The Truth About Pumpkin Spice

In West Virginia, we get to experience the glory of all four seasons. Even if we favor one and complain about another, we have to admit that each is beautiful in its own way. Yet the transitions from one to another can sometimes wreak havoc on our bodies, especially if we’re not armed with the knowledge and the tools to make those transitions smoother.

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Reiki FAQs: What, When, Where, Why, and How

If you follow MSY or attend classes at the studio, you’ve probably seen or heard the “reiki” quite a bit. Perhaps you’ve been curious about it but are hesitant to try it. Or maybe you’ve even experienced it and are still curious! You might even wonder whether you can learn how to use reiki. So I’ve asked our resident reiki master (and my personal reiki practitioner), Jen Sunderlin, to shed a little more light on reiki: what it is, how it works, and why we need it – now more than ever.

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Extreme Self Care

Mondays are self care days for me. That’s a non-negotiable. That’s not to say Mondays are a “day off” for me. Every small business owner knows that days off don’t really exist. There’s always something to be done. But every Monday, before I dive into bookkeeping, blog posting, updating the website, or mopping the floor at the studio, I make sure I do something for me.

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August at MSY!

If you’re wondering where July went, you’re not alone. It flew by! But summer isn’t over yet, and MSY has full slate of special events to help you make the most of these longer days while they last.

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Investing in Yourself

I’m at a bit of a crossroad. I am almost finished with my Yoga Health Coaching training, and I should be fully certified in June. And rather than looking forward to relaxing a bit, satisfied with this accomplishment, I’m excitedly asking myself, “What’s next?”

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Spring Cleaning

It might be snowing outside right now, but for the past two weeks, I’ve been in spring cleaning mode. I’ve donated NINE tall kitchen garbage bags full of clothes. (I know that sounds ridiculous, but apparently I’ve been reluctant to part with any of my clothes for the past 10 years and my husband still had some clothes from the 90s.) I’ve also been clearing out everything from chemical-laden cosmetics to empty boxes that I’d saved for some potential purpose that never presented itself.

I’m on a roll, and I can’t tell you how liberating it is get rid of things I no longer need and simply open up space for the sake of opening up space as opposed to opening up space to make room for something else. Space is addictive – the more you have, the more you want. And at the same time, it frees your mind. That’s one of the things I love about the studio. I’d love to go with a full-on KonMari tidying marathon, but my schedule (probably like yours) doesn’t really allow for that. So I have to do what I can when I can.

My spring cleaning doesn’t just apply to my home. I’m also smack in the middle of a 21-day digestive cleanse. Last week, I eliminated meat and dairy from my diet. (For what it’s worth, no one was more surprised than me that I’ve been able to go 9 days without cheese.) This week, I’m adding more alkalizing dark leafy greens, sprouts, and microgreens. I had an amazing massage with reflexology with Courtney at 39 North to move some lymph and support my liver and kidneys. Next week, I’ll add more fermented foods for a natural boost of probiotics. It’s a gentle cleanse because, once again, my schedule doesn’t exactly permit me to shut down for a few days.

Why a digestive cleanse? Think of it like switching out your winter wardrobe for your summer wardrobe. What we eat during winter should look a lot different than what we eat during summer. The fact that we can obtain just about any food we want at any time of year doesn’t mean we should be eating strawberries in November or an abundance of root vegetables in July. We should eat seasonally, like our ancestors did. And in between seasons, sometimes we need to open up some space and get rid of things we no longer need.

Our inner space isn’t limited to the physical body either. With a change in seasons comes a change in mindset, and it’s a great idea to slow down enough to recognize and acknowledge that shift. It’s a shift in mindset as well as in energy. Winter is dark, cold and introspective. Summer is bright, warm, and gregarious. If we don’t pause to honor that shift in energy, we risk ending up edgy, spacey, anxious, or restless.

So during this change in seasons, which in West Virginia waivers between capricious and volatile, take some time to work on your energy body. Get rid of what you no longer need and open up some space in your energy channels. Yoga is always a great way to do that, and this week, we have two special events geared specifically to that goal.

At 7 pm on Thursday, Sheray will introduce MSY to Kundalini yoga. Kundalini is the energy that coils at the base of the spine. It’s creative, spiritual energy the generally remains untapped. Kundalini yoga is practiced with the intent of tapping into that potential energy and moving it through the central energy channel (the spine) up and into the brain. The Kundalini practice includes meditation, mantra, and breath work, as well as a physical practice to leave your entire body buzzing with awareness.

On Friday at 5:45, Kindred Vibes is hosting a Crystal Reiki Soundbath Meditation, which is every bit as amazing as it sounds. The best part is, all you have to do is lay on the floor and immerse your senses with essential oils, energy work, and the beautiful sounds of crystal singing bowls, chimes, drums, and toning. Soundbaths are deeply relaxing experience that puts you into meditative state perfect for healing journeys. The vibrations of the crystal singing bowls affect the body at a cellular level to reduce stress, reconnect the body, mind, and spirit, as well as restore, balance, and align the chakras.

