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How to Use the Ancient Principles of Vastu to Declutter Your Home and Improve Its Energy

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Could your home use a refresh? After making over her place according to the yoga of design, writer Elizabeth Marglin has 10 simple tips to help you get organized and create spaces that speak to your soul.

I’m drawn to home decluttering and design projects. I’ve dabbled in feng shui, KonMarie’d, and gotten my hygge on. Having a mother who is a hoarder makes me especially sensitive to the objects that constantly accumulate. Still, somehow none of these methods helped me find a genuine sense of ease in my space. Then I found Vastu, known as the “yoga of design.” Vastu is a traditional Indian system of architecture that’s for all kinds of buildings—temples, businesses, homes—yet its key principles can be used to rectify energy imbalances in existing homes (read: clutter) and to cultivate spiritual and physical calm. As a system, it’s neither dogmatic nor rigid. You don’t have to be building a house to incorporate what it has to offer. It plays out as a remarkably fluid, even common-sense method, to generate a domestic version of holiness. It can be as simple as using beautiful ceramic plates every day instead of saving them for special occasions, pruning your mantel of detritus so that it becomes an alter rather than a knick-knack conglomerate, or opting for natural textiles and materials instead of synthetic wherever possible.

In her book Vastu: Transcendental Home Design in Harmony with Nature, author Sherri Silverman, an internationally recognized Vastu sacred space design consultant, describes Vastu philosophy this way: “The structure of our homes is representative of our own bodies: what goes on in one affects the other, and our own little universes of body and home embody the same forces that compose the vast universe.” As I learned more about Vastu, it resonated as a trifecta of solutions that could answer several of my spiritual longings at once: interconnectedness, thoughtful design, and alignment with the divine. About to embark on a basement remodel, Vastu felt like an organizing principle I could get behind. I suddenly could envision my home as a microcosm of the sacred. I wanted to use Vastu principles to do-over my entire home, to reconfigure our unruly constellation of possessions, and to act as a template for the new rooms we were building out downstairs.

See also Clearing Clutter for a Simpler Life

With the goal of transforming domestic chaos into a sacred refuge, I reached out to Silverman. She was eager to spread the word about Vastu and agreed to be my consultant on our home project. (Even amongst yoga devotees, Vastu still gets short shrift, despite being considered yoga and Ayurveda’s third sister in the pantheon of vedic sciences.) The ethos that drives Vastu is as applicable today as it was a millennia ago. It involves flexible design guidelines for space, sunlight, flow, and function. The idea was for my home to feel alive, supportive, and nourishing. I could get there with whatever style best suited my taste. Vastu can encompass the whole gamut of individual style choices, from rustic to beach to uber modern. But what distinguishes Vastu from other home organization methods, says Silverman, is the attentiveness to beauty. “Vastu requires beauty. If you follow all the rules but omit beauty, it’s not really Vastu,” says Silverman. “Beauty adds vibrancy to spaces. Without beauty, it’s just empty, vacant, sterile. Add beauty and the space comes alive.”

I sent Silverman photos of my home, along with the plans for our upcoming basement remodel. She gave me detailed recommendations for how I could bring in more haven, less havoc. What follows are the vital takeaways—attention to sightlines, freeing up the center of the room, bringing in a touch of nature—that I gleaned from our collaboration. Along the way, I learned how beauty is a natural conduit to presence. When things were aligned in the right way, my eyes said “ah, ah,” and I could feel my soul exhaling. I invite you to apply some of following Vastu principles to your own home to help you manifest your own sacred spaces that bring you exquisite relief—and delight. As for the things you can’t change or rearrange, I’ll share Silverman’s generous words regarding my plight: “Do what is possible and let go of the rest.”

See also 4 Ways to Eco-Consciously Declutter Your Home



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10 Yoga Teachers Share Exactly How They Get a Good Night’s Sleep

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Having trouble getting eight hours of shut-eye? Steal these secrets from some of the country’s top teachers.

10 yoga teachers share their personal night-time routine to help you get a good night’s sleep. 

Keep your bedroom cool and dark. Aim to go to sleep at the same time every night. Don’t sleep with a TV playing in the background. While these tips are great, you’ve likely heard ‘em a million times before and have tried all of them—and you’re still not getting the shut-eye you need.

