Lain Mackenzie: Teacher

One of my last assignments for my yoga teacher training is to talk a little about myself. A personal introduction to my future students. Before sitting down to write it, this felt a little strange to me, almost too self-centered and it made me uncomfortable. Once I sat with it a little longer, I realized that I need my students to know my journey and how I might best help them in theirs. I needed to give them my tattered road map so they could learn from my own experience getting to a place of peace and oneness with life. I feel like I am now brimming over with ideas and experiences that I wish to share with whomever needs it.

I have always felt like I needed to be of service. Even as a young girl in the church and girl scouts, I really loved working for the community and feeling like I was doing something for the benefit of others. It made me feel good. Even working in management in my adulthood, I tried to help my employees in whatever way I could, be it more training to get them promoted or to be a shoulder to cry on when life kicked them down. I tried to stay available to them and be a source of comfort. Sometimes that was my downfall, when I cared so much and it was still ‘just business’ to some.

The stress of corporate life had swallowed me up for ten plus years and I had always wished I could try something new. I found yoga when I most needed it. I started to go regularly to my local studio within walking distance and it felt so good and right! But life kept going and I fell off every couple months, citing my 50+ hour work week as the problem. The real problem was I wasn’t ready to go all in with my practice. I still held my self loathing above my self worth.

Growing up, I had found it difficult to open myself up. I suffered from a deep depression in high school, being scared of who I really was. In constant fear that my loved ones would stop caring about me if they knew the truth. The realization that I was gay was a hard one for me, knowing that it would make my life harder to navigate coming from a very religious background. It solidified my teenage brain into a cycle of depression, self hatred and secrecy. It took a long time to feel okay in my own skin. I had never loved myself, and my yoga practice forced me to begin knocking the walls down and look deeper.

One day when I was really unhappy at work, I started taking some college classes for a future that I wanted to move toward, going into Hospitality Management. I only got through two semesters before I felt pulled toward another certification, my yoga teacher training. I had wanted to start my own business where I would teach yoga, run retreats and serve my community with a place to gather. I was going to wait to do my yoga training after my degree was completed, but one day I found an online training called ‘Yoga 4 Love” and pulled out my credit card immediately without hesitation.

There was no question I needed to do something. To shift my life toward another purpose. I felt it in my bones. Within two months of starting my training online, I quit my job and decided that I was not okay allowing stress to dictate my well-being anymore. It was a very emotional decision, losing the image of myself that I held so tightly for so long, but I knew that I could no longer put myself through emotional torture for a fat paycheck. I’m lucky to have a partner that really understood my suffering and gave me the permission that I felt I needed to save my sanity. She gave me the strength to take the leap. My fellow yoga teacher trainees also showed me a way of life that I yearned for. One of self care and self love.

It has been a year of major transitions, the biggest being our move three hours away from family and friends to open our own retreat center. It has not been a smooth road, and I have questioned our actions many times, but I knew that if I kept listening to my heart that it would never lead me astray. I began this journey to self love and I now feel confident that my story and knowledge can be what I share to help others.

Please contact me if you feel pulled to. Know that you are worth loving and worth the journey.

Love & Light!

Check out www.yoga4love.com if you want to get certified in yoga online! Be a part of the Goddess Tribe!

How to Use Mantra

Whether it is in Sanskrit or English, the use of mantra in my yoga practice has been very helpful in reeling my thoughts in while doing my asana postures or in meditation. A mantra is a word or phrase that you concentrate on to help in practicing mindfulness. Some of the Sanskrit chants evoke certain emotions and looking for the right mantra can be overwhelming.

