The Yoga of Motherhood…

Parenting in today’s world is hard. I know people say this all the time but it has recently hit me pretty hard. I have an almost-3-year-old and 3-month-old baby. The hard part: living up to social-media mom standards.

Screen time? Taboo. Formula feed? Breast is best. Breastfeed in public? Judgmental stares. Elective C-section? Not the way nature intended it. Natural birth? Show off.

Y’all… we can’t win.

We as moms post pictures of our children’s achievements and happy moments. Not many moms talk about the meltdowns and moments where you cry with your child because you’re so overwhelmed. Now don’t misconstrue what I’m saying here; I am absolutely not telling you to post a picture of your child having a meltdown. Your child desperately needs you in that moment. They need you to be fully present and not looking at your phone and posting a paragraph explaining what’s happening and brainstorming clever hashtags.

I’m suggesting that we take a moment to lift each other up. Be truthful when you speak to your friends about your family. Ask for advice. Be a good listener. Start to let go of that judgement on yourself and others.

Ahimsa… the yoga of motherhood

Ahimsa in yoga is non-violence or non-harming. Non-violence towards ourselves and others helps us to clear our minds of toxic thought patterns and allow positivity to flow in.

The first of the Yamas is Ahimsa, or non-violence. Non-violence towards others and ourselves, and a consideration for all living things.


Meditation is a great way to practice ahimsa. Meditation has been proven to assist us in ending the patterns in our lives that we keep repeating over and over. Negative self talk, blaming others for things that go wrong in our lives, and of course judging ourselves and others are all things that can become amplified as we sit in meditation. Through meditation we learn to identify and observe these thoughts then gently let them go.

I am committing myself to meditating for at least 2 minutes a day even if it means meditating with a baby strapped to me because it’s the only way he will nap (practicing ahimsa towards myself here). I’m starting with 2 minutes and working my way up to 30 minutes to 1 hour and being okay with the 2 minute days mixed in between.

Loving kindness meditation…

A loving kindness or metta meditation helps us to redirect those negative thoughts towards ourselves and others and replace them with positive thoughts.

To do this meditation first repeat these phrases towards yourself, then direct them towards someone you have a positive relationship with, then to a neutral party, next to someone with whom you have a challenging relationship, then finally to all beings everywhere.

Find a comfortable position to sit in and close your eyes. Start by noticing your breath. Don’t change it, just notice; is it deep or shallow? Slowly start to deepen your breath. Inhale: fill your belly, ribs, then chest. Exhale: chest goes down, then ribs, then belly. Take about 3 rounds of deep breaths then allow your breathing to become relaxed and easy. Move your Minds Eye from the breath to your body and perform a scan of the body, from the head to your toes, letting go of holding, effort and judgement. Repeat the following phrases in your head several times in a gentle way. Allow your mind to rest on the statements.

Loving Kindness to Yourself: May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I be free from pain and suffering.

Loving Kindness Towards Someone who has had a Positive Influence in your Life, then a neural party, then towards a challenging person: May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be free from pain and suffering.

Loving Kindness Towards all Beings: May all beings be happy. May all beings be healthy. May all beings be free from pain and suffering.

Notice as you perform this metta meditation over time if your natural thought patterns start to shift from negative to positive. Negativity and judgmental thoughts won’t just *poof,* go away, but you may start to see loving thoughts edging in. Also, try practicing ahimsa as you scroll through your social media pages. Non-judgment on your peers, non-judgement on yourself. When you find yourself judging or comparing simply think, “May you/I be happy, healthy and free from pain and suffering.” Changing how your mind navigates the world (and the internet) is very important to living with ahimsa.

Peace & love,

Meditation: find refuge within…

This post is dedicated to one of my wonderful friends who needs a little meditation pick-me-up…

My favorite meditations are ones that require some small action, mantra, or visualization. This meditation shows you that your place of refuge can be found inside. An inner refuge acts as a kind of cocoon, where you retreat to do the sort of self-examination that leads to inner change. There, you can shed your masks, assimilate your failures, and savor your joys. Consciously retreating to your place of refuge can help you digest your life experiences. It can give you both rest and the resources to act from strength.

