Lent - the season when everybody talks about giving up chocolate or coffee or alcohol. Like that's hard. How about giving up gossip or complaining or judging?
The real question could be, what do I need to give up to live my life more fully? To find out, we first must pay attention and notice our thoughts, feelings - simply by practicing being present in the moment. For me, the best place to practice that is on my yoga mat.
Let's take the next 40 days to get clear on what we stand for. 40 - an auspicious number - Jesus spent 40 days meditating in the desert. Moses wandered into the midst of a cloud for 40 years. Noah endured rain for 40 days and nights.
In my yoga practice, I will make every Warrior pose stand for a spiritual value. With every twist I squeeze out blame, shame, and the idea of not being good enough.
With each exhale we have a chance to let something go. With each inhale I "inspire" - I breath life into the good in my life. And as I practice I sure hope to inspire my students to do the same.
Not only is hiking a great workout and a fun way to spend time outdoors, researchers are now saying it causes changes to your brain. Like yoga, hiking can be a way to relieve stress, calm the mind and exercise the body, and recent studies have also found that it may increase the ability to focus, have psychological benefits and increase creativity and problem-solving.
To combine health benefits of yoga and hiking, together with my fellow yoga teacher Kimberlee Strome I am leading 90-minute YOGAhikes on five Saturdays this summer. An invigorating pace promises to get hearts pumping, lungs breathing and souls lifting. During four, 10-minute yoga stops participants realize how hiking complements yoga and yoga in turn aids hiking. No prior yoga experience is required and all levels are welcome.
We want to leave the predictability of the rectangular yoga mats in rectangular studios behind.
Each of us has more than 20 years of experience teaching group fitness. We know that exercising in a group has a fun, social component. YOGAhikes allow time to chat with friends and attract those who want to connect more deeply to themselves and also with their friends.
A YOGAhike is like prescription strength nature blended with a refreshingly relaxed yoga practice.
Kimberlee and I graduated for yoga teacher training at Charm City Yoga two years ago and rekindled our friendship at a hiking yoga workshop in New York City earlier this year. We are so grateful to combine our love for nature, yoga and teaching and share this refreshing new approach with Baltimore.
A friend asked me how to deal with diverticulitis. Here is what I do to keep my gut happy. I thought I share my suggestions with you.
Eat more high-fiber foods; Dr. Weil says to aim for 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day. Drink plenty of water (If you think you had enough, drink more).
Get at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week. I include walking and yoga (with twists – good for digestion and moving things through)
Respond to bowel urges, since constipation can increase intestinal pressure.
I drink water with lemon juice and parsley every morning. That starts my digestive system and keeps me on a regular schedule.
Although people with diverticula may have been told to avoid nuts and seeds to prevent diverticulitis, there doesn’t appear to be any scientific evidence to support this recommendation. I soak my nuts overnight to remove the irritating outer layer. Once you remove the enzyme inhibitors and acids, the nuts go bad fast. I freeze mine at that point and have them ready for smoothies or to put on granola.
I eliminated gluten and dairy. I don’t eat any wheat products, no soy sauce, no processed foods, no premade salad dressings. And it has made a world of a difference to my digestive system. Every once in a while I have a goat milk yogurt or goat milk kefir. If I want cheese, I eat goat/ sheep milk cheese. If I have a dairy ice cream, I am bloated for two days and retain water (up to 4 pounds). It’s pretty obvious I can’t tolerate it. Read William Davis’ “Wheat Belly”
To keep my gut bacteria healthy, I eat and drink fermented foods. I make my own kambucha (super simple and much cheaper than store bought), eat kimchi, goat kefir, etc. Check out Dr. Perlmutter who wrote Grain Brain. Sign up for Donna Schwenk’s newsletter. In addition, I take probiotic supplements at night before going to bed and first thing in the morning.
DoTERRA has a great essential oil for digestive issues: DigestiZen. I think these are the best Eos on the market. Great research, conscious sourcing and production transparency. To purchase, visit https://www.mydoterra.com/dagmarbohlmann/#/ You can put it in water and drink it. You can diffuse it near your bed. You can rub it on your tummy. It is also available in capsules, but I like the flavor of it in water. DigestZen® takes advantage of these well-established healthy compounds in a proprietary blend of pure essential oils. Ginger, Peppermint, Tarragon, Fennel, Caraway, Coriander and Anise each have specific attributes which add to the overall efficacy of this potent blend. When used internally, dōTERRA's DigestZen helps reduce bloating, gas, and occasional indigestion. It can be used preventatively.
