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Podcast episode 04: Isis, Bears, and a Yoga Practice for Fierce Creativity

During the lunar cycle of the Strawberry Moon, join me in getting to know the Egyptian goddess Isis, the mother of all. Find out why black bears mother like Isis and how the US Dept. of the Interior is making it harder for those mother bears. Then unroll your yoga mat for a practice to bring out your fierce creativity.

Yoga on the wild frontier of perimenopause

My body is changing and my yoga practice is like exploring an unknown roadWhat if you woke up one morning and found yourself in a different body, like Gregor Samsa in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis? That’s how perimenopause feels to me.

My body is changing so quickly I don’t know the body I’m in anymore. In some ways it is like puberty, but with the frightening self-awareness of age and experience.

I have been practicing yoga for more than twenty years. There have always been times when I felt like a beginner; those times were usually when I was exploring something more advanced or new to me. But now I feel like I am discovering what my body can – and cannot – do as if I have never done yoga before.

Achy joints

At the end of the day, whether my practice was restorative or vinyasa, I feel it in my joints. Often it is my hips doing the complaining, but it might be my shoulders, or my knees. On some days it is my hands or feet. I have a hard time getting comfortable enough to go to sleep. The feeling is less satisfying than the soreness that accompanied stretching and strengthening muscles in new ways when I was first learning asanas. I feel restless and frustrated by these aches.

Hand, meet wall

Balance poses, like tree and half moon, used to be my favorites. I would spend hours putting together long sequences of poses, moving from one to the other while balanced on one foot. Then, one day, I started losing my balance. To practice these asanas now means falling out often, or using the wall as a prop.

Two drishtis

Those who see me in person know that I started wearing glasses everywhere two years ago. My eyes have always had difficulty working together, but now I have developed severe double vision that cannot be corrected by contact lenses. Even with my glasses, if my eyes are tired or relax too much (which never happens in a yoga class, right?) I see two of everything. Focusing on one point is especially challenging, because I’m never sure which of the things thing I’m looking at is “real,” and which is the double.

Brain fog

I have the attention span of a goldfish. When I…

 

What was I saying?

And so on

I’ve been a bit grumpy about all of this, but I am finally moving towards acceptance. After all, what is my yoga practice for if not to feel deeply into my body as it is now? I am moving into new territory, and it is up to me to draw the map.

That means that my practice is, again, that of a beginner. I must see what helps and what hurts. I need to discover my new edge and let go of what now takes me past it. Even with two decades of experience, I don’t have the answers. If your body is changing – due to menopause, pregnancy, injury, a joint replacement, diet – neither you nor I know how your practice needs to be. But you are welcome to join me on the wild frontier to find out through experience.

Fear at the end of the year (a Winter Solstice reflection)

During the past four weeks, I have watched seven (or maybe more – I lost track) webinars promising four ways to boost Instagram followers, a surefire method to build my Facebook group, the best method to plan next year’s revenue, … You get the picture.

I was feeling the end-of-year fear.

Fear at the end of the yearThere is something about approaching December 31st on the Gregorian calendar that sends those of us with non-traditional work into a funk. I have seen even those incredible entrepreneurs to whom I have looked for guidance all year start to seemingly panic-sell their programs beginning December 1st.

We don’t want to close our 2017 books in the red.

I fell into the same state of fear as all those others. On top of the other challenges this year, 2017 has been financially difficult. I committed to adding and expanding a second location to my yoga studio, True North Yoga, invested in a Mastermind program, and got caught off guard on some unavoidable home and auto repairs. Summer yoga class attendance, which usually booms with visitors to our lake town, was flat. Put together, the numbers for 2017 don’t look that good.

Did you know I used to be an accountant? After years of writing financial statements, I know a secret.

The numbers don’t tell the real story.

I’m all for eating and keeping a roof over my head (and even splurging occasionally), so I’m not belittling the importance of having sufficient income to thrive. But numbers in a spreadsheet aren’t showing the real value of the healing work I have done this year, for myself and for others. I cannot put a dollar amount on the growth and magic I have experienced.

