Mindfulness Meditation – 7 Steps to Forgiveness

I created this Mindfulness Meditation on Forgiveness for myself and anyone else who feels ready to feel more calm, release distracting resentments, embrace compassion and drop the “blame game”. In order to become more emotionally healthy and present, I have committed to 30 days of meditative practices like this to Restore body and mind well being on a regular basis. Each step of my 30 day Plan has been a short (15 minutes or less) practice to “reboot” body mind and spirit. Should be easy, for a Yoga teacher, right? Yes…and no. Being accountable to self renewal can seem daunting when I’m teaching others, caring for family, need a “refresh” button as moods, regimes and seasons change, etc. Being able to forgive is yet another layer!
Letting go of adding resentment and judgment to challenging and unpleasant situations is a Mindfulness technique that, while requiring focus, does help me reduce stress and boost my clarity. It takes practice, and as a teacher and mother, I have deep compassion for myself and others when we can’t “get there” to Yoga…or Forgiveness quite yet. But isn’t it worth the try? Complete detachment isn’t my goal; I’m practicing staying centered even when the going gets tough.

This Mindfulness Meditation on Forgiveness has 7 Steps and was really born out of my Yoga practice. It combines well with Legs up the wall Yoga pose but if you have a heart condition or can’t access the wall or get on the ground just try lying down and supporting your knees with a pillow.
Why Forgiveness? When you feel a mistake has been made, the “Thinking Mind” often reacts and the “Blame game” ensues. This is a distraction reaction and may pull you out of the present moment where calm and clarity can heal. You can regain mental focus through “mantras” or affirmations, relaxation and gentle breathing. Keep coming back to your Breathing as your emotions and thoughts surge without judgement. Repeatedly commit to relaxing and clearing your “Thinking Mind” and let go of your inner critic as you recite the Forgiveness meditation “mantras”.
Here’s the How to in 7 Steps:

1) Find yourself a comfortable pose like legs up the wall, or put a pillow under your knees in order to get very relaxed as you practice this meditation.
You may need to read this over and be prepared to use these “mantras” a few times to foster the seeds of Forgiveness. You may also use these in the “heat” of the moment – I find that I’m not always meditating when a mistake or mishap occurs:)

Viparita Karani or "Legs up the wall Yoga Pose"

Viparita Karani or “Legs up the wall Yoga Pose”


2) Bring your attention to the physical sensation of breathing, noting whatever movement your breathing is making. What body part most grabs your attention? Feel whatever you’re feeling now, and without judgment, bringing your attention back to the rising and falling and movement of your breath in the Present Moment. Just FEEL your body gently like a leaf feels water as it floats.

3) Picture something that comes to mind that you blame or judge yourself or another for. You may not have to try hard to picture it if you’re upset and the feelings may be strong. Maybe you feel regret, or irritation, anger or sadness. Notice how it feels – where does your body tighten as you bring it to mind. It’s normal: Our mind naturally holds onto instances where we feel mistakes were made by ourself or others.

4) Focus on one or all of these three “mantra” phrases, EVEN IF IT FEELS FALSE TO “say it”. A Mantra is a word or phrase that sets your intention and redirects your mind.

Forgiveness Focus Mantras:
“I forgive and accept myself
for making mistakes.”
“I forgive myself completely in this present moment.”

BREATHE AND ALLOW YOUR BODY TO RELAX AS YOU REPEAT THE PHRASES…

4) Repeat the Mantras: Gently bring your attention back again and again like you would sweep a strand of hair away from your face and….repeat the phrases.For a few moments just use these mantras as a focus for your attention and repeat them at least 3 – 10 times.

5) Whatever happens its OK. The “Thinking Mind” likes to judge and may chatter about the incident repeatedly. When you find yourself losing focus, or forgetting to breathe, without judging yourself, come back and focus on the Present Moment breathing body. Allow yourself to forgive yourself or the other person if you can. If you can’t “get there” to Forgiveness now, know that this mental and physical Reset will foster Well being and reduce the effect of any resentments on your Body and Mind.

