Browsing Tag

yoga

Guest Posts, Yoga

Tracing the Thread of Sanskrit in Yoga Practice

September 13, 2020
sanskrit

By Donna Vatnick

We sit in a circle, legs crossed, each of us nearly grazing one another’s knees. The heating vent hums. Light comes soft and yellow from the high ceiling. The view from the glass door in the corner of the room tells us the sun has already set- it is after 6 pm. On the first day of 200-hour yoga teacher training, we are strangers who sit together, searching for something we can’t name. There is a shuffling of limbs and papers as our teacher encourages us to open to the first page of Patanjali’s book of sutras. Together, we are to recite the first sutra in Sanskrit: atha yoga anushasanam. We will recite it six times together. I close my eyes. Immediately, my mind leaps into action.

First comes the judgment.

Isn’t it pretentious and appropriative say these words with such weight when we don’t know what they mean? Why is everyone going along with this? Why is my mouth moving if I don’t prescribe to this?

Second comes the doubt.

But, do I actually prescribe to this? Maybe I’m not pronouncing anything right. Why can’t I remember the words without being prompted repeatedly? Maybe this was all a mistake and I should run out of here and go back to saying “thank you” to my Judeo G-d after my 6:30 am stretches. Leave it at that. Does anyone else feel this way?

I open my eyes and search for anyone’s gaze to meet mine across the room, but everyone seems fixed and concentrating.

Then, rolls the anger in.

How dare the western market implement this traditional healing practice in an expensive as f*ck yoga teacher training. How dare I, as a Russian-Jewish white person with no background in any other tradition, trust this training to equip me to teach something so outside my scope of understanding?

 I’ll bet the wooden floor I’m sitting on was stolen from unconsenting forests and here I am training to be a yoga teacher to encourage unity.

 Here I am, on the edge of a self-care industry which profits from our anxiety, encourages us to spend our savings in order to feel any semblance of embryonic peace. Is it my learned individualism that throws me into “taking care” of my buzzing gut? Why is this spiritual practice treated as a commodity?

Anger spirals until it reaches down to the pit of disappointment.

Just relax for a second and say the words! Why can’t I just accept this Sanskrit phrase and sink into it? Is this is all wrong?

 At the end of the sixth repetition, the room falls silent. A feeling of awe and surprise washes over me.

This clean room in Boston reverberates with the rich, ancient tongue that lives here too, far from her roots in India (or so I assume). The emotions quiet and I listen to thirty-eight people breathing with bodies full of stories and a city ambulance roaring in the distance.

Atha yoga anushasanam.

In other words: Here, now, the practice of yoga begins.

To investigate the here and now of this five minute brain overdrive, I have no choice but to examine the legacy of Sanskrit as the language of modern yoga.

As a continuing student, how do I start to understand the dissonance I felt during the beginning of the sutra recitation?

As a fledgling yoga teacher, what role will Sanskrit play in my public classes?

Is integrating Sanskrit into modern yoga essential? Does it help preserve the evolutionary roots as respect for the practice? Does it exoticize the practice to appeal more to the western masses?

The word “Yoga” itself comes from Sanskrit meaning, to “yoke”, to create unity. One could interpret this practice as a way to unify the body, mind, and spirit. It also encompasses unity and connection with others: our teacher, community, the hum of the world.

What if  the essence of the word could mean something deeper too: unifying yoga’s origins with its evolution.

It means being aware of the threads that connect all of us through space and time.

The thread of Sanskrit is most likely very alive in your own native tongue.

Estimated to be 3,500 years old and sharing roots with the majority of modern languages in Europe, Sanskrit is categorized as an “Indo-European” language. There are 3.2 billion native speakers of Indo-European languages on every inhabited continent in the world today.

Before having a written alphabet, Vedic Sanskrit lived as an oral tongue passed on through memorization. One of the first records of transfer to written language was in 1500 BCE when priests and scholars of Hinduism decided to preserve hymns and poems. They compiled the oral traditions of “The Vedas”, which translates to “the knowledge”.

From there, evolution and mutation ran its course, expanding written Sanskrit from the priest class to the masses in India as power dynamics and literacy between classes shifted. Thousands of philosophical and religious Hindu texts were written and communicated in Sanskrit, as well as Buddhist and Jainist ones.

Today, Sanskrit is considered by some to be a “dead language”, like Latin. It declined in its abundance around the 13th century when Hindu kingdoms began to disintegrate due to invasions from other rulers, and the hubs of Hindu literature perished.

