What I Learned from Travel

As a child, I moved all the time. 6 months here, two years there. With my mom for awhile, and then my grandparents. I’ve lived in trailer parks and the basement of a friend’s house. I also lived in very nice suburbs and out in the middle of nowhere. I went to 8 different school from Kindergarten through graduating High School. So travel and moving was instilled in me at a young age.

By moving all the time I learned how to make friends quickly and also how to say goodbye and let go of those friends. I learned that having possessions only slowed us down. It was easier to move if you didn’t have a lot to pack. I became accustomed to giving my things away. I also didn’t have pets. You can’t have a pet if you’re living in a travel trailer in Valdez, Alaska. It’s just too small and cold.

As I grew older and got married I knew that I wanted to have kids and have a house somewhere nice where we could raise those kids. And we did that. I stayed in one place for 15 years. And even though I was stationary geographically I was always changing things around the house. Changing the furniture, changing the paint colors, changing the landscape. I had been programmed to be comfortable with change.

Changing things around the house was my way of feeling that I was having some kind of small adventure even though in my heart I wanted to provide stability for my kids because I didn’t have that in my childhood. And to this day – my children are still in that small town, in the house we raised them in. Is that a good thing? Sometimes I don’t know.

Over the course of the last five years I have been traveling – really traveling. Our first trip was a Yoga Retreat in Tulum, Mexico. It was heavenly – beautiful blue water and white sandy beaches. Fresh, healthy food, yoga every morning and long walks on the beach every day.

Then Costa Rica. Luna Lodge – a yoga retreat but this time in the jungles of the Osa Peninsula. Where Howler Monkeys wake you up every morning, the sand of the beach is black and turtles as big as dinner plates emerge from the mud when it rains!

A yoga teaching stint in Belize followed. Then Italy, Thailand, another trip to Belize, A sailing trip to the Dalmatian Islands of Croatia, Gibraltar, Spain, The Bahamas and BVI’s, the north coast of Africa and around and across the U.S a few times. It’s been a busy five years!

And what I have learned through travel is that WE ARE ALL ONE. We all want the same things. We all want to be happy, to have the freedom to live our lives in peace, to raise our families and prosper. In every place I have traveled – everyone wants to help. Locals will help you find what you are looking for. They will try to find someone who speaks English to help you and they will help you make change!!!!!

I also learned that I am a part of something much bigger than just the United States. I am a citizen of the world. I am part of the WHOLE and I am responsible for what I do. I am responsible for how I treat the environment. I am responsible for how much plastic I use and throw into the trash. I am responsible for the karmic energy I put out into the world: how I treat people, whether I create community or competition – whether I choose Love or Fear. I am responsible.

And finally traveling taught me that I am more capable that I thought. I always tell the story of traveling to Italy alone (with a tour group) but alone. And one day our leader left us in Florence with a map. We were on our own to tour the city, see what we chose and make our way through the day. And although I was a bit nervous. I did It! I even managed to get my hair cut at a salone where no one spoke English and I also got a tattoo! All without speaking Italian! It was a big moment for me. I felt grown up and capable and proud of myself.

And even though I now live in Georgia and I’m setting down roots here, I still want to make time for travel. And I want to take YOU with me. Where would you like to go? How about we go on a Yoga Retreat to Costa Rica and see what travel will teach YOU?

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Happy Tools

I’m happy most of the time. In fact, I’m so cheerful that occasionally it irritates people! I have normal emotional ups and downs but after thinking about it, I realized that I’m happy about 85% of the time. I have been really, really unhappy before though. In fact, I spent a year in clinical depression. Depression so painful that I didn’t want to breathe anymore. It was awful. So I work really hard NOT to go back there.

My favorite tool to keep me on the happy side of life is to count my blessings. I try to find at least five: I have love in my life, I have a place to live, I’m healthy, I’m doing something I really like and My kids still say, “I love you mom!” When I’m having a really rough day my list looks more like this: I’m breathing……I have gas in my car…….UMmmmmm….I have coffee…. squirrels are cute… I like the blue sky…. But at least I can still find five things!

My next best tool is to move (sometimes drag) my mind into the present moment. If I am busy worrying about something then I am NOT present. I’m really in the future making up stories about what “might” happen and then making myself sick over it. If I’m thinking about something in the past I’m not present in this moment either. When I finally bring myself to this moment I can see that everything is fine. I’m ok. Life is good and I don’t have anything to complain about.

Another tool that I use is exercise. I am a yoga instructor so I practice some kind of yoga daily. Yoga helps me get in touch with my body and my mind. It helps me “burn away the crazy” and also produces ‘Happy” endorphins in my brain! I also like to hike, ride my bike, swim or paddleboard. Any kind of exercise is helpful!

An often used tool is to talk to others about what is bothering me. It can be a professional counselor or a really good friend. But it needs to be someone I can be brutally honest with. Someone who will just listen and not judge. This person/or group of people can take some time and trial and error to find! Unburdening myself in this way takes a ton of weight off of my soul and raises my happiness level by leaps and bounds.

Hugs or hand holding is a great way to boost my happiness level. Humans are made to be in connection and communion with others. Being able to hug someone – tight, or walk around holding hands is an essential part of how we are made. If you’re not with a partner right now, go get a massage. Appropriate touch through massage can be a very worthwhile thing in your life. It is especially helpful for senior citizens who have lost their partner in life.

Going outside is probably one of the most underutilized ways to boost your happiness level! Our bodies need the vitamin D that the sun gives our skin. At least 20 minutes a day outside is recommended. I lived in Seattle for most of my life and there is not enough sunshine there but being outdoors at least gave me fresh air, green moss under my feet, huge pine trees to smell and ocean views. The sound of the waves can be a great meditation tool!

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So, if you’re feeling a little out of sorts please try one (or all) of these Happy Tools! Life is good. It’s difficult sometimes but it’s worth it. Every day.

From My Heart to Yours!

The Universe’s Answer is YES

What do you do when the Universe offers you everything you’ve been working toward? For me it looked like dancing around in my living room and pumping my fist in the air while I yelled, “Yes, yes, YES!!!!” really loudly!

It started six years ago when I set some BIG changes in motion. My marriage was coming to end, I had attained a very unhealthy weight and I knew I had to change my life. Eventually, the divorce ensued. I started practicing yoga and the weight came off!

Because I loved Yoga so much I set my intention to become a yoga teacher. I wasn’t sure exactly how I was going to pay for my training but I courageously put down my deposit and found that the rest of the money showed up little by little just when I needed it. A similar experience followed with a yoga retreat to Costa Rica.

That’s when I learned that the Universe’s answer is YES! If you want something, ASK for it and then WORK toward it. Don’t just sit on your bum with your hands extended waiting for the goods to drop into your hands. You have to help! You have to put energy in to get something out!

Eventually, I starting telling the Universe that I wanted to own a studio.  I even flew from Seattle to Florida to look at a yoga studio that was for sale. But that place didn’t feel quite right. So I waited and kept practicing and  teaching. I worked and educated myself and dreamt of what I wanted a studio to be.

Recently I went back to school to become a Licensed Massage Therapist – another skill to add to my resume. Then I told a few friends that I was planning to move to Georgia in July – checking in to see if they would maybe have some work for me….and the Universe had a great big YES for me.

Neely Hunter, the owner of Balance Wellness Studio offered me a partnership in her business! Balance couldn’t be more perfect. It is a holistic wellness center that offers massage, reflexology, acupuncture, community meditation and education, Feldenkrais, yoga, barre & Pilates. It’s a cooperative community of wellness professionals and It’s exactly what I would have built on my own!

The Universe’s answer is YES. It may not happen overnight. It might take 6 years. It might take a lot of hard work on your part to be ready for what the Universe has in store for you. Don’t give up hope. Keep moving in the direction of your dreams. The perfect place is out there waiting for you!

You can learn a little bit more about My Yoga Story here. 🙂

Peace, Love & Namaste.

Being Still and Quiet

Today I tried something totally different. I did my yoga practice in the quiet. Usually I play music – anything that fits my mood. Sometimes I listen to mellow stuff like Norah Jones and some days I rock out with Pink and Christina. But today, for some reason as I entered my yoga room the idea came to me to just be quiet.

Now, for those of you who know me, you know that being quiet and still is a real challenge for me! I have an opinion on just about everything and I’m not shy about sharing. And stillness is challenging for me.  Yin is not my favorite class because I want to MOVE, sweat, get my heart beating and burn calories.

So as I began to move I was surprised by how lovely the quiet was. My window was open a bit so I could hear the birds waking up and chirping hello to each other. I could hear cars making their way into the beehive. An owl hooted low and mellow…and I could hear my breath.

When is the last time you heard your breath during practice? And I don’t mean….”pant, pant, huff and puff Yeah of course I hear my breath!” I mean a slow measured inhale and exhale with each move….keeping the focus internal. REALLY taking time to hold each pose for 5 slow breaths.. holding the pose in stillness for longer than usual..tuning in to the muscles being used and making any small adjustments that are needed.

Of course, I wasn’t able to stay focussed the whole time. My mind did wander a bit…mostly to YOU. Whenever I practice I’m always thinking about what I will share with you. What is it that I learned today that I can tell you about? What message does the Spirit have for us? So YOU were right there with me this morning!

We are so busy in our every day lives. We spend a lot of time distracting ourselves. TV, cell phones, music, books, magazines…conversations….None of these things are bad in and of themselves but when was the last time you were just quiet and still? When is the last time you connected to the voice within? When is the last time you listened to your heart and heard your breath?

Krishnamacharya said, “Inhale, and God approaches you. Hold the inhalation, and God remains with you. Exhale, and you approach God. Hold the exhalation, and surrender to God.

How to Start a Home Practice

Have you every noticed that yoga instructors have a certain set of things that they usually talk about in class? One teacher might talk a lot about “letting go.” Another teacher might mention meditating or eating healthy. What I have learned (because I AM a yoga teacher) is that we all preach to you about what it is that we are working on ourselves! It’s not that we think you’re the same as us…it’s just that this item is forefront in our minds. It’s our topic for the week so we share what we’re learning!

The thing that is forefront in my mind this week is my home yoga practice. Having been a yoga instructor for several years you’d think that I would have a long, burgeoning home yoga practice right? Nope. Although I’ve tried over and over to commit to a practice at home but it never happened. I just couldn’t seem to find the time or be dedicated to get on my mat consistently. Until recently. I now have a daily home practice that I LOVE. So here is what I have learned.

Find a place. You must have a space dedicated to your practice. I suggest a separate room with a door that you can close. If that’s not possible then it needs to be a place where you won’t be disturbed. Decorate this space with things you love. When you come into the space it should make you feel happy and glad to be there. Your body should literally go, “Ahhhhhhhh!” Put up inspirational quotes or photos that you love. Choose lighting that makes you feel groovy – nothing too harsh, something soft and natural. Light a candle if you like or have some incense. Your mat should be spread out in invitation always so you can just walk onto it…..none of this “rolled up in the corner” crap.

Find a time. I have found that it’s really important to have my practice at the same time every day. For me, this is the first thing in the morning right after my coffee. If mornings don’t work for you that’s fine. Just pick a time – the same time every day – and commit to it. It will be easier for you to be consistent and it will also be easier for your family to remember that this is your time. Guard this time with your superhero abilities. Don’t double book yourself! Say NO if someone asks you to do something during your yoga time! Be strong! Don’t cave. Also – you do not have to take an hour. You might want to just start with 10 or 15 minutes and work up to longer if you like.

Find a Teacher. I know this is your home practice but you will need someone to guide you and inspire you and answer your questions. Unfortunately this will be like dating. You will have to kiss a few toads before you find the right one for you. It’s good to get into a studio to be with like-minded people, check in with your mentor, ask any questions you may have. In fact, you may even want to do a private yoga session to have them check your alignment and suggest poses for specific things you want to work on. If you’re just not a studio person there are lots of great teachers online. Watch a few videos and find one whose language and personality are attractive to you. You will tend to stick with your practice if you admire your teacher.

Find a Style. You may be the type of person who just needs time to meditate every day. Or maybe you need a hot power flow to get your blood pumping. You may love inversions….or not. Try different types of yoga, see what makes your body feel good (and it SHOULD feel good), helps your mind to focus and leaves your heart feeling happy. Not every practice is for every person. Shop around, try them all and cherry pick what works for your body.

Find the Love. To commit to a daily yoga practice is to show love to yourself and that is a GOOD thing! Some of us really struggle with this. We have busy lives and it seems like everyone else comes first. It can be easy to push our practice out-of-the-way until it’s been years since we stretched, meditated or balanced. But to be able to give and give and give…we first have to fill our own cup. We have to take time to care for ourselves so that we can then care for others. It is NOT selfish. It is self – care You are worth it and it will make you a better person.

I hope these tips are helpful. I know it’s working for me. I hope you can find the Place, the Time, the Teacher and the Style that works for you…..and most importantly the Love to care for yourself!

Namaste yogis

Sunrise in the Desert – Joshua Tree, CA

I woke up to the sound of my boyfriend saying, “Oh my God!” As he sat up quickly and I labored awake I wondered what the problem was. Had some animal gotten into our packs? Was a person entering our camp site? Then I realized he was looking at the sunrise. As I sat up to join him I saw that the sun had not yet peeked over the rim of the earth but it was casting a brilliant orange glow on the clouds that hung just over the horizon. The rest of the sky was a crystal clear blue! Good Morning Joshua Tree!!!!

We had been up late the night before watching the stars. It’s one of the main reasons we came here. When you are out in the Mohave Desert there is very little light to interfere with the amazing display that is put on every night by the Milky Way and all of her compatriots. We spent several hours lying on our backs oohing and ahhhing in amazement, naming the constellations we knew and making up names for any we didn’t. We even saw a few shooting stars!

I have always wanted to hike out to camp, carrying all that I needed on my back. Truth be told, it made me a little nervous to camp in the wild but I knew with my boyfriend I’d be in good hands. Little did I know that my first trip would be to the Twin Tanks area of Joshua Tree National Park.  We each carried a sleeping bag, pad, water, a few clothes, our tent and just enough food for an overnight trip. As we headed out from our truck I started to think, “What have I gotten myself into now? It’s HOT and I have to hike? I can do that right?” Don’t I look excited?  LOL

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The hiking was gentle and my guide was patient as we made our way out. Our camp site was a shallow depression on the east side of a large cluster of rocks. We quickly set up our tent and began to explore our home for the night. We climbed around the granite boulders, made our way through the sandy areas and up over some of the stones to make a circumnavigation of the area near our tent.

To the southwest we notice a huge white stone capping a nearby ridge and wandered over to check it out. It turned out to be a huge seam of Milky Quartz rising up from the earth! It looked like a man-made monument from afar but it’s placement is totally natural! Several large pieces had fallen down from the pinnacle looking like huge white ice cubes that would never melt. We left our own cairn of rocks to celebrate the natural beauty of this place!

We saw very few animals over the weekend and I’m sure that’s due to the lack of any water in the area.  I was mostly worried about snakes or scorpions climbing into our tent at night but luckily that didn’t happen! We did see one brilliant blue bird and a  hawk screaming as he flew overhead looking for lunch. A few rabbits scurried away as we explored and a small grey wren hopped around our camp site looking for food .

The real stars of the landscape are the resident cactus and their cousins! There was no need to remind me to steer clear of their sharp spines and needles! But when you get the chance to look closely at these beauties you can’t help but be mesmerized by their color and shape and form! These lovelies have thorns to protect themselves from being eaten! There is so little water here that they protect their juicy flesh by growing long spikes to make themselves unpalatable!

After we spent a few moments enjoying the sunrise and holding hands, we began to strike our camp site. Barry made coffee and I took a few minutes to stretch, breathe, feel the wind against my skin and listen to the silence that is this place. It was a quick trip but I left feeling grateful for my life. I am so blessed that I have the opportunity to visit these places, explore new parts of the country and enjoy the beauty that this world offers.

Life is such a gift. I hope that you can take a moment today to be grateful for your time here.  Go see the places you want to see. Put your toes in the sand or climb a hill and see the view. Drive out into the desert if that’s your thing. Beauty is all around if you’ll just take a moment to see it! – Namaste.

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Utthita Hasta Padangustasana – Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose

 

 

Pop Up Yoga in Ventura California

I’m lying on my back in Savasana. The sun is making glowing orbs on the back of my eyelids and warming my face. I can feel the bumpy ground beneath my body and the wind is tickling my toes. A mole is popping his head out of the ground. I can hear him nibbling on grass nearby. I’m surrounded by 40 happy souls and I feel peaceful, relaxed and grateful for Ventura Pop Up Yoga.

I found out about Pop Up Yoga by looking online. They host classes all over town in parks, at the marina and even at a winery! Pop Up Yoga is not connected to any particular studio. Multiple teachers share the instructor role and they offer a practice every day of the week. The coolest thing is that you pay for the class by donation! They believe that yoga should be available and accessible for everyone. So they just ask you to pay what you can afford. Isn’t that great?

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(Getting our stretch on!)

We visited Ventura, California this past weekend to dog-sit for some friends. We spent the weekend wandering main street, tasting beer, walking the pier, watching kite boarders sail across the water and we even paddled in the Harbor. But by far, my favorite part of the weekend was yoga at The Cross in Grant Park overlooking the city!

 

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I arrived early and found my spot on the uneven ground. Someone mentioned that they were trying to find a flat spot. And I thought, “Good luck with that. It’s uneven and bumpy. There are small smooth patches, some rough, some dry, some moist. Kind of like life! Is it ever totally smooth? We try to find balance between work, home life, vacation time, spouses, kids, commitments. This ground is a perfect metaphor. You can try to find a flat spot but it’s not likely to happen!

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(The view from my spot! It was a little hazy in the morning.)

Our Instructor today is Margeaux who has just opened a new studio called Yoga Casita in Santa Paula. As she leads us through the practice I can’t help but notice how tall she is! (A model maybe?) I’m guessing she is about 5’11” and looks very athletic – I bet she surfs! I know, I’m supposed to be focusing inward but I can’t it. This is my monkey mind at work. I also notice she’s very good at holding space for quiet. That’s something that I struggle with when I teach. I always want to fill the quiet time with talk – but not Margeaux. As we hold poses for five breaths she is quiet – allowing us to focus on ourselves.

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(Can you say Trikonasana?)

Most of all, what I loved about today is this: There we were – about forty of us, all different sizes, shapes, skin colors, religions and backgrounds and yet for this short moment – one hour of our day –  we were One. We moved as one, breathed as one and radiated peace and harmony out into the world from our hill top aerie. I had at least five people say hello to me and smile and say welcome! Yoga does that. It brings people together. To breathe, stretch, love each other, look inside and BE.

So here I am….having the ultimate California yoga experience. I am on a hill, overlooking beautiful Pierpont Bay and the white sandy beaches of Ventura, California. I feel welcomed. I feel happy. I feel Yoga. Welcome to California Dawn!

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