Making Peace with Birthdays

How sail boats made me excited to turn 30

This experience came at me out of no where.  Despite my 10 year high school reunion this year, I haven’t paid a particular amount of attention to my age (well, more than normal anyway).  So, this boat thing surprised  me and really, really helped me clear my head on the whole damn age thing. Weird Coincidences After a long run (well, long for me anyway, I’m a total newbie to running) along the shore front of Lake Superior in Duluth, Minnesota, I did my normal cool down walk.  It was a beautiful breezy summer day, and sweaty or not, something was calling me to go sit down on a public bench on the beach instead of returning immediately to my car to go home and shower.  The sky and water were both insanely blue, and I decided to listen to the urge to sit, rather than ignore it (the easier option). The only reason I actually listened to this voice came from my recent commitment to my meditation practice. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit as a yoga teacher for the past four years, my daily home meditation practice was sorely lacking.  I began to get serious about it this summer, and settled in to a nice space after a month or so. Stay with me here – once I made a commitment to get my butt down on the ground for 10 – 20 minutes (mind you, I had to work up to that amount of time, I started off with a few minutes each day), I started to see the benefits immediately, and I was addicted. I am  pushed to consider the world around and inside me, to recognize love in myself and admire love in everyone around me. It’s freaking amazing.  It puts me in check when I have a moment where something might jump out at me to knock me down. I take a moment to calm down or just breathe in gratitude. Much better than seeing red when someone cuts me off in traffic! It also guides me to focus and recognize when the universe tries to send me signs, messages, or just a little love. Normally people only acknowledge messages after something tragic happens, like a death, to see little signs of love around them. Small, yet significant – a particularly beautiful sunset, a certain song on the radio or a dog coming to say hello with the same name. The Event that Changed My Outlook About Age on the Beach About five minutes after I sat down on that bench I was called to put my booty in, I saw off in the distance a little parade of sail boats coming down the waterway.  They were about 1000 feet offshore, and a beautiful site to see.  They were coming in at a fast clip, so I decided to walk down to the water’s edge and take a few pictures. Right as I got to the shore line, I happened to look down at the pebble beach (I’m a big fan of mermaid tears/sea glass or beautiful rocks to collect), and there staring up at me was a beautiful heart-shaped rock. Now, this in and of itself would be a little universe love moment for me, but it was even more special because I love looking for heart shaped rocks specifically.  On our vacations, my boyfriend H would watch me look for interesting rocks or shells to keep, and he began to do the same thing for me when we were in long distance portions of our relationship. Today, there was the most lovely heart shaped rock, perfectly positioned, staring up at me. Heart Shaped Rock I smiled, picked it up, and continued to watch the boats come closer.  I sat down and took a few more pictures, and when I looked down again, I saw a little lady bug near my left calf, hanging out on the pebbles.  I smiled again, because I have always believed lady bugs are good luck.  Some people get freaked out by them, but I think they’re so stinkin’ cute!

Lady bug on the beach

I laughed out loud at this point, because I saw this as a third sign in the past five minutes of the Universe saying, shouting, “We love you!” I thought to myself, what exactly is the universe trying to say to me right now with this beautiful sail boat parade I was clearly meant to see? What do the boats symbolize?  They were sailing right in front of me at this point, and more beautiful and ethereal than ever. In some of my lessons with meditation and healers, they have mentioned the special nature of numbers.  Some people see a different sequence of numbers repeatedly come up in their life, or like to make a wish on the clock at 11:11. This is not something especially new, it dates back to the times of Hermes, Plato and Pythagoras.  While Plato wrote that everything in the Universe has base in basic geometrical shapes that comes from numbers, Pythagoras said everything is mathematically precise in the Universe, and each number is special with it’s own meaning (for more on this look up Doreen Virtue and number sequences, it’s pretty cool). So I counted the sail boats.  There were exactly 30.

Sail boats on Lake Superior

It took me exactly one second to begin the thought, “what does the number 30 symbolize to me…” to have it hit me.  My anxiety about turning 30.  Silly or not, I have freaked out about turning 30 since 25, and even before that, as a precocious child, I remember feeling upset at the thought of turning ten, because it meant I was no longer a child, but had to act more like a mature kid.  No idea where that fear or thought came from, but I feel like I’ve been carrying it around a very long time. So, I laughed again. I sat and looked at those gorgeous boats and realized something. Each one of those boats had it’s own personality – some were colors like blue and red or yellow, while others were small and white, or large and white with many people on board like tiny dots. Each one seemed so special that I couldn’t pick a favorite, which is another thing I like to do with groups of items.

Sail Boats and Turning 30

To me in that moment, each one symbolized a precious year of life – some were big and beautiful, while others were small and tilted like they were overcoming many obstacles and learning new lessons.  Each one had a team of people on board, some large, some tiny, but all had friends and family on board.  In my eyes, this symbolized how each year involves different family and friends that give out love and adoration – and each sail boat had very specific people on board. Different years, different experiences with life and the people that walk in and out.   Each one was purposefully planned yet left to the elements, specifically involved and there as a student or a teacher.  Each boat sailed on despite the obstacles, absence or presence of certain people and joy experienced. Each one was more beautiful than the next. To gaze at the boats as a whole, as a group, was stunning.  Mesmerizing even. As in, how lucky are we as people to have the number of years we do on this earth?  Each one special; full of difficult lessons learned, yes, but so special and beautiful and unique. And a blessing. I realized how thankless I had looked at life – to be upset to have one more year of experience, love and time with those I love.  To be so unaware of the blessings that come in and out of life with every surprising year. I made my mind up in that moment to be forever grateful instead of thankless and depressed at each birthday.  Each year to hold new experiences and people. No more ungrateful, pity-party birthdays.  My eyes drifted over the blue sky and settled on a fuzzy shape of the moon lit slightly during the day.  Almost blurred into the blue-sky background, I laughed out loud again.  I love the moon, and every time I see it I can’t help but recite the poem, “I see the moon and the moon sees me…” I have no idea why, but I know I see it as a little gift each time I notice it in a new light. Just to be sure, the Universe had one more bit of love.  I looked down at the ground as I walked away, and by chance saw a rose petal.  Under normal circumstances I would ignore the natural shedding of nature.  However, that very week, I was writing my blog post on the heart chakra, something I focused on improving in my own life.  The heart chakra is often associated with essential oil with Rose scent, or tea from rose hips.  This did not go unnoticed then with me, especially because no families on the beach around me had flowers. Again, I choose to see the meaning, rather than brushing off the beauty. Rose Petal on Beach I hope you read this with an open mind and an open heart.  To view age and universal communication-gifts in a different light.  To see the artistry of the mystery rather than poo-pooing everything. To have more fun in the dance through life.  Stop, notice, acknowledge, smell the roses, and just maybe count the boats too. Paz y luz, Azahar

What little love messages have you seen in the past week?  Have you ever noticed them before?

