Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Moving!

Front Porch Yoga is moving.
Visit my new 'place to pause' at www.frontporchyoga.com
Also, please re-direct your RSS feed to:
http://wordpress.frontporchyoga.com

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Slow Food


How do you interact with your food?

Where do you purchase your vegetables?

Do you turn on your oven or microwave?

Notice the colors on your plate?

Taste the food you chew before you swallow?

Share a meal with your family or turn on the TV?


I have struggled over the past few years with truly savoring my meals. Factors that contributed to my rushed food habits: I used to get home from work and be absolutely STARVING, so the quickest remedy was most frequently fried eggs or a PB & J sandwich. And I live alone, so it always felt silent, weird, and boring to eat without music or television to accompany my meal.

A dear friend who's dining ritual is punctuated with patience and care has suggested that I feed myself like I would feed a guest. She suggested lighting candles and spending more time cooking (finding a rhythm in the preparation and a meditation in the quietness). But I think the truth in my struggle has always been giving myself the permission to relax and enjoy. When I do take the time to carefully prepare my food and then elegantly serve it, I always photograph the meal, perhaps trying to capture the feelings it invoked inside me: the feelings of pleasure and self-care and respect for my body. I have a great respect for my dear friend and for the people who created the Slow Food Movement. I am so thankful for those treasured souls in my life who remind me to nurture myself with food and help me to slow down...

This summer I decided to join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program in order to support my local economy. I have tasted new foods (including baby bok choy) and feel empowered by eating local, organic produce. There is something very romantic about picking up my basket of veggies and eggs every Sunday morning, and I am continually mesmerized by the bright colors: green lettuce and red strawberries to name a few.

The more happily and healthily you treat your body, the more fluid and strong your yoga practice will be, right? Just one more reason to slow down and enjoy good eats!

How can you slow down your experiences with food?


Choose love,
Grace

PS I love garlic! Anyone else love garlic?!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Clip, Rip, Glue, Recycle!
I will be leading a Journey Collage class in Cincinnati
at Park and Vine, my favorite green general store,
on May 30, 2009 at 11:00 am.
Please join me!
What you think you create.
What you feel you attract.
What you imagine you become.
-Adele Brasheer

I enthusiastically believe in the law of attraction: your thoughts create your reality. I have manifested my hopes and wishes over the past 10 years with the visual aid of journey collages recycled from old magazines. Seeing the images prompts my subconscious to stay focused on what I truly want. Oprah calls them vision boards, Sarah Van Brethnach calls them illustrated discovery journals, but I call them journey collages because everyone is on their own unique journey of self-discovery and exploration. This is a powerful tool to help you get what you want!


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Savasana- a place to pause

A friend new to yoga recently attended a class with me. She commented afterwards that the most challenging part for her was the lying down at the end- savasana. She said the more she tried to relax her face, neck, arms, belly, legs, toes, the more tense and tight she became. The more she tried to trick her body into letting go, the more she became rigid and locked. So her mind analyzed why she was failing at simply lying down, and her thoughts raced around her body in circles, round and round.

I cherish savasana at the end of my yoga practice. But savasana wasn't always so simple for me. I remember when I first started practicing yoga, and I was super fidgety. I didn't feel comfortable on the hard wooden floor. My fingers twitched from all my muscles being pushed to their edge in ways they weren't accustomed to. I kept opening my eyes, afraid I would fall asleep. I remember being more afraid of being still than twisting my body into funny postures!

Why is savasana important? Savasana allows your body to soak up and absorb all the energy you have built and created through your flowing practice. Savasana is a literal place to pause. Savasana is the one time during my day where I can completely release and sink, dissolve, melt into the floor. It is the one time where I give myself permission to be peaceful and be totally present to the moment.

The rest of the time I find my mind buzzing and my body racing from one event to the next. I sometimes spend a portion of my day holding my breath (see? Even yoga teachers are tarnished...). So I crave those moments of silence during savasana, and I enjoy them to the maximum.

I invite you to find the SPACES in your day and savor them. Seek out those moments when time just stops. Allow yourself to be drenched in rest at the end of a yoga practice.

What are your tricks for letting go completely (in savasana or in life in general)?

Choose love,
Grace

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Balance

I am fascinated with balance, especially in regards to balancing activities in my life. I am a social butterfly, and lately my life has overflowed with a variety of fun and fulfilling experiences: yoga classes (taught and taken), theater, indy films, art openings, ballet performances, kirtan chanting, massages, and dinners with friends. I choose to surround myself with creative and amazing people and events, but sometimes I get caught up in the swift current of busy-ness. It is a daily practice to live in the moment.

Yoga helps me find balance in my life. It gives me a place to pause and reflect on all the wonderful swirls of love and laughter that fill my life to the brim, or to just settle down and catch my breath. It is super important to focus your drishti (gaze) when standing in balancing postures. In life, having a purpose or guiding compass (a way to focus your inward gaze) will help you to find balance because it will guide your choices to support your values. When choosing to participate in one thing, I am choosing to not participate in something else. Life is all about finding the fine line between busy and bored, entertained and overwhelmed, elated and run down, calm and anxious.

Throughout your yoga practice, I encourage you to find a balance between lifting up and rooting down, inhaling and exhaling, eyes open and eyes closed, strengthening and stretching. There is always an opposite, there is always a choice, and there is always a balance. If you can find that PLACE, you will be immersed in what IS.

How can you use your life purpose to encourage a balanced lifestyle?

Choose LOVE!
Grace

Sunday, April 26, 2009

An offering...

I wrote this love letter a few months ago to a kindred spirit, but I was bewildered to discover not long after writing it that I could have easily been writing to myself. And I re-read it from that perspective and was moved to soft tears. I decided to share it with all of you in hopes that you will compose your own letters of love to yourselves....what a beautiful gift...

