Is Your Head on Straight?

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Freeze! Don’t move and notice your posture.

Chances are–­­if you’re reading this on a computer, tablet or smart phone–­­your head and shoulders are hunched forward and your spine is rounded. Your neck, jaw and dominant arm may also be tense.

This common habit, known as “forward head posture,” can lead to a wide array of ailments–­­from headaches, neck and back pain, to problems with respiration, circulation and digestion. Even dedicated yoga practitioners, who have wonderful alignment on the mat, often fall into this slump when they’re out in the world—sitting at a desk, the dinner table or behind the wheel of a car.

That’s why I like to teach “Yoga Sparks” – quick, simple micro­practices designed to help people integrate powerful yogic teachings into daily life. In my work as a yoga therapist and in my own practice — over more than 30 years — I’ve found that interweaving brief practices into the day can be transformative, turning ordinary activities into sacred rituals and bringing awareness to the precious gifts of body and breath.

The most basic Yoga Spark is a quick “Freeze” practice, geared to becoming aware of your posture and shining a light on unhealthy habits. Consider setting a timer to ring every hour—then when it sounds, stop and notice your posture: In particular, observe the shape of your spine—does it have its natural “S” curve or is it hunched forward? Where is your head in relation to your shoulders? What’s happening in your jaw, face, shoulders, hands and feet? Are they tense or relaxed?

If your head isn’t on straight, be kind to your spine (and the rest of your body) by paying attention to these posture pointers:

  • Balance your head over your shoulder girdle, so that–­­if someone were looking at you from the side–­­the hole in your ear would line up directly over your shoulder.
  • Extend the top of your head up, as if you were trying to touch it to the ceiling. Be sure to keep your chin parallel to the floor as you do this­­–don’t tilt it up or tuck it in.
  • Imagine there’s a headlight shining out from the center of your chest. Make sure it shines forward, not down in your lap when you’re sitting or toward the floor when you’re standing.
  • Relax your shoulders, so they release down away from your ears.
  • Sit on your “sit bones”– those two knobs at the base of your pelvis — not on your sacrum.

Good posture has the added bonus of creating an “instant weight loss” effect. Slouching causes the belly to protrude, so when you learn how to stand and sit properly, it often looks as if you’ve suddenly lost five pounds.

In addition, good posture can give you an emotional lift, since the way you hold your body affects the way you feel, and vice versa. People who carry themselves with good alignment seem confident and graceful, while those whose posture reflects a physical slump often appear to be in a mental slump as well.

YogaSparksCFb-249x350This quick “Freeze!” practice is adapted from my book, Yoga Sparks: 108 Easy Practices for Stress Relief in a Minute or Less (New Harbinger, 2013). There are Sparks that focus on each of the four main aspects of yoga practice: breathing, postures, meditation, and principles. Some primarily impact muscles and bones, others address behaviors and breathing, and still others center on thoughts and attitudes.

It’s important to recognize that yoga isn’t just something you do while you’re on the mat, then leave behind. As a practice of awareness that connects you with your innermost self, yoga can be done at any time, in any place. If you have a minute, you can practice Yoga Sparks and gain significant and lasting benefits. No matter your age or fitness level, if you can breathe, you can do Yoga Sparks.

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Carol Krucoff HeadshotEditor’s note: This is a guest post by renowned yoga teacher and author, Carol Krucoff, E-RYT.  Carol is a Yoga Therapist at Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, North Carolina, and an award-winning journalist. A frequent contributor to Yoga Journal, she is the author of several books including Yoga Sparks:  108 Easy Practices for Stress Relief in a Minute or Less and Healing Yoga for Neck and Shoulder Pain.  Creator of the audio home practice CD, Healing Moves Yoga, and co-creator of the DVD Relax into Yoga, she is co-director of the Therapeutic Yoga for Seniors teacher training, which helps yoga instructors safely and effectively adapt the practice to older bodies, minds and spirits.  For more information, please visit www.healingmoves.com.

Image credit: Camillia Lee Yoga

Lululemon Pledges a Perfect Fit for Your Next Yoga Pants

This is about as breaking as news gets in the yoga world, so we had to share.  Perhaps inspired by the infamous comments of lululemon’s founder, lulu’s latest product offering/innovation appears to be a yoga pant that fits any body, shape, or size…

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Here’s the specs on the pants in case you’re still wondering whether this is a good option for you:

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Goodbye pants, hello comfort…Have a nice weekend! :)

What I Learned About Life from a Prenatal Yoga Book…

tumblr_mcmejpBZwu1qceubuo1_500I completed my 200-hour teaching certification just over two years ago this past January. As in most general 200 Registered Yoga Teacher trainings, we spent a very brief section of our time learning how to teach to pregnant women. Perhaps because I am not a mother, and have never been pregnant, I didn’t retain much of the information that I learned during that module of training.

So, when I was inevitably faced with pregnant mamas in my general Hatha Flow classes I was terrified, honestly. Not OF the mamas themselves, of course – they are all radiant beings of strength and courage to me – but of teaching yoga to them. It’s scary enough to lead a room of 30 yogis up and down and on to their heads without anyone getting hurt. Adding in the women who need to take special care of themselves and their bodies during their sacred time of pregnancy comes with it’s own set of rules and regulations.

I am absolutely in awe and amazement at the power of the female body to grow a whole other soul inside of it – I mean whoa, right?? It is because of this that I decided it was time to take matters in to my own hands. So, I called upon the best person that I knew for the job – my friend and fellow Austin yoga teacher, Liz V. Liz is not only a mother herself, but also teaches some amazing prenatal and restorative yoga classes at SAY OM Yoga in Austin, TX. I knew I would be in good hands.

But besides going over the basic logistics, do’s and don’ts and sequencing strategies of teaching to the pregnant woman, she lent me a book called Bountiful, Beautiful, Blissful by LA teacher Gurmukh, to help me better understand where my pregnant mama yogis were coming from when they entered my general, all levels Hatha Flow class. Reading this book gave me a lot of insight into what the pregnancy and birthing experience can be like. But even more, it gave me so much insight about Yoga and the empowerment that it can bring to us, no matter who we are or where we are on our path.

1. Love is Power

Gurmukh begins her book with the Law of Love from Yogi Bhajan, Master of Kundalini Yoga:

Love gives you power to merge,
from finite to infinity.
Love gives you power to trust,
from nothing to everything.

Love gives you power, the powerful prayer
between you and your creator.
Love gives you vastness,
As vast as there can be.

Love gives you the hold, the experience,
and the touch with your own infinity,
As beautiful, bountiful, and blissful
As there can be.

In our society we are often made to believe that love equals weakness. However, yoga has taught me that the opposite of love isn’t hate, but fear – fear of vulnerability, loss of control, and not getting what we think we want or need. But opening yourself up to love is more freeing and courageous than shutting out emotion for the sake of money and the possibility of power. Being honest with yourself and others is about as daring and powerful as it gets.

2. Yoga is self-acceptance

“Yoga is a practice of self-acceptance rather than an exercise program for self-improvement.” – Gurmukh

It stresses me out to see books about yoga in the self-improvement section at the bookstore. Yoga brings us to a state of receptivity where we can begin to learn about ourselves as we are connected to others and the Infinite. When we come to this understanding, this learning process will no doubt lead to lasting changes.

However, yoga doesn’t preach paying lots and lots of money to join an exclusive club where there are rules and regulations about everything from how we act to how we dress, despite what our current culture seems to make of it (but that’s a different story). When we come into unity with the Infinite, the same Light that resides in every living being and makes up the entire Universe, we no doubt begin to change the way we see the world around us and everyone in it, including ourselves. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali doesn’t just give us a list of do’s and don’ts, but rather the promise of what we have to look forward to when we realize the Unity and wholeness of our being.

3. Life is suffering

As beings of Light here on earth to live out the flawed experience of the human existence, there will no doubt be suffering. Some of us are all too familiar with this idea. But like the laboring mama ready to hold her newborn in her arms, Kahlil Gibran says “Work is love made visible.” Nothing worth having ever comes easily to us. Sometimes this work involves pain.

“How we think about pain actually influences how we feel it. If you say to yourself, ‘This is horrible, I can’t stand it,’ there’s a good chance that whatever you’re going through is going to feel a whole lot worse than if you believed the feeling wasn’t so dire. If our previous conditioning is to associate pain with danger, then we are more susceptible to suggestions that our pain is dangerous and requires external relief in the form of drugs…

How our culture at large views pain also influences our perception of it. If we get messages that all pain is to be avoided, well guess what? These cultural attitudes are translated into personal fears, doubts, and our ability to manage pain – manage our lives, for that matter. Our pharmaceutical companies are built around this idea.”
~Gurmukh

Just like in love, it can be difficult to open ourselves up to the possibility of pain and disappointment – but at what cost? Are you willing to numb everything to not feel pain? Do you know what else you’re missing out on? Life is suffering, according to the Buddha, but on the other side of that work and pain and suffering is great joy, excitement and surprise. Don’t let the suffering get you down. Be empowered by your own strength and ability to rise above all odds into the place of pure Light, joy, and gratitude.

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post from DCOY contributor Sean Devenport. She is currently completing her 500-hour RYT.

540217_698781320137845_1802831051_nA quiet and curious observer by nature, Sean was drawn to human psychology as an undergraduate at Ripon College. Determined to learn just what it is that makes people “tick”, she travelled the globe studying some of the ways we, as humans, can be – spending a semester on the golden beaches of Australia, and another in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, Sean returned home to discover the key ingredient  to understanding others was first to understand the Self. Since 2009, Sean has been a dedicated practitioner of yoga and life, dabbling in every style from Bikram to Kripalu. As a former dancer and dance enthusiast to this day, the fluidity and dance-like quality of Vinyasa was what really spoke to her soul. After studying under Gioconda Parker in 2011, Sean began teaching her own personal style of Hatha Flow, a melding of Vinyasa, the dedication to precision and alignment of Anusara, and Iyengar, and the core teachings of Hatha Yoga. Sean was highly influenced by William J Broad’s 2011 best seller The Science of Yoga, and strives to offer a safe and judgement-free environment for practitioners of every level to seek higher understanding of themSelves. Sean encourages students to pour the compassion and love that they cultivate for themselves on their mats, in to their every day interactions with others. Under the guidance of Gioconda and Christina Sell, Sean is currently pursuing her 500-hour teaching certification, The Alchemy of Flow and Form, at the San Marcos School of Yoga. Connect with Sean on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Learning to Practice Yoga in Paris Without the Glamour

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I brought my yoga mat with me to Paris even though it cost me an extra forty bucks to take it on the plane. Sure, I could have just tossed the mat and gotten a new one in the city, but somehow that felt cruel. My mat had always supported me. Through work stresses, backaches, breakups, boredom and general life anxiety.

On the mat I’d allowed myself to really get present, to become more aware of my mind chatter and even silence it from time to time. I’d learned how to do headstands, build upper arm strength and salute the sun. I’d encountered fellow yogis and aspects of myself that were so inspiring, I had a tattoo artist imprint the sacred OM on my inner right wrist just so I’d never forget.

So what’s forty bucks?

When I arrived at the apartment near Gare du Nord, a place I would call home for as long as my visa (and savings) allowed me, I set my mat by the door and looked around. The room I had rented was modest, but so was the price. It contained a mattress on the floor, a small desk, a chair and a lamp. The windows overlooked the car park and dumpsters, clotheslines hung with laundry, and various kitchens and bedrooms in other apartments. It wasn’t what I’d imagined when I’d finally decided to check the “Live in Paris” box off my bucket list, but it was cozy nonetheless.

That first week I tried to find yoga classes by asking the locals. I was directed to a few studios, but after looking these up on the Internet, I realized they were all in French and my knowledge of the language was unfortunately slim. With the help of various expat websites, I located some that were instructed in English, but these were held during the day when I’d be glued to my computer working on ad copy for my job in New York. They’d been generous enough to let me work from afar when I explained my insatiable wanderlust to my boss and, once this arrangement was made, my obvious first new home would be Paris.

