Crushing Hard? 5 Ways to Make Yoga Your Bae

It happens all the time. As if by fate, a new student wanders into a yoga class and then leaves with that starry-eyed, high-on-life, post-yoga glow. Her heart is beating, face flushed, and she wonders exactly what just hit her. She develops a serious crush on yoga. Suddenly, she can’t get enough. She evangelizes to all of her friends, buys a new mat, and hums kirtan in the shower. The stars have aligned and all the signs point to the fact that this crush is transforming into L-O-V-E, and then… she ghosts. Sound familiar?

 

To all my commitment-phobe friends, I have a secret… Yoga, unlike that dude you intensely dated for awhile and then got bored with, is still there waiting for you with open arms. Yoga can be an ever-evolving, ever-deepening, life-long commitment. Til death do we part. As a married woman, I can’t help but draw parallels between my commitment to yoga and my devotion to my marriage. I believe that similar strategies can be used to keep the magic alive.

 

Crushing hard? Here are five ways to make yoga your bae:

 

1. Communication is KEY.

Be honest with yourself. What brings you to your mat and what keeps you from your mat? Are there feelings that arise that you don’t want to confront? Would you rather bingewatch Netflix than spend quiet time with yourself? Are you substituting healthy habits and coping mechanisms with unhealthy ones? Are you not seeking the support you need to to carve the space and time to prioritize YOU? Get it all out in the open with yourself and then explore what you can do to initiate positive change.

 

2. Never take it for granted.

The benefits of yoga are immense. It helps you feel more free in body, mind, emotion, and spirit. You feel more calm, more energized, and more centered. In the beginning of your yoga fling these advantages are so obvious. It’s like Dorothy crashing into Oz and suddenly everything is in color. But when yoga starts becoming a regular fixture in your life, and zenned-out is your new normal, it can be easy to start taking it for granted and forget you were once trapped in a black and white world. Which brings me to my next point…

 

3. Mix it up.

Maybe it’s time you and yoga became a little more adventurous together. Feeling stagnant in your vinyasa practice? Go to kundalini! Need to flip your perspective? Learn to invert! Feeling restless in meditation? Why not try kirtan? There are seemingly infinite paths of yoga available to you in this miracle of a modern world. How can you be bored when there are so many new things to try?

 

4. Roll with it.

Like any long-term relationship, you and yoga will have your ups and downs. There will be days, weeks, or months where you’re high, committed, and feeling that ever elusive “progress”. There will be times of stagnation and there will be downright lows. This, you cannot change… but you can change your mindset. What if through every victory, every breakthrough, every injury, and every lull, you remained curious, disciplined, compassionate, and non-attached? What if, instead of swimming against the current and giving up, you learned how to ride the waves?

 

5. Go Deep.

On a surface-level relationship with yoga? Maybe it’s time to go deeper. Did you know that yoga isn’t just posing on a mat but an entire system of ethics, practices, and an actual path to freaking enlightenment? It goes DEEP. There is always more to learn and explore. The information is out there. You just have to be brave enough and curious enough to shed whatever is keeping you from being truly vulnerable, connected, and willing to bear your soul.

Long-term relationships are an opportunity to grow in ways you never would have imagined. A true commitment from a supportive partner or practice can reveal, reflect,  and cultivate the beauty and light that truly shines inside of you. Namaste, my friends… I now pronounce you yoga-married!

 

More ideas on how to keep the magic alive? Comment below!

 

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An Intentional 2017

I love New Year’s. Really, I love any time that symbolizes a fresh start and new hope: births, new moons, the first day of school, weddings, and stepping onto the mat for a new yoga practice. The power of a New Year is that it is a time for collective reflection and intention setting. We’re all in this together.

Many people found 2016 to be cursed, the start of the end of the world even. For me on a personal level, though, it was a whirlwind and truly one of the best years of my life. I traveled internationally four times to teach yoga retreats, renovated and opened a new home for Karma Tribe Yoga, taught the biggest yoga class of my life thus far, welcomed a new baby nephew into the family, traveled multiple times to see family and friends, and made decisions and commitments that are already filling 2017 with potential and excitement.

To be honest, that big bang level of expansion comes at a cost. I’m an introvert, naturally a little disorganized, need time for quiet and digestion, and quietly manage long-term anxiety and depression. In 2016 I dealt with the stress not only with my pals yoga and meditation, but with more unhealthy coping mechanisms of eating and drinking. I gained about 10 pounds and started feeling unhealthy and awkward in my body and unsteady in my mind. I realize to some people, 10 pounds doesn’t seem like that much, but this isn’t about a number, but a feeling.

Being a little disorganized, I let the priority of eating healthy meals at regular times slip. I started eating whatever I could whenever there was time. Traveling made this difficult as well, having to shift from my right-for-me plant-based diet to vegetarian and then carrying that habit home. This made it pretty difficult to regulate my energy. I’d have days where I’m on top of the world, kicking ass, and days where I didn’t want to get out of bed.

I also fell into a habit that I now recognize as unhealthy with drinking alcohol. It became normal to come home several nights a week, watch tv, and have 1-3 drinks while eating something like greasy pizza to relax and prepare for bed or would overdo the drinking with friends socially at times. I realize I shared this habit with many people and that it doesn’t make me a lush or alcoholic. But I started to question why I felt the need to do this. One day, as I was meditating, I asked my higher-self why I drink. The answer was clear: I drink to numb my sensitivity. I didn’t like that answer, but it felt right.

A few years ago, in distress, I found a savior of a book, The Highly Sensitive Person by Dr. Elaine Aron. Through reading it, I learned I am an empath and an HSP (highly sensitive person). I feel other people’s emotions very strongly and at times, mixed with my own emotions, it is quite overwhelming. Through reading this and with self-reflection, I came to realize that being HSP isn’t a curse, but a gift, and that I could harness it into my life’s work. Now it’s time to be brave enough to fully embrace my sensitivity and to truly FEEL.

Like I said before, 2017 is another BIG YEAR full of excitement and potential. I’ll be continuing to grow Karma Tribe Yoga, planning and teaching Pop-Up Yoga KC events, teaching corporate classes and privates, will be traveling around the world to complete my advanced teacher training with Frog Lotus Yoga, leading a yoga retreat in Greece, planning my own teacher training for Karma Tribe Yoga in 2018, and more big, exciting projects I’m not even allowed to talk about yet! On top of that, my wonderful, supportive, amazing husband is soon to open his very own restaurant in KC’s River Market, KC Taco Company! Did I mention it was going to be a BIG YEAR?

A big year, needs solid, clear intentions. My main word is DISCIPLINE and this is how I’ll express it:

1. Get organized!

I began this portion of my intention last year starting with Abbi Miller’s Productivity 101 workshop. That gem of a lady provided strategies on how to manage time (especially for the self-employed) in order to reach clear goals. I implemented her strategies and it’s helped lower stress and anxiety tremendously. I’m also all about planning healthy meals in advance so I don’t have to worry about food and can keep my energy levels stable. Furthermore, I started clearing away clutter in the house and plan on continuing that this year. I just watched the documentary Minimalism on Netflix, and feel re-energized to purge.

2. Tee-Totaling! (Or Tea-Totaling 🙂 )

I’ve decided to give up alcohol for 1 year. I’ll be replacing it with mass quantities of tea. I realized my tendency to want to numb out when feeling overwhelmed with my busy life, and know in my heart that if I let myself truly FEEL, I can be more powerful, more heart-centered, and more rooted than I’ve ever been before. I feel confident that I can still be social and still find loads of FUN without a numbing substance. In one year, I’ll re-examine.

