Sometimes we need to just breathe….

childs pose brightI just finished a yoga class and as always feel more open, relaxed and tuned in. These days it’s getting increasingly more difficult to move and breathe with ease (thank you baby #2), and I haven’t been able to keep up with my practice or usual exercise routine. It’s forced me to sit back, accept and try to take all a little bit more slowly (not my nature).

The latest pregnancy woe (or WHOA!) has been the excruciating leg cramps that I’ve been getting at night (think charley horse on steroids or someone stabbing you in the calf). The pain has been ridiculous, and I’ve found myself feeling it long after the initial attack. My calf muscles are all bound up, and I’ve resorted to stretching before bed (mainly long holds in down dog with deep breaths) to try and ease the pain.

So far stretching and breathing has been my biggest relief, and today in yoga class I found myself particularly tuned into the power of breath. Vinyasa, of course, is the linking of breath and movement, but we as human beings so often don’t fully breathe (in yoga or in life).

As I sat on my mat practicing pranayama, it became especially clear to me how the simple act of breathing opens us up, and allows us to move towards a place of ease and away from (even if only temporarily) pain and discomfort. We all have our own stresses and traumas, and although none can be healed instantly, the simple act of breathing is a powerful place to start.

The last 24hours, I’ve been thinking a lot about Alison Parker and Adam Ward, and the horrendous situation that occurred yesterday morning. As a former news reporter, it hits home with me, as I’ve stood in her shoes so many times. Countless mornings I’ve been out live, conducting interviews and watching the sun rise with camera men and crews who become a second family. My heart tightens when I think about this tragedy, her bright smile and potential, the lives so pointlessly lost, and the tremendous pain their families must feel. And then I need to breathe. Deeply.

We all have our own traumas. Some much greater than others, but inevitably in life we will all face hardship and pain. We will all come to a place at some point where the pain is so great that it binds us, and we feel like we simply can’t breath. It’s then that we need to most. To let the rhythmic steadiness of our inhale and exhale be our focus, and allow it to open us up, and help lead us away from the hurt. It sounds so simple (and perhaps silly when we are really suffering), but it is perhaps one of the most powerful things we can do.

So today, I say we breathe. Deeply, fully and deliberately. And hopefully, we can all find relief from whatever pain we hold.

3 Simple Steps To Finding Your Flow (on and off the mat)

flow

Spring is in full bloom and everything is flourishing around us. I sit at our lake house staring out at what are now full canopies of green leaves, when just weeks ago there were just little buds springing out on bare branches.  Nature is an amazing and beautiful thing, constantly renewing itself and allowing the seasons to take their course.

I taught this past weekend at Mayfest (see post below) on Finding Our Flow (both on and off the mat.) So, how do we do that? It’s an ever-progressing task and, even though teaching on the subject, I must admit, often I am not in flow. It’s always a work in progress, and indeed I believe we all come in and out of flow. But, when we are in that space, doesn’t it feel so good? When all seems aligned and we are in the place of effortlessness and fluidity. When we feel like all within and around us is just moving in the right direction, or we are just “in the zone” and operating at our best.

I did a bit of reading on the subject of how creatives “get in the flow,” and much of the research comes back to a Professor of Psychology, Dr. Csikszentmihalyi, who asks the question “What makes a life worth living?” He concludes that pleasure and satisfaction in lasting activities that bring about “flow” (versus the material or superficial) are the only answer. From yogis to composers to star athletes, we all seem to want to be in that flow space. Even just as human beings– as moms and dads, entrepreneurs or just regular ol’ folk making our way– we all desire to be in a state of ease, having the feeling that we are at our peak, effortlessly creating and exactly where we are meant to be.

So, how do we get into flow? Easier said than done, right? When is the last time you felt content or, moreover, in flow?

3 Steps To Get Into the Flow

Do the Work: Well, as mentioned, Flow is a work in progress– the key word being work. We have to make efforts to get to that space, no matter what we are doing. And, as Dr. Csikszentmihalyi points out, we have just the right balance of challenge (in activity) and skill to take on that challenge. So, we need to find our achievable challenge, and work at it.

On the mat that translates to knowing our asana (poses and alignments), and being able to execute them without letting anything else, especially our minds, get in our way. If we’re too busy thinking about our foot placement, or where our hands are supposed to go, or what the pose looks like, we cant get into flow. We need to know the poses and alignments, so that we can stop thinking about them, and just do them. Proper alignment also (literally) opens us up, allowing energy to flow easily (along our meridians) within.

Off the mat we also have to do the work that’s required to get to our desired place. Life is full of challenge, but when we can align ourselves and our lives with our ultimate goals we can move toward happiness and flow. But first we have to figure out where we want to go. What are our passions? What brings us happiness? We need to know this before we can move in that direction. Then we also need to do the work. How do we make the changes in our life that are necessary to get to that place? What do we need to eliminate? What do we need to work harder at to bring change? We often get comfortable or lazy in life, not wanting to reach toward the ultimate, and instead settling for a life the is “good enough.” Good enough doesn’t bring flow, or the ultimate bliss that comes along with it.

