When Life Gets Busy Your Practice is the First Thing to Go

One could say that moving falls in the top five life challenges. I’d say that’s a safe bet, just based on the volume of time and energy that moving requires. When life gets busy taking care of ourselves loses priority. Fast.

It’s been a week since I moved into my new home. It still feels like I have a thousand things to do and I’m juggling so many balls in the air. I’ll be so happy when I’m settled in and can get back on track with my practice.

As I’m unpacking I keep pausing in front of the window of my new training space. We just had a late spring blizzard and the beautiful pine tree outside is covered in snow.

I watch as the sunlight begins to shine through the clouds. I’m daydreaming about practicing in my new home.

I had to sacrifice my own training quite a bit this month. It happens. Especially when your home is under construction.

When life gets busy your practice is the first thing to go. – Garrell Herndon, Bodyworker and Yoga Instructor

At times like these I remember some wise words from an Iyengar yoga teacher that I studied with. They always serve as a good reminder to be gentle with myself during times of high output.

I know the work is worthwhile. I’m just so incredibly grateful to have a home training space. It’s a long term dream that requires very particular dimensions of space. I am not a fan of the tiny house movement. Or low hanging ceiling fans. Or big pieces of furniture.  I like to move!

I’m getting close to achieving my dream lifestyle: to have a job that I love, to be able to focus on my practice, and create Personal Yoga retreats. I can’t even begin to describe how happy this makes me…

Living my Dharma, one day at a time.

Personal Yoga Retreats

Personal Yoga RetreatsLast night I trained in a temple of clouds. The gentle currents of air mingled with the sounds of water. I watched two young mule deer peek their heads above the long grasses in the nearby field. In the distance a billowing cumulus tower ignited with flashes of lightning. The blazing sunset warmed my back as I moved and stretched my body.

Summer training season is here.

I love training outdoors. As much as I appreciate the privacy of an indoor space, as soon as the weather allows I like to go to the park, trail or playground whenever possible. In public spaces there’s usually an audience, but most people are nice. Like the elderly lady last night who said, “Thank you for the entertainment.”

Summer training season is a wonderful time for Personal Yoga retreats. These experiences replenish and refuel my whole being. It’s not just exercising – it’s the whole lifestyle. Eating alchemical food, feeling GREAT and laughing a lot.

Have I mentioned that I love my life?

Personal Yoga Retreat QuicheThis is not the kind of thing that you can teach in drop-in classes. It’s means taking a whole day to focus on eating, meditating and training. That’s my life – I create my own personal yoga retreats. I’ve been doing this for over five years now. I just enjoy feeling awesome and is this is how I do it.

It’s definitely possible to do this for yourself. You just have to carve out some space in your schedule and do some basic preparations, such as:

  • Clean the house
  • Clean and groom your body
  • Get your “to-do” list in order
  • Stock the fridge with delicious and healthy food

All of this will help to minimize distractions. Once you’ve cleared your slate start your Personal Yoga retreat nice and slow. Turn your phone off (or just don’t answer it). Cook with superfoods. Take some supplements. Drink lots of fluids. Move in ways that your body and mind enjoy. Rest when you’re tired.

If you’d like some help with designing your own Personal Yoga retreat I’d be happy to speak with you. I offer free no-obligation consultations in person, by phone, Skype or Facetime.

Red Rose Mandala

Self Teacher Study – Freedom Yoga Immersion

Self Teacher Study Freedom Yoga Immersion

I just completed Erich Schiffmann’s Freedom Yoga Immersion on Yoga Anytime. This online platform is “a community of yogis dedicated to the global sharing of the teachings of yoga.”

Erich Schiffmann is an American yoga master who has been called one of the innovators of modern day yoga. When this series came out in 2015 he had been teaching for 42 years and practicing for 48 years. His primary teachers include Krishnamurti, Desikachar, and Iyengar. Schiffmann is one of my yoga teacher’s teachers and his book “Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness” is a personal favorite.

I’ve never studied with Schiffmann so you can imagine my excitement when I saw a coupon code on his Facebook page for a 30 day free trial of Yoga Anytime. I jumped at the opportunity and signed up for his five day immersion. It took me three weeks to complete the seventeen hour course.

