Freedom Yoga as a Lifestyle. Tips from Erich Schiffman!

If you have taken a class with me in the past few years, you know that I have been deeply inspired by the teachings of Erich Schiffman and Freedom Style Yoga.  His influence has really allowed me to expand my awareness of what a yoga practice should be, look, and feel.  I was SO fortunate to be with him last weekend at the Freedom Yoga Retreat in Yogaville, and to share the experience with Saylor and lil ommies Ada & Paige.
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The best part of practicing freedom yoga is when Erich turns on some of his favorite music and just lets the whole room do a free form session.  No prescribed flow, no adjustments, just movement. The energy, the art, the creativity that you feel is really amazing and palpable.  Encouraging Saylor to see and feel this practice was very special to me as we were able to intuitively connect over partner poses and the music, which is something we needed after a tough week.
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Being with Erich reminded me of some foundational principles to really integrating yoga into your life.  In October 2013 I shared some of my experience from Big Mind Live with Erich at Yogaville in 2013.  Now, I’m excited to share with you some of the BIG takeaways from our recent time together.  I hope you can think about these, let it marinate, and share with me what you think about freedom, yoga, and life.

Of course, once I was paying attention and thinking about freedom I started seeing it everywhere!
Like this powerful blog post from Liz Gilbert.
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Erich’s teachings for yoga and life:
  • Yoga is the inquiry into truth.
  • Yoga is conscious union with the infinite that is being expressed by you.
  • Remember to do a “Pause Practice” regularly, as often as you can remember. This is where you pause, exhale and relax.  Do this whenever you remember to do it, and as often as you can.  I’ll be offering a Pause Practice @ IMCW November 18th!
  • Go into listen mode more often. Be attentive and aware and universal.  Wisdom will have a place to come in.
  • Love is the willingness to recognize that which is real.
  • Regularly as yourself, “What is the Truth here really?”
  • Allow yourself to “silent mind it” and be willing to not know all the answers all the time.
  • Relax More. Love more. Trust more (and be brave in the trusting). This is not easy.  It’s simple, but not easy.
  • In your yoga practice- look for moments to linger, flow on, pause, slow down, and change it up. Channel your poses through the energy in your body.  Think about what you are energizing, what thoughts you energize, and what you give your attention to.
  • Find some patterns in the body that you like to practice.
  • When you start a free form yoga practice, start with the postures you know and look for options and choices in the poses, and get into it a little more with the breath to help guide you. It’s important to learn from a school of yoga, get the basic form and alignment, to have some discipline around the learning of the system BUT eventually the discipline dissolves and intuitive practice guides.  Do enough movements so that it feels GOOD!  It’s nice to do both formal practice and free form practice.
For more teachings from Erich, sign up to listen to his recordings and teachings here.  
Below are 2 videos- one about yoga, and one about meditation.

Final Thoughts
I encourage my students to try “Bed Med”.  Slide out of bed in the morning or into bed at night and just PAUSE a few breaths, sit and meditate here for as long as feels good- before you doze off or before you start your day.   Think of yoga and meditation as lifestyle. Remembering to relax and listen for Universal Wisdom is part of this lifestyle.  The yoga postures are awareness training, just a physical way for us to be aware of the subtle and to practice listening to our bodies.

Many of you know that behind the scenes I am a crazy voracious reader. I always have at least 3-4 books on my shelf, in my purse, my car, my life! I read something every day and I mostly love non fiction books around wellness, wisdom and wealth.  These are the categories I define as well being, self help, growth, transformation; all great stories of change and love and truth (i.e. freedom).

For the past 6 months or so I have been dreaming of a way to share my love for the teachings and thoughts in these books to a greater audience, and ta-da! The Omm @ Home Virtual Book Club for Inspired Women was born.  Each book has been carefully selected to help cultivate our awareness and understanding of the universal truths and wisdom practices.  Sign up here to learn more and to get the reading list, starting with October’s book  Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.  Our first online meeting will be on Wednesday, October 26th @ 7:30pm.  We meet on the last Wednesday of each month!  If you can’t make it live, a recording will be sent to you!

Take a moment to pause, relax, and listen before the holiday rush.  Join me at IMCW on Friday, November 18th from 9:30am-2:30pm for the Pause half-day yoga & meditation retreat.