Chakra Series: Fourth – Heart Chakra (Part 4 of 7)

Your Fourth Chakra – The Heart Chakra:

Heart Chakra

Your Fourth Chakra, the Anahata Chakra, lives in the heart space, associates with the color green, the air element, and the mantra ‘Yam.’

Fourth Chakra Cheat Sheet: 

Sanskrit: ANAHATA
Color: GREEN (secondary PINK)
Lotus:  TWELVE PETALS
Mantra: I LOVE
Word: LOVE
Chant: YAM
Asanas: OPEN HEART CENTER – BACK BENDS, CAMEL, SPHINX
Mudra: RIGHT HAND, TOUCH INDEX FINGER TO THUMB, PLACE IN CENTER OF CHEST
WITH FINGER TIPS POINTING TOWARDS THE CHEST, LEFT HAND TO LEFT KNEE
Scents: ROSEWOOD, EUCALYPTUS, JASMINE
Teas: ROSEMARY AND RED ROSE PETALS
Stones: JADE, ROSE QUARTZ, EMERALD

Green Fourth Chakra

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” -Dalai Lama

Pure, unconditional love lives here.  We feel compassion, kindness, love, acceptance, and at peace in this chakra. You will feel love from everyone you come across, and therefore not strain or stress over how the love flows from one certain person.  You also have compassion and forgiveness for yourself. 

“It is astonishing how little one feels alone when one loves.”  ~John Bulwer

When Out of balance: This chakra can manifest itself in physical co-dependency, mental dependency on others, jealousy, anger, grief, loveless, judgmental, and a worry about what others think about you.

Bring Back in Balance: 

  • A simple way to connect with this space can be to wear the color green and/or sit in a comfortable posture with eyes closed and imagine the color green. Bonus if you do both and place your left hand over your heart, right hand over left while you breathe.  Imagine bright green surrounding your heart and cleansing any feelings of fear and replacing them with feelings of love and forgiveness.  
  • Sit in a quiet space and listen to sounds or chants associated with this chakra.  Tip: My favorite is to pull up a chant, song or singing bowls of healing chakra music on YouTube – specifically targeted at the chakra needing balance. Search “fourth chakra healing” or “heart chakra meditation.”
  • In meditation, you have the option to close your eyes and chant YAM or simply concentrate on the mantra I LOVE (poem below), with hands in the heart chakra mudra or a yoga asana (posture).
  • Turn on your favorite music and practice the yoga flow I outlined below.  Even 10 minutes would feel amazing.
  • All practices combined would be incredibly beneficial (chakra specific meditation, yoga, music, scents, colors, mudras, chants, and stones nearby)
  • Chakra energy clearing massage or energy work by a professional.
  • Incorporate the color green or pink into your wardrobe, wear the stones associated with this chakra in jewelry or place in your pockets (listed above), and place something green in your work space, meditation area or bedside table (it acts as a simple as a reminder to pay attention to your chakra intention – you will start to see the color green everywhere.  It truly helps!).
  • My favorite: Write out a card with the mantra quote below and place it on your desk at work or on your bathroom mirror at home – repeat it several times a day. Optional to place your hands on your heart while you close your eyes or simply smile.

Heart Yoga Postures: Asanas (postures) that aid in the strength, health and connection to this posture all aim to spread your chest open.  Try a series of sun salutations into back bends to warm up an open heart center. Supported savasana or corpse pose with hands over the heart for at least 5 minutes will also allow the body to heal and activate this third chakra.

Try these yoga postures to connect with the heart chakra, which will help balance your body’s energy (try all the postures together in sequence for a beautiful flowing Anahata Chakra yoga meditation practice):

Begin with three sun salutations to slowly open the body and sternum
Back bend three times, move only with full breaths
Cat/Cow to Open the Spine Further
Standing Bow Pulling Posture
Tree Pose with both hands on heart
Camel
Bridge or Wheel
Sphinx
Savasana with hands placed on the heart, shoulder blades scooped together to puff up the heart center

Heart Chakra Yoga Pose

Enjoy bursting your heart open wide with anahata yoga asanas!

Heart Mudra: Mudras are another way of capturing energy between mind and body, and used to heal and focus on certain afflictions in your mind and body. Just as powerful as the asana (yoga exercises), this movement of your hands removes blockages in the body and aids in focus in meditation.

  • Find a comfortable seated position and sit with a tall, long spine. Pull your shoulders down and back to open up your chest. With your right hand, touch index finger to thumb, place in center of your chest with finger tips towards the heart, left hand to left knee. 
  • Try this position for three deep inhales and exhales, concentrating on the sound ‘YAM,’ which is the anahata chakra chant. If you are new to meditation or calming breath, challenge yourself to sit for one minute or longer, the longer, the better effects.

Anahata Chakra Essential Oil Therapy: The sense of smell is the most powerful tool the human body has to effect mood. It is the fastest thing to bring back memory or to lift your spirits. Use this in conjunction with a heart yoga sequence, mudra, meditation, and mantra, and your will have powerfully strengthened your heart energy and come back to the base of ‘I LOVE.’

  • When using essential oil:
  • Dab a dot on your wrists and neck
  • In a diffuser to enhance your home smell (amazing to use in-home and easily found online – in the meantime boiling a few drops in water will do the trick to infuse your home as well)
  • Dilute into a spray bottle with a few drops oil the rest water to spray your space in yoga or at home
  • Add few drops into your bath tub
  • Rub on skin topically with a vehicle like coconut oil
  • Here are three examples of scents related to the Heart Chakra: Rose, Jasmine or Lavender.
Green Heart Chakra Color

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” -Buddha

Heart Mantra: “I am open to the deep reservoir of love in my heart.  I am loving, and I am loved. I am thoughtful, compassionate and committed to the unfolding of others.  I take delight and joy in the success of others.  I open my heart and embrace the world as one human family.  I willingly let go of the past and forgive others. I love!”

