Maca Chai Smoothie

I’ve started incorporating Maca powder into my routine since my hormones seem to be all over the place. Maca is touted as being able to potentially balance hormones, support hormone production, and result in some crazy-sweet benefits, like easing PMS & Menopause, aiding in fertility issues, reversing hypothyroidism, and improving libido (bow chicka wow-wow!). The taste takes some getting used to, but I found a chai-flavored one at Whole Foods that I like (see photo below).

Ingredients:

1.5 cups coconut milk or almond milk

1 sliced frozen banana

1 Tbsp. Almond butter

1/2 tsp. Vanilla extract

1 tsp. Maca boost (see product pic below)

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in blender & blend to desired consistency. Pour in a glass & drink (it’s more fun with a straw)!

P.S. Here is the Maca powder I used (I got it from Whole Foods):

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5 Easy Habits to Get Healthier Now

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Tongue scraping

This is an ancient Ayurvedic practice that Western medicine is beginning to acknowledge as productive to oral health. Did you know that a coating of residue (including toxins and yucky bacteria) on the tongue is what leads to bad breath? You may have learned to brush your tongue, but I have bad news for you. All that does is push the bacteria around. Tongue scraping eliminates it. Getting rid of the coating on the tongue also leads to greater sensitivity of the taste buds; meaning, your food will be tastier. Wouldn’t it be nice to be satisfied with less food? Less food = less unnecessary weight on the body. We all know this. The process of tongue scraping is so quick and simple, there’s really no excuse to not do it. You simply take each end of the tongue scraper in your hands, start at the back of the tongue, and add gentle pressure, scraping from back to front, rinsing in between. Repeat about 5 times. I’m telling you, your mouth will feel cleaner. You can buy a tongue scraper here.

 

 

Switch to Whole Foods

 

No, I don’t necessarily mean the grocery store. You don’t have to drive to another town to find a Whole Foods market. A whole food means a food that is in its complete form, with no additions. Ingredients: 1. An apple is a whole food. A carrot is a whole food. An almond is a whole food. I like what author Michael Pollan says: “eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” What he’s saying is, avoid stuff with a million ingredients. Actually, more than 5 ingredients and you’re going down a road leading to nothing good. If this is too difficult for you, at least start reading the Ingredients on your box o’ food, and avoid anything with the words “hydrogenated”, “palm oil”, “carrageenan”, “maltodextrin”, and “aspartame”. That’s a solid place to start.

 

 

Drink Organic, Fair Trade Coffee (ditch the K-cups)

 

If you’re like most Americans, you drink coffee. If you’re like me, you have a slight obsession that borders on unhealthy. Nevertheless, we’re not here to judge. Coffee is delicious. However, I encourage you to do the environment a favor and stop using the disposable K-cups in your Keurig. I’m not saying to throw out your Keurig…that would be wasteful. Instead, buy a couple reusable, refillable little cups. Buy a bag of high quality, organic coffee. You’ll find that the coffee will last a lot longer, you’ll save money, and you’ll feel good about helping the planet. You can buy some on Amazon here.

Better yet, get yourself a French press.  You’ll feel like a badass, and the coffee honestly does taste better.  I got this adorable one that I take to work with me – it’s enough for one cup (there are larger ones as well).  Check it out here.

 

Begin a Daily Gratitude Practice

 

Get a cute little journal. Find 5 minutes to yourself either in the early morning or before bed. Grab a cozy spot, a cup of tea, and light a candle. Create a sacred space, and get to writing. Write what you’re grateful for. If you’re having a difficult time and grasping at straws, start with something very basic and primal. “I’m grateful for shelter and warmth”, might be a nice a place to begin, particularly if you live in New England like me, where the winters are bitter cold. “I’m grateful that my body carries me through the day and moves me from place to place.” It might seem silly, but it has been shown that gratitude and joy are directly correlated. This is no coincidence. The more we acknowledge all that we have, the more satisfied and fulfilled we can feel.

