Posts In: yoga for everybody

No shortcut.

July 26, 2016

Those of you who live in Atlanta know that highway 285 allows us to bypass traveling through the center of our city to get just about anywhere we want to go.
You also know that there are times when 285 is painfully congested. The other option takes us straight into the heart of our city.

Transformation and change require us to get right into the center. To bypass the challenges is to skip over the rich experience derived from the feeling of every single track we lay down as we tread our path to a new ground.

As a new mother, I could not bypass the critical and profoundly demanding first two weeks of me and Oye’s life together. There was no way around the sleepless nights, cluster feedings, and painfully tender wrists from holding, lifting, and carrying him.

Returning to the work I passionately love, there is no way for me to bypass feeling both the fulfillment of being exactly where I am when I am teaching a class, private session, or CHILLshop AND the intense longing to return to my son.
The access I gain when I take a route directly into the truth of my experience drops me at the front door of humanity. There is so much strength and softness, pain and healing, misunderstanding and knowing there. I do not want to pass over any of it.

And it is intense.

The world right now is intense for many of us.
We cannot bypass this moment of feeling all of the potholes, ditches, obstructions, and debris spread out in all directions around us.

We must not take our eyes off of the road as we make our way forward.

Let us not use our yoga to bypass hard realities being re-exposed from the well-worn highways of our history, no-not this time.

What road will you take? Will you take the path that will not allow you to miss the pulsing, churning truth of the diversity of our oneness?

Is it education? Is it reading books that challenge your view about an “other”? Is it listening and feeling someone share his or her experience of being Black, Woman, Muslim, Gay, or any “other” beyond your own experience without guilt or the need to interrupt? Is admitting that you don’t know how it is for her, him, them, or even simply me? Is it signaling, like a flashing red light, to a family member, friend, or co-worker who keeps telling that same “joke” about those people? Is it investigating how and where systemic and institutional privilege exists for you more than others? It it then using that very privilege to hold our institutions more accountable to our most marginalized citizens? Is it praying for your heart to be cracked open so that you might have space for “the other” without judgment, fear, or condemnation?

As yogis, we cannot bypass our reality by simplifying oneness to a singular experience.

We can no longer stay in our prescribed and “safe” lanes based off party lines, race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and religion. Not challenging injustice, bigotry, hate, and untruths- even if it does not affect people “like” us will wreck us all.

In all of this though, we must pull over and rest before we get weary.

We need our energy to stay “woke “and present within the vessel of life- as we ride toward tomorrow, together.

Beginning again

June 6, 2016

Yesterday I taught my first CHILLshop yoga session since Oye’s birth.

A month ago I believed no one would come to yesterday’s session because no one would be interested, because who wants to rest and be still, because I needed to work on my visibility and messaging, because I’d been gone on maternity leave—-because because (I was on a maddening hamster wheel)

Two weeks ago I was anxious and convinced that I should forget the whole CHILL thing. It can’t be photographed, ain’t fancy, and will not get my or your abs together.

One week ago I didn’t know if I could show up and hold space for others because generally my heart, head, and hands are over flowing with baby rolls, spit, and mini human stuff these days.

The Saturday before I reviewed the plans and sequences I’d created and felt surprisingly unprepared.

The morning of I felt sick.

The hour before, I was sweating in an air-conditioned room as me, Jemar, and Oye set up the practice space at evolation yoga atlanta.

15 minutes before I lost my voice and started silently praying.

10 minutes before I sat outside staring at my notes and plans.

5 minutes before I carefully tucked my notes away and continued to pray.

1 minute before I scrapped my well-made plans and pushed my notes aside. They were a distraction.

And so I began. I opened my mouth and really, nothing came out.

I paused. Inhaled. the room exhaled.
Grace.

Grace tiptoed in and sat herself right up on my mat . She held me+my doubt. She brought with her a humble knowing- all of that became my voice.

so I began again with the next breath.

13 years into practicing yoga, 9 years into teaching and— 3 months away from all of that.

I am not who I was. She cannot return. So I begin, again. building- from the mud up again.

Thank you. to every single person who showed up yesterday.
As I held space for you, you held space for me to be muddy and sit with doubt, knowing, reverence and humility for this- a new beginning.

Yesterday, your presence whispered Amazing Grace to me.

Nothing is something

March 20, 2016

I have a space on my retreat registration form where those registering can write additional comments, thoughts, or things they want me to know.

One of the registrants wrote this:
“I’m so glad you listened to your calling and bless others every day with what you do! You have no idea how much your classes have helped me through one of the most difficult and transitional times in my life! I’ve laughed. I’ve cried. I’ve prayed. But most of all, I’ve changed in your classes. For that, I am truly grateful.”

I deeply appreciate this student’s message and her acknowledgement of my work as “listening to the call.”

Listening is challenging. The longer I listen, the more subtle nuisances I discern in the call. Listening to “the call” continually asks me to go against the grain, to measure the grain, to soften the grain, to refine. Refinement is not big. It’s attuning. It’s inner alignment.

It’s not something I can whip out and show you on here. It’s not “insta”, though it is happening now. Sometimes, it even looks like nothing.

Like in restorative yoga… I look like I am doing nothing, but I am tuning in. I am listening. Is that something?

I don’t practice asana every day any more.
Lately meditation has been me staring at the dark brown lines that have traced their way across my belly to my heart over the last 9.5 months.
I lost my mala beads a long time ago.
I chant and I cuss. (Sometimes at the same time) I am not vegan. I haven’t attempted headstand in two years, though I practice tadasana, standing firmly on my own two feet everyday.

Right now, my personal practice is holding space for myself to be broken and whole, raw and undone, to feel the constraints and expansiveness of my being human in the most simple shapes and ways- on and off the mat. Sometimes my practice is to do nothing but notice.

