Meditation

On Mindful Creativity

collage by Chelsea Owens, MFT and ATR

collage by Chelsea Owens, MFT and ATR

Lately, as a way of engaging in this life, I’ve been shifting my attention as I wander around San Francisco, with the intention to creatively engage by paying attention to my surroundings. I’ve been trying to pay less attention to my phone and actually look up at the sky, clouds, at more trees, noticing their differences in shape and form and how differently they all dance when it’s windy. I’ve noticed short vignettes on my commute that make my heart swell up and remind me that I'm alive: catching a glimpse of a surly, tattooed, and mustachioed delivery driver head-banging to and blasting Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro at 8am, or a small child’s innocent glee at the sight of his classmate, subsequent embrace and exchange of excitement for the day ahead of them. My intention is to write down ten new things I notice each day as a way to creatively engage in the world. It usually ends up being more like two, but a work in practice. Mindful creative engagement with the world could be play or it could be serious. It could be an afternoon adventure, sitting in a forest, chopping vegetables for a meal, or painting- all are our own response to the natural world.   

Creative expression and art can be utilized as a modality to explore feelings, ease emotional conflicts, and foster self-awareness.

Art making and creativity has a potential to fulfill psychological and spiritual needs through personalizing spaces, expressing or reframing a narrative of one's identity, drawing attention to the immediacy of the present moment in one's body, or practicing as a concrete tool of grounding and self-soothing. Creative expression, when shared or cultivated in a community, can foster a sense of belonging and witnessing. Through exposing your vulnerable self, and opening to the fear or possibility of criticism, there is immense healing power through communion with others in understanding how completely brave it is to share parts of yourself in service of the hope of receiving acceptance and love, as well as understanding how completely we all feel and desire the same thing- to belong. The therapeutic application of mindfulness, or focusing one's attention and opening up awareness, can reduce anxiety and stress, and increase our ability to open to oneself and the world by shifting one's perspective of the world. Psychologist Ellen Langer states that mindfulness, or the noticing of new things, leads to more awareness of how things change depending on the context and perspective from which they are viewed- mindfulness then requires that we give up the fixed ways in which we’ve learned to look at the world.

Naturally then, the marriage of art making and mindfulness would be assumed to increase the possibility of healing parts of your wounded self, communicating thoughts and feelings, and noticing the ways you are or are not paying attention to yourself or the world. Creativity is not something that some people have and others don't- anyone can be creative. Our creative nature is a part of our daily lives, Langer says, from the way we speak to how we express our culture, and even in the seemingly mundane activities. However, often people’s self-imposed judgments show up as obstacles to expressing their creativity, such as what the end product “should” be, how things “should” look, or playing a script of fixed ways of looking at the world. In art therapy, we often address this- it’s not about the end product it’s about the process. Langer said we distinguish the product from the experience of creating it, and for most of us it is a terrifying prospect to imagine being judged in this way. If only we could put aside our concern for others’ judgment, creative engagement could transform our lives through whatever creative endeavors we choose. We often do things we know with certainty we will be good at. We often avoid things we know, usually without certainty, that we will not be good at. Who put that criteria there? Where did the good and bad come from and how could you challenge dichotomous thinking?

Ellen Langer says the more mindful, the less self-conscious we are; the more we know what we’re going to do before we do it, the more opportunity there is to be self-conscious and to process mindlessly- art can make us more mindful, and being more mindful may increase our ability to do and appreciate art. 

 

“I am an artist…I am here to live out loud.”

— Émile Zola

Contemplation:

How can you let your creativity and expression play, explore and be open to the world around you?

How do you want to expand?


*for further reading: Ellen Langer’s book On Becoming an Artist is a great resource on this topic, as well as her book Mindfuless.

collage by Chelsea Owens, MFT and ATR

collage by Chelsea Owens, MFT and ATR


 

JUST BEYOND YOURSELF

Just beyond

Yourself.

 

It’s where

you need

to be.

 

Half a step

into

self-forgetting

and the rest

restored

by what

you’ll meet.

 

There is a road

always beckoning.

 

When you see

the two sides

of it

closing together

at that far horizon

and deep in the foundations

of your own

heart

at exactly

the same

time,

that’s how

you know

it’s the road

you

have

to follow.

