Hey all! Still working out kinks with Mailchimp and notifications for my new site. All of your subscriptions have moved over there but we haven’t worked out the email notifications yet. With that in mind I’m posting my newest giveaway here as well just in case:
So hop on over to site and check out my blog post today and try to win this amazing mala! I promise to have both sites completely integrated with notifications etc soon so you won’t have to do anything different or change addresses even. Thanks for your patience and eternal support!
Ok, dear readers, I am back from a weekend at Kripalu that was filled with both contentment and disappointment. I went to a workshop that was much less than I had hoped, but managed to find kernels of ultimate wisdom in the chocolate and conversations that it engendered.
For the third time in less than a year I signed up for a workshop after hearing wonderful things about the teacher. Truth is, as a yoga teacher myself I am constantly looking for new things to learn and new teachers from whom to learn. I can do my own practice, go to favorite classes and learn from my friends, but I am still on a hunt for a style and teacher that really grooves with what I want for the long-term. These workshops are my way of travelling down a road to see if the proverbial inn at the end is a place I want to rest for a bit and learn.
So far they are not.
After taking all my disappointment from this weekend’s workshop (and the two prior that were similarly unsatisfying last year) and tossing it in the trash with my dark chocolate wrapper, I realized there was a lesson in this mess. My amazing friend Christine and I chose to skidaddle out of the workshop, for good. Rather than learning from the teacher in front of us, we decided on this weekend we were going to be our own best teachers. Instead of spending more hours wondering what we were doing in the workshop we went and chilled in our room, had a terrific dinner in town and ended the weekend with an amazing yin class by a totally different teacher than the one with whom we came to study.
My quest to find a teacher and a training that fits me keeps ending up thwarted and empty. I have found so many teachers disappointing and yet much of this feeling has come from what I possibly had built them up to be. Because others had loved their teaching, I assumed that I would as well. This weekend reminded me that the only person whose judgement about my path I can trust is myself.
Once I got over my regret for having listened to so many people suggest I study with so-and-so and wondering how it was I could not get what they saw, I came to a revelation. This teacher had given me a gift: I knew what I did not want in a teacher, or a lineage or a training. I was reminded what I would never in a class, what things I wanted to avoid and what I loved. I saw that the way to discover my swadharma would not come from another teacher but instead would come from within myself.
At the gift shop I spied a magnet that I instantly got for Christine and myself. It spoke so clearly to what we had just experienced and those inner kernels of wisdom that popped over the weekend.
One of the best parts about having an online community of readers, fellow yogis and yoga teachers is that we often get to help each other hone our practice. We discuss ways to teach, ways to do poses, tips for mediation, and we get to show our support through our blogs. I often find my best study ideas from my cyber yogi pals and some of the most interesting ways to do asanas, create a sacred space and book suggestions are found through this online sangha.
So when my dear friend Darla connected with me about a giveaway to get her new food blog off the ground it made perfect sense. We decided to work together to give yogis needing a jump-start on their yoga studies through a joint giveaway on her site, giving it the boost to start as well. What a magical way to celebrate all the new adventures on the mat, online, and in the kitchen.
Darla has offered to give away a huge collection of yoga books as she is needing space on her bookshelves for some new cooking ones. The majority of these books are new and those that are not are only gently used. Her collection is fantastic and includes some that even I do not have (which is frankly pretty astonishing!). It would make a great way to begin a yoga library or to add to the one you have already started.
My yoga books are the gateway to learning things I cannot find in classes or by myself on the mat. They allow me to continue practicing with a beginner’s mind on so many levels. One of my bookshelves which is overflowing acts a mini-altar and the other two also teem with knowledge. Darla and I hope to encourage your journey in yoga studies with the great collection she is offering.
Here’s how to enter:
When: The contest will run from 1/17/12- 1/31/12 6: 00 a.m. Central Time. Winner’s name will be listed in the comments here and on Darla’s blog.
What: The winner whose name will be drawn at random will win the collection of yoga books posted over at Darla’s new cooking blog: Darla Cooks.
How: In order to be entered in the contest you must do all of the following:
3.) Leave a comment at the post poston Darla’s blog listing the books she is giving away with why you want to win and what book most excites you on the list.
I see the future of 2012 as a place where we continue as a sangha supporting each other through all our ventures on the mat and off it. I see our continued learning as a gift and this giveaway as our way of giving one lucky reader a jumpstart on that journey. Good luck to all and especially to Darla on her delicious new endeavor!
