I woke up this morning with joy and gratitude pulsating though me. I feel amazing in my body, and so thankful for the miracle it is to reside in it! My body is a gift! Experiencing life through this vessel is a gift!
I just got back from Portugal to late last night. It’s always so hard to leave, especially now that my grandfather is 82. But it was so amazing to finally see Will when he picked me up from the airport! He has a lot going on lately, between his normal work and preparing to take the Massachusetts bar exam next month, plus preparing for his move. I’m so happy for him, but very much NOT looking forward to no longer living in the same city.
Anyway, Portugal is always so good to me. My body feels extra good there for many reasons. For one thing, I eat nearly exclusively local, fresh foods. A typical day of food for me there is fresh fruit for breakfast (apricots are my favorite), simple salad of tomato, onion, and lettuce dressed with oregano and vinegar, plain boiled potatoes, and fresh grilled white fish for lunch, and simple roasted veggies or a salad for dinner. If I get hungry between meals, I snack on fruit, and if I want dark chocolate after dinner, I have a little. I don’t drive while I’m there and get to walk a lot every day. I also think that because that’s where I have ancestry, something within my DNA is activated when I’m under the Portuguese sun. Physically, I feel the best when I’m in Portugal.
Feeling physically excellent is such a big deal me because for a long time following trauma, I struggled to feel “right” in my body. I had more days of feeling off than of feeling well. Frustrated in my skin, it was like no matter how healthy my diet or how much I exercised, I felt inflamed more often than not.
I’ve poured hours and resources into studying the body’s response to trauma. For years now, I’ve been learning about how sometimes the body continues trying to fight against threats, even when they no longer exist. For some of us, the cycle is created of an over-production of cortisol and adrenaline. We are exhausted by daily tasks, and being around people takes something out of us that we don’t have to give. The whole organism becomes hyper-sensitive to the external world, while internally there is such little peace much of the time.
Unfortunately, disease is created in the body when trauma/stress is stored.
My quest for self-healing and helping others do the same was what led me to India last year. I desired understanding of yoga as therapy, and wanted to learn more about the ancient practices of Yoga and Ayurveda in their birthplace.
While I was there, doctors told me that I wasn’t getting nearly enough deep sleep (determined by simple tests of my pulse and looking at my tongue, eyes, and skin). My hormones were out of balance for a long time, and I experienced chronic pain in my neck and back. Some days, I nearly felt like giving up on my quest for my best health. I’ve had the healthiest diet of everyone I know for most of my life. I fast often, I practice hours of yoga daily. I meditate and I pray. I don’t have a lot of the stressors that many of my students and clients have, and I worried that my health would prevent me from having the life I dreamed of: being a good partner and eventually a parent. I thought if I were ever able to have children, I physically wouldn’t be able to handle the stress of raising them.
Yet as frustrated as I was, I knew deep down that I was on the right track, that slowly something was happening. After spending a few days following my retreat in Portugal allowing myself to rest, reset, release, and truly relax, I can say that...
Finally - FINALLY!!! - after years of knowing that my body wasn’t its healthiest or happiest, I have found true healing!
Consistently practicing healthy habits is crucial - it can take a while for the body to trust and adjust. The time it takes is so worth it. My stress hormones are normalized, and for what feels like the first time since I was a teenager, I feel like myself in my body again!
I have undergone Ayurvedic and Eastern medicinal treatments, and every ounce of help I’ve sought has made the world of difference.
The thing about going through a tremendous healing process is this:
My journey has taught me how to help others along the same path. My struggle has equipped me as a healer.
This whole process has not only granted me greater empathy and compassion for those who are seeking healing, but has ignited my own gifts in assisting along that process. I’ve picked up some pretty amazing tools along this healing path, and I’d love nothing more than to share with them. If any of this resonates with you, know that you are not alone and that there is hope. Many others have helped me, and I hope to help many others!
Yoga therapy as it was taught to me in India is comprised of the following:
1- Right diet
2- Right exercise
3- Right thoughts
Simple tools in willing hands.
If you feel dis-ease brewing in your body or mind, and need support along your healing journey, I am here for you. If you struggle with your weight and energy levels and know it’s not due to a lack of discipline or self-control, I can help you. Let’s bring you back to your best balance.
Three times over the past couple of weeks, I've stumbled upon the concept of evaluating one's work and seeing if there's something developing outside of one's focus.
For example, a tomato farmer focusing on harvesting and selling tomatoes off the vine ends up with a stockpile of vines. He knows the vines exist, but doesn't value or market them, because he is tapping into the tomato off the vine market - he is a tomato farmer after all, and this is what all successful tomato farmers do. The market for tomatoes off the vine, however, is saturated, and there isn't very much that distinguishes his tomatoes from anyone else's. He believes in his product and knows the quality that he offers, yet to the average buyer, his tomatoes look and smell the same as the rest, and the buyer will ultimately buy whichever tomatoes are the least expensive, from the most popular farmers.
