All posts by katherinekuzner

Sankalpa: A short guide to getting what you really, really want

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As we approach the new year, you might want to ask yourself what do you really, really want in these next 12 months? Importantly, how do you want to feel? Just as importantly, how committed are you to making it happen? All of these questions relate to something that we refer to as “Sankalpa” in yoga.

You may have heard  the word “Sankalpa” in your yoga class. And then maybe your teacher imprecisely translated it as intention. Sankalpa means a lot more than “intention”. Here’s why – I remember during my first months going to class (of course, in my tattered running shorts that were much too old to be worn in public), the teacher would vaguely ask us to set an intention and mine would be something along the lines of keeping my abs contracted throughout  the entire class. Just because I thought that was somehow beneficial for me. Literally, this was an intention, but it certainly wasn’t a sankalpa.

So what is a Sankalpa then? Let’s look at the words that combine to make it.

“San” : a concept or idea formed in the heart

“Kalpa”: the rule to be observed above or before any rule.

In his book, The Four Desires, Rod Stryker poetically defines sankalpa as “an intention formed in the heart”.  For some of us, the Sanskrit might make it sounds exotic and kind of fancy. SANKAPLA. (say it in an overly dramatic voice). But, really, formulating a Sankalpa is quite practical. When we commit ourselves to doing something and systematically remind ourselves of it, it can be hard for it not to come to fruition.

The trick lies in setting the right Sankalpa. Desire and determination are powerful. To make sure that you are aiming these the right way, your Sankalpa should:

  • BE AUTHENTIC. This means that it is something specific that contributes to the deep purpose of our individual life. Your Sankalpa is probably not the same as your neighbor’s Sankalpa. Life gets to be expressed through us in perfectly unique ways to our intentions also get to be perfectly unique.
  • BE DOABLE. Since this is something that we sincerely commit to, it must be doable. I wouldn’t set a Sankalpa to run a marathon in under three hours because I know this is impossible so a logical commitment to this wouldn’t be possible.
  • BE SOMETHING THAT YOU CAN BE EXCITED ABOUT AND HAPPILY COMMITTED TO. You have to want to do it. If not, this is probably not coming from your heart.

In other words, this is something that you can and want to realistically put before everything else because it serves a greater purpose and has deep meaning to you. Keeping one’s core tense for a long time definitely does NOT fit the bill. Offering a loving, listening ear to others could be work. Not looking at a screen after 6 pm or choosing to enjoy your breath could also work. 1,000,008 other things could work as well as long as they are connected to deep meaning and real possibility. Once you are very clear what you deeply desire, you can take small steps to make it a reality. 

How to Bloom Right Where You Are

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Surrender. It is just one word comprised of only ten letters. It should be easy, right? Simple, yes. Easy, not necessarily. Letting go is both simple and challenging at the same time.

During a recent “Yoga for Fertility” workshop, we were discussing the utility of Tapas (purification), Svadhyaya (self-study), and Isvara Pranidhana (surrender) for the process of conception. Perhaps, not surprisingly, Surrender came to the forefront of the discussion.

If you are trying to conceive, surrendering may be more important than ever, but also even more difficult to enact. When your desire is something as close to your heart as creating a new being, it can seem impossible to not overthink, obsess and imagine that you have control of the outcome. It can be even more difficult to let go in the age of social media where it may seem that each week, yet another friend is pregnant and you encounter a steady stream of baby pictures. Paradoxically, trying too hard to control this particular outcome only makes the result that you are looking for less likely to occur.

Whether you are trying to conceive or not, when we get too attached to outcomes, we can create stress that is absolutely unnecessary. And, as humans, when we have a stress response, our bodies react as if we are in a real, emergency situation. Since our bodies think that we are in a real emergency, we respond by bringing energy to the muscles for us to fight or flee, pain is blunted, cognition is sharpened and functions that are not critical in the moment get shut down. These functions that are not immediately critical include digestive and reproductive functions.

This would be a useful response if we are in an actual emergency, but if the stress is caused by thoughts alone, the physiological effects of stress are more detrimental than the mentally-constructed stressor itself. This is where the orientation of surrender comes in handy.

What is surrender?

To begin, to surrender does not mean to be passive. Absolutely, make a great plan, follow it and then…let go of the results. This is a shift of attention where you do what you can and then surrender the outcome. We can even understand surrender as a mechanism of non-attachment where we stop putting up resistance to that which we cannot change.

How is this useful:

You immediately enjoy less stress. This may even feel as if you are dropping a weight that you have been carrying around for a while. Your life may begin to feel more easeful.

You stop missing your life because you are no longer too focused on some future outcome. You get to allow moments to unfold as opposed to rushing through them as you stop sacrificing the present for the future. In the words of St. Francis, you get to “Bloom right where you are.” When you know that you are inherently already enough, you get to let go and fully participate in your own life.

