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SELF COMPASSION & YOGA RETREAT

What does it take to live a life of compassion? One doesn’t have to look very far in today’s world to see the needs are many and great. But what is compassion, really? Translated from Latin, it means “to suffer with.” Compassion is not the same as sympathy or pity. It’s not just the emotional response we feel when we see or hear stories of great suffering. The movement of compassion begins with awareness, causes us to discern our attitude and ultimately moves us to action, to enter into suffering, to get involved, to become vulnerable and to engage in the suffering of others. The four seeds of compassion are: non-judgment, non-violence (in thought, word and deed), forgiveness and mindfulness.Image result for yoga

“In your relationship to your pain and sorrow, you cultivate the patience, forgiveness, and understanding that inform your relationship with all pain and sorrow. It would be naïve to believe that profound compassion could be found to meet the great sorrow in life if you do not hold yourself in the same light,” Christine Feldman.

The goal of the Self Compassion & Yoga Retreat is to help us recognize how our attitude and approach to self affects our ability to be a compassionate presence with and for others. We will explore what it means to be compassionate toward oneself, become aware of the continuum of compassion fatigue and strategize plans for compassionate self care.

All of this will be put into immediate action through the practice of yoga. We will live out the seeds of compassion: non-judgment, non-violence, forgiveness and mindfulness through our bodies, recognizing that the care and attention we give on our mats can be lessons of how to live off our mats.

Join me July 12-13 at Christ Church Coronado for this unique opportunity. Registration is open now. Space is limited to 25 participants. Early Bird Registration ($65) ends May 30th and price increases to $80. https://heathersmithyoga.com/self-compassion-yoga-retreat-registration/

Self Compassion & Yoga Retreat

 

Heather Smith is a Yoga Alliance Certified RYT 200 and certified Boundless Compassion Facilitator. She spent years developing programs for refugees and immigrants, advocating for populations experiencing homelessness and as a bereavement coordinator with hospice. Find out more at http://www.heathersmithyoga.com

Balasana- Child’s Pose

Balasana is a restorative, calming pose that relaxes and rejuvenates the body. The stretch in the back relaxes the spine. It calms the muscles, thereby helping to alleviate pain, especially in back, neck, and shoulders. The knees are also stretched and relaxed, and therefore, the tendons, muscles, as well as joints are healed and made ready for functioning. The pose resembles a fetal position and is said to provide physical, mental, and emotional solace. Do yourself a favor and practice this pose as often as possible. balasana

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Come to your hands and knees on the mat.
  2. Spread your knees as wide as your mat, keeping the tops of your feet on the floor with the big toes touching.
  3. Bring your belly to rest between your thighs and your forehead to the floor.
  4. There are two possible arm variations. Either stretch your arms in front of you with the palms toward the floor or bring your arms back alongside your thighs with the palms facing upwards. Do whichever feels more comfortable for you. If you’ve been doing a lot of shoulder work, the second option feels nice.
  5. Stay as long as you like, eventually reconnecting with the steady inhales and exhales of your breath.

Benefits of Balasana

  1. It calms the mind.
  2. It’s great for digestion.
  3. It stretches and strengthens the spine.
  4. It opens your hips.
  5. It reminds you that resting is a good thing. 

Safety and Precautions

Avoid Child’s Pose if you have a knee injury. If you are pregnant, spread your legs wider and don’t press your stomach onto your thighs. If you have a shoulder injury, keeping your arms by your side will provide the most support.

If you feel any pain, ease out of the pose.

TRUTH

“Find out who you are and be that person. That’s what your soul was put on this Earth to be. Find that truth, live that truth and everything else will come.”

– Ellen DeGeneres

The truth is, I’m thrilled to be 40! I’m experiencing a level of self-acceptance and freedom that I haven’t known previously. When I turned 30, I celebrated with 50+ friends at a 70’s themed roller-skating party. This year, I spent the weekend with two best friends who know me, love me and inspire me. We talked and laughed and danced and cried. And I will forever reflect on it as a symbol of how I want to live life…….being vulnerable and asking for what I need, showing up for the people I care the most about, prioritizing relationships and experiences over things, being fully present in the joys and sorrows of life, not taking myself too seriously and speaking and hearing the TRUTH in all things.

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There is something profound about friends who can speak truth into your life.

At the beginning of Patanjali’s eight-fold path of yoga are the Yamas: the moral, ethical and societal guidelines for the practicing yogi. He instructs us that they should be practiced on all levels (actions, words, and thoughts) and they are not confined to class, place, or time. Satya is the second of the Yamas and means truthfulness.

