“The lotus is the most beautiful flower, whose petals open one by one. But it will only grow in the mud. In order to grow and gain wisdom, first you must have the mud — the obstacles of life and its suffering. … The mud speaks of the common ground that humans share, no matter what our stations in life. … Whether we have it all or we have nothing, we are all faced with the same obstacles: sadness, loss, illness, dying and death. If we are to strive as human beings to gain more wisdom, more kindness and more compassion, we must have the intention to grow as a lotus and open each petal one by one. ” ~~ Goldie Hawn

lotus
Picture courtesy of Kate Goodyear Yoga)

What a month April has been for me! I talked in my last post about some big changes I’d experienced, and after that post I had two more doosies.

The first big one was that I started a new job. This was a very big deal for me because I’ve never left a company before except for because I was moving away and couldn’t stay where I was. This time, I am staying right where I am in terms of location but have made the leap to a brand-new company. It was such a scary decision for me, but so far, I am so glad I have decided to take the chance.

The second big one just happened on Friday (4/29/2016). My beloved dog Ripley made her way to the Rainbow Bridge, after a year-long battle with cancer. We knew it was coming, and yet, I was caught so off-guard. It seemed like it happened too quick! Here she is, just a few days before she passed (if you look at her hind end, you can see just a few of the tumors that have been plaguing her for all these months).

Ripley_042016

Though my heart is breaking, I know that she is now free of pain and that we made the right decision to let her go. The last thing I want to do is keep her around just for me, forcing her to continue suffering so much.

All this change, both good and bad, got me thinking about the story of the lotus. It’s one of the most beautiful flowers in the world and opens one petal at a time, but only grows in the mud. I love Goldie Hawn’s take on it, quoted above.

As humans, we experience a variety of suffering in our lives — illness, loss, sadness, death — that represent the mud, so to speak. But it’s how we handle these things — this “mud” — which determines how beautifully we grow. If we can take these things and learn from them, and use them to help us deal with the next bit of mud thrown at us, then the next beautiful petal opens and grows.

Referring to this story has helped me find a bit of peace, as I’ve struggled in dealing with a heaping ton of mud lately! I know that I need to step back, find the lesson in each thing, and determine the path I will take to move forward.

In yoga class this month, we’ll be focusing on extending our poses to the fullest expression we can for our own individual bodies. My students typically have a challenging time with forward folding, and I teach primarily Restorative, Yin and Deep Stretch classes. So we will be spending some quality time exploring our folds, working on ensuring our hamstrings and low back areas are dealing with “the mud” in such a way that we can let that next petal open up.

My wish for each of you this month is to take a look at the mud in your life.  What are the obstacles you are dealing with? What can you do to gain the wisdom, compassion and kindness needed to deal with them?

Doing the work is not always easy, but it’s necessary. Find comfort in knowing that everyone deals with these things at many points throughout their lives, so you are not alone. Reach out to your tribe, your community, your people. Confide in them, ask for advice, let them carry you when you need it. You’ll be surprised just how beautifully all your petals will open and bloom once you do.

Namaste,

Melanie

“Growth is painful. Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong.” – Mandy Hale

“IN THE END… We only regret the chances we didn’t take, the relationships we were afraid to have, and the decisions we waited too long to make.” – Lewis Carroll

How many of you out there in Blogland take chances on a regular basis? I bet many of us would say yes, thinking of things like trying new restaurants, trying a new food, checking out a new TV show. But what about BIG chances? Things like moving to a new state (or a new country), getting back into the dating game after a long time away, accepting a new job, starting a whole new career? I’m going to guess that many of you would say you’re not quite THAT brave!

Truthfully, I have to admit that I usually fall in the camp of not taking chances. Not the big ones, anyway. I call it the “Why rock the boat?”, or the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. Sound familiar? Am I the only one?

Bueller? Bueller? (OK, only you fans of 80s movies will understand that reference.)

Image result for ferris bueller

Well, this past month, I really turned things around and have taken quite a few chances. Big ones! Here’s just a sampling:

