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. :-)

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

pade pade

Monday 4.29.13

 

I feel a new surge of creativity arising within me. An excruciating discomfort welling up from within me that can seemingly only be soothed by writing, reading, sleeping, and drinking copious amounts of tea … (although being of service during the workshop soothed this feeling immensely and talking nicely and encouragingly on my so-seemingly long bike ride home also helped.) (i think that eating is going to fix it and it never does… but gosh i’m a determined one. persistent, i’ll give me that.)

The rune i drew this morning affirmed this new inner state. i always feel excitement and awe at how right on the runes always are, ready or not. They direct my consciousness to what is going on beneath the surface that I may be neglecting to notice. For that i am deeply grateful.

Speaking of grateful, my workshop this weekend was such a supreme high point in my life. I am overwhelmed with deep, humble gratitude at those who supported its happening and those who attended with bright eyes, willing bodies, and open hearts. I am grateful I rode my bike both mornings too! I aspire to get back into riding to work every time. Mondays, eh, maybe… lol. I get out late, so that’s a tough one for sure. But definitely tuesday, a fun-and-free-day-off wednesday ride, thursday, friday, and sunday… sundays are super full and challenging too… so we’ll see…

ha! and that’s how it goes. high aims, and then there’s life. then there’s life as it is. it’s always happening… Mr. Lee Lozowick said, “Good enough is good enough.” This can challenge the mind, and tempt one towards complacency, and yet, we still aim high. like so many profound teachings, it’s a paradox. Manorama says, (paraphrased) if you aim too high, you thwart your practice. She supports slow, steady progress, and consistency in practice, as all great yogic teachers propose. In Mr. BKS Iyengar’s Light on Yoga, he advocates abyasa: steady, constant, uninterrupted practice over a long period of time (paraphrased). and life happens, so we do what we can from where we are at. “pade pade,” Manorama says, which means “step by step.” by one step at a time we get to where we are going.

(HA! and then life happens! Like, I have to take my doggy, Udu, for a walk.)

to be continued…

……..

and so then what?

life keeps on happening. and the lessons we derive from these innumerable events, this endless cycling of opportunities is up to us. i am responsible for my life. nathaniel hawthorne, as quoted by DR Butler in the lesson I’m currently on,” Of all our responsibilities, the greatest is being responsible for our own happiness.” Manorama says that no one is going to do it for us. She says, “Your life is for figuring out your life.” Amen.

 

I took some time for myself tonight. that’s challenging for me, so it seems…

There’s something really powerful about time with yourself. about time to just feel, to get to know who you are and how you react, to feel that space of potency between thought and action and that powerful place when you can choose to fall back into what you’ve always done or choose something new… and then to stay diligent there… and there… and there…

 

This power of reflection is inherent in the silence, in the quiet time and yet so present in our interactions with other people, other things. For in all of these people, all of these things, we see ourselves. We get the opportunity to see our reactions and see what we like and dislike in others. It’s exactly what we like and dislike in ourselves. what we run from, hide from, and ignore in others is exactly what we’d like to discard from ourselves.

Ha! and that’s what makes it so easy to ignore red flags… or what i like to call, “painting the red flags green.” ha ha ha…

and as “they” say, “more will be revealed.”MG9952-M

 

 

all is well

gratitude…

what a beautiful day!

I am grateful i got to sit and have lunch with a dear friend in the sunshine at a table sitting outside of whole foods… yum yum salad in my lunch break in between class number two and three on my tuesday in january… still learning all about people… aren’t they always perfect mirrors for us?

 

all three classes went so well. the first and the third, both yogahours, had 44 and 48 approximately! in the led expanding class I taught mostly restorative and seated forward folds. it was exactly what i needed and so it turned out that despite my own insecurities about my offerings, everyone else was so grateful and that it was exactly what they needed as well.

and so it goes…

staci (my twin) called me today. i’m always grateful to hear from her. i didn’t get to talk to her long at all but the time with her lit up my day fer sure. she said she wrote my arm tattoo on her mirror today and it made her think about me all day. “rather than curse the darkness bring the light.” perfect. seems like she’s needing a little light, realizing that she has to make the choice to think positively instead of dwell in the negative. it is so sweet to share our journey, all of us.

i am grateful for the connections I have with others.

