Wednesday, July 30, 2014

This Hug Is For You

Photos by Jaquilyn Shumate.

Hugs are a simple way to share love.


A hug reminds me: I deserve to receive love.


And, I can share joy, even if I am suffering.

A hug reminds me that I’m not alone.


Are you struggling today? Then this hug is for you.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

May You Be Well: Yoga Nidra Meditation

Photos via My Morning Coffee.

Do you ever have trouble falling asleep?

Sometimes I find it’s hard to drift off, and there are certain practices I can take to help calm my mind and body before bed. One of my favorite ways is by doing a yoga nidra meditation. During yoga nidra, you lay in savasana and the teacher guides you through awareness of specific areas of the body, scanning the entire body and progressively relaxing more and more. Sometimes visualization techniques are used as well.

I find that it’s very calming – my conscious mind is quieted right away, and I can then become more and more relaxed from there.


My favorite is Julie Rader’s yoga nidra, which is a 45-minute track on her Mukti Meditations CD. Julie has the most calming voice, and since I’ve listened to it so many times, now I simply turn the audio on and immediately feel a little more at peace.

You can do yoga nidra any time, before bed or not – it’s also wonderful for an afternoon pick-me-up! Keep in mind you may drift off, and you still get all the benefits if you fall asleep.

Have you ever tried yoga nidra? What did you think?


This post is part of my new series, May You Be Well. The idea behind the series is that I can experience wholeness – to have a healthy body, mind, and spirit – by simple daily choices. My mantra? I’m easing in.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Real Men Do Yoga: William

 

Yoga changes us. And sometimes, it only takes a moment.

We’ve all had those classes – we walk in feeling one way, and when we wake from shavasana, something has shifted. Maybe it’s a micro-movement in a pose that opens up a whole new line of energy in the body. Maybe it’s being able to cry about something we’ve been holding on to for a very long time, and we can finally let it go. Maybe it’s something the teacher says that allows us to see a part of life differently.

One of my favorite parts about being a blogger is when I get the chance to share a meaningful story of a person whose life has been touched by the practice of yoga. There is perhaps no better venue for that than this series, Real Men Do Yoga.


Today, I'd like to introduce William. I’m very grateful for William – for his kindness, for his willingness to show up, for the incredible example he sets for his son.

It’s rare that I invite someone to yoga, and they follow through immediately and come roll out a mat. (And bring their kid to join in the fun, no less!) It’s even more rare that they are willing to share about their experience, in such a heartfelt and courageous way.

I’m very moved when I read William’s story… and I think that is because he was able to access this powerful undercurrent of love that runs beneath Yoga. Even after just sampling an hour of asana practice, it’s like he could see the bigger picture. Yes, yoga involves twisting into pretzel-y poses, but that’s not the whole story. It’s about connecting. Yoga is a practice of living in gratitude, of seeing goodness of others. Of saying thank you.

Yoga is a way for us to love our children better, to smile at them more. Yoga is a way for us to do that with ourselves.

May we continue to practice: seeking peace, letting go, and – as William did – simply showing up.

Photos courtesy of William.

Yoga Daddy: A Post in the Real Men Do Yoga Series
A Father’s Moment of Trepidation & Enlightenment

Fear. Anxiety. Trepidation. As a former military-man of over 20 years in the Armed Forces, these are all things that I've come to know quite well, in performing the bidding of my country in various places around the world. These are also emotions that I continue to feel regularly now that I am a father of a little boy. These were all feelings that found their way to the surface when I was asked recently to attend a yoga class, a yoga class which I’d be attending with my 4 year old son.


Somalia, East Timor, Iraq, Afghanistan…been there, done that. In the case of Iraq, quite a few times actually. I've seen and experienced things that most people never want to see, much less know about. I’ve seen horrible things, but also some pretty amazing things…and people. I spent my life doing work that would make it so others could sleep well at night, and wake up with feelings of security and safety.


But what about those like me, who were in the service? What was our security blanket? Where could we find a sense of calm?

Until very recently, I had never considered yoga.


I’ll admit, being the “tough guy” that I am (or was, depending on who you ask), the mere mention of “Yoga” at any outing made me cringe. Funny thing is…I can’t tell you why. In fact, I still can’t figure that one out. Pride, perhaps? If I really think about it, I suspected I’d be laughed at, if I even hinted at the suggestion of trying yoga. Another part of me thought, “Well, it looks too difficult.” That last one…yeah, there is no excuse for that one. As mentioned, I've done the hard jobs. I've paid my dues to this world…many times over. I became a parent: the most difficult (and rewarding) job of them all. So what was holding me back?

