December Yoga Experience: Day 11


“Yoga is the practice of quieting the mind.”  ~Patanjali, translated from Sanskri

I missed all the morning yoga classes today because we slept in–waaaaay in. But, oh, how good it felt to do just that! Well, I thought to myself, I can miss yoga today. I’ve done it for 10 days in a row already, that’s quite an accomplishment. Check.

And then I find myself at Kyle’s Saturday afternoon class at 4:30. The same time I was here on Friday. Kyle and I have a special kindredship like Laura and I do. Kyle and I were partners during an exercise in a workshop. We had just written our biggest dreams, and now we had to share them with a complete stranger! I will always remember hers: She and her husband were trying to get pregnant. What a magical experience to be a part of–and now she is the wonderful mother she set out to be.

This was my first class with Kyle, and I greeted her with a big hug and a sense of excitement! Well, now this class is going to be awesome because Kyle is teaching and it’s a new teacher for me and…yes, all those expectations flooded in.

And then I hit the mat. And I wanted to run out at every corner. No, this isn’t supposed to be like this. Ok, just a few more breaths and then I can get out of this pose. I was reeling from all these thoughts, and then I heard Kyle ask me to stay in it; that this is where the yoga practice really starts.

Yeah, Yeah, I’ve heard that before. Let me just hold on to knowing it’s almost over. And then I remembered my intention. After having a few practices in a row with challenging thoughts, I decided to find the good in every pose I did. So as we stretched out hips, I felt the tightness, and I said to myself, Oh, I am so glad I am doing this for my hips! It was a little forced, but a step in the right direction. A better judgment to have, until I have no judgment at all.

Quieting the mind is not easy to do, but no one ever said it would be.

December Yoga Experience: Day 10

“A photographer gets people to pose for him.  A yoga instructor gets people to pose for themselves.”  ~Terri Guillemets

Today is Dan’s birthday, and we started off our morning with a luxurious massage. After a wonderful afternoon, I went to Laura’s class at 4:30 in the afternoon–a perfect time right now at Inner Bliss as the sun sets while you’re practicing. The combination of a massage plus yoga made me a wonderful present for my husband. 🙂

Laura is very special to me because she led my maid of honor and I in a lovely yoga flow on the morning of my wedding. I really wanted to start that day at peace and filled with love, and Laura’s practice was magnificent!

Her classes are so sensual, and we all melted open during the warm practice. Twisting our bodies and breathing into them was so wonderful. She guided us to stay strong, to see through the uncomfortableness, to just keep breathing.

When my husband came to pick me up, I was in a state of bliss. I was so calm and relaxed, and so amazed at how wonderful I felt. I was excited to cherish Dan and celebrate his birthday, and thankful that I had the gift of being present for him on his special day.

December Yoga Experience: Day 9

“The goal is not to tie ourselves in knots …
we’re already tied in knots.
The aim is to untie the knots in our hearts.
The aim is to unite with the ultimate, loving, and peaceful power in the universe.” ~ Max Strom

Thursday. My week is done as I am taking off Friday for Dan’s birthday. I look forward to Tammy’s class like good medicine. I am hoping to sweat out the week, and get energized for the weekend ahead!

Instead, I am distracted again. It takes me a while to figure out what’s going on. So I decide to focus on the breath and feel every inhale and every exhale. And as I do, I see the thoughts, the expectations, the pressure I put on myself. But I keep filling up with the breath, more and more until I can no longer hear anything but my ocean breath.

When we begin our back bends, I am really feeling it. I enjoy the opportunity to revisit a pose multiple times, as each time I get to try something different, building on all the previous sensations. My spine is so supple and happy, feeling totally supported by the breath.

I try to invite more and force less. If I am questioning my forcefulness, I am probably forcing. I am accepting the gentle opening–it’s much more inviting to return there. I see now that the heart will open when I invite it to open, and my mind is so much more at peace when it’s breathing instead of thinking, “look how open my heart is!”

I see the change; I feel it; All around me…

December Yoga Experience: Day 8

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” ~ Lao Tzu

The first snow is falling on this Wednesday night. It’s oh so pretty. The trees glisten, every branch still reaching. I take it slow getting to Kimberley’s 5:45 class–because it’s snowing, because it’s nearing winter, and nature is telling me to slow down. I move too fast in this word sometimes…

The yoga studio is dark and warm, the heat generated by Laura’s 4:30 class is still hugging the air. I am near my friend Angelina, and a new friend, Erin. We settle in and begin to practice.