Try this meditation in a physical refuge that makes you feel safe. You might have a place in your home – a meditation corner, a tree in your backyard, or even your bathtub. Or a public place – a community garden, a park, or a coffee shop. Wherever makes you feel calm and at home.

Discover true peace and wisdom when you take refuge within…

Take 15 minutes to sit by yourself. Breathe into your belly, allowing the breath to gradually deepen. With each exhalation, imagine that you’re letting go of tension in your body and mind. Now, visualize yourself sitting in a beautiful place where you feel safe and protected: by the ocean, in a garden, or in the woods; in a special room from your childhood; or in a holy site such as a temple, a church, or an ashram.

Imagine that there is a wise and loving being sitting in front of you. If it feels natural, you can imagine this being in the form or a great teacher, such as the Buddha, Christ, Kuan Yin, or even an animal guide. Alternatively, you might sense this being as one of your ancestors, or a beloved relative. Or this being might have no form at all.

Recognize that this being has the most profound wish for your happiness and is the embodiment of wisdom and love. As you sit with this spiritual being, focus on the thought, “I take refuge in you.” Notice the feeling state that arises as you consciously imagine taking refuge in this being. If you have a question or a problem, you can bring it before this guide and ask for wisdom. At the end of the meditation, imagine yourself drawing the energy of this spiritual being into your own heart. Then feel the wisdom and love that have, in some way, entered you.

Reference: Yoga Journal 2012

40 day Global Sadhana…

What is Sadhana?

“What is sadhana? It’s a committed prayer. It is something which you want to do, have to do, and which is being done by you. … Sadhana is self enrichment. It is not something which is done to please somebody or to gain something. Sadhana is a personal process in which you bring out your best.” ~Yogi Bhajan

Sadhana or daily spiritual practice is the foundation of all spiritual endeavor. Sadhana is your personal, individual spiritual effort. It is the main tool you use to work on yourself to achieve the purpose of life. It can be done alone or in a group. Sadhana is whatever you do consistently to clear your own consciousness so you can relate to the infinity within you. Before you face the world each day, do yourself a favor and tune up your nervous system and attune yourself to your highest inner self. To cover all your bases, it will include exercise, meditation, and prayer.

Develop a regular sadhana and you take control of your life. Develop a deep sadhana and you open the doors of experience. Commit to meet your higher Self each morning and your decisions and your life become original; your life will bear the signature of your soul; your radiance will express the meaningful intimacy of the Infinite in each moment. Immerse yourself in the joy of victory that comes from starting each day with a powerful sadhana and every challenge becomes opportunity. (taken from the 3HO – Spirit Voyage website)

Why so early in the morning?

During what are called the “ambrosial hours” (the two and a half hours just before sunrise), when the sun is at a sixty-degree angle to the earth, the energy you put into your sadhana gets maximum results. Your world is quieter. It’s easier to meditate and concentrate before the hustle and bustle of the day begins.

“The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
Where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.”  ~ Rumi

If you absolutely cannot get up early in the morning to do sadhana, then do it some other time! Doing sadhana at any time of the day or night will benefit you.

What do I do?

You can do a simple yoga asana exercise followed by sitting in meditation. If you’re not comfortable with kundalini or meditation, anything can be your sadhana. If you read scripture, this can be your daily sadhana. You could take time to write down what you are grateful for every day or write down qualities you would like to see yourself become. You could make a list of goals, short term and long term and write down a way, each day, to make those goals come to light. Add a morning yoga-asana practice to leave you feeling energized and mentally focused for the day ahead. Pray for blessings to rain upon you and for your daily experiences to make you a better person. Remember, “Sadhana is whatever you do consistently to clear your own consciousness so you can relate to the infinity within you.” Take a personal vow to do whatever it is best for you for 40 days.

If you would like to follow the traditional Kundalini, meditations, and prayer as taught by Yoga Bhajan you can find all the information on the Spirit Voyage website:  Spirit Voyages 40 Day Global Sadhana. Be in flow with your highest wisdom with Snatam and Gurmukh.

Why 40 days?

Have you heard the saying, “It takes 21 days to make a habit?” Well, in yoga, they believe it takes 40.

