Thursday, June 20, 2024

Summertime Yoga

 

"Slow buds the pink dawn like a rose from night's gray and cloudy sheath, softly and still it grows and grows, petal by petal, leaf by leaf." Susan Coolidge

Summer is the time to enjoy all the earth elements, soak in the sunshine, breathe in the air, swim in the ocean, and be in nature. In years past, I have taken time off from teaching yoga while my kids are on school break. As my kids grow older, they are more independent, responsible, and focused on their own interests. I am finding myself with more personal time on days off to unwind, tend to my garden, read the many books I have stacked up, and to share the practice of yoga that brings joy and peace to my body, heart, and mind. This being the season of longer days, I'm looking forward to vacation with family and friends, moments of play, spontaneity, and relaxation. I aim to bring that energy into my life by not overfilling my schedule and creating spaciousness in my offerings. 

Please find my summer schedule and links to FREE yoga and meditation below.

Weekly in-person classes:

$5 drop in at Wakefield and Melrose Senior Centers. 

Monday Chair Yoga (11a-12n) in Wakefield, MA at the McCarthy Senior Center will be led by my friend and colleague Mimi Izzo for July and August. 

Thursday Gentle Yoga (8:45a-9:45a) and Chair Yoga (10a-11a) in Melrose, MA at the Milano Senior Center will continue with me. 

I plan to sub in yoga classes as I can at all 4 YMCA Metro North branches in Melrose, Saugus, Peabody, and Lynn. As of now, I'm scheduled to teach Yoga Flow on Sunday July 28 10a-11a in Peabody, Gentle Yoga on Saturday August 10 10:15a-11:15a, and Chair Yoga on Friday August 16 11a-12n in Peabody. 

Starting July 16, I'll be sharing FREE virtual yoga at my local library on Tuesdays 11a-12n. I'll guide you through 4 weeks of restorative poses and mindful meditation to soften into summer. Register for each class on the Melrose Public Library website or call 781-665-2313 for assistance. 

I recently recorded 2 new videos and posted to my YouTube page. 

Chair Yoga with Weights is a ~30 minute active seated practice.

Summer Slow Flow is a ~55 minute practice to welcome the warmth and light of the season. 

You can find all my yoga videos here and my guided meditations here.


Lastly, Joshin Kokyu Ho is a reiki breathing technique known as the light breathI share this technique often in my yoga classes, it's a gentle breath to welcome in Summer.

Find a comfortable seat with your spine supported, place your tongue at the roof of your mouth. Bring your awareness to the crown of your head, inhale through the nose, pull the breath into your body and imagine light pouring in through the crown of your head. As you hold the breath in your body for 1-2 seconds imagine the light extending down into your heart, arms, lower abdomen, and legs. Release your tongue to the lower palate as you exhale through your nose, allow the image of light to flow out through your hands, fingertips, feet, and toes. Imagine the light surrounding you and with every breath in and out the light continues to hold you. As you surround yourself with healing light, allow this light to extend outward. You may want to bring someone, something, or someplace into your mind's eye and transform the image of light into loving kindness energy. This practice of holding, caring, and supporting is reiki light energy. When you feel complete, return to a natural flow of breath. Notice how you feel.

Mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning both "circle" and "center" representing the visible world around us and the invisible world within us. 

June's new moon nature mandala led to the summer solstice, the longest day when the sun "stands still" holding light. These mandalas symbolize intention in the ordinary moments of the day, staying connected to the earth as the seasons change. Look around your home, go outside for a walk, get into nature, see what beauty you can gather. Nature mandalas are easy to create, follow your inner wisdom. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

May offerings: Yoga, Meditation, and Community Resources

 

"Caring is the bridge that connects us to one another." Thich Nhat Hanh

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and many of you know I began practicing yoga over 20 years ago as a college graduate and young nurse managing anxiety, insomnia, and overwhelm. This many layered practice has been a foundation for me through the years and I lovingly share it within my community. Four years ago, I had the longest stretch of not teaching yoga due to the COVID-19 pandemic. My friends and yoga colleagues were unable to maintain their studios and I lost my spaces to teach. Working as a nurse in the hospital was stressful, uncertain, and scary. It was a time when I really needed to lean into my support systems to cope. This took time, but once I felt safe and grounded within myself, I was able to find a path towards sharing yoga again that aligned with my personal ethics and values. Listening to what was needed and giving myself time was essential. 

There continues to be a lot going on in the world that requires attention, activism, and increased energy to process. Finding ways to stay balanced in mind and body is unique and different for everyone. I believe the practice of self care increases one's capacity to be of service to others and there are many valuable coping resources available. 

Here are a few offerings that may provide support. 

The U.S. Surgeon General talks about the importance of social connection as a way to assist feelings of loneliness, social isolation, and mental health challenges. Health and Human Services has provided specific actions on the healing effects of social connection. 

Tara Brach is a psychologist, author, and Buddhist meditation teacher. She has written books and offers donation based guided meditations and teachings. I have enjoyed her offerings in person and continue to listen as I appreciate her gentle style of blending eastern and western philosophy. I found her most recent podcast and conversation Living with a Courageous Heart in Times of Crisis helpful and insightful. 

The Melrose Health and Wellness Coalition has community trainings available to learn more about mental health awareness. These trainings are free and open to all. 

