What do you want?

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What do you want? Have you ever been asked that question? And, sat there thinking for like hours about what is you really want.

The answer is there. It is not what anyone else wants for you. It is not what your parents, friends, ancestors, and or advisors want for you. It is what YOU want.

It is a question that goes straight to your gut and goes straight to your jugular (as my writing teacher used to say).

We all are conditioned into an answer of what others may have projected onto us starting at birth, and usually this is not what we want. I can see how my wants for Indira may not at all be what she wants in the future.

When I am asked this question I am always stunned, and sometimes have no idea what to say. Why? Because, most of us don’t get asked this question very often. So, when I was asked recently I paused. I had to get clear and connected to hear exactly what it is that I want. Sometimes, it’s unattainable in the moment. Like right now, I want a beach vacation with a book, my journal, palm trees, and crystal clear waters a la Costa Rica.

What do you want? Listen to that deep, quiet voice that rises out of the depths of your core-self. It has something to say.

The Passing of a Legend

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“…We have only finite means to know the infinite. When the finite merges in the infinite, everything becomes infinite. Consider the sky. The sky is finite as well as infinite. None can touch it, yet we are in contact with it at every moment of our lives. Similarly, you and I have to use finite means–body, mind, intelligence and consciousness–to reach the infinite seat of the soul which is the mother of all these things.” BKS Iyengar from The Tree of Yoga

This post is in dedication to BKS Iyengar who has recently passed. His passing has deeply touched me. Iyengar yoga has been a healing practice for me. Yoga brought me and my beloved together, and it is a very much a part of our lives. Iyengar yoga is the very practice that has taught me how to be in my body, and be aware of every cell of my body. We may think and desire to get out of our body to evolve or transcend. In my experience, evolution is about being in our body and in every cell of our being becoming fully grounded, present, and connected.

Guruji leaves behind

teachings that grow like roots through

our extended limbs

our expanded minds

wisdom continuing on

in the roots of practice

ever growing

ever illuminated

ever present in experience.

My deepest gratitude, blessings, and a deep bow to Guruji BKS Iyengar. Thank you for your teachings and wisdom that carries through.

 

I share my practice with you that I did in celebration of Guruji Iyengar.

Before practicing this sequence please note the following as it is a more advanced sequence. Please only practice inversions if you have a regular inversions practice, and do not attempt if you have a neck or back injury. Please refrain from practicing back bends or inversions if you are on your moon cycle. Please adjust all asanas for your body, and use supports where needed i.e chair, bolster, straps, blocks. Also, check in with your regular teacher for guidance on any postures discussed here. Thank you and blessings!

1. Adho Mukha Virasana (downward facing hero pose)

2. Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog)

3. Uttanasana (forward fold)

4. Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana (standing split)

5. Ardha Badha Padmottanasana (standing half lotus)

6. Utthita Hasta Padangustasana (extended hand to big toe pose)

7. Uttanasana

8. Parsvottanasana (intense side stretch)

9. Prasarita Padottanasana (wide angle standing forward bend)

10. Sirsasana (5-minutes)

11. Adho Mukha Virasana to Adho Mukha Svanasana with heels at the wall

12. Ustrasana 3x’s (camel pose)

13.Urdhva Danurasana 3x’s (wheel)

14. Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana (with or without props ; two legged inverted staff pose)

15. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (bridge pose with props)

16. Supta padangustasana series (reclined hand to big toe pose)

17. Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana II (upward facing intense west stretch) then bring your knees into your chest

18. Rest as you wish.

 

 

List Making 3:39am Style

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#1 on my list-be the best mama to Indira I can be…#5 I want to see my baby girl thrive, live a happy, meaningful life…

We make lists, lots of them, on a daily basis. I tend to make my lists from 3:39am to about 4:30am, while my sweet little Indira talks, plays, rolls around, and parties while we try to sleep. Key word “try” because sleep  has been added to my list. I plot a variety of ways that I am going to get more sleep. The best one to date a hotel room to myself for 24 hours where I will sleep for 12 hours, and watch all of the bad TV sitcoms I don’t even know exist.

