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Yesterday, I tried something new. After hearing about it for a couple of years now, I finally tried…wait for it…GOAT YOGA! A friend of mine who teaches called me a few weeks ago, to ask if I’d be interested in subbing for her in May. I must admit that I almost said I wasn’t interested, but then she said to me, “You know, I got into teaching yoga because I want to make people feel good. Goat yoga does that…it’s so laid back and everyone is just so happy after.” How could I say no to that?

She suggested I come try it myself, since it’s really different from how I am used to teaching. So my daughter and I decided to check it out together yesterday. Oh my Goodness! I can’t remember the last time I smiled and giggled so much!

This little baby girl was taken with me for the first 15 minutes or so of class. They call her Little Mac, and she just kept pawing me every time I stopped petting her. Then she climbed up on me for a little bit, tried to eat my shirt, and then went on her way to the next person.

Later, Casey and I got more interactive with the goats, and that just made us giggle even more.

I left that class feeling so happy. So full of joy. Not only did the goats bring me many smiles and laughs, but I got to spend time with my daughter (which can be very rare these days). Also, I ran into people I knew, and met some new people…I felt like we had a little community established by the end of our time together.

It inspired me to write my own meditation, which I closed my yoga class with tonight. I call it the Meditation for Joy. Here it is…try it yourself, giving yourself at least 5 minutes (we did this for almost 15 minutes in class tonight):

Come to a comfortable position, perhaps a seated position, or even lying down. Someplace where you can spend the entire time you plan to devote to this meditation.

Close your eyes, and take a deep breath. As you inhale, shrug your shoulders up towards your ears, tensing the muscles. As you exhale, let the shoulders relax and drop away from the ears. Do this for a few rounds, and notice how your neck and shoulders relax a little more after each round.

Now, focus on evening out your inhales and exhales. Perhaps you inhale for a count of 3 and exhale for a count of 3 (pick a count that works best for you). After 3-5 rounds of this, settle in to a normal breathing pattern.

On your next inhale, think about something that is causing you stress or anxiety in your life at this time. Maybe it’s an illness. Maybe it’s a relationship. Whatever it is, greet it as you would an old friend. Be respectful to it, acknowledge it, but politely ask it to leave. Simply say, “I don’t have time for you in my life at the moment, so I need you to respect me and go.” And as you begin your next exhale, visualize that thing leaving you, and feel a little lighter as you begin your next round of breath. Sit with this feeling for a few rounds of breath, noticing how you feel, how your breathing might have been affected, any thoughts that have arisen. There is no right or wrong. Simply notice.

On your next inhale, think about something that brings a smile to your face. A smile to your heart. Maybe it’s a person. Maybe it’s a place. Whatever it is, greet it as you would an old friend. Ask this friend to join you for a bit. Simply say, “It is so nice to see you! Let’s spend some time together and catch up. There is so much for us to share!” And as you begin your next round of breath, visualize what you would want to do with this old friend. Would you share a cup of coffee over a cozy dining table and catch up? Would you take a walk along a breezy ocean beach? As you visualize this time you’ll spend together, notice if you feel lighter and happier with every round of breath you take. Notice what thoughts arise. There is no right or wrong. Simply notice. Spend as much time here as you wish.

When you’re ready, begin to deepen your breath. On your next inhale, take a big stretch. Release on your exhale. Take any movements you need to, and coming to seated, take your hands to heart center, thumbs at your heart, chin to chest. Take a big inhale, and exhale through the mouth, as a big heavy sigh, releasing anything that does not serve you.

Try this meditation for yourself. If you do, I’d love to know what you think! Please share in the comments!

Namaste,

Melanie

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Happy March, everyone! It’s been awhile since my last post, as it’s been a very busy few months for me, but I am back…at least, I THINK I am. 🙂 In this post, I wanted to talk about a craze that’s been around for awhile, but it’s taken me a bit of time to jump on the bandwagon. I live in Fort Mill, SC, which is right on the border of Charlotte, NC…a big city here in the southeast. For a few years now, yoga classes being offered at breweries has been a thing, but I’ve avoided it like the plague. I guess I just always thought of yoga being so sacred that it could not POSSIBLY be good to practice in a brewery setting.


(Photo courtesy of Jamie Carney)

However, a couple of months ago, we had a brewery open here in Fort Mill. My friend, Nicole (a fellow yoga teacher), let me know that she’d be teaching a regular class on Saturday mornings at this new place. So I decided to check it out, because I wanted to support my friend. I thoroughly enjoyed it, much to my surprise. So much so, that when Nicole asked me to sub for her, I willingly agreed and had the BEST time teaching to a wonderful group of yogis. If you’re on the fence about yoga and beer going together, let me try and ease your mind a bit. In my experience, I found that combining beer and yoga made the whole experience more approachable. At the brewery here in Fort Mill, it’s a more Vinyasa style of yoga, but is definitely beginner-friendly. This form of yoga allowed me to relax and destress by unplugging from activities of daily living. It goes to show that craft beer can pair with anything! If you love craft beer and socializing, try beer yoga. Here are some things to keep in mind:

What to Expect With Beer Yoga

  1. Beer comes second in beer yoga…yoga comes first!
  2. Laid-back atmosphere
  3. Participants of all levels of experience
  4. A fun and helpful teacher
  5. Beer and socializing

What to Bring

  • Water bottle
  • Comfortable and stretchy clothing
  • Yoga mat
  • Extra money…usually you get one beer included, but you may want to stick around for more!

