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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Yesterday's first class was entitled "Ashtanga Immersion" and was largely billed for teachers and others wanting to deepen their practice. I almost didn't sign up for this one because I committed long before my YogaWorks teacher training program came to be. Boy, am I glad I took a chance though!
The entire day felt like a YW teacher training day back home. There was lecture time, followed by space to experience various poses within our own bodies, then finally a wealth of opportunities to practice assisting on each other. We broke down all of the movements of Surya A & B and went over them with a fine tooth comb. So much - if not all - of the rest of the practice is built upon those first sun salutations.
Every time we practiced giving adjustments, Kino instructed us to find a new partner. That was a terrific plan because it gave us the opportunity to work with a lot of different bodies and abilities. I'm so grateful to have had this day to devote toward my teaching progress.
Kino spoke about the world needing more beginning level Ashtanga instructors. She talked about her experience at the beginning of her Ashtanga life. Random acquaintances became extremely interested in her yoga and many of them requested that she teach them. She didn't feel ready and tried to guide those folks elsewhere, but they didn't want to go. They didn't feel comfortable with an advanced teacher. A wise friend counseled Kino that if it was going to be her or nothing, then she had a responsibility to teach them what she could. Some yoga was better than none. And so her teaching began.
Another point Kino made that I found personally relevant was with regard to hyper-extension of the elbows and knees in poses like Downward-Facing Dog. I hyper-extend and I've always been told to micro-bend my joints in order to activate the muscles and not sit in the integrity of the joint. Kino said the slight bend was actually causing a disruption in the pathway the energy would normally flow through you. She suggested to instead externally rotate the shoulders while pressing down into the mounds of the index fingers and to internally rotate the legs while pressing down into the mounds of the big toes. This would cause the muscles to pull your limbs into straight without needing to introduce the bend. It's a subtle difference, I'm sure, but one I'm eager to try.
I'm sorry to report that I just couldn't make it to Kino's evening class. It didn't even start until 7:45 pm and was scheduled to run two hours. My jet lag has been HORRIBLE and it's been a challenge to fall asleep by 2:30 am every night. I feel as if I'm fighting off a cold, too, and I just didn't think it would be in my best interest to push myself that hard. I'm sad the circumstances weren't different, but I feel good knowing that I listened to my body and my needs.
The trip across the pond couldn't have been smoother.
Here's the lovely view from my room...
And you can just see Big Ben peeking out behind that building...
Sleeping, on the other hand, is a different story. Despite my best efforts, I can't for the life of me doze off before 2:30 am. Frustrating. I'm loading up on vitamin C and echinacea though - trying to prevent a cold coming on, which usually happens when I'm exhausted and run down.
I did go to a great flow class at Triyoga yesterday morning though...
And I'm determined not to let the grey skies and tiredness get me down.
Kino's first workshop starts this morning at 10:00!
I had a good week of practice. No major breakthroughs but things felt consistently solid and strong. That's a good place to be when staring down an intensive three days with Kino. Have I mentioned I can't wait?!?!
I'm getting so close to balancing in Pincha Mayurasana (forearm stand). I think once I'm able to do that then balance in Handstand will follow. I know I need to move away from the wall, but I haven't yet made the shift. I have such a fear of falling over into a backbend, which is sort of ironic considering backbends are among my favorite poses. The fear, I know, comes from an early attempt about a year ago to balance in the middle of the room. I was using a strap around my arms at the time and when I felt myself going over, I sort of bailed out sideways. The problem was that the strap prevented my arms from rotating with me and I managed to wrench my shoulder really badly. I no longer practice with a strap but the fear persists. Maybe I'll give it a go outside. Something about the soft green grass feels more comforting if I should fall.
The other pose I continue to work on is Chakrasana (rolling back somersault). As I mentioned in an earlier post, I manage a version of Chakrasana by bending my neck to the side while I roll over the opposite shoulder. I've done it the correct way from sitting but I know I'm not using enough of my arm strength to get me up and over. Without arm strength, the neck definitely bears too much weight and that's not a good thing. The other difficulty with Chakrasana is that it's hard to break it down and do in slow-motion. Again, maybe the lawn is my answer while I work out the specifics.
