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Pranayama: breathing in yoga & in life

Yogis, this post is all about prana or “that which is infinitely everywhere” – the universal energy that flows within and around all of us. We’ll talk about some about prana then we’ll talk about pranayama – the 4th limb on the yogic path. Finally, I’ll give you some pranayama to take home and practice. (Including some embarrassing but hopefully helpful selfies)

Keep in mind, while an asana practice is likely to lead to body awareness and a more comfortable seat and is therefore helpful for pranayama, absolutely no physical yoga experience is required to benefit from these breathing techniques. You don’t need to be able to do a handstand, have big muscles, a flat belly, any flexibility, or fancy yoga clothes. All you need is lungs, a nose, a mouth, and one hand. Got it all? Great.

What is prana?

So “that which is infinitely everywhere”…complex topic, yeah? Prana can be translated and interpreted in many beautiful ways (life, breath, flow, universal energy, etc) but we’ve got at least one thing down for sure, without prana, there is no life. Prana is shared and infinite. We are all one, taking part of this flow. If physical or mental issues disrupt this flow, we don’t feel our best and cannot truly connect with our highest self.

To make things more tangible, consider your breath. It flows in and out of your body, filling you, gifting you life. This is prana. It is already in you, flowing continuously from within your own being. As you inhale and exhale, you are experiencing “that which is infinitely everywhere”. You are taking part in the universal flow. So cool.

There are different forms and directions of prana in our body called vayus. I won’t get into these but Google if it sparks interest.

And pranayama?

You may have heard the word yama in other yoga contexts. If not, no worries. The yamas are the first limb in the yogic path. The word yama means “constraint”. So 1 + 1 is 2 and pranayama is breath constraint. The breath is mentioned all over ancient yoga texts. As I mentioned before, disruptions in prana = not well. So the goal in pranayama as a concept is to be able to control and maintain our prana. Formentioned yoga texts depict a well person with prana within them – they have a lot of space for prana. While an unwell person has prana constantly flowing out of them – they are blocked and full of other junk, making less space. This isn’t a new concept to you. Think of how you lose your breath when you are shocked or frightened. Think of how your body relaxes when you take a deep breath in. And a slow breath out.

If you’ve been to a yoga class, you may have experienced pranayama. Maybe slowing down the breath, lengthening your exhale, maybe counting is duration, breathing in a specific way, etc. In Asana practice, we often focus on our breath to stay present and not wander off into discomfort or distractions. Breath also helps us deepen our asana practice. Notice how you feel when you inhale your way into a deep backbend: your front body extends in every direction with breath. So there are benefits of breathing in particular ways for your physical yoga practice as well as in your ordinary life.

All of this being said, pranayama is an advanced practice. It requires body awareness, patience, and consistency to further you towards your goal. If a pranayama practice is uncomfortable, if you ever feel you are gasping for breath, this may be a message from your body to practice breathing normally and focusing on the breath instead.

Let’s get into some of my favorite pranayama techniques. For each of these breath exercises, you will find a comfortable seat. This could look anyway you need, but the spine is upright. Lotus, meditation cushion, easy seat, criss cross applesauce, kneeling, hero’s pose, a chair, whatever.

Sitali

Sitali is a favorite pranayama of mine, especially as I am living on the Equator and sweating my a$$ off every day. Because, sitali is a cooling, refreshing breath. Sita means cool. I love sitali on a hot day, during a rest in a hot yoga class or intense yoga practice, sometimes I even practice this breath between sets at the gym…because that is me. It would also be good to cool down from a stressful situation or argument.

Come to your seat. In Sitali breath, we will curl the edges of the tongue to form a tongue tube. Inhale through the tongue tube for as long as you can. Inhaling over your moist tongue will cool your throat. Before you exhale, draw the tongue back against the palate as far as possible to keep it moist. (Do people still have an issue with the word moist? Lmk) then exhale out the mouth or the nose slowly with control (I prefer mouth). See my photo. If you cannot roll your tongue into a tongue tube, don’t fret! You can get the same cooling effect by parting the lips and teeth, placing the tongue between the upper and lower teeth, and inhaling through the mouth, allowing air to flow over the tongue. Yes, this breath should make a little noise.

