Category Archives: 365

#365yoga day 280: Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground

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For some strange reason, the owner of this video disabled embedding.  Party pooper.  Eh, well.  Do yourself a favor and head on over here  and watch it for yourself.  But leave Jack alone.  That man belongs to me. As in, he may or may not be chained up in my closet. Don’t judge me.

Yoga Sol has a lot of really groovy things that most other yoga studios don’t have: large glass garage style doors that roll up into the ceiling, a yoga deck, block parties with live music (c’mon!,) and a leaf blower.  Yep, a leaf blower.  We often open up the doors and either have the breeze and the sun come in to the studio or, as I did this morning, we hold class outside on the large wooden yoga deck. Autumn has been ushered in to CoMO, so we also have something else other studios might not have: leaves.  LOADS of leaves.  Leaves on the deck, leaves in the parking lot, and even leaves in the studio itself (hence the leaf blower.)

Last night before my class, I grabbed the leaf blower and cleaned off the deck.  This morning before class, I opened the doors (the outdoor class was a last minute – perfect – decision,) and started sweeping the studio floor.  Students said, “let’s have class outside,” and I’m always game for that, so I got out the leaf blower to clean off the deck.

Have you ever used a leaf blower?  No?  Let me tell you, it goes a little something like this: turn on leaf blower, leaves fly all up into the air and settle other places, aim leaf blower, be amazed at how the leaves are leaving the space, turn around to unplug the leaf blower, find 5 million leaves that have whipped around and settled down behind you in the exact space you just blew clean.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  The deck got fairly clean, but as I went back into the studio to put the leaf blower away, I found that the majority of the leaves had taken refuge on the studio floor.

*bangs head on wall.*

Eventually, I just had to declare it good enough.  Students rolled out their mats, I rolled out mine, and we got started in class.  Sure enough, not 2 minutes into a guided meditation, I saw leaves falling from the sky and settling, not just on the deck, but on my students’ mats.  This triggered that type A demon I have living inside of me, but what could I do?  It’s not like I was going to go over to a mat each and every time a leaf fell on it and blow it off with the leaf blower!  I mean, talk about distraction during Sirsasana!  Impossible.  So, instead of freaking out, I resorted to a little tip my friend Jason taught me awhile ago: Throw it in the Fuck-it Bucket.  What else was there to do?

It brings me all back to this Buddhist (or 12 step, take your pick) concept of Detachment.  Buddhist say that life is Dukkha (dissatisfaction, discomfort, suffering, poop.)  It’s not the Dukkha that causes the problem, it’s the attachment to avoiding  the Dukkha that causes the suffering.  Think about it: bad things are going to happen.  Your feelings are going to get hurt.  You’re going to occasionally be sad / angry / uncertain / uncomfortable / worried / disappointed / treated badly.  Those things, in and of themselves, are harmless to us.  It is our constant attempt to avoid them, to prevent them from happening, from controlling the situation that makes us crazy, in pain, wild-eyed, neurotic, and full of suffering.  Driving yourself crazy to avoid this things that are going to happen (being attached to only having positive experiences and nothing ever going wrong) will only, well, drive yourself crazy!  Wait, see what happens, and then do something.  In other words:

Shit happens, clean it up!  (HA!  The new Brawny campaign slogan!)

I could have gone insane cleaning up those leaves.  I could have driven myself right up to the doorstep of Nurse Ratched herself had I tried to control those leaves.  I could have felt guilt or shame or embarrassment that my students might have been “inconvenienced” by leaves falling on their mat (honestly, who cares about leaves on a mat?) I could have done any or all of those things and lost the moment, lost the purpose, lost the practice.  I could have lost the yoga of the dead leaves on the dirty ground (okay, so the deck isn’t dirty ground, but you get what I’m saying, yes?)  Class ended up being amazing, a wonderful class under the sun.  Class ended, I cleaned up the leaves, and everyone was happy.  Including me.

Leaves will fall on your mat.  How you deal with them is up to you.  I prefer to watch them dance in the breeze.   After all,

every breath that is in your lungs is a tiny little gift to me.

Namaste

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#365yoga Day 279: Back in the Saddle (yet) Again – with puppies!

