Monday, January 11, 2021

Reflections and Intentions

 

Today the kids and I made a crystal grid (a group of stones laid out in a particular way for a specific purpose) as our January new moon mandala. We only had a few minutes between work and school prep, but it was worth it.

These are dark days and we are all coping differently. I'm grateful for the consistency of prioritizing ritual to help manage the fatigue of being a nurse in a pandemic, to support my kids while remote learning, and hold space for open communication and connection. Carving out the smallest amount of time for creativity can spark discussion about what weighs heavy on the hearts of the young. It is in the processing of thoughts, opinions, and discussions that can reveal the truth of words as action and activism. We infused our crystal grid with reiki (positive intention sent through the hands) for justice, equality, peace, and accountability.

Intention and reflection is a powerful form of action.

I'm feeling like we need to keep connecting virtually, to keep breathing and moving collectively. I find it easier to get quiet and still for meditation when there is a surrounding circle of support. Consistency within the practice is a big part of it too. 

This week calls for gentleness, we will begin with the breath and see where it takes us.

Let's keep finding opportunities for reflection within the transitions of our bodies, the thoughts in our minds, and the changing emotions within our hearts.

#activate love power

From my home to yours.

Slow Flow Yoga

Wednesday 1/13/21

730p-845p

This is a pay-as-you-can class ($5-15).

Click here to sign up for class via Paypal.

If you are interested in class and are having issues with the link or don't have a Paypal account please email heronyoga@gmail.com


 


Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Happy New Year! January Offerings

"If this is our only time, and it is, then surely we do owe it to ourselves, and to each other, 
to pay attention, to look deeply, to listen closely, and to respond to all of it, 
somehow, with love and gratitude."
Katrina Kenison

Happy New Year!

I hope this note finds you and your families safe and healthy. 
I would like to continue to share practice on 
Wednesday evenings, my aim is to offer class a few times a month. 

Please join me for virtual Slow Flow Yoga!
Wednesday January 6, 2021
730p-845p EST
We will move, breathe and meditate together setting an intention of connection and acceptance to meet ourselves as we are. 

This is a pay-as-you-can class (suggested $5-15).
*Minimum payment is $5, add tip to increase up to desired amount.*
*The zoom link will be sent to the email associated with your payment.*

Click here to sign up for class via Paypal. 
Terms and Conditions have been updated to include online liability 
waiver as payment.
 

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Reflect and Release

 

Billboard picture credit: GreenPeace. 

This beautiful quote by the wise Sonya Renee Taylor is truth.

On these last few days of 2020, I'm looking, listening, and feeling my way through to 2021. I'm sitting with discomfort, grieving the losses, and the injustice of many years culminating into this past year. This year has exposed a lot to unravel and will have mental and physical impacts on many of us in the future. In an effort to stay hopeful, I've been cultivating a gentle observance with myself and others, taking a long deep breath before I speak or react, consciously choosing non-judgment and neutrality over an explosive response. I listen and read to find understanding, to learn more, to help me parent two beautiful humans who have so much love, patience, and generosity to give. I tune in to how I'm feeling and use my senses as super powers to activate an awareness that is open hearted and trusting of my own gut instincts.

This look, listen, and feel paradigm is one I learned in school and work; a life or death assessment in some cases. Look, listen, and feel can also be a practical tool for coping with new and uncertain experiences. If a situation unravels, taking the time to look at it from different angles can be helpful. Listening to all sides and talking it out usually brings insight. Interestingly, the body can react differently than the mind in any given situation. The way things are said or taken in through our senses can stimulate emotional responses that the rational mind doesn't connect with. I know I've been quick to anger, feeling frustration or irritability that blocks my seeing a bigger picture scenario. I've also taken things personally, and felt hurt with harsh and insensitive words. This is a process, I make mistakes often, but I apologize and forgive. Take the time to feel the language of the body, it is a form of compassionate communication to oneself.

This year I have had uncomfortable conversations, held the hands of dying strangers unable to be with their family, watched my friends and coworkers struggle in situations that aren't sustainable, and made decisions that will change the way my kids learn and live. I've also seen the power of the human spirit thrive, that change and adaptability is possible, discovered that love continues to grow, found hope in unlikely places, and faced many personal fears along the way. 

Embrace discomfort

Choose courage

Reflect and release

Rest


Garland pose is a deep squat that opens the hips and knees, strengthens the calves, ankles, feet and toes. It creates more mobility in the lower body, tones the abdomen, improves digestion and supports release. 

