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    Deep Listening

    As a member of the  collective of women on the path of yoga and self-transformation I am dedicated to supporting our values at the YogaMotion Academy.  This is the beauty that I volunteered to write about:

    We actuate deep listening and conscious communication.

    In this day and age we have different forms of communications. Text messages, face book messaging, emails, phone calls, face time, Zoom, Skype, face to face and this isn’t even including the conversations you have with yourself! It’s exhausting!

    As  I sit at my computer to write about deep listening and conscious communication I am being met head on with my own challenges with conscious communication. I know that I am good with this when I am in the teachers seat, leading a group of yogis through breath work, asana or meditation. But I do have a hard time with it when I’m having a conversation with friends and family members.

    Is it possible that we are not pausing before we engage in day to day conversations?  My guess is probably! We live in a world of to-go meals, coffee on the run, deadlines and running the kids to soccer games and school events. Is the lack of mindfulness contributing to so many of our worldly issues? Isn’t this what we are really talking about? What would the world be like if we all just chilled out a bit and took 3 deep breaths?

    In the YogaMotion Academy we take pride in motivating our students to listen deeply to their own hearts. Through connection with ourselves we become more effective in communicating with our community. It is from this passion that we share the yoga. It does begin with the breath moving through us and around us that we are able to listen deeply to ourselves. As a teacher at the Academy my intention as I step into my role is to teach from a place of inner knowing. When we speak from our hearts it is more likely that whoever we are talking to will be more apt to listen. There is a certain type of energy that fills the space when someone is speaking from their hearts. I think I’ll try it in my own day to day interactions.

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    As you sit with yourself and absorb these writings please be gentle. Take a mental note as you move through your day. Are you listening deeply? From this place of deep listening do you feel closer to the person you are communicating with?

    Through honesty, consciousness and listening deeply we pave the road to peace. 

    Even if it is a text message or an email please take a deep breath during your reading of the message. Before you push SEND take a breath. Is this really what you are wanting to say? 

    Through my process of writing I have discovered:

     Like Peanut Butter and Jelly

    Deep Listening and Conscious Communication go hand in hand.

     

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    Sleepless in Stevensville

    As I sit at my dining room table and look out my windows, surveying the “view” I have been wondering about the effect of fire season 2017 has on my nervous system.

    My asana practice has been very limited this summer. I neither have the energy or desire to engage in a strong physical sequences of poses. Rather, I have spent time on my mat doing gentle stretches to ease stressful feelings. I have also enjoyed deepening my meditation practice. It seems to be the one aspect of yoga that invites a sense of peace and calm. And at times that elusive joyfulness. And isn’t that wonderful. After 6 plus weeks of a challenging summer I am incredibly grateful for my meditation.

    One of my favorite meditations at this point is acknowledging the fact that I am breathing. Dropping into my breath does create a sense of calm. I feel our nervous systems have been in the “on” position for several weeks. This means that the stress hormones of cortisol and adrenaline are being produced by the adrenal glands. When we step outside the air quality is challenging our breathing, making it shallow. That fact alone triggers your stress response. Another stressful part of the fire season is the sight of helicopters as well as the sound that the blades make as they sluice through the smoky air.

    Itchy eyes, runny noses and scratchy throats are symptoms many valley residents are experiencing. Personally, I haven’t had a good night’s sleep for about 4 nights. Last night I decided to get out of bed, sit on my couch and do a breathing meditation. Here is what it looked like:

    Step One.  Get comfortable and place one hand on my belly and one hand in the center of my chest.

    Step Two.  Feeling my body expanding and contracting with the inhalations and exhalations.  Belly, ribs and chest rising and falling.

    Step Three. I took my awareness behind my sternum, deep into my body close to the spine. This is my heart space. The place where love resides. Breathing into this space.

    Step Four: As I breathe in and out I simply became aware of emotions that were residing in my heart. These emotions included: Relief, sorrow, peacefulness, anger, happiness, comfort. (No wonder I wasn’t sleeping)

    Step Five: Simply be with these sensations.

    Step Six: Turning off the stress response and turning on relaxation response means climbing back into bed and falling peacefully asleep.