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Ever teach a class and, as you roll up the mat, you just know it was total crap?  No?  Liar.  I think every teacher has had classes like that.  I know I have.  I had one last week.  I just wasn’t feeling it.  I wasn’t in the moment, I felt like I was just going through the paces, and it just didn’t mesh.  Try as I might to get back in the game, I just couldn’t seem to pull it together as well as I would have liked.  My students were awesome about it, of course, and it’s likely that they didn’t even notice any difference, but I knew.  I knew deep down in my heart that I had fallen off the horse.

If I teach 5x a week at a minimum, how in the world did I fall off the horse?  I am surrounded by yoga books and yoga props and yoga music and yoga clothes and yoga people, this is true, but am I really being present?  I am now, but the truth is that I hadn’t been fully immersed into my yoga as I had been in the past for some time.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I never intentionally “phoned in” a class or a discussion or anything.  It’s something that just sort of happened.  As summer started, I felt I needed to spend more time on self-care and taking it easy.  I cut back my writing and my social media (I missed you, Twitter,) until I was almost invisible, a ghost of my former self.  There is nothing wrong with that, nothing at all, but what happened is that summer passed by and now here we are into Autumn and I realize that I have barely written (either here or in my journal,) and I have not been on Twitter (where I find much information and inspiration) in months and months.

I have good reason, of course.  Not only are summer days best spent at the pool, but our family gained a new member on August 7.  We adopted Audrey, a white Lab / Pyrenees mix.  She had been a stray and was in a strange shape and condition when we got her.  We very quickly learned that the strange shape and condition was due to the 10 puppies she was gestating.  9 days after we accepted her into our home, Audrey gave birth to 9 boys and a girl in our basement.  We have been raising them until they are old enough to find new homes (which they are now – interested?  We still have 6 boys left!) If you have never had this experience, let me tell you that it is the most wonderful, amazing, tender, horrific, time-sucking, ear-splitting, nerve-wracking, belly-laughing, cuteness-overloading, money pit venture likely send someone to The Betty ever.  It’s been an adventure, to say the least.  Just yesterday , our first puppy went to her forever home.  3 more will leave this Sunday, and then the rest will go into foster care.  After 8 weeks, it’s time to get our lives back.

It has been an incredibly rich learning experience.  Not so much about puppies (I may not know much, but I know dogs!) What I have come to realize is that, even though I did need a break from it, a huge part of my life is writing and learning and sharing and connecting with other yogis and yoginis around the globe.  The exchange of information recharges me, keeps me in the now, and reminds me that I have to fill my well and teach from the overflow.  I need to write so that my own ideas have somewhere to go.  I need to read so that my own ideas have companions who will challenge them, agree with them, spark them into reality.  I need my sangha.  I need my cybershala.  I need to slip-slide into Samadhi in my favorite asana of all: Sarahsana.

I am not sorry for my absence, although the residual people pleaser in me wants to apologize for it.  I am not sorry because it taught me how much I have missed it, how much I learn from it, and how much it is a part of my yoga.  I am not promising I’ll write every day or even every week, but I am promising to not forget how important it is and to try to make time for it.  You can help me – comment on posts, tweet me up, remind me that my voice should be heard – that it matters (lie to me, if you have to.

Falling off the horse doesn’t always result in broken bones, crushed egos, or muddy riding boots.  Sometimes falling off the horse is actually tantamount to willing the steeple chase because self-knowledge is the goal.  I’m grateful, I’m here, and I’m back in the saddle (yet) again.

Namaste

Holy granola, she writes!!!

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Hey friends.  How are you? Remember me?  I remember you!

Yep yep yep, I know, I am a bad bad bad blogger.  I haven’t written hardly a single thing in months.  I could tell you all the crazy reasons why I haven’t (by the way, do you realize how much poop 10 unexpected puppies produce over 6 weeks? ,) but I’m not about the excuses.  I’m just about the now.   Let me tell you what’s happening now:

I’m over on Yogadork today talking about #365yoga, being human, and getting up off your asana and starting over.

Ch-ch-check it out!

And I promise, when I have cleaned the puppy poop off of my shoes for the 108,000,000th time, I’ll be back to writing more regularly.  Or maybe I’ll just start writing anyway.  Who knows … there are no limits!

 

xoxo namaste xoxo

 

 

 

 

#365yoga Day 175: Learning (or teaching) to Fly

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Yesterday I wrote about Long Hold and how much I love that class.  I must admit that I really love the way my schedule plays out because the next class I teach after Long Hold is Level 3, my class that is packed full of intense flows, arm balances, and inversions.  It’s so much fun to switch from one to another!

I wanted to do something different today.  I kind of had an idea of who might be in class and I know that a few of them are capable of flying (inversions and arm balances) but they don’t have the faith in themselves to really go for it.  I woke up feeling that today was the day, so I planned a class filled with shoulder openers, extensional energy, lightness in the body, and trust building and, eventually, the wall.

The process was very deliberate – I spent time planning how and why to go about things the way that I did – and it paid off! All of my students today managed to do Pincha Mayurasana (feathered peacock,) Sirsasana (headstand), Sirsasana and then lifted the head off the ground, and Adho Mukha Vrksasana (handstand.)  We used the wall, but they all started to pull away from the wall and fly free for a few seconds.  It was so amazing to see!  Since we were all open and what not, I thought we could give Urdhva Dhanurasana (upward facing bow / wheel / full backbend) a try and practice walking up and down the wall.  Super fun!

I love these kinds of classes, not because I get off on seeing people have that sense of “I DID IT!” Seeing people  face and conquer their fears, realize how strong and powerful they really are, realize that lightness has a role in even the most challenging situations (indeed, probably those are the situation in which lightness has the greatest role,) and have fun doing these things that previously scared the daylights out of them – it just doesn’t get too much better!  It’s like throwing the party of the year!

Things I heard:

I feel incredible!

That was so much fun!

WOW – I can do it!

I feel so free!

 

Now, you tell me, wouldn’t that put a smile on your face?  I’m still grinning like a guilty monkey! 😀

I always say that if you want to change the way the world looks to you, you must change the way you look at the world – usually by going upside down.  Today, I think my students saw the world differently, I *know* they saw themselves differently.  That, my darlings, is what yoga is all about!

Give it a shot – spread your wings and fly!

#365yoga Day 174 – Hold on Loosely: The Importance of Long Hold Yoga

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It’s Thursday which means one thing to me: it’s Long Hold yoga day.  I love Thursdays.

Yoga comes in many forms and I love them all.  I love fast paced flow with the bells and whistles of inversions and arm balances.  I love the slow and gooey level 1 (gentle) classes, restorative practices, and the styles that blend it all up.  What can I say, I’m a yogadork!  I have  a very special place in my heart for Long Hold yoga, however, and you should, too.

The 5th limb of yoga (Ashtanga) is Pratyahara, which essentially means “withdrawal of the senses.”  It means to dive within yourself, to focus inwardly, to disallow distraction or interruption from outside sources. Practicing Pratyahara teaches us to stay in our own bubble of bliss (samadhi,)  and contentment (santosha)  regardless of what is going on in the world around us. Pretty groovy and useful tool to have, eh? Long Hold yoga facilitates the practice of Pratyahara in a number of ways.

Sound

I usually teach it with ambient / chant / trancelike music or no music at all so that the practitioners aren’t distracted by lyrics or driving beats of the more popular music I sometimes use.  I don’t speak as much.  It’s really hard to listen to your inner voice when your teacher is rambling on. On days like today, we might practice with either the big doors open or even practice outside on the deck so that the world comes to us and we are surrounded primarily by the music of the earth and our breath.  Sometimes less is more.

