Guest Post

Where is Love?

Valentine’s Day words of wisdom from Sharyn Hahn.

sunset-hands-love-woman.jpg

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

 

Advertisements
Guest Post

Happy New Year – Happy New You

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

 

pexels-photo-734983.jpeg

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.

 

 

Photo to go with Sharyn's blog.JPG

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!

Screen Shot 2017-11-17 at 1.50.07 PM.png
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

Retreat2.jpg

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.

Retreat.jpg

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.

handstand.jpg

 

Guest Post

Mindful Social Media

My younger child and Andrea’s oldest were born a day apart and spent three years together in the most wonderful NYC daycares first in Soho and later in Chelsea. I noticed Andrea bouncing down the stairs and gliding off into a Soho morning looking lighter than air just a month or so after she’d had a second baby. We have tried so hard during the past three years to meet up talk about yoga and writing and life—post-drop off coffee? pre-pick-up happy hour? river jog with running strollers?—and other than big-group get togethers haven’t to this day been able to arrange it. Meanwhile I’ve watched her light-filled, lovely social media posts and, eager to offer a counterpoint to my frequent bouts of irritation and frustration about social media, I asked Andrea she’d be willing to write about her approach to sharing her life and her practices online. Happily she said yes. Here she is in the photo on the left and below, her words. xo, r

Photo Credit: Yui Holbrook

I struggled with the concept of social media for years, and still do. I will never get used to the blatant self-absorption that it illuminates. It makes me sad when I walk through NYC’s famous landmarks and watch hordes of tourists taking selfies during their entire visit, parents posing and directing their kids before snapping the perfect social media shot while the kids look irritated and frustrated. Of course cameras have long been a part of vacations and life, but there is a frenzy now that was not there before. As a mother, I could spend an entire outing taking social media pictures of my kids and that kind of self-absorption takes me away from them, my husband, and the beautiful family moment that is happening. My husband and I have a rule of maximum three photo moments during any outing.

One of my favorite examples is of my friend whose kids wanted to do a lemonade stand. She spent two hours building and staging the perfect social media “lemonade stand set” and while she was perfectly posing her perfect kids they said, “Mom, we really just wanted to have a lemonade stand. This is not fun at all.” After that my friend quit all social media, realizing that she was unable post “imperfect” pictures and understanding that her life would be too controlled by it.

When I was pregnant with kids 13 months apart, my body and life went through so many changes and there were periods when I felt very isolated, unmotivated and lost. During that time, I enjoyed looking at Instagram and Facebook, keeping up on friends and family, but I was reluctant to post on my own. I felt too exposed and anything I thought to post felt cliché, especially since I was not feeling inspired.

Something shifted when I started to realize the incredibly inspiring, positive and encouraging social media posts that were positively affecting me. Seeing what other yoga teachers, writers, artists, mothers, women and entrepreneurs were doing motivated me to share my practice and my life. I knew that if I had gotten to the other side of some difficult moment with kids, work, life, that posting about it honestly could be a positive addition to the social media world.

My yoga teaching focuses a great deal on personal practice and self-study. I have great respect for the ritual of self care and am committed to reminding myself and others that we have the ability, every day, to choose to check in, take care, breathe, stay present, be mindful, be kind, communicate, listen, acknowledge the choices we are making and strive to be the most authentic version of ourselves. I work with my sister and we have a joyful, respectful, honest working relationship and an incredible sisterhood. We realize this is unique, inspiring and something to be grateful for and so we are inspired to share that with others.

From the lens of truth, gratitude, inspiration and honesty, I now feel good about social media. I stay present with each post, making sure it feels authentic and honest before posting. I try not to get hooked into the numbers of Likes and comments, which is difficult, and requires me to stay mindful. I appreciate the way people are using social media as a positive platform. It is something that we will have to coach our children towards as well. As with everything in life, authenticity and honesty are important;  social media is no different. We are all inspiring in our own ways and if we show our true selves it can a beautiful way for us to connect.

Andrea Curry is a yoga teacher based and teaching in NYC. She teaches retreats around the world with her sister, Christina Curry, also a yoga teacher, who is based in Milan, Italy. You can find her at www.andreacurryyoga.com Instagram: @andreacurryyoga and
Facebook: andreacurryyoga
Guest Post · Meditate

Hide and Seek: Where am I?

I’m happy to present another Guest Post from the lovely Sharyn Hahn! Here’s to finding the balance between being open and knowing your boundaries.

xo, r

                  “Svarupa – Renewal through awareness:
 Help students remember their essential self, their best self, their Sacred Self.”*

This is one of the central tenets of Deep Yoga. It is a goal that I embrace as I strive to be an effective and sought-after teacher. My training to become a certified Deep Yoga practitioner, in conjunction with my own personal struggles to heal myself, has illuminated my path towards finding my own “sacred self.” Part of my “essential being” is that of a teacher. As I have developed in the areas of fitness training and yoga practice, (in addition to my French teacher persona), I have come to understand that my passion for sharing my knowledge and experiences is innately intertwined with my sense of purpose. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to explore this aspect of myself because it not only helps others through my teaching, but it is also very fulfilling to realize that I actually am where I am supposed to be! Being aware of the present moment and our place in it is a very difficult thing, but it is necessary so that we may embrace ourselves.

