Developing Deeper Connections to the Earth through Awareness, and Ritual and Community
My family spends time in the Peruvian Andes almost every year. Each time I am in Peru, I give thanks that I have the opportunity to step into a more grounded relationship with myself and with the earth. My time in the Peruvian Andes shifts the ways in which I experience and connect to the earth. Over the years of spending time in the Andes, I have explored rich and varied ways to engage my sadhana (my spiritual practice) with the intent to experience a deeper connection to nature’s rhythms. I call these Earth Sadhanas.
As a yogi and Ayurvedic wellness coach, I have a strong desire to make offerings of wisdom teachings and practices to help people reclaim their connection to the natural world. I believe that a true path of yoga must go way beyond what we do on the mat and cushion and encompass all of our daily activities and help us reclaim our connection with the natural world.
The summer season has these characteristics: heat, long days of bright sun, and sharp intensity.
These are all attributes of pitta dosha (fire and a little water), which is why summer is considered in Ayurveda to be a pitta season. And, even though some climates are also humid this time of year, the cumulative effect of intense heat is to dry things out, so summer is also considered dry.
According to Ayurveda, our bodies heat up over the course of the summer season. The effects of this heat can show up as skin irritations, rashes, hay fever, and disrupted digestion. If you suffer from any of these, it is likely that your body has accumulated excess heat. If you can cool and release the hot, sharp qualities of summer from your body, you will enjoy the summer season more.
Thankfully, if you look to what is fresh in your area, you can cool the heat by eating what nature provides best this season.
For a list and links to healthy seasonal recipes, click here.
Here's a visual of foods to favor and foods to avoid in the summer:
Download the tip sheet here:
Vibrant Living Summer Tips
As summer heats up in your area, Ayurveda has sound advice for staying healthy through the season.
Stay Cool, Calm, Content and Hydrated.
Summer Eating Tips
Summer Living Tips
Interested in more healthy living tip sheets, go here.
Our family loves to travel. We spend most of our summers on the go visiting family out of state, camping, and traveling to Peru. We travel by foot, plane, train, bus, car, and taxi. We sleep in airports, hotels, homes, cabins, and tents. I’ve gotten good at traveling, but it hasn’t always been this way. I've always loved the stimulation of traveling – taking in new landscapes, meeting new people, tasting new foods, etc. Yet, getting a good night sleep and keeping my digestion running smooth haven't always been easy.
That’s where the strategies of yoga and Ayurveda come in. Over the years, I have cultivated an effective tool kit of strategies to keep me healthy when I travel. Now, no matter where I am on the planet, I keep my daily routine, and I incorporate strategies, foods and remedies that keeps my body-mind healthy and happy.
These are my best travel tips:
Stay hydrated. This is my number one travel tip. It’s so easy to get dehydrated while traveling. In my experience, dehydration leads to feeling ungrounded, spaced out, grumpy. Dehydration also upsets digestion. I always travel with my water bottle. If it’s cold, I travel with a thermos full of hot water. Ayurveda recommends room temperature and/or warm water rather than cold beverages for sound digestion. To feel at home, I like to travel with a few of my favorite herbal tea bags. .
Travel with nourishing and grounding food. There is nothing worse than being hungry while traveling, and there is nothing worse than being somewhere like an airport terminal or gas station convenience store with no good food choices. I love to try new foods wherever I am, but on travel days, I always bring along my own nourishing food. Fresh fruit, cut up veggies and nuts are a must. Instant oatmeal is great for early morning breakfasts on the go (simply add hot water to a thermos cup). Other options are avocados and fresh bread, par-cooked veggies or salads. To make sure I get my daily dose of greens, I like to bring along super greens powder to add to juice or water.