Yesterday was one of those days that I spent most of holding my breath. When I finally exhaled I realized that it was silly to have not done it many hours earlier. Writing public blog posts can do that to me and even more so when I share them on sites that are not mine. Here I have my great readers who know my craziness, my opinions and my truth. In the wild and wooly world of the interwebs one never can guess who might read and react to what I write. It can be nerve-wracking even if I know what I write is of value.
Thanks first of all to the multitudes of my friends and readers who raced over to MindBodyGreen to read my post yesterday, commented and also shared the bejesus out of it. I am so humbled to have you on my side and I swear I have your backs the next time you need it! I was really nervous about my piece which after I hit the send button all of a sudden seemed pushy and opinionated. I was sure I would get a rash of hate comments from hot yoga practitioners and other readers who thought it was. I was getting prepared to defend my positions and statements. Seriously.
I did not need to and in fact I got the total opposite reaction.
The New York Times article that spurred that post has erupted in the yoga world with a fury not seen since Etna smothered Pompeii in ancient times. People feel vindicated, people feel accused and people feel defensive. There is anger, vitriol and dismay swirling around in the atmosphere in a crazy dance with defense, honor and support. The winds whipping rain outside my window right now are nothing compared to the letters and verbage spinning on the web. Every day there is some new angle and some new reaction to read (check out YogaDork’s rundown for the 411 on all the posts) . It is daunting but to me so exciting that the debates continue. Whether we are talking about alignment, styles, asana vs. yoga, spiritual vs. physical or specific individuals, people are engaged and excited to discuss what I love. How can this phenomenon be a bad thing?
Yet in the midst of all this discourse and argument was my post about practicing yoga safely. While I wanted it to be part of the discussion, I was also concerned about what kind of conversation it would become. It was written from the heart and how I teach. It was universal yet highly personal and so I was feeling defensive as soon as I clicked “send.”
Yesterday I was feeling stifled by the concern that publishing my article would be a negative thing and I was overwhelmed with the wait for it to go live. I knew that if I got on my mat it would be a practice steeped in overdoing it, drenched in resistance without a drop of sukha to be found. So I decided to take a day off from my practice and get my toenails painted. I wanted at least one moment in the day to be soft and sweet.
There are days you can battle with your mind, battle with whipping winds and pouring rain, battle with people whose opinions vary from yours and battle with yourself on the mat. Other days you serve yourself better to take the path of sweetness, of sukha, where you can drink in the ease and the softer edges. Sukha is that place where rainbows show up outside of the nail salon after you have given yourself a thirty minute mental break. A small whisper of a rainbow that cuts through the torrential and proverbial rain like a Ginsu knife and then slowly fades before you can snap it. That rainbow is really there whether on film or not. The colors might have misted away with the clouds, but its message of bright color in the midst of gray chaos has not.
It is a rainbow that reminds you that trusting your words, trusting your self and trusting your path is really the sweetest thing.
I am posting today over at MindBodyGreen about how we can be our own best advocates for safety and health when we practice the asana part of yoga. So many of my incredible yoga students are aware that I preach these themes (I am fervent that you MUST listen to your own body), but I felt inspired to write about them for the public as well. Seemed like a perfect post for our #365newbie crew and a great way to return to the beginner’s mind when we tackle the physical aspects of asana.
Our bodies are our temples, dear readers, treasure them!
When I went and got my mail today I found a little treat for my furry elf from my brother. It is this ball thrower called the “Chuck It” and it comes with this really heavy tennis ball and a rad plastic holder that helps you whip the ball far and long. As an aside, any yogis with rotator cuff injuries and dogs might consider investing in one of these things because it takes no effort at all to send that ball sailing. But I digress. This Chuck It got me thinking about how heavy our burdens, desires and extra baggage are and how with a little bit of help, how easy it can be to toss them.
Aparigraha, non-coveting, is a life practice for most of us. We see a body, a practice, a home or a career that looks magical and we long for it to be ours. We twist and contort, over reach and place ourselves at risk when we gaze too deeply at something that is not meant to be on our mats or lives. The recent New York Times article about yoga injuries addresses this trend, highlighting yoga students who harm themselves trying to mimic what they see on the mat in front of or next to them. Of course there are other layers to this discussion, but at its heart is a desire to be something, have something or do something that is not meant to be yours.
