Yoga Nidra — Return to Self

Me and my boy Tortilla in early January …

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MY TEACHER — TORTILLA

Tortilla knows how to play hard … every second is a new adventure for this kid. Jim has described the contents of Tortilla’s brain as “full of silliness & squirrels.” But our boy knows comfort & rest better than any living being I know. He seeks out the fluffiest blankets, the sunniest sunspots, the coziest corners … & takes full advantage. Towels just out of the dryer? Yes, please. Space on Mama’s lap (or some way I can MAKE space)? Here I am. While backpacking – your pillow or that poofy sleeping bag? Hmm, move over just a bit, Dad.

While our boy Baxter is constantly vigilant, always watching us, herding us or otherwise on the lookout … Tortilla’s motto seems to be Why stand when I can sit? Why sit when I could lay down? Why stay awake when I could be napping? They’ll get me when they’re ready for fun … or when there are squirrels.

Another teacher in our midst.

I don’t “rest” well. I’m a habitually light sleeper, lived on 5-6 hours of sleep in grad school, & burned the candle at both ends through more than a few jobs I was passionate about. I stay up later than necessary, & have always been an early riser. And I’ve never liked naps (much to Jim’s utter dismay). Waste of time. I could be accomplishing something. I don’t sit still often by choice … though I sit more often than I’d like to admit these last few years … nevertheless, when I’m sitting I’m doing something. While Tortilla can totally let go & just rest after a hard day of chasing sunspots indoors & bunnies outdoors, I keep going well after the workday or work week officially ends.

When I list the jobs / projects I’m involved with, people have often commented, “Wow, you’re a busy lady!” For a Type A personality, that’s a compliment … a badge of honor … right?

Then I look at Tortilla …

MY LESSON — REST

I’m starting to understand this “you’re busy” comment as a gentle nudge from Something Bigger to step back & re-evaluate … a red flag that I’ve … once again … overstepped my own rhythm & sustainability.

In a previous blog post, I wrote about meeting with one of my yoga teachers/mentors … & how we talked about everything from the yoga classes I’m teaching, to recent deaths in my family/community, to my food choices, to my sleep quality. I was prepared to take notes on an asana practice she’d assign me for the next 6 months … but we didn’t talk much about physical poses (except for my aggravated shoulder … no chaturangas for me).

Rather, she gave me a meditation practice, offered tips for my food choices based on Ayurvedic principles, & encouraged me to find nourishment.

Permission to rest.

MY PRACTICE — YOGA NIDRA

I’d already practiced yoga nidra a few times over the past few months. What is yoga nidra? It’s a form of “yogic sleep” adapted by Swami Satyananda from traditional yoga practices of nyasa. Click here for a down-to-earth definition =). I’d also looked into a yoga nidra program called Daring to Rest, by Karen Brody, & had tried a few of her free sessions. After our meeting, I signed up for the 40-Day Daring to Rest Challenge, which began January 8th.

So, 20 days in … it’s not been easy. You’d think, well, just lay down & be still & zone out. Nuh-uh. There’s work to be done in yoga nidra, but not the outer, superficial, social media post work. This work is internal, subtle … a gentle, powerful return to myself.

Just granting myself PERMISSION to stop … to STOP … was life-changing.

Then accepting that maybe I AM THE EXPERT on me, on who I am & who I can be — rather than co-opting someone else’s solutions, however “yogic” or spiritual or lovely they might be.

Finally, learning … still learning … that I AM NOT CRAZY. And I have felt crazy at various times over the past few years (… decades)? I have felt a random yet powerful connection in nature … I have had wicked powerful emotions come out of nowhere … I have intuited something & thought, oh boy, if I say this out loud …

It’s a powerful statement to say “The feminine part of us is not crazy” … The feminine is INTUITIVE, sometimes a little wild … & women have an internal power most of us don’t tap into regularly. What you choose to call the source of that intuition is up to you — Something Bigger, God, Universe, Spirit — go for it. The feminine is powerfully connected with rhythm, cycles, ebbs & flows … which has been ignored or dismissed at best, or has resulted in shame or even persecution of women (& some men) at worst. To rediscover those rhythms, cycles, connections is overwhelming for me, yet also pretty fucking awesome.

