Discovering Self in Silence and Solitude

Last weekend, despite the stormy weather, I was fortunate to be able to go for a yoga retreat with Tara Stiles at the Standard Spa in Miami. After arriving late on Friday night, the next morning I decided to go out for a walk by the waterfront. The resort was still quiet and asleep then, and the only sound I could hear came from the waves and the morning breeze. Standing before the vast expanse of water with no other human being in sight, I felt a deep, calming silence, and a peaceful solitude.

If we live in a busy place or have a hectic schedule, silence and solitude can easily become luxuries that we have to purposely seek to obtain. Most of us, myself included, have the tendency to evade solitude and fill silence with noise. When we are alone in silence, we are most likely faced with our true selves. Negative thoughts or anxieties about ourselves would usually surface during this time, when we are away from distractions. It is often much easier to escape these thoughts by leaving our solitude in exchange for others’ company, or by drowning our silence in distracting sounds. When we choose to dwell quietly in our solitude, however, we may find that it is not as frightening as we may expect, and we may even find some comfort in it.. They could take sometime to get used to, but silence and solitude give us the opportunity to get to know ourselves, to discover our strengths as well as our weaknesses, and to accept purselves for who we really are.

Yoga and meditation are probably among the best ways I know to integrate silence and solitude into our daily life. They help us to remain within ourselves, free from distracting thoughts (at least most of the time). The movements in yoga require us to focus so that we barely have any other choice but to pay attention to ourselves at the present moment. During the retreat, the classes were stretched to two hours long, and Tara - with her usual eloquence in delivering the instructions - made it easy for us to remain centered, even as we were going through the most challenging poses. By practicing tuning into ourselves, we learn to create space for silence and solitude without having to isolate ourselves in a secluded place.

Being calm and centered is of course a good thing, but aside from this, the magical effect from being centered is the ability to become more present to others. The more we feel fulfilled and at peace with ourselves, the easier it becomes for us to be there for those who need us. It is not selfish for us to spend time in solitude, for it encourages us to shift from asking others “what can you do for me?” to asking the question “how can I help?” As Henri Nouwen writes in his book The Way of the Heart: “Silence is primarily a quality of the heart that leads to ever-growing charity.”

Monika found her passion for yoga at Strala, a place she considers as yoga home immediately after her first class. When not practicing at Strala, she invests herself in discovering simple and easy ways to live a healthier lifestyle. To combine her interests in writing and healthy living, Monika contributes regularly to the Strala blog, through which she hopes to share her experience and help others in their journey to wellness.

Twitter: @224monika

The Culture of Strala

Hey Kids,

Just felt like reaching out and connecting with all the readers here on our growing-like-a-weed Strala blog. Quite an amazing culture has developed around not only the studio in NYC, but around the globe and it’s so exciting to see.  This blog has become so special and taken on a life of its own so quickly, but I should get used to that time warp happening.  When things are in the flow, time adjusts, and things develop very fast.  I’ve experienced this “being in the flow” in the last several years of having the pleasure and amazing opportunities and outlets to share how I know people can change their lives through an easy going approach to yoga and meditation, which spirals into a riduculously happy and healthy lifestyle that is contagious to anyone and everyone you’ll ever be in contact with.  Happiness has the ability, power, and potential to spread in the same capacity as hurtful feelings, or harmful viruses.  With that in mind, spreading happiness is much more interesting and downright effective for lasting positive change not only in us individually but exponentailly into the people, the planet, and the world.

As science can show us that an object changes as we change the way we perceive it, when we begin to change the way we perceive ourselves for the better, our lives expand accordingly.

This time for me is nothing short of a whirlwind.  The NYC studio is growing like a wild weed.  Many leaders have stepped in and fulfilled inspiring roles and are so lovely encouraging others to step into their full potential.  The people who come for yoga regularly are getting so crazy strong, open, calm, and capable, we have to keep “upping” the sequencing to meet the challenge.  We’re in the process of expansion and growth to other cities and in sports clubs, which will be super exciting to bring Strala to the gym scene on a global level.  The clothing line I’ve been working on with Reebok, more like a yoga baby, is about ready to be born, and we’re so proud and excited to share with the world.  My schedule has shifted from the occasional work-to-shoot-a-yoga-project-trip once a month or so, to becoming more like a ping-pong-happiness-ball on a mission to help as many people as possible connect inward, trust themselves, and get in the flow!

Last weekend we were lucky to be at the Standard in Miami doing yoga, signing books, and having a LOT of pool time with such awesome people.  This week I just finished shooting the Reebok campaign for our yoga line. Next week I’m off to Illinois to shoot a documentary of my farm town family doing yoga for LiveStrongWoman.  And then I head to LA for a couple TV projects that are secret until they air.  From there I get to hang at Strala NYC for a few days until I’m off to the Netherlands for the Dutch translation Tour.  Then back for a couple days, off to Reebok headquarters for an event, back to LA for Forbes conference, and then off to London for the UK and German release of This is Yoga, my new DVD series.  And then we’ll take Nov and Dec from there until we begin 2014.  Deep breaths.  Careful what you wish for everyone, it will probably come true.