So this week, take some time to open up some space and recognize and acknowledge the change in seasons and how it affects you. And if you need a little guidance, you know where to find us.

See you at the studio!

Deep Listening

On Saturday morning, I received the following Facebook message:

Good morning, Angela. I owe you an apology. I was pretty wound up when I arrived at your studio and I went on and on and on and on . . . you never got a word in edgewise. I’m feeling a little self-conscious about it this morning and wanted to say “I’m sorry.” Sometimes I just need to remember to reel myself in! lol (and then other times – remind myself to open up! lol) . . . . thank you for your patience with me and just being your wonderful “you.”

My response was simply this:

“No worries at all. You provided me with an opportunity to practice my deep listening skills.”

She thought that was funny, but I wasn’t being facetious. I was totally sincere. It’s a skill I’m working on, a “growing edge.” I was introduced to it in my health coach training, and it’s changing the way I show up in the world.

This was one of three opportunities I had to practice this skill this past weekend. The second occurred that same night when I was able to sit with someone I talk to daily, usually in a rushed, hurried, distracted way. But Friday, she came into the studio and we sat face to face on the floor with no cell phones or other distractions and she looked me in the eye and told me what was going on in her life. It was such a different experience for us, that I was the one who felt compelled to send a message about it later to tell her how much I enjoyed it.

The third opportunity was quite deliberate. In my coaching group, we practiced something called “circling.” In circling, each person has an opportunity to speak for a set amount of time (we chose 10 minutes, which is rather on the short end for this type of exercise, although when you’re speaking, it seems like a very long time). While the speaker is speaking, the other members of the circle maintain open body language and focused attention on what they are hearing. Listeners pay full attention to the sound of the words and the body language the speaker exhibits while abandoning habits such as planning their next statement or interrupting the speaker. It is active rather than reactive listening.

Circling encourages insight for everyone involved, and it’s a powerful experience for several reasons. First and foremost, we’re not used to being heard. Quite often, a speaker will start to cry before she utters a single word. The tears are as much a response of gratitude for the opportunity to be truly heard, and fully supported by the group, as they are a response to the subject matter.

Deep Listening is a way of hearing in which we are fully present with what is happening in the moment without trying to control it or judge it. We let go of our inner clamoring and our usual assumptions and listen with respect for precisely what is being said, and what is not being said. Effective listening requires a contemplative mind: open, fresh, alert, attentive, calm, and receptive. And it can be cultivated through instruction and practice.

The beautiful thing about deep listening is that we don’t have to be listening to another person in order to practice it. We can practice it with ourselves, and yoga provides the perfect opportunity to do just that. Each time we step onto the mat, we have an opportunity to listen deeply. As we move through a yoga practice, each pose is an invitation to be fully present with what is happening, to be in the moment. Vinyasa teaches us to be open, fresh and alert. Slower practices, like yin and restorative, require more attention, calmness, and receptivity. Yoga is indeed an exercise in active listening.

Practiced enough, we naturally take this ability that we’ve cultivated on the mat out into the world with us. Deep listening becomes our “off the mat” yoga. And other people notice. It feels different to talk to someone who is fully present, someone who isn’t formulating a response or just waiting for his or her turn to speak.

Margaret J. Wheatley says, “Listening is such a simple act. It requires us to be present, and that takes practice, but we don’t have to do anything else. We don’t have to advise, or coach, or sound wise. We just have to be willing to sit there and listen.”

This week, I invite you to take some time on your mat to sit and listen. The teachers at MSY are here to help you. You know where to find us.

April Showers Us With Opportunity

Spring is in the air and teachers at MSY are ready to bust you out of the winter doldrums!

We’re starting April off with two new class series. On Monday, April 2nd, Stacey Fox introduces us to a “Fresh Perspective.” Every Monday in April, Stacey will encourage us to have some fun while building strength. This all levels series focuses on inversions, which, in more ways than one, offer us a fresh perspective!

Our next series starts the very next day! On Tuesday, April 3rd, Sheray begins her “Happy, Healthy Spine” series. Each Tuesday in April, we’ll work on backbends, heart openers, and twists. This class is an all levels vinyasa flow. We'll work together to create support in the spine using core work, backbends, and heart openers. Twists will also be a component of this series to create space within the vertebrae.

With both these series, you’ll gain the most benefit from attending every week, but you are welcome to just drop in whenever you are able.

Friday, April 6th is our monthly reiki clinic. Judy is back from cross-country tour and anxious to get back to doing what she loves: giving reiki and reading tarot. Suzie and Jen will also be on hand for reiki, and Paula will be offering AromaTouch and iTOVi scans. Paula will also be offering a workshop or two this month, so follow her Facebook page and watch for events.

