A Guide to Yin—Getting Comfortable in the Uncomfortable

As we look to create space for ourselves, discovering Yin style yoga can be a huge awakening. For many of us our constantly committed schedules leaves very little space for anything else. It is also a practice that encourages a person to get comfortable with the uncomfortable.

I am personally devoted to changing this in my life starting this year. I am seeking the fine balance between effort and ease. To do this, I am being deliberate either my choices and incorporating Yin yoga into my practice and teachings.

Yin Yoga is a style of yoga that involves long holds in various seated and reclined poses to access deeper layers of fascia and to quiet the mind. Yin yoga also requires conscious and controlled breathing, often emphasized by relaxed belly breathing. This intimate practice encourages one to connect with their physical self, emotions, and sensations. It’s a simple practice with profound therapeutic benefits for longevity, vitality, flexibility, emotional resilience and much more.

There are three main tenets of Yin Yoga:

  • find your edge where you can feel the stretch, but without straining
  • remain still
  • allow yourself to stay here for some time—typically three to five minutes.

Three to five minutes seems easy, right?

My top five Yin style postures are:

  • Butterfly: From a seated position, draw the soles of the feet together and slide them away from you creating a “diamond-like” shape of the legs. Fold forward, allowing the spine to round and the head to drop towards the heels. Rest the hands on the floor or on your feet. Hold for 3-6 minutes. TARGET AREA: Inner thighs and groins, outer hips, spine. TIP: sit on the edge of a blanket to elevate the hips and potentially increase the sensation in the hips and/or assist with the flexion of the pelvis. Having the hips higher than the knees can be helpful in the event of sciatica.
  • Melting Heart: Start on your hands and knees, and walk the hands forward, allowing the chest and head to drop towards the floor, keeping the thighs more or less vertical. Hold for 3-4 minutes. TARGET AREA: Chest, spine, arms and shoulders. TIP: pad the knees with a blanket; experiment with the angle of the arms if shoulder flexion is compromised.
  • Lizard lunge: From hands and knees, place your right hand to the center of your mat and step your right foot outside the right hand. Keeping the back knee down, slide it behind the line of the hip, or back far enough to potentially observe sensation in the front of the thigh. Back toes may be untucked or tucked. Hold for 2-3 minutes. TARGET AREA: Hip flexors, quadriceps of back leg, inner groin, hamstrings and outer hip of front leg. TIP: pad the knees with a blanket; remember to play the edge appropriately – this can be a powerful pose!
  • Bananasana: From your back, bend your knees and plant the feet to the floor. Pick up the hips and move them to the right side of your mat, keeping the sacrum in contact with the floor. Straighten the legs toward the left corner of the mat, and shift the upper body toward the left, creating a “banana-like” shape with the body. Raise the arms overhead, elbows bent or straight, with option of clasping wrists or forearms. Hold for 3-6 minutes (repeat other side). TARGET AREA: Side body, especially the side waist. TIP: explore crossing the ankles – inner ankle over outer or outer ankle over inner – and determine which, if any, is preferred based on what you feel in the target area.
  • Spinal Twist: Lying on your back, draw your knees into your chest and roll to your right side. Peel the left arm open, allowing the upper body to rest toward the floor, arm extended to the left. Hold for 3-6 minutes (repeat other side). TARGET AREA: Spine, Chest/Arms. TIP: Explore variations of the arms, and turn of the head to influence other potential target areas of the upper body.

Ready to join me in slowing down and getting comfortable with the uncomfortable? Try this practice at home.

Scattering Seeds

As I walk each day, I am happy to be reminded that nature calls us to be awake and aware. The first signs of green are starting to pop up and I believe it teaches us about resiliency and the rhythms of nature. It is such a great season to notice Life. My knee surgery has been much harder than I anticipated and it has been a true test of my patience and resiliency, but I find great hope when I see tiny shoots of green or the beginning of a tree’s bud.

As we enter into April next week, despite what is going on around us, we can be reminded of the cycles of life that exist in all forms. This is a beautiful time to look to nature for the lessons and to welcome your own time of growth.

Springtime is a great time to scatter seeds within yourself to create the beautiful blossoms in your life that you desire.

Take time to notice the changes around you as you see the trees begin to bud, the crocus flowers pop open and the bright yellow daffodils smile at you. Simply noticing and then cultivating growth within yourself will do wonders for your spirit as you blossom this season.

If we look at seeds as a symbol for our growth we can see that some great ideas for personal growth include increasing tolerance, having patience, loving yourself more, laughing daily, or slowing down to enjoy life. How about planting some of those seeds in your heart?