Starting 11.11.11…

On this date, as taught by Yogi Bhajan, we turn the page and move from the Piscean Age to the Aquarian Age.  The Piscean Age is all about seeking knowledge and existing in individual consciousness.  In the Aquarian Age, we are connected to our intuition and therefore know all that we need to, and we have collective consciousness to complete our shared vision.

If you choose to do the kundalini and meditations on the Spirit Voyage website… These meditations will assist in lifting you up out of life’s dramas and deliver you to the Aquarian energy flow that will be readily available in this special window of time for all who open themselves to it.

This is simply a challenge for yourself. To spend time every day to enrich your own life and bring yourself to your full potential.

Serve your soul purpose.

“Happy Journey” ~Pattahbi Jois

Inquire within…

This meditation will help you listen to your soul as it points you in the direction of your true desire…
Close your eyes. Become aware of your body. Bring your attention to your breath. Become aware of your effortless breathing for one or two minutes, until you feel still.

Now, bring your attention to your forehead in the space between your eyebrows. As you hold your attention there, become aware of your body breathing. Relax. Don’t force or try to shape your breath.

Allow your awareness to connect your breath to the point between your eyebrows. When you notice the body breathing in, your awareness moves from the point between your eyebrows to the midbrain, a point roughly between your temples that is sometimes called the third eye. When you notice your body breathing out, sense your awareness moving from that point back to the point between your eyebrows. Continue to feel your awareness move from one point to another on the movement of your breath. As you breathe in, awareness moves from the point between the eyebrows to the midbrain. As you breathe out, awareness moves from the midbrain to the point between your eyebrows.

As your mind settles, feel the practice becoming more effortless; feel a growing sense of calm.

When you experience this, become aware of presence slowly unfolding in the midbrain. Continue to watch, feel and listen.

Once you enter into a rhythm of deep peace and effortlessness, begin to sense that your awareness, at the point between your eyebrows, moves in and out on its own, independent of the breath. Eventually, stop thinking about the breath and just be aware of a kind of effortless pulse moving in and out of the third-eye center. Gradually feel a sense of bliss unfolding, your whole being flooded with a boundless sense of contentment and joy. Don’t try. Just be aware and, at the same time, completely relaxed. Contentment will continue to unfold the more completely you let yourself go into effortlessness.

Now, become aware that the source of this contentment and joy you are experiencing is actually you. Continue letting go until you feel that you are the source of joy and bliss. In the final stage of this practice, you are completely absorbed into a state of joy and bliss, such that you no longer experience being separate from the universe of which you are a part. Eventually, you experience being bliss itself – unbounded, you are the bliss that the ancient teachings tell us is the nature of all things.

Now, established in this state, tune in to your “wisdom center” – the place of knowingness within you. For many people, it’s in the gut. For others, it may be in the heart or third-eye center. The important thing is to just settle and tune in to a feeling of knowingness and certainty within you. Resting in a deep state of contentment, experience the part of you that knows exactly what you need and what you don’t need. Feel connected to the inner core of truth that is always ready and fully capable of guiding you to your best life.

Continue to rest in contentment as you pose the following question to your higher Self. Calmly ask: “Which one of the four desires, if it were to be fulfilled in the next 6 to 18 months, would best serve my highest purpose, or dharma?”

Allow your inner voice to provide you with an answer that pinpoints the particular desire that will best serve your highest purpose. Don’t let your rational mind take over this process; it must be organic and intuitive. The response from your soul will be decisive and clear.

