Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Living my Yoga

Michelle Heron RN, BSN, RYT 200, Reiki Master
Special trainings include mindfulness meditation, yin yoga, children's yoga, pre and postnatal yoga.
Weekly class offerings, private sessions and seasonal workshops available.

Undiagnosed as a child, I struggled with anxiety my whole life, and things got worse in high school and college. During that time, I was hospitalized twice for anxiety attacks that exhibited hyperventilation, spastic muscle rigidity, with severe neck and chest pain. I was scared, not knowing what was happening in my body, I felt out of control and disconnected. The medical community worked me up, telling me I might have meningitis, blood clot, and/or heart conditions. The potential diagnosis and treatments felt invasive and only intensified my fear. Discharged from the hospital both times with negative test results and instructions to follow up with my doctor, I pushed through with steady perseverance, family support, and devoted friends. I managed to obtain my bachelor's degree in nursing six months before I turned 21! It was a stressful experience to say the least, cramming so much education into a short span of time.

After passing my nursing board exams, I immediately started working the night shift right out of college! Within two years, I wasn't sleeping, I lost weight, and the anxiety escalated. Thankfully, my doctor listened to me. She guided me towards improving my overall health through nutrition and exercise, and she also suggested I try yoga. I found the only yoga studio within 20 miles from my home and dedicated my days off to practicing.

Those early days of walking a new path of healing changed me. I experienced the therapeutic benefits of massage and reiki, along with a regular yoga practice which moved my body, focused my breathing, and taught me to rest deeply. A fire was ignited inside of me, I was taking control of my health! It encouraged me to continue learning more about myself. 

In 2005, I enrolled myself in Yoga Teacher Training at the Kripalu Center in Lenox, MA. I was excited to discover new and different modes of healing: Ayurveda (the sister science of yoga), meditation, breathing practices, and yoga postures. These amazing activities filled each day for my whole month long training.

I was reawakening, slowly coming back to life! Living in the transformative beauty of western Massachusetts during autumn, I could feel my emotional resilience, physical strength, and my mental perspective shifting. Connecting mind, body and breath was the best gift I could have given myself. And now I get to share that with others. 

"May we all have PEACE, LOVE, and LIGHT in our bodies, minds an hearts."

Being a natural introvert at heart, the teacher training challenged me because it felt uncomfortable and unpleasant to me to speak in front of others. Thankfully my bunkmate had my back. She gave me a card with a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt that said, "Do one thing everyday that scares you." I think of that quote everyday. It reminds me that I have the freedom to remember my power, while feeling out the potential of my courage.

Back home, I taught a weekly donation - only class to friends, family and community in an effort to gain confidence speaking and moving in front of an audience. It was a special time witnessing myself become a leader, while watching my friends, my mother, my friends' mothers, and new friends enjoy the benefits of yoga. A practice that has helped me in so many ways. Two years later, I found a great studio where I started teaching a beginner yoga class. The other yoga teachers there became my teachers and mentors which I am so grateful for. Slowly, over time I have built up my classes, teaching adults, children and creative yoga workshops.

Throughout the years, I have had the pleasure of refining my practice with specialized yoga courses. Returning back to Kripalu many times has been a blessing, and each time I returned, I sought out yoga classes that inspired me. I met amazing teachers and reconnected with training graduates that developed their own unique style of yoga and taught from the heart. It was at Kripalu that I met Jennifer Reis, teacher of Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra. I was drawn to her fluid, graceful approach to yoga and her ability to access a profound state of relaxation within her students. It was at this time that I became aware of how personal yoga can be, and how creative and expansive a force it is for change. Yoga Nidra became a pilgrimage of body, mind and spirit, activating hidden energetic layers I didn't know existed. I felt whole and complete within myself.

"Be love, be kind, be happy." Sean & William

This year marks 20 years as an RN, and I am in my 14th year of teaching yoga and meditation. My healing path has come full circle. I have successfully adapted calming techniques, breath awareness, and guided meditation into the delivery of my nursing care. I share my life with a loving husband and two wild boys! We are raising them with kindness, compassion and respect with the hope they will realize these qualities within themselves. Sharing the practice of yoga and meditation with my little yogi's has only enhanced my experience as a mother, staying open and flexible to reap its many benefits, They have been my true guides navigating me toward what is important in this life. 

Anxiety is still present in my daily life - it really doesn't go away, especially during times of overwhelming stress, sadness, grief and tenderness. But by prioritizing self care with yoga, rest and relaxation, I now have practical tools to assist me with anxiety and the rise and fall of emotions, thoughts, sensations, behaviors and actions.

Mama love

'Living' our yoga by breathing, moving together, and by simply being, has opened up a world of effortless enjoyment for me. As I continue to heal, and help steer the course for others on their yoga journey, I recognize the importance of having patience for the practice to unravel. I do not know what the next steps in my yoga teaching path will bring, but witnessing my students' moving freely, breathing peacefully, and deeply resting swells my grateful heart. 

Many thanks to Jennifer Reis for highlighting my student story and encouraging me to write it for the benefit of others, now is now! jenniferreisyoga.com/student-stories

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Mysteries of the Universe

Mysteries, Yes

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous to be understood.
How can grass be nourishing in the mouths of lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds will never be broken.
How people come from delight or the scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.
Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say,
"Look!" and laugh in astonishment, and bow their heads.

Mary Oliver

A couple weeks ago I awoke from a sound sleep. I went to the kitchen for water, leaned on the sink and looked up into the night sky. The moon was waning but still low and full, offering a warm glow on the counter despite the light from the street. Slightly lower and to the left of the moon, my eyes were drawn to a piercing bright light. I was mesmerized, it was shining, strong and brighter than any other star in the sky. I went back to bed, my husband who was awakened by me asked if everything was ok, I explained about the brilliant star that caught my attention.  Groggily, he asked about its location and as he rolled over he said, "must be Jupiter, it's visible to the naked eye this month."  As I lay awake, unable to sleep again I thought about the size of Earth compared to Jupiter. Usually, when I look into the night sky the mystery of the unknown Universe overwhelms me and I realize how small we really are. Now, as I remembered the brilliance of Jupiter's glow, I realized how close and connected we really are.

"We are all connected...to each other biologically, to the earth chemically, to the rest of the Earth atomically. Not only are we in the universe, the universe is in us." 
Neil Degrasse Tyson

I'm not a stranger to looking up into the sky, wondering what's out there. I've been doing it my whole life. For the last couple years, noticing the changing phases of the moon kept me focused, gently encouraging me to stay on my path. I'm drawn to the consistency of its shifts, the constancy of the moon orbiting earth, finding comfort in the lunar cycle. The gravitational pull of the moon and the sun makes the water in the oceans swell, causing a continual daily change of high and low tide. The beach is a place of true solace for me, watching the waves roll in and roll out creates a natural church unbound by walls. During the day there is a wonderful feeling of sun soaked warmth on my skin, swimming or wading in the salt water, and soft ocean breezes. This awake, alive, warm, yang energy of the day is balanced by the peaceful, calming, slower yin energy of evening. I love the beach when the sun starts to set, and the moon starts to rise. Eventide, the blue hour, twilight, dusk, mark the end of the day. There is a color transformation, a dynamic instinctual shift, and a transition in physical sensation as our bodies wind down towards rest. Knowing about the invisible associations of the sun, moon and ocean is another example of how close and connected we really are to the larger universe around us. It helps me to feel one with our beautiful world, to hold space here, living, and being a part of the mystery that surrounds us.