My concentration is also on finding the ease, not just reminding others to do so.  If I can’t be easy, whether the movement is challening or simple, whether the day is frantic, or restuful, then what good am I to anyone else?  Not much!  My main job is to always practice and live how I guide and instruct others to live, because I believe in the Strala Culture, I see how these ideas help so many, and I want in on the action too!

So tell me, how do you find the ease?  How do you see the culture of Strala and how do you fit in?

We’re expanding the blog soon too to a new look so we all can stay more connected and continue to be inspired by each other.

Thanks for sharing your inspirations with me.  Much appreciated and lots of love!

xo

Tara

p.s. make sure to wear sunscreen! Or just hang out under a bunch of towels while reading your favorite Deepak Chopra book :)

This past weekend, I was asked to sub a class. I felt all warm and tingly when I found a dear friend of mine had recommended me. I didn’t, however, feel so warm and tingly when, within the first 10 minutes of class, one of the students tied up her sneakers, packed up her things and left.
It’s hard, at least at the start, to not take this kind of thing personally. As a yoga guide, you want people to feel welcome, safe, calm and ooey gooey in your class. You certainly don’t want to see someone pack it in before they’ve even found their breath. Unfortunately, mid-flow, you can’t chase (I use the word chase lightly as that would be pretty scary in itself to be chased in a yoga class…) after the person to ask them what is wrong.  As a guest this past weekend, I made sure to introduce myself and learn everyone’s names. I laughed, smiled – I was me J I tried to play it cool as she neared the exit and longed for some sort of eye contact or recognition that it was not, in fact, me. Cue thematic/dramatic music.
The reality is people will walk out of your class.  No matter how welcoming you are or how great you feel about the sequencing or playlist – this stuff happens. Nowadays, when we can disregard someone by not answering a text or e-mail or denying a ‘friend’ request, it seems a bit starker when someone literally gets up and walks out on you – in a yoga class nonetheless! (aren’t we all one with the world?) – and we can’t really do anything about it. We’ve all heard the saying “It’s not what happens to you but how you deal with a situation that speaks volumes of who you are as a person”. Well, the same can be said for this sort of thing. It’s how we deal with it as guides – and people who do the yoga – that matters.
Just as there are a million and one reasons while people come to the mat each day, there are just as many as to why someone may leave. Rather than getting caught up in the mind stuff, it’s important to understand that people are taking time out of their day to come to class. This could be a day filled with work and family stress, deadlines, obligations of all kinds, an upset stomach! Perhaps they are new to yoga and aren’t used to practicing with different guides. Maybe they had a bad omelet and need to book it. Whatever the reason may be, we, as guides and people yoga-ing, are responsible for maintaining a gentle and comforting atmosphere – not take away from the class or draw attention to the person leaving (even if it’s you. See below). In some ways, you have to respect that – given it is a bathroom emergency - the person leaving knows what they like and don’t like. They are listening to their bodies rather than sticking with something that makes them feel uncomfortable or unpleasant - and isn’t that what yoga is, making sure we feel good?As someone else taking the class, it may be hard to ignore someone getting up and leaving but – just like those pesky thoughts that have nothing to do with your practice – we can observe and then let them go like a passing cloud.  The important thing is to stay nice and easy and come back to where you are.
If you are taking class and need to leave, try and do so as mindfully as possible. If you know beforehand that you have to sneak out before final rest, position yourself near the exit as to cause as little disruption as possible. You can also give the guide a heads up…so they don’t think it’s their fault J Try, too, to pick a good time. Whether it’s a restroom break and you plan on returning – or not – try and find a time where people are moving as opposed to resting or relaxing.
As much as I would have loved for this person to stay in class, I understand that maybe my approach or style of leading isn’t her cup of tea and that is a-o-k – or maybe there was something else entirely different going on. By staying true to myself and maintaining my enthusiasm and passion for the practice, I became a better guide in that moment of discomfort. Some things are not always within our control but we can determine what our reaction will be. We may wobble out of our tree or topple over playing in crow but we laugh, smile and get those wings flying again!
As a side note, as I was writing this, I got a call from the same place asking me to sub next weekend :)
Happy Yoga-ing!
Rae


Rachel has been practicing yoga since her junior year of high school. Beginning with an unused mat and unwatched DVDs around her house, she created a home practice that she always comes back to when her schedule doesn’t allow for studio time. Rachel loves nothing more than sharing her love of yoga with friends through conversation or taking class together. Eager to take this enthusiasm one step further, Rachel completed her first 200-hour training this past year. Having kicked off 2012 with Strala’s New Year’s Eve Yoga, Rachel was instantly drawn to the welcoming, fun and feel-good vibes of the studio making the choice to attend the Intensive for Teachers an easy one. When she isn’t on the mat, Rachel can be found listening to and playing music, concert-going, reading, trying new, yummy recipes and talking about anything elephant-related. It doesn’t matter if you can’t touch your toes – Rachel believes (and knows!) yoga is about not where you are going but where you are now and making way for yourself to explore your beautiful, current state of being.
Twitter @rchibs
Facebook is Rae Chibs
Blog elephantandtree.wordpress.com.