Namaste and cheers!

Melanie

Have you ever stopped to consider how wonderful it is to have limitations? Think about it…would life be fun if everything you do comes easily to you the very first time? Some people would probably say yes, but I think that answer would be given without REALLY thinking about it. I think limitations are something everyone should experience along the journey of their lives. I think limitations help us grow in ways we never would if everything just came naturally and was 100% perfect.

A couple of weeks ago, the center where I go for my Lyme treatment reached out to me and asked if I’d be interested in leading a yoga class there on Monday evenings. The owner explained that I could have a variety of students, as many have physical limitations due to whatever they might be coming to the center to be treated for, and asked if I would be OK with a pretty varied population. I was told they had blocks, chairs, blankets, straps, bolsters…you name it and they were prepared. I didn’t even have to think about it. I instantly said “YES! Of course! I would be honored!”

Some yoga teachers might not be quite so excited to teach a class of this sort. It’s a challenge to prepare a class that ANY type of student can participate in. And if you’re a vinyasa junkie, then a class of this sort might be very awkward, because it probably won’t have much of a “flow” to it.

But I am a person with physical limitations. Ever since I got sick, my body just can’t do what it used to do…I’ve got many posts throughout my blog about my frustration and struggle with finding my new practice. For a long time, I hesitated to teach because I felt like no one would want to take class with a teacher who couldn’t even do the poses herself. But through trial and error, I have figured out what I can do, what I can’t do, how to modify out the wazoo…I think I am a much better teacher because of my limitations.

You may be wondering how limitations in a yoga practice can make a better teacher. The perception out there in the world is that a yoga teacher should be an expert at practicing yoga postures. And yes…I agree with that thought to an extent. But I suggest rephrasing that to “a yoga teacher should be an expert at teaching yoga postures.” Allow me to explain.

Most of the general population has limitations while practicing yoga. Maybe it’s as simple as tight hips or hamstrings, or you have difficulty sitting still. Or maybe your limitations come from an injury or illness.

Maybe you’re saying to yourself, “Well, aren’t these BAD things? Isn’t it bad to be so tight, or to be ill? Don’t we want yoga to fix these things???”

OK…it’s true that yoga may help you get more flexible or recover from an injury more quickly. But it certainly won’t happen overnight. Which means…

You’ve got to learn to accept yourself as you are, in the moment. Limitations encourage you to stick with that learning; otherwise, you’ll never find the understanding you need to move past it. 

limitation

As a teacher, my limitations have helped me empathize with my students, allowing me to modify a practice to fit their needs. Because I have restrictions, I understand why certain poses are challenging or risky for certain populations. And because I understand, I have compassion for those who are struggling…I’ve been there, and I am STILL there on many occasions. I have completely changed the way I teach because of my limitations…and I feel it’s for the better. I admit that maybe I don’t teach a kick-ass Power Yoga class anymore and pack the room like I used to. But that’s OK. As a person with limitations, when I was trying to find classes that my body could actually do without causing more issues, there weren’t many out there. I found a couple, but they were not offered regularly (like, maybe once a month), or they were offered at odd times of the day because these types of classes don’t usually pack ’em in and generate lots of revenue.

I get it. I truly do. I’m just glad I’m being given this opportunity because I’m so excited to share what I’ve learned and encourage anyone struggling to never give up. Work with what you’ve got and use it as an opportunity to learn what you’re truly capable of.

If you can approach your practice in this way, no matter how big or small your limitations might be, it connects you to the concept in yoga known as santosha, which translates to “contentment”. It’s not easy being content with where we are right now, when we’re constantly bombarded with social media posts and images that make everyone else seem so perfect.

Discovering what you’re capable of may help you find happiness and acceptance for wherever you’re at, regardless of what might limit you.

Do you embrace your limitations? I’d love it if you could share your thoughts in the comments as to how you do it. We can all learn from each other!

Namaste,

Melanie

In my July post, I talked about my struggle with anxiety/panic attacks, and what I had done to address the problem. At the time of that post, I was feeling much better and have been since then…until about three weeks ago.

I was coming home from TN with my mom, and we got caught in a HUGE amount of fog and some rain on a curvy mountain road. All of a sudden, WHAM! I couldn’t breathe, I felt like I was being choked, I got dizzy. Between then and now, I’ve had them quite a bit, though most are not horrible…but I have had a couple more doozies during that time.

Panic(This is what I think I must look like when I’m having an attack…it’s certainly how I feel on the inside.)

The difference between before and now is that THIS time, I know I am not having a heart attack. I’m not dying. And even though I feel like I’m going to pass out, it’s physically impossible to pass out when having a panic/anxiety attack (the EMT who helped me back in May told me that amazing factoid).

As you can imagine, I’ve been frustrated during these past few weeks. Why the sudden backslide? I was doing so good, so what gives?

Well, like I always do, I had to analyze the situation and try to find some answers. And I realized something. Something very important. Something I’ve always known, but apparently needed to be reminded of. And that is, if you want to stay healthy and happy, YOU GOTTA WORK at it!

At first, I told myself that I had been working at it, so what the heck? But when I really dug into my analysis, I knew I had been slacking off. I haven’t been doing the practices I’d established on a regular basis (meditating, gentle yoga, dog park, reading for fun). Though my work stress is fine, I realized I’ve been overcommitting to other things.

You know, when someone asks you to do something, and it’s something you really enjoy, it’s so easy to say “YES! Of course I’ll do it!” But saying yes to too many things – even things you love – can be detrimental to some people. Especially people like me, who are dealing with a chronic illness.

Thankfully, I’ve got some people out there who really care about my well-being, and they’ve offered me some wonderful advice over this past week. I want them to know that I am listening, and I’ve been working this week on getting back to my regular practices, as well as incorporating some new ones that I think will help me with my stress.

One of those things is yoga nidra. If you’ve never tried a yoga nidra, I highly recommend it! Sometimes referred to as “yogic sleep”, it is a conscious relaxation practice that is intended to induce total physical, mental, and emotional relaxation….you literally just lay there and let the voice guide you through the total body relaxation…it’s amazing! I really love these versions, by James Jewell. Since yoga nidra involves you simply laying there and really listening to the guided relaxation, it’s critical for me to like the voice I’m listening to. James Jewell has a wonderful British accent, and a tone to his voice that just simply relaxes me through and through. You can choose the short one (which is about 20 minutes), or a longer one.

If you’ve never tried a yoga nidra before, I encourage you to do so. There are a variety of them out there for free…you can search on iTunes or Spotify, or any other place where podcasts and music can be found. A variety of yoga studios also offer yoga nidra, though I find that I can’t find them being offered on a regular basis here in my area of the world (local peeps, if you know of a place in the greater Charlotte, NC area that offers this regularly, let me know…I wanna go!).

Along with my other go-to tools and techniques, I’ll get this anxiety/panic back under control. I just have to remember that even when I’m feeling good, I’ve gotta keep working at it. I need to ensure that I do whatever I have to in order for yoga and meditation to become something I never push to the side and ignore.

How do you deal with stress in YOUR life? I’d love to hear the things that work for you. If you already have a regular yoga practice, what style do you practice? Do you practice for stress management or for the workout?

If you are local to me (I am in Fort Mill, SC), come practice with me. My classes focus more on relaxation and flexibility and are practiced at a soothing pace…perfect for stress management. Come join me! I’ll be teaching two sample classes this Sunday (10/29) at Body By Brady, located at 2132 Carolina Place Drive. One will be from 2:00 – 2:30 p.m. (this will be focused on strength and flexibility) and the other will be from 4:00 – 4:30 p.m. (this will be focused on stretching and breathing). Each are $10, and the proceeds go to the Fort Mill Fitness Initiative, a local charity.

I hope to see you Sunday. But above all else, I hope you are doing the things you need to do in order to stay happy and healthy. If you fall off the wagon, don’t beat yourself up. Remember…you gotta WORK to have the life you deserve! Let’s do this together!

Namaste,

Melanie

Yoga has been a part of my life since 1999…that’s 18 years! I’ve been teaching for 15 of those years, since 2002. That’s a long time, right? People frequently ask me about my yoga practice, and that’s cool. It’s great to know people want to know what I do and how I do it. But you want to know a secret? I totally freak out when people ask me these questions! Seriously, I’m not kidding!

You are probably wondering why in the world I would freak out when people ask me about my yoga practice. Allow me to explain.

The way I practice has changed a good bit over the years. At this point in my life, my practice is about where I can make time for myself and being mindful of how I feel. I have to get a bit creative with how and when I practice due to many reasons…I’m a wife, a mother, a dog owner…I work a full-time job, while teaching yoga and indoor cycling part-time. Oh, and there is that pesky chronic illness that I have, which constantly saps my energy and causes me muscle and joint pain. So when it comes to my yoga practice, I do what I can. Sometimes it’s a solid 75 minutes of movement, but sometimes I literally sit on my mat and focus on meditation for 5 or 10 minutes. It’s all yoga to me, as long as I am being mindful of what I’m doing.

When I first started pursuing my yoga certification, I was told by every teacher that if you’re going to be a good teacher, you need to practice yoga every single day. Back then, I was practicing a more vigorous vinyasa style of yoga. I wasn’t sick yet, so I had the energy to do those vigorous and powerful practices. Did I practice every single day? Ummm…well, this IS a confessional post, so I will tell you that I did NOT.

At least, I didn’t think I was. Because back then, I thought that if I wasn’t getting on my mat and sweating it out to a vigorous and powerful practice, then I wasn’t practicing yoga. Now I know different. As my life has evolved, my yoga knowledge has evolved. Which means my practice has evolved.

However, if you follow yoga blogs like I do, or if you search out yoga things on social media, you might run into the same thing I do, which is second-guessing yourself. This is because everywhere you turn, there is some yoga challenge out there, or some weird and crazy new style to try. You’ve probably seen it…30 days of handstands, 108 days of Sun Salutations, Naked Yoga, Beer Yoga, Goat Yoga, take a picture of yourself in a new pose each day…you get the idea. And if you let yourself, you can start to beat yourself up when you see all this stuff out there and it seems unattainable to you.

