Your Yoga Toolkit for Finding Relief

I don’t know about you, but I’m so ready for fall. I’d love some cooler temperatures (not crazy cold, just a bit crisp), cozy soups, and cuddling under a blanket with my hubby to watch a movie.

It was a tough summer for me. We moved into our new townhome in May, after completing several renovations. Where there was carpet, we put down gorgeous new hardwood floors. Where there were peach-colored Corian countertops, we installed a sparkly black and brown granite, perfect for hiding turmeric spills. Where there were old white grimy appliances, we spruced up with new stainless gadgets. Where there were drab grey walls, we put soothing colors that we love.

Photo by Wellness With Tami Robinson

Photo by Wellness With Tami Robinson

Photo by Wellness With Tami Robinson

Photo by Wellness With Tami Robinson

Sounds great, right?

Except for the fact that when we moved in, so did the wasps and hornets.

When we were doing the renovations in the spring, we met our neighbor and asked her how she liked living in the community. She said, “It’s great except for the wasps are pretty bad in the summer.” She already had a paper wasp nest starting in the eaves of her roof in March.

I didn’t make much of it. I’d been stung by bees in young adulthood, and it wasn’t that bad. One of my friends taught me how docile bumble bees are when I was in college by letting one land on his hand. I typically keep a respectful distance, and everyone’s happy.

Well, none of that happened in the south.

Our neighbor wasn’t kidding. On Memorial Day weekend, they decided to start nesting in the portico over our front porch, making it really tough to get in and out of the house.

Our homeowners’ association quarterly pest control clearly wasn’t going to cut it, so we hired extra help. They took care of the portico and the multiple nests under our deck in the back. Yet, there were still dozens happily buzzing in the bushes and dogwood tree just steps away from our front door, and all around the deck in the back. They actually would fly up and look in the windows. They’d land on the car just when I needed to get in. They’d do their rounds by the front door.

And it just. Kept. Going.

So instead of a summer enjoying tea and wine on the deck, instead of feeling a nice breeze through the open windows as we unpacked, instead of gardening in our small plots, I kept the windows shut, let the plots stay in the fertile void, and felt terror every time I went in and out of the house, unless it was at night, when the wasps were less active. There were just so many of them, and these things are just SO big.

They weren’t the only ones. A few centipedes, palmettos, wood roaches, and a ton of little beetles tried to move in too.

Now, I know there are people out there suffering way more, and normally, spiders and bugs don’t bother me much. For some reason though, these uninvited guests, the stress of moving, back-to-back travel, and then the passing of my teacher (read my post, "The Ripples of a Great Teacher: A Tribute" here) all took a toll on my nervous system this summer. I had a hard time keeping my eyes closed during Savasana (Corpse Pose). My breath became shallow and quick. Focusing my mind in meditation felt impossible at times. I felt like I was always on alert, and I was exhausted and depressed. Does any of that sound familiar?

Here’s the thing. I just kept practicing anyway.

Photo by Wellness With Tami Robinson

Photo by Wellness With Tami Robinson

Even when it seems like you can’t practice, there’s always something to practice. There’s always something you can do to feel better.

It might not be what you usually do. Your go-to feel-good poses might not work like they typically do. Your practice might look different than it normally does, but there’s always something you can do.

Living your yoga.png

In tough times, living your yoga, including and beyond the postures, can work magic and help you get through those challenges. If the postures aren’t working for you, there are so many other ways you can practice.

You might have heard me speak in class about the eight limbs of yoga, or refer to them here. They literally are a tool kit for getting present, renewing your energy, and finding relief when you apply them mindfully. Here’s a quick overview.

The Eight Limbs of Yoga

Yama (Restraints). Yoga actually starts with these practices, rather than the postures. Their purpose is to help you live your yoga while operating in society. The practices include Ahimsa (Peace or Non-Violence), Satya (Truth), Asteya (Abundance or Non-Stealing), Brahmacharya (Continence or Moderation), and Aparigraha (Self-Reliance or Non-Jealousy). For example, when you acknowledge the truth of your stressed-out nervous system (Satya or Truth), it’s easier to choose an appropriate practice, like restorative yoga, that will help soothe it, rather than one that might agitate it (Ahimsa or Non-Violence).