I’M ONLY ONE

So I’m experimenting on myself, figuring out what works =). So far, dialing back on my commitments, eating cleaner food (most of the time 😉 ), getting back into Nature, & broadening my yoga practice with yoga nidra are supporting me in slowly returning to myself — it’s not happening overnight or even over a year. Long-term project, internal, subtle … & I hope I’ll encourage someone else along the way.

How do you return to yourself?

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The “S” Word

A woman new to Love Yoga practiced with me in Hatha I last week. After class, we got to chatting … & I became the student.

The lesson? Mary takes every Wednesday for her own self-care.

Yep. Whole day. Every week. My mind was blown too.

Mary works a LOT — she owns her own business, providing self-care services for others as an aesthetician. Her daily schedule may consist of 10-12 hours of client appointments. She gives her expert skills, her time, & most importantly her positive emotional & mental energy to each client she serves. And each client walks back into their stressful lives feeling pampered physically, yes, but more importantly also a little more centered in spirit.

So, as I was learning more about her family & her work, she drops wisdom meant seemingly just for me — Self-care isn’t selfish. She said, “It’s part of my job, my responsibility as a professional. I care for my temple — body, mind, spirit — so I can give the best to my family & to my clients.”

But a WHOLE DAY?? Who has a whole day to devote to yourself, let alone a whole day EACH WEEK?

I’m amazed. I’m inspired. Mary has a vibe about her that is positively infectious, inspiring … I’ll have what she’s having, please.

While I rarely have a whole day to devote to my own self-care, this month I’ve scheduled a 30-minute massage each week. And honestly, I was feeling bad about it — like, is this really necessary? C’mon, Erica, you’re over-indulging just a bit … does your budget really allow for this?

My conversation with Mary came at just the right time … not to validate a luxury, but to remind me of what’s essential.

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I have a feeling deep in my bones that many of you pour yourselves into others day in & day out. No one has accused you of laziness or slacking, Sister!

So, what practices are essential to your well-being? Though these practices seem “luxuries” to some — a warm bath, a massage, a day staring out the window, a day in the woods — they are essential for your soul. I encourage you, as I’m encouraging myself, to be inspired by Mary’s wisdom & example. If you’re reading this post, Mary — thank you for my lesson!

On a side note, since my last post, I’ve been taking part in Karen Brody’s “Daring to Rest” 40-Day Challenge. Yoga Nidra is a HUGE challenge for me … I’ll be updating you on my rest progress soon. Until then, may you practice intentional Self-Care this week — I hope to hear from you here or on the mat soon! Cheers, E

Is Your “Check Engine” Light On?

The “check engine” light in our Subaru has been a sometimes off, sometimes on reality over the past few years. At first, each time the light came on we scheduled a maintenance appointment — during which the auto mechanic often found something totally unrelated to the engine wrong with our car =) — had the “check engine” sensor turned off, only to have it come on again a month or so later. So, I started to ignore it.

 

The “check engine” light has been on again for months now.

 

As we approach the end of 2017, I’m looking back over my journal, my notes, my thoughts, my energy, etc. etc. So many good things happening — I’m enjoying teaching yoga at Love Yoga, I’m back at Lafayette Elementary with amazing teachers & kids, the WELS Adventure Program finished its 4th session with 10 young graduates, the Lafayette School Garden grew again this year, & my work with Canine Partners for Life at SCI-Greene continues to inspire me. Jim & I got to take an awesome few weeks together with our fur-kids Baxter & Tortilla, camping & traveling through New England this summer, & also got to visit my grandparents in Illinois for Thanksgiving.