Dear Love,
You spend a lot of time encouraging, congratulating, and writing love letters to others, and it's now time for someone else to honor you. The first thing that resonated with me is that your personal mantras are so positive and upbeat. You look for the simple things in life to bring you pleasure. You have an adventurous spirit, appreciating the discovery of new places and new cultures. You connect with others so effortlessly, always focusing on the inner beauty first, while suspending judgment. It's so refreshing to see that your family ties are so incredibly strong. You are selfless, always giving and rarely expecting anything in return. You are passionate about nature and remain respectful, knowing that there is much to learn from the wilderness. You practice yoga, which is just plain sexy. You are athletic and physically strong, and you take care of your body by eating organic foods as much as possible and supporting local farmers. You relish flavors and colors as you eat, not letting the art of good cooking escape your taste buds and tummy. The water is one of your best friends, and you soak, splash, float, plunge, and sink until your heart is content. You obviously adore snow because it's just another form of water: snow, snowstorms, flurries, ice, et al. You can't imagine living anywhere without a rainbow of seasons. You are musically talented, and you are kind enough to share this gift with the rest of us. You often find yourself in situations that give you the opportunity to laugh at yourself, and this goofy sense of humor reflects your confidence and charisma. You create work that brings you incredible freedom, self-expression and beauty. You are a healer in your core, making people whole again with a simple smile. You are grateful, always in tune with all the bountiful blessings in your life. But most importantly, you are real: you allow your inner light to shine for the entire world to see, and I find that to be the most attractive quality from this entire list. I would love to spend time with you and get to know you: push you high on a swing until your toes touch the sky, burn marshmallows at a campfire, water ski in a lake with happy alligators, grill corn muffins, road trip with no destination in mind, pick strawberries and stain our hands bright red, sing you a Grace original, explore the Children's Room at the library, take a walk and pick up pennies off the ground, dance outside in a thunderstorm, laugh hysterically until our bellies hurt…and just share in this thing called life. And even if this is the only moment we have: a moment where I am writing and thinking about you, and you are reading and thinking about me; then I am blessed. And I thank you from my heart center for the beautiful reflection.

Love and hugs,
Grace

Monday, April 20, 2009

Inversions

I love being upside down. I've been known to randomly kick up into a handstand in the middle of the sidewalk on Main Street. When I'm upside down, the world looks different. One of my best friends and I used to tell each other "go stand on your head" when we were in a foul mood. When your head is below your heart, you allow oxygenated blood to cleanse and refresh your brain. Serotonin levels, which are your feel-good chemicals, also increase. And there's just something really thrilling about finding the exact spot of balance where you are floating in the air, stable and strong, toes reaching for the clouds.

But lots of beginners have a lot of fear of inversions, which is perfectly normal. The biggest fear is that you'll fall over and hurt yourself. I remember getting so frustrated each time I would topple to the ground. If I was lucky, I could roll out gracefully. But most of the time, I would just crash to the floor in an awkward sideways thud. I know that I'm not making inversions sound very appetizing here, but the reality is that you probably will fall the first few times you try them, and that's ok. I have some suggestions to help get past those awkward beginning moments...

Build your foundation. Get stronger. I recently learned that the key to a good handstand is not necessarily in your shoulders, but in your ABS (engaging uddiyana bandha, or navel lock) and lifting up OUT of your arms. So I have been working to strengthen my tummy, and I'm starting to feel much lighter when I kick up there. We always warm up for forearm balance (Pincha Mayurasana) with a couple dolphins first, to help strengthen our arms and shoulders.

Practice with a wall. Balancing against a wall is an extremely useful tool to help you build up the strength in the appropriate muscle groups to be able to balance comfortably in inversions. It also helps you eliminate some of the fear because you have something there supporting you. It's kind of like using training wheels when you first learned how to ride a bike. You used them initially to get the feeling and build your confidence, and then you eventually took them off and rode solo!

In my opinion, the more you practice, the less scary inversions will be! It's kind of like my philosophy about being a new yoga teacher...the more I teach, the more comfortable I will get! So pick an empty wall in your house, and every time you walk by that wall, lift yourself up into an inversion and breathe...

One last thing: Be sure to rest in child's pose after practicing inversions to help balance out the blood in your head. I don't want anyone passing out from standing up too quickly!

How do you turn your frown upside down when you're in a funk?

Choose love,
Grace

Monday, April 13, 2009

Firsts

Last week I taught my first "real" class at Yoga Ah. I say "real" because I had already taught one class there during my training, but at that time I was being observed by my teacher and hadn't received my certification yet. This time it felt official.

Just me and the students.

I was terrified.

Sweaty palms. Heart racing. Fight or flight response definitely kicking in.

Rather than focusing on my silly blunders here (I said reach for your big FEET instead of big toe and got some chuckles), I am choosing to share with you some important lessons from this first class experience. My very wise friends have steered the all-too-convincing negativity of the gremlin on my shoulder to a healthier and more self-compassionate direction. Here are their simple--but powerful-- suggestions:

*Be yourself!
*Teach what you know (and you know more than you think you know): it doesn't have to be complicated. Less is more. Creativity will come with time.
*It will become less robotic-feeling and more natural with time.
*Have FUN and enjoy yourself.
*Be kind to yourself.

What lessons have you learned from your "firsts"?

