Give yourself the gift of self-care this December

I’ve never outgrown my love of Advent calendars. Although my family observed secular Christmas, the act of opening a tiny door every day and finding a new surprise never ceased to delight me. My favorite Advent calendar was one we used for years during my childhood. Behind each door was a tiny ornament, which we placed on a miniature tree situated between my bedroom and my sister’s bedroom. This pre-bedtime holiday ritual remains a cherished memory.

As an adult, I’ve come to love the creative ways people have used Advent calendars to incorporate creativity, self-care, charity, and connection into the holiday season. One of my favorites is the Two Sylvias Press Poetry Prompt Advent Calendar. If you’re a poet, definitely check this one out!

A few weeks ago, I got a sudden flash of inspiration: to create a yoga nidra Advent calendar to help people foster a sense of relaxation and stress relief during a busy time of year. Even those who are not religious frequently feel stressed out in the hustle and bustle of the holidays. It seems all but impossible to avoid getting caught up in the hectic nature of December. Plus, with the weather turning to winter, it’s easy to feel blue.

My offering to you this December is 24 nidra practices. I’ll send a new practice to your inbox each day. You don’t need to pay anything, you don’t need stretchy pants, and you don’t need to be flexible. You just need an email account to receive the audio practices.

To sign up, check out the mini-retreats page of my website. Again, this is a no-cost program. I know how hard it can be to justify giving yourself a break in December. But in a time when we’re giving to charity, giving to family, and giving to our jobs, we also need to remember to give to ourselves. Make this your free gift to yourself.

Fall in love with your writing all over again

In the months following graduation from my MFA program, my writing hit a lull. I had no motivation to create. I knew this was a fairly normal phenomenon. After all, after three years of intense focus on my poetry, I needed a break. I needed to let my creative center lie fallow for a while. I needed to explore other projects.

Yet at the same time, I was worried. There are plenty of stories out there about writers who completed an MFA but never wrote anything else again after graduation. And I feared that was happening to me.

What got me through? A few things. The writings of Natalie Goldberg, who always reminds me how to cultivate my creative spirit. The work of Tommy Pico, which made me want to write again. And, ultimately, my yoga practice.

Showing up on my mat gave me structure. Meditation and mindful movement allowed me to connect body, mind, and creativity. The chance to practice yoga nidra, to make time for deep rest, helped me heal from my unhappy MFA experience.

Now I want to bring the tools of yoga nidra to you and your writing practice. Please join me on January 26th in Austin, Texas, for a two-hour mini retreat. This event is open to all writers of any genre. No yoga experience required. Come as you are; you don’t even need stretchy pants. After a gentle movement practice and freewriting, we’ll delve deep into guided relaxation, and then have space to work on our projects.

I’m offering 20% off on registration through the month of November. Please check out the detail on the Mini-Retreats page of my website. I look forward to helping you expand your creativity and fulfill your literary ambitions.

Happy Free Day of Yoga!

Free Day of Yoga is one of my most favorite things about living in Austin. No matter how much the city has changed over the past decade, this mainstay of our city is still going strong. 2017 was my first year participating in Free Day of Yoga as a teacher, and it was such an honor to give people a chance to try some free classes.

This year, I'm looking forward to trying out the yoga nidra class at Be Well Austin. I'm hoping to check out an early morning class somewhere new as well. I always enjoy the opportunity to visit new spaces and meet new teachers. Meanwhile, I'll be teaching the 6:15 restorative class at Modo Yoga Austin, so come on down if you want some free relaxation!

This year, in honor of Free Day of Yoga, I'm offering my first free download on this site. My goal is to bring you a new free offering every quarter to help sustain your practice. This first offering is a PDF of 100 sankalpa examples. While a sankalpa is ideally something you make up for yourself, I remember that back when I was first practicing, I struggled to come up with my own sankalpa. Feel free to use this guide to help guide your personal practice. To access the guide, visit the Free Downloads page of my website.

Finally, everyone who signs up for my email list by 11:59 p.m. on Monday, September 3rd will be entered in a drawing to receive a customized, 15-minute yoga nidra practice. Visit the contact page of my website to sign up and be entered! 

(Thumbnail Credit: Free Day of Yoga Austin)

 

How I Found Yoga Nidra

“Now we’re going to practice something called yoga nidra,” the teacher said 60 minutes into the 90-minute hot flow class. I didn’t know what yoga nidra was, but it definitely wasn’t part of the hot flow format, and from the very first second, I was completely and utterly resistant. I hadn’t come to this class to lie on my back and relax. I’d come to spend 90 minutes working hard and sweating. Instead, I was being asked to settle on my back, set an intention, and do a body scan. This was not part of what I’d planned on, and I decided from the first minute that I did not like this practice. Not one bit. I was never going to try it again.

 

But to paraphrase poet Joy Harjo, once you say never, you’ve pretty much guaranteed that the thing you never think will happen, never want to have happen, will definitely happen. And so it was a few months later, seeking help for insomnia, I downloaded the Insight Timer app and pulled up “Yoga Nidra for Sleep.” Sure, 30 minutes of nidra wasn’t what I wanted in my hot flow class. But I could lie down for 20 minutes in hopes that this would help me get better rest.

From there, I began to explore the other free yoga nidra practices available on Insight Timer. Then, when I began my Level 1 ParaYoga certification, I found that yoga nidra played a role in the curriculum, and my teacher, Rod Stryker, taught me approaches to nidra that I hadn’t encountered before. I moved away from just using yoga nidra as a way to manage insomnia, and made it part of my overall yoga practice. I’d gone from being completely resistant to completely in love.

Even as I was becoming enamored with yoga nidra, though, I never thought this would be the aspect of practice that I’d want to make my specialty. Yet as I’ve studied yoga nidra in more depth, and gotten more established in my own practice, I’ve become more committed to helping other people experience those benefits as well. I still love an intense, vigorous, physically demanding practice. But I’m also the type of person who tends to get too busy, work too hard, and need to slow down. Yoga nidra is how I finally learned to slow down and pay attention. And in a world where so many of us leave active lives with dozens of demands on our time, I think my role as a yoga teacher is to help people find the value in lying down, relaxing, and turning inward. I look forward to this new path my teaching is going. I hope to see you along the way.

Image copyright © Jennifer Piercy, Sacred Sleep Yoga