The immersion was divided into philosophy discussions, guided meditation and asana practices, as well as Schiffmann’s signature Freedom Yoga practice. I skipped the silent Freedom Yoga sections and just observed the first couple of asana practices (videos are not my favorite learning style for asana).

Whenever you’re starting with a new teacher it’s always best to keep an open mind. If the “cup” of our minds is full it can be difficult to absorb new teachings. And when it comes to learning yoga use what works and leave the rest. So let’s start with what worked…

My favorite part was the guided meditations. Schiffmann is an expert meditation teacher. He understands that meditation is the main practice of yoga, and that meditation is what promotes and facilitates the realization of what yoga is about. Some of the meditations were absolutely delicious. I enjoyed his directions to “snuggle” parts of my body into the mat and to “squeegee myself clean” when doing body scans.

Schiffmann emphasizes the idea that yoga is a lifestyle – that it is so much more than “metaphysical P.E.” (love this!) Regarding the asana portion, I appreciated his preference for the “simple stuff.” He describes the asana practice as being very easy although the mindset is very advanced. The sequences are effective at opening the channels (nadis) in a gentle way that is suitable for all levels.

I enjoyed his stories about his yoga journey. He described a turning point of when he felt like he was always doing someone else’s yoga. After years of disciplined practice he said that his yoga felt like a dud. It was only when he learned how to channel lines of energy through his body that he became empowered with his own practice. This marked the beginning of Freedom Yoga.

Goof Off with Purpose

Schiffmann is an advocate of learning how to channel our own practices. He recommends beginning with systems of your choice. The discipline of learning established systems is important as it helps to “get you in the game,” but being dependent on a teacher is kind of a drag. Once you’re trained the practice begins to teach you and that’s when it becomes fun again. Otherwise it can feel like you’re stifling yourself. As you dive deep and allow free form movement to occur eventually it will flower as an intuitive practice.

Getting Online

The main technique (discipline) of Freedom Yoga is listening. Schiffmann describes this process as “getting online” or cultivating an intuitive connection with the infinite. He recommends beginning just by getting curious and presenting the question:

Something’s going on here , … ,

Stay tuned for Freedom Yoga Immersion Part II.

Home Rituals – Berry Walnut Muffin Bread

Berry Walnut Muffin Bread 2

The warm weather has returned to the Western Slope of Colorado, which means that outdoor training season is officially here! I’ve made a commitment to working out in the mornings before it gets too hot. I usually eat a big mid-morning meal (breakfast like a king) so I’ve had to switch up my diet and lifestyle a bit.

The solution? Muffins! Hearty, wholesome and packed with good ingredients. These babies are a great mid-morning snack and carry me though until lunch. This week I played with a new recipe: berry walnut muffin bread (all the goodness of individual muffins in bread form).

Berry Walnut Muffin Bread 3

So just to clear up a few things. The ingredients in this recipe might raise a red flag for some people and to those folks I say (with love in my heart…)

Don’t like wheat? Don’t eat it. 

Don’t like sugar? Don’t eat it. 

Don’t like dairy? Don’t eat it.

But to those of us who can enjoy these foods unabashedly I say mangia! Eat with the confidence that comes from choosing the most beautiful foods. Wheat, sugar and dairy are incredibly powerful foods so long as they haven’t been tampered with.

For this muffin bread recipe I used organic non-GMO flour, organic milk and butter. The butter was on sale, otherwise I’d have used any conventional rGBH-free variety. I also used organic frozen mixed berries and non-GMO sugar.

The media has been working overtime to demonize sugar (remember when they tried telling us that butter was bad for you?) Sugar is a superfood in its own right. Sugar is listed in the Materia Medica of Chinese Herbal Medicine as a Qi (energy) tonic. And sugar, wheat, milk and butter are all recommended foods in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika:

64. Wheat, rice, barley, shastik (a kind of rice), good corns, milk, ghee, sugar, butter, sugarcandy, honey, dried ginger, Parwal (a vegetable), the five vegetables, moong, pure water, these are very beneficial to those who practice Yoga.

