Tag Archives: yoga


I am learning how to lean into tension, breathing into any areas of tightness that I might feel. I am pushing myself outside of my comfort zone, while respecting what my body is telling me. I am gaining flexibility, while letting go of rigidity. I am learning to set an intention for the day’s practice, lending my attention to something I want to work through, draw to me, or simply something I want to gift to myself. I am closing each practice returning to that same intention. I am learning that yoga makes me happy. Happy in the purest way, that is independent from anyone or anything, and unreliant on external circumstances. I float out of each class, no matter how I felt walking in. Stilling my mind, by focusing on my breath, I am steadily gaining strength, and grace as I flow through the postures. I am learning that something quite remarkable happens when I quiet my mind, yet continue to move my body. It is the closest to God I feel without sitting in a pew. For me, it is prayer with movement. When I practice yoga I am my best self. I am enough, perfectly imperfect, joyful, and whole.

Last class my teacher Rozel talked about taking our practice “off the mat”, transferring the principles that we learn in our yoga practice, and applying them in our daily lives. This lesson, like others I’ve learned from her, resonated deeply with me. Simple and true, this is my answer to a life spent chasing the why of my unhappiness instead of focusing on the how of feeling better.   This lesson is implicit in every talk I give, and all of the work that I do with individuals and their families. It is the fabric of my coaching work, and heartbeat of every article I write. If we can learn to lean into the tension, breathing into any areas in our lives where we experience tightness. If we can push ourselves outside of our comfort zones, while listening for cues when we’ve gone too far. If we can gain flexibility, and let go of the rigidity that creeps in when anxiety, and fear take over, and we scramble to control the uncontrollable. If we can start each day with an intention, and close it the same way. If we can still our minds, while continuing to move ahead. If we can feel as close to God as I do in my practice in the ordinary moments that make up our lives. If we can bring the peace that we find in our happy place with us when we leave it… What an inspired life this would be!! This is the HOW OF HAPPY. This is what it means to take it off the mat.

*I invite you to follow me on instagram and twitter @whatconnects_us.

Join me in inspiring others to take it off the mat. Post a quote, or a picture that expresses your how of happy, and be sure to use the hashtags #howofhappy, and #offthemat so that we can all follow along!

My contribution- My latest vision board. Filled to the brim with what brings me joy.






Filed under #offthemat

Here and Now

I hadn’t been to a class since dad entered palliative care back in June. After he passed, I let go of yoga, pushed back at writing, and withdrew from the world for a while. I didn’t feel like doing much of anything, so I gave myself time. Time to grieve. Time to disconnect. I figured I was being kind to myself, and gentle with my broken heart. Basically, I let myself off the hook. Initially this felt like the right thing to do. An act of care, I told myself. No doing anything I didn’t want to do. For a while it felt good to let go. A short while… While my instinct has always been to disconnect when I feel bad, I’ve learned in recent years that this only magnifies the darkness, and the feelings of separation associated with it. I always feel worse when I hide. In the last few months, more than ever before in my life, I have realized two truths: That it will always be up to me. Up to me to do the things that I know make me feel better, OR don’t, and choose to move in the other direction. Which brings me to the second thing that I’ve learned in the 4 months since my dad passed away: Sometimes I choose to be unhappy. This realization is a tough pill to swallow. I was choosing (daily) to stay unhappy. Now I know, there will be some of you reading this thinking, my God Shannon of course you were unhappy.  You need to give yourself time. Yes I did need to, and I still do, and I probably always will. But in letting myself off the hook, I also let go of joy. I can’t do that. I can’t do that because I care too much about my life. I care too much about my marriage, and my relationships to disengage. I can’t do that because I have two little people that look to me every day to see how freely they get to be joyful. They have felt the sting of my grief. They have seen the depths of my sorrow. Whether I smiled, or I cried, children see through the crap we tell ourselves, and the walls we build around our pain. Not only was my choice to disconnect hurting me, but it also distanced me from the people that mattered most. Sadness infects, and divides unless you allow yourself to be joined. While I took comfort in leaning on my siblings, husband, friends and loved ones, and in sharing my heartache with my mom, my children were a different story. It was ok that they saw me grieve. It was ok that they shared their sadness too. But I did not want them joining me in letting go of joy. I wanted, and needed them to just be, free from whatever I might be feeling.

A few weeks ago I went back to yoga for the first time in 4 months. I started meditating again, and began mapping out next steps. Steps in the direction of reigniting my joy. Steps towards happy. I am not sure I can properly convey here what a difference these intentional commitments have made, but I will say that now more than ever, I recognize the power of choice. I fought back tears at the end of that first day back. Like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz, newly oiled, I could move again. My body freed from the rigidity that had encased me, my heart restarted by the deep breaths I’d consciously breathed in. I felt as though I’d forgotten to breathe, really breathe, since that day in July when he took his last breath.  I hadn’t wanted to sit in the present moment. I had not been willing, or ready to anchor myself in the here and now. Yes I needed time. Yes I needed to give myself permission to pull away, but what I understood at the end of class that day, was that re-engaging in my life was the only way to truly save it.

My teacher talked about the importance of grounding in yoga. When we root, planting ourselves firmly in the moment, connecting with the earth, we are somehow afforded more flexibility, and greater reach. “We root, so that we can rise”, she said, a lump rising in my throat, as the beauty and applicability of her comment sunk in. I’d prayed for some comfort, and searched for relief, but I was only moving away from the answer that God had put at my feet. I’d been reliving July, and June, and every day leading backwards to that date in March of 2013, when the word cancer became a part of our vernacular. The answer that would ease my suffering did not reside in the past, nor did it belong to the future.   The peace that I’d yearned for, that I’d seen in my father’s eyes before they closed for the last time, is experienced only when we can let the past fall away, and the future wait for us. Sweet comfort found only when we are rooted in the here and now.



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