3. Svadhyaya (Self-Study)

This year, I will be reading mass quantities of books! I intend to deepen my practice and teaching and already have a pile of about 10 books to tackle on subjects of mindfulness, yoga history, philosophy, and business. I also intend to take MORE time for my yoga and meditation practice. Have recommendations? Send them over!

4. Steady Pacing

I started running last year and found that when I stopped caring about how fast I was going, and slowed my pace, I was able to run much longer without stopping. Through organization, clarity, and svadhyaya, I intend to approach my life from this same slower and steadier paced idea. Last year, I was the hare. This year, a tortoise. I intend to be a little gentler with myself in an effort to be more disciplined on a daily basis. It seems like an oxymoron, but before, I’d hit it so hard that I’d reach a point of exhaustion. This year, I intend to be in more of a flow with my true energy and I believe sobriety will help with that.

Don’t forget, we’re all in this together! What are your intentions for 2017? And how will you achieve them? Comment below!

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How to be GUTSY!

I remember a late February night. It was one of those moments fraught with restlessness and anxiety. Sleep wouldn’t come and every awful imaginary future scenario played through my head. After trying and failing to catch even a little rest, I got out of bed and booted up my computer.

At the time, I was working at a job I absolutely loathed. Money was scarce and I couldn’t figure a way out. I had much to be grateful for in my life: love from my family and partner, a roof over my head, and potential to make a change. But the feeling of being directionless was shifting from an existential crisis to full blown depression. One saving grace at this time was my daily yoga practice. It was the glue holding my life together.

Two things I always wanted to do but didn’t, were travel and become a yoga teacher. In my mind, both seemed so out of reach. In my misspent youth, I worked low paying jobs and mismanaged the money I did have. I also suffered from anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. I failed and flailed over and over. The life of traveling and service through self-realization not only seemed out of reach, but suited for someone more worthy. I had a mindset of fear, scarcity, and lack.

So this restless February night, I booted up my computer and without even thinking about it, started searching for yoga teacher trainings. I happened upon an intensive training retreat in Costa Rica and something inside me lit up. It was seven months away, I’d never heard of the company or teacher, I had no savings, didn’t have a passport, and had never been out of the country. But in my heart and gut was a clear “YES”.  I took a deep breath, got out my wallet, registered, and put down a deposit that very night. Sleep still didn’t come, but I had shifted from anxiety to excitement. I didn’t know how I was going to pull it off, but in that moment, I felt more proud than scared. I moved from powerless to EMPOWERED.

That was one of the first moments of my adult life that I leaned into being GUTSY. I untethered myself from the fear of failing and truly listened to my heart, intuition, and deepest yearnings of my soul. It wasn’t easy, but from what I’ve found, most things worth doing sure as hell aren’t easy.

Since then, my life has been a series of gutsy moves and hard work. I am forever transformed. That initial traveling experience split me right open and I yearned for more. In my heart, I knew that being a world traveler and helping many, many people realize their own worth and potential through yoga was written upon my soul. And I’m doing it. I’m really doing it. AND YOU CAN TOO.

Whether it’s traveling, starting a new business, leaving a relationship, kicking an addiction, or having a baby, you can lean into being gutsy!

5 steps to becoming GUTSY:

1. Make Space.

It is so easy to get caught up in chitta vriti or the constant thoughts, memories, and images that can plague and overtake our minds. Mindfulness practices such as yoga, meditation, spending time in nature, and even turning off the damn smart phone for a little while, help to clear mental space. Without the mental turbulence, you are better able to decipher your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.

2. Listen and Feel.

Now that your mind is clearer, you can ask yourself, “What is truly right for me?” Listen and feel for the butterflies in your stomach and the flutter of your heart. The clear “yes” that isn’t clouded by limiting thoughts and beliefs. That is your soul, your higher-self revealing to you your dharma, your purpose.

3. Go for it!

It’s easy to put yourself in a box. “I could never do that.” YES YOU CAN. It’s like jumping off the high dive for the first time. You may have that initial moment of “oh shit” but then you freaking JUMP LIKE A BOSS! It’s scary, and thrilling, and that act alone kicks off the momentum you need to succeed.

