Build Your Integrity Muscle

According to Ayurveda the #1 cause of disease is lack of integrity - NOT doing what we know we should and continuously doing things against our better judgement. This lack of integrity is not only make us physically and mentally imbalanced, but it's holding us back from living a more meaningful and fulfilled life.

Let's look at the definition of integrity:

1. the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.
"he is known to be a man of integrity"
synonyms: honesty, probity, rectitude, honor, good character, principle(s), ethics, morals, righteousness, morality, virtue, decency, fairness, scrupulousness, sincerity, truthfulness, trustworthiness

2. the state of being whole and undivided.
"upholding territorial integrity and national sovereignty"
synonyms: unity, unification, coherence, cohesion, togetherness, solidarity

I love that - "the state of being whole and undivided". This is YOGA. Yoga is the union and connection of all parts of ourselves - body, mind and spirit - into a unified whole. When every system is supporting the whole. 

Instead our mind is getting too much floor time, our body is being ignored and our spirit is being stifled. As a result we've lost touch with our intuition, our minds are running the show and our body is suffering. 

So what does a lack of integrity look like? 

When we say that our health is a priority yet we still eat foods that aren't good for us, don't move and exercise our bodies enough, don't get enough good quality sleep, etc. Or when we say we want something yet don't take the actions necessary to achieve it. Or when we notice that we're burnt out or stressed and we don't slow down and nurture our spirit. When we yell at our kids, we say yes when we don't really want to, when we're not completely honest with ourselves or each other and continue to repeat self-sabotaging behaviors... the list goes on.

It's not that we don't know what we should be doing... it's that we're not doing it!
So we feel guilty, disappointed and we beat ourselves up for yet again perpetuating old patterns that just become more and more deeply ingrained. We feel stuck and out of control and complain that life's hard and we're too busy to do what we really want. 

We all do it. 

Yet... I've found we can learn to default to self-care. We can create daily routines that enable us to consistently show up as the best version of ourselves every single day. Integrity, like any other virtue, is a muscle that can be strengthened. 

It's simply a matter of making a commitment, investing in ourselves, finding support and surrounding yourself with people who hold you to a higher standard than you hold yourself. When we do that, we're able to make any change we want. 

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This changed my life

I remember back, about 5 years ago about a year after having my second son, when I was frustrated with not having enough time for me. I complained to my husband and played the “woe is me” card and felt hard done by that life was hard and I felt stuck in a vicious cycle of “getting through the day” but not feeling particularly happy in my life.

My husband suggested that I start getting up early (as he did) to take some time to do yoga before the kids were awake. Until that point I was not a morning person. I stayed in bed until the last possible moment at which point I dragged myself out reluctantly and made a bee-line for the coffee pot. After a few cups of coffee I felt relatively human again and stepped on the treadmill of my day - moving fast but going nowhere. 

I eventually decided that I did indeed want to start this getting up early craziness and I asked my husband to be my alarm clock and help me get me out of bed. It took a while to get used to as my bed felt like a giant magnet in those wee morning hours, but eventually it became second nature.

Fast forward 5 years later, I wake up naturally around 5am every day without an alarm clock. I LOVE my morning routine which I continue to tweak and refine and includes some sort of exercise, mindfulness, self-care, reflection, and nourishment and sets me up for a great day.

Everything in my life changed once I started to seize the day by waking early and creating an intentional morning routine. I got physically stronger and healthier, I began meditating, I got more organized, I was less stressed, rushed and overwhelmed throughout the day, I became more productive, more focused, more present, more patient, I got happier, more calm and more grounded but mostly I felt like I really could design the life, the body and the experience I wanted to be having. The best part - everything keeps getting better.

Watch my FREE webinar on How to Create a Powerful Morning Routine

The Paradox of Self-Care

Last week I gave a talk about the Art of Self Care. We discussed what self-care is, why we don't practice enough of it and how to bring more into our lives. You can listen to it here.  

In the talk I posed the question: "Why are we not taking care of ourselves?". Can you guess the answer?

"I don't have time".   

It's true that self-care takes time. I practice 20-40 minutes of yoga in the morning and 15 minutes of meditation. I take 5 minutes to massage my body with oil and 20 minutes to lie on my bed of nails before bed (this is my most recent obsession - my family thinks I'm crazy but it dissolves tension and relaxes me more than anything else!).   

