Happy Spring Equinox! 🌒 From the winter garden 🌒 These little ones have been tucked away all winter under the hoophouse, and honestly didn’t think the November sprouts would survive since the seeds are a few years old … yet last week’s warmer weather woke them up! Mother Nature is pretty amazing. 🌧️ Thankful for the moon returning, the early (!) morning robin songs, and the soft rain today. Sounds & smells like Spring. 🎂 Today is my Grandma’s 89th birthday. Today is the day @thejimengel & I receive our 2nd 💉 … Today we may be closer to seeing my family again. Today is the beginning of Spring. I am no optimist … and I am hopeful.
I continue with this word Fulfillment — this weekend I took part in a virtual Tea Meditation with Sooz at Being Tea. If you love tea (like I do) & want to dive deeper, I highly recommend Sooz’s offerings. I was gifted a membership by Jim’s parents … & have since enjoyed slow Saturday / Sunday mornings with tea.
You’ll see below a beautiful deep green High Mountain Oolong (top), 2 gorgeous hawks on the trail (taken with my phone, soooo … can you see them?), & a Jasmine Winter Snow Green Tea (bottom, I wish you could SMELL this tea!).
The tea meditation theme last month revolved around the question: What is enough?
I’m pondering this question in yoga practice in February – maybe you will join me – What is “enough” in a posture? a breath? effort?
If you’re seeking what your “enough” is in this mid-winter time, I hope you’ll join one of our online group classes this month, or choose a class on YouTube! If you’re interested in in-person or online private sessions, please email or call me.
I recently finished a book my sister-in-law, Jill, gifted me a while back — Reshma Saujani’s Brave, Not Perfect. I was skeptical … & yet came away from the book with new insights into my own life as a perfectionist … & that there’s still plenty of time for me to find new ways to be brave, not perfect. I’m asking, “Where am I seeking perfection, instead of asking the brave question, ‘Hey, what’s enough here?'”
What images come to mind when you see this word? On a scale of 1 to 10, how “fulfilled” would you say you are feeling today? No judgment, just the first thoughts that come to your mind …
Last week Jim, I & our boys took an opportunity to get away to a little cabin in the woods. Literally like 20 minutes from our house … yet we felt worlds away from our day-to-day. Our days were “filled” with morning meditation, reads, breakfast & hot beverages … snacks & late morning walks with the dogs … maybe a workout or yoga … late lunch, making a fire, naps & more reading … maybe another walk with the dogs … dinner, stoking the fire, & more reading (maybe a beer for Jim & a little HGTV for me 😉 ).
(BTW that is a HOMEMADE marshmallow in that homemade hot chocolate — made by Jim’s cousin, Amanda, who has become our official marshmallow provider from this day forward. Hands down.)
After 7 days of this packed schedule, we drove back the 20 minutes to our house feeling pretty fulfilled.
I realized over & over this week that fulfillment is so readily available & terribly elusive at the same time. At least for me. I can get pretty down about what I don’t have, who I’m not, where I’m lacking. & I can also find such fulfillment & completeness in the simple experience of nature (we watched 2 deer meander along the hillside across from our cabin one evening), a delicious meal (Jim always cooks delicious meals!), & the devotion of Baxter & Tortilla.
I also realize I’m privileged to have the ability, the resources & the support (thank you to my employer, 4-H … thank you to our friends, Sue & Bob, for the cabin … thank you to Jim’s employer, St. Peter’s, for granting vacation time …) to get away for a bit, to take a reprieve, to refill & rejuvenate. How much better, kinder, & simply more healthy our communities would be if we granted each other time away from it all.
What does “fulfillment” look like for you? It may be similar or quite different from what I described above — I know some folks would tear their hair out sitting in a cabin for a week of quiet, haha! & that’s perfectly legit! My point is to reflect on what fills you up … & find little or big ways to make it happen.
“We need what you got,” says artist Jesse Peterson of Let’s Make Art. The world needs your kindness, your full presence, your gifts, your light. So do what you need to do to replenish & rejuvenate … even if it’s one mindful breath in your closet away from the madness.
Back in October, I listened to senior teacher Judy Moulton of The Himalayan Institute speak on fulfillment & freedom. Take a listen & let me know what you think … how could Judy’s reflection on fulfillment inform your yoga practice?
