Tree Meditation

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Happy Mindful Monday ūüôā Any excuse to use alliteration? I’m there! I thought it would be cool to start things off on a positive note, something to bring awareness to your day and potentially the rest of the week. Mindfulness is simply awareness. I like to think of it as awareness to the sensations in your mind, heart and body and the present moment. It’s basically watching without judgment. It’s tough. How well you watch yourself and your actions gives you control over them or at least a starting point in understanding them more fully.

Mindfulness can be practiced and honed in a¬†many ways, but today I’ll share a single exercise for you to work with all week. Notice the trees. It sounds simple and it is, but how often do you do it? Do you have a favorite tree in your town? No?! Why not? I’m sure there is one that is more attractive to you than the rest, this week you should find it. I have favorite trees all over the place and I can’t tell you how many people have laughed at me when I pointed them out, but it’s true. Notice the trees and you’ll realize you too have favorites. If you live above the treeline or in an area without trees, you may notice any greenery: grasses, bushes, cacti, etc.

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DIY Yoga Mat Cleaner with Essential Oils

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Hey y’all! It’s been a minute since we shared a DIY, but clear off that kitchen counter¬†because this one is easy and essential {har har}! A while back, Katie walked us through different uses for essential oils. ¬†We’ve used them in sunscreen, body scrubs, cleaners and perfumes and today we’ll mix up a potion of DIY yoga mat cleaner that not only cleanses, but also offers the benefits of aromatherapy. I practice on my deck and this DIY yoga mat cleaner cuts through not only my sweat, but also the grime, dust and dirt that builds up on the underside of my mat.

While most studios will have cleansers for you to use after class, I prefer to clean my mat at home. After cleaning, I like to¬†hang my mat on a rack or over a chair for at least twenty minutes so it can dry properly before rolling it up for storage. If I clean my mat¬†in the studio,¬†I never remember to roll it out at home to make sure it dries fully; that’s my brain on yoga drugs. Besides a nice proper cleansing, this DIY yoga mat cleaner is easily customizable. You get to create your own aroma and mood with each batch. Let me walk you through it :

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Yoga For The Eyes

 

Yoga for the eyes is a meditation made up of eight eye exercises. The routine is an easy one to memorize and practice any time, any place. I think of it as a mix between asana and meditation because the world easily falls away when you are focused on the slow controlled movements of arms and eyes paired with deep belly breathing.  This video is meant as a general guide, not a session in real time. Usually this practice takes me a half hour with a little stoppage time for dance breaks. Read on for step-by-step instructions.

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Quiet The Mind – Why You Should Meditate

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“Quiet the mind,” this is how I start most of my meditation practices. Take a moment to settle, to arrive, to quiet the mind. What does this mean? It’s such a tough task, for you and for your mediation teacher alike. It gets easier of course, but some days hurtle a thousand thoughts in your direction and you get caught up in trying to hold onto them, to dissect them, to attach to them, to figure out what exactly they mean.

The initial goal of meditation is to separate yourself from your thoughts. You are not your thoughts. Your brain is a muscle that is constantly flexing, it’s comfortable in a tornado of thoughts whether they’re useful or not, your goal as a meditation practitioner is to sit in a calm state with all these thoughts swirling around you. To stay centered while tiny tidbits and major revelations are trying to pull you off your seat. Eventually the thoughts will start to fall away. They’ll live in the¬†periphery and you’ll sit comfortably knowing you can engage if you see the thought as valid or useful, but also knowing you can allow the madness to swirl around you while you relax. These are the benefits of a consistent mediation practice. Internal calm even when the world around you is going up in flames.

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Sarah’s Favorite Mindfulness Books

This post was first published in March 2016, but we’re back today with three new suggestions.

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Namaste ūüôā Want to practice being mindful? I have a little list of books to get you started, or further you on your way, if you’re already a meditatin’ fool. Each time I post something on instagram that is introspective, I feel like I’m preaching a little bit. ¬†That makes me a little self conscious or unsure because I never know how you’ll react, but time and time again it’s been well received, therefore I can only assume you’d like to know more about being mindful since that’s where all these post stem from.

What does it mean to be mindful? To me, it means living life with intention and opening your awareness in the present moment without passing judgement. ¬†It’s kind of like being a screen door on a breezy day. There’s a lot going on outside the house as well as inside, but you’re simply an observer of both. You’re enjoying the breeze, feeling the sunshine or raindrops, but you’re not reacting to either, just enjoying the flow of life.

