Category: Episodes 26-30

Episode 30 – “Careful What You Wish For”

Good grief it’s been a long time since I’ve posted! Global travel and homecomings sure have a way of making a girl busy, and with that pesky 24-hour limit to the day (and the need to account for sleep, which I seem to forget about) it’s been a bit rough trying to fit this blog back into my routine. Also, I’ve been dealing with some big frustrations with my video quality and nothing seems to be helping. Hopefully I’ll get a chance over the next few days to update this with a short video on a little focus exercise I like to do in classes, but it ain’t gonna be super pretty and clear (and I just have to deal with that).

Seriously though, I’m really wanting to refocus on this blog, on sharing with you all the things that I’m working on with my classes and in my life. Those of you who don’t take class with me can still connect and get hopefully some inspiration to help with your own practice, and those of you who do take class with me can get a little reminder of some items we covered during practice and dharma. So, that’s my topic today – focus!

“Drishti (view or gaze) is a specific focal point that is employed during meditation or while holding a yoga posture. The ancient yogis discovered that where our gaze is directed our attention naturally follows…”
— Timothy Burgin on Yoga Basics

If we don’t have a specific focus, our actions and thoughts will drift around aimlessly. Imagine you grabbed a recipe book and wanted to make lasagna for dinner. But instead of marking down the lasagna recipe page and making sure you were referencing that page the whole way through, you just left the book open on the counter so the breeze kept blowing the pages around to the salad section, the desert section, and at one point while you were grabbing sauce ingredients you were actually looking at a fish curry. I’m pretty sure you’ll create food if you’re diligent about it, but I’m also pretty sure you’re not going to like it. (Anyone remember that episode of Friends where Rachel made a trifle with beef in it?)

Focusing on one point is hard (and can sometimes feel a bit boring) but it’s necessary. And the more specific your focus is, the better the results of your efforts to focus will be.

Let me tell you a story…

I was driving to teach a class one morning and I was really frustrated and stressed about something really stupid (it was a boy [and I mean that it was not only a stupid thing to be frustrated about him but that he’s also a stupid … anyways]). I knew it wasn’t worth my energy to keep focusing on this frustration, so I started saying to myself “Ugh, I just need a distraction from this, I need to distract myself, anything to get my mind off of this will help.”

So I get to the class, go in and teach, and definitely feel a little better afterwards (because my job is pretty amazing). I go out to my car, which I had forgotten to lock, and my purse and phone were stolen.

Distraction granted! Thanks universe…

I recognized pretty immediately the unfortunate irony there, and proceeded to spend the rest of the day juggling my normal activities with visits to my phone provider’s store, my bank, digging my passport out of the resources of the Important Documents Unorganized Vortex and trying to use a cheap burner flip phone to handle all of these calls to credit companies and the like.

Me and Ethan

Not so good at looking at the camera, but clearly really good at keeping the smile game strong.

Attempting to maintain a positive outlook and not let this ruin my day, I couldn’t help but be a little bummed that I didn’t have most of my friends’ phone numbers. I know some really great people who I knew would cheer me up to chat a bit with, and one number I was particularly missing was my friend Ethan. I found myself worrying a bit that I might not be able to recover his number and thinking how much I was hoping he would text me soon so that we didn’t lose touch for too long.

Within the hour, I kid you not, I get a text from Ethan “Hey dude, what’s up?” Haha, well my friend, let me tell you…

Almost immediately I started to reflect on that morning and my request for “just any distraction.” If only I had been more specific with my intention. If I had directed my focus to distracting myself with the class I was about to teach, or meditating on what a beautiful morning it was, or how thankful I was to have the good sense to know how dumb it was to let myself get frustrated about that morning’s frustration… would my “distraction” still have happened?

I could be a lot more “woo woo” than I think I am, and my attributing the theft and Ethan’s text to my asking the cosmos might be a bit narcissistic… but there’s a lot to be said for having a specific intention to our thoughts and actions. “Be careful what you wish for” is a very old adage, and a lesson I think we’ve all experienced or seen in our world to some extent.

So I invite you, friends, to take a little extra time to focus on your focus (today, this week, hopefully always). And maybe even during your personal practice, focus the Drishti part of executing the asanas (oh good grief just google it if you don’t know, I’m starting to get antsy and done with this post, I admit my capacity for focus is starting to wane). I’m hoping I get a chance over the next few days to update this with a little clip of some focus work I like to do in Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon).

