Archive for the ‘inspiration’ Category

Doctor’s Orders

November 14, 2011

 

I just returned from the doctor with a clean bill of health. However, I did go home with one prescription to help me to relax and be stress-free with my busy lifestyle. My doctor, who is not a naturopath or alternative medicine practitioner just told me to keep practicing what I preach – get at least 20 minutes of meditation daily.

She explained that there are studies in cardio-vascular health correlating meditation to reduction of heart problems. That beautiful heart pumps roughly 2000 gallons of blood a day, and in under a minute, your heart can pump blood to every cell in your body. That’s no small feat!

Studies presented at an American Heart Association meeting demonstrated that even high risk cardiac patients benefit from meditation. Patience saw a reduction in coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, heart attacks and other problems associated with obesity by adding meditation to their daily lives.

Not sure how to get started? There are plenty of books out there to help you learn, but reading isn’t necessarily doing. A favorite book on Breathe’s teacher trainee list is “Meditation Made Easy” by Dr. Lorin Roche. Dr. Roche is one of my favorite teachers and I recommend making it to one of his workshops when he is in the area.

But here’s the nitty-gritty: What you really need to do is start. That’s the hardest part, I promise you that it gets easier with time as most things do. Below are some little checklists that have helped me and many of my students find their seat.

WHAT YOU NEED:
1. a blanket, cushion, block or chair
2. music (try some from here)
3. a timer or clock with an alarm

STEPS TO GET YOU MEDITATING:
1. Make your health a priority – You get one body/mind this time around, take care of it!
2. Make time – In this busy city life we lead, we never feel there is enough time. You can always carve out a few minutes.
3. Manage your schedule – This step is key and goes hand-in-hand with the two steps above. Keep a
calendar, make to-do lists, and stay on target – SCHEDULE “me” time. If you fall behind, don’t automatically go to “me” time and pencil in other stuff.
4. Find a space – Whether it’s arriving to yoga class a little early to start your meditation or turning a corner of your home into a sactuary, do it.
5. Get comfortable – Being seated on the floor isn’t comfy for most of us, but it can be. Don’t be afraid to use props. You can sit on a blanket or block and even extend the legs if you find you get cramping or feel fidgity.
6. Set realistic goals – Don’t expect to be completely still, completely focused the entire time, or able to sit for an extended period of time. Use a timer so you don’t have to worry about when your sit is up. Start with just a few minutes, then gradually increase over several weeks to reach your target length of meditation.
7. Ready, set, meditate!

HOW TO:
1. Start by closing your eyes and relaxing comfortably.
2. Focus on your breath. Hear it, feel it, allow it to deepen and lengthen.
3. As thoughts come into your mind, try and not focus on them, just let them be. As the thoughts trickle in, they begin to trickle out again. When you find yourself paying attention to something else, come back to your breath as your focal point.
4. Slowly you begin to drift off…find that place between sleep and wake.
5. If you feel an itch, scratch it. If your legs fall asleep, it’s ok to move. Just try to be as still as possible allowing the mind to rest.
6. Allow your timer to bring back to the awareness of the room and open your eyes.
7. Pat yourself on the back for a job well-done. What matters is that you started your practice!

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I’m just titling this one PEGGY DYER

October 5, 2011

You are stronger than you think you are. – Peggy Dyer (Breathe’s very own cycling coach & inspirer)

Let me start this blog on a tangent that may be more relevant than my original blog thoughts by telling you about someone. Her name is Peggy Dyer and this woman is FABULOUS! Peggy wandered into my life at one of my darkest moments. This stranger, as she was at the time, called me on the phone and I had to choke back tears to put on my “professional” voice. She explained who she was and how she had heard from a mutual friend I was having a bad day and wanted me to know that she was thinking about me. Yes, that is really how Peggy and I met!

Peggy has a big voice over the phone so I don’t know why I was surprised to see she was a big woman when we met face to face. She did explain she didn’t “look like a cycling coach” but that didn’t matter since her classes were awesome. I was excited about her positive attitude and vibrant energy and I thought, what the heck, another cycling coach with a new perspective will be good for the studio and so we threw her on the schedule. Peggy’s classes were slow to build but once people went to her classes, they were hooked. I get email after email about this woman’s ability to change people’s lives, all from the saddle of a bike.