6) Try a Quick Version – One Minute Forgiveness Anywhere Meditation. No Yoga Mat needed.
Things happen, sometimes so fast that we actually NEED to react.
There may be experiences that are or were entirely wrong or traumatic or that concretely require our attention or action.
I am inviting us to act from as clear a mind as possible and avoiding taking on “extra baggage” of shame and blame. This doesn’t mean you can’t dissect your or another’s performance or actions. I find that repetitive resentment feelings take away my mental clarity and tense my body up. As you’ve no doubt experienced, mental distraction can make the situation worse for you than the mistake itself.
*One Minute Forgiveness Anywhere Meditation: Pick the phrase above that connects most for you and repeat it as you remember to breathe.
Try using these additional mantras in the Present Moment when you or someone else had made a mistake:
“I will not accept your act but I forgive you for your mistake.”
“I forgive myself (and or you) in this Present Moment for making a mistake.
”
“I forgive and accept myself even though this action affected me.

THE MOST IMPORTANT TECHNIQUE YOU CAN USE IS TO SIMPLY RETURN IN THE PRESENT MOMENT TO YOUR BREATHING, AND RELAX THE “THINKING MIND”.

7) Compassion is the Key.
Practices of this kind can be quite challenging.
Be compassionate with yourself. It’s ok and normal to have strong feelings, and to react when we or someone else makes a mistake. We are practicing these Mindfulness techniques to better cope and to stay more consistently clear and focused.
When you feel forgiveness does not come easily, try self-compassion.
On each in-breath, notice and accept whatever you feel. On each out-breath, as you would for a close friend, offer yourself compassion, or strength, or whatever first comes to mind.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean being passive or not taking action. It doesn’t mean standing down when we need to protect ourselves or someone else from harm.
Do what needs to be done—that might mean taking a pause, settling the mind, and trying to see things as clearly as possible before taking skillful action.

I continue to practice meditation, present moment Breathing, and the other pieces of my Restore plan as they powerfully enhance my Well being. Doing a Plan has helped me recommit to self care. I practice these Mindfulness techniques regularly, over and over again *when I can*, just like I brush my teeth every day. I do forgive myself for not meditating – or flossing as often as I should:)!
I invite you to Mindfully forgive and let go of whatever holds you back.

IMMUNE BROTH TIME!

It is that time!  Winter has set in, and it is a perfect time to be drinking broth and doing cozy yoga:)  Tonight in my Mindfulness Yoga class I will be teaching deep abdominal breathing and Restorative poses that bring circulation to the deep core.   Personally I benefit from this kind of practice (even when I’m not remodeling) as it slows my mind and keeps my nervous and immune systems in balance.

Here is my Immune Broth recipe that I’ve developed over time for myself, my family and friends and clients.  It works!  Enjoy the warmth:)

 

How to be an Amazing Beginner at Yoga

Have you ever wondered what yoga is like?  Have you heard the”buzz” about yoga and thought, “could I do that”?  If the answer has been, “Nah”, then please read on!  Have you ever held back from a yoga class because you couldn’t see yourself as either strong enough, flexible enough, calm enough or you just plain didn’t want to wear those yoga pants?  This can happen even if you’re not a beginner.

There are many reasons NOT to do something new; especially something fairly different as yoga.  There are a LOT of reasons TO try yoga and I’d like to tell you just one.  After years of teaching and practicing yoga, studying the body and holistic healing, and just plain managing life, this one reason stands out.  Our world is not getting more complex and we have an epidemic of need for connection on a body, mind and soul level.  What the ancients knew was that going inside and practicing mindfness of our breath and body position is a great way to find balance.  We are experiencing a global trend of such rapid change that this ancient practice of yoga has become modern medicine for the isolation, inflammation and challenges we regularly experience.

But there’s one problem: you still have to try it.  Practice body awareness and it will work.  If your inner voice is curious and you think you’d like to try yoga, you just need to get past the reasons not to do it and consider the reasons to venture out.  You don’t have to wear those yoga pants if you don’t want to, and you don’t have to be flexible, calm or strong.  What you do need to do is give yourself complete permission to see yourself doing something new.  That’s hard to do; how do you imagine yourself doing something that you’ve never done?  It’s harder than ever to make time for something that seems so…. (fill in the blank with your perception).  The good news is that there are a lot of yoga opportunities around!

If you choose to try yoga, find a beginner friendly yoga class taught by an experienced teacher.  There are SO many types of yoga; what type is best for a beginner?  There’s no one best type.  This means that you need to ask around and find a referral for the teacher who will know how to adapt the practice to your individual needs no matter what style of yoga is being practiced.  The word Yoga means connection.  Connecting to the present moment, to your body – and to your breath most importantly.   There are different poses and breathing methods for different issues, times of day, ages, body types, injuries, etc.  Your journey will truly start with just a taste of asanas (or poses/positions).  Later you can progress to a full yoga dinner party.  You just have to be willing to be an asana appetizer for awhile.