  • I mentioned in my last post about how I’d joined a wonderful group of ladies, where our purpose was to better ourselves. Through a variety of daily online challenges, I stepped outside of my comfort zone on several occasions, sharing things I would NEVER have thought I’d share with people I just met, many of whom I only knew virtually through this group. I can remember how queasy my stomach got a few times, thinking, “Should I share this? Are they going to think I’m a freak?!” But every time, I swallowed the fear and went for it, and I gotta tell ya…it felt so FREEING! Each and every time I shared something super personal, it was like a weight had lifted. AND, it connected me with women I didn’t know prior, and I feel like I’ve formed some new friendships, ones that will last the test of time. And these ladies trusted ME with their stuff, too…that is an amazing feeling, to know that someone is trusting me with their deepest emotions. It makes me feel like I’m holding on to something precious…and I am…trust is so, SO precious!
  • I’ve probably mentioned before in posts how much I enjoy teaching yoga to those who are dealing with limitations, injuries and illness. After all, it’s helped me so much with each of these things, and I want to share what I know and help others. Too many times, when we’re experiencing one or more of these things and go to a group class, we feel very out of place because we need so much special attention. And if you’re like me, you end up just not going at all because you don’t want to be “that” person, the one who holds everything up and slows the class down because you need help. Well, my lovely friend, Michele, has been teaching a special class on Sundays for a while now. It’s called “Restorative Yoga for Healing and Wellbeing”, and it is specifically for those suffering from illness, injuries or limitations. After a lovely girls’ lunch with Michele, she asked if I’d be interested in taking it over, as she just has so much on her plate right now. I felt honored she would think of me, as that means she is entrusting me to take care of students who have now become a second family to her. I didn’t hesitate at all…I said yes right away. I surprised myself, to be honest. I’ve taught to special needs people before, but usually one-on-one, in a private session. But THIS…this will mean I have to cater to a whole variety of conditions all at once. Which means I’ll have to let go of my OCD-like need to make every class feel like it’s flowing with a kick-ass playlist. I envision myself running around throughout this class, making sure everyone has the props they need so they don’t hurt themselves. Sure, I can do all that and still maintain a relaxing and calm atmosphere…right? Right?(Bueller? Bueller?…)

There’s one other BIG one, but it’s not one I can share publicly just yet. I’ll cover that one in my next post. I promise.

I’ve mentioned in prior posts how chaotic things can get when change comes about. And let’s face it…most of the time, when you take a chance with something new, you’re going to experience change. It’s inevitable. When the time comes and you decide it’s time to take a chance, I think it’s important to do the things you need to do in order to stay grounded. If you don’t, then the chaos (or the “swirl”, as I sometimes refer to it) can overtake and overwhelm you. If you let that happen, you’re more likely to fail, or worse yet, you’re more likely to avoid taking chances in the future.

I know I usually only post one quote in each of my posts, but the two I’ve included up above just spoke so profoundly to me, I had to use both of them. They literally made me tear up when I heard them, as they were spoken at exactly the moment I needed to hear them. And hearing them let me know that these chances I’m taking are worth it. And they also reminded me that without taking these chances, I’ll continue to feel “stuck” and unable to grow.

Anywho, to deal more effectively with all this swirl that is here now, and the swirl that is yet to come, I’ll be focusing on yoga poses and techniques that stimulate the Root (Muladhara) Chakra. This is the chakra that, when balanced, helps us feel grounded, safe and connected to the earth. When it’s out of balance, fear takes over and wreaks havoc…we become suspicious of others, indecisive, overwhelmed, and overly dependent on others. And who wants THAT? Not me!

Some poses I’ll be including in my practice regularly while I am dealing with all the swirl are:

  • Easy Seated Pose (Sukhasana)
  • Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana 1)
  • Triangle (Trikonasana)
  • Grounded Airplane (Virabhadrasana III variation)
  • Balancing Half Moon (Ardha Chandrasana)
  • Seated Tree (Janu Sirsasana)
  • Supine Bound Angle (Supta Badha Konasana)
  • Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani)

Also, I’ll be giving myself foot massages, as this can do wonders with helping a person feel grounded. Try it yourself…take your fingers between your toes to stretch them and feel your base. Your base is what helps you feel grounded.

And knowing myself the way I do, I need to be extremely faithful to my meditation practice during this time of swirl. I’ve been experiencing a relapse with my Lyme symptoms, and I know it’s because I haven’t been doing a good job with managing my stress and anxiety. My meditation practice has always helped me in these areas, so I need to make the time for it.

Maybe you’ve been afraid to take chances in your own life. Believe me, I totally get it. I’m the same way, but I finally got to the point where I was tired of feeling stuck and feeling regret at letting things pass me by. So I encourage you to try it for yourself. If you’re letting fear keep you from growing, from taking a chance that could prove to be something wonderful, then I challenge you to stop letting it hold you back. Take the chance. Will you fail? Maybe. But if you don’t even try, you’ll never know what could have been. And if you DO fail, there’s a lesson in it that will help you for the next time. So go ahead…take a chance, already!

Namaste,

Melanie

“There’s a rebirth that goes on with us continuously as human beings. I don’t understand, personally, how you can be bored. I can understand how you can be depressed, but I just don’t understand boredom.” ~~ Dustin Hoffman

March is here, and the groundhog told us last month that Spring was on its way, so I am super excited to move on from Winter! Springtime is always an exciting time to me because there is so much new and returning life coming into the world. New flowers blooming, new leaves on the trees, new buds popping up from the things planted in a garden. The birds come back, so I get to hear their beautiful morning chirps. Good stuff!

Because there is so much “new” going on at this time of year, it’s the perfect time to de-clutter. To make room for all the new, sometimes we need to remove the things that no longer serve us. I like to think of it as a rebirth of sorts. If you take the time to REALLY think about what you should remove from your life, and then REALLY think about what you want to replace that with, isn’t that sort of creating a new you? I think so!

For me, I love this process. I love getting introspective and mulling over all the things I’m doing in my life, taking a long hard look at each one so I can figure out if it’s still something that is helping me grow. In the past, I’ve just noted it in my head and promised to get rid of it. Then I think about where I want to go in my life and start trying to think of what I can incorporate to help me get there. But again, I have typically just noted in my head what I want and promise to make it happen.

What I’ve found is that I’ve lost probably 50% of what I committed to get rid of or add in. Why? Probably because, for me and for most people, it doesn’t keep you accountable. If there is no record of what you decided on, then it doesn’t count, in my opinion. Because, let’s face it — sometimes giving up something we’re used to is HARD! It may be something that, even though it isn’t good for us, it sure does FEEL good! Or for the things we know we need to start doing, it may require us to deal with some uncomfortable emotions or situations — who wants to feel all SQUIRMY, right?!

This year, I’m approaching this season of change and rebirth a little differently. I’m writing things down this time. I’ve got a journal, and I’m doing a different mental exercise each day and then writing about it in my journal. Once I’ve made my way through each exercise, I will review it all and use those writings to help me write out my final list — my list of things to boot out the door and things to bring in.

What kind of exercises? Well, I just happen to be participating in a great 31-day challenge right now with a group of amazing women, and the whole goal is to better ourselves (shout out to Sarah for starting this group and organizing each day’s challenge…she truly is amazing! I don’t know if she reads my blog, but I hope she understands how much women need these kinds of challenges…we so often beat ourselves up for the most mundane of things!). Each day, we get a new challenge and some of those involve writing about the very things I talked about above. One task was to write our personal mission statement…I enjoyed that one, because I’d never done that before!

One was to write, at various times of the day, things we are grateful for. I’ve never done that in this way before. I’ve written about things I’m grateful for, but usually all at once. By doing it this way (3 things in the morning, 3 things mid-day and 4 things at the end of the day), I feel like I paid more attention to events happening to me in the present moment and I included some of those in my list that day. Here’s the output of that day:

journalentry

As you can see, some of these things on my list would be considered “little” things, but it truly is the little things that can add up to making our lives good, in my opinion.

In the yoga classes I teach this month, I’ll be focusing on the theme of rebirth as well. Normally, if I were still teaching vinyasa classes regularly, I’d focus on Sun Salutations, because they help with enlivening and energizing you, especially if you’ve had a pretty sedentary winter. If you’re not familiar with Sun Salutations, or if you want to try a new variation than what you may be used to, check this link out…it’s got several different variations, and some videos of different versions…lots of great stuff!

Since I mostly focus on Deep Stretch classes, I will be planning to incorporate lots of twists. Not only are twists detoxifying, but they help stoke your metabolic fire. Many of us gravitate towards “heavy” foods in the winter time, and they can make the metabolism more sluggish. So let’s clear that junk OUT…PRONTO! I plan on incorporating Wide-Kneed Child’s Pose with a Twist…something different, as many of us probably wouldn’t think of twisting in Child’s Pose. Check out this link for information about this pose and to see what it looks like.

Hopefully, I’ve given you lots of stuff in this post to get your mind thinking about your own rebirth. I love the quote by Dustin Hoffman above, because he absolutely nails it on the head. If you do the work to figure out how to make your continuous rebirth what it needs to be in order for you to grow, then how could you possibly be bored? What will YOU do to help usher in this new season in your life? I’d love to hear what you come up with!

Namaste,

Melanie

 

“If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.”
~~ Regina Brett

Today was a momentous day for me. As many of you who have been following my blog may know, I’ve been making my way through the Toastmasters program, working on both the Competent Communicator (CC) and the Competent Leader (CL) certifications.

I completed my CL earlier this month, which felt great. I mean, now I can actually say I am a competent leader…the certificate says so! See? Here I am, super happy after opening my big envelope from Toastmasters International when it came in the mail.

Toastmasters_CL

Well, today I completed my final speech for my CC certification. This was a tough one for me, because it’s the “Inspire Your Audience” speech and has to be 8-10 minutes in length. All my speeches up to this point have revolved around some aspect of happiness, so I decided that with this one, I was going to put it all out there and share MY story. My story of how yoga came into my life, and how it helped me to deal with some pretty heavy stuff.

I was so nervous! The Toastmasters club I’m part of is held at my company, so everyone who is a member is someone I work with. And today, we decided as a club to use this as a demo meeting, in hopes of attracting some new members. So now, not only would I be sharing my story — my very PERSONAL story — with the people I’ve gotten to know rather well since joining the club, but I was also having to share it with anyone who happened to stop by to check things out.

Yesterday afternoon, I started to realize that I was getting sick. I had a fever, sore throat, headache and aches/pains. Oh no! Talk about pressure! I woke up this  morning not feeling any better, but at least not feeling any worse. I figured, “Well, I know this stuff. After all, it is MY story. So I just need to give it up to God and do my best.”