Every Thursday evening, the city of Melrose offers a Mindful Meditation in-person sitting group at the Milano Center in Melrose, MA. This is a generous and wonderful, free resource (donations accepted) within our community. I had the pleasure of attending a session recently and will be going to more as my schedule allows. 


Here is my teaching schedule for the month of May.

In addition to my weekly yoga offerings in Wakefield and Melrose (see below), I'll be subbing a few yoga classes at the YMCA in May. 

I hope you will join me on Saturday May 11 10:15a-11:15a for Gentle Yoga in Saugus, MA and on Tuesday May 14 6:30p-7:30p for Yoga Flow in Lynn, MA. 

Weekly in-person classes:

$5 drop in at Wakefield and Melrose Senior Centers. 

Monday Chair Yoga (11a-12n) in Wakefield, MA at the McCarthy Senior Center.

Thursday Gentle Yoga (8:45a-9:45a) and Chair Yoga (10a-11a) in Melrose, MA at the Milano Senior Center.

I'll continue to sub in yoga classes as I can at all 4 YMCA Metro North branches in Melrose, Saugus, Peabody, and Lynn. 

I have had requests for more chair based yoga videos and will record one soon. I'm also in the planning stages for a virtual summer yoga series through the Melrose Public Library. Details to follow.

You can find my free yoga videos here and my free guided meditations here.

Mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning both "circle" and "center" representing the visible world around us and the invisible world within us. 

May's new moon nature mandala honors the earth and flowers, bringing cheer and color therapy for mood boosting. This is a busy time of year, sending love out to all going through transitions. Change is constant and hope is essential. These mandalas symbolize intention in the ordinary moments of the day, staying connected to the earth as the seasons change. Look around your home, go outside for a walk, get into nature, see what beauty you can gather. Nature mandalas are easy to create, follow your inner wisdom. 

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Ritu Sandhi + Spring Vegetable Soup

"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished."

Lao Tzu


 Ritu Sandhi, the seasonal junction.

Ritu = season

Sandhi = junction or meeting place


The transition of time that exists between the ending of one season and the beginning of another, can overlap. There are moments of what is to come and then there are moments of what was. This beautiful waxing and waning of the seasons is a place of beauty and honoring of Mother Nature. 

The practice of Ayurveda observes Ritu Sandhis as a period of about 2 weeks between seasons, but sometimes it can feel longer. Like yoga, Ayurveda is a practice of bringing balance to the mind-body-spirit connection. To stay in rhythm with nature's cycles, we pay attention to seasonal living or Ritucharya. Ritu translated as season and Charya translated as regimen. The seasonal shifting of Ritu Sandhi is a gradual process and if you are of the mindset that we, as humans are part of nature, then shifting gradually through rituals that support us during the seasonal transitions is essential. 

I'm writing this on a Thursday in early April, where it is wet, cold, and raining snow. There was no snow day called but how I wish there was! Instead, I'm gathering my warmest layers and waterproof clothes to walk my dog and get myself ready for work. Even though spring is here, I'm still sipping tea, enjoying cooked foods, and making soups. Why? because my body needs to transition slowly, I am nature, and I am moving gradually into the new season we are in. 

 On this chilly, wet day in early spring, I'm sharing a soup recipe I made this week that came out really good. It feels nourishing and balancing to support myself in ways that connect me with nature and the changing seasons. Spring is a good time to eat more vegetables and legumes, it's also a good time to eat your greens. The benefits of leafy greens are numerous and this soup recipe is versatile. I used kale as I had it in my crisper, but you could use collards, dandelion greens, red cabbage, baby spinach, Swiss chard, mustard or turnip greens. Legumes are a great source of protein, I had red kidney beans and frozen edamame, which was an interesting replacement for petite peas. I really like green squash (zucchini), so even though it's not in season yet, I added it to my soup to switch it up from the orange winter squash. 

Spring Vegetable Soup


Start with making a soffrito, which is essentially the same as a mirepoix, the essential foundation of soup and sauces, but uses olive oil instead of butter. 

Gather your ingredients, 2 leeks, 3 medium carrots, 2 celery stalks, 1 medium sized zucchini, 2 garlic cloves, and a piece of dried kombu.

Rinse 2 leeks with the root and green stalk cut off, slice your leeks in half lengthwise and wash in between the layers to remove any extra dirt, then slice the leeks into smaller half moons for your sauté. 

Wash and peel 3 medium sized orange and yellow carrots, slice into small cubes.

Wash 2 celery stalks and slice length wise and cut into small half moons.

1 medium sized green squash (zucchini) washed and cut into cubes. 

Add the diced vegetables to a large soup pot with 2-4 Tablespoons of EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) on low/medium heat, add a pinch of flake sea salt, cracked pepper, 1-2 teaspoons of red pepper flake, and 1-2 teaspoons of herbs de Provence. Stir and sauté until softened, about 5-8 minutes. 

Gently grate 2 peeled garlic cloves into your soffrito. I prefer this method for garlic as it's better for flavor distribution. Add in a piece of dried kombu (sea vegetable) for an umami taste and additional vitamins and minerals for your broth. 

Add 32 ounces of low salt vegetable broth (homemade or store bought). 

*Homemade vegetable broth is so easy, just save all your veggie scraps, put them in a large pot, cover with filtered water, and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Strain out all the veggies and you have veggie broth you can use immediately or freeze for later. 

