Do you want to work in a cubicle or corner office?

Cubicles
Happy Spring!

We recently finished our quarterly celebration of 108 sun salutations to honor spring equinox, ending with brunch together, evoking laughter, ponderings and deepening friendships. I love this expansive practice, and am always happy to see new as well as familiar faces there. The practice is entirely doable, and the next one will be even ‘awesomer’ for Summer Solstice in June. Already looking forward to it! Just do it! (You totally can!)

As to seasonal changes and the joy they bring, the sun has, in recent days, emerged lighting up our expansive Montana sky. That fresh sunshine calls us to move...to shake off the long winter. To fill our bodies with life. I’ve been seeing the enthusiasm in my classes to such an extent that I’ve decided to offer TWO classes on Saturday mornings to replace the 9:30 class that has been
jam packed--so feel free to come with confidence that there will be space for your practice. We’ll now have an 8:30 and a 10:00 class on Saturdays, with the onset of April. It’s a great opportunity for those who like to get in early, as well as for those of us who enjoy a little more snuggling under the covers on the weekend. Win Win! Either option allows for easy access to the amazing Farmers Market and Peoples Market on Saturdays—a Missoula tradition worth frequenting.

No matter the class you choose, Exploration of movements that have been dormant in the colder days warms up our muscles, and the more we flex and move and twist and reach, the more blood flow we get. That increase of blood flow we get bathes our cells with oxygen. It makes us feel...better. Much better.

Before I ever started doing yoga, I was a gym rat. I lifted weights 5 days a week, I ran 3-4 days a week, and for me, thinking about the body was all about the muscles. I wanted to be big and strong, and I was succeeding at that. Then, yoga came into my life, and I was taken with the challenge it presented to my body and drank up Savasana with delight. It was entirely different from the athletics I knew so well. My teacher would walk around and say, “We do this posture for the intestine to literally break shit up.” “We do this one for the liver.” “We do that one for the pancreas.” “We twist for the internal organs”. It caused me to pause and wonder, because that was completely off my radar to consider--- I really never thought about that stuff until I started doing yoga.

But that IS what we are doing. It’s kinda cool, right?

Yoga does a great job of working the spleen and the stomach. Twisting is so good for our internal organs, and back bending is fantastic for the kidneys. It was kind of mind blowing when I began to consider what my heart wanted from my movement. It changed everything to ask myself what the parts of my body I couldn’t see needed from my activity. I often ask my students if they would rather work in a corner office, or a cubicle. Most of us would rather have the space, the light from a window, the ability to stretch out without condemnation. So I ask my students to consider this, too. Would your heart rather work in a cubical or a corner office? Would your back rather hunch over? Do your calves like sitting still, calcifying from lack of movement? If we look at our ribs, and consider the cartilage and muscles between the bones, we see that we can move and stretch those muscles between ribs. Those spaces can create lift. How does it feel when we allow that to happen?

When I used to lift weights, the goal was to see how BIG I could get, but now that I do yoga, I’m more interested in how much I can stretch my intercostal muscles. When they are allowed to stretch out, I can BREATH bigger. My chest can expand with the freshness of pure air all around me. Which ultimately means that I can get more oxygen into the blood, into the pancreas, the heart, the liver, deep into the muscles. It gratefully floods oxygen into the brain so that I can think more clearly, and accept the feeling of energetic serenity that follows an oxygen bath. That’s kind of a cool thing, right? And so, all the twists and stretches...it’s about the body, not the just the appearance of toned muscles. The whole body. The parts you can’t see. The parts you depend upon to live. Your heart. Your liver. The metabolic communication within your cells. Your nervous system. Even our mind FEELS better, because when we are practicing feeling the body, we breathe. We feel. We connect the dots. All of it. It’s really easy to shut down and forget about the body. But, ask yourself...does that work? Does it feel good? Does the body feel...alive?

Yoga is a practice, not a perfect. It’s a practice that allows us back to a truth beyond driving from point A to point B, checking off lists, mowing the lawn. It’s a practice that asks us to listen to our bodies, from the inside out. One of the ways I’m excited to call us back into considering what yoga can mean for us all is to offer a new class that I’ve developed. It’s a practice beyond asana that includes meditation, and participation in reading one of my favorite guides, The Yogis Road Map by Bhavani Silvia Maki. We are working with breath, anatomy, meditation and questions that will deepen our understanding of Yoga beyond asana. For anyone who signs up for this beautiful Sunday evening opportunity to expand their practice, my Sunday 4:00 class will be free as a way to enter into the class with happy muscles that are ready to ask for more.

