Fill Your Cup – A Month of Self-Care

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We Welcome December

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I think it is fair to say that 2016 has been a memorable year of many changes and important shifts; both locally and globally.

Many of you have shared with me that November 2016 was one of the most stressful, emotional, and trying months in memory. Of course, the events of our presidential election rate highest on the stressful scale. I know personally that it was a month of deep awakening.

In light of the recent events, I found myself coming back to the practices and routines that ground me and keep me healthy and happy. My meditation practice, my asana practice, taking time to prepare my meals, spending time in nature, my daily walks, heartwarming conversations with friends, family time, reading, and always looking for what is good and right.
These are my anchors. My lights on the shore. My guide posts.

During the month of December my goal is to share with all of you the various and profound practices of personal care and routines to help you stay balanced, grounded, and bright. In other words, I want to show you how to ‘fill your cup.’

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December can be a fast and furious month of gatherings, holiday shopping, entertaining, and less than healthy eating. We find ourselves tired and spent both physically and mentally.
So, I want to invite you to spend time on you so that you can show up fully for those you love.

I will be offering nourishing practices of asana, pranayama, and meditation in all my classes. I will also be sharing self-care tips for eating, sleeping, bathing, essential oils, personal time, and much more. Of course, the science of Ayurveda will be woven into all of this.
I will also be offering a warm and nourishing tea that balances all of the doshas after each class.

Let’s make a commitment to take better care of ourselves during the month of December and the holiday season and carry this practice with us into the new year ahead!

I am excited about the month ahead and all it has to bring to us. Instead of worrying about needs to get done, let’s come together and celebrate all that is!
I look forward to seeing all of you this month and sharing in the practice of wellness and self-care.
It is my deepest desire to live a life of joy and share that with all of you.

I look forward to seeing you all this month and celebrating the season of joy!

Restorative Yoga and Yoga Nidra will once again be offered on Wednesday evenings from 7:15-8:15 (ish). This particular practice is a profound way to restore and renew our equilibrium and bring us back into balance and a deep state of peace. If you have never experienced this practice, I want to personally invite you to join me.
It is a life-changer for sure!

With Much Love and Deep Gratitude,
Paula

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Staying The Course

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Staying The Course

Life is sculpted on a moment-to-moment basis. Every one of the thoughts we think, the words we speak, and the actions we take contributes to the complex quality and character of the universe’s unfolding. It simply is not possible to be alive without making an impact on the world that surrounds us. Every action taken affects the whole as greatly as every action not taken. And when it comes to making the world a better place, what we choose not to do can be just as important as what we choose to do.

The question now I am hearing again and again is this; “What do we do now?”

I want to share with you what I wrote on our Instagram account: Follow Us on Instagram

“As I prepared for my classes tonight, I felt vulnerable and scared. I was worried that I would sit before them and not know what to say. I was afraid that I had nothing more to offer than simple cues on how to move their bodies into and out of a set of asanas(poses). I worried that as their teacher I would not be able to offer them bits of wisdom and insight. You see, as a yoga teacher it has always been my deepest desire and truest intention to show my students how important it is to transform their physical practice of asanas into something deeper and richer and applicable to life off their mats. The practice of yoga is so stunningly beautiful to me. It has changed my life on so many levels and I believe with every speck of energy in my body that it is my responsibility to share this with others. So tonight as I closed my eyes and asked for divine guidance and wisdom, this came to me; “dearest ones, continue being seekers of truth, dealers of peace, shiners of light, homes of peace and inclusion, speakers of love and compassion, and beacons of hope. And now more than ever, take your practice of your mats and out into the world. Together we can heal. Together we will breathe. Together we will rise above .” Let’s love one another fiercely and defy the climate of hate and division!”

And, I believe this so fully. This is how we Stay The Course!

So my friends, put one foot in front of the other, keep walking forward and smile. Remember that you are part of the whole and together we can create change.

Commit to loving one another fiercely and without judgement. Create a safe haven in your home, at your job, with your friends, and in your community. Let peace begin with you!

This is how we stay the course!

Love Wins Always!

