PROP is not a dirty word.

Something has been on my mind. It’s really bothered me lately. I’ve noticed something about yoga class that really does concern me:  some people don’t want to use props in their yoga practice.  I’ll admit it…I once felt that way too.  But age and experience and changes in my body have changed my mind.  You see, the ego gets the definition of prop mixed up with crutch all the time and then it’s on…reaching too far, risking injury, showing that we can do the full expression of the pose.  ( I won’t even get started here about the other 7 limbs of yoga and how they are shoved elsewhere when we get competitive.)  But it doesn’t have to be this way.

I wanted to dig a little deeper, maybe make it easier to pick up that block the next time you go to yoga class.  So here you go:

Prop:

prop1

präp/

noun

1.a pole or beam used as a support or to keep something in position, typically one that is not an integral part of the thing supported.

“300 tubular steel props”

synonyms: polepostsupportuprightbracebuttressstay,strutstanchionshorepierpillarpile, piling,bolstertrusscolumn

“the roof is held up by props”

verb

1.position something underneath (someone or something) for support.

“she propped her chin in the palm of her right hand”

synonyms: hold up, shore up, bolster up, buttresssupport,braceunderpin

“this post is propping the wall up

 

Crutch:

crutch

krəCH/

noun

noun: crutch; plural noun: crutches

1.a long stick with a crosspiece at the top, used as a support under the armpit by a lame person.

2.archaic/another term for crotch (of the body or a garment)

 

Did you notice what I did in those definitions? A PROP is a support. A crutch is a long stick blah blah blah. (And let’s not even discuss the archaic definition.) Support…Long stick. Now, if you use a long stick as a support, then a crutch would be a prop. But a prop is NOT a crutch. Let that sink in: a prop is not a crutch.

A prop is a tool for helping your body successfully get into the pose the way your body needs to! Our bodies are not put together the same way. Our joints are different sizes; our bones don’t match in length. I could go on for a while with this, but you get it. We are as different on the inside as we are on the outside.

I hope this helps. Truly.  Yoga is about using your body and the tools you need to support it, whether you’re on the mat or off.

The next time you walk in the studio, grab a block or two. Grab a blanket. Maybe even a strap. And get comfy. Use them, and if you’re teacher isn’t and you’re not sure how…ASK!  Or send me a message, and I’ll help you.  These props are practice changers.

I hope you’ll try them, and that you have the same experience I did…and do. Every time I practice!

Here’s some inspiration from a recent practice…a block party.

image1 (1)

 

 

Namaste, y’all.

In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning

Do you ever get up early? I don’t mean 6:30 with the alarm, and the snooze, and the other members of your household starting to squawk. I mean really early, well before daylight breaks when you can still see the stars and the moon. Before the sun has even considered rising. Before your house starts to stir and the day takes off at full throttle. When the world remains at rest.

Last year I decided I wanted to be a morningish person, so when I was offered the opportunity to teach yoga at 6:15 am, I decided it was a sign and I said yes. Reluctantly, I’ll admit. But it was one of the best decisions I’ve made as a teacher, as a yogini, and mostly…as a human.

Two days a week (I said morning-ISH), I get up around 4:30-4:45. I spend a few minutes doing what’s necessary for me to leave the house, and I head to the studio. It’s dark. Often I’ll get to see dozens of deer. Occasionally a raccoon will wave as I drive past. When the earth morning sky is clear, it’s a vast sea of stars. I feel like I’m a guest for this show.

I have the road, really the town, to myself save for a few other souls who, whether they recognize it or not, are fortunate enough to be moving about slyly, sneaking up on the day.

Waking up the studio is easy…lights, signs, computers all rise to the occasion. But the real joy is when the student start to arrive. I’m always happy to greet them, those others who know the gift of early mornings.

You can read articles in Yoga Journal or Google Ayurveda and early mornings. Rising before the sun helps to set your rhythm for the day. It helps you get precious YOU time in before anyone else can step in front. Your dosha can even offer suggestions about what time you should awake. I’m slowly but surely getting up earlier on the days I don’t teach to reap the benefits.

I can tell you from experience that I feel better on these days. I feel connected in a different way. My energy is harnessed and I’m focused in a way that’s hard to describe.

So consider this your invitation. Set
your alarm early. Really early. Challenge yourself. Meet me on the mat one morning. You may be surprised: you’ll meet yourself there too.

