March's Theme: Connection

“When we recognize the virtues, the talent, the beauty of Mother Earth, something is born in us, some kind of connection—love is born. We want to be connected. That is the meaning of love, to be at one… You would do anything for the benefit of the Earth, and the Earth will do anything for your well-being.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

Yoga is about connection. To practice yoga means to embark on a journey of connecting deeper with oneself and one’s environment—including all the people, plants, animals, objects, and events within that environment that are experienced through the five senses.

Connection is cultivated by accepting all that is, exactly as it is. To experience real growth, you can't just accept the good and ignore the bad.

So if you want to really harness the power of your practice to connect deeper to your true self, to others, and to all of reality, then you have to be willing to get a little uncomfortable.

Here are just a few very helpful tips you can take with you to move deeper into your yoga practice.

 

Let Go of Expectations

There’s nothing wrong with having goals or expectations for yourself and for your practice, but attaching yourself to those goals/expectations has a tendency to draw you away from reality and into your mind where your mental checklist of goals resides. This is troublesome if you want to learn from your weaknesses and struggles rather than simply focus on what's going right.

Here are just some goals or expectations to recognize in yourself and consciously decide to detach from:

  • Expecting to always be able to perform a certain pose or sequence because you’ve done it previously or because you’ve been practicing for a long time
  • Expecting to grow noticeably stronger or more flexible in a certain amount of time
  • Expecting each yoga session to get easier
  • Expecting to feel good every time you step on and/or off the mat
  • Expecting to feel laser focused and unfazed by emotions during your practice

 

Get Back to Basics

Don’t assume that you should only stick to intermediate or advanced poses and sequences just because you’ve been practicing for years already or are already very fit/flexible.

Even the most experienced and fittest yogis have to check their egos from time to time, and challenging yourself to step onto your mat from a beginner’s perspective is a great way to strengthen your connection to the practice. Consider taking beginner level 1 classes that focus on the basics of proper alignment and breath integration to remind yourself of what it means to create a strong foundation in every pose.

 

Make Meditation a Priority

Yoga is a form of meditation integrated with movement, but you can enhance the meditative effect of yoga by starting and ending every session on your mat with a few minutes of seated meditation.

Before you get up to stand in mountain pose/push back into downward dog or end in savasana, take a seat in lotus, half lotus, easy pose or any comfortable seated pose of your choice so you can close your eyes and focus on your breath. Doing so will help calm your thoughts and heighten your awareness of what’s going on inside you in the present moment.

 

Keep a Journal for Your Practice

Once you’ve completed your long and restful savasana, grab your journal to write about or make notes about what you just experienced.

Maybe your mind seemed restless, or you felt more fatigued that usual in Warrior II, or a certain hip opener triggered some unwanted emotions. Documenting experiences like these and reading over them later contributes to the process of self-study, allowing you to draw meaning from them and learn from them in ways that deepen your connection to yourself as well as to your practice.


5 Invigorating Things to Do to Prepare Your Spirit for the Season of Rebirth

Spring might still be about a month away, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start thinking about how you can prepare for spring a few weeks ahead of its arrival.

Spring is the season of rebirth, so you’ll want to focus on rituals that cleanse, detoxify, invigorate, and energize you. After a long and hopefully restful winter, your spirit has had time to rejuvenate itself so it may guide your growth into the next version of yourself.

Try some of the following rituals to help you step into the new season with ease.

 

1. Deep Clean Your Yoga Mat

Spritzing your yoga mat with an all natural, cleansing yoga mat cleaner after every use is always a good idea, but deep cleaning your mat at least once or twice every new season (or more depending on use) is just as necessary. A clean, bacteria-free mat is just as good for you physically as it is for you mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Take your mat into the bathtub so you can submerge both sides in water and give it a good scrub down with a gentle brush or washcloth before hanging it out to dry completely for at least a full 24 to 48 hours (making sure to keep it out of direct sunlight).

 

2. Detox from Sweet, Heavy Winter Foods

In winter, Ayurveda (yoga’s ancient sister science in holistic health) states that we should focus on fuelling our bodies with healthy comfort foods that are sweet, dense, and oily to help combat vata dosha. Come spring, we need to shift our diets to balance the accumulated kapha or else risk bringing that winter hibernation-induced sluggishness into the new season.

Now is the time to start stocking up on foods with bitter, astringent, and pungent tastes. Just before spring's arrival, aim to completely cut out red meat, cooked oils, sugar, dairy, alcohol and caffeine for a temporary detox period (2 to 3 weeks) while favouring green veggies, fruits, whole grains, olive oil, avocados, and lots of water.

 

3. Spend a Few Minutes a Day Practicing Pranayama

Simple breathing techniques can help clear out mental clutter that you wish to leave behind while also helping to combat seasonal allergies that you might suffer from in the spring.

Sit comfortably in a seated position and inhale naturally or use your ujjayi breath to fill your lungs with air. Hold it for a few seconds and then slowly exhale until all the air has escaped from your longs. Do at least 3 to 6 rounds of this every day as meditation before or after your regular yoga practice.

 

4. Use Essential Oils That Are Energizing, Sweet, Floral, and Herbaceous

It might still a be a little chilly outside to open all the windows, so in the meantime, aromatherapy can help freshen up the air in your home or yoga space. Whether you choose to use a diffuser, make your own room spray, or massage an essential oil of choice into your skin along with a carrier oil is completely up to you.

Eucalyptus is a top choice for its invigorating aromas that can help balance congestion in the sinuses and lungs. Lemon, on the other hand, can help wake you up, brighten your spirits, and help you feel energized.

 

5. Start an Indoor Herb Garden

Starting your own garden gives you the opportunity to learn a new hobby and get closer to nature well before everything outside blossoms and turns green. Think of it like your own little ceremonial celebration of the new season!

The seeds for most herbs and veggies should be planted about 6 to 8 weeks before the last expected frost date, and while that can vary by region, you can most likely plan to do so in March or April.