Posted in Blog Posts, wellness

Three Language Changes to Make in 2020

In 2019, I learned to say, “no.” Everywhere I turned I saw articles, posts, and heard conversations betwixt girlfriends in coffeeshops about saying no and setting boundaries. As a teacher and a naive empath, it’s a word I needed to learn to use and love to maintain a sustainable lifestyle.

In 2020, I’m committing to healing, abundance, and devotion after a tireless year of exhausting work and relationship strife. One way I’ve set myself up to fulfill this intention is by shifting the language I use to be more open, unattached, and free from judgement.

I offer these three simple changes you can make in your daily speech patterns to shift into an abundant and grateful mindset with increased regularity. Pro-tip: try first using these in text messages before practicing in public! Seems goofy, but it will help.

  1. Replace “sorry” with “thank you.” For example, if you arrive late to an outing with friends, instead of apologizing for what you perceive to be a wrong-doing, try thanking them for their patience instead. It will help you avoid the trap of self-punishment, while also cultivating a true appreciation for their flexibility.
  2. Add “yet.”
    I’m not sure how to do that, yet.
    I’m not over them, yet.
    This isn’t easy, yet.
    Simple *yet* powerful.
  3. Remove “should” from your vocabulary. Who are we to judge the moral character of any one person, thing, or action, and why would we want to? Walking around thinking things “should” or “shouldn’t be” one way or another seriously sapped my energy over time. It’s not about the language: it’s about the idea that the world hasn’t offered itself to us in a way that is easy or pleasing. Stating things “should” be a certain way fixes us in a mindset of scarcity. For example, I won’t say that you “should take this language advice,” but I could “offer you advice that may help.” Detach from outcome, embrace abundance, and try to take the word “should” off you plate.

I’d love to hear how these little changes in daily speech patterns affect (or don’t affect) your life! Leave a comment, shoot an email, or slide into our DMs at @itsmorethanmovement.

Happy New Year!

Posted in Blog Posts, wellness, yoga

Nurturing Breath with Nutrition

Undeniably, our breath holds our lifeforce. Every anatomical system depends on oxygenation, and the physical movement of our lungs propels parts of our lymphatic, nervous, and digestive system. In traditional Chinese philosophy and medicine, breath is linked to qi, an essential lifeforce and vital animating energy. In Hindu and Indian philosophy and medicine, including yogic philosophy, we that force is prana, and when we work with it using the breath, pranayama.

In the West, breath symbolizes peace and calm, but also the flow of some vital energy: when a person ceases to breathe they cease to live. When our lungs stop working and a human needs “life support,” a knell has rung. We should care for it as such.

Many of us in Western nations understand basic nutrition for digestive, muscular, skeletal, and cardiovascular health, but know very little about nurturing our lungs, the enablers of vital energy. In addition to obvious lifestyle changes like avoiding cigarettes (and inhalation of most things, including vaping and marijuana smoke), we can nurture our breath through thoughtful nutrition:

How to eat to treat your lungs

  1. Eat whole and organic as much as possible. This advice rings true for most nutritional needs, and if you adopt Michael Pollan’s great-great grandmother rule, the latter suggestions will fall in line. But let’s be real: whole and organic foods aren’t accessible to everyone all the time, and certainly aren’t always what we crave. I invite you to see where you can and find a happy place between a whole food lifestyle (not diet) and serving your social, emotional, financial, spiritual, and physical needs.
  • Increase antioxidants without falling into the processed food trap. Be critical in the grocery store: does it make sense to get antioxidants from the chocolate-covered blueberries that using antioxidants as a marketing tool, or from eating what you know to be full of unaltered nutrients? That’s not to say you can’t buy both: you  do you, boo. But be aware you’ll find better antioxidant content in whole, unaltered foods like dark & red berries, dark green veggies, whole grains, orange vegetables, and unsalted nuts, especially walnuts and Brazil nuts.
  • Avoid additives and preservatives such as aspartame, benzoates, nitrates & nitrites, parabens, and sulfites. Look for these where least expected: we all know Diet Coke has aspartame, but have you checked your meats for nitrites?
  • Reduce mucus & inflammation by drawing awareness to the caffeine and alcohol you ingest. Many of us identify as social drinkers or healthy coffee consumers, but I invite you to track those habits for a week. It may be more than you imagined! 

