Yoga, Meditation, & Our Obsession with the Physical. a scattered thought with no answers.

This is a place to talk about the touchier topics in life…so I’m going to start with a disclaimer that I love any and all yoga practices, regardless of what brought you here or to your mat. I would never cast shame on someone trying to take care of their body and overall health. I truly believe yoga is for everyone regardless of goals and intentions. I am in no way passing judgments, just sharing my thoughts and trying to spark yours! Here’s what I think: the western world has taken yoga and turned it into a health fad. And THANK GOD. Truly, thank God, because I never would have found yoga if it was a better kept secret. Thank God it’s so accessible and popular. Thank God so many people are being exposed to these teachings. Yoga is yoga is yoga….alright ready for the tougher sh**?

Probably the #1 reason people begin a yoga practice is for some physical purpose – gain mobility, flexibility, lose weight, get stronger, have a six pack, etc. And the #2 is probably a mental or emotional gain like reduce stress, increase focus & energy, etc. These are GREAT. But side effects. And in my opinion, these are often (but not always!!) distractions. Distractions from being there.

Here’s my question. Why does it feel like we need some benefit to point at to do things? Not all things. Just hard things.

So yoga has been a tradition for 4500 years probably more. Eating cookies during the holidays has been one for a while too. I hate to be the bearer of bad news here but there is absolutely no physical benefit to eating cookies. Regardless, people eat cookies on Christmas and then google yoga to make sure it will benefit them. They read and say “Ooo I should try that. I need to stretch more. My low back has been killing.”

Why are there no online articles convincing me to eat cookies on Christmas? Why do I already know I need to do that?

What else? Meditation has been around for a very long time. But it’s not big until it’s considered part of some list of shit successful (the rich kind of successful) people do. “How Meditation Benefits CEOs”, “7 Ways Meditation can Physically Change the Brain”, “Quit Coffee with Meditation”, “How Meditation Improved my Workouts”, “Less Migraines with Meditation”, “Grow Your Circle of Influence with Meditation”…. these are all articles online. MindBodyGreen even claims meditation makes men last longer in bed…I’m not saying any of this is untrue or negative. And I love that people are motivated to meditate…but isn’t meditation supposed to pull us out of the physical? To connect us with God, love, prana, the force, the universe or whatever name it goes by to you?

Dude, why are we all so stuck in this physical world? We can’t sit down for 10 minutes without needing it to improve our human experience. We’re here for what, 90 years if we’re lucky? OK cool, make it a great 90 years where you make a lot of money, have kickass workouts, and last as long as you want in bed. And be able to scientifically back up everything you do. Do that. Then what? What did that mean?

I ask all of this because I’m guilty of it. I hear of something, then ask but what does that do for me? How do I benefit from that? Especially when I began diving deep into yoga and reading about some of the things the sages did. Sleeping on nails, sitting for years while their skin rotted and was eaten by rats, ingesting and digesting long strands of fabric. WHY? What is the health benefit to that?

And you know what makes all of this harder? There are physical benefits to yoga and meditation. TONS. IT’S SO DAMN GOOD FOR OUR BODIES. Same to many of the things I’ve been asked lately. Why do you smudge? Why do you wear crystals? Why do you pray? Why do you oil pull? Why do you fast? Why should I do yoga? Why should I meditate? The purposes are easy to think of and easy to talk about. Even though our questions have valid, health-industry-valuable answers (unlike some traditions, like cookies), I wish we didn’t have to ask them all the time.

What if we did things just because? Because they’re sacred, because they’re special. Or maybe we can’t explain it but it just must be done. Like eating cookies at a holiday party. I don’t know why I have to. It doesn’t help anything, in fact, science shows it hurts things. But damn it, I’m going to and it’s going to be tasty and Christmas-y and I’d be sad if I didn’t.

What if we didn’t have to reach into our scientific knowledge (that is so vast and awesome) to keep sacred traditions? Maybe there could be a trust there, even stronger than a trust, maybe there’s a call.

No answers as usual. I don’t have many. But I’ll conclude.

Ask not what your higher being can do for your human experience but what your human experience can do for your higher being.

Have a great holiday. Eat cookies & meditate because you want to.

 

Brain Dumping: the what, why, & how

Back again to talk about brain dumping. I mentioned this concept last week in my Stuff I Do Now post and there’s a lot more to read about it on the internet but I’ll tell you what it is to me, why I do it, and how I do it.

What?

