Sunday, November 20, 2011

back body homebody

the first time i was in an anusara yoga class and heard "breathe into your back body" i was like, "umm, did she say my backbody ...what's a backbody??" and then, five minutes later, i thought "i think i love that phrase."

for me, the term back body is super meaningful. it was shocking the first time i heard it, because i didn't know how to interpret it. but, as i thought more about it, i realized the beautiful underlying themes. we are all so focused on the front. we look from the front, we only ever see ourselves from the front, we walk to the front, we bend forward (and hunch over) countless times a day, and we are all very obsessed with moving forward. so to focus on our back body is to greatly shift our perspective; to give attention to that space that never receives attention. it also puts us a little further in touch with our self.

the back body represents the universal, and the front body represents the individual. being in the back body, and moving from the back body, fosters intention in thoughts and actions. it's about noticing the energy that is all around us, without throwing lots of extra energy into our environments unnecessarily.

one of the easiest ways for me to get into my back body is to start in a plank. this is because i can orient the back body toward the sky (or ceiling), and my eye gaze is at the floor, so there isn't much to distract me back to my front body. imagining my back body is magnetically being pulled upward helps me find that weightless feeling where my attention moves inward and a bit back-ward. breathing into your back body (try puffing your lower back with air as you inhale) also pulls attention and awareness there. (and, after doing some planks, try some plank stretches i posted!)

when we are "in" the back body, we can begin to see, feel, and move from a more integrated space. for me, when i'm in my back body, everything seems more amazing. i'm able to receive a little more, and, in turn, my offerings back to the world also increase in quality.

which is why i wanna be a back body homebody! i want to LIVE back there! this evening, as i was walking home in the drizzle, i saw some HUGE snails sliding along the sidewalk. i thought OMG! they get to literally live in their back body! how lucky are these snails?! (yes, i actually thought that.) ...i mean, sure, they're slimy creatures, and they are always having to take their home with them everywhere... but can you imagine how back body-aware they must be? maybe that's the real reason they move so slowly--because they're moving from a universal space; a space of intention. and i bet snails NEVER think about trading in their (home) (life) (body).

and so my new endeavor is to be a snail. i don't need to be the fastest. i don't need to be the smartest. i don't need to be the best at every(any)thing. i want to be at home in my life, and know that i am always at home in my body.

and so, with intention, i creep along toward tomorrow.

(original link for snail yoga pic)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

simultaneous recovery

"you're not in this alone." how many times have i heard that in my life? no matter what "this" is, experts, friends, people on the street, will tell you that same old line. hearing an oft repeated phrase usually means that it goes in one ear and out the other, though--you'll hear the statement without really processing it.

this morning i did a beautiful practice on yogaglo with elena brower. it's true, i'm obsessed with her classes in general, but this class said the right thing to me at the right time. in the class i took with her today, she told us that we weren't the only ones who had gone through whatever it was we were going through. she emphasized that a few times, saying that someone else had lived through exactly what it was we were living through. someone else had done it before. someone else had lived it. someone else. more than just me. someone else, too.

as i laid there in supta baddha konasana, left hand on my heart, i heard what elena said. like actually heard it for once. and when you really hear something for the first time, it's amazing. your brain hears it, your heart hears it, and every cell hears it. my cells all heard that i wasn't alone. they finally understood that everyone goes through hard times. that everyone struggles. and that somewhere, someone had gone through my exact struggles. and they came through it, shining brighter on the other side.

well, i can't really be sure of that last part, but that's what i choose to believe. and knowing that someone else has lived through these struggles that feel so ridiculously hard, is, well, ultra-comforting. HEY! I'M NOT ALONE!

practicing yoga this morning is what enabled me to put my breath, body, and mind in the right space to hear that message. and that's why i practice. to connect a little more, to myself and to everyone else. we aren't alone. even if it feels like it sometimes. today i decided to imagine that someone else is currently at the exact same stage, the exact same page, as i am. seeing that person in my mind's eye, sending them comfort and well wishes, was amazingly easier than doing it for myself. but it is me. and i want to tell that "other me" that she isn't alone either.

we aren't alone. we are all constantly in recovery together. from whatever.

which remind me of what the beatles sing, "there's nothing you can do that can't be done," and "nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be." so here i am: doing what i can do, where i'm meant to do it. "it's easy."

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

shifting into confidence (OM)

i am pretty confident in most areas of my life. i don't doubt my decisions, i think everyone should trust my instincts, and i don't mind sharing my opinions. i'm confident in my work, my personal life, my relationships, my fitness teaching, and my yoga. and i thought i was confident in my yoga teaching... until i started to reflect on a few instances over the past few months.