Malasana is a sanskrit word that can be broken down into two words. Mala translated as garland, and Asana translated as posture/pose. Squatting poses connect us closer to the Earth providing a calm connection to free up stress and negative feelings that can gather in our hips and lower abdomen, further clearing what is no longer needed. This pose helps to engage our core and pelvic floor muscles protecting the low back from injury and strain. 

There are many variations of this pose. This image is a gentler version with the hands showing self holding techniques to the heart and low belly. Modifications and adjustments can be made with the heels down or lifted, a rolled or folded blanket under the heels can be a useful prop to support this pose.

This New Year has the potential to be transformative on many levels, it won't happen overnight, but change is constant. If we look, listen, and feel into each moment we can witness the unfolding of it, and become an active part of the process. 

Monday, December 21, 2020

Shine Your Light


 Today is the Winter Solstice in New England and the sky is gray and overcast. There is not much light from the sun that rose at 7:10 this morning. The shortest day will be a dark one, as the sun sets at 4:13pm. Last week we received a large amount of snow. It has been cold, snow is still covering the trees and piles of it line our streets and sidewalks. 

Welcome winter. 

Typically, winter is a time of rest where many of us hunker down in our houses and enjoy time off as we transition into the new year. But this year has already been a long one with much suffering and loss, and those who have been masking and distancing, in attempt to slow the spread of this insidious virus have already experienced the separation and isolation that winter can bring. This year has been an eye opener for those who choose to stay aware, engaged and curious. World and local news has been difficult to bear witness to, it can feel apathetic to many who don't know how to help or be a part of the solution. I worry for families in crisis, victims of unjust violence, and the helpers who are fatigued mentally and physically. Some people have told me I care too much, and I do. It's also my job to care. I work in healthcare and have had experiences in my career that I never thought I would see. 

Most days I am taking one moment at a time, not focusing too far in advance, holding on to the gifts of ordinary days, and staying inspired as best as I can. We need each other, especially now when we can't touch or see our loved ones. It's easy to get lost in fear when we are left alone for too long. I talk to my Mom everyday and stay in touch with friends and family. I'm so grateful for modern technology! 

While winter can be a dark time, it is also a time of transition, and every day that passes we get closer to the light. We need the balance of dark and light to appreciate the beauty all around us. In the meantime, we can shine our own light outward and help those in need with simple acts of kindness. Sending letters or emails, talking on the phone, checking in on neighbors, or waving at others when we walk outside are all reminders that we are not alone. 

Caring gives hope and when given collectively, it can bring healing. 

Keep caring.

Keep helping.

Keep hoping.

With regard to self care, here are some video practices I recorded filled with movement, breathwork and moments of rest to bring increased energy, stoke our inner fire, and keep your light shining strong and bright. 

Winter Solstice Flow



Yoga for Increased Energy


This month has brought bright beauty in the sky too! Keep a watch on the "Great Conjunction" of Saturn and Jupiter in the south western sky tonight. Read more about this exciting planetary alignment here!

Wishing you all a Happy Solstice and Holiday season!

With love and care,
Michelle

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

December Offerings

B R E A T H E
 

December is here in New England and we have a few more weeks of fall left before we transition into winter. The changing seasons offer us opportunities to notice more, observe the natural world around us and feel into that connection of living, breathing and being. This time of year, the leaves have completely fallen off most deciduous trees and the evergreens remain. The season of late fall seems most stark as the tree limbs stand bare, the weather becomes colder, the days are shorter, and the call to stay warm and rest more is strong. I live my life by these nature rituals of noticing what changes and what stays the same. It gives me hope to know its rhythm and consistency.

R E L A X 

As I reflect back on the last 15 years of sharing yoga, I am clear on one thing; change is constant. When I first started teaching, a few friends gathered to give me support and help build my confidence in my new endeavor. Their presence and feedback in my life has been such a gift. As I moved on to show up in studio spaces, I continued to confront my fears of public speaking, and developed my own style of teaching. My classes were always small as I didn't feel comfortable promoting myself, but I kept going and my connections kept growing. Years went by and I continued to meet wonderful people who it seemed were teaching me more than I was teaching them. With all the highs and lows of how life unravels, I am still inspired by the beauty of this moment. 2020 has shown us all that nothing stays the same. 

F E E L

In an environment of constant change, it is in the consistency of returning to the pratice that helps me stay present, focused and grounded. There is a lot about the study of yoga that is different for me now, I'm unsure of many things related to the practice, and my place within it. The way I share and embody movement has morphed so much that I'm not sure I could even call it yoga anymore. Honoring the roots of the practice is a process of constant learning and unlearning. Here is a link to an article written by Susanna Barkataki, author of 'Embrace Yoga's Roots': Courageous Ways to Deepen Your Yoga Practice. When I think about teaching yoga, I have to constantly remind myself that the movement or asana part of yoga is only one limb and the philosophy compiles the larger aspects and should be shared appropriately. I will continue to stumble on this path as I attempt to find my way in and through it. 