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My 200hr Yoga Teacher Training Experience with Rishikul Yogshala in Pokhara, Nepal

I first published this post a year ago, but I woke up dreaming of Nepal this morning, so I wanted to share it again.
Want more yoga and exercise? Become a woods warrior, try this lower body workout, then end the day with bedtime stretches that relieve lower back pain. Check out my 200hour yoga teacher training experience and read about the school I attended here.

live seasoned yoga teacher training rishikul -1-2 PEOPLE! I’m officially a yoga teacher. What does that mean? Well, last night I registered and paid my dues with the¬†Yoga Alliance. ¬†The Yoga Alliance is the largest nonprofit association representing the yoga teaching community. Basically registering with the Yoga Alliance gives one¬†credibility because they review the¬†certificate of completion from your yoga teacher training course work and all that other good stuff. ¬†It’s a seal of approval and something to make you sound super official when you prance into a studio looking for a job. ¬†I haven’t started that part of the process yet, even though if you recall, one of my New Years resolutions was to teach a class by the end of January. ¬†Lay off, I have one more week!¬† ¬† ¬†live seasoned yoga teacher training rishikul -2-3live seasoned yoga teacher training rishikul -12

Should I pursue a yoga teacher training?

With that mini hurdle (shelling out $105.00 for a figurative stamp of approval) out of the way, I’m feeling pretty official over here and I wanted to share my experience beginning to end with you just in¬†case you’re contemplating a 200 hour course. ¬†First you have to ask yourself all those hard questions like, “Am I willing to put my body through mild forms of torture for 28 days?” “Am I that into yoga?” “Do I plan on teaching?” “Do I value my self practice enough to pay upwards of $2,000-$4,000 to improve it?” All these extremely valid questions that honestly, I did not ask myself until after I put down the $200 deposit with my school. I just went for it and then my mind threw all these questions at me immediately after I confirmed my payment method. That’s how I handle life altering decisions, you too? Continue reading

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2017 Resolutions

Want to see how this list compares to the past? Here are my 2016 and 2015 resolutions.

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I know everyone’s not in the same boat, but I love setting intentions and goals for the new year.¬†I like that it creates a challenge within a timeframe. I’m always trying to better myself and create a better home for our family in a number of ways, but saying and writing specific ideas down at the beginning of the year gives me a bit of focus that I don’t have when I just say “become more healthy”, “do more of this or that¬†with the boys”, etc.

I also like that when creating the¬†coming year’s resolutions, we take a moment to look back and reassess how we did the previous year (who am I kidding, since I live with the Resolution Master, our assessing starts in August!). With that in mind, I thought a little looking back would be nice before diving into 2017.

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As I titled last year’s resolution post, it’s always a lot of same same, but different. I’m so SO happy with how well-nourished our family was in all aspects of mind, body, and soul. We ate so well (did you see those farm share posts?!). The boys are growing and learning new physical and mental skills left and right. As a family, we spent so much time outdoors. We filled every weekend and many weekdays with adventures, some big and some little, just like I wanted. Personally, I ended the year feeling really happy and content, and I think this is a reflection of how much I was able to take care of myself with exercise, creative projects, and doing it all while taking care of the day-to-day business without feeling overwhelmed. So, while the world seemed to be crashing down around us (I’m looking at you, presidential election), in our home, all is well.

This year, my biggest goal is just to keep on, keeping on. I want to keep doing all that good stuff, and improve it with a few key goals.

  • 100 sun salutations – last year I wanted to do a sun salutation a day. I kept this up for a long time, but then it fell by the wayside, and somehow I had that mental block where I couldn’t start it again because I had already missed too many days. Why do we do that to ourselves?! Anyway, rather than a daily task, I’m shooting for 100 total (but maybe really 1-a-day, wink wink).
  • sew some clothes with knit fabrics (think sweat shirts, t-shirts, leggings) – I was give a serger for Christmas, and if you know anything about sewing machines, then you know that these are great for sewing clothes (they create the tidy seams that you see if you look inside almost any factory-made¬†shirt). And sergers are particularly handy for sewing knit fabrics because they create a stretchy seam that’s necessary for that material. So, I want to stretch my sewing and clothes-making muscles by making some clothes for myself and the boys.
  • weave! – I also received a table/lap loom for Christmas and am so excited to start using up my crazy yarn stash by learning to weave. My exact goal is to make a wall hanging for one of our rooms. I have this idea to create something that’s actually going to be a combination of multiple individual weavings (more on that in another post!).
  • make a specific curriculum plan for the boys – I’m going to talk about this more in a series of posts, but a quick summary is that the boys are still young and they’re home with me rather than in daycare/preschool. I love it this way, and the educator in me loves to think of ways to integrate learning opportunities in our day-to-day play. It’s been going great so far, but I think it would make me happy to have an overarching plan to some of our play. I know that’s a bit vague, but I’m hoping to explore the idea on the blog in real time.
  • get to Great Sand Dunes NP! – Great Sand Dunes looks like such a crazy place, and it’s in our state! I’m making it a personal goal of mine to get our family there for at least one visit this year. Hopefully it’ll involve camping and a bit of exploring that area of Colorado. eek!

