Category Archives: Yoga Sol

Mirror Mirror on the Wall, You Are a Dirty F*ing Liar …

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…and other truths yoga taught me about my body dysmorphic disorder.

I was talking with a very good friend of mine today.  I haven’t known this person very long – maybe 18 months or so, but we got very close very quickly and I adore her.  Several months ago, she moved out of the country and we speak mostly via Facebook Chat now, but we’re in contact nearly every day.  While we were very close when I saw her in person several times a week, the distance between us has somehow opened the door for us to be really truthful with each other about all kinds of things.  Today we talked about the big one that we share: we both have Body Dysmorphic Disorder.  Now, okay, she might not classify her self with that, so I don’t want to put words in her mouth, but I *do* have this disorder and have been diagnosed with it and have lived with it forever, so yeah, I can talk about myself. And her words and experiences sound an awful lot like mine, so you do the math.  Anyway, the interesting thing is that our stories are almost identical.  The tapes that play repeatedly in our heads are vile, evil, cruel, and vicious.  They say the same things : you’re ugly, you’re fat, you’re worthless, you’re a failure, you’re not good enough, you’ll never be good enough, etc. Word for word, same exact tape.  We could be the same person… except, check this out:

I’m short and curvy (meaning, I have hips and big breasts and curves,) and she is very tall and very thin.  Our stories and our tapes are the same, our experiences are the same, but our bodies could not be more different. How does that happen, you ask?  It’s easy: our tapes and our experiences and our mirrors are dirty fucking liars.

Before Yoga Sol opened in our permanent location, we sublet space in a belly dance studio.  The walls were covered with mirrors.  This makes sense for a dance studio, but was crippling for a yoga studio.  As a student, I was always distracted by what i looked like in certain poses.  Did my belly stick out in Vira II?  Did I look fat in Navasana?  Was I skinnier than at least one other person in the room?  Please note, this had NOTHING to do with alignment.  Occasionally mirror can be helpful for alignment (if you’re practicing by yourself or if your teacher is an idiot,) but that’s not what this was about. This was about vanity and competition and finding a thousand different ways to love and / or hate myself.  As a teacher, I noticed that I wasn’t alone in this.  I would teach a class and watch people catch sight of themselves only to then suck in their stomachs or to arch their backs seductively (and dangerously,) or to catch a glimpse of a person behind them doing a more advanced variation of an asana and then push themselves beyond where their body was ready to go leading to injury.

Clearly, I was thrilled to see no mirrors in the design plans for Yoga Sol’s forever home.

Now before those of you who know me go getting all up in arms about how I’m the perfect size or shape or how strong I am or any of that stuff, let me be very clear: I know this already.  I know intellectually that I am not fat nor am I unhealthy nor am I unattractive.  I know I’m stronger than your average person, I know I am healthier than I have ever been, I know, I know I know. This isn’t about that.  Not at all.  And this also isn’t a blog post about loving yourself as you are, regardless of weight or shape or size or health (although, I do think that those are very valid and important lessons to be learned.)  This post is about the lies we tell ourselves.  Well, okay, it’s about the lies I told (tell) myself and how yoga helped (helps) me see them for the dirty futher muckers that they are (contemplate that maybe they aren’t exactly true.)

The mirror lies.  Want proof?  Go to a store.  Try on a piece of clothing.  Not socks or a scarf, people.  Try on jeans. Ohhhhh yes, jeans.  Try them on in the fitting room and really study your reflection. Buy them.  Then come home and put them on and look at them in your mirror at home. Look the same?  I’ll bet not.  If they do, congratulate yourself for having the exact same mirror and exact same lighting conditions as the store. More than likely, however, it will look different. YOU will look different.  And, if I were a betting gal, I’d bet diamonds to dollars that these wretched lying mirrors will change the way you feel about yourself because suddenly, you don’t look the same.

I ask you, what kind of creepy destructive bullshit is that?

