Archives for posts with tag: health

So I’ve been thinking quite a bit about this lately. I realize how seldom I post yoga poses, of myself or otherwise on my social media platforms.

I guess over the years my teaching, as well as my philosophy off the mat have evolved beyond the poses. I used to be defined by my asana performance and get built up by a teacher saying ‘good job Sara.’ Lets face it, it feels great to be acknowledged.

Around that time yoga became more mainstream.

Around that time I had kids.

Around that time I became disenchanted with the abundance of handstands and arm balances parading around the social-media-yoga-scene.

To me, that is no longer what my practice is about.

Don’t get me wrong, I love asana. In fact, I have even more appreciation for it after having 2 children.  I am also more proud of my body and what its capable of after having 2 children than I EVER was before.

But the days that I don’t practice asana FAR outweigh the days that I do because I’m teaching, cleaning, cooking, feeding, bathing, emailing, texting, hugging, snuggling, wifing etc.

So how can your yoga practice continue to evolve if you don’t have time to get to a studio, let alone roll out your mat for a solid hour to do a home practice?

It will be helpful to understand that yoga poses are actually only a small part of a yoga practice or lifestyle. According to one of the ‘grandfathers’ of yoga, asana is only 1 of 8 limbs. Patanjali’s 8- limbed yoga path consists of yamas (ethical discipline), niyamas (self discipline), asana (postures), pranayama (breathing), pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), samadhi (enlightenment). You can think of these as puzzle pieces that fit together to construct a complete practice. I find it helpful to think of them this way because when you are putting a puzzle together there is often no rhyme or reason, yet your effort is spent on creating a whole piece, hence doing a yoga practice or becoming a  yogini.

Through my process of becoming a mother I needed to evolve a way of maintaining my yogi identity. So I pulled away from show-boaty poses and turned my focus to the things I was doing on a more regular basis. By accepting that I couldn’t get to my mat, I started creating opportunities to practice yoga and mindfulness in the daily tasks of motherhood.

Playing with my children became a practice of being present. Packing their lunches- an act of service. Deep breathing with them when they are upset or hurt has become a great way for me to practice breathing as well. When they creep out of bed first thing in the morning, I wrap my arms around them and close my eyes to meditate on the sound of their little angel breath and their warm sleepy bodies.

Mindfulness, breathing, meditation, presence, compassion, all things that show up in motherhood on a regular basis.  Utilizing these tools to extend your yoga practice beyond your mat will help you to evolve and appreciate the time you DO get to be on your mat.  Plus, one of the hardest things to do as a mother is to make time for yourself, so by weaving these practices into your day you will cultivate mindfulness for yourself AND your family. Its WIN-WIN.

namaste.

 

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My husband and I were on our way to yoga early last Friday AM and I noticed myself prepping him for the adventure ahead. I don’t remember him practicing yoga with me during my first pregnancy, so I felt the need to preface the experience by saying ‘I have to do some weird stuff because of the belly, so don’t do everything I do.’

As we began to make our way through the class I allowed myself to go about finding my own flow and meditative state. I was awoken by a keen sense of awareness that allowed me to watch myself from his possible perspective. I started to realize that there really WASN’T that much of my practice that I needed to modify. More than any necessity to change the postures, I was noticing that the uncomfortable part of my practice was the awkward transitions and the lack of strength. But for the most part I could do everything normally.  Now, I’m going to give myself a quick pat on the back for this. I know not all preggers can make it half way through their pregnancy without many major altercations, but since I can, I’m feeling pretty good.

This got me thinking: a pregnant yoga practice isn’t only different for the obvious reasons, but perhaps the biggest shift is that it FEELS so different. So let it feel different. If you aren’t comfortable doing things the same way as before- then make up a new way that works for your beautiful belly. Remember, its such a short, sacred time- embrace it!

Ok, the photos to follow are small variations to poses- some that we are generally told not to do by our doctors, and some that we are forced to modify as our body suggests doing so. This is definitely one of the BIG special things about a prenatal yoga practice: your body is your boss.  Even though you may have Dr’s telling you one thing and your mother telling you something else- YOU are in charge. If you feel good, if the baby feels good, I say go for it!