The farmer is stumped, confused by how to portray the value of his tomatoes: that they are organic, not treated with pesticides, and the vines they grow on are immaculate. He begins questioning his line of work entirely, and one day, on the verge of giving up farming altogether, he looks around his farm. In one corner is the pile of immaculate vines all of his harvested tomatoes came from. He remembers that all of his customers continually compliment his vines, often asking if he will sell tomatoes on the vine, willing to pay whatever price he asks. This has always confused the farmer, as this is not the product he's put so much hard work into (that he's aware of). Suddenly, it dawns on the farmer: he has the best vines around. His goal needn't be to set himself apart from other tomato sellers by taking exhaustive measures to make his tomatoes stand out. He simply needs to step out to just to the fringes of the market and into his very own niche: tomatoes on immaculate vines. By leaning into what has been his biggest asset all along, he will be immeasurably more successful than by trying to conform to a saturated market.
Lately it's become apparent to me that I may have been swimming upstream in some areas of my work unnecessarily. I’ve decided to more clearly identify my “brand” and clarify what I offer.
I have many yogi friends who are naturally much more flexible than I am, who look much more graceful flowing through postures. For so long, I wished I could be this way or that, but I’m learning to embrace what I’ve been given. I admire my friends who effortlessly balance on one hand, but I no longer feel the compulsion to keep up or feel inadequate because I have to work really hard at what others make look effortless.
Finally I’ve decided to lean in to who I was created to be. All the way. I will still of course teach and practice various types of yoga. But I’ve begun learning that what my students continually ask from me are the things I never had to work very hard to be really good at: my natural gifting. The recurring theme I'm noticing is that the ways I help my students/clients/friends most is by helping them feel amazing in ways that feel most amazing to me.
I am absolutely in love with my career in holistic wellness. I love that I get to help people feel good in their bodies, sometimes again and sometimes for the first time ever. I love that I get to use my own experiences with things like body image that started earlier than I can remember, to various traumas caused by things like harmful relationships and car accidents, plus navigating an autoimmune disease. I love that my negative experiences aren’t wasted by God, but that instead I am certain they happened for me (not to me) to grant me more compassion and room in my heart to love others better.
Beyond that, everything I have experienced so far in my nearly three decades on this planet, have sharpened my gifts as an intuitive healer. I simply am a vessel of God’s love and light - when I am open, God works through my hands in amazing ways.
I constantly get requests for more restorative, yin, yoga therapy, yoga nidra, and guided meditation classes and workshops. People often seek out my guidance about Ayurveda, nutrition, and spiritual matters. Often people seek my knowledge about things that aren’t as commonly taught in Western yoga classes. People love my retreats, and leading them is my absolute favorite thing ever!
I love hosting retreats so much for so many reasons, but mainly because they incorporate all of my best skills. I get to teach asana and meditation, of course, and make people feel really good in that way. But I also get to bring really amazing, world-changing people together and watch lifelong friendships form. I love to cook, and on my retreats I get to serve nourishing, healing food that I’ve prepared intuitively and with love to people who receive it with joy. Most of my retreats include intuitive healing sessions. I’m highly creative, and I get to use so much creativity for retreat details, down to putting together personalized gift bags. Oh, and I LOVE to travel!
For as long as I can remember, traveling has been one of my biggest passions. When I was thirteen years old, I wrote in my diary about how I'd fallen head-over-heels in love with an entire country. It amazes me that I get to lead retreats to Portugal now, sharing my favorite place to "come home to myself" with people I love and admire. I’m tri-lingual, and traveling with retreats allows me to practice speaking other languages. I LOVE that! I am blown away that I get to enjoy my "work" so much.
I see now how my little set of skills and life experience shape what I offer others, rather than trying to make them fit into a pre-formed mold. With that in mind, I'm actively working toward my goal of helping victims of trafficking heal through yoga therapy. I've also recently started selling some of paintings, and I've created an Etsy shop because crocheting tiny things for babies brings me a special kind of joy.
I believe that each person was gifted with a special bundle of skills, affinities, and natural abilities - like a bouquet. Some were gifted more of one thing, and some more of another. No bouquet is more or less colorful than anyone else's, just different.
I believe that when we embrace and lean into that which makes our individual bouquets unique, we find the sweetness of our calling.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and cluttered in your mind, it may be time to examine your space. If you determine that it is cluttered, dirty, messy, too dark, or anything that could be causing you stress, it may be time for a detox.
Begin by tidying up and cleaning your living space. If you have a car, clean it out. As you go, anything you find that you aren’t excited about and don’t absolutely need, either throw away or put in a bag to give away.
Once your space is neat, go through your clothes and purge anything that you don’t love and wear often. If it doesn’t give you joy, it doesn’t belong in your wardrobe. If you haven’t worn it in ten years because you’re hoping it will fit by this time next month, it does not belong. If it was a hand-me-down or a gift but is something you never would have picked out, let it go. You do not need to hold onto clothes that do not match your identity. You do not owe it to anyone to keep a gift or hand-me-down. If you come across a lot of sentimental pieces that you can’t part with but know you will never wear again, put them in a separate bag and make a plan to send them off to be made into a quilt or cut pieces of them yourself and make them into frame-able artwork. If giving away clothes gives you anxiety, keep the bag of giveaways in your closet for six months. If after that time you’ve forgotten about them and realize how easy it is to live without them, get rid of them at that point.
