All posts by Kate

Resolutions made easy: 5 Habit hacks for making real change in your life

Have you been resisting change? Here are a few tips to help you get unstuck and start going with the flow, so you can make the most of your best intentions for the New Year.

1. Do 10 minutes of yoga before your daily vice.

Today was a day off for my husband, and he picked up a nice dark beer for me and brought it home around 5pm. The fire was lit, the kids were frolicking, and it was tempting to break out the bottle opener and relax with a glass of grog. As innocent as that one glass may be, I have noticed a pattern: as soon as I take the first sip, the rest of my evening is given over to Netflix and exhaustion by the time the kids are in bed. I would like to do other things with my precious child-free evening hours sometimes, so tonight I implemented my yoga before drink policy and rolled out my mat in the middle of the chaos. 10 minutes of yoga is my go-to advice for everyone, because it is really hard to convince ourselves that we don’t have ten minutes for something that we know will improve our physical, mental and emotional well being, and usually once I start my ten minutes I happily dive into another ten, and then another. Starting is truly the hardest part. Instead of depriving yourself something you enjoy indulging in (whether it be a glass of grog, a slice of pie, a morning coffee), pair it with yoga and you may find your desire to indulge lessens gently, over time. 

2.Consult with a professional.

Being both a cheapskate and an enterprising DIY-er, it is often hard for me to accept that professional consultation is worthwhile. I look at the price tag and think I can figure that out myself with the help of a good book and a quick internet search. Weeks later, I find myself saturated in information and overdue library books but often without having made any concrete changes to my life. This week I had a one-hour consult with a nutritionist, and even though I walked into that appointment with plenty of knowledge about healthy eating, something about her specific perspective and recommendations and the alchemy of having an ally in my cause made all the difference.  I found myself hearing her voice every time I went to cook a meal, and as a result I have been eating healthier all week! Whether it be hiring a yoga therapist to help you discover poses and practices for your specific goals, getting a massage, or even consulting your astrologer, attention from a professional can be a great catalyst.3. Get curious about the specifics. 

3. Get curious about the specifics. 

Last week I took a 2-hr class on pelvic floor health, and I suddenly became aware of how my posture was affecting my pelvic floor (and vice versa) in almost everything that I do. By spending a good amount of time allowing myself to be curious about this one very specific place in my body, I am learning to change habits that would otherwise go unchecked (yes, even experienced yogis fall into problematic postural habits). I’m not saying that your curiosity needs to be on your pelvic floor, or your posture for that matter. Just that you can seek out something more specific inside of your habit change goals. Instead of stop wasting so much time, perhaps it would help to get curious about the specifics; Why DO I look at Facebook so frequently? What else could I do when I have 5 minutes free while waiting for the bus?

4. Think of yourself like one of those Angry Birds Towers. 

It can be very disappointing to make a tidy list of goals: go to yoga 3 times a week, write 3 pages every day, stop eating sugar, only to find that you are stuck in inertia. In this scenario, it is easy to say maybe next week to your goals list. Lately, I have been taking more of what I like to picture as the Angry Birds Method. I don’t know exactly how many birds I have to throw at this thing, and I don’t know how close I’ll get, but I just wind up my slingshot and let one go. Even if the bird barely scrapes the surface of the structure, it sets off a chain reaction of crumbling. It changes me, either a little or a lot. I go to one yoga class–it’s not something I’m checking off a goals list, it’s just me throwing a bird at my life and hoping I get somewhere. I may not go back for days, or weeks, or months. But I will feel, ever so slightly, the capacity to go back is strengthened, and the stuckness that keeps me from going back has been dislodged. It may still be teetering between two pillars, but throw one more bird at it and who knows what could happen? The old paradigm might topple completely!

5. Ignore something that is normally very important to you.

There is a dangerous sanctity that grows around our virtues. I am very good at cleaning my house (though with two young children, keeping my house clean for longer than a few minutes is another matter). I am so good at cleaning my house that I will bulldoze my way through playtime with my kids, I will shoot resentful glances at my husband for lounging when it is so obvious that the floor needs to be swept, I will throw out Christmas cards before the holiday has even happened. In these moments I realize that my good habit of cleaning is leaving many not-so-good habits in its wake. Sometimes I have to force myself to stop caring for a minute, and it’s in that juicy minute that I discover the potential for all of the other healthy habits that are waiting to be born in me. Try giving your good habits a day off, and see what new habits or inspirations may arise.

