so much love, so much gratitude

And so I’m basically living out of a couple bags, a suitcase, and my car.  And I’m oh-so-grateful for my lil gas-efficient car.  I currently live in Phoenix and commute to work in Tucson at YogaOasis Tuesdays and some weekends for workshops.  I massage some still in Tucson also.  One thing these adventures help me realize is how much I love what I do, and what lengths I am willing to go to continue doing them.
I moved from Tucson to Phoenix to attend PIHMA, or Phoenix Institute of Herbal Medicine and Acupuncture.  The semester is underway and I’m excited to be exercising my brain, rather than just my body!  (Although that’s still a huge priority.)
This past weekend passed with much warmth in my heart. Amidst the Women’s March and the Trump protests, we practiced cultivating the quality of presence in a three-hour flow-based workshop.  At the beginning, we recited The St. Francis Prayer, a central and centering piece of the 2-day workshop.  _JTB6694The following day I offered an intermediate/advanced Led-Practice-Style Workshop.  We explored a variety of fun transitions and played with exciting poses that aren’t seen in typical hour-long flow classes, like handstands, forearm stands, deep backbends, and fancy arm-balances.  We also spent plenty of time to thoroughly open our hips.  I aimed to make it a well-rounded practice.  Periodic giggles, and lightheartedness accompanied our sequence.  I’m honored and grateful to the students who attended, and to my dear friend who lets me stay in her beautiful home. After a stop at the Co-Op on 4th Avenue, I headed back to Phoenix to be ready for school the following day.
Phoenix offers plenty of yoga studios to explore.  There are a lot of fun flow classes.  Like, today I went to a 9am class at Moksha, called “Vinyasa flow.”  On Saturday morning before heading off to Tucson, I played at a 9am “Max Flow” at Sutra Yoga.  I’m digging the flow these days because it’s fun, challenging and efficient, but I definitely acknowledge and appreciate all of the alignment training I have received over the years and that I still currently practice.  A strong flow is really only strong and beneficial with mindful alignment.  Or, perhaps maybe you don’t need to practice alignment … yyyyyet… but when you get injured, you’ll wish you’d been practicing alignment.  😉  Ha ha… Getting injured is usually the best reminder to align.  It’s a big flashing neon sign from the body, saying, “hey, this is where you’ve been neglecting me, not paying attention.”  Super helpful…  Thanks body.
“Ekagrata,” my next scheduled workshop has been rescheduled from the first weekend of February to the last weekend in March.  For more information check out:  http://www.yogaoasis.com/weekend-intensive-with-stephani.html.
So much love, so much gratitude.

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Seasons Change

After the 12:15 expanding class I walked outside and felt the all-of-a-suddenly cold air grip ahold of me— the sudden remembrance of the seasonal dance… doing its thing, doing what it does, cycling around, summer to fall to winter to spring… and here we are… cycling around, as all things seemingly do…

In Tucson we all yearn so eagerly for the cool air that winter brings, and then when the time comes everyone complains that it’s cold… hahaha… so it goes…

Change is what’s always already happening, and yet here we are… experiencing it…

Do you resist the change?  or do you roll with it?

Great teachers declare, “If you resist what is, you suffer.”

Mr. Lee Lozowick said, “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.”

In other words, as Christina Sell once said, “Don’t freak out about your freak out.”

Pema Chodran advises us to “Lean into it.”

And yet… here i am… suffering a bit.. feeling resistance to what is.  The current is carrying me to other adventures…not better or worse, just different.  Different is unknown and therefore Ms. Mind labels it as uncomfortable, something to be avoided at all costs.

But I know myself better than that.

All great things in my life have arisen out of facing such discomfort, and as one of my first great teachers, Ms. Ulla Lundgren said, “feel(ing) the fear and do(ing) it anyway.”

Off to Never Never Land…

Or Phoenix, as it were… Starting January 2nd I begin acupuncture school, and play with turning things a little upside down and seeing who I am in that circumstance… just like yoga.  And so we see it’s all practice.  And it’s all a metaphor.  We practice and practice, for what?  For more practice.  For what?  So we can practice some more in a different situation.  Ms. Manorama D’Alvia said, “Your life is for figuring out your life… No one is going to do it for you.”

At this stage of the game I find myself looking for any reason not to go, I found myself just last night on the UofA website exploring different options I could pursue here in Tucson and therefore justify my staying.  Breathe…Breathing… Each class has become such a magical, meaningful, rich experience.  Each student I touch, each gaze I meet, I feel its significance because I see the end.  … And each end is the beginning of something new… Mr. Douglas Brooks taught to focus on what you are moving towards, rather than to focus on what you’re moving away from.  It’s a beautiful life teaching.  I learned that in skiing so long ago!  Haha.  Look in the direction you want to go, rather than the tree you’re aiming to avoid!  Sigh… This isn’t the end.  I’ve set up with YogaOasis to teach TUESDAYS: 11am Yogahour, 1215 Expanding, and 415 Yogahour, as well as a workshop every month.  I’ll be available on social media, checking in and sharing upcoming classes, workshops and retreats elsewhere as well.

My heart hurts, but I practice having faith that it’s for the best.  I love you. Thank you for being a part of my path, for sharing this journey with me.  Please stay with me as we continue on down the road.  Love and Gratitude.

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“act as if”

Yesterday one of my beloved students told me she has breast cancer.  Tears welled up in her eyes… she shook her head gently as if to deny its reality.  My heart sank into my stomach.  I was speechless.  First thing I thought of was Norman Cousins and his work with laughter as a healing miracle.  I wrote down his name for her, as she’d asked, still searching for something to do or say.  I advised her to listen to her heart, to do what it’s been whispering for her to do, and to aim to be lighthearted and laugh as much as possible.  She said she’s going to go begin radiation therapy and chemotherapy.  I commend her for her courage and willingness to share with me.  I love that she came to yoga anyway.  She radiates a quiet strength. The focus and devotion of her practice was deeply touching to witness.

