a longer rest, listen to 'Space Meditation' on Insight Timera free guided meditation that was written and inspired by all our Jedi Yogi's.

May you be kind and peaceful.
May you be safe and healthy.
May the FORCE be with you.