4. Make a plan.

So this thing you’ve decided to do isn’t going to manifest itself! Take action and make a plan. Design your life from a place of mindfulness, of that clear yes, and with the belief that you have what it takes to pull it off. When you feel that familiar fear or limiting belief intruding, acknowledge it and then reject it. That no longer serves you and your mission.

5. Get Support.

You know what keeps you gutsy? Accountability. Share your plan with your most supportive loved ones and they will help lift you up every time the fear creeps back in. Everyone needs and deserves cheerleaders in their life and they will help lift you up to the next level. This “you” free of fear and limiting beliefs? That’s the “you” they’ve always known and loved.

It’s time. If not now, when? Seize the opportunity because you deserve it and you can. Being gutsy not only changes your life, but it changes the world! The world needs your passion, purpose, and potential. The world needs game changers and people willing to go outside their comfort zones. The world needs your limitless light that becomes more and more visible the closer you get to your purpose. What are you waiting for?

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On Practice, Surrender, and Discipline

Oftentimes, in a yoga class, you’ll hear a teacher encourage his/her students to “surrender.” As a rule, what they are asking is to release physically into poses such as reclined twist, child’s pose, and savasana… poses where a body free of tension aids in deep relaxation and pratyahara, or introspection and possibly further into meditation. I have often limited myself to this expression of “surrender”, as in “do nothing”, missing a deeply important nuance that both informs and enhances what this truly can mean.

Those who know me would generally describe me as ambitious, busy, and always creating. I have this itch inside me to serve and to grow. When working on a project, I tend to agonize over it’s outcome and that can sometimes take the joy out of the work. This can lead to an overly “playful” monkey-mind, with constant chitter-chatter and subsequent poo-flinging, my ego taking the hit. It’s similar to when I find myself trying too hard in my yoga practice, sucking all of the fun out of something I do with the intention of bringing myself peace and happiness!

Historically, working with wild fervor and agonizing over the outcome has brought me to a place where I have no other choice but to crash. Maybe I get sick, or just really fatigued. I’ll get to the point where only sleep and Netflix binging sound like plausible activities. I “surrender.” And then that binary all-or-nothing attitude leads to self-loathing.

How in the world can this be balanced out? Luckily, my handy yoga toolbox has all the answers! (Thanks to years of meditation, contemplation, and enlightenment achieved by other people 🙂 )

According to the great Patanjali’s yoga sutras, Abhyasa, or practice, must be balanced with Vairagya, or non-attachment. So let’s say I’m trying to hold my handstand for the zillionth time. Ok, I’ve practiced my form, have built strength, mentally understand the mechanics… but I still might fall! What if I still try, but let go of the image of myself having to become a yoga inversion rockstar in my head? What I can choose to do is still practice steadily, but with an intention of tranquility and non-attachment to the outcome. And when I’ve had enough, I stop before my body forces me to. I surrender instead of suffer. Suddenly, this handstand journey is far, far more enjoyable!

Lately, in both my home and professional life, I’ve had to surrender by releasing my attachment to the idea that I’m a “free spirit”… or in other words, completely disorganized. Ambition and hard work mixed with disorganization, I’ve learned, is not the key to a serene mind. It’s a surefire way to the inevitable self-loathing crash. Without necessarily giving up the wild woman within, I’ve surrendered to structure, to discipline, to yoking. To setting clear goals and mapping out a way to achieve them. Along with teaching and managing my businesses, I’ve scheduled in things like “read”, “run”, or “self-care”. To a free spirit, this might sound highly irritating, but for me it’s actually been liberating. I know that if I do everything I can to make something grow, flourish, or come alive, and if it doesn’t, that it truly wasn’t what was in store.

Practice and discipline, combined with non-attachment, are allowing me the freedom of trust and surrender. Goodbye monkey-mind and hello sweet, sweet surrender to the flow!

