Tiny House on Wheels

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IMG_5809This summer our family of four headed across our inspiring country in our ten-year-old camper van, driving from Maryland on the east coast to Wyoming and Colorado in the western mountains. Along the way, I couldn’t help but compare our Roadtrek 190 Versatile to a covered wagon!

IMG_5388Although we had gone on substantial trips before, this was the longest journey we ever planned. As the tiny house movement expands, I wanted to decide if it would really work for a family.

People are always amazed to learn that our van sleeps four and has two dining areas which seat eight. We can invite guests for dinner! Tucked into every available space are a sink, two-burner stove, refrigerator, freezer, microwave, toilet, shower, DVD player, flat screen tv, couch, generator, full-size air conditioner, furnace, and hot water heater. The teenage boys brought their Xbox 360 for added entertainment.

IMG_5387After three weeks together without a hitch, I know we could live in a tiny house. The length of the van and fold-out doors offer enough space and privacy for everyone. Although we stayed in campgrounds and used their showers and sometimes put up a tent, most of our hours were spent in the Trekker. When we pulled into a national park, we had all of our possessions so we could change into bathing suits or hiking boots as needed. We made our meals when we needed them and had unbelievable views when dining. We were home no matter where our location.

IMG_5391I’ll admit that I’ve expressed my love of our van by hugging it. This mere machine has always provided our family with an immense feeling of freedom and adventure. The best part is that the whole house fits in a regular parking space!

Years ago when visiting a little nephew he told our brother-in-law that he felt sorry for our sons because they didn’t have any room for toys in our house. It took a few seconds to realize he thought we lived in our van permanently. Now that they don’t have as many toys, it just might work!

Business Success With Yoga

The Power Conference Program 2014

At The Power Conference yesterday a session promised to “Unleash Your Authentic Voice for Success”. As Dana Theus engaged the audience, I realized everything you needed to know about being successful could be found in a committed yoga practice.

Dana held her throat and talked about not being able to speak because we often worry about saying something wrong. We hold back out of fear. She advised taping into deeper levels and staying in an energetic space where the words almost didn’t matter. Underneath we have our real story which we need to tell with meaning and the best way is to state, “I believe ______.”

One of the foundations of yoga is to reach this energetic state of “being in the moment”. An inability to speak is symbolized by a blockage in the throat chakra. Before we can communicate, we need to feel grounded, be creative, digest ideas, and have compassion, then we are ready to truly share. A regular yoga practice helps to stop the overwhelming stimulus from the world and our brains. We learn to observe that what is happening to us is not us. In this way we find a better energetic state and can share our beliefs.

For me, noticing my breath and concentrating on fuller breaths is the most basic way to be in the moment. The more you do it in yoga, the more you’ll find yourself doing it throughout your day. This is the way to start your journey away from powerless and defeating behaviors.

The keynote speaker, Katty Kay, also touched on some yoga principles during her talk about confidence. Confidence is the stuff that turns our thoughts into actions. Although partly genetic, it is a choice and something any person can build by taking risks without fear of failure. As we try to learn yoga, we often spend many hours slowly attempting to move our bodies in a certain way. Some students are much more willing to fail, fall, and start again. In this way, yoga can help you find your edge, add challenges to your days, and become confident in failure.

She also talked about “ruminating” and gave the example of successfully hosting a three-hour show only to spend the next three weeks with her brain constantly bringing up the one wrong question she asked. During meditation, we learn to become the observer of these types of thoughts. I tell my students then may have to observe a certain thought over and over again a hundred times in one short meditation session. The more you practice yoga and meditation, the more you will realize how much your brain is constantly trying to force you to feel bad about the past or worry about the future and you can work to stop it.

Katty suggests you think three good thoughts for every “Negative Automatic Thought” (NAT). It takes that many. Every time you notice the bad thought, force yourself to repeat three positive outcomes from the same situation.

I couldn’t help but to think of gnats flying around my head. These negative thoughts are exactly the same. I’ll use the image during meditation with my students. Observe the gnats and bring your mind to a better place.

Connecting your body and breath with yoga will improve your work and fulfill your personal life. As a yoga coach, I hope to help people be successful in all that they do.

The Zombies Are Already Here

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You see zombies all over the place. They walk with a distracted, slow gait. Their bodies are hunched over. They’re unresponsive and looking down. I have no doubt that the zombie apocalypse has begun!

Last night I was walking home from a school meeting and a guy almost walked right into me because he was bent over his phone. As we drew near, the woman with him had fallen in behind to let me pass but he had no idea someone was on the sidewalk. Sadly he wasn’t paying attention to me or her.

Whenever I’m walking I see the same situation. Zombies are everywhere. People notice me at the last second and look up. The worst zombies are the moms and dads pushing baby carriages. This generation will grow up thinking it’s normal to ignore the world around you.

As a society we are becoming much less mindful. Our brains are addicted to electronic distractions. We never take a few minutes to notice our breath and remove ourselves from the unimportant details of the day.

