Learning about Yin Yoga

In the interest of continuing education of my yoga practice I’ve recently begun to venture into the world on Yin Yoga. What I’ve found has been incredible and I’m really excited to learn more about it and get into the trenches of the body, or deep into the fascia as it may be :) 

A quick description of what Yin yoga is: Yin Yoga is a very slow paced style of asana (postures) where you hold the posture for anywhere from 3-10 minutes, allowing the body to deeply relax and allowing not just your muscles, but the connective tissue at the joints to stretch. If your first reaction- like mine was- is “why are we stretching the connectors at the joints, isn’t that bad” here’s a excerpt from Yin expert Paul Grilley on just that subject

The Joint Stretch

The idea of stretching connective tissue around the joints seems at odds with virtually all the rules of modern exercise. Whether we’re lifting weights, skiing, or doing aerobics or yoga, we’re taught that safety in movement primarily means to move so you don’t strain your joints. And this is sage counsel. If you stretch connective tissue back and forth at the edge of its range of motion or if you suddenly apply a lot of force, sooner or later you will hurt yourself.

So why would Yin Yoga advocate stretching connective tissue? Because the principle of all exercise is to stress tissue so the body will respond by strengthening it. Moderately stressing the joints does not injure them any more than lifting a barbell injures muscles. Both forms of training can be done recklessly, but neither one is innately wrong. We must remember that connective tissue is different from muscle and needs to be exercised differently. Instead of the rhythmiccontraction and release that best stretches muscle, connective tissue responds best to a slow, steady load. If you gently stretch connective tissue by holding a yin pose for a long time, the body will respond by making them a little longer and stronger—which is exactly what you want.

 I’ve been able to read Paul Grilleys book Yin Yoga, principles and practice, actually I blew through it all in one sitting and am now re-reading it :) I’ve done a few yin sessions, starting with 2 minutes on each pose, working my way up to being able to hold them for 5 minutes at a time without my mind being like “I’m finished!!” It’s a really wonderful practice to get into a pose and then just try and stay, for me staying is the hardest part. I’ll put on my timer and know that  all I have to do is breathe and relax, and somehow my mind thinks that that’s so stressful!! So really, it’s also a wonderful opportunity to meditate and clear your mind. Sometimes I’ll just listen to my breath, sometimes I’ll observe my thoughts, but always I will leave my yin session feeling 100% percent better than when I started it. 
It’s especially helpful for those days when I feel like I have no energy but I really want to practice. Yin allows your body to open up and stretch, without getting vigorous about it. I believe it would be especially beneficial to those who have health problems that require them to stay in bed rest or chair bound. The idea behind Yin is complete relaxation, so you can use pillows, blocks, blankets, tennis balls, socks etc, any prop that will allow you to find more rest and release is helpful. My practice has involved tennis balls to release the psoas, blankets and blocks for chest/hip opening and a wall for a relaxed backbends. 

What I have found works best with my schedule is yin yoga before bed, it’s a lovely way to end the day, and I go to bed feeling gumby and happy inside. If you’re looking to get your Yin Yoga on, there are tons of resources online, here are a few to get you started 

A list of poses, some with videos to help you understand what you’re doing. 

An Eckhart sequence if you have an hour to spare, really great to see the use of props as well. 

And of course some Yoga Journal sequences for you. 

I’m still learning, but please ask me questions if you have them! If I don’t know the answer I’d love to find it out with you! 

What a wonderful world! 

Yoga resources for teachers

Hello :) 

I realize my blog has been mostly about my personal journey and while that’s all well and good, I thought I’d share some of my favorite and most accessible teaching resources that I’ve found extremely helpful as a new teacher. 

My favorite books so far and the ones I cannot put down are my Mark Stephens books. The Yoga sequencing by him has been a really useful resource, I wouldn’t be the teacher I am today if that book wasn’t written, seriously such a good resource, also a good home practice guide for when you’ve lost inspiration for your home practice. 

Light on Yoga is of course an awesome resource. I like to mix up the solid foundation that I get from the yoga sequencing book, with a crazy posture from Iyengar and see if I can sequence to it, actually I’ve found combining the two structures are a sure source of some awesome classes/practices. 

For my transformitive practice or things to think on I’ve found Anodea Judith to be priceless. So much was healed that I wasn’t aware was broken. Her Easter Body, Western mind book is such a good book, I go back to it often. Very well written. The first time I tried to read it I read chapters 1 and 2 and thought BORING!! And lent it to a friend for a few months. When she gave it back I tried again and I haven’t been able to put it down! I keep re-reading it. 

My last suggestion is my favorite suggestion, and it has nothing to do with yoga, but it has everything to do with yoga. It’s The emperor’s handbook by Marcus Aurelius. So much accessible wisdom, another book that is well worth being read, and re-read.

