In this Vlog I spend some time talking about what makes a yoga retreat so much more than “Just a vacation” and why choosing to go on a yoga retreat can be important not only for self-care in the moment but long term stress management skills.
Have you ever heard a yoga teacher talk about grounding? Grounding just means feeling and establishing your connection to the ground or the earth. The best explanation I ever heard for feeling “ungrounded” is when you are feeling so stressed or overwhelmed that it feels like something like a gust of wind could literally knock you over. This is a common feeling when, as a mom, you are being pulled, literally or figuratively, in a million directions. When we are ungrounded it feels like it is hard to get anything done and hard to meet anyone’s needs, including our own.
Grounding can help us feel less overwhelmed and more in our body. While this is a term that yogis and others like to throw around a great deal, how exactly DOES one practice grounding? Here are some of my favorite ways to feel more grounded.
Walk barefoot. Ideally Outside. The most direct way to feel more connected to the ground is to actually connect with the ground. You can do this by walking barefoot and really paying attention to the feet on the ground, feeling all the sensations of the earth (whether it is the grass, a yoga mat or a carpet) against your feet. Recently I let my toddler run around outside without shoes on, and I realized it was his first time being barefoot and walking outside. The minute his feet hit the cool, wet grass he burst into a loud giggle and immediately began tearing around. This is no surprise; feet are full of nerve endings. This means stronger sensations, and can be helpful if you are trying to practice mindfulness, as when we bring our attention to our feet it is easier to hold it there then in less sensitive places. Unfortunately we often don’t take time to notice these sensations, and walking with shoes on limits that ability. The good news is, it is spring, the perfect time to take off your shoes and walk around, in your backyard or a local park. If you don’t have anywhere you can walk around outside, a cleared floor space works just as well.
Practice some grounding Yoga poses- Some yogic poses are particularly grounding, especially standing poses, which give you another opportunity to feel your feet in the ground. My favorite is chair pose, where we not only use our feet to firmly ground us in place but we also send our hips back to the earth, while lifting up, something that would be difficult to do if we don’t focus on being grounded. Additionally, holding a pose like chair for a longer period of time requires a great deal of energy, which can draw the mind away from rumination and offer the nervous system an opportunity to relax.
Breath from the Ground Up. Another wonderful way to practice grounding is to practice Breathing from the Ground up, a technique I first learned during my Yoga Therapy Training with the Minded Institute, and that I now can’t imagine how I ever lived without. I’ve recorded a short version here. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1xt1GUeZG1AkozWeUIPYCg1YpiMtr9WOf/view?usp=sharing
If you are feeling ungrounded please take a few moments to ground yourself today. Just 5 minutes with any of these practices can help you feel more connected to the earth and less likely to blow away or be pulled apart.
March is usually a time of change. The days get longer. Spring seems to be in the foreseeable future. As we near the end of winter (at least I hope here in Brussels) I know I am not alone in feeling a bit stir crazy, eager to move, yet at the same time, frustrated by the horrible weather, lacking motivation to get off my couch and onto my yoga mat. This is, in my opinion, a great time to try something new in your yoga practice. This can me different things for different people, here are few of my Moody March suggestions.
Try a different style of yoga. This is one of the most straightforward ways to inject change into your yoga practices, it is something I've been doing myself. My typical practice tends to be Hatha based but I've recently started trying out some Kundalini practices. The chanting, rapid movements and focus on energy movement has kept me eager to return my mat. Adding Kundalini practice highlighted how tentative I had been to step away from my postnatal practice, since I’ve begun I’ve become more confident in safely expanding my physical practice. You may discover something similar, or perhaps the reverse, that you’ve been pushing yourself too hard physically, and what you actually need is space to breath and relax.
Expand your Yoga Practice- Asana the physical yoga poses, is only one of what is known as the 8-limbs of Yoga. There are many amazing non-physical ways to expand your yoga practice, as they gain popularity they have become more popular here in Brussels. Some things you can try include:
- Seated meditation. Many yoga studios offer a weekly seated meditation practice. These offerings are often low-cost or donation based. You can also look into a local meditation center, in Brussels we are lucky to have a Shambala Center which offers weekly “learn to meditate” sessions. As they are part of an international Shambalha Community such centers exist throughout the world.
