Friday, August 16, 2013

Of The Earth

Written on July 26, 2013 while on retreat in Italy.

As our yoga retreat continued, we were introduced to Dante's next progression. He first experienced transformation in the Inferno. The next took him to Purgatory. As our yoga guru described, this can be thought of as our place on the earth. It is our actions, thoughts, and movement through this existence. How we interact with others and our relationship to nature. It is our connection to all things.

In our yoga practice, we experienced grounding and balancing. I think these types of poses help us to establish a strong connection and a sense of being rooted to the earth. Balancing, particularly balancing on one foot, tests that connection. Does this added challenge bring wariness, distraction, or even discouragement? Standing on one foot may bring us to greater awareness of how we remain balanced: the resources we must tap into in order to stay still, solid, and connected. This simple standing yoga practice can bring light to how we are connected to the earth.

Mountain Pose
Stand near the top of your mat with your feet about hip distance apart. Look down at your feet to be sure your toes are pointing directly forward. Stand tall. Feel length through your legs, torso, and arms. Even feel a length through your neck to the very top of your head. Be aware of your breath. Take slow easy breaths so that you can actually feel breath move through your entire body. Feel your breath and hear your breath.

Bring more energy into your body by feeling your feet root more deeply into the earth. Actually become the mountain. Know that it's bedrock is deep in the earth: tall and strong with a solid base. Grip your mat with your toes to bring this idea of the solid bedrock beneath you. Further, breathe into your feet. As you send this energy downward, feel the reciprocating energy arise from the earth through your feet, through your legs, and experience it coursing upward through your body. As this energy rises, feel yourself grow taller. Create space between each vertebrae as your spine extends upward right up to the crown of your head. Further, feel this energetic connection move through your shoulders, arms, and hands. Open your palms wide to continue this flow of energy through your fingers. Continue to stand as a mountain for 5-10 breaths. Embody the strength and stability of the mountain. Know that you are one with the earth.

Tree Pose
Now, shift your weight gradually to your right foot. Still imagine this energetic force coursing through your body, perhaps from your core down your right leg and into the earth. Exhale to draw your belly in toward your spine to help initiate this balancing pose. Lift your left foot by bending your knee. Place your left foot on the inside of your standing leg with your knee pointing outward. (You have some choices as to where to place your foot. For a bit more stability, place your left heel against your right ankle bone with your left set of toes, or the balls of the foot, still on the floor. Or you may slide your foot higher up on your calf muscle to create a sense of balance. Or slide the foot even higher to your inner thigh to challenge your Tree Pose. I suggest that you do not place your foot on your knee joint. That particular joint already receives enough pressure, so let's free the knee from any added pressure.)

With an inhale, extend your arms straight to the sky while keeping your gaze forward. Exhale to continue the connection to your center and core body. You will find that the exhale will help to stabilize your balancing posture. Stay here and focus on your breath and your simple gaze forward. Don't worry if you waver and fall out of the posture. Simply take a breath and return to the pose. Even feel free to modify the pose if needed. Notice what allows you to stay grounded and connected in this pose. You are only on one foot which is naturally more challenging than standing on two feet. Test yourself by distracting yourself and see what happens to your pose. What occurs when you begin thinking of something other than your breath and the posture. Notice what happens when you turn your head in either direction. Again, if you find that you waver, you have the choice and ability to return to your balanced connection. After 5-10 breaths, change sides.

This balancing posture can be a reflection of how we move through our daily lives. We may think we are rooted and connected, but can be easily distracted by the details of our actions. See if you can embody the essence of the tree: connected to the earth through its roots, strong thick trunk, and extended branches, and leaves that rustle in the wind. Even in strong storms and high winds, the tree can remain strong and still. So, if you're able to become the Tree, even in the midst of a stormy day, you may sense a stronger connection to the Earth and Self.