Niyama (Personal Observances). These actions, as well as the Yama, guide you to get rid of disturbances that take you away from your practice, that distract you from the bliss and freedom that you’re seeking through yoga. They include Saucha (Cleanliness), Santosha (Contentment), Tapas (Perseverance), Svadhyaya (Self-Study or Study of the Ancient Texts), and Ishvara Pranidhana (Surrender to the Divine). For me, it was helpful to keep coming back to Santosha (Contentment) and gratitude for our beautiful home, despite the critters buzzing around outside, and to keep asking (Tapas or Perseverance) why they bothered me so much and what I could do about it (Svadhyaya or Self-Study). I failed miserably in surrending the situation to the Divine (Ishvara Pranidhana) and trusting that I would be ok. I'll keep working on that one...

Asana (Postures). You know about these. In the big picture, their purpose is to prepare the body and mind for sitting in breathwork and meditation. Different postures tend to have different effects, which can be very subjective. In general, you feel AH-mazing after practicing them, especially if you’re following the Yama (Restraints) and Niyama (Personal Observances) as you do so.

Pranayama (Control of the Breath). Breathwork is essential to toning the nervous system and teaching the mind to focus prior to meditation. It also can recharge your batteries by bringing in Prana, or life force energy, as carried by the breath. In general, focusing on the inhalation is more activating, and focusing on the exhalation is more calming. I changed up my Pranayama practice mid-summer after my teacher passed away, and it made all the difference in the world.

Pratyahara (Withdrawal of the Senses). The senses draw the mind outward. It’s not a bad thing, it just happens naturally. You see something, and your mind starts thinking about it and then a bazillion other things. You hear an unfamiliar sound, and your mind naturally wants to figure out what it is. You smell chocolate, and wonder where is it and when can you taste it? Oh wait, that’s me. So when you withdraw the senses, say, by closing your eyes, blocking the ears, or placing sandbags on your hands, it allows your mind to get quiet and focus more easily.

Dharana (Concentration). This practice is the precursor to meditation. You focus your mind on something, like a candle flame, a sound, a word, an image that brings you comfort, the feeling of the warmth of the sun on your skin, or the coolness of the moonlight flowing down the body, etc. When the mind wanders, which it usually does, you simply bring the mind back to your object of concentration.

Dhyana (Meditation). This action is simply Dharana (Concentration) sustained over time. Scientific studies are finding that meditation can offer many benefits, such as improved focus, reduced stress, help with anxiety and depression, ease of pain, growth of grey matter in your brain (which implies better learning, memory, and emotion regulation), slower brain degeneration, help with immune system function, and more. (Having trouble getting started with meditation? Click here for my free guide!)

Samadhi (Liberation, Freedom, Ultimate Absorption). This practice is Dhyana (Meditation) to the point of not knowing where you end and the item you’re focusing on begins. You merge with it and find freedom and bliss through that absorption. My favorite practice for reaching towards this state is standing in direct sunlight, closing my eyes, and imagining I am sunlight. Sometimes it actually feels like I am.

And because there aren’t enough infographics on the eight limbs of yoga out there (hahaha), here’s one for just for you.

Infographic by Wellness With Tami Robinson

Infographic by Wellness With Tami Robinson

I relied on the eight limbs heavily to get me through the summer, and it was eye opening to see where I wasn’t practicing and how that was contributing to my suffering. I, like you, am still very much learning.

What I love, though, is that you can apply these practices to any part of your life where you’re struggling, and feel more grounded, centered, rested, and empowered almost immediately, even if only for a few moments, knowing that you have the ability to reduce your suffering. It was the only way I knew to move through the time and the stress.

And guess what ? It worked! I’m feeling so much better. It helps that the wasp season is ending, and most importantly, that I kept on practicing. Something is better than nothing, even if it’s not the rigorous posture practice you think you should be doing.

SPEAK YOUR TRUTH

What challenges are knocking you off your game right now? Which of these yoga tools do you want to explore more? Which ones are your go-to practices for feeling better? Post a comment below let me know! I always love hearing from you!

In wellness, joy, and inspiration,

Tami

Dump the Slump and Unfurl to Joy

Dump the Slump and Unfurl to Joy

“OMG, I’m doing it right now!” I thought.

