Integration. Assimilation. Celebration.
It doesn’t matter what you call it — the last stage of any action (particularly personal growth!) needs to have time to pause.
In yoga, it’s Savasana. Though it looks like we’re not doing anything – it’s the culmination of the entire practice. The mind, body + soul need time to absorb, relax, and reset.
Then we can begin again.
It takes practice. A lot of it.
Somedays you’ll feel the benefits of your practice full force, and you’ll easily radiate the connection of your mind, body and soul. While other days, you’ll fall off track. Life happens. The reality is you won’t always be able to put your practices first. The key is to keep at it. Keep practicing whenever you can. And don’t be down on yourself when you can’t accomplish it all.
When time is short, even a small commitment can make a big impact as far as getting grounding into your body, clearing your mind and expressing your soul. Here are a few practices you can do in about 5 mins. Try to integrate them into your day (hopefully several times) on a regular basis.
There’s no right or wrong way to live your essence. These practices are for expression, not perfection. By connecting the mind, body and soul, you’re on the path of the true you.
What are some mini-practices you incorporate into your day?
I recently experienced what Oprah would call an AHA moment. After years of practicing Forearm Stand, I can now do it (+ hold it in the middle of the room.) It’s not always my best expression–sometimes my balance is wobbly, or I’m uneasy in the upside down. But I always kick up towards it, and more often than not — I get it. So why now — after thousands of attempts– am I able to do Forearm Stand?
I never really wanted to do Forearm Stand before. I didn’t want to risk taking the tumble that so easily could accompany the attempt. Or more precisely, I didn’t want to be the one responsible for that ominous THUMP that crashes down on the silence so frequently practiced in yoga class.
But then something shifted. I began to listen to my body as it got acquainted with the foundation for a strong Forearm Stand, and I stopped listening to my mind spewing out all it’s worries surrounding the pose. I let go of all the stories holding me back… the fear. And simply decided to do it.
Now I need to set the same intention behind my Handstand.
How does your intention effect your action?
As a stylist for more than 10 years, I’ve spent many moments on photo shoot sets primping and prepping people to look their best. I’ve shopped for a wide range of sizes, styles and personalities in hopes of showing their true colors. This past weekend– I switched it up, and went in front of the camera to get new pictures for my site. I brought all my experience in styling to myself. It was fun, exciting, scary and strange.
Here’s my advice on how to style yourself–not necessarily for a photo shoot, but for anytime when you want to look like the best version of you.
When trying on clothes, choose things that go just beyond what you’d normally wear… stretch your comfort zone. For one look, I wore these pink pants that faded into white — kind of tie-dye-ish. To be honest, my tie-dye days were left in CA (in college). But these pants popped for the picture. And they made me feel happy.
Pick pieces that best represent your lifestyle. As much as I love seeing a woman in stilettos — it’s just not me. I’m way too active, and the thought of running around the city in 4″ heels doesn’t appeal. I love clogs, wedges and any other type of shoe that can give me a few inches without killing my feet. Also, I like sporty stuff. I chose a jumpsuit for one outfit because it looked good in motion (no flying shirt tails etc..) and it just felt like me.
Shop in unexpected places. This red Adidas jacket came from my son’s closet. I’ve also been known to steal DH’s tees and hats. I love Century 21 because I can find high quality pieces at low prices. And if you’re petite, like me — Crewcuts and Zara kids is awesome.
Go bright. It’s no secret that black works with everything. But when I want to pump up my outfit, I add color. It stands out, makes a statement, and generally lifts my mood.
Get your make up done. Every season, I have a proper sit down at the make up counter to freshen up my beauty routine with new products and tricks. You can’t beat the price (free!), and I always leave feeling good about myself.
Do stuff that elevates your spirit. I like jumping, dancing and doing cartwheels. The key to looking your best is feeling your best. Put simply–do what you love, and do it a lot.
In yoga, transitions are the part of the practice that keeps the movement fluid.
