International Yoga Day: Spreading the Awesomesauce with Athea Davis

I started doing yoga about four years ago, I guess you could say yoga found me. I was in a bit of a transition with my daughter’s care and needs at the time; I believe I intuitively knew I needed something to ground me. Four years later, I use yoga as a go-to tool for my physical and emotional well-being. It’s been a healing practice that has saved me in times of what seems like unmanageable stress.

I’ve now been through several phases with my yoga practice and, I can proudly say, I finally feel good about where I am. I did go through the oh-so-common phase of trying to be REALLY good at yoga. I would tell myself, “I’m going to perfect my yoga practice, I will achieve wheel pose if it kills me.” Hmmm… guess what, no I won’t. Wheel pose is not meant for a body like mine. Backbends aren’t my thing. I humbly discovered I had it all wrong.

Yoga isn’t about being good at it; it’s about being present.

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Yoga & My Family

About a year ago, I started to wonder if yoga could not only benefit me but also my family. As I began my research, I serendipitously became connected to Athea Davis with Solsense Yoga. She is truly a special soul. She is full of joy, light and her motto is “have an awesome sauce day!” Yet even with all that energy and happiness, Athea exudes an almost Buddha-like calmness.

She has been the perfect fit for my family. Most Saturday mornings when Athea arrives, there are two barking dogs, a 12-year-old daughter screaming “I’m too tired to do yoga!”, and two or three teenage boys barreling down our stairs. Yet, Athea always graciously walks in and simply says, “Who wants to do some yoga with me?” And, in her Zen-like way, says, “Whoever shows up is who’s supposed to be there.”

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Athea Davis

Every Saturday looks a little different with our family. Whether it’s just me or my entire family, I have found one consistency throughout this past year working with Athea; her total and complete love and acceptance of my family. For that, I am eternally grateful. Thank you Athea.

Enjoy reading about Athea. She has changed my life and many others through the work she does bringing mindfulness tools to so many in need.

  1. What led you to choose yoga as a profession?

Athea: I often question if I chose yoga as a profession or if it chose me. My journey into teaching yoga felt like a very fluid and organic process. Before I started teaching yoga, I was at the top of my career in the corporate legal world. I was married for over ten years. I was enjoying motherhood. Yet, I felt very stuck and heavy in the life I was living. Something felt inauthentic about it all. I kept listening to this internal messenger and finally took a stand to live life as authentically as possible.

That meant leaving my marriage and embracing whole-heartedly the unpredictability of that dissolution. No marriage dissolution is easy. However, I would be remiss to not say, in addition to dissolving my marriage, I also came face-to-face with the reality that my former spouse was an alcoholic and suffered from depression. This entire process set me into a tailspin of unfathomable pain. So, I took my first yoga class. I felt an authenticity that I had never experienced. I had a teacher ask me if I ever thought about teaching because she felt I would be a natural. Now, with Sol Sense Yoga, I teach in schools, work with youth and families, create and lead professional development offerings for educators, create and lead workshops, lead trainings for burgeoning teachers and camp counselors, write, speak, and mentor youth in the juvenile justice system. I call it spreading the awesomesauce!

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  1. What led you to start Sol Sense Yoga?

I desired authorship and creative license. I had a vision of what yoga can offer for those that wanted a deeper experience and intuited a need and hunger from those around me for something more personal and intimate than what was being offered in a typical gym or studio type class. There’s nothing wrong with those types of offerings, they serve an important purpose, but for me personally, I had a desire to dig deeper into this thing called yoga with others, especially as it relates to taking yoga off the mat. I had a vision of offering a safe space where relationships hold the possibility to be built from a place of authenticity, love, and worth. Sol Sense Yoga isn’t just a health and wellness consulting business; it’s an embodiment of healing and connection. I infuse that vision into everything I do and every person I have the honor to connect with.

  1. In your opinion, what are the biggest health benefits of yoga?

Focus. Sustained concentration. Awareness. Emotional Self-Regulation. Connectedness. Wholeness. Love. Those words pretty much sum it up, and in no order. Those are the things that not only help us manage our elevated levels of stress, intense emotion, trauma, grief, and the pain and suffering we all experience in this beautiful journey of life, but they also hold the key to authentic living. Yoga has the power to heal from the inside out.

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  1. What is your favorite part of teaching yoga to Elaine’s family?

I love the laughter, the intimacy, and the realness with everyone (including the sweet “Buddha” dogs!). And, I value our Dharma Talks, or, in non-yogi speak, our philosophical conversations about how to live the most authentic and elevated life possible, both personally and professionally. Also, we are not in a studio or a school with a set of rules and etiquette to follow, which are necessary and wonderful things to have in that environment.

  1. What is your advice for people who have never tried yoga?

Get out there and do it. There’s a lot of information out there and keep in mind that there is a time and place for research. It doesn’t matter what variety you try, keep it simple and easy. Simple and easy varies from person to person. Maybe for you simple and easy means going to a community yoga class at your local gym, your neighborhood yoga studio, perhaps there’s a free class at a community event, or you download or live stream a class and try it in your own home. The access and opportunities are there, which is great, but they can be a bit overwhelming. Make it simple and easy. Commit to having the experience. Don’t worry about shopping around for the right kind of experience. Your experiences on the mat will lead you to the next steps and the next right place at the right time.

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To learn more about Athea Davis and Sol Sense Yoga, visit her website.

XOXO,

Elaine

 

Living in the Now

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Hello My Friends —

For many women, back-to-school means back-to-me time. And hooray for that! I relish these days when I’ve clocked out of my summer job as my kids’ social chair and entertainment manager. However, I don’t always get such a smooth transition into freer days and more time alone when school starts. My daughter, Marlie, suffers from school anxiety, so everyday is different for me. I’m doing all I can to stay in the present moment and take it each day as it comes. (Some days are better than others.)

Also, fall is a naturally busy time — team sports, after school activities and therapy sessions get cranked up. And, let’s not even mention the damn homework! It seems to get more frequent and tougher as the years progress. These kids young mind’s are stretched to the max with academic and social pressures. (High school seems to be a lot more competitive than I remember and I’m not so sure this is a good thing. HELP!)

So how does one stay present and mindful and not get caught up in all the busyness and the doing? Try some of the tips below for yourself and expose them to your kids too. But I have found the best way to learn is to model healthy habits and behaviors to those around you. If your kids refuse to read this or engage in some of these tips, then YOU can just BE it! They will pick up on all of the below just by seeing you do it.

This reminds me — I recently added a weekly family yoga session into our lives. I announced it to my kids and told them I was having a wondeful woman come to our house on Saturday mornings to do an hour-long gentle yoga session for us, but I was very clear in my words that if they did not want to do it, they did not have to, but it was available to them if they are interested. Well, sure enough, about twenty minutes into our session, my daughter walked in and showed us all her yoga moves. We all got to giggling and having so much fun doing yoga together as a family. So by taking the pressure off and allowing it to be up to them, they succumbed just out of pure curiosity I think! Yay me. (BTW — my strategies rarely work but this time it did!)

So let’s get calm now, why don’t we?


Slow down. First step, breathe. You’ve heard it before and trust me, it works because it forces you to stop the doing and focus. Last spring on the blog we featured Henry Richardson of Define body and mind who explained a simple breathing exercise and my good friend, Elizabeth Irvine shared some great tips with us last fall on how to remain mindful too. These are my go-to exercises when I feel the pressure mounting. And the great news is these exercises can be done anywhere. Promise yourself you’ll try it now, or at least once a day.

Take a technology break. Our devices are a blessing in terms of productivity, but a real curse in terms of human interaction. Challenge yourself to keep your device in your handbag when engaging with friends, kids or on date night with your husband. (Of course checking the phone periodically for urgent messages is allowed.) There’s no better gift you can give a person than absolute attention, especially in this day and age. 

Limit the social media.
 Nothing is more anxiety inducing than scrolling. Social media has its benefits – there are a couple of people in my feed that post amazing, thought-provoking articles and it’s nice to catch up with an old friend who lives across the globe. But then there are the acquaintances who take too many selfies, the over-politicals, the over-sharers, and the constant complainers. Really, most of it is garbage and negativity that I don’t need in my life and it is an enormous time suck anyway. I’ve found that taking some social channels off my phone has helped tremendously. When my phone cratered recently, I noticed a distinct shift in attitude toward the positive while unable to log into my social apps. It was quite freeing really. Maybe being connected 24/7 isn’t all that its cracked up to be?

