The Beginner's Mind

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"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few." -Shunryu Suzuki

You'd think that teaching yoga all day, sometimes all evening, would be enough as a yoga teacher. All that time spent in the studio, under the same roof, constantly guiding students through sun salutations, warriors, lengthening, grounding, all the inhaling, and ALL the exhaling... would make a yoga teacher want to immediately run outside, head home, and NOT THINK about another downward facing dog! You'd think that.... But most often the thing I truly want and actually need: yoga class.

I will forever be a student. Never will I regret rolling my mat out on the studio floor. To share space and breathe with those I teach. There is something so magical about coming together, all these bodies lined up mat to mat, breathing, moving, sweating, maybe even crying together! You all know the feeling when Alee has the music on full blast, our legs are shaking, you want to drop into a puddle of mush, but the energy of the room is electric! We use each other's energy to flow and build our practice. And that doesn't mean we're looking around the room at each other, it's something we FEEL. We know without speaking. We may not know the person's name next to us, we don't know their birthday, their favorite food, what their Facebook profile pic is- but we know their effort. We know their heart. We know their strength. What a beautiful thing to recognize, that I may not know your name, but I know your character. I know what kind of person you are through your yoga practice. I know that we are students in this space together. I know that we are each doing our best on this mat and when we head back outside into the world. I know that we are doing the work to better our lives and the lives around us.

I pray that we all are forever students. May I ALWAYS have a beginner's mind. May I never stop flowing and sharing energy with the beautiful humans around me. May we stay curious, keep listening, and keep flowing!

See you on the mat yogis. Namaste.

Toni

 

Connection

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by Charlotte Gallagher

Put down your phone
Look me in the eyeballs
And tell me you love me
Before it's too late
Even if it's hard
Please don't look away
We have so much, so much to say
Let's put down our shields
And feel each other's skin
Feel the energy
Where oh where have we been?
Distracted by stimulants, alcohol, and screens
Today is the day to make a change
To decide to be free or to live in a cage
To break the habits that tear us up inside
To be kind
To take deep breaths and unwind
Start at the heart and work our way through
For it's never too late to start anew
I dare you
I dare you to say I love you and it not mean a thing
It's always relieving what love can bring
Let go
Let go of the shit we hold inside
It'll be amazing to then see what we can find
Buried beneath our skin, muscles, and bones
If we can get the hell out of our phones
I love you
I love you
I love you
Say it often, say it well
We are in charge of our future
Based off what we do in the now
We can decide when, where, and how
See the colors, see the light
Say I love you with all your might
Be the person you wish to be
And I promise, I promise you'll be free
Still not sure?
It's okay
Sit on your mat and pray
Or meditate
It's all the same
Clear your head before you make a move
Then move and speak from a place of love
That will be so real, so raw, so true
You'll never want to go back to that dark place you used to live
Your heart will burst open to receive and to give
For we are here for connection
Not perfection
We just need a new direction
I love you
I love you
I always will
Now look into my eyes and watch time stand still
This is why we're here
This
Right here

New Year, REAL You

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"New Year, New You" is a load of bullsh*t in my opinion. Why? Because at your core, the essence of your soul, you are PERFECT. There is absolutely NO need to reinvent yourself because each soul is born KNOWING pure love and connectivity with ourselves, each other, this planet, and all that is. And that innate KNOWING is enough! Not only is it enough, it is pure magic. So, let's put down the self-help books this year and simply get REAL.

I often think of how easy my life would be if I lived in a big city saturated with wellness. Wellness IS life in the worlds I was living in before I moved back home.  And now? Now, I'm in Columbus, GA- a place that is just starting to tip toe into the world of wellness. A place that thinks eating a kale salad is a new revelation... And so many of the things in my wellness/spirituality toolbox are taboo... I think of picking up and moving at least once a month. Why? Because it would be SO much easier to live my truth in a place where other people were living similar lives. My husband and I remind ourselves over and over again, though, that's the easy thing to do. We aren't here to simply cruise through an easy life. Without challenges and darkness, we will not have the immense gratitude we have for the light we've been gifted. But alas, I am CALLED to be here. To bring change? No, I don't think so. But, instead to bring an awakening to my own life and hopefully inspire others to do the same: WAKE UP. I honestly don't think I would be nearly as devoted and awake to my spiritual journey if I was living anywhere else.

Columbus IS a magical, sacred place if we take the time to awaken our senses, stop complaining, and start welcoming the transformation that IS happening. This means we have to stay open and receptive to new information, ideas, and humans. We must trust and learn from the mighty Chattahoochee that runs through our town to WAKE UP to fluidity!!! To stay in our old ways, incurious about things we've been taught, and closed off to new ways of thinking and BEing means we are literally sleepwalking through this life. I don't know about you, but I am completely uninterested in feeling OK and sleepwalking! Mama wants to feel ALIVE and experience the constant magic we are gifted when we give ourselves permission to feel it.

But why, then, do I feel this antsy desire to leave? Because it is a TRUE challenge to be 100% myself in a place that I have always felt in limbo of being "in" but a little bit off... Do ya feel me??? In all of my circles here, I often feel the need to wear different masks because to reveal my full truth all the time requires constant explanation. I get incredibly exhausted always having to explain myself and my ways. And as soon as I feel that I'm being too weird for one group, I go into my crab shell (I am a Cancer sun sign) and try to transform into said group and then I walk away from that group feeling depleted and mad at myself for conforming and speaking in a way that does not align with MY core value system.

I feel as thought this is something a lot may experience in this town, or ANYWHERE in the world: that constant need to put on a mask and morph into someone else... 2017 brought a huge year of extreme revelations for me in so many aspects of my life. The biggest? Shed the masks, remove the veils, and bask in your authenticity. One of my students recently came up to me and said she hoped that I would feel the same way about myself as my students feel about me. And you know, it's funny how God works. I literally had just prayed and meditated on my intention for the New Year, which was "I take action to FEEL enlightened acceptance." And here she was speaking right into my soul. I think we all have this feeling, though, where we aren't quite good enough; so we need to change. That is why New Years Resolutions are so popular, yet unnecessary. A resolution is to resolve that you are not enough and need to change.

Y'all, there is NO NEED TO CHANGE!!! If you don't hear anything else, please remember that YOU are enough, just as you are. We can work, though, to begin to remove the layers that WE have piled onto ourselves to be a certain way. Instead, what if we surrendered into our TRUTH? Our raw, pure, authentic truth! I don't know about you all, but I am exhausted. It is so tiring melting and molding ourselves into different groups depending on who we're around. May we set the intention to set ourselves FREE and bathe in the sweet goodness of the souls we've been GIFTED. Do you get that? You have been gifted this gorgeous soul, designed with the purest form of love and yet we have the audacity to want or try to change that? It's really pretty rude and a slap in the face to God/The Universe/Source (insert word or energy you vibe with here) to even begin to think you are not enough and need to morph in order to feel what every human on this planet wants to feel: Love and Acceptance.

2018, according to numerology, is the year to TAKE ACTION. Begin to notice the thought patterns, old beliefs, relationships, and situations that are no longer serving how you want to FEEL. As all of those layers pile up, we harden- literally. We harden into thinking we should be or feel a certain way, we should wear a certain thing, we should go to a certain place. Y'all- you don't have to. You can truly do, feel, and be whatever you want. THIS is your LIFE and today is the only day we know for sure we'll have; so why waste time feeling OK or being someone you're not? I personally am done! It's too much work... and on top of it all, I'm a mama and business owner. Ain't got time for that sh*t. It is actually SO much easier to embrace and love yourSelf. The Self with a capital S. The Self that always was, always is, and always will be. Life around us will change- the world, our relationships, our looks, our beliefs, all constantly evolving- but your soul remains constant, in beautiful loving grace. Thy soul is FREE!

My truth? I am a Moon child, effected by and in love with the moon. I LOVE to entertain, even when my yoga peeps come over for a moon ceremony, I'm using my fine crystal wine glasses (but also talking about and sharing my collection of crystals from the earth). I am a mother who is so in love, completely a mess, and sometimes feel like I simply cannot kiss those warm cheeks of my kiddos enough. I have an addictive personality- I used to smoke cigarettes ages ago (sorry mom!) and still crave one every now and then, but absolutely cannot take a puff because I LOVE breath- and now, I'm aware of this quality so I'm mindful in all of my choices. I am a mermaid on this earth, wishing I literally lived IN the ocean (so I take loads of salt baths). I am put on this planet to teach and it is absolutely my passion. I am a lover that tries to give my husband all he needs, but don't always do the best job- but alas, he sticks with me and loves me in my entirety. I wish I loved myself as much as he loves me... I talk a lot. I listen a lot. I am completely unorganized and never plan ANYTHING. I have a gypsy soul who has trouble sitting still, but I recognize the value in stillness, so I practice it. I need help from others in order to live out my purpose. So, I have help! I CHOOSE to be awake. I spent SO much time in 2017 with the "stomach bug"- this happens when we are stubborn and won't release things in our lives that are no longer serving us... God finally says, "Enough is enough! If you aren't going to let go, I'm going to force you to wake up and literally make space. Purge, baby, purge!" I want to be accepted. I believe in the magic of this life. I will ALWAYS be curious and need to know WHY, though! I'm completely obsessed with Oprah and Beyoncé. 

So, to sum it up: Shed that skin, kweens (and Kings)! Give yourself PERMISSION to be raw, real, vulnerable, and make space for the life you DESERVE. I'll repeat that: Give yourself permission to make space for the life you deserve. The coming year is the year to make it happen. Less talking and no more complaining! Take action to LIVE YOUR TRUTH. 

'Tis the New Year! Embrace and welcome the REAL you!

I am so grateful for each of you, whether we are connected in the studio, socially, or online, I thank you and I adore you. The lessons we've learned together, the love we shared, and all of the deep belly laughs have given me life in this past year. Now, let's welcome the gifts of 2018 TOGETHER! Sending you all blessings for abundance, clarity, expansion, and connectivity in the coming year.

