Wednesday, November 28, 2012

breath, yoga, and faith

I'm really proud of this yogini, Julie Ransdell (check out her open heart above). It's not an easy thing to share your story and risk being vulnerable. Julie does so beautifully here while weaving in breath, yoga, and faith in such a heartfelt way. 

This time last year I was frustrated and beginning the process of going to doctor appointments, taking daily medications, getting blood drawn and tested- all to figure out why I wasn’t getting pregnant. 
This year, I have a little baby girl heart beating in my belly.

What a difference time makes- what a difference yoga makes.

Even though Thanksgiving is over and the facebook statuses of thankfuls are drawing to a close and we are moving full speed ahead into the Christmas season, I cannot help but continue to be thankful for the last two years of my life. They have been the most difficult, the most heartbreaking, the most trying, and the most defying. 

My husband and I have spent a lot of time driving to Cincinnati for doctor visits, x-rays, procedures to help us become pregnant. So much money spent, so much time invested, so much medicine in my body.

I experienced my first sense of real panic during this time. Growing up in a house of girls with a stay at home mom made me long for the very same thing my whole life. A house full of babies, cooking, cleaning, playing, laughing... I never in a million years thought it would be so difficult to attain. 

I thought getting pregnant was going to be easy. 
The thing is though, after I realized how not easy it could be- I still had faith. And I still had my yoga practice- the very constant part of my life that aided me through those difficult times as well as these happy times today.

When I felt the panic bubbling up inside of me or the sadness welling up in my eyes, I was able to full on experience those moments with deep breaths and a sense of trust. 

It wasn’t always pretty but it was always real because if there is one thing I have learned from yoga it is how to be authentic with myself. I’m not always good at it but I’m always aware of it. 

Those deep breaths? They are reminders to settle in and listen to my heart, my soul, my spirit- my authenticity. That is what the mat is for- to bring us to our reality and our truest breath.

Pregnancy has not been a walk in the park either. Lots of sickness, frustration, sleeplessness, and fear. My yoga practice has suffered severely and at first, it made me feel like a “bad” yogini. 

I quickly realized that these intentional breaths I take before bed and when I wake in the morning, these pauses to drop my shoulders and sit up a little taller are all a part of the yoga practice and all that is asked of me in this universe, by my God, and my community is that I do the best I can and try to be fully present.

With so much hurt and despair that surrounds us, it can be so easy to get caught up. To ask why? To think that things are not fair. While those are real and honest emotions to have, yoga shows us that taking time to sit and be mindful can provide insight beyond the questions. 

It shows us that being in the moment allows us to experience the hard times and good times with a full heart.

Now, at 21 weeks pregnant (naturally!!), I am fully present to the fact that life is fragile and life is magical and when I sit on my mat in Sukasana with my hands in prayer, life accepts all parts of my authentic self.

Monday, November 26, 2012

when things change

Have you ever read something you've written and rolled your own eyes at your self?

That just happened to me. I was working on the December newsletter and was reading some things I'd written years back. This is where the eye rolling happened:

"We focus the mind in the moment and choose gratitude and contentment."

Blah. Blah. Blah.
My oh my, how things change.

I'm not at all saying that this isn't an option. It most certainly is. These words will ring true and inspire some. At the same time, they will annoy the piss out of others. It depends on where the student is in his/her own life.

For a long time I thought it was my job as a yoga teacher to show up and shine in a sparkly way. I was to be perky and perfect, in my soft sweet Sharon way. I thought teaching and being yoga meant I'd only radiate joy. Anything less was unyogic of me. Therefore the words and cues I used in class spoke to feeling good. Radiating joy and any other positive spin I could put on it.

I might as well carried around a jar of cherries and popped them in the mouths of students as they grunted their way through chair pose.

Pop. Pop.
Breathe. Now smile.

I had been working on this before the shit storm erupted that is my life right now. (I really should come up with some way that better describes multiple traumatic losses, but for now a "shit storm" it will be.) Anyway, if I had taken my classes in the past I'd probably want to eat my very own sweet yoga face off.

Because the honest truth is that yoga asana is not easy for the most part. We are doing some really crazy, often times uncomfortable stuff. We're bumping up against our weaknesses, fears, tension, and rigidity in addition to our ease, joy, strengths and sweet spots.

