7 Ways to Wish Yourself a Happy Birthday

I love birthdays. I’m never ashamed to get older. I’m fiercely aware that the alternative to getting older is to die young. So every year, rather than be afraid, ashamed, wistful, or have a regret – I try to spend the day incorporating all the things I’d like to achieve or focus on for this one day. If you want to reframe your birthday celebrations and welcome in the wisdom of age – try these practices.

  1. Wake Up EARLY. Earlier than normal. This indeed is the year you can put your health first. The first thing you do upon waking is drink a glass of water and go work out. I prefer yoga, obviously, but this can be a run or whatever gets your body moving. Moving the joints keeps them youthful.

    Wake Up and Yoga!

    Wake Up and Yoga!

  2. Luxurious Shower or Bubble Bath. After your sweat session, you want to smell better. Use those products you “save for special occasions,” and then use them every day because you deserve to feel special every morning. It makes getting older much more pleasant.

    Happy Birthday Bubble Bath

    Happy Birthday Bubble Bath

  3. Play with your animals or kids or both! Sink into that feeling of play, let yourself enjoy playtime without a “to do” list or agenda. Just be free with them.

    Play with and like a kid.

    Play with and like a kid.

  4. Read a book. Maybe you have a goal of more spiritual study, or tackling a fiction novel or an autobiography. An engaged mind is a key to staying curious and attentive, which is a cornerstone of youthful living. Not everyone is a bookworm, maybe your brain training is Sudoku or a cross word puzzle – the key is brain train.

    Yoga Sutra Study

    Yoga Sutra Study

  5. Eat good food. Dessert is certainly acceptable on your birthday, but surround your cake and ice cream with very good nutrition. Eat an epic salad, load up on good protein, pick up some fresh herbs. You are what you eat and if you are intending on an active life well into older years, you probably don’t want to be fried chicken.

    Garden Salsa Sounds Good!

    Garden Salsa Sounds Good!

  6. Treat Yourself. Think spa or manicure and pedicure. Reward your body and skin for carrying you for all these years. Say thank you to your muscles and yourself. Stress relief is shown to keep you feeling younger longer.

    These are the actual products I use. I get them at Senara Health and Healing Center. www.experiencesenara.com

    These are the actual products I use. I get them at Senara Health and Healing Center. http://www.experiencesenara.com

  7. GRATITUDE. You absolutely must end your day thankful. Take a moment to reflect back upon your past year, make a haphazard list of every single thing you can think of to be grateful about. It doesn’t have to be a big thing – small things matter too, like fresh water and blue skies. Studies show that an attitude of gratitude reduces wrinkles.

    And I'm Thankful for YOU!

    And I’m Thankful for YOU!

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The End is A Synonym for a Beginning – The Happily Ever After of Senara Yoga

Happily Ever After

 THE BACK STORY

In November of 2012, a dear friend and yoga colleague approached me about becoming the Director of Yoga for Senara in Peoria, IL.  I did not immediately say yes – considerations of my family, my work life, my practice all needed attention.  Ultimately I accepted the responsibility. I said yes to leading a group of fantastic teachers, to spending hours creating schedules, websites, flyers, and processing payroll; I said yes to opportunity because I believe that when a door opens, you walk through it.

Courtney, Des, Molly, Chris, and I. Without the teachers, we wouldn't have had the practice.

Courtney, Des, Molly, Chris, and I. Without the teachers, we wouldn’t have had the practice.

In May of 2015, that same friend called me up to say that she and our mutual friends felt disconnected from me. My time had grown so short that they hadn’t seen me in more than a year. She let me know that I was missed and there was some concern among the group that I wasn’t making enough time for life and fun. How ironic, because her call came during a time when I had been considering this fact for weeks. It was as if the stars aligned to give me this message very clear and crisp – the time is right to move forward.

That friend, has been in my life for all the major changes and you know who you are – I say thank you. You gave me the push to prioritize and accept inevitable change.

I'll never forget this serene space and all the lovely people who floated into my life here.

I’ll never forget this serene space and all the lovely people who floated into my life here.

I have no regrets about my time with Senara. The lessons learned, the friendships made, the progress in my own yoga practice was all worth it. However, it’s important to recognize when opportunity changes into burden or burnout, and so it is here in June of 2015 that I close the door behind me and the end of Senara Yoga.

