Saturday, February 1, 2020

Halfway to Spring!

"Let us nurture the spirit of renewal and embrace the light of the lengthening days."
Celtic prayer
In the Northern Hemisphere, we are halfway to Spring! In the Southern Hemisphere, it's harvest time!
No matter where you live, the Earth is getting ready for change. If we look close, we can sense the shifting of the seasons even though they have yet to arrive.

Living with this awareness, month to month, week to week, and moment to moment awakens the seasons of the day.

Change is inevitable and growing happens whether we welcome it or resist it.

Find the beauty on the unraveling and inspiration where you can get it.

Here are some ways to move, breathe and meditate with me in the next few weeks!


Slow Flow Yoga
Wednesday evenings
730p-845p
Melrose, MA
(No Class 2/19)



"The human body is only as flexible as the time and energy we give it." 
Daniel Lacroix


Small Group Reiki Share
Sunday 2/23, 2020
3p-430p
Winchester, MA


This offering is open to Reiki practitioners of any level, where we gather together to connect, grow, and exchange Reiki. This is an offering for those who practice Reiki, and a way to say thank you for learning and sharing your gifts. A special thank you to Christine Tresselt for facilitating the space for this wonderful free event! Please RSVP via email (heronyoga@gmail.com) if you plan to attend!


Reiki I Training
Saturday 3/7 & Sunday 3/8, 2020
12n-330p
Medford, MA


I teach Reiki as a form of meditation and a practice of self care. Reiki is positive intention sent through the hands. It is a safe, gentle, and non-invasive method of bringing in balance to restore the body's physical and emotional well being. Meditation is a re-charging of your here and now. Self care is a necessity of health and wellness. Learning resources and tools to reduce stress, rest, relax, and develop a sense of calm within mind and body benefits you and others. Choosing to bring Reiki into your life, also brings Reiki into the lives of those you love. If you have practiced Reiki with me, please share this offering to those who may be interested in learning this wonderful art of holding, caring, and supporting. 

FREE Guided Meditations



I have written, recorded and published guided meditations on Insight Timer, which is a free application that offers many audio courses and meditations from all over the world! My dear friend and multi-talented artist, Michele Morgan has recorded, mixed, and edited these offerings for me so we can share them with all of you! This is a definite labor of love and knowing we are helping people relax is the driving force behind all of it. My aim is to record a new meditation every few months as our schedules allow, and continue sharing a healthy and peaceful way of living with others. If you listen and enjoy these meditations, please follow, share, leave a message, or give a rating on Insight Timer. 

With gratitude and appreciation,
Michelle

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Emotion=Energy in Motion


Observing and noticing is part of a mindful movement and meditation practice. Acknowledging emotions or feelings as a non-judgmental inquiry of what is happening to us and in us moment to moment is an element that can inspire or inhibit this process.

Thich Nhat Hanh says, "Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor." I believe emotions are energy in motion, and emotions are meant to move through us, not linger, stagnate or obstruct. There are some theories that suggest illness and disease occur from unreleased emotions that are held hostage in our bodies. Deb Shapiro wrote a book called, 'Your Body Speaks Your Mind', and it is filled with interesting ideas of where specific emotional imbalances cause symptoms in our bodies. These symptoms are the language of the body, a way that our body attempts to communicate with our mind. Our bodies are amazing. When we are truly sad, we cry. This is a great release, and eventually the body will allow a deep breath to occur with a long slow exhale. This brings the body/mind back into balance and helps restore homeostasis. When we are sad, grieving, or angry the emotion can get locked into our tissues, muscle and bones if it is too painful to confront. There is no good or bad assimilation here, it is just a way of coping. Awareness and being ready to address these imbalances takes time, patience and courage.

Our personal energy is our life force, or our ability to do work. The subtle 'life force energy' is the primary energy that sustains us, it is our source, inner guidance, and the innate intelligence of the body. This energy of life is an animating force that flows through and around every living creature. In other cultures there is a word for this life force energy that moves through us. It is known as 'qi' in China, 'ki' in Japan, 'gi' in Korea, 'khi' in Vietnam, 'sekham' in Egypt, 'pneuma' in Greece, and 'prana' in India. Supporting this vital energy is a process of caring and supporting the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of our body.

Life force energy is meant to flow freely within our system. Emotions can influence the flow of our life force, just like physical issues of pain, injury or trauma. When there is disturbance in the body (heavy emotions, physical discomfort), our life force energy becomes sluggish, or deficient.

Finding space to feel into difficult emotions, but not become them is a process I continue to focus on.

I am a work in progress, I am human, I make mistakes, and I feel all of it. It takes me on a bumpy ride some days, and it's easier to ignore, push away, turn inward, and not face the feelings that need to be processed. Timing is important too, as we all have responsibilities of work, school or caregiving, but in my exprience these feelings don't go away until the effort is made to release them. Happiness, excitement and passion are emotions I would like to have stay with me all the time, but the reality is I wouldn't have persepctive without sadness, anger, or frustration. Moving is the key, so all the heavier emotions that weigh you down don't find residence in your body.

