Monthly Blog

A State of Perfect Happiness

I was introduced to SUP Yoga almost ten years ago. I’d always wanted to learn to surf and the SUP board seemed like a calmer introduction to working with a board. I was immediately hooked. We bought our first board five years ago and we haven’t looked back. Since then I have been practicing yoga and different types of fitness exercises on the board.

There’s nothing like cursing on the lake on a warm summer day, with the calm, cool beauty of the lake. I like to play with various yoga poses. Some work really well, while others I think should be easy, are surprisingly hard. I love a good challenge. It’s so inspiring.

There are so many poses that are so cool on the board. You get all kinds of amazing perspectives. And let’s not forget the transitions! Moving from one pose to another can be challenging too, especially standing poses. You have to move S L O W and really focus.

The whole time you can feel your core engaged as your body continuously finds the right balance. It’s so fluid. After an exploratory flow, I like to experiment with core strengthening exercises.  If I need to cool down, I’ll scoop up palms full of water and throw it on me, or jump in for a quick dip.

The best part is savasana. I paddle my way to the center of the lake, get into corpse pose, close my eyes, let go and JUST FLOAT. I allow myself to go with the flow, holding on to nothing (no thing). I can feel the warmth of the sun on my skin while listening to the sounds of nature as I gently float along. It is pure nirvana-a state of perfect happiness.

What’s your summer nirvana?  I’d love to know…

It Starts with Each One of Us

Recently I was having a conversation with a friend about the current state of affairs. She lamented that even with the great injustice of racism, the looting that came after was inexcusable. I agreed.
She said  “…we haven’t had a Gandhi or Martin Luther King in so long.” I could tell in her voice the anguish of not having a savoir, a living model of non-violence, to protest injustice in a peaceful way.
Years ago when I started my yoga journey, the school I attend had these words on the wall “Heal Yourself, Heal the World”.  I struggled to understand its meaning, but they stayed with me. Periodically I would reflect back on them, researching, trying to understand its deeper meaning.
Fast forward to my current training, after years of teaching and studying I have come to fully understand its meaning.
Our teacher, on the second to last day of our class, addressed the violence that had recently taken place prior to our meeting. She shared her feelings and ended with this realization “…that it starts with each one of us.”  In other words, we are responsible for our own spiritual development and personal growth. On the last day, Dr. Dugliss, the creator of Heart-Based Meditation concluded with  “…as we raise our own vibration, we raise the vibration of the world”, thus heal yourself, heal the world. 
 The essence of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jesus and Buddha is present in all of us. Our guru lives within as Ram Dass discovered. It takes discipline to practice non-violence. In yoga, Ahimsa is one of the Yamas, in the eight-limbs of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. Yama is the limb of self-restraints, and Ahimsa is the practice of nonviolence. It is inspired by the premise that all living beings have the spark of the divine spiritual energy; therefore, to hurt another being is to hurt oneself. It includes not only physical violence, but hurtful thoughts, deeds, actions and words. We are more powerful than we understand. 
 I recently listened to Gandhi’s autobiography “My Experiments with Truth”. It was one of the most amazing and inspirational stories I have ever listened to. His every thought, word, deed and action was guided by Ahimsa. Even in those times that his life depended on it. Many may think “yeah and see where it got him, he was gunned down.” His accomplishments were unprecedented, he inspired the whole world and still to this day his work is revered.  As the example of my friend​s’​ lament “we have not had a Gandhi in a long time” shows us. The concept of Ahimsa is not exclusive to yogic spiritual principles, it has also been an important part of Christianity and Buddhism.
 It’s easy to feel helpless and overwhelmed by the state of the world at any given time. However we can do our part by making sure we’re doing the necessary internal (spiritual) work, so our thoughts, our actions, and our deeds are not contributing to the mayhem that negativity and violence create​s​.
Let us be co-creators of the world we would like to live in. Gandhi said “be the change you want to see“, it’s the same as heal yourself, heal the world. And it is never too late to start.

A Gift from Adversity

For the last few years I have been feeling overwhelmed with the amount of hatred in our culture and in our country. Ever since the last election, it has been them against us. The hostility has been real, regardless of the side you’re on.

Personally, the intensity has been stifling. Even laypeople will start discussions with great disdain, and the division between us has been palpable. I have often wondered “something has to give”. How much longer can we live under this duress…enter Covid-19.

I am not grateful for this virus, even though my family and I are safe, I am aware that there are many fighting for their life and many fighting to save lives. Families are being torn apart and the situation is no joke. There is great suffering going on.

Nevertheless, this virus has awoken the sleepy giant of compassion, and for that I am grateful.

My husband and I watched the One World: Together at Home concert last month. It was viewed by more than 20 million worldwide. There were beautiful messages from people all over the world. Stories of incredible service from one human being to another. They were songs written inspiring faith and hope. The deliberate acts of kindness were abound! The tears just flowed from both of us.

A virus, smaller than bacteria, invisible to the naked eye, has brought us to witness, and hopefully, understand that there are no division between us expect the ones we create. It is teaching us that color, race, size, class, and education, have no bearing on the spiritual truth that we are all interconnected.

We are connected by our humanness, our being. Our triumphs are everyone’s triumphs, and so are our failures. The only separation that truly exists between us is our judgements, our attitudes and our egos.

So next time you find yourself quick to pass judgement, perhaps you will pause, look beyond the exterior demeanor, and see the human being with compassion. Consistently practiced, you will discover, that all human beings are the same human being as you.

One world…one human race…together at home!

How to Stay Sane

This is a great article with sound advice on how to stay sane in this phase of social distancing and staying in place. We are all responsible for our well-being: body, mind and spirit.

We’re turning to the professional guidance of Dr. Smith. Her suggestions are easy to work with during these challenging times.

Take a few minutes to read the entire article written by Suzanne J. Smith, Ph.D for Lakefront Psychology Blog.

Here are a few of my favorites from this list:

-Eat and drink in ways that nourish you.

-Develop a new normal. 

-Connect with people you care about.

-Be compassionate with yourself and others. 

-Create things to look forward to.


Yoga is More Than Exercise

Yoga is more than exercise; it is a way of life. A way of being.

Yoga is a spiritual path, not to be confused with religion. Modern yoga has emerged in the west primarily as a physical practice, an exercise.  However, the physical part of yoga is only one branch in Yoga Sutras of Patajanli: The Eight-limbs of Yoga (see illustration below). The Yoga Sutras were compiled prior to 400 CE, so it is an ancient body of work. The branch related to the physical practice is called Asana, later extended to Hatha Yoga. It never ceases to amaze me that the template for living well transcends time. It applies to everybody regardless of the race, religion, century, level of education etc.

Today in the West there are many styles of yoga under the Asana/Hatha umbrella. There is Power Yoga, Gentle Yoga, Slow Flow, Restorative Yoga and Athletic Yoga to mention a few. However, in the yoga lineage (see illustration) Ashtanga, Vinyasas and later in the twentieth century Iyengar, create the foundation from which modern yoga emerged.

As an instructor when I started teaching yoga, I intentionally  focused on the physical practice. I wanted to make yoga accessible to many, who may be turned off by the spiritual sides of yoga. Interestingly, even just practicing the Asanas, opened spiritual doors for many of my students. When we start quieting the mind, concentrating on our physical body and focusing on our breathe, a journey inward occurs. It is only the beginning.

As a teacher, students sense the spiritually in my classes. It is because yoga is a spiritual practice for me. Every day I try to be conscious of my spiritual values. I practice and study  different areas of the eight limbs. They are a great guide for one’s spiritual development. As my work evolves and my studies deepen, I hope to bring more of these teachings to my students.  We can all use positive guides on our journey.

Namaste ~Grace