Tag Archives: Religion and Spirituality

Circle

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When I was 18, I fell in love with a guy who was 21.  We spent a wonderful summer together and it was brilliant.  Things happened that summer, however, that changed who we both were.  Towards the end of that “committed relationship,” he wrote me a letter as I was visiting my father out of state.  The end of the letter said, “If you ever wonder how I feel about you, listen to Edie.  She says it all.”  (sidebar: it’s been nearly 20 years since that summer and he and I are still friends.)

Ahhhh, the Circle.  Nothing’s good enough for anybody else, it seems.  We notice you don’t come around.

To say that my life has changed in the past year is a wild understatement.  EVERYTHING has changed.  Recently, my older brother came to visit and he was here for a couple of weeks.  He told me (and others) that he had to get to know his new sister.  I had to chew on that awhile.  Am I a new person?  Or is it possible that I am the same person I have always been, but *I* am  now visible again after all these years because, well, because “BrianandSarah” is no more?

I have discovered that I am either one of two things to almost everyone I know: I am either exactly the same as I have always been, or I am totally different.  The fact of the matter is that neither of those statements are true.  There was a time in my life where I only listened to punk music.  There was a time in my life where I only listened to country.  Okay, that’s a total lie – I have never ONLY listened to country, but certainly listened mainly to country (always classic stuff or underground stuff – never radio stuff.)   There was also a time in which I wouldn’t do anything if it wasn’t totally organic, natural, hippie-dippie stuff.  And, yes, there was a time when I disavowed television and all screen time.  All of those times were just that: times.  Times pass.

The truth of the matter is that, in the wee dark hours of the morning, I would occasionally find myself missing the gal who didn’t go fishing, who would have rather blasted death metal than listen to crickets, who took care of her business and, once that was taken care of, took a ride.  I have always wanted adventure and excitement and to live out loud.  Now that I’m doing it, however, I’m seeing that some folks don’t recognize me.   I get it.  I am just learning to recognize myself again.  It’s a process.  It’s a circle.  And, honestly, there was a part of me that didn’t come around anymore.  She’s starting to show up again.  She has to.  SHE HAS TO.  And she’d like to be welcomed back by someone other than herself.

I think this is the part of yoga that is so wonderful and so difficult.  When you’re on your mat, there is NO WHERE TO HIDE.  All of you comes up and slaps you right in the face.  You have to see it.  You have to acknowledge it.  You might be sweating because you’ve done 17 Surya Namaskar B’s in a row, but what you’re sweating out isn’t just salt water – it’s the salty truth.  We can either choose to notice our circle and spin around and around, or …. well, we’re going to spin whether we acknowledge it or not, but it’s our choice to take the ride with eyes open or eyes closed, and it’s our choice to step off the ride and not come around here anymore.

I’m still here.  I might be on a different arc of the circle than you’re used to seeing, but I promise you – it’s my circle, and I’m coming back around again.

 

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Bandhas and Badasses: @TylerMahanCoe, the “Crown Prince of Country Music,” Talks Yoga

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Before we get started here, let me state right up front: I know the alignment is screwed up.  Ironic on a yoga blog, right?  I don’t know how this happened or how to fix it, but believe me, I tried and … yeah, I ranted about that on Twitter, too. Moving on.
I have had quite the week.  I randomly ended up on the river last Sunday dancing to some bluegrass.  A few days later, I got all up on my soapbox about Savasana, then I tricked my family into eating vegan fare, and it all came to a head when I started shooting the shit with Tyler Coe on Twitter.   I have spent more time in the last 10 days laughing and shaking my head than I have in the last 10 weeks combined.  When randomness rains, it pours.
When Tyler Coe brought up the idea of an interview, I was a bit perplexed.  I didn’t know much about Tyler at all and, even after Googling him, he was still very much an enigma.  Mostly he’s known for being David Allan Coe’s son and playing guitar with him, but I didn’t this interview to be about DAC or music because, well, that’s not what he wanted to talk about and it’s not exactly what this blog is about, either.  Finally, when you mention DAC to anyone, you’re likely to get one of three reactions: 1. Never heard of him, 2. That racist asshole?, or 3: I LOVE DAC.  It’s the 2nd answer that convinced me to do the interview.  Since this interview is not about DAC, I won’t go into it all, but suffice it to say that he has been misunderstood or at least misrepresented (even if he did some of the representing himself -we’re human and we make mistakes, you know?)  Anyway, part of what I try to show on this blog is that Yoga is for everyone and it is often misunderstood, as are the people who practice yoga.  To that end, this seemed like a great opportunity to again address that issue.
Over the course of several days, I interviewed Tyler via email.  I had hoped that he would be as colorful and unpredictable as his father and he didn’t disappoint.  I nearly didn’t do this interview, but I am so glad I did!  It was entertaining, educational, and enlightening, to say the least.
I’m sure many of you know who David Allan Coe is, but I promise that even if you don’t know DAC, you know his words.  DAC is one of the most impressive and evocative songwriters in history.  He was one of the original outlaws, spent 20 years in prison, lived in a cave, and still lives at the height of controversy (Google him.)  DAC is still touring, singing songs like The Ride  (embedding is disabled for that song, but watch it.  He’s wearing red Converse which, as you know, I have a soft spot for,) You Never Even Called Me by My Name (again, no embedding,) Tennessee Whiskey, and Longhaired Redneck, amongst many, many others.
Tyler Coe, b. 1984, is Coe’s oldest son.  Tyler started going on the road when he was 2 years old and first sang with his father on stage when he was 4 (see below.)  Tyler grew into a musician of his own right.  He taught himself to play guitar after a few official lessons left him cold.  Tyler has been touring with his father as a lead guitarist for several years now.  If you search YouTube, you’ll find a few videos, but even Tyler admits that the quality isn’t that great on any of them.  That said, they are worth checking out because, off to the side, you’ll see a tall, thin, red-headed long haired guy (the tresses were recently shorn, I assume) doing some magical things with a guitar.  You can find him on Twitter and roaming around Springfield, MO, thinking unique thoughts and stirring the pot.  No wonder I liked him immediately.  What follows is our conversation, and his responses are word for word directly from his mouth (um, keyboard – twas email, remember?)   Any emphasis in his answers (represented in bold) is mine.  And again, yes, I know the alignment makes all us yogis want to poke our eyes out.  If it bothers you that badly, just call me and I’ll read it to you.
I’m totally lying.  I won’t do that.
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Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions.  I was a little surprised at first: people don’t usually approach me to interview them, usually it’s the other way around, BUT I think this is excellent.  I’m passionate about showing the public that Yogis come in all shapes, sizes, persuasions, political parties, religions (or completely absent of religion,) etc.  I think many people are put off by the idea of yoga because they believe that they have to be all dressed in white and chaste and sober and “pure” and chant and the whole nine esoteric yards.  I personally think that there’s room in the yoga community for *everyone,* so the inclusion of your story will help make my point.
TC: Hold up… You don’t have to dress in white and not fuck people to do Yoga?! I don’t even…
Okay, it is a couple hours later. I have calmed myself.
You’ve described yourself as “The Prince of Country Music.”  Growing up the son of David Allan Coe and touring with him as a guitarist in your father’s band doesn’t sound like the typical path that would lead someone to yoga.  How  and when did yoga become a part of your life?
TC:  Crown prince of country music, actually. But that is a distinction to be discussed another time. Yoga. I remember doing “yoga” as a kid, honestly. I obviously didn’t “know” what I was doing back then but I think that’s a major selling point of yoga, that it is a natural tendency that the body has. But it seems to me that a lot of people, at least in America, have a bad habit of disregarding signals from their body. (Like, I don’t know about you but if I eat a #3 from Arby’s my body only takes about 15 minutes to be like, “Dude… Look at what you’re doing to us right now…” And that fucking place is still in business.) As far as a conscious and deliberate “practice” it was not until my early 20s that I began to try to work it into my daily life. Credit most likely should go to Aleister Crowley for that. There have been periods since then when I have neglected to do any yoga at all and that was both reflected in and a reflection of the state of my general well being. (Not good.) 
I love what you say about honoring what your body is saying and how it is our natural tendency to move intuitively.  Do you practice a particular style of yoga? (Iyengar, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Jivamukti, Bikram, etc.)  If so, what do you like about that particular style?  Anything you don’t like?

TC:  Particular style of yoga. I’m gonna go with Hatha but let me go recheck what all those words you just said mean on Wikipedia.  

 
Later: Okay, some of that shit is ridiculous. I’ve never taken a yoga class or anything like that. I’ve read a lot of books on the subject. (Some of them were ridiculous.) My two favorites are one called Awakening Ecstatic Kundalini by “Yogani” and one called Acu-Yoga by I don’t remember who. I’ve pulled a few pranayama exercises from other sources but could not tell you from where. Here’s what I do: a very light loosening up with a few asanas, three breathing exercises (Sheetli, Bhastrika and Nari Sodhan) and so-called “meditation” to just feel the effects of everything and let it all flow. This is first thing in the morning, before eating or drinking anything. If I have enough time and energy I will then go ahead and do whatever exercise I have planned for the day. I do the same set of asanas, pranayama and sitting at night, followed by one of the four routines in the Acu-Yoga book, followed by my last meal of the day. Is this boring to read? It seems like it is.
Not boring.  At least not to me! Do you practice while on the road?  If so, what is the reaction of others in the band?  Do they practice with you?
TC: I practice on tour if I am able. If it’s a toss-up between yoga and getting enough sleep, I sleep. If I don’t have a private area, it ain’t happening. The guys in the crew know I do something with the blue mat I carry in to the hotel but I don’t think they know exactly what. It probably keeps them awake at night trying to figure it out. (Probably not.) Nobody practices yoga with me. It’s a very private thing for me. Without getting too weird here, for me “actual” yoga is about getting in touch with my god-parts (I just made that up.) and having another person around can screw with that in a lot of ways.
I make things up often, too.  Creative license, right?  How would you say yoga has – or has not – shaped your life?
TC:  Um, Octagonally. 
 You live in southern Missouri, yes?  We’re neighbors! How is the yoga scene where you live?  Any favorite studios?
TC: The yoga scene in Springfield, MO is not something I’m very familiar with. I do know that a lot of girls are into Hot Yoga here. I’ve never done that so I can’t really comment on it other than to mock it like any other thing I don’t understand. Like, I have an image of chicks just sweating all over the place and there being a few dudes there who are either really into body odor or really oblivious of their own body odor. I’m probably very wrong about this.
I taught hot yoga for quite a long time.  Not Bikram, mind you, but hot yoga.  I loved it, but you’re right in one aspect: you never forget that smell.
What’s your favorite Asana?  Least favorite?
TC:  My favorite asana is not an asana but a bandha I do in the middle of an asana routine. Uddiyana bandha. I would try to describe it but I don’t think I could do it justice. (A thousand orgasms?) Anyone who has never done it, check that shit out. Try to not pass out. I would have to say that my least favorite asana is paschimottanasana (seated forward bend) just because I am really tight in the hips and it is so uncomfortable for me. It’s like having to sit and write thank you cards for the socks your aunt gave you for Christmas. “Fuck this. I don’t care. Fuck this. I don’t care.”
Ah yes, the “fuck this” mantra. I usually repeat it over and over and over again in full Navasana. Kapalabhati Pranayama, Nadhi Shodhana and Shiva Prananyama are my fav for practice, but Sittali (same as Sheetli, some folks use the H, others don’t) and Sitkari are fun to do because they freak people out.
 I used to get a shocked reaction from people when they found out that I am a devout, committed yogi and yoga teacher (sometimes I still do,) because I don’t necessarily fit “the mold.”  I would assume that has happened to you, as well, because of your heritage and your job.  If it has, how do you handle it?  What do you say to them?
TC:  I have actually been asked if I do yoga by strangers after concerts (I don’t know why. It seemed weird at the time too.) and just flat out denied it because I didn’t want to talk about it to them, for various reasons, depending on the person. I’m not gonna try to explain to the dude in camo overalls drinking Hamm’s that he is god just like me. I don’t know. This question would probably be better asked of someone who isn’t me and thinks about me way too much.
I throw in random stuff on my blog all the time because there’s more to a yogi than their yoga.  To tie it into the other sort of stuff I have posted, I have a few more questions.
People ask me this question all the time and I tell them it’s like picking my favorite strand of hair, but give it a whirl and take a stab in the dark. What’s your favorite song?  
TC: I definitely do not have a favorite song. I’ve been listening to Pyramids’ self-titled album quite a bit. Also, Angels of Light’s We Are Him has been on my turntable a lot lately, in anticipation of Swans’ The Seer, which did arrive to my house the other day but I have not had an opportunity to listen to the whole thing. It’s long. 3xLP.
What’s your favorite food?
TC: Also, no favorite food. I’m not really a “favorite thing” kind of guy. I can tell you with no equivocation that the best meal I’ve eaten so far in my life was earlier this year at Kabuto, an edo-style sushiya in Las Vegas. I somehow managed to get a reservation for myself on short notice. You can order either a nigiri course or an omakase course. I had the omakase course and it was mind-blowing, life-altering. I did not know that food could have that effect on a person. I thought I had eaten good food before. Since that day Kabuto has been a recurring theme in 90% of my dreams at night. I can’t wait to go back.
There are a few YouTube videos of you and your dad.  Do you have a favorite?
TC: No favorite YouTube video. I’ve seen several and we are way too loud at our live shows for a camera phone to capture the sound accurately. The pro-shots from TNN when I was a little kid are funny. Everyone likes the “Daddy What If” one the best, I’m sure. I don’t watch it much because when my father starts crying it makes me cry. Not that this is a bad thing but I’ve usually got shit to do besides sitting around crying in front of my computer. Usually.
Close your eyes, Tyler.
I did a little research and found you have a few solo albums out there.  What can you say about them?  Any more in the works?
TC: I made one album. I can say that it was highly conceptual, wildly overambitious and I had no experience at all with the technical side of recording sound. With that being said, I don’t think there is anything else like it in the world and enough people whose musical opinions I respect have said things that let me know I’m not deluding myself in to thinking it’s better than it is. I’ve probably criticized it more than anyone else has, as a matter of fact. I’ve been “working” on a second album for quite some time, pretty much the entire time since the completion of the first, but I don’t think anything has been recorded that will actually be on the album yet. It might end up being a novella before it is an album, too. I’m not really sure. It solidifies more every day but it still has some growing to do before it takes material form. It probably won’t sound anything like the first album.
And because it’s always fun to stir the pot, what do you think about nude yoga?
TC: When I do yoga in loose clothing I trip myself up and it defeats the purpose. I can only imagine that doing yoga in the nude would be worse. The shorts I wear for yoga and exercise are ridiculously short and tight. I order them from China. You don’t wear underwear with them. They have a little jock strap pouch on the inside. That is what is comfortable to me, the support. I wear all of my clothing pretty tight. It just feels right.
 Anything else you’d like to share about yourself, your passions, your practice, your belief systems, or anything in general?  The floor is yours.

TC: I would like to share that everything is going to be FINE.

Yes, it is, Tyler.  Finer than a frog-hair split four ways.  Thanks for your time and, if you ever make it to Columbia, first drink and first class is on me.
 

Heart and Soul: Why Your Playlist Matters (and how to make a good one)

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I have taken a ton of yoga classes in my life and I have taught a ton, as well.  Being that Vinyasa style yoga is my main schtick, I almost always practice to music.  There are arguments for and against using music in class (I see you, Iyengarites, and I love you,) and I do think there is a time and place for silence during a practice, but I am here to tell you one thing and here it is:

If you use music in class, you had better use the good stuff and you had better use it correctly.

Your playlist matters!

As I said, I couldn’t count the number of classes I have taken over the years.  Thousands and thousands, I’m assuming.  I was discussing on Twitter yesterday whether or not I have ever walked out of a yoga class.  As of this writing, no, I have not.  I have thought about it, though, way more than once.  Sometimes I have been tempted to leave because the teacher was giving dangerous cues, sometimes because the teacher was giving dangerous adjustments, sometimes because the teacher gave NO adjustments, but more often than not, I have considered leaving because of a terrible playlist.  I’ll wait here while you judge me and call me snobbish.  Go ahead. Okay.  Ready to move on and hear my reasoning?

When I was a teenager, I converted to vegetarianism.  I was the only person in my family who was vegetarian (and to this day, I think I’m the only one in my entire extended family of origin who ever went meatless for more than a day or two,) and it wasn’t as though my family was learned in the art of vegetarian cooking or even in the full thought process behind it.  As a result, many a dinner conversation went like this:

Me: What’s for dinner, Mom?

Mom: Chili, it’s been simmering for hours.

Me: Oh cool!  Did you make a small bit in a separate pot without meat for me?

Mom: Nope, but I left the pieces of beef big enough that you can pick them out.

Me: *facepalm*

Now, of course, my mom didn’t mean to make eating such a challenge, she just didn’t realize that the meat had permeated every bit of that chili and not paying attention to it would not make the chili vegetarian.  She didn’t realize that I would be able to tell, that I would still taste it and know that it went against what I was trying to do, she didn’t know that it could make me sick, she didn’t know that, regardless of how much or how little, the meat was still there and it would affect me.

Yoga playlists are like meat in the chili – they flavor the whole practice.  People have strong emotional ties to music. Music is a trigger, a touchstone, an anchor for people.  A song can bring people to their feet or to their knees, it can lead to healing and it can lead to hope, and sometimes, it can lead a person to,  or through, their own personal Hell.  Of course, there is no way to know exactly who will show up to your class or what their stories might be.  No one can tell what energy will come up and what will happen.  You cannot make a playlist that 100% of your students will love 100% of the songs 100% of the time, but there are a few things you can do to increase your odds.  There have been a ton of articles and blog posts about yoga playlists (I swear, Google them,) so there might be better tips out there than these, but  I have been told that I make pretty awesome playlists and this is what I think about while making them.  What can I say?  I’ve eaten a lot of chili.

Recipe for a good playlist:  

1 good, strong theme, divided.  It doesn’t have to be an earth-shattering, life-changing theme, although it very well might be.  Decide if you are teaching a theme (heart openers, forgiveness, gratitude, sutras, strength, etc.,) and then keep that in mind when you’re making the playlist.  If you’re doing a class on quieting the mind, it’s unlikely that you’re going to find people appreciating MC Yogi rapping all the way through their Rajakapotasana. Alternatively, if you’re teaching a sweaty, high-flying, advanced class with inversions, arm balances, and power flows, you’re going to have a hard time building the mojo if you’re listening to Yanni.  The 2nd part of these theme involves the lyrics of the music you choose.  Go ahead and try to get people to move into forgiveness while  you play “Burn This Mutha Down.”   Good luck with that.

1 reasonably awesome sense of timing.  Now, of course, no one is perfect and sometimes teachers (read: me) get off on a tangent or is really feeling the groove and might just get away from the intended timing and flow of things for a minute or two, but if you have a 60 minute class, you know that you’re going to need some beginning meditation, warm up, active practice, cool down, and Savasana.  It’s unlikely that folks will get that good, centered feeling that puts them in the yoga mind if you start your beginning meditation to the sound stylings of AC/DC.  Expect at least 10 minutes at the beginning and at the end for slower, more quiet stuff, and make your playlist the length of your class.  Let the middle rock their socks off (if it fits the theme,) but you gotta give folks time to wind up and wind down.  It’s exactly the opposite of what a good artist will do while recording an album.  They start and end with a bang and put the ballads in the middle, but you have to do the reverse.  Remember: you’re on a yoga mat, not on tour.  This will also help you move through the class, especially if you’re nowhere near a clock.  Hear the music start winding down?  You better start wrapping it up.

A splash of sing-along, a dash of shut up.  As big as the debate is over the use of music or no music in class, there is an even bigger one raging out there about whether or not to use music with lyrics in class or solely instrumentals.  People are passionate about this! Personally, I like to mix it up.  I like to have a blend of songs that folks can / might / will sing along with (even if only in their heads,) and some that are either in a foreign language (Sanskrit, Spanish, French, and Portuguese are all good,) or have no language at all, within the same playlist.  There are times when people will want /need to connect with words, with memories, with the feelings associated with singing a song they know and love.  Sometimes singing along (or boogying a little) can help take the focus away from how much a person might struggle with a certain asana.  I know folks who hate Utkatasana.  I mean, they loathe that little chair.  Play a little Rolling Stones during it, however, and suddenly they don’t hate it so much.  There will also be times when each person will need all of their attention to hold asana or pranayama and lyrics can be distracting.  Instrumentals and foreign language own these moments, so shut the sing-along up and just let the body tell the story.

A strong fusion of flavors.  Have you ever had chili from Cincinnati?  They put chocolate in their chili.  Yep, chocolate.  I thought that was completely insane and total food blasphemy … until I tried it.  It’s incredible! I add chocolate to my chili every time I make it now.  It adds depth, character, and unexpected flavor.  You have to add the chocolate to your playlist.  Don’t stick with only one genre and era in your playlist.  Mix it up!  As Kid Rock says, “I love country, soul, rock and roll, and I love me some hip hop!”  Blend a little New Age with Outlaw Country, some 70’s Soul with Boston Pops, Folk with Funk, and don’t forget the covers and remixes. You have to remember that you will have a myriad of students in your class and they are all going to relate to something.  Don’t alienate anyone, but also don’t be afraid to be outrageous.  You’d be surprised at how often the quiet grandmother in the back row absolutely loves Santana and Sublime.

An entire bushel of Fresh.  I remember when I was teaching just one or two classes a week, I used to make a new playlist for each and every single class. Now, I teach upwards of 6 classes a week and just don’t have the time or the energy to do 312 playlists a year.  Probably a good thing, because I have realized that folks will remember a playlist and wish to hear it again.  That said, no one wants to hear the same playlist each time they get on the mat. Trust me, no matter how much you love your own music, not everyone is going to love everything all the time.  Make several playlists and rotate them.  If you know that you’ve played the same playlist enough time that your students know what song is coming next, it’s time for a change.  Look for new (or new to you) music.  Keep your ears open and you’ll find new yoga music in the most unlikely places.  I cannot tell you how many songs I found by watching NBC’s Parenthood.  If you have an iPhone, the app “Shazam” will save your life.  If you don’t, just google “song at the end of Big Bang Theory” and you’ll find something.  If a song impressed you, I promise it will have impressed someone else and that someone else is faster and posting than you.  Regardless of how you find them, where you get them, you will benefit from new songs, so get going, get searching, and get FRESH.

A slice of editing. You know how sometimes you’re listening to the radio and you get about 5 seconds of dead air?  Yeah, we all hate that.  Here’s the thing: some songs just have about 5 seconds of nothingness at the end of the track.  I don’t know why (yes, I’m sure you do and would love to tell me, but I don’t care to know,) but I do know that it sucks and has no business in a playlist unless you use the space for a reading or a moment of silence and you’d better time it so folks are standing in tadasana with eyes closed when it happens. Who needs that pressure?  So, take it easy on yourself and listen to the songs, trimming them as you need to. You can do this in iTunes by right-clicking the song, selecting Get Info -> Options -> Stop Time.

A jumbo sized sense of humor.  Let’s face it, it’s going to go wrong sometimes.  Sometimes you’ll have dead air, sometimes a song will fall flat, sometimes a person will freak when you play Akon or cry when you play Johnny Cash, and sometimes, just sometimes, there will be an unexpected shock.  I will never forget the class I taught at the gym all those years ago that was packed wall to wall with conservative bodies and I was playing The Fugees and, well, you know that Wycleff can use all kinds of colorful, inappropriate language in the last few seconds of a song!  Suddenly there it was, the “N” word blaring over the speakers to 40 or so of the high muckety-muck society and there I was standing in front of all these people trying to not pee my pants.  I nearly lost my gig, but managed to cover it up by saying something along the lines of, “Well, now, that is the last time I let Sister Mary Mercy make my yoga playlist!”  They all cracked up and we moved on.  Thank Elvis.  So, be sure to use that slash of editing and then learn to laugh at yourself.  After all, it’s a playlist, not the presidency. Lighten up!

What matters to you in a playlist?  What do you like?  When do you like it?  How do you plan yours?  Share recipe here – our ears are hungry!

 

#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

#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 55: It’s alright! (and exciting news!)

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JHL reminds us today that there is nothing wrong with us.  We are not broken.  We are where (and who) we are supposed to be.  We are healthy and whole and complete, just as we are.  Thursday mornings are hit or miss.  Sometimes th

ere’s loads of folks, sometimes just a few.  It’s the nature of the game.  Weather, school activities, and a host of other things come into play.  This morning was no different.  I ended up teaching a private class to one person.  This student has been coming to our classes for years, starting when we were still teaching in gyms, and I adore her.  I hadn’t seen her for many months and it turns out that she had had her knee replaced.  Today was her first time back on the mat in 3 months!  That hour ended up being precious, gentle, and a gift to us both.  I felt like I was really providing a much needed service in a much needed, private, gentle way.  Over and over again she sighed deeply and sank a little more into each asana.  Her breath was moving, her body was healing, and her heart was shining like a diamond.  It was a blessing to me to lead her today.  It wasn’t what I had planned for class when I woke this morning, but it was *exactly* what I (and she) needed.  The universe knows best – nothing is broken, all is as it should be.  It’s alright.

I’ve been dealing with the gnarly issue of body acceptance lately.  By lately I mean the last, oh, 34 years or so.  Sometimes I love it, often I hate it, but it’s almost always in the back of my mind if not standing center stage.  OH THIS DAMN LOVE YOUR BODY BUSINESS!  It’s so important, so necessary, so helpful… but ugh.  I often thought I was the only one who hates trying to love my body, but I’m not!  One of my favorite bloggers (and all around awesome person) Anna Guest-Jelley wrote a fabulous article about how she hates to love her body. It is such a relief to just say, “Yep, I’m not loving it today” and move on.  It’s not so much that I hate my body – I don’t.  I just hate the feeling that I’m less than or failing or wrong or broken if I have moments of not liking it.  It’s the pressure to be so “evolved and self accepting” all the damn time that gets me.  So when I let myself just feel what I’m feeling, just hate this or that part of me for a little while, I accept it almost immediately and the hate goes away and I find myself liking what I see (and feel.)  It’s the avoidance of my true feelings that makes my feelings hurt.  What is it that the Buddha said? Life is Dukha.  Accept it and move on – and pretty soon it gets better.  It’s alright.

Sometimes really awesome things happen.  I have written here about The Best of Columbia contest that goes on every year.  It’s kind of a big deal.  I am THRILLED to announce that YOGA SOL TOOK BRONZE!  WAHOOO!  Polly and I attended Inside Columbia Magazine’s Best of Columbia launch party yesterday afternoon and had a great time meeting and greeting and celebrating everyone’s success.  We have been open just a year.  We still haven’t even officially opened our studio yet (still subletting the space,) we have done no official advertising, it’s all been word of mouth.  All of that against us, we still came in 3rd out of 7!   We couldn’t be happier and it’s all due to you.  Thank you. ❤  It’s MORE than alright, darlings.  It’s fabulous!

The world brings us all sorts of things.  The universe knows best.  Sometimes things look awesome.  Sometimes they look like Dukha.  Sometimes things don’t look like you expect them to.  It’s okay.  We’re whole.  We’re not broken.  We’re healthy.  We are exactly who and what and where we are supposed to be.  There is nothing wrong with us, so have a good time, ’cause it’s alright!

#365yoga Day 33: Upside down

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The whole crazy world has gone topsy turvy out there.  The blizzard has shut schools down for 3 days, many businesses are closed, there are snow piles so large

they might not melt until June.  Folks are going stir crazy or just plain crazy.  I did not handle yesterday with as much grace as I had hoped.  I tried, but by the end of the day I was fit to be tied, pretty pissed, and rather unpleasant.

I had quite a bit of crow eating to do today.  Eh, such is life.

JHL reminds us today that each moment has the potential to contain the same wholeness.  Sort of accepting that not everything is roses and rainbows, but that even the mundane parts of life are miraculous.  Embracing our own humanity, our reality.  Even when it means you won’t see green grass for entirely too long for your liking, even when your own attitude and behavior need serious adjusting, even when your yoga studio has been snowed out for almost a week.

The one surefire way for me to recharge and to find appreciation in things is to go upside down.  When things are nutty, when I am nutty, or when I just don’t know what else to do or where to go, I put my heels above my heart above my head.  The blood flows to my brain and the rush of oxygen presses a reset button in me  I feel strong. I feel light.  I feel clear headed and bright eyed.  I find the beauty and the wholeness in my entire situation.

 

That’s not to say I would mind swimming in some tropical water with Jack Johnson, but I’ll settle for snow angels and feathered peacocks.