Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Teacher Training Week One: Endurance & Falling in Love again

Well here's to some healthy and much needed self discovery. 

It's been a week since yoga teacher training commenced. I've already been challenged mentally and physically in so many more ways that I thought possible. I've taken ten classes since last week's first session, which is more than I've taken in almost three years. After almost two years in a desk chair and the front seat of a car, it's been really meaningful to feel my body again. But I'm also finding myself exhausted. There are days when I just can't get through a class, but I'm also finding that speaking to myself in a receptive and supportive way helps ease the transition in my body and my mind.

Last night we dove head first into a lecture on yoga philosophy and history. It was my first experience really sitting down to examine why yoga was created, why its practiced, and how it has evolved. I realized that gaining a new understanding of the inner workings of yoga will help expand my practice and my sense of self. It's good to know where we came from and why we are the way we are. In uncovering where yoga has infiltrated my life, I can find ways to integrate expansion and self acceptance in a way I've never been able to before. That is a really powerful tool, just from doing postures on a mat everyday. It truly made me feel like the connection I always knew was secretly taking place off the mat manifests itself for a reason. It makes a difference to know a deeper purpose exists. 

I wanted to share a few things about yoga that kind of blew my mind. 

So much of yoga begins before we buy a mat, before we spend $100 on yoga pants, before we step into a studio. It begins in the ways in which we interact with the world and the ways we interact with ourselves. These daily micro decisions are highly influenced by yogic principles, even without thinking about them. I never knew that I was practicing yoga before my first class. 

Modern yoga took root in United States in the 1930's and 40's but didn't really gain significance growth until the hippie movement in the 1960's and 70's. Yoga was initially viewed as a spiritual path and over the past 50 years has evolved it's accessibility to a mainstream audience. A lot of people walk into a studio for a better butt and come out with a realization that yoga has altered their lives at every level. Yoga literally means "to yoke"; to come together in a union of mind, body, and spirit. Yoga allows us to connect to ourselves and others in a way that offers support and balance in this crazy, hectic and beautiful world. 

The most amazing thing we talked about yesterday was breaking down the 8 Limbed Path. This path is a road map for incorporating yoga into our lives in a meaningful and all encompassing way. This may sound super hippy dippy for those of you thinking "this is why yoga is not for me" but thinking about these concepts may help you to create a sense of peace and calm with your interactions with yourself and with other people. So let me break it down for you. 

First, we have the Yamas, yep, it sounds like a yawn! The Yamas are broken down into the five moral restraints. 

Ahimsa - non-violence, which refers in a broader sense to our interactions with the world and with ourselves. Choosing to communicate in a way that doesn't harm others is an act of Ahimsa. 

Satya - truthfulness, which refers to all aspects of truth and may vary from person to person, but mostly Satya is speaking to a place in which we operate from our authentic self; where we seek to be honest and truthful with those who interact with our space. 

Asteya - non-stealing, this is obvious and also incorporates metaphorical stealing, such as respecting your neighbors time and your own. 

Aparigraha - non-hoarding, non gluttonous  behavior; living from a place of moderation in all aspects of your life

The Niyamas are the second branch on the eight limed path. It's also broken down into five categories of observances. The Niyamas deal more with our inner world, the experiences we create within ourselves that inform how we relate and interact with the world around us. 

Saucha - purity and cleanliness, this helps to create an environment of peace and neatness that helps you operate more at ease with everything around you. 

Santosha - contentment. The most difficult for me. Santosha encourages us to operate at a level within ourselves that allows for balance between the highs and lows. It seeks to create peace in times of joy and chaos. Living from this place allows us to appreciate both the hardships and happiness that are bound to swing like a pendulum for our entire lives. 

Tapas - self discipline, in order to help us obtain our healthiest, happiest state of being. This sense of discipline is more about taking the time to acknowledge what we need to be our best selves. Sometimes that means skipping yoga class to take a nap. We should listen to our bodies to nurture and care of our minds. 

Svadyaya - self study, this one is beautiful because it means that yoga is a life long path. Svadyaya encourages you to stay inspired, to constantly find new ways to discover new depths and learn new things about that which we love. It encourages our continued education, both on and off the mat. 

Isvara-Pranidhana - is the surrender to something greater than self.  This can mean something different for everyone, but most importantly Isvara-Pranidhana asks you to seek and try to understand something greater than yourself. 