 

Incorporate Yoga into your Life

 

If you’re a seasoned yoga, or know the basics, try to fit 30 minutes in a day. No need to go to a yoga class, or pop in a DVD. Just roll out your mat and flow through 10 sun salutations, surya namaskar A (see photo below for instructions). If you have no clue what I’m talking about, click the menu at the top of this website and go to “private yoga instruction”, and schedule a session with me (if you live in CT). Even if you don’t live nearby, feel free to email me and I’ll give you some personal recommendations. So, 10 sun salutations, followed by 10 dirgha breaths, followed by 10 minutes of nadi shodhana, and finally, 5 minutes of meditating on the breath.

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Sat Nam,

Steph xo

Lean Into Joy

This is a poem I entered into my school’s poetry contest. My poem placed, I scored some cash, and more importantly, a spot in the next publication of The Beacon, the school’s creative writing magazine. Today I read this poem in front of an audience of people (most of whom were there because it was a class requirement). I’ve never been much for public speaking. But something about sharing it made me feel all squishy and warm inside. Truth be told, I didn’t feel much of a connection to this poem, until I realized what it’s all about (sometimes I don’t write the poem, the poem writes me). It’s about gratitude for yourself. A deep appreciation and satisfaction in your capabilities and gifts. It’s about connecting with your inner flame, your lifeblood. It’s about linking with “your people”, finding the ones who “get you”. Your place in the world is right around the corner, if you haven’t already found it. It’s also inside yourself, if you dare to get that close.

Lean into joy
In its simplest form.
Find it in the questions
You commit to memory and
hold in your heart.

Maybe some things
Are meant to be unseen.
Maybe, we focus our attention
on what sustains us.

Look, I mean truly look,
Deep down into the well of your soul.
If you drop a coin and make a wish,
Will you hear the pleasant plop
of the penny reaching water?
Or will it land among dust and debris,
Where water was once abundant?

Seek out moments,
Experiences that energize and delight.
Learn what fills your well again.
Wealth is not found in material form,
But in the ecstatic joy and passion
That fills our well to overflowing.

Our hearts have no time for the trivial
When there are wondrous landscapes to discover.
Untold stories,
Unwritten memories,
Pieces of personality,
Fragments of our true essence;
The hidden corners of our being
That we guard and conceal from the world.

Take this brief life in stride.
Gather all the brightest pieces
into your box of jewels,
And lean into joy.

Trusting Your Inner Compass

Remember the times before GPS?  Yeah, me neither.  I do remember typing my destination address into Mapquest’s magical navigator, and scribbling down the directions on a scrap of paper, dashing in my car, and whizzing on my way.

Many times, I still got lost.  But that was half the fun of it, wasn’t it?  It was part of the adventure and emblazoned anxiety.

Now, we set out on a journey and it’s no longer really a journey.  We’ve become so reliant on information systems outside ourselves, and lost touch with our own inner compass.

Do you see where I’m going with this?  We try to control the events of our lives, set reminders on our phones, tweet and post and scroll, clutching fervently to whatever seems to be working for us.  Distractions from ourselves.  Whatever it takes to get us to our pre-determined destination crafted by the thinking (vs. intuitive) mind, that’s what we’re going to do.  Steps A-Z.  In sequential order.

Well what happens when our plan runs off the tracks?  When T comes before B?  When someone throws a wrench in our perfectly prescribed timeline to “Z” destination?  I can tell you what happens for me.  I become disappointed, confused, angry, bitter, sad, and usually, defeated.  I forget the entire journey, throw away the destination, and move on to devise another plan.

Maybe I don’t need to do all that planning.  Hmm, there’s an idea.  Maybe it makes more sense to follow signs, landmarks, breadcrumbs, garden gnomes.  (Ok, probably not the last one).  At least I won’t be so attached to a rigid outcome.

I think by allowing myself to stray, to wander, to try different hats and shoes and scarves on, I can free myself from the anxiety of reaching that pre-set destination.  Maybe I’m already where I’m supposed to be, in every moment.  And the more I’m fully here and awake in each moment, the easier it will become to follow the flags, lights, and arrows pointing me to my next excursion.

This of course, requires trust in some force greater than myself, and also great trust in myself.  I used to ignore, shove aside, and snuff out my intuitive sense.  I’d shush that hushed voice that was actually guiding me.  I did things that didn’t align with what felt right to me, or true to my essential nature.

The more I denied my inner compass, the more lost I became.  But now, I feel like I’m starting to rest in the knowledge that I will listen to ME, and also take some hints and nudges from God/Universe/Spiritual Law/whatever IT is…because that resides in me.

