Wow - what a week! The weather is actually warming up (we had our first picnic of the year yesterday!), I taught my first yoga class at Pure on Saturday, went to my first yoga trance dance (if you have never tried this - you should!) , reconnected with friends and colleagues, and travelled to DC to await my new niece's arrival and have my Visa interview on Tuesday. It has been quite an eventful week filled with love, reaching milestones and goals, and travel!
Whenever life gets crazy and is moving a hundred miles an hour, it is important to stay open to change with an easy mind and heart. Today's asana is Anahatasana, an accessible heart opener that also stretches the shoulders, upper and middle back. Anahatasana, a yin pose, should be held for three to five minutes. The posture slowly and gently opens the front and back of the heart and corresponds with the anahata chakra.
The yogis believe that there are nadis, or channels, that flow along the spine and chakras are formed where these channels meet and create a whirlpool or a wheel. Just as our capacity for love is infinite, so is the anahata chakra which is found at the center of the body at the heart. This divine and infinite love can be seen everywhere in the world if we have our hearts open to finding it. It is beautiful to see this kind of love manifest itself in my sister and her husband in their care for their daughter and in the mindful preparation for their second born (who we will be welcoming any day!). Activating the heart chakra through asana promotes the growth of compassion, unconditional love, and deeper connection in relationships. Spread the love, yogis! <3
To get into the pose, start on all fours and walk the hands forward allowing the chest to drop toward the floor. Keep the hips above the knees and point the sitbones back. Keep hands shoulder-width apart. You can place a bolster under the belly along the spine or under the elbows. If the arms start to tingle, move the elbows further apart. If the knees are complaining, place a blanket under them.
It has been four months since the new year and since many of us made the usual new year's resolution. I think my resolution was to dust more? I am not sure if I can quantify the success of that one though because I have yet to live in one place long enough for dust to actually accumulate. So, we can call it a win-win for now:) But how many times have we made resolutions or promises to ourselves that we break sooner or later. Gym memberships spike in January, everyone goes on a health kick, or gives up a bad habit only to soon forgot all about the resolution and fall back into old ways. So, why do we even make these seemingly empty promises? We believe that once we stop smoking, lose ten pounds, get six-pack abs then we will be happy. These resolutions indicate that we are not whole, perfect beings just as we are.
The yogis believe that we already are complete beings and we need to connect mind, body, and spirit in order to fulfill our life's goals and find happiness. That is where a sankalpa can help. A sankalpa is a resolution of sorts but comes from deep within as a way of connecting us to our true self and calling (or dharma). We already have the necessary ingredients to make our sankalpa into reality - it is not ego driven but rather connects us to our deeper purpose. A sankalpa can be something to achieve today or a long-term life goal. For example, I help my partner with the laundry is direct, clear, and can be done today. I am present and full of peace is a sankalpa that can be applied over a lifetime and in many different situations. A sankalpa should be a positive statement that is in the present-tense, as if you are already acting out on that goal.
Repeating a daily and a long-term sankalpa during meditation and throughout the day can help us stay focused on how we want to live our life and its true purpose. Without having the ego involved, the sankalpa is driven with compassion and self-love.
In a piece found on themeditationcenter.org, Swami Veda Bharati is quoted from his article "Mind, Economics and Anxieties" in Life Positive Magazine. In the article, Swami Veda gives seven steps to creating and activating a sankalpa:
1) Count your breaths for a few minutes (there is an art to it that you need to learn);
2) Let the mind thereby become totally calm, soothed, wrinkle-free, a chamber of silence and stillness;
3) Then send a quiet, yes, very quiet, message to the forces of the subtle world;
4) Having done so, leave it there, surrender it to the forces, to the divine will, and do not struggle.
5) You may repeat this process daily.
6) You will begin to sense what your course of action should be. You will find yourself taking that course of action. The ‘forces’ will send you unexpected helpers and help from unknown sources.
7) Stay calm all the way through: an observer, not a doer.
Next time you find yourself in a meditation, create your own daily or long-term sankalpa and mentally repeat it to yourself three times. As Swami Veda Bharati says, this process can be repeated daily!
Happy meditating, yogis!
It's a travel day for me today! We were a big bag of mixed emotions as we left Stockholm early this morning to return to NYC for the next three months. Knowing that Peppe will be by my side during all of the upcoming changes keeps me feeling settled - wherever we are together, is home. We had a fun, productive, challenging, and fulfilling past few months in Sweden and I am feeling more and more comfortable there and like I can call it home.
Today's asana is a restorative pose that is great when traveling called Legs up the Wall (Viparita Karani). In this posture, we lay on our back, sit bones as close to the wall as is comfortable, with (you guessed it!) our legs up the wall. Viparita Karani is remarkably grounding while also giving many of the benefits of an inversion, like handstand, but without expelling a ton of energy. Having the feet elevated allows gravity to move fluids in the legs which can be helpful before and after travel when we are sitting on a plane all day.
Thankfully, we had a safe and mostly uneventful trip across the Atlantic. After we got a bit settled in our new digs on East 59th, we happily discovered the Whole Foods around the corner where I stocked up on organic produce and all-natural bath and aromatherapy essentials. I enjoyed a soak in some lavender bath salts and then rolled my mat out, made my ginger tea, and put my feet up the wall. It felt so fantastic after the long day of travel. Now we are looking forward to an early bedtime to wake up feeling fresh again tomorrow!
Start sitting with your right hip as close to the wall as possible. Then shift both hips towards the wall and swing your legs up in one motion. Play with your distance from the wall - there should still be a natural curve in the spine. Sometimes it can feel nice to place a blanket or even a bolster under the sit bones.
