When I first began to practice Yoga, like many people, I was curious about what it could do for my physical body. What were those funny looking shapes and all the breathing about? I picked up a Rodney Yee DVD and began practicing at home, which then led to taking classes at the gym, and then eventually a local studio. I was surprised how challenging it was, not only physically, but mentally, and emotionally.
It wasn’t long, before I felt something more happening. Something deeper. After an hour of moving my body, and connecting to my breath, when it came time for savasana, there was such a sense of stillness and peace, that connected me to the deeper part of myself, my soul.
Almost immediately, my yoga practice became my moving meditation. On the mat, I can breathe, let go and connect to the true essence of who I am. I am a soul. I have a body. Yoga and meditation have become invaluable tools, that connect me to my higher power. My yoga practice has only deepened the seed of Faith, my parents planted, as a young child, and allows it to grow.
My Faith is my strength. It keeps me hopeful, comforted, and at peace, even during the most challenging, or painful chapters of my life. When life makes absolutely no sense, I can surrender. I know I am loved and protected. I keep moving forward, because I have Faith, everything is in divine order. I let go and let God.
“Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness, the discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.” – Anne Lamott
What does the word Faith, mean to you? The definition of the word Faith means “complete trust or confidence in something or someone”. As a teacher, I realize, not every student was raised with any kind of religious background, or knowledge of what spirituality means. The concept that we are so much more than our physical bodies, may be a brand-new idea for them.
I, believe, many of us, arrive on the mat when the soul is ready for this exploration and discovery. Yoga is such a personal inward journey of self-awareness, self-discovery, and self-transformation. We can peel away the layers of our ego identity and see the true nature of ourselves and others. We are all spiritual beings having this human experience.
It’s never too late to begin the journey of faith. I truly believe the power of faith, is a gift, that allows us to move through every chapter of our lives, with gratitude, hope, strength, and peace. We can overcome our fears that hold us back from achieving our dreams. In the words of Wayne Dyer, “The Antidote to Fear, is Faith.”
Follow what feels right for you, within your heart and soul. We are each placed on the perfect path, uniquely planned for us, which will help us cultivate a relationship with something much bigger than ourselves. Whether you call this higher power, Creator, Universal Consciousness, Mother Nature, Divine Wisdom, or God, I believe it is all the same energy of pure unconditional Love, in which we were all created. Only Love is real. And know, that this Love surrounds you always.
Here are 3 simple ways to begin cultivating Faith today!
I can still remember the way I felt, the first time I experienced essential oils as part of a yoga class. It was a sweet surprise, when the teacher held her palms over my nose, as I inhaled the most aromatic scent into my nose. Almost immediately, I felt a sense of calmness and peace wash over me. I was able to let go, be still, and connect into the deeper part of myself on the mat.
Even the energy in the room felt different. Kind of like that same feeling you get when you walk into a sacred place of worship or ritual. You know something meaningful is happening. It touches your spirit. I was hooked.
When I became a Yoga teacher, I could not wait to use essential oils in my classes. After studying aromatherapy, I was even more excited to learn the numerous benefits to be gained, by using these precious oils. I like to think of a Yoga class, as a work of art, each mat a canvas, each pose a brush stroke, and the essential oils are the color, creating a masterpiece, with its own unique beauty every time.
Although I have a long list of favorites, here are my top three must have essential oils, to bring into your Yoga and meditation practice. May they serve you well, mind, body and spirit.
Peppermint- Oil of Awakening – A beautiful oil to begin your yoga practice with. It almost instantly allows us to connect with our breath, open the lungs, and feel an expansion in our heart space. Due to the menthol content, it is very cooling, and can help relieve tension headaches after a long day. Emotionally, peppermint is very stimulating, giving us a sense of alertness and motivation to move through a full yoga class or your day. (Avoid using at bedtime!)
Lavender- Oil of Harmony- If there were essential oil Olympics, Lavender would take the gold medal every time. The love of lavender’s beautiful aroma goes back centuries, as the Egyptians and Romans used it for bathing, cooking, relaxing, and perfume. Lavender has a long list of benefits, which include relieving anxiety, stress, depression, and insomnia due to its sedative properties. It is the perfect oil to have as part of your skin regimen, as it helps with minor skin irritations because it is antibacterial, and can be used for oily skin, and stretch marks. It is my favorite essential oil to use near the end of yoga practice, as it brings a sense of calmness and peace, preparing for savasana.