    Thank you Breath.

    Give it a try next time you find yourself Sleepless in Stevensville. 

     

    The Breathing Project – A Lunch & Learn Event

    I find myself feeling overwhelmed. With out of town guests, laundry piling up and a lawn that needs attention I return to my best friend, my breath. I notice it has become short and shallow which only increases my feelings of smothering under the weight of responsibilities. It’s time for a spoonful of my own medicine. I’ve been teaching about the breath since becoming a yoga teacher 7 years ago. But it wasn’t until a year ago that I seriously began looking at my breath.

                                                  Healing is every breath.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

    I step away from my computer, the dirty laundry and my guests. I lie face down with my arms crossed so I can rest my head on them. I begin to feel my belly connecting to the earth beneath me. Within 30 seconds I am reminded of the reality that I am enough.

    A couple of minutes has now passed and I turn over and spread my arms out like wings. With my inhalation I imagine I am breathing in through my right palm and out through my left palm. My breaths turns around magically at my heart center. This feels wonderful.  I am reminded that I am living an authentic life and the little details of being a human will work themselves out. No reason to get so anxious.  Then my attention turns to the soles of my feet where I feel the breath flowing in, and back out again at the crown of my head. I feel connected to a greater source of energy.

    Once you enter the stillness of the breath you get a glimpse of what is really happening, not some made up version of life slamming you up against the wall. It’s comforting to know that you have the power to heal yourself, whether it be anxiety, depression or simply feelings of overwhelm. Your body, mind and breath are intimately connected and can influence each other.  In this Lunch & Learn workshop we will look at common challenges we all face and how to apply breath awareness to return to our center. Breath awareness is a wonderful doorway into meditation. And meditation is the best way I know of to manage stress.

    In this day long retreat there will be movement to help release tension from your body, breathing practices that you can use at home, a delicious lunch which will be prepared with love by our chef Janice.  This will be a day of relaxation and renewal – for YOU!

    Through my work with the Chopra Center in Carlsbad CA, studying with Erich Schiffmann and most importantly my work with myself I have discovered inner peace and calm.

     “For breath is life, and if you breathe well you will live long on earth.” ~Sanskrit proverb

    If you find yourself in Bozeman on August 17 I would love to have you join me. Grab a friend, drive on over (it’s only 4 hours) spend the night on the 16th and enjoy a full day of relaxing and restoring yourselves. Us the link to register for this one day event.

    http://www.yogamotion.com/events/yoga-workshops/yoga-lunch-learn/

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    The Breathing Experience

    It begins the moment you are born. You become a breather. Without even being aware, your journey on this earth begins. The journey will be filled with joy, sadness, excitement, pain, sorrow and contentment. The first breath of oxygen happens about 10 seconds after delivery. Your lungs have been filled with amniotic fluid, until the umbilical cord is severed. And then the magical journey begins.

    Up until about 8 years ago I never even thought about breathing.  And then I ran into a bump in the road. I had a traumatic experience in 1985 and until about 2002 I was doing okay. But then something shifted, as it always does. I started experiencing anxiety, high blood pressure and depression. I did like so many other people do. I sought help from an allopathic doctor. I hadn’t begun my yoga journey yet so I all I knew about was western medicine. And much to my surprise my choice in doctors brought me to a woman who was trained in both western medicine and Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga. She had just started dabbling in Ayurveda.  She was instrumental in pointing me in the direction of yoga.

    I began working on physical postures, still without much thought about breathing. Through the postures I began to release tension in my body/mind/spirit. And it wasn’t until I entered yoga teacher training that I thought about my breath.  Read The Cosmic Breath here.  http://redbirdyoga.org/.  I have learned so much about how I can heal through the breath and after studying my breath for the last year or so I am now sharing with others.

    It’s not quite like taking a pill to “fix” the challenges you may be facing in your life. But it’s almost that quick. With the study of your breath you aren’t fixing yourself, but rather  entering into a state of wellness and healing. I’m not going to tell you it’s easy but by placing yourself in a safe space, at the right time, you too can heal by studying your breath. I no longer have high blood pressure or depression. And when I do begin to feel that old anxious feeling in my gut it doesn’t take me long to come back to my center through connecting with my breath.