You may even increase your chances of conception. It might seem counterintuitive but, interestingly, surrendering the outcome itself can maximize chances of achieving the goal. Since stress hormones tell your body that it isn’t the right time for reproduction, by decreasing your stress levels, you can create a more conducive atmosphere for conception.

Four Ways to Start the Practice of Surrender

      1. Practice Mindfulness. Notice when you grasp too tightly to a result and what that feels like in your body. Then, see if you can physically release tension. An exhale might be a great place to begin.
      2. Exhale. Feel how, in the exhale, these is a physical sensation of letting go. Soften tension you don’t need – you might notice it in your face, jaw, shoulders, or hips. And then exhale again. And again.
      3. Make “Let go” or “I surrender” a mantra. You can bring this to mind in any moment to re-orient yourself. Some potent times to do this are at the beginning or your day or  when you do something that you habitually do, like logging into your email or answering the phone. You can even deliberately do this when you are feeling the opposite way.  Notice what happens inside as you choose what you focus on through these words.
      4. Practice Yoga Nidra. This practice of rotating attention around the body can be a very useful tool to let go of unnecessary stress and reconnect to deep intention.

Some texts that informed this article that you may love to dive deeper into:

Be Fruitful: The Essential Guide to Maximizing Fertility and Giving Birth to a Healthy Child by Victoria Maizes, MD.

The Power of Surrender by Judith Orloff, MD.

Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender by David R. Hawkins, MD, PhD.

Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Robert M. Sapolsky.

What are you looking at?

What are you looking at?

Sometimes where we look makes all the difference.

I remember one fall afternoon, in my early  twenties, I shifted my gaze from the ground to eye level. Like Robert Frost choosing a road, this subtle shift of attention made all the difference.  It was as if my life went from being lived in two dimensions to being lived in three dimensions. An imagined boundary between myself and the world had been erased. When I would look at the ground, I was living in my thoughts, now I was living in the world.

I had always been in the world, connected to others, I just hadn’t noticed. My attention had previously been on my mental chatter – the constant analyzing, planning, worrying, and general overthinking. I was missing so much – smiling faces, majestic and not-so-majestic trees, the watercolor sky, and most importantly, the opportunity to feel myself as a part of things. From that moment forward, I made it a habit to look forward, to deliberately no longer blind myself due to an unskillful focus.

As we move into the new year, we often make resolutions or form intentions. Maybe this year we can notice if where we are looking is moving us toward greater connection or disconnection to those around us?

The question now is, where will you set your gaze in 2016?

3 Tips for More Sri this Holiday Season

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Tidy up First

Tidy up your body. Tidy up your schedule. Tidy up your priorities. It is important to start clean since clarity is necessary to fully experience abundance. Unnecessary stuff, whether is it physical, mental, or social, can cloud our experience so we need to keep only that which is the most important.  This will require reflection. So, before we even go into the season, take the time to get clear on what really matters. Then, our thoughts, words, and actions can stay connected to this.

Nourish – Acknowledge

There are so many ways that you can nourish yourself. You can keep a gratitude journal. You can take very sweet care of your body. You can nourish yourself through slowing down and thoroughly enjoying your meals and the company of others. This nourishment makes you more radiant so that you can…

…Offer!

Become a light for others. Offer your spirit through your words, your gaze, and your presence.

Sounds like something you really want and are ready for? Click here for information on my 6-week program to take you through your most best holiday season ever here.

Cacao and Peanut Butter Tart

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You or someone you know probably loves the dynamic duo of chocolate and peanut butter. Google the benefits of cacao and coconut oil. Make this Serotonin Cacao and Peanut Butter Tart for them or for yourself :)

Crust:

1 3/4 Cups of Peanuts

1 1/2 Cup of Figs

1-2 Tablespoons of Coconut Oil

A Pinch or Two of Salt

Filling:

9 Tablespoons of Cacao

9 Tablespoons of Coconut Oil (Or 5 Tablespoons of Coconut Oil and 4 Tablespoons of Coconut Milk)

4 1/2  Tablespoons of Maple Syrup

3/4 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract

1. Combine all crust ingredients in the food processor and process just enough that they stick together. Maybe add a little more of any of the ingredients to get the consistency that you want. More coconut oil will make the filling texture more solid while more coconut milk will make it creamier. Press into a 7 – 9 inch taste pan.

