Last week was the first of the current series of blogs I’m dedicating to Ayurveda and some simple steps to make this 5000 + year-old sister science of yoga part of your lifestyle. Last week I introduced doshas—your energetic personality type, here.
One of the easiest ways to start to foster a balanced lifestyle is to live according to the natural laws of nature. Just as we each have our own energetic biorhythms that define what our essential nature is (doshas), Mother Nature has circadian rhythms that affect us as humans living on this Earth. Ayurveda teaches us how to live, eat, and breathe in harmony with nature.
The Ayurvedic clock is broken down by doshas:
From 2 – 6 AM and PM it is Vata time. As you recall from last week, this dosha is all about movement with qualities of light, subtle, clear, flowing and mobile—among others. From 2 – 6 AM is when our minds are more awake and clear. Ayurveda would say to rise with the sun, no later than 6 AM. Exposure to sunlight also causes a chemical reaction to that makes your body more alert. This is why insomnia experts recommend dimming your lights as the day comes to a close so you don’t have this alertness affect your sleep.
Getting up before 6 AM is actually easier than you think. I’m sure you’ve woken up before 6 AM and felt totally awake, right? That’s Vata time! Ayurveda recommends getting up no later than 6 AM to meditate and do breath practices (pranayama) when your mind is the most clear (Vata).
Once 6 AM hits, it’s Kapha time from 6 – 10 AM and PM. This is the dosha with the force of nourishment, lubrication and structure and has qualities like heavy, gross, dense, static, smooth and cloudy—among others. Kapha time is the hardest time to get motivated. We tend to be groggy (cloudy) this time of day. So sleeping past six will allow the heavier, denser qualities of Kapha to influence your day’s experience. This is why exercising in the morning to help rev up the engine and energize the rest of the day is helpful.
Kapha is also the time in the PM when we start to become sleepy. So Ayurveda recommends going to bed no later than 10 PM. Use the Kapha timeframe to wind down, dim the lights, quit using electronics and chill. Staying up later and fighting the drowsiness Kapha brings could give us a second wind when Pitta is in full force, making all chances of a good night’s rest impossible. Journaling, restorative yoga, some peaceful breath practices, and/or perhaps some relaxing aromatherapy would all be helpful ways to prepare for sleep.
From 10 – 2 AM and PM it’s Pitta’s time to shine. Pitta is the fire dosha with the power of transformation, digestion, and metabolism. This is the time when our digestive fire is the strongest which is why Ayurveda suggests eating your biggest meal at lunch. Eating our biggest meal at the end of the day, as many of us do, falls into Kapha time when our digestive fire is the slowest.
Having less food energy to digest as you sleep allows the second round of Pitta time (10 PM – 2 AM) for digesting and processing all the other intake from the day—our mental energy needs digesting as well. This is the one area we don’t always take into consideration. All the mental energy we took in during the day with emails, phone calls, social media, television, traffic, work-related issues and meetings, needs to be processed by our brain. Our body also turns on its repair functions at this time.
I’m sure you’ve heard how important sleep is for the health, right? Well a big part of that is allowing time for the repair functions that occur while we sleep. Your brain literally clears things out during sleep.
Eating lighter at the end of the day lightens the digestive load, making it easier to rest and detox.
Start to notice when your energy peaks and wanes. Perhaps journal about how you feel on days when you follow the Ayurvedic clock more closely vs. not. Our daily patterns affect our health in so many ways
Many ancient medical systems, including Traditional Chinese Medicine, recognize the seasonal cycles of nature and the benefits of living in balance with nature. Even modern science is catching up with the 2017 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine being awarded to three joint winners for their discovery of how internal clocks and biological rhythms govern human life.
While circadian rhythms can be altered with various changes to your schedule, research shows this isn’t always healthy. Night-shift workers, for example, have been documented as having various health problems. As the old commercial says—“It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!”
Over the last few weeks, my blog series focused on simple rituals to invite Spirit back into your daily life. They take no more than a few minutes and easily fit into your schedule. Here’s the links to all four if you missed any:
Using Ritual to Listen to Spirit (introductory blog in my last newsletter email)
My next series will be on simple ways to incorporate Ayurveda into your life and just like my last series of blogs, you won’t get the subsequent ones in a weekly email like this newsletter. I don’t think most want a weekly email from anyone! You can check out my blog page weekly here —the same page you go to for the current newsletter which IS sent via email once a month or so.
The Science of Life
What is Ayurveda? Ayurveda is a sister science to Yoga. It literally translates to the “Science of Life” and incorporates all aspects of health—physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Ayurveda is a Vedic Science that’s a 5000 year old traditional science designed to bring the body back to balance in order to heal from within. It incorporates nutrition, lifestyle, breath practices and more to bring you to balance—mind, body, and spirit.
Rather than looking at and “fixing” symptoms, Ayurveda looks at the whole person and seeks to balance areas that are out of kilter. Removing the imbalances goes to the root cause vs. just applying a bandage to the symptoms.
If you give the body what it needs to balance, it will heal itself naturally. Our bodies want to heal. It is our body’s nature to heal. We just have to give it the tools it needs for balance.
In Ayurveda, the whole universe is an interplay of the energies of the five elements—earth, water, fire, air, and ether or space. These are the building blocks.
Ayurveda groups the five elements into three basic types of energies that define every person’s makeup, and are present everywhere, called the “Three Doshas”. We all have a mix of all three. The Three Doshas, or energetic personality types as I like to refer to them, are:
We start by assessing your “essential nature” known in Ayurveda as “Prakruti”. What characteristics and preferences have you had for most of the decades of your life?
