who do you practice for?

who do you practice yoga for?

“Since I started doing yoga a few months ago, I feel like a new person.  I want you to know that now I consciously try to be peaceful.  Even when I’m not doing yoga, I think about what you say in class and I try to make a conscious decision to be peaceful.  It’s not easy,” Erica told me one Monday after savasana “I think: what would I want my daughter to see?  Then I make a conscious effort to be peaceful.”  Erica’s daughter is 18 months old and adorable.  She wears twirly dresses and glitter shoes and her grin is obscured only by her big white pacifier.  Erica works in a high-stress environment with pre-schoolers who are in the foster care system.  ‘Peaceful’ would be the last word I would choose to describe her daily schedule.  But Erica is motivated by a deep wellspring of love, which only outlasts her wellspring of patience once in a while.

Erica does yoga for her daughter.  In a moment of silence at the end of every yoga class, Erica experiences a profound peace.  Her intention, or sankalpa, of peacefulness acts as a ‘call to awakening,’ in her daily experiences.  Without an intention, yoga poses are merely movements of the body.  But with an intention, it is the backdrop to an inner awakening: we often feel like a new person.

New people have new habits: new responses to frustrations (traffic?), new reactions to stressors (children? bosses?), new judgments on failures (ending a relationship?), new answers to questions (life’s meaning and vocation?), even new opinions on collective actions (communal conflict?).  Other people tend to notice these new responses and habits—transformation does not go unnoticed.  Penny says that she channels all her work frustration into a big, big, big, yoga breath: just when she’s about ready to yell at her (much younger and slightly annoying) co-workers, she instead, remembers her yoga.  And takes a big breath.  And calms down.  And responds like a leader and mentor should respond: with compassion.

Yoga simply makes you nicer.  And people notice.

Author and yoga teacher Max Strom writes:

“To choose to transform, heal, and grow is the dynamic and noble path that so few take but all of us admire.” – M. Strom, There is no App for Happiness

In other words, when you change your life by becoming happier, healthier and more whole, people notice.

So my question is: who are YOU practicing yoga for? 

Erica practices for her daughter: she wants her daughter to experience happiness, kindness and peacefulness in their household.  Penny practices for her team at work: she wants to mentor and inspire her co-workers and manage her team with integrity.

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Who do you practice yoga for?  Ask yourself this question every time you practice.  You breathe for yourself, yes.  You breathe to regain balance, kindness and truth in your life.  But you breathe for others too.  For your grandson, because you want to be able to sit on bleachers and watch his baseball game.  For your sister, because she annoys you so much you want to scream.  For your co-workers, because without yoga you might go insane. For your husband, because you cherish his love even when he leaves all the dirty dishes in the sink and forgets to take out the trash.  For your boss, because you wish her good health and good fortune, even if you find her work ethic absurd.  For your community, because you wish for safe neighborhoods.  For humanity, because you believe that peace is possible.  You are breathing for hundreds of generations before you and hundreds of generations after you.

Who do you practice for?

Think about it and let me know,

-lisa

 

weekend teaching schedule change.

Summer Weekends are approaching.  Woohoo!!  Just a quick note that my Teaching Schedule is changing soon.

Starting June 1, you can find Lisa teaching:

Saturdays 9:00 am Power Yoga at Mark Blanchard’s Power Yoga (no change) and 12:00 pm Vinyasa at Maya Yoga (new class!) 

Sundays 12:00 pm Vinyasa Level 2/3 at Westport Yoga  (new class: double yeah!) and 5:30 Beginning Yoga/Meditation at Liberty Community of Christ Church and 7:00 pm Power Yoga at Balance Yoga Studio @Crossfit Est. (no changes there!)

Come practice with me all weekend!

photo cred JanaMarie

photo cred JanaMarie

-lisa

learn to meditate. your way.

learn to meditate, your way.

Meditation is a life-changing practice.  When we sit in stillness, we learn to trust our own wisdom and insight.  This inner wisdom supersedes the demands of anxiety and fear, which allows us to act with greater care for ourselves and for others.  This is what yogis call “mindful living.”

Most often, beginners to meditation are told to “Still the Mind.”  When I first learned to meditate, my mind could only stay still for 0.3 seconds.  I’m a list maker, a future-organizer, a ruminator, a worrier, and a dreamer.  Even if my butt was still, my mind was anything but still.

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photo cred SFA

I first approached the art of meditation with the dual intent of calming my anxiety and healing a hurting heart.  I found that the use of a mantra, or repetition of a phrase, worked well for me.  The constant, gentle, repetitive reminder gave my mind something to focus on.  My mind wasn’t ‘still’ per se —because I was busy repeating the words: “In… out… calm… ease” – but my thoughts were still-er.  (Which was an improvement).