Namaste’

Skillfulness in Action

Our actions shape our lives, but what we don’t take action on can be just as powerful.
Life is sculpted on a moment-to-moment basis. Every one of the thoughts we think, the words we speak, and the actions we take contributes to the complex quality and character of the universe’s unfolding. It simply is not possible to be alive without making an impact on the world that surrounds us. Every action taken affects the whole as greatly as every action not taken. And when it comes to making the world a better place, what we choose not to do can be just as important as what we choose to do.

For example, when we neglect to recycle, speak up, vote, or help somebody in immediate need, we are denying ourselves the opportunity to be an agent for positive change. Instead, we are enabling a particular course to continue unchallenged, picking up speed even as it goes along. By holding the belief that our actions don’t make much of a difference, we may find that we often tend to forego opportunities for involvement. Alternatively, if we see ourselves as important participants in an ever-evolving world, we may feel more inspired to contribute our unique perspective and gifts to a situation.

It is wise to be somewhat selective about how and where we are using our energy in order to keep ourselves from becoming scattered. Not every cause or action is appropriate for every person. When a situation catches our attention, however, and speaks to our heart, it is important that we honor our impulse to help and take the action that feels right for us. It may be offering a kind word to a friend, giving resources to people in need, or just taking responsibility for our own behavior. By doing what we can, when we can, we add positive energy to our world. And sometimes, it may be our one contribution that makes all the difference.

 

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Yoga is skillfulness in action. Yoga can be understood as a way of being accessible in each and every moment. In this light, the disciplines of yoga can clear obstacles that prevent us from being who and what we truly are. As the fruit is already present in the seed, yoga is not the result of any action to attain a goal. It is simply a return to our natural state.

Out of this understanding, there are four definitions that describe the qualities of a person acting from a state of yoga. Each is drawn from an ancient and authoritative yoga text:

Yoga is skillfulness in action, a reference to a yogi’s capacity to act dynamically in ways that reliably produce positive life results. (Bhagavad Gita)

Yoga is equanimity and equilibrium, a reference to a yogi’s capacity to sustain evenness of mind while confronting inner limitations and outer challenges. (Bhagavad Gita)
Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind, a reference to a yogi’s capacity to see life and reality as it is, without the filters of fears, fantasies, or other distortions. (Yoga Sutra)
Yoga is freedom, a reference to the bliss of well-being experienced whenever one steps into one’s natural rhythm of being. (Yoga Bhashya)

Yoga is so much more than the postures. We invite you to deepen your practice on and off your mat. In everything you do invite “Skillfulness in Action,” to heal, harmonize, and awaken the whole person.

 

 

 

 

Honoring The Full Moon – Chandra Namaskara

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Many traditional cultures revere the moon as a manifestation of the divine feminine force in nature (Shakti). According to hatha yoga, this force also resides within us. Whereas solar energy is warm, active, and outwardly oriented, lunar energy is cool, receptive, and inwardly focused.

Society typically encourages our solar, more masculine impulses, making it easy to pursue worldly achievement rather than cultivate inner awareness. Although the aim of hatha yoga is to find balance with both our lunar and solar energies, even our asana practice tends to reflect a bias for the solar, often emphasizing sun salutations and heating practices in the interest of physical fitness. If the divine lunar force could speak, she might lovingly remind us to “chill out before we burn out.” Like a devoted and attentive mother, the moon can teach us to slow down, listen to our own needs, and be receptive to change.

We can invoke and honor  the lunar energy in nature and within ourselves by practicing Chandra Namaskars, or moon salutations. The 15 steps in the sequence below represent 15 tithis, or lunar days; a 16th step honors the tantric goddess Shodashi, who presides over all the phases of the moon, as well as all that is perfect, complete, and beautiful. When practiced with devotion and gratitude for the divine feminine, this version of chandra namaskara can become a full body prayer.

An inward-moving and mildly calming practice, chandra namaskara is appropriate for any time of day, including late afternoon and evening. To bring an element of ritual into your practice, try it during the new and full moon phases, or outside anytime under the moon itself. The sequence is safe to explore for anyone who practices sun salutations, and many women find it soothing during menstruation or pregnancy.