My tax return isn’t going to reflect that I uncovered a deeper truth about how I bring yoga and Shamanic Reiki into the world. It isn’t going to tally the hours I spent sitting in council with my lower world guides. It doesn’t credit the creative bursts that brought my Advanced Yoga Teacher Training modules into being.

When I was trying to figure out how to pay the bills in December, I started panic-selling. I almost rushed a training that I am excited to present next year, instead of allowing the creative time to make it exactly what I envisioned. I came close to letting fear push me through the Winter Solstice without slowing down.

I suspect that end-of-year fear has been around since humans were mostly agricultural. After the last harvest, the days would shorten, and the ground would freeze. There was no time to grow more. They had to get through the winter on what they had. Some years there would be plenty; other years they might run out of food. There must have been fear. And at the Winter Solstice, perhaps there was an acceptance that there was nothing else they could do except dream of spring.

My family had a small, simple holiday this year. We will have further financial challenges in the new year. We will make due.

No matter how your numbers are adding up for 2017, would you join me in taking long exhale to let go of the fear? Let’s instead take stock of the personal growth, the skills and talents developed, the healing that has happened and can still happen. There’s nothing more to do for now. Together, let’s let winter come. We will make it through.

Nobody said being a healer was easy

I’ve been following the coverage of the latest wildfires in California with a heavy heart. If you pay attention to the news, it seems like the whole world is on fire, literally and figuratively. To be alive at this time, especially for those of us who have been called to be healers, is no easy feat. There is just too much to do.

Yet, when I’m doing my work in the world – teaching yoga, training yoga teachers or Shamanic Reiki practitioners, running two yoga studios, or offering one-on-one healing – I feel my connection to that greater purpose. During those times, the discouraging news drops away and I feel “in the flow.”

But being in the flow doesn’t mean the work is easy.

It is okay for healers to be tired. Just don't quit.Every day the healing and transformative work I am drawn to do asks me to be physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually at the top of my game. And that’s just not possible. Like everyone else I get injured, I lose focus, I grieve, and I doubt. I can’t count how many times I was ready to quit during the past year. When I was tired and overwhelmed, I thought of pulling the plug on the whole thing.

What if it’s okay to be tired?

I was listening to an interview with Jo Fairly, co-founder of the organic chocolate company Green & Black, on Carrie Green’s She Means Business podcast (which is a great resource for female entrepreneurs), and Jo was asked how she did it all. Her answer was, “When you’re tired, rest, don’t quit.” Hearing that, in her lovely British accent, made me realize it was okay to acknowledge that getting tired didn’t mean I had failed, or that I couldn’t do the work. It meant I needed to rest and renew my energy.

Accepting that sometimes I am going to be tired is a big shift for perfectionist Debbie. For the past few weeks, I have given myself permission to feel worn out, and to plan rest time into my day, even if it’s simply going to bed a bit earlier or treating myself to a yoga class that someone else is teaching. Then, when my energy returns, I start moving forward again.

I can’t quit, because there is healing work I need to do in this world.

If you are walking the path of healers and change-makers, I would love it if you give yourself permission to rest. Just don’t quit, because the world needs you to do your work. Can I witness and support your necessary desire to rest? Let me know with a reply.

Dancing in the Moonlight

MoonlightOnce every three years or so there is a month with two full moons. The second is known as a blue moon. If you’re reading this on July 31st and you go outside right now, you’ll be standing under one.

Astrologers seem less excited about the second-of-the month aspect of today’s full moon than about the moon being in Aquarius. Breakthroughs in the midst of struggles are predicted. You’d do well to pay attention today.

But perhaps you were not even aware that the moon has just gone full. Why is the lunar cycle even important?

I grew up on the south shore of Long Island, on a skinny street between two canals. It was a poorly crafted street which went downhill as you traveled inland from the bay to its lowest point where the two canals dead-ended. When the moon was full, high tide was very high – so high that the ocean spilled over the bulkheads and flooded the street at that low point. If you needed something from the store, you were just going to have to wait a few hours.