Add 1 1/2 cups red kidney beans and 1 1/2 cup of green peas or edamame. You can use frozen peas and canned beans, just make sure the canned beans are salt free. 

Simmer the soup on low/medium heat for 20 minutes. 

Add any chopped leafy greens to the soup and simmer for another 10 minutes. I used a handful of kale that I cut the tough center rib out of, so the greens would be tender. Take the soup off the heat, let it sit for 5 minutes before serving. 

There are some delicious "extras" that boost the nutritional value and flavor of this soup. After serving the soup into a bowl, I added a spoonful of sweet brown rice miso. Miso is a savory, fermented food with anti oxidative and anti inflammatory benefits. I also added a few shakes of nutritional yeast, its nutty flavor has high fiber, protein, and B vitamins. I pre-cooked "pastina" pasta, which I remember eating as a child and added it into the soup for comfort value. Millet is a great gluten free replacement that has a similar texture and size. Enjoy!

Friday, March 1, 2024

Winter into Spring Yoga



Starting March 12, I'll be sharing virtual yoga at my local library on Tuesdays from 11a-12n. I'll guide you through 4 weeks of gentle yoga to help shake off winter and move into spring. Register online for each class on the Melrose Public Library website or call 781 665 2313 for assistance. Library yoga is a special tradition, I hope to see some of you there!

As a follow up to my Yoga for Strength classes, I have a 3 part Movement Break series for you! Each video shares short bursts of movement when there may be time limitations or you whenever you need a template to get moving. These classes are a special thank you for continuing to inspire me to keep going. It has been a joy seeing so many of you show up alongside me in weekly classes at the Y and to receive your emails saying how much you enjoyed the strength series.  If you want to receive the 3 Movement Break videos during the month of March, send me a note and I will add you to the list. 

Here are a few more yoga and meditation offerings for you to practice anytime, anywhere. 

Spring Flow focuses on twisting, balancing, and strengthening for enhanced circulation and energy activation.  Awaken Your Energy Body and Relax & Renew are guided meditations that may help support you during this season. 

Weekly in-person classes:

Monday morning Chair Yoga (11a-12n) in Wakefield, MA at the McCarthy Senior Center.

Thursday morning Gentle Yoga (8:45-9:45a) and Chair Yoga (10a-11a) in Melrose, MA at the Milano Senior Center.

I'll continue to sub in yoga classes as I can at all 4 YMCA Metro North branches in Melrose, Saugus, Peabody, and Lynn.

Saturday, February 3, 2024

February offerings {sharing the love}

 

Welcome February, the shortest and last full month of winter. This year we have an extra day due to leap year as it takes 365.25 days for the Earth to orbit the Sun. The first weekend of February marks the halfway point of winter with each day getting closer to spring and more light. 

February is known for being a month dedicated to love and deep wintering. Author Katherine May describes wintering as those moments when life turns cold through crisis or loss and we find ourselves living at a different or slower pace. In the natural world, winter is a time of retreat and hibernation, wintering is where our bodies and souls seek rest and recuperation. With all that is going on in the world, having a month that symbolizes love and care may be just what is needed. 

February love can be expressed as small acts of service, showing up by shoveling neighbors sidewalks, steps or driveways, dropping a surprise note in someone's mailbox letting them know you are thinking of them, or baking up mini sweet breads, muffins, or cakes to give away. February is a time to cozy up under blankets, snuggle your pets, read a book, watch a movie, or cook winter foods. February can also be a start towards making room in your schedule for taking care of your body, heart, and mind through yoga, movement, and meditation. This may look like finding a few minutes in your day to connect to your breath, taking a break, listening to a guided meditation, enjoying an energized yoga flow, or a slower paced, restorative rest.

Here are a few practices to help sustain your self care.

A few years ago I wrote Heart Light Meditation and published it to Insight Timer. This short meditation is my valentine gift to you. It is meant to promote a sense of loving awareness within oneself. Spending a few minutes visualizing the expansiveness of the heart space sends messages to our cells and helps stop the patterning of negative or worried thought cycles. Sit back or lie down, relax, and listen. 

Back to Your Heart is a gentle yoga flow I recorded two years ago. This video highlights the head, neck, upper back, and shoulders connecting with the heart space.  

Low Back Love is a slow flow I recorded during a time when I was struggling with my now chronic low back discomfort. This video shares mindfully paced movement with gentle awareness to the muscles in the body that support and strengthen the low back. 

February {open-hearted} Flow is a ~60 minute heart centered flow with breath connection.

Monday morning Chair Yoga (11a-12n) in Wakefield at the McCarthy Senior Center will continue as well as Thursday morning Gentle Yoga (8;45a-9:45a) and Chair Yoga (10a-11a) in Melrose at the Milano Senior Center

Those who are 60+ in surrounding towns and cities are welcome. 

There will be NO class on Monday 2/19/24.

In March, I will be hosting a 4-week online yoga series through the Melrose Public Library. More details to follow as we get closer to the dates. 


Here are a few more generous offerings from friends and colleagues. 


