Yoga For Deep Rest

sleeping dog

We’ve posted about this before and decided it was time to share it again!

I think about my life right now – the pace of “should’s” and “could’s” and “to-do’s” filling up all the nooks and crannies in my schedule.  I use my calendar to give each of my to-do’s time in the day to make sure I do them and to make sure there is time.  And when there isn’t, I end up with a pile of calendar items all to do at the same time – what a mess of indecision and disappointment!  In the midst of this busy stream of my human life, my puppy sits there sleeping with his head under a bed or couch.  He reminds me of the need for naps and rest in between intense times of play or work.  How have we as humans lost the ability to pause and be still?  To listen when our bodies and minds need rest?  How do we even begin to regain that balance in our daily “grind”?

I’ve been studying yoga and contemplative practices with a group at the San Marcos School of Yoga.  At the end of each day we experience some sort of restorative practice or pose.  A few minutes in some of these poses or experiences can feel like hours of rest – and help you sleep better when you get to bed!  What a great tool for healing the mind and emotions.  What a deep need for caregivers and supporters.  And for this one, you don’t even need to have any knowledge of yoga!

I had heard of Yoga Nidra before, but had never done it.  In fact I didn’t know – is it something you “do” or “practice” or “see”?  I learned that Yoga Nidra is a yogic sleep – and you begin almost like you are in Savasana (resting pose) but with extra blankets and padding underneath you.  Once settled comfortably, someone leads you through a visualization in your body and spirit to guide you to deep, deep rest.  I practiced this and felt so calm and self-aware afterwards.  I have cravings for it now.  Better than a bedtime story, this will surely give your whole self a recharge in less than 15 minutes.

Since I can’t come read to you, you can download audio files to listen for your Nidra experience

Looking for more?  Check out some of the other restorative poses on Lacuna Loft.  Viparita Karani is a great choice if you have a wall and 10 minutes for quiet!

What do you do to recharge your batteries?  Making space to rest during cancer is so important.  How do you create this space?

Go here for a sample script!

Developing A Home Yoga Practice (Pt. 2)

home yoga practice tips

There are so many benefits from a regular yoga practice.  Being in my body teaches me how to safely expand beyond what I thought were limits.  I learn to trust the teacher within me – the voice of intuition or deeper knowing that guides my next pose, my next breath, and my big decisions.  Of course a teacher and the support of a class of peers is helpful and feels awesome.  I need that, too.  I need someone to reflect back to me where I can adjust, what I’m doing that isn’t safe or best.  But I also need to be on my mat with just ME.  (And, you may save a lot of money this way).

I learned how to develop my own home yoga practice by starting with a plan and then learning to listen to my body (part 1).  I realize that not everyone has a teacher writing a plan for their body to start us on the path.  So here are some ideas for creating a little bit of a plan that may get you going towards something steady.

Home yoga practice tips:

1.  Make some note cards of poses.  You know, the poses you know.  The ones you want to know.  The ones you don’t like.  On each card, write the poses out in words (English, Sanscrit, made-up home name for a pose) or draw them (I tend towards stick figures).  Arrange them into an order that you want to practice and do it.  See how it feels in your body.  What transitions are awkward or awful?  Why?  Continue to practice the same pattern and see if it improves over days.  Or, change it up each day and notice what you like better.  What you don’t like.  What is good for you even if you don’t like it.  What do you learn about yourself and your body?  The INQUIRY is the yoga.  The poses are a vehicle into knowing ourselves.  When we know ourselves, we can be free to choose any way of being in the world.  And then we can experience joy, love.

2.  Get a Book.  If you are like me, you love reading these and hate doing what they say!  But seriously, for some people, this is awesome.  PS – books come from libraries, too, so you don’t have to break the bank on this.

  • Light on Yoga (BKS Iyengar) has a VERY detailed plan for home practice in the back and of course tells you a lot about each pose, how to enter it, how long to hold it, etc.  The tone is very direct and detailed.  (This is a great supplement to practicing with a teacher, especially at an Iyengar Yoga studio.  These teachers are trained thoroughly and know how to adjust poses and people of all types and maladies.  They have an understanding of the therapeutic workings of yoga.  Super safe, super effective, super detailed.)
  • The Heart of Yoga (TKV Desikachar) has various Vinyasa sequences.  His focus with Vinyasa is moving the the breath so you move back and forth between two or more poses using inhales and exhales.  He also has written a lot of great information about the philosophies of yoga.  This book is really approachable for even a raw beginner.
  • Jivamukti Yoga (Sharon Gannon & David Life) is a classic book about this stye of yoga.  Really respected.  Rigorous.  I love the voice of this book, it makes me love yoga more.  They have tons of mini sequences that move with the breath that you can link together however you want (but they also have complete practices for multiple difficulty levels at the back).
  • Yoga Mala (Sri K Pattabhi Jois) is a similarly designed book for Ashtanga yoga.  Ashtanga is a physically demanding practice system and has poses divided into Series.  One progresses from Primary Series to Secondary, etc., by practicing the same series of poses each day.  You may change, the days change, but the poses remain the same.  And thus, you can see how you progress.  I haven’t read this book yet but have browsed it at studios and think it would be a gem.