In real life, transitions are the stuff that makes up our day to day — the journey.
So what happens when we get so laser focused on the destination that we lose touch with the transition?
We get short-changed out of experience.
The music doc 20 Feet from Stardom highlights the lives of several back up singers, many of whom we can’t name because they never quite made it into the spotlight. In an interview with Sting, he spoke about the spiritual aspect of making music, and how he didn’t understand the winners of American Idol (or The Voice, or X Factor etc…) who just jump into stardom without experiencing any of the spiritual stuff that comes from years in the making.
He’s talking about the journey.
Merry Clayton (who sang on Gimme Shelter with The Rolling Stones) said, I felt like if I just gave my heart to what I was doing, I would automatically be a star.
But it didn’t work out like that. She never arrived where she thought she should go.
So what does that mean? You give your heart to something, but never get to your anticipated destination?
This brings me back to the yoga mat.
If I’m fully present in the transition– heart (+ soul!) committed – I’m not thinking about the pose I’m heading towards.
I’m making the most of the moment. (Or at least practicing this.)
So off the mat, it’s the same.
The transition, or journey is the purpose. It’s where we find meaning.
To embrace change within the consistency is to embrace the unfolding flow. - Anodea Judith
Do you ever have that feeling that you’ve got to step outside of your normal routine, and try something new? Consider it a calling, or just an inner nag that knows it’s time to shake things up.
It happened to me last week when I was scrolling through my twitter. The words Shake Your Soul: Yogadance jumped out of my feed, and right into my calendar.
It didn’t matter that the 5:30pm time slot was way off from my usual movement routine (I prefer to rise, shine then exercise). I also didn’t care that it was taking place in an NYU conference room (fluorescent lights) which meant my soul would probably be the oldest one shaking that eve (it was). I was going to Shake My Soul: Yogadance no matter what. It was something I knew I needed to try. Here’s how what it looked like.
What to know about Shake Your Soul: Yogadance:
It’s a free-form movement class (dance party!). The intention is to go deeper into your body to open yourself to all that comes up. Your movement becomes the expression for what’s happening inside. The teacher explained that she’ll lead a little bit, but we were encouraged to move like only we can. The physical yoga part came at the end in the form of a few Sun Salutes and final relaxation, but the practice felt very yoga-like. It’s about self discovery.
What the scene looks like:
The fluorescent lights revealed all! Fresh faced NYU students moved and grooved to their hearts content. They were dressed to sweat — yoga pants, tees, and tanks. Oh, one woman was wearing a tight white sheath dress.
Tribal, trance-y instrumental. Lorde was the only song I recognized, and it was superfun to dance to Royal with the college crowd.
The rhythm of the room:
It ebbed and flowed. For the primal part we got down and funky (and literally crawled around the floor). For the heart section we luxuriated in long, languid movements with a twirl here and there.
Mostly mind, body or soul workout?
All of it. I was a little tired that evening so I didn’t challenge my body like I may have if it was a morning class, and the atmosphere definitely felt a little dry with the conference tables and chairs pushed to the side. But I did get revived – my mind had slowed down for my soul to have some fun.
At the Oscars, Ellen did a pretty fantastic job of rallying the stars to be just like us with group selfies and pizza parties. OK– so maybe our selfies aren’t exactly of the iconic stature that hers was. And most of us aren’t eating pizza served by Brad Pitt … but still. There was something sweet about Ellen’s gesture of sparking the A-list to come down– just a teeny bit –off their pedestal of Hollywood Royalty.
When I watched the red carpet (to research for my piece here) I wondered — which of these women feel good, comfortable and are truly expressing who they are? Sure, it’s fun to play dress up. And many would jump at the chance to be a princess for the night. But with the exquisite gowns and beyond bling-y jewels on temporary loan, some are literally enacting a Cinderella routine. Although when the clock strikes 12, it’s not a pumpkin they’re turning into it… it’s the return to their true self. So which actresses didn’t have to role play on the red carpet? Who was able to radiate with MindBodySOUL style? Here’s my take on that.
