Category

Seasons

Grace

By Ayurveda, Breathing, Covid-19, Energy, Health, Mindfulness, Seasons, Values, Vulnerability, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

Last month, the concept for my blog focused on my observation that we act differently around others while wearing a mask. When we are anonymous, our moral codes are disguised and we are not accountable. It seemed like we were losing kindness, connection, common courtesy, and politeness as we interacted or avoided interaction with each other. Over the past month, I have personally witnessed and heard others relay stories of aggressive, hurtful, and rude behavior in our town. It feels like we have hit an energetic low in this community.

There are so many possible reasons or a combination of reasons for this. Steamboat is super crowded right now. It has become more challenging to get outside and enjoy the feeling of getting away from it all. There are more people on the trails, at the lakes, and in open spaces. There are ongoing economic concerns as well as uncertainty around COVID-19 and its future impact on our lifestyles, businesses, physical and mental health, children, parents, and politics.

One thing to remember is to take a breath and realize that we are in the middle of pitta season. Wait, what? Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga, is the traditional medicine system of India. It is based on the idea of creating balance throughout the body’s systems via diet, herbs, yoga, and pranayama. Things that affect the body’s balance include the seasons and the associated temperature, characteristics, and elements.

Pitta, or fire, season runs from late spring to early fall. In this season of fire energy, we can get out of balance from living at a high elevation, being closer to the sun, enjoying outdoor activities in the heat, lack of air conditioning, and even the foods we choose to eat. Too much pitta may manifest as becoming impatient, quick to anger, confrontational, or grumpy. It can also manifest as skin rashes, joint pain, or gastrointestinal symptoms such as reflux or diarrhea. The bottom line is: it’s hot, crowded, and we are losing our cool!

The one word that keeps coming to mind as I begin my asana practice on my mat these days is grace. It is one of my favorite words. I love its simplicity and elegance when spoken aloud. The word has several different definitions and uses. It can mean smoothness of action or beauty of form. It can indicate a pleasing or attractive quality. It can refer to kindness, forgiveness, or reverence.

When I practice grace on my mat, I am meeting myself right where my body is with honesty and kindness. Through the lens of an observer, I honor myself. When I practice grace with others, I accept them where they are in their journey and I extend kindness and compassion. I honor them. Grace is ending class with Namaste, which means the light, spirit, and divine in me bows to the light, spirit, and divine in you. I honor myself and I honor you.

It is easy to practice grace. And it is easy to be full of grace, until you aren’t anymore. I can be full of grace until I walk into the grocery store and spot someone walking down the aisle the wrong way with their mask below their nose. Incredulity, righteousness, and rage flash through my system. And I am instantly reminded that grace is a practice, and I am committed to it. My righteousness recedes, and so does my judgment.

Grace means we acknowledge that we are all shipwrecked in this boundless and unforgiving ocean right now. And we acknowledge, too, that we are all in our own, unique boats. I cannot assume I know and understand the kind of stress someone else is experiencing, just as others cannot truly know and understand mine. Just as it is important to balance pitta by selecting or avoiding certain foods and activities, it is also important to find ways to cultivate grace with yourself and others around you.

In light and love,

Sandy

Be the goat

By Goal Setting, Health, Mindfulness, Seasons, Values, Yoga No Comments

Recently while teaching class, I realized I wasn’t aware of any yoga posture named after a goat. How could this be? We have a cobra and scorpion, cat and dog, camel and cow, pigeon and eagle, butterfly and peacock pose. How could such a fun, spirited animal like a goat be omitted. What was Buddha thinking?!

No goat asana? No problem! I started analyzing postures and concluded the closest semblance of goat is a variation of horse stance (vatayanasana). In horse pose, grasp your ankles with your hands and align your back so it’s parallel to the earth. It’s the perfect platform for a goat to jump on, and off, and on again.

So, maybe we don’t need an actual goat pose after all. But, I believe we have a lot we can learn from these quirky little creatures. And if we channeled just one or two of their many great qualities into our lives, what would that look like?

Goats are curious. They explore every single thing there is to explore. They live in the present moment. They don’t fret over their numerous epic fails—even though they’re broadcast all over social media. They think outside the box to unlock every gate. They persevere.

Goats rely on their herd for protection and companionship. If there’s noticeable irritation between herd members, they still band together. They settle disagreements immediately: let’s butt heads and move on. They don’t hold grudges.

Goats are open and excited to greet people they don’t know. They embrace a fiber rich diet (a healthy goat is never constipated) and chew their food thoroughly, twice. They cherish a good nap.

As we step into a new decade, where can we find more playfulness in our lives? Can we take a leap even though we may fall flat? Can we greet the day with more curiosity? Can we let go of an old grudge? Can we live in the now? Can we persevere ridiculously?

Moving into 2020, my hope for our Rakta yoga community is that we support each other’s different needs. Let’s look out for our herd. Let’s be aware of those around us. Make space for someone to put down his mat. Whisper when the woman beside you is peacefully meditating. Extend kindness and consideration on and off your mat as you navigate through the studio, into traffic, or down a shopping aisle.

Be kind with your words to yourself and others. Strive to improve one thing about yourself every day. Enjoy each day for exactly what it is. Try not to wish away the present for the future or dwell in the past. As we approach December’s winter solstice, find time to be quiet and still. Find the beauty and magic in this season. Take care of those around you.

In light and love,

Sandy

Balance

By Energy, Health, Mindfulness, Seasons, Transition, Wellness, Wellness Challenge, Yoga No Comments

I’m currently finishing off a bag of Unreal Chocolate Crispy Gems and talking myself into running back to Natural Grocers for something nutritionally important… and maybe if I think of it, I can grab another bag of these delicious dark chocolate quinoa vegetable coloring hard candies. Veggies, chocolate, and quinoa: that’s three superfoods in one!

