Monday, November 18, 2013

on gratitude

It’s been a while since I’ve been inspired enough to sit down, put fingers to the keyboard and write. I can honestly say this is the first time in a long time that I’ve felt joy and excitement in sitting down and do this work, to use my words and my writing as a teaching tool.

And today I do.

This feels huge. I’ve been writing less this year as I’ve settled into a pregnancy after loss. I have to add the “loss” part because it changed everything single thing for me. Now that babe is safely here (and over six weeks old) and I’ve given myself time and permission just to “be”, I feel a new surge of creative energy coming on. Maybe it’s the sleep I’ve gotten over the past two nights, but here I am feeling inspired, and excited to connect with you beloved yogis.

It’s my plan to get back to writing and connecting with you regularly in this format, in a way that serves you, that adds something to your life. And I’m pretty sure I can do that. I’ve decided that each month I’ll label each newsletter as an “issue”. I was inspired by a friend and mentor just yesterday when I received her newsletter and it was titled “The Working Mom Isssue”. I woke up this morning and just knew I wanted to play around with this idea.

So here’s goes……The Gratitude Issue

The gratitude issue. I know, I's so cliché with it being November and all. Yet even with all the posts about gratitude on Facebook, I simply can't resist the way this time of year does do something to open and soften my heart just a wee bit more.

I'm reminded of the good in people.

I can more easily connect to possibilities.

I more actively seek beauty.

I'm more open to share my appreciation. 

I can be with all that feels beautiful and hard and still have faith that I'm being guided in a most perfect way.

Last night I was reading the latest issue of Oprah when I flipped to the very back page to read my favorite part of the magazine. Oprah mentions that she was having a messy, tear-filled conversation with her friend and mentor Maya Angelou when Maya stopped her mid-sentence and said::

"Say 'thank you' right now. Because your faith is so strong you already know God put a rainbow in every cloud." 

And my heart whispered "yes." A rainbow in every cloud....I believe that wholeheartedly. 

This has been a large part of my gratitude practice over the last year. It hasn't been easy to be grateful, to express my appreciation, to have faith that good things will come, to trust in the rainbow after the storm.

Then my daughter was born and it changed everything.

It wasn't an easy labor and delivery. And when she was only ten days old I was in the emergency room then back in the hospital. It has not been without struggle and lots of tears. I have been tested, stretched more than ever before, and today I am practicing saying...."Thank you."

Thank you for my perfectly healthy and radiant baby.

Thank you for a husband that has done his fair share and then some.

Thank you for beautiful family and friends that nurtured my baby when it felt impossible for me to do so.

Thank you my beloved treehouse teachers and students.

Thank you for the gifts that have made it such a joy to dress Everly Jo and made it easier to care for her.

Thank you for the food delivered that nurtured us so.

Thank you western medicine and health care professionals.

Thank you for a perfectly timed day of sunshine and milder temperatures.

Thank you wisdom of Yoga.

Thank you my friend and teacher, my precious breath.

Thank you poetry and beautiful words.

Thank you body, while imperfect, you still know what to do to heal. 

I could go and on expressing my thanks and gratitude when I actively seek what is good and holy, even when life feels chaotic and hard.

For this is how I can learn and grow without closing my heart.

What does gratitude look and feel like for you today?

Has it been easy or a challenge to express gratitude?

What are your favorite ways to practice gratitude?

Here are some posts, from myself and others to entertain you in the ways of gratitude::

Yogic Philosophy & Gratitude::

Yoga Asana (poses) & Gratitude::

Gratitude & Grief

And to You::
For being here, whether physically or energetically, I am eternally grateful and humbled. Your presence truly makes a difference to me, in so many ways.

I'm so excited to be back at the treehouse on Thanksgiving day, teaching my favorite class of the entire year. I'll have baby Everly (and Andy) with me, so please come meet my miracle baby and greet the day by moving your body, savoring your breath, and yes, expressing gratitude for all that is beautiful, good, and holy.

With love & appreciation,

Saturday, September 21, 2013

weekly yoga nidra class at barefoot works!

**I know many of you will be super excited about this post from Sarah Bowker. This is gonna be great!**


After Friday’s super fun free evening of yoga flow and yoga nidra, and also a very successful yoga nidra workshop last Spring, I have heard many of your comments about desiring a more frequent offering of yoga nidra at the studio.