Yoga can be like trying on jeans if you’re not careful.  You can have a great practice and feel exceptional and light and free and expressive and wonderful and powerful and glorious and radiant and like a rock star …. and then you look at the person next to you and realize that you look as though you ate the other half of that person for lunch and your hand is no where near the floor and what exactly do you mean that not everyone chokes to death on their mammaries in Salamba Sarvangasana?  Goddamn it! Suddenly now that radiant glorious exceptional light and expressive person is replaced with a troll who really doesn’t belong on the freaking mat and can’t we please just go out and hide under the covers already?  Guess what?  It might not look like a piece of shiny glass, but looking at other people in class is exactly the same as looking at mirrors and what have we learned about mirrors?  They are dirty fucking liars.

We ARE beautiful and light and expressive and exceptional and wonderful and powerful and glorious and radiant and rock stars and we DO belong on the mat (and in jeans and, apparently, in string bikinis,) but the mirrors are broken.  They are liars.  They are untrustworthy and misleading.  All of them — all of them, that is, except one.  Only one mirror tells the truth.  Only one mirror shows us the way things really and truly are and, here’s the kicker: this mirror is not one you see with your eyes.  Nope.  You can’t hang it on a wall or put it in your purse.  You won’t have 7 years of bad luck if you break it nor will tell you if someone is a vampire or not.  No, this mirror cannot be broken, cannot be sold or damaged, cannot be dirtied or stained or cracked.  The only  bad thing that can be done to it is that it can be ignored because this mirror, the one and only truthful honest dependable mirror there is is the one that lives inside of you.  It is the one that always shows your goodness, your worth, your loveliness, your inherent beauty and grace.  It is the one you see when you close your eyes and just move.  It is the one that tells you to stay in pigeon just a little longer, the one that says it’s okay to take a few more breaths in Savasana, the one that shines like a diamond when you breathe deeply and bend gently.  It is the one that says, “Right there, that feels perfect,” the one that says, “You are strong,” the one that says, “look at all the progress you have made!”  That mirror is the ONLY mirror that isn’t a dirty fucking liar.  That mirror doesn’t show shapes or sizes.  That mirror shows light and love and grace and worth.  That mirror shows the truth – and it is the only mirror you need.

I still hear the nasty tapes.  I probably always will.  It’s a disorder and not one that will likely ever go away, but I can learn to ignore them. I can learn to recognize that they, like mirrors, are not telling nor showing me the truth.  I can choose to look inside instead of at other mirrors and other people.  I can learn to let all the other mirrors break (at least in my mind,) and focus on the one inside.  I can breathe.  I can bend.  I can practice – and all things, even acceptance, is coming.

Namaste

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#365yoga Day 311: Something’s Got a Hold on Me

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Well, dang it, this is the 2nd time I have tried to write this post. WordPress ate the first version.  I shall try again!

I know it has been a long time since I have written here.  It blows my mind how fast time passes.  The fact that it is already the 311th day of the year boggles my mind.  Where does it go? What have you been doing?  I know what I have been doing – YOGA!  Lots of yoga – and learning new stuff all the time.

I love Yoga Sol for many reasons.  I feel deeply connected to the space and the business and the people who call it their practice home.  It is beautiful.  It is unique.  It is accepting and open and fun.  We have more than 20 classes a week and, while we are predominately a flow studio, we are by no means only a flow studio!  We have Atma Jayam, Dance Flow, and Iyengar.  Our teachers have multiple styles and teaching backgrounds, but they all have a passion for teaching and they all bring something wonderful and unique to the studio.

Our Iyengar teacher, Netta Sella (Google her – you’ll be blown away by her awesomness,) has taken Yoga Sol by storm.  Netta brings discipline, alignment, history, anatomy, and props to our students.  Lots of props.  Many props.  And we love her for it.  As the Iyengar practice grew at Yoga Sol, more props started showing up.  Pretty soon, Netta’s following spread far and wide and her classes filled beyond expectation.  It became clear that we had the opportunity to add one more thing to Yoga Sol that would make us stand out amongst other yoga studios in town: a Yoga Kurunta wall of ropes.

