why are you drawn to yoga?

still small voice, drawn to yoga

My friend Katie (remember her inspirational Earth Day Meditation?) recently reached out to me and asked me: ‘Why are young people drawn to yoga?’  Seemingly easy to answer, right?

She quickly followed with this question: ‘What is it about yoga that quenches their yearning for spiritual practice outside of the institutional religious practices?‘  Slightly less innocuous, but actually, still easy to answer: it’s the same response.

In writing my response to Katie to help her plan conversations at a spiritual retreat, I uncovered a profound clarity that reinvigorated my passion for what I teach. Maybe a one-hour yoga class seems like no big deal (remember that post! ha!) but, you know… it is a big deal.  Students are drawn to their yoga practice because they are looking for a spiritual practice that asks instead of demanding, that brings relief instead of inciting anxiety, and that encourages seeking instead of blind faith.

I thought you may be interested in my answers. It’s not a sermon, you can click away and leave any time you want to; but I hope you read through it all and then ask yourself the same question: why are you drawn to practice yoga?

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“The yearning that attracts students into the yoga practice room is to experience relief.  

In a world increasingly instantaneous, students are accustomed to immediate feedback, results, and reactions. In a world increasingly chaotic, students are continuously assaulted with a barrage of new sights, images, sounds, and demands for their attention. Yoga asks; it does not demand.  Yoga asks the question, “What if all of this went quiet?  What listening would remain?”  The feedback is immediate; the experience of moving into Divine Silence and listening to the innate Wisdom of the Soul offers powerful and immediate relief.  

Yoga teaches that suffering results from the illusory thought that we are alienated from the Divine.  As a yoga and meditation teacher, I see students approach yoga who are yearning to leave behind a fragmented, stressed-out, anxious existence and remember their wholeness. They don’t want someone else to Save them.  They want to be empowered to approach their suffering with peace of mind, with a healthy body, and with an emboldened Spirit. They want to remember what it feels like to be at Peace.  

As a minister, yoga appeals to me because it is spans time, history and faith tradition.  Every single person is welcome and invited; every person can be taught to practice yoga.  My students are 9 months old and 79 years old.  My students are non-verbal autistic children and school principals with Multiple Sclerosis.  My students are single gay men and married professionals mothering 4 children.  My students are healing wounds from years of abuse and my students are offering care as hospice nurses.  My students trust yoga because it does not ask them to suspend belief in the world they live in, it asks them to find Divine in the world they navigate.

As a mystic, yoga appeals to me because I want to be as close to God as possible. Meditation is a practice that anyone can learn and anyone can hone. Meditation offers us what nothing else can: it offers us insight into the inner workings of our mind and our spirit and asks us to be patient with ourselves as we learn to love ourselves again.  Meditation is what Rumi talked about when he said, “I have been a seeker and still am. But I stopped asking the books and the stars. I started listening to the teaching of my Soul.”

As an intellectual, yoga appeals to me because it is a science.  The path of yoga, or ‘union’ is dependent on personal experimentation and experience.  If a practice works for you, then stick with it.  If a practice doesn’t speak to you, try it a different way.  This approach makes sense to rational minds and iPhone users who have the world’s knowledge at their fingertips. Yoga philosophy is a framework for whole and healthy living that is inspired by thousands of years of collective wisdom.  This framework is simple and straightforward: practice non-harming of all sentient beings, meditate on the Divine, hold every single breath and every single movement as sacred, and you will experience profound relief, peace, and wholeness.  

If you ask my definition of yoga, it will not be textbook.  It will be the answer of the minister, mystic, intellectual, and seeker.  I will say: “Yoga is listening to the small sacred space between my inhale and my exhale where the Divine resides and learning to fill that space with my movement until only the Divine Remains.”  You, of course, will have your own answer.  And that’s what most of us are looking for: a space to ask our own questions and find our own answers.  

still small voice, drawn to yoga

Ask yourself the question: ‘why am I drawn to the practice of yoga?’ and see what answers show up.  Please share with me, I may pass them on to my friend, Katie. :)

Happy Answering,

-lisa

 

 

stress less. #MeditationThoughtMondays

stress less

That’s great advice… but, um, how can you possibly “stress less” when life is hectic? My meditation students never fail to ask, “When am I supposed to give time to sitting around and meditating during the day?”