The answers reveal themselves like dominoes clicking gently against each other, spiraling and weaving and knowing exactly where they are headed.

Steph xo

Mindfulness Challenge

 

In my garden, the rose opened. But I was in too much of a hurry, and passed it by. Love remembered me and said, I will make a rose bloom in your heart. -d. Chopra

It’s #mindfulnessmonday.  A reflection is in order.  How often do you not remember your drive home, because you’re consulting the to-do list in your head, or blasting the radio to drown out that same list?

There’s something very powerful and compelling about silence, and mindfulness.  I think some people find it intimidating, and need to fill the spaces with conversation, music, white noise.

There are times where I want to listen to a podcast, or jam out to some 311.  But in silence, I start to notice more of what’s all around me. Particularly in this season, when the trees are exchanging last hugs with their leaves until spring introduces new friends to embrace. The colors, well I can’t tell you about them. It will never be like experiencing them.  I am grateful for the mindfulness that allows me to bask in the beauty of the landscape all around me.

This is a practice.  Being mindful doesn’t always come naturally, especially to those of us who are chronic worriers, or have active, analytical minds.  I myself have a total monkey mind, as it’s referred to in yoga.  My mind swings from one thought-vine to the next, hardly pausing to notice, to take a breath.  So you can see why I meditate.

I have new experiments I’m beginning.  I’ve got 3 so far:

  1. Simplify my life.
  2. Get rid of stuff I don’t need.
  3. Blog daily.

That is all.  I’m practicing number one right now.  Less words.  Less thoughts.  More living.

Until tomorrow,

Steph xo

Feeling Fully

  

Let’s be real: we’ve all encountered someone who’s words or actions grate our nerves, irritate us, etc. Look for the opportunity in that experience to grow as an individual. What can you learn from them? You might become more mindful of your own words and actions. Maybe you make a commitment to be kinder, more lighthearted, tolerant, or non-judgmental. Next time you come into contact with that person, and feelings of anger or annoyance start to emerge, allow yourself to fully feel that, and delay your reaction for a moment. Consider that there are a whole host of reasons this person might be acting in the way that angers you. If you reframe the story in your mind, you can feel less anger, and more compassion. 

 

Anger and irritation are perfectly normal emotions. They may be uncomfortable, and we may feel aversion toward them and try to push them deep down inside ourselves. A teacher of mine from Kripalu, Aruni Nan Futuronsky, said: “The only way past the emotions, is through them.” In other words, we have to be willing to feel our emotions fully, in order to release them. Have you ever tried to push a beach ball under water? Doesn’t it shoot right back up? This is the same with our emotions. If we push them down, they will eventually pop up again. Alternately, we can feel the tension, and then say, “thank you anger, for providing me with this lesson, but I no longer need you.” Take this practice in stride. We don’t create sustainable change overnight. Give yourself the space to emerge from a place of compassion slowly. Give yourself permission to feel anger, so you can ultimately release it, and come back to a state of equanimity. Thich Nhat Hanh, in a recent interview with Oprah, said, “the lotus flower grows out of mud. Without the mud, we cannot have the lotus.” That is the nature of duality. Without anger, we could not feel harmony. Without sadness, we could not feel joy. 

Namaste,

Steph xoa

My Story

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Everyone has a story.  Your story is unique, and it is capable of reaching others in some capacity that will be received as a gift.  If you have an empowering story, I encourage you to share it.  Not only can this be healing and freeing for you, but it is healing and freeing for others.  It is your story that heals.

Most of my life, I was a private person.  I was overly cautious in friendships and relationships, and hesitant to let anyone into my world.  I flew under the radar, and preferred to be alone.  There is nothing necessarily wrong with that, with being an introvert who prefers books over social activities.  But by hiding, well into adulthood, and keeping my story locked away, I was missing out on a great opportunity.  The opportunity to build connections with people, especially those who have a similar story.  I realized I was withholding a major gift that can lead to my great work being done in the world.

I have struggled with depression and anxiety my whole life.  As far back as my memory will allow, and as soon as I became self-aware as a child, there was a strange sense of pervasive melancholy and isolation.  I lived two blocks away from my elementary school, and would walk to and from school each day.  I’ll never forget walking to school, backpack in tow, feeling this bizarre disconnection from my body.  It was as if I was viewing myself from the sky while sleepwalking.  Later in life, I was able to label this feeling with a legitimate psychological term, which is a phenomenon known as “dissociation”.

I’ve experienced dissociation many times in my life, and still do on occasion.  For those who fortunately have not felt this, the best way I can describe it is an extreme and frightening version of déjà vu.

Anxiety has been with me just as long as depression, at least 20 years now.  For those reading this who have chronic anxiety or have had panic attacks, or both, you know what kind of hell this can be.  I get it.  I’ve been there.  Most importantly, you are not alone.  You are not the story you tell yourself.  You are not what others think of you.  You are not the pithy and insensitive remarks that are directed toward you.  You are not taboo as a byproduct of your depression or anxiety or eating disorder.  You do not need to hide.  Please keep reading.  This story has a happy “ending” (I put this word in quotations because it’s really a lifelong journey).  I will tell you what coping mechanisms have worked for me, and how I’ve found relief from states of mental distress.

Anxiety and depression are often close cousins with eating disorders.  It’s often a “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” scenario.  Either anxiety and depression somehow contribute to an eating disorder, an eating disorder worsens anxiety and depression, or some combination of all three exists (which was the case for me).  It’s like back in the day, when finger-painting, and I mixed all the colors together to create this sort of non-specific brown.  My thoughts were all blurred together into that brown.  I felt out of control when it came to the canvas of my life.

Enter eating disorder, or ED.  At age 14, the battle began.  Controlling my food and exercise gave me a false sense of control in my life.  I could not yet accept that there were things that were outside of my control.  I had to reign everything in and use my puppet strings to create idealized, unrealistic outcomes.   Everything became black or white.  I didn’t allow myself to consume ANY foods that contained fat.  I HAD to exercise excessively every day.  At the time, it felt like it wasn’t a choice.  ED had me in shackles.  It was a dire demand.  It was the difference between failing and succeeding.  It was an ABSOLUTE requirement that I kept my calorie intake below 500 a day, no exceptions.  This was meticulously recorded and poured over every night.  If something was out of balance, if I ate one too many apples or rice cakes, I panicked.  I would then need to sneak out of the house at night to go for a run.  I took ephedrine (which of course is now illegal because of its harmful effects on the body), wrapped food in napkins and threw them away or hid them underneath a sweatshirt until I could be excused from the table, made excuses for missing dinner because I had “homework”, told my parents I had a stomach ache, became vegetarian so I could cut out entire food groups, avoided like the plague social or family events where large amounts of food would be present, and the diversions go on and on.

My anorexia, from a clinical perspective, did not continue long, probably two years.  But for me it was a lifetime of living in my own prison.  And it was about to get worse.  My body couldn’t sustain itself, especially since I was involved with physical activities such as dance team in high school.  We’d have 3-hour practices after school in the cafeteria; following that, I walked 2 miles home.  For all that exercise, I’d have the smallest possible bite of a Power Bar.  You don’t have to be a dietician to understand that’s not enough food.  After a summer of extreme restricting and over-the-top workouts, entering into my freshman year of high school, I stepped on the scale and felt an electric current of fear rush through me.  I was 97 pounds.  Oh and by the way, I’m 5’9”.  I was emaciated, dangerously underweight.

That number on the scale, and the emotions associated with it, will stay with me for the rest of my life.  (Only now, 14 years later, can I be weighed at the doctor’s office without losing my shit).  I looked in the mirror and was unrecognizable, miserable, and desperate.  I often had heart palpitations, hadn’t had a menstrual cycle in months, and couldn’t sleep at night because my bones jutted out to the point where I couldn’t find a comfortable position, even on a soft mattress.  I suddenly understood the magnitude of the hole I was in.  That was the first day I ever binged.

I raced downstairs and all but unloaded the kitchen’s contents.  I gorged on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cereal, cookies, ice cream, whatever I could get my hands on.  My parents were more than puzzled at the mysterious disappearance of vast amounts of food from the cabinets and fridge.  They had to start labeling Tupperware containers with a note that said “Do Not Eat”.  I was embarrassed, humiliated.  I only binged while I was alone, and barely ate in the presence of others.  For obvious reasons, I gained weight rapidly, and ED didn’t like that one bit.  So it took on a different form.  A seamless transition.  Bulimia.