Support your digestion. Traveling can easily upset digestion. These are some ways I support my digestion while traveling:
Support your sleep. Do you find it hard to sleep in new places? I am a sensitive sleeper. These are the strategies I use to sleep soundly when I'm traveling:
Stick to a routine. No matter where I am, I follow the same morning and evening routine. My routine helps me feel at home wherever I am. These are habits for the morning and evening routine that will keep you grounded and centered anywhere on the planet:
Do yoga. A few poses every day while traveling will help your body feel comfortable and strong. Whether your travel includes lots of plane or car time, or lots of hiking, a few sun salutations in the morning or some supine poses in the evening will refresh, enliven and keep your body from getting stiff or sore. (Yoga on the go? Check out my free yoga resources. You can play them right from your smartphone.)
Use essential oils. Essential oils are great for travelers.
What is sattva?
In the yoga tradition, there is a beautiful word, sattva, which stands for the qualities of goodness, balance, harmony and serenity. These are the qualities that yogis aim to cultivate through their practices, and indeed the very qualities that most of us can attest to wanting more of in our lives
Sattva is one of the three gunas or elemental qualities that are described in the yogic traditional texts. The tradition describes how these three elemental qualities make up the essential aspects of nature: energy, matter and consciousness. They are:
Kama - Enjoyment or Pleasure
According to the Vedic teachings, pleasure or enjoyment is one of the 4 Aims of Life. Kama refers to the pleasure of the senses. It is both an aesthetic enjoyment and also an enjoyment of emotional connection and affection. In Vedic teachings, taking time for enjoyment is considered a responsibility of householders.
It's hot. Summer cooking can be a challenge because it's hard to feel like being in the kitchen. In the summer, I want to eat well, but spend a minimum amount of time in the kitchen. Buddha Bowls and salads are my go-to dishes for summer. They are seasonal and they will keep you cool (we don't want to ignite your pitta-heat) and satisfied.
I love to cook, and I'm an improviser. I love to search the web for new ideas and recipes and I love to see photos of tasty new dishes. Basically, I use the recipes as guides, not dogma. In this post, I'll share recipes I've enjoyed from the web and my own ideas around what else you can do to adapt them.
How to eat to as you move into spring
I recently made a video with my friend and colleague, Alexandra Epple, about how to eat as we transition from winter to spring.
Move your body. Lighten up. Reduce stagnation. Lose winter weight.
Spring is the easiest season to UP YOUR EXERCISE GAME. After the winter, your body is STRONG and ready for ENDURANCE. Physical activity improves circulation, increases heat and results in a feeling of LIGHTNESS. It’s a good time of the year to push yourself physically with a more intense workout. It’s easier to work out hard in spring than in winter.
Prioritize EXERCISING DAILY preferably first thing in the morning, outside as much as possible. Be mindful of your individual constitution with regards to exercise. Different bodies need different types of exercise. YOGA, WALKING, TAI CHI, QI GONG, JOGGING, DANCING, HIKING, and BIKING are all great forms of exercise. What kind of movement do you like?
Exercise outside in the AM if possible. Why?
Morning according to Ayurveda is governed by the Kapha (earth and water) dosha. It is a HEAVY, SLOW TIME. In the morning, the body is stiff. Blood oxygen levels are low. The body vibration is a little stagnant and dull. At the same time, your body also has a ton of potential energy from a good night’s sleep. If you get moving, you put that potential energy in motion for the rest of your day.
Move your body in the morning to build a strong vibrational field for your day and start the day feeling: LIGHT, GROUNDED, ENERGIZED, and OPEN.
5 reasons to exercise in the morning:
Spring time yoga tips:
Morning movement, make it so easy you can't say no. Try this morning yoga practice:
Want to improve your wellness this spring?
I offer complimentary 30 minute wellness strategy sessions for individuals interested in exploring their wellness. In a thirty minute session, you can expect to get clear on your health goals and take away at least one action step to get you started moving in the direction of greater wellness. Sign up for a session here.