Kapalabhati

You don’t have to pronounce it correctly to get the benefits. This is a goodie. Kapalabhati is an intense cleansing breath. Kapala means skull. Bhati means bringing light. So this pranayama technique is often referred to as “Skull Shining breath”. If you feel full of mucus, this will clean you right up. It’s good for if you feel ill but it is also preventative and great for your immune system. Beyond the physical, practice this breath when you are looking for intense changes or cleanups of life. This breath makes me feel lighter, stronger, capable and confident.

I find this breathing technique quite difficult so don’t fret about getting it right right away. The breath will be rapid and shallow. We will use our lungs like a pump. Come to a comfortable seat. Close your eyes and turn them upwards, like you’re trying to see your 3rd eye. Focus here. Seal your lips. Inhale through the nose 1/3 of capacity. Exhale forcefully through the nose. In this breath, we exhale with so much force that the inhale comes natural – push so much air out in such little time that you inhale very quickly after. It may be helpful to place a hand on your belly and feel the rapid motion of your breath.

Practice this breath with caution as it could cause you to feel dizzy or lightheaded. You also may want to avoid this pranayama after meals as the sharp exhale may restrict your stomach. Be sure to take breaks and breath normally. I aim to breath rapidly for 40s-1min at a time before breathing normally and repeating but it is important to listen to your body and never constrict prana.

Nadi Sodhana

The best for last – this may be my favorite pranayama. I practice this every day, usually twice a day. Nadi means “passage” of which energy flows and sodhana means “cleansing”. This breathing technique brings a calming, balancing energy. I encourage you to try this one out before bed, before a yin yoga practice, before meditation, when you’re stressed or feeling out of wack, etc.

Find your seat. To practice, we will use our right hand to open and close our nostrils as we inhale and exhale. Find a comfortable seat. Rest your left hand where it is comfortable, you can use a mudra here or not. Bring your right hand towards your face. See photo. Place your index and middle finger on your forehead, between your brows. Slight pressure. With your thumb, block (partially or fully, up to you & your sinuses today) your right nostril. Inhale with your left nostril. Retain the breath at the top for as long as comfortable (maybe not at all). While retaining, use your ring finger to block the left nostril. Unblock the right. Exhale through the right nostril. Keep left blocked and right unblocked. Inhale through the right, retain, switch, exhale through the left. Inhale left, retain, switch, exhale right. Inhale right, retain, switch, exhale left. And so on. We switch nostrils at the top of each inhale. & yes that is some fresh ink on my finger #teamtatted (I’m joking) (but it is ink. My pen leaked into my bag pity me)

If you find the hand position uncomfortable or restrictive, use the surfers hand instead. Thumb blocks right, pinky blocks left. See picture. Hang freaking ten.

Repeat for as long as comfortable. I usually practice nadi sodhana for 2 – 5 min.

Enjoy the prana 😘

If you have favorite pranayama techniques, leave them in the comments!

Restorative Yoga: where the party is at

Today we’re talking about restorative yoga. What it is, why it’s so important (& challenging), what its done for my practice, how it has affected my teaching, and of course a restorative practice to try out. 

Many of my regular yogis know my love for restorative yoga. It is a truly unique and important practice. Contrary to this post’s featured image, restorative yoga is not about splits. It’s not about strength. Unlike yin yoga, power, or vinyasa styles, in restorative, there is little to no muscle engagement. Instead, yogis are fully supported by props and/or the Earth itself. In an ideal world, all students will have blankets, bolsters, blocks, sandbags, eye pillows, and whatever props you can think of but a restorative yoga practice requires nothing. (See my post all about props to hear my thoughts on this and check out my prop collection.) In restorative, yogis move slowly and rarely. In a 60 minute restorative yoga class, the teacher may get you into 6 poses or less. Yogis will hold these poses for a way longer time than those in a vinyasa style class, most of my classes will hold poses for 8-12 minutes. Don’t let this scare you away, chair is not a restorative yoga pose! Most shapes are reclined, some seated. Many people misinterpret restorative yoga as “gentle” yoga or even a beginners yoga. While beginners can most definitely benefit from restorative, I personally find it one of the most challenging types of yoga. 