Here’s where my confession comes in. Are you ready for it? I’m proud of my practice, so here is my open and honest account of what the practice of a busy person, who happens to have a chronic illness, looks like.

I never finish 30 day challenges in 30 days.

I love to sign up for all kinds of challenges that are time-boxed because I always think that if I commit to one, it will hold me accountable and suddenly I’ll be amazing at whatever it is the challenge is targeting. I’ve signed for so many yoga challenges over the years, and I look forward to getting an email each day that breaks down what I’m supposed to do that day and usually has some wonderful words of wisdom and inspiration. In all honesty though, I make it through the first several days and then life steps in. Something will come up with one of my daughters, or there’s an emergency at work, or I simply have a bad day in terms of my illness. When that happens, I must adjust my expectations. I have made peace with this and rather than feeling like a failure, I give myself permission to do the type of yoga that suits my mood and needs on that day. Whatever challenge I am doing will still be there when I am ready to step back in, and that’s comforting.

I have been known to practice yoga in my pajamas.

Like many people with a chronic illness, there are days when it takes every ounce of my energy to get out of bed and force myself to walk among the land of the living. A girl’s gotta make a living after all, and I rarely get the opportunity to skip work or doing day-to-day things just because I don’t feel good. On weekends, sometimes I allow myself to spend a whole day in my pajamas if it’s been a rough week. And when that happens, I go into my yoga room, roll out my mat, and incorporate a gentle or restorative practice…in my pajamas. On other days, I really want to squeeze in a quick yoga session before I head out to work, so I pick a quick practice from YouTube before hopping into the shower. I figure it like this: it is more important to show up on my mat and practice in a way that suits me and my lifestyle.

My practice is often interrupted.

When I practice at home, interruptions are standard. I have a dedicated yoga room, and I always shut the door when I go in to practice. But inevitably, one of my dogs will decide it is a good idea to sit outside the door and sniff really loud, or cry for me to open the door. If I open the door, they join in with me, licking me and falling all over me in the process. When I go into my room to meditate, I announce to my family that I just need 10 minutes to meditate and to please not interrupt me. Do they listen? Nope! Every single time I try to take that measly little bit of time for myself, I get, “Mom! Blah blah blah!” Or “Honey, can you blah blah blah?” Seriously! I’m just asking for TEN minutes, people!

I don’t feel guilty that my practice is not perfect.

I used to beat myself up when I couldn’t get that vigorous practice in, or if I skimped out on a challenge I’d signed up for. But you know what that did? It made me miserable, and that’s not what yoga is all about. More recently, I’ve come across more articles that encourage people to do something each day, even if it’s only a short breathing practice. All of a sudden, I started to feel like maybe I’m not so bad after all, because I definitely AM doing something mindful each day, and that counts. I show up on my mat (or my bed, or a chair) when I can and how I can. My yoga practice is truly part of my life, so it evolves as I evolve. I am not going to spend my time stressing about doing yoga differently. I practice yoga to make me feel good and keep me healthy inside and out. Yoga is not about beating yourself up and about feeling guilty about not doing things the way everyone else does. It is about going with the flow and what you learn during that process.

Fellow readers, what are your secrets and confessions? Tell me in the comments!

“With integrity, you have nothing to fear, since you have nothing to hide. With integrity, you will do the right thing, so you will have no guilt.” ~~ Zig Ziglar

2016-02-24-1456290659-2571997-blessings-thumb
(Photo courtesy of Huffington Post)

Let me begin this post with the acknowledgement that I did not post anything during the month of June. Some of you who have followed me for some time know that I am pretty regular, and it is unlike me to go this long without something to say.

Believe me, I tried. Every time I thought about what I wanted to post for June, I came up blank. I had nothing. I was totally and utterly devoid of anything meaningful to say. And so…I decided to take some time off. It was desperately needed, and this post will explain what’s been going on with me. Get ready, because this one might get a bit deep, but my heart is telling me it’s important to share this. So here goes.

For years now, I’ve been moving up the ladder in the world of Healthcare IT. I began as a programmer, moved into being a Systems/Business Analyst, then into my current role of Technical Product Manager. And on the side, I have been teaching yoga and indoor cycling classes, which you all know how much I love. Being in the IT industry is what enables me to pay the bills and help support my family. Being on the Healthcare side of IT is a super bonus, because healthcare is so much a part of my life. Between my illness, illness with family members, and embracing alternative healthcare to achieve overall wellness, I want to do my part to make everything a little bit better for people out there whose health is suffering in any way. What I do in my full-time job is helping to improve the lives of patients. What I do on the side helps prevent people from BECOMING patients. This means I should be happy and fulfilled, right?

I didn’t realize it, but for over two years now, I’ve been on a downward spiral. I was going through the motions, getting through the day, convincing myself everything was perfectly fine. During this time, I’ve gotten sick quite a bit, and have had several spans of times where my Lyme symptoms have flared back up. I’ve had to call in sick more than I ever have before. I chalked it up to the nature of this chronic illness because…well…I am chronically ill, after all!