~Alee

 

The Importance of Savasana

By: Charlotte Gallagher

One day after class, a student expressed that “that five minutes at the end of class is the only peace and quiet I get all day.”  It's pretty amazing how five minutes of quiet can make all the difference in the world.  Savasana, also known as corpse pose or basic relaxation pose, is possibly the most important part of a person's entire practice.

True relaxation is the "bread and butter" of ultimately calming our minds so that our habitual, unnecessary thoughts start to dissolve, and our suffering begins to diminish.  In theory, the practice of savasana might seem easy because all you have to do is lay there, right?  In a sense, this is true, but there is SO much going on in stillness, and THAT’S what you must practice tuning in to.  If you don’t know what relaxation feels like, then you’ll have no idea how to do it or what to do when the time comes.  Trying to relax for 5 minutes may seem like the hardest thing in the world when you are "tight" just out of sheer habit.  Often times, we think we’re relaxed until the teacher comes and presses on your shoulders, and you realize you weren’t.  The whole point of savasana is to notice these things so that you can experience magical moment of awareness and making adjustments if need be.  The more you notice and make healthy changes, the faster your brain remembers to actually do it without you thinking about it as much anymore.

Depending on our habits in every day life, on a deeper level we might feel that if we’re “doing nothing” we aren’t accomplishing anything, therefore, creating the belief that you're not successful or worthy.  I get it.  But, really...think about your days.  Do you ever slow down?  Like INTENTIONALLY slow down?  That’s where savasana comes in.  It's all about intentionally slowing down and focusing inward. If you notice yourself having a difficult time staying still, I encourage you to practice it more.  If you’re just waiting for it to be over every time, you’re literally missing out on a world of mental benefits. If you are uncomfortable with your legs out straight, try using a bolster and placing it under your knees to support the lumbar spine. Or, if your neck feels unsupported, place a blanket under your head.  If you aren’t sure, PLEASE talk to your teacher before the class and they will help you find a suitable and comfortable position to be in for your savasana.  The whole point is to be comfortable so that you CAN practice relaxing fully . When you enter savasana, GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION to relax.  Think of it as a time to hit the reset button so that when you go back out into the world you can go through your day feeling refreshed, clear-headed, and tension-free.

Keep the technique simple.  Relax and feel. SLOWLY scan the body.  Temporarily let go of everything you don’t need, and simply pay attention and see what happens. Dissolve every hint of holding on and SAVOR the way you feel. Watch the rise and fall of your belly.  You might put one hand on your belly and one hand on your heart to notice the rise and fall of your breath.  Connecting with your breath is connecting with yourself.  Experience what’s happening right there where you are.  Notice your skin, your spine, your fingertips, your toes, etc.  No need to DO anything about it or move, just SIMPLY NOTICE AND BE AWARE.  Feel the energy you are made of.  The feeling of calm bliss is right there inside you, always.  It’s something you let yourself relax into.  The choice becomes easy once you realize you have a choice (The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness, Erich Schiffmann).

When you hear the singing bowl whether it’s three gongs or the whirring sound, I encourage you to remain in stillness and really take in the sound.  Absorbing the vibrations of a singing bowl is SO therapeutic for our minds as it reduces stress and increases mental and emotional clarity.  For more benefits of sound therapy please visit: http://www.rainbowvibrations.com/benefits-of-sound-therapy.html

Traditionally, savasana is practiced for 10-30 minutes because it takes the body that long to know true relaxation.  Obviously, we have somewhat of a time crunch at the studio so we usually give at least 5 minutes, sometimes more (check out the Gentle Flow classes!).  Overall, the more we start to willingly surrender into savasana and realize it truly might be the only 5 minutes of peace we get throughout the day, the more apt we’ll be to really soak it up.  Plus, YOU DESERVE IT; from the hard work you do all day plus the work you do on the mat.  The other magical part is when you reenter the outside world of chaos, it actually might not seem so chaotic anymore. In savasana you have experienced what it’s like to have inner stillness and peace…..and that is with you always.

"Let Food Be Thy Medicine"

By: Roben Clark

Did you know the body is its own defense and healing mechanism? But, healing and sickness prevention will not occur if what goes into your mouth does not serve to prevent or minimize symptom of disease and sickness. According to Karger (2012), “Human health has begun to face a new type of crisis, particularly in developed nations. In previous centuries, the greatest risks of mortality was attributed to infectious disease. Now, chronic metabolic disease is rapidly growing as a more significant concern. Our most serious concerns are the diseases that arise from how we live.”

While your blueprint (DNA-inherited genes) remains the same, factors such as nutrition (what, when, and how you eat and drink), how you feel, what you think and believe, what you do, and what you perceive, can change the way certain parts of your DNA are read and implemented – or not. Some scientists say less than 10% of human disease is a result of genetic destiny. However, genetically healthy individuals still experience health problems: from heart disease to diabetes, to cancer and other degenerative diseases.

Food has the greatest impact on the human body. The first impact of food is the information it brings to the cell level, changing its behavior – for better or for worse! For example, a good response such as foods rich in soluble fiber aid in eliminating toxins, cholesterol, and excess hormones from your body and strengthens your immune system by helping beneficial bacteria grow in the gut. Or a not so good response like refined sugar binds to cells and triggers a reaction releasing irritating chemicals causing swelling and autoimmune conditions.