I remember when I first started looking into Ayurveda well over ten years ago, I had so many a-ha’s! THAT’s why I like salty foods and warm, mushy foods! Oh! No wonder I prefer warm, humid weather! Ahh! Yes, I can be like a white tornado at times and I do burn out quickly.
You see, I’m primarily a poster-child Vata dosha. Each dosha has a set of qualities that go with them:
These are basically descriptors (known in Ayurveda as “gunas”) you can see in your nature. Like increases like. Opposites soothe.
I’m already “cold” which is why I don’t prefer being in cold weather. My infamous “rain barrel” is already full of cold. Likewise for dry—dry skin, dry hair, cracking joints that need a little extra lubrication. I prefer humidity. You get what I mean.
The seasons outside also have characteristics putting them in the doshic categories as well. Early winter starts out Vata and late winter leans toward Kapha as we go into spring. Spring starts out Kapha and eases into Pitta as we head into summer. Summer starts out Pitta and eases into Vata as we approach autumn.
The seasons of our life can also be seen through the doshic lens. Our younger years are Kapha years. It’s all about nourishment and growth—muscles grow (dense, soft), bones grow (dense, gross, hard). Our middle years are Pitta dominant. Pitta is known for transformation—goals have focus (sharp) and desire (fire). What are you becoming (spreading)? Vata predominates our latter years. There’s more dry, rough characteristics, right? Our nervous system starts to become affected more easily as we age (see the subtle, mobile characteristic there in our nervous system?) This is simplifying it quite a bit but it gives you a general idea.
In addition to being a Vata dosha, I’m also approaching my “Vata” years. So my Vata rain barrel is really full and tends to get off balance more easily as I’ve aged. I’ve learned to incorporate the opposites with gusto as I’ve studied Ayurveda, increasing healthy oils both inside and out—more so during the cold, dry seasons.
Once you’ve established your “essential nature” that’s been with you most of your life, you take the quiz again to see where you are currently, during the last few months or so. This is known in Ayurveda as “Vikruti” and refers to your nature of imbalance. If you’ve been having a lot of stress, this will show up in various ways in your answers. We then compare the first take of the quiz, to your second take of the quiz to see what might be off balance and needing some assistance.
As explained on the quiz, if your Vikruti (second take for how you are currently) is stronger in a particular dosha than your Prakruti (first take for how you’ve been most of your life) was, you’ll want to follow a routine soothing to that dosha to bring it back into balance. If your Prakruti and Vikruti are about the same, you’d follow a routine for your strongest dosha.
So are you ready to see where your essential nature lands? What have you got to lose but maybe that annoying rash, headache, extra weight, insomnia, stress? You fill in the blank (literally)! Just have fun with it!
By the way, I’ve taken my share of dosha quizzes! I probably took my first quiz when I was still living in Madison, Wisconsin in the 90’s. My first Ayurveda training was back in 2010 with YogaFit’s Level 1 program and I completed Level 2 in 2015. The latter part of 2015 I completed a YogaLean week-long immersion training in Austin, TX which incorporated Ayurveda, and in between I completed a 9-month “Living Ayurveda” program with Cate Stillman. Dosha quizzes were used in each program.
My current Ayurveda program is with Yoga Veda Institute and it is a 600-hour advanced track program for their Ayurvedic Health Counselor program meeting the standards set forth by the National Ayurvedic Medical Association. They have their own dosha quiz too.
Yoga Veda’s nutrition module suggested we create our own dosha quiz, using descriptors we feel our audience might prefer or that we’re more comfortable with. So I created one of my own, referencing some of the ones I’m familiar with as well as Dr. Vasant Lad’s (M.A.Sc.) Textbook of Ayurveda. A complete guide to clinical assessment. Volume 2.
Would you please give me the honor of being one of the first to check out my personal “Better Day Yoga Dosha Quiz”? There are two pages below–you need to hover your mouse over the bottom to see the prompt to get to the second page. Or you can access a downloadable version here.
The instructions are at the top. Total the columns each time you take the quiz to find which dosha is your predominant dosha for your prakruti (how you’ve been most of your life) and then again for your vikruti (how you’ve been the past couple of months or so).
I look forward to hearing back from many of you! Thank you so much!
Perfect health is achieved by establishing
and having a deep knowing of the Truth of the Self.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this first installation of my next blog series on Ayurveda! Hope to see you next week on one of my social media sites!
As mentioned above, I’m currently continuing my Ayurvedic studies by participating in a 600-hour Ayurvedic Health Counselor program. If you are interested in having an Ayurvedic one-on-one therapy session, please contact me! I’ve been incorporating Ayurveda into my one-on-one therapy sessions for some time now. Click and scroll down to Private Consultations/Therapeutic Yoga one-on-one/Single yoga class for a special occasion or gift
Or if you want to gather with a group of friends to learn how to live a lean lifestyle while incorporating Ayurvedic principles into your daily regimen, check out my YogaLean workshop !
Please feel free to share this blog series or the above opportunities with your friends! I’d really appreciate it!
Sandy Krzyzanowski, E-RYT200, RYT500, C-IAYT
Better Day Yoga, LLC
Mail to: 5024 Oxborough Gardens
Brooklyn Park, MN 55443-3990
Follow me on:
Want to have a ? I can help with that!
This is my fourth blog in the series on simple rituals to invite Spirit back into your daily life. They take no more than a few minutes and easily fit into your schedule. Here’s the previous three links if you missed them:
This week it gets even more personal.
Have you ever found a natural rock that just felt good to hold? It could have been picked up while on a retreat or vacation or perhaps a long walk to one of your favorite places. Maybe you put it in your pocket for luck or maybe it found its way to your bedside table or your desk at work. Every time you look at it, you remember the moment you found it, or the place you found it, or the person you found it with. That’s a touchstone and the subject of this week’s topic to bring Spirit into your daily life.
