I’m really very willing to admit (despite what my loved ones say) that I do entirely too much. As a result of this, I will also admit that I get really tired. Over, and over, and over again, I will “admit” that I’m tired.
Has saying “I’m tired” ever given you more energy? Yeah, me neither. It’s that whole “hung by the tongue” thing… the more you say something, the more you make it true.
Then again, saying “I have lots of energy! I’m not tired at all!” has never actually made me feel less exhausted when exhausted is just the reality of the situation. Really, it’s just lying. The Yama of Satya (a commitment to truthfulness) doesn’t fall off the moral compass radar for the sake of fixing a bad attitude.
So what’s a yogi to do? Touch our fingers and thumbs, close our eyes, and magically “Om” away fatigue and bad moods? Nope. That’s another fallacy.
What really does work is to focus on the truth. And not the truth of being tired or having a bad day (we covered that). Focus on bigger truths. Big beautiful truths that are constant and unaffected by our attitude or how easy things are going. Truths strong enough to support us and sweet enough to surrender to.
“I am loved.” “I am whole.” “I am enough.”
Because you are loved. And you are enough. And everything you do, as long as you are fully there with it, is enough.
Even if you can’t grab your hands behind your back and your leg. Because we’re gonna try that in this video. And I have a secret – it’s not all flexibility to be able to do it. I have really long arms, so it’s easy for me, but if you have shorter arms, go grab a strap. Just do, seriously. Try to work beyond it if you’re close, inching your fingers closer on the strap, but seriously — don’t struggle just because you think this is something you should be able to do. You should be able to enjoy your practice. You do yoga because it makes you feel good right? Put that ahead of your ego.
Watch the video! Do some yoga with me. Lots of breathing and heart opening and acknowledging these incredible truths of love and enough-ness. And then tell me all about how you liked it and what kind of neat stuff you wanna do next week, or what kind of neat stuff you wanna listen to.
So I was on another TEDtalk watching kick, and there was a talk by Jill Shargaa that really stood out to me and got me thinking. It was about the word “awesome” and how we generally misuse it.
And by “we” I totally mean “me, too.” Then again, if you’ve ever read this blog or seen a video before, you already know that. So I’m trying to do better, trying to use “awesome” when it’s actually appropriate. According to dictionary.com, awesome is supposed to describe something that inspires admiration and/or fear… that is, something that inspires a state of awe.
I’m totally with Jill, for the most part. I mean, yeah, in all likelihood whatever you had for lunch was definitely not truly “awesome”. Jill goes into a list of things that do qualify as awesome, according to her, and as she worked her way through her list I started to disagree with her.
For instance, sharks were on her list for being fierce creatures at the top of the food chain. However, I know that sharks have their flaws as creatures too (their mouths are in really ineffective places to actually eat or maim people) and I also don’t live in or near the ocean, so they’re not really on my radar of “things to fear”.
Realizing this got me thinking about perspective. After all, we all have different experiences and opinions on things. What one person finds admirable or scary isn’t going to inspire the same response in someone else.
And even if we’re going back to using the word “incorrectly” I still don’t want everyone else to think the same things that I do are totally awesome. I like seeing my favorite bands in small, intimate venues for $10 at the door, rather than dishing out hundreds to scalpers for sold out arenas. I want the food I like not to sell out at the grocery store. I want to be able to stretch my legs at the park nearest my house rather than everyone in the city deciding its the best one and crowding around. Differences in opinion and tastes make life not only interesting but, honestly, bearable.
You know what most of us can probably agree on, though?
Yoga is awesome.
That’s right — even if we’re not using slang, yoga qualifies as awesome. There’s a lot of admiration for the things that we achieve in our practice (and seeing what others can achieve, yay for inspiration) . And there’s probably at least a little bit of fear, amiright? (If there’s no fear in your practice, we should talk!)