*              *             *
Seven Chakra Overview – 

This seven part chakra series is designed as a tool to help you focus your attention and energy on yourself, in order to improve how you feel and react to the world around you.

If one of the descriptions in this seven part series speaks to you, or you feel a connection with the information, listen to that intuition and try a few of the exercises and test out how you feel. In daily life there are negative and positive events everyone must come across; however, negative energies can take a toll on our bodies, and areas can become “blocked” or “choked.”

These exercises are methods to break through those blockages and clean out the body to regain strength with peace of mind and body.

The spine is a very powerful and central part of the human anatomy. Along your spine you have tiny nerve endings that flow energy out to all different parts of your body to perform everyday activities. Just like exercise and stretching helps strengthen muscles and ultimately bones, the spine is in need of attention as well.

Chakra line

There are seven main energy points along the spine, each connected to very specific body and mind function. If one of these energy centers is off or unhealthy, both the body and mind become unbalanced.

Yoga and meditation practice are important to every day health, because they both allow constant unclogging of these seven energy points.

For more on each of the seven chakras:

First Chakra: Root Chakra – Muladhara 
Second Chakra: Sacral Chakra – Svadhisthana 
Third Chakra: Solar Plexus Chakra – Manipura
Fourth Chakra: Heart Chakra – Anahata 
Fifth Chakra: Throat Chakra – Vishuddha
Sixth Chakra: Third Eye Chakra – Ajna
Seventh Chakra: Crown Chakra – Sahasrara

The light in me honors and respects the light in each and every one of you,
Azahar

~Next in Series: Fifth Chakra – Throat

Do you have any practices you like to incorporate into Chakra healing?

Chakra Series: Third – The Solar Plexus Chakra (Part 3 of 7)

Your Third Chakra – The Solar Plexus Chakra:

Solar Plexus Chakra

The Solar Plexus Chakra, or the Third Chakra, is located in between the rib cage and the belly button, associated with the color warm yellow and the element of Fire.  This chakra says “I DO or I CAN.”

Yellow Chakra

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” -Henry Stanley Haskins

Third Chakra Cheat Sheet: 

Sanskrit: MANIPURA
Color: YELLOW
Lotus: TEN PETALS
Element: FIRE
Mantra: I CAN
Word: POWER
Chant: RAM
Asanas: OPEN STERNUM – BACK BENDS, CAMEL, FLOOR BOW
Mudra: HANDS IN FRONT OF NAVAL, FINGERS OUTSTRETCHED AND ALL TIPS TOUCHING, RIGHT THUMB OVER LEFT THUMB
Scents: GRAPEFRUIT, LEMONGRASS, LEMON, PEPPERMINT
Tea: LEMON GRASS, CINNAMON, GINGER, LEMON PEEL (Lemon-Ginger anyone? Yum!)
Stones: TIGERS EYE AND AMBER (think of that beautiful warm yellow color).

This is the seat of ego identity and your power center.  Located here is your potential for transformation and soul integrity.  Your courage, self-esteem and willpower all reside here.  Any beliefs you have about yourself and your abilities, your “gut feelings,” so much is effected by this chakra because it is linked to what we BELIEVE we can do.

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t – you are right.”  -Henry Ford

When out of balance: If the manipura chakra is unbalanced, it manifests in the form of anxiety or shame: negative self-esteem, feelings of unworthiness, and questioning oneself.

Yellow Chakra 2 Blog

Bring it back in Balance:

  • A simple way to connect with this space can be to wear the color yellow and/or soak in the sun for fifteen minutes. Bonus if you do both and place your hand two inches above your belly button and hold it there while you breathe.  Imagine a fire of your power burning brightly and with strength.
  • Sit in a quiet space and listen to sounds or chants associated with this chakra.  Tip: My favorite is to pull up a chant, song or singing bowls of healing chakra music on YouTube – specifically targeted at the chakra needing balance. Search “third chakra healing” or “solar plexus chakra meditation.”
  • In meditation, you have the option to close your eyes and chant RAM or simply concentrate on the mantra I CAN (poem below), with hands in the solar plexus chakra mudra or yoga asana (posture).
  • Turn on your favorite music and practice the yoga flow I outlined below.  Even 10-15 minutes would feel beneficial.
  • All practices combined would be incredibly beneficial (chakra specific meditation, yoga, music, scents, colors, mudras, chants, and stones nearby)
  • Chakra energy clearing massage or energy work by a professional.
  • Incorporate the color yellow into your wardrobe, wear the stones associated with this chakra in jewelry or place in your pockets, and place something yellow in your work space, meditation area or bed (it acts as a simple as a reminder to pay attention to your chakra intention – you will start to see the color yellow everywhere.  It truly helps!).
  • My favorite: Write out a card with the mantra quote below and place it on your desk at work or on your bathroom mirror at home – repeat it several times a day. Optional to place your hands on your upper belly while you close your eyes or simply smile.

Solar Plexus Yoga Postures: Asanas (postures) that aid in strengthening this chakra are any type of back bend (where the sternum is spread open and wide), such as standing back bend, camel pose or floor bow.  Supported savasana or corpse pose for at least 10 minutes will also allow the body to heal and activate this third chakra.

Third Chakra Opening Yoga Backbend

Any back bends are third chakra openers!

Try these yoga postures to connect with the solar plexus chakra, which will help balance your body’s energy (try all the postures together in sequence for a beautiful flowing third chakra yoga meditation practice):

Begin with three sun salutations to slowly open the body and sternum
Back bend three times, moving only with full breaths
Sunflower
Cat/Cow to Open the Spine Further
Camel
Sphinx
Fish
Bridge
Savasana with hands placed above the belly button and below the rib cage

Solar Plexus Mudra: Mudras are another way of capturing energy between mind and body, and used to heal and focus on certain afflictions in your mind and body.  Just as powerful as the asana (yoga exercises), this movement of your hands removes blockages in the body and aids with focus in meditation.

  • Find a comfortable seated position and sit with a tall, long spine. Pull your shoulders down and back to open up your chest.  Bring hands in front of naval, extend the rest of your fingers out and touch finger tips together, cross right thumb over left thumb. Relax your hands comfortably on your knees.
  • Try this position for three deep inhales and exhales, concentrating on the sound ‘RAM,’ which is the solar plexus chakra chant.  If you are new to meditation or calming breath, challenge yourself to sit for one minute or longer – the longer, the better effects.

Third Chakra Meditation

Anahata Chakra Essential Oil Therapy: The sense of smell is the most powerful tool the human body has to effect mood. It is the fastest thing to bring back memory or to lift your spirits. Use this in conjunction with a heart yoga sequence, mudra, meditation, and mantra, and your will have powerfully strengthened your heart energy and come back to the base of ‘I LOVE.’

  • When using essential oil:
  • Dab a dot on your wrists and neck
  • In a diffuser to enhance your home smell (amazing to use in-home and easily found online – in the meantime boiling a few drops in water will do the trick to infuse your home as well)
  • Dilute into a spray bottle with a few drops oil the rest water to spray your space in yoga or at home
  • Add few drops into your bath tub
  • Rub on skin topically with a vehicle like coconut oil
  • Here are four examples of scents related to the Solar Plexus Chakra:  Lemongrass, Lemon, Grapefruit, Peppermint

Solar Plexus Mantra: “I am the power of peace.  I express my power with vast peacefulness. My power is inviting.  My power is making a difference in the world – just by being me. I am courageous.  I am whole.  I stand in my power.” -Author Unknown

*              *             *

Seven Chakra Overview – 

This seven part chakra series is designed as a tool to help you focus your attention and energy on yourself, in order to improve how you feel and react to the world around you.

If one of the descriptions in this seven part series speaks to you, or you feel a connection with the information, listen to that intuition and try a few of the exercises and test out how you feel. In daily life there are negative and positive events everyone must come across; however, negative energies can take a toll on our bodies, and areas can become “blocked” or “choked.”

These exercises are methods to break through those blockages and clean out the body to regain strength with peace of mind and body.

The spine is a very powerful and central part of the human anatomy. Along your spine you have tiny nerve endings that flow energy out to all different parts of your body to perform everyday activities. Just like exercise and stretching helps strengthen muscles and ultimately bones, the spine is in need of attention as well.

Chakra line

There are seven main energy points along the spine, each connected to very specific body and mind function. If one of these energy centers is off or unhealthy, both the body and mind become unbalanced.

Yoga and meditation practice are important to every day health, because they both allow constant unclogging of these seven energy points.

For more on each of the seven chakras:

First Chakra: Root Chakra – Muladhara 
Second Chakra: Sacral Chakra – Svadhisthana 
Third Chakra: Solar Plexus Chakra – Manipura
Fourth Chakra: Heart Chakra – Anahata 
Fifth Chakra: Throat Chakra – Vishuddha
Sixth Chakra: Third Eye Chakra – Ajna
Seventh Chakra: Crown Chakra – Sahasrara

The light in me honors and respects the light in each and every one of you,
Azahar

~Next in Series: Fourth Chakra – Heart

Do you have any practices you like to incorporate into Chakra healing?

Chakra Series: Second – Sacral Chakra (Part 2 of 7)

Your Second Chakra – The Sacral Chakra:

Sacral Chakra

Your Sacral Chakra lives in your hip space, your lower abdominal area, associates with the color orange, the water element, and the mantra ‘I FEEL.’

Second Chakra Quick Reference: Sanskrit: SVADHISTHANA Color: ORANGE Lotus: SIX PETALS Element: WATER Mantra: I FEEL Chant: VANG Asanas: HIP OPENERS & TWISTS Mudras: LEFT HAND UNDER RIGHT, THUMB TIPS TOUCHING Scents: ORANGE, ROSE, JASMINE, GARDENIA Tea: GREEN TEA, MANGO, ORANGE OR ROSEHIPS Stones: CITRINE, TANGERINE QUARTS, MOONSTONE

Orange Second Chakra

“Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person’s physical, emotional, and mental states.” -Carol Welch

Sacral Chakra: Where the body holds energy from relationships with other people, our passion for life, creativity, sexuality and money issues. When it is Out of balance: This chakra can manifest itself in intimacy issues, boundary issues, passive aggressive behavior, difficultly expressing feelings,  and anxiety or depression can build if money issues take over. Bring Back in Balance:

  • Sit in a quiet space and listen to sounds or chants associated with this chakra.  Tip: My favorite is to pull up a chant, song or singing bowls of healing chakra music on YouTube – specifically targeted at the chakra needing balance. Search “second chakra healing” or “sacral chakra meditation.”
  • In meditation, you have the option to close your eyes and chant VANG or simply concentrate on the mantra I FEEL (poem below), with hands in the sacral chakra mudra or in a sacral chakra yoga asana (posture).
  • Turn on your favorite music and practice the yoga flow I outlined below.  Even 10-15 minutes would feel beneficial.
  • All practices combined would be incredibly beneficial (chakra specific meditation, yoga, music, scents, colors, mudras, chants, and stones nearby)
  • Get those hips moving and dance! In the privacy of your own home and favorite tunes, or out in a dance space you feel comfortable in.
  • Chakra energy clearing massage or energy work by a professional.
  • Incorporate the color orange in your wardrobe, wear the stones associated with this chakra in jewelry or place in your pockets, and place something orange in your work space, meditation area or bed (it may act as a simple as a reminder to pay attention to your chakra intention.
  • Write out a card with the mantra quote below and place it on your desk at work or on your bathroom mirror at home – repeat it several times a day.  Optional to place your hands on your low belly while you close your eyes or simply smile.

Sacral Yoga Postures: Anything that opens the hips or belly is a beautiful manifestation of this chakra – twists are wonderful to create this connection.  Below are some examples of how to best create a short sequence to heal your second chakra.

