I am a huge fan of enlisting gravity to help open my spine gently. Two great postures that do this for you are forearm scorpion (vrscikasana) and handstand scorpion (taraksvanasana, also commonly referred to as vriscikasana b). Here's a tip to help you safely get the most out of these inverted back bends. Once you're inverted, resist the temptation to bend your knees right away. Keeping the legs straight, active and strong while you enter your back bend keeps the pelvis properly aligned and tunes in lots of supporting muscles. This allows you to ease into the back bend with lots of balance and control. Push the ground away with your hands and lift the crown of your head straight up. Start to reach out behind you with your toes, keeping the legs straight. Spend at least 5 breaths there, more if you like. Then bend your knees and strongly activate the hamstrings to pull the toes in toward your head. Feel free to use a wall to play with these techniques. If you don't already practice handstands and/or forearm stands, don't start with this pose! I should note here that the exit I use in the video is not a proper exit. Don't try it on a hard surface. It feels nice on sand :)
You are patient and powerful. You listen to my breath. You search for the quiver in my muscles as you sway me alternately, deliberately, from tension to bliss. You are not swept away in my rapture, rather, you orchestrate it. You provide for my every comfort, allowing me to relax, let go, surrender. In surrender I am swept away. You assert your strength and lead me deep into the belly of my own fiery desire. You are my guide here, and I know I am safe with you. You usher me unhurried to the brink of my fulfillment, and then hold me there expertly, deepening and sweetening the pool of the senses before plunging me into its depths.
You see me naked. Not just the outward shell that is my body, but my naked trust, passion, and ego. You are sensitive to my vulnerability. You are attuned to the vibration of my anxious anticipation. You draw it into your own calm, loving vibration and return it to me softened and rhythmic. I lift my gaze to meet your eyes and find there compassion, acceptance, truth.
You are loving. Not the small kind of loving that begs to be defined. This love is the spontaneous connection that occurs when two pieces of the same spirit recognize one another, and are unable to escape the other’s gravity. It is a union. It is too big to be confined within rings, and papers, and rites. It is alive. It breathes and grows and endures. And in your loving touch you leave no scars, only planting seeds of pleasure and pure intention. Your kiss is a shelter from the past and the future. I can be nowhere but the present in your embrace.
You respect my independence. You see this woman before you as a goddess. Equally powerful and light, entrenched in dharma. You encourage me to fly, uplifted and engaged by this free spirit- never attempting to capture my freedom, only my adoration. You know that to grasp too tight is to collapse the bond which draws me to you. You are content with or without me because you are whole and driven under your own volition. Intimately, you ask with a glance if I want to go on with this journey. I shiver as our energy gathers at my spine. My eyes turn inward to receive the light you cast on me from within. Shakti is awakened. I am liberated from my senses as they are consumed in the fire of ecstatic bliss, tappas.
You are creative and intelligent. The confines of habit offer you no satisfaction. When your exploration leads you to one treasured experience, you seek not to recreate it over again. You absorb it and then blaze a new path toward new treasures. You know that each moment is pregnant with potential, and like a kaleidoscope you reveal to me a new masterpiece upon the slightest turn- an explosion of shades, and fractals, and reflections.
You speak the silent language of compassion and gentleness. I am listening. You apply your strength and intellect in equal proportions. I am observing. You invite me to expose my true Self. I am ready.
It's been a long time. I am afraid to look at the date and find out just how long ago it was that I sat down to write. Lets just call it a few critical months. Since my last entry, I have been introduced personally to the disastrous personal catastrophe that is divorce. I have heard stories of people divorcing and remaining best friends for life. That is not my story. I was trampled by adversity. I was lifted high by discovering love and support in unexpected souls. I was transported into the oceanside existence I have been dreaming of manifesting my whole life. I found I had to go there very nearly alone, leaving behind beloved friends who, by loving and believing in me made me brave enough to go pursue my dreams. One of them, Rebecca Lammerson, reminded me of the power of writing. So thank you for bringing me back to my blog, Rebecca. The details of the past few months are many, but sometimes looking at something too close up can make you lose sight of the big picture. So I will share with you just a skeleton view. Last September I went on my first yoga retreat (Thank you John Salisbury and Jenn Chiarelli) at a sanctuary that I am convinced is some powerful vortex of spiritual energy, Esalen. The whole journey to get there, the events that transpired there, and the finale of the trip home changed the way I saw the world. I will write a book about it someday. I came home with the complete understanding that my life must change for the happier, and that I needed to let go of old wounds and make more out of every moment of this lifetime. I needed to stop binding myself to the things that made me sad by constantly trying to fix them. And generally failing to fix them. The way to be happy in this lifetime is not to dwell in what isn't working, but give your attention to what is working very well- the thing that makes your heart sing to do it. That is a thing you can't fail at. It is your dharma. You will be less successful at anything else you attempt in life, so why throw your time and energy in any other direction? RA Yoga was born. That's another book. The condensed version is that I collaborated with a partner to follow my vision to create a little piece of heaven in the desert. A perfect sanctuary for the student, the yogi, the inspired, the lost, the community. I was off and running at the first go ahead to get started, and 11 weeks later we opened the doors to a reception of over 100 people. Let me remind you that although I worked at At One Yoga for the better part of a year (a very dear thank you, Ms. Lee Zinsky) I had no earthly idea how one might put together a functioning yoga studio, only what one looked like. Discovering what I was capable of there led me to believe in myself as a strong woman, able to inspire a community to come together, some one my boys can be proud of. But once we feel comfortable, there is inevitably an earthquake to remind us that we're not done growing yet. We'll call my departure from RA a personal earthquake. I grew. I picked up lots of classes teaching at Yoga Nirvana. There was a slow and steady energy there that grounded me. I spent a very precious time there spreading my wings as a teacher. I learned compassion, communication, and strength building. All the qualities of my life that I needed I was manifesting through teaching. I even developed and taught a unique and well-received workshop. My students love and visible progress made me believe in myself as a teacher. I had a pretty great cheerleader who also kept me humble too (Thanks Jim Keegan). The next earthquake was a biggie. I'm not ready to discuss the aggregate yet, but it resulted in a physical change of address. Displaced and desperate to not to focus on the 30+ years of memories I have made in every nook and cranny in Arizona, I decided that it was time to follow the lifelong, aching urge to live by the sea. There was never going to be a perfect time, my boys were excited about it, and remember… I have recently learned that fighting your bliss is a doomed endeavor before it even begins. So here I am in Carlsbad, California. My facebook says Encinitas because that is the next change I am manifesting. A slight fine tuning of the original plan. I just think Encinitas is a little more fun. (Sorry, Carlsbad, I love you too). Living in the San Diego area has further changed my view of the world. The people here are so unafraid to be individuals. There is art everywhere, in paint and sculpture as in dance and movement, gardens here are artful, even the fire hydrants are artfully rendered. Everyone seems to be in touch with what makes them passionate, so I'm constantly running into incredibly interesting people. But they all seem less connected as a whole. I've finally made it to beautiful Socal. I am practicing with Tim Miller- another dream manifestation I might add! My practice is growing nicely as evidenced by the fact that my hips (my Ganesha) have even begun to give a little and I actually enjoy back bends these days. I am learning all kinds of wondrous things I am dying to pass on to my students. And I am only at the beginning of this journey. Except I am not teaching. This I will not count as an earthquake, but a stutter. Albeit an admittedly big one. Teaching here was a much a part of my dream as studying here. Somewhere in the move I lost my mojo. Walking into Tim Miller's studio changed yoga for me. The talent, dedication, humility, and grace that flows through Tim's place kinda slaps you in the face on your way in. Probably more so if you're clumsy and egotistical when you arrive… like me. I was at once humbled, inspired, and awestruck by the sheer number of dedicated Ashtangis and by the depth of each of their personal asana practices. All of the courage and self-confidence that drove me all the way to California to practice and teach here was redirected into just showing up on my mat every day. I have always felt a sense of community with the people I practice yoga with, regardless of the style, regardless of anyone's ability, we are all peers, we are equals, we've come together to share our energy in a practice. In the presence of such a tremendous gathering of grace though, I don't feel equal. Practicing at Tim's has been an unsettling shift in the way I feel on my mat, but the dis-ease has also enriched my experience of the practice overall. I feel truly honored to be there in the midst of so many inspiring individuals. I feel that with dedication and a willingness to be led, I will be guided to a higher level of not just asana, but inner consciousness. No, these are not promises anyone has made to me. I just feel sure of it. I have been pulled to devote my heart to learning, but who taught me the most may have been the very students I taught. Helping them grow and feeling as though you've just helped them to create 90 sacred minutes of reaching for their potential and loving themselves for their efforts is a divine gift. To teach is truly a privilege. I haven't found my teaching home here yet. Maybe part of the reason I'm writing this post is to let it go out into the universe and manifest in a sign that will tell me where the right place to start is. I don't want to compete for best playlist. I want to open ears and minds and encourage souls to grow. I don't want to preach spirituality, but I do want to encourage consciousness. And while I am capable of challenging strong and flexible practitioners, I have a huge soft spot for those beautiful blank canvases who are coming to the mat for the very first time. I am currently completing (112 hours left until I am certified at the 500 hour level) what I personally consider to very the very best teacher training ever invented in the history of teacher training. Honestly. Dave and Cheryl Oliver aretrue gurus in my heart. Some day, after ytt, I will write about their amazing leadership but this particular entry has teared me up enough for one post. For now, just go learn from them whenever you can! So now you're caught up (if anyone but the crickets are still listening by now). Things are not how I expected them to be, but there are monumental reasons to be grateful all around me. If you happen to be reading this from the San Diego area and need a teacher, send me an email or give me a call (see the contact page) pretty please. If you are reading this from Phoenix, you are most likely someone I love and miss. Thanks for reading :)