Yesterday, most of the teachers of Yoga Sol and a couple of students gathered together to learn how to use this amazing wall safely, how to teach it safely and mindfully, and how to use it to help people reach their best alignment, modifications, and extension.  Netta led us through 2 hours of training and laughing and correction.  I have been practicing yoga for half of my life and I must say, the 2 hours of using those ropes yesterday opened my eyes like it was the first time I ever rolled out a mat.  The length of my body, the extension, the openness of my heart and shoulder girdle, the decompression of my spine…!  Incredible.  Just marvelous!

I have taught the wall a bit here and there last week and again today.  I will be using more often as it has the potential to transform a practice like nothing I have ever seen before.  I am thrilled to say that it’s a part of Yoga Sol and am so grateful to this path I am walking that has brought me to this place.  It has definitely got a hold on me – and I feel so good!

The following pictures are from yesterday’s training.  Most were taken by Netta, one or two were taken by Beatriz Wallace.  Many thanks to you both for allowing me to post them here.

#365yoga Day 130: Catch the Wind

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I have insomnia.  I’ve struggled with it off and on for years and it is a miserable experience.  I fall asleep fairly easily, but never stay asleep long.  I usually awaken around 2 or 3 in the morning and them am up until at least 5:30 or 6. I have tried everything, and am decidedly *not* asking for your suggestions or recommendations, but I bring it up in order to explain that, after being up since 3:oo, I finally fell asleep at 5:10 only have to my alarm go off at 5:30.  YIKES.

Why was I up at 5:30? Because I now teach yoga at 7:00 on Tuesday mornings.  It’s important to me that I get to the studio at least 20 minutes before class so that I can leave my “stuff” at the door, settle in, do office work so it’s not hanging over my head, get music playing, etc.  I pulled into the parking lot this morning and, I have to admit, was not really feeling it.  My eyes were so puffy I could barely see, I didn’t feel focused or centered, and I had no real idea of where the class was going to go.  Regardless, I walked in, set some music playing, and opened the rolling doors that lead to the deck.  The breeze started to blow and the birds started to sing and students arrived.

I started class inside facing the deck, but couldn’t stay in there very long.  I just had to move outside, so I did.  After a few minutes of me teaching outside while the students were inside (it’s not as strange as it sounds, it worked,) I suggested that everyone join me on the mat.  I assumed that they would just follow me, but I was wrong. I shouldn’t be surprised – there’s a huge number of people who have never practiced in open air.  Yoga Sol is out to change that, but I digress…  They did come outside and I felt like I had been transported to a movie set.  It is just that beautiful out there!

There is a special blessing that comes to yoga teachers: we get to watch people transform right before our eyes.  It happens in an instant.  One minute they are stressed and unsure and then the next minute they are in the moment, blissed out beyond belief. I saw that happen to everyone who laid out a mat today.  The breeze picked up and blew at just the right times, as if to serve as a reminder that Mother Earth was the first yogini.  The birds sang, the fragrance of the flowering trees floated delicately in the air, the sun gently warmed us, and it all just felt like magic!

Somehow, I was no longer fatigued, tired, foggy headed, or unclear.  I didn’t force it, I didn’t fake it – I just stepped into it.  Like the wind, you cannot catch your yoga, but you can be surrounded by it and let it carry you to joy and peace and hope and a better day.

Join me.  Roll out your mat under the sun. Flow with the trees, breathe with the birds. It is communion with your world and yourself, and it is beautiful.  I’ll see you on the deck.

Namaste

“Atma-What?” – Guest post by Megan Hall

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I’m sort of a Yogi, and you can be too.  

Sarah says she’s been hearing a whole lotta, “Atma-what?!” lately, and suggested that I might take a few minutes to clarify what Atma-Jayam is all about.  So, here I go.

My name is Megan Hall, and the style of Yoga that I love, that I most often practice, and that I teach, is called Atma-Jayam or Self-Victory, which is a just the condensed way to say, do as much or as little as you feel able, and feel great about it.  Victorious even.

Which is really pretty standard for any style of Yoga, right?  Right.  But it can be a little intimidating to walk into your first Yoga class, and sometimes that fear might cause you to take poses further than you should, faster than you should, even when the teacher is encouraging you to go at your own pace and listen to your body, I speak from experience.  Nobody wants to look like the only beginner in class.  I believe that Atma-Jayam’s main goal is the elimination of that fear.

I first discovered Atma-Jayam while attending Columbia College in early 2000 as a night student in the Education program.   This groovy old dude, DH, started offering a class.  I had used tapes and books to try Yoga before, but I had never been to a class.  Always wanted to though!  I went to the very first class he offered, and it was an hour of pure and simple bliss.  When it was over I marveled at the fact that for an entire hour, I had thought of nothing more than my inhale, my exhale, my arms, my legs, my lungs, and my spine, and everything else had just floated away with my breath.  After that, I was hooked, I went twice a week every week for three years, and when I couldn’t go to class and share that restorative energy with others, I practiced at home on my own.

Atma-Jayam is unique in its simplicity.  In an hour together, we will slowly and gently open and stretch every part of our bodies so that we increase the circulation to every part of our bodies.  We will breathe as slowly and deeply as we are able so that we increase the level of oxygen in our blood.

Atma-Jayam utilizes only the simplest and most beneficial asanas, and I can always give you either a modified pose or an alternate pose if something isn’t working for you.  I can even modify any of the standing postures I use, with the exception of the balance, to be done seated on a chair or a bench.

We practice nearly the same set of poses every time we are together (I tend to vary a few of the asanas here and there, so that you have choices and can make your practice your own).  By practicing the same set of postures we simplify the process for our body and mind, the things we want to happen, the benefits we wish to receive, become more efficient through repetition. The mix of postures becomes a recipe for your health and you can take it with you wherever you go.

We move slowly into and out of each pose.  We hold each pose for several breaths to allow the mind and the body to do their work.  And we take a teensy little break in between each pose.  Comfort is always our first priority, and really the only hard and fast rule of AJ.

Now, I’m not a real talky-talk Yoga instructor.  Don’t get me wrong, I will tell you all I can about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, and I totally love being in a class where the teacher is telling me all about my chakras and my third eye, but that’s not me, at least not yet.  Some of the metaphysical aspects of Yoga are just branches of the tree that I have yet to explore.  I’m still a baby Yogi; so to speak, I’ve only been at this for about 11 years.  But I’m growing in the sun now, baby!

I’m really excited about starting my class at Yoga Sol and to be surrounded by such an awe-inspiring group of Yoginis.  I feel like smearing on a little SPF 30 and soaking it all in!  I hope you will give Atma-Jayam a try, I think you’ll love it.

So if you have ever attended or observed a Yoga class or tried a DVD with Rodney Yi and thought, “Nope, not for me.”  If you have no intention of ever standing on your head or balancing on your arms, or if you totally intend to stand on your head and balance on your arms some day, but need a super easy place to start. Or if you don’t know where you want to go with Yoga, but need a safe place to start.  If you have lost some flexibility, or never had it in the first place.  If you ever hurt yourself practicing Yoga and need to learn how to slow down or get back to basics.  If you are scared to death to try a Yoga class, but people keep telling you that you need it.  If you think you are too old or out of shape to practice Yoga.  If you have chronic pain of any kind and would like even a little relief from it.  If you are stressed beyond belief and just need a place to relax and let go before you have a stroke.  If you are recovering from illness or injury, suffering from arthritis, living with depression, high blood pressure, or any other thing that slows you down, you should give Atma-Jayam a try.

I’ll be down at Yoga Sol on Fridays from 2-3 pm.  I hope you’ll be there with me.  Namaste.

Check out Megan’s class at Yoga Sol, 210 St James Street in the North Arts District of Columbia, MO.   You’ll be happy happy happy that you did! ~Sarah

#365Yoga day 125: Love and Happiness (Viva Yoga Sol!)

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Oh friends, what can I say? I am blessed beyond measure and the love is flowing like waves.

Yoga Sol has been open for nearly a week now and it is, by far, the most beautiful studio I have ever seen. It’s true, I might be a little biased, but whatever. Can you blame me? Classes started Saturday and the weather was gorgeous – the first classes at the studio took place with the walls rolled up to the ceiling and the warm breeze blowing in over the yogis and yoginis like a baptism, a blessing.  It felt almost holy. It also felt like a party.  Makes sense; that’s pretty much what Yoga Sol is all about.

Teaching in the new space is unlike anything I’ve ever done before because it feels like home. There are parts of me in places that seem to wink and smile at me as I move around the room: Om Namah Shivaya Om in Sanskrit (a replica of one of my tattoos) is painted in shimmering gold along the baseboard of one wall, a picture I took during the trip to Santa Barbara hangs next to the picture of Polly and me hanging out with Michael Franti, Jolene Rust, and J Bowman, and one of the doors is painted just like doors of the shower house at White Lotus, the place where my life changed for ever. It is as though Shiva, Shakti, Ganesha, Kali, Hanuman, Ram, and the rest swirl around me, whispering constant reminders that this is where I am meant to be.

Each student who walks into the studio somehow manages to simultaneously light up with excitement and settle down in serenity before my eyes. It is clear that they are loving the place as much as I do and my goodness, does that make me happy! A studio should feel like home, like a sanctuary, to each person who enters. I think Yoga Sol is that place.

The seemingly endless hours of work and rework, decision and dedication, change and commitment have all paid off. I am the manager and spend as many hours a week doing that work as I do teaching. It is a new skill for me, but one for which I feel I am well suited. It feels good to put all the ideas that we’ve bounced back and forth into action and it also deepens my love for the studio to a different level. Each act is a labor of love and I realize that I am smiling as I work.

Somehow the feeling of being overwhelmed has left the building.  Somehow it has all smoothed out and it flows and ripples and bubbles in perfect rhythm.  There are bumps here and there, for sure, but what in life is without bumps in the road?  Perfectly imperfect, right? It feels amazing to be on both sides of the mat. It takes time and effort, but mostly, it takes awareness and mindfulness.  It takes yoga. Handy, eh?

I teach 5 days of the week. Each class has a different time and a different feel. I absolutely adore that. I feel I get the chance to explore and present many different aspects of yoga, many different aspects of myself. It is liberating and exciting and enlightening, just as it should be.  Today I am teaching a class filled with long, extended holds. I play ambient music, limit my words, and suggest that folks close their eyes to look within. Tomorrow I will teach a class of vigorous flows, inversions, and arm balances (handstands, anyone?) and the day after that I will teach a class for all levels, and then it is on to the next week of awesomeness.

So much love.  So much happiness.  So much gratitude.

I’m lucky girl, I’m telling you.

What is going right in your world today?  What do you love?  What makes you feel happy? Have you said Thank You? Maybe it’s time.

Namaste

#365yoga Day 119: The Birth of Yoga

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There’s controversy about when yoga was born.  Some say it is 5000 years old, others say it is only about 250 years old, and others say yoga always was.  I’m not sure who is right.  Maybe they all are.  Maybe none of them are.  It’s one of those things you just cannot prove or disprove and yet folks still get all up in arms over it insisting that they know the truth.

I don’t get it.

Yoga Sol opens tomorrow.  It has been a very long process and what the community will see tomorrow is different than what was originally planned.  I spent a bit of time there over the last few days and was overwhelmed by the transformation that this once storage space has endured and how it turned into a breathtakingly beautiful yoga studio.  Today the new website launched. It is much different than our former site and I cannot stop looking at it – I love everything about it.  That said, it, too, went through many transformations.

There were days during the planning and development of the site and the studio where it felt as though we scrapped everything we had been working on and went back to square one.  No one tells you that you’re going to end up reconfiguring the class price 47 times, that you will write and re-write your own bio so many times it begins to feel as though you’re writing about someone else, that it takes approximately 13 different colors of paint to get to the right feel of a yoga studio wall – and let’s not even get started on ceilings.  I felt every single one of those labor pains even though honestly, compared to Polly, I was barely a part of the process. It was a struggle, it was hard work, there were long moments when it felt impossible, insurmountable, wildly overwhelming.  There were also times of triumph, of energy, of pride, of excitement, and exaltation!

Just like giving birth, is what I’m saying.

I’ve been thinking about the process for quite a while now.  Where did it all start?  When was it born?  Is it born in the mind?  In the city’s zoning office?  On the designer’s blue prints? I don’t know.  I kind of think it was always there.  I think steps were taken each day that brought it a little closer to reality, but the feeling, the image, the spirit of it was always there, living in the hearts and minds and souls and mats and roots of those who wanted it, believed in it, and eventually manifested it.

Yoga is much the same way.  For me, it’s something that is born every single day and, at the same time, was never born and never will be born because it always has been and always will be.  It’s a beginner’s mind kind of thing.  It meets me where I am every single day, in every single moment.  Some days it looks different than others.  Some days it is upside down and sweaty.  Some days it is silent and still and horizontal.  Some days it doesn’t even have anything to do with my body.  It’s an evolution, a labor, a practice that evolves and grows and is born and reborn and it almost never looks the same way as it did the day before.  It is a process, ever changing, ever growing, ever revolutionizing the practitioner.  It is ageless and timeless and exactly as it should be.

The debate about the origins of yoga will rage on, I’m sure.  I don’t imagine that there will ever be a universally agreed upon answer. That’s fine with me because I know the truth:  yoga was born a minute ago.  And this exact minute.  And it’s due to be born tomorrow, as well. How will you celebrate?

Namaste

#365yoga Day 117: The King and I

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I woke really early today.  Before I had a cup of coffee and before the sun was fully up, I was already on the computer answering emails and sending others in regards to the new studio.  There is so much more involved to opening a studio than I ever imagined and I only know a tiny portion of it.  Emails about my son’s birthday party today started rolling in, folks requesting to guest post here arrived in my inbox (folks, I appreciate the offer, but I recruit guests posts when I want them,) and my kids needed breakfast and my vehicle had to go to the shop and …. it was a crazy busy morning.  I was feeling a little dizzy and I still hadn’t even gotten dressed.

Wondering how I was going to do it all without going insane, my youngest son ran out to get the mail.  He came in laden with packages for me! The Shining Shakti pants I ordered arrived and I got a little birthday-love package from my darling Flying Yogini. The pants are beyond incredible – get yourself a pair post haste. I put them on and felt groovy and centered and happy and alive.  I opened the package from Nancy and got all misty-eyed.  Nancy is just incredible and I’m so honored to be her friend – she really gets people and she really gets “it.”  Inside my package was a beautiful journal, a large bar of dark chocolate, and The Essential Rumi.  See what I’m saying?  I don’t call her “Awesomesauce Alder” for nothing. 😉

I sat down a bit ago and flipped through the book.  I came across this immediately:

There is a joy, a winelike freedom

that dissolves the mind and restores

the spirit, and there is a manly fortitude

like the king’s, a reasonableness

that accepts the bewildered lostness.

But meditate now on steadfastness

and clarity, and let those be the wings

that lift and soar through the celestial spheres.

I don’t know how everything is going to get done.  I don’t know where we’re all going.  I don’t know the exact steps to take to prevent getting lost or bewildered.  I do know, however, that if I keep going, if I keep my eyes and ears and heart open, it will work out, the path will be clear and steadfast and true.  I know that I will soar – maybe with a little help from the cape of a king. 😉 

Namaste