During a recent retreat and training in Miami Beach with Strala Yoga, I participated in a progression of Tai Chi practice at sunrise on the beach. Michael Taylor, co-founder of Strala Yoga, guided us through a sequence of mindfully observing our patterns of gait and then Tai Chi practices for improving our quality of movement. With the Miami sunrise flooding the beach and wave waters encouraging our flow, we became more aware of not only our bodies in motion but also how they interacted with the beach environment. As I slowed my walking and relaxed my arms and legs, moving from the middle of my body with deep inhales initiating a forward direction, all kinds of things came into view.
First, I realized how much extra effort I unconsciously put into the simple act of walking! I had been “over-doing” from my back, shoulders and legs, wasting energy and building up unnecessary tension in my body. With a history of dancer injuries and a career in rehabilitation and wellness, discovering effective ways to bring ease and grace to movement is like bringing pearls up from the depths to the surface!
Second, the practice of simply slowing down tremendously helped me to appreciate the truth of what was happening. This purposeful listening gave my mind something active to do in the present moment, discovering all kinds of information that would otherwise have been overlooked. When the overwhelming distractions in life are placed on a temporary hold, we have the great benefit of focused attention. This art of listening fully has so much to offer us in the path of discovery and growth.
Finally, a life lesson exploded in my being as I noticed a pattern in my walk across the sandy beach. My body adapted to the variable surface of the sand progressively, and I could settle into the wavering mounds with each step I took. For a certain stretch of sand, I almost transitioned into a “routine”, relaxing and turning my gaze towards the water and sunrise. Then suddenly, there would come an abrupt change in the sand’s terrain, and I would resume the adaptation sequence. The teaching metaphor that sprung up to me compared this pattern to seasons of change in our own lives. We can be listening and “walking” along for a stretch of life, becoming comfortable in our routine, and then swiftly encounter a big change in our “terrain”. It happens to us all; the only certain thing is change is coming! The questions are: “How will we meet that change? Will we resist and kick and scream? Will we pretend the change is not real and bury our heads in the sand?” Or, “Will we already be in a posture of listening, receiving the change as new information and starting the adaptation that will bring us back into balance once again?”
One of my great loves is to explore movement and discover intriguing ways to connect mind, body and spirit into a synchronized moment. In these moments I feel the most whole. Reality seems larger and brighter, and I get to enjoy the meaningfulness of being that I always long for. Lessons like what I heard on the beach in Miami stick with me. I am so encouraged to embrace all of life that there is: the listening, growing, adapting, stretching and playful spirit available in it all.
Where are you seeing and noticing the meaningful things in your life? I know they are there! Maybe if you don’t see them at present, a little slowing down would bring them to light!
What is going on with the “Arts and Wellness of Edenton” schedule???
There are some new class names on your schedule this week! Patti and I have recently visited about the vision, purposes, and hopes for the studio and greater Chowan area it seeks to serve. In an effort to make the areas of classes available clearer, and the intention of each more relatable, we have made what we believe to be some helpful changes.
There are now five major areas of classes: Gentle, Unwind, Foundations, Energetic & Playful. Each area has a main focus, with some unique benefits to go along with the overarching goal of wellness. No one area is any “better” than the other. There is no prescribed sequence for a client to work through in order to achieve what mainstream culture may portray as “better”. The achievement happens as each client finds what their own unique body, mind, and set of personal goals may benefit from. For some, that may be a wide variety of class areas, effectivelytargeting wellness from a range of forms. Others may most benefit from staying within one area of classes, listening to how their bodies respond to a particular focus. In fact, we often encourage clients to rely on that quality of listening to the wisdom of their own bodies to direct their decisions in not only class but all of life. When we respect ourselves enough to slow down and take care of what is going on inside of us, wonderful things happen… that is the achievement we hope to lead people towards. As teachers at Arts and Wellness of Edenton, we purpose to encourage, guide and offer supportive choices as people engage their health.