With our already full schedules how can we possibly fit another hour or 2 of stuff into our day??  

The paradox is, although self-care takes time, it creates time.   

Let me explain. Exercise works like ritalin. When we take time to get fit and strong, we become more focused, more productive and more clear-headed. We can get more done in less time and with better results. When I don't do my morning practices I drag myself through the day and everything seems to take longer.  

Like exercise, meditation also improves cognitive performance. Learning to sit and do nothing can help you be more efficient. A recent study by University of Washington researchers found that meditation training helped workers concentrate better, remember more of their work details, stay energized and experience less negative moods. 

In my own experience meditation makes me more mindful so that I'm less likely to make mistakes (saves time by not having to fix them later), I'm more intentional (I spend my time on things that matter and waste less time on things that don't) and I'm more relaxed and don't feel perpetually rushed and behind the 8-ball.  

The practices I do to ground me like self-massage, taking a bath, and other relaxation rituals slow time down and calm my nervous system so that I'm rejuvenated and energized for when I need to get stuff done. Relax and you'll be actually be more productive.  

2 habits to grow your self worth

So many of us have trouble setting boundaries. Whether it's saying no to too others or keeping promises we've made to ourselves like reducing our sugar consumption. Over the past few years I've talked to hundreds of people about their health challenges and the thing that seems to come up again and again is boundaries. I think our lack of setting good boundaries stems from low self worth. Feeling like we're not enough keeps us searching outside of ourselves for something that can only be found within. So we continue to agree to commitments out of obligation hoping that we will earn our worth by what we do instead of who we are.  

This can also show up in several ways, one of which is perfectionism (a personal challenge I've worked on overcoming). Perfectionism is low self-worth dressed up as an overachiever. This is the most destructive lie we tell ourselves – that if we're perfect, then we'll be worthy. The problem with this perfectionist mentality is that we exhaust ourselves with all the pressure we put on ourselves to reach this unattainable goal and end up burned out. We continue to try to "do-it-all" and end up resentful and bitter.   

So what to do? How do we build our self-confidence in order to have strong boundaries and live with higher integrity?   

I posed this question to my Empowered Living Group and this is what we came up with: self-care. Self-care cultivates confidence from the outside in. 

In the fifth chapter of Ayurveda’s Charaka Samhita, it states:  

Daily Routines (Dinacharya) that align us with Nature build character and confidence.  

It's right there in the ancient texts – if you want to improve your body issues and self-esteem, your need to dial in your self-care habits. When you do, you attain svasta - the sanskrit word which means "seated in the self". It refers to the state of optimal health and balance in body and mind. To create svasta is to cultivate ease, peace, energy, vitality, and integrity. 

There are 2 habits in particular that grow your self-worth and self love. I recorded my very first Facebook live video about it. You can watch it below.

The key to setting boundaries

As a child I was incredibly shy and self-conscious. My family was quite "different" from the other conservative families in the mid-upper class neighbourhood in Houston that I grew up in. In grade school my mom had blue hair and hairy armpits. She dressed differently with her unique punk style, she spoke differently with her quasi-English accent and she certainly behaved differently. At the time I wanted nothing more than to fit in with all my school-mates.  

In my effort to belong I conformed to the norm as best as I could but lost myself in the process. As I get older (I turn 40 this year!) my journey it quite the opposite – I'm trying to discover who I am and what makes me unique. 

I'm learning to be myself fully and respect and honor who that is. This is the goal of my yoga practice – to discover who I am and to be that person fully. However, those deeply embedded tendencies to mold myself into who I think I should be and do what I think I should do still emerge. This shows up as agreeing with others when I feel differently or not standing my ground with what I really want.  

When we're not clear about our values, we end up overstepping our boundaries. We need to know who we are and what we need in order to be clear about where to draw the line.  

When we don’t set good boundaries we end up frustrated, angry, and our self-worth eroded. We are telling ourselves: "my needs don't matter and I'm not worth standing up for myself". And then we end up in a vicious cycle of losing ourselves as we people-please and over-commit.  

