Embracing impermanence

Welcome to September! It's back to school month, Autumn is on the horizon and all things pumpkin will be showing up very soon. It's also National Yoga Month! That's right, in 2008 the Department of Health & Human Services designated the entire month of September to raising awareness of yoga's health benefits and inspiring people to create a more balanced lifestyle. Perhaps you started your yoga journey during the last decade that National Yoga Month has been observed?

Each week this month I will write about how to be a yogi during National Yoga Month. Here is my suggestion to start off the month: 

Mix it up: Embrace change and accept impermanence: 

Patterns and routine can create wonderful comfort, but I dare you to step out of what you know to expand your consciousness and absorb a new perspective. For example, if you practice at a studio, commit to placing your mat in a different part of the room each time you are in class this month, or try a different teacher, time of day or even a different yoga style, just for fun! If you are used to doing yoga at home, try a studio with a live teacher (this is what I will be doing). And if you are used to doing your yoga sequence indoors, try doing Yoga in Nature with the earth, trees and sky supporting you instead of four walls. Again, just for fun, the joy of yoga and a flexible perspective. Start this week and continue throughout the month. See where your willingness to embrace change takes you.

Nothing is permanent about who you are or what you are capable of

Feel free to leave a comment below about how you mixed up your yoga practice this week.

Spring is on the way!

Winter is considered a restful and introverted time in nature. It is the season to restore energy, investigate emotions and meditate in preparation for the more active energy of spring. But for those of us living in urban environments, it is easy to lose touch with the rhythm of nature. Many people continue to push ahead in the winter and end up feeling stressed, but also guilty if they take a break to replenish their energy, which adds more stress. It is imperative during times of high activity that we balance doing and action, with being and resting: journaling, meditating, being with loved ones, reflecting in nature. I have previously written about creating a balance between doing and being, and I have a strong feeling this will be a reoccurring theme over the year. 

Next week brings the first day of spring! Spring is an exciting time because the energy that has been stored over the winter gets put to use. Buds pop on the trees, flowers push up out of the earth. Plans we were contemplating over winter begin to gain momentum. But what if we humans have not rested and replenished our energy over winter as nature has? Spring can then push out pressure cooker feelings such as irritation, anger, resentment and frustration. (This happens when the Liver Meridian, which comes into focus in springtime, is energetically out of balance. More on that another time).

Luckily, we can get our energy back into alignment by treating our body, mind & spirit as a temple: Go to yoga class. Add meditation and breathing exercises to our morning or evening to help calm our nervous systems. Get some acupuncture to move stuck energy, or Qi. We can also add green, bitter foods (green is the color of spring, bitter is the taste) such as kale, watercress, parsley, dandelion greens, melon and green tea to our palettes. All these mindful tools can be added to our routines as conscious ways to slow down and balance our action based Doing with contemplative and restorative Being

Meditation apps!

I love this image of the brain filled with relaxing, leisurely thoughts. I plan on making a poster of it as inspiration for myself and my son. We have so much coming at us everyday that it's important to allow our brains to have some downtime so it can make connections and insights. Giving ye ole brain a break from work-work-work, from on-on-on mode is very important for our health, and there is scientific research proving that naps, meditation and nature walks actually help us feel more engaged, more creative and more productive. 

I recently started my son on a meditation practice. And as there's nothing more annoying than your mother telling you to do something that's good for you, I used a meditation app to get us going. The apps all offer similar features such as timers and/or guided meditations. Here are a few I suggest: 

https://www.calm.com/  I love the nature sounds.
https://insighttimer.com/
I love the starting and ending gongs you can set with the timer. Also have free guided meditations. 
https://www.headspace.com/ They have some free guided meditations you can listen to while on the subway. 

If you are new to meditation, consistency is the key. You can start like my son did, with one minute a day for a week or two and build another minute on top of that, or find a guided meditation you like and stick with it. The important action to take is to simply start. Your happy brain and spacious feeling day will thank you for it!

Feel free to comment below about your own meditation practice. I'd love to hear from you!