But it’s all about balance right now. A number of people have approached me over the last few weeks asking for another challenge to get back on track, or commenting on just how out of balance they feel right now. I don’t usually eat bags of delicious candies especially while writing a blog on wellness—so what’s up?

We’re in transition right now. Families are shifting back into school routines and the day/night cycle is coming into balance.  But it’s confusing when we have flirty 80 degree days full of summer and sunshine, sunglasses and flip-flops. Many folks in Steamboat played hard after the prolonged winter weather in June, doing everything possible to squeeze four months of expected recreation into two. The end result for some of us was feeling way out of balance or even getting injured.

In my world, summertime is carefree. I love the sounds of birds, and I even love the sound of a sprinkler coming on at 4am. I feel light and I’m more apt to be spontaneous, or lazy, or kick routine and scheduling to the curb. From May through September, one of my favorite evening rituals is the date I make with my front porch. I sit with my dog, taking in beautiful valley views, listening to summer sounds, and feeling the breeze on my skin.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll slowly feel this time slipping away as schedules get busier, darkness arrives earlier, and temperatures becomes cooler. Soon I’ll store my coveted chair away for the winter. As school settles in to the new normal, things just feel different.

I’ve polled adults without kids and fully grown kids. Everyone I’ve talked to notices a change as soon as school is back in session. The contagious carefree spirit of summer leaves, replaced with a heavier feeling related to routine and regimen.

Our yoga practice begins to change at this time of year as well. We incorporate more balancing postures and our breathwork focuses on balance in the body. We add more grounding postures to reconnect with our center. Embrace this shift. Use this time of year to be more introspective.

Add in some forward folds and child’s pose connecting the center of your brows to the ground (or a prop) and breathe. You don’t need an established home yoga practice or a fancy space for child’s pose. Take a restorative yoga or wall yoga class and just slow down. With cooler temperatures, baked or steamed apples with ginger, cinnamon, and clove is a great food to eat.

Carve out some time every day just to observe. Observe the beauty of the green we have now and the hint of gorgeous colors to come. Feel the breeze on your skin. Drag a stick along a fence. Be aware of your breathing. Come back to your center.

The focus of our next challenge from October 21st through November 22nd is balance, ground, and connect. It’s never too early to start making little steps towards balancing, grounding, and connecting.

In light and Love,

Sandy

Transition Time, Pitta Energy, and Nachos

By Ayurveda, Energy, Health, Seasons, Transition, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

We are in a time of tangible transition. We’re on the other side of the first total solar eclipse since 1918, lively Leo is morphing into earthy Virgo, and kids are heading back to school and off to college. The calendar says August and summertime heat warms the day, but mornings are crisp and early light is reluctant.

I’ve felt this change over the past few weeks. My body naturally follows seasonal eating patterns. I’m ecstatic when berries grow in spring. I crave watermelon and fennel in summer. I think about kitchari, soups, and cinnamon apples in fall. But during this time of one foot in summer and one foot in fall, I eat nachos.

Yes, I said nachos. Why nachos? And why would I publicly admit this? Nachos aren’t the best choice, but in their defense, they’re tasty and easy. And with black beans and avocado, their nutritional value skyrockets.

I’m in transition. I’m not craving peaches like I did in July, but the days are still warm and I’m not ready for rice and lentils. Feeling unsettled, I easily revert to comfort food. My yoga has been scattered and I’ve struggled with inconsistency in my workouts and other areas of my life. Transitions can be messy: one look at my kids’ impressive display of back to school items—binders, dividers, color coded folders, and protractors—confirms the chaos. Anyone who has moved from one house to another knows what starts with beautifully packed and labeled boxes often ends with miscellaneous items strewn indiscriminately about and an adamant vow of eternal minimalism.

I’ve heard from several people recently who say they don’t have the same energy they had a month ago. They feel off and sluggish. There could be many possible causes for subdued vibrancy. One that rises to the top in Steamboat tends to be too much pitta or heat in the body—Steamboat is teeming with pitta energy. Summer and all its activities can leave us feeling depleted. We work hard and we play hard. We ride up mountains and trek long trails. We like to feel powerful and strong, pushing ourselves to achieve more and better. Sometimes, though, we need to soften a bit rather than going all out all the time. Even yoga can be presented and interpreted in this go for it manner instead of an invitation to soften and listen to your wise inner voice about what your body, mind, and spirit need.

The more awareness we have for these times of transition helps us do our work. Knowing we might feel anxious or unsettled, crave atypical foods, or experience low energy is the first step. We can mindfully return to the basics of self-care. Summer’s seductive long days tend to throw us off schedule and leave us short on sleep. For me, sleep deprivation means immediate carb cravings. Play with backing off an intense workout or two, or soften a bit on your yoga mat. Allow your body to rest between long or extreme activities. There are plenty of warm sunny days ahead to get outside and play.

We’ll be returning to our wellness focus this fall with a Back-to-School, Back-to-You September special offering. Jen Meister, Certified Holistic Health Counselor and founder of Simple Clean and Whole, will be giving a few talks before offering her 21 Day Challenge. Becky Obray, Licensed Health Care Professional and owner of Sole Balance Ayurveda, will guide us into a better understanding of Ayurveda before offering an Ayurvedic cleanse in October. In the meantime, enjoy these beautifully dynamic and unpredictable days. Meditate, play, and acknowledge the occasional nachos.

The seeds we plant in fall and tend to throughout winter bring beautiful flowers in spring. It’s a great time to evaluate your goals, begin to ground down, and lay your foundation for the future. What seeds will you plant this fall?

In light and love,

Sandy