welcome.

the image on top is "Welcome Home Sweet Sugar" by Kelsey Brooks

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Mentor

Having a mentor is the most magical thing in the world.

I have one.

I feel like I won the lottery.

He just teaches me stuff. All sorts of stuff, all the time time. In a continuous stream of unconditional love. He just transmutes throves of information, freely, for no good reason apart from apparently I'm a pretty nice person ;).

I met Arthur at an OccupyLA rally. He had the approachable air of someone actually here at the time. To a stunning degree- he was giving someone a private lesson, and I think I asked him to how to go about teaching at Occupy. .

He advised me, of course.

His practice is over a decade old, and many of his experiences chronicled in Y Yoga, a movie he directed. Arthur says that it's not that he made the movie- the movie made him. The experiences he had, and the people he met along his filmmaking journey inspired him to become the person he is today.

And it's a pretty impressive person. It's a human without hesitation- just transmitting truth at intergalactic rates, speaking up for those around him, and standing up for what's right. As far as I can see- without intermission.

Arthur says the most powerful thing you can do for a human being is to see them clearly, for their pure truth and intentions.

After our first meditation, he hugged me and said, "Stop. Just, feel how much love I have for you".

I burst into tears.

He's been mentoring me two months now, in increasing frequency. I set out to write about it several times, but its hasn't quite come through. See, what's happening is that I'm getting so much information from Arthur, that after being unable to contain the wealth of experience that spending a few hours with him allows, I've begun to require recordings. I'm learning so much from each session, and I committed them to memory fully.

But I'm spending a week in Massachusetts with fellow yogi Pat Banker, and hopefully that will lead some time to reflection.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Welcoming a Guest! -Allison Brooks-

Allison is a writer and advocate for spiritual bell-being. Today, she's sharing her thoughts on the link between meditation and health. Thanks, Allison!

How the use of meditation can reduce medical bills

Over the years, there have been many studies regarding the use of complementary and alternative
medicines paired with allopathic treatments. In a recent study, there was a rise in the use of mind-
body therapies (MBT) being suggested by medical-care providers, and now there is more evidence that
meditation practices can ease up the costs of medical care.

In a long five year study, Canadian researchers explored the effects of Transcendental Meditation on
health of people. Since a small fraction of a population normally accounts for most of the medical
spending, researchers wanted to see if there was a way to reduce the problem. In the Medicare
community, alone, only 5 percent incurred 43 percent of the spending, and the bills just keep piling up.
The reason for the continuous health issues was due to stress.

Chronic stress of patients is the main reason why medical expenses are so high. The constant worry
can lead to severe side-effects resulting in recurring hospital visits. To help ease the stress, researchers
suggested the use of Transcendental Meditation (TM). They studied and compared the cost changes in
284 “high-cost” participants; 142 practicing TM and 142 non-practitioners. The results were surprising
and affirmed their thesis.

During the five year period, the TM group’s annual rate of change in payments declined significantly.
After the first year, the medical costs of the TM group’s dropped 11 percent and their cumulative
reduction was 28 percent. These are good, solid numbers, especially compared to the non-TM
participants, which saw no change in their medical expenses.

These studies prove as another “win” for mind-body therapies. Not only do they serve as a catalyst for
healing but they also help ease the payments, which is good for times like these. Many doctors now
prescribe the use of MBT for serious treatment plans like ones for a chronic condition or an aggressive
cancer, like non-hodgkin’s lymphoma or mesothelioma. At first it was just to ease the stress, pain, and
other side-effects of conventional therapies, but now they can reduce prolonged medical costs.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Viewpoint of Presence.

This essay is intended to entice the reluctant reader with the beneficial aspects of seeing in the moment.

Many times, I lives in a purpose driven world. I wake up and I see the brush as a device to detangle my hair. I may notice characteristics about the brush, such as that it is black, or full of lint. These things are “facts”, attributes to and associations with the brush. Maybe I take a note of the brush's position in relation to other things, or the stark contrast of the brush on the table. This the “image”, or mental picture of the brush.

Other times, I live in a presence-driven world. This is when I wake up and I see the brush as a specific and unique configuration of energy at that moment. Those are the rare moments that I see that brush as if discovering it for the first time, I recognize that it is here, inhabiting the same world as me. Truthfully, this sort of connection happens almost never with a brush, seldom with a rose, yet with notable frequency with human beings and other animals. As complexity increases, the recognition of intelligent awareness is striking to the point of envelopment.

Besides, the being seems to say in a tantalizing tone, here we are.

At first glance sitting with oneself appears be a worship of the ego. Yet the practice is intended to make one more aware of beings surrounding oneself, more aware of the needs and feelings of others. More aware of connection and similarity, of value and marvel.

When I move through my practice, it is with the intent of journeying to this way of experiencing the world.

The benefits of living in presence include, but are not limited to, a sense of unprecedented wonder and awe.

This is not intended to suggest that this way of seeing is the only, or the best, interesting and majestic ways of viewing. There is, for example, the lens of history, which gives a background story to the existence of things in one's environment. Or resourcefulness or opportunism, which sees everything as a potential source of benefit. Even the lens of nostalgia, used sparingly. I do believe that the lens of presence is a foundational component of a well-balanced and awe-ful life ; )

Monday, October 31, 2011

Brad, Shugyo, Yoga and Movement

First off, can I say that the LA Green Festival was the best event (conference-style-event) that I've ever been to.

A few weeks ago, I was at the LA Home Show for work. Empty.

Yesterday, the LA Green Show. Packed. Poppin'. Brilliant. Tons of eco-preneurs, loving and local companies, sustainable projects, all kinds of really smart people showcasing their solutions to our mess.

Creative Chakra Spa, the studio that I teach at, sponsored the Yoga and Movement pavilion upstairs. So I knew the whole event was going to be spectacular from the get-go.

At 3:30 on Saturday, I took a miniature class with Brad Keimach on Happiness.

I believe we did a total of three poses, five including tadasana and savasanah. Brad spoke about the power of focus, the true inspiration of meditation. This, as I understand it, is one of the most classic and basic ways to meditate. Focus on one point, and attend to the breath. When your mind drifts off, bring it back. When it drifts off again, bring it back. And it will keep doing that, he says. The most important part is not to get frustrated. If at the end, you were able to bring yourself back to center for half a moment, that is a victory.

This is a basic philosophy of co-existence, externally and internally. How to live with yourself, just focus on center, and you will be happy. And this is so difficult for me. I want to purge all that I do not like, I want to be rid of it. I think I can elucidate it through understanding, catharsis or writing. But what hatha teaches me, over and over, is instead of waging an internal war, come to center. This is a major precursor to the absence of external war, this I understand.

And it is so difficult.
It is so difficult.
I call it bootcamp for the mind. Brad was a bit shocked when I mentioned that word, and I admit it's not the best one. I went on an online quest to discover alternatives, and the fruit of this journey is the Japanese word "shugyo", in Japanese. It means ascetic discipline.

The truth being, is that it works. After a period of time, the mind trains itself to be stable. And the experience is intense. I wonder, if, as an after-effect, I have an increased awareness of how busy my mind is all the time. This has happened multiple times through hatha practice for me. As if, with tastes of silence, I begin to notice the background noise. I'll have to ask Brad about this.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Verses on the Chakras: Andrea Brook

Andrea Brook plays the Earth Harp, a gigantic ethereal instruments with the ability to actually pluck, or gently massage, your heartstrings. She speaks poetry to the music and truly believes in the ability of vibration to heal and transport her students.

My last sight of Andrea was at YogaDayLA, up in Topanga Canyon. My mother was visiting from the East Coast, and after lunch, we booked it up to Malibu to catch Andrea's class. As we drove away from the coast, we stepped out of a fog and into Topanga's joyous temperament.

This time, Andrea was positioned at the front of a baseball stadium, fully committed to playing the Earth Harp and teaching at the same time. I cannot imagine this is an easy task, but she flowed from one pose to the other with hypnotic tones.

One of my favorite elements of Andrea's class is her sweet caress "I love you", she whispers to the crowd. It comes from that authentic knowing of the self, that at the core, you do love, terribly, intensely, without conditions. Her words come from that place of introspection, and absolute truth.

My first sight of Andrea was at Burningman. All I knew was "yoga at the temple", which is a four-word combination compelling enough to lead me anywhere. As I rode up to the temple, I understood that the same enchanted instrument that I had the pleasure of hearing the other day was now going to headline my yoga session. Delighted, I threw my mat out into the dirt as the sunset climaxed. Andrea wrote verses on the chakras, inspiring phrases such as "transmuting to the sublime".

The practice phased through the chakras, spending a little extra attention on vishuddha and expression. We had some photographer moments (imagine the playa + yogis + temple + sunset), including headstand, shoulder stand, and standing mountain. In a seated meditation, Andrea had us made a temple mudra above our heads with our hands, a symbol of perfection and divinity. We had perhaps 100-150 people, though I'm terrible at counting. It was quite a sight.

"You have the right to be here," I remember Andrea saying, "You have the right to be you. Speak your truth. I love you".

Months later, I'm looking through my notes from post-practice. They look like this:

"EPIC EPIC EPIC. More wondrous than any opera, majestic and poetic truth".

Keri's Class- quick notes

Keri has the quintessential yoga class, with a smooth mindful flow, it is a perfect fit for a level 1, 3 or 5 even.


Wide feet during dolphin
Quintessential class
Waves of movement that built apon each other
Shoulder opening to temple
Smooth awakening
Mindfulness in each pose
Soft playlist

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

How Hard Do You Temple?

Take me back to burningman.

The event was so beautiful, so profound and transformational, that is it downright traumatic. It is impossible to return to "real life", real life seems pale in comparison, slow and dreamlike. The intensity of experience is so difficult to match. I expected this trouble, I scheduled a cleanse right after I got back, though I only made it through 6 days of it. I want experiences that tear at my heartstrings the way that this one did.

