I have been thinking about this today, and I feel like I would like to share. Yesterday I had a super exciting day over all, I taught my regular morning classes and then I went to present at Kramas Yoga School as a lead on the topic of making yoga classes more accessible to all. (I will be sharing more of this experience too and post it later.) If you know me, and my nature, I like to plan and I like to allow plenty of time to arrive somewhere.
Not as early as I should have arrived, because I was to present at 2pm - but I arrive at 1:15pm. Yes. 45 minutes early. I had planned extra time since I knew I'd have to drive through downtown to get to Infinite Flow Yoga Studio and that traffic can unpredictably be backed up, so I of course allowed more time. But, I didn't have to stop at 1 traffic light, it was green all the way and no traffic congestion. So I find a place to park, try to settle my nerves a bit because I am so passionate about this topic and I want to share it in a way that is usefully for yoga teachers to be, I get nervous. I was so much in my head, that I did not see a woman approach my car and her gentle knock on the window startled me a bit.
I made a quick judgment about her and imagined that she was going to ask me for money, so instead of opening up the window on the passenger side, I stepped out of the car on my side and asked her what she wanted. I did than realize she had a very young child (a year old or less) with her. she said she had just missed the bus and needed a ride to a gas station that was about 5 miles back towards downtown. she could give me gas money. After I asked her a few more questions, I told her I just couldn't help her because I was so focused on my presentation and I didn't want to be late. She walked away from me and over to a parking stop about 3 spaces over and sat down I believe to figure out what her next plan was. I asked her if she knew when the next bus was coming and she said in an hour. I observed her again, I took a breath and truly SAW her - someone who was in challenging circumstances, tired, kind and having a bad day. It cannot be easy to ask a complete stranger for a ride to begin with. I will say I also believe that she was about ready to cry. Something inside me said that despite all of the bad things that could happen by giving a stranger a ride, offering her a lift was absolutely the right thing to do. So I did. I told her I did not want her to feel rushed but I could give her a lift if we left right away.
We introduced ourselves by first name, shook hands and she also introduced me to her beautiful daughter Jayla who had the cutest smile EVER when I waved at her. Mom had not only been carrying around all of her belongings but also a car seat so that if she could get a ride with someone her daughter could be safe. The ride and our conversation in the car was about 9 minutes. She had asked me to drop her off at a gas station near a shelter that was about 4 blocks from the gas station. Near the end of the ride, I dropped her off at the shelter so she wouldn't have to walk that much further. My passenger had fallen on hard times and recently evicted from her place. she had some resources of friends and some minimal help from parents but this was her first week that she had to seek a shelter for survival. She again offered me gas money when I dropped her off, I instead chose to give her the few dollars that I had because I believe she needed it more than me. I didn't change her life, I couldn't fix her circumstances, and I couldn't help and I felt that I really didn't make anything better.
After I dropped her off, I drove back and was still 17 minutes before I was to present to the group. plenty of time. I had planned an introduction with learning the students names and talking about my background a bit, but instead with just the few minutes before presenting, I decided to share my experience with the group. I just felt that in many ways this was a practice that felt how we as yogi's and yoga teachers can bring the deepest practices of yoga on the mat into the world. I didn't save anyone, but I imagine I created just a bit of ease and comfort for the day for someone who needed just a bit of accessibility or kindness in that moment.
As I mentioned before, my experience leading the group went so well and I'm still on a bit of cloud from the positive experience. but I also have been thinking about my experience of offering a ride to someone who needed a ride. I want to make clear, that I'm not sharing this with you to have you throw aside any instinct of caution or concern and pick up strangers. I truly had an experience in this moment that although I was raised right and well educated it stood in the way for a moment of seeing the humanity in someone else. I choose to lead with a kind heart an intuition that said do the right thing and not let fear paralyze seeing the humanity in my fellow humankind.
there are many small ways that we can make a difference for someone- I'd love to hear your thoughts or any stories you'd like to share.
