Feeling bloated from pie and difficult holiday season emotions? Resident fitness witch Russ Marshalek shows you how to burn calories AND bad feelings by making your workout a forgiveness practice …
For most of us living in post-Woke America, the “saveable” facet of the holiday season is the food—and idea of togetherness at any cost, through gritted teeth, regardless of how racist Grandpa is.
And what you “indulged in,” this can also be a time to practice the art of forgiveness.
“Why should I let that asshole off the hook by forgiving and forgetting?” you might ask (especially if you’re a witch with a penchant for revenge).
Well, true forgiveness isn’t the same thing as forgetting or shitty faux-happiness. Instead, it’s the act of acknowledging what’s happened, and actively choosing to allow past grievances to be fuel for your personal power.
You’ll be surprised at how damn good it feels—so good, you may even be able to deal with good ol’ racist Grandpa without biting your own hand off.
Turning bullshit into power: that’s magic.
But it also takes practice and rock solid awareness. Try these 5 fitness practices to summon the core strength and mental fortitude you need …
1// Walk it Off When you can’t stomach any more negativity and are ready let go and let Goddess, take a walk and hug a tree. Seriously.
As witches, the healing power of nature is a truth we hold to be self-evident, but I feel like it bears repeating til the cows come home.
Feel your negative energy leaving you and imagine the tree breathing a deep green or white energy into you in its place. If you want to add more to this—a run, sprint, etc, or incorporate this into an existing outdoor workout—feel free. But the important and non-negotiable part is to hug a tree. Definitely do a quick but sincere offering to the local spirits as a thank you after.
2// Sit with Forgiveness, aka “Let’s take a time out” Ok, so Grandpa/Uncle/whathaveyou was offensive, admitted to voting for Trump, and basically stands in total opposition to you, your beliefs, and your existence.
The best way to let that shit go? The incredibly challenging practice known as active meditation. This guided meditation from The Mindfulness Movement is an excellent starting point until you’re able to guide yourself.
3// Breathe Into Self-Forgiveness “Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck,” you say to yourself, “I can not fucking believe I did that.” Whatever THAT is, I can assure you that you are dwelling on it way more than anyone else. And even if that’s not the case: so what?
Use this planking exercise to embody the sensation of “letting go,” get over it/yourself, and be grateful for the experiences that have brought you here, even the sucky ones.
While holding a plank, suck your stomach all the way in and tighten your stomach muscles. Breathe normally, ideally through your nose. Hold this position for one minute, and then relax your stomach slowly as your lower down to the ground from plank position. Try raising the length of the exercise by 30 seconds every week to keep pushing yourself.
4// Knock This One Out Feeling overwhelmed by all of the internalized crap you’ve been bottling up?
Try this drill for starters. Imagine the air in front of you filled with the charged emotions that have made you feel bad, kept you from moving forward, and locked your heart in a dark place. Then punch it out, imagining the air in front of you purifying into a bright white light.
5// Reps for Retribution Ok, I’d feel remiss if I didn’t include a post-Thanksgiving “Bye, Pie” type workout in here, so this is that one. Sure, you can meditate on the meaning of self-love or whatever, but mainly this is here to make you sweat.
Lost both your mystical practice and your fitness routine in a sea of BBQs and long-weekends away? In the inaugural installment of his Fitness Witch column, Russ Marshalek shares 4 on-the-go magic workouts for fall, that will fast track you back towards body alchemy.
:: A Life on the Road: Taco Bell & Alchemy :: After having steeped myself in my practice to cope with a remarkably terrible 2016, full of betrayals and trauma, magic had become literally just one more thing to cross off on a daily list of to-dos. Not coincidentally, I’d also had a falling off in my personal fitness practice.
As I embarked on a two-week tour this summer with my band, a place both wonderful and strange, I realized I’d come to an impasse in my personal practice as a self-trained fitness witch.
As we set out, I had fully resigned myself to embracing a traditional “dude on the road with his band” approach to physical and spiritual wellness: Taco Bell, drinking heavily, occasional substance consumption, Applebees, gas station fountain drinks, sleeping in every morning until the last possible second.
At the last minute, I threw a kettlebell and a shitty yoga mat in the trunk as an attempt to appease my own ever-dwindling sense of self-care. This worked out fairly well for me for a few days, and I blocked out the existence of my body while subsisting solely on bottles of Chardonnay and vegan-friendly trash food (and some pretty trashy non-vegan, food too).
Then, one morning I woke up sobbing and in that hilarious and terrifying way people discuss Ayahuasca trips, I had a 6-hour chat with myself in the back seat of the car and came to a few fundamental truths:
That I simply wasn’t drinking enough water. That performing every night both deserved and required a spiritual and physical groundedness and presence that I had been outright ignoring. And that I was a fucking lucky duck; I had the opportunity to travel for work and get paid for creating art, every night, with two of my best friends.
In short, I owed it to everyone involved, myself included, to actually show up for it.
From that day forward, I was never without a bottle of water, I started performing simple offerings to local spirits in each town we visited, and I developed a simple on-the-road exercise routine coupled with daily rituals.
Within two days of kicking my own ass into realizing that my body was unwell because my spirit was unwell, and vice versa, I was happier, more energized, and the shows that ended the tour were the best we’d ever done.