If you would like to practice embodying your New Year’s Resolutions, join me for a special New Year’s Day practice called “Embodied Intention”. Friday, January 1st from 10:30am-12pm at Yoga Refuge. If you would like to go further with establishing healthy habits, check out “Begin Where You Are: Creating Healthy Habits with Yoga” with Kelly Sunrose.

Forget your perfect offering: 5 tips on sneaking Self Care into the cracks of your day

I have a 4-month-old baby. Sweet little guy, but good lord if he doesn’t require a lot of care. Now, imagine that when he got tired I just said to him “Hey buddy, I know you’re tired, but we’ve got to push through it this time because there is just too much to do to sleep now!” And if when he got hungry I said–“not now, but you can eat when we get out of this meeting”, and then hastily shoved a burrito in his mouth while driving the car so I could be ready to take the next conference call on the headset. Imagine if when his diaper was full I just let it go for hours on end because I was in the middle of a project that required a lot of concentration. What if he hadn’t been outside all day long, but I decided there was no time to go for a walk because we had to respond to some e-mails.  At the end of this long day he might want to cuddle,laugh or play, but what if I just said “We’ll try to make a couple of hours for that this weekend, but I don’t have it left in me right now, so just sit on this sofa and watch Netflix”.

I think you can guess where this is going. I would never treat my baby this way, because I love him and want him to not only survive, but to thrive. Yet I have treated myself this way on many occasions, and I’m guessing I’m not the only one. If you have intense responsibilities, whether you are a parent,an employee with a demanding job, an entrepreneur who has to be available around the clock, or maybe all of these things at once, you know what it is to make yourself the LAST priority. In fact, even before I had kids I willingly stacked my schedule up with commitments to everybody but myself. When I think of my standards for caring for my children, the lesson becomes clear: Self-care is not optional. It is not Extra Credit. Self-care is one of the key components to enjoying any of the rest of this stuff that we are loading up our plates with. I care for my children today in good faith that they will one day learn to care for themselves, but how can they do that if I can’t model it for them?

So where do we start? For me, yoga is a huge part of the solution. Whether its carving out time for the luxury of going to a full-length class, or just finding 5 minutes to pop into child’s pose and notice my breath before I get into bed at night, just stepping onto my mat floods my body and nervous system with the memory of all of the times that this mat was a vessel of self care. That memory revives my intention to live in a way that is respectful to my own needs.

This yoga mat magic is part of the reason why I teach Mama Baby Yoga. It is admittedly challenging to provide a completely satisfying practice in the busy and chaotic room full of adorable (and sometimes noisy) babies. But when your life is full of responsibilities that you literally can’t put down, sometimes you have to take them with you onto the mat. It becomes necessary to surrender any ideas of the perfect practice, or the perfect anything. Leonard Cohen put it beautifully when he sang:”Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” We must learn to let our self-care burst like shafts of light through the cracks of our daily schedule. A glass of water here. Five minutes on the yoga mat there. Eating our lunch while quietly watching the trees swaying in the wind, rather than checking Facebook.

Here are some of the top practices I’ve been implementing lately to reinforce self-love rather than self-abandonment.

1. Hydrate. Did you just pass a drinking fountain? Stop and drink! Are you in the middle of unloading your dishwasher and thinking of what is next on your to-do list? Take that glass that is in your hand on the way to the cupboard and fill it up. Keep at least one water bottle in your car at all times. Seriously, it takes about 30 seconds of each hour to stay hydrated.

2. When you gotta go, you gotta go. How many times have you noticed that you need a bathroom break, but then somewhere along the path you get derailed by an interaction with a colleague, a phone call, a text, or a demanding toddler? And then you find yourself two hours later feeling uncomfortable and urgent and suddenly you remember–right! I had to pee! Our body is brilliant and putting elimination on hold so that we can jump into action, but we are not built to be in that fight or flight response at all times, and there is a price to pay for it. Just PEE. It takes about one minute out of each hour to check in and make sure you are not neglecting your internal organs.

