Friday, May 23, 2014

Bowing to... Myself


"One who knows crying knows spiritual practice. If you can cry with a pure heart, nothing else compares to such a prayer. Crying includes all of the principles of yoga." ~Kripalvanandji

On my knees, palms together, forehead touching my mat, the tears fell one by one hitting the dark blue surface beneath me. I couldn't stop the tears from flooding out of me. I sat there, with my hips sinking down towards my heels wanting to get up, to move, I wanted to leave the room. Why is this so hard, I thought? "This morning's practice will be in honor of your soul, your light," he said, "It's you, burning bright, a bowing to yourself and the light within." 

Here I was folded over on my knees bowing, and bawling. With every sweep of my arms with every breath upward, the hot tears streamed down my face. As we exhaled and bowed, we said, "AUM JOYTI ATMAN," which means I bow to the light within my soul. I bow to the sacredness that lives within. As we kept moving, the tears kept falling, snot now running down my nose, Yogarupa made us laugh and there was even more snot, as a smile came through the laughter, I felt as if I was in some ways being torn open. In that moment, I simply didn't care what other people thought, what I looked like, or even what my teacher thought. There were things that I held in me for far too long, things that separated me from knowing myself that had to come up and out of me. I cried, I grieved, for what was lost, but now I cried even harder for the realization that I could no longer hold myself back. I pressed down through my left foot, lifting my right, my arms stretched out in front of me, "eight breaths," he said. "Hold here for eight breaths." My leg stretched behind me. I felt the shaking subside, and all the sudden I felt as if I could hold the pose forever. I pressed down through my standing leg, belly pulled in, I breathed. I pressed through my lifted leg, flexing my heel. I could feel every part of my body engage. I breathed into my chest, into my belly, then folding over my standing left leg, I bowed to myself. As one more tear rolled down my cheek, I began to get comfortable. "Aum Joyti Atman," I said loudly feeling the vibration pulsate from my throat into my entire body. I felt myself relax. The tears subsided. I did, what I came here to do. I honored myself, I bowed to my light, in all its beauty, in all its glory, in all its splendor, I bowed. I bowed again, over and over, each one with more steadiness and ease. I felt my body surrender in all the places I had held on so tightly, my breath became more and more steady, I held the pose. In that moment, I knew, I was back. I have been back. I am whole, and now it's time to embark on the journey of being who I am. It isn't to suggest that I haven't always been myself, but it is to note that I haven't given myself permission to fully exist-- recognizing the light within my soul, acknowledging it and bowing to it, I finally allowed myself to see it and feel it. It felt for the first few times, like I was in some way betraying a pact I had made with... perhaps myself. That I would keep myself safe from harm if I stayed invisible. However, God, time, yoga, my teachers, my parents, my friends have simply made being invisible to much to bear. Each time I have stepped onto my mat, has been a breaking open and now my heart, my soul feels what it's like to be free. It feels tremendously scary at first but with a little time, I think... I could get used to it. :)

So, my dear friends, even if you never step onto a yoga mat, I still think we owe it to ourselves to bow, honoring the sacredness within. Acknowledging the light and the dark, the pain and the joy, embracing it all while we dance with freedom to be who we are and who we've always been.

This I say, as I bow to my own light, I bow to yours. :namaste:

"True detachment isn't separation from life but the absolute freedom within your mind to explore living." -Rathbun

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Bird by Bird


The more I write, think about writing, talk about writing and write some more, the more I realize how writing, yoga and life are all so tied together. Like yoga, writing is a form of connecting, relating. It is more often than not messy. In yoga, you are falling out of poses, breathing, trying to steady your breath, you fall over, you get mad, you talk to yourself-- maybe you even berate yourself a little bit, but at the end, when it's over, you let go. You don't care if it's imperfect what matters is that you simply showed up. Either you stepped on the yoga mat, or you sit at the computer, and you in some way, create an expression of yourself. Like writing, yoga is real, raw, vulnerable. It takes you places, it shows you things, you cry, you laugh, you smile, you sweat, you surrender. In the process of writing, I have found it to be very much the same. I write. Sometimes it's so shitty I can barely read it, other times, I wonder if I actually wrote it. I have written about this, before, yes? Yes. Why am I writing about this again? Because it is a reminder to allow ourselves to make messes-- to be messy and unclear. To make mistakes, to hate what we're doing at times, and yet knowing that it's the only way to actually find our way... it's the only way to identify what we want, what lights us up-- to be messy is to allow ourselves to live a little more bravely.

