Thursday, March 27, 2014

NO CARBS, NO SUGAR and feeling great!

I've been on a carb-free, sugar-free diet for over a month now, mostly as a way to get rid of the candida that seemed to have flared up in my gut.  I've had bouts with it ever since my first trip to India, and the holidays with all the sweet squashes, desserts and potatoes always seems cause a flare up.  It's been years since I've done this intense of a candida diet, but I have to say, I'm really enjoying it!   I feel super healthy and I'm sleeping better too!

What I'm eating is mostly vegetables, eggs, nuts and poultry, with a little dairy and chocolate.  I've just added cultured cottage cheese which is a welcome treat and full of good probiotics for my gut.  Breakfast is usually some cottage cheese with sprouted nuts and avocado.  Lunch is usually miso soup with eggs and vegetables, or a salad with chicken, followed by a few pieces of super dark chocolate which is much lower in sugar (I eat the kind that's sweetened only with stevia or beet sugar).  Dinner is usually chicken and steamed or stir-fry veggies, or chicken soup.  I stay away from potatoes as they're high in sugar, and I minimize beets for the same reason.

I immediately noticed that I lost some weight.  I didn't need to lose any, but I had been feeling bloated and so this calmed way down.  I tend to get hungry more often on this diet, so I keep nuts around for snacks, and I've just learned that sprouting all nuts and seeds except pecans and walnuts is recommended.  I like to peel the almond skin off as it's pretty hard to digest.  Soaked almonds are a nice hearty snack.  I'm now staying away from cashews as well as they're also pretty tough on the gut.

I like how clean this diet feels, even with the dairy and meat.  I've heard many people talk about the Paleo diet and how grains aren't ideal for our health, so this is pretty much the same thing.  Sometimes I miss dessert but I find a spoonful of almond butter can do the trick.  I doubt I'll eat this extreme way forever, but I do like the idea of cutting out most grains.  Once the candid is gone, I'd like to integrate beans and lentils again so I'm not eating so much meat.

My naturopath recently told me that for people who wake up around 2 - 3 from drinking alcohol (and I did), it means they're more sensitive to sugar and so cutting out sugars and carbs can be a great way to improve sleep.  It has to do with your stress hormones which cause you to crave more sugars, so if you satisfy those cravings, you are aggravating your system and will likely have sleeping troubles from it.  I haven't fully researched this, but it makes sense and I encourage you to check it out if you have the type of insomnia where you wake up in the night.

This diet seems like a good prep for the Spring Cleanse I'll be leading in April.   I'm already half-way there so I imagine it will be a relatively easy transition.

I hope you feel inspired to consider at least reducing your sugar and carbohydrate intake.  Let me know what happens! 

To your health!  and Namaste,

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Fascial Work, Somatics, Yoga and Ease

I'm in my 20th year of teaching and believe me, I've had my ups and downs,  It's really important to me that I'm enthusiastic about what I'm doing, so I'm always mixing it up, following my passions and bringing them to class.  There have been times, though, when I considered quitting;  when I couldn't muster up the enthusiasm.  But now is certainly not one of those times!   I've found a renewed intrigue in combining fascial work and Somatics with my yoga sequences.  I focus on one main part of the body for the class (and the week).   So even though we may be doing a wide range of postures, I'll choose the poses that most address that area or even modify the pose to address it more.   First we open it gently with fascial work and Somatics, and then we go deeper into it through the postures.  The prep work helps the muscles release so they respond better to the stretching.  (And of course, our style of stretching in Anusara Yoga is safer because it's active instead of passive).

I'm loving the heightened awareness that I'm bringing to one main area of the body;  how it feels, how it breathes, how it responds to attention and deeper opening.  I think the students are learning a lot about their bodies this way, even those who've been coming for several years.   Each class is a whole new exploration, with different poses for the different levels, even when it's the same level class a few days later.   It seems like we're working deeper and smarter and the students are really enjoying it. 

It's funny because even though I've focused on one body area quite a bit in my classes before, and have integrated Somatics and creative sequencing lots as well,  this experience seems really different to me.   And it's not just the addition of fascial work.  I think it's my own familiarity with the body and teaching, as well as a deeper sense of ease within myself.  I find that I hardly prepare the details of the class anymore.  I consider the level I'm teaching and the students who show up and I can effortlessly follow a trajectory for where I want to head in each class:  the poses just show themselves to me with more play than ever before.