We yogis are at our core humans and therefore will eternally be on a quest for the greater and the best, even if it is not within our reach. But in 2012 we should work towards making some of those heavy burdens of want easier to throw away. Like that weighted Chuck It ball and the holder that makes it fly like a feather, the things we covet can be less anvil-like and more a hair blowing in the wind. Our mat is the tool that lightens this load. Our mat is the place we decide what we can keep and that is meant for us, and what prevents us from blooming into the person we are most meant to be.
Lately the hectic pace of life has made my body feel like it is filled with lead. So rather than looking at the flowy Vinyasa yogis who float through Surya Namaskars so effortlessly as my role models, I have been turning towards Yin. I am using this slower, quieter and more introspective practice to remove the quicksand feel of life and take a few pounds out of the bucket of proverbial rocks I keep carrying. I am throwing it all away on my mat and I am finding my light airy self in fresh ways. I am embracing the stillness and quiet and in return making space for raucous and sound. I am no longer coveting the floating or the flow because I am finding it through a newer practice that works in MY body today.
Starting a new year is a great time to look deeply at what you are longing to have and what really is something that is valid to aspire to whether that be on your mat or in life off it. I will be practicing Aparigraha in 2012 just like I did in 2011, 2010 and all those times before them as this work is one I carry through all my years. I will practice quieting the wanting and craving with the accepting and discovering.
Throwing all the burdens of coveting away with each move on my mat; each long, slow deep and light move.
Thanks first of all to so many of you that read my last post and plea for community rather than combat. We yogis/bloggers/people need to support each other and I know by reading it you were all taking the first steps in joining me in this commitment to peaceful engagement.
The post and chats with individuals afterwards really started to get some ideas cooking in my head and heart. Add to that the fact that I have seen the same Red Tailed Hawk (symbolism: listening to your heart, embarking on a journey of peace and true path) and this yogi has been teaming with plans. My friends on Twitter shared with me their vision boards and things they do to set the stones in the road they wish to travel. To put it mildly, I was über inspired!
So I am stoking my Agni not by doing tons of core work, moving from the center or connecting with my Hara on the mat. Rather the last two days I have spent a decent amount of time off the mat plotting how to acheive things I hope for in 2012. I am cutting and pasting my dreams, writing them down and also creating ways to make them happen. I am so excited and lit up with ideas. Dude, it’s getting super hot in here!
Like the pot of rice cooking the other night on my counter, some of these plans may take time to simmer and fluff to perfection. But I have already stirred the pot with some and created the baby steps to get myself to the others. This year I am going to use that inner fire to get things going.
I think looking forward with a plan and with enthusiasm is not really that different from spending a few minutes doing an inner inventory before your practice to see how you feel. As yogis it is just as important to create a life off the mat that compliments every asana, breath and moment on it. That path can be cool, calm and in conjunction with your yoga or it can also be fiery, exciting and in conjunction with your yoga.
I am picking the latter. My hot yoga this year will be off the mat. I’ll keep you posted on how that Agni-focused approach gets my plans in motion and what new adventures/doors/stories arise as it does.
Heat from the inside to make the outside cook. Nice.
What will 2012 hold for you? Do you look to cool it down or heat up your path?
I swore I was not going to make a list of my intentions/resolutions/promises for this year but the last four days has pushed me to do at least one. I will get to that in a moment, but let me begin by saying this post is not about any comments, posts or words directed specifically at me. Instead what I am going to say is more a global commentary about the recent state of yoga discussion in cyberspace. It is embarrassing to be part of this yoga community and making me feel ickier than when I had to eat liver and onions as a kid.
Today I taught a free class at a gym where I regularly teach. I had some of my usual students who have beautiful, strong practices. I had new students who had experienced yoga before but were coming back after a hiatus and I had brand new students who had never done yoga before today. I had a little bit of everyone there in front of me. This, dear readers, is MY kind of class. I love the mix, I love the challenge of making everyone feel comfortable and I love being able to create a space where every yogi in the room thinks the practice worked in some way for them. It is not an easy job as those who teach all levels will tell you. But what makes it wonderful for me is that I am perfectly ok with everyone in the room doing their own thing, listening to their own bodies and not doing what I am teaching if that works for them. I give permission for differences because the yoga they are practicing is THEIRS.
This past week in the yoga cybersphere there have been a couple of posts on Twitter/Fb, blogs and comments on blog posts that have really made me feel icky. If these posters/commentors or bloggers had been my yoga teachers I would have walked right out the door of their classes, never to return again. They were neither permissive or accepting, rather judgey and confrontational. What rubbed me the wrong way about them was the complete lack of space for other practices, language about yoga, and approach to teaching yoga. These “yogis” went down a dark pathway of judgement about others that was frankly pretty darn ugly. Judgement, as I have said before many times in my classes and here on this blog, should not be part of any yogi’s vocabulary.
