The Evening Star
Somedays, I write this blog at night instead of first thing in the morning. As I sit here now, for some reason it reminds of the Evening Star or the Evening Post. Not like Norman Rockwell but like some magazine or newspaper from a childhood memory. Specifically, back when I was a kid, the Washington Star newspaper had this separate fold-out tucked into the comics just for children. I can't remember the name of the little fold-out but it had puzzles, stories and history lessons about George Washington and the Supreme Court-stuff like that just for kids. Sorta like a Weekly Reader magazine but inserted into the comic section of the Sunday paper. You could count on it to be there every Sunday and then the Washington Star went out of business. I was devastated. I was heart broken. I was just about 6-years-old and already understood the importance of print newspapers long before their digital downfall.
Then much to my delight, the Washington Post started carrying my little fold-out of Sunday bliss. My hobby; my ritual. Isn't it interesting how we are attracted to certain things as we grow up? Things that to other people would never matter but to you, your little world revolves around it and it brings you pure unadulterated joy.
Even to the point, that 40 years later you are writing about it in a blog. The thought of its consistency and simplicity brings light to my heart and a smile to my face even now.
It is so consistent and simple it is meditative. So is the the practice of writing about the memory itself. The original meditation is being 6-years-old with pencil in hand doing my "find a word" puzzles, and developing my love of polar bears and penguin by reading the blurbs. The meditation now comes from being present in this moment in time writing about the joy of my childhood ritual.
So as I finish writing this blog entry tonight, I will remember to get up early and write tomorrow's blog first thing. After all, it will be Sunday morning and it will be time for my 6-year-old self to be unleashed.
What simple task is meditative for you?
Is This Thing On??
To me as a yoga therapist, the most important part of my work is how I ask questions. Everyone has been to a medical or wellness provider-allopathic, holistic, whatever-that either doesn’t pay attention to your answers after a question has been posed or just doesn’t bother to ask you anything in the first place.
Everyone hates that!
What does this all lead to? You not going back to that practitioner. You not following through with the recommendations, guidance, needed medical attention, etc. All of which is not in your best interest.
…Because why bother! They don’t care. They didn’t hear a word I said. They just wanted my money. They are in cahoots with big pharma. ETC. ETC. We have all had this conversation in our minds.
My goal as a yoga therapist is for my clients never to feel this way. I want them to feel heard. Truly listening and hearing someone=Empathy!
Specifically in Yoga Therapy, we use the Panchamaya Kosha Model. The Panchamaya Kosha Model suggests that the human system is interconnected and functions optimally when there is a state of balance between the Koshas (layers). The five Koshas (layers) are physical, energy/breath, mental/emotional, wisdom/intuition and bliss layers.
By applying this model, a yoga therapist can provide support for a client’s physical, emotional and mental well-being. I intentionally frame the conversation with my clients around the Koshas so that they feel heard, seen and partnered with.
Some Examples of my Questions:
1. On your intake, you mention tightness in your shoulders. Can you describe what you are feeling?
2. On a pain scale of 1-10, how are your knees feeling today?
3. Compared to the average day, is your pain better or worse (scale of 1-10) today?
4. Does the range of motion in your shoulder impact your daily activities? How? What are those limitations?
5. As a yogi, are there any asana(s) that cause you pain? What are those poses and where is the pain?
6. How does your arthritis affect your knees? Stiffness, range of motion limited, etc.?
7. Do you notice certain things trigger tightness in your shoulders and neck? Stress, overexertion, etc.?
8. Does your pain or discomfort prevent you from certain life activities? What kind? Do you use work arounds, just don’t do the activity, have someone else do it for you, etc.?
9. When you are standing in tree pose, do you notice anything about the posture? How does your standing leg feel? Your shoulders? Etc.?
10. When you are in plank pose, do you feel the muscle in your back activating? Where?
1. Where do you feel the breath? In your chest, ribs, abdomen, all?
2. How restful is your sleep? Do you wake throughout the night or sleep the entire time?
3. Do you feel rested when you wake up? All the time, sometimes, never. Does it affect the rest of the day?
4. Do you ever experience the afternoon slump? How often? What do you do to remedy it (such as coffee, etc.)?
5. How would you rate your stress levels (scale of 1-10)?
6. What causes you stress? What are your triggers? How does the stress make you feel (anxious, lethargic, etc.)?
7. Do you have any go-to activities for helping with stress? What are they? How often do you do them?
8. On the average, how would you describe your energy level? How does that compare to today’s energy level?
9. When you stated you had difficulty starting certain activities, can you describe to me what that means to you?
10. How would you describe the quality of your breathing?
1. You mentioned poor concentration, how would you describe it? When does it occur?
2. When do you feel anxious? What are some of the things that create anxiety for you?
3. What does “overwhelm” feel like to you? Does it have a color, texture, etc.?
4. Where in your body do you experience anxiety?
5. In your intake you mention poor memory, how has that manifested in your daily activities?
6. When you have difficulty making decisions, how does that impact you?
7. How does stress manifest in your body or breath? Do you notice it in certain parts of the body?
8. What do you do to relive stress and anxiety? How often?
9. How do you show yourself self-compassion? What do you do to nurture emotional health?
10. How would you describe the quality of your support network? How satisfied are you with the quality of your relationships?