Thursday, the 1st, I said goodbye to Kimi and Dan right at sunset at the edge of the inner playa. I knew only one thing: that I had to make it to the temple, somehow, and kneel, just sit down. I rode my bike down the esplanade with the outline of the white temple's construction growing larger in my mind against the sunset.

I felt that I was on an epic pilgramage, a hajj, that the temple contained something....that it was representative of a space in mind where my own secrets were stored. Perhaps if I could create the physical representation, I could enter the mental realm. If in your mind there was a room called "temple", what would it contain? That's what I'm looking for.

As I arrive, I hear surreal and seraphic sounds notes from the entrance. A gigantic harp, the string anchored one end to the raised font entrance, and on the other end to the top of the temple, is being tuned in a man with leather gloved to protect his fingers from the strings. In a few moments, he breaks into a familiar and grandeur classical piece. I'm torn between my sublime experience and this strange inner voice that begs me to sit down. And so I do.

Immediately, I'm overcome with fear and separation. I see all the people ten feet away standing to salute the harp, and here I am sitting in the dirt. I don't want to die. I don't want to be separated. I am here, sitting in the dirt, listening to just how terrified I am to be alive. Intensely shocked I am to contemplate my transient condition. I feel fear in my heart, and I move to get up, then sit back down and breath through it. I feel fear in my belly, I feel fear blindsight my mind.

I had faith that once the fear passed, because fear was a feeling, it would go away, I would have a breakthrough. I would understand. I kept waiting, feeling fear quicken my heartrate, watching every inhale and exhale. I felt fear vibrating at the bottom of my spine. I thought it was impossible to want to get up any more than I did. Until the fear went away.

And it was worse: frustration. As the next wave of emotion hit, I started breaking into tears of anguish, a lack of understanding flooding my mind. There was no knowledge, behind the fear, there was nothing but anger. The same sensation I experienced as a child looking at a difficult math problem and wondering why I didn't understand, why I wasn't smart enough, and then feeling that frustration...that was exactly the experience I had at the temple.

This meditation took hours, I finally chose to get water, deciding that I've learned enough from my experience this time around. I get up and I look for my backpack, and it's a bit dark by now. Then I see an object, in the space where my backpack was, covered in glowsticks. My backpack covered in glowsticks.

Kimi Giles *glow-sticked my back pack* so I would be able to find it in the dark. I should mention that at this point, I've been crying ever since the frustration hit. I began crying three times as hard, out of pure gratitude. Then, I see Kimi's backpack, and I realize that she is here! Kimi and Dan are both here, they came to the temple to find me. I cry "Kimi" out loud, and a girl next to me says "she's over there". I don't know how she knew but...thank you...

At this point I realize that everyone around me has formed a circle, and that there is a woman in the center, that is attempting to create a space for a ceremony. And I realize, that, if I had not gotten up at the exact moment that I did, she would have had to asked me to leave. Or maybe not. But I think it's pretty magical how she held the space and how I, after hours of telling myself not to get up, chose that moment. I go to her, blubbering an apology and accepting the "don't worry". She is conducting a workshop on self-empowerment. I ask how I can help. She says she's just asking people to form in a circle around her.

I decide to worry about finding Dan and Kimi later, and I watch the ceremony unfold.

She holds up a red scarf and says, "This is the dragon. These are our fears. Today we are going to conquer our demons, the things that hold us back". Two people place their hands together forming an arch, and two more hold up the scarf.

I am so excited, thinking, ah, I am going to let go of my fear! Well, guess what? I am not so special. The very first person that walks through that gateway says "I let go of my fear".

One by one, "I let go of self-blame". "I let go of self-loathing", "I let go of my judgments". By this point, Dan and Kimi have met up. Dan walks through the gateway and yells, "I don't need anything from anybody". Kimi goes through and says "I am letting go of my need to hold on!". I walk through and say "I conquer my fear of death". I'm overwhelmed by a need to hug the conductor of ceremonies, and then she looks at me and says "stand strong on your feet". I know what that means- through yoga- I remember watching how Shiva Rea stood...wide stance, bent knees, tailbone tucked...I remember imitating that and noticing how my worries went away. I sob thank you.

Crying, I am so overwhelmed by the waves and waves of empathy as I watch people walk through. Empathy over-dose. Seriously, did you hear about that girl who OD'd on empathy?

An arm reaches around me and I turn around to see a fleeting glimpse of a handsome face. "Thank you", I say, as I'm pulled into someone's embrace. I keep watching the ceremony, and as fewer people walk up, our conductor says "Is there anyone else?" A few people, and then no one. "Seriously, last call". Allright. She closes off with a speech about how burningman is a rite of passage, and how it brings us into a more empowered self. Then she says she wants everyone to roar when she raises her wand (can you imagine doing something like that! I would be terrified that no one would do it!). She raises her wand and everyone ROARS. It feels like the entire temple.

I turn around, and I'm eye to eye with this person who had put his arm around me. We stare at each other for a while, and begin an apprehensive non-verbal interaction, culminating in a kiss.

So that's one of my nights at burningman: hours of meditation attempting to face my fear, the world illuminating in a perfect ceremony for that exact thing, and snogging a stranger . The experience was strange, to say the least.

Niema Lightseed

Niema Lightseed. Priestess of the New Paradigm.
*from August 31st*

I am grateful for my burning need to write down my experiences after savasana that day. One month later, to try to remember a shamanic journey is not easy to say the least. And yet a few scribbled lines trigger the memory....

This was my first class at Burningman, about two days into it (not my first much-needed practice, I assure you). My notes summarize my experience with Nienna as 'having a trusted leader bring out the truth in yourself..."

Niema works through energy blockages in the body- every beat in line with class. We did ankle, neck, body rolls to start- starting to wake up the struggling burner body- standing cat/cow stretch. After anjaneyasa, and lunges, we moved into a smooth, wonderful sequence, of which two poses truly caught me. In plank pose, Nienna asking "what empowers you that is stronger than willpower? what keeps you going?". For me, it's a tie between love and a desire for truth. Then later, in tree pose, thinking "I want to BE the tree of knowledge of good and evil. That is the kind of fruit I want to bear".

Here's the journey: You start off at the foot of a river, in this beautiful basin with mountains surrounding you. You walk up the river, with your friends- those that journey with you- until you come up to the mouth of the cave. Inside the cave, it's pitch black, and you start using your hands along the walls to go further. It's cold, and clammy, you take off your clothes, and keep walking further and further into the cave. When it feels that within this darkness, nothing can be, you see a small light. An old woman is tending the tiniest bit of a fire. She looks at you, and says "What do you want?". You tell her what you want. Then she says "what do you have to offer?" And you have nothing but yourself, so you step into the fire. This is the part of my experience that my subconscious yells "no!", but Nienna was still narrating. And I wanted to continue the narrative, so I had to accept the narrative to continue. So there I was, consumed by this fire, burning my body, and it feels good, says Nienna. The fire is consuming your entire entity, and when the flames die down, you are still there. Yet you inhabit a new body.

-I don't remember if this is a fabrication due to the re-hashing of past experience, but I think as you looked down at the old woman, and she is now a young girl. And she says, "Thank you". -

You step out into the world, as in the land before time, and there you find all your friends and companions- those that journey with you- waiting for you.

These are my notes from that session:
Freedom from fear
I will bungee jump
I can bungee jump
I am worthy of facing my fear
I am worthy of facing my fear
I am worthy
I want to be brave


It's Tuesday, October 4th, and I haven't bungee jumped. And I had the chance- one week after burningman. Somehow, standing at the top of that bridge, seeing the rocks below (In my vision of bungee jumping, there is ALWAYS water). I could not explain to myself why I was doing this. I rely, wholeheartedly on my judgement of what is safe and what is a good idea. I need that good judgment to make decisions for my life on a daily basis. I need to trust myself more than anything else. And it seemed like a cruel trick, a pompous romp that if it went wrong, I would not be able to even apologize to myself. I couldn't say, "sorry, self, I killed you/paralized you". That's where I draw the line. Also, it could be that bungee jumping, the act itself, seems nauseating to me. The opposite of fun. And if I don't want to do this so much, it's probably not worth it. "Facing my fear" may be reserved for things I actually WANT to do (such as skydive, or teach inspiring yoga classes), and I am terrified of. Anyway, I doubt anyone needs this much explanation except my ego, which desires justification very much, embarrassingly. I also completely forgot about this journey, the entire time I was there. Maybe if I remembered these notes, it would have been diferent. Perhaps I haven't bungee jumped yet, but I've noticed a significant increase of "courageousness". Or at least I hope.

"Soul Power Yoga"

When I walked into Andres' class, I warned him, "you might see a lot of child's pose action".

Andres' class is called "Soul Power Yoga". I assumed it would be somewhat like my other power yoga classes. Turns out, I've got a lot to learn.

His class is partially a lecture, although rarely formally. He speaks authentic truth, words of love and forgiveness, inspiration and positivity, through each pose. I recall one of my favorite actions, in Warrior 1, when we took our love into our hearts, then pushed it away from us. There is something so powerful in that action. Infusing an action with meaning always lights me up, but I think, experimentally, when a human being reaches out and pulls out from their heart, it truly awakens something. Place one's hand on one's heart, then extend it out, palms face up- perhaps that is a gesture of giving in every culture, I wonder...

The class was surprisingly calm, and I learned that a lot of the soul power was in mindfulness. How Andres asked us to be fully integrated with our beings, mindful of the world around us. He spoke especially about age, and how yoga can begin to reverse the aging process, physically and psychologically. The poses flowed in and out, strongly vinyasa, and I was really appreciative of how I was able to fuse my intention to be loving, or aware, actively into asana.

I loved how there wasn't a rushed note in Andres' tone (nothing important is ever said quickly), and there was so much one-breath-one-movement type of flow. His devotion to Kirtan is contagious, and the singing magnificent. Andres mentioned that frequently people come to his class expecting one thing and leaving with the other....and much the same for me..

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Partner Yoga with Gigi and Chad

so much fun. No, seriously, SO much fun. Chad and Gigi ran a partner/contact class at Santa Monica Yoga Co, and Kimi and I decided that this would be the best double date ever. We got there a little late (oops!) but rumor has it that class started with an invocation to Ganesh, remover of obstacles, and a collective Om. Gigi and Chad then led a vinyasa together, switching off leads, guiding us through a short but beautiful and challenging practice. After we felt grounded and connected, we began the contact. First up- a row of trees. We used the people next to us as balance, and found that it was much easier to balance with some help. Gigi reminded us to find our own center first, and then assist others. Warrior III with some arms for support showed up, and then we did utthita hasta padangustasana, a big mouthful and tricky pose (hand to big toe). Standing, you balance on the left leg while bringing your right knee into your chest. You then had the option of handing that knee to your partner, or perhaps extending the foot and passing the foot along. It is considerably less challenging then it looks, a testament to the power of groups, I suppose. Then came the partner work: now we were really getting started. We stacked up planks, when one partner does upper push up, and the other grabs hold of his or her partner's ankles, and places the tops of their feet on their shoulders. Double down dog followed, and we were able to get a whole row of down dogs (which resemble more handstand prep) across the room. I think the record for my group is 8, but I think another group topped that. "Are you ready for the climax, guys?" asks Gigi. With Chad, they demonstrated a way for one partner to move from a handstand into a backbend with the other partner's assistance. That description, unfortunately, does little justice to how divine that pose feels. It's called "backpacking". Imagine the best adjustment you ever go in a wheel or camel, and multiply that joy times 100. I started laughing and I couldn't stop!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Breathing with Mark Whitwell

Mark Whitwell started class with a flair of southern hospitality and light chatter, as if he was perfectly willing to be distracted by anything that was to happen in the next five minutes. He engaged with students by asking them about how their practice was going, and then sparked connections with students he had lit up in the past. Most fascinating, he asked if he or she was continuing their practice. If the answer was yes, he would be ecstatic (well, very, very calm, but ecstatic). Mark has a real personal connection with people, cultivating a true guru-student relationship of caring, guidance and compassion. His dedication to the breath is clear during class. He comes up next you and listens to your breath (a technique that Jared Hirsch implements....of the same teacher). It is a simple and quiet technique, and yet it takes a tremendous amount of strength of character to do this as a teacher. I've tried focusing on the breath in classes, and asking to listen to people's breath in this matter- and its hard. What's most curious is that it is my own trepidation holding me back. I am not confident of my ability to sense when people really are or are not ujjayi breathing. I have too many doubts, such as 'oh, maybe they are being quiet' or 'oh, maybe they are not ready' or 'perhaps this is not what the person desires in his or her practice today'. Perhaps it is just that I have not yet learned to make those fine disctinctions. Mark Whitwell knows the breath, and knows exactly when you are engaging ujjayi, and exactly when you are not. In fact, as he came up to me, I was convinced that I was breathing right- I was efforting the thing, intently. Yet Mark reminded me that ujjayi is less willfullness and more dedication and openness, that the breath bypasses the nostrils and comes right from the heart. That image stuck with me, and all of a sudden the center of my body is my lungs, and they initiate and inhale and exhale, they become the center of my being. Mark stood next to me, faithfully through my sun salutations, until the concentration I had in his presence sunk into my patterning. He continued to check in with my several times throughout class, and advised me that I must breath like this all of the time, even in other people's classes. That breathwork has stayed with me, and I am so grateful for it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Gigi Yogini

I won't lie, I read up about Gigi, particularly the way she lives in a yoga cottage, the night before I took her class. I think it is very exciting to me to meet teachers whose lives and practices are very integrated.

Gigi's class- although a vinyasa flow- has a rhythm to it that feels more like a hatha class. First we started off with breathing- different types of heating breaths. Now, the room we were in was called "water". but make no doubt, this was a heating practice. We started off with rounds of various breath work, including bhastrika, a brisk and strapping breath that kills anxiety. We did a few versions, combined with different arm work, and some twisting afterwards. Then we began to move into a flowing practice, which was paused for select poses such as crow, with challenges- perhaps you would like to try a twisting crow, today? perhaps you would like a supported arm balance?

Gigi's authentic and accepting presence forms a powerful class.

As a side-note, Gigi had her fellow artists express themselves on the outside of her house and fence. She was forced to take this down due to a Los Angeles law violation on graffiti. This blows my mind as graffiti is specifically the act of writing on a person's property *without* their permission. To best of my reason, you can't ban a medium of painting because it "looks" like graffiti. I would love to learn and participate in how this works out.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Ally Hamilton

If you want to take a moment to truly fall in love with humanity, take a trip to the bathroom at Yogis Anonymous. You'll be greeted with the most positive, energizing and inspirational bathroom graffiti that has ever existed. You know the graffiti in your favorite coffee shop- scratch that- that's nothing- this stuff is fantastic. It creates a sense of community that is truly inspirational.... I may have never met the person on the mat next to mine, but if I have the suspicion that they wrote "trust your struggle" or "follow your bliss" on the wall next to the sink, I have an innate trust for that human being.

Ally is the director of the studio, and her class is power vinyasa FUN. Her alignment background shines strong and keeps her students on track. My favorite part was when we imagined we had a tennis ball between our thighs in warrior 1 and in crescent lunge (I think).

We did yelling kick ups from warrior II, lots of lunging with some fun side angles, and there was time for handstands or other inversions right up against the wall. There was a point when her playlist switched over to her 4th of July playlist- for no reason- and she just rolled with it. It became a part of the enjoyment of the class.

Yogis Anonymous is a down to earth yoga studio specializing in real world bliss and creativity. The post art on the walls (a woman with her finger to her lips..shh), the blank canvasses, the figures doing chair pose above the bathroom...all a reminder not to take anything too seriously....

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Aria Mayland

I had the good fortune to practice next to Aria one day in class, and let me tell you, it's impressive. After taking her class, however, I understood that her inversions weren't a result of pure luck, but of intelligent, mindful and a very specific sort of hard work. After some slow stretches, strengthening and awakening work and some flow, we moved onto our peak pose, handstand. The intention for the class I took was about rolling in the inner thighs, and we took out blocks and practiced that. Aria commented about firming the triceps towards the biceps, and gave us many more precise cues that unfortunately I cannot now remember. But I did mind them very much, and as all yogic work, it sinks into the body sometimes without notice. Then, Aria took it one step further, and asked us to do donkey kicks with a block between my thighs. This was absurdly frustrating (and for that reason brilliant). I can do a decent job with donkey kicks, but with a block, my ego took a nose dive. And watching that process, and the senselessness of those thoughts- there the yoga kicked in. We moved into other handstand preparations, and then finally went up, which was so fun and super rewarding. Aria gave lots of options for how to kick up into handstand, and individually guided students. Handstand (next to camel) is my favorite super refreshing pose. I felt amazing after that class....

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mary Beth

Mary Beth has such a beautifully soothing voice! I jumped into her candlelit gentle class five minutes late to be comforted by the ease and comfort in her voice. I was impressed by her tone even all the way in the back of the room. Mary Beth is personable and kind, warming the space with her presence.

We did a lot of anjaneyasana, low lunges, pulling the elbows back and allowing the heart to shine. Her music was seductive, particularly 'Slowly' by Max Segdley, one of my favorite vinyasa songs. The simplicity of the sequence was perfect for a late night Wednesday class, and everyone in the room was feeling the calm vibe. Candlelit, slow, smooth vinyasa, ending with some backbends and restorative poses. As always, there is a warm supple heat that naturally occurs in every Surya class.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Lila Jones

Lila has tremendous grounded energy: my first instinct was the say she was the second most grounded person I've ever met.

To enter her class at Santa Monica Yoga Co, you have to travel a staircase with the words "Down To Earth" atop it. If that doesn't set the mood enough, she also started out with nadi shodna, a balancing breath that requires complete focus and concentration.

Afterwards, we did some warming poses before heading into a steady smooth vinyasa. The room was heated, but not in an oppressive sense, but more in a warm and cozy rainforest type of heating. Lila's verbal cues were as powerful as deepening adjustments, and her commitment to the room invited her students to find their dristi as well. Her Annie Carpenter roots shine through with the precise alignment cues and physiological outlook.

I remember heading into arda chandrasana fairly early, and then moving into a twist. After, I was in such a trance that unfortunately I remember very little, apart from the fact that I liked the music and I was moving with a strong flow of energy. I remember pausing and savoring a triangle. The ironic thing about a wonderful class is how difficult it is to remember what one did afterwards. I do remember that as some point I traveled up into a handstand and fell over, and how ok it was to fall over in that class. I remember taking my hands to my head for clear thoughts, to my mouth for clarity in my speech, and then bringing my clarity to my hear.t

I'll have to take class again, with more careful notes : ).

Hope

I think the theme of this week, this weekend, is most definitely turning out to be hope.

Why is hope important:

1. You cannot align your actions with your intentions without hope: If you do not believe that actions will benefit you, you will be far less likely to take them. This is very common in the case of a discouraged worker: she or he does not believe they will find employement that befits them, and thus stops looking.

2. You cannot fake hope: Others can tell. You can, of course, force yourself into the situations half-heartedly, without hope, but you cannot be effective. If you do not hope your date will go well, you will be sending a plethora of signals, from body language, eye contact, manner of voice, manner of communicating...even such minor details such as the brightness of your eyes. All of that will show through. And they will effect the people around you. Alternatively, if you have hope you will attract lots of people towards you.