It took me being hundreds of miles away from home for me to be reminded that the true meaning of “self-care” isn’t “tuck inside a brownie and a blanket” but rather “make sure you’re as well as you can be in body and spirit.” And the true meaning of “giving a good performance” is basically the same.
Whether you’re literally on-the-go, or just feeling far from home, here are 4 magic workouts for fall to up your mystical body mojo …
1/ Get Out Regardless of where you are and what the situation is, there’s comfort and solace to be found in exploring local nature. It’s where we came from, and it’s where we are going.
Fitness: Get up as early as makes sense, lace up your sneakers, find a park or path, and go for a 20 minute jog or brisk walk. Recognize and acknowledge the foliage, the rocks, the ways in which nature finds a way.
Magic: On your journey into nature, find a patch of green that’s particularly appealing to you, and make an offering to local spirits. Alternate between drinking water from your water bottle, ideally filled with water from a local source, and pouring it on the ground as you recite the following:
Spirits of this place in which I dwell/Please accept this offering/May it multiply to the 10 directions and take the form that is most pleasing to you/Take your fill and maintain peace between me and thee/So shall it be *Drafted by Vanessa Irena and inspired by the writings of Jason Miller
Feel at peace in your surroundings.
Music: a place both wonderful and strange, “W*tch”
2// Peace In Discomfort The assimilation/accommodation process is an incredibly valuable and powerful one when in any type of new environment, and particularly so when you’re away from your literal home or just out of your comfort zone. Learn how to be at peace with the discomfort of the unfamiliar.
Fitness: This is a modified version of a routine I developed myself for use on the road, and requires nothing more than a yoga mat and a kettle bell.
Experiment with using just a little more weight than you’re comfortable with (safely of course). If you don’t have a kettle bell, find a heavy thing–other free weights/hand weights, phone books, flanks of meat, a cat. If you don’t have a yoga mat, just make sure the surface you’re on is soft enough to not destroy your knees and tailbone. Grass is a wonderful substitute.
20 kettle bell squats/20 kettle bell swings/20 Russian twists/Plank for 30 seconds/Repeat 3x. **If this is too easy and you want to really shake yourself up, feel free to add more reps or sets. I do 5 sets of 30, with a 90 second plank in each.
Magic: A simple mind-clearing ritual to help achieve calmness and clarity. It’s best to perform this at an open window or outside. Light a yellow candle, face towards the open window, close your eyes, and recite:
I call upon the power of Air/To clear the mind of confusion/To focus my thinking/And blow away the clutter/That keeps me from making good choices/Blow in the winds of clarity/And help me to think rationally and clearly/So Mote It Be *Adapted from Witches of the Craft
Imagine any internal strife quieting. Take three slow, deep breaths. Open your eyes. Leave the yellow candle burning as long as possible.
3// Mother Night We owe a debt of gratitude to the Moon and as such, it’s only fitting that we get outside and both observe and pay tribute to her.
Fitness:Under the cover of night, find a space that’s safe, that’s just yours, and take your clothes off. The freeing feeling of being naked, at night, and sweating, is an unbelievable, freeing high like no other. Do any routine that feels good and challenging to you. If you’re stumped, repeat the routine from #1, noticing how different your body feels.
Magic: Ideally, you’d be performing this simple blessing honoring the Moon after having just completed the workout above, and would still be nude. Sit crosslegged, with your palms resting on your knees facing up, in view of the Moon. Take a moment to ponder it in whatever form it’s presenting on this night. Unlike most rituals, don’t close your eyes–continue staring at the Moon, and allow its magic to dance in your mind. Repeat the following:
Mother Moon/I am restored by you/I am divinely protected by you/Help me feel your strength/Help me feel your power
4// Sleep Well, Beast When in unfamiliar or uncomfortable territory, our inner life can turn to a raging beast that causes us to sacrifice our own sense of well-being. For many, myself included, the first thing that that gets thrown out the window is a good night’s sleep. When I don’t sleep well, I have maybe about a day’s reserve of top-level adult functionality before I begin to get angry, withdrawn, and paranoid. In those situations, sleep is quite literally the only cure.
Fitness: There’s literally nothing like bedtime yoga to help with sleep. This Popsugar routine helped me find a good night’s sleep on the road.
Magic: Sit crosslegged in a quiet, dark, cool spot. Close your eyes. Feel your breathing as you breathe deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth. Become aware of your breath and your body.
Inhale through the nose for a count of six/Hold for 3 seconds/Exhale through the nose for a count of six/Hold again for 3 seconds/Repeat this series four more times.
Imagine your body as a slowly glowing, calming blue light, originating at your heart and slowly spreading to the rest of your body. Feel gratitude for yourself, your body, and your accomplishments of the day.
Fitness becomes truly powerful when we also get our spiritual sweat on. Former NFL cheerleader turned conscious trainer Kayla Vernaglia shares her top tricks for how to have a magic workout …
Let’s get real. It seems like everywhere we look these days there’s an ad to get “beach body” ready or “slim down for summer.” It’s no wonder we’re all running for our tarot decks and tubs of vegan matcha ice cream …
There certainly isn’t anything wrong with honoring your bod, taking a sexy ass photo, and flaunting what your momma gave ya! But beyond the physical vessel fitness is a FEELING, and that’s where the magic lies and the change happens. When meeting our physical wellness goals is challenging, it’s often because there’s a mental, spiritual, or emotional weight behind it.