You might not have twenty extra minutes in a day to experience the stress relieving benefits of meditation.  But, when time is precious, do you have extra minutes in a day to GIVE To Stress? Stress steals moments.  Stress steals your ability to be effective, efficient, and compassionate.  Because your body is most concerned with survival, it doesn’t have time to be concerned with anything else, even staying healthy.  You can read more about stress and your immune response here.

Stress is a normal physiological response to, well, just about everything in your current environment.  Your body does not discriminate between physical stress and emotional stress: it reacts to both by releasing the same hormones and vamping up your sympathetic nervous system to all stimuli– real, imagined, positive, or negative.

During April, National Stress Awareness Month (yes, one more thing for you to stress over forgetting!), my Introduction to Meditation Workshops at Westport Yoga have been packed.  The best part?  In between our afternoon Sunday sessions my students have shared with me inspiring stories about how a one-minute morning meditation has reduced their daily stress levels.  Kara told me how she didn’t even get upset when her car was rear ended at a red stop light because she was practicing Mindful Breathing.  (I assigned the homework called “Red Light Breathing” to encourage students to stay mindful even during a stressful commute!) That’s extreme; I’d still get upset if my unsuspecting Subaru was hit by some knucklehead who was driving too fast.  But Kara’s Red Light Breathing must be super powerful.

Even one minute of mindful breathing can reduce stress and create relaxation in the body.   Whether you have one minute, or sixteen years, here are 9 tips you can utilize to reduce your stress level and lead a happier life.  (Number 9 is my favorite!)

The following was featured in Outside Magazine’s October 2014 Issue.  You can read the full article here.  It was written by Eric Beresini

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If you have: “10 Seconds: Laugh

Even just anticipating a chuckle is enough to relieve stress and elevate hormones that combat depression and boost immunity.

If you have: 5 Minutes: 
Chew Gum

Chewing two sticks a day for two weeks can fight off anxiety and fatigue and improve mood.

If you have: 15 Minutes: 
Meditate

Research has shown that a quarter of an hour of guided meditation performed in the office can kick psychological and physiological markers of stress. You don’t need someone in the flesh to help lead your thoughts; UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center offers free weekly meditation podcasts to download or stream.

If you have: 30 Minutes: 
Go for a Run

Five days a week at a moderate pace of around ten minutes per mile can boost your mood, concentration, and sleep quality—not to mention your cardiovascular health and muscle tone.

If you have: 45 Minutes: 
Take a Nap

A 45-to-60-minute daytime snooze boosts your cardiovascular system, bringing spiked blood pressure back down to normal.

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yoga and movement help reduce stress.  check out Lisa’s yoga teaching schedule here.

 

If you have: 90 Minutes: Stretch It Out

Studies have shown that yoga relieves tension in everyone from medical students to flood survivors. Ninety minutes twice a week erases anxiety and replaces it with calm, though sessions half that long can also work. (Check out Lisa’s full yoga teaching schedule here.)

If you have: 1 Day: Walk in the Woods

Shinrin-yoku is a Japanese term meaning “walking or staying in forests to promote health.” Just a day in the wild, researchers have found, is enough to reduce stress, even in chronic sufferers.

 If you have: 1 Year: Move to Switzerland

The country topped the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Better Life Index for life satisfaction. A strong sense of community, high life expectancy, and low unemployment make the Swiss life sweet. That and your in-laws probably don’t live there.

If you have:16 Years: 
Get a Dog

A pup will lower your blood pressure and generally improve your psychological well-being. And bringing it to the office can increase job satisfaction.”  – Eric Beresini  You can read the full article here

Russell Ash being coy

Every time you come home, your dog will welcome you with open arms, no matter how stressed you are.  You should get one.  

Which of these tips can you utilize tomorrow?  Which one is your favorite?

(I’m sure you have time to stress less.  I can’t imagine you have time to stress more.)

Happy Living,

-lisa

stress less

Tiny Peruvian Pilgrimage, part three: walking slowly.

Tiny Peruvian Pilgrimage, part three: walking slowly.