Getting Started with Your Practice: Resources and Support

This has been on my mind so much lately…

It’s not the to-do list with checked boxes, the app with the timers and bells and whistles, or the endless meal planning that will change your life.Think about it… what does it mean to “be on top of it all?”  ALL the time spent worried about what “others will think” WHO are those specific others?  Can you see them? Are they people that you care about, that mean a lot to you?  If not, why are “they” taking up so much of your mind space? your energy? your life?

My dear friends, freedom occurs when you cultivate a real, authentic, meaningful, dynamic relationship to YOUR  life. The relationship in which you trust and love and treat with compassion, the realities of your responsibilities. Freedom occurs when you CHOOSE joy over endless to-do’s and you wake up to the value of a spacious, expansive, creative day. Freedom occurs when we trust ourselves and listen to our hearts, not JUST the mind.

“PLEASANCE!!!”  you say, “how on Earth can I do that? I have a job, and kids, and bills, and endless tasks on my lists.

And then I will come close, hold your hand and whisper… practice. It all starts with practice.

So in honor of this response, here are tips to get you started. 

Here are 3 of my Favorite Yoga & Wisdom Books.  You can click on the book cover to learn more and to purchase.

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Check out all of my recommended reads.  Find titles related to Family/Parenting support, business/self-development, meditation, kids books, plus DVDs, products, and more of what I love.

 

Just added! Give yourself 8 minutes in the morning, on your lunch break, or before bed to try this at home yoga practice.

Here’s a 5-minute meditation video I created to support content from Chapter 8: Awake of my book, Delight: 8 Principles for Living with Joy and Ease.  Want to receive all the supporting video content? Sign up.

Tara Brach offers a wonderful “How to Meditate Guide” which addresses setting up your practice, troubleshooting common issues, and sustaining a practice.  You can also check out her New to Meditation page.

“You are traveling a path that has led to clarity, peace and deep realization for many people over thousands of years. May their awakening support and inspire you. And may the sincerity of your practice heal and free your spirit.”
— Tara Brach

When you establish your sitting practice, you’ll want to be comfortable.  Find a comfy mat, bolster, or blanket.  Or set the mood or intention with some essential oils and aromatherapy!  Maybe you need a grounding oil like Vetiver or Sandalwood.  If you need extra relaxation try Lavender, Roman Chamomile, or Clary Sage.  Need some cleansing?  Grab your sage.  Need some loving? Neroli or Rose will do the trick.  There is SO much to learn about essential oils related to practice.  Let’s chat about it.  Book a free 30 minute intro call with me.

If you need any additional support regarding your practice and want to work together, here’s an application to get started.

Additionally, join me at Insight Meditation Community of Washington in Tenleytown for my half-day Pause Retreat on Friday, November 18th.  This is a simple, sweet yoga and meditation retreat for all levels where you will explore practices to take home.