It is better to clear out the old to make room for the new, than to let the things you’re holding onto take up your closet space. This is because our clothes hold memories. If you have come out of a toxic relationship, or you’ve entered into a new phase of life, there is no reason to hold onto the clothes you used to wear. If you do not identify with who you used to be, you probably don’t find yourself wearing the clothes that you used to wear. If they hold toxic memories, they have become toxic to you and therefore are holding you back. Let them go.
Another aspect of detoxing our space is being aware of noise pollution. If you often watch TV, consider whether the noise of the TV could be affecting you. I have become more sensitive to sounds as I’ve gotten older, and the time I spend in my home space is sacred. Unless it is something uplifting that I am watching intentionally, I do not watch TV. I used to keep a TV on for background noise, thinking that I felt less alone with it on. Eventually I realized that having a TV on felt like it was draining my energy – it became toxic. Now if I want background noise, I play happy or mellow music. Being aware that you are in charge of every aspect of how your space feels is empowering and inspiring!
Detoxing your space may be the perfect time to rearrange your furniture, change your bedding (maybe even get a new bedspread), and hang up art that inspires you or brings you joy. You may even decide to re-paint your walls and redress your windows. Redecorating is a great way to detox your living space. You can also add live plants to your space and a Himalayan salt lamp to naturally purify the air.
Another way to detox your home is to burn sage (also known as sage smudging). Burning certain herbs cleanses the air, and sage has medicinal and antibacterial properties. When burned, sage removes harmful bacteria from the air. Smudging can also be done as a spiritual or symbolic practice as you reclaim and detoxify your space. One way is to open windows, light the sage bundle (then blow it out to create smoke), and moving clockwise around each room in your home, think loving thoughts. You can also say a prayer or chant as you go, such as: "Cleanse this space. Remove the past. Fill my space with joy and love. Send blessings from above."
Detoxing allows us to make room for better ways as we clear out the old ways. As you sage each room, also smudge over your mirrors to cleanse the way you see yourself, letting go of past negative thought patterns. Saging may seem like a strange New Age practice popular among hippies, but be assured that its roots of cleansing, sacred ritual, and symbolism extend far beyond that modern stereotype. Burning purifying herbs has been common among various ancient spiritual and religious practices, including Christianity. The Biblical burning of incense and herbs that dates back to the Old Testament was part of a ritual cleansing and purification of sacred spaces, just as it has historically been used across religions and ancient cultures for thousands of years. If you want your space to be extra-clean, either to make it feel holy or just to breathe in purified air, consider burning sage.
If you have an office or cubical, get creative and make that space cleaner and happier as well, clearing your work space of clutter and adding small personal touches. Think about what sounds you hear during your workday, and if any are particularly stressful, find out if they can be changed. For example, if your phone ringer volume is too high, lower it. If you work well with background noise but chatty coworkers distract you, try softly playing ocean sounds from your computer or in headphones. Whatever thing doesn't work for you that you put up with day to day, commit to fixing. If your desk height is wrong and causes you to slouch, leaving you with back and neck pain, talk to your company about it and work toward improving your working conditions. If your keyboard sticks, ask for a replacement. Find small ways to make your working space better -- for the amount of time you spend there, it is worth it.
Remember that detoxing is about letting go of what no longer serves us. For our space, that extends beyond getting rid of junk and clutter. It includes transforming our space into a place where we feel happy, light, free from environmental stress, and safe. I hope you have a great week and you are enjoying this series. Check back next week for the third and final part: relationships.
There are times when we may feel sluggish in our lives, like toxicity has built up. We realize we aren’t as comfortable as we should be, like it’s difficult to take full, deep breaths. We feel as though we should have more space, more room to breathe, not only in our bodies but in all areas of life. Detoxing allows us to let go of what no longer serves us, freeing us from the past and allowing us to be fully present and ready to welcome the future.
This is the first of a three-part series that covers detoxing the body, living/work space, and relationships. We begin with the body, as it’s the easiest to detox. That’s partly because the body naturally cleanses itself all the time. While we’re asleep our liver does its best cleansing work between 12 and 2am, so the best place to start to feel better in your body is to make sure you’re going to sleep before midnight.
Another nighttime practice to adopt is to stop eating by 8pm. According to Ayurveda (yoga’s sister science), our digestion is strongest at the middle of the day between 12 and 2pm, when the sun is at its highest place in the sky. After that, our Agni, or “digestive fire” gets gradually weaker as the sun sets. Ideally, our biggest meal of the day would be lunch since that is the time that our digestion is strongest, and our lightest meal would be dinner, since that is when digestion is the weakest. From another perspective, we slow down at the end of the day, typically burning less calories. Our metabolisms also slow down when we sleep, so we need less energy (calories) before sleep. Even further, it is difficult to get a restful sleep if our bellies are full of food to digest. Instead of working on cleansing at that point, the body has to focus on digesting the food in the stomach, when the Agni is at its weakest and the metabolism is at its slowest.
Ayurveda and yoga also indicate that we should start our day with detoxifying practices. First, we should brush our teeth and scrape the tongue. Before eating anything, we should also eliminate waste (in less polite terms, we should poop before breakfast). Hot water with lemon first thing in the morning is a great cleansing and energizing way to start the day. Even if you don’t give up coffee, having hot water with lemon first is a good practice to adopt. Drinking it throughout the day is an easy way to promote the removal of toxins from the system, alkalize the blood, and hydrate the cells. To make an extra-cleansing tea, combine hot water with fresh lemon and either cilantro or parsley. An alternative that boosts digestion is to combine lemon with ginger.
There are cleansing foods that encourage the body to remove toxins as well. Beets and carrots are not only full of vitamins and nutrients, but they also cleanse the liver. You can consume them raw, roast them with your other favorite veggies, or drink them in a juice. There are many cleansing herbs, like cilantro, coriander, parsley, and turmeric, and adding them to your meals is an easy and tasty way to promote detoxification naturally.
Many fruits and vegetable are cleansing also, and adding more of them into your diet can keep your system balanced. Top cleansing vegetables beyond beets and carrots include celery, lettuce, kale, and spinach, and some extra cleansing fruits are apples, pineapple, cranberry, and grapefruit. Merely eating more pure fruits and vegetables is cleansing. To keep your system feeling good and reduce toxic buildup, limit and avoid sources of toxins, like processed sugars starches. Reduce processed foods or remove them from your diet entirely, replacing them with whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains like quinoa and brown rice. If any product has high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, or ingredients you can’t pronounce in it, it does not belong in your body.
Alcohol is toxic. I’m sorry to be the deliverer of bad news, but it is. Repeat this sentence out loud: “Alcohol is a toxin.” It affects your brain and your body negatively, and if you’re considering a detox, alcohol is likely the reason. Do not consume any alcohol during your time of detox, and following it commit to consuming less, if any.
Fasting is another option to consider. In Ayurveda we learn that balance never comes from extremes, and fasting can seem extreme. However, if done for the proper amount of time and under the right conditions, fasting is very healthy. Think about fasting like setting a “reset” button on your digestive system. It gives your body the chance to clean itself and remove toxic buildup. Before deciding to fast for days on end though, consider starting gently. If you’ve never fasted before, try not eating dinner on a day you decide in advance. Let your last meal be lunch, and then don’t eat again until breakfast the following morning. Dedicate your time of fasting to something other than food, replacing your mealtime ritual with spending time in meditation and prayer, reading a good book, or even going on a walk. Be gentle with yourself during your fast, and know that it’s okay to drink coconut water or vegetable broth if you need to. It is very important to drink plenty of water during your time of fasting to keep your body hydrating and cleansing.
Fasting for one meal is a great place to start, and if you’re ready to fast for a longer period of time, try fasting for 24 hours. The next time you fast, if you feel like you should do so for longer than that, try fasting for 36 or 48 hours. Your body receives the maximum benefit of fasting after 42-48 hours, so longer than that is excessive. It is recommended to plan your fast before your fast - failure to plan is planning to fail, after all. Decide how long you will fast and what your fast will include, whether you will only drink water, or whether you will consume a liquid-only diet, including juice and broth. Also, if you’ve struggled with anorexia or other eating disorders, fasting may be triggering for you. In that case, it may be healthiest for you to fast something other than food, like caffeine or social media, and continue reinforcing your healthy eating habits.
Finally, another simple way to encourage the body to let go of toxins is to exercise! Working up a sweat, whether it be from a vigorous walk, bike ride, or yoga class, is a great and natural way to detoxify the body. Sweat is one of the ways our bodies eliminate waste – it cleans us from the inside out, and is even good for the skin’s pores. In yoga specifically, there are poses that further encourage detoxification, such as twisted postures, which “wring out” the internal organs. Daily exercise is a great way to keep your system cleansed and balanced, and designating specified times of adding extra exercise, like a walk each morning, to your existing exercise regimen for a week or two while practicing other detoxifying techniques, is sure to make you feel lighter, cleaner, and healthier.
The trend of taking a mini vacation to detox is becoming popular as well, making cleansing the body a little more accessible – often even making it a fun experience! For example, I am leading a “Spring Cleansing” yoga retreat next month nestled in Florida’s nature, away from toxic city noise. The purpose is to spend a couple of days giving the body and mind a break from the demands of our busy lives. We will be cleansing the body from the inside out gently, practicing Ayurvedic cleansing techniques, doing lots of yoga, taking nature walks, encouraging rest as the body resets itself, and eating whole and cleansing foods. Participants will leave feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, having let go of anything no longer serving their body, mind, and spirit.