I had just taken a yoga class, and went to grab some lunch and write for a bit. After I finished my lunch and opened up my computer, I noticed it.

I had one elbow on the high-top table in front of me with my hand under my chin. To rest my chin on my hand, I had to hunch over. I was starting to write about upper back pain, and here I was slouching and feeling it.

The backless bar stool I was using gave me no support, and my feet were so far from the floor that I had nothing to root into so that I could lift my spine. So being the yogini that I am, I moved the chair back so I could bring my sit bones to the front edge of the chair, pressed my feet into the chair bar, lifted from my low belly through my sternum, and drew my shoulder blades down my back. Ahhh, much better.

You see, problems in the upper back and neck can happen so easily. You might droop over a computer all day. When you’re not on the computer you’re probably hunched over your phone. Then, you’re so tired you come home and slump on to the couch. Sometimes you might even get on your phone or computer while slouching on the couch (gasp!).

The Ripples of a Great Teacher: A Tribute

The Ripples of a Great Teacher:  A Tribute

A fresh coastal breeze danced through the open door. The floor-to-ceiling windows revealed the California sun, which warmed my tired, overworked body, fresh in from Washington, DC. A soft voice guided me to bow my head and look into my heart.

I was more in my body than I had been in a long time. That voice had guided me home, to a physical location where I longed to be, to a deeper posture practice than I had ever known, and, most importantly, to myself.

I was in my first yoga certification, getting in-depth training on the Great Yoga Wall, an amazing prop that inspired me to start teaching. In less than a year, I began commuting from Washington, DC to Ventura, CA to start my 200-hour yoga teacher training with that same voice, which resonated so deeply with my own inner voice.

A year after that first trip, I packed up my place in DC, left my hectic yet stable career with the federal government, and moved to study with that voice more deeply. It became an adventure that took me places I never imagined possible, from India to the depths of my soul.

That voice belonged to my dear yoga teacher, Bryan Legere, who unexpectedly, yet peacefully, left his body on Wednesday, July 10, at 12:15 a.m. in Eastern Oregon.

Seven Tricks to Rein in Stress in Just Minutes

Seven Tricks to Rein in Stress in Just Minutes

It might sound cliché, but mother nature shows us that spring is a time for waking up, refreshing, clearing out, and starting new. In the spirit of making a fresh start, my husband and I bought a townhouse, and we’re in the final stretch of finishing up a few updates before we move in the next few weeks.

This is the first time I’ve ever done these kinds of renovations, and it’s like having a second job. For the last couple months I’ve been researching wood flooring, appliances, kitchen countertops, lighting, faucets, painters, movers, and other projects that I have the delusion of being able to DIY until I look it up on You Tube and then decide, “Uh, no.”

So I’ve been meeting and coordinating with lots of folks, and the other day I was juggling three groups—the kitchen countertop installers, the painters, and our handyman—along with running a few other errands.

By late morning, the countertop guys had to stop early because of an unexpected problem. My smoothie and tea had run their courses, and my eyeballs were floating. With the water in the townhouse off, I made a mad dash back to our apartment, which thankfully is close, to relieve myself.

How Restorative Yoga Prepares You for the Hard Stuff

How Restorative Yoga Prepares You for the Hard Stuff

We’re back from our trip overseas for my father-in-law’s memorial, and March has flown by us, between jet-lag, “spring forward” into daylight savings, a couple of drop-everything-else projects, renovating our new townhouse, and guests. It’s hard to believe that we’re in the last days of March!

I’m still processing all of the ceremonies, beauty, and emotions that I experienced as our family sent my father-in-law on his way and will share more thoughts about it at some point. For now, here’s a little taste of what I learned.

As we arrived at my mother-in-law’s house, the air was hushed with sadness even as dozens of relatives and friends filled the space. Cousins and sisters ushered me in one direction to see my mother-in-law right away. Though we don’t often speak the same language of words, we understood each other clearly with our tears and hugs as the shared language of grief. I realized something important that night that will help me so much in the future.

10 Signs You’re Letting Self-Discipline Trample Over Your Self-Care

10 Signs You’re Letting Self-Discipline Trample Over Your Self-Care

I used to work in an office on the fourth floor of a large, seven-floor building. The cafeteria was on the first floor, and a few of my bosses were on the fifth floor. I had to meet with people on all floors and in opposite corners on a regular basis, including in the basement of the building. Unless I was going from the ground floor to seven, I always took the stairs…in heels and a skirt suit.

