Some signs you can’t ignore. When I recently received the diagnosis of vocal cord paralysis, a part of me wanted to laugh. I hear you, universe. I may not be able to respond, but I hear you!
I totally believe in the power of the mind-body connection and the idea that if we hold on to negative emotions they can have adverse effects on our health. (If you haven’t yet watched the documentary “Heal” on Netflix please do!) So of course this experience has me questioning not only my physical health but all the spiritual and emotional junk that’s built up for me.
What gives? What areas can I work on? Where can I focus my healing? Was there an emotional cause of this?
In my soul-searching one of the first things that came to mind is my difficulty in asking for help. I’m stubbornly independent and hate feeling like a burden. Having a baby has forced me to ask for help more than usual, but there are times when I’m juggling holding a crying baby and simultaneously (and usually unsuccessfully) trying to multitask and instead of just yelling for help I try to make it work. And when it doesn’t I get frustrated. (It’s actually sort of funny after the fact. Have you ever tried to put on underwear with one hand? Surprisingly challenging!)
Self-care is something I preach but don’t do nearly as much as I know I need. As a new mom it’s engrained in me to put baby first. But like we’re always reminded when flying: secure your own mask first, then assist the other person.
So I’m working on taking care of me so I can better take care of everyone else. I’ve never been to so many doctors' appointments in such a short time (I don't know how all of you with chronic health issues do it!), and while a CT scan isn’t my favorite way to relax, I’m learning to use the time I have at various doctors as self-care. It can’t all be chocolate donuts and bubble baths.
This week included visits to the chiropractor, a CT scan (all-clear!), an OB 6 week follow-up (minor prolapse, cleared for exercise), and acupuncture (lung meridian chi deficiency; more on the insight I gained from this session in another post). Next week is speech therapy, massage, and lots of scheduled Helen time.
I’m taking walks every day, getting back into my yoga practice, and working on writing when I have down time on my phone instead of endless social media scrolling.
And of course, I’m asking for help by:
My voice is sounding a little better already and I’m slowly getting back to feeling like my (new) self. And while my ENT isn’t convinced there’s improvement without my vocal cord functioning coming back, I know these little things add up to big energetic shifts that definitely do make a difference for me. I am my own best healer and this is my path for now.
The second limb of Patanjali's Eight Limbs of Yoga is Niyama. (Read Part 1, an introduction to the 8 Limbs and all about the Yamas here.) With this second layer, we dig a little deeper into ourselves.
The Niyamas are similar to the Yamas, but they're more personal. The word Niyama breaks down to Ni + Yama, and depending on your favorite translations, Ni can be in, into, within, back, down. I like to think of the Niyamas as the ME version of the yamas.
Like the Yamas, there are 5 Niyamas: Saucha = cleanliness or purification, Santosha = contentment, Tapas = internal fire, discipline, drive, or motivation, Svadhyaya = self-study or study of texts, and Isvara Pranidhana = surrender to the divine, or letting go of what you can't control. We can practice the Niyamas both on and off our mats, and like everything in life, some will come easier than others.
As a yoga teacher I always shower before I teach (and practice) so I'm clean for my students, but I'm terrible about dropping an occasional F-Bomb; I curse like a sailor. Language is one area in which I'm really working on saucha. I've learned to practice gratitude when I'm in a funk to find contentment, santosha, and constantly remind myself that I am exactly where I'm supposed to be. Each month I do a goal-setting check-in with one of my friends, Sheri Matthews, and we set reachable short and long-term goals; those sessions keep my tapas going! I'm constantly practicing svadhyaya, noticing what thoughts come up for me, reactions before they become actions, how my daily schedule and eating habits affect my energy level. And while isvara pranidhana is the hardest one for me to practice, I try to remind myself that the only person I can control is myself and that after I've done what I can do, I have to let go.
How do you practice the Niyamas?! Find your own versions with this Niyama Flow!