Choose to love yourself, even when it's hard...
...especially when it's hard.
Grace

Monday, April 6, 2009

Watch Me Grow

Watch Me Grow
by Mima (Guest Services Dept, Omega 2005)
There's something to be said about
Finding the natural in the uncomfortable
With interactions sparking revelations
In and around monotony
Of the everday
It can be said, life is painful
But here the reality painful or not
Remains--always--delightful.
Breathtaking. Soul-inspiring. Watch me grow.
If I could give in to my feelings of anger,
Jealousy, lust, love, repulsion. If that is
At all possible--it's here my home, my heart,
My mirror.
I can watch the fire die while in me
It burns alive, and smile, and say,
Watch me grow.
I can break a heart or two and have mine
Broken though find a friend in an
Enemy and hate them with only
Sacred intention. Watch me grow, watch me grow,
Watch me grow.
There's something to be said--in this
World of chaos, dead, or dying, amongst
All the unknowns.
There's something to be said
about finding the natural,
finding the whole.
Standing in
It, living through it, and watching ourselves
Grow.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Zen



"The only zen you find on the tops of mountains is the zen you bring up there."
~Robert Pirsig


My Mum, sister Karen, and baby niece Melody flew from NH to OH to visit me this past weekend. It was a delightful whirlwind of baby baths in the kitchen sink, diaper changes, feedings with many, many spoons, and lots and lots of Graeter's ice cream for the grown-ups! It was my niece's first plane ride, and she's only six months old. My first flight was when I was 18, and I chose Paris, France as my destination (daring, yes?). I have loved everything about flying since that first jaunt to Paris: meeting random inspirational people in airports, trying to squeeze into a bathroom stall with a rolling suitcase, take-offs and landings, cocktail napkins with cheesy airline slogans, etc. But my absolute favorite thing is the window of time right after I breeze through security and arrive at my gate and right before my flight starts to board. Those are true moments of zen for me (please note: I always arrive 2 hours early, so this gives me plenty of time to just hang out). The only place I have to be is right where I am. I don't have any responsibilities to distract me like laundry or cleaning. I can just sit back and relax. I often people-watch, and I do a good deal of writing in these moments of presence. The announcements over the loud speaker serve as a lullaby to calm my nervous system. I am usually so jazzed up about flying to wherever I am going that it helps for me to have some down time to pause and reflect on the here and now. We have all experienced these moments at one time or another, and this peace that we discover can be tapped into at any time. The trick is knowing how to access it. I would recommend thinking back to a time when you felt centered and totally in the moment. Connect with your 5 senses to re-create the location, smells, colors, and energy of this moment in your mind. Any time you feel like you need a mini-vacation, you can tap into your inner zen moment without even having to get on a plane!

What are some of your favorite zen moments?

Choose love,
Grace

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Savor the Flavor

For New Year's Eve 2009 I savored a scrumptious dinner at my favorite restaurant, Honey. Every time I dine there, the rich flavors of each dish merge together to create a lively party in my mouth. And I am reminded that I want to learn more about spices...

I remember back in my first days living in my first apartment away from home, reading a recipe that called for 1/4 tsp. of dill weed. I was pinching pennies to the max, so I just couldn't rationalize spending 5 bucks for a large jar of spice I might never use again. I brainstormed possible substitutions, but my eventual solution was to creep into my parents' kitchen with a zip lock baggie and capture a dash of dill from my mother's plastic tupperware spice organizer (I think that's as close as I ever came to stealing). But now I am a real grown up, and I have my very own lovely spice collection made of irregular shaped glass bottles and metal tins, alphabetically lined up on a miniature lazy susan in my cupboard.

Piled up next to this swirling spiceland are boxes and boxes of herbal tea. My most recent addition to my tea collection is Numi's Organic White Rose. I first experienced this tea at Honey: before, during, and after that flavorful New Year's Eve meal. I think our server might have tired from bringing me refills on hot water over and over again, but I just couldn't stop myself from drinking more and more. I relished the delicate floral scent, the blushing of the water as it turned slightly pink while steeping, and the genuine taste of love. I was so inspired by this particular flavor that I searched high and low at various grocery stores and gourmet shops to find it. But after much exploration with no success, I let the "buy local" ideal go, and I was prepared to order it online and pay exorbitant shipping costs. It was just then that I discovered the tea as I was casually browsing the grocery section at our brand new super-sized Target, of all places! I couldn't stop smiling as I went through the check out line. The law of attraction came through for me- again!


I also adore lavender-flavored delicacies...lavender lemonade and lavender ice cream are amongst my favorites! Perhaps because lavender has a natural calming effect? Or perhaps because it's so different...


How can you savor the flavor of life?

Choose yummy love,
Grace

Friday, March 13, 2009

Yoga Retreat

Thought I'd spread some yoga luv this weekend with a link to Eric Laurtis' (talented photographer and storyteller) blog entry about his recent yoga adventures in Mexico. He shared a gorgeous slideshow, documenting the glory of sunsets and the beauty of everybody (every-BODY).

What past experience made your heart unexpectedly, blissfully sing?

Remember that experience with all your senses, and feel the bliss again- right now.

Rediscover love,
Grace

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Oh, happy day!

It's challenging to remain positive when all you see on the news and read about in the paper is dreary and depressing. That's why I subscribe to the Good News Network. It's free, and their mission is to provide a "Daily Dose of News to Enthuse." The Good News Network is a clearinghouse for the gathering and dissemination of positive news stories from around the globe. Daily stories will confirm what we already believe — that good news itself is not in short supply; the advertising of it is.

Last week I learned about someone else who is making a positive difference from my Daily Candy updates. She's a stationary designer named Tristan Shout Brando, and she created The Bright Side Project: Every day in March there will be a question posed by an accessory designer (coming months will have different themes). One lucky reader with a creative answer will win a creation from said designer. Easy as that. The queries are intended to get people thinking on the — you guessed it — bright side. Think: “How do you define internal peace?”

And in honor of this month's holiday, St. Patrick's Day, I'd like to share a website entirely devoted to rainbow sitings! Appreciating both the precious and mundane qualities of rainbows, the site is offered as a place to visit and revisit for reflection, contemplation, humour and curiosity. The project imagines a growing collection of images documenting those moments when a rainbow appears and wonders what exchanges may be sparked by such a collection.

