Through my yoga practice, I have learned how to better stay the course when life feels bumpy. When practicing, there are moments when I feel centered and strong and there are times when I hit places which are just plain uncomfortable. My practice is sacred to me because I get to show up on my mat as I am and experience all of it. The balanced handstand and the quiet savasana are elements of the practice, but for me, they are not representative of all of it. I show up because my practice teaches me how to enjoy the beauty of the sweet spots as well as be there for myself and practice breathing through spaces from which I want to escape. My practice is a way to re-create patterns to better serve myself and my body. Yoga, for me, encompasses all of this.
As the year came to a close, I noticed my mind kicking into gear, developing all sorts of resolutions. We often jump when we have the chance to be the initiators of change, but often these intentions cannot be withheld because they involve elements of harshness, restraint, and control; elements which serve ego and deny spirit. So where do I want my intentions for 2016 to lead me? Below are my focal points for the coming year; less about becoming something and more about refining practices for that which I value:
Practice presence. What does this mean for me? To exercise a deep level of listening, both to myself and others. To recognize that where I am is exactly where I should be and the people with whom I surround myself with are the most valuable at the moment. Presence, for me means to not only listen acutely, but to take action on what I believe to be true at the moment. Presence means to forgive myself and others. To choose to let go of things which keep me away from the moment, and to find value in what is currently presenting itself.
Connect. What is my responsibility in serving others? Life already has many elements of suffering and why create more divisions than are necessary? How can I help support others with whom I come in contact with? For me this includes being impeccable with my words, my actions, and my thoughts. For me it means to show up to my relationships with honesty and to speak my truth, to seek out opportunities to help.
Transparency. The greatest luminaries for me, are those who dare to speak of their humanness; by being more vulnerable, they are therefore more powerful. I am human. You are too. We have moments when we feel centered, and then there are moments when we lose perspective and step into patterns which don’t serve ourselves or our relationships. Rather than working with an image that is not really reality, my intention is to find a deeper level of honesty with myself, sit with what is, and practice the work of living with greater transparency.
One of my favorite holiday recipes I learned from one of my yoga students a few years ago. Its a traditional Russian recipe which I love during the holidays.
1 cup buckwheat
Pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup poppyseeds
Honey to taste
Seeds from 1/2 a pomegranate
Handful of hazelnuts and pumpkin seeds
First boil the buckwheat starting with one inch of water above the buckwheat. Add a pinch of salt and cook until the water has absorbed.
Add the poppyseeds and a glug of honey, depending on preference for sweetness.
Though not traditional, I added seeds from half a pomegranate and some pumpkin seeds and hazelnuts.
During a recent yoga class I was taking, as I prepared for meditation, the teacher walked around and draped his students in blankets. While sitting in stillness, even though it was such a small gesture, it struck me as really powerful. There is a verse in the Bhagavad Gita which says, “A leaf, a flower, a fruit, or even water, when offered to me in devotion, I will accept it as the loving gift of a dedicated heart. Whatever you do, make it an offering.”
As we pass through the darkest days of the year, I am asking myself, how can I make my life an offering? I think sometimes we feel that in order to give, it needs to be grandiose, planned out, or perfect. The most valuable gifts for me though, have been the scribbles from my students, found treasures from a wander, things that come from an honest heart. So what can I give? The greatest thing I think I can give myself and others is the permission to show up and be present with what is. Ignoring intuition, running from realities, fighting, ignoring, and manipulating truths, dims our light. But when we sit with all that is, and confront what is real, a sense of strength and light emerges. Sharing our truths, what is honest, what is wild, what may be uncomfortable, but yet is sincere, is an expression of light. During this holiday season and into the new year, may we all acknowledge our own light and offer up what is real. Travel light, live light, spread the light, be the light. Happy holidays.
This past weekend I went on a photoshoot at the salt flats just outside of Salt Lake City. I have always hesitated with doing photo shoots or posting pictures of myself doing yoga because I feel sometimes the essence of the practice gets lost by purely focusing on the physicality. Honestly, I have also shied away from posting my own photos because I have heard the whole gamete of opinions that other yoga teachers have about yoga images being posted on websites or social media.
Growing up, I have lived with an eating disorder and been challenged in many ways to find my own happiness and freedom within my body. Yoga has been one of my primary outlets where I have come to accept and celebrate myself. Having lived through an eating disorder, I know the depths of body denial, dissatisfaction, and general distaste which one can feel. The journey to coming to a place where I can accept my body as a strong, and beautiful instrument, has been a long, but somehow beautiful process.
Everyone who practices yoga, practices for a reason. My reason is to feel at home in my body and to offer that experience to others. The yoga practice has a way of working its way on people if they are able to find a practice that speaks for them. At the same time, everyone’s practice also looks different and hopefully everyone can find a way to celebrate what serves them.
This photoshoot was a way for me to honor my own practice and how it has served to support me. Spending the day in the desert with my mat and one of my best soul friends capturing my love for my practice was truly magic. My hope is that we can all find a practice that serves us, and that we can all leave a little bit of space to recognize our own strength and beauty no matter our path. Why do you get on your mat, or why do you want to begin? What your intention begins as may evolve, but that’s part of the beauty of the practice.
One of my new favorite treats this summer has been nice cream. Sometimes, I even eat it for breakfast. It has the texture of soft serve. This concoction somehow reminds me of rocky road ice cream. You will need a high power food processor to make this recipe happen.
2 frozen bananas
1 glug of tahini
2 tbsp raw cocao powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
small handful walnuts or almonds
pinch of sea salt
Put everything in the food processor except for the nuts. Blend until it has an ice cream consistency. You may need to stop an mix once or twice. At the end add the nuts so they add a chunky consistency.
Legendary yogi, Patthabi Jois once said, “practice and all is coming.” When I thought about opening a blog, I contemplated about what do I have to share? What am I practicing? Whether I am practicing yoga, or cooking, or practicing being a better person for myself and for my relationships, I have realized it takes steady, consistent effort in order to carve the pathways I want to create.
Here I will posting simple practices, thoughts, and hopefully inspiration which I am incorporating into my own life. So now the question, what are you practicing? Feel free to shoot me a line or share here what has been working for you!