It was meeting the right person, to show me the way. It came down to my soul crossing paths with another soul…a soul who didn't judge me for what I had done, or hadn’t yet done. A “yin”, to my “yang,” if you will.

It was the day that I met Rachel, the keeper of this very blog Alive In The Fire.

  
We connected right away, and there was an unusual ease in our conversation. Honestly, I’m still flabbergasted at how easy it was to be introduced to Rachel—still am. Until meeting her, my normal response to someone so “different” from me in the ways that she was, was that of a bit of typical sailor crassness. “Oh. You do yoga? Pbbbst.” “You eat THOSE things. Hmmpppf!” For some reason, that didn’t happen on that afternoon. It was just a simple, and curious, “Wow. Really? Cool!” Well, soon after we met, she invited me to come to her Saturday yoga class. Oddly enough…I gleefully accepted.

“What?”

Now, being that my son is only with me for a criminally brief amount of time during the year, I had no intentions of leaving him with a sitter or my family, even for an hour or so. I decided that my Liam would come with me, and I explained to him where we were going and that his normal antics would have to be put on the back burner. “We’ll need to be quiet at the yoga studio,” I said. “OK, Daddy!” was his simple response. I love this kid.


Not only was I full of anxiety about attending my first yoga class, but I was a little nervous about carting along a charming little 4-year-old socialite with the energy level of about 10 fusion reactors. Little did I know, this would actually prove to be an asset in the class.

Well, to make a long story short, my participation in Rachel’s yoga class was kept to that of “interested observer.”

Yes… “that guy” in the back of the class, watching in bemused amazement. Now, before you get the wrong idea, I was more amazed by my son, rather than any of the other people in the room or their contortions happening all about me. Granted, there were some genuinely lovely people there, and all were eyeing me in some capacity (jury’s out on that one), but the star of the day was little Liam. My son.


Almost immediately after Rachel had begun directing the class in the breathing, relaxing, and stretching techniques of the day, I had discovered that my son had also taken a keen interest in the class—Rachel’s voice and demeanor had captivated him. On his own mat, he followed the instructions to the best of his ability…with the occasional help with balance from his daddy, sitting patiently on the mat next to his. I, on the other hand, mostly sat still, eyes closed. I focused on my breathing and posture. And every time I looked over to watch my son, I would notice someone from the class eyeing Liam with a measure of amazement. It was very comforting.

Fear. Anxiety. Trepidation. These are the things that I felt as I walked into that yoga studio that day. Those were the things I felt about taking a 4 year old to that class…

…but by the time it was over, those powerful feelings that hold me back from experiencing the good things in life, were beginning to fade away.

I owe that to my son, and I owe that to yoga.


I suspect that I’ll be back.


Thank you so much, William and Liam, for sharing! Can't wait to see you guys in class again soon.

PS Check out another military man's post in the Real Men Do Yoga series: Vincent.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Wanderlust 2014 at Squaw Valley (Yoga and Music in Tahoe)


Last weekend I enjoyed some adventuring at Wanderlust Squaw. Were you guys at the festival?

I didn’t buy a ticket this year, which actually ended up being perfect. I was free to just enjoy the atmosphere, people watch, and catch up with friends… just take it all in without being on a schedule :)


Here are some of my favorite moments…

Seeing beautiful Lake Tahoe.

  

Yoga shenanigans… Acro yoga, arm balances and inversions, hula hooping…

 

 

  

Live music, hugs with friends old and new, and good food.

 

Wild mountain weather (it poured!).

 

Beautiful scenery at Squaw. Tahoe is truly a magical spot.

 

Rad vendors who sell handmade crafts like this lamp I bought:


Overall it was a lovely weekend, and I had a blast!

PS Last year’s Wanderlust was fantastic too – I met Dharma Mittra and took his asana class and meditation and pranayama workshop! Life changing.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Advice to New Yoga Teachers

Photo by Justin Kral of Kral Studios.

As you guys know, I'm a pretty new yoga teacher :) 

I've been getting really excited as I approach my "1 year since teacher training" mark, and realized I have some insights to share with new yoga teachers. Again and again, I'm amazed at how much teaching yoga encourages me to be a more patient, loving, compassionate person. What a challenging and fulfilling practice it is to stand in front of others and share what you love!