It really got me thinking:  What would I do if I was told I had cancer?  How would I respond?
As I have been taught, the mind is so powerful that it can determine our mental and physical health.  From my brief college course in psychoneuroimmunology, I learned the critical nature of our thoughts.  Various studies demonstrate how positive thinking leads to good health and negative thinking leads to the inverse.  Of course, this is drastically oversimplified.  And in no way do I support the idea that the patient is “at fault” for their disease.  Absolutely not!  That thinking will exacerbate the problem tremendously!  Rather, it’s about empowerment!  And that’s a huge part of why I love yoga so much.  Stepping onto the yoga mat empowers me to heal myself.  In a yoga class or studying yoga scriptures or especially meditating and practicing breathing exercises, I learn skills to become more self-aware.  When I am aware of myself, I face myself— I’m not hiding anything in any dark nooks within.  That’s how problems start, it seems.
Before I moved to Tucson I was living a fine life, and I’m grateful for everything that has come before because it has led me to where I currently am (and my life is so beautiful today).  However, I was not following my heart, honoring my Truth.  I felt stuck in some addictive patterns and painfully un-empowered to make positive and lasting change.  It’s very important the company you keep, my teachers told me.  Douglas Brooks, (perhaps quoting another great teacher… maybe Swami Muktananda…)said, “You are the company you keep, so keep great company.”  I was surrounding myself with others who were stuck in addictive cycles and we all “co-signed each other’s bullshit.”  (please forgive the fowl language)  A documentary I watched said how crabs can all be in a big bowl or bucket and when one tries to climb out the others will pull him back in!  Poor lil crabby.  That’s how it was.
One day I noticed a lump in my right breast.  “Huh…”  I thought, “Interesting…”  And I treated it how I treated many things— ignored it, assuming that it would go away.  It didn’t.  As the days passed the lump grew and became increasingly bothersome.  Finally, I decided I should take some action.  I jumped through many hoops to get on medical insurance, waited the necessary time frame, called to schedule a mammogram, and then they said that I have to be referred by a doctor… blink blink…  So then I had to find a doctor and make a doctor’s appointment in order to get a referral… In the midst of all of this I received an invitation to move to Tucson to work at a studio with my beloved teacher.  I was so honored to be thought of, let alone invited!  After much hesitation and deliberation I decided to move to Tucson to work at his new studio.  Not long after, (despite the discomfort of leaving all that I’d known and established for myself during my 10 year stay in Flagstaff) the pain and lump in my breast disappeared.  Coincidence?  Perhaps…  But I think our bodies are communicating with us.  Some of us (like me) are quite stubborn and need something louder to get our attention.  (These are just my musings.  I mean no offense to anyone at all.  This is just my experience)
This leads me back to making a new list:  The “live-like-I-was-dying” list.  What are the things I would want to do if I was told I had a year (or insert time frame) to live?
I’d still do a lot of the things I already do:  meditate, practice asana, read, write, paint… (the latter two have sprung up lately as a result of receiving orders to rest… that’s usually what I need in order to rest… unfortunately, outside insistence or an injury… usually both.)
The busy-busy, hurry-hurry of our lives (or what is supposed to be our lives) usually keeps us from really living in the way we really “want to” or dream of.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  We only think this is the way it has to be and thus, our current situation.  (I’m speaking in a lot of “we’s” and “ours,” but you may have your stuff together already and are manifesting the life of your dreams, in which case, high five!  Way to go!  Thanks for your great example.)
The major difference, is that I would feel a sense of urgency to do all those things I’ve been putting off.  Suddenly I would realize what’s most important.  I wouldn’t need anymore damn Lululemon pants… can’t take ‘em with me.  Haha…  I’d want to spend time with special people like my sisters or my parents.  I’d want to apologize and ask for forgiveness from certain people and forgive certain others.  I’d go hang out on the beach, and not care one bit about what any body thought about my body in a bikini…  I’d ride roller coasters, go to water parks and play on the water slides. I’d giggle as often as I could.  I’d get lots n lots n lots of massages!  I’d walk my new2doggies, keep trying to teach them to “stay” after they “sit” because I like interacting with them in that way and I l enjoy how happy they get receiving the treats.  I’d watch more sunsets and sunrises; I’d sit and do nothing; I’d sing; I’d offer love and generosity as much as I could.
So, why not do it all now?  One of my teachers, D.R.Butler recommends that we “act as if” we were already enlightened.  I suppose the same applies here.  Instead of waiting for the threat of your own inevitable mortality to motivate you to live the life of your dreams, we can “act as if,” and open our eyes to the gift of this present moment, just as it is.

right right

To think that… (one of those pauses to gather thoughts that unintentionally add suspense… yeah, like that) one is worthy of such wonderful things almost feels arrogant or assuming, maybe presumptuous is the word… and thennnnn we listen, or rather read, and maybe hear the words spoken inside one’s own head, the wise, simple and profound words of DR Butler, asserting that our life is what we focus our attention on, and the realization dawns on the horizon, peeks it’s brightness from yonder in the distance, that wasn’t really distance at all, cuz it was always already just right here… and so here it is… and here we go… for the ride that is our life, and we are in charge, so to speak, in the driver’s seat, steering the way, the direction of our day, the plan for our lifespan is moment by moment creation…like poetry we create reality with words, with images painted with words, with daydreams dissected letter by letter and put back together like a puzzle… puzzling isn’t it to conceive of such great, vast, infinite power right at one’s fingertips, or yes, lips, all in how we think, see, speak, move, act. … behave….

hmmmmm… makes me think of bee hive… yeah like the hive that was mysteriously attached to my house for that brief period… lessons there… lessons everywhere… are we paying attention? are we learning anything yet? bee hive… bees… bees are all connected by the queen bee…. all is done for the sake of her (god) and the hive (everyone, the collective, the universe–which is ultimately all god), and there’s a communication (by dance, come to find out!)… as if they are all connected.

similarly, we humans are all connected, and there is no separation by time and space… (or so is claimed by some great teachings, like in DR Butler’s The Course).