I found this video from Kino about building up to the full pose. I'll be darned if her model doesn't make it look effortless in slow-motion. Why are my attempts nowhere near that?
Alas, I'll keep trying. All things worth having are worth working for. I'll be immersed in Teacher Training all day today and tomorrow. This weekend's focus is Inversions. Yay! It should be a fun...
So after my breast cancer scare (which I touched on here), I resolved to find myself an all-natural deodorant. This was something I'd been meaning to do for a while. I mean, what good is it to roll on all of those chemicals day after day so close to the lymph nodes? And even though they work well, antiperspirants do nothing but block the body's ability to release toxins through sweat. Still, it wasn't until my health was at risk that I was really motivated to act.
So in search of another option, I stopped at Whole Foods and bought a few different candidates to try. I wasn't expecting a miracle... my standards were really low. I wanted something natural and without aluminum or parabens and that would work roughly half as well as my Secret solid.
The two I tried were terrible! Not only did they not keep me smelling fresh, both were sticky and stayed that way all day long. I couldn't bear it and I didn't want to waste any more money. Reluctantly, I went back to Secret.
Then I happened to read a blog post by Megan of Damn Good Yoga. She suggested the Crystal Stick (pictured above). Both Megan and several of her commentors swear by it. I wrote to ask Megan if it was at all sticky and she promised it was not, so back to Whole Foods I went to give it a try.
I'm telling you this stick thing is like some sort of miracle! You moisten the stone (which sounds weird, but that's what they call it and that's what it feels like) and then apply it to your underarms. It takes a little longer to dry than if it were just water but it does dry and it's not sticky in the slightest. Great. One test down. Now how does it work? I'll tell you...
I used the Crystal Stick yesterday morning and then went to a REALLY sweaty Vinyasa Flow class at 4:30 that evening. It was like I had just stepped out of the pool, I was so soaked. Steve and I had an hour drive home and then a lot of chores and stuff to get done that evening. Before I knew it, the time was past 10 pm and I tumbled into bed, too exhausted to shower. (I know - TMI, perhaps, but I'm making a point and I don't do this often.) Anyway, I got up this morning and had another million things to do. I applied the stick again and then went racing off at 8:30 am to a second 1 1/2 hour sweaty flow practice. Wanting to test this deodorant, I took a BIG whiff of my underarms when I got home and what do you think I smelled? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Not even a hint of bad odor. That's something Secret couldn't even deliver!
I am now 100% beyond-a-shadow-of-a-doubt SOLD on the Crystal Stick. I guess it works by neutralizing the bacteria that cause the body odors. But whatever, I'm never going back. Sorry Secret. I love it when something is the best solution AND is good for you, at the same time! Yay! I'm so excited, I just had to share. Let me know if you try it and give Megan a shout out, too, from me.
I took a break from practice on Sunday
in order to give Bentley a day at the beach...
It was well worth the time spent off the mat.
Steve and I decided to go earlier in the day,
which meant we had the entire beach to ourselves save for a few fishermen.
As you can see, the coastal fog hadn't yet burned off but we didn't mind one iota.
The closest beach that allows dogs off-leash is near Santa Barbara, so it's quite a trek from our house. Hour-and-a-half-drive notwithstanding, it brings me such joy to give Bentley a day like this. He's getting older now - 11 1/2 - and he's slowing down some, but I could tell his exuberance was all puppy.
These are the moments that make life matter, don't you think?
This summer seems to be slipping through my fingers. Can it truly be that the last time I posted was July 19? Now we are firmly into August. Where did the rest of that month go?
Part of it, I know, went to Teacher Training. Our last intensive weekend focused on Surya Namaskara. Thanks to Ashtanga, SNA and SNB are two sequences I feel infinitely comfortable with. Surya Namaskara C, on the other hand, is a whole different monkey. I'm still not sure what to make of it. Just now I tried to do a quick search to find something worthy to link to with regard to C, but I'm not finding anything that suits me. There are a few that get the gist of it, but I'm not finding many that explain the knees-chest-chin component that well. Nor the return through that to Downward-Facing Dog. I'll keep looking and get back to you.
I also had a birthday during the later part of July and I think that usurped some of my sense of "time as plentiful", too. 43 now, thank you very much. I'm really proud that I am still making gains every day in my practice. I've heard other yogis and yoginis talk about the 40's and 50's as being too old to start. WTF? Glad I'm too old to believe them. They're probably all 20-year-olds anyway, so what do they know.
I'm feeling sassy today, can you tell?
I swear, I've started a million blog posts in my head and I just haven't had the moments I need to sit down and hammer them out on the computer. I plan to do better though. This post is sort of all over the place, but you'll forgive me for that, I know.
I was working on my TT reading homework yesterday, "Light on Yoga" by Iyengar. In the introduction, he claims the Siva Samhita breaks down yoga pupils into four classes: feeble, average, superior, and the supreme one. If I classify myself as a feeble seeker, Iyengar claims I can reach enlightenment in 12 years. Cool. And who knows? Maybe I'm even "average"? He doesn't give a time limit for the average peeps but he does say the superior ones can get there in 6 years. So (giving myself a little credit) maybe if I'm average, I could hope for 9 years or so.? Thanks. Glad we cleared that up. I like well-defined goals when I strive for samadhi.
I think that's enough for a Saturday afternoon. Tomorrow I'm taking the day off from practice and we're treating Bentley to a day at the beach. I'll take pictures. And it couldn't come at a better time, either. I've been practicing for about a week and a half straight and I'm starting to feel achey. My joints need the break.
Oh! Good news, too! I'm going to be traveling to London soon to take a series of workshops with Kino at TriYoga. I cannot wait! For sure I'll be posting about that, so stay tuned.
So I'm going to be completely honest with you here. The cleanse didn't go as smoothly as I had hoped. Day 1 was great. Day 2 (just fruits, vegetables, and juice) was okay. As time passed, my IBS tummy became less and less happy without any carbs to soothe it. By dinner time on Day 2, my stomach was in such knots that I just couldn't take it anymore. We decided to have some white rice and fish and then I was fine. Because I firmly believe that ahimsa (non-harming) applies not only to others but to ourselves as well, I decided not to do any more harm to my body and just go back to eating "cleanly" (whole, organic, unprocessed foods as often as possible).
In some ways I feel like I failed but I'm also more sure than ever that everyone's constitutions are not the same. What works for one - or many - might not necessarily work for me. So be it. I try to limit my carbs and choose wheat over white as often as my tummy will allow, but I do feel best when I am consuming some sort of carbohydrate on a daily basis. There you have it. I'm a yoga rebel.
Practice this week has been a nice mix of Ashtanga and a good variety Vinyasa Flow classes. I made a list of all the poses I want to work on at the moment and during home practice this morning, I did just that. I sequenced these challenge poses in between vinyasas and a few Warrior 1's, 2's, Triangle poses, and Side Angle poses. My entire practice took 2 hours but it was really playful and I felt like I made some good progress.
Chakrasana (rolling back somersault) and Eka Pada Galavasana (flying crow pose) top the list of poses I'm currently working on. For Chakrasana, I've developed a bad habit of rolling over my left shoulder and I sort of crank my neck to the side and out of the way. I land on my mat and it's in control, but I know it's not the correct execution. This morning, I moved my rug to our cushy carpet and I was able to get it right a good number of times from seated. I tried it once from a supine position and I don't think the momentum's the same so that attempt wasn't as successful. Still, I can feel in my body how it's supposed to happen now so I don't think it will be long before I'm doing it the right way on my mat.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: there really is nothing as valuable as having a home practice. I was chatting with a fellow yogi from the studio yesterday and she was complaining because our instructor only gave us a brief window - maybe 20 seconds? - to try for the peak pose during the sequence in class. She lamented that it would probably be another three months before any teacher would include that pose in their routine again. Subsequently, it would be that long before she would get the opportunity to tackle it again.
I've urged this particular person before to try working on things at home but she shuts down and refuses. It makes me sad because I know how much richness my time at home on the mat has brought to my practice as a whole. But like I said at the beginning, everyone's on their own journey and everyone's constitutions are NOT the same. I'm just grateful to be where I am.
We just finished what YogaWorks fondly refers to as "Anatomy Weekend". That basically means we spent the entire weekend in a series of lectures about muscles, bones, organs, the nervous system, and how they all interact. I think I dreamed about it all night long, too! It was like the lecture never stopped. Phew! We learned a ton, but I'm glad that's behind me.
Practice last week was a little tough. I've just been feeling sort of achy and not myself. Granted, I'm still not completely over this summer cold, although I'd say it's about 90% gone. I've also put on a couple of pounds and I'm sure that's not helping, either. It amazes me how just two or three pounds can take away my ability to bind in Marichyasana C and half of B. (Let's not even discuss D.) Blech!
So I know what I have to do: recharge and refocus. One way I plan to get there is by doing a 5-day cleanse with my hubby. The cleanse is one I adapted from Kino's new book, "The Power of Ashtanga Yoga". In her book, Kino outlines an 8-day cleanse. However, since I've never done even a 1-day version, I figured 5 days was ambitious enough. Here's my plan:
Day 1 - fruits, vegetables, grains
Day 2 - fruits, vegetables
Day 3 - fruits
Day 4 - (fast) fruit juice only
Day 5 - fruits, vegetables
Herbal tea and fruit juice are allowed on every day. And obviously, plenty of water is also advised to help flush the system of toxins.
Another motivator for doing this cleanse is because I suffered through a fair deal of stress last week. (Can you say emotional eating?) My routine mammogram showed an abnormality that required further testing. That was scary enough but when I got to the ultrasound exam, the screen clearly showed a black mass in the otherwise whitish-grey tissue. When the tech started measuring it, I got really terrified. It turns out it was just a cyst (thank God!), but for a solid half-hour there while I waited for the radiologist, I was convinced I had breast cancer. I feel such immense gratitude that I wanted to do something really special to celebrate. This cleanse seems like the perfect way to do that, don't you agree?
Now that I'm safely through the first two weekends,
including all of the accompanying homework, here are my thoughts...
First of all, the program could not possibly be more well-rounded or more chock-full of valuable information. I think that's one of the benefits of going through a training with an organization versus an individual: It's obvious that the program materials were produced utilizing the strength of a collection of some of the best minds in the yoga business. It's just a really, really good, solid approach and I feel grateful to be enrolled in this training methodology.
Secondly, the homework is INTENSE! I knew it was going to require a commitment, but I NEVER in a million years could have guessed it would rival the workload of some of my past college courses! It is seriously A LOT. You might not believe this, but I've been know to complain over the past two weeks about the time commitment the homework requires. However in all honesty, now that I recognize first-hand all that I'm learning, I don't think I would have it any other way. No... I definitely wouldn't have it any other way.
The all-day sessions on Saturday and Sunday are also intense. And long. Generally, we have two hours of yoga philosophy first thing on Saturday morning followed by a two-hour practice and then a short lunch break. The rest of the afternoon is spent on a variety of things including asana alignment points, sequencing, practice teaching/adjusting, risks and contraindications, modifications, etc. Sunday is structured much the same way with the omission of philosophy (due to a slightly later start time).
I find the two-hour practice sessions to be fairly easy, although to hear my fellow trainees talk about it, you'd think they had just been through the war. The practices don't include a lot of motion. There are a lot of long holds while our trainer discusses various aspects of the pose. I don't sweat that much. After giving it a lot of thought, I think my experience doesn't seem to be that challenging due to my background in Ashtanga. Primary Series prepares you for anything!
I actually found myself feeling quite frustrated during the two practices we had that first weekend. I felt like my own, personal practice was suffering and a lot of anger came up for me. The second weekend, I made it a point to fit in a practice early in the morning prior to even going to teacher training. On Saturday I did an advanced Vinyasa Flow and Sunday was my regular Ashtanga practice. Even though that made for two REALLY long days, I'm glad I made the extra effort because I was able to sit through both of the teacher training practices without crabbiness. This really freed me up to ABSORB what my trainer was trying to get across rather than be stuck in my own loop of frustration and resentment.
The only other complaint I have is that even though YogaWorks offers Ashtanga - both Led and Mysore style classes - there seems to be a glaring omission of Ashtanga from their curriculum. I find this especially troubling since they claim that the YogaWorks Method is founded on the teachings of three individuals - Iyeangar, Desikachar, and Jois.
The books "Light on Yoga" by B.K.S. Iyengar
and "The Heart of Yoga" by T.K.V. Desikachar
are both included in our reading list,
but "Yoga Mala" by Pattabhi Jois
is notably absent.
(The pictures above are links, in case you're interested in owning any of these books.)
In addition, we are required to take 18 classes with very specific requirements in order to complete our training. An Iyengar class is included in this list but in bold letters it states that no Ashtanga Led or Mysore classes may be used to fulfill that requirement.
I do want to state for the record that this isn't a large, overt DIS of Ashtanga. It isn't. It's more subtle. There are some Ashtanga-based items included in the teaching. For example, our pages covering Trikonasana state that in Ashtanga, it is appropriate to have a shorter stance and reach to grab the big toe. But I'd be remiss if I didn't report that I wish Ashtanga were more fully present.
After a lot of soul searching about "my path" these past few weeks, my current plan is this: I think I will explore continuing on in the YogaWorks training to obtain the 300/500-hour level certification after this 200-hour program is complete. I just can't ignore the overall strength of the YogaWorks program and after quite a bit of research and speaking with other yogis, I simply don't think I can get the same level of education and preparation through any other teacher training. Not to mention, YogaWorks is my home studio and I'm comfortable there. I like them a lot and my yoga membership is free throughout the duration of my training. Since I have a plan that allows me to visit any club in the LA area, this is a substantial savings.
Once I obtain my 300/500-hour certification, that will qualify me for the RYT-500 with Yoga Alliance and I will also be able to teach at YogaWorks. (If I get my 300/500-hour certification elsewhere, I'd still have to go through the YogaWorks program anyway if I wanted to teach there.) After that, I will probably pursue a specialty intensive Ashtanga-based training, possibly with Kino MacGregor, Tim Miller, or David Swenson.
So. There you have it. If you have any questions, I'm happy to answer them!
Well, I made it through my first two weekends of teacher training, but barely.
Unfortunately, in payment for my efforts I've come down with a nasty bronchial/head cold and have been in bed for most of the week. I'm not good at having my plans derailed, but I suppose that's a very yogic lesson in and of itself - surrender to the present moment. So be it.
I wanted to compose a thoughtful recap about my experience with the YogaWorksTeacher Training program thus far, but I'm afraid that's going to have to wait until my head clears a bit.
In the meantime, Steve and I had the chance to travel to Michigan in the beginning of June. I was able to spend one morning practicing with Angela Jamison in Ann Arbor at the Phoenix Center. You might be familiar with her blog? The Phoenix Center consists of two rooms on the top floor of a lovely old building in downtown Ann Arbor. Here is the room we practiced in...
I'm a sucker for exposed brick walls, in case you didn't know.
The purpose of our trip to Michigan was to visit family and also to find closure with the unexpected death of a relative. As you might imagine, there was anxiety and a lot of long-standing emotional patterns at play. However, when I unrolled my mat and stood at the top, raising my arms overhead in my first Sun Salutation, everything just melted away. I felt grounded and whole in a way that I hadn't been able to hone in on during my stay prior to that. This is why I love the practice of Ashtanga so much. It carries with it such a profound force, if only you're willing to be open to it. I think it must feel sort of like the force in Star Wars, wouldn't you agree? At any rate, taking the time to commit to my Mysore practice while out of town was the best thing I did that week. I am so thankful for the gift of Ashtanga and the role it continues to play in my life.
Never has that quote rung more true for me than this month.
Why? I'll tell you...
On my way to practice one day at YogaWorks,
I signed up for the 200-hour Teacher Training!
"What?".... Yeah, that's how I felt.
Teacher Training was NOT on my radar. I mean, it sort of was in a that-might-be-a-great-thing-to-do-someday kind of way. The notion floated in and out of my head from time to time as I pondered ways to deepen my practice. But it wasn't something I was currently aspiring to... at all.