Our lists come in three varieties–I want to, I need to, To finish. I actually decided to write out my three lists, and they are growing. I don’t know if I will ever finish everything on my “I want to list” like study jyotish or travel all over with an unknown next stop. I am armed though with evolving, growing, and inspiring lists that just may manifest into reality.

Manifest those lists! It is the year of the wood horse, which makes me think we will all be empowered to conquer our dream lists, and grow.

Selling Yoga

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I have something to say about the “yoga world.” I am tired of how yoga “looks.” Yoga in this western world has become a version I don’t like. It’s become a big business, apparently anything can become yoga even pole dancing, new versions are added daily, and it’s become extremely ego-driven down to expensive yoga-gear. Spiritual materialism is the new IT factor, and yoga has become it’s biggest commodity.

Yoga means union (I am simplifying here.), and in the west we seem to take the very ancient, authentic teachings and turn them into something that can become bought and sold to the masses. Yoga has officially become one with the west. And, I look back to the days when it was something that I practiced in the basement of a church with a teacher who had been teaching for twenty plus years, lived and studied the teachings, and didn’t promote herself using photos of herself in extreme-advanced asana because she didn’t have to. Her authenticity, knowledge, and essence kept people coming consistently to study with her. (Please note this is my experience of what I observed of my teacher.)

Here is what this brings up for me, the question of authenticity. In this ever-evolving western version of yoga and expanding wellness industry, the way we market and advertise ourselves as yoga teachers and wellness entrepreneurs matters. It matters because it may be our only source of income.  The truth is I don’t teach yoga to make money, because I don’t make money doing it, and it’s not my source of primary income. I teach yoga because I love to teach and to share the teachings with others. If yoga or another wellness business is your sole source of income, a lot of time must be spent on how you are going to get more clients, students, etc. in the door or to like your Facebook page. It’s just the way it is in this western paradigm. The challenge is promoting yourself and a spiritual practice. It’s conflicting, confusing, and honestly how do you even really sell a spiritual practice. It’s a conflict of interest in my opinion. I have a very difficult time “selling” or “marketing” myself, because I feel like it has be very thought out and mindful as well as authentic. I want to show up fully as I am in all that I do. You want to express who you are, have integrity, be authentic, and yet you have to sell an image that people want to buy. In the ego-based, image driven world how you “package” yourself matters.

Do you walk the talk? Do you really live the life you are selling? Are you completely committed to the practice you preach? Do you live your life with complete integrity? Are you comfortable with yourself and how you are marketing yourself?

One day we won’t look the way do right now, our bodies change, our image changes daily, it’s completely impermanent, yet the teachings, the way we live our lives, and how we show up in our most authentic skin—this lasts not our perfect pose in name-brand lycra.

Strip down. Be Naked.

P.S. It is not my intention to upset anyone. I just had to say this.

Musings on Sangha

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Every Sunday, my family would put on their “church clothes,” rush around the house to get ready for church, and somehow make it in time to Sunday mass. We didn’t have a choice. The choice was church. We were Roman Catholic. My father was a former Benedictine monk, and my aunt was a Benedictine sister. And, come to find out St. Frances Cabrini is a distant relative. I think somewhere in the family tree there are a few priests too. Church was in my lineage. It was an obligation. I complied at a young age, and then fought the very fact that I had to go to church on Sunday. If I was out late the night before and not feeling so pleasant in the morning, my father would drag me out of bed to go to church. I began to reject my families religion, which led to many arguments and debates.

I didn’t care for organized religion, and didn’t like being forced to believe in a religion that somehow was making me feel bad about myself. I wondered where was the spirit, why would “God” make you earn happiness or heaven, why would you be punished for simply being human, and why did everyone have to make you  feel so guilty. (On a side note, I still pray daily to the Mother Mary. She embodies the divine goddess after all.)  However, I later found that Buddhism gave me what I felt was missing from the religion I grew up with. Buddhism provided practical teachings for how to live life in harmony with myself and others, and that heaven/light was right here not in some lofty land up above. This I could connect to.

At first, it took me awhile to gravitate to the notion of sangha. Admittedly, I still don’t get high on having to participate in a group meditation. I don’t go to regular meditation, and haven’t found a group that I connect to here. The sangha you do decide to sit with is a little like choosing a family. The energy has to be like synapses connecting instantaneously. I have found this to be true for me.

Well, I’ve abandoned the anti-sangha ship. Sangha is important. I didn’t know just how, until I realized how much community is in my life.  It’s where I find support, love, and sustenance. Sangha is the community we create with our friends, family, yoga class, and in our own homes. It is not limited to four-walls. Sangha is the collective energy we create with love.

I feel that we are deeply missing community in our society and everyday lives. Community brings love, support, guidance, and a deeper connection to ourselves,  and that in turn creates peace in our communities. There is so much violence happening in our world, because so many feel disconnected from a community and a place that they can go home to.

May we all cultivate peace and love.

 

Reflections on Being a New Mom

Image 2Our Indira Marie is now 2 weeks and 1 day old. I have forgotten almost all of the details of the birth, luckily though my beloved has remembered for me and he is much better at telling the story. Giving birth was probably one of the most intense and beautiful experiences in my life. I have never felt so connected to the divine and/or felt so embodied. It is like communing with grace itself. In the moments when I wanted to give up, because I was exhausted all I could hear was my breath, mantras playing, and a voice inside saying find your bliss. Then, after 5-hours of labor, she arrived.

As I have stepped into this role, I now have a deeper understanding of my own mother–her fears, her devotion, her complete unconditional love, her nurturing, her care, her selflessness, and the role she has played in my life. I didn’t worry before. Now, I worry. Worry is new, and learning to let go has taken on a new meaning, as it is a practice I thought I mastered. As a mother letting go is apparently a practice learned over time (or maybe not at all), because I’m completely attached and devoted.

Life has new purpose. It is no longer about me, and the sacrifice and responsibility I feel is paramount. You become intimately connected to the needs of your child, and suddenly your own personal needs take on a different meaning. Daily needs like sleep, showering, meditation, yoga practice, eating all have new meaning and create new practice opportunities. My friend said I wouldn’t sleep again. I am believing this to be true. I don’t really sleep anymore. If she makes a noise, I’m awake. And, for meditation she comes with me to the cushion.

Motherhood feels like the greatest gift anyone has ever blessed me with. I know no greater joy and love. I feel like my heart is bursting open daily. I feel a gentleness and quiet understanding of grace, light, and the divine that embraces all of us.

May all mothers be blessed. May all beings know love in their hearts.

 

Waiting is Transformative

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Waiting is transformative. As we wait, we transform in each moment. It is complete divine surrender…like a long savasana. I thought does it matter what we are waiting for or what we are giving birth to in the next moment? No. It doesn’t matter what you are about to give birth to–a new book, a project, a business, a child, a new home, a new you. The process of waiting is the same. You have done the work. You have planned. You have acted. You have created. You have changed. You have done all you can. Now, you wait for the arrival, the transformation, and the birth of what you have created. You may not know what it will look like. You do not know how your everyday will completely change.

Waiting is like that. You want to see and predict the outcome, well, because the unknown can be scary. Yet, you are ready to embrace it all. Yet, you still must wait until every detail is in alignment, which is completely out of our control.

Waiting transforms us, because we give ourselves the time and space to change, even if it gets challenging. Waiting allows us to transform our inner-matrix, so that we can then unleash our brand new_________.

What changes in you while you wait? What do you learn about you? Was it worth it? I hope so!

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*Story of Omen Kitty. On the day that I found out I was pregnant this cat appeared in our driveway. It was rolling around in the dirt, and wouldn’t leave. (I wanted to keep it, but it was not an option.) I was waiting for the pregnancy test to let me know if we were pregnant or not. We were. Then, after I had to do some testing for my pregnancy, and was worried about whether or not my baby was okay or not, Omen Kitty appeared again. Omen Kitty wouldn’t leave the second time. Now, this cat is very friendly, and doesn’t seem to be lost or feral. I have no idea whom it belongs to. Each time Omen Kitty has appeared everything has come into alignment. Omen Kitty seems to be a messenger of sort. Well, Omen Kitty decided to appear today. I opened the window to our room and there it was looking at me. It waited by the door. And, again it would not leave for an hour or more. We made friends again, and I thought of ways I might be able to keep Omen Kitty, but then it went on its way.

Teaching Yoga Pregnant

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Pregnancy teaches you lessons that only another woman that has been pregnant will understand, like for one “you” are out of control of your body. You are completely in touch with every transformative moment your body experiences. You surrender to the process of your body rapidly changing.  You learn patience and it’s humbling on a daily basis. I was talking today with one of my favorite vendors at the farmer’s market from Khalsa Greenhouse. He has the most amazing fenugreek sprouts, which add the right amount of spice to your salads, and I learned that fenugreek helps boost breast milk. He told me that Yoga Bhajan says pregnancy is about learning patience. I would also add being completely in your body’s wisdom.

Teaching yoga while pregnant has been a fascinating journey of learning limitations, and I have had to learn how to teach in a completely different way. No longer can I demonstrate and or practice certain asanas, especially forward bends and back bends. My mind trips over itself because I can still feel the sensation of paschimottanasana or ustrasana in my body, and my mind thinks that maybe it’s possible, and it is far from possible right now. You learn quickly that even though your body is in a complete act of creation, which is incredible, the body has its limits. As a teacher, I can see how every single human body has it’s own unique set of limitations, and yet, we strive to move through these limitations, sometimes hurting ourselves. I’ve learned through pregnancy to surrender and honor the process. Thus the teaching changes to incorporate less demonstrating and more communication through verbal cues, and working with another student to demonstrate the asana.

However, the thing about being approximately 8-months pregnant is that somehow your memory and mental capacity to remember such things like your students names, or that an elbow is clearly not a knee is embarrassing. The mind goes, “Umm, I can’t remember what that is called,” and proceeds to tiresomely struggle for the right word to that part that helps the leg move.  I have said while teaching, “Come into a 90-degree angle in the right leg by aligning your elbow over your knee,” oops. Yes, on several occasions, I have blanked and forgotten body parts, asana names, sanskrit, and even the very simple naming of everyday objects, which are now named “things or that thing.”  I laugh at myself, and hope that my students know what I am talking about or well they just tell me don’t you mean the…

Teaching yoga while pregnant has also been a gift in learning how to let go of the “I am a yoga teacher hear me roar and look at me persona” that has the propensity to slyly creep in. I have an ever growing baby and belly. I am tired most days. I have random body aches, I can’t describe. My body doesn’t look like it used to, and I’m not feeling so limber. I have third-trimester symptoms like incredible indigestion, and sleepless nights. Yet, I am blissed out on pregnancy communing fully on the inside with this growing being. So, there is no room for personas here, only showing up as I am–growing belly and all.

Sticky-Love-Note Practice

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“You can search the whole universe and not find a single being more worthy of love than yourself. Since each and every person is so precious to themselves, let the self-respecting harm no other being.” Buddha

In my own self-practice when I have not felt so great about myself and have gone to beating myself,  I have used what I am calling my sticky-love-note exercise. This is where I post sticky notes to my mirror with little love notes to myself. Things like ‘I am strong,’ ‘I can…’ ‘I am love,’ or ‘I am grounded.’ It’s a powerful exercise, and it takes me completely out of my head-story and into love. You may find that after you do this a couple of times that you become sticky-love-note obsessed, and keenly aware of all of the ways that you are precious. This week buy some sticky notes, lots of them, and celebrate YOU!

Make a list of all the ways you shine. Create a special night just for YOU. Treat yourself with extra special care. Show yourself how precious you are. Take a break from all of the ways you don’t love and accept yourself. Let this practice become your everyday!

In class today we focused on this very theme, and this is the very yummy asana sequence we practiced. It’s about being in your body, and taking the time with your very divine self.

1. Meditation. Bring your awareness to whole your body. Inhale love to your whole body. Exhale. Sit for 10-minutes in this way.

2. Adho Mukha Svanasana (hold for 2 minutes)- use hands on blocks and rest head (3-rd eye region) on bolster, or block with blankets to the right height for your body.

3. Uttanasana (hold for 1 minute)-rest top of head on blocks to the appropriate height so that the legs will extend straight.