Setting up a well-planned nighttime ritual to prepare your mind and body for sleep can help you get high-quality rest, which is important for everything from weight control to controlling blood sugar to keeping you in a good mood. So, who better to ask about bedtime routines than yoga teachers? Calming and centering techniques are their areas of expertise, plus many of them teach early-morning classes, which makes regular sleep schedules extra-important.

See also This Yoga Nidra Video Will Help You Fall Asleep in 5 Minutes or Less Tonight

Here, 10 yoga teachers share with us their exact night-time routine that helps them get high-quality sleep.

1. Wind down with lavender, an immunity shot, and Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose

Brittanee Greenhaw, yoga instructor at Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa in San Diego, California, takes self-care seriously at night. Her multi-sensory wind-down rituals start with an immunity shot. She uses fresh-pressed ginger root, 10 drops of grapefruit seed extract, 3 drops of oregano, and dilutes the mixture with coconut water. She also likes to have Yo-Yo Ma Cello music playing in the background, but switches to classical music closer to bedtime. Some of her other go-to rituals: Showering using a lavender body scrub, using a jade roller to reduce inflammation of the face and lymph nodes, applying a magnesium body cream, and massaging lavender oil into the arches of her feet and then putting on cozy socks to increase the absorption and keep her feet warm. Right before bed, she stays in Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose for 11 minutes (it’s a balancing number, she says!), turns off the lights, puts an eye mask on, and drifts off to sleep.

2. Calming yoga flow, a bedtime tonic and journaling gratitude

Prior to bed, CorePower Yoga’s Master Trainer Emily Schmookler moves through a calming yoga flow. Here’s her sequence: Standing forward fold, squat and curl, toe stretch, crescent moon into half splits, table top with a couple cat-cows, child’s pose, and seated forward fold. Then, she rolls onto her back and does some gentle twists and movements to stretch her hips. She also drinks a night-time tonic to unwind. It includes Life Spa’s Ojas Milk, 1/4 teaspoon of ghee, 1/2 teaspoon of honey, and Four Sigmatic Reishi Mushroom Elixir. “This tonic is an Ayurvedic rejuvenate and aids in nourishing your depleted energy, calms your nervous system and helps to rebuild your immune system,” Schmookler says. Her night-time routine also includes writing down three things she was grateful for during the day.

See also YJ Tried It: 30 Days of Guided Sleep Meditation

3. Soak in an Epsom salt bath

Teri Wilkinson, yoga instructor, Ko’a Kea Resort & Spa in Kauai, Hawaii says she takes a 10 to 15 minute hot bath before bed. “I put in 1 cup of Epsom salt and 1 cup of baking soda to allow my muscles to relax and loosen up, my body to detox, and to clear my mind from my day.” She then drinks a cup of Celestial Seasonings’ Sleepytime extra. The valerian root in the tea, she says, helps her sleep deeply for about seven hours.

4. Do restorative yoga stretches and listen to melodic tunes from around the world

Each night before bed, Kirkland Shave, program director at Mountain Trek Fitness Retreat and Health Spa, and a certified yoga instructor, does 15 minutes of restorative yoga stretches. He finishes his stretching session with a short Chi Kung energy circulation practice, and makes some prayers of gratitude. “After, I turn my phone onto airplane mode, put in my noise-cancelling earbuds, tune into some melodic East Indian ragas, or Japanese Koto and Shakuhachi music, and lay atop a few spikey balls in bed, placing them along my neck and back,” he says. The balls place isolated pressure on imbalanced connective tissues to increase circulation, and also reduce muscle fatigue and soreness, he says.

See also This 6-Minute Sound Bath Is About to Change Your Day for the Better

5. Use an old-school alarm clock

Since Lauren Larry, a yoga teacher in Manhattan, Kansas, teaches 5 a.m. classes, she makes sure she’s in bed early and doesn’t get disrupted. “I banish tech from my sleeping space,” she says. In fact, she even relies on an old-school alarm clock. Without tech in the bedroom, Larry says, she doesn’t get caught up in the news or a tweet storm.

6. Stone diffusers, tea, and p.m. poses

Carolena Coley makes Bedtime Tea by Yogi and sets up her Vitruvi stone diffusers with a lavender and sandalwood essential oil blend before bed. “As I am drinking my tea, I practice mindfulness with my senses for grounding; what I can feel, hear, see, smell and taste,” says Coley, Yoga in the Vineyard instructor at Spa Terra at The Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa Valley, California. “Then, I take a few minutes to acknowledge my day with my gratitude practice.” In addition to Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose, she also does a Reclining Bound Angle Pose, and stays in this pose for five minutes, placing one hand on her heart and one hand on her belly. “I connect with my heartbeat and my breath, breathing in and out for a count of eight,” Coley says.