Let me know if you’ve ever read these and how you feel about them, also if you’ve never had them before, try them out!! I’m a tough person when it comes to books, and the fact that I keep on reading these says something about them :) You won’t be disappointed, and if you are let me know and then maybe ship me the book… can never have too many copies!  

I hope this helps!! Get your read on this weekend, xxx 

Watch your thoughts …

…..They become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”― Lao Tzu

Sunday, I woke up and had some coffee with my favorite person (husband Kenj) then I picked up some reading material and also ran across an old notebook that I hadn’t cracked open in a while so I was like “ooh fun, what’s in here” Oh I was in for a treat.

Back story, I was raised in a cult  and one of the many ways they would control was my sending out monthly GN’s (Good News)- basically propaganda, I don’t think there is another word for it, and these GNs could be made up of anything, structural changes, new “moves of the spirit” prophecies from “Jesus” or the founder “Grandpa” or Bojangles, (I’m serious) really anything. Anyway, being a devout follower I would write down the passages that spoke to me, or things I knew I needed to work on and had a problem with. I thought maybe if I wrote down these motivational quotes it would help me be a better disciple. Here are some quotes I ran across in my notebook:

It’s worth giving up your life to live the life Jesus wants you to. But, if you chose not to obey, you chose to forfeit a measure of the protection of my spirit and you will lack the stamina and strength to continue on.  (This was a message “from Jesus” )

You are your own worst enemy. There is no such thing as good self or bad self, there is only bad self.  (This is from the founder, David Berg) 

If you’re putting others first and tuning in to their needs and desires, if you’re outgoing and unselfish, if you’re meek and humble, listening more than you speak, being willing to yield to me and others rather than push your own way or loudly profess your own opinions, then you are walking in my spirit and in the spirit that I intended for a woman to walk.  (This was “from Jesus”)

Needless to say, I had a moment of “what in the actual F@c%!!”  To think I wrote these down in earnest, really trying to be the best I could but never feeling capable or strong, and I wondered why I didn’t feel strong. Perhaps 23 years of the conditioning above had something to do with it. Just a hunch.

Contrast this with the material I’m currently reading- I mean besides all the yoga books :)

” If you look at the definition of love and think about what it means in terms of self-love, it’s very specific. Practicing self love means learning how to trust ourselves, to treat ourselves with respect and to be kind and affectionate towards ourselves. This is a tall order given how hard most of us are on ourselves.” 

“The wholehearted journey is not the path of least resistance, it’s a path of conscious choice. 
The willingness to tell out stories, feel the pain of others and stay genuinely connected in this disconnected world is not something we can do halfheartedly. To practice courage, compassion and connection is to look at life and the people around us and say, “I’m all in.” 

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman

The above quotes are from Brene Brown in her book The gifts of imperfection.

On one hand, the you have thinly veiled threats about stepping out of line, people telling you, you are all bad,  and the laying out of the path that you- as a woman- are supposed to walk. All of these encourage submissiveness, giving away your power, feeling like you are bad and helpless without others to guide you. Those were my thoughts and struggles.

On the other hand, the thoughts that are running through my brain now are ones of acceptance, trust in myself, finding my joy and empowering myself to be the best version I can be. No threats, no impending doom, just cultivating joy and connection.

I am 100 % happier now than I was back then. It’s incredible for me to go back there and remember how helpless I felt and how I had no power because I had given it all away, I didn’t know what power was. I am so grateful that I know that I am no longer in that place. I am proud of myself for the work that I’ve done to overcome the conditioning to be helpless and play victim.
I feel truly free, free to be myself, free to invest in my life and what I love to do. I teach to empower others who feel like they are incapable. If there is anything that yoga teaches you it’s that things that seem out of reach, are in fact possible. You find that you grow strength and as you continue to practice you find that you have access to things you never thought were possible.

You are worth the work on yourself, and you are more than your story.
The darkness is there so that you can define the light.

True story.

Because it’s Saturday

I’m having some coffee and thought time to myself this morning, contemplating a lot of things, I have a bunch of “big articles” I’d like to write but they require more thought and organization.
I am missing the part of me that goes from “gosh that sounds like fun I’d love to do that” to the groundwork and the organization needed to bring it through to fruition. Growing up there were a lot of instances of “this is the next big thing that we’re going to push for and do” and then 3 months later, nothing. I didn’t see anyone actually bring any sort of plan they laid out to a successful fruition. Sure there was mediocre success, like making the months rent, that was always pleasant, but then there was the next month and you’d have to go through the process all over again. There were pushes to “win disciples” but as long as they turned into a supporter, well that was good enough.
Going through my 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training was the first thing that I completed from start to finish. I didn’t chicken out at 180 hours or think “well this is good enough” I actually finished all the requirements, and then some because I loved learning all I could about Yoga. I was 27.
I had done the training for myself, no one else. It felt good to know I could invest in myself and actually carry through, I was very proud of myself for completing the program and chasing after my dream, it was also eye opening to know that I could finish what I set out to do. This might be a very basic mindset for anyone else who grew up in a regular school environment where you have tests, complete them and then move on, or those who played sports where you win a tournament and go on to the next level etc, but for me there was never any sort of structure set up so I just tried to get by each day doing what I was expected to do and “who knows what’ll happen tomorrow” Maybe the Antichrist would finally get here and then my troubles would be over :)