Letting go of what no longer serves us is really what detoxing is all about. For the body, we encourage it to purge toxins. As we become healthier, we encourage the body to function optimally as we move forward toward new beginnings, whether that be at the start of each day or the welcoming of a new season.
Please note that I am not a medical doctor, and the opinions stated above are based on my own experience and personal studies. I am happy to answer any questions you may have about detoxing, one-on-one help, and retreats.
Coming up next week: Take detoxing a step further: how to fix toxic spaces, such as living and work environments.
Wow! It's hard to believe it's already the last month of 2017! This has been one of my favorite years so far. I have had so many amazing adventures and received so much direction for my future. That isn't to say it hasn't been without its challenges, though, and it has been so full of unexpected change!
Since my last post, I hosted my first Relaxation Yoga Retreat to the Algarve, Portugal. It was amazing, and far exceeded my expectations for my first retreat!
It was so, so great to be back in Portugal, and beyond leading the retreat, I also got to spend some much needed time with my sweet grandfather.
During the retreat, I'm grateful to report that everything went well. I learned so much, and my biggest take-away was probably that I can't wait to lead more retreats in the future!
The people who attended couldn't have been hand selected to be a better, more cohesive group... each one added something so special and unique to the dynamic.
We realized how perfect it was that the six of us were together in that space and at that time (I'll write more about that specifically very soon), and lifelong friendships were solidified.
The other big lesson I learned was that in order to make room for the Best, sometimes God needs us to let go of the 'good.' My relationship with Steven ended upon my return. There was nothing ugly or terrible about the relationship, and I knowingly walked away from a very good human being, knowing nothing more than that love and compatibility -- while necessary -- are simply not enough to sustain a relationship for a lifetime. Instead, what we had was meant to be lovely for a time, but we found in time that there was an expiration date on our time together.
Since returning, I have also stopped teaching at Yoga Lemon. That was the most difficult decision I've made in this profession, yet it became necessary once I realized the level of toxicity of that working relationship. That opportunity also seems to have had an expiration date, as heartbroken as I am to acknowledge this. Although I am no longer struggling with my decision (it was practically made for me -- over $400 in unpaid classes and hurtful text messages from the studio's owner later), I am still struggling with missing seeing my favorite students every week. I am holding onto the hope that I will only be blessed with better opportunities after letting go of this particularly toxic one.
This is all difficult to share, and that's part of why it's been so long since my last post. I have also been busy looking for other local studios in which to offer my classes and healing services, as well as plan upcoming retreats. I will keep you posted on all of that as things develop further. For now, I am going to keep this post short, telling myself that I can (and will) save some for another day soon.
I will also share some of my favorite tips, tricks, and recipes to stay balanced during this busiest time of year. Do you have any requests for things like healthier versions of seasonal treats, grounding yoga sequences, or themed guided meditations? Email me or leave a comment if so!
Thank you for following along. If you know of any studios, local or otherwise, that would be willing to host me for workshops or training, I'd love to hear about it! I also am filling my private lesson appointments through the end of the year, and am offering holistic wellness counseling package options that will increase at the beginning of the year. Please email me for availability.
May God bless you and keep you! You are loved!
I haven’t posted in what seems like ages because so much has been going on that it’s hard to know where to even begin. One of Steven’s best friends suffered a tragic accident that landed him in a medically-induced coma on life support for days, before he eventually passed.
Last Sunday we drove to Hollywood for Zach’s service, which was heartbreaking but beautiful. Zach blessed many in his passing, and I was one of them. I did not receive one of the organs that he donated, but part of my own heart was resurrected and healed in the aftermath of the tragedy.
We drove Steven’s car down a very familiar route for me. As I took the same I-95 exit that I used to live off of, I began to feel physically ill – having a physiological response to the growing anxiety within me. It only increased as we got closer not only to the beach where the service would be held, but also to my old apartment, passing the landmarks I used to see every day of the life I once lived, yet had tried to dissociate from and sever from my memory.
I felt trapped inside my body, trapped inside the car, trapped in the place I’d fled in a hurry with no plans of returning. I tried bringing up to Steven how I was feeling without making something that had nothing to do with me about me, but guess what? It became about me anyway. Patient Steven just simply said that he (understandably) didn’t have the capacity to think about anything other than his friend in that moment.
Of course! How could I even be thinking about anything other than my amazing boyfriend in the passenger seat grieving one of the biggest losses of his life?! I felt gross, guilty, and ashamed at what I was feeling, which only made me feel worse. All I wanted was to exile those thoughts and be able to focus on and comfort Steven.
Yet as we arrived to the restaurant that was designated as our meeting place, I still couldn’t shake the knots in my stomach or the tightness in my chest. Steven noticed that I wasn’t okay, so I excused myself to the privacy of the restroom in the hopes of collecting myself. I tried talking myself out of it, I tried shaming myself out of it, and my “pep talks” only served to increase my anxiety and make me feel even worse, convincing me that I was crazy to have agreed to come back here in the first place.
