Real Life Ways To Build A Meditation Practice

We all know how en vogue meditation is right now. Unfortunately, while mainstream, most people will tell you they aren’t good at it or that they know they should do it but they can’t get around to it. And when it comes to meditation, this is all of us. In this article, I’ll cover some simple, yet not commonly mentioned, ways to build a meditation practice that sticks.

It is interesting to talk to people about meditation because it is one of those activities that beginners bring so much mental baggage to. I also find that people don’t really know what meditation is, which is completely legit.

There are so many forms of meditation on the market right know, it’s not a wonder the idea overwhelms anyone who might be interested. For example, there is transcendental meditation, zen meditation, walking meditation, kundalini meditation, guided visualization, qui gong, zazen, heart rhythm meditation, vipassana…you get the idea.

For the purposes of this article, we are talking about mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation is the simple observation of your own thoughts. As an observer, you don’t engage with them. You just let them pass. Dismiss them and return to your focus which is either your breath or some other concentration focal point in your immediate present state.

Instead of breath, many people use a body scan technique, observing each individual body part as they sit or lay down. Others observe the lights that appear when we close our eyes. Science nerds, these are called phosphenes. Scientists aren’t exactly sure where this light comes from but suspect the light originates from light generated from the cells inside our own eye. Whoa! Regardless of where the light show comes from, it can be a helpful tool in staying on track during mindfulness meditation.

Meditation’s benefits on the mind and body is robust and well documented to say the least. It includes improved mental focus, stress reduction, addiction cessation, insomnia resolution, weight loss, and anxiety and depression relief.

However, the goal of mindfulness meditation is to train our brains to put space between our thoughts and our actions so we can break down our conditioned responses to our feelings about life, many of which cause us stress, anxiety, or anger. Mindfulness also shows us what thoughts our mind goes back to most often or a pattern of thinking that isn’t serving us.

The yoga world overflows with tips and instructions designed to help people get their meditation practice started, enhance it, and the stick with it. So be sure to start your meditation research with a Google search to see what the internet has to tell you and then refer back to this article for a few tips and ideas I haven’t seen on the web.

Pro tip: proper meditation preparation does not require a high colonic, taro card reading, or a sage burning in order for it to work; don’t trust everything you read on the Internet.

Before you even sit down

One of the things I have noticed most often about meditation practices is that people, myself included, aren’t doing the right kind of preparation.  The standard meditation instructions typically go like this: 1) find an easy seated position 2) close your eyes 3) begin by observing your breath…

The funny thing about our brain is that it will find ways to entertain itself while we are trying to quite it. It is very much like a toddler at bedtime in this way. Suddenly we need to fidget, we have an itch EVERYWHERE, we have to go pee, we are hungry oh and also thirsty. We don’t like the guided meditation we chose and want to download a different one. It is too cold/too hot and our hands feel weird. This is the practice. This is all of us.

1. Remember what’s harder than doing nothing

Make a list of all of the things that you have done that are more difficult than sitting still for 5-7 minutes. Have you given birth to a child? Gone to the dentist? Taken a really difficult test? Given a Board presentation? Those are all things that are more difficult and much higher stakes than sitting still for a few minutes.

And if you crash and burn during your meditation session, who cares? No one will know and you can try again tomorrow.

2. Find a comfortable position

Finding a comfortable position, seated or otherwise, for meditation is harder than it sounds. Even people who don’t have chronic aches and pains or an injury have trouble staying seated in meditation comfortably. It’s important to remember a few things about this.

The first is that you should spend time other than when you are trying to meditate deciding what your meditation posture will be. Try it out while you are watching TV. Try different cushions, leaning against a wall, cross legged or straight legged, in a chair or on the floor. The options are endless but meditation time isn’t the time to figure it out. Have a go-to position and the props you need ready before you decide to meditate.

The other thing is that your meditation duration will likely be less than 10 minutes. Much anxiety about comfort comes from the irrational fear that we are going to be stuck in one position forever and we obsess about making sure it is just exactly right since we will be trapped there without any means of escape. Chill, it’s just a few minutes and you can always move if you need to.

3. Figure out what you are going to do with your hands

Not knowing what to do with our hands is a common meditation concern. And, much like with the sitting position, you are going to need to experiment to see what feels best. Some people rest their hands on their knees or clasp them lightly in their lap. Here is a link to the two most common mudras, or meditation hand positions; chin mudra and dhyana mudra.

4. Select your meditation soundtrack

Music for meditation is such a personal choice, I have trouble even recommending anything. Some people need musical melodies, some need silence, monotonous sounds, waves crashing, or birds chirping. Anyway, there is a little bit of all of that in the list of links to meditation soundtracks below.

Moby

moby-og-image meditation music

 

 

 

 

Meditation Master

Meditation-Masters-image-meditation-tips

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buddha-Bar

Buddha-Bar-meditation-tips

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sounds of Nature

Sounds of Nature Meditation Music

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Select your guided meditation

If you decided that a meditation soundtrack isn’t for you, I suggest you start with some guided meditations. There are so many great guided meditation apps on the market right now. Most of them are free with the option to upgrade or make in-app purchases.  I recommend you give these a try to see if one of them works for you.

Insight Timer-Meditation App

InsightTimer-image_meditation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calm

Calm-image-meditation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Headspace

Headspace-image-meditation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Have a light snack

Meditation is hungry and thirsty work. Sitting for 10 minutes really seems to take it out of us and our brain wants to think about how hungry we are. An easy way to shut that thought down is to remind your brain that there is no way it could be hungry or thirsty because you just ate and had some water.

7. Go to the bathroom

Oh hey, we just ate and had some water. Don’t we have to get up and pee now? Nope, because you are going to go the bathroom right before you sit down. Sorry, brain, try again.

8. Set a timer for 7 minutes

This is a guideline. Many people want to start a meditation with just 5 minutes on the clock and if that is what it takes to get them there, than that’s perfect. However, it takes the brain several minutes to settle into the meditation groove, particularly for new meditators, so if you can do 10 minutes do 10. 7 minutes is a nice compromise. Meditation, once you are in it, has the ability to make time meaningless and when the session is over, you may not have much sense of how long you were seated.

9. Stay

Establishing a strong and consistent meditation practice is something that requires physical and mental discipline. Even if your brain refuses to observe and dismiss thought and instead takes you on the guided tour of your most embarrassing junior high school moments, stay. Give your brain something to do by counting your exhales. Use this as an opportunity to make your body comfortable with the idea of stillness.

Want more of this?

Visit the Tips & Tricks section for more great ideas from yours truly.  Then, poke around on the rest of the site to see what else you find that lights your fire. Oh, and don’t forget to comment below with any additional real world tips you have for meditators.

This article originally published on www.groundingup.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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Three Bullet Thursday

Hi all, this is your Thursday dose of “Three Bullet Thursday”, a quick list of yoga lifestyle information I’m processing.

If you are a yoga teacher, yoga student, vegetarian, philosopher, lover of metaphysics, or just another human out wandering around, this is the list for you.

What I’m Reading–Island by Aldous Huxley

This book was published in 1962, so it isn’t new. However, Island seems to be experiencing a bit of a revival in the literary world; I’m assuming it’s due to the presidential situation in the United States and the overall state of the world.

The book outlines an utopian life on an imaginary island where the inhabitants built a culture based upon eastern philosophies and religions including yoga, buddhism, and meditation.

Meditation as a lifestyle is a prominent theme. As a novice meditator myself, I found those sections particularly interesting and useful.

If you like philosophical discussion or you want to know how to turn your yoga retreat center into its own country, this book is for you.

