Posts In: Journal

You’re Doing Enough

Sep 13, 2018

Yoga is less about “performance” and perfect poses, and more about how you feel. And Yoga can be practiced in all parts of our lives – not just the poses, but the practice of checking in, seeing how you feel, and making movements toward inner connection.

So here’s my encouragement to you today:

If you are moving your body, tapping into your inner stillness, and breathing:
You’re doing enough.

If you are giving yourself time and space to reflect, rest, and enjoy:
You’re doing enough.

If you’re open to finding out what’s here instead of what you think should be here:
You’re doing enough.

You’re doing enough. Can you trust that it’s true? Can you feel the enough-ness of this moment? And this one?


Bowing to your Enough-Ness (and mine),

Valerie

What if the key to less stress, more connection with our loved ones, and deep contentment was a happy nervous system?

It’s a big deal to find tools you can use to support yourself again and again. A really big deal.

I’ve been devouring Stanley Rosenberg’s book on Polyvagal Theory (a theory by Stephen Porges) and finding a lot of relief with his simple exercises. It’s such a pleasant surprise to find that yoga, meditation, and embodied spirituality merge beautifully with this modern theory of how the human nervous system works. You may start to find these exercises popping up in class or private sessions…

Here’s the bottom line if you’re stressed, needing a break, or just plain tired: Yoga, meditation, and breathing can help reset your nervous system. So I’ll see you in class, right?! 🙂

If you want extra support, book a private session with me – we’ll use movement, meditation, breathing, and discussion to help you find not just relief, but more joy and contentment.

And if you have questions, post a comment or email me at valerie [at] valerienilsonyoga.com. I’m always up for discussion.

The Freedom To

Nov 13, 2017

It’s easy to get enmeshed in the search for freedom FROM: anxiety, depression, being unproductive, feeling tired, loneliness, perfectionism.

Instead of basking in the freedom TO: relax, be present, sleep in, take action from clarity (or take no action at all), choose more naps, connect with loved ones, take risks, and be honest.
The shift is in the turnaround. It’s in the clarity. It’s what we orient ourselves to, like a flower that turns its face toward the sun.

But let’s be clear: I still have anxiety. I still have housework I never seem to get to. I still get lonely and tired and angry, and I still hate myself sometimes for my imperfections. Don’t you?

It’s not that we shouldn’t feel those things (that is a crazy-making spiritual trap, my friends, to think that we should always be happy and healthy and wise). It’s just that we also get to – we DESERVE to – feel these other softer, kinder things. The freedom TO, not from. 


Gratitude to Adyashanti for this insight.

Valerie Nilson Yoga

Dear One,

Happy New Year! This time of year has us all thinking about habits (aka New Year’s Resolutions). How do we create them – and then how do we stick with them?

First things first: let’s talk about Visioning.

The truth is, you have to know what you want and how you want to feel, if you want your habits to succeed.

Enter Visioning (Dreaming, Scheming, Planning, Wishing… take your pick, it’s all about getting clear on what your best life looks and feels like).

You may have created some resolutions already, and that’s awesome. I hope they’re going really well. Even so, it’s important to take a moment and find the reason – the why – behind what you’re doing. That way if things get tough, you’ll know why you’re working so hard to create your best life.

Writing is one way to help you find some answers. Brew yourself a cup of tea, and take about 30 minutes to free-write about how you want your life to feel. If you need to clear your head before getting started, check out this guided meditation.

  • How do you want to feel mentally and physically on a daily basis?
  • What areas of your life do you really enjoy (professional, family, spiritual, exercise, etc.)? Why?
  • What would an ideal day look like for you?
  • What do you want your relationships to be like?
  • What projects or ideas do you have that would be fun and exciting to work on in the next year?

Now, go back and underline 4-5 sentences or thoughts that feel the most true or exciting to you. You can tell because there’s usually a physical reaction to it. You might feel a quickening of your breath or an opening in your chest. Look for these signs to tell you you’re on the right track.

This is your big Vision – your dream for your best life.

Once you’ve defined the aspects of your life that are the most important and exciting to you, you can use your Vision to keep you on track for any resolutions and habits you want to go for this year.