3. Notice when you are in a sticky web. Have you ever found yourself trying to leave the house/office, only to have your spouse/kid/co-worker cast a sticky web at you with a last minute request, urgent need or loaded question? As the mother of two young children, I can tell you my kids and husband would cast webs at me all day long if I let them. There is always another tear to dry, another hungry belly, another scheduling challenge to discuss. As a people-pleaser and a caregiver it is all too easy for me to feel that I can’t leave until everything is tidied up behind me, but I’ve come to realize that will never happen. I just have to beat my way through the webs and get out the front door, and guess what? Everything is always just fine when I return. Avoiding getting caught in the web is key to not rushing off to my next engagement in a stressed out hurry.

4. Eat well, eat often. Just go ahead and spend the extra few dollars each week to load up on convenient and healthy foods. I pack my purse with single servings of overpriced organic almond butter, and when I see them at the store I think: “Really? I have an entire jar at home that costs less than a handful of these packets.” But fast forward 3 hours and I am stuck in traffic, having a blood sugar crash (or even worse, in the car with a toddler having a blood sugar crash), and suddenly I realize that if somebody was selling single servings of almond butter on the side of the road I would easily pay $5 for one right now. Not only does my preparedness save me in that moment, but it also makes me feel SO organized and reinforces to my subconscious that I made myself a priority.

5. Do ONE yoga pose. Don’t have 90 minutes for a yoga class? Do a 30-minute practice. Don’t have 30 minutes? Then just do one pose. One minute is all it takes to get back to a place of self-love rather than self-abandoning. It is this shift in intention that makes all the difference to establishing habits of self-care. For me, taking the time to do one pose unlocks a hidden door, which swings open and reveals to me how hungry I am to connect with myself. It is easy to make a priority of whatever is right in front of you. So get in front of yourself!

If you are a new Mama like me, consider joining our next Mama Baby Yoga Series and get some yoga mat magic happening in your week!Here is the link to register, or for more info.

If you have time to come to a yoga class even once a week, make that commitment to yourself bypurchasing our Root Membership. For just $39.95/month you could be forming a habit of self-care that will be invaluable to your health and sense of well-being.

Do you have any sneaky self-care tips to share? Tell us about it in the comments section!

Do not fear the Dawn: An interview with our Sunrise Yoga Guru

I will admit it–I have always aspired to be one of those yogis who rises before the sun to practice, ready to face the day with energy, clarity and compassion. Yet my daily routine continues to include staying up too late watching old episodes of Glee on Netflix, and rising grumpily to the sounds of a singing toddler. This is why I was surprised when so many of our students requested that we add an early bird class. Apparently we all have grand visions of ourselves doing sunrise yoga! Luckily, we have one amazing teacher who stepped up to the plate to inspire and guide those who are willing to beat the clock. I decided to interview our early bird teacher, Brianne Nadi, on the merits of the dawn.

KH: What do you love about practicing so early in the morning?

BN: There are many things I love about an early morning practice. I love being with the sun as it rises. I love hearing the city slowly wake up around me – being in the the calm of the morning before the storm of the day– it’s magical! I often feel quiet in my mind at this time, which makes for a deep meditative practice, this helps me listen clearly to my mind and heart and making sure they are on the same team. All of the yogi masters speak of the early morning being the best time to practice yoga, I feel like I’m honoring a timeless tradition when I practice then, like I’m practicing with the great Mystics from before. On the physical level I have found early morning routines to be very beneficial to my sluggish digestion, and sometimes sluggish energy- it increases my stamina through out the day. Practicing deep breathing in the morning clears out my sinuses and has helps me overcome any anxiousness. Knowing I’ve completed my practice early gives me confidence for my day and my path ahead.

KH: How did you get into yoga? Why did you decide to become a teacher?

BN: I found yoga in high school. I was a troubled teen. In an effort to disconnect from unhealthy peers and substances I began taking yoga classes and exploring the different spiritual groups in my hometown, Santa Cruz, CA. Yoga helped me find my inner spirit, and helped me to be present, and to make positive choices in each day. Through college my practice grew, I explored many styles and teachers, I began to find friends who also practiced yoga. A girlfriend and I started a Bhakti Yoga club on campus. We would chant, stretch, meditate, read sacred texts, philosophize and eat yummy vegan potlucks. In college I was a social science major, I wanted to save the world and bring peace and justice to others. In yoga I learned that true peace comes from within. So after college I started my path as a teacher- with a firm belief that by sharing this wisdom I’m contributing to the greater good of the planet. I truly believe in the power of humans to do good things. I believe in the power of one individual to bring peace to all by bringing peace to themselves. I love that yoga really is for anyone- and mostly what it does is help people find personal power from within. I’m non dogmatic in my teaching- I offer new truths from different paths each week that have come to me on my own personal journey with yoga. When I teach it’s a mutual exchange of good things between all in the room- we are all teachers, and students.