There is a wonderful animated movie I've watched many times with my Dad and my children. I think of it often as it holds a memory of when we were all together. 'La Luna' is a story of purpose, determination, cooperation and responsibility. I love the idea that there can be caretakers of the moon, sweepers of stars, and dreamers of dreams. This movie is a reminder that helps me stay close to my Dad now that he is gone. The moon is a symbol for me, a gorgeous glowing globe in the night sky that anchors me into security. It is always there shining, listening, consoling and comforting. Every night I can look up at the moon, talk to my Dad, and send my wishes out into the universe.

As Joni Mitchell writes, "we are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon..." I feel it in my bones, this close knit symbiosis. These are the relative connections I think of when I'm struggling. Life is full of challenges, decisions, and obstacles. Finding ways around those obstructions gracefully is a difficult navigation. But, like water moves fluidly, flowing in and around, above, below and sometimes through, there are many paths toward the other side. That sound of an ocean wave pulling in and pulling out mimics the sound of our breath. A beautiful soothing connection that we can carry with us everywhere we go.

If we can see things in the universe that we don't normally see, like the planets visible to the naked eye during the changing seasons on earth, and if we can't see things that we know exist, like the dark side of the moon or new moon phase, how can we rule out the vast possibilities of the universe that haven't been discovered yet? There is so much more to know, to wonder about, and to open our minds in an effort to understand. These objects in space held up by invisible energies, and their constant movements, orbits, and shifts are incredible examples of hope and potential opportunity. I find joy in the curiosity of it all, the sharing of the experience of a full moon, the constellations, a shooting star with my young sons. I want to instill a protective reverence for our planet and awe in its abundance.

"If you will stay close to nature, to its simplicity, to the small things hardly noticeable, those things can unexpectedly become great and immeasurable." 
Rainer Maria Rilke

For the last couple weeks, I've been following the exciting events in the night sky. The three brightest objects are the sun, moon and Venus, which is sometimes referred to as 'the morning star'. As we look toward May, Mars will shine brighter than Jupiter, which is normally the fourth brightest object in the sky.  Later on in the month, Saturn will also be visible as night falls. Our solar system is a magical dance of celestial bodies that light up the sky. The constant movement of the planets, the hidden darkness of the universe, and its unknown secrets open an awareness that our galaxy is not so far far away. It is an infinite appreciation of faith, strength, love, connection, and knowledge. How lucky we are to live on Earth, look up and see the beauty of the universe, the promise of possibility.

As Stephen Hawking said, "Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don't just give up."

This post is dedicated to my husband, Mark. Thanks for helping me see things I don't understand more clearly, and for having the patience to keep our mystery of love. 
Happy Birthday

This is a great website with a lot of information, click on the Skywatching link for what's visible in the night sky, and the Science & Astronomy link for the moon phases.
This website is a vast source of information from basic to advanced knowledge.

Here are some books we have to explore the mystery of the Universe with our boys!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Finding Joy (follow up post to 'Cultivating Joy' 3/21/13)

"True refuge is that which allows us to be at home, at peace, to discover true happiness. The only thing that can give us true refuge is the awareness and love that is intrinsic to who we are. Ultimately, its our own true nature."
Tara Brach

In 'The Universe Has Your Back', Gabrielle Bernstein writes, "Empowering intentions bring us joy, and joy is the catalyst for all that is good in this world. The more joyful we are, the more light we shine on the world, the more power we have to express our presence, and the more positive energy we put out. That place of power is the source of the energy necessary to show up and serve, the inspiration behind creative solutions for seemingly hopeless problems, and the access to generosity for giving more when there is need. Even one person's presence of joy has the capacity to leave a massively positive imprint on a local community and a global landscape. The energy of peace, love, and joy has the power to shift the world."

What does it mean to source joy? In what ways can we tap into the power of joy? Is joy a force strong enough to help us persevere during dark times, sadness, grief and loss?

Over the last few years, I have been thinking hard on what finding joy and happiness mean to me. I posted a few years ago on the blog, first day of Spring 2013 about 'Cultivating Joy', a topic that I still wrestle with in my thoughts. Spring is a season of unfolding beauty and strength, joy and happiness are a curious theme that still holds a need for me to explore.  I find inspiration in nature, the sprouts that push through a cold, thawing Earth, the resilience of the roots and stem to rise up against the harsh conditions of snow, wind and rain.

By definition, joy is a feeling of great pleasure and happiness, synonyms of joy are delight, elation, and glee. The act of having joy is to rejoice. Joy has the power to be cultivated internally, remaining in a more consistent way as sensation within the body and mind. Happiness is a state of being; cheerful, satisfied, and content. A state found externally through people, places, things and experiences or events.

As an introvert and over thinker, I question everything about my ever changing feelings and emotions. If happiness is a natural state of being, why do I feel such a struggle in finding it? As I have experienced sorrow, grief, anger, shame and guilt, it's hard to turn the corner towards brighter thought patterns. There are days when I have to drag my body out of bed, all my muscles are sore and my bones feel stiff and rigid. There are nights when I can't sleep at all. I lie in bed going down shadowy paths of fear, worry and anxieties only to finally fall asleep and awaken from a horrible nightmare!

In a broader sense, I have ups and downs like many other people, but I don't feel these emotions for an extended length of time. I am not writing this to bring any direction, suggestion, or judgment towards those who truly struggle with mental illness. I remain aware, compassionate and supportive of those who are living a life of challenge. But yet, as a mother I have to address my healthy mental-emotional relationships with myself, my children, my husband, family and friends.

My strength of will gets me up in the morning, I have two children that need me. It's a sleep deprived survival mode of tasks. I have to work, earn money, pay my bills, and make important decisions that impact other lives. These responsibilities feel like a heavy weight on my shoulders, it can be a constant drain on my energy. As my tired aching body and busy mind longs for stillness and rest, I rise up and continue to live, love and experience the vast possibility of life. I am here, now. My time is now, it is what I make it, sad and sufferable or joyous and exciting. Like the hardy crocus of spring that thrives, continuously reaching toward the sun, I need to find the light, I need to find my joy.

