Category

Transition

Goodbye 2020

By Covid-19, Goal Setting, Health, Mindfulness, Transition, Values, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

I struggled to write an End of 2020 blog this month. What could I possibly say about this past year that hasn’t already been said? 2020 was over and I was over it. Not wanting to spend any more time or energy on the year that seemed to crush us all, I was thankful for the inspiration of Jennifer Aniston.

I love Jennifer Aniston. I’ve been a fan for years and still root for her to reunite with Brad. Scrolling through social media, I came across an article about Aniston. It featured a recent photo of Jen, kissing herself in the bathroom mirror, reminding us to give ourselves a little love. The article described how amazing Jen looks at age 51, attributing her beauty and wellbeing to her strict diet and fitness routine, her early morning lemon water and meditation regimen, and her collagen protein line. I found myself going down an all too familiar spiral of self-worthlessness: I am not enough. My downward spirals typically follow a sustained period of eating Hershey’s Kisses filled with Cherry Cordial Crème washed down with wine.

Maybe I should set my alarm for 4:15am to allow time for meditation before I teach. I could buy Jen’s organic collagen peptides, add spirulina to every meal, increase my cardio output, and ensure eight hours of quality sleep every night. I’m cracking the code to Jen’s secret!

My anxious spiral crashes into an epiphany: Jen doesn’t have two teenagers to raise and get off to college, a husband with a demanding and erratic work schedule, a small business to run in a remote alpine town, and goats to feed in -14F. Plus, LA’s climate is so much more forgiving on the skin, right?

Because Jen’s life is totally different from mine, there’s no reason I should hold myself up to her standards. I removed these out-of-place expectations and enjoyed a wonderful moment of real reflection and true contentment. I don’t need to change my life around to be like Jen or anyone else. I can keep meditating in the afternoons because that works for me. I can come to work with alfalfa stuck to my leggings—I love my messy, crazy life! And I’m grateful for my health! Knowing this euphoric feeling of confident self-love will likely be mercilessly fleeting, I decided to create one intention for this new year: contentment.

I will practice being content with where I am each and every day, even while I continue to grow, learn, and evolve. I’m not going to devise a detailed plan calculating the value of skinning up Mt. Werner, eating homegrown Fenugreek microgreens, climbing 1,000 vertical feet, drinking 18 ounces of freshly juiced celery, reading a New York Times Bestseller about personal development, or weighing the right amount by summertime.

As I reflect on this year at Rakta, I can honestly say I feel content. It has been a wild ride, but we have learned and grown so much. Offering online classes had always seemed like a good idea, but it wasn’t something I was inclined to add before 2020 forced my hand. Private and small group yoga also seemed like great ideas, but I was too busy establishing a perfectly cultivated variety of daily classes to pursue privates and small groups.

We had our moments though! When the mandatory mask rule was implemented this summer, class participation tanked. When the public health code decreased class size to 10% capacity, I wasn’t sure we would survive. Any time I began to question our ability to persevere, someone would inevitably express gratitude for the studio and our yoga community. People kept telling me Rakta was making a difference in their lives, and I found myself re-energized and ready to go again the next day.

The Rakta community has been amazing. The support (showing up on your mat), the trust (hanging in there with our virtual technical difficulties), and the dedication (continuing to practice yoga with us) have been such gifts. Our core community has become so connected. Although I used to miss the energy of a full room, there is a beautiful energy of practicing with our tight knit yoga family. I am content. And I am hopeful for a vibrant, healthy 2021 for all of us.

To those I haven’t seen since March, many blessings for a wonderful 2021. You are missed and I hope our paths will cross again soon. I want to end with the finishing quote from our final Fire Hot Series class of 2020.

“May Light always surround you; Hope kindle and rebound you. May your Hurts turn to Healing; Your Heart embrace Feeling. May Wounds become Wisdom; Every Kindness a Prism. May Laughter infect you; Your Passion resurrect you. May Goodness inspire your Deepest Desires. Through all that you Reach For, May your arms Never Tire. ” ~ D. Simone

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

Wellness Challenge, Change & What About my Wine

By Gut Health, Health, Inflammation, Nutrition, Transition, Wellness, Wellness Challenge, Yoga No Comments

I’m so excited about our spring Wellness Challenge focusing on gut health. I like to offer challenges in the spring and fall because these are powerful times for change. In the winter, I’m super busy with parties, out of town guests, holiday feasts, après-ski events, and what seems like a million birthday celebrations. In the summer, I want to play. I’m enjoying the green grass under my feet and the sun on my face. I’m losing myself in the long days and the ripe watermelon. I’m watching my goats be goats. I’m not thinking about nutrition, meditation, journaling, and deep introspection.

