Newsletters

Heaviness & Breath

It’s been a while since I last posted, almost two months to be exact. There’s a heaviness in the atmosphere right now. Physically, emotionally, spiritually. We, collectively, are exhausted from pandemic living. We have been bombarded by news of war, the economy, and the very recent repeal of Roe v Wade. Sprinkled in are birthdays, weddings, gatherings and celebrations, as well as personal losses. With all the good and bad, we are tired.

It is in these times of heaviness that we often begin to question the morality of the world and our place within it. We begin to question our life’s path and what we want our future to look like. There may even be a sense of loss of inspiration. It is in these moments that many seek guidance. This may be from a mentor, a trusted elder, or a leader from your spiritual faith.

Over the years my students have come to me for advice and guidance as their teacher, sometimes as a spiritual mentor. I use my training and refer to the philosophic teachings of yoga, as well as the knowledge I have gained from my personal practices, to guide my students in making fully informed choices about their situations. There is so much knowledge stored in our bodies, we just need to learn how to listen for it.

When I feel deep heaviness, such as now, I try to seek stillness. The answers locked within our body can only be accessed when we are still. This is difficult for many because our minds want to stay active and busy. Our busy mind thinks it is protecting us from harmful information; it stays active so we don’t notice. Stillness is not only becoming physically still, but also about quieting the mind. How do we find stillness? We must practice. The tools to find stillness are found in your yoga practice and in your meditation practices. The more we turn to these practices, the greater our skill at finding stillness becomes.

One practice that I recommend, and turn to personally, is breath. Breath is a subtle but powerful element, without which our existence would cease. What follows below is a simple breathing exercise that anyone can do:

  1. Find a comfortable position. This could be seated or laying down.
  2. Close the eyes.
  3. Turn all of your attention to your natural breath, taking a moment to simply observe your breathing.
  4. Deepen the breath. As you inhale feel the belly expand, then the lower ribs expand, sternum rise. As you exhale feel the sternum, lower ribs, and abdomen collapse. Continue for several rounds.
  5. If the mind wanders and you notice your attention on thoughts, simply return attention to the breath. This is natural, and it will happen.
  6. After a few minutes release the deep breathing, allowing breath to flow naturally. Notice the body feels a bit more relaxed. Notice that the mind isn’t quite as chatty.
  7. Repeat this exercise once a day, or whenever you feel the need to slow down.

Sometimes It’s Okay to Not Be OK.

As I sat to write this newsletter, I found myself looking at the title and thinking “yeah ok, right.” I know I’m not alone in that thought. We, collectively speaking, have been taught that society expects us to have our shit together at all times, to never show our vulnerabilities, to never share that we don’t feel okay. This could be anything from our mental health, financial health, relationship health, our physical state – anything that we can have a sense of being “okay” or “not okay” over. The more that we hide our “not okay” parts the larger they become, making them more difficult to hide.

But what if we could just be honest – with ourselves first – and say “I’m not okay in this moment. And I’m okay with that.” Think about the power that being completely present to our being has. Being content even amid the internal chaos.

It showed up for me in trying to write this newsletter. As a spiritual and wellness advisor to many, I feel it is part of my service – my duty – to share wise and inspiring words. And I had none. There were no wise words, no moments of clarity to share, no mind-blowing interpretation of ancient teachings. I had nothing to share. I had nothing to share and I was NOT okay with that.

If you know me well, you’re probably reading this and thinking how that reaction is totally me (and you would be correct). And I realize that this is an over-simplified example, and probably not a super important life issue. And as silly as this may seem to some, I was struggling with not being able to share something with all of you. It wasn’t until I allowed myself – actually gave myself permission – to not be inspired, to not know what to share that this newsletter came to be. In other words, once I gave up my need and expectation, inspiration flowed out of it.