1. friends complimenting me on my teaching and/or cues for yoga: after receiving amazing compliments from close friends, on different occasions, i found myself smiling, thanking them, and truly appreciating the compliments. but, then, after each instance, i would think to myself that those friends weren't expert yogis, or that they didn't know what was "supposed" to be cued, and i began to doubt the accuracy of the compliments.

2. the invitation to teach at an internationally attended yoga conference: after being invited to teach both a workshop and a class at the sydney evolve fest, i felt elated, momentarily. then i thought OMIGOD! WHY ARE THEY LETTING ME TEACH THERE?! i thought for sure they must have been desperate for teachers and only allowed me to teach because they had way too many spots. which turned out not to be true... but that didn't really affect my perception of the invitation.

3. the subsequent "life-changing" comments from people at the workshop: after leading a yoga/art mind-body workshop i developed, i had people coming up to me telling me about the amazing experiences they had felt: how they had realized things they never thought possible; how they heard things from me they had never allowed themselves to hear before. i smiled, i blushed, i felt humbled. and then i left and thought, surely that life-altering experience they had was a result of something else that recently happened; they were only attributing it to me.

all of these smaller reflections began to add up, especially in combination with the realization of #4 yesterday.

4. i have never taught a class an OM (spelled "aum" in sanskrit, but referred to here in its americanized spelling, cap-locked for emphasis). i suppose i have never been a big OM-er. don't get my wrong, i like my OMs. i like doing them in classes, but i really love being in the middle of them, i love the feeling of reverberation through my heart and through my body from the community of voices contributing to my own. i've just never felt comfortable teaching them. first of all, i have a terrrrrible singing voice. it's fine among the others... but as the one others might "listen" to? unh-uh. no way, forget it! oh, and i teach at gyms! they don't expect it; it might turn them off; they may never try another yoga class if i get all hippy-dippy on them!

AHEM, excuses.

after realizing that, yes, these truly were excuses, i thought: WOAH. and when taken with those other examples!?! --> i'm not as confident in my yoga teaching as i pretend to be! and then i began to meditate on why i wasn't teaching the OM in my yoga classes. like, the real reason--not the excuses i had spouted to co-teachers, fiends, and students. why was i letting myself get away with this for so long? was i really that shy about singing a single word? was i really that worried about the reactions from my class--the people that come week after week to take a class with me? was i really so scared that i couldn't pull it off?

well, i think the real reason was because moving from intention to action is scary! and even though i had intended to introduce an OM into my regular classes several times over the past couple of years, i had never actually done it. i told myself things like, "oh, there were 4 new people today--way too many to start a new part of our practice" or "i had a bad day at work, i should wait for a day i feel really shiny!" yes, shiny. these are the things i tell myself.

but something happened yesterday. i shifted. the mini revelation, fueled by the smaller instances of awareness, gave me the courage i needed to shift.

i walked into my class last night and began in a similar manner as i normally do. we were on the floor in suptaBK. we moved our arms with our breath. we rocked up to sitting. and then, i surprised the class. i told them tonight was the night we started our class with three OMs. i was honest: i told them i thought it was important for us to begin together, in the same place, on the same note; to be able to feel and experience the community of the class. and i told them i had been nervous to start doing it in my classes, but that it was TIME.

something amazing happened. they giggled with me. they didn't laugh at me. and then they OMed with me--anusara style--quietly, in order to make one voice. to hear one voice. to be one voice.

and it was beautiful.

...and then we moved on. we also closed with an OM, but by then i wasn't scared at all. i had done it! nothing bad had happened! i felt silly for doubting myself and i felt silly for doubting my students. and, when it was all over, i felt better about my class than i could have believed was possible, just because of an OM.

it's only the sound of everything. what'd i expect, really?

but reflecting back on it, a day later, i know it was hard. developing the strength to trust myself in this instance; finding the courage; shifting; moving from intention to action... it was all insanely difficult. but we all have these times, these experiences of contraction. we feel an instant "no" before we can attempt to say "yes." we decide we can't do something for a non-reason.

but now i know. i can do it. YOU can do it. nothing is really as hard as we make it out to be. start from the yes. start from the beginning. start from the OM.

and see where it takes you.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

body wars

**disclaimer: i have written this on 1/4 of my normal amount of sleep. so expect nonsense. if it isn't nonsense, then, hooray!

i'm in such a state of war with my body right now. but, oddly enough, not the "usual" war. food? exercise? no, no, no. right now we're fighting about sleep, energy, and, well, my well-intentioned plans.