Which might sound like some heavy sh*t if it’s hard enough to find time to go for a run or get your down dog on.
Below are some of my pro tips for getting your spiritually conscious sweat on, and bringing an extra layer to your magic workout …
:: 1/CREATE A WORKOUT ALTAR :: Clear the space and really set the intention! This is especially great for in-home workouts. If you’re using a mat, find sacred items that hold meaning to you and place them at the head or foot. Perhaps you line the mat with spell-infused candles or a freshly pulled tarot spread. Maybe you incorporate the four elements in some way.
Don’t have a mat to create the traditional vibe? Alternatives could include anything from practicing on a patch of grass or dirt in your backyard that calls to you, using your own body as a moving altar (with your outfit choices, for example), or mapping a route on your walk/run, starting North, and then hitting the other three magical directions.
You can make it as non-traditional or traditional as you’d like—it’s your space to connect to. Work with what you’ve got and if the intention is pure, you”ll always be able to harness the magic.
:: 2/PRACTICE MIND CONTROL :: The mind is powerful AF. Truly, every choice we make, from the foods we eat to the words we say, start in the mind. If you are mid sweat and can’t stop thinking about how much you hate your thighs, well they’re probably not gonna respond with loving you back, sister. Flip the script and write a little love note to those puppies: “I love and appreciate my thighs for holding me up and keeping me strong.” Ah, doesn’t that just feel better?
:: 3/LOVE UP ON YOURSELF :: Stay in your own lane and let go of comparisons. Whether you’re an avid fitness goer or a complete novice, you are right where you should be in your journey. Focus on what you CAN do, not what you can’t. Be kind to yourself, and give yourself some love for showing up and granting your soul the beautiful opportunity to move energy and connect to the core.
Words count for sure, but there are so many other magical ways to tell yourself yor’re worthy. Perhaps you put on your sauciest pair of skivvies and walk around all day like you’re carrying a sexy little secret, or wear sensual fabrics and colors that make you feel desirable. When was the last time you sent yourself flowers? Do it up and love yourself up cause you deserve it baby!
:: 4/CHECK IN WITH YOUR “EARTH SUIT”:: We are different day to day, moment to moment—what might feel okay for you now might be different later. Have you ever had those days where you just feel sluggish or sad? Or maybe you feel really jazzed and inspired? Listen to those feelings and follow suit, literally. If something does not feel accessible for you, then modify or take that sacred pause. Modifying does not mean you’re doing less than, it means you’re honoring your body.
:: 5/GET DIRTY :: Get outside and do your workout barefoot! There is something incredibly magical about placing your feet into the earth and really grounding into her energy. Whether it’s by the ocean, in a garden, or beyond, taking our sweat sesh outside is a wonderful way to remind us that we are connected to something greater. With that sense of security, it may just allow you to reach new sweat levels you never dreamed possible.
:: 6/SWEAT WITH THE MOON :: Allow your workouts to follow the moon cycle. If the moon is waning, perhaps you go for a long run to help sweat out the toxins and release. If it’s waxing, you might work on strength building exercises such as lifting free weights to help connect to the idea of adding power to your life. If it’s summer and your workout lands around a Strawberry Full Moon, you may focus more on pelvic floor exercises for sexual liberation. Perhaps, it’s closer to the colder months, such as a Snow Moon, and you shift your focus to gentle stretching to enhance relaxation and yoke mind with body.
:: 7/BREAK OUT THE TUTU :: Like for real … HAVE FUN! Working out doesn’t have to be a horrible experience. It might even be *GASP* enjoyable! If someone farts in yoga class, we’re all still gonna make it people. As adults, sometimes it’s like we need permission to play. Add the element of fun whenever you can—maybe mid gym sesh you pretend the floor is lava, or wear a tutu to yoga class. Get creative and release that little kid who just wants to experience the world through light and laughter.
And always remember: you are a strong ass warrior queen. A Wonder Woman. Next time you lace up your sneakers or slip into your leotard (do people still wear those—please say yes!), harness the power of thought, try a few magic tricks, and allow self-love to transform you from the inside out. Now go get ’em (cue Rocky theme music)!
Kayla Vernaglia has always allowed her love of music, fashion, performance, and fun to infiltrate her active lifestyle. She is a former team captain and NFL cheerleader for The New England Patriots. In 2010, she teamed up with her sister to create The Mind Body Barre Method® – a multi-level workout emphasizing body awareness, functional fitness, and spiritual connection. Her mentorshipprogram lovingly displays her passion for helping people embrace their inner wild, connect to their core, and push past societal bullshit to uncover their own deep sacred truths. She currently resides in Boston with her 10lb fur baby, Lucy.
Wanna get jacked up on magic? Bess Matassa explores workout as ritual with fitness witches Shanda Woods and Russ Marshalek of New Jack Witch…
“The working of the human body is in and of itself a magical process”—New Jack Witch
Inside of a dimly-lit warehouse on the Greenpoint waterfront, New Jack Witch is making sweaty magic. Musicians. Witches. Fitness Instructors. This is where Russ Marshalek, an excitable, feline moon prince, and rooted revolutionary Shanda Woods, craft seamless, full-body enchantment—that also gets you ripped.
