saucha: is eating this cinnamon roll an action of self-care?

I absolutely love cinnamon rolls. My mom’s are the best because they are covered in homemade caramel sauce and walnuts. McLain’s Bakery wins a close second and third place goes to Happy Valley Retreat Center in Santa Cruz, California. (Where I have the privilege to teach at the Awakened Heart Spiritual Development Retreat this weekend!  And I will undoubtedly eat WAY too many cinnamon rolls.)

As I introduced in my previous post, the study of the niyama saucha, invites us to continually ask the question: “Is this an action of self-care?”  

Traditionally, saucha translates as ‘cleanliness or purity.’ That may sound restrictive at first, but I believe saucha is actually about indulging in quality self-care. Saucha is meant to help us cultivate self-care by examining what we are actually putting in and on our bodies to then make conscious, loving decisions.

For example: a huge cinnamon roll slathered in decadent, tantalizing icing? Um, probably not the cleanest lunch choice. I probably won’t feel super energized and self-loving after scarfing it down. But an herbal-cinnamon hot tea and a nooner yoga class? Yes, thank you very much, I would feel very well cared-for after indulging in that choice.

I practice saucha not as a list of things I shouldn’t do (that sounds like a morality issue and makes my inner rebel want to rebel) but as a list of things I CAN DO to show my body, mind and Spirit greater tenderness and self-care. I CAN decide to avoid dairy to keep my skin glowing and my allergies under control. I CAN decide to use only paraben-free and fragrance-free products to keep my hormones balanced. I CAN decide to eat a kale salad to keep my energy up. I CAN decide to keep my office, my yoga studio and my yoga mat clean to keep me feeling healthy, energized and focused.

Again, I choose these actions not because they are inherently ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ or ‘shoulds’ or ‘shouldn’ts,’ but because they invite me into greater self-care and tenderness.

As you move throughout your day, challenge yourself to pause, take a breath and ask: “Is this an action of self-care?” then proceed with tenderness.

Happy Self-Care Day,

-lisa

saucha: the one-minute rule of tidiness

I truly cannot work if my bed is not made. It the first thing I do when I come home from teaching and prepare to sit down at my computer. My ‘office’ is in my bedroom, which is great for Russell Clive because he can snuggle on my pillow and watch me type from across the room. But it’s also not great, because if my bed isn’t made, my work space feels messy, untidy and overwhelming.

I recently read Gretchen Rubin’The Happiness Project; I highly recommend it. In her experiment to generate more happiness in her life, Rubin adopted the “one-minute rule.” Which means: if it takes one minute or less to do it– do it now. File the paper, put the plate in the dishwasher, make the bed, wipe up the salt your snow boots tracked in. She found that this “one-minute rule” significantly decreased clutter, increased her sense of ease and helped her focus when it was time to work. I adopted this “one-minute rule” in January and found that it truly helped me appreciate and practice saucha (cleanliness and self-care), which is the first niyama (personal consideration) of the Yoga Philosophy.

I also adopted her “ten-minute tidy rule” (that’s the cutest name for cleaning ever invented). I often experience a moment of anxiety when I come home and my house is cluttered– instead of actually working during the workday, I feel like I’m just walking around my house putting things away. The “ten-minute tidy rule” means I take ten minutes to put the house to bed before I go to bed myself. I’m not up at midnight deep cleaning, I’m just turning off Netflix ten minutes earlier each night to tidy up my living space and practice saucha as a way of caring for myself and my belongings with greater tenderness.

Saucha asks us to look at all our little “one-minute” actions throughout the day and ask: is this an action of self-care? Does it contribute to my health and happiness?

Cleanliness is a perfect entry point to this: do you feel happier and healthier when your home is dirty and cluttered? Or do you feel happier and healthier when your home is tidy, clean and fresh? What contributes to a greater sense of ease?

This month as we study saucha, ask yourself: “How can I make this one-minute action an action of self-care?” And whatever you are doing in that one minute– showering, trimming your fingernails, cleaning the oven, organizing papers, wiping snow and sleet off dogpaws, eating a snack or rolling up your yoga mat– do it with greater tenderness and self-care.

Happy One Minute,

-lisa

“When the body is cleansed, the mind purified and the senses controlled, joyful awareness needed to realize the inner self, also comes.” -Yoga Sutras

(i almost stole a dog): asteya.

Have you ever had one of those mornings where you wake up and your first thought is: ‘I didn’t get enough sleep‘? And this snowballs into, ‘And I don’t have enough time today and I don’t have enough energy today and there’s SURE not enough sunshine today.’

When I have these days (usually it’s actually freezing and cloudy and the only things that can cheer me up are dance videos and Vitamin D) my ‘enough-ness’ is already deteriorating before I even take off my pajamas. In Yoga Philosophy, we recognize these automatic and unfiltered thoughts as mind-patternsthat steal our energy. One of the tenants of Yoga Philosophy is “asteya.It literally means: non-stealing. 

The foundation of practicing asteya is much more nuanced than, say… not stealing. (Although, to be honest, I did try to steal a “stray” Ozark dog over New Year’s Eve… I guess I’m still working on the basic concept of asteya, after all. He really looked like he needed a home. And he was sweet and had a scruffy beard. I didn’t trust him to stay safe and warm running around the Ozark bluffs like a fool. He didn’t trust my leash or the promise of a nice West Plaza home.) The foundation of asteya is TRUST. Trusting that we are enough and that the Universe is always working in our highest favor.

TRUST is the opposite of the scarcity-mindset that often dominates our mental landscape. In my experience, the two best ways to combat a scarcity-mindset of “not enough” are:

  1. Affirming that there is a greater power than me.
  2. Actively practicing a sentence of gratitude.

ONE: Affirming that there is a greater power than me: the healthiest people I know practice their spirituality every single day through moments of mindfulness. For example: when I am caught up in a snowstorm of not-enough-ness, I say this affirmation from Gabrielle Bernstein.

“There is a power greater than me, working on my behalf. I close my eyes, take a breath and tune into this energy.” 

This instantly changes my day; it invites me to get quiet and listen to: what actually matters!  

TWO: Actively practicing a sentence of gratitude. Can’t claim this one: positive psychology researchers, vulnerability expert Brene Brown and Oprah Winfrey herself all back this up. We are grateful FIRST, then we become more present and joyful. I stop whirly-twirly-anxiety-blizzard thoughts by saying out loud:

“I don’t want to steal from this moment or from my potential for joy. Right now, I am very grateful for ________________.” 

Use these two practices throughout your day. What do you notice about your ability to GIVE to the moment, instead of STEAL from it?  What can you learn about asteya from this practice?

“yes please!”

At Westport Yoga KCwe have these little green consent cards that say “Yes, please” on one side and our logo on the back. We use these cards so students can communicate with our yoga teachers to tell us if they consent to hands-on adjustments or if they really just want to be left alone. (Often, our students really just want to be left alone. I get it; me, too.)

I love these “Yes, please” cards because they remind me to be very clear about what I am saying, “Yes, please” to. The cards are a perfect example of practicing brahmacharya, which means moderation and conservation. Brahmacharya is an appeal for a balanced lifestyle and healthy self-care, as we discussed in last week’s post.

Brahmacharya asks me to conserve my energy, refusing to spend it on worry, shame, frustration, crappy coffee, donuts and Twitter, saving it up to use it only on what’s really important. (Coincidentally, love, acceptance, humility, Roasterie Coffee, pumpkin bread and Instagram are pretty darn important.)

Asking myself what I’m actively saying, “yes, please!” to helps me simplify my intentions, my practices and my daily choices. It helps me live a full, abundant life and say ‘no thanks’ to the things that tend to drag me down and deplete my energy.

Are you saying, “yes, please!” to self-care, simplicity,mindfulness and grace? Are you saying, “yes, please!” to conserving your energy in order to spend it on what’s precious and beautiful and life-affirming? Are you saying, “yes, please!” to living a balanced, whole and consecrated lifestyle?

Literally, what are you saying “Yes please!” to? I’d love to hear from you?

-lisa

balancing self-care: brahmacharya

I absolutely, unequivocally adore food. I love the scent, the crispness, the decadence, the savoring of chopping, baking and broiling. I LOVE big grain bowls overflowing with veggies and salads for breakfast and cookies for all meals. And yet, bizarrely, I barely eat anything from Monday morning to Wednesday night. It’s a very, very bad habit that precedes crabbiness, constipation and an overall sense of impending doom for the whole of humankind.

