Saturday, November 5, 2011

Open to Something Greater

I've always loved learning.  I remember my dad saying once during one of our talks before he tucked me in as a child, as he saw stars and curiosity in my eyes, "Don't worry about not learning everything in this world - there is SO much to know!" and I also remember being determined to prove him wrong.  (But then the math section on the SATs came along....)

But really this determination to know everything became not as important, and yet, much more attainable in a way, when I began studying yoga:
"Education is the drawing out of the best that is within a person." Light on Yoga - B.K.S. Iyengar.

Have you ever had a teacher that you absolutely respected and really remember learning from? A trainer that guided you to do your best and "do it yourself?" I think we learn best by doing, and as teachers, the best thing we can give to our students is to let them understand their full potential by giving them tools to figure it out themselves.

As teachers and as students, we can start to understand our full potential by opening our hearts to something greater - something greater than how our job defines us - something greater than how our families see us - something greater than the limited concept of ourselves. (Thanks John Friend :) )

I've felt a crazy urge to play music recently, as work obligations have prevented me from having the time to play as much as I've wanted.  I've needed to change my mandolin strings for about a month.  Last night, while tuning, a prong that holds one of my strings down onto a metal bracket snapped off.  Time to head to the music store. I had always relied on musician friends to help me out when I was in such a jam.  They just knew the instruments so much better than me! I'm just one of those singer types! But last night I finally headed to the store and when the nice man behind the counter offered to help, I couldn't wait to watch him like a hawk and soak in all the knowledge I could - how to clean the wood properly, how to re-string it correctly (so much more complicated than a guitar!), how to match up the "open G" with the enharmonic tone of the 12th fret to determine if the bridge should be moved up or down.... 

Yoga helps me remember, with every breath I'm conscious of breathing, and with every posture to which I give my full intention, to open my heart fully to new experiences, but especially to honor what it is my heart wants. 

If you ever feel "stuck" in a situation life throws at you, open to something greater.  Figure out exactly what it is you want to do, want to learn, want to express, and tell the world - and be heard. Be open to learn from people who you once may have thought were less intelligent than you. Be open to learn from those younger than you.  Learn from their actions.  Learn from their mistakes.  We have all just been on different paths and all have something to share.

A yogi friend said to me recently, "Every being on this earth is meant to shine their light and do exactly what it is that makes them happy."

Whenever I feel stuck or unhappy I tell myself, "I deserve to be happy" and I start to do the things I love.  I make time and make space in my day just for me.  I might not be able to know everything in the world, but if I follow my heart, do the things I love to do, stay on my path and learn from those experiences, I will draw out the very best of me.  And I'll still be open to something greater...always.

Courtesy of Ashley Daige

Sunday, October 30, 2011

What do I Want to Create Here?

"We live to be the Creators and to be the Enjoyers of happiness, good health, beauty and love."

What happens to us when we are in conflict? What is happening to us when we are thinking about seeking revenge? What is happening when we are sad and dwelling on a negative thought?

Our mind is causing us suffering.

Yoga is not just a practice of physical poses.  That is a small fraction of it.  It has nothing to do with flexibility.  In fact, most people who are too flexible end up with injuries because of hyper-extension of joints.  It is a daily, monthly and lifelong journey.  Coming on to our mats is just a reminder to cultivate not only the strength of our bodies, but to also cultivate our minds and our hearts.  How do we do that?

Have you ever had a bad day and when someone comes to ask you how you're doing, you just tell them to go away so you can be alone with your thoughts? ooooooh, this is dangerous!  Think about what you're doing.  You are allowing your negative thoughts to grow.  Instead, to create a positive way of thinking, all you have to do is come to your mat.  Watch your breath.  Concentrate on the breath going in.....and going out.  Are you still in your head? Try some movement with your breath.  Get on your hands and knees.  Breathe in and reach your head and chest up towards the sky and point your butt up in the opposite direction.  Cow pose.  Breathe out and do the opposite - arch your back, pushing your hands into the ground.  Cat pose.  Do this 10 times.  Voila.  You just created some space in your mind.

Asanas, or postures, came about - so the story goes - after cave-dwelling monks who sat and meditated for hours and days on end started getting numb asses.  They started observing animals and how they move after getting up from rest and realized that they could still breathe and watch their breath but with movement.  But the point was still to watch the breath, clear the mind, connect the individual with the universal.

What do you want to create?  If you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, do you want to keep that awful feeling and take it with you throughout the day?  If your co-worker is being a debbie-downer on a Monday morning, are you going to let that bother your day?  We are the creators of our own happiness.  And guess what? We get to enjoy that happiness!  When we are unified with the rest of the universe, we get to enjoy good health! When we open our hearts we get to see the beauty in everything and we get to experience more love in ourselves, in others, and in all that surrounds us.

Create your own happiness.  Be open to change.  Open yourselves to grace...on and off the mat.