On Friday the 13th, Jen Sunderlin will offer a timely Mantra & Mudra workshop. A mantra is a word, phrase or sound that is repeated in order to increase mindfulness in meditation. Mudras are hand positions that also increase mindfulness during meditation and can affect the flow of energy in the body. In this workshop, Jen will teach you how to use mantras and mudras in order to derive inspiration, creativity, healing and wellness within your mind and body.

We get a double dose of Jen this weekend, as she is back on Saturday the 14th for another Date Night Yoga & Massage workshop. This couples’ class has been getting rave reviews, so if it’s been on your wish list, register today. This light-hearted partner class is appropriate for all levels and for all types of couples, so if your love isn’t up for it, grab your BFF, your daughter, your mom, or anyone you’d like to have a little fun with. Jen will lead the yoga practice while Paula leads us in a relaxing hand massage. Each couple receives a doTERRA massage oil blend to take home, and afterwards we’ll head down to Joe N Throw for a complimentary beverage of your choice.

If self care is high on your list of priorities, don’t miss Angela’s Body Wisdom free talk on Sunday, April 15th. This class introduces you to the REAL yoga lifestyle: aligning your daily habits with the rhythms of nature. Whether you want to lose weight, eat better, sleep better, function better on a daily basis, reduce common aches and pains, or simply dive deeper into your already healthy lifestyle, you’ll walk away with two habits you can start using right away to begin your shift into feeling better in your body. 

Last month, Sheray traveled to Asheville, North Carolina to submerse herself in Kundalini yoga. This month, she’s bringing Kundalini to us! Kundalini is a dynamic, challenging, and powerful practice designed to uplift the spirit, calm the mind, and bring balance to the entire body. Utilizing “kriyas” (a series of postures, breath, and sound that work toward a specific outcome), Kundalini combines breath, mudra, eye-focus, mantra, body locks, and postures. In this workshop, Sheray will discuss the history and technologies of Kundalini yoga and guide us through a beginner’s kriya.

Sheray has another treat planned for us as well! Meditate & Paint is back on Saturday, April 21st. This workshop is simply about exploring your own creative energy. You'll be creating your own masterpiece inspired by yoga and meditation. Dress comfortably - no new clothes. Sheray will provide everything that we need for the event. 

Finally, Kindred Vibes will hold sound healing meditations on April 7th, 20th, and 27th. If you haven’t experienced this yet, set an intention to make it to one or more of these this month.

Bookmark Main Street Yoga and follow us on Facebook for the most up to date information on what’s happening. If you’d like to get these blog posts sent directly to your email, fill out the “subscribe” form at the bottom of this page.

See you at the studio!

The Comprehensive Plan

Last week’s blog, “Human Connection and Health Evolution,” included this sentence: “. . . if you’re looking for deep, integrative, lifelong health evolution, you need two things: a comprehensive plan and a group of supportive people headed in the same direction you want to go.” As the title suggests, I chose to focus on the latter last week. This week, I’d like to talk about the plan.

I call my plan “Body Wisdom,” but to be perfectly honest, nothing about the plan is mine. I didn’t come up with it on my own. I’m learning the system from someone much further along the path than me. Body Wisdom is a group coaching and support program based on the ancient practices of Ayurveda, the strategies of modern behavioral science, and the power of group support and accountability.

So let’s start with Ayurveda. Ayurveda means, quite literally, the science of life (ayur = life; veda = science or knowledge). Despite the fact that it is thousands of years old, ayurveda continues to be one of the world’s most sophisticated and powerful mind-body health systems. Much more than a system for treating illness, ayurveda offers a body of wisdom designed to help humans stay vibrant and healthy while aging and realizing their full potential.

While the ayurvedic system is quite complex, its approach is simple: align with the rhythms of nature rather than struggling against them; cooperate with your body’s constitution rather than trying to force your will upon it. In Body Wisdom, we learn simple 10 habits that help us do just that. The result is better digestion, improved metabolism, better sleep, more consistent energy, fewer aches and pains, and a robust immune system.

Now we all know that change isn’t easy. When we try to uplevel our habits, we frequently get sucked back into old patterns for a variety of reasons. For that reason, Body Wisdom is also a crash course in habit evolution. Using proven techniques from modern behavioral science, particularly the work of BJ Fogg, James Clear, and Charles Duhigg, we take small steps toward big change. We start to notice our habit triggers, and we learn to rewire our brains so that we can replace bad habits with good habits that support our health and wellbeing.

The third component of the program brings us back to what I’ve been going on and on about in my last two blogs: group support and accountability. In addition to the amazing group of women who are now supporting each other in experiencing the benefits of the program, Body Wisdom includes accountability worksheets and charts to help keep us on track daily, weekly, and monthly. Something magic happens when we put pen to paper and map out our intentions. As one of our group members recently told me, “If this course has taught me one big thing, it’s the power of a to-do list.” Ironically, that’s not one of the habits we learn, but the course is so comprehensive, that we end up reaping benefits we never expected.

