destination

First of all, I must apologize for the lateness in this post. But as you continue reading, I think you’ll get an idea of why it’s taken me so long to get this together.

Since my last post, so much has happened for me…especially internally! Probably the biggest thing that happened is that I finally, after 5 YEARS, completed the curriculum for my 500-hour yoga certification (RYT-500). I’m the type of person who doesn’t believe in slamming in training after training without taking the time to process it and figure out what it means to me, and how I will use it for myself and my students. Or at least, that’s how I approach the things that really matter to me…and yoga is such a huge part of my life! So I took my time and I don’t regret it for a minute.

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(Here I am in front of the Asheville Yoga Center after receiving my certificate…I thought standing in front of this quote was PERFECT!)

Throughout this program, I figured out pretty quickly that I had a passion for working with people in a therapeutic capacity. In my life, there are so many I know who have issues with anxiety, depression, stress, chronic illness, injury…so many people suffering who feel hopeless. And guess what? I’ve dealt with each and every one of these things myself, and yoga has been a huge part in helping me manage these things since 1999. So while I may not be an expert in every area, I truly do feel I know quite a lot, and I feel I can use what I have learned to help others live a more productive and healthy life.

So, I’m done with this wonderful program and I’m thinking, “What now? What do I do with all this in a way that is authentic to who I am?” Several have told me over the past few years that I’d be a really good life/health coach, as I have learned SO much not just about yoga, but about the four pillars of health (Sleep, Movement, Nutrition, Stress Management). I’ve done SO much research over the years, and have found so many useful resources that help me manage my chronic illness…because when I slack in one of the four areas, my symptoms flare and I am MISERABLE!

But ME? A health coach? How would that work, if I am still a work in progress? I mean, don’t I have to be perfect in every way if I’m to coach others to find their healthiest and happiest selves? Am I healthy enough to be a health coach?

After meditating on this for WEEKS (well, if I am being totally honest, I’ve been meditating on this for months), and after doing quite a bit of research and having some heart-to-heart conversations with trusted friends and family, I decided something. When I really thought about it, even though I’m not perfect and am still actively working towards finding my sweet spot, I am doing my best to eat real food, exercise, and surround myself with positivity. And from what I gather, that makes me already WAY ahead of the curve, and that makes me more than qualified to help others.

Ever since I came to this realization, things have been falling in my lap that basically let me know it’s time to stop thinking about it and take action. So much so that this week, I did the SECOND biggest thing to happen to me since my last post…I took a big leap and enrolled in an Integrative Wellness & Life Coach Certification program with Integrative Wellness Academy. I really like their program curriculum, and the best part about it is that I have to go through the whole process myself, which will allow me to really understand what I’ll be putting my future clients through. I’ve already started, and am loving the content. And I’ll be honest…completing the Client Intake Form (which is the first thing a client of mine would need to do) was SO hard! It made me really take a long, hard look at ALL areas of my life and analyze where things are good and where things are in need of some revamping. There were some questions that I wanted to answer in a way that made me look better, but in the end, I decided to be totally and brutally honest. Which was HARD! But also freeing. It felt great to let go of some stuff I’ve been holding on to, and I can’t wait to see how MY coach will help me along the way.

I’m so excited! Excited to learn something new. Excited to know that I’ll have even more tools to help others. Excited to figure out how I will merge what I’ll learn in this life coach program with yoga, so that I can offer something unique while being authentic to who I am.

Part of me is scared to be sharing this, because what if I fail? But then I thought about how many signs have been given to me by God, telling me this is the right thing to do. Because believe me…God knows how stubborn I am, so he knows he needs to bombard me before I’ll actually notice and listen!

However, I know I’ve already helped many  people over the years, because they’ve told me so. This is just one more way for to me to formalize it a bit more, and gain more confidence in my abilities and knowledge.

Also, by putting this out there in BlogLand, I am hoping my readers will hold me accountable. Maybe some of you might even be interested in working with me, allowing me to get some practice and some honest feedback. If this is something you’re interested in, please e-mail me at scyogagirl@gmail.com and let’s try and work out a plan.

