The Houseplant as a Metaphor on Life

First, I’d like to start off by thanking my friends that voted for me to win free yoga teacher training in Costa Rica. I didn’t win, but it’s nice to know I have friends that look out for me and support my crazy dreams. Thanks for showing me a little love and know that I love you all for it.

Now, on to other things that I love (maybe not equally though, but I do really like my plants). I have a passion for plants. Sometimes I have loved them to death. For a long time I loved all of them to death as a matter of fact. When my husband and I would visit the local botanical gardens we would walk around and I would admire all the plants…that I had once tried to love and managed to kill. He joked that it could be a memorial for all the specimens that died under my watch. Oh that husband’s a funny guy…love, love, love…

Lemon Trees
Focus on the lemon trees…our deck and backyard are a work in progress!!! But boy those lemon trees look good…

But things have changed. I did things backwards. I started as successful with people and animals and finally learned to take care of plants. I had to learn that plants need just as much consideration as my pets or the people I love. They have their likes and dislikes. Some want full sunshine and others need a little shade. One is thirsty and another likes their roots dry most of the time. Just because a plant looks good somewhere doesn’t mean it will be happy. You have to do what the plant likes and only then will it grow.

 

Let me repeat that: you have to do what the plant likes and only then will it grow. This can be applied to so many places in your life! Find what your children love, be interested in that and don’t try to force them into a mold and they will grow, grow, grow. Don’t try to force your spouse (or anyone else) to be the person they are not, find what they like and let them grow at their own pace. And last, but certainly not least, find what you like and you will blossom. Learning to take care of a plant is a lot like learning self care.

So many of us forget what our bodies and minds like. We focus on where we think we should fit in. We start trying to force ourselves to be somewhere that we shouldn’t be in life. We have a vision and instead of being tuned into our needs and wants, we focus on what we think looks good. And just like a house plant that has been put in the wrong conditions we start to decay. We don’t die overnight, but parts of us start to deteriorate. We might lose joy in something we once loved. Or our bodies may begin to get sick or weak. It doesn’t have to be that way.

The same way that we have to check on a houseplant and see how it is doing occasionally, we need to check in with ourselves. Some plants can withstand more neglect than others the same way that some people can, but to be the healthiest versions of either, there needs to be a certain level of care. And when we check in and see that there is a problem we need to ask ourselves what needs to be done to remedy that problem right away. If we don’t stop at the first signs of a problem the problem only gets worse and worse. Pretty soon it can seem as if there’s no returning from the neglect and mistreatment. Sometimes, sadly there is no return for houseplants or humans.

Our bodies and minds need certain things to thrive. We need healthy food. We need hydration. We need to be safe. When we don’t give ourselves these things (or the wrong things) it’s just like denying your poor houseplant what it needs. Only you can really see what’s happening quickly with your plant while it might take years with your body. If you pour vinegar on a plant it’s a very fast effect once the roots absorb that substance that’s toxic. You can’t see the effects of your body, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t poisoning yourself in much the same way.

But even more than our basic needs health wise, we need more to reach our full

Cat plant
This photo says a lot about me and what I like.

potential. We need hobbies. We need community. We need love from others and ourselves. Look at it as fertilizer for our souls. When we are stimulated in life we don’t just grow, we thrive. When I  paint with water colors, watch a TED talk, read a good book, or see a play I’m feeding my need to learn and create. When I have dinner with friends and hang out with my family I’m feeding my need to love and feel loved. When I go to the gym or practice yoga and meditation I’m feeding my body’s need for movement. And when I attend church and volunteer and do little favors I’m also feeding my need for community and to give something back to this world.

 

So maybe you can bloom where you are planted. But maybe you just aren’t in the right spot. And that’s ok. Maybe you need to move around a little until you find the location where you can grow and meet your full potential. Maybe you’re a cactus and you need to be left alone more. Or maybe you’re a sunflower need more sunshine and water in your life and then you’ll totally take off. Either way, do what’s right for you and what feeds your body and mind. The world needs flowers and cacti and lemon trees the same way the world needs very different people with very different needs.

So stop and take time to listen to what you need to live, but also to thrive. Try different things. Don’t wait until little problem areas become so large that they overwhelm you. Take care of yourself at least as well as a plant that needs your care and see what a difference it makes.

 

 

 

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Emergency! I Need you to VOTE! I need a HUGE favor from everyone that sees this!

So I wrote an essay hoping to win free yoga teacher training in Costa Rica. They narrowed the entries from 3000 to 50 and guess what…I’m one of them! Please go to the contest page, look for Stephanie Campbell and give my essay 5 stars! Today is the last day! I had no idea I was even in the contest! Thank you everyone!!!