Frankincense- Oil of Devotion- If essential oils were the royal family, Frankincense would be the king. Highly revered, going back to ancient biblical times, this powerful oil was considered more valuable than gold, and offered as a sacred gift to Jesus at the time of his birth. Also used in religious, sacred ceremonies, as the beautiful and potent fragrance of frankincense, helps you to connect with your spirit, your highest self, while uniting with divine grace. It can also help reduce inflammation, aches and pain, stress, and is very healthy for the respiratory system. After a yoga practice, once you come out of savasana, is the ideal time for meditation. Frankincense is my must have oil, for meditation, as it enhances the overall mind-body-spirit connection.
To buy oils click HERE!
One of the many benefits, I have gained, from my Yoga practice, is a sense of harmony and balance within. When I have a bad day, I know, I can roll out my mat, breathe, and unwind any mental or physical knots I have may have acquired from a long day. Every time I am in savasana, my mind, body, and spirit feel nurtured and nourished. Restored.
I believe having this sense of wholeness and equanimity, that Yoga offers, is essential to our wellbeing, and quality of life. But what happens when we are off the mat?
Many of us, get right back into fight or flight mode, thinking of our to-do lists, and what task we have yet to complete. We rush, hurry, and worry ourselves through the days, weeks, months, and years!
Another key element, Yoga brings to our lives is awareness. Once we are aware of anything, we can change it. We have the power to create positive shifts in every area of our lives.
I have found, when I devote equal time and energy, towards five key areas in my life, I feel the most balanced. I check in with myself each week. By doing this, I am aware of which areas I have been avoiding, and which ones I feel overwhelmed in. The weeks where I was able to give equal time to each area, are the weeks I have a sense of peace and wholeness within my spirit.
Here are the five key areas:
BODY / PHYSICAL – Did I move my body this week? Was I motivated? Exercise is crucial, to releasing tension in the body, mind, and spirit. Whether it’s Yoga, a walk, a bike ride, or joining a gym, pick an activity you will stick with.
WORK / MENTAL – Did I learn anything new? What was the last book I read? Keeping our minds engaged in learning new subjects, and filled with positive thoughts, can help us stay inspired, spark creativity, and set new goals.
MIND/ EMOTIONAL - What is my anxiety level? How am I feeling? Am I having a difficult time releasing negative emotions? Harboring resentment, anger, bitterness, and sadness, can lead to depression, weaken the immune system, and lead to manifesting illness, within the body, mind, and spirit. Find the gentlest way for you, to let it go.
RELATIONSHIP / SOCIAL – Did I spend quality time with my partner, friends and family? As an introvert, this is the most challenging area for me since I replenish my energy by solitude and serenity. I am aware, however, that too much alone time, is not healthy. Connecting with others, brings a sense of community, happiness, and joy to our lives.
SPIRITUALITY / SPIRITUAL – Have I dedicated time for solitude and prayer? Am I connected to my inner wisdom? Do I trust in divine guidance? We are so much more than our physical body. Cultivating a relationship to a higher power, enriches our lives, connecting us to the true essence of who we are, the energy of love, compassion, forgiveness and peace. My spritual journey has given me strength and deepened my faith and trust in the divine plan for my life. I wake up each day, feeling grateful and aware of every blessing in my life.
Try checking in with yourself this week. And no feeling guilty, for having an unbalanced week! I have many. Just like Yoga, it’s a practice! What matters, is we stay committed. We return to the mat. We begin again. And along with every breath we take, each week can be a fresh start to finding balance once again.
Having a positive outlook every day, is something most of us would love to wake up with every day. Chances are, that some days, you find yourself struggling to keep your spirit uplifted and bright. What we must remember, is that, it takes effort. We must take responsibility for own attitude each day. When it comes to feeling happiness, encouragement, and peace within our heart and soul, it takes work.
In Yoga, this place of contentment, is called santosha, the second of the Niyamas of Pantanjali’s eight-fold path toward enlightenment or bliss. It is when we give up the notion of “I will be happy when…”, we can experience santosha, and realize having an attitude of contentment, comes from within. Nothing outside ourselves can cultivate true joy.
