I have to be honest - winter is my least favorite season.
Maybe it’s because I’m a summer babe and grew up on Long Island beaches (if I visualize it long enough, I can feel the sun basking on my skin).
Or perhaps it’s the clothing and multiple layers needed to stay warm even inside (I’d much rather be barefoot in a sundress).
Despite my dislike for the season, I have grown to enjoy and embrace the dark and cold days with activities such as cooking, painting, reading and of course, Yoga and want to share it with you.
Before I dive deeper into the topics of this newsletter, I would like to share exciting news that I am teaching classes at OG Yoga Studio.
I mentioned last newsletter that I would go into greater detail on mindfulness and the practice of it in a walking meditation.
Try this seated mindfulness exercise and leave a comment on your experience.
Start in a comfortable seated position and rest your palms on the knees.
Spine is tall with the chest slightly outward and chin up.
Observe your breathing without judgment.
Bring awareness to where you are breathing from – is it the chest or the abdomen?
Are you restricting your exhalations? Again, no judgment, only observation and awareness.
Visualize the abdomen as if it’s a balloon, filling it up with air as you inhale from your nostrils.
On the exhalations, draw the navel towards the spine to fully expel the breath out of the mouth.
Close your eyes and continue this breathing for 5-8 rounds of breath or try Ujjayi breath*.
Slowly open your eyes to the room or environment you are presently in.
You can practice this mindfulness exercise with eyes open, while walking, driving, talking, eating, really whatever you’re doing to promote awareness and bring you to the present moment.
*Ujjayi breath or “victorious breath” is a breathing technique (pranayama) using only the nostrils. This technique creates a narrow pathway in the back of the throat and promotes energy and heat in the body. Think of it as a hose of air within the body. If you begin to feel any tension, switch back to normal breathing.
Mindfulness and awareness go hand in hand - you can’t have one without the other and both combined promote consciousness.
Consciousness in an individual, meaning the Self and highest version of the individual is present.
Being mindful and aware of how you move, speak, touch, eat and think is so important for your wellbeing.
Over the last year I have dabbled in various ways of eating, sticking to a mostly plant-based diet.
It felt nice spiritually as I was on my YTT journey, but I definitely started to notice the cons of the restrictive diet.
I dropped weight as I was practicing yoga pretty vigorously along with weight training and not consuming enough protein.
So, I introduced eggs back into my diet after 8 months free and my brain fired up!
The diet choice was intended to be a spiritually approach, connection and practice of ahimsa (nonviolence to all living things) but it unfortunately triggered my disordered eating and negative habits.
Side note: if you decide to embark a YTT know that you don’t have to go vegan or eliminate animal products. Listen to your gut (literally) and nourish your body, mind and spirit.
The most crucial lesson I learned from that experience was to listen to MY body and provide it what it needs.
It has been about two months that I have been eating meat (chicken) after 3 years of elimination.
Again, my brain fired up and muscle mass has been going on easier.
Since I was young, there has always been a strong interest in health, nutrition and fitness but I never thought I could “have” an athletic or fit body.
That perception is a weak mindset and one that fears failure and or not following through.
Part of that mindset has to do with discipline, which yoga has taught me and the other part is an acceptance of my body and mind.
My body is never going to look like certain athletes or models because I’m not built that way and haven’t trained for as long and that’s OK.
My mind may never understand how some people nourish their body but it’s THEIR body and journey - not mine and that’s OK.
Being mindful and aware is truly feeling an emotion – you have to allow yourself to fully feel in order to understand and then move on (I wrote about this in October Newsletter).
When we are our highest Self there is more space both physically and mentally in the present for those we care for.
That saying goes something like “fill your cup so you can fill others with the overflow - you can’t serve others with an empty cup”.
That quote resonates with me so much as I am someone who desires to help and serve others (hence why I wanted to be a yoga teacher) however there is a selfish component to this act because it feels good for the giver.
As care givers we have to check in with ourselves and be mindful with the action(s) as to why we are doing what we are doing – for us, for them, for both?
Are you emptying your cup too much? Replenish your cup. How? Cook yourself a meal. Take a long bath. Read that book. Paint. Go for a walk.
The holiday season can bring up a lot of feelings and emotions, especially with gift-giving.
The sense of comparison is prevalent with gifts, engagement and vacation photos on the internet, it’s hard not to look at it and compare but don’t do it!
You are YOU and there is no one who can be you – that itself is YOUR gift and YOUR responsible for yourself - whether that is cooking, reading or painting - you need to do what is best for you without comparison.
Financially you may not be able to go on a vacation, so make a staycation at home with those activities or any that you are interested in and fully indulge without judgment of yourself.
Just be present.
Set a timer and walk in a meditation around your house and see how you feel changes within minutes.
While I studied for my yoga certification, my yoga practice varied day to day (still does) and is based entirely on how my body and mind feel.
Being aware of how your body and mind function is so important for your physical, mental and spiritual health and this circles back to filling your cup.
Winter months come with incubation, which promote germs and cold/flu like symptoms so really be mindful of how you nourish and move yourself (relaxation and restoration goes a long way).
The lack of sunlight can even induce disorders such as seasonal affective disorder. Buy a salt lamp or use essential oils to promote good energy and immune function.
What are YOU going to do for YOU this winter?
2019 is waiting for your highest Self.
Yoga is by definition a union of the body and mind and with the practice of being mindful, the practitioner will experience deeper sensations in asanas and will find breathing techniques more beneficial.
Self-awareness is a huge component of yoga practice. Whether the environment you practice in is group/community or solo – practice of awareness promotes the practitioners ability to be present to their Self and surroundings.
There is no real order to it but once stretching and breathing has been practiced enough, yoga is then a spiritual tool and pathway to truth, liberation and bliss. The objective of yoga is to unite the body and mind with spirit for the highest Self and consciousness to reveal.
Rachel Brathen was the first yoga account I followed on social media and to my knowledge at that time the only person I saw teaching yoga and promoting herself online. Her book “Yoga Girl” is a beautiful outline of her journey and great for all levels - especially beginners.
This product was a life saver when I eliminated dairy and eggs from my then pescatarian diet. This protein powder is great in smoothies, oatmeal or even on its own in water if you’re in a time crunch. There are various flavors available and at least 18g of protein a serving – you can’t beat that!
Woodstock Land Conservancy
A local organization that is committed to the protection and preservation of land in Woodstock, NY. If you follow my Instagram stories you may have seen some photos and or videos of me in trails snapping shots of mushrooms and even getting stuck in mud (metaphor to slow down?).
Mindfulness in Action
This book written by Chögyam Trungpa was a great light-read on the practice of mindfulness and how to implement them with action. I highly recommend this book if you are interested in making mindfulness a daily practice.