 

 

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What are you reflecting?

“Breathing in, I see myself as still water. Breathing out, I reflect things as they truly are.”- Thich Nhat Hanh

For over half of my life, I’ve been learning how to deal with anxiety and depression. That, combined with an unhealthy dose of people-pleasing and perfectionism, has taught me a great deal and has spurred my search for mental, spiritual, and emotional peace.

Being a teacher, I’d love to say that I am cured. It’s all in the past and everything is great ALL THE TIME. Those of you who have human brains and live in this world know that’s probably bullshit and anyone who spouts that crap is lying or trying to sell you something. It is ALL a process and even if you practice with steadiness and fervor, life can be circular. You can be on top of the world, measured, equanimous, and powerful. The next day, being a person and all, you may find yourself on the floor, a crumpled and emotional mess.

I will say that my passion for yoga and mindfulness practices is real. When I am teaching or practicing, I feel connected and at peace. I am living my life’s mission and am proud of my work. Sharing the benefits of yoga with my community is often the most rewarding work I could imagine. At times, I feel like a strong, powerful Goddess who cannot, will not be stopped!

It usually goes like this: I feel so inspired to start a new project, whether its an outdoor yoga program, a nonprofit studio, a fundraiser, or a completely unique yoga class. I plan, I sweat, I share share share. The passion, and let’s be honest, anxiety, fuels me. The project comes to fruition and more often than not, it’s a success! People feel happy and connected. How amazing! While it’s happening, I’m on top of the world!

And then there’s this voice… I could have been better. I could have planned more, connected more, shown more gratitude, been more amazing!  This voice drowns out any compliments and praise and focuses on the critiques, self generated or not. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think wanting to improve is a bad thing and constructive criticism is vitally important for growth. But as yoga teaches us, it is all about balance and having these experiences without attaching.

I use my yoga practices to let it move through me and to move on. But sometimes, the spiral of depression, shame, and self-criticism sets in. That feeling of “not enough” bleeds into a belief that I’m dropping the ball at home, with friends, with family, my health, other aspects of my business, my body, etc. A veritable shitstorm of unhelpful thoughts take over. In a cartoon world, I’d be walking around with a tornado for a head labeled with the word “EGO”. In bold black lettering, of course.

In the past, this feeling from whatever source (school, dance, work, relationships) has frozen me in my tracks. Or made me give up. Now, I am blessed with a big yoga toolbox and plenty of support to “pull my head out of my ass” (one of  my dad’s favorite sayings) and move on!

Last Sunday, I hosted a Yoga in the Pool event that was a total blast! It was a totally new modality for me, but ended up being a really fun experiment in yoga, mindfulness, and water! We had an amazing group of brave students.

In preparation for the event, I pulled a couple helpful tools to tie into the class: a quote from the great BKS Iyengar, “The still waters of a lake reflect the beauty around it. When the mind is still, the beauty of the Self is reflected.”

I also utilized a meditation along the same vein from the wise monk, Thich Nhat Hanh. “Breathing in, I see myself as still water. Breathing out, I reflect things as they truly are.”

After the class, my dubious shame spiral set in. “It could have been better.” “Did people really have a good time?” “Am I an idiot and a total failure??” Unproductive, I know.

That day, I started using the Thich Nhat Hanh meditation, and found great wisdom in it. I imagined my negative thoughts as giant boulders dropping into the lake, creating great waves and distorting the reflection of the surrounding trees into something grotesque. Every kind thought or compliment a pebble completely insignificant in the wavy boulder storm. Through breath and repetition, I was able to see less and less boulders descending. Eventually, the water was placid. The reflection of the trees (or reality) a perfect mirror image. Each kind thought or compliment pebble creating ripples that expanded ever so slowly to every inch of the surface. The stillness gave me clarity that my perception has been distorted. That the reality is that everything is potential and that I am limitless.

The only thing in my way is me.

 

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