february 2012 newsletter
practices of the month: radical acceptance and e-prime
As we pass through the final weeks of winter and prepare for Spring’s arrival, it’s a perfect opportunity to observe what’s going on in our own foundation: the buried thoughts, beliefs and habits that might be blocking us from true change and growth at the deepest levels. A fantastic mental practice to explore these patterns is the use of E-Prime. Based on Korzybski’s theories of semantics and belief, basic E-Prime involves avoiding use of all forms of the verb “to be”: in other words, “That tree is beautiful” might become “I like this tree,” or “This tree makes me feel joy,” while “It’s 10:30” might become “My watch says 10:30.” Practice of E-Prime is an amazingly simple, yet profound tool for making it clear how subjective or belief-based our daily reality really is – - and thus opening us up to how many more possibilities we have. *While not a traditional form of E-Prime, I also highly recommend playing with removing the word “should” from your communication, and seeing what opportunities lie underneath it when you remove the judgments or criticisms, and see what other words or truths take their place.*
The complementary practice to E-Prime, which could be considered a form of active meditation, might be the mindfulness meditation form known as Radical Acceptance. This too involves removing all judgment and criticism from your observations (“This is good; that’s bad”; “This is right; that’s wrong”) and simply acknowledging: “This is”; “this is not”; “I feel / think this.” Though it may seem ironic, actually accepting what is is often the first step to growth and change – we cannot move forward until we see where we are now. Again, while a simple practice, Radical Acceptance can bring remarkable ease and freedom to being present moment by moment and really experiencing our lives, our thoughts and our selves.
put some sun in your belly
Many of you ask for ideas about healthy treats, and late winter is a great time of the year to shift the energy toward lightness and brightness by switching up your snacks. Two of my current favorites are Green Smoothies and Homemade Protein Bars – - both are quick, easy and guaranteed to help you rise and shine!
“Drive my dead thoughts over the universe / Like wither’d leaves to quicken a new birth!… O Wind, If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?” (P.B. Shelley)
january 2012 newsletter
practices of the month: abhangya and ujjayi pranayama
In our Western world, there is so much emphasis on accomplishment and effort, and often not so much support for support – the self-care and love we need to make it through our challenges and changes. In winter’s vata our stores of ojas, the nurturing force that keeps us stable and healthy, and tejas, the fire that keeps us bright and clear, get depleted and taking a little time to refuel is what’s needed. To rebuild your inner warmth in a way that’s still gentle and soothing, try Ujjayi pranayama; to reground and relax, Abhangya, sesame oil massage. These two classic winter practices are the energetic equivalent of giving yourself a good, long hug.
To practice Ujjayi, first inhale through the nose and then exhale out the mouth, making a gentle “HAAAAAAAAA” sound, as if you were trying to fog a mirror or see your breath in the cold air outside. Do this until you become comfortable with the feeling, drawing the breath through the throat, and sound, like an echo or the ocean, of this exhale. Then try to find the same sound and feeling on the inhale too (now it’s as if that mirror is behind your head). Once this is consistent and easy, keeping that same feeling and sound, bring your lips together. Ujjayi increases the length and heat of the breath, increasing its detoxifying properties, and gives your mind a soothing place to land and quiet as you fully experience the length, feeling and sound of your breath. Note: Keep the breath long and smooth and the action of Ujjayi in the throat gentle – no strain! Forcing this breath will dilute its healing properties.
Rebuilding ojas, the nurturing force at the root of Kapha dosha, will improve everything from the quality of your skin to the quality of your sleep. Abhangya, or sesame oil self-massage, is a healing treat whose benefits are immediate and long-lasting. This practice takes 20-30 minutes, but committing some time and space to self-care is part of why it works! Warm a cup or two of raw sesame oil. Sit comfortably on a large towel, giving yourself some space to stretch out. Beginning from the scalp and moving down to the feet, gradually massage the oil into your skin on all parts of your body, using long strokes on the limbs, circular strokes on the joints, and gentle clockwise circles on the heart and belly. Allow some quiet time to allow the oil to absorb fully – sit and rest, or try a few gentle poses (be careful, you’ll be a little slippy!) before rinsing off.
“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” (M. Berle)
december 2011 newsletter
practices of the month: viparita karani and gratitude practice
Yoga offers so many simple ways to refill ourselves with prana and happiness when those resources feel overdrawn. Two excellent options for the holiday season are Viparita Karani and Gratitude Practice: conscious attention to what we are thankful for. This recent NYTimes article on the manifold benefits of gratitude practice has been getting plenty of attention – but yogis aren’t surprised! Focusing on what’s good in our lives not only brings immediate feelings of happiness and luck, it also increases overall kindness, patience and resilience in times of stress. Whether it’s a simple list of 5 things you are thankful for in your life, or meditating on a source of good fortune, awareness of your blessings can guide you through the holidays with a little more bliss and ease.
One of our greatest blessings is the body that carries us through the world. So if you’ve been on your feet at one too many holiday parties or Weihnachtsmarkts, thank your body with Viparita Karani or Legs up the Wall Pose, a classic Restorative pose which can be practiced without any props or fuss – all you need is some floor and a wall, chair or bed! Sit sideways by a wall (or use a chair or bed if legs or back are very tight / tense), with one hip next to the wall or support. Lie back and turn to face the wall or support as you do, bringing your back onto the ground and your legs up the wall (or lower legs resting on bed or the seat of the chair). Resting here 5-15 minutes allows all the muscles, tissues and fluid systems of the lower body to release toxins and tension, while also bringing energy, support and release to the heart and head. *It’s a passive inversion, so come out of the pose very slowly, resting on your side to let your body adjust first. Prop up the heart and head at a supported angle and rest feet or calves on a chair or bed for an easy prenatal variation, or if there’s any reason you shouldn’t fully invert.*
“Everyone, in the course of performing their daily business, is in fact walking through a vast world, and is ever so slightly altering that world simply by appearing in it.” (M. Cunningham)