Wednesday, October 31, 2012

thank you beautiful people

Of Love 

I have been in love more times than one,
thank the Lord. Sometimes it was lasting
whether active or not. Sometimes
it was all but ephemeral, maybe only
an afternoon, but not less real for that.

They stay in my mind, these beautiful people,
or anyway beautiful people to me, of which
there are so many.

You, and you, and you,
whom I had the fortune to meet, or maybe

Love, love, love, it was the
core of my life, from which, of course, comes
the word for the heart. And, oh, have I mentioned
that some of them were men and some were women
and some — now carry my revelation with you —
were trees. Or places. Or music flying above
the names of their makers. Or clouds, or the sun
which was the first, and the best, the most
loyal for certain, who looked so faithfully into
my eyes, every morning.

So I imagine
such love of the world — its fervency, its shining, its
innocence and hunger to give of itself — I imagine
this is how it began.
~Mary Oliver

I'm sitting here at the treehouse, preparing to teach my first class in what has been my longest hiatus from my/our beloved yoga studio.

I can't help but be filled with thanks and gratitude for all the beautiful people in my life and the amazing support shown for Andy and myself.

We've received cards and flowers. Flowers that took my breath away for a few moments because they were just that glorious. We've received angel wings, journals, sparkly pens, food, phone calls, messages, daily texts, and more.

Guess what?  We even got a poem. A poem that I've printed and posted on our fridge for us to see every day. Maybe one day I'll share it here.

Sweet souls offered us with their time and energy and gifts. Healing sessions, massage, and more. And these amazing treehouse teachers (plus Erin and Lisa) who swooped in quickly, graciously, lovingly to take care of all things Barefoot Works? I adore them, love them, thank them.

And for all the friends who didn't quite know what to say. The ones who thought they would say the wrong thing. The ones who stayed away because it was all just too much.... Andy and I felt your love and we know you too were simply doing the best you could doing unbearable times.

For this and more I am eternally thankful for the beautiful people swirling around in my universe.

It's taken my mind and heart a few weeks to catch up with the beauty and bigness of all of this love. Of all of You. But little by little, day by day, I'm getting there.

Such love in the world.
Such love of the world.

If yoga is really all about union and connection.
Well, I think we've got that covered.

Thank you.


Monday, October 29, 2012

don't grieve, anything you lose comes around in another form


Little did I know what the year would hold when I scribbled these words on a napkin on the first day of 2012.
I can’t say I’ve listened to Rumi’s advice of “don’t grieve”, but the latter portion is serving up daily support.
A reminder to look everywhere I go, eyes looking, heart opening to the possibility of this idea…..
What you lose today comes back in another form.
The flowers in my garden look like they are dead. They are brown and brittle, lacking any signs of their former vibrant life. The tulips come up early every spring and for several weeks they fill my heart with such simple joy. When they wither and die I feel a little sad. If only they could blossom year round, I occasionally think to myself.  
Letting go is not easy for me.
Yet they are burrowed deep in the earth, dead to my eyes, but some part of me trusts that come spring they will once again make their miraculous and beautiful appearance. Undoubtedly they will appear different than the year before. The size, shape, and shade of color will depend on the nourishment they received from the rain, sun, and such.
I love the fall season when the leaves put on a dazzling show for all to enjoy. The trees are adorned with red, gold, yellow, and orange leaves. What is it about a bright orange leaf on the ground that causes us to pause, take a longer look, tilt our head back and for a moment appreciate all that is right in the world.
The colors of the leaves, the way the light dances across the sky during the fall season make me swoon. Undoubtedly, when the trees are naked, standing in all their glory, I can’t help but feel a little sad. If only we had more time to witness the magic of the color of the fall season.
Letting go is not easy for me.
Yet the leaves that fall to the ground, the ones that rest on the bed of the earth in their dazzling colors will turn brown and brittle. They appear dead to me.
Yet each day I am seeing that they are not dead. Some leaves hold the seeds that will become future trees. Some leaves provide a home and nourishment for other life. All of them will decompose and contribute to the livelihood of future trees and plants.
And so it is with Nico Joseph Tessandori.  Our “hello-goodbye” baby boy.
The lines of his beginning and ending are a blur and for this I’m comforted, I’m thankful.
His beginning was not his birth. Nor was it day 120 when the Vedas say the baby in the womb receives his/her soul. Nor was it Nico’s conception.
Was his beginning the moment Andy and I dreamed him up? The moment we were a full, enthusiastic, outright, “hell yea we want to have a baby!”
Or was his beginning part of our parents beginning? Or our ancestors?
And his ending?  It’s all even more mysterious.
All I know is that he feels more and more real, more present with me each passing day. He lives on in my body, my mind, and most certainly my heart.
Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk says this in relationship to death….
“If you are locked into the idea of a separate self, you have great fear. But if you look and you are capable of seeing “you” everywhere, you lose that fear. I have practiced as a monk. I have practiced looking deeply every day. I see me in my students. I see me in my ancestors. I see my continuation everywhere in this moment. I have not been able to go back to my country in the past thirty years. I left Vietnam in order to call for peace, to stop the killing, and I was not allowed to go home by many succeeding governments. Yet I feel that I am there, very real. I don’t’ have that kind of painful feeling of a person being in exile because friends of mine go to Vietnam, and new monks and nuns are there. I see myself in them. I don’t think that I am not present in Vietnam right now, just as I do not think that I will cease to be someday.”
Nico lives on by the ways he has changed me as a mother, wife, daughter, sister, and friend.
He lives on by the ways he has changed me as a teacher. While it’s certainly not clear for me, I know my trajectory as a teacher is changing and evolving each day.
Nico lives on by the ways he is serving, teaching, and healing others.
I lost count at 150 emails I’ve gotten from friends, family, and students. The majority of those were from other women and men sharing their story of loss with me. Many of them thanked me for “naming what it was they experienced.” Some expressed their regret in closing down during this time of being broken open. Nico’s story was helping them to bring closure to their own story.
A dear friend said this to me in an email, “I have been floating you through my mind in my yoga practice and tears have rolled down my cheeks as I imagine the pain that you and Andy are feeling. I have been angry at God and asked the Universe why? My own fear has showed up and I can tell you have a powerful teacher in your little one because his teachings are rippling out.”
Undoubtedly, I am sad that Andy and I didn’t get more time with our little one.
Letting go is not easy for me….
But each day I’m learning how to lean into letting go of “the Nico” I previously imagined.
Each and every day I practice letting go of the life I dreamed up with him.
Each and every day I keep my heart open to the lessons he is teaching me.
Each and every day I look around to see, hear, and feel Nico’s presence.
Each and every day I’m mustering up trust in the words of Rumi, that what we’ve lost will indeed come back around to us in another form.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

go ahead, be Self centered

Please enjoy this guest post by the awesomeface Kate Dorvel. She writes about one of my favorite ideas and practices....putting "yourSelf on your to-do list" and she makes a pretty compelling case for why you should. Insert a nod to Orpah Winfrey for introducing this idea to me many years ago. Grateful for her and the wisdom of Kate's post today. Enjoy Friends.


In this season of movement and transition does it feel like you are over extended, stretched too thin, drained of all energy? You are undoubtedly not the only one. We begin to sign up for this, commit to that, volunteer for this and quite frankly tend to do everything for everyone else, until you sit down at the end of your day to eat, what probably should be dinner at 9pm and wonder, what the hell did I do today?

The other day, Craig asked me how my day was, and I actually had to say “hold on a second, I need to think about what I did.” I couldn’t believe that I actually had to perseverate on what had transpired over the day!
I was so energetically drained that I wasn’t sure which end was up or down, I didn’t want to eat the meal I just cooked, I just wanted my glass of WINE and BED.

Occasionally you get to the point where your to-do list incorporates things for your home, partner, children, animals, boss, friends, yard etc . Very infrequently are you on your to-do list, am I right? The result often is an inability to give anymore to anyone(including you), a feeling of exhaustion, slight depression?, maybe even getting sick?

As I mentioned above, the cause is giving all of our energy to others, but without reserving any of it for ourselves.

The best way, that I have found, to counteract this is meditation.

Now, now, don’t get scared. My practice is not laiden with meditation, nor do I consider myself particularly “good” at it – if there is such a thing. Let me rephrase – the best way, that I have found, to counteract this is sitting quietly with oneself once a day for five to ten minutes and attending to my breath.

For me, this helps me to RE-CENTER. Otherwise I go 100% with my brain and body never check in with my spirit and my heart. And how can you be the best that you can be if you aren’t working from a place of intention? Even if you are remembering to do everything, you may not be doing it as well as you could be, simply because you are ignoring yourself.

For a lot of people, women in particular, mom’s/career enthusiasts or both (to name only two) in more particular, this is considered to be SELFISHyikers, now there is a bad word! We never want to be described as selfish, oh no, no. If we are selfish, then those around must be neglected! I interject – FALSE.

I invite you to BE SELFISH for ten minutes a day. Get yourself SELF-CENTERED.
Sit comfortably and quietly with yourself once a day (try for first thing in the morning), close your eyes and just breathe. If the thoughts come just let them go, nothing more and nothing less.
Deepen and lengthen your breath and listen to your heart. If you want, set a timer - put a gentle tone to draw you back - then you aren’t peeking at your phone every 30 seconds to see if you’re done yet.  
Try it.
You have nothing to lose if it doesn’t work for you, but I have an idea that you will feel notably better – body, mind, spirit and heart. You will be all of you, more present in each endeavor with each person you love.

All love begins with self love.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

4 easy steps to creating your own practice

I'm delighted by this blog post by Misty Pittman. And you should be too, it's a wee bit lighter than the last two entries. ;)  I seriously can't think of anything more worthwhile than starting your own yoga practice (at home). So roll out your mat, take a seat, savor three breaths and call it a practice....because it is. Enjoy my Friends. Thank you Misty for your encouraging ways and words. How cute is her lil dog?
Do you have a hOMe yoga practice? Have you been thinking about starting one? Maybe you recently read Sarah's article about starting a daily spiritual practice. Or maybe the shorter days and cooler evenings mean you are retreating at home more and skipping practice at the studio. Or maybe you just want to supplement your studio classes with some solo sessions at home, but you have no idea how to start.
If you’re like me, you will put it off and put it off and put it off, coming up with every excuse why you can't start a hOMe practice just yet. It took me years to establish a regular practice that I felt confident about, and all it took was 6 little words that Sharon shared in a workshop: "I practice yoga in my bathroom." It shattered all my reasons for why I wasn't ready to start.
Having a hOMe practice is a great way to deepen your connection with your body, mind, and spirit. And it's super easy. Here are my tips for creating a successful and fun yoga practice at home.
Excuse 1 - I don't know what to do.
Oh yes you do. Trust me. Start with one pose. Maybe it's your favorite pose, downward dog. Hold the pose, feel it in your body, breathe into it. Maybe you stop there. Or maybe your body instinctually wants to move to child's pose. Great, do that. Maybe you notice some stiffness in your back and realize that some cat/cows would feel fabulous. And then you remember that really cool pose your teacher taught last night and you decide to try it.
Don't worry about following a planned sequence, or about counterposes, or doing a Sun Salutation in perfect order. At home, there are no rules. Start with savasana if you want. Let your body guide you. It will tell you exactly what it needs if you take time to get quiet and listen. 
If you are new to yoga or just don't want to have to think about your practice, there are hundreds of dvds and online videos to guide you. A couple of online resources that I personally love and use when I just want to move and not think about where I'm going are Yogaglo and Yogavibes. Both offer free trial periods, and their monthly rates are affordable. Both sites also offer a wide range of styles and offer a beginners section that breaks down individual poses in detail.
Excuse 2 - I don't have the time.
3 breaths. That's all the time you need. Not every practice needs to be a 75 minute sweat session. Step on your mat, strike a pose, hold it for 3 breaths. Or 5. Or 5 minutes. There is nothing that says your yoga practice has to be a certain length and has to include a set number of poses. Maybe the only thing you do all day is legs-up-the-wall before bed. Or you start your day with a reclined baddha konasana (bound angle) before you even get out of bed.
The only thing that matters is that you do it mindfully. Standing in tree pose while brushing your teeth is fun, but can you do it with a mindful awareness? Whether you spend 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours indulging in some yoga, the key is to allow yourself the gift of being fully present, letting go, and surrendering to the universe.
Excuse 3 - I don't have a special place in my home.
This was my favorite excuse every time I thought about starting a practice. I felt like my home practice needed to be highly personal and spiritual. I was sure that unless I had an altar, with burning incense, in a space that was large and beautiful, well then I certainly couldn't have a meaningful practice. I had to have my very own trendy yoga room. Cue the infamous 6 words... "I practice yoga in my bathroom.". I thought, if my yoga teacher, who is an expert at making spaces feel sacred and special could practice in her teeny, tiny bathroom, then by heck I could, too.
All you need is enough space for a yoga mat. It's nice to light candles, burn incense, beautify the space with pretty pictures and sacred mementos, but these are not necessary. When I finally started, I had reduced my “requirements” to just having privacy. So I practice in the bedroom. My view is a closet door. Sometimes there are distractions and these become a part of my practice. Let your yoga be a reflection of real life, a daily practice that fits in with your lifestyle, rather than a separate ritual that becomes hard to achieve on a daily basis.
Excuse 4 - I don't have any props.
Do you have a yoga mat? That's the only prop you need. Firm blankets (think quilts and heavy throws), small pillows (decorative couch pillows work well), towels, chairs, even stacked books can all be substitutes for bolsters, blocks, and straps. If using props helps make your yoga accessible, but you would rather not invest in them, get creative with what you have around the house.
And that's it. Pretty easy, eh? It's fabulous to soak up a class at a pretty studio, where a teacher expertly guides you through an uplifting 75 minute session. But it's also fabulous to make yoga accessible to yourself every day, even if it's only standing in mountain pose, in a teeny, tiny bathroom, palms together in front of your heart, inhaling and exhaling through 5 delicious breaths. It's profound. It's magical. It matters.
Make it fun, keep it simple, and stay present.
Thank you Misty. As the days get shorter and the temps drop lower, I will once again find myself rolling my yoga mat out in teeny tiny bathroom, taking a seat, and savoring my breath. And this sweet and simple little act will save me, over and over.