In short, a combination of intuitive and informed eating can keep our lungs thriving from healthy nutrition. In addition to nurturing with nutrition, try one of these breathing exercises to fully harness your life force!

Or, book an appointment with Lauren to learn the breath and body work that works best for you (from the drop-down menu, select private yoga instruction).

A fellow educator from Austin, TX demonstrates a square breathing exercise, which can be easy to deploy in situations when you don’t have much time or space.
Adriene Mischler, another Austinite and former educator, introduces a variety of breathing exercises in this pranayama video playlist.
Buteyko Breathing is commonly used to relieve asthma and other respiratory dilemmas.

Thank you for taking care of yourself. See you out there!

Posted in Uncategorized

Return to the Water: An exercise (literally) in surrender

Don’t be a fish; be a frog. Swim in the water and jump when you hit ground.

― Kim Young-ha

As I’ve been vocal about before, this year nearly wrecked me. Last December, I suffered a transformational but deeply scarring break-up, and my family endured my infant niece’s diagnosis with cancer. A very young and close cousin unexpectedly passed away, work was hard, and I had, by that point in the aforementioned relationship, cut away many of my friends. Thus, I broke down. Like, really broke down.

At 3:00am, feeling unsafe and insecure, I drove north to Windom, Texas to try healing at the Siddhayatan Spiritual Retreat. Upon returning to Austin, I thought Western medicine could provide the same solace I found at the ashram, but easily accessible on a daily basis. I was given three prescriptions: venlafaxine, clonazepam, and no more endurance sports.

I was given three prescriptions: venlafaxine, clonazepam, and no more endurance sports.

Endurance racing, my doctor believed, was exacerbating issues with the way my body processes and stores cortisol, a stress hormone. At the time it made sense that triathlon and road running could contribute to this: I just wanted a solution to cling to. I needed a scapegoat; I needed to believe misery wasn’t life. So, I followed the advice. I was scared, felt alone, and just wanted to get on with my life. No more sports? Fine. Pump my brain full of toxins? Sure.

Where I went wrong is a misunderstanding of how grief works: it’s not something to force out of life. We don’t have to love the process, but we do need to trust and accept it without idealizing or shortcutting to “something better.” My short cut didn’t work, because it never does.

Without the intention of healing–just the notion that something wasn’t right with that prognosis–I eventually came back to triathlon (and detoxed from the pharmaceuticals), a sport that cleared my mind, healed my body, and replenished my support network. Little by little, I learned what will always be there: my breath, my body, my spirit. All else is just a river around us, sometimes rapid, sometimes stagnant, sometimes clear.

What this year gave me is the ability to float downstream. I no longer fight the current, but can accept what is. Eventually, I learned to swim in the direction I wanted, to increase the challenge of my journey or take a break on the bank if needed. Physical practice–through asana and triathlon training–taught me best how to do this.

I’m the kid who doesn’t trust the stove won’t burn me, so putting into my body a metaphor to teach me vulnerability saved my livelihood. In the multisport world, weather, my body, nature, and finances are all venerable obstacles to completing a race. Managing those while making a radical commitment to tune into your body and mind enough to make it across a 70.3 mile finish line is a robust commitment to skillful acceptance and surrender.

A year after being told, “no,” I’ve jumped back in the river. And, instead of fighting it or searching for saving, I learned how to swim. This weekend I lucked into a spot on a trail-running relay team, where we took turns running for 12 hours straight through piney woods in Central Texas. The realization that one year ago I swore away physical devotion hit me on mile fourteen. Making it back to my friends, crossing the finish line for our team’s 60th mile, loudly confirmed what this year was about for me: accepting the current.

Jump in! Join the Movement. Follow MTM Yoga & Wellness on Facebook, Instagram, or through our newsletter for tips on getting well and finding balance through physical movement, spiritual practice, and practical nutrition.

Posted in wellness

Open the Classroom to Abundance

Hey teachers, let’s get real: our jobs are terrifying. Student success falls (partially) on our shoulders, and often we don’t have the tools to 100% make sure that happens. Fostering loving, literate, critical minds is an experiment that never concludes. Education industry and legislature increase tomfoolery on a daily basis, and often we struggle to take care of our own needs during the academic year. *So much* can weigh us down.