    Your breath is your friend. It can tell you so much about yourself in a compassionate and kind way. It will show you how beautiful life can be. It’s always there too. You can spend 5 minutes just to check in with yourself. A handy way to see if you are doing okay.

    Let’s start right now. You and me together. Let’s take a big inhale and then let the breath go. Go ahead. Do this a few times. You can inhale through the nose and let the breath escape out of your mouth. You may even make a sighing sound. Good. Now don’t you feel calmer?

    Join me at Sweet Zenith in Bozeman, MT for a day long journey into your breath. We’ll do it together. The space is safe and has a healing vibe to it. http://www.sweetzenith.com/

    For today, I invite you to watch my favorite TED Talk with Max Strom. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Lb5L-VEm34.

    And then register for my Lunch and Learn: The Breathing Project.

    http://www.yogamotion.com/events/yoga-workshops/yoga-lunch-learn/

     

    Yours in Peace,

    Martha

     

    The Cosmic Breath

    The Cosmic Breath

    I remember quite vividly my first experience with my breath, or should I say the breath of another.  I had enrolled in the first of many yoga teacher trainings. When you study the art of yoga you quite often work with partners. This particular exercise concerned the breath. We were to watch our fellow yogin breathing. They would be laying on their back and all we had to do is watch them breathe. My initial thoughts were “this is going to be easy”. It wasn’t. I became unglued. Now up until this time I had been breathing, everyday for 49 years, without a thought, curiosity or wonder about my breath. I guess you could say I took it for granted. My body was just doing it and I didn’t have to worry about it. I could check it off my list of things to do. But as I sat alongside my new friend and observed her breathing I became aware of the immensity, the enormity and intense beauty of the breath.

    The air I am breathing was exhaled in ecstasy by an ancient sun.

    At the time I had this deep feeling that I standing on the edge of something. But before I could dive into this unimaginable abyss there were some tensions that had been lurking in my body, mind and spirit. And I needed to attend to them. Now this isn’t a story I tell very often and the energy of vulnerability is rising to the surface even as I sit in my favorite space on a snowy May Montana morning. I am cuddled up in my favorite snugly blanket. I need these comforts around me as I delve into the story of the breath.

    This earth I am standing on was born of cosmic fire.

    It was December 1985 and a snowy, cold Michigan morning, one week before Christmas. The excitement of the holidays was apparent among the decorations, the smell of baking and the love I carried in my heart for my family. On this particular morning my 21 month old daughter was asleep in her crib and across the hall our baby was also asleep in her little bed. I awoke with a start, looked at the clock next to my bed and it was 7:30 am. My husband and I hadn’t slept that late for close to 2 years. Very quickly the feeling of dread came over me and as it did I jumped out of bed, ran down the hallway and into my daughter’s room. She was dead at 3 months of age.

    The blood flowing through my veins was as salty as the primordial ocean.

    Back to yoga training. As I sat next to my friend and watched her breathing, eyes closed, the image of my beautiful daughter flooded my memory. You could say that this was the first of many openings into the trauma of losing a child. I am forever grateful for the opportunities for growth this experience brought me and for the care and loving attention of my yoga teacher.

    The space permeating my body is infinite as the space all around.

    There is something magical about the breath and I have spent the last year with mine. I have studied the rhythms, the flow, and the jerkiness of breath permeating my body. I have come to know that it was way more powerful than I ever could have imagined. It is the doorway into infinity. It is the doorway into beauty, into life, into a deep inner knowing that you are an energetic mystical being.

    Above, below, to all sides, within, the elements of the universe are engaged in their ceremony of delight.

    At the age of 56 I am now inviting my students into this discovery of who they are. I am inviting them to bask in their infinite beauty through their connection with the breath.

     My daughter’s breath and the breath of so many loved ones has joined with the cosmic breath and often I am touched by a light breeze that feels so familiar.

    This is my religion. The attraction between suns is the same as the love pulsating in my heart.