The premise of this challenge is to cultivate a healthy microbiome by increasing the good bacteria in our gut. Over the course of a brutal flu season marked by respiratory and secondary infections, many of us have taken antibiotics, Advil, Prilosec, and other medications that deplete our healthy bacteria. Being busy and under the weather can put us into food ruts where we’re choosing foods that don’t serve us best. Putting in long hours at work or taking work home with us can send us to bed reading emails or perseverating about projects, decisions, or discussions with coworkers.

We know that many disease processes begin with low-level inflammation in the body and a leaky gut, or deranged microbiome. Anxiety and depression along with autoimmune, heart, and inflammatory bowel disease all have this origin in common.

From March 5th through April 20th, we’ll focus on the following: practicing yoga four days a week; putting away electronics two hours before bed; getting eight hours of sleep each night; getting outside three days a week; meditating; avoiding sugar, processed foods, dairy, wheat, and soy; and cooking at home six days a week. Anyone who has done a challenge with me knows that it’s about exploration and learning, not hard-and-fast rules. Challenges are just like yoga: they vary and change depending on where you are in your life. Sometimes yoga is about more about the breath or learning advanced postures, while other times it’s about creating space for your monkey mind. Challenges can be reflections of our lives and they can inspire revelations, too.

The point of this challenge is not to be perfect. Don’t focus on doing it all. Some people will soak up the dietary information, some will be cultivating meditation for the first time, and some will be new to doing yoga four days a week. Others may not skip a beat and remember just one or two pearls of self-care tips. Even if you’ve done challenges before, something will resonate this time and stick. It’s just like yoga—every day is different and you never know when your crow might fly. Was it the cue? Was it your perspective? Was it the flow? Every breath, class, day, challenge is different.

Creating a healthy life is a journey. It’s not a sprint. It’s not about suffering through seven weeks, proving you can avoid Swiss cheese and a Fat Tire, and returning to “regular life” when it’s over. The challenge is about looking at areas in your life that work really well and shining a light on the dark corners you avoid. I learn so much every time I guide people through challenges, and I truly love these experiences.

If you seek self-improvement and you’re committed to self-care, sign up. If you’re traveling, have a tight work schedule, or not sure you’re ready for all the components, sign up. It’s free and fun to be part of a group working towards better health.

I can’t wait to get started!

In light and love,

Sandy

Every Breath You Take

By Breathing, Health, Transition, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

In this transition to fall, I’ve gotten sucked in. To being busy, doing too many things at once, running around, multitasking. I’ve been making mistakes, getting sloppy, becoming frustrated, and feeling lost and disconnected. I’ve been holding my breath.

To get it all done, I pressure myself to respond immediately to texts and emails… and I ignore my children. I feed my chickens in a preoccupied, frenzied state… and I forget to lock their coop. I move through cued poses in yoga class… and get agitated when the flow is too slow. Abiding the sequences, I’m thinking in checklists. Wanting to execute and perform (check), I maneuver through life (check), and (paradoxically) end up exactly where I don’t want to be: not present, not belonging, and not me.

By definition, a checklist is a type of informational job aid used to reduce failure. A checklist not only implies judgment (the possibility of failure), but it also legitimizes an external standard. When applied to my daily life, a checklist transforms my passions into tasks. Instead of turning in and tuning in, I turn out and tune out.

Fall is the time of year when I need reminders to return to my breath. We hear it all the time in yoga. Breathe consciously. Breathe deeply. Connect to your breath. One breath, one movement. Breathe and release what no longer serves you. But why is breath so important?

On the most basic level, breath is simply a way of staying alive. Breath brings oxygen into our bodies and excretes toxins that can stagnate in and damage our vital organs. Our autonomic nervous system regulates our breathing. Most of us breathe about 20,000 times a day without even noticing. On average, we use just a third of our total breathing capacity. When our breath becomes short, shallow, quick, or irregular, our minds become anxious and our bodies tense. When our breath is deep, slow, and regular, we’re infused with a sense of calm.

Compared to automatic breathing, conscious breathing cultivates different effects on our physical, mental, and emotional beings. Conscious breathing is the essence of yoga, helping us connect with various, subtle, divergent energies inside us. Conscious breathing is meditation, a method for being present, and it allows us to move from one state of being to another. Breath is a tool, a choice, and a way of living—not just a way of staying alive.

Breathing is living in the present. We inhale the future and exhale the past. Breathing aligns the mind and the body. When we slow down our breath, body, and mind, we can notice, focus, feel, perceive, and understand. We may not always like our observations or sensations, but we’re aware of what’s inside and around us.

Take the hours that are available in your day. Breathe consciously and deeply so that you’re present, connected, mindful, alive, tuned in, turned on, and totally you.

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