So you see, nutrition – whether good or bad – switch our genes on and off. With nutritional therapy, you can learn how to switch off the bad genes, optimize health, improve symptoms, and minimize sickness. Even if you do have genes that predispose you to certain health problems, from cancer to obesity, you can keep them dormant or counteract their activity by improving your nutrition, your habits, and how you live, thus changing your life! Remember, every person is different and therefore requires a different set of nutrients and a unique program of lifestyle requirements to contain all necessary components for a balanced and thriving life. In the infamous words of Hippocrates, “Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.” 

Ceremony of Tea

Every morning, I butterfly my eyes open, place one hand on my belly and the other on my heart and express gratitude for the mere fact that I am alive and breathing. I venture into my quiet, dark kitchen to quietly drink my cleansing lemon water. All of this is lovely, but the best part of the morning before the rest of my house awakes is tea time.

First, I check in... How is my body feeling? And almost always, there's a tea for that! I have made the act of brewing the perfect cup of tea a ceremony, a spiritual ritual. While I wait for my water to boil, I look at the loose leaves and herbs and notice the details, the smells, and the colors. I pour the hot water over the tea and watch the leaves slowly expand and alter the color of the water. It is a magnificent sight if we take time to pause and observe.

I then take my tea outside and honor the fact that this tea is of the earth and so am I and immediately, I'm more connected. Now, I realize that I could be over analyzing the simple act of sipping tea, but it has been such a comforting ritual in my life since I was in high school. I always remember my mother drinking green tea and when I went to college, I would always buy the same green tea she brewed at home and my homesick vibes were cured almost instantly. I began to see tea as an opportunity for ritual and ceremony and I'm certainly not the first to experience it this way. Cultures all over the globe take time to savor the ceremony of tea. 

When it serves you, take the time to EXPERIENCE tea. Awaken your senses to the transformation it will bring in your body, mind, and spirit. For thousands of years, tea has been used as medicine due to its incredibly healing properties; but beyond that, it is a moment to pause, reconnect, and have a ceremony for the mere fact that you are alive and breathing on this Earth right here, right now.

If you're looking for the perfect tea for your ceremony, visit the RFY boutique and try out one or several of the beautiful blends we have to offer. Whether you're looking to relax or heal, there's a tea for that! 

People's Green Tea: Unlike black and oolong teas, green tea undergoes less processing so it retains more of its beneficial properties. It is most widely known for its polyphenols, which are strong antioxidants. It is also calorie-free. It is lightly caffeinated.

Sage: Refreshing sage is an ancient herb known to help keep the body cool and calm, even in the midst of hormonal surges that can occur during menopause. It has also been known to keep memory sharp.

Biodynamic Turmeric Cinnamon: Harvested from self-sustaining, ecological farms in Sri Lanka, this blend is reputed to balance and support a healthy response to inflammation. 

Dandelion: Arabian physicians revere this root for its cleansing properties and as a natural aid for digestion. This "wonder herb" is unique in flavor, functionality, and full-body benefits. This certified organic blend blends the roasted dandelion root with a touch of French vanilla, making it a nice alternative to coffee without the caffeine. 

Get Wellness: This yummy blend fortifies your system with immune-boosting organic rooibis, echinacea and astragalus. It also contains ashwaghanda (Indian ginseng) which is said to increase health and longevity. 

Get Happy: The bright flavors of lemon myrtle and peach, blended with a base of organic rooibos balance out with the calming properties of lemon balm, St John's wort, and rhodiola for a mood-enhancing experience.

Get Some ZZZ's: Organic rooibis, soothing chamomile, passionflower, and the mellowing powers of valerian gently lull you toward blissful rest. The flavonoids of the passionflower have been shown to have calming effects. You won't have to contend with the morning "hangover" that often results from sleep-aids, as the Valerian used in this blend do not interfere with REM sleep. 

Get Relaxed: The mood mellowing begins instantly with the calming aromas of lavender and rose petals. A blissful blend of health-promoting organic rooibis laced with nerve-soothing chamomile and passionflower, along with Eleuthero root which is known to reduce stress.

Happy sipping, yogis!

Why Prayer Works

By Alee Link

It is no coincidence that every religion believes in the power of prayer. It is also no coincidence that it works for all religions, no matter their word for the idea of "God."

I grew up loosely going to a Methodist church and while we weren't huge "church-goers," I found great comfort in what I learned about prayer. Even as a kid, I remember doing it often. My prayers were not memorized from the ones we recited in church, but rather conversations with something or someone larger than I could really understand and to be perfectly honest, that is what my prayer practice still looks like today.

I have noticed a huge shift lately in the wellness space, geared toward the power of manifestation. And y'all, let me just tell you... it works. But, like anything else, you have to practice and actually DO IT. You see, everything is energy- you know that feeling when you walk into a room and an argument has just occurred and you can feel that something is off? Or when you leave a person and you can still feel the essence of their being, even though they aren't physically there? Have you ever been thinking of someone and all of a sudden they text you? Energy. 

Energy is everywhere and in everything, especially our thoughts. To me, our thoughts are purely prayers. What we think is what we see unfolding in our lives. So this is why manifestation and prayer works because what we put out is always what we get back. For example, lets say you are single and you desperately want a partner. You think about this a lot- the perfect mate- but you are constantly thinking about the fact that you DON'T have a partner. You talk about how your life is lacking in the relationship department, you worry about when it's going to happen for YOU, and you might even pray about it: saying "why me?" The answer to me of why you can't seem to find your partner is pretty clear. We so often put our energy toward the things in life we are lacking. Ambi Sitham, my favorite astrologer, calls this the Lack Syndome, where we focus on what we don't have instead of finding gratitude for what we do have. So, in the given scenario, I would ask: why is it that I so desperately want a partner? Is it for love? Is it because I think that's what needs to happen in my life based on my age and biological clock, therefore, causing me to want the feeling of acceptance? Is it security? All of those answers and reasons are completely valid, but we have to acknowledge and come to terms with the ROOT- the real reason we're looking for this or that in our lives. Once we come to terms with the root, we can then respond and act from a place of deep understanding and love. 

Prayer works, but we must learn to pray and think with raw authenticity. Our society (myself included) is terrified to get REAL with ourselves... And I don't mean real in a way that we show our flaws, our messy kitchens, or our toddlers having a meltdown on social media... I mean getting REAL with ourselves. When you think about setting intentions and the things you want to manifest in your life, we must ask the question: WHY do I want this? Sometimes (for me, most of the time), the answer sucks, is uncomfortable and so hard to hear, but WE HAVE GOT TO GET DOWN AND DIRTY WITH OUR TRUTH.

So, yes- prayer works- no matter whom or what you're praying to. Y'all, it even works if your god is the trees and the ocean. PRAYER WORKS because it is an exchange of energy. Like I said before, and so many have said before me, what you put out is what you get back. I can't tell you how many times I hear "I just don't understand why this always happens to me?!?" Simple answer: what you put out is what you get back. The time is now to get raw, honest, and uncomfortable with YOURself. Why is it that you want THIS job? Why is it that you want to make THIS much money? Why is it you want THIS type of person for your partner. Ask yourself WHY. Take time to listen to YOUR answer and then know that prayer is energy.

Begin to notice when you see these same thought patterns pop up over and over again. Resist the urge to fight the thoughts or judge yourself for the thoughts and instead honor them, get to the root of why you're thinking this and remind yourself that thoughts are prayers, they are beautiful exchanges of energy and when right intention is behind said thoughts and prayers, you will not believe the magic you will see in your life.

In order to reap the benefits of prayer, though, we must practice and respect the process. Life will unravel as its meant to, even if its not the way we hoped and dreamed and we don't have much control over that... but we do have control over how we think, pray, and react. This is POWERFUL. We can actually co-create, with the Universe/God, the life of heart's dreams if we take the time to get REAL and RAW.

I encourage you all to take this opportunity to slow down and tune in. My favorite way to gather my thoughts and pray with right intention is through yoga and meditation. When thoughts are swirling and/or things seem to be overwhelming in my life, it's time to CHECK-IN. I like to hop on my mat and become aware of my body, breath, feelings, and surroundings. I take time to notice my connection with all that is and experience the undeniable feeling of the exchange of energy. Prayer and manifestation WORK, but YOU have to do the work... it's not as easy as saying a fluffy prayer to god- you must get honest and raw. I know so many of you reading this now are saying, I feel like I am real; I am living my truth and y'all, I'm right there with you! But then I take time to really check-in and notice things in my deepest core that shock me. You can do it, yogis, but the thing is- you have to DO it.

Prayer works because when you start the work and honor the power of heart over thinking mind, you begin to see even the hardest situations as opportunities. Then we learn how to react to the things we cannot control. But, please know that this powerful energy lies in your hands. You really can have the life of your dreams through the work of prayer because energy is literally everything. Get raw, get honest, and start talking to the Universe. She is ALWAYS listening!!!

Sending blessings for the most pure prayers and manifestations in your life!

Meditation Unboxed

Sitting outside in the quiet, yet vibrant stillness, I pause to meditate. I go to my meditation app, where my guide tells me to find a comfortable seat and close my eyes and bring my awareness to my breath. So, I did as I was told. The feeling of breath entering and exiting my nostrils was quite enchanting and miraculous, but I started to fidget. My back was hurting, I couldn't get a deep enough breath, and my eyes kept blinking open. I was getting upset with myself. I'm a yoga teacher and I meditate regularly... why can't I do this this right now? 

I acknowledged this feeling and my short breaths and responded. Instead of fighting the situation and forcing myself into a little meditation box, I let go and surrendered into the moment. My eyes couldn't stay closed because I couldn't stop looking at how the tip tops of the trees were golden from the sun rising and shining his gorgeous, golden light upon them. I couldn't sit still because I could feel nature moving all around me and I wanted to be a part of the bird's flight, the squirrels dance, and the fluidity of the wind gliding with the garden. My breath was short as a result of missing the moment and forcing something that simply wasn't happening.

In this instant I was reminded of how sacred meditation is if we surrender into what is. There is no right or wrong way to meditate. Sure, we have suggestions, methods, and techniques that can help immensely, but to meditate is to be aware. When we become aware of our breath, our pulse, our miraculous bodies, and surroundings, we will begin to find deep gratitude in each moment and for this life. When we live from a place of gratitude we will always know peace, we will always have an understanding of just how lucky we are to be alive and present right here, right now. 

It is all too easy to let our external distractions take over. We get consumed and overwhelmed by daily stress, chaos, and life's inevitable intensity. But when we realize that the ONLY thing we know for sure in this life is our physical impermanence, then we realize how incredibly important it is to meditate often and with right intention. Meditation should not make you stressed and definitely shouldn't leave you feeling guilty or frustrated... meditation is merely mindfulness. When we become mindful in our everyday moments, we then find reason to celebrate our everyday moments. The little things in life really aren't so little!

A regular meditation practice can definitely help you achieve this state of mindfulness on the regular, but please know it doesn't have to be confined into what you think it should be or what you saw a yoga teacher doing on instagram. I LOVE meditation apps and breathwork, don't get me wrong! Sometimes they serve me beautifully, but it is so important to respond to your natural rhythms and the cycles in nature, which don't always mean sitting quietly by an alter for 20 minutes (sometimes that is exactly what we need, though). The idea is we must become AWARE of what we NEED in each moment (note: what we need isn't always what we want). Awareness. 

Sip your turmeric latte and NOTICE. Walk in the grass barefoot and NOTICE. Open your eyes and NOTICE. Close your eyes and NOTICE. Sit quietly and NOTICE. Dance aimlessly and NOTICE. Just take the dedicated time to NOTICE- everything. The details, the sounds, the feelings. SAVOR it, yogis!

With love and light,

Alee

Recipe for the Ultimate Transformation

By Alee Link

Last month at RFY, we embarked upon a journey toward a huge change. Every April, we have a challenge in honor of the spring, which is a time for planting seeds, blossoming, and growth. This year we decided the theme Metanoia would best serve us and our growing community of beautiful yogis. Metanoia is the journey of changing one's mind, body, and life in order to deepen your spiritual journey. Through this challenge we are encouraging our students to shed fears from the past and worries for the future in order to settle in to the magic of NOW.
It may seem odd that a yoga teacher is inviting you to change, when so often we remind you all of how perfect you ALREADY are and I'm certainly not saying anything less than that. I do believe that you are already perfectly imperfect, and what a gift! This perfect imperfection gives us the constant opportunity to learn, connect, and grow. To me, life would be beyond boring without these moments that encourage us to better ourselves.

My favorite thing about yoga, both on and off that mat, is that the journey never ends. There is always a new pose to explore, always new alignment to test, and always new studies showing the different effects from this practice. Likewise, every time I step on the mat or sit to meditate, I'm taken on a new journey of deep exploration. Through that explorative energy and through my constant study with amazing spiritual teachers, I have discovered the not-so-secret recipe to the ultimate transformation. A transformation for the body, mind, and entire life. Hold on tight because this shift will be huge or bring about great bliss; however, to get there sometimes our old sh*t from the past will come to surface, we will be faced with challenges, and tested beyond belief. But trust me, y'all, IT IS SO WORTH IT!!!

Step 1:
Self Awareness - On the mat, we constantly learn to become aware of our bodies, our energy, our thoughts. The trick is to be an observer. Notice EVERYTHING without judgement. Let your physical tension be what it is. Let your breath be what it is. Let your energy and your emotions be what they are. Every single thing we experience in this life is for a reason. So, first just become aware. Notice. Feel. Observe.

Step 2:
Self-Care - How do you respond to what you feel? Once we practice step 1, we can then respond intelligently. Let's say through step 1, we notice tension in the left side of the lower back. Then through self-care, we begin to breathe into that part of the body, we send healing energy there, we explore yoga poses that will bring us relief. We first acknowledge, then we respond with care instead of ignoring it and popping an Advil to disguise the pain. We DEAL with it and care for it in order to encourage REAL, lasting change. Same goes for unpleasant thoughts or negative emotions: become aware without judgement, then care for them.

Step 3:
Self-Love - Perhaps the hardest step to grasp because let's face it, if I asked you to think about 3 things you don't like about yourself and want to change, you could spitfire those 3 and could probably go on and on... But, if I asked you to do the opposite, it would most likely take you a while to list 3 things you LOVE about yourself. Note this though: If you practice steps 1 and 2 every day, step 3 becomes second nature. We become the observers of our own lives, then we bring care into our lives as needed and THAT is the ultimate expression of self-love. We acknowledge the fact that we love ourselves and respect ourselves enough to care for our bodies, thoughts, emotions, and spirits. When we love ourselves, we believe in ourselves and life becomes this exciting adventure of pure bliss because we are able to let go of those fears and worries that constantly hold us back.

 

You know that moment as a kid when you were terrified to jump off the high diving board and into the pool? But, then you got up enough courage to go for it... and once you did, you were going back time after time for more. It felt so freeing, liberating, and exciting. Same goes for this recipe... It is scary to face your deepest thoughts. It's even scarier to acknowledge them without judgement, and a lot more scary to care for them, to thank them for the lessons they've delivered, and to invite your security blanket of fear to take a hike. You no longer need it. It has served its purpose. NOW it is time to move on. You know what you have to do! The ultimate transformation awaits!!! Dive on in!

Awakening My Soul to a New Path

By Ben Link

I never thought I’d take the path to yoga teacher training. It was Alee’s path, for sure, and I was 100% committed to making her dream come alive and thrive. But my main focus was improving the local food scene. The way I saw it, she had her thing and I had mine. Together, they merged beautifully in our dual mission to heal and improve the Columbus region. And that was more than satisfactory for the both of us.

Well, at least until last year. Although our wonderful teachers led great classes, and I knew well enough to trust my internal guidance during the sequences and in asana, there was a nagging feeling I needed to refine my yoga foundation. Most of what I knew (or thought I knew) came through years of practice and many long conversations with my wife, Alee, and - trust me - she’s quick to squash bad habits before they have a chance to enter my practice.

However, it dawned on me I never truly approached yoga with serious inquiry or study. Seems kinda weird, considering I have over nine years experience on the mat, but I figured the positive health benefits weren’t worth over analyzing. As long as I felt great after class, there was no cause for concern.

Yet even with the positive health benefits in full effect, doubt crept into my mind. I began questioning my alignment, my movement, and my breath. Was I getting old and failing to adjust my practice? Or had my practice turned into another task as part of running the studio?

My enjoyment on the mat was fading, and my frustrations were growing. A couple months passed before my awareness, out of nowhere, connected with an ancient part of my spirit. “It’s time,” I heard echo from deep within. “You’re ready for teacher training.”

Now, Alee has shared a wealth of amazing insight over the years, but we both knew it’d be asking a lot of our relationship to take me through a 200-hour training. Plus, it was obvious I’d journey out west to the same place she and several other of our teachers trained for their certifications: the White Lotus Foundation.

If you don’t know much about White Lotus, the retreat and training center is situated within forty acres of a steep canyon just outside Santa Barbara, CA. The lead instructors - Ganga White and Tracey Rich - were the early pioneers of a non-dogmatic, Flow Yoga style and approach that greatly influences our yoga studio.

Anyways, last March I vacated my role within my family, businesses, and other community projects and spent 18 days refining and expanding my foundational understanding of yoga. More than anything, the retreat atmosphere replenished my spirit and helped reset my lifestyle.

Although we are all perfectly capable of finding peace in any moment, sometimes it’s helpful to physically remove ourselves from the daily grind, so we can perform an internal check and/or nourish aspects of our lives we’re neglecting, ignoring, or - worse - denying. For me, I needed an immersive experience to enhance the likelihood of absorbing the course material, as well as catch up on rest, commune with like-minds, and re-establish some healthy habits.

One of the big takeaways from my trip is that it’s OK to take a “time out” from our responsibilities and commitments. If our spirit aches for a change or replenishment, well, we need to listen. We can only place personal development on the back burner for so long. As long as our intentions are honest and we truly mean no harm, we have the right to take time away for healing and self improvement, especially if we fully intend to return with a full heart and desire to help others.

Looking for your own self-improvement getaway? Why don’t you join us down in Tulum, Mexico this October 21-25th! Break away from your daily grind and awaken your soul! Click below for more details!

The Studio as Your Sacred Space

We absolutely love the community vibe of our studio. Every day we see people from varied backgrounds and lifestyles smile at each other, embrace, and catch up like they’ve been friends their entire lives. It’s truly a beautiful aspect of our yoga community, which we wish to cultivate even more.

We designed our lobby to be our social area, a space where you can catch up with a fellow yogi or teacher, sip a tea, and relax before class. But as you make your way into the studio, we kindly request you do so quietly, keeping all communications hushed and brief.

Many people treat the studio as a sacred space, and they use their time before class to ease onto their mat and prepare for class with a self-guided warm-up, meditation, pranayama, and/or an intention or prayer.

It’s not easy to find peace in silence, so if you absolutely must chat with another yogi, you will need to exit to the lobby until class is ready to begin. That way, you will not disturb those preparing for class inside the studio.

We thank each and everyone of you for your understanding. You will be amazed at how deeper your practice can go if you approach our studio and your mat as a sacred space.  


Having Trouble Stilling the Mind Before Class?

For more on yoga etiquette, please check out this Yoga International article on the subject.

- Ben Link

Staying Present Through the Holidays

Now is the Time to Give Yourself the Gift of Presence!

In yoga, we often speak of the incredible importance of the present moment. Living in the moment is truly vital to our overall health and well-being. I promise you this: if you commit to living a life of presence, you will be abundantly blessed on so many levels.

Focusing attention on the past, thinking of ways we could've said something different, or chosen another path, we are re-living moments that has already happened, and there is little we can really do to change the past. This becomes detrimental to our health, we will get caught up in our thoughts and memories and ultimately live in our heads, stressing us out or distracting us from what's happening before our very eyes!