Without all the helping hands, we couldn't have touched so many hearts. Thank you to my staff, past and present. I truly love you.

Without all the helping hands, we couldn’t have touched so many hearts. Thank you to my staff, past and present. I truly love you.

This is a mutual decision. Senara is ready to grow in new and exciting ways and I am too. I am forever grateful to Senara for changing my life and my health and will remain close with the Kramers, an inspiring power couple, that have lifted me up, inspired me to pursue my dreams, and have healed my family through their wellness offerings. I encourage all students of Senara Yoga to remain patrons of the Spa and Chiropractic services – there is nothing to regret. This is simply a change of venue and habit.

 

 

 

MOVING FORWARD

2015 is a year of change in my world. My child begins kindergarten in fall, and like all mothers, this march toward school makes one consider if enough time was spent. This is a good choice for my family and my personal yoga practice – a lesson I’m happy to know at 33 rather than waiting until my child is all grown up and regretting time not spent.

This is NOT the end of my yoga teaching path. That meanders onward and forever. Yoga will always be a priority in my life. Currently, I’m in an intense program for my 500 hour level certification through Prairie Yoga in Lisle, IL.  My thesis is expected to be completed in 2016 and will require intense hours of research and study so that what I offer the yoga community is meaningful and will cultivate positive change in our practices and perceptions of yoga. It deserves my full focus to do it right.

In the midst of a sun salutation at Senara Yoga. These windows streaming light and framing clouds were always my favorite.

In the midst of a sun salutation at Senara Yoga. These windows streaming light and framing clouds were always my favorite.

I plan to completely take off for the summer, maintaining only periodic classes in Lake Camelot on Tuesday nights, outside, by the lake at sunset – seriously, it’s so beautiful. You are welcome to join in if you wish. In fall, I may consider hosting workshops at various studios in support of home practice development and maintenance.

In support of home practice, I’ve joined Audible Yoga, a hosting space where one can download audio classes. My voice can lead you through familiar practices and you can always access my teaching. I’ll attempt to post 3-4 classes per month. You can also find inspiration for your practice on my social media feeds where I supply more in-depth teaching on the deeper practices such as Yoga Sutra study, meditation, and short videos on alignment or support for your physical practice.

A common call from my students has always been : “I love your classes, but they don’t fit my schedule,” thus the opportunity I’m exploring will be to offer more digital content to you when you want it and then meeting up periodically for in-person instruction.

Padma Mudra: Opening to New Opportunity. Thank to Gena Applyby for the lovely professional yoga photos these past 3 years. www.genaappleby.com

Padma Mudra: Opening to New Opportunity. Thank to Gena Applyby for the lovely professional yoga photos these past 3 years. http://www.genaappleby.com

Senara will be having a closing practice on July 2nd – 6:00 pm – 90 minutes. If you have ever been a Senara student or teacher, please attend. We will enjoy a physical practice, a meditation for new beginnings, and then share in the simple joy of community.

Here is a link to my teaching schedule, which is updated regularly and you can share with your friends: https://kirstenheddenyoga.wordpress.com/classschedule

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Pick and Choose – Daily Sadhana (Healthy Rituals) in the New Year

Here it is, the last day of 2014.  I started my last morning of this year by doing what I hope to do eveyday in the year to come.  I practiced living a better life in order to contribute to making a better world.  The key word there is practice.

Start your morning off right - everyday in 2015, wake up, pay attention to your practice, and have a fabulous day.

In yoga, a word we use to define a daily practice or ritual is SADHANA.

“What is sadhana? It’s a committed prayer (of living life). Sadhana is self-enrichment. Sadhana is a personal process in which you bring out your best.” ~Yogi Bhajan~

This is the day we are meant to set resolutions and then joke about throwing them out by February.  Let’s not do that this year.  This year, let’s simply make an intention or a Sankalpa to be a little better than last year.  This mindset will feed everything else and permeate your year.  It certainly doesn’t mean throwing out goals, but it does mean using your practice to lift up everything else.  This is your year to grow, thrive, and achieve.  Practice your potential everyday and you will see results.  Start with a morning sadhana to make every day of your life a little better than last year.

