Hold your breath. Your body is ultra-smart when it comes to detecting changes in the pH levels of your blood. Hold your breath, count to ten and then take a HUGE exhale. This triggers your chemoreceptors to tell your brain and your lungs that your body could benefit from more oxygen. Taking a huge exhale sends the message that it’s safe to de-stress and get back on track after a stressful trigger.
Laugh (really loudly). The 10th cranial nerve is the Vagus nerve; it innervates essential organs and communicates directly with the diaphragm, the major breathing muscle in the body. It’s no secret that deep breathing promotes stress reduction—but add some sound to that breath and your positive vibes double. The Vagus nerve also innervates the larynx, so laugh loudly (joyfully, not obnoxiously) and feel your stress melt away.
Meditate. Meditation reduces stress by teaching your mind to uni-task, instead of being distracted and stressed by multi-tasking a million things. Just ten minutes of daily meditation has positive effects on your immune system, your focus and your stress-level.
Ready to learn more? Join Lisa in her next 3 week course:
An organizer and lesson-planner at heart (and by degree) I try to be 110% prepared for each class I teach. My notes are illegible to anyone else– lots of arrows and stick figures and Sanskrit abbreviations– the usual. But lately, well.. my lesson planning book has been 110% BLANK.
It’s not like I haven’t been thinking about yoga all the time: I completely immersed myself for 5 days by studying with my teacher in Philadelphia and you know, that whole owning a yoga studio thing. But somehow last week, I found myself showing up at Westport Yoga KC with a blank lesson book. <awkwardly-embarrassed-grimace>
Here’s what you missed:
Me: Uhhhmmm… lis? Are you kidding me? What the heck are you teaching today? You don’t have a flow sequence and detailed lesson plan?!? What have you been doing all day?
Me: Yeah, I know… don’t rub it in. I’ve been working all day.
Me: Great… but still?!? What are you going to teach today?
Me: Calm down, lady. I know Yoga. I know breath. I know meditation. I know how to connect with my Divine Light. That’s what I’m going to teach.
Because what I did I need to remember? YOGA is in the mind. It’s not in the super cool arm balances and super-amazingly-detailed sequence leading to a brilliant peak pose break through. Yoga doesn’t care how well I am prepared to teach some poses in a certain order. The poses are just some ways to PRACTICE my yoga, so that when I show up for life, sometimes unprepared, I still respond with compassion toward myself and toward others.
I’ve found repeatedly, that the most important yoga pose, of all time, is just sitting and getting prepared to approach all the chaos within myself with a sense of grace and compassion. The most important yoga pose is sitting still long enough to be present, to feel yoga.
It’s freaking difficult. It requires so much vulnerability. It requires so much forgiveness. It requires so much tenacity and so much courage. But, I promise you: it’s so worth it. Because you’ll learn to love the choas within and the choas without.
As Swami Rama reminds us:
Yoga teaches you what no one else can, how to love yourself.
If sitting still (quietly) is torture for you, try some of my Guided Audio Meditations (which I even listen to when my mind is going nuts!)
If I had it my way, it would be sunny and 72 degrees every day of year. (Except during October, when it should be 55 and cloudy for Harry Potter watching parties. Oh, and also, it should snow on Christmas. Oh, and temps should hover between 86 and 88 with partly cloudy skies June through July for optimal relax-by-the-pool time.) But we have four full seasons in good ol’ KCMO (how we love you, 64112) including winter.
And I’m one of those poor souls who is extremely, uncannily affected by dreary. I am a plant: the moment the sun shines I fling open my arms with wild abandon and the moment the gloomy weather arrives I shrivel into a grumpy lady and try to shrink into pseudo-hibernation. Every winter I vow: this winter will be different. I will not let Seasonal Affective Disorder disorder my day! I will be happy, gosh darnit.
But the sun still hides and I still snap at my husband and shrink into the couch and say things like: “I just can’t be happy…it’s winter!” At those pivotal moments when all could be lost, or when I could manifest cheery by bolstering neurotransmitters, I sigh (loudly, ardently) and try to cheer myself up with these 5 ways to beat the winter blues.
Drink lemon and raw honey with hot water. Seriously, it works. I add a splash of apple cider vinegar to mine as well. The lemon helps balance your blood alkaline levels and stimulate your senses. Drinking this throughout the day may also help you decrease your stimulant (coffee and caffeinated tea) intake, while still feeling cozy with a mug of hot drink.
Dance to Justin Timberlake Music Videos. This just in: music videos are specifically made to get you up, moving, and smiling. Research also shows that dancing eases SAD symptoms, stress and anxiety. I’m a fan of VEVO, but the YouTube works, too.
Adopt a new favorite sugar-free baked goodie. In the winter time, all I want is to bake comfort foods. But sugar reeks havoc on your immune system, your intestines where feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine are produced, and your mood. My favorite sugar-free baked goodie is a flax-pumpkin-muffin in a mug. It takes about 90 seconds to make and is super cozy. (Recipe below.)
Lend a loan on Kiva. Kiva is an international non-profit that bridges the gap between lender, loan and entrepreneur. On it, you become a lender and help a borrower grow a business, go to school, access clean energy or realize their potential. Loans are usually $25 and have a 97% return rate. Sharing and practicing gratitude for what you have through generosity is an instant mood-lifter. I usually have two loans active at any given time, supporting women entrepreneurs and students make their dreams a reality.
Meditate on light and love. Sometimes our mind can change our mind. A few moments of blissful guided meditation focused on our own Light and Love absolutely beats the winter blues. Try my Guided Meditation called “Own Your Light.” (Real talk: I even listen to this myself!)
I hope these little tips help you as much as they help me. Let me know which you try (or try all 5 in one day).
Happy Shining, even in the gloom.
Flax-pumpkin-muffin in a mug Recipe.
In a microwavable mug combine:
1/4 cup flax meal
1 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp canned pumpkin
1 tsp baking soda
1- 2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
Optional honey if you need something super sweet
Stir ingredients well. Then microwave for 50 seconds. Allow the mug cool once removed from microwave. Eat with a tiny spoon so it lasts longer. So easy and nutritious!
What an incredible year 2016 was. Looking back, I’m proud to say that I fulfilled my Big Dreams set last January: to teach, to travel and to love.
In the teaching realm, I offered six very successful and special workshops on yoga philosophy, meditation, pranayama and yoga alignment. Continued thirst for this knowledge means I’ve got Spring 2017 Workshops already on the books. Check out my 2017 Workshop Schedule here. I’d be honored to be your guide as you deepen your understanding of how yoga can offer healing for you and your community.
I also expanded my offerings on my website to include Guided Meditations. Feedback has been profound. Listeners say they’ve used these free audio tracks to find a moment of peace during their lunch break, focus before a big meeting, and relaxation at the end of the day. One listener even shared that she and her daughter listen to them together! Adorable. If you haven’t made a habit of listening to a 5 minute meditation as part of your daily routine, consider adding it to your New Year’s Goals. A little relaxation does a heart good. Find free Guided Meditations here. (Also, did I mention: they are FREE?)
My blog has expanded its reach exponentially, bringing more hope, heath, and happiness to your inbox. I’d love to reach others with these teachings; please consider sharing with friends and family. In addition, I’m now freelance writing for Maya Yoga KC and EA Bridal Magazine. I’m humbled by these opportunities to share my voice and teach outside of the studio walls.
In the traveling realm, I spent a week in Sedona, Arizona studying with Yoga Medicine Founder Tiffany Cruikshank and came home with a vast storehouse of yoga therapeutics for healing hips and spine which I am eager to share with you in my upcoming 2017 workshop Yoga for Pain Relief. I spent July exploring the Great Northwest with my Ironman during my sabbatical and nabbed spectacular yoga photos to add to my yoga-asana gallery. I even visited three brand-new states on my honeymoon (yes, in yoga pants) to revel in the remarkable transformation of colors in the White Mountains.
In the loving realm, I spent incalculable hours laughing over lunches with girlfriends and had a blast with my bridal party at all my pre-wedding festivities that littered the calendar. I moved into a new house (remember this post?) and created a nurturing environment for my little family. I married the person I love most in the world, officially acquiring a new family and even a new last name. You’ll want to look at our gorgeous wedding photos on Jana Marie Photography’s blog. Her photos truly captured what a truly magical day it was. So yea, 2016 has been incredible.
Through working with countless private clients and students, I’ve learned that an integral part of yoga teaching is missing from most classes we attend. It’s the real stuff: the teachings from the Yoga Sutras about how to relieve suffering in body and in mind. So, not more #MeditationThoughtMondays. Together, we are moving on and moving deeper. I’ll still be totally authentic and share with you details about my yoga journey; I’ll still share adorable photos of Russell Clive Drackert; I’ll still ask you to meditate daily. But basically, I want to focus on bringing all the pieces of yoga together for you: why we do the poses, what’s the philosophy wisdom in this tradition, and how uniting body+ mind+ spirit helps you live your life more fully.
(Russell Clive will still make periodic appearances on the blog, because he’s the cutest Yoga Dog in the world and he REALLY wants you to meditate and live a full +healthy life.)
So, readers, I’ll catch you in 2017 with all new teaching and inspiration; but for now, here’s my 5 favorite posts from 2016:
Did you know it takes 90 seconds for you to process the emotional onslaught of a strong emotion? Strong emotions are, well, really overwhelming, and probably unavoidable. These are the emotions that hit you like a giant tsunami and leave wreckage in their wake.
These uncomfortable emotions manifest from a surge of hormones let loose by the limbic system that turn the sympathetic nervous system on high. This ancient part of our brain is responsible for emotions, making memories and reacting to instinct.
Particularly strong emotions feel like they will last FOREVER– anger, fear, anxiety, frustration– they don’t just feel like a passing storm, they feel like they may drown you.
But guess what? Your body deals with the physical hormonal imbalance of the strong emotion, washing it away into residual memory in 90 seconds.
This gives a whole new power to the act of sitting, breathing through our emotions.
If I can manage to stay with my breath for 90 seconds, then the emotion will subside. Sure, just like a stormy sea, another wave may roll up on me in a few minutes. But that wave will resolve itself too, in a mere 90 seconds.
Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön, author of When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice For Difficult writes this:
“The problem is that we have so little tolerance for uncomfortable feelings. You try everything to escape them, but if, somehow, you could stay present and touch the rawness of the experience, then you can learn something. Connect with the physical sensation in your body. It always feels really bad; it’s usually a tightening in the throat or the heart or the solar plexus. Stay with that and say to yourself, ‘Millions of people all over the world have this kind of discomfort, fear – you don’t even have to call it anything – this feeling of not wanting things to be this way. This is my link with humanity.’ Just connect with the idea that this moment is a shared experience all over the world.”
“Just connect with the idea that this moment is a shared experience all over the world.” -P.C.
This time around I’ve got something special for you: your very own Guided Meditation Audio Track. Anytime you experience a particularly strong and uncomfortable emotion (I definitely had a few of these times while I was planning for my wedding this year!) remember: you only have to manage to swim for 90 seconds. Sit, breathe, imagine yourself floating in the center of the calm ocean. You can swim your way out.
1. Dive in: Watch your thoughts come and go. Do not control or manipulate. Do not change or rush. Notice that the thoughts are like waves. They arise out of the ocean of consciousness and then dissolve right back to where they came from. They were never separate.
2.Get Wet: If there is one wave that is particularly strong, big, or threatening, do not turn your back on it. Allow the wave to wash over you. Even if the wave crashes on you, as if the emotion is particularly strong, stay with it. Do not swim away. Let the wave crash and the water droplets re-join the ocean.
3. Float: Whenever new thoughts arise, like waves raised by the wind, watch them dissolve back into the ocean. Allow yourself to float in the center of your experience. Eventually, your thoughts will be like a calm ocean.
When you feel ready to integrate back into your daily life, do so slowly and mindfully. Take a few minutes to vacation from worrying and then float through your day.
A Cicada Symphony is my favorite summer concert. The cicadas (although not the most beautiful insect ever invented) are companions on my evening walks and their song is the soundtrack to summer. With their chaos in the background, my mind is quiet and free to attend to the embrace of the muggy summer air, the sharpness of the cut grass, and the fading evening light. The white noise helps me appreciate singular elements of the summer evening that would be otherwise unnoticed. It helps me appreciate what is already right in front of me.
You’ll remember from this Meditation Thought Monday article that we are exploring the concept of Silence this summer. Silence can do the same thing as the Cicada Symphony: it can attract meaning to the mundane. When you have a comfortable relationship with silence, it becomes a backdrop that allows your mind/spirit to allocate meaning to ‘the little things’ that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. Silence helps you appreciate what is already right in front of you.
In his book Silent Compassion, author and Franciscan Monk Richard Rohr points out that, “If something is not surrounded by the vastness of silence, it is hard to appreciate it is something singular and beautiful. If it is all mixed in with everything else, then its singularity, as a unique and beautiful object, does not stand out.”
In this way, silence attracts meaning. To add more meaning to the present moment, and all the little things that are already right in front of you:
Try this Meditation exercise:
Find a stone. It does not need to be especially remarkable. In fact, it may be more useful if it is ordinary.
Find a piece of blank paper. Draw a line through the middle it. The line can be vertical or horizontal.
Place the stone right in the middle of the line. Place it right in front of you. Sit with it for 5 minutes.
Notice how the stone attracts greater and greater meaning the more time you spend with it.
Notice how the stone anchors you in the present moment. If the line represents time: then the timeline extends infinitely into the past and into the future. The silence around the stone, however, brings meaning and singular attention to the individuality of the stone and of the moment.
Inspiration from Richard Rohr:
“Silence is … a portal to constantly deeper connection with whatever is in front of you. That which is in front of you does not need to be big or important. It can be a stone. It can be a grasshopper. Anything can convert you once you surround it with the reverent silence that gives it significance, identity, singularity, importance or value.”