Namaste :)

Thanks Marc and Nikki!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Fall Vinyasa Flow Retreat - Keeping your practice with you

I went on a run in the rain yesterday in my little town and stopped when I heard rushing water falling over a dam.  I went over to the bridge and looked down...then closed my eyes. 

The beauty about yoga practice and meditation in general is that the more you practice, the more you carry it with you.  I was just fortunate enough to spend the weekend in Bartlett, NH with 13 beautiful women at Becky LeHoullier's Fall Vinyasa Flow Yoga Retreat.  A hike was planned by Jilly Sorrentino to the gorgeous waterfall pictured above, a discussion on Finding your Voice was lead by Yours Truly, vegetarian meals were cooked with love, a surprise "Yogi Yankee Swap" was planneed by Becky's mom, Jacky and of course Becky's flowing and flawless classes were the foundation of the trip. 
Work was forgotten about. Families were left at home (although we love and missed you!) Routine weekend obligations were put on the shelf to find a little space for "me".  Selfish? Read on.
During the "Finding your Voice" talk, people shared their experiences and stories of how they may have "radically expressed" themselves this year, or expressed themselves just a little more assertively than they may have in the past.  One woman mentioned that she had always been a controlling mother and it was the first summer she had learned to let go, take time off, and felt good about just having "me" time.  This trip was a reminder that it's okay to stop and find time to reset, rejuvenate and breathe. 

As I stood on that bridge yesterday with running water below my feet and rain falling all around me, I breathed deep.  I felt as if I was back at the falls in the mountains, thought about the conversations I had with new friends, the comaraderie that was developed, the trust that was born.  And I carried that feeling throughout the rest of my run.

In my personal yoga practice this morning, I found myself waking up thinking about the busy day ahead of me.  Instead of rushing to get ready or finding clothes to wear, I sat at the end of my bed, put a pillow behind my back and breathed into my mantra for 20 minutes.  Then I had a gorgeous 1/2 hour yoga practice.  When a thought came up, it was related to a new asana I had learned in Becky's class; it was a more focused thought on how my knee should be aligned over my ankle in this pose; it was remembering that in this space there should be a breath...instead of a thought. 
Retreats like this come and go.  But the healing that happened to our our minds....even though we may not have realized we needed it - will last.  Maybe it will last a week. Maybe it will last just a day.  But I know I can go right to my mat tomorrow morning and do it all again.  It's always there for us.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Recently in a Yogic Sutra class, our teacher mentioned, "We're all tuned in to a radio station, some kind of frequency....but most people are just tuned to the station that's static."

Practicing yoga, and I don't just mean practicing stretching, makes you aware of the static in which you live...and that's the hard part about this practice.  When you realize you're part of this constant buzz of thoughts, chaos, busy minds, it starts to hurt.  You can't wait to get away from it.  You start to become aware.

But how do you do get away?

Recently I visited a friend in Austin, TX.  I had been discovering the city all weekend.  There was so much chaos, so many people, so many superficial conversations....and I actually NEEDED it...needed to let loose after a stressful and hectic work week...but only for a day.  After a day, I wanted peace. I wanted quiet. I wanted to rest.  I tried to get my friend to come out for one more drink since we hadn't seen each other in over a year.  His answer? "I need to go home. I can't wait to get up and practice." I knew exactly what he meant. 

The searching, the socializing, looking for happiness outside of doesn't actually exist.  Well, it does, temporarily.  But to find ultimate happiness? Practice sitting or practice asanas (body postures) while deep breathing.  When a thought pops into your head, note that you had it, then let it go.  You might be able to stand 1 minute at first....then 5.  Eventually 15 minutes will seem like a breeze.  Maybe eventually you'll be like my friend, dedicated to practicing 1 hour and 1/2 every morning.

This is the practice I crave.  It makes me happy. When a conversation becomes too negative, too empty, I remember my practice and find solace there, and try to bring that tranquility and energy into my current situation.  I'm aware of the static, but I don't let it get to me.

After a long night's sleep, a massage, finally cooking a meal at home, and watching a local musician tell her story through song, the static is starting to drift away.... I can't wait for yoga tomorrow morning.

Om namah

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A New Beginning with Wanderlust

I had been looking for just the right yoga retreat for years. Lack of vacation time and other obligations prevented me from going away for a week or two to train. I had been attending steady yoga classes for years, switching up studios depending on location, the style I liked, and, well, price. But after years of studying the same lineage (brand, if you will) of yoga, I was itching to deepen my practice.
Wanderlust found me.
Without thinking about it too much, I signed up as a volunteer, and when they chose me to participate, I immediately found a hotel and started reading about classes at the festival. I really didn't know any of the "big name" yoga teachers, but read a little about them and knew I'd find the classes that were right for me once I got there.