So how can my simple writing struggle help you? Are you feeling tired, emotionally worn out, drained, or just “not right?” Give yourself permission to feel it, stop hiding it. Give yourself permission to not be okay in that moment. Ask you body what it needs (literally ask if you have to) – and then give your body what it needs. Tired and need a nap? Curl up with a pillow and blanket. Need alone time? Find a quiet space away from others. Physically tired and need to move? Go for a walk or do some gentle stretching. Does your body need more support? Perhaps seeking out a therapist or speaking with your doctor is in order.

These last few years have been difficult for many of us. The past few months have been difficult as we continue to transition back to “normal” life. Remember it’s okay that there are moments of mental struggles and foggy thoughts. Just don’t stay there. Let them have their moment, let them teach you their lesson and let them move on; seek help if they overextend their stay. Know that there is nothing wrong with seeking out a professional who can help; in fact, I see it is a sign of strength to seek help.

I’m okay with not having all the answers all the time. Well, at this moment I am. And I am okay if that changes. And I will be okay even if I’m not okay with that.

Namaste & Blessings!

BE-ing in a Season of Change

As I write this, it has been a couple hours that I have been staring at a blank blog page hoping – perhaps more accurately, wishing – for inspiration. I’ve been sitting in the sun streaming through my office window and tending to plants; nothing. Looking at the snow-covered ground from yesterday’s storm thinking how crazy the weather is; it was 60 degrees just two days ago. I want to do something creative, but I also want to curl up in a blanket fort for the next month and hibernate. And that’s where inspiration (finally) hit…

As I look to the natural world around me, I am reminded that we are in the transition period between early winter (vata season) and late winter/spring (kapha season). Vata brings changes, transitions, creativity and movement. Kapha is slowing down, growth, being cozy and relaxed. As I look outside, this weekend was exactly that: a warm “beach” day followed by 24 hours of snow and below 20 degree temperatures – talk about crazy changes and transitions!

These shifts are evident in my body/mind as well. I feel drawn to moving more (walks, yoga, etc), but then feel the urge to curl up in a blanket with a mug of hot tea. I feel creative, then want to take a nap. I feel the need to DO, then I feel drawn to simply BE.

It is through our yoga practices that we learn this art of BE-ing. Ayurveda supports our bodies and minds in that process. Being aware of what’s happening around me helps me to see what’s happening within me – as without, so within. Many of us, myself included, get caught up in all the doing that we forget how to simply BE. Yoga not only teaches us how to BE, it shows us how to BE even as we are DO-ing.

So as I move through this seasonal transition, I am deciding to be gentle with myself. I will make, do, create when that needs to happen; I will rest, restore, and reset when that needs to happen. And through it all I will remind myself to simply BE: BE present, BE aware.

Gifts from 2021 & The New Year

The time between Christmas and New Years is an interesting time. It’s a period where many of us start thinking about resolutions for the new year, about new goals, and the such. For me, I find myself naturally drawn more inward, reflecting. Reflecting on my past year, on my journey, on what might be coming next.

The last two years have been very interesting for me, and I know it has for many of you. 2020 brought us fear of the unknown, emergency regulations, and isolations. 2021 was, perhaps, even stranger as we collectively attempted to navigate the waters of vaccines, masks, opening economies, lessening then tightening mandates, and attempting to find “normal” again. Our favorite businesses closed, opened, closed again, partially opened, mostly fully opened, then opened with restrictions – then repeat. The studios I work with are no exception; even the classes I have taught independently have been affected.

One thing 2021 gifted me with is seeing the dark components of my being openly in loving light. What does this mean? It means I have been able to see some of the hidden places in my heart, my body, and my mind that hold traumas and false narratives of who I am. These are areas that are still in need of acknowledgment and healing. I have been able to see some of these “dark” spaces and greet them, almost like welcoming them as a guest into my home. I have also seen that there are many more areas that need this acknowledgment and healing, but they aren’t quite ready to come out and be seen just yet. And that’s okay. I know that when these “dark” places are brought to light, acknowledged and healed it makes me more whole, more unified, perhaps more complete.

