I just returned home after an ultrasound and meeting with my midwife. At 34 weeks and 2 days, baby Ginny is measuring in the 5th percentile for abdominal size, and 12th percentile overall. My husband and I are both tall, so we would expect our baby to be on the higher side of average. Ginny’s size is alarming because it could indicate that she isn’t getting the proper nourishment she needs in utero. We first discovered her small size last week, and this week was no different.
I’m now on a regimen of twice weekly scans to diligently monitor her growth. I could be induced any day if we have reason to believe she’s not thriving based on unsafe measurements in growth, blood flow or fluid levels.
This isn’t the news any mama wants to hear. This means that I am no longer a candidate for the home birth I’d envisioned. It’s scary to think that my baby could be in danger, and of course my first instinct is to blame myself. I immediately thought “I’m not doing a good job taking care of my baby.” I’m wrestling with myself right now. I’m upset that I’ve been indulging in sugar and paying little attention to my protein intake. I’ve prioritized work over self care more often than I want to admit. I’ve allowed the fear of financial insecurity during maternity leave to propel me into overdrive, and that stops now.
Of course my midwife reassured me that there is no fault here, yet I can provide Ginny with the best odds by giving her the best nutrition possible.
It doesn’t serve me, or Ginny, to remain in a mindset of blame and fear. Ginny is the size that she is. I cannot undo the way I’ve been feeding myself up to this point. When I surrender to this truth, I can focus on where I do have some power: over my choices moving forward.
My sweet husband is helping rid the house of my Achilles heel: sweets! The Costco box of rice crispy treats, the Girl Scout cookie stash and the cupcakes are being replaced with nuts and hummus. I have an alarm on my phone to remind me to eat every two hours, and I’m using an app to track my nourishment throughout the day. These things are within my ability to control, and this is where I will focus my energy.
We are scared, and that’s okay. My Yoga practice has taught me how to hold two opposing things at the same time. I can rest assured that I have the tools to respond to whatever comes of this challenge, and still acknowledge that it’s super scary. I can use this experience as an opportunity to surrender to that which is beyond my control, and practice my intention for 2018: Faith
With this shift in focus, I will be putting work on the back burner. My one priority will be nourishing myself and Ginny and preparing for her arrival. I absolutely love this online community, and am so grateful to know that my decision to temporarily step away will be fully supported. Thank you <3
Before we dive into the two mental shifts for joyful goal setting, let me say that I am genuinely excited to connect with you. It may sound trite, but because you are reading this, I know that you have a desire to create positive change through the practice of Yoga. Nothing makes me happier than being surrounded by others that are on this same path!
As we learn from our Yoga practice, our mind has the power to greatly influence our experiences, and goal setting is no exception. It’s no surprise, then, that our mind can either be our greatest asset in setting strategic goals, or it can be our greatest hindrance. If you experience roadblocks when pursuing goals, try on these two attitudes and see what happens!
We can either approach goals from a place of fear or love, and respectively, can either create more joy or more frustration.
When we approach goals from a place of fear, we fall into a trap of using goal setting as another opportunity to measure our worth externally. The underlying fear is that we are not good enough as we are; that we need to “fix” some broken part of ourselves.
The truth is, your worth does not fluctuate whether or not you achieve a goal.
According to the Yoga Sutras, there is a part of all of us that is unchanging. Call it Spirit, Soul, Highest Self, there is a part of you that is pure, radiant and lovable…always. This is Purusha.
When you remember that Purusha is who you really are, you can work to create positive change that uplifts your life, while simultaneously embracing yourself with unconditional love and acceptance. From this loving place, you know with certainty that you are worthy regardless of whether or not you execute an intended goal.
Yoga is about being the hero of our lives, but that doesn’t mean that we can dictate how events unfold. We learn through the tools of the practice to cultivate Viveka, discernment, so we can decipher between what we can and cannot control.
Events + Response = Outcome
In the above formula, we cannot control the events of our lives and we cannot control the outcome, but we still have jurisdiction over one key element: our response! You can influence the outcome by changing your response, that’s where your power lies.
When creating a goal, choose to focus on this piece of the puzzle. Setting a goal to lose 10 pounds is an outcome-oriented goal. If you want to lose 10 pounds, what actions do you have full control over that would lead to this outcome? An action-oriented goal would be to exercise for 30 minutes a day 5 days a week. This approach puts the power in your hands: fulfill your commitment to the action, and celebrate your success! The pounds either come off, or they don’t, but you successfully achieved your goal.
Combining your focus on action with being grounded in self love, will bring more levity to your journey of transformation. Try it on and let me know how it goes!
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are the foundational text on Yoga that date back to 400CE or later. They are a compilation of 195 short phrases full of wisdom that provide insights on how to avoid suffering and cultivate sustained joy.
In a world that seems to be continually creating separation between groups of people and ways of thinking, I adore the fact that the Sutras are available and applicable to everyone!
Although the Sutras are a part of Vedic tradition, the tools outlined in this text can be practiced whether or not you ascribe to a particular religion or not. The Sutras describe a wide variety of tools to support the Yogi in arriving to a state of Samadhi, or bliss. Having a god consciousness is one of the options, but it is just that: an option. Whether or not you have a god consciousness, the wisdom of the Sutras pair beautifully with any worldview.
As someone who received a degree in Psychology, I have always been fascinated with the mind, how it works, and how it influences our experiences. Before I found my practice, I was riddled with anxiety and depression and felt confused and helpless. When I began practicing Yoga, my relationship with my inner world changed dramatically: I became more courageous, more serene, and ready to take on whatever life sent my way. The Yoga Sutras gave me clarity on why my life was changing so much thanks to Yoga; they helped me understanding that Yoga is in fact a practice of the mind, and the body is simply a tool of the practice! My love for the Sutras has grown over the years as I implement the wisdom into my daily life and witness suffering be replaced with joy!
The Sutras provide a roadmap for life. They provide insight into life’s big questions like how can we best respond to people in pain, how can we nurture our relationships, and what are the causes of suffering.
I believe wholeheartedly that anyone who is teaching Yoga should have a strong understanding of these teachings. My desire is for everyone who is on a journey of personal growth and healing to develop an eclectic set of tools so they can be the hero of their own lives. We learn from the Sutras that we have the ability to co-create our reality, and this belief can be the launching point for monumental positive change!
So you’ve completed a 200 hour Yoga teacher training and you’re eager to share your enthusiasm for the practice with others – sweet! If you’re experiencing self-doubt, questioning whether or not you’re “ready” to teach, or wondering if your teaching is doing the practice justice, rest assured: you are not alone!
In my years of teaching and training new instructors, I’ve witnessed the same struggles and suboptimal habits play out time and time again. Allow me to save you some time and shed some light on a handful of pitfalls to look out for and how to avoid them with more intentional choices.
Now that you are a teacher, please don’t say goodbye to being a student. Make a commitment to yourself and your students that you teaching will grow out of your devotion to your own practice. You can’t give what you don’t have.
By the way, I’m not talking about a certain standard for how often you should be rolling out your yoga mat and moving your body into shapes. I’m talking about the internal practice. The magic that got you hooked in the first place and inspired you to share this practice with others. I’m talking about the deeply connected, introspective place inside of you that can only come from time spent in reflection.
For you, this might mean rolling out your mat at home or at the studio, but it could also mean taking regular walks without any technology so you can connect within. It could be a pranayama (breath) practice, a mantra meditation, or time spent curled up with a soulful read. It could be 5 minutes, it could be 60, but the bottom line is you are giving your mind regular opportunities to be still, to digest and create clarity.
We cannot expect to step into a yoga space and guide others to a connection with their breath, their mind, and their body, if we are not deeply connect to our own breath, our own mind and our own body.
Yoga students tend to hold their teachers in high regard, and have great respect for them as incredibly knowledgeable resources. Because of this, you will have students come to you with questions about their nutrition, injuries, lifestyle and perhaps even more personal challenges.
You, as a Yoga teacher, must know your limits of expertise. You are not a doctor, nor a psychologist (unless you are of course). It’s not your responsibility to have the answers to all of your student’s questions. Your only responsibility to your student is to be honest and kind. Provide them with the best answer you have, and be clear about your role as a teacher: to provide tools for students to craft a practice that is best suited for their unique needs.
If you do not have an in depth understanding of the anatomy of the knee joint, do not attempt to answer a question about which poses to avoid for a student post surgery. If you have not experienced asthma and have not yet studied the biomechanics of breath and respiration, do not pretend to be an expert on how to best support your asthmatic student.