What I’m Listening To–Johann Johannsson’s Orphee album

Johann Johansson is an Icelandic composer best known for his film scores; think “Arrival” and “The Theory of Everything”. Technically, this 2016 studio album, Orphee, belongs in the electronica genre. I’m loving it because there are no words and beautiful melodies.

Deep Thought I’m Pondering–“Bring with you a heart that watches and receives”

“Bring with you a heart that watches and receives,” is a quote by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a beloved American poet known for “Paul Revere’s Ride” and the Song of Hiawatha.

The quote struck me while reading Island by Aldous Huxley. Contextually, the author used it to elaborate on the concept of receptivity or open mindedness. The idea being that if a person chooses to project rather than receive there is room for misinterpretation and confusion. However, if one chooses to receive with an open heart and mind, clear communication, insight, and truth will be transmitted.

Want more?

Read the blog for more yoga lifestyle information and inspiration including past 3 Bullet Thursdays, Vegetarian and Vegan Recipes, and Yoga Philosophy.

 

Avoid Burnout During Yoga Teacher Training

Years ago, when people would ask me if I wanted to be a yoga teacher, I would adamantly tell them, “no.”

As the reason for this sentiment, I cited the fact that a market over saturated with yoga teachers, all churned out by yoga teacher training programs and lax certification standards, have created a hyper-competitive marketplace with minimal financial viability for individual teachers or independent studios. That’s right, I played the “business 101” card.

And while absolutely valid, this rationale was not actually the reason I didn’t want to teach yoga. I have an enjoyable career in the insurance industry for which I am incredibly grateful and I have no intention of leaving it–unless of course, they make me. This “day job” also pays the bills quite nicely; therefore, I have the luxury of practicing and teaching yoga without the dark cloud of financial return on investment. This makes it a hobby not a job.

Nor is fear of failure a reason not to teach.  I’m much too driven, and in some ways obtuse, to even register fear in many situations. This has proven to be both a blessing and a curse in my 41 years.

The honest to God reason I haven’t wanted to become a yoga teacher is the fear of burnout.

My yoga practice is the antidote for burnout in other areas of my life; namely family and that insurance career I love so much. Corrupting yoga by turning it into another job with more responsibilities, where I am expected to serve as a teacher rather than be served as a student is a risk I haven’t been willing to take–until now.

Remember that thing I said about my being too stupid to be worried; that applies here. I only worry about things for so long before I either do the thing to see what happens or I just forget it and move on.

In this case, I’ll just do that thing I’m worried about and see what happens.

Thankfully, once I’ve decided to take the risk and do the thing, I never move forward without a plan. Because burnout during teacher training is my main concern, I have developed a plan for avoiding burnout and I’m going to share it with you all here.

Avoid Burnout During Yoga Teacher Training

1. Know why you are doing it & have a plan

Believe me when I tell you that the first thing you will ask yourself when you are two days in to a five day power vinyasa teacher training is, “what the hell am I doing this for?” You will then continue to ask yourself that for the entirety of your yoga teacher training program, and then well into the future. So, you had better have a solid answer; one that will convince your hungry, brutally sore, sweat-soaked self to hang in there.

You will likely also need to have an articulate reason to present to your significant other as they will be “picking up the slack around here while you are off doing your yoga thing.” You might even feel guilty about the time you are away from your family and the financial investment you are making in this venture.

For me personally, I came around very slowly to the idea of teacher training because I didn’t want to make the time and financial commitment if I wasn’t going to use the knowledge and experience. I also wasn’t confident that I would have enough opportunity to teach after I received my certification to maintain what I had learned and improve. In short, I was worried it would all be for nothing.

Eventually (it took me 5 years to decide) I pulled together a solid cost benefit analysis around the training investment and a plan for how I would leverage the skills I had so painstakingly acquired. After that, it was an easy conversation to have with my husband and myself.

2. Do less yoga

Yoga teacher training programs are ONLY for people who want to do a lot of yoga. If that’s not you, I’m sorry, you’re out.

Here is a list of the requirements for the Yoga Alliance teacher training certifications. As you can see, even the entry level yoga teacher registration requires 200 hours of yoga philosophy and practicum education. It doesn’t require any actual teacher hours, which is unfortunate in my humble opinion. Once you get into the 300 and 500 hour certifications, your life is pretty much yoga until your trainings are complete.

So since you are spending so much time on the mat, make sure you take every opportunity to get off of it. If you don’t have to go to a practice don’t. Stay home with your family or go do something productive like running those errands you haven’t been able to get to because you’ve been at the studio, away on a retreat, or too tired.

3. Explore different forms of exercise

To save you body from the risks inherent in too much yoga, adopt a different workout or physical activity during your training.

My training program requires me to maintain my regular in-studio yoga practice while I’m in training. I have a regular Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday studio practice with a few extra days thrown in here and there.

On the days I’m not at the studio I do a 3 mile run/walk; nothing spectacular, but it’s not yoga and that’s all that matters. Weight lifting, OrangeTheory, and CrossFit are popular among my friends at the studio. This may depend on the type of yoga  you are studying and the nature of your studio practice.

The point is, let your body do something else so it doesn’t revolt during your 1000th chataranga.

4. Read non-yoga books

Teachers and teacher trainees need to be plowing through the yoga literature. If that’s not your thing, fear not. Most of the more popular yoga books are in audio format and youtube has endless yoga education content to choose from.

Yoga literature and research are my favorite parts of the practice because one resource leads to another and another and another. In the end, you see that everything is connected to a few main sources and that individuals have applied their own perspectives and creativity to develop endless variation in the practice.

And much like my recommendation that you vary your physical activity during teacher training and beyond, I recommend you give your brain something else to look at as well. Personally, I prefer fiction and comic memoirs as my mental break, but you do you. Here is a list of great fiction I recommend for your yoga reading breaks:

Shantaram: A Novel by Gregory David Roberts
All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
Born A Crime by Trevor Noah

5. Switch up your yoga practice

It seems to me that most people choose to certify through the yoga teacher training offered at the studio where they regularly practice.

In the past 5 years, yoga teacher trainings have become a staple in the studio business model because they theoretically offer more profit margin than regular class schedules. What that means for beginners or even intermediate yogis is that they may have a limited view of the different types of practice and teaching styles out there. Case in point, I practiced at my yoga studio with my current teacher exclusively for 6 years before I noticed there were other styles of practice and instruction.

Use this time to explore a wide variety of practice types and teaching styles. You may stumble onto something completely new that works better for you or you may just reaffirm your commitment to the practice you have come to know and love.

Either way, it’s important for yoga instructors to have a broad view of yoga practice and that can’t happen unless they get out there and experience and explore.

6. Give something else up

Adding a yoga teacher training program to your already busy life may seem like you are trying to pack 10 pounds of sugar into a 5 pound sack. You are and it won’t work unless you have less sugar or a bigger sack.

Recognize that yoga teacher training programs run for a finite duration. So determine what you can give up or stop doing during that time to make a comfortable amount of room for yoga. The best way to ruin a potentially amazing experience is to cram it in where it won’t fit.

This move is entirely dependent upon your personal financial situation and home life. If you are single and rich, you are all set. Otherwise, scheduling extra childcare, outsourcing your errands, or hiring a cleaning service so you can be at the studio more might put extra pressure on an already tight budget. It is still important to find a way to cut things out. I wish you luck with that.

7. Meditate more

Meditation practice in included in most teacher training programs and much like exploring other practice styles and studios during yoga teacher training, try to find time to expand your knowledge and practice of meditation.

They say a good meditation session is better rest for your brain than sleep. Your brain will need the rest as it absorbs new information and experiences stress related to real life and a yoga teacher training program. 

Just because your yoga teacher is a great yoga asana instructor doesn’t mean he or she is all that great at teaching meditation. So get out there and expand your horizons. 

8. Get more sleep

If it has been a long time since high school or college, you may have forgotten how important sleep is when it comes to your brain’s ability to process and retain information. Not to mention it’s ability to handles stress.

American’s currently get 40% less sleep than is clinically recommended for optimum health and wellness. Work toward 7-8 hours of good rest nightly. I’m not joking. This could be the most important change you make and be the difference between you having a pleasurable and product teacher training experience and a hellish breakdown. But you do you.

9. Learn from the burn

Explore the burnout and consider that YTT may not be for you. The experience of a student is different from that of a teacher.
If your endgame is to make money teaching yoga, then you will be in the business of creating an experience and delivering value that students want to pay for. If you plan to teach in a volunteer capacity or as a substitute, your yoga still needs to be legit or you will have trouble attracting and maintaining students.
A teacher’s role is to create and hold a space and experience for a student. A student’s role is to experience and enjoy that space. Being responsible for the maintenance of a student’s yoga experience might take the love right out of the yoga for you. If you experience burnout during a yoga teacher training program, it’s a good indicator that you may be better suited for the student side of the mat.
This article originally published on www.groundingup.com

It’s Hollow Back, Not Hollaback, Duh!

I see a lot of hollow back yoga poses on Instagram these days. Personally, I suspect it is because hollow back yoga seems more artistic (Instagramworthy) than your standard Iyengar alignment. I also suspect that hollow back asanas are easier for most yogis.

What’s hollow back you ask?

Hollow back is a yoga term (which means it is not at all clinical or scientific) that refers to the creations of extension in the lumbar spine. The lower spine has a natural curvature, but in hollow back versions of arm-balance yoga poses, like fore-arm-stand and handstand, that curvature is increased. 

If you want to get technical, most yoga postures call for a straight back or a stacked alignment meaning feet over knees over hips over shoulders over elbows over wrists. Straight up and down, none of this fancy curve crap.

Because our backs have natural curvature, the straight back posture requires infinitely more deep core work to achieve and is something that yogis like me will spend their lives working on.

This article originally published on www.groundingup.com

I gave up Chataranga and got my yoga practice back

For the past 7 years, power vinyasa has been my preferred and regular form of practice. So you can trust me when I tell you that power yogis are obsessed with Chataranga Dandasana.
For my non-yoga readers, Chataranga, also known as 4 limbed staff pose, is basically a yoga pushup. This pose is used to build core strength and stamina and features prominently in sun salutations. It is also used heavily as a transition pose throughout many vinyasa sequences.
Chataranga Dandasana, followed closely by arm balances, is the most workshopped asana in all of modern western yoga. Countless hours of discussion and demonstration have gone toward attainment of the perfect Iyengar Chataranga Dandasana. I’ll be the first to admit that I have never missed a Chataranga workshop.
And until recently, I completely subscribed to the idea that to be power yoga, a sequence must have Chataranga. Even after my orthopedic surgeon reviewed my MRI showing shoulder damage including bone spurs, tendinitis, and bursitis, from repetitive stress (i.e., too much chataranga) I kept at it. I thought that at some point the anti-inflammatory medications, all the icing, and the physical therapy would negate the harm I was causing with Chataranga. And with every practice, I was giving up other key asana because I was no longer able to do them while in excruciating pain.
Then one morning I awoke to find that my arm was too weak and painful to carry my little boy and I couldn’t raise my arm to hold the hairdryer.
And there it was. I could no longer ignore all that I was giving up to hold on to my notion of what a yoga practice should be. For fuck’s sake, I had given up the ability to raise my arms above my head so I could do 50 pushups every day. I had become so attached to the meaning I had assigned to Chataranga Dandasana that I had given up my ability to do 50% of the other poses in a power sequence. I had given up my practice for one asana.
It was time to let yoga cure my yoga. It was time to practice aparhigraha, or non-attachment. Time to let go of the idea that a perfect Chataranga was proof of a strong practice.
That day, I replaced Chataranga with a plank and never looked back. It’s three months later and for the first time since quitting Chataranga cold turkey, I can get my hands behind my back without pain. For the first time in more than a year, the entire power yoga sequence is accessible to me because I decided to surrender.