KH: What do your early bird students love most about your class?

BN: What most students love about this class is the sense of accomplishment they feel once they leave. They’ve taken time to grow stronger in their body, wiser in their mind, and they’ve found some peace in their spirit. Now the day is theirs! The students that have been coming regularly also enjoy the sense of community that has built up in this class- there’s a real sense of loyalty to those who show up with the song birds! It’s definitely a different vibe from the more packed evening yoga classes. It’s not easy getting up early sometimes, I know. But I encourage all yogis to try it:your body will get in a groove eventually you just gotta stick with it! Love and All, is here.

Join Brianne for her special Sunrise Flow every Tuesday and Thursday from 6:30-7:30am! Only at Yoga Refuge, 7831 SE Stark St #300 in Portland, OR.

An interview with Fawn Williams, the teacher that brought together Restorative Yoga and Shiatsu Massage!

Fawn is bringing a springtime version of her popular Restorative Yoga & Shiatsu Massage to Yoga Refuge on April 12th, and I thought it would be nice to hear more about the origins of this fabulous combo.

KH: What gave you the idea to start combining yoga with Shiatsu massage?

FW: Restorative yoga has been the foundation of my personal practice for years, right alongside inversions and meditation. I met Amber and Kathryn at Alma Midwifery 2012, where they hosted group acupuncture before my Prenatal Yoga class. As a new mom myself, I noticed a significant lack of postpartum care; once women had their babies I rarely saw them again. Hoping for more continuity of care, I came up with Embodied Woman, a series of therapeutic workshops combining Ayurvedic restorative yoga with acupuncture, and shiatsu. We did 6 workshops throughout Portland, focused on healing postpartum depression, balancing hormones, and the physical aspects of birth recovery. I loved our female-friendly events, yet felt was time to grow the offering to include a wider spectrum of healing. Perfectly timed, you opened Yoga Refuge in 2014, and invited me to bring the workshops here. April 12th will be our third for the entire community at Yoga Refuge. Each workshop has a different seasonal theme and this one will be focused on balancing Kapha which in Ayurveda is akin to elements of water and earth.

KH: What do you love about teaching these workshops?

FW:Yoga teaches that when one person experiences suffering, all of humanity suffers in great and small ways. Through the practice of ahimsa (non-violence) towards self, these workshops guide participants toward self-compassion, a skill they bring with them into the world. People get to look at ways relieve physical and emotional strain being completely supported. Learning these tools first through the physical body affects how you show up and engage with your life. Less aggression, less strain, less violence equal more compassion and generosity. I believe restorative yoga will change the world! I love the peace in the room, and to hear how people incorporate the tools they learned through the practice.

KH: For the workshop in April, you are collaborating with Neil Mattson, of the Montavilla Guitar Studio. Why did you decide to add live music?

FW:Neil is a longtime yogi and was my student before I realized he was also a composer. I studied jazz in college and he is also a professional jazz musician, so we started chatting about music. From those initial conversations, I realized that we both had a fascination with the space between sound, silence. For previous workshops, recorded sound functioned like a backdrop. Live sound is more collaborative. Our last workshop was a really successful collaboration, and now I can’t imagine doing these workshops without his sensitivity and skillful musicianship.

KH: What do students usually get out of this practice?

FW:Better sleep at night. Nervous system regulation. Decreased stress. Emotional resilience. Nourishment through yoga, touch, and sound. We heal in community, and grow stronger together– what better way to spend an afternoon?

Come and enjoy this 2-hour experience of restful yoga, hands on massage, and live music with Fawn and her collaborators! Register here for Sunday, April 12th from 2-4pm. Yoga Refuge members save $5!

