He asks as he sits at the bar sipping on his Skyhook Pale Ale.
I’m in the middle of changing out the garbage and recycling bins, trying to finish my closing chores at the Brewery so I can go home. Sam is fast becoming one of my favorite patrons at Figurehead Brewing company. He first came in after moving to the neighborhood, and he’s been in nearly every day since. He has a few beers and he makes conversation with not just whoever is behind the bar, but everyone who comes in. He’s witty, friendly, and has a pleasantly dry sense of humor making him affable to all he greets and engrosses in small chat. Or maybe thats just the kindred spirit in me. People like Sam are what make bartending a fun job. The craft brewing industry seems to draw in curious people and beer lovers alike, seeking to heighten their senses, bringing people together in camaraderie. So does “Sip N’ Stretch” , the Yoga and Beer tasting event I host at the Brewery, and the reason for Sam’s initial question that inspired this blog.
I finish tying off the garbage bag and look up at him. ” Thats a good question.” I say.
Sam had earlier mentioned never having done Yoga before and inquired about my Yoga and Beer class. I like it when unassuming and or *skeptical* people ask me questions like this, because it makes me think about how to give an understandable answer to those new to the whole idea of Yoga; the moment one realizes its not just guided stretching. It also demands that I stay connected to the meaning of Yoga myself. In a society and culture where Yoga has become a multi million dollar industry and fitness trend, where students tell me they want to do headstands and arm balances or put their foot on their head. Where I play loud house and hip hop music in most of my classes, where selling class packages to students and getting my next paycheck is part of my livelihood. Where as soon as those yoga students ( and many instructors) walk out of the studio door they immediately look at their smartphones to see what they missed in the last hour plus as they return to the grind of their busy lives. Its what we do on our mats for that hour plus, behind the closed doors of the yoga studio that drives it all home. Yoga gets us away from all of that other fluff, and more in tune with ourselves. It teaches us that with practice and discipline of moving through challenging postures or sitting in stillness that we can find peaceful and empowering tools for dealing with life. Thats the point. Not allowing all the of noise and the incessant chatter of this crazy fucking world consume us to the core. Not allowing the myriad distractions society has built around us to eat us from the inside out.
Yoga is about uniting and ideally finding balance in all parts of your self, its about awareness. Its about getting to know yourself better and being honest with yourself. Its about observing stillness and concurring the anxiety that can come with that, quieting the mind, and calming the nerves. Its feeling your breath and your heartbeat, as you move your body in and out of asana ( postures) designed to open and strengthen the entire body so when you do sit you will be more at ease. Yoga is a practice of discipline and a study of philosophies that asks us to question the nature of our existence and our everyday actions as human beings in this universe. It teaches us to treat ourselves, others, and the world at large with a mutual respect that one only gets when we give ourselves permission to “wake up” , to open our eyes, our ears, our hearts and our minds to whats not only within us but around us, and how to address it all. Its not an easy job, but as with anything with practice we learn and we grow.
I tell this all to Sam more or less as he finishes his beer. He responds with ” Okay, so Sunday August 6 huh?” Thats the date of my next Yoga and beer class. I smile at him realizing I just planted a seed. ” Well I can’t make any promises but I’m definitely intrigued.” He says before getting up to leave. “Yoga and beer” he chuckles. “Brilliant.”
Whatever gets you to your mat is my philosophy these days. Whether its the drive to sweat and stretch to the back beat of energizing, freeing music, becoming more spiritually evolved and mindful through meditation, or the controversiality of having a beer after your efforts. Yoga brings about a self awareness that teaches us how to be better at not only who we are, but better in our actions and recognition of unhealthy habits, which in due time will inevitably start to fade away into an abyss of undesireability.
“Sip N’ Stretch” is held the first Sunday of each month at Figurehead Brewing Company in Seattle, Washington and hosted by me. Namaste and have a beer.
Monday: 7:30 – 8:45pm “Nirvana” a come as your are practice That takes you deep into asana. Get ready to sweat a little and play a lot moving and breathing your way into eatactic bliss.
* The grinning yogi Greenwood 8554 1/2 Greenwood Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103
Tuesday: 8-9 am “Yoga for Vata Dosha” ( A slow, grounding Hatha practice)
**EKA Yoga Seattle 621 5th ave N. Seattle, WA 98109
12:00- 1:15 pm All levels Slow and Strong Vinyasa flow / deep stretch yoga * Seattle Changing Room 2110 Westlake Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109
Thursday: 7-8 am “Groove” ( all levels Vinyasa) : The Grinning Yogi Greenwood
*8554 1/2 Greenwood Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103
7:30-8:30 pm “Lullaby” ( deep restorative Yin Yoga and meditation) The Grinning Yogi Greenwood
Golden milk is a warm, soothing, anti inflammatory drink to enlighten your senses and nurture the body this time of year.
2 Cups of unsweetened Almond Milk
1 TBSP of Honey ( local raw honey is best for combating allergies)
1 TBSP of extra virgin coconut oil
1 TSP of Tumeric
1/4 TSP ground black pepper
1/2 TSP ground cinnamon
1/4 TSP ginger grated if possible
Directions: Add ingredients to a pot, stir and simmer on stovetop for 15 minutes then strain ginger and serve immediately
“Some men (women) lead lives of quiet desperation; some a scream, some a song.”
A timeless yoga philosophy is “finding comfort in the discomfort.” This is a bold undertaking in our practice, because usually when we find ourselves in discomfort, we try to wriggle ourselves out of it and move away from it. But then it will always chase us and find us. So our other option is owning up to the “discomfort” whether it is in a posture that frustrates us, heartbreak, confusion, or general lack of control in a life situation.
This is a theme I return to again and again in my teachings, and very much so in my personal practice.
Finding comfort in the discomfort. What does that mean?
When we are feeling lonely or frustrated by our current state of being or situation, we often flock towards distractions to help ameliorate the situation. But in that pattern of creating and allowing distractions as a form of medicine, we don’t fix the integral problem or habit that is what is truly keeping us from attaining contentment and or happiness. We have to recognize our habits, and make peace with our situations. We can make peace with difficult situations by having the integrity to accept our challenges and observe them with an open heart and an open mind. With patience and the acknowledgement that we can adapt and adjust to any given situation. Its not so much what we encounter but how we deal with the encounters.
It is a discipline in itself to rid ourselves of our bad habits. Start small. Give yourself permission to recognize your habits. when you realize your tendencies towards your habits you then have a choice; do what you typically do and allow yourself to continue to become distracted and avoid confronting yourself and your bad habits, or, choose to try something different, for example studying your habits and facing the reality of what you are doing and who you are being in the situations you find yourself in. Sometimes that means being sad, and alone, or angry, amongst an array of other thoughts and feelings. But if we don’t allow ourselves to experience the array of what our realities bring forth, we never get passed the issues. Sometimes we have to crawl through dark and tangled places before clarity and truth can emerge. But only when we accept the entanglement can we begin to detangle ourselves, and come out with clarity, finding what truly makes us happy. For some it takes more work than others, and that is where the practice and the true challenge lies. Self actualization and integrity can be really hard work. But the stronger you become the better you will be at dealing with what life dishes up, and life will never cease to keep serving us with endless portions. Sometimes tasty , sometimes bitter.
Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
think about what you say, for your words become actions.
Notice the strength of your actions, for that becomes habitual.
Your habits create your character.
Character is destiny.