W A T C H

Movements and meditations that are familiar feel good to return to, they encourage us to stay strong and open to new ways of doing things. Creating potential and fulfillment within our days helps to cultivate a sense of purpose, peace, calm, presence and joy. Staying awake and aware to what is happening to us and in us should be the focus. If I can look more closely, listen more attentively, feel into the moment, and speak the truth instead of what I think others need or expect, then that is the true practice. 


A L L O  W

Finding time to slow down, listen to the mind/body, move purposefully, and breathe with intention has always been the foundation for creating an authentic space that continues to grow beyond the limitations of walls. Returning to rest, ease and comfort is the theme for December. I remember my early days of learning the practice of being present during my teacher training at Kripalu. Stephen Cope shared his thoughts and mantra 'BRFWA' (breathe, relax, feel, watch, and allow), a powerful tool for coming home to ourselves. Read more about it here.

Many thanks for your patience while I navigate a new path, there will be bumps in the road, but life is for learning. 


Virtual Slow Flow

Free class on 12/2 & 12/9

Wednesday evenings 730p-845p

email: heronyoga@gmail.com for details/link.

This is the season of giving and I'm happy to gift 2 free classes this month. Please join me as moving, breathing and meditating is about creating space in your life to find steadiness. My goal is to share a few live movement practices to wrap up our season of late fall before winter begins and see what our New Year of 2021 will bring. Until then, I have free movement videos on YouTube and free guided meditations on Insight Timer

With love and care,

Michelle

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Connections & Gratitude

"Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."

Melody Beattie

This time of year can bring up different emotions for many people depending on your family experiences, beliefs, customs and cultural lineage. Thanksgiving has never been a holiday I enjoy or like to celebrate. As a nurse, I typically sign up to work the holiday as a way to avoid it and divert my attention towards attending to others. As a parent, I have taken the time to share the truth of our history in an age appropriate way through books and discussions with my kids. Honoring traditions is important, but not at the expense of others grief or loss. As I continue to grow and learn, cultivating new rituals, and staying open to human connection through helping and caring is the true gift of abundance. 

Acknowledging this gift is in the practice of gratitude. 

The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia or gratus, which means grace, graciousness, or thankful pleasing. This act of appreciation either expressed or received, releases potent neurotransmitters in the brain. Dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins are responsible for our emotions, and when they are released they enhance our mood immediately, making us feel happy from the inside.

Take a moment to remember a time when someone said something to you that genuinely recognized you in a meaningful way. Perhaps it was something you did or said, now think about the sensations that were released when that moment happened. Typically, when feel good hormones are released, there is a sense of warmth that radiates throughout the body, causing temporary feelings of bliss, happiness and contentment. Practicing gratitude can increase neuron density, establish new neural pathways for the brain, and lead to greater emotional intelligence, all while making you feel good!

With gratitude, there is a reflection on what you have as opposed to what you don't have. That reflection acknowledges the goodness in our lives.  Once our basic needs are met, there is an extension of that goodness outside of ourselves that helps us to connect to something larger and beyond. This expanded awareness of gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness, positive emotions, improved health, and stronger relationships.

Gratitude is a daily focus in our family. I share my morning meditation with my kids, bringing hands together palm to palm or to rest on our upper chests, we take three deep breaths and state three things we are grateful for, aloud or in the silence of our hearts. 

When we verbally express our gratitude, it is a recognition that you see, hear and value someone or something. It's a way to honor an interaction, connection, or validate an experience.

There are many ways to express gratitude to ourselves and others. Wishing someone well, saying thank you, sending a hand written note or email, and recognizing an opportunity to verbally express appreciation for a moment of connection can have a serious impact on someone's life for the better.

My younger son is creating a gratitude journal for school and sharing his thoughts about our current living conditions during this pandemic. Our discussions about what we are grateful for now are really the little things we took for granted before. We truly miss the simple things we live without now, daily meet-ups with friends and neighbors, after school play times, sports, and heartfelt conversation over a cup of tea or coffee. When both my kids were younger, we would write down a few things we were grateful for and place them in a jar to read aloud at special times. We still have the jar, and we still write down what we are grateful for, which in turn have shaped our hopes and wishes for the future. 