I’ll be keeping my focus on finding some free time to do so. Oh, and Universe, I’d just like to clarify that I’m trying to find that time by the good fortune of being efficient with my projects and appointments, rather than some catastrophe opening up my schedule, please and thanks.

Happy Focused Friday, y’all.

Cheers

xx April

Episode 29 – “F*ck That” A Guided Honest Meditation

I got a pretty rad Christmas gift, and I’d like to read it to you.

Why?  Um, because it’s rad.  Also, I think way too many people think you have to be a certain type of person to meditate, and they are not that type of person.

Fuck that.  That idea is wrong.  If you feel like you can’t meditate because you think too much, because you’re too busy, because sitting still is hard, because you find yourself reciting expletives in your head instead of moving towards peacefulness, or because you end up playing through the riff from your latest favorite song in your head; sorrynotsorry, but you’re wrong.

These are all reasons that you SHOULD meditate.  And honestly, they’re reasons that you can.  Because it means that you are human.  And humans can totally meditate.  Even if they say “Fuck” a lot.

If you thought this BOOK was awesome (which I definitely do) then you should do several of the following:
Buy it here: http://bit.ly/1WnTWit
Visit the author Jason Headley’s website here: www.jasonheadley.com
Maybe follow him on social media
FB: @heyjasonheadley
Twitter: @jason_headley
and go over and check out HIS YouTube channel because he’s offering some really rad stuff.

Episode 28 – “Sit on That”

Impact vs. Intent. Its an interesting conversation. Does the intention of an individual really make a difference in how wrong their actions are, when those actions have a negative impact on another person? Does it really matter if they didn’t intend anything negative to result from their words, their deed?

Eh, not really.

I mean, yea, there’s a difference for the person at the intention end of the deal.

A person who accidentally pops a champagne cork into a fellow party go-er’s eye is a significantly less shitty person than if they had done so on purpose.

But does the fact that they “didn’t mean to do it” save the victim’s eye? Nope.

I mean seriously, it doesn’t.

We often feel like it does, though. While I was trying to build up the courage (I’ll get to that in a moment) and discipline to actually sit down and write this, I thought doing a little field research might help. It did! I read this really awesome article by Melanie Tannenbaum for Scientific American and you should totally read it because she says some really great broad-perspective stuff on why and how we consider intent when deciding how bad the impact was.

Since Melanie did such a rad job explaining the whole phenomenon, and you can read all about that in her article (and tons of others) I wanna take this in another direction.

I have to admit that I had some difficulty sitting down to write this. I keep finding myself so busy and scatterbrained with all the goings-on of a new “main job” working in a café, juggling subbing classes and trying to keep my own dance and yoga practice alive and well. So yes, there’s finding time to do it, and there’s the general begrudging procrastination of not staying in constant practice upon the page (er, computer keyboard). But this has been hard for another reason.

I started seeing “Impact > Intent” in response to the recent US Presidential election and saw some statements made that really made a lot of sense.

See, I totally support anyone standing behind a candidate that they feel has the best policies. Even standing behind the candidate they feel has better policies than the others even though all the policies aren’t ideal. Hell, I still think you should stand behind the candidate that has even just slightly less-shitty policies than the other shitty candidate policies if that’s your view on what you think should be going on in whatever you’re voting on.

And I totally respect your right to do so. I may not like it – but I can respect it.

Here’s the real problem that I (and many others) have with the President Elect…

Regardless of anything that he is doing or intends in his speeches, rallies, twittering escapades, “locker room talk,” or whatever it may be:

What his is doing is impacting other people.

He’s setting a terrible example for our nation and our children. That example is leading many people to feel like racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and mistreatment of the LBTQ community is on some level acceptable. And all of this is creating feelings of concern, anxiety, and even actualized instances of a loss of safety for minorities, women, LBTQ – in other words, you know, PEOPLE.

Anyways, why has that lead to me having a really hard time sitting to write and share my thoughts on this? Because I know and love a lot of people that voted for Donald Trump.

Like really love these people. They are wonderful human beings. The thought of offending them, saddening them, alienating them, or misrepresenting them with this blog is just gut-wrenching for me.

There’s a part of me that has all of the best intentions of just keeping everything in my world even-keel and serene (in a rather sterile sort of way) by simply remaining silent and avoiding the subject.

But what’s the impact of that?

Nothing.

Nothing happens. Nothing changes. No information gets shared, no communication comes about, no new perspectives are shared. Essentially my cowardice on approaching the subject might as well be my agreement of current circumstances.

Let’s consider this with regards to Satya or “truthfulness.”

It’s hard to balance the necessity of honesty with the desire (and yes also a very worthy goal) to be kind and happy with everyone. Sometimes it’s a delicate thing to have to tell someone that sweater really does look awful, or that they have lipstick on their teeth. But if we do it compassionately, we can step out of our uncomfortable cowardly shield of “I’m just trying to be nice!” and let the truth set us all free.

I once walked by all 45 members of my college’s dance company from the dressing room to the wings of the stage (smiling and talking to almost everyone) before one dancer finally said “Girl I know you’re not about to walk out on stage with that lipstick all about your teeth!” It would have been nice if he had said it with some kindness rather than sneer at me, but I’m still pretty grateful he had saved me further embarrassment.

No one wants to walk on stage with lipstick on their teeth. No one wants to be called a racist, a misogynist, a person who promotes hate (OK some people might but we’re just going to go with the assumption that most people would like to see those things eradicated from our culture – especially people we know and respect). Therefore it is our duty to find a balance of both Ahimsa (non-harm, compassion) and Satya (the truth) and find the courage to engage with each other about these issues.

If my intention is to maintain balance in my relationships, but the impact is that I’m not standing up for what I believe in, not helping to make any changes or share what might eventually be valuable insight… my good intentions mean squat.

We should always try to have the best intentions. Carefully aim every arrow before we pull back and fire. But we need to keep an eye on whether we’re actually hitting our mark. If our arrows are missing the target – perhaps hitting our fellow archers instead – then we need to grab the first aid kit, apologize, and adjust our aim.

I didn’t say it’s easy to have these conversations. It’s not easy on either end (when was the last time you graciously accepted that you had unintentionally done harm? It’s hard, isn’t it?). I suggest taking the time to prepare yourself for these conversations with some meditation. Do something to clear your head.

If you’re into movement to clear the head, maybe check out the video below.

Cheers, friends,
Xoxo

April

 

Episode 27 – “Connection for Growth”

“United we stand: Divided we fall”

Heard that one before?  It’s a statement that dates back seemingly to Aesop, but Americans have stood by this credo since our inception as a nation in the late 1700s.  Throughout our nation’s history we have been divided in belief and agenda across a myriad of issues.  The post-election climate we find ourselves in is no exception to our history and no exception to the truth of these words.

Can you count how many times you’ve seen someone on social media exclaim “unfollowing!” “unfriending!” (or a blatant “screw you guys!”) over the past few weeks?  Yeah, me neither.  It’s an epidemic.

And while I stand whole-heartedly behind the need to remove oneself from unnecessarily unpleasant circumstances, walling ourselves off from those who disagree with us might not be the best answer.  It’s not changing anyone’s mind or creating any understanding between parties for us all to just insult and isolate each other.

We need to communicate.  Compassionately and patiently (even though this is really freaking hard).  

I feel the need to make an obscure movie reference here… bear with me…

In the 2001 Horror/Thriller “13 Ghosts” a character is killed off by being sliced through his middle by a vertically descending pane of glass.  The dude is just standing in a hallway one minute, and in the next minute the front and back halves of his body begin to slide down their own sides of the glass and crumple to the floor.

Standing one moment.  Divided and fallen the next.

OK, I told you it was an obscure reference — but do you get what I’m saying here?  We can’t just slam a wall in between ourselves and our community, friends and family.  No one gets what they want, and nothing gets fixed.

My advise? (And for the record the advise that I’m trying to follow myself)

Set aside some time to really think about what you think you need to articulate to the people on the other side of this divide.  Then think carefully about what you think their perspective is – what they would try to articulate to you about what they’re standing behind.  And develop a dialogue on even ground with them.

Preferably not over the internet.  Body language and voice inflection make such a difference.  I can hold your hand, look meaningfully into your eyes, and show that I’m genuinely listening to you if we’re sitting together.  But I just gently laid my hand and looked with meaning at my laptop as I posted this and it’s not getting across to you any more than FaceBook comments spilled at the spur of the moment are getting across to those you’re commenting to.