When you see a rainbow in the sky, do you pause to soak it up?

Choose love and happiness,
Grace

Dislcaimer: Much of the writing in this entry of happy resources was borrowed from various websites to provide accurate mission descriptions.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Food

Last night was Game Night- a monthly event that I initiated in January to encourage socializing and sharing amongst all my friends. It's a potluck and BYOB scenario, and there are always brownies that get devoured pretty much instantly. I munched on carrot sticks and a delicious vegan cheese dip as my friends eyed me with scrutiny and wonder (probably more of the latter since they ARE my friends!). I sighed and reminded them that I love food just as much as they do. But over the past few years, as I've practiced more and more yoga, I've become incredibly fine-tuned to my body's responses to foods. I prefer to nurture my body with foods that fuel rather than depress. I eat almost totally gluten free (which basically means no wheat products), as little sugar as possible (NO high fructose corn syrup!), and as minimally processed foods as I can. I try to eat organic, too, since I'd rather not eat nasty pesticides. I want to encourage you to think about the food that you ingest and how your body feels after you eat it. Personally, I want to feel alive and energized after eating: not depleted, tired, and irritable (sound familiar?!). My friends tend to take the defensive and insist that they are honest to goodness happier when eating an extra large ice cream sunday. I think the happiness from sweets is only temporary, and in the long run will probably make them gain weight and just have them craving more and more. As I always remind them, life is all about choices. Yes, sometimes it's more expensive or more "work" to eat the way that I choose to. But it's worth it for how amazing I feel!

How do your food choices make you feel?

Choose love!
Grace

PS Two foodie books that I recently borrowed from the library:
"Kitchen Literacy: How We Lost Knowledge of Where Food Comes from and Why We Need to Get It Back" and "In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto". I'm still reading them, so I can't quite give you a thumbs up or down, but I'm definitely intrigued...

Monday, February 23, 2009

Instant

Starbucks is introducing instant coffee. Phooey. I had a very strong negative reaction to this announcement, even though I am not a coffee drinker. My immediate reaction was frustration with everything in this day and age needing to be fast, convenient, quick, and instantly gratifying.

It's true that companies are catering to a demand for these kinds of products...a demand from the consumer. Our freezer at the office is crammed full of instant lunches that take only a few mintues to heat up in the microwave. Here in Cincinnati they have drive-thrus to purchase beer on-the-go. Fast food joints litter the main streets of our downtowns. My resume proudly boasts that I am an excellent "multi-tasker". Time has been squished into a tiny box, and we feel there is never enough of it.

But doesn't rushing take the joy out of the moment? What are we rushing toward? You can't focus on the present moment when you are constantly hurrying toward the next one. I fondly recall sitting down to dinner with my family every night when I was a child, discussing what we experienced during the day and just SHARING. One of my wishes is that we start to regard time as a friend, instead of an enemy.

When was the last time you ate dinner with your loved ones at the dining room table?

Choose love,
Grace

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Joyful Abundance

My sister recently commented on my blog posting and asked me to write about "finding a balance between saving money and enjoying/living life to the fullest!" Here you go, Karen!

The consciousness and self-awareness books and information that I've read lately reiterate the same idea over and over again: You can have anything your heart desires! It is only your belief that you can't have it that holds you back from getting what you want. In simple terms, it's all in your head. I'm in no way implying that you are crazy for thinking you need to save money. Obviously, it's hard to live from a place of abundance if you are living "paycheck to paycheck" or just scraping by financially, but the fact of the matter is, the more you think about being poor, the more poor you will become. It's a simple cycle governed by the natural laws of the universe.

So I would rephrase Karen's question about finding balance between frugality and joy to be: "How can I change how I think about money in order to support the lifestyle that I desire?" I have a few ideas for you.

First, be grateful for what you already have. This helps you to experience life from a place of abundance, rather than a place of lack. Next, trust that there is plenty of abundance for everyone (more than enough to go around!), so there is no need to hoard what you do have (which links back to my blog about giving). Another important piece of this equation is defining the word "expensive". People often place different definitions on the same word. Perhaps you can change the word "expensive" to something like "valuable". This slight change in adjective shifts the meaning from "financially unreachable" to "something important to me that would be worthwhile to invest in." Then you could do a visualization or meditation on how it would feel to actually HAVE the thing that you want. The energy that you bring to the surface when you do this will create more abundance in this area. I also love creating discovery collages to help guide my subconscious thoughts toward my desired outcome. I have found them to be incredibly effective ways of manifesting my dreams. I created a collage before my yoga teacher training that has truly inspired me along the way. So cut out images of the things you want, glue them to a piece of paper, and hang it in a place where you can look at it all the time. Feel like those things are ALREADY YOURS. Say thank you. And let the magic unfold...

What language can you change to bring you closer to abundance?

Choose love,
Grace

Monday, February 16, 2009

Happy Baby!

My sister snapped these photos of my darling 5 mo. old niece, Melody, almost practicing her first yoga pose...awww...




Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sole Searching

I was waiting in line at Panera bread, and I noticed the guy in front of me was wearing Dansko crocs. I asked him how he liked the them, and he replied that he can't live without them. He's on his feet all day, he told me. I modeled my Earth shoes (which use negative heel technology to straighten your spine & strengthen your leg and core muscles) for him and told him how much I love their support and comfort.

Many years ago I had a chiropractor warn me to stay away from high heels because they lead to knee and back problems. Honestly, I couldn't walk in heels anyway, so it wasn't much of a sacrifice to give them up. But I remember my first job in a corporate office, where our dress code was "business attire", and my fellow female co-workers donned power suits, thick make-up, and...you guessed it...pointy high heels. I remember agonizing over the fact that I wanted to fit in so badly, but couldn't find any heels that were comfortable (which in my vocabulary means they simulate what it would feel like to walk on a cloud). I thought that if I didn't find some snazzy, feminine footwear, I would stand out like I sore thumb. I endured many self-inflicted frustrating excursions to shoe stores like Parade of Shoes and The Shoe Factory, where I always left empty handed.

