It’s Valentine’s season, and images of love are everywhere. Personally I love Valentine’s day and usually spend it making (and eating) gluten free chocolaty deliciousness. Sometimes the media hype around the holiday is less than sweet, and can fuel unrealistic definitions of love. Even the Super Bowl was sponsored by a diamond jewelry company urging viewers to buy a ring if you truly love her, or make those of us who don’t have a sparkly rock somehow less loved.
It is not true!
Yoga philosophy reminds us that love is infinite and all around us at any moment ready to be recognized, cultivated, and expanded. If you want to find true love, incorporate these three techniques at your next yoga class. You will unlock your heart and open your awareness to love that is already right in front of you.
Before Yoga Class – Set Your Awareness on Love
Before your next yoga class or meditation, take a few minutes to focus your awareness on your heart center, or anahata chakra. Close your eyes and begin by taking a few deep centering breaths. Imagine, think or feel a brilliant emerald green light emanating from the center of your chest. With each breath expand that green light throughout your body. Silently repeat the primordial sound associated with the heart chakra, “YUM, YUM, YUM…”.
When you feel ready, open your eyes. Take a few moments to notice any shifts in your body, mind and spirit before moving on to the yoga asanas.
During class – Circulate Love With Every Breath
Yoga class should always focus primarily on the breath. Have the intention of circulating love with every breath during your asana practice. As you inhale, breath in love. As you exhale, give love back. Continue with the awareness of inhaling and exhaling love with every breath. If your mind begins to drift, lovingly bring it back to the intention of circulating love.
After Class – Keep Your Focus on Love
You hear your yoga teacher say it all the time, “find your drishti”. Drishti is a Sanskrit word that means view or focal point. The ancient yogis discovered that where our gaze is directed our attention naturally follows, and that the quality of our gazing is directly reflected in the quality of our mental thoughts. You can use the drishti concept off the mat and into your everyday life. After your yoga class make love your focal point. Practice seeing it in all things; the wag of a dog’s tail, the sound of a soulful song, even graffiti can be love if you are willing to open your eyes to it.
Open your eyes to love – it is everywhere!
Remember that you are loved exactly as you are in this moment. You don’t need to do anything to be loved, you just need to open your mind, body and spirit up to the love that is all around you. Use these tools to remind you that your true Self is never without love.
The holiday season can be a challenging time of year for someone with a gluten allergy. Here are three simple tips to create joyful and easy gluten free Christmas.
I am known as the office Elf and the family Christmas cookie queen because I am passionate about sharing the spirit of the holiday season, which is love in its essence. It is my Christmas wish that these tools help you maintain a healthy mind, body and spirit well into the new year. This Christmas, the gift of wellness is the best gift you can give yourself and those around you.
Navigating Christmas parties, abstaining from traditional holiday food favorites, on top of dealing with the stress of shopping and family gatherings can take the fun out of this festive season. I have been gluten free for over six years, and the tips I am about to share with you are things I have learned that are essential for a happy and healthy gluten free holiday season.
Take time to celebrate you everyday.
It is easy to get caught up in the season of giving and forget to give to yourself. After all, you cannot give from an empty cup, so fill your cup with holiday cheer by committing 5 minutes to these self-care techniques daily:
Energy enhancing breathing techniques. One of my favorites is the 4-7-8 breath by Dr. Andrew Weil. This breathing practice is easy to learn and can be done anywhere, at anytime. Try it the next time you are stuck in holiday traffic, or the visions of sugar plums are keeping you up at night. I recommend practicing this breathing system at least once a day for holiday Zen. How to: Exhale completely, inhale through the nose for a count of four, hold the breath for a count of seven, exhale through your mouth for a count of eight. Repeat this cycle 2-8 times. The count can be as fast or slow as you like, as long as the exhalation is twice as long as the inhalation. This is a relaxing breathing technique that becomes more potent the more regularly you practice. Click here for a video demo with Dr. Andrew Weil.
Relax with some restorative yoga. Legs up the Wall pose is a great one to do to help you wind down in the evening. This is a very therapeutic pose, if you can only make time for one pose a day during this busy holiday season, this is the one that will give you the most bang for your buck. It is the Cyber Monday of yoga poses! This pose eases anxiety, digestive issues, migraines, high and low blood pressure, varicose veins, the list goes on.
How to: Begin the pose by sitting with your left side against the wall. Gently turn your body to the left and bring your legs up onto the wall. Use your hands for balance as you shift your weight, and lower your back gently to the floor and lie down. Rest your shoulders and head on the floor. Shift your weight from side-to-side and scoot your buttocks close to the wall. Let your arms rest open at your sides, palms facing up. Clos your eyes and breath deeply through your nose. Option to use an eye pillow. Rest here for 2-10 minute
Handle Holiday Feasts with Grace and Ease
Holiday dinners and parties are meant to bring loved ones together, if you have a food allergy you can feel isolated if you aren’t able to partake in the feast. Take responsibility for your health and happiness by planning ahead. Eat a bit before you go so you won’t be looking longingly at the dinner rolls. If you are not in control of the menu or ingredients, always bring a dish to the party that you know you can eat. Let the host or hostess know ahead of time that you would like to contribute a gluten free dish to share. My gluten free pumpkin pie is my family’s favorite.
It can be tricky going to grandma’s house for the holiday meal. If you worry she may be offended if you refuse her famous stuffing, there are a few etiquette tips I have learned over the years that will help ease the tension at the table. First, let her know about your gluten sensitivity and that you don’t feel well when you eat food with flour in it. Explaining what gluten is can be tricky when dealing with someone from older generations, so don’t go into too much detail. Tell her you have a new recipe you found on www.glutenfreeyogachick.com you would like to create and share. She will be honored that her passion for cooking has been passed on to you. You may even want to offer to help her in the kitchen. This is great way to bond with the cook and also see what ingredients are going into the food.
The most important thing to remember is that the meal is not all about you. Don’t keep reminding everyone of what you cannot eat, just silently and gracefully pass the bread basket. If the guests ask you about it, just smile and tell them you are happy to skip the gluten because you feel so much better without it. Never pout or say something like, “ I wish I could have some pumpkin pie, too”. If you really want some pie then bring your own gluten free option. Bring your awareness to the gift of family and friends gathering together to celebrate and be grateful.
Have faith that people will support your gluten free diet. If they don’t support you that is their issue, and making someone else feel comfortable is not worth compromising your health.
Find Gluten Free Versions of your Holiday Favorites
Feel at ease when buying groceries for your holiday party and eating out by using the “Is that Gluten Free” Apps available for both iPhone and iPad. There are two versions, one for grocery shopping and one for eating out. Feel safe knowing that these apps have done the legwork on researching gluten content on thousands of brands and products so your sensitive tummy can have a silent night. There are many gluten free options for your favorite holiday treats, if you cannot find them in your local grocery store then look online. I have many holiday recipes to choose from. Check out my previous posts for stuffed pumpkin and pumpkin pie, and be on the look out for my all-in-one Christmas cookie recipe coming next week.
Most importantly, don’t take yourself too seriously. This holiday is about sharing love with your family and friends and celebrating the joy of giving. Hold that intention in you heart with everything you do, and rest assured you will have the best gluten free Christmas ever. Practice these tried and true tools throughout the holiday season and beyond to carry the spirit of the holiday throughout the year.
What are some of your favorite gluten free holiday tips? Share your holiday triumphs and frustrations in the comments section below.