Alright so it’s not a class of deep stretching, strong breath work, strengthening, or anything you might be used to in other yoga classes…why do we do it? This is my favorite question to answer. Restorative yoga is about REST. How often do you rest? And what does rest look like to you? In our culture, we are often running around all day like headless chickens and then expected to settle down and get 6-8 hours of sleep, and most of us find that impossible. As I’m sure you’ve all experienced, it’s very difficult to sleep without proper rest. Our bodies are so tired yet so restless we cannot seem to settle at night. It’s a viscious cycle of lack of proper rest and then lack of sleep. Conscious rest can change everything. Being awake, relaxed, with no pressure to fall asleep or get things done. I’m sure you have experienced the feeling of not being able to sleep at night, knowing you need sleep but thinking of all the things you could be getting done instead. 

Beyond rest, restorative yoga is about receiving instead of giving. I mentioned restorative yoga utlizies props and the Earth to receive support, to feel grounded, held, safe. How often do you turn off giving mode and turn on taking mode? To be able to give, we must be able to ask for and then take what we need. We must allow life to happen to us instead of constantly fighting it, building expectations, and feeding our false sense of control. You know the warnings for rip currents at the coast? To swim in parallel instead of fighting the current? Same goes for restorative yoga. Sitting still is an extremely difficult task for many, myself included. Right when I settle in seems to be when I feel the need to fix my shirt or hair or when I suddenly have an itch that must be attended to, etc. In restorative, we are invited to feel those urges and breath with them instead of acting upon them. Allowing ourself to be uncomfortable in stillness but not take the steps to escape it. This is why, unlike yin (in which yogis get into poses that keep them on their edge of discomfort to achieve a meditative state), we want to be as comfortable as possible in restorative yoga poses. I tell my students right when we get into a new pose, fix what’s “wrong”, take the time to “fix”, then let go. Let wherever we find ourself be just the right place. There is no right or wrong alignment in restorative. 

This mindset, of taking instead of giving, of resting is counterculture. There is nothing we are working towards, no goal. For many in our goal-oriented society, this idea is inconceivable. There is only the present feeling and the only task is to be present with that feeling.

“Restorative yoga brings ease.”

So how has yoga shifted my own practice? Of course it has slowed it down. I replaced a strong vinyasa style practice with a restorative one. But beyond that, it has been incredibly healing to my body and mind. I have shared before how I used to always think of yoga – a workout, a time to push and pull on my body to achieve a goal. Now, yoga is a healing practice and conversation with my body. Sure there are still goals occasionally and there is definitely a push and pull. But with that there is an understanding of where I am instead of just a focus on where I want to be. And, the main selling point I use to try to get some of my students from power yoga into restorative is ever since I have started practicing restorative, more “advanced” postures come easier to me. I injure myself less. Restorative yoga brings ease.

An example, I wanted splits desperately. Why? I don’t know – no good reason, only bad reasons. But I practiced and practiced and never felt comfortable in a split. For almost a year. Then I just said, screw it. Splits aren’t for me I give up I can’t practice them enough to ever hold a split. I didn’t do my usual splits routine for months. During this time I was doing restorative yoga 3-4x per week. Then one day out of nowhere, I found myself in a split, a full 8 breaths with all the ease in the world. The same happened for me and many inverted postures, which used to be clouded by fear for me.

After discovering restorative yoga, I clearly changed as a student but I also unknowingly changed as a teacher. I didn’t even realize – one of my regular yogis pointed it out. I shifted from pushing my yoga students to holding them. At this point, I wasn’t even teaching gentle classes, definitely not restorative. I thought I could never reach slower paced, quiet classes. But suddenly, even in a power yoga class in which they moved quickly, got into “advanced” poses, worked towards a peak, etc, I was holding space for healing instead of space for exercising. My voice, my cues, my assists and adjustments all softened. This has been the most meaningful evolution of myself as a yoga teacher yet. This allowed me to fall deeper in love with teaching (I didn’t think that was possible).

Last year, I even began teaching my own restorative class, in which most of my students were completely new to restorative yoga. I found teaching this class so difficult at first. How much do I say? How much silence do I give? How much alignment cuing do I do? Should I assist? Should I try to adjust? At the studio I practice, there is a restorative teacher (Barbara Vosk, for all you Raleigh yogis – she’s magic. And teaches at Bliss Body Yoga.) who seemed to get everything right. I (mostly) joked I wanted to be her when I grow up. I never thought I could lead a restorative class after spending so much time in hers. But I felt the practice was so important, I needed to share and the place I was teaching did not offer a restorative class so I took it on. One day, one of my regular yogis came to me after restorative class and said “I imagine this class isn’t the most fun for you to teach, but I’m really glad you do.” After that, it came with ease. And it was fun.