This past weekend, I was asked to sub a class. I felt all warm and tingly when I found a dear friend of mine had recommended me. I didn’t, however, feel so warm and tingly when, within the first 10 minutes of class, one of the students tied up her sneakers, packed up her things and left.

It’s hard, at least at the start, to not take this kind of thing personally. As a yoga guide, you want people to feel welcome, safe, calm and ooey gooey in your class. You certainly don’t want to see someone pack it in before they’ve even found their breath. Unfortunately, mid-flow, you can’t chase (I use the word chase lightly as that would be pretty scary in itself to be chased in a yoga class…) after the person to ask them what is wrong.  As a guest this past weekend, I made sure to introduce myself and learn everyone’s names. I laughed, smiled – I was me J I tried to play it cool as she neared the exit and longed for some sort of eye contact or recognition that it was not, in fact, me. Cue thematic/dramatic music.

The reality is people will walk out of your class.  No matter how welcoming you are or how great you feel about the sequencing or playlist – this stuff happens. Nowadays, when we can disregard someone by not answering a text or e-mail or denying a ‘friend’ request, it seems a bit starker when someone literally gets up and walks out on you – in a yoga class nonetheless! (aren’t we all one with the world?) – and we can’t really do anything about it. We’ve all heard the saying “It’s not what happens to you but how you deal with a situation that speaks volumes of who you are as a person”. Well, the same can be said for this sort of thing. It’s how we deal with it as guides – and people who do the yoga – that matters.

Just as there are a million and one reasons while people come to the mat each day, there are just as many as to why someone may leave. Rather than getting caught up in the mind stuff, it’s important to understand that people are taking time out of their day to come to class. This could be a day filled with work and family stress, deadlines, obligations of all kinds, an upset stomach! Perhaps they are new to yoga and aren’t used to practicing with different guides. Maybe they had a bad omelet and need to book it. Whatever the reason may be, we, as guides and people yoga-ing, are responsible for maintaining a gentle and comforting atmosphere – not take away from the class or draw attention to the person leaving (even if it’s you. See below). In some ways, you have to respect that – given it is a bathroom emergency - the person leaving knows what they like and don’t like. They are listening to their bodies rather than sticking with something that makes them feel uncomfortable or unpleasant - and isn’t that what yoga is, making sure we feel good?As someone else taking the class, it may be hard to ignore someone getting up and leaving but – just like those pesky thoughts that have nothing to do with your practice – we can observe and then let them go like a passing cloud.  The important thing is to stay nice and easy and come back to where you are.

If you are taking class and need to leave, try and do so as mindfully as possible. If you know beforehand that you have to sneak out before final rest, position yourself near the exit as to cause as little disruption as possible. You can also give the guide a heads up…so they don’t think it’s their fault J Try, too, to pick a good time. Whether it’s a restroom break and you plan on returning – or not – try and find a time where people are moving as opposed to resting or relaxing.

As much as I would have loved for this person to stay in class, I understand that maybe my approach or style of leading isn’t her cup of tea and that is a-o-k – or maybe there was something else entirely different going on. By staying true to myself and maintaining my enthusiasm and passion for the practice, I became a better guide in that moment of discomfort. Some things are not always within our control but we can determine what our reaction will be. We may wobble out of our tree or topple over playing in crow but we laugh, smile and get those wings flying again!

As a side note, as I was writing this, I got a call from the same place asking me to sub next weekend :)

Happy Yoga-ing!

Rae

Rachel has been practicing yoga since her junior year of high school. Beginning with an unused mat and unwatched DVDs around her house, she created a home practice that she always comes back to when her schedule doesn’t allow for studio time. Rachel loves nothing more than sharing her love of yoga with friends through conversation or taking class together. Eager to take this enthusiasm one step further, Rachel completed her first 200-hour training this past year. Having kicked off 2012 with Strala’s New Year’s Eve Yoga, Rachel was instantly drawn to the welcoming, fun and feel-good vibes of the studio making the choice to attend the Intensive for Teachers an easy one. When she isn’t on the mat, Rachel can be found listening to and playing music, concert-going, reading, trying new, yummy recipes and talking about anything elephant-related. It doesn’t matter if you can’t touch your toes – Rachel believes (and knows!) yoga is about not where you are going but where you are now and making way for yourself to explore your beautiful, current state of being.

Twitter @rchibs
Facebook is Rae Chibs
Blog elephantandtree.wordpress.com.

Environment plays a huge part in our lives and overall well being.  If you live in a messy space, filled with stuff and things that you don’t really need, your mind is probably full of unnecessary  thoughts and messy as well.  Some people say that they “can’t” practice yoga in their apartment or home because “it is too cluttered”.  Well, then, de-clutter!  Of course it is going to be difficult to clear your mind when your environment is anything but clear. Luckily, that is one thing that is super easy to remedy, and is completely in your control.
I love cleaning out spaces: closets, shelves, drawers, you name it: I like them streamlined and organized.  No mess, no fuss: a place for everything, and everything in its place. If there is no room for something, make room or get rid of it or something else to create the space.
When Tara Stiles was moving, she posted a picture of herself carrying two pillows and a few bags with the caption: “This is how I move apartments. Travel light folks”.  How cool is that?  Can you imagine moving being no big deal? It was both eye opening and super inspiring to me: we really don’t need that many things. I got very excited at the prospect of streamlining my apartment so much that a move could be that easy :) . (Note: when living with another person, it isn’t always possible to get him or her on board with a no-extra-stuff-cluttering-my-environment policy, but I truly believe in leading by example, and hoping for the best!)
I am not telling you to throw away all of your favorite keepsakes, clothing and necessities, but let’s be real: we all go through phases. And, when we are out of said phases, we are left with a ton of stuff that is simply no longer of any use to us.  Get rid of it! Donate it! One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.  Look through your shelves, your drawers, your closets; and to the articles that you haven’t utilized in a year or more, ask yourself: do I need this? If the answer is no, free it up to someone who might need or want it.  Do you really think that “one day” you “might” need a cord like that again? Or that someone “might” some day throw a theme party where you “maybe” could ever wear that dress to again? Be realistic.  Getting rid of the extra stuff feels great – you feel lighter and can breathe deeper immediately with all of the space you create.
While you are at it, organize your kitchen- that is part of your environment as well. Are your cabinets full of old ingredients that you might “one day need” for some odd ball recipe? You just may want to check on those expiration dates.  It makes it a whole lot easier to eat cleaner when your kitchen cabinets and fridge are clean and full of only delicious wholesome foods!
Create the environment that you want to live in. You have the ability to create space, do it! You will sleep better, be happier, and feel more relaxed.  People do cleanses for the body all of the time, why not do a cleanse for the place that houses your body? If it feels overwhelming, take baby steps:  start with your bedroom, and allow yourself a great night’s sleep in a clean, open room.  I’m quite sure you will love it so much that it will extend to the rest of your environment in no time at all.
With a clean, clutter-free environment, a clean, clutter-free mind is possible, and very probable.  Try it out.  Let me know how it goes.  Happy cleansing!
xx,
Heidi

Environment plays a huge part in our lives and overall well being.  If you live in a messy space, filled with stuff and things that you don’t really need, your mind is probably full of unnecessary  thoughts and messy as well.  Some people say that they “can’t” practice yoga in their apartment or home because “it is too cluttered”.  Well, then, de-clutter!  Of course it is going to be difficult to clear your mind when your environment is anything but clear. Luckily, that is one thing that is super easy to remedy, and is completely in your control.

I love cleaning out spaces: closets, shelves, drawers, you name it: I like them streamlined and organized.  No mess, no fuss: a place for everything, and everything in its place. If there is no room for something, make room or get rid of it or something else to create the space.

When Tara Stiles was moving, she posted a picture of herself carrying two pillows and a few bags with the caption: “This is how I move apartments. Travel light folks”.  How cool is that?  Can you imagine moving being no big deal? It was both eye opening and super inspiring to me: we really don’t need that many things. I got very excited at the prospect of streamlining my apartment so much that a move could be that easy :) . (Note: when living with another person, it isn’t always possible to get him or her on board with a no-extra-stuff-cluttering-my-environment policy, but I truly believe in leading by example, and hoping for the best!)

I am not telling you to throw away all of your favorite keepsakes, clothing and necessities, but let’s be real: we all go through phases. And, when we are out of said phases, we are left with a ton of stuff that is simply no longer of any use to us.  Get rid of it! Donate it! One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.  Look through your shelves, your drawers, your closets; and to the articles that you haven’t utilized in a year or more, ask yourself: do I need this? If the answer is no, free it up to someone who might need or want it.  Do you really think that “one day” you “might” need a cord like that again? Or that someone “might” some day throw a theme party where you “maybe” could ever wear that dress to again? Be realistic.  Getting rid of the extra stuff feels great – you feel lighter and can breathe deeper immediately with all of the space you create.

While you are at it, organize your kitchen- that is part of your environment as well. Are your cabinets full of old ingredients that you might “one day need” for some odd ball recipe? You just may want to check on those expiration dates.  It makes it a whole lot easier to eat cleaner when your kitchen cabinets and fridge are clean and full of only delicious wholesome foods!

Create the environment that you want to live in. You have the ability to create space, do it! You will sleep better, be happier, and feel more relaxed.  People do cleanses for the body all of the time, why not do a cleanse for the place that houses your body? If it feels overwhelming, take baby steps:  start with your bedroom, and allow yourself a great night’s sleep in a clean, open room.  I’m quite sure you will love it so much that it will extend to the rest of your environment in no time at all.