Letting go is an overused phrase and a bit cliche, but necessary to do. We are all unique and carry our emotions, responses and reactions to life differently. A practice of moving, breathing and meditating has been helpful for me to accomplish this release of emotions that can cause 'dis-ease' in the body. I share ideas, images and thoughts as a way to write and work through what is on my mind. When I'm feeling stuck in my body, I share to help others and hope that a small part of living my yoga has a deeper impact on the world around me.

Exploring 'Sirsasana' or headstand is a wonderful way to quickly change your perception, mindset, and move energy in the body. I am inspired by watching my kids move their bodies in interesting ways that help them to release stagnant energy, or relax to refuel their deficient energy.
Going upside down immediately shifts the internal physical workings of our body. Gravity helps to return venous blood to the heart. Mentally, this pose increases concentration, enhances the sensory faculties, and increases circulation to the upper body. Headstand balances the endocrine system by stimulating the pituitary gland (the master gland), assisting to secrete hormones within the other glands that lie along the length of the spine to the brain. This pose strengthens the shoulders and arms, improves digestion, and promotes lymphatic drainage. Headstand is an inversion, which stimulates the vestibular system of the body. Arising in the inner ear, this system is responsible for processing and sensing change in the position, direction or movement of the head.

Contraindications include high or low blood pressure, pregnancy (greater than 4 months), glaucoma, detached retina, or any eye problems. This pose is not recommended for anyone with head, neck or upper spine injuries, or any recent neurological diagnosis that prohibits increased intracranial pressure. Staying safe with your body, listening to how you feel, being guided by your breath, transitioning slowly, and meeting yourself where you are in the present moment will help you work through difficulties or challenges that may arise.


Fold a padded mat in half, start in table pose (hands and knees), clasp the hands around the back of the head. Place the crown of the head on the mat, with the head firmly pressed against the clasped hands, gently tuck your chin. Curl the toes under and engage your feet and legs. Line up your elbows with your shoulders, the weight is evenly balanced in both arms, forearms and shoulders. STAY here for a while, connect to breath and feel the benefits in this transition pose. 



Once you feel strong in the previous pose, shift the weight into your lower body and lift the knees. Raise the hips up so that the body forms an inverted "V". Keep pushing down into the elbows and forearms. Extend the legs and feel the stretch in the backs of the legs and spine. BREATHE here in dolphin pose. This is a wonderful preparatory pose to headstand, as it will strengthen the arms and shoulders and enable you to hold the position correctly for longer periods. Feel free to shift in and out of these first and second prep poses for a few practice sessions.



Slowly begin to walk the feet towards your face. As the feet come closer to the head, feel the back straightening until the hips are over head: aligning the spine, neck, and head. Bend the knees and lift the feet off the floor, practice one leg at a time if you are working with balance. Try not to jump the feet away from the floor, utilize the strength of your legs and abdominal core- stay steady, focused and strong. At least 90% of the weight is on the elbows. 



Using a wall or home support is a great prop so you don't flop! Keep in mind, the wall is a safety net. It is not a replacement for doing the work of the previous prep poses. Holding the knees in a flexed position, hug them in close to the mid line of your body. You may press the feet into the wall to feel out the weight within your upper body. Keep weight in the aligned elbows, forearms and shoulders. This pose is known as half headstand, staying in this pose comfortably for at least 30 seconds is important before proceeding further. 



If you are ready to rise, slowly straighten the knees, bringing the feet toward the ceiling. Extend through the soles of the feet, point the toes toward the floor to strengthen through the heels and keep the back body supported. In this picture, you will see breath filling up my rib cage, as I exhale my pelvis tucks under slightly keeping the abdominal muscles engaged, so not to over arch the back. Keep the weight on the elbows, and try to hold for at least 30 seconds, increasing slowly for a goal of 1 minute or more. Before you are too tired, come out of the pose by first bending the knees, then the hips. Hold half headstand for a few seconds to help shift the body as it transitions. Bring the feet to the floor and then drop your hips back onto your heels. Relax in child's pose and enjoy the benefits of headstand. 


Once you have mastered the basic headstand you can add in variations. Creating space to play adds a lighthearted quality to the essence of this pose, remembering how it felt to go upside as a kid.  Some options are externally rotating the knee and hip, placing the foot on the top of the opposite thigh, or opening the legs in a letter "V". You can alternatively lower one leg towards the floor, keeping it engaged and hovering while the opposite leg stays lifted. Exploring the transitions of this pose add depth and dimension, the options are up to you! 


In his book, 'Light On Yoga', B.K.S Iyengar calls 'Sirsasana' the 'king of yoga postures' because of its magical effects on the intellect, body, and spirit. "Regular and precise practice of sirsasana develops the body, stimulates the mind and widens the horizons of the spirit. One becomes balanced and self reliant in pain and pleasure, loss and gain, shame and fame and defeat and victory." (Light on Yoga-p. 179-193)

Image taken from the 1830 manuscript, Joga Pradipika.

'Sirsansana' is a relatively new name for the original Sanskrit 'Salamba Shirshasana'. Salamba means "supported", and Sirsa means "head", and Asana means "posture" or "seat".