In the midst of my searching, I came across an article about being true to yourself- and the fact of the matter hit me like a ton of bricks. The article delicately reminded me that being yourself is supposed to be easy, so if what you're doing doesn't feel comfortable and good, it's probably not a reflection of who you are. I do not feel good when my toes are squished together and start to go numb after 2 minutes from loss of circulation. This neverending struggle/battle to squeeze myself into this mental image of a corporate businesswoman was leaving me feeling miserable and depleted. When I made this discovery, I decided to let the mental image go. So I went out and bought myself a pair of cute black flats and couldn't stop beeming all day long from the relief I felt at embracing my inner truth.

This shoe lesson brought me one step closer to achieving santosa, or mental ease. Santosa is contentment with your self, a part of the 2nd limb (niyamas- self observations) of Ashtanga Yoga. You know how people offer up "Cheers!" when raising glasses high for a toast? I want to recommend a new word to say when toasting: "Santosa!" May you find comfort within yourself and be grateful for all the bountiful blessings in your life.

What healthy change can you make today to bring you more inner peace?

And on a slightly comic (but serious) note: What are your favorite brands of comfy shoes?!

Choose love,
Grace

Monday, February 9, 2009

Gumby

There are two common responses I get from people that have never practiced yoga when I suggest that they try it:

1- I'm not flexible.
2- It looks boring.

Please allow me to try to dispell these false ideas...

There's a myth that yoga is only for people with super flexible and bendy bodies- that's because the images of the great yoga masters (gurus) that brought yoga to the West are usually ones where they've twisted themselves into tight, frightening-looking pretzels. But you don't have to be GUMBY to practice yoga. The only thing you have to be when practicing yoga is YOURSELF. You have to be willing to work with your body exactly the way it is. I have tight hips, and I can't sit in lotus position comfortably, but I still do yoga! I trust in the process and know that over time, my hips will probably loosen up. And if they don't, that's ok, too. It doesn't matter. There is nowhere to "get to" in yoga. That's why we call it a "practice."

We live in a world of constant stimulation and activity where multi-tasking is an important skill and stress is an expectation of everday life. So when you put someone new to yoga in an empty room on a mat, ask them to focus on their breath, and start to stretch out all the tight places in their bodies, feelings of panic may rise to the surface. This space and silence is not familiar and certainly not comfortable! The urge to "DO something" bubbles up. But this process of finding your flow as you move and breathe is anything but boring. And the beauty of yoga is that you take it to whatever level you want to. There are many modifications for each pose, so you can uncover as much challenge as you desire!

So maybe now when you hear the word "yoga," you won't be so quick to write it off. Try it before you make a decision. Be open to the possiblities!

How flexible are your thoughts on trying new things?
Choose to love yourself,
Grace

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Light

I taught my first yoga class on Tuesday night! It was both terrifying and exhilerating. I chose to weave a theme about light into my script for the evening. This was my introduction:

*************
Close your eyes, and visualize a small, glowing ball of light at the center of your being. It's about the size of a tennis ball, and it can be white or any color of your choosing. This light symbolizes love, space, comfort, peace and any other intention you may have for your practice. Now visualize the ball expanding to double its' size. As you move and breathe today, allow the ball of light to spread throughout your whole body. If you are struggling in a pose, breathe light into any areas of discomfort. Trust in your light. Be grateful for your light.

*************
Our inner energy, spirit, soul (whatever word you'd like to use to define the center of our being) is always accessible to guide and support us.

"...We do not need to bring our real Self, our higher Self, into existence. It has always been there, yearning to be out. An incomparable spark of divinity is to be found in the heart of each human being, waiting to radiate love and wisdom everywhere, because that is its nature. Amazing!" -- Eknath Easwaran (from "Timeless Wisdom")

We proclaim "Namaste" at the end of every class, which can be translated as: the divine light in me honors the divine light in you.

How can you share your radiant light with others today?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Generosity

With the sinking economy, I think it's the perfect time to discuss giving money away! Yes, you read that statement correctly. Give, give, give! My parents programmed the importance of giving into my psyche at a very young age. I remember having a special piggy bank for the money that I would drop into the collection basket every Sunday at church. I am very thankful that I learned the importance of this lesson early on, but I am also very aware that it's not always easy to give money away as an adult with "big" responsibilities. I will admit that financial stresses tend to be one of the biggest ongoing challenges that I face. How we deal with money is a huge topic with lots of emotional undertones, so today I just want to focus on the concept of sharing. If money troubles seem to follow you around everywhere, leaving you anxious and depleted, start to give a little away. I totally understand that it's hard to think about contributing money to someone else when you feel as if you don't have enough for yourself. And I'm not suggesting that you completely drain your bank account. But when you tithe (specifically defined as giving one tenth of your income away) voluntarily and with a happy heart, the abundance will boomerang back to you multiplied. It may not be in the form of cold, hard cash, but you will be showered with blessings in ways you may never expect. It helps to give money to an organization that supports your values. Taking care of the earth is important to me, so I often make donations to groups like the Sierra Club. Or you can start on a smaller scale (but still of great value) and buy lunch for a friend. Throw some loose change into the guitar case of the dude on the corner that sings his heart out every day downtown. There are countless ways to spread the green love around...

Who will you give to today?

Choose love,
Grace

PS I read somewhere recently that there is a yoga studio in California where there is no charge for classes! They work on a "give what you can" system. This can be quite a balancing act when your business is your livelihood, but this dude has made it work, and in my book, he's a rockstar!

