We Are All Connected

HBO has a new ad running on social media that looks to be a plug for the network, but also feels a bit like a political statement, borrowed from the ancient yogic texts.

The ad reads “It’s What Connects Us.” The video that accompanies the ad portrays a variety of HBO actors and actresses saying “ah”, one at a time, until they all slowly melt together. Together their voices create the familiar tone that accompanies the HBO logo at the start of all of their programs.

It’s an absolutely brilliant use of one of the great teachings of yoga: “we are all connected”. This theme is found throughout ancient yoga texts from Yoga Sutras to Bhagavad Gita. There is so much about this idea in yoga, but the ad specifically reminds me that the sound “om”, or “aum” as it is traditionally written, is believed to be the sound of the universe working together. HBO is missing two of the syllables–it is actually pronounced “ah-oh-m”, in three syllables, but still, the meaning is similar.

When we chant “aum” in community, the result is much like the sound we would hear if flying high above the earth, listening to all beings at work and play. The constant buzz of people milling about their days creates a beautiful and meaningful vibration. It confirms that every life has a unique and important purpose.

It’s interesting to note, also, that the three syllables in “aum” each have a meaning–the A stands for creation, U stands for preservation, and M stands for dissolution. The entire life cycle in one word!

I love how this ad demonstrates the importance of perspective to recognize connection. We all need to take a step back once in a while. right?! Although each individual “ah” in the video is not particularly inspiring, as the faces blur and the voices blend, it makes a joyful noise.

Maybe you have noticed this in your yoga classes? Some classes offer three “aums”, and the first can sound cacophonous, but by the third, the sound is quite beautiful. This phenomenon occurs because we begin our chant alone, but quickly find our connection to each other through shared energy.

It’s a lot like life–so much of what we do each day can feel mundane, disconnected, and less than inspiring, especially if we do it alone. Taking a step back, however, we realize that we each have important work to do, and we begin to see that everything works together for higher purposes. Our responsibility is to stay on our unique path–yogis call this dharma–and trust the struggles, believing that everything that happens holds meaning.

Perhaps most importantly, HBO’s “It’s What Connects Us” ad reminds us that the idea of separation is an illusion. Our minds may tell us that we are alone, but the truth is that we are all connected, even if it sometimes does not seem that way. The high and the low, the good and the bad, the interesting and the boring, the beautiful and the ugly, all support the beautiful harmony of the universe. Just as the artist uses dark and light colors to define his work, the contrasts of life are necessary and beautiful forces for connection. Thank you, HBO, for this reminder.

 

Rejoice In The Way Things Are

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MONDAY MANTRA: Rejoice in the way things are.

There is an important distinction between happiness and excitement. So often in life we think, if I only had this or that, I would be happy. The truth is that we already have everything we need to be happy.

Happiness comes from being connected to who we are. It is the byproduct of believing that everything is exactly as it should be. Good things happen, bad things happen. It all works together to teach us to appreciate the blessings in our life. When we are grateful, we feel happy.

Happiness is very different than excitement. Excitement is what we feel when when we achieve a goal, or receive something that we feel we are lacking, such as a new car, a promotion, an invitation to a party.

Unlike happiness, excitement is not sustainable, because it is dependent on circumstances. Happiness is only dependent on self-awareness. It is what we feel when see ourselves with clarity, and remember that we each serve an important, unique purpose in the world.

At our core, we all want the same things–to know that we are seen, that we are heard, and that we matter.  This is what makes us happy, and it’s not something that we can buy or be given. It lies in how we see the world.

When we believe that we already have everything we need to be happy within, the whole world belongs to us.

We Can’t Get Happy, We Can Only Be Happy

MONDAY MANTRA: We can’t get happy, we can only be happy.

What’s the one thing everyone wants in life?

We all want to be happy. We chase happiness, as if it is a material possession that we can claim as our own. We think if I only had this or that, I would be happy. If only I was richer, thinner, or smarter, I would be happy. The longer we wait to “get happy”, the further out of reach it seems.

The truth about happiness, though, is that it is not as elusive as we think.  It is not a thing to be chased, but a state of being that we choose. We are, at our core, already happy. Our bliss might be hiding behind our attachments to the past, or our fears about the future, but happiness is always within, waiting to be revealed.

All we have to do to connect with our inner joy is learn to quiet the chatter of the mind. Be the witness to our thoughts, and practice non-attachment to outcome. In so doing, we realize that our thoughts are the only thing standing between us and happiness.

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It Is What It Is

MONDAY MANTRA: It is what it is, but it will be what you make it.

Our minds are constantly labeling our experiences as good or bad–this is human nature. But what would happen if we simply accepted experiences as they are, instead of judging them? This is the true purpose of yoga. Learning to still the mind so that we can find freedom in how we feel, how we think, and how we move. When we let go of judgement, and embrace what is, we realize that we already have everything we need to be happy.

100 Days of Crazy Healthy Week 5

How did you do with the first four weeks of 100 Days of Crazy Healthy?