My exercise walking route goes through two parks. These spring days have been uplifting. The herons, geese, turtles, birds, flowers, trees, sun, and sky can boldly bring me into a wonderful present moment. Walking can be a terrific meditation if you keep your mind on each detail of your surroundings, senses, and breath.

Although it’s illegal to use a phone when behind the wheel of a car, more than half of the drivers I see are illegally on their phones. Yesterday’s worst offender was a woman in her large SUV driving down our street holding the phone near the windshield. I guess she thought she could text and see the view in front of her large and deadly vehicle as she maneuvered down a residential street.

This is obviously dangerous but it’s also illegal to text while stopped for red lights. Each stop provides an excellent chance to bring your attention to your breath. Feel it filling your body and rest the mind. This is the much needed opposite of what a phone offers.

Whether walking or driving, avoid a zombie infection!

The Early Bird Loses Weight

My blue heron friend during this morning's walk

My blue heron friend during this morning’s walk

If you can get 20-30 minutes of morning light, you could lower your body mass index (BMI). Can losing weight really be that simple? Yes. Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago found being in the sun before noon can reset your body’s clock.

People who spent time in the sun early in the morning had lower BMIs. The results held even when taking a person’s physical activities, calories, sleep, age and season into account. They’ve proven the light synchronizes your internal body clock that controls our energy balance.

So I’ve decided to give it a try. Since the accident I’ve gained 17 pounds. I’m determined to loose 27 to lessen the load on my still-damaged limbs. I figure taking a morning walk for an hour in the sun will give me the much needed sun rays and burn calories too. Being inside doesn’t help because you only get 200-300 lux and you need at least 500. Even on a cloudy day, there’s still 1000 lux outside, so don’t go to the gym, go outside.

My husband started to use MyFitnessPal so I’ve decided to do some simple tracking with the app as well. Paying attention to every bite you eat has been proven to help with weight loss regardless of what plan you are using.

Of course, as a yoga instructor, I believe that paying attention to every detail of your life will improve everything!

Overcoming Thoughts with Yoga

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A woman I had never met came into my senior chair yoga class to talk to a friend. She was very upset about her hairdo. She didn’t like it. The woman who styled it didn’t know what she was doing. It wasn’t what she wanted.

She slumped down in a seat and said “I look horrible.” She was so upset, I didn’t think disagreeing would make a difference.

After asking me three times what the class would be, she didn’t seem interested. She didn’t want to do anything but get her hair done correctly. She wanted to go to another hair dresser. This senior community has a hair studio, doctor’s office, and bank in the building. She was determined to go outside and find another place immediately.

“I want to go back to Pennsylvania where they know how to do hair.” Now she was almost in tears. Her voice quivered. Obviously this was much more than a hair-style issue.

I announced we were going to begin class.

Her friend had moved her walker as she encouraged her to join the class. Staying seated was therefore easier than getting up and going.

As we began the breathing exercise, I was pleased to see she was participating. At about 20 minutes she announced she was done. I told her we hadn’t done the real yoga yet and she should stay. We continued on with class and a guided relaxation. She’d finished class without another word.

As the meditation ended, I watched her open her eyes. She was completely at peace. After I turned on the lights and opened the doors, I went over to help her with the walker and she had forgotten all about her hair! She was in a completely different mindset. The hair no longer mattered. She was content and smiling.

Most of the time when this transformation happens, I’m delightedly surprised. With someone in such a state of turmoil, it’s all the better.

Chair Yoga Means Fewer Visits to the Doctor

Beginner Chair Yoga Show 3

One of my chair yoga students came to class and proclaimed,

Since I started chair yoga with you, I haven’t had any problems with my asthma and when I went to the doctor he said I didn’t need to come back for six months.

She was obviously pleased. She’d even brought someone else with her to class. The other person’s doctor had also been supportive of yoga.

Truthfully, I was a little perplexed. I teach yoga because I know all of the health benefits. My personal practice has kept me fit and even helped me survive being run over by a car.

But I’d only been teaching at this location for seven weeks and she didn’t even attend every class. What was really going on?

Obviously, my senior chair yoga does not provide a strenuous physical workout. We stretch and strengthen our bodies from head to foot, but this isn’t a sweaty power class. So, I put the physical explanation aside and knew her better health had to be due to our breathing exercises and meditation.

Pranayama (breathing) is our first and most important action. Think about it. You can go a week or more without food, maybe a few days without water, but you can’t even go a few minutes without air. Breathing only in the chest in a shallow way causes stress and fatigue. The body needs full breaths which expand the chest, rib cage, and belly.

Since I only teach once a week, my goal is to give students the tools to live better when we don’t have class. I encourage them to take their yoga breathing with them throughout the day and to also find a few moments each day to sit quietly and clear their minds with simple meditation techniques such as concentrating on their breath. They are discovering what a great difference this can make in their lives and how much better they can feel.