I make quite a deal out of my birthday each year, like really! I could say it's simple - I'm a Leo, we are like that. but being born in a water year, I believe my qualities are usually more low key and I tend to roar a bit less than my other bright shining Leo cohorts. Except birthday time. Anyone in earshot usually will know my birthday is within a month or just was.....I find myself thinking how obnoxious I'm being, and then being fine with that too. I just feel I can't help it. ME month!
However this year for the past couple months, I realized I'm not bringing my usual zest and enthusiasm for the upcoming day, so a bit of digging in and processing here is what's been on my mind. I realized that I've needed bring something in my heart to an end, and my age seems more in my face about this than it ever has any other time in my life. none of these milestones I cared too much about- double digits at 10, turning 18 officially into an adult, 21 you can drink, than the you can't do milestones start, most likely not going to be famous if it didn't happen by 25, you're not going to be in the FBI anymore if you are over 36, Over 40 as a woman you most likely will not have a baby. Sometimes age does matter.
Since Mark and I have been married we have tried to conceive a child and over the past year, many signals that I imagine for most women would be a sign of their body changing, my slightly unrealistic over optimistic hope and possibilities have been that lateness or differences I have dreamed were of possible conception. These past couple years, I only accepted reading about stories of women beyond their 40's conceiving a child and the viability of it all. Only those closest to me have had some personal and deep discussions and known even though probability was unlikely, I learned and I appreciated knowing not everyone's story to conception was easy, yes I'm aware of how old I'd be when my child would turn 20, these hard realities and honestly their thoughts and support were so caring and kind I tried to find relief and peace with this dialogue, but I have been rather inconsolable. (because yes, but my body is supposed to be able to do this!)
so as this birthday nears I decided I wanted to have a more somber way to honor my age with a ritual of letting go of this hope and possibility. maybe not a fun arcade night and multiple lunches and dinners with friends to celebrate my birthday month, but something that can put this difficult monthly trap of ups and downs- am I, could I be, maybe?????? - nope. and repeat - to peace.
I've been doing my best to not be incessantly on social media, I have been reading a lot more lately and writing, and regardless of the knowledge I have about looking at screens right before sleep - cute dog and cat videos can set me up for a good night's rest. Sadly after an adorable belly-up puppy video - what came across my news-feed was that a classmate, a lovely soul, a swim team teammate -Katy had lost her battle with cancer. This quite quickly after she posted receiving a 3 year cancer free prognosis in May. It returned with a vengeance and with complications to chemo she lost her battle last night.
Since graduation Katy had went on to so many things, she was a successful lawyer, lived life to the fullest- met her soul mate, attended rock concerts, traveled the world, all these amazing things and impacted so many people. then cancer. FUCK CANCER!!!! she has been on my mind quite a bit today, I have suffered quite a bit of loss this year and hearing her passing has bubbled and stirred more sadness and grief up again.
It's only happened a few times in my life (3 that I can remember) I hear 3 LOUD knocks in my dream. They wake me up, they vibrate so much that I truly believe that they were in the waking world (I get half way out of bed to answer the door and realize our door is wood not metal) and they echo in my body and ears for hours afterward. This is how I woke up this morning, echoing knocks - mostly what the dream books say is that a major SHIFT is coming.........
I believe all of this is some type of clarity to instant presence - first off, acceptance. I think I'm somewhere close to acceptance about my body. I had been seeing this all backwards, I don't have to give up hope and possibility in my life I like those parts of me too, what I found is seeking acceptance in my heart. my body, life, cancer, loss, uncertainties, all of it. we really cannot control or manage most of what comes our way. It's not bad to hope or believe in possibility, but I need to allow what these things are and not let them be bigger than they are. I also think I need to celebrate my birthday and my life as it is.
We all have stressors that rattle us, knock us off our moments of balance, or burden our lives. These are things we either want to change, pretend not to exist, or even wish away every so often.
Loss, Stress, jobs, bills, messy homes, the toxic people in our lives—they all from time to time “own” us, consume us, or drive us spiritually away from our true selves. Acceptance means that you do not let these things own you or your life. They exist. They will continue to exist.