Kimberly sets a course of flowing and opening up. Her voice is soothing and gentle, encouraging me to speak to myself like that. She says we all come to the mat for different reasons, and for me, it’s feeling the commitment to myself.

I have struggled to eat like I did during the Experience. I think it’s the support I miss the most–and also, knowing that it will be over, and I just have to do this for a little bit longer. Like in yoga, I hear that voice–only a few more breaths, and then…

The struggle stems to my yoga mat, where I have difficulty focusing, finding the breath, grounding down. I am all over the place. So I keep coming back–I start over and over and over again. I am aware of it all.

Settling down to the floor, we practice frog. I have not seen this pose in so long, and now twice in one week! I accept the slow opening; I’m in it. I notice the difference. My body was just here, and it’s willing to go back, to soften some more.

In savasana, I let everything not serving me melt away. I rise new, light, clean, like freshly fallen snow.

December Yoga Experience: Day 7

You can search the whole universe

and not find a single being more worthy of love than yourself.

Since each and every person is so precious to themselves,

Let the self-respecting harm no other being.

Buddha

After being a beginner on Monday night with Tammy, for my seventh class, I took Tammy’s HOT Powerful flow on Tuesday night. I find myself at this class a lot because I want the mix of Tammy’s words with hot, sweaty heat with a community that really breathes and flows.

What I have really been enjoying is that Tammy is slowing things down without losing the intensity and energy. Or at least, that’s how it seems to me. We are holding poses longer; digging in deeper. I love it!

As I practice more and more, I realize that the breath truly is the essence of the practice. The breath–my breath–can fill me up so much, it’s quite amazing. When I just breath and flow, I feel like my true self. There is nothing more fulfilling than being me.

And “being me” includes facing things that release themselves during yoga. One pose that really brought the tears was frog. At first, I felt fine–though far from the ground, my hips were already giving me feedback. But as we continued to hold the pose, the thoughts of escaping came in, the desire to run and not let this continue a second longer. But I have been replacing these thoughts with ones like, “You are opening your hip and getting a little bit more length.” I am starting to accept small, even tiny, even unseen amounts of progress.

After a week’s worth of yoga, I can already tell that I want to do yoga every day. It’s like a massage, a glass of wine, and a therapy session all in one. Ahhhh….

December Yoga Experience: Day 6

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” ~ Shunryu Suzuki-Roshi

We are all beginners at one time. Tonight, I became one again as I took Tammy’s beginner class at Inner Bliss with my dear friends Jill and Angelina. I was looking forward to slowing down and learning something new–yoga is always teaching me something.

When I was a beginner, I wanted to do what everybody else was doing, not really understanding the journey that they had taken to arrive where they were. But lately, I have noticed that I am not in a rush to get to the next thing, to try a “harder” posture, be able to touch my nose to my knee. I am so happy being where I am, lighting up my body as it is today, doing what’s right for me.

The energy was great in the class, and everyone was focused and really breathing. I enjoyed exploring poses from a beginner’s perspective and really relished the transition from pose to pose. I even learned that I need to press my palms down instead of away to help ground me in downward dog.

As we lay in savasana, Tammy came around to us and gave us each a little neck rub. This is one of my favorite treats that IB offers–such one-on-one attention! I felt so happy and relaxed at that moment, and when I rose, I felt new all over, like a beginner.

December Yoga Experience: Day 5

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” ~ Maya Angelou

Wow, I have done yoga 4 days in a row! Go me! And then my expectations creep in: Why are my hips still tight? Why is it hard for me to focus today? Is this even working? 🙂

Good thing I went to Kimberly’s class, because she answered all my questions when she read the above quote during practice. I’m not doing yoga to get answers; I’m singing my song. I’m not there to loosen my hips, I’m there to breath.

And then I looked across the room, and I saw my dear friend Angelina in this fierce warrior pose. So beautiful, so strong, so committed to her stance. She was singing her song, and I could feel it.

I felt so inspired by her, that I refocused myself and began to sing my song.