If you voted will you please leave me a little comment! I appreciate you! Thank you all!

Parents Need a Yoga Practice Too

Hi everyone! It is beautiful outside where I live, which means that sitting down in front of a computer is HARD for me. I think I might be part plant. Just like the plants in my little garden, I get all excited and just can’t sit still once the sun comes out. And the five year old wants to get out there too. He’s a bike rider (with training wheels) now. He has aspirations for the Tour de France (seriously). But today I’ve had my coffee and I’m focused for a few hours, so here I am.

On Sunday my son and I walked to church since dad was at work. We live four minutes by foot so it’s nice just to take a short walk in the sunshine to start our morning. We’re fairly new there, so we’re meeting new people every time we go. This time I met a young family of four. It came up that I plan to teach yoga. Turns out that they were doing yoga once a week together when they had just one child, but now that they have two it’s hard to find the time. I think that’s something that all parents struggle with.

Untitled designIt’s sad too, because parenting is stressful stuff! Yoga with baby strapped to you is becoming more and more popular, but yoga with a toddler trying to eat a button they found on the floor hasn’t quite caught on. Yesterday I decided to take my yoga mat into my yard and it was only a matter or time before I had a small boy on my back giggling. It was fun and nice to hear him laugh, but…adjustments to practice needed to be made. Even if you can only get one pose in (start with Find Your Strength (and Length) in Mountain Pose if you need some inspiration) you’re still doing something good for yourself.

When we have young children it can feel like we loose ourselves as adults.  All of our attention becomes focused on managing our little people’s lives. Suddenly a world of experiences with our family and children opens up, but at the same time our old world of available experiences narrows. You won’t be going on that walking tour of civil war history at 7 pm. You probably won’t be going anywhere at 7pm for that matter. Work is where you can go to be an adult (doesn’t that sound fun?!?).

The great thing about yoga is that it can be done anywhere, anytime and with minimalUntitled design equipment (or none). The advantage to yoga is that you get to strengthen, stretch and distress all at once. So while going to a studio with a teacher (preferably with me if you live in my area) is a great experience, you don’t have to wait to practice. Your practice doesn’t have to be perfect.  Remember to Acknowledge Your Progress.

You can wake up early (if you have a child that you can wake up earlier than …) and turn on a YouTube video. I like Yoga With Adriene.  If your little one is old enough to play without needing a constant eye, you can take your mat to the park while they play. Kids will stretch and move with you (here is an article. With a little research you can find information about doing yoga with kids, like this site that list 58 poses for kids. And don’t get me started about nap time!

Parents need that time (check out this article from mindbodygreen.com).They need some self care. If you loved yoga before you became a mom or dad, you can still take care of that part of you. It might even make you a more calm, centered and happier parent. Maybe that can be a time that you and your partner share around your busy schedule. It can be a date in your living room after the kids go to bed (warning: yoga date night may lead to more children).

So your practice isn’t over once you have children, it just changes. And if you’ve never practiced before the benefits of yoga for you, and in turn, for your family can be worth the time and effort to learn and practice. It can even be a way to bring yourselves closer together.  We take such good care of our families and yoga is another tool we can add to the toolbox when it comes to raising children.

Acknowledge Your Progress

Perfectionism is something that I tend to struggle with. I used to be shocked when people would tell me that they thought I had it all together. To me it felt like I was a mess! I went to bed with a running list (and sometimes I had an actual one) of things to do that I could never finish. I just never felt good enough.

We can struggle with this in several areas of our lives. We can take something that is supposed to be healthy and then turn it into stress. A run can suddenly become excruciating as we judge our steps, our breathing and our speed, rather than celebrating that we made it out the door and we’re working toward our goals. Instead of congratulating ourselves for meditating for 10 minutes, we judge ourselves for too many thoughts, shifting too much or not meditating for 30 minutes. Perfectionism robs us of our joy.

When you’re a perfectionist you argue that you are trying to be the best and other people just can’t see that. The truth is that perfectionism doesn’t come from a deep desire to be the best, but from a fear of not feeling like your good enough. Deep down there’s a fear a failure and how you will think of yourself, as well as how others might view you. There’s fear that if people see how imperfect you are they may feel about you the way that you feel about you.

The only way to start to conquer your perfectionism to accept and love yourself, but that doesn’t happen overnight. People are slow to let go of perfectionism because they feel that it serves a purpose in their life. That it propels them forward and makes them better. They don’t know how to function in life without it. They feel that it somehow gives them a competitive edge that others don’t have.

