Wednesday, March 30, 2011

It's Ok

(Happy Birthday today, Mom)

I have really smart and wonderful women friends. And smart and wonderful women in my family. And I, personally, am a pretty smart and wonderful woman to boot. So when all these forces combine to give me the same message (almost word for word) I'm trying to get better at listening to, comprehending, and following the advice.
The message I've needed lately and have been so lovingly and explicitly given time and time again is simply this:
It's OK to take care of yourself.
Period. As a Being who happens to be a woman, a wife, a mother, a friend, and a teacher -- so essentially a giver of my soul -- it is OK ...and not only ok, it is imperative... that I take care of myself. And it is ridiculously difficult to do on a day-to-day, or even better moment-to-moment, basis. I'm great at avoiding it, or putting other people first. I'm great at anticipating the needs of others and so allowing their perceived needs to come before my own (instead of asking if it is even a real need). I'm great at doing things that don't really nourish me... like watching TV, or staying up too late to read instead of getting a good night's sleep. And I'm VERY good at biting my tongue and not speaking my truth, asking for what I need, or putting limits on disagreeable situations. And so, I'm totally challenged.
Thank goodness for support systems that repeatedly tell me: It's ok to take care of yourself.
This taking care of myself from the inside out -- not waiting for someone else to come along and make it all better is definitely a shift in my heart. It is definitely a new journey for me to be on. I'm sure you'll witness plenty of it with me as we move forward with this blog. But what I'm realizing is no big surprise, but that by taking care of myself, I'm so much better able to take care of everyone else. I'm so much more willing to give of my soul with no expectations. And I'm creating a positive model for my daughter to be willing to take deep care of herself when she grows up.
Often I have mini-mantras running through my brain for a few days or a week. Just a simple phrase someone spoke to me or I read somewhere. You can guess mine right now : It's Ok to take care of yourself. And you know what? It really is. The world is a better place for it.

If you want to read about one woman's journey towards deep self-respect and self-love check out this article at Elephant Journal.

Contemplation: It's OK to take care of yourself. What is the one thing you can do right this instant to take better care of yourself?

Friday, March 25, 2011


"Why always "not yet"? Do the flowers in spring say "not yet"?" ~ Norman Douglas

that is to say

"Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die today." ~ James Dean

I hope you enjoy your weekend

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Supermoon Superstars

Every so often true magic really occurs in the yoga studio. I'm not really sure how or why it does, but it does. Last night was one of those nights. Inspired by last Saturday's supermoon and by the shift to more daylight because of the time change a week ago, I taught John's 'Lakshimi Rocks Me' Class... about celebrating and aligning to the light. Because, seriously, if the supermoon isn't inspiration for Inner Body Bright, I don't know what is.
And it was a simply magical class. All 10 students seemed to be with me the whole time. Nobody was putting off that 'you're a crazy lady' vibe when I spoke the Anusara-speak. And everyone in the class was generally at the same level as each other which also happened to be the same level the class was geared towards (praise Shiva/Shakti! that almost never happens).
And so, it was brilliant. They brightened their beautiful inner bodies and I saw tiny smiles spread across their faces and through their entire bodies. Before long we were rocking through 3 setubandas followed by Urdhva Dhanurasana demonstrated by one of the students that is totally hooked and coming along on this Anusara path. Partner UD elicited much laughter and fun. Then, after class, more discussion about loving this practice and about how to build skills (even a little impromptu lesson in the lobby). Nights like last night are so precious to me. They are so fun and inspiring. And, happily, as I soften and relax deeper into the seat of teacher they are coming more and more often. So GO ON you super shiny Supermoon Anusaris. You totally Rock and you so make my day. The light in me bows to the very same bright inner light in You! Namaste!

Contemplation: Who or what brightens your day?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spring is Here

Jai Sarasvati! Hooray! Spring has finally finally finally arrived! Everyone around me seems to be commenting on how long and cold this winter was. And yes, I'm ready to move out of the dark cold into the warm light ... both physically and emotionally.