According to Ayurveda: “There is a mind in everything, living and non-living, organic and inorganic. However the state of consciousness differs for various things. For example, the mind of a rock is as if in a deep coma. Rocks have feelings and expressions, and if one is aware, one can sometimes sense that a rock feels happy, sad, or perhaps frightened or angry. However one must have an open mind to perceive these emotions. It is beneficial to develop one’s intuition, the mystic aspect of the mind.” ~ Dr. Vasant Lad, M.A Sc
Did you question your good feelings when you picked up the rock? Did you for one moment think, why does this rock make me feel good? Of course not! Because you feel what you feel. No one can question that, nor should they.
I have rocks, crystals and stones throughout our house! We have quite a collection! And while I can’t always remember what I did an hour ago, I can pretty much tell you each and every place I found or purchased these treasures. We remember what makes us feel good, don’t we?
Stones with words on them
Maybe you like a little more décor in your environment. So polished rocks with words on them are also available. I won’t go into how many I have that simply say “Believe” (my favorite word); but I do have one next to my bedside that says “Gratitude” as well as “Meditation”. Do you remember the book, The Secret by Rhonda Byrne? She mentions the magic of a gratitude rock creating a miracle. I’ll stop there. You should really get the book. We’ve all heard and read how feelings of gratitude can be healing. At the very least it will remind you to stop and feel gratitude at the beginning and end of your day just by gazing upon the stone.
Now your treasured find could serve as a worry stone. You know what I mean, right? It’s the kind of stone that fits into your grip so well you can rub it between your thumb and index finger for a soothing sensation. I’ve found natural stones that fit the bill but they’re out there in various forms. There’s a cute little retail shop on the way home from the north shore that sells small ceramic ones formed just right. They have words like “Namaste” as well as “Gratitude”, among others. One year this was my Christmas gift to each of my students.
You can also find various medicine bag necklaces to put your teeny tiny treasures in and wear them close to your heart. I have beaded ones and a couple leather ones with drawstrings. You can insert tiny stones, crystals, medals, herbs that smell nice or offer medicinal qualities—you get the idea. The medicine bag comes from Native American history and is often worn for maintaining personal harmony. Some include sage, sweet grass, or cedar—all healing, cleansing smudgeable herbs. Some include food items like corn or seeds or even flowers for the “medicine” they contain. Some might include a feather inside or out as part of the decoration. Buy one and fill it with YOUR personal mementos—only YOU know what resonates with YOU. And if necklaces aren’t your thing, but Native American art is, you can hang a typical medicine bag near where you’ll appreciate it most.
Blessing Bowls and Pyramids
One of my oldest and dearest friends gave me what is called a “Blessing Bowl” with an instructional booklet to “write down a few things you are grateful for. Fold the paper and place it in your Blessing Bowl. Every time you pass by your bowl or think of it, you will be reminded of your blessings. As you are thankful for your treasures, you invite more good things.”
Over the years, we’ve gifted several small holding containers to each other. I think the one thing I am most grateful for is her dear friendship over these 40+ years.
Pyramids are also a symbol of gathering energy and sending it upward. You can find small pyramids that are made of various crystals or that can open up for you to insert your list or other treasure inside.
Rosaries and Malas
I have a collection of prayer beads. I grew up with my favorite rosaries and still have these treasured gems—like the one I made my first communion with and the one my husband gifted to me that I held down the aisle at our wedding ceremony. I had planned to put my mom’s rosary inside a picture box with some fancy dress gloves and a veiled hat. Sadly, that project never happened. I recently discovered this collection of pieces in storage and immediately rescued the rosary from the box. It now sits next to me as I type. I believe it contains her energy. She touched this chain of beads more than any other person on this earth. So it’s like she’s right next to me. I know I can feel it.
My mom (in-law) wore her rosary out. She prayed on it daily, if not twice a day, as did her husband on his. We have those two rosaries together, as they should be, in a box. If you don’t think rosaries contain energy, well, think again. They’ve been a source of inspiration for both my husband and I for many, many years.
Now for the malas! I used to collect Neil Diamond albums whenever I accomplished anything exciting in my younger life. Once yoga entered my life, the spirituality of the practice did as well. I bought one of my first malas to commemorate achieving 500 hours of yoga training, and then again when I achieved 1000 hours of teaching yoga, and again when I was certified as a yoga therapist, and most recently when I graduated from 100 hours of Yoga Nidra training with Indu Arora last year. It’s become a “yoga thing” for me. Some would say a fetish, but let’s not go there. You see it combines my love of crystals with my love of yoga so this ritual is a bit unstoppable. I still say Hail Mary’s on most of my malas. Old habits are also rituals, aren’t they?
When was the last time you commemorated an accomplishment with a treasured something, something? It doesn’t have to be prayer beads.
Sacred and symbolic Medals
I am absolutely enamored with the story of St. Catherine Laboure and the miraculous medal. I have owned three medals, two from my childhood that traveled with me through life until I gifted one to a dear friend who needed a miracle at the time. One is embedded inside a prayer card I purchased at Holy Hill in Hubertus, Wisconsin.
I still wear the one medal on special occasions. When my mom (in-law) passed away, I realized that St. Catherine’s birthday was May 2 near the date of the funeral. So I wore it that day knowing mom would’ve been pleased.
St. Catherine’s story reminds me of so much—of faith, of my childhood, and most of all—believing in miracles. What makes you remember to believe? Surround yourself with that.