When we endeavor to connect gratefully with others, we open ourselves to what it means to be fully human. Embracing our vulnerability in the need to interact with others honors the profound opportunity we have to share the experience of being alive, together, in this world. 

It is my sincere hope that we can all interact safely and meaningfully while giving thanks this year. 


Connections & Gratitude

I've added a short practice of moving, breathing and meditating to boost our immune systems and our feel good hormones. This slow flow utilizes breath centering to connect with gratitude and mindful movements. 


This practice is dedicated to those that help and serve others. 

A donation has been made to World Central Kitchen, an organization that creates smart solutions to hunger and poverty. World Central Kitchen are 'Food First Responders", they serve millions of meals each year and provide disaster relief to those in need. They provide training programs, strengthen economies and empower communities all over the world. Consider donating to their amazing efforts this week.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Slow and Steady

 

"Slow is smooth, smooth is fast."
Emily Harrington is the first woman to free-climb the Golden Gate route up to El Capitan, a 3000-foot-high monolith in Yosemite National Park, in under 24 hours on November 4, 2020.


Close to 18 years ago, I had the pleasure of traveling to California with my husband to visit our family. While we were there, we camped and hiked in Yosemite National Park. It was a wonderful adventure, full of so many amazing experiences in nature. One of which was watching the climbers of El Capitan through binoculars. The strength of spirit, will and confidence was awe inspiring to witness. We saw climbers in tents and hammocks resting on the side of this steep cliff between climbs, and the slow and steady ascent of the people who risked their lives to crest such a massive vertical rock formation. Many unsuccessful attempts to climb El Cap were made in the late 1950's. The earliest successful ascent was in 1957, using supports such as pendulum swings, pitons, and other climbing gear which took 45 grueling days to accomplish. There were many attempts between that first climb in 1957, to Carolynn Hill, who was the first woman to free-climb 'The Nose' of El Capitan in 1993, repeating her climb again the following year under 24 hours. Free-climb means the climber uses ropes as safety precautions and protection, but doesn't have equipment that assists in the journey. When I read about Lynn and Emily's feats, I was amazed by the concentration, strength, stamina and endurance to experience such a day of exertion! Emily's focus was held by a mantra, which she shared as, 'slow is smooth, smooth is fast." The simplicity in this single statement kept her present and on task. I can only imagine the fear that was building and the thoughts that were swirling as she climbed higher and higher. Emily's accomplishment is exciting and worth celebrating, steeped in the beauty of the power of meditation in nature. Emily's climb is a beacon for our own day to day efforts to keep going and growing, to stay steady, move slowly, and breathe one step at a time.

Mantras are powerful. 

A mantra is a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation. 

Mantras have become somewhat mainstream as a form of intention, but the sanskrit word can be broken down into two parts, "man" meaning mind and "tra" meaning vehicle or transport. In practice, mantras are instruments of the mind. We use a mantra to maintain focus, concentration and direction to assist us in staying present with sensation and experience. As we enter a meditative state, thoughts can flow in and out taking us in the past and too far into the future, redirecting us from the present moment.

I have used mantras in the past while practicing movement in the form of yoga postures, walking and hiking. If I am feeling anxious or unsettled and I need grounding, I will use a mantra to reconnect and bring me back to what is important. I think choosing a mantra is a personal decision. Someone can give you ideas or inspiration, but ultimately what works is what feels right in your mind and heart. I also think mantras can change depending on what the desired outcome is, for example Emily's mantra " slow is smooth, smooth is fast" related to her intention of climbing swiftly and gliding towards her goal. 

There is a rich history in the use of mantras, and you can read more about them here. For the purpose of this post and the use of mantras in our everyday life, I find simplicity is key. I love teaching movement under the title, 'Slow Flow'. My idea is that if we move purposefully, connect to breath and stay aware of each transition between movements then we are practicing a form of meditation in motion. To stay focused at this pace, a mantra or theme is used when I teach, 'slow and steady' are the words that continuously resonate for me. When we move slowly, we move with intention, when we ensure we are steady, we build strength and focus. 

Join me Wednesday evenings for Slow Flow 730-845p. 

My goal is to create an online space where we can breathe, move, breathe and meditate together as 2020 comes to a close.

Our last class of November will be 11/18, there will be no class on 11/25.

We will resume class in December on 12/2, 12/9, and 12/16.

I hope to see you virtually on the mat!

With love and care,
Michelle 

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Perception, Potential and Possibility


 "If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern."