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Downward Facing Dog: not much to change here, but as your belly gets larger feel free to step your feet farther than hip distance apart.

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Forward Fold: Same song as Downward Dog

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Plank: This pose is great for strength, tone, and stamina. It is also a great modification if/ when Chaturunga becomes too challenging.

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Chaturunga Dandasana/ Low Pushup: Again, not much to change- but consider using your knees. In my prenatal yoga classes we use Chaturunga as an opportunity to get in a few Tricep Pushups before we go back to Downward Facing Dog… as an option.

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This is a modification for Revolved Crescent Lunge. Dr.’s recommend to modify deep twists during pregnancy to help avoid Diastisis Recti.

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Prayer Twist: Use this Vertical Twist variation if it feels better for you.

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Hand to Big Toe Pose: If you are a Hot Yogi, then this pose is a great variation for Standing Forehead to Knee Pose. IT also feels great to open your hips nice and wide!

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Frog Pose: Great for any pregnant body- as this is really close to the most commonly used birthing position now-a-days. This pose is also great to insert into your practice during spine strengthening or belly-down yoga poses.

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These backbend variations are gentle, but great for opening the heart and shoulders. I like to do these when the rest of the class is in plow pose or working on their core… after I do plank, of course!

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Inversions are a big topic of discussion for pregnant practitioners. I’m here to tell you not to be afraid. And, you will know as soon as you try if it feels right for you or not. I did inversions all the way through my first pregnancy. I think it was more scary for the other people in the room than it was for me. AND, my baby was born perfectly healthy. You can always modify like I have here, by keeping one leg closer to the ground for balance and control.

 These poses are based on a combination of advice from my drs, my personal experience, and feedback from my prenatal yoga students. For the mamas out there who are getting to their mats even with a belly- good for you! That baby is going to know flow, rhythm and breath before they are even born.  And please, feel free to reach out to me with any questions you may have, I would love to chat with you.

MAMA-ste!

 

The thunder was rolling, like the growl from deep in the gut of the discontent and indifference I had been feeling for the last few weeks: A familiar, yet long unvisited territory. As the thunder was reminding me of the shifts that were set to occur, the lightening was the resurrection. The sharp flash of lights that would stretch from one edge of the cloud through the belly of the thunder was fierce, powerful, determined and necessary.

Just like change.

As I sat and watched Mother Nature’s magical theater display I was struck by something all at once: when I feel like this I feel disconnected and separate, when I feel like that I feel connected and supported. Just as the thunder and lightening are created by each other, they create for each other. What they create for each other is meaning- a purpose for their moment in time. When I feel disconnected and indifferent I feel no sense of purpose or any good reason why.

I find it so interesting what even a small dose of depression will completely un-do any kind of motivation or momentum that you might carry into any and all aspects of your life.

Sometimes, stepping away from our ‘normal’ state of living gives us the breathing room to redefine the life we want to be living.

So there, in rural Missouri, I started to look at what in my life was working, and what wasn’t. I started to ask myself about the things I was holding myself accountable for. I needed to understand what was serving me and what wasn’t so that I had a road map to redirect these feelings of discontent and exhaustion, really. How could I make reasonable changes that would serve to create the life that I wanted to live: a life of love, contentment, creativity and fulfillment.

Here are a few things I was able to distill:

  1. I was spending a lot of time supporting people who didn’t necessarily support me in the same way. Relationships of all kinds can be a big piece of the exhaustion puzzle.
  2. The 30-day challenge is not my gig (anymore). After trying a few of these and ‘failing’ miserably I’m ready to let this Insta-standard go. At first I thought it was because my life didn’t have the room for this type of commitment. Now I realize I just haven’t ever bought in 100% because it’s not authentic to me.
  3. Several of my daily habits- even self-care habits, weren’t helping to restore ME. Now- I am a yoga teacher. I know all about meditation, and breathing, and eating right etc. But some of the things I was doing because I ‘should’ were adding pressure on me to achieve them. They were great rituals and they served a purpose at some point. But I needed to revitalize in ways that were effective for ME.

