Just a short drive from the overdeveloped madness of South Florida , is a state park called Highland Hammock. The drive and the surrounding town, are not spectacular, but as soon as you enter the park, you enter another world.
Highland Hammock is one of the oldest state parks in Florida. There are trails all around the park. And all of the trails are so different. So beautiful. So healing. There are Oak trees that are estimated to be over 1000 years old. Cypress swamps, and wildlife, we saw so much wildlife.
Some of the park feels very prehistoric. Especially the Cypress swamp. Early in the morning on a hike, I spotted a cottonmouth, a very venomous snake, swallowing a large fish. We watched in fear and amazement, as the snake unhinged its jaw, and swallowed this fish.
We camped in one of the primitive campsites. As the sunset, with the clear sky, and the new moon, the stars were bright and beautiful. I saw a shooting star. I made a wish.
The whole trip was so restorative. We hiked slowly on the trails. We gazed up at the stars. We hugged trees. I did Restorative yoga everyday, (which my son called “sleeping”), and we ate good nutritious food.
My daughter trying her hardest to do YOGA
We saw deer, pigs, hawks, osprey, owls, turtles, alligators, snakes, opossums, armadillos, and even two river otters.
Being in nature is so healing. Like a soul shower. We feel balanced.
Nature is the best teacher. We can never have enough nature.
On Saturday I went on a “Yoga Date” with a friend of mine. We are both yoga teachers, and mothers, so usually our hang outs are with our children, and include diapers, trips to go “pee pee”, occasional tantrums, and conversations about how yoga has helped save us from complete and total mental breakdown. “I felt like I was going to pull out all my hair and then I did some sun salutations and now I feel completely renewed.”
My friend Melissa, who teaches Paddleboard Yoga, had a couple of free tickets to an event in Fort Lauderdale called the “Yoga Expo”. I usually avoid the big festivals and events, preferring to practice alone, or outside, but free tickets and a kid free date with my friend, was something I was really looking forward to.
We met up early in the morning and after pushing through some heavy traffic and getting a little lost, we arrived at the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center.
On the ride down, I drank both coffee and a coconut water. Not a good idea. Because when we pulled into the parking garage, my full bladder was about to explode. There was no way I could make it all the way to the crowded bathrooms!! We giggled and I nervously found a place in the parking garage to squat down and empty my bladder. Parking garage yoga-malasana pose! My friend shielded me with a yoga mat.. I joked that we would get arrested, and all the yogis would talk about the peeing yoga teacher in the parking garage. We didn’t get arrested. And I felt so much better.
At the expo, we were surrounded by a few thousand yoga practitioners. Everyone walking around with yoga mats, going from class to class, shopping, and eating “yoga” food. After checking it out and feeling a little overwhelmed, it was time to practice. The event was huge, offering 6 to 7 classes every hour. All day. The classes were packed. Flourescent lighting. We were doing downward facing dog to Beyonce, Pitbull, and some very weird songs about heartbreak.
To be honest, it was hard not to “judge” the experience. The place. The Yoga fashion trend. The noise! It was so loud. Once again, I was presented with a big lesson. Tame the mind. Yogananda wrote that in his early training, his teacher wanted him to go deep into meditation, but Yogananda was being swarmed by mosquitos. He kept swatting them, getting agitated, and could not meditate. His teacher sat there looking peaceful, deep in meditation, unphased by the mosquitos. His teacher told him to train his mind.
It is easy to relax the mind when in a peaceful setting. The real work is to relax the mind when we are in an uncomfortable setting. Convention center yoga. Take out the tools, and calm the mind. When I was able to get deeper into my breath and be present, the judgement melted away. Yoga always teaches us.
After a couple of flow classes, and with very exhausted legs, my friend and I drove home in the late afternoon. We talked about the good, the bad, and the ugly, of mainstream yoga culture. And while we both agreed that there are things we don’t resonate with, we both acknowledge that the truly important thing is that more and more people are being introduced and drawn to yoga. So many people find healing through yoga.
Yoga is a path and the wisdom of Yoga unfolds at a natural organic pace. . Even after 18 years since my introduction, I know I am still a beginner. I am still learning and being challenged everyday.
