Saturday, December 31, 2011

Reaffirming the need for Compassion.

While I was slowly (and quite reluctantly) wrapping up my European journey, I was remembering how much I needed yoga in my life again. Like I said earlier, I had gotten swept up in every distraction possible—wonderful food & wine, amazing and interesting people from around the world. But the farm brought me back to my center and I left there feeling refreshed and ready to continue my practice when I reached my next stop—Madrid.

It was quite refreshing there, because it was the first time I was not staying in a hostel, and I could simply roll out of my bed and onto the floor, and do a morning practice right then and there… in my pajamas. It was just like being at my place back in Florida, or in Georgia. No one around to wonder what that weird girl is doing upside down on the floor half-dressed. Just, me, myself and I… and some yoga. Ah, how glorious. But, again, I was craving some community in my practice.

So I narrowed my Madrid yoga studio search down to one seemingly popular place with a good reputation—simply called, “City Yoga.” I walked the 1.5 mile walk to a morning Iyengar class. Although I took an Iyengar class in Siena (Italy), it was completely different.

 First of all, this time, no one spoke English. As soon as the woman teaching the class learned I was American, she seemed really nervous. She asked for my name at the beginning and said it about 50 times over the course of the 90 minute class. She would ask, “Carolina, Carolina, ok ok?”

She was thoughtful to worry about me knowing what was going on, but I felt guilty in a way… I really just wanted to say, “Hey! It’s okay… it’s yoga, I can just look at you and figure it out… Plus, my Spanish is not too pathetic!” But she was really determined to make sure I was OKAY and I was doing everything right. She was probably the most compassionate yoga teacher I’ve ever had. One man taking the class had decent English as well and took it upon himself to translate anything to me that may seem the slightest bit confusing. Again, I felt a sense of guilt for taking away from his practice, but it really did not seem to phase him the least bit.

I went back another time… this time, my mom was in town. And they were the same way with her… went completely out of the way to make her feel comfortable and made sure she knew exactly what was going on. The classes was more relaxing than anything. We worked a lot on holding poses for a longer time (which is typical of Iyengar) and it made me sore in places I had forgotten existed on my body… which, to me, is a great thing!

But the main thing that sticks out to me about this studio and my practice here can be summed up in one word: Compassion. After my waves of guilt passed and I allowed myself to simply be grateful for my fellow yogis’ concerns and genuine interest and want in helping me, I thought… “This is what Yoga is really all about.” It’s about making sure that we all know we are a part of something much bigger than our little selves… our little (or big) egos. We are all here together, and we all need each other’s help, whether we would like to admit it or not, it’s the raw truth. I have trouble admitting this to myself, and to others—a lot.

Once we stop feeling bad about needing and/or asking for help, we can begin to realize that there is nothing wrong with a little guidance… especially if it is given to us by those who truly want to give it…. No strings attached.

So, going into this new year, one of my New Year’s resolutions is going to be—Stop being so hard on yourself—no one said you had to go through anything alone, especially if you know having someone else there to guide you a bit would help-- Feeling guilt for being helped is a waste of energy. Make sure to be there for others, especially when they are stubborn just like you… They probably need it more than they know.

Yoga is not only about showing up for ourselves...going inward and working through our own crap to become stronger and grounded. But it is also about showing up for the people around us. They need you just as much as we need ourselves. . In other words, practice compassion for yourself and for everyone else- including strangers … We are all here in this world together… We might as well act like it.

Happy New Year!


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Flowing back to me.

I'll be honest here and say that if a conscious effort is not made to stay committed to a yoga practice while traveling, it's just not going to happen. And I was certainly guilty of this once I got swept up in Rome's overwhelming, yet beautiful chaos. Let's just say, I chose other things to focus on-- fun people, unbelievable food, and endless amounts of historic architecture.

But that's how it goes-- there are simply times in life when we fall out of our routine-- the reliable regimen which keeps us grounded. I used to beat myself up when I fell out of mine. I guess I thought my whole world would be rocked if I strayed away from it. After all, I am a creature of habit and well, I used to call myself a "control freak" a couple of months ago. But now, it's safe to say I no longer hold that trait-- or I have figured out a much more fun way to be-- I'll say I have committed to "going with the flow" when it comes to basically every aspect of my life.

When it comes down to it, missing a few days or even weeks of a normal yoga practice is not going to ruin anything... Sometimes, I believe it is actually beneficial. I have applied something to my life that many wise people have told me before--- you don't have to practice yoga everyday physically in order to be practicing yoga.

That sounds confusing, right? It's not really. Once you have experienced the true benefits from a yoga practice, whether they're physical, mental, spiritual, emotional (or all of them), it becomes a lifestyle- a way of being, living, loving, accepting, and letting go.

For me, I have become much more grounded-- in myself and in this world. I have become more comfortable in my skin and more comfortable with simply being exactly who I am-- which in turn, may hopefully help others to do the same. I am more trustful of my life and of God. And I can let go much easier. If I remember these things even while I stray away from my daily practice, I can still be doing yoga. And so can anyone else who wants to.

That's not to say that when a physical practice of asanas is consistent, it is not absolutely wonderful. There are times in my life when I am confused, afraid, unsure, etc. when I am not sure how I would be emotionally without a daily practice of breath work and postures. And when I have the space and the discipline to do it, I certainly do.

So, a couple of weeks after Rome, I was starting to feel a bit uncentered- not unhappy, just a bit off kilter. I knew why-- The most physical yoga I had practiced in the past weeks equalled about one hour total and my mind seemed to be off in several different places. Not to mention the constant moving from place to place, and all of the fabulous wine and food that comes along with traveling-- it was beginning to throw my whole system off a bit.

But I was heading to the perfect place to come back to myself, you might say. I traveled to a farm near Alicante, Spain to work in exchange for living. It is one of the most breathtaking, inexplicably beautiful places I have ever been. It's surrounded by mountains, ripe olive trees line the fields, swings hang from branches, animals roam freely, and the Autumn leaves paint the trees orange and red.

It was a no-brainer. I didn't even have to consciously think this would be where my daily yoga practice would begin again. So, every morning I woke up at sunrise before the volunteers had to help serve breakfast. I made my way down the steps to a little terrace and.. well, did my thing. As cheesy as it may sound, sometimes I couldn't even believe I was doing sun salutations in such a naturally gorgeous place.

 I even had the opportunity to teach again-- one of my fellow volunteers, a German girl asked if I would show her some yoga.  So, she joined me one morning when the sun was coming up. I introduced some basic postures, and we discovered that she had an unbelievably natural balance. I have never seen someone hold Dancer's pose for that long without shaking or wavering the least bit.

My yoga practice on the farm did many things for me; It humbled me-it reminded me how lucky I am to be-- well, alive in general -- but alive in such a beautiful land. And it made me grateful for having found that place, let alone another person to teach-- to share yoga with someone for the first time who seemed to really enjoy it.

And it did what yoga always does-- it brought me back.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Yoga in Tuscany & Cinque Terre.

Since my last post, I have found two phenomenal, yet extremely different, yoga studios, and a handful of people who are either devoted practitioners or simply interested in trying it out, or re-starting. 

I arrived in Florence and knew there must be some sort of yoga following, considering it was the biggest city I have visited yet. A search on the internet took me to several listings, and after reading through-- and mentally throwing out any classes related to Bikram or Ashtanga (my personal least favorites)-- I decided on a hatha studio down near the Pitti Palace, across the Ponte Vecchio bridge.   So, I made my way down to the tiny little street where the studio was nestled in between what seemed to be warehouses--- and was pleasantly surprised. 

I walked up the stairs into a beautifully decorated, as some would say, "zenned-Out", peaceful studio with a very enthusiastic gay Italian male instructor ready to teach his class. But the first person I saw was a lovely blonde, blue-eyed Australian woman in her 30s, who instantly smiled and greeted me. I soon learned she has also just received her yoga-teacher-training certificate during the same time as myself--but in Bali! Not too shabby. 

It was nice to know someone else was there in my shoes, because everyone else (the class had about 15 people) was clearly either local or native Italian. Although we were told the class was bilingual (half English/half Italian), it was mostly Italian, which I actually really appreciated. Not only did it help me with my Italian, but it kept me alert, and very present. 

