Friday, July 5, 2013

The Leap

Ok Folks here's the truth.

I'm moving this here blog over to my website.  I'm not totally satisfied with everything over there just yet, but this is silly to blog here and work there.

So, come and find me... ok?

See you soon!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Get Moving

That, is my grandmother.  Gigi.  In her late 80s leading a conga line at my wedding almost 8 years ago. She will probably do the same at my cousins wedding next month --  she's 94 now and religiously goes to her Zumba class at the Y each week.

Every memory and thought I have of Gigi has her in motion.  Walking, Dancing, Dancing, Dancing, doing her "exercises" when I was small and would come to visit, yoga lessons, swimming.  That's Gige. A mover and shaker and never happier than when she has good music and a great dance partner.

As I said, she is 94 and still lives alone (with loving assistance from my mother a few streets over), and is pretty darn with it mentally.  I'm sure I forget at least as many things as she does and I don't have age as an excuse (just two small children and lack of sleep)

I was thinking of her recently while on my break from practice.   I took 4 weeks off after baby boy came along, following midwife's instructions.  And what happened?  I turned wickedly sour.  I got grumpy and tight and annoyed.  Not moving my body meant that my heart and emotions didn't have space for movement either.  Everything got stuck and I went sad.  Of course, hormones were there too.

But, whenever in my life I have stopped moving -- my mood and my heart soon twisted into a downward spiral of depression.  It's why when I was working 50+ hours a week I was also running 20 miles and practicing yoga nearly daily.  It's why when I took off from dancing each summer as a child I got really really irritated all the time.

The body likes to move.  The body has to move! I'd say.  It takes all the crummy stuff going on in the  brain, mixes it around, and turns up solutions.  Like MAGIC.  Suddenly mysteries become clear and problems have answers.  Suddenly hurt feelings disappear.  Chemicals make changes that relax and re-wire us to just feel better.  And we are happier.

These days it isn't easy to find the time.  We have to prioritize exercise, sneak it in in stolen moments just taking the stairs instead of an elevator or walking to the store rather than driving.  Exercise sounds so daunting as a word now, doesn't it?  Like a required chore rather than the joy it really can be.  (that's why I like to say move better) When I move I am joyful -- even if I only get in 5 minutes between feeding and caring for myself and my children  - I am joyful, and it is worth it.

So I move to be healthy.  I move to be happy. I move to not worry so much all the time.  I move to be in my life without a foggy cloud in the way.  Hoping that todays yoga or dance or walk or pilates or whatever I do will lead to longevity, levity and peace.  It has worked so far, so I'll keep finding the time for it.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Looking vs. Being "The Part"

I am coming to the end of this nice long maternity leave and will be returning to teaching in about 2 weeks.  I'm feeling ready.  I miss the students and being in the studio.  I miss the sense of deeply engaging with yoga practice on my own mat and bringing my insights (however random) to the people in the room with me.  It will be lovely to return.


I still have this baby body.  I seriously still look pregnant.  The baby-house is abundantly visible.

The other day in my kitchen I found myself lamenting my appearance.  And worrying about teaching again looking how I look.  "I just don't look the part, I want to look the part" I said to myself.

Luckily,  my mind is getting better and better trained to pick up on unimportant sh*t like that that I just love to feed myself.

Look the Part?
That would suggest that there is a way to "look" to be a yoga teacher.  (hello marketing!)  and that would also suggest that such a "look" is more important than what I actually have to offer.  (hello worthiness!)

I catch myself again and again being swept up in this way.  "I have to look a certain way - I can never be skinny enough" "I have to have a certain amount of education" "I have to be able to do a certain pose" -- then I'll be worth it, beautiful, a good teacher... etc.  But that's all just crap that I keep taking in from who knows where (facebook maybe?) and feeding myself.  And it's all just surface.

In reality, I want to BE the part.  I want to BE an inspiring yoga teacher. I want to BE honest about how my body is in reality at this moment. I want to BE a person who honors the needs of my body when I'm not sleeping through the night, and I carry a 15lb person with me everywhere I go.  I want to keep my connection to Source no matter what I'm doing. I want to honor my children, and every person I come into contact with and really see them.  I want to BE practicing on the mat, eating well, and savoring my life.  I want to BE a woman who lives her yoga honestly and with no apologies, no matter what it looks like.

So that's where I am now.  Stepping back onto the mat every day and meeting myself where I am.  Getting ready to BE back in the studio.  Stepping back into seat of teacher with honesty, humility, and Grace.  Let's see where this will go.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Dispatch from La-La Land #3

with babe #1 in 2008
On Mothers

Sunday was Mother's Day.  My first with two little ones instead of one.  It is a strange world to be entering into.  A world of extremely divided attention where I can't seem to make the car go where I want it to go - wrong turns abounding- and forming complete coherent sentences requires way more brainpower than I seem to possess.  But that will all shift back.