Restorative Yoga for You

Restorative yoga can bring you more and better quality sleep, less stress, less injuries, and ease in most and mind.

So here is a go-to, quick restorative practice for you from your home. Move from pose to pose slowly with as little muscles engagement as possible. Keep the eyelids heavy. Between each pose, allow yourself to find any movement that feels good.

  • Reclined butterfly. Grab a cushion from the couch and place it at your tailbone, lie back onto the cushion – make sure you’re fully supported. You might need 2 cushions depending on the length of your torso. For a less intense backbend, prop the cushion up on another or even a couple of books to create a slope and recline on that. Bring the soles of your feet together and allow your knees to fall to either side. Support your knees and thighs with 2 more smaller cushions or pillows. Stay here for 10-12 min, focusing on your breath.
  • Supported twist. If your cushion is sloped, remove other props so it is flat. Place your right hip right in front of the cushion and bend then stack your knees. Maybe place another cushion between the lower legs. Frame the cushion with your hands and lower your belly onto the cushion. For more intensity, rest on your left cheek. Stay for 8-10 minutes. Then repeat this, with the left hip.
  • Mountain brook. Lie flat and place the cushion beneath the natural bend in your knees. Depending on the size of your cushion, you may need 2. Also, depending on the length of your legs and cushion, this may take your feet off the ground. If this occurs, place feet on 2 large books so that the heels are grounded. If you have rocks, stones, or crystals, place them in each palm and allow your arms to fall naturally by your sides. If you want, support your head with a very small pillow, ensuring your shoulder blades stay grounded and your neck stays as long as possible. Stay here for 10-12 min.
  • If you’d like, you can end in Mountain Brook or take a traditional savasana, flat on your back without cushions.

I hope restorative yoga brings you peace and rest. Don’t be discouraged if your first (few) experience is difficult or frustrating, just trust the journey and allow yourself to take. There is nothing to give. There is nothing to do right or wrong.

Enjoy.

I wrote a poem and here it is.

OK, I wrote a poem. I’m unfamiliar with this art but I am staying with this vulnerability, I am leaning into this. Remember when we were kids and we all wrote poems? We painted, we acted, we sung, we wrote songs, we wrote short stories, and we fell in love with our work. I wrote this poem a month ago I don’t even know why I did and have kept it in my notebook, haven’t even looked at it again. Because many of us, now all grown up and filed down by life, deny our natural desire, NEED, to create. We are all creators. We all want to work and make things but somewhere in our life’s education, we were told we only create may one thing. The rest is for someone else. Well, that is BS. We are all poets, singers, songwriters, playwrites, painters, sketchers, fashion designers, architects, we’re the actor, the director, the visionary. 

Last night, I was sitting in the airport with my headphones in, scrolling through whatever sh** I apparently needed to see and then a young girl tapped on my shoulder. In Spanish, she informed me she was now putting on her ballet and I could watch. I thanked her, I took out my music, and I watched this girl dance her absolute heart out for a full 7-10 minutes with no music. This was no random dance, there was a plot, a story. There was drama. A lot of thought went into her movements. Now I will admit, this was the first ballet I have ever attended, but it was easily the best ballet I’ve ever seen.  I applauded and complimented but she was very indifferent about how I felt about her ballet. She did not need me to be proud of her work or tell her to continue. She walked back to her corner of the international arrivals gate and created a new ballet. It was not about the performance, it was about the work. It was not for me, it was for her. 

So same.

No title because I have no idea how to title a poem that’s too far for me. 

There is something romantic about an expert at work. At play.

I watch him watch.

He is looking for something specific.

The amateur longs to see what he recognizes like family.

He watches so patiently

So accepting

Almost indifferent but not quite.

There is longing but it is aged.

It has matured.

He knows only a child wants what is not being given.

He knows his is a sport of receiving.

He has surrendered control

and even the desire for control.

He only wants what is being offered freely.

With a lack of disappointment, he turns.

He has something better to do

But he’ll be back.

Sharing My Struggle: hey this was supposed to be inspiring! Feeling disconnected, mild identity crisis, everything is fine.

Sharing my struggle – a series (termed loosely as I don’t blog enough to have a series) where I talk about my feelings usually negative and don’t really turn them around. Enjoy!