Try these yoga postures to connect to your sacral chakra, which will help to balance your body’s energy (try all of them together in sequence for a beautiful flowing Second Chakra meditation practice!):

Child’s Pose (to feel breath in sacral chakra) Dancer Triangle (Twisting) Wheel of life Frog Pose Half pigeon Supported bridge pose End in Savasana with both hands on top of your belly to feel the breath

Orange Second Chakra Yoga

“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” -Zen proverb

Sacral Mudra: Mudras are another way of capturing energy between mind and body, and used to heal and focus on certain afflictions in your mind and body. Just as powerful as the asana (yoga exercises), this movement of your hands removes blockages in the body and aids in focus in meditation.

  • Find a comfortable seated position and sit with a tall, long spine. Pull your shoulders down and back to open up your chest. Place your left hand underneath your right hand, and bring the tips of your thumbs together to touch. Relax your hands comfortably at naval level.
  • Try this position for at least three deep inhales and exhales, concentrating on the sound ‘VANG,’ which is the sacral chakra chant. If you are new to meditation or calming breath, challenge yourself to sit for one minute or longer, the longer, the better effects.

Sacral Essential Oil Therapy: The sense of smell is the most powerful tool the human body has to effect the mood. It is the fastest thing to bring back memory or to lift your spirits. Use this in conjunction with a sacral yoga sequence, mudra, meditation, and mantra, and your will have powerfully strengthened your svadhisthana. Come back to the base of ‘I FEEL.’ When using essential oil, dab a bit on your wrists and neck, in a diffuser (amazing to use in-home and easily found online), dilute into a spray bottle with a few drops oil the rest water, a few drops into your bath tub, or to rub on skin topically with a vehicle like coconut oil.

  • Four examples of scents related to the Sacral Chakra: Citrus focused, such as Orange, or with Rose, Jasmine, and Gardenia.
Orange Second Chakra Color

“Never apologize for showing feeling. When you do so, you apologize for the truth.” -Benjamin Disraeli

Sacral Mantra: “I acknowledge my uniqueness. I am a unique manifestation of unique energy from the divine energy in physical form. I acknowledge the physicality and sensuality of my body. I am a sensual and creative being. I attract only whole and nurturing relationships into my life.”

*             *              *

Seven Chakra Overview~

This seven part chakra series is designed as a tool to help you focus your attention and energy on yourself, in order to improve how you feel and react to the world around you. If one of the descriptions in this seven part series speaks to you, or you feel a connection with the information, listen to that intuition and try a few of the exercises and test out how you feel. In daily life there are negative and positive events everyone must come across; however, negative energies can take a toll on our bodies, and areas can become “blocked” or “choked.” These exercises are methods to break through those blockages and clean out the body to regain strength with peace of mind and body. The spine is a very powerful and central part of the human anatomy. Along your spine you have tiny nerve endings that flow energy out to all different parts of your body to perform everyday activities. Just like exercise and stretching helps strengthen muscles and ultimately bones, the spine is in need of attention as well. Chakra line   There are seven main energy points along the spine, each connected to very specific body and mind function. If one of these energy centers is off or unhealthy, both the body and mind become unbalanced. Yoga and meditation practice are important to every day health, because they both allow constant unclogging of these seven energy points.

For more on each of the seven chakras:

First Chakra: Root Chakra – Muladhara  Second Chakra: Sacral Chakra – Svadhisthana  Third Chakra: Solar Plexus Chakra – Manipura Fourth Chakra: Heart Chakra – Anahata  Fifth Chakra: Throat Chakra – Vishuddha Sixth Chakra: Third Eye Chakra – Ajna Seventh Chakra: Crown Chakra – Sahasrara

The light in me honors and respects the light in each and every one of you, Azahar ~Next in Series: Third Chakra – Solar Plexus

Do you have any practices you like to incorporate into Chakra healing?

Chakra Series: First – Root Chakra (Part 1 of 7)

 

Your First Chakra – The Root Chakra:

Root chakra

Your Root Chakra lives at the base of the spine (tail bone), associates with the color red, the earth element, and the mantra ‘I AM.’

First Chakra Cheat Sheet: 

Sanskrit: MULADHARA
Color: RED
Lotus: FOUR PETALS
Element: EARTH
Mantra: I AM
Chant: LAM
Asanas: ANYTHING THAT CONNECTS THE BASE OF YOUR SPINE TO THE EARTH
Mudra: TOUCH YOUR INDEX FINGER AND THUMB TOGETHER TO TOUCH.  EXTEND THE REST OF YOUR FINGERS OUT
Scents: CEDAR, GERANIUM AND PATCHOULI
Tea: GREEN TEA, RASPBERRY, HIBISCUS
Stones: RUBY, GARNET, FIRE OPAL

Red Rood Chakra

“There is deep wisdom within our very flesh, if we can only come to our senses and feel it.” ~Elizabeth A. Behnke

This very first chakra is the base and beginning for the entire seven chakras located along the spine.  Therefore, if this chakra is out of balance, all seven power centers will feel off and out of alignment.

Root: Intuition, confidence and survival.  The root chakra releases frustration, blockages, and allows healing and manifestation of physical pleasure.

When it is Out of balance:  This chakra manifests itself in a physical lack of energy, a stuck feeling, external pressure, and/or money stress.

Bring it back in balance:

  • A simple way to connect with this space can be to wear the color red. Bonus if you also place your hand on the ground in a seated position and hold it there while you breathe. Imagine a deep red color as you sit, hips rooted to the earth in a peaceful and comforting way.
  • Sit in a quiet space and listen to sounds or chants associated with this chakra.  Tip: My favorite is to pull up a chant, song or singing bowls of healing chakra music on YouTube – specifically targeted at the chakra needing balance. Search “first chakra healing” or “root chakra meditation.”
  • In meditation, you have the option to close your eyes and chant LAM or simply concentrate on the mantra I AM (poem below), with hands in the root chakra mudra or yoga asana (posture).
  • Turn on your favorite music and practice the yoga flow I outlined below.  Even 10-15 minutes would feel beneficial.
  • All practices combined would be incredibly healing (chakra specific meditation, yoga, music, scents, colors, mudras, chants, and stones nearby)
  • Chakra energy clearing massage or energy work by a professional.
  • Incorporate the color red into your wardrobe, wear the stones associated with this chakra (information below) in jewelry or place in your pockets, and place something red in your work space, meditation area or bed (it acts as a simple as a reminder to pay attention to your chakra intention – you will start to see the color red everywhere.  It truly helps!).
  • Write out a card with the mantra quote below and place it on your desk at work or on your bathroom mirror at home – repeat it several times a day. Optional to sit with your hips rooted in the ground while you close your eyes or simply smile.