 

That’s how

you know

it’s where

you

have

to go.

 

That’s

how you know

you have to.

 

That's how you know.

 

Just beyond

yourself,

it’s

where you

need to be.

 

-David Whyte


Chelsea Owens is a licensed marriage and family therapist and certified art therapist committed to restoring balance between the mind, body, and spirit. Based in San Francisco, CA, Chelsea uses creativity, reflection, and expression with her clients to help illuminate communication from the inside out. Through joyful, light energy and her passion to empower retreat participants to access their true potential, Chelsea looks forward to help creativity flow at the  Wise and Wild Women’s retreat . For more information, please visit Chelsea at  www.chelseaowenstherapy.com

Chelsea Owens is a licensed marriage and family therapist and certified art therapist committed to restoring balance between the mind, body, and spirit. Based in San Francisco, CA, Chelsea uses creativity, reflection, and expression with her clients to help illuminate communication from the inside out. Through joyful, light energy and her passion to empower retreat participants to access their true potential, Chelsea looks forward to help creativity flow at the Wise and Wild Women’s retreat. For more information, please visit Chelsea at www.chelseaowenstherapy.com


Sit With: A Wise and Wild Women's Meditation

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There is a soft and yet FIERCE compassion to the feminine.
— Meredith

Welcome to another episode of Sit With: A Meditation and Contemplation Podcast. Today's episode has been designed for women, though anyone is invited and encouraged to practice. It's a sneak peak to what will be offered and explored in this year's Wise and Wild Women's Retreat in Sayulita, Mexico. This meditation invites you to connect to and nourish the source of the feminine, the creative, and the intuitive. It's an offering of breathing sweetly, moving freely, and expressing powerfully. We spend some time connecting heart to womb and then rocking the pelvic bowl forward and back and around in circles, churning and stirring the feminine pot. This is a practice of awakening and owning the power of creativity and intuition, and expressing fiercely through dance, painting, writing, speech, or simply being present.

 

May this practice nourish, heal, and inspire ourselves, families, communities, and societies. 

 

OM NAMASTE


Wise and Wild Women's Meditation Practice

  • place hand over heart and breathe
  • gently touch in and slide hand down to womb and breathe
  • tilt pelvic bowl forward, reach your sitting bones back and allow belly to fall forward
  • rock pelvic bowl back, reach your sitting bones forward and allow belly to fall back
  • breathe sweetly and continue to rock forward back for a few minutes, inviting a softness and suppleness through low back
  • start to churn in circles, stirring the feminine for another few minutes
  • pause and notice what you feel

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It's Time: Reclaiming the Wise and Wild Woman

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It's not that she isn't there- in fact, she is right here and always has been. However, she may be buried deep, silenced, or asleep due to the patriarchal society telling us to be small, polite, and quiet. Don't move too much, don't speak too loudly, and don't make a scene.

Well... NO!

She has had enough- we have had enough- and it's time to AWAKEN the WISE and WILD Woman. You know who she is. Maybe you remember her freedom and imagination from childhood or maybe you catch glimpses of her in moments of creativity or on the dance floor. You probably hear her whispering in your bones and in your soul- to move freely, express fiercely, and create beautifully.

Now is the time. It's time to listen, trust, and unleash the Wise and Wild Woman within and it's time to gather and do it together!

The wise and "wild" woman is not some crazed, irrational, or over-emotional being. Rather, she is our natural, raw, and true state. Our wildness is our intuition, our emotions, our sexuality, and our creativity. Our wildness is our knowing and our connection to living our most honest and fulfilled lives. Our wildness is our birthright.

On October 27th, 2018 we will gather for a week in the nourishing land of Sayulita, Mexico to explore, heal, and inspire the feminine. Energetically, the feminine is the "Maha" or Great Creator. It is She that has the power to bring new life in the world- whether this be in the form children, art, or relationships. She has the graceful ability to influence families, communities, and societies in her own subtle and yet fiery way-  through words or dance or painting AND by her strong and loving presence.