I hope that you can learn use meditation and yoga as a beginning step to conquer your perfectionism. In meditation we learn to be patient with ourselves. Thoughts, feelings and sensations come and we simply focus on the breath and begin again. There is no reason to judge, just feel and begin again. In our yoga practice we learn not to compete. A pose shouldn’t be about what the person on the mat beside you is doing, or even what your body did yesterday. You should feel your body and breath as it is right now and move to with it, not against it. To be impatient or not gentle with ourselves can result in injury. If we don’t approach our practice with this gentle, patient and open manner, then we aren’t receiving all of the benefits of our practice.

So wherever you practice today, do it in a loving manner. And as you move from your mat to the real world try to take some of that attitude with you. When you make a mistake remember how you approached yourself on the mat and continue to take that approach with yourself. With time this will become habit. Look for ways to care for yourself more on and off the mat and with time you’ll also be kinder and gentler with others.

 

Don’t be a Yoga Snob

I haven’t written much this week. My son has been sick and because I love him and take care of him, now I’m sick. And I’ve been a decent patient, but I have pushed myself taking care of my son and the menagerie of pets so I feel pretty lousy. But not to lousy to talk about something I’m totally sick of: yoga snobs.

DO NOT listen to the yoga snobs. These are the people that try to limit yoga to only certain people (that include them, but not you). For instance they try to convince you that only really skinny people can do yoga. Wrong! Everyone can do yoga. Say it with me: EVERYONE CAN DO YOGA. If you can’t say that phrase, then you might be a yoga snob.

Yoga is not limited to a certain body shape. And obtaining a certain body shape is not the point of yoga. If you are rockin’ a six pack and you worked hard for your body, you go! And if you have some extra cushin’ for the pushin’ and love those curves, get it girl!. Cause it’s your body and it is a miracle. Really. An absolute miracle. Love it! And if you choose for yoga to be part of how you love that body then don’t let some snob tell you that you aren’t made for yoga.

Yoga is not limited to a certain lifestyle. You can believe what you like and still do yoga. I’m sick and tired of hearing that you have to follow a certain “path” to do yoga. You may have to follow a certain path to follow a religion that includes yoga, but you do not have to follow any certain religion to do yoga. And your yoga practice is just as good as the person that has decided to follow a certain path related to the physical movements. If you choose to adopt other practices that surround your yoga practice, that’s up to YOU. It is not up to you to impose these other beliefs of other people however. Discuss with someone that wants to have an open conversation is ok. Acting sanctimonious and as if yoga is only legitimate when it comes with a list of behaviors is yoga snobbery.

You do not have to be super flexible and able to stand on your head to do yoga. If those are your goals then you should go for them. But you don’t have to make those your goals. There are different aspects of yoga that different people enjoy. Maybe you can’t be a pretzel, and maybe you don’t want to be a pretzel. That shouldn’t stop you. If putting your toe up your nose on a rock in the crashing waves is your goal, then by all means go ahead, but don’t act like that is the goal of yoga. Some of us are just trying to touch our toes in forward fold or improve on our down dog. We all start somewhere and we all have different goals. Don’t be a yoga snob and act like your practice is somehow better because you’re more flexible.

And your location is not important either. Would I like to be on a beach somewhere or on a mountaintop doing asanas? Sure! But the fact that you’re in an exotic location doesn’t make your practice anymore important or legitimate than a mom in her living room or even a prisoner in a cell. Yoga is a personal practice. That means that as long as your person is with you then you can practice. If your person is in India surrounded by generations of yogi’s then that’s awesome, but not all of us have the money or time to devote to yoga that we would like so our living room or community center is where we find our practice taking place. No less legitimate.

And this yoga teacher thing is out of hand. It really is. There are people out there that would only let people teach yoga that had spent years and years traveling from exotic locations and big cities spending thousands of dollars teach even a single yoga class. They claim that yoga teachers that haven’t spent around $10,000 and countless years devoted just to yoga are dangerous. I am here to tell you this is yoga teacher snobbery. Does someone with better education equal a better teacher…NO! Someone that knows how to connect with people and explain things in a way that you can understand is a better teacher. If they learned how to do that after 20 years and $30,000 and got 5 passport stamps, then they are a good teacher.  And if they learned that from a local teacher in their town and through their own research, reading and practice, then they are a good teacher. I don’t care how much Sanskrit you know. I don’t care how much networking you’ve done and with whom. I care if you teach a good class and improve my practice.

