Self Care: Why Studio Owners Need To Do Yoga Too

Wondering why you are seeing me in class more lately? Me too (…kidding). I’ve been making a huge effort to commit to self care over the past few weeks.

And you may (or may not) have noticed that one of the ways I’m doing this is by making an effort to get back on my mat.

When I’m having a bad day (or week, or month), getting on my mat and sharing a yoga practice with other like-minded individuals is one of the few things that helps me stop feeling disconnected. There’s nothing quite like sharing breath and energy with a room full of people doing yoga to alleviate loneliness.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with a little back story:

As a yoga studio owner, people often assume I’m in great shape. I’m a yoga teacher, so I must spend a lot of time doing yoga. I (supposedly) do a lot of yoga so I must be really healthy and fit. Some of these things may be true some of the time.

But I’ll let you in on a little secret: I really struggle to take good care of myself.

Lately, I’ve been feeling stressed out, anxious, and depressed. I’ve noticed that I have been spending a lot of time zoning out on my phone using social media. I’m not eating as well as I should be. I’ve had a shorter temper with my kids and husband. I have been getting frequent headaches. And I have been feeling very stagnant.

Here’s my excuse: I have 3 young children. In fact, I have spent all except about a year (total) of the last 7+ years pregnant, breastfeeding, or both. One (or more) of my kiddos has slept in my bed every night for the last 6 years. “Me time” is non-existent. As a small business owner, the primary caregiver of my children, and partner to someone who travels frequently for work, I have a LOT going on.

And I’m a typical mom, taking care of ME is often my very last priority.

But guess what? When I fail to take care of myself, every around me suffers. Whether it’s because I have a short temper, or I zone out looking at my phone instead of playing, or I avoid going out because I don’t feel like getting dressed, my kids are impacted when I’m not feeling like myself. Furthermore, I am not setting a good example of self-care for them.

For many reasons, my partner and I are both making an effort to re-commit to taking some time for ourselves. We are both working to support each other in doing things together and alone that do not involve the kids. We are reminding each other that our self care needs to be a priority in order for us to provide the best possible care for each other and our children.

Here’s what I’m doing to improve my self care:

Reading instead of looking at my phone.

I’m committing to read a minimum of 50 books this year. I love to read and can’t wait to exceed this goal! Plus I am setting a great example for my kids and showing them my priorities.

Moving my body every day.

Even if it’s a 5 minute walk or maybe even sometimes I count steam mopping as exercise. Exercise and fresh air are so important for self care and happiness.

Making healthy eating choices most of the time.

Maybe you do this too? If I eat lousy in the morning, sometimes I decide the whole day is crap and why even bother trying to eat right for the rest of the day. I’m working to make healthy choices most of the time and not let one bad eating choice ruin the rest of my day. Sometimes I eat coffee for breakfast and those “snacking chocolates” from the target check-out line for lunch. But that doesn’t mean I can’t eat a healthy dinner. Good decisions add up!

Seeking out meaningful social connections.

If you know me, you might know I’m a little… antisocial. I almost always choose stay home over go out. But making meaningful social connections is very important to long-term happiness. I’m taking baby steps on this one and making an effort to meet a friend for coffee every couple weeks. And I’m working with Whitney to start up a Mindful Parents Meetup group at Yoga in ME. We’ll be meeting once a month. You can find more information about our first meeting here!

Getting back on my mat.

I hope to practice at least 3 times a week. I know that sometimes things will get in the way and this won’t happen. But I’m going to keep trying anyway. Not only is this important for my self-care, health, and family, it is also important for the studio. How can I honestly and authentically share this practice if I’m not practicing what I preach? I have seen students be positively impacted by this practice time and time again. I know that it works. So all I need to do is set a good example and DO IT!

What’s your favorite self-care practice? Tell us in the comments!

See you in class!

 

5 Reasons YOU Need A Weekend Retreat

If you’re like many of us New Englanders, making the investment to participate in a Weekend Retreat seems like a big financial commitment. Many of us think of these types of purchases as a luxury… or even selfish. As frugal New Englanders, we are reluctant to make a big investment in something we perceive as only benefitting ourselves.