From these realizations I’ve created a new check-in list. Something to keep me on track with decisions about time management and truly living the life I want to be living:

  1. I am done with ‘shoulds’! I intend to pause and ask myself: Is this something I should be doing, or is this something I want to be doing. Inevitably there will be coffee dates that I want to do, and those that I should do. At least this mantra helps me to create a moment of pause before I make the commitment. Time is a valuable commodity!
  2. Acceptance and Authenticity. My life is what it is because I created it this way. Accepting it and accepting myself gives me room to breathe and to be. One of my core values is authenticity. When I feel the competitive voice speaking up I intend to remind myself of acceptance and authenticity, and to move, work, love, post from that place.
  3. Mindfulness. It truly is important to me to live with intention, to love with intention, to teach with intention. So a lot of what this comes down to is time. Making the time for myself to light a candle and be still, or to wake up just a bit earlier to drink some lemon water. But maybe more than that, mindfulness allows for the opportunity to explore: what am I really needing to feel good, grounded, balanced, alive.

I have intentionally kept this list short- reflective of the main realizations I had while I was away. When I need to be tender with myself the last thing I want to do is write up a shopping list of all of the things I’m unsettled about. Instead I choose to focus on these main ideas that cast a broad net so that more of the little things are impacted by my new way of thinking and tuning in.

I also head in to this challenge fully aware that it doesn’t happen overnight. I don’t just wake up and say: I’m gonna change x,y and z so that my life is more fulfilling. It takes time. Besides- I have a great life, yet something in me was still stirring. The press to improve ourselves is a process. And if we are lucky enough we get to watch it and participate fully in this dance with grace.

The process itself can be quite transformative. Like the fade of a magnificent thunder and lightening show into the tranquil dance of tall green grasses in the residual wind of the storm across the plains. A beautiful reminder that the storm magnifies the tranquility. One gives purpose to the other. Its the dance between the two, storm and serenity, that makes us whole.

I have always been a modest girl… woman.

When I was younger my modesty or shyness made other people uncomfortable, so I was outcast and teased.

I can only ASS-ume that the being made fun of and made to feel different played a huge role in my body image and self confidence. For longer than I would like to admit I had a hard time ‘loving’ my body, like I’m pretty sure most of the women on the face of the Earth do. I tried different diets, I tried different types of exercise, I tried buying clothes from different places.

As I’ve grown older my appreciation for my body has DEFINITELY evolved. In fact, going through pregnancy and having a baby has played an enormous part in how I now feel about my body. But something recently, though I can’t quite pin point it, has left me in a state of such acceptance and yes… LOVE of my body. I feel happier, sexier and stronger than ever.

So today after I taught yoga I was rummaging through the clothing racks because I had my eye on a tank top I wanted to buy. Right there in the lobby I spontaneously took my yoga top off (WAIT!!! Before you go there- I still had a sports bra on) and tried the other tank top on.

Right there, in the middle of the yoga studio lobby! It was…

LIBERATING!

People saw my bare belly and my “imperfect” by societal norms body. I’m not sure what it was, but that moment of pause and insecurity simply did not exist.

Now all I can think about is if THAT is what women were searching for when they started burning their bras?

If I could bottle it and sell I would! But the fact of the matter is that it shouldn’t take ANY woman 33 years to feel her absolute best. There has got to be something done about how we communicate to young women and how beautiful they are in all of their different shapes, sizes and abilities. Starting NOW.

 

When I was in high school I played volley ball. We had to run ‘the mile’ every week for conditioning, and I HATED it.

When I went away to college I crafted a passion for trail running out of the sheer necessity of needing something to do as a freshman… without a car… at a campus on top of a mountain.

Its been an off-and-on relationship dependent upon many different variables in my life. But recently I’ve been using my trail runs as a tool for my half marathon training.