 

The article originally published on www.groundingup.com

Instagram and the Yoga Selfie

I don’t know very many people who are willing to admit that they love social media; even as people are scrolling their social media feeds, they are talking about how they never go to their social feeds because it is an obscene waste of time and completely contrived.

And to that argument, I will say “oh for sure, that shit is a complete time suck and much of it is a fabricated representation of everyday life.”

But I will also tell you that I absolutely love social media and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

Social media helps me feel connected to friends and family who live far away or that I don’t see on a regular basis because I don’t have much free time and I use it to keep current on local and worldwide news.

Also, most of my yoga education comes from my studio or from the Internet; social media is how I find those resources. Which brings me to the point of this post and it is this:

My social media streams (mostly Instagram) are full of pictures of professional yogis doing complicated yoga poses perfectly. Where is the stream for the 40-something working mother of two who might have time to take a picture of herself if her kids take a nap? How do I get that person in my social media feed? Where are HER pictures?

So this morning, I decided I would post a picture of whatever pose popped up in my Instagram feed first and it was this one:

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Camel Pose, Ustrasana, if you care about sanskrit. This is what mine looks like and I’ve been doing yoga for 7 years:

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I took this while my toddler napped. I didn’t have time to shower or change out of my jeans. I am pretty excited about the backdrop though as I have been looking for a good use for the shipping crates that our speakers came in. 

From time to time, I think I will do this as a public service to anyone out there who thinks they can’t do yoga because they aren’t fit or flexible enough or might be worried about looking like an ass.

Most real life yoga looks like mine, not what you see on social media and yes, I could spend my social media time meditating or calling my mom, but, first, let me take a selfie.

This article originally published on www.groundingup.com

 

And the yoga nerds rejoice

Leslie Kaminoff, co-author of Yoga Anatomy and founder of The Breathing Project NYC is coming to ThreeDogYoga in Santa Rosa, CA this weekend for a yoga anatomy and breathing immersion workshop. And the yoga nerds rejoice.

Obviously, yoga nerds are excited and the workshop is sold out. However, if you are like me and you have waited until the last minute to prepare for the workshop, a quick review of the resources below should be enough to get you in the door.

How to prepare for a Leslie Kaminoff Workshop

yogaanatomybylesliekaminoff
Read (or at least be familiar with) Chapters 1-5 in Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews. Those chapters break down the foundational theory and the remainder of the book gets into the specifics around the asanas

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 11.59.52 AM
Check out the information available on his website and read the article on Anna McLawhorn and Three Dog Yoga.
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Watch some or all of the videos available on his YogaAnatomy YouTube Channel. 
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Watch “The Enlightenment of the Dumpster” by Leslie Kaminoff on YouTube because it will make your day.

And that should do it. Have fun!

This article originally published on GroundingUp. 

 

 

 

 

Here comes the sun–for a minute

We’ve had record rainfall this winter in Sonoma County, which is more than welcome after years of drought, but I can honestly say that we are all ready for a bit of a break from the wet weather. The sun was out for a bit today so we all ran outside to play (and catnap).

Wheel pose (Chakrasana or Urdva Dhanurasana) by Jes. Cat pose (not actually cat pose) by Doug The Cat.

 

Daddy’s Handstands

My dad was a competitive swimmer and diver until the early 1970s when he became a coach. This is known. What is not known, not even to him, is that he is the most influential yogi in my life. Unintentionally, he gave me the gift of the mind body connection.