The Wise and Wild Women's retreat will be an intentional gathering of women of all ages and abilities. Together, we will dialogue around and support each other through some of the most powerful cycles that are entry points to the creative- the menstrual cycle, sexuality, pregnancy and birth, and menopause. Together, we will build a strong community to be seen for the wise women we are and together we will lift each other up.

There will be individual and collective space to contemplate emotionally, express intuitively, and move, breathe, and create freely. This exploration, remembering, and owning of the feminine will not only heal and empower ourselves but also contribute to the well-being of all life on Earth.

Introducing Chelsea Owens, MFT and Co-Host of Wise and Wild Women's Retreat

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I'm over the moon excited to announce that dear friend and magical art therapist, Chelsea Owens will be co-leading this year's Wise and Wild Women's Retreat in Sayulita, Mexico. Chelsea is a licensed marriage and family therapist and certified art therapist committed to restoring balance between the mind, body, and spirit. Based in San Francisco, CA, Chelsea uses creativity, reflection, and expression with her clients to help illuminate communication from the inside out. Through joyful, light energy and her passion to empower retreat participants to access their true potential, Chelsea is the perfect co-host to inspire creative flow at the Wise and Wild Women's retreat. I have no doubt that, with her guidance, there will be powerful moments of healing, self-discovery, and expression.

Art can illuminate your inner world.
— Chelsea Owens

The feminine energy is all about creativity, intuition, and fierce compassion. It's about discerning and trusting a strong wisdom within to own the way we move and interact in our communities and through the world. I am thrilled to offer my skills to explore the feminine through movement and meditation, and know Chelsea's creative art teachings and guidance will add more color, texture, and beauty to our intimate gathering.

Along with twice daily yoga and mediation sessions, there will be afternoon Wise and Wild Workshops. We will use this time to gather, explore, and dialogue around topics such as menstruation, sexuality, labour and birth, and menopause and how these female cycles are powerful sources of wisdom and creativity. Chelsea will then open the space for creative discovery and expression, guiding us along the way. She will also be available for optional, one-on-one art therapy sessions throughout the week.

So please, welcome Chelsea, learn more at www.chelseaowenstherapy.com, and join us this fall for our Wise and Wild Women's retreat!


Typical Retreat Day:

- Morning yoga and meditation

- Light breakfast

- Wise and Wild/Creative Art Workshops: exploring and dialoguing around topics such as menstruation, sexuality, labour and birth, menopause and how these female cycles are powerful sources of wisdom and creativity.

- Lunch

- Optional art studio time, adventuring, or resting

- Evening yoga and meditation

- Dinner

 

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Sit With Meditation: On The Abundance In Each Moment

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Breathe in and experience the fullness of the lungs, the expansion of the body, and the abundance that exists in each moment. May we think, speak, and act from this place of enough-ness and offer the practice up to the wellness and freedom for all beings.

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu


Sit With Meditation: Sankalpa, the Heart's Longing

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Welcome to another episode of Sit With, A Meditation and Contemplation Podcast. In this practice, we start by calling Ganesh, the Remover of obstacles and the Lord of new beginnings. We come through 108 rounds of the mantra and deep seeded vibration, "OM GAM GANAPATAYE NAMAHA." From this initiation, we remember sankalpa. In yoga sankalpa is the heart's longing of how we want to feel and BE in this life.

Let an emotion, a word, or maybe a phrase arise in the body, around the heart, and in the mind and from this remembrance welcome a devotion. It's from this place that we have the opportunity to align our thoughts, words, and actions to this sankalpa, or heart-filled intention.

Yoga, NOW, is an offering to the well-being, the freedom, and the sweet joy for all beings everywhere. Yoga, NOW, is a living and practical practice to be awake, compassionate, and loving in the world. Yoga, NOW, is a way of being in this new year and in each moment.

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhanvantu

OM NAMASTE

Sit With Meditation: From the End, It Simply Starts Again

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If you need a reminder of the magical land and life we live in and all the nourishment she provides, head to Big Sur, California, stand on the Earth, listen to the waves, and watch the sun rise and set. It will inspire, energize, and connect you to all the good feels and may even help clarify some matters of the mind. 