Several years ago I asked a yoga teacher how I could advance in my practice, he told me I had to practice yoga regularly and put in the time. Until I accepted this as the truth, I didn’t advance. As my student proved, it doesn’t have to be that much time each day. We can simply concentrate on breathing better and stopping our pesky brains from stirring up trouble in our lives.

Last week I talked with another volunteer and came up with the concept for a public access tv show called +Postive Health. +Positive Health encourages a better quality of life above and beyond trying to prevent disease. The first episode features me teaching a beginner chair yoga class including a 3-part breathing technique and an easy mantra meditation. The episode was filmed in the Montgomery Community Media studio and will be available for viewing soon.

I hope my “Online” yoga endeavors will help more people find better health each day and see doctors less often!

Simple Sensory Meditation

Meditation can increase productivity and decrease stress. You owe yourself a meditation break.

If you need some help to get started, this meditation guides you into the moment.

Seated Yoga For Your Office: 10 Poses to Invigorate Your Day

Often people would like a quick lift-me-up. All you need is a chair to get all the benefits of yoga! Here’s a slideshow presentation to guide you through a short practice:

If you have a chair with arms, stand for the Warrior pose. Have a great day!

Our Special Boy Scout Experience Lasts a Lifetime

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Both the Scouts and the parents of our Boy Scout troop are close knit because we offer a special leadership experience that no other troop can match. We volunteer to direct the parking at our county’s annual agricultural fair in August.

Since scouting is boy-led, our scouts take on the leadership responsibility. As adults, we report to them. I don’t know of another Troop which gives their boys such a tremendous opportunity to be leaders. The boys learn how the system works, make improvements, and step up to the challenge. We pride ourselves on directing traffic across the entire lot without causing any backups onto the main road. You need coordination, good planning, and hard work to make it happen. Some of these boys aren’t even teenagers and yet they all demonstrate a newly-learned level of maturity. Truly, this is a fulfilling sight to see.

By working together, we have the opportunity to get to know the other parents better. They’re no longer just the people you see picking up their scout at the end of a meeting or eating with their family at the annual dinner. Since we spend time sitting in the tent on breaks, we talk and get to know each other socially. We’re in it together and it shows. You really get to know someone when you have a hundred cars coming right at you and you need to communicate and get them all parked without any delays. We’re a team succeeding together and there’s no better feeling.

My sons work “Iron Man” hours. Iron Man requires 14-hour shifts for most of the fair week. They wouldn’t do so much more than required unless they truly enjoyed it. A few days ago in the cold of February my youngest said he wished he was volunteering at the fair. Obviously he’s dreaming of his summer fun.

Last year a new parent commented that the description of working at the fair didn’t sound like anything he wanted to do but that turned out to be wrong. He wound up coming more than needed. Believe me, it’s hard to stay home when you know people are arriving at the exact same time for a special event at the fair and you’re not there to help. You feel like you’re missing out on something by not participating. We all revel in the sense of accomplishment brought on by a job well done. All hands are willingly on deck.

The Troop has directed the parking at the fair for over 60 years. Each year lots of men stop to tell us that they helped park the cars when they were a scout. They say it knowingly. They say it with their pride showing. You can tell volunteering at the fair is one of the highlights of their youth as they share their memories.

Tradition’s important. Generations wouldn’t keep coming back unless it was worth the effort. For our boys this is a rite of passage and we have the leaders to prove it when they’re adults.

What to Do About Turning 50

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You need to do something special to commemorate a half century in this world. After all, you’ve made it through quite a few ups and downs! What if you don’t want a party?

I wanted to do 50 of something. Somewhere along the way last year, I’d read about doing acts of kindness and service. Could I do one volunteer activity or help one person per week? I’m going to find out!

During my first week I wrote a Lenten Devotional piece. Although this has been an annual occurrence since our church started the booklet three years ago, I spent a long time reading, contemplating, and writing. Writing is one of my gifts and volunteering to write this piece was an appropriate first act of service.

They won’t all be volunteer jobs. I pictured smaller acts of kindness, like giving up a place in line or a parking spot, helping a stranger with a task. These little acts of kindness put people in a good mood and cause them to do something for someone else. I’m hoping I’ll be more open to people and mindful. Hopefully each one of these acts will spread.

During a harrowing Metro train ride which took over an hour when it was only supposed to take 20 minutes, I spent the time next to a group of young people. When I was waiting on the platform to change trains, one of the guys asked me to borrow a pen. My train was coming but I gave it to him knowing I probably wouldn’t get it back. He was writing on a scrap of paper. I hope the pen helped him along that day.

sandwich makingLast Sunday I joined our youth group at church to make 500 sandwiches to be handed out on the streets of DC during a cold night. As people joined in the assembly line, we streamlined the process into a fast and well-oiled, food-making machine.

Looking ahead, I’ve signed up to cook for those going through difficult times and agreed to do a free workshop for seniors.

So, I don’t know where all this will go. I want to do real service to those in great need as well as spread some sunshine. Each time I do, I know I’ll get far more in return. I hope to be feeling the love at fifty!