On my run this AM these thoughts came to me…

1. Sometimes the best path is unstable. When there is a split in the trail, one side gravel, the other slick rock, there really is no stable choice. No matter which side you choose there IS instability. The real choice your making is how will this next step get me to where I want to go NOW. Its instinctual. You want to keep going, so in the moment, you don’t think, you GO. There’s no way around it. In fact, the instability of either choice will teach you a different lesson: how to grip the gravel and be light on your feet OR how to push off and catapult without slipping. Which brings me to my next thought…

2. Its slow getting to the push-off point, but the momentum is all worth it. Each extra bit of UMPH I can give myself, exertion, heavy breathing, bouncing off my feet, helps propel me to the next push-off point. The next push-off point is another obstacle. Its the space in between that we get to experience that momentum. Its the stillness of time before my foot lands on another rock, that’s what its all for.

3. Where the ‘rubber meets the road’ must be diligent… or you land on your face! Now let me be real… I’ve landed on my face. And its embarassing, but it sure checks me. Many times I’ve made mistakes, fought for approval, shape-shifted to be what someone else wanted. But after the splatter, if I really sit with ‘what just happened’? Its that I wasn’t paying attention to ME. My ego is what tripped my up. Ego is like that huge rock jutting out of the trail that you don’t see because your daydreaming, or caught in the glare of the sun. That rock isn’t going to go away. So just Be careful! You can push-off of it, or you can run over it. Be diligent.

4.You can’t only, ever run uphill. As much as I love a good uphill challenge, I’m almost convinced that the satisfaction of finding a downhill is what its all about. Downhill gives the chance to go with the flow and catch our breath. Some of life is meant to be enjoyed. Plain and simple. My very wise Granddad taught me that moderation is the key. If we are only, ever running UP hill we miss the flowers and the butterflies riding the trail with us. If we are only, ever intense and focused we miss the joy of sunshine on our skin, dust in our shoes and why we ever started running in the first place.

 

 

When I was in high school I HATED running. Every week in volley ball practice we had to run the mile and I vividly remember how torturous it seemed to me.

In college, I took up running as a way to feel healthy, but also (without even realizing it) I think I started running because it was something that made me feel safe and strong, independent even, and empowered. I had moved away from all of the comforts of home: family, boyfriend, hometown. I was all on my own. Running gave me a sense of control of my situation. I fell in love with it.

Overtime my connection to running evolved. Instead of running to feel control, I ran to feel freedom. I ran to feel centered, and to find peace of mind.

I continued to run throughout my young adult life, and even ran my first half marathon in 2011.

Then, I had a baby.

Needless to say my life changed. More significantly to my running habit, my pelvis changed.  For the last 2 years I have been patiently (and sometimes not so patiently) waiting for the pains of childbirth to leave me alone so I could get back to running.

Now let me say this- there are lot of things that a woman goes through when she has a child. Namely, a complete revamp and redefinition of who she is and what she contributes to the world. If she’s lucky, she will have taken on this task willingly and without any remorse. Some, not so lucky. Me, I chose to become a mother and since have been willing to redefine myself every moment for the sake of my kiddo.

The point: I ran the farthest I have run in 3 years today and am SO excited to not have any lower back pain!!!

More importantly, my run today felt like getting a piece of my self back.

Its not always easy to let go of an older version of yourself- even when you are willing. I’m proud of myself for being brave enough to let go of who I was, the me that runs. And I’m proud of myself for being patient enough to be able to say I’m a runner AND a Mama.

The best things in life are worth waiting for.

So at the beginning of January I embarked on a journey that would be sure to turn my world upside down, (hehe). A 31 day Handstand Photo Challenge.

I’m 9 days in and already feeling a bit more balanced and confident about holding myself up with my hands. But WHY would anyone want to do something as silly as a handstand challenge?

almost!

almost!

My husband says ‘you’re a yoga teacher, you can do that!”. To which I reply ‘Its all in my head, I know it.’ So like any other goal/ challenge that I’ve had success accomplishing or overcoming in my life, I decided to apply a few strategic principles:

1) Be consistent. After all, the reason NBA players are so good is because they practice e.v.e.r.y.d.a.y.