I recently made a big life decision that has had some significant and moving effects. After a year of wishy-washy thoughts, wobbling back and forth trying to make it work, I finally got clear and brave enough to end a relationship that deep down I knew wasn't right for either us. Within a week of that decision, I found a new place to call home and moved in with a sweet friend from college. The timing was incredible. The day before the break up, my friend emailed me asking if she knew of any apartment openings. She got a job in Oakland and was moving back to the Bay Area. I didn't know of any off the top of my head but I threw out the idea of us potentially finding a place together. A quick Craigslist search led me to a fully furnished and recently remodeled flat with a beautiful backyard and yoga deck (pictures and practice videos to come!)! Things were in movement and I met with the owners who were lovely and kind and passionate about life. They were looking for someone to take good care of their home while they took some time off to travel the world.

Done and done. We got the place, signed the lease, and moved in the next week. My friend had already had her flight booked from Korea to SFO, landing on November 20th. The apartment happened to be available November 19th. The process moved swiftly and effortlessly, and I seriously couldn't have crafted a better plan or executed it more efficiently.

But that's how life is sometimes, especially when you make a decision based on some solid intuition. I'm certainly still digesting and processing all that has happened and all that is still evolving but one thing is for sure- the universe is full of energy. There are flows, tides, and rhythms that are strong and fierce and awe-inspiring. As humans we are a PART of nature and have the potential to be swept up by the flow. I made a choice that I knew was going to put me in a period of transition; however, the experience has been nothing but gentle and graceful and that is something I am utterly thankful for. I felt like I was in a strong current getting pulled tenderly through the vast and mysterious ocean, all wide-eyed and curious as to what the present moment had to offer. 

Which brings me to this week's mediation and contemplation...

In this mediation I guide you to the bottom of the exhale and encourage you to linger in the emptiness, only to observe and experience the new and life-giving inhale. The teachings of yoga suggest a life-death-life again cycle and the breath teaches us that everything exists in one breath. It's from the bottom or the death of the exhale that we begin again and feel into the fullness and richness of this life. Yoga teaches us that everything arises, unfolds, and then passes away. This body, our work, and our relationships are all impermanent and ever-changing and evolving. It's when we live in the illusion of permanence that we tend to get stuck or experience suffering in some way. It's when we cling or grip too tightly to an idea that we often lose sight of what is actually happening in this moment. In yoga, this is avidya, or the inability to see things or be with things as they are. It arises from the notion of wanting this moment to be different in some way. We think if only this relationship was like... or if only I had that job... or if only I had more experience... THEN I would be more satisfied, happier, or more content. This is a dangerous illusion and only causes dukkha, or suffering, pain, or dissatisfaction. 

Yoga is a way of being and meditation is a practice of returning, over and over again, to the present moment. Everything exists in this moment. All the love, magic, and life we long for exists in THIS moment because all we really have is the present. Even when the shit hits the fan and we lose a job, end a relationship, or watch a loved one pass away, we still have this moment and this life. And even though we can't control very much, we can control where and how we place our attention. Meditation is the art of attention, a gathering back to and a remembrance of all that we do have in this moment. This moment is the home of great potential, serendipitous interactions, and beautiful relationships with the world. 

So whether you are going through your own transition or you simply want to hone your sense of attention, this practice is for you. I hope you find it as rich and life-giving as I do.

Lots of Love,

M

Episode 1 of Sit With: Breathe and Be AWAKE in the World

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HELLO!

I am so excited to share the very first episode of Sit With: A Meditation and Contemplation Podcast. In this week's episode, I take some time guiding you to a comfortable and sustainable seat. It certainly takes some effort to sit nice and tall but the key is finding the EASE within the effort or the SOFTNESS within the structure. This is true for the yoga practice and the life practice, as well- right? If you need a visual or some extra support in finding a seat, please watch this beautiful video . I share some different sitting options as well as some general meditation tips. Once we are settled, I guide you through a 4-part breathing technique used to lengthen the breath, strengthen the lungs, and activate prana or life-force in the body.