Three months of being away = a very weedy garden
When we got back to Peru, we returned to a garden full of raspberries and weeds. We enjoyed eating the raspberries straight off and bush and adding them to smoothies, but what do I do with all that green stuff? I mean, the dandelions, thistle, plantain, and dock and more. They had three months to grow uninterrupted and were strong and mighty and prolific. A few years ago, I only saw them as ugly invasive weeds and I dug them all up and threw them onto the compost pile right away. That was before I knew about the health power of wild invasives.
Here at Vibrant Soulful, as a yogini, mother, educator and community member, I aim to serve householder yogis. By that, I mean YOU, if you you are a worker bee, wage earner, parent, family member, community member, or otherwise engaged in the marketplace of life. The path of yoga is meant to serve you in becoming more and more capable in fulfilling your roles as a householder while engaging in an authentic and fulfilling spiritual practice.
The strength of your yoga is most tested in your intimate relationships.
Many years ago, I read Judith Hanson Lasater’s book: Living Your Yoga: Finding the Spiritual in Everyday Life. In it, there is a quote that has stayed with me and that I have never forgotten:
For me, the strength of my yoga is not necessarily tested during my practice of poses or breathing techniques but in my intimate relationships. Here, my angers, attachments and fears are not so easily hidden under a mantle of denial, accomplishments or achievements.
- Judith Hanson Lasater
When I first read this quote, I wasn’t a mom, but the quote rang true. Now, I’m a mom of two teens and the quote couldn’t hit closer to home. Parent or not, intimate relationships challenge us. I may feel quite the yogini when I sit for meditation and do my pranayama practice upstairs in my bedroom, but what happens when I go downstairs and get the kids ready for school and find that they aren’t up and dressed? Do I maintain my yogic poise or do I scream?
I talk a lot about how yoga is about connections. In this post, I want to share with you my adventures with family meetings, basically how having family meetings helps us improve in communicating our emotions, needs and desires and they help us learn to support one another in our collective and individual evolution.
Enjoy a simple meditation practice to get more connected to yourself and the world around you.
Over time on the yogic path, we get more connected. Yoga and Ayurvedic practices are meant to help us connect more deeply to ourselves, to the people around us and to the earth. Practices such as this guided meditation below help us explore and connect to our inner and outer landscape,
The Yoga and Ayurveda traditions describe the Five Great Elements that make ourselves and all life and matter on this planet. These are known as the pancha mahabhutas and they represent the foundational aspects of nature and matter. They are: space, air, fire, water and earth. These elements are acknowledged and revered in traditional cultures around the world. Yogis use practices to draw on the energies of these elements to bring more balance and harmony into our lives and into the world.
In this blog, I share with you a simple meditation practice is designed to guide you into an experience these 5 elements both within you and in the world around you. This practice will leave you feeling both grounded and expansive.
To listen, simply click below.
P.S. Feel free to comment below and let me know what you think of this guided meditation practice.
I recently came back from a week in the Peruvian jungle, right on the edge of Manu National Park. It was amazing. I was enchanted by all of it: the monkeys, the birds, the insects (their form and sounds, but not their bites!), the exotic and fascinating jungle plants, the camp and fecund heat, the awe of the Amazon basin extending out beyond the confines for our lodge, and the allure of the unknown and uncharted territory beyond the river. I began the trip with all my yoga habits in check, but in the end, the jungle turned out to be the perfect disruption to my tidy yoga life.
saha nau bhunaktu
saha viryam karavavahai
tejasvi navadhitam astu
OM shanti, shanti, shanti
May we be protected together.
May we be nourished together.
May we create strength among one another.
May our study and practice be filled with brilliance and light.
May there be no hostility between us.
Om peace, peace, peace.
This is one of my favorite mantras, and one the one I most often chant when I lead a class.
This mantra is an affirmation of my commitment to learning and practicing within the context of a supportive community. I do yoga to evolve myself and to evolve humanity. I believe all humans evolve faster in a group than on our own. Plus, having community helps me stay accountable for my actions and growth. When the path is tough, I have buddies who have my back. Together we share the challenges and the gifts of our study and practice. Together we bring more light into the world.