I am excited to share that for four Sundays starting October 27th we will have a weekly Yoga Nidra at the studio from 5:15-6pm!

What a perfect time of year to explore meditation as the weather cools and we move into fall, and move our lives more indoors. Yoga nidra is an excellent way to “let go” or shift in some way. Sharon so eloquently describes this idea in a recent post on her blog. You check it out here.

I highly recommend coming out for Julie’s all level flow from 4-5pm and then sticking around for a chance to let go and deeply relax in yoga nidra with me!

Here is the class description:

Ever wished your yoga practice was just a long savasana? Well that is exactly what you will get in this class offering, Yoga Nidra. In short, it is a guided meditation. This meditation provides a systematic method of inducing complete mental, emotional, and physical relaxation. Yoga Nidra is also tool for examining, attending to, and eliminating our habitual patterns. You will leave feeling relaxed and energized. No prior yoga experience necessary.

Dates and Time: Sundays, 5:15pm-6pm October 27th-November 17th (Four Sundays in a row!)

Class cards and packages are valid. Drop in is $14.

No preregistration required.

So looking forward to this!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

strike a yoga pose

As part of our seven year yogaversary we've had daily photo prompts. This has been so much fun for me! Here are some of the photos shared on Facebook and Instagram. Today's prompt is "yoga play". Come play and use #barefootworks. Can't wait to see you getting your yoga play on!

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

yoga teachers:: we say the strangest things

A big thank you to Misty Pittman for bringing us this entertaining and enlightening blog post!
Mexico yoga teacher trainees demonstrating "root and extend" beautifully. :)

Us yoga teachers can say some really strange things during a yoga class. Swan dive, smile your collarbones, root and extend. Wha???

We love to use pretty imagery to help you get into the movement, pose, and flow, but sometimes our translations can get lost.

For newbies and experienced students alike, here’s a little guide to help you understand your teacher the next time you are in class.

Special thank you to the Barefoot Works teachers for your contribution.

Root/ground – whether you’re standing, sitting, or lying down, imagine that the part of you that is connected with your mat is feeling stable and supported. Consciously become aware of that connection and find steadiness there.

Extend/lengthen – allow the parts of your body that are lifted (spine, arms, legs) to grow long and spacious. Being mindful to stay active throughout fingers, toes, crown of head.

Breathe into the tightness, soften and release – I say this one over and over again and get asked the most questions about it. While this one is fairly simple, it is not always easy. Become aware of a part of your body that is holding tension and visualize your inhale moving into that body part. As you exhale, remain focused on that area and consciously work to let go. This is a beautiful standalone practice that you can do at home, systematically working your way through your entire body.

Julie’s favorites ::

Soften through the chest – relax, let go of tension/holding in the chest, breathe.

Draw your belly button towards your spine – engage your core.

Keep your spine long as you fold – fold from the hips, keep the shoulders pulled back, don’t cave the chest or let the head fall forward.

Meredith’s favorite ::

Smile your collarbones – pull the shoulders back and down to encourage the chest to open.

Connect to your core – engage your abdominal muscles to protect your lower back.

Meghan’s favorites ::

Squeeze your shoulders blades together behind your heart – lift the front side of your body, relax shoulders away from ears, lengthen neck.

Pull your heart through your shoulders – open the chest, take a mini backbend in the thoracic spine (mid back).

Make the pose dynamic – continue to breath deeply when holding a pose, allowing the body to flow in and out of ease and effort, lengthening and reaching, rather than becoming stagnant in your holding.

Move like you’re flowing through water – maintain grace and integrity through transitions.

Let something go – could be a physical release of tension, restless thoughts in the mind, or fear/emotional connection to a pose.

Flow – move in and out of poses using your breath to guide your timing

The next time you hear your teacher using their yoga phrases and you are not sure what they mean, don’t be afraid to ask.

Happy downward dogging!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

women's yoga & meditation retreat

Women’s Yoga and Meditation Retreat
Led by Sarah Bowker

Join me this fall in beautiful Kentucky for a weekend of yoga, relaxation and meditation.

It’s hardly a secret at the studio that Fall is my absolute favorite time of year. It is a yin time of year.

It’s cooler, crisper temperatures.

It’s leaves turning colors and falling into crunchy piles.

It’s all things pumpkin, squash, apples, and cinnamon.