Headstand is a physically challenging pose, utilizing strength in the upper arms and abdominal core. It can feel exhilarating, increasing one's confidence and excitement in achieving such a dramatic pose. Competition and success are emphasized in our culture. Slow down and take the time to set up new postures in stages. Perhaps staying in the 'prep' poses for a few practice sessions to build endurance before overextending yourself in a pose that you aren't ready for. Don't underestimate the power of 'balasana', (child's pose) and 'adho mukha svanasana' (downward facing dog), inversions to get your energy in motion.

If this pose is new for you, and not a regular posture in your practice, these notes and pictures are not to be replaced by proper instruction by a professional guide. It is best to have a trained person assisting if it is your first attempt at "sirsasana'. 

Sometimes going upside down is the only thing that makes you feel right side up! 

Have fun exploring movement in your body. 

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Welcome 2020!

"Always remember you matter, you're important and you are loved,
and you bring to the world things no one else can."
Charlie Mackesy

I'm not one for New Year's intentions or resolutions, but the Reiki affirmations will do. Just for today, everyday, one breath at a time. 

Just for today,
I will not worry
I will not be angry
I will do my work honestly
I will be grateful
I will be kind to all living things.

New Year's day sunrise

Our winter session starts January 8, 2020. 
Wednesday 730p-845p
195 Green St. 
Melrose, MA
(No class on February 19)

See you on the mat for our first Slow Flow of the year!

Until then, here are a few ways to ease into our New Year.

Find a quiet space, inside or outside.
Stand tall and ground your feet.
Feel strength rise up in your spine as you inhale your arms up.
Reach through your fingers, soften your shoulders.
Exhale your arms down by your side.
Enjoy a few rounds of standing sun breath.
Now think about what movements would feel good in your body.
Trust your inner wisdom to guide you.
Anchor to your breath.
Close your eyes and let love lead. 

Hands together or over heart center.
Pause and feel the shift of energy in your body, heart and mind.


Thank you for another year of moving, breathing and meditating. For those who I met through Reiki this past year, I hope the practice is serving you well.

I look forward to seeing you in 2020.

Sending you ALL joy, peace, hope, and love this New Year!
Shine On!

Warmly,
Michelle

P.S. The quote above was taken from 'The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse', written by Charlie Mackesy. 

It is one of the kindest and sweetest books I have read in a long while. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

A Prayer of Thanksgiving


May we find compassion in our hearts and allow this to reveal itself through action within our hands.

May we break down walls that separate us from them, me from you.

May we find meaningful connection with others, so loneliness and hurt doesn't turn into anger, rage and violence. 

May we commune with nature, find healing through resilience and renewal.

Let hope overpower hate.

Let love overpower grief.

May joy, happiness and freedom be felt by us ALL.

As a way to bring ritual and gratitude into my home this week, I have created an alter in honor of Squaw Sachem and the Naumkeag tribe that inhabited the lands my home was built on.

When I look at the Earth, the sky, the clouds, the lakes, the rivers, the oceans, the grass, the dirt, the rocks, the mountains, the valleys, everything seen and unseen, it is pure magic. The constant regeneration and strength of this amazing planet is breathtaking. We are only passengers here, visitors for a short time in comparison with her longevity.

We are standing on sacred ground. 

"When we practice deep looking directed toward the heart of reality, we receive help, we receive understanding, we receive the wisdom that makes us free."
Thich Nhat Hanh


A few months ago, I typed in my home address at www.native-land.ca and received the name of the native tribe that lived where I lived over 400 years ago. I was excited to learn about the Naumkeag tribe, which translates as "the fishing place", from namaas (fish) and ki (place). Unfortunately, when I typed in 'Naumkeag' into my computer, the first information to arise was the residence of the former country estate lawyer Joseph Hodges Choate that held the same name, Naumkeag. I am still confused by this, even after reading about the elaborate and massive estate that was acquired as part of the colonial settlement of the Propect Hill section of Stockbridge, MA. The Naumkeag tribe came before the Naumkeag estate, a name stolen along with the land. The name, even if intended to be used with tribute, is not reflected in a structure built by non-Natives. The name should be recognized in associaton with the beauty of the Earth's elements, the lives lost, a transitional time in history.

The Naumkeag tribe were a Native American people who lived on the lands now known as Essex county, in North Eastern MA. In 1619, their Sachem, Nanepashemet was killed in war. Upon his death, the general governing of the tribe was continued by his widow, Squaw Sachem. Their son, Wenepoykin, had not yet come of age to make decisions for the tribe. The history of the Native Americans defending their loved ones, and their land, when colonial settlers came from Europe was retold to me in school as being one of peaceful trades and acquiescence. The reign of control and purpose that spread throughout the place where I live breaks my heart. War wiped out most of the Naumkeag tribe, and then the plague defeated them.

I think of Squaw Sachem, mourning her husband, taking on a chief role of decision making while raising a young child in unsafe times. Her anger, sadness, fear, and grief must have been overwhelming. The empathy I feel for her and her people is great. I am writing this essay as an act of compassion to humbly hold space for a time and place that came before me, but directly impacts my prosperity and privilege. I can't change the past, I can only act now. I'll call out the injustice, continue to educate myself and my children as celebrations of false holidays take school days away from them. I will teach from a place in my heart that knows the truth, that we are ALL deserving of happiness and freedom.