If you are new to yoga, there is probably a part of you that longs to feel powerful, energized and is just plain hungry for a taste of what yoga medicine can feel like – you may want to skip right to dessert.    If, at first, you try yoga and feel uncoordinated, it’s hard to breathe like the teacher describes, or you aren’t sure if you’re doing it right, then it’s time to congratulate yourself; YOU ARE DOING JUST FINE!  Remember that part about being at the appetizer stage?  We all set incredible expectations on ourselves; if the mind wasn’t so tranced out with distractions and judgements, we wouldn’t need yoga in the first place to achieve the centering we need.

Perhaps it’s time to imagine your own personal version of a yoga superhero – in costume, of course!  If being honest with yourself is one step toward being an Amazing Beginner at Yoga, and then having a sense of humor will help.  My imaginary yoga super heroine “La Maraba!” has a bright mucha lucha mask, a purple silk cape and a golden wand that magically washes away all doubt.  Make up your own!  Most importantly, make an agreement with yourself that you will stay true to what is right for you; no matter what other Yoga Superhero’s do, say or teach; even “La Maraba”!  As an Amazing Beginner, you may not know what is right for you yet but your body will tell you; listen in.

Stay tuned for the next installment of being an Amazing Beginner, and in the mean time: find an instructor that is well trained, caring and zeroes in on your particular needs.  Have fun and don’t forget to wear your favorite costume:)  After all, you don’t have to do anything special; just choose to start from where you are.

Rededicated and inspired to the core!

It seems to happen every year about this time.  Around our family’s biggest birthday month, the calendar fills to overflowing albeit all with good things.  The end of the school year is fast approaching and the season is changing from spring to summer.  That means three things: busy, change and heat.  Not an easy combination.maraba hoop

One of my clients has asked me to write about being a beginner in yoga (I’ll post more on that later) and this is one of the reasons I recommend yoga: it is a great tool to deal with life’s inevitable swings.  Yoga helps keep me grounded during wacky times and when practiced from a breath and core focus, leaves me feeling strong in my center and more empowered to take on challenges without taking on too much (super easy to do).  That doesn’t mean I don’t feel the stress or that I am “above it all” or that I’m cured.  It  just means that this self-care tool works for me if I practice regularly.

As the kids schedule starts to blow up, my private teaching practice (and my husband’s work) are filled and flowing, and I begin to have to really choose to recommit to my disciplines of self-care.  I’ve learned that I need to take time to pray, belly breathe, clean out, get more organized and stay flexible – especially about last minute teacher gift plans, summer camps….and belly breathe some more.  Getting ready for a big transition like having a child graduate, marking the loss of a loved one, or just preparing for summer’s juggling act is enough to make this yoga teacher need her own yoga big time!  No surprise that during this time of outward focus, I start to feel a bit uninspired when it comes to my own yoga practice and I begin to need a recharge.

Rededication to my own personal yoga came last night in the form of a friend’s awesome Hoop Dance Birthday party.  The class was fun and hilarious with lots of laughter yoga as we tried to lift ourselves onto hanging hoops, balance and do poses like “amazon”.  Most importantly, the Hoop movements woke up core muscles and deep belly breath; two of the aspects of my yoga practice that leave me feeling the most energized, inspired and rejuvenated (yay!).  I’m not sure if I’ll be hanging a hoop in my yoga therapy office right away but I definitely felt more motivated to roll out my mat this morning (bigger yahoo!).

One of my fave teachers, Sadie Nardini calls the deep breathing into the core “belly bonfire breath” as this type of breathing wakes up the deep core muscles and tones and reinvigorates the organs – good way to move out what we don’t need and reduce the baggage of stress.  Belly breathing warms you on the inside and keeps you feeling cooler in general.  A student of mine claims that her elimination has never been better.  That is healing transformation from the inside out!  Hanging off a dangling hoop, I couldn’t help but relax as I focused on form and breath and the smiles and giggles coming from me and all the gals beside me.

It was a strong combination of two of the strongest healers I know: community and yoga:)  I am so grateful and can’t wait to try it again.  Pics to come.  Hope this post inspires you to rededicate to your practice and your belly breathing!  Have fun today and find a way to recharge with your favorite tune-in tool!