as much as i love and value impulsivity (impulsiveness, perhaps?), i'm a born planner. it's how i'm able to workout, do yoga, write grants, publish papers, teach fitness and academic classes, attend workshops and conferences, go out with special interest clubs and friends, make dinner half of the evenings, and (sometimes) see my billy. fitting my life into my life is quite complex. so, even though billy has done a pretty good job of fostering lessons about how to fly by the seat of my pants, i still have a planner full of plans.

so, here i am, wondering what to do when my body rebels in a way it never has before. despite traveling internationally quite often, i never seem to have problems sleeping. i sleep when it's night in my current city; you know, like you're supposed to!

i don't know what happened, but even though i didn't sleep on the 27 hours of flights home, i haven't been able to sleep appropriately since returning. i arrived home late friday evening. friday night i tried sleeping, but didn't fall asleep until 930am. at 530pm, billy woke me up, suggesting that i should get up or i may not be able to sleep later. those 8 hours were the best, deepest sleep i had ever had. but, when billy woke me up from the nap, i thought i had only been asleep for 30 minutes. since i was still exhausted, i wasn't worried about sleeping later, though.

billy and i went for a run, showered, had a lovely sushi dinner, and began planning our vacation. then, i went to bed. not to sleep, but to bed.

here it is 5am, and i'm still awake. i wouldn't be very worried about this whole craziness, since it's the weekend, and i'm actually being pretty productive in work catch-up... except for the havoc this non-sleeping is having on my plans!

i changed my life around in order to get back from berlin by friday night so that i could do my second anusara yoga immersion saturday-wednesday. i've now missed the first day of the five day immersion, and am seriously worried about what is going to happen tomorrow. i'm worried about whether i'll get my immersion, i'm worried about the money i've paid for it, and i'm worried about when i would ever carve out the time to re-do this immersion if it was required (because of missing part of this one).

and, yes, i'm aware that all this worry is quite likely keeping me awake right now. i'm just not sure what to do about it. i've yoga-ed, i've breathed, hell, i've even blogged about it. (ps: amazing post-travel practice by my favorite anusara teacher: elena brower!) body just isn't listening to a word i've been telling it.

it's frustrating when other people don't listen to you. but when YOU don't listen to you?! that's pretty much the most frustrating thing i've ever experienced. but here i am, living through it. breathing through it. feeling bad about not being able to keep commitments, but hoping that life (and ananda) will help me come out smiling on the other side of it.

what am i really learning, though? well, i suppose life is teaching me the lesson i hate the most: you can't plan for everything. (billy: did YOU plan this little lesson for me?! ;)

and so, as in yoga, i'm flowing. some days my body doesn't want to do a crow to headstand transition (meaning, i fall on my head, face, or shoulder when attempting it), and so, i try going to the wall or doing a different inversion. right now, my body doesn't want to sleep. so, i'm doing what i can. flowing to the next activity, trusting it will be the right one for this space/time/experience in my life.

and, scene.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Evolve Yoga Festival, Sept 3-4

Exciting news! This coming weekend (3-4 Sept) is the first ever Sydney Evolve Yoga Festival... and I'll be teaching there!

The website describes the weekend as: "A coming together of the yoga and wellness community, Evolve is a weekend of yoga, massage, meditation and more." Included with an admission ticket: yoga classes, workshops, breathing sessions, meditation sessions, talks on health, and exhibitor stalls. There are five rooms of concurrent events, so you can choose what you'd like to do throughout the day. In advance, tix are $32 for one full day of events, or $55 for the entire weekend.

HOWEVER, the head of the festival asked me if I knew anyone who would be willing to volunteer. So, if you are interested in attending for free, let me know and I'll put you in contact with the organizer!

I will be teaching Saturday:
11.15-12.15 My body, My home yoga workshop
12.30 -1.30 Vinyasa yoga class

Check out the full timetable at: yoga festival program.

I'd love to see you there! Hope you are happy and healthy!

Yoga love!

Monday, August 15, 2011

challenging normality

challenging normality. what does that immediately bring to mind? i'm not talking about believing in vampire neighbors, and i'm not talking about wearing undies on the outside. what i mean is challenging what we think of as normal.

"normal" in our yoga: opening into the same variation of trikonasa each time. ignoring the chaturanga and zooming through our vinyasas. doing the same closing sequence at the end of each practice.

"normal" in our environments: walking by the bum that lives on the corner a few blocks away each day and not really registering his presence. buying a coffee without acknowledging the barista.

"normal" in our heads: having to do two more things before going to bed. cursing the driver in front of our car who cuts us off.

what happens if we do a pose differently? or go to a yoga teacher's class we don't normally practice with? it sometimes feels uncomfortable, or challenging. what happens if we offer some food to the man living on the street, or say hi to the person making our coffee? those things may feel uncomfortable, or awkward. and what happens if we change necessities or responses in our minds? that can feel uncomfortable, or frightening.

for me, challenging the normal in my head is the hardest, and is very scary. i can convince myself that my thoughts are all completely rational, and somehow i believe this most of the times. but i was reminded of how abnormal my reality is today while reading a book by a woman who is in recovery from EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified). she wrote about her treatment center and the "crazy" things people said and did inside (including herself). but over and over throughout the time i spent reading her accounts, i found myself thinking "what, that's not normal? i think that all the time!" oh, wait. it probably isn't normal; i've just convinced myself it is.

i've convinced myself that it's normal to do a minimum 75 minutes of cardio each day. why 75? because "regular" people might do 60, and i'm a fitness instructor, so i need to do more. also, if some unforeseen natural disaster occurs, i may need to take a day off, and i need to have at least 7 hours done in a week. and this is normal to me because i run marathons and teach fitness classes... and thus socialize with other runners and instructors. these highly competitive people will talk about hours of training as if it is nothing. i listen to athletes talk about their schedules and think, "eh, i could do that." but is that normal? to convince myself i have to do all of this every day? in addition to committing time to my work, my home responsibilities, my relationships... and my yoga/myself?

i've convinced myself that it's normal that i count every single calorie that i eat and expend, that it's ok to ask for every single item cooked in a specific way, to not eat something when i'm hungry because i think it is a "bad" food, unsafe, or because i haven't expended enough energy in the day to earn it. my brain constantly whirs numbers, adding, subtracting, estimating, compensating, and planning. this is normal to me because i've been doing it forever. i have millions of friends who diet, eat strange things or don't eat other things, or who regularly skip meals for "reasonable" reasons. and all of them say or post things about these habits regularly, infiltrating my mind and further cementing my version of normal. but is that normal? to convince myself that i'm not allowed to have dinner until i've burned another 400 calories? to tire my body until i don't have the energy for the things i want to do in my life?

we all have things we do: things we've rationalized to ourselves so often that we've forgotten we're rationalizing. it may be in your yoga, your environment, your head, somewhere else, or even a combination of places.

when i reflect on my version of normal, i can realize that some things are out of balance. but we often don't reflect on our normal. why would we? it's normal! ...what happens regularly; what we're used to. then, when something comes along to challenge that normality, we're surprised, a little shocked even. maybe a little sad or ashamed. thinking about my own normal, and what i regularly steal from myself, is upsetting.

challenging that normality is the next step: taking baby steps away from our comfort zone to find new normals. it may be different for you, but for me, it's easy to challenge myself in my yoga or in my environment. i don't mind trying new things, doing things differently, or being totally opposite to every other person on this planet. but challenging my crazy-mind? now that's a tough one. practicing in other areas of my life makes me feel like i'm taking baby steps (i taught a weird freestyle movement breathing-pattern-thingy in my yoga class tonight--does that count? i waited and watched someone taking a short video instead of rushing around the back of the videographer in a frenzied rush--does that count? i sat and relaxed for 10 minutes and then walked instead of running to make the earlier train--does that count?). baby steps everywhere!

but tonight i'm going to try to take a normal step. we'll see how it goes.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Just Breathe.

breath is an amazing thing. freaking amazing! the thing is, it's easy to forget how amazing it is, since we breathe automatically. every day. all the time.

i was reminded how amazing our breath is while watching a sitcom a few days ago. in the sitcom, a pregnant woman's boyfriend attended a lamaze class with her. he remained calm during the class, but after the class, he was talking to his friends saying "they expect her to deliver a baby just by using her BREATH!!"

i heard him say that, and i laughed so hard i started crying. once i caught my breath, i smiled. yes. i had forgotten how amazing the breath is. i was (am) stressed. i was (am) exhausted. i was (am) super low energy. i was (am) overburdened. over the past month, i've still been practicing and teaching yoga regularly, but even my yoga-breath was a little autopilot.

it took a freaked-out dad-to-be on an old UK sitcom to make me remember. but i remembered. MY BREATH IS AMAZING!

over the past week, i have been thinking about the breath: how it supports us, how it sustains us, how it gives us life. it calms us down and repairs us when we're stressed/exhausted/super low energy/overburdened.

want to be amazed too? feel your breath: sit in a comfortable sitting position on the floor. sit tall with a long spine. take long, slow breaths, in and out through your nose, using ujjayi breath (how to do ujjayi breathing) if you like. with the first breaths, feel your belly expand. with the next breaths, focus on noticing your lower back expand. then, take your attention to the side bodies expanding. finally, feel the expansiveness through all the areas simultaneously. take another ten breaths or so, noticing the lightness and openness you've created. just by breathing.

just breathe. JUST BREATHE!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Perfection = Happiness

Perfection... what a scary word. Just typing the word and beginning to think about what it means gives me a mini anxiety attack. How can I ever reach perfection? By its very definition, I'm sure I can't. And yet, I still keep trying.

