Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Celebration

I saw this video recently and it touched my heart...



For me, this captures the spirit of Christmas precisely...

giving
joy
peace
love

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Stabilization Mode

Another month has gone by...

Time seems to be flowing so quickly lately, it's hard to get my bearings.  There has been so much change that I don't know where to start.  So I don't.  If any of you out there still check this space, thank you for that.  I appreciate it more than you know.

So why don't I begin with what is constant and what this blog is all about?... yoga.  Always, yoga.

I got on my mat this morning and had a beautiful home practice that swelled to over 2 hours.  I haven't done that since before the layoff.  And it was beautiful not because of the poses but because I did it just for me.  I carved out that time.  I didn't take notes so that I cold prep a sequence to teach.  It was exactly what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it - like a gift.  That was the beauty.

So did I tell you I passed my teacher training?  Yup.  I got a 100% on the take-home final, the same on the in-class practical, and a 99% on the in-class written.  I'm teaching a Power Yoga class and a Hatha Yoga class at Total Woman now (a gym) and I'll have two classes on the schedule when the Hot Yoga place near my house opens up next month.  That will make four.  I'd like a few more, but for the time being those are perfect.

Teaching has been so surprisingly rewarding.  With over ten years experience leading group exercise classes and as a personal trainer in my past, I'm feeling a comfort and confidence in teaching yoga that I think I wouldn't have otherwise.  Obviously, I have a lifetime of ways to learn and grow as a teacher, but I feel so gratified to have started off on such a good foot.  In a way, I have the layoff to thank for that.  If it wasn't for Steve losing his job, I would never have propelled myself into the marketplace so quickly.  I'm grateful for the nudge.

The challenge has been carving out time for my own practice.  Teaching takes time.  All of my greeter shifts at YogaWorks take time.  Driving to those things takes time.  At the end of the day, I'm exhausted.  Plus these past two months I've covered more shifts and classes than I can count because, frankly, Steve and I need the money.  But after the holidays finally wind down, I'm going to see what things I can change/free up in my schedule.  Just fitting in practice around everything else and skipping days here and there is taking a toll.  It's not what I want.  If I can't practice, what is the point of this whole journey anyway?  No, my practice will move front and center come the new year - that's my promise to myself.

I feel like when Steve first got laid off we went into crisis-management mode.  For a few months, it was all about survival and how best to put one foot in front of the other on a sometimes hourly basis.  Now we're more in a stabilization mode.  We've gotten over the initial shock and loss and we've trimmed the fat wherever possible.  We're getting by.  Things aren't like they were before but we've settled into a new normal and life isn't all bad.  The next step will be to make changes to see what we can improve upon.  That's where we're headed in the new year.

The more and more we talk about it, the more likely it seems we're going to bid our house adieu and move into an apartment closer to town.  It just makes sense.  The hours and hours we both spend driving every day are taking a toll on us, on our cars, and on our time together.  Not to mention, the little time we do have is spent tending to the upkeep of the house, the yard, the pool.  The name of the game is SIMPLIFY and I think that's the direction we're heading next year.  And that supports my goal to make sure I get on my mat six days per week.  Less time spent on the road or doing chores means more time and energy for me and my yoga.

I'll stop here because this is already long enough, but now you know the gist of what's up with me.  I hope you're enjoying your holidays.  My plan is to write again before too much time elapses.  Once again, thank you for being here.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Doing Our Best

It's been a little over a month since last I wrote.  How life can fall apart so quickly?...

Shortly after my last post, Steve got laid off from his job of 20 years.  It was really unexpected.  My art career has added to our income over the years, but it was Steve's paycheck that we used to pay all of our bills.  So began the single most stressful period of our lives.  We weren't sure if we would lose our house.  We began a frantic search for apartments and jobs.  Everything I thought I knew was turned on its head in one fell swoop.  I felt adrift, afraid, depressed, full of anxiety, angry, ashamed, and oh - did I mention stressed?