Keep your Vision strongly in the forefront of your attention. Write it down and read it daily. Make your to-do lists and plans around it.

In this new year, let your Vision guide your decisions about which habits you keep, and which goals you incorporate (or let go of) as you go along.

Here’s my own Vision:

::I listen and ask questions to connect with my family, friends, and students.
::I honor my energy (and create more!) by eating lots of veggies, teas, and delicious nutritious food.
::I connect deeply with myself through movement and meditation.
::I have time to do the important things, and I rarely feel rushed.
::I use my time to do good things in the world.

I’d love to know what your Vision for 2017 is. I’m here to support you. Please comment below or email me and let me know what you’re excited about. Can’t wait to hear from you.

May your Vision guide you home to your sweetest connections and experiences.

Love,

Valerie

 

P.S. If you’re ready to commit to a simple yoga habit that will keep your body and mind happy, stay tuned. I have an exciting (and free!) yoga challenge launching soon and you’ll definitely want in on it.

P.P.S. If you live in Maryland, join me for a 3-month yoga class series at the UMD Art + Learning Center! You don’t need to be a student or staff to take part. I’m super excited to be partnering with the ALC on this. Please join us!
Check out my schedule for Tuesday and Thursday options at UMD.

photo: 30k feet in the air on our holiday trip to colorado

There are two types of people in the world: Warriors and Lovers.

Warriors are the activists. They’re out in the world, working on broad issues like equality, justice, and protecting the environment. They’re the ones changing our political system and our laws so that they reflect what we all know: That all people deserve to be treated with respect. That all people are worthy of Love.

Warriors are the ones who stand up to say, “No. We’ve had enough and we will not allow this to continue.”

Lovers are activists too, but you won’t see them canvassing neighborhoods or marching on Washington. They’re much closer to home. They’re the caretakers, the teachers, the spouses and parents and neighbors. They’re the moms who teach their kids to be kind. They’re the dads who also care for their elderly parents, or the teachers who spend an extra 30 minutes waiting with a kid whose parent is late.

Lovers are the relentless ones who come back again and again, asking, “How can I help today?”

On the one hand, I see the Warriors getting ready – going deep into the shadows, putting on their armor and preparing to do battle. And I applaud them. On the other hand, I see the Lovers, keeping the flames of Love burning in their disappointed hearts. I see them committing even more fully to being the type of people who lead others to Love, to Light. And I applaud them, too.

But there’s been some confusion lately. The Warriors think the Lovers aren’t doing enough. “This isn’t the time for singing kum-ba-ya,” they say. And the Lovers feel lost, like maybe they should be doing more. But in the end, they know that the work they do is essential and cannot – should not – be abandoned.

Let me be clear: We need you both. We need your fierce commitment, Warriors. We need your gentle perspective, Lovers. And we need you as a united front, now more than ever.

(And yes: you can definitely be both – but in my experience, we usually fall more on one side of the fence than the other.)

If you’re a Lover, learn from the Warriors: How can you make a bigger impact?

If you’re a Warrior, learn from the Lovers: How can you be a better listener?

For the sake of us all: do the things that feel natural to you. Be kind to your neighbors; sign petitions; give money, food, or your time to causes you care about; share your views in a gentle way; listen to others in return. Ask how you can help. Allow yourself to feel both saddened and hopeful, angry and compassionate.

Let your natural leanings become the foundation of this new beginning. Let your work shine forth, and know that what you do matters. You matter.

Love,

Valerie

P.S. Have a wonderful Holiday season. Many blessings to you and your family.

P.P.S. If you need to feel steady right now, as a Warrior or a Lover, check out my new yoga video. 15-ish minutes of simple, gentle standing poses to help you feel grounded, stable, and strong.

Psst…. Hi. It’s me. I haven’t forgotten you, I promise.

On the one hand, it felt downright strange not to write to you every month, not to have a full schedule of teaching and connecting. I’ve missed you.

On the other hand, I’ve found some very exciting new things: Somatic Meditation, Restorative Exercise, minimalist footwear, walks in the forest, watercoloring, and learning to be a good cook.