I look forward to sharing more about this new sense of ease I'm experiencing and how it's showing up in my life in very cool ways.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Self Esteem and Commitment

I think having a dedicated spiritual practice can generate self-esteem.
Here's how:
Self-esteem is a feeling of confidence in oneself.  And to me, it's related to commitment.  The more I make commitments to myself and then follow through on them, the more I generate a feeling of trust in myself.  It's this trust, generated over repeated experiences of following through on my commitments, that builds a sense of confidence, and therefore, bolsters my self-esteem. 
I'm thinking of my meditation practice here:  I have a commitment to myself to meditate every day for at least 30 minutes.  The more I follow through with this, the better I feel about myself.  And it's not just about what happens on the cushion and after, which is of course why I choose to meditate, but it's the actual act of following through; making it to the cushion day after day.  When I do, I feel a sense of ease and knowing in my body.  There is something that softens in me, like I've just received a hug.  I know I'm "for" myself.   When I don't, I feel a niggling in my body, like a kind of tension that reminds me of somebody poking at my side.  It's like a subtle angst saying, "I have not honored myself today."  (And relating to spiritual practice, this is in addition to the little voice that says, "I have not connected to my Self today.")

Our commitments may be about getting to the gym or yoga class, studying, writing, practicing an instrument, or eating healthy food, and I think it's all the same:  any regular actions that fulfill our personal commitments are going to foster trust in ourselves and increase our self-esteem.

In my February newsletter, I wrote about how taking consistent action in spiritual practice over a long period of time is called abhyasa in Yoga.  It's related to discipline and the idea that to see results from our spiritual practices, we must practice consistently over the long-term.  So I'm appreciating how not only can we experience spiritual results from consistent spiritual practice, which would probably be the goal for most who practice, but we can also generate self-esteem, simply by showing up for ourselves again and again.  So this is a great side-benefit of abhyasa.

More on how yoga and self-esteem are related in my upcoming book! 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Come Home to Yourself

This is my new tagline for Inner Freedom Yoga.  It feels so aligned with what I'm up to in my teaching.  To me, this is ultimately what yoga practices are about.  They're about resting into who we truly are, the heart or essence of our being.  And when I come home to me, I feel present, calm and peaceful.  I feel at ease and connected to myself.  And these are exactly the qualities I'd like to support people in through their practice at IFY and as a coach. 

Tantrik yoga teachings say that we are already perfect and whole, and yet we don't tend to experience ourselves in this way.  We tend to feel inadequate and incomplete.  The teachings say that we're born with this fundamental feeling of incompleteness, a kind of ignorance called Anava Mala, and that shaktipata (a potentially subtle or intense revelation and the beginning of opening to a greater sense of who we are) is required for uprooting it.  Then for most of us, we need daily practices to support this new opening, to help us deepen into knowing and experiencing ourselves as whole in every moment. 

For me, my asana and my meditation practices help me to come home to myself and touch into this sense of wholeness at my core.  And I practice regularly because I consistently forget the feeling of being home in myself.  So I practice to remember on a daily basis with the idea that over time, there will be a thread that connects these experiences of resting in my wholeness and it will carry off the mat and into my relationships and interactions with the world.  I can already see this happening in small ways. 

So here's a simple meditation practice that works for me:

I sit on my cushion and I reflect on this concept:   I am Divine, I am whole.  (Shivo'ham would be a great mantra for this as it means, I am ShivaShiva is a name Tantra uses for Supreme Consciousness, the perfect Source of all.  If you're using a mantra, repeat it super quietly to yourself about every few seconds, or with your breath, so it's like a whisper in the back of your mind).  Then I drop into my heart or solar plexus area and I feel my body breathing and I sense that behind the breathing, behind my thoughts and all the busyness of my life, there is a place where I am simply quiet and present.  There is a stillness in me and I rest in that stillness with the mantra.  When I notice my mind wanders or hooks onto a thought, which is often, I come back home to my mantra and bodily experience and this sense of resting in presence, being home in myself.

I'll share more about these profound philosophical teachings and more Coming Home practices in my upcoming book on yoga and self esteem, as well as in this blog.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Your Shiny Essence

Who are you really?  Are you this body?  This pain?  This anger?  This joy?   This personality?   These thoughts?   These preferences?  Certain yoga teachings tell us that all aspects of who we are is Divine.  It says that who we are at the core is simply presence, a Divine, all-knowing presence.  And yet, even if we've been taught this and believe this, we constantly forget!  So we come to the mat, or to the meditation cushion, to remember who we truly are.  We remember to identify not solely with who know ourselves to be on the surface, but who we are at our essence.  And ultimately, we come to experience this essence as who we are and we recognize it in each other as well. 

This week, I've found myself in a few conversations about the benefits of yoga.  I was on a panel for an HSU class about yoga, I was talking with my business coach about yoga's benefits, and I was teaching the Introduction to Yoga course.  In all of these situations, I was reminded of how wonderfully simple and yet powerful yoga can be.  People often come to their first class in order to stretch, to feel better in their bodies, to relieve some kind of physical pain or stress.  And yet, very quickly, they recognize there is something bigger going on.  Even at the end of the first intro to yoga class, the students felt more relaxed, more aware of their bodies, more comfortable sitting, and more at peace.  That's pretty impressive for only about 45 minutes of yoga!  And this gaining awareness is such a key benefit of yoga.  As we start to feel our body sensations, notice our breathing, tune into the train of thoughts in our minds, we begin to understand that that is all happening on the surface.  We can sense that behind all of that is a witness, the one who is watching.  And when we recognize that this witness is always here, watching the show of our lives without getting affected by any of it, we can begin to identify with it as our true Self.  Returning our attention to this unarguable truth can become our daily and moment-by-moment practice, our refuge especially when times get tough.

