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“Eliminate physical clutter.  More importantly, eliminate spiritual clutter.” ~~Terri Guillemets


(I got this image from here)

It’s funny how the mind and body are so intricately interconnected, isn’t it? The condition of one affects the condition of the other, which is why yoga can be such a power tool for healing both the body and the mind.

Our focus this week is on creating space. Getting rid of the clutter. For many people, the “clutter” starts in the mind. We let ourselves get so busy sometimes, letting our minds get overstuffed with thoughts, plans, and other information. When this happens, the clutter builds and builds, causing us to be unfocused. And what do our bodies do? They respond by trying to take action, but that’s hard for the body to do when the mind has all that clutter built up. The result is a tense body — our muscles tighten up, and we can no longer breathe deeply and smoothly. Let this go on for too long, and it can manifest itself in the body in much more serious ways, such as compromising our immune systems and opening our bodies up to a variety of illnesses and other issues.

But, if we can take some time on a regular basis for meditation, we can start to clear all that clutter from the mind. This creates space for our thoughts to come and go with more ease and peace, and if we can bring our minds to this state, our bodies will follow suit. Our breath will deepen and become more smooth, helping to bring balance to our entire being.

Today I completed a 5-day yoga teacher training that I’ve been dying to do for years. I had a solid 5 days to spend a lot of time on ME, which is a rarity. I usually spend the majority of my time (like 90%) focusing on taking care of everyone else, and I didn’t realize how much I’d been neglecting ME until these past 5 days. For the first few days, I went in with stress and tension because I felt I was being selfish to take so much time for me. Have any of you ever felt like that? Like it was a bad thing to spend some time with yourself and yourself alone? But as the training went on, I noticed changes within myself. Each day of the training, we incorporated not just physical postures, but also lots of breathing techniques, stress-releasing physical adjustments, visualization and chanting. I rarely make time in my life for anything other than the physical postures, because it seems that’s all I ever have time for.

Many of you know that I’ve been suffering from insomnia for quite some time. Well, I slept through the night starting on day 3 of the training. Yay for me! I also slept through the night on day 4 and I am thinking I will also be able to do the same tonight. How long will this last? I don’t know, but I sure hope that I can find the discipline to incorporate these more relaxing, meditational pieces into my practice on a more regular basis.

As they say, yoga is a practice and a journey, not a destination. So I need to remember how good I feel right now whenever I start to make an excuse for pushing these more restorative practices to the wayside. I need to create space for these things so that I can become a more pleasant and enjoyable human being, which will allow me to give of myself more authentically.

It’s not going to be easy for me, and it may be difficult for you as well. But keep at it, create that space, and you will reap the rewards.

Namaste,

Melanie

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“I am a man of fixed and unbending principles, the first of which is to be flexible at all times.” ~~ Everett Dirksen 

(I got this image from here)

Yoga does wonders for keeping our spines healthy and mobile. Our spines move in six directions:

  1.  Flexion (forward bends)
  2. Extension (back bends)
  3. Lateral flexion (side bending) to the right 
  4. Lateral flexion to the left
  5. Rotation (twisting) to the right
  6. Rotation to the left

Spinal flexibility tends to decrease with age, along with overall health of the spine. If we don’t move our spines regularly in each of the six directions, then adhesions can form. When this happens, it causes muscle fibers to stick together, reducing our range of movement even more. The more this happens, the more pain and dysfunction we’ll experience.

In yoga, it is thought that youthfulness and overall health are maintained when our spines are flexible. When the spine is flexible, the rest of the body tends to function better and moves more freely. Also, a flexible spine will give you a sense of ease as you walk and move through everyday life.

So this week in class, we’ll be incorporating exercises that move our spines in each of the six directions, so that we can prevent these issues from happening. If your spine happens to have limited flexibility already, have no fear — yoga can help reduce and break up these spinal adhesions, and you’ll notice that as time passes, your flexibility will improve.

But flexibility doesn’t just apply to our bodies. When we allow our minds to be more flexible, we open our lives to a multitude of possibilities. When you can be open to new ways of thinking and doing, it’s amazing the things that can result.

In my own life, I’ve noticed I go through periods when I’m more flexible in my thinking, and periods where I’m very rigid and unbending. Always, without a doubt, I’m happier and less stressed during the periods when my mind is more open and willing to go with the flow, even if it’s not what I originally expected.

My “off the mat” challenge to you this week is to evaluate your mind just a bit. Are you open to doing things differently, or do you always have to do things the same? Are you a creature of habit and routine, or are you more spontaneous and able to go with the flow? I know that more often than not, I always do things the same and need to follow a set schedule as much as possible. It’s a challenge for me to just “go with it”, and it may be difficult for you as well. But I can say that when I’ve been able to let go of that rigidity in my thinking, I’m usually always glad I did. Sometimes, something unexpectedly wonderful results. Not always, but most of the time, I’m glad when I’ve been able to be more flexible in my thinking. Let’s see if the same is true for you. As always, I’d love to hear of your experience, so feel free to comment here or contact me privately.

