Monday, March 26, 2012

Friday, March 23, 2012


Grateful today for....amplification!

Lately, I'm finding that practice digs out whatever the state of my mind is and amplifies it. It's as if the practice is making absolutely sure that current actual state of mind and nervous system are blasted from the body's speakers louder than the stories I tell myself. If I'm irritated, it's reflected back at me 10-fold. If I'm energized, frustrated, excited or depressed, it all comes back at me.

This sort of "in your face" presentation of the state of my mind and nervous system is not always welcome in the moment...I'm still working on that. But really, when I'm having a moment of raw honesty, I'd rather know.

If I can see it, hear it, and taste it, then I can get to know it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Whew! Where did a week go???

For the past few weeks, I've been focusing on all that I am grateful for within and surrounding the Ashtanga practice. It's interesting to me that I'm in the midst of a longish stretch of both physical and mental discomfort in practice and yet I'm at the same time more grateful than ever that it is there.

During the actual asana practice I feel like I'm alternating between a piece of stiff taffy being stretched from both ends that just won't give and a porcupine with all quills out and on guard. Right about the time for an attempt at kapotasana, I feel like I'm choking. From the outside, it sounds like the breath is light and even. From the inside, it feels like I've swallowed an apple whole and it's stuck.

...and yet I wouldn't trade any of that for anything. Amidst all the tugging and self-resistance is emerging a clearer picture of what exists below the surface. I can choose to leave all the "stuff" there, hidden underwater. I can stuff in down farther, gloss it over, or paint it a different color, but it is still there. Likewise, I can find some activity to dull the discomfort of what is (food, drink or internet anyone?!), but that doesn't change it.

Tim Feldman had a great article on Elephant Journal recently that very articulately discussed the perception that a yoga practice should somehow always leave you "happy".

Tim has this to say: "Yoga aims at bringing light towards what really is and to find the courage to see clearly and the peace to accept whatever arises without the necessity to remove or change it. If grief is there, if anger is there or if pride is there, our yoga practice is sure to slowly strip away the layers of subconscious veils in a timely fashion, appropriate to what we can handle. Methodically, like a surgeon’s scalpel we uncover years of psychological armor, escapism and denial and by doing so we slowly reclaim a life beyond it all.

 Even though we rarely like to admit it, we are all the kind of person who runs away from our fears, denies our anger and blocks out our selfishness only to justify the whole story to your own advantage."

Mental and physical ease in asana practice come and go. They change with the seasons and they change as life changes.

I might add to what Tim explored in his article. For sure the comings and goings of discomfort as layers are peeled back is a normal part of an honest may also be one of the only places I will not be judged for it. There is little space among work, home, and other life interactions for staying with the "unpleasant" emotions. We are encouraged to change them, fix them as they make everyone else uncomfortable too...

For brief moments in practice lately, I've a had a pause where I remembered at that moment, I didn't need to fix anything, I could just be there. That time was dedicated to just being there. It was in those moments where the pressure to "fix it" lifted, that there was quiet and ease. For that and for all that practice brings up, I am grateful.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Ok, show of hands, anyone else sleep-walking through practice this week?

Stating that I am not a fan of the spring time change would definitely be an understatement. I find it downright painful every year and it takes me about 4 weeks to fully adjust...ick.

All the same though, I still love early morning practice. The bonus for starting a bleary, post-time change, early-morning practice, is that I'm too sleepy to think. Instant mental quiet!

One of things I'm most grateful for once I shake off the sleepiness and get started, is the solitude. No one wants anything from me at 5am. :-)

Sunday, March 11, 2012


We never really know what effects the small, and not so small, actions that we take will have.

More than 10 years ago now, I was taking "vinyasa flow" classes at the local yoga studio when one teacher started teaching a once-a-week traditional led Ashtanga primary series class.

I tried the class. It kicked my butt. My life changed forever.

It sounds so melodramatic when we say "this practice changed my life", but anyone of us with a consistent practice knows that it has and did. This practice has a way of reordering our lives and generally for the better. One of my friends recently said "I know this practice will carry me through anything". Yes, it has, and it will.

Fast forward from 10 years back to present time. I moved away from the town where I was first introduced to the Ashtanga practice. I met my teachers. I moved back to the town where I first met my practice. I left the town where my teachers lived. I wanted to explore sharing the practice. I started to teach Mysore classes. here I was back in the town where I was first introduced to this amazing practice and serendipitously, I found the person who first introduced me to this practice, still teaching.

...and from his example I met a true expression of generosity.

He welcomed me into his classes and graciously supported me teaching in this same town as well. I have always felt comfortable enough in his classes to do an honest practice. I have had the wonderful benefits of being absorbed into the Ashtanga community that he is responsible for starting.

This Ashtanga path has kept me energized and honest through many ups and downs. The person responsible for getting me started on this path is taking a break from teaching, after 15 years, so I wanted to write a post to send some waves of gratitude out there for him and for all the teachers that quietly do their thing. They may not make the magazine covers, but they show up, they teach their classes, and they change lives.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Not Thinking

Ahhhh....a nice, quiet, meditative practice. I am so grateful for the mental quiet.

The time I set aside on the mat for "not thinking" is a relief, especially in the times when drama is swirling around. During that time on the mat, I'm not responsible for thinking up great ideas and I'm not responsible for solving complicated problems. My only "job" is to follow the breath. Amongst the busy life-stuff, it's a relief to know that once I step onto the mat, for the next hour or two, all I have to do is breathe.

Nancy Gilgoff said something at the Confluence that stuck with me. She said: (paraphrasing here) when you notice yourself thinking, pick up the pace of the breath until it's occupying your attention again and your mind has stopped getting in the way.

I'm having fun exploring this; I'm playing with mind and breath.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Back from the Confluence

I'm back from the Confluence. I'm happy to say that I got what I went there for.

Last fall at registration time I posted about my reasons for going to the Ashtanga Yoga Confluence.

I said this: "More than anything else, during the 4 days, I am looking forward to hearing
about the work that they put in to make such lightness possible. I've seen video
clips of asana demonstrations by most of the teachers that will be at the
Confluence workshop and they are beautiful to watch, but it is their lightness
and ease in life that has impressed me far beyond what they can accomplish on
the mat.

It is that lightness and ease in life that captured my attention over the 4 days. The Confluence came at a good time for me personally. Personal drama ratcheted up in the days before getting on the plane to San Diego, so that I was mentally screaming when it was finally time to pack the bags.

I left with two questions:
1) How do I do this with some semblance of equanimity?....practice, teach, work, maintain my relationships...
2) Is it worth the work to try?

I came back with some answers:
1) Sometimes you don't do this with any kind of equanimity. Somewhat like asana practice, life practice is often a teeter totter between effort and ease, which refuses to balance steadily on a point. You keep trying, note that you feel like nothing is changing, and are astonished when it does.
2) Yes, yes, and again yes.

I'm grateful to the those who had the idea to try to pull this event together. I'm grateful to the teachers for sharing their talents in the Mysore room, but really more importantly for sharing some of their lives with us. I'm grateful to all of those who have dedicated their lives to sharing this practice. It is this practice that is able to push me towards the most honest expression of my life and for that I am grateful as well.

Friday, March 2, 2012


...I'm spending a few days here: Ashtanga Yoga Confluence

The larger Ashtanga family has gathered here for a few days and I'm delighted to be a part of it.

Tim Miller says it this way: "Most of these folks I have met at some point, either through their attendance at a workshop I taught in their area or their participation in a teacher -training course or retreat. It feels a bit like a family reunion—nieces and nephews and cousins all coming together for a big celebration. My fellow teachers at the Confluence are like brothers and sisters that I rarely get a chance to spend time with."

Indeed it is a family and I am grateful that this practice is one that inspires and supports community. I am traveling with my husband who is braving all the yoga chit chat to join me on this trip as well as several friends/students who are also part of my family as I see it.

I'm feeling surrounded by love and am grateful for all who are a part of this family.

"There’s a gathering of spirits
There’s a festival of friends
And we’ll take up where we left off
When we all meet again"
-Carrie Newcomer