3. Hope creates compassion. It has been my observation that if one chooses to suffer, he or she will be of the opinion that everyone else should suffer in a similar fashion as well. This is because in order to choose to suffer, I must tell myself that I only have one option in a situation, even if it is an option I do not like, or that I have two options, one which has less suffering than the other. I then expect everyone else to be in similar situations and make similar choices, or be annoyed when they do not have to make such a choice. And it is subconscious. We may want to believe that we want freedom, love and happiness for others, but unless we have it for ourselves, it is not possible.

I am going to research hope and find physical, emotional and spiritual practices to cultivate it.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Yoga, Mojo and Chocolate

Yoga, Mojo and Chocolate....my three favorite things, combined in one workshop.....

I was helping out with a couple things, and I got to see the whole experience unfold.

There was about thirty woman at the workshop, and Sarah and Deborah at the front, with feathered boas and dressed in black and red.

We began with a feminine energy flow. Sarah talked about how feminine energy was the grounding energy, a downward flow. Which is why native american woman wore skirts, she said, to connect with that energy. We got super grounded, through our feet and through our hips. There was lots of malasana, and swirling hip circles. Getting in touch with liberating circular movement, a luxurious vinyasa.

One of my favorite moments was a combination of chair pose (bent legs) and cat/cow. Hands were on the thighs and spine undulated back and forth. Another fantastic moment was in warrior two- just the sheer emotional strenght of thirty concentrated women in that pose was overwhelming. There was lots of malasana, and of course, it was all centered around the breath.

We finished with a partner yoga childs pose/ savasanah that was so much fun, and super relaxing. It helped cultivate the environment of trust that nourished Deborah's talk. Then, we did a tantric exercise that was my favorite. We somehow got an entire room to synchronize their breathing, till everyone was one inhale, one exhale, the effect was tremendous harmony and power.

Then Deborah began to speak, and her talk was about getting in touch with what she described as feminine energy: attractive, magnetism, creativity and most importantly, sensuality. Sensuality, she said, is the practice of living through the senses, and it rests in a separate circle from sexuality. And sometimes those two circles come together, she says, and that is wonderful. But remember that they are separate. She talked about the intelligence and wisdom of connecting from the neck down, how there is all this intuition that makes women powerful, and how we need to remember to check in with it.

She taught us a technique that involved rubbing swadhisthana. Take your forefinger and middle finger together, and touch a spot two inches below your belly button. Then, moving counter-clockwise, draw a circle. This, she says, is a powerful technique to staying grounded in your body and sensuality.

I also was deeply impressed and inspired by the Love Body Wash (which I immediately recommended to my friends). Get in the shower, and start with your legs. Massage your legs "I LOVE these legs! They are so fanastic! Look how they get me from place to place! So wonderful....and my thighs...I LOVE my thighs...." And so on.

THEN: oh man, Erin from 2good2beraw.com showed up.

ROSE chocolate. SPICY chocolate. MINT chocolate and Coconut chocolate. all of it raw. Oh my god, it was so amazing! It was the most powerful mint and rose flavor explosion I could have ever imagined, and the spicy chocolate was so nourishing! Her chocolate is amazing. Truly, truly amazing. And it has a nice crisp taste, which is amazing since it's made with Agave, and melt in your mouth....ah...

Wow, we finished off class with a free flow movement while Sarah, Deborah and I went around and gave out pieces of chocolate. Chocolate and movement....pure bliss.

PS: Check out Sarah's personal pampering products.... and her way too cute grooming mirrors for the fun between yours legs http://peeka-bu.com/

PSS: Check out Erins website: I want a peppermint patty....

Humility: Openness with Sarah

Sarah Nehaman has incredible soul.

Last Sunday, I had the privilege of assisting a workshop with her, and right away, I was humbled. I like to pretend I'm a pretty open minded person. And I like it when that illusion is shattered by someone with a bigger heart, and a more noble mind.

Before the session began, a woman showed up at the door. I am ashamed to say that I did judge her: she had on an old t-shirt, she spoke loudly, she was worried about unemployment (like me, remember? yeah, just like me), and she had never taken yoga before. Maybe she would disrupt the mood, I thought with my reptilian brain. Most likely, I saw in her what scares me about myself, particularly her worries about finding work, fears I don't know how to cope with.

I suggested she come back for a beginner class. Sarah came to the door. "Come right in," she says, "don't worry, just come right in". It was her first class, she said. Sarah continued to invite her in, reminding her to take it slow.

And I saw that woman relax as the class proceeded, saw her have a kind, open heart towards the proceedings, saw her working through her concentration and taking in the empowerment that was happening.

I intend on remembering that.
And acting on it.

Why I'm Scared of My Hips

I was lucky enough to be able to take Annie Carpenters last week- a hip opening session that, like all her classes, offered enough information to be considered a workshop.

Annie has this incredible creativity that disguises itself in simplicity and modesty. And we did a lizard lunge: instead of bringing the back knee down, we extended our hands right away.

Like always, I wish after class I had written down all the techniques we used, but as I recall, the main emphasis was on squaring the hips and rolling in the inner tight. This had the effect of engaging mula bandha and lifting the pelvic floor.

Then we went up against the wall, and, again much like Natasha's, that's when things got tight. We put our knee against the wall, top of the back foot on the wall, and began to move into a low lunge. In the words of an acquaintance, 'Oh My Science!'.

I was really scared. I had so much anger, resentment, annoyance stored in there. Although in the back of my mind, I know all emotions, all human possibility is accessible to everyone, there is a part of me that refuses to believe that I can be an angry, jealous, or resentful person. And like how I can. The moment I stepped into the lunge- I don't remember the thoughts, only their quality- they all jammed up into my head and attacked me. I was terrified.

And that type of radical self-knowledge and fear-facing is what I want to discover through yoga now.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Maitri: Bhakti Yoga with Govindas

Govindas has shining eyes and a pure presence through his teachings. I've taken two classes and I'm hooked. Recently, I've been resonating with a slower paced, devotional practice, finding a more interesting type of challenge there.

In the beginning of class, Govindas had everyone come over and meet each other, saying their names and engaging in a bit of conversation. Really underlines how everyone is sharing an element of their experience, interactive in it....

Afterwards, we placed a great deal of emphasis in ujjayi breathing, and moved into a slow and deliberate flow, every motion had more space and time. And this, perhaps, is what made it so difficult.

Counter-intuitive as it sounds, a slow flow class is much harder than a fast-paced class. There's so much more space for the self to witness the mind's chatter. And for an ego-driven kid like me, this is annoying to watch. I want to become frustrated, why so noisy?

And yet Govindas held the space with so much love, and the space resonated with so much devotion, that I wanted to fully face myself with love in my practice. I wanted to maintain calm, maintain compassion and dedication in my practice, as a way of matching the space somehow.

I'm trying to recall particular poses- a few stand out to me, malasana moving to tadasana about ten times, deep lunges, and in the past class, the chanting- My life is full of beauty and love (so true). I am scintillating with positive energy. Scintillating.

Heart-openers. So intense. I kept thinking about maitri, unconditional love and compassion. In my second class, we did partner work. Supported wide-legged forward fold, holding on to our partner's forearms. And I could honestly rest my eyes on my partner's. It amazed me. how in this culture, such a thing is possible. Beautiful.

Savasanah seemed to last forever in every class, I loved each beat of it. Slow flow definitely rendered a different, and perhaps admittedly deeper, meditation than I've experienced in a post-class high in a while. Definitely a good sign.

Bhakti Yoga Shala is a space filled with true love, noble and radical acceptance. They are a donation based studio between 2nd and 3rd on Arizona Ave in Santa Monica. I love how this noble, donation based studio can keep their classes unique, their intentions pure and attract a community of loving, knowledgeable and dedicated instructors and students..

Friday, July 29, 2011

East/West Distinctions?

I've found an interesting East-West distinction. Well, perhaps this an East/West US thing... perhaps it is an effect of the yoga practice, but now more so I feel that I am meeting people who are extremely open, accepting, and have a sense of ease regarding time. It hasn't sunk into my behavior fully yet, so I am still introducing myself with a rapid outburst of information, still as if my body can barely contain itself, in a desperate effort to expand.

It is in my intent to find a good balance between expansion and acceptance. The point is I remember catching myself as I was speaking, taking up time in a yoga class, and Govindas saying it was quite allright. The culture is less frought than in California, it seems. Perhaps.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Subtle Heat: Matthew Cohen's Chi Kung and Yoga

Matthew began class in my favorite way: asking his students how they were feeling. Tired, sad? Ok, tired yes, but not so sad. Ok. So, tired. Hip openers?

Reclining twist, hugging in the knee.....(oh, good, I think, this is the practice I was in the mood for...Chi Kung, yoga....sounds easy, right? A few hip openers....).

Yeah, right. Matthew is a martial arts instructor, and easy and martial arts, in my experience, is anything but easy.

First come crunches. And ok, I'm into crunches. I love awakening my core, even if my brain hasn't caught up yet. The first lunge I took half asleep....and then something snapped. We didn't leave the lunge. We lept up, into crane, half moon, dragon*. The best way to describe it, as Matthew said, was forming half a ying yan symbol. He came up to me and adjusted me so that I twisted deeper, and I understood why. I'm wide awake by now, and we move into warrior two, reverse warrior, triangle (an amazing neck adjustment!). I'm burning up with heat and completely confused as to why- we had, after all, done only a few lunges, right? Ah, but there's the energy of the class....

After a long lunge series on each side, we did a series of pidgeons as part of padmasana preparation. After which we did one of those surprisingly mind-boggling tricks: rotating the torso in opposition to the arms. Tricky.

The most powerful element I took out of class was Matthew's advice that, in his heritage, practitioners softened their chest (mine has a permanent rise per Colleen's memory). The heart is softened, and the spine, the central channel, rises instead. See how that works with your body, he offers, try it out...

