winter isn’t all that bad…

“The soul usually knows what to do to heal itself. The challenge is to silence the mind.”

– Caroline Myss

December is a time marked by waiting and introspection. In the northern hemisphere, we are snuggling in with anticipation of the dark days and nights of winter. Those of us who celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah are waiting, marking this interim time of expectancy and contemplation day by day.

While I truly love the giddiness, lights, sounds and sharing of the holiday season, I also truly dread the dark months of winter. I like to be outside all day; I like overbearing sunshine and bare arms and tan lines. I like sunglasses and sweating and frizzy hair and the expansive energy of summer. Winter is none of these things.

However, I’ve made it a point over the past few years to pinpoint and appreciate the silence and potential of the winter season. There is power in the silence of the season; there is promise in long evenings of introspection and heavy blankets and book reading. I’ve noticed that with this attitude, by New Year, I’ve gained a new appreciation of rest– both physically and spiritually– as if all I needed to do was to become quiet enough to listen to what my soul really needs.

Here are four ideas to help you appreciate the interim time of waiting and deep winter this year:

Drink herbal, warming drinks: In Ayurveda, the medicinal science of yoga, winter is an important time to eat root vegetables, drink non-caffeinated spicy drinks, and rest in the evenings. Try my favorite hot, herbal tea:

Cinnamon-Orange Peel Tea:

  • Place 1 cinnamon stick in your mug
  • Peel a medium-sized orange and add 1/2 its peel in your mug
  • Add 1 teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Add 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
  • Pour 10 oz. steaming water over your concoction and let it steam for 8-10 minutes and enjoy

Get Moving every day: Nothing screams depression like being sedentary. Try a physical activity that inspires introspection like running, walking or yoga. If you are stuck inside due to icy sidewalks, hit up my teacher Tiffany Cruikshank on YogaGlo.com. This is a high-quality online yoga site that offers classes with master teachers ranging from fifteen minutes to one hour.

Start a daily Reflection Practice: Winter is the perfect time to begin a daily reflection practice. Challenge yourself to turn off the TV a few minutes early before bedtime and spend ten minutes in reflection. Grab a journal and finish these sentences…

  • Today, I was inspired by…
  • Today I experienced love…
  • Today showed me that my Soul needs…
  • Today I am grateful for…

Re-commit to a daily Meditation Practice:  Dark mornings and evenings mean you’ll be inside anyway; sit down in a quiet place for ten minutes, light a candle and tune in to your intuition.

New to Meditation? Not sure how to start? Join me for my first ever on-line class, Distance Learning Class: Meditation for Stress Relief. This is the perfect introduction class for Beginners. Register through Westport Yoga KC today!

Meditation for Stress Relief DISTANCE LEARNING

Distance Learning: Meditation for Stress Relief

3-Week ONLINE COURSE January 27- February 10, 2019

Zoom Conference Meetings: 2 pm Sundays January 27, February 3 and February 10, 2019

In this distance learning class, you’ll master the 5 basic steps of Organizing a Meditation Practice that relieves stress and reduces anxiety.

You’ll learn the physiological benefits of meditation, bust some common myths of meditation and master 12+ stress-busting practices you can incorporate into your daily routine. Together in our Zoom Conference Meetings, we’ll learn and practice techniques to trigger our body’s natural Relaxation Response and have time for discussion in an intimate learning environment.

In between our 3 Zoom Conference Meetings, you’ll complete homework assignments and enjoy the opportunity to check in with your fellow classmates. You’ll also receive weekly Inspiration in your inbox from Lisa, encouraging a successful plan for at-home daily meditation practice.

The course includes a detailed e-manual for future reference. You don’t even have to leave the house! (Zoom is an online conferencing program available for free download.)

Spots are limited; registration closes January 22, 2019.

Register HERE.

Happy Wintering,

-lisa

cleansing breath routine to reduce stress.

“Our breath, like our heartbeat, is the most reliable rhythm in our lives. When we become attuned to this constant rhythm, our breath can gradually teach us to come back to the original silence of the mind.” -Donna Farhi

Every day while my laptop is powering up, I put a little dab of essential oils on my wrists, close my eyes and take three gargantuan breaths. With each big inhale and (obnoxiously loud) exhale, I push a re-set button; I update and restart again with a fresh perspective.

I’m a big believer in pranayama practice, which is the fancy Sanskrit name for specific breathing practices from the Yoga Tradition. I try to do a five to ten minute practice daily. but even a shortened breathing practice, like three big inhales and exhales before I open my inbox, is my go-to routine of self-care because it helps me transition from distracted to focused.

Maintaining a daily routine of anything (even eating 3 meals a day) is difficult for me; but when I do, I feel more balanced and whole. In the Yoga Tradition, living a balanced lifestyle is called brahmacharya. I introduced this concept on my blog previously in these articles: “balancing self-care: brahmacharya” and “yes please!“.

Brahmacharya shows up in our lives when we create routines that lead us away from distraction and instead lead us toward the constant, reliable rhythm of breath and inner contentment. As yoga teacher Donna Farhi reminds us in her classic Bringing Yoga to Life, our breath and our heartbeat are constant rhythmic reminders that a re-set is needed and helpful in maintaining a balanced life and inner contentment. Your breath is all you need.

New to pranayama breathing practices? Looking for a re-set button that reduces stress and helps you focus? Try this one:

Cleansing Exhale Practice: 7-5-3

  1. Sit in a comfortable position with your back straight and shoulders relaxed. Close your eyes.
  2. Take 3 comfortable inhales and exhales.
  3. Inhale through the nose for a count of seven.
  4. Retain the breath for a count of five.
  5. Exhale through the mouth, loudly and fully for the count of three.
  6. Repeat this 7-5-3 pattern three times.

Pause for a moment, breathing in and out of your nose without effort for a few rounds of breath. Notice how you feel. Gently open your eyes, refreshed and re-set.

I encourage you to add this to your morning routine; building a balanced and whole lifestyle starts a few minutes at a time, daily.

You can find additional Breathing Practices, which Audio to guide you, on my page Guided Meditation.

Happy Breathing,

-lisa

 

 

 

2019 Events and Workshops.

2018 flew by in a wink; I’ve been busy creating new and exciting content for you next year! Here’s what you can look forward to in 2019.

(Gentle Reminder: register through Westport Yoga KC  to secure your spot, as all my events and workshops tend to sell out!)

Meditation for Stress Relief DISTANCE LEARNING

Don’t live in Kansas City? For the First Time EVER: You can begin your meditation practice with me by taking my Distance Learning Meditation for Stress Relief Class.

3-Week ONLINE COURSE January 27- February 10, 2019

Zoom Conference Meetings: 2 pm Sundays January 27, February 3 and February 10, 2019

In this distance learning class you’ll master the 5 basic steps of Organizing a Meditation Practice that relieves stress and reduces anxiety.

You’ll learn the physiological benefits of meditation, bust some common myths of meditation and master 12+ stress-busting practices you can incorporate into your daily routine. Together in our Zoom Conference Meetings, we’ll learn and practice techniques to trigger our body’s natural Relaxation Response and have time for discussion in an intimate learning environment.

In between our 3 Zoom Conference Meetings, you’ll complete homework assignments and enjoy the opportunity to check in with your fellow classmates. You’ll also receive weekly Inspiration in your inbox from Lisa, encouraging a successful plan for at-home daily meditation practice.

The course includes a detailed e-manual for future reference. You don’t even have to leave the house!

Investment: $65 Registration is open!

Yin Yoga for Detox January 2019

Candlelight Yin Yoga for Detoxing: Friday January 11, 2019

6-8 pm @ Westport Yoga KC

Recoup from the holidays with a candlelit and aromatherapy Yin Yoga practice designed to detox the body and nourish the mind. This class will feature Yin Yoga poses specifically designed to restore healthy function to the immune system and digestive system. This is the perfect Friday night of self-care after the holidays.

Investment: $25 Registration opens December 1, 2018

Fascia Release February Friday 2019

Fascia Release Friday: Friday February 8, 2019

6-8 pm @ Westport Yoga KC

Join me for this evening of self-care. We will learn how to use yoga props and tennis balls to alleviate stress in your connective tissues. You’ll be treated to an aromatherapy massage and healing meditation during savasana.  Leave feeling refreshed, renewed and ready to heal yourself in with these practices in your daily life.

Investment: $25 REGISTER HERE

 

Meditation and Myofascial Release Sundays 2019

Meditation and Myofascial Release Class: First Sunday of the month

9-10 am @Westport Yoga KC Beginning February 3, 2019

Join me the first Sunday of the month for a morning of meditation and self-care. First, we will utilize self myofascial release techniques (SMFR) to awaken the body, heal aches and pains, and prepare for mindful meditation.  Then, we will share in a guided meditation including pranayama, systematic relaxation techniques and mantra to strengthen our mind-body-spirit connection and prepare for the week ahead.

Investment at the door: $18. (Complimentary class for Westport Yoga KC Members.)

Looking forward to sharing these opportunities with you…

Much gratitude,

-lisa

Check out my Page: Events and Workshops for a complete listing of all Spring 2019 classes.

remembering not to yell at customer service reps.

I’m not pleased to admit that I made a sticky handful of distressed, frustrated, angry phone calls last week. The first call was cut off mid-way through solving the problem of my cancelled accommodation reservation. I took a deep breath, harnessed some irritated perseverance (fueled by too much coffee and not enough sleep, I’m sure) and called again. I was a not ANY less irate.

That second call was cut-off midway through. (eeeerrrg.)

I took a breath,  and called again, deciding I could be tiny bit nicer to Service Rep #3. Still not my best, compassionate self. (Definitely still rude. But one step nicer than terrifying.)

The next day, another technology crisis occurred and I was back on the phone with some poor Customer Service Sap. As I was dialing, I thought, this poor guy picking up the phone from his cubicle in East Jesus Nowhere has no idea that I spent all day yesterday in frustrated negations with customer service representatives; I should try to be compassionate and reasonable.

And I REMEMBERED: Yesterday, I spoke calmly and compassionately to at least one person. I’m a calm, compassionate person. I can do this.

Just by remembering ONE time when I acted compassionately in the past, I could posit myself as a compassionate person and make a change in my behavior that affected not only my happiness but also the emotional and mental health of the phone-guy from StartLogic.

A fascinating study done by Adam Grant by Wharton Business School showed that by simply remembering a time when you have acted generously and kindly in the past, you are more likely to immediately display more kind and generous behaviors.

Remembering an act of kindness creates a mental construct that I can then frame my physical behaviors around: if I remember even just one time when I acted kindly and compassionately, then I am a kind compassionate person.  

This remembering made all the difference in my choices and reactionary behavior. Sure I still needed to go for a dog jog, get good and sweaty, send (more than) a few complaining texts to my Ironman (nothing says good for the marriage like United Against the Common Threat of AirBnB), but I was finally able to calm down, remember that I am ultimately a compassionate and kind person, and respond skillfully to a stressful situation instead of creating more angst in my life.

This week, boost your kindness and compassion. Right now, REMEMBER 3 times when you’ve acted compassionately in the past year. Write these instances down and tuck the reminder in your purse/wallet/lunchbox. If you find yourself in a sticky situation, remind yourself that you are indeed a compassionate person and you have a choice with your actions and words.

Happy Remembering,

-lisa

P.S. Also remember to register for the last Meditation to Stress-Relief Class of 2018: We’ll meet Sundays December 2, 9, and 16, from 2-4 pm at Westport Yoga KC in Kansas City, Missouri.

December 2018 meditation for stress relief workshop picture

Register HERE.

collect a reservoir of compassion.

“Practicing self-love means learning how to trust ourselves, to treat ourselves with respect and to be kind and affectionate with ourselves.” – Brene Brown

It’s surprising how quickly coin jars fill up. My Ironman and I occasionally drop spare change in a glass jar, which we joke is my tattoo fund, but we really end up emptying it for car washing and street parking the Adventure Van. Miraculously, it’s almost always full even though it collects coins one by one; it’s like drops of water filling a reservoir.

Compassion, too, is something we can collect and store up in our hearts little by little. It starts by learning to befriend ourselves, speak kindly to ourselves, forgive ourselves and eventually love ourselves. Every time we treat ourselves with loving-kindness, we create a well-spring of compassion from which we can draw from and extend to others.

Compassion is conscious awareness of suffering and a desire to relieve the suffering through an energetic response.

And anyone will tell you: it’s super hard to be compassionate towards other humans when you are tired, burnt-out, stressed-out and overall feeling gutted and empty.

So start with a few moments of self-love every day. Start by resting, breathing, eating well. Start collecting compassion one precious coin at a time. Begin filling a reservoir by choosing self-care (remember this post about the elements of self-care?) so that you can better love yourself and others.

Collect 6 minutes of compassion today by trying a Guided Meditation. Go buy a healthy snack. Take a walk in the sunshine. Write yourself a Positive Review. However you practice self-care, do it today.

Happy Collecting,

-lisa

write yourself a Positive Review.

write yourself a Positive Review.

Being an avid book reader, I’m constantly scanning book reviews for new reads. (See my list of best yoga books for 2018 here.) If the reviewer spends her entire paragraph criticizing the characters and plot, then offers a backhanded comment on how it’s a pretty good book and worth the read, I’m not into it. If the reviewer praises the book overall and offers poignant suggestions for improvement to the author, however, I’m on my way to the library. I’m all about the Positive Review.

The great thing is, in my life, I’m the Reviewer. And every single day I can write a Positive Review about my life. Sure, I could spend hours reviewing all the things that aren’t going well and are stressing me out (the vrittis of the mind will spiral continuously if we let them) or I could treat myself compassionately and practice non-harming by writing a Positive Review.

Ahimsa, which means non-harming and compassion, is the first Yama and most important tenant of Yoga Philosophy. (Remember this post about the marmots?) We practice ahimsa every day (and especially during every yoga practice) by choosing self-talk that is compassionate and non-judgmental. Since our confidence is intimately connected to the quality of our self-talk, I think it’s really really important to spend time cultivating compassionate and positive comments and reviews.

Sure, we can always pinpoint areas of our lives to improve and ways to grow; but today, practice a little more self-love than usual and write yourself a Positive Review.

You deserve it.

Happy Writing,

-lisa

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