In addition to the self-care measures described above, Dr. Weil recommends the following remedies for divericulitis:
•Eat according to the principles of Dr. Weil's anti-inflammatory diet pyramid, which emphasizes, whole, unprocessed foods high in fiber and fluid, both of which will aid bowel motility.
•Add extra fiber in the form of wheat bran or psyllium, being careful to take plenty of water with these bulking agents.
•Take aloe vera gel after meals, staying below the dose that causes any laxative effect.
•Eliminate all caffeine from the diet.
•Avoid tobacco in any form.
•Get regular exercise and daily physical activity.
•The normal functioning of the digestive system is directed by the parasympathetic nervous system and is highly influenced by stress. Learn and practice stress appropriate management techniques.
•Try enteric-coated capsules of peppermint oil. The usual adult dose is 0.2 to 0.4 ml three times a day.
•Use slippery elm powder prepared as a gruel, which can help soothe and heal irritated tissues in the digestive tract. Mix one teaspoon of powder with one teaspoon of sugar and add two cups of boiling water, mixing well. Flavor to taste with cinnamon if preferred and drink one to two cups twice a day.
I was accepted into advanced teacher training at Sampoorna Yoga Village in Goa, India, in celebration of my 50th birthday in November. Part of the application process required answering the question “What does yoga mean to you?”
To me, yoga is more than the poses on the mat. Yoga is the stilling of my mind – “Yoga chitta vritti nirodah.” My mat becomes a sacred sanctuary where I set intentions, where I remember my Divine nature and connect to God - or the universe. A Sun Salutation becomes a prayer, a Mountain pose a symbol for steadiness, a Warrior pose an opportunity to sharpen my focus.
Yoga helped me overcome an exercise addiction. I used to get angry every day that I missed a run or a class. Today, I am much more balanced in how I spend my time and energy.
Yoga has been my best friend while I was in acute hip pain. It prepared my body for surgery and helped me recover. It taught me to love and accept my body without the need to compare or compete against others. I learned to listen inward, adjust and make my practice my own.
Yoga taught to me to be at peace with who I am.
So hum. I am that.
In my teaching, I hope to create a space for you so you can define the meaning yoga has for you.
The body is your temple. Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in. ~B.K.S. Iyengar
"Cleanliness is next to godliness" is true for yogis. However, being clean means more than taking a shower and throwing my yoga tights in the wash after practice. It relates to the choices I make for my food, my cosmetics, my home, and my heart.
My food choices have evolved continuously. Four years ago, I started eliminating gluten and realized I felt much better. Inspired by my arthritic hip, I continued to cut out foods that could cause an inflammatory reaction, for me that includes dairy. Now when I look in my fridge, there's no room for pesticides or insecticides. I buy organic. Mostly produce. My meats are sourced locally - organic chicken and buffalo. Our pantry holds nuts and seeds, some canned beans and tomatoes, but - much to my teenager's dismay - no processed snack foods. In fact, I don't even buy any processed foods anymore.
For cosmetics, I make my own lotion: shea butter, cacao butter, sesame oil and coconut oil. Nothing more, nothing less. The skin is my largest organ and I decide I don't want to put chemicals on it that I can't pronounce.
I keep my house clean with bio-safe cleaning supplies - most of which I purchase through
Melaleuca. I use their essential oils for aromatherapy also - no burning chemical candles or aerosol cans of Febreeze in my house.
And as for my heart, I keep it clean of doubts and worries by listening to inspiring music (and singing along when I am home alone). Check out Rickie Byars-Beckwith, Michael Gott, Krishna Das, Deva Premal & Miten, Karen Drucker. They all lift me up. I also read spiritual books; a regular companion is "Yoga Sutras of Patanjali". And for clarity of my mind, I practice single-mindedness: meditating while focusing on my breath, a mantra or the sensations of my body.
I'm not perfect: I am a recovering sugar addict and struggle with relapses. I get easily distracted and multitask so many projects, I can only keep them straight with lists. Regularly, I get sucked into the Facebook quagmire and never recover the time lost in that sinkhole.
But as they say in German: "Einsicht ist der erste Weg zur Besserung" or "Realization is the first step toward betterment."
Remember dating and just hanging out together chilling? In the silence between us inevitably, my thoughts would start pouncing like a kitten chasing its tail. Simply to stop my mind’s madness, I’d ask my boyfriend what he was thinking about. [...Pause...] Then he’d say, “Nothing, really.” Wow – I’m in disbelief – that must be nice.
But wait a second. How can that be? I don’t ever think of “nothing.” Has he mastered the art of meditation? Or is he withholding information? Or is he simply not aware that the average person has between 50,000 and 70,000 thoughts a day?
So how does one with a monkey mind like mine find the mental rest button?
Enter the yoga teachings of the ancient sage Patanjali.
Yogas chitta vritti nirodhah.
Yoga is the stilling of the turbulences of the mind, he says in the second of about 200 short phrases known as the Yoga Sutras collected between 5,000BC and 300AD by Sri Patanjali. Not much is known about him – not where he lived nor whether he was a person or a pseudonym used by many. But his collection of aphorisms guides yoga practitioners around the world.
To me, Yogas citta vritti norodhah is the most important of the sutras. The rest just explain the problems you will encounter and solutions you can use find that blissful state of silence.
My yoga practice creates a stillness for me in which I realize how much noise my mind creates. I have to set an intention to focus on my breath to stop the inner monologue. And re-focus. And re-focus. And focus.
#1 Play. Find something - anything - that strikes your interest and engage in it. It could be a candy wrapper, a laser beam, a stink bug, or a shopping bag. Play with it until you (a) find something more interesting or (b) need to rest.
#2 Rest. With the same abandon you attend to daily play, take time to sleep. Wherever. Little cat naps are food for your soul.
#3 Groom. Clean your own tail. Make self-care an essential part of your well-being. And purr while you're at it.
#4 Stretch. My cat has a stretching routine far advanced from Ashtanga. He reaches and leaps without hesitation, being present only in the moment.
#5 Make your own rules. Have you ever told your cat to get off the counter only to find him there again a minute later? Be more like that: When thrown off, climb up again, and again, and again.
#6 Be curious. About everything. A sense of curiosity - even regarding the most mundane - can make life an adventure. Taste it!
#7 Eat when hungry and leave some for later. I often find myself more like my dog. I eat until the plate is empty. Then I also finish the leftovers on my kids' plate. I think the key to improving #1 through #6 is to keep your tummy only half full. It's about mindfully figuring out the point of satisfaction and then ... purr.
With the season of Joy and Love often come strong feelings of obligation and guilt. Accepting invitations, buying gifts, drinking alcoholic beverages - all can be good, depending on set intentions and limits. I find the best way to prepare myself to say "Yes" to all the blessings of fall is by saying "No" to overindulging, overcommitting, overthinking. Because saying "No" to outer influences is often like saying "Yes" to my true self.
I intend to join the trees that effortlessly drop their leaves by releasing attitudes and self-believes that no longer serve me. I'll start with my intrinsic need to know what is next.
As a Type A, I like planning, evaluating, and re-evaluating. Doesn't everyone question regularly whether they are still headed in the right direction? I worry all the time whether I truly live to my fullest potential.
Yet, when I look back, all my jobs have eased into my life. Worrying wasn't necessary. In fact, it certainly didn't get anything done. This winter, the season of introspection, I say "Yes" to self-love, to nurturing myself, my family and friends, to believing that all is well. I stay open to what is next, and won't try to push the river. Thankfully I know, I am always guided, guarded, and protected.
How about you?
The body is your temple. Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in. ~B.K.S. Iyengar
"Pure and clean" - what does that really mean? To me, it's more than taking a shower and throwing my yoga pants in the wash after practice. It's about what I eat and drink - or rather what I don't. Off the menu is gluten - an allergen to 60% of Americans of Northern European descent. No artificial colors, flavors or shapes of chicken in my fridge. In fact, when I eat meat, it's locally raised - no added hormones or antibiotics. I stay away from coffee, soda, high fructose corn sirup, and alcohol. Water is my favorite beverage.
But aside from the things that cross my lips, I know the thoughts that cross my mind can be equally toxic. So to lead a pure and clean life, I watch the way I think. And there is no better way to figure out what's going on up there than in the silence of a yoga class or in seated meditation. Here I can counter negativity, judgment or doubt with a cleansing mantra. "I am Love."
How do you keep your temple spic and span?
Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; for it becomes your destiny.
Lovely reminder from the classic text on Indian spirituality. But what if you become so watchful of your words, you stop writing? I can easily edit a sentence so many times in my head that it never makes it onto paper. Another one of my tricks that keep me from expressing my creativity is reading what already has been written about my subject and feeling I have nothing new to say. In what ways do you sabotage your actions?