Here are the basics about each area of classes offered at the studio:
Gentle classes are just that! They are easy on the body, focusing on restoring postures that feel good, moving comfortably, carefully strengthening, cultivating a quiet mind and increasing overall ease within a person.
Unwind classes focus on relieving stress from both the mind and body. Today’s world creates an enormous amount of stress for a person to deal with. These classes assist in releasing stress, strain and tension while encouraging a person to practice stress relieving techniques in their everyday life.
Foundations classes focus on equipping a person with the basic information and practices within an area of movement, dance or meditation. This foundation provides a way for a person to relate to their own bodies and minds in a helpful manner, building respect and understanding for the amazing abilities of human design.
Energize classes provide a place for really getting things moving, and the heart pumping! The focus is on learning how to embrace a little bit of challenge with effective breathing and natural movement! Ease wins the day with any challenge we face based on our perspective: instead of trying to run through your “brick wall” challenges, learn to approach them with wisdom.
Playful classes help us to explore new pursuits with excitement and enthusiasm. Learning is a way of life! In pursuing wellness, we can enjoy life a lot more as we adopt an attitude and practice of “Play”.
Patti and I are more than excited to continue to guide our wonderful clients at “AWE” studio. We also are very ambitious for extending the reach of these wellness services to more people within the community! We absolutely believe in the effectiveness of investing in health and wellness. It works. You are all worth the care your body and mind are needing. Please consider yourself invited to explore what “Arts and Wellness of Edenton” has to offer. We believe you will be pleasantly surprised by how good it makes you feel.
How many of us are invaded by more than twenty or so demanding mental issues to wrestle with at will, before we even make it down to pour our first cup of coffee??? I wager there are at least a few of us. This morning I received a nice little lesson about just this situation from the birds who live on Church Street.
It is my regular practice to make my way out to the rectory’s screened porch first thing in the morning, hopefully without hitting the snooze button or spilling too much coffee, which I have filled to the mug’s brim as a requirement for both warmth and progressing towards wakefulness. Every morning will then unravel differently, but they all involve an intention for listening. I am a very sensory oriented person, so the type of listening I enjoy and that makes the most impact is one that includes every area, not something solely intellectual but an experience that captures the senses and reminds me of the broad expanse we inhabit as humans!
As I listened this morning, I heard the great numbers and varieties of birds singing their pre-dawn melodies. Their songs seemed to be carefree and joyous. There was no hesitation for what may be ahead of them throughout the day, but only the most natural flow their voices could find. As I continued to listen, the various songs blended together like a perfectly conducted orchestra. The effect was an experience of harmony and peace. The birds on Church Street has not just gone through another routine morning, but they had included me and filled me with their life-renewing energy. The Creator intertwined with Creation was speaking again to me, in one of the millions of ways possible: “These birds wake up and welcome this day with fresh hope, expectant joy, and flow within their natural passion for expressing them. Join them today and enjoy!!”
My surgeon told me I had stage 1 papillary thyroid cancer over the phone in May of this year, about one week after I had undergone a total thyroidectomy. He immediately followed that report with the declaration that I was now cancer free. It is no surprise in today’s culture, that the discussion of any type of cancer carries with it varying degrees of alarm and/or fear. Somehow I had not suffered from these reactions through the previous months of slowly unfolding tests and results, which all led up to the necessary surgery. None of the earlier procedures had been definitive for cancer, until the biopsy was performed after the thyroidectomy. All that is to say that there was a lot of thinking time allowable and speculation to be had, until this phone call gave me certainty of my condition. Maybe I am generally not an alarmist, and that is mostly true in my life. Perhaps I trusted that in this season of my life, my reliance and enjoyment of wellness practices was all that could be practically done, and I may as well carry on regardless of any bad report. I am a practical kind of thinker, so this mindset fits me well. The most probable reason for my low level of fear and anxiety throughout this course was most likely from a long history of observing people in all kinds of crisis, ranging from the very small to the extremely severe. I have made a lifestyle out of collecting a sort of people watching data catalog in my memory. There is one trend in human behavior that has been proven in every instance I have observed: worry never wins. In fact, it brings more suffering than the original crisis ever had to begin with. Worry exhausts and steals peace like a thief in the night, leaving a body and mind feeling empty and in search of safety. The proof of this I have witnessed for both myself and others, and somehow the practical wisdom of that learning served me well.