In many aspects, this was without question the worst period of my life.  Everything I did was dictated by my eating disorder.  I would skip school to walk home, binge, and purge.  I made choices that would change the course of my life.  I’m still working on mending those mistakes.  I experimented with a number of harmful substances.  I’ll never forget my rock bottom; most people don’t.  They may block it out temporarily, but a traumatic experience is usually committed to long-term memory.  There are often triggers (a sound, a smell, an image, a word) that bring the experience back to the surface, the forefront of the mind.

Like any other ordinary day, I skipped class.  I walked to Dunkin Donuts, and bought myself a bag of donuts.  Yes, they were all for me.  Knowing what would come next, I had a new idea.  I had heard of people using ipecac.  For those who don’t know, Ipecac is an over-the-counter medicine intended to induce vomiting following ingestion of a poisonous substance.  With my bag of donuts, I walked to the grocery store.  Heart racing, mind reeling, I stole a bottle of ipecac.  I was too paranoid about being questioned at the counter to purchase it.  Back at home, I binged, gulped back a couple teaspoons of the disgusting liquid, and waited.  I’ll spare you the details of the events that followed.  I collapsed on the floor and blacked out.  I came back to consciousness an undeterminable time later, on the cold tile of the bathroom floor, my head throbbing.  I was overwrought with anxiety and despair.  In that moment, I wanted to die.  I wanted to be released from the grips of my eating disorder.   I had hit the very bottom of my well.  I would have more lows to come in my life, but I believe this was one of my all-time lows.  As I write this, my hands are shaking and my chest is tight.  This is a painful memory to share.

My parents soon caught on to my behaviors.  I was pulled out of school to receive outpatient treatment for my eating disorder at the Institute of Living in Hartford, CT.  It was there that I met some of the most authentically beautiful souls I’ll ever encounter.  These women and men ranged in age from 12 to 60.  Each was at a different stage in their recovery.  Even in the depths of my own need for healing, I recognized how sad it was that we were there.  How fundamentally fucked up it was to be caught in the crossfire of self-deprecation.  That society’s messages had, in any way, a role in causing this dis-ease.  It was there that the seed was planted.  It was there that a flame was sparked inside me to challenge and to combat the way we, as a society, reward or deny people based on their appearance.  It was there that I had my first brush with meditation and yoga.  I experienced firsthand the transformative, healing power of meditation, coupled with the intuitive wisdom of yoga.  I observed how my friends with eating disorders responded to guided meditation.  They were calmer, they were breathing deeper, the light returned to their eyes.  Those shifts alone were huge triumphs.  In a nutshell, meditation and yoga became my healer, my relief from anxiety and damaging thoughts about myself.

Fast forward to today.  Since my last treatment at IOL ended, I’ve healed and transformed in a big way.  I’ve continued therapy on and off with different people.  I’ve learned to listen to my body.  I feed myself with what truly fuels me, from a literal perspective of nutrition, to a visceral level of intuitive life choices.  I’ve continued to meditate often.  I became a certified Kripalu Yoga Teacher.  I went back to school.  I landed a job I thought I was unqualified for.  I got married, bought a house, and am starting my own business.  I’ve been called “a leader”.  Never would I have imagined myself emerging as a leader.  That is truly astounding to me.  I am slowly learning how to stand in that truth with confidence, and firmly, unapologetically, take my seat as a teacher and leader.  That is the happy ending, or better, happy beginning.  Each day, I begin again.  I show up differently each day, but I show up.  And that’s what matters.  From my life cred even more than my formal training, I am qualified to lead and to teach.  I now seek progress instead of perfection, and try to my best ability to delight in simple joys.  I want to help others heal, grow, and bloom fully.

If your story has yet to be told, tell it.  Talk about it, share about it, stand in your truth.  Reach out to others.  Reinforce to yourself that you and everyone else deserves to be happy, to be healthy, to be free from danger.  Be in support of yourself first and foremost.  Become your own best friend.  Tell yourself a new story, and discard the old one that says “you can’t”.  Because you can.  And you will. 