I’ve been trying to put this into words for so long and late last night, I was flooded. This all came out as quickly as the food poisoning the night before. I guess I needed my first real bad day. I will admit I don’t love sharing this because I’d prefer you all to think I’m bouncing around loving life with everything held together…but that’s what sharing the struggle is all about. So here we go.


OK, you may be wondering, hey what’s Sophie doing in Ecuador? Let me give you TMI.

For almost a year, I’ve had this glorious plan. To finally graduate from school then jet off to who cares where and teach yoga. Yes, this would be it and yes I wanted this to be permanent. Not necessarily permanently in one place but you know the kinda cliché but totally still beautiful nomad yoga teacher? That was going to be me. I was going to full time travel, live just at my means (food, shelter, love), and share yoga with whoever wanted a piece. I didn’t want to live in the USA for all of 2019. I didn’t want to stop teaching even for a vacation. Nice right? So obviously the original plan didn’t work.

What happened?

It started to crumble last June when I had a “big girl”, “real” job and didn’t hate it like I was supposed to. I actually enjoyed it. I found the commute just pleasantly annoying, my office was on a swanky side of town with hip gyms and restaurants (my fav hip things), my peers were fun and smart, the company itself was too big for its own good and everything was convoluted but my supervisors were down to earth, I enjoyed earning significant amounts of money that I was able to do significant things with, and I was good at what I did. I didn’t dread going to work, I liked talking about it, and I got excited about it. I also taught yoga twice a week which gave me my fill (OK like half my fill) of yoga, yogis, class planning, and inspiration. This experience made me doubt my master plan. However the moment I was back in school, learning things I didn’t care about, feeling only motivated by teaching (now 7-8x per week), the plan was back in action.

Then around September, I began to feel disconnected from the person who inspired me to keep this plan, who I (only partially) dreamed of doing this plan with, who would keep me grounded during these indefinite travels. Eventually I became apathetic about our relationship and we lost those ties. Another strike against the plan.

Later in 2018, I started to get tired of where I was. I was restless and maybe a bit doubtful of myself to pull the trigger. I was excited for the plan and wanted it to happen immediately. It had to happen at some point and I was ready to have a more clear vision of my next step so I took a job or two or five in Ecuador. When I say job, you may think of contracts and salaries and this is not that. I use the term loosely it’s actually an exchange deal. Since I only wanted to live at my means, it was perfect.

OK – plan in place. And then blah blah blah some more things happened that messed up I mean romantically tampered with the plan (because like shit, boys happen).

Now the date is here, I am outtie, and so happy. So what if the plan has been slowly deteriorating? It’s on. So here’s what actually happened. Let me say before I continue, this is not Ecuador. This is me. I don’t have one negative thing to say about this amazing country and highly recommend it. Basically all of the worst cases (that I had already discussed with myself as possibilities) were here. I’m not going to get into it but if you think you have even been to a night club or seen aggressive German men on every single drug, please come here and see it for real. So I picked up the vibe that this place might not be for me but no panic I can always leave I knew that. I wanted to make it work and teach yoga. I told myself I would bring the peace with me and everything is fine. Which is true and it would’ve worked out just like everything does. But I was talking to someone who felt similarly (like no way it was a coincidence we met similar) and he said something that resonated with me so deeply, “for whom?”. For whom am I trying to work this out for, or staying here for? I had no answer so I left.

I desperately looked for similar exchange deals or any kind of teaching work in other places close by. Nothing was working out and it started to feel forced. I trusted my gut, if things feel forced, they are forced, and there is absolutely no purpose behind forcing. Beyond the lack of teaching, I miss home and routine (ok, the gym. I miss the gym.) and having a partner (ugh romantic me). And I blame everything that goes wrong in my life on where I am. I feel far away from my family which makes me feel lost, not supported, and scared. I make assumptions about what they’re doing and feeling. I assume no one wants to hear from me or hear about my life here now that it’s taken a different turn. This list goes on.

I took this all as a sign from the universe that it’s not time for me to be the nomad yoga teacher. It’s time for me to be the fellow earth citizen who is experiencing and learning. To my own surprise, I took this shift in mindset gracefully. I accepted that I would spend a good chunk of my savings and decided this would be a 2 month trip instead of a dramatic move and lifestyle shift. I’d use the 2 months to get myself together, get inspired, have fun, and figure out what I really want going forward.