Strength and Surrender

from Yoganonymous.org

There is a misconception that it is easier to hold a single asana for 1 – 2 minutes than it is to flow through 6 asanas in 2 minutes.  Untrue! Even a relatively “simple” posture such as Virabhadrasana 2 can become  a challenge requiring your focus as you approach 2 minutes! It is a journey you take in each and every posture.  The first 30 seconds are easy.  The second 30 seconds start to require focus.  The third 30 seconds require directed breath. The fourth 30 seconds require strength and surrender.  It is the last 30 seconds of each posture in which Pratyahara comes in. Hatha yoga is based on dualities (sun and moon, light and dark, strength and surrender.) You learn how to put strength into the parts of your body (and mind) that are required to hold the posture while surrendering the parts of your body that are not required at that time.  You might hear me say, “You don’t need your jaw to hold this.  Release it.  You don’t need to use your toes for this, soften them.”  Most often, however, you’ll hear me say, “You don’t need your 2 eyes for this.  Close them and find out what your third eye (intuition) is showing you.” You’d be amazed at how wise you are and how many answers to your life’s questions come up when you take the time to listen to yourself. Life is all about things that are hard in some areas and easy in others.  Long Hold yoga gives you practice at recognizing which parts of your life need full attention and  in which parts can simply relax and go with the flow.  Hold on loosely, dontcha know?

Sweat

Yoga is detoxifying.  It brings things up from all parts of your body and mind and many of those things need to be released. If they aren’t, bad things happen.  Imagine a pressure cooker with no vent – KABLAMMO!!  Sometimes things are released from the body through the breath, sometimes things are released from the body through tears, and sometimes things are released from the body through sweat.  Sweat has purifying powers! Holding asanas for extended periods of time bring all your junk up and you sweat it out.  Awesome!  It happens even during simple postures.  Try it: right where you sitting right now, lift your left foot so that your leg is straight out, or lift one arm out directly in front of you parallel with the floor. Hold it there for 2 minutes. NO cheating, 2 full minutes. I’d be willing to bet my tie-dye pants that you started building up some heat, maybe not a sweat, but heat.  Now imagine doing a slow flow of asanas for an hour, holding each for 1 – 2 minutes.  Hot, right?  It’s like taking a shower from the inside out. You leave purified and pleased!

Synchronicity of Mind and Body

There is a very clear and important connection between the mind and body.  This is one of the main concepts of yoga.  Knowing it and believing it, however, doesn’t mean that it always comes easily or instantly.  It takes time for the body to hear and understand what the mind is saying, just as it takes time for the body to send messages to the mind.  Holding postures for long periods give the body and the mind to have a full conversation.  Imagine trying to read a love sonnet using abbreviated text speak.  It would take forever for you to translate what was being said so it makes sense and if you did it out loud, you’d sound like a jumbled fool. Allow yourself the time for your mind and body to say sweet nothings (and sweet everythings) to each other. It will make all the difference.

Self-Awareness and Acceptance

So now that you’re all freaked out thinking that Long Hold is too hard and is not for you, I come in with the true importance of the class: you learn more than ever who you are, what you can do, where your edges are, and how to acknowledge and honor them. Two minutes is a long time!  It is difficult.  It is challenging.  It is hard work.  Here’s the secret, though: no one expects you to hold every asana exactly as you’ve always done it for the entire 2 minutes! Listen to your body and honor what it is saying!  Virabhadrasana 2 is done with arms out parallel to the floor at shoulder height.  It becomes hard for the shoulders to hang in there (and, of course, you do it on both sides, so you’re looking at 4 minutes of elevated arms!) So what do you do?  You find a modification and give yourself permission to take it.  In this case, bring your hands to heart center or to your waist. Holding a lunge?  Drop a knee.  Holding Navasana? Hold on to your knees.  Or how about this: Take Balasana (child’s pose) whenever and for however long as you want!  Spend 2 minutes in child’s pose.  Take a seat and hang out in Siddhasana for a couple of minutes.  Heck, throw a Savasana into the middle of your practice if that’s what your body tells you!  No one knows your body better than you.  I know I certainly don’t.  I alway say, “It’s your practice, not mine, so make it what you want / need it to be.”  Practice listening to yourself in Long Hold (believe me, everyone modifies at some point or another, even me,) and then you’ll be so used to it when it comes time to use that practice in other classes and even, gasp, in life off the mat!

Try it.  Hold on loosely and let it all go.

Join me for Long Hold yoga on Thursdays at 5:45pm at Yoga Sol, 210 St James Street, Columbia, MO. You’ll be so glad you did.

Namaste

#365yoga Day 169: Somebody’s Crying (and Sometimes it’s Me!)