Be Present: Csikszentmihalyi’s work has identified that one of the factors of flow is “intense and focused concentration” on the present moment. Makes sense, since we can’t be fully in something if our mind, intention or body is not fully involved.

On the mat this is often challenging, no matter what our experience level. As new yogis, we often get uncomfortable in the poses, feeling awkward and challenged, often yearning to get out. Even experienced yogis battle with fully being in each pose, perhaps jumping ahead of whatever the pose by predicting the sequence, or simply getting uncomfortable and looking forward to next movement. No matter what our level, often all the chatter in our mind and our “inner critic” further prevents us from being fully present. We are instead thinking about how we didn’t do that last movement right, or how we don’t look as good as the person on the mat next to us. But all of this only hinders us, and our flow. We need to just BE where WE are, not worrying about anyone else, or even about what we did up until that point, silencing our inner critic and just being present. Be in the pose of the moment. Breathe in it, and be there.

Off the mat it’s also often a challenge to stay present. We often get caught up thinking about what has already happened, or what’s to come in our lives. We repeat the past in our mind, letting it literally hold us back, instead of just letting it go. Or we are constantly thinking about (or worrying about) the future– what we still need, or all the things we don’t yet have. These are extremely limiting, and will block flow completely. When we are IN the moment, completely immersed in the present, we can’t be longing for anything of past or future. If we can just be where we are, trusting it’s exactly where we need to be, then are we able to experience the fullness of it, and move with ease through it.

Just Breathe : Here comes the yoga teacher in me, bringing it all back to breath. I believe that both on and off the mat, a simple way to move toward flow begins with breathing. Focusing on the easy, steady, rhythmic, balance of breath can allow us to move toward a state of calm, ease and flow. Our inhales open us up, literally letting gravity (or the universe) fill us, and create more space within us. Our exhales allow us to release and let go, only to be filled again. It’s this steady, even cycle that allows us to tune in, and be in tune. Just  like the trees and so much of nature, we can effortlessly move through different seasons.

When we set our intentions, do the work/meet the challenges and remain present, we move toward flow. I believe the real yoga happens when we can drop out of our heads and into our hearts. When we can can operate from this space, letting our hearts lead, we can navigate with a little more ease– both on and off the mat. So, perhaps today we all breathe a little deeper, open up a little more and move with a little more steadiness and grace. Ultimately, we can find our flow.

Imperfection is the new perfect.

So, as we start off a new year, amongst other things, I look forward to being more diligent with updating this blog. I got on here today thinking about reposting holiday memories and pictures or posts I intended to do weeks ago– like our fun trip to Botanical Gardens Train Show and thoughts on how the magical wonder of the holidays comes back when you have little ones– but, alas, it is 2015 and it feels like nobody has the need or desire to revisit the holiday season or the year past.

So, instead I sit and think about why it is that I so often have good intentions of writing but then don’t. Sure, time is one factor, and the very un-endearing quality of procrastination that I possess another, but bigger yet is my perfectionism. As great as it is to expect top quality from myself, it’s also my biggest barrier. How many posts have gone unwritten, videos unedited,  projects ended before they began, and great ideas never taken off the ground because they were not “good enough” or “thought out enough”(when indeed they were likely over thought), and, ultimately, how many opportunities have I missed because I never put out there what was imperfect (or at least imperfect in my eyes)?

So in 2015, I say imperfection is the new perfect. Over thinking and perfecting is so 2014. Instead, I look forward to many more posts (grammatical mistakes may be included), and following up in action where my many ideas take me… imperfect and all.

 

Lessons From The Yoga Mat: To Everything- turn, turn, turn….

just be seasonLaying in savasana (final resting pose) today I started to hear a far away tune start rolling through my head. Why the Pete Seeger and The Byrds had suddenly entered my yoga practice was a bit humorous at first, but, of course, the gentle chorus repeating within held deeper meaning.

“To everything ( turn, turn turn) there is a season (turn turn turn)””

It wasn’t the fact that autumn was mentioned at the start of class, nor that this time of change was referenced in the sequence that was heavy laden with twisting that brought on the tune. Yes, we are in a literal season of change, but the directive was bigger, yet more personal, than that.

Aside from the catchy melody, the message of being still and enjoying this season (of life) was pressing loudly. Quite often in the quiet of savasana, after I’ve disconnected from all the busy-ness and noise in my head, I hear the clearest. From within, I was reminded to really enjoy this season, and to stop worrying about the things to come or times of past.

I’ve been pondering my place as of late, and the ever-neurotic part of me  wondering if I should be doing more. I am blessed to now have motherhood as my full time job, but the driven little being inside me always seems to nag, that I should be doing more– producing more, working on more projects and pushing towards more “success”.

Just pre-class I had even found myself scanning TV jobs wondering if it was time to make my way back in that direction. Often, I’m also “nagged” to be doing more with my “first child,” HealthyStyleNY.com. “Why haven’t you gotten to this point yet? Why haven’t you done more with that?”, that annoying little side of me (aka Ego) taunts.

But then when all is quiet, I hear the Byrds singing and of reminded of my truth. That I don’t need to  worry and indulge all the useless noise. That I’m not going to miss anything, except if I don’t enjoy this season. For everything there is a season. And a purpose.  I know what my purpose is for this time. It’s confirmed every time I look into her big blue eyes. Why part of me tries to steal or diminish that joy (and importance) is infuriating. But then again that’s why I do yoga. To be reminded and hear truths, in whatever form they come.

 

Gratitude: Can we teach our kids to be grateful?

So, yesterday was Thanksgiving and it was freezing in the city so we skipped the parade (a family tradition which I haven’t fully carried out), and headed up to the county house. Instead, I started my morning with a Gratitude Yoga class at a local studio up here (loved), and we all went to Oma’s  house in the afternoon.

gratitude thanksgivingAria loved the turkey & Opa’s famous stuffing, and although she realized it was a holiday, and was cute with her well-rehersed “gobble, gobble,” I’m not quite sure she fully grasps the concept of gratitude. There are often times when I talk to her about how lucky she is, how lucky we both our– for our life and all the good people and stuff it’s filled with.  I can see the little wheels turning in her head when I talk about it all, but I’m not sure she fully grasps gratitude (yet).

So, the big question is, “Can we teach our kids to be grateful?”

And, I know the answer is yes. Of course, in part that comes with good parenting, and the choices we make for our kids. I know for myself I have to stop giving her so much sometimes (of the material sort that is)– for too many “favorite” stuffed animals and toys have already fallen to the bottom of the toy basket, never to be heard from again. But ultimately, I also know the biggest way  that I can teach gratitude is not by saying or doing anything, but by being grateful myself.

Gratitude is something that I’ve been trying to put at the forefront more and more. Day to day, I try to consciously live in a place where I appreciate all that I have, and not worry about what I don’t– to trust that I am exactly where I need to be at this moment and be thankful for that place and everything in it.

Now, for me this is sometimes tough.  My perfectionist, success-driven nature often combats gratitude by always wanting better and more. But as much as I want Aria to see her mom as strong and driven, I want more for her to see me as happy and grateful. Because in the end, I know that living in gratitude brings happiness, and, ultimately, isn’t being happy what we all really want most?  I know for me it is, and (more importantly) it’s what I want most in life for Aria.

So today, I say Happy Thanksgiving (again).  Here’s to being grateful, every day.

Why I’m Moving Slow Like Molasses

slow down and enjoy via flickrIt’s a wet rainy day here in NYC and I rushed through the rain to make it to Pure Yoga in time for my Vinyasa class. Scurrying up Amsterdam, I met the gaze a young girl just moseying down like she had no where to be, seemingly enjoying the grey skies and sound of drizzle on her umbrella. How odd, I thought to myself to see someone in NY who actually wasn’t in a hurry. Weird… but nice.

I, on the other hand arrived 3 minutes late to my class, but get the nod from the instructor, Kay Kay (my latest healthy crush) that it was still OK to come in join.  While moving into our first Warrior 1, she instructed us to “move like you’re moving through molasses”, meaning slowly and with intention, focusing and being precise to “pull the nourishment” out of the pose.

Perhaps it’s the lessons, and often the instant application to my life, that are the reason I love yoga. Immediately, I flashed back to the scene in the rain that started this post, and again was reminded that sometimes I need to just slow down.

Now don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t slowing down to get to class  (I don’t travel north of 14th for too much) but I did take the lesson to heart. Too often I am rushing– rushing though or rushing to, or if not actually moving, already thinking about the next thing I have to do or place I need to be. But, I know this is counter productive. Because in the calm, in the focus and in the present is  so often where the clarity, direction and real happiness come.

So today I will move slow. Slow like molasses.

Sometimes You Need To JUST DRIVE

open road drive alone time

So I dropped the little one at my mom’s the other day en route to take care of some necessary upkeep at our country house. It was another beautiful day and I was happy to be out on the open road with the windows down and the radio up. The Taconic was wide open and a big sky with puffy clouds was the only thing ahead of me– well, in reality, a day of upkeep that would keep me inside was but let’s stay in the moment.  I turned the radio up when Robin Thicke’s new song came on, bopped my head a bit and smirked recalling my days of being single and free. Although I would never trade my life now, sometimes it’s good to remember we existed before they (baby) did, and just groove out a bit.