Monday, February 2, 2009

What do you see?

Take a moment to look around you right now. What do you see? Notice the variety of colors and hues, check out the quality of light, and observe the various objects nearby. You may have noticed something new, even though you probably have sat in this exact spot a million times before. Checking in with your surroundings helps to bring you into the present moment, which is the only place you need to be.

"Commonplaces never become tiresome. It is we who become tired when we cease to be curious and appreciative...[we] find it is not a new scene which is needed, but a new viewpoint." Norman Rockwell

I often spend my days rushing from one thing to the next, feeling like a robot on autopilot, completing task after task with no break from my habits or routine. I forget that my gift of sight can bring me something new every day!

"It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see." Henry David Thoreau
But it's not just about seeing our surroundings in a different light. We can use this message to help us embrace people as well. Sometimes we pass judgement by someone's appearance: the way they look, the clothes they wear, the style of their hair. But there is often much more depth to a person if you look them in the eye and accept them exactly as they are.

"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye." Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (The Little Prince)

What can you see differently if you change the way you look?
What do you see when you look inside yourSELF?


Choose to look with love,
Grace

Friday, January 30, 2009

Intuition

We are bombarded on a daily basis with conflicting messages from "experts". Sometimes I get so overwhelmed that I just want to scream!

Eat organic.
Pesticides don't really hurt you at all.
Pasta will make you gain weight- avoid it!
Carbohydrates are part of a balanced diet.
Vaccinations can lead to autism.
Vaccines are not the cause of children developing autism.
Don't spend too much time in the sun or you'll get cancer.
Your body needs vitamin D, which it can only get from sunlight.
The chance of divorce is higher if you live together before marriage.
Living together before tying the knot makes your marriage stronger.

What evidence can we really trust? It seems that there are always statistics supporting BOTH sides. I've studied a little bit of Feng Shui (the placement of your "stuff" to help create balance in your life), and I've learned something really important from this ancient tradition. There are many different branches of Feng Shui, and some of their practices contradict each other. But we all know instinctively when a room doesn't "feel" right. TRUST YOUR INTUITION. Do what's right for YOU! As the cliched saying goes: if your friends were jumping off a bridge, would you jump with them? Educate yourself before making important decisions. Read differing views on things you're curious about. Soak up all the information you can like a sponge and become an informed decision-maker. After all, you have all the answers you need deep inside you...you just have to learn to listen.

How can you start trusting YOURSELF more?

Choose love,
Grace

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Enlightening Snow

Puffy white flakes descend from the sky like sifted flour. Icycles hang heavy on bowed power lines. I am blessed to have been given permission from my compassionate boss to work from home today. I am perfectly capable of navigating the roads in blizzard-y conditions, but today I am choosing to avoid the possibility of car or bodily damage today. The risk is too great.

So I sit stretched out on my futon with my laptop perched on my legs, fingers rapidly tapping the keyboard. I am facing the living room's picture window, and my periferal vision keeps getting interrupted by the pure whiteness of the falling flakes. I look up, and I am hooked. I sit mesmerized at mother nature's creative genius, and I begin to zone out. I am practicing dharana without even trying. Dharana is the fifth limb of yoga (there are 8 altogether, which when practiced together lead you to enlightenment), and it simply means meditating on an object. The possibilities are endless as far as what kind of an object to use. In my teacher training we practiced a meditation while staring into the flame of a candle, trying hard not to blink. Focusing on your breath (a popular form of meditation) is another form of dharana. It helps to bring you out of your mind and into a space of freedom, openness and lightness. I used to think that meditation had to be done in a cross-legged or lotus position, hands on knees, eyes closed, and you had to try to shut your mind off somehow. These expectations seemed very uncomfortable and pretty much impossible to me. But I am learning that there is a wide depth to meditation techniques, and this revelation brings me great joy.

All of my attention is focused on the falling snow, and I observe it without judgement, letting my thoughts flow in and out of my mind with gentleness.

What are some other objects that could aid in meditation?

Choosing love and safety,
Grace

Monday, January 26, 2009

Courage

One homework assignment for our yoga training this weekend was to create a pranayama script, which is simply guiding someone through a breathing meditation. I opted to work on the exercise that is the most challenging for me, nadi shudi. This is alternate nostril breathing, and I always seem to take my first inhale through the wrong side of my nose and then proceed to get all mixed up with the alternating. We practiced our scripts on our peers yesterday, and my friend gently corrected me as I stumbled and bumbled along. Eventually, she offered a visual aid to help me understand the flow of breath in this exercise, which I gratefully accepted with a sigh of relief. My friend admitted to me (with a giggle) that she had chosen a simpler exercise to script, taking the easy way out of the assignment. I nodded in understanding.

"There is a tendency for each of us to gravitate toward what comes easiest and avoid the areas where we need the most work." --The Sevenfold Journey by Anodea Judith & Selene Vega

It's easy to get stuck in a pattern of simplicity and ease, especially during my personal yoga practice at home. I skip a pose because it's not comfortable. I hold downward dog for only 3 breaths instead of 5. Cheating my body out of challenge and depth in my practice only keeps me from growing. Yes, it's scary sometimes to try new things, but we learn about ourselves and our bodies when doing so. And think about how amazing we feel when we open up areas of discomfort with a deeper twist or extension, or balance without crashing to the floor for the first time. Countless yoga teachers have said that the poses that we dislike the most are the ones we need the most! How true, and how wise. I chose to embrace my difficulty with nadi shudi as a learning opportunity, and I gained new perspective and am much more comfortable with the process now.

How can you exercise your courage muscle today?

Choose love. Choose challenge.
Grace

Friday, January 23, 2009

Positive!

