Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Yoga in Autumn

Fall is here!

I’m in love with this time of year.

‘Tis the season… for wearing cozy sweaters

…holding the mug in my palms for a minute before I sip my coffee, so I can feel the warmth…


…wearing boots and scarves…

…reading with the window open on rainy days so I can hear the sound of it…

 


…enjoying fires in the fire pit…

…and of course, turning up the heat a little bit in my yoga practice.


How are you liking fall so far?

PS If you’re looking for lovely, comfy fall styles, try Cozy Orange. The teal pullover sweater and the rad patterned blue and black leggings I’m wearing here are from their shop. Bonus: their clothing is eco-friendly, and the company is taking steps to help end world poverty. Amazing!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Yoga Books: Going Om (Real Life Stories On and Off the Yoga Mat)


I just finished reading GoingOm: Real Life Stories On and Off the Yoga Mat, edited by Melissa Carroll. This is my favorite yoga book of 2014!

It’s such a beautiful collection of personal narratives from talented authors. Each story is a glimpse into what it really means to be a yogi, how the experience spills over into real life. The way asana illuminates the truths of life. The laughable moments of what sometimes goes on in a yoga class… and the deeper reflections that show us how they lead to healing.
Photo via Pinterest.
The writing in these essays is effortless – sometimes witty and clever, sometimes heartbreaking. What I love about the book is the raw honesty that comes through, and the way that the book is as much about what it means to be human as it is about what it means to do yoga. I’d highly recommend it, whether you’re a seasoned yogi or someone who wants to learn more about yoga.

Here are a few excerpts I really loved. The first is about how yoga helps us see our bodies with compassion, instead of criticism; the second is a beautiful description of how yoga can be captured using photography—and how the real yoga is in the shedding of the ego. Enjoy!
Photo via Pinterest.
from Being Seen by Emily Rapp

Yoga changed the relationship I have with my body by forcing me to understand that it was not a fixed entity to control but an embodied presence to be enjoyed.

I found that some days I could balance, some days I could not.  I found that I had more upper-body strength than I had counted on. I found that I stopped worrying about the way I looked doing a pose, and just found a way to do it. I stopped trying to be good.
Photo via Pinterest.
One day, in the middle of practice, on a day when I was finding the poses particularly difficult, the teacher approached me and said, "You have a beautiful practice." I had always wanted to hear that I had a beautiful body, althought I knew part of me would always resist that that could possibly be true. I felt, in that moment of acknowledgement, seen. Not for looking a particular way or for conforming to some norm, but for simply being present in that room, in the moment...

True yoga isn't about being technically skilled, and it's never about being good, as hard as it is to believe these statements. It's about being prsent, being alive, and for me, being truly seen. Now, instead of thinking, I will never be good at yoga, I think, I love to do yoga. A subtle change, but a transformative one.
Photo via Pinterest.
from Broga by Alan Shaw

One picture slayed me. Dru is in a south Tampa yoga studio, a few years younger than she is now, her hair noticeably shorter. The picture shows her hovering over the floor. Wearing a red top and pink yoga pants, she's inclined forward in Eight-Angle Pose. She holds her upper body in a lowered push-up position, and her legs bent around to her right. One leg is fed under her arm and the other over, and she's twisted them at the ankle.

I've seen her in this pose in three other photos from the album, and each one just knocks me out. The casual strength it must have taken, the years of focusing on her core, her form. She's exhibiting in the photos the strength I chase each time I practice yoga. The power in her body I see each time I look at this photo kills me and reminds me of why I fell for her. 

It's in her eyes. She's looking at the camera, face placid as a still lake at dawn. No sweat on her brow, or grimace marring her mouth, no red flushing across her cheeks.

She's at peace.

And there's no pride in her expression.
Photo via Pinterest.

Many thanks to the team at Cleis Press for sharing the book. Namaste.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Hip Openers

Photo by Justin Kral of Kral Studios.

Last night I worked on hip openers: frog, pigeon, low lunge, Hanumanasana.

I hold so much tension in my hips. A lot of the time I avoid going to these places of tension… it’s been so long, I think. It’s going to hurt.

Photo by Cait Loper of Cait Loper Photography.

Instead, I turn toward what’s comfortable, what’s easy. Sometimes it is easier to grip than to release—to draw the muscle toward the bone in Crescent Warrior, rather than place a block under the hip and settle in for Half Pigeon.