Commentators on this sutra have interpreted it to mean that the words of a person established in satya have the power to evoke virtue in others. When we experience a person speaking from satya, we resonate with those words. Upon hearing such words, we feel that some deep, essential part of us has been seen, heard, and understood.

When we experience such profound acceptance and understanding, our soul is comforted. We feel at home from the inside out, and we are inspired to act from that place of virtue within ourselves. Beginning to practice satya by bringing awareness to our words aids us in our lives and relationships and also contributes to the well-being of the whole world. Why? To speak from satya brings out the very best in others. When we do this, we are creating at this very moment the world we want to live in, a world based in honesty, vulnerability, and connection.

So let’s take a moment in our interactions with one another and ask: Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it useful? Is it kind?

I often experience life lessons on my yoga mat that I can then take with me off the mat. But the reverse is also true. As we practice satya with ourselves and others, may it influence and inform the truth on our mats. Listen to your body. Does it hurt? Experienced yogis aren’t the ones who force themselves past their edge, the most experienced yogis take child’s pose at their body’s request. Stick to your experience. Your practice is yours. Don’t compare yourself to others. I may be more flexible but you are probably stronger. Everything you need to observe is happening within the four corners of your mat. Make sure your focus stays there. Be true to yourself both on and off your mat and see how your life is transformed.

INTENTION SETTING

I have found great benefits by setting an intention at the start of my yoga practice. An intention for me is a purposeful awareness of how I want to act or feel. This practice helps me to be more present in the moment and is often a guide back to myself when my mind wanders or distractions creep in.
Whether it’s a quality I wish to develop more of, a positive affirmation to myself or even dedicating my practice to someone who may need some encouragement, intention setting opens us up to all sorts of possibilities and is often the first step in practicing mindfulness.

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I’d like to encourage you to set an intention for the month of April and see what happens.   Use your yoga practice as a time to focus on your intention. If you don’t practice regularly, find a time of day that works best for you and spend a few moments meditating, reflecting or journaling on your intention.

Try to keep it positive. So instead of saying, “stop being afraid,” or “get more exercise,” choose the intentions, “I am courageous,” or “Practice self care.”

Need some inspiration? Spend some time asking yourself these questions and see what comes to the surface. What evokes feeling and purpose for you? What do you value? What would you like to forgive in your life? What would you like to build, nurture or create in your life? What would you like to let go of? What are you grateful for? Notice if a word or phrase comes to mind. Sit with it for a few moments and if it resonates with you, go with it.

Consider revisiting your intention often, whether you need a little extra guidance or are feeling stressed about a particular situation. Call it to the center of your mind and notice how it helps you stay grounded and connected to what’s most important.

GOALS

Maybe it’s because I’m turning 40 in a few weeks. Maybe it’s because I had to say my final goodbye to my dad seven months ago. Whatever the reason may be, I find myself being reminded that life is fragile and fleeting, that there are no guarantees. And lately I want to make the most of the time I have.

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I love a good list. So when it was 40 days before my 40th (because who doesn’t love that symmetry?), I made a list. It wasn’t long but it has helped me focus on some things I wanted to do or at least try to do in the coming days. I know I will complete over half the items on my list before April 13th, hopefully more. And it feels great! I’m hoping all of you will help me check off one of my favorite items: Make a “50 before 50” bucket list. Is anyone really surprised that making a new list in on my list?

I currently have 49 slots filled and have room for one more. That’s where you come in. I’m open to any suggestions and I want all your ideas. And to make it more fun, I will be giving away a free private yoga session to the person whose suggestion I add to my list.

So that you don’t suggest something already on the list, here’s what I’m aiming for over the next decade:

50 before 50

  1. Visit the 5 main Hawaiian islands
  2. Read 500 books
  3. Help Sooner get the Canine Good Citizen Certificate
  4. Volunteer with Sooner as a support dog
  5. Complete the SD 5 Peak Challenge
  6. Visit Yosemite
  7. Make a shadow box dedicated to my dad
  8. Complete a course in spiritual direction
  9. Watch the Macy’s Day Parade in person
  10. Tour the east coast in Autumn
  11. Reupholster a piece of furniture
  12. Buy a piece of art I really love
  13. Visit S. Korea and meet Seungji’s mom
  14. Try paddle boarding
  15. Try a spin class
  16. Try 50 new restaurants
  17. Visit at least 3 new countries
  18. Create a will/trust
  19. Take Dad’s ashes to New Zealand
  20. Complete visiting all 50 states
  21. Complete 25 random acts of kindness
  22. Ride a moped
  23. Ride a tandem bike with Gary
  24. See Hamilton
  25. Visit the Islamic Center of San Diego
  26. Trauma Informed Yoga Training
  27. Yin yoga training
  28. Research family history
  29. Cooking lesson with Safaa
  30. Adopt a rescue dog
  31. Explore home expansion
  32. Take at least 2 spiritual retreats
  33. Lead a yoga retreat
  34. Lead Boundless Compassion offerings
  35. Visit Nashville
  36. Do all San Diego Bite Tours
  37. Do a zipline in Costa Rica
  38. Stay overnight in a treehouse
  39. Go glamping
  40. Celebrate NYE in another country
  41. Make a wood project with Mac
  42. Visit California Adventure
  43. Get/play 10 new games
  44. Finish The Big Bang Theory- all seasons
  45. Read Harry Potter
  46. Visit 5 new ice cream/fro-yo shops in SD
  47. Take a cooking class
  48. Do a walking tour abroad
  49. Collect eggs from our own chickens
  50.  YOU DECIDE!