Here's a little ditty/poem/string of phrases for you. I wrote this last year on July 1st in a super jazzed up moment:

"Get charged. Tune in. Just be. Soak up the sun. Breathe light in nature. Share your path with others. Follow your heart. Let your intuition guide you. Be you. Be present. Love what is. Trust the universe. We are one. Live for one moment at a time. Open up. Think positive. All is well. Love."

Notice how they're all POSITIVE, affirming statements. It can be challenging to turn around negative ideas into positive ones, but I dare you to try it! The next time you catch yourself thinking like a pessimistic person (cuz you WILL catch yourself now that I've pointed it out to you!)- PAUSE - and come up with a more pleasant and positive version to keep you feeling good and keep your energy vibrating and lively! After all, you have the option to choose the way you think. Why not choose optimisim?

What would it feel like to think ONLY positive thoughts?

Choosing love one moment at a time,
Grace

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Rest

Last week I woke up with a sore throat, but felt fine otherwise, so I decided to head into the office anyway. I immediately started my immune boosting regimin of Zinc-C lozenges, herbal cough drops, Zand Echinacea/Goldenseal tincture (I LUV this stuff- check your local health food store to see if they carry it), and garlic pills galore. After only a few hours at work, my muscles started to ache, and exhaustion washed over my whole body. I had a pretty intense debate back and forth in my head about whether or not I should take the rest of the day off. I hate missing work. It's not because I love my job (although I do!), but more the principle of being a dependable employee. This is not a new phenomenon for me: I strived for perfect attendance at school every year. My co-workers and I joke about not wanting to waste our paid time off on sick days- we'd rather be at the beach or doing something fun! But as I get to know my body better through yoga and become familiar with the unhealthy warning signs (you're going to get sick if you don't slow down!), I have discovered how important it is to listen to what it's telling me. If I ignore my body's signals and push through a long day at work, I more often than not end up even more sick for a longer period of time. So I sucked up my stubborn perspective and headed home to the comfort of my cozy down comforter, a mug of tea, and a relaxing movie. And I was proud of myself for making a healthy choice and trusting my body.

Do you allow yourself rest when your body requests it?

Choose love.
Grace

Monday, January 19, 2009

Inhale, exhale.

The temperature here has been consistently below freezing recently, and I've been super aware of the misty cloud of breath that bursts from my lungs into the cold air when I step outside. Yoga has taught me about the importance of breath. I've never thought so much about something that happens without thinking about it! Inhale, exhale. The deep ujaii breathing that we practice in yoga helps to drown out our rambling thoughts, quieting our mind. The breath creates a flow from posture to posture, fluidly linking the movements together. But when I step off my mat after class, the breathing switches back to automatic, and my thoughts start to spin, bounce, jiggle, and swirl around in my head. Inhale, exhale. Sometimes during the day at work, when my stress level is rising, I notice that my breathing becomes really shallow, or I'll even catch myself holding my breath. I'm thankful that I recognize this correlation- the relationship between stress and breath in my life.

"the most important thing to me
as a songwriter is the breath
the most important thing I could
ever say to somebody is,
'sometimes I just breathe you in'".
--Tori Amos

Inhale, exhale. If I ever decide to get a permanent tatoo it will be calligraphy of the word EXHALE, so I have a constant reminder to release and let it all go. I offer this reminder to you: your breath brings you back into the present moment, which is the only place you really need to be! So the next time you start to feel off balance, STOP! Inhale, exhale....

How can you savor and relish your breath throughout the day?

Choose love,
Grace

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Mornings...

I admit it: I'm a morning person. My alarm rings, and I bounce out of bed! Part of the reason for this is that I turn into a pumpkin around 9:30pm, so I usually get a pretty full night's rest. My body is jazzed up and ready to go, sometimes even a few moments BEFORE the alarm rings! But even when I am super awake when I get to work, sometimes the daily habits and routines get in the way of recognizing the day as NEW. New possibilities, new opportunities, new growth. It's challenging to see something different when you are looking through the exact same lens. A friend of mine who runs an organizing business impressed upon me the importance of finding something inspirational to read to start your days. Think of it as coffee for your mind. I have signed up for a few daily e-mails from various environmental organizations that send me a green tip every day and also a daily quote. My suggestion is to go to your favorite website and see if they have a free daily e-mail list you can join. Or you could get one of those desk calendars about your favorite hobby or beautiful images to reflect on. It's the idea of something to get the gears turning. See how fun it is to start the day with a fresh perspective!

Do you have a favorite morning inspirational activity?

Choose LOVE!
Grace

Friday, January 16, 2009

Questions

One of our assignments in teacher training was to: LIVE IN THE QUESTION. I love this phrase! It reminds us to be curious and reinforces the importance of observation. A related pooh-ism from owl: "just when a fellow thinks he knows all the right answers, somebody has to come along with all the wrong questions!" It's kind of a relief to know that no matter how smart we are or how much we study or learn, we won't always know the answers. And sometimes it's as simple as the fact that there is no answer at all. It's important to be compassionate with ourselves or others when there doesn't seem to be an answer.

"We're searching for the answers so we can destroy them and dream up better questions." --Rob Brezsny

How are you living in the question today?

Choose luv.
Grace

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Gratitude!

One of the most important things you can do to change your life for the better is to be grateful. Even if what you WANT isn't what you actually HAVE in your life right now, accept what you have and be grateful for it. "An attitude of gratitude brings opportunities" (yogi tea bag tag). Shifting your thoughts from negative to positive will automatically bring more positive things into your life.

First thing's first: when you wake up in the morning, make your first thought be THANK YOU. And then right after you think it, say it OUT LOUD. Every day. Think about how awesome your day is going to be- the best day of your life! As you take your shower or brush your teeth, bless every part of your body and thank them for being an important part of the whole. Bless the meals that nourish your body- chew slowly- think about all the people that worked to grow your food, transport it to the store, put it on the shelves, cook it- and thank them all. Don't forget to thank yourSELF! You are allowed to give yourself props and pat yourself on the back whenever you feel it's appropriate.