Back to School

I may have said it before, but it’s worth repeating. I love to learn. Studying makes me giddy. I’m delighted to take classes and do homework. It could be anything…(except economics, and maybe math).

I’m going to be in the classroom on the teaching side again this Spring, but it’s still a learning opportunity. Even when I teach, whether it’s yoga or business, I work to keep a student’s mind.

Every interaction is a chance to learn about others. It’s also a chance to look inward and learn about ourselves. How we act and react. What lights us up or shuts us down. What pushes a button or gets a pass.

I’m excited, making notes and reading ahead. And I’m looking forward to my students…all my students~my new teachers.

Here’s to a 2015 full of learning opportunities and chances to be a student, not just in the classroom or on the mat, but in this great big world.

Love, light and good grades, y’all.

Back to the Light

Over the last weeks I’ve been in planes, trains and automobiles in several countries. I love to travel and see with my own eyes, touch with fingers, smell and taste other places. There’s no other education quite like it.

Every flight holds at least one moment that takes my breath away. Sometimes I notice it at the end, when it’s been peaceful and I’ve rested a bit. Sometimes it’s early on, when take-off is easy and we lift ever so gently and coast toward the clouds.

Today, we arrived at the airport in Hamburg in a light drizzle. Grey. Cold. A typical Northern European January morning, I’d guess. The security check left me feeling like I should be able to at least call the woman who scanned and checked me by her first name, but that’s another story. I had no idea what would happen next.

We settled in and waited for our flight, and were finally allowed to board. After stashing the luggage and getting out my book, I settled in as comfortably as is possible on a tiny commuter plane. We taxied the runway in grey mist and finally felt the lift of the wheels as they disconnected from the ground. Smoothly as glass, we lifted up into the clouds. It was one of the best take-offs I could recall.

I was sitting in my place of gratitude (I’m not always a good air passenger) preparing to read when we burst through the clouds and into bright, gorgeous sunlight. The clouds floated beneath us as if we’d been cast on an ocean of white.

I spent the rest of the flight staring out onto that ocean. I was reminded of what it’s like in the dark moments to finally see the light again. I was reminded that the light is always there, just beyond the darkness.

Light, you see, isn’t always external. We carry it with us. In us. Sometimes we feel as if it’s dark because we’ve lost sight of our own beauty. We’ve been dimmed by holding on to what doesn’t serve us or taking ownership of things that aren’t ours. We’ve smothered our light because of the mistaken notion that we can’t all shine.

But it’s time to come out of that darkness.

Consider the word Namaste. When we say that, we are honoring that place of light in the person to whom we speak. We are also honoring it in ourselves, because when we are in that space together we are one.

One of my intentions in this new year is to stay out of the dark. To keep my eyes open to the light of others. To feel the light I carry. To share it, so it shines brighter.

May we recognize the light in ourselves and others in this new year. May we always remember that our own lights won’t dim, but that we’ll all shine brighter when we choose to share, accept and honor that space of light in each other.

Happy New Year.

Namaste.

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Starting with Intention

It’s that time of year again: that time when we start to evaluate. One year is ending, another beginning. We dig out the list from last year…you know the one. It says things like “learn a new language, lose 10 pounds, read more books, drink less soda.” That list. It’s exhaustive. Once I re-read it, I usually wish I’d never found it. Actually, I wish I’d never written it.

But last year, I made a change. I kept my silly list of resolutions..the one with the boxes I could check off as I completed the tasks. Admittedly, it got very little attention. I also had another list. I sat down in earnest as 2014 arrived, and set forth my intentions for new year. Believe me when I say that this is the only list I’ll ever make at the New Year from now on. Intentions are life changers.

First, what is intention? You can consult Merriam-Webster, but I choose to understand intention as an aim or plan of action. AIM…as in direction.   When I set an intention, I choose my direction. Let that sink in for a minute. If I set my intention as joy, then I CHOOSE joy.

The hard part starts when we encounter something or someone that attempts to steal that intention, and we have to choose that intention over and over again.   We have to get out of our own way on this one. It’s so easy to choose: simplicity, happiness, gratitude, etc. But it’s definitely not easy to stay there.

Let me walk you through it. I’ll use simplicity as an example; it was an intention of mine for 2014, and may be again. Last year, when I went through my year-end review, as I’ve done for decades, I made some decisions. I wanted to do more. I wanted to have a shift in my life and my practices, personally and professionally. I knew changes were coming. It was time to honor them and learn what I could. As I winnowed down what needed to shift and how I wanted to feel, simplicity was the one word that worked to describe what I sought.

That intention of simplicity led me down several paths. Environmental simplicity was the most obvious. I’ve cleaned out closets, recycled, given away, sold. I actually let go of some books. I’ve reconsidered purchases. Do I need another book? Do I need more shoes? Another t-shirt? Could someone else be better served by this ___________ (fill in the blank with random household items that are not serving me any longer)? These are just the tip of the iceberg.

Here’s where the real work starts: how can I bring simplicity to my day-to-day existence on this planet? Am I clear about what I want? Is there simplicity in my living? I can’t be everything to everyone, nor should I try. So simplicity in my day-to-day existence means coming back to my authentic self. Choosing me. Choosing what makes my heart sing. For me, that meant saying no and setting boundaries. (Remember, I told you this was the hard part.) It meant saying no to work that doesn’t fulfill me, even when the price tag made me think twice. It meant choosing who gets my time. It meant choosing to practice yoga and meditate more consistently at home, to read and study, to write, to color, to knit, to rest. And it still means all of these things. That’s the beauty, to me. Once the intention is set, even when you’ve achieved what you desire, you’re still living that intention. It’s a spiral that, when you honor yourself, lifts you up higher and higher.

As the days get shorter and the year draws to a close, take a few moments here and there. Start to write. Write for you. Write what’s on your heart, not what you think someone else wants/expects/needs. As you find the words for your intention, breathe them in. Gather them. Fill yourself with them. Soon, you’ll find there’s no room for anything but your highest good.

(If you want to learn more about setting intentions, join me at Mountain Yoga January 10, 2015, or  Serenity Now January 11, 2015 for a Mini-Retreat to explore Starting with Intention.  January is also the start of Living with Intention, a monthly group that will meet at Shakti in the Mountains to celebrate, encourage and explore an entire year of intentional living.)

What do you see?

I found this quote from Ram Dass a few days ago, and couldn’t let it go.

“…when you go out into the woods and you look at trees, you see all these different trees.  And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever.  And you look at the tree and you allow it.  You appreciate it.  You see why it is the way it is.  You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way.  And you don’t get all emotional about it.  You just allow it.  You appreciate the tree.

The minute you get near humans, you lose all that.  And you are constantly saying “You’re too this, or I’m too this.”  That judging mind comes in.  And so I practice turning people into trees.  Which means appreciating them just the way they are.”

What if we really approached each other this way? Instead of all the he’s this, and she’s that. Here’s another radical thought: what if we looked at ourselves this way? What if the conversation changed from “I’m too big” to “I am a mighty redwood?” It’s sounds a little odd, I admit. But imagine just for a second what happens. Better yet, try it. Right now. Replace your usual body complaint of “I’m too _____”(you know what they are…I don’t have to tell you) with “I’m a Silver Birch.” (Don’t know what tree you want to be? http://www.treenames.net/ is a great little place to investigate.) Find your tree. And let everyone else have theirs. Follow the lead of Ram Dass.

Revel in who you are and how you are right this minute. Just as you walk through the woods and take in the beauty of each individual tree, walk through your day. Celebrate that we aren’t all alike.

Happy Fall, and Namaste.photo (5)

 

I THINK I CAN. I THINK I CAN. I THINK I CAN.

Have you ever read THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD? Even if you haven’t, I bet you’ve heard that line…”I think I can, I think I can.” That mantra has carried me through all sorts of endeavors.   Driving the car all by myself the first time. Taking my first “grown-up” job. Leaving my last “grown-up” job. Hiking too far too fast. Teaching that really hard class. Efforts to do something I perceived to be beyond my reach.   Let me tell you something…I could. It was that easy. I did all of those things. And others.   It wasn’t because I was the most talented/skillful/prepared, etc. It was because I decided I could. It wasn’t always easy. It WAS always scary. But, wow, the rewards have been indescribable.

I felt that way once many years ago about yoga. I walked in to my first class feeling lots of things, mostly that I didn’t belong there. I am not tall, slender, straight. I am short and round. But I thought I could, and I stayed on my mat. Almost a decade later, I am still short and round. And I am still on my mat. I teach more days than not, and practice every day.

What I learned over all those years is that every BODY has a place on the mat. And here’s the beauty: we have all these parts that move. So when we need something to be different, to feel different-we can move it. We have tools like blankets and blocks and bolsters (Oh my!) to help our bodies, so there’s no need to move in a way that doesn’t feel good and safe. I’m all for challenge in a pose, but I operate under a strict no pain policy.