I’m a really slow walker.  I’m a painfully slow walker, according to my sister.  I love to dawdle, and gawk, and sigh, and look, and hum, and sing, and pray, and meander.  And maybe take a few steps forward.  Slowly.  Guess where this was not super welcome/ expected/ appreciated… on a four day trek up the Salkantay Mountain pass in the Cusco region of Peru.  Apparently, when you have more than 30 miles and 12,000+ feet of elevation gain/descent to cover in a few short days to get to Machu Picchu, you walk at a quick clip.  Even if you have short legs and are still sick to your stomach from some apricots bought in a local market the week prior.  No time for meandering.  Only to time for putting one foot in front of the other.  Again.  And Again.  And Again. 

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walking into the cloudy abyss…

The four day trek (sleeping in tents along the way!  yay!) through the Salkantay Mountain Pass in Peru was the highlight of our Peruvian adventure (see this post to figure out why I was in Peru).

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our camping sites along the trek in Peru were insanely beautiful

The trek was challenging.  My adventurous spirit was squelched by altitude sickness.  But it was remarkable.  Why?  I learned, for the first time, how to truly offer every step I take as a walking meditation.

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one step at a time, for many days and many miles

We left our backpackers hostel in Cusco at 3:45 am on a Peruvian winter morning and by lunchtime we were deep into the remote trails of the Andean cloud forest with our native guide Edson and a group of seven fellow hikers.  We did not choose the traditional-tourist ‘Incan Trail’ hike to Machu Picchu.  We yearned for a more secluded, intimate experience.  The Salkantay Trek follows a remote footpath and pilgrimage route for native Peruvians who paused to worship the glacier capped ‘Savage Mountain’ on their way to Machu Picchu.  For hundreds of years, Quechua, Incan, and other tribal Peruvians have put one foot in front of the other on this same trail.  They probably walked much faster than I did.

 

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the landscape was rugged and gorgeous

In Andean cosmology, mountains are Gods.  Their peaks are the highest point of contact with the Milky Way, which is the most sacred living space of Spirit.  Nevado Salkantay summits at 20,574 feet above sea level and the Southern Cross illuminates its highest peak at the height of the rainy season.  Rightly so, Incans believed this wild, uncivilized, unconquerable mountain governed the fertility of the region.  Had I known that the mountain pass I would stumble up (thank goodness my Ironman carried our water in his backpack) was christened ‘unconquerable,’ I would have prepared for the physical demands of the hike more seriously.  (As it was, I mostly prepared by walking our dog Russell and up and down our hilly block a few times.  Better luck next time.) But I did it.

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In Andean cosmology, mountains are Gods. Their peaks are the highest point of contact with the Milky Way, which is the most sacred living space of Spirit.

 

The weather was pristine.  The day before we arrived at the pass, trekkers were caught in a snowstorm; Salkantay hid behind dark cloud cover.  I’ve read narratives from Peru-lovers who’ve hiked Salkantay three times (masochists) and never been granted a clear view of its jagged peak.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky when we turned the corner of the trail and landed ourselves in the shadow of the most sacred mountain in the region.  We were blessed.

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There was Navado Salkantay or ‘Savage Mountain’, just over the next pass.

Just a few miles earlier on the trail, our group paused to perform a native Andean ceremony.  It was the most remarkable moment of the entire journey.  It was a welcome respite, a much needed break.  After several mornings of pre-dawn wake-up calls, wearing mittens to breakfast, and eating pancakes by candlelight in the cook tent, I was a little tired.  (Actually, the wake-up calls were one of the best parts of our fully-guided trek.  At 5:00 am, we’d hear a gentle knock on the outside of our tent and a sing-song “Buenas Diaaaas” signaling that steaming mugs of coca tea would magically appear right outside our zippered door.  That’s room service.)

Still, after two grueling days of hiking at altitude (much, much faster than I would have liked, thank you very much.  It’s not that walking is difficult.  It’s that walking FAST is shockingly unnecessary), I was tired.  I was ready to give up.  I was counting steps.  I was making myself deals and setting impossibly low standards:  just make it to that next rock, just make it through the next five minutes, just make it to the next micro-break, just make it through the end of the next story this chatty Santa Cruz hiker is telling.  I was exhausted.