Namaste,

Melanie

“Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark. Professionals built the Titanic.” ~~ Author Unknown

This week, I get to do a little traveling for my full-time job as an IT Business Analyst in the healthcare industry. Not only will I get to meet totally new people who use our products, but I also get to go to three places I have never been before — Tulsa, Oklahoma will be my first stop, then Salem, Oregon, and we’ll finish up in Seattle, Washington. We’ll be conducting some training on one of our products that is about to be released, and I will be the one conducting the training in Seattle. This will be the first time I’ve ever conducted a formal training…Yikes! I hope I don’t get a bad case of stage fright!

(I got this image from here)

Even though I am a little scared, I am also excited. After all, I get to go to three places I’ve never been. I’m looking forward to catching glimpses of things I’d never see where I live, maybe try some new foods, that kind of thing. And though I am very scared to conduct training on a product I’m not a complete expert on, I am looking forward to the challenge. It’s sort of exhilarating!

My challenge to you this week is try at least one new thing. Be creative and really try to find something that will stretch your wings and challenge your mind. For those of you who come to my classes at the Y, I’ve got a sub lined up since I’ll be traveling. So come to class and experience class from a new perspective. If you have an opportunity, maybe try a whole new style of yoga than you’ve ever done before. You never know when you might find something that will stoke your inner fire to a whole new level.

Whatever you decide to do that’s new, I would love to hear about it. Post a comment and share your experience, as you never know how you might inspire someone else to take a leap of their own.

Have a great week!

Namaste,

Melanie

“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily.  To not dare is to lose oneself.”  ~~ Soren Kierkegaard

Holy frijole! This is a very scary and amazing post for me to be writing to all of you out there in blog land. I bet you’re just DYING to know why, right? Well, OK. It’s time for me to officially spill the beans, I guess.

I am…ummm…WAIT for it….

the owner of a Yoga business!

Yep, you read correctly. I am, officially, the owner (well, co-owner, to be exact) of Vitality Yoga & Wellness, LLC. Here’s the logo…isn’t it awesome???

My partner’s name is Megan, and she and I are very excited about what is to come. I can’t speak for Megan, but this is both exciting and scary for me. Exciting because ever since I began teaching yoga, I hoped to someday have my own yoga business. Scary because I never actually thought it would HAPPEN, at least not this soon. This pic sums up what I feel like right about now:


(I got the above image from Souldrama)

I’m taking a leap of faith here, not knowing what’s waiting but willing to take the chance and see how it all pans out.

Many of you who have been following me probably want to know why in the WORLD I am doing this now, especially with all the health stuff I’ve been dealing with. Believe me, I had the same thoughts when this opportunity presented itself to me. But I am a firm believer that God presents you with opportunities at JUST the right time, and I feel really good about this decision.

Neither Megan or I have the time (or money) to run a full-scale yoga studio right now. But we both have a passion for yoga, we both want to share it with the world, we have the same vision…it just seemed to fit. Megan and her fiance own a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu studio here in town (Great Grappling, which both my daughter and husband take classes at…totally awesome place!), and they have grown so much in the time they’ve been open (which is less than a year), that they are moving into a much larger studio. As a matter of fact, today is the grand opening of this new studio. So Megan and I will be starting off on a small scale, offering classes out of the new studio, working around the Jiu Jitsu schedule.

We chose the name Vitality Yoga & Wellness because we truly believe that yoga is a wonderful way to help people find out what stokes their inner fire. That inner vitality that makes a person tick. And when a person figures out what their passion is, anything is possible! This is why doing this, even with all that I’m dealing with right now, seems right. Yoga is what makes me tick. Whenever I teach a class, I feel amazing because I’ve truly put my heart and soul into it. Whenever a student tells me how something I said resonated with them in some way, my inner fire grows. So how can I NOT do this? Yoga, whether I am teaching it or taking a class, makes me feel BETTER. I’ve simply GOT to do this and see where it goes…simple as that.

I really do think the stress will be minimal. We don’t have to worry about the traditional expenses of having our own brick & mortar studio after all, and our schedule will be very light to begin with…we will only offer classes on Thursdays and Sundays, at times where it does not interfere with my full-time job, so there is no conflict there. Megan will be able to start teaching in July, so we’ll add more classes then.

And we’ll take it from there. We’ll see how it goes. I just want to share yoga with anyone who wants it, regardless of where I do it.

So, if you’re interested in coming to class at Vitality, check out the site at http://vitalityyogasc.com. Classes officially begin on May 3rd. I’m so excited about this, and I really hope that we succeed in our mission to bring yoga to more people in our community.

