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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saturday observation

I love teaching weekend mornings downtown!  It’s such a great group!  I enjoy a 25 min bike ride to downtown Yoga Oasis studio, get it all set up: ac on, candles lit, incense burning, sign-in sheet ready, sweat wiped off, welcoming smile on my face.  I put myself in the shoes of my students, who would be waking up on a Saturday morning and choosing to start their weekend with yoga.  how would they be feeling?  what makes them come to practice?  what do they want from practice?  What can I offer them to brighten their day and teach them something?  Doing this helps me to get out of my own head, whatever drama may be playing out up there, so I may be fully present to be sweet and helpful to whomever arrives.

Today’s word was “observe.”  One of my first yoga teachers, Ulla Lundgren, said that yoga is ‘Svadyaya,’ or study of the self.  I just started a book called Self Observation, the awakening of Conscience, An Owner’s Manual, by Red Hawk.  Red Hawk summarizes a principle in physics called Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle” in the following way, “The act of observation changes the thing observed.”  I remember learning about this in school, how the behavior of particles changes simply because they are being observed.  I remember being in awe by this, but sorry to say, it wasn’t at the forefront of my mind and priorities, so I’m grateful to receive it again in very clear, jargon-free language.  I dived into further research on Wikipedia and vague memories of past physics classes re-emerge along with forced focus to combat glazed eyes and mind-wandering tendencies… There is much more to this principle and these ideas, but for now, I’m using Heisenberg’s principle.  Thinking about this makes me realize that the observer is what is being observed and is therefore constantly changing all the time.  …

I recently finished a book called, Gurdjieff, A Beginner’s Guide, How Changing the Way We React to Misplacing Our Keys Can Transform Our Lives, by Gil Friedman.  The core practice in this book was also Self-Observation.  Friedman says, “The only person who can do the Work is ourselves… The only way to make the Work functional is to actually apply it by observing ourselves uncritically.  We are the subjects of this Work.  The aim of the Work is not to change the world but to change ourselves.”  Yoga asana is one way to practice this concept in our bodies, minds, and hearts.  We affect ourselves through our direst observation and subsequent interaction with what we observe.  For example, in triangle pose, we observe our leg muscle is disengaged and even bent to a degree.  Simply observing this may instigate corrective action, but observation comes first.  The teacher’s presence and guidance, along with the big energy of a packed yoga-hour room may also motivate fuller participation, for it has been scientifically proven that when people are watched they perform better.  Christina Sell spoke to this in her recent workshop, “Teaching the Raw Beginner.”

If we practice watching ourselves from an objective viewpoint regularly we change just by this simple act.  Again and again, simple, but not easy.

Terrific Tuesday!

I taught three classes at central today.  On top of my normal classes I got to sub for Rachelle at 8pm.  What a day!  That’s how I know I am in the right field–whenever my mind tells me, “there’s no way!” or “man, I’m gonna be so tired!” or “I am done!” an unexplainable surge of energy arises from within me and gives me what I need to get the job done, and usually well.  I’m so grateful.

In my yogahour classes the word of the day was ‘resilient’.  To be resilient is to be able to bounce back into shape after bending, stretching or being compressed; to be able to withstand or recover from difficult situations.  Through yoga asana we practice being resilient in our bodies as we assume various poses.  We are always welcome to step into deeper practice in our minds by quickly recovering in our minds when events subvert our plans, circumstances supersede our expectations, or emotions erupt.  This is the practice of yoga on and off the mat.  I believe this consistent practice is advanced practice.  Sure, doing the fancy yoga poses is cool.  Who wouldn’t wanna touch their feet to their forehead while balancing on their forearms in a backbend, right?  Ha!  Or at least see someone who could?!  Wherever you begin is perfect.  The Bhagavad Gita said there are many paths, and all paths up the mountain lead to the same place.  Whether you begin with the body through yoga poses (asana) and breathing (pranayama) or the mind with meditation and contemplation or heart with devotional songs and poetry, they all serve to take you deeper into the practice.  Ultimately, yoga is a practice of self-study, self-observation.  Through self-observation one may bring oneself into balance or harmony.  In his book Light on Yoga Mr Iyengar says, “it (yoga) means a poise of the soul which enables one to look at life in all its aspects evenly.”  Like most things worthwhile, it’s simple, but not easy.SONY DSC

I recently encountered an opportunity to cultivate the virtue of resilience.  I’m on the path of Anusara certification, and feels like a long time traveling.  I’ve seen and experienced much along the way!  Test… check….video….check…and check….and check!  And now a little more digging deeper.  The saying, “it’s not about the destination, it’s the journey” applies here.  Because I am “only Inspired” and not YET certified, I serve with no less enthusiasm.  My classes are still lively, fun, heart-centered, rich and authentic.  I teach challenging classes that offer one the opportunity to reach inside to find what they need to carry on, just as life so often does.  Facing “rejection” in the realm of my own head is much more difficult than the reality of it.  My assessor said I am going to get certified, there’s just some things I need to do now to make my teaching “stellar.”  And yes, she really did say “stellar.”  I dig the word usage, I’m in.  😉