 

Check Engine?

 

In addition, I continue to notice “little things” about my energy levels & mind state. I’m more wired yet tired mentally this year, maybe the past few years, than I have been in the past … even with all my practices to counteract such things =). I’m not getting as much physically strenuous exercise in recent years … often feeling too exhausted to rouse myself for a weekend hike or kayaking with Jim. I’m prone to anxious thoughts, worries about things that haven’t happened, & always trying to figure out the perfect thing to do / say … all of which are brought to light when I’m overtaxed.

 

Check Engine.

 

But I push through — I’m supposed to be able to handle what’s going on in my life. I’ve done it for years, through jobs, family upheavals, changes in physical health, moves across the country, & other chosen or unexpected changes in life. Buck up, deal with it, & make it happen, E. Here’s where some Ayurveda dosha knowledge is interesting to me — being a Pitta-Vata type, when I’m in balance I am energetic & creative, confident & loyal to people & passions, & I get shit done.

 

And Pitta-Vata types like me (maybe like you) burn out easily. We LOVE what we do, we want to say YES to it all because the program, the person’s need, the idea is awesome or somewhere we can make a difference. I/We keep pushing & pushing because that’s what we’re SUPPOSED to do. We have high expectations — & yet when out of balance, we judge ourselves harshly when we don’t live up to perfection, and/or get spacy, jumping from thing to thing to thing in search of deeper meaning.

 

CHECK ENGINE

 

So here we are in December, & I finally got time to make an appointment with a yoga teacher whom I greatly respect & have learned so much from. It took a few months for us to coordinate our schedules, & when we met last week I had a list of questions about my yoga practice, what I should do next in my teaching, about my shoulder injury … because that’s what I do, I figure things out & get shit done ;).

 

My teacher asked me, “So what’s going on in your life right now?”

 

I began to talk about my & Jim’s respective jobs, about my yoga teaching … & then started talking about the funeral we attended for a dear older friend the day before, about the death of another dear friend a few weeks before, & about Jim’s grandmother’s death the month before. I haven’t experienced death so closely … & in such succession … in my time on earth yet. Health scares in my own family have my internal anxiety showing itself. Jim is traveling to Israel in January, which is a GRAND opportunity for him … yet I find myself unable to sleep for worry over news coming out of the Middle East.

 

I talked about feeling tired & a bit “down” this year or so … like I’m running out of gas. I found myself tearing up, trying to hold it together (because I’m supposed to, right). All these heavy things coming up … which I didn’t connect … from a simple question “How’s it going?” … from someone who’s coming from her own inner space to listen. I’ve thought something is wrong with me, that I’m not hacking life like I used to.

 

CHECKING ENGINE

 

This time with my teacher didn’t go as I expected, yet was just what I needed. Simply being affirmed, “that’s a lot to deal with Erica, & it’s ok to be human” was a relief. A big sigh & tearful release — a “thank God I’m not losing it.” As we discussed how to move forward, she didn’t analyze poses or give me a specific physical practice … we talked about my food choices (eat more, & take in more nourishing foods), I received a meditation practice, & we discussed ways to use my teaching to balance & re-ignite inspiration.

 

I left feeling exhausted after our session, yet in an oddly uplifted way … does that even make sense? I sat in my car & let my body deflate for a few moments … deep deeeeep breaths … what a relief to let go. Then I put the keys in the ignition & turned on the car.

 

No “Check Engine” light.

 

Seriously, you can laugh … or think I’m making it up … because I did … amidst my tears I noticed the light was off & just about fell over laughing.

 

Take a moment, a week, a year (like I am) to check your engine. Mine may come back on now & then, just as a gentle reminder. Let’s keep each other updated on how it’s going =).

 

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Yoga Classes to Benefit WELS Program

Donation Thursdays continue at Love Yoga this month — no class fees, & your donations go to the Wilderness Experience, Leadership & Service Program which gets local kids outdoors & teaches leadership skills.

