“Skinny white girls in Yoga”

I hear this a lot, that there is a “stereotypical yogi”, which is a middle class white girl who loves juice and spin classes, is no bigger than a size 4 and has money to burn.
I read articles where people getting up in arms about yoga advertising,  or people saying that they feel they can’t go to a specific studio because “hot girls in yoga pants” will be there, etc etc… then you have the whole backlash against it with the #yogaforeverybody or the #thisismyyogabody posts and the yoga war rages on.

I have never practiced yoga for anyone but myself.

When I first started yoga I would walk into the studio with my funky yoga mat and my old navy yoga pants (which I still have) and I never felt judged, because I wasn’t there to be judged, I was there to learn what I could from the precious moments that I had with my teacher. That time was precious so I didn’t waste it looking to see if I was the minority, I have not noticed how many white girls are in my classes, I do not compared myself or my outfit to other people in the studio. Because I’m busy doing yoga.

I will sometimes get comments when I walk out of a class where another student will come up to me and say “I saw that you really enjoyed your practice, you seemed to get lost in it.” or “I saw you smiling in triangle pose, you seemed to be happy to be there”. Thank you. I didn’t notice that I was doing those things or that you saw me, I am just happy to be on my mat, and yes I do get lost in my breath and in my focus. That’s Yoga. Everything else can fall away. The purpose of the yoga asana practice is to clear the mind and prepare you for meditation, it’s not to count how many ethnicities are in the room, or to figure out if anyone has the latest pair of Lulus on.

It baffles me when someone comes out of class and says “ugh that girl next to me was so annoying she had a loud breath the whole time and I couldn’t focus” You ma’am, have just wasted an hour where you could have gotten out of your own head and had a moving meditation on your mat but, instead you focused on the external and let it get in the way of your practice.
I’m not saying there aren’t times when it is distracting that the person next to you pulls out their phone to text, or they smell like they rode their bike from burning man straight to the studio, but all of that is part of your practice. Can you still focus? Can you still invest in yourself and act according to what you know is right for your practice? or are you consistently pulled out of your inner focus and using external circumstance as an excuse for why you weren’t able to accomplish what you came to your mat to do.

“Yoga is so expensive it’s for the upper class” No, Yoga is free. I had a home practice for a year before I set foot into a studio. I have a free 8 week course on youtube for beginners, Kino Macgregor has an amazing cache of free yoga wisdom up there! There are endless resources online for free, yoga is not about going to a studio, yoga is about you and your commitment to yourself. The end.

My thighs touch, I have breasts that prevent me from peacock pose, I love chicken, but in-spite of all of these things, I love yoga. And so I do my practice regardless of who or what is in the room with me, whether I’m teaching or practicing.
Yoga has never been about who’s in the room. Are you in the room? did you bring your brain with you? good, now train it to be still and focus internally and perhaps you’ll learn some truths about yourself and be able to take that knowledge with you off of your mat and create change for the better, internally first, and then externally. That’s yoga.

If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.

Do your practice…

..All is coming. – Jois.

I just passed the 2 year mark for my practice of teaching Yoga. My first class was October 29th Monday, 1:30 pm 2012. It’s funny because I remember being incredibly nervous but I did my best and felt grateful for the opportunity to share the knowledge that I have of the practice of yoga.
These days I do the exact same thing. Less nerves, but I do my best and am grateful for the opportunity to share my knowledge. It is significantly more knowledge now than it was two years ago, and I’m more confident in my ability to translate it from my head to getting out of my mouth a bit smoother. What a joy to be able to share with others the practice that has benefited me so much in my life.

I was thinking the other day how yoga is a little bit ridiculous for so many reasons. First because if you’re thinking of it in the physical asana sense, some of the postures are ridiculous and you have to be a pretzel. Secondly the postures themselves are not yoga, the willingness to show up on your mat and struggle is yoga. The ability to breathe your way into a calm state of mind in traffic is yoga. It’s more of a mental practice than it is physical, but we tend to get caught up in the physical practice of it. I think that’s why I love Ashtanga yoga so much, because it’s the same postures every time so I know what’s coming, but every time is so hard so I must concentrate on my breath and calm my mind down.

It’s easy to get caught up in what the physical body can or cannot do, but as I continue deeper into my practice I understand more and more that yoga is not a physical practice. The physical practice is merely a gateway into the actual practice of yoga, which will be different for everybody. Your practice of yoga will be what works for you, what helps you feel balanced and calm. Yoga is that thing that helps you balance your external wants with your internal needs, its is the practice of observance of yourself.

Today I will hit my mat, hopefully not with my face but you never know… I am so thankful to continually find little jewels in the practice, places of breakthroughs both physically and mentally although if you are looking at the long-term the physical breakthroughs will fade but, the mental breakthroughs stay with you forever and are the building blocks you can create your life from.
Now I’m inspired to hit my mat!

Do your practice, all is coming.

Saturday night …

And all I can think about is whether or not I ate too much chicken soup and if it will affect my inversion practice tomorrow.