Right now, I am reading Bird by Bird written by Anne Lamott. Have you all read it? I am enjoying every word of it. I really can't get enough, which is why I am reading it at a snails pace. At night, when I'm home... I make my hot tea, climb in bed and I read and I laugh because her writing is so poignant. The book itself has the title Bird by Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life, because they are one in the same. We can't separate them. Writing is bringing to life a connection of being human. What it means to have your heart broken, what it means to feel like a complete failure. When I speak, I have this fear of saying too much. I have carried it over to the page. The advice that Anne has which has so far has been a blaring horn in my mind is to, "Tell the truth." Perhaps, at some point we all contract this fear of telling the truth. Especially when it comes to the things that are not so pretty in life. Disappointment, the feeling of betrayal, the language of defeat, the feeling that you've messed up, and for me the hardest truth, is to say or admit when I feel hurt. I think for the longest time I pretended like nothing bothered me-- no one could ever hurt me, but that simply isn't true. And I know I have hurt people. That is much easier to admit than the truth about my own heartbreaks and disappointments. However, there comes a point when we have to share what we have held onto, if only for the fact that once we do it no longer has power over us. This is probably what brought me so close to yoga, in a way, I can share without saying anything at all. I step onto my mat, with a sweep of my arms, I can be taken to a place inside myself I didn't know existed. It is both weak and strong, both light and dark and there it is-- the combination of both. Love and fear. This is what yoga has taught me about writing and what life has taught me about each... you can not have one without the other. If you do, you will wind up with a flat story, characters you can't relate to, and a boring sense of plot development. In yoga, the practice, simply would not be real. In yesterdays class, I talked about how the practice of yoga asks us to bring our "whole" self to the mat. Not our happy self, nice self, put together self, perfect self, work self, family self-- no, it asks for the whole self. Which, if we're honest is probably pretty messy and very imperfect. However, the beauty is that... it's real.

So when we come to the mat, come to the page, or just wake up in the morning, it is our greatest bravery to be who we are, to say what we feel and to have compassion for all the parts of ourselves that make us so very human.

What life, writing and yoga all beg us to ask ourselves, is how alive are we willing to be?
How much are we willing to feel? And will we say yes, to it all?



Friday, April 25, 2014

Thank you.



Hi everyone! Back again with two posts in one week.

Lately, I have been asked a lot about yoga teachers... finding a yoga teacher, finding a yoga training, how to find a good one, etc. When I went to Sedona a couple weekends ago, I went with Maria, who is my teacher, and was my first yoga teacher, I did my training with her, and even though I don't live close to her anymore, nor do I see her all the time, she is and always will be my teacher. For a long time, I wasn't aware of this. I would go take her classes every Monday and Wednesday evening. I did this consistently for about a year. Why did I like going there so much? What was it about her classes that seemed different from all the other wonderful teachers I had taken from? I was thinking about this yesterday... Maria never held onto me. Even though I am her student, she never claimed me. She never made me feel like I had to be anything. I would come on my mat every Monday/Wednesday night and I, for the first time in my life felt free. There were no demands on me, no expectations. I didn't have to go. She didn't get upset with me when I went a month without going, she allowed me to move freely and this was something that perhaps I had never experienced before. In a relationship and in my life, I for whatever reason, always felt like I was trapped-- with people, work, every aspect of my life, there were times when I felt like I simply couldn't move. But, every night, I would go to my mat. I would move, I would give her a smile at the end of class, say thank you and leave. She never took praise. You could feel it from her. She wasn't asking us to approve of her in any way. She was there for us, truly, for us. I think other teachers I took from I felt like I needed to give something to them as well, but with Maria, I could just be. Never asking anything from me, she allowed me breathing room. Space to let go, to connect to my own self, my own heart, my own voice... Every class I dug deeper. I could feel the practice working on me, as if it was shedding all the things I had placed on myself over the years. It was like I was handing things back. The wooden floor held me up and my mat became a safe place, with a voice that guided me, not only through a series of poses, but back to myself. As we would go into savasana (the lying down pose at the end), she would remind us that there is nothing left to do. I would close my eyes, feeling my body become heavy, sinking into the floor, I let my thoughts go as my mind became quiet, and in those moments, I touched complete freedom. Rolling over to my side, "starting fresh," she would say, we would then chant OM and have oranges after class. There is nothing like a slice of orange after a hot, sweaty yoga class. With my face red, hair a mess, I would smile, say thank you and leave. 