Brain dumping is getting things that you’re thinking about out of your brain and somewhere else. It’s that simple. Literally anything you’re thinking about – release it somewhere else. It may be jotting something down on a sticky note when you think of it, an hour long journal session where you really clear your head, or anything in between. Maybe you’re physically writing, maybe you’re typing on your phone or computer. Maybe it’s right when you wake up, right before you go to bed, maybe you do it 5 times per day. I find brain dumping most helpful when I’m about to settle in on one task for a while. I have a specific notebook just for brain dumping. Sometimes my thoughts are organized lists of things I need to remember to bring somewhere, sometimes diagrams , sometimes stick figures, just whatever’s there.

Why?

I brain dump so that I can focus on what’s in front of me without being distracted with other thoughts. Are you one to have a thought then agonize until you can do something about it? I am. Writing them down makes me feel like I’m not ignoring or putting things off without consideration. These days, many of us are constantly being pulled in so many directions. We have way too many things to do and think about. Often when I’m working on one thing (or just trying to relax), I feel like I’m being irresponsible by not working on some other thing. Or I’ll feel like I’m going to forget this thing I just remembered! Brain dumping relieves me of this since I know I have that written down and I’ll get to it later.

How?

I usually brain dump at least once a day, sometimes more. When I’m really relaxed, I don’t feel the need to. Here’s what a typical brain dumping session looks like for me: I wake up, I’m a busy human so I cannot help but think of all of the things I have to do that day, stuff I don’t want to forget to bring to wherever I’m going that day, etc. I want to sit in the moment, tune into myself, plug in and reconnect with all that’s around me. I can’t do that if I’m stressed about forgetting all my clear thoughts I woke up with. So I grab a notebook right next to my bed and write everything down. I don’t try to pull new information, I just semi-mindlessly write what’s already there at the front of my brain. It’s an important distinction as thinking too hard about what to write down causes more distracting thoughts to come up, the opposite of the point here. Usually it’s a mini to-do list or just things I don’t want to forget to bring to campus (computer charger, work shirt, snack, etc). Now I’m able to feel clear-minded and fresh for my meditation. When I’m done, I have all of those thoughts down and can handle them when I want to.

Here’s my brain dump from this morning…

Screenshot (6)

Part to-do list, part me reminding myself where all of my clothes are, part me looking for a cold pack, part yoga class planning – just whatever was sitting on the top of my mind!

 

I highly recommend brain dumping to feel relaxed but not lazy!

Stuff I Do Now (& I’m happier)

Hi friends. In this post, I’m sharing habits I have adopted in recent months/years-ish. Life has changed a lot and wow it’s better. I guess I’m growing  up or something.

I spend a lot of time alone.

I used to hate being alone. I would get so bored. If I spent a day without spending time with someone, I would consider that a wasted day.  Now, I appreciate my own company. I do what I want, when I want, where I want, etc.

I wake up early.

I’ve never been one to sleep in late but now I make it a point to be up early. I talked about this in my morning routine post, but I like to be up before I have to be. I like to be able to take my time waking up and enjoying the sweet earliest hours of the day.

I go to bed early.

I go to bed when I am tired. And going to bed isn’t a chore anymore. I used to only go to bed so I wouldn’t be tired the next day. This makes sense – but it’s not enjoyable and it’s taking the time for sleep for granted. Now, going to bed is a wonderful ritual of settling in and resting.

I sleep a lot.

I used to stay up late and get up early, trying to use all of the day that I could. I’d feel lame if I went to bed at 9 and I’d feel guilty if I wasn’t in the gym by 6. Now, I sleep. And damn, I sleep so well. I listen to my body to decide when to go to bed and when to wake up. If I need to sleep in, I do. This might seem obvious to you but it was a radical (& amazing) change for me.

I reflect.

I spend more time reflecting on myself and how I feel. I feel so much more knowledgeable about myself, my needs, my reactions, and my feelings. Goes without saying but that’s SO helpful in life and relationships with others.

I brain dump.

I’m planning to do a whole post on brain dumping but it is essentially writing down all of the things weighing on my brain before I begin meditation/a task/the day/whatever. Then I can go back to those things later and they won’t take away from the now.

I eat more plants and less processed foods.

It’s that simple. There was a time when I loved buying crazy health foods: protein bars, superfood supplements, protein icecream, and other commercialized bullsh** over-processed by automated machines and then wrapped in plastic that will sit in a landfill for as long as I’ll live. I’m over that. I eat more plants in their original form, carefully crafted for me by Mother Earth herself. This has led to me feeling light, energetic, and so delightfully dependent on the earth.