So how does all of this fit together? Each week, course members receive an assignment that includes videos to watch, information to read, and worksheets to complete. We complete these on our own, then we meet up in person for some group discussion and coaching that sometimes involves fun ways to try new habits. We learn 10 habits in 10 weeks, but every member has an annual pass that allows them to take the course up to 4 times within a year.

If this sounds like plan you can get behind, fill out a form on my health coaching page, or contact me at mainstreetyogafmt@gmail.com I’ll schedule a one on one session with you to see if your goals align with ours. If you’re a good fit, I’ll offer you a spot in our next round, which starts April 22nd. You can also plan to attend my next free talk on April 15th at 4pm.

And if you’re tired of reading about Body Wisdom, no worries. Next week I’ll be talking about all the wonderful things the Main Street Yoga teachers are planning for April!

Human Connection and Health Evolution

Last week, I wrote about connection. This week, I’m continuing with that theme, but I have two questions for you first:

1.     What do you desire most in terms of your health?

2.     What is keeping you from having that desire?

Last fall, I posted a survey on Facebook and found that the two most popular answers to the first question were losing weight and eating a healthier diet. Other answers, in order of popularity, were aging well, sleeping well, and reducing or eliminating specific issues or symptoms. I would imagine, had I listed it as an option, some of you would have also answered building a healthier immune system.

Along with those physical issues are usually some mental and emotional issues: you want to experience less stress and overwhelm and you want to feel better about yourself. Maybe it’s even deeper than that. I’ve been taught that you need burrow down about five layers to discover the why behind the why behind the why behind the why . . . but more about that some other time. Right now, I’m interested in this question:

If, six months ago, you would have answered my survey with any of the above answers and if now, six months later, you have not made any progress towards those goals, what is keeping you from them? Sure, we all have excuses. “I’m too busy working/taking care of kids/taking care of parents/taking care of everyone except myself.” But what is the REAL reason, and what would it take to get you to commit 100% to your personal health evolution?

My guess is it’s not a lack of information. We all know what we SHOULD be doing. In fact, there are a ton of diets and programs out there that will get you where you want to go, at least in the short term (i.e. not all programs are sustainable). Most of them will scratch the surface of your needs: you might lose 10 pounds; you might start exercising more. But if you’re looking for deep, integrative, lifelong health evolution, you need two things: a comprehensive plan and group of supportive people headed in the same direction you want to go. Of the two, the second will make the biggest difference.

In the past, I tried going it alone. And at times, when I was really motivated, I made some progress. But motivation waxes and wanes. As humans, we’re not wired for constant motivation. What we are wired for is connection, deep connection with other humans. We want to be a part of something. We want to feel like we belong. We NEED to feel supported.

So often, when I meet with people one on one about their health goals, I hear, “I need someone to hold me accountable.” These individuals understand that peer support is crucial to hitting their goals. They know that groups evolve faster than individuals. They also know that you can’t just throw a random group of people together and expect to evolve. The people in the group have to have the same level of desire to go where you want to go, and someone in the group needs to be a few steps further along the path than the others.

There’s a theory floating around out there that you are an average of the five people you spend the most time with. Take a moment and think about who that is for you. Are those five people influencing you in a good way? Are they on the path you want to be on? Or do you need to meet new people and cultivate new relationships?

If the latter is true, contact me! My Body Wisdom health coaching group is full of women who are on a growth path, who are committed to becoming better versions of themselves, and who support each other 110% every day. If that sounds like where you want to be, I’ll sit down with you one on one to see if you’re a good fit for our group. If you are, I promise, six months from now, you will be further along the path.

I hope to hear from you.

Angela

A Different Kind of Vacay

I’m sitting on a plane right now. I spent the last week in a little town in Mexico called Punta de Mita. And though many parts of my trip felt like a vacation, I was in fact there for Yoga Health Coach training. The experience could not have been more different than my last trip to Mexico.

The last time I went to Mexico, my husband and I spent a week at an all-inclusive resort. There was a lot of down time, a lot of food, and a lot of margaritas. This time, I stayed in condo. I shopped at the local markets; the breakfast and lunch that was provided to me and the other women at the training consisted of green juice, fruit, salads, and fresh shrimp and fish. I had a grand total of three margaritas over the course of the week: one on the day I arrived, and two after we completed the training.

The food and drink weren’t the only things that were different about this trip. I spent most of my time with 34 other women, many of them yoga teachers, most of them yoga health coaches or yoga health coaches in training. All of us were what our trainer, Cate Stillman, calls “wellness pros.” This week, for me and many others, was very much about stepping into and owning that title.

The theme for our training was leadership. Leadership is a concept that wellness pros tend to shy away from. We’re a touchy-feely sort of bunch for the most part. Our goal isn’t to lead; our goal is help people live healthier, happier lives. Nonetheless, with Cate at the helm, you have no choice but to accept the fact that you are indeed a leader.

Despite the fact that we were each encouraged to own the role of leader, the amount of support and connection between and among the women there was something that is so very rare in our society today. There was no sense of competition, even between women who live in the same city and are teaching the same basic program, a program based on Cate’s book Body Thrive. That support and connection enabled everyone present to experience breakthroughs of one kind or another, myself included.

My version of Cate’s program is called “Body Wisdom,” and I’m so proud to say that the level of support and connection I felt with my fellow yoga health coaches exists in abundance in my current coaching group. I’m leading a group of 14 incredible women into healthier habits that will enable them to thrive more and more as they learn and automate the habits of yoga and Ayurveda. Many of the women at the training this week who are leading similar groups were lamenting the lack of interaction and connection between their members. I was so proud to report that my members are blowing up our Facebook forum with everything from tips and recipes to pats on the backs. They share their small wins as well as their struggles and support each other 110% at all times. They are truly amazing!

My experience in Punta de Mita was life changing. I made new friends through deep listening and true connection. I’m seeing that same deep listening and true connection between and among my course members. (Perhaps a few of them will comment here about that experience . . . hint, hint.) We’re currently in Week 8 of the 10 week program, but our journey won’t end there. They are all enrolled for a year. If you’re interested in learning more about the program and joining us for our next 10 week round, fill out the form below or email or message me. I’d love to set up a one-on-one strategy session with you to see if you’re a good fit for our group.

See you at the studio.

Angela

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For my mother . . .

I've been absent from blogging lately. One reason for that is my mother's health had taken a sharp downturn. Sixteen days ago, my mother's spirit left a body that had been ravaged by MS, osteoporosis, and scoliosis. Yesterday, at her memorial service, I delivered this message, and since it relates to yoga, I decided to share it with you.

Growing up, I was a very lucky child. Not only were all of my basic needs provided for . . . food, shelter, clothing . . . but I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I was loved. I don’t know that I knew I was lucky, but I know that I never worried about any of those things; I never questioned whether I was loved and I remember being happy most of the time. The love and security I felt as child, I owe to both my parents, but because it was the 70s, and because my dad, who was a coal miner, worked long hours and worked shift work, most of the day-to-day, hour-to-hour love and support came from my mother. And she was great at it.

My mom was a stay-at-home mom when I was a kid. The house was always clean. The laundry was always done. She made clothes for me and my sister (embarrassing matching outfits) She did macramé and ceramics with my Nonna. She was my Brownie and Girl Scout Troupe leader. In the summer, she took me and my sister swimming every day. And she took me and friends roller skating and ice skating almost every weekend. We went to mass every Sunday. I always got what I wanted for Christmas, and even though my birthday was on Christmas Eve, she always made sure that it was celebrated separately. When I was a cheerleader and a majorette, my mom was at every game. And she saw every play I was in in high school and college. She was my biggest fan.

When I became a mom myself, it was my mom who took me to the hospital at 9pm and stayed with me there all night until my son was born the next morning. And it was my mom who took us home from the hospital two days later. She fell head over heels for my son, and I was able to see her capacity for love expand even more.

But my mom wasn’t perfect.  I didn’t approve of some of the choices she made, and that complicated our relationship. She could be selfish and stubborn, and I could be a bit self righteous. When it came to her MS, I was disappointed that she didn’t fight it harder. I expected more from the spirited, fun-loving woman who raised me, and that disappointment sometimes manifested as resentment. I wasn’t perfect either.

But it is our imperfections that make us who we are. Because at the core of everything, we are all the same. We all want to love and to be loved. As my mom’s disease progressed, I was reminded more and more of the love and care she gave me when I was child. The worse things got for her, the more I knew that it was my privilege to be able to offer her some amount of comfort and support. When I tied her shoes, I remembered her teaching me to tie my shoes. When I brushed her teeth, I remembered that she taught me how to brush mine. And when I brushed her hair, I remembered her brushing my hair and putting it in pigtails . . . well, that is until she gave my sister and me those awful shag haircuts in 1976.

Today, we are all gathered here to remember that we loved and were loved by my mother. I end my yoga classes with the word “Namaste.” It is a one-word acknowledgement that despite any perceived differences, any imperfections, at the core of everything, we are the same. And in closing today, I offer my mother the full sentiment behind the word “Namaste:”

My soul honors your soul. I honor the place in you where the entire universe resides. I honor the light, love, truth, beauty, and peace within you because it is also within me. In sharing these things, we are united. We are the same. We are one.

 See you at the studio.

New Classes in February!

Hi, everyone! This is Jen Sunderlin. February is here with the addition of two new classes: Family Yoga and Evening Yoga.