So, I said all of that to say this: YOU CAN. It is that simple. YOU CAN DO YOGA. Know how you can get a yoga body? DO YOGA! Pretty simple, right?  We all have yoga bodies. I love mine, and am so grateful to have it. My work is not going to be done until you join me on the mat and love yours, too.

Namaste, y’all.

Mirror, Mirror

I had lunch today with some of my favorite women. Of course there was some tasty food, and some fabulous conversation. And cupcakes. There were crazy delicious cupcakes, so that alone is worth writing about.

But that’s not entirely my purpose. I looked around our table. We are all different sizes, shapes, skin tones. We all practice yoga. We all eat mostly healthy. We cook more than we eat out. We also occasionally make bad choices, but instead of berating ourselves, we just enjoy and move on. None of us look like the cover of Yoga Journal. And we don’t care to.

As the conversation continued, I began to wonder. We were sitting around having this healthy, sane, healing discussion about how we have to choose every day to love ourselves and show compassion. I wondered how many people have conversations like this, only instead of choosing self-love and acceptance, they choose to ignore the beauty that exists? They choose to look in the mirror and see flaws instead of blessings.

It’s been a long time since I waged war on myself that way. I have the scars to prove it: stretch marks in some places, over-use injuries waiting to flare up in others. Those are only the surface marks. The ones left in my head, in my heart…they’ve healed. Mostly.

There are still some days when I have potential to back slide. There are some days when I want to look around and compare. But I’ve learned after YEARS (and years and years) of practice, that I have it pretty good. I actually have it great.

When I look in the mirror I see a woman who has weathered her share of storms. I see freckles and remember sunny days playing outside with my bother in the summer many moons ago. I see lines around my eyes and mouth from laughing more than crying. I see legs and feet that are sturdy and strong. They carry me all over this beautiful creation. I see arms that can hold this body upside down, lug kayaks and paddleboards to the water, set up a tent, or climb up the side of a mountain.

Did you look in your mirror today? Go do that now if you haven’t. Maybe the view’s changed…

I Finally Went to Camp!

I always wanted to go to camp. When my brother and I were kids, we heard about camp, but we never went. It wasn’t that we couldn’t have. I’m not sure I ever said out loud that I wanted to go. But I did. I’m sure my Mother will be pleased to know that I recognize that she isn’t now, nor has she ever been, a mind-reader.

I’ve been teaching yoga for a few years now, and I truly enjoy teaching all ages for different reasons. Not to generalize too much, but each group brings different experience, desires and mind-sets to the mat. Over the last year I’ve been intrigued with teaching young people. I often wonder how my life could have been impacted if I’d learned to practice yoga earlier than my 30’s. And with all the technology, competition, and general busy-ness of today, I can’t help but think that teaching kids yoga will give them tools to better handle the stress of just growing up. Meditation, breath work, and a strong mind-body connection can combat the pre-test jitters, build self-confidence and start kids on the road to moving their bodies, which can lead to a lifetime habit.  I started an after-school program this year to reach out to 12-15 year old girls. That was the first step. Then I went to camp.

The inaugural Camp Namaste was last week at Mountain Yoga!  A couple of months ago, I attended a workshop about taking risks.  A few days after that I told my partner that I wanted to have a kid’s yoga camp.  He asked a million questions, and was surprised that I wanted to break this ground.  Mountain Yoga was my next stop.  (It wasn’t hard…I teach there several times a week.)  I was grateful for the reception.  And I was inspired!

Lots of reading, research and practice went into planning our week.  It’s hard~no, make that impossible~to cover everything.  I really had to dig into my practice to distill the curriculum for these youngsters!  But after preparing for a few months,  I had it nailed down.  We had a mix of asana (poses), meditation, chakras (energy centers in the body), mandalas, and even some faux-tie dye!20140619-180714-65234514.jpg

The week was full of learning and surprises, both for me and for the kids.  And I can’t wait to go back!  Who’d have thought that I’d finally get to camp at age 43?  There are more dates in July, and I’m excited about sharing yoga with these young people.   I can’t wait to learn what they have to teach me.

If you’re curious about the benefits, click here to read an article from PARENTS magazine. And feel free to reach out to me…I’m excited to share what ever I can.

Now, go grab your kids and get on your mat!

Namaste, y’all!