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Dreaming Big for the Coming Year

It’s January again – a popular time to set goals and dream big for the coming year. No matter what your aspirations are, here are a few tips to help you accomplish your goals.

Be Honest – set realistic goals. Shooting for the stars is great in theory, but setting goals that you can realistically achieve will keep you motivated. For instance, if you’re an omnivore moving towards a plant-based diet, it might be best to try easing into the diet one or two days a week.

Be Really Specific – if you have a big goal, there are likely many steps you’ll have to take along the way. For example, if your goal is to buy a house you might need to apply for a loan, create a savings plan, determine your spending limit, etc.

Tell Everyone – the more people you share your goals with, the more you’ll feel accountable for achieving them.

Set Deadlines – give yourself deadlines or check in dates to keep track of progress towards your goal.

Have a Backup Plan – things don’t always go as planned, especially for more complicated goals. Don’t risk panicking and throwing all your hard work away, have a Plan B.

Be Kind to Yourself – congratulate yourself for making progress towards your goal. If the path to achievement gets rocky, do what you can in the present moment to reframe your perspective. Stay focused and positive!


Pausing to Rebalance this Holiday Season

It’s tough to stay balanced during the buzz of the holiday season. There never seems to be enough time to fit everything in, including yoga. When you feel strapped for time, use these three practices to refocus your awareness.

Take 5
Take five slow breaths in and five slow breaths out. It sounds easy, but when you’re overwhelmed or stressed the breath tends to be shallow. Reset with five mindful breaths and if you feel you need more, take ten.

Rebalance
Rebalance your intentions with tree pose. When we feel unbalanced emotionally, it’s often apparent in our practice. Tree pose will help you find stability and strength to endure the holiday season.

  • From a standing position, take your hands to heart center. Shift your weight into the right leg. Bend the left knee and bring the sole of the foot to the inner thigh of the right leg (other options: bring left foot to the calf, tent left foot with toes on the floor and heel against the right ankle).
  • On the standing leg, focus on rooting down through the sole of your foot, as though you could spread roots into the floor.Press the sole of the left foot into the right leg. Picture them merging together to form a strong base, like the trunk of a tree.
  • Notice the stability you’ve created with this strong base. Notice the freedom it gives to the upper body, a feeling of lightness. Feel free to take your hands overhead like branches of a tree.
  • Take 10-15 breaths in the pose and repeat on the other side.

Half Sun Salutations
No mat? No space? No problem! You can do half sun salutations anywhere. Start your day or refresh your afternoon with 3-4 rounds.

  • Begin in Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
  • Inhale – reaching the arms out and up overhead to Urdvha Hastasana (Tall Mountain Pose)
  • Exhale – hinging at the hips to fold forward in Uttanasana (Forward Fold)
  • Inhale – lifting the chest and lengthening the front of the spine for Ardha Uttanasana (Halfway Lift)
  • Exhale – bowing into Uttanasana (Forward Fold)
  • Inhale – hinging up to stand in Urdhva Hastasana (Tall Mountain Pose)
  • Exhale – to Tadasana (Mountain Pose)


Creative Ways to Meditate and Cultivate Mindfulness

We hear the word “meditate” quite frequently nowadays. It’s often associated with an image of a person sitting crosslegged on a cushion with eyes closed, likely in a peaceful setting. For smartphone users, there are many apps available to aid in meditation, you can even find them on planes. But what are we seeking in meditation?

As a generalization, most people use meditation as a way to calm the mind or relax. A calm mind for some of us can be found by sitting quietly or listening to a soundtrack of rain, but it will be different for everyone. If you can recall moments in which you felt truly peaceful and recreate them, meditation will become more accessible and natural for you. Not everyone likes to sit in silence on a cushion. Instead of struggling with a practice that doesn’t work for you, find what does.

Below are some creative ways to meditate and cultivate mindfulness from the book I Am Here Now: A Creative Mindfulness Guide and Journal

Drawing Meditation
1. Find a piece of paper and something to draw with. At it’s simplest, it can be any scrap paper and writing utensil you have. To get more complex, find a nice piece of drawing paper and use colored pencils, paint, charcoal, etc.

2. For every inhale, draw a line. For every exhale, draw a line. Let the process be fluid, give yourself creative freedom.

Counting Meditation
On your way home, pick one thing to count. It could be anything – people wearing scarves, dogs, mailboxes, bicycles…

Gratitude
Upon waking in the morning or going to bed at night, think of 3 things that you’re grateful for.

Make a List
1. Make a list of all the things you like to do to relax – making a pot of tea, getting a massage, taking a bath…

2. Start doing these things! It can be once a week, it can be once a month, just make sure you do it.

Dance
It doesn’t matter if you think you have moves or not. Put on your favorite song – in the car, with headphones, wherever. Notice the rhythm and move your body!


A Day in the Life of Your Breath

In yoga asana practice, we bring awareness to the breath. In everyday life, many of us lose the awareness. What might we learn from observing our breath over the course of a day? You might be surprised how often we hold our breath and perhaps even more interesting, when we hold our breath.

Pick a few activities from the list below and observe your breathing pattern during the activity over the course of a few days. If you notice yourself holding the breath, bring the breath back and take note of any changes you feel in doing so.

  • Eating breakfast, lunch, or dinner
  • Talking on the phone
  • Preparing a meal
  • Talking to someone in person
  • Writing an email
  • Dealing with a stressful situation

Taking your Asana Practice to the Next Level

The journey to advancing your asana practice starts with the self.

Last month, we wrote about turning the awareness inward with breathwork. Inward awareness is what’s truly going to transform your asana practice. Our bodies are unique which means the way we move is unique. Teachers are invaluable, but only we know what’s going on inside our bodies. Taking your practice to the next level begins with bringing all your focus and attention to the body (internal and external).

Try this exercise:

After a warm up, come into your favorite standing posture. From the feet to the crown of your head, evaluate the posture internally. What adjustments can you make to breathe easier? What adjustments can you make to feel more spacious in the body? Repeat on the opposite side and note any differences.

Since we can’t see what our bodies are doing, it’s always helpful to have a teacher, friend or even a mirror to observe how our bodies move. If there is a pose you are working on improving, use that second set of eyes to get yourself into the optimal posture. From there, use that inward awareness and get the body to “feel” the alignment.