I get it: you do not like the way these people teach or the way they describe yoga or the way they talk about their achievements. These feelings are perfectly valid as are the opposite and those neutral to the topic. But dismissing or berating the approach or the individual because their way is not yours, or worse: saying they are non-yogic is really pretty beat. There will always be people who do not succeed in the fashion you do, there will always be people who speak differently and those that teach/approach/share yoga in a way that will not work in your practice. Rather than try to bring them down to a level you are displaying with your anger and dislike, step off your proverbial mat and walk out the cyber door. You do not have to take their classes, read their blogs or comment on their posts. You can just chose to go a different way, quietly.
My amazing mixed class today had they followed these yogis I am describing above would have been a nightmare. They would have spent all their time watching each other, judging and measuring the people in the room and later bashing them in public to the other individuals at the gym. Speaking about humans in real life this scenario seems preposterous, but on the internet it apparently is commonplace and accepted. What a shame!
Every day I pick up my elves at school I see this sign outside their art room. This week I have been thinking about how I would write it differently for the yogis who are constantly creating flame wars and backlash towards others and themselves.
“Every person is a yogi. The problem is how to remain a yogi once he steps off his mat.” – Nancyism
Just because you practice or teach yoga does not mean you are a yogi. To be a yogi you must live the practice whether you are in Balasana or in the blogosphere. The moment you judge someone else and make that judgement public you have ceased to practice. Period.
My intention for 2012 is simple: I will practice my yoga on AND off the mat. I will greet those I disagree with in a cordial and accepting fashion. I will create a space where all the students in my class feel welcome, the readers of my blog feel at home and the yogis of cyberspace feel respected. I will not engage in flame wars, negativity towards other bloggers, commentors or those that differ in their approach to yoga from mine. I will not foster judgement, I will foster community.
I will be a yogi.
Yoga is yoga if you practice it. If you find conflict, take the #365newbie approach and walk away.
Whether it be Anusara, Forrest, Hatha or Bikram, it’s still yoga to me.
Rock it, roll it and live it. That, dear readers, is my intention.
You know those carefully placed towers of rocks called “cairns” that mark hiking trails? When you are out in the woods they can become the way you follow the path you are meant to hike. They are the outline to your walk and the guides to your turns. Those precariously set collections of rocks can be the path.
For many of us Tadasana is the cairn in our yoga practice. It is the pose upon which so many other poses are built and it is the start of much of the flow in Vinyasa. It is a way to return to the top of our mat and connect with the ground below us. We return to it to remember where we stack our knees, hips and chest. We place our body parts in Tadasana neatly one on top of another with care and balance just like those rocks in the cairns on our hike. Tadasana provides a road map, a check point and place to regroup and get back on the right path.
In preparing for my classes this week I have been rereading to a favorite book of mine by Alanna Kaivalya called “Myths of the Asanas.” She elegantly links asanas with some of the Hindu myths and legends upon which many of them are formed. Alanna reminded me that in India mountains are considered the starting point for all life because the Himalayas are the location where the Ganges River originates. Similarly in mountain pose, she suggests, we can imagine the flow of all things starting above our head, moving through our bodies and connecting to the Earth at our feet.
So tonight as I took my shower I stood in the stream of water with my body in Tadasana. I imagined all that was good and magical, strong and sweet flowing from that source above my head down to my feet. I pictured myself as the Himalayas and the shower water as the Ganges. I felt connected to the water higher than my head and moving below where I stood. I felt the flow of my mountain instead of feeling only its steadiness.
My eldest elf has been obsessed with cairns lately and has marked our driveway with many of them. In case we get lost, he posits, they will help us find our way home. For me that is Tadasana: a steadily balanced stacking of my body that reminds me where I am most connected and at home on my mat. Today I experienced both the flow of Tadasana and the stillness. I went to the river, I felt the river, and I was the river.
Our yoga paths are long, winding and often we can feel lost. But I always go back to Tadasana to remind me of where my yoga is and how to get to it. Now I know it can also show me how to find the energy and movement I need too.
I drove down the Freeway
And turned off at an exit
And went along a highway
Til it came to a sideroad
Drove up the sideroad
Til it turned to a dirt road
Full of bumps, and stopped.
Walked up a trail
But the trail got rough
And it faded away—
Out in the open,
Everywhere to go.