He kept trying to throw in some English here and there, like he was thinking "Oh shit, I forgot about the 2 English-speaking people--- 'Left Leg, Right Leg, Downward Dog!'" I gave him props though- trying to teaching a yoga class in 2 different languages has got to be ridiculously challenging. 

The class was set up completely different than any class I have taken in the states. For example, we started with Shavasana (meditation), and did our inversions in the middle of class instead of at the end! It was like any other class I take or teach on a regular basis at home, except scrambled up. So, not only was this class in mainly Italian, but I was thrown off from my normal yogic routine--- which I think is a wonderful thing. Change is always a good thing. 

Not only did my first yoga class on my traveling adventure help me to re-center and calm my mind, as always, I also made a friend- the blonde Australian- whose name is Tracey- who I think I will keep forever. We shared dinner afterwards and ended up traveling to Cinque Terre together- where we hiked, ate, drank, laughed constantly, and shared our life stories. Not to mention, I had someone to practice yoga with in the mornings, in one of the most beautiful locations I could imagine-- on a patio facing the Mediterranean Sea surrounded by mountains. I also befriended two other Australian girls, both interested in yoga, and one asked me to teach her one morning-- I am so happy to be able to continue teaching even thousands of miles away from my true comfort zone. 

Once I ventured further south down in Tuscany, I found two studios on the web located in Siena. I picked the one close enough to walk to, and gave it try.

Early this morning, I found my way to Yoganam, a tiny Ivengar-tradition studio. It’s tucked away—outside of the city walls – deep down in the streets of residential Siena, where no tourists care to venture.

There were only 3 of us, including the teacher, who was a lovely petite, incredibly compassionate woman. She went out of her way to make sure I understood everything, but was very eager to help me to learn more Italian. It’s funny, because anywhere you go in the world, yoga teachers obviously still use Sanskrit, so it’s not much of a struggle for me to at least understand which pose we’re going to next… but again, yoga in Italian keeps me more aware and “on my toes,” you could say.

So far, my experience with yoga in Italy has been much more than finding a good studio or getting that "Yoga-high" after practicing.. which is all fabulous. And, I do make an effort to practice at least for a little everyday, because it really just takes me to a better place. Anyone who has something in his or her life that helps to calm their mind or to feel more grounded knows what I am talking about- whether it's yoga or a sport or really, anything that works. But, in my opinion, being able to share your passions and meeting people from other parts of the world who love what you love is what really what makes all the difference. 


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Right NOW. In Italy.

I have been in Italy for 2.5 weeks, and I have yet to see one yoga studio-- expectedly. I have spent this time in a non-touristy, fairly small city and then in the mountains- pretty much in the middle of nowhere. So, no, I was not surprised that yoga is not thriving in these places. However, I've managed to continue my practice in between exploring and eating (a lot! of GREAT Food!)

Moreover, the family I have gotten to know- at least the younger ones- have at least heard of yoga. And, to my delight, two of them tried it one day in a park with me. Being that my Italian is basically crap right now- it’s a work in progress- I knew I would not be able to guide them verbally through a practice. After a few sun salutations, warriors, and a tree pose, I felt strange—not talking during a practice is quite challenging- especially when these people are beginners! The practice did not last long, but we laughed and I was just glad to be doing yoga in general. It got me thinking- What a fabulous opportunity it would be to be able to teach a yoga class in a foreign language. Maybe- one day.

Besides that quick practice in the park, my yoga practice has been completely solo. To me, this is a beautiful thing- it allows me to listen to myself- my body, to be quiet, and to really just let go of everything else.

I wrote this in my journal the other morning after yoga during a week spent in the mountains- a marvelously beautiful place.

“Yoga in the Mountains” :
I woke up today and instantly craved a morning practice--- something to clear my mind of all of its nonsense. I am about 10 days into our month journey in Europe (mainly Italy). In all, it has so far been fun, yet up and down—it’s hard to know if something is meant to be when two people have no idea what they want. I would like to say I can always answer that question for myself—Do I know what I want for myself? What I need? No, It’s safe to say I am not sure at this point in my life. And I am becoming okay with that. This morning-- Although I know practicing yoga won’t give me every answer my thirsty mind is seeking, I know it would bring me some peace and acceptance of what I am experiencing emotionally. Physically, I am in one of the most beautiful places in the world—surrounded by bright green meadows, tall rolling mountains, and yellow wildflowers popping up everywhere I turn my head. And today, I took myself through a sequence of Pranayama (breathing), warm-ups, sun salutations, balance poses, floor postures, and of course- Savasana (relaxation) in the most amazing places I have ever practiced. For this, I feel grateful, humbled, and somewhat relieved. I don’t need all the answers now, or even soon. I don’t need to know what the future will bring. All I can hope for is joy everyday I am alive and help to bring it into others' lives. I realize I need to celebrate Now, work on Now, Be Now. By doing this, I release fears of all sorts, as well as doubts. I am free of past mindsets and experiences, but I have gained something from every single one- even if I didn’t like it. By being me right now, I am free.

….On the flip side, I do miss the feeling of community with other people. I am traveling alone now to Bologna and Venice, and eventually other places--where-- in between exploring the culture and allowing myself to get lost in this country's ridiculous beauty-- I am eager to see if there is any active yoga scene—or people willing to practice with me in the next places I find myself. At least I know one thing for sure- there will always be breathtakingly beautiful spots in Italy for me to stay grounded in my practice.


Monday, September 5, 2011

It's not Goodbye.

Yesterday was my last full day in St. Augustine, this beautiful little city that I was quite fortunate to spend 3-plus years of my life here. Looking back to when I first moved here, when I was 19-years-old, is mind-blowing. I was in such a different place- in my mind, body, and spirit. I struggled during the end of my high school years... And coming here enabled me to really and completely be myself. One of the best decisions I made for myself was joining the cross-country team-I became connected with ladies I will never ever fall out of touch with, I know for a fact- they know me almost as well as my very own mother. They have seen me at my very worst, and at my absolute best. 

Like two book-ends of the story of my life here in St. Augustine, cross-country and yoga teacher training were two choices that I believe helped to shape me into the person I am today. Although they are so different, both helped me to grow in extraordinary ways, helped discipline me, helped me to realize my innate joy, helped me to connect with genuinely good people, kept me grounded, and helped me to reach out to other people. 

This is the place where I truly began my evolution into a woman, as korny as that sounds, it's very true. I have learned life lessons here that will continue to guide me throughout the rest of my time here on earth. When I begin to think about all of the people who have helped me here, helped guide me, taught me, and even made mistakes with me, I am overwhelmed with gratefulness and disbelief. How could I have met so many people who have impacted me this much in just a few years? I guess you could say it's the age---19 to nearly 23 is a commonly transformative time period in a females' life, so they say. But I know I am lucky and I feel overwhelmingly blessed for every single experience- good or bad- and everyone who has shared their love with me. 

I spent yesterday morning in one of my favorite places in the world- Discovery Yoga's main studio. I had the pleasure to teach the Sunday morning community class-- I couldn't have chosen a better way to spend my morning on my last day here. I was anticipating nerves, but they never came. Even as the 22nd person filed in the room, I stayed calm and incredibly happy to have that opportunity. That was the same room where I was trained as a yoga teacher--- and I was finally sharing my love, hard work, and passion for the practice of yoga with a real class at Discovery! It was a great success, and to make things even better, some of my best friends- old and new- were in the front row. 

Laura, one of my very first friends, who I never thought would want to go to a yoga class, was there for me. Phil, who is a brand new, but dear friend of just a couple of months came. Christy, one of the most compassionate and kindest women I know- my cross-country coach and life coach- sat cross-legged directly in front of me. And Kelley, fellow yogi and one of the strongest and most hilarious ladies I have ever came across-- another life coach of mine-- who has helped to pick me up when I was at the lowest of my lows, was there to support me and to catch me if I needed her. 

Lately, I have been telling people, "It's not Goodbye, it's see you later!" And I am not just saying those words to make my departure less painful. It's true. I will inevitably- whether it's months, years, or decades from now- see them later. And the relationships and connections I have made with people will not die simply because my life is changing. They will just be different, and that is simply the way life is- always evolving, changing, never staying the same for very long. 

See you later!

And, Namaste! 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Love yourself.

It was the weekly Wednesday class that my dear friend Kelley teaches. Sometimes, I step in and teach parts of the class, but I believe it was an unspoken understanding that I was not in the mood to teach. I was needing to go on a trip inside of myself to find out what is really going on. I have spent the past couple of weeks on a rollercoaster ride of emotions- sadness, love, joy, anger, resentment, insecurity, doubt, glimpses of hope-- all of these things that normally come with life on the side. Well, at least that's what it seems like to me sometimes when I am having a rough time with a situation in my life- and it's always with the people I love the most. It seems like that's all there is- these emotions- they just take over and seem to want to take control.

Well, they can't.. The only way they win is if we allow them to. What I have found is that when you dissect each one, you can find its seed-- what triggered it? Why is it there? What is it really all about? Is it really about another person or is it about YOU? Does it really have the power to take your own peace away? I sometimes think to myself-- I wish I could just watch my life's events from an objective point of view and react like this : "Oh, okay, that happened. Okay, I'm still peaceful, I am still joyful, I am still laughing." But you know what? That's not real life. I realize that is maybe what the few enlightened ones say they experience, but I don't plan on reaching enlightenment in this lifetime.

So, I am going to take it all in-- each emotion, for just what it is- an emotion, nothing more. Sure, depending on its weight, it'll consume me for a period of time- I am only human.  But, I also realize that many of the negative emotions I feel come from something missing deep inside of myself.  I have learned at a young age that it is okay to love- in fact, is very okay to love, with everything you have inside of yourself. But I have also learned that it is equally, if not more important to be able to fill yourself up alone- Whole. Complete. By Yourself.

So, when I have spent many hours in the past couple of weeks feeling "unloved," I was naively believing that I cannot feel expounding amounts of love all on my own-- with God's help. No wonder I felt so ungrounded, so far away from the real me. I was allowing insecurities, and experiences from the past to block my heart. And without a clear passage way to my heart, how can I love myself.. or anybody else? So, I guess I could go as far to say after a relatively short period of neglect, that I'm beginning to fall back in love with myself- not in an egotistical way- but in a healthy, necessary way.

That is what I reminded myself of last night-- and will probably have to over and over in my lifetime-- as I lay in Shavasana (relaxation), as I allowed my physical body to float away for a few minutes and tuned into my spirit. I have to show myself the love, or no matter what, no matter who I am with or how I am in relationships, I will never feel fulfilled. So, with a new connection to my heart, I believe I can share real, forgiving, compassionate love with the entire world.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

It's never too late for an intention.

My second yoga class was great- I was more comfortable and confident in myself, I felt more at ease and even kind of silly. However, I always must start my yoga practice-and now- my yoga classes- with an intention. I believe it is so important to go inside and ask ourselves what it is we need today- in this practice- in our lives- where our attention needs to be focused in order to heal, to grow, to rejuvenate, or to let go. In the midst of my high-energy mood and my excitement to begin our yoga practice, I completely forgot to ask my students to set an intention, and I forgot to set one for myself. I realized this mistake about halfway through our warm-ups, so I hesitantly told everyone, simply, I forgot. The only person who seemed to be upset with me about my forgetfulness was ME- everyone else seemed perfectly fine with setting their intention after our warm-ups, leading us into the standing postures.

So we did. We all just closed our eyes and set our intentions then. I realized it's okay to forget- even while leading a yoga class. It's ok to remember and come back to ourselves and mindfully focus our minds and hearts on something we need- or maybe another person who needs it more than we do that day. 

So many times in life- and I am certainly guilty of this- we wake up without mindfulness, without choosing for ourselves what we would like our day to bring into our souls. It's simple- if our hearts and souls and minds are longing for something or need something, we just have to put it out there- and keep it in our consciousness- and usually, maybe not right away, but usually... we will receive our peace, our bliss, our balance, our fearlessness, our flexibility, or whatever our intention may be that day, that week, or that year. It's a fabulous thing to dive right in to life's adventures, but it is so important to keep in our minds and hearts our intentions for our lives. And when we forget- and we all will from time to time- we can just come back and re-choose, re-set, re-create the intention. It's OK, because it's really never too late. 


Monday, August 8, 2011

Teaching my first class.

The entire week leading up to my very first -- my OWN -- yoga class, I was full of nerves. 7 p.m. on Thursday was looming over my head -- my anticipation was ridiculous, really. There were even times when I thought to myself that I may not be ready, maybe there would be a storm and I couldn't have the class. But, I realized, that morning, as I took myself through the hour-long practice I would be teaching on the beach that night, that I was more ready than ever. I had been waiting so long to share my love of yoga with others. I had worked hard all summer to do just that- to develop the skills and the tools to provide people with a space and practice where they are able to let go and to create inner harmony and self-acceptance. I decided that I needed to write some things down in order to calm my nerves more. I called some people who I love. I created an intention for my class- from me to my students- and another one from me to myself.

My intention for the students: To help peace to feel calm, peaceful, happy, and at ease in their bodies and minds... To help life their spirits and help them to recognize their innate goodness.
My intention for myself: To relax, to be present, and to trust myself. I am a balanced, compassionate yoga teacher.

I practiced some basic Pranayama to clear my mind and I headed out to the beach. I found the hardest area in the sand to set up my class. As 7 p.m. drew nearer, people came walking up the beach- yoga mats, towels and water bottles in hand- they were coming to MY class. They were coming to me for some relaxation, some physical and mental strengthening, and some peace. It's funny, because the less and less that I was alone- the more and more people that showed up- I felt more and more comfortable and at ease. Some faces were familiar, and some faces were not, but all of them were friendly and much less intimidating than my mind's constant chatter and speculation.

It was the best possible experience I could have ever imagined for my first yoga class ever. We had fun, we laughed, we created peace and harmony within ourselves and with each other. And, I can't wait to do it again next week!


Monday, July 25, 2011

Right here, Right now.

For the past few months, my life has been a whirlwind of change-- wanted change and un-wanted change. But, in retrospect, every change that was made, is being made, is going to be made-- they are all completely and 100 percent necessary. As a female who is pretty set in her ways, stubborn, and wants to plan everything out, I have been dealt some interesting waves of change. Although I was convinced things were not going the way they are supposed to, these waves paved my path into my very own transformation. I feel much more full on life, on myself, on my soul, my mind is usually more at ease. My heart is still in a contradicting state with my head, but I will be surprised when or if those two ever really come into perfect alignment.

This is not to say that I don't doubt what goes on in my life, and what God's path truly is for me. Lately, I have been trying to listen so closely to Him, I am writing to him, praying to him. I am determined to hear my heart clearly, but there are so many blockages and residue left over on top of it that it seems almost nearly impossible right now. Everyday, probably at least a handful of times, I think I am not making the right decisions for myself. It's when I come to my yoga mat and start to just, flow-- listening to nothing but my breath-- ignoring the sounds of all the mental burdens and my heart's confusion-- I just let go... and my breath takes me. The plans, the control, the need to know what is going to happen-- all the unanswered questions-- they can just melt away and I am free to simply: Be Me. 

My yoga mat is a place where I am capable of completely letting go and trusting  the movements, the breath, the journey. And afterwards, I feel more equipped and willing to continue on my path, knowing that it will never be perfect and I will sometimes doubt myself... nonetheless, I'll move on through the muck and rise to the surface. So, no, I don't really know exactly what I want right now. But, I am exactly where I need to be. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Chitta Vritti

Chitta Vritti is basically the sanskrit term for mind chatter-- that thing that causes all of us to have that "monkey mind". It's that constant flow of thoughts running in and out and all over our heads like fighter jets in the middle of a war-- They come speeding through our mind's surface. Some head straight for another and crash. Some fly away without a second glance back. Some circle around as if they want to threaten our lives. Some drop explosive bombs that linger for quite some time in our mind's landscapes.

So, part of yoga's main focuses is to release our endlessly grasping minds of the burden of this Chitta Vritti. Once a person has really began to reap the benefits of the practice, they start to realize that we can take the reins and be masters of our own minds. We start to realize how much we live in our heads, and how a lot of the time, we are kept from being joyful because of the nonstop mental dialogue- full of judgements, doubts, and endless story lines- some which are completely false and far from reality.

The heart of yoga, to me, is being in the present moment... It's about being complete and content at any given moment- not before this that and the other happens- but now. It's about allowing our thoughts and emotions to be with us (they are not going anywhere), but not letting them conquer us and eat us up and spit us out. It's about being able to distinguish between true thoughts and false thoughts-- the beneficial, necessary thoughts and the ones we can let go of because they simply do not serve us in any way except to take us out of this present moment- the one and only place where our innate joy can always come alive.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Shifting from student to teacher.

Today, in my yoga training, all 12 of us had the responsibility of practice-teaching for the first time. When I heard that today was the day, I tensed up and I thought, "Oh no! I can't be ready yet."

I followed directions, and started to create a sequence of warm-ups from my enormous book of postures. I devised my plan, and decided that it would hopefully suffice for my first time. Before it was my turn to teach, I anxiously reviewed my notes over and over again.. Telling myself things like, "Don't forget to tell them they can use the strap during navasana (boat pose)....Don't close your eyes! Don't forget this, Don't forget that."

Despite the fact that I ended up completely forgetting to remind them about the strap and I caught myself with my eyes closed a few times, I loved every minute of my first practice-teach. It made me realize that I am capable of leading students in and out of postures, with ease and gentleness, but also with a healthy dose of challenge and endurance. As I flowed through the postures, and led them through, I felt organic, I felt natural...I felt like I was just hangin' out with my friends. I felt joyful and in love with the present moment. I felt like I have what it takes. And I know that allowing self-doubt to fall away is how I will be able to reach the place where I am teaching to my fullest potential. And I know that will come.

A few days ago, I kept imagining myself, or trying to imagine myself teaching classes, and I has this little  negative voice in the back of my mind, saying, "Can you do that? Can you really provide people with a practice that leads them to joy and peace and acceptance... like other teachers have done for you? Can I provide an atmosphere and attitude for people to feel comfortable in their bodies and minds, help them to let go emotionally, to heal physically, and to relax and rejuvenate after or before a hard day's work?" I wasn't so sure about all that. But, the good news is, the tables are turning, whether that little pessimistic voice in my mind likes it or not. And, the confident and compassionate yogini in me knows I can and WANT to provide all of these benefits to people.

But the main thing I discovered is how compassionate a yoga teacher should be in order  to provide his/her students with the most beneficial and worthwhile practice. Transitioning from the student to the teacher creates a giant shift in perspective and consciousness. Teaching classes is not a self-focused endeavor, like a personal practice, or being a student. It is not about focusing on my inner peace, joy, fear, pain, etc.... It is about theirs. It is about sharing my own deep love and knowledge of the practice of yoga with an entire group of people. My eyes need to be open and connected to see where they are, how they are feeling, and what is or is not working for them. It is more necessary than ever to be complete and 100% present in the moment.

Thursday, June 30, 2011


I did about 6 hours of yoga yesterday. I kid you not. I am not an addict- I am just in the midst of my yoga-teacher training course (just finished up week 2). And then, I took one of my friend's classes at night. Each day, I have clearer and clearer readings on my inner spirit. During my THIRD, yes third, savasana, I had this vivid image of my heart. It was filled with all these little black holes. And, one by one, my hand reached in and pulled out bunches of black strings. These black strings are leftover pain, residue from the past that I no longer need in order to live completely and fully alive, with my heart totally in tact.

 I felt new... It was like a black tidal wave swept over my whole being and left me clean and flowing, like blooming flowers in a bountiful garden. I had an image of myself for a few brief seconds, seated, alone, just enjoying the scenery. Words came to my mind, like, Don't be afraid, Just go, Just trust, Just go on your way.

And today, as I flowed in and out of postures, I felt a deep connection to myself--- a serious feeling of wholeness. I have felt this before, in the past... It's a feeling of comfort with being alone, being at peace with myself, even with all of my imperfections, insecurities, and personality flaws.  I am complete, I thought so many times today. What a beautiful thing to feel after feeling so depleted for several weeks.

Everywhere I look, there are people with love in their hearts that is so strong it shines through their eyes.  For others, it is deep down--If we really give people a chance, everyone has it somewhere inside of them, even if it is at the bottom of a heap of dirt- anger, fear, resentment, sadness, etc... It's still there. And when we find it, what an amazing experience it is. The past falls away, there are no regrets, there are no shoulda woulda couldas. There is acceptance, peace, and forgiveness. When we allow the future to fall away, there is no worry or fear, there are no expectations. There is trust and hope. And in the present, everywhere I look, there is change, there is new life, there is no reaching for the unknown, there is no looking back. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Bringing me back.

My yoga practice today brought me back to myself. When I say this, I simply mean that when my mind is so cluttered, so unclear, so overwhelmed with thoughts flying in and out like a wildfire, it is really difficult for me to feel like myself. I have been going through a difficult time and have been allowing myself to be afraid of change, instead of fully embracing it. Although I know I may forget sometimes to do this, today I have realized how much left of my life there is to live. It is so silly of me to think that just because things are not the way I was expecting them to be, so suddenly and abruptly, that things are really that bad.

Sure, things don't go the way we want them too in our lives. For me, I was in a relationship that was up and down, but to me, it was always worth fighting for regardless of how angry I would get sometime. But for the other person, it was not worth it. At first, that made me angry and it made me sad, etc. I didn't understand why, there were no concrete reasons. To my knowledge, we loved each other and wanted to be there for one another, through thick and thin. 

But something came into my consciousness, somewhere between my yoga practices, runs, bike rides and journaling-- God will not allow me to stay stuck with someone if He knows there is someone else out there for me that will fit me so much better. Regardless of when he comes into my life, I will be able to look back on right now and say, Aha, ok God, I get it now. And I will be so thankful that things did work out this way. This is my chance to free myself, to get out in the world and use my life- my mind, my heart, my body- in all the ways that God has put me here for. He did not put any of us here to waste away and drown in nostalgia, wondering why things are this way. 

He put us here to reveal our true selves to the world, to experience people and the environment, to share and receive love with those who deserve it, to expand our minds and use it to our advantage and not self-destruction. It is so important to be true to ourselves and to never lose site of who we are in our core. We cannot compromise ourselves, because, after all, we are our very own best friends. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Staying Sane.

I figured out in the past couple of weeks that yoga is imperative during times of emotional struggle, no matter how much I don't even feel like moving. I am going through an drastic and sudden change in my life, and I am having difficulty accepting it and letting go. The person I loved had to leave my life, for reasons I am not quite clear on. It's interesting, because each morning, I wake up in the same mindset of, "Oh, I am so sad, and I am this and I am that, and this is awful, and why did this happen, and I am heartbroken, and this will never go away, and I have lost my motivation...." My mind continues to torment me with these thoughts and my heart aches deep inside of my chest,  and I swear if I think about my heart, all I see is black.

But each day throughout this painful time, I have made it to my yoga mat, whether it is at my studio for a 90-minute class or in my room for 20. And, no, my bad feelings and emotions aren't magically gone afterwards, but man, does my yoga practice at least grant me some peace. It brings me back into my body, and takes me away from the clutter and confusion of my thoughts.

Last week was the first time I have ever had a class that I thought I would not be able to finish. I was so emotionally drained and upset that as soon as I sat down and shut my eyes to begin, I thought to myself, "There's no way, there's no way I am doing this entire class, this is too much, I have to leave."

But, my body stayed, I sat there, and finished the breathing portion, flowed through sun salutations, balancing poses, seated poses, and made it to savasana an hour and a half later. And even though, I didn't feel anywhere close to how my normally-joyful self feels after a class, I felt a hell of a lot better than before. It's almost like my body did not allow my mind to take me out of the class. It told my mind to shutup and that this is what I really needed at that moment.

So, during this tough time, I credit my body's connection to my mind and my yoga practice for my sanity.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Gandhi quote

"I offer you peace. I offer you love. I offer you friendship. I see your beauty. I hear your need. I feel your feelings. My wisdom flows from the Highest Source. I salute that Source in you. Let us work together for unity and love."~Mahatma Gandhi

I love this. 


Yesterday was the first day that I just allowed myself to let go, feel all of my subconscious feelings, and cry. I cried until my face was numb and stopped only because of Kelley's 4:30 Vinyasa class. I had poured my heart onto the table and said everything that has been sitting inside of me for the past 5 days. It's funny, because this whole past week, I felt a numbness and a feeling of blankness. My mind was strangely quiet, but I am learning my mind's ways. My heart and my mind are figuring each other out, in a great fabulous strong way. They are starting to match up, to get it. Sure, my mind can be destructive but my heart always wins.