The great discovery I made after my surgery and double diagnosis (cancer & cancer-free) was a deeper appreciation for the beauty of life. After waking from surgery, nauseated and unable to swallow without significant pain for a couple of days, the delightful act of being able to eat a small bowl of yogurt became what I could describe as, “this perfect meal has just saved my life!!”. Even the effects of going through surgery, under general anesthesia for 3 hours, gave me the opportunity to feel so incredibly grateful for being able to walk just a short distance again. I remember resting in my bed the first few days, trying to cement in my memory the joy of the simplest things I began to fully experience: my body relaxing and recovering so wisely, the comfort of my surroundings, the love expressed to me from family and friends, and the nourishment of good food. “Don’t forget how important these seemingly small things are, Mary”, I told myself. I’ve known this to some degree before, but walking through this latest part of my journey has made the quietly beautiful things of life more rich! We hurry past them so often, racing along in our schedules of doing, while BEAUTY simply waits patiently for us to be reawakened to her presence. Well, I’m a little more awake now. I am practicing to flow through my days with an eye out for the simple treasures all around and within.
You don’t actually have to go through crisis to discover and play with being “awake”. You can begin anytime. Take a pause, breathe, relax, listen, look and see what happens. BEAUTY awaits you and all of us around every corner and amazingly in every kind of circumstance.
One of our favorite yogis decided to give the gift of ease to her friends this year for her birthday celebration! We had an AWEsome time together enjoying meditation, a simple movement practice and then a dance party complete with 80's dance tunes of her choice and delicious treats. What a fun and beautiful time to share the joy of another year and the ease of a mindfulness practice.
Thank you, Tyrra for allowing us to celebrate you!
If you are interested in a private party 🎊 at Arts and Wellness of Edenton, let us know! We can provide additional services such as kids birthday parties with art add ons, corporate events and retreats and even come to your home or office.
We specialize in creating an environment of ease and relaxation.
The Body Keeps Score
Well, it has finally come around to me…a back that said “STOP!”
I have had countless students who have been where I am and I am now empathizing with the slow healing and patience that you need to create a healing environment.
My student mind went to the question, “how did this happen?” And when I looked at the events of the weeks past, I knew right away what had happened, both physically and emotionally, that brought me to the place where my body had no choice but to put up the red light (in my case PAIN).
Over Easter weekend, we hosted family, had house guests and burned the candle at both ends. I left directly from a family gathering and headed to the beach, a wonderful week of relaxation was had and we walked the beach for miles every day, but I let my yoga practice fall by the wayside and filled my time with visiting and talking not meditation and stretching, all wonderful but my body was confused. Then to top it off I drove a total of 12 hours in three days and slept in 3 different beds, again all wonderful events but MY BODY KEPT SCORE and so Sunday evening I thought, hmmm…that doesn’t feel right. For the first time since we have opened AWE I had to cancel my Monday class because of my health. That was extremely hard for me and I gave myself a guilt trip you would not believe. It is hard to take your own advice, and no matter what I do the people pleaser in me has a loud voice, I want harmony, I don’t like to disappoint and I usually push myself to do all things, and again MY BODY KEPT SCORE.
I also know that my body knows that in 4 weeks we are sending my sweet, only daughter out into the world to live her own amazing life and while I am thrilled, a part of me says, “wait, not yet, how did that go by so fast?” And so MY BODY KEEPS SCORE. Emotion has a strong way of showing up in our body and studies show that held emotion can trigger the stress response in soft tissue, often the low back.
So, here I sit icing my back and taking some pain medicine and then I will get on my mat and breathe and roll around and see what feels good and not push myself but move slowly and gently and then I will rest again. Eventually, this will pass, as all things do, and I will move forward and in the gentleness with myself I know that there is healing and MY BODY WILL KEEP SCORE.