What exactly is their signature “Fitcraft” session? As I strip down and start to move to a soundtrack of goth rock, witch house, and Twin Peaks instrumentals, it seems deceptively simple. Combining yoga and cardio, it’s a minimalistic workout that thrives on repetition.
But as we continue through our reps, the energy begins to shift. “You’ve got your own back,” Russ repeats. “You’re fucking alive,” commands Shanda. I begin to experience an invigorating collision between light and dark, and a deep sense that feeling good and strong in my body can coexist with the widest, rawest range of emotion.
Post session, I sat down with the fitness witches to talk rockstars, ritual, and a workout that’s both wonderful and strange.
TN: How did you each come to your fitness practice? And when did it merge with witchcraft?
Russ: The torture and torment of being the “fat kid” really fucked with me, and was the beginning of a lifelong flirtation with an eating disorder. To quiet my anxiety, and strike the balance between my deep-fried youth and my anorexic high school years, I started exercising. Combine that with a deep disdain for the patriarchy, a seed first sown through Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, and you have the foundation.
When I moved to New York 7 years ago, I had a really intense period of unemployment that found me focusing on both witchcraft and fitness for self stability. And the more I worked on both, the more the two became vital facets of my everyday that I can’t really separate.
Shanda: My witchcraft and fitness practice have been intertwined for as long as I can remember. I’m a member of the Chickasaw Native American Tribe, and other parts of my lineage are from Ireland, so my blood is steeped in the craft. And I have always been physical—playing competitive sports since elementary school and practicing yoga since high school.
I also loved playing nontraditional “yoga” music in my classes, and got hooked on the energy of a room full of people working to change themselves. So I’ve forged my own style that blends my personal history with lessons from all of my great mentors.
TN: Both of you mention a dissatisfaction with existing fitness culture that led you to your current practice. What was lacking for you?
Russ: The “new year, new you” concept sold by gyms everywhere actually removes the agency and ability of the individual, and places “fitness” as some unattainable goal. Self-care and working out should simply be present in everyday life. You don’t need a “new you,” you just need to actualize your intentions. You’re perfect and you’re strong and you’re powerful. That’s what magic is about for me, too.
Shanda: Turning the art of helping and healing people into a commodity or ego-boosting strategy is what I really cringe at in the industry. Not to say you shouldn’t make money as a fitness professional, or that you can’t become well known, but those should be additional outcomes of helping people, not the goals.
I also believe that a lack of authenticity inspires the perpetuation of stereotypes, which leads to less variety for people who may not subscribe to the mainstream ideals of what “fitness” is. This is where we come in—we provide an honest version of ourselves, so others that are not seeking mainstream content or delivery can find a place to belong.
TN: Tell me about some of your early icons and inspirations in both worlds. Who are the “patron saints” of New Jack Witch? Who do you see as your audience?
Russ: For me, this traverses boundaries. It’s Janet Jackson in Rhythm Nation—force, grace, power, intention. Gordon White of Rune Soup fame is another, for his combo of magic and political theory with pop culture observation. Grant Morrison. Tori Amos is our Ultimate Mother Witch. Michael Macneal of MonsterCycle is the fitness person who has inspired me the most. And my wife, Vanessa Irena (the third facet of New Jack Witch), inspires me daily to be a better person and a better witch.
But our patron saints are all those witches getting their fingers dirty, planting and growing and renewing and sweating and fucking, every day. I think our audience is everyone who wants to exist outside the currently established systems. Those for whom magic and fitness are both methods of creation and self-improvement, or those who want to align to that frame of mind and learn how.
Shanda: My mom and her best friend of 40+ years (who recently passed away, but is still here to guide me from the other side) are huge influences on my connection to the craft. As far as athletes, I’ve always loved the Williams sisters and any athletes or yogis that are rebellious and caring, sharp but kind. And patrons who speak to me through NJW are the Goddesses Isis and Diana.
TN: People often discuss the “mind/body” connection, but what’s the relationship between making magic and working out?
Russ: Magic uses the body and mind, as does exercise, and both require centering, intention, and the synching of the two. Think of breathing. Really. Your mind has your body do it subconsciously. It’s a brilliant trick when you think about it! When you’re in tune, both magic and exercise are like that—the two moving as one.
Shanda: Magic is learning how to control and manipulate frequencies, elements, and energy. Fitness is learning how to control your personal frequencies, energy, and breath. To me, they both address the strength and ability of the individual to transcend the artificial disconnect we’ve been conditioned to believe in—melting and coalescing mind, heart, spirit, body, and the physical external world, in order to manifest a desired outcome or reality.
TN: You’re both musicians also. How does your music-making feed into your witchcraft and your fitness practice?
Russ: Music is ritual, fitness is ritual. It’s about creating a spell, setting an intention, and eventually enacting a change, be it large or small. In our music and our workouts, ultimately it’s about creating a spell to get from point a to point b, to reach the desired intention and response.
Shanda: Just like magic and fitness, music is the art of controlling or manipulating frequencies, energy, and emotions in order to produce a visceral emotional connection or shift in consciousness. They are all the same thing, just in different forms!
TN: You mention wanting to “rebrand” the notion of the “rockstar.” What do you mean by that?