Weeks passed and my mat remained exactly where I’d placed it upon arrival. My yoga routine was quickly replaced with a work-and-play routine. I wrote in my room during the day and went out at night, indulging in food, wine and the occasional romance. On weekends, I went to the museums, shopped or pampered myself at spas. Financially, I knew I was a living a bit too luxuriously for my own good and that my credit card statements would haunt me later, but I also knew that living in Paris was a temporary thing. So I gorged myself.

But as good as the food was, as handsome the men, as moving the Seine, something was missing. My spirits were high and I was full of energy. But this energy too often turned into worry. My mind raced. How much time do I have left? What should I do next? What if I don’t see it all? When will I come back? I was so pleased with Paris and myself for being there that the thought of being without terrified me. I didn’t want to miss out on anything.

In attempting to taste and see and do it all, I soon found myself only halfway inside moments. I’d think about what I’d recommend to people back home when it came to steak-frites (le Relais de l’Entrecote). Or I’d pick out a new neighborhood to live in for “next time,” if I was lucky enough to have a next time in Paris (St. Germain des Pres).

When I returned home after my city jaunts, I’d be exhausted, but sleep was no friend. I could lay there for an hour, sometimes two or three, thinking about the day, or the day before, or the day after. Then I’d wake late the next day, drink far too much coffee and do it all again.

Months in, I was working on my laptop and downing coffee in my modest bedroom. My mind erratically hopped from one worry to the next. From my laundry to my shopping list to my finances to my plans after Paris. I shifted my gaze from the computer screen to the window and back again, finding it hard to concentrate on one thought. Let alone one self-serving thought. I then looked over at my mat, still there in its canvas bag by the door where I’d placed it. I thought: Why haven’t I found a yoga class by now? Could it really be so hard to follow in French? Have I not looked hard enough?

Taking a breath, I sat back in my chair. A moment passed before it occurred to me. The room was small, but not too small to practice. So I got up, unzipped the bag and rolled my mat out in front of the window. Sure enough there was just the right amount of space. And after years of classes, I knew the poses without instruction. My body led me through it.

From one downward-dog pose to the next, I quickly found myself calmer than I’d been in some time. My shoulders loosened, my heart opened, my mind quieted. And when I gazed out the window, I saw all those ordinary things. The car park with its dumpsters, the clotheslines hung with laundry, and various kitchens and bedrooms. As ordinary as it was, I realized there was something charming about the view just then. Perhaps the ordinariness itself.

Looking out, I knew it wasn’t what I’d pictured in all my previous longings for a life in Paris. But it wasn’t disappointing either. After all, the view was no longer imagined, but real, in front of me, and mine. And for that I was very grateful.

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Editor’s note:  This is a guest post by Erica Garza.  Erica is a writer living in San Diego, California. Her essays have been published by Salon, HelloGiggles and numerous literary magazines and journals. She is currently working on a memoir called Hairywoman and writes for the feminist website Luna Luna. Read more at www.ericagarza.com.

Photo credit: lululemon on Instagram 

Growth is Uneven by Design

uneven yoga growthThroughout my life the spiritual truth that has resonated with me was one of unevenness–the concept that we do not grow at the same rate in all areas of our lives. Our growth is uneven by design. Take your life and visually divide it into four major sectors: finances, work, health and relationships. Which piece dominates your daily existence?

I share Anais Nin’s belief that: “We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another, unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present.”

In my experience, sometimes when we progress in our careers and our financial health improves, our relationships tend to remain stagnant. Conversely, when we tend to spend so much time on our relationships that they consume us, our health and work stagnate. We constantly face the choice of making decisions that impact all four of these areas.

Nischala Joy Devi, interpreting Chapter 1 Verse 1 of the Yoga Sutras, says, “Our present position has been determined by the past — all those crossroads where we made decisions, each path we’ve taken that brought us to our life as it is. We might be able to understand how we got where we are, but what would it have been like if other options had been followed? Another choice could have radically changed the present. Perhaps we took the tried-and-true course because it seemed easiest, or safest; perhaps at the time, it just didn’t seem like there was any alternative.”