Quote from a new favorite book Wishing: How to Fulfill Your Life's Desires" by Elizabeth Harper:
"What if you were thanked for everything you did? As soon as you leave the house, the mailman thanks you for having mail, the bus driver thanks you for getting onto his bus, the person you sit next to thanks you for sharing your energy with them, the waiter thanks you for allowing him to serve you, the shop assistant thanks you, your boss thanks you, everyone you work with thanks you, and so on. Take this a step further and imagine that all inanimate objects also appreciated your presence. The radio you turn on in the morning, the chairs, tables, the fridge, sink, the car...if everything in your life thanked you for just being there, imagine the elation, imagine how wonderful you would feel to be alive. This is exactly how the universe or the energetic vibrations of your environment respond when you appreciate everything in your life." (p109)

There's so much beauty in this world, and *I* am grateful for the opportunity to grow and bloom amongst all the colors and textures and curves and melodies. I invite you to reflect on the beauty in your own world and whisper a soft thank you. Or stand on the roof of a very tall building and shout your gratitude at the top of your lungs! Just remember to appreciate this moment- here and now!

What are you most thankful for?

Choose love.
Grace

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

One.

(written Monday October 3rd, 2005)
I had this moment where it struck me-- the interconnectedness of it all! The wooden salad bowls that hundreds of people have eaten out of all over campus that get run through the dishwasher and come out wet and clean only to be used to hold fresh flowers from a field nearby where crickets chirp at night, and somewhere a baby is listening to them hum, and it helps him fall asleep, and he dreams about the girl he saw today with pink hair and how much he detests the formula his mother buys for him at the local health food store that supports the organic farmers. And all these molecules impact each other and all these thoughts in our minds float around in the spaces between our words, our language. And the air is the tree is the acron is the hammock is the earth is the annoying quack of the geese is the creaking of the changing room door is the chatter of the gals next door is the wooden bowls that once rested on the stoop, waiting to be collected by someone who cares that they are unhappy and saturated in ANTS. And so I am pleased with this notion that there is no rhyme or reason to it, but that it all makes sense if you think of it from the perspective of a wooden bowl.

"There are hundreds of thousands of stems LINKING us to everything in the cosmos, SUPPORTING us and making it possible for us to BE. Do you SEE the link between you and me? If you are not THERE, I am not HERE." --Thich Nhat Hanh

Do you recognize that we are all ONE?

Choose love.
Grace

Monday, January 12, 2009

Sunrise Sunset

One of my many new year's wishes/ideas: Life doesn't have to be black and white. Embrace the gray! Or let it be black, white, and gray all at once. Live in the paradox, people! On one side of the world, people are watching the sunrise from their porch swing and on the other side of the world, people are watching the sunset from their porch steps...in the SAME moment!

Can you honor two different perspectives at the same time?

Choose LOVE.
Grace

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Teaching

I am currently in the process of taking a life-changing yoga teacher training at Yoga Ah.
Here's why (written 8-9-08) :

I had a dream where I envisioned a creative space where adults could play without fear or judgment. This dream became a reality when I walked into my first yoga classroom. And now, four years later, I have a dedicated and regular home practice, which feels amazing. Right after I get out of bed each morning I practice a 30 minute vinyasa combination to wake up my muscles, center myself, and give me energy for the day. After I get home from work my apartment is usually sweltering hot, so I practice Bikram yoga for one hour (about 3-4 times a week). And I come to the vinyasa class at Yoga Ah on Saturday mornings about once or twice a month. I had an "ah-ha!" moment about a month ago when I realized that I COULD become a yoga teacher. The little gremlin on my shoulder that's been telling me I don't have what it takes was suddenly swept aside by a deeper desire and longing to share my love of yoga with others. Teaching yoga would be in perfect alignment with my life purpose: I inspire others to live their joy by teaching balance through holistic health. My recipe for a successful life incorporates safely caring for mind, body, and spirit by practicing yoga, honoring my roots/heritage/family, incorporating magic/fun/laughter into every single day, nurturing Mother Earth, reading lots of good books, simplifying, and expressing gratitude. When I think back, my favorite work experiences have been those when I am given the opportunity to mentor and train new employees on processes, procedures, and skills. I love sharing with others things that I am really good at. My home practice has raised my confidence and made me even more comfortable in my own skin. My friends have been noticing how much more energized and healthy I seem lately, and they are all eager for me to teach them yoga, so they can reap the benefits as well. I am a healer, writer, organizer, artist, singer, photographer…and soon I will be a certified yoga teacher!

What's YOUR life purpose?

Choose love.
Grace

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Welcome home!

The house where I grew up in Maine had a lovely screened in porch. I used to sit at the folding table there for hours, coloring with crayons and singing along with my Amy Grant cassette tape at the top of my lungs. And now I practice yoga on the patio behind my apartment building, sometimes flowing with my iPod tunes. I'm ready to share my ideas about life with the world (this little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine...)! Yoga will be my point of reference for most entries. I invite you to join this front porch community; you're welcome anytime! Settle into an adirondack chair, have some lemonade, and watch the world float by. I challenge you to be an observer by taking a look around and suspending judgement of others- and yourself. There's no pressure to get things done or finish projects when sitting here. I hope you will join in some inspiring conversations, but I also understand if you'd just like to sit quietly. Silence is equally important as sound. Nothing is ever the same on this porch- the temperature goes up and down, the light gets brighter and softer, the people come and go; it is a very dynamic place to be....just like being present to the changes happening in your body while practicing on your mat. Welcome home!

Choose love.
Grace