Yoga with a Broken Heart

mugand bookYesterday, I was dealing with a broken heart.  A person I love dearly decided to end a friendship of 10+ years.  This has left me feeling sad and lonely, and has me questing myself as a friend and human being.

Of course, in the midst of personal tragedy, life must go on.  On Mondays, I like to fit in a Hot Yoga class right before teaching my two evening classes.  I toyed with not going as I just didn’t feel up for it.  However, I know when I don’t want to go to yoga is when I need it the most.

Naturally, we worked on broadening throughout the collar bones (aka heart opening).  Opening my heart was the last thing I wanted to do.  I wanted to cave in my shoulders, hunch my back and protect myself from further emotional damage.

But that’s just how God works, isn’t it?

My heart pounded the entire class.  It leaped up into my throat.  I hated it.  With the heat, there is already an intense inward focus, even more so than in a normal class.  I became angry.  I didn’t want to feel my heart.  I wanted to lose myself and feel nothing.

Feeling nothing is the opposite of the intention behind practicing yoga.  Yoga makes us more aware and attune to our body.  Sometimes yoga brings up emotions, which have been locked away.

I have heard stories of people breaking down in the middle of a core focused class. One student of mine confided in me that when she puts any weight on her arms, emotional trauma of past abuse arises.   I know yoga can bring these things up; I just never experienced it for myself.

Following the class, I had to quickly switch gears and teach my Slow Flow/Restorative and my evening Rest and Renew class.  Those two hours were glorious.  I put all my focus and energy on my students and completely let go of the sadness and anger I felt during Hot Yoga.

Now this morning, as I sip coffee from my Magical Marauders mug (given to me by another very very close friend), I am pondering yesterday’s Hot Yoga lesson.  What do I need to open my heart to?

I actually don’t even need to question this.  I already know.  I need to open my heart to having faith that my friend and I will one day reconnect; that even though things will be different (and sad for a while), it will be ok; and that my friend, for whatever reason needs this time, and maybe I need it too.

Even as I write this, I want to guard my heart.  I am trying to be brave, though, and keep my heart and mind open to the new experiences ahead.

Energy, thoughts and prayers are welcome as I grieve this loss and chapter of my life.signiture copy copy

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Bend and Be Straight

Me in Dhanurasana (Bow Pose) on a cliff overlooking the ocean on the Oregon Coast.

Me in Dhanurasana (Bow Pose) on a cliff overlooking the ocean on the Oregon Coast.

Last week I posted about my heartbreak over a decade old friendship that ended, in my opinion, rather abruptly.  But, since that writing, my friend and I remedied a couple fissures, leaving our relationship on a good note – a potentially open door for the future, and keeping in touch in the meantime.

While my heart is still heavy, I am ok.  God, yoga, friends and family have helped to make this scary new journey less scary.  I may be short a close friend, but I am still so loved, making me not really short at all.

Speaking of yoga…

For the month of June in my Hatha classes we’ve been working on balance.  This past week I shook things up a bit and added a little back-bending into the mix.

And like always, there’s a lesson.

I found a passage from the Tao Te Ching that offers a playfully-wise list of opposites or, rather, balances.

“Yield and overcome;
Bend and be straight;
Empty and be full;
Wear out and be new;
Have little and gain;
Have much and be confused.”

Bend and Be Straight.

How fitting for back-bending, yoga and life!  In our physical practice we are basically contorting ourselves into various postures all for the benefit of a lengthened spine, lean muscles and flexibility.  We’re bending to be straight; we’re yielding to produce; we’re humbling to blossom.

I feel as though this is happening in my own life right now.  By letting go of this relationship with an open heart and mind, I feel as though something wonderful will soon produce fruit in my life.

Already I’m experiencing a blossoming desire to not let other relationships slip away.

 

It’s like I’m letting go,

To find my way

And to experience truth

And beauty.

Out with the old,

In with the bliss.

A refiner’s fire.

Just bending to be straight.

 

Yup, I’m gonna be fine. Just fine.

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The Yoga of my Portable Dishwasher

DSC_0047editedSome weeks yogic lessons are hard to come by.  Not that the lessons aren’t present, more like I’m not present in my own  life and therefore don’t experience the lessons.

 

Last week, however, my lesson was yelling loud and clear.  I don’t think I was any more mindful, but sometimes God makes things obvious.