It is our response to these stressors, not the stressors themselves that is within our control. Accepting life, including its burdens and hardships, helps us thrive despite these stressors. Instead of making these stressors bigger than they are, we simply need to recognize and accept them as part of the journey.
This is why humility and non-attachment are essential components to a sound yoga practice and a good life. We cannot let the the sad moments or the "too" great of moments “own” us either by making them bigger than they are or living in the past at the expense of the present.
how this can show up in your yoga?
Practicing Aparigraha (non attachment or acceptance)
check out this article for more ideas and practices-
Mantra to practice: “I am at peace as I am”
Namaste dear ones!!!!
Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys by Viv Albertine
& Spiritual Literacy - reading the sacred in Everyday Life by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
& Lifelong Yoga by Sage Rountree and Alexandra Desiato
Namaste dear ones! I hope you are looking forward to the upcoming year. I have to say many January's in the past have brought struggle, not that I imagine that I'm cursed, but it just seems to be a month in years past that has brought unexpected challenges so I often head into the new new year with a bit of trepidation.
This year however, I am looking forward to so many plans that I have dreamed up that I want to pursue for this year and I beleive that it will be a fantastic year. I look forward to sharing these plans with you when the time is right. laying down these plans has felt like building blocks. For any strong foundation you need a strong support. I imagine that you may have felt many ways about the yoga block as a prop this month if you practiced with me, below is a link to connect to some of the movements we did.
The work that we did with the block is about coordination, mobility, strength and creating a strong mind body connection. I hope you enjoy the video and some of the practices that you can do at home, if you have questions or an exciting discovery along the way, please comment below!
New Years marks a new beginning. New people to meet, new adventures to enjoy and new memories to create.
Here's wishing you the happiest New Year ever!
Yoga practice offers practical methods to shift our perception of the world and of ourselves, so we may become more effective in our everyday life.....
I have never considered myself good with the written word. I had learning challenges as a kid, which has influenced a resistance to writing for a long time. However, I have always had a love for reading and longed for a writing habit. so I decided and have kept a paper planner for my schedule this entire year. I honestly, don't think I have ever maintained a calendar this long. however, with my schedule and the randomness that sometimes happens in my schedule it is important to keep it all straight. I have learned that writing it down stays with me way longer than putting it into a digital calendar. If you are looking for a good planner, here is what I used: Native Bear planner it is filled with spaces to write to do's, intention for the week, things to get completed in the month ahead, and plenty of spaces for notes in between.
so I am going to continue this writing.
For this year I have been thinking about ways to use my newly developed writing habit to tie into some of my future plans. And I have also thought about this in the sense of plans versus dreams. I am by nature someone who is pretty good at planning things out. I like to plan get togethers with friends, my yoga classes, and my week ahead. However, I have never considered myself much of a dreamer. Planning takes grounded roots and a firm base in the practical that I have not often explored open ended possibilities in a realistic sense, rather that dreams are for the dreamers. Mind you I am drawn to those who dream, I am married to a wonderful dreamer I embrace and hold tender his talks of possibilities.
Somewhere in my life, I have wandered away from dreaming for myself. I'm not sure the planner/level-headed me ever thought beyond tangible steps before, but I believe that writing out steps for a dream may make a grander idea possible. In addition to continuing writing out my weeks for the coming year, I am also going to plan out some ideas that I have been thinking about for awhile. I have 4 ideas which I believe are dreams of a future me, and taking pen to paper for some of these ideas has led me to discover, 3 of them may connect and evolve together In a way I hadn't thought possible before (ummm sounds a bit dreamy to me). therefore in addition to my planner, I have come across this book which I hope will help in my path forward. a little bit of planning (grounded, rooted) and a bit dreamy.
RITUALS FOR LIVING DREAMBOOK + PLANNER
I believe with my yoga practice and the deep dive within, I will continue to explore and deepen my path, it truly does manifest into many other areas of my life
For 2019, I wish all of these things for you as well dear friends!