1. How would you describe your true nature?
2. How could you reframe stress to lessen its impact?
3. How could you transform anxiety so that it works for you?
4. How content are you? How could you cultivate contentment?
5. What are some tools you use to ground and center yourself?
6. How does reframing stress into something helpful look to you?
7. What brings you discontentment? Why?
8. If you stripped all the layers, what does your true nature “look” like?
9. How does contentment feel in your body? Texture, Sounds, Smells, Visuals, etc.
10. What tools could you utilize to bring the sense of contentment into your daily life?
1. What brings you joy? How?
2. Do you cultivate joy internally? How?
3. How do you cultivate overall well-being?
4. What inspires awe for you? Why?
5. What is an inner resource (memory, visualization, etc.) that connects you to your true nature? How does it appear to you?
6. What is your sankalpa (your intention or vow to yourself)? How can you manifest it in daily life?
7. Do you have a connection to something greater than yourself? How does that manifest in your life?
8. How do you relate to the word “hope”? What feelings does it create?
9. What does “connection” mean for you?
10. What gives you meaning?
What questions would you ask?
How would you feel if a practitioner framed the interaction in this manner?
The simple act of smiling has a powerful effect on your life. As you face life's challenges, make smiling your secret ingredient for maintaining a happy life and a positive mindset.
It turns out that smiling and happiness are intertwined. When you feel happy, your brain releases serotonin (regulates mood), dopamine (regulates pleasure), and endorphins (relieves stress and pain) which then transmit a signal to your face to trigger a smile. When these chemicals circulate through your system, they help to lower stress and anxiety, they help to regulate heart rate and blood pressure, and they take your nervous system out of fight and flight mode.
Now here’s the fun part… when your facial muscles contract into a smile, a signal is fired back to the brain creating a feedback loop of HAPPINESS!
You have a happiness controller in your hands! You can turn a bad mood around by simply smiling. You can cheat the system and make your brain release feelings of happiness.
So, be mischievous and smile that devilish grin! Make people wonder what you’ve been up to.
“A smile is a curve that sets everything straight.”-Phyllis Diller
Compassion=Concern for Others' Suffering
Empathy=Feel What the Other Person is Experiencing
Assertive Communication=Speaking Your Truth
Through compassion, empathy, and assertive communication, you can cultivate loving-kindness.
What is loving-kindness? You may have heard of Metta Meditations. Metta is Sanskrit for "loving-kindness". Loving-Kindness is friendliness, amity, and good-will. It is an active interest in others.
Compassion for others infuses assertive communication with warmth and caring while empathy helps to understand an individual’s inner workings. These skills lead to interacting with loving-kindness regardless of your personal suffering and leads to wishing the other person wellness. This amazing combination (compassion, empathy and assertive communication) dissipates the feelings of ill-will that our brain can and does create.
Which leads me to my husband. He is a fixer. A fixer of fixers. The Chief Fixer. A man who thinks he can fix any thing, any one, and any situation. And this is why I married him...I don't mean because he can fix my car or the heat pump or just about anything mechanical. I mean he is helper. He has this ginormous heart and goes out of his way to FIX all the wrongs of the world. He spends hours helping a local school (because the dads don't volunteer-we don't have any kids). He spends weekends rehabbing old cemeteries (the families have forgotten them-we don't know anyone buried in them). He just is a nice guy who wants to take care of everyone.
He is the guy who will give you the shirt off his back-literally!!
So...sometimes people manipulate that kindness. They know if they fain distress, he will come to the rescue, take over and fix everything. Those people don't have to be accountable for their own behavior...because they are users. We all know the type!
I get frustrated with the hubs because he takes on stress and responsibilities that are not his to take on. The very trait I love him for, pisses me off.
...which leads us to arguments. We have all been there, right?
Here's what I try to do...it's hard and I don't always succeed but you might find these steps helpful for cultivating loving-kindness and communicating in a more healthy and helpful way:
1. Check in. For example:
3. Become aware of triggers for ill-will. Don't focus on potential harm to yourself or your family and don't exaggerate the events occurring.
These steps enable me to communicate more openly, be less reactive, and be more supportive of my husband and his really big heart.
How is this a yoga practice? Glad you asked!