December Yoga Experience: Day 4

Like any structure, yoga is built from the foundation up. ~ Anusara Yoga’s Universal Principles Of Alignment

Today was the Great Giveback at Inner Bliss Yoga Studio, where the teachers gave 10 free yoga classes all day long. What a wonderful gift–I passed this on to many friends, and my dearest friend Jill came with me.

We went to Ginny’s class at 2 p.m. (we were out quite late the night before :)), and I was excited for Jill to experience a Ginny class as she has taught me so much about alignment. What I have learned from Ginny is that paying attention to how you position yourself in each pose gives more meaning to your practice. How do you hold yourself in this world? Are you even aware of your feet, your toes, your baby toe?

I set my intention to really think about my foundation, and how being in alignment made me feel. I really pressed my feet into the earth; I really felt the line of energy as I opened up my heart; I really connected my palm to my mat in downward dog. Knowing where I stood made it easy to move on.

My friend truly enjoyed the class, and even cried a little. But she was thankful for the release–as we all are–and said that when Ginny asked to think of someone to thank, she thought of me. Funny, as I was thinking of her. I guess that’s why we’re friends. 🙂

December Yoga Experience: Day 3

“Grace is a wind that is always blowing. If you really want freedom and unbounded happiness in this lifetime, set your sail now! Learn how putting your trust in Yoga’s practical and verifiable science connects you to a wisdom that never disappointments.” ~ Leonard Perlmutter

Who goes to yoga on a Friday night? I do! But Jenn’s class is so much fun–she calls it “Happy Hour” yoga, and you definitely feel more relaxed after her class than you would after a few glasses of wine. 🙂

I have really been enjoying focusing on a phrase as I practice, and for this class, it was the word “grace.” What does it mean to be graceful? For me, it was keeping the breath moving and flowing in the face of my own discomfort. It’s getting back up when falling down, but it’s also not being hard on myself for falling–grace is loving myself, exactly as I am.

But that’s difficult for me to do as I have never really been happy with my body. Overweight for most of my life, I deal with body issues on a daily basis. So when I saw my fat roll smile at me while I was in downward dog, at first, I looked at it with disgust. A few downward dogs later, I didn’t even see it–partly because I was pulling my belly in even more, and partly because I had this realization: What if that roll NEVER goes away? What then? You gotta be happy as you are now, and work towards a healthier you. And, do it with grace.

As in all of Jenn’s classes, we eventually came to navasana. But this time, instead of dreading this pose, I welcomed it; I pulled in and shone out. And you know what? It felt so easy, so effortless, even though I knew I was working. I had embodied grace–elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action.

As Jenn says at the end of Happy Hour, peace out yogis!

December Yoga Experience: Day 2

Inhale, and God approaches you.  Hold the inhalation, and God remains with you.  Exhale, and you approach God.  Hold the exhalation, and surrender to God.  ~Krishnamacharya

Inner Bliss was delightfully calm tonight as I arrived for my second class of my 30-day Holiday Class Pass. There’s nothing like a yoga studio to chill you out… 🙂

But as soon as we started practicing, my energy sparkled, and I was having so much fun! I began my practice with a new pose that I had never done before–it’s always exciting to experience something for the first time. Thank you, Tammy, for the surprise!

The chi kept flowing as we practiced standing splits, and my movements made me elated–I felt like I was flying! I soared on my breath, inhaling and exhaling with such intention and awareness.

So tuned in, I had a realization when I was breathing into my heart: As it lifted, my shoulders naturally dropped down my back for support. Rising the heart on the inhale, sinking the shoulders on the exhale. A rhythmic flow of give and take that completes itself.  Now that I understood the relationship of lifting and supporting, the pose became so much lighter, intensely brighter, yet softer, more inviting.

When I lost the breath, the Ego chimed in: “When is this going to be over? My ankle is burning!” I laughed in my head and said to the Ego, “What’s the rush? Let’s just practice.”

Focusing on the breath was enlightening and gave a deeper meaning to my practice tonight. I felt so connected to myself, as well as to my fellow yogis. When we ended the class with a resounding “om,” the sound was vibrating with such a peaceful energy, like a Warrior.

The heart, the breath…what will be my next intention?