Move + Learn. Move + Grow. Move + Connect.

Movement matters.  In our modern world, we tend to place a higher value on mental functions like language and reasoning over functions like motor control and body awareness.  We see this dynamic playing out in schools when math time takes precedence over recess.  Movement is powerfully healing, in more ways than one.

Movement helps to regulate our brains emotionally.  Current research is telling us that yoga is like miracle grow for the brain because it helps our brain cells grow, in other words, to be in a state of neuroplasticity.  Yoga and other forms of movement help to stimulate a protein inside of our brains called BDNF or brain derived neurotrophic factor, a crucial biological link between thought, emotions, and movement.  A thinking brain is a movement brain.  The only way to get a kid to sit still and concentrate is to move first.

Yoga increases hippocampus growth, the part of our brain that stores memory.  Yoga releases GABA, a neurotransmitter in the brain that helps slow down the release of cortisol (a stress hormone), thus helping to put the breaks on parts of the brain that are overstimulated.  When we are able to access feelings of calm and ease, we are not only better able to focus and concentrate, but are better able to pay attention to our own well - being, thus take greater care of ourselves. 

Because yoga is a discipline in mind, body and spirit, when we practice, we become more syncrhonised in these areas.  When we are more synchronised in mind, body and spirit, we become more present minded.  When we are present minded, we gain more awareness of the world around us, including our relationships with other human beings.  In recognizing that we are all connected through the vital life force (prana) that flows within and all around us, we begin to understand the energetic effect we have on people through our thoughts, words, and actions.  Through this recognition, our relationships become more meaningful and we see very clearly the importance of treating everyone in our lives; friends, colleagues, strangers and family with dignity, respect, and loving kindness.  This is the very heart and soul of a yoga practice.

My life's purpose and my heart's work is to plant the seeds of the powerful practices of yoga for all of our children.  My hope is that they understand that to move is to learn, to move is to grow, and to move is to connect to both themselves and to others.  This takes a village, which means we, as their mentors, need these practices in our lives as well.  I invite you and your children to grow together through moving, learning and connecting in my Family Yoga Classes and Child + Me Yoga Classes, now being offered in Lititz and downtown Lancaster.  You can visit me at www.GrowWiseYoga.com for details on class offerings.  I look forward to moving, learning, growing and connecting with you and your family! 

 

 

 

 

 

Burning Our Way to Courage and Strength

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During my walk outside this morning, I heard the crackling of acorns falling to the ground from the trees above.  I witnessed the plummeting of these small, but mighty oak nuts make contact with the ground.  Some made it to Earth whole and undamaged, while others split in two.  This tiny, yet mighty object from nature instantly reminded me of how I have been feeling over the last several weeks.  Too weak to hang on to that which no longer works for me or my family.  Brave enough to be willing to grow into my greatest strengths and power because of this letting go.  In complete surrender to the unknown of what will happen when I choose to finally let go.  All of this, even if it means I might just crack wide open.

The truth is, in order for real transformation to take place, our hearts must be willing to crack open.  This process hurts, it's painful, it's messy, and sometimes, it is the only way to break free from habitual patterns that serve solely to keep us small.  Patterns that have become so habitual, we mistake them for who we are at our core.  Patterns that are so strong, we act on them without even thinking, only to hurt ourselves or others.  These patterns, if paid attention to and nurtured properly, can serve as opportunities for growth, if we are open to such a thing.  Just as the acorn takes the risk to become a mighty oak tree through surrendering to its old ways, we must take the risk to let old patterns die so that new life can be born again.  

Because I desire self - transformation with such fervor, I have invited the full spectrum of emotions into my body.  Grief, pain, sadness, surprise, overwhelm, fear, freedom, anger, joy, happiness, trust and distrust.  In allowing myself to feel all of these emotions, which feels like a heart cracked wide open, I have been able to clearly see the external influences that have had an impact on my thinking, on my identity, on my soul.  In letting go of some of the physical and emotional attachments that do not support the expression of my true essence, I feel like I am one step closer to living more freely and openly from my true strengths and power.  From a place of softness.  A soft heart is not weakness, but instead courage, strength and true power.