2. Combine all of the filling ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until smooth. Pour into crust.

3. Spell out some sweet message in peanuts.

4. Refrigerate until hard. Serve cool or cold.

The filling for this was adapted from this fabulous raw tarte recipe: http://www.ourpaleolife.com/recipe/chocolate-hazelnut-tart-paleo-vegan-raw/

You can also very easily make your own adaptations with different nuts in the crust and extracts in the filling. I have had great results with a hazelnut crust and orange extract in the filling :)

A Vegan Turmeric Latte for Radiant Skin

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Last week, I started to get a bit of a perioral dermatitis outbreak and I remembered hearing that turmeric had some anti-inflammatory properties. I also remembered that when I consume coconut oil, my skin looks great. So I googled around, checked out a few turmeric tea recipes and this is my synthesis of what I found. It not only cleared up the eczema, but my skin even looks radiant now. Just be careful where you sprinkle the turmeric – it tends to turn things yellow!

1 – 2 Teaspoons of Turmeric

1 – 2 Teaspoons of Hemp Seeds or Dried Coconut

1 Tablespoon of Coconut Oil

Seeds from 3 or 4 Cardamom Pods

1 – 2 Cups of Water

1 Teaspoon of Honey or Coconut Nectar

A pinch of Black Pepper

Blend until smooth. Then, put in a sauce pan and heat until just warm. Enjoy!

Love Your Way to Better Immunity

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It’s that time of year again – the weather is getting colder, we are spending more time indoors and….getting sick. Reducing our exposure to germs may range from being difficult to impossible, unless we would want to isolate ourselves for quite a while. (See you all at the end of cold season!) So what can we do if we don’t want to live like a hermit, besides obvious hygiene practices like hand-washing? We can strengthen our immune systems.

Ayurveda looks at building the immune system in terms of something called Ojas. We can understand Ojas as the final product of perfect digestion that gives our bodies strength and immunity. It protected when we orient to the present moment with fewer demands and more detachment. Conversely, it can be diminished when we try too hard, stress ourselves out and live from a selfish orientation.

So, to amp up our immune systems, we need to reduce stress and live from a less selfish orientation. This brings me to my favorite way to bolster your immune system: LOVING OTHERS…SELFLESSLY.

We can feel better by not focusing on solely on ourselves.

Obviously, it is necessary to express love towards ourselves and to take care of ourselves, but perhaps we can do so knowing that this care is ultimately is service to something larger than ourselves.  Then, even our self-care can become selfless. But let’s get back to loving others.

What do I mean by selflessly loving others? This is loving without being attached to receiving any sort of acknowledgement or return favor from the receiver of our sweet expression. For example, if I say “good morning” to someone and then feel disappointed that they don’t say “good morning” back”, this is not selfless. My expectation of a return greeting was ultimately selfish because, even though I gave something, the focus then shifted back to myself and what I thought that I “should” receive.  Since selfishness decreases Ojas and immunity, why not release the expectations, feel more expansive, and have better immunity to boot? An expression of love is even more potent with no expectation.

So, in conclusion, LOVING WITHOUT EXPECTATION MAKES US FEEL BETTER. Both in that moment as we release expectations and later on as we reap the immune system benefits.

Ready, set, LOVE!

To read more on Ojas:

A great article from Banyan Botanicals.

Another from Dr. John Douillard.

Not that into Ayurveda (yet)? Check out this write-up of an Arizona State University study in which it was found that communicating positive feelings through words or actions can lower stress hormones, blood pressure, and strengthen your immune system. Are you convinced now?

Simplify, Radiate, Celebrate!

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Let’s celebrate WITH PURPOSE this holiday season. Let’s set a heartfelt intention for how we show up. Let’s practice eating mindfully. Let’s radiate from the inside out. Let’s communicate with more ease and love. Let’s feel awesome when January 1st arrives.

I am truly thrilled to be offering this program to support you through your holiday celebrations!

JOIN US IF YOU WOULD LOVE TO:

  • Radiate from the inside through the holidays.
  • Explore mindful eating to feel deeply nourished.
  • Start the New Year already feeling fantastic.
  • Experience deeper, more authentic connections as you go about your traditions.
  • Be a positive force for those your love.

In this 6-week online program, informed by Yoga, Ayurveda, Mindfulness, and Positive Psychology, we will support each other in being our best selves through this sometimes overwhelming time of year. We will set potent intentions, very gently detoxify, explore beauty and mindfulness practices, and circulate the good energy that we generate.

We start pre-Thanksgiving, on November 22. We will have a teleconference each week along with a course website where you will find recording of calls and supporting materials.

Cost: $150

Already sure that you want to join? Click here.

Want to set up a time to talk about a bit about the program before signing up? Click Here :)

Group Coaching

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How do you want to feel this fall? Next year? 5 years from now? 20 years from now?

Do you want to enjoy steady energy and feel more deeply rested? Do you want to feel more alive? More radiant? More connected to those who matter to you? More in tune with the rhythms of nature? Do you want to feel absolutely in love with life?

I am starting my next group coaching program on September 19th. In this course, we will systematically learn how to more deeply engage with health-supporting Ayurvedic habits to truly thrive.