I cook my own food.

Cooking my own food has been a game changer. Not only do I save money, eat healthier, and get to control what I put into my body, I feel more connected to my food. I have so much more gratitude for food and the time I have to prepare it. Cooking my own food is one of the ways I affirm my self worth. I am worth these high quality ingredients. I am worth this time and effort. I am worth this delicious meal, made with love and gratitude especially for me.

I’m less strict.

Just in general. I go with the flow more. I don’t hold myself to tight schedules or rules. Some days I go to the gym at 6. Other days I go to the gym at 10. And some days I don’t go at all. Sometimes I go to the bar, order water, and leave at 10. Other times I go to the bar and get drunk. Some mornings I drink my lemon water, meditate, do my sun salutations and feel great. Other mornings I lay in bed til noon, watch a movie and feel great. I don’t feel bad or guilty when I don’t get everything done. In fact, I don’t even think of it that way anymore – done or not done. I am grateful for the time that I have to do whatever it is I enjoy in that moment.

I spend money on stuff I actually want.

Less leggings, more yoga. Less bikinis, more trips to the Caribbean. Less $8 smoothies, more food. You see my point? Besides spending money differently, I just spend less. I go to less stores, less often & I buy less things. I don’t go out to eat. I buy bags of coffee instead of cups. I don’t buy shoes just because they’re cute or clothes just because they look nice on me. I don’t get my hair highlighted or my nails done. Spending less on stuff that doesn’t matter (to me) makes things that do matter more attainable and that much more special. Like high quality food, memorable experiences, and flights to places worth going.

I don’t throw myself pity parties.

I used to go through the same cycle: making a mistake/something bad happening, being upset with the outcome, feeling sorry for myself, then making it nearly impossible to lift myself out of my bad mood. Now, I don’t see the point of feeling sorry for myself. And I take responsibility for myself. Everyone on this planet has the same choice to make: take what you’re given and make it work or be mad about what you’re given and still have to live with it, just a lower quality of life. I am sad when stuff doesn’t work out the way I want it to. Then I remember my choices and have gratitude instead. Understand what I can and cannot control, take steps as appropriate, then settle in and let the universe keep doing its thing.

I don’t judge and I pay less attention to gossip.

I have found that if I don’t listen and don’t participate, it doesn’t make me feel icky. Who knew it was that easy? Really, I pay less attention to what others do in general. If they’re happy, I’m happy for them. If they’re not, I’m sad for them. I try to mind my own business and not judge what others are doing. And bonus, I’m not as worried about what people think of me. When I gossip less and expose myself to less gossip, I’m more confident and I don’t walk around feeling like a jerk.

I have less opinions in general.

One of the best changes I’ve made in recent years is softening. Softening my hard edges and crazy intense opinions. Obviously, I have them. And I don’t try too hard to hide the opinions I have. But I used to feel like I have to have an opinion on everything, even the stuff that has nothing to do with me or the stuff I know basically nothing about. I was always eager to share my opinion and I was very loud and there was no changing my mind. But after all of the stuff that’s gone down in the last couple years…I realized that if everyone just had less opinions, we could all get along much better. Just let both and all sides be OK.

What’s in my Yoga/Gym Bag

Hello yogis! I’m back after a little blog break of vacationing and starting school. I’m sharing what’s in my yoga/gym bag that I bring with me to teach, to attend a class myself, or to work out at the gym.

  • Yoga Mat. Obviously! I love my Jade mat, it’s crazy durable & the perfect amount of stick. It takes a little time to break in but so worth it!
  • Eye pillow. I use my eye pillow for savasana or a restorative practice. Be on the lookout for a DIY eye pillow tutorial coming soon!
  • Strap. I often carry my yoga strap with me. For info on how I use it, read my post all about yoga props!
  • Resistance Bands. I love these for workouts or stretching.
  • Bluetooth earbuds. Love these for the gym – Bluetooth earbuds will change your life! Highly recommend if you can’t seem to stay in one place at the gym like me.
  • Phone charger. I keep a spare phone charger in my bag so I know my phone is charged for playing music during my yoga class or listening during my workout!
  • Notebook. My notebook contains plans for yoga classes I teach as well as thoughts I want to share with my class. I recommend carrying a notebook to yoga class in case you hear a cue, quote, or thought you’ll want to remember. Plus, you never know when you’ll have an amazing, life-changing savasana epiphany you’ll need to write down!
  • Book(s). I’ll sometimes carry a book or two to find inspiration for yoga classes or sharing a reading with my students. I especially love readings from Dana Faulds and Thich Nacht Hanh.
  • Essential Oils. I take these along with me for aromatherapy in my yoga classes or just for a pick me up! Currently, I teach yoga after a full day at work so some peppermint oil is the perfect re-energizer!
  • Hand-sanitizer. I offer hands on assists & adjustments during my yoga classes so hand-sanitizer is a must to keep everyone healthy! I like the spray hand-sanitizers from Mrs. Meyers (especially the lavender one) because they don’t dry out my skin or leave that awful alcohol smell – so not relaxing.