Do you find yourself avoiding eye contact with your Astanga teacher at all costs for fear that he or she will call on you to count a sun salutation? Breathe. Then print yourself a copy of our cheat sheet! It provides English and Sanskrit translations for the numbers and poses of Surya Namaskar (that's sun salutation in English) and even reminds you what breath, inhale or exhale accompanies each movement. Practice a bit, and you'll be volunteering to count before you know it
Sanskrit Counting/Poses for Surya Namaskar A
|1||ekam||urdhva hastasana||upward salute||inhale|
|3||trīṇi||ardha uttanasana||spine extension||inhale|
|4||catvāri||chaturanga dandasana||plank to low plank||exhale|
|5||pañca||urdhva mukha svanasana||upward facing dag||inhale|
|6||ṣaṭ||adho mukha svanasana||downward facing dog||exhale|
|7||sapta||ardha uttanasana||spine extension||inhale|
|9||nava||urdhva hastasana||upward salute||inhale|
|10||daśa||tadasana||standing with hands at heart/sides||exhale|
Sanskrit Counting/Poses for Surya Namaskar B
|1||ekam||utkatasana||fierce pose (chair)||inhale|
|3||trīṇi||ardha uttanasana||spine extension||inhale|
|4||catvāri||chaturanga dandasana||plank to low plank||exhale|
|5||pañca||urdhva mukha svanasana||upward facing dog||inhale|
|6||ṣaṭ||adho mukha svanasana||downward facing dog||exhale|
|7||sapta||virabhadrasana 1 (daksina)||warrior A (right side)||inhale|
|8||aṣṭau||chaturanga dandasana||plank to low plank||exhale|
|9||nava||urdhva mukha svanasana||upward facing dog||inhale|
|10||daśa||adho mukha svanasana||downward facing dog||exhale|
|11||ekādaśa||virabhadrasana 1 (vama)||warrior A (left side)||inhale|
|12||dvādaśa||chaturanga dandasana||plank to low plank||exhale|
|13||trayodaśa||urdhva mukha svanasana||upward facing dog||inhale|
|14||caturdaśa||adho mukha svanasana||downward facing dog||exhale|
|15||pañcadaśa||ardha uttanasana||float to top of mat, spine extension||inhale|
|17||saptadaśa||utkatasana||fierce pose (chair)||inhale|
|18||aṣṭādaśa||tadasana||standing with hands at heart/sides||exhale|
Created with love by Astanga Vinyasa student and teacher, Amanda Manfredi. Namaste!
Update! The lovely and brilliant Cheryl Oliver was kind enough to provide me with the diacriticals (those funky markings around the letters that help us figure out how to pronounce this stuff!) and reminds us: "Remember -- all "e"s sound like "ay" & get 2 beats, and all "o"s also get 2 beats (even though they don't have aline over them! :)" Cheryl is a phenomenal teacher of Sanskrit, chanting, and yoga. To catch up with her, visit www.davesastangayoga.com
Lately, Ashtanga yoga seems to be popping up around every corner, or at least at the fringes of every yoga studio’s regular class schedule. Maybe the buzz has piqued your interest, and you’re wondering if you should give it a try. For some reason, there seem to be a great number of yogic wallflowers hovering about the sidelines, flirting with the idea of discovering Ashtanga yoga, but afraid to jump in and participate. My theory on this puzzling phenomenon is that the unfamiliar is almost always intimidating. Since I happen to be passionately in love with both Vinyasa and Ashtanga yoga, I thought a little casual introduction might help hesitant yogis find a bridge between the two styles and encourage some healthy exploration.
Okay, first, what the heck is the difference between Vinyasa and Ashtanga? Simply put, Ashtanga yoga is a traditional series of postures done in the same order every time. Also very simply put, Vinyasa is like freestyle Ashtanga. The yoga you do when you walk into a “flow” class is Vinyasa. It can be characterized by flowing movements, coordinated with deep focused breathing, and it’s often accompanied by music. Ninety percent or more of the poses you do in a flow class are the same ones you’ll find in an Ashtanga class. The major difference is the creative license that the Vinyasa teacher takes in building the sequences and varying the pace between poses.
So what should you expect in an Ashtanga class? Well, let’s call it structure. You know exactly what to expect from every Ashtanga class. Here’s a link to the: Ashtanga Asana Sequence. Sound repetitive? Yep. It is. Sound boring? Ah, now that’s where you’d be wrong. Maybe the reason the Ashtanga yoga has come to be intimidating to yogis who haven’t tried it is because it is known as a very intense and powerful practice. Let me clarify here. If you are physically capable of taking a Vinyasa flow class, you are physically capable of taking an Ashtanga class. You may, however, find the Ashtanga class to be more intense because it has a way of bringing you deeper within yourself. With no music in the background, you hear your own breath and the instructions of your teacher more clearly. There are fewer distractions, and a more singularly focused energy flows through the room. You’ll also notice some traditional accoutrements such as a chanting the Vande Gurunam at the beginning of class and some Sanskrit counting- neither of which are you required to know.
Essentially, those are the most noticeable differences between an Ashtanga class and a Vinyasa class. There are some other differences beneath the surface that tend to create a personal gravitational pull toward either Vinyasa or Ashtanga yoga styles. Generally speaking (and in my humble opinion), those who practice yoga for the sheer fun of it, or for an occasional stress reliever may find everything they’re looking for in a Vinyasa yoga class. Practitioners who seek a transformative experience or who wish to integrate yoga into their lifestyle often find Ashtanga to be a more satisfying practice. Why? Well, in the interest of keeping it simple, Vinyasa is about breathing and flowing. It is often referred to as a moving meditation. Ashtanga yoga means eight-limb yoga. Only one of those limbs is asana (the physical postures). The other seven limbs are about living life in a kind, pure manner, breathing, focusing, meditating, and essentially attaining a persistent state of bliss. Again- way simplified, but you can probably imagine how a person who seeks to learn how to bring yoga into their life off the mat might find more fulfillment through Ashtanga.
My teacher, John Salisbury, says Ashtanga is like school, and Vinyasa is like recess. I love this analogy! Practiced in combination, you achieve balance. So if you want to know which style of yoga is better, or which style you should be practicing, you are really the only one who knows the answer. What are you looking to gain from your practice? Your answer may vary from day to day. In that case, do what both styles teach you- do what feels good.
I practice and teach both Vinyasa yoga and Ashtanga yoga in Phoenix and Tempe, Arizona. I’d be honored to see you in my class. Please visit my schedule to find a class that works for you. I update often, and am expecting to add a few classes this fall, so please check back often!
If you’ve taken my class, you know how much I love to share inspiring quotes. Some of them are very obviously yoga quotes, and others are just excellent words to absorb when our brains are receptive and generally gooey with yoga bliss! I’ve gathered some of my favorite yoga-friendly quotes to share with you. Please pass them along. I’d love to hear some of your favorites, too!
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes, that I may scatter rich smiles in sad hearts.” ~Paramahansa Yogananda
“Observe the wonders as they occur around you. Don’t claim them. Feel the artistry moving through and be silent.” ~Rumi
“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” ~Lao Tzu
“No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist.” ~Oscar Wilde
“Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.” ~Mother Teresa
“The more we sweat in peace the less we bleed in war.” ~Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit
“Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.” ~Author Unknown
“The happiness of one’s own heart alone cannot satisfy the soul; one must try to include, as necessary to one’s own happiness, the happiness of others.” ~Paramahansa Yogananda
“An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” ~Mahatma Gandhi
“God turns you from one feeling to another and teaches by means of opposites, so that you will have two wings to fly, not one.” ~Rumi
“The willingness to share does not make one charitable; it makes one free.” ~Robert Brault
“Only the shallow know themselves.” ~Oscar Wilde
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex… It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” ~Albert Einstein
“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” ~Lao Tzu
“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” ~Mother Teresa
“There is a magnet in your heart that will attract true friends. That magnet is unselfishness, thinking of others first; when you learn to live for others, they will live for you.” ~Paramahansa Yogananda
“A Buddha is someone who finds freedom in good fortune and bad.” ~Bodhidharma
“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” ~Mark Twain
“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. ” ~Dalai Lama
“A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.” ~Muhammad Ali
“All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree.” ~Albert Einstein
Recently I was honored to be a featured artist on the Karma Counsil website, a wonderful organization founded by a yogi friend of mine. His organization connects people who cannot afford legal representation with legal professionals who are willing to work for donations. We talked about displaying my artwork on KarmaCounsel.org, but I was pleasantly surprised to find quotations from some of my blog posts accompanying my artwork. It was actually a bit shocking to see my words quoted. Of all the quotes I have shared with my students, I never thought to share my own! I am grateful to have discovered a new appreciation of my own expressions. Just for kicks, I’ll share the quotes that were posted on KarmaCounsel.org here.
“We usually resist change out of fear or stubbornness, so to embrace a practice of accepting and even welcoming change is to liberate one’s self from a form of suffering.” ~Amanda Manfredi
“I’ve begun to learn that I can trust myself, which is a little like waking up one day and finding that you have an extra limb.” ~Amanda Manfredi
“Nothing in this world is permanent. Everything is constantly changing. The community we’ve created together is changing today, but I invite you to see it as an evolution into something greater.” ~Amanda Manfredi
“Had I called upon my breath to wash away my clamoring thoughts, I would have been left with just my voice. Breathe. Everything else will unfold exactly as is should.” ~Amanda Manfredi
I hope you find some inspiration in this small sample of my favorite quotes! Again, I would LOVE it if you’d share some of your favorites with me!