Then a whole lot of things in The Universe just fell into place, opened up, and otherwise aligned themselves to make this a real possibility. And I mean A. LOT. OF. THINGS. So many that I couldn't ignore them - my work schedule, our finances, our vacation plans for the remainder of the year, messages from friends, etc. etc. I try really hard to listen when The Universe hits me over the head with a brick, so off I went to the informational meeting.
Two hundred hours of anything is no small feat. My commitment will be made up of weekends - all day Saturday and Sunday - every other weekend for the rest of the year. Plus, there will be homework, exams, and 18 additional classes I'll need to be signed off on. The more I learned about the program though, the more excited I became. And after a final heart-to-heart with Steve, I signed up!
Now our first session begins in just under an hour! I cannot believe I am doing this and I am over the moon with anticipation! I wanted a really special notebook for this journey, so I doctored up a boring Martha Stewart version I found at Staples. The front cover is above and below is a shot of the back.
Practice this week was a bit of a struggle. I had a hard time being present on the mat, instead choosing to focus on the million and one other things I could be doing. Yoga isn't always easy. Facing what comes up on the mat isn't always a treat. Not to mention the physical aspect of Ashtanga is just plain hard.
I managed to knock myself out of this rut this morning by taking a moment to quiet my mind before starting. While I stood at the top of my mat with my hands together in prayer, I set the intention to just BE. Be present for each and every moment without judgement or attachment. Sure, the familiar refrain of "I really don't feel like doing this" came rushing to the surface. This time, however, I acknowledged it and let it go. Practice turned out to be 2 hours and 15 minutes of a joyful and sweaty flow - my favorite kind. As I lay in savasana, I promised myself I'd work harder on making this attitude more of a permanent feature in my life.
Here is the town of Cuzco, nestled into the valley below....
We spent our final two nights here.
At an elevation of approximately 12,000 feet,
it made sense that this was our final stop.
We toured the church you see across the plaza in the photo above. No sooner had we stepped foot back outside than these two industrious ladies rushed in and shoved a baby alpaca into my arms. Not that I minded, though.
Cuzco is a beautiful city and one of the most popular in all of Peru.
It's even prettier at dusk, I think.
Here's a the view from the courtyard of our hotel.
This was a really nice place and my favorite accommodation of the entire trip.
This is the walkway to our room.
Behind that couch is the yoga shala where we practiced.
And finally, Cuzco as seen from our window.
One thing you might not know is that Cuzco even has a Starbucks! Steve and I were so happy to find something familiar that we rushed right over. (Peruvian coffee is NOT the same as what we have in the states.) I have to laugh at this picture though because once I got there, I still had no idea what to order that wouldn't further upset my stomach.
In the end, I decided it didn't much matter
and settled for my usual - a tall soy latte.
All in all, the trip was fantastic. There were the challenges that come from being with a large group - like not being able to follow your whims and not being able to spend however much time you wanted in a given place. Still, I couldn't have put together these excursions on my own. Our guides were exceptional and the people we met and got to know were truly kindred spirits. Our group already has a reunion party planned in a couple of weeks! It was lovely to have a passion for yoga serve as the common denominator among every one of us and it was such a treat not to have to worry about how and when to fit in my practice whilst traveling. Would I do it again? You bet! International Yoga is the best.
And on a side note, if you've been following along and reading my posts about Peru, you might be interested to know that I redid this post. For some reason, my iPad blogging app mixed up and omitted several photos from that post. It's all better now if you're interested. Thanks for joining me on this journey!
Practice this week has felt heavy and sluggish. It's no surprise why... After spending 12 days not being able to eat or drink much of anything, imagine my exuberance when I finally could! Without going into detail, let's just say that it got ugly. Once I started to feel "normal" again, I sort of approached my diet with a no-holds-barred attitude. Not good. Of course, my practice has reflected that.
The good news is that I'm feeling renewed focus and commitment this morning. Prior to traveling to Peru, I've been working really hard to shed some weight and I lost a full 10 pounds. Yay, me! Whilst sick, I lost another 5 but subsequently gained that back this past week. I'm still down the initial 10 though and feel ready to keep going. Needless to say, the 10-pound drop in my weight has made a HUGE difference in my practice. For example, I'm close to getting my jump through in one movement and I was able to bind by myself in Marichyasana B for the first time. I also saw my doctor right before we left and I'm now firmly OUT of the pre-diabetic range. Yay, again, for me!!