These are the yogis in my neighborhood!

kids lyingKeeping it local and organic is what Austin is all about, right?  After much searching for a place to teach very close to home where my students and I could feel inspired and supported, I found a buddhist/yoga studio a few blocks away right here in our very own Zilker.  Yay!  One of my students/Zilker mom friends requested that “it HAS to be walking distance from the school, so I can drop my kid off and come take your class…or take your class and easily walk over to pick up.”  Because I have an on-going private practice as well, I needed to be available to my standing clients and avoid driving out of the area.   I’ve taught the first class of the 8 week series and loved seeing the Zilker parents from my neighborhood looking up at me during Apanasana (vital air pose).  That’s what we ALL need to do during this SOLA construction; Keep Breathing More Vital Air!  I’m so grateful for the support and encouragement of my neighbors, students, friends and family.  My goal is to stay out of my car and on the yoga mat, to share my gift of teaching and love with others, and to do it all right here in my neighborhood.   We can’t all work from home but what would it look like if we could develop South Lamar so that we stayed closer to home for many if not all of our life needs?  What more could we discover about our neighbors if we kept it all local?  Looking at the sweet faces in class on Tuesday, I thought, “These are the Yogis in my neighborhood!” (cue Mr. Rogers theme).  I think it’s a good place to start.

Flu Shots? Make Soup!!

Holistic health has been my interest, academic pursuit and lifestyle of choice since my first year of college.  After experiencing some tough life lessons (such as ‘no, kraft mac and cheese really isn’t the best food to eat on a daily basis’).   I went to California and became one of “those” Yoga studying, Deep Breathing, Juice drinking types.  Very fortunately, I was able to study with some fabulous wise and learned teachers in San Francisco; primarily Donna Farhi – my first Yoga teacher, whose exacting and dynamic style that emphasized the inner body and inner inquiry still informs my teaching and practice of asana and movement today.  I was also able to take incredible Holistic Health courses at SFSU in my undergrad, including Qi Gong, Meditation techniques, and Wellness in Aging from professors who were professionals in their fields and based their work on solid research and science.  These courses, along with the Physical Therapy coursework in my program, helped shape my approach to health and well-being as an integrative, body-based approach.  Body, Mind and Spirit being interconnected was a concept that made sense to me but I certainly had a mostly academic understanding of this idea. I practiced A LOT of yoga but didn’t have a very balanced diet or lifestyle.  I did learn the Pilates Method from the incredible Madeline Black, who emphasized that Joe Pilates developed his exercise regime to heal his lungs and improve his immune system.  My fascia and core were in great shape but my periods were a wreck!  Back then, I knew that belly breathing and core strength could keep me healthy and I knew that certain foods worked better than others for me but I was like a collector of information that needed “digesting”.  My life was forever changed when I experienced the cooking of Simran Kaur, a chef, meditator and one of the most amazing women I have ever met.  She was a foodie before foodies were cool.  She took Macrobiotics and made it fun – and easy!  Simran showed me how my emotions, hormonal and immune system (among many other benefits) could be strengthened by eating “con gusto”; with pleasure and enjoyment; with less rules, more savoring and definitely more joy.  It revolutionized my approach to eating for health. But…. I was still eating waaaaay too much fruit and raw salad and wondering why I was always cold and low energy when I met my husband who cooked for me on our second date.   The meal was so sumptuous and yet simple; steamed chicken and steamed vegetables.  I felt like Sheena after that meal – for many reasons:)  My training in Oriental Medicine only reinforced this idea that the warmer and happier you are on the inside, the stronger your defenses are on the outside.  One of the most amazing teachers I have ever had was my Eastern Nutritional Energetics teacher, Dr. Lisa Wilson, who managed to help us learn about how to implement an individualized Holistic diet for healing while keeping a sense of humor and unconditional acceptance towards ourselves and the patients with whom we work.  Eating fresh, in season, whole foods in accordance with your individual constitution is ONE key to wellness.  Being rigid is not.  When I first began to work on my relationship with food, I experienced how much my diet affected EVERYTHING.  It was easy to become very detail oriented (“crazy!”).  Eventually, life changes, choices, foods, and moods, together with the passing seasons, tidal daily energies, and the needs of  the young souls around me necessitated that I get back to basics, get organized and plan!   Although there is no “right” way to eat, having a meal plan and good recipe ideas that inspire and appeal to me and my family makes the cooking and eating process a whole lot easier.  Less scrambling and More Yoga!  I find great food blogs and books and share ideas with other like minded folks around me; which is part of what food is meant to do; bring folks together.  Being an “airy” sort of constitution, I do best with warm, protein rich meals.  Eating soups and stews seems to keep the bugs away, keeps me grounded, and is a great way to show those around me that I care.   I have had many soup mentors along the way.  I once learned how to make a wonderful Miso soup from my rocker girl roommate who cooked a giant batch whenever any of us got a cold.  Thank you, Leslie for the original probiotic soup!  My acupuncturist Lifang Liang, in San Francisco, always said; “cook soup now!… and you won’t need makeup” and after cooking enough soup, my whole hormonal system normalized; much better than blush and mascara, believe me.  Dr. Lisa showed me how to make bone broth to stave off flu and weakness and as a way to make other foods more nutrient rich and I share this technique with all my friends and clients.  So many people are asking, “Should I get a Flu shot?!”   That is individual choice, but either way, I say,  “Cook Soup Now!”.  And come to Yoga class!  I am offering some great new group classes in a wonderful Zilker Zen healing arts studio so please check my schedule out on the Classes page.  Stay well, and enjoy.