 

It started with my husbands ok to purchase a portable dishwasher.  I’ve been washing dishes by hand for 3.5 years.  Let’s just say I was a little excited.  The only problem was that we aren’t really in the financial position to spend $700 on a new one.

 

Don’t worry, that’s not gonna stop gal.

 

I immediately hopped on Craigslist and found 3 in our price range (that would be the lowest price range).  I inquired about 3, and I purchased one from the first person who responded.

 

Not hasty at all.

 

We picked it up that day, but unfortunately we couldn’t test it out until the next day when we were able to purchase a faucet-dishwasher adapter.

 

I became instantly anxious.  I wanted to know, now, if it worked.  See, waiting and being patient have never be a strong point for me.
I kept wondering what I had done.  We spent cash out of our already limited home repairs fund.  If it didn’t work, we couldn’t just buy another one.  Through an act, which can only  be attributed to God, (no really, I had several people praying for me) I was able to get a full night of sleep.

 

Luckily, once we got the adapter, the dishwasher worked just fine.

 

Though a long process, I think yoga teaches us to wait; to take a pause; to slowdown and stop being so hasty.  Yoga also teaches us to recognize when we are not being mindful.

 

This lesson definitely reminded me to slow down.

 

One of my favorite ways to slow down and find pause is through a breathing technique I learned during my teacher training.
Try this: Sit or lay in a supported-comfortable position.  Close your eyes and begin to focus on your breathing.  After several minutes of watching your breath enter and exit the body, bring your awareness to the natural pause that happens at the end and the begging of the breath.  This pause is not forced or created, it just happens.  Remain here for several minutes focusing on that pause.  Allow it to become your own mini sanctuary, anytime you need a break or to just slow down.

 

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10 <–I always need reminding of that.

 

Thanks for reading!  I’m gonna go not do the dishes, because they are all clean or in the dishwasher…seriously…all of them.  😀
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Faith Dare: A New Heart

It’s been years since I’ve taken part in a small group Bible study. With my child being who she is, and my evening yoga teaching schedule, being part of a small group just hasn’t happened. In my search to add a study to my life, I discovered Women’s Bible Cafe, an online Bible study group. So far, I’m enjoying the fellowship and support. The current study is from a book called Faith Dare. Day one has brought to the surface what I’ve been sensing in my life.

My terribly fragmented, disjointed, self-reliant heart.

But wait a minute, isn’t self-reliance what yoga is all about? Maybe for some, but not for me. Not anymore. There have been times, yes, when I’ve turned to yoga rather than God. But let’s not blame yoga. Because there have been times when I’ve turned to food, or relationships, or external things too.

Here is why I believe Yoga and a total dependence/faith in God can co-exist. Yoga is like self reflection and meditation in motion. When I discover a new muscle action or a new alignment point in my body, my mind becomes open to what my body has to say. When I get myself into a pose and focus on my breath, in the silence I can feel emotions arise. When I can sit quietly and dismiss busy thoughts, I can start to hear the yearning of my spirit.

Yoga helps me to be mindful of the brokenness in my body, heart, mind and spirit. It can help me recognize the places in my heart that are fragmented or hollow. It can help me see my stone-cold heart, and invite a heart of flesh.

Yoga helps to strip away external things and yolk together body, heart, mind, and spirit with God.

Part of the study is journaling. I hate journaling, but I love blogging. So here you have it! Above was what today’s truth is speaking to me.

God is asking me to pray and be more mindful of my heart.

He’s challenging me to turn away from self-reliance and have complete faith and trust in Him.

From YogaJournal.com

When I visualize opening my heart, I can’t help but think about Uttanasana (Forward Bend) with hands clasped behind the back. I once read that this action was a physical representation of surrendering head to heart. If God lives in my heart, it’s more like a complete surrender to God. signiture copy copy

This post is super-awesome

awesomeLike any good blogger, once I’ve finished writing a post and before I hit publish, I list all my categories and tags, and check the boxes that need to be checked. One of those boxes, I kid you not, is “This post is super-awesome.”

Super-Awesome

This is an extremely hard title to live up to. What if I don’t have an inner Barney Stinson!? What if when I get sad, I just get sad, and I can’t be awesome instead?

I want to. I want to be awesome all the time. More than just being awesome, I want to believe I’m awesome so that even on those days I really am not that awesome, I can still feel awesome.