Sometimes we just need a break.

I decided instead of pushing to teach more and more, I needed to go back to the basics. I needed to remind myself that first and foremost, I am a student. Of yoga. Of life. Of relationships, and nature, and routines.

There’s freedom in knowing when you just need a break.

Here’s the thing: It’s OK to set down your responsibilities. It’s OK to say “no” when you’re tired. It’s OK to binge on 30 Rock, and it’s OK to not finish your to-do list.

Because once you give yourself that space, you’ll see what’s really important: Your health, your self-care practices, your family, and your friends. You’ll be ready to jump back in when the time is right.

When you need to regroup, recuperate, rest, or relax… take the break. Move away from anything that depletes you. Reclaim time from anything that keeps you from living at your Highest.

Let’s be a community of people who are willing say, “I just need a break.” And, who are willing to follow through and find some space, some stillness.

You and I, we’ve gone deep. We’ve moved our bodies and our breath together, and we are intertwined. Even if it’s been a few months since I last wrote, I know that we’re still connected.

So – Hi. From me to you.

I’d love to know how you’re doing. Leave a comment below, or email me at valerie@valerienilsonyoga.com. Let’s reconnect.

Love,

Valerie

~~~*~~~

P.S. I just released my very first yoga video!! The mission?
Simple yoga that feels good.
Enjoy this short sequence in the morning or evening.

The Stories We Tell

Jul 21, 2016

When a person has a reaction to something in their environment, there’s a 90 second chemical process that happens in the body; after that, any remaining emotional response is just the person choosing to stay in that emotional loop.”

-Jill Bolte Taylor, My Stroke of Insight

Stories can get the better of us when we constantly replay them in our heads.

In other words, if we’re angry after one and a half minutes, it’s because we’re telling ourselves a story. Like picking a scab and making it bleed, we tell the story of why we’re angry, over and over again.

Here’s my story (warning – it’s not pretty):

I have a cute little Italian espresso-maker called a Brikka, which, for some reason, is nearly impossible to open.

I’ve literally strained my wrists trying to open it. I’ve had arguments with my husband (“You’re closing it too tight!”). I’ve even banged it on the countertop – hard – on more occasions than I care to admit. (I told you, it’s not pretty!)

It all came to a head a few days ago. As I painfully tried to open it, I started imagining the pleasure I might find by throwing the espresso-maker against the wall.

Before you get the wrong idea, I’m generally NOT a thrower-of-things. But on that morning, I felt a primal need to chuck that thing across the room.

Instead, I closed my eyes and started breathing.

I stood there, picturing the Brikka hitting the wall. I felt my muscles twitching. I wondered which wall would be most satisfying to hit. (Again – not pretty!)

Over and over, the images, the feelings, the anger.

Finally, I noticed the story I was telling, and I started making space in between each replay.

…I’m so frustrated right now… I’m breathing in… I just want my coffee… I’m breathing out… It shouldn’t be this hard… I’m breathing in... One toss and I might feel better… I’m breathing out... I just want to open this damn thing…
I’m breathing… breathing… breathing…

The stories we replay in our heads can vary. Sometimes they’re more true than others. Sometimes we have a good reason to be upset. But mostly, they’re just stories.

As soon as we move away from them, the anger can dissipate (90 seconds!), and we can get back to being happy humans… and coffee-drinkers.

Namaste,
Valerie

~~~*~~~

Questions to Consider:

Are the stories you’re telling right now perpetuating anger in your life?
Can you breathe into them and know that they’re just stories?
What helps you let go of your stories?

(Ponder these questions in the shower or write about them in your journal.
If you have any “aha” moments, post a comment or email me and let me know!)

I’m in my new home of Maryland now, recovering from a two-day, 21.5 hour road trip, filled with crying cats, intense low back pain, and far too much fast food. It was tough. That’s the honest truth. =)

As I look back on the trip and begin to feel more myself again, I realize that what held me together wasn’t the mantra of “this too shall pass” (which it did), but this one: “But what’s beautiful?”