Life is not only the light.
Life is not only the dark.
It's both, in fairly equal portions.
We only have to look to nature and see this beautifully mirrored back to us.

What I'm learning is that my job as a yoga teacher is to simply meet my students where they are.

Leeann Carey speaks and teaches to this brilliantly as far as the body and pose is concerned.  When we as teachers are not meeting our students "where they are" physically, we are more likely to prohibit progression and get in the way of growth. We are not to force a student to any position they are not ready for. We are risking injury.

And we're doing so in more ways than one.

It's not my job to make them feel any certain way (not even good). It's not my job to take them out any any experience they are having, whether it's joy or sorrow. It's not my job to force a feeling, even in a subtle round about way.

It's not my job to pop a cherry in your mouth to sweeten the experience of chair pose when really you want to physically, mentally, and/or emotionally grunt and growl your way through it.

I consider it my job to teach students to be aware of how they're feeling in the moment. Once the awareness is there, students can get curious about ways to shift the feeling OR simply sit, stand, breathe and be in and with it.

It's their choice. Not mine.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

where exactly is hOMe?

Greetings Friends, enjoy this pretty perfect post from Kate Dorvel as she reflects on what hOMe is and what it means to her.
On Wednesday morning as I sat on the airplane, with my seat belt fastened and my feet, quite literally, like ice-blocks, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmingly grateful.

Craig and I and my dear friend Millie (this girl had no clue what was in store for her!) were on our way back to Boston for the Thanksgiving. After an hour and twenty minutes of driving from Paris to Cincinnati, finding a parking spot, checking in and getting through airport security, we had taken off and were sailing eastward.

I hadn’t seen my mamma in 2 months, my dad, brother, Jax and everyone else in over three months. This doesn’t seem like a long time, but it truly feels like an eternity. I simply couldn’t wait to be with them again. I told my group of students last Tuesday evening “I’m heading home for the holiday!” and then I had to remind myself that our home is in Kentucky now!

But is my home only in Kentucky? Well, sure my home home-base is in Kentucky. That is where Craig and I have built our home, with our dogs Daisy Doodles and Kiboko. Call it our administrative offices, our abbey, our retreat, our safe zone, “the ranch” as Craig calls it or even “the mothership,” (we are kind of out there!) it doesn’t matter. This is the hub from where the rest of my life stems from.

But I also have a home in Boston. In fact, I have 27 years of home there, and some of the most important people in my life, my mama and daddy, Grayson, Jax, my grandfather and grandmother, Murphy and Matilda and a core set of friends-that-are-family that guided me through multiple stages of personal evolution. At the beach house, I have the same thing, a group of essential, eclectic individuals that have and will continue to influence me.

Home means many different things to each individual. It can be a place, but usually it is a place where people are, right? I am reminded of the Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zero’s lyric: “home is whenever I’m with you.” Even if it is a place that can sometimes be stressful with several strong personalities and long standing issues, it is still home. 

My parents recently moved out of our childhood home, and into a condo in the city of Boston. During one of mama’s temporary transition-related breakdowns where she was spiraling downward she said to me “this is an apartment! It’s not a home. I’m so sad you and Craig don’t have a home to come to at Thanksgiving.”  I let her wail (maybe I’m exaggerating??) a bit longer, because I’ve learned not to tell her “snap out of it” (not a good result, ever.). Once she was done, but still sniffling a bit, I told her that we were coming home to our family, not to a house! That helped a bit, but it did take some time to sink in.

So there it started for me, a simple but quite profound revelation. I will always have a home where Craig, Daisy and Kibo are. I will always have a home where my mother and father are. I will always have a home wherever Grayson and Jax are. I will always have a home where my grandmother and grandfather are. And if they are not physically with me they will always, always always be at home in my heart and in my spirit, and I in theirs. For that level of love, awareness and interconnectedness I am forever grateful.

Home starts with you, within your heart and your spirit. Once you begin to live that truth, those who make up your home will feel it too. As the old adage goes “home is where the heart is!”

