Never underestimate the power of this

Truth: I had a ton of resistance leading up to this past weekend's retreat in the Catskills. Even though I was cooking for the retreat, my mind made up all these reasons why I didn't need to go and why I shouldn't go.

Over the last 5 years, I've co-hosted, supported, helped organize and participated in over a dozen retreats. Each time some sort of resistance comes up. I somehow make it through and each time I'm blown away by the transformative power of a weekend (or week) away.

This weekend was no different.

Yogis do sunset in the Catskills - stunning!

Yogis do sunset in the Catskills - stunning!

The focus of the weekend was around self care: we meditated on what in our lives needs to go, we journaled on the practices or habits we felt needed to come in and we had real, honest conversations about our challenges taking care of ourselves as adults in the modern world.

Our three days in the mountains felt like WAY longer - there was time for all the things (yoga, healthy food, hiking, down time, sleep!). I felt myself shed an energetic layer of "stuff" I wasn't even fully aware I was carrying around.

The space and time for reflection also allowed me to get even clearer on my next steps: what's important to me right now, where I want to focus my energy and what I need to let go of in order for my goals to come to fruition.

Our weekend escape house - look at that blue sky!

Our weekend escape house - look at that blue sky!

As I've shared before, sometimes I feel like I'm just learning how to be a grown up now. Sure my parents, family and school taught me a lot of the practical steps, but as I walk through this 3rd decade of my life, I'm surprised at the emotional, mental and spiritual lessons I'm learning.

And while many of those lessons are learned in the day to day, the actual acknowledgment, processing and integration of those lessons usually occurs when I'm able to remove myself from my regular routine, like when I'm on a retreat or vacation.

I've said this after other retreats, and I'll likely say it again: never underestimate the power of a weekend away.

Whether it's a week in Sedona with your parents (major lessons there my friends - read this post if you haven't already), escaping the city for a quiet weekend in the country or renting an AirBnB for a night away from your regular routine, removing yourself from the distractions of your every day life has tremendous transformative and restorative power.

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On the bus ride back from the Catskills I was inspired to flush out all the details for an early fall retreat at my family's house in Maine. This is something I've been dreaming about for a long time (ever since we renovated the house 3 years ago). Even though I had other work to do, even though I was a little car sick from the ride, my gut said to DO IT and so I did.

This retreat is coming together (I promise I will be sharing details soon - it will be Sept 26-30 if you want to mark the date on your calendar!!) and I know none of this would have happened if I hadn't had the time away to recharge my body and my spirit.

Wildflowers EVERYWHERE! So beautiful.

Wildflowers EVERYWHERE! So beautiful.

One of my coaching clients joined us on this retreat. Earlier this week we had a call to recap what came up and how she wants to take what she learned in the weekend and bring it into her life.

My coaching for her (and what I do myself) was this:

  1. Create a small amount of space in your everyday life to retreat - Create some space in your daily routine where you disconnect from all the things (work, computer, TV, cell phone, friends and family) and reconnect to YOU. This can look like a yoga or meditation practice, nightly journaling routine or other ritual. Ideally this happens every day.

  2. Plan for regular, bigger retreat times. Aim to have a longer "retreat" on your calendar each week or month. Sure this can be a long weekend in Maine with a teacher who inspires you (!!), or a staycation where you leave the kids with your SO or parents and check into a fancy hotel, or a spa day with your best friend. But it can also be as simple as an afternoon where you turn off your phone and shut down your computer and are present with what's going on around you.

The important thing with both of these "retreats" is that you're able to tune out some of the noise of life (a lot of which comes from our technology!) and tune into YOU. Bonus if you can be alone and/or be in nature, but that doesn't have to happen every time.

So today I encourage you to look at your calendar. Do you have a true getaway planned? And if not, can you make the time and space for one, even if it is local, or more of a digital detox than a true vacation?

My next retreat will be in Maine - will you join me?

My next retreat will be in Maine - will you join me?

There may be resistance that comes up (I don't have time! It's too expensive! My family needs me!). This is NORMAL and likely means you're on the right path to something that your soul needs for change and growth.

And then I want to hear from you - what's your retreat plan? Are you going to join me in Maine in September? Is there another trip or vacation in the books? How are you going to bring this idea of "retreating" into your every day life? Leave a comment below and let me know!

For this past weekend's retreat I had the pleasure of fueling the group with delicious, healthy food. I put together a recipe book with all the yummy things we made including Paleo Banana Pancakes, Lemon Dill Salmon, Tahini Fudge and MORE!

