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.

_/\_

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

 

 

“joy at sudden disappointment”

Sun April 28th 2013

 

wow.

workshop wowwy wow wow.

i’m pooped, but the workshop went well. and that’s the point. that i am of greater service as i face my inner struggles, my inner resistances to my own growth. i know i’m not alone as i feel anxiety, a rising repulsion to facing whatever it is that’s challenging me in the moment, a feeling that i cannot, that i don’t want to, that i want to run away, that i’m not good enough, i don’t have what it takes… and then i persevere… i have the opportunity to transform this anxious energy into enthusiasm for the task at hand (thank you Ashley Bauman).

i pray, “may i be of service.”

i repeat, “namo,” (i bow in reverence)

and it helps.

it seems to be my greatest blessing in my life — that i’m of service. the fact that i have people depending on me to be there to teach them, and looking to me for guidance demands that i step it up, and it pulls out the best from me. don’t get me wrong, i don’t pretend to be that important or pivotal, per se. rather, i merely seek to brighten someone’s day through our interaction. i hope that our exchange leaves them brighter than before i encountered them. if so, it’s been a good day! lol, and if not, i have to choose to believe that it’s not my fault!!! gosh, i used to take all that personally and today i just can’t! I look for lessons, what i can learn and then let the rest go…. (or so that’s the intention).

 

really we do what we do…

as a student of D.R. Butler’s, I’m learning that detachment is best… that we all have our karmic roles to play. funny to think of it this way, like, “don’t shoot the messenger.” For if we are all simply playing our karmic roles, then like I taught in this weekend’s workshop, we can practice gratitude for the bringer of hardship in our lives, for they grantt us opportunities to learn the lessons we are here to learn and to cultivate our highest vision of ourselves. I shared a Rumi Poem today in the morning session of the workshop …****

*** remember the story of Muhammad and the eagle…. see below where I’ve typed it out.

Golden_Eagle-3

 

and i’m tired…

and i’m irritable…

and i’m wanting food that i’m choosing consciously not to have…

yeah, so i am vain and i do want to look good. but ultimately, and maybe you can perceive it as my justification for my vanity, but i don’t like the way certain foods affect me and so i choose not to have them; they’re like drugs and alcohol. they do not bring out the best in me, but quite the contrary, they bring me to my lowest, most embarrassing, degraded version of myself. and today i choose not to be her by choosing to behave consciously. i have learned through my life’s experience that I can fall back on food in the same way i would fall back on drugs or alcohol for escape….

escape from what?

escape from myself, from facing myself, the things i dislike about myself, the stuff that gets stirred up in me throughout the day, from the unfortunate lows that sometimes occur as an consequence or pendulum swing, rather, of my super high highs and giving so much of myself without giving myself time to recoup….

balance, they say…

yoga is about union of all parts of ourselves. balance.

and yet that doesn’t mean we’re “done.” that life stops happening and the ride is over. no, the ride still rocks on, full speed ahead, it’s just that our perspective can shift, so that we feel less impacted by it’s ups and downs, swirves and turns. …

but i have this peppermint and green tea that i’ve poured over ice and it suits me just fine. there’s a lot of work to be done tonight, so i think i’ll put in another hour and check out with a movie…. or most likely a book…

i get my hairz done tomorrow, so i’m grateful.

i get to see my therapist tomorrow, even more grateful.

i get to teach three more classes tomorrow night. god, may i be of service.

but truly i do look forward to some time on wednesday, my day off.

i’m feeling better just from writing.

thank you for helping me. i hope this helps you in some way.

 

Rumi Poem

“Joy at Sudden Disappointment

 

Whatever comes, comes from a need,

a sore distress, a hurting want.

 

Mary’s pain made the baby Jesus.

Her womb opened its lips

and spoke the Word.

 

Every part of you has a secret language.

Your hands and your feet say what you’ve done.

 

And every need brings in what’s needed.

Pain bears its cure like a child.

 

Having nothing produces provisions.

Ask a difficult question,

and the marvelous answer appears.

 

Build a ship, and there’ll be water

to float it. The tender-throated

infant cries and milk drips

from the mother’s breast.