 

Local 7th & 8th graders accepted into the program experience whitewater rafting, kayaking, climbing, hiking, mountain biking & more — many for the 1st time! — in the Ohiopyle State Park and surrounding areas. WELS contracts with Wilderness Voyageurs, who employs the most experienced professional guides I’ve worked with in the outdoors. WELS also partners with the Uniontown Area School District, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Calvary Baptist Church, and East End United Community Center. WELS sessions run for 6 weeks in spring & fall — so far, over 50 graduates have completed the WELS program in its first 4 sessions.

 

The WELS program is more than an outdoor adventure program — Adult Mentors also work with participants on team-building & leadership skills. Each week a core leadership value is defined, discussed & practiced — RESPONSIBILITY, RESPECT, TRUST, EMPATHY, RESILIENCE, and GRATITUDE. Participants then take these values into their week at school, at home, & with peers. A culminating service project with Ohiopyle State Park instills the importance of giving back. So far, participants have cleared trails, cleared & gathered native plants for reseeding along the Youghiogheny River, & picked up trash along the Laurel Highlands Bike Trail.

 

How do you get involved? Start by getting on your mat (or one of ours!) at Love Yoga this month — 6:45pm Thursdays. This all-levels class is taught by a different Love Yoga teacher each week — we are committed to making an impact in our local community on & off the mat. Join us!

 

Other ways to get involved:

*Refer a kid — WELS accepts applications from 7th & 8th graders from all walks of life. Know a kid who could benefit from the WELS program? Email Jim Engel at thejimengel@gmail.com.

*Volunteer as an Adult Mentor — research shows that youth who have 7 adults (outside the family unit) who 1) know their name & 2) show interest in their well-being are less likely to engage in negative risky behaviors (truancy, early drug/alcohol use, sex, etc.). Imagine your impact on a kid in Fayette County. Contact Jim Engel at 509.406.0926 for more information on Adult Mentors.

*Donate — WELS is funded solely by grants, donations & volunteer time. If you know of grant opportunities or are looking for a life-changing program to invest your money in — contact Jim Engel (thejimengel@gmail.com) to make your difference for local 7th & 8th graders in Fayette County.

 

May your December be brightened by your inner light, & may you shine for the benefit of others … Cheers, E

Good Morning, Beautiful. Good Night, Gorgeous.

The quality of our sleep depends on the quality of our sleeping mind.

*Check out the workshops in the “Beyond the Pose” series here.

Good Morning, Beautiful! Recently, I facilitated a workshop on yoga practices for sleep … the small class size of amazing women was intimate & laidback. We shared our personal experiences with sleep disturbances, & discussed what modern science has discovered about the importance of sleep for rejuvenation of the brain — consolidation of memories, “global downscaling,” & emotional response reset. The techniques shared from the yoga tradition included breathing techniques, poses for the end of the day, as well as lifestyle habits/rituals. A beautiful blend of modern science & yoga philosophy & practice.

 

From years of experience dealing with stress in an unhealthy way, resulting in poor sleep & waking up in a panic almost nightly — I’ve practiced these routines & techniques for years, adding or subtracting what works for my mind/body as needed. That night, after the sleep workshop, you’d think I’d sleep like a baby — I’d just taught the same techniques & practices that I do myself on a regular basis.

 

Well, not so much. My eyes shot open at 1:56am, mind racing.

 

I was so frustrated — I thought, “Are you serious?! I have worked on this sh** for years … have been sleeping better & waking up better … I just shared what works for me less than 12 hours ago … & NOW this?!”

 

And then I laughed. Well, a little internal chuckle so as not to wake Jim (he’s an expert sleeper, by the way) … but a laugh at myself at 2am amidst a panicked mind that wasn’t going back to sleep anytime soon. I mean, c’mon … the scene was pretty comical. The quality of my sleeping mind … whew, it was a doozy!