The world we live in remains divided, power hungry and unbalanced. There is violence, malicious attacks, anger and hate. My prayer of thanksgiving is to break down the barriers and send out love, care, support, and hope. To look beyond our differences, find meaningful connection, and rise up everyday in peace.

Take time this week to discover which Native tribe lived on the lands where your home is, and educate yourself about who they were, how they fought to live, and how they died.

Honor them, mourn them, share their stories.

Thanks and gratitude to Allen Salway whose voice is rising with courage to call out the truth and demand justice. His publications can be read all over the internet. Please take time to read the article linked below, written on 11/21/18.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Fall into Winter

"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better."
Albert Einstein

We are halfway through November already! Time seems to be speeding up, and all I want to do is S L O W down. If there ever was a month of steadiness, November is the one. Cold, brisk days, and earlier sunsets test our ability to keep up the pace of our busy life. Finding small pockets of time to bring stillness into one moment, to notice breath, to move your body is the gift of the practice. True rest can increase energy, reset your nervous system, and bring in a sense of balance, ease and comfort into all you do. Moving slowly and steady from a place of purpose and intention brings each task to the here and now. 

Focus and attend to what is needed, and let go of the rest.
  

The Triple Heater energy channel begins in the ring finger and travels up the arm over the shoulder, then it splits into two branches. One branch goes through the pericardium (heart space) and diaphragm (lung space), then runs vertical toward the navel. Another branch goes up the neck, around the ear and head, encircling the face.
  

Sit quietly in a place of comfort, where you will not be disturbed. Close your eyes, relax your face, and settle into this moment. Begin to notice your breath, and allow it to move freely through your body. Become aware of the parts of your body that move as the breath fills you up. Releasing breath slowly, sink down into your seat further. Begin to feel a connection with the floor, the foundation, and the Earth that rests underneath you. Keep a steadiness to your inhale and exhale. Bring your hands over your ears, gently curving your palms to hold the space between ears and hands to listen to the breath from the inside out. Each finger tip pad will fall along the sides of the head. Gently press into your fingers on your inhale, and then relax the pressure on the exhale. Continue this practice for as long as it feels good, paying attention to what arises when you give yourself time to listen, allowing audible distractions to fall away.
Below are offerings to move, breathe and meditate with me in these last few weeks of 2019.


Slow Flow Yin Yoga
Wednesday 730p-845p
195 Green St.
Melrose, MA
*No class on 11/27, 12/25, or 1/1


 Winter R & R: A Yoga & Reiki Workshop
Sunday December 15, 2019
4p-530p
195 Green St.
Melrose, MA
Register online under Wellness Workshops for Adults
The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is upon us, and the darkest days of the year are here. Rest and restore with Roxanne Kelly and Michelle Heron for a candle-lit yoga class to honor the winter solstice. Awaken your senses with focused breathing, longer held yoga poses, essential oils, and hands-on Reiki assists. We will close with a guided meditation to bring peace and calm to body, heart and mind.

Tea, treats and conversation to follow.
A portion of the cost will be donated to Clean Water Action.
*Reiki is positive intention sent through the hands.


Lastly, I published a guided meditation available now on Insight Timer, which is a free application easily downloaded onto any device. I wrote this meditation for EVERYONE. It is best listened tobefore bed, snuggling with a loved one, or anytime there is a need to find deep rest.

Space Meditation was inspired by my boys, and all our Jedi yogi's who requested more meditation and relaxation during class.

Check it out!
www.insighttimer.com
(You will need to sign in, click on search icon, and type in my name)

Sending you ALL warmth, PEACE, and happiness this coming holiday season.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Energy Medicine


Place your left hand behind your head and lean back. Place your right hand on your forehead and lean in. Relax the muscles of your face and soften your shoulders. Uplift your spine, open your heart and breathe deeply. A round of three breaths will re-connect you to yourself. 

Energy medicine is an umbrella term for a group of healing modalities that work within the electromagnetic field of the body. Acupuncture, Qigong, Tai Chi, Shiatsu Massage, Yoga and Reiki are some examples that have been found to increase electrical conductance at specific points of the body. These practices work along the 'meridians' or energy lines of the body. These invisible pathways are theorized to live within the connective tissues, surrounding and protecting the major systems of the body.  In 2013, the National Institute of Health published data measuring the impedance within subcutaneous tissue that correlate these meridian lines with the fascial planes of the body. Our bodies are electromagnetic in nature, and science has measured these frequencies with machines. Electrocardiogram (EKG), electroencephalogram (EEG), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) are some examples of the machines that produce tracings, waveforms, and images measuring these electromagnetic frequencies within the body.



REI ~ Universe/Atmosphere   KI ~ Life Force Energy

Reiki is a Japanese form of healing that sends postive intention through the hands. I teach Reiki as a form of meditation and self care. I love Reiki for the way it makes me feel, grounded, connected and present. Sharing Reiki with others is a wonderful gift of giving and receiving without becoming depleted of your own energy.

Sensing the body through healing touch while breathing in and breathing out is a compassionate meditation experience, it is L O V E in action.

People use reiki to relax and strengthen their wellbeing; reduce pain, anxiety, and fatigue; help manage symptoms; reduce side effects of medications; and support recovery after injuries or surgery. According to the National Health Interview Survery published in 2007, 1.2 million adults and 161,000 children received one or more sessions of energy healing therapy such as Reiki in the previous year. According to the American Hospital Association, in 2007, 15% or over 800 American hospitals offered Reiki as part of hospital services.

In a recent study from Harvard University, a single session of Reiki significantly improved pain, anxiety, depression, nausea, and fatigue. This study was conducted in 2015 and 2016 by Dr. Natalie Trent, PhD, a neuroscientist and energy healer, working to integrate science and mind-body medicine. This is the largest prospective Reiki study to date, and these exciting results will be published soon!


In the world we live in today, there is too much stimulation, distraction and sensory overload. The area of of our bodies that receive the most information is our head, eyes, face, throat, neck, and mouth. It is where our five senses receive, assimilate, direct, and store what is moving toward us every moment of every day. Resting, relaxing, eating well, moving and sleeping at least 6-8 hours within a 24 hour period is what keeps us from burning out and becoming sick. I believe our five senses are our superpowers. Positive intention set through the hands charges up our superpowers.

Learning a few ways to reconnect with your mind, body and breath is a great way to start self care practices. I like to think of the mind, body, breath paradigm in the shape of a triangle. It is a way to create wholeness within our lives, but what is in the center of the triangle?

This is the creative aspect of self care. It is the heart of your daily life. When we listen quietly to the inner voice of our heart we will feel whole.

It only takes a few moments to reset. These offerings can be practiced anytime during the day or evening. Reiki gives you tools to stay calm, centered and balanced. Here are a few options I have been practicing, try one or two, and see how you can adapt some changes into your life.

The moment you wake up, before you get out of bed, or even open your eyes, place both hands to your heart space. Take three deep breaths and think of three things you are grateful for.

Start here with gratitude. 

Sit on the edge of your bed or stand up. Press your feet down into the floor, feel into all four corners of your feet. Sensing your solid foundation. Stretch your arms overhead, move to the right and breathe into the spaces of your rib cage. Breathe out moving back to center releasing your arms down by your side. Repeat on the left side, and continue for a round of three breaths on each side.

Coordinating breath with movement is exercise.



The heart meridian has three branches, each of which begins in the heart. One runs down through the diaphragm to the small intestine. Another runs up through the throat and tongue to meet the eye. And the third, runs across the upper chest and down the inner arm, ending at the tip of the little finger. 

Hands to heart, heart to hands. Feel the connection.

Learn Reiki as a safe, non-invasive practice of caring, holding, and supporting. Perform self Reiki every day (upon waking, during the day for an energy boost, or before bed) with hands over eyes, forehead, crown of head, ears, shoulders, upper chest, upper abdomen, lower abdomen, legs, knees and feet. Create a circuit of energy bringing the mind to the present moment.



During these cooler October mornings, I've been loving turmeric tea with ginseng and a honey spoon.

This is meditation.

A simple ritual like making a hot beverage in the morning can become a meaningful practice. Hot coffee, chocolate, tea, or even lemon water can bring a sense of presence to your day. Hold the warm cup in your hands and infuse Reiki energy through your hands into your beverage. Breathe in the steam from the cup, take a sip and taste the liquid. Feel the warmth nourish your body and enjoy.


Roasted honey butternut squash filled with baby kale and purple carrot over creamy buckwheat. Gomashio sprinkle, leafy greens and olive oil drizzle.

Take time with your first meal of the day, send positive intention through your hands into your food. I love a hot bowl of buckwheat cereal (it takes 2 minutes to cook, is gluten free, and highly versatile). I add in a spoonful of almond butter, lots of frozen blueberries, cinnamon, and honey drizzle. Roasted pumpkin, butternut or kabocha squash with pumpkin seeds, and dried fruit is another delicious option. If you are heading out, pack portable fuel that fills you up, think about the colors of the rainbow, and allow your food choices to reflect those colors. My favorite lunch is hummus on whole grain bread with cucumber slices, fresh leafy greens, olive oil drizzle, and gomashio (ground seseame seeds, sea salt, black pepper, and dried herbs). I always have clemetines, apples, bananas, carrots, cucumbers and radishes washed and ready to eat. Try preparing meals ahead of time, such as hearty soups and sauces to make weeknight meals easier. Foods that are local, and in-season can help with meal planning.

Food is energy medicine.



Go outside! Try to walk as much as you can. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk a little further to the next train or bus stop. Park your car further away from an entrance. 

Earthing: the act of putting your body in direct contact with the Earth.  The Earth is a beneficial source of negatively charged energy that helps to balance our electromagnetic field. "Plug" your feet into the planet to counter the positive charge we build up from our modern dis-connected lifestyle that often lacks regular contact with nature. 