Anytime I felt despair, anytime I felt exhausted, anytime I complained to my husband over the walkie-talkie, I found myself reflecting, trying to find the beauty beneath it all. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it’s uncomfortable. Yes, please, let this be over.

But what was beautiful? Despite it all?

…The crazy hatch of cicadas that I could hear even with the windows closed, celebrating their aliveness and their place in the world.

…The amazing playlist I curated for the trip, and the numerous podcasts I learned from and laughed to.

…The support from my husband and his commitment to just keep going.

…The beauty of the night sky in the wilderness, and the earliest of bird songs at 4am.

…The cool air, the change of scenery, the trees and smells and the abundance of wildlife.

Even though it was hard, even though I almost gave up so many times, I kept reminding myself, “… but what’s beautiful?” In that moment, I was right back where I belonged: on a holy adventure, with my beloved family, seeing things I usually only dream about.

And that’s what’s beautiful. That’s what got me through.

I hope you’re doing really well and finding what’s beautiful today.

Here’s the thing: I’m moving away from Tulsa next month.

‘Onward’, as Liz Gilbert says.

It’s exciting… terrifying…. kind of sad….

But in the end, what it is, is change.

Good ol’ change – something we can’t seem to avoid. And maybe we shouldn’t (avoid it, that is).

Maybe we’re better people when we allow things to happen as is. Sure, I wish I didn’t have to start over. Of course I fear trying to find new friends and new places to teach.

But this is my reality. And it feels worse when I fight against it.

“There’s not a drop of rain or a pile of dog poop that appears in your life that isn’t the manifestation of enlightened energy, that isn’t a doorway to sacred world.”
-Pema Chodron

If the tough stuff – even the stinky piles, even the parts we really want to avoid – are part of an enlightened reality, then maybe we can let ourselves sink into it more easily. Maybe we can relinquish control a little.

Like floating a river, it’s easier to let go of the shore and trust that life will work itself out. We can make plans, we can fill the innertube with air, and we can even pack a lunch. But after all of that, it’s just you and me and the river, baby.

And it’s okay to sit back and let the river guide us home.

– –

Tulsa Yogis: Thank you for everything.
For your eagerness to learn, for being willing to try and try again. Thank you for sharing your sacred work with me. And thank you for being exactly who you are.

– –

If you love gentle/simple/embodied/therapeutic-inspired yoga, seek out these teachers in Tulsa:

Stephen Saunders – Tulsa Yoga Therapy
Elizabeth Barlow – Be Love Yoga Studio & Tulsa Yoga Therapy
Mandy Eubanks – Be Love Yoga Studio
Tiffany White – The Yoga Room

May your yoga practice continue to flourish, and may you find peace with each breath.

Namaste & with SO much Love,

Valerie

 

P.S. I’ll be back soon with new video and audio, as well as the monthly blog. Stay with me. Xoxo

The Decisions We Make

Apr 20, 2016
Stay in your heart; you'll uplift someone else.

We humans have to make a thousand-bajillion decisions every day. (Okay, a thousand-bajiliion is not a real number. But sometimes it feels accurate, right?)

Some of the decisions we make are great, some don’t really matter… and some are, well, kinda crappy.

Look, I’m not here to tell what you what to do. I’ll support you no matter what. But I do care about how you make your decisions, because each one comes with the ability to serve your Highest – or not.

What’s my Highest, you ask?

It’s your potential to feel open and committed to your own growth.
It’s the connection you create within yourself and to the people around you.
It’s your ability to take action
and be creative.

When you’re making a decision, especially a hard one, ask yourself:
Does this serve my Highest?

Think about it. Journal your answers. Be honest.

And then, whatever decision you make – make it boldly. But only after you examine it thoroughly, so that you know where you stand and why you’re there.

When you create clarity like that, you’re living at your Highest.

And that’s when the magic happens.

Letting Go

Mar 11, 2016

It’s difficult to practice “letting go” when life gets tough. Sometimes you don’t feel ready to forgive, or to stop being angry.

The thing is, you can’t just let go of the emotional responses you have to an experience or a person. It doesn’t work like that. Because what’s actually gotten to you – what’s really bothersome and heavy – is the deeper desire to control your life and the things that happen.