Now, does this mean I’m going to quit my corporate job? Not at all. I enjoy my job, and I am making a difference there, so I have no plans to leave that. But this coaching/yoga thing is something I feel drawn to, and I definitely feel it’s part of my future, so I need to see this through and figure out how to work it in to my life. I love the quote above by Martin Buber, as it really sums up how I feel right now…my journey is definitely proving to me that there are destinations meant for me that I am not even aware of yet. And I sure plan on enjoying the journey and learning every step of the way.

Namaste,

Melanie

“When cleanliness is developed, it reveals what needs to be constantly maintained, and what is eternally clean. What decays is the external. What does not is deep within us.” 
~~ Yoga Sutra II.40 ; Translation by T.K.V. Desikachar

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(Folly Beach at dusk, one of my favorite times of day to experience the ocean)

Saucha is one of the five niyamas, or observances, from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Literally translated as “cleanliness” or “purity”, saucha goes much deeper than its literal translation. Saucha is also about cleanliness and purity of thought and mind, in addition to the body. It has the greater yogic goal of mental and physical freedom and bliss. Sounds pretty great to me! Who doesn’t want freedom and bliss?

Each day, we can practice saucha in practical ways:

  • Showering (especially in these sticky summer months) not only cleans our bodies of dirt, but it energetically uplifts and refreshes you.
  • Choosing foods that are clean and easy to digest is not only healthy for your body, but these kinds of foods also help keep the mind clear. I know that for me, personally, when I eat processed foods, I feel sluggish and experience brain fog. And usually, my stomach doesn’t like me very much. But when I choose fresh, whole foods (like good quality lean meats and vegetables), I feel energized and ready to tackle most anything.
  • Setting aside time to focus on our bodies and our breath provides a sense of purity. You can do this in a yoga class, meditating, or any other type of activity where your sole focus is on paying attention to what your body and breath are doing.
  • Creating a clean, de-cluttered environment. For me this means a clean desk at work, a clean house (particularly my bathroom, bedroom and kitchen) and a clean car (I spend a lot of time in my car). This one has been very challenging for me lately, as I have been super busy with so many things. And believe me, I’ve noticed the increase in stress levels due to the clutter I’ve got going on. Bottom line, be mindful of your environment and how it affects your ability to cultivate saucha.

These are just a few things you can do. When I don’t do the things I mention above, I feel like I’m filling my body and mind with dirt…it’s like I’m saying to the Universe, “Gimme the dirt…bring it on!” But every moment can be lived with greater purity and energetic alignment as we become more aware of ourselves and our habits.  Taking a few deep cleansing breaths in the morning before we get out of bed, periodically throughout our day, or right before going to bed each night, can help in becoming more attuned to and protective of our energies.

Choosing to spend time with people whose presence makes us feel re-charged rather than drained is another. I had the good fortune to spend a week with my husband, children, and my husband’s family this past week at the beach. I must admit I was worried about spending an entire week with so many people in one house. But it ended up being just what I needed. The house was gorgeous, everyone had plenty of space to find time to themselves when needed, the weather was great, and everyone did their part to help out with daily chores. And because we had a whole house, we cooked the majority of our meals there, and they were pretty darn healthy! The smell of the ocean and the sound of the waves was very cleansing for me, so I definitely came home feeling clean, inside and out.

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(Folly Beach family beach shot) 

As we move through this very challenging season of summer (here in the southeastern United States, it is HOT!), sometimes tempers rise along with the temperatures and humidity. Make sure you take a few moments each day to  consciously create some clean and clear space for yourself…clear away all that “dirt”…your body, and your mind, will thank you for it!

Namaste,

Melanie

“A wild elephant has many wild habits. It runs away when humans approach. It attacks when frightened. Our mind is similar. When it senses danger, it runs away from the present.” — Jan Chozen Bays, MD in How to Train a Wild Elephant

Elephant attack (Photo courtesy of www.indiawilds.com)

Over the past several years, I’ve been drawn to elephants. I had no idea why, but I found myself gravitating to pictures of elephants, shirts with elephants on them, elephant figurines…you name it, and I wanted to touch it or have it if it had an elephant on it.