With a clean, clutter-free environment, a clean, clutter-free mind is possible, and very probable.  Try it out.  Let me know how it goes.  Happy cleansing!

xx,

Heidi

Do you think you could do it? Twenty-four hours of no phone, no internet, no instagram, no twitter, no Facebook? It’s hard! We live in such a connected world right now. I see people in yoga class texting and responding to emails in the middle of their cat/cow. What is so important that it can’t wait an hour?
Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s a crazy thing to think about. People have come to expect immediate responses from emails and texts, even immediate replies on twitter. But, what would it be like to take one day a week totally “off the grid”? Or maybe two hours a day? Do you do that for yourself? Would you? Could you be okay with people needing to wait more than a hot second for your reply?
I am in an area right now that has no cell phone service or WiFi- it’s crazy! Even crazier? As much as I love feeling connected to everyone all of the time, I am okay it.
Everybody deserves a little time away from the hustle and bustle of life. Having a tempo change is nice. Once I realized that no one’s life was going to be affected if he or she had to wait a day or two for a response from me, I started to relax. Really relax.
I found a four-leaf clover today! I used to look for those every day when I was growing up, but then today, doing yoga on the grass, in a forward fold, I saw one right in front of my face. Not sure if it was a reward for leaving my iPhone inside, or just happy coincidence; either way, I consider myself very lucky :).
While I miss everyone at Strala a ton while I am away (‘cause everyone is so awesome!), I know that having this time to totally disconnect from technology and re-connect with myself will allow me to come back more relaxed, happier, and (if it’s possible) even more excited to be back at Strala every day.
Do you think you could give yourself that “alone time” from technology and being connected in that way? Would you want to? I would love to hear your thoughts!
See ya’ next week!
xx, Heidi

Do you think you could do it? Twenty-four hours of no phone, no internet, no instagram, no twitter, no Facebook? It’s hard! We live in such a connected world right now. I see people in yoga class texting and responding to emails in the middle of their cat/cow. What is so important that it can’t wait an hour?
Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s a crazy thing to think about. People have come to expect immediate responses from emails and texts, even immediate replies on twitter. But, what would it be like to take one day a week totally “off the grid”? Or maybe two hours a day? Do you do that for yourself? Would you? Could you be okay with people needing to wait more than a hot second for your reply?
I am in an area right now that has no cell phone service or WiFi- it’s crazy! Even crazier? As much as I love feeling connected to everyone all of the time, I am okay it.
Everybody deserves a little time away from the hustle and bustle of life. Having a tempo change is nice. Once I realized that no one’s life was going to be affected if he or she had to wait a day or two for a response from me, I started to relax. Really relax.

I found a four-leaf clover today! I used to look for those every day when I was growing up, but then today, doing yoga on the grass, in a forward fold, I saw one right in front of my face. Not sure if it was a reward for leaving my iPhone inside, or just happy coincidence; either way, I consider myself very lucky :).

While I miss everyone at Strala a ton while I am away (‘cause everyone is so awesome!), I know that having this time to totally disconnect from technology and re-connect with myself will allow me to come back more relaxed, happier, and (if it’s possible) even more excited to be back at Strala every day.

Do you think you could give yourself that “alone time” from technology and being connected in that way? Would you want to? I would love to hear your thoughts!

See ya’ next week!