In the Yoga Sutras, the first two limbs of the Eightfold Path are the yama-s and niyama-s. Each contains 5 principles (10 in total) to follow on your path to enlightenment. Three of these are:
What other yama-s and niyama-s can you think of?
Try These Practices to Cultivate Loving-Kindness and Effective Communication:
Rosenberg, S. (Director). (1967). Cool Hand Luke [Film]. Jalem Productions.
Hanson, R. (2009). Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
Little Feet Don't Stink
I wrote this in 2019 for a dear friend's yoga studio, Soaring Spirit Yoga, webpage. The studio was in Occoquan VA. COVID took its toll on this beloved studio space and Soaring Spirit Yoga now exists as a virtual environment. The little girl that inspired this original story is probably a teenager now. MY OH MY! How time flies!? Long ago, in a land far away and in a time before COVID, this little girl's wisdom is truer now than ever before. Even when you can't physically be with your friends and family, your community is still there (Zoom in; telephone in; FaceTime in; visit through social distancing measures if facilities like retirement homes allow it). Reach out! CONNECT
Little girl: “Someone’s feet stink!”
Me: “Really! Whose? Maybe mine since they are dirty from walking around the gym.”
Little girl: “Yep, it’s your feet.”
Me: “Ya think so?”
Little girl: “Yep, little feet don’t stink.”
Years ago, I had the weekly joy of teaching an after-school children’s yoga class at a local recreation center. I taught approximately 50 students ranging from 5 to 10-year olds (of course with assistance from their regular caregivers).
When I say “taught”, I really mean…I corralled; I shepherded.
I was a herder. Occasionally, in unison but, mostly, it was a free-form modern dance style of yoga.
They were unfiltered and honest to a fault. They were also natural yogis. You see…children don’t actually have bones until they are 12 years old (totally my observation and not scientifically proven…yet) and as any yogi should, they saw joy in everything we did in class.
No matter how bad my day was going, they made me smile a big, huge, toothy, goofy smile. A real smile. Not the adult-world fake smile…you know the kind I’m talking about. An honest smile.
They made yoga fun! They laughed. They were loud. They raised a raucous! However, their caregivers always wanted them to be quiet (they lost that battle quickly with 50 small children in an echoing gym). After all, it’s yoga…and yoga is quiet or at least the proverbial “they” say yoga is quiet.
Whoever mandated that yoga must be quiet to be beneficial? Maybe it was originally quiet because the ascetics didn’t have any friends to raise some hell with! Maybe they didn’t want to be quiet; maybe they were just lonely.
Children, on the other hand, are never lonely in a yoga class. They are never afraid to touch each other’s feet in a shared boat pose, wrap their arms around each other for a joint tree pose, or lay in a big flower pattern touching heads in Savasana.
There is something to be said for the loud communal nature of children. Where is that point along the way to maturity that we lose that sense of community? When do our brains and hearts shift making isolation the ideal?
According to, the great book of “knowledge”, Wikipedia:
“Yoga is the physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India with a view to attain a state of permanent peace. The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali defines yoga as ‘the stilling of the changing states of the mind.’ Yoga has also been popularly defined as ‘union with the divine’ in other contexts and traditions. “
So, if children are loud and rambunctious can their minds be still and are they uniting with the divine? Absolutely!!!
Children do yoga with no preconceived ideas, no biases, and no judgment. They are free in their bodies and free with each other. Children don’t bring the emotional walls and barriers that isolate…that break down community…to the yoga mat.
They are just there in the moment-totally and completely free. That is peace of mind and spirit. That is union with the divine. That is yoga.
Like I said--natural yogis.
My little gurus taught me that permanent peace takes many forms and sometimes it looks more like Burning Man than it does a monastery. Note: Not advocating raging fires for children…but 5 to 10-year olds are definitely into those too.
So, the next time you are in a COVID-era virtual yoga class…be free; be present; smile; laugh. Make some virtual Savasana flowers with your new friends, cheer someone on with encouragement and take notice of your stinky feet.
Research has shown gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.
Gratitude is an action!
It is not happiness that brings us gratitude
It is gratitude that brings us happiness
Let's reflect on the many things we have been blessed with this year.
The quarantine has meant more time together as families and has reinforced the importance of human connection and friendship. Remember heroes come from all walks of life and as we enter the season of giving, now more than ever, be grateful for the support of your community.
Gratitude Exercise: Take some time to journal about how this year has brought gratitude into your life. Who might you add to this list (people, pets, things, events)?
Inspired by and adapted from Maryland University of Integrative Health's weekly gratitude email.
I AM Boundless Bliss Yoga. Just me. I'm a one-lady band. I'm a yoga therapist. I didn't start out to be a yoga therapist, I just wanted to learn more and SHAAAZZAMM...here I am.