2) Be patient. Know that what you are aiming at takes time. Acknowledge where you are and move forward one step (or kick-up) at a time.

3) Create evidence. When I ran my first half marathon it was so cool to have so many other people there to see me cross the finish line. Then I knew it wasn’t a figment of my imagination.  And with these photos I’ll be able to catalogue my progress.

4) Know yourself. I know that I can do this. I also know that when I set goals that are not aligned with my truth, or that I don’t feel are possible in my bones, then I know I’m setting myself up. This takes a lot of honesty.

5) Focus on success instead of fear. MY MOTTO FOR 2014… all the good self help books insist on this one!

6) Have Fun!!! Life is simply too short, my time is too valuable, and so is yours.

I have a teacher who insists that being able to hold handstand in the middle of the room does NOT make you a better person. And though I’m not sure I agree with her (because all of the people I know who CAN do that are pretty awesome!) I’m bound and determined to overcome this fear. So that’s what it is for me, a fear thing. But I figure, its about time I start trusting my Self. Something that I have only really recently begun to take full ownership of. This handstand thing is symbolic to me in a way that will get to the core of some of the self-doubt that has been hindering my ‘success’ in a lot of ways my whole adult life.

So whatever you’re setting your mind to, do it with all your heart! (wobbles and giggles never hurt either!)

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post snowboarding

It seemed to me that September was a month full of enthusiasm, inspiration and creativity. I was thriving! My classes were coming easily, my playlists were fun and impactful, even my own workouts seemed to build me up. I had direction and motivation and felt I had pushed through at least a handful of some of the barriers that I have put in my own way.

Then came October…  SCREEEEEEECH (sound of car coming to a tragically abrupt stop!)

I had been struggling with ev-ry-thing!

I was at a total lack of motivation, I couldn’t seem to keep any kind of pace to keep up with my grueling teaching schedule and at home I was at a total loss for ideas of what to eat for dinner for crying out loud!

I was having a hard time even getting myself to do the things that I would have done in the past in similar type of crisis…. I couldn’t…

What happened??? I felt truly stuck. It was like writers block, but for my whole life.  LIFE block. UGH!

Then, last week I was teaching a class and one of my favorite songs came on and I was reminded of how much I love my life, I love what I do, I love my family, my students, my body, my house, my dog… you get the idea. Something just clicked. It was like a spark of gratitude that reminded me that our reality is built on push and shove.

If we were high on life 24/7 then even that would get old. The buddhists say ‘lean into it.’ Well now that I am working my way out of the dulldrum vortex I get it even more.

I’m taking detailed inventory of the things that provoke me and what might distract me from being my inner light. I’ve noticed for myself that when I don’t get my ME time, thats when the threads begins to unravel. I would even go so far as to say that most instructors are givers in nature. I myself am completely willing to give everything to my students. Then I come home and give everything to my family. I have another cup of coffee and I can then give everything to my house, my emails, my laundry etc. But those things don’t contribute to the spiritual connection with myself that truly fills my cup. What fills your cup? And why aren’t you doing it everyday?!

I think maybe I was gifted with that spark of gratitude last week because I needed to be reminded what it was like to have that passion and clarity and joy in my life. We can do our damndest to create and maintain balance, but the inevitable WILL happen and we WILL be off balance again for one reason or another. If we ‘lean into’ our personal challenges and things that cause disruption from the balance we may perhaps get a clearer view of how to stay balanced for longer. Or better yet, how to lose balance, but not fall completely off the rails.

Besides, no one who goes to yoga wants to have an unhappy, less than glossy yoga teacher. WE are supposed to radiate Bliss… ok, thats another topic all together.

 

 

If you’ve taken my class or know anything about my professional background, then you’ll know how I feel about Plank.

Its such a fundamental pose, yet SO many students, clients and yogis have a hard time with plank.  This is a challenging pose… but why is it so hard if all it takes to create the proper alignment is to stand up straight? Yea, its that simple (not easy), plank pose is the same as standing tall with a neutral and erect spine, except we turn it on its side.