 

So the truth is I didn’t get a good night’s sleep. Yep, I teach yoga … yep, I share yoga techniques for sleep. And yet I learned some valuable lessons on my journey to go beyond my Internal Critic:

  1. I’m learning.
  2. Have a sense of humor amidst the frustration.
  3. There’s no magic formula — the progress is in consistent practice over time, as Panditji states here, from his commentary on The Yoga Sutras:

“Because we are unaware of what is happening in our inner world while we are asleep, it is imperative in our waking state that we practice techniques for sleeping in a healthy, enlightening way.” – Dr. Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, Himalayan Institute

 

Are you experiencing sleep disturbances? Whether you’re new to yoga philosophy & practice or a long-time practitioner, I hope you’ll take heart from my “2 steps forward, 1 step back” experience last week. For me, I’m taking this opportunity to reflect on my current practices / routines during the day & my bedtime rituals … taking in what benefits & letting go of what doesn’t … perfect for the autumn season, actually … & continuing my practice. I’d love to hear your favorite ways to nurture your sleep — comment below! Good night, Gorgeous!

Beyond the Pose

“As I said earlier, yoga has been used, to a great extent, only for self-improvement—to make our bodies feel better, to be healthier, to feel less stress. What we’ve lost is the idea that when I think of another and extend compassion to another, I improve myself. When I help another person, we become literally inseparable. This is what tantra teaches, and it is the key to living in a more expansive way that benefits ourselves and the larger world.” – Rod Stryker, Parayoga

Have you wondered if your yoga practice is more expansive than your 24″ x 68″ yoga mat? More than a stress reliever, detox program, or booty lifter?

If so, yay! Woohoo! Thank you!

Don’t get me wrong, I love asana — posture practice. And I love that there are so many different styles of physical practice … you may not get benefit from the Hatha class I teach today, so here’s a Vinyasa class for you … or a Yin practice. Circle back to Hatha when you’re ready ;).

That said, I continue to be amazed that “yoga” is so much more. The word “hatha,” for example, joins the letters “ha” & “tha,” & represents the two controlling forces of life. Sandra Anderson of The Himalayan Institute tells us,

Yoked together in one word, these letters illustrate the practice of hatha yoga—the joining of the forces of light and darkness, the resolution of disharmony and opposition, and the transcendence of dualities of all kinds. It is this state of balance and equanimity that supports and strengthens us, and which nurtures the unfolding of a deeper level of awareness and spiritual wisdom.

Do I know what all this means yet? Nope. I continue to learn, practice, witness, STRUGGLE … on & off my mat. I hope you’ll join me.

Let’s share how we practice Hatha yoga off of our mats & in the world. What have you been up to lately? An extension of compassion that changed you? A helping of another that transformed your view or way of being? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

At Love Yoga, we’re offering “Philanthropy Thursdays” — donation classes that extend support to local organizations doing great work in our community. Last month, our extended yoga family raised $200 to support programs at Canine Partners for Life … I was SO HUMBLED that folks who couldn’t make it to a physical practice said, “Here, I’d like to donate anyway.” Yoga is beyond the pose.

This month, Nickers ‘N Neighs Therapeutic Riding Center will benefit from your practice on & off the mat. Donations of any amount make a difference! Bring a friend — widen the circle!

In addition, I’ll be offering Sunday workshops on practices (physical, breathing & cleansing) to support you in sleep, joint health, & your general daily round. Called “Beyond the Pose,” these workshops cater to those of us wanting to delve deeper into our practice & transformation. Check out Love Yoga for more information & registration.

Whether you “practice yoga” (i.e. on a mat) or not … you practice yoga (!) through your relationship to your Self, to your world & to those around you. Extend compassion, love, light — transform your Self. This is our practice.

I hope to hear how you practice in the comments below =).

Ubuntu – I am because you are.