People would say they heard me coming, because I always walked fast and had a particularly noticeable step (that my friends of course made fun of). All those years of marching band made my heels come down first, which creates a certain clickety-clack when you’re hurrying to a meeting to tell something important to someone even more important.

I got up every weekday morning and went to the gym or for a run at 5:30 a.m. Unless, of course, I had to be at work by then for a special meeting. I worked crazy hours, and sometimes even stayed late on Friday nights when I didn’t have to so I could pack in a few hours of uninterrupted work. You might think I had no social life, but I somehow managed to squeeze in happy hours, dinners with friends, hikes, and even dating. I was rarely asleep before 12 a.m.

After a few years, I noticed that when I met a big deadline, which often came up suddenly and carried with it a lot of pressure to get things right, I was fried the next day. We’re talking like a donut fried, with nothing but fluff on the inside. I would sit and stare at my inbox, not sure where or how to start. More coffee didn’t help. More protein and sugar only slightly did until I crashed again. I should have seen it starting then.

My Journey From Pancakes to Smoothies and Back

My Journey From Pancakes to Smoothies and Back

Throughout my childhood, I LOVED pancakes. Spoiler alert—I still do.

My step mom dubbed me Pancake when I was about four because that’s all I wanted for breakfast. I made Mickie Mouse pancakes with my grandmothers every chance I got. We didn’t have any fancy pancake molds back then. We just made a big circle and added two small circles for the ears. They were magical in my wide, five-year-old eyes.

I also remember (and now regret) feeding pancakes to the chipmunks at Yosemite National Park. I thought they would love my fluffy, syrup-laden clouds of heaven just like I did—poor little Chip N Dale. I can’t imagine their gluten-loaded tummies weren’t bloated and achy after that.

Then along came my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Jenkins. She was the kind of healthy person who always wore running shoes and had a perpetual tan from running outside (I’m pretty sure there were no tanning beds in my tiny little town back then). I’m forever grateful to her because she sparked my interest in nutrition. We learned about the food groups and how to write out a recipe. We even cooked in class and had healthy eating challenges.

Between Mrs. Jenkins and my mom’s interest in nutrition and mindful eating, my love for exploring healthy foods and lifestyles, much like my curiosity of yoga, started at an early age.

My body is my laboratory, and I’ve experimented with a lot of different eating plans. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Bringing The Sun's Warmth To You

Bringing The Sun's Warmth To You

I was just getting ready to step up on the scale at the doctor’s office, when the fire alarm sounded.

You know how sometimes when a sound totally unrelated to you happens just at the same time that you move and can make you feel like you caused the sound? Is it just me? Well, I had just taken my arm out of my jacket, sweeping it past the alarm, which was above the scale. I jumped, thinking maybe I set it off!

Once I recovered from thinking I had caused a major fiasco, the nurse and I looked at each other and mused about whether it was a drill or not. Pretty soon others in the office started ushering us out. It was the real deal.

We all gathered on a grassy island away from the building, and after the initial confusion, many of us looked towards the building for signs of smoke, flames, or the signal we could return. Eventually, the firetrucks arrived.

My Favorite Fatigue-Fighting Pose and How To Maximize it for You

My Favorite Fatigue-Fighting Pose and How To Maximize it for You

The other day I was sitting at Starbucks and staring at my screen through squinty eyes that wanted to shut into a comfy slumber. I was shivering (why is Starbucks always cold to me?) and felt like I was sitting on a rock. I woke up super early that day, after a night of tossing and turning, so I could get my husband to the train and myself to the doctor to get some routine bloodwork done. I missed my morning breathing session, and really was longing for that battery recharge that my breathing practice offers. I was committed to dedicating a good chunk of time to writing that day, though, and knew that my time at Starbucks was it, given that I had meetings and yoga practice in the afternoon.

So, I did what any yoga girl would do.

Order coffee? Nope. Drink a matcha latte? Nah. Put my head on the table and take a nap? Nyet.

I went home, and instead of crawling into bed or curling up on the couch, I got out my bolster for my favorite fatigue-fighting pose.