For the fifth week of our health challenge, we will continue with our commitments, and add hip openers to our yoga routine.

Hip openers are essential for creating balance in the body. Our hips carry a lot of emotion and stress that can become toxic, if not released. Daily hip openers help us stay grounded during difficult times, and can prevent injuries and falls that can become problematic as we age.

These poses can feel more painful than other stretches, because they endure a lot of impact every day. Remember to breathe deeply, and quiet the mind, to get the most out of your hip openers. The more the mind and body resist, the harder it becomes to open the hips.

Daily Habits For Week 5

1. Upon waking, scrape your tongue from front to back with a spoon, or tongue scraper. This will remove the ama (toxins) that have built up in your mouth over night. Rinse your mouth with water, being careful to not swallow any of the water, and brush your teeth afterward. Read more about the powerful practice of tongue scraping here.

2. Drink 12 oz. of warm, filtered water, before consuming food. You may add lemon or lime to the water if you would like.

3. Practice 5 B series Sun Salutations, moving intentionally on each inhale and exhale, as shown in the photo from Week 1. Don’t rush, and don’t think about anything besides the breath and the pose. This will feel difficult, if you are new to yoga, but reject this idea in favor of doing the work. For those who have practiced yoga before, doing 5 Sun Salutations every day may feel boring–do it anyway and trust the process. Play the music you love, or use my playlists on Spotify. Make it a moving meditation. Changes will happen on such a deep level in your body, that you won’t even be aware that you are being transformed. It’s a beautiful thing! It is preferable to practice in the morning before showering, but this may be done at night, if necessary. Do whatever it takes, to complete this task every day! Don’t allow yourself to crawl into bed at night, until it is done. It takes me exactly one minute to complete a B Series Sun Salutation, using full inhales and exhales, and it should be the same for you, so this is a 5 minute exercise.

4. Practice 3 minutes of core work every day, comprised of 100 bicycles, 20 toe touches and 6 plank exercises. The bicycles may be broken up into 5 sets of 2 or 2 sets of 50–doesn’t matter as long as you do 100 each day. The same is true for toe touches and planks…break it up if you can’t do them all at once. This may be done after sun salutations, or any other time during the day. No matter what, don’t go to bed at night, until you have completed this work.

To perform bicycles, lie on your back, and bring your right elbow to meet your left knee. Move intentionally, and on the breath, exhaling as the elbow reaches toward the knee, inhaling as you release the crunch. Count every time you reach the right knee to left elbow. Do not let the knee come forward of the hip.

To perform toe touches, lie on your back, with legs straight. Stretch arms overhead, and then lift feet and hands to meet each other, keeping arms and legs straight. Move slowly and intentionally, and take breaks as you need them. Always exhale as you crunch and inhale as you release.

To perform planques, begin in Down Dog, then bring knee-to-nose, knee-to-elbow, and knee to opposite elbow. Shift your hips forward to bring shoulders over wrists. Hold each for 20 breaths (or two sets of ten breaths each), and make sure you do them on both sides of your body.

4. Drink a Crazy Healthy Smoothie for breakfast each morning. Crazy Healthy Smoothies are balanced meals, prepared with awareness and intention to fuel the body. We include pure fruit juice, sweet and sour whole fruit, greens, healthy fat, and protein, for an energizing start to our day. It helps to think about smoothies from an ayurvedic perspective: how many flavors can we fit into one meal? Mixing sweet and sour fruits with bitter veggies, pungent nut butters, and spicy herbs (think ginger and cayenne) can help us start the day off feeling energizing and ready to tackle the world. Learn how to make Crazy Healthy Smoothies here.

5. Eat raw or roasted veggies with a healthy fat for your afternoon snack. Some examples would be celery with almond or peanut butter (organic if possible), bell pepper strips with hummus and organic olive oil, asparagus roasted with grape seed oil and sea salt, spring mix with avocado, lemon and sea salt, or roasted sweet potatoes with grape seed oil and sea salt.

6. Eat a vegetarian soup or salad for lunch. Prepare it (or order it) with the intention of maximizing your nutrient intake. Consider Dr. Fuhrman’s Nutritarian Food Pyramid (below) when making your choices.

7. Practice Pigeon Pose, for one full minute on each side. Remember, the more you move your front foot forward, the deeper the stretch. Find your edge, and breathe into it. The back leg should be straight back behind you, and the hips are level.

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8. After practiing pigeon on both sides, practice Cobbler’s Pose for one full minute. Keep your back flat, and reach the heart forward, for maximum effect. You may use your elbows to press into your thighs, to deepen the stretch.

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9. Find daily inspiration to keep fighting the fight on my Facebook page. I will share quotes, and ancient wisdom to support the habits we are creating.

You can do this! It may seem too difficult to some, and too simple to others, but either way, trust the struggle. Don’t think, just do. I’m here to help, so please don’t hesitate to email your questions.