Recommended Practices for Daily Sadhana

Choose 1-3 things to do daily in 2015. No need to overwhelm yourself, when we practice our potential, it can be nice to go slow so that the changes stick and we don’t overwhelm ourselves or stress about these incremental changes. You are welcome to do it all if you can, but pick out a couple practices that you will promise yourself not to skip – be realistic with your choices so that you will be able to complete your commitment. Write down your choices and stick it on your mirror in the bathroom.

  • Establish a sacred space in your home. Some call this an altar, but that word can conjure up false images in the mind. It is simply a dedicated space that is beautiful to you, with reminders of your faith and what inspires you like a piece of art, flowers, or photo of your teacher. If you like to be in the space, you are more likely to stick with the practice.
  • Rise a bit earlier than normal – start with 10-15 minutes. Ideally, in yoga, the most sacred time for practice is between 4 am and 6 am.
  • Tongue scrape. Get a tongue scrapper and clean your mouth.  The tongue gets loaded with various toxins through sleep, it is elimination in the body, if you swallow it, you have to purge it again. One of my teachers, Dr. Indu Arora – an ayurvedic expert, states that the toxins on the tongue post sleep were unable to be processed by the liver. Regardless, your mouth will be happier and you will have uncovered your taste buds, so food will be extra yummy. Then brush as usual.
  • Oil pulling. Many people have been writing about oil pulling, do a quick Google. You can use the oil appropriate for your dosha. I personally use Sunflower oil or coconut oil. This practice has been found to reduce plague and tartar as well as whiten your teeth.
  • Drink a full glass of water 8-16 oz.  Use glass or copper, no plastic please. For extra credit, add in a slice of lime or lemon and make sure your water is lukewarm, this jumpstarts your digestion and wakes up your metabolism.
  • Oil your body and self-massage. Anoint yourself with oils for both the physical benefits of moisturizing the skin along with the feel-good element of a morning massage. Wait about five minutes and then shower. If you are short on time, be sure to rub your ears, face, and chest – waking up your senses and touching your heart center for a more alive beginning of your day.
  • Pranayama. This is the breath practice of yoga, there are several options – have your teacher show you a few.  A simple practice is nadi shodhana, the alternate nostril breath. Try 9 rounds. Watch the video for guidance.

  • Yoga Asana. Move your As-ana. This doesn’t need to be fancy or a 90 minute commitment, although if you can – all the better. If you have time constraints or children, squeezing in 3-5 sun salutations is helpful and a committed practice – it counts. Simple and steady is better than doing nothing.

    sun-salutation-INSET

    Basic Sun Salutation. Visit your local teacher for specific instructions or message me personally at my page – Kirsten Hedden Yoga on Facebook.

  • Meditate. No epic practice required. Your meditation can be breath focus or simply sitting for a few quiet moments in your favorite space. 3-5 minutes is ok, don’t feel like you need to be still and silent for 30 minutes – do what you can.  Personally, I chant mantra to help me focus and reduce anxious thinking.
  • Eat breakfast! Try a light serving of fruit with a sprinkle of cinnamon and a handful of nuts. Off you go with a sweet taste in your mouth and powered by protein. In Ayurveda, one should not mix dairy and fruit – so if you are a smoothie person, keep it dairy free.

I love thinking of waking in the morning to perform a committed prayer of living my life – for me, this mindset and all encompassing aspect of yoga is what makes it work in my life more than mere exercise or gymnastics. Yoga is the art of living connected.  Let your life be more artistic this year.

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Sadhana is whatever you do consistently to clear your own consciousness so you can relate to the infinity within you. Before you face the world each day, do yourself a favor and tune up your nervous system and attune yourself to your highest inner self. To cover all your bases, it will include exercise, meditation, and prayer. ~3HO~

The Dark Night of the Soul and Your Yoga Practice

**Please Note** This post contains a swear word.  If this would offend you, please don’t read further.

There comes a point in your yoga practice when you have to stare at yourself and you might not like it.  This is a dark little secret in yoga that some don’t care to discuss, with all the love and light and joy memes.  Nowhere in the Yoga Sutras does it say that all of your life will be blissfully happy – that’s something the marketing gurus selling you a yoga butt invented.

It is OK if you feel rotten, depressed, angry, bored, indifferent, or some sense of negativity in your yoga at times.  Read that again – IT IS OK to be upset.  Yoga opens up things within us and what needs to be taught is that it is NORMAL to not be cloying sweet and happy all your yoga life – you have to process the negative to become more positive.

