I’d like to share a post that I wrote for a wonderful group of learners engaged in the study of Radiant Lotus Women’s QiGong. Breath practices are a very important part of both Yoga and QiGong, but there is no “one size fits all” style of breathing. I specialize in breath management, and often listen carefully to the volume, pitch, pace and quality of an individual’s respiration for subtle cues. In addition, I observe where breath moves (or doesn’t move) in the body. Breath has its own language, and can be both diagnostic as well as cure. Understanding the subtleties of breath is especially important during Coronavirus times. I hope you enjoy the following letter, and find something that supports you.
Let’s be honest, these last 6 months have been challenging and nerve-racking! We have all experienced some amount of overwhelm, anxiety, worry, loss, fear, grief. And these emotions use up a lot of life-force energy, don’t they? When this happens, our immune systems take a beating, and our coping resources wear thin. We all have a certain amount of reserve energy within us, that helps us weather crisis and challenges. There’s a good chance that we have used up all, or most, of this “back up battery power”. Now that we are entering our seventh month of pandemic times, it is crucial for us to find productive ways to replenish our reserves, and keep going in the best way possible. Our immune systems and our mental well-being depend on this.
A Love Note From Ayurveda: How May I Help?
Ayurveda is often affectionately called a sister science of Yoga. Let us look briefly at the Sanskrit meaning of the name. Ayur means life, and Veda means science or wisdom. So, Ayurveda teaches how to live wisely in order to promote physical, mental and spiritual health and longevity. Since everything is interconnected in both the Yogic and Ayurvedic world views, we see ourselves as part of creation. This is contrary to teachings that imagine the human being as having dominion over other forms of life; instead, we are led to a paradigm of ecology versus economics. It is natural to live in harmony with Nature, rather than to consume, dominate or exploit other beings or resources. The former attitude brings balance and wholeness; the latter brings depletion and conflict. We are invited to honour the cycles of Nature and the Wheel of Life.
Autumn As Teacher
In the Northern Hemisphere, autumn is the time for conserving energy. We have already experienced the new growth of spring, as well as the bounty and harvest of mid and late summer. Now we are beginning a season of folding inwards; of resting and replenishing. Later in the year, we will be invited into the “hibernation” of winter. Next year, we begin the cycle anew.
How can we conserve and replenish our reserves of energy this fall? Here are a few general and proven tips that help all of us stay warm, steady and well-rested. (These tips can be further customized for your unique constitution, with the help of a professional Ayurvedic practitioner.) As an experiment, pick one of the following suggestions that would be easy for you to implement, and try it for one week. See how that works and feels for you, and then choose another one the following week.
Ways to Replenish Energy in Autumn
- Eat warm, nourishing foods, preferably that you cook yourself, with love. Look for inspiration at the fruits and vegetables that are in season. Soups and stews that feature or include root vegetables are perfect. Simple recipes are excellent! Avoid fried, processed, and convenience foods. If you are so inclined, this is a good time to include organic or ethically raised meats, fish and dairy; the natural heaviness of these foods is nicely grounding at this time. Eat organic or local foods as much as possible.
- Eat slowly, with appreciation. Avoid anything that may distract you, like watching TV or reading while eating. Put your cell phone away! Try a silent meal once in a while; conversation can distract us from the experience of our food, and also cause us to swallow air.
- Eat until you feel about 75% full. Overeating dulls your digestion, and adds unnecessary weight. Imagine filling 1/2 your stomach with food, 1/4 of your stomach with liquid, and leaving 1/4 empty. Another tip is to notice your first burp during your meal; that can be a good sign that you are at a healthy stopping point.
- Hydrate well, to counteract the dryness inherent in fall. Warm and hot teas, stews and soups are excellent. Let go of iced, cold, and bubbling drinks; they interfere with your digestive process. Remember Ayurveda’s rule of thumb: “It’s not what you eat, it’s what you digest.” Poor digestion and the accompanying accumulation of toxins in our tissues, will eventually lead to many health problems and diseases.
- Avoid or limit caffeine, cigarettes, alcohol and recreational drugs.
- No snacking between meals. Give your digestion enough time to deal with the last meal. (Note: some people with fast metabolisms actually do need to take in high quality snacks between meals. You know who you are.)
- Watch what you take in with your senses. This includes social media, news, entertainment, and even the company you keep. Choose wisely. We all know what it’s like to feel drained by certain people or obligations, or to be uplifted by others.
- Get as much rest as possible. See if you can get to bed by 10pm, and up by 6am. (This step alone, has been a game-changer for me.) Put your digital equipment away at least one hour before bedtime.
- Keep to a regular schedule. This includes meals, as well as sleep and rising times. Ideally, eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at the same time each day. Your digestion and nervous systems will thank you. Regularity creates stability, and this grounds us during the mobile and changeable time of autumn.