                                                                                                    Yukti verse 34 of the Radiance Sutras

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    Martha is a student of Nancy Ruby, Erich Schiffmann, Dr Deepak Chopra and Lorin Roche, PhD who translated the Radiance Sutras, among the many other radiant beings who continue to touch her so deeply.

    Confessions of a Yogi & The Power of Mantra

    I’ve been curious about something in my life lately.  I’ve spent the last couple of years studying myself and my habits, supportive ones and self-destructive habits.  As a yoga instructor/educator  a very common theme in my classes is to guide my students into getting rid of those things that are no longer serving them.   If I’m telling my students to try something I think it’s only fair that I am practicing the same thing.

    I’ve started paying attention to my first thoughts when I wake up in the morning. And to my  surprise I woke up worrying. I am aware that worrying is a classic symptom of not being present. During my waking hours I am always able to return to present moment awareness if I noticed I have strayed. I also understand that worrying is based on the future. I have studied with Erich Schiffmann many times and he helped me realize that the future never really gets here. It is present moment after present moment.  Why would I wake up in the morning projecting into the future? What has my yoga practice taught me in my daily life so far?  For as long as I have been studying the art of yoga I have never run across any  teacher talking about first thoughts upon waking. Time to heal myself.

    Let’s explore the Sanskrit word mantra.  The first syllable, man, means “to think.” The second syllable , tra, is related to the verb root meaning “to protect, guide, or lead.” If we put this together a mantra is a thought that protects or guides. A mantra can be chanted out loud or recited silently. According to some scholars a mantra is more effective when silently repeated, internalizing the reverberation of the word.

    So I thought I would give this mantra idea a try. I have used mantra for meditation, with my personal favorite at the time of writing the Soham mantra. I’ve been chanting this mantra for several months during my meditations and it helps to calm my mind. If my mind is immediately busy when I open my eyes in the morning it makes sense to give my mind something to focus on, rather than worrying. To intensify the effect of the mantra I started chanting it when I was falling asleep. That made it readily available for me when I awoke in the morning.

    After a week of this experiment I am sold on the use of a mantra! It feels wonderful to begin my day feeling centered and grounded. And every night before I fall asleep I allow a mantra to come into my consciousness. It changes almost nightly and I have found that I don’t have to force a mantra, one is readily available to me. It can be a short sentence or a single word. Reciting it inwardly and then letting go of recitation and allowing the mantra to ride the waves is a calming experience. Try it. You may just find it works for you too.

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    Jazzing up my morning oatmeal

    I am a firm believer in the healing benefits of food. The choices we make when we plant our gardens in the spring, the aisles we frequent in the grocery and the decision to eat in a certain restaurant is one of the ways to healing our physical bodies. My daughter and I did a cleanse in October 2016 and since that time I have been eating as clean as I ever have. The cleanse we participated in was The Colorado Cleanse. It keeps your dominant dosha in mind throughout the whole 2 week process. Since mid-October I have been eating oatmeal for breakfast. It feels good in my body, grounding me and nourishing me in many ways. I have become very creative with the ingredients I add to my breakfast cereal. Some days I put dried fruit in it, other days I add some nuts and I also experiment with seeds. On this particular morning I made a “syrup” to pour over the top and I had to share with you this easy recipe. If you have a few too many bananas laying around this is a great way to use them. The recipe comes from the The Chopra Center Cookbook. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

    Blueberry Banana Syrup

    1 tsp ghee

    1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries  (I used huckleberries that I picked last season)

    1 cup sliced bananas

    1/2 tsp nutmeg

    1/4 tsp ground cloves

    1 Tbsp apple, orange or lemon juice

    1 tsp arrowroot powder

    2 Tbsp maple syrup

    Heat the ghee in a small saucepan. Add the blueberries, bananas, nutmeg, cloves and juice. Simmer for 3-5 minutes is you are using fresh berries, 5-8 minutes for frozen berries. To thicken the sauce, dissolve the arrowroot powder in 1 tablespoon of water, add to the berries and stir until a smooth consistency is achieved. Add the maple syrup just before serving. Pour over breakfast cereal and Enjoy!