Root Yoga Postures:  Anything that roots you to the earth is  a beautiful manifestation of this chakra – you may use your feet, hips or even hands to create this connection.  When your Hips touch the earth, it is especially powerful, as it plants the tip of your tailbone into the ground. Thus any hip openers are extremely valuable to open up your root chakra, as the energy point is in connection, or rooted to the earth.

Seated and connected with the earth.

Seated and connected with the earth.

Try these yoga postures to connect to your root chakra, which will help to balance your body’s energy (try all of them together in sequence for a beautiful flowing Root Chakra meditation practice!):
Mountain Pose
Chair Pose
Standing Separate Leg Pose
Seated forward Leg Stretching
Prone Frog
Half Pigeon
Half Locust
Full Locust
Separate Leg Stretching Head to Knee
Shavasana

Think about

Think about how every posture can root you to the earth.  Use your hips, hands or feet to connect.

Root Mudra: Mudras are another way of capturing energy between mind and body, and used to heal and focus on certain afflictions in your mind and body.  Just as powerful as the asana (yoga exercises), this movement of your hands removes blockages in the body and aids in focus in meditation.

  • Find a comfortable seated position and sit with a tall, long spine. Pull your shoulders down and back to open up your chest.  Touch your index finger and thumb together to touch. Extend the rest of your fingers out.  Relax your hands comfortably on your knees.
  • Try this position for three deep inhales and exhales, concentrating on the sound ‘LAM,’ which is the root chakra chant.  If you are new to meditation or calming breath, challenge yourself to sit for one minute or longer, the longer, the better effects.

“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” -Zen proverb

Root Essential Oil Therapy:  The sense of smell is the most powerful tool the human body has to effect mood.  It is the fastest thing to bring back memory or to lift your spirits.  Use this in conjunction with a root yoga sequence, mudra, meditation, and mantra, and you will have powerfully strengthened and come back to the base of ‘I AM.’  When usuing essential oil, dab a bit on your wrists and neck, in a diffuser (amazing to use in-home and easily found online), dilute into a spray bottle with a few drops oil the rest water, a few drops into your bath tub, or to rub on skin topically with a vehicle like coconut oil.

  • Here are three examples of scents related to the Root Chakra: These scents are heavier, and longer lasting scents (after all, they are associated with the base, root chakra).  Cedar, Geranium and Patchouli.

Root Mantra:  “The universe is a safe and loving place.  I am safe in this world, I was ordained to be here right now, at this time.  The Divine shall supply all needs.  There is enough for everyone, including me.  I belong and have the right to be here.  I am able to stand up for myself.  The earth and all its wonders nourish me.  The trees, rocks and soil, the are gifts from the creators, which team with life.  I am rooted and grounded in life.”

*              *             *
Seven Chakra Overview – 

This seven part chakra series is designed as a tool to help you focus your attention and energy to on yourself to improve how you feel and react to the world around you.

If one of the descriptions in this seven part series speaks to you, or you feel a connection with the information, listen to that intuition and try a few of the exercises and test out how you feel.  In daily life there are negative and positive events everyone must come across; however, negative parts take a toll on our bodies, and areas can become “blocked” or “choked.”  

These exercises are methods to break through those blockages and clean out the body to regain strength and peace of mind and body.

The spine is a very powerful and central part of the human anatomy.  Along your spine you have tiny nerve endings that flow energy out to all different parts of your body to perform everyday activities.  Just like exercise and stretching helps strengthen muscles and ultimately bones, the spine is in need of attention as well.

Chakra line

There are seven main energy points along the spine, each connected to very specific body and mind function.  If one of these energy centers is off or unhealthy, both the body and mind become unbalanced.

Yoga and meditation practice is so important because it allows constant unclogging of these seven energy points.

For more on each of the Seven Chakras:

First Chakra: Root Chakra – Muladhara 
Second Chakra: Sacral Chakra – Svadhisthana 
Third Chakra: Solar Plexus Chakra – Manipura
Fourth Chakra: Heart Chakra – Anahata 
Fifth Chakra: Throat Chakra – Vishuddha
Sixth Chakra: Third Eye Chakra – Ajna
Seventh Chakra: Crown Chakra – Sahasrara

The light in me honors and respects the light in each and every one of you,
Azahar

~Next in Series: Second Chakra – Sacral

Do you have any practices you like to incorporate into Chakra healing?

The Amazingness of Fresh Food in the Dutch City Center Market

The markets in Groningen are the best.  THE BEST.  

I always wanted to go to farmers markets in the states, but I never had my behind in gear enough to make a list, drive to one on the correct day and time, find parking, wander about for the best prices, determine if I was saved or lost money on the things I needed, etc.

A lot of excuses, I know.  Especially when it’s important to support the markets and the healthy produce, but I was lazy.  I admit it.

Here in Groningen though, we live a five minute walk to the city center, and three days a week, the entire day, they are set up in the main square, The Fisch Maart (the Fish Market).  It’s amazing!

There are fresh fish stands too, along with fried fish stands (yum), candy stands, nut stands (which smell devine when they roast them), mushroom stands, spice stands, juice stands, meat stands, and of course The Netherlands as the largest producer of cheese – giant, beautiful cheese stands.

Enjoying the famous Dutch waffles with carmel inside!

Enjoying the famous Dutch waffles with carmel inside!

We descovered the ease and great prices of our fresh food market a few weeks in living so near the city center, and finally made an afternoon of it one Saturday.

Let me tell you, it is a beautiful thing to walk through these rows upon rows of fresh fruit and vegetables.  The photographer inside me begins to itch, but it feels weird to take pictures unless we buy, so I only get some of the shots I want.

It feels wonderful to walk in and out of these fresh food stalls, on the cobblestone streets, inside my language bubble while I listen to the guttural Dutch around me.  The vendors smile and break into effortless English when H and I ask for things, even if we try out a little Dutch at first.  Much different than in S. Korea, where I learned a bit of the language more quickly out of necessity!