It’s football on TV and earlier sunsets.

It’s building fires, and snuggling into soft sweaters.

It’s the beautiful transformation Mother Nature makes as she prepares for winter.

And it’s the perfect time of year to retreat.

I have found the coziest old house where I would love for you to join me and Misty Pittman, fellow Barefoot Works teacher, for a weekend of yoga, relaxation and meditation.

It’s just outside the small community of New Haven, at Bethany Spring, just a mile down the road from the Abbey of Gethsemani.  

It’s a quick 90 minute drive west on the Bluegrass Parkway from Lexington.

The rooms are clean and comfortable.  The grounds are beautiful with plenty of trees and a lakeside view.

It’s a perfect space to spend a weekend away from Lexington, celebrating the shift in season, and deepening your yoga and meditation practice.

We’ll practice restorative, yin, and vinyasa yoga.

We’ll take time for ourselves – to nap, to journal, to dream, to just be.

We’ll breathe.

And we’ll meditate, together with other women.

Won’t you join us? Sign up here: 

Space is limited to only 8 women, so register early to claim your spot.

Dates: October 11-13, 2013 (begin at 6pm Friday and end at noon on Sunday)
Cost: $300 if registered by 9/13 and includes room, yoga and meditation instruction and meals from Friday dinner through Sunday lunch.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

weathering transition

A beautiful blog post by the soul-full Meredith Swim. I'm breathing a little easier now and I hope you will too after reading her words. xoxo, Sharon

Prayer ~ Belleruth Naparstek

Just give me this:

A rinsing out, a cleansing free

Of all my smaller strivings

So I can be the class act God intended,

True to my purpose,

All my energy aligned behind my deepest intention.
And just this:

A quieting down,

A clearing away of internal ruckus,

So I can hear the huge stillness in my heart,

And feel

How I pulse with all creation,

Part and parcel of Your great singing ocean.

And this too:

A willingness to notice and forgive

The myriad times I fall short,

Forgetting who I really am,

What I really belong to.
So I can start over,

Fresh and clean,

Like sweet sheets billowing in the summer sun,

My heart pierced with gratitude

After the initial thrill of finishing undergrad at UK, I fell into a limbo like state and haven’t felt centered during these rather radiant summer days. Frankly, I’m mad that I feel off-centered. This emotional state reflects the transitioning (Yes, hello, Change) taking place right now in my life.

I’m transitioning from being an undergraduate to an adult like person in the workplace. I’m moving out of my beloved cherry red room that was a sanctuary during my college days and back to my childhood home. I’m clearing out old essays and organizing clothes and books while struggling with the stress and lack of confidence that habitually bubbles up for me when I am in the midst of a grand, elegant mess (anyone out there good with organizing clutter? I’ll pay you in lattes for help).

In a tearful breakdown to my mom, she gave me familiar advice: “Breathe Courage.” This was my mantra for June, but it seems to have vanished into the rainstorms and heat waves of July. I blinked, a bit shocked and agitated to hear my lost Higher Self’s words of wisdom.

“You already have the answers,” she soothed. 

My mind revisited Naparstek’s poem: a willingness to notice and forgive/the myriad times I fall short.

So, here I am noticing that I feel ungrounded these days, more sensitive and reactive to others and to myself. I notice the resentment and judgment I feel toward my sensitivity and the rhetoric from childhood claiming I am too soft and incapable for the hustle and bustle of the “real” world.

I notice the small, but significant moments when I do not harshly judge myself and choose to channel compassion and forgiveness for self. Noticing.

Perhaps at this moment of change, simply taking note and forgiving whatever emerges will be the remedy for weathering this transition, or as Sharon beautifully put it, transformation.

Wherever you are in this moment, blog traveler, take a moment to Notice. Greet whatever emerges with compassion and include some forgiveness.

We all fall short, but we also can rise.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

falling into contentment

 Come away and cultivate contentment with miss Misty Pittman. Enjoy yoga friends.....

I have my yoga clothes on, new Avia capris and a blue Outer Banks t-shirt. Class starts in 79 minutes. I could leave now and get there with a few minutes to spare. But I'm not going to. 

I can give you a few solid reasons to justify this. I'm exhausted because I spent more time last night coughing than sleeping. I'm feeling a little queasy from all the Robitussin and cough drops that I consumed in the middle of the night. I still need to put the finishing touches on my plan for the class that I am scheduled to teach later this morning. 

