This breath is on fire

What up! I felt compelled to share a post that I wrote for a class blog several months ago. It’s all about cultivating inner peace in an often chaotic world. Check it out:

Living a spiritual life in a material world means interpreting and experiencing stress, fear, and chaos in a new way. When we feel anxious about the turmoil in our lives, regardless of the level of intensity of that turmoil, we have the power to choose another way to live, to choose another way to view that turmoil. Instead of letting the turmoil drive us to engage in destructive behaviors (anesthetizing our emotions with food, booze, acting out, sex, etc), we can choose another way. Fortunately, we can turn to ancient spiritual technologies, such as Kundalini Yoga, to help us feel inner peace at all times, even in times of turmoil.

Kundalini Yoga is a “scientific technology for happiness.” When we practice the meditations and mantras of Kundalini, our brains change. Our neural pathways literally change so that we cultivate the capacity to “experience each day with increasing inspiration and joy.” While all of this Kundalini stuff sounds a little trippy, Kundalini is a very simple practice. For example, Breath of Fire, a foundational breath technique in Kundalini, is a pretty easy technology to use, but one that yields MANY benefits.

kundalini-yogis-meditatingBreath of Fire is done by inhaling and exhaling rapidly through the nose while pumping the navel in (on the exhale) and out (on the inhale). This breath is done through the nose with the mouth closed. Regularly practicing Breath of Fire regulates the pituitary gland, which is associated with blood pressure, sex hormones, and metabolism. The rapidness of this breath generates so much heat in our bodies that we release toxins and deposits in the lungs, mucous linings, and blood vessels and cells. Mental benefits of Breath of Fire include feelings of regaining control, feelings of groundedness, clearer and calmer thoughts, and inner peace. A regular Breath of Fire practice can help us see that there is another way to live, to think, to act. We can lean into the idea that we can change our experience of the turmoil in our lives simply by breathing in a certain way.

gabby-meditating-on-street1To put this breath technique into practice, try a Kundalini meditation called Ego Eradicator. Gabrielle Bernstein, my meditation and spiritual guru (she’s freaking awesome), promotes Ego Eradicator as a way to unblock stress and let life flow. I’ve done a 40-day practice of doing Ego Eradicator every morning for 3-5 minutes and while I was often frustrated by having to breath rapidly every morning, I felt my sinuses clear and my mind get quiet. Practicing Breath of Fire with Ego Eradicator is SUCH an easy way to live the spiritual life in a material world.


More food on my face and just for this weekend, okay?

Currently writing this while a mixture of egg and raw honey dry on my face. According to bad-ass Alexis Wolfer (also the woman who I wish was my big sister), this DIY face mask can treat breakouts. Raw honey (the creamy, somewhat expensive stuff) contains antibacterial and hydrating properties that cleanse the skin without drying it out. Egg white tightens skin (I feel my skin tightening this very moment!). And the fat and cholesterol in the yolk reduce the appearance of acne scars. What the what? Check out the full recipe here!

Photo on 2014-05-08 at 23.40 #2

My skin has taken a beating this semester (this entire year, actually). The massive amount of stress I felt manifested itself on my skin. This is new territory for me. I’ve never really had trouble with my skin and for the past several months, I’ve been breaking out almost every day. Alexis Wolfer’s brain children have helped me focus on not only treating my skin very gently with stuff I already put in my body, but also having fun with skin care. We can all use more fun in our lives, right?

The stress from the past two semesters has also manifested itself in my relationship to food (duh. i talk about that sh*t all the time here)…and subsequently, on my body. While the way I view food and my body has certainly improved, I still have many moments where I ashamed of and frustrated with my body. Consequently, I also have many moments where I obsess about food (am i hungry? should i eat that when i already ate that other thing earlier today? am i really hungry? WTF is wrong with you, sarah!?!?). Slow your roll, girly. In those moments, I dig deep and force gentler thoughts into my brain (the irony there is not lost on me). I stop my dark and reeling thoughts. I DO something-breathe, take a walk/run, call someone, drink water, have a 5-min dance party, so many things.

very recent example: Today, when I freaked out about how I looked in my graduation outfit (um yeah i’m graduating. hollaaaa!) and then obsessed about whether I was hungry and should eat dinner, and why the f*ck I can’t just feel peaceful and normal about food and my body, I made a big decision. What if I just committed to being peaceful around food and my body for the next three days? The next three days are celebratory; full of being surrounded by family and friends, taking pictures, recognizing accomplishments, and of course, eating food. I don’t want to miss out on any moment of the next three days because I’m obsessing about how I look in my clothes or what I’m going to eat. I want to welcome my family, show them around the city, acknowledging the fact that I finished my freakin’ Master’s, take pictures with friends, and feel excited about everything. There will be no room for body hate or preoccupation with food.