However, we have the extremely unique opportunity to witness and interact with unspeakable abundance on a daily basis. Ultimately it is up to us to either live curiously in abundance or stifled with fear in our profession. We have the power to transform distress into eustress before it hammers our bodies and minds with detriment. Avoid backing yourself into a corner by considering how you can shift the way your view your profession, and begin teaching from abundance.

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Students were determined to create more spaces and opportunity everyone to experience calmness on campus. Based solely on their ideas, principal, and counselor input, we won a grant to build them a mindful campus this year!

 

1. Shift the Language with which you describe students. Instead of “limited English proficiency,” describe them as bilingual. Instead of “dyslexic,” view them as problem solving. Instead of “attention-seeking,” consider “connection-seeking.” Though their paperwork isn’t likely to change soon, the way we treat them and describe them in our spheres of control can.

2. Open Yourself to the Possibility of students knowing how to best show their voice. Open yourself to receive the unique ways in which they can show mastery of a task. Do you want them to understand a large concept like justice? Can they show you they understand that concept in ways other than an essay? Awesome. Accept it.

Furthermore, give them time to talk. The most important lessons I learn in life come from the kids. They have incredible things to say, and aren’t fully aware yet of the restrictions society throws our way. Without these limiting beliefs, they see worlds of endless possibility. For them, it’s possible for them to change the school, the community, and the world to work in their favor. Open yourself to their verdant possibility, clear obstacles for them, and see where their work can go.

3. Question Structure we see as traditional or normal. Does it make sense to have a late work policy? Does it make sense to assign homework? Does it make sense to restrict bathroom use? Do kids have to sit in a desk to learn? Imagine a world where everything is negotiable. What would you cut out?

4. Clarify the Classroom to make way for prosperity. This year, I removed everything from my walls that didn’t serve a specific, obvious, and worthwhile purpose. I try to remove filler language from my speech (ie: we are going to…take a moment to…) and embrace silence as an answer to a question proposed. Teach with intention and care, and students will respond in kind.

 

Posted in wellness, yoga

The Gift of Being a Perpetual Beginner

Had you asked me in high school what it was like to not specialize in an activity, I would have told you I felt like an untalented outsider. Watching my friends excel in their area of interest was often difficult for me: I wanted to try it all, but wasn’t very good at much. From C-team MVP to JV co-captain, I was the best of the worst, solely because I was hungry to discover my talent. I made mistakes loudly. My confidence earned me space.

In adulthood, that ability and eagerness to remain a beginner has opened more doors for me than I would imagine in youth. To an outsider, it may appear my resume is scattered, I make erratic purchases, or that I’m physically dangerous. In reality, I’m just curious. To me, an inherent need to explore and join new communities helps me live curiously and practice balance between effort and released attachment. Where my high school self was an ashamed beginner, I touch base with my novice identity daily.

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May 2019: My first time reading poetry to an audience was equal parts exhilarating and nerve racking. However, the crowd laughed, applauded, and invited me back. That night I made several dear friends who continue to inspire me daily. Try something new in an open community. Open yourself to others who are open, and you’re bound to walk away with something beautiful.

In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, effort, non-attachment, and surrender ideally exist in perfect balance. However, in today’s world, most of us tend to lean into one of those categories much more than the other. Let’s rewind again to who I was in high school: an affluent high-achiever with a chip on her shoulder who wanted to succeed to prove people wrong. Unfortunately, effort wasn’t high on my to-do list. I was deeply, deeply attached to outcomes, and through this became manipulative and unsteady instead of putting the real work in. My lack of the aforementioned specialization was a product of dissatisfaction with failure. If I tested the waters and wasn’t “naturally good” at something, I was unwilling to put in the social, emotional, physical, and intellectual effort to explore it. As a teenager, I leaned into unhealthy attachment to results: I wanted to be the best without living like the best. I could not surrender with contentment to the results the universe gave or put in the effort to manifest an ideal path.

Most adults still operate in this heavily unbalanced space, finding comfort in pushing (or not pushing) in one of those areas throughout life. Perhaps they give too much effort and deplete themselves, or perhaps they participate in unhealthy “surrender to the universe” to displace accountability. Sadly, many careers and an entire ecosystem of consumerism voraciously feeds on this imbalance, plunging us deeper into discord. To break this cycle, start living like the beginner you are.