One time during a yoga therapy training, we were working with chakra energy (energy vortexes that correspond to our endocrine system—they’re in my logo) and using a pendulum to measure the energy of each chakra down our spine. I had purchased a hamsa necklace seconds before at the boutique open during the training. They hadn’t suggested removing jewelry so I was still wearing it. When the pendulum check got to my throat, the circular motion stopped and went very haywire, bouncing this way and that. I thought for a moment and figured let’s try removing the necklace. The pendulum circled beautifully around my throat chakra after I removed the hamsa. I kid you not! There’s something to it! Open hands are very symbolic.
I wrote about the hamsa before. Here’s a small paragraph from that blog:
“Amulets that are used for protection go back thousands of years. The open hand as a symbol of protection is universal. Symbols of divine protection based upon the open hand go by many names: Hamsa, Hand of Rachel, Hand of Mirium, and Hand of Venus/Aphrodite, among others. Hamsa literally means “five”. It predates Christianity as well as Islam. The Hand of Mary was used to protect women from the evil eye, boost fertility and lactation, promote healthy pregnancies, and strengthen the weak.”
My most recent purchase of a hamsa was, again, at a yoga conference (I need a jewelry anonymous meeting, don’t’ I?). It has a beautiful clear crystal wrapped just above it. It makes me feel downright protected when I travel long distances. Do you have a piece that you wear when you travel? Maybe you have something in your car for safe travel—perhaps a St. Christopher’s medal? I purchased one for my husband for our five year anniversary.
Speaking of Saints
I’ve mentioned a few of my favorite Saints here. For those of us that want a different kind of touchstone, remember the prayer card I mentioned above? You can find them dedicated to various Saints, some containing medals like my St. Catherine prayer card, some commemorating the passing of a loved one. Maybe you can find a special prayer card and post it in a special place to remind you of that special someone, or your belief in prayer, saints and angels. Perhaps place it on your bathroom mirror, or on your refrigerator. Where will you see it most?
I used to read a children’s book about the story of Saint Bernadette and Our Lady of Lourdes over and over each year. It’s the story of ‘Bernadeta’ seeing Marian apparitions at the grotto in Lourdes, France. Miracles, again, make an impression on me. How about you? I wish I’d kept that book when I moved out on my own. Sadly, I did not. But I still have a prayer card containing a cloth touched to a relic of St. Bernadette. It still means something to me. Do you have a favorite Saint?
I still own a statue of the Blessed Virgin from my childhood. It sits upon my dresser and is one of the first things I see in the morning. What do you see first thing in the morning? Does it bring you peace?
What makes YOU feel good? What memento brings you good memories? What reminds you to send a prayer to the heavens? Surround yourself with THAT. Then it will only take a moment to bring Spirit into your life when your eyes land upon your specially chosen spot.
A few of my favorite things
This is my third blog in the series I introduced a couple of weeks ago promising to send you simple rituals to invite Spirit back into your daily realm. I promised they’d take no more than a few minutes and easily fit into your schedule. I hope you enjoyed the first two blogs. Here’s their links if you missed them:
Now, on to this week’s topic!
If you aren’t regularly making time to connect to Spirit, Spirit won’t have a venue to talk to you because you obviously aren’t listening. It’d be like leaving messages and sending gifts to a relative or friend but never hearing back or getting an acknowledgement they’ve heard from you. Eventually you’d quit, right? The same goes for Spirit. Once Spirit knows you’re listening, the floodgates open! I am speaking from first-hand experience!
I like to take a moment in the morning to contemplate a question for Spirit—maybe it’s some advice I need. It could be before I get out of bed, perhaps just after I’ve meditated, or maybe after I’ve exercised and done yoga. I could chose my moment just after I light a candle, as I wrote in my first blog on this series. If mornings don’t work, you can do this practice in the evening too. As you can imagine, these random connections can happen any time you’re feeling like you need a fix!
Here’s a collection of ways to “dial up” Spirit:
“Sandy, have you been leaning on me lately?
For absolutely EVERYTHING?
Day and night, rain or shine, Gummi Bears or Gucci?
Sometimes a particular reading from these above-mentioned books resonates with me so much at the time because they’re spot on to what I asked about. So I’ll reread that particular passage daily for a while to let it really sink in. Why not? THAT’S the reason Spirit sent you the message, right? If it resonates in a big way, keep dwelling on that message!
Keep in mind that if the topics that interest me don’t interest you, any random reading from pretty much any book can carry a message. Try it. You’ll see.
If you prefer a different kind of random pull, you can use a deck of cards. I like to shuffle the deck until one pops funny. It could drop out, it could flip over, or it could just stick out in a unique way as I’m shuffling. Somehow it let’s me know, THIS is the one! And then I always take the bottom card from the portion of the deck that’s still in my hand and do a two-card reading. If two cards happen to pop out, I’ll still grab the card from the bottom of the deck. I figure Spirit knows my M.O. and may have been trying to get that bottom card to me somehow! You don’t have to do it my way. I just thought I’d share.
I used to highlight my favorite decks in my newsletter. I have that many! There are many decks to choose from! There are even some readings you can find digitally—like here. (Native American wisdom)
Here is a small sampling of what I’ve highlighted in previous newsletters:
Many times the cards have a full message, but depending on your time, you can just read the summation or key word. Bing, bang, got it!
This is just the tip of the iceberg of what I own. I finally had to admit I have a fetish for them and stop buying new ones! I even started to train to read Tarot cards (I’m a work in progress!) They are fun, quick and I promise they’ll become one of your best resources to talk to Spirit.
They’re simple, quick and may be just what you’re looking for. There are affirmation calendars, horoscope calendars, even a word a day calendar can bring a message if you’re asking. Here’s a couple I use:
When I’m feeling disconnected from Spirit, these suggestions are like picking up the phone and literally dialing up Spirit (I may be aging myself with that term!). It’s like talking to an old friend and asking for their advice. No matter how long it’s been, Spirit remembers you.