This February I won a trip to the Wisdom 2.0 Conference in San Francisco, CA from the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation and Propeller. Wisdom 2.0 is an amazing conference bringing together teachers & leaders in the mindfulness movement from all over the country. It was a pretty cool experience.

Honestly, the reason I entered the drawing was because one of the prizes was a signed copy of the Dalai Lama’s & Desmond Tutu’s most recent book – The Book of Joy. The book has been sitting on my shelf all summer.

I packed “The Book of Joy” for our 2-week trip through New England recently. Jim, the dogs & I borrowed my in-laws’ pop-up trailer & drove 2,400 miles exploring, hiking & eating our way through New York, Vermont, New Hampshire & Maine.

Anyway, on my short list of “top 5 people you’d like to have dinner with” are Desmond Tutu & the Dalai Lama. I’m so taken by their presence in the world — & especially their absolute JOY & sense of humor. I highly recommend “The Book of Joy.”

Desmond Tutu facilitated the Truth & Reconciliation Commission after the fall of apartheid in South Africa. He constantly refers to the concept of UBUNTU — the philosophy that “I am because you are.” Here’s Desmond Tutu: What is Ubuntu?

I’m thinking on this Ubuntu in light of the great devastation currently experienced by humans & animals of Texas & Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Harvey (we in southwest PA are only getting a smattering of rain & high winds — Harvey “after-thoughts,” if you will). My friend Emily flew from Seattle to Houston & is currently helping out at an animal shelter — Ubuntu — I am more fully human because Emily is expressing her full human potential in Houston.

I’m thinking on this Ubuntu in light of Jim & my 11th anniversary — thousands of miles of travel & experience across the U.S. together, hundreds of miles of hiking/kayaking/climbing together, with unknown miles ahead … together. Ubuntu — I am more fully human because of who we are.

And I’m thinking on this Ubuntu in light of a new fall schedule — Uniontown schools back in session, a new teaching schedule at Love Yoga Studio, & opportunities to teach yoga at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church & East End United Community Center. Ubuntu — I am more fully human as I encourage others to reach their highest human potential.

Where do you experience Ubuntu?

Here are a few ways I hope to inspire your Ubuntu practice:

  • Donation Class Thursdays at Love Yoga Studio — this month’s donations go to Canine Partners for Life. Join me & fellow Love Yoga teachers Alycia & Kristin … & a CPL puppy-in-training!
  • Lafayette School Garden Open House — Wednesday, September 6th at 6:00-7:30pm. Garden-inspired food by Ethel’s Edibles, kids’ activities & program highlights from East End United Community Center, Fayette County Power Up! Nutrition Education, Canine Partners for Life, & more. See details here: Lafayette Community Garden.
  • Join the Love Yoga Community — No gimmicks, just yoga … time-tested practices to cultivate more energy in your body, calm in your mind, & compassion in your heart. Check out September promotions here: 30 for $30 & more!
  • Share this blog post with a friend or family member — you are because they are. We are here to bring out the best in each other.

Here’s to you, dear one! Thank you for being you today!

Cheers, E

Register for Mindful Classroom Workshop

Hey all! Quick post to encourage you and/or fellow educators to get your last-minute registration in for Intermediate Unit 1 Summer Institute this week. Lots of workshops to choose from, including a workshop I’ll be leading on incorporating mindfulness activities into classroom routines & culture on Thursday, August 10th from 9:00am to 3:00pm (lunch provided). Only $35 (what?! I know!).

While “online registration” is closed, you and/or a friend can still sign up by giving me a call / text at 509.406.0928 or message me on Facebook (Erica Seaver-Engel), Twitter or Instagram (baxter4610).

We have a small, intimate group — so we can cover a lot of ground together, discuss your unique goals for adding mindfulness & yoga activities into your daily routine, & dive into your burning questions!

I look forward to seeing you Thursday!

P.S. Check out August yoga offerings at Love Yoga. See you on the mat =).