Click here to download the Self Care Retreat Recipe Book.

Space to reflect

I had another blog post planned for today but when I sat down to finish it, it didn't feel right. 

I was planning to write to you about sugar cravings and some tips I've been sharing with my 1:1 coaching clients the past week (which I'll likely send next week because it is really, really good info!).

But something stopped me when I went to hit publish. I make most of my business decisions from my gut and so I knew I had to heed that hesitation and listen more closely for what wanted to be shared today.

So I took a minute and tuned in. I stopped what I was doing, took a few deep breaths and I asked myself "What would feel more in alignment here?" and the answer became clear.

Nothing new.

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With everything going on this week - the Jewish New Year, remembering 9/11, the hurricane (which hits particularly close for me as my grandparents live most of the year in Duck, North Carolina and I am actually supposed to be going down there next weekend) and the back-to-school/life/work really setting in, it didn't feel like this was a week to share or start something new.

It felt like this should be a week for reflection. For honoring where we're at right in this moment, for feeling gratitude for all the good in our lives (especially the things we take for granted on a daily basis) and for acknowledging our intentions for the year to come.

Holding space for reflection is so important, yet something that we often skip over in our fast paced lives.

We jump from one thing to the next and don't always allow ourselves to "digest" our life experiences (yes, experiences and emotions need to be digested too!).

Personally, I think a lot of the gut issues I've been experiencing lately are a result of this go-go-go mentality. Even if you love your job and fill your life with all things you enjoy, you still need space to just breathe and be.

Photo by Seana Pasic

So today (or this weekend) I encourage you to give yourself just that. Take a break and go for a walk without your phone. Sit on a park bench or your sofa without a book, cell phone or TV for distraction. Leave an hour of your day unscheduled (or if you tend to schedule EVERYTHING, block off an hour in your calendar to do nothing).

The most important part? Let go of your expectations of this time. Literally, expect nothing of yourself. Don't expect to feel amazing or rested or restored afterwards. Don't plan for revelations, insights or big emotional ahas (although those may naturally happen).

In that time, first just breathe. Let your thoughts wander. Allow your gaze to linger. Just be.

And then if there is something that you know you need to reflect on or simply be with, allow yourself to go there. Have your thoughts, feel through your feelings and let your body and your mind digest it all.

This is not a "to do" but if you do try this out or if something I shared above resonated with you, I'd love to hear from you :) Leave a comment below and let me know.

The best advice I received recently

Recently my gut has not been happy.

By recent I mean things haven't been quite right the past year, but the last few months I've been in a LOT more pain and discomfort. I tried to "fix" things myself - eliminating different foods, taking supplements, trying this and that healing diet, meditating more, doing more yoga - but nothing seemed to help. At all.

Which left me feeling frustrated, annoyed that I couldn't figure this out myself and honestly pretty angry at my body. Here I was eating so much healthier and being so much more careful with what I consumed than so many people, yet I was still in so much pain.

So I finally asked for help.

I went to see a GI and he's been sorta helpful. He ran some tests and suggested I give the low FODMAP diet a serious try, which I've been doing with some success.

But the best (and most surprising) advice I received around my current gut stuff came from Robyn.

We work together closely so she's seen me going through all of this.

 

 

After a particularly bad week I lamented TO HER:
"I'm tired of having to care about every little thing I eat. I'm tired of being more sensitive than everyone else. I just want to be normal."
Robyn's response?

"You ARE normal Emily.

There's just this one piece of you that needs a little extra care and attention right now."

 

She went on to suggest that I think of this piece of me (my gut!) like a baby and that I (the rest of me) needed to care for, protect and love this piece of me like a mother fiercely cares for, protects and loves her child.

This simple advice totally shifted my perspective.

First, I realized I was blowing things out of proportion.

Yes, my gut has been unhappy but my energy, my sleep, my skin, my mood and so much more have been good (for the most part). I'm not totally broken, there's just one piece of me that needs some extra support right now.

Second, it gave me a new way to look at my gut and how I needed to take care of it.

How does a mother treat a crying newborn baby? Well most often she tries to soothe the baby and would do anything in her power to find out what her baby needs to stop crying - out of fierce love, not just to quiet the cries (although I haven't been a parent and can guess that sometimes you do just want to quiet the cries...but that's not the point here).

 

 

Instead of being angry at my digestive system and avoiding certain foods as punishment, I'm looking at my gut like a little baby that I need to care for, love and protect like a mother would CARE FOR A SICK OR HURT child.

 

This shift has been profound for me.