3.  Take a class (in a studio or online), write down what you remember doing, and do it again at home for a week until your next class.  This will challenge your brain and memory (yes we can all further develop our creative recall powers) as well as your body.  You will improve.  Notice if parts of your body are extra tired or feeling left out.  Here, you can learn to add what you need.  Maybe the class was all about backbends.  That’s cool for a day or two… but now you need to stretch your back because it’s getting so strong so you do some forward bends and twists… and then maybe you move into some standing poses because you are tired of looking upside down in bridge.  Awesome.  Strong legs and stretched hamstrings!  Side bends sound good too… look, you’ve started to create a rhythm of a balanced home practice!

4.  Mark up your calendar with different poses.  Draw one one each day and do it.  Then, decide what didn’t feel right and needed help.  Do some work to help out those tough spots and do the pose again.  For example: I do Down-Dog.  It feels AWFUL.  Okay, I need to stretch the backs of my legs.  Well, I can also stretch my hips to give my legs freedom.  And maybe massage my feet or calves to loosen them up.  I’ll do a little backbend or twisting to wake up my back.  I’ll stretch my arms overhead and do some side bends so I can really get length in my back.  Now, I do Down-Dog again.  I bet its much better.  My heels are even making their way towards the ground now.  And I did well today – savasana or meditation to end.  Way to go!

5.  You can also check out our posts on restorative poses and start with one a day!

Do you have any home yoga practice tips to add?  What do you use to help build or expand your yoga at home?  Where have you found yourself doing yoga?  What else do you need to help you grow?

Developing A Home Yoga Practice (Pt. 1)

home yoga practice

I got into yoga because there was a free class I could walk to.  Yoga wasn’t in my plans (or budget) but I thought that even better than taking a day off from running, I could get a different type of workout in. (This was during a stressful time in my life – I used workouts for self-care/sanity.)

I began to fall in love though.  I fell in love with the person I remembered that I really was, beyond the stress and frustration at work or in relationships.  I remembered how my soul ached to be bathed in (and bathe others in) compassion.  I loved the calling into love that I knew but didn’t always experience.  I loved that I could embody and practice my philosophy, my values, my faith.

So I became a yoga hopper.  I did classes at almost all of the studios in town.  When I traveled, I couldn’t wait to look up studios and visit.  To learn new moves, experience new styles, and glean wisdom from new teachers.  I was soaking it up.

Then, one winter, I got it into my head that I was interested in teacher training.  I loved how the teacher I went to the most (also a free class, mind you) moved in her body.  She had such freedom and power in her movements, her voice, and her presence.  I wanted more of that.  I also am the personality type that wants to know why and what and more and how (did I miss my calling as an engineer?)… so I needed to get deeper into these questions and find some answers.  I signed up and paid in full.

After a 12-day intensive with our teacher, we were told that we now had to go home and practice on our own and NOT go to other teachers’ classes.  WHAT?!?!  I mean I had done a little yoga on my own before that.  In hotel rooms, usually in dire circumstances without a class.  What would I do?  How would I know what pose to do when and how could I learn without a teacher?  She weaned us with a custom “routine” to do for three weeks.  After that, it was up to each of us.

I got sick of her routine.  I longed to do anything else.  And there I was, at the end of three weeks, with an empty mat.  It was up to me to make an hour a day happen (since I was in training I was doing at least this much a day – not true anymore).  I started by doing some Sun Salutations.  I knew those from my Ashtanga-inspired teachers.  And then I did some Warrior poses.  And then, all of a sudden, my body started ASKING me for poses.  My hip flexors almost begged for a lunge.  My hamstrings groaned with gratitude when I did forward bends.  The joy/agony/release of each pose was already known by my body.  I learned to listen.  To trust.  To know the voice of a deeper part of me than just my head.

And a home practice was born.  Not without struggle.  Oh man, I am good at coming up with urgent things that must be done on my computer, on my phone, around my house, “for someone else”… to avoid going to my mat.  I struggle to give myself time to be with me, to gain clarity and compassion.  And honestly, I still don’t understand why this is a human struggle, but it is.  It is good for me, it is good for others, and yet I avoid it.  Maybe I’ll have more for you in another decade of learning.  (See some posts on meditation to help clear the way.)

Do you have a home yoga practice?  What are your struggles?  What helps you carve out time for you and your body/soul?  

Check out Part 2 next week for some ideas on creating your own home practice!

5 Simple Self Care Rituals

self care ideas

We are reposting this, with permission, from Christine Janak’s blog.  You can find more from Christine on her website or on Facebook.  Christine instructs yoga (among her many talents) and I admire her for her strong sense of self, and self-care!  

You can find more on Abhyanga and Meditation on other Lacuna Loft posts.