I just started a new series of free yoga classes on my YouTube channel that focuses on the seven chakras. These energetic centers of the body are situated along the spine, or sushumna nadi, and correspond to different physical, emotional, and mental qualities. The word chakra translates to wheel, and they can be imagined as vortexes or swirling balls of energy.
The idea of chakras can be super hippy dippy or way "out there" for some people. They're one of those concepts that some people LOVE and other people are skeptical about. It wasn't until I actually experienced the chakras that I was able to really embrace the idea of them, and I'm hoping through these classes that I can help others find some clarity. There are key organs and bundles of nerves situated around each of the chakras, so while science may not talk about them, there is anatomical proof of something going on there.
There are so many great resources on chakras available. If you're interested I definitely recommend reading more (email me for suggestions!), but practice along with the videos for a basic overview and chakra balancing!
1. Root Chakra - Muladhara. Located at the base of your spine, associated with the color red and survival: food, housing, safety.
2. Sacral Chakra - Svadhisthana. Located between your hips in the lower abdomen, associated with the color orange, creativity, emotions, and relationships.
3. Navel Chakra - Manipura. Located above your navel (also known as solar plexus chakra), associated with the color yellow, self-confidence, and personal drive.
4. Heart Chakra - Anahata. Located in your chest, associated with the color green or pink, love, and compassion.
5. Throat Chakra - Vishudda. Located in your throat and mouth, associated with the color turquoise and self expression.
6. Third Eye Chakra - Ajna. Located between your eyebrows, associated with the color indigo, intuition, imagination, and thinking.
7. Crown Chakra - Sahasrara. Located at the crown of your head, associated with the color white or gold, connection to a higher power, and bliss.
My 100 Day Project is WRITING! After years of calling myself a writer, I've slowly fallen out of the habit of writing every day. Sometimes I lack inspiration, sometimes my to-do list takes over my day, and sometimes I'm just lazy or distracted . But the reality is that I'm always writing in my head. I have stories, funny conversations, and ideas to share, so it's time to get them out of this brain of mine. I'll be traveling quite a bit throughout these next 100 days, so my posts may not make it online at the time of writing, but I'll make sure they get posted the next possible time I get decent wifi.
In honor of starting this 100 days of writing, I wanted to explore the idea of habits, both building new habits and breaking old habits. I've spent the last week or so at my parents' house, and it's funny (and sort of annoying) how quickly I've slipped back into habits I had at 21, the last summer I really lived here, just by virtue of being in this house. For the past couple of years I've gotten so used to living my life on my own terms that it can be an interesting challenge to try to mix my routine and habits with those of my family. But as a people lover and former sociology major, it's always interesting to observe others' patterns and day-to-day existence.
For me, building new habits isn't that hard; when I want to do something I just do it (eat your heart out, Nike!). I've learned how to motivate myself and that I need to write down whatever it is I want to do in my planner and remind myself why I'm doing it. When I genuinely want something I can usually find a way to make it happen (or at least make whatever part of it is within my control happen) - that's part of being me. It's the breaking habits part that's the real challenge. I easily run on auto-pilot and too often my default activity is something I don't even really want to do, it's just a nasty habit I've picked up along the way that I can't kick. (When pausing between sentences to write this, I find myself clicking on all the other open tabs on my browser, getting distracted by emails and other to-dos, and scrolling mindlessly through Instagram...no reason why, no joy from it, just clicking and scrolling.)
I'm slowly learning to reframe the breaking of habits as building better, positive habits. Instead of stopping something or obsessing over the negative, I'm redirecting that energy or impulse into doing something positive. So rather than breaking the click and scroll habit, I'm building the habit of more focused writing where I allow myself to sit, think, and be when nothing comes to me. I'm giving myself the space and time to write without piling on all the other things I could or should be doing.
I worked in corporate wellness for several years and we used to tell our clients that it takes 28 days to create a habit, so we'd encourage month-long challenges and programs to influence behavior. I'm stoked that this is 100 days, because that means I'll REALLY solidify these new habits, right? The most successful programs we ran included personal motivations and built support and accountability systems with coaching. For these next 99 days, I'm counting on the online community of #The100DayProject participants to keep me motivated and accountable. Here we go!
One of the first emails I send to my yoga teacher trainees before they join me for a training includes the question “What is yoga to you?” The common translation of yoga is “union,” or “to yoke.” Some people will tell you yoga is a union of body, mind, and spirit, others will tell you it’s a religion. For every 10 people you ask, you’ll get 10 different answers. I find yoga to be such a personal practice that I struggle defining it one way. For me yoga is a way of life; it’s self-discovery, exercise, therapy, meditation, and medicine. It’s a spiritual practice that connects me to something greater; it’s a physical practice that grounds me and makes me appreciate the strength and power of my body; it’s both challenging and fun. Yoga is what I turn to when I feel like my life is going to shit and it’s how I celebrate beautiful highs and magical moments. My yoga practice varies from day to day.
Yoga has been around for more than 5,000 years, but ancient yoga looked quite a bit different from what most people consider yoga today. Yoga’s goal throughout the years has been to answer life’s tough questions – Who am I? What is my purpose? How do I connect to something greater? - and it’s evolved greatly through time and location as our lifestyles have evolved. I find it totally normal and expected that we practice yoga in a very different way than our yogi ancestors did. Because most of us lead relatively sedentary lifestyles (working on computers, driving to get where we need to go), it makes sense that we are drawn to the physical aspect of yoga, the postures or asanas. But as most of us discover when we start to delve a bit deeper, yoga is much more than just poses.
One of my favorite sessions of teacher training (each time I discover something new for my own life and practice), is our discussion of The Eight Limbs of Yoga. Patanjali, the “father of yoga” and one of the leading sages associated with yoga, defined these guidelines for living in the Yoga Sutras as follows:Yama. Yama is often explained as restraint or control, and there are 5 Yamas that can be characterized as ways of controlling yourself or behaving in relation to the outside world. They are: Ahimsa = non-violence; Satya = truthfulness; Asteya = non-stealing; Bramacharya = self control over physical impulses of excess; and Aparigraha = non-hoarding.
I’m adding a series of classes to my YouTube channel that explores each of these limbs, or layers of yoga, in detail through a guided practice. Follow along each week, leave comments and thoughts, and find your own connections and examples in your life. This week we dig into the Yamas!
Our Summer 2017 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training in Lake Placid, New York is filling up quickly and I couldn't be more excited. It's been amazing talking to the students who are joining, hearing about and sharing their passion for life and yoga, and realizing what an incredible experience this is going to be for everyone. I fell in love with the Adirondacks on a road trip last summer and knew I had to come back and share some of the beautiful energy of the area!
We'll spend three weeks immersed in all things yoga, with days off to hike, paddleboard, swim, be in nature, and reset. AND...If you book by Wednesday, March 15th you get $500 off shared or private room prices and $200 off locals' rate, which means...
For $1,800 you get 3 weeks of yoga, all training materials, and lunches on training days. You leave certified to teach under Yoga Alliance guidelines, and go home with new friends and a fresh outlook on life.
For $3,250 you get the above plus get shared room accommodation and all meals.
For $3,750 you get the above plus private room accommodation and all meals.
Email me with any questions!
I have big things planned for Floating Yoga School for the rest of this year and next year! I just secured a bunch of dates for retreats and teacher trainings around the world, and I can't wait to share them with you.
See below for the full schedule, and message me for more details!
In just a few months I'll be kicking off another yoga teacher training in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. It's the perfect chance to visit a gorgeous Caribbean island, learn more about yoga, and spend some time on yourself.
I set up my 200 hour yoga teacher trainees as 3 week retreats because I find that being immersed in yoga allows you to really focus in on your personal goals and practice without the distractions of work and day-to-day life. Our schedule is 3 days of training followed by one full day off, so you have time to rest, reset, and explore St. Thomas (which usually translates to long naps, beach days, and strolls through town :)).
Click here for all the details. I'm happy to offer a day rate that includes the training and lunch if you'd like to find your own lodging or are already in St. Thomas. And I'm always open to payment plans. Feel free to message me - Helen@FloatingYogaSchool.com - for more information.
Big thanks to Marshan and the crew at WildHeart Studio in St. Thomas for your support and help making this happen!
After more than four years of hard work, endless edits, and countless refinements, I'm very happy to announce that my Yoga Teacher Training Manual is for sale as an e-book on Amazon! Here's the link to purchase. (I'm working on iBooks now - stay tuned.)
I use this manual in my Floating Yoga School trainings (and it's free if you join me!), and I'm happy to offer a cobranded manual for your studio if you're interested - email me for details.
So why am I selling it? There is SOOO much to learn about yoga, and you could spend years reading and studying and still feel like you only just scratched the surface. Ever since my own teacher training seven years ago, I've been on the hunt for great yoga resources. There are thousands of incredible books out there, but the scope of choices and subjects is really overwhelming. Most yoga teacher trainings include required readings, and the long list of books you're supposed to buy will end up costing you a fortune and leave you even more confused. I see those lists and all I can think about is my first semester of college, when after standing in line for 20 minutes with a huge stack of books I finally got to the check-out desk of the University Bookstore, was told my total was $400+ for one class, and with sweaty palms had to reluctantly hand over my brand-new debit card. Welcome to adulthood.
I wanted to get away from that feeling and consolidate what I've learned and found to be most helpful as a modern yogi through my 15 years of practicing and 7 years of teaching. The Floating Yoga School approach to 200 hour teacher trainings is to think of yoga like a buffet (I love food). Instead of loading up your plate with a few subjects, we offer a small taste on a wide range of topics. As a participant of a Floating Yoga School Yoga Teacher Training, you leave comfortable and ready to teach a really solid yoga class that fits your personality as a teacher. You learn the basics of history and philosophy, anatomy, meditation, pranayama, chakras, Sanskrit, and Ayurveda. You learn to safely and intelligently sequence a class, how to approach yoga from an ethical business point of view, and how to teach and adjust more than 100 yoga poses (including modifications for injuries and specific populations like prenatal students and kids). You also get an amazing chance to focus on yourself and your long-term goals away from the distractions of everyday life. And that's what this manual is all about: 287 easy-to-follow pages designed to kickstart a lifelong exploration of the lifestyle of yoga.
Check out the manual, whether you're brand new to yoga or are looking to start your own yoga teacher training. I always welcome feedback and will continue to add to it as I continue to evolve my practice and teaching. And if you'd like to join for a training, the next one is Summer 2017 in Lake Placid, New York. Click here for all the details. Our February session starts in just a few days in Caberete, Dominican Republic - I'll be posting lots of behind-the-scenes photos on Instagram, so be sure to follow along :)
The Floating Yoga School 200 hour teacher training is Yoga Alliance approved.
You know those days when you wake up thinking about everything you need to get done but can’t find the energy to drag yourself out of bed? Or maybe you’re up but the coffee’s just not working fast enough. In our world of to-do lists and endless projects, those days are all too familiar and they’re the reason I designed this 5 minute Get Up & Go yoga flow for my friends at Sweaty Betty.
The next time you need an instant boost of energy or a little break from your day, instead of stressed-out social media scrolling, try taking some deep breaths and practice these energizing and empowering poses. Your body and mind will thank you.
Follow along with the below photos or watch the video. Feel free to take it at your own pace or modify the poses to make them fit your body and what you need today. Most days I do the flow twice – moving slowly the first time and faster the second – for an extra pep in my step.
Come to a standing position and notice how you feel. Acknowledge your energy level, any physical aches or pains, and where your mind wants to go. Turn your attention to your breath. Take slow, steady inhales and exhales through your nose.
Inhale and reach your arms over your head. Exhale, interlace your fingers and stretch your arms as far as you can up and out to your right. Imagine stretching taller as you inhale, and reach further to the side as you exhale.
Inhale come back to center and exhale repeat to the other side. Feel the sides of your body grow long, and notice how your ribs expand in all directions with each breath in.
Helen's Adventures as a Traveling Yogi
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