Namaste,

Melanie

“Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush.”  ~Doug Larson

The pic above, in my opinion, is a beautiful representation of how blissful the Spring season can be, if you just open your eyes to all the beauty around you at this time of year. Flowers and trees are blooming, grass is green again, and fresh fruits and vegetables are more abundantly available to us.

Though this beauty is awesome to behold, many of us become afflicted with a bad case of allergies at this time of year, and that can sometimes make enjoying all this beauty a tad difficult. This Spring, in particular, seems to be worse than in years past, at least in my part of the country. An extremely mild winter and lots of rain has raised our pollen levels higher than they typically should be at this time of year, and everywhere I go lately, people seem to be sneezing and sniffly and puffy.

One thing we can do in our yoga practice to help rid the body of these environmental toxins is to incorporate poses that stimulate and cleanse the liver and gallbladder, which are crucial organs in filtering toxins that enter our bodies from the environment and from the foods we eat.

The liver and gallbladder meridians run along the inner and outer legs, so incorporating poses that stimulate these areas of the legs is beneficial in kicking these organs into high gear. This week, we’ll work on incorporating a variety of these types of poses into our practice, such as:

  • Pigeon Pose
  • Cow Face Pose
  • Seated Straddle Splits
  • Butterfly Pose
  • Child’s Pose

Though our main focus will be poses that stimulate the inner and outer legs, twists are also great poses for the liver and gallbladder. We will include a few of these in our practice this week as well, as they are also wonderful at helping clear toxins from our bodies.

I hope to see you in class this week. If not, have a wonderful week, and try to incorporate some of these kinds of poses into your routine. Even just a few minutes with these poses can do wonders for your body and for your mind. Let’s get rid of all the “junk” we’re carrying, and see if it doesn’t manifest itself into a multitude of areas in your life.

Namaste,

Melanie

Hey everyone,

Recently, I’ve been realizing what a variety of people are reading this blog site. I have three topics I blog about, which at the beginning was fine because the three things (yoga, running and my health) were forever interconnected. As I’ve progressed and had to alter some things in my life to deal with the things that have come my way, I notice that the three topics are becoming more separated and my audience has become more diverse. Some of you are really only interested in the blogs I post that deal with yoga, and some of you are really interested in the saga of my health, and some of you are really interested in running info (which I’ve not written about as of late, due to the reintroduction of extreme fatigue and pain in my body).

In an attempt to make it easier for you, the reader, I have categorized all my blogs to the appropriate topic. If you look in the top navigation now, you should see links that deal with each topic I blog aboug. If you click on the topic that you are interested in, you will only see the blogs that I’ve categorized in that particular topic. This way, as my blog posts grow, you won’t have to sift through the ones that you’re not interested in.

Also, I have a request of you. I started off writing this blog as a form of therapy for myself, as writing has always helped me think through serious and tough situations more clearly. Lately, I’ve been adding blogs about the weekly yoga focus for the classes I teach, and I’ve gotten some good feedback from some of you on those — that they have helped you in a number of ways. What I want you to do is to let me know what you’d like me to write about, in relation to yoga, health or whatever. Are there specific items in these three areas you’re dying to know more about? Do you have specific questions for me about my journey in these areas that I can share?

My goal with this site is to inform people about the things I’ve had to learn the hard way, and to inspire people to take charge of their health. Knowledge is power, and if I can help even one person find answers by sharing my journey, then I’ll be happier than a pig in you-know-what. You can help me reach my goal by telling me what it is that brought you here, and what it is that has kept you coming back. But more importantly, what can I provide that I’m not providing already?

Thanks in advance for your feedback!

Love and blessings,

Melanie

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“Life is trying things to see if they work.” ~~ Ray Bradbury

Yesterday, I posted a blog asking you what it was that brought you to the practice of yoga, and what is it that has kept you coming back. In keeping with that theme, this week I am asking you to think back to your very first yoga class – whether it was to a DVD or in a live class  – and how every movement probably felt new and different to your body, and to your mind.

This week in class, try to relive that feeling in each pose you do. Try to remember how Downward Dog felt the very first time you did it, for example. Was it challenging? Did it feel like your arms would never stop shaking? Could you do the pose with your legs straight, or did you have to bend your knees because your hamstrings were super tight? What about Forward Fold? How did THAT one feel? I know that for me, Forward Fold felt like torture because I was so tight in the hamstrings!

If you can relive that “first time” feeling, then I bet it’s easy for you to see just how far you’ve come in your practice, especially if you’ve been practicing for awhile.

Taking the time to reflect on our practice in this way can sometimes be just what we need to rejuvenate our passion and to remind us how hard work pays off, both on and off the mat.

Namaste,

Melanie

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