I look forward to practicing with you again soon — for now we are cultivating our home practices by gathering virtually. Yet soon enough we will look forward to greeting each other in-person again. Thank you for practicing ahimsa, non-harming, in your thoughts, words & actions as we continue to care for our community in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Subscribe to my monthly newsletter HERE for yoga updates, inspiration … & ridiculous amounts of dog pictures.
Thank you to all of my teachers, past & present, for your wisdom, generosity & strength. May my own teaching honor & authentically transmit the teachings & practices of Yoga in the Himalayan Tradition.
I can’t recall if I was walking through an airport or a store, but several years ago I was stopped in my tracks by a certain smell.
I couldn’t verbalize or explain why at the moment, yet the smell made my heart smile. That inner joy stayed with me the rest of the day.
Later, the event came back to me & I wondered, ‘Where have I smelled that before?’ It took me a while, yet the connection was finally made — my grandma’s perfume.
When I was growing up, we’d visit my grandparents once a year, in the summer. My dad carried us into the conversion van (yep, fold out bed & swivel passenger chairs – SWEET) at midnight, & would drive us 12 hours from NE Oklahoma to northern Illinois, so we’d make it to my grandparents’ house for the afternoon & following week. My younger brother & I would pull out the 5,000 piece puzzle that would be a fixture on the screened-in porch for the week. We’d get out the slip-n-slide & ruin my grandparents’ perfectly manicured grass. We’d catch fireflies in mason jars for our nightlight near the bed — & we’d fight over who had to sleep in the bed nearest the scary attic door upstairs (evil elves, you know).
And my grandma always wore the same perfume. I didn’t realize it was perfume til decades later; I just thought that’s how Grandma smelled =).
It’s interesting to me now, because I have been averse to most commercial perfumes all my life to this day. Walking past the perfume counters at a department store (which I avoid if at all possible anyway, ha!) has always been a nightmare.
Talking with Grandma recently about this, it seems I take after her: Grandma hates perfume too! The only one she’d wear is called Ciara:
Studies have shown that our sense of smell triggers memories/emotions much more quickly & strongly than our sense of sight. A study from 2015 explains how our sense of smell is connected to our limbic system, a much “older” part of the brain, so to speak, than our prefrontal cortex which develops over our childhood & young adult years … & how smells can affect our mindset, emotions & how we make it through our days. I encourage you to check out the study & see what resonates with you.
Taking this concept into our home practice space — how can we use scent to cultivate a sense of sacred space around our yoga practice? What do you want to FEEL before, during, after your home practice? A sense of ease? strength? determination? calm? happiness? … there are so many options, & your desired feeling may change from day to day depending on your body, schedule, projects, responsibilities, unforeseen circumstances, etc.
While I’m not much into perfume, essential oils, certain types of incense, & / or candles (used with fire safety in mind) evoke certain positive feelings for me. You’ll find a ton of suggestions by doing a simple online search — yet you’ll want to use your own intuition & inner knowing to know what scents are right for you. For example, lavender (the quintessential “relaxing” scent) evokes a sense of calm for some people — for others, instant headache! And while some scents can empower you, the same scent might trigger a traumatic memory for someone else. (I’ve started to shy away from diffusing scents in a community yoga space unless I truly know the group I’m working with, or have advertised that the class/workshop involves essential oils.)
One other caveat: If you have pets, please do your research on your fave essential oils before diffusing. Here’s an introductory article from Doterra, yet make sure to also do your own research & check with your vet.
Hopefully you’re getting more & more inspiration for your home practice space – from clearing the clutter to adding inviting textures to incorporating your favorite smells =). I look forward to hearing from you — share your home practice space here or tag me on Instagram or Facebook with a picture if you’re game!
Baxter had another episode last night – seemingly out of nowhere he got wide-eyed, shaky and started panting. He ate, peed, and pooped just fine (info you probably didn’t need, but there you go) … & then ran up to his kennel & didn’t want to leave.
This has happened twice before in the last couple years, and after x-rays & blood work (which show he’s pretty healthy for 12+ years old), weeks of rest & medication … We thought we’d try what he wanted — to be in his safe place with us close by for a while.
He did eventually calm (sidenote: Jim gave him a CBD biscuit, which probably helped) & we all slept through the night.
He woke up with seemingly more spunk, ate chicken / rice with enthusiasm (hoping to calm his tummy), & another successful bathroom break.