See also Try This Calming Meditation the Next Time You Need a Detox

7. Have a go-to song for bedtime

Remember nursery rhymes? It’s good, too, to have some soothing melodies that signal bedtime when you’re an adult. Kelly Clifton Turner, yoga instructor and Director of Education for YogaSix, often does 5 to 10 minutes of Legs-Up-The-Wall before bed. She also listens to a favorite song. (“Soul Lotion,” by Cadet de’l’espace, and “Cease To Know,” by Eluvium are currently in rotation). “There is an almost Pavlovian response when I hear those songs,” she says.”I settle right down.” If thoughts enter her mind while she’s relaxing (i.e. “What time is my first meeting?”) she thinks to herself: “This isn’t the time to spend on that.”

8. Mediate and make a to-do list

“I set a meditation cushion on my practice mat, close my eyes and face east in my studio and take the time to meditate, reflecting and reviewing my day,” says Karen Newton, a yoga teacher at Sage Yoga Studio, which is the on-site studio of Prairie Guest House in Fishers, Indiana. During her meditation, she plays relaxing music. “After my 30-minute meditation, I will write out my to-do list for the following day,” Newton says. Knowing she has an agenda for the next day brings about calmness.

See also These 5 Yoga Poses Will Make You a Morning Person

9. Count your breath

Some nights, no matter what you try, it’s hard to fall asleep. When that happens, try this technique, courtesy of Jennifer Reis, a teacher at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health.

● Lie down, get comfortable, and close your eyes.

● Become aware of your breathing.

● Slowly count the exhalations backward, starting with 10. Keep your focus solely on the breath.

● If you lose track while counting, begin again with 10.

See also This Energizing Matcha Lime Smoothie Will Help You Wake Up Without the Caffeine Spike

10. Enjoy a sound bath and a book

Love relaxing with music at night? Spotify has a “sound bath” playlist, points out Erin Motz, the co-founder of Bad Yogi, which offers online yoga classes. In addition to listening to the calming sounds, Motz also likes to read before bed, but she makes sure it’s light reading and not too riveting. She also practices 8-4-8 breathing to calm down the central nervous system and prep the body for sleep. Some of her go-to p.m. poses: Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose, Supine Twists, and Pigeon Pose.

So, will you be incorporating any of these techniques into your own sleep routine?



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Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Mercury Retrograde

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Plus, how your yoga practice can help you deal.

No matter your Sun or Moon sign, whether you care about astrology or not, Mercury Retrograde treats everyone equally.

Mercury Retrograde has quickly become one of the most popular—and feared—events in astrology.

You’ve most likely heard one of your friends or co-workers mention it in conversation, blaming it for some technological breakdown. As one of the few astrological phenomena that affects everyone the same way, Mercury Retrograde attracts the attention of everyone from bankers on Wall Street to yoga teachers in Santa Monica. Where the Full Moon, for instance, may bring one person energy while making another feel like they can’t get out of bed, Mercury retrograde does the same number on all of us. No matter your Sun or Moon sign, whether you care about astrology or not, Mercury Retrograde treats everyone equally.

See also What Your Sign Says About Your Yoga + Fitness Personality

When Does Mercury Retrograde Happen?

Although it seems to always be occurring, Mercury Retrogrades take place three times a year for three weeks at a time. In 2019, Mercury will station retrograde from March 5th-March 28th, July 7th-July 31st, and October 13th-Nov 3rd.

The first step in understanding Mercury Retrograde is to know when it is happening. Mark your calendars and know that there are certain things you’ll want to avoid during this period, but there are also opportunities for growth.

What is a Retrograde?

When planets station retrograde, they appear to move backward in our sky. Mercury is not actually backpedaling though; it is just an optical illusion.

Mercury is the fastest moving planet in the Solar System, circling the Sun every 88 days. Retrogrades occur when Mercury passes Earth. Have you ever been on a train and another train passes you? For a moment it seems the faster moving train is going backward until it finally overtakes the slower one. This is the same effect which occurs in our sky when Mercury passes the Earth.

What Does Mercury rule?

Mercury rules our communication, including all of our technology and systems of information exchange. Mercury affects the part of us that absorbs information and transmits that information to others.