When you have completed your Tree Pose, return to Mountain Pose for a few more breaths to regain that full connection to the earth. Allow this yoga practice remind you of your full connection to the earth and all things.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Surrender to Stillness

(Written on July 25, 2013 while on a yoga retreat in Italy)

A week has gone by since I started my travels to Italy. For the entire trip, I have been with 18 other yogis. We share common areas in our villa-farmhouse, practice yoga together, eat together, travel together. Our excursions only take us into larger crowds of tourists admiring the wonderful sites around us. The experience has been worthwhile and amazing, but for me, it was time for a little break.

While some of the group took a 2 hour drive out to the beach and the others got pampered at a nearby spa, I stayed at Ebbio for a little R & R. For me, it was time for a little stillness and silence. An opportunity for me to reconnect to self and my surroundings.

So, while sipping an expresso, I enjoyed some time to read and write. I listened to the sounds of nature: the nearby crowing of a rooster, the the cackling of chickens, the rustling of the evergreen leaves of the olive tree, and the scratching song of the crickets. I enjoyed the solitude while feeling the cloud-filtered sun as my light and the occasional breeze as it blew gently through the open windows.

It is very easy to get caught up in things, even when you go on vacation. I invite you to take a moment out of your day to surrender to stillness. Maybe it's just sitting for a few minutes on the sofa with a short magazine article you've been wanting to read. Or taking a walk down to that flower shop you drive by everyday but haven't yet visited. Or looking out at the city scape while sipping a cup of tea. Or closing your office door, popping in your earbuds, and listing to your favorite song. Or....the list is endless. Make it simple, make it short, just make it your own. Honor yourself today, by giving yourself that gift of stillness and silence. This, TOO, is an effective yoga practice.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Giving It Only 60%

Another day in the magnificent Tuscan Valley, took our yoga group to the city of Siena, famous for being the rival to the city of Florence. We encountered the incredibly unique Siena Duomo (Cathedral) and the "candy-striped" marbled architecture of this gothic monument. A light caprese salad and bubbly water was enjoyed in the Piazza il Campo with a clear view of the Palazzo Pubblico.  And of course, a refreshing gelato to complete the day's excursion.

In light of the struggle that Florence and Siena experienced as rival cities for many years, I am also reminded of the struggle that I place on myself at times. When I practice yoga, and even sometimes when I teach yoga, there is an element of pushing or working hard. The goal, though, is not to strain or hurt the body.  The intention is to move through blockages of the mind and body, revealing that you are capable of reaching your fullest potential even when there are challenges in front of you. In addition  to this intention, it is also important to be light, kind, and gentle on the body/mind during the yoga practice. There is the effort, as my yoga instructor stated, to move into the pose, but also the settling and softening into the posture. The intention is to get there, then BE there. As I'm reminded of this wonderful lesson, I have been moving more slowly and gently in my yoga practice during this retreat. Rather than moving full steam ahead, I have held back a bit to experience the softer side of the practice to truly experience a sense of Being in the Moment rather than forcing my body into the moment.

This may seem like an odd analogy, but I am reminded of a particular season of "The Celebrity Apprentice" where Lou Ferrigno (he's Italian, right) was one of the celebrity contestants. (For those who don't know or don't remember, he is most famous for his television depiction of the Incredible Hulk back in the 1980's). Whenever, Lou Ferrigno found himself on the losing team and defending his actions in front of Donald Trump, he would often and regularly say, "I gave it 110%." I find this an interesting way to describe one's efforts. That in order to convey that your efforts were good enough, you have to go beyond 100% and give it 110%. It suggests going beyond your limits in order to show your best.

As mentioned, my yoga instructor at the retreat, offered another way to approach the yoga practice. Arrive at each pose more gently and kindly. Perhaps arrive at 60%. I applied this idea to my practice by moving slowly, modifying my poses, and not overextending my body in order to sufficiently, yet successfully, arriving at the pose. The result was wonderful. My body felt just as opened and challenged as if I had given the whole 110%. The results were the same and I would have to say.....better!