Not only is Peggy inspiring as a coach, but her students have watched 50 pounds melt off of her and it has given them reason to stick with their ride. I received one comment from a student that explained she didn’t like summer because she wasn’t comfortable wearing anything that showed her arms or legs because she was overweight, but now she beams from across the room in spandex, YES SPANDEX, bike shorts and couldn’t be happier with her body! You wanna know why? Because Peggy told her she was strong. So much stronger than she ever knew. Peggy has created a support group of wonderful people without even knowing it. So, I wanted to just share her wisdom with you so she could touch your life, as she has touched mine and so many others.

Shameless promotion: If you wanna check out her class this month, Pegs is our Teacher of the Month so you can drop-in for only $8!!!

So, on with the blog…

Several months ago I overheard the end of Peggy’s cycling class when she told her students “You are stronger than you think you are.” I stopped dead in my tracks. She was right! We all limit ourselves because we just don’t think we can do what we set out to. After marinating on this wisdom for a few days I felt compelled to put it to the test…off the mat and bike.

I have a weakness for shoes. A serious weakness. I was going to attempt to put Pegs’ words to the test and go into my favorite shoe store, only to window shop. I had never done this before. I just simply didn’t go if I didn’t have money to spend and would even find my way in there even when I didn’t. So, after my regular wander around the store in a clock-wise direction, I found myself growing roots at the clearance section. Well, surely, I didn’t mean these shoes were off limits–THEY ARE HALF PRICE! AND MY SIZE! I tried them on. Perfect. They even went with the clothes I was wearing and that was a sign, wasn’t it?

NO!!!! It wasn’t! I heard Peggy’s words creep into my thoughts, even though I tried vigorously to ignore her. But she was right. I am stronger than I think I am. I didn’t need the shoes. I could walk away and find strength in my decision to NOT purchase them. I went into the store a week later with the intent to purchase the shoes and tried them on again. They were no longer calling to me. I searched the store frantically to find something else to carry home but nothing screamed, “Take me with you!” I learned to take a step back and realize that I really was stronger than my desire for new shoes.

Now this seems like a silly little story to relate to working out or getting into your practice. But really, it’s the little things we need to find strength in; use mind over matter and we can move mountains. Whether you are grunting to make it through that last sprint on the bike, or need to take just one more breath on your mat to hold that glorious pose, find comfort in the strength you didn’t even know was there. Because you know what? It is….

Today’s contemplation will seem more like an interview question. It is one I ask of all my teacher trainees, one I learned to answer in a marketing class. What are your greatest strengths? How do you embody these strengths?

Allow the mantra to unfold in the mind’s eye with the inhale “I am” and the exhale “so strong.”

Using the Past

September 27, 2011

You aren’t who you are in spite of your past but because of it. – Anonymous Beloved Yoga Teacher

A wise teacher once said the above to me and it has had a profound effect on my life. I often find myself quoting it in class to my own students. So often we look back our past and only see the failures and tribulations and wonder, “What if…” We find ourselves feeling sorry for events that have taken place in our lives, opportunities missed and challenges not met.

What we need to do instead, is be thankful for those past failures because each one taught us something about ourselves. Even Donald Trump has filed bankruptcy three times and you didn’t see him running home with his tail between his legs. He just put on a new clump of hair, called himself The Donald, and learned from what didn’t work to create the next successful business.

Today’s contemplations is this: What adversities brought you to this leg of your journey? How did you turn that adversity around to make lemonade out of lemons? How can you continue to sip the sweet nectar of your past and turn it into brightness for your future?

Finding Grace

September 20, 2011
Gracefulness has been defined to be the outward expression of the inward harmony of the soul.” – William Hazlitt

Often times in my classes I’ll ask my students to find grace between the asanas. That simple step from back to front of the mat. That quiet breath that takes you from your lunge into Warrior I. Even that last bit of energy you expend as you pull one more pedal stroke to get to the top of our climb on the bike. It is because your yoga practice isn’t made up of each asana individually, but of all you do on AND OFF your mat. Today I ask you to be bold and step into the full evolution of grace, filled with revolution in your life! This is no simple task but I expect each and every one of you to STEP IT UP and SHINE! Why? Because you CAN and you WILL!!!!

I believe in the power of positive thought–by harmonizing with the soul the body becomes that outward expression of grace we search for day in and day out. In a blog in March I asked you to contemplate how a commitment to yoga could be used to affect your life physically, mentally and emotionally. What did you want to accomplish and how did you plan to do it? Are you still on the path? It is now time to check in with how you answered yourself and re-ask the same questions. Have you seen/felt a change? If so, how? If not, why? 

