There is this deep part of me that questions... everything.

All the bits and pieces of my life.

I hear the questions, quietly in my mind. 

Is this what I'm supposed to be doing?

Where do I want to go from here?

Can I accept this moment, as it is?

Can I love myself, as I am? 

Today I can choose to set those questions aside and simply breathe.

Simply be.

Images in this post by Ken Johnson of CKCImage.comLeggings by Ginger Orange.

Finding Balance (Yogi Surprise August Review)

Balance is an ongoing challenge for me.

Finding the right mix of doing and non-doing, of excitement and relaxation, of seriousness and levity, of saying 'yes' and saying 'no'...

I believe this will be a continual process, and I'm grateful for the moments when I feel in balance.

I'm also grateful that yoga helps me find balance.

In this month's Yogi Surprise box, I discovered a wonderful mix of items designed to restore and re-harmonize my body's natural energies. I love the sense of calm that I found when using any of these products, and I'm glad that the monthly arrival of the little purple Yogi Suprise box on my doorstep is a reminder to find time to slow down and rejuvenate.

Here are my favorites from the Yogi Surprise August box:

I've been craving a body scrub for months and was so pleasantly surprised to find this one in the box! The smell reminds me a lot of a lotion we used to have at one of my favorite yoga studios, and that extremely relaxing feeling of being in Shavasana when the teacher comes around at the end of class and gives you a shoulder press (amazing!). This scrub is my absolute favorite item from the box. Its invigorating aroma with the lemon really perks me up, and I love the feeling of soft skin after the sugar scrub. I'll definitely be heading to the Root + Willow site to buy some more when I run out. :)

These are genius! I've loved Tiger Balm ever since I started yoga and I used to use it quite a bit during my Bikram days. Usually I'd end up making a mess whenever I'd apply it, and then would have to be careful to wash my hands afterward and not to rub it off on my clothing or yoga mat. These patches are a clever way to keep your hands free of the pain-relieving ointment, and they stay sticky for hours! I highly recommend these for after a strenuous workout or yoga class, or if you're like me and you get home from work at the office and your neck is sore. Highly recommend them for all yoga teacher trainees, too!

This bar was delicious. A perfect afternoon snack or pick-me-up before yoga class. And it's certified organic, plant-based and made with superfood ingredients. Yum!

I haven't taken this supplement for long enough to know that it's making a big difference for me in terms of energy and immunity support, but so far I like the results! You can tell that the brand takes great care in making a high-quality supplement, and I absolutely love the little glass container that the capsules are in (I'll be reusing it for sure). Thanks, Stamba, for being a part of this month's box!

What practices help you stay in balance? Do you have any go-to products you use to help bring things back into balance?

Sending big hugs to the team at Yogi Suprise, and as always, to you, dear readers. Much love and cheers to finding balance throughout this month!

All photos of me in this post by Ken Johnson of CKC Image is a Humboldt County photography business; check out their Facebook page for more awesome photos. Other photos via Root + Willow (3), Tiger Balm (4), Navitas Naturals (5) and Stamba (6). Leggings by Ginger Orange Activewear.

Yoga is a Practice

Here are a few things that I know, in this moment.

Yoga is a practice.

And my practice is in a constant state of flux, just like me.

Postures will come and go.

Inversions? Fancy transitions? They do not define me.

Today I practiced yoga for the first time in a week, and my body felt stiff and tight. My joints ached. I tried for binds in Goddess pose and Extended Side Angle, and felt as though I was in a different body than my own.

I felt uncomfortable. I kept going. And, in Shavasana, I felt relieved and a little proud of myself for sticking through the discomfort.

I've heard other teachers and students talk about 'taking a break' from their practice. It has been years since I've done that with mine, but in the last few months there have been moments when I'd rather do anything than yoga.

I know I've spent a lot of time comparing myself to other yogis, teachers and students, deciding who has a 'stronger' practice, who knows more, who is capable, who is worthy.

I'd love to let all of that go.

I journaled about it today, actually. How I'm tired of letting my practice define me, rather than support me.

I don't live to do yoga; I do yoga in order to live a more balanced, happy, peaceful life.

Let that be my mantra. Let the comparisons and judgments fall away.

I want to be remembered as a yogi who loved wholeheartedly.

I want to be remembered as someone who cared, who took care of herself with grace and kindness, and who refused to let fear get the best of her. If handstand is in that picture, OK. If not, OK.

How do you practice ahimsa in your yoga routine? How do you let go of a fear of failure, of not being good enough?

Namaste, loves.

Badass Women: Brynna


What better way to kick off the weekend than with a post in the Badass Women series here on Alive in the Fire? :)

I'd love to introduce you to Brynna, an amazing friend of mine who is one of the most badass photographers I know. Not only does Brynna inspire me with her artistic work behind the camera lens, but she knows how to teach an incredible vinyasa flow class and how to make the best damn mimosa you've ever had. Brynna always keeps me laughing, she's there for me whenever I need a hug, and she's just hands down one of my favorite people on earth. This is her story.

What makes you a badass?

What makes me a badass—I refuse to let fear outweigh my ability to make decisions and choices for myself.  I’m far more afraid of missing out on living my life fully, than leaving a job or relationship or whatever else doesn’t serve me.  One of my favorite authors, Maurice Sendak, author of “Where the Wild Things Are” (excellent read by the way….not just for kids), did a radio interview on NPR about five years ago.  He talked about a lot of things including life and death.  He said,  “It is a blessing to get old.  It is a blessing to find the time to do the things, to read the books, to listen to the music.  I wish you all good things.  Live your life, live your life, live your life."