Friday, October 19, 2012

inviting sadness, shame, & sorrow in

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
~ Rumi ~

Morning time is the hardest. I wake up and invariably the first thought I have is around the death of our baby boy. It’s either the dreadful words, “unfortunately there is no heartbeat” or it’s meeting and saying good-bye to him in the very same moment.

The thoughts I wake up to are mostly the same. It’s my feelings and emotions that change day to day, moment to moment, even breath by breath.

I’m trying to heed Rumi’s advice and “welcome them all”, something I’ve been working on for quite some time.

Some days there is sadness.

Other days there is shame.

Anger rears its head from time to time

Fear and worry have woven their way into my mind.

I’m simply sitting with the feelings and emotions as they come. Rather than stuffing, quieting, and resisting them, I allow them to be.  Sometimes I give the emotions permission to get bigger. I sob till I feel like the big blue house will come crumbling down. I stomp my feet till I feel like the earth can take back some of this pain. I write all the shameful stories and thoughts I have about myself and this experience. I listen to music that I know will help- my body to release the weight, the heaviness of the past weeks.

Then the timer goes off and I come back up for air.

I know myself well enough to know that once I go down deep into the emotions, I must have a container around it. Otherwise I’ll spend the whole day sobbing on my yoga mat. Andy would come home and find me a mess….and well it would be very, very bad.

That container is a time limit and a timer. The first day into my grieving retreat I could only experience (insert any heart wrenching emotion here) for about three minutes. Day by day this number has increased to ten minutes. The amount of time I need in between “breaking down” has also varied. But it’s happening on and off all throughout the day.

You might be wondering why I’m choosing to torture myself so?

 It’s because I refuse to let something so big happen in my life without breaking my heart wide open with the hope that I will be kinder and somehow a better human being as a result.