Once you set your intention and scatter your seeds, it is time to nurture these powerful thoughts and water them with love and tenderness. Keeping weeds away through positive thoughts and affirmations are a sure way to have a great harvest in the coming months.

What seeds will you scatter this season?

I am planning to plant more seeds of kindness to all beings this year. Spreading kindness is something I feel the world needs more of. One of my favorite acts of kindness is to give packets of wildflower seeds to random people. The smile that comes on their face when give you something so simple as a packet of potential beauty brings me so much happiness.

One of my biggest seeds I ever grew was the vision I had for my business. I knew my seed had to have the intention of service at its heart. I have been teaching yoga for over sixteen years in my community and way back in April of 2011, I decided to create the vision that has become known as Embracing Spirit Yoga. I am so blessed to share Yoga with people of ALL abilities in the community and in my studio. I am beyond grateful for those who have supported and loved me all these years. Like all strong plants, the seeds naturally sow themselves year after year and my business is thriving.

It truly does all start with a vision. A seed. Then with mindful attention to the seed, or vision, in time it will indeed grow into something amazing. Sure, there have been seasons where things needed to be replanted and readjusted, but in time it all grew into something that I am so proud of.

Now is the time to gather up your seeds and be ready to scatter them.

Follow me for more goodness!

Deliberate (Word 2022)

deliberate adjective; Done consciously and intentionally. Fully considered; not impulsive. Done or acting in a careful and unhurried way.

For many years I have chosen a word for my year. I often say that to me this is like a thread that gets woven into the tapestry of our lives. Some years the thread may be glittery and bright, and other years the thread may be a little heavier and denser in its unique makeup. Either way as I look at the tapestry of my life, I can see easily the threads that have been woven together to create something beautiful. I love to look at my bookshelf in my office and see eighteen years worth of journals and planners that have become the themes throughout much if my adult life.

My word for 2022 is DELIBERATE. 

I love words and I love to look at definitions. The definition that sticks with me the most is done consciously and intentionally. If you know me at all, you might see a very determined woman who rarely says no. I don’t think this is because I am a huge people pleaser, although maybe my gut is telling me that at some point I need to check in with that. I think I say yes to everything because I like to be the person who isn’t always “too busy, too tired, too overwhelmed, too stressed, too much in pain, too whatever”. I refuse (probably in an unhealthy way) to allow life’s challenges to dictate what I do. However, I am realizing that saying yes too quickly often leads me to feel frustrated and overwhelmed because in my heart I would rather be doing something else.

I also chose this word because I have a desire to shift my quick decision making and tendency for my abrupt communication style to one that exhibits a more thoughtful approach. I have a quick thinking mind and sometimes I can blurt out something without thinking through how it will be heard. I am tenacious in all of my efforts and learning to be more deliberate and temper my fast moving mind may be of benefit for more. I also have a tendency to say yes to everything and everyone, leaving myself at the bottom of the list. I want to be mindful of how I spend my time and say yes to things that really feed me, rather than commit to something for the sake of simply saying yes. I want to do better about filling up the margins of my own life, rather than with feeling overwhelmed come across as a need to have an impulse to create boundaries around things. To me the recent popularity of having boundaries feels like a fence that keeps things and people away, whereas margins are up to the person deciding for their own life how to fill that space. So I get to choose what goes within the margins of my life and I am going to choose goodness and things that feel right in my heart. Through conscious and intentional living, I intend to be more deliberate with my choices. I am laser sharp when it comes to my business and my personal health, but there is definitely space to grow in my choices and become more intentional with other areas of my life.

The practical ways that I plan to implement and welcome in the concept of being more deliberate includes blocking every Friday off as a day where I will choose how I fill it. I have gone through my planner and highlighted a block around every Friday for the year. That is at least 52 chances for me to pause, to check in and then decide how I fill my day. Another practical way that I am moving towards being more deliberate is I am wearing an amazonite mala necklace and a bracelet as a reminder. Amazonite is a stone of peace, truth, harmony, and communication. It’s been called the “peacemaker stone” due to its communicative abilities and will be a gentle reminder for me to communicate clearly, calmly and with intention. Amazonite also empowers and strengthens any intention that may be set in it, so this morning I held it closely and told it what it is here to remind me of. Finally, amazonite reminds us that we are in control of our own destiny and our decisions will affect our outcome.

The non-practical ways that I plan to use this thread in my life is I am going to make the space to be very open by feeling less impulsive and becoming more unhurried and slower in my life. I am planning to let go of the concept of hard-driven goals and instead have a sweet little map that will guide me to unknown outcomes. This in a very round-a-bout way feels more intentional to me. Slowing down, considering the course I want my year to lead me, and being conscious and awake in my decisions.