I want to share with you a few  self-care practices that are incredibly easy to add into your daily routine. Many of them are inspired by Ayurveda, the 5,000-year-old system for natural healing, and sister science to yoga, that has its origins in the Vedic culture of India. I guarantee that each time you do one of these practices, and take a moment to show yourself some love, you’ll feel better afterward. I have experimented with each of these practices over the past 6-12 months, so I will share both the claimed benefits of each and my own experiences with them. My purpose is only to share information, but it is up to you to learn more and to experiment and decide if these practices are right for you and your personal health situation. You don’t have to do them all, and you certainly don’t have to start them all at once! My advice is to choose one and to take your time exploring that practice for a few days or weeks. Once you’re comfortable with it, maybe add another into your routine and let this momentum of self-love keep building. Enjoy!

1. Tongue Scraping or Jihwa Prakshalana

As we sleep at night, our digestive system keeps working, removing toxins from our bodies and depositing them on our tongues. Check out your tongue in the mirror when you wake up, and you’ll see a thin layer of yellow or whitish goo on it. That lovely stuff is made up of bacteria, food debris, fungi, toxins, and dead cells! Gross, right? Luckily, it is easy to remove it and keep it from being reabsorbed into your body. Scraping your tongue every day:

  • Bolsters your immune system
  • Supports your digestive and respiratory systems
  • Boosts overall dental health
  • Helps prevent halitosis
  • Can open up clogged taste buds, making food taste better
  • Stimulates saliva production, stoking your agni or digestive fire

Metal tongue scrapers are inexpensive and can be found at most grocery and drug stores. Scrape your tongue first thing in the morning, before consuming any food or drink. You might think that brushing your tongue with your toothbrush is getting the job done, but really it just moves that junk around without fully removing it!

Stainless Steel Tongue Scraper

My experience: The effects of this would be pretty tough to measure, but I can say that it feels great to get that nasty goo off my tongue, especially now that I know what it is. I also feel that starting my day with this beneficial practice (and the next one on the list) sets the tone for the rest of my day. I know that I’m doing something mindful to take care of myself and I can take that attitude with me as I go out into the world, making better choices throughout my day. This is by far the easiest and least time-consuming practice on the list, but the health benefits are incredible. If there is one thing from this list that you try, start scraping your tongue!

2. Warm Lemon Water

While citrus and H2O can’t hurt at any point in your day, this practice is known for being particularly beneficial first thing in the morning. Our bodies are naturally dehydrated when we wake up in the morning, after hours of using and recycling the same water to heal and detoxify as we sleep.  A warm cup of water rehydrates the body and serves to dilute the acidic lemon juice, which can be hard on the enamel of the teeth. Lemons are absolutely packed with nutrients, including B and C vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and fiber. A cup of warm water mixed with the juice of half a lemon :

Warm water with lemon (and maybe ACV too!)

  • Boosts your immune system
  • Aids digestion
  • Boosts your energy
  • Helps flush out toxins
  • Helps relieve constipation
  • Reduces inflammation over time
  • Helps fight viral infections
  • Provides blemish and wrinkle-fighting antioxidants
  • Helps reduce anxiety and depression

For added detoxifying and blood sugar balancing effects, I add 1 tablespoon of raw, unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar. For this purpose, you want the kind that has “the mother,” strands of proteins, enzymes, and friendly bacteria that give the vinegar a murky, cobweb-like appearance. The flavor may take some getting used to, but you can always dilute with more water.

My Experience: I LOVE my lemon water. It definitely wakes me up in the morning and sometimes gives me an all-over body buzz, a warming sensation on the surface of my skin.  I’m not a big caffeine drinker anymore, but if you are trying to cut back on your intake, replacing your morning coffee with lemon water is a great choice, even if you start out with just a few days each week. Make sure you rinse your mouth with plain water afterwards to protect your enamel from the acid in the lemon juice.

3. Dry Skin Brushing

I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical about this one the first time I read about it, but I am now happily converted, it is AWESOME. Skin brushing’s most important benefit, in my opinion, is that it stimulates the lymphatic system, aiding in the body’s natural detoxification processes and strengthening the immune system. It also exfoliates away dead skin cells, unclogs pores, and increases blood flow to the skin, giving you glowing, silky-soft skin. Another purported benefit is the reduction of cellulite through firming the skin and helping to break up the fat deposits that cause the wrinkled appearance. But quite honestly, I wouldn’t put too much stock in that one. And a friendly reminder for my lady readers, 80-90% of women have cellulite, yes, even supermodels! It is the norm for us women (and some men) and it does not mean that we are unhealthy or overweight. Perhaps our time would be better spent learning to love ourselves as we are than trying to banish those perfectly normal little dimples. Okay, back to the skin brushing…

Skin Brush with Natural Bristles

All you need for this is a dry skin brush with firm, natural bristles, ideally with a long handle for reaching your back. They can be found in stores, but I bought mine online for less than $10. What you’ll do is brush your entire body with gentle pressure, starting at the soles of the feet, making long strokes toward the heart, up the legs, arms, and back. Circular motions should be made around the joints and around the abdomen. It’s best to do this before you shower in order to wash away all the dead cells and other funky stuff that you brushed off.