Those are my big goals for the year. I think it’s such a manageable list, but what’s not on it are some of the goals that I keep setting and then not finishing. I’m looking at you, room full of instruments. I would really love to spend more time practicing the piano and violin. I decided not to make it a specific resolution this year, but I’m hoping that as I spend less time changing diapers, I’ll eventually find more time for making music.

I’ve also taken this excitement of the new year to make a few simple changes. I was getting tired of my old exfoliating face wash, so I picked up an alternative that I’m loving (more on that after a few more weeks of testing). I also decided that I want to drink more water, but somehow this seems too lame to be a resolution. I’m doing it and tracking my progress in Streaks (also tracking my daily sun salutations and how much I read), and I hope that’s enough to make me more aware of my water intake, and that in a few weeks it’ll just become habit… hope springs eternal (ha! pun intended).

What about you? Any resolutions that you’re excited about this year? Any that you’re re-doing from last year?

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Snapshots of the Whole and Happy Retreat in Thailand

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It’s been nearly a month and a half since the first Whole & Happy Retreat in Chanthaburi, Thailand and yet my mind wanders back to that magical time almost every single day. I wanted to share a few film images and a general feel for the beautiful retreat week I spent at FaaSai Resort and Spa.

The Whole & Happy Retreat is the perfect laid back mix of¬†travel, adventure, yoga and self exploration. Each day the retreat group¬†met for yoga and meditation and each day a new technique, style, or focus was presented to us to play around with. As if the yoga and meditation wasn’t enough, the Whole & Happy Retreat involved so much more. We rode our bikes up steep hills, plunged into the Thai gulf waters, drank beer at sunset and toured the farm where our organic meals originated all the while still having ample time to laze about by the pool, sip papaya smoothies and trade book recommendations while devouring our current reads.¬†breakfast-1 first-round-12

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The Whole & Happy Retreat seemed to rest in this perfect cosmos of flowed planning instead of precise scheduling. Each night there would be a new agenda and theme on the message board and every morning our group would work our way happily through the day. From farm tours to beachside bike rides, we would move through the hours crossing joyous adventures off our list and yet somehow barely checking the clock, instead checking in with each other and our energy levels.

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first-round-18As an experienced yoga practitioner, I was delighted at the variety of classes presented and how approachable and attainable the instructors made the content for the beginners in the group and yet I never once felt bored or that the classes were predictable. Beyond the yoga and meditation, it’s such a treat to¬†enjoy new experiences with complete strangers,¬†it’s almost like being transported back to the first day of school on the playground. You feel shy at first until a few minutes later you realize you’re having an insane amount of fun and you look around to realize the people you once thought were strangers are now your favorite playmates.

The Whole and Happy Retreat felt like an adult summer camp aimed at elevating the travel experience while incorporating yoga and introspection. As a seasoned traveler, I cannot recommend this experience enough to individuals who are a bit apprehensive about a trip abroad or solo travelers who would find comfort among company. It’s also the perfect break for someone looking to get away in order to recharge and reinvigorate themselves for a happier reintegration back into normal life.first-round-14first-round-41first-round-61

Come read books, sip smoothies poolside, bike through fishing villages, make new Thai friends and gaze up at the stars with me.¬†I’ll be joining the Whole & Happy crew at the next retreat in Chanthaburi, Thailand from March 17-23 and I hope you’ll come. I’d love to flow with you! From now until January 15th, book with a friend and receive $50 off of the retreat cost¬†for a total of¬†$550¬†for seven days of retreat at¬†Faasai Eco Resort and Spa. If you need help finding a flight (they’re less than $600RT from NYC right now) or help creating a budget, I would love to help, just reach out in the comments.