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“It’s so much more than just movement. It’s healing. It’s mental. It’s emotional. It’s spiritual. It’s everything I need, including the tears I’m shedding right now talking to you. Thank you!”

Those were the parting words a student said to me today as she left class. It was my first class back from my vacation and it was one of those strange classes where only one person showed up (it happens!) I wondered if the class was going to bomb. I always say that yoga is a community event, that it takes the energy of everyone in the room to make a great experience.  Usually I mean the energy of a lot of people in the room, but I was reminded today that the energy of 2 people working together can be equally powerful and transformative.

I asked her what she’s specifically like to work on (if there’s only one student, I often tailor the class specifically to them – I mean, why not?) She mentioned something she struggles with (I had noticed that she is tight in this particular area as well,) and for an hour we worked together to find the best variations of asanas for her to utilize until her body opens.  I would demonstrate and explain and then assist her as she found her way. Slow and deliberate, with my hands on her almost constantly, with the use of props, visualization, pranayama, and time, the hour passed quickly and the changes in her were almost immediate.  Every few minutes I asked her if she was feeling “it” differently than before (she’s a talker,) and she would tell me what she was experiencing.

“I feel the energy going right to that spot!”

“I feel more open than I have in years!”

“Oh, now I see the point in keeping my legs bent a little here!”

“You mean I’m not broken?  It’s okay that I’m like this?”

I suggested she take Savasana in  Viparita Karani (legs up the wall) with her hips supported with 2 blankets.  I lay a rolled mat upon her feet for a little weight and balance.  She closed her eyes and I watched her melt away for 6 minutes.  I brought her out very slowly and she started crying the minute she said, “Namaste.”  I’m used to crying in Savasana, but crying after is not something that happens often.

She spoke to me and I felt that she was telling my story.  I don’t know how many times I have broken down in my car after class (that I have taught or that I have taken!) There is something powerful, magical, undeniably holy that happens when the energy of people get together on the mat, sharing breath and belief, love and light, strength and soul. It is the beautiful, tasty, nutritional gumbo that I was looking for when I first discovered yoga all those years ago and it has never let me down.  It’s what I hoped someday to be able to share with others as a teacher.

That day is now.

She walked out of the studio and I started to tear up.  I am so blessed to have this life, this love, this opportunity. I am so grateful for each soul that has come into my life on the mat. I take so much from each and every class, from each and every student.  My heart overflows – and sometimes my eyes do, too.

It is natural to cry in yoga.  Stuff comes up and out.  If you feel yourself getting misty, please, let the tears fall.  They need to come out and, believe me, you are not the first nor will you be the last to cry in class. Your teacher has seen it and even done it herself. Let the tears fall and feed your practice.  Remember, nothing grows without the rain.

Namaste

#365Yoga Day 166: What we need

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Okay, so the video is not a video.  It’s lame.  The song, however, is incredible.  Give a listen, eh?

 

Moving on…

I’m on vacation this week.  It’s really more of a staycation as, aside from a few day trips, I’m at home.  It’s been so nice!  Don’t get me wrong, I love teaching yoga oh so very much, but everyone needs a little something different.  We all need a break.  After the month of May kind of picked me up by my feet and shook me upside down, I really needed some time to practice self-care.

Self-care.  It’s a phrase that gets thrown around a ton in the yoga community.  “Self-care is so important!” “Never forget Self-care!” “Care for yourself first!”  But, really, what does it mean?  How does one go about practicing this illusive act?  Does it mean doing what others thing is the best thing for you?  Does it mean being completely and totally pure in mind, though, action, and diet?  Does it mean getting check ups and pedicures and naps and highlights and brows waxed?  Is it all of the above or none of the above?

The answer is YES!

Self-care is just that – SELF care.  What I need to do for me is not what you need to do for you and vice versa.  I cannot tell you how much I hate it when I am talking to friends about what is going on in my life and they say things like, “What you need to do is….” or “Sounds to me like you need to ….”  UGH!  The fact of the matter is that no one in the entire world knows what you need any more than you do and you have no idea what anyone else needs at all. The only person who knows what you need is YOU, the trick is to listen to yourself and honor what you hear.

This week, I have tried to practice what I am preaching.  As someone who works to serve others (as a teacher to my yoga students, as a manager, as a mother, as a homeschooling mama, as a friend, as a wife, as a whatever,) I often forget to ask myself what I need, and I even more often forget to serve myself.  This is a gnarly, nasty, slippery slope I slide down so often it makes me dizzy.  I know I am not alone in this.  I think we can all benefit by sharing with each other what we personally need.  If nothing else, getting it out there into the universe helps to bring it to us (plus we might also realize that we are not alone and we deserve to have our needs met.)

What I need (in no particular order – and on any given day):

Time to read for pleasure.  Reading has always been one of my favorite things to do. I’m a better person when I get my book time in.

An incredible, fun, functional pair of yoga pants.  Now I’m not one to go all hog wild over lulu, or alo, or Prana.  I’m just not.  I have more yoga pants that have come from Target and Old Navy than your average bear.  That said, I treated myself to a pair of Shining Shakti pants for my birthday and fell SO deeply in love with them that I ordered another pair this week.  Look for the review coming up next.

To turn my phone off.  I love my phone.  I love my friends.  I love my job.  I love my family. I also love being able to turn it all off. I have to set time to myself.  I have to be able to set and hold strong to boundaries of what hours I am working and what hours I am playing. Which brings me to…

Play. I need to play.  I need to be able to float in my pool with great music playing and a cold drink in my hand.  I need to play card games and poker and Clue! and chess with my kids.  I need to go to concerts and to dinner and to movies and shopping.  I need to play – I REALLY need to play – and that’s okay.

Nail polish and lip gloss.  These two little expenses have always made me happy.  There is nearly nothing that can not be bettered by a fun and funky set of toes and a pretty smile.  I will always indulge in this.

The gym. This is the biggest one that I realized this week.  I have missed the gym so much.  I used to be at the gym 5 days a week, working out, getting my endorphin rush on.  Then I started teaching 3x a week at the gym and stopped going to work out.  And then I stopped teaching at the gym and … I stopped going to the gym.  OH how I miss it!  I miss the time alone.  I miss the weights and the treadmill and the elliptical and the bike and the sweat.  I miss it all! People think I must be insane to want the gym, seeing as how I teach 5x a week and am always doing yoga, but I’m here to tell you, it is not the same.  I found myself lamenting to my husband over and over and over again the last few weeks, “I want my gym membership back!  I miss the gym!” Originally, my membership was a gift from him for my birthday a few years ago and … I dunno, maybe I thought he would sign me back up.  It never happened.  This brings me to the next thing I need…

My own money and the power to do with it what I want.  I don’t need a lot of it, just a little in my pocket. I need to feel free to get what I need when I need it and, occasionally, what I want when I want it.  Now, my husband has never denied me anything I have ever needed and very very very rarely even anything I have ever wanted.  I’m a little spoiled that way, I guess, but I need something more than that: I need to be able to do it myself, for myself, by myself.  To that end, I called the gym up this morning and switched the membership over to my own personal bank account.  It feels incredible!

Sleep.  There are days I only require 5 hours of sleep.  There are other days that I need around 10.  My body knows what I need, who am I to question it?

Music of all kinds at all times.  My entire life has a soundtrack.  There are very few moments that I am not surrounded by music.  Music is the metronome of my heart and my breath.  I love finding new (old) music, love hearing things in new ways, need it like the flowers need the rain.

My Y-Chromes.  I have the utmost pleasure and honor of living with 3 human males and one canine male.  I love them beyond words.  There is nothing that can ever happen to me that cannot be made easier, happier, funnier, gentler, better with the love, support, and presence of my husband, my children, and my dog.  There are days when we never leave the house, we don’t answer the phone or emails or the door.  We just hang out living and loving and laughing together and healing our own little world.  I need them.

This is not an exhaustive list, for certain, but they are things I need to be happy and healthy and whole. I deserve these things, not because I am awesome, but because I am alive.  I deserve to care for myself in these ways and, guess what?  SO DO YOU!

What does Self-Care look like to you?  What do YOU need?  How do you go about getting it?

Namaste