Know Your Garden

Holy Rain & Thunderstorms, Batman! Last week was a doozy … Baxter & Tortilla, our furry family members, were none-too-pleased with the pop-up storms day & night.

 

That said, last year at this time we were scrambling for water at the Lafayette School Garden, a project I’ve been honored to be part of for 2 years now. Our collection tanks were bone-dry. This year, July has been a banner month for water collection =). The bush beans are in full production, we harvested 15 heads of garlic last week (our first experiment with this crop), & the leeks & herbs are flourishing.

 

Where’s Your Water?

What’s yoga got to do with water & gardening? Well, I think about what nourishes me — like water to a garden, my yoga practices (not just asana, but also breathwork, meditation, food choices, sleep, relationships, etc.) nourish me & help me grow in body, mind & spirit. What nourishes you? Where’s your water?

How’s your garden growing this year? Whether your veggie garden, or your yoga garden …  I’d love to read your comments & see your photos.

 

Summer Garden Open House

YOU’RE INVITED, Yogis! Come & see what’s growing at our Garden Open House this week — Thursday, July 20th at 7:00 – 8:30pm. The garden is located behind Lafayette School on 300 Connellsville Street in Uniontown, PA. All are welcome!

 

YOGA — Come out & try a garden yoga practice with Kristin, founder of Love Yoga Studio. We at Love Yoga provide you with a community of practice for body, mind & spirit … in the studio & in the garden! (Mats are provided =) )

 

FOOD — Try food creations from Chef Joe Carei — local chef, UHS track coach & dedicated to our local community — featuring veggies & herbs growing in the garden! You might just walk away with a garlic bulb from our very first garlic harvest!

 

COMMUNITY — Local community organizations featured include: Fayette County Community Action Agency, Fayette County “Power Up!” Nutrition & Exercise Education Program, Canine Partners for Life, & the Wilderness Experience, Leadership & Service (WELS) Program. Don’t forget to let your kiddos take a book from the Little Free Library =).

 

ART — You’ll meet Lafayette’s 2017-2018 “Artist-in-Residence” Diane Adams – who will be guiding students in a murals project in the garden. Her work is extraordinary, & we can’t wait to see what she & the students create together.

 

Know Your Garden

I invite us all to get to know our local gardens this summer … whether in your backyard or in our community. In addition, consider what nourishes your “garden” — your body, mind & spirit. When you’re well-nourished inside & out, you can take your practice off the yoga mat & nourish others.

 

Here’s to growth on & off the mat, Erica

 

Widening the Circle

Sending you well wishes as July begins! First, a PSA from Tortilla & Baxter (my boys, pictured above) — Keep your pets safe this July 4th! Tortilla recommends a comfy bed indoors, chew toy, Rescue Remedy & soft music or fans to block fireworks noise. July 5th is the busiest day at shelters & rescues — so keep your pets safe & secure in your home!

Now on to my musings =) …

Check out my Hatha Class schedule here =) — Love Yoga Class Schedule

Yesterday I got together with friends from my 2015/2016 yoga teacher training at Himalayan Institute – Pittsburgh. Sidenote: I recommend the sweet potato fries at Cafe io.

My teacher friends & I each have our own unique teaching schedules, teaching focus & methodology … & I learn a million amazing things each time we get together. I had no idea what kirtan was before meeting Chris. Gigi is teaching in community centers & studios, & has one of my many dream jobs — banding & counting songbirds. Elizabeth recently moved to Pittsburgh, & I always get ideas for places that Jim & I need to check out (have you heard of Randyland?!). Nancy, a retired school teacher, now teaches kids’ yoga, & I gained awesome tips for working with my kindergarten group this summer.

