Aparigraha

Before you become a yoga teacher, you go through this process called “Yoga Teacher Training”, in which you learn how to pass along the yoga asana lineage, how to give assists and modifications, finding your dharma, and you learn about yogic philosophy and the many tenets involved.  It’s all quite overwhelming and really, by the time you leave, you don’t REALLY understand a damned thing.  Okay, you understand a little.  🙂  I think most of the learning is done after you are left to your own devices.  Yes, I am running amok, making mistakes and learning life’s lessons— all the while I am teaching YOU about yoga; ironic… I know.

You see, as a teacher, it is my hope that I can pass along my journey and my mistakes and maybe you can learn from them.  You can take what you want and leave behind what doesn’t serve you.  Really, that is what life is all about; taking what you want/need and leaving behind what you don’t.  The problem with leaving behind what you don’t need, is that it requires this nasty little thing called “Aparigraha”.  Aparigraha is one of the five yamas in yoga and it means non-attachment.

Most of us are hoarders.  We may not be the old lady with 12 cats and a house full of magazines and boxes, but if you look closely at your life, I bet you too are a hoarder.  Do you have a closet full of clothes you NEVER wear?  Do you keep ties with “friends” that aren’t good for you?  Or, how about that Facebook friends list; do you actually talk to those 512 friends?  Do you have a basement or attic full of boxes that you aren’t even sure what’s in them?  Or maybe you know what’s in them, but just haven’t used them in years?  Do you have knickknacks or books lying around your house that really serve no purpose?  Maybe they used to bring you enjoyment, but now they don’t.  Do you have toys your kids have outgrown, but have failed to pass along to someone else?  How about your pantry or fridge?  Do you have food you bought and never ate?  Are there any cans past their expiration date?  Do you hold on to grudges when someone slights you or does you wrong?  Do you hold fast to routines and hate to modify your schedule?

These questions aren’t meant to pass judgement on anyone, just thoughts for you to ponder over.  As I mentioned before, we all hoard in one way or another.  Some hoarding habits are healthier than others and it is up to you to decide if your habits are “healthy” or not.  Maybe it is time to let go of something permanently, or perhaps a short break or detox is in order instead.  Sometimes, all that’s required is a mixing up of your schedule to spice up your life!  Life is all about decisions.  There are no good or bad decisions; there are just decisions.  The problem is, you have to be willing to live with the outcome that comes with it.

For me, the one thing I constantly struggle with is my physical wellbeing.  I have chronic migraines and I often feel like rubbish.  I often have a struggle as to whether I want to get on my mat or not.  More often that not, the pain and fatigue wins.  It doesn’t help that I am gone for 12 hours a day for work either.  With that said, I do practice mentally a lot and I do pranayama often.  There are times where I may often just do a couple poses.  Yoga is the one thing I refuse to give up.  I cannot give it up; it keeps me sane and healthy.  It helps relieve my stress and tension and helps manage my migraines.

So…. what about this whole hoarding thing?  Is this a bad habit?  Should I practice non attachment and let this go?  Absolutely not.  What aparigraha means is that I need to honor my body.  It means that when I need rest, I need to take it.  It means that when life comes up, I need to accept that life happens.  It means that when I don’t get on my mat, I shouldn’t beat myself up and feel like shit about it.  I’ve been there before.  I did that all through my YTT and it got me nowhere fast (except feeling like a shitty yogini).  There are times where I wish I had a more diligent practice and I wish I could progress faster than I am, but it is what it is.  THAT is non-attachment, my friend.  When you can look life in the face and accept the things that you cannot change, then you are practicing aparigraha.  That is when santosha (contentment) begins to envelope you and a whole new realm opens up.

Personally, I like the feeling of contentment, so I am going to keep this practice going.  It’s an attachment I can live with.  I enjoy my practice immensely, as it is a gateway drug to self discovery.  One which I learn more and more about myself, as well as the world around me.  I thoroughly enjoy teaching and I am fond of my tribe that shows up and I love the devotion they have for their practice.  Honestly, I can’t think of anything better than standing in front of a bunch of sweaty yogis, hearts all open, all divine beings.

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The Dragonfly

As summer fades away and autumn makes its stand, I sit here shivering, wishing for the longer days and the warmer weather once more.  I find myself busier than ever and like the leaves, my life too is changing; I can only hope for the better.  A few months ago, I was sitting outside, basking in the sun (waiting for my shih tzu to go “potty”) when a lovely dragonfly landed upon my forearm.  I was captivated by its beauty.  Long, slender, iridescent wings, that shimmered and glistened in the sun, attached to a thin black body.  It stayed but a moment and buzzed off.  In that brief encounter, it changed my entire mood.  I was ecstatic that nature took a moment to say hello, as I often neglect to say hello to it.  A few moments later, the same dragonfly came back to land once more on my forearm.  Are you kidding me!?!  I completely froze, not wanting to scare it off.  This time, it lingered a while longer.