Then, on May 11th, it happened. I was at work and by mid-morning, I was NOT feeling well. I had some pain on the left side of my chest, and my left arm was kind of tingly. Then I started to feel really dizzy, so I called my husband and told him that once the dizziness passed, I was going to leave and head over to Urgent Care. On my way to Urgent Care, the dizziness returned. While waiting at a stop light, in the rush hour traffic, all of a sudden I felt like I was passing out. I couldn’t catch my breath, I broke out in a sweat, my fingers went completely numb. I thought, “Oh my God! I am having a heart attack!” But I couldn’t get my fingers to dial 911. So I got out of the car and knocked on the window of the car in front of me, and the driver was an angel from above…she called 911 for me, and she sat with me and held my hand until the ambulance came, and she didn’t leave me until she felt like I was in good hands.

So what happened? Long story short…I had suffered a massive panic attack. And I have been suffering from them most every single day since then, up until about 8 days ago.

They’ve been debilitating, as they always happened in my car, any time my car stopped moving. My doctor talked with me at length about this, and she pointed out that though I have some great tools available that help control stress and anxiety (i.e., yoga, meditation), I was not using those tools. Teaching isn’t the same as doing, after all, is it? She stressed to me that if I didn’t get this under control, then I probably WOULD end up having a heart attack at some point. Hearing her say that so bluntly definitely got my attention.

I said to myself, “So now what?” Well, I relented to doing two things I didn’t think I would do:

  1. I started seeing a professional who specializes in panic and anxiety
  2. I agreed that, at least for now, taking a prescription to manage these attacks was necessary

At first, I felt like the most complete and utter failure, because I thought doing these two things meant that I was a fraud. I mean, I help other people manage their stress and anxiety as a yoga teacher and a wellness coach. If I am having to get help from someone and take prescription meds, then I must be a fraud, right? Wrong!

During this time, I have learned that it’s ok to ask for help. I’ve rediscovered my meditation practice, and have FINALLY pared back on anything non-essential so that I can focus on ME. It hasn’t been easy, as I’ve given up teaching any regular classes. I am strictly subbing or offering special classes as I feel up to it. It’s been hard, because…well, it’s hard giving up something you enjoy. But it was necessary…I can see that now.

The help I’ve received during this time has allowed me to dig in to what was truly causing all this stress for me. Which brings me back to how I started this post.

This time of reflection helped me to realize that the role I’ve been in for the past two years (at two separate companies) was simply not the right role for me. The main responsibilities of my role don’t jive with my innate personality. I can DO the job, sure…but it caused me stress because it just wasn’t who I am. When I really thought about it, I realized that I missed being a business analyst, and an opportunity came my way shortly after that.

Pursuing this role caused a whole new slew of emotions. It is a pretty significant pay cut from where I’m at now, and it’s a “step down” in terms of the career ladder. Does this make me a failure?

My husband and I talked at length…would we be OK with me making so much less money? Would I be considered “less than” because I couldn’t hack it in my current role? My husband told me, “Mel, don’t worry about the money. Is this what you enjoy doing?” I told him, “Yes…I love helping customers solve their problems and then working with a team to make it happen.” And he said, “Then you should go for it. Who cares what anyone else thinks? If it makes you happy, then you probably won’t be sick as much.”

My husband’s a pretty smart guy, and having his support gave me the courage to go for it.

As I was preparing to turn in my resignation at my current job, I was initially scared. I’ve enjoyed working there, and I especially have loved working with my boss. She has taught me SO much, and I also love what this company does for the world of healthcare. More than anything, I didn’t want to seem like a quitter, or come across as a failure.

Integrity is defined as “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.” I decided in the end that no matter what, I was going to be honest about my reasons for leaving. And I felt at peace with it as soon as I decided that. I wouldn’t feel right if I gave a reason that was a lie.

When we talked, I simply told her what was in my heart. That I appreciated the opportunity to have been here, but that the role just wasn’t the right fit for me. Every word I said was completely and 100% honest. And you know what? She totally understood and wished me well.

You see, I approached the situation with integrity. First, with myself…I got really honest with myself about what was making me unhappy and causing me stress to the point where I started having debilitating anxiety/panic attacks. Once I did, an opportunity came my way…an opportunity I think is a true blessing for a variety of reasons. Finally, I resigned from my current job with integrity…this is a company I do truly believe in, but the role I was in simply wasn’t my calling. And that’s OK. There is no guilt that I feel, because I followed my heart and spoke my truth.

Friends, I know many of you struggle with something. Don’t ignore it like I did for so long. Sit with it for a bit. It may be uncomfortable at first, but I promise you…if you meditate on it and really dig in to WHY whatever it is bothers you so much, then you will find the answer. And once you understand what you’re meant to do, go for it and don’t look back! Embrace it, and watch the blessings pour in!

Namaste,

Melanie

“Nothing in nature blooms all year. Be patient with yourself.” — Karen Salmansohn


View from the suspension bridge at Anne Springs Close Greenway


I have never considered myself to be a patient person. Neither do any of the people who know me well. I have thrown my share of fits when someone cuts me off in traffic or doesn’t acknowledge when I’ve done something to help them out in some small way. I’m not the only one, right? I mean, I’m only human. That being said, I would like to think I’ve got the ability to practice patience in some of the most trying of situations (i.e., when one of my daughters has experienced one of the ever so wonderful teenage emotional meltdowns).