The perpetual beginner understands our world is in flux always, and surfs on that wave. Sometimes it overtakes us, but we hop back on the board instead of burning up outside of the water. Whether you choose to try a new mindset or try a new sport, I invite you to be a beginner at something this week.

Surrender to the vulnerabilities of newness. Give effort to understand. Unclench your fist from outcome. The perpetual beginner softens.

Posted in Travel

Solo Travel and Being Your Best Self

I’m a lucky one: I have the time and means to travel abroad by myself at least once a year. As someone who didn’t board a plane on their own until they were 22, or get a passport until 26, I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do!

A week ago I returned from a solo vacay to Colombia, visiting Bogotá, Medellín, Santa Marta, and Minca. Previously, I fell in love with Latin America on a trip to Mexico City and Oaxaca, and was fortunate enough to spend the past Spring Break exploring Kenya.

 

 

 

What I find most intriguing about traveling alone isn’t what I expected when I branched out years ago. While immersing in a new culture and acquiring knowledge is interesting and useful, I find solo travel an amazing experience in practicing mindfulness, awareness, and being your best self.

A land as abundant as Colombia requires your complete attention: streets bustle with millions of people, color screams from the biodiversity and art, and there’s overwhelmingly lush flora everywhere. Letting your attention slide for even a moment means you miss the toucan in the tree or the small panadería where the locals go. No place has grabbed my complete, undivided attention the way Colombia has, and I feel that’s why I was my best person when I was there.

Because Spanish is my second language, I constantly listened and spoke mindfully. Because no one accompanied me, I had freedom to eat, drink, and move in a way that felt best in my body. Because I could budget time for reflection, I could fully absorb each piece of the experience. Everything was an unknown: I sat with that. I approached everything with blossoming and welcoming curiosity, because I literally had no choice other than to express joy and fondness for the unknown that traveling solo brings.

For me, I am my best self when I travel alone. Many wish me caution as a solo female traveler, which I mostly appreciate, but I hope to share that fear is not in the equation for me or many other solo travelers when we embark on a new journey. We want to practice navigating the unknown, not fear it, and embrace it on our own terms before experiencing it without our permission.

Solo travel can be powerful and transformative when we create and allow that experience. The next time a dear friend shares with you their travel plans, instead of sharing your (often valid worries), I challenge you to instead help them manifest a beautiful journey! Help them cultivate the curiosity and joy they’ll need for a good trip, and leave the worrying to their mothers 😉

As always, sending love and light.

-Lauren

Posted in wellness

Breathe for Change and SEL*F Reflection

A week ago I finished the Breathe for Change Summer Intensive in Austin, Texas. B4C’s mission is to change the world one teacher at a time: a bold goal! From their marketing, I thought the claims were too good to be true. Change the world? Nah. Transformative? Nah. This is just another SEL training that conveniently has a 200-hr yoga teacher certification attached, I thought. Little did I know that when I walked into the gym of Lanier High School on Day 1, that it’d be the last day of being my old self.

My wellness brand, Glow & Grow Wellness for so long operated under the mission that teachers need to help students be more mindful. I provided workshops on SEL, equity, culturally responsive teaching (and still do!), but wasn’t doing anything to heal those delivering instruction. At Breathe for Change, my largest take-away is that really, we must take better care of our teachers. If teachers haven’t found their well-being, who are we to try and give it to students? We must not only be models of well-being, but include that energy in our classrooms and relationships with students. Here is where changing the world begins. B4C calls this SEL*F, or Social-Emotional Learning and Facilitation. The facilitation aspect of SEL means we must be well ourselves to facilitate well-being for others.

At Breathe for Change I transformed myself and am starting to see my world transformed as well.

The past two years have been a whirlwind: illness and loss plagued our family, I fell in love but he fell out of love, and both a dear college friend and important former students of mine passed away. I fell ill more than usual, missed more work than usual, and wrote far too many referrals. I kept wondering why this was happening to me, and kept showing up at work trying to show students how to make dreams come true when I wasn’t living in a dream of my own.

I had a disease: the victim mindset. Things kept happening to me and I kept letting them beat me up.

How many teachers do you know living this way? Often in the hallways I hear complaints about the state of teaching, relationships with administrators, low-quality PD, and irritating students. I am absolutely guilty as charged. For years, I deemed myself cursed with it!