But Sanskrit is very much alive in other ways.

It breathes in ample philosophical texts, religious ceremonies, hymns, songs, scholarly circles, literature, and, of course, modern yoga.

To trace the thread of modern yoga practice is a winding task. The evolution of Sanskrit in yoga is just as nebulous and mysterious.

One could, with a variety of resources, trace yoga back to sitting meditation in Patanjali’s day. One could also associate it with the Hindu religion and mysticism. One could relate it to Dutch gymnastics and products of British imperialism in India.

One could also credit yoga to Krishnamacharya, “the father of modern yoga”, who brought scholarly knowledge of Sanskrit into his teachings in India in the early 1900s.

Pattabi Jois (1948) or Iyengar (1966), the men who systematized the yoga postures many people practice today, followed in Krishnamacharya’s footsteps.

One could argue yoga is exercise or lifestyle or philosophy. One could even say that yoga is practicing focus of the mind, in any way, shape, or form.

One could say it is undefinable.

No matter which lens you use, this is certain: modern yoga is a union of countless movements in history.

Expanding all over the world, yoga has become, at its core, universal, with all its mutations of lineage, language, and interpretation. My Russian-speaking sister who practices yoga in Moscow knows corpse pose as “śavāsana”; my Spanish-speaking training classmate from Mexico knows mountain pose as “tadasana”. These terms can serve as references that unite people across otherwise existing barriers.

If it’s so universal, why does reciting Patanjali feel so dissonant to me?

On many levels, Sanskrit still feels coded and unfamiliar.

There is a presence of deep wounding, of imperialism and consumerism and ignorance.

But there is also the presence of deep time, of history moving through our mouths, of collective sound and echo – the most elemental thread.

The yoga, the “yoking”, exists in both noticing the unity and picking apart its details.

Sanskrit serves as a reminder that we have a lot to learn. The mystery of movement, evolution, and origin is bountiful.

Patanjali’s first sutra invites us to not only “be here, now”, but also to examine what the “here” and “now” consist of.

Here and now is not an isolated event. It is the woven fabric of limitless threads.

Here and now, we breathe recycled air from billions of organisms, we build our homes on billion-year-old fossils and moving rock.

We stand on the shoulders of written and forgotten history;

We inherit language and wisdom that is so fluid, so integrated into the mundane, that most of the time we can’t even distinguish the pattern.

In comparison to the vast “here and now”, we are all beginners.

Donna Vatnick is an explorer of relationships and our inner universes. She writes pieces about intimacy, loneliness, and vulnerability. Donna also love to paint, write music with her bands “Otter” and “Strawberry Machine,” and feel the wind. 

Anti-racist resources, because silence is not an option.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Upcoming events with Jen

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

THE ALEKSANDER SCHOLARSHIP FUND

aging, Guest Posts, Women

Law And Yoga

September 6, 2020
lawyer

By Jennifer Lauren

I’m lying on the floor in the basement of the Washington Conference Center, my back pressed against my cork yoga mat, wearing Lulu Lemon tights. My feet are bare. I hope no one notices that the snowflake manicure I got before Christmas is starting to chip.

“Extend your left leg. Pull your right knee into your shoulder. Squeeze in to stimulate your right ovary,” the teacher says.

She’s teaching a workshop on “yoga for hormone balance” to 24 over-40 women, all of us lying on our yoga mats, seeking answers to questions we can’t articulate.

“Uddiyana Bandha …” Sanskrit for Kegels, where you pull up your nether-regions tight like you’re trying to hold in pee. “Transfer your attention to your ovaries, and release….”

Two dozen women release breath together. It sounds like a prayer. I translate, their thoughts are my thoughts:

We have everything. We should be happy.

I look out the window, where I see the bottom of the sky scraper next door. I had my own office, with a view, in that building. I was a lawyer. A really good lawyer. I wore designer suits and clutched Starbucks in my perfectly manicured hands. I was 27 and gorgeous and ready to take on the world.

At 41, I teach yoga and write novels no one has published yet. In December, just after I got snowflakes painted on my toes, I put my law license into inactive status so I could …. I’m not sure. Follow my dreams?

I didn’t realize my dreams would lead me to the basement of the Conference Center, focusing on my ovaries. Yet here we are, together.

Before 40, we were brilliant. Beautiful. Now we’re strangers to ourselves. We’ve tried acupuncture and green tea. Yoga and meditation. We quit jobs and took vacations and got divorces. But we still feel “off” in a way we can’t explain.