I want to check that box for every. single. post.

But am I really that person? Is it dishonest to check that box every time? What if I think the post is super awesome, but it’s not? Will somebody find out that I checked the box, when my post is not that awesome?

Perhaps I am reading into the box a little too much. Maybe it’s WordPress’s way of virtually high-fiving me for having posted at all; A little pat on the back for posting once every four months.

What if as soon as soon as I got out of bed in the morning I was met with a giant floating check box that said “This day will be super awesome”?  Maybe then, as soon as my feet hit my slippers, I’d be pepped up enough to tackle the day with an attitude of super awesomeness, even if I wasn’t really all that awesome all the time.

awesome2

(bring it back to yoga)

The consistency of my yoga practice isn’t all that awesome all the time. What with life, teaching, writing, baby, cleaning, it is what it is. But that doesn’t mean I can’t have a super-awesome practice when it does happen.

I roll out my mat, turn on some tunes, do some breathing, and get ready to strike a Down Dog. Baby cries. Let baby cry for one more minute. This is going to be the most awesome Down Dog ever.signiture copy copy

I eat meat. I do yoga.

I love cooking.  I once loved cooking, back before all these food allergies and intolerance made their greedy appearance in my life.

I even had a food blog. I used to get free food to review, and I got paid to host meals. It was fun. Until it wasn’t. Food blogging is taxing. Unless you’re very popular, the only people who read food blogs are food bloggers, and they only read your blog if you first have read (and commented) on theirs.  Irritating, right?

My food blog started to fizzle once I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease (thyroid, auto-immune, sucks bad). Since then, I’ve tried numerous diets including 90% gluten free, vegan, vegetarian, didn’t give a crap, and finally paleo.

Meaty, meat, meat, meat.

If you’re not familiar with paleo it’s a “caveman” diet: meat, good fat (coconut oil, etc), veggies, fruit, and limited nuts. No grains, and I do strictly no dairy (due to chronic hives, yay me!)

The point is I eat meat, and lots of it. That’s right I eat meat. Un-twist your panties, yogis, I am still convicted to honor the practice of ahimsa (non harming). I chose to eat (mostly) meat that is organic and, has been pastured and humanely raised. I say mostly because sometimes its out of our budget.

But, I’m not going to flesh out my eating convictions too much here. Instead, I’d like to introduce a weekly food post. Don’t hold me to it, though. My 19-month-old makes me flaky sometimes.

I’ve recently made a vow to love cooking again — to re-commit to being paleo and share with my fellow yogis some of the recipes and meal ideas I love. ❤

Below is from my first blog, The Ex-Perfectionist. I didn’t do much paleo cooking then, but this looks like it was an awesome paleo meal. 🙂

scramble

Paleo Scramble:

Scramble 1 all natural apple chicken sausage link, 2 eggs, 2 big handfuls of spinach, 3 asparagus stalks, onion, 1 garlic clove, tbspn fresh cilantro, salt, pepper and cumin.

Fruit: 1 banana, 5 strawberries and blueberries.

Cheers!signiture copy copy

Yoga for Diabetes

Me doing Twisted Hand to Big Toe Pose... This will definitely build some heat!

Me doing Twisted Hand to Big Toe Pose… This will definitely build some heat!

In class this morning we discussed and centered our practice around diabetes. Unfortunately, diabetes is a disease that runs rampant in our society. There is type 1, which is an autoimmune disease and then there is type 2. Type two is the most common, but type one is on the rise. Now I’m no doctor and I know this is controversial (especially to those who don’t want to hear it) but I like to think of type 2 as being a lifestyle disease. Time and time again I hear of people reversing or controlling type 2 through their lifestyle: exercise, healthy eating, yoga maybe…

If you struggle with diabetes, insulin resistance or sensitivity, with regular practice yoga can help!

Here is how:

Yoga helps to keep stress levels under control. When you’re under stress cortisol and adrenalin is raised. Both contribute to overeating, increased belly fat and insulin resistance.

Balancing poses, core strengthening poses and flow (Sun Salutations) help to build heat in the body. Heat is good for those whose Aruvedyic Dosha is Kapha (generally, a heavier and more sluggish individual). Building heat and focusing on the core also helps with burning more calories, hopefully targeting belly fat.