 

Be thirsty for the ultimate water,

and then be ready for what will

come pouring from the spring.

 

A village woman once was walking by Muhammad.

She thought he was just an ordinary illiterate.

She didn’t believe that he was a prophet.

 

She was carrying a two-month-old baby.

As she came near Muhammad, the baby turned

and said, “Peace be with you, Messenger of God.”

 

The mother cried out, surprised and angry,

“What are you saying,

and how can you suddenly talk!”

 

The child replied, “God taught me first,

and then Gabriel.”

“Who is this Gabriel?

I don’t see anyone.”

“He is above your head,

Mother. Turn around. He has been telling me many things.”

“Do you really see him?”

“Yes.

He is continually delivering me from this degraded state into sublimity.”

 

Muhammad then asked the child,

“What is your name?”

 

“Abdul Aziz, the servant of God, but this family

thinks I am concerned with world-energies.

I am as free of that as the truth of your prophecy is.”

 

So the little one spoke, and the mother

took in a fragrance that let her surrender

to that state.

When God gives this knowing,

inanimate stones, plants, animals, everything,

fills with unfolding significance.

 

The fish and the birds become protectors.

Remember the incident of Muhammad and the eagle.

 

It happened that as he was listening

to this inspired baby, he heard a voice

calling him to prayer. He asked for water

to perform ablutions. He washed his hands

and feet, and just as he reached for his boot,

 

an eagle snatched it away! The boot turned upsidedown

as it lifted, and a poisonous snake dropped out.

 

The eagle circled and brought the boot back,

saying, “My helpless reverence for you

made this necessary. Anyone who acts

this presumptuously for a legalistic reason

should be punished!”

Muhammad thanked the eagle,

and said, “What I thought was rudeness

was really love. You took away my grief,

and I was grieved! God has shown me everything,

but at that moment I was preoccupied within myself.”

The eagle,

“But chosen one, any clarity I have

comes from you!

This spreading radiance

of a True Human Being has great importance.

 

Look carefully around you and recognize

the luminosity of souls. Sit beside those

who draw you to that.

Learn from this eagle story

that when misfortune comes, you must quickly praise.

 

Others may be saying, Oh no, but you

will be opening out like a rose losing itself petal by petal.

 

Someone once asked a great sheikh

what sufism was.

“The feeling of joy when sudden disappointment comes.”

 

The eagle carries off Muhammad’s boot

and saves him from snakebite.

 

Don’t grieve for what doesn’t come.

Some things that don’t happen

keep disasters from happening.”

 

 

Thumbs up

ok, so no fooling… i’m freaking out to a small degree regarding money and finances in general and I keep reminding myself to trust in the universe, to have faith in my being provided for each day, each moment. I keep going about daily business even after I work out some financial details and blatantly face the fact that after I pay my mortgage I will have $300 with which to pay other bills, eat, buy gas, and essentially live for the next two weeks.  After teaching I received a call from my sister, Staci, and after chit chat she informed me that she has $1000 for me!!! Yeah! no shit! I wanted to cry and sing and dance all at once! My faith in God is absolutely blaring and flashing like a vivid neon sign. I have been praying about my financial situation and here it is! Yeah! Turns out I previously lent her a little more than that and she’s just paying me back! Rad! And then! Handsome coffee man gave me a free coffee! HA! I’m so grateful! I’m so supported and so taken care of, as long as I’m tending to me and my highest self, as opposed to my lower self that is needy, codependent, and addicted. It seems as though I’m making the best decisions, even as I face the discomfort of being alone, of being anxious, uncertain, and troubled with an inordinate amount of empathy and self-doubt. Lately I’ve been experientially realizing how necessary the discomfort is. By this I mean that like most human beings, I tend to want to avoid discomfort at all costs via alcohol, drugs, food, sex, tv, video games, drama, etc…and it’s precisely that avoidance that prevents the lesson from taking root. (I think of that Ani Difranco song, “Marrow,” she sings, “The answer came like a shot in the back while you were running from your lesson, which might explain why years later all you could remember was the terror of the question… and I can’t believe you let the moral go by while you were sulking in the product placement…” i checked; I didn’t remember the exact lyric)