So let’s get cooking! This berry walnut muffin bread is fantastic. It’s almost like eating cake for breakfast. The tang from the buttermilk compliments the sweetness of the berries. I made my own buttermilk by mixing whole milk with a little vinegar (lemon juice works too) and letting it sit for five minutes.

I didn’t want the bread to be soggy so I used raspberries, blueberries and blackberries (and cut up the blackberries into smaller pieces). And I always toast nuts before baking with them. Toasting kills off any molds and enhances the flavor of the nuts.

Berry Walnut Muffin Bread 1

Berry Walnut Muffin Bread

1 Loaf

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups of flour (1 cup whole wheat + 1 cup all purpose)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup milk + 1/2 Tbsp vinegar)

1  1/2 cups frozen mixed berries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
2 Tbsp sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x5x3 loaf pan with butter or coconut oil.
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg in a small bowl.
  3. Place frozen mixed berries in a small bowl. Add 1-2 Tbsp of the flour mixture and toss to coat. Cover bowl and place in freezer.
  4. In a medium-sized bowl cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg and vanilla.
  5. Add flour mixture a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk.
  6. Fold in the berries and walnuts and pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
  7. Sprinkle 2 Tbsp sugar over the top of the batter.
  8. Bake for 60 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Serve warm or toasted with lots of butter!

*** High Altitude baking note: decrease the amount of baking powder to 1  1/2 tsp. ***

Berry Walnut Muffin Bread Slice

 

Thai Curry Soup

Thai Curry Soup Recipe

It’s great to be back on the Western Slope of Colorado. There is something extraordinary about this place. I felt it the first time I drove across the Utah-Colorado border. After exploring Arizona, Colorado, Idaho and Utah for the past six months it’s wonderful to know that this is where I want to live. The synchronicity that led to moving to Grand Junction was nothing short of miraculous. And the work that has gone into getting to this point has been significant. Needless to say, I am very, very grateful to be here.

The weather is perfect for soup.

It’s starting to cool down a bit at night, so I’ve been making some small changes to my diet and lifestyle. Soup has been calling my name, so I made a big batch of homemade chicken stock. Last night I whipped up a pot of Thai curry soup. The warming spices and rich coconut milk melded with the slow-cooked meat and vegetables which made the house smell wonderful!

A bowl of good medicine.

This recipe is incredibly versatile, so feel free to play around with the ingredients. I used what I had on hand and made my own curry powder with a good-quality organic turmeric powder. Turmeric is a great addition to your medicine chest [a.k.a. pantry]. According to Dr. Joseph Mercola:

“It has a long history of medicinal use in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) as well as Ayurvedic medicine.

Traditional medicinal uses include the treatment of liver disease, skin problems, respiratory and gastrointestinal ailments, sprained muscles, joint pains, and general wound healing.

Its benefits have since been well documented in the medical literature, and curcumin—one of the most well-studied bioactive ingredients in turmeric — has been found to promote health and protect against a wide array of health conditions.

It actually exhibits over 150 potentially therapeutic activities, including anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial activity, as well as potent anti-cancer properties that have been intensely studied.”

The full list of health benefits is way too long to list here, so let’s get cooking! One of the ways to really amp up the flavor of any soup or stew is to add a sprinkling of Celtic sea salt in the final stage of cooking. Just be careful – this stuff is STRONG and a little goes a long way. I also add just a touch of sugar to balance the flavor of the curry. I like spicy food but I can get a little heavy handed and the sugar helps to round things out.

Thai Curry Soup

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1/4 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 small carrot, chopped
  • 1/3 yellow squash, chopped
  • 2 mushrooms, rinsed and chopped
  • 1/4 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup cooked dark chicken meat, sliced
  • 1 rounded Tbsp curry powder
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1/2 a can of full fat coconut milk
  • Handful of baby spinach
  • Kosher and Celtic salt
  1. Start by warming the chicken stock in a small saucepan over low heat.
  2. Place a large wok over medium heat. Add coconut oil, chopped onion, red pepper and carrot. Stir occasionally and cook for a few minutes.
  3. Add chopped yellow squash and mushrooms and cook for another 2 minutes. Sprinkle with Kosher salt.
  4. Add minced garlic and sliced chicken meat. Cook for 1-2 minutes, then coat with curry powder. Stir mixture constantly (it will be dry) for another 1-2 minutes.
  5. Add chicken stock, coconut milk and diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil and then simmer until carrots are tender (15-2o minutes). Add a sprinkle of Celtic sea salt and adjust seasonings as needed.
  6. When ready to serve, add a generous handful of baby spinach and stir until the leaves are wilted. Ladle soup into two bowls.