It helps to be a bit centered prior to doing a random reading—at least for me. So remember to take a deep breath, think of a question or area of advice that you’re working on prior; and trust me, the responses you get will start to amaze you! Whatever portal you open to spirit, I promise you, the messages will come!
That didn’t take any time at all, now did it? Enjoy!
P.S. I’ll add here, that if you are exceptionally down and you DO have more time, you can always do multiple card readings, random book readings, etc. Sometimes I need a good talking to. Maybe you do too. So give yourself this gift of time.
Last week I introduced this series of blogs on easy ways you can bring simple rituals into your daily realm to invite Spirit back into your life. These rituals take no more than a few minutes and will easily fit into your daily schedule. And as I mentioned last week, if one doesn’t resonate with you, perhaps the next topic will.
Driving and Stress
Do you ever find yourself stressed while driving? Perhaps you drive to and from work during rush hour when traffic can get a little, shall we say hairy? It’s sometimes hard to stay calm as you notice how many other drivers are perhaps texting or simply wanting to drive right through you!
How do you insulate your nervous system from this onslaught of stress? It’s an important question because it’s the quality of life every day that creates your overall health, right?
Try turning off the radio and humming a favorite tune and if it happens to be a spiritual song, or one that reminds you of loved ones, even better.
When I’m driving and want to stay calm, humming some of my favorite songs brings me back to center. My go-to song to hum all year round is “Silent Night”. This song pops into my head immediately when I’m driving. Sometimes I find myself humming it before I’ve even realized I started humming—like the infamous “Pavlov’s dog” experiment. I get in the car and start to hum as I start to drive because my subconscious knows that’s my M.O.
If it’s a long drive, I have a playlist of sorts. “Silent Night” turns into “You are my sunshine”, which has a very emotional component, calling to mind my mom (in-law) as well as my great aunt (in-law), both of whom have passed. Next I hum “Que Sera Sera” which my dad used to whistle to himself. When I find myself missing him terribly (he passed away in 2003), I’ll hum the “Polish National Anthem”. My parents were both born in Poland and I went down the aisle to the Polish Anthem as a surprise gift to both sets of Polish parents. (My in-laws are also 100% Polish.) My dad could play this tune on his harmonica to his dying day (from Alzheimer’s). It was his favorite song and would always bring tears to his eyes.
Humming has a calming effect in and of itself but the songs you choose to hum will also add to the healing environment you are creating with the sound of your vocal chords. It’s like inviting my best friends into the car with me—my most supportive relatives surrounding me. The songs that have come to mind when I drive bring soothing memories and a reminder of important connections in my life.
Maybe it’s a spiritual song that brings you comfort. Maybe it’s like the ones I’ve chosen. Although it’s really more like they chose me!
I believe everything’s a sign and I’ve often thought the songs that have made it to my playlist are my relative’s way of reaching out to me when I need it, especially when the song just starts humming itself unprompted.
Then at other times I know that humming the tune by conscious choice will bring them to mind. And this conscious choice literally brings their spirit to me whenever I am in need of their particular message—like a calling card of sorts. Sometimes I just need a reminder of what their presence meant to me in my life to bring me back to center.
How about you? Do you have certain favorite songs that bring someone special to mind? Invite them back into your life by humming “their song”. They’re only a song away.
Some humming benefits
You know innately that humming calms your central nervous system. I’m sure you’ve experienced this before. This calming response is compliments of your Vagus Nerve which runs through your vocal chords to the base of your stomach. (Yoga activates the Vagus Nerve too, but more on that another day.)
I’ve read that humming enhances health and wellness by increasing oxygen in the cells. It lowers your blood pressure and your heart rate too! How cool is that? No meds required! Humming also clears toxins out of your body by increasing your lymphatic circulation, increases melatonin—the sleep hormone, reduces stress hormones, releases oxytocin—the love/trust hormone, releases feel good endorphins promoting natural pain relief, and also increases nitric oxide levels which is a molecule that promotes healing! Humming transforms us on a physical, emotional, mental and spiritual level. (Source: The Humming Effect by Jonathan Goldman and Andi Goldman)
There’s a yogic breath called “bees” breath (Bhramari) that is one of the best breathing exercises to release agitation, frustration, or anxiety and helps get rid of anger. Could you use those benefits while driving? The exhalation sounds like a humming bee sound. So even if you can’t think of a tune to hum, you can try simply making this vibratory hum sound of a bee. (The full practice would suggest closing your eyes and placing your fingers in your ears, plugging them. Obviously you WON’T do this full practice while driving but you could hum a vibratory bee sound without the other details.)
Try it! You’ll see. Humming relaxes you in mind and body, reduces fear and worry; and keeps you grounded and focused. It’s kind of like your own white noise filling your mind with soothing tones vs. the monkey mind of chitter chatter your ego likes to go on and on about. I’ve read that humming helps you concentrate (some auditory learners need that white noise) among many other benefits. You may have read that our iPhones are taking our concentrative powers away! We have an antidote—humming!
Try humming a few tunes the next time you’re on the road and see if you arrive at your destination a little calmer, more centered and at peace.
Happy 2019! How has the year started off for you? Getting back to our usual routines can be a blessing, can’t they? The end of the year is a whirlwind of activity, throwing us off our usual routines; and perhaps leaving us tired in mind, body, and pocketbook.
Some of the aftereffects can show up as less patience, feeling less grounded or even lethargic. When this happens, I know I’ve quit listening to Spirit and need to get back to my usual, very simple routine rituals that invite Spirit into my life.
So I’ll be writing a series of blog posts on easy ways you can bring simple rituals into your daily realm that take no more than a few minutes. If one doesn’t resonate with you, perhaps the following week’s will. Consider it my New Year’s gift to you, my readers.
Don’t worry, I won’t be emailing you weekly! Am I the only one who thinks some of the emailing has gotten out of hand? You can check out my blog page weekly here —the same page you go to for the current newsletter which IS sent via email once a month or so.
I hope you’ll join me. At the very least, you’ll gain some peace of mind and spirit while reading the post and perhaps you’ll acquire a new favorite ritual to carry with you into 2019.
To start you off, here’s my favorite, perennial ritual that creates an immediate meditative moment first thing in the morning while putting on your make-up, bathing, shaving—you get the idea. We all use the restroom in the morning, right? It’s real, real simple:
If you’ve chosen incense, let the smoke waft over you as though you’re sending yourself a blessing from Spirit. My husband and I both love Palo Santo wood. It doesn’t burn for long after being lit, so it’s a quick blessing and smells so amazing!
All wood scents are very grounding. They come from a tree, so you are being surrounded with the grounding energy from the tree’s innate ability to root down deep into Mother Earth.
My favorite short prayer to say when I light a candle comes from Ernest Holmes (The Science of Mind):
“Perfect God within me, Perfect life within me which is God, come forth into expression through me as that which I am.”
I memorized that prayer years ago. There’s not a time I light a candle (which I do at least once a day) that this prayer doesn’t come to me automatically, silently repeating in my mind. It sets the tone for my day immediately.
See, I told you it would be simple, only take a few minutes and fit right into your daily routine. I wish a grounding peacefulness to embrace each and every one of you as you start your day. Until next time!
YogaLean 12-week Transformation!
Looking to make a change? Are you searching for real transformation in your life? Do you want to lose weight and gain vitality? Hoping to de-clutter both physically and mentally? Are you curious about learning to meditate for greater serenity? Join the YogaLean 12-week Transformation! This workshop is available as either a private residence group class or on-site corporate class. Details here.
I’m deepening my Ayurveda training through Yoga Veda Institute’s Ayurvedic Health Counselor program! Four years ago I studied with Cate Stillman in a 9-month program called “Living Ayurveda” and it’s time for more!
Ayurveda literally translates to “Science of Life”. Ayurveda is a Vedic Science that’s a 5000 years old traditional science designed to bring the body back to balance in order to heal from within. Ayurveda incorporates nutrition, lifestyle, breath practices and more to bring you to balance—mind, body, and spirit.
The YogaLean program I detailed above incorporates Ayurvedic science as well. If you’re curious, please check it out or go to that page on my website for links to quizzes to find out your Ayurvedic body type/individual nature/dosha.
Each person is a unique combination of the five elements and we each have a different proportion of each existing within our personal make-up. Vata is predominantly Air and Ether, Pitta is predominantly Fire and Water, and Kapha is predominantly Earth and Water.
Being aware of your dosha allows you to identify protocols used in Ayurveda to align with nature—both your internal nature and your external environment such as seasonal cycles and circadian rhythms. It helps you to really hone and own your best assets!
Curious? Schedule a one-on-one Yoga Therapy appointment with me and we can discuss your unique health and wellness!
Please feel free to share my blog series or YogaLean program page with your friends! I would be most grateful! Happy 2019!
Better Day Yoga, LLC
I love this time of year. Magic permeates the very air we breathe. It’s in the Christmas trees all lit up with sparkly lights and decorated with personal mementos of Christmases past. Have you noticed the Christmas energy emanating from your tree during the season? Take another look.
When I was younger I used to pass the time just staring at our childhood tree—day or night. I’d come up close to an ornament to see how big my nose would look and back away slowly, enamored with all things Christmas. My parents didn’t always get along—(enough said here). Yet I still found solace in this holiday. I’d sit on the floor in my bedroom, after having lit a Christmas candle on the dresser, and gaze upon it as I rocked and sang all the Christmas songs I knew. The spirit of this season soothed me.
One year, our neighborhood association sent out invites for a Christmas caroling party. I was in! We sang at each household and ended with hot Christmas punch at one of the neighbor’s houses. I was in love with this tradition! Mental note to my younger self: “I’m doing THIS again!”
As I progressed into young adulthood, I’d find myself parked in my apartment parking lot just staring at the house lights around the neighborhood taking it all in before I went inside. My Christmas meter never got full this time of year. It was then that I started decorating for Christmas and writing my own Christmas cards. I still have pieces from my first apartment that I use today. A blue Charlie Brown ornament comes to mind.
During college I gave a speech on December 6th (St. Nicholas Day) in my speech class. Of course it was about believing in Santa. I ended with some lyrics from The Statler Brothers Christmas song,
“I Believe in Santa’s Cause”
Never heard a snowman talking
Never seen a reindeer fly
Nor seen a wooden soldier walking
Nor met Santa eye to eye
Now there are those who don’t believe
In miracles or Santa Claus
But I believe what I believe
And I believe in Santa’s cause
My teacher liked it so much he invited me to say it at the Beiger Mansion in my hometown for a Christmas function. I was so honored!
My husband and I just celebrated our 36th annual Christmas party. We decorate every corner of our house—even the bathrooms! There’s bells on the door that jingle when you walk in, a zillion Santa’s throughout the house and the scent of ”The Smell of Christmas” potpourri permeates the house. Yes I still believe in Santa. Why wouldn’t you? He’s the spirit of Christmas. Of course, there’s a big turkey dinner AND we go caroling, for those who are game.
Sadly, we’ve been noticing less and less people coming to the door each year when we go caroling. You know how some say certain things are going to become a thing of the past? Answering your door for Christmas caroling, we feared, was going to the wayside.