These words come from a place of not wanting, I have healthy food, clean water and a cozy home. I am living in freedom. Freedom to marry who I love, to work, live, and share my personal beliefs, morals and ethics with my boys as they learn and grow. I do not underestimate that gift at all. I can't close my eyes to the struggles of the world. We are all one, connected, living on Earth. As a family, we openly discuss the truth of the world. Poverty, violence, conflict, inequality, discrimination, disease, pollution, lack of natural resources, education, safety, security and well-being. The list can go on, but if I can serve, help or care for those in need, I won't give up in trying. Ubuntu is a beautiful Nguni Buntu term meaning "humanity". It has been translated as a phrase into "I am because we are," and also "humanity towards others". It is a South African philosophy that references "the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity".  Sharing the knowledge of this word and its philosophy helps me bring light to dark, awareness into action, peace and justice to all who deserve it and continue to fight for it. Sealing in the words of Gabby Bernstein, "Even one person's presence of joy has the capacity to leave a massively positive imprint on a local community and a global landscape. The energy of peace, love and joy has the power to shift the world."

Motivation, inspiration and perceptions keep our blessings from turning into burdens, which requires an active effort of seeking. What inspires me is different than what inspires others. That delicate harmony is a unique art of association that binds humankind. It is a fragile network of philanthropy, compassion, sympathy, tolerance, kindness, consideration, and understanding. Find your truth, find what makes you happy, seek out your inspirations. Turning passion into genuine work is demanding, and no one can make you happy but yourself. What interests me is creating a powerful source of energy that taps into environment, experience, and connection with others.

As a nurse, I have the privilege of caring for humans who need my guidance, observation, action and wisdom to heal. As a yoga teacher, I lead meditations to help shift awareness into the present moment, share ways to breathe more deeply, safely move the body, and gently relax the mind. These paths of service and giving fill my heart with joy.

Finding happiness is more transient, and can be dependent on external sources. I'm definitely a person who is highly influenced by the energy of my surroundings. Have you ever been around someone who is truly happy? I have experienced subtle shifts when I am out and about with people who engage in life with a patient playfulness. I have friends who look on the bright side of life, and are able to speak easily and directly about positivity, leading with a true arrow towards their goals. It feels good to be around this energy, contagious, and inspiring to open up and tap into other people's joy. This radiating hopefulness reflects a desire to cultivate joy from the inside out and prolong a state of happiness. To live with a lighter heart, feel the beauty of the Earth, and my experiences within it as a whole person. I want to say yes more, I want to give my time and attention freely without feeling depleted, especially towards my children.

The practice of meditation has helped me to accomplish this, and sparked an internal awareness that goes beyond joy and happiness. It has gifted me with a sense of calm in chaos, a momentary pause before responding or reacting, and a general increase in self esteem and self care. I don't put a lot of effort into my daily meditation practice, some days it may appear differently to those who think meditation is sitting still and quiet on a cushion, blanket or block for a period of time. My daily meditation is more of a mindful awareness. In the morning, the moment my mind wakes up, I stretch my body, and place both hands over my heart. I close my eyes and take three deep breaths. With each breath I think of three gratitudes. This simple act has opened me into a state of happiness, grace, trust, and appreciation for all I am, and continue to be, and for all I have in my life.

"When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive, to breathe, to think, to enjoy. To love." Marcus Aurelius

In honor of this first day of Spring, a time of renewal, rebirth, and new beginnings, I want to make an affirmation: a statement of truth which one aspires to absorb into their life. It is a hope for the future.

To feel happy and loved, I give happiness and show love.

Recently, I was asked to give some advice to new parents. I came up with this. "Hug them, love them, share your joy with them."

Here are some words from my sweet children, who are an eternal spring to my source of joy.
"Laugh hard and often!"
"Love can be messy, let's just snuggle."
"Everywhere is home when you are with your family."
"Be love, be kind, be happy."

If you are interested in learning more about how to practice meditation, start with guided meditations. They are easy to find and easy to listen to. I love Tara Brach, she is a psychotherapist, meditation teacher, and author who has numerous articles, videos, hundreds of recorded talks, and guided meditations.  tarabrach.com

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Compassion Rising

"Nothing can dim the LIGHT that shines from within." Maya Angelou

February is the month of love, and on the wings of last month's post, '2018 Prayer for PEACE and LOVE', my gift to you is a visualization of LOVE in our world, how it expands and creates more LOVE.

Love exists within us. Love for ourselves, love for others, and love within our universe. 

Find a comfortable seat, or lie down. Close your eyes, relax the muscles in your face, and begin to notice your breath. Inhale followed by exhale. Find an even rhythm to your breath without force, allow the breath to move through you effortlessly. Imagine an infinite, boundless energy of love gathering in the center of your heart. In your minds eye, envision an emerald green sphere glistening, glowing, and reflecting other colors around it. Place this illuminated sphere over your heart, and take in all its healing love. Imagine this expansive energy surrounding you, holding you, supporting you, soak in its comforting warmth. When you are ready to release it, shining heart light from the inside out, begin to send positive, loving energy into the universe. Imagine the radiant light extending like the brightest rays of the sun towards people you know, and then towards people you don't know. If it feels appropriate, send this energy towards people you dislike or don't agree with. Seal in this intention of love and peace with a deep breath. Inhale followed by exhale, and let it be felt by us all. 

This image has been my daily meditation, connecting all living beings into a circle of hope and healing, my prayer of peace and love for 2018.

Self care and self love practices have not come easy for me. It has taken me 41 years to accept and forgive who I was, love who I am, and find joy in who I am becoming. Everyday unfolds differently, and my outlook on life is not always positive.

If you experience unhappiness in mind and body, a general dis-satisfaction with how situations in your life have turned out, or are currently unraveling, you are not alone. I feel this often. We are a vulnerable species in a challenging world. There is sadness, heartbreak, violence, hate, and unimaginable events occurring everyday. I have no answers, and sometimes no words for solace or support. As a nurse, I have observed and attempted to alleviate pain and suffering. As a daughter, sister, friend, wife, and mother, I have experienced pain, loss and suffering. 

What does it feel like to be a source of light in a world in which darkness seems to proliferate?

Our culture here in the United States, gives sympathy (I feel bad for you) in times of loss or sadness. Typically, with a card, or with flowers. We express our empathy (I feel bad with you) in times of difficulty with a hug, or a visit that offers space to listen and support. Compassion (I want to take part in alleviating your discomfort) is an amazing and powerful tool, it is a great connector. It allows us to open a door to understanding, acceptance, and more fulfilling relationships. It also promotes self care and self love. How can you give anything when your own energy is depleted? There are many ways to actively pursue compassionate acts, through charity and volunteer work, meal sharing for those in need, child care, or elder care, an open ended option of availability and time. These three pillars of care are ways to ease suffering, they fill our hearts with gratitude, magnifying our ability to love, live and thrive.