The parts are:

  1. The Inhalation
  2. A Moment of Retention
  3. The Exhalation
  4. Another Moment of Retention (with breath held out)

I follow up with a simple, focal point meditation. In today's practice, the focal point is the tip of nose and specifically feeling each breath come in and through the nostrils. If you are newer to this practice, the mind will wander almost immediately. I talk a bit about the habits of the mind and where it tends to go. The important thing to remember is that meditation is a PRACTICE and mindfulness is knowing where the attention is. It might be a while until you even notice that the mind has wandered, but when you do... AHA! This is the moment to PRACTICE letting go of whatever has arisen and to practice shifting the attention back to the focal point. The cycle of drifting and returning will happen again and again so be patient, kind, and gentle with yourself. Over time, you will be able to rest the attention on the focal point longer- experiencing space, calm, and clarity.

For me, this is the HEART of yoga. This practice of sitting and noticing where my mind, attention, and energy is has been life-changing and life-giving. It has given me the ability to know when thoughts, emotions, and sensations arise and it has given me the tools to pause, connect to my wisdom and THEN respond and engage in life. You might notice yourself reacting less and responding with more intention and direction. This is a powerful, empowering, and really gentle and kind practice and I hope you find it as energizing as I do. 

As always, please comment or email me with any questions, experiences, or insights. I love hearing from you!

Lots of Love,

Meredith

 

3 Ways to Sit During Meditation

Hi All!

In preparation for the launch of my meditation podcast Sit With, I'm taking this week to share three sitting options. Whenever I teach meditation I always recommend finding a seat that is comfortable and sustainable; however, I know this is not always easy! In this video I share three seats that I have found helpful and supportive during my practices. Try them out and let me know how they feel or if you have any questions.

And remember to subscribe and tune in next Monday, November 13th for the very first episode of Sit With: A Meditation and Contemplation Podcast. This podcast will be a weekly invitation to start your week with clarity, calm, and intention and I hope it gives you the tools and skills to be more awake and energized in the world.

Lots of Love,

Meredith

Introducing Sit With: A Meditation and Contemplation Podcast

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I am so excited to share my newest project, Sit With: A Meditation and Contemplation podcast! This will be a weekly invitation to start your week with clarity, calm, and intention. I will be sharing simple and accessible meditation practices that I have found life-changing and life-giving. I love yoga and the movement practice but for me, meditation is the HEART of yoga. It is through this practice that I have learned to know where my attention is and to more consciously and kindly CHOOSE where and how to place it. Meditation has given me the tools and skills to be awake in the world. It is through this practice of sitting that I am more able to walk through my days and life with rich energy, vitality, and passion. 

So mark your calendars, subscribe below, and join me Monday, November 13th for our very first episode!

Lots of Love,

Meredith


Yoga Therapy Magic

I recently met up with my good friend Elaine Oyang, a yoga therapist and whole foods nutrition consult here in San Francisco. I have been hearing a lot about "yoga therapy" and wanted to know what separated it from my understanding of yoga.

You may already know that the yoga teacher to student relationship was once, and still is in some places, an intentional commitment. The student would formally ask the teacher to guide him or her through the practices of yoga and the teacher would formally agree or disagree to take on that student. It was through this purposeful and steadfast one-on-one relationship that one learned the powerful practices and explored the union of body, mind, and spirit. 

Elaine told me that yoga therapy is similar in that her students or clients ask for her guidance. During the initial consultation they commit to a healing and integrative health care plan. Yoga therapists use a variety of techniques including yoga, meditation, and breath work in order to guide their client's unique body and mind to it's natural state of vitality, balance, and ease. Yoga therapy can be energizing and nourishing for anyone and is ideal for someone living with chronic pain, anxiety, insomnia, or depression. 

During our time together, Elaine guided me through a deep sacral release sequence. This was my first experience with yoga therapy and I didn't really know what to expect. The whole session took place with me lying on my back with my legs up on a chair. After a few opening assists, Elaine talked me through a simple practice of grounding my femur bones deep into my hip sockets so that the surrounding muscles could soften. Her calming and compassionate nature made it easy for me to relax my body and connect to my breath. I felt immediate release around my sacrum, low back, and hip joints, as well as a sweet peace throughout my whole being. From beginning to end, I felt held and nourished by Elaine's presence- something not so readily available in a public class. 