Change your life with a yoga retreat

To be honest, I am new to the world of yoga retreats. I have been teaching yoga for 11 years, but I spent much of that time devoted to my work as a theater artist, and all of my vacation days and extra money went to artistic retreats. For 3 different winters, I had the honor of being awarded an artistic retreat at Caldera, which is an artist colony located just west of Sisters, OR. This is how I first found out how magical the mountains of Central Oregon are. The first winter that I visited Caldera, I experienced profound personal revelations, met my future husband, and created a theater production that remains to this day one of my favorite pieces that I have ever made. There was something about the pace of life on retreat that was incredibly liberating–no errands to run, no cars to get in, just gorgeous trails to hike and big, bright stars at night that feel so close you could whisper your deepest wishes to them and maybe they could even hear you. After falling in love with this area of Oregon I was thrilled to be invited to teach my very first yoga retreat last November at the Fivepine lodge in Sisters. The turnout was intimate and the weather took a turn for the extreme cold, but retreats have a kind of power to them that you just can’t understand until you try one. Our small group formed a close connection, and our relationship to yoga deepened. My husband came along for the retreat and was (somewhat) forced to practice yoga more times in 4 days than he had all year. He was able to experience great relief from a shoulder injury,and truly discover the benefits of slowing down and taking time to commit to a yoga practice. I had enticed him out there with the promise of his great love, mountain biking, which we unfortunately had to miss due to the weather. Luckily for him, we have been invited back to host a second retreat, from April 19th-22nd, and we expect the weather to be perfect for some trail rides. I am excited to return to my role as a retreat facilitator, particularly right before I go on maternity leave and take a break from teaching for a few months.I hope you can join me for a few days of rest, inspiration, and deepening your relationship to yourself and others through the power of yoga. Also, great food, luxury, and your own personal mountain bike guide and teacher!

-Kate Holly is the owner of Yoga Refuge and an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher.


Annual Memberships: A way to invest in yourself, and us!

For a limited time only we are offering Annual Memberships: 12 months of unlimited yoga for only $799! And even better, through the end of 2014 you can get one for only $699!

Benefits of an Annual Membership for YOU: 

  • 12 months of unlimited access to our weekly classes at an amazing price
  • Discounts on workshops and special series
  • One free guest per month
  • Free mat rental and storage
  • If something comes up, you can put your membership on hold for up to 6 months for only $15/month.

What annual memberships will do for US: Your investment in the beginning of the year will help us to launch more offerings for our community, including:

  • Childcare during daytime classes
  • A Yoga Teacher Training Program
  • Increased Workshops and Series
  • Master Classes with Visiting Teachers
  • Improvements to our Facilities
Get one today, as a gift for a loved one or an investment in a happier and healthier new year for yourself!

Becoming the eye of the tornado

I started teaching Mom and Baby Yoga out of the need to survive. In the early days of my son’s life, there was a meltdown at home every time I tried to leave to teach a class, we couldn’t afford childcare, and being a nursing mother it just made sense to have my baby with me. I couldn’t bring him to my other classes, but the Mom/Baby class was a different feel entirely. With my decade of yoga teaching experience and my newfound discoveries about postnatal recovery, I was able to help many of my students feel better and relieve the stress of new motherhood through our shared yoga practice, even amidst the chaos of crying, nursing and diaper changing.

Then my son turned into a toddler, and it was a whole new ball game.I started welcoming other moms of toddlers to bring in their children, and pretty soon we were doing yoga in the middle of a tornado. At the end of each class we would look around us and all of the mats had been unrolled, all of the yoga blocks had been piled and then toppled, the toys strewn in every corner, and we would laugh as our toddlers helped us clean it up.

I still struggle with childcare costs, so I divide my work days into “things I can do with August around” and “things I do when I have childcare”.It is important to me to regularly practice yoga when I have time to myself, so that I can connect with subtle anatomy, delve deeper into myself, close my eyes, and completely surrender.However, it is not out of the question to practice yoga with my toddler-it is just a completely different kind of yoga! Being a parent is like living in a balance pose–it is inevitable that you will fall from time to time, but the more you practice the more you can manage to find your center in any situation.I have come to think of yoga with my little one as practice in becoming the calm eye at the center of the tornado.

I am offering our new Yoga Play Date class for other people who, like myself, may not be able to pay for childcare every time they want to practice yoga, who would like to share the positive influence of yoga with their little ones, and who enjoy meeting other parents and caregivers.

You can join August and I every Wednesday from 11-11:45am starting May 7th!