If you’re reading this, you probably practice yoga asana or meditation either in a group class or on your own. So, I ask you, is your yoga practice a sadhana?
Sadhana is a word we throw around a lot in yoga. Let’s unpack it a bit. There are a few definitions that I find helpful:
The literal definition of sadhana as "a means of accomplishing something.”
This is a good starting place. I practice yoga as a means of accomplishing something, and I bet you do too. What do you mean to accomplish with your yoga? Think about it:
Do you want a stronger, more supple body? A clear mind? A state of steadiness and ease? Are you healing from an injury? Are you looking to manage anxiety or stress? Are you trying to focus on a project? There are many reasons many people practice and the more clear you are on your intent the more effective your practice will be.
Now, let’s look at another definition of sadhana. Sadhana can be defined as a daily spiritual practice aimed a change of consciousness – a deepening of one’s awareness of one’s self and the world.
Ah!, This definition points to another word we use a lot in yoga, svadhyaya, or self study and inquiry. We practice yoga to know ourselves more fully at root and core, so that we can become more conscious of ourselves and the world around us.
And, now my current favorite definition of sadhana. This one is from Maya Tiwari, a beautiful brahmacharini, yoga and Ayurveda teacher, author and founder of the Wise Earth School.
“Sadhana is a Sanskrit word whose root sadh means to reclaim that which is divine within us, our power to heal, serve, rejoice and uplift the spirit. Sadhana practices encompass all our daily activities, from the simple to the sublime - from cooking a meal to exploring your inner self through meditation. The goal of sadhana is to enable you to recover your natural rhythms and realign your inner life and daily habits with the cycles of the universe.”
I love this definition because it expands the usual definition of yoga practice and goes way beyond what we do on the mat. You and I both know that yoga is a way of life. The practices of yoga are as much about what we do in our workplace, in our kitchen, in our bathrooms and bedrooms and with our core peeps as they are about what we do on our mats and on our cushions.
May the offerings on this website and on this blog help you develop a true sadhana, a path of practice that helps you accomplish the things you wish to accomplish in this world, that gives you the tools to know yourself more deeply and that connects you to the rhythms of nature and the cosmos.
Interested in exploring, defining and creating your own personal sadhana? Join my Vibrant Soulful Yoga Tribe Online Membership. it goes live this week!
It’s not your typical online yoga program. Yes, you’ll get great weekly yoga asana practices, and practices that are in chunkable form that you can use anywhere!.
You’ll also get guidance in developing a toolbox of transformative practices including instruction in meditation, breathwork, chanting, intention setting, personal inquiry practices and more!
I’ve spent the past month developing the May content for this platform and I couldn’t be more pleased with how it’s turned out. I believe it is some of my best yoga teaching, and I’m thrilled that it can be shared widely and can be purchased for a really affordable monthly rate.
The May 2017 Vibrant Soulful Yoga Content includes:
Find out more here!
Morning yoga, anyone?
I practice yoga every morning. Even if I only have 10 minutes, I get on my mat to move my breath and body. This ensures that my day gets off to a good start.
I remember when I finally committed to a morning yoga practice. I had already been a yogi for many years. I knew how much better my life was when I practiced yoga regularly. (And, I knew how much worse it was when I didn’t!). But I didn’t have a regular morning practice. In fact, I rarely practiced yoga or exercised in the morning before work. I mostly practiced yoga in the evening.
I just got back from a week in Mexico. Part family vacay and part retreat. I spent several days of quality time with my kids, my parents, my sister and her family which was totally awesome. After that, I dove into four days of retreat with my Ayurveda and health coaching teacher and the tribe of yoga health coaches that I’ve been hanging out with online for the past couple of years. Nothing like a powerful group of women invested in collective evolution and co-creative leadership meeting in the flesh to catalyze deep transformation. Things went deep - fast! When folks like this show up ready to dive into their work and up-level their personal and collective vibration, big shifts can happen quickly. That’s what happened to us. It didn’t take long for us to start to show off our super powers. Sure, we were all yogis and health coaches, but among us, we discovered we were also standup comedians, masters of improv, artists, authors, storytellers, networkers, belly dancers, intuitive healers, energy workers, musicians and even a cyclops!