…put this into practice .. don’t just theorize, philosophize, and discuss lofty ideals. this shit is real.. who and what we are….real and also unreal, like the side mirror, things are not as they appear to be…similar, but different, manorama says, “feel it, feel it, feel it”… pema chordran invites one to lean into the discomfort, as my sweet camille friend reminded me today, “lean into it.” scott marmorstein said, “be the light.” and so we do, offer light through our thoughts, through our words, our deeds … and as Thich Nhat Hanh teaches, they all merge as one and become prayers. my buddy, billy quoted someone in the buddhist community saying, “right thoughts, right words, right deeds”… something to that effect…

and what’s the effect?

i’m reminded of a quote from a child’s book a friend gave me, “sometimes everything being right makes a kind of a sound.”

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forbearance and the “me” factor

“some of god’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers,” sings good ol’ Garth Brooks.

i face inner struggle… resistance to what is… urges to fall back into familiarity in the face of the big bad scary (insert suspenseful horror movie background music) UNKNOWN. (scream)

dramatic i know… it keeps me entertained though, and man, if we can’t be entertained by the endless happenings on the stage of life, it’s going to be a bad movie! and i want my money back!

i felt like that this morning at my Bikram class. despite all my years of asana practice, and my experience as a teacher, i was that student who hated everything in class today — myself, my appearance, the teacher, the smell of the carpet, any excess talking from the teacher, any corrections received from the teacher, and especially the bee keeper lady who kept me up late waiting for her call and then also woke me up at 2 am and proceeded to talk way too enthusiastically for the time of night and act as if it was completely normal to do such things at 2am and behave in ways so that i judgmentally dub her as a drug addict…hmm that’s a whole other thing… the point is, Bikram is a set sequence of 26 postures in a really hot room that’s always that hot! the variables are dramatically limited; we’re down to the teacher, the time of class you attend, and you. you (or me rather) (er uh i…) can contain numerous variables — what we eat, quantity and quality of our rest, regularity of practice, knowledge of alignment, attitude, will power, inner resiliency, the quality of our patience and forbearance.

forbearance really hits the nail on the head: “patient self-control; restraint and tolerance.” ooooh! tomorrow’s word of the day!

first, variables…. so when the variables are minimized it’s very easy to see that when you have a “bad” class, it’s not the sequence (again, in Bikram it’s the same every time), its not what the teacher says (most of Bikram is scripted— yet the teachers still ad lib, and that can be aggravating), it’s probably not the time of day, (unless you know you’re a morning person and you go at night or vise versa, but that still falls under the “me” factor), it’s you! my friend used to say, “what’s the common denominator in this equation?” (it’s me… er you)… sigh… so there’s that… it was me. it was me the whole time, and i knew it. i got through the class. savasana was so restful. i literally melted into my mat/towel. i was very grateful for un-talkative ladies in the restroom. and yet it seems that may be some of what i needed– some interaction. for on my car ride from the studio i made a couple of phone calls, one to my paw paw who i don’t get to talk to much. i adore him. he lives up in minnesota with his lady and they often make crafty things, like right now they call it “lawn art,” pretty flowers made of various metal scraps that they paint. i’m always impressed with his interest in life, his continual creativity and quest to be involved. just getting to talk to him briefly started to shift my mood.  then i called two girl friends and my twinny and left them nice messages. much better… i dorked out at Wholefoods… mission: drink green juice first after Bikram, cuz otherwise i might dive into an all out binge… (“know thyself”) (“forwarned is forarmed” – Lee Lozowick)

also, one of my girls facebook messaged me and shared some of her honest suffering. initially i see the surface of it as different than me. as i sit with it though, i see her suffering is the same as mine, despite varying physical circumstances. this realization helps me to settle, feel a sense of connection, and thus have compassion. instead of wallowing in my ick, i can reach out and write her a message to offer her some connection, love, and hopefully share some wisdom, for so often in reaching out to others i share exactly what i need to hear.

(i’m going to do that now) (stay tuned… unanswered prayers… then forbearance….)

and we’re back!… (uproar of applause)

chuckle chuckle… so back to the song. i’m a not-so-in-the-closet country fan (i was raised with it in the background), and this lyric came to my head today after reading my friend’s facebook message, “some of god’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” gotta love garth brooks… or you don’t and you just judged me and decided to stop reading my blog and never look back, and probably defriend me on facebook and certainly talk poorly about me behind my back… blink blink… … … blink…

anywayz…

unanswered prayers– the gist of the song is that the singer’s life turned out beautifully and perfectly and he only realized this when he saw an “old flame,” the one he’d always wanted and prayed for, and yet when they saw each other at this stage of life they had little attraction and nothing in common. “just remember when you’re talking to the man upstairs, that just because he doesn’t answer, doesn’t mean he don’t care.” the point: we face discomfort in the face of not getting what we want…

(reminds me of another song, by wah: “she gives you what you want and hopes that someday you’ll want to take what she has to give.”)