No matter what happens in my life, my heart will prevail against anything else- all other distractions, my ego, my fear, my doubt, and everything external going on in my life. I asked God all week long to tell me how I feel, because I just didn't know. I wrote to Him in my journal, I prayed, I surrendered, and man did he show me what was up yesterday.

The words I spoke almost surprised me. They were all the truth- exactly what I want out of life. Perhaps my truth does not match up to the person I thought it did. And that really tore me apart. But, I got my shit together, took a shower, forced myself to eat for energy...And rode to my haven- Discovery. There was Kelley- my teacher, my friend, and yesterday- my savior. Her positive energy expounds from her and every class, I sweat profusely, I laugh, and I smile. Even yesterday, when my eyes felts swollen and my face felt sucked dry, I did all of those things. And by about 3/4's through the class, I felt new. My eyes felt rested, my face felt soft again, and I felt okay for the first time that day.

I felt stronger than ever during the intense class and I knew that even though I am sad, God has a lot of amazing adventures and people for me to experience in my lifetime. I do not know what my purpose is exactly on this earth, but you know what? That is something we learn throughout our whole lives. If we wake up each day upset because we do not know our purpose, we will really never figure it out because all we will be doing is beating ourselves up for not knowing! We won't actually be doing anything to help ourselves. All I know is that I am grateful to be here. I think that is enough for now, don't you?

All I know is that I believed I found someone in my life who I was supposed to grow with, adventure with, and learn with-- and the obvious, ultimate one-- love with. Somewhere between the worries, fears, uncertainties, insecurities, immaturities, and plain simple forgetfulness, we lost sight of how beautiful our love is...over things that do not matter. It's a fierce, passionate, I thought-undying- love... Not to mention a friendship, a support system. When I had planned my next half a year, and put all of my "career" stuff on hold, to continue our adventure together, I forgot something- things can change. Things can go in other directions. I was just trying to listen to and follow suit with my heart and there were very few instances that I thought I may be making a bad decision. Those instances were never long enough to change my mind. Love always won, like I said. In my book, it should. In others, it doesn't. We can't all be the same. My love for another person and the thought of what wonderful treasures lie for us in the future made me feel so sure that this was nothing but the best for me.

And now, I feel as though I am running through a dark dreary forest on a freezing cold night and I am just waiting to see the light. The light isn't joy, and I know this because I already have joy implanted into my soul- into my being. God gives it to everyone, I believe, and some choose to acknowledge and use it and some choose to ignore it and live in pain forever. But I have it, and I always will. This doesn't mean I won't be sad, depressed, angry, etc. on certain days. I am a human being and far from perfect, but I know the joy is there, and I have the choice every day when I put my feet on the ground to pick it up and dance with it or live half-way. I choose the former option most days. And my wish for everyone is to do the same.  Everyone deserves joy, and like I said, everyone has it already.

This light I speak about is where I will go next- whether it's with a companion or not- it is where I am supposed to go. It's God leading me to my next place on my fabulous journey. And I am bringing my joy with me.

I know this post is particularly more scatter-brained than my others, but bear with me- my mind has a little bit of everything to speak about today.

After Kelley's class was over yesterday, I had sweat out all of the toxins and Kelley invited to have drinks and pizza with her, and we laughed more than I have laughed in a good little while. There is something about just laughing until all of your muscles in your stomach hurt --automatic spirit lifter. I am so grateful to have been lucky enough to be given someone else's love and kindness in a time that all I needed was to feel comfort and appreciation for being exactly who I am- all of me, nothing more. Because you know what, I am enough. And so are you.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Learning to accept confusion.

After my yoga practice this afternoon, I came home, cooked myself some stir-fry and sat down to watch the news. As I watched the endless photos and people out west suffering from the aftermath of the recent devastating tornados, I started to feel really sad. Here I am, living in St. Augustine, FL, thousands of miles away from the recent events Mother Nature has brought to part of our country. It's not that it makes me feel guilty, but it just makes me feel like I have absolutely no idea what it is like to really lose someone in my life I deeply care for. Although I lost my grandmother when I was 8-years-old, that is the only event that I can remotely relate to real grief I have felt for the death of a loved one.

And, one of the closest people to me and I have not spoken for nearly 3 full days and I wish things were different. Over the past few days, I have been disconnected, or numbed, from my feelings, simply because I probably just do not want to feel them right now. My yoga practice today brought me an array of visions, thoughts, and feelings. In fact, I believe my yoga practice today dug them out from underneath the muck-the shock and the denial of what is going on right now with someone I care for. But it was all too foggy and buried deep down into the back of my mind.

It's interesting how sometimes the body follows suit with the mind. During Savasana, the meditation part at the end of the class (my very favorite part!), I had one of those coughing attacks that is uncontrollable. I literally had to get up from my mat and run out of the studio so I would not disrupt my fellow relaxed yogi's. I ran out onto the sidewalk and coughed my brains out- or at least it felt like that. I swear, all of the feelings my practice revealed to me were too much for my conscious mind to handle. So, I had a coughing attack, and that was that. My mind didn't have to deal with it just yet.

So I came back into the room right when it was time to "Bring our attention back into our bodies" and sit up for the final prayer of "Namaste". At first, I was bummed I had missed my favorite part of class, but then I realized, maybe I just wasn't supposed to go that far inward today. Maybe I just need some time.

For the past few days, I have also been watching this same news over and over again, with more families uncontrollably losing more loved ones, more people's hearts being completely broken.  And, here I am, with an injured relationship that I want to heal right now.

The guidance will come. It always does. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

My intention today is to be free.

Even when there is nothing incredibly difficult or high-pressure going on in my life, my mind always seems to find something to chase after, to worry about, to obsess over, to latch onto and try to hang on for dear life. Today, for example, was anything but stressful. I simply went for a short, painless run and enjoyed a luxurious few hours with my boyfriend. We didn't even argue, not even one bicker! That is an accomplishment for us, so I was extremely grateful for that. Then, I got to go to one of my favorite places in the world, Discovery Yoga, where I am responsible for managing the office on Friday afternoons before the Vinyasa class. Oh, and I also get to take the class for free! Again, nothing stressful- exactly the opposite actually.

After my boyfriend went to work and once I hopped onto my bike and began pedaling to the studio, my mind was attacked. Whatever you want to call it- the ego, the "devil" (as my mom calls it), the smaller self, the mind chatter, etc... It came pouring into my brain and took ahold of my being. I know for a fact I shouldn't be worrying about anything. I am healthy. My family and friends are wonderful. I am blessed with fabulous parents, I just graduated from college, and I am in love. Sure I have problems, bad days, negative thoughts, just like the rest of our species.  But, in general, I know I have it good. All is well in my life.

But, my mind often likes to take me away from the present, from my physical self, from now. Even on easy days like this Friday. My mind makes simple tasks seem huge. It's like it doesn't know how to relax. It's not like I was having any dreadful thoughts on this particular day. They were simple: What groceries do I need? When am I going to get those damn dishes done? When do I need to get up tomorrow for work? What should I pack for lunch? When should I go for a run tomorrow? But my mind makes all of these every-day tasks seem so huge. Then, it tries to reach for next week. And next month, and next year. Sometimes, like today, I let my mind run around freely. I let it take me every which way- pushed and pulled in each direction. But not for long.

This afternoon, I rolled out my mat and sat on the cushion, I just observed my "monkey mind" as many of my yoga teachers often call it. After I was done believing that any of the worries it actually thinks I have are relevant or useful to me in this moment, I smiled to myself. All I have is now. I am free now and free always. Obsessing over things to be done and what may happen tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, years from now, will do me no good right now. In fact, all it will do is take me away from the present- where true joy is found. That is not free- that is being mentally chained to nonexistent problems.

Once we finished our 3-part yogic breath, Kelley, my teacher, told us to pick our intention for the practice today. I usually pick the first word that comes flashing into my consciousness. And today... Guess what it was?



Friday, April 15, 2011

Cutting our mental chains through yoga

The other day, I stumbled across several articles about the diseases that practicing yoga can help to prevent. Of course, it lowers any issue to do with high blood pressure or high stress, and helps regulate breathing patterns. But the one that stuck out to me was eating disorders. There was a study done with teenage girls suffering from eating disorders, and apparently it helped them out a lot to practice yoga. It said that apparently, the girls reported that the only time they were not obsessing over and incessesantly thinking about food and their bodies and being thin, was when they were in yoga class. At first, I was a little skeptical of this study, but it makes sense.

When you are holding a tough pose, which requires serious strength, focus, and concentration, it's almost impossible to let your mind go to many complex places. Most of the time, if my mind wanders somewhere and gets caught up in whatever buisness it wants to latch onto and take me out of the present moment, I fall out of the pose, I lose my balance, and I have to start over.

For the girls who are suffering with eating disorders, the majority of them are probably perfectionists, and my guess is, they do not want to be caught dead falling over in front of others, so they focus on the practice. In turn, focusing on the practice, including their breath, the asanas (postures), and the teacher's instruction, they start to reap the benefits. Looking bad falling over probably dissapates and they start to relish in their practice and realize they don't have to be thinking about food every minute of the day. That's just my guess.

Yoga is a form of meditation. It has the ability to make people realize they do not have to be controlled by their thoughts. Instead, they can be fully present with a clear mind, that is empty-- Empty doesn't mean no thinking. Obviously, thinking is good, it's necessary. But yoga can filter out the crap- the negative thoughts we all have floating around in our heads naturally.

This is the main reason why yoga is a beautiful, glorious practice. It's a gateway to freedom.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Staying Grounded in the midst of a Daydream

So, these days, I'm kind of half-way in La-La Land, and halfway in reality. Let's get real, I am graduating from college 16 days from right now. Actually, I will be graduated already in exactly 16 days. I will be lounging around the pool or taking a leisurely bike ride in 16 days from right now... with absolutely no more school work to do. How the hell am I supposed to focus on anything that is due within the next few days? It's not like I am riding a thin line between grades in any of my classes, which is wonderful, but at the same time, at this point, I need that kind of situation to motivate me to get my head out of the clouds, and freaking concentrate. I am a focused gal, I'd say, and I get my shit done. But you know what, when I have thoughts of my family celebrating, studying Hindu scriptures and being taught HOW TO TEACH yoga!? How am I supposed to focus? Oh, not to mention that 4-month trip to Italy my boyfriend and I are taking in August.

We all know what's coming- Thank God for Yoga.

Yoga really does have the power to bring me back to the present... probably the most effective thing I can do to keep myself here, and concentrated. I have two stories left to turn in, and half of a novel to read... all before Tuesday. It's fine, and I will get it done. But I do not want to just "get it done." I want to get it done, and go out with a bang. I am trying not to put pressure on myself, but both of the stories I am writing about interest me greatly, and I want to make sure I do them right.

Today, in yoga, I kept thinking when exactly I will have time to write and read. My mind was jumbled, and I kept changing my mind about where, when, and how I would do my work. But finally, about halfway through class, I believe I was in warrior 3, balancing on my left leg with my arms and one leg outstretched....when I said to myself, "Shut-up, okay? Cut yourself a frickin break. You will get them done, and just trust they will be done well." Trust is the key word for me. If I believe and know I am capable of getting things done well, I will be more at ease, and that is what yoga helps me to do. If I am constantly thinking about what I have to do next, or later, or tomorrow, or the next day, or next week, how could I possibly enjoy myself?

So, I realized today, that, within the next couple of days, I will be calm, and take one task at a time. The main factor that will allow me to do these things, is my ability to trust and to believe in myself. Thanks to yoga. Not to mention, I will keep reminding myself that this weekend is the very last weekend, possibly in my entire life, that I will have to do "homework".


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Injured Yoga

I shattered my wrist a couple of months ago after my car flipped me off the road while on my way back to St. Augustine from home in Georgia. And, the first question I asked my surgeon when I was coherent enough was, "Will I be able to do yoga?" He looked skeptical, and my heart sank. But luckily, most doctors are remotely fit an he was definitely in good shape, and understanding of the importance of my question. Obviously yoga is not all about "Being fit" but I feel like most people who are in good shape are more in tune with their bodies than those who are, well... not so in shape.

He told me I could ease back into it, which meant absolutely no wheels (backbends), which are my favorite. I do them every night before I go to sleep. And, no downward dogs, the stereotypical, but most-used yoga pose in the book. Basically, none of my weight could go on my wrists. How in the world am I going to be able to practice without freaking out, I thought?

But I did. After about a week away from any physical activity (that's like a wish for insanity in my book), I was back at it. I went to a yoga class everyday and just told myself I would do what I could do that way, and listen to exactly what my body is telling me. Yoga helped me immensely (surprise, surprise) with letting go of the emotional aftermath of the accident that was gnawing at me everyday. It made me realize that even if I am not in my full expression of a pose (instead, I did downward dogs and planks on my elbows), I could still reap the same benefits that I always have. It taught me that yoga doesn't have to be perfect. I don't have to be pushed beyond my max. I just need to listen to my body and  follow suit.

I am writing about this today, because it is the end of March- and YAY! This is when my doctor told me that downward dog would be safe again. So, a couple of days ago, I gave it a try. I pushed my palms firmly into the mat and raised my hips up to the sky. It felt new, almost, and my muscles were tight, because, well they had been on vacation from this pose. But it made me smile. I am so glad I never tried to push myself further than my body needed me to go. It just needed time to heal and that's why bodies are such an amazing thing. If we treat them well and respect them the best we can, they will be there for us, too.


Thursday, March 24, 2011


I am graduating in one month from college. I have put my blood and sweat into my work. I love my work. I live and breath my work and it brings me all sorts of emotions- joy, dread, dissappointment, frustration, confidence, relief, and so on. I have given almost all of my entire being to journalism over the past few years, ever since I knew it was what I loved, and what I am pretty damn good at, most of the time.

Anyways, I'll cut to the chase. Last night, water was spilt all over my laptop. My laptop has EVERYTHING I have ever worked on or am in the process of working on. This is the worst possible time this could have ever happened to me. I am actually not the one who spilt the water, and I thought I was going to go insane when it happened. Tears instantly exploded from my eyes. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs. I wanted to pull all of my hair out. I cried and cried and cried. I was sad, angry, in shock, etc.

So, I passed out. I woke up this morning and prayed: "God, please help me to remain calm today. Please let it all work out, please let me be calm.. otherwise, I am going to lose it."

So far, so good. I am working hard today to stay grounded and to not get wrapped up in all of my emotions. My yoga class today was crucial. As I flowed through the class, I breathed in and out slowly and calmly. When my mind wanted to bring me to all of the works-in-progresses on my water-drenched computer, that are SO important at this point in time, I simply thought, "No, Mind, come back to the breath." Seriously, this may sound ridiculous, but that is what I did. And I felt better. The problem isn't fixed, and I am not sure if it will be fixed. And I don't know what I am going to do if it can't be. But, at least right now, I am calm and I am just putting all of my trust and faith in God for me to get through it without losing my sanity.

Thanks yoga.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sexual Abuse in yoga? um, No.

 I was skimming The New York Times website and came across an article about yoga teachers making adjustments during class. Apparently, some people have been so uncomfortable, they've tried taking it to court.

Here's an excerpt from the article by Emily Rueb:

Michael O’Brien Keating, a Denver lawyer who has represented individuals in claims against yoga studios, took on a case in Colorado filed by a practitioner who alleged that an improper adjustment had led to an injury.

The matter was resolved out of court, but Mr. Keating, who dabbles in yoga himself, sees a large gray area in manipulating and adjusting students.

“The difficulty is that you have people in class who aren’t very athletic,” he said, “or who are getting into compromised positions” and may feel uncomfortable speaking up if an adjustment doesn’t feel right.

Each style of yoga also approaches adjustments differently. For instance, Mysore is more aggressive, Mr. Brown said, citing videos of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, the Ashtanga guru, pushing a man’s head to his knee in a forward bend.

It’s impossible for a teacher — even when working with experienced and familiar students — to know a person’s complete medical history or his or her emotional state on a particular day. 

Well, obviously, just because a person is certified to teach a yoga class, they cannot read minds, or determine someone's past, especially if it is a new face in the studio. From my experience, and I have taken lots and lots of yoga classes in at least 10 different cities, the teacher usually WILL say, If you are uncomfortable with me giving you an adjustment, please let me know, and I will not adjust you. A person should be able to say no if they are truly not comfortable with being touched in any way, even if the teacher is just trying to show them a possibly, better way to ease into the pose. I have never felt uncomfortable when I have been adjusted, even if it is a man!

I know that after I become certified this summer and start teaching a yoga class eventually, I will offer adjustments- to me AND women- but I will always, always always, make sure they are okay with it, like most of my trusted yoga instructors. 

Maybe it's just me, but I find it hard to believe some people think yoga teachers are going to use their class as a way to get off and fulfill their sexual desires by "inappropriately" touching someone in a yoga pose. Please. GROW UP horn dogs, get a problem.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Be here. Now.

Something I have learned in yoga is to be present. If only I could always remember to do that when I am off the yoga mat. If only I could stop worrying about what may happen in the future and just take each day at a time. Sometimes, when I am on my yoga mat, I have this thought come into my head saying, "My God... simply focusing on the moment I am in, and not worrying about what happened yesterday or tomorrow, is so much better!" I am so much happier and joyful doing that. Why do I worry about tomorrow if I am not there yet? And then, when tomorrow comes, I'll be worrying about the next day? That sounds like a vicious cycle to me.

So, if we all make a conscious effort to take the "present momentness" off the mat (or just in general, for those who do not practice yoga), we will inevitably be happier beings. What I have found in the past week during my practices, is that it is okay to have visions of the future and to know there are tentative plans, but it is NOT okay to constantly obsess over what may or may not happen tomorrow (and in the far future). And I have found that Trust- Trust is the key to truly letting go of that mind chatter. Yoga helps me to let go of the self-doubt and helps me to open my heart, which I plan on listening to for the remainder of my years on earth to guide me where I am supposed to go.

My heart knows. My heart knows exactly where I want to go. It is my mind who is indecisive. I always tell people I am the most indecisive person I know and it absolutely drives me crazy. But that is simply my thoughts and my mind grasping at what if's, what now's, should I's? and so on. My heart knows the way. And yoga helps me to feel it and to really know where to go next, after graduating from college.

It's funny how reading spiritual writing can truly leave an imprint on my brain and the way I live my life. I read daily spiritual devotions from a book called Journey to the Heart by a woman named Melody Beade (I highly recommend this) that my mother gave me, every single morning. And a couple of days ago, it told me to follow my visions. The next thing I know, I was laying in Savasana-the meditation part of a yoga practice-envisioning this path way. I was wandering through a dark scary forest and finally saw this opening of a fresh light pouring into the darkness. And then, as tears poured out of my eyes and down my cheeks, I saw my visions, and I know where my heart wants to go. But for now, I am right here, Trusting.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Using yoga to trust myself

I was so in need of yoga today. My mind was in a million places and I was in another bratty, bitchy mood. I had a good reason- my boyfriend and I had fought about the future- which seems to be what we always fight about. Since we are graduating NEXT month, we both have this feeling of uncertainty overwhelming us more and more each day as that Saturday in April approaches us rapidly. Our fight sucked and although we decided to make amends before I went to sleep, this morning felt like I was hungover. It wasn't from alcohol though, it was from the exhausting emotions and feelings of fear and sadness. We both ended up drawing the conclusion that we are fighting over a possible ending to our relationship, even though we both think we do not want that to happen. It's like we are trying to control our fate. 

And right now, we just don't know where either of us will be and there is no way of knowing that today. We know it will pan out and our relationship's truth will surface, but sometime it is such a scary emotion that takes over and clouds my fatefulness that we will endure a huge transitional part of our lives. Although I got about 7 hours of sleep after our argument, I woke up feeling drained and unsure and kind of lost. I thought, "Thank God. Yoga is at 9:30 and I will be there." I was ready to let my teacher lead me into a more peaceful state of mind. 

Anxiously walking up the steps to the classroom, I felt a feeling of betrayal wash over me. There was some function going on in the yoga room and the class was cancelled. A fellow yogi stood next to me and peered in the room. "What are they doing in there?" I said, "Some bullshit," and trodded back down the steps, pissed.

So, I thought, I'm going home and I am going to get out of this mood on my own. I rolled my mat on my living room floor and popped in an old yoga dvd I got back in the day when I barely knew what yoga was. About 5 minutes into the video when I was starting to feel somewhat calmer, the dvd quit working. I ejected it and saw it was terribly scratched and there was a slim change of it working. 

I proceeded to turn on some strange but strangely enjoyable ethnic music and lead myself through a practice. I quickly remembered that I don't always have to have a yoga teacher. Sometimes, my breath can be my teacher. Especially during times of emotional unrest, like this morning, I have come to trust my breath and my body to let me know what I truly need. Maybe there was a reason why the class was cancelled, why the dvd didn't work- or maybe that was just my luck today. But maybe, just maybe, it was God's way of telling me to work through it myself.

And sure enough, I did. For about 30 minutes, I relished in my yoga practice and had no hesitation between poses. On some level, I knew what I needed to come back to myself- to come back to my centered and more balanced state of mind. Sometimes that's what we have to do- we have to rely on ourselves and we must learn to trust ourselves to help us get through the harder time. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tuning out the bad thoughts and tuning into truth

Sometimes, like this morning, I feel like letting out a big screech during yoga. This may sound bizarre but when my mind is processing the previous evening's disruptions and trying to let go of anything bothering me, it is hard to be so quiet. But my fellow yogis' apparent peacefulness and the quietness of the room made me want to calm down. It made me want to let go of any lingering annoyances or anything that could possibly hold me back from living this day to its best potential. And I did.

I got over my sometimes-bratty self's mindset of burdening thoughts about anything, really-anything at all, that could possibly be wrong with my life. I am at least about 88% sure that most people's minds want to grasp and grab at all the "problems" and all of the things that could be, would be, should be, better in their lives. My mind is totally guilty of this even though I have a unwavering truth instilled in me that my life is beautiful and I am so grateful for everything I am blessed with. But, hello! I am a human and I lose sight of this beauty, sometimes several times a day.

That's why yoga is so important for me. Yoga humbles me and smacks me around a little bit (obviously, in a figurative sense). Like, today, when I was slowly letting go of my bratty thoughts (thank God) and when I was standing in Warrior 1. We held that pose for what seemed like 15 minutes (it was probably about 3 or 4 in real life) and if my legs could talk, they would have been saying, "DEAR LORD!!! CAROLINE WHAT THE HELL??? STOP THIS MADNESS NOW!"

In other words, my hamstrings and thighs were aching after about a minute of holding Warrior 1. But I stayed there. This, to me, is how yoga keeps me grounded. Once the pain is felt, I can learn to sit there with it and surrender to it- much like when negative thoughts find their sneaky way into my young mind. It is that simple- I can let them go now that I have accepted them. Now, it shouldn't be a pain that makes you want to cry, but just enough to make you think, "WOW. I do not know if I can hold this pose." Today was a day where I needed to hold it and breathe through the physical fatigue, in order to help me rid myself and work though the mind muck.

Other times, I am feeling more lighthearted and less serious with myself and my mind is in a more carefree place. These are the days when I can fall out of a hard balance pose and laugh at my clumsy, unperfect self. But I will save that for another post, because after all, this IS today.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Twisting out the mind's garbage

Yesterday, I woke up with a clouded mind and feelings of great uncertainty for my future. With college graduation haunting me in the distance, a boyfriend of almost a year, and no idea of where he or I will be in the next few months, worrying is one of my most recent hobbies.

I threw on my yoga clothes, rolled up my green mat and hopped on my bike.

Once I was sprawled out on my mat, I closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths. I always try to set an "intention," or a focus for my practice that I need to work on. Sometimes my intention is a person who I know needs the positive energy more than I do. But usually it is a word or a phrase that comes in to my mind within the first few asanas (postures) of my practice. This day, it was "Let go and trust." So i went with it. I started to flow through the yoga class as calmly and clearly as I could, despite my mind's commotion. It just didn't want to let me feel the joy I know I have inside of me. Lately, it has wanted me to constantly question and fear what is going to happen.

Then, my teacher started to lead us in to twisting postures, where you literally twist your torso in one direction and hold for several breaths. On each inhale, you are supposed to straighten your spine and on each exhale, you are supposed to twist further.