In the Theravada tradition of Buddhist philosophy, there are four noble truths. For the purposes of this post, I'll keep things simple and direct, these are the four noble truths defined. The first one is known as dukkha, it is the validation that suffering exists. For me, this acknowledgment allows it to be real and shared. The second one is samudaya, there is a cause of suffering. Certain causes of suffering are obvious in life, but others not so much. The third is nirodha, there is an end to suffering. Breaking it down, you can think of smaller sufferings, like headaches, short term illnesses (infection or a virus) before opening into the larger view of suffering. These noble truths are presented in a way that can hopefully bring a greater understanding to your conscious life. The fourth one is manga, the path leading to the cessation of suffering. Finding that path can be difficult. It is also possible to become stuck in between these abstract theories.

I think of these four noble truths as different roads to take in life. Guided by various choices, perceptions, and the concept of impermanence, everything is temporary. Change exists in our lives, and nothing stays the same. It may not seem like that when you are enduring a hardship, but change happens moment to moment, sensation to sensation, and breath by breath. The fourth noble truth, manga: the path leading to the cessation of suffering is navigated by the Noble Eightfold Path. The steps are Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. Simply stated, the Noble Eightfold Path is divided into three themes. Good moral conduct (understanding, thought, and speech), meditation and mental development (action, livelihood, and effort), and wisdom (mindfulness and concentration).

Gaining insight to the four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path is a lifetime of learning. Here is an easy daily coping tool to begin walking this path of awareness.

The moment your mind wakes up in the morning, open your eyes, stretch your arms and legs, and take a deep breath. While still warm and safe in your bed, place your hands over your heart, and think of three thoughts of gratitude, seal each of them in with a complete breath, inhale followed by exhale.

Finding ways to grow compassion for ourselves and others is needed now more than ever. I hope these small offerings have opened your hearts and minds towards a greater appreciation of self care, self love, and self compassion, and how its positive contribution can affect all living beings.

"True love is the recognition of another in yourself."
Eckhart Tolle

Monday, January 1, 2018

2018 Prayer for PEACE & LOVE

"The soul of the soul of the Universe is love." Rumi

2018 Prayer for PEACE & LOVE

Peace exists within us. Love exists within us. My hope is that more people will dedicate their energy, time, passion and pursuits towards finding their truth. It is our power. Seeking your truth is about discovering who you are, what makes you happy, healthy, and joyful. Authenticity exists in each and every one of us. If joy is the greatest marker of our success, living our truth is the path towards that greatness. Living your truth is the opposite of living a lie, or faking your way through life. As Mary Oliver says in her beautiful poem; "Tell me, what is is you plan to do with your one precious life?"

Be real. 
Be here. 
Be now.

Together, we rise up with LOVE. Together, we rise up with kindness. Together, we rise with compassion. Together, we rise up with patience. Together, we rise up with forgiveness. Together, we rise up with PEACE. Erase the invisible walls, the real walls and the potential walls that close off communication and understanding. 

Peace for all living beings on Earth.

"and the world will be as one..." John Lennon

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Darkest Night

"Morning Star, O cheering sight! Ere thou cam'st, how dark earth's night! Morning Star, O cheering sight! Ere thou cam'st how dark earth's night!" Johannes Scheffler (1657)

The winter solstice is a quiet celebration in our home. It is a cherished moment of time spent together as a family with limited external distractions. Also known as the hibernal solstice, an astronomical phenomenon marking the day with the shortest period of daylight, and the longest night of the year. The return of the light and the flower that blooms in winter are powerful symbols of the winter solstice, the moment when darkness begins to recede and the days gradually lengthen with the promise of spring. It is a day and night to honor the importance of deep rest before the reawakening of nature.

With the larger holiday of thanksgiving past, and the extended Christmas traditions just a week away, we have one dark night to honor our treasured gifts of health, happiness and home. It is on purpose that we not use any electricity, except for the heating of our meal on the gas stove. No lights are switched on, no television, and no computer screens are turned on. Usually, we spend the day in nature, going for a hike, exploring or seeking out new experiences. This year, the winter solstice falls on a weekday, so our morning time will be separate due to school and work. We will reconnect in the afternoon, and settle into the comfort of our home. As part of our daily routines, we have been enjoying time breathing, holding hands, and anchoring our minds into the present moment. It is a good way to bring balance to the start of the day, and a grounding energy toward the end of the day.

Coming Home

Our arrival to home is a series of prioritized events, we hang up coats, backpacks, take off our shoes, wash hands, and eat a snack. We complete homework, and have free time to play. Snuggling, squirming and silliness eventually settle in, and in an effort to distract from battles, pestering, and "I'm bored" statements, I gently lay out my yoga mat, and start a slow movement practice. In my experience, if I start a yoga flow in the middle of the most popular room in the house, there is always a little face ready to meet my gaze and practice with me. Eventually, they both find their way under my legs and on my yoga mat. Breathing and moving together directs all attention to the present moment. Child pose with a little one sitting on your lower hips, and gently pressing down is a welcome release after any stressful day.


Sun salutations warm up the body, make space for the breath, lengthen and extend the spine, and bring a hopeful flow of energy into our home. Imagining new yoga poses with funny names, brings a lively animated expression to this constant evolving practice of yoga. Once we are loosened up, partner poses are a powerful way to connect the focus of our minds and the strength of our bodies, working together towards a common goal.

Being Here Now

In the few hours of light left before the evening falls, we sit at the table, play cards, connect over a board game, gather art supplies to paint, draw, or write, and be together in a creative space. In our home, we usually listen to music, but on this day of consciously conserving electricity, we can make music. Singing songs, clapping rhythms with our hands or on a drum, strumming chords on the guitar, holding a space where everyone feels free and happy. In these short winter days, taking the time to express ourselves through music, pictures, play, poems, or stories is a symbol of slowing down, making memories, finding stillness as a family, holding on to one another a little bit longer.

As the sun begins to set on the darkest night of the year, we light our best candles in all shapes and sizes, and enjoy the shadows the light flickers on the walls. The quiet and the dark are more pronounced, and everything seems to move at a slower pace as the stillness floats in.


Supper is a simple meal of homemade soup and bread, prepared ahead of time, and we dine by candlelight. While talking around the table, each one of us attains much deserved attention, sharing thoughts, experiences and reflections from the day. In an effort to maintain respect in listening, and kindness in our words, we pass a small object around, taking turns speaking. Our object is a small pig with a movable head, arms and legs. We pass the pig around, and many animal jokes are made, as the conversation shifts, it always comes back around to heckling our cute mobile pig.

"What does the pig say to the cow?" "oink, moo, oink, moo, oink, moo!"

After dinner everyone picks out a book, and we read the stories aloud. We sip on honey tea as the hour gets later, and the night begins to shine. Eventually, pajamas are on, teeth are brushed, and little boys are tucked into their warm and cozy beds. Sleep finds its way into tired bodies, and the soft, rhythmic sounds of their breathing bring a deep sense of peace and rest into our home.