Finally it hit me: what would I tell someone else, like one of my students, to do in this situation? I would tell them to acknowledge their feelings and to trace them to the source. I would tell them that it’s okay to feel everything they’re feeling. That these emotions are happening for a reason and cannot simply be ignored or pushed back into the deep crevices where they’ve been hiding.
I gave myself permission to acknowledge that I have experienced trauma in this place, that I am human, and that of course I would feel something being back here for the first time. As soon as I let myself off the hook, I immediately began feeling better. My stomach began untying itself and I could finally breathe all the way in again.
I was able to leave the bathroom and rejoin my amazing boyfriend and his friends fully present and experience the beach with new eyes. So much had changed there in five years! And seeing Steven with friends who he’s known at least half his life was so cool, even given the devastating circumstances.
It was a lovely service that honored Zach and his family and closest friends, and I became aware of the gifts he was blessing us with. For Steven, asking me how God could allow someone so good to go so young and unexpectedly, to which we can only conclude the obvious: it was simply his time. Zach was someone so full of life, who lived in the present and reminded others to do the same.
When I was in India, I learned that such present living – not being bogged down by past memories or caught up in anxious thoughts about the future – just enjoying the present moment, is the goal. That being able to experience full presence of mind, body, and spirit is why we practice yoga… that the present is where they are able to unite, and that this state is what brings us into Samadhi, or total bliss and unity with the Divine. It is basically the aim of all of our efforts toward spiritual growth and maturity, and is so elusive to so many of us.
Steven shared with me that Zach and his late brother Michael seemed to have had this figured out and lived this way effortlessly. Maybe that’s why they both got to go so young and still so vibrantly full of joie de vivre. Maybe also to teach us their secret to a full life, that we may be inspired by their examples of living in the present.
One of the ways I have no doubts that Zach’s life and death were used by God to bless us is that he used this tragedy in my healing that I was unaware of even needing. He used it to heal wounds I’d suppressed and tried to ignore and forget for a long time.
Because of revisiting the place of my personal Hell on Earth, I was granted the opportunity to truly let go. That is a gift not only for me, but also to Steven, who now shares my heart, as well as for my friends, family, and the people I will continue to work with as they rehabilitate from their own trauma.
Before we left the beach at the end of the day, I untied one of my string bracelets from a fire ceremony in India and separated it into two, giving half to Steven. We set intentions for the future, inspired by the lives of Zach and Michael, and chose something to let go of, as well as something to set forth from there on out. Steven asked me to pray with him at the water’s edge, and then we released our bracelet into the waves, saying “swaha” as they do during fire ceremonies, in the same way that I received it. Swaha means “as it is” or “let it be” – basically the Sanskrit version of “amen” – and is the perfect way to cement an intention or close a ceremony.
With my half of our bracelet, I let go of the past associations I held of that place, of a really painful part of my past. My intention was to be open to life and to making new memories. What a gift indeed. Thank you, Zach. Swaha!
“What’s easy's not so easy!”
My favorite yoga instructor, Dhirendra, used to say this just about every day in my Hatha class during our warm up of joint movements. I was fortunate enough to study under him both of my months in India, and just about every morning about halfway through the long series that starts with the head and ends with the feet, by which time we’d all be struggling, he’d say, “See? What’s easy’s not so easy!”
I find myself saying that to my students in my classes now as I warm them up before starting a flow, and the memory of Dhirendraji’s instruction always brings a smile to my face. What I’ve realized more and more lately, especially over the course of the past week and a half of the 40 days of intention that I challenged myself to, is how true my favorite teacher’s saying is even off the mat.
I challenged myself to simple things. I decided I would be extra-mindful during my asana practice, that I would do healing meditation, read scripture and journal about my experience, as well as regularly get to bed earlier and also fast once a week. I also intended to be more active on social media about this process.
Well… it has been nearly two weeks since the start of it, and let me just say that I am again reminded that sometimes easy does not mean easy, and simple definitely does not mean easy. Although I have done some of these things consistently, I haven’t done all of them. Being more intentional in my personal yoga practice, making time to read some scripture and write in my journal, as well as practicing very clean eating and fasting, have not been much of a struggle. However, practicing healing meditation for myself (outside of guiding others through it), and sharing via social media have not been my strengths. Those things do not come as naturally for me.
Instead of healing meditation – or any meditation most days to be honest – I tend to want to go and do active things. I’d rather be DOING than sitting alone with my thoughts and trying to concentrate and relax. If this comes naturally to you, I am beyond impressed and a little jelly. Please share tips! I know that it’s easier for me to choose active versus passive, yet that we must have times of passive allowance – that’s how so much healing happens after all. Yet because it’s subtle, it’s more difficult for me. Just as in asana practice, it’s so much more difficult for me to sit still in dandasana, or staff pose, or lie in savasana, than it is to do fifty vinyasas and perfect my chaturanga.