Left to my own devices, from Monday morning to Wednesday evening, I am completely and utterly absorbed in my work: in teaching, in managing, in cleaning, in advertising, in inviting, in begging, in writing, in transmitting the extraordinary teachings of yoga. I am, completely and utterly, out of balance.

Brahmacharya is the fourth ethical consideration of Yoga as found in the Yoga Sutras. (Brush up on the first three we discussed: ahimsa, satya and aparigraha.) It means “moderation and conservation.” It is, in my opinion, the most difficult yama to uphold. Because it is (surprisingly) easy to live an unbalanced, impulse-motivated lifestyle. It is, if you can believe it, much easier to eat oatmeal-butterscotch cookies for every meal than it is to plan, prepare and eat healthy food every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

And, brahmacharya is an essential aspect of yoga philosophy that informs the practice of self-care. It reminds me that I must make my own well-being a priority before I can take care of anyone else. It reminds me that I MUST step away from the chaos of immoderation—by sleeping well, eating well, resting well and loving well—to lead a balanced life.

One thing that helps me practice brahmacharya is to identify impulses, actions, anxieties and perceived expectations that make me feel out of balance. When I write these down and compare them to things that make me feel awesome, energetic and balanced, my steps toward greater self-care seem pretty obvious.

Try this simple exercise to approach brahmacharya:

  • Set a timer for 5 minutes and jot down notes and observations that finish these two sentences:

  • After your five minutes, close your eyes and take 3 big inhales and exhales.
  • Open your eyes, circle 3 things in the “I feel balanced and whole” column that you are going to do THIS WEEK.
  • At the end of the week, notice how you feel and congratulate yourself on your commitment to greater self-care.

“We see that the chaos of immoderation brings us pain and anguish—and that the calm, clear energy released by moderation actually affords us the opportunity to realize our dreams.” -Rolf Gates

when assuming doesn’t make an ass out of you. (or me).

Airports are bizarre: an alternate universe where lazy mayhem and frenetic movement coexist. And there are a lot, I mean, a LOT of stressed out people (most of whom are wearing pajamas and eating junk food). At departure gates, I feel for the ticket agents who have to explain, repeatedly, that flight delays are something they cannot control and they are, in fact, “doing their best.” Still, travelers are always yelling at them. Sometimes in English.

This month, we study the yama (ethical consideration of yoga) aparigraha, which means relinquishing and letting go. In the past, this blog examined aparigraha from the most traditional definition, “non-hoarding” in an 5 part aparigraha article series here. Now, I’d like to introduce the concept of aparigraha as a function of generosity of Spirit.   

One of the most profound personal practices I’ve adopted in my life is to assume that everyone I meet is doing their very best, even if I don’t particularly like what they are doing.

Practicing generosity of spirit means that I am willing to relinquish my need to be right, my need to ‘win’, my need to hold on for dear life to my ideals and arguments and assumptions. It means I am generous with my assumption that people are doing the very best they can. (Even airline ticket agents.)

Practicing generosity of Spirit means that when I am triggered by a yoga teacher who arrives late to teach class, I shelf my frustration that she is unorganized and flaky. Instead, I assume she tried to get to class on time, it just didn’t happen.

Practicing generosity of Spirit means that when a friend says something that triggers an insecurity, I shelf my snarky rebuttal. Instead, I assume she had no intention of hurting my feelings.

Practicing generosity of Spirit means that when a knucklehead driver cuts me off without using his turn signal, I shelf my anger and take a breath. Instead, I assume he has somewhere really important to be and send him a prayer for safe travels.

I love this quote from Mother Theresa about how we give the very best we can, every day and anyway; we assume that everyone else is giving their very best, too.

This is one of the most powerful practices of developing compassion that I know. How will you give the benefit of the doubt to people you meet today? How can you practice aparigraha by relinquishing your reactions and assuming that people are doing their very best?

Happy Assuming,

-lisa

extra grateful: a new 1:5 gratitude challenge.

Here’s a new Gratitude Challenge for you: 1:5. In the traditional 30 days of gratitude approach, our list often becomes stagnant, rote and trivial by the end of the month. We start listing things that are fun, fast and easy, instead of listing things that truly bring us back to our Highest Self and the practice of Gratitude.

So, a shift on an old theme: 1:5. Name ONE thing you are EXTRA grateful for and 5 people who make it possible. As we know, writing an acknowledgements page is good for the soul: in the end, we cannot take ANY of this stuff with us, but our relationships and the people we love leave an impression on our Soul.

For example:

This year I’m extra grateful to be the Owner and Curriculum Director of Westport Yoga KC. It’s not an easy job, but it’s worth it because I get to share generously the teachings of yoga and meditation with willing and beautiful Souls every day. I have 5 incredible teachers who teach at Westport Yoga KC and make my dream possible: Thank you Maris, Amie, Sedona, Jesse and Kelly. (Of course, it’s really my STUDENTS who make it possible… but I’m sticking with the above Fantastic 5.)

This year I’m extra grateful that I am HEALTHY! Severe allergies, sinus issues, skin rashes and energy imbalances seemed to be the norm for most of my life and this year I am HEALTHY! It’s feels like a miracle; a big shout out goes to my ‘health squad’: my nutritionist, my acupuncturist, my Yoga Medicine teacher and my best friend Russell Clive who gets me out on walks daily. (And also my Ironman who buys a vanload of vegetables every Monday at Costco so our crock-pot is continuously full of soup. See, limiting it to 5 people is difficult…)

What are you extra grateful for in 2017? Which 5 people are connected to that practice of gratitude?

Name 5 specific things you are EXTRA grateful for and the 5 people who make it possible. Take a minute to Thank some of these people who make your life happier, healthier and more whole.

The practice of Gratitude is just that: it is something we practice. Gratitude is the key to living a wholehearted life; it is the key to living in the Present Moment and learning to see the Divine in all the little moments we tend to overlook. A Guided Meditation during which we consciously name, reflect on and appreciate specific blessings in our life reminds us that the only reasonable response to being alive is that of Gratitude. As always, I’ll be teaching a Full Guided Gratitude Meditation at Westport Yoga KC this month.

Donation Yoga Classes supporting Rose Brooks Center, which helps women and children in Kansas City re-build sustainable lives after leaving violent households:

Sundays November 12 and 19, Hatha Yoga @ 4:30 pm

Wednesday November 22, Candlelight Vinyasa Flow @ 7:30 pm

Sunday November 26, Vinyasa Yoga @ 10:30 am

I’d be extra grateful if you were there…

are you sometimes stressed? (me. to.)

Ok, so I understand that stress can make us stronger (hello Stress Wood and Biosphere 2) but I don’t actually know anyone who wakes up and says: “Bring on the stress! I want to endure and persevere today!” with a great big smile on their face.

I sure don’t. I sometimes feel overwhelmed and stressed just by the IDEA of being overwhelmed and stressed. The best way I have found to acknowledge, transmute and transform stress is meditation. Meditation has about a million psychological and physiological benefits: enhanced immune system, increased brain nueroplasticity and decreased sense of alienation and anxiety to name a few.

But my absolute favorite benefit is how it decreases our stress response. Something we all need. And it’s something we can all learn.

I love introducing Meditation as a technique to lower stress and increase hope, health and happiness. I shared a technique I call “60 second quick-fix” for stress on my blog last spring and have an extensive offering of free Guided Meditations here.

But my absolute favorite way is by teaching my 3 Week Course: Introduction to Meditation for Stress Relief. I teach it twice a year and it always sells out. This updated curriculum includes new research based on the MBSR technique, clinical trials and every day application of mindfulness. Please join me:

Introduction to Meditation for Stress Relief

Sundays December 3, 10 and 17, 2017  2 pm-4 pm

Investment:

This 3-part series is a perfect introduction to Meditation. We will explore the modern-day benefits of meditation and how you can integrate the practice into your life to relieve stress.

In each session, I’ll teach Breathing Techniques, Concentration Techniques and Meditation Techniques which cultivate attention, deepen focus and embrace stillness. You’ll have the opportunity to practice meditation in an encouraging group setting and engage in conversation with classmates. You will also learn ‘quick-fixes’ to trigger the relaxation response in your brain and body. The course includes a take-home manual for future reference and suggestions on how to successfully plan your at-home meditation practice.

(Limit 18 students; please note: there are no partial or full refunds for this event.)