To start, let’s stick to English. When beginning your mantra work, you may feel more comfortable to make your own affirmations that you can concentrate on. Some good ones are:

  • Loving Kindness (metta)
  • I am Peace
  • I am Enough
  • I am Strong and Healthy
  • Everything happens for my highest good

When you create your own Mantra, it should always be a positive affirmation. Speaking of things you want to change like ‘I don’t want…’ or ‘I will not do…’ is bringing your mind to that negative feeling that you DON’T like and can bring it into being more easily. Keeping to ‘I am…’ statements is a safe bet that you are using the Law of Attraction to bring good things to you instead of what you want to avoid. Your brain and the Universe don’t know the difference between a lie and the truth, so I always say to change a situation you sometimes have to ‘Fake it to make it.’ Smiling or laughing in a sad moment can switch your mindset, even for just a moment, and bring you out of the funk faster. This also works with a Mantra. When you feel weak, chant ‘I am strong’. When your thoughts are in chaos, use ‘I am peace’ to shift your consciousness and calm your mind.

Once you feel good about your own Mantra creation, you may feel inclined to try some Sanskrit out. The Mantra of the sages of India can be very powerful when you use them with mindful reverence. The language of Sanskrit is very special. Each syllable was found by listening and meditating on an object’s resonance or vibration. The chanting of Sanskrit is inherently more intense for this reason. You are speaking to the essence of the Universe. Cool, huh? Here are some Sanskrit Mantra to try:

  • Om (Sound of the Universe)
  • Shanti, Shanti, Shanti “Peace in Body, Mind and Spirit”
  • Om Mani Padme Hum “Praise to the jewel in the lotus”, referencing your soul
  • Lokah Samastah Sukinoh Bhavantu “May all beings be happy and free, and may I contribute to that happiness.”
  • So Hum “I am that”

I also like to visualize when I am chanting Mantra that there are countless others speaking the same words around the globe with me, magnifying its power into one of Transmutation. We can transform our world with our intention. Voices raised together will always amplify our vibrations, our ‘Good Vibes’, faster. Know that when you pray or meditate using Mantra, you are never alone. You are tapping into the inter-connectedness of all beings like a microphone, booming your love and energy throughout the cosmos! Happy Chanting!

Love & Light

Creation Keeps Me Centered

I am at the point in my training that I am creating my own classes and teaching. (YAY!) I graduate in only a few weeks and then I will have the certification I worked a year to attain. I have three online classes on my schedule each week and it has been really fun figuring out how to shift each sequence to fit what I’m wishing to share that day. Two of the classes are under the same name, “Relax into Stillness”, a night class designed to relax you for sleep. It is a half hour where we are only doing sitting and supine poses, then we end with a meditation and maybe a mantra. My first live class I was shaking like a leaf inside but I got comfortable a few minutes in and ended the class strong. I feel like it is a good beginning class to teach for me right now.

Using technology to plan my classes

My third class is in the morning, “Sunrise Salutation on the Lake” where I want to do 8 Surya Namaskars with the breath, 8 breaths between each sequence and do a longer meditation and mantra at the end. I’m still learning how long each posture will take and I want to slow myself down to hold the poses longer. I tend to speed up when I’m nervous.

The feeling of teaching online is strange. I feel like I’m speaking into the void if there aren’t participants live that I can see. I also have to consider who will be seeing it as a recording and teach to them as well. I think this is a great transitional period so I can get comfortable teaching, get used to working the technology, and also try and grow my student body virtually.

My YouTube Channel’s Header

The rise of Covid-19 has really shifted everything in our daily lives. I hope that people find the benefit of practicing yoga with others while being in this quarantine. I know that for me, any sort of connection, no matter how small, makes a big difference for my well being.

These last couple of weeks my creativity is in overdrive. So many ideas are floating in my head about content to put out there that I sometimes find it hard to sleep. I might be fixating on this to placate my fears of an unknown future. Will society be forever changed by the pandemic? How will the Retreat Center survive if we lose our summer bookings? Will my wife, an ER nurse, be safe through this crisis? So many worries and questions that creation seems more appealing than staying in a constant panic.

I have really been holding to my gratitude practices and I know that it has served me well. Gratitude for what I now have keeps my mind out of that precarious future and back in the present where it belongs. So, I will continue to remind myself how lucky I am and start making my dreams and concepts emerge through my class flow and other videos. I feel that if I can make one person’s day a little brighter, than I will have done what I set out to do.