Stockholm is gearing up for the long Easter weekend (many offices and businesses closed at noon today and do not open again until Tuesday!) and welcoming Spring with open arms. I have been thinking about new beginnings, detoxing, and Spring-cleaning all week and I feel that Mother Nature is on my wavelength as well. It snowed last night, covering the ground outside of our window in a soft haze of white that melted away with the warm, bright sun by the afternoon. Out with the old and in with the new!
Each morning we wake up to a new day, a new opportunity to live the life we want. Mornings can be a peaceful, energizing, and harmonious time or it can be stressful, rushed, and frenzied. We set the tone for our day from the moment we wake up and it is important to have a vibrant routine to get you out of the door smiling. Today´s Mindful Thursday series is all about the incredibly important morning routine and some tips on how we can start our days off feeling present, happy, and healthy.
First, wake up a little earlier. Just an extra 15-20 minutes can help get your day started right. To add to that time, prepare for your morning the night before. I like to drink warm ginger tea with lemon, turmeric, and a few drops of organic honey. So, the night before I make sure that my electric water boiler is full and I have fresh lemons and ginger cut and ready to go (no need to wield a knife before coffee). When I was in the corporate world and had a client meeting the next day, I would lay out my outfit the night before so that I wouldn’t have that crazed feeling of trying to find something to wear in the morning. Little things lead to bigger things that make all the difference!
Okay, so what is the first thing that so many of us do the second we open our eyes? Grab our phones and start scrolling through emails, texts, and social media. For most of us, our alarms are on our phones so we can seamlessly turn the alarm off and then flick over to Facebook. We must stop doing this. It is an ongoing struggle for me to not look through my phone first thing in the morning but that is not how I really want to start my day. Just as I am waking up, does my brain need to be absorbed in what my friend from camp 15 years ago did last night? No – it does not. If I do have the luxury of staying in bed for a few minutes after my alarm goes off, I try to reach for an inspirational book instead. Keep something to read on your nightstand that is accessible in the morning – make it easy on yourself to make that decision.
Next, meditate as soon as you get out of bed. I get onto my meditation pillow even before the ginger tea. As I said before, sit for just five minutes if that is all the time you can afford in the morning (five minutes is better than zero!). After meditation, visualize yourself successfully completing your daily goals. Big presentation? Create a vivid mental image of you knocking their socks off with your public speaking skills. Going for a run? Visualize yourself strong and powerful, effortlessly moving through space.
After meditation, I have my ginger tea and a healthy breakfast. Lately, I have loved overnight oats and chia seed pudding with yummy toppings. Avoid anything too heavy, fried or fatty. If time permits, I then get on my yoga mat. A few Sun Salutations, maybe some Yin, or I practice inversions. If I have more time, I will stay on the mat and move however feels right in my body.
Healthy and mindful routines and rituals are so important because once we build them up; we miss them if they are gone. If I don’t have time to get on my yoga mat or eat a healthy breakfast than something feels a little off the rest of the day.
So in short - prepare yourself for the morning the evening before, wake up a bit earlier, meditate, put healthy things into your body, and move! If we are able to incorporate these healthy habits into our daily lives it will benefit our happiness and our mindfulness all day long.
Happy Easter, yogi bunnies!
Happy April, beautiful yogis! April Fool´s Day is not my forte – I simply don’t have the chops to coordinate a good prank…ah well. I remember in elementary school a classmate brought in Oreos filled with white toothpaste (to look like frosting) for the class. I was completely disgusted for the poor victims of that prank – ew!
Anyways, in honor of the Spring cleaning and detox theme, Sutra 16 from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is spot on for Wednesday Yoga Wisdom!
Sutra 16: When there is non-thirst for even the gunas (constituents of Nature) due to the realization of the Purusa (True Self), that is supreme non-attachment.
The meaning of this sutra is a profound realization. Basically, Patanjali is saying that once we have experienced the nirvana that is within our own selves, all of the material crutches that we lean on become meaningless. The gunas (sattva, rajas, and tamas) are different qualities or tendencies of someone or something. These gunas cannot even compare to the wholeness that exists within each one of us. We no longer seek to identify ourselves with a certain characteristic once we understand the oneness and serenity that is our true self.
Elaborating further Sri Swami Satchidananda explains, “You can’t just go into the mind and erase the impressions. But they get themselves erased at one point. When? When you succeed in going within and realizing the peace and joy of your own Self.”
How miraculous - that all of the numbing, escaping, and bad habits are simply pointless! For me, this sutra turns yoga into a lifestyle choice and not just something that we practice on a mat. Yoga will allow us to move closer to finding our true selves and the need for outside influences will fall away. However, it is not a quick fix and we cannot denounce all of our bad habits after our first yoga class – it is a false boycott and, most likely, we will not stick with it. Instead, we must allow the yoga to do its work over time.
Foods that do not serve our body, alcohol, negative thought patterns, gossip, frivolous shopping, and laziness are a few examples of attachments that we rely on to numb, escape, ease our pain, and make ourselves feel happier. Slowly, yoga allows us to leave these outside impressions behind. Not only because we cannot dedicate ourselves to a practice when these impressions are running rampant in life but also because the yoga helps us to realize that we simply do not need these things. It is a cycle that leads us to an authentically happier and healthier life.
It is simple, peaceful and attainable – not a self-depriving struggle. I know that I still have a long way to go to detach from the material crutches around me but the journey does not seem daunting. I know that as I grow and stay focused on my practice, the need for these outside things will simply fall away.