Photo via Flickr.
Advice for New Yoga Teachers

1. When you get nervous before class (and you will), remember that being nervous is good – it means you care. :) Get grounded; start the class in child’s pose so you can take a moment for yourself. Breathe. Feel your feet on the floor. Say to yourself, “OK, I’m nervous. So what? I’m going to do this any way.”

2. See the students. Really, step back and SEE them. And then teach to who is in the room. Watch their bodies, not their faces. Their faces often look frustrated or annoyed or bored… but this is the look people have on their faces when they’re challenged by a pose. It has nothing to do with your teaching!


Photo via my lovely friend, Thais.
3. Teach out of adoration. Remember what this practice is really about. When you approach it with love for your students – for their happiness, peace, and well-being—it really shifts. It becomes less about you and more about sharing the gift of yoga with others.

4. Ask for feedback, but only when you are ready to receive it. Trust your intuition firs, knowing that your opinion of yourself matters most. I made the mistake at one point of asking for too much feedback, and found my head spinning, trying to take it all in. Now, I’m very conscious about who I ask for feedback, and when… I talk to the teachers whose opinion I value and who I know will support me in growing. I also keep coming back to this: I know myself best and I can trust in that.


Photo via my lovely friend, Thais.
5. If students leave the room, don’t take it personally. They've got something going on that they need to attend to; your job is to keep teaching the class.

6. Take a breath before taking on new teaching gigs. At first, I thought it would be awesome to get as many classes on my schedule as possible…whew, was I wrong! It’s easy to get burned out. Right now I teach one class a week and that is perfect. It gives me time to work my day job and have a social life, and still fit in my practice too.


  

7. Get to know a studio before you teach there. Do the owners support their teachers? Is there a community established? Will you feel comfortable and supported? How far from home/work is the studio? Being a new teacher is a vulnerable role to begin with, so choose teaching opportunities that are good for you… whatever that looks like.

8. Don’t sacrifice your practice in order to teach. Period.



9. Play around. Experiment. Teach a class with no music. See what feels good. Sometimes getting out of your comfort zone will spark something new and incredible.



10. Plan ahead. When you’re brand new, it helps to know what poses are in your sequence, what music you’re playing, how the heat in the room works, whether you’ll be wearing a mic, etc. Come prepared.

11. And then, once you have your feet under you, let it flow in the moment. Walk in without a rigid plan, and see what happens. You may enjoy the freedom and creativity that comes with being in the moment, and not being attached to a certain outcome. Notice who is in your class – beginners, advanced yogis, those with injury? Adjust accordingly, and enjoy the process!



12. Thank your students. Thank them while they’re resting in savasana (I like to do this silently, energetically). Feel what a blessing it is, sharing yoga, seeing how it brings peace.

13. Thank yourself. You are giving so much. Recognize that. I thank you, too!

14. Meditate. Get clear on your intention. Why do you teach yoga?



15. As we used to say in my teacher training, it’s just a fucking yoga class! If you get overwhelmed, just remember this... it will at least help you smile :)

Love all you yogis and yoga teachers! I'd love to hear your advice for new teachers, if you have any. Please feel free to share below or, as always, email me at aliveinthefire at gmail dot com. <3


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Summer Sunglasses from Firmoo (And a Giveaway!)

 

Who doesn’t want free sunglasses in summer?!

I am grateful that Firmoo reached out and offered me the chance to try a new pair. I picked these awesome purple shades – I could not resist! I love how often getting the chance to write about a product on my blog encourages me to pick something a little more wild than I might normally choose :)

Of course I went with these badass purple shades – they are great for lounging poolside, going for evening walks, and summer hikes with friends!



I highly recommend Firmoo; they have an awesome website with lots of choices for glasses and sunglasses, which you can order with or without a prescription. Their website is easy to use, and they’ve got this handy feature where you can upload a picture of yourself and see what you’d look like wearing a certain pair of frames (it’s called their Virtual Try-On feature).

 

GIVEAWAY! Firmoo is giving away 5 free sets of frames to Alive in the Fire readers! If you would like a pair, please leave a comment below or send me an email at aliveinthefire at gmail dot com and I'll gift you the code :)

PS Check out this other pair of sunglasses I reviewed for Firmoo a while ago. Happy shopping, yogis!

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