He’s been extra snuggly this morning, wanting to be right in my lap … So my yoga practice happened after about 30 minutes of holding him.
He has a bed right beside me, & finally settled there. I covered him with a blanket & gave home my pillow … He’s been snoozing for an hour … much-needed rest for our old boy.
What does Baxter’s story have to do with creating your home practice space?
When we are feeling frazzled, dull, or otherwise in need of recalibration … our primitive brains seek safe space. This is nothing to be ashamed of, & in fact if we pay attention to our inner knowing, we may get just be practicing Yoga — or the calming of the fluctuations of the mind (Yoga Sutra 1.2)
As mentioned in a previous post on this home practice space topic, the goal is to create a space (even if it’s portable) that you will WANT to be in! That calls to your overspent mind & body.
So today, I invite you to gather the props & textures that will make your space appealing for rest. Yes, maybe you’ll practice asana, or postures … so have your chair, blocks, straps, and/or bolster. Maybe you’ll do an invigorating breath practice or a deep meditation, so have a cushion / chair to give ease to your spine & allow for full breath.
Yet, especially during these times of increased stress & trauma collectively … the holidays, different schedules, a raging pandemic, political rebalancing, potential personal/family security concerns … our yoga practice can be a refuge for REST.
Above all, according to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the asana should have 2 qualities: sthira & sukkha, or stability & ease. The point that ANY posture has these 2 qualities is a subject for another time (ever observed yourself or someone else muscle their way into a pose, foregoing any form of smooth breath or ease? just so the ego can say “I did it” … ? I’m guilty, for sure. I digress.)
So, back to your home practice space. Again, nothing fancy necessary. The Western culture mindset would have us believe we need a zen-like room in our home with the perfect silence, the perfect mat or the perfect color scheme. Nonsense.
All Baxter needed was Mama’s favorite pillow to enjoy rest.
So, gather the tools & textures around you that promote YOUR ability to rest deeply at the end of your Yoga practice. These tools may include blankets, cushions, eye pillows, extra layers of clothing / socks. When we rest, we want our bodies to maintain a comfortable temperature, so that our nervous system can be soothed, & our body/mind/spirit rejuvenated.
Rest may include a guided relaxation, journaling, a cup of tea enjoyed mindfully. Allow your body/mind/spirit to absorb the effects of your practice before moving into the world.
I hope my musings encourage you to continue creating your home practice space – a place that calls you to re-energize, replenish & REST. 🙏🏼
In my first post on this topic, I encouraged you to set your practice space apart with “something special,” maybe a candle or salt lamp or string of lights. How did it go?
This post is about my kryptonite regarding my practice space: clutter.
Clear spaces = clear mind (so they say).
In my personal practice space, I tend to collect books, article snippets, a beautiful card from a friend … as well as any interesting props I’m experimenting with at the time. Every month or so, I look at my little space & think, “What the hell happened here?”
So I end up taking a chunk of time to clean up, clear out & / or retire any items that aren’t serving my practice at the time.
How about you? Do you maintain clutter-free spaces consistently or in spurts? Does everything have its place, or does stuff migrate here & there?
There’s no judgment, we’re simply learning about our tendencies.
Once you’ve selected an area of your home / apartment that you’re drawn to (& it may change over time!), I invite you to, well, make the space inviting 😉 by clearing out any unnecessary items. This way, when you’re in that strong Warrior 3 or opening your eyes from Savasana, your mind won’t be distracted by piles of papers or to-do’s.
We don’t have to go into Martha Stewart of Marie Kondo mode (though if you do, that’s cool). As we begin to cultivate a clutter-free practice space, over time we might find ourselves drawn to explore the practice of inner cleanliness, or saucha. Saucha is one of the five niyamas, or personal observances, in the 8-limb path of Yoga. For a user-friendly intro to saucha in the time of COVID-19, start here.
Thank you for your dedication to your home practice, & spreading the benefits of Yoga into our community.
We begin every Hatha Yoga practice with a centering & check-in on 3 levels: body, breath & mind. I’d like to highlight this short time at the beginning of practice. If you’re like me, oftentimes the distracted part of your mind says, “let’s get to the real part” of practice =). This centering time seems cute, yet the real stuff is Warrior II, headstands, backbends, right?
I love the asana part of Yoga – moving in & out of strong postures, even faltering in postures, feels GOOD. Even with my recent knee injury (thanks to over-enthusiastic dogs), I crave postures that make me feel calm, strong, centered.