My focus this month has been, in my mind, expansion in thinking.  And in my heart, expansion in the ability to deeply feel.  Working through my own thoughts and feelings has proven to be both purifying and cleansing.  In looking at my habitual patterns and tendencies towards negativity straight ahead and choosing something different, I feel stronger, softer, more courageous and more loving.  

The energy of this month, according to ancient wisdom, lends itself to this hard inner work of personal transformation.  It is a time of review, reflection and integration.  If we want to achieve our burgeoning visions we have set forth for our future selves, we need to let go of the old, of what is not essential, and purify ourselves so that we are able to contain the new.  As much as we may long for change, forces within us are frightened of change and want things to remain the same.  Our ego defenses create resistances.  As we become aware of deep - seated beliefs that shape our feelings and emotions, our ego defenses make it hard for us to make the changes we are so desperately in need of.  It is common to feel discouraged and even question our capacity for real change.  When this happens, it is essential that we stick with it and commit to making contact with the deeper parts of our soul so that we may move forward in our lives.  Even it is painful and difficult.

How do we do this?  Where do we begin?  Here is a list of what has helped me and may help you too:

1. Carve out space for yourself to listen to your thoughts and to be with your feelings. 

2. Engage in self - inquiry. 

3. Own your own projections. 

4. Set boundaries. 

5. Move your body. 

6. Sit in stillness. 

7.  Seek. Trust. Surrender.

8. Listen and receive. 

9. Journal. 

10. Love yourself unconditionally. 

May we all burn our way to more courage, strength, and true power through humble acts of softening and letting go.  May we all be free, happy, healthy, and more loving towards ourselves and others because of these very actions.  

 

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If you are a parent, caregiver, or teacher, see my blog on Teaching Children to Face Fear With a Brave Heart.

Teaching Children to Face Fear with a Brave Heart

 

 

 

Halloween is a time to have fun, dress up in costumes, be with friends, and best of all, collect as much candy as humanly possible.  It is also a time to face our fears as we walk in the dark, see scary costumes, fake spiders, and other images that may haunt the mind.  Especially the young minds of children.

As parents, caregivers, and educators, we can turn this spooky holiday into a spectacular one by teaching our children how to face their fears with a brave heart so that they may celebrate courage with their friends this Halloween and for themselves always. 

Below are some creative ideas that we can use to teach this important life lesson.

 

Positive affirmations help build inner confidence, belief in oneself and healthy self - esteem.  We all develop belief systems about ourselves from our immediate environment and the world around us.  Teaching positive affirmations is a powerful way to grow happier minds, happier children, and serve as a great tool to overcome fear.  It is important for children to know that all the love and light they need is already inside of them.  It is our duty to teach them how to call on these internal gems.   

  

"I AM BRAVE"     "I AM BRIGHT"     "I SHINE MY LIGHT"    "MY HEART IS BRAVE"     "I AM HAPPY"   

  "I AM STRONG"    "I TRUST MYSELF"   "I AM SAFE"   "I AM LOVED"  "I KNOW I CAN"

 

 

On a physiological level, breathing exercises are key in maintaining a calm mind and body.  Explain the scientific benefits of breathing exercises to your age appropriate children and follow these fun, Halloween inspired breathing exercises to instill bravery into your child's heart.

Great Big Pumpkin OM Breath:  Sit in criss - cross (easy pose), breathe in and reach arms up overhead, breathe out with the sound of OMMMM and place hands together on top of head to make the shape of a pumpkin stem.  Repeat fast and/ or slow 5 - 10 x's. 

Friendly Ghost Breath:  Stand tall (mountain pose), breathe in and raise arms up, breathe out with the sound of an OOOOO while floating arms down slowly in a wave like motion.  Repeat 5 - 10 x's.  Tell the children they can use this breath to make friends with everything around them. 

 

 

 

Make a friendly ghost and turn it into a breathing buddy. 

Supplies: tissue paper or regular tissue, string, cotton balls, 1 black marker, and a pair of scissors. 

Instructions:  place 3 cotton balls in the center of 2 pieces of tissue paper or 2 regular tissues, close the paper over the tissues and gather tight around the cotton balls.  Cut a string and tie around the neck of the ghost.  Draw 2 dots for the eyes.

Use as a breathing buddy:  lie down on your back with your child next to you and place your breathing buddies on your bellies.  Watch it as it moves up when you breathe in and down when you breathe out.  Friendly ghost breath is fun to do during this exercise as well. 

 

 

 

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Most importantly, talk to the children in your lives about their fears.  Explain to them that a lot of people get scared of the dark, especially on Halloween night.  Remind them that when it is dark outside, our eyes and our minds play tricks on us and we see things that we think are real, like fake, plastic spiders and friends dressed up as monsters.

Encourage them to use their Great Big Pumpkin OM Breath or Friendly Ghost Breath.  Have them invite their friendly ghost breathing buddy along for trick or treating. 

Tell them a story about a brave character or read them a book like Leo the Lovable Lion that speaks to living with a brave heart. 

Ask questions like the one's below to create dialogue around facing fear with a brave heart:

Have you ever felt afraid to do something, but decided to do it anyway?

Are you sometimes afraid to listen to your heart and do what you truly know is the right thing for you to do even when friends are making different choices? 

Share some of your fears with your children and tell them how you find the courage to face your fears with a brave heart.  

 BE BRAVE.  BE COURAGEOUS. AND HAVE A HAPPY HALLOWEEN!! 

 

Fall Inspired Yoga & Mindfulness Acitivites for Children, Families & Educators

 

 

LEAF MEDITATION

Find a few different leaves with your child/ren and carve out some time to examine each leaf together. 

Notice the color, the texture, trace your finger around the shape of the leaf, is it pointy/jagged/soft/crispy, etc?  Look at the veins on the leaf, notice any holes on the leaf. 

You can even explain the science of color in Autumn leaves.  Here is a great article on this awesome science. 

 

LEAF POSE

Ask your child/ren "If a leaf were a yoga pose, what would it look like?"  Ask them to show you in their body what it would like.  Do the pose with them.  Make up your own.  Get creative, share ideas and have fun!

 

 

CATCH A LEAF

Go outside with your child/ren and look for leaves falling from the trees above.  Play catch a leaf.

Encourage your child to catch a leaf in their hands as they watch the leaf float softly towards the ground. 

Notice how each leaf floats differently.  Some twirl like helicopters, some sway back and forth, others may be carried far away from you by the gusts of wind.  How are the leaves falling right before your eyes? 

If it is a particularly still day and no leaves are falling, pick some up off of the ground, throw them up in the air and play catch a leaf this way.  You can toss one or many at a time. 

Did you catch a crunchy leaf?  A soft one one?  A tiny one? A red or yellow one? 

Enjoy being in nature and in total awe of the wonders of this world together with your family. 

Nature heals and so does spending time with loved ones.  Especially when we bring the gift of presence to one another. 

Summer Blues Bring Autumn Hues

The days are getting shorter as the sun is growing dimmer.  The songs of the birds have grown quieter and the buzzing sounds of the cicadas have dampened down.  From my view of the woods outside of my windows at home, I set my gaze on dried out brown and golden leaves twirling like helicopters as they make their way towards the ground.  Summertime here in the Northeast is coming to a close and I am beginning to feel this shift on an extremely visceral level.

Change is good.  Change is inevitable.  Change is the one thing in life we know we can count on for sure.  I embrace change with open arms.  EXCEPT for the change of season this time of the year.  I know many of you look forward to the Fall like a kid in a candy store, surrounded and mesmerized by all of the vibrant colors, scents and tastes of sugary sweets abound.  But not me.  This seasonal transition brings about a certain degree of internal grief and melancholy that forces me to look within and reflect in more thoughtful and careful ways.  This is not at all a bad thing, per se, but it certainly is a change that requires more effort on my part to stay attuned to my own inner world in my quest for balance. 

The rhythms of my body and mind are asking me to pay attention in different and greater ways than what was required of me in the Summer.  I can no longer rely on the intensity of the sun for my boosts of energy, even though I still have just as many (if not more) obligations to fulfill.  My anxiety is heightened, my brain is scattered, my skin is beginning to dry out just like the leaves on the trees, and worst of all, flip flops are on their way out.  Say it isn't so!  This means wool socks and boots are in my very near future.  So very confining.

Thanks to my self - care practices, relief is only a reach away.  I would love to share with you some of my Fall rituals that help keep me warm, balanced, and grounded during this time of the year.  Maybe you too could use some of these suggestions. 

1.  WALKING MEDITATION - Nature heals.  Because I begin to feel a sense of loss and mourning this time of the year, my soul needs more nurturing than usual.  I have found walking meditation during the Fall to be extra healing.  I notice the leaves on the trees, I watch them fall to the ground, I pick one leaf up at a time to trace my finger along the veins, I feel the texture, I notice the colors, the spots and the jagged edges.  I connect to the leaves as though they are a part of me (because they are) and honor this process of dying, shedding the old, moving on and letting go.  I recognize the impermanence in all things, in myself, in life.  I embrace the decaying of nature the same as I do the decaying of my old self.  And when I do this, I open myself up to all that will be new for me again. 

2.  YOGA & BREATHING PRACTICES - Yoga always.  Especially now.  Particularly grounding practices with the intention of bringing love and gratitude for myself, for others and for the changes all around.  I prefer moving slower through my practice one pose at a time with longer holds.  Here is a mini sequence that feels good in my body for grounding:

Child's Pose to Downdog to Mountain

Warrior 1 to Warrior 2 to Triangle to Wide Legged Forward Fold to Pyramid - REPEAT on other side

Tree Pose to Yoga Squat (malasana) to Supported Bridge (with block under sacrum) to Legs up a Wall (viparitakarani) to Savasana

Breathwork: Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana) - click here for benefits and directions

3.  WARM BATHS/ BODY OILING/ SELF MASSAGE -  I use almond oil or sesame oil all over my body before bed and/or after a warm bath or shower.  I even put oil in the bath water and massage it into my skin while in the water.  I reapply after my bath.  This is a great way to combat my dry skin, leaving my skin smooth and supple. 

4. DIETARY CHANGES & TEA TIME - I incorporate root vegetables and warm soups into my diet, while trying to avoid foods that are on the dry side.  This helps me stay warm, supports my skin, and helps me stay grounded in my body and mind.  Also, a warm mug of tea goes a long way in keeping me warm and is a the perfect reminder to slow down and savor the moment.

While Fall time may be a difficult transition for myself and for some of you, it truly is an opportunity to shift gears, to listen more deeply, to turn inward, tune into the natural rhythms of nature, and to take greater care of ourselves.  So, bring it on Fall.  I am ready for you and all you have to offer!

Remember, as your Health and Wellness Educator, I am here to support you, your children and your family.  Be sure to check out these Fall Inspired Yoga and Mindfulness Practices for Children, Families and Educators and be inspired in the present moment together!

I am excited to announce that I will be offering a Fall Wellness Retreat for Women at West End Yoga Studio on October 30th.  This half - day wellness program is designed especially for mamas, educators and caregivers.  I would love to spend this day with you!  For more details and to register, click here

Also, another offering for women only at West End Yoga is the next Kick - Ass Female Entrepreneur Event: Move, Meditate and Mingle.  This free meet up takes place on September 26th at 7 pm.  Click here for more details.  Come check out the studio and meet other women in your community!  

Additionally, I offer weekly adult yoga classes at West End Yoga Studio, and weekly children's yoga classes throughout Lancaster county at different early education centers and schools.  Grow Wise Programs in schools also support school educators and staff. 

Most recently I have partnered with Move It Studio in Lititz and will be offering Grow Wise Parent & Child Mindful Movement Classes this Fall.  Registration is open now!

Lastly, I am available to work with you as your very own personal Wellness Mentor.  Schedule a free Wellness Consultation with me now and receive a special gift to get you started on cultivating greater well - being and happiness for yourself and discover the ripple effect this will have on your loved ones.  

I look forward to staying connected to you in all things wellness.  And may you transition well throughout this Fall season.