Practice chandra namaskara slowly and mindfully, maintaining a smooth, deep, diaphragmatic breath. (Avoid using ujjayi breathing, which is heating). Tune into a sense of devotion as you honor all the phases of the moon and all of the various and changing cycles of your life.

Chandra Namaskara
1. Stand tall in tadasana (mountain pose) and take a few moments to establish chandra bhavana. (A bhavana is a subtle feeling created through the practice of visualization.)

Mountain Pose
Close your eyes and relax your jaw.

2. Inhale slowly while raising your arms overhead. Bring your palms into prayer position to salute the moon.

Moon salute
3. As you begin to exhale, touch the thumbs to the brow center. Continue exhaling and start to fold forward, touching the thumbs to the heart center. As you complete the exhalation, fold completely into uttanasana (standing forward bend) with your palms open to the earth. Hold the breath out as you step your left foot back into anjaneyasana (lunge) and drop the left knee to the floor.

Forward fold
4. Keep bending the right knee to anchor into the lunge as you inhale and raise your arms, bringing the palms into prayer position overhead.

Lunge
5. Exhale slowly as you lower your arms in front of you, touching the brow center, heart center, and then the earth. Finish the exhalation as you step your right foot back into adho mukha svanasana (downward-facing dog pose).

6. Inhale and drop both knees to the floor into table pose, then gently look up.

Table pose
7. Exhale and fold slowly into balasana (child’s pose).

Childs pose
8. With the next inhalation, rise onto your knees, lift your hips up off the heels, spread your arms wide, and look up, feeling flooded with receptivity and gratitude.

Kneeling
9. As you begin to exhale, bring your palms together in prayer position overhead, then bend your elbows to touch the thumbs to the back of your neck; bring your seat toward your heels, the chest toward your thighs, and the elbows to the floor. Finish the exhalation by settling into child’s pose.  Rest your awareness in chandra bhavana for a few rounds of breath. Then extend your arms and place your palms on the floor in front of you.

Praying child’s pose
10. With an inhalation slide your chest forward between your hands and press up into a mild urdhva mukha svanasana (upward-facing dog pose).

Upward dog
11. Exhale and press back into downward dog. Hold the breath out and step your left foot forward between the hands. Drop the right knee to the floor.

Downward dog
12. Keep bending the left knee to anchor into the lunge as you inhale and raise your arms; bring the palms into prayer position overhead.

Lunge
13. Exhale slowly as you lower your arms in front of you, touching the brow center, the heart center, and then the earth; step the right foot forward and fold into uttanasana.

14. Inhale to stand up tall, raising your arms overhead with palms in prayer position to salute the moon.

Moon prayer
15. As you begin to exhale, lower your palms to touch the brow center; complete the exhalation with palms in prayer position at your heart center.

Heart prayer
16. Finish in tadasana. Close your eyes and imagine your mind as a still lake. A full moon rests at the point at the back of your head as in chandra bhavana, but now it shines a moonbeam onto the lake of your mind, which is then reflected out through the point between your eyebrows. Let this focused awareness shine from your calm, steady mind for a few rounds of breath.

Mountain pose
You may feel complete after just one round of chandra namaskara, or you can choose to do four rounds, remembering all four seasons. If you have a large practice space, do one round facing in each of the four directions, beginning by facing east and moving clockwise. To complete the practice return to face east and allow yourself to linger in step 16.

 

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Wishing you all full moon blessings.

 

Pitta Season

 

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“Is our Agni (digestive fire) strongest in the summer or winter?”

“SUMMER!” most people say.

Incorrect Answer!

Is this a trick question?

Let’s examine this a bit closer … “How do you feel right now in this heat?”

Hungry?  The answer is, probably not.

You may actually feel a little nauseous and without much of an appetite at all in fact.

The Dinacharya of Ayurveda (aka our Daily Habits) teaches us that our power of digestion mirrors the power of the sun. Thus, during Pitta time of day, between 10am and 2pm, our Agni is stronger and more efficient than during any other period within the 24-hour cycle.