Most of us live too cut off from natural phenomenon like moon tides to feel the consequences of the lunar cycle. But that doesn’t mean we should ignore it. The same gravitational pull that affects the tides draws gently of the water in your body. It changes you, in albeit subtle ways. When we start to pay attention – really pay attention – we become aware of those subtle changes.

Yoga is an excellent tool for building subtle awareness of your body. The practice of Chandra Namaskar, the moon salutation, taps into the cyclical nature of the moon while opening the hips, the seat of the second Chakra. The sacral energy center is the home of water energy. Water is changed by the moon. Do you see where this is going? The circling sequence of Chandra Namaskar itself represents the cycle of lunar transformation, the flow and ebb and flow and ebb that is the constant rhythm of life.

Are you tuned into the lunar cycle? Is it time to start exploring the moon’s ever-changing energy again? I’d love to hear from you. Share your comments below!

Inspiration to Run with the Wolves

One of my Goddess Spirit Circle sisters is reading Clarissa Pinkola Estés’ book, Women Who Run With the Wolves, and shared a reading from it when we met last month. I remember reading the book many years ago (Amazon.com remembers I bought a copy in 1998!) and being wowed by the powerful feminine archetypes. Ready to be inspired again, I just ordered another copy. And when I was putting together graphics for my social media posts this week, I added some quotes from Dr. Estés. Stand up and howl, sisters!

CPE Stretch

CPE Wherever

CPE Woods

CPE Defiant

Do you have a favorite quote from Clarissa Pinkola Estés? Share it with me in the comments!

Celebrating Earth-based Spirituality on Pagan Pride Day

“A wee child toddling in a wonder world,
I prefer to their dogma my excursions into the natural gardens
where the voice of the Great Spirit is heard in the twittering of birds,
the rippling of mighty waters, and the sweet breathing of flowers. 
If this is Paganism, then at present, at least, I am a Pagan.”

Zitkala-Sa

secondbestcircleToday I am in Syracuse, New York, to lead “Elemental Yoga” at the annual Central New York Pagan Pride Day festival. My workshop is from 10:00 to 10:45 a.m. Afterwards I get to spend the remainder of the day connecting with and learning from others who, like me, look to nature for their spiritual inspiration.

Pagans are an eclectic group; their diversity makes them interesting and fun. Their practices may be formal and structured or spontaneous and casual. There are numerous subsets under the Pagan umbrella. Pagans may worship deities from classical or tribal mythology, practice shamanism or magick, view futurology, community or ecology as religion, focus on the Divine Feminine, or simply venerate natural phenomena. Most chose their spiritual paths, rather than following the religions of their families.

At today’s festival we’ll be celebrating the upcoming autumn equinox, as well as doing lots of networking and community building. My husband will be manning the Adirondack Earth Lore booth to showcase his amazing woodturning, and I’ll be hanging out there discussing yoga and healthy living with anyone who will listen. We’ll do some drumming. I’ll watch bellydancers. And I’ll be showing folks how to connect with the energies of Earth, Air, Fire and Water with yoga.

In the area? Come on over to Onondaga Lake Park and join the fun!

Feel the Earth Element in your body with these three yoga poses

EarthElementMountainNext weekend I am teaching a yoga workshop called “Elemental Yoga” at the Central New York Pagan Pride Day Festival in Syracuse, New York. I’m very excited. This is the first time I’ve ventured out of my comforting Adirondack mountains to teach yoga to strangers, so I’m also a bit nervous. I have been doing lots of grounding work over the past few weeks, drawing nourishing energy from the earth, while at the same time inviting my vision for the workshop down to the physical level so it will manifest.

Yoga always helps me stay grounded and centered, but these three simple poses are my go-to poses when I need a quick refocus.