Consider it a way to have a mini yoga retreat, right here in Missoula, once a week, Starting April 7th. (As a shameless plug, Add in a massage, and your retreat experience thickens exponentially!) And, as always, our Acro community is alive and well! Adding play to your yoga practice might just set the clock back on the aging process; I’m sure of it! Joining us on Saturday afternoons at 12:30 or on Monday evenings at 7:15 is something I want to encourage, because, really, there’s nothing more fun or more strength building all at the same time. Don’t think you can? Don’t have a partner? Aren’t sure you have the gumption? Surprise yourself and do it anyway! It will make you STRONG, will deepen your flexibility, and the smile on your face will only be seconded by the smile in your heart. I’m looking forward to seeing you there.

Namaste.

Svadhyaha & Acro

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Wow...January was a long year, but we made it and are now starting March! (Wipes brow...) I ended 2018 with a bang, participating in the festivities of First Night Missoula in a fun acro piece. I choreographed and performed for First Night onlookers with an acquaintance of mine and also go to lead some fun acro workshopping to help inspire others to join in on the activity
that has become such a wonderful part of my life. Acro is one of those things that people love to watch, but they typically say, “Oh, I could never...”.

I’m here to challenge that hesitation.

When you see something that others are doing, and you wish you could do it, but “could never”, ask yourself a question. Is it true that you “could never” do it, or is it true that you “will never” do it UNLESS you decide to take that step. You see, acro will make you strong. It will push you. It will change you, inside and out. And, you will laugh. You will make friends. You will look in the mirror after a year and see someone who not only can do acro, but who DOES acro.

You can do acro. You can do yoga. You can do the, “I could never”. You can.

The next question, one only you can answer is...when will you begin? The sooner, the better, because there is that pesky learning curve that only time transforms. This is what it looks like: First, you step into the studio at Inner Harmony on Monday evening at 7:15. You’ll see other people, and we’ll smile at you and welcome you. We’ll do some kick-butt handstand conditioning designed to strengthen your body, juicen the joints, and warm your muscles so that we can play. It will be hard. It’s supposed to be hard, so that it can make us strong. The body speaks to us and gives the feedback that it is working by noting the awesomeness we are feeling. BIG awesomeness. We get comfortable with balance and safe touch. We get familiar with trust. And we laugh. And we sweat. And we get STRONG together. They say time flies when you’re having fun. With acro, I blink and hours have passed. It’s beautiful. The mind lets go, and the body gives in and then gives back.

At home, you sink into a bath of warm water, mineral salts and your favorite essential oil, and you feel excited to do it again. Your muscles start to crave it. You start noticing that you are practicing those hard conditioning skills at home, just so you can get better at holding your shape, and the shape of others. Acro is the coolest thing to get addicted to.

Maybe 2019 will be the year you stop wishing you would/or could, and will turn acro or even yoga and acro into the most funnest activity you do every week. It’s the most fun ever. To be honest, the fact that I get to do this as a grown up makes the corners of my mouth turn up into the most amazing thing ever. Smiles like that are awesome.

It’s also right in line with our needs in this season of aligning with the practice of Svadhyaya--the practice of self study. Let me explain; I believe that we are affected by our environments. The science is behind me on this, by the way. From behavioral sciences to cellular research, our environments affect our mood, our appetites, our outcomes. The temperature around us, the quality of the light spectrum, the interactions we have with our surroundings, all of it affects how we feel. How we behave.

In the winter, our tendency is to pull inward, melding into the routine of warm covers and sluggish mornings. Our metabolisms slows in order to resist losing our holiday layer of warmth. We may feel tired. Absent minded. And, sadly, one of the reasons our “holiday resolutions” tend to go awry is that we fail to pay heed to the power of a sluggish environment. It’s hard to venture out into the cold when you are already...cold. So, sometime in February or March, the packed gyms of January have lost their resolution hype, and only the people who maintain a devoted steady pace, a warming pace, remain. So, because there is a high rate of reconsidering that goes along with resolutions as environment and reality set in, I prefer to think of my resolutions in July...when we have warmth on our side.

