While I am in the vein on this blog of borrowing column ideas from other writers/bloggers, I have another blogger I so admire, Gala Darling, that I am thoroughly inspired by. Every month, she has a post that aggregates all that she has read and watched on the internet. She calls it Carousel and I will be calling my version “Too Many Tabs Open” because that is what my computer is seriously looking like right now. So thank you, Tumblr, for providing me with a place I can channel that into.
I am preparing for Spring Break and as a result, I am preparing to just write my thesis and prep for my upcoming April yoga teacher trainings (!!!). Here are my favorite inspiring pieces from this past week that are majorly helping me in the execution (the reveling?) of these goals!
While it may be hard to silence the noise, it will give you more mental calm to eat what you what. This obviously does not mean a Big Mac for every meal but it also does not need to mean four sticks of celery as well. Focusing less of food consumption will give you more time to focus on other things that matter: whether that be your friends, your family, your job, your summer plans, your relationship, or maybe even your work.
Friend and kids yoga co-teacher Anya proposes a new way of thinking about yoga that is about fat-positivity and expanding rather than contracting and I couldn’t be more on-board with this challenging way of battling social norms and conventions necessarily and on the mat! The challenge is so real that reading this almost made me cry with gratitude that people are talking about this shit. Nec-ess-ary.
I would like to propose a new way of practicing yoga that involves EXPANDING rather than contracting. I want to breathe into my belly and watch it become full and round without shame—I want my class to grow one collective foot taller in mountain pose—I want to see yogis everywhere jut their chins out and stretch their arms out and take up as much space on their mats as humanly possible. Let’s take ownership of our bodies. Let’s become unapologetic and unafraid. Let’s get bigger.
one of my favorite bloggers and writers (if not my absolute favorite writer and blogger), kimberly wilson, does this amazing thing every week where she reflects on her week in a column called “week in review.” it’s been a long-standing desire of mine to do this on this blog, to encourage that kind of svadhyaya - self-reflection - that is so much a part of the yoga practice. also, i have been making so many to-do lists lately that i am starting to really appreciate the practices where i acknowledge what i have already done. i decided that today is the day i will take the plunge into that weekly column and stay tuned for some more columns that might be coming this way!
“Drifting off to sleep, I thought about her. How nobody is perfect. How you just have to close your eyes and breathe out and let the puzzle of the human heart be what it is.”—Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees (via bookmania)
“Perhaps a revolutionary happiness is possible if we allow our boats to flee. Such a happiness would be alive to chance, to chance arrivales, to the perhaps of a happening. We would not wait for things to happen. You make happen. Or you create the ground on which things can happen in alternative ways.”—Sara Ahmed, in “Happy Futures, Perhaps”
“having a project—something to do for or with others that takes you from the ordinary routines of your life—can energize us and that energy can acquire its own force: if we lack a project, a sense of purpose, our purpose can be to find one.”—sara ahmed, in “happy futures, perhaps”
In addition to teaching yoga to “big kids” (college students, my peers), I also teach yoga to little kids at the after school program in my college town. These little kids are in kindergarten and first grade and are unbelievably precious, but that’s kind of besides the point in this story.
Last week, one of the kids didn’t want to participate in the asana class. As always, asana is a 100 percent optional part of the yoga practice so I let him draw in the corner of the room (today, when I used this story as my dharma talk in a class of “big kids,” I told them that they are more than welcome to draw in the corner instead of doing a side crow as well; they laughed). One of the students who was participating in the class drew all over this other little boy’s drawing when he wasn’t looking. The little boy who had his drawing effed up got really upset, but contained it momentarily.
On our way up to homework help, I didn’t see the upset little boy. I panicked, afraid that I lost a kid, but when I looked down the stairwell, I saw a small body sitting on the bottom stair, head buried in his hands.
I sat down next to him and asked what was wrong.
"I…I…I just got so mad I didn’t know what I was going to do," he said. Then, he threw his hands in the air and said, "Sometimes I just can’t control myself, Miss Shira! So I’m giving myself a time-out!"
I responded, “The fact that you are sitting here and giving yourself a time-out means that you can most definitely control yourself. That is something most grown-ups don’t know how to do.” Then, I told him to give me five high-fives and he went upstairs to homework help and made more drawings, forgetting what he was mad about in the first place.
In my head during that entire interaction, I was amazed. That “time-out” that six-year-old took when he was agitated and hurt is, to me, the essence of yoga. It is the space between the cause and the reaction. It is that sacred pause where we can breathe deeply, collect ourselves, and then learn how best to move on.
And sometimes, if we’re lucky, our best teachers are kindergarteners who are learning all of this for the first time and have not yet had the chance to forget.