It is also a world of finding an even deeper appreciation and compassion for my own mother.  She had 4 of us! Holy Moly! Talk about divided attention spans.

But here is what I want to say about mothers.  The more and more I talk to many different people - women and men - it becomes abundantly clear to me that this mother/child relationship is absolutely primary.  Now, as I hold my son and literally keep him alive and growing by attaching him to my body that is quite obvious.  Later, it does not seem so.  But I can tell you, it still is.  The women I talk to and hang with all want to discuss their mothers.  And even men too.  Good or bad Mother relationship is the Mother of all relationships.

(it is so daunting to think and write this as I start the journey of mothering two little souls)

But I want to say also is that it isn't static and it can change.  I even believe it can change if you are estranged from your mama or she isn't living anymore.  It can change.

Many of us want it to come from Mom down to child.  But I think as awake-aware-adult-children we have the opportunity to take it UP to mom.

I think it is incredibly important to ourselves, our families, and our communities that we heal the mother/child relationship...  but to heal it as the adult-child/mother relationship.  Look who leads the way... the child (50+ years old doesn't matter).  It has always meant to be this way... baby cries mom responds, the child leads the mother follows.
So many of us are afraid to be who we really are with our own mothers.  And for so many mothers that's all they want to see or be invited into.  And so many of us are afraid to tell our mothers the truth about state of our adult-child/mother relationships or about some other part of our lives.  I think mothers can be more resilient than we think. Time may be required for it to sink in, but amazing healing does happen with persistent effort.
I think healing can actually happen.  One tiny step, phone call, conversation, admittance... whatever at a time.
That's it.  Mothers are incredibly important, heal with yours if you can.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Dispatch from La La Land #1

My son, Eli, was born two and a half weeks ago on March 17th. And if you are still reading this blog I totally commend you seeing as how I pretty much drop off the planet when big things are happening in my life.

He was born here at home with the help of an amazing midwife and since then I've been living in a sort-of dream-state.  I am truly reluctant to leave my space or do much of anything other than gaze at this little being who has decided to join me.  I may never practice or teach yoga again.  (ok, that's not true, but this is more than sufficient for now)

One thing I've learned by being here is how to keep hold of the sacredness.  Birth is a monumental occasion, rare in my life and this was the last we assume.  And so, Birth is magical and sacred. To have had him here in my home nest means that a sacredness descended on my home and I'm doing my best to keep it around.

What's helping is:
-Limiting visitors and phone calls
-Limiting noise and distractions of any kind.  When you want to keep sacredness the internet and television shows are your worst enemy
-Connecting to nature (out the window for me, but sometimes on the deck)
-Leaving things as they are - not clearing away the birth supplies, candles, affirmations but letting them stay out as reminders of the magic that happened here
-Staying quiet myself and not taking on anything more than the care of this infant, care for my own healing body, and nurture of my child and husband
-Resting and following my intuition
-Journalling on my reflections and moment to moment experiences and feelings
-Reminding myself of the importance of this time, that it is fleeting and will never return in this way with this being, and breathing it in

So now I'll go crawl back into the quiet nest of my bedroom, contemplate life in her grand and beautiful dance, and rest my bones before I venture out into the world this afternoon.

How do you keep the sacred?

Friday, March 8, 2013

My Top 5 Prenatal Yoga Poses

Coming into the home stretch of this second pregnancy my practice has really dwindled down to just a few essential poses to keep myself feeling both strong and open.  Ready and rested for delivery.  

Here's a listing of my Top 5 poses for pregnancy:

"Pointer" - I like to start my warm-up with some cat/cow and then move into this great strengthener.  Since I've been off of abdominal exercises for some time, this pose helps keep a little bit of wrapping of my muscles around the baby and helps maintain some mid and low-back strength.  You can always add the opposite arm extending forward to build in more strength.

Warrior 2 -  I love (hate) love this one for pregnancy because it is such a powerful pose.  I write (hate) because at the end of this 3rd trimester I am seriously challenged to stay here for any length of time with my knee properly aligned over my ankle.  But the plus side is I feel my feet strongly grounding into the Earth and power rising up into my body.  I feel STRONG in this pose.   And, it gives me an excellent opportunity to focus on breathing through challenge - a skill I will be using in labor, birth, and the next 18 or so years!

 Prasarita Padottanasana - This pose saves my hips and low back.  When I stand with feet wide and then STRONGLY isometrically (without moving) pull them towards each other I can feel my muscles engage all the way up my legs and wrap around my back.  Suddenly I feel spacious and released in my tired aching back.  I can also allow the weight of my baby to hang forward towards the floor and if he's been hanging out low in my pelvis then he moves up just a little and gives my bladder a break.  Sometimes I fold all the way over.  Sometimes I waggle my hips a little bit in a primal pregnant kind of way... all in preparation for going deep into the labor zone.

Malasana (Squat) - This one's for the delivery.  Otherwise I'd never ever have it on a list of favorite poses to be honest.  Squatting is one of the tried and true most excellent positions for giving birth and, it's hard work.  So during my yoga practice I like to take a dynamic approach to it.  I start standing and squat way down then rise back up to standing, repeatedly, for as long as I can possibly manage it.  You may notice that my heels are on the roll of my mat, that gives me a sense of grounding and keeps me safer.  The motion of this dynamic squat also helps to bring the baby down deeper into the pelvis so if at 34 -36 weeks and after baby was breech I wouldn't be doing this.  And if he felt too big and I were exhausted I'd just do dance Plies instead.
The other thing I really value about Squatting is that it's not a lunge.  Lunging in pregnancy as the hormones really get going (so later and later in pregnancy) can put some strain on the pubic symphysis (which is the place in the front of your pelvis where your pubic bones meet).  It isn't comfortable.  And if you do it enough ligaments can be stretched so much that they never go back in place.  So squats keep the PS centered and from being pulled in two different directions simultaneously.

Then after squats when I'm totally exhausted.  I sit, close my eyes, hold my belly and do my Kegels.  No reason to wait until after the delivery - I'm going to need all the strength I can get down there!
and Finally

Supta Bada Konasana - Reclining Bound Angle pose.  Ah!  I lived in this pose for the first trimester of this pregnancy when I was too sick to do much else.  And I'm living in this pose now when I'm too tired to do much else.  There's all this advice not to go on your back while you're pregnant.  I find that I can be on my back briefly but not for long.  So you'll notice in the photo that I'm on a bolster with blocks underneath which creates a nice incline for my resting position.  I sometimes also put blocks under my knees to support my hips.  But this is one of my favorite ways to feel open in my hips and chest but also supported for a nice long rest.  I'll often use a recorded guided relaxation as I rest in this position.

This is not the complete practice I do every day.  Sometimes, and for much of the pregnancy I do a lot more.  Sometimes I do a lot less.  But these are the top 5 to keep me feeling strong, prepared, and open ... just getting ready for this baby to arrive.

photos by Stacy Abbott

Monday, January 28, 2013

When it's going well

Twice in the last two months I've read books that encourage making a list of the structures in place in life when things are going really really well.  Brene Brown notes that she did it as she and her husband looked at how family life goes, and then Sara Avant Stover recommends crafting an "absolute Yes list" for all areas of life.  Essentially the idea is to figure out what makes things flow and work best for you.  Then as times get more stressful, you make sure to move more and more towards the items on your list to help you (or your family system) stay grounded and healthy.

Since I'm moving into the wild-lands of having a baby at home again, I thought I'd do a Best Possible Scenario list for my teaching.

Here's what I find makes my teaching really hum along almost effortlessly:

My home practice is consistent and strong.  I allow myself plenty of exploration and add in restorative days but I'm practicing 5 - 6 days a week for an hour or more.  And I add in some Yogaglo classes with advanced teachers, and at levels that challenge me.

I'm going to class.  I'm learning from other teachers, students, and my physical experience. It helps me break up ruts in my teaching and practice routines.  Plus I feel I"m a part of a community.

I'm reading or listening to something that piques my interest.  It could be poetry or philosophy but my mind and heart are deeply engaged in working something out that I can then bring to my students.

I have plenty of time after practice to sit, contemplate, journal, and digest my experiences.

I have a vision of where I want to take the students physically, emotionally, or spiritually

I give myself plenty of time to plan classes including both sequence and thematics

I write out my speech in the beginning.  This could include several drafts, but when I really nail it, I can feel it and I see the difference in my students. And it keeps me from talking too long and taking up a ton of time at the beginning of class.

I arrive early and set up the room by chanting then playing music and am available to the students

I'm feeding my soul consistently: time in nature, dancing, art-making, crafts, journalling, time with friends.

I'm in conversation with other yoga teachers.  This keeps me out of my own little world, out of my own ego and in a feeling of community which I'm always craving in my life.

My teaching schedule is manageable.  I'm not overdoing it.  That is, I'm only taking on classes that I enjoy and that I feel I have enough time to really pour my heart into.  Which means right now I only teach a few classes while I mother one (and soon two) young children.  As they grow up and more space opens in my life, I'd love to add more classes, workshops, and private lessons.

It's seriously a dream world when all of these things converge and are happening, especially for more than a string of days.  But writing this all out helps me start to see how I can craft my days to give myself more of what I need, to then be able to offer from my heart to the students in class.

I recommend giving this a try for yourself.  What is happening in your world that makes your teaching come alive?  And if you're not a teacher, what helps you keep your heart and inspiration moving in your career?