Share based on your experiences, both personal and educational, and then direct students where they can find more information or connect with an expert.
I’ve noticed so many new teachers speaking in class as if there is a “fourth wall” between themselves and their students. Teaching Yoga is not a performance, it’s a dialogue. Speak to your students like you are having a conversation, because you are!
You can tell if you’re using a performance voice if the way you cue students in class sounds different than when you chat with your friends. Sure, when you teach a class full of people, you will need to intentionally increase and decrease your volume so you can be well heard, and I encourage a range in dynamics so your voice is captivating, but you already do that when you’re having conversations, so keep it real.
You do not need a special “teacher” voice. Use your unique voice with authority, and you will be set up for success!
“Flex your foot to keep your knee safe”
“Tuck your tailbone to protect your low back”
“Soften your glutes”
“Rotate your pinkies inward”
Why? Do you actually know the anatomical reasons behind using these cues or are you saying them because you heard a teacher that you respect say them?
If you cannot explain the “why” behind a cue, don’t use it! If you hear a cue in class that sounds nice and feels good in your body, ask the teacher after class to explain the reasoning behind their guidance so you can better understand how the body works.
Just because you hear something in class, doesn’t make it true or helpful for students. Have enough integrity to do your research and speak only about what you know.
Have you heard the acronym K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid)? This blunt advice can go a long way for new and seasoned instructors.
More is not always better. I often see new teachers choose movements because they seem fancy, advanced, or unique. Overly complicated sequences can cause great confusion for students, which in turn takes them away from their practice all together. If your student is using loads of cognitive function to understand what they are supposed to do, they will miss the opportunity to tune inward and connect with their breath.
Keep in mind that a large majority of Yoga injuries occur during transition. Who cares if a transition feels “flowy” if it puts a student at risk of injury?
The first priority when choosing poses and transitions should always be safety. Secondly, should be intention. If you can sequence a class that creatively move students from pose to pose in a safe way, and is ordered in a way that sets the body up for success, fantastic! Never let fancy movements trump a safe, mindful experience, that provides ample opportunity for a student to connect deep within.
If you live in a community of Yogis, it is likely that you have at least heard of Reiki. When I first heard about Reiki years ago, I had a hard time conceptualizing such a seemingly abstract practice. Once I experienced Reiki first hand, it clicked for me and I fell in love.
Knowing how special the practice can be, and how difficult it can be to understand, allow me an attempt at describing Reiki in as much simplicity as possible so you can decide if you want to pursue an experience for yourself and learn more!
Reiki is a Japanese healing modality that works on both a physical and subconscious level. It is based on the principle that there is a life force energy, called “Ki,” that moves through all living things and is necessary for optimal health. According to this way of see the world, physical, emotional, and mental illness or obstacles are symptoms of a lack of Ki flowing freely.
Reiki is an incredibly relaxing experience for both practitioner and student and pairs beautifully with massage, acupuncture, asana and even skin care! If you want the most blissful facial of your life, you definitely want to check out Robin Marie in Orange County, California!
Although it is not connected to Yoga in any way, the principles of Reiki and Yoga align so cohesively that it has become common for these two tools to be used together in the pursuit of holistic health.
Both practices are founded on an understanding that we have many layers to our being and the physical body is only one aspect of the Self. Both modalities use a model of seeing the energy body as having multiple centers (Chakras) through which life force (Ki in Reiki or Prana in Yoga) flows and restores the natural functions of the body, heart, and spirit, thus promoting self-healing and self-realization.
The difference for me between the two healing methods is that the healing I have experienced through Yoga has occurred primarily on a mental level whereas Reiki has helped me heal the more subtle, subconscious, energetic wounds I’ve carried.
Reiki attunement is when Ki is transferred from master to pupil in different degrees or stages. During this process, Reiki is transmitted into all seven major chakras, or energy centers, as well as the hands. At this point the pupil becomes a healer; a channel through which Reiki energy will flow.
When a practitioner has been attuned, he or she is able to facilitate the flow of Ki by “laying hands” on a client. Reiki flows into the healer’s crown chakra through the third eye, throat, and heart chakras and then into the palms. The energy flows from the healer’s palms into a person or object providing them with great life force and love. No matter how Reiki is shared, master-to-pupil or practitioner-to-client, Reiki will restore the natural functions of the body, heart, and spirit, thus promoting self-healing and self-realization. Reiki brings balance and health.