Most commonly what I see is that people are not able to draw in and up through their core. This creates a sagging effect through the lower back, and puts more strain on all of the joints in the upper body. Another challenge people usually have, is to not let their head pull them down. A human head weighs upwards of 10 lbs. Letting it hang down pulls the whole pose in to a collapsed state. Keep your head in line with your spine, eyes forward and up with the back of you neck long.

Here are some tips for you the next time you are in plank pose:

1. Engage your WHOLE body! Fingers, forearms, biceps, triceps, chest, back, core (front and back), glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves. Yep, thats one of the main reasons I love it so much- its a full body workout! When you are engaging these muscles, do so in such a way that makes you feel like you’re pulling the muscles into the bones, rather than bracing for some kind of impact.

2. Keep a buoyancy in your shoulder girdle. A lot of times this is where things start to fall apart, and unfortunately I hear a lot of instructors cueing this incorrectly. You’re not trying to only round your shoulders NOR only squeeze them together- you are doing BOTH. The shoulderblades should be in an in-between state to create the strength and buoyancy I’m talking about.

3. USE your legs! So many folks try to hold their body weight in their arms- which will be eternally challenging in this position. Your legs are super strong and can help to distribute the weight more appropriately. Try this: when you are in plank, pull your hands and feet toward each other. Then when you move to Chaturunga you’ll feel light as a feather! (well, almost!)

4. Mind over Matter. Without any training or pre-run I held a 4 minute plank. I’ve had students who trained and held plank as long as 20 minutes! Its ALL in your head. Consider what comes up for you when the pose gets challenging. When you want to give up, take one more deep breath… then maybe another… and another…

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For fun, set a timer and see how long you can hold plank. Then start doing 60 seconds every day. On the 7th day- don’t rest, time yourself again 😉

See if you’re able to hold it longer. Then set a goal- after 3 months of training how long would you like to be able to hold plank?

My goal: Dec 21- 8 minute plank!!!

http://willpowerlife.com/galleries/world-plank-2013/

Within the span of 1 week I had several people around me make remarks about their reality, that may have normally wizzed right by me, but maybe not.

One person said “I have this idea about what my body is, and then I have what my body REALLY is, and they are 2 very different things.” The other person said “Oh no, my body just isn’t made for that.”

I’m generally a very supportive person, its the big sister in me, but these comments from these people really hit me because I feel they both know better!

When we have a relationship with ourselves that continually recreates a reality in which we are less than or not good enough or wrong (my body isnt’ meant for that) then we can never win.

The Sanskrit word is Santosha- contentment. I prefer to think of this as an action, rather than a state of being. Its like lunges and pushups, you have to do them in order to receive the benefits.

For example, if you want a tight butt, you better do your squats everyday! If you are not content with your body or yourself, you better start practicing contentment. This is important because you can only change your reality if you understand what you are not content about right now. If you sit in the moment and realize you are not content, nor can you become content where you are, you better get moving! Why are you wasting anytime with a sub-optimal reality?

Don’t misunderstand me, not everyone has to have a six -pack abdominal wall and a Beyonce booty to be content. Most of us are content in the fact that we get up everyday, set an intention, get in a 30 minute workout, check some stuff off our list, enjoy a glass of wine, and go to bed next to someone we love. But if you aren’t doing the work to be where you want to be, then you are just complaining. This is something big sisters don’t have much patience for- nor does anyone else for that matter.

So for my friend(s) who think their body isn’t what they want it to be- what IS your body that you appreciate. What could you do to create a healthier, more living relationship with your body? Generate your intention from that. The magical thing about your body is that you can train it to be whatever you want! pushups, situps, whatever- its not stuck. Your reality WILL be unless you get to work. Where are the areas of your life that you are content with? Do you tend to them everyday? What about them fills you up?

And every time you do your crunches, or run an extra half mile, do it out of love instead of punishment. Be exactly where you are, allow your body to be exactly what it is, and go from there. Your contentment experience and work will start to reshape your reality.

…Lunges will too! Reshape your butt that is!