If Lupita Nyong’o moves like this in her custom gown — I’d say she’s got her MindBodySoul style on!
Jennifer Garner looked flirty, fabulous and totally ready to shimmy. Love that this mom of 3 keeps it moving.Amy Adams told interviewers that she didn’t work with a stylist for the Oscars because she wanted to be completely in charge of what she wore. The sophisticated, tuxedo-like gown showed she’s a serious actress, and even more important she said, it felt like me.
I can totally see the real Amy Adams here -> awesome!
Cate Blanchett said her dress felt heavy, but she loved it. Hey, I’m all for a little pain to gain…as long as she’s wearing what she loves.
Who do you think captured their MindBodySOUL style at the Oscars?
After making the rounds through NY, London, and Milan, fashion month is finally finishing up with its last leg in Paris.
And though I’m more interested in the evolution of personal style with an everyday attitude — one that unfolds from the mind, body + soul– the happenings on the catwalk still intrigue.
Because this girl likes to dream.
And that’s what fashion shows are about — a theatrical staging meant to open eyes, push boundaries and evoke a response. Sometimes over-the-top and eccentric. Other times playful with a whimsical twist. There are many times I can’t relate to the clothes –a furry floor length dress with athletically inspired details? Not exactly my answer to sporty chic. But I like to see what the designers are doing. I think of it as research — what colors or prints did they show that speak to me? Which silhouettes will flatter my 5’4″ frame? And most importantly, which looks do I LOVE? How can I use these as inspiration — to inform my future purchases, and to help me create fresh outfits from the pieces already hanging in my closet? MindBodySOUL style comes from within, but just like any personal expression — a little inspiration from the outside can shine in the right light.
I know that catching up on all the shows can be overwhelming –the sheer volume of ensembles on display is a lot to digest. Couple that with dramatic hair, other-wordly makeup, and an overall presentation of unrealistic proportions–I’m often left thinking, how would I ever pull that off? Or WHY would I ever want to pull that off? The key is to hone in on what resonates with YOU. I like color. I also gravitate towards prints. And I’ll always go for something with a sporty spin. The fact that I’m someone who tries to see the bright side, likes to keep things interesting with little details, and is always on the go, means that I’m connecting with the clothes that could best express my true self. It’s styling from the inside out. The clothing must fit well on both body and soul.
So back to the dream.
Here’s a few looks I’d like to grab from the fall runways to wear tomorrow.
**I took 3 deep breaths. Then responded to the situation
**I went beyond what they expected. And what I expected.
**I made eye contact with a stranger. Then smiled
**I completely stopped what I was doing…to listen.
**I found the awe in the everyday. And let it fill me.
I’m going to try to do at least 3 of these today.
What little things can you do today to light up your soul ?
I don’t send texts with typos. My clothing faces the same direction in my closet. And I’m not satisfied until my to-dos are all Xed off the list.
Does this make me crazy?
And these goals are mostly attainable. What happens when my strive for perfection outreaches my reality?
Like in dance class the other day, what if I got caught up in mastering the moves that were well beyond my ability?
I’d be pretty darn disappointed… in myself.
Which is why I try to keep my practice for expression, not perfection.
In yoga when moving into a pose–rather than pushing for perfection–it comes much easier when my body relaxes, and my breath fills the shape. By following the openings created by my breath, I can find my true expression.
So how do the Olympians do it? Are they’re striving for perfection?
I like to think they’re finding their flow.
The mindbody relaxes into the motion which reveals their ultimate expression.
And that’s what wins the gold.
We’re perfect beings who do things imperfectly- Suzuki Roshi
The other day my dear, dancing friend from Sirena Tales guided me towards a cool site that lists every class in NYC. I popped over to Dance ‘n Tell to take a peek, and was immediately drawn towards Nia Love — happening the very next day at Abrams Art Center– a mere 1 block from my place.
I had taken Nia before, I even posted on it here. So I considered myself lucky to have stumbled upon this offering so close to home.
