Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Sisterhood

The word, sisterhood, it means so many things to me. It brings up all the sweet memories of growing up with my own sister. All the things we know about each other that you only share with a sibling. All the fights that inevitably occur as children and the way we become friends that would do anything for each other, even agree to disagree, because we are sisters. Sisterhood also means the women in my life that aren't siblings but still help paint the colors and contours that define me. I'm lucky to have so many amazing women in my life that make up my sisterhood. My mother, sister, grandmothers, aunts, and cousins all helped mold me as I was growing. They taught me how to be a mother, wife and friend. As I grew I relied so much on my girlfriends, they were my confidants, and partners in crime. Is there anything better than a sleepover with your best friend? Laughing all night to jokes no one else would even understand. If there is I haven't found it yet. I have carried that joy and love of life with me always. As a grown woman with so many responsibilities and stresses in life, I honestly don't know what I would do without my friends. They are there to listen to me vent, to kidnap me for a girls night when I need a break, to make me laugh and help me cry. I have all kinds of "sisters" in my life, we are different ages, have different backgrounds, and on the surface we are complete opposites. But that's why I need them all and am so thankful for each and everyone, because they all fulfill an essential piece of my being. We recently celebrated Women's day, and that meant so many things to me. It acknowledged the amazing contributions to society women have made and are continuing to make everyday, and it was also a chance to honor sisterhood. Without my "sisters" I would not be who I am today. I will always be eternally grateful for all the lessons I have learned and have yet to learn from my fellow women. It's nice to have special day to remind us, but I'm going to be thankful everyday.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Every Breath You Take is Important

Are you getting your optimum oxygen intake with every breath you take? Proper breathing methods can play a key role toward having improved health. When you were told to sit up straight in your chair as a child, there was actually some science behind it. Simply having bad posture can constrict your lung capacity, decreasing the amount of oxygen your body gets. While your body requires many nutrients on a daily basis, oxygen is one of the most important substances taken into the body. The average person becomes seriously distressed after one minute without oxygen. Every breath nourishes the cells, provides the energy needed to break down waste products and toxins, regulates the pH of body chemistry, drives the desire to breathe, strongly builds up your immune system defenses, and helps fight off infection.   Getting an adequate amount of oxygen is essential for living; however, for most people, an “adequate” amount of oxygen is all we get. According to research, the average adult exchanges 500 ml of air per breath. However, using the diaphragmatic breathing “the air exchange can be increased to 2000 – 6000 ml of air per breath” (source: http://www.taichibreathing.com/articles/reduceresidual.htm). If diaphragmatic breathing increases the amount of oxygen intake by 400 – 1200%, it would also increase the amount of toxins eliminated through your exhalation by that amount. Research according to the University of Maryland Medical Center (http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/Tai-Chi-000361.htm) reveals: “The deep [diaphragmatic] breathing… regulates the respiratory system, helping to treat respiratory ailments such as asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema. It also stimulates the abdomen, which aids digestion and helps relieve constipation and gastrointestinal conditions.” Here are some tips for breathing a little deeper: • When breathing more deeply, start by focusing on your exhale. By focusing on the inhale, you might run the risk of inadvertently sending the “fight or flight” signal to your body (think about it, if you need to suddenly run, the first thing you do it to inhale sharply), which is anything but relaxing…Focusing first on the depth of the exhale helps you to avoid this natural response and the depth of the inhale will automatically match the depth of the exhale. • To more deeply exhale, begin your exhale as usual and then when you think you are just about done, contract the lower abdominal muscles (as well as the muscles of the lower back, the oblique muscles on the sides of your stomach, etc!) – this increases the pressure on the diaphragm muscle (referring to the thoracic diaphragm muscle, which is a dome-shaped muscle located below the lungs) and essentially pushes it into a relaxed position which then puts pressure on the lungs to exhale more deeply. Visualize your entire body as a balloon that is being deflated (equally from all angles). • Relax the abdominal muscles to create space for the diaphragm muscle to contract (flatten out so that it is no longer dome-shaped). This will create a negative pressure causing the lung capacity to increase so you are able to inhale more deeply. Visualize your entire body as a balloon that is filling up with air – the air is radiating out from the center equally in all directions. • In time, as you get accustomed to the feeling of the diaphragm muscle, switch your focus from the abdominal muscles to the movement of the diaphragm. Unless you have a debilitating breathing disease or condition, it is possible to improve your breathing capacity and therefore your health. Always consult your physician before engaging in any deep breathing regimens. Enhance every breath you take! Dean Sutzer instructs deep breathing techniques as a part of a Qigong and Tai Chi classes/seminars. Dean brings 48+ years of instructional experience to his students. For more information on wellness related coaching classes/seminars, please contact him at: (931) 319-0499 | DSutzer@gmail.com “If your body was a symphony, breathing would be the conductor.” Dean M. Sutzer

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Open To A New Season

We are entering spring. There are still reminders of winter. Trees are bare with a promise of new growth. However, the signs of spring are here as well. The temperatures tell us it is time to shed our heavy coats and to let our toes escape heavy shoes. Spring jonquils are blooming. Robins are abundant. It is delightful to drive with the windows open. It is time to Open to this new season. As we enter this new time of year, it gives us the opportunity to release the winter and to see the possibilities of our own inner beauty. We can take the lessons taught by Mother Nature and apply them to ourselves. We can recognize and decide what it is that we want to release and what it is that we want to grow. Like a tree that sheds its leaves in the fall and then reveals new leaves in the spring, we can decide what to shed and what to allow to fall away. We can decide what to grow, to sprout, to blossom from within…a new attitude, a different perspective, or a change in thinking about ourselves or another. Each of us is filled with the true nature of spring with possibilities for the new growth of intentions and new opportunities to enjoy a renewed sense of our spring spirit. Allow yourself to open to your spring spirit each morning as the sun shows itself a little earlier, and each evening as the light stays with us. Open to these new opportunities to see the beauty all around us as well as the exquisite beauty within each of us. Written by: Claire Liddle

Thursday, January 26, 2017

“YOU ARE SO MUCH MORE THAN ENOUGH.”

Each one of us, although integrally the same matter that makes up the astounding energy of life, is beautifully unique, outstanding, miraculous. Yet most (if not all) of us have a huge deficit when it comes to self-belief, and when we feel weak, fearful or triggered it comes out like a werewolf bearing sharp teeth and ready to pounce. When we feel good and strong it lingers in the background teasing and threatening us to strip us of our bliss. It tells us we are “disgusting,” “terrible,” “unloveable,” “stupid,” and “insert your word or phrase here”. All the bric-a-brac and outright lies have become ingrained in our collective mind and even become a crutch when we are terrified or angry or hurt. After all, it’s easier to just self-blame than to acknowledge the pain at the source of our negative beliefs about ourselves. So how do we attain unlimited self-affirming moments when we are busy being our own worse enemies? We are all so much more than enough, and thinking otherwise does not need to control us, nor does it need to have a place within our sacred bodies. So for those tough days when we encounter the vicious metaphorical werewolf, below is a little reminder of what we can do to protect our vulnerable and precious spirit. Here are five crucial steps on the path to self-love and that allow the spirit to move away from insecurity, doubt and fear… with the goal to one day eradicate self-hate forever. 1) Honor Community. If we open our eyes wide enough, we’ll see that we are blessed with incredible support and camaraderie everywhere we look. Opening up to the profound truth and love that is humanKIND can ease so much pain, and help dissipate our doubt. It takes a village. 2) Be Grateful. Although being very sick put me face-to-face with my fears and insecurites, it also reminded me how fortunate I am for this beautiful if flawed life. Every day I feel teary-eyed gratitude for the outpouring of love and generosity that blesses me. Having a happy and healthy son is my livelihood that helps me get stronger with every breath. The list goes on and I know yours does too. 3) Breathe deep & Connect to Nature. The breath is not only what sustains and nourishes life, but it is also that which makes each one of us eternal. An effortless inhale glides into a releasing exhale and neither ever really begins or ends. Breath heals our self-doubt by bringing in room for compassion and devotion to self and others. So is nature in it’s vast, limitless essence. The mountain’s crest and valleys boundlessly roam, the horizon beyond the ocean’s waves and its water beneath remind us of our own magnificent souls, those that came before us, and those that will live on long after we cease to breathe. 4) Give Yourself Love & Praises Start reminding your wounded parts just how magically awesome you are, even if you do not believe it yet. When I came home from the hospital, I started a habit of sticking up neon fun-shaped affirmations in my apartment to help me heal. They say things like “I am surrounded with love,” “I am important”, “I am wonderful”, “I am free”. I get to see these wisdoms staring at me every day. Make a point to remind yourself of how special you (and others!) are. Do it as often as possible. 5) Practice: Meditation, Joyful Movement, Yoga Meditation allows us to do less in order to recognize that we are so much more than our limiting beliefs dictate. We hear the dark thoughts and then we allow the breath to shield us. Most meditators find that they end up much more effective at doing good and being content when they learn to UNDO. When we move our bodies through intuitive dance and other joyful movement, we learn to LET GO of our attachment to self-effacement and fear. Yogis practice learning to BE in the poses, to embody a certain effortlessness in the strength and grace of the practice. To create space and eventually let go of the fixation on whether we are indeed “enough”. To breathe through pain and hurt and love and joy without attachment on whether it’s good or bad, right or wrong. To practice non-judgment and ahimsa (non-harm). When we “die” in Savasana, we get a glimpse of a heavenly place ruled by acceptance and peace. I distinctly remember that first time I rolled out my mat after months of being too sick and in pain to practice. As I laboriously flowed through cat-cows and warriors, it was like beginning again with a newfound appreciation of the power of yoga to facilitate letting go and residing in utter beauty. “Atha Yoganushasanam”. Now begins the yoga. We are forever beginning again and yet evolving, making space for what’s new and yet been there all along. What would life be like, how would it feel, to know at a heart and soul level that each one of us is whole and complete? Whether our history has taught us that we are not enough, this is simply untrue. We have and will always be SO MUCH MORE THAN ENOUGH. So let’s start living and speaking this truth. By Jo Ducey

Monday, December 12, 2016

Ch-ch-changes Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes - Turn and face the strange Ch-ch-changes - Just gonna have to be a different man – David Bowie
Change is in the air. A New Year, a new President, perhaps New Year resolutions for a fabulous new you but what of the change and why be aware of it now? Some people embrace change while others never want things to change. Fear vs. Fascination. We have Science Fiction as well as The Andy Griffith Show to tell us what it may be like and to show us a familiar time that never really was. The point I’m getting at is with all these changes what about now? Right here, right now, fully present in the now. Change is constant. We live breath to breath, moment to moment. Our awareness, however, generally is planning the future or contemplating the past. When events happen such as a New Year, a change in power, etc. happen, we take a moment to realize that time isn’t simply standing still. We are faced with the strange. That strange is where we let the fear in. From a yogic perspective, think back to the first time you walked into a studio, perhaps you went with friends or maybe it was by yourself. Were you quiet? Maybe embarrassed to take off your shoes? The teacher was certainly speaking a different language (literally) and maybe you didn’t have enough strength or flexibility to do the things being asked of you. Where are you now? Are you in the same place? If you are reading this I’m guessing not. So what happened? You’ve been through changes, your body and mind have responded, you are simply no longer who you were the first time you walked in the door. Life is like that as well. We build up these walls around us thinking we can somehow stop time and life subtly passes by. You’ve no doubt heard the saying you can’t go home again and I will say it’s true. I grew up a military brat but I’ve also had the good fortune to go revisit the places I once lived, I even met someone I knew when we were younger (And maybe we had a school age crush on each other) So what happened. Nothing fit the way I remembered. The houses seemed smaller as did the neighborhoods. The fact is they were the same, it was my boundaries and relationship with the world that had grown. I had changed. As for the girl, after knowing each other in the 4th grade, we were friendly but barely spoke our senior year in High School. We had nothing left in common except being young together briefly. If you’ve been in my class more than once, you’ve probably heard me cue you to your breath and to “Be Here Now”. In the present, it’s always now. It creates space for change. When I get ahead or behind myself in my thinking, I’m coming from a place of ego. I think I can direct the future or change the past. I, as in me, as in the power belongs to me. It’s all an illusion of course and one of the root causes of a great deal of suffering but when I am present, in the moment, I actually have the power to act, I have choice and it’s no longer an illusion. The key to change is not getting stuck in the transition. I’m not suggesting you don’t make those New Year-New Me resolutions. Write them down. Make them real. Just don’t get hung up on them until you are ready to make the changes. There isn’t anything wrong with making plans, in fact John Lennon once said, life happens while you are busy making them. Just don’t live in the plans. Embrace change for what it is, an opportunity to grow. Leave tomorrow to tomorrow and the past in the past. Life is happening now it’s beautiful and it would be a shame to miss it.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

I really do teach the 8 Limbs of Yoga For many years I thought I was practicing yoga, when in reality I was practicing Asana, only the physical portion of yoga. I knew nothing about the eight limbs of yoga. Considering there are 8 limbs of yoga, Asana is only 15% of yoga! I have to admit that even after completing my teaching certification and teaching for a while I thought that I was still basically just practicing and teaching Asana, maybe with a little Pranayama thrown in. It wasn't until several years into teaching that I went a little deeper and started a journey of exploration into the 8 limbs of yoga. These eight limbs serve as a guidance system on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life; and give us an outline for moral and ethical conduct, self discipline, and health, as well as helping us connect to, and, acknowledge our spirituality. Patanjali's Eight Limbs of Yoga as described in the Yoga Sutras are: 1. The Yamas Universal Morality. Do onto other as you would have other do onto you. This encompasses your ethical standards and sense of integrity. a) Ahimsa — nonviolence, to do no harm, to practice loving kindness and compassion. b) Satya — being truthful (expressing our uniqueness and authenticity.) c) Asteya — non-stealing d) Brahmacharya — living a life of moderation. Abstaining from over indulgence. e) Aparigraha — non possessiveness, non covetousness, non attachment. 2. The Niyamas Our personal Observances a) Saucha — cleanliness. Defined by some as purification, including your thoughts, actions, relationships, and even your breath. b) Santosha — contentment and gratitude in the things you have, shifting away your focus on what you don’t have. I call this appreciation for life. c) Tapas — Disciplined use of our energy (building strength and character.) Zeal for life. d) Swadhyaya — Self study or learning from our own lives, the continual pursuit of knowledge including yogic philosophy. Also non judgment and acceptance. e) Ishvara Pranidhana — Celebration of Spiritual, believing, asking for guidance, relaxing into your life, and surrendering (maybe to a higher power whatever you believe that to be.) 3. Asanas Our yogic postures what we in the west envision when we think of yoga. Asanas make us feel strong, healthy, balanced, and flexible. Asana actually means comfortable seat and some belief that the ancient yogis developed the postures so they would be flexible enough and their bodies strong enough to sit in meditation for long periods of time. 4. Pranayama —Breath Control. The yoga breathing exercises that help control our mind and our prana (energy). Establishing a connection between the breath, the mind, the body, and emotions. 5. Pratyahara — Control of the senses including detachment from senses and directing our attention inward. 6. Dharana — Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness. Concentration precedes meditation by helping us still the mind and focus on one thing (such as a mantra or intention.) 7. Dhyana — Devotion and meditation. 8. Samadhi — Traditionally described as transcendence or union with the divine, ecstasy or ultimate bliss and joy. Although our spirituality is a big part of this I believe joy is a key word here, yes it can come from our spiritual believes and our connection to the divine, but in a more secular sense our joy can also come from inner peace, freedom, and fulfillment, whatever it's source. When I teach I usually start by asking students to center inward (Pratyahara), to concentrate on their breath (Pranayama) and I suggest an intention or theme for the class (Dharana.) Some times we just sit or lie quietly just centering inward and focusing on our breath (perhaps the beginning of meditation for some.) We usually practice Pranayama in one form or another (such as Udiyana Bandha) and we use Ujayi breath. While practicing Asana, I ask students to honor their bodies and their own limitations (“your body your practice”) so Ahimsa, Satya , Aparigraha, Swadhyaya and perhaps some other Yamas and Niyamas thrown in based on the theme/intention for the day. We end in Savasana (Pratyahara, Dharana if it includes a guided meditation or systematic relaxation, Ishvara Pranidhana (surrender) and hopefully a bit of Samadhi (bliss.) The more I researched, contemplated, learned, and studied, the more I realized that I really was instinctively incorporating the 8 limbs of yoga into my classes and gently guiding my students through all 8 limbs. I hope to continue to share this beautiful guidance system as I progress and deepen my own understanding and practice of yoga. In Gratitude for all my teachers, my students and the practice of yoga, I wish you peace, love, and joy. Namaste Michele

Monday, August 15, 2016

The beauty of imperfection - by Jim Apone

How many times have you started a sentence with “if only”,” I wish” or something similar? The problem doesn’t lie in the fact that we have hopes, dreams or desires, rather it lies in the fact that we think we are incomplete without these material things we long for. How much energy have we wasted thinking the perfect life is out there and it’s not ours? How many times do we relive the past wishing we would have done something different or we think of the perfect thing to say, an hour later of course. How often do we live our lives two weeks into the future or two weeks in the past? How often do we compare what we feel on the inside to what we see on the outside of others? All of this leads us to believe that we are somehow not living that fabulous life, that we fall short of perfection. That somehow everyone else has their act together and we just can’t seem to catch up let alone live that “perfect” life. It causes us misery, feelings of inadequacy, depression, and self-hatred and in some cases, large amounts of debt. How could you possibly measure up to a fantasy? The simple answer is you can’t. The good news is you don’t have to and you can stop right this second. I don’t know if I’ve described anything that you can relate to but that was exactly my story. I used to say I was looking for perfection in an imperfect world. It took me many years to realize that I had it backwards. Everything is already perfect; it was me that was imperfect and in that imperfection is exactly where I found joy. You might wonder what exactly changed. Well I can tell you I still have the same weight to lose, the same amount of money in the bank, the same friends who seemingly have the perfect life. I still have the same imperfect life but I came to realize that none of it mattered anymore. I realized that all the energy I was using living two weeks in the future or past were just making me miss the life I had right here, right now. I could start to enjoy birds singing outside at 6 in the morning instead of getting upset that they woke me up. After all they didn’t know they woke me up and they gave me their song for free. I could see the beauty in nature instead of rushing past worrying about something that might not even happen. I could laugh with a small child; I could sit with an elderly neighbor, I could take the time to be a human being instead of a human doing. I could laugh, love and cry. It was in that being present that I truly discovered all the beauty and joy that I had been rushing by barely noticing. I don’t want to give the impression that everything is all roses. Being present you feel the pain, the anxiety, the discomfort at a seemingly amplified level. The beauty is you feel it in the moment and then the moment passes. You feel it! So often we don’t want to experience pain or discomfort, we don’t want to feel at all so we stuff our emotions until they manifest in anger and we direct it towards some unsuspecting people, places or things (ourselves included). We simply hide from life when we feel it’s less than perfect. It never occurred to me what I was missing, hiding from the less enjoyable aspects of life, what lessons I was refusing to learn. What the pursuit of perfection had robbed from me. How I missed all the beauty that was imperfection. How the pain yields to joy, how the rain yields to sunny skies and how life goes on if you are willing to live it. I hope you have an imperfect life, I hope you find the beauty of imperfection and lastly I want to share a poem by Bob Perks that sums it up perfectly...
I wish you enough I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright. I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more. I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive. I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger. I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting. I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess. I wish enough "Hello's" to get you through the final "Goodbye." My friends, I wish you enough!