In the winter, I like to align with my meditation and my yoga, and look in the mirror for the practice of self study, Svadhyaya. It’s good to look in the mirror and really notice ourselves. When I do that, I actually like to feed myself a, “Nice Thing Sandwich”. That’s when you tell yourself a nice thing on each end, and then give yourself something to chew on in the middle. So, I always start with, “What am I doing well?” and, “What am I hitting out of the park?” I want to notice where I am succeeding. I want to pay attention to what I’m doing well. We all like positive reinforcement...but we also need attention. If we don’t pay attention to what is being done well, our egos will find other ways to get attention, right? We need to be seen. We deserve to be seen.

Then, I give myself the substance. The opportunity for growth and permission for change. I ask, “What is something I can work on? To be a better human? What is something I can do to be a better partner, to be a better father/mother, a better son/daughter? A better sibling? A better team player? A better friend?”

“What can I work on, to be a better, happier human?”

And then what is something else you are hitting out of the park? Where are you succeeding? How are you a good friend? A good mother or father? How are you good at what you are already doing? How are you already rocking your life?

That’s it, a “Nice Thing Sandwich”.

They are delicious. I highly recommend feeding yourself one at least quarterly. I hope one of the things you explore, if you’ve been wistfully wondering if you could ever do acro, is to know that it is right here waiting for you. You can do it. We will help you as you learn, grow, and expand. It’s just another wonderful way Inner Harmony is supporting your journey to make this life your best. Fly. Be strong. Be the Breath.

The Practice of Being Content

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Quieting the mind. It’s hard to do. We can close our eyes, roll our necks around, bring it back to center...and then, we breathe.

But, there it goes again--our mind wants to be busy. It flashes to what we need to do later, a conversation we had a week ago...it jumps around. A lot.

When I first started meditating, I used a crutch. I counted, in order to keep my mind from wandering. Inhale-one, exhale-two, inhale-three, exhale-four, inhale-five...and then, suddenly my mind would jump. Then I’d bring it back to one. You see, once you bring your mind back...start over at one. It helps to alleviate the ‘contest’---by starting over at one every time you slip into thought and not going past nine each time you successfully reach it before you start at one, again. Just breathe, and count. It’s a crutch, but, we do that. It’s okay. You don’t lose points for using a crutch when you need a crutch. When we need support, we use that crutch. It’s ok. Know that it’s something you will ween yourself from. It’s something to help train the mind and when you notice the mind jumping...bring it back. Bring. It. Back. When we first start sitting, it can be overwhelming to suddenly realize how much the mind jumps around. But after awhile, you discover that you’re just feeling your breath. The counting becomes unnecessary, and we get to put down the crutch. We don’t need it. The mind has become stronger. We can find peace. We can find contentment.

In Yoga, we pay attention to the breath. It’s the glue, really. The yoga sutras written by Patanjali, the first person to write about yoga, are described as an eight limbed path outlining the art and science of Yoga. It is “a process of systematically encountering, examining, and transcending each of the various gross and subtle levels of false identity in the mind field, until the jewel of the true Self comes shining through”.

Sounds pretty important when one puts it that way, yes? When we look at it simplistically, it’s listed as an eight limbed set of awareness to evolve with;

YAMA - Restraints, moral disciplines or moral vows.
NIYAMA - Positive duties or observances.
ASANA - Posture. (This is where we Westerners like to dwell...we loooooove asana.)
PRANAYAMA - Breathing techniques.
PRATYAHARA - Sense withdrawal.
DHARANA - Focused concentration.
DHYANA - Meditative absorption.
SAMADHI - Bliss or enlightenment.