This function isn’t exclusive to human beings; it’s organic to nature itself. If you were to do a case study on your garden, you would observe the same plants of the same origin, planted in the same soil, producing different and uneven growth results. Yet we don’t argue with nature or get upset with our tomato plants, so why expect something different of ourselves? If you chart the four life sectors (finances, work, health, relationships) on a graph and examine the past five years, the evidence will become clear. These four areas will display the ups and downs and will be far from even with one another.

If each day you strive and do your best, with the expectation that certain areas will be uneven, you’ll be able to stay the course and remain motivated no matter the circumstances. It’s only when we get stuck “waiting” for everything to be charted evenly to make us happy that we create our own misery. Allow for the unevenness in your evolution and it’ll bring peace, love, and happiness to you in your current state of being.

Love yourself, love your day, love your life!
Silvia

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Screen Shot Front Silvia CardEditor’s note: This is a guest post by Daily Cup of Yoga contributor Silvia Mordini, E-RYT, retreat leader, happiness coach, and yogipreneur. Enthusiasm to love your life is contagious around Silvia. Her expert passion connects people to their own joyful potential. Silvia lives her happiness in such a big way that you can’t help but leave her classes, workshops, trainings and retreats spiritually uplifted! Born in Ecuador, raised traveling around the globe, she is an enthusiastic citizen of the world and spiritual adventurer. She has over 10,000 hours and 15 years of teaching experience, owned a yoga studio for 9 years and after being run over by a car used yoga to recover physically and emotionally. Silvia leads Alchemy Tours Yoga Retreats and Alchemy of Yoga RYT200 Yoga Teacher Training.

Silvia can be reached on the Web at www.alchemytours.com or www.silviamordini.com, or via email at silvia@alchemytours.com. Twitter: @alchemytours@inspiredyogagal; Facebook: Silvia Mordini; YouTube: lovingyourday; Pinterest: Silvia Mordini; Intagram: alchemytours.

Photo credit: vanisland_yoga on instagram

5 Key Benefits of Being Positive

sunshine-positive-lululemon-yogaOur hearts are like a safe in the energy bank of our bodies. We each have our own security personnel in the form of a personal energy field that protects us and determines how we feel, think and function. This energy field ensures the safety of our hearts. And since energy is everywhere and in everything we should learn how to make ongoing positive deposits into our happiness bank account.

I have studied the research on the beneficial effects of being positive and the negative affects of being negative. The research is clear. It really does pay to be positive and the benefits are numerous. The ancient yogis have been teaching this for thousands of years. Sutra 1.3 is translated as:

Yoga frees you from the drama, the tragedy, the saga your mind creates and allows you to experience your True Joyful Self…

We have a choice in being positive. For every minute we are angry, we lose sixty seconds of happiness. We must recognize as John Lembo says “Every waking moment we talk to ourselves about the things we experience. Our self-talk, the thoughts we communicate to ourselves, in turn control the way we feel and act.”  Therefore the first step is to be aware of your mental habits. So often we don’t even realize we habitually catastrophize and trigger the stress response as a result.

We have the power to consciously develop a habit of looking for the good. A habit where you can expect people to treat you in a positive way. Why? Because through the way we think and act we teach other people how to treat us in return.

Jen Gray Blackburn writes,  ‎”You will find life a whole lot easier if you can keep in mind that most people are just trying to do the best they can.”  As yogis, it is our responsibility to decrease suffering and instead promote positivity expressed as love and compassion. This in turn strengthens our personal experience of universal joy and happiness.

Here are 5 key benefits to inspire you to practice being positive.