I try to accomplish more at work, do more yoga, spend more time with Billy, and still have some time for myself. As I was trying to get the most bang for my buck out of my Thursday, I was cramming in a 30 minute yoga practice posted on We were working handstands, and the teacher said something like "being able to float through handstand in each vinyasa wouldn't necessarily make someone happy."

What she said was true, but how often do we think that perfecting that next asana, that next transition, or completing a little more at our jobs will make us happy? Perfecting my handstands is a goal of mine; something that drives my yoga practice. And, I'll admit, the thought of the perfect handstand makes me a little giddy at the potential happiness that will so obviously accompany it. I always want more chances for perfection, for the happiness of perfection.

On Friday, at the conclusion of a hectic week where I felt I hardly accomplished anything, I told Billy that I wanted a re-do for the week. I wanted to start again and try to make it perfect. Billy told me that, luckily, I do get a re-do: the next week. And after that, another week. There's always another week, and another chance to make it perfect.

Hmmm. Sounds eerily familiar. Similarly, I always get another day for my yoga practice. I always get another opportunity to perfect that next asana... not that it will be perfect the next time; not that my perfect trikonasana one day will even be perfect the next time I attempt it.

And that's the crux of it. The practice, the doing, the day-to-day, is the perfection. Returning to something, committing to it, giving myself over to it, and being it. ...that provides me with perfection: the perfection that I experience in each day. Not the perfection of a pose, not the perfection of a completed job--but the perfection of simply being and doing. And there's happiness right there in that perfection.

That revelation may seem mini, but it's slightly earth-shattering for me. Maybe my life is perfect. Maybe I can be happy with that perfection.

So the next step in my practice (both on and off the mat) is to recognize that each day's perfection is another chance for happiness. If I just allow it.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Balancing Truths

Balancing on the mat is difficult. There's swaying, adjusting, twitching, and, sometimes, falling. And when I fall, I tell myself, "it's ok... get back up and try again!"

I've learned to do the same thing in my life, which is usually a good thing. But sometimes, my "there's always tomorrow!" optimism can be a downfall. Like when I use it to rationalize my way into doing something destructive.

Have you ever been optimistically destructive? It can be as simple as having a piece of cake instead of some fruit by telling yourself that you'll go back to eating healthy tomorrow. Or it can be a little more destructive.

I'm really good at sabotaging my good intentions by optimism (it sounds like an oxymoron, doesn't it?). The really hard part is being honest enough with yourself to recognize the difference between optimism and optimistic destruction. Being honest with myself is harder than the balancing, and no one can really help me do it. Like everything else, I just need to practice.

One way I practice being honest with myself, though I didn't realize it until I really thought about it, is through yoga. Noticing feelings, whether they are physical or emotional, and deciding what I need to do with the feelings on a moment-to-moment basis, as part of being present during my yoga practice, is teaching me to recognize what I'm feeling and notice how I'm responding off the mat.

Now here's the really scary part... where I bare my experience. Tonight I really wanted to engage in my own special destructive tendencies--binging and purging. It's been a while since I've done it, and my partner was out having dinner with a friend tonight--which meant a few hours to myself this evening. First I wavered in the balancing: walking through the grocery store I picked up and then put down three different items that I thought about buying to take home to eat and throw up. Next, I played games: if I call Billy and he knows I'm thinking about it, then I won't do it because he'll be looking for the signs when he gets home. I also played the optimistically destructive card: "what's one more time; I won't do it for another few months afterward." Then still wavering, I took a long shower to delay my choice.

In the shower I thought about what I was doing, and I practiced being present and identifying what was really going on. I recognized the urge I was feeling as well as the optimistic destruction tendencies I was engaging in. I felt really uncomfortable with the urge, uncomfortable with the responses, and uncomfortable with being forced to make a decision. I felt like I'd lose if I binged and purged, but I'd also lose if I didn't fulfill the urge.

Then I realized that what I really wanted to do was get rid of all of the discomfort.