I definitely wondered why I had such a fascination with this animal all of a sudden, and I guess I sort of chalked it up to Ganesha. Ganesha permeates the yoga world…you can’t go anywhere these days without hearing Ganesha in a song, in a mantra, as a figurine on the mantel in a yoga studio, on a variety of yoga clothing…you get the idea. It makes sense. After all, Ganesha is the Hindu Lord of Good Fortune, the Lord of Beginnings and the Remover of Obstacles (both material and spiritual). And let’s face it. Many of us westerners come to yoga because we want to be better human beings, right? If we can remove the obstacles from our lives, we can have new beginnings and good fortune will come our way. Who doesn’t want that?

For me, yoga began as a physical practice. I just wanted some relief from the pain in my body, and some relaxation. Over the years, I’ve definitely evolved into a much more spiritual practice, as you know if you’ve been reading my blog.

Last month, I attended a training towards my RYT-500 certification, and it revolved all around the chakras and consciousness. It got very scientific, which I loved, because I learned SO much about how the brain and the mind work. (For those of you who don’t know what the chakras are, there are a variety of definitions…I refer to them as the 7 main centers of spiritual energy in the body).

In this training, we were referred to the book, “How to Train a Wild Elephant & Other Adventures in Mindfulness”, by Jan Chozen Bays, MD. We didn’t get into the book too much, but as soon as I heard it contained mindfulness exercises, I had to buy a copy for myself. Mindfulness is something I struggle with constantly, so any help I can get to improve this area of my life is most welcome. And I love homework!

Let me just say…I. LOVE. THIS. BOOK! In just reading her introduction, I finally understood my fascination with elephants after all these years. You see, mindfulness is deliberately paying attention  — full attention — to what’s going on around you and within you, right here, right now. It is being aware of these things without criticism or judgment.

Training your mind in the art of mindfulness takes a lot of work for some people. Me, for sure! In the book, the author equates training the mind to be more mindful to training a wild elephant. For example, until the elephant is tamed, it has to be tethered to a stake, have all distractions removed, and have certain tasks repeated over and over again until the elephant learns them. Similarly, to train our minds to be more mindful, we need to practice certain behaviors over and over again until we achieve the calm mind and can incorporate these behaviors without even thinking about them. And when we are more mindful, we can more easily get rid of the things in our lives that make us unhappy.

Doing this is SO hard for me! When I’m at work, I’m on it…I can focus like nobody’s business. But focusing on the things that will help me lead a happier life is such a challenge! I don’t know why, but it is SO hard to practice mindfulness. It literally makes my brain hurt.

Even with a pretty regular meditation practice, I still have trouble staying in the present moment. I constantly zone out, fret about the past, worry about the future. Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this!

If you’re looking to get better at the art of mindfulness, I highly encourage you to peruse a copy of this book. There are a variety of mindfulness exercises for you to practice, all in attempt to help you get better at being mindful. Each exercise has a description of the task and some ideas about how to remind yourself to do it when you need to, a description of other people’s discoveries with the task (their observations and insights), and then the deeper lessons you can learn from practicing the exercise.

For example, the one I am working on this week is “Leave no trace”, where I am to practice using one room in my house where I leave no trace that I’ve ever used it. The kitchen is the room I am choosing to focus on, as I tend to make all kinds of messes in there! The deeper lesson to this exercise is to put a spotlight on the tendency to be lazy. When I’m lazy, it tends to mean that I make more work for others, as they have to come clean up the mess I’ve left behind. That’s not cool!

How am I doing on this one? Well, let’s just say, I might need to spend an extra week on it! But I noticed that I am now starting to realize when I am leaving something in a way other than how I found it. Before, I don’t think I ever paid attention. So…progress is happening, albeit slowly.

There are SO many ways we can practice being mindful. If you are practicing this on your own, I’d love to hear what you do. Reply with a comment and share your tips on tricks on being more mindful. If you don’t have any, no worries! Maybe that’s your sign that now is the time to start a mindfulness practice. I’m here if you’d like my help in keeping you accountable.

Namaste and have a sparkling day!

Melanie

“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

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(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

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