  1. Mountain pose. Tadasana is the basis of all standing poses in yoga. It embodies the grounding energy of the root chakra and brings awareness to your postural alignment. Stand with your feet no wider than your hips and your toes forward. Soften your knees, spread your toes and balance your weight between the balls of your feet and the center of your heel. Drop your tailbone and reach the crown of your head up, lengthening your spine. Relax your arms by your sides. Close your eyes and imagine your weight dropping into your feet, like you are trying to be so heavy that no one can lift you off the ground. You might sense your feet sinking into the floor or, if you are outside, the ground. Keep your knees slightly bent – if you lock them it will be harder for you to keep your feet heavy.
  2. EarthElementLotusLotus pose. Padmasana originated in the meditative practices of ancient India and is still used by modern-day practitioners. This centering posture presses your sitting bones, your physical “roots,” firmly down. Due to the hip and knee flexibility required, full lotus pose, with both feet placed on the opposite thighs, is not available for everyone. If you find it difficult, you can modify by bringing just one foot onto the other thigh (half lotus pose) or simply crossing your ankles (easy pose). If you practice Padmasana regularly, be sure to alternate which leg is on top to avoid developing imbalance in the hips. Once you get settled in your seat, lengthen your spine, lower your chin slightly and become aware of everything that is touching the surface you are sitting on. I find that just a few minutes focusing on my physical connection to the earth is calming and helps me to feel present.
  3. EarthElementCobraCobra pose. It is difficult to get closer to earth energy than to have your belly on the earth in Bhujangasana. Lie face down and stretch your legs back, feet hip-width apart, and press the tops of your feet into the floor. Place your hands under your shoulders, fingers spread, and hug your elbows to your sides. Keeping your pelvis pressed into the floor and straightening your arms as you make space to do so, lift your heart. Relax your shoulder blades down your back, draw your lower belly slightly off the floor and lift the top of your sternum. Draw your ears away from your shoulders, lengthening your neck. Feel the tops of your feet, your thighs, your pelvis and your low belly on the earth. If you are in a time of transformation or change, add extra oomph by closing your eyes and imagining you are shedding your skin, slithering out of whatever you are letting go of in order for change to happen.

Growing Roots: A grounding meditation to connect to the Earth

GroundingMeditationWhen things start to feel out of control or unsettled, I spend a few minutes practicing a simple, grounding meditation. Seated firmly on the floor or, even better, outside, I settle into my breath, then imagine growing roots.

To get you started, I recorded this simple grounding meditation to help you visualize your own roots. Once you get the idea, you can practice growing roots whenever you need to feel more settled and stable.

Thanks to Mark Piper, a talented local musician and awesome friend (and my guitar teacher), for the background music.

Why should the last day of spring mean something to you?

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As I’m writing this, Spring 2014 has less than 24 hours left. Most folks are excited for summer to officially start, although, depending on the climate where you live, it may feel like summer already. Here in the Adirondacks, the start of summer was a bit of a shock, because winter-like weather lasted well into spring. We’ve only just turned the heat off at the yoga studio.

Perhaps you, like me, will be celebrating the Summer Solstice this weekend, or maybe a graduation or a wedding. Maybe, if you live in the U.S., you welcome summer on July 4th. However you celebrate, don’t forget to say goodbye to spring.

Before the festivities start, take a few quiet minutes to reflect on the two seasons that have passed. Did you set intentions for this year, or for last season? Have you honored what you’ve accomplished? Is there anything you need to reassess?

I initiated some big changes back when fall gave way to winter. I needed to feel better physically and emotionally. I also needed to look at the directions my career and finances were taking. Heavy stuff.

I’ve been lucky. I have tremendous support from family, friends and my yoga community, and my new family of health coaches at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Even with that support, change is difficult. There have been fears to face, reality checks, uncertainties and second guesses. But there is also slow, steady progress.

I could not have made these difficult but necessary changes without all of that support. I will continue to need that support, as I still have a long way to go.

Knowing the value of that support makes me feel very good about my decision to become a Holistic Health Coach. The best way I can honor all of the support I have received is to give that same caring, nurturing support to others. Together we can discover how to change your life to put you on the path to health and happiness.