Finding Grace isn’t always easy. If it weren’t so elusive, don’t you think everyone would live by it? Each and every day you have an opportunity to find it. It presents itself in tough situations, last-minute changes and those moments when it would be so much easier to just quit than face what lays ahead.  I recently watched Evan Almighty with my daughter. There was a scene that stuck out for me and I want to leave you with that today for your contemplation.

Aaaaah, Savasana

September 15, 2011

Rest is the sweet sauce of labor. – Plutarch

Today I’m reminded that I am not super human. Crazy, I know. Like you, I juggle a career, school, family, friends, pets, workouts and outdoor recreation. What I sometimes forget to factor into my day is sleep and today my body has reminded me that it needs to happen.

Our bodies need rest. Our minds, central nervous systems, organs and muscles need ample time to recover. As we exert ourselves physically, it sends a stress response to the brain. Any time your heart rate increases to elevated levels, the body goes into stress mode. We tend to only think of stress as a negative thing, but in our bodies, it is what increases our endurance, makes us faster, leaner and stronger. However, moderation is key. We want to increase the stress on our bodies physically to a point, and then take time to come back and recover so toxins can flush out and muscles can repair themselves. Without taking this time, you run a greater risk of injury and illness.

Note how animals are keenly aware of this. My cat and dog are experts at making time to rest and perhaps we should take a cue from our furry companions. No matter what is going on around them, they seem to be able to tune it out and find savasana without even being directed in how to do it.

compliments of #SomthingtoLearn... http://wp.me/PVWZl-dW

This theme of rest and recovery brings me to what is going to be our pose of the week (or weekend since it is after all, already Thursday)–one that is frequently overlooked by practitioners: Savasana, or corpse pose. After a yoga practice or workout, be sure to take time to completely rest in stillness for at least two minutes, letting the feet fall open, palms turned up to the sky arms rest wide slightly off the mat near the hips. If your mind has trouble quieting down, focus on the breath. Feel the deep sensations of it pulling into the body and any left over tension leaving with the exhale. As the mind wanders, keep coming back to the internal sound of the breath resinating within. Everything from the forehead and jaw down to the tips of the toes should remain relaxed. Observation of the breath and release of the body are key in absorbing the benefits of this pose. May you enjoy this peaceful rest.

I’m going to take mine right now…

Do or Do Not

April 12, 2011

I’ll admit it–I’m a total nerd! But I really can’t put it any better than Yoda. His simple words of wisdom comes back to this weekend’s contemplation of the beginner’s mind as he instructs his apprentice, “You must unlearn what you have learned.”

Often times we TRY to get things done. We try to get to housework after a hectic day at the office, we try to make more time for our friends, we try to complete goals we set for ourselves. Well, let’s just say enough with the trying and get to the doing!

Make time each and every day for yourself. Period. Rest today’s contemplation on how you can squeeze in 5 minutes of pure bliss just for you in the middle of your workday. Whether it is a stop at the vending machine to just sit and indulge the senses on your favorite treat, leaving your phone at home so you can drive to the store for a gallon of milk in peace or setting aside time to create an altar in your home. Whatever you decide, just do it and may the force be with you!

All My Love and Support in your Journey,
Sarah

Beginner’s Mind

April 10, 2011

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” – Zen Master Shunryo Suzuki

Let’s step into the new work week with a beginner’s mind. This is a Zen Buddhism approach to life and one we should all try to adopt. Perhaps you are new to yoga and/or cycling, or recently started a new job, relationship or hobby. In these instances, the beginner’s mindset isn’t an unimaginable one since you are still getting acquainted with your new situation/orientation and possibilities are bountiful. However, we all have parts of our daily routine that can become rote…things we could practically do with our eyes closed, going through the motions as they become monotonous, tired and bland. The key is to find new ways to approach these situations with new eyes.

The way I looked at and approached life changed dramatically when my daughter become mobile. As soon as she could walk, she reached for everything in sight. If she couldn’t reach it, she devised ways to get there. Boxes were no longer something to recycle or use for storage, but forts, rocket ships or art supplies. She showed me 101 ways to use bottle caps and wine corks. I finally began to see the world as this new and completely amazing landscape full of possibilities.

No matter how much of an expert you are at your job, your practice or what ever it may be, approach it differently this week. If you have kids, take some time to stare at the world through their eyes. If not, try and remember back to your childhood — what was your favorite toy or place to play? How did your imagination shape the space you lived in? How did that shape you growing up?