In Japan, Shinrin-yoku, is defined as 'bathing in the forest atmosphere'. It is a practice that soothes the nervous system. Atmosphere is everything. It surrounds us and permeates our energy. Away from the pavement, concrete, loud sounds of car horns, trucks, and the bustling city is a place filled with rich colors, textures, softer sounds, and scents that feed your soul. Slow down and find a patch of green to walk on or sit near. Breathe in the air that is less toxic, closer to the trees. Open your senses, pay attention, and allow nature to heal you. A 2010 study published in Environmental Health and Preventative Medicine showed that people who participated in forest bathing had lower cortisol levels, pulse and blood pressure, reduced stress, and a strengthened immune system. The study states that trees emit phytoncides to protect themselves from fungus and insects. The phytoncides produce natural aromatherapeutic health benefits. Inhaling phytoncides triggers NK cells, which are specialized white blood cells that improve immune function. In another 2010 study, subjects who spent three days and two nights in a forest setting had significantly higher NK activity. The increased NK activity lasted for more than 30 days after the trip, suggesting that a forest bathing trip once a month enables individuals to maintain a higher level of NK activity; improving their immune system health. 

Find a way to move, breathe and meditate that feels good in your body and mind.


Resources:

C. Will Chen, Chen-Jei Tai, Cheuk-Sing Choy, Chau-Yun Hsu, Shoei-Loong Lin, Wing P. Chan, Hun- Sun Chiang, Chang-An Chen, and Ting-Kai Leung, Wave-Induced Flow in Merdians Demonstrated Using Photolumiescent Bioceramic Material on Acupuncture Points (Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013; Nov 7.)

Barnes PM, Bloom B, Nahon R. CDC National Health Statistics Report #12. (United States: Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use Among Adults and Children: 2007)

Yuk Tsunetsugu, Bum-Jin Park, and Yoshifumi Miyazaki, Trends in research related to "Shinrin-yoku" (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing). (Environ Health Prev Med. 2010 Jan; 15(1): 27-37.

Qing Li, Effect of forest bathing trips on human immune function (Environ Health Prev Med. 2010 Jan; 15(1): 9-17.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Fall Yoga & Reiki offerings

"Autumn is a second Spring when every leaf is a flower."
Albert Camus

Autumn is here in New England, and for many of us it is a favorite season. The leaves turn from green to gold, and the fiery reds smolder into orange. The visibility of change is all around us. Transitions are happening moment to moment everyday. Taking time to pause, breathe, and move within these transitions is the mindfulness I truly enjoy sharing.

I am holding gratitude for the sweet yoga studio in Melrose, that feels like a second home. Joy Yoga is a gift to our local and extended community, friends, and families. This Fall, we will continue our weekly movement class. Showing up on the mat, just as you are, is a bold act of commitment. Thank you for sharing the practice with me.

Slow Flow Yin Yoga 
Wednesday evenings, 730pm-845pm.
Joy Yoga
195 Green St.
Melrose, MA

Slow Flow Yoga explores the element of time and space between transitions of movement. Yin is a longer held yoga style that increases the mobility of joints, and balances the body's energetic flow. Combining a slower paced yoga with yin poses create moments of awareness, highlighting your body's ability to move beyond what you think is possible. Moving, breathing, and meditating awakens your inner strength, endurance, and focus. It is a compassionate practice that challenges you to become your best self.


"Reiki is love. Love is wholeness. Wholeness is balance. Balance is wellbeing. Wellbeing is freedom from disease."
Dr. Mikao Usui

In addition to yoga, I teach Reiki as a form of meditation and a resource for self care. I'll continue to offer small group Reiki classes to those that are interested. Contact me: heronyoga@gmail.com or on Instagram: @heronyoga

Reiki is a Japanese healing technique that sends positive intention through the hands. I have found that adding in a layer of touch deepens my focus while meditating, and practicing mindful movement.  Placing hands over eyes, forehead, crown of head, ears, shoulders, upper chest, upper abdomen, lower abdomen, legs, knees, and feet creates a circuit of energy bringing the mind to the present moment. Sensing the body through healing touch while breathing in and breathing out is a compassionate meditation practice, it is L O V E in action.

Peaople use reiki to relax and strengthen their wellbeing; reduce pain, anxiety, and fatigue; help manage symptoms; reduce side effects of medications; and support recovery after injuries or surgery. According to the National Health Interview Survey published in 2007, 1.2 million adults and 161,000 children received one or more sessions of energyhealing therapy such as Reiki in the previous year. According to the American Hospital Association, in 2007, 15% or over 800 American hospitals offered Reiki as part of hospital services.

In a recent study from Harvard University, a single session of Reiki significantly improved, pain, anxiety, depression, nausea, and fatigue. This study was conducted in 2016 and 2016 by Dr. Natalie Trent, PhD, a neuroscientist and energy healer, working to integrate science and mind-body medicine. This is the largest prospective Reiki study to date, and these exciting results will be published soon. Stay tuned!

For those who have shared Reiki with me, please feel free to leave a comment about your experience receiving and giving Reiki for others to learn more.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Home Practice


"Breathe in deeply to bring your mind home to your body."
Thich Nhat Hanh

In July, I returned to the beautiful Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in the full bloom of summertime for some much needed rest and relaxation. I booked a program at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health called 'Your Practice, Your life', with Elena Brower. The outcome of this experience, was to develop a meaningful home practice that grounds and balances, bringing you home to yourself. 

