Sharing a few recent playlists, since I’ve recently figured out Spotify…
yogaNEW (mostly summer 2013)
Enjoy, my loves!
Have you ever had a moment in time you wished you could live inside forever?
I’ve just had a week of those. At the end of August, I got to live in a suspended reality somewhere in Southwestern Montana with my tribe. It was our own kind of college reunion, celebrated over the week of our beloved Friend’s birthday.
I’m finding it hard to articulate how profound this trip was for me (and for all of us, really).
It’s impossible to describe how much these people mean to me, except to reiterate that this is my tribe. After years of absence it took only moments to settle in, to snuggle up and recall the dynamics that make us a family.
Maybe I didn’t realize how much I needed this. How much I needed these people.
How much I needed the crunch of real earth under my feet. How much I needed fresh air. How much I needed crickets and critters and wind instead of taxi horns and street noise.
The lady above once sent me a Richard Brautigan poem:
Karma Repair Kit: Items 1-4
1. Get enough food to eat,
and eat it.
2. Find a place to sleep where it is quiet,
and sleep there.
3. Reduce intellectual and emotional noise
until you arrive at the silence of yourself
and listen to it.
This trip was my karma repair kit.
Simple, in the most meaningful ways.
Profound, in the least precious way to describe it.
Quiet, by which I mean not silent,
but glowing, breathing, vibrating peace.
It’s cathartic, wrapping yourself up in some of those who know you best.
It’s cathartic to practice yoga on your Friend’s birthday, to practice savasana on a day you are so aware of death. And to feel at once sadness and gratitude. To feel an invisible string tied to each person lying on that deck, so strong that you feel compelled to take each friend’s face in your hands, kiss them on the cheek, and tell them ‘thank you – I love you.’
And while quiet is important
Every once in awhile, you need to hike to the highest point and scream.
Scream with joy and anger, pain and revival, survival, this surreal reality.
Scream in fear and acceptance, gratitude and awe, audacity.
Scream for presence and for preservation.
Maybe you need to scream to find the silence of yourself.
Last Thursday night, my Love took me out in Williamsburg, to a bar I’ve now seen in all seasons. We clinked our glasses and toasted to my New Yorkaversary.
Two years, pals. It’s been two years.
Year One was about perspiration, planting seeds and barely sleeping.
Year Two has been about sowing those seeds, and while there were a few frustrations, I am beginning to see everything come to fruition.
This year I made Brooklyn my home.
I became an auntie for the second time.
My cat finally joined me as a New Yorker.
I survived a Super Storm
and consequently learned to bike again.
I met the love of my life.
And started seeing hearts everywhere
And the big jump I made, that I hardly told anyone about?
I started teaching full-time. Which meant new and diverse communities of students in addition to my well-loved ones.
I am grateful for all of you, and all you continue to share with me. Your grace, strength, irreverant humor and gentle wisdom has been my greatest teacher.
The reason I grin at you so wide, with my hands at heart center at the end of each class, is because I am so in love with all of you. There are days I feel like I could burst from the love of this all.
Thank you for making this place feel like home.
To many more years – and to the ♥ of New York -
yogini and the city
When there’s nothing left to burn
you have to set yourself on fire.
Hi New York.
That heatwave was brutal. I hope this finds you all in the midst of a vacation, or at the very least, enjoying this merciful break from those blistering temperatures. The heat has had me thinking about tapas a lot lately. Not tiny Spanish dishes (although those are good, too), but tapas as explained in the Yoga Sutras: purification through pain, or accepting but not causing pain.
The actual word tapas comes from the Sanskrit verb tap, which means ‘to burn.’ It might bring to mind a particularly long-held Chair Pose (and the burning in your quads) or practicing so many vinyasa that your biceps begin the Quiver of Truth.
I prefer not the think about tapas in terms of physical practice, both for myself and my students. I find that perpetuating the idea that poses must be difficult in order to be satisfying fuels the ego; I’d really rather not watch my students muscle their way through a class because they think “working HARD” is the only way to grow. While many of us move away from physical pain (like touching a burning pothandle or holding a Chair Pose for an extraordinarily long amount of time), there are a great many people who love the idea of pain in practice. I believe it’s why Hot Yoga became so popular (“I just feel like I’m working so much HARDER when I sweat!” No. You’re not. You’re body is sweating more in that hot hot room to cool you off so your body doesn’t reach a dangerous temperature).
Instead of thinking about pain in asana practice, I liken tapas to the neccesary wildfires – controlled burns that jump-start new soil and new life. Impurities (like tree diseases and insect pests) are burned away, and new growth can return in the soil rich with wood ash. It’s the idea of processing something uncomfortable – or maybe even a little bit dangerous – in order to get to a brighter and more fruitful place.
Tapas can also be described as putting yourself in an uncomfortable situation in order to grow. Jaganeth Carrera uses the example of a particularly clumsy person enrolling in a tap dancing class, or someone with a fear of heights riding a tall ferris wheel.
Think about that in terms of your practice. What pose looks terrifying, but doable? What pose makes you feel silly-stupid, and can you acknowledge that feeling and let it go?
Think about it in terms of your life practice. I dislike the term “putting yourself out there” but I think the sentiment applies here. How can you challenge yourself this week? This summer? This year?
When I feel stuck, or complacent, I remind myself that I moved 3000 miles in order to plant seeds for new growth. Living in this City and working like I do is not always easy. But damn, some remarkable things have happened, some of those seeds are finally coming to fruition, and I’m pretty happy with who I’ve become in the process.
How are you like the phoenix?
A few weeks ago, at a health fair in Crown Heights, I nearly lost my voice talking to community members about yoga.
It’s great for you! It helps alleviate stress! Yoga helps strengthen and stretch your whole body!
I happily talked to a lot of people who were excited to try yoga for the first time or return to practice after some time away. I talked to a few people who were not at all interested in yoga (“you guys have like, bootcamp, right?”). And then I talked to a handful of women who all gave me the same response:
“I’ll come to yoga once I lose a few pounds.”
No. No no no no no no no.
This broke my heart and made me want to leap across our booth. It made me want to grab each woman by the shoulders and put my forehead on hers.
Here is what I wanted to say:
You are perfect.
Your body is inherently full of strength and grace.
I believe in you. I believe that you will move beautifully, and that you will be beautifully moved. I believe you will be shocked by what your body knows already. I believe you know things in your bones.
I believe you are beautiful, exactly as you are now. I believe yoga will make you feel more beautiful, without ever knowing the numbers on the scale and how they might be changing or unchanging.
We start where we are. We start somewhere and see where yoga will take us.
Stop waiting. Stop waiting for your life to take shape and shape it yourself.
Live your life on purpose.
Yesterday, a friend asked me how to maintain the self-discipline to practice. I didn’t quite know what to tell him, because I have a hard time with home practice myself.
So instead of answering him right away, I rid myself of excuses and grabbed my roommate’s cheapie mat. I moved the coffee table into the hallway and shut my cat into my bedroom.
Once I begin to practice, I remember where yoga has taken me. As a friend of mine likes to say, yoga is a vessel through which we change ourselves. Through the work I have done in yoga – mentally, spiritually, and yes, physically – I have found acceptance and even gratitude for my body.
The numbers on the scale are unneccesary. Your level of flexibility is unneccesary. The brand of workout wear is unneccesary. Even a real space to practice is practically unneccesary.
The only neccesity is the willingness and openness to someday soon realize that you
are truly, truly remarkable.
In awe of you – yes, you,
yogini and the city
I strongly dislike mirrors.
This is probably because I grew up in ballet, staring at my imperfect reflection and spotting my own face in pirrouettes for hours every day. When I’m practicing yoga, I want to be in my body rather than experiencing it from the outside. I’d rather feel Warrior II than try to make the shape of Warrior II in the mirror. To me, yoga is less about making your body contort into a certain pose and more about making the pose work for you.
Not everyone shares my distaste for mirrors. While home for a wedding last week, I took a class at the beautiful Metta Yoga in Phoenix. I spent the first half of class like the kid who doesn’t want to be called on, avoiding eye contact (with myself) so that maybe I wouldn’t be noticed.
You can’t avoid eye contact forever though, and eventually I started to pay attention to my postures in reflection. Right hip, too high. Left ankle unsupported. Ribs in, ribs in, RIBS IN. Eagle is more balanced than I expected. Chair looks deeper than it feels. Sometimes my body still surprises me.
But not everything is obvious in the mirror. Just because my pose looks like the poster doesn’t mean it maintains the same integrity; I can be in a super-looking Parsvakonasana that hurts my hip like hell. A mirror can never tell me what I really need to know in a three-dimensional way. And there is so much I could never, ever see in reflection.
These are the things I think about in Phoenix – mirror images. My darling nephew has my sister’s eyes, and my sister has our mother’s eyes. Like when you face one mirror towards another and it just goes on forever.
I don’t really look like my mom, as evidenced above. I have her shape, and the same straight hair, but mostly I resemble my dad (this is also not to say that I don’t love my father dearly, too, but that post is for another day).
Instead, I inherited my mother’s love for books and fresh flowers, her love of chocolate and berries and citrus and baking. I hold babies in the same sure way, and I swear (loudly) when I get lost while driving. When I read storybooks aloud, I hear my mother’s voice, as she read them to me; I have inherited my mother’s intonation.
If I am ever so lucky though, I have inherited her goodness. If I am lucky, I have absorbed her compassion, her insistence on doing the right thing – without expectation and certainly without a need for acknowledgement (my mother likes to care for people in secret, so they don’t know who to thank).
I hope, I hope, I hope I grow to become just like my mother. I hope I remember to make chocolate chip cookies after every audition – so that there is a celebration for a job well done or a good try, either way. I hope I remember to buy a ticket to every show (not just the opening night) and sit through every single performance like I’m seeing it for the first time. When I am my mother, I hope I remember to take care of my children but also myself; I hope I remember what a beautiful example that sets. I hope I remember to let my children fail sometimes, but to celebrate their failure with pure maternal optimism.
When I am my mother, I hope I remember to enjoy all of the best little things – wine on the patio, fresh flowers, and a good hike in the mountains. I hope I remember that my partner is my ally. I hope I remember that when I bear the brunt of my daughters’ bad days, it’s not because they love me any less but because they trust in my love completely.
If I am the absolute luckiest, I will reflect my mother’s love. I will love my children in the same way my mother loves me -
fiercely, surely, confidently, and completely.
If I am lucky, I will always see my mother in my mirror.
yogini and the city
PS In New York, I am lucky to teach both children and their parents. Sometimes I’ll see a mother in class and remark that she makes the same faces as her daughter. I am lucky to see these mirrors. I am luckier to have the opportunity to see some of them together, next weekend, in our Mother and Daughter workshop. Join us if you can!
The only thing constant is change.
Sometimes your life is going along swimmingly when suddenly, as if someone has swung a baseball bat across your chest, you are knocked flat on your back with the wind knocked out of you. And all you can do is clutch your stomach and gulp for air.
I have felt knocked down these last few days, after being let go from a beloved dance job. In some moments I feel that this is my failure, and in other moments, I feel this failure is someone else’s. In my kinder and more lucid moments I know that it doesn’t really matter either way. When I am at my most gracious, I know that it isn’t really failure at all.
In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, Pada 2.5 begins “Ignorance is regarding the impermanent as permanent.” My favorite translation (by Reverend Jaganath Carrera) describes it as such:
Though we know that everything in nature changes due to passage of time and the influence of circumstances, we tend to feel that good situations will continue and that painful ones will never end. The boring lecture, the difficult financial times, or the budding romance can all seem as if they will last forever. When we catch ourselves with these thoughts, we know we have slipped into the grasp of ignorance. The impermanence of worldly experiences quietly waits to sting us, often when we least expect it.
To oversimplify: the good stuff feels really good and the bad stuff feels really bad because we depend on things staying the same.
We’re in the muck that is the edge of winter here. When the snow is no longer pretty but just thick city sludge, when another grey day makes you want to slide further underneath the covers, only reemerging for July. The kind of snow that necesitates wellies, that makes the trains run slow, that makes you run a heavy, thudded, rainboot kind of run in order to make it on time.
When I was running my thick heavy rainboot run on Friday, I ran past a very long flowerbed on Bleecker. It was covered in snow but the stems and buds of the crocuses had popped up. Maybe they have been there for some time now, but I think I needed the snow to notice.
Then Saturday morning appeared – snow melted – the kind of sunny, warm, “this might be kind of like spring?” sort of morning that makes you want to go on an adventure. To eat Lemon Ice in Corona, Queens and wander around Louis Armstrong’s house.
Because here is the thing: nothing is permanent. Nothing is forever. Not the weather, not a job, not your body and certainly not that feeling of having the wind knocked out of you.
My tiniest students will grow bigger and taller and wiser and perhaps they will even outgrow me; my prenatal students will deliver, and wrap their arms around their new lives, overwhelmed by how much you can really love another person. Our practices will deepen and change; Down Dog will start to feel a little different every day. We may find ourselves in some crazy bananas Hummingbird Pose – victorious – or we may find ourselves with a goose-egged forehead, defeated. But we will all march on through March and into real, true Spring.
Life will sting us a little less if we are living in the moment. Our gratitude for life’s greatest moments is deeper when we understand it may be fleeting; our grief is lessened when we know that we won’t always feel this way.
It’s good to remember that crocuses come up in the snow.
In (maybe, hopefully, embracing) change,
yogini and the city