Find your calm. Find your connection. And always, remember to breathe!

Love & Light!

Staying Sane in Quarantine

This mass quarantine has really shifted my view on human connection. I have seen many friends and family on social media being consumed with Covid-19 memes or just the opposite, pleading for their friend list to share their personal pictures of anything but the virus buzz. My daily life hasn’t shifted as much as most since I usually work from home and my daughter isn’t in school yet, but I feel such empathy for those who’s world has completely turned upside down.

Come sip tea with me!

I have decided to start a reoccurring Facebook LIVE event called ‘Positivi-TEA with Lain’, where we connect over tea and talk about topics in self care in this time of anxiety. I had my first episode the other day and it went better than I expected! The only way it will work is if I have ‘audience participation’ and I was lucky to have a lot of my close friends on the broadcast. It felt amazing to connect and share some of my knowledge that I’ve learned through my yoga training. Check out our Facebook page and make sure you subscribe so you know when I go live next:

http://www.facebook.com/anchorageretreatcenter

I’ve also been asked to teach yoga online with Yoga 4 Love Visionary Vixen Lisa Ware and her amazing group of teachers. It will give me more reach to create space and connection with people that need yoga the most in this chaotic time. I am so thrilled for all these opportunities to engage with other humans from a distance. Check it out here:

https://store.yoga4love.com/membership/7umzw

I also have started recording yoga videos on Youtube to share for free to any who like the sounds of water and slow movements.

Our Youtube Page
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-Ka0pyuSeLFTPM2uIvvBRQ

If you are in need of support or a friend, please reach out! I want this time of forced slow down to be a moment to breathe for us all. I wish to be of service and to help any way I can, even if it’s just a sympathetic ear. Leave a comment, send an email or DM me on Facebook. You are not alone! Find something that makes you smile everyday and we will get through this together!

Love & Light!

Sadhana: My Daily Practice

My Sadhana, or daily yoga practice has evolved through the months I have spent in yoga teacher training with Yoga 4 Love. Before starting my lessons I had never heard of the term sadhana. “Sadhana is a Sanskrit word that means a daily spiritual practice. It’s the foundation for your personal, individual effort to communicate with the divine inside of you and all around you. It is the main tool you use to work on yourself to achieve your purpose in life.” (www.terragraceyoga.com › blog › 40-day-sadhana-practice)

One of the first tasks I had to do when getting started on the 200 hour training was to begin my daily sadhana practice. The director Lisa taught us that it could be as small as lighting a candle every day and immediately blowing it out. You are creating a space to stop and connect with your inner self and be in the present moment. As my knowledge grew about the yoga traditions and the ‘why’s’ behind the physical part of the practice, my sadhana shifted constantly.

Here are many of the options I’ve used:

One of many ever shifting sacred spaces I’ve created for my sadhana
  • journaling
  • reading spiritual books
  • lighting incense
  • using my mala (can be substituted with rosary)
  • lighting candles
  • mantras
  • pranayama (breathwork)
  • walking in nature
  • gazing at flowing water
  • reiki work
  • intentional eating
  • burning sage or palo santo before meditation
  • practicing meta (loving kindness)
  • listening to soothing music
  • learning new healthy recipes
  • using lotions and oils for personal massage

At first when I began I became obsessed with getting everything right. Doing the same rituals over and over again at the same time of day. This didn’t help me in the long run and for my busy life with work, wife and baby it was unrealistic. It made me feel guilty if I couldn’t get the time set aside that I committed to. Once I made sadhana an organic part of my daily activities by weaving it throughout my day, only then did it start to change my life.

I didn’t need to sit on my meditation cushion to reconnect with my breath, or write in my journal at the same time of day. The spontaneity made the practice more pleasurable and less like a chore that needed to be done along with my already too long list. In bringing it into the flow of my life it gave me more opportunities to live in the present moment and see the beauty all around me, even in stressful situations. It then becomes your daily practice and a tool to be used whenever you need it.

