Dawning of Spring

Spring is JUST around the corner.  It’s as if it is playing peek-a-boo.  It comes out to play for a moment before going back in hiding.  That is the nature of spring though— temperamental! 😀  This year, spring arrives on March 20th, which means with each passing day, we’ll have longer and longer days!  Spring is a glorious time of year.  Everything comes back to life and it is full of birds, bees, flowers, sunshine… pollen and of course, wind, rain and sometimes snow.  :/

spring-daffodils_2845661b

During this time of year, many people get sick.  Whether it is due to allergies, or from the fluctuation in the weather; ailments seem to manifest in many.

Although the seasons are changing, it is important to note that we are not changing Ayurvedic “seasons”.  We are still in Kapha season, and we should treat our bodies accordingly.

Aren’t sure how to do that?  I wrote a helpful article addressing each individual Dosha and how to help each of our bodies thrive during the remaining months up until summer, when Pitta season takes over.

Want to read more? 👇
Hop on over to Sivana east to read more!!

Please like and share! 🙏💕

For more published articles by me, click here!!

Gaining & Retaining Students

At some point or another, as teachers, we’ve all stood there going “Who am I?  What do I have to offer?” or even maybe  “Why is my class so small?” Sometimes doubt creeps in; don’t let it!  There are several important questions you should be asking yourself, but more importantly, you need to have the ANSWERS.

In order to attract, grow, and maintain a tribe, you need to first discover who you are.  Solve that riddle, and your tribe will find you.

For 5 simple steps, look👇 below!
Hop on over to Sivana east to read more!!

Please like and share! 🙏💕

Fore more published articles by me, click here!!

Manifestation

I’ve been told that if you write something down, it’s more likely to happen.  If you tell someone, the percentage of it happening is even more likely of happening.  ::sigh::  Well, I have already done both of these things, but this is more personal (even though it’s public) and I can also include links and photos and make it my inspiration board too.

When I finished my YTT, I had said that my grand scheme was to travel the world and teach workshops.  I didn’t want to own a yoga studio.  I wanted to go around to other places and teach at their studios or host retreats.  Of course, I knew I needed some experience before I could go out offering such a thing and somewhere along the way I fell in love with this thing called “Ashtanga” and I fell down that rabbit hole pretty hard.

By no means do I think I am an authoritative person in the yoga world, but I feel like I am ready to step into my first yoga retreat.  So here are some things that I want to do during my retreat.

Things Included In My Retreat

  • Twice Daily Yoga Sessions
    • AM: sequenced vinyasa yoga
    • PM: slower vinyasa yoga (focus on: hips, twists, heart openers, etc.)
  • Meditation
  • Pranayama
  • Conference/Group Discussion
  • Asana Workshops (TBD: arm balances, backbends, etc.)

Things to Be Considered

  • Chanting
  • Other Workshops
    • Mala Making
    • Essential Oil
    • Healthy Food (diet, meal planning, prep, cooking, etc.)

When

  • Early 2018 or 2019
    • Depending on:
      • Location of retreat (weather)
      • Interest
      • Length required to plan
      • Work schedule (Nigeria trips)

Location

  • Costa Rica (my number 1 spot)
  • Bali
  • Mexico
  • Guatamala

Location Necessities

  • Catering (I don’t want to cook the food)
    • Able to feed V, VG, GF & meat eaters!
  • Accommodations for 10-20 people
    • Single, double & triple rooms
  • Yoga cannot be outdoor only (i.e. on the grass)
  • Under $2,000 per person

Location Wants

  • Outdoor yoga deck (SWOON!)
  • Airport transfer available by hotel
  • Adventures/spa day’s available for purchase
  • $500-$1,500 per person would be ideal

Misc/To Be Considered

  • Early bird discount $100-$200?? (TBD)
  • Free gift/memento

MORE THINGS ADDED AS I THINK OF THEM 🙂

Here are some of my ideas!


Option 1

I’m not sure why I didn’t think to check out Tulum before, but I just stumbled across this magnificent place and.. well, look!  ::sigh::  Check out Amansala!

Available Activities: (* On site)

  • Spa treatments/massage*
  • Bike ride to Mayan ruins
  • Climb ruins of Coba
  • Snorkling/Diving
  • Kayaking
  • SUP

Option 2

This place looks so tranquil! It is Isla Verde Hotel and is in Guatemala! This place is cheaper and everything isn’t quite as nice, but the location is still so gorgeous.

Available Activities (* On site):

  • Sauna/hot tub*
  • Massages*
  • Hiking Volcano
  • Kayaking
  • Diving
  • Zip-lining
  • Birdwatching
  • Nature reserve
  • Horseback riding
  • Paragliding
  • Coffee & corn tour
  • Visit local market

Value Option 1

Something a little different.  This is a house rental in Costa Rica.  The only issue I have with stunning place is there is no place to do indoor yoga.  I know that was on my necessities list, but with cost, you have to compromise somewhere…  Costa Rica is fairly dry in January and February, so perhaps the weather will favor us.  A little rain while we aren’t doing our yoga won’t be too bad.  Anyway, let’s get to the big reveal!  This is a beachfront, 5-acre slice of heaven, called Natura Reserve!  It prizes itself on maintaining a wild ambience, keeping in touch with nature, and having many of the items handcrafted.

This place is a perfect little getaway for my tribe and will definitely keep costs down.  I’d have to look into how much it would cost to have the catering done for us, and they say they can help people set up any tour activities they want.

Available Activities (none on site):

  • Tree climbing
  • Birdwatching
  • SUP
  • Kayaking
  • Waterfall repelling
  • Surfing
  • Horseback riding
  • ATV tour
  • Fishing
  • Zip-lining
  • Dolphin watch
  • Spa treatments/massage

Well, that’s it for now.  I may come back and add more to this and let it grow as I see fit.  At least it’s out there! Whoohoo!

Misc Planning Tools

Crossed Off Locations

Judgement Day

It’s been a while since I’ve been judged.  I don’t know what it is about politics, but it never seems to bring out the best in people.  I was having a civil conversation with someone about popular vote v. electoral vote when another person decided to call me out on a simple error I had written (all of this happened on Facebook)

  • Note: He could have just mentioned that I was incorrect in my mention of CA being a swing state, because it totally is, but instead he posted something along the lines of:
    • “LOL at you posting CA as a swing state, it’s been a blue state for the past 25 years!” and then proceeded to call me a hippie and then something along the lines of “if all the California liberals left, than those votes could be used for good.”  and then closed his statement with “and no, I’m not a Taurus.”
    • I fail to see how any of the above sarcasm or snark is beneficial to anyone…

Of course, being a good yogi, I took the bait and responded.  :/  I started off admitting my error and then went on to how I didn’t appreciate him making assumptions about me.  I’m fairly certain my response of “You are correct about CA, that was an error on my part. I’m capable of admitting my mistakes; however, I don’t appreciate you making assumptions of me when you know NOTHING about me. I don’t live in California, I am nowhere near a “hippie” and I’m actually fairly conservative. Take your presumptions somewhere else, please.” could have been written with a little more love and kindness.

He shot back with something along the lines of “AWESOME! Glad to see you’re reading.”  At that point, I decided it was best to disengage.  There was nothing to gain from this, though what I really wanted to do was type back was “Fuck off.”  Instead, I went to his Facebook page and blocked him.  Now, I can’t see anything he has written, so that is why I cannot put verbatim our conversation.  I thought about unblocking it to get it, and then re-blocking it, but I have decided it is in my best interest to stay away.  Could he be writing more things about me and I wouldn’t know it; absolutely.  Would it do me any good to know about it— nope.

As I sit here, I do the real homework.  Why did that interaction piss me off so much?  It wasn’t that I got called out on being wrong.  Admitting my mistake wasn’t difficult.  Was it the fact that I was called a hippie?  I don’t think so; I’ve been called much worse.  So, if it wasn’t any of these things, then what was it?

I think what it may boil down to is that I felt like I was back in middle school all over again.  I was the kid being judged for things that weren’t true.  I ran away from that for YEARS.  I even changed school districts when high school came around, to escape from all the teasing, bullying and drama.  The thing is, so what if the things he said were true? What if I was a hippie from California?  Big deal!!!  That wouldn’t make me a bad person.

So, I’m already feeling threatened, having a hard time choking down the food plopped on my plate, and he insults my knowledge by throwing in my face that I’m more or less finally “reading”.  GAH!  Again, another topic of my life I struggled with and ran away from.  I ran away to college and eventually ran all the way across the country to escape it.  Despite being an honors student in high school, I had to hear that I wasn’t smart, that I wouldn’t go to college.  Essentially, I felt like I wouldn’t really amount to… well, anything.  That left permanent scars on my heart and I don’ t know if I’ll ever truly get past feeling inept.  Being wrong is one thing, being made to feel inept is another.

So there it is… that is why this person pissed me off.  He reminded me of my school days, where I was made fun of, and he made me feel inept, all in a matter of minutes.  ::sigh::  It’s okay though, because even though he hurt me in a matter of minutes, he was also out of my life just as fast.  He is blocked and I won’t be seeing anything from him ever again.  I’m determined to remove as many obstacles and as much negativity from my life as possible.  The power is back in my court.  I call that a win.  🙂

Ain’t nothin’ gonna break-a my stride
Nobody gonna slow me down, oh no
I got to keep on movin’

Going the Distance…

Reluctantly crouched at the starting line
Engines pumping and thumping in time
The green light flashes, the flags go up
Churning and burning, they yearn for the cup
They deftly maneuver and muscle for rank
Fuel burning fast on an empty tank
Reckless and wild, they pour through the turns
Their prowess is potent and secretly stern

He’s going the distance
He’s going for speed
She’s all alone
In her time of need

– Cake

As my holiday season comes to a close, I am coming off an Ashtanga high.  Much like Cake’s “The Distance”, my engine was pumping in time as I rang in the New Year by  spending four glorious days in a Mysore intensive with my teacher- David Garrigues.  An intensive with David is just that… intense.  My practice is sorely lacking already, so I knew going in it was going to be a bumpy ride, but that was alright.  David has this way of pulling things out of you.  He asks more of you; constantly.  Even the littlest request could leave you going “Why am I sore here?” the next day (he’s the king of nuances). There were days where I had to really push through parts (mainly the beginning) because I was tight, sore, tired, etc.

Day one didn’t start off too well.  I woke up to discover that I had started my period; AWESOME.  :/  A few other things went wrong that morning too and by the time I made it to the shala, I was ready for a do-over.  LOL.  Luckily, things began to look up once I went into the Mysore room.  I found my spot by the wall and the heaters (yay warmth) and soon enough, my four days of bliss had begun! 😀

I have taken several classes/intensives with David and it is now at at point where he is getting to “know” my practice.  He knows that my shoulders are hella tight and he pokes fun at me and my horrendous shoulderstands.  In return, I get to make small jokes back.  One day, I was up in shoulderstand with my arms behind me in a belt (because otherwise they will run amok) and he comes over and squats down beside me “Ashley, this just won’t do! Get your hands down on your back behind your ribs.  You are on your sides.”  He fixes my hands, and the belt, and gives me some more pointers as he watches.  At this point, I’ve already been there somewhere around 7-10 minutes; I’m sore, tired and my arms are rebelling because they dispise this pose and he goes “You’re losing it…”.  I look at him and go “David… I’m tryyyyying….” in this pathetic voice and he starts laughing, and I start laughing and then half the room starts laughing.  There is just something sincere and honest about him that makes every encounter special and unique.

There were a lot of small things he asked me to work on, but a couple things he really asked me to work on were:

  • Full inhale/exhalations on my vinyasas

I hav a tendency to rush the vinyasa and not fully inhale after my chaturanga

  • Working on my backbends

I have really been working on opening up my chest and to do that, I have been sending my weight towards my chest.  Well, that is good as an exercise, but not for the asana itself.  He had me work on internally rotating my thighs towards the midline (because “Ashley is doing something funny with her legs”) and sending the weight back towards my legs and walking my hands in.  I was having a hard time getting my feet “heavy”.  I just-couldn’t-do-it.  At one point I asked “How do I do that?” and he said, “How do YOU do that?  Figure it out!  You have 40 years!”  Oh David….  The next day he said I looked much better, but that I now needed to work on lifting the chest.

If you ever attend a class/intensive with David, don’t be surprised if you hear any of the following:

  • “Better.”
  • “Go Back!”
  • “STAMP!”
  • “65% better”
  • “Ground.”
  • “What is he/she doing?”
  • “Again.”
  • “25% better”
  • “No, you’re not doing it. Try again.”
  • “Dynamism.”
  • ….. etc

From my experience, each of the above is said with love, conviction and with the best of intensions.  His expectation is that you try; and that you try 100% — even more!  He is very serious about each asana, and that it be done correctly, though he will modify for you if necessary.  Although David is not at the shala all the time due to his teaching schedule, I am blessed to have him as one of my teachers.  If you train with him regularly, he will get to know you, your flaws and recognize when you improve and/or open up.  Expect pranayama work, because that is something David is passionate about.  Personally, I really enjoy it so I enjoy the one hour sessions and it helps me wind down after the two hour practice.

I’m usually lost during the chanting, but I stumble my way through it to the best of my
yama_with_dandaability. HAH! David did make chai this time and it was pretty good.  He closed out the session with a lecture.  Usually with the intensives there are two conferences.  I am usually only able to make one because the other is at a time I am not able to attend.  This talk was all about Dharma.

It was actually quite fascinating.  The talk is on periscope if you want to go listen to it!  It’s about an hour long and he even weaves in some folklore too!

All in all, it was a great way to ring in the New Year!  I met some great people and I also got to reconnectwith some old shala pals I haven’t seen in a while.  It gave me inspiration to try to reconnect with my practice as often as possible and I’m already looking forward to seeing David again in the spring (if my schedule allows).



Check out these related blogs 👇
*  Slow and Steady
*
 Enjoy the Storm

 

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

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

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.

pigeon

Check out these related blogs 👇
*  Creating Sacred Space
*  Sweet Surender

Lagos Got Me Like…

enlight1

I’m tired. ::sigh::  I’m humbled and thankful, but exhausted.  Over the past week, I have spent over 30 hours on an airplane and gosh knows how many hours being patted down, having my bags searched and sitting at the various airports.  “Where did you go?” you might be wondering, “Was it someplace fun? Was it a vacation?” Well, not exactly.  I can say that it WAS warm.  Much warmer than the weather I am currently experiencing.  The country I was in was in the upper 80’s/low 90’s and it is currently 45 degrees here and quite blustery.  Brrr…. talk about a shock to the system!  That is about it as far as the niceties go though.  You see, the country I went to is not a tourist destination.  It isn’t known as a vacation hot-spot.  It isn’t viewed as a safe location and you have to look beyond the exterior facade to see the beauty that the city holds.  I just came back from…. Lagos, Nigeria.

Why on earth would you go to Lagos!?!  Well, before I even venture into that topic, let’s settle into more about this neglected country.  Nigeria is said to be a fairly wealthy country, yet it is stricken with horrendous poverty.  You see it wherever you go.  As you drive through the city of Lagos, people walk between the cars, goods in their hands or with baskets on their heads, peddling their wares.  Sometimes you will see little kids come up and bang on the windows, begging for naira.  Every corner and side street is full of people hawking items, trying to make a living.  Taxi drivers will even chase you down to attempt to get a fare if they see you walking down the road.  It is an overload of the senses no matter what time of the day or night you go out.  It never ends….

Just about every building worth anything of value is gated off, with most having security at the gate.  The walls have barbed wire, jagged glass or spikes on top to deter unwanted guests.  Next to a nice building will be a little shanty that looks like it will fall over at any given moment.  Half built buildings held up by bamboo poles are everywhere because funding ran out halfway through the project.

Some other issues Lagos has: the water in is not safe to drink, so you have to be careful to only get bottled water.  The power grid is very unstable, so it is quite normal for power outages to happen a couple times a day (but they may not be very long).  Traffic in Lagos is pure chaos, you must accept this.  One night, it took us 3 hours (3 HOURS!) to get to a restaurant for dinner.  It was some of the best food I have ever had, but I don’t know if I would make a three hour trip for it.  Once our bellies were full, we hopped back in the van and drove 20 minutes back to the hotel.  Yeah, you heard that right.  It took 3 hours to get there and only 20 minutes to get back.  Ridiculous!

Although terrorism in Lagos is not as bad as it is in other parts of Nigeria, it is not as safe as other countries either.  It is best to travel in groups and to be aware of where you are going.  I wouldn’t travel alone and I wouldn’t travel anywhere where you aren’t familiar with.  There were times I felt uncomfortable traveling at night just around the block my first night there.  You see cops EVERYWHERE.  They are at most intersections, though I think they are more like lawn ornaments; most of the time they aren’t actually directing traffic.  You will see tactical teams, customs patrol, etc all around.  Cops are not armed, unless they are…. by that I mean that cops do not carry sidearms (pistols).  They either walk around with nothing or they are armed with assault rifles.  It is all or nothing in Nigeria- it is actually rather intimidating.

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With all the mess that Lagos is, it makes up for with culture and random moments or places of beauty will pop out.  Among a section of dilapidated houses that are mostly in ruin, will sit a sculpture garden (WHAT!?!), a modern hotel will sit amongst a bunch of unfinished buildings.  Marble is very common in Nigeria, so many of the nicer buildings have it all over the place.  It seems that most of the nicer places to live are apartment buildings, but I did see some houses in other sections of Lagos. Lagos has a beautiful lagoon too, which you’ll see many fisherman in little boats pushing their way through the water via poles.

enlight1

So what else does Lagos offer?

The food is FANTASTIC!  Although they don’t really understand what a “vegetarian” is, they were quite accommodating of my dietary needs and I found plenty to eat.  Pescetarians and carnivores will be plenty happy!  I did eat at one excellent restaurant ran by a Nigerian/Polish man and he was quite familiar with vegetarians/vegans and had several things on his menu.  Luckily for me, the place is nearby the apartment I’ll be staying at when I go back! (WIN!!!)  All the wines and beers that I tried were also excellent.  I don’t know if I had any native Nigerian wine, but the Nigerian beer (Star Light and Gulder) were pretty good.  Star light reminded me of Michelob Light.  I’m not sure what Gulder reminded me of.  I do know I preferred Gulder though.

I think the best thing Lagos has to offer is the people.  Lagosians are so incredibly hospitable and kind.  Everyone I met during my trip was quite generous and friendly and I made some genuine friendships and connections.  They are a proud bunch and are striving to make a change in their city and country.  They know how to laugh and have a good time and will share what they have with you, but they are also hard workers and want answers too.  The people are what won me over the most.  Without them, Lagos would be lost.  It would be hopeless, lost to greed and corruption…

It wasn’t until I got back from my trip and reacquainted myself with my old surroundings that things really began to set in.  The things I took for granted I had already realized, because they were smacking me in the face over in Nigeria the entire time.  It was the subtle things that were gnawing at me.  How could people I have only known a few days impact me so much?  Why was it that I already wanted to go back?  Or is it that I never wanted to leave?  How is it that I can best help these people?  Am I even able to help tackle this HUGE of a problem?  Do I really want to be over there so much?

All these questions were washing over me to the point that I felt like I was going to drown.  I was glad to be home, yet wanted to go back.  No, I was longing to go back.  Yeah, that’s better.  My luggage broke while I was over there and the first day I was back I already went out and dropped a shit load of cash on some NICE luggage.  More than I should have, but it has a ten year warranty, so this shit better fu$%’n last!  Then I had to chuckle at myself because I’m not even going back over there for a couple months!  I’m like a kid at Christmas or something….

What is it about a place that impacts us so much?  Here I am planning and saving to go to India and I spend all my money so my husband can come to Lagos with me and I’m back at zilch again.  Then, I make money while I am over there and then I spend that shit on luggage to go back to Lagos!  Okay, I get it… I’m not meant to go to India now, but WHEN!!!!???!!!

Obviously, I’m meant to go in another direction for now.  Or, maybe I’m not meant to go to India at all.  Who knows.  By what I’ve seen, Lagos could use some yoga, but I have no idea how that could work.  They certainly couldn’t pay that much for it over there and it seems rent for buildings is pretty high.  I do know that I wouldn’t feel safe driving out to places to teach yoga, so that is out.  We shall see.  All will come in time.

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.


Check out this related blog 👇
*  Message From Above

Beating Back Laziness

Some days my time on my mat is effortless (more or less).  It is a pleasant time of solitude, in which time seems to fly.  The yoga poses are ones of ease and I am able to melt into them with each breath that I take.  It is an enjoyable practice and is the type of practice that I hope to repeat.  Of course, a perfect practice does not dwell within us every time; it’s not meant to be.  Growth does not occur when everything is easy and smooth.  Perfect.

Last week, I had the class where everything was difficult.  Instead of having a lightness to my practice, every time I jumped forward and back, it was as if I was flinging  a bag of cement from one end of my mat to the other.  You can imagine how exhausting it is throwing over 100 pounds of cement around!  While I was doing my sitting postures, I began to lose heart.  I just didn’t feel like doing it anymore.  I wanted to bail on the jump-throughs.  I had been half heartedly doing them for a bit and now I wanted to quit them altogether.  No one would notice, right?

As I sat there, looking around to see what my teacher was doing; “would they notice if I bailed the vinyasa between sides?”, I began to have second thoughts and I made the conscious decision that I would not bail.  I decided that this was my defining moment.  Not every practice was meant to be easy and today I would have to beat back the laziness.  I took a deep breath, planted my hands and heaved my heavy-ass body backwards and took my vinyasa and hopped back through and landed with a thump.  One vinyasa down.

As I took a deep breath and folded forward, I couldn’t help but lament at the fact that I was trying to bend steel.  What happened to my malleable muscles?  My muscles were warm, that wasn’t the problem.  It was as if my body just didn’t want to let go. It was holding on for dear life, refusing to release something.  I didn’t know what it was at the time, but now that a few days have passed, I now have some perspective.  What I didn’t know was that I had a migraine coming and my body was already building up tension and going into self defense mode.

I did learn a valuable lesson that day about my practice and I learned a lot about myself in the process.

  • Not all practices are going to be easy; THAT IS OKAY
  • Tough practices test your:
    • Physical endurance
    • Mental willpower/determination
  • Be kind to yourself
  • Learn to listen to your body (why is this practice so hard)

As I sit here on the couch, fighting back another migraine, I know that I will have many more good days than bad days on my mat.  When the bad days do come, I’ll be prepared to fight; beat back the laziness, fling around that heavy bag of cement and bend steel.

Reason #345 why I practice Ashtanga yoga 😀