100 Days of Crazy Healthy, Week By Week

Are you ready to get crazy healthy with me this summer? If so, here’s what you should expect:

We will start out slow, adding 7 minutes of exercise and self-care in the first week (congrats who have already started–how did it go?). Each week, we will add a new focus that requires a few extra minutes out of your day. It will force you to make different decisions about how you use your time. Some of the distractions that you are used to, will have to fall away, such as TV, and social media. Remember, we are only doing this for 100 days. You can decide afterward if you want to go back to your old habits. For now, just stick with the program, and let go of that which is not essential, to make time for getting healthy.

The idea is to create new habits every week, and keep repeating them all summer long, until they become a part of who you are. Some of the habits will feel boring, such as repeating the same sun salutations every day. This is on purpose. Others will feel difficult. This is also on purpose. Your mind will try to dismiss them as unnecessary. Stories will show up for you about what is possible, who you are, who I am, and they will all create resistance to the journey. Pay attention to these stories, and ask yourself if they are founded in truth. If they are not serving your desire to get healthy for good, reject them, and get on with the work you need to do, to feel better by Labor Day.

By the end of summer, you will be spending about an hour each day on healthy habits, but it won’t feel like an hour, because it will be broken up into small increments, all day long. You may choose to do your yoga all at once, for approximately 30 minutes, or you may break it up. An example would be to practice sun salutations and core work in the morning, and twists, hips, back strengtheners, and balance at night.

Below is the the framework we will follow, to get crazy healthy before summer’s end. It may change slightly, based on feedback from participants, so check back here every week for specific instructions.

Also, feel free to leave your questions below, or contact me through my Facebook page. I’m here to help–don’t hesitate to reach out! And send me photos of your journey. Bust a pose in public whenever you can and invite strangers. They might hesitate at first, but eventually they will smile, when you tell them about your commitment to getting healthy, and you will leave them with a reminder to take care of themselves. And that’s what this is all about…being the change we hope to see in the world.

Namaste~

Amber

100 Days of Crazy Healthy

Week 1: tongue scraping, warm water first thing, 5 sun salutes (7 min)
Week 2: 2 extra minutes smoothie for breakfast (9 min)
Week 3: 2 extra minutes veggie snacks and 5 minutes core work (16 min)
Week 4: 3 extra minutes soup/salad for lunch or dinner (19 min)
Week 5: 3 extra minutes hips (22 min)
Week 6: 3 extra minutes quinoa for breakfast (25 min)
Week 7: 3 extra minutes stretch in public (28 min)
Week 8: 2 extra minutes back strengtheners (30 min)
Week 9: 1 extra minutes twists (31 min)
Week 10: 4 extra minutes green juice for snack (35 min)
Week 11: 1 extra minutes backbends (36 min)
Week 12: 5 extra minutes balance for core strength (41 min)
Week 13: 5 extra minutes meditation (46 min)
Week 14: 15 extra minutes preparing foods from earth (61 min)
last two days: 1 extra minutes of reflection and reconciliation, twice daily (63 min)

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A Life Well Lived

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December has always been a time of reflection for me. Not just because the year is drawing to a close, but also because my mom passed away in December 1997. As I am missing her at the holidays, and trying to process so much sadness and controversy in the news, it feels more important than ever to spend time in contemplation.

So…I have been thinking a lot about why bad things happen to good people. Trying to understand the meaning of life. And praying for peace in this crazy, mixed up world.

The more I think about these things, the more I worry about my three daughters. What kind of world are they growing up in? How can I make it better? Am I the mother I hope to be? What have I taught them? What else do they need to learn from me?

It has made me even more convicted to teach my girls how to be crazy healthy…in mind, body and spirit. Getting healthy has made me feel like I am finally living the life I am supposed to live. I hope to empower my kids with the same opportunity, now, while they are young. This is what I think they need to know, to live their best life:

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not. As Dr. Seuss reminds us in The Lorax, we all can, and should, make a difference in this world. Be sure of what you hope for, and do something about it, every single day. Pursue your passions, and fight hard to make the world a better place.

Trust your struggles. Life can be really hard. When the going gets rough, remember that sometimes we have to hit rock bottom, in order to appreciate the views from the top. Reconcile with your faith and values in times of distress, and do the work that needs to be done to heal your life . This is how we become stronger in the broken places.

You are what you eat. Eat real food, and avoid fake foods that have been processed, colored, preserved, or artificially sweetened. Strive to eat at least 75% fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and legumes every day. Food from the earth is the most effective way to fuel your body, prevent disease, think clearly, and feel your best. Real food and good health are essential to live a happy life.

Be strong. Use what God gave you, every single day. Move your body. Find an exercise that you can do anywhere, and fall in love with it. Dancing, running, yoga, or whatever makes you feel strong and alive. Embrace opportunities to nurture your mind, body and spirit through exercise.

Choose love. There are a lot of broken people in the world. Love them anyway. Because, no matter what, love always wins.

Be present. Pay attention. Look people in the eye, and try to find the good in them. Stay in the moment, and try to remember the good experiences more than the bad. Most of all, remember that your life is not what happened yesterday, or what will happen tomorrow. Life is what is happening right now, in this moment. Be aware, and live it well.