Coming to the mat is good for us in so many ways. Yes, the physical poses are a big part of what makes us feel good and there are a myriad of yoga styles to fit our needs; hot yoga, aerial yoga, barre yoga; the list goes on. Studios market their particular niche in order to attract students, and there are millions of people trying new ways to engage in this popular activity. Many yoga students attend classes primarily for exercise. A “yoga butt” is a coveted goal, which I had actually never heard of until I began my teacher training. As a new “serious” student of yoga when I was in my thirties, I was one of the people who went to Vinyasa classes in order to stretch and build arm and core muscles. Breath and meditation were not aspects of the experience that I cared about, mainly because they were difficult for me. I think this is true of a large percentage of current yoga students or those who are hesitant about taking their first class.

In my opinion, any path that leads us to the physical practice of yoga is a good thing. During my training I learned that the main reason that ancient yogis did the asanas (poses) was to prepare their minds for the long meditation that was the ultimate goal of their practice. Reaching a state of enlightenment and connecting with the universe were paramount. The gurus of long ago had a lot more time to focus on their inner light and divine selves. In these frenetic times, carving out an hour and a half for a yoga class once or twice a week is often all that we can do. Our focus is outward, competitive, and unconnected to self. When we first sit down and try to breath and meditate at the prompting of the teacher, it is very daunting. There is a lot of mental noise, our bodies can’t relax and we have no idea where to find that “inner light.” I struggled with this for years. I could not breathe properly, and my thoughts were never still. My “sacred self” was eluding me at every attempt to settle into a state of relaxation.

It took family trauma and a weekend retreat of healing to lead me to the teacher who taught me how to practice daily yoga so that I could begin to learn how to “be present.” I learned that in reality all it takes is ten minutes a day to begin the process in an authentic way. How many of us think that if we cannot commit to at least an hour class several times a week, a consistent home practice and a 20-minute meditation every day, that it is not worth the effort? My teacher explained that this is the main reason that we are unable to connect with our inner divine selves. Making the decision to have a short daily routine is one of the first steps in the process of finding “renewal through awareness.” Once you can wade past the baggage that is weighing you down, clear the barriers blocking your vision, and quiet the mind, you will be on your way to connecting with your essential and true best self.

It has been proven scientifically that yoga releases stress and anxiety not only through specific poses that engage the hips and twists, but also through various types of breath work and meditation. Sometimes it takes a long time to figure it out, but once you get it, meditation and centering yourself will become an integral part of your practice. Connecting with your inner essential self will lead you to a more fulfilling life. You will be able to allow your hopes and dreams to become tangible goals that you can actualize through mantras and visualization. It really does work! I am proof of this. You will notice the following changes from a daily practice that includes several yoga poses of your choice, a mantra and a moving or seated meditation:

  • increased flexibility
  • improved balance
  • better posture
  • more strength
  • more energy
  • feeling more grounded
  • improved demeanor that will invite more fulfilling connections with others
  • more concise decision-making due to intentions and mantras

Here are two short mantra meditations that you can try on your own, as well as a chanting option.

Mantra Practice

Please sit quietly and find your breath. Focus within your heart space and relax for a few moments, just feeling the breath moving in and out freely. Call on your inner guidance and allow it to come to you. When you feel more centered in your heart essence please chant the mantras below (taken from correspondence with Saul David Raye):

  1. Lakshmi Mantra for grace, abundance, allowing

OM SHREEM MAHA LAKSHMA-YAI NAMAHA

This mantra focuses on allowing the heart to open and receiving blessings.
Lakshmi also represents the expansion of the heart – of receiving and sharing – circulating energy to create a greater flow for all.

  1. Durga Mantra for strength, compassion and clearing negativity.

OM HRIM DURGAYAI NAMAHA

This mantra invokes inner strength, courage and the positive force of LOVE to move through challenges and negativity.

Durga also represents the boundary of Self, honoring yourself, your feelings and being clear in your boundaries.

If you prefer to have a musical chant and meditation, click on this link for the beautiful and uplifting Gayatri Mantra by Deva Premal.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=cW6FllYaLwU

“The time-honored practice, the gayatri mantra, embodies the wisdom of the Vedas and leads us toward self-realization. Today, it is chanted, meditated to, and sung around the world with reverence and love.”

-Deva Premal

I invite you to begin your path towards connecting with your own “sacred self” by starting a daily practice of 5-8 poses and meditation. If you need guidance with poses you can contact me at tutored2000@yahoo.com

Namaste.

 

*Deep Yoga manual

 

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.