Then I read the class description.
It wasn’t Nia Dance. It was the instructor Nia Love who would be teaching Modern Roots – stacking sequential rhythmic patterns built on cardio and core work with an urban approach that partners-up with African, postmodern, Butoh, funk and blues sensibilities.
Okay, I definitely got the cardio and core work. African– I have tried it before. But postmodern, Butoh, funk and blues –not so much. And what is stacking sequential rhythmic patterns?
I wavered back and forth on whether to go, but with a little encouragement from my dear dancing friend, and my own thought process which values the discomfort that accompanies personal growth– I decided to go for it.
After arriving a bit early, I spoke to Nia to get some more info on the class. I’m not a *real* dancer so didn’t want to be thrown in the deep end with a bunch of pros. She confirmed that indeed it was open. We would be moving our bodies for expression, and will hopefully learn something as well.
Class began in a circle of introductions. Nia told us about her herself — which included her yoga and pilates background.
This is getting even better.
The introductions continued around the room revealing a diverse bunch of choreographers, movement artists, another yoga and pilates person and an aerial silks guy.
Then we went into the warm up which did have some yoga and pilates stuff thrown in. I was feeling pretty great holding my plank pose while we went around the room announcing our birthdays — mine was the previous day, so that was fun. Then I learned the others were born while I was in high school.
Next, it was time to move across the floor.
And let me just say, there were no run-run-leaps going across this floor.
It was real-deal choreography– the kind of stuff I LOVE watching others do –in poly rhythms, and a lot of fast ‘n fancy footwork (counting in trios nonetheless!)
In yoga, there are a plenty of poses that I can’t do– handstand, scorpion, king pigeon, to name a few– but my body understands how to practice getting into those poses. My body doesn’t really do choreography so well.
I started off okay. Ish. But as soon as more moves were added ( is that the stacking part of the online class description?) I got lost.
There was a moment– just before my turn–the sweet French guy with 10 years of dance experience asked me if we were starting on the right or left.
I didn’t even know MY right from left, let alone the choreographed right and left.
Then Nia chimed in.
Feel the funk. This isn’t serious. Have fun!
Well, I’m always down to get funky with Fela Kuti, or whatever that Afro-Cuban blend she was blasting.
So I felt it.
Did it help my steps? Um, maybe a teeny bit.
But it helped my soul. My moves became my expression.
Will this become a regular movement practice for me? It could.
And I bet it would feel pretty EFFIN’ fantastic to express my moves IN that choreography.
Daft Punk said it well.
Doin’ it right
Everybody will be dancing
And we’ll be feeling it right
Everybody will be dancing
And be doin’ it right
Everybody will be dancing
When we’re feeling all right
What’s your experience in taking class outside your comfort zone?
There are many times I’ve relied on soaring melodies and earth trodden beats to flip my mood from ick to awesome.
And that’s not even including my time at the gym where the playlist is EVERYTHING.
The other day, I felt the magic of music do it’s thing– uplift, connect and negate negativity– and the school bus was involved.
Check it out.
It was G’s school trip at the ice-skating rink. As a chaperone, I was responsible for both G and another little one. Turned out this other little one wasn’t very comfortable on the ice. At all. Her tiny limbs went crazy, zig-zagging around with limited hope of finding balance. I tried to help. She cried. I started to sweat. She fell. I fell too. I looked around for G who was gliding by in unison with the soundtrack. Lorde was blasting from the speakers. G loves Lorde. I love Lorde! Suddenly, the little one with no skills on the ice didn’t seem like such the burden. Team had energized and picked both of us back up.
A little later — on the school bus — screaming children and NYC traffic were the only sounds surrounding my brain. I felt my winter layers start to suffocate my skin, and my cramped legs prickly with lack of circulation. Then something shifted. The kids started to sing. And so did the teachers. The entire bus broke out in I’ve Been Working On The Railroad. Then Jingle Bells. And then some song about how they Ain’t Going to Study War No More. Their music had not only pulled me out of my misery. It connected the kids, and brought us all into the present.