Yes, “yoga” is a huge trend. And yes, there are problems with our mainstream yoga culture. But truth be told, beyond the expensive yoga clothes, is the actual practice. A very personal and profound practice. A practice that can truly help heal the world.
I woke up this morning to the sound of trees being chopped down. The land across the street is being clear cut to make way for a large Wellington mini Mansion. We have seen hawks and turtles, foxes and possums, owls and ospreys. Where will they go?
I don’t often write about all the sad and awful things that are happening in our world right now. Wars, mass shootings, environmental destruction, anger, poverty, racism, and hate. But just because I don’t write about it doesn’t mean I don’t think about it, or feel it.. Because trust me, as an empath, I feel it. There is so much chaos right now that it is hard not to feel crazy. I think we all do. How do we heal?
For me, even 10 minutes of yoga, deep breathing, a few juicy asanas, single pointed focus, can shift my mood and perspective, drastically! I can transform from a place of hopelessness and fear, to a place of strength and healing.Through breathing and being mindful. This is why I practice yoga. This is why I teach yoga, even though truth be told, anyone who teaches yoga knows, you have to do it because you love it. And I do love it. It is through inner healing, realization, and wisdom that we can create change. Sometimes while we are deep in the surrender of savasana, we truly feel and understand that all things connect.
We are at a crossroads. Strange and intense times and energy. Times of transformation. We can’t just talk about the problems, we have to start living the solution. How do we want to transform? What do we want to transform into?
My suggestion is that we tap into our higher wisdom, and transform through love, compassion, and forgiveness.
Last night I had the opportunity and pleasure of meeting and studying with a well known Yoga teacher, Bryan Kest. It was the first time I had ever met or studied with Bryan, and I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.
The room was crowded, full of yogis. The workshop began with a lecture, or a talk rather. Bryan is funny, charismatic, and a bit of a rebel.. His words are what I will remember long after these sore arms of mine recover.
Bryan shared the story of how and why Asana practice began. He talked about the true meaning and purpose of yoga.“To still the fluctuations of the mind.” He talked about the ultimate goal of yoga, enlightenment, Samadhi. Not pose perfection.”You are never going to heal relationships with loose hamstrings. We have to try to develop the benevolent qualities of our mind. Through awareness we can start eradicating the shit that is hurting us.”
Something in him, I connected to on a deep level. Perhaps it was his honesty. He was real. He talked about his angry and wild past (which I can totally relate to). He openly shared that he smokes pot, and he said the “F” word, more than once. He did not come across as a phoney know it all yoga purist. He came across as someone just like me, a person, a parent, who came to yoga to heal. He talked with passion about the state of our world, and how we are all contributing, creating this world, this chaos. He also stressed that it is up to each of us to change. We have to be the change… or nothing will change.
He also talked about how even within the yoga community, there are fights, judgments, egos, teacher bashing, blacklisting.. Each style claiming they do it correctly and other practices, styles, and teachers are wrong… I have experienced this first hand, and it is really toxic. The snobbery that can be found within the yoga community is intense. Yoga is not about designer yoga pants and a perfect body. It isn’t about memorizing the sanskrit words for poses. It isn’t even about the ability to perform a difficult pose. It is about stilling the fluctuations of the mind..
Bryan is known for teaching a strong physical practice called Power Yoga. And while I am a yoga teacher, I do not have a very strong physical practice, and I certainly don’t have buns or abs of steel. Since my recent car accident, my practice has become even more gentle. I am very aware of my injuries, and I am very gentle with my body.
Thankfully, during the asana practice, Bryan repeatedly reminded us to listen to our bodies. He said, “No yoga teacher on earth knows where your body should be.” He instructed us to rest in childs pose whenever we needed. “There are 7 billion right ways to do a yoga pose.” With a strong voice he told us not to look at what other people in the class were doing, but to focus on our own breath, our own body. I was dripping in sweat halfway through the practice.
We ended the practice with a long and quiet Gratitude meditation..
I feel grateful and inspired by Bryan. I feel grateful to connect with a yoga teacher who is sharing (on a much larger scale), the message that I share with my own students..