*I believe it was called dragon. I'll have to ask.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Yonnus Becker

Studio Surya Yoga is as sunny a space as owner Yonnus' presence. She's one of those people that blows your mind with her positivity, shockingly radiant in its integirty. In this way, she reminds me of Sarah Coleman, a clear and beautiful soul and studio owner in NYC. The same vibe I loved about Finding Sukha in the east village, I catch here....a bright, loving and community-based center where everyone knows and supports each other- right down the street from my new spot in Venice. It's no surprise I ended up there. It's a bit of a surprise I was there bright and early at 9 AM though. I'm exhausted and a bit under the weather, so the night before, I noted the schedule, but nothing short of a miracle would get me up in time. And the miracle came- in the unexpected form of car alarm at 7:46 AM. Wow.

So I'm at the studio and right as class starts I catch Yonnus' eye, draw a circle in my chest and urgently whisper "heart opening". I don't know what she had planned, but from that moment class unfolded into an eloquent sequence of slow, steady heart opening. It's been a while since I made the transition that heart opening is a gradual process, an intention one can carry throughout the class. Every pose we did, every transition, especially anjaneyasana sprinkled through salutations, translated into the overall chest-expanding flow. I remember opening up the back of the heart through a lift in eagle, what a spectacular moment that was. Yonnus' enthusiasm poured out from her heart into my recently corked open one, and her adjustments were fantastic. I loved the pacing of the flow, and how she crafted an original practice through the structure of surya namaskar. I left class light and full of hope and good thoughts....can't wait to come back : )

Glitter Yoga

Glitter goddess and fellow yogini Kimi Giles and I have moved to Venice, and to commemorate this, we of course have to have a glitter yoga housewarming.

We dress up in our sparkliest costumes, stretchy painted pants and gathered about 12 friends up on our roof. We climbed up with four types of glitter, sparklers and got to work.

Kimi was assisting, so she began the ceremony by giving each person white glitter in their right palm, which I instructed them to symbolize all of their expectations of themselves and the night, and throw that over their shoulder.

Then Kimi went around and offered a handful of gold glitter, which I asked people to hold and raise over their heads as if in a sun salutations, then let the glitter fall all over them. It symbolized the purest of loving intentions.

We took ten deep breaths together. We then flowed through grounding, awakening and enlivening movements. Nice and light, this was a first time practicing for many people, and we linked together breath and body through simple motions and stretches. Kimi going around and adjusting alignments was a huge help. One of my favorite moments was doing warrior II in a circle holding hands and passing a "pulse" through the circle. Also, everyone in camel, looking up at the sky.

Our yoga ceremony closed with a meditation with everyone staring at a sparkler.

Being the first time, we went for a short session, about 20 minutes, but next time I think we can really push the envelope and see where glitter yoga takes us...

Monday, June 27, 2011

Jen Pastiloff

Jen's class is fun.

About 15 minutes before class, I was in Santa Monica, looking up nearby options on the MindBody App. "Manifestation Yoga", .1 miles away from me, sounded so perfect that we just had to drop everything and run across Santa Monica's gigantic outdoor mall.

A couple sweaty minutes later, Jen welcomed us into the space and we set up in the front. We quickly learned the rules:

1. Have fun. Jen really emphasized that her yoga was about fun, above all else. And you could feel that joy expanding from her heart.
2. You are encouraged to fall- then, if you fall, you must laugh, and take your neighbor down with you.

First thing that happens, during three-legged dog, Kimi reaches over and taps me in the butt with her toe. "Okay, everybody," says Jen, "Reach over and tap your neighbor on the butt with your toe- gently". She made the whole class do it. And it works your hips and legs!

The class was a powerful vinyasa flow, with every kind of music, R & B, rock, lyrical....a little bit of heat and concentration and I'm in the zone. I've learned to appreciate warm classes. Not so hot that the heat is the main focus, but lovingly warm in an inviting and muscle-relaxing way.

There was something about Jen's attitude that really moved you to express yourself in any way, modify a pose or try something and fall. For me, that always translates to trying to jump up into a handstand at the top of my mat. Toward the end of class, Jen asked us to come into prasarita padottanasana and Kimi whispers "turn towards me". We do a partner version of a spread leg forward fold and then adjust each others feet (flexing back the other other persons foot) when we were bending over each side. Jen's comment? "You guys are so cute".

Jen just came back from teaching a wine and yoga retreat in Italy, and at one point she even (jokingly?) invited everyone to bring their wine bottles to class next week. Kimi commented that this was so comforting, when an instructor is humble, it makes a student feel accepted and deepens his or her respect. After Jen's class (and my lingering yoga-high, I take forever to leave class), my imagination sprung-up positive-mood wildfire. Perfect night.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Gianna Carotenuto

...is so present. Is so freaking present.

It's profound how presence can have a gravitational pull on those around you. As a student, she had my full, complete attention all throughout class.

So, this is Forrest. I've taken one class before, but really I am quite clueless to the movement, only aware that the practice is there to create space for transformational growth. I admire the way that Ana took her personal struggles, particularly bulimia, and used those experiences to create healing practices worldwide.

Gianna is a dedicated Forrest teacher, and really warmed me up to the practice. The sequencing was fantastic, we started with grounding, then hip opening, then heating, heart-opening and cooling, third-eye opening. I experienced ego-loss several times in the practice, particularly with camel at the end, and with the wide-leg forward folds.

Gianna had us discover the space between our thigh bone and our hip socket, and I had never, ever, thought of that space past pure metaphor before. It's amazing what a powerhouse that is. As yoga is an opening up of energy channels, I also think that observing the next hours after a yoga class and noticing what shows up, is a key to the space you transported yourself to within the class. To rephrase, it's one thing to hear a teacher say that opening up a certain space bringing in creativity. It's another thing to find yourself in Venice with a dead cell phone and the most confusing bus directions ever; then find yourself hitchhiking safely to Redondo Beach and meeting some people with apartment leads in the mean time (sorry, mom! hope you don't read this : ).

In summary:

-space between the hip socket and the thigh: huge energy center
-incredible, incredible, incredible adjustments. would love to learn how to do this!
-letting go of the head in a handstand, dramatically different experience (note: harder).
-wide-legged forward fold against a wall: new favorite thing.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Annie Carpenter

Annie is not the sort of teacher, nor is a Level 3/4 class the sort of place, that you would expect your instructor to make a "blarh" funny face to get you to loosen up. So far, SoCal is wonderful: brilliant, intelligent, super-aware yoga, down-to-earth vibe.

Annie teaches in Sanscrit, which is just right for a Level 3/4 class, but I actually haven't seen pure sanscrit in a while, so it caught me off guard. I like having something hold me accountable though. Her style reminds me so much of Natasha Ritzopoulis, it's nice to be able to have such teaching over here.

In the very beginning, class begun with a restorative virasana, which I so appreciated and wish I could have stayed longer. Afterwards, we moved into a cat/cow, when Annie pressed into my back and said "Oh, that's your spot, isn't it?". Yup, that's the place I'm always scared to backbend into, but I really, really need to because it's a huge area of growth.

One of my favorite moments in class was when we did drop-backs into pincha mayurasana. Annie had me demonstrate one and really helped me get into it in a way that was controlled and safe. Pincha mayurasana against a wall was an incredibly heart-opening practice and may be one of my favorite backbends. Can't wait to come back to class.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Erich Schiffman

Erich's class has a novel structure: he begins with moments of acknowledgement to his students, and togetherness, and then moves into lecture. Afterwards, there is a free flowing practice *and to see a room full of west-coast yogis move into their own practice- amazing*.

So, Erich's main themes for class involved not seeing yourself through the lens of birth and death. This, he says, is a main cause of "meaninglessness" and not taking accountability for your actions. He talked about how most of his life, he saw himself as mortal, and that caused him to be less present and care less. Later in his life, he saw himself as pure consciousness beyond both birth and death, which caused him to be more committed to his actions and the way he treats people. ('you'll have to meet that person in another life".

Now, it's interesting, because I would use the opposite phrasing: become more aware of your mortality, become more aware of death and how we all share it. Our actions may be absurd and meaningless, use the power of courage to create meaningful actions in spite of that potential absurdity. True compassion comes out of that place of embracing the unknown, the uncertain. And if you begin to observe your experience, you'll notice that your actions have a profound effect, they may not always be the means to the end you thought, but they create heaven and hell through your mindset in a moment.

...and really, though the language is completely difference, we are saying the same thing. Be present, have compassion, create meaning through your actions, read between the lines. I had a wonderful chat with Erich in which I discussed these things with him, and also how my seed-planting-instant-karma beliefs were also from a place of "you'll have to meet that person in another life". (Except, I think, in another form that you project outwards, in five minutes).

Switching Coasts.

New Coast. (West once)

So, a few notes from the last one (East one)...

-Saying goodbye to Ryan was the saddest moment. I really, really, really hope he'll continue his yoga practice- and I'll hold him accountable for a while. Knowing how pure his heart is and how honest he is, I know that if he says he will, he will. But I've never had such a profound relationship with a student before- being so young and new myself, it was a mindblowing honor to be able to make a difference in someone's life like that. To watch someone's eyes lit up, and their posture change over time. Man.

-On my way from Massachusetts to NYC to say goodbye-for-now, I had a spontaneous 3 AM circle-chakra-class in Westchester. Best Class Ever. I used the sequencing from the Chakra Namaskar to create a practice that was appropriate for the time frame, and my fellow yogi Pat followed it up with Pranayama. Thank you, Fifth Nation. Practicing with you guys is incredible.

It made me think about how influenced I was from my Chakra Namaskar training earlier. What's interesting is that at the time I saw it as mythology. Ok, this makes sense, this an interesting system, it's a fun practice. Cool.

But it didn't sink in till later. It wasn't until later- weeks later- that I started using the chakras as alchemy, I started thinking in terms of elements. I would suddenly say sentences as "I need to incorporate more space, and a bit more flowing into this moment," or "it seems that you have a lot of fire happening right now, you may need to balance it with some heart openers so that energy is going in the right direction...". Hmm, I wonder where those came from.

And then my practice...complete shift. Every practice became some version of kundalini awakening, some version of chakra namaskar. I started toying with this after Jacqui's class, but now even more so, there was so much more intentionality in my sequencing. I had all these absurdly useful tools in my toolbox, and they worked. These chakras, although not physically present as "wheels" in the body, allowed me to map out the territory so I can change it....add more grounding, more flowing, more expression....

"....important characteristics of maps should be noted. A map is not the territory it represents, but, if correct, it has a similar structure to the territory, which account for its usefulness...."
A. Korzybski, Science & Sanity, 4th Ed., 1958, p.58-60.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Marcelyn Cole

Marcelyn Cole's class was the most memorable class I've taken in the past half year. -Bonnie Argo asked that question in my study pod, I thought I'd let it echo in an opening line ; )-

The moment I got out- into the roar of a Chicago thunderstorm no less- I furiously began engraving my experience into writing. I later drowned my dear phone, and so lost the note I had written. Yet the experience was so vivid I think I can get to the heart of it with a recollection.

I was so lucky I came to her class. It was a good karmic decision; I was looking at classes that ran at that time, and it was either take class with the director of YogaView, or with Marcelyn. It seems that I "should" have taken the other class with only three days in Chicago, but see, Moksha plays this fun little trick when they create a promotional video for each teacher. That way, a student gets a little taste...

Brilliant concept. I swear, five seconds into Marcelyn's video, I was caught: I wanted to take her class. I felt that it was the right one for me. It was called "tantric vinyasa".

I fell in love in tadasana. We lifted up onto the balls of our feet, with our gaze down and in front of us, and that began a practice so creative and flowing it vibrated so on the inside as well. Moksha keeps the room warm in the midst of chilly Chicago, a haven that softens your muscles quickly. I started thinking about all the different things I wanted to do, all these ideas rushed into my practice, all these various ways I could go...

This is what I loved about my practice to begin with, before I learned about alignment, before I learned to stay present even (and I don't mean to imply in any way that I wasn't present that class, I was absurdly, emotionally vulnerably present). At first, it was about that magical flow my mind was caught in, the twisting of my negative chitta vritti into optimistic enchantments.

I felt so safe that class.

I felt I could have been anyone, or more importantly, no one at all, and I would have been accepted. It was such a safe space. It was so safe I felt my heart space opening up into its tenderest depths, I started crying just out of the magic of sheer presence, of the wonder of really feeling. [Sometimes, I get like this in my yoga. It's the most powerful practice I've ever discovered, and I really mean that.]

Marcelyn reminded me of what a yoga teacher can be, the kind of magic that he or she can inspire.

We did crow. Anjaneyasana. I don't remember the details, I remember being misty eyed and four years old. There was a point where we formed a mudra where we touched our thumbs and fingers as if we were about to pick up a sheet of paper. A better metaphor, is as if you wanted to make a shadow puppet. And with snakeline movements, we waved our arms up and down in a dance of gratitude.

Marcelyn, thank you so much. Thank you for showing me a class that was so fun and inspiration, also mindful, well-aligned, sequenced and safe. With love, M.

Kim Wilcox

I love Moksha.

The studio feels like a surreal version of kindergarten, one where I am loved and accepted for who I am. The brick walls of my first home and my first yoga studio, recalled as if in a dream into this pristine place.

I practically cross-examined the staff at Lululemon Halsted, and I got a recommendation for Kim's class.

Kim held the room with a tremendous amount of respect, and the one thing I will never forget from her class is the hip opener early on. I am a big fan of sequencing up according to kundalini, even incorporating a 'peak' pose never detracts from this intention. So when I find a more "uplifting" hip opener than half pidgeon (but one that's deeper than warrior II), I am thrilled. Kim's verbal cues were to step your right leg up into a lunge position, then to bring it a little towards the midline. Come onto your back knee, then wrap your right arm under your right thigh and around your right calf, both hands meeting in front of your right ankle (ok, so I forgot the exact cues and I may have defaulted on YTTP speak, for those familiar).

Kim is an intelligent teacher with a wonderful presence, and I joined in on a conversation she was having about the preservation of yoga after class. She definitely is of the strong opinion that the traditional teachings must be taught in their original rigor and state. I am considerably more lenient (I love interpretation, variation, and music, to) but when I see that striving for truth in someone, I feel so intimately connected...She also gave me some good teachers to check out, particularly Tias Little.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Samadhi Newton

Samadhi is run by two therapists: how incredibly is that? I think yoga and therapy must absolutely be blended, and maybe one day I'll even venture into the field myself....

I took John Churchill's class this morning, which was intense not in a "power" way, but intense in Natasha's way, complete calm and mindfulness held just a bit longer than you may desire.

When we went into pigeon, I love how John talked about "parenting yourself"- being there for yourself in uncomfortable situations in a loving and kind manner.

In other words "if your right hip hurts and you wish the pain would just piss off, you aren't being kind to yourself".

I've also taken Nicole's cosmic pulse class, which was SO much fun. Absurdly playful and super healing. I ran into class just on time and joined in the flowing movements. About halfway through, she had us move about the room and interact with the space....everyone there was so open minded, it was safe to express yourself through any movements that came to mind.

Also, the studio runs on wind power, it has a Japanese sand garden at the entrance and a huge, comfortable "living room" with lots of great reading material. It lives up to its name.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

How being Grounded changes Reality

How being Grounded changes your Reality

The thing I took most out of Shiva's training was the way she stood, wide stance about two feet apart. Knees bent and hips flowing, tail tucked and heart opened. The kind of fluid style she taught encouraged the creation of that type of posture, dynamic, more than the creation of a rigid seat. This way, it was yoga for creating states of being, than yoga for creating a perspective.

Yes, it comes out of an ultimate awareness that truly there is only the viewer. In fact, that is the essence that is achieved through the meditation. It just puts in the new dimension of motion. As you move, you get constant feedback. This is true for standing still as well, you get different flows of molecules moving through you, but as you are the mover through these different lightbeams and energy pools (my new age-y metaphors are getting a hold on me, my apologies), you are having different experiences, you are living through different worlds.

So it turns out that the world lived in with legs further apart, knees slightly bent and shifting the weight from one leg to another to find balance...well, it turns out that's an incredibly wonderful world to live in. It didn't begin to hit me until right after the training.

Now, the training itself was ridiculously fun and wonderful. I learned a lot, I got a very interesting and earnest perspective, one that was down to earth and presented in an empathetic and effective manner. I connected with Shiva, particularly when she mentioned her parents' lack of approval of her wanting to be a teacher. I admired the way she treated people, I felt that she was really searching to connect with us all. There was humility and modesty right alongside complete confidence being great. Not being scared to be wonderful critized, or to be admired is phenomenal. Also...Shiva is proud to be the first customer of my raw ashwaganda and maca chocolates! This inspired the name of my new blog, ps: monaandcacao.wordpress.com.

During the trainings I was impressed, but I didn't know how deeply they had hit me until I was fully relaxed and realized I was changing my behavior, all the time, based upon what I had learned. I didn't realize how much it had effected me until afterwards. I stand differently (in my physical body), I feel differently (based on my posture, I am in a different emotional body), and the way I think about reality has fundamentally changed. Additionally I do think I've experienced a slight shift in consciousness, but I always like to think my current self is more enlightened than my past self. It's the intellectual masturbation of the day.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Blogging World

I read this post: http://recoveringyogi.com/one-yoga-teachers-own-manifesto/

It was like a bowl of hot soup for the tremendous confusion I've felt in the past few years...

Justine's Anxiety Workshop





I've finally faced reality and that with almost four posts behind 'schedule', I'm not going to type up these notes. So, instead of watching them degrade into dust bunnies in my closet, I'll immortalize them on the easy-access internet.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Black Swan Yoga

Black Swan broke apart the concepts of all a donation based studio can become. Never before was I so incredibly proud to come from a donation based studio, nor inspired into spreading donation-based love.

Before I get into the excellent instruction that I received in Ben's class, let me talk about how the studio itself works.

It's a co-op. A cooperative, donation based space. Teachers don't get paid from a central authority who runs the studio (honestly, I don't know if one person's name is on the lease- but from what I've heard decisions are made through the group). Teachers rent space, and are reimbursed through student donations. It keeps it honest and open, and simply enough- if students want you, you'll be there.

It's stylish and authentic. Oftentimes decorating a yoga studio or creating a 'sacred space' means putting up reflections of cultural symbols that most cannot relate to*. Black swan creates the format through an authentic, hip design that really show what their yoga means: self expression, creativity and ingenuity. Paper mache black swans line the walls and their photography and social media presence is stunning. I wish I lived in Austin so I could play with these guys. I really do.

I took Ben Heath's class: mindful, passionate, well-sequenced, great points of alignment- an all around excellent class. With radiohead twice in the playlist (love it!). Ben also teaches a class at 4:30 AM in the morning (no joke) on Saturdays that he will not accept donations. It's pure kundalini for two hours! How amazing, after a night of partying or just some restless, curious night, you found yourself at Black Swan..... crazy visions of how insane that morning would be.

Black swan reignited

*note, I have nothing against cultural appropriation: I walk around with a metal Ganesh around my neck and an Om earing, both presents. Yet those symbols have become meaningful to me through my practice. It's impressive that Black Swan goes outside that paradigm to choose symbols that may be meaningful to non-yogis.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Camel with Natasha

This is my second time taking a camel-oriented class with Natasha, and I don't think I'll ever forget the points: engage your legs, allow the lower spine to remain, bend only in the upper spine. Like bending over a beach ball.

I've been shadowing her Tuesday class, and I love it so much. The classes are slow, mindful, and yet intense. Incredibly intense in the way I suppose only an ex-ballet dancer could create. For example, the half-warrior with the arms reaching forward. The sequencing, although a vinyasa flow, has the work ethic of an Iyengar class, with everything working up to a pose at the end, often a backbend.

I also notice the classes having a profound change in my practice: my tadasana arms- which I will make sure to carry with my in my warriors, in my down dog- have a more significant outward rotation, accomplished by engaging the outer arms. There are so many points of alignment that she gives, I wish I could keep track of them all. I hope my body remembers, even if my mind forgets.

The last class I took, we had incredibly intense virabhadrasana & ardha chandrasana sequence that brought us to the wall. But, Natasha would smile, the wall just makes things harder, right? We stood with our back leg against the wall at a 45 degree angle, and our front foot facing forward, a low lunge. The intention was that we learned to push our back hip forward and engage our back tight. And let me tell you- the engagement and pressing back of my back thigh has made EVERY warrior 2 since considerably easier.

The next class, I commit to taking some notes right away. Next tuesday!

Backbends with Ryan

I did my first full-out backbending session with Ryan the other day! We typically have been having evening sessions, focusing on calming the mind's restless and anxiety, releasing tension and coming to a place of stillness.

Backbends, although relaxing in the sense that they offer a release of negative energy, are a pretty energizing practice. But the other evening we met slightly earlier than usual, so I thought I would give it a go. He loved it. Absolutely loved it. I've never been so inspired by someone else's backbending practice!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Jahvocado

Jared Hirsch is admirable for his intense knowledge of yoga and his willingness to share his passion for avocados. Side note: It makes me wonder what fruit or vegetable I could write an ode to. Fennel? Apples? (La Luna? My signature fennel-celery-apple juice?).

When Jared opened up class asking if we were looking for anything in particular, it didn't take me long to blurt out "Courage and Clarity". Jared added compassion to the mix and summed up essentially what I ache for: Courage, Compassion and Clarity. We were to practice with the intention of embracing these things.

The chant "Om Ma Namaha" was repeated throughout class in a series of flowing variations on sun salutations, and forward bends. The class was creative and intentional, flowing seamlessly through in and out breath variations. We started off class with dynamic shades of child's pose, one arm and one leg up and then child's pose. The emphasis was on uyaji breathing, and Jared came around to everyone in class to offer individual attention and correction to their breath.

Before we moved into warrior sequences, we prepared the shoulders by inhaling them up to a T, exhaling and flipping them up while tucking the chin into the chest. Inhale, rotate the shoulders out, glance up, exhale glance down, flip shoulders over and tuck your chin. One of my favorite parts was the movements we made from warrior one to airplane, every motion on the breath, everything part of a cycle one can lose oneself in.

There were so many creative forward bending we did, including some from kneeling, and even one (and my memory may be fading) in a bridge pose. What I love about a flowing class like this is that it somehow stimulates creative thought: I'll be halfway through a pose and just start laughing because an inspirational (and yet so obvious) idea will occur to me. You know, that perfect solution one can never find with restricted blood flow under stress, yet sometimes pops up in yoga.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Jo Flaherty

I cannot think of a better way to start a Friday night than at Jo Flaherty's 5:30 at Down Under.

Right away, we started class on a creative note: a stretch for the hand that involved taking one's palm in what I like to call "spider man pose" and taking one finger at a time and bending it away. Learning a new thing right away is a great way to get me right in the flow of things, and- I'm trying out this phrase- turning the "being present" switch on*.

*... is that too dorky?

We moved into an intense and intelligent vinyasa sequence that rolled through variations on crescent lunge, and all the fun sun sals and side planks, to Jo's wise advice and excellent taste in music. She had that ability to hold the space very well- frequently yoga is spoken of as "creating and dissolving sacred space" (in the words of Richard Freeman). When an instructor focuses on doing this, the practitioner can indeed tell.

Ease in attitude led the transition into side arm balances. Jo held poses patiently, much longer than most vinyasa I've experienced in this area, and I felt really inspired by that. There was the element of conscious creativity: sequencing to target opening in places one might ordinarily miss, while a strong dedication to 'sitting' in a pose. Having to fully come into being (instead of receding into the transitions) brings out stronger elements in me, and the next Friday I'm out on the town, I'm starting here : )

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Natasha Rizopoulis

Thanks to Down Under, I am lucky enough to be able to study with Natasha Rizopoulis. Natasha is a true teacher's teacher: I was honored to be practicing with Jane Cargill, a wonderfully compassionate instructor and truth seeker in the Boston area, right next to me. (Jane introduced me to Love Without Conditions, which has since become one of my favorite books).

What I love about Natasha's class is its unapologetic, authentic and organic commitment to both intensity and alignment. That's my favorite kind of practice, and the kind that seeds lasting change within me. Natasha is incredibly personal and constantly in the process of interacting with and adjusting her students. That lends a sense of creation in the moment to the class, that the class is coming in and out of the interaction, and the framework of alignment is occurring as observances are made in class.

Some points of class today (and what I can remember from a few weeks ago):

-In bhujangasana (cobra), make sure that your wrist is slightly above your elbow, this will give you the leverage to pull your elbows back and open your heart.
-In all poses where you interlace your hands behind your back: don't pull your hands down, this may have the negative effect of jutting your shoulders forward. Instead, pull the hands back.

now tuck the tailbone. engage the core, lower ribs in....

-In crescent lunge, press the heel of the front foot into the ground to engage the core and tuck the tailbone.

It makes me think about how paradoxical yoga is. I used to think of it as mildly amusing: you move quickly in order to relax the mind, you accept things in order to change them, the list goes on. But it really hits hard when it comes to alignment. You straighten your back leg and your lower ribs jut out, you pull them back in, then open your shoulders, that makes you stick out your tailbone, so roll it back down.

A constant process of noticing, correcting, overcompensating, correcting, noticing....

sounds like life : /

Love.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Pretty Things Are Like Yoga

Thank you, NASA.

Justine's @ 5:30

Points to heart opening:

1. Tuck the tailbone....bend from the middle back
2. Use the core....engage the core through abdominal exercises, then tighten the core to pull the pelvis forward, tailbone down, and lengthen the lower back.
3. Pull the shoulders back....notice how there is a paradoxical opposition between tucking your tailbone and your shoulders jutting forward. Now, pull your tailbone back.
4. Rotate the inner tights towards each other, this spreads the sacrum.

We then moved into warrior 1 and reverse warrior, before moving into this fantastic partnered backbending series. One partner held the other's ankles (thumbs on the inside), as she or he moved into bridge or wheel.

It felt like someone cracked open a safe in my chest. Love.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Self-Defense

We just had a self-defense class at Lululemon! It makes me miss martial arts. I pulled out an old bag of my belts...I forgot that I made it all the way to black stripe. I had so many belts, I started using them as straps. Is that a creative use of belt, or slightly disrespectful? Being a yoga prop is a high honor. Maybe I'll ask.

I sent my mom to Down Under Yoga today to be my scout- I couldn't make to Patricia Walden's Yoga for Menopause Workshop.

My mom reports: many back bends, she even did back bends on the chair!
A lot of yoga teachers,
a great atmosphere,
calm and collected, not-preaching, charismatic,
Patricia had a few helpers,
It was all about stretching yourself out,


and she brought me back a sheet.

By the end of this week, I commit to:

1. Finishing Justine's Anxiety Class workshop post.
2. Writing a post about Jo Flaherty ( I LOVED her class!!)
3. Writing a post about BLACK SWAN in Austin, a stylish, fresh and insightful yoga co-op in Austin. Austin is amazing.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Essential Tremor

Before I continue, it's important to mention that I have express permission to discuss the following topic, and that I would never, under any circumstances, share details of any client I work with unless I have the full go-ahead from the client. The reason I'm sharing this is in hopes that someone with some insight might read it.

So the client in question has Essential Tremor in his right hand. His name is Ryan, and he had a stroke when he was 8, and has not had conscious control of his right hand ever since. His right hand shakes uncontrollably, the fingers curl up and clench, and the more he tries to relax it, the more it shakes. All the people Ryan has worked with before have attempted to establish conscious control of the hand through directions (open, close, feel this moving, etc). I think yoga might be a powerful tool to work with the unconsciousness and bring about a general state of relaxation. Like all New Englanders, Ryan likes to ski and go on extremely competitive runs.

So, my first instinct was that he would love vinyasa. So I started with that. His body was so tight, however, that moving in and out of the vinyasa poses caused more anxiety and worry to creep across his face. We did some longer poses, Iyengar style. He liked those better. I immediately moved in "Relax and Renew" mode.

I've had about 8 sessions with Ryan so far. The first was okay, the second excellent, the third unsatisfying, the fourth magnificent, the fifth all right, and after that I stopped judging, I swear.

Here's a break down of what's worked and hasn't.

Sitting meditation: an excellent way to both start and end class. I've started incorporating some journaling and directed meditation, as well. He loves visualization (imagine white light entering you, and so forth) and I experimented with some meditation prompts to see where the mind goes. I'll talk about that later.

Supta Padangusthasana: (Reclining on the back, one leg up in the air supported by a strap).

Vrikasana (tree pose): Ryan's favorite pose. Everyone loves it when they reach a pose that offers a different viewpoint and a variety of sensations, with confidence and stability. So, they do it more. I love sneaking this one into class to see how happy it makes Ryan.

Tadasana (Mountain): Anusara variation I learned from Jennifer Harvey: bend the elbows, arms by the sides. Huge heart opener (lower ribs in!).

Balasana (Child's pose): Particularly supported. I have yet to meet someone who doesn't love child's pose.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Kundalini Awakening

There's been many times when I've experienced an incredible shift during yoga, a sense of weightlessness, and pure presence. I remember describing it to someone once, many years ago as, because I was suddenly visually aware of so many details, of feeling "everywhere, all at once". Today, during Jacqui Bonwell's chakra cleanse, I felt my eyebrows drawn aside to make room for the pleasant surprise of heat. Heat. Actual heat. Even now I can feel it pulsing, and even higher, into Soma Chakra.

It was an incredible workshop, and I certainly needed it. This past week, I was on a juice clease that had me high as a kite, I felt wonderful and free, and alive. And as it ended, I felt... pretty good, but not as liberated as I had on my cleanse. And slightly disappointed that my sweet tooth didn't go away. Then last night and this morning, after receiving some good news, I started to worry. I can hear Brian Tracy mocking me in my head "... and these are the kind of people that the moment things start going their way, they are on the lookout for something to come and mess it up... and sure enough". The worry mounted. It became more absurd, my channels morphing into perverse, creeping and hideous worms vibrating with memories of things gone awry, troubles unsettled, limitations and doubts.... energy draining. Teaching yoga didn't make it go away, taking yoga turned pointless and How Yoga Works just reminded me of painful truths. I wished I was still in New York so that I could walk over to Martin Navarette, and say, "here's my head, would you take it, wash it out, and bring it back?".

So, I got to Jacqui's class ten minutes late. I actually started driving the wrong way to H.Y.P. this morning. Greg Gumucio used to say that it's the person who arrives last to class that needs it the most, which is a pretty compassionate thought, really. So we started out with a chant I hadn't heard before, which ended in "Shum" and I want to ask about. Jacqui asked us to use the inhale to pinch the kundalini, and the exhale to pull it up the spine, an accessible metaphor.

We started off with the Muladhara, the root chakra. The root chakra is the chakra of fear (ahem), worry (uh oh) regarding security (ohh boy). It has to do with money and family (who isn't insecure about these things?), I suppose once could either balance within to find balance outside, or, Jacqui's take, remain balanced within despite external imbalances. Take your philosophical pick. (PS: this wasn't an Iyengar workshop, no one brought notebooks- I had a piece of pen and paper by my side, for accuracy's sake, with Leigh, my manager at Lululemon, in mind). The bija mantra for the root chakra is LAM.

We moved on to Svadhistana Chakra, this is the chakra of water, love and relationships, fertility (in all aspects), creativity and sensuality. All around awesome chakra, not that I'm biased. This is also the chakra of trauma and guilt (also some of my favorite things!). VAN. Jacqui had us hold horse pose, then slide into pidgeon. Hip openers early on have always made a huge difference in a class, and now I understand why.

Moving on to Manipura- I wrote less here, perhaps because I was holding plank- manipura, fire, digestion, insecurity. Bija, RAM.

Then dear Anahata, love, acceptance and forgiveness. I love this chakra as well. Ok, this isn't about having a favorite chakra, I know! I love all chakras equally. Anahata vibrates with YAM. Jacqui had us in bow, imagine someone we detested, couldn't stand, and then to let that person go. I imagined the front of my heart bleeding a brilliant green across my shirt.

Coming to the throat, this was in the reverse order of the hips. I normally stretch the throat either in a short sequence at the beginning of class, or perhaps in fish pose at the end. The throat is the center for self-expression, and how much addiction, and illness, is related to the throat, asked Jacqui. It's true, most pills are swallowed, liquor is drunk, and I for one stuff food down my glut when attempting to quelch my thoughts. HAM.

Between the eyebrows, and this is when that heat began to spread, the third eye, OM, Jacqui said. At the end of class, I couldn't move- moving was an absolutely absurd action. Damn propriety, I would have stayed there forever.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Becoming

Jennifer at Laughing Dog last week was talking about the Manifesting energy, the downward energy, and the Liberating energy, the upward energy.

Relating these to the breath, imagine,

The Manifesting energy is the inhale, the filling, the inviting the air you take in to become a part of you,

and the Liberating energy is the exhale, the releasing, the bidding farewell to the air you have breathed and person you were.

note that there is no struggling energy: nor is there worrying, judgemental or critical energy.

If you spend all of your time manifesting, and liberating, you are busy being a constantly evolving being: there is simply no time for anything else.

Yoga Poem: Laughing Dog w/ Jennifer Harvey

Some times, savasana makes complete sentences a rather difficult task.

The consequence, I present, is my yoga poem:

Inocacation to start,
Open the heart through backbends
T12 on twists,
Below does not twist,
Can cause injury to the sacrem,
Open heart,
Anjulie mudra,
Hands pull together in down dog,
Feet pull together in down dog,
Energy of the shins, shins in, thighs out,
Manifesting current pulls downward,
Liberating current moves upwards,
Inner edges of the sitting bones pull down,
Soft groins (oh those soft soft groins rodney and Colleen kept talking about)
Tailbone pushes down (downward current),
Sun kisses the top of your head, energy flows down,
Hipbone is the apex of the triangle, don't pull it too far back,
Getting into triangle with a bent knee, wide stance, groin soft, thigh opens, knee comes back,
Firefly pose,
Energy in the body, control of the limbs


Thursday 11:45
Jennifer Harvey
(a special Lululemon Athletica on-the-road treat)


Love and with,
Mona

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Backbends

Oh my god, backbends.

Every time I take Chanel's class, I feel like I just learned about ten new poses or variations; I love learning how infinite the body's potential for various movements is.

This class was special. For many, many reasons.

1. The "being" sun salutations. That's what I loved so much about the last class but forgot to blog about! The central idea is that intent of the next sun salutation is going to be "I am empowered". So, you do a sun salutation with that in mind.

I am empowered, one flow,
I am free, another flow,
I am brave, I think I remember, but I'm not sure. Perhaps I am courage- I am confident? I am bold? Identity crisis :)

I absolutely love these- they are such affirmations and mantras. The power of saying something, is huge, but imagine the power of committing yourself to a sequence of actions while consciously trying to eminate that type of being.

2. An intense backbending series. I love backbending. It is incredibly detoxifying, mentally and physically, and yes I had traces of that headache that informs you that, though you may have been a bit toxic lately, at least it's coursing through you instead of stuck. We did shower pose, then heart opening back-bends with the thighs against the wall, and camel. Incredibly intense, I was exhausted afterwards.

3. Lastly, and more personally, for the first time, EVER, in class, I paused in a momentary handstand on my way to utanasana from downward dog. I've been able to do this in my home practice, but never in class before. It's scary for a few reasons: 1. Accidentally hitting someone in the head with your feet. Awkward.... 2. A subtle fear of appearing attention-grabbing. I think this is a cowardly thought- if a friend mentioned this to me, I would reply, "but it's yoga, no one cares what you are doing and B. if it is not your intent, and you have no other reason to believe you would be perceived as such, why would you worry?". Eating one's own words is important...

Miss Fit

So, what's Lululemon doing 9 AM on a Saturday?

Kickboxing MissFit style. MissFit is a fitness training program for beauty queens (in my eyes, all women!). It is seriously one of the cutest ideas anyone has ever had.

Jenee Guadalupe was ready in the middle of the Natick collection with an array of Muay Thau Boxing gear: kicking pads, boxing gloves, extra attitude; that sort of thing.

While she worked one-on-one with a participant, she kept the rest busy with three "stations": 'mountain climbing', plank, and double leg lifts. I don't know what to call those, ab exercises when you lie down and shift your legs side to side.

I loved working with her! I haven't kicked or punched or anything for a while, and I used to love that stuff... (tae kwon do). Jenee that keen intuition of an excellent instructor. She can tell exactly when you are present with her, when you're not, and she knows how to call you back. She put you through the perfect number of reps: more than you may be inclined to, but as many as you can truly do.

It was hard work. (Note to self, more of that, it feels nice).

Plus, she put together an awesome "pump you up" mix to hold you through the workout and threw in "Help, I'm Alive" by Metric and "Control" by Puddle of Mudd. Cheers.

Lulu love

Good news!!!! I'm joining the team at Lululemon Natick!! So excited to be amongst such inspirational, glowing and authentic people.

One day, over the summer, I was feeling a bit down, so I practiced yoga by the pool. After savasana, on a whim, I jumped in, clothes and all. Let me tell you: best yoga high ever. Water can be refreshing.

Lululemon is like that. It's as if all the insights, techniques and practices I've loved are coming to affirm themselves to me. Blessings.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Gratitude

Gratitude resides outside the words of "Thank you". Gratitude is about nourishment: mind, body and soul.

When I use the word "thank you", I want it to mean, "I don't know how I can support you in your journey today, but please know, should there be an opportunity for me to assist you, you can trust that I will take it".

A. I am going to get henna and tattoo on my hands the following Rules: 1. No Panic, and 2. No Cowardice.

B. I am extremely lucky today for a cornucopia of reasons, 1 being Lululemon (EEK!! wooohoo!!) and the other an opportunity to work with a student with a rare and curious injury. In the interests of sanity, however, I'll take up typing at a later time and dreaming at the present.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Nicci Gotto & Yoga at the Ashram @ Lululemon

Lululemon has complimentary classes EVERY Sunday at the Natick store. How ridiculously incredible is that?

This week, class was with Nicci Gotto from Yoga at the Ashram.

Someone asked Nicci what kind of yoga she taught.

"Hatha," she says.
"What's hatha?"
"Hatha is yoga...it is where all yoga comes from. It is the uniting of the sun and the moon, together into oneness".

There's an ethereal quality to Nicci's white-veiled arms, and her class is a series of meditation and long, slow holds. No one ever said hatha was easy. I found it easy to connect to a quality of emptyness, calm and peace through her teachings. She also gave me the best adjustment ever! She pressed my thighs down in baddha konasana and...they stayed there once she was gone. So liberating.

Free classes at the Ashram for lululelmoners this week!

Check out Lululemon Store in Natick.