Yoga and the Dark Night of the Soul by Simon Haas
Looking forward to reading:
Rituals for Transformation by Briana and Dr. Peter Borten
I remember when my drivers test appointment was booked. My mother told me, don't tell anyone that you're going to take your test. I was puzzled by her request because I was so excited to be able to envision driving all alone, and she said well if you fail, no one will know either way. Although that may sound harsh about the prospects of my success as a newly minted driver, I believe I've approached many things in my life in this way, careful to share or express excitement around something that may not pan out. Well, let me just say that for the past couple years and the preparations of the past 6 months on my path to completing my advanced yoga teacher training, I had forgotten this advice. well partially that, and partially I was so joyful about my path, I'll talk about yoga and my passions within the practice to anyone who shows interest, and because of this excitement - overlooked the stakes of being approved in one more step towards certification.
My workshop date was set during a training weekend and all plans were in place to present. I also got to invite a few students to attend outside of the teacher training and invited my very close friends and students to attend. I was nervous, excited, and loved the process and challenge of preparing and putting together presentation materials (which included a button!), sequencing, adding in our advanced themeing elements and also just got a big joy out of telling people about my workshop. "What the Prop?" ways to incorporate yoga props into your practice.
I was feeling as ready as I was going to be for the night. Everything that I could possibly have done to be prepared I had done. It was the strangest day that held a half hour long blizzard in the middle of October which knocked many of the beautiful fall colors and leaves out of the season right at the time that I had to unload all of my props and materials for the presentation. No snow accumulated but it was enough to pause and think of how truly unpredictable mother nature can be. I set up the room, and then it was time to start. I was bit too nervous at first but eventually found my groove and taught my workshop. I received wonderful feedback. One of my attendees brought me flowers. It felt great to be teaching! I felt fantastic and that I really shared some new insights for everyone that evening, and since I was so nervous the few nights before I also got the best night sleep afterward.
The following week I presented again because a few friends who couldn't attend my initial workshop wanted to see what I shared. I was tired, I hadn't really caught my breathe from the previous weeks experience but I also enjoyed presenting it again.
Than on Halloween (Wednesday) we had our feedback session it was me and 3 of my peers who also presented phenomenal workshops that weekend, meeting to discuss our feedback and be reviewed by our mentor. I received much positive feedback about my workshop, but overall, I didn't quite make the mark for adding in all our advanced training elements. I think it's unfortunate sometimes how our human minds work, because despite all of the positive feedback - I came away from that meeting feeling a failure. (not in actuality mind you, but my mind and heart just went there). as many of you have or maybe you can imagine, have since asked how my presentation went, I'm so grateful for you and to have thought of me, because I'm still processing not meeting my mark of the event, It was been some very heartbroken sad days for me. I have very teary eyed had to explain my failure even though I haven't fully comprehended how to meet those marks in the future.
So how do you comeback from failure? Well after a couple of days of once again little sleep and lot of distress, I reached out to my mentor just to explain my interior experience of it all. I have maintained to be honest about not reaching the marks that I so dearly had wished to reach even if it means I will have a few tears explaining that in conversation. I have already decided what I want to offer in a new workshop down the road, and I have chosen to share this experience with you.
I've been reading Brene' Browns latest book and have been focusing on the rumblings with my own vulnerability. And if you are in need for a few ways to find your way through failure, here is what I have been working with:
1.Compassion: a fellow teacher of mine said you give so much compassion in your teaching - it's time to find some for yourself. what would be the compassionate thing for you? For me it will be taking a yoga class, and having coffee with a friend this week.
2. Connection :your square squad. One of my favorite tips in Brene's book is to write down my square squad. get a one inch by one inch piece of paper. it needs to be small because it forces you to edit, write down the names of people whose opinions of you matter. fold it and put it in your wallet. then take 10 minutes to reach out to those people - your square squad- and share a little gratitude. send a simple note or message their way.