To learn more about the mind body connection check out: The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk M.D.
We had a wonderful time with Lori, creator of the Ravi, restorative weighted blanket in a two hour restorative and yin yoga workshop. She stayed and did a teacher training as well and we are excited to share what we learned with you all!
This is a prop that helps ground, calm the nervous system and assist in balance and strengthening. This is definitely one we recommend for home use whether that be for meditation, yoga, or simply to assist with smoothing out the rough edges of your day. As Lori described it, “CouchAsana!” These were first created to use with Lori's nephew, who has autism and from this labor of love, a restorative prop that is receiving national attention was born.
One of the ways we use this in the studio is during private classes where multiple Ravi are used to invite the body to release and relax. Ask us about private scheduling, all of our teachers are available to bring their speciality to one on one and small groups, whether that is yoga, pilates, foam rolling, dance or tai chi, you can craft a private session to your needs.
Here is a wonderful testimonial from clients who have been enjoying weekly private restorative sessions.
“I treasure our weekly mother-daughter private yoga classes with at AWE and consider them of equal or greater importance to the private music or sports lessons I give my children. The opportunity to take a mid-week break, reflect, de-stress, and focus on the parts of our mental and physical health that need easing is priceless. It is also teaching my daughter that awareness of what her body and mind needs in rest is just as important as what it needs in activity and modeling the importance of finding time for that in our busy schedules.”
“Weekly private savasana is the best part of my week! Everyone should spend an hour a week in a private yoga class.”
I recently had a wonderful chance to go on a retreat which was part worship, training and rest and I have a confession to make…I am tired, and I did not even know it. Whoa…that may seem like a bold statement or perhaps an obvious one depending on where you are in your life. My reflection of this discovery of how much I needed rest and rejuvenation in light of the fact that I am well versed in restorative yoga, quiet prayer time and listening to my body’s signals struck me because if I felt this way, what in the world are other folks feeling and how tired are we all?
The retreat was set up with very intentional times for meals, meetings, services, and rest. There was very little phone and internet service and I had told my people in emergency they could reach me via the land line at the retreat center. When not in group meetings, I spent time walking, reading, simply looking at the shape the bare tree branches created against the gray sky and napping…like napping a lot. I deliberately chose a book from the beautiful library that was simple short stories of everyday miracles. Light and easy to read and full of joy. And then I fell asleep, every time I would fall asleep and it felt like childhood. No pull to do the next thing, no connection to the bigger world, just a little cat nap that my body really needed.
In my quiet reflection time the theme that came to me was “sanctuary spaces.” How can I, how can we, create sanctuary spaces in our days, in our lives so that time feels slower, so that we are really present with our loved ones and listening intently to what our heart’s desires are without the ever present ding, whizz and boom of the world interrupting us?
As we enter the season of Lent in the Christian church, a time when quiet reflection is the theme, I would invite you to make a promise to yourself. Choose the slower path, put away the distractions and even the learning and just BE. Let your people know that you can only be reached in emergency and recognize what that means, that all the notifications are NOT emergencies, but the time spent snuggling your child or walking with a friend is more important. You do not have to respond to all of the world and there is no ticking clock pushing you 24 hours a day. Give yourself time to find your own sanctuary spaces and to feel like a child again. The beauty in this is not that you will have more time alone but that you will find you are making space in your day, in your life, in your heart for the loved ones around you to be seen and heard and feel great love.
The gift of the present moment is all we really desire as human animals. Move into those spaces with joy and ease and I believe you will see it multiply in your life.
As we approach the New Year, many will commit to starting a physical exercise program of some kind. We all hear about the importance of health and wellness. We all know the general benefits of “taking better care of ourselves”. One of the growing recommendations for approaching health and exercise is yoga.
Here are a few things that a well guided yoga studio will provide for you!!
Yoga is to be enjoyed. It should build a foundation of widespread wellness, peace and respect. Enjoy finding a community that brings these qualities to your life, and sharing your own uniqueness back to it!!