You have to get deep in that muck and then like the lotus, you will emerge happier, healthier, and open to life – but first comes the mud and sometimes it smells rotten.  No Mud No Lotus

 

This point in your life practice is lovingly referred to as, “The Dark Night of the Soul.”  Basically, you have to get real about your problems.  You have to face the reality of all the actions you’ve taken up to this point of practice, you get to take a very real look at your Karma and sometimes that is ugly, especially if you are a human that has made mistakes (all of us!).

 

You may go through a depression or an increase in anxiety – don’t worry about it (haha and roll eyes).  This is actually a sign that you are clearing up.  You can’t clean what you can’t see.  Yoga shines the light in our darkest places; that can be very uncomfortable.  Those memories you worked so hard to suppress, they bubble right up to the surface and you have to deal with that shit.  And that’s why people sometimes quit on their yoga.  This part can be more painful than falling on your head in crow pose.

In the Dark Night of the Sould, Brightly Flows the River of God

It is at this point in your practice when you need to find yourself a highly experienced yoga teacher that is living this path, that has pushed past this very issue in their own psyche and body. This is not the time to focus on a yoga butt, but the time to enter into the deeper practices of Sense-Withdrawl (Pratyahara), One-pointed focus (Dharana), and Meditation (Dhyana). 

A good teacher can lead you through this valley of dark and shadows in a safe way and illuminate the more important teachings of yoga for you.  Seek out a teacher with years of experience and who still has a teacher of their own.  Be picky, don’t get distracted by shiny pants and tiny tops with great abs – remember that The Buddha had a belly and was never depicted with his foot behind his head – but rather in meditation and mudra.  Sometimes your best teacher may not be a yoga-lebrity, especially when you enter the dark stages of your practice.  10843791_345959338923369_1679910113_n

When people complain that they aren’t flexible enough or strong enough for yoga asana, consider that this is just a mental blockage – you do the asana to build the body strength and flexibility so that the mind becomes more pliable as well. Once you clear up the self-judgement, you start becoming a more compassionate, less judgemental person – that’s how you share your practice to make the world better.

It is true that the world has dark places – you cannot ignore the reality of death and destruction that permeate our planet, nor should you.  But you can remember that out of darkness comes the light and they both exist together.  G.O.D. – Generator, Organizer, Destroyer – rinse and repeat. 

Ask yourself:

Have you been the person that says, “I can’t meditate, I can’t be still, I can’t get quiet.” – yeah, me too.  That shit is hard.  You have to literally stare yourself in the soul and get open to what comes up.  But stay a while longer, Practice and All Is Coming.

The Dark Night of The Soul by St. John of the Cross

Upon a darkened night
The flame of love was burning in my breast
And by a lantern bright
I fled my house while all in quiet rest

Shrouded by the night
And by the secret stair I quickly fled
The veil concealed my eyes
While all within lay quiet as the dead.

(Chorus)

O, night thou was my guide!
O, night more loving than the rising sun!
O, night that joined the Lover to the beloved one!
Transforming each of them into the other.

Upon that misty night
In secrecy beyond such mortal sight
Without a guide or light
Than that which burned as deeply in my heart.

That fire ’twas led me on
And shone more bright than of the midday sun
To where He waited still
It was a place where no one else could come.

(Chorus)

Within my pounding heart
Which kept itself entirely for Him
He fell into His sleep
beneath the cedars all my love I gave.

From o’er the fortress walls
The wind would brush His hair against His brow
And with its smoother hand
caressed my every sense it would allow.

(Chorus)

I lost my self to Him
And laid my face upon my Lover’s breast
And care and grief grew dim
As in the morning’s mist became the light.
There they dimmed amongst the lilies fair.

Connect

309-657-9881
Classes:

Mondays: 7:00 pm @Senara on Willow Knolls

Fridays: Noon & 4 pm @Senara

My Personal Practice

Alignment Authenticity Anatomy Junkie Spiritual Flow Mantras Mudras Continuous Education Practice What You Teach Progress Not Perfection Guiding Teachers: BKS Iyengar Pattabi Jois Shiva Rea Daren Friesen (Moksha Chicago) Marinda Stopforth (Prairie Yoga - Lisle, IL)

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