5 Benefits of Being Positive:

  1. Stress Reduction: Positive thoughts counter the negative effects of stress. For example, you can’t be thankful and stressed at the same time. (Several Studies)
  2. Social Interaction: Positive people have more friends, which is a key factor of happiness. (Robert D. Putnam)
  3. Love: Marriages are much more likely to succeed when the couple experiences a 5 to 1 ratio of positive to negative interactions whereas when the ratio approaches 1 to 1, marriages are more likely to end in divorce. (John Gottman)
  4. Performance at Work: Positive people are able to see the big picture, which helps them identify solutions, whereas negative people maintain a narrower perspective and tend to focus on problems. (Barbara Fredrickson) Positive work environments outperform negative work environments. (Daniel Goleman) In the workplace positive people are more likely to receive greater support from their colleagues and as result receive pay raises and promotions more frequently. (Several Studies)
  5. Life Expectancy: Positive people live longer. (A Primer in Positive Psychology, Christopher Petersen, PhD)

Keep it positive!

Love yourself, love your day, love your life!
Silvia

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Screen Shot Front Silvia CardEditor’s note: This is a guest post by Daily Cup of Yoga contributor Silvia Mordini, E-RYT, retreat leader, happiness coach, and yogipreneur. Enthusiasm to love your life is contagious around Silvia. Her expert passion connects people to their own joyful potential. Silvia lives her happiness in such a big way that you can’t help but leave her classes, workshops, trainings and retreats spiritually uplifted! Born in Ecuador, raised traveling around the globe, she is an enthusiastic citizen of the world and spiritual adventurer. She has over 10,000 hours and 15 years of teaching experience, owned a yoga studio for 9 years and after being run over by a car used yoga to recover physically and emotionally. Silvia leads Alchemy Tours Yoga Retreats and Alchemy of Yoga RYT200 Yoga Teacher Training.

Silvia can be reached on the Web at www.alchemytours.com or www.silviamordini.com, or via email at silvia@alchemytours.com. Twitter: @alchemytours@inspiredyogagal; Facebook: Silvia Mordini; YouTube: lovingyourday; Pinterest: Silvia Mordini; Intagram: alchemytours.

Photo credit: lululemon on instagram

Happiness Starts with this Habit

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We are taught at a very young age that it is our right to pursue happiness—and most of us try a little bit of everything all in an effort to become happy. We try making a lot of money; we try this or that diet; we get into this or that relationship; we serve this or that charitable organization—it’s all about happiness. Try thinking of something you’ve done because you wanted to be unhappy—it’s impossible, right? The pursuit of happiness drives us to action.

So, we’re all after the same thing—happiness. Great. We’re all on a level playing field, and we’re all in this together. Teammates! But now we return to the original difficulty—we all want to be happy, but sometimes it’s tough to see how to get there. There can’t be a single path to happiness! It’s impossible, right?

Wrong. There is a very simple way that works across all cultural divides. It is called gratitude. When we appreciate the things that we have in our life, and the people who have helped us grow, we become happier. If we get into a habit of constantly regarding the positive things in our lives, then the habit becomes easier—you don’t have to listen for the bird’s song, you simply hear it. You don’t have to drive across town, you get to drive across town—and you take a new route, and you see a new person, and you become more curious, and you dream anew. When we get ourselves into habits of gratitude, rain doesn’t make things gray, it makes things sparkle.

LyubomirskyHappinessScience has recently begun to support the belief that gratitude can make us happy—where previously it was believed that there was a set point for happiness in each person, a limit coded into our DNA—now scientists believe that 40% of our happiness is influenced by intentional activities. 40% is a lot. You are in control. Be good to yourself by being grateful. Be good to others by thanking them for who they are, and what they do for you.

So if you’re reading this, and you want to be happy (that means you), let me recommend an intentional activity that will do wonders for you. Each week write one thank you note to someone who makes your life better. That’s one handwritten thank-you note per week. Not a text, not a Facebook post, but a heartfelt, handwritten thank-you note, which indicates to someone that you spent time and postage on them because they matter. It could be your best friend, your yoga instructor, your hair stylist—it could be anyone. Your relationships will become more meaningful, you will become happier, and so will everyone you touch. All it takes is a few minutes of mindful gratitude each week—remember, you are in control of 40% of your overall happiness, and remember that we are all in this together. So let’s start a habit, and let’s start a movement.