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5 Ways Yoga Helped Me Heal After a Breakup

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.
-Mary Oliver


I began practicing yoga seriously after I returned from a long stint in Asia in 2011-2012. My relationship to yoga actually began after I was dumped by my then boyfriend of about five years over the phone the night I returned to the USA from Thailand. Pretty fucked up right?

I thought so too. I was sad. I was defeated. I felt like I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. See about two months before I flew home, I had sensed a shift in our conversations over Facebook. I could just tell there was something different happening with him in America, I just wasn’t sure what. I even mentioned it, but he never answered.

I took it particularly hard because I had tried (and failed) to break up with this man twice over the course of five years. I knew the relationship wasn’t meant to last forever and yet somehow we would work it out, we would be ‘better’ and the attempted breakups did make our relationship stronger so when I finally committed my vulnerable little heart to freely loving another person unconditionally, I was dumped. It was painful.

In hindsight, the breakup was so devastating because this same boyfriend came all the way to Thailand that Christmas to visit me. I felt so loved and lucky to have someone literally travel across the earth to be with me. For the first time in my life, I envisioned marriage and even my future wedding. It’s true, as I traveled Thailand by bus and a love song would come on, I would listen to the lyrics and consider it for my imagined wedding. It would take me years after the break up to be able to listen to John Legend songs and not feel pangs of hurt and rejection. I guess all this is to say, sometimes you are completely blindsided by a breakup and it forces you to sit in a sobbing puddle of rejection and just deal with your feelings.

The entire next month, my main goal was to not break down and cry in public. I would go to work, which at the time was catering parties and weddings, and I would have to sneak off to the bathroom or around a corner and mentally talk myself out of sobbing. It was really hard to keep it together. Once I got in my car or home to my sister’s apartment, I would breakdown. Watching any type of tv (even commercials), listening to the radio, even walking down the street in a neighborhood where he and I spent so much time together, felt like the most challenging task in the world. I was a mess and I had never in my life dealt with something so agonizing.

At the time, my ex and i were still texting periodically throughout the day. We had actually bought tickets a few months previous, to a huge music festival together with about 15 of our closest friends and we had agreed that we would still attend it together and try to act normal. The first day was fine as I got completely obliterated, but the second was draining. I ended up just laying in a grassy field for hours and hours while all my friends pranced and danced and my ex completely disappeared from the group and did his own thing. It was during this festival that something clicked. We are all individuals and while I cannot fathom life without this dude, it’s obviously meant to be that way. If we were meant to get back together, we would eventually, but until then, I needed to try to move on and forget about how hurt and rejected I felt.

I started by moving to my other sister’s, hours from my ex and pretty much my entire life and community I had created in Philadelphia over the past five years. I’m so glad I did this and I feel like it was a major step in my healing process. To not have to bump into him and our mutual friends in my neighborhood on a weekly basis really helped to distance myself from the breakup.

I also decided to cut off communication with my ex. At my request, we stopped sending our handful of texts each day. I remember how fucking hard that week was though, I felt like my best friend had died and I was all alone. Along with not texting, I made a concerted effort to stop looking at his or his friends’ social media because who really wants to see their ex dating someone already after a couple months. Again, this was a huge step forward in terms of starting my own life again. I will admit, I relapsed a couple times and looked at his Facebook and his girlfriend’s Facebook, but that’s how I found out he started dating her before I even moved home from Thailand. While this bit of information felt like hot lava being poured on my chest, it also gave me the ammunition I needed to mentally move on for good.

After spending a couple more weeks crying and feeling bad for myself, I found a random job, started hiking with Katie’s hound dog (he’s now mine!), and making plans with my friends again.

It was around this time that I remembered a yoga studio that Katie and I visited a few years ago. I had always felt a connection to this studio even though I only attended a couple classes there. I’ll never forget the first yoga class I attended after the break up, I looked up the schedule online, realized I had about ten minutes to get there, contemplated it for a moment and then drove like hell to make it on time. That class changed the entire course of my life. I know that sounds like hyperbole, but it’s absolutely true. I told you that entire sob story only so you’d begin to understand the power that authentic yoga (not just stretching and exercising to music and practicing handstands) can have on your life.

