Yoga – A Date with Destiny

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To rise before the sun comes up. To awaken to a city that is still asleep. To breathe deeply into the stillness of dawn is bliss. Follow your bliss.

This dream of dreams. The one between waking and sleeping. The one of freedom, openness and joy. Follow your bliss.

This dream is the cool morning air softly touching my cheeks. The hush over the city unwilling to break its sleepiness. The traveler, travels on no matter the cities hush. Follow your bliss.

This first breathe in yoga reveals stiffness. The next fluid movement. The next openness and soon powerful expansion explodes over the mat. Follow your bliss.

This morning is perfect. The sleeping city. The fog and the traveler. Follow your bliss.

This quiet morning we were destined to meet you and I, we and us. To transform stiff into fluid. To shift closed into open. To expand and express. To flow, breathe and bend. To let go of the past. To breathe in fresh and new.

This morning a date with destiny. My destiny. Follow your bliss. Follow your bliss.

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3 Benefits of Yoga for Florida Autistic High Schoolers

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Autism affects many lives. It greatly impacted mine. I had the opportunity to teach six yoga, breathing and anger management workshops for autistic teens at Nathan B. Forrest and First Coast High Schools in Jacksonville FL. These 60 Florida autistic high schoolers and I experienced how effectively yoga works. In 45 minutes we noticed marked significant change in mood, behavior and cognitive abilities. Incredible!

3 Benefits of Yoga were easily observable. Each one was instant, tangible and experienced based.

1. Change in Mood – Increased Happiness. We laughed a lot! Celebrated our successes. It’s awe inspiring to see how celebration like clapping hands and high fives make a difference. Celebrating produced increased willingness and ability for the teens to learn faster while having fun. Together we invented the “high thumb” it’s like a high five except you give each other a thumbs up and push your thumb into theirs. As the yoga practice progressed we observed collective and instant innovation taking place among the students. Finishing a pose they were proud they’d lean forward give me a thumbs up and press their thumb into mine and smile. The smiles just melted my heart.

2. Change in Behavior – Calmer. Yoga helps you to calm you down. At one point we had a heighten sense of nervous energy in the room. One teen demonstrated his nerves by hopping around the room without noticing people or the desks in the room. I began to teach them to breath through their nose. He stop jumping, listened to the other teens breathing and he quietly sat down. His nerves were calmed by hearing the breath and soon he was joined the crew in breathing. Amazing! In fact they were all quiet. Soon they also were able to communicate clearly and help each other to follow along. The standing and balancing poses created a sense of calmness. You could feel it in the room. We all focused on one thing, balanced on one leg and took deep nostril breaths. Which for those of you who have and/or work with autistic high schoolers is a monumental task in and of itself. This is from only 45 minutes with a group! The longer we practiced their behavior became increasingly calmer with gentler body movements and softer voices. Some of these kids had severe range of motion limitations and were so calm they were able to focus enough to practice with us. If you think you cannot practice yoga because you’re not flexible enough. Think again!

3. Change in Cognitive Abilities –  Easily Able to Demonstrate. They learned to use yoga and breathing to help them feel better while in school. Some were able to tell me what they could do if they were having a bad day at school. One guy sat up tall when asked how to handle a bad day and said, “Take three breaths.” Touched his nose, closed his eyes and on his own demonstrated nostril breath. Remember this is new information. I’d only been working with them for 30 minutes at this point.  The kids were thrilled to show or tell me how their body felt after taking just three breaths in child’s pose. Their retention of new experienced based  information was groundbreaking. They remembered names of poses and easily demonstrated them. On their own they began to teach each other to breath through their nose!

In essence yoga works! In 45 minutes these kids now have a chance at being able to calm themselves down. We saw significant change in mood, behavior and cognitive abilities. These teens are smart! They each have their own way of seeing the world. Their own challenges to live with that are unique to them. Yet in the midst of all their living with, they smile. Willing to try new exercises like yoga. We worked together as a unit and cheered each other on. These kids are shining examples of pure spirited human beings. They are now empowered to create their own happiness, calm and shift their thinking. May we ever strive to smile no matter what. Give high thumbs. Try something new and take deep breaths.