I hope that sharing my story will serve someone in some capacity.  If you have questions, comments, or want to share your story with me, please do.  I’ll do my best to respond and support you in any way that I can.

Leaning into Acceptance 

   
Before I discovered Kripalu yoga, I had a deeply rooted discomfort with my body. I constantly tried to force myself to go on diets, limit my calories, write down every single morsel of food that passed my lips, run until my knees hurt and my head throbbed, and on and on. None of these practices made me more satisfied. If anything, my anxiety about my body grew worse. I couldn’t relate to my physical self in any way other than with mean thoughts and criticism. I was always looking for the ultimate rule book, something to keep me contained, as if, left to my own devices, my body and my life would go horribly awry. I thought if I had control over my body and my weight, somehow I’d have control over what was going wrong in my life (even if it had nothing to do with me). When my mom told me she had breast cancer, I felt helpless. I almost instantly reverted back to my old ways. Somehow, controlling my food intake and exercise in a drastic way (aka disordered eating) deluded me into believing I had things “handled”, and life would go exactly the way I wanted it to. Gripping onto idealized outcomes in this way only adds to suffering. If such is true, then the only other path to take would be that of acceptance.

 

Accepting painful circumstances is challenging. Allowing ourselves to feel emotions fully is something we tend to writhe away from, especially when these emotions make us feel vulnerable, or angry, or sad. But when we ride these waves of emotion and senses that arise, especially in the safe space of yoga practice, we can eventually release them. We can learn to trust our inner compass, the brilliance of our physical body, that is constantly trying to keep us in a place of homeostasis, or balance. 

 

When did I learn such mistrust for myself? I stopped listening to the innate wisdom of my body, which tells me when I am hungry, when I am full, when I need a nap, when I need to go for a walk, when I need to retreat to nature. I’ve gripped on to perfectionism for so long. I’ve thought on some subconscious level that the more I achieve, the more I push for results that seem to indicate success, the happier will be, or the more I will like myself. That, also, is not true. We all deserve happiness regardless of achievement. 

 

I encourage you to remind yourself of the below affirmations. You may choose one to focus on, or attempt to incorporate all of them in your day:

 

“Today, I am redirecting my energy away from perfectionism. I will commit myself to quieting the inner critic, who tells me I am not “enough”. I will reframe those thoughts into ones of worthiness. I will extend warmth and sweetness toward myself and others.”

 

Namaste,

 

Xo Steph

Joy is here

  

I felt it. I tapped into the unfathomable, untainted joy that I don’t think I’ve felt since a child. Yesterday was the first instance, as I drove my beloved Subaru up to the Berkshires. Destination: Kripalu. Everything was a green so vivid and rich, I could’ve been inside a watercolor painting, or maybe a high-definition photograph would be a better analogy. As I drove further away from denser populations, I felt my body melt. Shoulders, neck, fists. Everything unclenched and relaxed. I remembered my breath, it’s location and path. I noticed the quality of the air on my face, I recognized that the wrinkles between my brows disappeared. Everything soft and warm. Along some parts of my journey, nothing but the winding paved roads seemed touched. Places unimaginably unscathed by humans. My delight in this was obvious. I felt alone with nature, and that freed my spirit. It was back. My happiness, my lightness, my appreciation for details, for subtle movements, for life in it’s basic form. My proverbial well kept filling, rising higher and higher.  
I reached Kripalu and felt the click of a lock open. It was me. I was open again. I was back. My heart, my softness, my joy, my self. This wasn’t a question of ego. It was simply a reunion with self-determination, passion, and peace. I checked in and felt on top of the world. The staff member informed me there was an envelope that was to be presented to me with my room key and welcome papers. I opened the envelope to find a gift certificate to be used for Healing arts. Love, Summer, Shannon, and Zile. My roommates from YTT. Again, my well filled higher. The gesture overwhelmed me with love. 
Later, after getting my ass handed to me in a vigorous yoga class led by the anatomy genius Chris Holmes, my sweet Summer came to visit. We talked about life, love, work, travel, dreams, and everything in between. We chanted om gum ganapataye namaha and om namo bhagavate vasudevaya in the whirlpool. We grabbed some famous Kripalu cookies and headed to the 4th floor meditation room, where she led me in an 11-minute Kundalini meditation, which I hope to continue practicing for 40 days. Ong namo gurudev namo. Mudras were left hand on the heart with thumb pointing up and fingers pointing right, and right hand lifted with first finger and thumb touching.  