In my own life, though, I have struggled to find patience with myself. I would say that I enjoy most aspects of my life. I’ve got a wonderful family, awesome dogs, a very nice career, good friends (not many, but those I do have I consider to be true friends, and they are all I truly need).

So why am I constantly questioning my decisions that have led me to where I am? I always wonder if I’m in the right job, if I’ve made the right decisions when it comes to my kids, etc. I think we all do this, to some extent. Times when our inner voice says, “This was good, but not good enough.” Or, “Why didn’t you do this?” Things like that. It’s an abusive relationship like any other, but we ignore it because it’s us abusing OUR OWN SELVES. Crazy, right?

I think if we took the time to slow down once in awhile and really pay attention to what is going on around us, it would go a long way towards helping us find that patience we so desperately need.

Several times this week, I journaled about my constant questioning of my own abilities. I was getting frustrated because I am not sure why I’m doing this to myself all the time as of late, moreso than ever before. And then I had a lightbulb moment.

I thought back to when I first began practicing yoga, to DVDs, way back in 1999. It took me a solid year before I went to a live yoga class because my body was so stiff that I was embarrassed to be in a room with others. But I finally did attend a live class, and I STILL could not do many things the other students could do. But I kept at it. 

Chaturanga was my nemesis. I just couldn’t seem to make my way down without dropping my knees as a modification. And then suddenly, I could do it without modifying. It probably took me about 3 or 4 months. Honestly, I’m not sure how long it took. I just know that I worked, and worked…and worked…until one day I could do it. Hmmm…maybe I actually have some patience after all. For the things I really want, anyway.

Thinking on that this week — how I had the patience to work at learning Chaturanga — made me realize how so much of my life outside of yoga is stifled by my pattern of rushing to the finish. I tell myself that certain things are out of reach for me, and so they are. I simply give up, rather than following the foundational steps of getting there. But I am strong enough and capable enough to do lots of things. With my yoga practice, I’ve done the work needed to move to the next level in poses. In yoga, I’ve fallen many times — too many to count. But I always get back up and try again, taking my time. I collect myself after landing on my mat, I think about what I could have done differently, and then I try again. Over and over.

So this week, it suddenly hit me that I don’t need to be perfect as a mom, or in my career, or anything else. I simply have to be patient with myself. Easier said than done, I know. However, if I can remember the lessons I’ve learned on my mat, the patience I’ve cultivated as I am tackling something new in my practice…well, maybe I can eventually approach the situations in my life off the mat in the same way.

What about you? When you fall, do you let yourself tumble down into a state of disappointment or depression? Do you become a victim? Or do you accept it, learn from it, and then try again?

I think that if you can accept where you land…if you can accept the good, the bad and the ugly, and sit with it in contemplation…then that is when the magic happens. 

Namaste,

Melanie

Sorry for the lateness in this post, but this month’s post is the speech I gave in my Toastmasters International Speech Contest, and I wanted to wait until after the contest to post it in written form.

The contest was tonight, and I came in 3rd place. I am happy with that, because I delivered the speech pretty much the way I wanted to, and several people came up to me afterwards and thanked me for sharing my story.

I know this is typically a yoga blog, but this speech is one I think resonates perfectly with the philosophy of yoga. When we make the choice to step on our mats, we’re putting ourselves out there…sometimes, it means facing our fear of practicing in a room full of others when we feel “less than” because we get stuck in the art of comparing ourselves to everyone else. Sometimes it means facing personal demons, because yoga can bring up some pretty deep stuff…sometimes, things surface for me that bring me to tears and wondering, “Where the heck did THAT come from???”

However, every time we make the choice to step on our mats, we are making the choice to DO SOMETHING for ourselves. And in turn, that translates into giving us a better chance at being able to do something for others who may need us.

So, without further ado, here is the speech I gave…I hope it resonates with you.

hands(Photo courtesy of Simply Accessible)

I started off by singing the first verse from “With My Own Two Hands”, which is a wonderful song by Ben Harper…here’s the verse:

“I can change the world, with my own two hands
Make a better place, with my own two hands
Make a kinder place, oh with my, oh with my own two hands
With my own, with my own two hands”

Let me ask you something. What does it take before you will do something for someone else? If you knew it didn’t have to be something big, like money, or even a huge amount of your time, would it change your answer in any way? How many of you are thinking, “Well…it depends.”?

A couple of months ago, I was listening to a storytelling podcast called “The Moth” and heard the story “Luminaria” by Denise Scheurmann. This story centers around the time when she was 15 years old. Her dad was terminally ill and in the hospital during the holiday season. As you can probably imagine, she, her mother, and her brother were consumed with everything they were having to deal with. They felt alone, and the holidays were not on their minds AT ALL. As they were coming home from the hospital on Christmas Eve, they noticed as they entered their neighborhood that the luminarias were lit. It was a tradition in their neighborhood to light them each year and place them along their driveways and sidewalks to welcome in Christmas. They thought, “Our house will be the only one not lit up”, and that just got them even more down. But as they drove up to their house, they saw that their luminarias were lit. An anonymous neighbor (or neighbors…they never did find out) had decided to do something for this family to make sure they felt included in the neighborhood tradition.