Yesterday, I decided that I really needed to at least try to do a healing meditation, since I had some time in the afternoon and was pretty mellow after waking up earlier than usual that day to teach a morning class. I went into my room, selected a healing meditation on my favorite meditation app (Insight Timer – download it ASAP!), and settled into my bed. I don’t know how long I was awake, but I have no recollection of the meditation even starting, and the next thing I knew, it had been 30 minutes and a gong sound was coming through my phone, signaling that the meditation had ended. I don’t know how much good the meditation part did, since I fell asleep right away, but I did at least have a nap, and I’m telling myself it was healing.
Speaking of sleep, I have not gone to bed early every night, but I have consistently gone to bed earlier, and that’s progress that I’m giving myself credit for. As far as sharing my experience via social media… ugh. I don’t know if I’m too far on the other side of the millennial marker or what, but even though I consider myself a mostly open book about my experiences in life, sharing publically feels so unnatural to me. I find it difficult to remain authentic and I’m even intimidated at the thought of posting. Maybe I get caught up in comparison or self-doubt too much to allow it to just flow naturally, or maybe it’s just something that practice will make easier. My vote is still out on that, but for the rest of the challenge I’ve decided to share what feels natural to share and not to force anything. In other areas of my life, I’ve found that to be the best method.
I have a few things on my heart to write about soon, one of which is related to the scripture portion of my challenge, and as soon as I make the time to I will share them with you. Other than focusing on being more intentional, I’ve been doing lots of work to prepare for the retreat at the end of September and it’s coming together beautifully. If you’re in need of a relaxing, restorative time away in a beautiful, laidback place, I encourage you to look into joining me. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions. Also, be sure to sign up for my newsletter if you haven’t already done so!
I hope it’s been a great week for you, and that you have a wonderful weekend!
I hope you had a wonderful weekend. Mine was very restorative and mostly spent at home. I painted and worked on some creative projects, meditated, wrote in my journal, and relaxed. It was much needed and such a nice change of pace for me lately.
One of the things I enjoyed most was stumbling upon Suzanne Heyn's Instagram, and subsequently her website. She does a lot of healing work and offers so many great tools. I definitely recommend checking her out! suzanneheyn.com/
I read a few of her posts and became very inspired to challenge myself to 40 days of being more intentional. For this 40 day challenge, I will practice extra-mindful yoga (for my personal practice), do healing mediation, read scripture and make time to record what I'm experiencing in my journal, as well as make a habit of going to bed earlier, and fast one day a week.
For me this challenge starts today, and I invite you to join me at any point. You can customize it or come up with something completely different to challenge yourself with. Maybe you're like me and KNOW you should get to sleep earlier than you consistently do. This may be the perfect opportunity to do it for 40 days and record any differences you find. Or maybe you KNOW that you should make the time for breakfast every morning instead of chugging coffee and winding up with the shakes and feeling super edgy by 10am. Do something good for yourself to change an area you've neglected, and just see what happens.
I will share the highlights of my experience with you here, though I plan to mostly use Instagram as my main sharing platform. I would love to hear whether you've accepted a challenge as well, and encourage you to share your experience with someone who could benefit from one, too!
Have a wonderful day!
Lots of love,
Namaste from back home!!
I hope this email finds you SO well! I have been home now for three weeks and the time has just flown!
My travel date back from Portugal coincided with the full moon, and I wound up getting stuck in Newark overnight due to countless flight complications and delays. Thankfully, I finally made it home a day late and Steven was waiting for me at the airport.
I love that I got to come home to such a warm welcome from him, my family, my dog, and everyone at Yoga Lemon. I really struggled with the decision to come back when I did, and if it weren’t for so much love State-side I would have turned around and flown right back!
I returned when I did for an exciting reason, though. My graduation ceremony from Rollins was the Saturday after I got back. Still jetlagged and very much unadjusted, I walked across the stage. It was exciting though not what I was expecting, and I think that I would have enjoyed it infinitely more had I been better rested.
Since then, I’ve been getting caught up with loved ones, teaching, and planning some really exciting things. Oh, also healing from parasites and still working with my left leg, but those are stories for another time.
In my last email, I asked for your opinion about yoga retreats. I am SO THRILLED to announce that I have organized a retreat to the south of Portugal in the fall! There are only 6 spots available, so I am giving you first dibs. I would love for you to join me in my favorite place for a few days of relaxation and yoga. The retreat will be held at the beach where I spent my summers growing up, and my fondest memories are from there.
The town is called Altura, and it is a ten minute drive away from Spain’s border. The quinta where the retreat will be hosted is within a short walking distance to the beach as well as to the quaint street of shops, restaurants, and cafes that leads there.
There will be 2 yoga classes and one guided meditation per day, 3 healthy meals per day, 2 excursions, 1 reiki treatment, and plenty of free time for reflection time at the beach and pool included. This will be an intimate setting, with four private rooms and one shared room available. The emphasis of this retreat is rest and relaxation, though there will be plenty of time to explore the local surroundings.
More information about this retreat is located on the "home" page of my site and I'm happy to answer any questions you may have surrounding it.
Thank you so much for following along with me and allowing me the opportunity to share my travels and ideas with you. I can’t tell you how much our correspondence meant to me while I was gone.
Please keep in touch!