We were fortunate at today’s meeting to have our speeches video taped, which is great! I really wanted to see how I came across, to see if I relayed the message I really wanted to. Usually I post the text of my speeches here for you all, but since I have a video to share, I figured maybe you might want to see how it really came off.

Now, I will admit that I forgot a couple of things, but I don’t feel that them missing detracted at all from my message. And I was SUPER  happy that I didn’t get too emotional and cry.:)

So without further ado, here is the link to my final Toastmasters speech, titled “Take My Breath Away.” I’d love to know your thoughts!

Namaste,

Melanie

 

“Vitality shows in not only the ability to persist but the ability to start over.” ~~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

As many of you know, I’ve been on hiatus since August from all my yoga and indoor cycling teaching. I needed to do that for a variety of reasons, and I am so happy I did. It allowed me to take the time to be there for my daughter as she made her way through her first year of middle school cheerleading, and it allowed me to help her more with her homework.

It also allowed me to have some time for ME. And believe me, I took advantage of that! I read a lot of good books, got a chance to watch some shows I’ve never had the time to watch before (OMG, I simply am addicted to Grey’s Anatomy! How did I end up waiting until this summer to finally decide I needed to watch this show??? I am currently in the middle of season 10 and still loving it!), and have been able to get back into a nice exercise routine. Mostly, though, I’ve learned how to pare back and relax a little.

That being said, I’ve MISSED teaching. I actually didn’t think I missed it, to be fair. I was dead set on never teaching again because I felt like it took time away from so many things I love. But over the holidays, my husband and I had some really great conversation about “life”. And he so eloquently pointed out that I’d been acting pretty depressed over the past two months. Don’t get me wrong…I’ve been happy about SO MANY THINGS, as my posts have indicated. But he could see what I couldn’t. That something was missing. Something that is part of who I am.

That something is teaching. SOOOO…he encouraged me to step back in to the world I’ve been missing. And thankfully, the places I was teaching have been very agreeable about bringing me back into to the fold as they can.

Let me preface with making it clear that I won’t be teaching as much as I used to. I worked very hard these past few months to establish balance, so I need to make sure I continue to do that. For now, I’ll just be jumping in on a couple of weekend rotations, to get myself back into the groove.

If you’re interested in yoga, I’ll be on the Deep Stretch rotation at Synergy Yoga’s Rock Hill location on Sundays from 4:30-5:30 p.m., followed by a 15-minute free guided meditation. I’ll actually be teaching next Sunday (1/17), so join me if you’d like to end your weekend with a super relaxing class.

If you’re interested in indoor cycling, I am on the 8:00 a.m. Saturday rotation at the YMCA located in the Baxter neighborhood of Fort Mill. I’ve actually already filled in a couple of times for this class, and have really loved getting back in the saddle. This month, I’ll be teaching on 1/23, so if you’ve got some time, come join me on the bike for a high-energy class!

So. There you go. I’m starting over. I’m scared and excited all at the same time. Scared, because what if this doesn’t work? What if I get back into the stressful patterns I did before? But excited. Excited because I think I’ve got this! I’ve worked really hard these past few months, and I truly feel I’ve gotten to know myself pretty well. I think I just need to trust that I can do this.

Say a little prayer for me that I am making the right decision. I am so excited to get back to students I’ve missed seeing, and I also look forward to meeting new students and sharing my experiences with them.

Namaste y’all!

Melanie

“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future; live the actual moment. Only this moment is life.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Each and every day, I drive the same route to work. I’m lucky, in my opinion, that it’s a short drive (about 15-20 minutes), and I never even have to get on a highway. It’s a nice, little backroads route that takes me by a couple of farms and a few really nice houses. There are so many things to notice along the way, but I must admit that when I first started using this route, I didn’t notice them. For probably the first year I drove it, I don’t think I noticed that one of the farms had both horses AND goats, and even a donkey. Or that one of the houses I passed looked eerily like the South Fork house from the TV show “Dallas”. This is because on most days back then, I drove to work on autopilot.

Do any of you know what I’m talking about? It’s when you drive somewhere, and when you finally get to the destination, you have no recollection about the actual trip. You know you got there, but you can’t recall anything that happened on the way.

That’s kind of scary, don’t you think? Basically, it means that you were so distracted with other “stuff” — stuff that’s in your mind from either the past or the future — that you are unable to see what’s going on right in front of you at this very moment.

I can’t tell you how many days I got to work and as I was pulling in to the parking garage, I wondered how I got there. I’d ask myself things like, “Did I have a lot of traffic?”, or “What did I hear on the radio?”, and I couldn’t answer. I had no idea because I wasn’t paying attention! Then I’d get scared because, if I was THAT distracted by other things, then I could’ve gotten into a serious accident if something out of the ordinary happened that I didn’t notice because I wasn’t paying attention. And then I’d pray to God, thanking him for keeping me safe.

When I first started practicing and teaching yoga, I was much the same way. I practiced the SAME style of yoga every time, and I did the SAME Sun Salutations (either A or B), every time. Because of that, I became in my yoga practice — and in my yoga teaching — the same as I was in my car. I was practicing and teaching on autopilot, not noticing how my body felt or what my mind was thinking. And before I knew it, I felt so uninspired because I wasn’t getting anything out of it. Do any of you know what I am talking about here? Am I the only one who has had time on the mat where I felt like I was getting NOTHING out of it?

Well, I started getting more serious about changing things in my life back in late 2011, when all my health issues started. Something innate within me told me that I need to make a big change in my life. And when I found out a year later that I had Lyme Disease, and my doctor told me I’d have to be on antibiotics for the rest of my life because of how many years it had gone undiagnosed, I got scared. I didn’t want to be on antibiotics for the rest of my life! So I started doing some research, and some serious soul-searching, and decided to make some serious changes to my lifestyle.

Those of you who have talked to me over the past 4 years, since this new journey began for me, probably won’t be surprised to know how grateful I am for everything I’ve been through.

You might be thinking I’m crazy right about now. I mean, how can I be grateful for having a disease I’ll have the rest of my life? One that has caused me to have to give up so many things that I loved. I get it. But hear me out.

When I decided on a more natural route, I more fully explored other styles of yoga, styles that my body could actually do without causing more pain. I discovered a variety of ways to meditate and found several which actually worked for me. I discovered how to be more mindful. I discovered how to be happier.

I recently finished a #100HappyDays challenge, and that was the best thing I’ve ever done. There were so many days during that challenge where I had a lot going on in all areas of my life, and I was worried about so many things. And if I hadn’t been forced to find ONE THING each day to be happy about, I think I would’ve gone on autopilot more than I’d like to admit. But I was holding myself accountable on Facebook, so darn it! I just HAD to pay ATTENTION so I had something good to post for that day.

During that challenge, I really learned a lot about what makes ME happy. I wrote a post about the first part of the challenge, so feel free to check that out here.

I had the opportunity to finish up the last week of my challenge while on vacation with my husband in Aruba. That was awesome, because I had NOTHING to distract me while there, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself, spending time relaxing and reconnecting with my husband. It was much needed, and I came back so refreshed! Here we are on day #96 of my challenge:

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Doing things like this are so critical for all of us, I think. Because if we don’t, we’re more likely to find ourselves on autopilot. There are a few people out there who are able to easily stay focused on the present, but I would venture to guess that most of you are like me.

So take a look at your life and ask yourself, honestly, how in tune you are with yourself. What is it that makes you happy? Do you feel like you’re growing, or are you just floating through each day, doing the same old thing? If you can’t answer these questions, then you need to commit to taking some time to figure things out. There are so many ways to find out who you are and what makes you tick, so figure out what works for you.

I’m happy to help if you aren’t sure where to start. I’ve got SO many resources, so please don’t hesitate to ask.

Sometimes, I do still find myself reverting to autopilot mode. I am human, and sometimes I let my worries get the better of me. But it’s easier for me to snap out of it, now that I’ve learned so much. I love the quote by Thich Nhat Hanh above, especially the last part: “live the actual moment. Only this moment in life.” After all, that’s all there is.

Namaste,

Melanie

 

“We often believe we have to live and work at high-intensity or in a frantic state of mind. This is ‘prey mentality’…Instead of acting like you’re going to be eaten, slow down. The peace of mind and relief you’re seeking is in the present moment — not at the end of a to-do list or arbitrary finish line. If you really care about your quality of life, slow down. Then slow down some more.” ~~ Tripp Lanier in the Jul/Aug 2015 issue of Experience Life magazine

whats-the-rush

(Photo Courtesy of The Wellness Mantra)

Happy October, everyone! I can’t believe how fast this year has gone by so far, can you? It’s officially starting to feel like fall here in South Carolina…FINALLY! This is my favorite time of year, hands down!

In Ayurveda, autumn is the season of Vata, in which the predominant elements are air and space. This season is distinguished by excess movement, dryness, lightness and cold (air and space). If you have too much vata, this can manifest itself in your body by causing such symptoms as restlessness, insomnia, anxiety, constipation and dry skin. It can make you feel pretty scattered and unstable.

As I look over what I, personally, have been experiencing these last few weeks, I can attest to the fact that I definitely am feeling the effects of vata. I am predominantly vata, so when fall hits, I experience many of the things listed above. I’ve been more restless, and have experienced many instances of anxiety. My skin is also paying the price, feeling tight and dry most days.

Thankfully, I know what to do. When this season hits — this time when there is more air and space swirling around, causing excessive movement and potential chaos — I turn to the tried and true recommendations of ayurveda.

When we experience the excess vata symptoms I mentioned above, the best thing you can do is to SLOW DOWN. Try your best to follow a regular routine in your life, making sure you schedule in “self-care” time. This means making sure you get plenty of downtime, adequate sleep, and healthy meals.

In terms of exercise, if you have excess vata, then you may need to switch up what you’re doing. Going all out at a high intensity will only make things worse for you. Switch things up by going for walks in nature (this is my favorite thing to do at this time of year, especially since the colors are so pretty). Or maybe something like gardening or canoeing are more your style. The point is to be in a quieter environment and to move more mindfully when vata is in excess. If you are into yoga, like me, then this may mean slowing down your yoga practice as well…your practice should move at a more slow and steady pace, with a focus on grounding, so that your energy can be restored. This is also a great time to incorporate more breath work and meditation.

Some other things I do at this time of year to help manage the ill effects of too much vata are as follows;

  • In the mornings, I use sesame oil on my skin. It’s got a naturally warming and moisturizing quality to it which make my skin feel much more supple.
  • I drink more hot teas with honey during this season. My favorites are the spicier varieties, like ginger, because they warm me up.
  • Crock pot meals are a staple in our house during this season. It’s super easy to throw everything into the pot and go, and then voila! It’s ready several hours later with very little effort from me. I focus on spicier crock pot meals, like chilis or curries, as the spices are great when vata is in excess.

As always, though, there is room for improvement for me. My biggest issue is making my eating environment more relaxed. I usually eat at my desk while working, and I’m usually in a rush. When I eat this way, I don’t feel very good afterwards…I eat too much and too fast, so it affects my digestion in a negative way. It is a great idea, as much as possible, to eat in a quiet space where you’re focusing on nothing but the food you are eating.

Recently, I took a Happiness class at my company. One of the things we did was to practice mindfulness by using our five senses. My favorite part was when we focused on eating mindfully. We got to choose between a slice of apple or a strawberry…I chose the strawberry. We had to take the first bite the way we normally would and note down anything we noticed about it. The second time, we were told to chew for 30 seconds and then make a note of that. Wow! It was amazing how I picked up on the way the seeds of the strawberry felt in my mouth, how juicy that strawberry was, the fuzziness on the outside of the strawberry, the tartness of it, and how refreshing it tasted. The first bite…all I could note down was that “it tasted good.” Sad, isn’t it?

So, if you are experiencing any of the signs of excess vata, I challenge you to take some steps during this season to slow down. See what you see. Feel what you feel. Taste what you taste. Hear what you hear. Smell what you smell.

Do this in all aspects of your life. For example, what do you notice when you slow down the way you exercise and really focus on what you’re doing? For me, when I do this, I feel each and every muscle doing its thing, and I am also able to better notice when I am pushing too far. What things do you notice when you eat mindfully and when you address the other needs of your body? What happens when you enjoy the silence?

Happiness abounds when we can do these things. I love the last part of the quote by Tripp Lanier above: If you really care about your quality of life, slow down. Then slow down some more.

Namaste,

Melanie

happiness-quotes
(Photo courtesy of Top 25 Happiness Quotes)

It’s been about a month since I last posted. Which means it’s been just over a month since I last taught a yoga class. If I’m to be honest, then I have to admit those first two weeks were TOUGH.

Knowing that I was going to go through a period of potential depression over giving up something that’s been such a defining part of who I am for the last 13 years, I took steps to mitigate. (For those of you who know me, you know that my full-time job requires me to do a lot of “project management” sorts of things, so me preparing for disaster ahead of time is just another part of who I am.)

About 2 or 3 weeks before my “retirement” from teaching, I joined a challenge I came across called 100 Happy Days. It intrigued me…all you have to do is post on some sort of social media one thing each day that made you happy…preferably a picture, but that wasn’t mandatory. You just add the hashtag #100HappyDays and voila! And it’s completely free. I noticed when reading about it that most people (over 70%, I believe) don’t complete the challenge.

Well, I love challenges and I’m not a quitter, so I signed up and chose Facebook as my social media outlet. I decided I will NOT be one of those who fall into that 70% category.

At the time of writing this post, I am on day 51. Over halfway through and still going strong. It’s actually become quite vital for me, because not only is it helping ME be happier, but it seems to be affecting others in more ways than I could have dreamed. What started off as being something I felt I needed to do for myself is encouraging others to do the same. It’s so humbling! So many people have told me that they look forward to my posts each day, that I’ve prompted them to look for things in their own lives that make them happy, that I am inspiring them to be happier. Me…INSPIRING others…wow!

As I look back over the past 51 days of my #100HappyDays Facebook posts, I picked up on something. There’s a definite pattern in the things that make me happy. It’s kind of cool to see that pattern because it lets me know there are definite REGULAR things in my life that make me happy. That tells me that I need to make sure I am doing those things as much as I possibly can. The things that I’m talking about are:

  • My daughters. I don’t get nearly as much time with them as I’d like, as they are busy with their social lives and all that jazz. Especially my oldest, since she’s off at college. But any time I got to spend with them, it seems like it made it to one of my happiness posts. Here they are on the day we moved my oldest into her college apartment…this was day #10.

MorganandCasey_082015

  • My dogs. They always seem to lift me up when I’m feeling down, they love me unconditionally, and they are the best napping buddies. Here we are together on day #5.

Melanddogs

  • My husband. Many of my posts revolve around the alone time we get to spend with each other, and it seems like we are getting a little more of that kind of time together lately. Whether it be working out together, hanging out and chillaxin’, or hiking at the Riverwalk or lake. Here we are on day #17, enjoying a pre-season Panthers game.

melandtravis_panthersgame2015

  • The water. I couldn’t believe, as I looked through my posts, how many of them revolved around my time at the Riverwalk or the lake. Water just seems to calm me down and bring me such happiness. Every time I’m around it, I notice the animals, the waves, the rocks, the trees. I love ocean time as well, but haven’t had a chance to get there during this challenge yet…but water is water, and I’ll take it! Here is a great shot of me and my hubby at Lake Lanier in Georgia on day #31.

meandtravis_lakelanier_2015

  • My family. I have had an opportunity over these past 51 days to spend some quality time with my parents, my in-laws, my brother-in-law and niece, and one of my cousins. Each time, it’s made it as my happiness post for whatever day it happened to be on. My family is my rock, and they support me in everything that I do. How could I be anything BUT happy, right? Here I am with my parents and my cousin, along with my hubby and daughters, on day #4.

family

Now don’t get me wrong. There have been many days during this journey so far where I’ve gotten almost to the end of the day and wondered what in the world I was going to post for the day that made me happy. In other words, I’ve had some bad days. We all do. We can’t have utopia 24/7, now can we? But each time I had one of those days, I was able to scan through my day and find at least one thing. Sometimes it was something small, like on day #7, where all I could think to post about was that the weather was good on that day.

But you know what? Making myself find that ONE thing made such a difference in my attitude. Every. Single. Time.

So I am looking forward to seeing what else I learn as I complete the last half of this journey. What new things will pop up that bring me happiness that I was not expecting? Will I be able to find more ways to include all the things above into my life more frequently, so that I am happier more often? Can I learn to find that one small thing more easily on the days when it seems like everything is hopeless?

Are you brave enough to do your own #100HappyDays challenge? If so, go to their site and sign up! I’d love to know if you decide to join in, so let me know which social media outlet you choose, so I can check in with you. I love seeing what others are posting, as it gives me all kinds of ideas for myself. And if you don’t already, follow me on Facebook so you can join me on my journey to happiness.

Namaste,

Melanie

For those of you who paid attention to the title, you may be wondering why in the world I am writing about post-workout snacks. Most of my posts are about yoga, right? Well, yes…but yoga can be quite a workout, depending on the style you practice, wouldn’t you agree? Also, I do other types of exercise besides yoga, and much of it can be quite strenuous.

For example, I weight train 3X per week. I approach my weight training from a “lift heavy things” perspective, so my goal is to lift to failure. This means I am tired when I finish, and my muscles need good fuel to repair and recover.

I also do a lot of walking/hiking, I attend indoor cycling classes, and I love to do HIIT workouts. All of these types of workouts, just like strength training, require fueling up properly afterwards without undoing all the hard work I just did.

No matter what kind of workout you do, it’s important to eat something pretty soon after the workout is complete – ideally, within an hour of finishing your workout. Because your muscles need to repair and recover, it’s important that what you eat be a nice mix of protein and carbohydrates. Add in some good fat if you can. It’s not necessary to eat a full meal, as many of us can’t handle that after we’ve just exhausted ourselves physically. A decent snack will do the trick!

Many of you know I am gluten-free, and as much as possible, I also try to be dairy-free. So after I’ve completed a workout, I try to reach for a snack that contains a nice mix of protein, carbohydrates and good fat. AND it should be REAL food…not processed! Here are some of my favorites:

Apples w/Almond Butter

An apple with almond butter is an amazing post-workout snack! Coming in at just under 150 calories (if the apple is small, and you limit yourself to 1 tbsp. of almond butter), you’ll get enough fuel to help those muscles repair and recover. I prefer almond butter over peanut butter, but you could use peanut butter for sure.

snack-apple-with-almond-butter
(Photo Courtesy of Food Lover’s Cleanse 2015)

Trail Mix

This is a tough one, as there are SO many varieties of trail mix you can buy. Some are perfectly healthy, but many are laden with sugar you don’t need and a TON of calories! You could make your own by mixing in a variety of things you like. For example, granola, raisins, chocolate chips, your favorite nuts, maybe some coconut flakes. I do this sometimes, but I just don’t have the time anymore like I used to. So, I highly recommend this Organic Trail Mix from nuts.com. It’s a great mix of nuts, seeds and fruits AND it’s not that expensive. You can’t lose with this one!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(Photo Courtesy of Nuts.com)

Greek Yogurt with Fruit

I don’t do a lot of dairy, but I do like greek yogurt. Greek yogurt has TONS of protein, which I mentioned is important to helping those muscles repair and recover. Add in some fresh fruit, and you’ve got a great blend of proteins and carbs with this healthy snack! I recommend buying plain greek yogurt (don’t get any added flavoring or fruit…it’s not the healthiest!), and then I would add fresh fruit. My favorite is to add fresh blueberries and strawberries to plain greek yogurt. Yum!

greek-yogurt

(Photo courtesy of Go for Greek Yogurt)

Other Healthy Snacks

If none of the snacks I’ve listed here appeal to you, I encourage you to check out Nuts.com’s Healthy Snacks page. They truly have something for everyone on this site, and I think they are very reasonably priced. If you check them out, let me know if you love them as much as I do!