All valid, right?

But really, honestly, my heart is just not in it this morning.

I have the house to myself, and it's not often that I have the house to myself. I like this alone time. I tell myself that I should at least be doing something productive while I'm here, like running the washing machine, but I don't want to. 

What I really want to do is just sit and be quiet. I want to cough my little heart out, without worrying that I'm disturbing someone. I want to drink my ginger tea slowly, savoring it, instead of trying to keep from spilling it all over myself as I drive to Lexington. I want to write. I want to go to the farmers market and buy veggies that will boost my immune system and kick this cough’s ass. 

Of course, I tell myself that I am not being a good yogi by skipping class, that I'm not being a good wife by not cleaning the house, that I'm not being a good mummy by not walking the dogs.
But then I let it go, because Failure and me have a close relationship, one that I respect very much.

This is how I fail everyday. I make a commitment to myself and then I renege. It’s so easy to beat myself up over it, too.  

But what’s the point?

Inhale inhale inhale… exhhhhhaaalle let it go.

When I let go, I accept. When I accept, I can move on and be present. When I can be present, I can start to see the horizon of contentment.

I can choose to spend the next hour watching the clock, telling myself that I should be at class, or I can indulge in my change of heart and soak up the quiet that I am really craving. I can send a little light to the students that I know I won’t get to sun salute with, and then take another yummy sip of tea.
When I remember to accept I can expand and soften (just like a really good supta baddha konasana).

The wisdom on my tea bag tells me that ‘the greatest tool you have is to listen’. And that is really, truly, all you need to do. Ask your Self what you most need in any given moment and listen. You don’t always have to listen to the shoulds and have tos, but you do always have to listen to your heart.

Monday, June 24, 2013

breathe courage

More words to savor and breathe in from Miss Meredith Swim.
The solo robin stands on the edge of his nest, his black eyes scanning the rain drop garden and gazing at the world beyond the fence. His burnt orange-feathered chest rises and falls with his breath. He’s meditating on his first flight, breathing in courage.

Breathe courage. This is my new mantra and the young robin embodies its powerful message. Before the bird takes flight, he pauses and breathes, connecting to his inner source of courage.

He reminds me of the importance of that pause. I easily can buy into the hustle and bustle of the modern world and lose my own voice to the fast advice of others. If I forget to breathe, my courage slips away from me; but taking the quiet moment to breathe allows me to gather my inner resources and handle the situation or the difficult person in front of me.

At first, my monkey mind resists that pause by pointing at the clock: “You’re taking a time-out?! We’re already pressed for time! You don’t have time!”

Ironically, taking the moment to breathe with awareness, to hit pause, creates time. The mental clarity to make the appropriate decision appears, freeing myself of additional stress and the time that would be needed later to let go of the day’s burdens.

This young robin is the last of his siblings to leave the nest. At first, I feel a pang of pity for him, sitting alone with the wild world pressing up against his safe haven; but this dissipates as I notice his cool serenity.
He’s not self-conscious about being the last bird to fly; he’s not flopping around his nest in a state of distress and crying for his mother. He’s a majestic little prince determining his own course.
Breathe courage. Staying true to oneself takes courage. In yoga class it takes some courage to honor your body, choosing a modification or a child’s pose while others vinyasa about.

Later in the morning, I check the bird nest and it’s empty – the young robin has successfully dived into the world outside the safety of my parents’ back porch. His pre-flight meditation helped him to soar.

Reflecting on his flight, I realize he must have possessed such confidence in his body, his wings, his instinct, and recognized the courage existing in his small, magnificent body.
This is one of the main reasons I fell in love with yoga and am inspired to teach the ancient practice – in yoga class, I felt safe in my body.
Yoga found me during my adolescence, a self-proclaimed daydreamer who had grown up dreading gym class. In my first yoga classes, as I twisted, stretched, and bent forward, I felt awe for these physical limbs I had so long inhabited but ignored out of fear of imperfection and discomfort.
To breathe courage doesn’t mean taking in courage from the outside world, but to reconnect to the strength and power already existing in your skin and bones.
As the robin gazed at the awaiting world, he exuded courage, the courage to wait and be with himself until the time was perfectly right for him to stretch his wings and fly.