Russ:The concept of the rockstar has meant egotistical, out of touch, slobby, etc. Yes, we drink, and we have fun, and there’s a certain glamor to the showmanship of the music industry, but we’re also engaging with our bodies daily to keep them strong and healthy. It makes us better performers, humans, and witches when the main tool we have (our body) is sharp.
Shanda: We are trying to show people that caring for yourself and finding your power is one of the biggest things you can do for yourself and the world. There is an archetype of the rockstar that doesn’t cherish this internal divinity. It’s an outmoded archetype of self-abuse, unnecessary decadence, and an egocentric notion that’s not based on service, which is really what all musicians and teachers offer through art and knowledge.
While indulgence or the use of substances isn’t always a bad thing (witchcract is often connected to entering a trancelike state either through meditation or substances, after all), indulgence to an excessive degree is counterproductive to lifting the spirit.
TN: Some people think of goth culture and music as dark or cynical. What myths would you like to dispel about both witchcraft and about the music you use during your sessions?
Russ:Well, first off, there isn’t any separation between “darkness and light.” And once you start saying things like “I don’t fuck with that dark shit,” well, you’re already off to a highly misguided start. Both goth and witchcraft celebrate the lightness in the dark and the darkness in the light. Playing Godflesh’s “Streetcleaner” in a fitness class puts a huge smile on students’ faces.
Shanda: I believe that there’s a clarity that comes from practicing ritual or fitness, or creating music, when you approach them through a lens of innocent excitement. I believe everything should be viewed with an open heart. Vulnerability allows for the truth to filter through easier than upholding a wall of judgment. When you break down the walls, nothing but truth is left, and that’s where real growth and change can occur.
TN: What are your personal definitions of a witch? A fitness instructor? A musician?
Russ:A conjurer. A creator. A fighter. The definitions for all have been too rigid for far too long.
Shanda: Wavelength manipulators.
TN: How do you want people to walk away from a Fitcraft session feeling?
Russ:To steal a phrase from President Bartlet: Ready for “what’s next.”
Shanda:Empowerment, which is the knowledge of and faith in their own beauty and strength, backed by an infinite sense of self-love.
Learn more about New Jack Witch here, and check out their upcoming Goth Cycle + Yoga Class on Saturday, February 25 2017 at The Monster Cycle Limelight: 47 West 20th Street, New York, NY, 10011
Imagine if Mercury retrograde was actually here to help? Here are 5 ways to make Mercury retrograde work for you.
Mercury retrograde gets a lot of bad press. In fact it’s kind of become like the “gluten” of the Cosmic calendar—we’ve been taught we’re all allergic and that the symptoms, as my friend Michael puts it, are basically a total “cluster flux.”
But what if Mercury retrograde was actually here to help?
I mean, how often to do you get things perfect first time around? How many people do you have “unfinished business” with? And how many situations have you pretty much given up on, assuming they’ll never get resolved?
Instead of counting down the days to the messenger planet’s next retro phase in a state of alternating panic and dread—how about you make Mercury retrograde work for you, and use it to shine a light on the areas of my life that are due for a do-over.
Okay, maybe it’s not the best idea to go hunting down the ex who totally sapped you of your self-esteem and left you feeling like an empty shell—some things definitely are best left in the past. The trick is to trust that anything it’s in your best interest to revisit will present itself to you.
As the brilliant Astro Twins always put it; “Think of the prefix “re-” as a guide for a smoother Mercury retrograde: rethink, redecorate, revise, research, reunite…and so on.”
Read on for five ways to take their advice and make Mercury retrograde work for you…
Revise a passion project Got a blog idea, or half-finished novel sitting in a folder on your overcrowded desktop? Now’s the time to dust that puppy off and make the necessary tweaks to fine-tune your vision. Just hold off on launching your project until the retro phase has passed.
Revisit a favorite workout If you’re stuck in a workout rut (THIS spin class because it’s convenient, that particular run on autopilot) and feeling unmotivated as a result, cast your mind back to the last time you felt really inspired by your exercise regime. Revisiting a favorite instructor or YouTube workout could re-inspire you to get your sweat on.
Reconnect with the people you love Life gets busy, and it’s oh-so-easy for weeks (hell, months) to go by without so much as a text exchange with the people you actually hold most dear. Take the Mercury retro phase as your cue to write those email and make those calls. Your heart will be so happy you made the effort.
Realize you can’t just erase your past That niggling health issue you kinda just put a “band-aid” on hoping it would clear up by itself? That friendship you let fall by the wayside rather than have the “honest talk” you need to clear the air? The emotional trauma you stuffed in the closet, but that’s haunting your dreams at night? Now is the time to do the deeper work to address these once and for all, and emerge from the Mercury retro phase feeling lighter and god-to-go.
Revamp your actual closet No shopping (and especially not online, as Mercury retro will probably mean techno fails and “RE”funds), but rather a re-evaluation of the contents of your closet. Use this post on the art of the psychic closet clear out for some tips, and once you’ve got rid of what’s not working you’ll be able to see what’s missing and THEN hit the stores to re-stock.
So there you have it—five ways to make Mercury retrograde work for you, and come out the other side a shinier, happier person to boot!