But when I go the easy route, there is some part lingering beneath the surface that says, You’re cheating yourself.

Photo by Cait Loper of Cait Loper Photography.

 Beneath the fear and hesitation and uncertainty lies your inner knowing.

I was proud of myself for being willing to move toward sensation in the poses last night.

A big part of yoga is allowing—allowing what is. Letting whatever comes up to come up. Not running from it.

Photo by Justin Kral of Kral Studios. 

Be willing to go there.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Effortless

Photo via Pinterest.

Perfect stillness, where the inhale gently becomes the exhale.

The relaxing of the palm in Triangle pose.

Photo via Pinterest.

Softness in the forehead, the jaw, the back of the neck.

Engaging mula bandha without strain, simply as an act of inviting prana to stay.

Witnessing as the body lights up, a graceful dance of breath swirling inside.

Photo via Pinterest. 
Photo by Michael Chichi.

Yoga does not require struggle. 

Yoga is an invitation to remember our natural state, one of effortlessness.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Have a Peaceful Weekend

Photos by Rebecca Hawkes.

Happy Friday, my loves! What are you up to this weekend?

Some lovely links for you...

Give yourself a slow, luxurious, romantic morning.


Rewilding the yoga body... is about much more than donning leather underwear and doing acrobatic poses in the great outdoors -because our bodies are more than’ images’, they are the source of our deepest nature.”

Mischievous night gardening sounds like fun.

If you are feeling discouraged: try, try again. It's not too late to change bad habits.

Vegetarian three bean chili, a perfect recipe for the start to fall.

The English nerd in me loves this post on words people often misuse.

Stylish yoga wear. I love that a lot of these pieces can be used for outfits off the mat, too.

Dreamy yoga mats.

Adorably awkward greeting cards.

Musings from a lovely yogini hooper: Trust what you came here to do.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Finding Joy...Everywhere


Find joy in the everyday moments.

Because, well, that's where we spend a lot of our time.

:)



This is my friend Jamie. She teaches at the same yoga studio where I do, and lately we've been trading classes. Recently she's been sharing photos of her practice in the everyday moments ... no mat required :)

I feel really grateful for that reminder -- that yoga is sacred all the time, whether we're at a fancy, quiet studio or in the middle of the grocery store.

We always have the opportunity to be present. There is no fancy training required.


I think often in our yoga communities we get caught up in the rituals, and our need to control everything and have it be perfect all the time.

I need to set up my mat in the same corner of the room whenever I take class, because that's where I'm most comfortable... I don't like when the yogis next to me are breathing heavily or struggling; they're stealing away my precious 'me' time... 

I hope that the teacher will cue the poses I've 'mastered,' so I can show them off... maybe if I had some cute yoga pants like those, I'd have the confidence to do better in class...

The beauty of it is that this is the yoga. When we are face-to-face with struggle, or lack of control, and we sit back and say, I surrender! I let it go. And we allow ourselves to be with whatever IS, in that moment.

Not engaging the Monkey Mind chatter-- instead, witnessing it, and letting it pass like an ocean wave being called back out to sea.

We don't get attached, and we ask to be humbled.

That's when we are really practicing yoga.


Jamie is a wonderful, vibrant example of this practice. Of the power in simply being present.

She shows up authentically, no matter what she is doing... whether she's teaching, practicing on her own mat, singing Bob Marley songs at the end of class... hanging out with her kiddos, getting tattooed, laughing with friends...

I'm grateful that she is willing to be silly, and non-traditional, and that she challenges her students to go to a place they didn't think was possible. (I'm one of her students, and I've definitely experienced that in her classes!)

It's through this kind of surrendering -- of letting go of all the ego-based ways we come to yoga -- that really allows us to engage with the divine.

And what's most beautiful is that these opportunities are around us all the time... every day. Whether we're in line at the grocery store or sitting on the couch at home, or standing on our mat at the studio. It's all yoga. It's just a matter of tuning in.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Take Nothing for Granted

Photos by Theron Humphrey of This Wild Idea.

Everything I resist, persists.

Perhaps there is no right answer to these questions.


Perhaps what I seek is freedom, not accomplishment.


I will be persistent. I will be forgiving.
 

I will not take this moment for granted.

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