On days we are experiencing self-doubt, sadness, anger, or maybe feeling completely discouraged, there are action steps we can take to shift our energy from fear and return to a space of love.
Here are some of my favorite ways, I can always count on to put me in a better mood and raise my vibration. Remember, what we think, we create. Next time, you feel down, try one, or all, and you will be onward and upward in no time!
Moving our body, helps us to release stagnant energy, reduces stress, depression, and tension. A regular exercise program also helps us to relax and get a good night’s sleep. What are you waiting for?! Take a Yoga class, go for a walk, a bike ride, or dance to your favorite music today!
Five minutes a day, spent in silence, listening to our breath, can help us to surrender a monkey mind. Most of us have thoughts jumping from one to the next to the next, all day long, exhausting us, mentally and emotionally. When we connect to our breath, and turn inward, we access a stillness and peace that is always there for us. Light a candle, and maybe try a guided meditation with music. Begin with three minutes and work your way up from there. You will find meditation will become a necessity in your life.
Watch a motivational Ted talk
There are so many inspiring, motivational speakers to be found via social media. I love to go on YouTube, and watch some of my favorite spiritual teachers, like Marrianne Williamson, Carolyn Myss, Dr. Wayne Dyer, and Eckhart Tolle. This is one, I still do quite often. I love to get cozy, with a cup of tea, and listen to inspiring and educational talks. It always feels like food for my soul.
How May I Serve?
This is a simple prayer you can say, which will guide you to help someone, or be of service in some way. No matter how big or small, giving of ourselves, without expecting anything in return, hands down, works every time, in turning a bad day around. Volunteer for your favorite charity, help a friend move, visit someone who is lonely, clean out your closet and donate items you no longer need, or simply spend more time with your loved ones. Giving the gift of kindness, a compliment, or a prayer, is something we can all do every day.
Spending time in nature, helps us to get grounded, and remember, the bigger picture of our lives. It gets us out of our heads and reminds us of the natural order to everything in the universe. We can obtain a much healthier perspective of whatever situation we find ourselves stuck in. The universe has supplied us with loving elements, which leave us feeling inspired, cleansed and renewed. Giving Dr. Air, Dr. Water, Dr. Earth, and Dr. Sun a visit, will leave you feeling better emotionally, and contributes to your overall wellbeing.
Read inspiring self-help / spiritual book
Reading a book, from your favorite author, or spiritual teacher, is another great, easy way to feed your mind, and soul with positive energy, and inspiration. I have been an avid reader for many years. Check out my list of favorite books here.
Listen to music
Music has the power to completely shift our energy. You may even feel inspired to learn how to play an instrument or go to a live concert. Find what style touches your soul, then, turn it up!
If someone were to ask me what my passion is, I would say creativity. Anytime I am creative, whether it is painting, writing, or creating my next sequence for yoga class, I lose all track of time, and enter into a space of pure contentment. Santosha! The best part is, we do not have to be the best at anything. The act of creating something, allows your own unique energy within, to flow through you, and be expressed out into this world. Creativity is a source of happiness. And we were born to experience both.
Our sense of smell, is directly connected to the limbic system in the brain, which controls emotion. Using essential oils, is an easy, quick, and powerful way to shift your mood, almost instantaneously. Try adding a few drops to a room diffuser, an ounce of massage oil, or to a soothing salt bath. You can even place a few drops in the palm of your hand, and take three deep inhalations, to bring a sense of calmness and balance to your well-being. (be sure to dilute with carrier oil prior to applying to skin!) Three of my favorite must have oils are lavender, patchouli, and peppermint.
Studies have shown, people who have healthy, supportive, and loving relationships in their life, live longer, and have a better quality of life, then those who don’t. Dedicate time to reach out and connect to the people in your life that mean the most to you. Spend time with family, and friends, in person!! There is nothing better than sharing a laugh, a meal, a warm embrace, and making memories, with your loved ones, that last a lifetime.
I truly believe happiness is a state of mind, that begins within. On days we wake up feeling disheartened, or with a case of the blues, the most important thing to remember, is that we do not have to stay there. To have a different experience, we must do something different. We get to make another choice and decide to make the best out of each day. Let life surprise you.
Giving up, gets a bad rap. There are many things in life we will eventually give up. As children, we give up drinking from a bottle, and the training wheels on our bicycle. As we get older, we may give up a bad habit, or our freedom, and a full night’s sleep, while building a family. We can give up a negative thought pattern, or a relationship, which is not for our highest good. Giving up sometimes seems like it would be a negative thing to do, but it can be a positive next step in our life.