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

keep breathing

Greetings Friends, I'm happy to share this delish guest post brought to you by our fave Canadian, Misty Pittman. Enjoy....
Right now, notice your breath.

Can you feel it? That shift that happens, simply by bringing your awareness to the breath.
I never fully understood what the big deal was. Why yoga teachers are always gushing over the benefits of our breath and reminding us to breathe. But recently I’ve been craving breathing time. Focusing on how it feels, where it travels to, the softening that it invites into my being.
It’s quite delish.
So what does this mean for your yoga practice and why should you make it the most important aspect of your practice? Because it elevates your time on the mat to something that is meaningful and mindful and extraordinary. By turning your attention to your inhales and exhales, the mind quiets and an opportunity for stillness opens up. It’s in that stillness where magic happens. It's in that stillness where we find beauty.

So we start our practice with this moment of stillness, centering our minds and spirits, letting go of the monkey mind. As we start to move, our breath serves us in another way. We flow with its rhythm, letting it guide us rather than letting our movements guide it. Perhaps we invite a little Ujjayi, to build heat and keep us connected. We pause in warrior, legs shaking, arms trembling, and our breath helps us find our edge. In a seated forward fold, the hamstrings are hanging on for dear life. Guide the inhale there and feel the muscles soften and release on the exhale.
These days I’ve been connecting a lot more to my breath off the mat. I start the day with it and my stiff body feels connected to something bigger. I watch the rain and feel the rise and fall of my belly. I step into a breeze on a sunny day and we flow as one. It tempers my temper and it swells with my joy.
I get it.
Try it. Get comfortable for a moment and let your hands settle somewhere on your body. Gently close your eyes. Notice how the breath feels as it passes through the nostrils. Notice if it is shaky or even. Is there evenness or unevenness? Don’t change a thing, just notice. Feel the delicate flow of your body with each inhale and exhale. Notice how, just by the simple act of paying attention, your breath slowly starts to deepen and even out. 
Can you feel the magic?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

the seed for gratitude

Please enjoy yet another entertaining and enlightening blog post by Miss Meredith Swim. May these few words plant a seed for gratitude this holiday season and onwards. And good sleep is something to be oh so grateful for, right? xo, sharon
As I slip off into dream world each night, I don’t count sheep. I count all the people I am grateful for in my life. From the baristas at 3rd St. Stuff to my ukulele playing biology professor, my nightly gratitude list ends my day in a full-hearted way. Then, Sleep arrives peacefully.
I’m extremely grateful that Sleep and I are on good terms because Sleep and I have been on rocky terrain during these college years.  Frankly,I just don’t care for sleeping.
I’d rather be awake dancing, downdogging, scheming, and girlfriend gabbing. I’m shamelessly a morning person. As I turn off the bedside lamp, I’m already looking forward to my sweet morning latte and the adventures waiting with the next sunrise.
In the past, I’ve sipped tea, practiced pigeon pose, and jotted down notes in a journal specifically purchased for the title, “I CAN’T SLEEP” to unwind my monkey mind, but regardless, my final waking minutes were typically restless and sleep only arrived when I was on the brink of tears and exhaustion.
Thankfully, wise words from my Mamma and Sharon saved me from my frustrated sleeping rut. A fan of Dr. Wayne Dyer, my mother shared Wayne’s belief that the most important part of the day is the few minutes before sleep. At first this news upset me because my five waking minutes didn’t accurately reflect the positive sides of my day and the pristine emotional state I wanted to be in as I fell into sleep.
Those five minutes consisted of ping ponging thoughts about whether pink pants are still appropriate to wear in November (yes?) to the recalled memory of the not very nice words I said to a friend in the fifth grade (Sasha, I’m sorry I said you looked my dog. At the time, my ten-year-old self meant it as a compliment).
Now realizing the possible significance of those last waking moments, my heart delighted to find this suggestion tucked into Sharon’s November newsletter on gratitude: “Upon waking up or going to bed spend two minutes reviewing what you are grateful for.” The seed for the gratitude list was planted and grows.
Now, instead of frustration and time traveling thoughts defining my bedtime, I shift through the snippets of my day to thank those who blessed it with their joy and presence. I’m thankful for Sharon blogs and emails, my Sun Saluting yoga students, toothpaste, and the thoughtful text from a faraway friend.
The faces of those I hold most dear surround me as I tiptoe onto the edge of dreams and I gratefully embrace Sleep like an old friend.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

learning how to bend without breaking

Greetings Dear Soul,

Tonight I'm thinking about creativity, unexpected relief, the difference between grief and mourning, and what it's like having your heart broken over and over each day.