Yet without checking in — really using those precious few moments to ask “How do I feel, REALLY?” on body, breath & mind levels — we may miss out on the deeper effects of the Yoga practice.
So, on the most obvious level, we begin with the body — we choose a position where we can relax our effort, feel comfortable & have support. In general, the postures we often use are Savasana (Corpse Pose), Makarasana (Crocodile Pose), or Sukhasana (Seated Pose on the floor or in a chair). Yet any posture where you’re doing the least amount of “work” possible is ideal.
When the body becomes still, we can tune in to its messages … Is my knee still hurting from that run yesterday? Hmm, I notice my low back is a bit tender, that’s new …
At a deeper level, once the body ceases its movements, the breath becomes more apparent. How am I breathing today? Is it shallow or deep? Jerky or smooth? Do I feel the breath more in my nose/chest/ribs/or …?
Finally, if we’re really lucky 😉 we can take a look at the mind: At the beginning of my practice, is my mind distracted, agitated, dull, one-pointed, clear?
So, in just those few moments at the beginning of our Yoga practice, we’ve begun the important practice of svadyaya, or self-study. All of this investigation is done with non-judgment, with a sense of compassion, kindness, gentleness … so that we move forward with a clear picture of how we are REALLY feeling today, at this time, in this place.
Self-study threads through our Yoga practice. We continue “checking in” throughout, being curious about what we find, & adjusting our practice accordingly. Maybe that backbend variation isn’t for me today, or counting the breath really helps settle my mind. The practice becomes a loving experiment, with the hypothesis that if we attend to our body, mind & breath with kindness, we will move closer to that sthira & sukkha, stability & ease, within our practice.
So whether you practice a physically challenging or gentle asana practice, whether your breathwork is stimulating or calming, whether your meditation is 2 minutes or 2 hours … checking in at the beginning of your practice on these 3 levels – body, breath & mind – provides information to inform your choices throughout your sequence.
And what of the end of class? In Hatha Yoga, the general principle is: your Yoga practice should be rejuvenating, not depleting. At the end of practice, we check in again: how am I feeling now? Does my body feel a little more stable / at ease? Does my breath feel more relaxed? Does my mind feel a little more clear, calm, tranquil? If yes, we give thanks & let go of our efforts. If not, we give thanks & let go of our efforts, & we ask: how might I adjust my practice next time?
I hope you’ve found a new appreciation for the precious moments that begin your Yoga practice. Checking in with body, breath & mind on the mat/chair can be a practice we take into our lives as well — checking in before we make that phone call, send that text, give that presentation. In this way, we study, we learn, we take care of our mind. And when we take care of our mind, we take care of the world.
As we move indoors due to the oncoming winter (in the Northern Hemisphere), and into our homes due to the renewed pandemic guidelines, the idea of creating space for your yoga practice could be calling you. I know for me, I often simply flop down my yoga mat & get to it … yet I when I do take time to set up my practice space, I feel more centered & a little smile comes as I begin my asana or meditation.
Whether you have an entire room to go wild with, or a corner of a room, or are required to make your space portable … I invite you to consider one way you could make your practice space & time feel “set apart” & special.
A simple candle, string of lights, or burning incense can add a special-ness to a home practice space. The light adds brightness to wintery days, & a sense of warmth & coziness to the heart. A candle can focus attention during meditation, & incense can invite a sense of sacredness and/or cleansing to the space. With Winter Solstice coming on December 21st, celebrating the return of the Sun can be a lovely ritual. (Of course make sure you’re practicing fire safety, or consider using battery-operated tea lights.)
I look forward to hearing & seeing how you are creating your home practice space!
Have you ever seen
in your life
than the way the sun,
relaxed and easy,
floats toward the horizon
and into the clouds or the hills,
or the rumpled sea,
and is gone --
and how it slides again
out of the blackness,
on the other side of the world,
like a red flower
streaming upward on its heavenly oils,
say, on a morning in early summer,
at its perfect imperial distance --
and have you ever felt for anything
such wild love --
do you think there is anywhere, in any language,
a word billowing enough
for the pleasure
that fills you,
as the sun
as it warms you
as you stand there,
or have you too
turned from this world --
or have you too
- Mary Oliver, New & Selected Poems, Volume One