Monday, July 25, 2011

Steal From Your Teacher (And Other Good Advice That Sounds Bad)

Steal from your teacher. No, I'm not talking about her credit card or that shiny new yoga mat... When I'm in a difficult situation--whether it's at work or in my daily job, I think about how my mentors would respond. I imagine what her words would be, her body language, I see her composed and cool ... My yoga teachers don't get flustered when they make a misspeak in front of a class. They laugh it off gracefully and move on. I want to be like that in my interactions with people. So I steal their persona for a bit (I can't call it borrowing because I can't give it back!). I say what I think they would say. I might even talk the way they would talk. I make it my own. It helps me through it, and don't think they'd mind.

Do the bare minimum. In our culture, we're taught to give 110% to everything we do. We work as hard as we possibly can. We always strive to do more. When we take this approach in yoga, we end up injured. When we take this approach in life, we end up burnt out, exhausted, and uninspired. I've noticed that working smart (not hard) is the way to get the most accomplished over a long period of time. And by saving energy, I'm able to accomplish more over the long run, be more creative, and am much happier as a whole.

Be selfish. I know.. the word selfish sounds so bad! We have the perception that when we take things for ourselves, it comes at the expense of someone else, but this isn't always true. If we don't take care of ourselves, how can we take care of anyone (or anything) else!? Take time for yourself. Do your daily yoga practice. Meditate. Eat foods that make you feel alive! Then, shine your light on the people around you.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How Fashion Changed My Life (Or at Least My Mornings)

My love for fashion helped me develop a regular meditation practice. Yes, I said fashion!

I've taken amazing classes--and lots of them. I've studied with some of the best yoga and meditation teachers in the world. I've read countless books. I've blogged in an attempt to hold myself accountable. I think I ever made a chart at one point. Did any of this help me to develop a consistent and regular yoga practice? Nope! It would work for about a week.. then.. Poof! Something happened (I have no idea what) and I just couldn't do it anymore. It was my fashion obsession that changed everything for me.

I was in the habit of standing in my closet every morning for a good 10 minutes scratching my head. I have SO many choices, and yet, I would think to myself, "I have NOTHING to wear.. I hate ALL of my clothes." Often, I'd put one one outfit... decide it's not the right one and change several times before I actually made it out the door. All of this takes a ridiculous amount of time.

Ironically, even though I spent so much time getting ready in the mornings, I realized I still wear the same outfits over and over again. This is unacceptable for someone who loves clothes as much as I do. Determined to make better use my closet and dresser (both ridiculously full), one Sunday afternoon I decided to find five creative new outfits for the week. I tried everything on. I laid out every outfit--even the jewelry.

The following week, I was astonished by how much time this saved me in the morning. I felt fabulous in my newly-constructed wardrobe and ready for work with 15 minutes to spare.. So I thought, what the heck? I sat down to meditate. That was almost three months ago, and I haven't missed a day since.

Since I just happened into my meditation practice this time, I had no expectations and no worries. It wasn't forced--just a happy accident. This means I've been able to watch it all unfold organically, without judgment. I really am noticing a difference. I'm calmer, more connected, and yes, better dressed!

Friday, July 15, 2011

So Hum: Expressions of Unity

Models: Jeremy Simon and Seren Rubens;  Photography: Faern
"Yoga has taught me how to live in harmony with myself and those around me. Practicing challenging poses, especially in partnership, has helped me to find the path of resistance."
– Jeremy Simon

It's impossible for to look at this photo of AcroYogis Jeremy Simon and Seren Rubens without thinking about trust, partnership, and unity. It takes some real trust to let someone hold you upside down like that with your head that close near the pavement. One slip and… well, it would not be pretty.

This same sense of partnership and unity is one of the things I love most about being a part of the yoga community. It takes the effort of all involved to make the beautiful shapes we see Acro Yogis practice. If any one person doesn't fully commit, the whole could come crashing down like a delicate house of cards.

We support each other—literally and figuratively. Yoga philosophy teaches us to see the world in a holistic light. When you help a neighbor, you help yourself and the whole world as a result! We lean on each other when we need help with a pose, but we also lean on each other when we need advice or just a laugh. Each little action impacts the world in a positive or negative way. It's really beautiful if you think about it.

Does this mean that we never let someone down or get really REALLY annoyed by the person who Oms too loudly or makes every discussion about herself? Of course not. But just as no one gets Scorpion Pose on the first try, it takes years and years of practice to master the art of true community. I am the first to admit that I have a long, LONG way to go … but I'm learning about myself and the world along the way, breathing into the struggles, and enjoying it as much as I can as I go.

What do you love about yoga community? What do you struggle with? How has yoga changed the way you relate to people?

Read Jeremy's complete interview here and Seren's here!

Faern is an artist, yoga practitioner and photographer in San Francisco. Besides making as much time for tea as possible, you can find Faern in a yoga class, at her current art show or wandering the city via public transportation. You can visit her in various places online: FaernWorks website, Twitter, Facebook, Faern in the Works Blog.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Why Go to Yoga Class?

A few months ago, I went to a weekend workshop led by Jason Crandell, one of my long-time teachers. I had been feeling pretty bad about my yoga practice because (as I'm sure I've mentioned on this blog) I work nearly every minute of every day and I don't make it to yoga studios nearly as often as I'd like. In the workshop, Jason talked a lot about developing a personal practice and he mentioned that right now it just doesn't work for him to go to a yoga studio. He gets more out of practicing at home because it gives him the freedom to take his time and experiment with the things that he finds interesting and helpful, and he goes to a teacher a few times a year when he feels he needs to. It makes perfect sense.

Of course, it made me feel better about my practice to know that one of the yoga teachers I respect most in the world doesn't attend regular yoga classes. My home practice, no matter how irregular, at least gives me the opportunity to go inward, which is what the practice is all about. It's liberating to feel like when I go long stretches without setting foot in a studio, I don't have to feel guilty or disappointment with myself! This is what I love about yoga. It's good stuff.

But I will always love a good yoga class. I want to go to class when I can ... not because I need to or because I can't get what I need out of a home practice, but because it just feel right to me.

Here are 10 reasons I make every effort to go to yoga classes whenever I can ...

1. I like it.
2. I still have a TON to learn.
3. It inspires me--gets my creative juices flowing.
4. It's fun to meet new people, especially other yoga students!
5. I benefit from the positive energy of the collective group.
6. It makes me practice poses I know I'd never work on on my own.
7. Classes challenge me to hold poses longer, work a little harder, and push my limits. It's in classes that I'm capable of more than I ever thought possible.
8. A different perspective gives me new things to work on later.
9. Two words: Yoga Buzz.
10. Sometimes it's nice to let someone else guide you through the practice so you have to think less and really feel the present moment.

Why do you go to yoga classes?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Sunday, July 3, 2011

108 Blessings: A List of Gratitude

I haven't had a great week. I'm sick, worn out, and just feeling bad. Bad things are happening.

Tonight, I took the dog for a walk, and as my sweet Penny was playing with a neighbor puppy when one of my most prized possessions, a special set of mala beads from my friends at Tiny Devotions, snapped. Beads flew everywhere.

It was the last straw. I freaked out.. Is this a bad omen? Are there worse things to come?

It's times like these that it's important to remember all the things that are good about life. So I'm making a list.. 108 things that I'm grateful for (in honor of my mala). Alternatively, this could be a list of a few of my favorite things and what makes me feel alive.

1. My family
2. My friends
3. My furry friends
4. My home
5. My health
6. My yoga practice
7. The sunshine
8. Air conditioning
9. Plenty of food to eat
10. The beach
11. The ocean
12. My beach umbrella
13. Fluffy little clouds
14. Rainbows
15. Unicorns (I just like the idea of them.)
16. Ahhhhh-vocado
17. Blueberries
18. Watermelon
19. My nieces and nephews
20. My online community
21. The sweetest and most supportive husband in the world
22. My job
23. My creative outlets
24. This blog
25. My education
26. The many opportunities I've been given
27. My mentors
28. My teachers
29. Challenges that help me grow
30. That feeling right after a great yoga class
31. That adjustment... you know the one.. in Down Dog
32. My breath
33. Snuggling with furry friends
34. Making new furry friends at the park
35. Watching furry friends frolic
36. Frolicking
37. Cupcakes
38. Ice cream
39. Popsicles
40. Sweet tea
41. Porch swings
42. Wooden rocking chairs
43. The fact that I live somewhere that I might actually be able to own a house with a porch someday
44. The fact that I live in a nation that let's me choose where I live
45. My eye sight
46. Hearing
47. Taste buds
48. Flower buds
49. Music
50. Laughter
51. Bright colors
52. Cool breezes
53. Soft bedding
54. Feet that connect me to the earth
55. Technology that connects me to the world
56. A brain that allows me to understand and connect with others
57. The ability to communicate
58. A washer and dryer in my home!
59. My dishwasher
60. Running water
61. Flushing toilets
62. Litter boxes
63. Clean drinking water
64. Clothes on my back
65. Clothes that make me feel fabulous
66. Shoes... I love shoes.
67. Being bare foot
68. Swimming
69. Tire swings
70. Good memories
71. Funny stories
72. Inside jokes
73. Peace and quiet
74. A good night's sleep
75. Hammocks
76. Savasana
77. Child's Pose
78. Poses I hate (that make me appreciate the ones I like that much more!)
79. Arm balances
80. Inversions
81. Good books
82. Fancy cheese
83. Kale chips
84. Cat naps
85. Down Dogs
86. Coffee. Mmmm.. Coffee
87. Chocolate Croissants
88. Learning new things
89. Holidays with family
90. Christmas ornaments
91. Dangly earrings
92. Fun printed fabrics
93. Handbags
94. Pictures on the walls
95. My magazine collection
96. Walks in the park
97. Moonlight
98. Candle light
99. Being silly
100. Making people laugh
101. Helping people
102. Sharing yoga with people
103. Finding creative solutions to problems
104. Watching things grow
105. Playing in the sand, dirt, and/or water
106. Epiphanies
107. Looking on the bright side
108. Seeing beauty everywhere

Do you count your blessings? What would you add to the list?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Quality vs. Quantity

This morning I sat down to meditate. I turned on the video I usually stream as a guide, closed my eyes. and took a deep breath.

Then, I tuned out my guide and my mind wandered through my daily to-do list, thought about what outfit I should wear for the day, and other random thoughts about life. The next thing I knew, I was being cued to open my eyes and start my day and my 10-minute meditation was over. Oopsy!

Now, I know it's normal for your mind to wander during meditation, but can you even call it meditating if you don't even have a few moments of mindfulness mixed in there somewhere?

I've been thinking a lot about quality vs. quantity lately--and meditating is just a part of the equation for me. I go back and forth on whether it's worth it to practice meditation, yoga, writing, and all the other things I am dedicated to for just a few minutes every day or if it would be better to practice it more fully and deeply a couple of times a week?

In the yoga community, the conventional wisdom is that if you practice just a few minutes a day it makes a huge impact. But, for me, it's nowhere near as satisfying as a nice 90 minute class at a studio.
Does anyone else struggle with this? I'd really rather have enough time to get a good thorough practice in every single day, but it's just not going to happen.