Yea, it's realllly fun living in my head these days.

Luckily for you I'm sharing my world of creativity over the weekend. And the art of bending without breaking. Something I make no claims on being an authority on.

Weeks ago I signed up to participate in two days of virtual programs with Jennifer Lee, author of The Right Brain Business Plan (in which I'm a facilitator).

I went back and forth over whether or not I'd have the energy to participate. I sent Jenn an email before we began and explained the head (and heart) space I was in.

I made an agreement with myself that I'd participate with no expectations. I'd hold each day and the process very lightly. I'd take as many breaks as I needed. I'd quit, call it a day early if needed.

This my Friend is not how I would have approached this in the past. I would have stuck to the schedule because that's what "good" students do. I would have forced my focus (and been upset with myself if it was less than I expected). I would NOT have quit early. Not. An. Option.

Damn straight, I'd have been miserable first.
Silly, I know.

Due to recent circumstances, I had no other choice. I had to give myself freedom. Wiggle room.

The truth is, I don't have the energy to force anything these days.

Something shifted for me this weekend and I felt more energy and excitement around work than I have in a long time. This was totally unplanned and unexpected.

I'm not sure what it was....
The awesome people I met and interacted with all over the world.
Jenn's fantastic facilitating.
My excitement about work.
The space I allowed myself.
The permission to bail out early.

The truth is since the (still)birth of baby Nico I've had to make a conscious effort NOT to use planning for the future as an escape mechanism, a way to gloss of my loss. This is my "blindspot", my go to pattern, my particular way of escaping pain and any other unwelcome emotion.

"Nothing to see over here. I'm not sad. I've got things to plan and places to go."

What I noticed this weekend was that I wasn't using my creativity, my planning to stuff my feelings and emotions. I was not over riding, skipping over sadness. My work upstairs in my sweet sacred (and messy!) space felt authentic and in the moment.

I'm oh so grateful for that time and now I'm wondering....
How might my energy, aliveness, and the process in general shift by holding the process lightly.
What if I give myself permission to try then bail out as needed?

Most of all, how can I continue to bend without breaking?

Friday, November 09, 2012

being in the moment

"Ten thousand flowers in spring,
the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer,
snow in winter.
If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things,
this is the best season of your life." Wu Men

This week for my classes I focused on mindfulness, on the present moment. We used the senses as tools in asana (postures) to be in the Now.

But you can do it anywhere and anytime. Shall we play right now?

Look around and observe what you see. I'm sitting at Starbucks. I see the table scattered with my belongings....mug, cell phone, keys, notebook, pen, book. I see a blue sky. And traffic moving up and down Nicholasville Rd.

What do you hear? I hear jazz music, the sound of a cash register, people chatting, mugs clunking, the sound of computer keys as I type these words.

What do you smell? I smell coffee. Delicious coffee.

Any tastes lingering in your mouth? More delicious coffee.

What do you feel? I feel my seat and legs touching a wood chair. One foots rests on the floor. I notice my shoulders feel tight. My breathing feels restricted around my chest.

Our tendency will be to create stories about our observations.

Why do my shoulders feel tight?
How can I make it go away?
I should spend more time in yoga on my shoulders.
I wonder where those people are going.
I need to go to the grocery story.
But I don't feel like it.
Gosh, I hate it when I don't feel motivated.
Maybe I should do more yoga.
My teacher says yoga makes everything better.
Oh wait, I'm supposed to be in the moment.
I'm terrible at this.

So please, I invite you to pick a sense, any sense and come to it throughout your day.

There is value in asking important questions and reflecting.
There is a time to plan and make a to-do list.
There is a time to learn from the past and plants seeds for the future.
There is a time to receive the beauty, the boredom,the sweetness, the sorrow we are feeling in the moment.
There is a time just to Be.

Maybe that moment is now.