I stared at it, as if it held all of life’s answers; pondered about what the encounter might mean.  Was my Granny saying hello from above?  Was this a sign telling me to slow down and enjoy life? In the end, it flew away before it relinquished its answers, leaving me yearning for knowledge, but with a sense of peace. With nothing left to do, I decided to take my little dog inside.

Curiosity got the best of me; I couldn’t leave well enough alone.  The first thing I did was search the internet.  My first search was the significance of the dragonfly.  It turns out that the dragonfly is indicative of change in ones life.  Okay… I can go with that one.  I recently started a new job and I am going to be doing a lot (and I mean A LOT) of traveling soon.  I also just started teaching yoga at a new location and supposedly, I’ll be teaching at another location once it opens up.

Dragonflies also are indicative of transformation.  Am I going through a transformation?  That I’m not quite so certain of.  Maybe I am.  I feel like I am struggling to find my way.  At times, I feel as if I am “on the path” and I know exactly where I am going and then, somehow… I get lost.  For instance, I was saving up to go to India and I had this plan all hatched out in my head that would ultimately get me to being an ashtanga yoga teacher.

I was practicing Ashtanga regularly, getting oversight by amazing teachers, teaching, saving, etc.  Now, I have this new job (which I wanted, btw) and I am gone from 6 am to at least 6 pm M-F.  I am sad to say that by the time I get home I am not motivated or energized enough to practice.  :/  My weekends are just as busy, I’m a yoga instructor and I am currently teaching both Saturday and Sunday.  My practice is sorely lacking and I can hardly find time to make it to the shala.  Pretty soon, I will be traveling back and forth to Nigeria and all of those things will fall apart.  All of my money I had saved to go to India I spent so my husband could go to Nigeria with me next month.

As of now, I am lost.  I can no longer see the path.  I am certain that there IS a path and I am certain that I will find it once more, I just don’t know when or how.  That is scary.  Maybe this is my transformation.  I believe that every once and a while you have these struggles, these little tests.  Sometimes you still end up at the same final destination as you planned.  Other times, the wind catches your sails and blows you in another direction entirely.  You have to ride it out and then get your bearings.  That is kind of what is happening to me now.  I let out my sails, thinking I would sail headlong into the sunset, yet a strong wind came and now I’m being blown off course.

The destination I was headed is fading further from my sight and my frustration is rising.  I am just about at the point of surrender though.  I am pretty sure that there is something better in store for me.  Maybe what I thought was meant for me WASN’T.  Maybe it wasn’t meant for me NOW.  Maybe it WAS meant for me, but something changed.  All I know is that if I keep my sights set on the destination that I wanted to go in, I’m not going to see where I am actually going.  Would you drive a car looking constantly in the rearview mirror or out the right window?  I’m headed for a crash if I keep looking anywhere but forward.  It is time that I change the direction I am looking.  It is time that I let go and transform my life into whatever it is meant to be NOW.

Here’s to the dragonfly that twice landed on me this summer.


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Slow and Steady

It is hard for me to believe a month has passed me by since I had my intensive with David.  I got more out of that intensive than I bargained for.  I was surprised that he gave me two more ashtanga yoga poses (bhujapindasana -> kurmasana) to work on before he left.  In addition, he wants me to work shoulderstand at the wall.  I am to lay with my back at the wall, with my feet on the wall, and work on pushing my pelvis away and work on getting up more on my shoulders and maintaining a straight line and I also need to work on opening up my shoulders more.  They are nowhere near parallel with each other.

The one thing I went home with Sunday, that I didn’t expect, was ass chafe.  Imagine my surprise while showering Sunday when all the sudden my ass was on fire!  LOL!!!  I guess 4 days of ~90 degree temps, a two hour practice every day in a room with no air conditioning along with 24-50 people doesn’t make for an ideal situation. I never thought I would be using diaper rash cream in my 30’s…. My husband found it hilarious when I called him that afternoon and asked him to pick some up for me on his way home.  I now understand why babies with diaper rash are so miserable.

In the month since, I have used the time to digest what I have learned and I have even implimented some of what he has taught me in my own (non-ashtanga) classes that I teach.  What I have used has been well received.  YAY!  I am finding that verbalizing some of the theoretical concepts of what I am learning is helping me digest them quicker and… sharing is caring, right?  I have discovered that sometimes breakthroughs aren’t immediate and sometimes the concept or asana has to marinate a bit in order to really take hold.