Please join my friend Linda Sheehan of Kind Kitchen as she hosts a winter workshop for women. Linda has been practicing Ayurveda and living a vegan lifestyle for some time now. I've had the pleasure of enjoying her delicious recipes and attending past workshops where she shares her knowledge as a guide toward seasonal self care. I've had many long walks and talks in the woods with Linda through the seasons, I feel lucky to live so close to her. Linda has inspired me to eat more plant based meals and has helped me get creative with vegan and vegetarian cooking for my kids. Many of my go-to weekly family meals have come from her. 



2024 marks twenty years of learning reiki, choosing to bring this practice into my life, and sharing it with those I love. I have had the pleasure of meeting many reiki practitioners as a nurse which makes for a wonderfully healing and holistic working environment. Parris Frediani is one of my nursing colleagues who has mastered the art of work life balance and is now opening a Mindful Living studio in Bedford, NH. Her passion for helping and caring for others is palpable, she has many years of experience working as an emergency room nurse with families in crisis. Her skills and pursuit of living and learning reiki, MBSR techniques, and mindful meditation are inspiring. 

Save the date for Moments of Serenity Mindful Living studio open house this February. 

Monday, January 29, 2024

Winter Foods

 
"Learn to cook, try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless and above all have fun." Julia Child
 

During the colder months of winter, root vegetables are the best in-season foods for nourishment and comfort. A root vegetable is one that grows underground, they are nutrient dense foods rich in fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, minerals and antioxidants which all help support winter nutrition. To stay healthy and balanced during the seasons focus on eating root vegetables such as potato, carrot, celery, onion, beet, turnip, parsnip, garlic, ginger, fennel, and leek just to name a few. 

In winter, outward energies are directed inward to help bring in a sense of conservation and rest. To stay in rhythm with nature's cycles, we pay attention to seasonal living or Ritucharya. Ritu meaning season and Charya meaning regimen. Attuning our energies and consuming foods that are "in season" and creating meals that feel good in our bodies can bring in a sense of balance. 

Ayurveda practices can gently guide us towards harmony within nature. 

Winter can be associated with cold and flu season as we spend more time indoors, sometimes with larger groups of people. Stress plays a role too, work and responsibility can feel overwhelming leading to a mental/physical imbalance. The sense of go, go, go continues despite the weather being colder adding in freezing rain, ice and snow. There is always something to do but prioritizing the act of slowing down, spending more time at home, and preparing meals instead of going out to eat can provide a sense of peace and stress relief to body and mind. Eating foods that boost your immunity during this season is a win. The immune system plays a crucial role in fighting off disease and infection. With 70-80% of our immune cells present in the gastrointestinal system, there is a big connection between our microbiome, our epithelial intestinal layers of absorption, excretion, and immunity. 


In addition to root vegetables, squash are a wonderful addition to add to winter nutrition. My favorite is kabocha squash also known as Japanese pumpkin, which has a sweetness and delicious texture that complements any dish. Butternut, honey nut and acorn squash are easy to roast and can be filled with quinoa, nuts, and dried fruits.


Roasting vegetables can enhance and intensify natural flavors, adding in a sweetness as the sugars caramelize in the high temperatures. Unlike boiling vegetables, roasting maintains the nutrition content present in each vegetable. Potato leek soup is one of my favorite soups, this year I roasted all the ingredients and blended them with an immersion blender. It was so delicious, I may not go back to boiled potato leek soup again. The combination of roasted yellow potato, leek, fennel, and garlic was perfection. 



Roasted garlic has to be the magical ingredient to any savory soup, sauce, or side dish. The mellow, nutty, richness makes everything taste better. Spreadable, creamy roasted garlic on fresh sourdough bread is heavenly. Garlic is so good for you, promoting heart health by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. Allicin is the medicinal compound present in garlic and may boost immune function. 


Here are some simple health tips for winter to help keep you balanced throughout the season. 

Rest: Sleep hygiene is essential, with long nights and shorter days our circadian rhythms crave rest. Try a cup of herbal tea in the evening to help you wind down. Chamomile, lavender, peppermint and valerian are soothing herbs to encourage relaxation, add in passionflower if you have worried thoughts. 

Reduce Stress: Limit screen time, read a book, listen to music or a guided meditation. Try the beautiful practice of abhyanga, an Ayurvedic warm oil self massage that reduces muscle stiffness, lowers blood pressure, promotes lymphatic drainage, improves circulation and skin health. Allow the oil to seep into your skin for 10-20 minutes before enjoying a warm shower or bath. 

Exercise: No matter what season we are in, moving your body is the best healthy routine we can do. Our bodies need stimulation, get outside, get on a treadmill and start walking to get your heart pumping. Try a group exercise class or yoga to keep your body and mind healthy. There are many benefits to walking in winter and a great way to connect with nature if you choose the woods and trails off the beaten path. 

Nutrition: In general, winter is a time to drink warm, hot beverages and eat cooked foods. Raw vegetables and fruits take longer to digest decreasing absorption of nutrients. The body also expends extra energy to break down these foods. Warm water with a squeeze of lemon, orange or lime can brighten your palate and get your metabolism moving. 

Herbs: In addition to root vegetables, there are many winter herbs that help support health and immunity. Thyme, oregano, sage, winter savory, and sorrel are still growing in my garden despite the snow and cold temperatures. These herbs taste and smell amazing, they make great additions to any roasted vegetables and blend well into many recipes. 

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Winter offerings: Yoga + Meditation for you 💫


Winter is here and it is a season filled with light, warmth, rest and growth. 

Like the new moon times of the year, winter can be a special time of going within and caring for ourselves. 

Wherever you are, I invite you to turn your attention inward. Notice how you are feeling in mind and body without judgment. Observe yourself in the moment you are in. It may be helpful to place a hand on your heart and a hand on your lower belly. Feel into the softness of your body breathing in and out. Ask yourself what is needed and give yourself a few moments to listen. Perhaps it's a simple act of nourishment with food or water, maybe it's a change in body position or the need to take a break and rest. Offering a quality of gratitude and loving kindness to yourself is a powerful energy shifter.

Here are a few practices to help sustain your self care.

Gentle Chair Yoga is a ~40 minute seated yoga practice to boost energy and presence as we continue to navigate all that is heavy in this world. This video can be practiced anywhere, anytime you need support and renewal.

Rest & Restore is a guided meditation I wrote a few years ago that explores the mind and body through the observation of breath and sensation. This winter meditation offers steadiness and stillness bringing rest to the body, heart and mind. 

Winter Solstice Flow is a zoom practice I recorded in December 2020. This video is an active breath and movement flow intended to stoke our inner fire for the year ahead. 

These classes are recorded from my home in Melrose located on native land of the Massachusetts/Pawtucket tribe. I found these websites helpful in learning the history of the land and how to support the ongoing reparation for those who came before us. 

www.mcnaa.org

www.naicob.org

Thanks for contributing to the collective care of this community by showing up just as you are and continuing to inspire me. 

Wishing you all an easeful close to 2023 and a spark of hope to ignite our New Year.

Warmly,

Michelle



Mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning both "circle" and "center" representing the visible world around us and the invisible world within us. 

For December's nature mandala I placed pinecones, rocks, a sea urchin, quartz, onyx, malachite, labradorite, snowflake obsidian, aventurine and turquoise inside a wreath of cedar evergreens. These mandalas symbolize intention in the ordinary moments of the day and staying connected to the earth as the seasons change. Look around your home, go outside for a walk, get into nature and see what beauty you can gather. Nature mandalas are easy to create, just follow your inner wisdom. 

Sunday, November 19, 2023

November gratitude


Thanks to all who registered for our 'Flow into Fall' yoga series through the Melrose Public Library. It was a pleasure seeing familiar faces as well as new ones. For those who joined, I hope it brought a sense of relaxation and balance into your day and that some of the resources I shared were helpful to carry you through the next few months. I've really been enjoying honoring the seasons and weaving nature connections within the practice of yoga. We are in the planning stages for a 'Winter into Spring'  session next year. 

I couldn't have asked for a better 'Yoga for Strength' group hosted by the Saugus YMCA. Sharing 7 weeks of a progressive beginner strength program challenged me as a teacher, I was definitely out of my comfort zone but went for it anyway. At the end of the session, I recorded a ~60 minute Yoga for Strength (putting it all together) class on my private YouTube. If you are interested in receiving the link to the class, just let me know and I'll send it along. I continue to practice strength training 2-3 times a week at home and through local classes at the YMCA branches, maybe I'll see you there?

In December I'll be heading out to Kripalu with yoga friends from the Milano Senior Center. I haven't been part of organizing a yoga retreat in years! I'm so looking forward to enjoying a few days of rest at Kripalu surrounded by the beauty of the Berkshires in late fall. 

Monday morning Chair Yoga (11a-12n) in Wakefield at the McCarthy Senior Center will continue as well as Thursday morning Gentle Yoga (8:45a-9:45a) and Chair Yoga (10a-11a) in Melrose at the Milano Senior CenterParticipants must be 60+, those living in surrounding towns and cities are welcome.

My husband made me a little free library back in 2018. The kindness of friends and neighbors over the last couple years has been heartwarming. In addition to an amazing collection of book donations, I frequently get stopped for chats and thanks regarding the library, I'm told it's a favorite in the area. I also receive many notes and kindness rocks. Last week a batch of rocks with painted flowers showed up with the words "Love You", others were labeled as a "Hug Stone". I'm lucky to find great books right outside my door and this week I started reading 'Hope in the Dark' by Rebecca Solnit. In the book, the author writes that hope can be an act of defiance and an embrace of the unknown. Even though it was written in 2006, the content holds space for our current moments in history. I'll leave you with a quote to lead from the heart inspiring courage and action as we all keep going.
 

I am so grateful for being able to teach affordable and accessible yoga in my community. 
Thank you for being there and for showing up.
Wishing you all a beautiful week of thanksgiving. 

Warmly,
Michelle 

P.S. I attended my first Deepavali (Diwali) celebration with friends from Nepal and it was full of light, joy and celebration. I'm sharing their beautiful diyas (clay oil lamp) of Ganesh ~ remover of obstacles and symbol of new beginnings, light over darkness and wisdom over ignorance. 


Sunday, August 27, 2023

Fall Yoga + a NEW Guided Meditation!

"We're all golden sunflowers inside."

Allen Ginsberg

I will be teaching a 'Yoga for Strength' class on Monday mornings at the Saugus YMCA starting September 11, 9:15a-10:15a. This class will run through October 23. Join me for 7 weeks of a hatha yoga practice using weights, blocks, chairs and resistance bands to build strength, mobility, balance and endurance. This is a great transition class to begin to bring increased weight and impact training into your movement patterns in a progressive way. For more information, please visit the Saugus YMCA webpage.