Furthermore, the holidays bring so much to do, plan, and buy. Soon we find ourselves focusing on the future. We worry about our finances, our success, our loved ones health/happiness, our entire country, or WILL OUR ENTIRE PLANET BE OK? The short answer... we don't know. But, if we can let go of meticulously controlling our lives, we can go with the flow more often.

TRUST that the Universe does, indeed, have our backs, even when it doesn't seem that way on the surface. Then we may have the glory of living a life of physical, mental, and emotional health that I KNOW will be filled to the brim with the amazing power of love- for yourself and all other beings. That, my dears, is the recipe for happiness! And that's also how we can live in the moment!

This can all begins with a simple ritual of self-care. As a crazy-busy mama of two, trying to stay afloat while also being a yoga teacher, a kind wife, a loving daughter, and good friend, my life often seems like a juggling act.

Enter Journaling. Hallelujah! My saving grace!!!

Journaling is one of the most terrifying things I do. To sit alone and stare at a blank page with only my thoughts is nightmare. BUT, conquering fears is what encourages growth and transformation. Luckily, journaling doesn't have to be so conventional. For me, I LOVE making lists, and I found this brilliant concept created by Moorea Seal, who created some lovely journals encouraging people to create simple lists. While I certainly still find such fulfillment in writing on a blank page, these lists are amazingly approachable and very simple to incorporate journaling into your day or week.

Need More Mindfulness Tips?

 

Since I'm a nursing six-month-old and an energetic 2.5-year-old, I'm not always guaranteed the time to sit down and write, so these list prompts are perfect for my life. As soon as I feel like I'm dwelling in the past or the future too much in any given time, I grab my journal and make a list, and it is as if all is well in the world again. Then I'm back in the moment, enjoying the small miracles, and trusting that the universe has my back!

Namaste,

Alee

The Power of a Morning Ritual

Wake Up & Lighten Up!

A morning ritual is one of the most valuable gifts you can give yourself. It will make you more dedicated, passionate, respectful, and energized for the rest of your day.

5 Easy Steps to a Healthier, Happier Day

  1. Wake up 30minutes earlier than you need to. Set an alarm (not within arms reach)
  2. Drink warm lemon water (amazing way to flush your system and get things "moving").
  3. Take 10 minutes to meditate- pranayama, journaling, or quiet walk outside with no technology are all great meditation techniques. Make sure you check out one of Ben's amazing meditation workshops. He has life-changing techniques that can be used all day long to provide optimal mental and emotional health!
  4. Eat a light breakfast.
  5. Set a goal for the day. This will inspire you to be the best YOU all day long. To me, the best way to get going with a personal goal is to take it to the mat. The 6am and 8:15am classes at RFY are truly so special. We leave feeling like we can conquer anything life throws at us. Try it a few times and notice the HUGE difference in how you problem solve, communicate with others, eat and drink, and move throughout the rest of your day.
 
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These 5 simple steps can change your entire life. Sure, it takes practice and dedication, but we owe it to ourselves to practice self care first thing in the morning. After all, the relationship you have with yourself is the most IMPORTANT relationship you'll ever have!

Namaste,
Alee

Ayurvedic Tips for Late Fall & Early Winter

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Have you ever noticed that as the leaves fall and the temperatures drop, you find yourself flightier than ever. I always feel like I am flying aimlessly from one thing to the next, trying to fit it all in without losing my mind. Ayurvedic teachings explain that this feeling and imbalance is due to this season being governed by the Vata Dosha (for more info about yoga's sister science, stay tuned for an upcoming workshop in early 2017).

 

Thriving Through Vata Season

With the Vata season comes dry, cold, and dark days which can make us feel incredibly imbalanced. So here are my three tips to help keep us grounded during the late Fall/Early Winter:

 

Establish A Morning Routine

Wake up at the same time every day (preferably before the sun) and have warm lemon water. Then take at least 5 minutes to yourself: sun salutations, pranayama, mindful meditation, or journaling. This simple act will leave you feeling grounded amongst the chaos of the season. (By the way- there is nothing better than our early morning classes to set the tone for your day- 6am Rise, Align, and Shine Mon, Wed, and Fri)

 

Dry Brushing

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This time of year, our skin is especially dry and in need of detoxification. To rid the body of dead skin cells, open pores, stimulate the lymphatic system, and encourage circulation, Ayurveda suggests dry brushing before you take a shower or bath. Start with the feet and work your way up. Long strokes toward the heart.

 

Practice Grounding Yoga Poses

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Practice postures that activate your Root Chakra: seated poses, yogi squat, and Child's pose. These poses will help you stay physically grounded and rooted in the midst of our fast paced world. For more info on the Root Chakra and Chakras in general, keep your eyes out for upcoming  Chakra workshops where we will dive into the chakra system and understand how we can balance our chakras in order to balance our lives!

I hope these simple tips help you stay grounded during this season.

Remember, yogis, you hold the key to your personal health and wellbeing. We are here to guide you and make suggestions, but ultimately, it's up to you to make a commitment to physical, mental, and emotional health. Don't let the holidays get the best of you- SEE YOU ON THE MAT!

Cheers and Namaste,
Alee