Some of the most important decisions we make are how we will spend our time. Who do you love spending time with? What brings you joy? Every day is a new opportunity to choose. Go do it. Don’t wait.

I’d love to know what’s on your list. And please leave a comment/suggestion on what you think should be #50 on my list.

Supta Baddha Konasana- Reclining Bound Angle Pose

POSE SPOTLIGHT

This restorative yoga pose has many benefits: it stimulates abdominal organs and the heart and improves general circulation. It stretches the inner thighs, groins, and knees. It helps relieve the symptoms of stress, mild depression, menstruation and menopause and calms the nervous system.

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Step by Step

  1. Lie down comfortably on your back, with your legs extended and your arms at your sides, palms face up toward the ceiling.
  2. Bend your knees to bring the soles (bottoms) of your feet together to touch. Rest the outer (pinky toe) edges of your feet on the mat. Let the legs fall open and allow gravity to support the weight of the legs.
  3. Check in with your body. If your hips and groin are feeling tight, you can take your feet further away from your body or place yoga blocks under your knees or thighs. Alternately, if you’re feeling more open, you can bring your feet closer toward your body to deepen the stretch.
  4. Relax your shoulders away from your ears and allow your back body to sink more deeply into the mat.
  5. To come out of the pose, take the palms of the hands on the outer thighs to gently fold the legs together, and bring the soles of the feet flat down on the mat. Then, hug your knees into your chest and gently rock from side to side to release the low back.

 

SPARK JOY

Does it “spark joy?” This is a question I heard many times as I watched Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up on Netflix. With a bestselling book and a reality show, the KonMari method of tidying is getting a lot of attention and I admit to binge watching all 8 episodes within a week. After asking my husband Gary if he wanted to “KonMari his clothes” every day for a month, I’m pleased to announce we both completed step one this past week. And I must say it felt pretty good.

Note: No animals were harmed in this process. Sooner definitely sparks joy for us both!

Our closet and drawers are more organized and we hauled 5 bags of stuff off to local charities. I found certain clothing items did “spark” something……..I wouldn’t necessarily call it joy. Maybe it’s because I’ve never had a real sense of fashion or cared too much about my clothes (except in junior high when I NEEDED to shop at Gap and The Limited or I thought my life might end). These days my wardrobe largely consists of yoga clothes (Hallelujah). So despite the lack of “joy” when handling each item of clothing I own, it did spark something else for me, an opportunity to reflect on joy…..what it is, where it comes from and if we can position ourselves in such a way to experience more of it.

First, joy and happiness are not the same. Happiness tends to be externally triggered and based on other people, places, things, thoughts and events. It seems to come and go quite often. I think joy has the potential to be consistent rather than fleeting and is cultivated internally……coming to peace with who you are, why you are and how you are.

Joy comes from a recognition that we are enough, that we are good, just as we are. It’s not based on how we look, how much money we make, who we know, what we have or don’t have. It’s a profound level of contentment and self acceptance.

There are so many things that can contribute to experiencing joy. Here are a few examples that work for me:

  1. Meditation/Prayer- It’s really important for me to quiet my mind, to be still and to just be. This is a time for me to listen to the voices and messages that matter the most, the ones that remind me that who I am and whose I am is more valuable than what I do.
  2. Gratitude- I find that when I can name things I am grateful for, I experience better balance and well-being. I also try to practice being grateful for challenges that I face, knowing they help me grow and cultivate resilience, helping me better understand what brings me joy and what doesn’t.
  3. Yoga- My yoga practice is an opportunity for meditation and gratitude. Although my body is usually moving in and out of poses, yoga helps settle my mind, to be fully present in the moment. It’s also an opportunity to express gratitude for my physical body and the work it does for me every day.

What in your life “sparks joy?” What are some practical ways you cultivate joy?