If we were men, they’d call it a mid-life crisis. We’d buy Porches and sleep with 20-year-olds. But we’re women. We can’t afford Porches because we’re paying for dance team and soccer tournaments. We have no time to sleep with 20-somethings because we’re doing laundry and driving our kids to Taekwondo.

“We’re tired, we’re cranky, we’re doing too much, but it’s never enough,” we say to our doctors. They offer us anti-depressants and tell us to find “me-time.” Go to therapy.

None of it works.

So we sign up for hormone balancing through yoga. We read the Goop website when no one’s looking, although we mock it with our friends. We immerse ourselves in the culture of Elizabeth Gilbert and Brene Brown. Follow your dreams. Manifest your magic. Love greatly.

But most of us have no idea what we want to manifest, much less the power to manifest it. So we flounder to find The Thing We Should Do. Maybe we leave good men. Maybe we sell everything and move to Italy, India, and Indonesia for a year.

Maybe we walk away from well paying, prestigious careers just as we hit our prime.

I was a lawyer. I argued in front of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and externed for the Chief Justice of the Washington State Supreme Court. I second-chaired three jury trials, all with eight-figure demands. We won them all.

At 27, I was on top of the world. At 40, I was buried beneath it. I never saw my babies, even when I went “part time.” When I was home I was on my phone, sure I was one missed email away from a malpractice suit. I watched my babies grow into tweens and teens after work, from the driver’s seat of our SUV.

I’d think, what’s wrong with me? I have it all! I should be happy!

But we aren’t happy: stay at home moms, doctors, preschool teachers, artists. We all stare down 40 and ask, what’s wrong with me? We joke about first world problems because we feel guilty admitting we are miserable in our prosperity.

We stare at our phones. At Facebook. Instagram. Twitter. We see the world fawning over British royals in size two suits and something called a “Kardashian.” We look down at our own thickening waists and download the newest couch to 5K ap.

We’ll be happy when we can run that mile/fit into that dress again/the kids go off to school.

Quit that job.

One gorgeous May afternoon, I left my pretty office with a water view behind. I decided I wasn’t a lawyer anymore.

I took yoga teacher training. I signed up for a writer’s retreat. I purposefully ignored the little voice in my head screaming, what the Hell are you doing?

My friends were jealous of the unimaginable indulgence of spare time. “You’re so lucky,” they said.

But who am I? I wonder. Who am I if I’m no longer a lawyer and my kids will be soon able to drive themselves to soccer.

When we were kids, well-meaning adults said we could do it all: career, kids, sexually satisfy our partner, size two jeans, a plush bank account of our own earnings. As we face middle age, it’s no wonder we’re neurotic. We’re all floundering, trying to find our place in a world where we are increasingly irrelevant.

We smile while making homemade gluten-free soy-free cookies after work for the fifth grade picnic at 11 p.m., work deadlines be damned.

We ask, why can’t we be happy?

We meditate. We take more vitamin D. We blame perimenopause, and try to balance our hormones through yoga.

We lie there, pulling our knees against our ovaries and visualizing and end to the unrelenting cycle of do, do, do. Be, be, be.

And we think: I’m so lucky. I have everything. I should be happy.

Jennifer Laures is a recovering trial attorney living near Seattle, Washington. Ever since she wrote her first masterpiece, The Creature, at the age of five, she wanted to be a writer. But life happened, sidetracking her with pesky bills and peskier, but well-loved, children. Jennifer has worked as an award-winning reporter at a nationally recognized newspaper; fundraising director for inner city schools; and civil litigator for 13 years. In May 2019 she quit her day job to write, teach yoga, travel, and chase her dreams. 

Anti-racist resources, because silence is not an option.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Upcoming events with Jen

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

THE ALEKSANDER SCHOLARSHIP FUND

 

Guest Posts, Yoga, Young Voices

My Practice

February 18, 2020
practice

By Shelby Palmeri

I can’t physically hold onto it, but it has made a profound impact. I don’t think about it often in the day-to-day, but looking back over the years, it has always been there, my constant.

How did all these years pass by?

Did I ever really choose this or did it choose me?

I lay my dingy outdoor yoga mat down in my big backyard. I’m reminded of my first few months of practicing. Limited by space in the deplorable frat boy style living arrangements of the boyfriend I stayed with nearly every night, I had to seek the solace of their big (dirty) backyard.