I will continue to teach Yoga every Thursday morning (8:45a) and Chair Yoga (10a) in Melrose at the Milano Senior Center as well as Monday morning Chair Yoga (11a) in Wakefield at the McCarthy Senior Center starting after Labor Day. Senior yoga is for those 60+ living in surrounding towns and cities are welcome.


This fall I'm looking forward to sharing another 4-week ZOOM series hosted by The Melrose Public Library. Flow into Fall starts October 17, 11a-12n. Many of you know the MPS is under construction and we have limited space to offer in-person community yoga. I'm grateful we are all comfortable with the ZOOM platform and we can share in the beautiful transition of fall from the comfort of our homes. Registration opens October 11.

Yoga Sub Classes:
I've been enjoying filling in as I can for the Melrose, Saugus, Peabody, and Lynn YMCA's. If you are a member, check the group exercise schedules for any updates.

Also, check out my newest guided meditation on Insight Timer!  
'Moving With The Breath' is a versatile meditation that may be enjoyed as an energizing practice upon waking or a calming practice before going to sleep. 
Listen here!

Please reach out with any questions or inquiries.
Michelle 

I've been making nature mandalas since 2020. Mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning both "circle" and "center" representing the visible world around us and the invisible world within us. This months mandala symbolized my love for sunflowers. The strength in the stalk and the bright, yellow petals unfolding toward the sun offer hope, strength and happiness. I choose new moon times as a way to place intention and ritual in my life by creating beauty with what is surrounding me in the season, moment and environment I am in. 

Monday, August 14, 2023

Late Summer Joy

 

These days I love being in my garden. I have herbs and veggies that are thriving with all the rain we have had. I'm enjoying the sun gold cherry tomatoes and have been eating them like candy. Even though my garden is small, it is jam packed with as much as I can grow inside a few raised beds. I check on my garden every morning and spend a few minutes weeding out any decayed leaves or half eaten cucumbers from the squirrels and chipmunks. My favorite time is to go out in the early evening and pluck whatever has ripened from the day and add it to dinner. You could say my garden is my happy place. 

My excitement for gardening came from my grandmother. I can remember warm, sunny days digging in the dirt with her as she shared her green thumb tips and tricks. I was lucky to grow up with her living next door to me in a gorgeous, historical home from 1859. The house was full of sweeping rooms with fireplaces and balconies, libraries filled with old books, a music room with an upright piano and a large 3 story barn with secret rooms. My sister and I loved sleeping over on the weekends, staying up late, and getting one on one attention from our grandmother. It felt like luxury having our own private bedrooms and an evening soak in the claw foot bathtub. She made us feel so special, sharing recipes, music, and stories while creating the sweetest memories. 

On the south side of the house, my grandmother had a beautiful flower, herb, and vegetable garden. Her rhubarb was the size of me and she always had the most fragrant marjoram, rosemary and mint. She showed me how to cut anise, kale and Swiss chard, we pulled up carrots, picked green beans, and ripe tomatoes. After loading up our basket, we would go into her old kitchen to make tea and treats. She would show me how to carefully wash herbs, lettuce leaves and veggies, then gently wrap them in a towel to dry on the counter. We would make homemade pizza and our own personal salad for dinner. As I grew older, I always wanted my own garden but it wasn't until a few years ago that it actually happened. I'm still learning and my garden is nothing like my grandmothers, but whenever I'm in the garden it feels like we are together again.

As the beauty of summer fades into the last few weeks before fall, I'm holding onto the season preserving, freezing and cooking the veggies I was able to grow this year. My basil plants are abundant and I'm making the most delicious homemade pesto and putting it on everything from pizza, pasta, sandwiches, salads, and grilled vegetables. Most pestos are filled with nuts and my son is highly allergic to them, so I make a special nut free pesto that we can enjoy as a family. Here is the recipe! Let me know if you try it.


Dream Weaver Pesto (nut-free)

Freshly picked basil leaves, washed and drained (3-4 cups)

2-3 small cloves of peeled garlic

1-2 Tablespoons of tahini (substitute for pine nuts or walnuts)

1/8 cup (or more) EVOO

salt/pepper/lemon squeeze

Combine all the ingredients and blend it up!

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Reiki, Meditations, Inspirations + Summer Solstice


Happy Summer Solstice!

Thanks to all who joined me earlier this month for our reiki meditation. We had a nice turnout with a good mix of those who were new to reiki and some who have an established reiki practice. It was a beautiful 20 minute virtual practice that started with a few rounds of reiki light breath followed up with self holding techniques. So many of you sent me messages expressing interest but were unable to make the scheduled zoom time. I am so happy I decided to record it and can send this beautiful moment of peace and calm for you to practice anywhere, anytime!  Email: heronyoga@gmail.com for the video. No reiki experience necessary, just follow along and enjoy!

Since today is the summer solstice I'm sharing Soften & Shine, a guided meditation I wrote honoring the transition of spring into summer. Finding moments in our days to relax our body and release responsibility from our minds is so important for our health. All biological functions occur rhythmically, our heartbeats, the rise and fall of our breath, the ups and downs of our hormones, our sleeping cycles and more. Our bodies are like nature with its cycles of light and darkness, warmth and cold, changing seasons, the sun and the moon. If we give ourselves time and attention, the connections begin to harmonize. 