What happens when you combine smart liberal arts college students with fitness, wellness and yoga classes? A really fucking well-written blog on incorporating health into a college lifestyle often stigmatized as unhealthy. We’re just trying to let the world know that wellness + college aren’t mutually exclusive and I think we’re doing a damn good job so far. So…READ THIS! So grateful for my fellow teachers and this incredibly cOMmunity!
“It will all work out as it’s supposed to. So, just let it play out. If you feel overwhelmed, step back for a bit to take your mind off of it. If you’re in too deep, it can become too clouded to see clearly. Come up for air. You need it to survive. Whatever you’re facing will be there when you’re ready to get back to it. If it isn’t, don’t fret, it wasn’t meant for you, and there’s something even greater out there for you. Keep moving.”—Nadir Keval (via nadirkeval)
I looked up to Foss Hill mid-way along the path from Allbritton to Usdan. Groups of friends, hall-mates and new acquaintances walked together, some carrying yoga mats and others in leggings or sweatpants. It was 11:25am on a Saturday and we, traveling from all different parts of campus, had a common destination: the first WesBAM! class of Spring Promotional Week.
As the clock in Fayerweather ticked just past 11:30, people kept flooding into Sonia Max’s Zesty Vinyasa Flow class. I spotted another yoga teacher in the crowd and put my mat next to hers, relishing in the opportunity to practice led by a peer, to be told what to do rather than tell others. What I did not expect was the feeling of overwhelming joy and gratitude that I was possessed by as I looked around in Mountain Pose at all the other students in the class and at a freshman who was also the yoga teacher who joined WesBAM! this year. I beamed as I realized how far we’ve come.
The big sky is wild mind. I’m going to climb up to that sky straight over our heads and put one dot on it with a Magic Marker. See that dot? That dot is what Zen calls monkey mind or what western psychology calls part of conscious mind. We give all our attention to that one dot.
This goes on endlessly. This is monkey mind. This is how we drift. We listen and get tossed away. We put all our attention on that one dot. Meanwhile, wild mind surrounds us. Western psychology calls wild mind the unconscious, but I think the unconscious is a limited term. If it is true that we are all interpenetrated and interconnected, then wild mind includes mountains, rivers, Cadillacs, humidity, plains, emeralds, poverty, old streets in London, snow, and moon. A river and a tree are not unconscious. They are part of wild mind.
This is what Zen asks you to do: to sit down in the middle of your wild mind. This is all about a loss of control. This is what falling in love is, too: a loss of control.
Can you do this? Lose control and let wild mind take over? It is the best way to write. To live, too.
”—Natalie Goldberg, in Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life
Written by yoga instructor, Anya Morgan, ‘14 Valentine’s Day can be a tough time for the brokenhearted and/or bitterly alone. Personally, I can’t ever hang out with couples for an extended…
Okay, for real, everyone has to read this. I laughed and almost cried at multiple points in this kickass article. Here are some gems:
It may not surprise you to find out that I deal with Valentine’s Day the same way I deal with most things: I do a shit ton of yoga. I do yoga until I collapse facedown on the mat. I do yoga until I have no more sweat left in my body (ew).
Obviously you are worthy of love, you dingdong. But I get it. When I’m feeling like I’m missing some ghostly other half (or missing an unspecified number of other ghostly fractions, for my polyamorous readers), I go for a self-empowering intention: I dedicate my yoga practice to me.
While I’m not necessarily single this V-Day, this holiday has most definitely lost its romantic meaning to me from all the V-Day’s I spent single and pissed off or recently broken up and heartbroken. Now, when I think of V-Day I think of Eve Ensler and yoga and the heart chakra. Regardless of who I’m with. Regardless of my relationship status. Regardless of whether or not I am feeling love(ly) or not. It helps me to let go of expectations and let in the joy that is love and getting over breakups and self-love and friendships.
So to this article, I say a whopping NAMAST-FUCKING-STE!
“Self-love is the foundation of our loving practice. Without it our other efforts to love fail. Giving ourselves love we provide our inner being with the opportunity to have the unconditional love we may have always longed to receive from someone else.”—bell hooks
“We often think of love as a noun-something that we want to get, to own, to have-but it is most profoundly a verb. Love is something we do-it is an act of giving, of receiving someone else into your essential being, of making yourself open and vulnerable. Love is an act of commitment, of trust and understanding. Love arises from pleasure: it is kept intact through commitment and communication and nurtured by vision. It is the universal force that dissolves boundaries and leads to union.”—Contact Yoga: The Seven Points of Connection & Relationship by Tara Lynda Guber with Anodea Judith
On Saturday, at the Yoga U workshop I taught, lots of questions came up concerning the most effective ways to create a sustainable home yoga practice. This was a workshop that I had been planning for weeks. Needless to say, I was bursting with excitement. So much so that all the information I had stored from my own practice seemed to come out in a gush. So much so that before I knew it, the 2 hours were up and I let the workshop go five minutes over so that everyone could bask in their savasanas. There were some questions that went unanswered there and I thought that this forum would be the perfect place to answer them.