So, look through a new set of eyes at the amazing possibilities that surround you. I look forward to seeing you all in class this week as we find new ways to move and breathe together!

Sarah

Breath Body

March 29, 2011

As we continue into our week, our contemplation rests in the rebirth of our breath. If anyone has ever watched a baby sleep, you can watch the steady rise and fall of their entire being. The belly reaches up to the sky with the inhale and falls back with the exhale perfectly. As we grow, we develop habits which hinder the breath and don’t allow that full bodied breath to carry us through our day. Breath plays such an important role in more than just allowing the oxygen to enter and exit the body.

Yoga invites us to contemplate the flow of prana affecting the subtle body energies. Nadis are conduits which carry prana into the spaces of the body known as chakras. As energy centers open, we begin to access repressed emotions, stored trauma and accumulated life patterns. If the flow of breath is hindered we contract. This physical/energetic shift which results from learned patterns of holding can lead to a profound sense of isolation and separateness. As we nurture the breath body, we become sensitive to ourselves and can make empowered, conscious decisions in life and finally we see the results of that mind/body connection.

Take time in your day to center and feel the WHOLE body breath. Through this breath, step into empowerment!

Lemonade Anyone?

March 27, 2011

Lama Surya Das once said, “Gratitude is my favorite prayer.” Finding gratitude in life can sometimes be a challenge when we are handed lemons instead of a refreshing glass of lemonade. Even as a yoga teacher, I find it hard to be grateful and find grace in all that comes my way. However, if it weren’t for those sour moments we encounter, would grace be as sweet? Probably not.

I’ve had my fair share of letdowns, meltdowns and run-arounds. I’ve made mistakes and have a past checkered with less than stellar decisions. But I’ve also worked hard, been persistent and decided that no matter what, I would keep getting up, no matter how many times I was knocked down.

A few years ago my life fell apart. I was laid off from my dream job, my marriage fell apart and I was severely injured when I was hit by a car on my bike. These events made it so I was no longer able to afford my home and I had to move. This upheaval sent me into a long and intense custody battle over my daughter. There were times in which getting out of bed was an accomplishment. I felt as if I had hit rock bottom and was devastated. But you know what? When you are at rock bottom, the only way to go is up, right?

Finding gratitude in my life for the accomplishments I achieved while I was down, the love and support I had from friends and family, and the tiny light I could see at the end of the tunnel brought me through it all. Some days are rockier than others, but I can always look back at what I endured and feel pride in finding my way.

When life throws lemons your way, I have every faith you can squeeze some lemonade out, no matter what. Your contemplation today is simply this: What are you grateful for in your life RIGHT NOW? Make this today’s prayer.

Practice Patience

March 26, 2011

Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.  ~John Quincy Adams

We live in a world of digital pictures, drive-up windows and instant mashed potatoes. We have high-speed trains, high-speed internet and stoves with the ability to bring water to a boil in under one minute. With these advances to make things quicker you’d think we would have more time and patience but it has created just the opposite affect. Now, standing in line at the bank or post office and even waiting for a green light can be excruciating at times. Have we forgotten the virtue of patience?

When it comes to our bodies and minds, we usually want to see results right away. We even expect it. However, as reality sets in, we realize we have to put in the time and earn the results. Set a month long goal for yourself to practice daily. Take the time you deserve whether it is at the studio, at home with a DVD or in the park with spontaneous excitement.

Today I offer you a pose of the week: Adho Mukha Svanasana, or Downward Facing Dog. It is the pose we get to experience results in each time we work into it in our practice on the mat. At the beginning of our practice it is a heating pose, one that challenges us and asks our legs to lengthen and hearts to open. As we come back to it each time through each wave of sequencing, it evolves as our flow unfolds. It becomes a pose we maintain to bring us into a calm state of mind and acts as a buffer to our next round of engagement in new postures. Finally toward the end of class it becomes a restorative and restful pose. One in which we feel we can hang out in all day as the body and mind are open and responsive.

So let your practice evolve this month just as your Downward Facing Dog evolves on the mat. When we set a month long goal, we are still very much in the challenging phase at the beginning of our practice. We are still heating up and asking ourselves to respond. Patience wields this pose to take shape and change to something new each and every time. Practice this pose several times throughout your weekend and the coming week. Try it in the morning, noon and at night and experience it in different states of being. I guarantee you will see the differences each and every time.