Back home.

Yesterday I got on my yoga mat for the first time in almost 6 weeks. The past couple of months have been difficult dealing with family health issues, my husband getting into an cycling accident and several other curveballs that have come our way.
My yoga mat has always felt like home. But when things got really hard for me, that was the last place I wanted to be. And I couldn’t understand why. How could I turn my back on something that I love with all my heart.
I couldn’t even bring myself to roll my mat out at home.
I wanted nothing to do with it.
At all.
I questioned it and questioned it and I just couldn’t grasp why.
Getting back on my mat I finally understand. Yoga is the one thing that truly connects me. Mind, body, heart and soul. All of it. And it connects me to everything around me. It’s what makes everything make sense. It makes time seem to not exist. It aligns every part of me and shows me my own truth. It forces me to deal with my issues and to let them go once they have taught me what I’m supposed to learn. It shows me that everything is going to be okay. No matter what.
And I guess I just didn’t want to see those things. Maybe I wasn’t ready to deal with everything yet. Maybe I didn’t want to let go. Im guilty of suppressing things way deep down and not wanting to face them in hopes that they will magically go away. When you’re caught up in your own mental thunderstorms it’s really hard to see past the pain. And to allow yourself to do the things that you know will bring you joy. It’s like we punish ourselves or something. Or maybe I’m the only one who does that.
Regardless, I am grateful for a great friend for guiding me through my practice and for Soul Yoga for always being my home.

Living our practice 

I had a teacher a few years back who changed my practice drastically and completely altered the way I live my life (on and off my mat). She was one of those teachers who always taught exactly what I needed. Like she could read my mind (or my body). Her classes always left me wanting more and it was her who convinced me to take the leap and attend teacher training. One thing she taught us that I will always carry with me is that we must “live the practice”. She inspired us to put skin and bones on the intentions we set for our physical practice and to carry that with us as we roll up our mats and go out into the world as we live our lives. 

This is the hard part.

It’s easy to set an intention for a brief time when we are completely focused on one thing. In a yoga class setting we are taught to be mindful and focused and we are constantly drawn back to the breath and our reason for being on our mats (through the guidance and encouragement of an instructor). But what about when we leave the studio? What happens when we are no longer dressed in our cute little lululemon pants, surrounded by like-minded people moving and breathing together as one collective unit with someone telling us what to do? What happens when we are thick in the shit of living our lives? Where we have to deal with stress, deadlines, media stories that impact us on a deep emotional level, conflict, etc.

This is where 99% of our practice actually occurs. You see, the postures, or asanas, we do in a 60, 75, 90-minute yoga class are just a small fraction of our practice. We do the asanas and meditation practices to quiet and calm the mind in order to operate from a space of consciousness and openness. This expands our ability to respond to situations internally and externally rather than react to them. So that when someone does something that we don’t necessarily agree with or perhaps makes us angry, we can look at them as if we were looking in the mirror at a reflection of ourselves. It helps us to extend love and compassion to those who challenge us, question us and those who really push our buttons.
So what does it mean to “live the practice”? What is the practice of yoga all about?

It’s being intentional and doing things with love, compassion and acceptance.

It’s extending kindness towards others and to ourselves.

To stop for a brief moment to really focus on our breath whether it’s while driving our car or in the middle of a long run.

Waking up each morning and committing to being the best version of ourselves we can possibly be.

Making a conscious decision to live our lives from a place of peace and harmony with ourselves and with others.

To commit to not causing harm. To not steal or take more than our share. To release judgements and comparisons.

To find a mind, body and soul connection so that we can significantly increase our quality of life.

 
When we commit to the practice on and off our mats, and truly put in the work, we become motivated by our internal awareness rather than our external distractions.

You don’t ever even have to step foot on a mat to have a yoga practice. In fact, you are more than likely already doing yoga now, you just don’t realize it. You can tap into the practice when you are shopping for groceries, sitting at your desk at work or even when you are having a heated conversation with someone and you stop for two seconds and realize that what you thought you were going to say might actually not be the right to say.

To me, doing yoga (on or off the mat) is really just about being a good person. That’s it. It doesn’t have to be super deep and spiritual. It’s just about extending lovingkindness as much as possible. And nobody is perfect. I would be lying if I said I never spoke badly about someone or engaged in gossip. I have my fair share of issues that I have to work on but I know that at the end of the day I am doing the best I can. I am always striving to better myself. And that’s the point. Just working toward living a live where you can look yourself in the mirror and say “I am enough and so is everybody else”. Choosing love rather than fear or hate. And always being a light for someone else.

Release the Grip

the other day i was taking a yoga class taught by a dear friend. she had us start in fish pose where you lie down on your back and place a block between your shoulder blades. she invited us to close our eyes, allow our bodies to relax and take a couple of deep breaths. in that moment i realized just how much tension i was carrying in my body. holy moly. i took a deep inhale and the minute i exhaled, everything started to soften and my body completely released its grip that it was holding onto so tight.

i started noticing the same thing in my daily activities. i realized that i am always so wound up and my body carries so much tension. but, the minute that i acknowledge it and allow the breath to completely flow through my body, i can fully allow my muscles to relax.

like most people, I’ve had an extra amount of stress lately. instead of dealing with my stress, i typically allow it to continue to bottle up inside of me to the point where my body starts to revolt against me. this is not good for me and it’s definitely not good for those around me. i can be quite a pill when i am stressed out.

getting clear on why i was stressed out and making the necessary changes to correct that has been huge. i know i need plenty of “me” time to release, recharge and reconnect. this includes: yoga, running, getting a good sweat, reading, journaling, binge watching Netflix, and most importantly, meditation.

finding time for myself is not always easy but i know its critical to my overall well-being. if i am to release the death grip that my body carries, i have to make decompressing time a top priority.

what about you? take a moment to check in with your self. are you carrying around unnecessary tension? is your body begging and pleading to release its grip? if so, what are your stress relievers and how can you make that a top priority today?

Just chill out. 

I’ve made meditation a part of my daily routine for quite a few years now. It’s something that is very important to me and one thing that I try not to sacrifice. Of course, I’m only human and I’ve gone through times in the past where I fell short of my daily meditation goal. At times it’s been days and even months between each one.

 When I went to Florida for my Yoga Medicine training, Tiffany Cruikshank reignited that spark and inspired me to reconnect with my practice. In our training we would have daily meditations that would last 20-30 minutes. The first couple of times we did this I had a really hard time turning it all off and being in the moment. But once I allowed myself to surrender and to just be in the moment, I was able to relax and find stillness and peace. 

I forgot just how much I loved my practice and how incredibly important it is for me to just sit down and shut up for a bit. Other than when I’m sleeping, meditation is the only other time when I can turn off that little voice inside my head. The one with the constant dialogue. The one that never wants to shut up and at times can drive me close to insanity. As I’ve continued with this practice I’ve noticed some amazing side effects:

Mental Clarity

Calmness 

The ability to observe without feeling inclined to react

Greater awareness of my thoughts, actions, responses

The ability to make decisions based on how it will truly make me feel. 

Increased attention span.

Better sleep at night. 

Deeper connection to myself. 

More love and acceptance of myself and others. 

I can’t say enough about just how incredible a regular meditation practice is for your mind, body and soul. 

Here are some steps to establish a practice of your own. Remember, this should be tailored to what works for you. Play around with it and see what you think. 

1. Find a quiet place where you won’t be distracted. This really can be anywhere. Anywhere in the world. I have a room in my house that I’ve dedicated as my space to chill out. I prefer to light candles and sometimes diffuse oils or burn an incense but it really is your preference. 

2. Come into a comfortable posture that you can be still in. This can be seated, lying down or you might even use some yoga props or blankets to prop yourself up. I prefer seated with my legs crossed and my hands resting in my lap. Some people advise against lying down as you might end up falling asleep, but my thoughts are if you are relaxed enough to fall asleep, great. The point of this is to chill out and quiet the mind. If you fall asleep, clearly you needed it. But again, all of this is personal preference. 