4. Utthita Trikonasana

5. Prasarita Padottanasana

6. Parsvattonasana

7. Parighasana

8. Virasana with eyes closed

*Hold all forward folding asanas for approximately 1-2 minutes.

9. Dandasana to Gomukhasana with forward fold

10. Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana

11. Triang Mukhaikapada Paschimottanasana

12. Upavista Konasana in forward fold

Hold all supine asanas for approximately 5-7 minutes.

13. Setu Bandha over a bolster-strap thighs, place block under feet

14. Supta Badha Konasana

15. Extended Svanasana

Autumn Love

When I was a little girl, maybe 3, my aunt asked me who I loved hoping that I’d say, “I love you, Aunt Carol.” Well, instead of saying that I said, “I love trees.” This story has been retold several times. Truthfully, the forest to me was always a magical place full of possibilities and secrets. It still is. Going into the quiet of the woods is like being in the heart of a temple, where all goes silent and you listen to the pulse. When, I came across this magnificent-mother tree in the middle of my hike, I remembered this story and childhood memories of the fall.

Autumn casts a spell of childhood memories, storytelling, and magic, which quenches our soul’s thirst for the comforts that come with this season. Preparing for the colder months ahead requires nourishing ourselves. We all can find simple ways, even when we are busy, to prepare our whole being.

One way I nourish myself is with food. The fall gives us an array of comforting foods to choose from. I like to add squashes, chillies (to warm the gut and prevent colds), ginger, turmeric, spice, soups/stews, and healthy fats (like Wild Caught Salmon) to my diet at this time of year. I also add more blood-building foods like beets, deep leafy greens, and organic free-range meats to my diet. I love to bake and if I do I make apple crisp, baked fruit desserts, and desserts spiced with cinnamon, cardamon, and ginger, and I avoid white/brown sugar and use maple syrup.

This is also the time I like to spend outdoors. Here in New Mexico, it is cool enough and still sunny to spend time hiking and just being outside. Breathing in the air is healing, and feels like a blessing.

Also, the introvert in me comes out to play during this time of year. I like settle and root in more spending more time in meditation, writing, and simply quieting down. My yoga practice calms down and includes more inversions, holding of asanas, and restoration. This truly is one of my favorite seasons, simply for the food, coziness, and walk inwards.

May you be blessed with nourishment in a way that soothes you this Autumn!

One of my favorite recipes to make in the fall is Butternut Squash Soup. Here’s my recipe. Enjoy!

Butternut Squash Soup
Ingredients:
2 large butternut squashes
1 onion diced
2 cloves garlic diced
3 carrots diced
3 celery stalks diced
1/2 bunch parsley roughly chopped
1/2 bunch sage roughly chopped
Vegetable or Chicken Broth (Organic preferred)
Ghee (clarified butter)
Olive Oil
Sea Salt & Pepper & Cayenne Powder to taste
1 TSP-1 TBS Ground Cumin to taste
1-2 TBS Maple Syrup

1. Peel and cube the butternut squash making sure to remove the seeds, and all of the skin. A vegetable peeler works well or a sharp knife to peel the squash.
2. Heat in a large soup pot ghee and olive oil. You can use 1 tablespoon of ghee and a few teaspoon of olive oil.
3. Add the diced carrots, celery, onion, garlic, and saute in the oil until the onions are clear. Now, is a good time to add some sea salt.
4. Then, add the butternut squash.
5. Next, add enough water and broth to cover all of the vegetables. You want to make sure there is enough liquid to cook the vegetables.
6. Add, salt, pepper, and a 1/2 TSP cumin, a portion of the parsley, and sage.
7. Cover the pot and let the vegetables soften. The vegetables are finished when they are tender and a fork will go through the squash.
8. Once, the vegetables are finished add more salt, pepper, ghee, and olive oil.
9. Let the soup cool.
10. Once the soup is cool, using an immersion blender if you have one or a food processor, puree the soup.
11. Then, mix in another tablespoon of ghee, maple syrup, and remainder of the parsley and sage.
You can serve with toasted pecans, pumpkin seeds, or chevre.