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.

fall 2018 special events and workshops.

It is always my honor to share the teachings of yoga. Sometimes, I look at out the class of students gathered together at Westport Yoga KC and am stunned; I think, “This is so cool! These people are so eager to learn! They CHOSE to put their self-care at the top of their already-full ‘priority list’ and show up on the yoga mat to practice and learn these incredible teachings!”

And I know– life’s ‘priority list’ does fill up quickly. Mine does, too. But here’s the thing: the teachings of yoga show us how to navigate our lives with grace and commit to a gentler way of being that is grounded in self-care, care of others and care of our communities. As Donna Farhi says:

“Yoga does not remove us from the reality or responsibilities of everyday life but rather places our feet firmly and resolutely in the practical ground of experience. We don’t transcend our lives; we return to the life we left behind in hopes of something better.” 

I offer you this array of Special Events and Workshops in hope that you will firmly and resolutely choose self-care to heal your everyday experience. Please join me. Registration for Fall 2018 Events and Workshops opens July 18, 2018 here: Westport Yoga KC Pricing

September 2018

  • Stay-Cation Yoga Retreat with Lisa Ash Drackert. Saturday September 8, 2018. from 8 am- 2 pm. Details Here.
  • Meditation for Stress Relief, a 3 week course meeting on Thursday mornings June 13, 20 and 27 from 9-11 am. Details Here.
  • Writing-to-Wholeness Workshop with Julie Edge and Lisa Ash Drackert. a 6 week course on mindfulness and writing. Begins Sunday 23, 2018 4:00 pm.  Details Here.

October 2018

  • Stay-Cation Yoga Retreat with Lisa Ash Drackert. Saturday October 10, 2018 from 8 am- 2 pm.  Details Here.
  • Fasica Release Friday with Lisa Ash Drackert. Friday October 12, 2018 at 6 pm.  Details Here.
  • Myofascial Release Workshop with Lisa Ash Drackert, Saturday October 20 at 2 pm.  Details Here.

November 2018

  • Restore and Meditate Advanced Teacher Training Weekend. 25 Continuing Education Units for Yoga Teachers: November 9-11, 2018.  Details Here.
  • Gratitude Thanksgiving Candlelight Flow, Donation Class befitting Rose Brooks Center: Wednesday November 21, 6 pm.  Details Here.

December 2018

  • Meditation for Stress Relief, a 3 week course meeting on Sunday afternoons December 2, 9 and 16 from 2-4 pm.  Details Here.

Registration opens July 18, 2018! These events WILL sell out! Invest in yourself today: Westport Yoga KC

why writing is better than talking. (don’t miss this new 6 week class!)

Nothing has helped me achieve greater clarity and healing than daily Writing Meditation.

Chatting with my friends and my Life Coach Julie Edge is great, of course, and definitely better than talking to myself all the time. (Perspective, right?) But daily Writing Meditation is 10 times better; because when my thoughts crystallize into written words, patterns that I couldn’t see in the swirling of my internal monologue become clear.

The first few minutes of pen-to-paper writing is really the surface excavation: I’m dumping and scooping and sweeping dirt aside to get down to the next level. The “next level” is when I get courageous enough to write down the thoughts that I would never say aloud to anyone.

Because, they are totally and completely ridiculously untrue — but they are unconscious assumptions and are actually holding me back. Research shows that the practice of journaling and writing meditation reduces stress, help us process grief and promotes healthy expression of emotion.

When it comes to writing meditation, I’ve found that the more I do it, the easier it gets.

Writing meditation helps me identify the the mental habits and limiting beliefs that are swirling around in my mind, making it all muddy and gunky. And then it helps me clear it all off, clean up my mind and take a deep breath.

Eventually, I’ll write something down— often hidden in between sentences of confusion or worry or scheming or totally random thoughts— that just makes everything clear. I’ll read it and think: “Oh now, THAT’S valuable insight. That is a gem.”