Sun at its highest, Agni at its highest. Inner ecosystem matches outer ecosystem.

Naturally, one would assume that during Pitta Season, we would play by the same rules as those of Pitta Hour. But, apparently, that’s not how it works.

Have you noticed that during the sweltering days of summer, you don’t have much of an appetite, but during the winter you’re always hungry? That’s because when it’s cold outside, our bodies naturally draw heat inward, into the gut, to keep us warm, and heat in the gut translates into maximized digestive power. This is why we crave and can better digest heavier foods (like warm stews and food with more oily content) in the colder months. Conversely, in the summer, our internal heat disperses to keep us cool, and our Agni weakens. We naturally reach for fruits and vegetables–lighter foods with higher water content for hydration.

Hunger is your friend. A grumbling belly is nature’s way of alerting you that your inner furnace is ready and willing to fully digest your food.

Here in the West, we often approach our diet as a mental exercise using the brain first: we research diet trends, count calories, read nutrition blogs (and, yes, even Ayurveda blogs) so that we can “follow the rules.”

But Ayurveda doesn’t care about the molecular structure of milk, labels on a jar, or the protein content of an energy bar. It’s a body-centric approach that encourages us to turn our inner gaze into our bodies, feel into what is happening there, and then use our minds to figure things out, not the other way around.

So step away from the diet blogs for a moment and resist going on autopilot as you create your grocery list. Go to your local farmer’s market or grocery store, close your eyes, and feel into your body. What food colors are calling to you? What smells and tastes are enticing you? What are your cells longing for? Eat seasonally!

Attune to the voices of your body, and trust your gut.

Because in the heat of the summer, it’s an easy thing to do.

P.S. Here are a few excellent Ayurveda resources you can use to flow with the heat and live in harmony with this Pitta time of year:

• Check out Banyan Botanicals’ comprehensive list of awesome Pitta-pacifying lifestyle tips. It’s one of the best “cheat sheets”to help guide you as we move deeper into the summer months. You’ll love this!

• When the heat is on, don’t give up your yoga practice–modify it. Check out the Summer Flow and Summer Pitta Nourishment classes on YogaGlo, by Marc Holzman and use them as staples during the summer months. He’s one of my favorite yoga teachers and Ayurvedic Practitioners.

Here’s to “keeping your cool” this summer!

 

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Peace Wins

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In the days that have followed the tragic and senseless shooting in Orlando, many, many emotions have come to the surface for so many of us. How could they not? It is unimaginable to consider that this (tragedy) is possible in this day and time. Like so many of you, I have tried to make sense of this; the how’s, the why’s, and of course, the what if’s.

What I cannot make sense of is the hatred that has come from this horrific event. All anyone has to do is open any social media source, turn on their TV, listen to the radio, or get on the internet. Listen closely, because It’s not about solutions, it is only about blame and hatred. It is truly heartbreaking that we (the collective “we”) still need to place the blame on someone, some religion, or some group. That using specific words or specific language will in fact ‘solve’ this terrible event and prevent it from happening again.
I have read FB posts from friends that have actually used language in their rants that stun me. Not necessarily profanity, but in fact, hate and revenge. These are articulate and intelligent people. I ask myself, “has this always been inside you?” this type of hatred? Do you truly feel this way? Did I really not know this about you or see this in you? It is frightening. I see the lines being drawn, the division beginning amongst us. Is this really what we all want? Are we not better than this? So, I offer you this …

“In the wake of the tragic shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, we grieve for the senseless harm, the lives lost, and the ignorance, hatred, and intolerance that brought it about. Let us stand in resilience, committed to supporting the LGBTIQ community. We are inspired by the broad call to focus on love and compassion as we unite contemplative practices, education, and social action in order to make this a more just and compassionate world for all. By fostering greater awareness of what influences each of us personally, interpersonally, and systemically, we can all take the first steps toward uniting in strength and love, working toward a society that respects and embraces our common humanity and collective dignity.”

No matter how long it takes, PEACE ALWAYS WINS!