I refuse to sleep through this. I refuse to numb myself out.  I refuse to busy myself with work, to fill my days with useless activity.

Mostly I refuse to let the life of this little boy pass me by without changing me for the better.
I choose to accept the shame, the sadness, and sorrow with the faith that I am being cleared out for some future delight.

I trust in that.

I believe it with my whole heart.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

my story of loss + intentions for healing

One week ago today, Andy (my husband) and I found ourselves in what felt like an impossible predicament. Andy was adorned with every token of good luck we’ve accumulated over our 14 year relationship.

In his pants pocket was our “magic rock”, a rock we picked up together on a small island in Texas. In his shirt pocket was a small cross the reads “Jesus Christ, a token from his father’s funeral one month ago. Around his neck he wore mala beads that were blessed by my teacher. On his forehead, a light dusting of ashes from a sacred fire that’s been burning in India for over 500 years.

Yet no amount of good luck, no magic potion, no token, no talisman could change these four words uttered by the doctor…..

“Unfortunately, there’s no heartbeat.”

In an instant, our world was rocked.  Our lives forever changed. Our precious baby boy was gone. My mind racing, “No it can’t be” while my body was already accepting that yes, it was indeed true. Dreadfully true.

A few days ago I found myself flipping through an old journal. I found these words scribbled, “Sometimes when our minds and bodies are shattered by life, it’s only the spirit that can knit us whole and keep us alive.”

My body feels defeated. My mind feels shattered. My heart, broken.

I’ve screamed. I’ve sobbed. I’ve stomped. I’ve shaken my fist at God more than once. Yet, even in my greatest moments of sorrow I can hear the quiet whisper of my spirit telling me I am not beaten, shattered, or damaged.

I pause. Draw my attention inward. Take a breath. And feel the peaceful, perfect presence of my spirit. Untainted, never defeated, always pure perfection. Then the reality of my loss sets in and I sob some more. Tis the way of grieving, right?

I’m blessed to have a team of teachers around me willing to support me. I’ve decided to take two weeks off from teaching to begin this journey to healing. To do so I will take a retreat unlike any other retreat I’ve ever taken.

Over the course of several years I’ve taken a variety of retreats….

Silent retreats, business retreats, retreats for cleansing, retreats to close out the year, and retreats to greet and set intentions for the New Year.

Never have I taken a retreat to grieve. Who wants to do that? Yet here I find myself with a complete knowingness that there is no way around this loss I’ve suffered. I must go straight through the darkness. The loss, anger, sorrow, and fear if I am to find my way to the light.

I’m armed with my intentions and a plan for grieving. It includes twice daily meditations, holding yoga asanas (poses) while literally letting go, self-massage, therapy, juicing, walking, reflecting, journaling, connecting with family and friends, reading poetry, taking long hot baths, talking to teachers and mentors, snuggling Andy and our dogs, and more.

I’m one day into my grieving retreat and I can tell you it’s been the most emotional and intense work I’ve ever done. I’ve gone through more tissues than you can imagine, burned nearly an entire candle, drank gallons of hot tea, walked my doggy’s legs off, and savored a delicious white chocolate truffle.

I can already say without a doubt, this is the most important work I’ve done in my entire life. It truly feels as if all the “work” I’ve ever done was just prep work for this moment. The trainings, the workshops, the retreats, the reflecting, the lessons, the learning, the practices, the tools, the yoga, the meditation….

All for this moment right now. I don’t intend to let any of it go to waste.

If you’ve read this far you might be wondering what all this had to do with yoga? Yoga is the full expression of the moment, right here, right now (atha). Yoga is being with the full range of life’s experiences and being honest about all of it (satya). Yoga is reflecting on that which presents itself in your life (swadhyaya). Yoga is coming up with a plan to move forward and taking action (tapas). Yoga is trusting that even in times of turmoil God, The Universe, The Divine (whatever you want to call it) has your back (ishvara pranidhana).