When you arrive at your next yoga practice, I offer the invitation to scale it back from your normal routine. Instead of pushing toward the 110%, try dialing it back to 60%. (That's a full 50% discount on your practice, but receiving a 100% quality product at the end.) Use props like blocks and straps to support your yoga poses, move more slowly, or just simply modify your posture and see how you feel afterward.

Take a pose like Side Angle Pose. When you see a picture of this posture, you see the yogi with legs wide (creating a 90 degree angle in the front leg), the corresponding hand planted palm-down on the floor while the opposite hand extends (as if with no effort at all) straight up or overhead. One can easily modify the pose and experience great benefit of the posture without pushing the body into the position depicted in Yoga Journal Magazine.

Try Side Angle Pose with a shorter stance. (Perhaps the left foot is in front in this lunging posture.) The angle of the front leg does not need to be 90 degrees. Rest your left arm lightly on top of the left thigh so your body can open easily in this hip opening posture. Your right hand can reach upward toward the sky. Breathe into your hips, inner thighs, and the right side of your body. Remain here for 5-10 breaths. Repeat the same modified pose on the other side.

I think it is ok to scale back at times. I think we are encouraged and maybe even pushed sometimes to give it our all...ALL THE TIME! Try applying a lighter touch to your tasks. Take your time when you do simple things like driving to work, making dinner, or speaking with others. The result may be the same...or even better using this technique rather than becoming the Incredible Hulk 110% of the time.

Written July 25, 2013 in Italy.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Sweet Darkness

If you have been reading the last few blog entires, you will know that I was on a yoga retreat in the beautiful country of Italy. In between our yoga lessons, we had the opportunity to visit local areas and take in all the wonderful sites of the countryside. We have toured and visited some of the amazing cathedrals, museums, and galleries. We have tasted the Chianti wines, the flavorful gelatos, and a slice of pizza or two.

Continuing with the yoga retreat theme of transformation, our next yoga practice had us think about stepping into darkness. Sometimes as we experience shifts and changes in our lives, it is not always smooth and pleasant. We may often have to walk through challenging and trying circumstances before we can reach our final destination. Those trying times may also be dark and mysterious. They may even be scary and uninviting. This darkness may entice us to stop the journey, turn around, and go back to where we started, having never reached the completed transformed self.

I'm reminded of the journey of the lotus flower and how it comes to be. The seed of the lotus plants itself in deep, dark, murky waters. As it sprouts, it must take on the journey to find the light in order for it to finally blossom. This may seem like a simple task, but think of the obstacles the plant must face in order to reach the top: the refracting sunlight on the water makes if difficult for the plant to see the light clearly. But instead of turning back and giving up, the lotus plant continues to grow upward until it finally reaches the light where it can then blossom into its full potential.

Lotus Pose
The Lotus Posture is a very symbolic yoga position. It represents peace of mind, stillness, completion, arrival, etc. It is often the seated posture used for quiet meditation and chanting. Although the pose represents peace and stillness, it can be a challenging posture to move into - just like the journey of the lotus flower itself. But once achieved, having moved through the darkness, one can experience bliss.

Disclaimer for this pose: it is recommended that one has fairly open/flexible hips and ankles to achieve this pose. If you are not as flexible as you'd like to be yet in these areas, try a modified seated posture like Easy Pose (simply sitting on your yoga mat with your legs comfortably crossed.)

To move into Lotus, sit on your yoga mat and bring one foot high up onto the opposite lap. As you're able, take the other foot, cross it over the first leg, and take it to the opposite hip bone. Both feet will be resting visibly on your lap. Simply sit here with a fully extended spine for 10-20 breaths. If you'd like, cross the legs the other way (the bottom foot now on top) and remain for an additional 10-20 breaths.

Candle Gazing
To further your journey in this pose, here is a meditation exercise that can truly settle the mind. It is called Candle Gazing. It is an ancient practice, yet simple to do.

Light a candle in a room without much light. While sitting in your Lotus Posture, stare at the candle without blinking for 20 seconds to start. Then close your eyes for 20 seconds. This is round one. On the second round, open your eyes and stare at the candle flame for 30 seconds, then close your eyes for 30 seconds. You can do as many rounds as you'd like. You can keep the time period the same for each round or increase the time you stare at the candle and have your eyes closed as you desire. (This exercise is best done when using a timer that tracks the time you have your eyes opened and closed.)

Notice how you feel after this meditation practice. You don't really need to bring anything to mind while doing this practice. Simply be at peace, in the darkness, and drawn to the light of the candle. Become the lotus plant moving through sweet darkness to reach the light ready to blossom into a brilliant flower.

Written on July 24, 2013 in Italy.

Friday, August 2, 2013


My travels have taken me to the beautiful countryside of Tuscany, Italy. I am traveling with others from the United States to enjoy a relaxing yoga retreat led by some very special friends. We are staying at a 14th century farmhouse called Ebbio. As we journeyed along the speedway, we noticed villas on the hillside, lush vineyards, and even vast fields of sunflowers. At our retreat location, we have an amazing hilltop view of Monteriggioni Castle and the surrounding national forests. We have been treated to fresh vegetarian meals, a lush garden, farm animals, and lovely hosts.

The theme of the yoga retreat is borrowed from the famous poetic story written by Dante Alighieri called The Divine Comedy. It is divided into three parts: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. Dante is exiled to these distinct territories and is forced to rediscover himself through a series of adventures. He experiences through his journey a transformation of himself.

We, too, can experience transformation; discover new parts of ourselves or even re-invent ourselves. Sometimes yoga can be thought of as a process of birth and rebirth. We move in and out of postures to tap into parts of ourselves that we did not know existed. We can use yoga poses to experience a sense of healing and cleansing. All of these, and more, can be thought of as transformation.

Seated Twisted Pose
Twisting postures in yoga can provide that sense of changing, shifting, transforming. In twisting positions, I imagine a wet sponge being wrung out. When we unwind, a freshness enters our being. It is a release of the new to invite the new. Try this posture to experience that sense of cleansing and becoming anew.

Sit on your yoga mat with your legs extended straight out in front of you. Bend your right leg, and hub your knee up toward your chest. Then, step your right foot over your extended left leg so that now your right foot is on the outside of your left leg. You're welcome to keep the left leg extended or bend this leg so the foot draws near the right hip bone. (Your left knee will be lying on the floor.)

Inhale and extend your left arm out in front of you. As you exhale, wrap your left arm around the bent right knee twisting your torso toward the right side of the room. As you complete the twist, hug the leg closer to your body. Inhale again to ensure a long spine followed by another exhale to twist more as the body allows. Hold the posture for at least 10 breaths.

As you remain in this seated twisted pose, imagine the internal and external changes your body is currently experiencing. Some changes may be subtle, some will be more apparent. Feel free to move into this pose with the intention of desiring change and shift in your body, mind, spirit, life. As you release the pose slowly, return to Staff Pose (legs extended out in front of you), and experience the body opening up to new sensations. Repeat the pose on the other side.

Even if you don't set a specific intention while practicing this yoga pose, your body, mind, and spirit can be open to change and transformation if you are open to receive it. 

Written on July 23, 2013 in Italy.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


I have had the fortunate opportunity to travel to the historical European country of Italy.  The first few days in Europe were spent in the art-centric city of Florence. Surrounded by the historical backdrop of gardens, galleries, cathedrals, and museums, we were immediately introduced to Italian living: post-Renaissance art and architecture, Michaelangelo's David, piazzas, sculptures, paintings of the Madonna, da Vinci's Annunciation, Chianti wines, and expressos!

Traveling to a new place can leave one a little unsettled at first. New foods, an unfamiliar language, a different bed, a different time zone, etc. All of these and more can make you a bit confused and disoriented. In order to feel at ease and at home, one must pay close attention to the new details that surround you: the signs in a different language, maps and directions to your destinations, prices and currency exchange rates. Paying attention to these types of details requires one to be in the moment. If you become distracted, it is easy to get lost, turned around, and even more confused.

A good way to stay in the moment, to orient yourself to your new and current surroundings, is to be still, open your eyes, and breathe. Bring your awareness to the object you are focusing on. Creating this mindful attention brings you to the present. It allows the mind to be filled with what it needs to absorb; acquainting yourself to what is happening right here and right now.

We can do this even in our most familiar of settings: home, work, school. It is easy to run through the motions of our daily lives because we become so accustomed to the routines of our daily activities. So, in the midst of the routine, try this very simple yoga practice that allows you to arrive in the moment.

Arrive Home
Make it a conscious decision when you get home, for example, to arrive there as if it is your very first time to this residence. Take out your keys, slowly unlock the door, step through the threshold and pause. Take a look at what you see...for the first time. Open your eyes wide. Scan the room you have entered. Pay attention to the signs and symbols, the pictures, the plants, the aroma, the colors, etc. Take it all in. Truly arrive in your home as if you were the foreigner arriving in a new town. Notice something in the room that appears new to you. Pay attention to a painting or picture on the wall that you normally walk by. Take a breath. Be in the moment. Absorb. Arrive.

This may not seem like a regular yoga practice. You didn't have to unroll your yoga mat and move through various poses. Yoga can be thought of more as a way of life. It can be the practice of being more aware and present; arriving at the place where you are. So, this simple yoga practice of arriving at home (or at work) as if it was your first time, can truly be a yoga practice with intention.

Written in Florence Italy, July 22, 2013.

Monday, April 1, 2013


I taught a special Easter Sunday Yoga Practice that focused on Rebirth. As we enter the season of Spring, it's a perfect opportunity to shed the old and welcome the new. Here are three yoga poses you can do at home that will help you to release old feelings, thoughts, and sensations, to make room for the new. That new space also creates an opening to receive, accept, and live YOUR greatest potential.

Start by sitting on your yoga mat in a comfortable cross legged position. In stillness and silence set your intention. This intention is that thing (or several things) that you are now ready to release in your life. Take a few breaths to bring awareness to these ideas. Next, set the intention of what you'd like to welcome in your life. Take a few breaths to fully visualize yourself living in this new way.

Release The Old
Take your left hand and place it on your right knee. Take your right hand and place it behind you on the floor at the center of your spine. Press down into the floor with this hand in order to help extend your spine. Breathe in deeply to further help your body sit up taller. As you exhale, draw your navel in toward your spine then, from this lower region of your body, begin to twist toward the right side of the room. Do this for at least 10 breaths so you can feel a full twist in the spine.

Imagine what is going on inside your body. As you twist, you are wringing out your internal organs just like you would wring out the dirty water from a sponge. This is a wonderful way to cleanse your insides. Keep in mind what else you are intending to release with this yoga posture. On your final exhale, unwind the pose and face forward. Repeat this pose on the other side.

Death of the Practice
At the end of each yoga class, you may be familiar with the pose called Savasana. It means Corpse Pose. In Ashtanga, it can mean the death of the practice. As you move through your yoga poses, your body experiences many sensations. You may also experience various emotions. All of this with the idea of making changes and shifts in your body, mind, and spirit. The Corpse Pose symbolizes the death of the "old" you so you can now step into the "new" you. Take a moment now to lie down in Savasana. Stay in this pose for a few minutes to symbolize the release and death of your old ways.

After your moment in Savasana, bend your knees so your feet can press directly down into the floor. With an exhale, lift your hips into the air. Once you have lifted your hips, walk your shoulders together; squeeze your shoulder blades together. You are now in Bridge Pose which is a heart and hip opener. Remain here for 10 breaths. This opening can facilitate the welcoming of the new you - those new things you are now welcome to receive. You are opening yourself up to your greatest potential.

After Bridge Pose, feel free to take another few minutes sitting in stillness. The same sitting posture you were in at the beginning of your practice. Take note of how you now feel. Do you feel different? New? Reborn?