Part of being an adult is learning to "grow up" - most of us are taught that we should get a job, pay our bills and be a law-abiding citizen, but there's more. Emotionally we must learn to take care of ourselves from a deep sense of self love. How (I assume) a mother or father feels for a new born baby. Unwavering, unapologetic, protective.

No matter how many loving parents, grandparents, siblings, partners, friends you have in your life, YOU must be your own best caretaker.

You must learn how to nurture, soothe and protect yourself, both physically and emotionally.

At 30 years old, even after a wonderful childhood and years of personal development, this is something I'm just learning. While there are still days where I feel frustrated with my gut for being bloated after one bite of gluten or having a stomachache so painful all I can do is curl up in a ball on my bed, I'm grateful for the piece of me for ultimately being my biggest teacher.

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Is there an area of your life or health that could use some unconditional love? A piece of you that maybe, like me and my gut, has been a point of prolonged pain, discomfort or chronic illness?

How can show that piece of you more care and love? Instead of judging, shaming and trying to fix yourself, how can you be your own best parent and nurture yourself?

<3 <3 <3

The power of quiet

This past weekend I had the opportunity to teach yoga at an intimate retreat in upstate New York. I've been craving more time in nature, and more time out of the city, so this coming my way felt perfect and like a gift from the universe.

Talk about a dreamy yoga setting!

Talk about a dreamy yoga setting!

I didn't really know this going in but the retreat was to be mostly silent. No laptops, no cell phones, no talking and even no communication via body language (no eye contact!).

I don't mind quiet - it's actually something I crave living in the hustle and bustle of NYC - but this level of quiet was a whole new experience for me.

 

 

It's amazing what a little bit of quiet can do.

 

Pretty soon after shutting down my laptop and turning my phone on airplane mode I had some very clear downloads (what I call the messages I get from self or spirit or intuition).

Some were more straightforward (THIS is how much you can charge for that, that food is not serving you right now, ideas for blog posts and videos, etc) and some were more out there (including one 5 page message from a past partner's spirit... believe me I was pretty surprised myself).

 

 

None of these messages would have come through so clearly or so quickly without the quiet.

 

Finding and staying quiet isn't always easy - there were definitely moments during the weekend where I wanted to talk to a friend, check Instagram or work on my laptop. There were moments when nature didn't feel peaceful (buzzing flies and creepy crawly spiders are definitely a test of mindfulness), where my mind felt anything but calm.

But this experience (as with ALL of my social media detoxes) reinforced the power of just being with self. Sitting in the discomfort and the feelings that come with quiet also allows us to open up to endless creativity, connectivity and real peace, as well as space to heal and process.

Nature is the best

Nature is the best

And while the quiet time to meditate and reflect was powerful, the biggest "aha" moment of the weekend for me was how much effort we all put into what we're saying and how we're presenting ourselves to other people, especially people that we may not feel totally comfortable being ourselves around.

And, if we're being honest, most of us don't feel comfortable being totally ourselves around most everyone, except maybe one close friend or a partner.

We spend so much energy (whether it's conscious or unconscious) trying to act in a certain way. Trying to present a picture to the rest of the world of what we think is acceptable or appropriate or right, instead of just being who we are. Instead of connecting with self and feeling our feelings and asking ourselves the important questions and going with what feels true in the moment, we're worried about how we're seen by others. Or maybe not worried, but we think we have to act a certain way based on who we "are."

I'm about to get real existential up in here but it's a good question, and something I thought about a lot this weekend...

 

 

Who are you?

 

Yes, I'm Emily. I'm a health coach and yoga teacher and entrepreneur. I like the beach and dairy free ice cream and the color blue. I live in Brooklyn and I ride a bike. I'm a little scared of heights, but somehow love roller coasters and my middle name is Margaret.

But is this really who I am?

No, of course not, you know that and I know that. I'm so much more than a job and a city and some dietary preferences.

 

And whether we know it or not, we often use these labels as a form of communication.

But we like labels. We like to put things in boxes.

By me saying I live in Brooklyn and ride a bike I'm presenting an aspect of myself I want you to see, and you're seeing a piece of me colored by your own experiences and belief systems.

Even if we think we know someone, we cannot experience reality through their eyes and filters, and as a result we cannot 100% guarantee what someone else will think of us or how they'll react to something we do. And if we're making decisions based on how we think someone else will perceive us or a situation, there's more often than not going to be a disconnect between how we think we should feel and how we actually feel.