… subsequently we feel anxious urging toward that familiar place of comfort. yet, that place of familiarity is not where we grow, says DR Butler… he says, “We can no longer afford to allow ourselves to be hypnotized by familiarity. To allow the familiar to continue to be the fundamental reality is like functioning in this world asleep. When we do this we unknowingly create outer appearances of our fears and anxieties — all because we have no awareness or appreciation of the power of attention, the effectiveness of a conscious intent, and the final declaration of will.” (from Living in the Truth of the Present Moment.)  so, the consequence of choosing to be in the unfamiliar for the sake of “waking up,” as they say, is that you feel uncomfortable… “comfort” was a yogahour word of the day a few weeks ago. i discussed how it was an advanced concept that the yoga asana should be “steady and comfortable”, as stated in “the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali,” for only through dedicated practice over a long period of time does one accept, and thus get comfortable with the sensations that arise in the midst of transformation.

(((in the new super man movie superman’s father tells him (us): continue to push limits, test your limits, to see how strong you can get )))

so this too applies to our lives (for doesn’t it all?), in that in the discomfort of our life’s MG9952-Mcircumstances we have the opportunity to fall back into old ways, old habits, and tendencies for the sake of comfort, ease, familiarity, OR we have the opportunity to endure the discomfort with strength and sensitivity– not a teeth grinding sort of endurance, but rather an openhearted willingness to feel the gift of the moment. (manorama says in a decrescendo ending in a breathy whisper, “feel it. feel it. feel it.”) for that is what every moment is, a gift. and as we unwrap the gift fully in the moment, we receive as much as we are ready for, (or as much as our curtains’ openness allows for the light to poor in– Swami Gurumai Chidvilasananda). and this readiness expands as we practice being with whatever unfolds in the moment. thus it was all there the whole time, “always already there,” as Mr. Paul Muller Ortega says, and it is our perception that expands (HA! again! the “me variable!!!”)

(took udu doggy fer a walkee. nice night! big moon! it’s actually called a “supermoon!” yep, not making it up… two people confirmed it who don’t even know eachother. lol … it’s supposed to be the biggest moon of the year… and of course there’s symbolism there, right hippy?! the notion of dark becoming light. and how this moon at it’s brightest represents how we too have the capacity to achieve our fullest potential and shine at our brightest…. man this goes right along with what i’ve been writing about. so perfect, of course)

back to the point (Manorama moment…what’s the point?)

now on to forbearance…

such a fine definition my computer dictionary offers! “patient self-control; restraint and tolerance.”

this is precisely what yoga offers us the opportunity to cultivate (and it is always an offering, an opportunity, “an invitation,” as Mr. John Friend used to say… it’s never an obligation… for we don’t have to do anything, life beckons to us and we always have the option to refuse. to decline… to say no… hmmmm… but why not say yes? … and see what happens… fyi, you’re probably going to get uncomfortable… hahahaha). patient self-control; restraint and tolerance. the Bikram practice in a relatively small room heated to or over 105 degrees Farenheight, in which students face a large mirror, are not supposed to talk, fidget, wipe sweat, or even drink unless at a specified break… needless to say, all your buttons are pushed… and then what…? Ha!… this is an instance in which peer pressure is of great service. (do i really want to be the only person scowling and making a fuss?) you can really tell the newer students, as they’ve not figured out these subtle rules that you learn as you go… no body really tells you overtly, you just learn as you go, and everybody begins to conform in this beautiful synchronized unity that perfectly exhibits the very definition of yoga. (so i’m on a Bikram kick right now… doesn’t mean that other styles don’t offer these attributes, it’s just that this is the style i’m focusing on right now. i’ve experienced the same phenomenon in the Ashtanga method, and in Yogahour with Darren Rhodes, and in certain teacher’s offerings of Anusara Yoga, and John Friend and Desi Springer’s “Roots” Practice…) i learn to not express my emotional outbursts through mindless fidgeting, dramatic facial expressions, or talking. i come back to tadasana (steady mountain pose –the steadiness offered from within my own self), and seamlessly onto the next pose. these styles of practice are a beautiful metaphor for life, in that it’s always on to the next thing.  (reminds me of a time Christina Sell was teaching about inversions and quoting one of her teachers said, “Don’t freak out about your freak out.”)  in Bikram they say, “Let it go.” In a recent Lesson from DR Butler, he commends the “many principles of Truth exemplified in the world of sports,” and he quotes head football coach at Cornell University, a former Rhodes scholar, and ‘very intelligent man,'”To me, the number one thing is to play the next play and forget the last one. The last play is not relevant to the next one. The most important play of the game is the next one, not the one already behind you. You have to learn to forget quickly. It does not matter what happened before — drop the baggage, drop the pressure, and just play.” on to the next moment. may we move into each moment untethered to the drama of the past…

…through the practice i face my thoughts, my emotions, my “ways of being”… and practice moving in the face of them…

i continually recognize my tendencies to think poorly of myself, to talk badly to myself, to want to quit, give up, to be tempted to wallow in self pity, to feel isolated and singled out, uncertain, overwhelmed…(this helps me to feel profound connection to my students, especially the beginners and to really appreciate the intensity yoga presents in a matter-of-fact sort of way, like, “here it is.  here’s the path.” the rest is up to us… walk it, or don’t– no judgement.)

and then there’s the next pose, and tadasana, and the next one, and tadasana, always coming back to center — physically and mentally.  through practice i can now recognize which postures the final postures, signaling that class is closer and closer to savasana (which ultimately means death — how much we long for this relative peace, ease, and comfort!). this familiarity with the set sequence brings a sense of calm to the mind, knowing the finish line is near… (i always hear my twinny’s voice — which funny, sounds like mine… “you can do it steffi, you’re almost there”) and the pranayama comes and then we die…

the end… you’re dead “did you do.. did you do all you could?” (sings Ani Difranco)

 

 

 

 

 

 

asana junkies day 4: the waterfall

5.19.13

San Marcos, TX; Asana Junkies; Christina Sell; day 4

three ladies on the road again! back to San Marcos for the last day of the workshop with the car packed to the brim… yeah, we’re ladies… and Miss Tanya and I plan to leave after the workshop.  the mood is happy and chit chatty.  Miss Tanya drives in her pretty pink shirt with fancy cuts in the back of it, Miss Christine rocking her new white Lulu pants, and I’m sporting my new pale green Lulu pants (yeah Outlet Store!)