One of my biggest challenges in life is learning to put working legs to my brain child. I’ll have an idea and LOVE IT! I’ll see it in my head I’ll pick people or locations out and imagine how exciting it would be to see this come to life!! And then groundwork will come up and I’ll think meh… maybe I’ll do it later, I’ll wait for the right time… after all who has time to go to city hall and apply for permits etc. Old habits of “well maybe if I do this instead it’ll be good enough” will pop up and more often than I care to admit I’ll take the lazy way out. But that’s no way to live.
If I don’t constantly challenge myself to take risks I find that I’ll simply stand still, nothing will improve. It won’t get worse… but it won’t improve, so unless this is as far as I want to go, I have to keep on moving forward- no matter how scary it is to put myself up against a challenge that I don’t quite know how to complete.

My Yoga practice is so helpful in challenging me. There’s always another step to take, more to discover and there is also no “quick” way to do yoga. It’s a slow process that you’ve gotta commit to for the rest of your life, otherwise it can be frustrating. The magic of the practice is that it imitates life, when I find that I’ve been stuck in my practice for a long time I can usually look at my life and find the same thing, I haven’t added any challenges or tried something new in a while. When I am trying new things in life and pushing myself to reach forward, I’ll usually find my practice starts growing as well.

I do not have the perfect yoga practice or the perfect life, but I am so, so thankful for what I do have and I won’t let it go to waste by settling for 75% of what I set out to do, I need to keep moving forward and finding that balance of pursuing the things that are actually important to me and which I wish to complete 100%, and letting go of the less important things or things that I’ve allowed to be “put” onto me by others. Never stop moving forward and chasing what is important to you. Personal dreams and goals are important, invest in yourself and improve on what you have, lean into your strengths and watch them grow!
Now if you’ll excuse me I have some Excel sheets to fill out :)

Telling a story

When sequencing a yoga class I start at the beginning, the very beginning, with breath. The pose you start in is a reflection of where the class will go, if we are working towards back bends we’ll  start in Virasana to open up the quads, if we are hip opening we’ll do child’s pose or supta baddha konasana, there’s a method to the madness believe it or not and it’s fun to unravel the body and have a place to go with your class, like telling a story,  the poses and sequence has a beginning a middle and an end, but they all tie together somehow…the parts in the beginning have something to do with the middle and they all go together in the end, and you’re left feeling blissful and at peace.

I have not quite figured out how to tell my story, I know the beginning, but the beginning makes the middle confusing….there’s nothing to be done for it, unlike a book or an article where you can go back and rewrite the beginning, the past is fixed and there’s no reworking it.

I’m in the middle and I’m not quite sure what to do with my skill set. I know I love to teach yoga, I love to listen, I am empathetic and can understand people from different walks of life. Living with 25-75 people for the first 23 years of life will give you some people skills… so there’s that and that’s nice. I feel like I have a bunch of unharnessed talent, like I was supposed to be super awesome and talented, but then nothing happened. Whomp. I’m not down on myself, I just have an itch to scratch but I’m not quite sure where it is and it’s driving me mad so I end up throwing myself into a bunch of things hoping one of them will stick.
Yesterday I had a moment of “oh my gosh what am I doing with my life, I only have two classes today I should be working harder” But then I did some yoga and perspective happened and I realized I am right where I am supposed to be. Life has it’s ups and downs but it also has plateaus.. places to rest and just be, they are as long as they are going to be and you can either let it drive you crazy or you can enjoy the rest and linger in it appreciating every moment of life, because it is precious. It took me a hot sec, but I’m going to do the latter. It’s hard to let go of the expectations we put on ourselves especially when we feel like we should have something worked out, but we don’t. It takes a moment of acknowledgement that we’re not as -fill in the blank- as we think we should be, but after that acknowledgement you can let go…. let go of any self imposed ideals of greatness or expectation and take a moment to love what is.
I love my days… I’ll use this time to chill, to marinate in my thoughts, observe my patterns and see what comes up. Who knows, I may find the key to my story or my intended path directly in front of me :)

Apparently I should be a writer

I took one of those quizzes that asks you about 7 questions then tells you what you should really be doing in your life, those are really helpful, I’m so glad we have the internet to help tell us who we should be. Just kidding. 