I really could go on and on about this. It won’t make me popular with some people and I’m ok with that. I’m not for them I guess. I’m just letting all of you know that your aren’t too anything or not enough of something to do yoga. Do it your way. Do the best you can. Learn as much or as little as you want. If you don’t agree with that message that’s ok. There are plenty of yoga snobs out there that will agree with you that yoga is only for certain people (and you and them are those certain people). Meanwhile the rest of us will be happily practicing without judging others.

 

Find Your Strength (and Length) in Mountain Pose

First, I want to start this off by saying that ALL poses (and everything else you do in life) should be done with love. I don’t want you forcing your body to be some way that it’s not, or being mad that it’s not fitting into the image you have in your mind of how it’s supposed to be. Your body is not wrong. It’s yours and it’s a miracle and I want you to move in a way that makes you feel good inside and out.

How many times have you gone into a yoga class and they tell you, “Move into Mountain Pose, or Tadasana,” and you stand there with your feet hip width apart and arms sort of out to the side. No real tension in any of your muscles. You’re standing up straight. You’re doing what you’ve been taught. Well I want to teach you that there’s more to this pose and that you can get so much more from what can just feel like standing there if you aren’t given good instruction.

Mountain 2I’ll start at your feet. You may or may not have heard the phrase “root to rise”. Imagine that your feet and toes are the roots of a tree. They push into the ground. Roots aren’t passive. They’re digging into the dirt. You’re feet and toes shouldn’t be passive either. You want all four corners of your feet to press into the ground like roots pressing into the dirt. Lift your toes and spread them. Root them into the ground when you put them back down. If you have a partner in the room, have them place their hands on the top of your foot, fingers toward ankles, and press down just a little. Just feel the strength of pressing into the earth. Just doing this should already make you feel more stable or mountain like, but you haven’t seen anything yet!

Your hips should be over your ankles and your knees should be slightly bent. To get evenMountain 3 more strength and stability you’re going to engage your quadriceps. When you engage your quadriceps you should feel a little extra stretch in your hamstrings. If you have tight hamstrings, engaging your quadriceps will help give you length. You aren’t done with the legs yet though. You will also want to engage your inner thighs and turn them toward the back of the room. It won’t be a big movement and you’re feet or knees shouldn’t move, but you should feel yourself pressing. How strong do your legs feel right now!!! You now have a very stable base. I hope you feel super strong. This is not a passive pose!

Mountain 4Now place one hand on your lower back near your tailbone and one hand on your navel. Rotate your navel in and upward while feeling your tailbone rotate down and forward. You want to feel your pelvic floor muscles engage as well as your abdominals. If when you do this your lower ribs also move forward you will need to tuck them back inline over your hips. You want a strong core to go with your strong legs. You’re a mountain! And as you feel the strength in your front body, feel for the stretch in you’re back body. There is strength and length to each pose and if you stop to feel them you’ll figure out how you can add more of each in your particular body.

Now, the way that I’m going to tell you how to get your shoulders in the right position may not be necessary each time that you get into the pose, but it’s a good way to learn how the pose is supposed to feel. Raise both hands straight out in front of you, shoulder width apart, with palms facing each other. Then push the upper arm bones straight back into their sockets. You might want to do that a couple of times if you have rounded shoulders (like I tend to). You should feel yourself stand up straighter. Your chest should push forward. Mind your core and rib cage and readjust them into their proper position if you need to. Feel the shoulder blades react and squeeze when you do this motion. You can then slowly move your hands into the anatomical position (where they are beside your body with palms facing forward). Take a minute to rotate your palms in this position to feel why it’s so important to have palms facing forward. Palms forward automatically opens up your shoulders.

You’re final step is to deal with your neck and head. You want the crown of your head to face toward the sky. The back of your neck should be nice and long. Sometimes I like to reach up and just massage the vertebrae and get a feel for my neck in this position. And because this can be a lot to concentrate on, relax your face. Relax your throat and jaw. Relax your eyes and just breathe. Feel the strength that is your body. Feel the length that has been created. Relax into mountain pose without compromising form.

 

 

5 Fitness/Yoga Lessons You Can Take with You

I have lifted weights and practiced yoga off and on for many years. For non-fitness enthusiast this may seem like I’m working out my muscles, but all of us that flex our muscles are also learning life lessons. I take those lessons with me and apply them in other parts of my life. Here are 5 of them in no particular order

1. Don’t give up. If you’re learning nothing else from lifting heavy objects over and over or trying a new, slightly uncomfortable pose, it’s that you don’t give up. You will never get better if you give up. If you give up lifting 5 lb.’s then you’ll never make it to 15. Without poses that build your core and teach you how to have strong, stable arms now you can’t get do arm balances later And if you give up in Warrior I you’ll never make it to warrior III. All of your skills are a progression and if you just don’t give up you can get really good at whatever you want to be good at. You might stumble. You might stop and start. But don’t give up.