With Peace and Light

This is our sacred holiday of love, our special ritual of simplicity and sincerity. In the midst of festive chaos, we appreciate the subtler changes of the seasons. The Solstice marks a time of remembrance, a moment of pause, silence and inner reflection. Spending quality quiet time together rejoicing in the shortest day and one long, dark night solidifies our bond as a family. Acknowledging our truest and most humble possessions, the gratitude goes deep. We are never alone, we can navigate the turbulent times of darkness with hope and humility, knowing help and support are close by. Adequate rest and healthy sleep rekindles our hearts and minds. When we wake up in the morning and the sun shines through our windows, it is a reminder that no matter how dark a night may be, the light will always return.

However you and your loved ones celebrate this last month of the year, I hope it is filled with moments of quiet stillness, peace, comfort, and joy.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Transience (Past, Present & Future)

"I am a passenger, and I ride and I ride. I ride through the city's backside. I see the stars come out of the sky. Yeah, they're bright in a hollow sky. You know it looks so good tonight."

Life is transient. Moments, feelings, experiences, sensations, even awakened awareness is transient. We live in a world where there are distractions that take us away from the present moment we are breathing in. When we look towards nature, especially the seasons of change, we can see the tangible quality of the leaves turning from green, to red, to gold. The falling of the pine needles and acorns, the wilt and decay of the once blossomed flowers. It is a pattern of nature, one to believe in, trust in its return to life.

As the weather patterns churn and change, leaving us in various states of loss or unrest. It is an energy that is so strong, so harsh it can't be denied. Quiet observance, sitting, reflecting, sending support with thoughts, and powering up the fortitude of the breath are tools I use to settle, ground, and bring the scattered pieces back together again.

In an effort to focus more on a clear and present state of mind, there is the breath. With the breath, there is an opportunity to seek new moments in life. Inhale into the present, exhale out the past. The slight pause between inhale and exhale is the state of wonder, the unknown future, without holding on to any expectations, breathe in again into the present moment, exhale out the past. This subtle dissection of the breath can help keep you centered, and assist in the redirection towards the task at hand.

Find a comfortable position, sitting, or lying down. Uplift the spine and support it with a wall or the back of a chair if sitting. Lying down, release the spine along a soft mat or cushion, where the weight of your body is dispersed evenly. Bring your awareness to the breath. Feel the natural flow of inhale followed by exhale. Notice the parts of the body that expand, inflate and fill up as you breathe in through both nostrils. Inhale into the present moment. Now is now. Feel the energy circulate and exhale slowly through both nostrils. The naval sinks down towards the spine as the breath floats up along the spine. Enjoy the warming breath on the upper lip pass out of your body, letting go of what you do not need. The past is gone. Each moment brings a new sensation, a new emotion, a new awareness. Just be here and breathe.

Natural flow of breath transitions into a more focused 3 part breath. As you inhale, the upper chest, rib cage, belly lift and inflate. As you exhale, the active contraction of belly to spine occurs, as the breath flows up and out of the nostrils. As you relax and gain rhythm to your breath, ocean sounding breath, adds an audible layer, a subtle internal vibration enhanced by the inhale and exhale of your breath. Just as the constant tide pulls in and out against the shore, watch the ebb and flow of your mind. Anchor your thoughts by pulling the breath in through both nostrils. Feel the upper chest lift, middle back and rib cage expand, and the low back and belly wide and full of breath. Hold the breath for 1-2 seconds, and then release the breath, pulling navel to spine. As you exhale slowly and completely, gently constrict or close off the back of the throat and redirect the breath up and out through the nostrils. Feel the warmth of the breath on your upper lip. Pause and repeat the process for however long it feels comfortable. 

All we have, all we are, all we need is here, inside the rise and fall of our breath. We are all children of the universe, we are blessed with human gifts of imagination, conscience, self-awareness, and willpower. They are fully present inside each of us. Support these beautiful gifts in all ways possible, help yourself, help each other. In this world of complete transience, we are the the traveler, the voyager, the wanderer, the rider, the passenger floating in the wind.

"We'll be the passenger, we'll ride through the city tonight. See the city's ripped backsides. We'll see the bright and hollow sky. We'll see the stars that shine so bright. The sky was made for us tonight."

Passenger lyrics written by Iggy Pop

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Finding Balance

"There is eternal summer in a grateful heart."
Celia Thaxter

Summer is here, the Earth is in bloom. Hot, sunny days are balanced by cloudy, cooler days, and just like the shifting of seasons, there is transition of darkness into light. As visitors upon this Earth, all living beings are a part of nature. Influenced by changing conditions, like the moon, we move through cycles, and are made up of native elements. Our bodies are a microcosm of the Earth, full of rhythm, evolution, adaptation, transformation, metamorphosis, and vibrant energy.

The season of summer reminds us that everything alive is made up of energy, which is the capacity or power to do work. Energy can exist in a variety of different forms, such as electrical, mechanical, manual, thermal, or nuclear, and can be transferred from one form to another. Active or passive, a balance exists in the nature of energy.

Understanding the nature of external energy is the first step in opening up to the internal energy that exists within each of us. There are ways to find balance in the mind, and in the body. In yogic philosophy, energy is broken up into feminine and masculine energies, known as Shiva and Shakti. Shiva is pure consciousness, Purusha. A primal masculine activating power pulled from the symbol of the sun. Shakti is the maternal provider of nourishing Prakriti. A comforting feminine principle of nature, symbolized by the changing phases of the moon. When these two energies unite, action, movement, and creation arise. This connection provides a pathway toward pure consciousness. Combining loving care, protection, vitality, clarity and knowledge.

In Taoism, the yin/yang symbol illustrates this essential balance that exists inside each of us. Qualities of these energies intermingle to create a balanced whole. The feminine yin energy connects us with the left side of the body. A darker, slower moving, passive, internal energy. The masculine yang energy connects us with the right side of the body. A lighter, faster-moving, active, external energy.

There are many layers of our inner and outer world. What is happening around us in our daily schedules or routines, universally and globally impacts our inner world. Practicing the art of silent observation, reflection and surrender can help us to adapt and survive the spontaneous qualities the external layers of our world throw at us. I like to relate these energies to actions that can stimulate the sympathetic response and the parasympathetic responses of the brain. Life is a constant balance, and we are intuitively searching moment to moment to find this balance within the mind and body. It is a safe, natural way to cope with the external world around us. Finding creative ways to bring an effort and an ease into our daily lives is a wonderful utilization of accessing the energies that already exist inside of us. Finding what is unique and preferred is the interesting part of the journey. Enjoy the guided breath described below, known as alternate nostril breathing. After 10-20 cycles of this breath, your mind will feel calmer, and your body more relaxed, creating a harmonious state of peace and balance.

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

Alternate nostril breath is a transformative breathing technique that brings a sense of peace and calm into the mind and body. Breathing in and out of each nostril independently, allows the feminine and masculine energies to move into balance.