xx,
Heidi

ME  [after 4 straight days of no yoga, bad hotel conference food, sitting, bloating, and grumpy]:
“Ugh, I just need Yoga.”
[caption id=”” align=”aligncenter” width=”360” caption=”Is this yoga?”][/caption]
Yoga. The all-powerful, transformative practice that is the generator for the source of my life-energy.  The cultivator of my chi, or whatever you want to call it.  The sacred place of comfort located in a thin, invisible layer between my purple Jade mat and the soles of my feet and the palms of my hands.  The navigation system of my breath, my movement, my calmness, and clarity. Yoga. [Namaste, hands to heart, bows.]
I have a problem.
I’ve just finished a week of work busy-ness, extra-long hours of sitting in conferences, listening to good speeches, listening to bad speeches, business card exchanges, and small talk, and I haven’t had time to practice my Yoga.  Over the past few days, my once fluid and lithe body and mind have begun to congeal into imagined-flabbiness, irritability, and overall dysfunction. I have attributed this to my lack of Yoga class.
[caption id=”” align=”aligncenter” width=”440” caption=”Is this yoga?”][/caption]
As much as I am a fan of the Eco, Happy, and Wellness Industry, I’m starting to become aware of a problem that I’m discovering in myself (and maybe others).  How many times do you find yourself hearing or saying something like this to yourself when you haven’t gone to your favorite yoga class?  Maybe it’s not yoga, but insert any external spiritual/emotional/physical stimulant, such as Elliptical, Guru, Zumba, a special brand of Expensive Smoothie Bar, etc.  We have a tendency to outsource our spirituality/health/validation to these, often inanimate, non-entities, attributing our [whatever spiritual/emotional satisfaction you gain from it] to the aforementioned.
Now I’m not talking about the external, uncontrollable forces of life, but I’m talking about our selves and that internal source of happiness, security, and well-being.
[caption id=”” align=”aligncenter” width=”399” caption=”Is this yoga?”][/caption]
Take a few toxic conversations in my own head about one of the most healthy activities of all, yoga.  For example: I am not happy because I have not done Yoga today.  I feel “off” because I have not done Yoga today or yesterday or the day before. The most comfortable place I am in my body is on my mat.  The only place where I can truly be present is on my mat.
But, what about off the mat?
The feelings mentioned above eventually deteriorate  into a mix of hopelessness, laziness, and apathy, a bag of potato chips, and reruns of Law & Order SVU.
The thing is - yoga does not have the ability to create any thing. Only you do.
Aren’t you the sole-provider of your own happiness?
Yoga, or whatever adventure you choose, merely facilitates the process.  It’s no-thing without your participation.
I am by no means telling you to abandon your livelihoods or convictions.  Keep them.  Flourish in them.  Benefit from them.  Use them as guiding principles for a healthful, balanced life. I certainly strive to have many of my own.  I am only suggesting (to you and myself) to stop and think once in a while (if you ever find yourself in a negative-thinking cycle), even if you are an avid practitioner of whatever it is you practice.
Be conscious of whom and what you are consuming - even if it’s the “good stuff.” Is it fueled by competition? Power? Fame? Control? A pretty label?
Whatever negativity you might carry with you, whether it’s dependency, inflexibility, or materialism, will manifest in whatever you do.   Find a sense of calm and ease both on and off the mat.  If you can’t get to your favorite class, yoga might be in Mountain Pose on a crowded, uptown 6 train. Chair pose in your office chair (lift your butt cheeks up a couple of inches, no one will notice). Deep breathing during a boring board meeting. And savasana on your bed for the few precious moments when you get home from work before you completely pass out in your clothes. You don’t always need a mat. Because Yoga is just You, isn’t it?
[caption id=”attachment_1723” align=”aligncenter” width=”518” caption=”This is yoga! (Is it?)”][/caption]
Om-tattoos, peace signs, and love, and light (of course),
Suzy
For more musings and/or rants on yoga, vegetables, cats, and more – follow me on my blog walking my karma!

Suzy is a passionate and dedicated yoga guide, who loves to work with people of all ages, shapes, and sizes.  Her first yoga class was one of the most humbling and transformative experiences of her life (so far).  Less than halfway through the class, hamstrings screaming, she happily realized that yoga was something much more than just “stretching.”  Suzy is a graduate of Strala’s 200+ hour Ready-to-Lead Guide Training Program, where she learned the importance of using your breath to create space in your body and guide you through movement (as well as various other things in life).  She always remembers to bring her mat, some water, and a healthy sense of humor to every class.
Twitter: @suzyseachild 

ME  [after 4 straight days of no yoga, bad hotel conference food, sitting, bloating, and grumpy]:

“Ugh, I just need Yoga.”

[caption id=”” align=”aligncenter” width=”360” caption=”Is this yoga?”][/caption]

Yoga. The all-powerful, transformative practice that is the generator for the source of my life-energy.  The cultivator of my chi, or whatever you want to call it.  The sacred place of comfort located in a thin, invisible layer between my purple Jade mat and the soles of my feet and the palms of my hands.  The navigation system of my breath, my movement, my calmness, and clarity. Yoga. [Namaste, hands to heart, bows.]

I have a problem.

I’ve just finished a week of work busy-ness, extra-long hours of sitting in conferences, listening to good speeches, listening to bad speeches, business card exchanges, and small talk, and I haven’t had time to practice my Yoga.  Over the past few days, my once fluid and lithe body and mind have begun to congeal into imagined-flabbiness, irritability, and overall dysfunction. I have attributed this to my lack of Yoga class.

[caption id=”” align=”aligncenter” width=”440” caption=”Is this yoga?”][/caption]

As much as I am a fan of the Eco, Happy, and Wellness Industry, I’m starting to become aware of a problem that I’m discovering in myself (and maybe others).  How many times do you find yourself hearing or saying something like this to yourself when you haven’t gone to your favorite yoga class?  Maybe it’s not yoga, but insert any external spiritual/emotional/physical stimulant, such as Elliptical, Guru, Zumba, a special brand of Expensive Smoothie Bar, etc.  We have a tendency to outsource our spirituality/health/validation to these, often inanimate, non-entities, attributing our [whatever spiritual/emotional satisfaction you gain from it] to the aforementioned.

Now I’m not talking about the external, uncontrollable forces of life, but I’m talking about our selves and that internal source of happiness, security, and well-being.