Finally, we stopped.  I sat down.  I sat my meditating-loving butt on a mossy boulder and refused to get back up.  My Ironman prodded me to get stand up and bundle up.  My day pack transformed into weightlessness as I layered on extra vests, gloves, hats and adorable Peruvian knitted legwarmers, struggling to keep my body temperature comfortable.  (Why I actually thought this trip would be comfortable is still baffling.)  The view was stunning.  I decided I was staying right there.  I didn’t know where ‘right there’ was.  In fact, turns out it was six hours away from camp.  I still had an entire day ahead of striding up hill and tottering downhill:  putting one foot in front of the other.

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Our guide Edson gathered our group together to teach us an ancient Andean tradition.  Even though I didn’t want to take one more step, I got up and hobbled over to the group, eager to participate.  Edson spread a small stash of coca leaves in a wind-protected crevice of a nearby boulder.  He showed us how to choose the best leaves; two leaves in the right hand and three leaves in the left hand.  He explained that we were approaching the mountain pass and it was now the time to offer our journey as a sacred pilgrimage. 

 

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it was now the time to offer our journey as a sacred pilgrimage.

It was a light bulb moment.  My job is to teach people that movement is prayer.  And here I was: treating this hike as arduous– something to be conquered and endured.  The Mountain was not be conquered, it was to be revered. The trek was not to be endured, it was to be offered.  I held the coca leaves gingerly in my mittened hands, and remembered this poem:

 “I appear in the wind, in soil, in stardust, in the sun,

I appear in mountains and desert rain

am the star

and I am the stone.”   

(Find it here: ‘Be Love Clothing’ )

These words eloquently remind humans that the Spirit of creative forces is manifested in every phenomenon, not limited by our cognition and rational mind.

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It was a light bulb moment.  I learned that experiencing the living pulse of nature, in true reverence, is learning to hear in my own racing heartbeat the rhythm of the living earth.  It means listening to the wind.  Listening to the moving water.  Listening to the hummingbirds.  Listening to the stories written by hundreds of pilgrims’ feet scribed in the mud of this footpath.

My mindset changed completely.  Moving forward was no longer a battle of will.  Walking forward was now an act of deep reverence.  Every step was an offering.  I was honoring Creation in every step.  For the next six hours, I barely spoke a word.  I was immersed in continuous meditative prayer, using this mantra with every step:

“I offer you the breath in my lungs.  I offer you the sound in my heart.  I offer you the sweetness of my Spirit… Let me be silent.  Let me be still.  So that kindness and grace may hover over me.”  (Adapted from Carolyn Myss and Andrew Harvey.   You may need this book.)

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With this mantra, I was not struggling.  Now I was on a pilgrimage, sharing this experience with the history of the Mountain and the Spirit of nature.  I found renewed energy.  I actually wanted to walk forward, to move, to breathe, to offer.  I wanted the trek to never end.  (Until I saw our campsite off in the distance.  Then I was super excited to curl up in my tent and nap before dinner.)

It was the most powerful experience, to practice true walking meditation.  I hope that every day I wake up for the rest of my life, I will remember to use this mantra:

 “I offer you the breath in my lungs. 

I offer you the sound in my heart.  I offer you the sweetness of my Spirit… Let me be silent.  Let me be still. 

So that kindness and grace may hover over me.”

What can you offer today?  Think about and let me know.  Thanks for listening.  Stay tuned for the next part of our journey: the Sacred City of Macchu Picchu!

-lisa

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We made it. Two thumbs up.

yoga props: using a foam roller to reduce soreness.

I mean, my back is sore.  Really sore.  I’ve probably been doing one-too-many backbends in my own practice and demo-ing one-too-many backbends in my private instruction sessions.  (They are so fun!  And so good for us!)… but ohmyword my back is sore.  I groaned as I stood up from my mat after class yesterday and my student Matt lovingly reminded me: “Wait, isn’t yoga supposed to make you feel less sore?  You do so much stretching!”  Well yeah: but if you practice to your edge, and are dedicated to opening up your tight spots, but you don’t recover well, then yes, you might be sore.

Throughout the summer, I’ll be featuring several recovery techniques for after your yoga practice.  These will help keep you feeling good, (enjoying that yoga bliss) and prepare your body to come back to the mat again the next day.  After all: this is yoga Practice.  Which means we practice every day, especially on the days we don’t feel like it!

recover (2)

 

My first tip: Get a Foam Roller.  

My Ironman Guy uses his all the time, and I used to be skeptical.  Mostly because I didn’t want to spend the time on it… but seriously?  10 measly minutes and your muscles release?  (No guitar string hammys here.)  Worth it.

Sara Fruman writes a great article on Gaiam Life featuring 12 ways to use a foam roller to overcome yoga soreness.

Here’s 1 through 4.  The rest of her tips can be found here.

“Here are 12 areas of the body and ways that you can use your foam roller to relieve muscle tension, correct muscle imbalances, increase range of motion and prevent injuries. The best part is that just 10 minutes a day can be sufficient to feel a big change.
1. Thighs (front) For sweet quadriceps release, get into Upward-Facing Dog and position the foam roller under your thighs with your toes on the floor. Press your hands into the floor and shift your body forward and backward, letting the foam roller massage your quads.
2. Thighs and Calves (back)  If you’ve been working your hamstrings or calves lately, you’ll need this release. Position the roller under the back of your thighs or calves, then straighten your leg, keeping your heel off the floor. Press your hands into the floor and slightly raise your buttocks (Reverse Plank). Shift your body forward and backward, letting the foam roller massage your thighs or calves.
3. Thigh (side) Need to release tension in your IT Band? Position the foam roller under the outside of one of your thighs, straighten your leg and point your toes. Press your hands into the floor and shift your body forward and backward while rolling the roller along the side of your upper leg. Feel the sweet release, then switch sides!
4. Upper Back Place the foam roller under your upper back, bend your legs and straighten your arms. Press your feet and hands into the ground and lift your buttocks off the floor, coming up into Bridge Pose. Shift your body forward and backward while the roller massages your upper back.

Convinced?  Don’t have one?  Here’s the one that I bought.  It’s green! :)

 

Let me know how you like these exercises,

-lisa

best advice for wrist pain.

I would agree with blogger and yoga teacher Kristen Warren that wrist pain is the most common complaint for new-to-yoga students.  My first advice is always: stretch your shoulders!  Most wrist pain is due to tight shoulders… funny enough.  This article gives detailed explanations and advice regarding the dreaded wrist pain experienced in yoga asana sessions.  I’m reblogging from Kristen’s site:

How to avoid Wrist Pain, or deal with it if you’ve got it!

Wrist Range of Motion (ROM):

To start, it is very important to understand the ways in which a person’s wrist can move. To visualize, place your right arm in front of you with your palm facing away from you and move your wrist as I describe the ways to move it.

Bend right hand towards the inside of your forearm or radial bone (hand is moving left) – ABDUCTION

Bend right hand towards the outside of your forearm or ulna bone (hand is moving right) – ADDUCTION

Bend your hand down towards the floor so fingers point down – FLEXION

Bend your hand up towards the ceiling so your fingers point up – EXTENSION

Rotate your wrist so the thumb is midline to the body – PRONATION

Rotate your wrist so the thumb is away from the body – SUPINATION

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Now visualize the various poses offered in a typical yoga class: All 4’s, Crocodile, Cobra, Upward Facing Dog, Downward Facing Dog, Crow…just to name a few. Think about what the wrist is doing. With these poses, the wrist is often in a 90˚ “EXTENSION” and is this not when the complaints arise?

In yoga, many times wrist EXTENSION is pretty intense and new people aren’t used to this intensity so it hurts. Think about it, in general, how often do any of us have our wrists in full extension? Umm, not too often. So as long as person doesn’t have a wrist injury, past surgery, or even Carpal Tunnel Syndrome there are a lot of options out there to help alleviate the intensity and also to strengthen the wrist so you’ll be able to do those poses more comfortably.

Suggestions:

Props: Wedges, folded towels, or hands placed on edge of a folded mat, will lessen the angle of extension which can alleviate the intensity of the wrist’s pain. There are also “Wrist Assured Gloves” (WAG) which provide support like a brace. And recently these yoga eggs which are a hybrid between a ball and a block also lessen the angle. I’ve seen these eggs advertised in Yoga Journal, and YogaFit offers trainings which incorporate them. Other props change up the hand position. These include small (non-rounded) hand weights or Gripitz or even just creating fists vs. having the wrist in extension is another option. (I’ve found a great selection of these types of props at Dick’s Sporting Goods store).