3. Set a timer. I advise this especially as you are first getting into the routine of meditating. There are many different smartphone apps you can use. I really like Insight Timer. It’s free and very user friendly. Plus, if you’re a type A personality, you can track your practice. If you’re not interested in an app, simply use the timer function on your phone or just a kitchen timer works great too. If you are using your phone, be sure to switch it over to airplane mode so you don’t get distracted. I would recommend starting at 5 mins and increasing your time from there. Trust me, starting out, 5 mins feels like a long time to be still and quiet! 

4. Relax and Breathe. Once you are set up and you are comfortable, close your eyes. Draw your awareness inward. Start to notice the breath. Observe as it moves through the body. There are many different ways you can meditate. I encourage you to find what resonates with you. I really like to either count my breath or I repeat a mantra. One that is special and that I can connect with. This doesn’t have to be anything super complex. 

Some examples are: 

I breathe in love, I breathe out fear

I am love, I am light

I am strong, I am open

I am enough, I am enough 

Make this your own. That’s the only way you will stick with it. And if you notice that your mind starts to wander (and it will, trust me) draw the focus back to the breath. Every single time. Don’t get frustrated. Just observe the thoughts and allow them to go just as quickly as they come. And start small. This practice takes a lot of dedication and love. If you allow yourself to get upset or frustrated then you’ve lost the point of this. It’s about relaxing the body and stilling the mind. Finding just a nugget of peace in our very busy lives. Recognize how truly fortunate you are to have the opportunity to spend just a few moments in silence for self reflection and self love and appreciation. You might even get a journal and keep track of your practice and the things that come up mentally and emotionally for you. Have fun with this! Explore! 

Just enjoy the journey. Don’t focus so much on the destination. 

Namaste. 

 

Fall Into a Reset

Ahhhh, November. I have missed you terribly. Fall is my absolute favorite time of year. The turning of the leaves, cooler temperatures, scarfs and boots, hot teas and lattes, sitting around the fire, cuddling on the couch under a mountain of blankets, it all makes me giddy with excitement just thinking about it. One thing I really look forward to every year is the time change, the end of daylight savings. I think that setting our clocks back and shorter days is nature’s way of forcing us to slow down and take more time to ourselves.

With the holidays right around the corner, my intention this month is to truly slow way down. To spend more time laying on the couch cuddled up with a good book instead of lacing up my running shoes and pounding the pavement, to cook more meals instead of going out and to go to bed earlier and give myself more rest. I intend to say “no” more often than I say “yes” to plans with others. Most importantly, I plan to take care of myself by hitting the pause button and completely resetting.

We are all extremely busy these days. We live in a fast paced society and we are constantly putting pressure on ourselves to do more and more. It seems that our to-do lists are getting longer and our calendars are filing up quickly. However, you will be of no use to anyone if you don’t stop what you are doing and spend some time relaxing your mind and body. If you notice that you feel guilty about taking time for yourself, then you probably need it much more than you realize. You shouldn’t have a single bit of guilt for carving out time to yourself. Your physical and mental health are more important than any errand, workout or social gathering.

Spend time meditating or take a restorative yoga class.

Read a book.

Drink a cup of tea next to the fireplace.

Start a journal.

Take a bubble bath.

Stay in your pajamas all day long watching movies on the couch.

Pour a glass of wine and light a bunch of candles. 

Listen to relaxing music and diffuse essential oils. (I recommend chamomile, lavender or frankincense.)

 DO WHATEVER YOU HAVE TO DO TO SLOW DOWN AND RECHARGE.

 RELAX, RESET, RENEW

Take care of yourself.

 

Dreaming, thinking, wishing and hoping.

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go do that. Because what the world needs is more people who come alive.” ~ Howard Thurman. 

So what is it that makes you come alive? What gets your heart racing with excitement? What are you so passionate about that it keeps you up at night? We all have something that really lights our fire. So, ask yourself. What is it for you?

The past year I have become obsessed with goal setting. It all started last fall when I became an ambassador for lululemon athletica. During a meeting with the staff and other ambassadors, we were asked to list our vision and goals for the next one, five and ten years. We were to write our vision and goals down so they could be posted in the store for everyone to see. I’m almost embarrassed to say it but this gave me anxiety. I mean heart racing, sweaty armpits, stomach-dropping anxiety. Like anyone else I have always had goals and plans for the future, but never once did I take the time to mediate on my life years down the road and solidify and broadcast what those goals were.

