3 things to tone this summer.

It’s the second-most wonderful time of the year: Sunshine! Sweating! Swamp-hair! Summer! (Christmas-time and Harry Potter seasons clearly tie for first place most wonderful times of year. But summer is a close second.)

I’m spending (way too much) time on the couch with Baby Drackert this summer while on maternity leave, but… here are three things YOU can tone this summer:

1. Your Hip Flexors. Strong hip flexors keep me moving forward in life– running, jogging, walking and having fun– but they get tight from sitting for extended periods of time (cross country road trips are a must in my summer!) and can lead to low back discomfort. “Hip Flexors” is a non- specific term applied to muscles that bring your hip joint into flexion (closing the gap between your thigh and your belly). Taking time to do a few lunges but can be effective in both strengthening and stretching your ilio-Psoas muscle group.

Start in a simple lunge with your back knee down and top of foot flat on the floor. Take your hands to your hips to make sure your hip points are level and even. After 10 inhales, replace your hands to the ground and lift your back knee up without tucking your toes. Hold for 5 counts. Lower the knee back down and repeat the sequence twice more. Switch which leg is in front and repeat.

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2. Your Plantar Fascia.

Two words: sandal season. Not only am I increasing mileage in my running shoes, but I’m also slipping on sandals for quick walks in the summer. Sandals boast notoriously terrible arch support and easily incite foot pain. Grab a RAD Round or tennis ball and prop it under the middle of your arch. Apply gentle pressure and roll your foot lengthwise on the ball. Also try “pumping” your foot (like you are applying the brakes while driving) with the ball right at the junction of the heel and the arch. This action gets the Achilles’ tendon in there, too.

3. Your diaphragm.

Summer is a time when my energetic output increases exponentially– not only are the days longer, but I can’t bear to miss out on any social engagement or chance to travel or opportunity to lounge pool-side. All of this activity leaves me feeling frazzled and in need of a good 2 day nap. Instead, I use Crocodile Pose to re-boot my energy by calming down my neurological system and toning my diaphragm.

Lie down on your belly, placing your forehead on your hands. Mindfully slow down your breathing and feel your diaphragm strengthen and tone as it presses into the floor with each inhale. Stay this way for 6- 8 minutes and you’ll feel completely refreshed and rejuvenated– like you’ve just left a Hawaiian spa.

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Let me know how these go for you. Happy Toning and Happy Summer!

-lisa

reclaiming a healing morning routine.

After months of mornings not gone my way, I finally made a conscious effort this summer to reinvent a morning ritual that kept me grounded and made essential space for spiritual and physical health. And it made all the difference.

I had a really great system going for years when I taught yoga classes at 6 am: I always built in time to meditate, read a little inspiration, practice pranayama, drink coffee and take RussellClive outside before class.  On days when I didn’t teach, I meditated at home, ate protein, went for a run and then read a devotional book over biggie-breakfast.

And then, pregnancy dramatically changed how I felt in the early mornings (and mid-mornings and afternoons and evenings, actually) and I transitioned my 6 am classes to another teacher, knowing full well that infants, too, require full mama morning duty.

For months, the motivation to get my exhausted and migraine-afflicted body out of bed in the morning was knowing that if I didn’t eat something RIGHT THEN, I was going to be out of commission with nausea and fatigue the rest of the day. My Optimal Health Morning Routine was no longer an option; it was a necessity: one ice cold glass of lemon water with Calm magnesium supplement, one probiotic and one hard-boiled egg.

And then… what? Where did my the rest of my morning go? Often times, I camped on the couch and watched behind the scenes footage from the Harry Potter films, waited for extra-strength Tylenol to kick in, dragged myself out the door a few minutes before work and scrambled through the rest of my busy day. This left me feeling frazzled and disconnected, untethered and still exhausted.

I learned that being busy, or being tired, or being morning sick or being freezing was no excuse for forgoing a daily morning ritual aimed at uncovering compassion and wholeness. Everyone has ‘busy and tired’ or ‘sick and tired’ or ‘freezing and tired’ mornings.

So, when we finally got settled into our new house this summer, I took it as an invitation to recommit to my favorite Slow Morning practice: a little bit of yoga, a little bit of meditation, a whole lot of reading and journaling and coffee and a morning prayer of intention.

The key was deciding what I was going to be busy doing and making space for a morning ritual that consistently lead me toward presence and healing. And then… well… sticking to it, with both unwavering faith and graceful surrender, just like sticking to anything else that is worthwhile but sometimes hard (friendship, faith, family, exercise, you name it.)

In her book Love Heals Becca Stevens writes about the power and healing in keeping to morning rituals and intentions. She suggests that we simply do basic things every day “with unwavering discipline– and that these things will help us slowly but surely grow into who we were made to be.”

What is your favorite morning ritual? What wisdom have you uncovered in your search for daily practice? What practices are you committing to?

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“The good news of healing is that the oldest wisdom in the world really works. We don’t have to reinvent the processes of love or healing, and it is not out of our reach.”

-Becca Stevens

wrangling time.

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“When you are in difficulty, remember the world beckons to you with a bigger story. It invites you to vastness and freedom.”

-Jack Kornfield

Right now, TIME is my biggest stressor. And, as I am nine months pregnant, I’m exhausting a heck of a lot of energy I don’t have trying to slow down and speed up time to accommodate my own frantic ranting:

“Our new house isn’t ready and neither am I! I need more time before this baby gets here! On the other hand, if I have to be pregnant for one more day I’m literally going to die. I can’t make it a few more weeks. But actually, kid, you have to stay in there until next Thursday; then you have permission to come out. But actually, I’m exhausted and miserable and in pain and tired of these contractions, so maybe we should just get the show on the road. But actually,– oh that’s right– it’s still too early. The longer you stay in there, the healthier you’ll be. So let’s speed up time and get through one more week… oh god… one more week…” 

and it continues.

When I’m stressed, it feels like the only reasonable response is to control time. To somehow wrangle time and space to become smaller and smaller and smaller until it conforms to only my dilemma, my life, my internal drama.

It’s in these times of dramatic imploding when I find it immensely challenging (and also irritatingly helpful) to step back and take in the vastness of… drum roll please… the “bigger picture.”

There is a meditation from Jack Kornfield’s book No Time Like the Present called “Open to Timelessness” that helps me do this. The essence of this meditation is to sense vastness by allowing sensations, thoughts, memories and fears to pour like water from a fountain, while I simply watch, all the while remembering, “it is always now, the eternal present.”

Through this meditation, I remember the fallibility of my personal measurement of time and the malleability of actual time. And how, as Kornfield suggests, in times of difficulty, “the world beckons to me with a bigger story.”

Enjoy my adapted version of “Open to Timelessness” Guided Meditation, today (or whenever you have time) and accept the invitation to return to the eternal present.

“Open to Timelessness”

Happy Timing,

-lisa