Strong Back, Soft Front, Wild Heart

Recently, I heard a wonderful interview with Brene Brown, where she used the phrase “Strong Back, Soft Front, Wild Heart.” This immediately made me think of one of the central offerings baby-lifting-weight-2of a Yoga practice: a balance between Sthira (Steadiness) and Sukha (Ease). In Yoga, the belief that our bodies are inextricably connected to our hearts and minds means that the pursuit of physical health has reverberations for our mental and emotional well being.

This balance between suppleness and strength has farther reaching implications into the realm of relationships, our role in our community, and sustainable social outreach. In the words of the great leader, Martin Luther King:

“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic.”

Currently in my life, I am grieving the end of a romantic relationship. As I walk through my own natural, human layers of sadness, I am noticing how the practice of Yoga is helping me stay stable, strong and alert, in order to, paradoxically, hold my own vulnerability. In the same way that aligned posture helps reduce physical pain, allowing our own raw places of tenderness to express themselves, requires patience, discipline, and strength; as if holding ourselves from the inside. This is a paradox, but one that Yoga philosophy understands and invites.

Where, in your practice today, is increased strength allowing for greater ease? How is love supporting your power and power supporting your love? How do you sense a connection between a strong back, a soft front, and a wild heart?


Do You Know Your Life’s Purpose?

As we prepare for our upcoming seasonal retreat, we are contemplating the Water element. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Kidneys are the yin organs associated with Water and with our Essence, Our True Nature. One of the many ways an imbalance in Water shows up in an individual is with a lack of purpose, a sense of malaise, a lack of motivation. One wonders, especially during winter and early spring, what is my purpose in life?

Thankfully, there are several practices we can draw on to support and build our kidney energy and therefore restore balance to our Water element. One way is to incorporate nourishing herbal infusions as a daily tonic. A favorite Kidney tonic is Nettles (Urtica dioica) also known as Stinging Nettles. Nettles are ubiquitous in gardens and waysides from Maine to Florida and New York to California. Maybe an indicator of how many people benefit from this tonic herb?

Another Kidney tonic, an adaptogen, which enhances the body’s natural response to stress, is Tulsi (Oscimum sanctum) or Holy Basil which is a sacred plant in India and is planted near temples on the Indian subcontinent. Tulsi is a powerful antioxidant, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory herb. And the smell of the plant and it’s essential oils is divine. Try making a delicious herbal infusion with Holy Basil.

Whole Foods, like whole herbs, are recommended to help balance the Kidneys. Specifically, black-colored foods and foods with the salty taste are beneficial to the Kidneys. These foods include seaweeds and other sea foods that have been marinated in the bounty of natural sea salts for millennia. Legumes, like Kidney beans, and other black foods, such as black sesame seeds, black beans and black walnuts are tonifying to the Kidneys.

Restorative Practices, like Yoga, Meditation, Tai Chi, and Deep Rest, especially during the hours of 3-7am and 3-7pm are recommended to restore our Kidney energy. Learn to practice restorative yoga, specifically tailored for this time of year and more practices to balance your energy during winter and early spring by attending our upcoming retreat.

In the meantime, try incorporating some of these practices now. And ask yourself, “What is your life’s purpose?” Can you articulate it? Or write it down? Continue to practice these three recommendations for the next week. Ask yourself again “What is Your life’s purpose?” Try again in one month. One Year. “What is your life’s purpose?” Has your answer has changed? Has your answer become more clear? “What IS Your Life’s Purpose?”

Out With the Old and In With the New

How are those New Year’s Resolutions going? The New Year is usually the time most of us decide to make changes to our diet, lifestyle, and goals for the rest of the year. Unfortunately, the winter season does not necessarily afford us the luxury of following through on our new habits and plans. Wintertime encourages us to turn inward, retreat, and receive. Winter is a time to slow down and contract in the freezing cold temperatures. For many of us, it is heavy, slow and potentially stagnant and not the time to start something new, especially without seeing immediate results.