 

i chose to bike home despite my huge mountain of tiredness, and it was a pretty horrible trip home but i was so grateful when it was over!!! it’s interesting to watch the dance of my thoughts and emotions as they go… the bike ride is the bike ride and no matter how bratty and whiney and complainy and pathetic my inner objections protest, the bike ride is the bike ride! what, am i gonna stop and call someone to come get me? HA!!! yeah, i thought about about it… but then i have this silly li’l ego… “no i got this, i’m a tuffy, i’m strong, i’m not a quitter, i’m hardcore, or whatever bla bla bla…” and then i get home, and all is well.

 

official yogi hippie

“They” say that when you say you know, you don’t, and when you claim to know nothing, is when you actually know…. so there’s that… LOL…  I’m so grateful and fortunate that my feelings of anxiety can dissolve into an openness, and out flows exactly what is needed.

Sunday is my Monday.  Big, full Sunday-Monday.  This morning I biked in beautiful, i’m-so-grateful-for Tucson weather to Yoga Oasis downtown.  I taught Yogahour at 1015 and 1130 and subbed The Practice for Brigette at 130-330.  (and massaged at 6)  All classes went great!  Good sizes and big weekend energy.  My word of the day was STRENGTH.  Not the external, muscular kind so much, although, I said, that has it’s place and value.  Yoga grants us opportunity to cultivate inner strength, such as perseverance, determination, resilience, and fortitude.  In yoga practice we strengthen our ‘inner muscle’, by turning within when we need guidance, support, or steadiness.  We can then apply this practice off the mat when we find ourselves feeling unsteady.  Strength has various manifestations; (like yoga poses!).  Being resourceful, like using a prop to modify, is a form of strength, as in being able to admit, ‘I cannot do this alone, I need help.’  Another form is perseverance–being able to pick yourself up again and again and again… and again after you’ve fallen so many times, and embarrassment, self-doubt, and self-loathing threaten to keep you down for the count.  (JAPANESE PROVERB (of which Darren Rhodes is quite fond:  “Fall down seven times, get up eight.”) …Or to hold strong to your inner light, your sense of worthiness in the face of insult or rejection … to commit to your morals and sense of what is right and true when everything appears to be crumbling around you. … and heart’s high intentions sometimes waiver, and in such a time, sheer will– an effortful, brute umph is required!  In the Gurjieff tradition they speak of a denying force that matches your will and one requires will in order to overcome it.

… I’m grateful that the class seemed to positively affect many of the students.  That’s my favorite, for sure.  My work then is effortless effort and so fulfilling.  I’m grateful for my students.  and my teachers.  and my challenges.  Often, it’s on the days that I’m on the edge of some big shift, (which usually takes the form of emotional upset) that my classes go the best.  I think it’s because in order to be effective I let go, open, and inwardly admit, “I don’t know.” … and that I can’t control the outcome.  That’s when good stuff happens for which I can’t really take credit–the passion gets channeled into the practice.

In the advanced class we played with some backbends, specifically Eka Pada Rajakapotasana 1 and Padangusthasana in Dhanurasana, amongst several others.  We had a good time and even played with one-handed handstand variations.  Thanks to those who came!  What a good day!

I’m so happy to say I’ve been experiencing beneficial shifts in my practice, in the form of subtle freedom and a subtle shifting of intense effort into not as much effort, or just smarter effort, I suppose.  It could be my pranayama and meditation practice bearing fruit…  I’m thrilled to notice freedom from typical tightness in my shoulders (everything is relative).  I’ve been practicing lots of shoulder stretches, like parsvottanasana arms and gommukhasana arms.  I also owe a lot to the fact that I’ve not been lifting weights like I had been religiously for a while.  I was just convinced that I needed to lift to be stronger, and so doing I did get super strong, and big, and tight.  mm-hm… and now trying something a little different.  Right now I like being a little more free.  Strength is required in order to effectively align, but too much strength can inhibit my alignment, in that my muscles can get in the way!  Everything fluctuates, so I may get back to lifting again, but for now I’m not.  the end.  that’s my story. (modest mouse reference)

I’ve also been juicing and experimenting with raw foods.  It’s been delightfully delicious and energizing!  I can’t help but attribute some of my new shifts to the raw goodness.  I feel like an official yogi hippie now that I have a juicer and a dehydrator.  I should get a t-shirt or something.

the dawn

Day 2 of Live the Light of Yoga with Darren Rhodes and Christina Sell… I’m grateful to be in Tucson, to get to be a part of this great community.  A little over two years ago I moved to the lovely land of Tucson, the land of heat, saguaros, bicyclists, gorgeous sunsets… and what I believe to be the Yoga Mecca.  The sangha of Yoga Oasis and it’s extended posse of visiting students has become my family.  Each day I get to do what I love and be around inspiring beautiful people who are walking on the same path of awakening.