Thank you for allowing me to share my story. I am deeply appreciative. My heart goes out to you and any loss you’ve ever encountered. May we all learn from the past and move forward with a fierce and loving heart.

with love,

{I sent this email out this morning to people on our Barefoot Works newsletter list. The outpouring of love and support has been overwhelming in the sweetest of ways. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.}

Monday, October 15, 2012

ahimsa, a perfect guideline for living a peaceful existence

Greetings Friends,

I read these words from Meredith Swim and a wave of peace washed over me. I can remember the first time I sat and talked to Meredith in our old studio space. She was thinking of embarking on yoga teacher training during her "gap year", the year between graduating from high school and starting college. I knew at this first meeting she was an old soul and over the years I've known her even better. She is wise beyond her years and simply a ray of light for the whole world. This blog post is a testament to that. I'm so glad she did choose to participate in our yoga teacher training. You can revel in one of Meredith's classes on Tuesday at 4:00 for commUnity yoga or Level 1 Flow on Tuesday at 7:15. Enjoy....

{For any readers who have not experienced "savasana", it is the final resting pose we take at the end of each yoga class. It is sweet and simple, yet has the power to move mountains.}

Savasana arrives. I loosen my ponytail and surrender to the mat for the long awaited relaxation. I listen to the soft movement of blankets and props as my fellow yogi neighbors prepare to unwind. Soon silence follows and a calm descends over the tree house. I soak in this moment of stillness. There’s the occasional sound of outside traffic, which pulls me to wonder about the potential world peace power behind this five-minute savasana.

The amount of violence squeezed onto the front page of the newspaper or chocked into a media soundbite provokes feelings of helplessness and frustration, but I also feel this overwhelming desire to combat the violence with peace. Yoga philosophy provides a perfect guideline to living a peaceful existence on and off the mat through the first yama, ahimsa.
Translated to mean non-violence, ahimsa urges yogis to practice non-violence in your physical actions, and also, in your thoughts, intentions, and words. When I hear about the violence raging in parts of the world, or the random acts of cruelty in my own backyard, I can easily separate myself from these actions by proclaiming myself a physically non-violent person.
I don’t swing punches, but my words, I’ve discovered, can wage nuclear warfare on others and myself. A coffee date with a friend can quickly turn gossipy and browsing through facebook can spark numerous catty remarks. Most often, these judgments reflect my own personal struggles, but it’s easier to project my issues onto others, especially that questionable profile picture, than to look into the mirror and deal with them myself.
This is where yoga downdogs in. Flowing through a vinyasa is a therapy session. I tune into my body, my heart, and spiritual space to realize the root behind those unkind words and the true reasons behind that emotional outburst. The answer is often that I’m not taking care of my needs, and if not taking care of my needs, I’m not the ultimate peaceful person I wish to be for my family, friends, community, the world.
Guilt quickly appears after these inner realizations. Guilt forces me to repeat the unkind words, the emotional breakdown, and wants me to feel awful, but here, ahimsa arrives and saves the day. In a loving voice, ahimsa cautions me not to judge, not to be violent in my thoughts toward myself. “You’re Human,” the voice soothes (a voice very similar to the talented Rachel Weisz). “Forgive, Love, Learn and Move On.”

Practicing ahimsa on the yoga mat is easy. One of favorite aspects of ahimsa is a bit more gritty.  Ahimsa requires us, as global citizens, to take action. If harm is being done, ahimsa provokes us to speak up, and defend. Say a dog is growling at a toddler who is pulling his tail, then Ahimsa in action is taking the toddler away from the dog, preventing harm for both the child and the dog. This a small example.
There are bigger battles on the world stage. Meditation and self-reflections guide us to discover our truths, and from a center of good intentions, we can participate for the good of our community and the world.
Breathing in the stillness of savasana, I feel my inner self, a self that is pure peace awakening and glowing, like a candle flame in the dark. I direct my savsana calm to my words, thoughts, and actions. I imagine my surrounding yogis discovering their inner peaceful light and letting it shine in the hustle and bustle of life, the warmth carrying over to friends, family, neighbors or strangers sharing the grocery line.
Peace starts small. Ahimsa begins with breathing instead of judging. And as long as there are savasanas, I believe there is hope for peace in the world.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

do you have a spiritual practice?