You can however be in your own head (scary place sometimes - I know). You can be in your own body. You can see and experience life from your own individual perspective. Which is why it's so important to be THERE. To be YOU. To honor whatever is going on with your emotions, to listen to your intuition and act from a place of self interest.

YES to more quiet and time with self and with nature.

YES to more quiet and time with self and with nature.

My takeaway from this weekend is yes to find more quiet and more meditative time in nature.

But more than that I want to live more from that place of ME. Not Emily the health coach, the yoga teacher, the daughter, the sister, the friend... but Emily the human.

No labels, no shoulds, no what what so-and-so do. Just being and making decisions from that deep center of self.

Guess who's back on the mat?

Just over a year ago I made a conscious decision to take a break from teaching yoga. This decision was not an easy one to make: I loved my students and I loved teaching. I loved that my classes and workshops were regular times where I was required to show up, be present and be seen.

 

 

Despite all that, I slowly started to resent my teaching commitments.

And I felt so guilty for feeling that way.

 

I was exhausted from running around the city, teaching early mornings and weekends, while still working full time on other projects during regular working hours. My attention was scattered. And I started to feel like a fake because between everything I was doing, I wasn't making it to my own mat regularly.

So I decided to take a break from teaching. I thought it would be good to have a month or two off during the summer when studio traffic slows down anyways. I figured I'd be back in the fall, refreshed and with a renewed excitement for teaching.

Well, it took a little more than a month or two (more like 12...), but I'm now READY to step back into this role, or rather step FORWARD into this new version of yoga teacher me.

"Always forward, never back" (name that TV reference!)

"Always forward, never back" (name that TV reference!)

I share this for a few reasons:

  1. For my students - "It's not you, it's me" I just want you to know I've missed you SO much. I'm beyond excited to practice with many of you again soon (see upcoming classes below!)

  2. For my fellow yoga teachers - It's okay to put yourself first, it's okay to take a break. It's okay to love what you do but not to want to hustle so hard. It's okay to want to make good money. It's okay to want more time to yourself. It's okay if the group class thing is not working for you - there are other ways.

  3. For myself - Writing is so therapeutic for me. Putting words down here allows me to work through what's been going on in my head. What I wrote above is important: while I am "stepping back" into this role, I truly see this as moving FORWARD into a different reality of teaching for me, and I want to hold myself accountable to holding the vision of that different reality.

 

 

Like I said, I see this as a new era of teaching for me.

 

Here are the things I've decided to commit to (at this time) so that teaching can feel sustainable and supportive of me:

  • Teach local - For regular group classes, I'm only going to teach at studios that are within walking distance to my apartment or office. Not having to commute makes such a difference for me!

  • Not just hot yoga - I love you hot yoga, but I literally burnt out teaching so many heated classes. While I'll still practice at a hot yoga studio occasionally, I won't be teaching exclusively in the heat.

  • Own my worth - I've increased my rates for privates and special events so that I can show up in the way that I want to: fully, and going above and beyond what's required.

  • Maintain my personal practice - If I feel like my personal practice is slipping, I will re-evaluate what I'm committing to on a weekly basis so that my practice can be a priority.

  • Invest in my own development as a teacher - I'm signed up for an advanced training later this month and will continue to take workshops and trainings to further hone my knowledge and skills as a teacher.

 

 

More than anything else, I want to continue to check in with myself before I commit to new classes, say YES to workshops or events or take on private clients.

Taking a moment to check in.

Taking a moment to check in.

All that being said, I'm thrilled to share a few upcoming opportunities for us to practice yoga together this month!!

Practice with me:

  • Friday July 6th 4PM // Jewel City Yoga, Crown Heights BK // I'm auditioning at my local yoga studio by hosting a community yoga class. If you're in town, I'd love your support at this class. Click here for details!

  • Monday July 16th 6PM // Virtual class via Facebook LIVE! // I'm going to try out teaching a virtual class on Facebook LIVE. LIKE my Facebook page for updates!

  • Sunday July 22nd 9AM // Lululemon Smith Street, Cobble Hill BK // Join me for a free class at the Lululemon on Smith Street. In addition to the yoga class, I'll be chatting about my favorite essential oils for summer and you'll have the opportunity to sample and buy some of these amazing oils! No need to RSVP, you can just show up!

I am also open to taking on one or two new private yoga clients. Contact me if you're interested and we'll chat!

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Whatever your job or schedule, I encourage you to check in with yourself before committing to events, activities, etc. This is YOUR life and you deserve to be in the driver seat. So take a breath and take the wheel.

We got this.