A better use of our time, may be in making use of the adage, “Out with the old and in with the new!” January and February are great months to utilize the cold dark days and nights to go through some of those piles of items that are taking up space and weighing you down. Late Winter and early spring is the Kapha (Water and Earth) time of year, according to the Traditional Healing Philosophy of India, Ayurveda, the sister science to Yoga.

This is the time of year when we need to be attentive to things in our nature that are heavy, things we may cling or attach ourselves to. According to my teacher, Maya Tiwari, “Clear unobstructed space is essential to Kapha’s wellbeing. Their greatest sadhana (practice) is to detach from unnecessary hoarding… and to determine what is absolutely necessary.”

As a Virgo, I love clutter clearing, and I have been particularly inspired by Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. This book lays out a specific methodology for how to go through your things so that you will not obstruct your precious space ever again. And because Kapha wants to see immediate results and improvements, try Marie Kondo’s method which suggests going through your clothes first. But if even this seems too daunting, use your own method and start small. For example, if you would like to clean out your kitchen, start with one drawer. You will usually feel so great by the time you finish one drawer that you will keep going. Movement is a fantastic antidote to the heavy, contracted winter months and movement with an end goal is even better.

For more information on how the change in seasons effects us and some recommendations for how to respond, as well as a luxurious restorative yoga class to support you during this time of year, consider attending our next seasonal retreat: Yoga to Lift the Spirits, A Seasonal Restorative Yoga Retreat on Sunday, February 25th, 1pm – 4pm.

Everything Can Wait Except for Love

I am pleased to share the second piece in a small series of pieces written for Catalyst Wedding Co., exploring how mindfulness practices can support greater presence and peace on your wedding day. Below is an excerpt from this piece, Everything Else Can Wait Except for Love:

“There is a Zen teaching that goes “when you have only a little time, meditate for 10 minutes. And if you have no time at all, then meditate for 20.” This teaching acknowledges that a sense of not having enough time is not an objective law, but rather a subjective experience, one that we can change.

Taking time for meditation is difficult, especially when we don’t feel like we have any time in the first place. Yet it is that very sense of time-deprivation that we stand to change by slowing down and making space.”

As we continue to move further into a new year, bustling with visions and goals, can we catch ourselves in the loop of thought that insists we have no time for all of it? How is your yoga practice a support for extending your sense of space in your body, peace in your mind, and time in your day?

Here’s to taking time to make time, and allowing more room in our lives for what makes our hearts sing.




Letting Go and Giving of Yourself

As we close out our first “official” year in business, and give thanks for all that we have experienced, learned and accomplished, we are taking stock of what works and what does not serve us. We just held our first Quarterly Retreat, in which we discussed some of the aspects of the Air Element. One aspect is its connection to this time of year when the natural environment is closing down, drying up, and turning inwards for the long Winter’s rest.  All of the natural world is taking stock.

In a couple of weeks, we are then asked to confirm our findings and make “New Year’s Resolutions” based on our latest discoveries and let go of what is no longer useful. If you observe yourself, your friends and family, and the natural world, you can see this evolution in action. Everyone is deciding what to keep and where to let go. What will you keep with you from this year and take into the next year?

There is a fine line, however, between deciding what is of quality and worth holding on to and what is “perfect”. One can show an imbalance in the Air element, by constantly striving for perfection. This constant striving for perfection can actually be covering up a sense of low self-worth, that somehow if we surround ourselves with things of importance, that we will become important and “valuable”.  It is a fascinating anthropological study, particularly this time of year, when consumerism is at it’s peak. Notice feelings in yourself of self-worth around what you can afford to “give” to someone.

Many of us are so far from the roots of the holiday season, which is about giving, miracles and celebrating the return of the light. It is not about giving in the material sense, but about giving of yourself, something so much more valuable than a sweater from wherever.

We encourage you to take some time to give of yourself this holiday season. Ask yourself, “Who is truly in need?” and “How can I be helpful?” Notice what changes in you when you do this. How does thinking of others and offering help make you feel? Spiritual wisdom traditions have always taught us that selfless service is a way out of ourselves. So what are you willing to give this holiday season?