Reference: Yoga Journal 2011

Pain Soother…

Promising studies show meditation’s pain-relieving effects…

Next time you have a tension headache or other minor temporary pain, you might want to try meditation instead of over-the-counter pain relievers. In a series of studies, researchers at the University of Montreal found that experienced meditators were less sensitive to pain and less troubled by it than non-meditators. MRI scans of the meditator’s brains showed changes in the regions related to experiencing pain, suggesting that a long-term meditation practice might have cumulative and lasting pain-relieving effects.
But even if you’re not an experienced meditator, it may be worth trying meditation for moderate short-term pain. In a study published last year in the Journal of Pain, researchers gave a group of college students at the University of North Carolina just three half-hour sessions of meditation training. Meditation reduced subjects’ feelings of pain from electrical shocks during testing and increased their baseline pain tolerance.
Study author Fadel Zeidan, a research fellow at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, explains that the meditation training taught the students to focus their awareness on their breath and, when distracted, to observe that fact without self-judgement, gently bringing their minds back to the breath. He says this helped them observe painful feelings non reactively, as they would any other distraction (like a noise in the hall or an itchy foot), and calmed their emotional experience of the pain. (Their anxiety levels were measurably lower while meditating.)
“Pain is a subjective experience,” Ziedan says. “Meditation is a way of changing the context of that experience. In meditation you experience each moment as it rolls by, and you realize there’s no reason to react. You appraise sensory experiences differently.”

Healing Herbs
If you’re looking for other holistic alternatives to pain medication for minor aches and pains, try these herbal remedies. Herbs can relieve pain without side effects.
Strained Muscles… When applied as a cream, Capsaicin (a compound in chili peppers) damps down pain messages to the brain.
Tension Headache… A dab of muscle-relaxing peppermint essential oil rubbed on your temples can calm tension headaches.
Menstrual Cramps… Anti-inflammatory ginger spice eases cramps when it is applied as a poultice. Dunk a cloth in warm ginger tea, wring it out, and then apply to your abdomen.
Yogi Tea* brand also makes a wonderful line of teas to help with holistic healing… and some just for the women: Yogi Tea just for Women.
My favorite website for holistic/Ayurvedic herbs is Banyan Botanicals.
Reference: Yoga Journal 2011

The calm within…

A lot of people I know avoid reading the paper first thing in the morning – being confronted with all of the injustices and bad deeds in the world is an unsettling way to start the day. It’s difficult to read about the latest corporate finance scam or the obscenity of human trafficking and keep your peace of mind, and it’s even harder to know how to respond. The conflict feels even more immediate when you witness an unjust act firsthand, or are yourself the recipient of one, whether it’s having your wallet stolen, your car broken into, or any sort of hurtful behavior directed your way. The answer to this problem is upeksha, the fourth of the brahmaviharas.

This state of mind, taught both in yoga and Buddhism, allows us to respond to the non-virtuous deeds of others, and indeed, to all of life’s fluctuations, in such a way that we are, as Buddhist scholar Peter Harvey describes it, the opposite of the way James Bond likes his martini: stirred but not shaken. When we cultivate equanimity, we’re moved by injustice in the world and motivated to make things better, but our deep inner serenity is not disturbed. Sometimes translated by commentators on the Yoga Sutra as “indifference” in the face of the non-virtuous, immoral, or harmful deeds of others, upeksha is better understood as “equanimity”, a state of even-minded openness that allows for a balanced, clear response to all situations, rather than a response born of reactivity or emotion. Upeksha is not indifference to the suffering of others, nor is it a bland state of neutrality. In fact, it means that we care, and care deeply, about all beings evenly!

This understanding of upeksha as equanimity stresses the importance of balance. A balanced heart is not an unfeeling heart. The balanced heart feels pleasure without grasping and clinging at it, it feels pain without condemning or hating, and it stays open to neutral experiences with presence. Insight meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg speaks of equanimity as “spacious stillness of mind,” within which we can remain connected to others and all that happens all around us, while remaining free of our conditioned habit of grasping at the pleasant and pushing away the unpleasant.

Still mind…
One way to experience equanimity is to experiment with mindfulness meditation. Rather than fixing attention on a single object such as breath or mantra, mindfulness meditation involves the moment-to-moment awareness of changing objects of perception. Mindfulness is like a floodlight, shining awareness on the whole field of experience, including sensations, emotions, and thoughts as they arise and pass away in the dynamic, ever-changing flux that characterizes the human experience of body and mind. Mindfulness allows you to see the nature of the unfolding process without getting caught in reactivity, without identifying with your sensations, emotions and thoughts. This insight changes your relationship to the mind-body. The waves keep coming, but you don’t get swept away by them. Or as Swami Satchidananda often said, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf!” This ability to remain balanced amidst ever-changing conditions is the balance of equanimity.