What’s in your bag?? 🙂

REAL Self Care: because a bubble bath doesn’t cut it

True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from. – Brianna Wiest

Self Care vs. Treat ‘yo Self

Self care is a hot topic these days. Probably because we’re all realizing how sad, sick and tired we are. But we sometimes confuse self care with the concept of “treat yo self”, both important, but one is more valuable and a lot more necessary in my opinion. Self care is about building a life (body, mind, spirit, relationships, careers, etc) that makes you feel happy and fulfilled. Treat yo self is about indulging. Self care is being honest with yourself. Treat yo self is delaying the consequences of your actions. Self care is taking on the responsibility of yourself. Treat yo self is pushing that responsibility away.

This is another area that commercialism may take a hold, convincing us to buy stuff we don’t need in order to take care of ourselves. Face masks, bath bombs, boxes of chocolate, bottles of wine, the list goes on. I’m not saying these things aren’t great, because they definitely are, but at the end of the day, these are not things I need to be happy and fulfilled. These things don’t push me to be a better person. They don’t lead me to feel more connected to myself or my surroundings. They aren’t what I need. And let’s just say, sometimes what I need wouldn’t sell well.

So what does self care actually look like?

First things first, to take care of yourself, you have to be honest with yourself. Take time to reflect on yourself – take inventory, what you have, what you need, what you don’t need, what you want. Truly believe that life can be what you want. Raise self-awareness, recognize when your life is not what you want it to be, and make a change. As you can guess, this is not a glamorous task and it can be painful. It may be tough love, but sometimes this is the most important love we can receive, and we have to give it to ourselves. This might mean a tough conversation with yourself. Maybe changing your diet, being honest with someone else, quitting your job, ending toxic relationships, getting rid of something you have, telling someone how you feel, etc.

There is a balance that must be struck, however. Too much self-tough-love can lead to guilt. Or pushing yourself too hard. It’s not self-care if it’s self-deprecating. This tough love is meant to lift you up, not tear you down. So in order to take care of yourself, you have to be honest as well as compassionate. This is a struggle I’ve experienced. I was always pushing myself to be “better” but I never appreciated how I was in that moment. I didn’t love myself for what I was and I expected myself to be “perfect” all the time. I was missing something huge: the journey! Give yourself time and space to grow – don’t expect your needs to be met overnight.

Self Care Ideas

– Abhyanga (self massage)
– Tell someone you love how you feel about them
– Spend time in nature
– Clean your space
– Detach from technology
– Create new and stimulating relationships
– Start a savings account
– Exercise
– Sleep
– Meditate
– Take a day off
– Soak in epsom salt
– Cook yourself a nourishing meal
– Find a mentor
– Perform a random act of kindness
– Read about a topic new to you
– Pick up a new hobby
– Reconnect with someone you’ve lost touch with
– Make plans that excite you

DIY Weekend Yoga Retreat at Home

Really want to get away from the world and have a spiritual experience? Need a retreat but don’t have the time off or the cash to spare? I feel you. While a trip to the Caribbean eating fresh fruits and doing tons of yoga would be idyllic, you can escape the world and sink into a spiritual place from anywhere! Here are some tips and even a sample schedule for your weekend stay-cation!

