With spring in the air, it’s time to turn thoughts and actions towards planting seeds of change and looking at ways we can declutter the mind and the body to make room for growth. If you are an avid gardener, you understand the importance of pulling weeds; their growth can become rapid, overtaking small spaces with such ferocity that it can create imbalance. Weeds can be suffocating, toxic and stifle the seedlings from reaching light. Weeds do not intend to do this, they just grow with such desire and intensity that before long, other plants have no space to shine themselves. They behave the only way they know how and in the process, might not realize what damage they create around them.
Spiritual growth can happen in the same way. We can often suffocate ourselves with actions, thoughts and behaviours that are on the surface harmless, but prevent growth from flowing in an organic manner. My own challenge has been learning when you move forward and knowing when to be still. I have the tendency to suffocate things before they have had a chance to root out of sheer excitement, not knowing that I was overfilling the pot, overwatering the plant and stifling the natural rhythm of the growth the process. I get caught up in the moment, the emotion and miss the practicality of the situation; is it, right? Does this action/reaction create a sacred space for me or does it add to the toxicity? Am I honouring the natural progression of life or is my ego trying to control the outcome?
In the past, few months of my life I’ve done some serious detoxification. It’s been a large learning curve and it seems to never want to end! And just like a gardener, I’ve had to trim the things that drain me and give back nourishment the centre of it all; my heart. Whatever situations create disharmony in the heart are like the dead ends of a plant, they draw nutrients away from the source and all that is left is stale, stagnant energy where life cannot move freely.
Last month we explored release in practice and this month I want to focus on the importance of what actions come next after letting go. Once we shift one major perspective in our lives, there are always subsequent fall-outs and constant action, attention and dedication must be taken to keep life, goals and dreams into perspective. Are you over your ex or are you still holding onto photos and texts for a rainy day? Have you forgiven someone who betrayed your trust or are you still moaning about them to your friends? Growth takes time. That is why we must be vigilant in watering our hearts and minds with things that give us life. Release. Forgive. Mulch.
Good friends and inching yourself out of your own comfort zone daily are small incremental steps to build rich soil. We can learn to use the lessons of the past to build a stronger, healthier and more sustainable space from which we can grow again. It’s not always easy work, as any vegetable gardener will tell you, but the reward is not the fruit, but the lesson learned along the way. The satisfaction of the harvest itself.
Spring ahead! It is the time of year where we eagerly anticipate the return of green grass, warmer weather and a fresh outlook to months ahead. It is also a time when the hours of sunlight become more apparent and have an effect on our sleep cycle. During this solar transition, it is easy to become ungrounded and knowing how to adjust to the time change can save you a day’s worth of grogginess and delay.
Our circadian rhythms ebb and flow with the changing patterns of the sun. Looking to avoid reaching for that extra cup of coffee in the morning just to get you moving? Read below to find out how to help you adjust to the time change and get a fresh start to a fresh spring!
- Go to Bed Early
Since we “lose” an hour of sleep as we move the clocks ahead we need to replenish the sleeping hours we would normally obtain to feel refreshed and rested. Setting an alarm for bed time on your phone is an excellent way to remind yourself of when to go to bed. That extra hour of sleep doesn’t seem like much but sleep deprivation can have a detrimental effect on your mood, your cognition and your overall health, including your immunity. Planning and giving yourself that one extra hour can help mitigate the damage of sleep deprivation.
- Turn Off Artificial Light
We tend to take our phones into the bedroom with us and scroll incessantly through Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat to kill time. Failing that, there are laptops, iPod, tablets, readers and big screen TVs that seen to cluster themselves into an area designated for calm and peace. The electronic pollution in the bedroom can create a hive of activity and increase your heart rate, blood pressure and stimulate the mind, making it harder to fall asleep. Turn off the electronics, unplug the chargers and create a zone free of technology. You may find it helps you to sleep better and will help keep you from being distracted.
- Eliminate Alcohol or Caffeine
Excessive alcohol or caffeine close to bed is typically not a good idea if you are looking to wind down and help the body move into homeostasis. Caffeine can increase your blood pressure, heart rate and make it more challenging to calm the mind before bed. Your stomach, liver and kidneys must work to process out the excess fluids which can have a stimulating affect on your system. A calming herbal caffeine-free tea is a great alternative to beers and coffee, or even your grandmother’s tried and true method of warm milk (in my case, warm coconut milk).