Why is yoga so awesome? Well, partially because it brings change. Change is scary. But change is also pretty cool, because we are challenged and find growth in change.
Crow definitely qualifies as an awesome pose in yoga. There’s the whole face planting potential, but also the potential that you can suspend the body so very elegantly (or precariously) in that distinctive arm balance. We’ll work on crow a bit in this practice, including a modification I really enjoy.
I also made up a pretty sweet soundtrack for this practice. Click right here to open up a playlist of Joy Division that will play in the background while you do all of this awesome yoga (you should also be able to click the link directly in the video).
Don’t forget to leave me some comments — I still haven’t heard anything from people about whether or not this new “click on a soundtrack if you want it” scenario is working out. Also, what do you wanna listen to next week? What moves do you wanna work on next week? Talk to me!
But right now, join me on the mat, it’s gonna be awesome 😉
So, last week I promised some chaturanga/hand positioning work, and here it is! I have more… much more… but I figure it could be more fun to space it out into future weeks and build piece by piece.
Ever do the chaturanga vinyasa in mid-air? We’ll start off with that (it’s not as crazy as it sounds!) and then do a whole bunch of vinyasas, repeating poses so that we can revisit them and keep getting used to the experience of each shape. Returning to shapes, returning to a familiar experience so that we can get really in touch with how our body greets each pose.
Because that’s important knowledge! Knowing our bodies, our selves, that’s important stuff. For example, I know I have long limbs and a tendency to feel disconnected from them as a result of that. So I have to focus on engaging my whole body in strong poses because I tend to leave pieces out. (My feet are almost 6 feet from my brain, man, thats a long way to stay focused.)
Brian Little gave an awesome TEDtalk about how knowing the details of our personalities helps us to deal effectively with our lives. You should watch it, it’s right here. (In case you haven’t guessed, I’m pretty high up there on the OCEAN scale… )
But first, do some yoga with me. It’ll be fun!
AND as a major bonus, you can do it to a soundtrack of music from “my boyfriend” Tommy Rodgers from Between the Buried and Me.
[Disclaimer: Tommy Rodgers is NOT my boyfriend. He’s got a rad lady and a sweet little boy and probably no idea that I exist but the teenage girl inside of me doodles initials and hearts and “4eva”s inside of my brain because his voice is gorgeous and the music he creates is golden, he doesn’t eat meat and he once gave an interview saying he doesn’t wanna grow up, so, yeah….]
Anyways, his solo project is Thomas Giles and his more recent albums are pretty rad so you should check them out. There’s a link in the video for the soundtrack so you can click it at the right time but if you wanna check it out on its own then it’s right here on my YouTube channel.
So, yeah! Yoga! Self-Study! Spending some time getting handsy! I can’t wait. You probably can’t wait either, so go hit play and move with me and jam with me and then tell me all about how you love this new soundtrack format (you know, rather than the old way where it was right in the video… do you still like it?)
Ah yes, reggae rock. The anthem of lazy days and summer time. It’s also the anthem of this week’s practice, coming at you from Ancient Elephant. You can check out their jams on Soundcloud and iTunes. Huge thanks to those guys for giving me permission to use their tracks in this video.
These laid back grooves have me inspired to follow the Rastafarian edict “No Worries, Mon” and just get lost in a good flow. My favorite medicine for anxiety and feeling the weight of the world is to direct my attention elsewhere. My favorite place to direct my attention is towards movement. My mind starts focusing on what my body and my breath are doing,
No major pose to work towards, no stress. Well, there will be some challenging transitions for some of us — gotta keep us on our toes, right? — but there will definitely be no stress on the wrists.
That’s right — NO Chaturangas and NO Down Dogs in this practice! Because (contrary to popular belief) Vinyasa doesn’t mean “do push ups and stand on your hands till you’re ready to cry and ice your wrists”. It actually means that there is a flow of movement between poses, coordinating and connecting with the breath. Thankfully, there’s a whole lot of transitions and breathing that we can do without the hands on the floor, so I’ve got a lot of good stuff for you this week.
