Monthly Blog

My Dragonfly Yoga Retreat Weekend

“Living Outside My Comfort Zone”

What does ” living outside your comfort zone” mean?  As humans we create patterns in our lives, like grooves in the sand.  We habitually use these grooves over and over again because it creates ease. Then one day, you go outside the grooves, and it feels uncomfortable because you have to find new ways to manage the experience. However, it is those new ways which help us grow, and enjoy life more fully. They weave a tapestry of colors and layers that enrich our life, even though it can be uncomfortable.
This past weekend I stepped outside my comfort zone. I traveled to a place I had never been, to spend three days/two nights with people I had never met. A few times I was struck with fleeting pangs of anxiety “this could be really good or not”.  I had to work at letting those thoughts go, and to trust in the process of life. Fortunately, Dragonfly Yoga Barn & Retreats was a divine place, surrounded by the majestic White Mountains of Sandwich, NH. It is owned and run by Declan and Katie O’Connell. The atmosphere was serene and peacefully. You can feel, the dedication and love, which has gone into creating and maintaining a unique place like this.  It is quaint, personnel and warm, just like its owners. It is a real treat.
When I arrived I met my retreat companions for dinner, at the owner’s home, where all of the meals are served. I met a group of ladies who have been meeting there yearly, on the same May Retreat,  for the past nine years! The ladies were open and welcoming. The home was a New England-style farmhouse house with lots of country character and charm. Declan had prepared a healthy, delicious vegetarian meal for dinner, which included carrot& ginger soup, zucchini fritters, roasted beets, arugula salad with feta and local homemade bread.  For dessert, Katie, who is the baker, made homemade biscotti with tips covered in chocolate.
Afterwards a few of us decided to use the hot tub, located on the outside deck of the yoga barn. It was a great way to get to know a few of the ladies.  We all slept in the dormitory-style room. Initially this was the hardest part of the trip, because sleeping with strangers in the same room was…well..uncomfortable. However, it worked out perfectly fine.  I slept on the top bed of a bunk-bed, even though there were bottom bunks available, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.  The rooms were cozy, comfy and clean.  The first night everyone’s sleep was a little off, but that’s to be expected. Everything is different from the grooves you’re used to. The second night, we all slept like a baby.
In the morning there was fresh snacks in the kitchenette, downstairs in the yoga barn lounge room, followed by a wonderful yoga class taught by Katie.  She is a 500-hour certified yoga teacher. Brunch time rolled around, and we were ready for fresh brewed coffee, and another nourishing meal prepared by Declan and Katie, who made fresh scones. Afterwards the women went for a walk, but I stayed in.  My energy was depleted, I needed to recharge. At one point I was in full savasana mode, for a while. It really helped me understand the true restorative nature of this pose. 
The yoga barn was extremely warm with all of the traversing beams, wood ceiling, walls and floors. You are supported by nature, not only from the interior, but always with the visual landscape that surrounds the property.  When I was standing in mountain pose, I could see the tip of the mountain, peaking through the clouds, it reminded me to stand tall in life, while remaining grounded. The yoga barn was a great space that combined spirit, beauty and nature. It had an inspiring dragonfly-design, stained glass window at the front top, where natural light beams in. The energy in the space is peaceful and healing. Katie’s unique collection of Hindu deity statues at the front door, created reverence and sanctity.  It was a wonderful spot to meditate.
The Dragonfly Yoga Barn is the perfect place to recharge and reconnect with yourself and others. It is an intimate setting.  A great place to release (judgement and comfort), to receive (love, peace and healing) and to just be (one with everything and everyone that surrounds you). I was excited about our retreat this fall, however now I am elated
I let go, embraced the weekend, and had an amazing experienceMy life is richer because of the people I met, and through the discovery of a new place. These are the types of memories that stay with us forever, in a positive, magical way.  Live life inspired…it’s the only way.

Wellness Versus Fitness

I think of fitness as the physical aspects of keeping one’s body strong and healthy through active exercise, and good nutrition. Wellness, on the other hand, covers the essential areas of our life, which effects our overall health, because it includes the mind, the body and the spirit.
I have been in this business for almost ten years,  I have seen fit  people, crippled by personal trauma and mental health issues like anxiety and depression. People who suffer from low self-esteem, no matter how great their bodies look, they are not satisfied. I’ve meet people who lack spirituality, therefore making them feel isolated and alone. In one of my workshop,  the speaker asked everyone to anonymously write a question for him, someone wrote how do I like myself?
Being fit is a great endeavor. It’s the goal to take care of your body. It helps optimize your physical health, allowing you to enjoy life. It is essential to overall wellness. However, the same attention we give our bodies, we also need to give our mental and spiritual well-being, because they are integrally connected. A healthy part is necessary to create a healthy whole.
It is work most people don’t like to do. It’s hard to develop clarity, perspective, and dedication to the “whole” self. It takes commitment to make real changes in your thinking and lifestyle, in order to keep the triangle balanced. Nevertheless, it is important work!
Take time to evaluate these  areas of your life and develop a plan. It can be  as simple as outlining three goals in each area.  List three things that would help you feel better. You will create a map. You’d be surprised, even unconsciously, how you will start working in that direction.
Think of your health, your wellness, in broader terms. Connect mind, body and spirit. You will feel more alive, when all of the parts work together to support the whole.

Inspirational People…Meet Gary!