 

In my experience, thoughts won’t ever completely cease, they will just slow down.  My mind whirls at breakneck speed.  It always has, and it probably always will.  Nerd Alert: I like to picture my neurons as cars speeding across interstate overpasses alarmingly fast… and then slowing down, together, consciously choosing a safer, more sustainable, less hurried pace.  They are still going somewhere.  But they are going slower, taking time to enjoy the scenery.  (By the way, if I were queen of the world, I would decree that every driver must follow the speed limit.  Slow down, you fools, I’m maneuvering my refrigerator-box-on-wheels-vehicle just as fast as I dare to, and that happens to be the posted speed limit. Back to meditation…)

Meditating is an integral part of your yoga practice: the asanas (postures) are performed in order prepare the body for seated meditation.  Coincidentally, the word asana translates to the word ‘seat’.   But here’s thing: you don’t JUST SIT THERE… seated meditation is an active process of learning to become attuned to your emotions, your breath, your own inner divinity.

Yoga and meditation go hand in hand.  Leading yoga teacher Eric Schiffman writes, “Yoga is a way of learning to be in meditation all day long. In other words, listening inwardly with a quiet mind as many moments of the day as you can for the guidance and wisdom of Infinite Mind, God.”  You can access his entire article here.

Even if you aren’t in a yoga class, you can and should, still meditate on your own. Learning to meditate doesn’t have to be daunting.

I suggest starting here:

  1. Focus on the Breath.  All beginning meditators need to begin here; learning to listen to your breath teaches you the miracle of the present moment.  I like to remind my students: “You can’t breathe in the future, you can’t breathe in the past.  You can only take this breath, right here, right now.”   Here is my favorite breath mantra: (adapted from Tich Naht Hanh’s meditations for peace.)

“In.”  <Inhale>

“Out.” <Exhale>

“Calm.”  <Inhale>

“Ease.”  <Exhale>

Repeat.  Repeat. Repeat.  Don’t worry about how your breath sounds or how long it is.  Just sit and savor the feeling of ease in your body.

  1. Try Guided Meditations:  Mindfulness teacher Sharon Salzberg shares 6 different meditation techniques on her website.  The techniques draw from varied philosophical backgrounds. You can access these meditations here.  My favorite can also be found in her book Real Happiness.  It’s called Metta or Loving Kindness Meditation.  It’s super easy to wish metta for yourself (May I be safe, May I be Happy, May I be Healthy, etc.) and (slightly?) more difficult to wish metta for other people in your life (especially the difficult ones… like that guy who honked at me for stopping at a stop sign the other night.  Sir, it’s a STOP sign. I’d like to amend my Queen of the World ruling to decree that all drivers must obey all traffic laws, speed limit notwithstanding.)  Salzberg’s site is a great place to start because it will teach you different meditation disciplines and guide you through each one.

3.  Make your Meditation Portable: Download the ‘Stop Breathe & Think App’ (it’s free) on your phone and carry your meditation with you everywhere.  The App explains how to practice mindfulness and helps you track your progress in learning to meditate.  Some of it is a little cheesy (you earn stickers every time you complete a guided meditation, for example) but the App is straightforward and helpful.  The meditations are short— some even less than five minutes long.  I listen to these meditations in my kitchen as I’m chopping vegetables.  (I’ll never be a Buddhist Monk who accesses liberation while chopping onions… I’ll just start by being more mindful to not chop my finger off while I’m making soup.)  You can listen to a meditation or use the App to ‘check in’ with your emotional state while waiting in line at Target.  It might remind you to extend compassion to your check out-person, because kindness is contagious.  (Don’t pretend you don’t check your phone the instant you have to stand in a line.  You do.)  Search for the ‘Stop Breathe & Think App’ on iTunes or visit the SBT full site here.

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photo cred EMA

  1. Just Sit.  Don’t worry about doing it correctly or incorrectly.  Start by sitting still for 60 seconds.  Slow your breath for one minute.  Appreciate the joy of simply being alive.  I learned to meditate by using the timer on my phone.  That way, I wasn’t tempted to check the clock and see how long I’d been sitting. If you use a timer, you won’t cut your session short thinking you’re running out of time and frantically jump up to straighten your hair before someone else is in the bathroom so you won’t be late to work, etc. etc. etc. (See how fast those anxious thoughts sneak up on you?)  My go-to is an App called Insight Timer (free on iTunes).  I even use it when I teach because it indicates the end of meditation time with a lovely, resounding Tibetan Gong (relaxing), instead of my daily wake-up alarm (not relaxing).  Start with one minute a day.  And work your way up to four minutes.  And then ten minutes.  (Ten minutes?  For total freedom, bliss, spiritual wellness and emotional health?  Yes, Please.)