Sarah recently joined me at Sonoma Ashram where she was a part of  our most recent yoga teacher training. Sarah is near and dear to my yogini heart and I just knew she would love this sweet place as I do. Please enjoy this thoughtful post from her. It's pretty perfect. I'm especially thankful that she got to spend some time with Babaji, the monk who founded and resides at Sonoma Ashram. Sarah also took these pretty photos around the property at the Ashram.

Many yoga students have asked me about my time and experiences at the Ashram. It is my hope and plan to share much more about this sweet place. One questions I get often is about taking a personal retreat at the Ashram. If this is something that interests you, you can read more details here. Enjoy Friend.

“Do you have a spiritual practice?” was the gentle question posed to me by Babaji as I sat with him at the Ashram just four short weeks ago.

My six days at the Ashram out in California were transformative.  I got to meet Babaji.  I got to slow my pace of life down, to simplify and un-complicate the schedule of my day. 

I got to spend time practicing yoga,
teaching yoga,
connecting to the people around me at the Ashram through seva (service),
meditating and practicing Puja at sunrise and sunset.
I had lots of time to just be.

I walked through the labyrinth and gardens.
I rested.
I reconnected with myself…

…as I disconnected from the busy-ness of my everyday life back in Kentucky.

And you know what? Turns out that all of that rest and simplification of my day allowed space.

Space for peace
And space for joy
To settle deeply into my heart.

Space to connect with my spirit. 
To shyly wave and smile at that part of me that transcends the do-to list, and all the other small things of my day to day.
The part of me that reminds me that I am whole.  I am complete.  I am perfection.

Back to that question…“Do you have a spiritual practice?”

My mind raced.  “Well, sure… I meditate, I do breath work, and I have my yoga practice…” I trailed off.  Babaji smiled a patient smile as I floundered to explain.

But the truth is I didn’t have a spiritual practice.  And I had no idea what it would take to start one.

How does one start a spiritual practice, exactly? And why is a spiritual practice important?

A few days after returning home from the Ashram and California, I started to understand the importance of a spiritual practice.

A few days after that deep peace and joy had settled into my heart in the sweet space of the Ashram, I found that I started to lose that peace back in Kentucky. 

I felt downright grumpy.

The busy-ness of my days was trying my patience.  I started to “sweat the small stuff” again.  What the hell happened? I asked myself.  How could I have so quickly lost my way again?

I felt like I had toppled off a mountaintop experience (my time at the Ashram), and found myself looking up trying to figure out just how I’d managed to lose that peace and joy so quickly.

And, in the midst of my internal questioning, I remembered Babji’s question to me… “Do you have a spiritual practice?”

Oh yes.  That’s right.  Hm.  Perhaps there might be something to that…

Reflecting back on my Ashram experience, I had this opportunity for simplicity. And this simplicity created the space for me to connect to spirit, to realize how whole and complete and perfect I already am, and to allow my natural state of peace and joy to bubble up and spill out of me.

Whoa.  So how could I possibly bring what I learned at the Ashram into my daily life here in Kentucky?

Babaji encourages anyone interested in starting a spiritual practice to commit to a very simple daily practice.  Here it is: three mind-full breaths.  Three mind-full breaths, you say…that’s it?

That’s simple, Sarah, you say to me.

Not so fast, I say to you.  I carried this intention home with me from California.  Three mind-full breaths, I thought…piece of cake.

The idea is that upon waking in the morning, to pull yourself into a seated position (in bed is fine), and to take three mind-full breaths.  That’s it.

In the first week I was home, I think I managed to remember this about 5 out of the 7 days.  One morning, I was driving to work before I realized I’d forgotten to take my three mind-full breaths. Whoops.  At the stoplight, I took my breaths.

After two weeks of this practice of three mind-full breaths, I was craving more. 

I remembered how when I was at the Ashram, upon finishing my dinner, I would find myself really looking forward to sitting down in the temple and getting quiet to meditate as the sun set and twilight rose.  Those sweet moments to connect to my spirit before settling down to sleep.

So I have established for myself a daily spiritual practice.

