Guest Post

Embracing Your Warrior Within

Here is our 7th and final Guest Post for The Light Within from Sharyn Hahn. I’ve been  trying to incorporate warrior poses into my daily yoga practice. This advice came at the perfect time and is such a great send-off from my neighbor mindfulness guru. Could there be a better way to begin (or end) the day than reaching for the sky? Happy travels—in yoga and writing—and look up what Sharyn’s doing on her sites, linked below. xo, Rachel

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“Though yoga cannot cure all of our problems or remove all the obstacles we face in life, it can help us prepare for them. Many that practice yoga frequently find they become less bothered by everyday frustrations and annoyances. Then, the larger challenges that life throws our way also become easier to manage.”

—Mind Fuel Daily, “Can Yoga Help With Life’s Challenges?”

 

Always be proud of your strength. Not just physically, but also emotionally and mentally. Take care of yourself and there will be more of you available to give to others. Yoga and meditation are very effective ways to cultivate strength and flexibility, as well as mindfulness. You will find that you are better able to deal with the problems that arise in your daily life when you feel good physically and mentally.

As a middle school teacher and a yoga teacher/practitioner, I have discovered that certain poses and breathing techniques are especially effective in making me feel balanced and ready to face my day. I have been sharing them with my students at different times during the school day, and they have had positive results. In particular, focusing on the breath and warrior poses are very effective in relaxing us, focusing us, and empowering us!

There have been studies about the body’s response to doing power poses, and they reveal that there is a positive health outcome as well as a behavioral change. Yoga stances that include strong leg positions, with distance between the feet, squared hips and raised arms fit into this category. Warrior 1, 2 and 3, Chair pose, and some balancing poses are examples of this type of “asana” (pose.) Self-esteem and confidence are boosted over time with repetitious practice, and hormonal changes are evident as well. This has a big impact on our ability to deal with stress, difficult situations, and obstacles that impede our progress in areas of our lives. Consider the results of a study conducted by Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy:

“…While high-power posers showed an 8% increase in testosterone, low-power posers had a 10% decrease in the hormone. Meanwhile, the inverse relationship happened with cortisol, the hormone related to stress. While high-power posers experienced a 25% decrease in cortisol levels, low-power posers had a 15% increase in their stress levels.”

These outcomes suggest that yoga poses and mindfulness practiced in settings that require performance and progress, such as in schools, would be a very helpful addition to the daily routine. Inspired by these potential benefits, I was recently certified by the Breathe For Change program, which is a Yoga Alliance 200 hour certification training for educators. The idea behind this program is that teachers have the opportunity to reach many individuals every day over many years, and if we all were able to instill good practices and mindfulness into their routines, we would be able to make an impactful change. As the site explains, “Breathe for Change empowers educators to enhance well-being into their lives, classrooms, and school communities.”

Giving ourselves times relax our bodies, connect with our breathing, visualize a positive situation that we would like to see actually happen, and standing in strengthening poses only takes about ten minutes, but can change the way we feel and interact with others during our day. It is something that can be done alone or in a group, at home or in a specific setting. I encourage everyone that I meet and teach to begin a short practice that can then possibly expand into a longer amount of time.

Breathing exercises can encourage the body to release tension, circulate oxygen more effectively, and wake up the mind. Inhaling into the belly while sitting comfortably or lying down will allow you to follow the breath as it goes in and out. Filling the belly with your breath and then gently pressing the belly button towards the spine as you exhale is a wonderful way to start a practice. Be sure to keep the inhale and the exhale equal lengths to begin with. Later on you can extend the exhale to two more counts then the inhale.

Warrior and balancing poses are uplifting and strengthening. When we raise our arms towards the sky, we are connecting with our inner power, and the sense of balance and control that result from mastering these “asanas” has a positive effect on our well-being.
Warrior 1 pose is the first of three related powerful standing postures that improve strength and flexibility. There is also Warrior 2 and Warrior 3.

Standing tall with your arms at your sides, relax your shoulders and feel your feet grounded into the earth and supporting you.

In this pose, the legs are placed in a lunge position with the back foot turned at a 45-60 degrees angle and the front leg bent at a 90 degree angle so the knee is stacked over the ankle. The heel of the front foot should be aligned with the heel of the back foot. The hips are squared so the torso faces the bent leg and the arms are raised overhead with the palms facing each other or touching.

We usually begin on the left side and then repeat the pose on the right. This is true of all of the poses. If you would like to learn more about the different poses and their alignments, you can contact me on Facebook (Sharyn Hahn’s Fitness, Yoga and Mindfulness for All) and Instagram (suryyama_yoga) for more information.

Being a warrior means being grounded and centered and also ascending upward to connect with the path that is unfolding before us. Stand strong, be alert, and set your intention to fight for freedom, truth, and equality for all. Now more than ever.

Journaling is central to this process. I encourage you to start if you haven’t already. Here’s a question to get you thinking: what personal trait do you feel most comfortable sharing with others? Which one are you least comfortable sharing? How can you focus on this in a positive and uplifting way? I hope that you take some time to think about how you interact with incidents during your day, and what steps that you can focus on to allow a positive change to unfold for you. Namaste.

—Sharyn

Sharyn Hahn has been a teacher to students of all ages for 33 years, with a focus on teaching French at a private school in NYC. During the past eight years she has added a new dimension to passion for teaching and is now an ACE certified Personal Trainer (FitWomaNow!), and a YogaFit instructor with a 200-hour RYT certification in Mind-Body Balancing from the Deep Yoga Center in San Diego, California. She is currently pursuing a certification in Yoga for Traumaas she continues to broaden her understanding of the significance of yoga, meditation, and breath in her students’ lives. Sharyn holds a Master’s degree in French literature and language and runs Tutorcise.com.

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Guest Post

Make “Room” for the Spring!

I was so happy to get this essay from Sharyn.  It felt like the exact advice I needed—encouragement to declutter (inside & out) but also permission to keep certain things. I too feel a greater lightness now with items I’ve chosen (for now) to keep even if they’re not all totally useful. Not everything is a “have-to” on our list of To Dos. So happy clearing out but happy holding onto what makes you happy. It doesn’t feel like it outside in NYC, but spring has sprung! xo, Rachel

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“Just as nature enters a cycle of renewal, growth and expansion in spring-so does the energy within us. Embrace the opportunity to shed old unwanted layers and make a conscious effort to begin again.”

—Danielle Marchmay

I had an epiphany not too long ago about clutter. I am surrounded by my “stuff” and I love it. It is a very important part of my life and I am ok with that. Things are connected to the people that I cherish and meaningful places that I have been. I have been told that being with my loved ones and remembering the memories of my travels should be enough. And I couldn’t understand why I was not able to agree with them until I went through a yoga trauma training and realized that my life is enriched by the memorabilia that tie me to my “clutter.” That was a big relief…and a weight was lifted when I was able to finally accept this part myself.

However, I also became aware that I don’t need to keep every little thing that my children made in pre-school or every pen that I collected at each hotel on my special trip with my fiancé! I became more focused on what served me and that which did not; this is an inventory that I try to do every year now. I also do not feel stressed out about the items that I want to keep, which makes the process more enjoyable and meaningful. Some people prefer to do this in the beginning of the new year. I choose the springtime because it is the season for renewal and growth. Look around you and you will see the flowering buds on the trees, the baby crocuses peeking out, and the leaves unfurling and ready to receive the energy from the sun. For us, it is the perfect to time to unclutter both our inner and our outer spaces.

We have huddled up in our bodies to stay warm and surrounded ourselves with things and food and drink since the beginning of the holiday season in November! I invite you to inhale, spread your arms wide, and take a mental scan of your body’s edges and inner self. Exhale anything that is not serving you: tightness, unhealthy cravings, habits that you hope to break. Can you visualize breathing into those spaces and making room for the renewal of this season? Clearing out the stale energy from our “winter body” is reinvigorating. The same is true for our mental space; allowing ourselves to let go of old patterns and anxieties can be replaced with the setting of new intentions and visualizations that will encourage growth and expansion of our place in the universe. I invite you to do a short exercise that you can embrace daily to help you to begin this process.

Sit comfortable and close your eyes. Visualize in your mind’s eye a favorite place that either exists already that you only visit occasionally or that you wish to create. Imagine the details, including the colors, the furniture or open space, and the items that are present. What are the scents associated with this space? Next, imagine yourself IN that place. See yourself being relaxed, comfortable and happy, and feel the emotions that embrace you in this space. Inhale and exhale, physically feeling your inner space expanding, making room for newness and fresh air. Exhale and watch the energy spread throughout your body and fill this imagined place. Hold this visualization for as long as you would like to during this session. You can come back to it whenever you want!

Once you have done this exercise several times, you will be ready to move to your physical space and tackle the uncluttering of your living areas. Clear out unnecessary papers, take pictures of gifts that were given to you this past year that you have never used but that you want to remember, and then donate them to people who need them, discard expired food or donate cans and boxes that you have duplicates of in your pantry. Tackling your closet is a huge project, so if it too much to do all at once, set an intention that is more focused, such as going through your shoes or your jackets and seeing what you may be inspired to clear out.

Fill your renewed open space with flowers, purchase one of the visualized items in your “ideal place”, and feel the lightness that is the result of uncluttering both mentally and physically. Look around you and experience the earth’s renewal. Breathe in the scent of spring and align it with your intentions that you set for your own personal “Springtime.” Namaste.

—Sharyn

Sharyn Hahn has been a teacher to students of all ages for 33 years, with a focus on teaching French at a private school in NYC. During the past eight years she has added a new dimension to passion for teaching and is now an ACE certified Personal Trainer (FitWomaNow!), and a YogaFit instructor with a 200-hour RYT certification in Mind-Body Balancing from the Deep Yoga Center in San Diego, California. She is currently pursuing a certification in Yoga for Traumaas she continues to broaden her understanding of the significance of yoga, meditation, and breath in her students’ lives. Sharyn holds a Master’s degree in French literature and language and runs Tutorcise.com.

Guest Post

Where is Love?

Valentine’s Day words of wisdom from Sharyn Hahn.

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As I was teaching my recent Valentine’s Day themed yoga class, which focused on the 4th chakra (anahata- the heart chakra) through heart-opening poses and self-love mantras, I became aware of the wisdom that I have gained on my path during the past 10 years. It felt very natural and comfortable to invite my students to acknowledge their respective uniqueness and worth, and to set an intention regarding self-love. I embraced my own, and felt strong and centered, connected to my love for myself.

“When anahata is open and energy is flowing freely, you are not only loving to others, you are also loving to yourself. You know when you need to say no and when you need care and self-nurturing.”[1]

When we shared out at the end of the class after the final journaling moments, it was clear that the older students in the class had an easier time connecting to the self-affirmations that I offered throughout the session. Everyone thanked me for reminding them of the powerful balancing energy of self-love. It made me remember that in my 20’s and 30’s I also struggled with this concept of being worthy of love not only from others, but also for myself.

During a series of unfulfilling and emotionally abusive relationships, along with health issues and family trauma, I slowly unpeeled the many layers of self-doubt, and I became aware of the disconnection between my mind, body and spirit. Although I had always respected all of my different “parts”, I had never honored and nurtured them as a “wholeness.” Each time a barrier presented itself on my path, I found the strength to climb it or go through it, and I slowly chipped away at them as they appeared. Most importantly, I acknowledged them and learned to recognize the choices I made that did not serve me.

This is how age and experience are positive aspects in our lives! When we have to struggle when we are younger, we are stronger when we are older. We are able to embrace our lives and appreciate our circumstances (even if they are not “perfect”); we can surround ourselves with that which makes us happy. When we are happy, we can share that energy and pass it on to others. “I let my happiness be visible to others. My happiness overflows from me. I can use my happiness to bring joy to others.”[2] This is very powerful. When we are able to reach out to those who may need love and support, it returns to us tenfold! And the result is that not only do we have more to give, but those whom we touched will also do so, thus setting a cycle of positive energy in motion.

Even if I am feeling sad or anxious, I always remind myself that I am worthy of love- from myself first and foremost. When the intentions that I set are not fulfilled yet, or the goals in daily life (exercise, diet, more sleep, etc.) are not met, I no longer beat myself up. I definitely engage in self-talk, which is very helpful. I remember to breathe and stay focused on my yoga practice. This has served me well! And I love sharing it with students, colleagues and friends, because it truly is a healing gift.

Heart-opening poses encourage the breath to flow, the shoulders to relax, and the inner energy to shine forward. Embrace yourself and you will continue to become the best person that you can be. I invite you to recite the mantra that is shared in this post and to practice the poses that I offer here in this order:

1. Cow Pose

2. Cobra Pose

3. Upward-Facing Dog Pose

4. Sphinx Pose

5. Bridge Pose

6. Full Wheel Pose (more challenging)

Enjoy your day, take care of yourself, eat chocolate, and share your love and happiness with others.

Namaste.

 

Sharyn Hahn has been a teacher to students of all ages for 33 years, with a focus on teaching French at a private school in NYC. During the past eight years she has added a new dimension to passion for teaching and is now an ACE certified Personal Trainer (FitWomaNow!), and a YogaFit instructor with a 200-hour RYT certification in Mind-Body Balancing from the Deep Yoga Center in San Diego, California. She is currently pursuing a certification in Yoga for Traumaas she continues to broaden her understanding of the significance of yoga, meditation, and breath in her students’ lives. Sharyn holds a Master’s degree in French literature and language and runs Tutorcise.com.

[1] http://www.egreenway.com/yoga/heart.htm#Quotations

 

[2] Sarah Samuel- https://www.gaia.com/article/10-powerful-self-loving-mantras

 

Guest Post

Happy New Year – Happy New You

Here is Sharyn’s wonderful advice for starting the year off right. xo, r

 

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Happy New Year! This is time of the year when everyone tends to make resolutions, determined to become the best they can be. Ironically, it also the time of year when it is the coldest and darkest for most places in our hemisphere, which leads to lowered energy, the craving for rich foods, and a desire to stay home under a blanket reading or watching television instead of moving our bodies. January is called “the dead of winter.” It is the most difficult time to begin new routines. However, you can take steps to find balance this season and feel better so that you can begin to make some small changes and plan for the bigger ones. Self-care in winter is an important part of Ayurveda, which can complement and support your yoga practice.

Instead of focusing on the cold, dry, and dark aspects of this time of the year, I invite you to use it as a time to contemplate how the universe is calling you to set intentions and plant the seeds of new beginnings. If you are feeling down, surround yourself with uplifting scents, comforting food, and soft layers of clothing. A light that compensates for the reduced sunlight is also very helpful to have in your favorite room.

Winter becomes a time for delicate balance requiring that we pay close attention to our inner and outer environments. It is the time to build and restore. Balance is the goal both when we practice asanas (the physical poses of yoga) and when we nourish our body and our spirit. We need to bring energy levels up, eat warming foods that are easy to digest, and get plenty of sleep to counteract our temptation to curl up in a ball, move less, and eat heavier foods. Staying hydrated both inside and out is also very important. Drink warm and cool liquids throughout the day, and massage oils into your skin in the morning and/or at night. Infuse your environment with hydrating mist. You can add essential oils to add another layer of uplifting energy. I shared a bergamot essential oil with my yoga classes and it is delicious to inhale!

Take extra care of your skin in the winter. The low temperatures, wind, and bitter cold can leave skin feeling dull and especially dry. Ayurveda, which promotes balance above all else, encourages dealing with the cold, dry, windy winter with a daily oil massage (Abhyanga). Right after you shower, apply 1 ounce of warm organic oil to your skin. Rub in well like a moisturizer, making circles over joints and long strokes over long bones.

“Daily massage not only leaves skin radiant and supple but helps enhance circulation (great for cold hands and feet!), settles the nerves, and calms the mind. It’s the perfect body-mind remedy for the cold, stressful winter months, and it supports good sleep and reduces tension.”

-Banyanbotanicals.com

You can go to your local health food store for organic, cold-pressed oil. Try naturally warming sesame seed oil or a neutral-temperature oil, such as almond or sunflower seed. (However, if you have a fever, cold, flu, or are pregnant, avoid this practice). Look for an organic sesame or sunflower oil base, infused with stimulating herbs to energize and refresh the mind, such as eucalyptus, peppermint, or lemon. For more mental relaxation, try oils with calming herbs like lavender, sandalwood, or rose.

Coconut Oil is another versatile product to use, especially on your hair! You can nourish your hair during the winter with a weekly coconut oil head massage. Put a bit of organic coconut oil onto fingertips and massage the scalp to enhance circulation and nourish the roots. Then, apply a bit more oil and massage a light coating through the hair all the way to the ends. This will result in a silky shine.

To get a complete picture of what we need to balance in winter, let’s turn to Shiva Rea’s tips posted on Omega. Rea describes the qualities this way:
“• Cold with warmth
• Heaviness with lightness of spirit
• Static energy with circulation
• Dullness with inspiration
• Excess dampness with dryness”

Rea goes on to tell us that balancing these qualities can make winter into a healing and strengthening season. If they’re out of balance, “kapha qualities accumulate within body and mind, creating heaviness of spirit, weight gain, poor digestion, depression, lethargy, and weakness in the immune system that leads to colds and flus.”

In addition to following these self-care practices, maintaining a morning meditation and yoga flow practice will support your mind and body so that you will face your days with balance and energy.

Do three warrior poses: Warrior I, Warrior II, Peaceful Warrior. Hold each for 5 breaths.

Move into the Chair Pose. Hold for 5 breaths.

Stand in a balancing pose of your choice (Tree Pose or Warrior III, for example.)

Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) for 5 breaths.

End with ten minutes of your mantra recitation (I am…on the inhale/mantra of your choice: strength/love/gratitude. etc. on the exhale) as you sit comfortably.

This is a restorative time to allow your body to rest and renew itself. Set intentions and begin to plan how you will manifest them as the days get longer and eventually warmer. Plant the seeds and get them ready to germinate so that you will be ready to act on them; now is the time to dream. Namaste.

 

 

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Guest Post

GOOD VIBRATIONS

Here’s December’s Guest Post from Sharyn Hahn!  Enjoy and let us know what you think in the comments.

METTA: – kindness – engendered in us encourages us to accept ourselves and others, and so to understand ourselves and others. Understanding implies wisdom. And this wisdom is that which allows us to find the way, to grow beyond, or let go of, that which limits and binds the heart. The kindness expressed to others allows them to accept themselves and others. [1]

There are many forms of yoga being practiced these days and the number of practitioners are growing exponentially in the western world. People are coming to the mat for a variety of reasons; fitness, flexibility, stress-reduction, and meditation are the top attractions for new students. Those of us who have been studying and practicing for a while know that yoga has been around for thousands of years and has a profound tradition of ethics and spirituality. This is one of the reasons that I am so committed to this practice in my life and why I get such joy out of teaching and sharing what I have learned.

 

As I explained briefly in my first article, I decided to pursue my certification in yoga when I met my future teacher at the Kripalu workshop “The Guru is You.” I attended this weekend program with my sister who was searching for ways to heal from a tragic event. We had both taken yoga classes sporadically over the years; this workshop seemed like a promising approach to trauma that we were willing to try. I have to admit that we were a little skeptical when the yoga teacher strolled in and started to strum his guitar and sing to us. However, the ensuing breathing and visualization exercise resulted in a huge release of tears and emotion in the entire room, and the feeling of connection to everyone there was profound.

One of the most enlightening moments of the workshop was the explanation of creating and passing on positive energy. We did a few more exercises in the room, and the result was incredible. The teacher gave many examples of this phenomenon and its effect on us and ultimately the entire world. During the three days of healing work and discussion with other people in search of clarification of their own journeys, my path revealed itself to me so vividly that I immediately told the teacher that I had to study with him! It was a complicated process since his yoga school is in California and I am on the East coast with a family and a full time job. But we figured it out and I accomplished my goal; after two years I became a Deep Yoga Mastery of Life teacher. My goal was and is to share the ways in which we can cultivate self-love, compassion for others, and the manifestation of positivity and resulting personal growth.

Being kind to others is desperately needed in these troubled times for sure. Even small gestures have a ripple effect that travels to others in amazing ways. We often feel like it takes too much energy or planning to make a difference, but in fact a shift in mindset and a daily practice of positivity that we share will be felt by many people. My teacher described the scene in which you walk into a room where family members are all in a bad mood, complaining about something and yelling at each other. Although you are feeling fine before entering, once you are there, your mood is brought down to meet theirs and your energy shifts. When you leave, you bring that negativity with you, and you may overreact to a colleague or snap at a child because you absorbed a percentage of that energy from your family. This will be passed along in a chain to people who come into contact with others throughout the day. Have you experienced this situation? Think of a specific time when this happened and what the outcome was for you.

On the flip side, when we walk into a room filled with positive energy and compassion, we also absorb that, carry it with us, and share a spark with others whom we meet. Our gestures of kindness and compassion as a result of this energy kindles similar behaviors in others. As Adrian Cooper writes at Our Ultimate Reality:

“The laws of attraction and correspondence are always in operation whenever we project thoughts, ideas, emotions and anything at all involving our imagination. In all spheres of life, including the physical world, like always resonates with like; if you therefore focus on something negative it will result in the resonation of the corresponding negative Energy, in turn resulting in the attraction of more of the same negative Energy and corresponding negative circumstances, in other words negative effects. Of course, the very same principle also applies with positive thinking; positive thinking will always result in the resonation of positive Energy, in turn attracting the corresponding positive results.”

You know that warm, fuzzy feeling that you get when you offer help to a person in need or reach out to a lost animal? That is compassion; it creates a perceivable shift in the energy field and affects your mood. An act of kindness often encourages the receiver to help someone else. Within the teachings of yoga there are many precepts that invite the practice of compassion, love, and acceptance of others. As Dee Yergo writes: “According to this teaching, we learn to develop four attitudes in our interaction with others: loving kindness, compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity. Loving kindness (maitri) is wanting others to experience joy. Compassion (karuna) is wanting others to be free from suffering. Appreciative joy (mudita) is taking enjoyment in the successes of others. The last of the Four Immeasurables is Equanimity (upeksha). This is the practice of seeing all beings as equal and not holding some dear and others distant.”

When we make kindness a regular and deliberate act, the way that we view and experience the world shifts. Our own sense of happiness and well-being increases and we develop a feeling of interconnectedness with others, and a sense of belonging, and peace within our hearts. It takes some focus and intention-setting in order to be able to create a mindset of positivity in all situations. Being able to accept bumps along the way on our path without falling into a negative space is an outcome of practicing yoga and meditation. My levels of stress and anxiety as well as my reaction to problems at work and in my family have all changed as a result of establishing a practice that embraces positivity, kindness and compassion.

Finally, I would like to share a beautiful example of how a small helpful gesture can have a large impact – please watch this awesome Youtube video that we viewed in my 7th grade classroom. Enjoy and pass it on! Namaste.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwAYpLVyeFU&list=PLvzOwE5lWqhQWsPsW5PQQ5gj5OBewwgUw&index=4

 

—Sharyn

 Sharyn Hahn has been a teacher to students of all ages for 33 years, with a focus on teaching French at a private school in NYC. During the past eight years she has added a new dimension to passion for teaching and is now an ACE certified Personal Trainer (FitWomaNow!), and a YogaFit instructor with a 200-hour RYT certification in Mind-Body Balancing from the Deep Yoga Center in San Diego, California. She is currently pursuing a certification in Yoga for Traumaas she continues to broaden her understanding of the significance of yoga, meditation, and breath in her students’ lives. Sharyn holds a Master’s degree in French literature and language and runs Tutorcise.com.

 

 

[1] https://www.fsnewsletter.org/html/31/31.htm

Guest Post

Counting my Beads and my Blessings

Once again, from Sharyn Hahn, Friday words of wisdom!

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From—Full Moon Mantra & Mala Making Workshop ~ 12/3/17

“For 3,000 years, mantras have been used to change the brain and fortunes of millions of people. Believe it or not, the ancient Rishis taught that the Sanskrit language was formulated to have a special effect on the brain, and could literally change the way we think.”

—Yogajournal.com

Just a few days ago, I came home from a long day of teaching, tutoring, and working out. It was dark and cold outside, and I was very tired. But I was really happy to be back at home. I walked into my bedroom, and as I was taking off my coat, I heard a pop and the clatter of many small things hitting the floor. I looked down and saw that my favorite mala bracelet had somehow come apart and the beautiful beads were everywhere. I became frantic. I got down on my hands and knees in an instant to try to find all 29 of them. I was able to locate 28 beads; one is still missing. The mala must have a specific number for it to be authentic. My initial response was to be very upset. I couldn’t continue to pursue my goals without my meditation mala…

As I lovingly placed each bead into a small ceramic dish, I tried to convince myself that this was only an arm “bling” and that I have several more to wear. But I made this mala at a special workshop that included a powerful mantra I meditated on every day in order to manifest a reality that is very important to me.

After being sad and frustrated for a good while, I realized that the mala was special to me because it has helped me to channel positive energy towards creating my intention. I was worried that all of the significant progress that I have been making would dissipate without the mala on my arm. It was a moment of panic because I have felt so much gratitude for the manifestation of my goals and I was afraid to lose that momentum and that feeling.

The good news is that the more we practice gratitude, the more often we experience it and the more we can replace the negative with the positive. So I had used the “power” of my mala to remind myself of what is possible; this positivity kept me diligently sharing my “plan” with everyone that I could, which kept me on my path. So I realize that in reality, the mala is always with me in my heart. Embracing our dreams and not giving up on ourselves and others are central to living each day to its fullest, even when there are obstacles that show up in our way.

Being thankful is a choice we can make in any given moment. Although it is cliché, it is true that we can decide to go through the day from the perspective of a glass half-full or half-empty. The circumstances do not change, but rather it is our attitude that colors our experience. Love, gratitude, and a connection to the universe are vital to a healthy existence. Yoga is an ancient practice that has taught these values for many centuries. In our sedentary modern lives, this practice is invaluable. It turns out that the physical poses that prepare us for quiet introspection and meditation also release endorphins that make us feel satisfied and happy. Being flexible and feeling strong result in a sense of well-being and significantly impact our mood. Learning to quiet our minds and meditate on the positive eventually replaces the negative energy and circular self-talk that drags us down.