Practice this Meditation Technique every day this week. Notice how your relationship with the stone changes and notice how your relationship with silence changes.
New to Meditation? You’ll enjoy these Meditation Challenges, too:
I’ve had some water in my basement this year. And by ‘some’ I mean a puddle big enough to go swimming in my basement. I tried not to complain because the rain also watered my garden and lowered my water bill. Two thumbs up for these unexpected perks… but not fun to be in a musty basement using a broom to sweep water toward the (already full) drain. And not fun to empty the de-humidifier every twenty minutes.
The other day as I was trudging through my sloppy backyard to get to my basement and empty the dehumidifier, I had this thought: “Man, I’m so efficient!” My mind did the endless ‘task-ticking’ it does when I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed with my to-do list. I mentally made a list of all the chores I’d just rushed through that morning to boost my confidence in my ability to maintain a (not flooded) household and work-too-much and, and, and, and. But really, the mental list making made me feel slightly more anxious and overwhelmed. I had to stop and think for a minute: What words did I actually want to use to describe myself?
The law of subconscious means that what we think—we will become.
So, if we make a list of all our greatest attributes and constantly describe ourselves as such, we will eventually manifest these attributes in our life.
Yes, I’m efficient. But, when I look back at my life in 87 years (yoga makes you young and Beet Smoothies make you healthy, so I’m planning on living to 116 years old, thank you very much) how do I want to describe myself and my life?
This is a really important question. What you think, you become. Turns out, I don’t think I want to be described as ‘efficient.’ That’s a word used to describe a process– a machine. My world is highly mechanized, that’s true. I spend many hours with my fingers on my keyboard and my mind hooked to the internet. But I wish for a world that is more human and less mechanical. I wish to cultivate attributes that are more empathetic and relational. So, I’m going to start thinking about what I wish to become.
I wish to describe myself as:
Flexible and Fun (I think I’m one of these)
Caring and Courageous (again, I think I’m only one of these)
I’m challenging myself to imagine these attributes in my life and start describing myself with these words. I’m challenging myself to imagine cultivating flexibility and courage in my own life.
I’m challenging YOU, my dear reader, to answer this question: “When I look back at my life in 87 years, how do I want to describe myself?” Write 4 attributes you WANT to be able to use to describe yourself, even if you ‘think’ they don’t apply to you right now. And then—apply them.
Dare to think of what you can become. Use these words in your morning meditation, your morning mantra, or just throughout the day when you are confronted with a stressful situation. After a month, reflect on how you have changed. If you think it – then you can become it.
When it’s 95 degrees outside and you are a tourist in a country that doesn’t believe in Air Conditioning, the only logical course of action is to spend your Friday night inside an art museum. To protect the artwork on display, the museum keeps constant cool temperature and low light. To protect the beauty of the artwork on display, the visitors keep tones muted and tend toward silence. Despite brash colors and daring impressionist strokes which scream of emotion and sensation in Van Gough’s masterpieces, the galleries were primarily silent. It reminded me that it is human nature to approach that which we find beautiful with silence.
Richard Rohr, author of Silent Compassion, points out that, “If something is not surrounded by the vastness of silence and space, it is hard to appreciate it is something singular and beautiful. If it is all mixed in with everything else, then its singularity, as a unique and beautiful object, does not stand out.”
Silence is elusive. Right now, even as I write this in the quietude of my backyard sanctuary, the silence of the early morning is vibrant with sound. Some of these sounds make me smile (remember this post?) and some of these sounds are fairly annoying. (My backyard neighbor is constantly hammering. After a year of this, I can’t imagine he has a single board left to hammer, and yet, here he is at eight in the morning hammering away…I have a few questions about this.) But beyond the sounds, silence is a presence. Silence can be its own being.
Silence can be something to meet and create a relationship with. Even if you don’t have a comfortable relationship with silence, as I naturally do, I think we all do this naturally when we encounter something beautiful.
Your challenge this week is to bring something beautiful into your meditation space. I brought a small vase of three Missouri Primrose blossoms to my meditation class yesterday and challenged my students to quiet their minds simply by gazing at the simple beauty of the flowers. No counting, no repeated mantras, no English, no Sanskrit, no striving—just meeting silence. In this way, we became captured by silence. I want you to spend some time thinking about this: how can I become captured by silence? How can I find something beautiful in silence?
Again from Richard Rohr:
“Silence precedes, undergirds and grounds everything…unless we learn how to live there, go there, abide in this different phenomenon, the rest of things—words, events, relationships, identities—all become superficial. They lose meaning.” – Richard Rohr
Silence, the primordial beginning and ending, bookends our most meaningful experience: life itself.
This week, let yourself be captured by silence, even if it is just for one minute.