European Farmers Market

Bags heavy with our favorite fruits and veggies, we usually walk a little slower back towards home, through the outdoor cafe tables with couples that watch the passerby, little shops with the owners that poke their heads out to check the weather, and restaurants with loud and boisterous patrons.

A small ten minute walk back, we cross over the canal full with boat houses and make it to our doorstep, across from a specialty grocery store, cafe bar, another little cafe that fits about five people, and next door to other apartment homes.

Fresh tea from the market - making it like the Dutch (in that the stems are in the glass - their version is much, much prettier)!

Fresh tea from the market – making it like the Dutch (in that the stems are in the glass – their version is much, much prettier)!

Sometimes it rains, sometimes it’s a beautiful blue day, but we walk to the market just the same.  Rain or shine, the market is always open – even when there is a carnival set up in its space (which totally happened the other day).  It just sets up in the street, next to the neon lights and screaming rides.  I love this place.

Do you have a favorite fresh food market or place to shop where you live?

Pieces of Home When Adjusting to Life Abroad

I created a bucket list of things to do in my new Dutch city of Groningen (with a German boyfriend), but after I created it, I felt a bit like I’ve wasted my time thus far – two months in to my journey.

 So I decided to do the opposite both, and write out all the things I originally wanted to find abroad before I left the States, and have since found in my daily living and wanderings. Things that make me feel a bit closer to home and make my new surroundings  that much more friendly.

Photographing GroningenAlways looking for the next thing to photograph

Groningen Bucket List:

1. Master the bike dance – enjoy entering a busy roundabout instead of dreading it.
2. Boat ride – The canals look so inviting!
3. More Dutch food – there are many fish-thingies I have yet to try at the Fish Market.
4. The Hauge – Everything seems to be there – and where Obama goes for important meetings!
5. Southern Netherlands – Anywhere, I’ve heard it’s beautiful.
6. Visit the Marlin Manson Museum – the Monet Exibit!
7. View a show at the Oosterport Theater.
8. Go to a movie at the Pathe Theater.

The Little things I’ve accomplished – adjusting to the Dutch (and German) life:

1. Found: English used book store – This was top on my list, and I only just found it at the end of my second month here.  A rack of books outside a shop in the street with a 1 Euro sign will get me to stop every time. Turns out, they were all in English! Gold mine.  The best coincidence? I recently proclaimed The Poisonwood Bible by Barbra Kingsolver as my new favorite (tied of course with Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things), and low and behold, there was another Barbra Kingsolver book.  It was meant to be on all fronts.

2. Found: Favorite coffee/wine shop – This one I admit I received help from H on. It is a large cafe/pizzeria/bar tucked in a little courtyard near the university.  Large with oversized couches and tree trunk wooden stumps as tables, and a large dining area in the back with dozens of old coo-coo clocks on the walls.  I order a machiato and can sit for a few hours un-bothered with their amazing internet and plug ins.  It turns into a pretty chic bar around 5 pm, when they light all the candles and it fills up pretty quickly.  Amazing wine for under 3 Euros.

European CafeWine and coffee – the perfect mix

3. Found: Knitting shop and stand – I am pretty proud of finding a shop and a yarn booth (they have craft booths open every week in the city center!).  The owner even wished me ‘good luck’ with a big smile in halting English.

4. Found: Affordable farmers market – What. Best find ever.  I go to the farmers markets in the US and WISH the prices were this amazing.  I wish it was more than
once a week!

European Farmers MarketFresh and inexpensive fruits and veggies!

5. Found: Dollar store version, Euro store  I love myself a good bargain.  Second hand, vintage, used, inexpensive, whatever. I love it.

6. Know: Three neighborhood cats – As it would be cruel to own a cat in our small studio I have a special affinity towards my neighborhood cats.  There are three that I pass regularly on my way to yoga.  They make me feel at home!

7. Found: Fancy version of Target – Hemma.  It has a little food area like IKEA, multi levels of items like sunscreen to candles to chocolates to great makeup and accessories.  All with affordable prices in a polished background. Need I say more?

8. Found: Cheap grocery store – Funny enough the inexpensive grocery store with the great deals is German. Aldi.

9. Found: Salsa/cilantro – Again, win with the food markets!  Inexpensive fresh produce twice a week in the town center.  I almost died when I spotted the cilantro four weeks into my Chipoltle/Illegal Pete’s food craving.  The salsa comes in the size of jars I eat in one sitting.

10. Experienced: Biking long distances – I have totally had the burning thighs because of this, but I’ve done it.  Biking all over this city!

11. Experienced: Different beers and wines, local food – Fried fish, doner (German), french fries in cones with mayonnaise, pizza with a knife and fork.  Favorite beer? A Polish one (oops), Raddler anything (lemonade mixed with beer, a German specialty for younger folk and old people. I love it!), Heineken on tap anywhere we go in the Netherlands.

Dutch BeerThe perfect spot to people watch and sip fancy beer

12. Living in a 350 sq. ft. studio with boyfriend – We are actually enjoying it, and haven’t killed each other.  Success!

13. Experienced: Shopping and sipping in a European city – I love that most sunny afternoons you can see people sitting out in front of cafes and bars sipping wine and coffees in the sun chatting all over the city center.  The same with shops in beautiful old buildings lined up directly next to one another.  Shop and sip!

14. Found: Library to work at comfortably – The local university library is easy to walk into and has students studying on multiple levels for a great work background. Makes me feel young again – and glad I’m done with my MBA!

15. Found: Yoga studio to teach and take class – Even though the classes I take are in Dutch, I follow along easily enough and have an amazing community of like-minded people.  The first studio I inquired at had a welcoming owner that invited me to teach the hot class after she auditioned me the same week .  It feels great to have a second home – I now know no matter where I live, I will always be able to find a yoga person, studio or community to feel welcomed into.

16. Found: Favorite parks to sit, read and sun – Working from home makes me go a little stir-crazy, as much of a blessing as it is to work in PJ’s.   I break free for an hour around lunch, and frequent a few local parks (Groningen is great about the green spots and parks everywhere).  Many have small lakes, ponds or canals I walk along and feel instant peace.  As a water-city and so close to the sea, there are a ton of different bird/duck/water bird varieties to watch. Just don’t get too close!

Wildlife in EuropeThis guy got way too close for comfort –
What? It would hurt if they bite!