So i was dorking out yesterday thinking about how Pandora is like life. (cuz isn’t everything simply a microcosm for life?) I thought it’d be a brilliant yoga theme and blog entry, but then I didn’t make time to write my blog entry yesterday, my day off, cuz i was busy walking my dog, meeting a few friends, getting coffee, hula-hooping (yeah!), roller-skating (uh-huh!), running with my dog in what seemed like the tornado in Wizard of Oz, making kale chips, grocery shopping, checking Facebook… …. ha! there’s always something, no?.. so i taught it as a yoga theme today and realized it would have gone over much better had i spent that time writing about it yesterday… yeah… so anyway. i’m here today… and i blog…

On Pandora there’s the thumbs up symbol and the thumbs down symbol. Right. So you pick your artist, Pandora plays similar things within that genre and a person can specifically tailor a radio station to their liking with these two icons. It took me a little while to figure this out. I know, shoosh… Initially I listened to whatever was played just like I would listen to a radio station. I would tolerate the annoying songs and just deal with agitation or press the forward button to skip to the next song. In retrospect I see I was avoiding responsibility for creating the station the way I wanted it. I have this tendency to feel bad, like i want to give the song a chance, so rather than thumbs down it, I’d just move on. Soon I realized you can only skip ahead five times… (yeah, funny. I wonder why it’s only five)… (maybe i’m overanalyzing this)

You can create your universe by the was you interact with what is presented to you in the moment. If you like it, embrace it, affirm it, engage it. If you don’t like it, it’s important to cultivate the skill to assert yourself and to choose something else. Otherwise you keep listening to songs you don’t really like; you experience a world that just happens to you, aggravates you, and you tolerate it passive-aggressively rather than manifest a moment of your choosing, a life of your dreams… sigh…. (drift off in la la land)…. …

With regard to yoga poses though, we face a little bit of a dilemma. It’s not as though you can “thumbs down” a pose and you don’t have to do it. rrrrrrright…. Some people do, and you absolutely can in your own practice, but that’s surely not how you get better at the challenging poses or how you cultivate virtues such as perseverance and patience (i’m up to ‘P’ in the dictionary, ha!). (and this may be a whole separate issue, but often by pracicing poses we don’t like we get better at the poses we do like.  For example by doing dreaded core work our backbends get better.) The teacher has a plan, and we, as students might not know the bigger picture and/or don’t dig this plan.  It’s her plan, not ours. Being a student in the class, in fact, choosing to be there, we are choosing to work on what is presented. The plan is for our benefit, for our upliftment. Thumbs up.  That is the challenge. Discernment within yoga practice would be discerning what is pain from what is intense sensation. Rather than avoid that which presents intense sensation, (viewing it as pain), we can delve into it with our breath, explore it and feel it… feel it… feel it… and consequently learn and grow… evolve, get bigger because of the challenge. The option always exists to see it as pain, to complain, avoid, justify, distract… and stay small, or even to contract further in the face of challenge. We always have a choice…

Dr. Douglas Brooks says, “What a difference a difference makes.” While choosing thumbs up or thumbs down on a Pandora station seems inconsequential and trivial, even silly… (like come on, where are we going with this? ha! I know!), this is what we do moment to moment by the way we interact with our surroundings, by how we engage with what is presented to us in the moment. So that what is presented becomes that which we choose. With discernment we choose to affirm, maintain, or further cultivate that which we like, that which enhances our experience of life. In many cases, the thumbs down option just happens because by saying yes to something, you’re necessarily saying no to other things. However certain things require a thumbs down. In this “relative” world of manifest things not all things are created equal. It’s not all the same. Some things are better than others. You like some things and not others. In order to fully say yes to oneself and one’s life, we must enact the thumbs down option… without feeling bad… (errrrr i suppose it’s gotta be ok to feel bad, cuz it just happens and we can accept that too. We’ve got to be ok with feeling bad, being in that discomfort, because like yoga asana, that’s how we evolve.) I hope this is helpful to more people than just me. As beloved Manorama teaches, look to the metaphor.

 

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