Lymph Flow Guide

My Experience: My favorite thing about skin brushing is how energized I feel afterward. The surface of my body is tingling all over and has a warm, rosy glow from the increased blood-flow. The first time I tried it, the bristles were a lot rougher than I expected. The sensation took a little getting used to, but now it feels great. My skin definitely looks and feels softer and healthier. It retains moisture longer, so I’ve found myself applying moisturizers less often. The most interesting effect has been the disappearance of a harmless, yet mildly annoying skin condition that I have had since grade school. It’s called keratosis pilaris, and for me it appears as little white bumps scattered over my upper arms. After dry brushing 3-5 times per week for two weeks, the bumps had vanished! The condition does start to return if I don’t stay consistent with the brushing, so if you’re going to do it, I suggest hanging your brush somewhere convenient so you will see it and remember to use it. It only feels better with time, so stick with it!

4. Self-Massage or Abhyanga

We ask a lot of our bodies, especially as yogis or athletes of any sort. Self-massage is not only a tangible way to show your body some love and gratitude for all of the amazing things it does for you every day, but it also provides some important health benefits:

  • Increases circulation
  • Lubricates joints
  • Improves muscle tone
  • Encourages detoxification by:
    • Stimulating internal organs
    • Stimulating lymphatic system
  • Softens and smoothes skin
  • Calms nerves
  • Promotes deep, healthy sleep

It is recommended to use a natural oil for self-massage, such as coconut, sesame, or almond. There are certain types of oils that are best for balancing your specific dosha(s), or Ayurvedic mind-body type. You can learn your dosha type here.

For a full-on abhyanga session, you will warm your oil and gently massage it all over your body in a particular pattern, similar to the one for dry brushing. This massage is not meant to be a deep-tissue muscle massage (though it totally can be if that’s what you need); rather, it is meant to be a light, soothing surface massage that helps to awaken the body’s natural systems for healing and removing toxins.

My experience: Just wonderful. When I have time to do the full body massage, I love to go all out, light some candles, and have a nice, long soak in a warm bath afterward. A realistic way for me to work this into my daily life is do a quicker version, taking about 3-5 minutes to do a light all-over massage, even if clothes are left on. I give myself short massages during the day at work or after a yoga practice or exercise, which is an especially nice way to wind down and massage the muscles while they are still warm.

5. Meditation

The healing power of meditation has been getting quite a bit of attention in the news and Western research in recent years. In case you missed it, here’s a quick run-down of the benefits:

Benefits of Meditation

Meditation is not easy, especially when you’re just starting out, but it doesn’t have to be difficult either! One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received is that you have to shift your perspective if it seems like a chore. Instead of thinking, “I have to meditate,” think “I get to meditate.” And here’s the best part – you don’t have to meditate for an hour, or even half an hour…in fact you shouldn’t start there. A great strategy for beginners is to start with just two minutes at a time, and add one minute every day. Another exciting revelation – you don’t have to sit in a full lotus posture or any other pretzel-like position that is uncomfortable for you. Sitting in a chair is a great place to start, with the spine erect, shoulders relaxed, and a soft face and jaw. If you do want to sit on the ground, you can prop yourself up by sitting on a yoga block or two, or anything other object that can get your hips higher than your knees in a cross-legged position. Once you’re comfy, it might be a good idea to set a timer so you won’t have to worry about how much time has passed. Next, close your eyes, and take a few deep, slow breaths…in through the nose and out through the mouth. From here there are a TON of different types of meditation strategies you can try to help you center your mind and

meditation-attention-regulationslow down your thoughts. That’s what mindful meditation is all about. You don’t have to attempt to stop thinking completely; rather, you can practice observing your thoughts, acknowledging them as they occur, and then gently letting them float away, returning your attention to your breathing and to the sensations happening in your body. Pretty freakin’ simple, and I guarantee that you will feel great afterward, especially if you keep meditating regularly! Final word of advice: Do NOT beat yourself up if you miss a few days. Any progress is good progress, and creating feelings of guilt for yourself is not productive.

My Experience: I first learned to meditate in karate classes when I was 10 years old. Even after I ditched karate in favor of free Saturday mornings for running  around outside, I kept up with the meditation on and off over the years. I found the practice especially useful during the wild and sometimes traumatic pre-teen and teenage years. I took a break from it during college (when I probably could have used it most), but have returned to it in the last 2 years. I know now that this practice is what yoga is really all about, this time for stillness and self-study. Meditation is what makes me feel whole and what allows me to come back to my true self when things get crazy. It helps me put things in perspective and tame my over-active inner critic. It helps me realize that my thoughts are not ME, and that they are not necessarily true either. That I have the power, in each and every moment of my day, to notice my train of thought and to send it in a more positive direction, if I only take a moment to breathe and to become aware of what’s happening inside. One of my favorite quotations from the Buddha says it all in so few words:

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought.

The mind is everything.

What we think, we become.”


I hope that this post inspires you to find new ways to make your health and happiness a priority.  Keep in mind that this was only a brief introduction to these practices. I encourage you to learn more about them and to make sure that they are appropriate for your unique health situation before making any changes.

Take care of yourselves and make sure you find a way to play a little bit every day! : )

You can find more from Christine on her website or on Facebook.  Lacuna Loft does not endorse or mandate any of these self care practices…we serve to teach and educate on self care ideas and lifestyle management ideas and possibilities.  Please self care responsibly 🙂

Chair Yoga for All!

chair yoga

Using props in restorative yoga can provide support to our bodies as they open up.  Blocks, straps, mats, walls, exercise balls, and more are all used during classes.  Another versatile prop is an everyday chair (while people do remove the backing from folding chairs to make an extra-awesome yoga chair, it isn’t necessary to re-do your dining room set for some yoga!).

Using a chair for yoga, like any prop, can assist me into a pose or teach me about where my body still has room to grow in mobility.  I can also use a chair as the center of my yoga time – supporting my body weight while I get to freely move my limbs.  This is often called “Chair Yoga” or “Office Yoga” and I love how it makes yoga accessible at any time of the day (email breaks, YES!), and to people who need to lay off the knees or weight bearing because of illness, injury, or age.

Chair yoga can be done at your desk at work or at the dinner table at home.  I’ve played around a little at home with using a chair as a prop for yoga poses and doing all my yoga while sitting in a chair.  Since I’m only beginning to explore this, I’m sharing some resources that I’ve found:

Have you ever done chair yoga?  What are your favorite supportive props for yoga?  Let us know!

image via (and info on teaching chair yoga!)

Release to Replant, Mindful Living

mindful living

My husband and I are preparing for a(nother) move.  We are moving across a few states and downsizing from a house in a suburban area to a two bedroom apartment in an urban environment.  Over the years we have collected a lot of extra stuff.  From old clothes to extra couches and a second set of plates, there is so much we have stockpiled and stored that we don’t need, can’t fit in our new home, and really, that others could use much better than we.  So, we are beginning to let go of these items – going through the drawers, boxes, shelves, and closets to release the extra that we’ve accumulated.  These clothes might remind us of life in another climate, the couches of a friend who gave them to us, but in reality the extra stuff is just weighing us down.

(And, a few years ago we both led a trip of students to New Orleans to help clean out a home of three elderly family members who had collected, hoarded, to what felt like an unlivable standard.  So we both have distinct images of where we do NOT want to go!)

Last week we started with going through our clothes – trying things on, telling stories about this or that t-shirt we acquired… and putting things in a pile to donate.  We are clearing the way.  Because there just isn’t room for anything new when we are completely full.  The physical mirrors the spiritual in our lives.  When my closet is full of things I use to create my image, maybe I don’t have room to create something new, to be something new.  And I even find that I have a harder time deciding what to wear!!!  When my pantry is full of old food and all these sauces that are just SITTING there, maybe I have less energy to try a new cuisine or make a fresh meal or start a new way of eating (because no one likes to waste food… but how can I stop collecting too much?).  When my schedule is full of activities, hobbies, chores, work, plans… I don’t have time to rest and restore my soul.  And I certainly don’t have the space in my day or my heart to be ready to be surprised by things that may come up to bring me joy.  No time for that!

And moving, for me, always resonates with the image of replanting.  I have a lot of houseplants and they mostly have names and stories of their origins.  I have some aloe that I potted at a friend’s house when she rescued a bunch of little ones from a gnarly overgrown garden.  I have a tall palm-like guy that we inherited at our first home (he had been left behind) and we named him Marshall after the street we lived on.  I have a little ferny friend that reminds me of friends from Michigan where I split him up and shared pieces of him with them.  I am connected to my plants in my home and I have had them long enough to need to repot them.  When I pull my plant from its tiny old home, her roots are usually wrapped around the whole shape of the soil, overgrown and searching for more space.  I gently loosen them, preparing them for the space that is coming.  The new “home” is prepared with extra soil and I cozy the new roots into the pot.  After setting the plant in securely, I add a lot of water to invite the roots to spread out and make themselves at home.  For a little while, the plant doesn’t look as perky.  She feels a little uncertain without her old way of being.  With a little time though, and some growing, she begins to expand beyond what she was.  She can create new stems, leaves, and roots because she has the new space.

This image reminds me of the need to release my grip on my current way of being – it could be my roots of my friends and routines in my current home, my extra stuff, my plans, etc.  And when I make space for something new, even if the process feels uncertain, if my leaves aren’t quite as perky in the process (do I really have to give away that Avril Lavigne concert shirt!? ha!), I can trust that the space I create physically allows my soul and life to take on some new growing.  A new direction maybe, or a new capacity… who knows!  I will never find out if I’m not willing to do the work of cleaning things out and trusting in the less-than-perky process of expansion.


Ideas for Living This

  • What do you want to clear out to make room for the new?  Your schedule?  Your closet?  Your pantry?  Write it down or tell someone.  Use a journal to chart what you do and what happens with the extra space in your world.  Then, share it with us!
  • Get your hands dirty!  Find a plant that needs a new home (or a bulb/seeds that you want to put in the ground, etc.).  As you are planting or replanting it, meditate on the process of making space (digging in the dirt or loosening the roots), adjusting in the new home (watering, the days of getting settled again, or the winter of waiting for the bulb!), and the process of new growth that will arrive in its own time.  Afterwards, as you wash your hands, trust that there isn’t anything left for you to DO in the process.  Your role is to watch and learn, wait and experience.

How do you make space for replanting and mindful living as a young adult cancer or long term illness patient, survivor, or caregiver?

A New View on Obstacles

dealing with obstacles in life

Every day this week I have been ruminating on obstacles.  (Not a new subject for me, read more thoughts on reframing here!)  This morning, I had a miscommunication with our future landlords that threatened to send our plans reeling and my emotions collapsing into worn out tears.  This week I have to manage a busy schedule that doesn’t allow for the resetting time I want (let alone all the studies I ambitiously hoped to get in).  Last week included missing out on a friend’s big event.  Everyday we get closer to moving is a goodbye, a closed door, a reminder of the new effort needed to start again.  I could see all these things as attacks from the universe, more than I can handle, and unfair.  I could see these events as nuisances in between me and my desires and goals.  I could go at these roadblocks with a bulldozer… OR consider them differently.

Most mornings I am practicing sitting with my obstacles.  I do my best to remove that label.  I am considering them ‘in the way’.  What if they are just facts.  Words spoken.  Decisions made.  The reality of location and distance in my life and relationships.  So I practice holding these events in my mind as just the facts.  Just the things as they could be described by any onlooker.  And I wait.  I let these things unfold a little.  I don’t tease them apart, but with a little patience they begin to open up (not unlike the peonies lavishly unfurling on my street).  I realize that people I’m talking to are just doing their job as they know how – and usually distracted by their own lives and full of their own emotional goings ons.  The woman on the phone isn’t intentionally blocking my way.  My husband and coworkers and my life aren’t all colluding together to make my days chaotic and confusing.  My friend isn’t happy that I’m not around, even though I can make that up in my head.

If I just begin to let the petals of the facts open up… well, first the emotions get to let go.  I don’t feel as charged with anger, fear, or hurt.  I just see life happening.  There is space there.  And then I can consider other ways that this situation is adding to my life, consider what I can learn about myself.  My conversation with the landlords gives me space to acknowledge that I easily feel like people are out to get me.  I feel like I want to be in control and my control is fragile.  Here, I get (HAVE) to let go of ‘my way’ and learn TRUST (oh, how awful this is to learn…) that the universe, that life, that my intentions for good are moving things along.  AND, that I can handle whatever comes my way if I keep hold of love.  In my overdone week, I get to see how my decisions are motivated by pleasing others and learn that when saying ‘yes’ feels like a ‘should’ and comes from an attempt to bolster appreciation and value that I come to regret it.  With enough observations of this, I’m sure to learn to say those ‘yes-es’ less often!  When I feel sad that I’m far away from those I love I can see all the love I have, consider other ways to show it, and appreciate that other humans are around my friends to share the love and support I have.

Lots of times I still choose the bulldozer first.  So, I’m practicing.  When the plane is late.  When the price isn’t what I thought it was.  When my dog wants to go another way on my walk.  When all my emails are to-dos that suddenly spring up.  When all my emotions and life circumstances seem to be “in the way”… I’m learning to see them instead as just events.  Just facts.  Just space to consider something else.  To consider who I am in my reactions, who I want to be, and how I can love in bigger ways that I imagined at first.   What a beautiful invitation to being human.

As my teacher, Christina Sell says,

“My personal belief is that we must know- in a very clear and precise way- the patterns of our thinking and how they will attempt to sabotage us and our self-worth and our joy. And when we know this, we gain some mastery over the patterns rather than they simply being the master of us… I personally do not ever expect the patterns’ voices to go away. I really don’t. Although sometimes they do. Nor do I find it that helpful to fight them as they are wily, smart and long-enduring. I think of them like a muscle. When the pattern is strong it is like a muscle in spasm. It has all of our attention. But when it is not activated, not fed, put in its place, so to speak, it is just a muscle like any other muscle. I mean really, do you think much about your triceps muscle when it is not sore?”

May we learn to keep those spasms down in the face of daily life.

As I sit with my daily obstacles, I chant the mantra, “Ohm Shri Ganeshaya Namaha”.  This has been helpful to get my mind to relax around the issue.  What do you do to help you see into your obstacles?  Dealing with obstacles in life isn’t an easy thing…how do you focus on yourself in the midst of chaos?  How do you work to see these obstacles as the way to different paths, as opposed to a blocking point in the path that you desired?  

Let Your Breath Be Your Guide (Self-Care Check-In)

self care

When I watch kids, I see that they are completely at one with themselves.  They are learning to move in their bodies and are playfully aware of all their shapes.  They are full of questions and actively learning.  They can share their anger, frustration, tears, laughter, joy… all in a matter of minutes.  They are profound in surprising ways, not afraid to share of their deepest selves to others.

We all start that way.  And yet through life, I have learned to cover up, protect, hide, and clean up all these areas to be “enough” or “presentable”.  And in the process, I’ve forgotten how to listen to my body, my mind, my emotions, and my spiritual self/soul.  So I’m beginning the work of listening, of checking-in with each part.  To hear its soft whisper deep within me.  To learn this internal, intuitive wisdom and allow it to guide my choices.  To check in with myself and my self care.

Here is a short exercise from my yoga training that I use to practice checking in with myself:

Find a comfortable seat – on the floor, in a chair, or on a couch/bed.  Close your eyes and feel your breath as it moves in and out through your nose.  Feel the slight movements in your nostrils because of the flow.  Feel the temperature change as your breath moves against your skin.  Become completely absorbed in your breath.

Then, feel your breath across the length of your body – from your tailbone to the top of your head.  As you inhale, grow taller.  As you exhale, hold your height and relax.  Continue this for a few breaths.

Next, feel your breath across your width.  With each inhale, expand through your sides and feel your ribs grow wider.  With you exhale, hold on to as much of this width as you can and soften.  Enjoy a few rounds of breath here.

Finally, feel your breath move into your depth.  Your deepest self, your core of values and passions and purposes for your life.  Allow your inhales to breathe life and strength to your depth.  With each exhale, contemplate how deep you truly are.

After breathing into your fullest sense of yourself, we’ll ask two questions to each layer of ourselves.

Physical self:  What do you need from me?  Do you have a message for me?

(Pause.  Wait.  Listen.)

Mental/intellectual self:  What do you need from me?  Do you have a message for me?

(Pause.  Wait.  Listen.)

Emotional self:  What do you need from me?  Do you have a message for me?

(Pause.  Wait.  Listen.)

Spiritual self:  What do you need from me?  Do you have a message for me?

(Pause.  Wait.  Listen.)

Allow enough breath and space to listen for an answer.  I don’t always find answers to all of these each time.  It requires practice and patiences for my layers of self to know that I’m listening and that I am going to respond with care.

What does your breath lead you to discover in your body?  What areas are easiest to hear from?  hardest?   Why might that be?  How can these answers influence your self care practices?

Yoga for Deep Rest

rest during cancer

I think about my life right now – the pace of “should’s” and “could’s” and “to-do’s” filling up all the nooks and crannies in my schedule.  I use my calendar to give each of my to-do’s time in the day to make sure I do them and to make sure there is time.  And when there isn’t, I end up with a pile of calendar items all to do at the same time – what a mess of indecision and disappointment!  In the midst of this busy stream of my human life, my puppy sits there sleeping with his head under a bed or couch.  He reminds me of the need for naps and rest in between intense times of play or work.  How have we as humans lost the ability to pause and be still?  To listen when our bodies and minds need rest?  How do we even begin to regain that balance in our daily “grind”?

I’ve been studying yoga and contemplative practices with a group at the San Marcos School of Yoga.  At the end of each day we experience some sort of restorative practice or pose.  A few minutes in some of these poses or experiences can feel like hours of rest – and help you sleep better when you get to bed!  What a great tool for healing the mind and emotions.  What a deep need for caregivers and supporters.  And for this one, you don’t even need to have any knowledge of yoga!

I had heard of Yoga Nidra before, but had never done it.  In fact I didn’t know – is it something you “do” or “practice” or “see”?  I learned that Yoga Nidra is a yogic sleep – and you begin almost like you are in Savasana (resting pose) but with extra blankets and padding underneath you.  Once settled comfortably, someone leads you through a visualization in your body and spirit to guide you to deep, deep rest.  I practiced this and felt so calm and self-aware afterwards.  I have cravings for it now.  Better than a bedtime story, this will surely give your whole self a recharge in less than 15 minutes.

Since I can’t come read to you, you can download audio files to listen for your Nidra experience (Sample Script below).

Looking for more?  Check out some of the other restorative poses on Lacuna Loft.  Viparita Karani is a great choice if you have a wall and 10 minutes for quiet!

What do you do to recharge your batteries?  Making space to rest during cancer is so important.  How do you create this space?


Sample Script:

Allow your body to settle. Settling into the ground, into the earth for deep renewal… Now let your consciousness move through your body as you are guided.  Feel each body part then move on to the next when prompted.  Do not worry if you cannot feel every body part.

Feel your face, notice your jaw… Become aware of sensation in your mouth…  Without moving, feel the roof of your mouth… underneath the tongue… notice teeth… gums… tongue…root of the tongue… inside of right cheek… inside of left cheek… sense taste in your mouth… Now feel all of the parts of your mouth all together as a whole… the entire mouth as sensation.

Now feel your nose… the length of your nose… nostrils… right nostril… left nostril… both nostrils. Feel your breath passing through both nostrils… feel your nose.

Bring your awareness to your ears… feel the wrinkles and folds of the ears… backs of the ears…ear canals…inner ears.  Aware of your ears hearing, receiving sound.  Feel your ears as orbs of sensation, feel your ears.

Now feel your eyes… eyelids… eyelashes… surface of the eyes…centers of the eyes… backs of the eyes… behind the eyes. Feel your eyes as radiant orbs of light and wisdom.

Become aware of your forehead… crown… whole head… throat… neck… right shoulder… right arm… hand… right palm. Feeling right hand thumb… 1st finger… 2nd finger… 3rd finger… 4th finger… Feel now the whole right hand vibrant with energy… Aware of right wrist… forearm… elbow… upper arm… shoulder… Feel throat center… And notice left shoulder… arm… hand.  Notice left hand thumb… 1st finger… 2nd finger… 3rd finger… 4th finger… whole hand radiant with life… Become aware of left wrist… forearm… elbow… upper arm… shoulder… and throat center.

Feel your chest… heart space… heart center… stomach… navel center… shoulder blades… between shoulder blades… ribs on the back… low back… buttocks.  Become aware of your whole back… 

Feel the right hip… right thigh… knee… right lower leg… ankle… top of the foot… sole of the right foot… big right toe… all of the toes… Feel your whole right foot alive.

Become aware of sensation in the navel… left hip… thigh… knee… left lower leg… ankle… top of the foot… sole… big left toe… all of the toes… Feel the left foot vibrant with energy.

Become aware of right side of the body… Now feel the left side of the body…  Feel back body — side of the body facing the ground… back body… And now feel front body — side of the body facing the sky… front body… Now feel right arm and left leg together… right arm and left leg… Now feel left arm and right leg together…left arm and right leg.

Feel the whole body now, whole body… Entire global feeling of the body.

Become aware of your breath once again. Begin to deepen your breath, noticing increased sense of connection to your body and breath.  Slowly move your body to re-awaken.

A Mantra A Day…


I’ve always loved singing… when I was a kid I would sing along to songs on the radio, even if I didn’t know them.  I would listen to the words, and anticipate what was coming based on the line or even just the first sounds of the word.  Okay, often it was a jumbly mess, but I loved it!

When I was in school and going to church regularly, I loved the singing of the worship.  I loved to get lost in my voice.  I always loved musicals and would come home from school and sing and dance around the house (with no one home, of course)!

Voice has resonance for me.  I like to feel the vibration of sound in my throat, in my body.  I like music and have worked with the muscles of my voice for a long time without knowing that I was refining them.  Naturally, when I met mantras in my yoga training, we hit it off.

Well, actually, at first I thought the Sanskrit words were uncomfortable and strange and I didn’t know what I was saying.  Meaning is important to me.  But as I gained understanding, the unknown language with deep layers of meaning stuck with me.  As I would chant/sing with my words on paper or with my eyes closed and feeling through my 108 bead mala, I found peace.  Trust.  A prayer in another form.  One layer is the words and their meanings.  Another the melody repeating over and over.  Another in the vibration as it resonates in my body.  Another is the history of the mantra and that I’m connection to unknown amounts of others who have said this prayer before.   On great days, I feel unbelievably content and complete after reciting mantras (and who couldn’t use a little more of that?).

I’m working on practicing these types of formal Sanskrit mantras more in my life (check out this mantra for obstacles).  AND, I also have mantras that are informal (and don’t require singing!).  These are sayings or phrases that ring deeply true to me.  Mottos.  Inspiration.  Soul stuff.  I write them on my chalk board.  I breathe in and out thinking or saying them to myself.  I write them on cards to others and post them on my social media.  They come from ancient mystics, favorite books, comedians, friends, anything!  Here are a few that I’ve been chewing on lately.  If one rings true for you, grab it and keep it somewhere great – on a mirror, on your phone background, or just tucked into your heart.

We’ve talked a little about finding your own motivation and mantra before!  Have you seen our posts about beautiful message tucked in public placesinspirational quotes, a wonderfully uplifting songmotivational desktops, a great life manifesto, being darn tough, and picking your own mantra!  Let the mantra’s truth, the vibration of juicy awesome love-joy-compassion, fill you up.

“Do that which best stirs you to love.” -Teresa of Avilia

“I am doing well.”

“We cannot attain what we don’t pursue.” -Gioconda Parker, yogi

“Breathe in.  Breathe out.”

“Change is the only constant.”

“Rule your mind or it will rule you.” -Buddha

…and, more ideas are online here!

Bonus: I find mantra paves the way into a meditation – try it out!

Look around online or in your life for your inspiring mantra.  We’d love to hear what you find on the blog or social media!