It’s exciting and inspiring to be a part  of Darren and Christina’s blossoming vision.  They are two teachers I look up to and have studied with for several years, although Darren longer than Christina.  Their recent departure from Anusara is an interesting turn of events.  Many people in the community watch in curious suspense.  I thought it was very interesting that of all of the immersions and teacher trainings the duo have done, this is the first time they’ve had a wait list.  (eye brow raise)  People are attracted to their boldness.  Speaking of boldness, in our afternoon philosophy and contemplation we discussed the following quote by Goethe:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back.  Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans:  that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.  All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.  A whole stream of events issues from the decision raising in one’s favor all manner of unforseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.  Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it.  Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.  Begin it now.”

This quote sounds a lot like the notion of Grace we speak of in Anusara Yoga.  Gurumai Chidvilasananda in The Yoga of Discipline speaks of effort and Grace as two wings of a bird, that the two work together.  The teaching is, Grace meets our efforts.  We have to set the foundation with conscious intention and open to the presence of such a benevolent force that would so willingly match our efforts.  With Grace at our back, or rather, the awareness of a Grace that was always already present, we engage whatever situation is at hand.  (i’m dorking out in the UPAs for a moment, bear with me, it’s good practice)  Muscular energy is an active engagement with which we embrace what is as it is and thereby expand its potential.  We must first see something as it is before we could ever hope of affecting it in some way.  We move with intention… going in, back, and apart …over, around and through… together, forward, and out… (giggle giggle)… spiraling through the play of our lives to ultimately expand from the center of who and what we thought we were into a heightened understanding, a more evolved version of ourselves… one who wouldn’t go back to the way things were even if they could.

I’m working on the Anusara certification process, emphasis on the ‘ing’ part.  Anusara certification has offered me a process of growth and maturation beyond any other professional endeavor I could have ever dreamed of pursuing.  I would never go back and choose anything different for my life (well, other than maybe being a naturopathic doctor who can prescribe yoga and dietary changes, but hey, life’s not over yet…).  Yoga practice helps me to find myself, to be present with myself, and to feel worthy of sharing what I find in the service of something greater than myself.  Yoga helped me to find my body again after a near-fatal car accident in 1998– to feel, process, and release stored trauma and shatter limiting expectations of my physical body.   Yoga gave me some place to turn to in my college years of losing myself in drugs, alcohol, food, and relationships, and it stayed with me the whole time.  It never turned it’s back on me when I was inconsistent with my commitments to make it to class, or even when I showed up to class bloated and teary eyed from a binge, or  imagining nobody would notice my bloodshot eyes.  It stayed with me no matter what I weighed, no matter what pose I could and couldn’t do, no matter what I thought of myself, no matter what I thought of my teacher, no matter what brand of yoga pants I wore (that’s kind of a joke), no matter who I dated, where I lived, how much I was late for work… no matter what.  And now like the maturation of a beautiful fruit bearing tree, my life offers me  juicy fruits of living the live of my dreams.  I always wanted to be able to support myself doing what I love and here I am.  I do massage too, but primarily I teach yoga, and the majority of my clients are yoga students.  Yoga helped me to touch deep places within me and feel the highest highs and the lowest lows and I’m so blessed to get to transform my life experiences into teaching lessons.  I always enthusiastically thank my students.  Usually they don’t understand, they act like it’s weird, that they should be thanking me.SONY DSC

Specifically the Anusara method has nurtured my spirit and helped me to get to where I am today, and for it I am profoundly grateful.  My struggle with the certification process has instigated noticeable progress in my teaching as well as inner growth.  However, I feel like I’m in a dark place where there is promise of an imminent dawn, and I kneel here, pranam even, eyes turned upward, for yet another disappointment.  The method which promotes freedom and creativity feels like anything but that.  I question the steps necessary to experience such a dawn.  (when I know the sun rises for other people!  hundreds of other people!) But then again I consistently question myself…I just need to think of things differently… shift my perspective. No, this is not the first time.  This has happened numerous times throughout the process and I’ve always persevered, head down and hooves digging to be better, to do it right, to be that damned teacher that’s worthy of certification.  And I’ve always claimed to be better because of these struggles.  But now I don’t know… will I be better if I persevere or will i merely be passionately pursuing the script that I set out for myself so many years ago?  I don’t know if I’m losing hope and therefore tempted to shift to an easier course or if I’m gaining clarity and expanding my vision.

Thank you for reading.  Thank you for participating in my process.