what yoga says about priorities.

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There’s this fallacy floating around about “finding the perfect work/life ratio.” It’s insidious and stinky, and just about as savvy as believing that changing one dirty diaper in the morning means you’re off poop duty the rest of the day.

What I’ve come to believe is that there is no work/life dichotomy at all: there is only life. And it’s my decision how to spend my precious, limited and limitless minutes.

I’ve definitely experienced the ubiquitous “mom guilt” about leaving my Little Lady to go back to work after maternity leave. Do I have my priorities straight? Am I showing Little Lady an example of a strong, empowered woman who owns her business and her passion? Or am I showing her an example of a mom who values commitment to other people and her Google Calendar over time with her own daughter?

Thankfully, the world does not work in absolutes and the Spirit of Grace is one that holds seemingly divergent priorities together in one hand, in one breath.

Because nothing matters more than my daughter does. And at the same time, nothing matters more than my work does.

There are two concepts in Yoga Philosophy that speak to this: aparigraha and brahmacharya.

Aparigraha means non-attachment and sharing generously (it’s directly translated as ‘non-hoarding.’) Brahmacharya means finding a balanced lifestyle and pouring your energy into what is Life Giving, not stinky and soul-sucking. (It’s often translated as ‘aligning with the Divine.’) Read more about Yoga Philosophy Key Concepts here.

Aparigraha means it is imperative for me to teach yoga. Nothing matters more than sharing with absolute conviction what I know to be true: we are made to be healed in body, mind and spirit so that we all may live in peace. We are made of Light, in Light and by Light; anything that suggests otherwise belongs in the diaper pail.

Brahmacharya means that I am responsible for finding a way to teach yoga, own a business and love a family in a way that is Life Giving. It necessitates balancing these priorities in a way that doesn’t make me lose my mind, bring home pointless anxiety or fantasize running away to be a Justin Timberlake roadie.

Holding the two concepts of aparigraha and brahmacharya in congruence requires wisdom, quiet time and giant mugs of coffee in between changing diapers, following up with private clients, leading a team of yoga teachers and lesson planning. It takes some effort, but it is definitely worth it.

Here are some practices that help me do this:

Breathing Mindfully

Breathing In; Breathing Out

What helps you find balance? What helps you remember your priorities? How do you give generously and also have time for self-care?

Happy Prioritizing,

-lisa

Some more self-care inspiration:

with patience and Cheerios: walking meditation.

With patience and Cheerios, I trained my dog RussellClive to do his morning business in our backyard.

My Ironman and I purchased our first house last spring; as part of our new-house-routine, I decided Russ needed to break his addiction to 5:00 am walks and learn to “go outside” (as most dogs do) so that when Baby Drack arrived I could, conceivably, take care of her inside the house while he took care of himself outside the house.

I spent hours walking in circles in the backyard. I mean, hours of walking slowly, going nowhere (as Pico Iyer describes it), patiently telling RussellClive to go potty on the grass. Or on the leaves. Or on the landscaping. Or on the fence. Or, dear God, on ANYTHING in our backyard.

It occurred to me one morning that circling my little yard was a labyrinth walking meditation.

A labyrinth is traceable shape, similar to a maze, with a single branching path that leads to its center and back out again. Labyrinth walking is a contemplative spiritual practice used in faith traditions for spiritual centering. On the circular path of a labyrinth, you walk slowly and deliberately while quieting your mind to get clear about what really matters.

In her book Real Happiness, Sharon Salzberg describes walking meditation as “a model for being mindful in all the movements we make throughout the day.”

Shifting my perspective about the quality of my minutes spent walking in circles in the backyard helped me remember that each morning truly is a gift. It’s not something to be rushed through, it’s a time to spend in spiritual and emotional self-care that sets the tone for my day.

When can you spend time walking in circles? Can you discover the value in the repetitive mundane motion of mindless daily tasks and transform that time into a time of focused self-care? How can you use your morning routine to set the tone for the day?

(If you haven’t tried Walking Meditation before, I suggest getting Salzberg’s book Real Happiness to kickstart your meditation practice.)

Happy Circling,

-lisa

 

can 28 days of meditation change your life?

My little girl is 28 days old. I’ve been a living, breathing, real-life mom for only 28 days, and turns out, my life is completely changed.

The past few weeks as I’ve been updating Westport Yoga KC’s curriculum for the upcoming learning year, I’ve been adding favorite passages and meditation techniques from Real Happiness by Sharon Salzberg. This book is a 28 day introduction to meditation program. 28 days, Salzberg contents, to uncover “Real Happiness.”

Is that even possible? So many people tell me they don’t see the point in meditation; or they DO see the appeal but aren’t super convinced that it will change their life in any way. But you guys, 28 days can be a lifetime.

In the 28 days since my daughter was born, my mindset, my body and my heart have been transformed.

Obviously, I’m still (mostly) same person as I was a month ago. But not really; I’m even better. I’m centered and clear about my intentions. I a little but calmer, a whole lot stronger, and definitely more “me.”

How is this possible in just 28 days?

