Dear Sweet Community,
Oh my gosh it has been a while! I miss you all and wanted to say hi. I am now living in Lewisburg, PA. A small town with farmlands all around. It is a big change from San Francisco. I want to welcome all of the Lewisburg folks to our newsletter, forum to geek out on yoga and other things, and to ask any questions you might have at the bottom of the newsletter.
I also got married! Wow! What a day. Jason and I were married on the beach with just a few people there.
What an amazing gift to be blessed with partnership in my life! So I have started to settle here, I am teaching in two local studios; Yoga Dear and Lewisburg Yoga and Wellness Center trying to bring a little city yoga to this quiet countryside.
This relocation, while for a good cause, has been incredibly challenging. I have felt like someone shook the tree I was balanced in. In the past few months I have started deepening my practice of mindfulness. This has been the most predominant feature of my yoga practice. And really is the core of my work in all domains. Being with what arises, my sensations, has taught me so much about myself and how I navigate my situation. So I thought I might make this alignment tip on mindfulness meditation.
Alignment Tip of the Week:
The art of self regulation is knowing how to resource oneself. In the meditation tradition, this practice can be referred to as "mindfulness". In the somatic tradition, we refer to this practice as "tracking sensations or taking inventory". Both are compatible which is what I love about teaching yoga and being a somatic psychotherapist. Usually when I am teaching a class I tend to start with some mindfulness and incorporate it into savasana. But we can actually do an entire practice of mindfulness.
It is important to approach mindfulness and somatic tracking with a curiosity. I am learning about the "don't know mind" and have to often remind myself to approach all things with the possibility that I actually don't know what this experience really is. If I am tracking sensations in my body, this means that I am being curious about them as if I am experiencing them for the first time.
To start, either find a comfortable seated position, or try lying down on the earth on your back. Begin with naming three things you see in the room and describe their color to yourself. We do this to regulate the nervous system. In essence you are literally quieting the limbic brain (or the emotional brain) by opening the front of the brain (prefrontal cortex). And your nervous system will thank you for this! Once you have named these three things allow the eyes to float shut. Bring your awareness away from the room and now begin to focus on your breath. Notice how you breath feels. Is it consistent? Does it stutter? Where are you breathing? What does the inhale feel like? And the exhale? When we focus on our breath it is like an elevator that takes us down into the body.
Next, begin to notice sensations that arise in the body. For instance, stiffness in the neck. Give these sensations a feeling tone; pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. You can also say, comfortable, uncomfortable or neutral. As you notice these sensations, apply your don't know mind to them. What do I mean by stiffness in the neck? What does that actually feel like? And when you find sensations, try not to fix them or change them. This is a practice of simply being with them. A word I use a lot as a therapist is "tolerance". I find that often, myself included, we all have a hard time tolerating discomfort. We aren't taught to tolerate it. We are society of instant gratification, of pursuing the things we want and having the means to get them. But discomfort is a huge part of life. It comes in all forms and not all discomfort means something is wrong. So tolerating our sensations, whatever they may be, is incredibly useful for learning how to tolerate discomfort.
Most likely sensations will keep coming back, and you may keep naming and giving, the same sensation a feeling tone. This is an important step because the feeling tone may change. The other important word that I refer to in my work with taking inventory, is "fluctuation". Everything fluctuates, and so do sensations. Fluctuation reminds us that whatever we are feeling, will not be this way forever. This is the yogic principle of non-attachment. This is also incredibly useful with our life's experiences.
As you continue your mindfulness you may notice yourself drifting into other thoughts. This is ok. When you can, redirect the mind back to your breath ad then your sensations. The mind wants to distract you away from sensations- it is afraid yo won't be able to tolerate them.
Try your mindfulness for 5 minutes to begin with and then increase to 10minutes, then 15 up to 30 minutes. When you do this practice, you gain the capacity to resource through sensations and feelings. When they arise, you can simply take inventory of what you are feeling and notice that it is fluctuating.
I have my days (don't we all?!!!!!) and this practice really helps me!
If you are hungry for more of the meditation yummyness (is that really a word?) then see below for my upcoming mindfulness and yoga retreat and workshops.
Try this practice and let me know how it goes!
I am SOOOOOOOOO excited! I will be coming to California!!!
THE MINDFUL PRACTICE
With Ariel Howland and Jason Leddington
A 3day/2night retreat: February 3rd-5th, 2017
Mayacamas Ranch, Calistoga, CA
Every year, after the holidays, do you crave some self care?
Simply put, self care and pampering is what this retreat is all about. Set in the extraordinary scenery of Mayacamas Ranch, nestled in the vineyards of Calistoga, join us on an oasis built just for you...
We will practice some yoga. Yoga which is meant to restore, and vinyasa classes to detox. (4 classes in total with Ariel). Each class will be unique; attending to your body, soul, and deepening your connection to the practice.
We will learn to meditate (2 sessions with Jason). Meditation is a tool for getting all blissed out and learning how to stay blissed out. Jason will be sharing with us tools specifically for stress reduction which you can take with you (*see below for Jason's bio).
We will eat REALLY, RIDICULOUSLY good food. We will chat and have a bonfire; we will build community.
You are welcome to enjoy free time; hiking, swimming in the pool or soaking in the hot tub, go local wine tasting or get a massage!! (because this is your oasis).
WE are so excited to bring you to this deeply calming place. We are equally as excited to attend to you and give you the space to to feel nourished.
Price of Admission:
- $850 Single
- $700 Double
- $550 Dorm (Yikes, sign up now these fill fast!)
To register click here.
(*Jason Leddington is a philosophy professor at Bucknell University where he incorporates mindfulness meditation into his classes. He has been studying and practicing meditation since 2004. He is currently doing his training in the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Method. )
Save the date of October 15th. I will be leading a workshop at Yoga Dear on Yoga for Stress and Anxiety. You will gain tools to feel less stress in your life. It promises to be a very relaxing 2 hours so plan to pamper yourself!
See you on the mat,