Today is full spectrum… can you feel the excitement?!

morning chanting, pranayama, and meditation. tea time.

asana practice with Miss Christina Sell 10am-2pm!  standing sequence very similar to yesterday. challenging and sweaty. so good. i appreciate and loathe the repetition all at once. it’s good for me. my anticipation and dread is something i can work with in a valuable way that can translate into life, for when i anticipate and/or dread something I can bring myself into the moment, feel my breath and just do it anyway, with experiential faith that good will come from it. also, repetition grants us the opportunity to have a marker, a gauge by which to observe progress, which bestows upon us a sense of accomplishment.  years ago I was in a webinar with Christina Sell and she talked about the value of a sense of accomplishment, and how ultimately little steps (like the waterfalls one at a time!–see below) overcomes fear, builds confidence in oneself and fosters a sense that the success can be repeated. it was so with the waterfalls today and it was so in our rad sequence over the past four days.

today i felt the best of all of the days. my shoulders finally felt open! everything felt so good, hard, but so good. we were all drenched in our own sweat, working diligently and wholeheartedly. there was a section of the class after handbalancings that Miss Christina offered us the opportunity to play with whichever backbends we wanted, any of them. I am grateful for Miss Christine Lee’s willingness to help me work on my Rajakapotasana. it’s the hardest backbend for me right now. I struggled hard with it the previous day and broke down in tears. Kapotasana used to be like that for me. practicing it sent my back into spasm and i’d fall to the floor sobbing.  remembering how horrible kapotasana used to feel and acknowledging that I can do it now helped me feel optimistic and willing. Christine sweetly reminded me how the body stores emotions and it’s just another layer where they’re stored. we worked on it several times together, and there’s no way to make it easy, no props that help me get it, using the wall didn’t help. there’s just grunt work of working diligently in the pose and then the sticker of it all, is in the midst of it all with everything, i have i to practice letting go, surrendering it all, my ego, my striving, my sadness, my high expectations, in the physical form of letting my heart soften, to use the classic Anusara saying. the two are mutually exclusive: over-striving and a soft heart. so there’s my work. … soften…  and keep practicing. practice with persistence and devotion… Miss Sienna Smith from San Francisco shared what she gained in the closing circle (to summarize), “practice, patience, play.”  i recognize that along with the will required to get on your mat with regularity there’s a softening necessary in your heart which comes from an energetically different fierceness of will… a passionate willingness to soften (yoga embraces the paradox– to be strong and soft, to engage and let go)… after working on Rajakapotasana for (what felt like) many many times Christina chimed in just in time, saying something to the eftect of, “after working on something that’s hard for you, give yourself a pose you like to do. play.”

… …

and i ate the river for lunch! or rather the river almost swallowed me! tanya, christine and i went to the San Marcos River near the studio. what a treat! it seems to be the thing to do on the weekends there. turns out Miss Christine used to be a synchronized swimmer and a lifeguard, so she loves the water and skillfully insisted i get in, and then with her slyness, she managed to get me to go down the waterfall slide. she’s good! this woman is a leader! last time i was in the San Marcos river I got pulled under after the first waterfall and panicked (that’s the part that messes everything up), and a nice man helped me out. apparently I stored that experience away, and this trip it came out in the form of resistance. just like a skillful yoga teacher or a loving mother, she built my confidence one baby step at a time. stage one , into the water! it was cold, but so refreshing after this morning’s intense practice and the warmth of the day. step 2, first waterfall, step 3 first and second waterfall without stopping (i sort of failed, but still succeeded because i went down both with just a breath-catching break in between. just like success in working on an asana isn’t dependent on whether you achieve the final form, but whether you apply yourself fully, do what you know how to do with sincerity. full form of the pose might happen tomorrow or the next day, or never. but truly, as many of my wise teachers have said, it’s not about the pose…. and yet of coarse it absolutely is about the pose…. it’s the point and not the point all at once. … –wow this is a tangent… stay with me, we’re going places– so that you did not “get” the pose, doesn’t mean you failed. one of my other teachers said, “success is progress.” or “progress is success.” maybe it was Ulla Lundgren. that i made it down the first waterfall, freaked out and didn’t die (well, to be honest, there was a large, elephant of a man perfectly planted at the end of waterfall one, right before i got sucked into waterfall two. i reached out and grabbed him. he was like an anchor! he saved me from panic or drowning), gave me willingness to try it again. i caught my breath and went down number two. — this is a long story– we went back around and did all three and i did stop in between each one, but i went down all three, and yeah, there did just happen to be another large man in just the perfect spot for me to latch on to! as always, i’m taken are of!

(cheesy song starts playing in the background: ” i get by with a little help from my friends…”)

on the road again adventure minus one musketeer! miss tanya and i are now in the Town & Country Motel in Fort Stockton, Texas. big day. only 9 more hours to drive tomorrow.

woke up, threw a hat on, hit up breakfast, and Tucson here we come!

 

 

 

 

 

 

asana junkies day 3: a foray…

5.18.13

sarurday, day 3

just another day of workshop wtih Christina Sell and with such radical, awesome and inspiring women!!!  i’m honored, humbled and grateful to be in such bad-ass company!  (i’m tired so i should go to bed. it’s late in Austin and day 4 starts early tomorrow, so forgive the writing quality of this entry)  today was was a hard day, but a super fun day.

in asana practice we got our vrischikasana (scorpion) on.  the several hour session offered good ol’ fashioned hard work with skillful and challenging sequencing by Miss Christina Sell. i love the way she’s leading the workshops at her School of Yoga. it really invokes community and inspires continued challenging practice.

(oh there’s so much to say…)

at lunch i went to the river with Miss Malek and Mew Mew (her adorable chiwawa), Tanya, Christine Lee and Cheryl from Florida.  i enjoyed seeing texas community having fun in the sun… lol and i love that i saw a dude with a big cowboy hat, cowboy boots, shorts and lots of tattoos. he was great. the river posse consisted of lots of dogs,  families, plenty of children, rugged loners, couples, beers, icechests, etc. the most entertaining part was watching the scene of waterfall chasers.  lounging sunbathers in tubes, courageous kids running down backwards, tubes tied to other tubes, tubes tied to icechests on tubes, boats, kayaks, boogie boards, dare devils torpedoing bare-belly down, backwards… some were scary to watch!  i’m grateful i went.  it felt like a sweet gift, a special feature of the worksh0p to get to go “chill out” at the river in between sessions.  on the banks christine and i talked shop in preparation for November’s Costa Rica retreat.

a change of clothes and we’re back at it for afternoon practice:  a foray with hanumanasana! ha! ha! miss tanya jokingly called it a weekend in wine country.. it was funny.  (also funny, if you’re a dork about words, foray’s first definition is: a sudden attack or incursion into enemy territory, esp. to obtain something; a raid.  secondly, its an attempt to become involved in a new activity or sphere. … that sounds about right.  it’s an attack into enemy territory of hanumanasana to obtain new insight, revelation, opening, for hopefully some sense of ease)  we entertained ourselves with lots of quad and hammy opening.

mr. kelly sell is so kind and generous. he made us delicious curry and rice for dinner! we ate together and shared rich conversation with plenty of smiles, giggling and chocolate for dessert.  some of us stayed after and Miss Livia showed us a You Tube video of a narcoleptic cat that sent us rolling on the floor.  christine, tanya, and melissa shared a car ride to our hosts’ homes.  due to construction, the car took a li’l detour, and we were lost in the depths of conversation with an audience of lovely green trees.  after we dropped off melissa and christine, what’s better than an adventure at Sprouts?  an adventure at Sprouts… twice.  ha ha… we forgot something, and of course drifting all over in conversation led our car drifting all over getting a little lost on the way home… but only the first time.  lol.

laundry of our sweaty clothes, and goodnight….more tomorrow.

 

 

Asana Junkies day 2:

5.17.13

Day 2 San Marcos, TX:  Asana Junkies with Christina Sell

i’m feeling much better today!

and i’m grateful for day two! day two always feels better. aside from the obvious benefit of a good night’s sleep, there is benefit in the merging of individual energies into a group energy. by the end of the workshop we’ll feel like good ol’ buddies.

our car ride to Christina’s School of Yoga was less hectic today: three yogis and a ramp. the ramp foreshadows the inevitable backbend play/work ahead. tea time is chatty time and our chit chat, although delightful, made us late for our morning puja. Christine handled it well with a smile and an anecdote about her days at Prescott College. she paraphrases one of her teachers, “You cannot not communicate. your behavior communicates.” a very important teaching that can serve to call us to attention. what is my behavior communicating? … …

light poured in through the studio’s high windows, so perfectly aligned with the mood of the room it was like a soundtrack. as we participated in our chanting, pranayama and meditation, the previously grey sky offered us bright rays of light in return.

the morning session was 10am until the end of the world… there’s no limit on backbends! the practice was sweaty and slippery! by the end of class Miss Tanya looked like she jumped into a pool! she was so excited because she got some air in one-armed Mayurasana. Miss Christine had some vocal breakthroughs in Viparita Chakrasana (hence the ramp) today as well! the general sequence: standing poses, belly down backbends, handbalancings, more backbends and more backbends. it was a hybrid of Iyengar meets Bikram minus the high heat. we made our own heat! the mood was ferociously playful!

Christina talked about the strategy of using the pose to prepare for the pose, not for beginners, but more intermediate/advanced. i remember in my earlier days of practice and teaching i’d prepare and prepare and prepare… and sometimes due to time constraints, never even make it to the pose! so now, i just accept that the first urdhva dhanurasana might feel crappy (for example), but I can use the alignment and actions I know to free myself in the pose. (Tanya smiles and says she always anticipates this moment in class…) just like in life! i can apply the cumulative lessons i’ve acquired to the current circumstances in order to shift my perception, and thus free myself in the moment.

Christina and Darren often quote a Lee Lozowick saying, “Forewarned is forearmed.” i thought about this as i anticipated upcoming poses in the sequence… we can’t choose the sequence offered by the teacher, but we choose how to engage within what is offered. … especially within a sequence that i’ve done before, i can anticipate what’s coming and prepare myself physically, and most importantly mentally… how do i look at/approach what’s coming? with dread or persistence? persistence is “firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition, continuing steadfastly.” … … …

regarding sequencing: (of poses or circumstances of our life, cuz hell, isn’t all a metaphor… Miss Manorama says, “Look to the metaphor.”), how do poses relate to each other? christina sell likes to sequence from Mr. Iyengar’s Light on Yoga (so fantastic, because that’s how I love to practice! the book is an empowering guide!) and in her teaching of these sequences in recent workshops I’ve attended, she emphasizes how it’s not a “peak pose” strategy, but rather do what you can do in the pose your in and see what it offers you for the next pose. further, Miss Christina Sell invites us to just do it a couple of times and try it again tomorrow. rather than get too hung up on “getting” the pose no matter what, she stimulates a healthy level of detachment. in our day to day living may we expand our awareness to see how the struggles i endure on this day grant me virtues and thus serve me for future endeavors.

lunch showed up with no excuses or justification… ha ha… it was just late, and it accepted full responsibility… a welcome change of clothes, Christine Lee and I dove into preparation for our November Coata Rica retreat. she also received some acupuncture from Mr. Kelly Sell, Miss Christina’s very kind husband.  he’s so supportive and such a sweet presence.  in addition he also offers us acupuncture in our breaks!

afternoon session: restoratives, inversions, forward folds, hip openers, and great discussion.