She is an incredible human being, and brings laughter and love to everyone who crosses her path, I’m sure of it. 
Fast forward to breakfast this morning. I sat in the silent dining room facing makeenac lake, gazing out over the pristine water and rolling mountains. The longer I sat, the longer I looked, warmth overcame me, body and soul. Electric light traveled through each artery, vein, organ, muscle fiber. Tears welled up in my eyes, stemming from nothing but pure joy. Words fall extremely short of what I experienced in that moment. But I knew without a single seed of doubt that this is where I want to be. Maybe not Kripalu specifically, but here. In this place of happiness. With nature. Away from the noise. In this space where I feel real, and whole, and full. This is me. This is mine. This is I. I am this. 

For Today, I choose me. 

In painful times, I turn into a machine.  I surge on, and distract myself with activities. It’s easier to distract and avoid than to face the pain dead-on. It’s what I did when I learned my mother had cancer, and it’s what I’m doing now when certain aspects of my life seem to be disintegrating,  slipping through my fingertips. 

Realizing this tendency to distract and avoid, I’m making a conscious effort to find a little patience and compassion for these necessary emotions. 

It’s been awhile since I’ve practiced yoga. And to be honest, I think I was subconsciously avoiding yoga because for me, it brings a lot of emotions to the surface. It’s a looking glass into the depths of my heart and mind. For me, it was infinitely easier to go to the gym, hop on a treadmill, blast Pandora, and let myself go blank.  As I write this, I realize the irony in that.  It’s a parallel to the treadmill I’ve been on in my life. The avoidance of the moment. 

Sitting at my desk and contemplating how I’d spend my evening, my immediate thought was to run.  But as I recognized my emotional exhaustion, I realized running isn’t the answer. I’m trying to run away, when I need to get on the mat and face my emotions. Feel them fully. It’s the only way I can release them.  I may cry, I may feel anger and discomfort, but this is the work of my life. 

Isn’t it a Lumineers song that says:

It’s better to feel pain, than nothing at all..

I have to say, i think i agree.

So it Begins

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I did it. I followed my dreams, and now I’m a certified yoga teacher. I learned invaluable tools that stretch beyond teaching yoga…they’re gifts to help me navigate life in a way that helps me squeeze all the delicious juice from it.

Bit by bit, I’d love to share with you readers, some of the most helpful ideas and strategies I took away from my training at the Kripalu School of Yoga. Some of these things will help you, and some won’t. The best I can do is offer thoughts/ideas and invite you to use them in your own life.

One of my favorite lectures was with the brilliant yogi and author Aruni Nan Futuronsky. She said, “reality is relentless, and it always wins.” In other words, there’s only so much that we have control over. Life is going to unfold before us, with or without our permission. Yoga isn’t necessarily about downward dogs and postures, but more so about becoming skillful and mindful in being with what is, so we can struggle less and savor more.

Aruni had a beautiful and eloquent way of explaining how yoga practice helps us heal and get the most out of life. From a young age, cultural norms and ideas about emotions and what is acceptable begins to permeate our awareness. We learn it’s not okay to cry, or be angry, and so it’s common to push these feelings down deep inside ourselves. So what happens? We can be left with a dull ache of suppressed emotions. Aruni said, “the way out of the feelings is through the feelings. Defenses separate us from full living.” Being with feelings, riding the waves of emotions, and witnessing them without judgement, is the way to healing and really being alive.

Allowing ourselves full permission to be where we are is a huge component of Living yoga. It’s not the feelings themselves that hinder us, it’s what we do to try to control the feelings. If we treat ourselves with compassion and kindness, and give gentle reminders that it’s safe to feel, we can befriend the moment and be there for the beauty and the grace of life in each moment.

One of the single most important things I learned from my experience at Kripalu is how to show myself kindness, and be present for every moment, knowing that all will be well and I don’t have to try so hard to control every aspect of my life.

More to come.

Jai Bhagwan
Namaste

Steph xoxo

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