We all have dreams, goals, and deep desires within our heart, that no matter how much we work towards them, seem to elude us. We hope, we pray, we even try to “make” them happen. A year goes by, another, and another, and nothing. No result. We are left feeling ignored, not good enough, unsupported, and discouraged. Should we give up? No way! However, I do believe there is another action required, to see results. Surrender. Surrender, by definition, means to yield to the power, control, or possession of another upon demand.
I believe there is an order to our lives, a destiny set to unfold for us, orchestrated by a power much bigger than we are. It is important to remember, that yes, of course we should do all we can that is within our own power, to work towards every dream we have. Maybe that means to study more, learn a new skill, exercise more, look for a new job, opening up to meeting new people, move, or make any change necessary, in order to be the very best version of ourselves we can be.
It is after, we have done all that we can do, that we must close our eyes, and pray to that power much greater than us. There is a bigger picture happening, that we cannot see. We must have patience, faith, and trust, that all the pieces to our destiny, need to be in just the right place, for it to unfold for our highest good, and the highest good of everyone involved. I truly believe that surrender and faith, go hand in hand. With surrender and faith, we can finally reach a place of peace while we wait. The struggle ends. And just like nature, turns the seed into the flower, in perfect divine timing, without being rushed, we know, we are not forgotten, every prayer is heard, and we will watch our dreams flourish right before our eyes.
Yep, it’s coming again. That day, that arrives every year filled with chocolate hearts, mushy cards, flowers, stuffed teddy bears, love songs, romantic dinner dates, and a whole lot of pink and red everywhere you go. For those that may be single, have never been married, divorced, about to get divorced, on the verge of a break up, broken hearted, figuring out the dating scene, or completely avoiding the dating scene, it is also filled with a whole lot of pressure.
Not only does this pressure come from the outside world, from people, commercials, to walking into every store being reminded, here we are, another year, and no special Valentine. I want to tell you ladies, I feel you. I am with you. I have been there. I used to allow myself to have my own annual personal pity party so to speak, around this day. That internal pressure, would turn into internal self-criticism, questioning what is wrong with me? Why don’t I have a Valentine yet?
Then I realized, that annual pity party, was not so much fun. It left me feeling worse- confused, not good enough, and unworthy of what this beautiful holiday is all about- Love. I want to break this cycle of self-doubt, blame, judgement, anger, and disappointment for all of those living in singledom this year. This holiday has absolutely nothing to do with any of those negative thought patterns. We must remember, what we focus on, is what will manifest. Left to linger, such hurtful words we say to ourselves, will leave us with quite an unattractive energy- we will walk around angry, with low self-esteem, and in a bad mood. Who would be interested to hang around that all day?
Perhaps, looking at this holiday with a different perspective is what we all need. It is simply about Love. And when you stop focusing on yourself, and what you think is wrong with your current life situation, you recognize that Love really is everywhere. It is in the smile, you exchanged with your neighbor, in children laughing and playing, in the hug you gave your best friend, in the phone call with a loved one, in the time you listened to that person, who needed to talk, in the forgiveness you gave someone, in the piece of art you created, in your favorite hobby you are passionate about, in the time you spend with family, and in the quiet time you find with yourself. We receive Love from nature every day- from the sun, the moon, the earth and sky.
Love is here for you and with you, right where you are. Love is all around us, even more so within us. The circumstances of your life, are no secret to the Universe, for all is in Divine order. Make time this year, to get quiet, and tap into the Love and peace inside of you, and then go share it. Share it with a friend, a family member, or a stranger, and know, that every expression of Love is a miracle. When we are in the space of Love, we walk taller, we shine brighter, and we manifest even more miracles, one by one. So, grab that heart shaped box of candy, sit back, and bask in this Love more than ever this year. This Love is here to stay.
Vulnerability. Say that to yourself a few times. How do you feel? Does it make you uncomfortable? Uneasy? Fearful? Do you cringe a little bit? I do. A little voice within, goes "Eeeek!!! No, go away!" Then I realize, whatever situation, is bringing this up in me, is something, I should probably lean into. First, what does it mean, to be vulnerable? It is defined as "being capable or susceptible, to being wounded or hurt". Yikes! Why the hec would we want to go there right?