Making this weekend commitment is keeping me calm. I don’t need to worry about feeling crazy around food/my body for the rest of my life. All I need to do is strive for peace in that area for the next three days. For the weekend, I will relax about this stuff. And I will be present with the people around me. Just for the next three days. I can worry about forever later. But this weekend, a very exciting and special weekend, I’m just going to act as if I feel normal and peaceful about my body and food.

DIY facials help. Mediating helps. Iggy Azalea and Madonna help. Yoga helps. So, so many things can help us regain our sanity and focus on the sh*t that we actually want to experience in our lives.

I’m starting to believe that American women’s obsession with thinness is a patriarchal rouse to distract us from doing real sh*t, from living our dreams so that we don’t become too powerful. Thoughts?

How to survive finals

It’s that time of the semester, college kid yogis. Seminar papers loom. Reading assignments feel arduous and unfair. We cram as many To Do list entries into our schedules. Fear and anxiety whisper to us every moment.

Fear not, fellow college students. I have a solution, a way to mitigate the emotional and physical effects of this semester overwhelm. Check it:

The College Kid Yoga End-of-Semester Overwhelm Remedy:

1. Change mindset:

By changing our mindset, I refer not to positive self-talk, a technique that often feels exhausting and results in only fleeting moments of peace. Rather, I espouse an entire reformation of the way we think about schoolwork. Since returning to school, I’ve been hyper-aware of how students, myself included, discuss classes, assignments, and other academic obligations as things to “get through,” to complete before we can take a break and actually live life. Our constant complaining and the negative thoughts we attach schoolwork actually creates our reality of sleepless nights, un-intuitive eating, lowered immune system, and general sucky-ness when finals hit.

What if we had fun with our schoolwork instead? What if we found a way to make studying enjoyable, to feel peaceful throughout the day while putting a serious dent in our To Do list? When I felt myself buying into the traditional paradigm of school as something to endure, I thought to myself, “there has GOT to be a way to complete these assignments without feeling anxious, sleep-deprived, and tempted to numb out with food (or whatever your drug of choice is). I chose this; I might as well enjoy it.”

As I enter the last full month of the fall semester, I’ve decided to have as much fun as I can with studying, paper-writing, research, and reading. For example, I create a realistic list of the assignments to tackle or paper topics to research, and allot a certain amount of time for each. After I work on one item on my list, I take a short break (10-15 mins), dance to a heart-thumping song, read a cool blog, call a friend/my family, etc. I try to move my body as much as possible during this time.

To have fun and feel calm WHILE I work, I draw inspiration from Nisha Moodley. Nisha recommends using a Feminine (or masculine) Focus Object during intense work periods. Choose something that you love to look at, that brings you comfort or joy. Place it on your desk, and look at it whenever you pause in your work. This helps us avoid getting distracted by the web, our phones, etc. My Feminine Focus Object is my pretty, cute pot of lip gloss. I place it on my laptop and glance at it while I work, which helps me avoid wasting time by checking Facebook or staring off into space.

My lip gloss be poppin.’

2. Yoga. Duh, of course my remedy includes yoga. I’ve said it before and I say it again: yoga gets us out of our heads and into our bodies. When we shift our focus from our whirring, anxiety-laden thoughts onto a visceral, physical experience, we begin to distinguish what’s real (how our bodies feel) and what’s an illusion (stress, fear, overwhelm). When we identify those negative thoughts as illusions, as not real, we detach from them and can proceed with studying, reading, writing, etc in a calm state of mind.

So do the yoga. For 10 mins. Every morning. And before you go to bed (ha!).

Tara Stiles can help! Check it:

We’ve got this, college kids.

How do grad students do this?

Wowza, peeps. What an intense few days for this grad student. Many words have been written and read. The images below captures how I feel after this week; clearly my ambiguous emotions run the gamut:

This helps. And this.

Also, my love for Christan mom blogs persists. These digital spaces bring me joy and contentment. The women behind them offer us an alternative way to perceive of and live in this crazy, chaotic world of ours. Check them out. Fo real.

And of course, the yoga helps me endure the weeks of heavy reading, writing, talking, and portfolio-building. For anyone looking to build a home practice for themselves (i.e. doing the yoga in your bedroom/living room/kitchen, etc.), look no further than Tara Stiles. She posts her routines all over the web. The democratization of yoga is changing the world. Trust.

A weekend of more reading and writing awaits. Also some yoga. And food. And booze.

Celebrating August 16th

My Facebook status on Wednesday night read: Tomorrow: First day of grad school and Madonna’s birthday. Which is more monumental?

August 16th marked not only the birth of my hero/girl crush, but also my the first day of classes as a freakin Master’s student. While I felt compelled to spend the entire day evangelizing about the significant contributions Lady M has made to society, my classes took precedence. Because that’s what grad students do…I think.

Last year, I partied hard. Picture it: A warm summer day in 2011. Me, in my basement dancing like a lunatic to music video after music video. Me, subtly lip synching to even more songs at my desk at work. Me, paying homage to M in ways that should incite some kind of shame within me.

My party of 1 (I like to think M was there in spirit) rocked again. I watched a couple of her interviews with Letterman, including the one during which she shocked America yet again. Sure, she probably embarrassed herself and had quite a disconcerting effect on Dave and the audience. But that’s why I find her so disarming, people. She has no shame and feels no fear in telling someone to f*ck off.

I also enjoyed some of her old-school interviews with Rosie and Arsenio. While returning a few emails and completing my online direct deposit form for my TAship (oy), I watched Truth or Dare. In this documentary, Alek Keshishien films Madonna and her crew over the course of the Blond Ambition Tour in 1990. It rocks. I am obsessed with a particular scene in which M really expresses herself to her manager, sound technician, and others when her microphone went out on stage.

While my Madonna birthday celebration inadvertently excluded dancing wildly to her music videos, I did pay homage to her by attending a yoga class that evening with one of my roommates. Holy Lord did we do some planks. Madonna arms, here I come.

An appropriate conclusion to my Madonna-inspired day.

My classes were good, too.

Keepin the yoga real

Okay I admit it. Sometimes I succumb to my ego and feel very important/”enlightened” because I own several books on ancient yoga philosophy. I felt a surge of (fake) superiority when I bought a copy of the Bhagavad Gita from some dude on campus last year.

When I think with my ego, I take myself to be someone who connects to yoga more deeply than others (ha!), hence my desire to amass several texts on yoga theory. Yet have I even read them? Not a one. Sure, I’ve tried to read them and study the philosophy that I assumed would advance enhance my own practice. But in reality, slogging through the  complicated Sanskrit terms that forced me to refer to a translation guide every few seconds, along with the completely abstract teachings of ancient gurus left me feeling bored, frustrated, and disconnected from my practice.

J. Brown, founder of Abhyasa Yoga Center in Brooklyn, NY addresses this very topic. Through his experience discussing the non-physical aspects of yoga, he contends that:

While the ancient texts are valuable and interesting, too often they are presented in a way that seems to confuse and confound rather than be of any practical use. Going about the activities of one’s daily life is a spiritual practice. Engaging asana or studying ancient texts is only so good as it helps us in the effort of living. Reality is spirituality. (Read more)

Preach it like you teach it, J. Brown! Seriously, this guy gets it. Yoga is in the real, concrete stuff we do on a regular basis. We cannot find yoga by viewing it as something esoteric, or something from which we are removed, as many texts on ancient yoga philosphy would have us believe. Yoga consists of us participating in life, in us paying attention to how our bodies feel.

Brown’s video might clear this up a bit:

Feelin me, college kids?

Them moves like Jagger

I KNEW my obsession with the Rolling Stones was fueled by some kind of intuitive connection I feel with them.

Jagger does yoga.  He doesn’t just do it today to stay physically and mentally fit as he ages. No. Homeboy did it in the early 70s. Check it:

This image speaks to my soul. It makes me want to jump up and down. OF COURSE the Stones, or at least the lead singer of the Stones, did yoga before their shows. Because they were cool and totally understood connection between the mind and body.

God I love them.