yogini

Untangle

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A hundred times a day
I remind myself
that my inner and outer life
depend on the labors of other people
living and dead,
and that I must exert myself
in order to give
in the full measure I have received
and am still giving.

~ Deborah Adele, The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice

The f-word.

I drop it all the time. Sometimes it’s a deflection. Sometimes it means I don’t have all the words together to describe how I really feel. Sometimes it’s just the easiest thing to say.

The f-word I’m talking about? It’s “fine” and I use it like this:

Person: How are you?
Me: I’m fine. (translations: I’m keeping it together, I could be better, I’m functioning and really need a nap, I need space.)

Can you relate?

There are lessons in the river - I think of this since Sacramento is at the confluence of two rivers. We show our children the smooth, glistening surfaces of the rivers and warn them to be wary of the depths. It may look peaceful on the surface, but there are strong currents underneath. Each year people are swept away by the current and caught in snags. Each year, the river takes lives as bodies become tangled up in branches and detritus that lie underneath the smooth surface of our rivers.

What does this have to do with the f-word?

Saying “fine” just keeps us moving, showing only the smooth, glistening surface without acknowledging the currents and snags that need acknowledgement and untangling. Without opportunity to rest and reset, without safety to ask and receive help, the snags just get bigger and bigger.

We run the risk of drowning in ourselves. We run the risk of snagging our unsuspecting loved ones and acquaintances. We run the risk of staying on the surface, a beautiful yet false smoothness.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be better than fine. I don’t want to walk through life just being okay or just using the f-word. I want to be well. I want to honestly say, “I’m doing well,” with a feeling of wellness in my heart and bones.

When I find myself overwhelmed, what I often need is quiet time to simply untangle my thoughts and emotions. It is hard to find the space and permission to simply check in, slow down, and untangle myself. This has always been why I go to yoga and guides the way I teach.

This leads me to the question:

Does my wellness start and end with me?

No. Absolutely not. One of the foundational teachings of yoga from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, is Asteya, non-stealing. Simply focusing on individual feel-goodness is a type of stealing. It is a stealing from our community and, as a result, ourselves.   

We are not truly well if our standard of living is detrimental to our community.

Like it or not, we are part of a vast ecosystem on a biological level as well as a social, ancestral level. Our individual wellness is directly tied to the wellness of our community and world.

Though we may not be responsible for the actions of our ancestors, we are responsible for using our positions and opportunities to untangle the messes that have been made and the harm that has been inflicted. We are responsible for continuing work that is healing and repairing harm that has been inflicted. Every moment, we are called to be aware of privilege and power dynamics, it calls us to be mindful of the impacts of our decisions and actions.

Consider this - if our neighbors do not have the same access to wellness  as we do in things as basic as clean drinking water, public safety, education, fresh food, access to health care, isn’t it stealing to not acknowledge and act in ways to lift one another up?

Is it enough for this world to be fine?

What currents are flowing under the glistening, smooth surface?

What snags need untangling?

What can we do together to be well, to be a thriving vibrant community?

The world needs you well. The world needs us all to be well.

When we are well as an individual, we are grounded and clear. We can respond rather than react. To heal ourselves and our world, we need clear responses to challenges and clear commitment to continued healing. We must take care of ourselves so we may take care of others, be of service, in ways that challenge us without depleting us.

So take care of yourself. Find the time and space to untangle your thoughts and feelings. Take care of your body. Be well, not just fine, and be of service to our community. 

May our efforts and commitment to wellness help end suffering for ourselves and our community.

________________

Further reading: Deborah Adele, The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice

Be Free

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“Today I release you from all false contracts - quiet little ways in which I hold you hostage to my own needs and fantasies - whether or not they concur with your own. What am I doing trying to recreate you in my image of who and what I think you should be? You have a right to your own particular variety of fulfillment and joy.”
~Tian Dayton, Journey Through Womanhood

Yoga is a conversation with body, mind, and spirit. Listen carefully and equally to the agreements, gaps in reasoning, silent pauses, and outright disagreements in this conversation. Let assumptions and questions ignite a passion to research and explore while remaining open to a new path that may unexpectedly appear.

Simultaneous separation & embodiment

Yoga has become my discipline of choice along this path of life. It has been an avenue of exploration and creative expression. Yoga is a practice of embodiment that has shown me how to be very present to the shifts of body, mind, and spirit.

Having two children has changed my body and life. In terms of life, one of the key shifts has been a change in engagement with community. Though a majority of yoga practitioners are women, yoga studios do not offer childcare. To be honest, babysitters make more watching my kids than I do teaching my classes. A majority of teacher training programs do not inform teachers how to address pregnant and postpartum bodies. As a result, I have developed a home practice and relatively small teaching schedule. I have felt very separated, at times, from our local yoga community where I once felt so immersed and connected.