That may seem like a small thing, but to this family, it meant the world. Denise said it made them realize they were not alone, and that people cared. In fact, she said that years later, when she was going through a divorce, remembering what her neighbors had done all those years ago helped her get through many dark moments.

Denise’s story resonated with me, because it made me think of my own story a bit. For those of you who may not know, I was diagnosed with Chronic Neurological Lyme Disease in late 2012. That diagnosis came after more than a year of knowing that SOMETHING was wrong with me, but not knowing exactly what. I spent thousands of dollars on tests that showed nothing definitive. I thought I was crazy because many doctors told me it was all in my head or was just due to “stress”. I lost many important people in my life because they couldn’t deal with me talking about it so much and thought I was just looking for attention. During that time, and many times since, I’ve often felt alone. Lyme Disease has taken over my life.

However, God has amazing timing. He has placed several people in my path who have done for me what Denise’s neighbors did on that long ago Christmas Eve. They’ve made my world a better place, and they probably don’t even realize they’ve done anything at all.

I’m what you call a “functioning” sick person. You might be asking, “What does that mean?” Well, I go to my job, and I take care of myself and my family most days. I even exercise pretty regularly. Most people don’t even realize I’m sick. I don’t LOOK sick. Many people think, “If she’s REALLY sick, then shouldn’t she be in a wheelchair or something?” People don’t have a clue how to deal with someone like me. They don’t understand how many things I love that I’ve had to give up in order to “function” and make it through each day without being a burden. It can be pretty lonely.

In hopes of finding anything that could help me make sense of what I was dealing with both physically and emotionally, I stumbled across a blog called My Color is Lyme, written by a woman named Jennifer. Her post, Confessions of a “Functioning Lymie”, brought me to tears. It was like I wrote that post! The whole time I was reading, I was nodding my head in agreement, exclaiming, “Yes…YES! That’s it, exactly!” Like me, Jennifer struggled with various health issues for a long time before finally getting a diagnosis. Like me, she “functions” by being able to continue going to work each day and taking care of herself and her pets. And, like me, many people in her life walked away because they assume she is fine and should stop complaining.

People suffering, but “functioning”, like Jennifer and I, don’t usually feel comfortable putting their story out there for the world to see, because they’re afraid of backlash and more abandonment. But Jennifer decided to do something, and by sharing her story, she has given me (and I’m sure many others) a bit of hope. She had the courage to put into words what I was unable (or, if I’m being honest, unwilling) to.

You never know who might be going through a tough time. There have been others who, like Jennifer, have made me feel less alone. Sometimes simply asking, “Is there anything I can do?” is enough.

Think back to Denise’s story. It probably took all of 5 minutes to light those luminarias. No big deal. But what WAS a big deal was those neighbors decided to do something. A something that meant the world to this family, giving them a bit of happiness not just for that evening, but for a lifetime. To this day, that small gift is still giving Denise some comfort.

At the end of her story, Denise challenged her audience to write their names and numbers down and give it to someone right then and there, as a reminder that they are never alone. How powerful is THAT? Another example of something that seems like a small thing to do. But imagine how it would feel to someone who is going through a tough time, someone who feels like they’re all alone in the world…imagine how seeing that little note from you might be what is needed to lift them up and remind them that someone cared enough to do something.

Author Samuel Johnson said, “The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” I ask you, in closing, to think about that for a minute. What is the something that YOU can do to make the world a better, kinder place…with your own two hands?

That last line, “with your own two hands”, I sang as a way to tie back to the song I opened with. 

Namaste,

Melanie

 

“To be hopeful in bad times is based on the fact that human history is not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand Utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.” ~~ Howard Zinn

Happy February, everyone! I sure hope the start to your 2017 has been filled with positivity and happiness. Unfortunately, if you’re one of my readers here in the United States, I fear that many of you may be having a bit of trouble with positivity and happiness right now. I’m not going to go into politics…Goodness knows we’re getting bombarded by that everywhere right now. But what I will be talking about here in this post…well, I just hope that it does at least a little bit to lift your spirits if you’re feeling a bit out of sorts.

Throughout the month of January, I found myself getting all out of sorts with a variety of things. I had a lot of different things going on with my full-time job, with Toastmasters, with my family, with my yoga classes. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about when I say that it was one of those phases where I’d committed to WAY too many things. I think we’ve all found ourselves in this situation at some point in our lives, am I right?

Well, there I was, completely stressed out over trying to do too many things, and feeling like I was being pulled in all sorts of directions at once. I noticed that I was more short-tempered. My sleep was impacted. I was cursing over every little thing. My Lyme symptoms started to flare up. I felt like a HUGE failure! Try as I might, I just wasn’t able to provide the self-care I needed to keep things in check.

If this had only gone on for a day or two, things would have been just fine. But here I am, five weeks in, and things are still feeling out of control. I do see an end in sight, but some damage has been done, emotional and physical, that needs to be addressed.

Thankfully, this last weekend, I had the opportunity to get away for a weekend workshop on Restorative Yoga. It was held at a beautiful yoga studio in Mount Airy, NC called Sacred Space. It was just what I needed!

I was fortunate that my friend, Lidia, was able to join me. She lives in my area, so we drove there together and rented a nice room at a super cute B&B called Heart & Soul. When we checked in, we were in awe of how gorgeous this place was! We were within walking distance to the yoga studio, so we decided to enjoy the beautiful weather and walk over.

For those of you who don’t know, Mount Airy is the town that Andy Griffith’s town of Mayberry was modeled after. We enjoyed looking at all the stores, and we were even treated to an old-timey police car driving by us. Already, I was smiling, which I sorely needed at that moment.

The workshop was small, with only seven of us in attendance. When I took my first Restorative Training, there were over 30 people. Don’t get me wrong…that was a great training. But I’ve always preferred the smaller trainings, where you can really get to know each other and walk away feeling you’ve made at least one true friend for life.

me_lidia_sacredspace
(Me and Lidia, after training on Sunday)

By spending so much time on the mat in a gentle and restorative practice, I was able to sit with my thoughts, really dig in to what’s going on with me, and show myself a little compassion. By spending some quality time making an effort to begin and grow friendships, I feel I was able to walk away being able to show compassion for others a little more effectively. It’s amazing how, when you really stop to think about it, we are all part of a web of people who love US, and who WE love. This web is growing all the time, as long as you take that time to allow compassion in.

So to my friends who read this blog, and to my readers who I may never have met in person: If all the things going on in the world right now seem to be too much to bear, show yourself some compassion. Find the time to make time for YOU, incorporating any self-care rituals that rejuvenate and empower you. Find a way to reconnect with old friends, do something that will allow you to make some new friends, tell your best friends and family how life wouldn’t be the same without them. Be there for them, showing them compassion as they may be working through tough times, too.

Tap in to this compassion, rooting yourself to the present. You might find it’s just what you need to reset and recharge.

Namaste,

Melanie

Many times over the years, I’ve been asked for a variety of recommendations. Things like:

  • What yoga mat should I buy?
  • What are the best yoga pants?
  • What are your favorite books?

You get the idea. Well, here is a start to things I’ve recommended over and over again to my friends and students, and I always get great feedback that I was spot on. So here is the first of hopefully many posts for things I recommend that can help you immensely in your journey to better health and wellness. This particular post is centered around yoga recommendations, so here we go.

a-few-of-my-favorite-things
(Photo courtesy of Guide to Secret and the Law of Attraction)

Yoga Mats

My favorite yoga mat — and I have had MANY of them since I began practicing in 1999 — is the Manduka PRO Yoga and Pilates Mat, Black Magic,71″. This mat is thicker than average, which is great for people like me who have joint issues. Plus, I don’t care how hot of a yoga class I’ve attended, I never slip when I take this mat with me. I sweat — a LOT! And prior to having this mat, I could never go to hot classes because I always felt like I would hurt myself…I would slip as soon as I started to sweat. But once I got this mat, it was smooth sailing! I’ve had my mat since 2009, and it still looks brand-new…and I use it a LOT! It’s expensive but worth the money.

If you travel and can’t take a mat this thick, the Manduka PROLite Yoga and Pilates Mat, Midnight, 71″ travels better and is also a bit cheaper.

Yoga Shoes

Next up…my favorite yoga shoes! These Merrell Women’s Tango Posh Zip Sneakers Shoes [Black] [7.5] shoes are awesome because they are super light and bendy, so I can wear them when I am teaching (my feet get cold when I am not actually doing the practice with my students, and I also don’t like my feet getting dirty by walking around on a floor that might not have been cleaned). Even when I’ve practiced yoga, I’ve worn these shoes because they really do feel like I am wearing nothing. Yet when I need to leave and move on to the next event, these shoes are super comfy so I don’t even have to change into a different pair.

Yoga Pants

Now for yoga pants…there are so many options! But I love the leggings Reebok has, as they are not super expensive, and they last a long time. Plus, when you’re doing yoga poses that require you to “stick”, you don’t want slippery pants, and you want pants that let you breathe so you don’t get too hot. I love these Reebok Women’s Elite Tights from Reebok, because I love the pattern…it’s quirky and funky, like me!

But if you would rather pants with a bit more of a feminine look, then the Reebok Womens Tree Tight might work better. Same material, so you should experience the same benefits as mentioned above.

Yoga Tops

In terms of yoga tops, that is SO hit or miss for me. I tend to get really hot and sweaty if I am practicing a vinyasa style, so I like something that breathes and moves with me…something very light and stretchy, but that doesn’t look skin tight. That is not easy to find! I tend to love tanks by Next Level, and I love this Next Level Women’s Stylish Soft Tri Blend Racerback Tank Top because it’s not too tight and typically runs true to size.

However, when I am in a more gentle or restorative class, I want to be warmer and tend to prefer long sleeves. Again, I love Next Level, as they make a super comfy Ladies’ Burnout Hoody that is the perfect amount of thickness, AND I can wear it to more than just yoga.

 So there you are. A few of my favorite things that always help me have a more amazing yoga practice. Stay tuned for more of these, which will cover books I recommend, as well as various things I use to help me in my journey to health and wellness.

Namaste,

Melanie

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