I’m a believer that the universe is always on my side but it’s testing me and like basically every exam in college, I can tell I’m failing. Because I have never felt more unaligned with my purpose, confused about what I want and why, and just plain damn unmotivated and uninspired. If you know me, you know how unlike me this sounds. There are days I cannot find me within myself at all. But regardless, this is me right now. The universe is giving me a break. A pause. And I am resisting like the foolish human I am. The child in me is throwing a fit “hey this was supposed to be inspiring! This isn’t fair!”. Breaks are supposed to be nice right? I haven’t had one in forever. My entire existence up to this point has been planned. Maybe not specifically but I have been in school for longer than I can remember and this is literally the first time I’m not. In 2016, I fell in love with teaching yoga and since 2016, I have not gone more than 2 weeks without teaching a class. I didn’t want a break from teaching but I got served one.

So let me pull up my big girl pants and say thank you universe. Not sure what you’re doing, but thank you & I love you. What can this break from teaching teach me? I’ve learned a lot about myself and here’s the real and raw: I feel unmotivated when I don’t feel needed. More to that, I feel unmotivated when I’m not a leader or guide, preferably THE leader and guide. I sometimes used teaching yoga as my excuse for not knowing what I want to do with this engineering degree that no matter how hard I try to hate, I actually like and am proud of and identify with. I feel disconnected from other humans when I’m not teaching yoga. My personal practice suffers and sometimes disappears for days when I’m not teaching. It is more difficult for me to achieve a meditative state when I’m not teaching regularly. I feel disconnected from and inferior to other yoga teachers when I’m not teaching. I am constantly preparing my thoughts for sharing with a group. More to this, when anything happens, I’m in the moment for just a moment, then I’m considering how I will talk about it later and theme a damn yoga class around it. (I’m doing this right now.) I rely on my teaching job for my sense of identity. I do this because I pour myself into teaching. If I were a yoga bucket I’d be completely upside down. And probably empty. A couple weeks ago, I posed a question on my Instagram (something I sit with often), who are we without our job titles? I didn’t think I had his figured out by any means but now I feel more confused than ever. Who am if I’m not a yoga teacher?

Then comes fears (which can be great teaching tools), what if something happened to me that didn’t allow me to teach yoga anymore? What if I can’t earn enough to support myself? I’m scared to go home and not have my same teaching job. What if I can’t get hired anywhere else? Do my old yogis miss me as much as I miss them? I’m going to move? What if there are “better” teachers there? Did I actually just use the word better to describe a yoga teacher? It goes on and on.

There is no conclusion here. Except maybe this, we can’t always get what we want (no, Donald Trump cannot soil that song for me). But we do get what we need. I’m not sure why the universe isn’t giving me what I want or why I’m being such a baby about it, but I know I’m growing.

& a message to my past yogis and yoginis in case you didn’t get it, I MISS YOU. SO MUCH. THANK YOU.

The Real Reasons Spiritual Practices are Hard + A Mantra Meditation

I told myself that in 2019 I would write in this blog more. And I’m not doing so hot on that. I’m in Ecuador doing the whole I-just-graduated-with-a-degree-I-don’t-know-how-to-use-right-now thing and while I have a lot to say about it, it just hasn’t come into words. The whole reason I’m writing about this topic is because I had some expectations of this trip (mistake oops I mean learning moment #1) that haven’t panned out. Complete transparency, I thought this would be a time of connecting with new and different humans, teaching yoga, meditating every day twice a day, surfing, feeling intensely connected with my body and earth, deepening my yoga practice, having daily epiphanies, and being inspired for months. And for the most part, it’s not the way I expected. Because that’s not realistic for me at this point in my life and that’s ok. I am trusting the universe’s message that maybe that kind of experience is not what I need right now. Don’t worry, I’m fine and I’m having fun and I’m learning a lot.

The usual disclaimer: Like all of my posts, I am generalizing and voicing my own opinion in my own words.


Alright, let’s have a real moment and say keeping up with any kind of routine can be hard. Take it from me as I am in South America, not working, totally chilling, and still not able to find time for everything. We’re busy humans and it’s difficult to commit time to certain things especially things that don’t pertain to school, work, our families, the “necessities”. But see? Right there? It’s already started. Today I’m going to talk about the real reason maintaining a spiritual practice is difficult for so many of us and spoiler alert, the reason sucks.

Many of us do not think highly enough of ourself to put the proper amount of time and work into our spirituality. Or maybe if you’re not so into the big S word, this still applies. Many of us do not think highly enough of ourself to properly take care of ourself. When I mentioned all the of time suckers of our day (work, school, children, farm animals, I don’t know your life) I called those the necessities but didn’t include myself. Sure every day I remember to get out of bed, I eat, I usually bathe (OK I don’t but I look and smell like I did), I survive. But there are days I hardly think of me; who I am, who I want to be, my purpose, my truth, what I want to give, what I want to receive, and so on. There are days when I don’t take a moment to be happy to be alive. I don’t think of God (universal flow, love, whatever you call this). I don’t think of my connection to other humans. I spend the day numb, bumbling through a to do list. Maybe I’m not even bumbling maybe I am absolutely killing it and feel super motivated and happy to get it done. But there was no me involved. Maybe my ego was happy to check things off, but I wasn’t there. Some days, my true self doesn’t show up. Have you had a day like this? Was today a day like this? Are most days like this?

So before we delve into our (generalizing) screwed up measures of self worth, let’s discuss a more tangible reason for this lack of self care or effort. For many, spiritual work’s benefits are too long term or maybe too concealed, too subtle. Other work isn’t. Like, I am hungry so I eat. Or more long term like, I wanted a degree so I went to the library and studied my ass off. Someone else wanted a promotion so they put a ton of meaningful time in at work. Our mothers wanted us to live and grow so they made whatever sacrifices necessary and fed us. Obvious right? It gets harder like, I wanted what was best for my partner and I so I ended a relationship. Someone wanted a new direction in life so they quit their job and stopped earning a pay that made them comfortable. What about, I want to reach a higher level of consciousness so I sat in meditation every morning for all of my life and some days I still felt like it was day 1. Hmmm. A little harder sell, yeah? (Read my last post to hear more about our need for very tangible results.)

The “results” of a spiritual practice can be the most significant changes we experience in life but can also be very subtle and slow. So why don’t we put in the work for subtle and slow changes that make us more in tune with ourself, fellow humans, nature, and the universal flow of energy?

We don’t think we’re worth it.

We think keeping our job is worth effort. We think improving our grades is worth effort. But we don’t think a task that solely benefits us, as everlasting souls experiencing the human condition, is worth the time, effort, and sacrifices that it may require. We don’t see the point of committing to ourself! To bettering us! To creating a meaningful connection between us and God! What. A. Damn. Shame. So here’s me, just another soul in a different body experiencing the same human condition and struggling to think of myself worthy, saying you are worth it. We all are.

So whatever a “spiritual practice” looks like to you, make time for it. Not because it’s “healthy”, not because it “relaxes” you. The “” don’t really make sense here but I am using them to express! Make time for your practice not for any reason other than it’s for you. Not the you that needs a glass of wine and a bubble bath so you can be a better *insert job title*, not the you that wants a sexier, healthier body. This is for the you that has no job and no body. Because even though you might not see that piece of yourself in the mirror or even experience that raw, true you every day, that version of you is worth so much. So spend that money on a membership at the yoga studio, chant your mantra, get up an hour earlier than your kids to write in your journal, get some reiki, burn all the sage, do 108 sun salutations, meditate for 20 minutes when you wake up, pray every single night, whatever this looks like for you (and it may look like anything), do it! Get it done! Trust that you’re worth putting other things off or sacrificing time spent elsewhere.

Let’s have a mantra meditation. Want to learn more about mantra? Google it. I use mantra to get things into my head.

Our Mantra: I am worth time, I am worth effort.

In a comfortable seat with an upright spine, bring your attention to your breath. Breathe normally and notice your breath in your body. Then notice your body in the space of the breath.

When completely aware of your breath, let’s layer on. As you inhale, say (I like out loud but in your head works too) “I am worth time”. Retain your breath and this thought at the top of your inhale. As you exhale, say “I am worth effort”. Pause before inhaling again, repeating the process.

Continue breathing with this thought until it comes naturally. You can use a mala for this meditation or count on your fingers. You could use a timer if you prefer. I find keeping count of time or rounds in my head distracting, so use a tool or use intuition to know when you’re done.

If this meditation resonates with you, make it your spiritual practice.

Remember to take each day to love and support your highest self, the part of you that makes you feel alive and a part of something beautiful.

Much love.