Falling in love again…

Chai and I Post Practice 2008

Chai and I Post Practice 2008

I had my first Ashtanga class on 2/11/2007 at 11:45 on a Sunday. The class was called Basics of Ashtanga (thanks to mindbody for that date).

During that class (where there were only 2 of us and the teacher), I remember how difficult the class was and at the end I decided I would sign up for their 6 week basics series. I had also found my primary teacher; whom I still practice with to this day. I fell in love with this practice for a good 2.5 years. I graduated from led classes to mysore practice. I had a pretty stable 6 day a week practice of full primary and was in the best mental and physical shape of my life at 29.

It was in 2009-2012 that I started to venture off the road of Ashtanga.  I had enrolled in a 200hr teacher training and was testing the waters of other practices. See, I had an injury that I blamed on the practice (which is a whole other story, but in the end it wasn’t the practice at all). And to be honest I was bored. Much later down the line and with the guidance of the yoga sutras I realized it is just one of the obstacles of any spiritual journey/practice.

I am very lucky to have a teacher who is always there encouraging my return the mysore room and always with open arms and no judgment. As my practice would fluctuate from 2009-2012; so would my “growth” on and off the mat.  I was literally all over the place; mentally and physically. I had very little structure or routine. It began to show in 2013 when I didn’t have the grounded judgment or mental strength needed to work through some difficult situations.

I ended up back in the mysore room late in 2013. Still surrounded by the same faces I saw back in 2007. The community of a mysore room is always encouraging and providing their silent support through the practice. It was during David G’s workshop in October that my passion for the practice was truly re-ignited again. The weekend workshop left me craving that steadiness I would gain after a full practice. It would then carry me through out my chaotic work day and into my evening with a steady frame of mind.

Of course coming back to such a demanding practice now 5 years older and not as strong has it obstacles and the ego…well that reared its ugly with mental chatter like:

I used to do ______ pose so easily now it isn’t close to impossible. Why are my knees no longer able to bend with ease? My backbends suck now! See this is what happens when you’re lazy Flo…

Luckily I got it in check and now it only shows up from time to time, but not nearly as loud as before. A teacher once told me my facial expressions and gestures (like shaking my head at myself) was part of my practice. Part of a mental habit I needed to break. Oh so true….I was judging myself throughout  my entire practice. Bad lady.

So, over the last 6 months I’ve gradually gotten back to my roots. Practicing only 2-3 days half primary in the beginning and now back to fully primary (with many modifications) 6 days a week. I began to actually enjoy practice again. However, I am still working on getting up at 5:30AM to practice prior to work rather than fitting it in later in the day. That is still a work in progress.

Fast forward to my birthday weekend of March 2nd, 2014. I attended David Swenson’s workshop in Atlanta. This was even more fuel to my ashtanga flame. Being around a senior teacher that has been practicing this method longer than I have been breathing on this planet in this current body was pure inspiration. His hilarious approach to the practice reminded me of finding the joy in the practice. That you can have a disciplined practice that brings both steadiness of mind and a sense of joy.

As David shared with us: “Some teachers have taken the ashtanga practice and removed all the joy out it. They’ve made it into a tool that we use to beat ourselves up with. When it should be a way to create happiness and joy”

The under-rated yoga…YIN

yin and yangI teach two classes a week; a Vinyasa/Power class and a “Flow and let go” which is an hour of vinyasa and 30 min of yin/meditation/pranayama. Typically my vinyasa class would be packed and the flow and let go would get a decent turn out. However, vinyasa always drew the larger crowd. I use to avoid any slow flow/yin/restorative classes. It wasn’t “My thing” when I first started practicing. Granted, I was mid twenties and wanting a workout and to sweat. But, after teacher training in 2010 I did admit to myself that I did enjoy yin; when taught right from time to time.

Lately, I am enjoying my vinyasa practice. But, stress from being sick, behind at work, my transmission dieing, snow day after snow day, and then this spider bite that I am now on an antibiotic for 10 days!! Can I tell you I crave a little yin. Some time to use my practice as meditation and to get deep into places vinyasa just can’t touch! Don’t get me wrong, I have taken some yin classes in the past that just fell short. But then…during my teacher training Shala renewed my faith in this practice.

Also, Tiffany Cruikshank teaches many great yin classes on Yogaglo. This class is what I got on my mat and dug into today. Open the Side body

For many people they can’t slow down the busy train. They can’ t stop, and realize that balance is key to optimal health. Mental, physical and spiritual. You need that balance. The Yin and the Yang.  So if you have a very strong practice that focuses a lot on vinyasa make sure you do something to balance yourself out. Meditation, yin, restorative, slow mindful walks.

Back to my class, last week the flow and let go class drew over 19 students! It was a packed house. It might be catching on!