Do you know your Z.O.G.?
I know I’ve written about it lots already, but I’m invested in helping folks uncover and articulate their dharma, or life purpose. To do this, you have to get crystal clear on your ZOG, that is, your zone of genius. I first read about zone of genius from Gay Hendricks in his book, The Big Leap. (He didn’t call it a ZOG, but my friend Elise coined the term last week on our retreat, and I love it.) Gay Hendricks writes about the different zones in which we spend our time.
Stress all Around
We are living in stressful times. Stressors are everywhere, every day: hectic mornings, long to-do lists, power struggles with kids or partners; work commutes with traffic; discontent clients, colleagues, and bosses; long work hours; tight schedules; unpaid bills; challenging interpersonal dynamics; and so on. Maybe our parents’ generation was able to leave stress at the workplace. But, today with smart phones and social media, there are fewer boundaries and less down time. Take all of this and then add in a traumatic life event like a death of a loved one, a job loss, a divorce, or the current presidential election (if you’re a progressive like! me!) and life can seem pretty darn stressful.
You probably don’t need me to tell you that your stress is costing you BIG in terms of your physical health, mental and emotional health and in your core relationships, but just in case you’ve forgotten, I’m here to remind you that stress disrupts every major system in the body.
Chronic stress predisposes you to:
The physiological effects of just one stressful event in a day last a long time in the body. Anytime you experience a significant stressor, your body’s fight or flight response (the sympathetic nervous system) kicks in and bathes your body with cortisol and adrenaline so that you can battle the saber toothed tiger that is running toward you. But, of course, there is no saber toothed tiger, you just forgot to send off that one email. Long after your stressful experience has passed, stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol still linger in your body, wreaking havoc on your digestive system and causing inflammation.
Self Care Habits for Stress
As a health coach and yoga teacher, it’s a major mission of mine to help folks unravel their stress. Whether it’s in a yoga class or in a health coaching program, I want to help people move away from stress and toward ease.
Who are you becoming in 2017? What’s stirring in you right now? What does it feel like?
This is an exercise in naming your word for 2017. By this, I mean to name the quality that you want to be operative in your body and mind this year. If you’re not sure, I encourage you to spend some time reflecting and journaling about it. Make sure you don’t just ask your head. Ask your heart and body as well. Make sure there is agreement and integration.
To do this, close your eyes. Pause soften and breath. Release the lower half of your body into the support of the earth. Exhale down into your sits bones, your pelvis, your legs and your feet. Feel the earth beneath you. Then inhale, and draw the breath up through the central channel of the body, what yogis call the shushumna nadi. Take the breath all the way up to the crown of your head, toward the sky. Now, spend a few breath cycles moving the energy up and down the length of your spine to clear this channel. After a few rounds of breath, inhale and breath into the front of your body and feel into your individual desire to evolve and move forward in life. Then, exhale and breathe into the back side of your body. Lean back energetically, feeling into the mystery that is the universe. The universe has your back. Create an attitude and inner stance of receptivity and curiosity. Notice how you feel. Notice what is stirring in you. How is that you desire to feel in this next year? Drop that question down into your body and notice how the body responds. Let the answer bubble up without forcing it and take notice of the words that arise.
The word could be:
CLARITY, EMPOWERMENT, EASE, EXPANSION, COMPASSION, COMMUNICATION, CONNECTIVITY, HUMILITY, LEADERSHIP, WISDOM, EMPATHY, STABILITY, GROUNDEDNESS, SELF-CARE, KINDNESS… or..?