If you or someone you know is currently living with some health challenge, consider yoga therapy! If you are in the bay area, I would highly recommend Elaine. You can learn more about her and her work here

Also, the sequence below is easily done with or without a yoga therapist. All you need is a soft surface to lie down on and a chair to rest your calves and ankles on. Try it out and let me know how it feels!

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Join the Mindful May Campaign and experience more peace, clarity, and authentic connection.

This is the heartbeat of yoga and the initiation of an awakened LIFE. It is through the practice of SITTING that we cultivate a relationship with the mind and begin to hear and feel the noise and busyness, as well as the pockets of quiet stillness and harmony. Meditation invites us to rest the attention on the breath (or another focal point), to notice when thoughts arise, and to choose the present moment over and over and over again. Each breath offers a rich and vibrant life that can only be experienced in the present and each inhale gives us an opportunity to engage carefully with the world.

So I invite you to SIT each morning!

I recommend sitting for 6-11 minutes, which is plenty of time to notice the churning of the mind and to practice shifting the attention to the moment. If at all possible, I HIGHLY recommend sitting in the morning before taking care of family or work. You can tell me, but I have found that there is something powerful about starting the day with the vitality and clarity of the breath.

 

OM NAMASTE


Other ways to participate

Along with your home practice, you are welcome to join me Tuesday evenings at Thriveability SF, where I'll be leading a meditation series for the month of May. You can also attend my regular public Yoga and Meditation classes at Yoga Garden SF on Tues/Thurs mornings or Sunday evenings. I will also be posting Instagram LIVE meditations every Monday morning and you can tune in @meredithholtyoga 

Finally, I'd love for you to take a look and consider donating the gift of yoga and meditation to k-12 teachers! Learn more about Headstand's powerful mission and give today.

 

Yoga and Meditation: What It Is All About and How It Can Upgrade Your Life

For the past few months I have been teaching a 6:15 am Yoga and Meditation class at Yoga Garden SF and I am finding that it has a tender spot in my heart. I believe the class honors the practice of yoga and the teachers who have passed the dharma, or teachings, along the lineage. It also represents the way I personally practice and feels vulnerable and meaningful to share bits and pieces of that with you.

The physical practice, or asana, was created to strengthen, cleanse, and open the body to prepare for meditation- a practice of cultivating more awareness of the movement of the mind and of training the mind to be one-pointed.

This class is a morning ritual- a practice of vinyasa, breath work, and meditation to leave you feeling more awake, present, and productive. We first energize and open the body through movement and breath to then prepare for the seated practice of stilling the mind. Together we are creating a sangha, a community, of awareness and compassionate hearts and it's open to EVERYONE!

This class is authentic and genuine and you will feel fiercely supported by the community we have, and continue to build. And yet there is MORE! As more people study mindfulness and meditation, we are seeing that a morning practice has wonderful benefits that will certainly upgrade your life!


Five (of many) Benefits of Morning Yoga and Meditation

  1. Energy

    Practicing yoga stimulates the mind and body, giving you more energy to take into your day. You may even ditch the coffee... though maybe not... and that's ok too. I personally love the taste of coffee and drink a cup most days.

  2. Productivity

    Meditation trains the mind to be one-pointed. As you begin to notice the movement of the mind, you can choose to let go of thoughts, worries, and expectations, and focus fully on what is in front of you in each moment. People who meditate tend to focus easier and get more done.

  3. Clarity

    Meditation builds awareness of all the storylines or narratives we have created and are pulled into. The practice is noticing the drama, dropping it, and observing what is true and real in each moment. As we begin to drop the thoughts, we can think and see more clearly. We can also be more open to all that is being offered right now.

  4. Peace

    As we allow ourselves to slow down and connect to the breath, we are reminded of the essence of who we are. We are light and love, and we know that this is not dependent on what we have done or might do. People who meditate have a stronger sense of self, belonging, contentment and equanimity of mind.

  5. Flexibility

    We begin to let go of the grip that we have on life. We learn to let go of what we have experienced in the past and how it might be holding us back, and we learn to let go of what we THINK might or should happen. With the practice of meditation, we are more flexible in the way we think and experience each day. There is more magic, creativity, and joy!

If this sparks your curiosity, please join us on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 6:15 am. No experience is necessary and we would LOVE to welcome you.