Don’t Get Attached

So, my 2014 mantra was changed for my be life itself. “Don’t get attached”

good or badWell, January was off to a good start. I had my personal goals and intentions. Then…life decided differently. I was quickly put into a place where I couldn’t be attached to my expectations or my own “intentions”.

Nothing too serious, but enough to make me take notice. The 1st Sunday in January I went to mysore practice; getting back into a routine of checking in my local teacher a minimum of once a week. (I drive an hour to the shala. My personal goal is once a week get my booty up there to check in)

Janu CDuring janu sirsasana c (nothing out of the ordinary) my left hamstring had a slight “pop.” It was more of “what was that?” than “Ow!”. So I moved on through the practice paying attention. Told my teacher about it. Seemed no big deal.

Next morning I woke up with a stiff hamstring, but again nothing too discerning. So I practiced very modified for a few days; since folding forward was uncomfortable I had to modify. That went on for 3 days or so. I also did R.I.C.E. in the evening to help. So by Thursday I was good and back to my full home-practice. However, Friday morning I woke up with a UTI and made an appointment that day to see my Dr…no one likes to go into the weekend with that kind of pain. I was put on Cirpoflaxcin and my pharmacist told my “no exercise.” I inquired about yoga and was told “Someone your age called in after moving furniture when their tendon popped. So I wouldn’t.” Really, well that isn’t what I wanted to hear. So I am on the antibiotic for 5 days. Thanks life. It decided I needed a 2 week modified low key practice period.

attachedBut, how I reacted is the real work here. I first found myself really upset, frustrated and angry at my body. Why couldn’t you keep up with “my plans”. Why are you throwing my schedule off? I made goals, I made promises to myself. Come on get with the plan! Then I moved on to “Woe is me.”

But, I realized how unhealthy this whole mental loop was. VERY!! I realized this was what I needed to learn. This is my “go to” reaction for situations like this. So obviously “Don’t get attached” is my lesson this go-round.  I tried to force myself to mysore yesterday. But was woken up by the pain moving into my kidneys. Meaning…take note. Take rest. Take care. The practice is not going anywhere. You have your whole life. You are practicing for wellbeing and as a spiritual path.

So, I took several hot baths. Drank so much herbal tea, water, cranberry (all natural no sugar), ate garlic and took a long nap on a heating pad. This morning there is still some pain, but by the time I finish this round of antibiotics on Wednesday I should be good.

imagesCAP8LE85I get it. It is a fork in the road. A mini break from something that is going to be with me a lifetime; this path and this practice. It is a time to take stock and take care. Realizing that this is how life is. There will be more serious injuries down the road with longer resting periods. There will be more serious illness in life. But, the real spiritual practice is not solely on the sticky mat. Sometimes the practice is not being attached.

And this video/interview is a real reminder.

2013 the good, the bad, the good-bye.

New MoonTomorrow is the new year; 2014! Also, a new moon. New moons are a wonderful time to set intentions for yourself. With both colliding and cohabiting on the same day; seems like a better time as any to set forth your intentions for this year.

However, I need to let go of what didn’t work in 2013. It was an “okay” year. Not bad, not goo. Just really “okay”.

I had a lot of great moments and not so wonderful ones as well. Some highlights The babiesof my year included raising a puppy! Oliver has brought a lot of laughter and destruction into our life. The destruction of course being merely cosmetic things like shoes, rugs and toys. But his happiness and insanely strong personality created a lot of wonderful funny memories for this year. Another highlight was Chai’s complete recovery from a splenic torsion as well as Mast Cell tumor. This one lands on both the good and not so good list. But in the end it was wonderful to hear she is healthy and having Oliver around puts a little more spunk in her daily life!

Some other major pluses this year was job security! My job is in Finance/Real Estate and with all the ups and downs over the last few years; 2013 was stable and actually a really great year for our business. It was the first year in some time we did not have to struggle financially to make ends meet every month. I am very grateful for this. As someone who has felt the blow to the economy VERY strongly I cherish having a job that I can return to daily. Even if it is a stressful one at times.

usOne of the greatest memories from 2013 was celebrating 10 years of marriage with my husband. He and I have been through it all! And celebrating such a milestone and knowing I am so very blessed for a wonderful husband and friend. Someone who laughs with me (and sometimes at me), someone who supports my yoga path and is typically right along side me when I want to try to change things up in regards to health and well being. He is my rock. I love that man.

Also, this year I was able to see friends and family a bit more. I hope that continues on into 2014!

But, 2013 had some real bumps in the road too. Chai’s surgeries (multiple) cost us our entire savings; but of course we wouldn’t have thought twice about it. It was needed and we were lucky to have the funds. Our house is in need of some major repairs, my yoga practice really hit some tough spots.  I struggled through (and not gracefully I might add) some reluctance with my practice. Where my practice (asana) was really one to two days a week. In turn my body suffered. Weak, weight gain and stiffness all settled in and made my body their home for a good 6 months.

But, with a compassionate approach over the last few months I have dug out from under it. I slowly integrated back into my practice. Being patient (still working on this) and kind to myself. Being HONEST with myself and allowing my practice to be exactly where it is NOW not where it was years ago.

So, I begin to slowly clean my own lens; to see things as they are. Truly accepting here and now. I look to 2014 not with some whimsical idea that all is going to be perfect, amazing and so much better than 2013. It would be great if that was true. However, I look to 2014 as a time to strengthen myself. Not just in the physical sense, but in all aspects. Working to strengthen my resolve to take care of myself, to really do the work to become a stronger healthier me. Physically, mentally and emotionally.

I have aspirations and goals; as I am sure you do as well. However, I tend to over-complicate things…often. So I am keeping it simple. While journaling the 5 most important things in my life today this came out:

  1. Health
  2. Marriage
  3. Family/friends (because to me good friends ARE family)
  4. My pups
  5. Yoga

So, it only makes sense that they remain the focus. After all each of the above create the frame work of having a satisfying and happy life.

So to keep it simple I intend to:

  1. Honor my family and friends. Make an effort to show up more, be present and enjoy the moments together. HONOR MY COMMITMENTS! Laugh more. Cuddle more. Take longer walks. Travel more.
  2. Have a dedicated yoga practice. Using David G’s alchemical recipe: 1) long term 2) consistent 3) with great vitality and ardor. (I have to add that finally practicing with David in 2013 was a highlight. I am so enamored with his approach to Ashtanga)
  3. Health- over hall my body, cupboards, fridge and life. To understand what is and is not working for me. Do some research (I am starting with Macrobiotics. I just ordered a cookbook and pressure cooker. Wish me luck!)

2013; you know you weren’t so bad. You taught me ALOT! I was forced to work through some things that I refused to come to terms with. It was time. A lot of lessons learned. I am grateful for that. I am happy to have experienced you. Now, as I say goodbye to the past. I am greeting the future with a smile, a simple plan and no expectations.

PEACE.

2014

New year New me

new-year-new-me1-300x300The title of the post sounds cliché’ I know. However, when Thich Nhat Hanh/Plum Village shared this post with practice phrases for 2014:

New year New me

Joy Within, Joy all around

I really liked it. Simple yet profound. Each year people set goals, resolutions & intentions. I don’t have a yearly routine, but I usually like to at least start the year off with a positive intention. This year I invited a group of fellow yoga friends to join me in a 30 day detox. I have done this one before, and really enjoyed it. It is Optimal Health for a vibrant life- A 30 day program to detoxify and replenish body and Mind.

Optimal HealthI like this book for many reasons. Mainly because this is doable. It isn’t overly restrictive. It is focused on yoga, meditation and pranayama. It is something you can do anywhere as long as you have the book and your mat. I also like that the book focuses each week on a different part of your life/body to detox. It has a wealth of information on nutrition, yoga, myofacial release, daily rituals to incorporate into your life. Overall it is a detox that you can do and wont bail half way through! You can join online with the Facebook Page and chat with others with any questions you might have. I am excited that several of my yoga buds jumped in. I also practice solo at home a lot and purchase the classes that go along with the book for $50. The cool thing is you download the classes on your computer/tablet and have them all year round. Tiffany also has other detox classes on yogaglo too if you don’t have access to yoga classes.  You can watch the Introduction to it here:

http://www.yogaglo.com/ppv_1716.html

The reason I am sharing this is the new year is 12 days away! Time to really start thinking past the presents, food, drinks and parties. Time to get in the mindset of preparing yourself for a wonderful year ahead. I encourage everyone to find something they want to do in January to help them start and create the new year new you that will bring you happiness and health!

Video

Headstand Challenge Day 5- Alternating split leg

December headstand challenge continues on :) Disregard my wrapped food (from a running related injury)

December Headstand Challenge Day 2 & 3

So this challenge has been a fun one so far. I mainly practice ashtanga, so venturing off after practice for this challenge has been fun! For the first 2 years of my practice I could not hold headstand. I was scared to death of it. Really I was more worried of falling out it and taking the person next to or in front of me out. And I am sure I came close a few times.

So this headstand challenge is something fun I decided to end my year with. As I haven’t participated in any other “online challenges”. Why not?

Here are Days 2 and 3. You can follow along in instagram! @southerndharma or @yogawithfay

I am leaving the details of how to enter and exit these poses up to Fay; mainly because it is her challenge and I am merely following along. So go to her instagram account to join in!

Day 2: Headstand challenge day 2: Headstand prep.

Headstand day2

Day 3: Headstand challenge day 3: Headstand prep using the wall.

Headstand Day 3