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 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.

readingatFLATTRACK
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 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