Avoiding broken glass, and scattered folding chairs, not bothered by a roommate’s skittish purebred beast of a dog I wanted desperately to befriend, I’d set up in the tall grass.

Yes now I have an outdoor mat, two extra mats just in case, and of course my expensive and on brand everyday mat, the one that lives in my passenger seat or on the floor of my sunroom. Back then, I just had one mat- my first mat, a bright pink thin thing I rescued from a closet in my parent’s house, bought then quickly forgotten.

I’d take it to the flattest spots I could find, hiding myself from the view of any of the rambunctious tenants of that rented residence. I’d practice the little bit I had picked up from YouTube and Google. Child’s pose was nice and easy, throw in a cat, cow or two. It was in these sessions when I realized how far I had to go, realized how much effort it took just to sit in a cross legged position for minutes at a time.

When looking back on what drew me to yoga, it is kind of funny to admit. At that time in my life, somewhere around 19, I was discovering how much I liked getting high, and I was exploring a variety of ways to do so. I remember thinking that maybe yoga would provide me some sort of transcendental experience. Maybe, it’d get me some sort of high.

The more spirituality books I read, the more I became a little obsessed with this idea of enlightenment. It was a totally new concept and one I wanted to conquer. I thought downdog and the Bhagavad Gita would give me the tools I needed to transcend my reality. I would have an edge. I’d go somewhere I couldn’t come back from. I’d be a yogi master, a guru, all-knowing and always Zen.

As the months went by, I kept practicing. My motivations fluctuated. This new connection to my body turned me onto fitness. My obsession became core work and planking. I discovered avocado toast and calorie trackers. I thought little about my spiritual journey and more about my six-pack. I took lots of bad-form yoga selfies, admired how my butt looked in tight leggings.

I kept practicing.

Nearly two years into this relationship with yoga, I had a pretty solid routine. That same boyfriend and I were now living in a spacious apartment, with floor to ceiling windows in the living room that I fell in love with the moment I walked in the door. It was in front of those windows, that I’d lay my mat down every morning, trading plush carpet for the rocky un-mowed lawn of my previous practice space.

By this time, I had all the classic yoga texts, expensive mala beads I never used, and a couple of props and Aztec blankets. I kept them all stacked together near the windowsill along with my succulents and occasionally my slinky cat. I loved my little yoga space.

One morning, I woke up to practice. I spent about twenty minutes moving by body then rested it on the floor. I lay in corpse pose as the sun filtered through the blinds, casting shadows and warming my face.

A few hours later, as I sat on the couch in that same living space, the sun casting shadows on the wall, my boyfriend killed himself in our bedroom.

I, traumatized and grieving, kept practicing.

I forgot about enlightenment. I forgot yoga body. My motivation became healing. My mat caught all my tears; my journal caught my frustrations. I spent hours and hours on the floor in meditation, hoping that maybe I’d be able to feel him. I read more books. I looked for signs. I explored the metaphysical. I survived the unthinkable.

And, I kept practicing.

Years have passed since that day, as have many milestones. I graduated college, moved away from home, fell in love again, went through teacher training. Through it all, my mat has been underneath me. I unroll it in happiness and in times of struggle. I’ve unrolled it on sandy beaches, rock ledges, and countless studio floors. I’ve unrolled it by trickling rivers, near bubbling hot springs, and in airport terminals.

Over the years, I’ve had to wonder if it is the exercise, the healing or the distant and mysterious possibility of enlightenment that brings me back? Maybe it’s all three, and maybe it’s a whole lot more.

As I lay my outdoor mat down on this warm and sunny summer day, the dirt smells the same as it did so many summers ago in that distant backyard that was much less mine than this one. The wind ruffling the trees sounds the same, and extended child’s pose is just as soothing.

I think about all the things that have changed in my life in such a short time. And I think about all that’s stayed the same.

I keep practicing.

practice

Shelby Palmeri is a registered yoga teacher living in Colorado, trying to chase the dream of teaching yoga and writing. She enjoy mountains, music, and craft beer.

 

Upcoming events with Jen

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

THE ALEKSANDER SCHOLARSHIP FUND

 

death, Grief, Guest Posts

Breathwork

December 1, 2019
breathe breath

By Nicole Cooley

Now I say mom and I float to the ceiling.

Meaning “ability to breathe,” hence “life” is from c. 1300. Meaning “a single act of breathing” is from late 15c.; sense of “the duration of a breath, a moment, a short time” is from early 13c. Meaning “a breeze, a movement of free air” is from late 14c.

