How do you start your day?
I set my alarm so I can wake up, make coffee and snuggle with my dog first. When I go outside in the morning I make sure I take a few breathes in gratitude for the beauty of where I live. I try to find at least 30 minutes of quiet before waking my kids but during school days that often does not happen. My oldest goes to school by 7:20 so mornings are mostly a blur trying to get everyone out the door, with the right lunches/books/instruments on time. I dream of getting up and having an hour to meditate and practice yoga but most days my kids are my focus.
What do you do when you are overwhelmed or stressed?
I spend a lot of time exhaling and writing. Breathwork that is exhale-heavy really calms me and reminds me to stay in the present. I also practice the Kirtan Kriya of Kundalini yoga because it helps me to focus my mind and brings immense ease. Sometimes I combine the two when things are really crazy like on turbulent plane flights.
I also rely upon finding time to write. When I am not allowing space for my creative muse, to write, I feel completely off balance. I have learned that blogging, writing and generally getting words out of my head and onto the page is as essential as air for me.
What gives you the feeling of true bliss within?
Snow. Beaches. My family. I once did a restorative yoga training where we had to describe to our partners, whom we had just met, our “happy place.” I described walking on the beach on Cape Cod with my husband and my two children: wind whipping, cold air, sweatshirts and bare feet, seals watching us, collecting shells and driftwood, footprints and peace. That just about describes true bliss to me.
What are you currently reading?
I am a grazer so I am always reading a bunch of books at once. Currently in heavy rotation are Women Who Run With Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, various Yoga Sutras of Patanjali translations for my advanced teacher training and my eight limb // life e-course, anatomy books in preparation for teaching it to yoga teachers in training, Playing Big by Tara Sophia Mohr and I am rereading The Spiral Dance by Starhawk after 20 years.
What are you listening to right now?
Usually top-40 songs because my 9 and 11 year olds love that and they are often the DJs in my car. But when I am by myself I love the cello music of Adam Hurst. I also crave East Forest, The Grateful Dead, Beck, The Rolling Stones, the tune yards and alt-J makes me smile. Furr by Blitzen Trapper makes me cry, in a good way.
When I practice yoga I prefer total silence.
What is your go-to simple recipe?
Homemade salsa. My husband and I lived in Northern California for five years and could find great salsa everywhere. When we moved to Texas (and this holds true here in Connecticut too) we could not find any that did not have weird preservatives so I decided to make my own. Now I do it at least once a week and rarely find any that compares. 1 Jalapeno, 3 tomatoes, 1” cut of yellow onion, full bunch of cilantro leaves, juice of a lime and salt to taste. Blend and yum. If I could eat chips and salsa every day for the rest of my life I would be at peace.
What are some simple things you do for self-care?
I listen to my body. At 45 I know what works and what makes me feel awful. Every once in a while I chose unwisely and my body lets me know. I use Ann Marie Gianni skin care which is all natural and transformed me from being a facial lotion to a facial oil gal. I also am hugely obsessed with Pratima Skin Care’s pitta oils. They smell amazing and really help calm the fire that comes from being super pitta.
I drink water constantly and make sure I eat plenty of good fats because I am primarily vegetarian. So avocados and chickpeas are in my daily lunch salad always.
I need silence because life with kids is really loud. So I give myself time before I teach or at night to find silence. Meditation and breathwork are key components to being a present and balanced parent.
What does nourishment look like to you?
Laughter initiated by my hilarious husband, beaches, finding animal tracks in the snow, yoga, sangha, snuggles from my kids, my dog, observing the moths that visit in the summer, silence and space.
How do you make space for play?
I only allow my kids one after school activity so they have time to be kids and I have time to see them. Many parents over schedule their children that they are not allowed to make mud pies and play capture the flag and draw comics and more.
For me making time for play is a life practice. It is really easy to get bogged down in the minutia of making sure everyone is fed and dressed and bills and showing up on time. As my kids get older these things just get amplified. So I have been really working on increasing the amount of creative projects I am involved in and adding creative approaches to my teaching. Play looks like writing, creating, photography, and making mandalas with my youngest from things we find in our wild yard.
What are some favorite mantras you cling to?
- Breathe deeply.
- Celebrate your tribe.
- Imperfection is perfection.
- I also rely on these mantras during my practice and when things get mucky:
- Om Gum Ganapataye Namaha
- The Gayatri mantra
Please share some words of wisdom you’ve learned as a direct result of soulful and embodied living.
One of my favorite teachers, Sharon Salzberg, taught me about the Brahma Viharas, the Four Immeasurables of Buddhism. They profoundly crafted the way I live and how I have raised my kids. I try to see everyone as equal and I remind my children to do the same. This practice has transformed relationships that were difficult into ones of empathy and compassion.
I treasure my children as mine. Sure they make me crazy, push my buttons and send me straight to meditation for silence, but they are so cherished. That is why they are never pictured on my blog, my social media sites and I never say their names in those places either. They might be on the edge of being too old to be called “The Elves,” but their magic keeps me referring to them that way in all public sharings.
Laughter is the key and I am so thankful to have hilarious children, an unintentionally funny dog, friends that keep me in hysterical tears and to be married to the funniest person on earth. I infuse my yoga classes with humor every day because life is too short not to be laughing.
Laughing keeps you young and alive.
Oh, and fresh salsa and chips can cure any bad mood.
About Nancy Alder
YOGI + MOTHER
Nancy Alder is a mom to elves, a yoga teacher and writer in Connecticut. She is a New York editor for Mantra Magazine and writes about the alchemy of yoga, mysticism and motherhood at her site Flying Yogini. She is co-creatrix of the eight limb // life a course in finding your yoga off the mat and everywhere. When not teaching or writing about yoga she explores the enchanted woods with her elves and counts the days until the next snowfall. Connect with Nancy: Flying Yogini | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram