Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Teacher Training Week 4 & 5: Anatomy & Adjustments

Well, It's official. I've crossed over to the dark side (or the light side depending on how you look at it). After nine hours of training over over the last two weeks, I want to be a yoga teacher.
Just when I was about to give up on myself, give up on finding supreme joy in my work life, frustrated by being disconnected from myself and my purpose, I took a giant leap of faith and signed up for this training. Little did I know that five weeks later: I have gained a community of people who support me down to their bones, a studio to practice, a family, a place of courage inside myself I never knew existed, the knowledge that my voice has merit and strength, reconnecting to my body's needs, taking time to rest, and finding the tools within myself to construct a road map to a true sense of purpose.

It was my 26th birthday last weekend and for the first time in a long while I finally feel like I am coming into my purpose; that true sense of self where I am allowed to love my job, where I am allowed to love my life, and where I am allowed balance and community. Those are powerful and life changing things to discover in only five short weeks.

Two weeks ago, we had a six hour anatomy training weekend. It was amazing to be able to learn about the micro inner workings of our bones and muscles. I gained such a wealth of new information and understanding that I am sure will not be done sinking in for quite a long time. It's amazing how much our body does for us and how often we take it for granted. Next time you have a moment, think about something you take for granted in your body and acknowledge it's purpose and sincerely thank it for functioning.
Last weekend, we dove head first into adjustments. This was the most meaningful lecture for me thus far in this program. Adjustments can be such an amazing addition to a class. I am one of those yoga students that is jealously peering around the room to see who the teacher is helping adjust deeper into a pose, silently pleading to them,"Help me relax and move deeper into the pose!". I feel so grateful to have the tools and intuition to safety help others move there now. I feel like I was imbued with a super power and I can't wait to be able to use it! 
We had a fun time coming up with love adjustments and creepy/ouch adjustments! 
Our lecture was taught by some of my new favorite CPY ladies: Kristie Rose & Inanna & Racquel 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Ted Talks: Shawn Achor & The Happiness Advantage

A dear friend of mine was visiting this weekend from Washington DC. We hadn't seen each other in quite a long time and every day was filled with long talks about happiness and the joys and frustrations we have and can't seem to find in our lives at the moment. Both us of us are women, both of us are in major transitional moments in our lives, both of us are optimists, and both of us truly strive to find the good in the everyday. Lately, for both of us, this has been difficult. Mostly this has been due to the rapid rate of change that has infused our lives for the past few years and the struggle of learning and growing into our adult selves. The TED: Talks summits have been a place that we have both found really inspiring people who are offering constructive solutions to finding joy, happiness, and bravery especially in moments of uncertainty and doubt. I was so inspired by them that I thought I would periodically share some of them with all of you. 

Shawn's talk is totally worth 12 minutes of your time. He is fast talker and by the end of his video you will want to take some concrete action to shift the happiness in your life. The amazing thing about Shawn's view on the world is that it stems from science and can be tangibly applied to your life in a way that will deliver concrete results. 

Shawn studies "positive psychology" which he defines as "the lens though which your brain views the world  and how that lens then shapes your reality". He suggests that "if you can change the lens, not only can you change your happiness, but we can change every single educational and business outcome at the same time."He has found that a person's level of happiness is determined 90% by our internal perceived world view and 10% by the external world. This means that we are in control of 90% of our happiness. That's incredible. That means that the power to be happy lies WITHIN ourselves and the outside world has a very small impact on our happiness levels, even though we perceive it to be flipped. 

About halfway through Shawn's conversation, he talks about our warped perceptions of happiness. He goes as far as to say that "we've pushed happiness beyond the cognitive horizon"which means that "every time your brain has a success, you've just changed the goalpost for what success looks like and when happiness is on the other side of success your brain never gets there". We created an unsustainable model for happiness that can never be fully obtained because we measure happiness through the lens of our success. 

Shawn posits that the way to be happy to is "be positive in the present". This presence is what he calls, "The Happiness Advantage" which means that "your brain at positive preforms significantly better than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed." Happiness stimulates the dopamine receptors in your body and when you are happy dopamine turns on all the learning centers in the brain allowing you to adapt to the world in a totally different way. When we begin to understand that the power to be happy lies in how we see ourselves, we can begin to define our lives by the things in the world that make us feel grateful, accepted, content, and less by the things that consume our negative perceptions of the world. 

Try this at home. Challenge yourself to be present, mindful, and filled with gratitude for yourself and those around you. 

My friend and I challenged ourselves to Shawn's 21 Day Challenge. I'll update you half way through to share my thoughts and see if I start to feel more deeply connected to myself and the world around me. 

Shawn's 21 Day Challenge: Creating Lasting Positive Change: Rewiring You Brain
1. Write down 3 new gratitudes a day: scan the world for the positive not the negative 
2. Journal about one positive experience over the past 24 hours: allowing you to re-live those moments
3. Exercise:  teaches your brain that your behavior matters 
4. Meditate: helps us gain control of our cultural ADHD
5. Random or Conscious Acts of Kindness: Write one positive email or note (or tell them in person) praising someone in your life or social support network

Doing this daily for 21 days creates a new normal, makes a shift internally for you to create a revolution in yourself to help inspire a ripple affect in the world around you. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Japa Mala Beads: So Much More Than a Strand of Pretty Beads

I've always been intrigued by the beautiful strands of beads that I've seen on delicate display cases at yoga studios and wrapped around the wrists of my favorite teachers. These beaded strands are always a mixture of bright and lovely colors that invite you to stop and look at them. I've paused several times over the past month to feel the smooth roundness of the beads and wondered what meaning they carried within them. Each strands carries a small tag with a short description of what the beads signify and the mindful intentions imbued upon the wearer.
The japa mala is a strand of 108 beads, each bead is touched as the yogi goes through repetitive prayer, reciting the same mantra or prayer, with each new bead. Each strand has a 109th bead at the end of the strand. This bead known as the bindu or the "guru" bead, it sits outside the strand of 108. When one reaches this 109th bead it signals the wearer to switch to the opposite direction and continue the prayer around the strand again. The prayer then becomes an endless cycle of repetitive intention, never ceasing. Just as yoga is a moving meditation, so are these beads. Japa in Sanskirt stems from jap, which translates as "uttering in a low (or internal) voice". The japa mala becomes an extension of the person who wears them, a secret is stored in the beads that only the wearer knows how to unlock. 

So in order to do a little more research before just picking one up at the studio, I found the website on the back of one of the strands and found out that they came from a little store in downtown Denver. Since my parents live fifteen minutes away from the store, I immediately called up my mom and asked her to make a little detour downtown for me. I was on the website for over an hour, trying to select the beads that reflected a color I liked and a message I felt resonated with my personality and intentions. I had picked out several choices and my mom set off on her mission to find them for me. Little did I know what she had in store for her.

My mom entered the small store, Tibet Imports, off 6th Ave in Denver, and immediately inquired about my bead selections, thinking she would just pick a color and be on her way. One of the owners, named Sarita, stood quietly behind the counter and stopped my mom immediately, "Wait, I need to know so much more about this woman before we start talking about the beads." My mom was surprised by the question and was immediately encouraged to tell her more about me and my wish for the beads. They talked for generally about my intention for the beads, my birth date, the hour of my birth, and my astrology sign. Then Sarita entered everything meticulously into a computer until out came the perfect "recipe" for my japa mala.

As Sarita began to deconstruct the meaning behind the strand, the bead color: garnet, the string color: dark blue, the 109th bead or the "guru" bead: the Rahu bead for grounding; she slowly strung the 108 beads together, knot by knot, the woman told the story of who I am and how these beads would aid me in my life.The amazing thing was that the woman knew so much about me as a person, without ever having met me. In my kitchen this past weekend (my mom was visiting to help out on short film collaboration between my boyfriend and I), my mom pulled the japa mala strand from a small purple bag and began to describe it's deep meaning to me. I was amazed to discover that the beads were infused with my deepest intentions; all without ever speaking them aloud to myself or other people. I now carry this strand of small beads on my wrist, especially when I need to connect to my intentions. It has turned a pretty necklace into a unlikely spiritual intention.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Teacher Training Week 2 & 3: Teaching in front of your mat is WAY harder than Practicing on your mat

"If you fight for your limitations, your only prize is that you get to keep them."
- Baron Baptiste-

Finding your voice can be a challenge. It's definitely not something I claim to owe up to. My boyfriend can tell anyone and everyone his opinions, standards, and point of view, yet he also manages to leave space for everyone else's voice in his arguments. I am not that person. I crumble at the thought of asserting my opinions and my story, unless it's about movies; and then I am steadfast and determined, sharing my point of views to the point of confrontation.

I think my biggest fear with teaching yoga was the thought that I would have to get up in front 20+ people and talk to them for an hour while they are contorting and challenging their bodies and their minds. But something valuable to take away from that is the fact that in a yoga studio a teacher is merely a guide to get you into yourself. My teaching is for me, using my voice as a subtle guide into a new place, is for them. It's a lot less pressure to understand that when I get up in front of a class, no one is judging me for forgetting sanskrit, or mixing up my left side and the right side, but students are deeply and importantly involved in themselves. Yoga was the first space where I found a way to tune out all of the noise in my head and find some peace. That new place inside myself was cultivated by a teacher, but forged from me. And that's a beautiful thing. That's why I want to teach yoga. I have always wanted to give others a path to a new place within themselves, to realize how amazing each and every one of us is. If I can help my students manifest joy and in turn they create a space where they become their most authentic self, I consider that a blessing.

This week in class I've been doubting A LOT. A deep internal investigation has begun within myself these past few weeks. I am being challenged physically, emotionally, and mentally and the new space hasn't built up a filter yet. Everything has been flooding in: joy, bliss, nerves, exhaustion, weakness, community, kindness, unease, self hate, doubt, and fear; just to name a few. These are the building blocks to a better self. These are why we practice yoga. To acknowledge and defend our best selves is a lifelong journey. It begins again every time I step onto my mat and will continue to evolve, grow, and change with time and patience.

Find your voice in whatever you do, I promise it's there and I promise it's important.

Hello Summer: Heat and Nectarine Cobbler Muffins

It's hot: really, really, hot. There aren't any clouds in the sky these days and no where for us Angelinos to escape the direct path of the suns sultry rays. So of course I decided to stay in our non-air conditioned apartment, in our stifling kitchen, and figure out how to use what I've got lying around just begging to be baked.

After a recent trip to Trader Joe's, and a happy discovery to find that summer is in full swing, I had a TON of nectarines currently occupying the entire top shelf in my fridge. So I pulled out the Joy the Baker Cookbook, a current obsession of mine, and found a recipe for peach cobbler muffins. I swapped the peaches for those ripe nectarines. These muffins are just sweet enough and could probably have used more nectarines than the three I used, but I love when fruit is just oozing out of baked goods. So go get your summer on then hunker down, set up shop in your kitchen, and get your hands dirty.

Pre-Muffins, setting up an inspiring space to bake.
Nectarine Cobbler Muffins
adapted from the Joy The Baker Cookbook. Visit Joy's amazing blog here.
For the muffins:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 granulated sugar (I substituted organic cane sugar)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I used allspice because I had in it my kitchen)
7 tablespoons (almost 1 stick) unsalted butter
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/3 cup milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups diced peaches (I used 1 1/2 cups and three whole nectarines, but could have added more)

Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 12-cup muffin pan and set aside. You can also use cupcake papers for this recipe.

To make the muffins: in a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugars, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Place butter in a small saucepan, and melt until browned over medium heat. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

In a medium bowl, whisk together egg, yolk, milk, and vanilla. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the warm butter, making sure to scrape any brown bits into the egg mixture as well. Whisk until well incorporated.

Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture all at once. Fold together with spatula. Once no flour bits remain, fold in the diced nectarines. Divide the batter between the muffin cups.

For the topping:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
pinch of salt
pinch of ground nutmeg (again I substituted allspice)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

To make the topping: combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and blend together with your fingers until crumbly. Butter will be the size of oats and small pebbles. Divide the topping among the muffin cups on top of the batter.

Bake muffins for 15-18 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of one of the muffins comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan 20 minutes before removing. To remove, run a butter knife along the edges of the muffin pan and gently scoop out.

Muffins will last, well wrapped, at room temperature for up to 3 days. Or you can store them in the freezer (like me) and pull one out each night for breakfast the following day!

Mixing all of the dry ingredients and then the eggs.
Dough is done, now we have to gently fold in the diced nectarines. 
Fresh out of the oven, filling the entire apartment with there delicious scent, hard not to eat them all in one sitting.