Now, if you do wanna add in some more upper body work by doing a couple sun salutations, I’m certainly not going to stop you. But make sure you’re taking care of yourself…
Make sure you’re not collapsing into your joints and down into the floor. Activate the legs, arms and core, so that you can push down into the mat and feel the lift through the body that comes in response to that push.
Use the whole hand! Don’t fall onto the heels of the hands, use your fingers too. Try to distribute the weight evenly towards your fingerprints and knuckles.
Spread your fingers out so they take up more surface area and providing a steadier base.
Speaking of knuckles, I find we’re often letting the index finger knuckle float off the floor as the weight in the hands rolls towards the pinky finger. Get that index knuckle down there, it’s a strong finger, use it!
Agh! I should totally just post a video about all this, shouldn’t I? You’re right! Look for that next week. I’ll spend a little time breaking down hand/arm positioning so that maybe you’ll have some more resources for building up strength to ease back on wrist pressure.
In the mean time, let’s get off those wrists, get lost in the movement, and practice a little “Haku-namaste.” (It means no worries… You got the rest, right 😉 ? )
Oh, and when you’re done, go ahead and fire off some comments to me and let me know what you think of this flow, and any other requests for future focus or concerns about your practice.
AND ALSO TO LET ME KNOW ABOUT YOUR BAND! Because I wanna put your music in a future episode. Let’s talk tune-age.
Have we talked before about how much I love books? Because I love books. I love to read. To wrap up in words, like a sweet blanket of another person’s thoughts and stories.
I got a good one over the past week that’s given some great perspective on training the brain. It’s called “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell. I’ve read his stuff before, and even talked about another of his works back in Episode 5 – “Sangha of an Open Heart” (remember all that science behind the power of community?).
Knowing how things work is really interesting to me – especially bodies and brains. I spend a decent chunk of my life dedicated to learning the human body (and helping others to learn their own – yay, my job is awesome). But of course, since the body is only the exterior — I’m also really interested in what lies within. Since I’m not enlightened yet, the conscious mind is what I’m focused on.
Except, after having read “Blink”, I’m interested in the subconscious mind, too. We have a capacity to respond to things before we can even think about it. Even before we remember that we should be having a positive attitude, an open mind, and a calm, even approach to the world, our subconscious will kick in. And that damn subconscious will have us freaking out, making judgements, and saying “I can’t” before we even realize the thought is there.
First impressions make a huge impact, right? So, even if we’re “smart enough” to pause and coach ourselves through how to deal with the situation the “right way”… does the first impression still matter? I think it does (and most social scientists will back me up on that one). If the first thought you have is “I can’t” or “that person looks like trouble”, how much time and energy is wasted convincing yourself that you should have an open mind? Usually quite a lot. The impulsive first thought comes up before you can even respond to it, within the first second. Then, there’s the cognitive response and negotiating with your subconscious (and the subconscious is a stubborn bugger, let me tell you), the repetition of the thoughts that you know you should be having, perhaps deliberately visualizing a better approach to the situation. But all of that secondary stuff took several seconds afterward.
Imagine if you’re driving 70 mph down a freeway and when you see the upcoming exit you automatically turn off after the car in front of you. I don’t drive anymore but I used to do this all the time, it drove me crazy (no pun intended). Because what happens once you realize you made a wrong turn? You have to slow down to surface road speeds, usually stop at a handful of stop signs or traffic lights, make a couple of turns to find the entrance, read a bunch of signs to make sure you’re still going to be going in the right direction, and by the time you make it back on the freeway you just lost 5 minutes or so of real drive time.
We’re losing real drive time in our lives by working around improperly conditioned responses. So, let’s try to redirect the autopilot response that keeps bringing us to wrong turns.