Was this article useful? Moon Club is a new monthly mentoring program from The Numinous and Alexandra Roxo that combines astrology with real time coaching on love, sex, work, wellness, and spiritual activism. Read more and sign-up here.
Taryn Toomey has built a cult following for her Shamanic-inspired workout, the class. She explains how it’s all been part of her own healing journey. Video and portrait: Jennifer Medina
You have to have the courage to let it all go.
I have had a very long, sticky road these past few years. Hell, let’s call it like it is – the past 36 years. From the outside it could look all rosy but, like our lives on social media, there’s always something deeper, truer.
I grew up in a very complicated family (didn’t we all in some way?) but as a child, I absorbed a lot of those unsupportive patterns and continued to think: “it always has to be this way.” I called myself names, believed them, hated myself, was embarrassed to live in my body. I didn’t trust those around me; I questioned everything; it seemed like everyone was “out to get me.”
I didn’t want it to feel that way, but I was so fearful of letting it go, because it was what I knew.
These past few years have been about breaking that cycle. For my children, for the forward of my family, and, once and for all, for me. I decided that the history I lived doesn’t need to be part of the future I continue to create. It happened. Let’s move on. Right? I wish! It wasn’t that EASY.
Over the years I worked with psychologists, analysts, plant medicines, shamans, Eastern doctors, invested in good old fashioned friendships and more. But, in the end, I realized I didn’t need to talk about it anymore; I had TO MOVE IT. But I also had to keep it simple and do it BEAT BY BEAT.
And so came ‘the class.’ I knew I would need fire, heart and soul to get this story up and out of my DNA. I needed shaking, contraction, sound, release,intention, forgiveness and stillness. And music, to help me take it beat by beat, breath by breath.
In the world of fitness I have heard way too many things pushed into people’s psyches that are FEAR based, stemming from the “guru’s” own fears, ego, and the need to make others live in fear with them.
“Don’t do THIS it will bulk you, don’t do THAT you’ll ruin your body!”
But we aren’t all made the same, and these “theories” don’t apply to us as a whole.
Move how you NEED TO. Move so you can FEEL GOOD. Move to CREATE NEW SPACE for YOU TO LIVE IN. Move to wake up, be alive, present, engaged, and to come UNSTUCK from the past. Move to get out of the EGO – the one that makes you stare at yourself and size up every last centimeter of your body, gripping the mirror with your eyes, criticizing, loving and over dramatizing the things that don’t matter.
At the end of the day, if you don’t work on the parts of you that no one can see, you can change the shape of your body all you want, but living inside of it wont be pretty. It’s time to close your eyes and go INSIDE. The body you’re looking for is not out there. IT’S IN YOU.
Set’s move, people. Not in the “right” way, not in the “pretty” way, but in the way that you need to release the fear. Let’s gather the courage to let it all go. Moving this way is what’s saved my life, the future lives of my children, their children, and hopefully a whole lot of others.
When you move, summon the courage to let it all go. And take it beat, by beat, by beat…
Follow the link to book and experience the class with Taryn Toomey for yourself.
With the Sun conjunct Mercury retrograde in Gemini, the stage is set to review the conversations you have with yourself and the world this month. Ash Baker shares a simple yoga sequence for Gemini to aid the process…Images: Hanne Gaby Odiele by Serge Leblon for Mixte Paris (S/S 2012)
GEMINI: May 21 to June 21
Ruler: Mercury Element: Air Modality: Mutable Anatomy: Hands, arms, shoulders. lungs & nervous system 3rd sign of the Zodiac
Interesting times ahead as the sun enters Gemini while Mercury is also retrograde (May 18th – June 11th) in the sign he rules, Gemini! That’s a high quota of twin energy, and communication will be a key theme for the next month.
And all of this Mercurial energy vibing in the air, this relates both to the dialogue we keep with others as well as ourselves. So use the retrograde to your advantage. RE-view, RE-establish, and RE-connect with areas of yourself and your life that could benefit from a slowed-down perspective.
This retrograde period is the Universe’s way of forcing us (granted in very frustrating retrograde ways sometimes!) to take a pause and ponder all that’s occurring around us, and everything that brought us to this point in our journey.
Below are some yoga tools to connect with your breath, strengthen your body and create the space to spend time within. Give yourself the gift of perspective through grace. And remember, we’re all in this together!
:: Sun Salute :: Come to stand at the front of your mat. Feel your feet grounding downward by pressing your big toe mound, little toe mound and heel firmly against the floor. Scoop your tailbone slightly, giving the abdominals a slight inward moving squeeze. Draw your shoulders back, allowing your collarbones to widen. Lengthen your neck by raising the crown of your head up towards the sky. Arms are softly at your sides with slightly open palms. Now you are in Tadasana or Standing Mountain Pose.
Take a deep inhale inflating the entire belly while simultaneously reaching the arms out and up, bringing the palms to kiss. Exhale and begin to fold forward with your arms following out to your sides like wings. Remember to create a hinge at your hips when you fold and keep a slight bend in your knees. Keep your back nice and flat until you reach your edge in the stretch. Then you can gently round the spine as you surrender to the fold. Inhaling, come up halfway, placing the fingertips on the floor or the palms to the shins. Exhale, and fold down again.
As you inhale again, place your hands on the floor and step or jump back into Plank Pose. Keep the tailbone tucked, engage your abdominal muscles. Exhaling, either bring the knees to the floor or keep legs lifted while slowly lowering down through Chaturanga push up position. Come all the way to the floor.
Inhaling, with hands next to your shoulders, press up into Cobra or Upward Facing Dog. Exhaling, bend the knees and press back and up into Downward Facing Dog. Root down through all ten fingers especially the thumbs. Press your hips up towards the sky and ground your feet into the floor – energetically at least if the heels don’t reach.
Stay for three rounds of full belly breath. On the fourth inhale, raise onto your tiptoes and on the exhale bend your knees and either step or jump your feet to meet your hands at the front of your mat. Inhale and come into the flat back position, hands on your chins or touching the floor. Exhale and fold over your legs. Inhale and stand up straight, bringing your hands to kiss above your head as you do, and then to rest in front of your heart in prayer position. Repeat the whole sequence three times.
:: Supine Pigeon :: Come to lie on your back. Bend the knees so both feet are flat on the floor. Take the right foot/ankle and place it just above the left knee and focus on opening the right knee and hip. Now gently draw the left knee towards your chest and interlace your fingers either around the front of the left shin or behind the left thigh. While you press the right foot/ankle into the left leg, keep drawing the left knee towards your chest creating resistance. Keep the shoulders and neck on the floor. Jaw should be soft. Relax and allow the right hip to open up. Hold for up to 1 minute. Switch sides.
:: Viparita Karani with block/bolster :: Come down on your back and bend your knees. Lift your hips up and place a block or bolster under your sacrum for support. Let your arms rest out to your sides with palms facing up or down. Gently begin to extend both legs straight up towards the ceiling. You can have a micro-bend in the knees but keep the legs slightly firm. Let your face and belly soften. Stay here for up to 1 minute.
Monthly Mantra: I go within to begin.
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The coming month is a time for rooting your dreams in reality. Get grounded with this yoga sequence for Taurus, says Ash Baker. Image: Anthony Maule and Carine Roitfeld for Harper’s Bazaar.
Ruler :: Venus Element :: Earth Modality :: Fixed Anatomy :: Throat, neck, vocal cords, tonsils, thyroid, tongue and mouth
2nd sign of the Zodiac
We are now heading into the mid-spring month of the Bull. Think earthly sensuality and grounded, focused qualities. Perfect timing for meditating on what you would like your summer to look like. What can you create in your life with precision right now that will bloom into something magical in a couple of months? Taurean energy is what to embody wherever you need some stability in your life. Our practice this month will help cultivate empowerment through pressing into the earth and opening our hearts.
:: Lions Breath :: Take a deep inhale through your nose, and as you exhale, open your mouth and stick out your tongue. Curl the tip of your tongue towards your chin. You will make a “Haaaa” sound. Give your tongue a good stretch and really push the air out of your throat. Inhale through your nose and repeat. Go through three-five rounds.
Now bring your hands to your heart and think of something you would like to offer to yourself or another person. Yoga can be seen as a moving meditation so what would you like your intention for this session to be?
:: Tabletop spinal extension :: Come to hands and knees. Tuck your tailbone slightly and firm your abdominals. Inhale, reach the right leg out behind you and press through the heel, firing up all the muscles of the leg and giving you more support. Fully exhale.
Then with your next inhale reach the left arm out in front of you. Keep your palm facing inward. Looking down feel the length being creating in your spine as you reach in opposite directions with arm and leg. Release the arm and leg back to the floor. Repeat with the left leg and right arm. Hold for three rounds of breath. Complete two rounds on each side.
:: Low Lunge :: From a standing position step the right leg/foot towards the back of the mat. Drop your right knee down onto the floor, tucking the toes under for more balance. Exhale and bend the front left knee. Make sure the knee is bent directly over the ankle. Tilt the pelvis slightly under and lengthen up through the spine.
Squeeze the inner thighs towards one another to get a little lift and then release slightly and let the pelvis sink down towards the floor allowing some opening in the right hip flexors. Inhale the arms up overhead and reach through the fingers. Hold for three-five rounds of breath. Repeat on the other side.
:: Triangle/Trikonasana with arm circles :: From a standing position, turn to face the left and take a wide stance with your legs. Take your front right foot and point it forward and take the back left foot and point it to a 45-degree angle. You can have heel to heel alignment or wider depending on your hips and what makes you feel stable.
Reach your right arm out over that front leg and begin to reach as far forward as you can. Once you reach your edge, take the same hand to your shin, foot, a block or the floor. Take the left arm and gently reach it upwards. You can look up towards your hand or, for more stability, down to the floor. Add some flow by sweeping the left arm down towards your hip and back up creating a full circle. Take a few circles and repeat this pose on the other side.
:: Grounding Meditation :: This meditation can be done anywhere you have the ability to place your feet on the ground or any other supported surface. I kid you not, some of my best meditations have been on a public city bus, feet planted on the floor and eyes lightly closed. So just find a space you can sit or even stand for a few minutes and begin to simply feel your breath move around your body, flowing in and out of your nostrils.
Now begin to focus on the feeling of your feet against the ground. Take time to connect with that support. Feel how strong it is and apply those qualities to the areas in your life that need more stability. Stay there breathing, feeling those focused, strong, and stable qualities within yourself. Know that you are always supported. Divinity is designed that way.