Choosing Other Pose Options:

Sphinx vs. Cobra/Upward Facing Dog

Hovering Palms in Cobra vs. Cobra with hands pressed in the mat

Dolphin vs. Downward Facing Dog (or use props such as eggs, wedges or towels, straps or chairs)

Focus on Hand Placement and Pressure; Are You/They Actually Doing the Pose Correctly:

  1. Stack the joints (hands under shoulders) and spread fingers out like “starfish” –and ensure your index finger is pointed forward verses angled out. This distributes the pressure.
  2. Press down where the fingers join the palms and allow it to continue down towards fingertips with most weight being on the thumb side of the hand, ensure middle fingers are parallel to each other. The thumb side of the hand is stronger than the pinky finger side.
  3. Engage those leg muscles! When you are in Downward Facing Dog, you aren’t supposed to place all your body weight into the hands; however, lots of people are guilty. Pursue the pose correctly and/or instructors fix their alignment! Exhale as you enter into the pose, relax the head and neck, ears should be between the biceps, shoulders are relaxed and pulling towards the hips, not the ears. And of course, follow the above steps 1 and 2 for the hands.

Daily Strengthening Wrist Exercises:

  1. Place hands together at “Heart’s Center,” lower palms down as elbows lift.  This will help you get used to the “EXTENSION.”
  2. Make a fist, rotate your fist clockwise 10x and then 10x counterclockwise, end with stretching “Starfish Fingers.”
  3. Make a fist, palms up and do wrist curls. Rotate palm down, and do “upward” wrist curls. Try first alone and then with hand weight as the wrist strengthens.

Be kind to those wrists. Send them some love. Enlighten yourself and your participants! Enjoy the benefits of practice!

Namaste, Kristen

 

Let me know if this is helpful to you. ~lisa

3 lessons to learn: how to become ‘less-stressed.’

My best friend ate an acorn yesterday.  He snapped up, chomped up, and swallowed that acorn whole before I even knew that he’d sniffed out something to eat.  Immediately, I freaked out:  I’m fairly sure that dogs are allergic to acorns.  (I didn’t freak out as much as I did when Russell ate an entire piece of pizza on the sidewalk outside The Bronx last fall… but, still, I was not happy about the acorn.)

Russell SmallAll day long, I waited for him to get sick, washcloth on hand to prevent any doggie-puke from drying on my bed.  And you know what?  He was fine.  He is fine.  He’s a tough cookie.

My dog-mom anxiety was unwarranted and (probably?) unhelpful.  Last night before drifting off to sleep, I remembered an article written by my dear friend Carrie Wood, called “The Acorn Lesson in Healing.”  Carrie is a Spiritual Counselor based in Ontario, Canada, and was one of my first spiritual mentors.  In this article, she remembers a similar, slightly traumatic experience from her childhood involving an acorn and gives us Three Lessons to become “less-stressed.”

She writes:

“I barreled out of the house barefoot to run and get my father, and ended up jamming an acorn between my big toe and toe nail.  I’m sure I cried bloody murder, and in my young eyes, there was enough blood to prove it.  Dad swept me off my feet and rushed me to the bathroom, resting my bloodied legs in the bathtub.  He was calm and collected. . . I on the other hand was freaking out.   My heart was racing, I went into a full blown sweat, and my breathing was shallow and frantic.

Dad was searching through the medicine cabinet and then came towards me with what appeared to be tape of some kind, bandages, and a bottle of what I thought to be rubbing alcohol.  “Don’t put that on me, it’ll sting!” I cried.  Without hesitation, he told me to close my eyes, and just keep taking really deep breaths. 

Before I could finish my first “deep breath” that acorn was yanked out from under my toe-nail, and something poured over my foot, I looked down at what appeared to be a tub filled with blood, and in my panic, he said,  “It’s Iodine.  It’s red, see!“ and poured more out to prove my blood loss would not be fatal.   I believed him.   Up to that moment, I feared a trip to the hospital; poking, prodding, and even surgery!  (I know, what a drama queen, eh?)  Per request, I resumed my deep breaths while he dressed my wound.