I took my sheet with me and stewed on my goals for weeks. I found it hard to write them down and make a commitment that other people were able to see and hold me accountable to. What if I didn’t achieve my goals? What if I fail? What will others think of me if I don’t succeed? But then I realized, who really cares? These are my goals, nobody else’s. They are all about me and although I have a vision for my future, that vision evolves just as much as I do. Looking back at my one-year goals, I was actually able to obtain most of them; which honestly is a pretty dang good feeling. These goals were to pay my house off, attend two yoga workshops, read two books a month and establish a daily meditation practice.

Since then I have read numerous books and follow many blogs on goal setting. This stuff really gets my motor going. I can’t get enough. I could spend hours daydreaming on things that I want to achieve in my lifetime. Some are small goals that I can achieve daily and others I will spend my whole life working towards. That’s the really great thing about goal setting, even though we are able to check things off the list, it’s ever growing. There really is no end as long as we are passionate and motivated to succeed.

Evidence shows that when we write down our goals and share them with others, we are able to hold ourselves more accountable, we can clarify what it is that we want to accomplish and we are able to see and track our progress. This allows us to get closer to kicking the crap out of our goals.

So, now its time to ask yourself, what are your goals? What do you want to accomplish? Goal setting can get a little overwhelming. Here are a few tips for getting started:

  1. Start small and go from there. Allow yourself to set obtainable goals which will continue to feed your fire.
  1. Be realistic with your goals. Don’t set yourself up to fail. Enough said.
  1. Dream big. There are no rights or wrongs when setting your goals. Only you know what you are capable of and the world is your oyster, my friend. Dream as big as your heart desires (but keep in mind #2).
  1. Understand that you might not be able to obtain every single goal you set. Life happens and sometimes things get in the way of what we want to accomplish. Don’t look it as a failure, chalk it up to a life lesson, dust your shoulders off and move on. But, don’t give up on something that your heart truly desires. You know the saying; if at first you don’t succeed, try again. And don’t stop trying until you get what it is you want.
  1. Recognize and accept that although others may have the same goals as you, we are all walking different paths in life. Even though you may have the same goals, the means for obtaining them may be entirely different. Be happy for those who have achieved their goals prior to you and be patient. Your day will come when it’s supposed to.
  1. Share your goals with others. Help each other stay on track and be accountable. Share what has worked for you and want hasn’t. Motivate each other. Share your successes and what you’ve learned along the way. Inspire others and be inspired.
  1. Journal. Journal. Journal. Write down your goals. Meditate on them. Watch them evolve and then journal some more. Keep the ideas flowing.
  1. Finally, have fun. Goal setting is a process of learning about who you are and what you want out of life. Embrace whatever feelings or emotions come up during the process. It’s a journey, but one where the risks are totally worth the rewards. Enjoy, my friends!

I’d love to hear from you and what your goals are! Leave a comment below or email me and share your stories at lmelott@thislandyoga.com. Keep on dreaming!!!!

Journaling

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Every morning I wake up and spend time writing down my thoughts in my journal. Some days I am inspired and the words flood the pages and it almost seems as my hand has a mind of its own. Other days, it’s a struggle just get a few sentences out. One thing that I have learned by doing this, is that I am able to get off my chest anything that is on my mind and I am able to start my fresh and clear headed.

I started journaling about six years ago when I was going through a really tough time. My dad was sick and had quadruple bypass heart surgery. I had so much going on in my head and I wasn’t sure what to do with it all. I started writing it all down and afterwards I was overwhelmed with a sense of relief. I realized that if I write my thoughts down, I can leave them there on the paper and I don’t have to carry them with me anymore. There are times when my thoughts are so heavy they weigh my down and I’m unsure what to do with them. Some days I write in journal more than once. Especially if it’s been a rough day.

I challenge you to give it a try. In the morning before you start your day, find a quiet place and spend 5-10 minutes with a pen and paper allowing yourself complete freedom to write whatever comes to mind. I think you will find it very rewarding.