Months would roll by, and I started to linger around the studio. It began to feel like home for me. My apartment certainly didn't feel like home and I was living in Houston where I knew about two people. The studio, without me even knowing it slowly became the place where I spent most of my time. When I applied to Maria's teacher training, I am not sure what came over me. I had never thought about becoming a yoga teacher before, but all of the sudden I didn't wait two seconds after I glanced at the application to start filling it out. We were asked a lot of questions...  questions about our life. 

The training was more than anything I ever could have hoped for or would have even dreamed it to be. When I came to Maria and began talking to her about moving and starting my own studio, this is a moment I never expected. She didn't talk me out of it. She didn't say I should wait, that I needed more experience as a teacher. She simply held space for me to feel my way through it. She was with me through the entire process. When I left, she wrote to me, she told me this is not the end, but only the beginning. Holding me with open hands, I felt endlessly supported by her and still do. She didn't try to take anything away from me, instead she gave me the greatest gift. The ability to believe in myself, to dig deep and know that I have everything I need, she gave me permission to go. She didn't slap my hand or become angry at me for leaving. She let me go, and she let me stay, all at the same time. I was free. I am free. 

So when asked about finding a yoga teacher, a teacher training, even being in a relationship... I will say this... find the one that sets you free. 

To Maria, thank you.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Thoughts on Forgiveness


Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear. That is why it is such a powerful weapon. - Nelson Mandela

Hi all! It feels like forever since I have written here. I have missed it and although I think about writing all the time, it just hasn't been happening very much. I hope all of of you are doing well. Life has been good. :) Since the last time we spoke I turned another year older, I caught up with my college friends in the mountains, I went on a retreat in Sedona, (which was beautiful), and I spent Easter with my family. Everything is blooming here in Arkansas and it is gorgeous! The dogwoods are out, and the flowers are planted. Every day, I have been so thankful for the arrival of spring.

This morning I went on a little walk/run and was thinking about a lot of different things. Lately I have been having very vivid dreams. All of them seem to have a running theme when looking closely. Thinking about it, the dreams seem to signify that I have a fear of losing the things I love. I'm pretty sure this fear started when I was young. I lost one of my best friends around the age of 12 or 13. When it happened I was very confused. There was something I didn't understand. Why did I have to lose her? I have no idea. Really to this day, I suppose there are things I will never know. I think there's a part of me that has always blamed myself for this loss. I blamed myself not knowing why or how this could happen. Only looking back do I realize how sad I felt. To lose a best friend, it's a grief and grieving over the first time you recognize yourself in someone else other than your family. She was my first friend. We wore matching t-shirts. We would spend the night with each other the night before Christmas Eve. We would read to each other and talk about God. We played outside. We built forts. We rode horses together and as we grew up, perhaps we slowly grew apart.

The reason why I am sharing this is because at some point in our lives we all experience loss. It can occur in so many different ways and appear in so many different forms. We can often blame ourselves for the loss and try to think of all the things we could have done to prevent it. There are so many things I wish I would have known, but looking back, I know I was too young to see it. That's the thing about forgiveness, it is permission to  recognize that we/he/she/it/whatever it is... did their best. We're all doing our best.