The workshop was hosted by The Cozy Yogi, a yoga studio in Lake Worth Florida. The workshop was awesome. It ended up running late, past the scheduled time. So, without a proper thank you, I had to rush off and pick up my son and breastfeed my tired daughter.
Bryan Kest, Thank you. When I do my “head touching my leg pose” I will think of you and smile.
Yesterday I woke up and it was cold. The strong North wind was gone, but in its place was rain. Nonetheless, Living in the Country, is proving to be quite healing and peaceful. I havent had any breathing problems since the move. I feel healing in the air.But it is loud here. A different kind of loud. Cows mooing day and night, the bah bahs of the black sheep the white and brown sheep too,chickens excitedly announcing they laid some eggs, the goats, the turkeys, the pigs, the dogs, the ducks, and the horses, they all sing their song, and it is a song I am grateful to hear.
Yesterday was Mothers day, or as I call it “American Mothers Day,” and my son, surprised me with a large bouquet of wild flowers. Portuguese Mothers day, was celebrated a week ago. Anyways, I woke up, drank some coffee, enjoyed the smell of my wildflowers, made some banana,sesame, coconut cookies, and prepared for a morning Reiki session. A friend of mine came for a session. Every time I give a session, I am reminded how powerful Reiki is.Healing rays of energy. It was a lovely morning, and after the Reiki and a plate full of cookies, my friend gifted me with a beautiful necklace she got while living in Indonesia.
In the afternoon, the sun appeared and warmed us. We decided to go exploring. I wanted to find some herbs, my son wanted to show me where he picked the flowers, my daughter wanted to play and get dirty, and my sweetheart wanted to show us one of the best places on the island to get fresh water. We have running water here, but it is not safe for drinking, and unfortunately most of the island relies on imported bottled water. But there are a few places with fresh, clean, water, and whenever we can, we fill up our bottles straight from the source.
Our exploring proved to be quite fun and rewarding. Not only did I find the herbs I was looking for, but I also found a large laurel tree, which was perfect because I had just run out of bay leaf. We passed the ruins of many old houses. We saw a giant lemon tree, full of ripe and rotting lemons, I picked several and felt so happy. I found a bird’s egg lying on the ground, and we searched and searched until we found its nest.
Wandering around, hiking old dirt roads, climbing fences, getting dirty, drinking fresh spring water, picking herbs, picking fruit, saving birds (hopefully), all with my family. . My kind of day.
Many hours later, we arrived home. Tired and dirty, arms filled with herbs and lemons, smiling and satisfied, I started a pot of tea. All the cookies were gone but I was hungry. As if by magic, another close friend of mine, stopped by and brought over a delicious banana cake. We sat around, drank oregano, mint,and rosemary tea, ate cake, and enjoyed the fresh country air.
Sometimes we are gifted with a day so full of healing rays- sunshine, friendship, family, love, AND CAKE!!!!!
Emotions and Feelings Associated with this chakra: The ability to love and forgive, ourselves and each other. Empathy, sympathy, and loving kindness, come from a strong and open heart chakra. Dysfunction of this chakra can manifest in many ways, feeling unworthy of love, closed to love, unable to express love, etc.. Physically, it can manifest as heart problems, lung problems, and more..
Yoga Poses For Heart Chakra: Camel pose, Cobra, Upward Facing Dog, Wheel, Standing Backbend, and more. Any pose that opens and stretches the chest will greatly benefit the health of this chakra.
Affirmation: My heart is open to give and receive love. I let go of past wounds and allow love to flow through and to me.
The literal meaning of the word Anahata is unstuck, unhurt, unbeaten.. Lets be real here, many of us have deep wounds. But we can heal. Yoga, chanting, affirmations, color therapy, diet, meditation, hugs, etc.. Choose love.
I am very excited to announce that I am co-hosting a yoga retreat on the island of Santa Maria, Azores, with a beautiful Kundalini yoga teacher who lives in Dubai. This will be a special retreat for many reasons, LOCATION is magical! The people are magical. And what could be better than a retreat that combines Kundalini yoga and Vinyasa Flow. And Hiking everyday!!!
We have worked very hard to provide the cheapest possible retreat, in hopes that many like-minded friends can join us. This is sure to be the trip of lifetime! If you have any questions please email me firstname.lastname@example.org