Serve with hot white rice or cooked noodles.

Easy Thai Curry Soup Recipe

If you enjoyed this recipe you might also like: Home Rituals – Tortilla Soup 

Body as Clay

Body as Clay

Imagine holding a ball of clay. It’s damp to the touch, cool, heavy for its size. Press your fingers into the surface. They leave a slight indentation. Press again and again. The outer layer begins to soften from the warmth of your palms. The surface glides with the motion of your fingers. Your hands grow tired but you keep working. The middle layer softens but the inner core remains solid. You dig in to reach the center, pulling the ball into new shapes. The clay is pliable, ready to be molded.

It’s the same with warming up our bodies in yoga, where we start with gentle poses before diving into more dynamic ones. With class sequencing the basic rule is to warm up for five minutes in an hour-long class. A personal practice allows for much more flexibility and the freedom to decide how long you want to warm up on any given day. Which is, in my humble opinion, absolutely essential.

A proper warm up is a very personal process. 

Most adults have developed some level of compression in their bodies, either from an active or an inactive lifestyle, or simply from the continuous gravitational pull of the planet. Yoga helps to realign our bodies into a state of balanced, expanded strength.

Think about your normal routine: which “postures” do you spend most of your time in? Sitting, standing, sleeping, and any number of repetitive movements all create imprints on your body-memory. Stress patterns (physical and emotional) are another factor, as well the effects of diet and lifestyle. Sam the carpenter would do well to warm up in a way that is very different than Susie the weekend-warrior-waterskiier. While Sam might need to warm up for forty five minutes, Susie’s ready to dive in at the ten minute mark. No matter what our level of experience may be we all have our own unique learning curve.

One other thing about the importance of warming up – consistency is KEY. Even five minutes a day is going to make a huge difference. What doesn’t amount to much is dabbling here and there. It’s like the clay ball analogy; if you stop working the ball loses its malleability. Starting over is okay, but when you decide to gain some traction you’ll be amazed at the progress you can make.

If you enjoyed this article you might also like: The Bowl of Light

Park Gym Mandala

Park Gym
Photo courtesy of Bodybuilding.com

So I recently discovered this amazing park gym in Boise, Idaho…

The Bodybuilding.com Park Gym at Ann Morrison Park is made up of 15 pieces of durable new fitness equipment installed on a 1,400-square-foot pad. Use of the equipment, which is accessible year round, is free to the public.

If you’re not sure how to use all of the pieces of equipment, you can follow the detailed, step-by-step instructions that are posted at the entrance. (Self Teacher Training note: you can also devise your own ways to use the equipment.) 

I’ve seen outdoor gyms before, but I really liked this one because it’s circular and because it’s designated for adults and children (14+). Why is this so awesome? Outdoor training season has officially started, so it’s probably a good time to discuss a common stereotype about adults using playgrounds. 

During the warm months I like to practice in parks and playgrounds. They’re great for Mind Body Parkour and exercising in nature does wonders for the spirit. Most of the adults are enjoying time with their children and my interactions with them are positive. But every once in a while I’ll encounter some resistance.

I could tell you stories…

There’s a fraction of the population that doesn’t support the idea of adults using playgrounds for exercise. I see this as being due in part to the a large number of Americans who’ve fallen prey to the Spectator Epidemic. Meaning, they tend to be passive observers about exercise which is a big problem in our culture. In this video of Chinese seniors, you’ll see that their culture is completely supportive of adults exercising in parks.