If you wish to create more mindfulness in your life, start small and don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself to feel anything. Just light that candle, look at the flame, and blow it out. That simple action is like an acknowledgement that you are worth taking care of, that it is okay to slow down even if just for a breath of a moment. This practice all comes down to convincing yourself that you are worth the time. Your mental and spiritual well being should be at the top of your list. Our culture would say otherwise, so training your brain to believe it is most of the battle.

You are not being selfish by taking care of yourself. You can only lend your energy to others if you have enough reserves to give in the first place. Start loving yourself and it will change the world you see around you. Your intention is the most powerful action you have. It is the difference between misery and true overflowing happiness. Make yourself the priority to avoid burnout. You are needed at your full potential and self love is the only way you’ll get there. Have fun!

Love & Light.

 www.yoga4love.com
Check out Inner Goddess Retreats and Online Yoga 200-300 Teacher Training

Yoga 4 Love transformed my life

My yoga teacher training with Yoga 4 Love started in April of last year, and I was in a very different place then. I was taking care of an 8 month old, working 50+ hours a week and feeling all kinds of miserable. I felt overstretched and run ragged with little work/life balance. My yoga practice then was more focused on the postures and not the meditative aspect of yoga.

Less than two months into my training I quit my job of 11 years and decided to follow a new path. The training made me realize that the stress I was inflicting on myself was breaking my spirit and I was disconnected from what was truly important: my family and my mental health. My job then felt like golden handcuffs and the money kept me captive for longer than was healthy.

Fast forward to now. We sold our house, moved three hours from family and friends and purchased property on a Great Lake to build a retreat center. It all seemed to fall into place, and we followed the Universe’s breadcrumbs obediently. There have been many bittersweet moments, frustrations and compromises along the way but I know this is where we are meant to be.

On retreat with the Goddess Tribe

I only have excitement for the future and I am so grateful to my goddess tribe from Yoga 4 Love. I have been touched by every one of the ladies I have encountered in the program, especially on the weekly sangha’s online and the Inner Goddess Retreat in Texas that I was able to attend. They have given me courage when I lacked it, motivation when I felt lost, and their love helped me gain my power back! #risegirlrise

Anna Brown and I on retreat in Texas

I am so much stronger today than I was when I began this journey and I have this group of women to thank, especially Lisa Ware and her Yoga 4 Love team. Thank you for seeing the potential in me and being the teachers I needed to help me continue on the path of self discovery and love.

To any woman looking for something more, try this program! I cannot stress enough how fabulous the tribe is and how easy it was for me to stick to the curriculum with the online component being a working mother. If you wish to delve deeper into who you truly are and start loving yourself, this might be the group for you. Get it girl! I sure did!

Photo taken by Mary Cathryn Roth in Texas

Go to Www.yoga4love.com for more info on their online training and inner goddess retreats.

Check out Anchorage Retreat Center on Facebook @anchorageretreatcenter and Instagram @anchorageretreatcenter

My Shadow Self

My shadow self, my samskara (pattern), my own personal hell. It feels like I switch to a different personality, a younger more fragile version of myself. Sixteen-year-old me to be exact. This was around the first time that I realized how poor my communication skills were and when my self worth was at its lowest. I thought that it was better to hold in my emotions because I felt like it was just a waste of time to try and get someone to understand. To help someone scrape past my walls and sadness to see my inner self.

When I shift, I try and take the least amount of space in my skin, feeling unworthy to breathe or make a ripple. My eyes are glassy with unshed tears, my tongue is thick in my mouth, my breathing gets shallow. It’s so hard to escape her once she takes control.

Shadow self

There are certain circumstances that trigger the shift into this weakened mindset. Usually it’s feelings of failure, silly mistakes or not being able to talk out my feelings properly. I feel bitterly alone and helpless to stop the ‘gear shift’. The grooves are so worn in from years of use that I sometimes change into my pattern without conscious thought, and then the spiral turns inward.