Yoga has changed my life, and I want to share my passion for yoga with my family and yours! Join my boys and I for Family Yoga on Monday afternoons at 4:00. Often, parents are driving from activity to activity and then waiting for the kids. Family Yoga class will bring everyone together in a healthy practice where all ages and all levels are welcome! It will be a fun filled class for you and the kids to do together! Family Yoga will incorporate breathing, poses, yoga stories, and games! Bring the family together to bond in a noncompetitive environment.

Sometimes, after a fun filled day with the boys, I struggle to drop into a calming evening routine. If this sounds familiar, try my Evening Yoga class on Tuesdays at 7:00. Evening Yoga will be a practice designed to gently burn off nervous energy, then slowly wind down and relax. You’ll leave feeling calm, peaceful, and ready for a good night’s sleep. This class is appropriate for everyone at every level, including prenatal students.

If you need time to bond with partner (or best friend, sister, etc.), I’ve also got your Valentine’s Day date night covered! Join me and Kindred Vibes on Saturday, February 17th at 6:30 for yoga, crystal singing bowls, and scalp massages followed by a complimentary drink at Joe N Throw.

Whatever your needs are, check the MSY Calendar to find a class that’s right for you! Show yourself a little yoga love this February by taking some time to center yourself and nourish your soul.

See you at the studio!

The Formula for Illness

Sometimes I struggle with what to blog about, and other times it’s blatantly obvious what I should blog about. I’ve written a lot in the past few months about the importance of self care. I’m pretty lucky in that I rarely get sick. I try to compound that luck by eating well and getting seven to eight hours of sleep per night. But none of us have perfect immunity, and sometimes even the best of us succumb to a virus or bacteria. Such was the case for me last week.

As I was thinking about how and what to write about this experience, I started backtracking through my week and kept finding more and more clues as to what threw me off and where I could have perhaps evaded the unpleasant outcome: sinus inflammation and a sore throat. So for the sake of clarity, I’ll start at the beginning.

Wednesday night/Thursday morning: I didn’t sleep well. While I have no trouble falling asleep early, staying asleep is often a struggle. I fell asleep before 10 on Wednesday night but woke around 3:30 Thursday morning and couldn’t get back to sleep. Somewhere between 4:30 and 5:00 am, I got out of bed and started my day with the intention of taking a nap in the afternoon to make up for the few hours of sleep I had lost.

Thursday afternoon: I taught my lunchtime yoga class, came home, ate my main meal of the day, did some online coursework for my yoga health coach training, and instead of taking a nap, as I had promised myself I would do, I “powered through” and got some more work done. I was on a roll. Why stop? Not so coincidentally, as the day went on, I noticed my low back and my neck tightening up, so much so that I called my chiropractor’s office to schedule an appointment for the next morning.

Thursday evening: I normally have Thursday evenings free, so this would have been the perfect time for me to slow down, spend the evening resting, and maybe go to bed even earlier than usual. However, I had committed to helping out at a doTERRA make-n-take at Watson Elementary. (I pride myself on being the type of person who does what she says she is going to do. I rarely back out of commitments, and if I do, I can assure you, it is unavoidable. But we all know that pride can lead to some unpleasant consequences.) So I spent a couple of hours at the school; I was home by 8:30 and in bed at my usual hour.

Friday: I woke up with some sinus congestion. My chiropractor’s office called me to reschedule my appointment because the doc was out, so I went about my day feeling okay but not great. Fridays are busy for me, so there was no time to slow down until I got to the studio a little after 4 pm, which was when I realized that the sinus congestion was blossoming into something else. Luckily, it was reiki night at the studio, so I received some reiki, which I think accelerated the healing process. By the time I left the studio, my voice was hoarse, which for me is a sure sign that sinus congestion is breaking up. I went home and oiled up with a blend of essential oils that included oregano and frankincense – I was determined to eradicate my bio invaders.

Saturday: Ugh! I woke up with my throat on fire and almost no voice left. Determined to burn out the virus, I spent some time in the sauna with essential oils. Saturdays are normally my free days, so this would have been the perfect opportunity to rest and nurse myself back to health. But not this Saturday. This Saturday I had committed to a two-hour shift at the Main Street Fairmont booth at the Feast of the Seven Fishes. (And we’ve already discussed my sometimes irrational aversion to backing out of commitments.) For those of you who don’t know, the Feast of the Seven Fishes is an outdoor festival in Fairmont usually held on the second Saturday in December. That’s right: an outdoor festival in December in Fairmont, West Virginia. So basically I had committed to standing out in the cold for two hours, and despite my best efforts at dressing for warmth (layers, quilted coat, warm boots, hat and mittens), I was a human popsicle by the end of my shift. An ill human popsicle. The only good news was that I only had one more thing to check off my to-do list before heading home for the evening. I got that done quickly and was home eating miso soup by 4:30.

Saturday evening involved full illness protocol. Now, two years ago, that would have meant a trip to Med Express where I would have been given antibiotics, a decongestant, and possibly Prednisone. These days, illness protocol looks like this: a hot bath in Epsom salts, diffusing essential oils (in this case ginger, oregano, frankincense and OnGuard), and plenty of warm liquids to drink (this time it was ginger and turmeric tea). I spent the evening on the sofa under a blanket, went to bed shortly after 9 pm and woke Sunday morning with a much less sore throat and clearer sinuses.

So here I sit on Sunday morning, under a blanket, post sauna and shower, with a diffuser diffusing, feeling better physically but kicking myself for not doing what I knew I should have done on Thursday. If I had taken the nap I had promised myself on Thursday afternoon, could this whole scenario have been avoided? Quite possibly. At the very least, not taking the nap probably made me more susceptible to the germs floating around in that elementary school Thursday evening.

So what’s the moral of the story here and what the heck does it have to do with yoga? Well, if yoga is about anything, it’s about listening to your body. When we practice regularly, that listening starts to happen off the mat as well as on the mat. When we listen regularly, we develop an intuition about what our body needs and wants. When we develop and work with that intuition, we make healthier lifestyle choices that support our wellbeing. And when we choose to go against that intuition, we can observe and learn from the consequences.  This is my observing and learning.

For the sake of clarity, this is the formula for illness:

Stress (physical, mental, emotional, or some combination of those) + not enough rest + exposure to viruses and/or bacteria (in this case, an elementary school) = illness

And to those of you who work in the public school system and aren’t constantly ill, you have my deepest respect. 

See you at the studio!

The Yogi Approach to Thriving Through the Holidays

“The Holiday Season” is officially upon us. Thanksgiving is in the rearview and Black Friday has bled over into Cyber Monday. If you’re anything like most people I know, December’s calendar is probably full of events and visits, concerts and recitals, and, of course, shopping. Self care gets put on the backburner. We rationalize that if we can just get through the next few weeks, then things will settle down and we’ll have more time to rest. We allow ourselves to eat and drink things we might not normally consume, and we probably eat and drink them later than we would otherwise. We force ourselves to run around more and stay up later in the interest of getting things done.

With all this extra activity and little time to rest, is it any wonder that flu season peaks between December and February? We’re exhausted, we’re not eating well, and our immune systems take a hit.

The ancient yogis understood that less really is more. And sure, you can argue that they had much less to do and to worry about, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from them and tweak our habits to better support our bodies and minds. For the ancient yogis, the prescription for thrive came down to two things: decreasing ama and increasing ojas.

Say what?

Okay, a few definitions are probably in order here.

Ama is a Sanskrit word that literally means “undigested” or “uncooked.” It usually refers to a gunky residue left over from poorly digested food. Ideally, everything we eat is either absorbed into our bodies or expelled as waste. But sometimes, when we’re not taking good care of ourselves, or when we are affected by stress, strain, or adverse weather, our digestion is compromised and some of this gunky residue remains in our bodies. Left unchecked, the accumulation of ama can be extremely detrimental to our health and wellbeing. At best, ama leads to energy inefficiency. At worst, it leads to disease.

How do you know if you have ama? Some common signs and symptoms are:

·         a sense of heaviness

·         a lack of energy

·         body aches and/or joint pain

·         dull skin and/or blemishes or acne

·         bloated belly/gas/constipation

·         white coating on the tongue

·         lack of mental clarity

·         apathy (that “blah” feeling)

Ojas is the opposite of ama. It means “that which invigorates.” Ojas is our energy reserve. It supports our immune system and psycho-emotional resiliency. It keeps us youthful, vibrant, and radiant. It gives us an overall sense of satifsfaction with life. Ojas is the result of healthy digestion and a lifestyle that reduces and reverses the depleting effects of stress. So as you might suspect, our busy Western society is running chronically low on ojas.

So how can we start restoring ojas? One of the easiest ways to build ojas is get enough quality rest (7 to 8 hours a night). Other ways include:

·         yoga and meditation

·         spending time in nature

·         spending quality time with friends and family

·         living boldly and doing what is meaningful to you

·         maintaining a sense of humor and perspective

·         maintaining healthy eating, sleeping and self care habits

During the holidays, when our schedules go awry and are working against us, these ojas-building practices are even more important. The December schedule at MSY will be packed with opportunities for you to slow down and tune in. And if you’re interested in learning more about how to reduce ama and increase ojas, join me for my free Body Wisdom talk on Sunday, December 3rd and/or fill out the form below.

See you at the studio

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The Yoga Lifestyle

I’m sure you’ve seen the phrase before: “yoga lifestyle.” Chances are you’ve seen it in conjunction with beautiful photos of beautiful people in beautiful clothes - photos meant to promote or advertise apparel or other products closely or loosely related to the practice of yoga. I’m about to tell you something that the yoga apparel companies don’t want you to know. The yoga lifestyle has nothing to do with the clothes you wear. It has nothing to do with what yoga poses you are able to do. And it is not particular to any body type, gender, or skin color.

BAM!

Mind blown?

I hope so. Because I’d like to start from square one.

In the beginning, yoga had nothing to do with poses. In fact, the texts that form the foundation of yoga don’t even mention poses. They do talk a lot about mindset, meditation, and how to live a good life. Somewhere along the way, they decided it was important to talk about how to take care of their bodies. And they approached the care of their physical bodies in the same way they approached their spiritual pursuits: systematically. They called their system ayurveda.

Ayurveda means, quite literally, the science of life (ayur = life; veda = science or knowledge). Despite the fact that it is thousands of years old, ayurveda continues to be one of the world’s most sophisticated and powerful mind-body health systems. Much more than a system for treating illness, ayurveda offers a body of wisdom designed to help humans stay vibrant and healthy while aging and realizing their full potential.

Long before modern medicine provided scientific evidence for it, the mind-body connection was a guiding principle of ayurveda. While modern medicine is just catching on to the health benefits of meditation (a decrease in the production of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, and an increase in “feel good” neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine), ayurvedic practitioners have been “prescribing” meditation for ages.

Ayurveda also offers many other practices for expanding self-awareness and cultivating an innate state of balance. These practices include when and what to eat, how to strengthen your digestive fire, when to sleep and when to wake, how to exercise, and how to live an easeful life. While the ayurvedic system is quite complicated, its approach is simple: align with the rhythms of nature rather than struggling against them. Cooperate with your body’s constitution rather than trying to force your will upon it.

Understanding how to apply this approach requires a certain amount of mindfulness – noticing what affects what in what way. While there are some universal practices, figuring out how to apply them in an intuitive and nourishing way takes time. So where do you start?

Ironically, most of us in the western world start developing mindfulness through the physical practice of yoga. When we step onto the mat, whether in a studio or at home, we create a space of heightened awareness. We tune out the outer world so that we can tune into our bodies. With regular practice, we are able to take that awareness off the mat and into the world, and that’s when the fun begins. We start to notice rhythms and relationships and interconnectedness. And we start to get curious about our part in all of it.

And THAT is the real yoga lifestyle: curiosity about and attentiveness to the connections we have within our selves, with others and with the world around us.

If you’re curious about yoga or ayurveda, come to my next Body Wisdom free talk on December 3rd or fill out the form below. I’d love to talk to you about your next step into the REAL yoga lifestyle.

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MSY Gives Birth

Hello! I’m Jen and I’ll be teaching Prenatal & Postnatal Yoga Classes starting this week! I’m very excited, and I'm so looking forward to guiding expecting and new mamas to be more in tune with their bodies during this amazing life experience! But first, let me tell you a little about myself.

I’m a transplant from Ohio who is in love with West Virginia! I’m a mom of two boys, a wife, almost an Art History graduate, a lover of the outdoors, a Reiki practitioner, a member of the MOMS Club of Fairmont (a support group for stay-at-home-moms) and a proud graduate of 200 hour yoga teacher training with Moonbow Yoga & Wellness.

I’ll be completely honest here: teaching pre-or postnatal yoga was not on my radar when I started yoga teacher training, but the universe kept elbowing and shoving me, as my boys do to each other, in that direction. After getting the hint, I’m now overjoyed to embrace the path of supporting my fellow sisters who are connected in motherhood! Throughout my training, I’ve learned that our purpose in life isn’t the easiest path – it’s one where you will be continually challenged to grow, adapt, and learn. I’m thankful to understand that and am beaming to embark on this journey!  

So a little about the classes I’ll be offering . . .

Prenatal Yoga will be a class to relax your mind while building a sense of empowerment, strength, and confidence. Pregnancy is a wonderful time to enjoy your body and the changes you are experiencing! Sometimes at first, those wonderful new changes can be difficult to adjust to. I know during my pregnancies there were many times where I thought “NOW what’s happening??? I just adjusted to the last change!” Prenatal yoga can help you integrate those changes and feel more comfortable moving your body in a peaceful, nurturing, and compassionate way, as well as prepare your body and mind for the birth of your new love!

Postnatal class will provide a space for you to reconnect with your post-bump body, helping you regain awareness to your needs. Did you catch that? Yes, I said YOUR needs! After the beautiful experience of birth, there are a million new changes! After I had my two babies, I was exhausted from lack of sleep. I was trying to learn baby’s needs. Then helpful visitors left and I felt alone in caring for this new person while still healing. Don’t get me wrong, those were truly wonderful times, but I wondered, where does time for self-care fit in? Postnatal Yoga class can help alleviate these feelings by helping you to regain balance and heal. It’s a wonderful opportunity to recharge your batteries, care for yourself, and breathe, while having special time to bond with your baby!

I’m so excited meet all the expecting and new mamas on the mat this week! If someone you care about is a new or expecting mom, please share this post with them. If you are a new or expecting mom, I hope you’ll come celebrate motherhood every week with me…. that means celebrating YOU, Mama!

 Namaste!