The second limb, the Niyamas, are personal practices, rituals and daily activities for wellbeing and spiritual growth. First, there is Soucha, which is the practice of cleanliness--or the commitment to keeping the mind and body clean. It’s about looking at environmental toxins and opting to remove them from our lives. It’s about being aware that cleanliness is more than washing your hands after you use the bathroom. It’s about your mind, too. It’s about what you are thinking. There is Tapas-- the practice of self discipline, and Svadhyaya--the practice of self study. There’s Ishvara Pranidhana which refers to surrendering to the Divine--quite literally, “the divine in me honors the divine in you”. Finally Santosha--meaning contentment. It is this Niyama that I’d like to focus on. This time of year, there is a lot of talk about gratitude. We’re thankful for our family, our pets, our homes. We’re thankful that mom is a great cook and we get to gather between halftime to devour the magic she conjured for us...so very thankful that we’re all together, safe, sound, with a second helping of too-much-already. But, there is more to Santosha than our American perspective of gratitude for abundance. Santosha refers to surrendering the control of our lives in the present moment, and going with the flow.

Santosha doesn’t assume abundance.

When we live our lives this way, we’re much more receptive to opportunities and experiences that present themselves when we keep an open mind. The result of practicing Santosha is experiencing increased love and joy in our own lives. When we’re happy and carefree, we can be of even greater service to others, and positively impact more lives around us. We can
be...better humans, no matter what we have...or don’t have.

When we’re not practicing Santosha, we tend to be discontent and hold onto resentment towards others and toward our situations. When we decide to practice Santosha we surrender to all circumstances-good and bad- that have brought us to any given moment, the result is often a deeper sense of gratitude for the respective paths we’re on. It means that when the weather is “bad”, we breathe. We find pause. We fill ourselves with contentment in the weather, no matter its “badness”.

It’s a struggle in the West to be content. American’s love choices. We don’t just want something to eat to address our hunger. We want the perfect burger. We could get a burger at at least 45 different burger places right here in Missoula. But...really...come on...it’s a cheeseburger. We have too many choices. All these choices confuse us, and then, even when we make a choice, we focus on what we didn’t get to choose. It was a good burger, but, maybe we should have gone to The Top Hat. Maybe it would have been better. It probably would have been. Unless it wasn’t. Because, maybe, it really wasn’t. Damn. Should have made a different choice. We buy a new car, and we find exactly what isn’t perfect about it as soon as we’ve signed the papers. It’s missing something that we could now focus on. Needs a hitch. A rack. Heated seats. Don’t get me wrong. Heated seats are pretty nice. Especially in Montana. Especially after yoga. But...is it worth being unhappy about if you don’t have them? Or, maybe,
you got a new job and are super excited, but...three weeks in...are wishing for the old job, or for a new, new job. This job...you’re not so sure about. And your partner? Well...is he/she really the best option? When you’re listening to them chew, are you wondering if someone else can chew their food in a less annoying way? Can you? Maybe the act of chewing food is just...chewing food. Maybe, it’s time to practice Santosha.

In Santosa, the practice of being content, you find the breath. You find the peace, but there is a fine line wherein you can also find yourself in complacency. You want to find contentment, not complacency. Complacency is giving up. Contentment is finding peace. Tease out the difference. The weather isn’t great. It’s cold. COLD. We Missoulians know cold. But, you know what...we usually have beautiful weather. Even when it’s cold out, it’s really...beautiful. We can work with the cold, knowing it is part of the dynamic whollistic reality of where we live. Our burger filled us up. It was tasty. It did its job. It fed us. Our job, it gives us a paycheck. Its reliable. It’s what we are doing. Maybe it’s a step into the future, but right now, it’s where we are. It’s what we are breathing through, what we are asked to be content in, for our own sake, and the for the sake of those who ears we borrow.

And there it is...the breath. The breath is what we are practicing in the studio, so that when we go out there, we can find contentment in our lives.

Can you find that contentment in pigeon? In Warrior two? Triangle? Can you find your breath in headstand? Can you find that same breath at home when your kids are going ape because you didn’t make the burger the way they like it? Can you teach them about Santosha, too? In this season of bundling up, Look to see where you can find the gratitude...find the places you can choose gratitude. They are there, and they will direct you toward contentment. This time of the year, we can lose track of contentment in favor of stress. But, remember, whatever holiday you align with, ‘Tis the season to be content with where you are, right now. Breathe.

Namaste’

Worry, It's a Thing

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Worry. It’s kind of a thing. There’s actually a lot of energy that goes into the practice of worrying about our problems. Some of us have real problems. Big problems. Problems that keep us up at night with deep seated, sincere, understandable angst. There are also a lot of people who don’t have problems to that extreme...and they still worry. But, what is worry? What does it accomplish? When we worry, part of that initial process can be productive if we are figuring out ways to solve whatever it is that is causing us distress--but that’s the part beyond the worry. The problem solving part. The worry...well, that’s not helping anything. That part is just in your head. It doesn’t make anything better. It doesn’t matter if the issue is big or small.The worry part is just spinning wheels in your head. It does nothing beyond pushing fear and negativity into the universe. And, it hurts. It literally damages your cells. If you can solve the problem, then do it, and don’t worry.

If there is nothing you can do to solve the problem, then...let it go...and don’t worry. Easier said than done, yes?

The struggle comes in when we can’t do anything about a problem. It’s so hard to feel helpless. I had a teacher, Judith Hanson Lasater, in a workshop who said that worrying was praying for the bad stuff to happen.

Sometimes statements like that feel like blame, but there’s some truth to be found in it. Have you ever manifested something into your life by focusing positive energy into it? Pouring yourself into something you care about, perhaps you found that you were rewarded with positive results? All that positive energy lifted you into what you envisioned and when that happens, most of us are more than happy to take credit for that good outcome. We know we manifested it. It’s ours, and we feel good about that success. It happens in the other direction too. Pouring negative energy into things also manifests outcomes. Fear is a powerful form of energy, right? Enough worry and fear, and you can find your immune system completely zapped from the internal stress of your mind in its hamster wheel of concerns.

Here’s a little story-zample... I was talking with my co-worker a while ago, and he was telling me about how he was zipping along on his motorcycle and a bee hit his hand and it stung him and it hurt! I immediately cringed inside and thought, “Oh man! You know what would really suck? What if you were riding along and a bee flew into your mouth!” The thought made me cringe. The idea of a bee stinging me in the mouth was just..nooononono! Within a week...I was riding
my bike and NO JOKE, a bee flew into my mouth a stung me. Trust me. You do not want to manifest that for yourself. I worried about something I didn’t need to worry about. Don’t do that. It’s not a good idea. Don’t bring unnecessary pain and strife into your life by worrying about things you can’t control.

When we ask ourselves if there is something we can do about our problem, if the answer is yes, when we have our path. If the answer is no...then, we have our breath. When we can acknowledge that we really don’t need to worry, that’s when we can find peace. That’s when we can move forward into manifesting what we want in our lives.

That is why we come to our mats. We come here to get out of our heads. We come into our breath to leave the spinning of our minds behind. We come...to let go.

This Autumn, we have some awesome things coming up to help you do that. We have a great beginner yoga class at the end of October that promises to give you everything you need to feel confidence in any regular class, and I’m planning a fun little workshop in Novemember! You can also play along with a little game I like to encourage; I’m excited to offer a challenge to everyone to find out how little you can pay for your yoga classes. Unlimited passes make that possible at the luxurious steal of only $85, and only $50 if you are new to the studio. The more you come, the less you end up paying!

Can you stretch your dollar far enough to pay $1 a class? Can you imagine how awesome it would feel to walk through that door every day and release your mind from the worry you were holding? What if you came often enough that you simply...forgot to worry ever again. What if you were so busy enjoying yoga every day that you found at the end of 30 days that you had replaced worry with inner peace? That’s what yoga can do. I believe in this practice, and this challenge is my gift to you as a thank you for being part of Inner Harmony. We also have some acro classes on Monday nights at 7:15 and an acto jam on Saturday afternoons which are accessible to anyone who wishes their secret power was the ability to fly! While actual flying may be out of reach, the thrill of doing acro is sure to bring a smile to your face while you strengthen, tone and tighten your entire body. It’s the most fun ever and you get STRONG. Join us!

We just finished an enthusiastic Autumnal Equinox celebration with 108 Sun Salutations. We had a hearty group which made the energy in the room expansive! Afterwards, several of us enjoyed brunch at Scotty’s table for a well earned indulgence and comradely conversation. We do this practice quarterly at Inner Harmony, and the next one will be in December for Winter Solstice. I hope to share this expansive event with you. If you’ve ever wondered if you had the endurance to accomplish the 108, I urge you to take it upon yourself to manifest it. Start with five sun salutations a day, which is something that has no negatives when adding to a home practice, or, make your way to the studio and I promise we’ll help you achieve that goal. I promise you can do it!