What My Turquoise Pen Taught Me About Yoga

What My Turquoise Pen Taught Me About Yoga

I held a turquoise pen in my hand and took a deep breath as I looked down at the blank page. At the top, I wrote, “I’m proud of…” and took another deep breath. A few obvious items came to mind immediately.

  • Moving across country with my husband.

  • Helping my husband through a tough work transition.

  • Packing up half of our belongings and staging our condo right before taking a trip overseas.

  • Birthing a yoga teaching practice in a new city.

I wrote about half a dozen items on the page before a long pause. The directions for the exercise, which I found through money and manifesting expert Denise Duffield Thomas, were to have a partner ask “what else?” every time you got stuck until you had 30 to 50 items on your list. I wondered how I was going to list 10 accomplishments let alone 30 to 50.

6 Simple Wellness Tips for the Holidays

6 Simple Wellness Tips for the Holidays

I will never forget that January 2nd, when I woke up with chest pains, dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea, and pain in my jaw.

The holidays had been full of comfort and joy, yet I could barely see out of my right eye due to a cyst on my inner eyelid. I’d attended two funerals. The priest at one passed on his blessings as well as his cold. I was teaching more classes and seeing more private yoga and coaching clients than ever. Now, chest pains. My body was trying to tell me, “Enough!”

It wasn’t the first time I was sick at the holidays. My annual holiday illnesses were dependable. I had come to expect that I would be sick around that time of year. Usually, I got “normal” upper respiratory infections. One year it was whooping cough. (Yes, you can still get this illness. I thought it only happened during the times of Little House on the Prairie and prior…until I got it.)

Though my heart ended up being fine that early January morning, I knew I needed to make some changes. I had to face the fact that as joyous as the holidays are and as much as I love them, I neglected my self-care in favor of doing it all.

Doing Laundry and Slaying Demons

Doing Laundry and Slaying Demons

I’m fresh off of almost three weeks of travel, and boy, am I glad for a break from living out of a suitcase. We had such a wonderful time in Chicago! In addition to teaching three workshops, holding private sessions with students, and meeting with coaching clients, my husband and I cheered on the runners at the Chicago marathon and filled our hearts with laughter with friends and lots of hugs and kisses from my little niece and nephew. I am so grateful that I got to see many of my Chicago students and meet some new faces as well. We dove deeper into breathing techniques, tuned up our bodies and lives with the chakras, and found nourishment by doing less.

First Downs: A Simple Formula for Boosting Your Confidence

First Downs:  A Simple Formula for Boosting Your Confidence

We missed it.  Completely.  Not one kick off.  Not one Hail Mary pass.  Not one plowed run through hundreds (maybe even thousands?) of pounds of muscle might.  Not one Belicheck tantrum.  Not one funny commercial.  Not one second of half-time show fireworks and music.  The Super Bowl came and went this year, as we were awakened by the call to prayer on our first full day in Bangladesh for the wedding of my husband’s nephew.

Though I had no emotional attachment to either team this year, I enjoy watching the game, the halftime show, and, of course, the commercials.  As I lamented missing this annual touchstone of American culture, I remembered how my yoga teacher once likened life to a football game.  I started to observe the “first downs” in my life and discovered something powerful. 

It's a simple formula for boosting your confidence, and it starts with doing something new.  You see, as you step into new experiences, your courage and appreciation have the opportunity to expand.

Resolution Redo

Resolution Redo

“Do 100 squats every day for the entire year.”

“Read a book a week.”

“Get up at 5:30 a.m. every day”

“Lose 20 pounds.”

“Give up processed sugar for good.”

 

Sounds good, right?  Except for when, on day 10, you fall ill and can’t get out of bed to do your squats.  Or, when one month passes and you’re only a few chapters into the first book.  Or, when you went to bed at 3:00 a.m. after your friend’s birthday bash and can’t seem to drag yourself out of bed at 5:30 a.m. Or, when things get so crazy at work that you can’t make it to the gym or the grocery store for healthy food to keep your weight loss going, and instead eat greasy take-out at your desk every night until the project is over.  Or, when you realize that you really are addicted to chocolate and the sugar that’s in it, and where the heck is your secret, emergency stash?  Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

 

That last one is all me. ;-)