What Would Dog Do?

If you are a seasoned Yogi, Down Dog is something you’ve done quite often.  If you are new to Yoga, or even if you’ve done a million Dog Poses, you might be asking, “What does a Downward Dog do anyway?”.  “What am I supposed to feel, and do to get it “right”?”.  Adho Mukha Svanasana, or Downward Facing Dog Pose is technically a forward bend (but a very active and slightly upside down one) and is meant to create head to tail lengthening (called “axial extension” in the anatomy world).  As my teacher put it, “the softer your joints, the lighter you’ll feel”, and in this pose it is especially true that slightly bending the knees and elbows can free you up to relax more into the pose.  This is a hard pose!  A great way to enter into this doggy experience is not on the mat but while you are in the kitchen (believe it or not).  Try reaching your arms out in front of you first and draw the arm bones into your shoulder sockets and feel the “armpit” muscles” engage.  Then place hands on the counter and lengthen back into a table top position with your spine; with feet under hips and soft knees; inner thighs toned up.  It is a challenge to let go of the shoulder muscles – even at the best of times.  Try releasing your neck and shoulders when all your weight is balanced between arms and hips.  When you do Down Dog on the mat, you bend over, place your hands and feet about 4 feet away from each other, and lift your hips up and back (as in “wag the tail”).  It feels really good to let the head snake out of the shoulders like a turtle out of it’s shell.  Your shoulder blades draw up onto your ribs when your engage your “serape” muscles; the muscles that wrap around you from your sides and “tie” into your belly.  Try keeping the elbows (and knees) soft, slightly bent as I mentioned; it makes it easier to play with the shoulder blades and get them to lift off the neck.  There’s a tendency in this pose to lock out and try too hard.  Put your effort into pressing the front arch of the hands and all 5 fingers firmly into the mat and deepen the breath into the ribs.  When you exhale, imagine a gurney around your center pulling you up and let your belly be the force that “suspends” your weight.  As you inhale, expand the ribs (and low belly) and open the waist.  Your exhale can “squeeze” the ribs and engage your core from all sides.  Yes, this will tone you up!  Yes, this pose stretches the hamstrings.  Yes, it is a good pose for energizing and waking up your energy.  It is also a great detox pose.  But use caution if you have any shoulder, wrist, neck, heart, eye, sinus or headache conditions as this is an inverted pose.  Check in with a trained teacher.  Check in with your inner teacher.  You have one!  Always keep checking in with your breath; is it getting too rapid or restrained?  Slow the breath down and exhale through your mouth to cool off and “chill out” a bit.  Feel free to to come down and rest with hips over heels and chest over thighs or on “all fours” as you need to re-group occasionally in this pose.  What if your “Dog” did yoga?  What Would Dog Do?  Doggies naturally shake!  Shake out tension and swivel side to side.  Keeping your Down Dog Pose fluid will not only release joint, muscle and nerve tension, it will also maximize detoxification, lymphatic return, fascial release, and enjoyment!  This will enable you to find that “happy place” in your pose.  The sweet spot in your Adho Mukha Svanasana is when you can take an easy breath (or a few) and lengthen from head to tail, even while you stay playful. What Would Dog Do?  Sniff….Pant….Streeeetch…..Rest.