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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

Revisiting Our Core Values

By Goal Setting, Mindfulness, Values, Yoga No Comments

While I was teaching a yoga class recently, I demonstrated a handstand. I was trying to illustrate how to use the wall as more of a prop than a crutch. I was in the middle of the room, and it just so happened that I floated up without effort and I balanced. That may not seem like a big deal to you, after all, I’ve been teaching yoga for years and most yoga teachers have an advanced practice. However, I’m in the minority of super tight teachers who don’t effortlessly flow through advanced postures.

Handstand has been a journey for me. I remember practicing yoga years ago in a fabulous studio in Denver that offered Forrest Yoga which is a lineage of yoga created by Ana Forrest. It’s a physical yoga with lots of arm balances and inversions. I would kick up over and over again trying to find the wall, making a loud thump with each attempt. Everyone else effortlessly held a handstand while I crumpled in child’s pose, sweaty, out of breath, and feeling defeated.

Perseverance is one Rakta’s core values. In my handstand journey, I’ve spent countless hours practicing L wall dog, kicking into handstand, and working on various prep postures for handstand. I have found that perseverance and not overthinking are a fabulous combination for success. It amazes me that things can come together when you least expect it. Perseverance means working through injuries and staying committed even when you don’t want to continue a process. It’s gritty, not glamorous. Perseverance is what makes the Procter and Gamble Thank You Mom campaign so touching.

Precision is just as important as perseverance. In my handstand journey, I practiced between two walls at home. I learned from the feedback of great teachers and watched videos on technique. I took workshops on inversions. I feel fortunate that Rakta’s team of teachers is so dedicated to precision that they actively seek out continuing education, workshops, and trainings and they maintain home practices as well as the discipline of writing out class plans, learning from other teachers, and thinking about logical, safe, and effective sequencing. Our instructors embody precision in their teaching and in their philosophy of yoga.

Passion is what drives both precision and perseverance. Passion is the fire in your belly, and it helps you persevere during challenging times. I feel fortunate to be able to do something I’m passionate about–supporting people in their quest for health. These three pillars of Passion, Precision, and Perseverance create the foundation of Rakta Hot Yoga. Even a skill like handstand takes all three components: the unwavering desire to do handstand; the discipline to learn the foundational basics and technique; and the commitment to practice.

As we move into spring, a few new offerings will be added to the schedule. We’ll have wall yoga with a special wall/inversion class to create a time for people to practice different inversions and help them on their journey. We’ll continue to offer impromptu classes combining sculpt and flow with cardio boxing or cardio dance. Boxing and dance are two different activities I’ve loved and practiced for years, and I believe in the physical and cognitive benefits of both as we move the body in different planes of movement.

In your own life, what is your passion? How do you support it with precision? And how do you persevere?

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