This year we tried another direction and we had so many come to the door and joyously direct our music, some taking photos and videos, some taking a selfie with us in the background. Yes! People will still come to the door to share in a brief Christmas moment! It renewed our belief in the Christmas spirit. We all just need a little magic. God bless those lovely souls!
By now, you’ve realized how much Christmas means to me. I know I’m not alone. I still send handwritten Christmas cards to many of the same people I knew over 20 years ago. Isn’t that was Christmas cards are for? To remind those who were special in your life that they still matter, that there’s still a place in your heart for them, to wish them a Merry Christmas—it’s my Godmother’s sister, my oldest friends and some of my past bosses, my long lost relatives. They will always have a special spot in my heart because they touched my life. Time won’t change that. It’s like a “Christmas card contract” for me that says “I will always love and care about you.”
You won’t get off my Christmas card list unless you haven’t sent me one in a couple years (and even then I still send them to certain special friends and relatives because it makes me feel good.) Our incoming Christmas cards have dwindled over the years. This saddens both of us. We still remember all of those on our list this time of year. We still send silent Christmas prayers to those who have passed and mental Christmas hugs to those who’re just too busy to continue the tradition. We will still always love you. Merry Christmas dear friends.
I hope to see you either digitally online or in person in 2019. I’d love to work with you.
YogaLean 12-week Transformation!
Looking to make a change? Are you searching for real transformation in your life? Do you want to lose weight and gain vitality? Hoping to de-clutter both physically and mentally? Are you curious about learning to meditate for greater serenity? Join the YogaLean 12-week Transformation! This workshop is available as either a private residence group class or on-site corporate class. Details here.
Better Day Yoga, LLC
Just prior to my Thursday 10 AM yoga class at NOLA’s, I always take a few moments for alternate nostril breath which balances the nervous system, pranayama mudras, and a little loving kindness meditation. It helps bring me to center and be the kind of yoga teacher I aspire to be. There are always “a-ha” moments during, or as a result of, meditation—especially if I’m pondering something.
Today as I finished my meditation I looked around the beautiful space where I’m honored to teach yoga in NOLA’S corporate event center. The owner, Kavita Mehta, has an eye for art. She has several paintings adorning the walls. Although my eyes have landed on these walls several times, today I noticed just how many of them contain birch trees.
I grew up with a birch tree outside my bedroom window. My dad loved trees, as I’ve written many times before. Because a birch tree was just outside my childhood window, I’ve always felt a connection to birch trees. How did I not notice the abundance of birch trees in my new yoga space?
I started to snap photos of them with my iPhone to capture their beauty, knowing all the while they would be the subject of this blog. Once an idea hits me, I can’t contain myself. These are only a few of the ones containing birch trees. It was hard to decide which to include here.
Birch has often been associated with renewal, awakening the energy of new beginnings and a cleansing of the past. The birch tree has been called the “White Lady of the Woods” owing to her beautiful white bark. The bark of the birch tree, hence the spirit of the birch tree, was often used to instill courage and protection. It is even suggested we meditate on birch for resilience during hard times.
We can also invoke the birch spirit energy for an auspicious start to new ventures (lucky me!). Birch brings the promise of what is to come, new dawns, hope and regeneration. Isn’t that also what yoga brings with its promise of mind/body connection? Bringing our bodies into the rest and relax/parasympathetic nervous system mode is the only time your body is able to regenerate and heal. This, too, is the promise, the gift of yoga. For me it is the promise of a “better day”. (Read about how I came up with the name of my business here.)
As a guardian, birch provides solace and safety from the madness of the world. Okay, full disclosure, the “madness” referred to in the folklore I was reading was referring to the tricks of the Faery. Don’t laugh, it won’t make the faeries happy! Faeries are part of folklore worldwide, by the way. I always say I judge by experience. If the whole world’s ancient stories include the wee folk, who am I to argue of their existence? And, for that matter, who are you to? And somehow labeling the “madness of the world” as faery/fairy trickery, makes this madness seem somehow lighter and more manageable for me. Yes, in case you’re wondering, I believe in faeries and all things magical. I’ve written about this many times, but this one is my favorite here.
Now, that we’ve got that out of the way….moving on.)
“If you do not believe in magic, your life will not be magical. Magic, like the power of Stonehenge, is part of the unknowable—that which you cannot describe, but which exists and makes your life extraordinary.” –The Power Deck, The Cards of Wisdom, by Lynn V. Andrews.
Like most women I know, birch appears fragile but is extremely strong. We’re all stronger than we think we are, aren’t we? What a beautiful message birch brings us: to appear how we may to the world but harbor our inner strength inside. The birch tree carries ancient wisdom and yet appears forever young. Yoga, too, carries ancient wisdom and will enable you to age gracefully, appearing younger than your years.
Some have used birch as a meditation tool, sitting with their back to the birch tree to calm down so they can channel their anxiety into “wise ways”. This is what meditation and yoga, which is a meditation in motion, does for me. There have been studies on the effects of meditation helping us to pause before we react so we react with wisdom and calmness. (See the Tibetan prayer flags in this painting? Prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength and wisdom. It is believed the prayers are blown by the wind to spread good will and compassion to all.)
Birch’s vibration is said to increase tolerance of ourselves and others. This speaks to me of patience. We can all be so hard on ourselves sometimes. Sometimes that short fuse gets taken out on others. Yoga is my solace and increases my patience level with each practice. My mat instills a deep breath every time I step upon it. It contains the energy of all my previous prayers and meditative moments. On the sacred space of my yoga mat I can start over each day—it’s my restart button, my “do over”. Here I am able to forget the past and be here now, “just for today.” Remember I opened with birch’s ability to cleanse the past. (I wrote at depth about my mat as sacred space here.)