Something benign can be the catalyst to an intense flood of pain and always creates a bigger situation than is required. Countless misunderstandings and hurt pool together and the other person in the conversation is my captive, unaware of the emotions that lurk beneath my surface ready to be unloaded and felt again.

My shadow self is why I work so diligently to find self love, the patterns and samskaras that are toxic in my life and to root them out. I do not wish to live in the past. Reliving hurts long gone does nothing to create the present happiness I seek with my practices of self-care and meditation.

Every opportunity I have to speak my truth instead of pushing it deeper is a start on a new path. One away from the worn pattern that only leads to shame and sadness. I am worth explaining myself, worth taking up space, worth being understood completely. I have faith that I will continue my journey to self expression and acceptance. The loving people around me give me strength and push me along the new path that I have to choose everyday over and over again. Love will be my fuel and I will steam ahead knowing that I am rewiring my brain to care about my own well being.

To anyone who has ever felt like this, know you are not alone. It can feel like one false move will ruin your entire day, but don’t let it. I am right beside you. I see you and love you even if we have never met. You are worth all of the struggle to find some sparkle and light in your journey. When you feel your emotions and attention drifting to the thought ‘here we go again‘, stop immediately. You are stuck in your shadow self and you are stronger than you know. You got this, and we are all together on this path with you.

Love & Light from a former bipolar yogi

Joy in movement

Whenever I feel stuck or stagnant in a pose, I tend to make it a dance. At first I held it back and told myself that there is a reason you are meant to hold the pose for three to five breaths. But sometimes you just have to feel what’s in your body, and flowing slowly through the poses in dance feels so good! I have decided that my practice is just that, mine! When teaching a specific Vinyasa style or sequence, that is the time to listen to my teachers and my training. I find joy in both ways of yoga expression.

I have had many body image issues throughout my life and my yoga journey, but when I feel the strength of my body in a pose or dancing by myself I feel beautiful and tapped in. The energy flows through me and I feel alive and worthy.

Yoga unfortunately has become mostly for the rich who can afford a 15+ dollar class three times a week with perfect abs and amazing headstands. I want my center to be for everyone, at a price point that is manageable and all inclusive to my community. This means that woman who really wanted to try it will hopefully take that chance and join us.

I hope more plus size people can tap into that flowing energy of knowing that you are not your body, and you are not your mind. You are eternal and you are magnificent! Can’t wait for the Yurt to be build so I can start teaching and dancing with my new yogi family!

Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose)

Lain’s Notes:

I use a strap, since I normally feel tension in my shoulders, also my hips don’t allow for both feet on the ground as of yet. This pose feels very nice when I’ve been on the computer too long in a day.

“Yoga 4 Love’s Big Book of Yoga Postures” Lisa Ware E-RYT 500:

muka=face

Stretches the ankles, hips and thighs, shoulders, armpits and triceps, and chest.

“The Key Muscles of Yoga” Ray Long MD:

“The upper arm stretches the lower fibers of the pectoralis major. The pectoralis minor contracts, drawing the scapula of the lower arm forward. The rhomboids of the lower arm contract to stabilize the scapula, lifting the ribcage. Eccentrically contracting the upper arm pectoralis major facilitates this stretch.”

External rotation of the shoulder girdle & upper arms.

“The upper arm infraspinatus contracts, stretching the subscapularis. The lower arm subscapularis contracts, stretching the infraspinatus.”

“The Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga” Srivatsa Ramaswami:

Keep your palms on your feet and keep your back straight. Stay in pose for six long breaths. Switch legs to keep symmetry.

(this version does not have hands binded behind the back)

“Healing Yoga” Swami Ambikananda

“What the hands are engaged in directly impacts on the heart, and what the heart feels impacts on the hands.”

Legs in front, bending one leg and place heel alongside the opposite buttock. Bend other leg and place it on top of bent one. Reach up on arm on the side of the top leg, read around and up between the shoulder blades with opposite arm. Bind.

Use strap if the posture forces your head forward.