2. Be ok with uncomfortable. Trying a new pose is sometimes uncomfortable. So is speaking in front of a crowd or taking a test. If you can become comfortable with being a little uncomfortable doing something you love, then you can become a little more comfortable doing something uncomfortable that you might not love as much.

3. But, pain is your signal to stop. If you continue to lift weights when a joint hurts, you may end up with an injury that makes it so that you can’t lift weights at all. If you’re stretching to the point of pain in a pose, you’re going to far. If you keep running even though you have serious pain then you can develop a chronic condition that can sideline you for a long time. The same can be said of relationships with people. If they hurt, then you need to back off. Relationships aren’t supposed to hurt.

4. This will pass. Not every part of my practice is my favorite. Some days my balance is way off. But this part/day/workout will pass and pretty soon I’ll be back to doing what I enjoy. Life if like that. The bad parts don’t last forever and pretty soon you’re back to the parts that you love.

5. And if you can’t get back to the part you love then you might need some outside help. After doing similar activities for years, you can start to loose interest. You can’t remember why you started doing this in the first place. You start skipping things you once loved and pretty soon you’re not doing them at all. But then you find someone outside of yourself that really inspires you to go out and try again (a movie, magazine, trainer, etc.) and pretty soon you’re back to your old self. Sometimes in general we need something outside of ourselves to remember why we love life (our religion, a good friend, a therapist) and that’s ok too. We aren’t islands and sometimes we need outside motivation to get going again.

Can you think of any lessons you’ve taken from fitness or your yoga practice and use in everyday life? Let us know in the comments!

Mindful Meditation to Ease Migraines

I am one of the more than 37 million reported migraine suffers. I recently learned that I suffer from something called silent migraine as well as the more traditional migraine symptoms. Today I had a migraine with nausea, neck pain, dizziness and headache (just to name a few), but I had been having silent migraines for a long time without knowing that was what was happening. I only found this out because I had symptoms not long ago that I thought could have been a seizure. Now I take a migraine preventative and I have medicine available whenever I have a migraine with pain.

I do use some of the same methods I use during meditation when I have migraine symptoms. I will focus on my breath to help the nausea and to take my mind off of the pain. I also just let any thoughts I have about the migraine pass through rather than focus on them and feed any anxiety the migraine is causing. I also get pain the my neck that can cause me to draw my shoulders upward, but with a quick body scan I can try to focus on where my tension is and breathe into the tension and pain to help relieve these symptoms. Even if I only use these while waiting for medication to take effect, I consider it a win that they’re effective during that time.

But I was curious if meditation had any other effect of my migraines. I was pleasantly surprised when I looked into it. The information about meditation being used to treat medical disorders is endless, but specifically migraines seem to be helped by meditation.

ABC News wrote and Article entitled, “Meditation as Medicine” . They talk specifically A wide variety of patientsabout Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction at the Duke Center for Integrative Medicine located in Durham, NC (which is the same location as Duke University). They talk about meditation as being a minor miracle for some patients they see. There is mention in the article that for people who suffer from a wide range of ailments, meditation can be a cost-effective treatment. Combined with pharmaceutical therapies, medical procedures, nutrition and other health management, meditation can help bridge the gap between mind and body. (For a free 8 week Mindful Based Stress Reduction Course Online click here.)

On October 26, 2016 The American Migraine Foundation posted an article to their website entitled, “Mindfulness Meditation for Migraine”. They talk about how a regular, ongoing practice is key to getting the benefits of mindfulness meditation. Both the non-doing part of mindfulness meditation and the non-judging part play a role in helping migraine sufferers (as well as others). By learning to stop and focus on the now the stress and anxiety that comes with having a conditions such as migraine can be lessened. And learning to accept all of us, including what we may deem to be painful or undesirable can have a positive effect as well.

A small study by Wake Forest Ba

The well-known and respected publication Time published an online article with the headline “Meditation Shortens Migraines by 3 Hours”. They’re referring to a very small study done by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center (also in NC). The study can be seen here. The people in the very small sample reported having 1.4 less migraines per month, and the migraines that they did report lasted 3 hours less than a control group’s. Admittedly, more research needs to be done with such few participants, but with all of the other benefits of meditation and mindfulness this may just be the icing on the cake for migraine suffers like myself.

 

 

A Quick Video Hello

This is my first “vlog” post. Hello from South Carolina!

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