become a tree hugging yogi.

Real talk: I’m a full fledged Tree Hugger.

If you haven’t hugged a tree lately, go do it. Every time I bear-hug a tree, I’m overcome by a profound sense of Union.

You’ll remember from this previous post that I spent a week in Sequoia National Park hiking, backpacking and hugging trees in July. Basking in the shadows of these Giants was humbling (Sequoia Trees are some of the biggest tress by volume in the world) but more than that: the touch of the bark on my skin was a tactile connection to what Nicolai Bachman calls the “pure inner light of awareness that all creatures share.” It was truly yoga.

Hugging these big ol’ trees embodied the classical definition of yoga as found in the Yoga Sutras:

“Yoga citta Vritti- nirodha.”

In other words, I felt Union (yoga) when I set aside my thoughts of being separate from the tree and opened my heart-mind to a new awareness of shared essence. 

Sure, I did a few sacrosanct yoga poses along the path of the Giant Sequoias (doesn’t everyone?) but the real Magic was in the hug. It was the way I felt truly alive on a cellular and molecular level after sharing a moment of connection with a bark covered sentient being, each of us wishing the other to be happy, healthy and free from suffering.

As a mental, skill-based practice, yoga happens when we settle the heart-mind (citta) in a place unencumbered by thoughts (vrittis) of division and distraction, when we choose to value each and every sentient being as its true essence.

If you’re up for some nature time (and less stress) find a tree to hug and tune in to the greater meaning of yoga (with or without the crazy handstands.)

Happy Hugging,

-lisa

“When we are able to focus our attention away from external and toward our inner core, then we can connect to that pure inner light of awareness that all creatures share. Yoga is the process of stilling the distractions in our heart-mind.”
– Nicolai Bachman

self-care means NOT “pushing through.”

I saw a shocking post on Instagram the other day. A Yoga Teacher posted a gorgeous sunset-silhouette-yoga-pose picture and used her caption to complain about how run down and tired she was. Her head hurt, her tummy was upset, she felt weak. She then asked, “How do you push through?”

She was looking for affirmation to IGNORE every single signal her body was sending her… and yet somehow connecting this dissonance with yoga.

Oh girl, I thought. I DON’T “push through.” I take a nap.

 

I used to, like most of us, translate exhaustion as a status symbol and wear it like a badge of honor. But because of the refined awareness of my yoga practice and pratyahara, I now listen to what my body is telling me when it’s tired, grumpy, weak or upset. I try to respond completely and compassionately; I take a nap.

Yoga helps me listen to the information my body is giving me, (trying oh-so-diligently not to judge it— because the word “should” will be the death of me) so that I don’t “push through” to injury, exhaustion and irritation. Instead, I unabashedly practice self-care.

When napping just isn’t possible (hello, afternoon caffeine) I enjoy a quick 6 minute rejuvenation for my nervous system by listening to a Guided Meditation.

Here are my two favorite:

Breathing Mindfully

Body Scan for Relaxation

Still tired? Give your body a rest at my Restore and Meditate Classes taught weekly, Wednesdays at 6:00 pm – 7:15 pm at Westport Yoga KC.

Interested in learning more?

Join me for a 3 week course “Meditation for Stress Relief” Thursday mornings 9:00 am -11:00 am; September 13, 20 and 27, 2018

Register here.

Additional Audio Files for self-care found here: Guided Meditation.

Happy Not-Pushing-Through,

-lisa

the uphill part is really, really hard. and also worth it.

I’m not the biggest fan uphill. Even if it’s in a spectacularly gorgeous place, like Sequoia National Park, (which, thanks to my recent back country trip is my new favorite U.S. National Park) the “uphill” part of hiking isn’t my favorite.

Sequoia National Park was everything I wanted it to be: bursting to the brim with gargantuan trees and switchback hiking trails and boulder-strewn valleys and jagged horizons. I reflected on my Instagram feed about how quiet it was, noting: “There’s just something about being on trails where the only sounds are bird calls and insect conversations and rushing mountain streams. hiking boots crunch shale and the occasional breeze whistles through, but otherwise it’s just us and the trees standing proud, reverential and silent, surveying our descent into the valley below.”

And, let me tell you, the descent was steep. I know this, because I struggled with the weight of my backpack and a healthy dose of altitude sickness on the uphill part. )Of which, as previously mentioned, I’m not the biggest fan.) Mostly because of the short-of-breath-ness, and the fact that it usually looks impossible to walk to the top of the mountain pass from my vantage point, and also, it’s just plain hard work.

But, it is worth it. Because the views are insane. And there’s a power in rising to the challenge. And there’s a power in moving just one step beyond my perceived limitations. And there’s usually chocolate at the top.

One Mindfulness trick I use when I’m struggling to keep moving forward on a big uphill climb is the Counting Backwards method, courtesy of yoga teacher Erich Schiffman.

It works on a simple premise: When I’m in a place of mental discomfort, it’s nearly impossible to draw my attention inward and stay in the present moment. So my mental limitations and “freak-out thoughts” just get louder and louder and louder (and a little outlandish) and I experience a moment of anxiety. (You’ve probably experienced this sensation when you were stressed and couldn’t fall asleep at night. Ammiright?)

However, focusing on Counting Backwards anchors me in the present moment and allows me to practice pratyahara, the temporary withdrawing of the senses in Yoga Philosophy. In addition, letting the breath flow freely without the need to control it or change it helps me maintain mindful awareness. It’s a way of moving into the mindset of the “Observer” and regaining, well, a moment of perspective and sanity.

To practice Counting Backwards Meditation:

  1. Start by taking 3 Cleansing Inhales and 3 Cleansing Exhales, as big as possible.
  2. Remember that you are not going to change or control your breath, you are simply going to count it as it moves in and out of your body.
  3. Starting at 50, count backwards with each inhale and exhale until reaching the count of 1.
  4. The inhale is 50, the exhale is 49. The inhale is 48, the exhale is 47 and so on and so forth. If you lose count or become distracted, just start over at 50.
  5. When you reach 1, pause for a few moments and notice any positive changes and shifts in your body, mind and Spirit.

I use this technique often: to slow down the turning vrttis of my mind, to get me up a steep hiking trail, to help me fall asleep and to drop me into meditation mode.

Try my Free Audio Guided Meditation “Counting Backwards” 

Let me know when you use it and how it helps you. Happy Counting,

-lisa

p.s. please for the love, promote our National Parks System! Protect some of the most stunning places on Earth.