- Say “no” more often; don’t over-schedule yourself. Do less, and be more. Remember, this is not the season to push yourself; it’s the time to conserve and replenish. Simplify your life.
- Exercise daily, but don’t overdo it. Walking, biking, dancing, Yoga, and QiGong are excellent options. Keep your body and your energy moving, and remember that you don’t want to feel depleted afterwards.
- Spend quality time with loved ones, whether they be humans, animals, plants, minerals, or other. We are wired to thrive in community. Remember the Covid rule: “Physical distancing, social closeness”.
- Spend time in Nature. The fresh air will do wonders for your lungs and your mood. If you are city-bound, make friends with a local tree or park.
And, Remember to Feed Your Joy
Meditate, pray, reflect, journal, practise gratitude, dance, sing, and/or daydream every day! Include whatever inspires and delights you as a regular part of your life. Remember what brought you joy when you were a child… These activities are not only healing, but they rest and down-regulate our nervous systems.
Happy Autumn! May we all be warm, grounded, rested, and replenished this fall. May we all become more and more adept at living in harmony with nature. Let’s discover together, what it feels like to make small changes that add up to a beautiful life.
With yoga studios and public practice spaces closed, I have taken my classes and sessions online. Like many teachers and therapists, I am using Zoom.
I am grateful for all that the Zoom platform offers. It is a medium through which we can boost our health and well-being. Please continue reading to learn more about the benefits possible through online engagement.
- It makes it possible for us to continue learning, teaching, and healing together, while respecting social distancing.
- We save travel time. No traffic!
- We can practice in the comfort of our own homes. This gives us a feeling of safety. It also brings positive energy into our living spaces.
- As a student or client, it is possible to turn off your video for privacy. You can still see and hear the instructor/therapist.
- In group classes, participants can see and engage with one another, and socialize before and after class.
- Transmission of energy, warmth and intimacy flows beautifully through this medium.
- We can stay connected.
My students tell me that in-person will always be their favourite, but that Zoom Live is the next best option. Watching a recording of even the very same class loses the immediacy of being together, even while apart!
We all have different needs in terms of touch. Many introverts are thoroughly enjoying their solitude during our coronavirus situation, and other people are keenly missing being able to hug and be hugged by their loved ones.
It’s a conundrum, but I have something that can help.
My students have reported that they really appreciate the tapping, cupping and self-massage practices of QiGong, more than ever. We combine smooth breathing, loving intention, and caring touch, as we awaken our circulation at the beginning of a typical session. Self-massage is very soothing and nourishing; it feeds the soul as well as the skin and deeper tissues.
Here is a link to a short video that will guide you through these practices, so you can find out for yourself. Take a moment before and after the practice, in order to feel into any shift you may experience.
Please copy and paste this link to watch the video and try it out for yourself: https://youtu.be/-f0si0XLplU
In a few short months, we have tumbled down a rabbit hole into a completely different world than the one we knew.
Under current circumstances, a return to the way things were is not viable. And longing for the past is not a wise use of our energy; it is better to face what is right here in front of us. Even if it is a big unknown.
When we think of ourselves in “lockdown”, we contract ourselves and imagine ourselves imprisoned and limited. When we think of ourselves as “sheltering at home”, we can soften. We feel a little safer, and we have the possibility of slowing down and reflecting. We have the possibility of looking at new ideas, and at new ways of being. One perspective feels like punishment, and the other feels like an invitation.
The gifts of sheltering at home include simplifying and slowing down. We can reconsider our choices and priorities; we can re-examine and re-instate our core values. We can step off the dizzying merry-go-round of producing and consuming. We can rest, heal, and renew.
And most importantly, we can practise being kind. Kind to ourselves, and kind to all other beings. We truly are all in this together. We are all “sheltering at home” on our beautiful and generous planet Eart
Sometimes, the best way to respond to strange and bewildering circumstances is with a poem…. especially one that transcends time, and gives language to our current situation.
Try not to resist the changes that come your way.
Instead, let life live through you.
And do not worry that your life is turning upside down!
How do you know that the side you are used to
Is better than the one to come?
I’m experiencing information overload these days; perhaps you are too? I’ll keep my message short, and hopefully sweet.
Peace. This is the #1 best medicine to cultivate, and to experience. We can weather anything that is happening around us, and to us, as long as we have peace and steadiness within.
How can we cultivate peace? The quickest and easiest way it through our breath, which is always available to us. When we slow and soften our breath with loving kindness, every part of our body-mind-spirit self calms down. We clear out anything that has been piling up inside, and we restore a nourishing flow. So simple!
I invite you to try a short experiment. It involves placing your hands lovingly on your body, and gently breathing into the feedback of your touch. Try three to five breaths in each of the following locations. When you are finished, sit quietly and notice how you feel. (You can do this exercise lying down.)
- your navel area
- your upper chest, just below your collarbones
- back of your waistline
- the sides of your ribs
This post’s theme is the care and feeding of your Joy Body. In Yoga Therapy, we call this the anandamaya kosha, the body where bliss and joy circulate.
What is a Joy Body and do I have one?
Everyone and every sentient being has a Joy Body. You know it through its presence. When you are awed by beauty; when your mind and spirit are elevated; when you feel your heart glowing with love; when you feel expanded and connected to all; when you feel whole and full. It is a state of bliss.
Can I grow my Joy Body?
Of course you can! Think about the things that bring a smile to your face and a spring to your step, and do more of them more often. Do something to feed this body every day. Perhaps it is travelling, spending more time with loved ones, volunteering for a cause you are passionate about, music, dance, yoga, art, prayer, meditation, cooking, gardening, being in nature, receiving or giving a massage….the possibilities are endless.
But I’m so busy with work, daily life and duties….how do I find the time?
I believe that we can all find 5 minutes a day to sit or lie down quietly to connect to our deepest Joy. You can concentrate on what you love, an inspiring memory, object (like a candle flame or your heart center), spiritual role model, a beautiful sunset, or your breath. Breathe smoothly and gently, and tap into the feelings of peace and joy that arise. Feed this with your breath, and imagine your bliss spreading out in waves to every organ and every part of your body and mind. Exhale to clear your channels, and inhale Joy to fill every cell right down into its nucleus. Warning: 5 minutes might easily stretch into 10 or 15!
What are the benefits of feeding the Joy Body?
A healthy Joy Body optimizes every cell of your physical and spiritual being. Bliss nourishes your nervous system, your immune system and the harmonious functioning of all your organs. It reminds us of our true nature, and builds our resilience on every level. We can meet life’s challenges with more ease and creativity, instead of getting bogged down and stuck. We become more buoyant and more radiant over time. Icky stuff slides off more easily instead of clinging.
FYI, a radiant Joy Body can be contagious!
People, animals, plants and situations around you will start waking up to their own sparkle. Things will flow. Think of it as a Super Power that can help make this world a better and sweeter place for all. And now, how many ways can you think of to feed your Joy Body?
In my experiential anatomy classes, I often ask students to write a love letter to an orphaned or neglected part of their body. The purpose is to shift the relationship into one of appreciation and joy. Because that’s where the magic happens……
Here is a recent letter of my own, as I continue my personal journey of deep listening.
We’ve been together for a long time. I thought I knew you, but now I realize I was just scratching the surface. I see you with new eyes, I listen to you with new ears and I feel you in new ways. You are teaching me so much.
You have been very patient with me. Thank you for being there and never giving up on me.
I thought you were all about strength and core stability. I have flexed you and stretched you in oh so many ways, always looking for an optimal balance of strength and freedom. Now I am learning about how to release you. Time to let go.
You are my tenderloin, my filet mignon, my Chateaubriand. This is a most succulent cut of meat: it is juicy and delicious. I humbly apologize for misunderstanding you. I have spent years toughening you up and overworking you. I am truly sorry. Please forgive me.
I have inadvertently saddled you with a lot of tensions. I didn’t know any better. I’ve held you tight during lunges and backbends, and I’ve stuffed anger and fear into your fibers in an effort to armour myself against emotional and psychological attack. Thank you for shielding me and holding me together while I worked things out.
I see that a new level of intimacy is called for, and it’s time for me to take loving care of you. I am grateful for the inspirations and resources that are presenting themselves to open the way. Over the last few days I have been introduced to the concept that your nature is to be soft and quiet. Some people call you the “muscle of the soul”. How beautiful is that! It speaks to your wisdom and power, and to a new paradigm. As I take a few baby steps towards understanding you better, and allow you time and space to soften, you reward me with such generosity. You gift me with a sensation of quiet, juicy spaciousness in my groins and deep abdomen. Tending your softness, I explore ways to move my thighs without disturbing my pelvis and lumbar spine. It feels so free! When I stand up, my legs feel like long ribbons that pour down from above. My quads feel longer and I feel sleeker. Walking feels fluid. My breath and mind are peaceful. I want to feel this way all the time.
I confess to feeling a little nervous about all of this too. I’m scared of losing our newfound sweetness together, and of falling back into old habits. One change sets off a cascade of other shifts and adjustments….what will the future hold? I already feel stirrings of connections to old holding patterns in my back just behind you, and I am noticing how different you are on the left and right sides. I’m excited to hear what my organs and nerves will have to say about all of this.
I sense we are embarking on a long, deep journey together. I’m sorry that it’s taken me this long to find you. Please forgive me for the pain I’ve caused. Thanks for keeping me safe all these years. I love you and bless you.
yours in Love,