Class 1: "Sky Dancers" with Sianna Sherman, A class that boasted a "challenging sequence of backbends" and a "greater refuge in the power of love." Nice. I'm in. There's only 1 problem. I hate backbends. I'm actually scared of them. The pain in my lower back was saying, "don't you dare step foot in that room," but there was a light somewhere in my body saying, "you better get over this fear!" I went for it.
The teacher could tell I was struggling in Ustrasana (Camel Pose) so came over to help. She could see the fear in my eyes, knowing the full wheel would be next. She left me, choking on my fear. A minute later, a girl a few feet away was crying. I think she was worse off than me.
Before you know it, Sianna Sherman had me and the cryer up in front of the entire class, using us as examples to do backbends the RIGHT way. "We're going to help you two," she said in the most motherly fashion. I would've done anything she told me. A few simple instructions later, Brenda and I were in full wheels, and the whole class was applauding. Talk about empowerment.

Class 2: Creating Art through the Body with John Friend (founder of Anusara)
As a volunteer, I had to work, but I tried to sneak into every class I could. Usually they'd let me after all the other yogis took their place. I found an open spot in the back, next to the door, a draft blowing up my yoga pants the whole time. I didn't care. Somehow I made it into handstand in this class. John talked about how we are meant to share our art with the world. I was almost in tears of bliss by the end of it.

Class 3: Getting High: Using Yoga and Meditation to Access the Infinite Pharmacy Within with Tommy Rosen
Ouch. My shoulder tendonitis REALLY didn't like this. Long-winded-detailed explanation of this session cut short, we did crazy things with our bodies that made our kundalini energy rise, namely, for the first 11 minutes we jumped / danced with our arms in the sky NONSTOP. Try it. E-L-E-V-E-N minutes.

Deepak Chopra - Diamonds on the glasses, squished on my fanny in the front row on the floor. He said some insightful stuff. :)

Class 4: Power Yoga Master Class & Meditation with Bryan Kest
Let me just sum it up for you with some quotes from Mr. Kest: Quote 1 "Lower down, baby cobra flow, ass in the air, High as it'll go." Quote 2 "This is called foot in the air asana. You want to know the sanskrit names of poses? Go to India." Quote 3 "People always ask me, 'Bryan, which way should I point my foot?' I don't fuckin know. If you like the way it feels when you point it, then point it, if you like the way it feels when you flex, then flex. I don't fuckin care!" Quote 4 "You know, I'm looking all around at you folks and your glutes and lips are all so tight. Loosen up your glutes, man! Do you make love like that?"
Such an unexpected beautiful 8 a.m. class

Watched Shakti Flow with Seane Corne
Cool scene. Some girl blew out her knee. Not a cool sound.

Class 5: Finding Your Voice - Off The Mat - Suzanne Sterling + Kerri Kelly
I couldn't wait to attend this class. This year being my "year of radical self-expression," I really wanted to see what was going to surface in this type of setting. As the descriptor read, "it is crucial that we each find our unique voice and allow our creativity to have full expression." The workshop started out with some chanting and finding our 5th chakra, and lots of moaning took place throughout each asana. When we warmed up our bodies through sound and movement, we all formed a large circle and that's when the drum and the sound of our voices began. Suzanne started us out with a melody and, to my excitement, she said quickly after starting, "if you can find a harmony, go for it." Paradise.
We ended up traveling around the room, singing and expressing our innermost Divine...then ended up in a tight mosh singing the song we had all just collectively created after expressing what we were feeling in the moment. It sounded something like this:
"Ahhhhhh Ohhhhh Ahhhhh.....EXPRESSION! (which was, of course, my contribution) Ahhhhhh Ohhhhh Ahhhhhh GOD'S LOVE! Hooooooooooooooonesty.....Ahhhhhh Ohhhh ahhhh!!!"
You just had to be there.

Michael Franti
Can't even explain the bliss that was emanating from my body and from those of everyone around me. You just have to experience him live.

Class 6: The Healing Balm of Self-Acceptance with Elena Brower
Going into this class, I wasn't feelin' it. It took my mind a good 25 minutes to be positive. I was introduced to Hanumanasana. I went up and chatted with Elena and thanked her for showing me how to open my heart and conquer my fears. She gave me a high-five with eyes of accomplishment for me and gratitude. I left feeling like I could conquer anything.

Class 7: Thanks, I Needed That with Desiree Rumbaugh
Had no idea what to expect and didn't want to do any more asanas. By the end of the class I literally said out loud, "Thanks, I needed that."
We partnered up with the strangers around us and I found Christine, a 5"9'er who was a perfect match. We pulled each other's hips, kneaded each other's backs, stepped on each other, leaned all over one another and twisted ourselvse into pretzels that miraculously undid muscle strains and knots. I would follow Ms. Desiree anywhere for a class! 

Can't wait to introduce everything I've learned into my practice......Om nomah!