  1. Reflect & set intentions before & after. Consider why you’re called to do this retreat. Reflect on what you are looking for and set intentions for yourself before you begin, maybe before you even plan your weekend. Then, after the weekend is through, use a possible newfound sense of clarity to set intentions and reflect on the last few days. Also, before the weekend begins, try your best to let go of expectations of the weekend and prepare to accept any way it unfolds.
  2. Maybe theme your weekend. It may be fun to theme the weekend – based on your intentions. This could be something you feel you need or a topic you want to learn about. Detox, Chakra Healing, Ayurveda, Kundalini, etc. Base your activites, readings, yoga classes, meditations, and meals around this theme and fully immerse yourself.
  3. Clean. Clean the space you’ll be spending time in if it needs it. De-clutter the area. Make sure you have plenty of clean, comfy clothes and fresh sheets – make it a vacation, we want everything fresh & clean!
  4. Go shopping. Make sure you have all that you need in your house/apartment before the weekend begins. It might be a good idea to create a meal plan and menu for yourself. A couple days before, get all the ingredients you need to prepare yourself healthy meals.
  5. Cook your own food. Give yourself scheduled time to thoughtfully prepare each meal you eat on your retreat. There is a special connection that comes with cooking yourself healthy & nourishing meals. Use this weekend retreat to feel a true sense of gratitude for yourself and your preparations.
  6. Find classes & guided meditations in advance. If you’re planning on using guided yoga classes or meditations throughout the weekend, find them in advance so you’re not browsing YouTube or your meditation app throughout your weekend. If you prefer to move intuitively, still make small & vague class plans for yourself in case a lack of inspiration exists at the time.
  7. Disconnect. Do what you can to disconnect – this might mean turning off your phone and unplugging the TV but be careful not to set strict rules for yourself. Just let it feel like a vacation – treat yourself to what you enjoy but look for a small disconnect from your day-to-day life.
  8. Make plans if you want them. Your weekend doesn’t have to be closed off from your social life – if having dinner with a dear friend will add to the experience, do that!! Just have the plans in advance so you’re not trying to make it up as you go and things possibly not working out, etc.
  9. Make a schedule. Organized yoga retreats have a schedule so that the day is broken up and there is no time of the day when you wonder what to do with yourself. It is also helpful when planning activities. Overestimate timing so you can move slowly and thoughtfully through your day. Make a schedule for yourself but don’t hold it as law – move slowly.
  10. Do what you love. Like I said above, there are no rules or restrictions, whatever will add to your experience is what you should do! Bring movies, blare the music and dance, invite loved ones, or make it a silent retreat of introspection, whatever makes you feel at home in yourself.
  11. Embrace doing nothing. Leave yourself some empty time or time gaps to just be. Take things slow and do nothing without feeling shamefully unproductive. See the below schedule, I’ve allotted half an hour to a cup of tea. Nothing else. Just the tea.

Sample Schedule:

cropped_sampleschedule

August Resolutions? Why Wait? + a Meditation for Change

Welcome to August!

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about resolutions. One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to New Years is the fact that everyone decides to make these awesome resolutions to improve their life (which is amazing!) but they think they have to wait for the new year! Don’t wait. When you see a change that you want to make, just make it. It can be that easy for you – see the change, make it.

Also, ever notice that your resolutions are the same…? Mine usually are. This used to stir negative thoughts in my mind, leading me to believe I was failing at my resolutions if I wasn’t getting them “done” in that year. Now, I don’t think of this as not completing that resolution or as a failure – rather a success of knowing exactly what I want to be and taking my time getting there. Change takes time – and sometimes, I live a resolution fully but still want to live it the next year! I’m always striving to grow closer to the person I feel is truly me.

I’m sharing some resolutions I’ve made since the new year and ones I’m making today! Every day, every moment is a great opportunity for a change – don’t wait for the right date or even hour.

– Raise awareness through all senses
– Be present in thoughts, words, & actions
– Listen more & talk less
– Let go of expectations & embrace uncertainty
– Become more comfortable in silence
– Get more fresh air
– Do more to show gratitude to loved ones
– Perform more selfless acts
– Make decisions based on love
– Do more to express: journaling & sharing
– Do something fun every day just because – no purpose

A Meditation for Self-Reflection & Change

I am sharing a kriya meant to prompt self-reflection and hopefully in turn, create space & inspiration for change.

  1. Sit with an upright spine.
  2. Make fists with the hands (excluding the thumb) and bring the two thumbs together to touch at hearts center, palms facing down. Keep the elbows wide.
  3. Close your eyes and bring attention to your breath. Focus on the breath and energy passing through the thumbs.
  4. If you want to include a mantra, try Om Namah Shivaya, this chant helps to expand the innate wisdom we all carry within us. Repeat this mantra 3-5 times before beginning and between each rest period.
  5. Continue for 3 minutes. Rest. Then proceed for 11 minutes. Rest. Then proceed for 22 minutes.
  6. Sit & notice the shift.

What changes do you want to make today??