The singing children eventually stopped after over an hour on the bus (damn second avenue subway construction — will that train ever exist?) By the time we arrived back at school I was done. As in brain-fried, body-beat, completely toast.
So what did I do on the walk home? I popped in my ear buds and hit start on Spiritual Grooves (I really do have that playlist, and I’d love to share, if you like…). Pretty quickly I found my happy place.
What’s your story on the magic of music?
It can be created around fashion, from the front rows of the runway shows.
Or it can be a charming collection of hand-picked faves.
It doesn’t have to be in line with the latest must-haves. It’s aligned with your center, the axis of truth.
With well suited attributes, it embodies the perfect fit.
An attitude of grace. No need to over think.
Though recognized on the outside, it’s your radiance from within.
An expression of your connection that goes way deeper than skin.
How would you define mindbody soul style?
Do you ever get that feeling you’re just going through the motions with your workout?
Your body is there, in exercise mode. But the mind has completely left the building.
I get this.
From the mental management of tomorrow’s to-do list to last week’s blowout with my best friend — my mind can go everywhere except to meet my body. I’m not aligned with my movement activity, and there’s a total disconnect in the workout.
We all know the benefits of exercise which is why so many of us make time for it regularly. But it doesn’t have to be a chore – that thing that weighs heavily on the brain until it’s x’ed off the list.
Go for the activity that brings your mind into your body.
So when you’re in the movement, you can be in the moment.
Your mind clears, your body rides the breath.
You’re in the flow. In the zone.
That’s the mindbody workout.
Every moment is an opportunity to meditate.
What does your mindfulness practice look like?
Ever since flying free on the trapeze I’ve had an inner urge to keep at it — high above the ground. Aerial silks, with its natural defiance of gravity, seemed like the next move to make. With roots in circus arts and yoga, I decided that since I’ve already got the yogi thing (sort of) down, why not give it a go, and get it off the ground!
WHAT IS IT?
Aerial yoga is a fusion practice. It takes traditional yoga poses and places them in or around a silk hammock. There’s a definite level of strength and balance infused in trying to maneuver within the draping piece of fabric. Themes like trust, and play are explored within the framework of the breath while working to find personal expression and grace.
WHAT THE SCENE LOOKS LIKE
Women who know yoga. One woman told me she was in the midst of an Ashtanga teacher training which required her to try different yoga variations. A couple others looked very relaxed inverting in the air. Oh, and the overall room was vibrant with orange silks underneath every move.
THE RHYTHM OF THE ROOM
Light. Airy. Flowing.
It could be anything, really. In my class it was downtempo. I heard Erykah Badu and my favorite from Radiohead, Reckoner.
MIND, BODY OR SOUL WORKOUT?
All of them. A wandering mind will leave your body flat on the floor — so you must stay present! Also, it’s fun. The soul LOVES to play! We swung. We flew. We did somersaults. We hung upside down. Think- kids at a playground. Then add an Om.
Would you ever try aerial yoga?
The other day in yoga, the teacher told us we’d be working with the elephant. She had us wag our tails, sweep our arms like a trunk, and make all of our moves very creature-like…it was a little weird.
Though I have spent countless hours finding my (downward) dog, cobra, crow, and firefly, I’ve never actually considered connecting to the wisdom of these animals.
It seems that if I can tune into my spirit animal, I’ll feel more grounded in the earth which can help guide me towards making better decisions in life.
I’ll take the Golden Eagle.
Well, apparently it doesn’t quite work like that. According to ancient beliefs, our spirit animal chooses us- not the other way around. And to discover yours, it requires spending a lot of time in nature, observing wildlife and meditating.
I can work on the meditation bit, but spending time in nature with animals isn’t really an option right now.
So in the meantime I found this little quiz…
Turns out I’m a butterfly.
What’s your spirit animal? And what’s been your experience in connecting with it?