Author Archives: findingyoga

Check out my first two Elephant Journal Articles:

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Food Tips for Traveling Yogis

The Joy Formula


Let me know what you think and what you are most curious about reading more about!

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Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Today started off as the adult version of the terrible, horrible, no good very bad day in every possible way. I roll out of bed after not enough sleep, and into the car to spend forty-five minutes driving around my neighborhood looking for alternate side parking– getting stuck behind garbage trucks and eight wheelers dropping off their deliveries, after taking every wrong turn possible to no avail. I make a deal with the universe in my head (although, I have no idea what might have been in this for the universe) if I don’t find a spot in five minutes I’ll drive to work today (ugh). Ok, how about seven minutes? The universe is not making deals with me today, as I turn onto a street that has half an hour left, ok, the universe is making compromises. Half an hour to shower, change, grab something (which ends of being coffee) and get ready for the day. I return thirty-two minutes later, after running down the street spilling coffee everywhere, to a sanitation vehicle man writing a ticket.
I guess I won’t have to drive, as I am paying for the spot which yields the cranky-crowded-rude- pushy-occasional-absolutely-crazy-person-commute-we-are-delayed-because-of-train-traffic-now-i-am-late section of the day. So I begin wondering why do I live here? A little week ago I was stretching on the beach in North Carolina, contemplating how forgiving and supportive the sand was of my splits pose and the tight outer leg of my pigeon pose, meditating on the ocean horizion and basking in the wonder of the sun. The month before that I was hiking, cooking with friends and living in the woods… This transition back to my reality is not going very well, I am feeling. And I can’t stop asking why AM I living in New York City?
I ponder the question throughout the day as my body gets more tense and unpleasant email conversations arise at work; and though the sun is indeed shining on the New York City, I am inside in a terribly chilly office, as I get more cranky, crazy-feeling, caffeine-driven and intense feeling. A couple meetings and crunchy back later I am on my way home.
I decide that I could be committed to thinking about and wallowing in the horrible, terrible, no-good, very bad day– or not… and a subtle, yet perceptible shift begins to occur, I notice some things that make me smile: the woman with a huge bird ring on her finger; the guy reading The Alchemist on the train; all the different shades of skin color on the subway; the funny-crazy person; the clouds above the apartment building across the street; the farmers market peach i shared with my friend; teaching yoga; my friends’ new dog; a piece of pizza after eleven pm; that the studio doesn’t move (like sand does) under my handstand practice. None of these things from the beginning of the day until the end mean anything, but by the meaning, the perspective I choose to give. It is powerful, and so very difficult.
I am committing to keeping up with this blog, at least once a week, because time moves so quickly here, there is hardly a chance to absorb the experiences– let alone reflect, and I don’t want it to slip through my hands un-remembered. Good or otherwise.

Bridges, Magic and a Cranky Wrist Oh My!

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A few months ago I started noticing there was a little discomfort in my wrist even in a mild pose like hands & knees (also known as table pose).  I would slightly change the poses at the beginning of my yoga practice to alleviate the discomfort.  Then, one day about a month I couldn’t put weight on my left wrist with my palm on the floor at all.  In the past, when I have experienced a mild to medium dis-ease or borderline injury I have taken the opportunity to take a full-fledge break– switching to running, swimming or pilates.  Injuries are always frustrating, confusing and sometimes something so small seems to take over my life, especially because I am professional yoga teacher.  This one was no different, although this time I was downright indignant.  I teach four to five classes a week and need to practice before I teach.  Many of my yoga teachers have often spoken about learning from your injury, teaching from the wisdom that it can offer.  This was always a hypothetical for me, and I figured that was after you returned to full health.  I was feeling gimpy, inadequate and frustrated as I wondered “How can you practice from that? How can you teach from that?!”  Life and my classes were continuing with or without me.

Focus on what you can do, Not what you can’t
I finally decided, after a visit to my acupuncturist, that I would stay away from putting weight on my wrist in extension for a month.  This removed plank, chaturanga (the yoga push-up), arm balances and handstands from my daily practice; which was a big part of my day to day routine.  After a week, I suddenly noticed I was occasionally demonstrating these poses in class (this would become the most difficult hurdle in my recovery).  The commitment to myself was going to be harder than I expected, until I shifted my focus to other poses: balancing and extension poses like utthita padagustansana (hand to big toe pose); forearm stand; frog; headstands; the list goes on and on.  I was focusing on flexibility and opening up my shoulder girdle, which brought a new softness to my personal yoga practice and teaching.  My change in perspective was opening up new possibilities and altered my emotional state as well by focusing on the positive, rather than the one perceived negative.

And then don’t blame the bridge…
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Our attitude toward a place of injury is usually quite negative and often places blame.  It is common to hear the phrase, “oh this is my problem shoulder” or “I have a bad knee”.  This phrase-ology would fundamentally imply that the knee itself did something wrong of its own volition.  My Tai Chi says a chronic knee injury is due to a argument between your hips and ankles. We would never accuse a bridge blown up as a casualty of a war, a “bad bridge”– so the same perspective can be applied to the knee, shoulder, back, whichever part of the body ails you, especially if it is a joint. For the knee problems strengthening the ankle and opening up the flexibility of the hip to discover the proper alignment of the knee in athletic pursuits and daily habits many ails can be fixed from within.  It may take years and many of us don’t want to listen that carefully, thoroughly and mindfully to the whispering creaks until they incapacitates the whole body.  I can’t blame my wrist it is a small relatively weak joint that must overcompensate for my tight shoulder girdle, and that I often push myself through a strong practice.
  
Magic?
We can switch from a position of blame to one of curiosity and compassion.  Many of my AcroYoga colleagues refer to a place of injury, or or dis-ease as “magical” because that place holds so much potential: an opportunity to listen deeply to the whispering discomforts of the body; to repattern that which is not working; to learn from within how to be more compassionate, nurturing and kind to our bodies first and foremost.  It can be easier, for me, to be nicer to others than it is to be nicer to myself, so if I am really truly kind to myself in every way that I need, I wonder how much easier it will become to be more friendly, generous and considerate to others?

Raw Almond Milk

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My favorite recipe of the week: easy, empowering, fun and so good to know that it came from happy bees and is ALL good for me.  I love knowing exactly what I am putting in my body without anything extra.   I am lucky to live in Santa Barbara source my almonds from a local farm: Fat Uncle Farms (http://funclefarms.blogspot.com/).  Please please please for the sake of the honeybees if you go to the trouble of getting raw organic almonds “go that extra mile” and find out about the living situation of the bees (or just order from Fat Uncle…).  This recipe came from the beekeeper/farmer’s market stall lady Julie. Thank you Julie!

  • Soak 1/2 pound of raw organic almonds in 8 cups filtered water for 6-8 hours with a little bit of raw honey.  Optional:Go to sleep or sing and dance to the honey almond water.
  • Pour the mixture into a cuisinart or blender and mash it up.  Pour the almond mash through a cheesecloth into a bowl and then squeeze all the milky almond juice into the bowl. 
  • Drink the fresh squeezed almond milk within 48 hours or freeze (the milk goes rancid, and now that you will know what it is really supposed to taste and feel like, you will notice).  Julie recommended placing in serving size portions in the freezer for later use. 

I will let you know what I figure out to do with the leftover almond mash, as soon as I figure it out. I am thinking about baking something up…

Enjoy!

Redefining Guilty Pleasure

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I have been picking one yama or niyama (two of the eight limbs of yoga philosophy) a week to focus on in my reading, meditation and yoga classes. This week is astheya— which usually translates as non-stealing or non-covetess. I find this translation not very exciting and difficult to connect with. I can’t help thinking about stealing, things I want that I don’t have and what is lacking in my life– really the opposite of how I would like to spend my time. Luckily, one of my favorite authors (Nishala Joy Devi) offers a different translation that of astheya as generosity. I imagine myself filling with gratitude every time I breathe in and giving back every time I breathe out. Contented and serene as a part of the whole web of life with every breath.

I got to wondering how I could be more generous with myself– compassionate with my expectations, present in the moment and relaxed about self-judgement. The whole process took me from feeling lacking to feeling a lot more abundant. As I put my concentration on what I have and what I enjoy, the “guilt” in guilty pleasures fell away. Regret and guilt don’t serve me in my joyful breath cycle, thought cycle, practice cycle of generosity. Once I took the guilt away decisions came a little easier and pleasures became a little more enjoyable.

The mean reds

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This is the hardest time of year for me, even in “sunny Southern California” the days are shorter and a little colder. I find myself a little more anxious, worried, annoyed with day to day life. For some reason around now, everything mundane thing feels a little more difficult. I spend a week or two drowning in the frustration at myself about feeling frustrated– and then inevitably one day I remember this is a annual “thing”. I fantasize I could write myself a letter to send promptly that will arrive 365 days from now, to remind myself mid-January next year that I always feel somewhere between the blues and mean reds. And that the cure is simple: more meditation, more yoga, more sleep, less computer time and that I can be nicer to myself.

Maitri in Sanskrit or Metta in Pali translates as many things: loving-kindness, compassion, friendliness, benevolence, good will, friendship, the list goes on. Many of the translations make me think of doing things for others, and when I am in my current state of being I don’t like to think about doing nice things for others, or even thinking nice things for others (well, unless someone does something nice for me, then it is easy). My meditation teachers have revealed that Metta does not dictate that we first or only give this to others, but first we meditate/contemplate/ruminate on Metta towards your own self, your own being, your very life in this moment, right here right now. And from there the spiral of positivity can lead to outward as it will. Patanjali (the guy who wrote down the Yoga Sutras) even suggests that in place of asana, pranayama or meditation the practice of Maitri can be a powerful one on the road to a peaceful mind.

If visualization or meditation on the direct idea of Metta/Maitri doesn’t work for me in the beginning I like to recite this chant. It helps kick-start things if you will: lokah samasta sukinoh bhavantu— “May all beings have happiness and causes of happiness” (Wah! has a beautiful recording, if you need a little outside help kick-starting the process). And when I am really feeling cranky, irritable and wronged, I simplify it even more into this mantra– I want for you what I want for myself. Then I go back to my meditation seat, focus on my breath for a while and focus on sending some loving-kindness to myself.

So my question of the month is: how can you be a little nicer to yourself right here, right now? (If multiple answers pop up in your imagination, then you should give yourself permission to try them all with delight).

As the northern hemisphere slows down, shouldn’t we too?

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As we step into the proverbial holiday season, it feels like life puts its crazy hat on. My To Do List goes into hyper drive, and it seems like me, my body and I come absolute last to everything else in my life. I get a little crankier, less able to get out of bed, less focused and effective, and suddenly a lot of things seem to bother me more… I am finally beginning to see a connection between these aspects of myself growing into crazed monster proportions and the fact that my personal hatha practice falls into the gutter. So this week, I am going to try a holiday friendly experiment and put myself first, first thing in in day in three ways:
1. my yoga first. First thing in the morning, before food and everything else.
2. meditate
3. turn the computer off by 9pm

Just for the next week. I am going to invite the fire of tapas in to help me slow down. I will let you know how it goes.

Giving and Receiving

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“Just breathe and receive,” this experience, right now, good or bad. “Just breathe and receive”, has become my mantra more than any others in the past few months. Sometimes it is something really positive, an unexpected act of generosity or thoughtful kindness; sometimes I am “breathing and receiving” the enormity of an unpleasant situation or an unforeseen obstacle. Particularly in the more disagreeable moments the conscientious inhalation has allowed me to commune with the experience to: more fully learn from it; realize it wasn’t as bad as I thought; or completely let it go.

Just breathe and receive. Being in a place of learning to accept support and help, I have become more aware that so many of my friends, family members and colleagues are true givers from deep, kind and generous depths, even when it is exhausting for them to continue providing and supplying from energetic stores that have been depleted. It seems intrinsic in their spirits. They stretch wide to embrace so many other people to effect, heal, empower, provide for. Oftentimes, putting the needs and wants of others before their own. The flipside of this output, as I have experienced: it can been very, very hard to ask for help, to look for support in an interdependent kind of way and to receive it graciously.

One of my dear friends, recently got terribly ill. She is a powerful nurturer, phenomenal bodyworker, conscientious studio owner, amazing teacher who is constantly giving of herself to her students, her clients and her community near and far. She fell very sick in the midst of a training; which became an opportunity for a few of her colleagues to take care of her, and for another teacher to step into a spotlight in a beautiful way. And for the first time in a long time I believe she was able to rest. Her body knew more than her mind did that she would be meticulously taken care of.

In midst of crisis, trauma and emergency, we can look inside and be independent or learn how to ask for help. It becomes easier to ask for help when big things go down, when we practice in little ways everyday. One of my teachers says when you ask for help, you are simply giving another the opportunity to do something good. And I believe this is the only sustainable way to keep reaching out and spreading light. It feels so good to ask and receive (even if, for me, there is a bigger leap of faith than in knowing I can and will get it done myself).

As we are about to embark on the “season of giving” (because it begins after Halloween, now right?), I am looking forward enjoying the current shift in my perspective: to receive graciously. That maybe these next couple of months can be about giving and receiving, and the delight in the cycle.

Strength from Softness

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Last weekend, at Estes Park Yoga Journal Conference, I spent an illuminating day with Amy Ippoliti in her day long Anusara & Yoga Therapeutics Intensive. This weekend, I got my proverbial butt kicked at an AcroYoga & Acrobatics Intensive weekend with Jason Magness & Chelsey Gribbons. The two experiences could seem so distinctly on opposite sides of the yoga spectrum. I found myself in the middle of my awareness, face to face with my preconceived stories, looking over my edge at an abyss of what is and is not possible. And that the latter may not exist, if only my mind would allow.

I came away from Amy’s workshop with a delightful perspective on the power of Matrika Shakti, in my simple understanding, it is concept that words arise from your energetic body and reveal themselves as your universal truth (for more: http://spiritualhealingjourney.com/words-can-hurt-you/). That what you say, becomes your reality. For example, if you are always referring to your “bad knee”, than by your verbal/mental relationship gets stuck in that place and will continue to be what you will be living with/dealing with: a bad knee.

We explored a lot of movement, techniques for healing, but above all else: what are the words and stories surrounding your injuries? Amy would turn around commonly heard comments in a way that continues to make me laugh, instead of referring to a shoulder that always hurts, she would say “Hey, remember that shoulder thing I had. Wasn’t that weird?” It magnetizes space and a quirky curiosity to my expanding awareness, rather than frustrated expectation of my own healing, while also implying that the body being in health and able to heal itself is the norm.

Fast forward a few days to the beginning of the Acrobatic AcroYoga workshop. We were asked an introductory question: who would you be if you were a Superhero? The first answer that popped into my head (which is usually the right one right?) Bionic Woman, because she was transformed from a place of incapacitating injury to unbelievable strength and ability. I think I have this, I think we all have this capability, if only our thinking allows it to be so.

‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond imagination. It is our light more than our darkness which scares us. We ask ourselves – who are we to be brilliant, beautiful, talented, and fabulous. But honestly, who are you to not be so?…

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

– Marianne Williamson in Return to Love: Reflections on a Course in Miracles

During the next two days I came to observe the reflection of: what I am comfortable with; what my body can accomplish easily; how I react when I it comes not so easily; what happens when I get a little scared; and ultimately began to unravel my body-image-ability stories. I discovered I have a lot of stories, particularly those around situations that push my edge of discomfort into fear (when my mental mind knows there is no need and expects differently). Now I begin to move forward into an ever-so-slightly shifted relationship about myself with the tools of laughter and curiosity to soften my expectations, my fears, and dissolve the stagnating stories, from here a wellspring of strength flows.

Estes Park, Colorado

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I feel so blessed and grateful to be supporting my teachers and the AcroYoga practice at the Estes Park Yoga Journal Conference; surrounded by the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and so many amazing talented yoga peeps. The yoga, scenery, and hiking are simply amazing.

My friend and colleague, Amy and I, decided to depart for a hiking adventure late this afternoon with the lofty goal that we might go bouldering. We arrived as most other visitors were leaving. Geared up with some hot green tea in my Klean Kanteen and my five finger shoes we started walking up and up and up. The higher we went, the harder it was to walk and talk at the same time; and the more tempting each subsequent vista became, beckoning us to stop and soak in the scenery, the changing aspens in the late day light.

We found our destination, and it felt as if we had deliberately stumbled on a land before time. The rocky landscape felt exquisitely ancient and the trees felt more wise than others I had met. Maybe it had not been so wise to venture out so late in the day, but we delighted in the solitude as the lakes, mountains, trees and boulders seemed to exist for our appreciation alone.

Hours upon hours of asana practice and theory, at the Conference, had left me feeling open; but now I felt satiated, nourished, grounded. I had needed a hike like this for months, as well as the camaraderie and discussion of my hiking companion.

So healing, nourishing, relaxing and inspiring.

It was a reminder about what I need to take care of myself.