Inspiring People…

I’m excited to add this category to my blog. I believe we are constantly inspiring each other, even if never hear about it.  What inspires me most is the “extra” ordinary.  Every day people who in some way or another through their actions, or how they live their lives are inspirational, yet ordinary. I guess I like to look for the “extra” in the ordinary.  It’s everywhere actually. And while you’re being inspired, you may very well be inspiring someone else.  So don’t be surprised if I approach you and ask to highlight you in my blog.  Why not allow yourself to be inspirational!

Meet Gary!

Gary started practicing yoga at the age of 60.  He started right around the same time I started teaching yoga. Gary will tell you he could hardly touch his toes. As an avid gym goer, he’s routine consisted mainly of strength training activities like boot camps etc.

What I admire about Gary is his courage to try something new, his dedication to whatever he’s doing and his ability to stay focused.  Like many people, he works full time and has family responsibilities, yet he is at the gym five days a week.
He’s the only male in our Zumba class and it doesn’t seem to bother him, even when the guys tease him. Obviously he doesn’t allow others perceptions to define him, which also takes courage.
Six years later Gary does yoga five days a week in conjunction with his cardio and strength training classes.  He’s doing poses like wheel, crow, and headstand, that’s inspiring!
The Quick Chat with Gary:
What’s the best thing about yoga?
“It helps me relax and makes me strong”.
What pose did you think you would never be able to do?
“Headstand or Crow”
What’s your favorite sequence?
What’s your favorite pose?
Last words Gary!
“A lot of the guys I work with who are my age, even younger, frequently ask me …how do you do it?  How do you stay so fit? If my wife is around, I have to say it’s my wife’s cooking…lol, if not, I honestly tell them, its yoga.
Double headstand with Gary!

I Can’t Focus.

Recently I was talking with a friend of mine about yoga and how it helped one of my students with her lower back issues. It’s an incredible story and I know she suffers with back pain. I was hoping to inspire her. Half way through our conversation she said, “I can’t focus!…that’s the problem”.

It’s a common problem, especially in this day and age, where we are connected 24-7. It’s no surprise there’s practically a whole generation, with ADD or ADHD. It’s crazy. There are seemingly hundreds of things vying for our attention on a daily basis. One Mindfulness expert said our biggest commodity, in this age, is our attention. I agree.

Just like a yoga practice, focus is something that needs to be practiced. In order to do that, you need to be aware when it’s happening, and then be able to implement techniques that help redirect your mind to the present moment. This is the corner stone of the practice of Mindfulness.

In my yoga classes, I always tell my students “if your mind starts to wonder, redirect your attention back to your breath”.  This is one technique that helps bring your attention back to the present moment. Not only does it redirect your mind, it also brings in large amounts of oxygen into your body, which helps calm your nervous system. It’s a win-win technique and one that is easy to use no matter where you are or what you are doing.

So next time your mind starts to wondering, first, take a moment to notice it’s happening, then take 5 to 10 deep breath focusing on pulling the breath into the lungs, filling the lungs up like a balloon in your chest cavity. Then feel the lungs deflate until there isn’t another breath left, like a deflate balloon. Stay with the breath, no matter how silly you think the exercise is at first.  After a while, with practice, you will start to feel calmer and more centered, which means your focus is strengthening.

There are no quick fixes for anything that truly matters in life, however if you make the decision that you matter, then it’s worth the effort!  Take time to practice focus, it will change your life…for the better.

The Most Important Factor in a New Year’s Resolution.

In all honesty the New Year Resolution is no different than all of those other resolutions we make throughout the year. It’s solely defined by the start of a new year, because of that people are more enthusiastic about making it work, new beginnings and all. Gyms and studios are fuller for the first three months of the New Year, with all of those resolutions coming into play. However by March it starts to dwindle down.

One of the reasons this happens, speaking from personal experience, is consistency.  That’s the hardest part of sticking to the changes we want to make in our lives. It always starts with a staunch determination, then life happens and next thing we know, we didn’t stick to the commitment we’ve made to ourselves. We begin to feel disappointed in ourselves and like a merry-go-round, we keep going round and round, over the same old ground.

Consistency isn’t really the sexiest or most exciting word in personal development. But it is, coupled with time, what will give you real results in your life.”

So this year, as I reflect on my own resolutions, I am going to write them down and develop a strategy for being consistent. I know this will be the hardest part especially with three kids, a husband, a house and a dog.  However, even if I develop small increments of time to devote to my goals, and I am consistent, long term it will yield better results. It will start becoming a habit in my lifestyle.

Therefore, this year, my number one resolution is to be consistent. It will be the foundation of all my goals. I will not create unrealistic expectations by trying to make too many changes all at once. I am going to pick a few key ones that resonant deep within me. These changes have nothing to do with anyone, except me and my personal growth as a human being.

There are many ideas on the web about developing strategies to be more consistent. I particularly liked this tip:  “use reminders in your environment”.  I’m going to use this one. I found it on this interesting blog called  How to Take Consistent Action: 7 Powerful Tips

Let’s get off the merry-go-round and do the work! Let’s implement ideas to help us be more consistent. Set yourself up to succeed with your resolutions this year. You are worth the effort.  And remember, even the smallest changes have big effects over time, especially with your self-esteem.

If you have any ideas that have help you be more consistent, please share it with us here. Your strategy could help someone else achieve their goals. The world is a much better place when individuals feel good about themselves. Happy New Year, make it a good one. <3, G*