These beautiful, funny, intelligent, spirit-full souls filled my cup to overflowing this week — a week filled with new programs (exciting), fireworks sending my dogs behind toilets (not-so-exciting), & the emotional beginning of my monthly cycle (beautiful yet sometimes a bummer). From the initial 9 months of weekend yoga teacher trainings together, we’re continuing to widen this circle of support & friendship …

Several years ago, the phrase “widening the circle” struck me — I can’t remember where I heard the phrase, yet it’s part of a quote from this guy you might know:

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One of many reasons I think “widening the circle” strikes me is that I’ve felt a little outside the norm, & at times rejected from groups, since I was a kid. I’m not unique here — I think we’ve all felt this way at one point or another. When I learned the term “introvert,” I felt a weight lift — oh, so THAT’S why big groups/parties are exhausting! That’s why I enjoy solitude – not because I don’t like people, but because I can recharge my batteries.

This widening the circle is so appealing to me — & being with Gigi, Elizabeth, Chris, & Nancy this week further confirms the appeal. There’s so much learning to be had, such inspiration to take in, so much laughter to lift any spirit. Well-being is cultivated.

Now, you extroverts are probably thinking “duh” — & I give you credit for that. I love your life-of-the-party, wide-circleness.

Widening the circle is what I love about my personal yoga practices too. I jumped into yoga thinking I’d get exercise with a little stress relief sprinkled on top. I was an over-exerciser & anorexic for over a decade during my teens & early 20s, & in bouncing back I wanted more balance, but also wanted to continue to move my body, sweat, etc. in a “healthier” way. I LOVED vinyasa flow classes – the movement, the challenge, the pretty poses. I practiced for years.

Widening the circle. “Yoga isn’t exercise,” a renowned teacher stated matter-of-factly. Curiosity. What are these 8 limbs of yoga? Asana (poses, the physical stuff) is ONE part of yoga, one that has been capitalized on in exercise-crazed Western society. So what are these other “limbs”? The journey begins …

As a teacher trained in Hatha Yoga, I wish I could say I loved my first Hatha Yoga class. I didn’t. Seriously. My mind said, “This is so sloooooowwww … we’re holding these poses forEVER … why am I laying in Savasana for 10 minutes? I’ve got shit to do.” I was used to moving!

But I returned to class. Each time I practiced the simple (not easy) movements, breathing techniques, relaxation … I felt something shift. A widening of the circle … of compassion for myself, of the strength within me, of something bigger/deeper than the external skin/muscle stuff. I practice vinyasa, yin, etc. now & then … yet the Hatha practices continue to have a profound effect on my mind, body & spirit.

Because of my own initial experience with Hatha Yoga, I encourage first-time students in a yoga class to avoid allowing their minds to make snap judgments about their experience … to come back for a second class. (Caution: There is something to be said about following your gut instinct if a class feels emotionally or physically unsafe.) It takes courage to try a new class, & the mind can be clouded by nervous energy, excitement, uncertainty, etc. In addition, Hatha Yoga classes can be quite different from popular Western fitness-based yoga classes. There is a pose sequence, yet also breathwork, subtle energies being manipulated, soothing the nervous system, focusing the mind.

On one hand, how great is it that there are so many choices? I hope we (myself included) continue to widen & deepen our understanding of yoga practices, not only on our mats, but in our lives too. On the other hand, our one-&-done culture is not used to Patanjali’s instruction from the Yoga Sutra to practice “with consistency” & “over time” in order to experience the wide circle of benefits the 8 limbs of yoga offer. One class, meditation session, or workshop isn’t going to cut it.

The circle of yoga practitioners is widening — over 36 million people in the U.S. alone. If you’re practicing, who can you invite into the circle? If you’re not practicing yet, maybe it’s time! There are a MULTITUDE of ways to practice yoga — one of my teachers said, “If you can breathe, you can practice yoga.” You are part of the circle!

I look forward to hearing from you, & how we can widen the circle of well-being in Uniontown & beyond. The benefits of yoga philosophy & practice are meant to be shared. Contact me through the comments, or by email at erica.seaverengel@gmail.com … or the very best way, face-to-face in a yoga class!

Cheers to you! E