This process of self-exploration and self-healing has also allowed me to be more open to ideas and opportunities that I would have, in the not-so-distant past, been resistant to. And I am excited to say that 2022 will be bringing all sorts of new, fun things. I am looking forward to presenting workshops, holding new classes, January Meditation Challenge, and so much more! I have had more clarity around some of my writing, and I’m ready to get back to creating my second book. Be sure to explore my website and follow Facebook and Instagram to stay up-to-date.

So what has 2021 gifted YOU? How has the good and seemingly “bad” things allowed you to open, learn, and grow? What are you ready to receive in 2022 because of that gift? As you prepare your intentions and resolutions for 2022, I wish you peace, joy, contentment, and personal growth.

Solstice Greetings & Meditation Challenge

Happy Solstice! Today marks the shortest day (less sunlight) of the year, and the beginning of more light ahead. I have always loved this time of year; and I’m not sure if I understood why when I was younger. The lights, the music, the merriment. I have come to realize that the many celebrations that occur over the month or so have “light” as a centerpiece. Each celebration focuses on something different, but the theme of “Light” carries through them.

For me, the celebrations of light indicate that no matter how dark the night is, you can always find a light. The darkness may be the physical darkness of the evening, or it may be an emotional darkness that we are experiencing. The light may be the morning dawn, a candle in a window, a streetlight. It may even be the light of love in one’s heart. That may be the dimmest flicker, but even that faltering flame can light another. This is how the light – read love – grows: we share it with others. May your solstice be full of love and light.

MEDITATION CHALLENGE: It is in sharing my light that I wish to invite you to my personal meditation challenge in January 2022. My intention is to be deliberate and more consistent in my meditation practice and have challenged myself to meditate at least 10 minutes every day in January. If you would like to join me, send me an email. Let me know any questions you have. I will provide you with a tracker and options to offer support. Cheers to a peaceful and calm 2022!

Autumn, Vata Energy, & Change

Autumn in Southern New England is pretty nice. Temperature gets cool, but there are still warm breezes. The trees put on a show of bright oranges, reds and yellows and the leaves turn, and eventually fall. It’s the season of apple picking and pumpkin spice everything. And we are in full swing.

Autumn is a season of change. Temperatures begin to drop, winds pick up. It’s cool and dry. It’s Vata season, controlled by the elements of ether and air. It is light, dry, and full of movement. We can see this as we observe nature. And it occurs within us as well. We trade in our shorts and tees for jeans and sweaters to stay warm. We eat less salads and cool foods and begin making soups, stews, and other warm, comforting foods. We trade iced tea for warm teas.

Autumn can be a time of change and creativity. Nature shows us that we can let go of what we don’t need to make room for what’s to come. Each year as the trees become dormant they shed their leaves. The trees “sleep” all winter and re-emerge in the spring with vibrant green leaves, blooming flowers, and eventually delicious fruits. We can tap into that energy by taking the time to clear our spaces – work or home. throwing away anything that may be broken, donating the items that we no longer use. And welcoming the creative energy that might be present. Perhaps in the form of cooking, baking, painting, writing, or planning your spring gardens.

The trees even show that letting go can be a beautiful process as well. Often when we are going through a period of difficulty or transition, we look at how “bad” the situation is. We forget that there are blessings hiding in these transitions. But the trees remind us every year that transition and change can be beautiful. Every year they drop their leaves, hide away for the winter, and wake up more beautiful each spring. And when those leaves drop, they take on the most amazing colors. We never see the beauty in our own transitions until they are complete. I wonder if the trees know how beautiful and inspiring their change is?

Simple Turmeric Teas

Turmeric is a really awesome spice. It is often used as a coloring agent in cooking curries and many other dishes. It can even be used as a natural dye, with a red-orange hue. It has an earthy taste and aroma, and a little goes a long way. It has also become popular in recent years due to evidence that curcumin, a nutrient in turmeric, has been found beneficial in reducing inflammation. Turmeric, as a whole ingredient, is in fact anti-inflammatory and also anti-microbial, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and it can help to boost your immune system. I sneak it into many dinners so my family can reap the benefits of this spice.

Aside from curries, one of my favorite ways to consume this wonderful spice is in a simple tea, as a replacement for my morning hot water and lemon. Simply place a pinch of powdered turmeric, a pinch of powdered ginger, a pinch of black pepper, and a squeeze of lemon into a mug. Fill the mug with hot water, stir, and enjoy! You can adjust the lemon and ginger to taste. The black pepper is a must as it helps our bodies assimilate the turmeric.

Another popular turmeric beverage is Golden Milk. Because warm milk can help promote a restful sleep, I recommend this as an evening beverage before bed. here are many variations to this creamy beverage, but the base is simple: milk, turmeric, black pepper. Many recipes call for coconut milk, but you can substitute your favorite non-dairy milk. You can also use cow’s milk, and I recommend whole for the nutrient benefits. Add a tablespoon of coconut oil (helps the body absorb the turmeric, but you can exclude if using whole milk if you’d like). Add additional spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, or cardamom to your liking. You can also add a natural sweetener (if using honey, wait to add until your beverage has cooled to just warmer than body temperature. Ayurveda does not encourage cooking/boiling honey). Simply place the milk and spices in a saucepan, whisk well as you bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, then serve.

Both these beverages are delicious, health-promoting, comforting, and warm – perfect as we head into cooler months. I hope they become a pleasant addition to your routine. Here’s to your health: Cheers!

In-Person Yoga; Brief Thoughts on Impacts of COVID-19 and 2020

I’ve been thinking about what to write for this edition of my newsletters. I know I want to address my new in-person yoga classes, but couldn’t find a “format” that felt right – I didn’t want to seem all technical or cold. So, I’ve just decided to share thoughts and feelings I’m experiencing, as well as the protocols I’m implementing.

First, I am so excited to have indoor in-person classes! Yoga at the vineyard was such a wonderful experience, I don’t want that to end because of weather and the changing of the seasons. Am I worried about being indoors with people? Yes. Do I see value in offering in-person classes? Yes. Do I see a need to also protect my students? Yes. Am I both excited and worried? Yes. When I was first offered the opportunity to lead classes in these beautiful spaces, I was hesitant. I was – and still am – concerned about COVID-19, its variants, and other illness and and knowing that being in close proximity to others, especially during exercise, can place us at an increased risk for contracting illness. But I feel these are opportunities that must be taken both for me and my students. I know that there are individuals who need this.

This last year plus has been hard. Those who were able found themselves working or attending school from home on a computer or other device (tablet, phone) literally overnight. Those whose jobs required them to be in person (manufacturing, distribution, etc.) found how they did their jobs change; including distancing machines, change in shift scheduling, health screenings, less staff due to illness or quarantines. And those considered essential workers having the added burden of feeling it was their duty to be on the job, even if they were in paralyzing fear doing so. Even I – with all the tools of yoga – found myself becoming more anxious and nervous, many times for no reason. This anxiety and unnecessary stress started to trigger my asthma as well.

I would watch and keep track of my state’s COVID-19 data. Daily. And the weekly press conference updates. And as students were preparing to return to school September 2020 I became obsessed with watching these numbers as my husband is a school teacher (and I have several school-aged relatives). I found myself becoming angry – no, enraged – at people who went the wrong way down grocery isles, at people who wore their masks under their noses, those who refused to mask-up at all (and often flaunted it). And as the vaccines became available and mask mandates eased, I found myself questioning if an unmasked person was actually vaccinated, or just taking the opportunity to not wear that stupid mask. And I knew that this was not healthy, but it took me a while to stop. But when I did, I stopped watching the press conferences. If I felt the need to know what happened, I would read the recaps on the news. I threw away all data that I had been tracking regarding infection rates; now I only look once per week (in preparation of and for continued monitoring of in-person classes, looking at the overall trends). I still wear a mask at the grocery stores. I wear a mask if I am around others I don’t know when I feel there is inadequate natural airflow (large room, doors and/or windows open is good). I am taking natural supplements, meditating regularly (I stopped with my anxiety even though I knew that I needed to sit and meditate). I breathe deep when those thoughts arise, and I stop them from continuing to consume me.

I know others have experienced something similar. Virtual yoga classes have been great, don’t get me wrong. Because we have been able to meet for our regular classes, my students have been able to stretch their bodies and relax their worried minds, even if just for an hour. I feel blessed – truly blessed – to have the honor of holding space for my students to heal their worries each week. But I know there are others for whom a virtual class doesn’t work for them; whether they don’t have space in their home for yoga, or perhaps they have so much Zoom fatigue they just don’t have the energy for “one more meeting” even if it is yoga and meditation. And some, perhaps many, are just longing to be in the physical presence of others. What I learned with Yoga at the Vineyard is that people want to gather again – safely, of course. And I feel as a yoga teacher, wellness professional, and healer I need to offer that if I have the opportunity to do so – and I do.

So how am I doing this safely? Class sized are very limited. AS of now, 6 or less depending on the location. I will increase or decrease class sizes as I feel it’s appropriate or needed. I recommend that all students reserve a spot online, and drop-ins will not be accepted if class capacity is reached. Students will be screened for illness and have their body temp taken; anyone with signs of illness or fever will not be allowed for class. A lightweight mask/face covering is recommended for all students regardless of vaccination status; I will be wearing one. I will be offering discounted multi-class passes, and to accommodate this all class payments will at the door vs at the time of registration. These passes are only good for classes offered directly though Satya Wellness, not through Santosha Yoga Studio or Thrive Yoga Fruita (both studios have their own pricing options; and all my classes with them are Virtual Only at this time). And once I have a feel for each space, I plan to also offer the classes live via Zoom – so you can see me and your classmates in action – so you won’t miss classes if you’re ill, need to quarantine, or simply prefer the virtual format.

I know this turned out to be quite a long piece, so thank you for reading through the end. Please know that my intention is to offer the most nurturing, healing, supportive yoga expiries that I can to my community. I want to help keep you safe and healthy physically and spiritually by offering classes in multiple formats. In-Person classes begin Saturday September 25 at Gallery Z and Monday September 27 at the Johnston Historical Society (JHS) Museum Barn. You can also catch me on Zoom with both Santosha Yoga Studio and Thrive Yoga Fruita. As a reminder, I teach under both the names Julie and Parvati. I hope to see you on the mat soon.

Heat Wave

“We’re having a heat wave, a tropical heat wave, the temperature’s rising…”

We are at the beginning of yet another heatwave here in Rhode Island. It is currently 90 degrees as I write this newsletter at 4:00pm, with the next two days forecast at 93 and 95 degrees respectively. And although I have been sitting thinking about what to write for a newsletter, my mind just does not want to cooperate – It’s like its overheated too. So instead, I thought to simply share some of what I have been doing to stay cool today.

I have been very still today. My husband and I did work early this morning – dishes, cleaning, running the vacuum. He took his daily walk early, I did a few simple stretches. We sat outside until the sun began to shine too brightly on us. Now I am positioning myself wherever there may be a slight breeze coming through a window. I have a desk fan blowing as I work. I personally do not like fans (or ac, heat) blowing directly on my, so I have it angled slightly away. Fans create movement in the air and can disrupt Vata, or at least that seems to be the case for me.

Water. Lots of water. I usually recommend – and consume – room temperature water, but it is so warm today that I am taking cold water from my refrigerator or placing a couple ice cubs to keep the water from getting too warm. In fact, I just filled my water bottle with cold water and it is already warming up! Eat cooling, juicy foods too. Think seasonal: cucumbers, tomatoes, salads (light dressings, not thick and creamy), peaches, grapes, berries. Not only will they not heat the body too much, their liquids will also help keep the body hydrated.

I have found myself naturally doing Sitali Breath throughout the day. It’s a cooling breath techniques – both physically and mentally. There are many meditative aspects that can be brought in, but I like it simple on days like today. Simply take a deep breath in through the nose, then exhale through the mouth with lips pursed, as though you are blowing through a tiny straw. This slows the breath on the exhale, calming the mind and creating a sense of coolness.

I have shared summer tips in earlier newsletters, so please peruse though the archives. If you’re looking for more ways to support your body through the summer, click here to reach out. And until next time, be well and stay cool!

Can Vitamin SEA beneficial to your dosha?

Ah, the beach! Or the shore, as some call it. Water, waves, hot sun, seaweed, sand all over everything. This is so much to love – and just as much not to love – about the beach. I grew-up in Rhode Island, which is known as the “Ocean State,” on a small island to be exact. So the beach and water have been a part of my entire life.

On a recent beach visit with my husband, I found myself wondering and exploring the ways I felt the seaside was beneficial – maybe even healing – for the three doshas. For those who don’t know, the doshas represent the five elements (ether, air, fire, water, earth) found in the physical world. The natural world, therefore, can have an impact on the balance of the doshas in our bodies. So how dies the beach effect our doshas? Here are some of my thoughts during that beach visit.

Elements of the Beach:

The Water – An obvious attraction of the seaside, and also obviously primarily comprised of the water element. But as you watch the waves lap onto the shore, there is movement to the ocean which is characteristic of vata (elements of air and ether). The ocean water contains salt which is of the earth element. The power of the tides also have the power to transform the shoreline (erosion) which is a characteristic of pitta (fire and water elements)>.

Sandy Beaches – The sandy terrain of the shoreline is a light, airy earth element There’s a salty, grainy aspect too, as you would quickly notice if sand blew into your afternoon picnic.

Sun – We head to the beaches because the water provides relief from the hot summer sun. The sun has the power to warms us, the sand and the water, as well as create a wonderful tan or sunburn on our bodies. Clearly the element of fire.

Sea Breezes – One of the best parts of being along the shoreline are the coastal breezes. Its a cooling delight as the wind gently drifts over the water onto the shore. Air and ether are the dominating elements here. However the breeze often picks up some of the salt from the water, especially if its foggy, bringing a slight earth influence.

Possible Effects on the Doshas:

Vata – Ether & Air: because movement is a hallmark trait of vata, the tides and breezes could subject a vata to potential imbalance. The sand and water can provide much needed grounding to a vata personality.

Kapha – Water & Earth: Even though the store is amassed with earth and water elements (literally, sand and water), it can may not be overwhelmingly grounding for a kapha. The breezes have the powr to invigorate, the sun heats stagnant energies, and the water provides gentle movement. The key for kapha is to find balance between resting and gentle activities while enjoying the beach.

Pitta – Water & FIre: pittas, in my opinion, are most at risk of imbalance at the beach. Hot sun combined with pitta’s competitive nature, they often overdo it when outdoors in the summer. However, the breezes and the water are cooling to pitta’s fiery heat. The sand provides grounded, provided there is plenty of shade available.

Take Aways:

Please know that these are my observations of nature and the doshas. There is so much that goes into determining an individual’s dosha and where they are in balance or imbalance. It is such an individual approach, which is why I love Ayurveda so much. Not sure about your dosha, take this test courtesy of Banyan Botanicals (link is on top of page).

So could a day at the beach be beneficial to you? Absolutely! Of course, as with everything, in moderation. Take precautions to ensure your dosha remains balanced. Grab your sunscreen and some snacks, and go get some Vitamin Sea!