Standing poses help to evenly distribute fat on feet. Many people with diabetes suffer from problems with their feet, such as sores, open wounds etc. Standing poses, with a focus on using the whole foot, helps to keep the fat evenly distributed to help lessen issues with feet.

Promotes mindfulness. One thing that can’t be forgotten is that yoga helps to build a sense of body and mind awareness. Many students, including myself, claim that yoga has helped them to pay more attention to their body and how it feels. After practicing for a while you may start to cue in to how certain foods or substances make you feel. You can also become more tunes in to satiation levels.

Here is a short stress-reducing, fire building yoga sequence to get you started:

Start with 5 – 10 minutes of breathing in an easy seated or lying position.

Several rounds of cat/cow

1-3 rounds of Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar A)

1-2 rounds of Surya Namaskar B

From a forward fold step to Warrior 1 –> Warrior 2 –> Reverse Triangle (repeat on other side)

From a forward fold step to Warrior 2 –> Triangle –>Warrior 2 –> Half Moon (repeat on other side)

From a forward fold step to High Lunge (R)–>Goddess Pose –> High Lunge (L) –> Goddess Pose –>Wide leg Fwd Bend

Downward Facing Dog

Locust Pose (Arms forward, then to out the side, then along your side body)

Downward Facing Dog

Pigeon Pose (R & L)

Boat Pose

Lying Twist

Baby

Savasana (no more than 15 minutes if you’re a kapha type)signiture copy copy

In Dreams Awake

Here is a little thoughts-on-life, thoughts-on-God-and-yoga gem I wrote a few years ago. I stumbled upon it today and thought you might enjoy a peak in my brain and how very random my thoughts can be!

Schedule updates soon…I promise. 🙂

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“Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.” – Henry David Thoreau

flowerMy unconscious dreams

I mostly dream about normal things.  You know: hiding from Zombies in underground layers; trying to outrun tornados to save my family; and dunking Oreos in milk. Typical, right?

Well, a recent dream turned out to be not so typical.  And I didn’t like it.

I’m at Chang’s Mongolian Grill with a friend, Brittany.  Before ending up at Chang’s I tried to get Brittany to go to the Black Bear Dinner with me so we could eat ungodly amounts of fried American food and dip it all in blue cheese dressing (together – because we’d both kill to do that right now).  However, after a few unfortunate events such as our baby-blue, antique convertible breaking down, and getting stuck in a room with a bunch of old youth group members, we were unable to go.  The universe was clearly working against us.

So anyway we’re at Chang’s.  We’re sitting at a long narrow table with two random guys we’ve never seen before.  I got up to replenish my plate with more vegetables.  The guys gave me this look.  I know the look well.  It’s the you’re-too-fat-for-more-food look.  I begged, “But I’m fat because I have Hashimoto’s disease and I’m hypo-thyroid, plus it’s just vegetables.”

And that was it.  Psychologically speaking I’d say this is my unconscious telling me I feel like I can’t eat anything good, I eat everything I should, and I am still weighty.  Oh and I feel like I am being judged.  My unconscious is mean to bring up these feelings.

My conscious dreams

I used to dream about things like being thin, making a million dollars off of my top selling thriller and traveling to far-off ancient ruins to explore lost civilizations.

Ok, so I won’t lie.  I still do dream about those things.  Sometimes.

But these days I tend to keep my dreams and goals a little more realistic: weeding my back yard, getting my health under control, paying off school loans and starting a family (not that Maddie is not my baby, because she totally is.  I just want one a little less hairy).

Thoughts about dreams/goals

I think it was Sri Swami Satchidananda who translated one of the Yoga Sutra’s to say something along the lines of: We suffer because we are not content with our current situation.  In other words we’re not present.  We’re always dreaming/thinking up the next bigger and better thing for our lives.

I came across this passage during one of my quiet times this week: “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14).

In this case, the Apostle Paul is talking about having one goal, Jesus Christ and reigning with Him in Heaven.

Tying it all together

Is there a balance between the Sutra’s “being present at all times” and Paul’s “ultimate goal of Christ”?  I think there is.

This past week, when I found myself being frustrated and impatient with one of my realistic goals (hello…weight loss…thanks for reminding me unconscious brain), I stopped, grounded myself and meditated on my ultimate goal: Christ.

It’s like yoga keeps me grounded so I can remain present and keep my eyes on Christ.