In “Blink”, Gladwell notes that participants in a word association test, measuring the timed response of categorizing words with races (primarily white and black), determines our conditioned prejudices with regards to race with surprising intimacy with regards to our subconscious. Participants will score poorly the longer they take to respond, showing that they’re not relying on their impulsive associations. People retake this test over and over again, trying to show that they aren’t racially biased and in fact very fair minded, but they will do no better at all because it’s their conscious mind that is fair, and their conditioned subconscious that has developed prejudice that comes before their preferred response.
Well, let me re-state that. People retaking the test do no better except when they spend a few moments before the test looking at pictures of individuals like Martin Luther King, Jr. By surrounding ourselves with reminders of how our conditioning is wrong, we can change our conditioned responses, even in the span of a few minutes.
The way to break away from conditioned responses of judgement and doubt is to create an environment of stimuli that prove the opposite.
So let’s continue to focus on positivity, on compassion, on belief in the ideas that we can change our minds and our bodies. Remind yourself daily that you (and others!) are capable of more than you can even imagine. Especially if your imagination is stuck in the aforementioned doubt and judgement trap.
By the way, if environment creates conditioning, and you’re changing yourself and your responses, you’re essentially changing part of the environment of the people around you. This has the potential for a ripple effect — passing on the powers of compassion for ourselves and for others, it could become just as contagious as a smile.
Check out the video – do the meditation with me – move through those ideas and see how it affects your practice. Then, go out and read “Blink”. And tell me what you think about all of this. Do you agree? Disagree? Have you seen an example of this reconditioning and have a cool story to share? Let’s connect!
Like many Americans, my heart is breaking for the events of the past few days. The shootings of black men, of police officers, the hateful outcries, the heartbreak of the victims’ families… it’s all been so much to bear.
I had an interesting experience in dealing with all of these emotions on Thursday after filming this episode.
As I mention in the video, the inspiration for this week’s focus is coming from this week’s soundtrack artist Lycanthrope, specifically their track “Self Worth”. The lyrics were really moving to me. They’re basically a string of phrases that I believe in very strongly — happiness comes from inside, we’re responsible for our own lives and successes, and also that we need to be sure we’re right within ourselves in order to live well in the rest of the world. It’s some pretty heavy music (which you should go check out on their Bandcamp RIGHT NOW!) but the message to that track in particular was really uplifting.
Anyways, Thursday I went into my afternoon class sick with a heavy heart over the events of the previous 48 hours. I thought, since we were working on the primary Ashtanga series, and most of my students were pretty familiar with the shapes, I would read excerpts of Thich Naht Hahn’s “Inside the Now: Meditations on Time”. I hadn’t told stories or read during classes in a while, and students have always commented they enjoy when I do, so I figured it would be a good time to bring it back and liven up the room.
This turned out to be a huge mistake.
Every poem and excerpt I chose seemed to be focused on violence and waiting and struggle. It was torture for me to read, and I felt so much worse by the time class was over. I can’t imagine how my class felt. Probably not as bad as I was projecting, I’m sure, but it definitely wasn’t the cheeriest hour I’ve spent in their company. Thankfully I was able to let it go, and received a few statements of thanks for the softer environment of class.
When I went into my evening class I was prepared to choose some more light-hearted excerpts and a brighter perspective for reading, but I was in for a pretty big surprise.
My community center classes are pretty consistent in numbers and attendees. I work with mostly the same group of people every week and I’m rather familiar with their practices and their bodies. Thursday night, however, I watched a large group of newcomers walk into the room, many of them clearly very unfamiliar with setting up a mat and unsure of what was to come.
So I set the book down. I announced to the group the same pain in my heart, but then I thanked them all for being there so that we could share the time, energy, and practice of compassion and self-love. And over the next hour, rather than digging a trench in the sadness in my own head-space, I invested in my teaching and connecting with others. I focused on providing the best guidance and instruction I was capable of giving to that room, and together we created a space of positivity, connection, and self-care through self-awareness. I got right with my duty as a teacher without getting into the fluff of reciting poetry.
After all, it’s not that we should look in the mirror and never out the window. There’s a beautiful world out there. Especially our own backyards – our closer community, where we can continue to build up connection and keep each other in balance.
So yes, we need to be responsible for our selves. We need to be sure we’re right within ourselves, but that doesn’t make us separate from others. Separatism is a fallacy. We’re all connected. We all share the same desire and capacity for joy and belonging. So, in times such as these when we may feel that joy and belonging are lacking, that love is being forgotten in the midst of hate and blame, maybe we can focus more on remembering how much good there is. How much happiness and connection and good work we can create when we work together. Teachers and students, minorities and allies, citizens and governments.
Enjoy spending this time with your practice, perhaps getting into your body and out of your head for a while. Then go lean out the window (or, you know, walk out the door) and share some joy and connection with someone else after you find it within yourself. Because we all need a little more of that – there never seems to be enough.
If you haven’t, basically you stop eating… pretty much everything… and then after a while start trying to introduce some of those things individually back into your diet and see how you feel. The idea is that with a clear system, it’s easier to identify exactly which foods your body doesn’t get along with so well. That way, you’re not getting bombarded with all of these different foods you might be sensitive or allergic to, and not knowing exactly which ones are the problem.
Because really, most of the time our heads and our stomachs are like a game of “Where’s Waldo?” There’s too much going on to find what we’re looking for (heck, sometimes even just to know what we’re looking for). Especially if we’re trying to do it at a quick glance.
If you clear the arena, it’s easy to pinpoint what you’re looking for. Which kind of takes the fun out of looking for Waldo, but definitely makes it easier to find out what foods or situations are making us miserable (or at the very least, wasting our time).
This week’s practice is all about mindfulness — clearing space taking the time to really process what’s in front of us.
In the video I talk about how useful it can be to give more attention to the things we put in our bodies, and the things we do with our bodies and our time. We’re going to take a little more time with some poses in this practice, so that we can really experience the shape and how we’re using the body to create it. It gets hard at times, but I’m getting a lot of good feedback from yogis in my classes who felt like it gave them some good perspective.
Consider these wise words…
“A negative mind will never give you a positive life”
– Ziad K. Abdelnour
Let’s be honest, negative stuff is going to come up. Life is not all sunshine and rainbows and perfection. But if we keep our bodies and our minds clear and open, it’s easy to notice the crap that tries to sneak in, so that we can clear it out again. Just like you would politely refuse foods that you’re allergic to, or tickets to go to some event you don’t care for.
So let’s clear it out together. And pay attention to what brings us joy. Make sure to leave comments to let me know about anything you discovered during your mindful practice. I’d love to know what you thought or if anything cool came up for you. Oh, and don’t forget to subscribe via email so that you can get updates on new episodes.
I love it when things just come together. You know, the times when things seem to come together by pure chance better than you probably could have planned it yourself?
I always welcome requests from my students, in case there’s something they’d like to see in future classes so that we can work on it together. I had a woman in one of my classes request some heart-opening work. She had been trying to open up for wheel and also loves dancer’s pose (I mean, it is pretty great – once we can grab on to that darn foot the pose practically opens itself up for you).
Wouldn’t you know it, when I went to take classes myself in the next few days, my teachers presented some really great information on backbends and a neat prop modification for Natarajasana (King Dancer). We explored the benefits of side-bending and spine-lengthening to increase range of motion – basically, get the shoulders nice and mobile, creating some space move around in. And, with the creative use of a strap turned flippy-floppy, connecting both arms into King Dancer suddenly becomes (possibly slightly more) possible. I mean, I’ve got some pretty hyper-mobile shoulders and orangutang long arms, but I’m still not quite there without some strap assistance.
Really though, the coolest thing about exploring this special request, was how much it worked with what my own body and spirit are in synch with right now. I’ve been focused so much on the hips with my psoas trauma (which, by the way, has been totally under control lately! Yay!) that I’ve been neglecting some of my favorite heart-opening poses. Like wheel. Seriously, I love wheel. I urdhva dhanurasana everywhere. I once got cut off at a bar on my first drink because I just couldn’t help myself but do it over the table. Some bartenders just don’t have a sense of humor or appreciation for the unusual (but here’s to those who do).
Also, I just finished “The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up” and I just can’t sing the praises of that system loudly enough. By removing all of the things that weren’t bringing me joy in my home and my space, I’ve been surrounded now by all of the things that do bring me joy and I’m feeling pretty… well… joyful!
I want you to picture now a happy toddler rushing out into something that makes them joyful. You know, arms spread, chest about 5 minutes ahead of the rest of the body towards their destination… moving with total abandon. That’s how I’m feeling these days, and isn’t it a beautiful thing to feel like that? So free, so open? Heck yea, it feels awesome.
So let’s open up together. Click on the video below and do this practice with me. Then, leave me some comments and let me know what you think. Oh, and if you wanna make a request for next week’s practice, let me know that, too!
OK I’ll be honest, I’ve been so caught up in The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up that I haven’t put a lot of thought or left a lot of time to put up a real write-up here. It’s sunny now, and I’m going out to play with my dog because I have Yoga-ed and Tidied and Organized and Sparked Joy just plain enough already.
Entry update to come.
Also, check out Windhand’s Bandcamp because Relapse Records is super awesome for allowing me to use their music for these videos and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! Leave me comments and let me know what you think about the new format and any suggestions for future music, poses, focus, things for me to read. Have you tidied your own home? Thought about it? Scared? (I was!) Talk to me dude.
Alt Life Yoga Online has just gotten a major overhaul! I’m starting to get permission from musicians and their record labels to use their awesomeness to improve upon this awesomeness so that we can all do yoga and rock the heck out at the same time. How sweet is that?!?
Starting this week, we’re kicking out the jams, yo!
In honor of the first artists and first label to respond to me, we’re starting off with Cough from Relapse Records and some tracks off their latest album “Still They Pray”. Check out the whole thing here on their Bandcamp:
I actually play lots of artists like Cough at my Doom Metal Yoga class here in Portland, Oregon. If you have a chance to swing on by on a Monday night, we have a sludgy good time and would love to have you join us.
There’s so much awesome sauce all over the place here I can hardly contain myself. So we’re just focusing on the movement and the music this week. Yea, I know, no “dharma”. Or, ok, here’s my dharma:
Just move dude, it’s good for you.
Wanna get a hand in future goings on here? Tell me what you wanna hear! Leave comments! Tell me if you know of (or are IN) an awesome band that I should feature in coming weeks. I will also gladly wear your band’s t-shirt on the episode and all around town. (I have the figure of a 12 year old boy stretched out almost 6 feet tall if you haven’t noticed, so yeah, a “small” would be great.) It doesn’t have to be doom metal like Cough, I love punk rock and classic rock and acoustic and all kinds of sweet stuff. Let’s connect, yo! And let me know what you’re not a huge fan of, too. I’m working on the technological aspects of this stuff but your thoughts and opinions and advice are always welcome. I’m doing this for y’all, after all.
Oh of course, don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss out on all of the yoga jams to come. You can join the email list, too, and get a weekly update with new episodes and an up-to-date schedule for the week’s classes.
Alright, less yada yada, more yoga (and metal!). Let’s do this!
Here’s the full episode….
This week I’ve only put out two separate shorts, just the warmup…
And just the fancy messing around with side plank – enjoy!
Don't worry -- you're in the right place! Alt Life Yoga is now "YogaKINDaRocks". It's everything you've loved about yoga with April, the band just got a new name. Don't forget to update your contacts and keep an eye out on your social media accounts for the new name in your feed. Cheers xo