There is an old story that illustrates the wisdom of this state of mind: A farmer’s most valuable asset is the one horse he owns. One day it runs away. All the townspeople commiserate with him, “Oh, what terrible luck! You’ve fallen into poverty now, with no way to pull the plow or move your goods!” The farmer merely responds, “I don’t know it it’s unfortunate or not; all I know is that my horse is gone.”

A few days later, the horse returns, and following it are six more horses, both stallions and mares. The townspeople say, “Oh! You have struck it rich! Now you have seven horses to your name!” Again, the farmer says, “I don’t know if I’m fortunate or not; all I can say is that I now have seven horses in my stable.”

A few days later, while the farmer’s son is trying to break in one of the wild stallions, he’s thrown from the horse and breaks his leg and shoulder. All the townspeople bemoan his fate: “Oh, how terrible! Your son has been so badly injured, he’ll not be able to help you with the harvest. What a misfortune!” The farmer responds, “I don’t know if it’s a misfortune or not; what I know is that my son has been injured.”

Less than a week later, the army sweeps through town, conscripting all the young men to fight in a war… all except the farmer’s son, who is unable to fight because of his injury.

The fact is, you can’t know what changes your life will bring or what the ultimate consequences will be. Equanimity allows for the mystery of things: the unknowable, uncontrollable nature of things to be just as they are. In this radical acceptance lies peace and freedom – right there in the midst of whatever pleasant or unpleasant circumstances we find ourselves in. When we open to the truth that there is actually very little we can control other than our own reactions to circumstances, we learn to let go. Cultivating the qualities of kindness, compassion, and joy opens your heart to others. Equanimity balances the giving of your heart’s love with the recognition and acceptance that things are the way they are. However much you may care for someone, however much you may do for others, however much you would like to control things or you wish that they were other than they are, equanimity reminds you that all beings everywhere are responsible for their own action, and for the consequences of their actions.

Without this recognition, it’s easy to fall into compassion fatigue, helper burnout, and even despair. Equanimity allows you to open your heart and offer love, kindness, compassion, and rejoicing, while letting go of your expectations and attachment to results. Equanimity endows the other three brahmaviharas with kshanti: patience, persistence, and forbearance. So, you can keep your heart open, even if the kindness, compassion and appreciative joy you offer others is not returned. And when you are confronted with the non-virtuous deeds of others, equanimity allows you to feel compassion for the suffering that underlies their actions as well as for the suffering their actions cause others. It is equanimity that brings immesurability or boundlessness to the other three brahmaviraras (metta: lovingkindness, karuna: compassion, mudita: joy, upekkha: equanimity).

When you cultivate metta (the friendly quality of kind regard), karuna (the compassionate response to the suffering of others), and mudita (the delight in the happiness and success of others), it is equanimity that ultimately allows you to truly expand your capacity to experience this kind of boundless love for those beyond your immediate circle of friends and family, opening to the infinite capacity of your heart to embrace all beings.

Reference: Yoga Journal 2010

Discovering the Sacredness of Breath and Sound…

Discovering the Sacredness of Breath & Sound with Phil Shiva Jones

A Spiritual Australian Didgeridoo Workshop and Chanting Performance

Wednesday, Feb. 19, 6:30 PM

Birmingham Yoga at First Avenue Rocks

***Visiting Australian interfaith minister and recording artist Phil Jones will present an interactive workshop teaching meditation and simple breathing techniques with the Australian didgeridoo. The didgeridoo is an ancient mesmerizing drone instrument made from a eucalyptus tree and traditionally played in ceremony and healing by the Aboriginal clans of Australia. Playing the didgeridoo creates soothing and resonant harmonics that easily erase the the ‘monkey chatter’ in the mind – enhancing mental clarity and emotional equanimity. The primordial vibration of the didgeridoo and the simple breathing techniques help create a state of relaxation, lower blood pressure, relax the heart, improve digestion, and – as reported by the British Medical Journal – significantly reduce sleep apnea and snoring.

$20 in Advance/ $25 at the door
Register by email: