how to deepen your yoga practice

When I completed my yoga teacher training, I knew that after 500hrs of learning I was just at the beginning of my journey through this profound body of knowledge. Yoga has given me so much in the way of growth, health, forgiveness, self-compassion + body awareness. I've learned that healing is non-linear; it happens through our bodies - yes, but also through feeling, perception, intention and consciousness. My yoga practice has softened the way I communicate, move, breathe, nourish + live... it has transformed my life for the better.

With every class I teach, I try to create space for my students to explore their own unfolding with every cue + through every breath. I guide them with reverence + gratitude in my heart for our shared experience + hope they leave feeling a little more aligned + a little more attuned inside.

Here are a few tips to deepen your time on the mat when we're not together:

Listen to your body + respond with compassion: I tell my students to default to rest or embrace a modification that softens the pose; we don't need to ignore how we feel {anymore than we already do} to achieve a pose, we need to deepen our breath + connect with what our body needs in the moment. Bālāsana {child's pose} is always the right pose if you need it. Some days you can go further + other days maybe not; on both days you are an exceptional human being discovering an ever changing edge... please learn to rest + not to give up on yourself.

Understand that the pose comes from within: I encourage my students to stay focused on their own practice; there will always be someone in the class that can go a little further or bend a little more + you can use that for inspiration - sure, but please do not use it for comparison. You are where you are right now + wherever that is, is just fine. I invite you to be there fully + honour what is possible for you in the present. Listen. Respond. Deepen or hold steady. Find your own flow. You cannot look outside of yourself to measure or determine where you should be; pay attention to your own mind, your own body + your own heart. Train yourself to become the most powerful person in your life.

Try to breathe through your nose the whole time: It's hard to imagine but the human body was designed for nasal breathing; most of us breathe at 10 - 20% of our capacity + this poor breathing contributes to a number of health problems {i.e. anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure etc...} but also, by decreasing our respiratory function we decrease our own energy levels.

"Breathing in and out through the nose helps us take fuller, deeper breaths, which stimulates the lower lung to distribute greater amounts of oxygen throughout the body. Also, the lower lung is rich with the parasympathetic nerve receptors associated with calming the body and mind, whereas the upper lungs — which are stimulated by chest and mouth breathing — prompt us to hyperventilate and trigger sympathetic nerve receptors, which result in the fight or flight reaction." 

We were not meant to engage our flight or flight response to deal with our daily modern stressors. It's purpose is to protect us from immediate or imminent danger, not an absent - or lacking - plan for self-care. I encourage my students to use their time on the mat to practice breathing well; I teach them that we disrupt + weaken our inner rhythms when we unconsciously hold our breath as a way to cope. When students find their edge in a pose, I ask if they can use their breath as a tool to go deeper, or if they need to rest to reconnect to the breathing that serves them most? During the more challenging moments on the mat - if we can develop a thoughtful inner dialogue - we strengthen our ability to respond to circumstance with mindfulness, rather than succumb to it without any awareness.

Meditate at the end of every class: Savasana feels so sweet at the end of a good class doesn't it? I always feel bad having to ease students out of such a peaceful state... then to get them up + send them off into world - it all seems so unkind. I try to teach them not to rush but to just take a moment + notice their inner calm + notice their own powerful breathing. I believe that if you can be still for 1 - 5mins longer {time + space permitting} after your class, you have an opportunity to really integrate your practice... to really seal the time you have dedicated to yourself, so it's not just a physical release but a spiritual {non-religious} one as well.  Your soul needs rest too.

You are capable of so much more than you know + a regular yoga practice is a useful, effective guide for that discovery.

Yoga gives us an opportunity to practice listening to ourselves with kindness + care. Practising builds up our inner strength, inner awareness + inner resourcefulness. By improving our breathing on the mat, we cultivate the ability to breathe deeply in our every day lives + to discover the power, peace + potential we all hold within + together.

I hope you'll explore these ideas in your own practice.

As always, if you have any questions or feedback please send me a note or click the let's talk button on the right.

Namaste, Alicia.xo

Quote Source: I apologize; this quote was added to my research notes without the source information.

the importance of listening to yourself + why it's time for things to change

Like all change, it started as a whisper. Or maybe, it was the Vogue article on the reopening of the Ritz in Paris? You see, I was living in Paris + working on the reopening of the The Prince de Galles hotel, when the company I worked for won the procurement contract for the Ritz project...yes, that Ritz. It was a magical time in many ways; I was surrounded by dynamic + ambitious women, working on two Paris legends, communicating daily in my second language, dealing with men who did not think we had a right to be in the room, let alone at the table but we were there + it was incredible. Challenging? Yes! Worth it? Absolutely. I was a fully activated woman. Powerful. Autonomous. Unapologetic.

But it didn't last, I would not see the end of either project; one would take another 2 years to finish + the other had not even started as yet {and would take 4 yrs to complete}. By the time I left Paris, I was homesick, extremely burnt out + clear that I had no idea how to make my success sustainable. I was ready to leave the pressures of the luxury industry behind me. And I did. I took some time off; got clear, got healthy + I jumped right into the deep end of holistic wellness for women + did not look back...until I saw that article. Sh*t.

Why aren't you using all of you in your work?

My soul wanted to know the answer to this question + every part of me was trying to get it right: my mind kept countering that "I was giving it my all + to ignore the voice completely..." my heart kept saying, "no you are not Alicia, you have more to give..." somewhere in between my body was saying, "just decide, I can't take this indecision anymore!" I was out of alignment + it felt awful + that was all I knew for sure.

Listen closely.

I know enough to pay attention to whispers when they begin + frankly, I am tired of going through what follows when you ignore yourself. I meditated + prayed for this whisper to be more than just a question. I asked for guidance + clarity + then I completely surrendered my need to know. Worry does not serve you. Either you trust something higher than yourself or you do not.

The answers will come. The clarity. The direction. The confidence.

I was in the middle of writing my book when the answers came to me, one by one - the why, the how + the when - appearing in my brain from out of nowhere.  The truth is a part of me was missing from my work...holistic wellness wasn't just about feeling better + healing for me, it was more; it was about reclaiming my power, discovering an infinite resource of energy + strength deep within + finding the courage to see myself as a whole woman, worthy of my own unconditional love + finally, capable of success on my own terms... Yes, I am ambitious, I am hungry, I am called + so committed to changing the world, one powerful woman at a time.

And so that brings me to this moment + this understanding: I do holistic wellness for your potential, peace + power.  You can get caught in the loop of just trying to feel better + connected or you can learn how to connect + be better.

I see you.

Love, Alicia.

 

spring equinox: letting go + the release

I give you this to take with you: Nothing remains as it was. If you know this, you can begin again, with pure joy in the uprooting. ― Judith Minty

Spring Equinox Blessings to You.

At this time of year so much emphasis is placed on letting go, cleansing + rebirth. By the light of Spring, we are asked to abruptly undo what has been done in the darkness of Winter. To clean. To discard. To overhaul. To open up. Not just in the outer spaces of our lives, but in the complex inner space of the body, heart + mind. It's a lot + maybe, for some of us, it is too much.

During the colder months, we hold on to everything; fatigue, sadness, disappointment, anger, frustration + stress. Everything intensifies. Our food choices are directed by comfort, not by fuel; we try to insulate ourselves, not just from the cold but also from our own truths. We become more sensitive without the warmth of the sun + the healing power of daylight. We naturally grow weary, fragile + tender...we get through so much of it by holding our breath...then Spring arrives + we are asked to change the flow of our living {the course of our being} + to exhale + to just let it all go, but...

We release for relief. We release to be free. We can never fully let go until we fully release. We release to complete the process of letting go + to begin again.

 

EXERCISE: {you can lift this exercise by burning sage + letting the smoke surround you before + after} With that in heart, I invite to stand up, eyes closed, mountain pose + to start to breathe deeply. Get quiet. Extend your inhales + exaggerate your exhales. Think about unfurling, you are opening up again...come out of hibernation, stretch your limbs far + wide. From head to toe, gently rotate your joints in a circular motion. Begin to move. Jump. Dance. Run. Try Yoga. Whatever feels right for you. No matter what though, you have to move. Move until you feel heat rising + you are sweating; let the fire inside of you burn away all that you have been holding. Release. Keep moving. Start to think of all the unsaid hurt + pain + frustration + let yourself cry. Let the hot tears flow. Think of the sweat + the tears as a way to cleanse you. Release. Keep moving. Now in the energy of this heat + in this release, start to whisper "I am yours" {here you are speaking to your own heart}. Slowly grow louder. "I AM YOURS." Release. Don't stop saying these words until you can feel the strength of their meaning + the power of believing in yourself.

Keep Moving. Keep Sweating. Keep Crying. Keep Declaring. Keep Releasing.

Do this exercise until you come home to yourself. Until you uproot + release what you have held + stored in the corners of your soul. Let your heart expand. Feel the tension ease out of your body. Soften your mind. Let it all burn away + meet yourself again.

This is your Spring.

love, Alicia.

real talk

The truth is, in order to heal we need to tell our stories and have them witnessed...The story itself becomes a vessel that holds us up, that sustains, that allows us to order our jumbled experiences into meaning.

As I told my stories of fear, awakening, struggle, and transformation and had them received, heard, and validated by other women, I found healing.

I also needed to hear other women's stories in order to see and embrace my own. Sometimes another woman's story becomes a mirror that shows me a self I haven't seen before. When I listen to her tell it, her experience quickens and clarifies my own. Her questions rouse mine. Her conflicts illumine my conflicts. Her resolutions call forth my hope. Her strengths summon my strengths. All of this can happen even when our stories and our lives are very different.

{Sue Monk Kidd}