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A Yogi’s Way of Dealing with Powerful Emotions: Happiness is Not at the Bottom of a Nutella Jar

NamieAmuroFeelIn one hand I had a mini chocolate chip cookie and in the other a glass of almond milk. On the counter was an open container of Nutella and I had a backup of red wine just in case. I had everything a girl could need to not feel anything for at least several hours. My arsenal of sweets and wine was gonna help me declare war on pushing down my feelings. Isn’t it the yogi way of dealing with emotions to eat Nutella and drink wine? Ha! I’d convinced myself the wine would make everything rosey by the time I hit the bottom of the glass. As I’m eating Nutella and already reaching for a mini cookie. My soul whispered, “This isn’t the way through and you know it. Let yourself feel it. Be vulnerable. Allow. Don’t you tell your yoga students that often”? I knew the sweets and wine would do nothing other make my tongue happy for a few seconds.

My soul kept whispering, “This isn’t the way to deal with powerful emotions. I packed up the cookies and put them back in the cabinet. I reluctantly screwed the lid onto the Nutella jar and closed the cabinet door. This was a moment to practice breathing with something that felt uncomfortable down to my core. I was squirming to get out of those feelings as fast as humanly possible. I knew how to grab for sweets and wine. I was reaching for instant comfort in a can. It helped for as long as it was on my tongue. Never mind that no amount of Nutella was going to heal me. Never mind that the wine may give me rosey cheeks and nothing more. All of the feelings I didn’t want to feel would still be there when I hit the bottom of the glass. My lesson from those brief moments was simple; happiness is not at the bottom of a Nutella jar.  

Just like any yoga pose. I’m practicing the pose of feeling. Repetition is the mother of mastery, so again and again I practice. Then I take action on working through those feelings. It’s usually a moment by moment practice. So far I’ve learned…

1) Powerful emotions can come rushing in like a freight train without brakes. They don’t care what your in the middle of or even who your talking to at the moment. They won’t go away just because you’re wishing them away. They go away just as fast as the come. They also shift when your focus shifts. Change what you’re focusing on.

2) Crying can happen easily and often times you don’t know what to do about it. I’ve cried in front of all kinds of people. Some know how to handle it and many don’t. Stop apologizing for it. Stop explaining the whole story around why. Ask for hugs. The neat thing is I get them, try it on.

3) Choose an empowering focus. Write down what you are going to focus on. Stick with it! It takes mental tenacity and a commitment that won’t quit. When an emotional train hits you in the face and puts you flat on your back. Feel the ground underneath you. Roll over and stand up. Push your feet into the ground like you mean business. Stand up, choose your focus spot again and go. One foot in front of the other.

4) Choose what something means to you. For instance if you lost your job. There’s tons of things you can make up it means about you. Unworthy, not good enough and just a slacker. You can’t control people or events. You can control what you what you choose to believe about those events. Perhaps you’re worthy, good enough and a dedicated worker.

5) Find something eternal inside of yourself. No matter what occurs on the surface you can go back to that. I like to think of it as the stillness at the bottom of the ocean. No matter how the ocean crashes  on the shore the deep ocean is calm. What is it that keeps you at peace no matter what.

Listen to the whispers of your soul. Allow yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling. The feelings will come and go. Make choices to move yourself forward. Choose an empowering focus that creates peace and joy. Realize that it’s okay to not have everything together all at once. You are not your past. It’s time for you to choose who you are now. Be creative and get going!

Be Here Now – Lessons in Being Present

ImageIt’s easy to be hard as a rock. It’s take guts to be vulnerable. To share your heart even if you get rejected again and again. It’s easy to create the most beautiful outfit and hair. It takes courage to create a beautiful soul. It’s easy to tell stories (believe me I’ve told many and so have you). It takes courage to tell the truth. There’s only a couple things in life worth laying it all out on the line for. I can count them all on one hand.

No, it’s not your cell phone. Quit treating it like your lover. Go kiss your lover! Hold him or her dearly, press them close to your heart. Let her feel you! No, it isn’t your flat screen t.v. Be mesmerized by the people you love. Look for their beauty, their smiles and laughs. No, it isn’t your iPod or radio. Listen to the music, the music is their voice. Hear the deep tones, the high pitches and breaths between words. Hear the silent pauses and hesitations. Their heart is in their words, whether the heart is warm and open or cold and closed.