Monthly Mantra: I am supported, secure and strong in all my actions.
On a mission to shape up? Forget blood type diets and fitness for your body type – work out what otherworldly realm you’ve incarnated from, and find a sweat session that truly feeds your soul says Madeline Giles.
A few years ago, a psychic told me I am an incarnated mermaid. I had no idea what she was talking about, but I obviously wanted to learn more. Were there more incarnated mermaids – or was I the only one on earth? How come I decided to leave merworld? Was it possible to develop a relationship with the mermaids in current space and time?
I somewhat obsessively Googled these thoughts for weeks, but at the time there wasn’t much information on the Internet about this. A few months later, however, I discovered Doreen Virtue’s book Realms of the Earth Angels, which pretty much changed my life. I learned that the realm we come from shapes our personality traits, physical characteristics, likes and dislikes, career, the people we hang out with and beyond.
To my surprise, I also found out there are multiple realms people come from, including incarnated angels, incarnated elementals, incarnated starpeople, the wise one’s (reincarnated witches, wizards, etc.) and various hybrids of the aforementioned. Needless to say, it seemed I had accidentally discovered my passion – and thus have been studying, writing and teaching about realms ever since.
In the spirit of our collective New Year leaning towards personal transformation, I got to thinking what workout with wings would be most motivating based on the unique magical flavor of each specific realm.
But first, find out what realm you’re from by taking thefree quiz here.
INCARNATED ANGELS Pure-hearted incarnated angels tend to be total givers, and thus need a workout that encourages both self-care and, let’s say it together now, RECEIVING! Cue Qoya, which integrates yoga, dance and sensual movement in one magical session. Thanks to free online classes, over-giving incarnated angels can clear stuck energy by hip swaying through all their troubles, their friends’ troubles, their family’s troubles, their neighbor’s troubles, and yes – even the world’s troubles in the comfort of their own home. Incarnated angels who make Qoya a regular priority will find it much easier to give those in need proof of heaven on earth.
INCARNATED ELEMENTALS (includes incarnated fairies, pixies, brownies, elves, tree spirits, crystals, etc.) Earth-loving elementals are happiest while outdoors. Since getting you to follow the rules is near impossible, you’ll have the most fun making your own plans, which will invariably include lots of fresh air and play. You’d enjoy outdoor sports and regular hikes in the woods – just make sure to bring a recyclable bag so you can pick up trash along the way! Your elemental family will be seriously stoked and might even reward you with a gift or wish. If, however, the weather really isn’t conducive to play outdoors, plan to attend a high-vibe freeform dance class (such as 5 Rhythms or Journey Dance). You’ll definitely meet fellow fairy friends who will be so down to go hug some trees with you after class.
INCARNATED STARPEOPLE Earth life can be awkward for you, sweet starperson, but you’ll feel right at home at a Kundalini yoga class– where otherworldy experiences are not only encouraged, they’re expected. Chanting, chakra cleansing, and meditations that sync you with the planets may sound woo woo to some, but to you it feels peculiarly familiar. After you get the hang of Kundalini kriyas, don’t be surprised if you spontaneously start receiving cosmic messages from your galactic family.
THE WISE ONES (incarnated sorcerers, high priests/priestesses, witches, wizards, etc.) Been there, done that is your mantra, oh wise one. You’ve lived on earth so many times, it seems nothing can surprise you. Though some may mistake your wisdom for cynicism, you are the true wayshowers of our world and thus really don’t want (or need) anyone telling you how to best work your muscles, or live your life for that matter. But in case you’re open to suggestions (hold the eye rolls please), a combination of high-intensity classes like kickboxing balanced with routine walking meditations will keep you connected to your powerful healing energy.
MERMAIDS Darling…isn’t it better down where it’s wetter? Mermaids LOVE water and feel most connected to their true essence while swimming (with wild dolphins), surfing, – or my personal favorite – mermaiding! Many mermaids are quite sensitive to the chemicals in chlorine, so whenever possible, choose natural water sources over swimming in pools. Since you tend to get cold easily, be sure to heat up a sea salt bath post-swim to relax and recharge with the magic of your element.
ATLANTEANS As an Atlantean, you thrive in like-minded communities where conversations about crystals, pyramids and sacred geometry are the norm. You love your tribe and want to work and play together as often as possible, so starting a belly dancing troop or taking a class with synchronized routines will leave you feeling fulfilled. While tightening your tummy and strengthening your spine, you’ll also get connected to the primal healing energy of Atlantis, which is so what the earth needs right now. Get to it!
ALADDINS / GENIES Nomadic Aladdin, you love all things fire. The desert is your playground, sunsets make you melt and super spicy sauce is a must at every meal. In other words, Bikram yoga was pretty much made for you. You might even consider becoming a teacher, so you can squeeze in serendipitous storytelling (one of your realm gifts) during the 20-second savasanas.
SHAPESHIFTERS We know, dear shapeshifter, you’ll have one of everything! Since the thought of doing the same exercise everyday (or every week, for that matter) makes you cringe, you’d fare best by joining a gym that offers a variety of classes. That way you can aerobicize in the pool, lift weights, flow into Vinyasa, chant affirmations at intenSati, and sweat through spin class all in one day if you really wanted to!
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