a lil omm everyday + #yogaineverydamnway

#yogaeverydamnday is a very popular movement challenge, when you look at the hashtag collection it is more than half pictures of people in very difficult postures that most of us don’t practice regularly. For some people, these photos are very inspiring. For others, they are very discouraging and turning people away from yoga because they believe they won’t ever be able to achieve or accomplish these “advanced” arm balances and inversions.
This morning I woke up thinking… What if it was #yogaineverydamnway, and instead of people doing headstands, handstands, and arm balances they were meditating, sitting in stillness.  Not striving, not perfecting, not competing as we get to be more “advanced” practitioners.  Pssst… I’m going to let you in on a little secret Gentle Is The New Advanced
and J is coming to The Underground Yogi, in VA in October!!
Yoga’s Ethical Guide to Living:the Yamas and Niyamas are here to keep us on track … to stay focused on how I only really want to do this whole “life thing” as a student of yoga, not because it gives me “yoga booty” but because it helps me realize my strength, my flexibility, and my potential (not to mention the shift of perspective, mindset, and clearing of the internal cobwebs so that I am able to live these days awake, alive, and in tune with my life).  That to me is the gift of a lifetime. Thank you, Yoga.
I’m going to share with you our outline for the Mom’s Up themed workshops (plus poses) featured in our upcoming retreat… these are not just for our mamas, but for ALL humans to explore. How do these themes show up in your life and in your relationships every day?  What happens when you invite yourself into a pose with a theme and reflect up on the theme?  How does it feel when you breathe into the pose, come out, and Pause.
This type of practice is extremely efficient… you don’t need 90 minutes, fancy yoga pants, or even to leave your home. It’s just a lil omm every day, plus #yogaineverydamnway.
Try it and let me know what you think.
Mom’s Up Workshop Themes & Supporting Poses
Energetic strength (plank)
Energy and time feel like scarce resources for moms. Be reminded of your inner strength and tap into your vital energies.Find the power to manage your energy sustainably, and to be yourSELF with authentic conviction. 
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Balance (tree pose)
A balanced lifestyle is simply a state of being in which one has time and energy for obligations and pleasures that are in ALIGNMENT with one’s values. Balance is  dynamic and that you “achieve” when all of the most precious aspects of your life and self are in harmony.  Only you can determine what balance means to you, what alignment looks and feels like to YOU, in this season. How do you embrace equilibrium in your heart and mind?
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Self love (mudra)
What does your love affair with you look like? Realize the value of caring for yourself.  Learn to recognize and celebrate what is wonderful about you. With hands on your heart, breathe into the center of your own being. The real, beautiful, loving kind soul that I believe exists in all of us. Tap into her as often as possible. Befriend her. Embrace and Empower her to help you make decisions for your life. 
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Trust (half moon)
Self doubt, guilt, not-enoughitis are all too common symptoms of motherhood, ( adulthood?). Reconcile with the voices and habits that support the re-occurence of these symptoms and learn to connect with your intuition so you can feel confident in your choices as a mother, as a woman. Begin living a life based on trusting yourSELF and the Universe that supports you. 
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Creativity (side twists)
Busy-ness, overwhelm, stress and lack of self-confidence can all be barriers to a mothers’ powerful creative flow.  Learn how to overcome these barriers and connect with and nourish you creative spirit. It is time to settle into your authentic self and let your imagination roam free.
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Want to learn more about Mom’s Up?  We were just featured on Mindful Healthy Life! 
If you’re a mama who lovingly does EVERYTHING for your family and somewhere along the way have lost track of your own needs, priorities, and self-care then you’re invited to a complimentary group coaching call with me and my retreat co-host, Alex Hughes this Thursday, October 6th @ 11am.
Want in?  Sign up here.  Recordings will be available to everyone registered.
Registration for our weekend retreat in Middleburg, Virginia ends on October 10th!  Only a handful of spots are available.

Why Retreat

retreatWhy Retreat?