What is the word for you? Once you feel it, really feel it. Taste it. Smell it. See it. Touch it. Feel into it from a cellular level. Name it and embrace it. Write it down. Put it in a prominent place where you can see it every day.
Then, create for yourself a plan so that you can make this word truly operative.
It’s January, and I’m full of dreams and ambitions! You may say, “Why bother”, or “It’s too hard to set goals.” To that, I will quote Mary Oliver and say, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
You see, I’m not just along for the ride. I also want to be in the driver’s seat. I want to create cool stuff, cultivate satisfying relationships and design great experiences. Even if I run into obstacles, and I don’t accomplish all that I want to this year, I want to feel satisfied that I put energy into what’s most important to me.
This week, I’m re-reading The 12 Week Year by Brian Moran. It’s a productivity book that I read twice already in 2016. The book is designed to help anyone (you, me) take their goals and put them into actionable steps in a 12 week cycle. As a dreamer and big idea person, it’s not an easy read for me because it is the kind of book asks me to pinpoint and clarify my dreams, to break them down into actionable steps, and to measure my results. I tend to resist this because I’m not a numbers person, and I enjoy day-dreaming. But I know what I want to do with my wild and precious life and I have figured out that dreams take planning. This book makes me show up for myself and put my dreams into action. So, I’m re-reading it and I’m putting together my annual calendar of projects and my 12 week plan for the first quarter of the year.
What will you make come alive in 2017? I'd love to hear your big and audacious goals!
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman
A NEW YEAR’S RITUAL:
Ever since I was young, I have always loved ringing in the New Year. It has always been a special and potent time for reflecting on my past and envisioning my future. As a kid, I always enjoyed the ritual of writing New Year’s resolutions. As a yogi, this ritual has morphed into what I call Dharma Re-Alignment exercise.
The word dharma comes from Sanskrit, and it refers to your unique purpose and passion in life. The Dharma Re-Alignment Exercise is an opportunity to get clear on who I am, who I am becoming, what I stand for, and where I want to put my time and energy. I created this exercise as an opportunity for me to reflect on the essential nature of my being, a way of owning who I am and who I have become, a means of acknowledging my gifts and challenges, and a way to align to these as I take aim for the New Year. The understanding is that I am not the same as I was twelve months ago. Thank God! Hopefully I have evolved. That is the point! Hopefully I have learned and grown from the past year and have acquired new gifts and skills to take with me into the New Year.
You see, dharma is dynamic. I am and you are in a state of evolution. We are works in progress. Even as I still feel myself to be the same person that I have always been, I have been growing and changing during the last year, and my identity has shifted some. My desire is to be in a co-creative relationship with the Universe. I have come to strongly believe that the Universe has my back and is conspiring for my evolution, and the best thing I can do for myself and for the planet is to cooperate with this and figure out who I am and live this on purpose.
If this resonates with you, then I invite you to join me in a new year's exercise to clarify what is making you come alive in 2017.
Download the written exercise here:
Listen to audio to be guided through this lesson here:
If you like this exercise, share the love!
Here is a short and simple guide to help you eat better this holiday season. If you follow these simple guidelines, you will feel better in your body, put on less pounds and be less likely to get sick!
Wishing you and yours the happiest and healthiest of holidays!
I’m writing a series of blog posts on Radical Self Care: Become Your Own Best Care-giver! In my last post, in honor of the Day of the Dead, I wrote about how we learn self-care and care-giving from our own care-givers. In the next few post, I will write about how Ayurveda views self-care.
In Ayurveda, there are 3 main ways we fall into dis-ease. My teacher of Ayurveda, Cate Stillman, has written about these three causes of disease in her blog: How to Sink Your Ship (Ayurveda and the Three Causes of Disease) published by Banyan Botanicals. In this series of blog posts, I’ll unpack each cause and discuss how understanding this can help you orient toward better self-care.
According to Ayurveda, the first way that we way we fall into disease is: prajna parada, or making negligent choices.
Educator, certified health coach, educator and yoga instructor.
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