John reminds us in one of his videos that you can't force a bloom. You have to wait and be patient. You have to wait for the pulsation of nature to awaken the flower and let it unfold on its own time. If you try to rip open the bud, you destroy the beauty of the bloom with no chance of repairing it. He says the same about opening the hips. Wait, be patient, align with the forces of nature and let them work on you... then you'll see the beauty of unfolding hips (and with that a very happy low back and hamstrings).
And it's true of the heart too. I'm working through "stuff" these days. Not at all unwelcome, actually quite expected and welcome, but still not exactly easy. And so I'm trying to apply the same principles as I do in my yoga. First, and foremost, Open my heart by being Open to Grace. That means, wait, be patient, above all Align with the Divine, she will never lead me astray. That, and trust that all things (even my stubborn little heart) will open in natural time.
With those reminders, I take a deep breath and enjoy the sweetest perfume of this radiant new springtime in my heart and outside my window!

Contemplation: What are you enjoying about the rebirth of the Earth this year?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Indulgence and Restraint

Cookies and Kale side by side. A Lenten dinner (Ha!)

'Tis the season ... Lent is here if you're of the Christian bent. In years past I might have dubiously summoned up all my courage to banish some troublesome vice from my system for the full forty days between Ash Wednesday and Easter only to find myself "cheating" in some way or forgetting about my plan all together until the damage had been done. I'm finding I don't do well with harsh edicts passed to myself in a stern tone. I'm not a particularly good listener, then I get all bent out of shape at my "lack of willpower" and a session of hating on myself continues until I eventually snap out of it and get on track again. This had been a routine for years with few 'snapping out of its' until I met Anusara and Tantra. Now the routine does get repeated, but with much less force and a quicker 'snap out of it' turn around. (so, in short, I feel better)

Let's rewind a little bit, shall we? The day before all of this starts is the totally awesome day of Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday. Here is the day for a party. The day to go totally overboard. To (in my case) eat chocolate until your belly might explode, knowing full well that tomorrow starts the lenten chocolate fast. Mardi Gras is the day to go full force into Indulgence! Indulgence! doesn't even sound great just to say (or read) that word? There is something so forbidden in that word even. Like you'll get in trouble if you do too much.

And so then the next day we are slapped hands down into the complete opposite, Restraint. If Indulgence sounds wonderful, Restraint kind of sounds depressing, don't you think, even like a dirty word. Like you're going to be sent to a really bad, evil school with a horrible headmistress who will only let you eat bread once a day in order to keep your soul clean or something. Nobody gets in trouble from too much restraint. Well, not outwardly. Teenagers aren't punished for restraining themselves from taking the family mini-van on a joy ride. Instead we're all congratulated on how well we hold our lives together and restrain from being TOO MUCH of much of anything.

I think both are a bit off. Well, at least, once again we meet the Tantric Paradox in all her beauty. Two good things, but good things turn less than optimal in overdoses. Indulgence overdone means a hangover for most of the Mardi Gras party goers. Restraint overdone means boredom and coldness in those who would take it to the extremes. And Tantra tells us, once again, we need both. We need balance and balance is dynamic so be ready to dance.

So this is what I taught on Mardi Gras (a while ago). How can we have a dancing, dynamic balance of both indulging in our lives and in restraining ourselves when the time comes? How can we indulge in the beauty and juicy yumminess of a pose while also restraining ourselves into the alignment that will keep us from injury? I think it comes down to knowing your tendencies and doing what needs to be done to bring yourself to having greater joy in your life. For me, as I mentioned in the opening, I can get pretty darn rigid and stuck into my routines, my plans, my schedules, my responsibilities. I keep very close track of time. And I forget to indulge. I forget to enjoy a beautifully sunny day, to eat awesome desserts with abandon, to stay up too late so I can finish a book, or to stay out later than planned to be with friends while we're having fun. I forget to laugh aloud. So, for me in my asana I get easily caught in the alignment and forget the BLISSful fun of it all. Both on the mat and off my "work" is to remember to balance all this wonderful studious stuff with FUN and more of it. That's where I am. But others may be having so much indulgence as to forget all responsibilities. Their work is to come back the other way without losing the fun. Either way, when we are in that fleeting dynamic place of a balance of both indulgence and restraint a little window opens in our hearts where we realize this feels GOOD. And feeling good, as Tantra teaches, is part of who we are on a cellular level. And That is worth indulging in every single day.

So on that note, this year instead of giving up anything much for Lent. (I'm still eating chocolate from now until April and beyond) I'm actually using Lent as a reminder to come again back into balance in many many ways. Most especially, it's time to indulge in a little more fun and see what comes of it.

Contemplation: Where am I on the indulgence/restraint continuum? What could I do to bring more balance to both each day?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Party/Discipline/Supernatural Powers/The End of the World... AKA a weekend with John Friend

So does the title sum it up? If you've been with John Friend before, you know it's a wild ride. This trip to Miami was only my 4th time to workshop with him but already I knew, my job was to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride, because there's no predicting where he'll go. I mean, I certainly wasn't expecting lectures on the supernatural powers gained from practice or on the interplay between Astrophysics, Quantum physics and Human consciousness (actually, I wasn't surprised about that last one). And so on arrival, I strapped myself in, Opened to Grace and waited to have my mind and body blown. I was not disappointed.

Because there always seems to be so much interest in "what he said" I'll give you the brief run down by session of what I gleaned from the 4 sessions of the Intermediate/Advanced workshop in Miami over the last weekend in February.

Session 1: Let's Party. -- Seriously, I could barely get any yoga in with all the laughing going on. Let's just say the central Americans and spicy Miami folks know how to bring the fiesta. This was such a HUGE contrast to the vibe in PA last year where the room was filled with East Coasters and the NYC/NJ crowd. I'll take Miami any day. The theme for the tour is Dancing with the Divine and this first session was totally centered in that theme. It was mainly an invitation to back off and let the Grand Dancer (Shiva/Shakti) lead. Of course, you can't just totally let go and become wishy-washy, but you tie your own efforts to the flow of Grace and then go with the flow of Grace, not against her. Essentially, tie your will to the guide of the Divine. Always let the Shakti lead. With that, backbend as much as you like!

Session2 : Discipline -- This was the stabilizing force to the freedom of the morning. The theme was Adhikara (studentship) and John worked through the different levels of studentship as they relate to the elements. Earth, Water, Air, Fire. The practice was an intense forward fold and hip opening class with 3 rounds of Hanumanasana on each side held for 2 minutes per side. He said that the longer you hold your discipline, the longer you hold yourself to the high standard or the heart quality you are trying to cultivate (fire, passion, grounding ... etc.) if you can hold yourself to it for at least 2 minutes then you will create a new pathway. You are laying down the groundwork for you to have that quality more readily off the mat, especially in challenging times. He also had Minosh (forgiveness on the spelling!) tell about the symbolism of Ganesha. The most interesting point being that Ganesha is less a Remover of Obstacles but more a check point. Ganesh IS an obstacle. It is he who grants you the ability to continue or not on the path you are taking. So as you pray to Ganesh, John says, pray not to have your challenges removed, pray for the strength to overcome them.

Session 3: Supernatural powers -- Ok, here's where we start to get freaky people. Just kidding. If someone took this out of context you could get freaked out or big headed, but, it is John Friend , what else do we expect? THe question came about Laghima (lightness) which he'd spoken about on the previous day. John then explained that in Patanjali's sutras in chapter 3 Patanjali talks about how the yogin will gain supernatural powers (siddhis) from the practice. The practice was focused on the first 4. The powers of being very small, very large, very heavy, or very light. To illustrate what is meant by this John told a story about Gurumayi and how she is a small woman but whenever he spoke with her he had the feeling of looking up to her. I feel the same way about Todd. He's a small man but he is huge in the space, he fills the room. So our practice was huge work with Muscular and particularly ORGANIC energy. Getting very grounded and heavy in order to become light. The practice was backbending, hand balancing and handstands into urdhva dhanurasana. whew! He did say that the siddhis were not usually taught until a person had reached a certain stage of initiation and humility and restraint in yogic study. This is because these 4 are not the only 4 and as you go deeper things get pretty powerful. But he said, times are changing, the world is speeding up and we don't have time to waste. So, he entrusted us to use our awareness for good at all times. And if you want to know more on the rest of the powers i suggest picking up Patanjali.

Session 4: The End of the World -- Well, not really the end of the world. John spoke a lot about how scientists are discovering the very same principles are at work both in quantum physics and in astrophysics. Things like matter being organized around an emptiness/black hole that sucks into apparent nothing but most likely has the opposite of itself on the other side. This organization is mirrored in our bodies in the way our tissues spiral. It is mirrored in our consciousness as well and in our abilities to create our realities. This was a fun and funny talk because he'd say something really mind blowing and then gestured like he was smoking a joint and say "dude". or another time he said something deep and a student said "and... savasana" I write that this was the 'end of the world talk' because he briefly commented on the Mayan calendar and on a desire to be in Mexico for December 2012. He said he was going to speak more on these things later in the tour. So, there's still more to come. This was another hip opening practice. Sundial pose, hanuman, lotus, lotus on your knees with your hand on your partner's shoulder, leg behind the head pose was the final one. Well, and Savasana.

As you can see it was a full and mind-opening and really Heart Opening weekend. I feel the reverberation of being with him and the kula bouncing around in my energy bodies and am trying not to lose that. I wish I could've stayed longer but I do what I can. Here's looking forward to studying with him again in New Orleans in the fall.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

All fun and games

Today I had the gift (and it truly was a gift) of teaching a class of about 20 high school students one of my colleagues works with. They have been studying yoga as a part of an in depth study and this week is an in-depth week of practicing.
What do you teach high school students that you'll only see ONE time? (and how do you do it without saying embarrassing things like pelvis, giggle giggle) It is daunting and totally easy at the same time.
It was a crazy day in my life. Wake up, meditate, take care of child, grocery shop, lunch, go get babysitter, put child in for nap, drive to the class like a madwoman and hunt all over for parking. I don't feel stressed all that often, so when I do, it is like a full on attack on my system. I did NOT get to practice and that's never the place I want to start from for teaching. When I arrived, I was tired, stressed, lacking a plan, and to be honest I just didn't really want to be there. I was not as enthused as I'd been when I'd taken on the task.
And then, my day totally shifted. What is the theme for high school students that will totally encapsulate Anusara without getting all airy-fairy or anatomical on them. I just went back to the heart of why I practice Anusara and what brought me to it in the first place. Life, is good. end of story. Life is a good thing, and we're here to enjoy it and have fun. So let's DO IT.
With that in place as our backdrop these kids ROCKED IT OUT! They were good kids and super willing to give everything a shot for me. We took the head of the armbones back in every pose and soon they were in half-handstand, half-vasisthasana, and even finally in Urdhva Dhanurasana with a partner. They did giggle from time to time, they are in high school still. But they also supported each other in tree pose with their eyes closed, and graciously demoed any pose I asked them to do. And they totally lifted my spirits.
To be honest, part of why I enjoy teaching is that I really enjoy sharing about Anusara. I love to spark people's interest and get excited about doing yoga. I love to see people try new things and to feel the energy coming back from them when I see that they're hooked in and invested. So even if I didn't get to roll out my mat today and the rest of the day felt overly full and cramped, for this hour I felt uplifted, energized, and happy. And, as John says, Happiness is one of the greatest reasons to do our practice. Score!