Join me for this 6 week course: Writing to Wholeness, to learn how daily writing meditation can unleash you from long-held mental habits and beliefs that are gunking up your life.

with Julie Edge and Lisa Ash Drackert

Sundays September 23, October 7, October 21, 2018

4:00- 5:30 pm @ Westport Yoga KC

Learn how to build and sustain a daily writing meditation practice in this exclusive 6-week course.

The Writing-to-Wholeness Workshop includes:

  • 6 weeks of daily writing prompts delivered via text
  • 3 in-person class sessions held at Westport Yoga KC
  • a custom tailored journal
  • weekly e-mails with writing tips and encouragement to support your practice
  • continuous online support from facilitators Julie Edge and Lisa Ash Drackert
  • complimentary tea and water during in-person meeting sessions
  • complimentary attendance of the Yin Yoga class immediately following in-person gatherings
  • 10% off all retail purchases at Westport Yoga KC during the duration of your course

Writing meditation is a daily practice blending the art of writing with spiritual development. Similar to journaling, writing meditation practice provides a safe place for emotional release and of ‘letting go’ of thoughts. However, different than journaling, writing meditation is not meant to capture the day’s activities or to solve a specific problem. It’s a free writing method that offers a way to observe thoughts and emotion in a judgement-free zone. This class will be led by Julie Edge of Inside Edge Coaching and Lisa Ash Drackert of Westport Yoga KC.

Learn more here: www.insideedgecoach.com/writing-workshop

Investment: $95  Registration Opens July 18

e-mail me to get on the Wait List– I have one 15% off discount code for the first person on the Wait List!

3 things to tone this summer.

It’s the second-most wonderful time of the year: Sunshine! Sweating! Swamp-hair! Summer! It’s easy to get caught up in toning your ‘swim-suit-body’ but instead, think outside the box by tuning in to what your body, mind and spirit really need this summer. 

3 (different) things to tone this summer:

1. Your Hip Flexors. Strong hip flexors keep us 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, anyone?) 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 might sound silly (Thanks, Joey) but can be really effective in both strengthening and stretching your ilio-psoas muscle group.

Start in a simple lunge with the 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 without tucking your toes. Hold for 5 counts. Lower the knee back down and repeat the sequence twice more. Switch legs and repeat.

2. Your Plantar Fascia.

Two words: sandal season. Not only are we increasing mileage in our running shoes, but we’re also slipping on sandals for quick walks. Sandals host 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 Relaxation Response.

In summer, our energetic output increases exponentially– not only are the days longer, but we can’t bear to miss out on any social engagement or chance to travel. Full-on-summer-engagement can leave us feeling frazzled and in need of a good 2 day nap. Instead, use Crocodile Pose to re-boot your energy by calming down your neurological system and toning your Relaxation Response. Relaxation Response describes the effects of the “rest and digest” side of our physiological parasympathetic system. Ideally, we’d like to tap into our Relaxation Response seamlessly so we feel cool, calm, collected and refreshed most of the time. Meditation is a great way to do this; Crocodile Pose is the best, though!

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 when you get up– like you’ve just left a Hawaiian spa.

Let me know what you’ve toned. Have a happy, and health summer!

-lisa

the big question of svadhyaya.

I am the kind of person who knows EXACTLY what she wants to order before even suggesting we get ice cream. Which is why, when I am feeling indecisive or am around an indecisive person, it just about kills me. I know this about myself, I don’t even pretend to apologize for it because it’s authentic. But I also predict that I would (probably) live a more vibrant life if I could be more spontaneous (potentially) or accommodating to people who like to make spur-of-the-moment decisions (maybe). Either way, I know this about myself because I’ve done A LOT of self-study of my habits and tendencies (and also anxiety levels while waiting in line for my Ironman to decide which frozen custard to order.)

Svadhyaya is the intent to know yourself at your deepest, most authentic level through self-reflection and self-study. In yoga philosophy it is one of the five niyamas (personal practices) and it is important because our concepts of who we are determine how we see and interact with the world. My concept of who I am determines small decisions (like if I’m the kind of person who eats a cinnamon roll or a bag of broccoli) and determines big life-changing decisions (like if I’m the kind of person who stays at a job that is unnecessarily stressful and brings me closer to plucking my eyes out than it does to filling my bank account or the kind of person who is willing to quit and move on to a more fulfilling life.)

As life coach and author Martha Beck writes, “Our whole lives, all the actions we take are based on our concepts of who we are. Not knowing that one crucial fact undermines everything we feel, say or do.” According to Patanjali, author of the Yoga Sutras and this Martha lady, I sure as heck better figure out who I think I am.

Svadhyaya, or self-study, means that I should consciously and continuously seek insight, knowledge and wisdom that helps me understand myself better and that leads me toward emotional freedom, vibrant living and spiritual wholeness. I truly can’t think of a better life task.

One way to do this is through the study of sacred and inspiring texts. Read my current recommended list of svadhyaya titles here.

Another way to practice svadhyaya is through contemplation– asking the Big Questions. I wrote about a phenomenal practice to uncover the True Self through contemplation based on Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga back in 2015. You’ll definitely want to re-visit these posts; they get to the core of identity, ego and how to define/refine yourself on your own terms, not by labels that have been thrust on you by other people:

who am I? 

what is my driving desire?

how can I serve?

Currently, I’m meandering through a state-of-mind Martha Beck calls Dreaming and Scheming, so my self-study is honed on my need to be creative and my desire to thrive. My Big Svadhaya Question is this: “When do I feel fully and truly authentic, vibrant and alive?”

Of course, this is easier to answer when I already feel vibrant and alive. (Even imagining vibrant aliveness is oh-so-difficult when I’m down in the dumps… or a little tired… or hungry… or have the worst allergies… or am feeling disappointed about my yoga studio… or all the many things that make life so “lifey.”) So if you don’t have an answer today– I get it. I share this question with you because it’s helped me uncover who I am, define a concept of myself that I appreciate and continue an ardent svadhyaya self-study.

I’d love for you to consider it, sit with it for a few days, and then shoot me your answer. When do YOU feel fully and truly authentic, vibrant and alive?

One thing that helps me get in the mood for contemplating Big Questions is to take a few moments of silence beforehand.

Try one of my Free Guided Audio Meditations here: Guided Meditations

Or use this technique, which I first learned from Martha Beck:

Can’t wait to hear your answer–Happy Self-Study.

recommended yoga readings 2018: svadhyaya

At any one time, I’m concurrently reading a slew of books: half-finished books about yoga, spirituality, meditation, brain-based research, Harry Potter and random novels litter my house. (It’s immensely more reasonable now that I have a Kindle and can check out as many e-books as I want. I can hide an entire library in my backpack!)

This natural inclination toward curiosity, seeking and reading led me to hundreds of inspiring texts when I first started teaching yoga and studying philosophy. Twelve years later, my bookshelves are bursting with insight and wisdom.

In yoga philosophy, the study of great texts is called svadhyaya and it is one of the five niyamas (personal considerations). The other niyamas are: saucha (purity), santosha (contentment), tapas (exploration) and isvara-pranidana (devotion). Svadhyaya invites serious yoga students to continue their study of yoga off the mat on your own time— seeking out wisdom from sources other than your direct teacher.

This is practiced by studying texts from your personal faith tradition, from the yoga tradition or any other work that inspires and deepens wisdom. It also means “self-study,” as in, literally studying the self.

Svadhyaya is any activity that cultivates self-reflective consciousness. It means developing the reflexive skill of refining your perpetual thoughts and habits (vritts) to live more authentically and in line with the yamas and niyamas.

Because I love love love books, I always have a list of recommendations — these books are approachable reads that will inspire your continued study and a happier, healthier life.

You are Here by Thich Nhat Hanh

Miracles Now by Gabrielle Bernstein

Real Love by Sharon Salzberg

Small Victories by Anne Lamott

Finding Your True North Star by Martha Beck

The Path of the Yoga Sutras by Nicolai Bachman (this one is for sale at Westport Yoga KC — come in and grab one after your next yoga class!)

Also, check out my recommended svadhyaya reading list from 2014 (start with these books if you are interested in learning the roots of yoga.)

Happy reading, can’t wait to find out what you learned!

-lisa