If there’s anything worth anything it’s knowing that what scares me can only be one of two things: 1. Stories in my head, or 2. Things I have absolutely no control over.  I recognize however that I have a choice in how I react to both.  When faced with that, I know these are the moments when I feel tested to truly live my life.  I’ve actually grown fond of saying “fuck-it” and pressing on.  I’m a work in progress, but there won’t be even the smallest part of me if I’m blessed to grow old and gray, that won’t have lived a life filled with experiences that I choose; with big huge amazing love—with people, and words and books and music and pictures and the sound of ocean waves lapping up against a shoreline.  All of these will be moments that will have seeped in and grown wild and will have become a part of me. Life is, in fact, too short not to be a badass.    

When do you feel most confident? 
When I’m surrounded by people I love.

How did you get where you are today? 
It’s been a twisty road. Simply put, recognizing I had something to give, and then giving it.

What do you do for yourself to rejuvenate? 
Chocolate, dog kisses, yoga -- not necessarily in that order.

Who has inspired you or encouraged you lately? 
Anyone that knows me, knows I am madly deeply in love with my best friend.  The wildest, craziest soul I’ve ever met…who just happens to be my dog.  He is one of my most favorite teachers.  Partly because he doesn’t give a fuck and partly because he lives in every single moment.  There is nothing more encouraging than knowing this is actually possible, because he does it every day.  Maybe Bruno should have done this interview, because he is for sure living his life.  No regrets, no apologies.  He makes me want to be a better human every single day.

What advice would you give to someone who's having a crappy day or needs to feel badass in this moment? 
I would ask them, if your life depended on it—could you let go of what’s making you feel crappy? If the answer is yes, then try to remember your life will inevitably be filled with these moments, but how much of your precious time do you want to spend on them.  Is it worth it?  Find your inner badass and let it go, maybe even tell it to fuck off...

How do you plan to continue your baddass-ery? ;) 
By living life of course :) At the moment I’ve also been growing a yoga photography business.

My little creation born from my love of yoga.  Elsie de Wolf has continued to be a source of inspiration for me lately with my photography.  I  have a book that offers a small window into her life detailing her experiences during WWII through the use of photographs.  I’ve heard her described as the mother of interior design.  She said, "I’m going to make everything around me beautiful—that will be my life.”  And she did.  This has been something that has stuck with me lately.  Getting the opportunity to shoot with so many different and equally amazing yogis, is kind of awesome.   Surrounding myself with beauty in all it’s forms, for no other reason than, it feels good.  

Thank you, Brynna, for being a part of this series -- and mostly, just for being you!


Yoga Photos to Document Your Progress

Do you guys ever take photos to document your progress in a yoga pose?

With the popularity of Instagram and Facebook, it's pretty common to see pictures of people doing yoga. And while it's fun and uplifting to post a yoga pic on your social media page, and hear encouraging comments from friends, it can also be a powerful tool for deepening your personal practice.

 Above photo by Cait Loper. Below photo by Felipe Silva of @the_lost_portraits.

I recommend committing to a pose for a period of time, maybe 6 months or a year. Put a sticky note on your wall to remind you to do the pose every day. Take a photo each month to track your progress. Consider taking time to write about this pose-- how it makes you feel, what it offers you, what other poses it gives you access to.

If you're a yoga teacher, you might even consider investing in a professional photo shoot twice this year, and see how far you've come.

You'll be surprised by what you learn when you look at your alignment at a distance, and how quickly you progress in the posture!

 Above photo by Cait Loper

A few more tips on how taking photos can help inspire your practice:
  • Consider trying a new studio once a month. Explore your local yoga communities. Get a photo in front of the space or in the lobby with your teacher after class, or ask a new friend that you meet to take a quick picture of you after class on your mat. Use the photo opportunity as a way to connect with new yogis, inspire your conversation, and maybe even make a new friend that you'll cherish for years to come!
  • Be cognizant of studio etiquette. Often our yoga studio rooms are sacred space where we ask people not to bring their cell phones. If you are going to take a photo, ask your teacher before or after class if they're OK with it (chances are, they'll be happy you checked in, and more than willing to take the picture for you!)
  • Ask yourself the question, What poses am I hungry for? Are there any poses you generally tend to hate, that you're ready to try again? Is there an arm balance or an inversion that you want to master? Once you are willing to commit to practicing the pose on a regular basis - every day, or maybe up to 5 times a week - you'll see incredible progress. Be kind to yourself in the process, and stay devoted!
  • After you take a photo, take time to notice your body alignment in the pose. Notice lines of energy. Where is the action of the pose? Where are your feet and hands? Is there anywhere in your body that energy seems 'stuck'? Are you holding your breath or scrunching up the muscles in your face? What do you notice? Often these little details will help you unlock new understanding of the pose, increase your knowledge of human anatomy, or find a new trick that helps you.

Here are my reflections on my progress in King Pigeon (Mermaid Pose):
  • Today my hips are more open and closer to the ground
  • Today my chest and shoulders are more open and heart chakra is more able to give and receive love 
  • In the left picture, I was a teacher in training; on the right, I'm a full time teacher prepping for a consciously sequenced class to get students into this pose
  • Then: more hair :)
  • Now: more tattoos
  • Always: grateful for my yoga practice! 
I'm amazed, humbled and proud of how far I've come in two years, not only with some of these fancy poses but moreso with how I am able to carry my practice off the mat -- to be able to care for and love myself unconditionally, for my willingness to get out of my comfort zone and be vulnerable, and for using my voice!

PS My absolute favorite Instagram account to follow if you're looking for progress photos is @cyogalab. Carmen Aguilar has an incredible asana practice, and it's because she's devoted to working on the poses every day. Check out her page for ideas about how to deepen your poses, and stay committed to your physical practice.