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Keep Yourself Healthy with Yoga while Traveling

I'd like to introduce a guest blogger for this next Yoga With Intention post. His name is Wes Vonn. He is the creator of I Vonn To Pump You Up and is a fitness and health enthusiast. Read this article that discusses how you can take yoga on the road. Enjoy! And please feel free to comment on your yoga travel experiences and be sure to visit Wes' blog. Namaste.

Keep Yourself Healthy with Yoga while Traveling

People who are on vacation tend to give up their healthy routines because they think that this is a treat for them. They avoid exercising and they eat whatever they want while they're with family and friends. The problems start when the person has to return home and find that they've gained a lot of week from their week vacation and is also having trouble returning to a more structured routine. Staying on track even while vacationing and traveling is so important for your health and well-being. There are many reasons why you should do yoga even while you're on vacation.

When it comes to health benefits while traveling, yoga really offers many of them to a variety of different people. If you're traveling by car to your next destination, your body is going to be sitting in the same position for hours. Gentle yoga can help to keep the body flexible and get it more aligned after you get out of the car. If you're a business traveler, just think of how soothing and relaxing yoga can be before a stressful meeting with clients or coworkers. Yoga really can be highly beneficial to all different types of travelers.

Another thing you need to think about is how easy it is to do yoga while you're traveling. More and more airports are putting in zen and yoga rooms for people to take advantage of. These rooms have mats, weights and pillows available so that you can just do yoga or meditate to your heart's desire. Most hotels, whether you are staying in an expensive Las Vegas hotel or a more affordable option, even offer morning yoga classes to their paying guests so that you can get a healthy start to your day without having to pay any extra money just to join in with the rest of the group.

Just think of how much easier it would be for you to make healthy choices for the rest of the day when you've started the day off with gentle and relaxing yoga. You will be less likely to grab for that muffin in the morning and you might make healthier choices the rest of the time you're on vacation. When you return back home, you will also find that you didn't gain weight or you gained a very small amount because you kept yourself quite structured. Vacationing and traveling does not mean that you should give up on healthy habits that you've developed over the years.

Wes Vonn
Wes is a fitness and living healthy nut. You can reach him at He recently started using a Paleo diet with his exercise routines and have noticed a huge change not only in his body but also in things like energy levels, ability to sleep through the night, and mood.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Set An Intention

I have been working as a Yoga Life Coach for the past few years and I am always amazed at the wonderful work my clients make on their journey toward improved self development.

People generally come to me feeling stuck: unable to move in their relationships, careers, with their lives. One assignment that I give my clients is to set an intention for the day and then to remind themselves of that intention throughout the day.

I believe that if you have a positive attitude, then the activities, responsibilities, and daily living also move forward in a positive direction.

One of the first things we do when we get up in the morning may be use the restroom, make the bed, or put on a pot of coffee. As you are starting your day, try setting an intention that will carry you through the day. Make it simple. Choose one or two words that you can easily remember. Here are some examples that I have used for myself:

Clarity & Vision
Connection & Love
Openness & Acceptance

Repeat these words in your mind several times like a mantra. Then throughout the day, remind yourself of your intention by repeating them in your head. Afraid you might forget the words or forget to repeat them? Try this....simply write down your intention and carry it with you. Also, set an alarm on your phone or watch to sound two times during the day to remind you to recall your intention.

My clients have found this exercise to be very effective. It keeps them on track during the day and it reminds them to return to a positive attitude while moving through their day and eventually moving through their stuck life position.

Try it this week and let me know how it works out for you.


Monday, February 18, 2013

You Are Fierce!

I can honestly say that the yoga classes I teach are challenging. Students sometimes are breathing heavily, struggling with some poses, and definitely sweating during the practice. My intention is not to harm or discourage my students. On the contrary, I am teaching them to believe in themselves. I show them, through the challenging yoga classes, that they have the ability to get through very difficult circumstances. Yes, they may be a little sweaty at the end, but they got through it. They learn they are able to support themselves, live with integrity, develop and practice great strength, and feel calm throughout the entire process.

There is a particular pose that can embrace this experience: Utkatasana. The Sanskirt word literally means powerful or fierce. The nickname given to this posture is Chair Pose because the physical body looks like it's sitting in a chair. While sitting in an actual chair may not produce power and strength, practicing Chair Pose can.

Because of the balancing nature of the pose, the core engagement, the arms lifted over head, lifting your toes, and sitting deeply onto nothing at all can definitely generate confidence, power, strength, and fierceness.

Utkatasana: Chair Pose
Start by standing in Mountain Pose. Be sure to have your feet about hip distance apart with your toes pointing directly forward to form a secure foundation while standing. Inhale to extend your arms into the air. Exhale and sit back and down as if you were sitting into an actual seat. To begin with, there is no need to sit down too deeply. Just bend at the knees and hips to establish the sensation of beginning to to sit down into a chair.

Before going any further, be sure to engage your core. Tilt your pelvis so you can feel you navel draw in toward your spine. Do this action with an exhale. This will help you connect more solidly to your core. It establishes a stronger base and support of self. As you're able, with core engaged, sit back and down a little deeper. Be sure to keep your arms extended over head. (Have your arms extend past your ears.) This is your posture. To make it more demanding, shift your weight more toward your heels so you can lift your toes off the floor. The challenge here is to remain stable, balanced, and calm in the posture. You want to have a full sense of supporting yourself without actual support (like sitting in a chair.) After about 5 breaths, stand up tall to Extended Mountain Pose with an inhale. Exhale to lower your arms down by your side.

The intention behind a pose like this is to remind you that you can rely on your own strength to support yourself in many difficult and challenging situations. It may not be comfortable like a chair, but you'll have the strength, power, and fierceness that the pose declares.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Slow Down....Again

Our bodies and minds are constantly on the move and the result can be exhaustion, disorientation, confusion, etc. So, take a moment to slow down. We all deserve those few moments of stillness and quiet. It only takes a few minutes to re-group, re-connect, and re-charge.

Why not try this very simple exercise and see how you feel afterward. Try it TODAY, and if you walk away with positive results, try it again tomorrow.

Find a quiet place in your home or office. I know, sometimes this can be a challenge. Maybe just find a room, close the door, and take this moment to simply relax. It will only take a few minutes. Sit comfortably on your yoga mat or on the floor. Perhaps sit on a folded blanket or towel to feel more comfortable. If it feels ok, fold your legs in a crossed-legged position. Rest your wrists on your knees. Allow your neck, shoulders, arms, and hands to completely relax. Ideally, the room should be quiet. But if there is outside noise, do your best to not allow it to distract you. This is YOUR time. To help drown out the sound, maybe turn on some light meditative music. Close your eyes.

Once you are seated comfortably and relaxed, hold still for a few moments and focus on your breathing. After 5-10 breaths, begin a very simple movement. Inhale and extend your arms over head. Move at the pace of your in-breath. As you exhale, bring your arms slowly back down. Again, move at the pace of your out-breath. Do this simple motion 5-10 times.

This exercise keeps you totally in your body. You only need to focus on your breathing and simple arm movement.

See! This only took a few minutes! When you're done, sit still for a moment longer. Then make a slow transition back into your day. Try this same exercise again tomorrow....and the next day, too! I'd love to hear how this made you feel. Make a comment on this blog.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Inner Strength

In my last post, I mentioned gaining strength practicing Boat Pose (Navasana). Sometimes we associate being strong with external strength. For example, having big muscles or having a nice physique may be an outward sign of strength. But what about inner strength? Being able to endure tough emotional and mental challenges. This type of strength comes from within.

A pose that can remind us of that inner strength is Boat Pose. It's a yoga posture that strengthens your core. This is the trunk of your body that supports the rest of the body. When one has a strong core - strength that is developed from within - all other types of strength are exuded: inner and outer.

Boat Pose
Start by sitting on your yoga mat with your knees bent and heels on the ground. Begin to lean back so that you're able to lift your feet off the mat. Keep your knees bent and hold on to your legs.