We will all experience in our lives something that we have to forgive within ourselves and within someone else. It is then we recognize our humanness within each other, then we have compassion, then we recognize that we are all "just walking each other home." The more we can forgive ourselves and each other, the more freedom we have to live our lives, to not let it keep us from experiencing all the beautiful things that will be. So, forgive yourself. Forgive others. Love and let go.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Enjoy the Sweetness




Hello my dears, it is so nice to be able to wake up, sit down, drink coffee and write a little. It's probably one of my favorite things to do...

I hope all of you have been enjoying February so far. My bones are aching for a little warmth and although, I love snow, I am ready for the weather to start welcoming some sunshine.

Life here has been good, less busy and overall I have been taking a little more time for myself. Okay, it actually feels like a lot of time for myself. It has been so nice, and I have soaked in every minute of it. Not this past weekend, but the weekend before, I went to Dallas for another workshop with Seane Corn. I wrote about the first one I went to with her over a year ago, and revisited the same studio again for a chakra workshop. It was really wonderful. A fun weekend overall, and even though the asana with her was all familiar, the practice took me to a completely different place than I had ever been before. We had a late evening practice Friday, two hour practice on Saturday and on Sunday morning, I woke up feeling something in my heart... an ache, a rawness, I am not really sure, but then I started crying. I couldn't stop. Once I got to the studio that morning, she was asking all of us how we were feeling, a lot of people were experiencing the same thing, but in different places. It is amazing how the practice continues to work, case in point, waking up the next morning with flood gate doors open!
Every time we come to our mats we are moving energy, we are waking it up and releasing it. I realized very quickly what I was releasing. Both another girl and I had the practice take us back, probably to the time when we experienced our first heartbreak and I am not talking about romantic heartbreak, I am talking about the first time, we probably in some way shut ourselves down. In the moment I knew that I needed to do this work, that it was what the whole weekend was for, and to in some way remember love and what love feels like, again not in a romantic way, but in a way that almost like my last post that I wrote, it's a love that is completely freeing, healing, and in a way returns you back to yourself before the heartbreak.

On the way home, I was asked if I make goals or resolutions for the new year and the answer to that question is, I don't. Then, I was asked what I want to do in 2014 or what I want to accomplish... and I immediately thought to myself, that I want to take more time to enjoy... I have done a lot of work, shed many tears, lots of layers, and now, now is the time to enjoy having myself, my whole self, my life and a heart that is free.

If I could tell people anything, it's that we don't get to our joy by bypassing the pain, the grief, etc., joy only comes when we have the courage to face ourselves, to let go, surrender and forgive. The lightness in the heart comes when we are brave enough to work with the shadows, and once we go there, we can go anywhere, because the shadow doesn't chase us, and we really do discover the endless light. :)

En {joy} the sweetness.


Monday, January 27, 2014

Choose love. Be free.


I hope this blog post finds you well in 2014. Wishing you guys a very wonderful year. So far, it has been a pretty busy one for me with the yoga studios. However, I feel so blessed to share a practice that has touched my life in so many ways.

I got to thinking today about choices and freedom. A lot of you who read this blog know that I have definitely been through things. I have had my fair share of really intense learning experiences, all of which have taught me more about myself, than I probably ever would have known without them. In a way, and I have mentioned this before, but I think the universe is always trying to heal us. Heal our wounds, our past, things that we have held onto, insecurities, etc. Time and time again, it will bring us situations for the learning/healing to happen, and I think it is up to us to get the lesson. While I was thinking about these things, I realized something for the first time, I am free. Things that I have carried around with me, I have slowly shed... on my mat, backpacking and through teaching yoga... I only really realize now, that with all the "work," I am free. Free!

For a long time, I have always been terrified of having my freedom being taken away from me. I have never cared that much for relationships or anything like that because I have always in some way been scared that I will lose a part of myself, my freedom, something... I've always had fear that something will be taken away from me. Only now do I realize that my freedom, no matter what, can't be taken away from me. It is like you try to keep going, through the things that have been painful. You work through the tension, the tightness, the fear, the past, you try to stay awake, and then, the best way I know how to describe it is, you get to the other side of the tunnel. A surrender happens, a letting go, there's a release, a relinquish of control. It is only now that I realize, I made it. Made it to the other side... My heart is free. 