When mercury retrogrades, the normal flow of energy is reversed. Ideas and thoughts seem to get stuck within our mind instead of easily pouring outwards. The same occurs with our digital communication: e-mail servers go down, social media platforms show their bugs, and our normal connections fail to work as expected. It can be a frustrating time when information is lost or misconstrued. Communication seems to get stuck, then like a slingshot, it breaks through in an unorganized way, confusing everyone.

See also 5 Poses to Help You Reconnect With Your Partner After a Miscommunication

Tips for Mercury Retrograde

Below are a few simple practices that can help you navigate Mercury Retrograde without falling prey to its havoc or spending three weeks feeling frustrated over lost emails:

Mercury Retrograde Tip No. 1: Collect your words when speaking. Pause before you speak and take a few breaths to center your thoughts. Also, don’t rush yourself if you’re not ready. Silence is better than mixed messages.

Mercury Retrograde Tip No. 2: Give other people space. In conversation, encourage both parties to take a deep breath during moments of confusion or interruptions. Mercury Retrograde can cause our minds to move very fast, giving way to people talking over one another and not listening. Stay centered in yourself and your grounded energy will help everyone else.

Mercury Retrograde Tip No. 3: Check for typos. Mercury Retrograde is infamous for causing typos, grammar errors and hitting “send” before the message is complete. Again, our mind speeds up during this time, jumbling our thoughts and our fingers. Read your message a few times and even ask someone else to edit your important work during this period.

Mercury Retrograde Tip No. 4: Read the details of contracts. It’s technically best not to sign important agreements during Mercury Retrograde. If you must, read every line three times. Know that Mercury Retrograde “breaks” anything that is not perfectly aligned. So even if you do miss something in the terms, chances are it will fall apart naturally, if it isn’t the right fit for you.

Mercury Retrograde Tip No. 5: Confirm plans. This goes for your own plans, like travel itineraries, and your meetings with others. Double check those dinner plans, so you don’t find yourself eating alone. Also, try to have compassion and understanding for when people do miss calls and meetings.

Mercury Retrograde Tip No. 6: Connect with nature, especially when you are experiencing technological breakdowns. Time with Mother Earth will re-center your energy and get you out of your head for a moment. It will also give you, and your technology, time to reboot.

Mercury Retrograde Tip No. 7: Spend time journaling. One of the benefits of Mercury Retrograde is greater access to your thoughts and feelings. During this time, conversations with yourself are easier and answers effortlessly rise to the surface.

Mercury Retrograde Tip No. 8: Be open to redirection. If Mercury Retrograde breaks something in your world, consider it a good thing. If energies are perfectly aligned, Mercury won’t be able to affect them. See any “destruction” as an opportunity to build something stronger and more aligned with your internal energy.

See also How to Work With Your Thoughts to Manifest a Bright Future

Yoga can help you get through mercury retrogrades a little easier. 

How Can Yoga Help You Handle Mercury Retrogrades?

Yoga is very beneficial during Mercury Retrograde. The key to navigating this period with your sanity intact is to stay centered in your body. Your connection with your breath is vital during this period, as it will slow down your mind and clear away any frustration.

Here are a few poses that will help ground and center your energy. Practice them anytime you feel your nerves become rattled or you need to a reset:

1. Mountain Pose

This pose will leave you feeling strong, centered and capable of persevering any storm MercuryRetrograde may throw at you.

2. Goddess Pose

Feel your inner power with this pose, and then open your body to receive strength from the universe to conquer challenges in front of you.

3. Eagle Pose

It’s impossible to think about computer problems, much less anything else, in this pose. Find your focus, and your confidence, while having a bit of fun too.

4. Standing Forward Bend

When you need a moment to relax your nervous system, take a simple forward bend. You can do this anywhere and at any time. It’s also the perfect energetic reset as you wait for your computer to do the same.

5. Child’s Pose

When all else fails, connect your head to the ground and breath. There are times when you need a bit of comfort, and this pose is the perfect remedy for the anxiety Mercury Retrograde can bring.

The most important thing to remember during Mercury Retrograde is that it will pass. The problems this astrological phenomenon can cause are temporary. Stay centered in your breath and look for the silver linings. There are just as many opportunities during this period as there are frustrations. Keep a positive outlook—and when that’s not possible, give yourself space away from technology and others to re-center yourself.



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