Find a comfortable seat or lie down. Begin to relax your body, and breathe. Close your eyes. Noticing the inhale followed by the exhale is the first stage of finding balance. Slowly inhale through both nostrils, feel the ease of pulling the breath all the way into the body, fill up, and then with control exhale completely, allowing the breath to flow up the spine and out through both nostrils. Feel the warming breath on your upper lip. Pause. Hold the breath out of the body, and when ready, choose to breathe in again. Inhale slowly through both nostrils, fill up, and with control exhale completely. Take time to enjoy a couple more cycles of natural flow of breath. Inhale followed by exhale. Readjust your seat or body if lying down, make any adjustments to align your spine and relax. Rest your left hand down, and bring your right hand toward your face. Place the first two fingers on your forehead and press gently there. Close your eyes, returning to natural flow of breath, inhale followed by exhale, draw your awareness to the center of your forehead. Honor the sacred center of trust, intuition and inner wisdom that lies within each of us. Pause, linger in this place of breath and being. When ready exhale completely, and place your thumb over your right nostril. Slowly inhale through your left nostril. Take the time to fill your body up with breath, then place the first, second or both fingers over the left nostril and exhale through your right nostril. Notice the length of time it takes to fully release your breath, pause, then inhale through your right nostril. Close off your right nostril with your thumb, lift the fingers off your left nostril and exhale completely through your left nostril. Inhale through the left nostril, close left and exhale right. Inhale through the right nostril, close right and exhale left. Inhale through the left nostril, close left and exhale right. Inhale through the right nostril, close right and exhale left. Continue for a total of 10-20 cycles. When you feel ready, exhale slowly through your left nostril. Release your hand back down, realign your seat and spine. With focus and control, inhale slowly through both nostrils, feel the ease of the breath pull into the body. Enjoy the inflation of breath, hold for 1-2 seconds, and then exhale the breath through both nostrils. Return your breath to a natural awareness of inhale followed by exhale. Open your eyes, notice the state of your mind and body.

"What you think you become. What you feel you attract. What  you imagine you create."

Connect to our bodies and minds.

Daily Meditation can enhance your focus and concentration, bringing more space into your life. Be gentle with yourself. There is always room to grow. Loving kindness meditation is a form of metta meditation, a connection to love. Set simple intentions, tangible goals, and be a positive support to others. Send healing energy to those people and places who need it the most. One minute, five minutes, ten minutes, or more, carve out a small pocket of time to just sit or lie down. Close your eyes, connect to your breath, one inhale and exhale at a time. 

Connect to the Earth

Enjoy the warmth of the sun on your skin. Lie down in a garden, or the grass, and feel the soft Earth beneath you. Settle down into gravity, and sink into the arms of the Earth. Simply enjoy the beauty that surrounds you. Look, listen, feel, touch, and taste all the experiences. Eat foods that are locally grown, and in season. The five senses are our superpowers. Nourishing our bodies and minds with rest, healthy food, clean water, and exercise intensifies them. Create beauty around you. Plant and grow your own garden. Find ways to mend the damage done to our Earth. Reuse and recycle resources. Collect rainwater in a barrel for outside watering. Hang clean laundry on a line, and let the sun dry it instead. Bring your own bags to the market when shopping. Light a candle instead of using electricity. 

Being present without an agenda, provide time and space to listen, stay patient, peaceful, and open to connections that may otherwise be invisible to some. Enjoy a leisurely walk or a hike in nature. Go for a swim, or take a long bike ride. Notice the changing phases of the Moon, the Earth's seasons, and honor Mother Nature's oceans, lakes, mountains, and forests. 

"If your compassion doesn't include yourself, it is incomplete."

Finding balance within ourselves acknowledges the importance of who we are. When we feel validated, there is more patient space to offer to others. We need to love, support, and strengthen ourselves, so we can then love, support, and strengthen those who need our nurturing, our care, and our attention. To empower and accept each other is crucial to our survival. Surrendering to the magic of our divine feminine and masculine energies, creates a universal peace.

We must believe that it is possible to share knowledge, to provide health care, to improve the safety and sanitary conditions of children and families globally, to protect our planetary resources, ~ such as food, water, air, soil, energy, and connecting to the goodness that all living beings require and deserve to thrive.

I have not been drawn to write. The transient, temporary seasons have served as an inspiration, a reminder of the inevitable constancy of change. Exposed, vulnerable, raw, my words are hanging on an extended branch for all to see, but only few to read. I accept that. I persevere. Writing provides an open space for me to let go of what no longer serves me. This blog is a gentle offering, subtle suggestions that have softened my resistance, and helped me to adapt to change. I hope they can help others too.

"When words are both true and kind they can change the world."

"To write is to seek the truth behind one's inner chatter and then to put it out there. It is to believe we can improve upon the silence. It is to have faith in the power of words to provoke us, connect us, heal us. It is to have faith, period." 
Katrina Kenison

This post is dedicated to all those who are in the changing seasons of joy and blessings or heartache and loss, we are all in this together.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Green Smoothie

"When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is correct, medicine is of no need."
Ayurvedic Proverb

Here is my green smoothie recipe for increased energy and vitality! A great way to boost your metabolism, and help shift your body from winter into spring. This is a basic recipe tested and tasted, it works well with creative options (protein powders, collagen, spirulina) added in for a nutrition boost. If you want a sweeter version, a spoonful of raw honey or pure maple syrup will do the trick. So try it, experiment with your ingredients, and share your results!

For best results use a high power machine for breaking up raw vegetables and fruit fibers.

You will need:

1 washed organic green apple, a ripe pear or both! (cut up with skin on)

1/2 ripe avocado and/or 1 spoonful of *coconut oil

2 washed organic celery ribs (sliced to fit in your blender)

1/2 frozen banana (pre-peeled, cut up and frozen into chunks for easy use)

1 whole organic orange, clementine or lemon (ends cut off, freshly squeezed with a few slices of rind)

1 small washed organic carrot (cut up with skin on)

1 thumb-size piece of raw ginger (peeled and roughly cut-up)

moderate handful of organic washed baby spinach leaves or *super greens

1- 1 1/2 cups *coconut water, *aloe vera juice or cold spring water

Puree all ingredients and enjoy! Best if consumed in the morning.


Green apples and pears are full of fiber! They promote cardiovascular, digestive and respiratory health. Best stored in refrigerator or cool environment.

Celery is an excellent source of antioxidants, beneficial enzymes, vitamins and minerals. Celery lowers inflammation assisting in balanced cholesterol and blood pressure levels. A wonderful digestive aid, reducing bloating, protecting the liver and decreasing ulcers. It has amazing anti-microbial and chemo protective compounds called polyacetylenes that help reduce toxicity, and fight against cancer cell formation.