Good yoga poses to contemplate dreams/goals: Siramba Srisasana (supported headstand) or Parsvritta Paddotonasana (wide-legged standing forward bend), to get your head closer to the ground — to help you center and feel grounded; and Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Savasana) to open your chest and look to heaven. Oh and Savasana, yeah…Savasana.

 

Do you have weird unconscious dreams?  Are you feeling frustrated about some dreams/goals that are taking too long to come into fruition?  How do you deal?

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Yoga: Beautifully, making sense of messy

Untitled-1Life is messy. Beautiful. But messy.

My family and I relocated to a new city two months ago. Well, new as in we haven’t lived here for almost 9 years. Regardless, we’re back in our hometown. The messy part, for me, comes in finding more freelance work and clients, a permanent home, and getting reestablished in a community.

I’m literally a mess.

But, it’s a good and welcomed mess. Thus, the beautiful part. Here we’ve got family, and believe it or not MORE opportunities (If you know anything about Kelso-Longview, you understand the contradiction. Or is it irony?).

It’s possible that our bodies and our yoga practice reflect life in this way.

Even the most beautiful and toned body has issues. No body is perfect. Think about the super strong Crossfitter and all their super-tight muscles. Or the extraordinarily thin super model with weak muscular strength. Or someone like me on a journey of finding healing from medical issues.

Our bodies are a mess. It’s the inevitable truth.

But yoga is beautiful. Yoga helps make sense of the mess. We get on the mat and we tune in. We can start to sort out and understand our body.

Yoga turns our body into a song and we listen.

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Chicken Soup and Yoga for My Soul

It’s the end of March and it seems the cold and flu season isn’t even close to being finished. As I sit here typing, I’m listening as my poor daughter lies in bed, attempting to hack up a lung (Don’t worry I’ve done all the good-mommy, all natural tricks). She’s on cold # 3 or 4 since November while my hubby and I are on #2. My mom on the other hand has been sick for like 9 weeks straight. It’s been a rough season for sure!

Since going gluten free and paleo, I haven’t been able to enjoy the ever so comforting homemade chicken noodle soup. Likewise, I also haven’t been able to partake in the yummy processed goodness that is Campbell’s Chicken Noodle or Cream of Chicken with a ginormous handful of saltine crackers either (Honest to goodness, there is a really big 5-year-old living in my body who is throwing a huge tantrum about that one).

Either way chicken soup is a must during fall, winter, and the cold and flu season. I mean, I can’t imagine not having some sort of chicken soup. This year I’ve been working on a Chicken and White Sweet Potato soup.

Today, I think I finally perfected it.

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Chicken and White Sweet Potato Soup

Ingredients:

6-8 cups of Chicken Broth (homemade or low sodium)

1 medium onion

5-6 stalks of celery

5-6 whole carrots

1-2 very large white sweet potatoes

4-5 Slices Bacon

1 small Bacon end (optional)

1 cup (or more) cooked chicken

Salt to taste
Directions

1. Make chicken broth (I boiled/simmered 2 carcasses with fat and drippings in about 6 cups of water…added water as it boiled down) OR add store bought broth to soup pan.

2. Dice onions and celery, and peel and dice carrots and potatoes.

3. In a frying pan, fry bacon. Do not discard fat. Remove bacon from pan and sauté onions in bacon grease until caramelized. Dice bacon.

4. Add onions, bacon and rest of veggies to broth. Add bacon end to broth for more flavor, if using. Simmer veggies until sweet potatoes and carrots are soft.

5. Add chicken and salt to taste. Remove bacon end.

Yoga for Immunity.

If you are trying to boost your immunity and avoid a cold, a regular yoga practice can help. Your immune system is weakened by stress. Since yoga and yogic breathing helps to combat stress, your immune system will get a boost just by doing yoga.

If you don’t have a cold and are trying to avoid getting one, try a heated or a vinyasa class. No time for a class? Try three rounds of Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskara A) followed by a series of balancing postures such as Tree Pose (Vrksasanana) and Half Moon (Ardha Chandrasana). Both flow and balancing poses help to build heat quickly in the body and is ideal for immunity boosting.

If you are currently sick, take it easy! Try a restorative practice. Start with five minutes of focusing on your breath.  Next move into a few rounds of Cat/Cow, take a Child’s Pose, Downward Facing Dog, a lying or seated twist, and end with legs up the wall with your hips supported on a bolster or stack of blankets.signiture copy copy