I write this now from a bamboo house in the middle of the Sierra Nevada mountains in Minca, Magdalena, Colombia. I saw two types of toucan this morning as I ate breakfast. Yesterday I practiced yoga in a waterfall pool I had to myself for more than an hour. I launched the small literary press of my dreams, signed up for a half-triathlon, and had the courage to ask for a new position at work, with positive response (no position change, work friends! I’m just pleased with the response ☺️). Being in true harmony with my world made this happen. I thought I was doing all the right things before by going to yoga once a week, seeing a therapist, and reading a bunch of self-help books. Those things helped, but Breathe for Change had me visualize who I wanted to be when I was on the mat, and transform into her off the mat.

Attending Breathe for Change set me on a new course. From Day 1 we dove head-first into a multi-day curricular segment called Transformation of Self. Many in the room, myself include, showed up ready to talk about SEL or social justice: topics we are passionate about. The B4C curriculum made us pause, however, and first start healing our own lives. We spent a week here.

Without that week of (sometimes painful) self-reflection, I would not have been as receptive or prepared to implement other information in the training. On Day 4, I felt my old self passing, shedding light on a refreshed, clear-headed, and non-violent heart I didn’t know I had. For years, I and others near me labeled me as having “big emotions,” and I sought out the pathology of an anxiety disorder to justify it. I thought I was in a fixed, miserable state. At B4C, I realized I largely created that mess for myself, and was manifesting a negative life with negative thoughts and emotions. I learned that change is possible, and began my journey living free.

My well-being intention from the training is to live my own truth. Others have intentions like “love radically,” “practice self-care,” or “know I’m loveable.” How incredible it is to have 60 more teachers in the world committed to well-being in these ways!

Now healing, I feel so much more capable of teaching others how to live happily themselves. Now understanding the importance of healed teachers, I am completely stoked to say my own business, Glow & Grow Wellness, now offers yoga and self-care classes for teachers in addition to professional development.

I can’t wait to see the effects the training has on our students and the world around us. Sixty educators graduated from our Austin program, and about 3,000 from B4C as a whole. Each of us works with dozens of colleagues, students, and families every year, and will send as much positive energy into those worlds as we can. Breathe for Change is right: we can change the world, and I’m thrilled to be a part of that revolution.

Namaste, y’all. Always sending love and light.

Lauren 🌸

Posted in yoga

Unity: A Yoga Flow Playlist

playlist_ unity flow

A community of new yogis (the self-proclaimed Unified Yoga Unicorns, of course) came together to make a 45-minute heart-opening flow this week for our first group-led yoga class. We believe finding peace with yourself is the way to find peace and unity with the world.

I invite you to follow our playlist for your personal practice. We invite you to practice heart openers and grounding poses, and take the full seven minutes in the first and final songs for intentional warm up and savasana, respectively.

Namaste <3

Posted in wellness

Wellness Apps You’ll Actually Use

Insight Timer is a no-nonsense, truly free meditation app with a library of nearly 20,000 guided meditations. From a quick visualization to start your day, to longer yoga nidra meditations, Insight Timer’s variety and multitude work in its favor. As with any overwhelmingly robust resource, it does take some time to find the right sessions at first. While nothing is of poor quality, some of the guides just won’t work for you, and I found that to be my biggest (and only) frustration. I love tracking and sharing the sessions that really resonated with me, and I love tracking my meditation. Insight Timer is a must-have for me!

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Clue, a menstrual tracking app, took a while for me to see its worth. I highly recommending upgrading to Clue Plus to use

 it to its full potential. After a few cycles, the period tracker is pretty darn accurate. It notifies me of probable food cravings, upcoming PMS, my fertility window, and myriad other things related to my cycle. Tracking my activities daily increases my emotional and physical attunement, and the predictive notifications help me control behaviors I want to avoid. If your sisterhood is strong or if you want to share your cycle with a partner, you can do that too!

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Sleep Cycle makes waking up pleasant. For a teacher with a 5:00 start, that’s a pretty big accomplishment! Sleep Cycle very sensitively tracks sound as you sleep, and when it senses you’re awake or antsy, a gentle alarm helps you rise. To snooze, you simply lift the phone and to end the alarm, you swipe up. Easy peasy! If you don’t have an outlet near your bed to keep it charged, that could be a problem. Otherwise, I recommend this awesome alarm and sleep tracker for everyone!