See I’m so good at this writing thing. 

I don’t know that “Yoga instructor” was an option for the quiz, but it said I should be a writer because I have a creative mind and would need a way to express it.
I have never thought I was very creative, as a child I was always too shy/oppressed to express myself, there was a very specific box that I was allowed to be in and had no desire to create within that box so I assumed I was not creative and left it at that. Fast Forward to now and my discovery of yoga, the discovery of the body being art and the unrestricted ability to create… now I’m full of ideas that I want to put into action and I’ll craft the idea in my head even put it down on paper and then hear myself think “but you are not creative.” And so I will leave it there, on paper or in my mind, resting, it’s a nice thought but since I am not creative or very talented I will just keep it there, the perfect expression of what I want to say or impart. It’s nestled in my mind if I need it. 

There is a constant struggle of who I am and who I “allow” myself to be, the good news is I’m getting much better at allowing myself to just be, no judgement or harsh criticism from my head, just the observation of “why” and the learning process that comes from allowing myself to react to a situation, observe my reaction, change if need be or stay the same if I have a sound reasoning behind my actions. 
The more I delve into allowing myself to be me, the more I find I must create. I have to get this stuff out of my head and out onto canvas, or film, or paper, some platform where I can express the joy, struggle, compassion or bliss that I feel. The more I allow myself to create, the more creative I become, the less I care about how the world will receive my expression and the more I know I must just express. 

It feels good to start getting things out of my head and find like minded people with whom I can create. It is such a pleasure to be surrounded by people who are equally passionate as you and the things you can come up with are incredible. I have had a thought brewing in my mind for sometime, and since I am supposed to be a writer I will write emails and start putting groundwork to my ideas. I am so excited to feel the freedom of expression, I am grateful to know that I have the ability to create, many platforms to work with and passionate individuals who share my vision. 

I’ll take that step today, walk off the ledge and allow my creativity to take me somewhere, I’m not sure where but I’m ready to find out just how creative I can be… It’s about time. 

A Yogi morning

Over the last month I’ve had too much coffee, tried my first tamale, partnered with IJM, I’ve brainstormed more than I ever thought I could, I crafted a curriculum for a “Yoga basics” workshop, co-led a instagram challenge, I’ve bought far too many vinegar bottles and haven’t read enough books.

Such is the life of this yoga instructor. Part of me feels like people expect a yoga instructors to do list to mirror Gandhi’s. It doesn’t. My to do list is very basic, wake up, coffee, green shake, grab 3 changes of clothes and go to the studio. On a day where I don’t have morning classes it reads wake up… instagram coma, feel insufficient that you cannot hollowback check mail, think about reading a book then realize you are halfway through three of them but the one you need you’ve lent to someone else… decide to meditate..change mind 40 seconds later when you get bored, do this 3 times..find chocolate, eat it. 

I wish I had a solid to do list every day and a tangible goal that I could move towards, right now my mind is so filled it can’t decide what it needs to do first… so I’m doing this instead and hoping lightning will strike and something will become clear.
I love big goals, where I falter is in the details, maybe that’s why I’ve crafted so many detail oriented yoga classes this last month because I know what I need and what my life is craving, details. 

I feel like the summer will be very busy for me, I’ve got some plans lined up so for now I’ll linger in the in-between and enjoy the moments to chill. Life seems to come it waves, no? I’m pretty sure this happened to me same time last year, where it took me the first third of the year to figure out my goals for the year and the the next thing I knew it was the end of summer and I had- thankfully- hit most of my goals, the important ones I accomplished which I’m proud of myself for. I’d like to look back a year from now and be proud of myself again, to know that I accomplished that which I set out to do and even more! I guess that means I’d better get to setting those goals.
Sometimes I am afraid to talk about my goals, because what if I don’t hit them, them everybody will know and I’ll look like a failure… and nobody likes that… but if I am to live that way I may as well keep my mouth shut for the rest of my life. Living out loud is hard, I am currently struggling with how to tell my story. Everyone has a story, I think mine is worth telling but it’s how to tell it that I am working on, I don’t want to blurt it out and see how people take it, I want to tell it with a purpose a meaning behind it, some sort of lesson or goal. It’s okay that I haven’t figured it out yet, I’m sure as I keep thinking on it it’ll become a little clearer. One day at a time is all I ever get to live so that’s how I will tackle these issues… my story, my goals, my hollow-back practice…One day at a time. 

Hopefully I will update before the end of the summer. I will update before the end of the summer, because now it’s one of my goals :)  It’s okay to falter, it’s okay to feel confused, it’s okay to linger in the in-between as long as you learn something from it. I have not yet learned anything this morning, aside from the fact that the book I need to read is not here and chocolate in a gluten-free french bun thrown in the microwave is delicious! 
Perhaps I should go back to my 40 second meditation practice…