I haven’t been able to make it to the shala nearly as often as I would like, as I have had issues at my job (overworked and under appreciated) and I finally decided to put in my two weeks notice.  Friday is my last day, and I am hoping to make more appearances at the shala.  Between being kept at work late constantly, and being down and out with migraines, my practice has not been as consistent as I would like.  If I hope to become an ashtanga teacher one day, I need to be more devoted to my practice and I am not doing that at the moment; shame on me.

Last time I was at the shala, Elizabeth was gracious enough to add a few new asanas to my practice.  The tittibhasana-crow transitions are kicking my ass.  David had me doing one of them already after bhujapidasana and now I have another one!  I am all the way up to kukkutasana now.  I’m really having fun laughing at myself during the learning process. For instance, the first time I lifted up out of supta kurmasana, I bowled over backwards.  😀  I just laid there laughing at myself and told her I was “Humpty Dumpty”.  I must admit, I am not fond of rolling around eight times in the circle either.  I am quite bony and it kills my poor hip bones!  😦  My poor cork mat doesn’t have much padding, but I adore the thing as it’s the only non-slip yoga mat I have ever owned, so I won’t be trading it in for ANYTHING.  Maybe I need to throw a blanket down for that portion though, because… OUCH.

Anyway, I am hoping to get a couple home practices in before this weekend.  David is returning and I want to be a little more fluid in the asana that I have.  I’m sure he will have something to offer on them!  He likes to milk out every bit of the Ashtanga yoga benefits from each of the Ashtanga yoga poses that are in your practice.  It will be refreshing to see him once more.  His enthusiasm is so contagious.  I wish he was at the shala more often.  I would like to do teacher training with him one day, I think.  With that said, I still want to go train in India and pursue certification that way.

Next weekend is my vacation and training with Kino MacGregor!!!  I can’t wait!!  Hopefully, I will be blogging more.  Sorry about the absence.


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I Will Survive…

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I made it through my first week!  It was like my own personal hell week  with all the chaturangas I put my body through.  I was pretty sure I was going to collapse on my mat, but my body held strong (YES!) With that said, I’m pretty sure I rolled up an arm along with my mat at the end of class at least once (because it fell off).

Despite my struggle, I could feel my body getting strong as the week went by; having a yoga practice four days a week is paying off!  The vinyasa sequence got SLIGHTLY easier and by the second day of me doing utthita parsvasahita, I could actually hold my leg up without my hip flexor screaming for mercy.  It turns out that the first day I was using my flexors instead of activating my core muscles and keeping them engaged during the entire posture; basically I was overworking them.

I find it amazing that despite the fact that it is a mysore room and Elizabeth is watching everyone doing their own thing, she has the ability to see all.  I don’t get away with much- she is an amazing yoga instructor.  One day I was struggling and I happened to be breathing with my mouth open during my sun b series and she caught me (oops) and gave a reminder to keep the mouth closed.  She also seems to constantly remind me to keep my arm over my head during utthita paravakonasana b.  Each day I’ve been learning at least one new asana and I work to hone what I learned the days before.  I do a lot of repetition to help drill the series into my little brain.  This week I learned all the standing Ashtanga yoga postures of the primary series.  Next week we will be working on backbends.

Although the 84 mile round trip is not ideal and it makes for a long day, being gone from 7 in the morning until 8 at night, I have to admit that I am really loving this!!  I genuinely look forward to the end of my work day, and the drive on 95, though icky, is worth it to get to get to my yoga practice.  I use the drive time to attempt to decompress and by the time I roll out my mat and find myself standing on it, I can’t help but feel like I’m home.

The heat of the room is like a hug to my soul and the rhythmic breathing of those around me is like music that soon lulls me into my own practice, only broken by the occasional thump and direction by Elizabeth.  My inhales and exhales, though ragged at times, lets me know that I am alive.  As my muscles tire and my mind begins to wane, my willpower takes over. I smile, because now I know… I will survive.

I Am That

imageAfter an anxious day and a difficult time trying to not think about my “new path”, I finally was able to leave work today at quarter of five to head up to Philly. I had to make sure to get there no earlier than 5 or I’d get charged an arm and a leg for parking. Anytime after 5 is $12 unlimited and since I’m driving up there four days a week, I need to save the cash whenever possible.

Once there, I made the three block walk to the shala and climbed the three flights of stairs to find Elizabeth, the instructor, waiting for the 5:30 class to start. Since I’m so early, I could change, eat a small snack (bad yogi) and relax for a bit before our class started at 6. She said starting tomorrow, I could start early if I wanted, but today I had to wait to learn the beginning part.

Before we went into the Mysore room, we signed a waiver and and we were handed over a sheet of paper, which was to be our primary series cheat sheet. This was going to be our saving grace, but she told us not to rely on it, as we would be doing bits and pieces over and over again in order to help us memorize the sequence.  When you start Ashtanga, everyone begins with the Primary Series.  Some people say that it is the most physically demanding and many people never get past it!

primary_series_chart

When 6 o’clock came, I took my first step into the Mysore room as an official Ashtanga practitioner. The first thing I noticed was the heat; how could you not?  It smacked you in the face as soon as you walked in!  I found a spot along the back wall, which was reserved for Ashtanga beginners and I, along with two others, began the program that will set us off as fledglings in the Mysore room by months end; how exciting!

It was louder in the “quiet” room than I anticipated. Lots of thumping and jumping, along with some small talk thrown in. The energy in the room was almost tangible. I loved it! You could almost feed off of it. It was a totally different vibe than any vinyasa class I’ve been in.

We went over our sun salutations and some standing postures today- stopping at  utthita paravakonasana. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be dead tomorrow. I’m so sore from walking around all day yesterday in these heavy leather combat boots and my shins and hip flexors are practically screaming. Throw in a yoga practice and I’m as done as a turkey dinner!

I still stand by something I heard several years ago. The cure from being sore from yoga is… MORE YOGA! I know I’ll probably be sore and achy for a bit, but that means I am stretching and strengthening muscles, tendons and ligaments! That’s a good thing! I need to amp up my asana game.

I did receive a few good corrections/assists today. One I really want to try to pay more attention to is that I need to put more weight into the entire palm of my hands, especially during chaturangas. Evidently, I put more of my weight on the outer pinky edge. I can feel a big difference when I change it, so this is one of my first major hurdles.

Well, this is all for now. A journey begins with a single step and I took mine. ::sigh::  The first step is the hardest one to take. You have to create the momentum to get yourself going. Once you’re moving, it’s easier to keep moving in the direction you wish to move. I know where I wish to go. I know what I wish to become. I am already there. I am that.

The photo was taken from one of the rooms at the shala.

Message From Above

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I meditate, but I wouldn’t say I am diligent about it. I go back and forth between having a regular practice and then going weeks without sitting at all. I should sit more. I can tell it makes a difference. I’m more calm; centered. A while ago, while sitting, I received a message out of the blue. I don’t normally receive messages while meditating. Who this message was from, I don’t know. Maybe God spoke to me, or maybe I was finally at peace enough to listen to my heart. Either way, the message was abundantly clear and concise.

“Start an Ashtanga yoga practice, go to India and train, and teach Ashtanga.” Wow. That’s a tall order. I don’t currently practice ashtanga, but I do practice yoga. I have my 200 RYT and have been teaching for almost a year. I have taken a couple ashtanga classes, but I’ve never considered taking up an ashtanga practice, so this “message” really threw me for a loop.

I thought about it for a while and the more I thought about it, the more passionate I became. I finally looked up Ashtanga schools in Delaware and…. well, there aren’t any.  Now what? I expanded my search and found an ashtanga shala in Philadelphia.  That’s 80 miles round trip for a class.  ::sigh:: Is it worth it?

I waved it off and downloaded Kino MacGregor’s Primary series on Cody and started that. That’s good enough for a while, right? I really enjoyed it; so much so I signed up for one of her workshops this summer in North Carolina!! I cannot wait!

I could feel myself getting sucked in. I started researching India again and I could feel the pull. “Mysore. Mysore. Mysore!” I need to have time with a certified/authorized teacher in order to train with Sharath, and AYS will give me that opportunity. I kept thinking about it more and more and I decided this is my path. If I’m willing to travel to NC for a workshop and go to India for yoga, I should be willing to go to Philly, right?

After a talk and an argument with my husband, I finally paid for the May “Ashtanga Yoga for Beginners” course at AYS. I don’t know for certain what will happen after that. I’ll take one step at a time, but I’m thinking I’ll most likely have more of an Ashtanga home practice with an occasional trip to the shala to check in. I’ll just have to make sure I’m diligent.

Starting this coming Monday, my Ashtanga journey begins and I couldn’t be more anxious and excited! I’ll be driving up to Philly four days a week after work, so it will make for a long day, but it will be worth it.

I’m optimistic and feeling good about beginning this new chapter in my life and I can’t wait to see where it takes me! I’m certain I’ve made the right decision. My dreams are only confirming it.

Thank you for the message and for setting me on an unexpected journey.


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