It doesn’t matter what I do (Although I put some though into it before beginning.  For me, it involves incense, a mudra, my prayer beads, and some time with my breath).  It doesn’t matter how long I do it (For me, it is averaging about 10-15 minutes) or when I do it (For me, it is first thing in the morning upon waking).

What matters is that I connect to spirit.  That what I do has meaning to me.  And that I make the space to do it every day.  No excuses.
And I am once again finding that peace and joy within me.  And I am remembering my wholeness, my completeness, and my perfection.

My spiritual practice becomes the thread that I can return to when I start to forget my peace or my joy.

So, I ask you the same question…Do you have a spiritual practice?

Thursday, October 04, 2012

our fave new yoga prop - the bolster!

Please enjoy this blog post from Laura Whitaker as she shares her love of the bolster. :)  Join Laura on Mondays at 4:30 or 6:00 or the new Wednesday morning Power Hour class from 6:30 - 7:30. She rotates this with fellow yogini, Meghan.
You've probably noticed the 12 plush new bolsters that have found a home with the other props in the back corner of the treehouse. Aren't they just lovely?! You should have seen us when Sharon announced to the teachers that she was ordering bolsters for the studio. We. Went. CRAZY. I don't think Sharon was prepared for how over-the-top excited we were, but we just couldn't wait to share them with you -- our yogi friends -- and to grab them during our own practices. We were so pumped.

I know that some teachers/classes have already begun offering poses with the bolsters, but you may still be looking for other ways to incorporate them into your practice. So in honor of Barefoot Works' new bolsters, here's a list of a few yummy bolster-friendly poses. Of course, you may want to try only one or two at a time. But in case you're interested in testing them out all in one practice, I've arranged them in an order reminiscent of a typical yoga class sequence - we'll start fairly relaxed, get a bit more active, wind down with a passive twist and end with everyone's favorite, savasana.
* Supta baddha konasana (reclined bound angle) variation
Place a block toward the top of your mat. Lay the bolster vertically on the mat so one end of the bolster is on top of the block. The setup almost resembles a ramp or something. Now sit on the mat with your low back up against the bottom of the bolster. Recline onto your comfy yoga ramp. Ahhh. Now bring in the bound angle by bending your knees, bringing the bottoms of your feet together, and breathing into your open hips and thighs. For extra support and to relieve pressure from your knees, place blankets or blocks under your knees and outer thighs. Check out Option 2 on this webpage for a photo:
* Supported downward-facing dog
Here comes a little more action. Lay the bolster longways on the mat. Come into downdog with your hands on either side of the bolster, and let your upper forehead relax onto the bolster. Releases some pressure that the weight of gravity creates. Great option if you feel a headache coming on but still want the inversion of a downdog.
* Supported upward-facing dog
We can't have downdog without updog, right? Lay the bolster horizontally toward the middle of the mat. From plank above the bolster, come into updog with the front of your hips supported on the bolster. Like your typical updog, this version will help open your chest, but the weight of gravity doesn't create quite the challenge it usually does. The bolster helps hold your hips and upper thighs above the earth.
* Prone twist
This is my absolute favorite restorative bolster pose. Place the bolster longways on the mat. Bend your knees to face the right side, outer left leg resting on the floor, knees together. Sit with your outside left hip gently touching the bottom of the bolster. Twist your torso to face the bolster. Recline down onto your belly, ribs, and chest. Turn your gaze to the left, resting your right cheek and ear toward the bolster. Bend your elbows and relax your arms down comfortably, perhaps hugging the sides of the bolster. Enjoy this for a few minutes, then switch sides. I still remember the first time I experienced this pose. I was in a class with Lisa Miller up in the treehouse. We used big stacks of blankets because it was pre-bolster era, but it was still so very magical. Ommmm.
* Savasana
This one's a bit more simple to explain. Come into savasana with the bolster under your knees. Close your eyes and enjoy a little release in your low back.

Isn't the bolster so fun and useful? There are plenty more where these came from so ask me or another teacher if you are looking for more ideas, or just grab a bolster and start playing around. I bet you'll eventually make your way into a pose that makes your body feel happy, supported, and super, super thankful.