I’ve launched a campaign for this purpose—to help us build habits of gratitude. I am passionate about gratitude, and what it can do for us as a community—and I wanted it to be a beautiful and convenient habit in our lives. I thought tirelessly about how to do that—and the tools are finally ready. Gramr Gratitude Co. is live on Kickstarter—we’ve worked with the best designers and photographers in the country to create and deliver four new, gorgeous cards to your doorstep each month—one per week. If you join us you will become part of a community that believes that people matter, and that gratitude matters. Your happiness starts with this habit of intentional gratitude.

So, who are you grateful for? And what are you waiting for? Tell them.

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Self1 copy-1Editor’s note:  This is a guest post by Matt Richardson, co-founder of Gramr Gratitude Co. and he is passionate believer in the power of gratitude. His work can be found on the Huffington Post, and his startup has been featured in TechCrunch among various other outlets. Join him in the gratitude movement and get in the habit of saying thanks once per week, by visiting www.gramr.us

When he is not writing thank-you notes he is hitchhiking, drinking coffee, or searching for storytellers.  Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, or his website

10 Ways to Find Peace

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1.  Get into your body. When we’re not feeling peace, it’s usually because we’re not feeling at all. We’re thinking. And we’re believing all these non-peaceful thoughts. We’re also feeding them with more energy.

  • So to stop feeding the thoughts, and feed peace instead, we drop away from the part of our brain in charge of thoughts and into the part of our brain in charge of physical sensation. Do some asana, go for a jog, wrestle with your dog, or just lie down and breathe into every space in your body. Feel that? Peace is in. Non-peaceful thoughts are out.

2.  Become the observer. Once we return to our body, it becomes easier to go beyond our thoughts. It becomes easier to enter the space of the observer. You can do this either standing or seated—whatever works best for you.

  • Bring your awareness to what you feel in your body, and then start to notice your thoughts. Noticing your thoughts does something powerful: it takes you out of them, and into the observer in you. The part of you that can watch thoughts and let them pass, instead of letting the thoughts race you around in circles.

3.  Go easy on yourself. Can’t concentrate during seated or standing meditation? Try walking meditation. Or use mantras.

4.  Activate powerful thinking. Question thoughts that make you stressed. Once you can come into your body, identify a belief as a thought and enter the place of the observer, you can activate powerful thinking. All in the name of peace. Ask yourself: Is this non-peaceful thought true? What might be a more true thought?

5.  Listen to what’s right for you. Other people might not need or want peacefulness, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Give yourself permission to take time to do things that bring you peace.

6.  Befriend your inner lizard. We all have these amygdala in the temporal region of our brain—and they’re pretty much in charge or fear-, anger- , and negativity-based thinking. That part of our brain is also called our lizard brain.

  • Try this: Next time you catch yourself thinking a non-peaceful thought, imagine it coming out of the mouth of a lizard. What happens? Most people I get to do this end up laughing. Wouldn’t you love to be able to laugh at those thoughts?

7.  Ask yourself, what would Buddha say? Or Shiva, God, Mother Teresa. Get a peace-inducing figure in your life and have a conversation with them whenever you need them.

8.  Immerse yourself in the moment. Use mindfulness tools to help you become absolutely immersed in the moment—it’s saturated with sensation and imbued with peace.

9.  Pursue joy. Go deeper. Joy is what happens when we go beyond the mind. Not as a result of recognizing that we’ve gone beyond thought, but simply as a result of entering into the Self that exists beyond thought. It’s a peaceful joy that nourishes and lasts.

10.  Practice acceptance. Acceptance doesn’t mean we accept situations that aren’t right for us, or settle for less than we deserve. It means in any given moment, we choose peace over resistance and see how that transforms our experience of the moment.

Thinking of you,
xL

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Editor’s note: This was another guest post from the amazing Lindsey Lewis–life coach and yoga teacher. Stay up to date with her latest at www.libreliving.comFacebook, and Twitter.  Sign up by Friday, February 28, 2014, to join Lindsey’s 30-Day Happiness Challenge starting on March 1.