Power yoga, particularly Baptiste power yoga, is full of arm balances and inversions, none of which are possible without sufficient arm and core strength. Hence, the handstand prep, which is designed to build said arm and core strength. If you haven’t seen it (and there are several by the way), it looks like this:

It may not look like much is happening, but that is because you aren’t doing one right now.

In 2010, at my first power yoga class, I did an “official” handstand prep. I say official because I had been doing them my entire life, not because of yoga, but because my dad did them constantly throughout my childhood and I inherited his “quirk”.

His handstand preps showed up in seemingly odd places; conversations in the kitchen with my mom, at the office, out on his job sites (after he retired from coaching he started a construction company).

But years later, looking back at that strange behavior, I finally saw it for what it was; a holdover from the diving platform, a release of negative energy, a clearing out, a centering. Somewhere in his swimming days, he had made the mind body connection. And, I was completely blown away. 

Now, as I exhale my hands to the floor and rock forward onto my toes with my weight in my hands, balancing with my fingertips, I see my dad’s hands, not mine. Tan, veiny, well used hands.

He is nearly 70 now and has a total spinal fusion, so handstand preps are a distant memory for him. I need to ask him if he misses them. He would likely be surprised to know that I consider them his trademark.

I think about this now, as I handstand prep my way through my day. I worry less about the frequent impulse I have always had to put my hands on the ground and get upside down. I understand it now as a completely acceptable need to get grounded and release excess energy rather than some weird compulsive behavior I shouldn’t tell people about.

And I see it in my daughter. She clearly feels better when she is moving and it is my job to make her feel okay with that need rather than bad about her lack of self control. I will not tell her to hold still. I will teach her to use her energy for good instead of evil–to channel it.

We will start with handstand preps.

dad
Dad

This article originally published on www.groundingup.com

Ways in which real life is NOT like a yoga retreat

This is my seventh full day in the real world since returning from the Haramara Yoga Retreat in Sayulita, Mexico. I have spent the last week acclimating to my surroundings and reflecting on just how much my actual life is not at all like a yoga retreat.

I did yoga everyday, all day.

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Because yoga went all day; 8:30 am-9:00pm

I slept through the night, every night.

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I got a solid 9 hours of sleep every night; no 2:30 am negotiations with a toddler about the circumstances under which he will agree to go back to bed.

I walked.

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This was the walkway down to the beach from the upper trail and it is a great example of the walking you do at this retreat center. In real life, I spend 2 hours a day commuting by car; not here. Haramara is set on a 12 acre mountainside parcel with a beach at the bottom. Hike uphill you will if you want to eat, get to the pool, or do yoga.

I peed alone.

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My casita did indeed have a beautiful bathroom just for me as well as some strategically placed restrooms throughout the property. I used those bathrooms without a toddler accompanying me or my 10-year-old chatting me up through the bathroom door.

I ate in peace.

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I should do a BLOG post solely about the cuisine at Haramara. Not only was it world class, but I ate it without getting up to cut someone’s food in to tinier pieces, clean up spilled milk, or to do the dishes.

I socialized.

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In general, if I’m not working, I’m wrangling kids, which doesn’t leave much time for actual adult socialization. Our retreat group consisted of people from the ThreeDogYoga studio in Santa Rosa, CA so we were starting with familiar faces rather than complete strangers. It took me a day or two to remember what people talked about if it wasn’t kid or work related.

I watched an entire sunset.

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Start to finish.

I thought deep thoughts.

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While not a “silent” retreat, the immersion program included some strategically placed times of noble silence. This is the thing I miss most now that I’m back in the fray–time to process without the background noise or competition for my attention.

I appreciated.

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Being away from my people made me appreciate my people. For a parent, it is really hard to pursue personal interests or maintain a level of sanity without solid support. I was able to escape to Mexico only because my sweet husband was willing to keep the trains running on time while I was gone. A week without the chaos of everyday life gave me time to reflect on just what an amazing partner he is and how much I truly love the life we have together–but next time, I’m bringing him with me, because I mean, just look at him;-)