And, so, finally, I sat myself down in front of the computer to purge some emotions and balance the scales. And here we are. Do I feel comfortable now? Yes and no. I'm certainly standing back on two feet... but I've also exposed more than I typically like to. ...What I feel best about is the moment where I allowed myself to be fully present and honestly assess where I was and what I was feeling. Hey, it's practice.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Adapting to Extremes

Some weeks are crazy: exciting, stressful, emotional, upsetting, or busy... and some weeks are all of those things. This week was one of those weeks. The week began amazingly: On the weekend I went to an awesome Anusara yoga workshop with John Friend; went on an beautiful beach walk with a good friend; got "free hugs" from adorable young boys on the beach; and came home tired on Sunday night to dinner cooked by my husband. My heart was as stuffed as full as it could get.

Then there was Monday. Obama announced to the world that bin Laden was dead. My entire self felt full. But I wasn't really able to define the feeling--it was confusion about all of the responses I was feeling, a nagging reminder that bin Laden was not the entire anti-American movement, mixed with some sadness for the lost of a human life. Whatever feeling that might be called, it didn't feel good. And watching American reactions from Australia, as well as being one of the only Americans in my workplace and fitness environments, I felt extreme pressure to comment on the whole situation and to respond to the numerous questions I received.

The rest of the week seemed to follow the same pattern--intense highs and lows with tremendous levels of stress on top of the other extremes, with an injury thrown in for good measure. Maintaining my sanity throughout the week seemed to be secondary to just making it through the week at times. I felt proud of myself for making the small windows of time to get on my mat, but I also felt frustrated and unbalanced. My yoga practice was minimized to gentle yoga for short stretches of time to compensate for both the injury and the minimal time I had to devote to it this week.

I think that was the key to the "success" of making it through the week, though: adaptation. Even though it was, at times, unwilling adaptation, I adapted. And that's something we all have to continue to do: grow, change, accept, repeat.

On the Saturday ending this week of extremes, I woke up exhausted and unwilling to try to do anything. I didn't want to work, play, relax, or be. But I did a little hard-work-adapting, made it through Saturday, and on to a Sunday filled with love. Today (Sunday) I reconnected with an old friend: we met in a park and then came across a Buddhist festival where we created lotus lanterns out of paper. After we finished gluing the paper petals on the paper base, we were invited to write a wish on a piece of paper and to hang it from the bottom of the lantern.

Putting together the layers of the lotus lantern with my dear friend felt like the perfect ending to my extreme week. I think my lotus lantern wish will be for continual, but perhaps slightly easier, adaptation. And I'm manifesting it out to the rest of you--I wish that your adaptation is also continuous and that you are accepting of the changes you experience. That's a hard sentiment to fit on my slip of paper attached to my lantern, though, so I'm writing and wishing it here. x

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A box of happiness

This morning one of my friends told me that he put a postcard I sent him in his keepsake box, a box that he goes to for positivity when he feels down. I was touched by the sentiment. But, I also felt a twinge of excitement, like one might feel on Christmas Eve. A box of happiness, I thought… what an amazing thing to have!

I want happiness in a box. Some happiness I can access when I need it, happiness that I can take from as I please. I don’t expect to always just be able to find it; I would pay for it, especially if it was packaged in a pretty box with a pretty ribbon. And, because I’m a good shopper, I would naturally find it on sale and score a great bargain. And I would buy some for all of my friends. Imagine my popularity!

But, of course, as a yogini, I have to say all that I need I already have. No shopping required: it’s inside of me. The happiness is there, waiting to be accessed.

But if that’s really true, why is it so hard sometimes? I’ve been particularly stressed for the past couple of months: lots of visiting with friends, sandwiched between lots of travel, smothered with lots of work and conferences. That recipe of busy has left me feeling really depleted and like I don’t have any happiness for myself, much less any to offer to share with my friends, family, or yoga classes. I haven’t even blogged (ack!).

Hearing from my friend this morning that my postcard meant so much was a reminder: I do have that reserve inside, and apparently I am sharing it, even at times when I may not realize or remember it. In fact, recalling the short conversation with my friend ignites a spark of happiness in my heart. And deep down I know that my heart has endless happiness contained within it.

Now, to figure out how to unwrap the rest of it.

The more I think about it, though, even my friend’s box of happiness was coming from within. I mean, after all, he was using tangible things to remind him of happiness he had previously experienced. So certainly tangible reminders can work to tap into happiness stores. And I found that spark while remembering the conversation I had this morning. So reminders of warm conversations with friends can find some happiness.

But I want to take these sparks and stoke them. I want to be warmed by the fire of my happiness, not just reminded of it.

