My yoga room and all is coming

It's so close I can feel it! Walls painted. Storage solutions pending. I just need a little space with not too much clutter. A place to put my books. Light streaming in the windows, especially on these wintry days. A big pile of blankets, bolsters and straps. A few (really good) mats. An elephant or two. And that's it. How will this space change my practice? I don't know yet, but I'm mostly hoping it makes more practice -- more practice to find more of my yoga, my me, teaching more privates to help others find their yogas. Pictures soon, I promise. What about you? Where do you practice at home?

Yoga, Moving.

As we start getting ready for our big move, yoga sometimes struggles to make the to-do list. How frustrating. What moving needs is yoga -- the breath, the flexibility, the strength, the stillness. Moving is about turning everything upside down, moving everything around, getting everything from here to there. Yoga is about moving only inside to just be, right where you are, right now. It is such an interesting juxtaposition. Even while I'm running around in the whirl of the move, I'm thinking about that stillness, looking for the crystal of yoga which just exists within. Breathing. It isn't easy, but that is the yoga. Tonight I'll get on the mat. Then I'll lead some yogis in their practice. I know I'll find the yoga there. But then I'll step off the mat back into the mess of boxes. I hope I can bring the yoga with me. That's the point, isn't it?

Re-solve

I was never good at algebra, or any math, for that matter. And maybe I'm not really good at solving problems in general. I don't know.

I hadn't really thought about making resolutions, or even about the new year that is upon us. Really, is there time for that? My friend Nancy, the Flying Yogini, got me thinking, though. She posted a little gem on Facebook about breathing through the letting go of things -- my paraphrase -- but you get the gist? It was about letting go. Practicing non-attachment.

I've been resolving to lose weight since I was about 12. I make the resolution every year -- even in the years I said (say) I wasn't making any resolutions. It has always been the thing I need to fix about myself. My self. Nancy's idea about letting things go in the new year somehow led me to the idea that resolutions are really new attempts to re-solve something. Solve it again. So maybe I would resolve to re-solve the weight problem. But I thought more about it.

And I thought about how I might let go of this. Let go of the resolution and the re-solution. Let go of the idea of fixing myself. Let go of the idea that I am less because there is more of me. Loosen the white-knuckled grasp. Let go of the attachments that bind me into this mindset, this heartache, this body. Because that's the yoga. The practice of just being, rather than just holding on.

Huh.

Then another gem from Nancy: "The universe is listening." Write it down, she says.

So I wrote it down here. I'm letting go. I'm not sure I even know what that means, but I have the year to find out.

And now I ask you -- what might you let go of?

It's that old refrain:

The days are long and the years, short.

Six months since the last post? I can't imagine how that would happen, except for the runaway life.

The period since my last post reminds me of why sometimes the most important yoga is off the mat. Finding peace in my breath and in new ways of responding to things has been a challenge as life has swirled around me. As time and money come and go, being content with what I have seems too simple, but it, too, is a challenge. But I know how lucky I am. I know that I only have to tune in to connect to my practice, even if getting to the mat is a challenge. My girls are my yoga. My husband. My house. My chores. Teaching.

Life is the union, the yoga.

Reminder

Yesterday, struggling to keep up with tweets, I was knocked down by this one:

“There is no such thing as an advanced variation. My body can not be more advanced than yours. It's just mine, and yours is yours.”

Whoa. Talk about changing my teaching in three quick sentences.

This came from Michael Taylor, a yogi I've followed for a while. In his profile picture, he’s rocking a pretty awesome pose. I’ve never practiced with him -- I’ve never even met him.

Though I am an active, vocal advocate for yoga for every body, I know I think of variations of poses in an hierarchy. And I know I have refered to them in the context of the hierarchy in my classes. Students who might have been turned off by this: please, please accept my apology.

Interestingly (or obviously, I suppose) I owe this same apology to myself. This hierarchical thinking about the poses has infiltrated my own practice, as well. I can hear myself thinking as I take a “prep” pose that someday, maybe someday, enough practice of the “prep” will lead me to the really cool “advanced” version, as if where I am isn’t good enough or doesn’t count. I’m going to have to turn that tape off -- I know it too well.