So how do we get out of that self-sabotaging pattern and start setting strong boundaries?  

I really believe it starts with radical self-care. With tangible daily practices that reflect self-respect, self-love and self-honoring.  

By taking good care of our bodies, minds and spirits through feeding ourselves nourishing food, giving our body the rest, relaxation and sleep that we need, through movement and exercise that make us feel strong, flexible and powerful – we start to build a deep respect and appreciation for ourselves. In doing so we become less tolerant of that which doesn’t serve us and we naturally start to set stronger boundaries. 

It starts with us taking a stand for ourselves. It starts with the realization that self-care isn't selfish – it's a beautiful display of gratitude for this body, mind and spirit that we're gifted with. It's a radical act of stepping into our worth. Self-care is an embodiment of self-love through daily habits. 

Setting boundaries with others has to start with us. We have to commit to our own practices before we can ask anyone else to respect them. We have to give ourselves what we need before we can ask anyone else to meet our needs.  

If you want to consciously create daily self-care habits to feel nourished from the inside-out – join me for my 6th round of Align and Thrive – yoga health coaching. In 10 weeks we build the 10 foundational habits of thriving health and happiness. If you’ve struggled with creating self-care routines and rituals in the past, I've designed a step-by-step process that guides you through building healthier habits with the accountability of a supportive community. If you want to find out if it's right for you, set up a free 30 min chat with me here

Self Care for Summer

This week marks the official first week of summer vacation. Those of you with kids might share my mixed emotions of having the kids home all day. On the plus side there's no need to rush out the door in the morning to get them to school on time, on the other hand, it also means that the house gets more messy and there's less time for myself. Which means that in order to keep my "cool", I need my self care practices more than ever!

Summer season is considered to be the pitta time of year because it is governed by the elemental qualities of fire. This means that the qualities of heat, expansion, dryness and movement predominate. In excess these qualities create a recipe for irritability, anger, criticism, impatience, and a hot temper. Physically it shows up as skin rashes or breakouts, heartburn, and itchy eyes.

I love Ayurveda because once you understand the basic principles, it's very intuitive and common sense. The most basic principle is that like increases like and opposites balance. So in order to avoid the negative effects of too much fire, we need to bring in the opposing qualities to find balance. Read more about pitta balancing tips here.

With the kids home for summer, I've found it even more important to make sure that I'm getting what I need so that I can not only be fully present for them, but also enjoy the long days filled with origami making sessions and water balloon fights. This means sticking to my morning routine of yoga and meditation, planning my days (although somewhat more loosely), and retiring early so that I can enjoy reading in bed before getting a good night's sleep.

Over the past few years I've come to love my morning and evening routines because they bookend my days and create a backdrop of grounding and calm that I've found invaluable as a parent (and wife, teacher, friend, coach, and daughter). Many of us wear so many hats and are often in service of so many others – our friends, our family, our work that we often put ourselves last on the list (if we make it on the list at all).

Over the past few years of working with people to uplevel their self care practices, the more I notice that our lack of self care arises from our lack of self worth disguised as "not enough time". Many of us have a limiting belief that once we take care of everyone else and everything that needs taking care of, there's no time left for us. We hide behind this notion as an excuse to not stand up for our own needs and desires. We tell ourselves that we're being selfless by putting other people's needs before ours.

This way of thinking has got to change.

I'm currently reading The Code of an Extraordinary Mind by Vishen Lakhiani. He urges us to not worry about being selfish and to follow our heart.

"Some say the heart is the most selfish organ in the body because it keeps all the good blood for itself. It takes in all the good blood, the most oxygenated blood, and then distributes the rest to every other organ...

But if the heart didn't keep the good blood for itself, the heart would die. And if the heart died, it would take every other organ with it. The liver, the kidneys, the brain."

It would be selfish for the heart NOT to take the good blood for itself. So we too, need to take care of ourselves first.

What's so cool about the process of guiding others into their own self care habits, is that self-worth follows the self care. I've observed amazing transformations of students standing stronger in their power and learning to trust themselves more after implementing simple self care practices. I've watched members let go of abusive relationships, follow their passions and learn to love themselves more. They have more patience for their kids, feel more ease in their day-to-day lives and begin to prioritize what they need.