Bananas are instant energy, full of natural sugars (sucrose, fructose and glucose), amino acids (tryptophan boosting serotonin levels), iron, potassium, magnesium, and are high in soluble fiber.
The ripened dark patches on banana skin produces a substance called TNF (tumor necrosis factor) which has the ability to combat abnormal cells, promotes higher immunity enhancement and chemo protective qualities.

Avocado are high in heart healthy monounsaturated fats, promotes eye health and brain function, improving nutrient absorption. They are full of fiber, potassium and vitamin C.

Coconut oil is a natural saturated fat, that increases healthy (HDL) cholesterol levels in the body. Coconut oil contains medium chain fatty acids that are metabolized efficiently creating energy, boosting brain, cardiac, kidney and immune function. It is an anti-inflammatory, chemo protective oil that helps skin glow, prevents gum disease and tooth decay.

Citrus fruits are powerhouses with too many benefits to list here, but some amazing qualities enhance your brain, heart, kidneys, skin, bones, digestive and immune systems. The citrus peels contain 5-10 times more vitamins and nutrients than the fruit itself, so if you are using the rinds, buy organic and wash the fruit thoroughly. Citrus fruits are a solid source of fiber, folate, antioxidants, phytonutrients (biologically active compounds found in plants), and Vitamin C assisting in the absorption of iron.

Carrots are full of vitamins A, K, folate, B6 and minerals of manganese, potassium, copper and iron. They help balance blood sugar levels, assist in healthy heart and eyesight function, and boosts digestive and immune systems.

Ginger is a wonderful anti inflammatory digestive aid. It is a chemo protective, immune boosting and pain sensory inhibitor root spice. Best consumed raw, sliced or grated.

Super greens are kale, spinach, collards, beet and turnip greens, red and green romaine, swiss chard, arugula, parsley, and many more. They are full of vitamins A, C, E and K, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory. You really can't get enough of these nutrient dense greens filled with immune boosting power and cellular regenerators. Super greens can be eaten in their natural state (green leafy vegetables, broccoli), or in a compressed green powder, easing their way into smoothies. I personally like to promote the lesser processed foods, this smoothie tastes great with fresh green leafy super greens. Check your local health food store and explore the different options.

Coconut water has so many health benefits. It's an excellent anti-inflammatory, rehydration drink, full of electrolytes, amino acids and trace minerals boosting energy and balancing blood sugar levels. Coconut water contains cytokinins, the plant version of human cytokines. This hormone like substance enhances the reproductive, growth and development, skin repair, cellular healing, homeostatic regulation, blood clotting and immune systems of the body!

Aloe Vera juice is a rich source of hydrating antioxidants, cell growth stimulators, pain inhibitor properties, and essential nutrients. It's a powerhouse of calcium, sodium, iron, potassium, manganese,  zinc, folic acid, Vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, C, E and amino acids.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Super Bowl 2017

"No act of kindness no matter how small is ever wasted." Aesop

Friday morning. Spirit day. Sean says, "Mom! Where's my Patriots shirt?" Finding it in the bottom of the drawer, he put it on and the sleeves ended two inches above his wrist. "Mom, can I please wear it anyway?" Heading into school with a shirt too small for his growing body, we talked about getting a new Patriots shirt to wear on Sunday. After drop off, William and I visited my Mom for breakfast, then we started our list of errands. Four stores later, we discovered all Patriots gear for kids SOLD OUT!  I was becoming weary, and William was losing patience with me. Our last ditch effort to one more stop closer to home brought us to a small sports gear shop in Woburn. We walked in and saw lots of Patriots accessories, but again Patriots shirts sold out. All that was left were the expensive Super Bowl 2017 Jerseys at $75 a shirt! We talked with the young store clerk about the upcoming game, thinking it was just the three of us in the store, I heard another voice say, "Excuse me, but would you buy the jersey if I paid for half?" I peered around the large football display and saw an old man sitting on a bench trying on shoes. His bright blue eyes twinkled from under his tweed scally cap, his large belly shaking as he smiled, and asked me again, "I'm an old man with nothing but time and money, please let me donate half of the money for your son to have a jersey to wear on Sunday." I looked over at the store clerk, who was beaming from ear to ear, of course my eyes started to well up.

I walked over to the kind man, as he proceeded to open his wallet, and hand over $40 cash to the store clerk. Denying such a beautiful gesture would have been a sin. I squeaked out a "thank you", and the tears kept rolling. "Why are you crying?" asked the old man. I took a deep breath to compose myself, and started explaining how this is the first Super Bowl without my Dad, and how he would have bought my son a Patriots jersey already in anticipation of Sunday's game. I sat down on the bench next to this sweet old man, I gave him a hug, we exchanged warm introductions and talked more. He asked me about my Dad, his name, and how he came to pass away. It was easy to tell him what happened, and the similarities between this stranger and my Dad became quite palpable. My Dad was a giving man, he was all about my boys. He was also a businessman, and would frequently offer up deals and transactions with me. We had such a genuine exchange of understanding and connection, turning the conversation slowly into a more up-lifting one, "My name is Paul", he said. "I'm a retired dentist from Woburn. I have 8 children and too many grand children to keep up with. What is life without small happinesses in your day? Let me give you this gift in honor of your Dad. A little present from Phil in Heaven."

20 minutes passed before I made it up to the counter to complete the purchase of the Patriots jersey for my son. The store clerk commented on how Paul came in the store all the time, and was a great guy. The clerk proceeded to give me his employee discount, and knocked off another $10 from the jersey! Thanking him too, I ended up paying $20 for a Super Bowl 2017 Tom Brady jersey for my lucky 8 year old son.

William gave Paul a high-five, and he received one more hug from me. I left the store with a full heart, a renewed sense of hope for humanity, and the realization that Earth Angels do exist, we just have to stay open to finding them.

Go Patriots!

"The heart that gives, gathers." Tao Te Ching

"It's not the strength of the body that counts, but the strength of spirit." J.R.R Tolkien

"All you need is LOVE is all you need." Lennon & McCartney

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Yoga for Everyone

"True yoga is not about the shape of your body, but the shape of your life. Yoga is not to be performed; yoga is to be lived. Yoga doesn't care about what you have been; yoga cares about the person you are becoming. Yoga is designed for a vast and profound purpose, and for it to be truly called yoga its essence must be embodied. "  A. Palkhivala

Yoga is a movement based therapy that offers benefits of stress reduction, increased strength, balance, and flexibility. The sanskrit word, "yoga" is defined as "to yoke", "draw together", or "unite". Yoga combines and coordinates breath with movement. There are many different types of yoga to explore, finding a specific style of yoga that suits your needs is personal preference. Take the time to read the details of a specific class, arrive early to meet the teacher, and ask questions as yoga classes can vary in levels. A beginner class is gentle on the body, and can offer specific instruction for alignment and safety. A basic flow class is low impact, informative and energizing. Intermediate or vigorous can be challenging, postures build upon each other to strengthen and balance the body. Many teachers and studios offer private yoga classes to help you get started. Yoga is for everyone. It can be done anywhere, anytime. It's non-competitive in nature, fluid and creative, a gentle yoga flow is adaptable for all bodies and all levels.  A competent teacher offers adjustments, variations and modifications. Yoga harnesses the power of your breath, elevating and empowering your potential, strength, and confidence.

