Yoga Challenge!

“‘Twfullsizerenderas the night before Christmas and all through
the house… not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse!”

Join me and five other hosts for seven days (12/17-12/23) of holiday fun on instagram as we go through this beloved childhood poem!

Before hopping in the sack for that long winters nap, join us for your nightly bedtime story!  We’ll read you a tiny portion of the poem and give you a corresponding yoga pose.  You’ll get to destress with some yoga and have images of sugarplums dancing over your head in no time!  What are you waiting for!?!    Click here for all the details.

P.S.  Did I mention there are prizes 😀

Here are the sponsors:
A Beaded Intention
Buddha Pants
Karma Mob NYC
Mile High Beads
Mind Stuff Clothing

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Returning to the Mat: A Lesson in Ahimsa

MEEP, MEEP, MEEP— My blurry eyes open and I fumble for my phone by my head…  is it 5:45 already?  I lay there contemplating if I really want to “do this”.  I could roll over and pretend this never happened, like it was a dream.  Go back to sleep and wake up at 9… even 10!  I sigh, resisting the temptation, knowing that I would regret that decision, before dragging my ass out of bed.  As I slowly make my way through the darkness towards the bathroom, I begrudgingly look at my husband nestled warmly under the covers— I could go curl up again, for just a minute or two.  I stop at the threshold to the bathroom, take one final look and close the door on temptation.

I flick on the light, GAH!  The hostile lighting makes me squint.  My leggings and tank top are already laid out on the floor.  I’m still in a fog, but I smile when the heat kicks on.  I hurry up and grab my leggings and tent them over the vent, so they balloon up with warm air— now I’ll have toasty leggings to put on! I start getting ready and when the heat shuts off I quickly don my warm leggings, with a goofy grin on my face, as if I just got the last piece of chocolate cake or something. Once finished, I sneak out of the bedroom, let my shih tzu out (she’s a morning person) and head downstairs.

I’m short on time (sleep is more important), so I begin my morning ritual.  I quickly fix Meili’s (my shih tzu) hair, give her fresh water and then prepare to feed the starving hound.  If you didn’t know any better, you would think I feed her once a week instead of twice a day.  She goes bonkers for her “num nums”.  Anyway, now that she is hoovering up her food, I can go about my business.  I grab a granola bar, make some tea and begin to put everything I need into my bags.  Before I leave, my hubby comes downstairs and I give him a quick smooch before dashing out the door.

As I make the hour drive, I fall into a meditative state.  Driving on the weekend is nice because there is zero traffic.  It is hard to believe that is has been over two months since I have been at the shala; talk about pathetic.  I have been practicing bits and pieces of the sequence, but nothing in its entirety.  I’ve been doing more like half primary mostly, with bits of the second half thrown in as “project work”.  I’m beginning to worry that I won’t even remember the sequence.  Breathe Ashley, stop worrying so much about something that hasn’t even happened yet.  😀

When I arrive, I automatically feel at home.  Of course, I’ve had that feeling from the very beginning.  If you have ever had the luxury of finding a place to train that feels that way, then you know what I am talking about.  I had that when I did martial arts and I am lucky (and thankful) to have that again here.  I took my time and finally strolled into the Mysore room sometime between 7-7:30 to start my practice.

My practice was going alright.  Of course, I could tell I was out of practice, but I felt okay.  Elizabeth would come over periodically and give me feedback or assists.  She gave me one hell of a supta kurmasana assist that left me quite sore the next day.  It was quite yummy though and one that I actually needed.  I am unable to enter that deeply on my own, so I was very thankful for the assist.

At some point during my practice, a guy came in and placed his mat next to mine.  An odor of marijuana was emanating from him.  The scent of marijuana is a HUGE migraine trigger for me.  I dealt with it for a bit and finally, I went into fight of flight mode.  I began to look around for an escape— a way to flee.  The room was fairly full and I didn’t see a clear, empty spot.  The only place I saw that I could fit would have required two people to more in order to make room for me. So… I stayed, and fought.  I continued my practice and tried not to think about it.

Towards the end of my practice, I was feeling miserable.  I had a migraine.  I messed up the sequence of the last three poses because I found it hard to concentrate and I skipped headstand in closing because I knew it would just make my migraine worse.  Elizabeth, noticed I was in distress and came over to me.  She had me lay down with my feet up the wall, propped my head up and put an eye pillow over my eyes.  I hung out for a while and then decided that I should head home.  She asked if I was okay to drive or if I needed to go to her house and relax for a while.  She asked if I knew what caused my migraine, to which I felt uncomfortable responding since the guy was still right next to me.  She asked if it was asana based and I told her no.

As I sit here now, I have several things on my mind.  I am glad that I went, as it has been months and I needed to go.  Could I have handled the situation better— probably.  In yoga, we learn about ahimsa.  What I did to myself was absolutely self harm.  I should have been an advocate and either moved or left.  Or, I could have practiced the rest of the sequence in the other room (though it would have been cold).  The ultimate outcome of that migraine was completely my fault.  Sure, it is possible that even if I did any one of those things, that even that briefest encounter still could have caused a migraine, but I’m guessing the likelihood of that would have been significantly less.

I will take that as a lesson and I hope that I learn from this.


Other articles you might enjoy:
Chronic Pain: Lessons Learned
Dream, Dream, Dream

Sweet Surrender

I have excellent news to share with you all- I’ve been dying with anticipation to share!  A submission of mine has been published on elephant journal!

We all have had problems surrendering to a situation.  Knowing that it is in our best interest to give in and stop fighting- to let time and fate takes its course.  Yet, we cling to hope, or an expected outcome, stubborn or fearful of what letting go might do.

One of yogas gifts is surrender and this article talks about how I have struggled worked through it on my yoga mat.

Hop on over to Sivana east to read more!!

Please like and share! 🙏💕

Namaste~


Check out this related blog 👇
*  Aparigraha

The Girl Who Quit Ashtanga

While doing some research on the web I stumbled across this article, in which this ashtangi goes into great length as to why she gave up her practice.  I read it, along with the infinite number of comments (she really struck a cord!) and though I read this months ago, it has stuck with me.  So much so, that I felt compelled to write my own thoughts about it.  I guess the easiest way is for me to post her points and then my views.  Here we go!

1.)  Exercising on more than four days a week is unhealthy
Studies like this one show that exercising on six days a week for a prolonged period of time is actually detrimental to your health. Every health professional, coach and personal trainer on the face of the earth would agree…”

My thoughts: Well, the link in the linked article doesn’t work anymore, so I cannot offer an opinion on THAT.  With that said, every health professional is a bit of a stretch.  If five professionals got together, even they probably wouldn’t all agree.  A cursory search on the web brings up articles showing disagrement as to how many days of exercise is ideal.  To make matters more complicated, each persons fitness level and health should be taken into consideration when considering exercise plans.

2.)  There is no wisdom in practicing through injuries
“No wisdom at all. When you are injured, you need to rest, and probably anti-inflammatories. Surely you can stretch your legs while dealing with a wrist injury, but you should definitely not put any weight on your hands. Again, any health professional would agree…”

My thoughts: On this I somewhat agree.  This depends on the injury and the severity of the injury.  That is what modifications are for.  If you have a wrist injury, maybe do things on the forearm or skip handwork altogether and do standing and sitting postures.  On crutches?  Maybe do forward bends and pranayama.  You may not be able to get in a full practice, but you can do something to get movement in your body.  Honor your body.  No one (and hopefully not a teacher!), is telling you to do a full primary practice through pain.

3.)  Ashtangarexia is alive and happening
“The definition of addiction, as I have recently learned… is: “A repeated behavior with a negative impact (causing distress of some sort or health problems), where you are unable to stop, require an increased frequency or dosage, and display symptoms of withdrawal avoidance.”
“Now, I don’t know about you guys, but after a certain point in my practice, I could check off all of these indicators. I had lower back problems, the pressure to maintain my daily practice caused distress, but I wasn’t able to stop, either, because I was too afraid of taking a day off and losing all the ‘progress’ I had made. The fact that my practice had turned me a into an ascetic hermit without a real social life wasn’t even something I worried about at the time…”

My thoughts:  Perhaps this person has an addictive personality.  Yes, people who are drawn to Ashtanga tend to have type A personalities, but if someone is having a hard time managing their life and cannot manage their lifestyle properly, perhaps a life coach or a therapist should be consulted.  If pressure from the instructor is forcing progression the student isn’t ready for, perhaps a new instructor (or shala) is in order.

4.)  If you know you have an issue Yoga cannot solve, seek help
“Very maybe, you are trying to work through some intense trauma. Perhaps your upbringing was terrible, or maybe you suffer from an eating disorder nobody knows of. Yoga can have amazing positive effects on our mental health, but there are certain situations in life that point you towards professional help. Both you and your teacher need to admit that while Supta Kurmasana might release day-to-day stress, it’s not at all an adequate treatment for PTSD.”

My thoughts:  People are brought to yoga for a myriad of reasons- fitness, mental/emotional wellbeing and rehabilitation from injury being the most popular.  The thing about yoga is it tends to drudge up a lot of history and baggage.  Yoga often helps you work through these internal struggles.  With that said, there are some things (of course!) where outside help may be needed.  That is up to the individual yogi to decide.

5.)  Authorization equals a frequent flyer reward
“…These days, it seems, what you have to do to get recognized as a teacher is go to Mysore often enough (read: pay enough money), and someone will bestow upon you the reward in form of authorization. This is irrespective, of course, of your level of experience or teaching skills. On average, if I’m not mistaken, authorization will be granted after four or five trips of several months each, at a monthly cost of €400 or so… Later, there’s the added cost of certification, and psssst, it’sexpensive. While I understand that everyone needs to make money, a hierarchical fee scheme seems pretty… unyogic.”

My thoughts:  Being as how I did a 200 YTT to teach vinyasa, I don’t see this as an oddity.  Sure, it would be great if he came to different countries for a couple months at a time, but India is his home.  Yes, it would be ideal if the teachers he certifies could then go on to authorize other teachers, but alas that isn’t the way it is.  This doesn’t mean that there aren’t great teachers out there who aren’t authorized or certified.  I myself train under one- though she recently went to Mysore.  Find a teacher you enjoy and stick with them.  As long as you feel you are getting good instruction and feel safe, that is what matters.  When it is time for you to teach (if you go that route), then it is up to you to decide will you go a non-certified teacher training route or take the Mysore trip.  People say making money is “unyogic”- it isn’t.  It is an exchange for a service.

6.)  The tradition isn’t evolving, it’s arbitrary
“Sunday as the new Saturday? Changes in the sequence just so that the student traffic in Mysore can be handled more efficiently? Come on! No problem with making changes to your own organization, but why does the whole world need to follow? If you are serious about your Yoga, you will not brag about what pose you’re on, how many trips to Mysore you have taken in the past, how many you will be taking in the future, or how many people came to take your class on any given day.”

My thoughts:  Why wouldn’t Sharath change things to handle the influx of students coming to Mysore?  It is the responsible thing to do.  Otherwise, there would be a lot of frustrated yogis, left outside, waiting to get in the shala! 🙂  As far as off days, I do not recall a mandate saying that all shalas are required to take off the same day they do.  My shala is open seven days a week (except for moon days) to allow for everyone’s busy schedule.
I think it is okay to be proud of where you are in a sequence; especially if you have finally achieved a breakthrough.  You do not know how hard they worked for that posture.  They could have been stuck at the previous one for months… years!  Maybe they saved for years to go to Mysore.  I myself have been saving for over a year and I just spent it all (see here), so I am starting from scratch again.  Lastly, I’m proud of my little yoga tribe that shows up when I teach my classes.  Why wouldn’t I?

7.)  Teaching Yoga isn’t a profession- it’s a side job
“I have been warned about this, and I will do my duty and warn you: Do. Not. Quit. Your. Occupation. For. An. Unlikely. Career. In. Yoga. Don’t do it! Yoga is like blogging. It is something that is best enjoyed in small, fun doses on the side. Unless you will be moving to a town where there is not a single Yoga teacher within a radius of at least 50 kilometers, do not open a Yoga studio. You will be losing all your money, and you will be left with no perspective after 35. Do yourself a favor and trust me on this one.”

My thoughts:  Well, I sort of have to agree here.  Making a full time career out of yoga is hard, but I know several people who are doing this and the market is flooded where I live.  If this is your plan, be smart and have a plan.  Don’t quite your job without being able to pay the bills.  Either have money saved or a spouse that can support you.  Or, better yet, line up the yoga jobs and then quit your regular job.  See if you can do workshops too, as those pay more.  The thing to keep in mind is that teaching is exhausting physically, emotionally and mentally.  If you are teaching several classes a day, you are going to get tired.  Don’t run yourself ragged and get sick!

Conclusion: My overall thoughts to this blog entry of hers is one of sadness.  It seems that she trained at a shala where her teacher made her feel as if she had to strive for progression and perfection constantly and perhaps even work through injuries instead of working around them and using modifications.  I cannot say if she felt inadequate or not, but it is clear that she does like comparisons to anyone or anything.  It is sad to see that she has a bad taste in her mouth and no longer sees any benefits of the Ashtanga yoga practice.  Of course, all these are my own thoughts and interpretations and I could be misinterpreting and misrepresenting her entirely.

Creating Sacred Space

Our lives are hectic and we often wish we could just “get away” from it all.  Have you ever perused vacation destinations, but couldn’t really afford it, or lacked for time?  What if I told you, you could “get away from it all” whenever you wanted?  The secret- creating a sacred space in the home.

A sacred space is somewhere we can escape to and sit in peace and quiet; one of bliss and tranquility.  Oftentimes, people use their sacred space as a place of meditation or prayer, but it doesn’t have to be used that way.  A sacred spaced is defined by the user/creator.

The great thing about a sacred space is that size isn’t an issue; they can be any size.  A little altar or shrine in a corner, an entire room, or even an outdoor garden are all acceptable!!  The area could be made up of crystals, incense and a meditation cushion.  Or, maybe it’s a cozy room with candles and a blanket to cuddle up in with a good book.  Perhaps, you want a simple shelf with a photo of someone you love, or maybe a photo honoring your religion?  (Need some ideas? Check out my pinterest board- here!)

The point is, the ideal “zen space” should be a place that is special; it needs to remain sacred.  No talking on the phone or texting when “vacationing”.  This is a stress free zone; drop the baggage at the door when entering.  Pick it up when leaving, if you must, but while here, there are no troubles and no to-do lists.

Where to create the sacred space is just as important as what type of sacred space is to be created.

  • The sacred space should be in a place where there is peace and quiet
    • A closet could be a good place, but a living room of a big household would probably not be the best place to consider
  • The location should be one of comfort
    • Are you physically comfortable sitting here
    • Does the temperature fluctuate
    • Is it okay here year round (i.e. is your location outdoors)
  • Does the location make you feel positive emotionally and spiritually
    • Do you feel happy or at peace here
  • Does the location have the vibe/lighting you seek
    • Are you seeking darkness or light

These are a few things to keep in mind while seeking out the location of a sacred space.

A couple years ago, I wanted to create a sacred space that would be used as a yoga room and meditation space.  At the time I was practicing yoga in my living room and it just wasn’t cutting it anymore.  It felt chaotic and the energy was all wrong.  I took to practicing when my husband wasn’t home, or went upstairs for the night, because at least it was quiet.  Yet, it still didn’t feel right.  It was if the room was still humming… buzzing with unseen noise and I still felt bombarded.

I begun to seek out a place in the house that I could carve out for myself.  A place that I could turn into my yoga room and meditation space.  After looking around, I found what I was looking for; the spare bedroom upstairs.  At the time, it was full of boxes and a bed frame; time to get to work.  I began to throw out junk that we carried with us from Delaware to Oregon (and back to Delaware again).  I sorted out clothes that I no longer needed.  I began to carry boxes down two flights of stairs to the basement.  I moved boxes from one side of the room to the other and organized them into neat little piles until finally it came together.

I then put a couple little shelf tables in the corner, covered them with crystals, statues and candles.  I have a few malas over there as well that I use for meditating.  I keep essential oils nearby to use when the mood strikes me, but most of the time, I smudge with palo santo, as I love the way the wood smells.  My sacred space is fluid and the altar has changed periodically, but the essence of the space remains the same.  I am adamant that it remains clutter free and that I’m able to go up there and practice or meditate.  I will not allow that space to become a storage space once more, as the sole purpose of me entering this space is to declutter my life.


Check out this related blog 👇
*  Aparigraha