Remember that Meditation is YOUR practice.  You will find a way to meditate that works well for you, and you will find a way that doesn’t work well for you.  If you are learning to sit in stillness, you are learning to trust your own wisdom. Listen to your own insight, and commit to a daily stillness practice.  It will change your life.

Still need more convincing? This article describes the scientifically substantiated benefits of meditation. And there are more out there!

I’d love to hear your stories; how do you like to meditate? What do you find helpful?

-lisa

 

tunes 2.0

After teaching at the Lululemon Plaza Store on Mother’s Day, I’ve received a slew of requests for my rockin’ Vinyasa Playlists… I won’t reveal all my secrets (you need to come practice with me to hear them all!) but here is a screen shot of my playlist called LuluParty.  Happy Listening.

lululemon party

 

See you soon,

-lisa

improve your tomorrow.

what you do tdoay can improve

Today is the day.  If you want to change your tomorrow, start by changing your outlook on your today.  If you want to change your body, start by changing your opinion of yourself.  If you want to change your life, start by changing the quality of each moment.  Don’t wait until your “once a week Tuesday night yoga class.”  Do it now.  Do it today.  Yoga is every day.

-lisa

inexpensive homemade hummus recipes

inexpensive homemade hummus.  (or: SnackTime!)

A few months ago my paleo-diet cousin “went vegan” for a week (I’m pretty sure it was a double-dog-dare).  By the second day, he texted me that he was hungry: he found it difficult to make on-the-go snacks that actually made him feel full.  I told him I eat about three pounds of hummus a week, and suggested he do the same.  (Ok, slight exaggeration…)

I was already relatively adept at making my own hummus as a way to actively reduce kitchen waste (even ‘recyclable’ plastic packaging is wasteful if you buy that much hummus! Read my Aparigraha April posts) and save money… but to help my cousin out, I committed to hunt for the easiest, least expensive homemade hummus recipes.  Many recipes call for roasting the garlic (time consuming) or tahini (expensive) and I’m a big fan of using whatcha already got in your kitchen.  After some refining (yum!): here are my top three Homemade Hummus recipes.

First: Go buy some chickpeas in bulk.  They are super cheap.  (Aluminum cans are not in fashion any more).  Chickpeas are packed with protein, fiber and iron.  And they cook relatively quickly: Just add chickpeas to your crock pot/slow cooker, add water (double up the same you would for beans: 1 C chickpeas to 2 C water) and set it on high for 3 hours, or low over-night.  Cook 2 cups, then divvy up ½ Cup servings in freezer-safe containers to use later.  Thaw one container in the morning and make your fresh hummus in the afternoon.

I like hummus to be creamy, so I do not drain the chickpeas before freezing them or spooning them out to put in the blender.

Lisa’s Summer Staple Homemade Hummus

Ingredients: 

  • ½ Cup cooked Chickpeas
  • ½ tsp Honey Dijon Mustard
  • ¼ tsp Minced Garlic
  • ½ tsp Cumin
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Roasted/salted pumpkin seeds (For topping)

Add first 6 ingredients to food processor, blend on variable until desired creamy consistency.  Add water if needed.  Spoon into a bowl, top with pumpkin seeds.  Enjoy with sliced zucchini, carrots, celery, peppers and jicama.

hummus

Lisa’s Garden Homemade Hummus

Ingredients:

  • ½ C cooked chickpeas
  • 5 sundried tomatoes
  • ¼ C fresh basil (or a tbsp. dried basil)
  • Handful fresh oregano ( or 1 tbsp dried oregano)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt, pepper, and paprika to taste
  • Garlic salt (for topping)

Add all ingredients to food processor, blend on variable until desired creamy consistency.  Add water if needed.  Spoon into a bowl, top with garlic salt or fresh garlic.  Enjoy with crackers or veggies.

 

Lisa’s ‘Light it Up’ Spicy Hummus

Ingredients:

  • ½ C cooked Chickpeas
  • ¼ jalapeno (no seeds: just a sliver of the side)
  • Sea Salt, Cumin or Chili powder and Turmeric to taste
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ lemon (just the juice)
  • Optional: 2 tbsp. Boys Grow Salsa

Add all ingredients to a food processor, blend on variable until desired consistency.  Add water if needed.  Spoon into a bowl, top with salsa (optional) and enjoy with tortilla chips, sliced bell peppers, crunchy red chard, etc.

Enjoy… let me know which one you love the best, I’m interested!

-lisa