Not everyone is looking for advice when they call you. Sometimes they just need to know their not alone. They called because they want you to listen or invite you to share space.

Think about this…when was the last time you listened instead of just waiting for your turn to talk?

Lessons from My Yoga Mat – When War Waged Between My Ears

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I woke up late. I didn’t hear my alarm. Despite an array of judgemental thoughts that swarmed through my head as I looked at my clock that read 5:35am, I jumped out of bed. My alarm had been going off for an hour. I didn’t even hear it. I rushed to get ready for yoga practice. I felt horrible for being late. The judgement just kept rolling like a memorized script that was beating me over the head. I arrived in the practice room at a glorious 1 hour late. I told myself I’d go to practice and I did, no matter what. I didn’t realize that I’d learn several lessons from my yoga mat.

I rolled out my mat and began with downward facing dog. I shook my head to shake the thoughts out. At first it didn’t work, they wouldn’t leave. Amping up my practice to the tune of, challenging I began to sweat as I took myself on. The more challenging it was the less I judged myself for being late. Because when your quads are pulsing and your breathing through your nose who can think, “Oh gosh, I can’t believe I was late.” It was more like, “Breath, girl, you can drop from Flip Dog into Wheel. Ready, set, go!” Slowly I began to smile at the woman next to me from time to time. I dove into my practice like a high diver dives into the water. Soon my judgement turned into peace. The self diminishing thoughts melted into feelings of courage. Courage to show up because I gave my word. Showed up just like I was, no matter what anyone else thought. It took courage and I’m glad I did. Taking on the arm balances, felt easy. Everything seemed to flow with a sense of lightness once I stopped the mental yelling at myself. My head was finally quiet. If you don’t know yet, being in headstand requires focus and quiet. Mentally yelling at yourself while upside down just doesn’t work. The very thought of it makes me laugh! Can you imagine it, in headstand with a word cloud of negative thoughts swirling around? Oh wow!

The lessons from my yoga mat I learned before the sun came up.  I’ll carry them with me for the rest of day. I learned that commitment is an excellent bus driver. She’ll drive you straight to where you said you want to go. You also have to hop on that bus no matter what. That showing up authentically and in all your imperfect glory, works. Practicing without a fuss, works. Showing up kicks not showing up’s tail, every time! Taking on a challenge helps clear your mind. Beating yourself up for being imperfect, doesn’t work. Instant forgiveness feels amazing! Plus, I still got to go upside down and when I stood right side up, I felt like a warrior princess. Who’d won the war waged between my ears. Courage, commitment and instant forgiveness helped me win. (Ok, so that forgiveness wasn’t instant. It took about an hour, it still happened nonetheless). Tackle the wars that wage between your ears today with courage. Don’t worry if the battle rages for an hour stick with it, your head will shut up eventually.

Alice – The Extraordinary Woman Who Loved

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Fall is here! I’m excited to be outside! I was walking in a park thinking to myself, “Aren’t I lucky to be here, feeling the sun and breeze on my face.” I passed a woman sitting on a park bench who looked sad. I made a few more circles in the park and each time I passed her I noticed more about her. She had amazing bright white hair, sitting on the park bench knees pulled into her chest and blank look of pain on her face. As I kept passing her by my heart strings were tugged a little more each time. Finally my last circle she was still sitting there and I had to stop.

Stepping close to her I said, “Are you alright?” Not even lifting her eyes off the pavement she said, “No, I’m tired.” Crying like I’d just poked a fountain that was ready to burst, she said, “I’m tired. I don’t want to do this anymore.” What happened over the next hour truly threw me for a loop. I know that it’s the worlds game to seem cool and not surprised by anything, however her story surprised me. I’d like to introduce to Alice, we’ll call her Alice.

Alice was at the park as a part of her bucket list wishes before she jumped into the St. John’s River ending her life. Today was THE day. My heart ripped from my chest and went out to her’s. She told me why she was tired of living. Pain body, heartache, loss of loved ones and a sense of intense pain from soul to heart and into her body. I knew why I was meant to stop and share this afternoon with her. She was beautiful! Her heart and soul shone brightly when she spoke of the good times. She threw her head back and laughed as she recounted funny times and people she loved. Tears streamed down her face as she said, “… and now I am invisible.” To me she was anything but invisible. I could see how beautiful she was, her white hair glowing in the sunshine and moving with the breeze. She had a big heart. She’d spent years bravely sharing it with others. She’d had her heart broken and stomped on one to many times. Now she was telling me how tired she was of giving it to the world. The world had paid her back with pain. I saw compassion and love in her eyes. I saw the value of who she was. She couldn’t see it. Her eyes only saw and felt pain. She just wanted it to end. Pain so great that even the strongest meds didn’t help for more than an hour or two each day.

I shared with her what I saw in her, she blushed like a like a school girl. Even though now she’s 50 something, for a moment she looked like she was 10. For a split second the long haired girl of the 60’s was back and a smile spread from ear to ear. She dropped her eyes and whispered, “Thank you. I haven’t heard a compliment in a long time.” It was beautiful to hear her speak. Moving between pain, love, laughter and tears like an passionate dance packed full of heart. She was lovely. When her story was just about done, I invited her to yoga as my gift to her. She accepted. We made a date. I hope she shows up. I hope that she chose life today. Digging deep within herself to find the brave parts of her that aren’t tired. The parts still willing to give life a go. I hope that we all have the courage to share our hearts. Now, not tomorrow because now is the only moment we have. To follow our intuition when it speaks to us. To love on people just because they are people. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve so I could relate with her. I know what feeling invisible feels like. Rejection, heartache and pain have visited me as well. Listening to Alice may have saved her life.

I saw her. I stopped and told her that I saw her. I hugged her pain body with mine. Gave her all the love and compassion I had. Pulling away from the hug I said, “I see you”.  Our blue eyes locked and it was magic. She felt seen. Today really see with your eyes, ears and heart the people in front of you.  All they may need to stay alive is you telling them, “I see you”. Don’t be afraid to open your heart. Yeah. It might get hurt, that much is true. If I didn’t open my heart to Alice though she may not have lived.

Vulnerability is Sexy; Life Lessons on Vulnerability from an Imperfect Yogi

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The most sexy way to be is vulnerable. Vulnerability is something I’ve been thinking about lately. It’s scary. Showing people who you are and your messiness is a risk. It also allows people to connect with you in a powerful and meaningful way. It’s heart. Admitting you’ve made mistakes is beautiful. Being honest is awesome. I’m inviting you and yes, even me to look at being vulnerable differently. As a beautiful chance to be honest and then move into a new fresh space. So, here it goes. Vulnerability in it’s most raw form. These are a few of my life lessons and yes, I’m an imperfect yogi.

Speak your mind with courage even if your voice shakes. Vulnerability is sexy, super sexy. I’ve tried being a brick wall, it doesn’t work. Being vulnerable doesn’t mean you’re weak. It means you’re willing to show your self to someone and nothing is more amazing than that. Softly and powerfully declare your truth with compassion. Compassion melts the pressure to be perfect. The appearance of having it all together is seriously overrated. Instead of trying to keep it all together, be curious, about everything. It’s way more fun than trying to be perfect. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and the world. Darling, you aren’t gonna be perfect ever. Do yourself a favor and make peace with that fact. You’ll make lots of mistakes. Even some straight up bad choices that take you to places you never imagined yourself to be in. Yeah, you will, expect it. What you can do now is learn from them. Realizing what caused you to make those choices works.

Realize that saying yes to something, means saying no to another. It’s ok if you don’t know the answer right now. It’s uncomfortable staying with the question until the answer lands with you. Totally uncomfortable, sometimes I sit there and squirm eager to be out of the question and into the answer already. Then I get an answer and say, “What? Not knowing was better. Can I go back to not knowing? Please?” Once you know you cannot unknown. That’s why speaking your truth with compassion and courage works, because then you can own your truth. Getting to your truth, means getting quiet and being honest. Be courageous my sweet friend. Be compassion, with yourself and others. Do the work of speaking your mind and heart with courage. Be sweet to yourself. Be vulnerable, it’s sexy. It’s a chance for you and others to get to know you on a whole new level. In my experience being a brick wall was exhausting. Being clear and vulnerable works. It’s the easiest way to be in the long run. I lost more than I could have ever imagined by keeping the bricks around my heart. I created connection and intimacy when I was vulnerable. It was amazing! Be vulnerable, it’s totally sexy.