So I’m even more appreciative of parks that cater to adults who want to work out. When you consider that obesity rates in America are among the highest in the world, with two out of every three Americans being obese or overweight, it’s quite obvious that we have an exercise shortage in our country. According to Wikipedia:

Obesity has led to over 120,000 preventable deaths each year in the United States. An obese person in America is likely to incur $1,497 more in medical expenses annually. Approximately $190 billion is spent in added medical expenses per year within the United States. Obesity is a preventable condition that has been increasing within the United States. Health authorities anticipate no change to this vector.

What is needed in order to bring about this change is a shift to the public’s perception about integrating exercise with lifestyle. Television is the primary obstacle, as it breeds passivity and creates a mind-body disconnect. It also prevents many people from perceiving their homes as viable places for exercise.

A good starting point in beginning the process of lifestyle rehabilitation is to use your local park for routine exercise. It’s free and easy to access (for the most part). By doing this you’re helping yourself as well as helping to shift the collective consciousness.

Want to learn more about developing your own park gym routine? Book a FREE no-obligation consultation today.

The Skinny on Skin Care

Emily Seymour yoga skin care
The warm weather is here! And with that comes the gradual shedding of layers, swapping flip flops for shoes, and increasing our Vitamin D intake. As with any seasonal transition it’s a good idea to give ourselves time to adjust our lifestyle patterns accordingly.

Body care is one of the many aspects of a balanced home practice regimen. Just like you might want to give your car a routine waxing it’s a good idea to give your body “vehicle” a good skin care treatment. Especially if you’re anticipating spending more time in the great outdoors.

While there are some purists who won’t practice yoga in the sunshine, I absolutely LOVE practicing outside. But there’s just nothing fun about sunburns. I’ve gotten my share of “tomato-face” syndrome from practicing during peak hours (10am – 4pm) so my advice is avoid sun exposure during that time.

Twilight is my favorite time to practice outside – the sun isn’t too intense so you don’t really need to use sunblock. But if you’re a die-hard sunblock user I recommend reading What You Need to Know Before You Ever Buy Sunscreen Again.

If you like to play with making your own body care items, I recommend reading Adventures in DIY Products. It was written by my friend Mandy who makes her own sunscreen using aloe and coconut oil. I absolutely love using coconut oil on my skin. Whenever I’m cooking with coconut oil I’ll take a little and rub it into my arms, elbows and hands. Here’s a quick overview of the many benefits of coconut oil:

  • Hydrates and conditions the skin
  • Clears away dirt, grime, and flaking skin cells
  • Has antibacterial properties
  • Soothes bug bites
  • Helps with rashes
  • Softens and shrinks wrinkles
  • Protects against skin damage
  • Prolongs tans
  • Prevents cellular aging
  • Can be used to remove make-up easily
  • Is a great massage oil

In addition to protecting our skin externally we can also nourish our skin by eating certain foods. Dark chocolate contains a high level of antioxidants which protects the skin from sunburn and cancer. The carotenes in apricots, papaya, mango, carrots, sweet potatoes and beets all help to reduce the negative effects of UVB radiation.

Staying hydrated is key. Drinking plenty of room temperature water creates a natural moisture factor which protects the skin. After spending time outside it’s always a good idea to drink plenty of fluids so as to prevent dehydration.

How do you care for your skin during the warmer months? Feel free to leave a comment in the box below:

A Taste of Divinity – Raw Cacao

Practice Create Repeat

For just a moment ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the BEST that you’ve ever felt?
  • Where were you at the time?
  • How old were you?
  • What were you doing?
  • Were you alone or with someone?
  • Did this happen more than once?

Just sit with these questions for a minute and see what comes up. Now ask yourself:

  • Could you create this state again?
  • What would it take to replicate it?
  • What (if anything) is keeping you from feeling this way now?
  • How might you take this experience to the next level?

I’m asking these questions because they relate to my mission as a yoga teacher. For the past thirteen years I’ve been focusing on my personal evolution. My body is the healthiest it’s ever been. I’m committed to eating the most beautiful food, moving in ways that I enjoy and living a low-stress lifestyle. I am free from scoliosis-related back pain. My mind is calmer, clearer and more creative than ever before. I am learning so much and I am more in love every day.