Perhaps you'd like to know what I changed in order to achieve that weight loss? Well, I refuse to "diet". I'm never going down that road again. Instead, I've done my best to eliminate white carbs wherever and whenever possible. I also reduced my portion sizes and focused on healthier snacks like fruit and nuts. Steve and I substituted shakes for dinner approximately three times per week as opposed to going out. Most of the time, we enjoy fruit shakes with bananas, spinach, kale, frozen strawberries, blueberries, and peaches with a protein powder and green superfood powder added (plus ice). Occasionally, I'll make a chocolate peanut butter shake that tastes just like a decadent milk shake. For that I use bananas, peanut butter, a few spoonfuls of Starbucks mocha powder, and almond milk (plus ice). It's divine.
I hope you all enjoy the Memorial Day holiday this weekend! I'll post my Peru wrap-up sometime next week so stay tuned for that...
After our day at Machu Picchu, we took a 2-hour train ride followed by an hour-long bus ride to return back to our home base at Urubamba. I felt horrible.
The following day was a day with several activities planned, but they were small-group-type outings and basically arranged individually. Thank goodness. I tried to rally and make it to yoga that morning but collapsed onto my mat after about 5 minutes. I returned to bed and stayed there literally the ENTIRE day! I must have needed it.
The next day we traveled back to Cuzco. Does it seem like we moved around a lot? You're right, we did. For those of you keeping track, we flew into Cuzco on the first day. From there we took a bus to Urubamba where we stayed for several days. The night before Machu Picchu we went by train and bus to Aguascalientes - to the base of the mountain. After Machu Picchu, we returned by said train and bus back to Urubamba. Two more nights there and then it was back to Cuzco. Got it?
Here are a few adorable alpaca shots on the way to
another Incan ruin just outside of Cuzco...
Check out this guy. I mean, does it get any cuter?!?!
Why yes, it does... when you put a hat on one of them!
Okay, now for the Incan ruins that we came to see.
(We were ALL suckers for the tourist photo op - not just me, okay?)
Yoga instructor extraordinaire Joan and me...
Can you imagine moving, carving, and placing these giant boulders?
After two rounds of different antibiotics, I'm *FINALLY* feeling like myself again. Thank goodness! That gastrointestinal bug was NOT fun. Of course given my IBS and generally sensitive gut, I knew I would be susceptible. Still, I never imagined anything like this! I'm just feeling immensely thankful to be mostly recovered now and able to eat and drink water again. I had my first home practice since returning to California this morning and it was a lovely 2 hour and 15 minute expression of gratitude for my body's ability to heal.
And now without further ado, I give you Machu Picchu!....
The day broke with a heavy mist
due to the downpour during the night before.
The town of Aguascalientes at the base of the mountain
felt hushed and eerie.
But luck was on our side because the thick fog lifted
just as we entered the site...
(I was really, really sick this day and all of the days following,
so bear that in mind when you look at these photos.)
Steve and I hiked two hours up to the Gate of the Sun.
This is were the infamous Inca Trail connects trekkers to Machu Picchu.
That hairpin road to my left is the narrow path the buses take
to carry you from Aguascalientes to the base of Machu Pichhu.
You can see the Machu Picchu site in the distance.
The views were breathtakingly spectacular!
The tall mountain behind the Machu Picchu site it Huayna Picchu. That's a separate, more fear-inducing hike. Perhaps you can see the steps and the people at the top? Steve and I opted for the Gate of the Sun this time. Perhaps next time we'll tackle Huayna Picchu.
And now, once again, I'll allow the photos to do the rest of the talking.
But believe me when I say this... they don't do it justice.
Not. At. All.
This day was one I will carry in my heart for the rest of my life. I honestly don't think I've ever seen anything in nature more beautiful than this. Standing in Machu Picchu proper and looking out at the mountaintops while clouds floated by at eye level - I can't even find the words. Machu Picchu has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember and I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to experience it in person. What a gift.