We’re in for a rough time, America.  We are divided right now and we need to work on that.  We face a lot of difficulty as a nation.

I don’t think I have a conversation with a single person here who discovers I’m an American and doesn’t ask about our political circumstances.  The world is watching us, the world feels for (and fears for) us.

We cannot divide and segregate and allow ourselves to fall to this struggle.

Oh yeah, the yoga… the physical yoga…

You may recall me mentioning (or have heard it from tons of other yoga teachers) that the physical practice was designed to prepare our bodies to be able to sit for meditation.  So do that!  Do this practice, and sit in contemplation of compassion and communication and connection with your fellow man.  (Alliteration seriously not planned but I’m just going with what my fingers are spilling at this point.)

Enjoy!

 

Cheers, yo!

xo

(by the way, if you have anything to say or want to talk about how this election has impacted you, your feelings of safety, your relationships, anything at all — I’m a safe space.  #safetypin)

 

 

 

Episode 26 – “Fishy Yoga Transitions”

All bodies are different.  If this is news to you, I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in.

Really though, they are.  And not even just the skinny/thick/tall/short kind of different.  Our bones are all different lengths and proportions to each other.  The range of motion to our skeletal structures varies so greatly that it’s pretty much impossible to say that a transition or the alignment of a pose is going to work great for two people (or all twenty or however many are in one yoga class).

Have you ever wondered “What’s wrong with me?” when offered a transition cue that you just can’t seem to master no matter how much you try?  We’ve all probably had those moments.  A lot of times its just because we’re still teaching our bodies proper movement and alignment and building up the strength and one day it will come.  Something will click, and it will click when it is good and ready for clicking.

But sometimes it’s not ever going to “just click” because your body might not be set up to click that way.

I honestly don’t know anyone who can step a foot through to a lunge from down dog without moving their palms from the floor.  Up onto fingertips instead of palms, sure, but keeping the palms flat is almost sure to leave you with a foot only halfway forward.  This leads to unnecessarily short warriors and lunges and, if you’re not careful, a lot of frustration.

It takes a lot of core strength to step that foot forward – deep deep transverse muscle engagement, down into the psoas actually.  If you’re new in your practice, or not super flexible in lunges, then you’re going to benefit a lot from just grabbing your ankle and scooching your foot up to where you really want it.  And good grief, just take your back knee down if you need to!  Do whatever works.  It’s called a practice – it’s always a practice, never a perfect and it never needs to be that.

Also, creasing your forehead up in knots and thinking expletives in aggravation at yourself does nothing to help this step through.  Just sayin’.   Grab your damn ankle and smile about it.

But even if you have  the most ripped functional core muscles this side of the Ganges, and a long flexible lungs, the length of your bones might be preventing you from executing this step through.  If you (like me) have the same length (or longer) to your lower leg than you do for your arm, it’s just not gonna happen unless you create more space.  Make your arm longer – come up onto fingertips.  Maybe you have such a long shin bone you need to move your hand all the way off the ground.  That’s cool man – do it. Own it.

(By the way, it’s the same arm as leg that you’ll probably be adjusting for the step-through.  Just to be clear.)

One day, you might find yourself taking a class with an instructor who says that you should try to challenge yourself and keep the whole palm on the floor.  So hey, try it.  Maybe you’ve built up more core strength and mobility and you could be closer to accomplishing that.  Maybe you don’t have to come as high on your fingertips as you thought… maybe the whole thing becomes an uncomfortable collision that gets your foot nowhere.  That’s cool.  Maybe that teacher has really long arms and short shins, and they aren’t aware of the difficulties that others have.

Real talk — I was amazed when I started teaching that child’s pose was a challenge for many people.  I had no idea.  Our experiences dictate our perception, and we all gotta learn sometime.  It’s not to say a teacher’s not a good teacher if they haven’t adjusted their cueing for these sorts of things.  They’ve probably got a lot of other good stuff to offer you.  Unless of course, they don’t.  In which case you find another teacher next time I hope.  I know I’m not the right teacher for a lot of people, and I’ve definitely taken a lot of classes with a teacher who wasn’t right for me.  These things happen.  Trial and error is a part of what helps us find our tribe.

Anyways, I digress.

Try removing the giraffe from the refrigerator next time you try sticking an elephant in there.  And if that makes no sense to you, you should watch this video.

Cheers, yo!

-*- Namaste -*-

April

 

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