If you are in a new place or space, what things or locations make you feel less homesick and at peace?

The Power of Your First Yoga Class

“Yoga is not about being bendy … it is about breathing and moving and smiling on the inside.  It is the hardest thing I have ever done, but also the best.” – Author Unknown

We all had to start somewhere in yoga (or perhaps you have wanted to start).  That day took courage and unquenchable curiosity to drive or walk to the pre-chosen studio, ask for the paperwork to sign up, and roll out a mat in a little space in a foreign studio.

Add not speaking the same language as the instructor and those in class, and that was my first yoga experience: South Korea in 2007.

I wanted to try yoga for so long, but thought I lost the opportunity when I went to South Korea for my graduate degree in 2007.  I couldn’t speak the language, and I had never tried yoga – that sealed the deal to never allow myself inside a studio, right?

Well, it was for me, until my American friend told me he tried out the class and loved it.  So, I sheepishly went with him to the next session, and loved it too. I attended regularly for the full two years I lived in Seoul, and it saved my sanity during my MBA program.

I followed along well for the most part by simply watching the teacher and the other students around me.  My teacher spoke little English, but made us feel connected to the practice by simply stating two words in English – inhale and exhale.  She whispered these words whenever she walked near us – she knew what all yogis eventually learn: breath is the most important part.

Behind of course, simply showing up to the practice.

At the end of class she always placed her hands on my shoulders and pressed them into the ground further – a gesture I found so relaxing, simple and uniquely yoga.

Assuming you’ve tried out a class – or 1000, I ask: what was your first yoga class like? Close your eyes and search back – what made you finally step out of your comfort zone and go? Even if it was ‘for another person,’ you still took that leap of faith and went.  If you pulled from that space in other areas in your life regularly, you would be unstoppable. A powerhouse.  The nerve, self-confidence, curiosity, and love for oneself to attend a first yoga class is so amazing.

What if you hated your first yoga class?  Try again.  Thanks to the early part of the 20th century and the East mixing with the West, yoga has divided into so many amazing variations of the practice, you WILL find a yoga asana perfectly suited to you.  If the first class you tried was too energetic and workout related, look for a calmer, more meditative alternative. Anything with the words yin, restore, meditative, or even hatha would suit a more calm and restorative type of practice.  If the opposite is true for you, and the class almost put you to sleep (and you wanted a heart-pumping workout), look for any classes with the words power, core, yang or even Vinyasa. The point is to at least try a few different classes, instructors, locations – because the benefits of a regular practice are unending.  No matter how long I take a break from my mat, I feel the effects again as soon as I step back on.

After my first yoga experience in South Korea, and in my yoga teacher training, the famous saying is now ingrained in me: “Half the battle is just showing up.” It’s so true, the more you can make it to your mat and just accept what comes from your body and from your mind during that small space of carved out time, the most amazing things start to happen.

So if you’ve been feeling a bit down or repetitive in your practice lately, try this: In your next class at home or in the studio simply think back to your first time on the mat – welcome those same feelings, curiosity and non-judgment (remember that place of no expectations in class?) and see what opens up for you.

The same if you’ve never been to a class – what are you waiting for? Just try it – the positives far outweigh any worst case yoga-scenario. You might even learn a bit more along the way. Enjoy the journey of this lifelong practice. 

The light in me honors and respects the light in you,
Azahar

Top 15 Reasons Why I love Germany and Germans

I’ve lived with my German almost one year now (half a year in the US, a few weeks in Latin America, and two months here in Europe so far), and I’ve picked up a few of my favorite qualities of Germans in that time period.  Add that to my observation of life in Europe and his amazing family and friends, I made a list of my ‘favorite things’ a la Julie Andrews and the Sound of Music:

Top 15 Reasons I love Germany and Germans:

1. The beer and chocolate – cliché, but I don’t care. It’s delicious. Be aware, Germans have their favorite German brands, and stating what you like best can start quite the debate.

German Beer

2. The blunt honesty. Sometimes it makes me laugh out loud. And throws me off only a little as a ‘Minnesota Nice’ gal.

3. The polite dinner parties and table manners.  Young or old, to watch Germans eat is fascinating.  The elegant way they navigate EVERYTHING (think pizza, french fries, etc.) with a knife and fork is borderline beautiful. My hypothesis is because they live at home longer than most Americans in their 20’s, they gain a knack for throwing adult dinner parties without even trying.  Everyone brings a well thought out and prepared side, rather than the store bought chips and dip I usually bring to barbecues!

German Meal

4. The majority of people on the streets are so nicely dressed. I especially love the guys in scarves.  My favorite clothing to observe people wear is shorts – girls always add tights underneath, and guys wear capris  (although the above the knee wide shorts are making a comeback with guys, which is very exciting).

5. The word katze. As a cat person, this is obvious. Cah-t-za.

6. The small cars and the autoban. Cars that whiz past in the left lane still surprise me.

7. The way the call their cell phone a ‘handy’.

8. The German accent in English. Think YouTube sensation Flula.  Amazing. While my German speaks fluent English, there is a word every now and then that will make me smile in the pronunciation (think ‘beer’ for the word ‘bear’ and ‘peegion’ for ‘pigeon’), and of course the way he says my name “Azaahh (Germans don’t pronounce the hard ‘R’ which transforms my name). My favorite phrase: “Make a picture” instead of “Take a picture.” I can’t wait to find out the things I say in German as I begin to learn more!

9. The way in the north everyone greets one another with ‘Moin!’ while walking down the street.

10. The solar panels and windmills EVERYWHERE.

11. Gluhwein (mulled wine) is SO inexpensive and delicious!

Image

12. How you have to ‘Prost’ (cheers) before taking a sip of anything, every time, AND look each other in the eye. EVERYONE you cheers.

13. How an American would say, “It was so exciting!” to something a German would say, “It was ok.”

14. The intensity Germans have for their bread, rolls and baked goods. For instance you will be laughed at if you try to put peanut butter on black bread, or try and toast it for that matter.  The intensity makes for really a really delicious roll or baked good though!

Image

15. The precise and well planned everything.  Sometimes it stresses me out that most everyone is so punctual and hard working, versus a more laid back attitude. Then again, everything around you is humming along in perfect order.

What are some of your favorite German things?