Love,
M


What the Sangha is saying...

Practicing yoga and meditation has impacted my life for the better. It’s a simple practice but a very challenging one. To be able to control the thoughts that are constantly moving in my mind is hard. I never was able to turn it down. Before practicing yoga and meditation, my mind would start racing the minute I woke up in the morning. It was a terrible feeling and I couldn’t even enjoy the present moment. I was so caught up on the past and future and was missing out on what’s real. I’ve been taking Meredith’s class for almost two months and I can already see the huge impact it has had on me. I enjoy taking the morning classes because I feel rejuvenated and ready to take on the day. I live each day like it’s my last. I have to thank my instructor Meredith for that because she focuses on the moment and training our minds to let go of all the narratives we’ve created. She’s very inspiring and has really helped me deal with anxiety. I’m in a better place due to this amazing practice. I recommend this class to anybody who wants to take a moment and quiet the mind. It’s extremely important and will only better you in the long run. Thank you to the amazing yoga instructors who embrace every moment! Namaste.
— Alissa N.
Practicing in the morning is probably the best way to start the day. As long as you make sure you get a good night’s rest, waking up just before 6 to make Meditation and Yoga is worth your while to find some serious focus first thing. Undeniably, some mornings my alarm goes off and I curse at it, but an hour later I feel more awake and aware than if I mainlined two cups of coffee. Plus, once you make it a regular part of your schedule, it becomes routine!
— Meghan A.


Cultivating A Morning Ritual

Mornings have always been a magical time for me- the peace and quiet that is available is unlike anything I can find amongst the busy day. I have found, for me, it is the perfect time to nourish and cleanse the body, mind and spirit, and to clearly set the path for an open and energized day. Below are my recommendations for a morning ritual. Start with one or try them all! Try it for TWO weeks and see if it makes a difference in your life.

1. Wake before the sunrise- I have found that there is a deep and calming energy to be felt right before the sun rises. I feel rooted in the Earth and a part of the universal rhythm of day and night, rise and fall, open and close.

2. Drink a glass of hot lemon water- Simply squeeze a bit of lemon juice in a hot glass of water. This will hydrate the body and cleanse toxins from the day before. I DO still drink coffee because what can I say... I LOVE the smell and taste. But I usually have my coffee after a few hours of waking and moving.

3. Wash your face- Abhyanga is a form of ayurvedic medicine that involves massaging the WHOLE body with warm coconut oil. Traditionally it is done before the day starts, before you shower and practice yoga. During the week, I tend to simply wash my face with COLD water and apply coconut oil on after. It leave my skin feeling hydrated and smooth. I usually hold the full Abhyanga practice for the weekend mornings. 

4. Practice pranayama- I say this in my class ALL the time but the word, "yama" means the creation or the maintance of breath and "prana" is life force or energy. By moving the breath, we can begin to shift the energy in the body. There are all types of breathwork in the practice of yoga but I particularly like to practice KAPALBHATI breath in the winter season. It is short exhales through the nose with a contraction of the belly in toward the spine. It acts as a furnace, heating the body, and is also very energizing and cleansing. A set is 20, 50, or a 100 exhales. Come through two or three sets.

5. Move- Come through nine simple sun salutations- any variation that will leave you feeling good and energized. Move SLOWLY- one breath, one movement, one thought at a time.

6. Meditate- Sit in meditation for 5-10 minutes. The attention can be set on the sensation of moving the breath in and out. You will notice that the mind will begin to wander- either to the past or the future- and this practice is choosing to bring the attention back to the present moment. Don't be discouraged if the mind moves A LOT! The nature of the mind is to move, so see and welcome the wandering as an opportunity to PRACTICE meditation. That is all it is- a PRACTICE.

If you want some guidance, a community or support- come practice with me at Yoga Garden SF. I teach a vinyasa class M/W/F mornings at 6 am and a yoga and meditation class T/Th mornings at 6:15 am. And as I said earlier- keep it simple and attainable in the beginning. Maybe wake 10 minutes early and try one of these practices until it becomes a habit. Then add on. Be curious, stay open and observe the difference it makes in your daily life. 

Light and Love,

M