When we feel like we’re not in control, we get stuck.

So when you’re in that place: Lie down on the floor or your bed and close your eyes. Feel into your body and your mind. See what’s there, swimming around in the murky depths. Don’t shy away – get curious and come closer.

Breathe into whatever you’re feeling. Bring it into your awareness, all the way down to your toes.

Allow all of your feelings and fears and troubles to been seen, to be known.

After a while (maybe a minute, maybe a year) you might begin to loosen your grip. Maybe you’ll soften and expand until you’re no longer entwined and wishing for control.

That’s “letting go”. It’s simple. Quiet. It’s powerful… and sometimes a little scary.

But I know you can do it.

May you be courageous and willing.

When terrible things happen, we begin to ask the questions, “What can I do? How can I help?”
And while there are many answers to those questions, and infinite ways we can respond to tragedy, when we are on our mats as yogis, it is our responsibility and our privilege to be a light in the world – for understanding, for peace, for brother- and sisterhood.
So here we are, in our places so far away from the destruction and the pain. But we can commune in our hearts with those hurting and offer our support and uplifting light in this very moment, knowing that by doing so, we become beacons of peace to those around us, and that peace is passed forward many times over.
As you move through your yoga practice, and the rest of your day, consider breathing in white light, right into your heart. Imagine that every inhalation brings in more and more, until you are so bright that we can see nothing other than your light.
And then gently move through your day, allowing your light to shine on those around you, speaking softly and without judgment, opening your heart and sharing yourself with those you meet.
Yoga is a form of activism, to be sure. You are offering the best of humanity in this time of great suffering. That is truly something miraculous.
#prayforparis #peaceforparis #yogisforpeace

Scary Things

Aug 25, 2015

Sometimes scary things happen. You almost get run over by a car. Your partner yells at you. Your kid falls and hurts herself. Things happen. Scary things.

But what we tend to do in our attempt to control and keep chaos at bay, is assume that in the future it will be the same. You will always have close calls with cars from now on. Your partner will always yell when xyz happens. Your kid will always injure herself. We believe that these things, these scary things, WILL happen again.

So we do everything we can to avoid the cars and the yelling and the falling down… and in the process, we end up avoiding the actual living we get to do in this world.

But what if scary things happen – and that’s it? They don’t come in three’s. They don’t happen to you and you alone. They don’t happen (and they’re not prevented) just because you worried and wrung your hands.

Scary things happen.

But not all the time. Not even close.

My cat, Matilda, had a run-in with a new neighbor cat. She was beside herself, growling, hissing, you know how cats get, right? I let my dog out to be the hero and chase the cat off and all was well in our world again.

But literally three minutes later, I heard my cat growling and hissing again. I thought, “Wow, that’s one brave cat to come back after the dog chased him off.” So I let the dog out again, only to see that the “intruder” Matilda was upset about was MY OTHER CAT, Zinc!

Scary things happen even in cat world. And because Matilda wanted to control and keep chaos at bay, she assumed that this cat – her brother for the last five years – was a menace. She didn’t take the time to check whether this scary thing that was happening was actually real – it happened once, so of course it was going to happen again!

Poor Zinc. Poor Matilda. Poor you and me. We all do it. We’ll keep doing it.

But maybe, just maybe, we can begin to shift our perspective about scary things. Yes, they’ll keep happening. Yes, you should definitely look both ways before you cross the street. But please, keep walking. Keep loving. Keep letting your kid play. Keep at it, and you’ll find that there are so many more moments in life when, lo and behold, scary things DON’T happen.

You just have to take the time to learn how to notice them.

Xoxo,
Valerie

Mantra

Feb 22, 2015

May our actions align with our Inspirations,

May our words align with our Truths,

May our hearts align with our Highest Ideals.

Whatever path we’re on, whatever has happened in our lives up to this moment, we’re all in a state of healing. We’re healing old wounds… past hurts… resentments and rifts.

This is the human condition: To become more than we were before.

Not “better”, but more graceful, more wise. And healing allows us to do that.

So today (and every day), consider the ways in which you harden, the methods with which you protect yourself.