Be still. Turn off your phone and take 5 minutes, even 30 seconds if that is all you have. Take a deep breath and close your eyes. How do you feel? Are you overwhelmed, happy or sad? If the feeling is of the negative sort, acknowledge it and let it go. If positive, savor it, embrace it and be grateful for it. Then start at the top of your head scanning down. How does your body feel? Do you have a neck ache? Are you hungry? Are your muscles sore from working out? Just simply acknowledging these feelings puts you in the present moment and reigns “you” back in. 

Focus and simplify. Really analyze your to-do list. How important are the tasks? Eliminate what’s not critical. Be realistic about what you can do without super-human powers. Then delegate some tasksStrive to check off three items in a day, and no more. And if zero tasks get accomplished, forgive yourself. We all have days like that every now and then.

Stop the overwhelm. If your to do list is still weighing you down, try the small bites strategy. Big projects can be stressful, but breaking them down and dedicating time every day to them gets things done. And I am not talking about a lot of time. Based on the project, allow 20-30 minutes per day. Schedule it in your calendar. Just doing a little bit everyday goes a long way toward eliminating the ruminating and resulting paralysis.

Finally, no matter who you are engaging with or what you are doing ask yourself, am I really present? Simply acknowledging it with the question brings you back to center. Utilizing the strategies presented here will help make living mindfully a habit. I have a feeling you will notice a welcomed change in attitude as well. Good luck!

XOXO, Elaine


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August is Here & A New Season is On Its Way!


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Hi Friends,
I’ve heard
 from a lot of you since posting last week about my Santa Barbara trip. Quick rewind – I was grateful to visit beautiful Santa Barbara on a girls’ trip in July. I have a lot going on personally right now (which I have detailed here on the blog) and getting away really got me thinking. I would love to say I returned home refreshed and renewed, but instead what ensued upon re-entry was a big ‘ole all encompassing, family-wide meltdown. You can read more about it here.

I guess this was not all that unfamiliar to you all :-P, because it seems this piece resonated with readers and I am thrilled. My story is a cautionary tale and it ended with a reminder to take care of yourself by tuning into what you need and creating a sense of peace around you every day. Now, this is a tall order. But I am thrilled to say that we’re going to explore these themes in depth in August on the blog.

Look, it’s crazy times right now – a looming election featuring what many folks consider less than desirable candidates on BOTH sides of the aisle (not to get too political or anything!), daily terror attacks around the globe and a less than favorable economy, especially in my energy-centric town. And needless to say, these national and global stressors can amplify anxiety already being felt on a personal level. Creating peace has gone from being a “nice-to-have” to a “must.”

For most of us, August is a month of transition and change. It’s back-to-school month and a time we start to get excited about fall fashion, fall football and fall foliage. And, almost like the start of the year, we ease back into the safety of our structured, daily routines, and if we are mindful, we have a chance to kick-start new, healthy habits and grow in the process. So, let’s just say we have an opportunity to start anew and find our center and say goodbye to the lazy, long, unstructured days of summer. Are you ready? I know I am.

With all that being said, our theme for August is: A Change of Season Brings An Opportunity for Growth & A Return to Daily Healthy Routines.

I am also beyond thrilled about the collaborators and gurus we will be featuring this month. We are excited to have two of our blog favorites back this month —  holistic health and behavioral specialist Heather Goodwin, and our favorite yogini, meditation expert and author Elizabeth Irvine. And, last but definitely not least, we are honored to introduce you all to a new guest contributor, Sara Eliason, professional colorist and designer. She is going to educate us on the power of color and what it can do to transform our lives. We cannot wait to learn from them and hear how they help us stay centered, self-aware and peaceful in times of inner and outer stress.

Here’s to a change in routine, boots, football and falling leaves – a new season is on its way! Please join me this month in becoming a healthier, happier YOU.

XOXO, Elaine


P.S. If you enjoyed this post, I’d be thrilled if you’d share it. And don’t forget to follow and subscribe to Join the Collective!