With all that is continuing to go on in our world, I find that listening to others reflect on how to keep going brings me hope in difficult times. So, as I catch up on some of my favorite podcasts, I thought I would share this episode from On Being called To Be a Healer with Dr. Vivek Murthy. Many of you know I am a nurse and work with patients at the bedside. I have had the pleasure of working with many amazing practitioners in my career, but Dr. Vivek Murthy stands out as one of those hard to forget doctors. I met him almost 20 years ago while working overnight in a small community hospital. It's a gift that he is our nation's leader in health and wellness.  I love that Dr. Murthy prioritizes mental health care and supports the benefits of meditation as an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. 

This summer I am only teaching 2 Thursday morning yoga classes at the Melrose Senior Center.

Here's to making space in our days for rest, joy, fun, adventure and holding light. 

Wishing you all a wonderful summer with your families and friends!

With love and care,
Michelle

Friday, May 12, 2023

Spring Yoga, Reiki & Meditation


Spring is in full swing here and the way we move and feel can be influenced by our environment.  The shifts of nature have long inspired my yoga practice and helped me to adjust and adapt to what is needed moment to moment. 

Gentle Yoga & Guided Meditation ZOOM practice 
Wednesday 5/31/23 7:30p-8:30p ET
This month I'll be sharing a slower practice with longer held poses using supportive props (blankets/bolsters/blocks) followed by a ~20 minute guided meditation for rest and relaxation as spring shifts into summer. Over the last few years, I've been leading online classes to honor the transition of the seasons. These moments are meaningful to me as there is beauty within each phase and ways to be with each season. In my home practice, I have found that moving slowly with intention helps me find balance in my life and in my health. 

Health is built on balance, literally every cell in every body system has a role in finding balance. This process known as homeostasis is so important that the body has amazing compensatory mechanisms to bide time until homeostasis can be achieved. Rest is essential in this process. Restorative yoga is the use of props to create conditions of physical comfort, ease, and safety so that we can restore ourselves, allowing time and space for our bodies to adjust to a state of equilibrium. Resting in a supportive state enhances our body awareness, attentiveness and presence, regulates our emotions (hormones), and assists our sensory processing functions.  This directly impacts our nervous system which is seen in our reactiveness and our responsiveness. In an effort to integrate all of these benefits, we simply need to get grounded (earth connection), lean into our supports (yoga props!), and find space within our days to rest. 

Reiki Self Practice 
Wednesday 6/7/23 at 12n ET on ZOOM.
Many of you know I share yoga + reiki in my class offerings. It is a powerful combination with mutual benefits of stress reduction, improved sleep, and relaxation. After many years of teaching reiki practice, I have been thinking more on how to share reiki for self care and community connection. Since I am no longer affiliated with any yoga studios and I don't have an in-person space, many of my offerings have been online. Over the past two years, I have been sharing free seasonal classes from my home to yours through the ZOOM platform which widens the circle of connection for those who may or may not live near me. I've decided to offer a reiki self practice session. We will meet for ~20 minutes as a mid-day moment of reconnection and meditation. I am opening this up to everyone, those who have trained in reiki, and those interested in learning about reiki. Reiki is a Japanese healing practice that encourages rest, balance, emotional, and physical well being. Our hands are extensions of our heart, with focus and attention we can send care and compassion to ourselves. Reiki works on the body, mind, and spirit to relax the sympathetic nervous system ('fight or flight') and activate the parasympathetic nervous system ('rest and digest'). My intention is to offer reiki through a guided self practice as well as exploring other reiki techniques that can bring balance and peace into our days. Email: heronyoga@gmail.com for the ZOOM links.


THANK YOU to all who signed up for the 4-week 'Strength Series' I hosted on ZOOM in March. I'm grateful for the messages and supportive feedback, which is so helpful in guiding me on sharing future offerings. The recordings are available for purchase. For class details and to learn more about the benefits of building strength, read on here

For those who can't join my live zoom, practice anywhere, anytime!
FREE Yoga and FREE Guided Meditations

I recorded a ~60 minute 'Spring Flow' yoga class that focuses on twisting, balancing, and strengthening for enhanced circulation and energy activation within the body/heart/mind. 

'Rest & Restore' is a guided meditation I wrote that highlights our connection with nature. This meditation practice offers a space to ease into the seasonal shifts of our current moment. 


This spring marked one full year of sharing yoga in Melrose at the Milano Senior Center! My Thursday mornings teaching Yoga (8:45a) and Chair Yoga (10a) continue to be a joy as I get to know more people in the community and guide a practice that brings so many wonderful moments of care and connection.  I also teach Chair Yoga (11a) on Monday mornings in Wakefield at the McCarthy Senior Center September through May. 
Participants must be 60+, those living in surrounding towns and cities are welcome.



Wishing you all a beautiful month of May! 
Enjoy all the trees and flowers in bloom. 

Friday, April 14, 2023

Building Strength


Strength Series 

Each class focuses on functional movements that build strength and endurance, offering a dynamic yoga experience by adding in props (weights, bands, blocks) and moving in different ways. This series is great if you are new to resistance training and want to learn accessible ways to get stronger. 

I'm asking $20 for all 4 recorded classes which includes my Movement Break series of 3 additional classes.