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Are you Still Growing? The Power of Intention

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“The only difference between a flower that is alive and one that is dead is that the live flower is still growing.”
~ Dr. Wayne Dyer

Intention is defined as setting an expectation for yourself, an expectation for your personal evolution. Going to yoga class helps us reconnect to our commitment to grow by giving us time to focus on our key intentions known as sankalpa. The consistency of the yogic practice (sadhana) supports us to keep these promises. When we come to the mat we inherently contract with ourselves to continue to expand our range. Therefore, we do not stop aspiring to spiritual development even once we’ve attained an intention.  

When I was little my Mama measured us (me and my brother) against the door in our house and marked the little lines proving I was actually growing physically.  I loved that!  I was sad the day she stopped measuring at five foot two and a half and I stopped physically growing because I liked seeing my progress.

As adults, more important than physical growth, is our spiritual and emotional growth–that has no chronological limit.  In the practice of “Yoga Cikitsa,” Yoga as Therapy, we always ask ourselves in the words of Gary Kraftsow, “Am I making things better?”  This gets to the heart of an important question:  ARE YOU STILL GROWING?

You can manifest growth in many ways, for instance:

  • Are you challenging yourself to learn new poses?
  • Are you deepening a conscious relationship? (Finding better ways to solve problems, creating a fresh vision)
  • Are you trying new types of food?
  • Are you going new places? (Maybe its time for a yoga retreat? The Dalai Lama says, “Once a year go someplace you’ve never been before.”)
  • Are you learning another language?
  • Are you expanding your range of read books? (Promise to read at least 4 books this year. According to the Pew Research Center, only 14 percent of Americans read at least 2-3 books last year.) 
  • Are you making new friends?
  • Are you going deeper in familiar poses?
  • Are you learning a new skill, developing a new hobby, trying new things?
  • Instead of going to work today, what would you really want to be doing?

It was as a result of meditating on “Am I Still Growing?” that some years ago I made the commitment to start leading worldwide yoga retreats combined with other ways to express one’s vitality like surfing, zip lining, cycling, kayaking and hiking. I sold my successful nine year old Yoga Studio to develop a new way to hold space and create opportunities for others to invest in their own personal development off the mat. I believe that for most, going to a new country and trying new things creates discomfort and yet it is always outside of our comfort zone that we experience the most growth and evolution.

We all deserve to keep expanding in order to mature spiritually and emotionally. Most of all, I certainly want us to consciously flourish into a kinder, more patient, and more loving world.  And I wholeheartedly believe we feel most inspired when we’re still growing. Today, recommit to affirm your best intentions through growth!

Love yourself, love your day, love your life!
Silvia

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Screen Shot Front Silvia CardEditor’s note: This is a guest post by Daily Cup of Yoga contributor Silvia Mordini, E-RYT, retreat leader, happiness coach, and yogipreneur. Enthusiasm to love your life is contagious around Silvia. Her expert passion connects people to their own joyful potential. Silvia lives her happiness in such a big way that you can’t help but leave her classes, workshops, trainings and retreats spiritually uplifted! Born in Ecuador, raised traveling around the globe, she is an enthusiastic citizen of the world and spiritual adventurer. She has over 10,000 hours and 15 years of teaching experience, owned a yoga studio for 9 years and after being run over by a car used yoga to recover physically and emotionally. Silvia leads Alchemy Tours Yoga Retreats and Alchemy of Yoga RYT200 Yoga Teacher Training.

Silvia can be reached on the Web at www.alchemytours.com or www.silviamordini.com, or via email at silvia@alchemytours.com. Twitter: @alchemytours@inspiredyogagal; Facebook: Silvia Mordini; YouTube: lovingyourday; Pinterest: Silvia Mordini; Intagram: alchemytours.

Photo credit: bohemian_heart on instagram

A.U.M…(Almighty Universal Magnetic)…by MC Yogi…definitely going on repeat

aum - mc yogi - 2Time to turn up the volume! MC Yogi just released a sweet new music video that has me pumped about his new album, Mantras, Beats & Meditations, set to release on April 1. His videos always have great visuals, but A.U.M. may be my new favorite. It’s tough to beat the combination of great lyrics, thumping beat, and some impressive yoga poses.

Happy weekend!

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