How can we keep ourselves motivated? How do we cultivate and maintain discipline for a home yoga practice?
Motivation and discipline are interesting components of the yogic lifestyle. On the one hand, we want to leave room for spontaneity (what a fellow teacher calls spontaneasana) and creativity. On the other hand, we must use discipline to motivate us to create the conditions for spontaneity and creativity to arise. In my teacher training, the director had us brainstorm all the negative associations we had with the word “discipline.” Many of us come from sports teams or strict parents; our association with that word tends to be ridden with guilt, shame, and punishment, cultivating the negative thoughts that yoga is about quieting. Yet in Yoga, discipline is heat. It’s tapas. It’s what keeps us moving, flowing, dynamic beings. Here are some of the suggestions I have heard for keeping the practice going strong in positive, motivating ways:
Put your mat right next to your bed so that you have to step on it in order to get out of bed. Master yoga teacher Sheri Celantano did this when she first started her daily home practice to “guilt” herself into practicing until it became a Joy.
Practice at the same time every day and start super small.
Keep a practice journal/log.
Practice with a friend so you can keep each other motivated (like gym buddies).
Set reminders on your phone.
How can we plan a proper number of poses?
Have a set 5-7 poses that you always do. If you don’t have much time, just do those 5-7 poses (they will then be so ritualized in your mind that you will know every bit of alignment they’re about). If you have more time, flow between those poses and create transitions that weave them together with other poses. That, my friends, is how a 5 minute practice can easily transform into a 90 minute one.
What should I include if I am hoping to work towards crow?
Bottom line: hip openers hip openers hip openers
What are the best ways to prepare the space for a yoga practice?
Create an altar if that’s your thing. Read my chapter on preparing a dorm room for a yoga practice. Put a poster of Beyonce or of Hindu deities on the wall in front of you. Place a block and blanket on your mat to create a meditation cushion. Use essential oils. Light some incense or if your school doesn’t allow that, place an electric candle in front of your mat. Clean your room beforehand.
What things/smells/sounds in the room should you be conscious of? Are there any herbal cleanses or aromatics that you suggest to transform the feel of your living space into a spiritual exercise space?
Use amazing music (be conscious and intentional with your playlist). Pour glitter on your mat. Rub your temples with lavender before savasana and with a more energizing peppermint during the warmup. Check out some resources on aromatherapy.
This is the story of the service conducted by a yogi I have had the true pleasure of working with closely and practicing next to during my short six years as a yogini myself. To see Jason’s dream become a reality, even from afar, is one of the most inspiring transformations I have witnessed in this cOMmunity. We all need to be doing more actions like Big Love Weekend. When it comes to sex scandals, studio closings, and freaking diet cleanses, the whole world considers those who practice yoga to comprise a community that is capable of mobilization…
What Jason is doing with Big Love Weekend is saying that if we can be considered a community for the negative, we can surely mobilize as a cOMmunity for the positive, for what yoga actually stands for (ahimsa, aparigraha, seva).
“Scared and sacred are spelled with the same letters. Awful proceeds from the same root word as awesome. Terrify and terrific. Every negative experience holds the seed of transformation.”—― Alan Cohen (via psych-quotes)
Dharma Talk: Goddess Gives Birth to New Beginnings
In just a few hours, I will teach my last first yoga class of the semester at Wesleyan. I am through-the-roof excited because I will finally have the long-awaited opportunity to integrate the sheer mass of knowledge I gained at Laughing Lotus this winter break into an actual class (where it’s meant to go). I have always been attracted to Lotus Flow because it acknowledges the role of the Goddess in the yoga tradition. So many of the asanas we practice are named after men and Laughing Lotus created their own asanas (“deity dances”) named after Goddesses. These Goddess poses are fluid. They are dynamic. They are excited, enthusiastic, awake, alive embodied movement.
The beginning of this semester has been marked by a lot of thinking about the end. The end of college. The end of leading student groups. The end of living in New England. Yet it is still crucial to remember that it is still a beginning. It has its own energy, its own dynamic movement. It deserves the same amount of vivacious energy we would put into anything. It requires us to be open to possibilities.
So today when I teach, I will teach from the seat of the lotus, representing new beginnings and all that may emerge from them. And we will move from that place of Goddess-inspired energy that allows for possibilities to shape shift into reality.
“When you’re young, your whole life is about the pursuit of fun. Then, you grow up and learn to be cautious. You could break a bone or a heart. You look before you leap…and sometimes you don’t leap at all because there’s not always someone there to catch you. And in life…there’s no safety net.”—Carrie Bradshaw (via whatwouldcarriesay)
By Andi MacDonald The Western yoga world is an unsafe and unwelcoming place for many people. The first time I walked into a yoga studio I was terrified. I had just had three panic attacks in two days and spent my lunch break at work that day crying in the &