Okay, let’s be real for a minute.
Our lives never seem to slow down. The minute we think we will “have some time” to ourselves, a kid gets sick, the sitter does not show up, our boss calls us back into work, the dishwasher breaks. It never ends! It’s just too much. Our daily, busy modern lives do not really ease up and it’s truly up to us to put a big stop sign up and say, “ENOUGH!  I need a break.”
A few years ago when Milo was a year and a half, I had hit that wall. I was running on fumes and was just not able to find any peace or space in my daily life.  I was craving quiet, rest, solitude, and nourishment… and it’s funny because I did not realize that going in.  My nervous system was on OVERDRIVE all the time, and I don’t think I even had a minute to realize what I wanted.  It was a freezing cold night, both kids were crying, and I was sitting on the floor of my house when I saw the description for the retreat come into my inbox and I thought, “THAT’S IT. It’s time.”
You see, before that I had never spent time or money on my self like this.  Sure I had taken “trainings” (and anything having to do with learning always counts as a good investment), but I really struggled with allowing myself– giving permission to myself to actually schedule some serious down time. A weekend that focused solely on meditation and silence, on being and not doing.
And after a few days away from my family, on my own to write in my journal, read my book, be in silence, walk in nature, eat meals on my own slowly and with care, I started to breath deeper, fuller and I could feel my shoulders soften. I started to see my life in a new way, I started to relax a bit into my true nature.  And my life never really looked the same again.
I was able to recognize and prioritize when I needed some alone time. I was able to make it through some very hard times by just knowing that my next retreat was planned and that I was truly giving myself permission to take time away from daily life. I noticed that when I returned my voice was stronger, my heart fuller, my head clearer. I was prepared to make decisions for our family and for my biz, and I was  able to engage with my daily life from a more loving and grounded place.
Yep, just that weekend away had given my body and my mind the much deserved REST it truly needed, and from then on Retreat has been one of the ways I have been able to do hard things, process emotions, and find my way home to ME. What a gift to give my kids and to my husband, when I come home and love them up so much!  My gratitude is overflowing for the gifts that our life is and that can be SO HARD TO SEE when I’m rushing around, DOING, DOING, DOING and living in fight or flight mode.
So.. that was where my love affair with retreats started. I signed up for one, and then another. I planned and mapped out that I really needed and wanted to go once a year, then once a season. Eventually, I  started leading them at the studio and then in new places. One of the things I love to do most in the world is hold space for women to just be: to create, to rest, to walk or stretch with no expectations for outcomes.  Just everyone having their own experience.
So this Fall and Winter I invite you to join me. Each retreat a bit different: a different purpose, a different time of year.
  • MOMS UP!  October 28-30.  GREAT for mamas who want to spend an intimate weekend with other mamas! DELISH food, conversations, mama workshops and movement practices all weekend. We share a big country house and enjoy the beauty of Fall and each other.
  • Pause.  November 13.  Our most popular half-day retreat is back!  Spend your Friday committing yourself to purposeful rest, movement, and connection right in Tenleytown.  No weekend long commitment or stress around arranging childcare-  just a short, sweet opportunity to recharge before the Holidays.
  • Delight.  December 9-11. Designed for women wanting to spend some time in quiet, in contemplation, surrounded by the beautiful VA countryside with plenty of trails to walk, plus time for yoga and meditation. The PERFECT way to approach the Holidays, to set intentions for the new year, and to explore your inner world.  In this retreat, we will dive into some of the principles covered in my book, Delight: 8 Principles for Living with Joy & Ease all while settling into the rhythms of winter. Our accommodations allow for you to share a room & visit with a friend OR to have a private room where you can choose to spend most of your time just resting and relaxing.  I have a few optional workshops also planned for this weekend, including JourneyDance and Mala Bracelet making, and book your own massage.

 

Retreat FAQs

What if I don’t know anyone? You’re already one of us—you seek connection, rest, and nourishment and so do we! It won’t take long to break the ice and feel open and comfortable with the group.

What if I have a food/allergy concern? E-mail us and we’ll find a solution.

What if I’ve never done yoga or meditation? You’re in for a treat! We’ll enjoy all levels practices for all ages, stages, and sizes.

Is it possible to arrive early or stay late? Maybe! Please contact the venue directly.

What if I have to cancel? Your registration is non-refundable, however you are able to transfer registration to someone else (ie. sell you spot).  Keep in mind, this is a gift and investment in yourself.

Find Balance Feel Joy Blog Tour

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My friend Alex asked me to participate in this blog tour and my answer was ” HELL YES!” I love having Alex in my life as we share so many interests and are raising are kids in the same neighborhood, co- teaching together and just generally support one another in the work we do to support families through the good and the bad.

And this topic means SO MUCH TO ME.

As someone who formerly struggled with overwhelm and the “crazy-busy” syndrome I am passionate about spreading the self care, mama love message to all who are ready to make the changes. It all starts with us.

Without guilt, without fear, without despair.

We can build lives that matter for ourselves, for our own joy and on our own terms.

You have permission.

The Find Balance Feel Joy Blog Tour was born to provide an honest look at what goes into “having it all” or “getting it right” as a modern mother today.

My journey begins and ends with yoga.  Yoga has led me to interesting cool places in my heart and on the map. Yoga teachers and teachings have given me strength, courage and confidence to FULLY EMBRACE my own me, my own way, my own heart.

Slow, quiet practice filled with breath and movement linked to soul- now THAT can change your life.

This journey of study, contemplation, reflection and movement is a powerful combination. It led me HOME to my true self, to my own way of being that encouraged  me to switch careers, take risks and LOVE my children in ways I did not even know possible.

But, all b/c I began to put myself at the top of the list. Listening to my own heart and soul.

Carving out time for creativity, rest and quiet. saying NO to the schedules and parties and needs and desires of others, in order to put my family TRULY first.

You can do your own thing, find your own way… but it takes a bit of practice.