Five months ago in New Orleans my mother stopped breathing.

Now at yoga class in the final pose—savansana— pose I struggle with most because I must sink into stillness– I know it’s wrong but I imagine a lit cigarette between my fingers.

My mother was the first person to teach me to leave my body. She taught me well and carefully and with gifts. In high school, she bought me cigarettes so I would not eat, left cartons each week on my bed.

Breath: Old English bræð “odor, scent, stink, exhalation, vapor” Old English word for “air exhaled from the lungs,”

Now I mourn my mother through breath. Each morning I lie on a mat in a hot room and squeeze my eyes shut and breathe her in. Or breathe her out. Yes, breath is supposed to anchor me in my body but I use it to exit my body, just as my mother taught me. I rise to the celling of the yoga room, alone and untethered.

I lie on the levee in the dirt and gravel. I lie on the sticky mat miles away from the house where she died.

Drown smoke suffocate. What is the difference?

I close my eyes and in my dream my mother is drowning in the river two blocks from her house.

In the dream I shake my mother awake. I ask her, with frustration, if she will go on being dead.

I only practice hot yoga, infrared heat that spills from vents and warms the floor. I love the punishing heat. And the intense heat echoes a New Orleans levee walk, all stifling humidity. I lower my body into plank, crush my breasts to the ground. Think of my mother’s body,

Breath from Proto-Germanic *bræthaz “smell, exhalation” (source also of Old High German bradam, German Brodem “breath, steam).

As a teenager, I’d come home from school to find a carton of Benson and Hedges on my white bedspread. My mother saran-wrapped and labeled all my food with calorie counts. 25. 50. 75. I stood in the refrigerator’s wedge of light and counted. I unwrapped a pack of cigarettes. It will keep you from being hungry, my mother explained. Celery. Grapefruit. Diet bread thin as dress fabric. A silver lighter she pressed into my hands.

Breath: an act of breathing: fought to the last breath

Yoga reminds me of the geometry of the body, the shape the body makes—So then what shape did my mother’s body make on the living room floor? What shape was her mouth when my father pressed his mouth to hers to perform useless CPR? What shape was she under the sheet on the stretcher at the Veterans Highway Funeral Home– who knew a funeral home has a stretcher but if you don’t pay for a coffin you get that? — when she looked so small and thin and what shape was she—altered?—when my sister and my father and I ran back to her to kiss her for a final time?

Drown suffocate smoke.

The irony is that after my mother dies, in the days after, in New Orleans, we eat. My father, my sister and me. And we eat very good food. Friends bring platters and trays and Tupperware, and it is delicious. The kind of meals I would not normally allow myself. The kind of food my mother would have forbidden me. Red beans and rice and sausage. Baked ziti. Cheesecake. Doughnuts. A half-bottle of wine.

Now at yoga class I fill my lungs with imaginary smoke. I imagine I flick a cigarette lighter over and over on and off till my thumb scrapes with ache.

Breath: opportunity or time to breathe; respite. Also, a slight breeze

I’m lying on the mat. I am under the heat vent. I am under the spell of yoga. Or I am just under— as grief’s water closes over my head.

My teenage daughters think the stories about my mother telling me to smoke are very strange. This was the eighties—a different time, I say.

Three days after she is dead, my sister and I clean out my mother’s closet and find 72 cartons of Salem 100s hidden – in boxes labeled “Taxes 2003” and “Family Medical 2010.” And yet my mother often told me, when we were alone: “I’ll never stop smoking.” Then why did she hide her cigarettes like contraband?

Breath—

Mother’s Day yoga is — as I know it would be — the worst. Why did I go? The teacher suggests we dedicate our practice to “your mother or a mother figure in your life” and I feel tears leaking out the sides of my eyes. Later she returns to it: “Think of the mother or mother figure and focus on a happy memory.” I want to ban this language. I want to run from the room. So instead I still just work hard as I can to no imagine it: the crematorium, my mother’s body on a shelf, flames, body who once housed my body, turning to nothing.

For so long I longed for another body—is this my mother’s fault? What could I tell you about my relationship to my body and my mother? What could she tell me now?

A different time, I tell my daughters.

Missing my mother is pain that though it can’t possibly be feels bone deep. My wrists are splintering. My hips lock shut. My jawbone burns.

My mother’s legacy: how I don’t want my daughters to long for another body.

After my mother dies, predictably, all I want is to smoke. Though I have not had a cigarette in more than twenty years. In my mother’s room, I suck on one of her old cigarette butts in the ashtray, set my mouth where hers imprinted, while my sister watches, alarmed.

I want to ban this language.

Putting my mouth where her mouth once was—

Do you want to go in and say goodbye to her feel free to take all the time you need to say goodbye to her—

What could my mother tell me now?

What can I tell my daughters?

Once, I remember my mother taking a photograph of me after a bad break up when I stopped eating, a photo at the edge of a pool while I posed in a blue striped bikini. As my sister and I finish cleaning out our mother’s study, I think about this bikini photo, and my sister and I toss the cigarette cartons in the trash, aware of the waste of money yet not wanting others to have them.

Breath: a spoken sound: utterance. Also, spirit, animation.

Nicole Cooly is the author of six books of poems, most recently Of Marriage (Alice James Books 2018) and Girl after Girl after Girl (Louisiana State University Press 2017). Her essays have appeared in The Paris Review Daily, The Atlantic, Feminist Wire and the Rumpus.

Upcoming events with Jen

****

THE ALEKSANDER SCHOLARSHIP FUND

Family, Guest Posts, Yoga

Yoga

May 16, 2019
father

By Rob Norman

I drove up to my hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan after a very long hiatus.  I cruised along once-familiar roads and arrived at the brick-paved Wealthy Street, which back in my early days, at least in that part of town, was anything but wealthy. I stopped and looked for my father Larry’s warehouse that I had worked at for many years of my youth.  I found it, now quite clean and professional in appearance, in the center of a fully gentrified neighborhood.

The building was now occupied with a yoga studio called “From the Heart.” I walked in and checked it out.  I made plans to take a class the next morning.

I was in town to try and find one of my brothers, Steven.  Not only had we grown up in the same house, but we had slept in the same bedroom.  He had written me via text (he would not speak over the phone to me or any other family member) that his girlfriend of over three decades, Cathy, was now sick with cancer and off and on in the hospital.  I came up to Michigan to see what was happening.

Steven spent much of his days driving his bike around town, frequented the library, and God knows what else.  He had always lived at the fringe of society, never able to gain purchase on any semblance of a normal life.  As with our father, as far as I know, he never sought much-needed medical or psychiatric help and was in constant denial as to the severity of his problem.  When my mother was alive, she never seemed to know what to do to help him.  She would provide him food from the Temple Emanuel food bank where she volunteered and gave him cash whenever others gave her money. Time moved on and now he was in his late 60’s, still just as trapped as ever. Continue Reading…

Anxiety, Guest Posts

I’m A Meditation Teacher, And I Live With Anxiety

April 20, 2019
anxiety

By Megan Winkler

When you stand up in the front of a class or – in my case – sit at the front of a class, you’re the expert in the room. The pressure to be perfect is almost permeable for teachers. The same is true for meditation teachers, even though our job should be totally relaxing. There’s a lot of responsibility to the experience.

We are charged with creating a safe environment for complete strangers to take a few steps on the path of their personal transformation journey. We have to deliver our guided scripts in a calm, soothing manner. And we have to be prepared for just about anything: tears, snoring students who fall asleep, the kickboxing gym right next door suddenly starting up their class, stern and doubtful questions from participants, or the guy who got dragged to class by his girlfriend who rolls his eyes more than a sitcom teenager. (I’ve had ALL of these things happen in my classes.)

It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve meditated yourself, by yourself. When you sit in front of a class – or even post a video online – there’s a ton of pressure to be flawless, perfect, and utterly expert in everything.

But here’s the catch: I’m not perfect. In fact, although I teach people how to overcome their fears and conquer anxiety, I’m continually battling it myself. Continue Reading…

exercise, Guest Posts, Health

Getting Up Offa That Thing

March 11, 2019
trainer

By Nina Gaby

Before we start, the trainer asks me if I can get up and down off the floor. We are standing in front of a contraption known as PF360. As I am devoted to the idea of changing my life right now and keeping the dark shadows of my mood on the periphery, I force a good-natured laugh. “Now why are you asking me that? Do I look like someone who can’t get off the floor?”

Well yes I probably do. My white hair flies out from its clip, my left arm trembles a bit from the exertion of the Matrix machine that I’ve just done again for the first time in a year, and my numb right hand can be pretty worthless as evidenced by having just dropped my iPhone again. I’m pale from insomnia and worry and disappointment. And then there’s the belly, an appendage with a life of its own. I’ve already been called “hon” and “dear” by staff twice today. No one ever called me “hon” or “dear” until I hit sixty-five and now I rue every condescending sweetness I ever bestowed on any old person in my life. It’s a micro-aggression, I want to tell them, but off course I don’t. At least they are trying to sprinkle a little kindness in an inhospitable world.

Dexterity and stamina suspect, I surprise the trainer by holding plank for 45 seconds and being able to synchronize “dead bug” and move on to the ropes and pulleys without incident. “I do yoga” I tell her. “Not well,” I add. “I used to exercise all the time…” I trail off. She is glancing out over the football field sized Planet Fitness and worries that if anyone else shows up for the training she won’t make it out in time to pick up her kids from day care. She is a working mom who doesn’t have time for my reminiscing. We move on to the kettle bells. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, parenting, Yoga

This Surrender

February 26, 2018
surrender

photo courtesy of Suzi Baum

By Suzi Baum

I go to a yoga class with babies.

A college student tends a cluster of children in a room behind the yoga studio while mothers, fathers, people who I don’t know well enough to know if they have kids or not and it does not matter at all, here we are with students, elders, people of all shapes and abilities-all of us stop on our mats for an hour, stop all the else we are about, and center, together.

We are marbles off track.

We run the edge of the singing bowl that is this class, spinning around the rim until the centering pull of breath and asana brings us to the center, of the bowl, of our selves, of this moment.

There is often a shout or a cry at just the perfect moment. We chuckle. We breathe. We go on.

I did not always attend yoga classes with babies. Continue Reading…

Forgiveness, Guest Posts

Not Quite Forgiveness, a Yoga Story

July 21, 2017
forgiveness

“I have lost friends, some by death…others by sheer inability to cross the street.”
― Virginia Woolf

By Nina Gaby

It was with the best of intentions that I shut down my old life as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in upstate New York and packed up my family and got a quick prescription for Paxil and clonazepam and became an innkeeper in a small village in Vermont. Let it now be known that if you need two prescriptions to convince yourself that what you’re doing is right you might want to take another glance at it. Instead I went to a psychic in a strip mall and interpreted her words as confirmation (what she really said was light some white candles, take a bath with herbs, and think on it.) And while I fully understand I’m using this as a seductive hook here–after all who hasn’t at one time considered the cliché of running away to a simpler life of baking scones and turning down crisp bed sheets and not only smelling the roses but actually having time to grow them–that isn’t really the story.

The story is that for the past fifteen years I have been angry that the story fell apart. As it unraveled into petty interpersonal and not so petty financial conflicts, the small community we had moved to took sides. Think wrong table in junior high school cafeteria. We were not only collateral damage from 911 and eventually lost the inn, our life savings in one of the tech industry debacles, my mom, my dog and the old friend who lived across the road in our new village dismissed me in a way that felt cruel and confuses me to this day. I still feel shame for sounding like such a victim, as it was likely the victimhood that put us at disadvantage in our community in the first place.

Forgiveness has never been a consideration, anger being my stronger suit. Sometimes forgiveness is not even an option, even though we want to believe it is, as if we have more control than we really do. And that’s the real story. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts

I Didn’t Want to Exist Today

May 14, 2017
chest

By Sarah Dwyer

I didn’t want to exist today. It’s not that I wanted to hurt myself or remove myself from the Earth forever. I just didn’t want to exist—just for today.

I got up to get ready for work, took a shower, and forced myself to blow dry my hair while tears dripped down my red, blotchy, scrunched up face and tightness pulled across my chest. I had this infuriating desire to do a handstand into a somersault—or to burst every inch of bone, muscle, and organ out of my skin. I didn’t just want my insides to escape my body, I wanted to be the one to initiate the explosion, to be in control of the process–to  push the button. 3, 2, 1…be free.

At that moment, I was (and I still am) physically incapable of both doing a handstand into a somersault and exploding, so, naked and sobbing, I climbed back into my bed, pulled my tangled sheets up to cover myself haphazardly, and lay there on my back with the sun shining brightly through the shade and curtain in my window. Continue Reading…

The Manifestation Workshop: On Being Human. In Aruba!

April 29, 2017

The Manifestation Workshop- On Being Human

Join Jen Pastiloff in her signature workshop and see why she sells out with a wait-list everywhere.

A yoga workshop that’s not just about yoga (and can sometimes be NOT about yoga at all). A writing workshop for struggling writers, to-be writers, and non-writers. A dance party and a sing along for dancers, singers, klutzes, tone deaf, and deaf and hard of hearing singers. A trust and love circle. A place to make shit happen. A workshop for humans.