[caption id=”” align=”aligncenter” width=”399” caption=”Is this yoga?”][/caption]

Take a few toxic conversations in my own head about one of the most healthy activities of all, yoga.  For example: I am not happy because I have not done Yoga today.  I feel “off” because I have not done Yoga today or yesterday or the day before. The most comfortable place I am in my body is on my mat.  The only place where I can truly be present is on my mat.

But, what about off the mat?

The feelings mentioned above eventually deteriorate  into a mix of hopelessness, laziness, and apathy, a bag of potato chips, and reruns of Law & Order SVU.

The thing is - yoga does not have the ability to create any thing. Only you do.

Aren’t you the sole-provider of your own happiness?

Yoga, or whatever adventure you choose, merely facilitates the process.  It’s no-thing without your participation.

I am by no means telling you to abandon your livelihoods or convictions.  Keep them.  Flourish in them.  Benefit from them.  Use them as guiding principles for a healthful, balanced life. I certainly strive to have many of my own.  I am only suggesting (to you and myself) to stop and think once in a while (if you ever find yourself in a negative-thinking cycle), even if you are an avid practitioner of whatever it is you practice.

Be conscious of whom and what you are consuming - even if it’s the “good stuff.” Is it fueled by competition? Power? Fame? Control? A pretty label?

Whatever negativity you might carry with you, whether it’s dependency, inflexibility, or materialism, will manifest in whatever you do.   Find a sense of calm and ease both on and off the mat.  If you can’t get to your favorite class, yoga might be in Mountain Pose on a crowded, uptown 6 train. Chair pose in your office chair (lift your butt cheeks up a couple of inches, no one will notice). Deep breathing during a boring board meeting. And savasana on your bed for the few precious moments when you get home from work before you completely pass out in your clothes. You don’t always need a mat. Because Yoga is just You, isn’t it?

[caption id=”attachment_1723” align=”aligncenter” width=”518” caption=”This is yoga! (Is it?)”][/caption]

Om-tattoos, peace signs, and love, and light (of course),

Suzy

For more musings and/or rants on yoga, vegetables, cats, and more – follow me on my blog walking my karma!

Suzy is a passionate and dedicated yoga guide, who loves to work with people of all ages, shapes, and sizes.  Her first yoga class was one of the most humbling and transformative experiences of her life (so far).  Less than halfway through the class, hamstrings screaming, she happily realized that yoga was something much more than just “stretching.”  Suzy is a graduate of Strala’s 200+ hour Ready-to-Lead Guide Training Program, where she learned the importance of using your breath to create space in your body and guide you through movement (as well as various other things in life).  She always remembers to bring her mat, some water, and a healthy sense of humor to every class.

Twitter: @suzyseachild 

Traditional Western medicine treats the disease not the person.
Traditional shiatsu prescribes a fixed set of rules and procedures for each problem.
Traditional yoga mandates specific defined poses to put people in.
Who made these rules? As my wife Tara Stiles has mentioned, they’re extremely limiting.
Our traditional medicine is great for infections and broken bones. It’s not working for most things that are bringing people pain and suffering today, like stress, obesity, and the worst of our associated diseases.
Traditional shiatsu may work sometimes, but often that’s by accident.
Traditional yoga - fixing people into “correct” poses - is missing the boat. It’s leading people to follow gurus - outside sources of information - rather than themselves.
Why isn’t this working?
My friend Sam Berlind is by all accounts a master of shiatsu, and blew our socks off at Strala this past weekend. He’s also worked with Traditional Chinese Medicine, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, and yoga, all as paths to healing. His work in shiatsu began with 25 years under Wataru Ohashi’s direction, from whom I learned as well.
Ohashi’s approach to shiatsu broke the rules. He saw that treating people as patients using fixed prescriptions worked sometimes, but he suspected that was very often an accident. The rules-based, master-patient approach lacked fluidity and responsiveness to what existed right there with each unique person, in each unique life.
So he developed his own approach. As Sam describes it, this new approach to shiatsu throws aside the idea of a master attempting to fix a patient. There is no fixing. Instead, there are two people supporting each other, right in that moment. The giver forms a connection with the receiver. We aim to gently push, pull, challenge, and get out of the way so our bodies can heal themselves more effectively.
Sam also said something else that hit us all pretty solidly. The shiatsu giver knows less than the receiver. The yoga teacher knows less than the student.
Could that be right? Of course. The student knows how they feel. The teacher can only guess.
For all of us, whether we’re doctors, shiatsu masters, or yoga teachers, that guess is diagnosis. Whether we admit it or not, it’s all guessing. Our treatment is a guess, too. Sometimes we get to be right.
This suggests a shift in how we approach each other.
I’ve always loved the song ‘Dueling Banjos.’ I’ve never loved so much dueling yoga teachers. Who can prove who’s lineage and guru is right about how to fix people, how to get them into the right place?
There’s a problem with that. There is no right place! We’re all different from each other. We’re even different from ourselves day to day. What did we eat yesterday, did we go for a long run, sit a desk all week, what feels right in my body right now?
We’re not here to fix each other. There is a trend in yoga around adjustments - where a teacher approaches the student to change their form, and move them into some idea of a “correct” pose. This is crazy, and goes hand in hand with the trend of aggressive yoga teachers injuring their students.
There is no correct pose. There is just my body and my life right now, and I’m the only one who can directly feel me. The right form for me each day, each moment, has to do with responding to my entire life. The right place and movement for my body is all mine! If a teacher can help me, it’s in supporting me to feel me. I can stop pushing and struggling to get into someone else’s shape (which means no more injuries!), and find my way into my own.
We’re here to support each other. It’s the best thing we can do. Just like Ohashi and Sam, Tara broke the rules in creating Strala. She moved away from the common yoga teacher focus of “how can I prove what I know” to a more gentle and useful “how can I help?” Whether you’re talking about shiatsu or yoga, helping people is about making a connection. When we help and support each other to connect to ourselves, yoga works. It cures. We get healthy and happy, and lead our best most capable lives.
Originally published on MindBodyGreen.