- Create Calming Nighttime Rituals
A hot bath with some lavender oil is just the ticket to soothe away the stress of a long day and encourage the body to release tension, anxiety and stress. Creating a routine helps signal to the body and the mind that it is time to rest and in turn the body naturally slows down the digestive system and releases hormones within the body that are nourishing and healing. This could even be as simple as putting in ear plugs, wearing an eye pillow or dabbing essential oil or sleep spray on the body. These rituals create a space of awareness of the present moment and focus your attention to the task at hand.
- Meditate on your Gratitude
One of my favorite daily rituals is to write down a few thoughts in a journal to clear my mind from the day. It is a way to review what I was grateful for and what lessons or insight I have picked up along the way. Taking these few extra moments help your mind to process what is most urgent and allows for a free flow of thought and feeling. Oftentimes we carry so much unsaid and unspoken in the mind and heart and at night when the world seems to slow down, it is a good opportunity to listen to your inner voice and fill your cup with blessings, releasing burdens.
The Hindu god, Ganesha (depicted with the head of an elephant) hangs above my doorway. Lord Ganesha is often shown with one of his tusks broken or completely missing. The tradition of this was that Lord Ganesha gave up a piece of himself to acquire spiritual knowledge. He is often called the “remover of obstacles” and because of his wisdom and spiritual understanding, many people pray to him when they are need of wisdom and a release from something in their lives.
Every time I pass through my doorway, I am reminded that to obtain wisdom I must let something go first; release my fears, my anxiety and my ego. To gain the knowledge necessary to move forward, I must allow a piece of the puzzle to fall away so that something better suited can take its place. I do not like letting go. I do not like change. (I will hold onto sweaters until they literally fall apart!). This entire concept of letting go has taken some time to get used to. It has happened slowly, over time, with much trial and error.
I tend to live in the past, replaying what could have been and how I could have done things differently. I think of past relationships, past jobs and even past experiences and wonder what I could have done differently. Sometimes there is a romantic nostalgia about looking back, but in reality it can often anchor you to the past with the habit of glossing over reality. The problem is that by staying in the past, we miss what is literally right in front of us; the moment, the opportunity and life itself.
This is true asana practice as well. I so often see students arrive to their mat after a hiatus and struggle the entire class to reconcile what they were capable of and where they are in their current practice. I can literally see and feel the tension build from their feet to the top of the head. It is a body screams, “I am here, but my mind is somewhere else entirely”. It is easy to get stuck in the past when we let it command our present. There is no secret formula to unlock a way to stop this pattern. It takes patience and lots of practice. In this journey, you have to stay ever present with the moment to release the scars of the past, because life changes heartbeat to heartbeat and you miss every opportunity before you when you hold onto the past, both mentally and physically.
Pranayama or “energy control” is one of the most effective tools to stay in alignment with the moment because as long as you are breathing, you are connected to the present. A great tool to assist with release using pranayama during practice is what I like to call the audible exhalation. It is a breath that is inhaled slowly through the nose and exhaled with a long sigh through the mouth. It helps to physically release the shoulders and the heart.
Below I have included a great way to experience this sensation of release using an audible exhalation in standing forward fold. Forward folds literally let tension “drip” off your back and shoulders.
1. Come into standing forward fold with feet hip distance apart.
2. Keep knees bent and lay the belly towards the thighs.
3. Root through your feet and wrap arms around elbows.
4. As you inhale, breathe up the spine through to the back of the hips.
5. With an audible exhalation, allow the entire body to release, letting a low rumble emerge from the back of the throat. Do this slowly to avoid making yourself light-headed.
6. Take five to eight rounds of breathing and come to stand slowly or rest in child’s pose for a few rounds of organic breathing while allowing the blood pressure to settle.
Practice this technique with patience and release your past in a safe, compassionate and organic way. Next month, we will look at ways to invite growth and vitality to the body, mind and heart once space has been created through the art of letting go.
Light & Love,
Your focus determines your reality.
In times when it seems that everyone is feeling compressed, misunderstood and marginalized, the practice of mindfulness becomes even more crucial to slow the litany of cynicism and stress that are at the very root of so many stress-related issues.
Here are three pieces of advice I have found that have helped me in my own journey find a sense of calm when the outer world seems too hectic.
1. Examine Your Feelings
Feelings are designed to encourage humans as a species to determine what is positive or negative. Our ancestors developed this skillset over thousands of years of evolution, to help us move toward things that were nourishing and fruitful and to move us away from things that were harmful.
When you notice a feeling of discomfort, anger, sadness or jealousy arise, sit with that feeling. Look at how it motivates your actions or where those feelings want to take you. If your feelings are not moving you toward a state of happiness, recognize that they are fleeting and with time, will pass. Giving time to process your feelings will prevent becoming engulfed or overwhelmed by them. You will find the ability to step back and view yourself more objectively. This technique can distance you from feelings that are wasteful or negative to your well-being.