- Gong Meditation/Bath This is a recent discovery for me, and a really great one. Gong Meditation, or sound bath, is a process of using gong sound waves as a therapeutic way to massage and heal the body and mind. Those that know me know I tend to view such Whoo-whoo offerings with a grain of salt, but after my first 2 hours of truly profound experience I am convinced of the power of the gong. Sessions can be done individually or in a group. In Brussels you can find an amazing experience with The Jewel Within Yoga.
- Commit to your practice It is often easier to get out of the house and onto your mat if you’ve made a commitment to do so. There are many ways to do this. You can purchase an “unlimited” class pass to your local studio, giving you access to as many classes as you like for a certain amount of time. Or make plans to attend with a friend, even if your motivation declines you can’t let them down. You can also look into committing to a series of classes that help deepen your practice. My 8-Week Yoga Therapy Course for Stress, Anxiety and Depression provides a way to commit to your practice while learning ways to find balance in body and mind.
I hope you find some inspiration to evolve your practice today. If you are interested in the 8-week course or any of the other practices mentioned here please get in touch today.
February means Valentines Day and Valentine’s Day is all about LOVE. And Mom’s have lots of love to give out, but do you have time to share some love with yourself too? I know for myself it can be difficult to manage much time for myself in the midst of caring for my child, helping to run my household and my business and stay connected with my husband. That said, I know self-care is important, it can reduce stress and provide you with an opportunity to check in with your own well being, great for managing stress, anxiety and depression. Here are a few of my favorite ways to ensure I am practicing self-care as a busy mom 1) Schedule it in. Seriously. My personal schedule now says “yoga” on it almost every day. This is Emily time. I don’t book clients or take on any other responsibilities during the time. I started doing this after I saw how I was teaching yoga all the time but never really practicing it. Now I know that I have a time each day that will be all about me. Where I can shut my door, tune in to my body and do whatever I feel I need to do to feel a bit better. It isn’t often much time, which leads me to point number 2.
2) Choose quality over quantity. When it comes to yoga, and many other aspects of self-care, if you are busy it can often feel like there is no time. If you don’t have an hour to go to a yoga class (plus the travel) time, or 30 minutes to do that meditation you like, well why bother at all? My philosophy, especially since becoming a mom, is that a little bit is worth a lot more than nothing at all. I don’t always have time to practice an hour plus yoga practice. But I may have 15 minutes, so I do that. And practicing for those 15 minutes usually makes me feel better and consequently makes me more productive all day. If you have 5 minutes you can do a short mindfulness meditation or a few sun salutations. You will likely enjoy it and feel less rushed the rest of the day.
3) Let go of the guilt. This is a tough one for me! As women we are made to feel like we not only CAN “have it all” but we must. Must be the perfect mom, the hardest worker etc. etc. This can often make us feel like failures if we ever need a break. Coupled with the sentiment of “blink and you’ll miss it” of parenthood, I often feel like if I step away from my work or my family I am failing everyone and missing many important things. But the truth is, when I am tuned in present and feeling physically and mentally comfortable and balanced I am a better mother, wife teacher and therapist.
4) Involve others. Personally I don’t think self-care always has to be by your “self” and this is coming from a natural introvert. Sometimes when I need a break but I am on mom duty this may mean a walk in the park. Little one is happily strapped into his stroller enjoying a view of the world while I have a relaxing (i.e. not political) podcast playing in my ears. I’ve given up trying to make my husband a yogi but yoga, dancing and exercise are all great ways to bond with your partner while practicing self-care.
5) Don’t stress if it doesn’t happen. I am aware that “self care” is very much a buzzword these days. I know this is one of countless blogs on the topic. Many of them can make it seem like life without self-care is downright deadly. I know for me, and I suspect for others, this can be a dangerous message. If you are already feeling stressed or anxious about caring for others and you feel like you are failing yourself you may just feel worse. So if you miss your self-care practice today, this week, this month, don’t fret. It may be helpful to take some of these tips to find more accessible ways to bring some important care into your life. And you have tomorrow to give it another try.
Hope you are able to find some time to share some love for yourself! Happy Valentines Day!