One of the reasons why sharing the practice has been so important to me, is because the practice itself helped me process so many things that I couldn't get access to– that my conscious mind couldn't process before. It helped me to scoop out what I buried because I was in some way afraid to feel. People have lately been mentioning to me about finding a "happy" place in yoga, but I always say no, you don't have to find a "happy" place if you're not feeling it that day. The practice doesn't ask for us to be one or another, it simply asks that we show up and feel. We feel everything. My mat became my safe space, where I could go every single day to shed the layers. I have been practicing for about four years now, and in those four years, I set myself free. In yoga, we call this liberation, moksha, it is the ultimate freedom. It is basically the ultimate goal, because when we are free, we get to live our lives and I mean really live our lives. One of our core desires in life, whether we recognize it or not, is freedom. Someone not too long ago asked me what I desire most out of life. I wrote it all down and top of the list, something I was not expecting is my freedom. The freedom, to go, be and do everything I've ever wanted to do with nothing holding me back or weighing me down. I think the idea of this freedom, it actually has nothing to do with the job, or relationship or anything like that, but has everything to do with the inside. How you feel inside. What inside keeps us from feeling free? The freedom is always there it's always with us because we have choices every day. The big choice is love over fear. Choosing love, day after day even when we get scared, even when the fire starts to get a little "hot" in the kitchen, even when things start getting intense, we have a choice, do we choose love... being in the moment, staying present, not trying to guess the outcome, or control it, or do we choose fear? Choosing love is freedom, choosing fear is allowing ourselves to be controlled by the very things we don't want.

So as we start to wind up January and move into February, I was just thinking, choose love.

"Stay in the center of the circle and let all things take their course." Lao-Tzu


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Be in the Adventure.



It is already November and as the days seem to pass so quickly, I find myself searching out time, whether it be 5 minutes or 5 hours, to enjoy the fall. I flew to San Francisco over the past weekend to spend time with one of my best friends from college and to see one of my yoga teachers. It was a wonderful weekend, but an eye-opening one as well. When everyone gets busy in life, it gets more difficult to carve time for everything you want to do, but at different points life creates certain opportunities for us to slow down. When we get the chance to take time out and to reconnect, I think it is such a wonderful thing-- almost a magical one really, but it can also make you realize the passage of time. It can show us how things change, people change and perhaps you change. I hope that in some way as we get older we all become a little bit more of who we've always been. As we grow up and stop trying to please everyone, or be someone who we think we "should" be, I hope we come closer to ourselves. On Sunday, the last day of the workshop I had been in, my teacher started talking about something that both my mom and I had the same conversation about prior to the workshop. He said that our shakti, agni... that fire part of us, that soul part of us is always waiting for us, and my mom had said the very same thing to me just a few days before. They both were saying how we don't go looking for our soul, but that our soul is actually waiting for us, waiting for us to wake up to it, to listen to it, to realize it, feel it and follow it. I thought that was such an incredible thing to say and a wonderful way to view it. It's not about looking for something, it's about waking up to what already exists. It's waking up to everything we are, to who we are and to who we've always been and are meant to become. I feel so thankful to the practice of yoga, to all of my teachers, my incredible parents and brother, because they have always in some way been the ones who silently and gently shook my soul. As I sit here writing this, I can't help but feel very grateful to all the people, places and practices who in some way helped to wake me back up to myself. I am so thankful for my friend who lives in SF, for all the times she was there for me, especially in college and even though we don't see each other very much now and are very far away, I am so blessed for the times we have spent together. It is funny how life unfolds.... and as one of my teachers always says to me, be in the adventure, stay in it and let it take you where it may. I think the adventure is all about following our soul. We have no idea where it will take us, but if we have the courage to have faith and follow it, I believe it will lead us on the trip of a lifetime and you don't have to worry about losing yourself, because you already have everything you need. 

So go. Adventure. Ask for you what you want and don't go back to sleep. :)