What is it?

A 6 – week coaching program to evolve your health in a group. The six practical habits that we explore are based in Ayurveda so this means that you learn both about Ayurveda and habit change. Most importantly, you will get to put these habits into practice to move towards greater well-being and radiance.

How we are aiming to feel:

More deeply rested. More alive. More steady. Nourished. Dynamic. Radiant. Healthier. Happier. Freer.

How it works:

  • Conference Call and Website
    • Each Sunday, you will be able to listen to a lecture on this week’s habit.
    • We meet for an hour – long conference call on Monday night. Here we work together on how to make the habit work in your life. If you miss the call, you can download the call off of the website and listen on your own time.
    • You will get a one-year membership to the website, where you will find recordings of calls, worksheets, and references.
  • You put the habit into practice.
    • Each week, you put a new habit into practice in a way that works for your life.
  • Group Connection
    • We participate in the online facebook forum to talk honestly about challenges, insights, and questions. If you are local, there will also be several opportunities to meet up, in person, with the group.
  • One on One
    • I meet with you for two 30-minute private consultations to support you in this powerful process.

What people are saying:

I have had the pleasure of participating in two sessions of the Happy and Free Health Evolution with Kat and I would absolutely recommend Kat’s Happy and Free Health Evolution to everyone, and especially to those ready to make a conscious shift towards more easeful living. Kat is incredibly gifted; she is able to so clearly communicate the connections between actions and results. This lets you reflect on your choices and identify that doing ‘X’ makes you feel like ‘Y’. Making these connections was the catalyst I needed for change. For example, before Kat’s program, I had attempted to quit coffee on my own many times, but I always ended up going back to it within a few weeks. Kat’s program enabled me to break my dependency on coffee in the morning, which has led to more sustained energy throughout each day. The program’s focus on finding awareness enabled me to actually experience the effects of coffee, and to recognize what it felt like to be coffee-free, which was the key to helping me kick that habit for good. I found the experience insightful and useful both times I participated and I learned new things about myself each time. If you’re thinking about working with Kat and the Happy and Free Health Evolution, do it! It is a fantastic program that really focuses your awareness to effect habit changes for the better.

-Gina C.

I began the “Happy and Free Health Evolution” course in pursuit of improved health and well being. My yoga practice had greatly evolved over many months and I felt the course was a next good step in my self-care journey. I have long suffered from digestive imbalance and so was specifically looking for some relief there. In short, I found that relief, and so much more! Each week’s new “habit” was powerful on its own but truly transformative as the weeks progressed and built on one another. Some of the material was brand new to me and some was a revisiting of healthy practices; in both cases, having a thoughtful and accessible coach like Kat made the habits realistic and adaptable. I also really enjoyed the group meet-ups and connecting with others taking the course. I learned a lot from them, too, as they shared their stories of what was working for them and what they tried in addition to the teachings. Upon the course’s completion, there was a tangible, incredibly positive difference in my feeling of well-being, both mental and physical. My digestion improved, for one, as did my sleep, energy level, and daily awareness. Overall I feel more in control of my health and well-being. That is a powerful feeling! I know that I’ll still struggle with keeping up all the habits but now I have a deeper understanding of their foundations and use, as well as course materials to turn back to should I get off track. I would recommend this experience to anyone seeking improved health and well-being.

-Lorelle E.

The habit evolution series is incredible! I joined the program with the intention of creating healthier habits and feeling better in my body. Participating in this series, I learned so much about my energetic rhythm and the best way to structure my daily routine. Kat is an amazing teacher- her lectures are clear and informative, and she makes herself available to troubleshoot. I can’t  recommend this program enough- whether you are looking to make big changes or little tweaks, this series is for you :)

-Hannah G

Think that you might want to join us as we evolve? Send an email to katherinekuzner@gmail.com to set up a time to chat.


Why Being Sri?

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Sri. Shri. Shree. Radiance. Abundance. Sustainability. Love. Gratitude. Generosity. Well-being. Deep Energy. Prosperity.

The sweetness of ripe fruit. Thriving eco-systems. Glowing skin. Bright eyes. How it feels to give or receive a truly thoughtful gift. The feeling of deep satisfaction and heartfelt enoughness.

Sri is also the most ancient name of Lakshmi, the very well-know Hindu goddess of abundance who is depicted seated on a lotus holding flowers in some hands and allowing gold coins to pour from others. Lakshmi is honored and invoked through many practices including mantra, meditation, and by embodying her qualities.

This site focuses on Sri as it relates to radiant well-being, fertility, and creating a sustainable world.

Being. Living. Co-existing. We can’t help but affect the world just by being in it, so why not express the qualities of Sri on purpose? Here we explore specific living practices to embody abundance and change our worlds.

Enjoy!!!