WORDS FROM ALYSSA: When Life Gets Hard, Breathe!

The first 10 days of 2018 presented some challenges for my family.

First, when it was 10 degrees outside, the thermostat broke and we had no heat.

It took several different people over the course of several long days to figure out that it was the thermostat and not the boiler. We used space heaters in the bedrooms at night and dressed in about a zillion layers during the day. It was cold.

*Note: MANY people living in public housing in NYC, including children and senior citizens, were without heat and hot water during the coldest days last week.*

About a week after that was fixed, we had a flood in the basement.

Not just your garden-variety water flood, no. A sewage flood.

Home ownership = good times.

The sewage flood was in fact as gross as it sounds. And to make matters more complicated, the plumbers could not find the sewer drain, which meant almost two full days without running water and usable bathrooms.

So, Steve, Lily, Amanda, my mother-in-law Jeanne, and dog Polly got an AirBnB downtown.

They found the sewage drain underneath the ceramic tile of my basement floor, and now it is fixed.

When we were in the car on the way home, my mind went to how inconvenient this all was. I got cranky, my chest got tight, and I felt restricted. I shifted my awareness to my breath and created some space in between those thoughts.

I thought about all the Syrian families that were abruptly forced from their homes with no resources and nowhere to go. Families just like mine.

I thought of all of the families that recently lost their homes to hurricanes, floods, fires, mudslides. They had to leave with just the clothes on their back and the lost everything. Families just like mine.

And I was flooded with gratitude. My mind generated thoughts about how we were all safe, had the resources to fix what needed to be fixed, and were able stay somewhere safe and warm. My body felt lighter and more spacious.

We all know the power of gratitude. We all get it, intellectually, and it's easy to feel it when things are just humming along nicely.

But how do we access it when things go wrong? Most often, the mind latches onto what is wrong and down that road we go. How can we stop that? How can we turn the switch to gratitude and change our experience?

I truly believe the frequent practice of yoga makes this switch more accessible.

We must practice continuous self-care (in which I mean internal gentleness and non-judgement) and mindfulness. Notice the quality of your thoughts and how they make you feel without judgement. And then come back to your breath. Our breath is the doorway to more expanded states of consciousness like gratitude, joy, appreciation, and love.

When we are able to cultivate the practice of watching our breath in yoga, massage, or other subtle body work, we create a fertile soil in which gratitude can grow.

When things go wrong, we are resilient, spacious, and level-headed. And of course, able to access gratitude, which makes our inner experience so much better.

And when our inner experience is good, everything else falls into place, even if it looks like things are falling apart.

In gratitude,
Alyssa

WORDS FROM AMOS: Resolving to Be Present

It’s a New Year! Many of you are feeling stuck in this bitterly cold winter and want to go into hibernation and catch up on sleep missed over the holidays. Some may have chosen to set intentions, burn sage, or vision board, and the new calendar year is a great excuse to create new habits. But for most of us, many of our best laid plans dreamt on the bright dawn of day begin to dwindle almost immediately. In my experience, I have found the loftier the goals, the further they fall.

If you are feeling sluggish, slow and stiff or don’t feel like setting an intention, you don’t have to! Maybe that isn’t a part of your self-care process. Enjoy this time when the weather encourages you to stay inside and take the rest that you need. Build your stores of energy for a later date. But take good care. Be conscious of the choices you make in the present moment: a pint of ice-cream all in one sitting might seem like best self-care in the world, but you know in actuality it will just send your body into overtime to try to work that through your system, thus defeating this rest. Instead, dive deep into the quiet space inside all of us, perhaps practicing some focusing pranayama like alternate breathing or nadi shodhana. Nap, and repeat.

However, if you fall in the camp that likes to dream big, and have a list of self-improvements single-spaced and double-sided, don’t forget that old fable about the tortoise and the hare. Instead of lumping all of your self-improvement for the year into one month, can you start with something small? Making your bed daily, not looking at electronics one hour before you fall asleep, or making sure you have at least one vegetarian meal a day. Psychologist Jeremy Dean says that it takes 21 days to create a habit. Choose one “improvement” that you think you can reasonably succeed at implementing and would give you joy. Commit to that for three weeks. Mark the days you succeed on your calendar, and do me a favor, don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day. If you miss more than three times in your three weeks, check in with yourself to see if this is a change you really need.

Because ultimately, change is a part of life. We can’t hold on to this current point in our lives any more than we can hurry the future. We practice on our mats to try to discover that balance inside each one of us. The sound OM that we call out each class represents four different parts of change: creation, maintenance, destruction and then the pause, the silence before the cycle begins again. Take this moment, whether you are feeling ready to take on the new year or need to wait until spring, and tune inward so that you can be the change you wish to see in the world!