What has happened, in this simultaneous separation from community and increased personal embodiment, is a peeling away of what does not serve. It has shown external attachments masked in spiritual-looking accoutrements. It has been a painful and relieving process of satya (truth and integrity). I have realized my devotion to the craft of teaching. I have become deeply inspired by developing a practice that, rooted in tradition, continues to branch and flower thanks to the fertile ground of modern science, intuition, experience, poetry, and all the amazing information we have access to in this modern era.

Yoga as a guide

Yoga is a key part of an overall wellness plan, a guide on the path to simply being well. An example from my experience: I have hip pain and have never had much external rotation. If I were to put myself in lotus pose on the regular, I would likely need a new left hip. This does not mean I have deep emotional problems (you know, because some guruji once said “Hips are where we hold emotions”) and it does not mean I need more pigeon pose or need to push my body to what someone has diagrammed as what a pose should look like. No, it means that my path to wellness includes physical therapy, strength training, and help from body rolling. It means sitting on a cushions in sukhasana instead of lotus. Following this path to wellness gives me the opportunity to pick up experience, insights, and knowledge from other branches of physical engagement and weave them into the classes I craft. (Yoga with Balls, Balls Out Yoga….I’m sure I’m onto something that could be really trendy here.)

Permission to be free

I share my personal experience here to give you permission to be curious and explore. Be free to find freedom. Do not be tethered by the dogma of a teacher or tradition. Do not feel limited by the number of “followers” you have on social media or how many people you know at the studio. If you feel limited by ability, community, or opportunity, know that each and every one of us has a little patch of creative space. Maybe it is five minutes, maybe it is five hours. Maybe it is in a studio, maybe it is in your imagination for now. Just know that you do have creative space and in your space, “you have a right to your own particular variety of fulfillment and joy.”


P.S. Are you following the conversation on the Yogaland podcast? There is an incredibly honest, informed conversation going on about how yoga can evolve from an ancient practice to a modern practice. I am deeply grateful for Andrea Ferretti’s work - we need these conversations in the yoga community. If you’re not listening, get on over to iTunes and jump in the conversation.

Harmony

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“As human beings, we are a complex of interrelated systems (including the various components of our anatomy, physiology, and psychology) existing within a larger complex of interrelated systems, including our interpersonal relationships and our environment. There is a reciprocal relations between these various structural components and the metabolic functioning of the body as a whole. The body possesses an intrinsic, organic wholeness, and the key to health lies in the balanced interaction of all these systems.” ~ Gary Kraftsow, Yoga for Wellness

Wellness is a harmony. Wellness is a harmony within ourselves, with others, and with our environment. It is not a particular body type or ability. It is not being able to stick to a prescribed (or made-up) diet. Wellness is all things shifting and transitioning through the score of our life.

We each have a body and we each have many bodies all at the same time.

Consider the perspective from the roots of yoga that we each have five bodies, all at once, all in one, all at the same time.

We are flesh, blood, bones, skin, organs, guts, and connective tissue.
We are energy, our vitality ebbing and flowing with breath.
We are thinking, puzzling, wondering, anticipating, narrating, and interpreting.
We are intuition, wise and emotional.
We are who we truly are, unfettered and in bliss.

In yoga philosophy, these bodies are called koshas. Some yoga traditions teach that each body is a layer to be peeled back until the very heart of the matter is uncovered. Another consideration is that we are all of these bodies at all times, connected and experiencing this human form and its bodies like a spiral or spiderweb.

You have felt this - you are feeling this now. When something happens in your physical body, it shows up in your thoughts and emotions, just as a drop of water in the center of the spiderweb will shake all the way to the perimeter. When something impacts you emotionally, you can feel it in your physical body.

You know how joy and sorrow resonate through your being, sometimes simultaneously. You know how joy and sorrow resonate through your community, sometimes simultaneously.

Yoga is a way of life - yoga can help form a vision and path to wellness.Yoga is a practice of engaging with and honoring our senses, thoughts, and emotions. When we check in and begin the process of harmonization, we can build a web of wellness. Perhaps adding strength training, nutritional counseling, physical therapy, psychological counseling, or just getting outside more often will help you on your wellness journey.

Yoga is a way of life - yoga can help us see our place in the world and a way to be part of the solution rather than the pollution.When we actively engage with ourselves, we are able to actively engage with others and the world around us. We can see and honor the impact our life has on the world around us. Perhaps the shift, as we harmonize with our environment, shows up as more kindness, more apologies, saying no to make room for yes, buying less plastics, becoming civically engaged with elected officials, and driving less.