So my challenge for my next yoga practice (two hours from now!), and your next yoga practice, whether it’s today or next week, 10 minutes or 90 minutes: start with a morsel of happiness. Focus on that bit of happiness and remember how your heart felt, how your body felt, how you felt during that time. Spend a few minutes focusing on the warmth of that happiness.

Then, use that as your intention for your practice. Offer that small kernel as a beginning. And then? Explore. Open. Begin to unwrap. Keep searching. Offer a little more warmth to yourself as you need it throughout your practice.

Find the inner box of happiness. Open it! And then maybe try to share a little with others you encounter.

Monday, February 14, 2011


Why is it so hard to remember how awesome we are? I saw a post today that I loved, because it was in-your-face awesomeness! (CLICK HERE!)

As I was pondering my own and my friends' forgetfulness as to our awesomeness levels, I was thinking about how easy it is to get sucked into all the things going on around us: the media messages, the emails, the jobs we take on, etc. If I lived in a small, transient community, 2000 years ago, would I get sucked into those dynamics and forget myself? Somehow, I doubt it. 

So far I've had a beautiful, though not typical Valentine's Day. I connected to my sister living abroad via a Skype yoga session this morning, I chatted with a few friends that I've been missing on Skype and gchat this afternoon, and I saw a friend tonight before my yoga class, who gave me a lovely flower. where's my husband in all of this? Stuck in bed, sick. We celebrate our love often, so I'm not too upset about missing a dinner this one day of the year. But I do plan on pampering him whenever he is awake enough for it. 

In my yoga class tonight, I focused on loving ourselves. And I think there could not have been a more perfect audience. Most of the people who attended class tonight were single, and most of them came to yoga to be kind to themselves. The response I got from the self-love focus was amazing; I could see people brightening and warming throughout the practice.

It's on a day where we celebrate love where we should reflect on our own self-love (and, before you ask, no, I don't mean that self-love... this time). We don't have a specific day dedicated to expressing our own awesomeness, but it should be part if our daily to-do list. So go ahead, give yourself a hug, and a smile, and maybe even a little treat. You deserve it! xo

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Our bodies are so freaking amazing. I wasn't feeling that way earlier today, but then I started thinking about my heart, and how I wanted to strengthen it: for me, for those I love.

Then I made this heart. This heart is a heart that is flexing its muscle. The lines, colors, and cord in it are the growing strength. The whiteness in the center is the openness within the heart. And the glitter is highlighting that space, because that space within the strength is something that I value so much.

Thinking about my heart and making this heart started me thinking about the rest of the insides of my body. Even when I connect to my body, I often forget about everything else that is going on inside. Skin, muscles, and even bones are relatively easy to connect to, especially in yoga.

But there are all these crazy organs and blood vessels and veins and nerves and hormones and neurotransmitters... et cetera! And somehow they all balance each other and continue to work to support us, even when they're ignored. That's my body loving me from the inside.

My body is loving me from the inside out. Even when I forget to love it, I know it's loving me.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Retreating into my Heart Space

Retreating is a funny word. People often think of running away, hiding, giving up, and defeat. And yet, we also go on retreats to relax, have fun, and enjoy ourselves. To retreat or to go on retreat? It seems like an odd question, one that isn't part of our every day lives. But, in reality, it's a question we're constantly faced with: to fear or embrace? To surrender to someone else or to surrender to our own needs? It's so hard to remember, but we always have the choice.

I went on a yoga retreat this past weekend in beautiful wilderness where I got to spend time with lovely people and a fantastic teacher, do about 10 hours of yoga, watch my husband deepen his practice, and remember to feel the strength in my own. I relaxed. I had fun. I enjoyed myself.

But, I also panicked a little here and there. Surrendering to my body's needs and giving it a chance to grow, recover, and balance was hard. Mainly because I have trained myself for several years to ignore everything my body tells me. Foot hurts? Keep running! Stress fracture from running too much? Swim every day! Tired from so much time on crutches and in the water? Don't give up teaching fitness classes! Perhaps you can imagine how my crazy mind gets slightly more insane when it is put out of its comfort zone. When I listen to my body instead of ignoring it, I sometimes get uncomfortable with what it tells me.

But it is a lesson that I desperately want to learn. When I think of that higher, brighter, best version of myself, I visualize a loving person who shows compassion to everyone around her, but, most of all, to herself. Practicing compassion on the mat is becoming easier and easier. I don't feel the need to bind every time I do a twist, or to do a long exhausting practice when I'm already feeling overly tired. Showing compassion toward myself in the rest of my life is way freaking hard, though.