To make a long story short, it looks like we'll be able to stay in our home.  Steve is now working a graveyard temp gig, so at least that's something.  It's not like we've seen a dime of unemployment in these 5 weeks either, thank you very much government.  I've picked up as many shifts as I possibly can at YogaWorks.  I feel like I don't have more than two minutes to rub together on any given day now.  I race around town going to work or to Teacher Training and then try to fit in my homework whenever I can.  At the end of the day I collapse into bed, exhausted.

Through it all, I've tried to show up on my mat as often as I feel able.  In truth, my practices have been fairly lousy.  I can't focus.  I feel tight and achey in pretty much every joint.  My body feels leaden as I try to move through sun salutations and then it only gets worse after that.  Plus, I miss the 6-days-per-week schedule I used to hold.  At best, I'm able to carve out 3 or 4 days for practice.  I realize that's better than nothing, but I still feel like crap.

Truth be told, I think I've been a little angry with yoga during this time.  No... now that I'm writing this, I realize I've been A LOT angry with yoga.  I assumed that my commitment to yoga should somehow allow me to sail through this time with nary a scratch.  I thought I would feel serene and centered and altogether detached from the gale that raged on around me.  Why?  Why couldn't I do that after devoting so much of myself to yoga?  If not now, then when?  Doesn't yoga owe me at least a modicum of groundedness, damn it?

Slowly though, I began to realize that yoga has helped me.  Maybe it isn't in some grand, undeniable, in-your-face fashion, but it's been there all the same.  I guess true to it's nature, yoga has worked on me and for me in much more subtle ways.  Yes I get on my mat and my body feels heavy and lethargic and tight.  But I do my best.  And my mat has been my refuge in which to do that.  For that single hour I have to give, that rectangular piece of rubber becomes my sanctuary.  It is my safe harbor in a stormy sea.  My arm balances might not be Olympic-caliber, but my mat allows me to be just who I am on any given day and then calls it perfect.  The only judgement there is my own and by showing up, I've begun to release some of the weight that I've placed upon my shoulders.  I can only do the best that I can and, in yoga at least, that's all that matters.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Settling In

I'm slowly settling into my new schedule and that feels good.  My new job at YogaWorks is going well.  I've completed a couple of solo shifts now and am feeling more comfortable with the computer system.  It's a joy to be there.  My favorite part is answering questions for our members and prospective members about the practice of yoga.  It's nice to know that all my hours on the mat give me some kind of experience that I can share with others.

I just finished another weekend of Teacher Training, too.  Saturday the focus was chair backbends.  At YogaWorks we have these folding chairs with the backs taken off of them.  You can do a variety of things with the chairs, but they are great for a supported, restorative version of Urdhva Dhanurasana.  On Sunday we focused on restoratives, in general.  It was a really nurturing and relaxing weekend.

Restorative, gentle, and therapeutic forms of yoga are something I've struggled with.  I suppose my usually rajastic nature draws me to the "power" types of yoga - like Ashtanga and vinyasa flow.  It's hard for me to slow down and relax.  Even savasana can be a challenge for me at times.  However, after spending the entire weekend learning about the benefits of the parasympathetic nervous system, I'm willing to make a more concerted effort to include at least one restorative class in my repertoire per week.  The rewards are just too great to ignore.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Firming My Commitment

Good Morning to you, from Ganesha!


I love this little guy.
He sits on my dresser, quietly removing obstacles as he sees fit.
At not even an inch tall, that's a pretty powerful punch, I assure you!

Yesterday's focus in Teacher Training was Supta Padangusthasana and Forward Bends.  Our practice was largely therapeutic, which was nice.  Today we're onto Twists.  Since we don't start until 12:30 pm today and it's the last Sunday morning I'll have free in a long, long time, I took advantage of our beautiful fall weather and went for a lovely hour-long run/walk.  It's been a while since I've done that and I think my quads will be speaking to me about it tomorrow.  But it was worth it though.  The sun was shining and the temperature boasted that perfect cool-fall-crispness.