Lululemon Outlet Store!!! uh oh! …

damn neon and fluorescent colors are super see through and you can see my tattoos right through them! and yet, i bought them anyway… so there’s that…

evening brought dinner, more flyer work with Christine Lee, and facebook entertainment.

we’re so looking forward to our first retreat together! side note: we’ve decided that between the two of us, we’d make the perfect yogi. we’re complementary. i’m grateful for our partnership. she’s quite a gift in my life.

what a fabulous day! Again, I’m so grateful to be here. I’m honored to be with such amazing, strong, inspiring women! Yeah, it’s all ladies! Oh, and Kelly. :-)

 

 

 

 

asana junkies day 1 – more will be revealed…

thursday 5.16.13

 

miss tanya, miss christine, and i adventured from tucson to austin yesterday for Christina Sell’s Asana Junkies: 4 days of kick your asana from 845 am to 5 pm. our 15 hour journey in “the Vegas Mobile” consisted of 3 alternating drivers, innumerable pee stops, and one stop for no seat belt from a friendly police officer with big ol’ blue eyes who just seemingly wanted to chit chat because he let us go with a warning and much historical account of how cool he was… he was pretty cool. oh yeah, and taking turns giving and receiving in-depth co-counceling dubbed tanya’s tank-of-a rav 4, “the Vegas Mobile.” I assume the reader understands this to be our silly commitment to confidentiality, and not some, well whatever else one might
assume. so that’s nice. we all need a place to open up, share our struggles and our truths, and make deeper connections to ourselves and others, to feel heard. it was a perfect trip. we got into austin late, 11 pm (we lost two hours coming in!), dropped miss christine off at her spot and went to ours. sleep was a welcome friend that left way too soon.

our car adventure continued in the morning to trolly six people instead of three! a few different lively conversations filled the car during the 45 min ride to san marcos. that familiar feeling of excited anticipation filled the air accompanied by the also familiar sense of connection to people you happen to know nothing about. that’s yoga workshops, or at least the beginning of them.

(…and i’m so sleepy…)

this morning we had tea and coffee time and morning chit chat in miss christina sells’ lovely School of Yoga San Marcos, followed by overview and discussion, brief introductions, and chanting in the practice room.

following, we had another a little tea break (kelley makes incredible coffee) and i napped.  thank goodness.

then! asana anana asana….

apparently it’s a sequence christina used from week three of her webinar.

it was a sweaty, awesome selection of surya namaskar, standing poses, handbalancings, and backbends.

i felt super tight, but the more i did, and the more i engaged, the better i felt. my tiredness pulled me through feelings of dread, unwillingness, and self talk that led me all the way into self-reflection like, “ya know, why do i even do this to myself?” and then i dive into the next handbalance and get re-inspired, re-stoked. and in between poses, especially back bends, the self-doubt returns along with terrifying thoughts of just giving it all up to do something “normal” … whatever that is. and then i am in the next pose and i focus on what’s necessary to feel free and good in the pose, to do all of the alignment cues i know to do to just free myself in the moment. the other option is to just hang out in discomfort, feel terrible and definitely never want to do yoga again. another gift of tiredness, oh and the sweatiness, is the sense of ultimate surrender into the moment, to just do the next right thing. the other option was a sort of surrender that entailed curling up in the fetal position in the tea area and miss out on what i came here to do…  i chose to persevere and to do so could only be in the form of active surrender, to surrender to the work. as mr. paul muller ortega says, “surrender to the discipline that is presented.” and it worked.

lunch came, and all is well.

afternoon practice menu offered delicious restoratives, inversions, and foreward folds.

and now it’s bedtime. i’m grateful to be here, welcomed by such kind and generous hosts, guided by such a skillful and wise teacher, supported by her lovely husband, and adorable greyhound, and! it’s gorgeous here in San Marcos right now! everything is so lush and green.  i look forward to tomorrow.

more will be revealed!

Stargazer_Lily

 

 

butterflies or pickles

5.14.13

tuesday today terrificus…

tuesday of three classes and so many smiling students and watching myself in the face of it all (of course, lol, it’s always about you stef… hmmm…) and yet really, isn’t it? not about me, but about you. for me it’s about you and for you it’s about you, and if i didn’t know me, i am unable to connect with and serve you. someone in expanding class today hit the nail on the head when they said something to the effect of, “it’s like we are all voices inside one big head.” yeah, we were talking about our multiple personalities… er uh, at least i was…

according to some philosophies that underly the practice of yoga, the manifest realm is a manifestation of a supreme intelligence, a universal reality, highest consciousness, god, whatever you want to call it, and that this physical realm that we experience in normal day-to-day life contains and is composed of this consciousness. and thus, we are all one. so each personality we encounter is like another voice in our “big” head… lol.

yeah, it’s like that. this concept helps me to be compassionate when people don’t understand something, willing when someone is having a difficult time, and curious about people i “dislike.” truly it helps me not only as a teacher, but as just a stef in day to day living at the grocery store (where i always seem to be), on my bike with lots of cars, in the car running late, talking on the phone to a woman who works for the gas company who’s simply doing her job and cares not about my crankiness and impatience.

classes went well today. i love my job.

word of the day at yogahour 11am and 415: TRUST.