My goal is to help people learn how to do this for themselves.

Life is not easy. We face countless challenges and seemingly endless distractions. Thankfully there are some simple ways to create heightened experiences on a regular basis. One way to do this is by cultivating a personal practice. In my humble opinion this is the BEST thing that we can do for ourselves. A personal practice is an amazing tool that helps us connect with our highest Selves – our creativity, divinity, sovereignty – call it what you will.

When you treat your body like the temple that it is you elevate your life.

If a daily yoga practice seems overwhelming to you, not to worry. There are plenty of ways to administer self-care. I suggest that you start small by picking ONE healthy habit that you can do on a daily basis, such as drinking lemon water or eating one superfood every day. A superfood is a food that is extraordinarily good for your health.

One of my favorite superfoods is raw cacao. The botanical name Theobroma cacao means “Food of the Gods.” Raw cacao is one of the most antioxidant-rich foods on the planet. It contains three natural mood enhancers which make you feel like you’re in love. The health benefits of raw cacao are far more powerful than conventional chocolate.

Raw Cacao:

  • Aids in weight loss
  • Promotes healthy skin
  • Is high in antioxidants
  • Enhances mood
  • Contains essential minerals and vitamins
  • Improves brain function
  • Promotes heart health
  • Is an aphrodisiac

I have a little side project called Amaroons. I make handcrafted macaroons with raw cacao powder, coconut, almonds, maple syrup, vanilla and Himalayan sea salt.

Amaroons make a wonderful gift!

I’m happy to announce that my Etsy shop is open for the holidays.

Your purchase supports my independent small-business and will help to expand my operation. Thank you for your support.

Amaroons Raw Cacao Superfood Macaroons
Amaroons – Raw Chocolate Macaroons

On a Moving Meditation Mission

Emily Seymour Yoga Moving Meditation MissionI’ve been a people watcher for almost two decades. I gather information from watching the way that people move, how they hold themselves, and so on.  I’m not as good as that guy on Lie to Me, but I can read body language pretty well.

I had a bit of a revelation at a 5Rhythms dance class in Manhattan. These classes are incredible – anywhere from fifty to one hundred people come together for two glorious hours of moving meditation. The music is perfectly orchestrated and the teachers are phenomenal. At one point I paused to look the sea of people and it hit me:

People need to move more.

If you think that this is a strange response to watching a group of dancers, you’re absolutely right. It IS unusual and it caught me a little off guard. I was observing how the class was moving as a whole; particularly the WAY the people were moving. A lot of bouncing (which is great for spinal decompression) but something wasn’t connecting.

And then it clicked.

In that moment I could see the impact of modern day lifestyles – particularly the effect of sitting in chairs. I mean ALL chairs – desks, couches, cars, airplanes, trains, buses, bicycles – even toilets! I could also see the impact of sitting and watching TV. The effects extended beyond their physical bodies, and I could see the effect of being routinely cut off from the lower power centers of the body.

It’s no secret that sedentary lifestyles are a slow killer. We know that moving is essential for good health, that it prevents Alzheimer’s and other illnesses. And with that understanding many people go to fitness classes, the gym, or exercise for maybe a few hours a week.

What I realized in that moment is that it’s not enough. Adult bodies were designed for movement, not to sit around, or work at a desk for 8-10 hours a day, or have our legs go numb in seated meditation. Even if you do work out on a regular basis, those benefits are being undone by too much sitting.

So I’m on a mission to change this. I’m encouraging people to move their bodies a whole lot more, in ways that help them integrate the upper and lower halves of their bodies. It sounds basic enough but the process of actually doing it takes some effort. There’s some lifestyle reconstruction involved and a willingness to open our minds to change.

Sun Salutation CircleExercise is a way of giving your body a gift.

A good way to start this is by finding ways to move that your body enjoys. One of my favorite moving meditations is the sun salutation series. Sun salutations are a great way to energize and open your whole body. There are many ways to modify the series to suit a wide range of ability levels. They can even be used for weight loss! I teach the sun salutations series in my Foundations Training course.

Ready to get moving? I’d love to hear from you. Schedule a FREE no-obligation consultation today: Book Now