Since that is my personal practice, this has shown up powerfully in my teaching over the past year.

I’ve been known to say less than 100 words… almost nothing in a yin or restorative class. Not because I have nothing to say, but because I am listening and hear that my students’ voices, experiences, and truths are rising up in the form of laughter, tears, and prayers. I trust that their listening into those moments communicates beyond anything I might say.

This student’s message affirmed what I’ve been hearing on this side of the call these days:

I do not have to fill up every single space and gap for myself or students with words, philosophy, music, “challenging” poses etc (I love all that for sure, sometimes I know it’s just filler though)

Holding space can be plenty.

AND a quiet seat in the class is an asana that I MUST practice as a teacher, because what seems like nothing can lead to so much of something.

the look

March 11, 2016

Being with child I have become ACUTELY aware of how often people comment on my looks and women’s looks/bodies in general. I even had to ask my husband do people comment on his looks/body multiple times a day. He said “uh, no, hardly ever.”

Being a yoga teacher and engaging with people’s bodies as my own body has been rapidly growing is interesting to say the least. (more on that later later)

My new look has been described as huge, fluffy, “wowzers”, “increasingly heavy”, and some other funny- side ways- “are you really talking to me right now” type things.

It has also been described as Glowing. Radiant. Pretty. Beautiful.
Beautiful.
Beautiful.
Beautiful.
Beautiful is so beautiful, right?

Just now, I came across these words that moved close to my heart and captures some of what I think “gets” me with the constant commentary on my\women’s looks/bodies even when it’s something as beautiful as beautiful:

“i want to apologize to all the women i have called beautiful
before i’ve called them intelligent or brave
i am sorry i made it sound as though
something as simple as what you’re born with
is all you have to be proud of
when you have broken mountains with your wit
from now on i will say things like
you are resilient, or you are extraordinary
not because i don’t think you’re beautiful
but because i need you to know
you are more than that” – rupi kaur

Being with child is beautiful. the kind deeper than looks. true.

It is also courageous. powerful. untaming. soulful.transforming.liberating.

a ritual.a passage.

It is REAL.

Womenfolk- mamas-to-be and such.

we don’t need anyone’s commentary on our bodies (not even our own)
but if one must go there and say anything.

Real.

REAL. is the word.
It’s the look.

Slow down.

February 20, 2016

Two nights ago I was driving along in silence.
I heard a voice “day clear” say “Deer. Two. Ahead. Slow Down.”

I acknowledged it. Slowed down. Kept driving.

10 minutes later what do I see.
Deer.
Two.

One shoots out into the road and just stops.
She stared. The other stayed out of the street and watched until I stopped. I sat there, shoulders soft, face relaxed and marveled at the beauty of the deer as they passed along.

Since I’d both heard AND heeded the message to “slow down” there was plenty of space to just stop. The pause was easier than it would have been if I’d been speeding along.

My rational mind is all like “well you live in Georgia… there are deer you know that. No big deal. It’s a sensible thought to have to slow down at night in case you encounter deer.”

Yet I know this was something beyond rationality speaking to me that night.

I wonder if my mind would have been all crowded and jumbled up, if I would have been able t hear such a clear message? Even if would have been able to hear through the noise, would I have trusted the simple wisdom to slow down?

If I had been “so busy and rushing” would that deer and I have met a different fate?
Instead of pausing and seeing each other, then merely passing through, would we have collided? Or at the least, would I have tensed up and been shaken at their sight versus taking in their beauty and waiting for them to pass?

That’s the thing.
So much rushing around leads to inner and outer collisions. And missing some awfully simple and beautiful moments.

Ever wonder what we miss because we can’t hear the quiet wise voice saying, “Slow down.”

Or we hear it. Don’t trust or value it. And decide to override it.

Are we too busy to slow down?
But not to busy to crash?

Gentle is strong.

April 23, 2015

The gentle overcomes the strong.

I am looking at a river flow; a steady, slow, stream. There are heavy rocks anchored beneath the pulsing  river. I lean forward to sense the depth and touch the movement of this moment. Up close, I see the rocks worn, clearly effected, transformed even– by the ambling unhurried dance of water passing eternity after eternity over them.
In this instance I am reminded of the Tao Ching:
“Тhe gentle overcomes the rigid. The slow overcomes the fast. Everyone knows that the yielding overcomes the stiff,
and the soft overcomes the hard. Yet few apply this knowledge.”

I look to the river for the wisdom and courage to apply this knowledge.
River speaks to me in whispers and slow rhymes. River says, “Watch me. I am unhurried, and I have been for millions of years. I know my rhythm and the very drum beat of life.  I am soft and fluid, yet I change every thing I touch. I am changed by every thing that touches me. I resist nothing. Most years, I am gentle.”

childs bow

Photo by: Thu Tran

Here I am. By my river. Being changed. Effecting change. When I left my previous career to teach yoga full time and “see” what else I’m here to see I was literally known as the “power sweat hard core yoga teacher lady” in my town. Acknowledging a series of personal and relentless truths and real deep healing experiences via yin, restorative, and alignment based yoga with one of my teachers in Atlanta- Gina Minyard–my flow changed. The course of my river is following a new bend. As I’ve become a different yoga student, I’ve become a different yoga teacher.

The shift has resonated with some. Others have scratched their heads.  Some days I want to pretend that nothing is changing or has changed about my practice, teaching, learning: me.

I have gained and lost both teachers and students.

I offer my past to the river.

I stand here in the present being washed over, yet fully participating in the shift.  As I am cleansed. I am worn.

For tomorrow, I carry both the wisdom of the river and the soul of the rock in my heart.
Honestly, I am afraid.
Truthfully, I am still brave.
There ain’t no turnin’ round.

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