Lots of love and God bless,
I am writing to you from beautiful Portugal, my very favorite place to be! I hope this email finds you well and that May has been good to you so far.
Where to begin?
On Saturday my exams went well and I graduated, and that evening a couple of my friends arranged a birthday dinner for me and another gentleman from the course. I got there but didn't like the vibe, so I just made an appearance and two of my girlfriends and I left. I did something I've wanted to do since I was 15, and had been dying to do since arriving in India. I got my nose pierced! Isn't that crazy? At the end of my first month there, I got a tattoo. And at the end of my second one, a piercing! So far, I've experienced zero ill effects. And don't worry, I did my research and got several local and Western references of where to go.
Sunday I had to do some last-minute gift buying and I got to say goodbye to most of the friends I'd made around town. I packed and got ready for my trip, and by the next day I was emotionally ready to leave.
On Monday the manager of my school asked if I had any suggestions for how they can improve. Of course I said to start in the kitchen! I suggested he have someone come in for a short but thorough training for the kitchen staff. As I listed off things to be covered, such as not using a rag to mop the floor and then picking it up and using it to wipe the counter, I said it was such simple training that I could give it. He took me down to the kitchen right then to get started!
I'm not sure how much of what I said was really received, nor how much will change, but I will follow-up with them soon. I hope that they will make those improvements right away.
I was also invited to come back as a guest instructor in January. And an instructor from that school resigned and is opening his own school, and offered me a teaching position there as well, starting this summer. I'm not sure if either are really a possibility, but we'll see. If nothing else, it's very nice to be considered.
My trip to Portugal was very long and exhausting, but thankfully it went very smoothly. It took me over 30 hours to get here, and 4 flights. Once I landed in Brussels, I think I experienced culture shock for the first time in my life. Everything was impeccably clean. I couldn't believe how shiny the floors were. People formed organized lines and kept order among themselves without yelling, pushing, or shoving... they didn't speak to each other! People smelled weird and artificial - all of the different colognes and perfumes mixing together were enough to give me a headache - yet that was such an improvement to the overwhelming "natural" human smells in India. The strangest part though was how quiet it was. The near-silence almost felt ominous. As I sat down in a beautiful cafe during my layover, I realized I felt like I was inside the IKEA version of an airport.
Arriving in Portugal, however, shook me out of whatever funk I was in being back in the first world after two months in incredible India. I am beyond thrilled to be here! This place is really where I feel I most belong. And spending time with my sweet grandfather is the biggest gift!
So far in two days, I've eaten two amazing lunches: simple grilled fish, fresh veggies that are cooked just right, and the most decadent chocolate mousse for dessert. And don't get me started on the coffee! Just what I was dreaming of for two months! Lunch has been so good and filling that I've been content to just have light dinners. Last night for example, I had some kiwi, papaya, and goat cheese. It was refreshing and perfect. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day here, which I love because it's so well aligned with Ayurvedic eating principles. And garlic is used so liberally! I'm in food heaven and I'm not even being bashful about how awesome it is!
I hope I don't gain back all of the weight I lost after being so sick in India in just a week... but that might be possible!
Speaking of which, I was able to buy an anti-parasite drug before I left. I was instructed to take it a total of four times, one dose every three weeks. The really great thing is that it only cost 7.50 Rupees per dose, which in total was less than $0.50! Isn't that crazy? The same medication would cost around $10 if I had to buy it at home. Still not expensive, yet 20 times more than in India.
I don't have many plans while I'm here besides to practice yoga, get caught up on rest, EAT, and spend time with my precious family. I had a pedicure today, because my feet had never been so atrocious in my life -- I didn't know it was possible for them to look so bad. My heels had spots on them that were seemingly permanently black. I'm not exaggerating- I wish I were - it was a bad, ugly situation. Thankfully the pedicure helped and now they are much better!
The weather was pretty cool today, I think the high was just under 70 and it was pretty cloudy all day. Tomorrow it's supposed to rain and I plan to go to into the city and spend the weekend with my aunt, uncle, and cousin.
If it weren't for the people back home, I don't think I'd leave - at least not yet. I'm only returning this soon because I don't want to miss my graduation ceremony, though I've seriously considered it. "Real life" has to start again though sooner or later as well I suppose. The good thing is that this time away has really allowed me to think about what I want my life and work to look like from now on. I am designing my life to include as much travel as possible.
I have decided to lead a yoga retreat soon. The plans are still very much up in the air, which means that your input is super valuable.
If you were to travel to do yoga and relax in a beautiful place, probably on a beach, where would you most like to go? Would you rather stay closer to home and go somewhere in Central America or the Caribbean? Or would you be interested in southern Portugal? What about India?
Regardless of whether you think you'll actually do it, will you please let me know your thoughts, including what you would expect and how much you think is reasonable to spend for time frames of 3, 5, 7, and 10 days?
How is everything going there? How are you this week? You are in my thoughts and prayers always.
God bless you, Namaste, Hari Om, as melhores, obrigada, e muitos beijinhos e abraços,
w e l c o m e