So it really does take showing up again and again for practice, because we constantly forget, until we're enlightened.  But this remembering, this consciously choosing again and again to redirect our attention to the truth of awareness, presence, essence, is how yoga will transform our lives on the deepest level.  I'm reminded of a rock in a river, getting polished day in and day out for hundreds or thousands of years, until it's super shiny and all the rough edges have worn away.  This is how I think of our practice.  It wears away the superficial confusion of who we are and brings us back to our shiny, radiant essence. 
So keep practicing, whether it's just a few sun salutations, or a 30-minute meditation, keep practicing and smoothing up your rough surfaces to reveal your beautiful heart. 


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Openness to Learning

I've been teaching about the Hendricks' Openness to Discovery scale this week in classes.  The scale shows us how open to learning we are.  The idea behind it is that we can choose for every interaction and circumstance to be something that we learn and grow from, if we're open to it.  And by consciously choosing, we get to grow and be in charge of how we do that.  Or, we can choose to fight with or close down to the learning potential in each moment.  The scale shows 10 examples of how we might be open to learning, from lowest amount of openness to highest, and it also show the 10 ways we may be closed, again least to most. 

For example, the slightly open to learning examples are:  open posture, expressing genuine curiosity and appreciation for the messenger to the highest levels of feeling enthusiasm about new possibilities and implementing them.  The lower levels of being closed to learning examples are:  showing polite interest while inwardly clinging to your perspective our planning a rebuttal, explaining yourself and getting defensive, to the highest level of attacking the messenger or storming out of the situation.  So, for example, if I'm given feedback about something I said or did that surprised me and that didn't feel good to me, if I start getting defensive or placing blame elsewhere, making excuses for what happened or complaining about how the feedback was delivered, then I am not open to learning. 

So the other night, I was using this as my theme, encouraging people to be open to learning from their breath, their postures, the messages of their bodies, my instructions, and everything that was occurring in their minds.  Many people expressed some insights and discoveries would had been there earlier in the week exploring this theme over the last couple of days.   The super ironic part was that I had one new student who did not want to receive any feedback from me about  his alignment.   I found it super challenging to let him do his thing, be misaligned in my class when I'm quite vigilant about my students being safe in their practice.  It was a great exercise for me in letting go!   And perhaps that was the perfect feedback for both of us. 

Here's the main things that I learned from that:  I want to magnetize people to my classes who value what I have to offer, appreciate my expertise, and enjoy participating in the group experience. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Glowing and Shifting with Appreciation

I am feeling a sweet peace inside after my week of Chicago Hendricks' trainings. 
This was an especially small training, so there were less of us apprentices.  And although I've always actively participated in our meetings and trainings, this time I felt a much deeper sense of ease, confidence and belonging. 

So aside from all the formal learning of techniques and practices that we do, which I feel like I've integrated on a much deeper level after 5 of these Essentials trainings,  I can see evidence of my growth simply in how I'm interacting with everyone, including and especially Katie.  Where before I had more fear of speaking up or being wrong; second-guessing my contributions, now I notice much more flow and ease within myself.  I'm not monitoring everything I say, packaging it to be "just right."  I'm following my impulses, trusting them, and letting go.  I know that packaging comes from fear of being judged and ultimately from judging myself, something I learned to do early in life.  So if all I got from this training would be this greater sense of inner ease, peace and self-appreciation, and a relinquishing of my inner judge, I would be stoked.  But I know I'm getting so much more. 

Too much to mention here, but here's a taste of it:
 - Speaking the truth about my feelings and thoughts in unarguable ways
- Taking full responsibility for my experiences
 - Tuning into when I'm feeling fear and tools for melting this fear in the moment
- Practices of self-love and appreciation
- Amping up my appreciation for others and my experiences
 - Communicating from the heart
- Recognizing when I'm in a persona
- and so much more!

What I'm left with after this week of joining with my teacher and many friends on the path is an expanded feeling of love and appreciation.  I feel an inner radiance like a light that shines out from my heart, and a deep feeling of calm and peace that reminds me of sitting on a mountain.  It's like the exuberance I feel after a weekend of yoga.  And I do think it's a very deep kind of yoga.

I'm passionate about sharing these powerful tools of transformation.  I believe we all have a strong inner judge and long for ease in communication and emotional literacy and I know these tools will help.  My course called Conscious Living starts on October 29 and the early bird discount is tomorrow, October 25.  I hope you can join me!  Here's a link to more info: Conscious Living Course.

In appreciation for me and for you and this awesome journey we call life,