Research by Rick Hansen, PhD has shown that practicing gratitude actually changes the brain chemistry. Hansen maintains that as your mind changes your brain changes. “Neurons that fire together wire together,” Hansen says. Gratitude practices have been proven to strengthen existing synapses and actually thicken the frontal cortex, building new synapses. Directing attention skillfully is a fundamental way to shape the brain over time.

Meditating daily is a powerful action that we can take to embrace gratitude. I have felt a shift in my outlook and the way in which I interact with my family, friends, colleagues, and even strangers by affirming my mantras every day. It took many months for it to become an integral part of my psyche, but I have been stronger when others needed my support, less frazzled by challenges, and generally more optimistic.

When we send out positive energy and gratitude, it has an effect on the people whose paths we cross. It is absorbed by them and then they pass it on. Think about a time when you have walked into a room and someone that you care about was in a negative mood. Were you immediately aware of your own feelings being shifted to that plane? Have you had experiences when a group of family members was emanating negative vibes all together? This creates a wall of emotions that is hard to get past. It has been proven that the negative and positive energies are shared and passed on to everyone else that we meet. What power we all have to create a beautiful and positive vibration if we actively pursue this outcome.

Studies have shown that when we actively focus on positive thoughts and acts, our brains accept this outlook more readily. Using writing to support this process is also very helpful.  Charles M. Shelton, Ph.D. suggests a written, daily examination of the gifts and blessings in our lives. Writing encodes positive experiences in our memory. This practice helps us to become more aware of our blessings. He suggests taking note, literally, of what we are grateful for on a daily basis. I have always told my language students that they need to write out their verb conjugations in addition to reciting them, because the connection from the hand to the mind is really significant, a fact that pedagogical research has demonstrated in various disciplines. This is also a powerful method to incorporate into our mantra and meditation practice. When I teach my Yoga-Journaling classes, the goal is to observe our sensations in our bodies as we move through the poses, and write down how we were feeling during and after the physical practice. I also have my students set an intention that they record in their journals along with their mantra.

During this season especially, we tend to start thinking about what we are thankful for, especially during the actual day of Thanksgiving. However, our mental health, relationships, and impact in the world will all benefit from practicing GRATITUDE every day.

Yoga and mindful breathing can help you to relax and connect with yourself, allowing any stress and negativity to leave your body. This will make room for gratitude to enter. As you move inward, you begin to experience the present moment, as thoughts about your day or what you are going to do about dinner begin to disappear. In the present moment you are able to experience gratitude simply by BEING.

I would like to share an exercise that you can try on your own to get this process started for yourself:

  1. Find a quiet and comfortable place to lie down and close your eyes. Place your hands on your belly and feel yourself breathe.
  2. As you inhale, be aware of the prana- the life force of your breath- filling you up and causing your tummy to pooch out.
  3. As you exhale, gently press your belly button towards your spine. Inhale and exhale like this for ten breaths at a comfortable pace.
  4. Begin to chant in your mind “I AM” as you inhale.
  5. As you exhale, open your heart to whatever comes to you; it may take a few minutes. Do not force the mind to choose something. Whatever word arrives for you is something that your BEING wants and needs to manifest. (My first experience with this several years ago resulted in “courage”, which I held on to for two years. It has since shifted to “perseverance”.)
  6. Once you have your mantra, inhale “I AM’ and exhale your mantra. Continue this for as long as you feel that you would like to for this first exercise.
  7. I invite you to start your day with this meditation and feel the positive space that will be created for you. A sense of gratitude will be an additional gift from this practice.

I encourage you to practice breathing and simply watching your thoughts go by as you relax and inhale and exhale. Use this link below as a tool to help with your breath.

 

Take the time to relish and savor the gifts in your life this holiday season.

(By the way, my missing bead found me yesterday morning as I was leaving to go to work. Once I was able to stop feeling sad and replace that emotion with positive affirmations, it appeared! Lesson learned! Now I can put it back together and wear it on my arm again.)

Namaste.

 

 

 

Sharyn Hahn has been a teacher to students of all ages for 33 years, with a focus on teaching French at a private school in NYC. During the past eight years she has added a new dimension to passion for teaching and is now an ACE certified Personal Trainer (FitWomaNow!), and a YogaFit instructor with a 200-hour RYT certification in Mind-Body Balancing from the Deep Yoga Center in San Diego, California. She is currently pursuing a certification in Yoga for Traumaas she continues to broaden her understanding of the significance of yoga, meditation, and breath in her students’ lives. Sharyn holds a Master’s degree in French literature and language and runs Tutorcise.com.

 

 

 

Guest Post

The Kung Fu of Writing

Whitney Barrat and I were friends in elementary school but haven’t spoken since 6th grade until a few months ago when we reconnected via social media. Then at a bar on Houston Street in September she spontaneously agreed to write this piece. And of course, because this is yoga/mystical/synergy dreamworld, my childhood diary recently resurfaced and opened to a page where I was writing about going to Whitney’s house one afternoon in the fall of 1986. Here she considers her Kung Fu training in relation to writing, a variation on the blog’s major theme. I am so happy Whitney showed up, in the studio and on the page and, decades since we last saw each other, once again in my life! xo, r

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When Rachel asked me to write a guest post about my Kung Fu and writing practices, I quickly realized their most obvious shared attribute is that I currently engage in only the barest traces of either one. As far as exercise and creative discipline go, to me they are two elusive peas in the same pod.

I was introduced to Kung Fu (loosely translated as time and effort, to my mind a magical combination of self-mastery and general badass-ness) in late 2005. I was more than a little bit intrigued but it took me nearly six months before trying a class for myself. Twice I stood on the steps of the Shaolin Temple entrance on Broadway, my hand poised at the buzzer, hoping I was ready to join the ranks of the Super Cool.

But it was only a few moments on each occasion before my rapidly beating heart, self-consciousness about not knowing anyone behind the door, and the strong, intimidating sense that I was in for a world of change as soon as I crossed the threshold made me change my  mind and head home instead.

To train Kung Fu meant then, as writing does now, to put myself “out there.” It meant being open and vulnerable to criticism, ridicule, and rejection. As I stood on those steps, I knew I wanted to grow and evolve, but twice opted to assign that task to a wobbly point in some nebulous future. I wanted to do it, but my fear of criticism made it difficult to even begin. Without commitment, the future had no choice but to stretch out, unfulfilled, again and again.

To train Kung Fu is to give a body to movements that can only exist through your unique expression of them. Much like ideas in writing, the stances, kicks, strikes, poses and forms are brought to life through your efforts over time. All of who you are is channeled into these sharp, fast, fleeting dances, these paragraphs and dialogues. Notions and storylines, postures and bodily arrangements are wrought with all of your attributes, born through your exertions right now, in this one true moment.

No one else can do any of it—not the Kung Fu, not the writing— the way another person can. The goal in Kung Fu— what my Shifu calls “action meditation”— is to polish, to strive to see more clearly, to move more crisply, and to understand, be, and to express your best self. Above all else, though, you need to show up. You need to be there in that moment, presenting yourself, in order for it to count. You need to put in time and effort. 

On my third attempt, I did finally press the buzzer. I pressed it again and again, in fact, each time facing my fears and walking up those steep, dark stairs, pushing open the door and stepping into the Temple. I learned to not only take criticism, but to seek it out and use it to improve. I learned to look my teacher steadily in the eye and love what I saw reflected back.

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In the Kung Fu temple, there are mirrors everywhere. While training, I would sometimes feel like a shuffling ogre, awkward and gawky, my jiggling body rebelling against sleek, tight movements, and refusing to deliver high kicks, dizzying cartwheels, and chi-filled head flips. Other times, I was a glorious Pegasus, wings spread wide, my leaps high enough to create an asteroid rainbow trail behind me as I elevated and soared with fervor. But the mirrors don’t lie. “Understand yourself,” our Shifu would say to us. I could see that the truth reflected in the mirror was always just me, sometimes sharper, sleeker or slower than I felt. But there I was, putting in time and effort, and fully committing to each moment.

With writing, I stand all the time, finger quivering at the proverbial buzzer, an idea on the tip of my brain that is begging for expression. Too often, I turn around and go home instead, opting for a safe routine or a suddenly urgent errand over the likelihood that the form expressed through my writing won’t look, sound, or feel the way I want it to, that what I have to offer—the words and ideas to which I give life and form—will not measure up to the Pegasus I can see in my mind’s eye.

As I’m sitting down to write at last, I am rediscovering that the nebulous future, with a bit of commitment, is the same eternal now it has always been. I could never claim self-mastery, but I do feel like a badass for putting in the time and effort to write this post, and, thanks to Rachel, for simply showing up.

 

 

Whitney Barrat is a nonprofit consultant in NYC, and lives in Westchester with her husband, two kids, two rats and a two-decade-old turtle named Dynamo. She holds a Master’s in Public Policy from NYU, and loves thinking about the galaxy, the planet, social justice, art, urban planning dilemmas, and reconnecting with old friends.

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