Yoga helps to create the mind, body, breath connection. 

The mind can be a complicated, layered and chaotic place to be. Time travel is alive and well in the mind as we move from the past, present, and future within our thoughts. We all have responsibilities in our lives to fulfill, and the lists of things to remember and accomplish can get long. With an awake mind we can begin to concentrate, focus more clearly and bring space and balance into a busy mind. Mindfulness is the active awareness of what is happening to us and in us moment to moment. It is an access point to which we can begin to explore the interior landscape of ourselves without judgment. Utilizing the breath as an anchor, we can gently begin to stay present with all aspects of the breath. We are always in transition. Change is constant, our bodies teach us this everyday.

The breath is essential to life. 

Learning to breathe consciously can help restore balance in the mind and body. Some benefits observed are reduced feelings of stress, anxiety and depression, blood pressure stabilization, increased energy levels and relaxation. Our breathing is influenced by our thoughts, and our thoughts can be influenced by our breath. Physiologically, the autonomic nervous system is responsible for regulating the body's unconscious actions. The stress response triggers the sympathetic nervous system which prepares your body for perceived danger, rapid, shallow breathing, increased heart rate and blood pressure. This is commonly referred to as the "fight or flight" response. When you consciously breathe deeply, slowly, and with awareness, the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as "rest and digest" is activated. This can help bring a sense of confidence, control and calm into the mind which assists in slowing down the breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure.

"Yoga allows you to rediscover a sense of wholeness in your life, where you do not feel like you are constantly trying to fit broken pieces together." B.K.S Iyengar

An attentive yoga practice has been my focus over the last 12 years. My yoga flow offers a slower integration into the postures, emphasis on mindful breathing, an awakened state of observation, and space between transitions to listen to the body. Deliberate movements coordinated with breath gently increase circulation within the body, add fluidity to the joints, provide strength, balance, and mobility in the extremities and spine.

As we become more connected to what is happening while moving and breathing, physical sensation is explored. Engaging and experiencing slower movement is about learning how to stay in the present moment, to let superfluous thoughts go, and start to craft non-judgmental emotions towards ourselves, to find contentment, healing and well being in mind and body.  Just as every experience has the potential to teach us, moving the body slowly with purpose, while keeping the mind awakened to the breath builds a greater whole body awareness.


On January 12, 2017, I had the privilege to host a workshop introducing and discussing the benefits of yoga for a group of people looking to develop and maintain a healthier lifestyle. The information I have written for this blog post was the foundation for the presentation, but an instinctive need to embody the experience of yoga persisted. At the heart of the discussion and the practice was the breath, as it continues to be the spark, the greatest connection of mind and body. Perhaps it was the auspicious nature of the full moon that evening that allowed such an open, honest flow of conversation and insights. I would like to take this opportunity to further explore some of the amazing questions that were asked that evening. Expanding on the concept of creating an imaginary tool box filled with unique ways of coping with the ordinary stress of life, and assisting in the process of positive lifestyle change.

1. What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a term used to describe a more attentive way of being. Staying focused on the present moment, staying aware of one task at a time, consciously noticing, watching, and observing what is happening to us and in us without judgment or reaction. There are so many distractions in today's society, the immediate access of information can be a blessing and a curse. Mindfulness helps to break down what is important moment to moment. What can wait? What can be deleted from our "to do" list? What is necessary in this moment? Subtle questions to ask to keep us on track, a reminder of what our goal or goals may be. Synergistically, the term Mindfulness works easily with meditation. Meditation is a quiet practice of sitting or lying down where the focus is to go inside and explore the layers of the mind, the sensations of the body, and the inflation and deflation of the breath. During my yoga training at the Kripalu Center of Yoga and Health, I was taught the Practice of Being Present, which included 5 principles to help stay on track. "BRFWA" is an acronym for Breathe ~ Relax ~ Feel ~ Watch ~ Allow, a simple technique for being present with our moment to moment experience.

The Practice of Being Present

Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health

2. How does yoga help me to stay healthy?

As described above, yoga is an exercise that guides the body to move in conjunction with the breath. Moving the body burns calories, improves circulation, builds strength, balance and assists in the process of becoming more flexible. Stretching muscles, tendons, ligaments and massaging inner organs are the key intentions of a yoga practice. Breathing in and out with awareness, and moving the physical body helps to keep the mind focused on the present moment. In life we must have balance. Most of us have to work, and that work is different for everyone. Sitting, standing, lifting, or driving, work can offer many hazards to the body. Making healthy choices on meals that bring us energy may or may not be that easily accessible due to time or financial constraints. Practicing yoga or any exercise can help keep us healthy by increasing our heart, and working out the body in different ways than our profession or job position allows. The practice of yoga can help us make better choices about what will truly nourish and benefit the mental and physical body. A yoga practice helps to gently guide how we can listen to our bodies. We are encouraged to find our "edge", a place where your body feels challenged. Yoga is an active effort of awareness on many levels, and yet it is also about being easeful, finding the passive nature of the here and now. Being guided by comfort and breath, we rest when needed. Yoga teaches discipline, with a regular practice of showing up on your mat, and showing up for yourself. Yoga opens space for kindness and gratitude that what you are doing is enough in this moment. At the end of a class, thankfulness and appreciation is a closing intention. Try your first free yoga class with me! 
3. What does connecting to the breath mean?

In a normal busy day we breathe quick and shallow, it becomes automatic. The breath is a necessity of life, the body knows this, and helps us out by doing it for us. When we take the time to regain control and focus over our breath we bring back a powerful tool to help rebalance our mind and body. Connecting to breath means noticing, watching, becoming aware of how it feels to breathe deeper, causing an expansion of the upper chest and rib cage and fullness into the lower abdomen. Filling up our lungs with breath increases the availability of oxygen to our bodies, actively exhaling, releasing the breath from the body, helps to create a sense of calm and peace in mind and body. Dr. Herbert Benson of the MGH Mind Body Institute wrote a book in 1975 called, 'The Relaxation Response.' His research, studies, and published articles discuss the body's response to stress. The findings discuss how the relaxation response alleviates symptoms of anxiety, and also affects factors such as heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen consumption, and brain activity. The body interacts with the breath at a specific point in the breathing cycle, the exhale. The moment the breath is completely out of the body is the exhale. This conscious pause has a great effect on our ability to learn new information, to take control, and to refocus. Acknowledging the breath, and its subtle changes, helps to change the way we think, opening up possibilities of behavior modification.

It was a pleasure and a humbling experience to engage such a wonderful group of people. I look forward to the next workshop on March 14, 2017!