Yesterday, my mind was not in the mood to hold these twists. About halfway through them, I found myself thinking, "When can I get out of these damn twists? When is he going to tell us to 'return to face center'?" But he didn't. My teacher apparently knew I really needed these twists. So we kept holding, and a feeling of release came over me. I started to relish in the twists my mind had told me to hate just moments before. I felt like I was literally ringing out all of the worrisome and exhausting thoughts my mind had unpleasantly greeted me with that morning.

Once the twists were over and I finished my practice yesterday morning, I felt new. I had this feeling that everything is going to work out well and I can not worry about the future, because it simply does not exist yet. Yoga is helping me during a time of uncertainty. With each inhale I take, I try to breathe in trust and excitement for the future. And with each exhale I take, I try to breathe out and let go of the fear.  Namaste!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Yoga is my Church.

I know that my last post talked about how I truly recognized the mental benefits of yoga during my freshman year of college. Well, since then, yoga has served as my church. Does that sound weird? Let me explain.

I was raised Episcopal and went to church every Sunday with my parents and brother. I sang in the choir, played an angel in the Christmas pageants, and ate graham crackers with apple juice while listening to Biblical tales about Noah's Ark, Jonah's Tale, etc. I actually loved church when I was little.

But my high school years can be described as anything but religious, let alone spiritual. I lost sight of any kind of connection with a higher power during those years. In no way am I saying that I was unhappy. I was just a teenage girl who just wanted to think about boys, drinking beer, sneaking out of my house, driving, and oh yeah- sometimes that school thing.

Once I got past those years of rebellion and oblivion, I started to realize there is a lot more to life than what I was going to wear next, who is cheating on who, and how wasted I could get on the weekends. I tried the church thing again during my freshman year of college, but it didn't really make sense to me. All these people go to church and say they are Christians, but a lot of the times, I saw feelings of superiority spewing from their beings.

To make myself clearer, here is an example of what I am talking about: My grandmother is a die-hard Presbyterian and is constantly shoving Bible verses down my throat and telling me gays are sinners. I am not gay, however, I think it is 100 % ignorant for anyone to say being gay is a sin. I also love my grandmother, but I do not love the fact that she feels like she can act better than other people because they are not Christians.

To this day, my grandmother does not understand my infatuation, devotion, and love for yoga. But that is okay. She doesn't have to. I just do not want to be a part of the religious divide that I believe many people have created to separate themselves from other fellow human beings.

So, yoga serves as my church.  And yes, yoga's core is rooted in Hinduism. But when I go to yoga, there are all different kinds of people with all different kinds of backgrounds, skin colors, and sexual orientations. But it doesn't matter because nothing is separating us from each other. We are all just doing yoga. We all have different reasons to why we're there but we don't question. We just are who we are, doing yoga.  

Friday, February 4, 2011

Clearing out the Mind Clutter on and off the Mat

It was some time during Savasana, the meditation part of a yoga class during my freshman year of college, when I realized yoga could possibly save my life.

Well,  I realized it could save me from completely caving in to the anxiety and stress constantly trying to take over my life. My year at Stetson was a tough transition from high school because the public school in Georgia did not prepare me well for the endless term papers, non-multiple choice exams and hundreds of pages of reading every day. Not to mention, I was under the impression I had to join a sorority and the majority of the girls in my dorm were bitches. I also decided to run collegiate cross-country that year, a decision I would have laughed about in high school.

No wonder I was stressed out! All of these new things were happening in my life and I was in a place where I did not really feel at home. I finally came to the conclusion that sororities and Stetson were not for me, but yoga was there helping me to get through that year without allowing myself to become depressed.

As a true believer in exercise reducing stress and calming my mind, I took advantage of all of the classes Stetson offered in their gym. I started going to a yoga class twice a week. This was not yoga on crack- it was challenging, yet more about relaxing and being in the present moment. That is where I came to the realization- yoga can't take away all of the so-called problems or struggles but it can help in detaching from them and stopping obsession over them.

As a person who is constantly asking, "What is going to happen?"... yoga helps me to release the need to control what will happen and to ride the waves of life without getting bogged down in my mind's worries. I know there are a lot of people out there who dwell on the past, worry and wonder about the future, but live halfway in the moment. After all, we are human and our minds like to latch on to the constant hustle and bustle of thoughts and a lot of the time, worries.

But with yoga, I have learned to accept the worries of potential future problems and not let them overcome me because, well, they are not even real! And as far as the past goes, it helps me to be more grateful and less regretful for what God has given me. And the most important part, the present, is much easier to stay in when I allow my yoga practice to spill in to the rest of my life. I have to be present in yoga class, or else, I will fall over or lose my pose. And outside of my practice, I apply that same principle, and when I do not, I lose my balance- my emotions and thoughts are scattered. Yoga can be a way of life not just a part of life spent on a rubber mat. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Get hooked: Yoga on Crack

So, I talked about how I started actually taking interest in yoga eight years after stumbling upon my mother in the midst of her craziness. That made me 16, a time in which I believe it is safe to say, most females would not wish to re-live if they had the choice. Ironically, this was a time that my parents seemed like the biggest pains in the asses alive. It was the year I got my license and drove around smoking cigarettes like a chimney and made elaborate plans to escape from my house with my friends after my midnight curfew.

Although I was not the healthiest I have been in my life (it didn't help that I was dating a chain smoker/pot head either), excercise was important to me and I noticed the yoga classes at the gym I belonged to. My friends wouldn't go with me, but for some reason, maybe it was my subconscious mind drawing me back to my eight-year-old curiosity. So I went.

I went to "Centergy," a class that could also be called Yoga on Crack, or maybe steroids- I am not sure which one. In other words, I started practicing yoga as a way to stay fit and as a form of excercise. I think this may be the sole reason why many people that young even consider yoga, that is, due to lack of self-evolution and small-mindedness.

 I am not sure if I could ever have experienced anything spiritual or mentally cleansing in that class. It was in a glassed-in aerobics room at a Gold's Gym with techno-like music. How can anyone truly relax and feel peaceful when there are bodybuilders grunting and treadmills humming just on the other side of the glass? There were out-of shape- men riding the fine line between middle-aged and elderly, who unknowingly cut the cheese at least a handful of times throughout class. There were bleached-blonde housewives and a teacher with a microphone and headpiece. But I went back every week.

At that point, I obviously hadn't exactly grasped my mother's deeper and more spiritual reasons for delving into the world of yoga. I just had absolutely no idea what my yoga practice would transform in to over the next six years of my life... in to what is now. So, that's ok. That is where I started yoga and in my 16-year-old brain, I just wanted a good work out. What's the harm in that?

Whatever can get someone started practicing is a good thing. And no one, especially a sixteen-year-old girl, is going to immediately feel the mental, emotional and spiritual benefits that a consistent practice can and will offer anyone who is willing to try.  

Friday, January 21, 2011

Mom, why in the world are you standing on your head?

I was about eight years old and I was wandering aimlessly through my house with my best friend Trina when we stumbled upon a bizarre scene: My mother was sitting in front of our large sliding glass doors which faced the northeastern forest of oak trees. Well, to us it was bizarre, and actually, she was not sitting- she was in a complete handstand- just hangin' out. She had a serene look on her face and just smiled at us when we gasped, "WHAT are you doing?"

"Yoga, come sit down and try it," she said as she slid delicately out of her headstand. She pointed to the colorful book opened on the floor. It was filled with Indian-looking people doing silly poses together in some kind of strange fantasy land- at least that is how my pre-pubescent mind processed it. I honestly thought my mother was a tad off her rocker: Why was she looking at these people doing these weird stretches?

She seemed to really enjoy it so Trina and I rolled around a bit, laughing incessantly, before we left my mother as she looked out into the green abyss and gathered her prior peacefulness to continue on with her practice.

As we cooked fake food in my pretend-kitchen, we laughed about how funny and ridiculous it was that my mother was choosing to spend her afternoon upside-down.

So, I say I thought she was so weird-a freak, totally bizarre- for standing on her head and doing yoga, but in the back of my little mind, I knew there was a reasonable explanation for her love of it. After all, my mother was and still is my hero and nothing she does could really be that crazy in my opinion.

It took me eight years to give yoga another chance, but this time, I wanted in.