“Now, with the essence of Birch, you come into the rhythm of life, the empowerment of dreams, and the ability to vision your possibilities.” ~ The Faces of Womanspirit; a Celtic oracle of Avalon (thegoddesstree.com)
It is said that a good beginning leads to a good conclusion. So as I ponder our new beginnings here at NOLA’S surrounded by the energy of the Birch tree’s wisdom permeating our yoga space, I am humbled by the symbolism of a fresh start, courage, determination and spiritual growth. And I am honored to be the conduit for those students joining me as we learn the lessons of the birch tree together—that hidden within there is often found great strength.
Won’t you join me?
For details on dates, rates, and specials, please click here. Thank you! Hope to see you soon!
I’ve shared before that a student of mine suddenly noticed in her down dog that her feet looked just like her mom’s. Ever since then, I’ve used that as a pondering question in class. Who’s feet do you have? Which ancestor has passed those traits on to you? Invite your ancestor into your class. Send a mental “hello” and “thank you” to them right now.
Since this is Halloween week, why not instill some thoughts in your yoga practice toward thinking of and perhaps connecting with someone special in your life who has passed on. Perhaps use this thought as your intention for your yoga practice that day.
I’ve heard that during this time of year it is easier to communicate with those who have passed since the “veil” between the living and those who have passed is “thinner”. It doesn’t have to scare you. Why not take advantage of it in the spirit of the season? You probably already send them “hellos” on any given day. Why not dwell on the possibility that this time of year it’s easier to visit?
Here’s a little history:
“October 31 was the last day of the ancient Celtic year and the Festival of Samhain, the Celtic god of the dead. As one year became another, the Celts believed, the spirits of the dead could return from the beyond to share joy and happiness with their living loved ones. Feasting, dancing, and singing celebrated this opportunity. Enormous bonfires lit the night sky, welcoming revelers and spirits alike.
But fearing that some of the returning spirits might have less than honorable intentions, people often donned masks and costumes to hide their true identities. The good spirits of departed friends and relatives of course knew those behind the masks and could make contact for a joyous reunion. The light of dawn, marking the start of the Celtic New Year, recalled the spirits to the spirit world.
In 835 Pope Gregory IV proclaimed that the last day in October was to be known within the Catholic Church as All Hallow’s Eve, or “All Holy Evening”. On this date, he decreed, Catholics everywhere were to gather and remember those who had given their lives in the name of their faith. The next day, November 1, became All Saint’s Day (also called All Soul’s Day), a time to remember all who passed on.
The Catholic Church views this ‘communion of spirits’ as a reminder that there is a continuous link between the souls of the living and the souls of the dead. Says the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Church’s official teachings, ‘Between them there is an abundant exchange of all good things.’ Various Protestant religions also observe these celebrations.” ~ The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Communicating with Spirits by Rita S. Berkowitz and Deborah S. Romaine.”
Personally, I’ve always thought that the more open you are to “hearing” the Universe’s messages, or a loved one who has passed on for that matter, the more likely it will happen—or at least the more likely you’ll notice. The Universe speaks in subtleties so unless you are tuned in, you could totally miss it. That’s where your yoga practice comes in!
As a yogi, you’re practice includes listening to the subtle messages your body is sending so it doesn’t have to send a loud scream. So you are, in effect, training yourself to notice subtleties. As a yogi, you begin to notice when your feelings change, when your physical sensations speak up and when your spiritual connection deepens.
Sending off mental invitations and silent hello’s to those who’ve passed isn’t hard. You’re probably already thinking of your special someone. You’re remembering them in their own special way, with their own special traits and characteristics. Knowing that you’re open to connecting and knowing that you share a special memory, or that a special something reminds you of them, creates the magical “stuff” your connection manifests from. My mother-in-law’s connection/communication with her late husband was so strong, it continued for twelve years after his death until her passing in 2015.
The Universe knows what you’re “up for” too. You may be open to subtle connection but an outright visit might scare the living daylights out of you! Me too! Keep surrounding your thoughts in love and light.
I read a book by local but internationally known author, Echo Bodine, called Relax, It’s Only a Ghost. In it, she reminds you to say loudly and firmly “Not welcome!” when you feel scared. Wish I knew that as a small child afraid in my bedroom after a nightmare.
On the nights my husband is out of town, I surround myself with guardian angels when I can’t sleep. One corner has the Archangel, St. Michael, in the image of John Travolta’s portrayal. It makes me smile. One is Clarence, from the movie It’s a Wonderful Life—my absolute favorite Christmas movie! One is Gideon, from the Christmas show One Magic Christmas. And the last one is the Archangel Raphael, the archangel of healing and protection who is associated with the color emerald green. (Recently I added Dudley from the The Bishop’s Wife” —another of my favorite Christmas movies!) By the time I’ve conjured up these images and colors at the four corners of my bed, I’m content and less on edge. This is what I mean by surrounding your thoughts with love and light.
Connections come in subtleties. It might be the shape of the clouds in the sky. It might be the cardinal that you suddenly see or hear. It might be that the rain stick near your fireplace drops a pebble out of the blue at just the right time. Both the cardinal and the rain stick are my dad’s form of communication with me. I don’t believe in coincidences. My dad’s been gone for over 15 years now. The rain stick became his mode of communication some time ago. He knows it. I know it. It’s an old friend by now. When I hear the pebble drop or see the inquisitive cardinal, I simply say “Hi dad. I love and miss you too.” Happy Halloween everyone! Create your own magic by inviting it in!
(This is an updated post from a previous post shared on a colleagues website that is no longer available.)