Love, Elyce

Autumn Align

Welcome to autumn! There is a lively, enthusiastic quality in the air this season. The leaves on the trees are starting to shout "Hey, look at how I can change colors"! The Canadian Geese are practicing their flying formations and the wind is picking up, encouraging us to pull on our colorful sweaters and bike through the park. It's the time of year associated with images of flowers, fruit and corn overflowing from cornucopias. Yes, even in the city! I am presently looking at my own "cornucopia" of sunflowers, decorative pumpkins and buttercup squash on my table. And anyone who has a CSA farm share knows it’s all about squash right now!

Autumn has this exciting, creative quality that culminates nicely with the prosperity of the harvest season. Therefore, autumn is a wonderful season for us to reflect upon our where we are in our lives and be thankful for all we have created with effort and all that has been created with ease. More fun, more joy, more free time, more work opportunities, more flexibility in mind, body and spirit, more peace of mind, more consistent, sustainable habits of self-care, maybe a new baby or a new love relationship or better communication with our love partner... And if we find we are off track from our intentions for the year, we still have a few months remaining until the year’s end to find our way back.

Yoga's sister science, Ayurveda, associates fall and winter season with the term "Vata". Vata is linked to wind, air, creativity and liveliness, and it is also connected to things that are cold, dry, rough, brittle, and hard- things we easily relate to in the fall and winter seasons. When Vata energy is balanced, we feel active, enthusiastic and creative. When Vata is out of balance, the imbalance shows up in our nervous system as anxiety, nervousness and the inability to gather our thoughts. Think of a gust of wind blowing into your nervous system: Whooossshhhh! All that windy air affects your brain and it's pretty much so long to serenity! In our bodies, Vata imbalance can literally dry us out, and our skin becomes dry and itchy, and our bones and joints ache. We can also have ringing in the ears. 

The antidote to Vata imbalance is consistent, nourishing routines of self-care. Think of routine as the lasso that rounds up all the scattered air energy and brings it down to earth. Habits that help us grounded internally are going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same every morning. Daily meditation, yoga and breathing exercises help restore scattered, anxious thoughts or achy bones and joints. Lying on the couch reading a book nourishes both our nervous systems and our spirits. And consuming warm foods and drinks this season will counterbalance the cold quality of the season, soothing our digestive system, helping us feel internally warm and grounded. 

Ah, autumn, my favorite time of the year! The blustery season can either be considered lively and creative with leaves changing colors, fun Halloween events and gratitude inducing self reflection or it can feel too cold, too windy and too scattered. No doubt it is the season to maintain healthy habits that will nourish us now and as we prepare for winter. 

Namaste!

XO Elyce

Fall Equinox Self Care

It's time to think about YOU.

Now that summer has come to a close (Fall Equinox was Thursday Sept 22) it's time to do some self reflection and notice where you are in your life. Autumn is a wonderful time to refocus on any intentions you have for this year, especially those nurturing habits that support your overall wellness. As the weather cools (and the holiday season threatens to rev everything up to high stress level) it's beneficial to your mental, physical and spiritual health that you treat yourself as someone who deserves loving, nurturing care.  

I consciously started thinking about my own loving, nurturing care (Self Care) several years ago when I turned 40. It's an area of my life that I continuously focus my attention on because, bottom line, it does not come easy to me. As children, many of us were taught to be people pleasers and put other's needs before our own. To untangle those old habits takes conscious effort, and after doing that work, I now know that filling my well of self care helps me to be more of the person I want to be, for myself as well as for others. This post is about some of my own self care practices that I've cultivated over the years. I hope they will inspire you to either add self care into your day or to recommit to the practice you already have.

Starting with the most vital part of my self care...SLEEP. 
I go to bed by 10 PM. If your jaw hits the table when you read that, just know there are studies showing that the most regenerative sleep is between 10 PM - 2 AM. There is also a supportive study done by the National Sleep Foundation that details why women need more sleep than men. Goggle it and you will be multitasking, but that is one reason why women need more sleep--we use more of our brain on a daily basis than men do and therefore our need for sleep is greater. Fascinating! If this is new for you and it seems impossible to be asleep by 10, try getting in bed by 10 and take it from there. 

By the way, I turn my phone off at night. Maybe you feel the need to be available to all people at all hours, but please read the research regarding the benefits of turning off your phone, of not using it as an alarm clock & also not checking it first thing when you wake up. And then explore any guilt you have about not being available every second of every waking and sleeping moment of your life. Letting go of the people pleasing can be difficult! But not feeling the pull of the phone/internet allows for some really good pre-sleep reading time in bed.

Meditation. I meditate when I wake up in the morning when my apartment is quiet and my son still asleep. But to begin my meditation ritual, I first enjoy a piping hot cup of Earl Grey tea. Having ritual helps establish consistency and consistency is a fundamental part of any self care practice. The choreographer Twyla Tharp says her daily morning dance practice begins with her getting into the taxi that transports her to the studio. Getting in the taxi at the same time every day begins Twyla Tharp's practice, just as sipping my fragrant tea is the initial element that begins my morning meditation practice. And if my son wakes up before I sit down to meditate, well then, at least I've enjoyed hot my tea. On the days my meditation does get interrupted I just pick it up again at another part of my day. After all, my meditation practice begins with my morning tea and I am committed to following through with the whole ritual.

YOGA. Did I mention that I have a competitive, Type A personality? And that in the Indian Ayurvedic philosophy I am a Pitta, or fire, type? Luckily, I got into yoga early in my 20's and have had a healthy way to channel my energy for good, not for fighting! Plus my yoga practice got me into my own body, which was great for noticing my own feelings in relation to my people-pleasing patterns. When I was younger I practiced yoga asana six mornings a week for two hours. I had a lot of stuff to work through and yoga was awesome in helping me do that. Now, twenty-something years into my practice, I am more able to be in the moment and to get into what works for me on a given day. That might be moving my body for ten-minutes or with a full hour yoga sequence. And on some mornings I just drink tea and sit on my couch enjoying the quiet. On those days I might do a yoga sequence in the evening, on my son's floor while he drifts off to sleep. Listening to my body and going with the flow is great self care that I've cultivated through my yoga practice.

So, those are the basics of my self care routine. Reading in bed, sleep, hot tea, meditation, moving my body and listening to myself and what I need. I will leave it there for now, but in my next post I will write about the self care rituals I am currently adding into my routine (sitting on the couch is one of them).

Happy Equinox everyone! What self care will you do over the autumn season? 
XO Elyce

Be kind and loving to yourself (while kissing your knee)

Today while teaching a yoga class I said that loving oneself is advanced yoga practice. The class was standing on one leg while hugging the opposite knee up high and I said, "And now kiss your knee". No, it's not officially a "real" yoga pose, but just for fun, give it a try. Yes, I mean you, the one reading this post. Get out of your chair, stand on one foot, hug your other knee up high and then round your head, neck and upper back down to kiss that knee. It certainly is doable. But it can be challenging not only physically but emotionally as well because self love can bring up the bigger players: self hatred and judgement. Kiss that knee already!/This is silly, why would I kiss my knee./I don't deserve to be kissed!/This is not a "real" yoga pose./She's not a real yoga teacher./Ugh, I feel exposed./I need more love./I'm so needy./I'm too needy./I'm weak./This is dumb. And then distraction- What time is it?

I like to suggest blowing oneself a kiss every so often in my yoga classes to playfully encourage self love because I personally find that loving myself is advanced. It cultivates awareness and self acceptance of myself. A student said my comment that self love is advanced yoga practice wasn't fair, that loving oneself should be available to all students, all levels of experience. I agree completely, I wasn't intending on excluding anyone. But my analogy meant to suggest that we (at least the human beings I know the dearest, myself and my family) don't love ourselves automatically. What we do is we beat ourselves up repeatedly for any number of reasons, often repeating the well worn pattern indefinitely, usually without recognizing that we are doing it.

Anyway, next time you notice yourself saying mean things to yourself, or things that just are not even true, or are such old beliefs that you don't even know where they came from-- try saying the Hoʻoponopono (ho-o-pono-pono) prayer. It's the ancient Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness: I'm sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you. And then kiss your knee, or your fingertips if they are closer!