Again, thank you all for making Inner Harmony possible. Being able to do what I love is a dream come true, and I am so grateful for that. It’s so much better to guide people into getting out of their heads than it is to have a bee fly into your mouth because you worried about it happening. Trust me. I know what I’m talking about.

I appreciate all of you Happy

Advanced Yoga

It’s summer. It’s hot. We’re more active. Sweating more. Are you feeling dehydrated? Muscles get angry when we neglect hydration...so, make sure you are compensating for the heat. Drink water. Lots. of. Water.
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I have a little magic trick I’ve been sharing in class in order to beat the heat. Tongue straw. It looks really funny, but, see if you can do it, anyway. Curl up your tongue so it looks like a straw and then slowly inhale air up through the tongue in order to cool the body. Exhale through the nose. Do it several times and notice that, while It looks silly, it effectively cools your body. So, anytime in class, or while exerting yourself in this summer weather, or if it’s just peaking into the 100’s and your in survival mode, whenever you feel yourself getting too hot, transition the inhale from normal nostril breathing into the tongue straw inhale. It works...I promise.

Busy minds. It’s so easy to carry our troubles around with us instead of just allowing ourselves to be in the space we are in. Letting go of work, frustrations, worries...it’s hard to do. I like the story of the two monks walking down the street. As they walked, they came upon a woman who needed to cross the gutter and she was troubled because couldn’t get over it without soiling herself badly. The monks were going in the same direction as the woman, so the elder monk lifted her up onto his shoulder, and put her on the other side, and quietly went on his way without a word. This action pissed the younger monk off. He believed that the vows he had taken as a monk were sacred and absolutely not to be broken. After about 20 minutes, the younger monk finally lost his temper over having witnessed blatant rule breaking and went off on the other monk, his cheeks red with anger, “You know, I can’t believe you broke your vow! One of our vows is to never touch a woman and you touched her, You actually picked her up, and held her to get her over the ditch...and she didn’t even thank you! I can’t believe you would do that after making a solemn vow that you would never touch a woman!” The young monk went on and on his face getting redder with the anger he felt at his elder’s betrayal of one of his most precious vows to the brotherhood. The older monk quietly looked at the younger monk, smiled and said, “You know...I sat her down about 30 minutes ago...You are still holding her.”

How long ago do you clock out, and then continue to carry it long past when you were at work? How long do you carry a resentment, an irritation, an interpretation? You can hold it. You can hold it as long as you like. Forever if you must. Or you can...just let go. It doesn’t matter. It’s not happening right now. Right now, is...now.

Yoga is a practice, but it’s not just a practice of headstands and arm balances. It’s not simply about getting better at triangle. In a way, the asana is a way to trick the mind. What we are actually practicing is getting OUT of our heads and into our bodies. I’ve never considered a person who has the most perfect hand stand, or the most instagram worthy triangle pose to be doing “advanced” yoga. Advanced yoga is being at​ your level--not caring if the person next to you is doing something else. The simplest, most basic version of the pose, as long as you are
present and breathing in the moment at the place you are actually at...well, that is advanced yoga.

I consider seeing child’s pose in my yoga classes to be one of the most advanced poses, because of how hard it is for people to let go of wanting to prove that they can go deeper, harder. People like to prove they can do it. And, while we want to be honest with what we need, (because sometimes child’s pose is taken out of reluctance to push forward--we have to ask ourselves where we really are at. Do we need child’s pose? That’s advanced, then, to take it.

Do we want child’s pose because we don’t want to do another plank because...it’s hard...well...how about you go ahead and work your way into plank. And breathe. And...smile. That’s advanced yoga, too. Being at your level, where you are, right now.) On the other hand, ongoing child’s pose at home might be considered the worst pose to indulge in...it’s just too easy to spend 45 minutes in child’s pose at home, and checking off an hour long yoga practice with just child’s is not really having a yoga practice. It’s resting. Resting is valuable. We all need to rest. But, do pay attention to the tendency to just want to hang out there. Too much time in child’s pose doesn’t give us everything we really need when we are practicing filling up our bodies. Being where we really are; That’s advanced yoga. We’re getting out of our heads and back into our bodies. Lifting our hearts. Finding the space to discover what it is we are grateful for, today.

Namaste.

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