These ten concepts amazingly take place BEFORE the mat and your breath. By acting and incorporating them into your life, even even on the smallest level, you can begin to reap bountiful rewards both ON and OFF the mat. 

I hope your week brings you a deep sense of joy. We are all on the same path with such unique and separate journeys. Thank you for being a part of mine. 

                            Portraits of New York City, photographed by my lovely sister

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Trust: things have a way of working out

In a time of transition, these are some thoughts on trust. I'm searching myself for huge amounts of courage this week. Yoga Teacher Training started last night and I am nervous and so grateful to myself for taking this giant leap of faith into uncharted territory. 

Trust in your confidence
Trust in your body
Trust in your courage
Trust your openness
Trust in overcoming your fears
Trust in eradicating your anxiety
Trust in your breath
Trust in your struggle
Trust in your grace
Trust in your outcomes
Trust in your missteps
Trust in your friends
Trust in your family
Trust new experiences
Trust in seeing the silver living
Trust in walking through the darkness
Trust in abandoning your comfort zone
Trust in other people
Trust in your goals
Trust in your dreams
Trust that you already know the way
Trust that you will figure it out
Trust that you will forge a path
Trust that you are supported
Trust in love
Trust in creating new boundaries
Trust in exploration
Trust in yourself above all else. 

Roll down your windows and turn up these songs.
They have provided me with waves of inspiration through all of this transition. 

"Open" by Rhye

"Windsong" by John Forté and Sunsay

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Happiness: that elusive wonder

"To Eke out the most happiness from an experience, we must ANTICIPATE it, SAVOR it as it unfolds, EXPRESS happiness, and RECALL a happy memory" 
-Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project

"One reason that challenge brings happiness is that it allows you to EXPAND your SELF-DEFINITION. You become LARGER. Research shows that the more elements that make up your identity, the less threatening it is when any one element is threathened. Also, a new identity brings you into contact with new people and new experiences, which are also powerful sources of happiness."
-Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project

CONTROL. Let's face it, when we aren't in control, life seems to spin out in multiple directions. It seems to fracture and break apart and finding a way to put together a jigsaw puzzle is not the easiest task in the world. I've been struggling with control for a long time now. I recently read Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project in a sincere effort to find meaningful ways to seek out joy.

Rubin is funny and lighthearted and by no means the perfect picture of happiness, but she did realize, through writing, that happiness emerged most often from the active PURSUIT of pleasure. Happiness evolved over time when she put her thoughts and intentions on filling her life with things, both large (quitting her job to become a full time blogger) to small (taking a moment to sincerely listen to your partner and friends) that made her laugh and smile and feel. Her book helped me realize that happiness is elusive because we spend way too much time trying to define what happiness means to us, it puts a lot of pressure on the individual moments of happiness that happen everyday.

Today, I recommitted myself to feeling happy with all the small sources of joy in my life. I encountered so many lovely things in my life this week: finding time for my mat, finding a small little hello on the sidewalk, buying special gluten free cupcakes for a friend's birthday, holding my boyfriends hand while he watches his thirteenth episode of Game of Thrones, walking to the movie theater with my guy friends to see Fast 6, a text from a dear dear friend, and getting my first official teacher training email! These are the moments we miss when we are focused on the big HAPPINESS picture.

I know it can be difficult to see past the negative moment, especially if those define your life, but try spending one day at your best. I promise the whole world will look a whole lot brighter.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Courage: you had it all along

"One must always be prepared for endless waves of transformation." 
Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

"Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I choose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me. Insisting on this story was a form of mind control, but for the most part, it worked. Every time I heard a sound of unknown origin, or felt something horrible cohering in my imagination, I pushed it away. I simply did not let myself become afraid. Fear begets fear. Power begets power. I will myself to beget power. And it wasn't long before I actually wasn't afraid." 

 Last night I went searching through Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love and Cheryl Strayed's Wild for some inspiration on writing about COURAGE. Courage is defined as mental or moral strength to venture, persevere  and withstand. That quite a hefty vocabulary word. Courage, it would seem, is the currency of life. We are always venturing forward into the known and unknown in equal measure. We persevere, even when we feel we are at our weakest, we continue to grow and expand into who we are, and learn to withstand that which meets us on our way. Courage is present within all of us, ALL OF THE TIME, and all we really have to do is acknowledge that it lives there. We don't have TO BE courageous. We ARE courageous all of the time.

Mrs. Gilbert and Mrs. Strayed are pretty bad ass women; both persevered as their personal choices destroyed their marriages, their bodies, their minds, their thinking, their hearts, their memories, and irrevocably altered their futures. Both women hit their "rock bottom" and instead of giving into the notion that they couldn't possibly be strong enough; courageous enough, to find a new path of living; they charted a course for new and distant shores and set sail. This isn't to say that both women didn't doubt their intentions, motivations, will, and hearts; but it was more important to fight against the life that paralyzed them from creating a future from the ashes of their old self. These two women are my heros. I often think that I am not strong enough to forge a new path, one that is unknown, unruly, unmanned, and untamed. I often think that I don't have the courage to move in a new direction, especially once I've been traveling along the same path for a long time. But, this is precisely the point, courage lives within us all the time. It's only a matter of letting go and letting our courage lead us to new and unknown places, to new experiences. Letting go of FEAR is the first step to giving COURAGE the reins to an uncertain life. 

You are courageous and capable of so much more than you give yourself credit for. Be courageous in your intentions, your actions, and your mind and your life will reveal to you all that you think it's missing. 

Some street art inspiration in Silverlake. 
Some sisterly inspiration. Surround yourself with things that give you hope. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Change: shifting into the unknown

"Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always stretched open, you would be paralyzed. Your deepest presence is in every small CONTRACTING and EXPANDING, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds wings"

Photo posted by YogaGlo.com
Elena Brower on YogaGlo, check out the link (It's only $15 a month for unlimited classes).

This weekend was a testament to CHANGE; of creating subtle shifts in perceptions, shifts in speaking, and shifts in thoughts. When I first moved to Los Angeles, I felt really disconnected, from my family, my friends, and my yoga practice. For someone who lives and breathes for those three things, it felt overwhelming, challenging, and momentous all rolled into one.

One of the ways in which I've found my way back to my mat is by starting a yoga practice at home. All you really need is some space: a wall to put your legs up, your faithful mat, and maybe a few fun props to help support you. I have a bolster, a strap, and a block from Manduka Yoga, which makes incredible products for your practice. Starting a practice at home away from the sanctuary of as studio can be very difficult to do, especially when doubts and fears cloud the benefits of a consistent practice.

I stumbled upon YogaGlo.com about eight months ago and it has truly helped me expand my practice in ways I never could have imagined. I was worried that a home practice wouldn't offer me anything I loved about the studio; a quiet space, a community of yogis, and meaningful teachers. But, when I shifted my perception and gave into the the unknown of home yoga, it was transformational. I no longer think practicing yoga means walls away from my own. I no longer think that practicing for less than a hour a day is not a sufficient amount of time to practice. I've started to use my space to begin exploring a mediation practice; and I've found that I have truly connected to a community and group of teachers that have evolved my practice into something meaningful to my life again. 

This weekend I was honored to be able to take a class, at the YogaGlo studio in Santa Monica, with Elena Brower. Elena was the first teacher I took an online yoga class with and it truly left an impression. She is remarkably insightful, thoughtful, and carries a gentleness that helps her students to find the best within themselves and honor that space within to guide us through waves of change. 

It was an amazing experience to be able to finally meet her and practice with her and a room full of lovely yogis. Our class intention was to focus on SPACE; creating space for our intentions, for love, and for self-care. She urged us to think about the energy we bring into the spaces that surround us everyday. When things are filled with change and uncertainty, our first reaction is often to contract; to get smaller and to defend ourselves against the shifting tides. But what if, when change occurs, (as it is constant and forever occurring) we grew more spacious, we allowed for change to fill us up and expand into it. FEAR and DOUBT would be replaced with STRENGTH and MEANING, and when we can come to understand the power to navigate those unknown waters lies within ourselves, we can live life at a higher frequency.

Change is experienced better with space and understanding. Take time to TRUST yourself this week, to examine how you are interacting with your SPACES. When you feel up against the insurmountable, try finding the courage to trust who you are and change won't seem so scary anymore. 

Gorgeous photo of Elena's "Let Go Of Blame" Practice from her book, The Art of Attention. Photo by Chloe Crespi.
Art of Attention click to discover more about Elena and her partner in yoga, Erica Jago, and their incredible book titled The Art of Attention. It's an amazing compliment to any yoga practice.