After a few months of yoga, I was completely transformed and in a way, reborn. Yoga teaches many lessons, but in terms of dealing with a breakup it teaches you ::

  • Self acceptance of where you are at this moment in time. Sometimes life throws us for a loop. There is no sense resisting, fighting what is currently taking place, you can only settle into it. When the breakup occurred, I was convinced it was a momentary mistake, something that would soon be corrected. Once I started practicing yoga and accepting what was being handed (or taken away) in life, I realized nothing is a mistake. Each situation is a gift to learn more and connect deeper with oneself. I also began looking back and remembering times in my life that seemed tragic and hard to deal with and I realized I prospered after those periods and I would after this one as well.
  • Your mat is your world. Nothing outside of your mat is a reflection or judgment of what is happening on your mat. You’ll hear this quite often in yoga. Do not compare yourself to others, focus on yourself, accept where you are at this moment in time, do no strive to be further along in your journey even if you’re seemingly further behind than you were yesterday. This lesson was absolutely crucial in getting over my ex. Not only did I feel like I lost a great dude (he was attractive, interesting and motivated), but I was replaced by a younger, more beautiful girl. For awhile, it was really hard not to be jealous of his new, fit and attractive girlfriend. I could immediately see that she was everything I was not, all the little things he had wanted me to be over the course of our relationship. Not only that, but they were traveling all over the place, something I would have loved to do. I felt like I lost everything and they had it all. What a ridiculous notion it is to look at what your neighbor has, covet it and wallow in your discontent. This will get you absolutely nowhere and it will create an ugly person in the meantime. Once I focused all my energy inwards and began cultivating my own happiness and directing my own journey, I was able to actually nurture love and happiness for my ex and his new beautiful partner. I don’t know this girl, but I’m positive she’s a great human. I also learned to see more clearly and to realize my ex was in many ways not the right partner for me. I gained clarity about my situation once I focused my energy inwards.
  • Connection to breath and body sensations. Basically yoga taught me to be mindful, something I hadn’t practiced before. Mindfulness was a completely new concept and to this day it has a profound effect on my psyche. Each time I found my mind wandering or getting hung up on a memory or feeling, I would bring myself back to a deep belly breath and try to not only identify my thoughts, but also to locate what sensations were arising and how they felt in my body. Being more present, connected and aware helped me to realize that often my sadness was just an autopilot state of being. If i wasn’t stimulated or even if another emotion was trying to shine through, my sadness would overwhelm me, it was as if my heart wanted to feel broken and my mind was just cruising along with it instead of thinking rationally about the present moment and my true feelings from hour to hour.
  • Disconnection from emotion and external forces. Disconnecting from my emotions was really the next step in my mindfulness practice. Once I was able to stay present and identify my emotions, I was able to question them and in a way compartmentalize them in my mind. Obviously it’s okay to feel deeply, but instead of allowing our monkey minds to completely hijack how we feel, it’s crucial to question why we feel the way we do, to think rationally about the entire situation at hand. I was so so sad day after day even though I had previously tried to initiate a break up, even though I knew the relationship was in no way sustainable, so why was I allowing emotions to run my life? At a certain point, it’s absolutely necessary to box up reactions and intense emotions and disconnect from them, to set them aside, and allow yourself to think with clarity about the situation in life.
  • Self love. Above all, yoga has taught me to love myself inside and out. Cheesy as it may sound, I believe self love is the key to a happy life full of successful relationships whether they’re romantic or not. Having love, gratitude and appreciation for yourself above all else allows you to thrive and feel comfortable in any situation. Creeping feelings of self-doubt and ugly notions of jealousy are eradicated and more space for compassion and appreciation is created. I now see endings as new beginnings and heartache as an experience to be cherished as much as mourned. In all beings and situations I search for love, any tiny speck of love that allows everything to fall into place and make sense.

Yoga allowed me to fall in love with myself again, while disconnecting from emotion long enough to process the breakup and begin to heal. I was taught to practice mindfulness and realize my expectations of the relationship and my life in general were just that, expectations, not reality. Yoga allowed me the space I needed to present with my emotions without becoming wrapped up and attached to them. I look back to the person I was ten even five years ago and I barely recognize her. Yoga has changed me in many ways and it all started with one shitty breakup. Today I’m grateful for the heartache because it introduced me to a yoga lifestyle and a set of tools that allow me to thrive in all situations. Are you going through a transition or a difficult time right now? Find your nearest yoga studio and dive in.

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