All levels welcome. Expect to flow, sweat, sing, write, dance and laugh and share out loud as you let go of what is no longer serving you.

Please note: There will be much laughter. Maybe a few tears. It’s been known to change lives.
Bring an open heart. Expect to go beyond your comfort zone. Come see why Jen travels around the world with this workshop. Bring journal/open heart/sense of humor. This experience is about life: unpredictable, sometimes messy, beautiful, human.

Teacher: Jen Pastiloff
Date: Saturday 29th April, 2017
Time: 9AM – 12PM
$60 PER PERSON (Excl. 3.5% Aruban tax)

Secure Your Spot.

Anxiety, Guest Posts, Yoga

Yoga Taught Me I Could Stare Down Fear

April 24, 2017
yoga

By Amy Moore

I grew up as a painfully shy, introverted girl in a family with three brothers.  Like many others, my parents were held hostage by their own demons which left them unable to function in a capacity that a child needs as they’re growing up.  At home, it was best to be quiet, obedient, and almost invisible as an effort to keep the calm among the chaos.

As a kid, I sat on the sidelines observing others living life and unable to get past my anxiety to be able to participate in many activities or make many friends.  My life remained similar as I grew into a teenager.  My emotional pain manifested into numerous unhealthy habits, the most profound was my body image.  In early adolescents, I began my journey with anorexia and bulimia and suffered with it secretly for years. Maybe in a sense I was trying to disappear, to go unnoticed and unseen through life.

Although I was physically and mentally unhealthy I longed to be a healthy strong person. I read and researched everything that sparks my interest, which is exactly how I came to find yoga.  When I started reading about yoga I was fascinated about the stories of health and healing that so many people experienced. However, it didn’t seem possible to me.  How could stretching and breathing change your entire life? Regardless of my reservations, I felt drawn to learning more.  I wanted to know more about the practice peacefully displayed on DVD covers and magazines. Continue Reading…

Forgiveness, Guest Posts

Forgiving the World

February 12, 2017
hate

By Lori Holden

We sit on the floor in criss-cross applesauce at the beginning of yoga class, and our teacher instructs us to close our eyes and remember a time during childhood when we were hurt or scared in order to find if there are areas in which we need to release and to forgive. Her soothing voice and evocative words take each of us back to address our own personal boogeymen, troubles that loomed large because we were so small.

This won’t work, says my inner voice. I’ve already exorcised all my demons.

I open my eyes and peek around the room, surprised that my fellow classmates are going crimson in the face as strong emotions rise from their bellies. Something powerful is going on, and if I can surrender my thoughts to my emotions, I may have the chance to release something I’ve carried for a very long time.

Hah, that’s what you think! comes a reply, also inside my head.

With an exhale I allow my hips and tailbone to feel heavy, to sink into the earth. With an inhale I lift my spine, filling the space between my vertebrae with, well, more space. In an instant… Continue Reading…

Divorce, Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, Relationships

Deconstructed: The Adventures of Co-Parenting And Running A Business With My Ex-Husband

December 8, 2016

By Ally Hamilton

You know the fairy-tale about the princess who marries the prince and has babies, and opens a yoga studio with him and gets divorced and has to figure out how to keep it all going? Yeah, me neither, although I’m living that story now.

When I tell people I’m in business with my ex and we have two young kids, they say something along the lines of, “Wow. How does THAT work?!” Most of the time it works really well. Of course I have my moments when I’m reminded of why we’re divorced, and I might even curse him with every expletive I can think of, but those moments are few and far between. I’m sure he has his moments, too.

The thing is, my life looks nothing like any five-year plan I ever would have devised, and nothing like the picture I had in my head of “how things should be”. Growing up, I went back and forth between my mom’s and my dad’s, three nights here, four nights there, switching that fourth night every other week. If you’ve never lived that way, it’s crazy-making. I was forever forgetting my keys and finding myself locked out, or leaving something essential at one place or the other. The rules were different in each household, as was the energy. When I was at my dad’s I missed my mom. When I was at my mom’s, I worried about my dad. When my step-parents joined the circus, it got even crazier. My mom and stepmom did not like each other, and did not hide that fact from me. My dad said disparaging things about my step-dad. You know who never said a bad word about anyone to me, or within my earshot? My step-dad, and I remember that to this day.

Continue Reading…