Venmo: @Michelle-Heron-9 


Read on to learn more about how I started building strength... 


As I grow older,  related changes are happening in my mind and body. 

I need glasses to read now, my right knee has a pinching sensation when I walk down a steep hill, I feel short of breath when I walk up a steep hill, and my right hip clicks with every rotation. These chronic aches and pains combined with becoming easily fatigued makes me feel vulnerable. This is not a feeling I enjoy and I have been seeking ways to meet these sensations in my body with care and gentle intervention. My search began with reading, researching, and making slow but intentional changes to the way I move. 

Here is what I discovered.

As the body inevitably ages, certain changes can occur in the reserve and function of various physiological systems of the body. Aging is associated with a progressive decrease in skeletal muscle mass, a condition known as sarcopenia. Sedentary aging combined with inactive lifestyles are associated with age related functional decline and deficits. These changes can lead to a decrease in muscle strength, joint mobility, reaction time coupled with +/- changes in the sensory system, lowered respiratory muscle strength, and cardiac capacity. Muscle strength begins to decline around the age of 40, this decline starts to accelerate around age 65-70. Changes in sensory, motor, and cognitive systems impact our biomechanics which directly impacts our functional movements in life. These changes combined with environmental factors affect our balance and mobility. Flexibility and joint range of motion declines by 20-30% in our hips and spine, with a 30-40% decline in ankle mobility by the age of 70. Bone density declines 0.5% or more after the age of 40 and women have a higher degree of bone loss after menopause. 

Here is the good news.

Weight bearing exercises, resistance training, and high impact exercises can be used to offset the effects of muscle loss, bone loss, and the process of sarcopenia. Strength training 2-3 times a week can reduce physical disability and improve functional abilities. Progressive resistance training has the most impact on improving strength when compared to other impairments in the older population. Strength training can decrease pain and stiffness, as well as increase strength and flexibility in people with arthritis or inflammatory conditions. Weight bearing and high impact exercises can also build bone density and reduce the risk of falls by improving lower limb strength. Benefits of strength training show decreases in pain, a boost in metabolism, and improved mental/emotional health. Strength training 2-3 times a week with 8-12 repetitions per exercise combined with aerobic workouts such as walking, running, swimming, rowing, or cycling for 30 minutes daily increases your stamina, reduces fatigue, increases heart/lung fitness, and bone/muscle strength over time. 

Over the past two years I have been adding weights and resistance bands into my yoga practice. Enhancing my body awareness and increasing my effort has shown me my strength potential. Building strength has improved my wellbeing, self esteem, and self confidence. It has given me the courage to share all that I share with others. Living the practice of yoga offers benefits on all aspects of the body (spiritual/mental/emotional/physical) as well as working with the understanding that biological, psychological, environmental, and social factors exist within the complex world we navigate which has a direct effect on our health. 

Since I have been exploring movement by adding resistance with weights and bands in a progressive, mindful, appropriately paced way, I feel more resilient and empowered. I sleep better, I have more energy, I choose what I'm consuming (food, news, social interactions, purchases) in a renewed and thoughtful way. In addition, I've added daily walking into my life for increased circulation, improved digestion, and stress relief. Inviting friends, family and pets into the walking experience adds joy and mental stimulation with conversation and connection. 

Aging is a natural progression of our existence and I am humbled by the beauty and wisdom that exists within the process of aging. I am not looking to become "ageless" or look younger than I am, my goal is to thrive as I meet each new stage of my life. As a young mother, I was conscious of parenting my children through the early stages of development fully witnessing each amazing stage of growth. Now my kids are shifting into adolescence and I wonder if Mother Nature laughs at the onset of puberty and menopause coinciding for parent and child. With all of this to reflect on, I am looking to create longevity in my life, continuing to connect and be present with my children as they age. My decisions and actions are about nurturing the things that will outlive me. I'm redefining what success means to me and learning new ways of doing things with the hope of leaving this world better than when I came into it. 

Building strength is a conscious act of courage to meet feelings, sensations, and discomfort. It is more than physical strength, it is a whole body awareness of meeting yourself where you are and working from that point forward. Strength builds our capacity to make change.

Resources:

If you are interested in learning more about how to build strength check out Mindful Strength. Kathryn Bruni Young has a sensible, safe, and progressive approach to building strength for people of all ages. I spent a year with Kathryn as she was the lead teacher in my 300 hour YTT from 2021-2022. I learned so much during that experience and am so appreciative of the continued inspiration. 

Another great teacher I had the pleasure of continuing education with is Mary Richards. Her knowledge combined with yoga philosophy and compassionate teaching style brought everything together for me. Mary is the inspiration behind my 4-part Strength Series. Mary brings thoughtful, playful, accessible, and functional ways to embody the yoga practice while building and maintaining strength. Mary's new book 'Teach People Not Poses' speaks for itself. 

References:

Aartolahti E, Lonnroos E, Hartikainen S, Hakkinen A. Long-term strength and balance training in prevention of decline in muscle strength and mobility in older adultsAging Clin Exp. Res. 2020;32(I):59-66. doin:10.1007/s40520-019-0115-0

Mangione KK, Miller AH, Naughton IV. Cochrane review: improving physical function and performance with progressive resistance strength training in older adults. Physical Therapy Journal. 2016; 90(12): 1711-1715