But guess what!? Participating in a weekend retreat is NOT selfish. Making the investment in your own self-care is actually a great way to “fill up your cup” and make sure that you are able to offer your best self to your daily commitments and to the others in your life who depend on you!

Here are just a few reasons to join us on our weekend retreat :

1. Take time to focus on YOU

I touched on this a little bit already, but I have to talk about it again because it is SO IMPORTANT. Some of us write off self-care because it seems.. well… selfish. But taking time to practice self care is extremely important for your mental and physical health. If that still doesn’t seem like a valuable way to use your time, remember that taking are of YOU is a way to ensure that you are able to rise to face all of the challenges life throws your way! Plus, if you’re down and out, you are less able to care for those in your life that depend on you. Taking care of yourself by spending a weekend practicing yoga, meditating, and eating healthy is a great step towards being the best you possible!

2. Community

This weekend retreat is a wonderful opportunity to spend time with like-minded individuals. Yoga in ME is beloved by many for our diverse and welcoming community. You’ll have a chance to connect with other yogis both on and off the mat and get to know the people you practice next to every day. Meals will be prepared and eaten as a group, family style. And that’s just one of the ways that we will be sharing as a community during the retreat. We’ll be practicing, eating, sleeping, breathing, discussing, sharing and relaxing as a group all weekend! We can’t wait to hang out with you!

3. Learning

Are you interested in deepening your practice? Learning more about the 8 limbs of yoga? Getting into the details and the practices that we don’t have time to get into in a 60-minute class? On this retreat, you’ll have full access to Lydia and Nancy for the whole weekend! While we have a plan for the weekend, discussions will follow the lead of the group. This means that we’ll have a chance to delve into the topics that particularly interest YOU. Between the 2 of us, we have over 20 years of yoga experience and expertise to share with you. The shared experiences and knowledge of the group are another valuable resource that we can’t wait to tap into. Plan to leave inspired and excited!

4. Relieve Stress

It’s no secret that yoga and meditation are great for relieving stress. And we’ll have the unique opportunity to be immersed in these practices for a the whole weekend. Time will be set aside for asana, meditation, breathing practice, and even rest! This is an opportunity to learn new relaxation techniques, and hone the ones you already know. We’ll be placing an emphasis on self care, nurturing ourselves and the group. Leave feeling relaxed, renewed, and ready to face the week ahead!

5. Be Fully Present

We’ll be physically close to home, but far away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. During the retreat, we invite you to unplug and join us on an adventure towards being fully present. This weekend retreat will be an opportunity to be fully present with the group and the community, taking a break from the stress and anxiety that so often come hand in hand with work and home life!

Convinced? Spots are filling up FAST. Sign up to reserve your spot here!

Still not sure? Lydia and Nancy are available to answer any questions or address any concerns that you still have. Ask us at the studio, in the comments below, or contact us. We want to hear what you have to say!

What the Prop!? Adding Props To Your Practice

Get Your Prop On!

The use of props during a yoga practice has always been a topic of yogic discussion. Introduced to modern yoga by BKS Iyengar, props were traditionally utilized to add support. Today various types of props can we seen in almost every studio across the country, such as:

  • Yoga Mats
  • Yoga Blocks
  • Bolsters
  • Straps
  • Eye Pillows (sometimes with essential oil for aromatherapy)
  • Yoga Towels (popular in Bikram, or Hot Yoga)
  • Yoga Chairs
  • Yoga Trapezes

Some classes, such as Restorative or Yin, practice exclusively with multiple  props to encourage complete support and relaxation. Yoga props, tools, toys, whatever you label them, all have one characteristic in common and that is to create a stable foundation.

For those who believe using props are for the weak or for beginners forget that they use a prop every time they practice: their yoga mat.

Although the yoga mat may be the first and most popular of yoga props, blocks, bolsters/blankets and straps are now becoming as mainstream as yoga itself. From a beginner’s standpoint, props can alleviate physical strain, reduce fear and even develop a sense of confidence at the start of their yoga journey.  For those who have been practicing longer may also see a benefit to incorporating props into their yoga by getting deeper into an pose (asana) or exploring a new pose all together. By definition, yoga is the unification of the mind and the body, and anything that enhances our mind-body union should be appreciated, even the yoga prop.

Your Practice, Your Props

Similar to the yoga mat, the yoga prop industry has grown exponentially. There are now hundreds of companies making thousands of props each year, thus making the decision-making process just as overwhelming. As enlightened yogis, we know that there is no wrong way to practice yoga, just like there is no wrong prop to use. Personal preference should be the determining factor when practicing with props. One may prefer the sturdiness to a cork block, while another may enjoy the comfort provided by a foam block, and none of them are wrong. The best part about using yoga props is discovering what works for YOUR body, because no one else can tell you what feels right for YOU.

From the most strong and flexible to the least, a strategically positioned yoga prop has the ability to elevate the physical and spiritual experiences of a yoga practice.

Your usage of props is as special and unique as your yoga practice. So, next time you are practicing at home, or in a studio, try adding a new prop and see what unfolds!

The Art of Walking Meditation

Does the idea of sitting cross-legged, alone with your thoughts, for long periods of time sound daunting to you? If this visualization already creates anxiety or unease for you, then meditation may have always been intimidating or downright unbearable for you. And that’s okay. Meditation, like yoga, has progressed from the long hours of sitting alone in the Himalayan mountains chanting ancient Mantras, to being woven into daily tasks, such as driving or doing the laundry.

Any action in your life can be performed with a meditative mind, thus cultivating peace in everything you do.

A basic, yet profound method of active meditation is a ‘walking meditation’, which emphasizes focus on the physical experience of walking, paying attention to the meticulous component of each individual step. With constant practice, walking meditation may enhance your ability to remain mindful by increasing your focus and awareness in any given moment. It is recommended to practice a walking meditation for ten minutes a day- which can be walking around the grocery store, taking your dog for a walk or right in the office!

Finding A Location

This practice can be done outside with Mother Nature supporting you, or inside any building- just be aware your slow pacing back and forth may cause some curiosity. Wherever you are practicing, locate a lane clear of debris or obstacles that may be distracting to your walking.

Walk Your Walk

Once you established a safe lane for movement, begin walking 10-15 steps in one direction, then pause and breath consciously for a brief moment. When you’re ready, rotate your body and walk back 10-15 steps in the other direction, again pausing at the end and breathing. Continue these calculated steps back and forth until you feel as though you completed your meditation.

Step By Step

The goal of ‘walking meditation’ is to deliberately think about actions you may subconsciously perform every day. Breaking down the mechanics of each step may feel silly or even awkward, but that heightened internal awareness is building mindfulness with each little step. According to mindfulness expert, Jon Kabat-Zinn, there are four basic components to each step:

  1. The lifting of the foot;
  2. The forward movement of the foot;
  3. The placing of the foot, heel first;
  4. The subtle shifting of the weight of the body onto the forward leg as the back heel lifts, while the toes remain on the floor, then repeat the cycle.

Integrating Walking Meditation into Your Life

For many people, walking slow with deliberation is an uncomfortable sensation, yet with effort and non-attachment to the results they may find that eventually all of their walking is more conscious and controlled. If your mind begins to wander during your walk, that’s OK- be gentle on yourself and call your attention back to the next step you are taking and repeat the components of each step.

The benefits of walking meditation affect us internally as well as externally, taking us out of auto-pilot and tuning us into the present moment.

By enhancing our mental and physical awareness, we also increase our sense of appreciation and enjoyment in every moment as life unfolds around us.    

 

Sources: Jon Kabat-Zinn, PH D., Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School

 

Yoga in ME Food Drive

In 2012, Yoga in ME celebrated our grand opening with a food drive to benefit Footprints Food Pantry. (Footprints serves Kittery, Kittery Point, and Eliot residents) Participating is easy! Bring in any donation (big or small) all week and your class is FREE.

In order to make this event even better for those who are already Yoga in ME members, we also give you one entry into our raffle each time you bring in a donation! This year, we have lots of great prizes available. Prizes include private lessons, yoga gear, Yoga in ME swag & more! We’re also offering special discounts on retail and class passes. A very limited supply of discounted annual pre-paid memberships will be available!

As our community has grown, we have continued to celebrate this tradition each year. Every year, we have collected more & more food to benefit our local Southern Maine community. This year marks our 4th birthday and 5th annual food drive! Each year, we have managed to donate hundreds of dollars worth of food, toiletries, and pet supplies to Footprints. The opportunity to see a physical manifestation of the support of our community is so humbling!

We truly love this opportunity to give back to the community. We are really looking forward to this year’s food drive. Help us make it our biggest donation year yet!

Here is how you can participate:

Bring in any food, toiletry, household supply, or pet item donation. Items must be new and unopened. Footprints requests that any food items be date checked to ensure the product has not passed the expiration date.

Here is a list of items that are consistently in high need:

      . peanut butter
      . canned vegetables
      . macaroni & cheese
      . macaroni & spaghetti
      . canned pasta
      . canned “hearty” soups
      . cold “low sugar” cereal & oatmeal
      . rice – brown and white
      . canned fruit
      . canned tuna
      . ramen noodles
      . beef stew
      . dog & cat food
      . sides – pasta, rice, potato
      . hamburger & tuna helper
      . pasta sauce
      . diapers

We thank you all for supporting us and this community for the past 4 years! We wouldn’t be here without each and every one of you!

How & Why You Should Participate in Our November Gratitude Tree

Every November we practice gratitude by making our Yoga in ME gratitude tree. This is a great and very simple way to bring a little gratitude into your life. Participating is easy and the the end result is a beautiful example of a collection of things that our community is grateful for! Here’s how you can participate:

1. Come in for class! We have lots of leaves all cut out and ready to go!

 

2.  Write something you’re grateful for on the leaf!

3.  Add it to the tree!

4.  Watch the gratitude multiply!

Keep coming in throughout the month of November and watch the tree fill up. It is so fun to watch the gratitude multiply and to have tangible example of the many things that we have to be thankful for! Plus, practicing gratitude is good for you and is a great way to spread love and kindness in our community and beyond.

We look forward to this tradition every year and we hope that you will join us for this fun practice. You are encouraged to participate every time you come in for class! You don’t have to write something different every time you come in, but you can if you want to! We love seeing all of the things that our members are thankful for every year and enjoy thinking about what we are thankful for too.

Too often, we are encouraged to consume and be unhappy with what we have during the holidays. We find that the gratitude tree tradition is a great way to feel even better about what we already have. As our teacher often says, how lucky are we?

We hope that you will join us in continuing this fun and meaningful tradition!

What are you thankful for? Let us know in the comments below, or come in and fill out some leaves!

Looking For Your Community? Join Us For Coffee, Conversation, at Yoga in ME

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we are social animals by nature. Although we naturally exist in communities, many of us spend a lot of our time alone. Further, the technology and devices that are supposed to connect us to others actually make us feel left out, lonely and even more isolated.

Finding a community of like-minded individuals is a great way to combat loneliness. At Yoga in ME, we want all of our members to feel welcomed and included. Sometimes, coming in for class is enough. But it’s also nice to have opportunities outside of class to connect and get to know other people at the studio.

Recently, we have noticed that our members really enjoy and value these opportunities to connect with each other outside of class. For this reason, we have decided to start offering more of these opportunities for FREE.

Starting in November, we will have Coffee & Conversation every 2nd Tuesday of the month at 10:15. (Immediately following the Boomer class.)

Stay after the Boomer Yoga class, or just stop in to socialize after class. We will  provide coffee, tea, and some light snacks. No registration or purchase necessary!

At the conclusion of our teacher training, we interviewed our graduates about the training. We asked graduates what they would say if recommending the training to a friend. Nearly every graduate mentioned the feeling community that they experienced at Yoga in ME.

In fact, many of our graduates said they had never felt like they fit in to a community before. The community at Yoga in ME was the first time some of our trainees really felt they belonged.

This was a huge wake up call for us. Our hope is that each and every one of you also feels valued and supported by the community here at Yoga and ME. If you don’t, please, please, please let us know if there is anything that we can do to make you feel more at home here. We are always open to feedback and happy to provide a listening ear.

If you love our community and/OR you want to feel a little more at home here, we hope that you will join us for Coffee and Conversation! You never know who you might make a connection with.

What is your favorite way to connect with the Yoga in ME community?

5 Opportunities to Practice Gratitude at Yoga in ME This Holiday Season

The opportunity to practice gratitude at Yoga in ME  is a very important part of our community. At the end of many of our classes, we offer an opportunity to take a moment of gratitude. Often, I will invite students to think of one thing that they are grateful for today. Practicing gratitude is a great way to improve your interpersonal relationships and spread positivity to others in your life. Practicing gratitude can also bring numerous benefits to YOU. Read more on the “selfish” benefits of practicing gratitude in this post.

Some of you may be thinking “well, that’s all great… but what does practicing gratitude even mean?”. There are many small ways to practice gratitude. Some of these include: keeping a gratitude journal, verbally expressing gratitude to loved ones, or even just thinking about things you are grateful for on a regular basis. Another wonderful way to practice gratitude is by giving back to your community.

If you’re looking for more ways to incorporate gratitude in your life, here are 5 opportunities to practice gratitude at Yoga in ME this holiday season:

1) Join us at our Veterans’ Day Outreach and Fundraising Event

Grateful for our veterans and want to support our FREE Yoga for Veterans Classes? Curious about the class? Now is your chance to try it out and/or ask questions – or just show up to show your support for this life changing program. This is a once a year opportunity for friends and family to join the class to see what it’s like – or to bring a veteran(s) you know that might enjoy their first class more if you were there to support them.

2) Come Practice Gratitude at Yoga in ME at our Annual Thanksgiving Day Gratitude Class

Take some time to care for yourself and cultivate gratitude before the distractions take over the mind. You may notice the rest of the day is truly something you can feel grateful for. Any donation appreciated.

3) Participate in Our Fall Food Drive

How lucky are we to have the opportunity to give back to others? Each year, we celebrate Yoga in ME’s birthday at our fall food drive. During this week long event, we collect a trunk load of food and other items (or more!) to donate to Footprints Food Pantry in Kittery. More information about this fun annual event coming soon!

4) Monthly Give Back Yoga Nidra

At this class, we support a different cause each month. We are grateful to Erica for donating her time to host this class and for the opportunity to give back to some awesome local organizations. We especially love to support local causes that our members are involved in, like End 68 Hours of Hunger. If you are active in a local non-profit please talk to Erica about how this class can help you!

5) Weekly By-Donation Community Class

We are so grateful to our teacher trainees for donating their time to teach this class and Rachel for volunteering to coordinate it! This class is a great opportunity to show your appreciation to these teachers (all you have to do is show up!). It is also an opportunity to support our FREE yoga for veterans program by donating.

Bonus opportunity: participate in our November Gratitude Tree! Read more about that on the blog soon!

We hope that you will join us for as many of these opportunities as possible. These are just a few of the ways that we are practicing gratitude at Yoga in ME this season. How are you practicing gratitude? Let us know in the comments!

Power Outage? A Great Opportunity To Practice Yoga!

Yoga in ME is currently experiencing a power outage. At the time this post was written there were 484,000 customers without power in Maine. For some of us, it sounds like it might be a while before it comes back. This is a little bit daunting. But, bear with me on this one, this power outage is also a great opportunity to practice yoga.

How, you might ask? I can’t do fully bound lotus without heat! Well, you don’t have to! At Yoga in ME, we think it’s very important to remember that the practice of yoga is not just doing the asanas (or postures). According to the yoga sutras, Yoga is: the attempt to still the fluctuations of the mind.

In other words, all you have to do to be practicing yoga is put effort towards being present in the moment.

That’s right, folks. As long as you are present with what you are doing in the moment, you are doing yoga. This applies no matter whether what you are doing is a yoga posture, meditation, or something more everyday and mundane like folding laundry or preparing a meal.

For some of us, a power outage is our worst nightmare.  Basic things that we have come to rely on like heat, running water (if you have a well) and refrigeration no longer function. This can be very stressful and even dangerous in some circumstances. But a power outage is also a great opportunity to slow down. We are forced to unplug, and be present with what we are doing.

So how exactly does this work?

Well, when the power is out, it simply isn’t possible to be reading an article on your phone while watching something on TV and also playing solitaire on your tablet. In other words, we are forced to do fewer (and often quieter) things at a time. Instead of engaging in multiple activities at once, we might spend our time doing something like reading a book or playing a board game with the family. We are less stimulated and more able to be present with the people around us. THIS is yoga!

Not only are we forced to unplug and do fewer things at once, we are also forced to do many everyday things “the old fashioned way.”. Read, slower and more mindfully. Doing the dishes becomes a much more mindful task when you have to heat water on the camp stove. Washing and rinsing in basins rather than doing everything in the quick instant hot water of the sink!

Are you practicing yoga during the power outage? Tell us how in the comments!

Laughter Yoga: The Art of Laughing for No Particular Reason.

Laughter Yoga: The Art of Laughing for No Particular Reason Written By: Rachel D.A.

Laughter Yoga was really my first experience with Yoga. Wait…What? Laughter Yoga? “What the heck is that?” you might ask. That would be a very valid question.

Laughter Yoga is a series of exercises that promote unconditional laughter.

Yup, it’s silly, very silly, and it IS meant to be. There is really very little Asana involved, however the yoga part comes from the deep breathing involved to keep the oxygen flowing through the body while you are having so much fun. To me, it is another form of Pranayama (a basic aspect of the yoga practice). So, your next question might be “WHY?”

Why would you want to spend time laughing at nothing at all?

There are actually so many reasons to laugh this way. They say that Laughter is the Best Medicine and research is finding that that is very true. More and more studies support the positive effect that laughter has on the body, mind and spirit. In the 1960’s a well known author named Norman Cousins was diagnosed with a severe immune-deficiency disease. This disease left him in extreme pain and unable to function.

At the time there was very little the medical field could do for him and no hope for recovery. He found that when people visited him and made him laugh through funny stories, movies and jokes, he felt better for awhile. He created a rule for all his visitors that they must make him laugh if they wanted to spend time with him. Eventually he did make a full recovery that he credited, in large part, to laughter.

Let’s take a look at just a few of the benefits:

  • Helps control blood pressure and heart disease
  • Boosts the Immune System
  • Alleviates pain by releasing endorphins and serotonin as well as other “feel good” hormones
  • Suppresses the release of cortisol, the stress hormone. In fact they have found that laughter can reduce cortisol in your system by 24% as opposed to medication (4%) or meditation (4 – 5%).
  • Makes it easier to cope with challenge and conflict
  • Defuses fear, anger and boredom
  • Helps build teamwork
  • And possibly the most helpful of all is that 10 minutes of laughter will yield about 2 hours of being pain free

Another advantage is that it makes you vulnerable.

Many might argue that vulnerability is not an advantage and are afraid to be vulnerable, yet, according to Brene Brown, vulnerability is the key to living completely in the present moment – that wonderful place where creativity, joy and hope thrive.

When I talk to people about laughter and it’s benefits, many people react with “Oh, I love to laugh! I laugh all the time.” I always say “that’s great! Keep it up”. But most don’t realize that when you laugh at something funny, like a joke or a funny story, you only laugh for about 20 seconds.

The truth is that it takes about 10 minutes or more of laughter to bring you to the place where you can reap the benefits listed above. That’s why Unconditional Laughter (Laughter Yoga) was developed. It doesn’t hinge on something funny, you just keep laughing at nothing at all. Don’t worry, a good Yoga Laughter Leader will help.

One of the most wonderful things about this practice is that you don’t even have to laugh for “real”.  Your body will get just as many benefits from fake laughter as it will from real laughter.

Keep an eye out for more on the benefits of laughter and how to incorporate more of it into your life. And a  Laughter Yoga class.