-Amos

WORDS FROM STACEY: The Winter Solstice

"The winter solstice has always been special to me as a barren darkness that gives birth to a verdant future beyond imagination, a time of pain and withdrawal that produces something joyfully inconceivable, like a monarch butterfly masterfully extracting itself from the confines of its cocoon, bursting forth into unexpected glory."

— Gary Zukav

I’m not the kind of person who can talk to you about signs and stars and what the universe is telling us through them.  I know that I’m a Libra, but that’s about it.  If there was another zodiac sign rising at the time of my birth, I’d be inclined to guess it’s the one that likes red velvet cake.

That being said, there is something about the Winter Solstice that both intrigues and comforts me.  I realize that I’m one of few who will say this, but I like the darkness.  Especially when it’s cold outside.  It gives me an excuse to come home, put on pajama pants, make some soup, and sit on my couch.  In the winter, I become quite skilled at doing nothing. 

Every year I go to a friend’s solstice party where we are encouraged to embrace the dark in order to bring in the light.  So many people dislike the shorter days and longer nights, which I totally understand.  But I also appreciate the fact that sometimes we need to dive deeper in order to grow.  Growth – whether it be physical, emotional, or spiritual – can be a painful process.  And sometimes that process is better served under the cloak of darkness, within a cocoon, by one’s self. 

Every year around this time, my son spends Christmas out of town with his dad.  When this first started about 10 years ago, it was torturous for me.  I hated being alone in my apartment, and I did whatever I could to keep busy.  One week I saw five movies in four days just so I wouldn’t have to be by myself.  But little by little, I started to sit with my discomfort and spend more time alone at home.  I cooked food that my son doesn’t like, I devoured books that I’m embarrassed to read in front of other people, and, yes, I put on comfy pants at 5 o’clock in the afternoon and called it a day.  Now I use that week to take care of myself, recharge before the new year begins, and eat dessert before dinner.  (You didn’t think it was all about self-reflection, did you?)

So, even though the Winter Solstice was officially yesterday, I hope that you allow yourself time in the weeks ahead to at least recognize, if not embrace, the darkness.  The light will seem so much brighter after that.

Wishing you a happy Solstice and a wonderful holiday season!

xo
Stacey

WORDS FROM ALYSSA: What happens when we let stuff go?

I love coffee.  No, like, I mean, I REALLY freaking love coffee.

Super strong coffee. No sugar, but light with half and half.

In a big mug.

I go to sleep at night looking forward to my morning coffee.  There were many nights that I'm sure that my morning coffee was my last thought of the day.

Y'all...two weeks ago I had my last cup of morning coffee.

I let it go.  

“Why?” you wonder.

I realized that the coffee was affecting my sleep negatively (I often wake up at 3am and can't get back to sleep), and adding to my tendency for anxiety.  

I don't want to feel anxious, and I really want to sleep well.

My intuition has been pointing to the coffee (as reasons for my anxiety and insomnia), but I've been stubbornly refusing to listen.

Until I listened. And I let it go.

What did that look like?  Well, I started with green tea, so I wouldn't get headaches.  I really don't like green tea, I think it's thin and bitter and boring.  On day two I got really sick.  Body aches, lethargic feeling, heavy and sleepy.  Day three I was normal(ish) still drinking green tea.

Day four I switched to Kukicha tea, which is earthier than green tea and more to my liking.

So here's the thing.  Something happened that I didn't expect.  

Letting coffee go made room for some things to come in.

I'm sleeping much more soundly.  And I'm naturally waking up at like 5:30.  I've always wanted to wake up and do an hour of Kundalini yoga before the kids woke up, but couldn't quite get the energy to do it. It's dark and cold at 5:30am. My bed is warm and comfortable.

But letting the coffee go enhanced the quality of my sleep and now I'm up.  And so now I'm doing my spiritual practice in the quiet of the morning.  Something I've always wanted to do, but couldn't quite make happen.

And this shift happened effortlessly.  I can honestly say that.

I'm even slightly surprised at myself.

And my comittment to my spiritual practice has my re-committing to practice with you. 

As a yoga studio owner and teacher, I'm asking you to practice yoga frequently. To take time out of your busy day and come to your mat.  To get massages or Reiki or other private services to help you to integrate the physical, emotional, and psychological stuff that can come up with a frequent yoga practice.

I ask you to do this and I haven't been doing it myself.  I got really busy again and went down that rabbit hole of busy.

So no more of that.  I'm committing to you all to practice with you at least 4x a week in the studio AND getting massages at least twice per month.

Why? Because I want to feel good. My morning spiritual practice is the foundation of who I am.  My asana practice with you makes my body healthy and my mind open, and I connect with the community of students and teachers on a much deeper level.

So that's me.  That's what I've let go and allowed in.

See you on the mat.  

Love,
Alyssa