Monthly Blog

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*

5 Yoga Poses to Strengthen and Stretch the Psoas Muscle

One of the things I love about yoga is the anatomy. I am fascinated by the intricacies of the body’s design and function. How one small issue can cause major imbalances in our body, and how it can easily be remedy if we pay attention to the work we do.

What is the psoas? The psoas or rather the psoas major, is a deep core muscle. In layman terms, it attaches to the lower back (lumber spine), crosses the front of the pelvic bone and attaches to the femur. It works with the iliacus, the group is known as the iliopsoas.

The psoas has been known as the hidden cause of lower back pain. When the psoas is tight it pulls down and compresses the lower back.  A tight psoas can be caused by repetitive stress patterns like running, or sitting for long periods of time.

shortened psoas can greatly affect your posture.

In fact, whether you run, bike, dance, practice yoga, or just hang out on your couch, your psoas muscles are involved. That’s because your psoas muscles are the primary connectors between your torso and your legs.  They affect your posture and help to stabilize your spine.

 

Here are 5 yoga poses (asanas) that help stretch and strengthen the psoas muscles:

Boat Pose — Navasana

 

Warrior I — Virabhadrasana I

Dancer — Natarajasana

 

Standing Big Toe Pose — Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana

 

Boat Pose — Navasana

Service is the Highest Form of Yoga

“To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson
One of my favorite poems is by Ralph Waldo Emerson “…to know even one life has breathed easier, because you have lived.  This is to have succeeded.” These words are a guiding force in my life. As the physical part of my yoga practice has deepen, so has the spiritual. I believe we are all interconnect, each of us a single thread in an incredible tapestry. The Sanskrit definition of yoga means “union”. In the physical practice of yoga, it means union of breath, body and mind.  In the spiritual practice, it means union with the divine, the life force that exists in each of us.  We acknowledge this every time we say namaste to each other. 
As a teacher I want my students, not only to be fit and flexible, but also to live their lives with a sense of overall well-being. So part of my practice as an instructor is to serve, with compassion. I try to make myself accessible, approachable, to listen without judgement, and help whenever I can, even if it’s a hug and a smile. I believe we rise by lifting others. If we are all connected, then if you’re ok, I’m ok, that’s how it works.
A big part of why I am this way, is because of the example my family gave me. Growing we did not have a lot of money, although I never felt it, because they made sure I had everything I needed. My father had skipped town early on and my mother barely made ends meet. Thankfully my grandparents we’re instrumental in raising me. Nevertheless, my family was always helping others. Always. There was never a time I can remember when they were not doing something for somebody, which they still do to this day. It made my world feel rich, abundant, regardless of any material possession.
Recently a friend gave me this One Person Can Make a Difference poem (read below) on my birthday. I held back tears, truly that someone would think of me when they saw this.  Then I remembered my mission statement. It helped remind me what I was capable of, and why I started this journey.  I am not perfect, far from it. The layers of struggle I’ve had to work through, sometimes by my own design, rivals the best of them. Nevertheless I am grateful for the opportunity to serve, because service is the highest form of yoga. Namaste.

 

Love Yoga Fest 2018 Review

During the weekend of September 21th through 23rd I attended Love Yoga Fest 2018 in Falmouth, Cape Cod at the Seacrest hotel, with two friends. Anytime I attend an event like this, I try to simply be open to the whole experience, instead of critical. It’s exhausting to continuously rate and judge every single thing.  Life is more beautiful and enjoyable, if you allow yourself to be present and  allow yourself to experience.

I was happy to see that Cape Cod has a thriving, vibrant yoga community. There were people from a wide range of ages and backgrounds attending, some men, mostly women. There was a wide range of classes to choose from, including lectures that covered the spiritual side of yoga, as well as the physical practice.  There were classes on nutrition, philosophy and Ayurveda. I felt like I came away with a pearl or two for every class.

A few of my favorites were Kevin Courtney (www.kevinjcourtney.com) with the Yoga of Yamas.  I love that he’s bringing the teaching of these spiritual laws to yoga practitioners not just instructors, usually these are covered in our 200hour teacher training.  It gives the practitioners an opportunity to understand that yoga is not only an exercise, it is a way of life. The Yamas can be practiced every day, regardless of your religion, they are guides for your soul. I loved the condor of his presentation. It was just the inspiration I needed on my continued spiritual journey.

Emily K. Griffin (www.emilykgriffin.com) conducted the Ayurveda class. Ayurvedic medicine (also called Ayurveda) is one of the world’s oldest medical systems. She did a great job giving an overview of a system that works specifically with each persons’ individual personality and body chemistry.  She gave us, great, basic self-care tips, for every body to use. I particularly loved the tongue scraping instructional, and all of its benefits.  I was happy to know that some of them I already practice regularly, and plan to add the others. Her class inspired me to take at closer look at my “self” care.  I learned it is not a one-formula-fits-all.

I also enjoyed Melissa Boyd’s (www.melissaboyd.net) Yoga Mindfulness and Malas.  Her enthusiasm was uplifting.  I love when people share something that they are passionate about, and it exudes from their whole being, that alone is inspiring.  She covered a lot of different areas in her class, however, the one I loved most, were her lessons on the mala (www.malacollective.com).  She gave everyone in her a class a mala as a gift. I’ve been wearing it every since, and have already started using it.  Meditation is a practice that is slowly becoming a big part of my life. My mala will help me stay on course, and true to my path.

There were many other classes I enjoyed too, overall I thought they did a great job creating interesting, meaningful classes.  The vendors were wonderful too. So many beautiful, inspirational apparel, jewelry and artwork. I wish I could buy something from all of them.  These vendor are people who put their heart, soul and money into their products.

There were only a couple of things that could have been a little better.  First the SUP classes that were cancelled, the instructor could have stay to personally let people know, instead of letting them show up and having to figure out it was cancelled, not cool. Also the Saturday night fire at the beach was advertise as a “bonfire” and we were expecting a rip-roaring fire, instead it was a propane backyard fire table. Again not a big deal, however we were a little disappointed.  It was a cool night, and a bonfire would have been awesome.  They should hire a professional company to do that next time.  It would be perfect!  Again, small inconsequential in the big scheme.

All in all, it was a wonderful three-days of contemplation, inspiration, yoga and growth. It was also wonderful to share time with the two lovely women I went with.  We had an opportunity to get to know each other better.  There was lots of laughter, honest conversations and tears.  Tears because one of our friend’s mother passed away on the last day we were there. Nevertheless, we were comforted that she was in the best possible frame of mind and spirit (thanks to Love Yoga Fest) to receive the news. The universe works in divine ways, every day.

Namaste, Grace*