That’s what happens when Yoga starts to take over your life.
I often hear people saying “I lost weight after starting yoga” and yes it’s true, a lot of times people lose weight after beginning yoga, but I believe it mostly comes from changing your habits so that your large lunch doesn’t show up during down-dog at 5 pm, because that only needs to happen once before you start making changes.
I am really, really grateful that my body has been progressing lately. My practice had been in the same place for about a year and just recently I started making breakthroughs again. I don’t think there was anything specific that I did. I believe that hard work pays off but, anything that is worth something takes time… and so it’s taken a while for my body to gain the correct strength that my yoga practice can use. I’m very excited to see where this can take me :)

I am also learning to tell my story. I think it’s going to be a life long unraveling of thoughts, letting go, thinking, forgiving and moving on… one of the hardest parts of meeting new people for me is opening up about my story. I don’t want them to feel sorry for me, because I don’t feel sorry for myself… but I also don’t want to downplay it, because I have overcome a lot mentally and emotionally, and coming through those things allows me to understand people on a different level, which I am very grateful for. It allows me a little more empathy towards different walks of life and provides me with an intuition to what people may be going through or needing. I’m looking forward to tapping into my wisdom a little bit more and learning how to open up and be okay with being seen.
I am very much looking forward to the future.

For now I will put the rest of the chicken soup away…

I have Enough.

I didn’t realize how much I was living from a place of scarcity until I was on the highway getting mad at other drivers for moving too slow, even though I  had plenty of time to get to work, and ended up being there 10 minutes early. I didn’t realize how much I thought I needed more until I was meditating and was anxious that the timer would run out before I was calm… so I kept checking on it.
I didn’t realize how much I didn’t feel like I had enough until I found I had the chance to ask someone to pay me for services, that I really didn’t need payment for.

I didn’t realize how much I already have until I was able to recognize my pattern… it was the anxiousness while meditating that did it. I found that my heart was beating fast and I was truly stressed that the time would run out before I figured this shit out…and then it hit me. As long as I think I do not have enough, I will never have enough. As soon as I start looking and being grateful for all that I have, I find I have so much that I have enough to give away.
I have gas in the car, food in the fridge, love of friends and family, a life that I love living, and if all of this isn’t enough, then what will be? What do I need in order to stop living from a place of feeling like I still need more? Do I need more food?  Do I need more clothes? Part of me says YES! but I know that I really don’t, in fact I should clear out my closet because I have a lot of clothes. Do I need more friends, another husband, more money to spend, another meal out? what? what is it that I feel like I need? Why am I hustling?

I find it so easy to get lost in the idea that “if you’re not struggling then you’re not trying hard enough” Unless you’re up nights stressed out of your mind working or trying to pay off a credit card bill then you could be doing more. Stuck in the “If you have time to play you have time to work” mentality.
But where is the allowance to be happy? Why is there a stigma attached to saying “in this moment I am very happy and I don’t feel like I need anything else.” People assume that you’re lazy or unmotivated, when really being happy doesn’t mean you stop trying it means you are grateful and don’t feel the need to go cutting people off on the highway rushing into work, or you don’t  eat the last piece of cake just because it’s there. When you live from a place of having enough you find that you have enough to give away. Happiness never decreases when it is shared.

Where can you find something to give today? not necessarily material things, but a smile, a hug a laugh, time. It sounds so cliche, I know, but it’s the truth. When you feel like you have enough you find that you are able to give to others more. Take 10 minutes to appreciate what you have and I think you’ll find that you have more than enough to give.

Give time today. Leave 10 minutes early so that you can help someone up the stairs, or bring flowers into work without feeling the need to struggle. Live life like you’ve only got one shot at it and know that, that is enough.

Secrets in the body

I have been having a dull ache in my left hip, it was my psoas,  (auto correct just suggested “soaps”) I knew it, I would do some work into it every once in a while, but now it was starting to affect my lower back and my leg so I knew it was time to crack this baby open.
Luckily I know really great instructors so after class on Sunday I mentioned to the instructor my problem and he suggested some work that would get right into the trouble spot. So I went home and tried it out and my body freaked the f*5k out. 

I’m not quite sure why I felt panicked and shaky and weepy, but I did. I allowed myself the space to take a break, take some breaths and then get back into it, because I just wanted to do this the once and get it over with. I wanted to unravel this space in my body, get rid of the tightness and be done with it! The good news is that I feel a thousand percent better now, I was able to break up most of the knot and I feel so much better. The other news is that I know it’s probably not a one time thing. The body has tendencies, and while I do feel released I can feel my body trying to pull back into tightness again, trying to get back to what it’s used to, and I know I’ve now got to be mindful of that pitfall in my body and take the steps to avoid it becoming such a big problem again. 
There are so many things in life that I go through and think “awesome, done, I don’t have to do that again, learned that lesson” then a little ways down the road, I do in fact, have to learn it again. It’s not exactly the same, it never is. But perhaps it’s the same principle on a different level.
It’s like climbing a spiral staircase, sometimes you feel like “I’ve been here before” and yes you have, but on another level, and even though being “back here again” can feel like a setback you’ve got to remember that you’ve been climbing and so you’re at a higher level and you can get something different out of it this time as long as you have enough pause to observe the difference between this time and the last.

I feel so blessed that my practice allows me to get deeper and deeper into my body.  I feel like as I get to know this vessel that is my body I learn to treat it with a deeper respect and listen to it a lot more. Wisdom comes from all different places, take a moment to listen to this vessel that’s carrying you through life, close your eyes, sit still and notice any areas of tightness or tension, breath into those areas.  Give yourself permission to observe, to massage, to change habits. Create a practice that helps you align with your body and mind just a little bit better so the next time something comes up you can look at it from a different level of observation. You only get one body for your entire life, treat it well. 

It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.”― Socrates

 

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