Self awareness, self knowledge is the path to freedom. A path to joy and living WHOLE in a world that so often wants to break you down.  You see, there is a deeper place within- that lives- that wants to be heard. But we have to slow down enough to hear her.

Welcome to sacred ordinary life. A life in which dishes and laundry still have to be done alongside a deep respect for our home, our families and our lives. It looks like  candles in the kitchen, relaxing music playing while cooking dinner or bringing other rituals and routines into our lives and SHARING them with our children. It looks like having enough space and peace in our own heart to deal with the chaos around.

It looks like getting the help we need at home and at work, in order to truly discover who we are , and where our own joy lies.  This is where

Approaching ALL the moments with a sense of wonder and curiosity – even to the little things. This approach ( to our yoga practice and to our life) can profoundly shift the mindset… the choices we make, the space we hold. And helps us to see the thought patterns that are not serving us.. the ones we need to let go of.

Intentionally place yoga mats, meditation pillows and other reminders in your home so that you can practice together as a family OR so that you have a place to go to when you need it! ( I sometimes go to my mat RIGHT before they get home from school to give myself some nourishment right before the dinner/ bedtime rush) and then I find myself so much more patient and loving and interested when they walk in the door.

Read inspiring books or listen to podcasts about yoga, meditation, mindfulness and creating joy.

I always try to find women who are doing what I want to do and asking- WHAT DO YOU READ? What are your routines? What can I learn from you?  I KNOW there are mentors and supporters out there- so I seek them out- and ask lots of questions so I can learn how to do this whole mama/ life/ work/ balance thing. This also helps me discern for my own life what works and what doesn’t.. and clarify my own values and mission ( which I am constantly refining)

Glance at your life ( ZOOM OUT) and see what parts are causing stress. Is there anything you can DO about it?  if not, what other things need to be released in order to make time for YOU while you continue to have uncontrollable stress? let’s have a healthy relationship with our stress- not trying to FIGHT it or get rid of it- but more realizing it’s apart of our modern life.

Challenge Homework! Spend a day with yourself. Plan it now. Put on the calendar. Carve out the time to take yourself out on a date. Reflect and get quiet. meditate and stretch. journal and create or just be. no tv, no phone, no netflix.

Dear mama, it’s all so real this life thing….so intense, so emotional, so transitional and the only thing we can truly, truly control is our own breath right at this moment. Our own glance, gaze, word, thought or action.

With a grateful heart,

P.

About Alex

Alex launched In Essence Coaching, LLC in 2011 after training with the International Coaching Academy to become a Certified Professional Coach. She is an active member of the International Coaching Federation, committed to upholding a high level of coaching standard.

Prior to this, Alexandra dedicated 18 years of her professional career to social change as an international development researcher and practitioner. She got her BA in Environmental Studies from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada and her MPhil in Development Studies from the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex in the U.K. She’s lived and worked in Africa, Europe, South and North America, and speaks English, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

In Essence Coaching, LLC is Alexandra’s private coaching practice dedicated to helping mothers suffering from stress, to find balance, joy and self-empowerment.  She hosts a free Clear Mind | Present Mama Challengefor busy mothers suffering from overwhelm, offers on-line Calm Mom Coaching Circles to mothers everywhere, and works one-on-one with a small group of women through her Mama inJOY Mentorship Program.

Alexandra loves her coaching projects second only to her three mischievous and vivacious children and her loving (ever patient) husband who now (after three international moves!!) live, love and laugh together in Washington D.C.

 

Don’t miss the Mom’s Up Retreat this fall co-hosted by Alex and myself in Meadowkirk, Virginia (just 1 hour away from DC). Learn more about the retreat, accommodation packages, and more.

 

after I sit.

The seeker asks why?IMG_6814_2

and the heart says to trust

and the tears fall for no reason or every reason

I lean into the suffering of us all

while the beauty of today seems

like a magical dream

living with my soul- letting the heart guide me feels so scary

not a habit or a hurry

just a deeper understanding of all

that was buried and still

unfolds

each year

each day

each moment

each practice

let her go. be free I ask

stop trying so hard

you dont have to be amazing, she says

relief. gratitude. tears again.

relax, the gripping begins to loosen. realizing new layers of self and identity that are old news, really.

be free sweet soul- go

wander.

do not be careless with now.