We are complex beings engaging with other complex beings all living together in a complex ecosystem. We are a web within many webs, a spiral within a spiral.

Be kind to yourself. Listen. Show up. Harmonize, shift through the key changes, stumble and get back in tune each time.

Wellness is a path. Keep going.

Launch

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This launch is quiet. No big splash. Maybe a rebrand and launch is supposed to be a big splash, but I've never been a big splash kind of person. 

I finally decided it was time to get clear. Stop forcing and trying too hard. Actually say out loud what I want to offer. It was time to get pictures of my kids off the public internet.

In business terms, it was time to rebrand.

In launch terms, the launch of this little website is less like breaking a champagne bottle on the helm of a big boat and more like taking my small kayak to the river. I need help getting my boat on and off the car to get to the river. It always seems like a straight shot from the parking lot to the river, but it is a long walk for me. On the way to the water, I often drop the boat, bang myself in the shins, narrowly avoid poison oak, get a scrape or two from shrubs, and work up a sweat awkwardly carrying my vessel to the water. I drag the boat on the shore, let my feet get wet, climb in and give my boat a big push or wiggle to eventually glide into the water. Throughout the journey, my hands will blister and callous, my arms will get tired, I might narrowly avoid a snag in the river, and I will experience an overall great sense of peace that comes from being on the river as my own navigator. On the water, I will find myself constantly working with the current, my intuition, my skills, and the boat’s tools - even when I am enjoying conversation and something to drink.

Yes, this launch metaphor best describes the launch of Be Well Yogini. Nothing fancy, no big party, just plenty of quiet effort to get in the flow. It is just me simply putting myself out into the current.

I spent the past year in a bit of a mama cave in a deep creative contraction. I stopped going to studio classes, cultivated a home practice, integrated more functional movement in my daily life, focused on building my daughters’ sisterhood, and rested whenever I could. I turned forty. I re-evaluated everything in relation to my primary responsibilities of householding and caretaking - my relationship with yoga, writing, career, the yoga community, and social media.

This little website launch is me sticking a toe out of the cave, tentatively taking a step forward into the outside world.

I keep coming back to yoga. I believe yoga is part of a deep web of practices that can help us engage with the world from a space of compassion and grace, especially on those days we want to crawl into the cave. This does not mean that we are always happy or permissive, it means that we show up with fierce, honest love. By teaching yoga over the past several years, I have found a great opportunity and privilege to both explore these practices and teachings in my personal life and share this exploration with others - all of us, together, on a path to just be our very best selves, to be good human beings.

I believe now is a time (more than ever in my lifetime) when we must support one another and reach deep inside ourselves to find fierce love. In class together, we have mourned and celebrated as a community over and over and over again. We have made beautiful human connections and made real change - like that time we raised $500 for the ACLU and again raised another $500 for the International Rescue Committee. Teaching yoga focused on women's health has been just the beginning of an incredible opportunity to share empowering, healing practices for women in our community. Together, in all these yoga events and gathering, we explore and fall in love with our divine humanity. That is why I keep showing up and do what I do. I am ever so grateful. 

Thank you for joining me here, at this new turn in the road. Let’s get together some time.

Keep it Simple

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Simple.
So simple.

Sitting simply is time to notice how I make the simple so hard. In the simplicity of sitting, I feel the push/pull of strength and softness in body, mind, and spirit. I notice a cycling song that goes something like, “I can't go on I will go on I can't go on I will go on,” and begin to change the lyrics. In the simplicity and space of sitting, I make time to witness the stories I tell myself and begin to shift the narrative.

There is almost always that beautiful moment of, "hey, I can put my arms down if I want to, but I won't. I think there is something here I need to hear." 

We do this often in prenatal yoga. Holding space for this simple shape is just as challenging and rewarding as it is on the student side.

One day, a few months into her practice, a mama who had been new to yoga and seeking relaxation on recommendation from her doctor allowed herself to fully embody her Feminine with a capital F in class. Eyes closed, fully in her moment, she swirled her hips and moved so intuitively. It was witnessing Freedom with a capital F. It was simply beautiful.

Women who give birth do not just give birth to children, we birth ourselves into motherhood and our birth partners into parenthood.

It  is complex.
It is disorienting. 
Yoga and meditation can help.

When life is complex and disorienting, we need something simple to help us come back home to ourselves. In those times, we can find our way to an easy seat with our eyes closed, put our arms up in the air, and simply connect.

The yoga. It works.