So, what are YOUR favorite post-workout snacks? I am always looking for something new, especially if it’s something super easy to make and is easily transportable. Post a comment as to what works best for you…let’s all help each other choose the healthiest snacks possible!

Namaste,

Melanie

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” ~~ Carol Sobieski

This week has been bittersweet for me. On Wednesday, I taught my very last regular yoga class. I am “retired”, as they say. I’ve been teaching yoga regularly, each and every week, since November 2002. That’s almost 13 years!

My feelings about this are a mixed bag, if I am being completely honest. I think I’ve run the whole gamut of emotions over the past couple of weeks. I’ve experienced sadness, fear, anxiousness, relief and happiness over this decision. Yoga has been one of the biggest parts of my identity over these past 13 years…people call me the “yoga lady” at my full-time job and I constantly get people asking me for some sort of yoga-related help. Yoga is what I keep telling people I’m meant to do with my life, so how could I make this decision?

Well, to be perfectly frank, I’ve been thinking about this for MONTHS. Yes, you read that right. I don’t make rash decisions, especially not when it comes to something I feel is my path in life — and when I have become so attached to my students — so I thought long and hard about what to do. Some of my closest friends know about my struggles, and I am so very thankful for their many words of wisdom over these past months, as I’ve agonized over what to do.

My reasons for stepping away from teaching aren’t anything earth-shattering. But I can only ignore the signs from the Universe for so long before I finally have to listen, right?

If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, you know I’ve been dealing with Lyme Disease for years. Stress causes flare-ups of my symptoms, and I am not a person who handles stress well. I’ve got a stressful, full-time job in the Healthcare IT arena, I’ve got a husband and two daughters, two dogs (one of which just got diagnosed with her second mast cell tumor that is most likely cancerous, since her first one was), I’m working through the Toastmasters program, AND trying to teach yoga in the spaces in between.

My doctors — all of them — have been telling me for what feels like forever that I can’t do it all. That I need to rest more. That I need to take care of ME. Someone with my health issues has GOT to back off and recover. My best friends tell me the same things. So does my family. So does my massage therapist.

Well I heard what they told me, but secretly, I just kept trucking along. I pared back as much as I could (or at least, I thought I had). I mean, I gave up ALL of my classes except for one. I even got better at not responding “Yes” to every sub request sent my way. Yoga is part of who I am, part of my soul, so how could I give it up totally? Right???

Well, things have gotten more stressful as of late, as my youngest daughter made the competitive Cheer squad at her middle school. She will be practicing 4 days per week, and will have competitions to compete in. It’s funny, but as soon as I found out she made the team, I instantly — FINALLY — knew. I knew I had to give up teaching altogether so I can get well and be there for my daughter.

The Universe finally hit me over the head, and everything became clear. All these years, I’ve looked at all the other women around me who seem to be able to “do it all”. The women who seem to be able to have a full-time job, a beautiful family, a spectacular house, can somehow manage to teach yoga (or whatever other side passion they have), and exercise whenever they need to in order to look perfect. All these years, I’ve felt that I must do the same. Otherwise, I don’t stack up, right? If they can do it, then I should be able to as well. Isn’t that how it works?

But the day my daughter made the cheer squad, suddenly I just knew that I am not one of those women. Melanie Deal cannot do it all. My health is constantly reminding me of that, and on that day, I knew I finally had to listen.

My daughter is only young once. My oldest is already out of the house, as she just started her Sophomore year of college. She doesn’t need me in the same ways as she did when she lived at home. But my youngest daughter is still here and she needs me. She’s in 7th grade, so before I know it, she will be in college and won’t need me like she does now.

So you see, the decision is clear. I think I need this anyway, as I have been feeling for quite some time that the type of teaching I’d been doing wasn’t where my heart was anymore. My health struggles, though challenging and frustrating, have been rewarding at the same time. I’ve had lots of people reach out to me who are also dealing with health issues, and I think I’ve helped them in some way with what I’ve learned on my own journey. I am strongly being pulled towards working with “special needs” people, but haven’t had the time to explore it in great detail.

Well, now I have time on my hands to do that. Time to come up with a plan and figure out how to use my yoga in a new way. Preparing for a regular class each week left me with no time to really explore how to branch out. But now, I will have more time for me, which will allow me to meditate on how to move forward in the future.

Believe me, I am not going to do anything drastic anytime soon. I truly am going to take this time and work on getting better. I am going to take this time to spend more quality time with the people I love. I am going to take this time to work on doing the things that I love.

And then, when the time is right, a new journey will begin.

Namaste,

Melanie

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