So why won't I have any future Sunday mornings free, you might ask?  Well, I'll tell you.  I got a job!  I mean, I have a job but I got a second job working for YogaWorks.  I'm going to be a Greeter in their Studio City location and my first day is tomorrow.  Yay!  I can't wait!  I'm really excited about making a stronger commitment to both yoga and YogaWorks.  Each has changed my life on so many levels.  This step just feels like the right thing for me down deep in my very cells, if that makes any sense?  As time passes, I hope to slowly expand my hours plus fill in as needed.  Eventually, I think being a YW employee will help me when I finally obtain my 500-hour teaching credential and I want to get some classes on the schedule.

For those of you who don't know, my current job is as an artist.  For obvious reasons, art allows me a great deal of flexibility with my schedule and time so I think the two will fit together nicely.  I'm sure at some point on this journey, art and yoga will actually intersect in some direct way, but I'm allowing that to unfold in its own due time.

If you're interested, you can visit my artist website and/or my blog.  Just an FYI... I use my middle name Savannah to write my yoga blog because I wanted my art profession to be separate from my yogic pursuits.  I knew if I had gallery owners and my licensing partners stumbling over here, I would slowly but surely feel the need to censor myself.  I didn't want that.  I wanted my ramblings here to be as open and honest and heart-felt as they could be.  Hence, Savannah.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

This and That

Whoa, how did it get to be the middle of September already?...

I keep meaning to post.  I've composed several in my head but then the day just sort of gets away from me and before I know it, I'm flopping exhausted into bed.

This weekend is another Teacher Training weekend.  Our focus yesterday was Urdhva Dhanurasana and today it's Teaching Beginners.  The training program is still a challenge in terms of the workload, but I seem to have settled into a nice rhythm with it.  It's not as overwhelming as it was at the beginning.  Plus, the information seems to be moving past the "sinking in" phase and is now in the "taking hold" phase.  That's comforting - to know and feel like I'm getting it.

My own practice is steadily plugging along.  My outside commitments have increased greatly these past couple of weeks (hence, the MIA status from the blog).  But even in spite of the extra stuff I have to juggle, I'm finding time to practice.  That's comforting, too - knowing that yoga is so important to me that I'm willing to shift what I have to in order to make it onto the mat.  Even if my preferred time to practice is no longer an option, I'm still figuring it all out.  I guess that's the test.  Practice when you have the luxury of time is one thing; fitting it in when you don't is another, right?

I've also led Steve in two home practices now.  The first was rocky.  I felt like I couldn't translate what was in my head into words fast enough.  The result was a weird and awkward delivery with long pauses while I tried to figure out what was next.  But then I lead him again this morning and things progressed much more smoothly.  I was able to communicate what I wanted to and I didn't just repeat the same three points of alignment over and over again.  His feedback has been really valuable to me and I so appreciate his willingness to be my guinea pig while I find my teaching voice.  It isn't easy.  I taught aerobics for many years in my 20's and early 30's and while there are some similarities to yoga, there are infinitely more differences.  For example, it's really difficult to lead someone through a practice without doing it yourself.  Judging the intensity and pacing without feeling it in your own body is tricky.  And that's just the tip of the iceberg, as far as I'm concerned.

Anyway, the important thing is that I'm making progress.  Every day I am just filled with gratitude for this journey I'm on.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Zzzzzzz...

Today it finally happened for the first time ever in the history of my practice.

I fell asleep during Savasana.

Our instructor rang a deep gong to signal the end of rest and I was so startled I literally jumped a foot off my mat.  I had no idea where I was and I thought the gong was a fire alarm of some kind!  Geesh.

The irony of the timing is not lost on me.  Figures I'd spend hundreds of minutes each and every night while in London doing everything I could possibly think of to get even a flicker of sleep.  And this was in a nice hotel room with a soft, comfy bed.  No dice.  Then I come home and promptly doze off on the floor surrounded by room full of strangers.

I guess when it's time, it's time.

Have any of you ever snoozed during Savasana?

Friday, August 23, 2013

This Week in Practice

So let's recap...


This week began on the heels of Kino's 3-day intensive workshop in London.  By Monday, five nights of serious sleep deprivation combined with all-out physical exertion had taken their toll.  Exhausted and utterly depleted, I opted to skip practice on Monday and instead spent the day flitting about the city.  It was lovely - relaxed and carefree with only my whims to guide me.

On Tuesday I went to Leah Kim's 7:30 am Vinyasa Flow class at Triyoga in Soho.  (She's fantastic, by the way.  I make it a point to get to her classes every time I'm in London.)  Then it was back to the hotel for a shower and to finish packing before making my way to Heathrow Airport.  Tuesday was a LONG day, punctuated by a L-O-N-G 11 1/2 hour flight.  I've never been so happy to see my husband or my bed.

Thankfully, at long last, I slept straight through the night.  Come Wednesday I was still fighting that on-again, off-again sore throat though and opted to take it easy for another day.  I skipped practice and stayed close to home, just enjoying time spent with Bentley and Theodore.



After another BLISSFULLY sound night's sleep, I decided I was ready to resume my normal routine on Thursday and drove down to Larchmont for Ashtanga.  For those of you who don't know, going to Mysore for me entails an hour drive each way.  By the time I got there and found parking, I was seriously doubting the intelligence of practice that day.  As I walked the three blocks to the studio, my thoughts became my enemy:  "I feel like crap.  I bet my practice will be crap, too.  I want to go home.  There are so many cute restaurants around here, maybe I could just treat myself to lunch and then leave?  No one would even notice." etc. etc.  But somehow I kept putting one foot in front of the other until I arrived at the shala and up the steps I went to check in.

As I settled my mind and body at the top of my mat, the first Surya Namaskara unfolded without incident.  And then the next, and the next.  Before I knew it, I was through both A's and B's and was gathering steam.  Dare I say I felt surprisingly good?  Then what happened next was nothing short of astounding.  It was seriously the BEST practice I've ever had.  I've never been more open.  Things have never seemed more clean, if that makes any sense?

For example, I got my bottom hand nearly flat to the floor on both sides of Parivrtta Parsvakonasana.  My balance was strong and steady in Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana and my fold forward was deeper than it's ever been.  I managed to get my shoulders substantially further under my legs in Supta Kurmasana and I got my chin to the floor for the first time in Baddha Konasana.  I'm gaining strength in Setu Bandhasana and practiced it for a moment without any hands for support, as Kino instructed. Oh, and remember how I've been telling you that I need to work on Chakrasana?  Well, I just did it - right there in the middle of practice, like I'd been doing it my whole life.  WTF?

When it came time for my new pose, Jodi helped me with Pasasana.  She had mentioned we would introduce it soon so I don't think it was a surprise for her.  Then my backbends were filled with S-P-A-C-E and ease.  After backbends, Jodi has me work on lifting up into handstand with both feet together and then she spots me while I tip over into a backbend.  This series of events is usually quite chaotic and the "lift" part is a bit misleading because it's more like a jump and throw.  However, on Thursday my jumps into handstand were controlled and beautiful.  Jodi couldn't believe my progress and frankly, neither could I.  I kept thinking to myself, "Who are you!?!?"

It was SUCH a terrific practice and I left floating on cloud nine.  And to think, I almost dumped that in lieu of lunch.  But WHY was that practice so stunning?  (I mean, let me clarify - it wasn't stunning in an I-look-just-like-Kino sort of way.  Not at all.  But it was stunning, relatively speaking, for ME.)  Anyway, I pondered this all night long and I think it comes down to this:  I worked really, really hard for those three days I spent with Kino.  While in London, there weren't many huge breakthroughs.  But despite feeling tired and rundown, I showed up, did the work, and kept myself open to absorbing as much as I possibly could.  I think these sorts of experiences are sort of like a fine wine.  You open the wine and you have to let it breathe for a little while.  You pour it into your glass and wait, perhaps swirling it around before allowing it to settle.  Then and only then, will all of the best parts of the wine be ready to consume.  I think the workshops are like that.  It takes a few days for all of that to settle in the best possible way into our being.  It was only after I had a chance to let the weekend's teachings marinate that I was able to finally let them come forth in the most beneficial way for me, personally.

I get that this is all rather esoteric, but I find myself continually intrigued by the practice of Ashtanga.  It's one of the things I love most about it.  You never know what adventure lies before you each day on the mat until you show up and begin.  Some days you think you feel great and then quickly realize your body doesn't have much to give.  Other days, it's the opposite.  And then every once in a while, there's a day that comes along unlike any other that makes you feel so grateful for your own strength and grace that you want to weep.  I guess that's what Thursday was.  And it's days like that - the chance at grabbing another one of those - that keep me showing up.

This morning was a lovely Vinyasa Flow class with one of my favorite teachers, Ashley.  We highlighted backbends, so you know I was in heaven!  Tomorrow and Sunday I'm back in Teacher Training - filled with gratitude - to be home, for this practice, and for my life.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Kino - Day Three

Can you see Mr. Ganesha peeking through the leaves?


Yesterday started with another sleepless night.  I swear I don't understand how I've managed to stave off a cold or something worse this long.  I thought my morning Mysore practice would be rotten, but it was just the opposite.  It felt steady and strong as I plodded along.  I accomplished all of the binds I usually get and then struggled with those that are usually a challenge.  Kino helped me bind Mari D, which is always a bit like torture, but it worked.

I carried on and she had me do Setu Bandhasana for the first time ever with no hands underneath my shoulders to steady me.  That's one I'll need to work on because it was quite precarious.  Then Kino gave me the first pose of Second Series!!!  I was so excited!  What a milestone and how meaningful to have it happen here, with her, as Kino was really my very first inspiration along this Ashtangic path.  And if that weren't enough, after assisting me with drop-backs following backbends, Kino had me first walk, then crawl my hands further in.  Guess what?!?!  I nearly touched the backs of my ankles!  OMG what an awesome feeling that practice left me with.  I can't tell you how badly I needed that as I've been feeling rather dejected lately.


All in all, it was a fantastic experience, but I'm not surprised because Kino's workshops always are.  This is quite possibly the WORST picture I've ever taken, but I try to be as real as I can be here - so you get the good, the bad, and the ugly.


But wait!  Just when you (and I) thought it couldn't get any worse, this picture shows me not only looking disheveled, sweaty, and exhausted but also slightly stunned?  Whatever.  I had to post it anyway because it's the only one I have of me and my friend Kevin.  We spent most of the day together and it was a treat to do so because Kevin lives in the UK and we never get to spend "real life" time with one another.  Kevin will be doing an intensive week with Kino in Copenhagen in a few weeks and I'm eager to read about his experience there.  See? It's not that crazy that I travel to London for a workshop when Kevin travels to Copenhagen.  I guess it's the allure of combining an awesome yoga experience with a trip.

I am ready to go home though.  For starters, I need to figure out if this no-sleeping thing is related to the jet lag or if my Hashimito's Disease is flaring up.  (Insomnia is a major symptom.). Then I have teacher training again next weekend and I have to get prepped for that.  Plus, most importantly,  I miss my husband dearly as well as Bentley and Theodore.  At least we have face time though.  Do any of you face time your pets when you're away, or is it just me?
 
 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Kino - Day Two


Our morning class yesterday was Led Primary.  At home when I practice Led on Sundays, it takes Maria 1 hour, 30 minutes to get us through from start to finish.  Kino's Led - for the exact same sequence - takes a solid 2 hours.  As you can imagine, those holds seemed REALLY long!  I think it's good to mix things up every now and then though.


Our afternoon class was Intro. to Second Series.  Foolishly, I thought Kino would pick out a few key poses and we'd spend the majority of our time breaking those down.  Nope!  We plodded straight through - vinyasas and all!
 

We got through the twists in the center section before she mercifully called us into Savasana.  It was a long day.