What I understand about Reiki and the healing I have experienced is all thanks to my Reiki Master Suriderpal “Suri” Kaur. You can learn more about Suri and her special ability to facilitate healing at SuriEnergy.com or connect on Facebook & Instagram.
You might assume that I’m about to discuss some vitamin or mineral that you are lacking in your diet, but I’m here to talk about something I believe is even more important…
In her book, “Love 2.0,” Dr. Barbara Fredrickson asserts that love is the essential nutrient for every cell of our body. Rather than a romantic experience, she defines love as a moment-to-moment experience of warm, mutual caring that we can feel with any person—even strangers—in everyday interactions.
Today, I had the privilege of being showered with love by those nearest and dearest to me in celebration of baby Ginny arriving earth side soon. I am blessed to have a circle of women that show up for me consistently and remind me that I am worthy. They are generous with support and praise and they accept me unconditionally.
Yesterday, I lead a yoga session with teen girls all about love. One student candidly shared that she has a hard time being kind to herself because she’s “not that great.” She explained that she feels undeserving of people doing nice things for her, and feels “conceited” if she makes herself a priority.
Can you relate?
I know I have wrestled with the same questions. It has taken me over a decade to come to a place where it genuinely feels good to welcome the attention and kindness that comes my way. I consciously open myself up to receive and gladly soak up the warmth of love without any reservations.
I believe that we are only able to love others to the extent that we are able to love ourselves. Part of loving ourselves is letting love in. When we resist love from others we deprive ourselves of the essential nutrient for every cell of our body.
Here’s the other thing about love: it’s free and abundant! Regardless of what you may be conditioned to believe, you do not need to earn love. You do not need to wait until you achieve some particular goal, look a certain way, change your behavior, or (fill in the blank).
Let that soak in.
If you struggle to believe this today, you can borrow some faith from me.
“I am beautiful”
“I love myself”
“I have all that I need”
Can you say these statements from you heart with conviction?
If not, don’t fret — I have a solution for you!
Affirmations are small mental shifts that we can make to move our attention away from thoughts that weigh us down, and towards thoughts that lift us up.
This, by the way, is what Yoga is all about: making the unconscious conscious and then choosing to focus our mind one that which brings more joy!
So what about when you just don’t believe the affirmation? Should you keep repeating it even though you feel like you’re lying to yourself?
The jury is still out on that, but I’ll give you my two cents based on personal experiences and those of my students:
When I repeat an affirmation that I don’t believe, I will say that it certainly doesn’t hurt. Even if only on a subtle level, the positive words send my body and mind uplifting vibrations. I do, however, believe there is a better way!
Here is the trick: add some variation of the phrase “I am learning to…” at the beginning of the affirmation.
Here are some examples of how to tweak the affirmations above so they are true for you and uplifting:
“I am willing to see my beauty”
“I am learning to love myself”
“I am open to seeing that I have all I need”
How does that feel?
The more I can mentally or verbally repeat an affirmation with sincerity, the more I feel the shift. It takes practice to find the language that works for you, so start today, and watch what happens!
In a society where celebrity, wealth, and exceptional physique are idolized, I choose to go another way. I am inspired by grit, sincerity, and compassion.
In honor of International Women’s Day, I want to take the time to publicly praise a small handful of women that genuinely make me proud to be female and encourage me to continue to pursue a vibrant life!
These women are particularly noteworthy because they are just like you and me — they are average women who have chosen to do extraordinary things!
Zabie is the epitome of soft and fierce coexisting. As a survivor of sexual violence and the mother of angel baby, Grayson, Zabie uses even her most painful experiences to bring love into the world. From the depths of her pure heart, Zabie created a Yoga as Healing program that provides a safe space for survivors to reconnect with their body and voice in their own time and way. Her approach is so gentle and effective that it has been implemented throughout the entire UC system and continues to spread. Zabie’s impact grows exponentially each year as she trains countless fellow yoga teachers each year on the strategies for teaching trauma informed classes that honor each individual’s unique process. Zabie is an advocate for all women. Our collective experience is better because of her courage.