As I checked in and settled in, I felt the excitement of summer landing in my body, heart and mind. I gave myself some time before the workshop began to feel into all the elements. I lounged on the grass among the colorful blossoms, and enjoyed the stunning view of Lake Mahkeenac. I took a walk down to the lake and dipped my toes in the water. I felt the warmth on my skin as the sun beamed down from the blue sky. I closed my eyes and breathed in the air to connect with all sensation. It's powerful to be present with everything that rises to the surface.


Our senses open portals, we can stay present in mind and body, while our heart shifts into spaciousness with the breath.


"You are invited to come home to y o u r s e l f. To your radiance. Your ritual. Your courage. Your clarity. Your power. Your purpose. Your strength. Your softness. Your adaptability. Your acceptance. Your endurance. Your excellence."
Elena Brower ~Practice You ~ photo credit: @verredrose

The program was more than I expected, and gave me a blank canvas for re-creating my personal practice. There was nothing too fancy about it; we moved, we breathed, we meditated, we journaled, and we rested. What I took away, was a sense of empowerment, a permission slip to move without pressure of time, or competition within myself or from others. What was left was a feeling of reassurance, to be fully human in the body I was gifted.

The presence and touch of Elena Brower feels like a warm cup of tea on a rainy day, she offers a glimpse of hope for living in our world today. With wisdom and grace, she shared simple techniques as a way to create a daily practice unattached to rigid rules or expectations. We began with stillness in an effort to stay present. We activated breath, and moved gently to explore the many layers of our being through the process of listening.

Fresh off her interviews with Eddie Sterm and Abbie Galvin, Elena shared the benefits of resonance breathing as a base for physiological healing, and the importance of ritualizing your practice to show up for yourself, with teachings that strengthen our internal world to consistently participate in our external world. Her contributions remain humble, true, and realistic. 

Practice You is a map to your highest self; a field guide of your own creation. This link connects you to Elena Brower, her book, her podcast, and her awakening deck. 

So, what does a home practice look like?

A home practice is a personal practice. It is listening, feeling and observing how your body wants to move. It is a being, breathing and sensing process. Yoga philosophy speaks about the eight limbs, yamas (attitude toward our environment), niyamas (attitudes toward ourselves), asana (physical postures), pranayama (focused breathing), pratyahara (sense withdrawal), dharana (focused concentration), dhyana (meditative absorption), and samadhi (bliss). Attempting to utilize and incorporate this structural philosophy into my daily practice has become a part of my daily tool kit. There are many creative ways to do this, and that's what makes a practice so personal and unique.

The yamas and niyamas are awarenesses of life, relationship to the self, others and our environment. I bridge these into a daily gratitude practice with a morning meditation I share with my kids. Having time to enjoy mindful movement and meditation is a luxury. I don't take for granted the opportunities I have had to train and teach. Sharing these concepts with my kids is an active process of learning and growing together. 

Practice gratitude with me.

In the space where your mind wakes, but your body is still sleeping, deepen the breath. Place your left hand over your heart and your right hand over your left hand. Hands to heart, heart to hands. Take three deep breaths, inhale followed by exhale. Think of three gratutides for your day. 

This is where the practice begins, with gratitude.

Asana is defined in Sanskrit as "the seat." More commonly, it has expanded from the seated meditation posture into any physical posture within a practice, for which there are many. Movement cares for the body. It is a looking after of your bones, muscles and tissues while helping to keep all your organs, glands and pathways healthy. Keeping an open, internal conversation between my mind and body is a guide for how I want and need to move. For example, morning is not the best time for my body, it is stiff, tight and tense from sleeping. I need a slower form of movement to warm up my muscles, and strengthen my bones. For me, a yin practice is the perfect sequence for my body in the morning or early afternoon.  Moving and stretching slowly reduces the risk of injury, and allows for breath to move in and out of the body, stimulating the circulatory, immune and digestive systems. As the day progresses, I move in a more active, fluid, and faster pace. In the early evening, I like to coordinate my breath with dynamic, vigorous, standing poses to build strength and flexibility, then wind down with a few holding poses that cool the body and relax the nervous system. 

Prepping for my weekly class is a huge part of  my personal practice. Feeling into the month, the week, the day, and the hour is a multi-sensory experience. Just as the seasons change throughout the year, the transitions in body, heart and mind are moment to moment. We can lean into the seasons of our day by taking time to notice what is happening to us and in us through mindful awareness. My practice is deeply affected by what is happening in the world, what's going on with my family, my experiences at work, and the fierce constancy of change found in nature.

Start slowly and see how and when your body likes to move. Choose four or five of your favorite poses and practice them daily. Watch as these poses evolve and change over time.

Pranayama is controlled or focused breathing. Prana is defined as "energy or life force", and ayama translates as "expansion or extension". When used alone or in conjunction with meditation or movement, the breath is the spark of the practice. Deep, focused, breathing can ground a meditation practice, or help to coordinate the rhythm of movement. Taking time to discipline yourself with breathing techniques that feel easeful in your body can shift your perception and perspective.

Breathe with me.

Find a comfortable position, connect to breath. Inhale followed by exhale.
Let the breath anchor you, settle in, stay. 
Arrive back into your body and find space to listen, notice and pause.
Sit with what arises.
Let the breath guide you back home. 