So I went on retreat and focused on practicing that compassion. I practiced and practiced and practiced. When I went for a run in 100 degree heat, I stopped after 15 minutes because it was too hot. Compassion, right? Sure, maybe the best-me wouldn't have forced herself outside in the first place, but it's better than before (I promise, it is). Baby steps into my heart. Baby steps into surrender. Baby steps retreating.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Moderating and Transforming Intensity

Bad things happen; bad things can make us feel like sh*t; shitty feelings can be very intense. And you know what? Those feelings can be very, very UNcomfortable.

So what do we do with intense uncomfortable feelings? I meditated about this earlier this week after my mind felt unable to deal with some seemingly unreasonable anger. After meditation and then an intense, forceful asana practice, I came to the conclusion that yoga has an important lesson about this: moderate the intensity to turn the intensity around!

Pushing too hard in asana practice counteracts the surrender that is necessary in some part of the pose. But we can moderate the push that we feel the need to force out into the world. Energy is energy, but energy can move and change. Just as in asana, the flow of energy can support us or work against us; that energy working against us is the same energy that supports us. If we want to transform negative emotional energy, we can sit with it, experience it, and offer ourselves compassion and love. As we offer compassion toward our negativity, we find the power of transforming it. And the more we practice the transformation, we can turn that intense negativity into intense positivity--joy, love, compassion, and kindness. INTENSE joy, love, compassion, and kindness!

It sounds kinda simple and easy, and also kinda ridiculous. Which might be why I like it. I think, "yeah, that makes sense" while simultaneously thinking "that is incredibly impossible." But if you find that you can believe the first half of the statement, even a little, then your mind is open enough for it to work. Practice the transformation of energy on the mat, and find it ripple through your life.

I took that anger and transformed it, flipped it, and experienced some lovingkindness. It wasn't quite as intense as the anger was, but I know I've got more time to keep practicing. Which is a little more positivity.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


I'm running a workshop series over three weekends to LOVE YOUR BODY. We all treat parts of our bodies poorly at some time, whether it is through food, alcohol, drugs; by being inactive; or by being inauthentic in expression toward others. But just because we've done these things in the past doesn't mean we need to keep doing them! The theme of the first workshop of the series was "Shifting Perspectives," which we did literally by focusing on inversions.

Shifting our perspectives for this next journey around the sun; what a worthwhile intention! What a hard goal.

Coming home from the workshop, I felt uplifted, light, and grateful for the time that both I and the workshop participants had spent upside down. (Yes, I'm obsessed with inversions. But it's one of those healthy addictions, right?!) But, at the same time, I felt a little anxious. What was I thinking? I felt a little like an impostor. I've certainly come a long way in my yoga and body love journey. But I'm not "there." I'm not totally shifted. In fact, the evening after the workshop, I felt positively disgusted with my body, following a mini post-dinner binge on pretzels and licorice.

But, reflecting on the workshop and my own experiences, it's the intention that matters. I love that word so much. I think it's so much more positive than "goal" or "aim" because there is no opportunity to fail with an intention. Merriam-Webster days that an intention is "a determination to act in a certain way" ... contrasted with goal's definition: "the end toward which effort is directed." Since an intention is open-ended, there is no timeline. There is no deadline. There is only space. Space to practice that intention and continue to work on it. I have my whole life to practice yoga, and my whole life to live with my intentions. So, I return to my intention.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

... Wait for it...

One of things I have the most trouble with is one of the things I love the most about this world: that nothing ever stays the same. I’ve blogged about this before, but I have to remind myself of it so often, that I think it’s worth blogging about again. I know that all things are in a state of flux, but some days it’s hard to remember it. Sometimes things seem terrible, and it seems if they will always be that way. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had some hard days—not due to any external events, mostly just internal craziness. Yoga teaches us to be patient and endure when a difficult situation arises, rather than react.

Being patient is hard! But being patient for long enough brings change and the time and space to find contentment. There will always be something else we feel that we need; some other thing that we are waiting for that will bring the happiness we expect. But if we instead are patient and content with what we have, we can find the fulfillment that is already there.

I can’t help thinking that patience is one of the hardest lessons to learn. We strive for instant gratification. We are used to fast food, instant messaging, and lightening fast replies to emails. Waiting isn’t something that is valued in our society. We get angry when we see the line at the post office: we panic about what will be lost, what won’t be completed, and what we will have to sacrifice. Instead we should savor those moments—those times when we can practice our patience. We can gain something, find some completion, and surrender to the experience.

Patience is what will get us through. Because things are always changing. And if you can’t find the internal fulfillment just yet, don’t worry. Just be patient.