3. Create: Crumble/Construct - I think we put so much attention on the need to say everything is fine and perfect. but to be honest a day and a half of sadness, crying and being with those emotions really allowed me to emerge from the internal crumble as opposed to carrying it with me for a long time. I than started to make my new plans for how to proceed- I started to think of new workshop ideas and I reached out to my mentor to just express my dismay over it all, it was so helpful to hear a different perspective on the outcome. It also has lead me to believe that this will make me a better human/and yoga teacher in the end. I just needed this process on the way to get there.
Thoughts on mindful moment images and a little tech help from a photographer:
I have been taking a lot more yoga pose "selfie's" these days, more on that in a bit.
With this development, I have realized that there is about 2 decades of my life that barley have any photographic evidence with me in it. Wedding photos exist during this time and an occasional image of me in the furthest background of family holiday pictures and some office gathering photos too.
From a very young age, I always enjoyed taking photos - of family, friends, animals, nature and things that were new to my eyes. But I have shied away from being in front of the camera as long as I can remember. I even based a profession on being behind the scenes.
Enter Yoga in my life and further self study, I imagine for me part of it was worthiness part of it was/ is being more introverted but most of it lied in not wanting to see my image. I don't consider myself a conventional beauty and didn't imagine others would want to see all the flaws that I noticed. However these days I realize putting images of myself out there is exactly what others need to see. Maybe to feel alive themselves or possibly to inspire adding in a yoga practice or some passion into their own life or to even just challenge a perception out there that more of the American population looks like I do than what magazine advertisements do. I also do know and appreciate that sometimes what I "feel" a pose looks like isn't the same image in my mind's eye so it's sometimes a surprise to see what inner openness, space and expansion shows up as in a picture.
I have read about and sometimes felt taking and posting tons of selfie's could be narcissistic, or even some articles have pointed out there is a mental disorder with selfie addiction. Closer to my perspective and an inspiring blog post about Yoga Pose Photography posted by one of my inspirations is here:
So carefully, I have been thinking about this process myself. And have given an intention to this activity. When I take a photo I don't want to remove the mindfulness from my practice, yes I am aware of the camera, but I also am aware of my breath and my inner landscape. I take images to show what poses that you may be used to seeing in a much smaller body, looks like in a larger body. Both are amazing and brilliant. I also take these mindful moment images to invite in further practice time in my life.
And so I invite you that even if you don't share them,(although I think you should) to try out taking some yoga pose pics. if you do share, please #mindfulmomentimages
Here are my professional photography tips to taking mindful moment images with your cell phone.
1st - Be safe and respectful to yourself and your surroundings. A memorial monument might not be not be the most appropriate place to express your pose. Same with busy streets and unfamiliar surroundings. Do poses that you regularly practice and that you have warmed up your body enough to not injure yourself.
2nd - Simple and natural spaces work best for the background. Find places that you don't need permission (most public spaces) or that you have permission to take an image in. Yoga studios are wonderful, but make sure you have approval by desk staff, the teacher or the studio owner and that you are not disruptive to others. (don't turn on lights or make noise moving things around if others are in earshot), and certainly not during a class. Nature photos are a fun way to get in a walk and find perfect natural areas to practice and take pics.
3rd- The phone should not be a distraction- find a way to prop up your phone and take the image hands free. a few ways to do this: if you are in a studio, multiple yoga blocks can add the right height/ angle for your shot. If in other places, maybe a friend might be willing to take the image or see what is around you to prop up or rest your phone on- you can get rather creative here. If you are considering investing a little in some equipment here are my suggestions: a Cell phone mount and tripod or mini-tripod, a blu-tooth remote, and clip on lens. If you use android there is a voice activation option on the in camera phone and you won't need to purchase a remote.
4th- Maybe not so Insta-I think it's ok if you don't post your photo on social media immediately. Discover and notice your thoughts about the image first- if what comes up for you is judgments find as many non-judgmental things to also say to yourself- even if it feels awkward at first- make it as much a part of the experience it will start to feel more fluid after a few times.
5th- Post and share your image with love and kindness- to others but mostly to yourself.