I’ve been diligent about practicing a morning meditation, pranayama breath exercises, reading an inspiring devotion, listening to an empowering podcast and journaling every day (I have plenty of hours for a morning routine now that we are getting up at 4:20 for breakfast and our “morning” lasts until 1 pm nap time). I’ve been diligent about trusting my spiritual practices to keep me calm when Baby Eden throws a screaming fit and I’m exhausted and hurting for her. I’ve been committed to getting fresh air and sunlight on our skin so we both feel connected to Power who Created us. I’ve purposefully taken these 28 days to move even deeper into a sense of worthiness, clarity and wholeness.

So yes, 28 days of ardent mindful practice, can actually, clearly, really change your life. (Some studies have shown that just 5 minutes of mindfulness and slow breathing done daily for four weeks greatly decreases stress, anxiety and diastolic blood pressure while increasing a sense of overall well-being.)

As Salzberg writes, meditation moves us toward wholeness, so “we rediscover a strong center, an inner store of mental and emotional strength that was once lost to us. Once we have a sense of a center, we can more easily withstand the onslaught of overstimulation, uncertainty, and anxiety the world launches at us without getting overwhelmed.”

Yes, motherhood is crazy hours of hard work; I’m not saying it’s easy keeping an infant alive and emotionally strong. I’m just saying that 28 days of mindfulness deepened my clarity, confidence and contentment exponentially. And if that’s possible with a tiny stranger now running the show as my bossbabe, then perhaps it’s possible for you to also uncover a taste of wholeness and happiness if you commit to 28 days… maybe this meditation thing is for real.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

Where to start?

  1. Listen on your phone. Use my Guided Meditation Page to listen and follow along to Free Audio Guided Meditation and Breathing Techniques.
  2. Download an App. I absolutely love “Insight Timer” and the “Calm” app, both available for iPhone and Android users.
  3. Get a book. I highly recommend “Real Happiness by Sharon Salzberg, which is a 28 day program perfectly accessible for beginners.
  4. Meditate with a Yoga Teacher. If you live in Kansas City, we’d love to see you in class at Westport Yoga KC! All of our classes provides an opportunity for meditation; however, you’ll really get into it on Wednesday nights at our 6 pm “Restore and Meditate” Class. Join us.

Happy Uncovering,

-lisa (and Baby Eden.)

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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

what’s your one thing?

photography by Chloe Virginia Photography.

Lately, when I sit down to write, I think: I am empty of creative energy. I’ve got nothing left to give to words and wisdom and the world. But then I take a deep breath and remember writing this little blog is not the One Thing I’m doing right now.

The One Thing I’m doing right now is creating a human. I am viscerally and fully participating in the most primal act of creation shared by all sentient beings since the beginning of time.

It’s not that I am devoid or emptied or hollowed out of creative energy; it’s not that I have nothing to say. (If you come to my yoga classes, you know I still have plenty to say.)

The One Thing that I’m doing right now is making this baby. My creative energy, my object of introspection, my desire for deeper wisdom is all directed inward toward this human whom I will love and guide and teach for (literally) the rest of my life. Right now, that’s my number One Thing.

We all need our One Thing. Because time is always precious and should always be spent intentionally. Creation is always precious and should always be treated with reverence.

As Rob Bell writes, “At any moment in the day, you can only do one thing at a time. And the more intentional you are about knowing what your one is, the more present you will be.”

And so at this very exhausting and exhilarating time of my life – I just spent six months remodeling a new yoga studio and reinventing my craft and career; my Ironman and I bought our first house to renovate the perfect little home for our little family; my professional writing career took hold and I sold four magazine articles in a few short months; I completed my Yoga Medicine Therapeutic Specialist degree and was asked to join their prestigious teaching team— I need to continually come back to my ONE thing.

Otherwise, I’m going to miss this one time when I get to spend every moment of every day with my precious, independent, rowdy, hilarious, active and actively-loved child.

What’s your One Thing? What needs and deserves your full attention and energy? How can you commit to greater intention and presence with this One Thing?

Happy One-ing,

lisa

new teaching location next week!

In this sacred space which has been our yoga home for 6 years, our community of yogis and friends have celebrated joy together: Friday nights spent with candlelight, successful donation drives to benefit our city’s most vulnerable, graduations, engagement parties, wedding showers, baby births, sobriety anniversaries and healthy test results. We’ve also held space for one another in grief: healing from divorces, miscarriages, suicides, violence and illnesses on our yoga mats, breath by breath. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to lead this community and share the teachings of yoga in this Bell Street Location.

Here’s to a new chapter—new location— same beautiful spirit of Light, Love and Community of Westport Yoga KC.

Join me for my last week of Teaching Yoga @ Westport Yoga KC on Bell Street.

April 24:

Wednesday 6 am Sunrise

Wednesday 6 pm Restore and Meditate

April 25:

Thursday 12 pm Vinyasa Yoga

April 27:

Saturday 9 am Hatha Yoga

April 29:

Monday 6 pm Gentle Flow Yoga

Monday 7:30 pm Vin/Yin

April 30:

Tuesday 12pm Vinyasa Yoga

Tuesday 6pm Hatha Yoga

May 1:

Wednesday 6 am Sunrise

Wednesday 6 pm Restore and Meditate + Closing Ritual

New Westport Yoga KC location:

5911 Main Street

Kansas City, MO 64113

Months of hard work have gone into getting this space renovated! Can’t wait to share it with you!

See WestportYogaKansasCity.com for Opening Weekend Details!