2. Examine Your Actions
There are times when what we say is not in alignment with what we are doing. For example, if you tell yourself that you have healthy eating habits, but cram donuts into your face for breakfast, lunch and dinner, then your actions are not in line with your self statements. If you say you are going to do something, do it! Fulfill your commitments to friends and family and follow through with tasks, no matter how small. It sounds silly, but the smallest actions left unfinished can create areas within your life that are stagnant and lack lustre. Call that old friend you’ve been putting off, clean out your closet and step up to the challenge of putting your words into action. Once this energy starts to move, shifts of a positive nature become the norm and actions create movement in an upward direction.
3. Examine Your Thoughts
There is a great quote from one of the Star Wars films that has great truth. The character of Qui-Gon Jinn (played by Liam Neeson) says to a young Anakin Skywalker (the young version of Darth Vader) that “Your focus determines your reality”. Much like Young Skywalker, we too often focus our energy and time into things that do not advance our journey to happiness. We wonder why life seems so hard, so unfair and so cruel at times. We unknowingly focus on what we lack, what we are not and therefore our view of the world becomes one of disadvantage and scarcity. Instead, try to focus on what you already possess that is a blessing and focus on where you want to grow.
A scattered mind yields a clouded picture; hone your vision to crystal clarity and believe in what you are projecting. Shifting focus away from the negative will encourage the universe to open your eyes and ultimately your heart to a reality that is abundant and full of joy. Humans were meant to be joyful and happy; focus on that happiness and make it an every day reality!
Need some help focusing?
Try using a diffuser and some essential oils to help balance out the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.
THE FOCUS BLEND
- 3 drops peppermint oil
- 3 drops wild orange oil
Our bolsters were born from a need I found while teaching Yoga based rehab at a physiotherapy clinic for a couple years. The majority of my clients had tight chests and weak upper backs, so we were often resting in Supported Fish (see photo at right) or deeper heart openers over a bolster.
Many of the clients weren't able to fully open their chests because the 10" width of a standard bolster was too wide. They weren't able to roll their shoulders back and open, which often resulted in gripping, instead of relaxing. You can see in the photo to the right, that the width of the bolster isn't allowing the woman to fully release her shoulders back & down. Another problem I consistently encountered was people's head falling off the back end of the bolster. The standard 24" length just wasn't long enough for about half of my clients, so we were always fumbling with adding blocks and blankets for support & comfort. Not to mention the 5" depth was often causing too deep of a low back bend for the client to feel comfortable. So my mom and I began working on patterns to create a bolster that would solve these problems and still function well in any other pose. After several designs and input from teachers & students we came up with the Long & Lean Bolster.
Long & Lean Size is 28" long x 8.5" wide x 4.5" deep
Versus a Standard Bolster at 24" long x 10" wide x 5" deep
The extra 4" length makes our bolsters suitable for any one from 5' tall to 6'5" tall.
Narrowing the width by 1.5" allows shoulders to roll back & chests to open without sacrificing stability.
A simple half inch reduction in the depth makes for more gentle backbends.
It's not only the size that's making people fall in love with the Long & Lean Bolster. Here are some other great qualities of our yoga bolsters.
- Firmly filled with hand-rolled cotton for a super supportive bolster
- Removable cover is machine washable & dryable
- Side zippers means you'll use both sides of bolster for even wear
- Handles on each end of the bolster makes it easier to move around
- 100% guaranteed to last - we'll fix or replace any tears or breaks
Already in love with our Long & Lean Bolster and want to try one for yourself? Click on the link below and head to our online store to see all of our available fabrics. Please bear in mind that sometimes we're sold out before we get a chance to remove items from our website - but we're always happy to send you other options. Head to www.lovemymat.com
Thanks so much for reading and thanks so much for liking what my mom and I are doing. We wouldn't be able to do this without you. If you have any questions about our bolsters, or are interested in trying one before you buy it - check out all the locations where our products are used and sold - Locations.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Much love & gratitude,
Shelley & Kathy
I'd like to introduce you to our awesome Yoga Tote Bag and the reason I designed it.
I was tired of taking two bags to the yoga studio and the gym. One bag for my mat and one for everything else. Plus I was carrying my purse - now that was THREE bags I had to carry with me. I felt like a bag lady.
So my mom and I worked together to figure out how large we could make a bag without it being way too big. We ended up with a bag that is 30" wide by 20" deep. It's wide enough to hold your bolster or mat lengthwise along the bottom and tall enough to add extra goodies like a change of clothes, more props or whatever else you need. This bag is huge when it needs to be, but because we use softer fabrics, it can also feel compact if you choose to only carry your mat and water bottle inside. So it doesn't have to be massive unless you stuff it completely full.
There are three pockets on the inside. One has a zipper to hold your cell phone, wallet and keys to be easily found without having to dig through the bottom of your bag. The other two pockets are perfect for your water bottle and small towel (as shown in the photo above.)
The straps are thick and comfy because (just like our practice straps,) we use 8 layers of fabric. This means they won't cut into your shoulders or fold easily. And we sew them into the bags several times to drastically reduce the chances of them ever ripping.
Recently we started making all our Yoga Tote Bags reversible. This means you are getting two bags for the price of one! We generally try to use a beautiful print on one side with a complimenting solid colour on the opposite side. This way, you can decide from day to day if you want to add some personality to your practice or use something more neutral.
| Like all of our products, the Yoga Tote Bags are made using reclaimed fabric, so you're doing the earth some good. They are machine washable & dryable, which makes them super easy to care for. And all products are 100% guaranteed to last! If something were to rip or break with normal use, we will fix or replace your product.
I originally started Love My Mat in 2009 with one product - Love My Mat 100% Organic
Yoga Mat Cleaner. In 2010 I rented a small 5' x 10' booth space at the Toronto Yoga Show to sell my mat cleaner, but I knew I needed something more to sell. That's when I approached my mom and asked her to be my business partner.
My mom has been sewing since she was 11 years old and has made everything from Halloween costumes to wedding dresses and baby blankets to mascot suits. I wanted to make a simple yoga mat bag to sell at the Yoga Show and wanted our bags to be special - so we decided to make them using reclaimed fabric. The first bag we made was from an old curtain from my aunt's house. We both said, "Oh, that's really nice." And we've been saying that about every bag & product we've made since.
Since of first yoga show we've added lots more products made from reclaimed fabric, and we're always working on new ways to help you with your yoga & meditation practice.
The product I'm loving most right now is our Practice Strap. We make our straps with 8 layers of fabric so they are really easy to hold onto and super sturdy. We always make our straps at least 8' long, as 6' is often not long enough to help you hold bound poses. We try to choose softer cotton fabric with vibrant, fun or gentle prints so you'll love how your strap feels and looks. As a yoga teacher and practitioner, I believe this is the most versatile prop you can own. And for under $30. How awesome is that?
Recently, we added a Loop Strap. This is the same as our regular 8' long Practice Straps, but we've added a reinforced loop at the opposite end of the d-rings. This way you can have 2 loops at once if needed, or easily grab for your foot when you might not be able to reach it.
If you're unsure of the amazing benefits of Practice Straps, here are some great poses and exercises you can do.
Bound Angle Pose
Reclining Hand to Big Toe Pose
You can see more poses and read about how to do these on DoYouYoga.com
Or as always, feel free to email me with any specific questions and I'll be happy to help you as much as I can.
Love these straps and want to use them for your home yoga practice? You can get your own from our website now for $2 off. Just use the code "STRAP2" when you're checking out.
Much love & gratitude,
It’s back to school. You’ve been hearing about it for the last 2 weeks and whether you have school aged children or not, there’s definitely a shift happening. It’s end of summer and the beginning of fall. As the days shorten, the nights lengthen. As the air cools, the leaves change. As the care-free summer days end, we return to a routine.
If you’ve been missing your regular yoga practice during the summer – now is the perfect time to re-commit. Reconnect with your mat. Reconnect with your body. Reconnect with your mind. As you begin a regular yoga practice, you’ll be surprised at how much freedom you’ll feel. When we make time to connect with ourselves, we often end up feeling as if we have more time to spare.
So as summer winds down and a new season begins, I urge you to take to your mat. If you’ve maintained a regular practice this summer, perhaps you can adjust your focus during this seasonal shift to feel a sense of renewed appreciation for your mat and your practice?
Here are some helpful tips to get you back to your mat or change it up!
- Make a set time for your practice each day for the same length of time. You can set your alarm an extra 30 minutes early or skip a TV show in the evening for yoga.
- Close your eye during practice. Reconnect with how your body feels internally instead of always focusing externally
- When it’s time for savasana, try a supported Legs-Up-The-Wall instead with a bolster under you sacrum
- If you usually practice Sun Salutation A’s for your home practice – try B’s with added chair & warrior 1
- Get your own props! Bolsters, straps, meditation cushions, blocks and blankets are a wonderful addition to any home yoga space. And if you get beautiful props – you’ll always want to use them.
If you’re looking for Yoga Props to re-ignite your passion and your practice – We have a treat for our insiders if you order now. Visit us at www.lovemymat.com and get a FREE bottle of Love My Mat Organic Yoga Mat Cleaner with every order. And if you spend over $100, you’ll get 20% off, plus a free bottle of our versatile, organic yoga cleaner.
For your FREE bottle of Yoga Mat & Accessory Cleaner use the code: CLEANFREE
For 20% Off orders of $100 or more & a free cleaner use the code: FALL20
offer expires September 30, 2015
In Ayurveda the Vata Dosha is most prominent during Autumn. Vata governs the process of elimination, so best to focus on poses that massage the lungs and large intestines. Here are a few poses to get you started.
Summer has finally arrived in Southern Ontario and oh how lovely it is! Whether your summer months have just arrived or you've been enjoying them for a while, the summer weather can enhance your Yoga Practice. How you ask? Well, let me share some ideas with you.
Create a Backyard Oasis in One Simple Step
Take your yoga mat or a blanket out into your backyard, lay it out and lay down. That's it! You're already doing yoga. You can do a spontaneous flow practice or simply explore some Cat / Cow movements, followed by Upward Dog to Downward Dog.
Play in the Park
Many yoga studios offer free or PWYC Yoga Classes in local parks during the summer. It's a great way to discover new teachers, meet new people and feel connected with your community at little to no expense.
Rise with the Sun
Perhaps you can develop a morning yoga routine this summer? You can rise with the sun and practice 3 - 8 Sun Salutations. Then sit cross legged for 3 - 5 minutes of meditation. This is a powerful combination that will only take a maximum of 12 minutes. Start everyday right with some mindful movement and quiet contemplation.
Feel the Breeze
If you have a regular home yoga practice, do it with the windows open. The fresh air brings in new energy or prana to your home and your practice. You'll also hear the benefits of birds singing your praises for taking care of yourself.
Use All Your Senses
When you're outside, there is a lot of energy around you. Use all of your senses to help you stay present, which will enhance your yoga practice. I've listed some things you might want to pay attention to while practicing yoga outside.
- feel the earth under your hands & feet
- feel the breeze on your skin
- listen to the sound of the wind
- hear the birds singing or squirrels chasing each other
- smell the fresh cut grass or blooming flowers
- look up to see the vast, open sky
- feel a sense of opening and having no limitations without walls or ceilings surrounding you
- taste the freshness of the summer air
Practicing yoga outside can be a wonderful experience. Not being contained by walls helps you to see the larger picture of life, knowing that there are no limits to what you can achieve. Feel a connection with your community and the universal community. As you breathe, know that the energy & prana you are absorbing has also been inhaled and exhaled by every living being on this earth. Such a powerful feeling to know you are always connected.
Now go and yoga!
Many of us are aware of what's good for us, like getting a good nights sleep, eating less processed foods, exercising, worrying less and meditation. But how many of us are actually achieve all this on a daily basis? Of course it's hard to find the time, but practicing just one of the items listed above for just 5 minutes a day can have a wonderfully positive impact on your life.
Why not dedicate your 5 minutes of "you time" to Meditation?
You don't have to be good at it, because it requires no skill. Simply give yourself 5 minutes a day to sit comfortably (perhaps on a meditation cushion?) and pay attention to your breath. That's it. That's all you have to do to experience the following benefits.
The Benefits of Daily Meditation
- Reduce pain & enhance the body's immune system
- Reduce feelings of anxiety, depression, anger & confusion
- Increase blood flow & slow the heart rate
- Gain a sense of calm, peace & balance
- Helps reduce heart disease
- Helps on control thoughts
- Increase energy & stamina
- Reduces stress
If you're unsure about how to get started with a daily meditation practice, we've listed a few methods you can try.
The 4 x 4
Simply inhale to the count of 4, pause to a count of 4, exhale to a count of 4, pause to a count of 4
then repeat as many times as you'd like!
Words & Pictures
Sit comfortably with your eye closed, paying attention to your breath. In an effort to keep your mind focused on your breath, you'll use two labels for anything that pops into your mind. If you're having thoughts about your day, making lists or worrying, simply say the word "WORDS" to yourself. And if you're seeing images of people or scenes, simply say the word "PICTURES." Using these words will help stop your thoughts from snowballing and should get you back to focusing on your breath.
While sitting or laying comfortably, rest your hands on your belly. As you breathe in and out, notice how your belly expands and releases. Continue to pay attention to your breath with the help of your belly moving your hands to keep you physically reminded to breathe.
If you're interested in trying meditation, we encourage you to try one of our Sitting Pretty Pillows. It will allow your hips to open and your low back to release when sitting cross legged to make meditation a breeze.