---------please share your experiences and tips in the comments below! I'd love to hear from you.
sending you love-
Milestones are these places where I usually find reflection. So today I am on the eve of a milestone and this has been on my mind. Although the more I think about it the less I'm really sure it means what I had thought it would. Today, I reached 999.5 teaching hours as a RYT, meaning I can add a few letters to my accreditation tomorrow after I teach my next class. E-RYT is to denote Experienced teacher but even after almost a 1,000 teaching hours for over 2 years- I don't feel expert at anything. I am totally at peace with this. too.
I have felt lonely as a teacher, I have felt a fraud, I have felt strong, I have felt empowered, I have felt unskilled and I've felt loved.
I have learned that the best part of my teaching doesn't come with creating flyers or posting on social media or doing much "business" like things to cultivate my teaching. neither do these things feel deeply fulfilling when I put them out there in the world. These things are external and to me are easy to create, excruciatingly vulnerable to share but realistically it really isn't why or how or who practices with me. The best part of my teaching usually comes from sharing me- the real me- and noticing my students.
Even mid-life I am still trying to figure out me. for a while, I thought it was mostly being a novice at teaching and that is partially true but ultimately, when I feel anything that is unsettling or off it usually is more about an imbalance I haven't examined(or ignored for awhile) or fully discovered in my life more than my teaching. I am a novice at life! and to that I say Whew, what a relief - I have so much else to explore!!!
I have been feeling lonely and I appreciate that while once my response to loneliness was to cry and curl up in a ball forever in bed..... or at least until the next day to open my eyes and maybe come out. Now when that loneliness settles in I honor and recognize its presence, I find the sweetest friends, the most compassionate partner, the practice I want or the support I need.
Feeling like a fraud used to also make me cry and curl up in a small non-existent ball in bed too, but now when that feeling happens I have so many good tools to pull from and I acknowledge that it usually is a place of growth that is either trying to happen or is happening- I see/experience that thing and wish I was somewhere in that realm and understand that I am not there.......YET. The experience is now more of a beautiful dance with dissonance.
Feeling strong for me used to always come from feedback from students, peers, mentors and it seemed like the only lifeline I had to feeling strength. Gladly, I still appreciate and sometimes long for this external information, but now I seek and find it from a little flame ignited. It still is small and fragile but continues to fuel me and glow from within. I feel most strength when I practice, although I have to remind myself to nourish this fuel frequently. Always be a practitioner, always be a student. NO MATTER WHAT is going on in your life, make the time - you deserve it.
I have felt unskilled as a teacher but never afraid to express this. Sometimes it has arrived as an unanswered question in front of my students or peers. (know and use your safety net) This is also the place I have found empowerment. Teach lots - you will not know everything always- actually probably never. Teaching does get easier with time. Simply teach, guest teach, teach something you didn't think you could teach. Lots and lots and lots- share your heart- it only grows with being put out there.
I have also greatly felt loved. I have felt loved by so many that support me, fellow teachers, my husband, my mentor, my students and the scariest biggest experience is to find love within. Embracing Love had to happen with the intensity of a fire hose of water into my being it was not a the experience of gentle trickling stream flowing in. When I taught my first few classes, I was SOOOOOOOO F'ing nervous. And I just wanted to teach. I just wanted to be a yoga teacher. period. Early on the "thing" I was unique and noticed for was daring to teach as a bigger bodied being. I intentionally hid behind my fat for a looooong time. It was no longer a shield it was the FIRST thing everyone experienced in my class. mostly in a way that brought comfort and ease to their being in the class. but I wasn't whole heartedly embracing what I was. that thing. What felt like quickly, but realistically happened over a few months, I read about, learned from other trailblazin' teachers, created mantras, started wearing it like a misfit garment, than ultimately tailored it to wrap my body my brain and my heart, finally it became a comfortable skin and then soaked in even deeper. loving my body as it is today and the phenomenal things it allows me to do as a yoga practitioner, and a teacher. So my "E" will stand for Embrace. I embrace all of these things with whole hearted gratitude.
I'm Valerie, Yoga Teacher and following my Sankalpa!