Don’t question it, don’t take it for granted. You earn what you receive via your work, your intention, and your action. Embrace it all and have gratitude for the abundance because some days are scarce and we feel lost, tired, and vacant of inspiration. So appreciate the highs and even the lows for the lows give us perspective and the highs give us inspiration to persevere. Wrapped up 2018 and upward and onward into 2019! practice and all is coming…namaste .
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.
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.
Traveling has been, and will always be one of my greatest teachers. I recently returned home to Seattle from a life changing trip to Costa Rica. Prior to this trip, I had not left the country for almost 8 years. The last time I left the country, I had been traveling around Mexico and Belize with my dear friend and soulmate. During our travels we kept saying to each other that things were too good to be true because everything and everyone we had encountered thus far was fantastic. But we were right, it was too good to be true, because my friend ended up drowning in the ocean in Puerto Escondido. I miss her everyday. I’ve spent the past several years healing and grieving her passing, living life each day knowing that there are no guarantees, and our existence is precious. Don’t take things or people for granted.
I caught my first travel bug my junior year of College. I took a quarter off from my studies and worked to save money to go backpack around Europe with a good friend from my childhood. We saw incredible places and art and architecture, we met all kinds of interesting and wild people. I fell in love with Scotland and vowed to go back someday, which I did a year later and stayed for 8 months. When I returned to Washington State, which has always been my true home, I got a job as a Barista at a coffee house. Thats where I met Brittany, and we decided to go travel around Mexico and Central America. We planned to go to Costa Rica, but never made it.
Returning home from the nightmare of Brittany drowning, I had no idea what to do or where to go next with my life. All I could do was live moment to moment. Everything in Seattle reminded me of my friend. I felt lost, I felt uninspired and complacent. So one day I decided to move to California. I had some friends there. It was sunny, it was something different. I packed up my VW Jetta and drove south. I saw friends in Portland for a few days, I couch surfed with a pot farmer in Chico, and a software designer in the central coast. I visited an old friend in San Diego who was in the Navy there. Then I went back north to the vicious beast of a city Los Angeles, where I stayed for two years. I had a good friend there. And a guy I liked. I bought a little sailboat and sailed and partied all of the time to try to subdue the confusing emotional state I was perpetually in. Being on or in the water has always contented me, and somedays it was scary and painful to be in the ocean where Brittany was swallowed up, but a bigger part of me felt even more connected to her. I think thats why I bought a boat. She would have said to do it too.
One day I found myself going to yoga at a popular donation based studio in Santa Monica. I had done some yoga before, but nothing that had a profound affect on me. My teacher in Santa Monica was the first teacher that gave me that profound awareness, the yoga high. I drank the koolaid, and I couldn’t get enough. Being in that practice space, on my mat, with Travis’ voice guiding me was where the real healing began for me. I realized my time in Los Angeles needed to come to an end, and that my path was to become a yogi. I sold my boat, said goodbye to my friends, and drove home to Seattle. I called my old boss at the coffee house and asked if I could come back and work, and he said he had been waiting for me. I worked hard and began researching yoga schools to study at. I went to Maui and studied with two incredible teachers. Getting deeper in my yoga practice, allowing myself to address my pain and confusion through spirituality and being in nature on a beautiful Island in the middle of the largest ocean in the world. I had found my calling. I came back to Seattle and began teaching yoga. After 5 years of teaching, I planned to teach my first solo lead yoga retreat in Costa Rica. A place I had been compelled to go to for the past 8 years. I finally made it there, doing what I love, and sharing my wisdom with others. I went through an array of thoughts and feelings. It was both relaxing and challenging to be there. I was putting out a lot of energy into guiding the retreat group, but also having moments of self reflection. I felt raw and vulnerable. I was able to peel away some layers of myself that I hadn’t been fully ready to address before. Costa Rica is a beautiful country, with kind people and an easy going way of life. People there seem to understand what is most important in life. Its said to be one of the happiest countries in the world, and its one of the most sustainable ones too. The energy of the land and the people is wise.
The last night I was in Costa Rica my group and I went to the beach to watch the sunset. We ran into the ocean and body surfed. My friend who came along on the trip with me and I looked at each other and shared a moment that we both knew would never ever happen again. We smiled and laughed and decided right then and there. To let go.
Home in Seattle again. Single for the first time in 5 years. I have my true loves though; yoga and traveling. Today is a new day, and I’m ready for whats next.
The body is your temple ~ Sage advice.
Some phrases are statements of truth, some phrases are simply opinions. The phrase “ the body is your temple” is a statement of truth. The body in which you dwell and call home, is the only one you’ve got. That being said, I recommend you start to have a really deep conversation with it.
When you are wildly intrigued by something or someone, you tend to pay attention to it in great detail, to study it, to master it. How about applying that curiosity and intrigue to yourself?
We are born and we die with the same body, yet some people go through life with little awareness of their own body. The practice of Yoga teaches us to connect deeply with our bodies, finding the connection between our mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual self; that there isn’t much of a separation between these governing bodies of the self until death, when the physical body shuts down. Where the spirit goes remains a mystery. That is left open to individual interpretation and religion, which is of course a very personal topic, and something I will leave up to you to “find your own myth” as one of my favorite minds, Joseph Campbell would say.
There is the philosophy that there lies different sheaths (or) layers of being, often referred to as the Koshas. There are believed to be 5 koshas; The food body, the energy body, the mental body, the wisdom body, and the bliss body. Yoga and accupunture practices help one wake up so to speak, to the interconnectivity and balance of these koshas. There is a great sense of disconnect many people have with their sense of self. People misunderstand what is going on with their bodies and seem to rely more so on outside sources to tell them what is and isn’t good for them. When one allows oneself to begin to recognize and listen to their body, one can begin that long deep conversation, and the benefits of that long deep self conversation become seemingly endless. You can learn to feel and listen to what your body is trying to tell you; what feels right and good, what feels wrong and questionable, and you can then begin to have that internal dialogue of what it means to honor the self. Certain movements with consistency and depth nurture and strengthen your body, opposed to movements that strain your body. Certain foods have the power to do the same. This day in age, a lot of people have terrible diets. Much of the food made convieniently available to us is overly processed or treated with harmful chemicals. Whether it be due to lack of resources and education on proper nutrition and healthy living, or lack of finances to sustain a healthy diet, or just laziness. I say if there is a will there is a way, for everyone to live and eat well. For years society would not only listen to, but TRUST the FDA and USDA, only to learn it is just as corrupt as most money hungry corporations that don’t really care about you or me. The better you are treating your body on a regular basis, the more you will want to feed it with clean and healthy food. The more positive reinforcing thoughts and actions you cultivate, the more content your state of mind. The more mindful exercise and body work, the better your body feels.
What you put into your body is important, as is what you feed your mind. As is what you do with your body. Everything we absorb and ingest affects our state of being. Every movement we make creates muscle memory. If you don’t eat a balanced, nutrient rich diet, you can not only affect your physical health, but it can affect your mood. If you don’t move in a conscious, caring way, you affect your bodies comfort and longevity. Having a healthy body inspires a healthy state of mind and vice versa. If you continuously have negative thought patterns , those negative thoughts create stress and anxiety, and in turn can cause disease and dysfunction in the body. Your lifestyle affects your character , and your destiny.
This article isn’t to suggest that its bad to eat a cheeseburger and drink a milkshake with whiskey in it and then sit on your couch all evening. This article is to suggest becoming greatly aware of what your body wants and needs and when it should and should not have or do certain things. This article is about finding balance and moderation everyday. With all the advice and information out there, our self awareness and understanding can become clouded. Thats why it is a practice in itself to have a conversation with yourself. To live mindfully is to live well, and to live well and mindfully is to understand balance and moderation and the uniqueness of your existence. I encourage you to begin a regular practice of cultivating deep conversations with yourself, and see what happens.
Letting go is something we talk about often in yoga. But its so much easier said than done. Recently, one of my friends and fellow yoga teachers mentioned that it bothers her when yoga teachers say “just let go.” Something I am admittedly guilty of suggesting time and again. It led me to ask myself the question, What does it really mean to let go? Furthermore, how do we go about doing it so it doesn’t just sound like some hippie dippy cliche term that only people with perceivably legitimate first world problems can say? Just let it go. Drop your fears, your stresses, your doubts, your limitations, your trauma, your anger, your pain. Easier said than done, I know.
We all have our own set of issues we dwell on. Work stress, money problems, relationship and family challenges. Child hood trauma, which we may or may not be aware of on a fully waking conscious mind kind of level. Emotional and mental stress, cellular memory, all of these factors contribute to tension that builds in our mental and physical body. When we come to the yoga mat, we are given a sanctuary in which we can begin to release, and let go, so to speak, of all of the tension society and life inevitably creates. The fact is, many people tend to suppress these stress inducing realities that we all face at some point or another. Some people simply are at a loss as of how to deal with these realities. Society has conditioned us to disconnect with our underlying truths.
By having at least the intention to let go, we can begin to address what exactly it is we are holding onto that makes us feel weighed down and lacking the tools to relieve ourselves of it. When we allow ourselves to be aware of the tension creating entities, we can begin to learn how to let go through movement and meditation.
We hold onto ideas and feelings created by our mental and emotional states of being, based on incidents and experiences throughout our lives. Some of the experiences seemingly tattoo our hearts and memory, henceforth affect us on much deeper, long lasting levels than we could imagine. If its trauma, sometimes that can create great stress and in turn even affect our health and our physical body.
So when we say “let go”, we have a lot of work ahead of us. It starts with being willing to even go there, to those sometimes dark and tangled places within us. To start the journey of unraveling the mess so we can see some light come through, and begin to understand what it means to let go. That letting go is maybe more of a state of mind, a philosophy, a practice in itself, a tool to help you wake up and free you from what is keeping you from feeling more consistently at ease.
In company with the many joys life graces you with, life will inevitably continue to through a profusion of challenges your way. If we can learn how to manage the philosophy of what it means to let go, we create space for ourselves to not only process our experiences, but to create space for the new ones, with an open mind and a healthy heart. When we can get a grip on letting go of the major things that weigh us down, the little things start to matter less, and life suddenly becomes a lot better.
Start with right now. Embrace the theory of what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Don’t be afraid to be in vulnerable places within yourself. As lovely and relaxing as yoga can be, this practice isn’t a bed of roses. Practice and all is coming.