I am quite familiar with avoiding it. We all usually have an area or two, in life, where we just don't go there. We build walls, we put on our mask for the day, we clench our fists, ready for battle right? We avoid any and all situations, or conversations, which might make us a little too uncomfortable, or bring up the root feeling we do not like to admit we all have sometimes: Fear. Fear of being judged, disappointed, or hurt. So, we stay quiet, when we should speak up, or we use anger to protect ourselves, we don't ask for that raise, we don't express how we truly feel to a loved one, we don't go for that opportunity, we don't take that class, we don't book that trip, we don't try something new, we don't look in the mirror at our own faults, we don't go on that date, we simply... Stay. Safe.
What happens even further, unconsciously, we don't forgive, we don't let go, we don't grow, and we don't expand to our highest potential. This is the real tragedy of avoidance. What I have learned, is, that vulnerability, is much like Yoga, a practice. It takes commitment, and dedication, to lean into those uncomfortable moments in our lives, the same way, we show up on our mats, willing to go for that pose we have not tried, knowing, we may fall...so what? We get back up. We practice again, until one day, yay...we got this!!
We build strength, awareness, and confidence on our mats. It's the same with vulnerability. The more, we choose to go there, to dive in, to those uncomfortable feelings, what we find, is, it is the only path, that ultimately, leads us to experiencing true joy, happiness, and fulfillment. Yes, we may get hurt. We may be judged. We may be disappointed. We must be willing to experience all of life, the good and the bad.
When we are willing, there is so much to gain. We awaken gifts we didn't even know we had. We build new relationships. We accomplish our goals. We achieve a lifelong dream. We cultivate confidence. We strengthen our Faith. We shine our light. And the more we shine, the more we encourage others to do the same. We are all worthy, to live a life, of our highest potential, and the only way, is to look vulnerability right in the eye, and say "I got this. I can do this." So, let's all, one uncomfortable moment at a time, lean in....and keep practicing.
For many years, I have remained committed, to a daily Sadhana. “Sadhana” is a Sanskrit word, meaning “daily spiritual practice”. Now, I know, life these days, moves super fast, and we are all super busy. Between work, family, quality time with our partners, our kids, emails and texts, projects around the house, scheduling appointments, fitting in a Yoga class (yes..make time for one!! Wink) or workout, grocery shopping, studying, maybe finding a few hours to catch up with friends, leaves barely any time left for me right?! Whew! We are exhausted. I get it.
Which is why, it is even more important, to begin a practice or ritual, just for you. Where you make the time, to pause, to disconnect from the outside world, and connect inward. The best part is, it is yours. It is whatever your soul is asking for. Maybe it is a run on the beach in the morning, or a morning walk. Maybe it is a 5 minute meditation by yourself- even if you have to lock yourself in the bathroom! Maybe it is saying a prayer. Maybe it is starting a gratitude journal, or reading from your favorite book, or spiritual guide. Maybe it is your Yoga practice, or your workout. Maybe it is lighting a candle, and sitting in silence. Maybe it is staring at the ocean, the sky, the moon, or anything in nature that moves your spirit. Maybe it is a enjoying a cup of tea or coffee by yourself in complete silence.
It doesn’t matter what it is, it only matters that it is..Every. Single. Day. Having this practice, will benefit your well being, in many ways. You will increase your energy, yet, find yourself being able to Slow...Down. Instead of reacting, or moving from one task to another, with tightly clenched fists, and shoulders, you will find yourself with the ability to pause. Breathe. You will bring an increased sense of awareness into every moment of your day, allowing yourself to be fully present, where you are, when you are there. You will be able to Be Here Now.
Things that instantly upset you, or put you into "fight" mode, will no longer have that effect. Your nervous system will calm down. Your immune system will get a boost, with lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone that is released when something triggers us into that "fight" mode. And when we realize we truly hold the power, to connect to the Peace found within, throughout our entire day, all of our relationships improve. We are simply happier. We smile more. We are grateful. We are compassionate. We have Faith. And we are able to handle all of life, both the celebrations, the challenges, and everything in between, ...with fluidity and grace. Try it. Share what your experience is. And whatever your practice is, may it nourish you- mind, body and spirit always. Peace and Blessings be with you. Lisa