Monday, April 25, 2011

Princess Pose: A Royal Affair!

I am perhaps the girliest of girly girls. I like pink, tutus, and tiaras. I have been known to wear high heels to the grocery store. I doodle flowers, rainbows, unicorns, and Care Bears in the margins of my notebooks. And I have been looking forward to Prince Williams wedding since I was 14 years old. Of course, at the time, I had envisioned it going down a little differently... For one, I was going to be there.. in a tiara.. You know, Princess Diaries style (I was recently told I look like Anne Hathaway, after all.)

Anyway, it recently dawned on me that I will never be crowned the princess of Wales. I will never be Miss America. I will not be a ballerina, Olympic ice skater, or even homecoming queen. My childhood ambitions are slipping away before my very eyes. (Sigh.)

But I can still be a yoga goddess!


There are plenty of poses that make me feel like a princess.  I feel pampered every time I get on my mat because I'm doing something that's just for me. But no pose makes me feel more princess-y than Supta Baddha Konasana. When I'm propped up on blankets and bolsters, I even feel like I'm sitting on a throne. There better not be a pea under those blankets....

Image by Flickr User: roxanneparker
What pose makes you feel like a princess?

5 Ways to Make Your Lunch Break More "Yogic"

To-Go Ware
1. Take one. Sometimes I work right through lunch without even noticing that I missed it. This is very, very bad. It makes for a very long day and a head ache. I am going to start setting an alarm so this never happens again.

2. Meditate. I don't go sit under a tree outside my office and meditate because my co-workers already think I'm weird because I sit in Lotus at my desk... But I do try to at least get out of the office and take 10 deep breaths. And I've always felt a bazillion-kajillion times better afterward.

3. Stretch. Oh, how I long for the days when I could practice yoga every single day during my lunch breaks! Alas, I am no longer spoiled in this way. I practice yoga at my desk all day long by taking a lot off stretch breaks. Lunch is the perfect opportunity to squeeze in a few extra ones.

4. Do something that fulfills you. For me, sometimes it's blogging or tweeting with my pals. Other times, it's thumbing through a fashion magazine, taking a walk, or logging into my puppy cam to see what my sweet Penny is up to.

5. Do nothing. When you finish eating before your hour is up... don't you DARE go back to your desk! Put your legs up the wall. Close your eyes. Take a Siesta. But don't short-change yourself by going back to work early. If you don't take care of yourself, no one else will.

Besides, the next time you take a nice, refreshing break in the middle of your day, notice how productive you are in the afternoon. I've noticed that I actually accomplish MORE by taking a full hour lunch break than hen I try to power through it and get everything done.

How do you make the most of your lunch break?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Yoga Idol

OK.. I admit it. One of my guiltiest of all pleasures is American Idol.

I'm the first to admit that my time would be better spent if I devoted some of the time I've wasted watching mindless television to something more productive... yoga, meditation, community service, blogging...

But this show has caused me to think a lot about what makes a great performer and great leader. Contestants on American Idol have many of the same qualities that great yoga teachers have...  Coincidentally, I think they are also characteristics that yoga can help cultivate.

1. Voice. Will practicing yoga give you an amazing singing voice? Nope. But it can help you become more clear about the message that it conveys.

2. Confidence. If you don't believe in yourself, why should anyone else? To be an idol you have to be Nothing makes you more confident than arm balances.

3. Grace. It takes a special personality to take criticism in stride. It takes incredible resolve to believe in yourself no matter what anyone else says.

4. Charisma. How can yoga give you more charisma? It makes you more comfortable in who you are ... so you stop holding back and let it all hang out--your humor, goofiness, flaws and failures. That's my definition of charisma.

5. Empathy. If you want others to relate to you and your stories, you have to be able to put yourself in their shoes. When you start to understand yourself more clearly through practicing yoga, helps you to understand how others feel. Whether you're looking to connect with people as a performer or just in your everyday life, this is what makes people shine.

Do you agree?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Dear Hamstrings ...


Dear Hamstrings,
Are you mad at me? I know I haven't been paying you enough attention lately. I'm sorry I'm always sitting for long hours at a desk without taking enough stretch breaks. But it's not very mature of you to stand your ground like that when I finally have a few minutes to practice my Paschimottanasana. Your behavior really hurt my feelings.. and it didn't help my ego much either. Let's make a deal. If I promise to stretch with you every night this week, and let you take as much time as you need to open... can we be friends again?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

So Hum: Self Expression through Yoga

Model: Jody Greene
Photography By Faern 
Interview By SpoiledYogi

The only instruction you were given prior to this photo shoot is not to wear traditional yoga clothes! Tell us why you chose your outfit. What does it say about you? 
I wear jeans and boots pretty much every day. I keep exploring the possibility that yoga doesn't have to be something that occurs in a special place--a yoga studio--in a special outfit--what you call here "traditional yoga clothes." So if I want yoga to permeate my life, I'd better be able to practice in jeans and boots. And the leather jacket? Well, that's just for fun. And it prevents road rash if you tumble out of an asphalt inversion. 

How does yoga help you to express who you are and who you want to be?
Yoga doesn't help me access who I am; it helps me take apart and look at who I think I am, bit by bit, piece by stubborn piece. Through yoga I find again and again that my fixed ideas about this person, this one, are just an assemblage of stories I've collected over time. And when I don't know who I am anymore, I can begin to experience wonder and curiosity and true open inquiry about who I might become. 

What important lessons have you learned about yourself through your yoga practice?
Not knowing is the most intimate. OK, that's a famous zen aphorism, but I get to study that lesson, that koan, every day when I climb onto my yoga mat or when I just wake up and take a new breath. I have no idea what will happen. That I should have ended up deeply immersed in these spiritual practices--in zen and yoga--well, if you'd met me a dozen years ago, you wouldn't have predicted that this was the turn my life would take. Not in a million years. And if you'd told me this is what my life would be, I would have laughed in your face. And not in a nice way. No ahimsa aspirations for this one. So--what have I learned, what am I learning? Everything is up for grabs, nothing is predictable. Take care of your life, yes; set intentions and take care of this precious life. But know that tomorrow, the life you have been taking care of could be transformed beyond recognition. And have faith that your practice and your teachers will sustain you through that transformation and all those that follow. 

What's your favorite pose? Why?
Padmasana, Siddhasana, Sukhasana: these are the original yoga postures-- the ones for which all the others are, more or less, designed to prepare you. I came to yoga through sitting, in order to ease and support my sitting practice, so these postures are very dear to my heart and central to my practice. When I practice, I set an intention to take care of my body so I can sit in peace. I practice from that place. Beyond these, I have an ongoing love affair with anahatasana--it's a deep, forehead to the floor bow and a heart opener at the same time. What's not to love? 

Tell us what inspires you so we can be inspired, too.
When I get on my mat at sunrise to sit for a few minutes and perform a handful of sun salutations, maybe chanting a few rounds of the gayatri mantra, I remember that for the last few thousand years, countless numbers of humans have done these same simple actions every day. Talk about inspiration. Sadhana has not stopped, not once. And it doesn't have to be complicated, and you can always feel supported and companioned when you do it. Listen to this: for thousands of years, there has never been a sunrise without Surya Namaskar, there has never been a dawn without voices chanting the gayatri, there has never been a new day without the sangha gathering, in groups or alone, to take a few moments to breathe in silence and prepare for whatever arises in the hours to follow, known or unknown. That simple fact still blows my mind, and I feel grateful and so blessed to have stumbled onto this path, this dharma lifeway, in lycra and leather, to join in. Get up, light a candle, take a breath, and become part of the great stream of practice awakening. It's 

Faern is a yoga practitioner and photographer in San Francisco. Visit her website, follow her on Twitter, or like her on Facebook.

Would you like to take part in this project as a model? Please be in touch by emailing this address and we’ll send more information. If you are not in the Bay Area or planning a visit, do not worry, there are travel plans afoot, subscribe to the blogs  and  to keep in touch and get updates on travel plans”

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Yoga is Friendship

"Yoga is like a friend--and you want to keep friends for a long time," said the amazing Cora Wen during the Friday night workshop I had to pleasure of attending. "Sometimes you might get mad at your friend and not talk to her for a while. But if you're good friends, you will usually come around. That's how it is with yoga, you might drift away for a while, but yogis almost always come back."

It's an extremely comforting thought.

I am incredibly blessed ... but after moving across the country a few months ago and starting a demanding job there are two things I could use more of in my life: yoga and friends. One brief encounter with Cora Wen gave me a healthy dose of both! She taught me yoga AND invited me to dinner with a group of amazing (and local) yogis! (See? I told you I'm spoiled..)

I've had a yoga crush on Cora ever since the first time I laid eyes on her amazing headstand pictures. This woman has no problem inverting (and having her photo snapped) in front of all kinds of beauty--in nature, in the city, and across the world! Of course, she also has the most amazing presence online through blogging and social media. All of her personality and enthusiasm for life had me fooled into believing she must be a younger teacher... After all, there aren't many older teachers out there sharing their teachings through tweets or standing on their heads at street fairs. But she brings so much experience and knowledge to her teachings, it's mind-blowing.

Much of what's written about Cora talks about how she bridges the gap between the East and the West, and I certainly agree. But to me it's more interesting how she bridges the gap between the traditional, old-school yoga and the emerging, new yoga community. Tradition is important to her. She passes down the legacy of her teachers with such honor and respect, but brings those teachings to the rest of us through Tweets, blog posts, over cocktails, or wherever she is. I, for one, am immensely grateful for teachers like her, who take yoga seriously ... but not so seriously that it's hard for us to relate to them.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Review: Mishoga Wear

For me, yoga is more than a practice. It's an art form. So when I look for yoga clothes, I look for something that can help me to express the beauty, originality, and serenity I feel when I practice.

That's exactly what I found when I got an unexpected package in the mail from a Twitter friend, Mish Volonino, the founder and designer at MishogaWear. She sent me the most sophisticated pair of tie-dyed yoga pants I've ever seen! (And you KNOW I have a lot of yoga pants!) The image above shows the hand painted Buddha on the pant leg right beneath the Tibetan writing that says "Om Mani Padme Hum," the universal mantra of Tibet. This is admittedly a foreign concept to me, but I love the sweet sentiment. My photography does not do it justice.

You see, Mish is more than a designer... She's real artist. Mish paints the designs onto her custom-made yoga clothes by hand. She also does hand embroidery, screen printing, drawing of designs, and crystal embellishments. The result is a unique, but totally wearable work of art! 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Mindful Monday: An Update

I have a confession to make...

Mindful Monday has taken a backseat to, well, life. I'm not proud of it.. but it's the pattern for me. I have never been able to make time for meditation every single day for an extended period of time. Maybe I'm just not ready. Maybe I'm not disciplined enough. Maybe I don't have what it takes. But for whatever reason, I've fallen off the wagon once again. It was nice while it lasted.

I take a lot of deep breaths during my work day. And I've been practicing standing on my hands a lot lately.. II practice mindfulness every time I take my dog for a walk.

Does that count?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

America's Next Top Yoga Model!

YJ contestant Geri Girardin
The yoga community is all a-flutter about Yoga Journal's Talent Search model contest. In case you don't follow the on-goings of YJ, they asked their readers to submit pictures of themselves to be voted on to determine a winner, who will get to fly to California for a photo shoot.

Needless to say, there has been a lot of controversy about the contest. The lovely Anna Guest-Jelly from Curvy Yoga encouraged all the curvy yogis out there submit their pictures in an effort to show the editors that beauty can come in all shapes and sizes. Nancy Alder from Flying Yogi and Core Power teacher Sadie Nardini took exception to the "tighty brighty" wardrobe mentality and protested to the focus on external appearances by submitting their picture in seated meditation with their backs to the camera. Meanwhile, Yoga Dork is hosting a photo contest of her own in response: "For our version, it’s not so much a contest as a declaration of satya (truth): We ask you send a photo of who you are, as a yogi, a real person, in any shape, size, age, gender or color/clinginess of clothing. We’re not selling magazines. No fancy poses required, but by all means go for what speaks YOU."

Now that the photos have been submitted and the voting has begun, my inbox has been flooded with emails and Facebook messages (all from ladies who are more than deserving to be in a magazine) urging me to vote for them.

Whether they want to win this competition to challenge the status quo or just think it would be really cool to live the glamorous life of a yoga model for a day... everyone wants to be a yoga model -- or at the very least to feel represented in the yoga community!

Last week, I posted a status update on my Facebook page about how conflicted I am about voting--torn between so many deserving people who I also consider friends. Within seconds a teacher I really admire posted a response, "because yoga is all about being beautiful and modeling."  He deleted his comment before I could reply, but it made me think... Is yoga about being beautiful? No, of course not! But is feeling beautiful, accepted, and validated a part of the practice? I think it is! I know I always feel great when a teacher tells me one of my poses is beautiful.

I don't love the competition aspect of YJ's contest (because I don't think that's very aligned with yoga philosophy)... But I'm thrilled that I can look through all the gorgeous photographs that were submitted and rate every one of them as highly as I possibly can. Because seeing beauty in each other (no matter how precise the pose) IS what yoga is all about as far as I'm concerned.