William Blake

October into November brings us into the darker days of fall. We turn the clocks back here in the northern hemisphere to perserve the light during our waking and working hours. Feeling into the seasonal shifting is a moment to moment awareness that sometimes is forgotten, overlooked, or unseen in the bustle of day to day life. The older I get, the faster the days go. While the leaves change color and the air turns colder, the world is more chaotic, violent and frightening with each passing day. One week bleeds into the next, I struggle to hold on to the beauty of transition and let go of fear and worry.

These last few months I have walked everyday, immersing myself in nature as much as possible. It has helped me to make sense of the senseless, to find hope in the hopeless, and remember that nature unravels herself gently and patiently. When I expand my awareness to what is beyond my immediate world, it's like a door opening into the unknown.

Carving out moments in my day to move with intention and breathe deeply has brought insight into the passing of my days. Some of which are filled with rage, sadness, and moments of joy. The emotional range is wide and I've leaned into it, gathering strength from the stillness of observing, listening, and feeling. If we close ourselves off to that which is too painful or uncomfortable to feel and fail to look beyond what is plainly seen or heard, we limit our potential. We shut down all possibility of infinite perception. 

Parighasana or gate pose is a side body stretch that uses the breath to expand one's awareness into all dimensions of the body and beyond.

Parigha translates as door or gate, while asana means seat or posture. 

A gate is defined as an access, an entrance, or a portal permitting passage. 

Gate pose is an embodiment of perception, potential and possibility.


Lay out a mat or folded blanket and try these variations on Parighasana or gate pose. Support for the grounded knee is essential in keeping the joints of the body safe and aligned. Press down through the top of the back foot, gain strength in your foundation before opening up the opposite leg into an extension. Press through all four corners of the front foot. Find a pace to your breathing that feels supportive and steady yourself through the low body before uplifting through the upper body. A block can be grounding and allow for the release of the opposite arm that lifts up and out of the pelvis. Adjust your head and neck for comfort and breathe into the spaces of the rib cage. Explore the expansion in your body as you lift up and out from your strong center.



Cultivate strength.

Let go of expectation.

Extend out to create space.

Pay attention to the wisdom of your body.

Perception is a portal that opens possibility and potential.


Slow Flow virtual class Wednesday 730p-845p EST

Free guided meditations on Insight Timer

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Fall into Winter Yoga Offerings

 

"The uncertainty will not hinder her from making bold, courageous choices."
Morgan Harper Nichols

While it saddens me that so many shops, restaurants, and yoga studios must let go of their physical spaces due to the pandemic, small businesses still need your support. We are all learning new ways of doing things and the need to offer opportunities to strengthen our perseverance is more important than ever. Online classes to move, breathe and meditate are abundant. I have been grateful for my friends, colleagues and mentors who are showing up, adapting and pushing forward. Their actions inspire me to keep going, to keep growing, and remember that life is unfolding in the beauty of the seasons that surround us and guide us. My hope is that we can expand our perceptions and connections to continue to support each other in a welcoming online community. 


My goal is to livestream a slow flow class every Wednesday evening (730p-845p EST) that will carry us from fall into winter. 

To register please visit Joy Yoga, adult yoga classes are offered Monday with Meghan, Tuesday with Rachel, and Wednesday evenings with me. All classes are $15, no packages or memberships. Virtual kids yoga classes will be happening soon. 


My heart is with our sister studio Borealis Yoga, who will also be closing its doors to a physical studio space. They have in-person classes to attend for a few more weeks and will continue their online offerings as well. The teachers there are wonderful. 

Despite these changes, we are still here and hope to see you (virtually) on the mat!

With love and care,
Michelle


Thursday, September 10, 2020

Root Connections


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

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

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

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


Tree pose is a posture to honor our root connections and 

celebrate the earth energy of September.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Free Guided Meditations

Movement, Breathwork and Meditation Practices

With love and care,

Michelle

Monday, August 31, 2020

Summer Courage

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slow Stretch


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

With love and care,
Michelle

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Move with Fluidity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

With love and care,
Michelle

Monday, July 20, 2020

Comets, New Moon Mandalas and Yin Yoga!

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


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

Sean's mandala is called 'Seacrest'.

Will's mandala is called 'Moonmagic'.


MOVE ~ BREATHE ~ MEDITATE

Yin Yoga: Heart/Lungs/Intestines




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

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

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

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

Change is here. 

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

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

With love and care,
Michelle


Sunday, July 5, 2020

Summer Slow Flow, Full Moon and Lunar Eclipse!

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

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

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




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



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



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

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

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

All offerings are free, your donations are encouraged. 

With love and care,
Michelle

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Soften & Shine: Holding Light




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

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

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

I choose peace, which means I choose action. 

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


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

Yoga for Increased Energy




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


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

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