Flex your feet to keep them engaged. This will keep your legs engaged as well. While holding onto your legs, use that as leverage to lift and extend your spine. Imagine you're sitting in a high-back chair and you want to sit up straight against the back of the chair. In Boat Pose, the body is shaped like the letter "V" except that your knees are bent.

The key to this pose is your breath. As you inhale, continue to extend your spine. As you exhale (and feel free to breathe out through your mouth to release all of your breath), draw your navel toward your spine. Focus on the lowest part of your belly as you exhale. Here, you are engaging and contracting your transverse abdominas muscles. These muscles are part of your abdominal system and are low and deep in your pelvic area. These muscles are rarely engaged, so this pose and way of breathing will help to engage them.

Hold the pose for about 5 breaths, take a break, then do it again. Repeat the pose 4 additional times. Over time, you will gain more strength. Soon, you'll be able to do the pose without holding onto your legs and you may even be able to extend your legs.

When you build strength from the inside out, you begin to feel more confident and able to face challenges of everyday life. And not only will you build inner strength, but having a strong core contributes to building outer strength, as well.


Monday, January 28, 2013

Centered & Balanced

Centered & Balanced

In my Power Yoga classes this week, I have been challenging my students to test their balance. Balance comes in many forms in the yoga practice. The most obvious, perhaps, is to have the class perform balancing poses. For example, Tree Pose, where one is standing on one foot.

Another way to challenge your balance is to challenge the resources within that keep you centered. Core postures, like Boat Pose, bring awareness to your core - your center. When one is breathing with integrity, one can experience great strength, balance, and centering.

If you're feeling a little off-balance, practicing a pose like Tree or even Boat can help with gaining more strength in that area. But also think about how we live our lives. When we are faced with life challenges, especially multiple life challenges all at once, you can feel VERY off-balance, right? It may be difficult, while in the midst of these challenges, to get reconnected, re-centered, and balanced. My suggestion is to allow yourself to stumble; to be off-balance. Sometimes there is nothing wrong with falling down. When we KNOW that we can get back up, shows true strength. Once you have a moment to yourself away from the chaos, practice deep breathing, Tree Pose, and Boat Pose to remind yourself of the balance you already have within. Below is another pose you can use to help achieve a greater sense of balance and centering.

Spinal Balance
Come to your yoga mat on all fours. Feel free to pad your knees and wrists to reduce any strain. Engage your core by exhaling and drawing your navel up toward your spine. Create an abdominal lock by holding this position. Continue breathing, but maintain the lock. Your back may slightly round in this this position to ensure you have a strong connection to this lock. If you have an overly arched back, or it feels like your low back is collapsed, it's very likely that you have disengaged the abdominal lock.

Once you feel secure in this position, slowly extend your right leg back so that it is straight and parallel with the floor. Again be sure that your low back has not collapsed. If your leg lifts too high, you may experience the release of the lock and a collapsed back. Once you have secured this position, now extend your left arm forward. You are now in Spinal Balance.

In order to maintain the pose, be sure to inhale and lengthen throughout your body, particularly through the lifted limbs. On your exhale, be certain that you are still holding your abdominal lock. In addition to this sensation, be aware of your inner arm and inner leg of the extended limbs. Create a feeling as if they are pressing into an imaginary object. This will also help to hold the pose. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths then repeat it on the other side.

To make this pose more challenging and to really test your balance, try doing Spinal Balance without the knee on the floor! The first few times you may tip over. That's ok. Remember, we fall. Just remind yourself of the internal resources that you have that will help you return to a balanced and centered state of mind and body.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Return of Yoga With Intention

As you may have noticed, I took an extended break from writing my blog. Well, now it's time for the return. Please look forward to reading posts that will help you to deepen your personal yoga practice. Become a subscribing member so that you can stay up to date with these posts.

Yoga With Intention is designed to integrate real life with real yoga. Practicing specific yoga poses with an added intention can be very effective in improving your personal life journey.