Of course, in yoga teacher training, like everyone else, I learned about the beauty of the beginner’s mind. But am I always able to get down with it and love it? Apparently not. It is so easy to be wowed (by others). And so easy to compare (mostly me to whatever is “better”). And even easier to discount (my own practice because it isn’t as awesome as _________). Easier to get my head out of my own practice and out of the moment. So I need to listen to Michael Taylor to pay back my practice the honor it is due. A more advanced practice does not exist. There is only the practice. My pose is just mine, and yours is yours.

Many people, myself included, begin practice with eyes closing and tuning into the breath. This begins to move the gaze -- the attention, really -- inward to what is important. Each of our hearts is the unique crystal of our own practice, the divine essence that we share with everyone and everything. Looking inward keeps our eyes off other people’s mats because it just doesn’t matter what is there.

When I read Michael’s tweet, I immediately thought of how it tied back to so many of the yamas and niyamas, yoga’s ethical guidelines. It speaks to Ahimsa in not thinking violent thoughts towards oneself, to Asteya in not coveting what someone else has, to Santosha in practicing contentment, to Svadhyaya, knowing oneself, and Ishvara Pranidhana, surrender to something bigger than oneself. And back to the concept of the beginner’s mind: in the start of each practice, we begin, and we are still beginning at the end. This openness to what is, this willingness to allow the breath to bring us into the pose (whatever version), without judgement, is pure love.

Just as I know my breath is mine and yours is yours, so it is as well with the asanas and all the other elements of the practice. We are not categorized or divided by how we practice, we are united by the very fact that we do it. Thanks for reminding me, Michael.

Balance

I struggle with balance -- in yoga, in life, in everything. So needless to say, the standing balancing poses are generally not amongst my favorites. Add in the ankles -- one with a big fat tendon tear and the other just terribly weak, and you have a recipe for -- well, falling over.

A couple of Saturdays ago, I took a wonderful Anusara-inspired class with my teacher Debbie Kurilla at Shakti. The class was all about balance (oy), and her apex pose was stork. I immediately shuffled myself to the wall, to practice the pose in a way that wouldn't draw attention to my wobbles. And I've been obsessed with the pose ever since. For me, it is so different from Vrksasana or Natarajasana, because there isn't a weird angle to add to the difficulty of the balance. Rooting the four corners of my standing foot into the ground, thigh bones back, shins forward, activating my abdominal muscles, lifting the bending leg with care and awareness, activating and flexing the lifted foot, lifting the arms into urdva hastasana, engaging the shoulder blades firmly on the back while releasing the trapezius muscles -- I'm sure I'm leaving out a slew of crucial cues -- but you get the idea --

For once, I'm having fun with a balance, and I'm just going with it. I practice it in the shower, while I'm at the sink doing dishes, waiting in line at Target. I'm wearing a big 'ol brace on my ankle, so I think it is safe, but who knows... did I mention that I'm actually having fun with this pose? Fascinating. It makes me wonder how I can find fun in the other areas where I feel I lack balance --

In the dark

Confession: having wonderful, inspiring conversations with fellow yoginis sometimes makes me blue. Sometimes I feel resentful, envious, ashamed -- or just dark. And I know all that just isn't yogic.

My daily yoga practice varies dramatically, and as a result, so do my abilities. My body isn't what I'd like it to be, my abdominal muscles still a weak mess from the blowout of having two babies in two years. My poses aren't pretty. I can't balance on either foot reliably -- and certainly never on my right. I wobble. A lot.

So I find myself in a dark place with my practice. I feel like a bit of a fraud, to tell you the truth. But I keep showing up on the mat. Fumbling. Trying to hear the teacher I am to others so I can be led. I bail out of poses too early and then go back in. I engage whatever I can. I release what I can't. I ground. I lift. I bend backwards to open my heart. I bend forwards to look inward. I make space. And breathe. I move my body so my mind will still. And you know what? It works:

Suddenly, it doesn't matter if I'm in the dark. I'm looking towards light.