The quote i borrowed it from this morning is from DR Butler’s The Course. http://www.truthofthepresentmoment.blogspot.com. he said,

“It’s not that our concepts from the past take up 75 percent of our consciousness, while awareness of the present takes 25 percent. It would be great if it were like that, but consciousness is only one, it is filled by one thought at a time. So, if we are clinging to our ideas from the past, it fills personal consciousness to the brim. This is why there must be an emptying out, a letting go, so that the past can be flushed from our psychic system, and we’ll be continuously refreshed and expanded by what is new. Of course, it helps to give up fear of the unknown. Trust that the unknown is even greater than the known.”

this paragraph stood out to me this morning. my tendency is to drop everything and discard it all to get ready for the new. LOL and throw out the baby with the bath water. (that is such a freaking hilarious saying) Some new (or recycled) thoughts surfacing are to let go of old ideas from the past rather than dismiss everything from the past… ie relationships, people, places…. there will be more to come on this…

let’s just pull on this thread for a while…

in a yoga class i taught over a year ago I demoed a standing pose sequence and pulled my hamstring and adductor. one vein of thought would have me blame and discard the practice of yoga or blame and discard the specific poses that preceded the injury. but what’s the point of that? what do we learn from that? with commitment, devotion and discernment we can place ourselves back in the same place where we got burned. we don’t step back into the fire for the sake of getting burned again or in denial of the fire’s capacity for and and high probability of destruction, but rather to learn from it and ultimately grow, to become more refined versions of ourselves. just as much as fire can destroy, fire can transform. i’ve heard it said many times by great teachers that it’s a razor’s edge. at the recent workshop with christina sell talked about how one can pull away from one edge only to fall off the other side. through our yoga practice ideally we become more sensitive and our capacity to know and take care of ourselves expands…

i tend to be overly hard on myself and yet, took a 6 weeks off of yoga. it took a long time to straighten my leg again. it’s over a year later and i’m still working, but if i had given up the practice entirely i would have missed valuable lessons. commitment and persistence pays off, but the asana practice continually teaches me that the persistence must shift approach and focus if it is to be sustained.  the practice continues and persistence perseveres with sensitivity and discrimination.

the 1215 expanding class (still talking about tuesday) rickity rocked out in pincha scorpion, vrischikasana today. we used chairs as support, which was an adventure, as we only had six. so we had stations and played musical stations alternating with blocks to get our shoulders and upper backs open. we prepped with handstand booty-on-the-wall and pincha-booty-on-the-wall, virasana, supta virasana, and kapotasana work. miss christine lee’s beautiful pose was inspiring. i was pleased by the class’s overall enthusiasm and willingness. i love my students! and! i’m so grateful for my brilliant teachers. I couldn’t be doing what i do without them.

I got to participate in the first two days of The Courage to Teach with Christina Sell and Darren Rhodes at Yoga Oasis! I love these two people with all my heart. day one Darren said, “We teach who we are.” I believe it’s a quote from the book. It calls one to walk the walk, so to speak, to live the life about which they preach. And simultaneously, the fact is that whether you live according to your philosophical ideals or not, we lead by example. As Douglas Brooks once said (paraphrased), “even not making a choice is making a choice.” We choose who we are by what we engage, how we engage it, and the company we keep. (i used to rationalize and justify this concept but came to realize through brilliant guidance from dear Scott Marmorstein and his guru, that no matter how strong you think you are on the inside, your outer company will drag you down. … side note, i’m not jesus. he hung with the lows and drank wine, so they say, i wasn’t there, but hey, i’m not jesus… so yeah, “they” say you hang around a barber shop long enough, you’re going to end up getting your hair cut… ha! or at least get a whole bunch of other people’s hair all over you… may we choose to surround ourselves with people we wish to emulate. i want to be around people who inspire me, who are happy, who smile, who giggle, who are bright, who are willing and driven….) (any wayz….tangent, sorry.) we teach who we are. we teach based on the struggles we face and overcome. the lessons we accrue are our gems with which to share and enrich the lives of others as well as our own. it goes back to the shared consciousness idea, for as i gain, so do you, and as you gain, so do i. we all struggle. we all have pain. what’s inspiring and interesting is how you face these challenges and ultimately rise out of the ashes anew. the fact that you rose from the ashes is rad, but what’s of value is the tale you now get to tell…

(I’m currently in the backseat of Miss Tanya Whitman’s car while she drives and Miss Christine Lee naps in the passenger seat. We’ve perused many topics thus far. of these tasty morsels of interest, we talked of butterfly metamorphosis, and how the catepillar is no more, how it no longer exists. once it makes the transformation, it’s not a catepillar with wings, but it’s completely new. it’s a different creature. it’s a butterfly. a dear friend recently got a tattoo of a butterfly to mark this very process. the change is permanent. the butterfly cannot change back into the catepillar. another friend said it this way, “once your a pickle you’re always a pickle, you can’t go back to being a cucumber.” ha! butterflies and pickles, whichever analogy you prefer.)butterflypic1

Saturday I was so fortunate to get to go to a dear friend’s wedding in Sedona. the wedding was so beautiful!!!! it was perfect weather with lovely white fluffy floaties drifting through the air with such perfection that it couldn’t have been professionally orchestrated any better! the company was so pleasant. this couple’s friends and family are mellow and kind and fun-loving. i felt so welcome and at ease. the music was a delightful blend of old school meets new school, but i especially loved the oldies. we all had fun dancing, but the best was how intimidating the bride’s family friends were! they ruled the dance floor! and i enjoyed the delicious food! oh the cakes! yes, cakes, plural. and then there was the serendipitous free room! the groom’s mom had a friend who couldn’t use her room so they were able to offer a free place to stay for the night. what a treat!

Sunday i spent mama day in Phoenix with my mama and twin sister and her beautiful munchkins, Elle and Patrick. they are so super cute! they call me “auntie mama.” yeah, it’s awesome.