The passing of yogic knowledge from teacher to student is something of a sacred undertaking. It is as a very precious jewel, one that will never die as a book in a fire, because it is so carefully transferred from living vessel to living vessel. What you read in yoga books is only meant to compliment what you learn from your teacher, never to replace personal instruction. The historical web of teaching lineage branches out like arteries of a common heart. We are each our own branch as either teacher, student, or both. Presently, our modern western culture promotes a social divide which we hardly notice, but are sorely suffering from. A vital source of natural learning was removed from our lives while we were busy searching for an institution that would offer us a certificate, a degree, or some other proof that we know more than the other guy competing for the same job. Look around you. How many of your elders would you consider an integral part of your daily life? Retirement communities and nursing homes have replaced the family hearth as the dwelling place of our eldest citizens. The most experienced students of life are absent in our cultural classroom as a whole. This deficit parallels in our western yoga communities. So where are we getting our information? To whom are we entrusting our education? How do we know that the information they are passing on to us is pure, free of personal interpretation or miscommunication?
The truth is, no one who teaches yoga can be entirely impartial. We love our students. We endeavor to give them the healing and liberating gift that yoga has been for us. But intertwined in that gift is our own experience and perception, the shaping and molding influence our own teachers have had on us. Aha! Now the matter of lineage becomes very clearly relevant.
The teacher directly above your branch was/is a student of someone. Whose? Have you given that much thought? How does your yoga teacher help you to grow your practice? Are you getting stronger abs or stronger focus? The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but ask yourself if what you’re gaining from your teacher is asana practice or the foundational knowledge of all 8 limbs of yoga. If you’re looking for the whole shebang, then you might want to know the primary source of the stream of knowledge that flows from your guru to you. Who is your guru’s guru? And once you know that, why not look up his guru? If you’re reading this from anywhere in the western world, and you practice Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, there is a surprisingly short chain of lineage back to the one teacher who’s responsible for passing on all we westerners know about yoga, the beloved Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya.
I won’t list a bunch of names and years here to help you trace your personal yoga family tree. It is not the purpose of this post to present a history lesson. Rather, it’s purpose is to inspire you to seek the knowledge for yourself. Just as you take your asana practice a little further by attempting a new pose, try deepening your yoga practice off the mat by investing some time considering the source of your yoga education. Just giving it your attention may lead your practice in more purposeful and fulfilling directions.
*Thanks for entertaining my ideas! I’m honored that you came here to read my ramblings! If you’d like to hear more in person, please attend my classes. Currently I teach a 90 minute “Subtle Body Energetic Flow” every Friday morning at 9 AM at Second Heart Yoga (44th St and Thomas Rd, Phoenix, AZ). Check my Facebook page or Twitter to see where you can catch me subbing. I hope to add a few more regular weekly classes to my weekly schedule soon. I’ll keep you posted!
I made a beeline to my beloved shrink after I taught, no, more like recited aloud my yoga teacher training final class. I was in need of a quick fix for my public speaking phobia. A pill would be great. Maybe some hypnotherapy would do the trick. I might have been willing to explore a little shock therapy if it would cure this communication obstacle of mine.
You see, I had carefully crafted a beautiful script for my class. I had so many inspiring words and insightful alignment cues I wanted to share. I wrote them down in an effort to commit them to memory. That way, I brilliantly hypothesized, I could share them aloud as eloquently as they sounded in my mind. The plan was to throw away the script as soon as I memorized it, and improvise during the actual class. That was the plan.
What actually happened was a much different scenario. The studio door shut, the lights dimmed, and 20 eager students all looked at me to tell them what to do next. What occurred in my mind in that very instant was the equivalent of a rush hour traffic jam. A million thoughts, intentions, expectations, judgments, hopes, doubts, and nerves collided into one big mess, and my plan disintegrated in the epicenter. I opened my mouth and no sound came out. All of my finely woven words deserted me. In a panic, I resorted to reading my script aloud. That’s just about the biggest no-no you can commit during your YTT final, second only to actually breaking someone in a bad adjustment.
My grand visions of becoming the headliner of the next Yoga Journal conference were dashed. Okay, so maybe my visions weren’t that grand. But my failure to deliver the graceful, epic final class I’d envisioned left me wondering if I was capable of teaching well at all.
After refusing my request for a simple frontal lobotomy, the Doc asked me to walk him through the event as it unfolded. It took him all of about 30 seconds to identify a critical detail that I had completely overlooked. I had ceased to breathe. I love it when he points this out. Apparently I do it all the time and hardly ever notice. As it turns out, I get to skip the brain surgery and just inhale.
What is so powerful about a breath? We take an average of about 20,000 of them every day without even thinking about it. We sigh when we’re bored. We gasp when we’re frightened. Outside of yoga class, we hardly ever give breathing a second thought, let alone our full attention. And yet, if we don’t take a breath the effects are immediate and undeniable.
How is this going to help me carry out my plans for a class? It’s very simple. Take a deep breath. Really. Inhale fully, expanding your ribs, filling your lungs opening your heart. Are you doing it? Okay- now do it again, and this time try to plan your next hour at the same time. Didn’t work, did it? That’s the trick. All of that energy washes over you like a tide and when it washes back out again it takes the chaos with it. The problem with my plan is that it was a plan.
I put so much pressure on my brain to make me sound knowledgeable, look graceful, and feel confident that by the time I tried to speak I had overloaded the circuits and effectively blown a fuse. Had I called upon my breath to wash away my clamoring thoughts, I would have been left with just my voice.
Because the universe has such a great sense of humor, I recently had the opportunity to test this theory. I was recently called to substitute a class at local studio. It was to be my first class. I was was thrilled, but cautious. I told myself not to make it into a big deal. I put some note cards together with a brief class outline, and tried to ignore the building anticipation. When I arrived I discovered that the flow class I had been planning to sub was actually a yin class. It might be helpful to note here that I had never taught a yin class, nor had I even attempted to put one together. My
note cards crutches were perfectly useless. There was no planning for this one.
What could I do but breathe? In with the prana, out with the jitters. And when my voice came, it sounded surprisingly assured. I named one yin pose that I knew, took a breath, and cued my unsuspecting students into it. After a while, I cued another that felt like the right way to follow the first. The next thing I knew an hour had passed and I was at least as relaxed as my students. Speaking of the students, the feedback I got was fantastic!
So, the moral of my story is pretty simple. Breathe. Everything else will unfold exactly as it should.
Wow. It would only be a very slight exaggeration to say that I feel like I wrote my last post 5 minutes ago, instead of way back in November… Really? November? I have a lot to catch you up on. But fear not, I’ll give you the nutshell version. Essentially, the universe smiled on me. My focus on teacher training turned into a manifestation. Against some pretty unfavorable odds, I was able to gather the money I needed for tuition. My family rallied to support me, and over the last few months they even managed to hold down the fort while I was in classes 2 nights a week and all day Saturday for 11 weeks in a row! Needless to say, with my day job still intact, life has been a whirlwind of activity. Now I’m standing at the starting line of what feels like a new phase of my life- I’m a yoga teacher. Oh my, that’s fun to say!
It’s a little scary and very exciting to find myself here. If Me a year ago met Me today, we’d be shocked at how little we have in common. This is new territory. I’ve begun to learn that I can trust myself, which is a little like waking up one day and finding that you have an extra limb. There are sure to be many uses for it, but initially it takes some practice to use it gracefully, and those who are used to seeing the old you seem to it find it even harder to adjust.
So here I am, just me and all my limbs, catching you up. I told you it would be a nutshell version! Thanks for reading, and if you’re looking for a yoga teacher I would be honored if you choose me!
I helped my kindergartener finish up his homework this morning. In turn, he helped me decide that pride just can't always be a bad thing. Between helping my kindergartener and his 8th grade brother, I must admit... the kindergarten help is by far the more enjoyable experience. While reliving the 8th grade academically can be interesting (mostly because I'm not staring out the window this time around) I find that it requires patience and the finely tuned art of asking questions in a way that makes my student produce, understand, and remember his own answers. Given that he comes to the learning game with some extra challenges, we take extra time, extra effort, and extra appreciation for each others dedication. Our tutoring begins at 6:30 every morning and we strive to end it by 7:40 so that he can walk into his classroom on time. Strive as we may, he's usually late, but thanks to the wonderful teachers who help me tutor by providing me with an answer key, the homework is done, and correct, and at the end of the week the test scores reflect our hard work.
In sharp contrast, there's the kindergarten homework. Today we drew 4 carrots to illustrate that 2+4=6. Ahhhh, that was living. Then we cut and pasted a moose, a mailbox, and a mop because they all start with M. The joy of it! No answer key necessary. Even more satisfying was the fact that all I had to do to assist in this process was say things like, "That's right!" and, "Exactly, you've got it!". When we got up from the table I took his face in my hands, looked him in the eye, and said, "I'm so proud of you!", to which he replied through his mile-wide grin, "I do it all the time!".
Hmmm, why does the 8th grade version of this exchange lack so much enthusiasm? Could it be because by the end of the intricate dance of encouragement, discipline, and actual learning that is our tutoring session we are both just relieved to relax? Maybe it's because exchanges between teenagers and their parents naturally restructure themselves to allow space for the child to grow into a young adult and the parent to let them. But perhaps what is lacking is the pride, the "I do it all the time!" factor.
I never forget to tell my 8th grade student that I'm proud when he gets a B on a test, but I tend to very quickly move into "how could we have made it an A" mode. I guess I let my fear of missing a chance to help him improve get in my way of celebrating the success he has already achieved. Today my easy and relaxed kindergarten homework session was punctuated with a valuable reminder for me. Understanding concepts, memorizing definitions, improving your grade are all just ways of going through the motions. Academic achievement is of course extremely important, but it is empty if it doesn't accompany personal achievement. And common sense tells us that having one's need for personal achievement met leaves more energy available to apply to the academic side of things.
The power of personal achievement isn't just valuable for the student. When is the last time you commended yourself for making a good decision, for helping someone, for learning something? I don't mean to suggest that you live in your ego. One can certainly have too much of a good thing. But perhaps when taking care to live in gratitude, we might include ourselves in the equation. By acknowledging our progress, we build momentum in our efforts. And what a gift it would be to hear yourself say, "I do it all the time!”
I love a good quote. That may be part of the reason I faithfully read a bit of my favorite book Meditations from the Mat every single day. In the book, author Rolf Gates infuses volumes of tangible wisdom in a manageable day-to-day format. Each day begins with a quote and is followed by a short essay exploring an applicable aspect of the eight limbs of yoga. Every page inspires me to grow, love, and cultivate peace. I highly recommend this book to anyone who’d like to deepen their yoga practice, take their yoga off the mat and into their lives, or just enjoy a daily push in a positive direction. I think day 312 might just be my favorite. I love the sentiment, and it seems to rattle around in my head whenever I need it. The quote for Day 312 is:
I recently ran across a story about a Native American tribal leader describing his own inner struggles. He said, “There are two dogs inside of me. One dog is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time.” Someone asked him which dog usually wins, and after a moment’s reflection, he answered, “The one I feed the most.” ~Rabbi Harold S. Kushner
In the essay that follows, Rolf shares that he’s found that “…the greatest motivator for consistent application of spiritual principles is pain. The memory of some recent failure, embarrassment, or anxiety supports me in my efforts to to apply some forgotten truth to my life.” Unfortunately, it often takes feeding the evil dog for most of us to remember when we’ve been neglecting the good dog. Luckily, if we’re paying attention, there is always a lesson to be found in our mistakes. Maintaining our spiritual health and tapping into the peace and happiness that exists within ourselves requires us not to be afraid of the evil dog, but to consistently and consciously love and nurture the good dog. Over time, the practice of avoiding pain becomes a habit of cultivating happiness.
So how do you feed the good dog? Well, I think every individual has to look inward to find the answer that feels true to them, but I can share at least one golden opportunity to toss the old good dog a juicy bone.
I don’t know about you, but for me, rush hour traffic is a prime time to practice patience, restraint, and love. Hey, I didn’t say it was an easy practice, just a readily available opportunity to practice. The evil dog in me begins to invent new and more effective swear words and gestures to direct through glass, across lanes, and at the back of the head of whatever idiotic driver has obviously purposely decided to make my commute unpleasant. While this ugly form of venting may offer me momentary satisfaction, it doesn’t change my level anxiety or pull me into a positive direction. The good dog, when I choose to call upon her, turns up the radio, starts breathing calmly and rhythmically, and begins to list all of the things I am grateful for. It’s hard to be angry and grateful at the same time. Before I know it, I remember that we are all just trying to get to a better place, and if I can just relax and accept that I can’t change the pace, I might even get to enjoy the ride. Bingo. Score one for the good dog, and as an added bonus I have taught my kids (the ever observant sponges in the back seat) to react to a stressful situation with love and gratitude.
How else can you feed the good dog? If you’re looking for an opportunity, you can always contribute to my yoga teacher training fund by making a donation via PayPal, shopping in my boutique, buying my prints, or booking a photo session with me! See you next time. Namaste!
If you know me at all, you know I am truly madly deeply in love with Bob Schnieder. Have been since the first time I saw him play about 11 years ago. Don’t worry. This is not news to my dear husband who proposed to me on stage just before a Bob concert 5 years after we attended that fateful first show. It’s probably not news to Bob either since I stammer, drool, and otherwise transform into a blithering fool every time I try to speak to him.Why do I love him? Well, he’s totally screwed up in a beautiful, ironic, artistic, too-big-for-his-body, egotistical but totally insecure, dark, gifted, worn, raw, melodic, spirit-in-a-human-suit kind of way. Does that make sense? Nah, it doesn’t make much sense to me either. But now I have another reason to love him. He’s wearing a Japa mala in this video. Does this mean Bob is a yogi too? I choose to believe so. It’s just another layer in my pile of reasons to love him. Here’s a video you might love too. And if you’d like to visit Bob’s art blog (yes, we have art blogs in common!) then click away! And clear your calendar for Tuesday, October 5th because Bob will be playing at the Rythm Room in Phoenix, AZ.
Ever use the bathroom at a new acquaintance’s house and feel the temptation to peek into their medicine cabinet? You can tell all kinds of things about a person by the contents of that little space. Do they have tech-savvy tendencies, or are they a bit more old- fashioned? Observe whether they own an old, frayed, low-tech plastic Oral-B, or one of those fancy new vibrating, sonic-ultrasound, sing-to-you-while-you-brush numbers. Now you know whether to shop at Borders or Brookstone for them at Christmastime. What do they take for a headache? Is the shelf full of various herbal remedies you can’t pronounce or does a Tylenol do the trick for them? Now you can decide whether you’re going to suggest that great new vegan restaurant you heard about or the sinfully delicious bakery instead. Of course, if you run into a bottle of Oxycontin or some prescription grade Mary Jane, you should just head straight to happy hour.
Peeking into one’s medicine cabinet however, could be considered an invasion of privacy and won’t win you the guest of the year award if your secret mission is discovered. The bookshelf is another matter entirely. Open and on display, no one can fault you for perusing this very telling collection of clues. Many people are surprisingly unaware that guests will take an interest in the contents of their shelves, and will therefore lump all of the books they own into one easy to find space making their personality as easy to read as a page out of one of their books. Others are quite conscientious about people noticing their collection and line their shelves as meticulously as they hang their art. These folks drive the “coffee table” book market. Let’s examine a few common tendencies among today’s innumerable genres.
“The Reference Reader”
These folks are not actually big on reading. They turn to books for answers, not entertainment. A typical Reference Reader’s library primarily consists of instruction manuals and various “For Dummies” titles. Don’t be surprised to find old-school textbooks gathering dust along with a complete yearbook compilation (a.k.a time machine) covering middle school through high school. Don’t despair if you had hoped to reveal a little more flair in this person’s character. Chances are that this person finds expression more freely through music or visual media. Just don’t expect to exchange favorite quotes any time soon.
“The Periodical Pack-rat”
Immediately identifiable at home by the knee-high stacks of subscriptions or holding up the line at the grocery store while flipping through their zine of choice to find the latest photos of celebrity babies, divorces, and weight fluctuations. Periodical Pack-rats can loosely be considered the ADD readers of the world. This is not to say that they have any kind of reading deficiency. Quite the opposite, they just know exactly what information they’re looking for- the most current info without a lot of fluff. What can you glean from this reader’s no-nonsense style of reading? Usually, this reader chooses the shortened-and-condensed version of their info because they’re busy or get bored easily. Why spend the time to get through a big book with more info than you need when you can pick up an article whose author kindly skimmed through and picked out the most important stuff for you?
“The Self-Help Seeker”
You know them and love them. They quote Anthony Robbins and include a cheery quote in their email signature. Often, they need much less help than those who don’t frequent the self-help section, but should you ever need some help, they’re happy to oblige… whether you ask for it or not.
“The Classics Collector”
These sentimental readers like to know they’re committing their valuable reading time to a sure thing. If a work of literary art has survived the critiques of decades or even centuries of readers without fading into obscurity, it’s bound to be a good enough read for them. This type of bookworm enjoys the added benefit of belonging to a built in social network. While many of those with the discipline to dust of an old copy of Moby Dick may define themselves as introverted, they blossom when their path collides with a kindred classic appreciating soul. There is an instant bond and “volumes” of conversation to be had.
“The Best-Seller Bookworm”
Not one to be out of “The Know”, the best seller bookworm frequents the shelves that drum up good conversation and/or controversy. Similar to the Classics Collector, this reader likes the guarantee of a real page turner, but prefers that the subject at hand be related to present day matters or at least be popular with the present day masses. If you’re looking for the latest and greatest anything, you can usually count on this person to point you in the right direction.
“The Well-Informed Wanderer”
Foreign language learning guides, map books, and “Top Ten Places To See When In (fill in the blank with whatever hemisphere this travel bug frequents)” give away this reader’s tendency toward wanderlust. On or around the Wanderer’s bookshelf, it is customary to display mini versions of cultural icons, worldly musical instruments, and other treasures that illustrate the trail the trekker has blazed across the globe. In some cases though, you’ll find a traveler in limbo, collecting all the information they need to be prepared for the day they retire, the kids leave home, or whatever milestone they’ve marked as the day they can embark upon their journey.
Now, it is important to note that while many people fit into these narrowly defined categories, there are far too many other types of readers and notable quirky reading habits to list in one sitting, and still more whose literary preferences change with the frequency of the weather. In this case, you’ll find a variety of reading genres peppering the shelves. This is a good sign. It shows growth and curiosity- two excellent human qualities if you ask me. Whichever type of person you happen to unveil, take some time to see how you can relate to their interests and start some good conversations based on your new inside knowledge. After all, you don’t want to judge a book by its cover.
Thanks for stopping by. If you can think of another type of reader that deserves some recognition, I invite you to take a moment to share your insights in a comment. Please take some time to browse my art and make a donation to my yoga teacher training fund! Until next time, may your friendships be as colorful as your bookshelf!
Please consider donating to my Yoga Teacher Training Fund!
Well here it is. My totally under-anticipated new blog where I shall share my
infinite wisdom unsolicited opinions on life, love, yoga, and art. Warning- I have invited you here under shamelessly selfish pretenses. I am raising funds to pay for yoga teacher training. If you feel a twinge of inspiration to help me, you can donate to my yoga teacher training fund by clicking the donate button below! Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoy my work and my musings.