Connect with Zabie:
Ashley is a vibrant and soft hearted spirit that is on a mission to share her passion for natural and healthy ways to treat our bodies. She fell in love with essential oils and began using them as her medicine, skin care and in her work as a yoga teacher and reiki healer. Noticing that using essential oils could be confusing, she created her own business, Penn & Olive, as a way to share these healing oils with the people she loves in the simplest ways possible. Ashley personally formulates her oil blends, and creates new products based on her own lived experiences. Her approach to self care is as authentic as she is, and that is the kind of beauty product I can get behind!
Connect with Ashley:
Erica is a shining example of stepping out on faith. She chooses to allow the tragic loss of her older brother, Joey, to serve as a catalyst for creating positive change. In an effort to prevent alcohol and drug related tragedies, Erica traveled the country speaking on college campuses, sharing her story and educating students on the reality of drug and alcohol abuse. Erica later shifted her focus to where the research pointed: teens. She brilliantly paired the tools of Yoga & Mindfulness together to create a program specifically for teenage girls to learn how to connect to their inner guide, see their beauty, and own their power. Erica continues to devote herself to her mission of improving the lives of young people, all while raising two precious little ones of her own. Lucky kiddos!
Connect with Erica:
Katie & Allison are nothing short of trailblazers in the world of Yoga. They recognize the power of this ancient practice to change lives, and they dreamed of providing a space where Yoga tools were available to all — so they created it! In the heart of Orange County, where the focus is often on acquisition of wealth and status, these brave women built a community based on accessibility, inclusivity, and heart-centered living. Be the Change Yoga is the first donation based studio in Orange County, and since opening its doors in 2013 has become a leader in the health and wellness world. Together, Allison and Katie have created a space where individuals from all walks of life can come together to heal, to learn, to grow and to find a true sense of belonging. What more do our hearts desire?
Connect with Allison & Katie:
Katie is a master motivator that lives what she preaches. She believes that power and passion are our natural state, and teaches her students how to live from this space more often. Katie offers courses around the world, teaches yoga and fitness throughout San Diego, and leads by example in her weekly b_inspired mantras on social media. She pulls from her own personal experiences of loss and hard ships, and challenges herself and other to ask bigger questions and discover answers from within. If you are looking for a woman to look to for inspiration, someone who embodies beauty in the most real sense, than look no further!
Connect with Katie B:
These women remind me that we all have within us the power to do great things. When you find yourself doubting your ability to ignite change or be a force in this big world, remember the wise words of Marianne Williamson
I am undoubtedly a fan of lady boss, Marie Forleo. She confidently uses her voice, trusts her instincts, and empowers others to pursue our dreams courageously. I have so much respect for Marie as a woman, an entrepreneur, and a fellow seeker of a vibrant life.
I have to be honest, though. I cannot stand behind Marie’s mantra “Everything is Figureoutable.” Let me explain…
To be clear, I absolutely see value in her assertion. The bottom line of her speech is that when we believe in our ability to overcome obstacles and push through roadblocks with persistence, we live more abundant lives. I’m with you Marie!
I also, however, see potential for a monumental pitfall in this belief.
As much as I agree that we can benefit from owning how much power we have over our own lives, believing that EVERYthing is figureoutable can inhibit us from relying on something even more powerful than we are.
You see, if everything was figureoutable, than parenting would be so much less scary, career paths would be more straightforward, and we would be able to resolve political battles. If everything is figureoutable, where is the damn manual? I certainly didn’t get one.
You know what my mantra is?
“Everything is surrenderable.”
Have you ever…
…banged your head against a wall trying to find a solution to the same problem only to come up empty handed and exhausted?
…witnessed someone you love make choices that hurt them, over and over again?
…watched yourself make the same misstep over and over, even though you “know better?”
Some things are beyond “figuring out.” When we have exhausted our limited human resources (our intellect, help from others, inner wisdom, etc.), the missing ingredient is surrender.
Not sure when you will find the loving partner you are searching for? Surrender.
At a loss for how to support your child struggling with anxiety? Surrender.
Frustrated with the sorrow you see in the world around you? Surrender.
Surrender to the reality that much of life is beyond your ability to control. Release your need to be the hero. Do your part: show up wholeheartedly, reach out for support, give it your all. Then, let go of the need to figure it out. Let go of the belief that you can come up with the solution using reason alone. Open yourself up to be guided, and trust that you already are.