So often when we choose a word we can be inviting in some big challenges and hurdles and I am preparing myself that those will come. When they do, I may want to slip back into the old and very familiar ways of living. I hope that because I am speaking my word to anyone willing to listen when they see that old impulsive, always-saying-yes person, they will take a gentle hand and guide me back to being in alignment with my intention to become more deliberate.

Are you ready for 2022? Join me in a life of intention and awareness! What is your word?

The Practice of Intentions

You have probably heard about intentions, right?  Especially at the beginning of a new year, it is quite the buzz.  I am all for people setting new year goals, visions, intentions, or whatever you want to call them, but I am talking more about a daily focus on something you want to create in your life.

Over the years I have worked with intentions and affirmation on a daily basis. I have seen first hand when they work, and when they do not work.  They work when you truly feel what you are saying, when you visualize it often to the details,  and the same holds true when they don’t work.  Feeling it is key. You can’t expect results just by just repeating it. The more you speak it, the more you feel it, the more you feel it, the more you speak it, and the cycle continues.

Positive affirmations require a consistent and regular practice if you want to make lasting, long-term changes.

The good news is that the practice and popularity of positive affirmations are based on widely accepted and well-established psychological theory, –yes, science backs up the new agey, hippie feel-good vibes. Pretty amazing, right?

Practicing positive affirmations can be extremely simple.  You pick a statement that is positive and you repeat to yourself.  Over and over.  You write it down. You sit with it.  You believe it.

You can choose intentions to motivate you, encourage positive things in your life, or even boost your self-esteem. The subconscious patterns of negative self-talk can be eliminated by a regular positive affirmation or intention practice.

Here are the steps I follow to living my intention with affirmations:

  1. Get clear. Sit quietly without distractions and think of one (or two) areas in your life that you would like to be different. Some ideas include generating more income, finding true love in a partner, having a healthier body, or increasing self-esteem. I also love to use lime and rosemary essential oil when getting clear.  These two essential oils are powerful when it comes to the brain and can bring a sense of focus and inner knowledge.
  2. Create a powerful statement. Whatever you choose, having a very clear and deliberate statement, preferably spoken in the terms of I AM_____ (healthy, abundant, happily in love with a loving partner, surrounded by supportive friends, confident and strong). The two most powerful words in any language is I AM, so start by speaking in those terms versus I want, or I need.  I AM is ownership.
  3. Incorporate your intention into your daily life. Write down your affirmation and put it in a place where you will see it often.  Or even better, invest in sticky notes and put throughout your home. Mirrors, refrigerators, planners, cabinets, your car, etc. are great places.  I also like to may a simple photo and make it my wallpaper on my phone.
  4. Affirmations as a practice. Recording your voice on your phone and listening to yourself speak the affirmation is a great way to reinforce your intention. There are also some awesome apps you can get on your phone that remind you throughout the day to pause and listen to your affirmations.  Setting aside five minutes each morning to get still, quiet, and then repeat them in your meditation practice is also wonderful. If you want to incorporate the mantra/affirmation into your japa meditation practice, this can be incredibly powerful as well.  Basically, find a way that works for you to repeat the affirmations as often as you can.
  5. Be deliberate with your actions. Setting an intention is an amazing way to create the life you want, and deserve, but sitting back and expecting the Universe to plop it into your lap is a set up for a big-time disappointment. Manifesting and creating also take effort on your part.  Let’s say you want a healthy body.  Speaking about it but continuing to be a couch potato and indulging on cheeto’s probably isn’t going to make that happen.  Expecting or desiring to have a steady source of income while absorbing yourself in leisure activities (TV, video games, reading novels, going fishing), isn’t going to make a lot of financial deposits. The truth is, whatever you desire in your life,  you first have to FEEL you deserve it so begin sort through those common feelings of not being enough now because it’s blocking your flow, FEEL it in every cell of your being when you speak it as if it has already happened, and FEEL so strongly about it that you begin to take mindful and deliberate actions steps towards making it happen.  That is what we know as co-creating.
  6. Gratitude. Without a solid a practice of gratitude all the affirmations in the world aren’t going to make a difference. And by solid, I mean a deliberate and consistent sitting down and acknowledging all the good in your life. Remember, what you focus on is what you’re inviting in. So, the more you focus on your abundance the more you will have. So simple.

Now, it is time to get busy. What do you want to create?

When a person really desires something all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream.