Trust The Process

Trust the Process.

This is one of those things that yoga teachers say.  One of those phrases that many say but perhaps not many really believe or even know what its means. Honestly this phrase meant nothing to me until recently.

And it started with something tiny and pretty insignificant.  Something I wanted purely for my ego.  I wanted to drop back from standing into urdva dhanurasa (wheel).

When I began attempting (psyching myself up, bailing at the last minute) I was terrified.  So much fear.  I was pretty sure my body was capable but I could't get past the fear.  I asked a friend and fellow teacher, Jemma Tory, who I go and see whenever I'm struggling with something in my practice, if we could do a few private sessions to help me work through it.

As I was facing this fear I realized I hated having it in my practice.  It was an interloper.  An intruder in my practice.  "You are not welcome here!!" I would yell at it in my head. It really had a life of its own. I visualized it as a cartoonish, hairy blob.  Like a cleaning product commercial's anthropomorphized depictions germs and dirt.

Jemma instructed me, "when you start feeling the fear, pay close attention to it, see what it has to say, often times when you shine the light on it, it cowers away." When you look at it full on its meaning begins to dissolve, its power evaporates.

What eventually brought me to the other side, not letting the fear win, and dropping back on my own, was a simple exercise I did with Jemma and a few other friends during a private session.  She had us tightly hold a tennis ball in our hand and led us through a visualization of the tennis ball being fear and us (our hand) holding and attaching desperately to it.  Attaching to our attachment to the fear.  As she talked she directed us to begin swirlingly ball in our hands, looser and looser and until we were finally ready to let go.  LET GO.

At the time I had no idea the impact this would have on me.  

I went home from this session, unrolled my mat, and dropped back. I talked myself through the same visualization and I let go and it worked. I felt high.  The lightness and elation was crazy.  It was so rewarding, so empowering, and so fun!

As I began to work dropping back into my home practice the fear was still there, but each time I faced it it became smaller and smaller, now its hardly there at all.

Fast forward a year. I was having coffee with Jemma.  We were talking about practicing at home.  I was telling her that over the past 2 years my home practice has completely exploded.  It has transformed into an organic, creative exploration and expression, with something new happening every time.  I'm still kind of in awe over it, especially since I didn't intentionally set out to change the way I practiced at home. It truly feels like it has a life of its own, and I have little to do with what happens.  Its my teacher.  I'm not my teacher, IT is.  I told Jemma that it never used to be like this.  She asked me what caused this shift?  It was then I realized that it was overcoming fear.    I was so terrified of dropping back, this fear had a hold on me and was holding me back in many different ways, ways I didn't even know existed.  It wasn't even just the fear of dropping back it was simply FEAR. It was clouding my spirit and creativity, disrupting energy and keeping me from my fullest potential.  But as I faced and overcame that fear, that unwelcome alien in my practice, my home practice began to blossom.  It has become bigger and much more powerful than I had ever imagined.  What started as me just wanting to advance my physical practice cracked open a hidden vessel of creativity and knowledge that I never knew existed.

This evolution of my personal practice has caused my teaching to evolve.  And so the yoga bleeds out into life and touches everything.

So trust the process.  I finally understand what this means. It means that if you are honestly showing up in your practice, open to change, open to transformation, open to seeing your faults, humble to the lessons that need to be taught, humble to the lessons you need to learn, magic will happen. It takes a heart open to listening.  It asks you to relinquish control. It takes a spirit fighting stagnation. Its not all "peace and tranquility" on the mat. There WILL be things you don't like that you need to face.  The struggle leads to growth.  In fact the struggle is the "WHY". It wasn't the dropping back itself that taught me the lesson, it was facing fear.  So even if I never do another drop back in my life it doesn't matter, the lesson lives on.  The physical is a tool, an access door to our emotional, spiritual, intangible selves.  There may not be a specific goal, reason, name, word, label when the process begins so it requires reflection and objectivity.  And the process never ends.  You are never done and it is never done with you.  It may not be the easiest path, but its a fuller path, with vivid colors and imagery not found on the easy road.  So, as the poet/heart-speaker Mary Oliver so perfectly stated,  "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

Instagram, Yoga-lebrities and the pressure to perform

This is a topic I've been thinking about for a while, I actually started writing this a few months ago when i broke my foot.  In case you didn't know, yoga has a huge presence on Instagram.  #yoga has 25 million posts.  The millions of people sharing their practice range from videos in someone's cluttered living room to one-armed handstands on a beachfront deck. I have mixed feelings about it.  I see the pros and cons.  So let's jump right in.

Pros:

1. It can be inspiring. I've definitely gotten some #inspo from yogis on Instagram.  Funky variations of poses, good ways to modify/build up to advanced poses, and seeing someone's progress are all positive experiences for me. 

2. It can connect people.  I have not experienced this first hand but I've witnessed yogis on instagram in what seems like genuine camaraderie.  "Yoga challenges" (one pose everyday for a certain period of time led by one or more people) and #stopanddropyoga are getting people who would otherwise be strangers to interact.  Two thumbs up.

3. It's free marketing (though I wouldn't say its easy) and can help build a more lucrative yoga career.  Fun fact: most of us yoga teachers are not raking in the dough.  However, through regular posting on Instagram with a litany of hashtags, plenty of people have become 'yoga-lebrties', headlining yoga festivals and leading sold-out retreats and trainings all over the world.

Cons.

1. It can be the opposite of inspiring.  Most people don't live in a place that has an epic backdrop for yoga photos. And despite what Instagram is communicating, most people practicing yoga can not hold a handstand or pull their foot over their head. Yoga on Instagram is ripe for comparison, and "comparison is the thief of joy". And like all social media, it can feed insecurity and narcissism. 

2. It places focus on the postures. The purpose of yoga is not to touch your feet to your head.  The physical practice is a tool for self-exploration.  Yes, the poses are fun and I'm constantly challenging myself, refining and yes, I am practicing handstand, but the real work of the physical practice is something you can't really see in a photo.

3. It's making possibly unqualified people yoga-lebrites.  I say possibly because I really don't know.  There is a woman on instagram who has a huge following, currently 1.1 million followers.  She started out simply documenting her practice.  She had a regular office job.  She has a VERY advanced practice. Since gaining her following on Instagram she completed a teacher training (a year or two ago) quit her job and now teaches full time.  She's a regular contributor and presenter for Yoga Journal and leads workshops, trainings, and retreats. Is she qualified to teach a yoga workshop to a room of 200+ people with only a year of teaching under her belt?  I can't image having to teach a room of a few hundred people in my first year of teaching! Talk about pressure.

She would not have the following she does (and therefore, the success as a teacher) were it not for her extremely advanced practice. Which brings me to my last point.

4. Success is based on what you can do. Followers, likes and respect are based on what you can do.  No longer are (some) practitioners seeking the guidance of seasoned teachers rather they look to people who can do crazy shit. I'm sure plenty of those people who can do crazy shit are GREAT teachers, but...

Its really this last bit that gives me pause.  Whenever I have the chance to take a class with a teacher who's been teaching for 20+ years it usually is an amazing experience.  Seasoned teachers are 100% themselves, so comfortable leading a class, wise to reading the needs of the students, even in large numbers.  It usually leaves me feeling grounded, with plenty of new stuff to chomp on and digest.  This kind of seasoning is only one that can come from time.  From hours and hours of teaching real people.  

I'll admit I am mildly annoyed with skipping ahead of line.  Some of these teachers haven't "done the time" to get where they are in their career, they simply did the time documenting their insanely advanced yoga poses.  And, as I said, I bet plenty of these people are great teachers, but it just doesn't seem deep enough... it lacks substance. Some bodies are more flexible, some bodies can handstand more easily. The thin, attractive, sexy, flexible, hand-standing bodies get the most followers leading to greater "success," while regular-old yoga teachers with 2nd and 3rd jobs, muffin tops, and still-using-the-wall-handstands think "if only I could...".

 

Christina Sell wrote a great blog on the pressure to perform (go read everything she's written), for teachers and students.  She writes, 

"I have a good friend who is a lovely asana practitioner, a sincere student of consciousness and the inner life and a fantastic vinyasa teacher. And she can’t balance in handstand. And it really bothers her. While she is one of the most intelligent and creative vinyasa teachers I know, she can not claim the “feather in the cap” of balancing in handstand. In the culture in which she largely participates, that particular trick seems to carry a lot of weight and functions as a kind of hallmark of competency, often with it a perceived edge in the marketplace.

One day she and I were talking about her frustration with not being able to balance and how much pressure she felt to be able to do it. I was shocked. She can dogreat arm balances, amazing hip opening postures and lovely back bends. As a teacher she has a devoted following. She really helps people. A lot of them. For years.  I told her, “Who cares about handstand? It is just one pose of many.” She is pretty self-critical, like so many of my amazingly inspiring women friends and so, whileI hate to admit it, Iwrote off her worryas another oneof her self-critical judgements.

I failed to recognize something very important about perspectives in yoga during our conversation all those years ago. From my vantage point of being able to balance in handstand in the middle of the room, there is no pressure to do it at all.  Handstand is one of many poses. No big deal. But from the vantage point of not being able to balance in handstand, in a culture that prizes and rewards the ability to do so, even a very experienced and accomplished yogi can feel tremendous pressure to do the pose and feel diminished when they are not able.

As a teacher, I can tell everyone that balancing in handstand doesn’t matter at all. I can evenin my heart-of- hearts know that handstand is not an indicator of anything other than handstand itself. Handstand means nothing about sincerity, self-worth, capacity to love and serve others, etc. However,   if I am relentlessly posting pictures of myself hand-standing on beaches, picnic tables, shopping carts and mountaintops and spending 15 minutes of every 75 minute class teaching people how to do handstand and arriving in class 20 minutes early to handstand unobtrusively in front of everyone as they walk in then my actions are not in alignment with my words. In fact, my actions—not my words— become my message and determine the background culture of my classroom."

If you've attended my classes you know that often I will build up to a peak pose, but just as often I won't.  This is intentional.  I do not want to lead people to think that they have to "get somewhere" every time they come to class.  I don't want people to feel like they're doing poses just to get to the next.  Each pose is its own moment and offers its own lessons and benefits.  My hope is that my intention creates a classroom culture that values a holistic, balanced physical practice.  And I try really hard to communicate this in the content I post on social media. 

But social media is a monster snowball that no one can stop. You either stay on or jump off.

I jumped.

I only follow a few yogis on instagram, 5 to be exact (not including my yoga friends who I actually know in real life), I'm not even close to impressed by shirtless one-leg crow to handstand.  I unfollow anything that makes the cynic in me rear its ugly head.  Its not you, its me.  Or maybe it IS you, and its me.  The few I follow have never invoked my epic eye roll. 

I know not everyone feels the way I do, however I think its an important topic for teachers and students to roll over in their minds. How are we assessing 'value'?  How are we measuring 'success'? What kind of culture are you and I creating with what we post and engage with?  And how can we stay true, wise and deep in this strange new world of social media?

 

PS the photo used is me falling out of forearm balance ;)

 

on nailing the pose

I took the bait on a Facebook ad and signed up for a yoga teacher's newsletter.

The bait: "THREE TIPS TO FINALLY NAILING HANDSTAND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Ok, so there were't that many exclamation points, but you get the idea,  I fell for it.  I got a few emails of his, read a few blogs...  One of the emails he sent was a podcast of an interview he did with another yoga teacher who was known for his very advanced practice.  For some reason I put the podcast on while I was eating lunch one day, I can't remember what compelled me (better than staring at my phone?) The first question he asked this guy was how often do you practice and what does it consists of?

I almost spit out my food at the guys response. 

He said he spent two hours everyday working on handstand alone and another hour or so for the rest of his yoga practice.

TWO HOURS. EVERYDAY. ON HANDSTAND.

I turned the interview off.  Incredulous! Ridiculous! Guffaw! Snort! Eye roll!

It got me considering a few things...

Is two hours of daily handstand practice "yoga"? 

More broadly should we (I) be practicing handstand (or any other pose we're striving for) every day?

I do not spend two hours on handstand everyday.  I don't practice everyday. I wondered if I didn't have a child, a dog, a fixer upper, a husband or friends or a job if I would spend two hours everyday just practicing handstand.  Pretty sure the answer would still be no. 

I suppose we are all different kinds of people.  Maybe this guy is the kind of person that has the energy and stamina for this kind of practice, and his hours spent practicing somehow fills him up rather than depleting him. Maybe he needs that disciple to thrive.

I've always lacked discipline.  I'm a go-with-the-flow kind of gal.  Procrastination got me into trouble in my younger years. I've since learned to manage it and now enjoy "getting shit done" but I have to really psych myself up for it, plan a day or few in advance that X day is going to be a get shit done day.  I make lists. I cross things off.

Perhaps I need more discipline?  I practice maybe 4x/week, usually at home, though I seem to go through ebbs and flows of energy, some months practicing at home daily other just in group classes a few times a week.  And home practice is different from led practice.  I think home practice requires more energy overall, even if the led practice is super challenging (thanks, Anthony Thomasi!) since I'm using creative energy to direct my body, plus do the physical work to move my body.  Home practice usually lasts about 50 minutes.  In a led practice, someone else is in charge, telling me what to do, the conductor of the orchestra, keeping time, setting the rhythm (thats what conductors do , right?), though I'm still playing the instrument, part of my brain gets a break.

I spend some time practicing handstand, definitely not two hours worth, more like 10 minutes worth, spread out over the course of my home practice.  I hear A LOT that if you want to "nail the pose" you have to practice it everyday.

I struggled with this idea a lot last summer when I was working on pinch mayurasana (forearm balance).  I was juuuust starting to have some hang time in the pose.  I tried practicing it everyday.  Meaning I would just get on the mat and try the pose, nothing else.  I found that trying to do the pose with out a warm up, with out having taken the time to center and connect was never successful.  The times when I actually had done a practice, or gone to class, I was connected to my breath and IN my body, I was more succesful.

Those times where I was just focused on "nailing the pose" I would get so frustrated.  Why can't I? Whats wrong with me? I should be able to do this. I suck.

Compared to when I would try during a home practice or led practice, I felt light.  I felt hopeful. I felt like I was beginning to be familiar with this pose.  I felt positive.

There are so many definitions of yoga.  Maybe spending two ours a day on handstand IS one of them.

Though in my person experience, this kind of work has yet to bear fruit.  In fact, I found it to be quite poisonous.

I stopped practicing pincha everyday. Instead I did it every time I went to my mat for a full practice and eventually that work bore the fruit of balancing on my forearms. 

Have you ever heard people talk about how the more you want something the less likely you are to get it?  The times I was trying to do it everyday was so desperate for THE POSE, the focus was on the pose not the practice, not the journey, not the reason I do yoga. The reason I do yoga is not to balance on my hands.  That would be gymnastics. Yoga has taught me to be comfortable in my own skin, to pause before reacting, its taught me patience, dedication, mindfulness, compassion and facing fear.  It is constantly revealing my weaknesses and my ego and demands that I be open. It feels good, its fun and interesting and never-ending. The postures I'm working on now are simply my natural progression of the physical practice. When I make it all about achieving some particular shape it all goes to shit.

Or maybe this all just really great excuse to not practice daily because I lack discipline.  

In the midst of writing this article (as a previous post stated, it makes me a month or so) I read a blog by my friend Lauren.  (read them all, she's wonderful).  And she wrote this:

"I’ve been [rock] climbing for a decade. What I think of as a long climb is thousands of feet- because I’ve accustomed myself to the act of climbing and I have endurance. You would think that my opinion is extreme, but extremes even are relative. There’s no middle path that isn’t subjective. I also believe there’s no growth without extremes. Growth is often paired with extremes, one’s edge, risk, uncertainty."

There is a lot more goodness in this blog but this one seemed to speak specifically to me and this topic.  

I think she basically sums all of my ruminating up perfectly. Two-hour-handstand-man seems extreme to me and I probably seem extreme to someone else.  Crap happens when we take one individual's edge and try to make it our own with out having spent the time cultivating the endurance needed to sustain existing on that edge.  I was in a class recently and the teacher described this as a form steya, or stealing.  (Asteya is the 4th of the Yamas and means non-stealing.)  

I say all of this as a reminder, mostly to myself,  We are often our own worst critic. And, as a teacher, I sometimes feel like I need to do press handstand in order to be "successful".  (More on that to come).  I don't know two-hour-handstand-man's story.  There are most likely months-worth of time spent building the endurance for two hours of daily handstand work.  And perhaps one day I might reach that point.  But right now I find that simply hopping on my mat for concentrated pose work is not beneficial, even though I've heard plenty of people say "you HAVE to practice it every day". Because, really, you don't. Be disciplined, yes.  Be diligent, yes.  Challenge yourself, explore your edge, face your fears and failures, yes, yes, yes.  Keep practicing yoga, not just the postures.  Try and try and try some more.  And before you know it, you'll be climbing for hours.

 

 

The Path Traveled

I love Mondays.  Dave is back to work, Ruthie is back to school.  I don't teach Monday morning so my whole day is wide open. I usually do a short hike every Monday with my dog. We're not bagging peaks, just exploring some of the trails in our area. The weekends are my family's busy time, Marilyn, my dog, can be a jerk to other dogs, so we tend to avoid off leash areas during peak times like weekends.  After two days of leashed walks, she's always ready for our Monday adventures, as am I.

I was out with her a few months ago and I stopped at one point and turned around. The path behind me was lit up with glittery fall sunlight, and immediately I thought, "stop and look at the path you've traveled". I got out my phone to take a picture, and later posted the photo and shared the words it inspired.

At the time of the photo I was in quite a funk. I was feeling very dissatisfied, undervalued and inadequate (contradictory, I know).  Very unlike my usual self. There was a class I had been teaching for while that wasn't growing. I was feeling very frustrated with Instagram and the "yoga-lebrities" it was churning out. I even went to a yoga-lebrity's workshop to see if he/she was worth the hype (it wasn't) which only threw me deeper into my funk. 

This photo ended up sticking with me, as did my thought when I took it. A few weeks after the yoga-lebrity's workshop I attended another workshop with Raghunath (totally worth the hype). I was pretty much in tears by the end of the practice. His message went straight to my heart. I honestly can't even remember exactly what it was, but I do know how it played out in my life the following weeks.

I started meditating and reflecting on my journey. When I first started doing yoga, I went alone. I had no friends that did yoga, and knew no one at the studios I went to. I knew all of my teachers names but none of them knew me. I wanted to be part of all the chatting before and after class, but never was. And when I started teaching, it was more of the same. I tried again and again to get my foot in the door at local studios but it's often a "who you know" scenario, and no one knew me. I realize this sounds a bit sob story-ish, and thats not my intention.  There is no bitterness in my sharing this, just simply creating context.

Contrast that to now where I can walk into teach a class of 25 people and know almost all of them by name.  Now I have an AMAZING group of yogi friends (ladies, you know who you are) who I can geek out on yoga stuff with.  Now studio owners approach ME offering me classes rather than me sheepishly handing out my resume. 

Sometimes we forget where we came from. Sometimes when we aren't exactly where we want to be, yet still on the path, we can become dissatisfied and unhappy.

Around the same time I was in a workshop with Desiree Rumbaugh and she made a comment that really stuck with me.  She said that she never really worries about the advanced yogis injuring themselves, its the intermediates she's careful with. 

That got me thinking about intermediates.  And I realized I was in intermediate phase of my teaching career. Not just starting out but not at the tenure of 20+ years. I was looking too far ahead.  And I needed to spend some time looking back to realize I was exactly where I should be and am so incredibly blessed.

Another thing about intermediate yogis is that they usually want the advanced poses SO BAD. Once you 'get' them you're on the other side, but the work to get to the other side is so often overlooked and undocumented. 

I had two major breakthroughs in 2015.  Dropping back into urdva dhanurasana/wheel and pincha mayurasana/forearm balance.

Dropping back was all fear.  Holy moly fear.  I still have much fear I work though on the mat but this was huge, and it had such a profound impact on my life.  No more wishing and wanting.  Time to start doing.

My journey with pincha was a rollercoaster of emotion, frustration and inadequacy being top on the list.  It took so long. Seriously, I started practicing it with out the use of the wall (with years prior of wall practice) in March and finally in late fall I start consistently holding the pose and not falling over every. single. time. 

And you know what it was that helped me finally nail it?  Time. Patience. Practice. No secret, just dedication.

It became apparent after the funk cleared that life lessons on the mat are no joke (not that I every doubted it).  You really can learn about yourself and life through posture practice.  Being in the intermediate phase is hard.  On the mat and off.

So I realized the phase I was in, this intermediate phase, and all the junk that can come along with being in that place.  And I was comparing myself to others, you know the whole "grass is greener" bit.  I needed to compare myself to me. Reflecting on the path I had traveled and all things that had changed for me up until this point revealed the truth that I had faced some serious fears and patience, dedication and time would bring me to where I want/need to be and with that the great funk 2015 cleared and I felt like myself again.

I've never been big on resolutions but the new year and this shift with in myself seem to have coincided naturally so I'm running with it. I have some goals for 2016 and my resolution is to make them happen.  





Can't we all just get along?

I know the answer is no.

I read a blog post recently (ok, it was really like 6 months ago but it takes me a while to organize my thoughts, then my husband has to edit, then I edit... you get the idea) and a yoga teacher described her style as "boring", meaning she just did one pose, then changed to the other side, no flow, no movement, no "fancy choreography". She insinuated that her method of teaching was ultimately better because you are less likely to get hurt (which is false).

I suppose I might be too sensitive.  But I would never diss another yoga style to promote my own.  

Of course not every style of yoga is right for every person. But can we please agree that every style has value and just because you teach one way doesn't mean your way is the best/right/only way?

This is my natural state.  I've always been a rational, even-headed kind of gal.  I was obsessed fairness and conflict resolution as a kid.  My dad used to tease me, "the law firm of Anna & Anna" when I beseeched him and my mom on behalf of myself or my siblings.

Teachers dissing vinyasa, teachers dissing playing music, teachers dissing other studios, teachers dissing other teachers, feet together/feet hips distance, whatever it is, this "my way or the highway" mentality is unhealthy and unethical, with the the exception of Bikram.  I think we can all safely diss him ;)

It's said that one of Krishnamacharya's underlying principles was to "teach what is appropriate for the individual." That means that a yoga asana will vary from person to person. What works for one person may not for another.

I respect the opinion of the the author of the article I referenced earlier. This person found that static and simple sequencing was best for her body and has chosen to share what she thought was the method that spoke to her. She's being authentic, that is something I totally appreciate.  My quibble is with her negativity of other styles.  I agree, though entirely appropriate for certain individuals, personally I would find her style of yoga "boring", but I would never announce that in a public forum like a blog or a yoga class as a reason people should come to MY class or practice MY way.

I have some baggage when it comes to this issue. This article is not the first time I've heard a teacher dissing another style, much worse, I've heard it many times in the sacred space of a yoga class.

Currently, my public classes are all creative vinayasa. I also teach restorative and beginners yoga, but vinyasa is mainly what I'm know for. However, I do not teach this way to most of my private clients. My private instruction is specialized, therapeutic and often not "flowing" . Each individual is different, and I attempt to teach what is appropriate for them at that moment in time. I'm able to adapt to the specific needs of my clients because I'm not glued to one specific style or lineage. I'm a yoga mutt and continue to explore, learn and be curious to what other teachers/styles have to offer, always remaining a student so I can better myself as a teacher. 

I write this not to present myself as a wizened, all-knowing yoga goddess but to hopefully inspire open-mindeness and real community amoung teachers. I certainly have things I prefer and alignment I adhere to, but instead of bashing the opposing/different view in order to promote my own view, what if we simply stated it? "I found that keeping my feet hips distance apart in uttanasna gives me more freedom to fold" vs "Feet together is wrong and you will hurt yourself, you should always have your feet hips distance." 

It boils down to respect. Once ego creeps in, it convinces us that we are better and the respect we may have once had crumbles. I find remaining a student (continuing to study with new teachers) is a great exercise in examining the ego.  With each new perspective, I try to pay attention to what resonates and why, and what don't I like and why. Understanding the "why" is the key, it's where objectivity comes into play. Objectivity and humility go hand in hand.  

My other reason for writing this is to perhaps encourage practitioners to take ownership of their practice. Don't just accept what yoga teachers say.  Hear it, reflect on it and then decide.  

For example: I was in a class with a teacher I had never practiced with before.  She led us through standard Surya Namaskar A + B and was very focused on alignment.  As we moved into Parsvakonasa (side angle pose) she said, "Don't distract yourself with movement." If you've seen me in class, taken my class or watched my videos, you know I like to move.  I could have have blown her off and continued to do my own thing, but I didn't.  I answered her (in my head) "OK, I'll try your way."  I thought about her comment in the following days, was I distracting myself?  I came to the conclusion that I wasn't.  I find intentional movement actually brings more awareness, getting you familiar with all the nooks of your body.  But thats me.  Is she wrong? No! Its a matter of opinion. 

Its like arguing about what the best kind of cheese is.  Some like fresh mozzarella, others manchego, and still others kraft singles.  In the end, we can agree on this, we ALL love cheese.

Recipe: poached eggs with greens

I realized last week I hadn't had greens in over a month.  Green Smoothies rule the summer but its cold now.  Salads, meh. They just take so long to make and eat!  This is a great recipe to get your greens through the winter.

I 100% stole this from Life Alive in Salem, MA.  I don't know exactly how they make it there but this is my interpretation of it.

Ingredients :

1/2-1c baby kale or baby spinach

1/2c broccoli, lightly steamed (I steam a bunch ahead of time)

cheddar cheese

2 eggs

Soft wrap/tortilla

Bragg's Liquid Aminos

Directions:

Poach the eggs (This link is a good guide, only thing I do different is bring the water to boil first then turn off heat and add the eggs, let eggs cook covered 5 minutes) http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/perfect-poached-eggs-recipe.html

While the eggs are cooking, sauté the green and broccoli in a bit of oil of your choosing and a squirt of Braggs.

Cheesify the wrap, top with greens mixture and eggs, S & P the eggs and enjoy!



making shit up

Someone told me recently that during a class as we were coming into Warrior 2 pose a woman behind them muttered, "Finally, something she didn't make up."  I fake laughed. 

Do I make shit up?  Well, yes and no.  

There is a narrative body and breath together want to tell. The variations and sequences that I come up with are just there waiting to be discovered.  I didn't invent them.  I encourage students in my class to pay attention and think and move mindfully through each transition as they explore new territory.  Only it's not brand new, it's like a 2nd or 3rd cousin.  There will always be a sense of familiarity because we know the characters of the story well: Our body, our breath and the foundational yoga postures.  It's like music.  The notes and chords are already established.  It's the specific arrangements that make music a song.

I'm probably not the first person to have discovered this shape. 

I'm probably not the first person to have discovered this shape. 

 I heard a teacher put it so perfectly: "Follow the path of possibility".  What could be more freeing and fun that that?  There's a door... open it, look in, perhaps walk through.  

It's possible the resistance the woman felt was because she had no idea what we were going to do next, which is entirely intentional in my class.  If you know what we are doing next, that means some part of you doesn't have to pay attention to what you are doing, whether you've checked out completely or you're thinking about the next pose.   And I am NOT bashing forms of yoga that are the same every time.  I'm a big fan of repetition and I absolutely see the value in having a set sequence.  It's just not the kind of teacher I am.   The world needs more people who are TUNED IN not tuning out.  Practicing and teaching the way the I do is one way to encourage tuning in, paying attention, and feeling everything. 

And speaking of music...  Good music always makes me want to MOVE.  Whether it be dancing, running or yoga.  I was artist in the traditional sense of the words for many years, but yoga has completely taken over.  It has become my creative outlet; composing a sea of bodies or my own into a seamless and engaging flow that teaches us while opening and healing.  It often gives me goosebumps.  Music inspires my home practice and my home practice is often where I discover many of the sequences and shapes I share in class. 

Be curious, be playful, be open to trying something out of the box.  Just don't get mad at me for making shit up.

 Below is a sequence that was 100% inspired by 'Entrance Song' by The Black Angels, unearthed during a home practice. The song came on and this is how my body responded. I put the song on repeat and kept going until I was a sweaty (delicious) mess.

 

Meghan vs Raghunath

This past spring I had the opportunity to practice with Meghan Currie. She is one of my biggest inspirations, and her class did not disappoint. She lead a beautiful, creative flow infused with mystical philosophy and distinct cueing. Days later, I was still digesting the experience. I gained much from practicing with her.  One thing I observed (and this is NOT a criticism) was that she did the whole practice with us and did not offer any assists.

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It was interesting to me because as a teacher, I often think silly thoughts like, "Oh I better make sure everyone gets an an assist in class otherwise they might not come back". And I'm the kind of teacher that mainly walks around the room while I teach. After Meghan I was reminded that there is no right or wrong way teach. Class with her was nothing short of amazing even though she didn't touch her students.

Contrast Meghan with Raghunath Cappo, who I had the chance to practice with last month. He was just as inspiring, offering a powerful message of living in service and gratitude, and teaching a simple yet challenging class. He did offer assists and they were heading towards aggressive (again, not a criticism, just an observation). When I assist a student, I attempt to enhance their experience. I want the assist to feel good so they can find deeper release. Raghu's assists were abrupt and forceful (pressing down on the backs of my hips until my shins touched my forehead in lotus shoulderstand). 

Meghan's class was full of flowery, poetic language, sweet, encouraging cues and no assists. Raghu's class was straightforward, black and white, do this, do that, here let me push your shins to your forehead. They couldn't have been more different. But rather than opposing, they were more like yin/yang, complimentary... each offering a little nugget of the bigger picture.

After Raghu, it was even more apparent that there is no one right way to teach yoga. Imagine if Meghan tried to imitate Raghu, or Raghu tried to imitate Meghan? If one of them had listened to a thought chain of insecurity and changed to fit some false ideal? Thankfully, they both teach from the heart, they offer something authentic. That's why they are so different, because they are true to themselves. 

It's sweet reminder. Teacher-self, stay true to your authentic offering. Student-self, keep collecting nuggets. 

why i don't care enough to care about my body

"Your beauty should not come from outward... Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit"

 1 Peter 3:3-4

I know, I know.  Countless blogs and article already on body image... what could I possibly have to say that hasn't been said already?

I'm told a lot that I should "love my body."  One instagramer exclaimed I should "be completely in love with every inch of my body."   That was, as they say, the final straw which compelled me to write this post.   According to her, in order to have a healthy body image I have be to "be completely in love" with the cellulite on my butt, my adult acne, and the stretch marks that cover my hips.  As I started to think more on why the "completely in love" comment rubbed me the wrong way, I realized that my healthy body image comes from removing the emotion I generated about my body.  The negative and the positive.  

 Here's the thing, I eat super healthy and get tons of exercise and I still have a saggy bottom.  And there are many chicks out there who eat Oreos for lunch and don't have any sag about them.  I would have to take drastic measures to change the way my behind looks, and I simply just don't care enough.  I lead a healthy, balanced lifestyle and this is the way I look. Do I like the cellulite? No.  But I've accepted it and I no longer feel anything when I look at it in the mirror.  I don't care.  This is the good kind of apathy.  The fifth limb of yoga is Pratyahara, it basically means withdrawal of the senses.   A Yoga Journal article reads"It is during this stage that we make the conscious effort to draw our awareness away from the external world and outside stimuli."  Observe without judging.  Look but don't attach emotion to what your looking at.  I'm reminded of one of my favorite quotes from Victor Frankel, "Between stimulus and response there is a space.  In that space is the power to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and our freedom."  We have a choice.  And yes, I have still have twinges of insecurity but I choose not to feed them with energy and emotion. 

The body-positive movement keeps the focus on the outward, on the body and how it looks. I guess I'm part of my own movement, body-apathy.  Wanna join? 

In yoga, I attempt on a regular basis, to not be attached to the outcome.  The journey is the reward, not the 10-second handstand hold.  The hours-long hike is the reward, not the toned legs. I attempt to focus on the inward, not the outward.  The reason I eat healthy and exercise is not to be thin.  Its because it makes me feel good, inside.

However, I completely understand where the body-positive movement has come from.  A constant stream of media images photoshopped and airbrushed to an unattainable perfection has left many feeling worthless.  Add social media trolls dishing out cruel and hurtful comments by the barrelful, and it's no wonder so many describe themselves as disgusting or ugly.  I'm just not sure being in love with our love handles is the answer*.  There are lots of things I like about my mortal body, I have very toned arms (thanks, yoga!) and very pretty feet, no crooked toes, high arches, they're really quite spectacular**.  Do I LOVE my arms? No. Do I LOVE my feet? No. Do I rely on my toned arms for body confidence?  Heck no. I attempt to observe without judging and go out to enjoy life.  Removing emotion from how I think my body looks has been the key to my body confidence.  I'm confidently apathetic.  Zero f**ks given about my saggy bottom and pretty feet. I don't care enough to hate it.  I don't care enough to love it.

Maybe try it.  Its really quite freeing.  And use that energy for something that matters a bit more.  

Like a 10-second handstand.

*If loving your love handles works for you, YOU ARE NOT WRONG. This is just what seems to have happened organically in my life and that could totally change when I have more grey hair. 

**sarcasm ;)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another Blogger! Yay!

Just what the world needs, another blogger! 

I hope that what I write will be a fresh and welcome offering, a way to share a little more about my worldview and things I love.  I generally keep my verbiage in the studio to a minimum.  I'm much more comfortable talking about asana than conveying some grand life lesson .  Its something I'm aware of and I think someday I will be able to expertly weave tidbits of delicious wisdom into class like so many of my favorite teachers do.  So I'm using this blog as a platform, for now.

Speaking of delicious tidbits, here is my very own cookie recipe, tweaked until just perfect.  We've named them, "THE Cookies".  Recipe is below. Enjoy!

THE COOKIES

2 c flour, scant (I use 1c white, 1c white whole wheat)
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c turbinado sugar
1/2 c sugar (organic sugars make a big difference when baking)
1 tsp corse sea salt
1 tsp baking soda
-mix dries-
2 eggs
1 stick melted butter
1 c peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
-combine until dough forms-
Add chocolate chips to you hearts desire (and PB chips if you like!)

Dough will be crumbly but should hold together when formed into cookies. Add more PB if it's too dry.

Bake 375 8-12 minutes.