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    Lone Rock

    Lone Rock 

    I have been a “fixture” at the Lone Rock School for 6+  years now. It began with a phone call from a woman I didn’t even know. She was looking for a yoga instructor to lead their 7 am class. The previous instructor had a conflict that wasn’t going to allow her to teach anymore. I was a brand new yoga teacher at the time and was thrilled to be invited to “audition” for this position. I arrived at the school, taught a one hour class and the rest is history. I’m still teaching there two mornings a week at 7 am. Some of my students are teachers at the school and some are community members.

    In the 6 years I have become familiar with their practices, their bodies, their strengths and their limitations. They have endured surgeries and broken bones. These students have lost parents, children, siblings and pets. Spouses of the group have gone through cancer treatments. I have witnessed marriages ending and relationships blossoming.

    Forget the warrior poses – these women are REAL LIFE WARRIORS!

    They live their lives with grace, dignity and a sense of humor which has enriched my life tremendously.

    The divine in me honors the divine in each and every one of you!

     

     

     

     

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    Sacred Sunday

    Often times a group yoga class consists of a 60-75 minute practice with the focus being primarily the physical practice of yoga. The physical practice is wonderful but there comes a time when a student craves something a bit more in depth. There also comes a time when a teacher is ready to offer a more in depth experience.

    While I was teaching in Alaska I quite often stepped in as a sub for my daughter Megan’s Sunday morning class. The name of the class was Sacred Sunday and it was a 2 hour experience. That may seem like a good chunk of time and for most of us we aren’t used to a 2 hour practice. Keep in mind that it is not all physical postures. When you combine pranayama, meditation, asana and a bit of talking it becomes more of a complete experience. Sacred Sunday turned out to be my favorite class to teach. I enjoyed sharing the deeper aspects of the ancient practice of yoga. It was an opportunity for me the teacher and the students to have more of a dialogue, rather than me just guiding the practice.

     Now I’m going to be offering Sacred Sunday here, in Stevensville. I have found the perfect space – right on Main Street – where we will gather at Starrett Artists. It’s a beautiful space, with big windows facing east. The morning sun streams in and it feels magical. I hope you can join me every Sunday morning beginning January 22 from 9-11 am. There will be movement, exploration of breath, study of yoga philosophy and of course meditation and dharma talks.  It will be a group experience which I have found provides something extra special. It feels good to be part of a group, a group of people moving and breathing and meditating together.

    Sacred Sunday – union with the divine, connecting to Self. The perfect way to begin your week.

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    Full Moon

    One of the workshops I will be offering will be a Full Moon Yoga workshop. My idea for this workshop came to me while living and teaching in Anchorage. Anchorage is located right on the Cook Inlet, which stretches 180 miles from the Gulf of Alaska to Anchorage. I spent a good deal of time hiking in Kincaid Park and my favorite trail ran right along the beach on a bluff overlooking the ocean. I began to notice the changes of the tides and was curious about the gravitational pull of the moon. According to National Geographic  “the moon’s gravitational pull on the Earth is the main cause of the rise and fall of ocean tides. The moon’s gravitational pull causes two bulges of water on the Earth’s oceans—one where ocean waters face the moon and the pull is strongest and one where ocean waters face away from the moon and the pull is weakest. Both bulges cause high tides. These are high tides. As the Earth rotates, the bulges move around it, one always facing the moon, the other directly opposite. The combined forces of gravity, the Earth’s rotation, and other factors usually cause two high tides and two low tides each day.”

    There are also many theories about the effect a full moon has on humans and animals. Some theories suggest that dogs bite more people on the full moon and there are more crimes committed during this time of the month. I’m not sure I believe all of that but I do believe in using the time of the full moon as a reference point to check in with myself. This is a wonderful time to set intentions, to slow down and practice some yin yoga and restorative poses.

    In my Full Moon workshops you can expect guided meditations and pranayama practices as well. As I have often alluded to, we mimic nature. When it is winter and the trees are bare it is a time of hibernation, a time of looking inward. When there is a full moon there is a swell, a bulging in the oceans and just maybe this is a perfect time to tune in to your life and see what direction you are heading in. I believe in the power of intentions and what a wonderful time to gather in circle and meditate and set intentions.