Lesson #1: 

Thoughts drive our emotions!

My heightened panic was a direct result of worrying about what my future might be like.  I suspect the pain I was experiencing was also rooted more in my worries than the actual experience of the moment.

Lesson #2:

Where my attention goes, energy flows! 

Focusing on my breath and more specifically, taking deep breaths taught me how to redirect my thoughts.  As long as I was focused on my fearful outcomes, my body was in agreement . . . my heart rate increased, my breath was quick and shallow and my anxiety increased.  When my attention shifted to breathing with intention, I increased the amount of oxygen to my lungs, slowed my heart rate, and broke my “stress cycle”.

Lesson #3:

Help from another person opens our situation to resources beyond our awareness.

I learned that day, that my father had served as a medic in the military and  previously worked caring for burn victims in a hospital ward.  Even without his background if he was unable to manage the situation, he would have called on someone who could.  The small scar on my right big toe was proof of my traumatic experience and retold “swapping horror stories” throughout my childhood.  No matter what emergency my parents responded to, my brother’s many broken bones, my sister’s cracked head, the tick burrowed into my head. . . their response was basically the same.  I am aware that there are far more horrific injuries many of us have encountered in our lives.  My story is not meant to trivialize more harmful situations, or belittle very real problems.  It is simply a story to illustrate how to begin to heal what is broken, one step at a time.

Don’t worry, everything will be fine.

Take deep breaths and calm down.

We’ll get you taken care of…”

My Russell was fine.  Carrie was fine.  We will ALL be fine… but we must learn to consciously control our breath, our thoughts, and our constant emotional reactions to stressful situations.  That’s were yoga comes in.  Trust me, it takes practice.   I hope these lessons are helpful to you in your search for a life of happiness, health, and wholeness.

-lisa

Carrie’s article can be found here on her blog, To Make Whole. She would love to hear from you.

show up.

get up and show up.

your yoga is only 1% theory and 99% practice.  get up.  show up.

I ran into a friend this week who “took the summer off” from yoga classes because her kids were out of school. (Yay for summer! And yay for spending time with kiddos!) She promised she’d make it back to class in September.  September turned to January.  Now it’s March.  It was her third class back.  She felt amazing.  She felt rejuvenated.  She felt fresh and solid and glad to be back to a routine.  “I mean, I do my Sun Salutations and everything after I get off my treadmill, but it’s not the same.” she confided. “Sometimes I just need a little accountability.  I’m a better me when I do my yoga practice.”  That’s right, lady:

Get up, dress up (or dress down… I wear yoga pants, which are practically pajamas, every day) show up, and never give up.  

See you on the mat.

~lisa

tunes

tunes.

The two most common questions asked of me:

Q: Can I pet your adorable dog?

A: YES! Because Russell Clive is the most joyful, cuddliest dog in the whole wide world.

AND

Q: Who was on your playlist for that class?  (Followed by: I loved your music!)

A: While I can’t provide you with the rights to any of these songs (or the cash to buy them on iTunes), here are some of my favorite artists who make their way onto my Tunes Lists:

Artist, Album

City and Colour, Bring Me Your Love

Of Monsters and Men, My Head is an Animal

Scott Matthews, Passing Stranger

Damien Rice, 9

Alexi Murdoch, Time Without Consequences

Vampire Weekend, Contra

Ben Lee, Awake is the New Sleep

All of these albums boast songs that inspire conscious movement.  Music can be a powerful tool to synchronize your mind with your movement.  However, music during your yoga practice can also be a distraction.  First and foremost: the tempo of your practice should be led by your inhale and your exhale.  Let the breath be the soundtrack to your practice… but if you want some background music… enjoy these tunes.

-lisa

(Thanks to Ciara for providing these kind words and reminding me to post some music suggestions!)

“Everything clicks for me when I practice yoga with Lisa.  Lisa is so full of life!  Her energy is positive and joyful.  When she speaks during class, her words are genuine, encouraging, and peaceful.  I especially love the music she plays in her classes.  I am so grateful to Lisa for helping me to take charge of my physical and mental health through practicing yoga.” – Ciara