Last night I was reading through the Yogahour Teacher Training Manual, by Darren Rhodes, again  and the following quote jumped off the page, “We learned the hard way (often the only way) that there is often potential magic to seemingly tragic.  When failure seems inevitable and you refuse to give up, pivotal and lasting transformations can and often do take place.  Without the pressing possibility of failure, what would push us to discover our true capacity?  Possible failure can be the very force that invokes superlative success.”

sustenance

“So I guess my father Yogi Ramsuratkumar has not been happy breaking my heart once. He breaks it again and again and again and again. But I have to be very grateful to Him because without a broken heart, it’s very easy to forget God. So I wish that I could tell you miracle stories, but I don’t have any to tell. I would only suggest that we not look to miracles to make us forget our broken heart. We must have a very powerful urge to realize God or we never will. And in my life the only thing that has taken my mind from money and my stomach and from other things that are so easy to satisfy in America, is a broken heart. I think that’s all I have to say. I could say that again and again but I think that’s enough.”

 

Last night I thought about this idea, and I wake up to read this. Im forever awed by the synchrony of life! This excerpt is from Sunday’s Daily D. It’s a quote from Lee Lozowick talking about his experience with his guru. I was thinking about this same idea before yesterday morning’s class. I read from Friedman’s book regarding “The Law of Three:..every manifestation in the universe is the result of three forces. The first is the active force, the second is the passive force, and the third is the neutralizing force. Unless we have all three of these forces, the event or manifestation will not occur. The first force can also be thought of as the initiating force, the second force as the resisting, and the third force as the connecting force or point of application…(ie Hinduism: God=3 Gods/Forces: Brahma, the creator; Vishnu, the preserver; and Shiva, the destroyer.) So Friedman gives an example of a man who wants a job (first/initiating force). He doesn’t like performing the efforts necessary to obtain a job (second/resisting force). “If only these two forces are at work, nothing will happen…. We drift because the third force is not present. Let us suppose, however, we are overdue on our rent, behind in our car payments, and have little food. Then this condition becomes the third force that makes us go out and do what is necessary to find a job.”

 

Today I heard a woman share about her suicide contemplations, obviously as a cry for help, willing to talk about the problem, and even announce her lack of work towards any solution, other than talking about it, which is definitely something… whoa almost started a little rant there… anyway, in a sense, it was great for me to hear. Because here i was stuck in my head about my own lame drama and feeling hopeless. Hearing her suffering got me out of myself and helped me to remember that there are things I can do to remedy my own situation, that I am not a victim of life, that by my engagement I can shift things, if not dramatically alter them. In the situation, the woman got some great feedback. A lot of it was really awesome, but I’m sure hard for her to hear cuz she probably only wanted sympathy and hugs or something… The general consensus was to dig in and do simple, but not easy work. It’s all laid out for us, and yet we still don’t do it! Here I could relate to her though. Even though my ego sat on its high horse for a second (the nerve! ha!), like “omg! she isn’t even trying to help herself and she has the audacity to come and whine! gasp!” and yet, what am I doing today? when was the last time i did everything perfectly? what am i doing today to be pleasant and helpful? how can i be of service? I do a morning practice on a daily basis. Some days it’s more elaborate than others. Some days I ritualistically go through the motions, seemingly just to check it off the list. Some days it’s rich and deeply moving, with tangible peace and ease. My thoughts are what can take me into self-destruction and my thoughs can be healed through doing my work.

I meditated for 20 minutes this morning. It was satisfying to my ego who loves accomplishments. I am grateful to get back into it with more commitment and regularity. I admit I’ve been doing about 11-15 minutes each day to maintain and occasionally even skipping it, with a wistful intention to do it later. I feel better with regular meditation, reading, writing, classes, gatherings of good people.  However, evident in my life, suffering leads me into the depths of the work. I came to this path of yoga from the beginning as very literally a broken girl, mending body and brain from a car accident at age 17, not to mention all the emotional crap busting through the seems of the curtain (in my head that’s alluding to The Wizard of Oz and “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” that man is what makes it all work! the big scary voice and image was all due to that man behind the curtain…So the character we are trying with such great effort to hide is really the driving force…) When I suffer I dive zealously into efforts to escape from it. Today I work to dive into efforts that nurture body, mind and spirit using meditation, yoga (teaching and practicing), reading, writing, calling people, riding my bike, being active in anyway, being creative, instead of digging myself deeper into suffering by using external means such as: food, substances, sex. I am not perfect in the impeccable sense, I am perfect in the “full” sense, perfectly imperfect and I am grateful for all of my sufferings and the “sustenance” they give me. (Tonight’s word was sustenance. All three downtown classes were rockin!)

 

“We truly appreciate what we have to make efforts to obtain.” Friedmangod pic