Pratyahara is a layered feeling of pulling away from your external world (the senses) and deepening into your internal world (the mind). Yoga Nidra "yogic sleep" is my personal choice for embodying pratyahara, and as a form of lying down meditation it gently guides you into dhyarana and dhyana. I listen to Yoga Nidra before bed, and sometimes in the late morning or afternoon if I have time. Yoga Nidra promotes deep rest and relaxation, it is a way for everyone to feel at home within themselves. 


Insight Timer is a FREE application for meditation and sleep.
insghttimer.com

Dhyyarana (centering) and dhyana (the zone) work together to connect with a form of meditation that feels right to concentrate on. Settle into it and the absorption follows. Inevitably, once you sit, lay down or get quiet in the body, all the things you NEED to remember quickly come back to you. And then there are the distractions; family, friends, noisy neighbors, the dust bunnies on the floor, the dishes, the laundry, and the phone. All I can say, is KEEP GOING. Set your timer for one minute, two minutes, or five minutes a day and see if it can possibly turn into ten or twenty minutes a day. 

I have never been consistent at traditional meditation. Sitting on a cushion, closing my eyes and connecting to breath is a kind of torture for my busy mind and body. My experience with meditation is through the Theraveda tradition of Buddhist philosophy. I have had weeklong trainings in Vippassana 'insight" meditation, where the breath is the main focal point. My mind wanders, I return to the breath. My nose is itching, I return to the breath. I have an ache in my back, I return to the breath. This meditation style offers a clear awareness of what is happening as it happens. Loving kindness or 'metta' meditation is a popular form of Buddhhist meditation. It is the cultivation of benevolence, and more commonly known as compassion meditation. 

I have found that adding in a layer of touch deepens my focus while meditating. This is where Reiki has been a major player in my practice. Reiki is a Japanese healing technique that sends positive intention through the hands. Placing hands over eyes, forehead, crown of head, ears, shoulders, upper chest, upper abdomen, lower abdomen, legs, knees and feet creates a circuit of energy. This electric current brings my mind to the present moment. Sensing my body through healing touch while breathing in and breathing out is a compassionate meditation experience, it is L O V E in action. 

Adding Reiki to loving kindness meditation has elevated my home practice. 

Practice compassion with me.

Place your left hand behind your head and lean back. Place your right hand over your forehead and lean in. Gently find a rhythm to your breathing, inhale followed by exhale. Connect to your experience just as it is.

Saying these words silently or aloud as an intention or Sankalpa, ( a positive vow or statement formed by the heart and mind, made in the present tense) can greatly enhance the experience.

"May I be filled with loving kindness. May I be peaceful and at ease. May I be safe and healthy. May I be happy and free."

Gently move your left hand to your heart space and your right hand over your lower abdomen. Breathe in and breathe out. Reconnect your interior awareness to your outer awareness. Think about your worthy place in this world, your community, your state, your country, and all the humans who reside with you on planet Earth.

Saying these words aloud or silently, in the home of your heart can benefit us all.

"May we ALL be filled with loving kindness. May we ALL be peaceful and at ease. May we ALL be safe and healthy. May we ALL be happy and free."


Samadhi doesn't have to be an epic pinnacle, it can be an awakening, an awareness, and a state of being within one fleeting moment. Every day offers an opportunity to be the best version of ourselves. Extending loving awareness to those around us, sharing our stories, our experiences brings in the act of compassion, a willingness to be available in our present life together. When I take the time to cultivate my practice, I feel whole, balanced and complete. Could that be bliss? Perhaps it is, a returning home to oneself.




"The greatest teacher will send you back home to yourself."
Nayyirah Waheed

Igniting my personal practice with a workshop was just what I needed to reconnect my heart and mind to body and breath. I met some wonderful people who gave their time and attention to the experience, refreshing my home practice. Truly living my yoga soldifies my definition of home; a refuge of security and comfort within oneself. 


This expanded awareness clears the path of obstructions, opening space for a present mind, a giving heart, and a steady breath. 

As a teacher, I am a forever student, reading, listening, observing, and understanding what is all around me. I am influenced and motivated by other teachers and students in my local community and beyond. In Sanskrit, the word Sangha means "association", "assembly", "company", or "community". Practicing yoga within a community that allows you to feel safe and accepted is essential. Yoga classes have the power to unite and inspire. The experience of practicing yoga with others can strengthen a home practice.

For me, the practice is about showing up, and staying present to what is happening now. Being true to myself and teaching from this place of truth allows others to trust, relax, and enjoy an authentic experience. I take great care to plan and prepare the classes I share with others. It is in the space of moving, breathing and meditating that I'll change everything I planned and teach from the heart.  

This is freedom for me. Freedom of expression. Taking time to find a way to make all I want to share surrounding this movement practice that is rooted in yoga, but constantly shifting and morphing, available and accessible to everyone. Connecting with daily rituals, meaningful connections, peaceful practices and inclusive communities are supportive ways to practice home. 


"My yoga. It doesn't matter if everything isn't perfect. My practice is just that. My practice.
It's my time to feel alive, calm and connected."
Jill Conyers

What does your home practice look like?

I am in a constant state of learning about other ways to practice mindful movement. The best way to learn is to share your story with others. Leave me a comment below, I would love to hear about how you move!