You might hold tension in your body. You may be reactive and harsh toward your family. Maybe you avoid hard conversations or ignore your spiritual practices.

Whatever it is, find it. Find it, and name it. And write it down.

Then, quietly and gently see if you can begin to soften it. Maybe you can even let it go a little. In that moment, in that softening, you are healing. You are unquestionably and thankfully becoming more whole.

You are becoming more than you were before.

To your healing and to our collective healing – because it’s the only way we can honor healing in others. It’s the only way to show our children how to be divine humans. And it’s the only path to true peace for yourself and others.

Have your creative ideas been on the back burner for a while? Do you have projects you’d love to work on, but can never seem to find the time? These 4 ways to reclaim your creativity will help you get going. Try one or all, and see how your creativity just starts to flow.

Bonus: If you think you aren’t creative, but wish you were – this is for you, too! Sometimes you just have to go for it, and this list will make it easier to open up to the reality that we are ALL creative people. Yes, even you.

1. Create opportunities.

I’ve spent most of my creative life waiting for inspiration to strike. I used to think that it didn’t matter if I wrote every day, because ideas would “just come” to me. What I’ve realized is that by not opening my notebook every day, I was keeping the door to my creative self closed.

Sometimes I would get lucky and things would slip in under the door like a cold draft, but the best ideas were always left to sleep outside. As soon as I sit down to write, however, the ideas are free to waltz in and stay a while.

You can apply this to any field of creative expression – you just have to create opportunities for your Muse to show up. The moment you create the space for your creativity to be expressed, it will rush out like it’s been waiting for a very, very long time.

Ways To Create Opportunities: Feeling stuck in a rut with your painting? Get your brushes out anyway. Not motivated to work on your new music? Sit down and play the piano anyway. Not sure how to begin your home yoga practice? Roll your mat out anyway.

2. Redefine a successful creative session.

Pardon my language, but there are days when everything I write feels like total bullsh*t. It’s inauthentic, it’s cliché, it’s poorly written… blah, blah, blah. Let’s just say I don’t love everything I write. But I’ve learned to be okay with that.

Sometimes we get down on ourselves and our talents because nothing “good” comes out that day – but truthfully, your success is really that you expressed yourself at all. How many creative-types do you know who don’t actually create anything for long stretches of time? Maybe you are one of those people yourself (I know I am from time to time). You wanna know why? Because it’s terrifying to think that what you create might not be “good enough”.

The good news is, when you’re creating regularly it’s fine – even encouraged – to make some stuff that’s not great. Those “failures” show you what works and what doesn’t. It’s freeing to put away your perfectionism and learn how to express yourself without fear.

A successful day is one where you created, no matter the outcome. Redefine what success means to you and you’ll feel so much better about your work, whatever the end result is.

Ways To Redefine Success: Take a deep breath at the end of your creative session and smile. Use the affirmation “I love creating things” before you start a piece and once you finish it.

3. Take a break.

The point of taking a break is to get out of your head and into the world where the action happens. When you take a break, you get to do something fun that has nothing to do with your art. Yes, it seems counter-intuitive, but when you hammer away at your work for long periods of time, sometimes your great ideas go stale. When you take a break you can come back refreshed, motivated, and inspired.

Ways To Take A Break: Go to the bookstore. Tour a museum. Read at your favorite coffeehouse. See a concert. Go for a drive with no destination.

4. Move your body.

I love to take walks around my neighborhood. It’s so great to be outside, to be moving and breathing and enjoying the change of scenery. I find that my best ideas happen while I’m walking because it doesn’t require much thought. When you move your body, it starts pumping endorphins, you start to breathe more deeply, and before you know it your next creative project pops up out of nowhere.

Ways To Move Your Body: Take a walk. Go for a jog. Run around the playground with your kiddos. Take a yoga class.

The great thing about this list of ways to increase your creativity is that you can apply each step separately and see results pretty quickly. However, creativity is most powerfully fueled when you combine the 4 tools – they will help you stay committed to the process and be content with the results – a recipe for a new kind of success, based on opening the space for your highest expression to come forth.

~~~*~~~

Love Notes from Valerie

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