About Michael Taylor

Mike is a co-founder, guide, and resident healer at Strala. He’s practiced Eastern movement and healing techniques for more than two decades, including tai chi, qigong, and shiatsu. Mike studied mind-body medicine at Harvard, and alternative medicine and psychology at Oxford. After running into walls with standard medical practice in the U.S. and England, Mike left his healthcare roots. He worked at a steel mill for a while, joined a web company, and then founded a few more. He now serves on the board of Odyl, which helps people discover books on Facebook. As Strala has grown, Mike has found his way back to health care done right: helping people let go of stress in their bodies and minds, become their own best caregivers, and live happy capable lives. Mike climbs a few mountains in his spare time, and is the husband of yoga master Tara Stiles.
Twitter: @MichaelTaylor8
Facebook: mtaylor8

Traditional Western medicine treats the disease not the person.

Traditional shiatsu prescribes a fixed set of rules and procedures for each problem.

Traditional yoga mandates specific defined poses to put people in.

Who made these rules? As my wife Tara Stiles has mentioned, they’re extremely limiting.

Our traditional medicine is great for infections and broken bones. It’s not working for most things that are bringing people pain and suffering today, like stress, obesity, and the worst of our associated diseases.

Traditional shiatsu may work sometimes, but often that’s by accident.

Traditional yoga - fixing people into “correct” poses - is missing the boat. It’s leading people to follow gurus - outside sources of information - rather than themselves.

Why isn’t this working?

My friend Sam Berlind is by all accounts a master of shiatsu, and blew our socks off at Strala this past weekend. He’s also worked with Traditional Chinese Medicine, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, and yoga, all as paths to healing. His work in shiatsu began with 25 years under Wataru Ohashi’s direction, from whom I learned as well.

Ohashi’s approach to shiatsu broke the rules. He saw that treating people as patients using fixed prescriptions worked sometimes, but he suspected that was very often an accident. The rules-based, master-patient approach lacked fluidity and responsiveness to what existed right there with each unique person, in each unique life.

So he developed his own approach. As Sam describes it, this new approach to shiatsu throws aside the idea of a master attempting to fix a patient. There is no fixing. Instead, there are two people supporting each other, right in that moment. The giver forms a connection with the receiver. We aim to gently push, pull, challenge, and get out of the way so our bodies can heal themselves more effectively.

Sam also said something else that hit us all pretty solidly. The shiatsu giver knows less than the receiver. The yoga teacher knows less than the student.

Could that be right? Of course. The student knows how they feel. The teacher can only guess.

For all of us, whether we’re doctors, shiatsu masters, or yoga teachers, that guess is diagnosis. Whether we admit it or not, it’s all guessing. Our treatment is a guess, too. Sometimes we get to be right.

This suggests a shift in how we approach each other.

I’ve always loved the song ‘Dueling Banjos.’ I’ve never loved so much dueling yoga teachers. Who can prove who’s lineage and guru is right about how to fix people, how to get them into the right place?

There’s a problem with that. There is no right place! We’re all different from each other. We’re even different from ourselves day to day. What did we eat yesterday, did we go for a long run, sit a desk all week, what feels right in my body right now?

We’re not here to fix each other. There is a trend in yoga around adjustments - where a teacher approaches the student to change their form, and move them into some idea of a “correct” pose. This is crazy, and goes hand in hand with the trend of aggressive yoga teachers injuring their students.

There is no correct pose. There is just my body and my life right now, and I’m the only one who can directly feel me. The right form for me each day, each moment, has to do with responding to my entire life. The right place and movement for my body is all mine! If a teacher can help me, it’s in supporting me to feel me. I can stop pushing and struggling to get into someone else’s shape (which means no more injuries!), and find my way into my own.

We’re here to support each other. It’s the best thing we can do. Just like Ohashi and Sam, Tara broke the rules in creating Strala. She moved away from the common yoga teacher focus of “how can I prove what I know” to a more gentle and useful “how can I help?” Whether you’re talking about shiatsu or yoga, helping people is about making a connection. When we help and support each other to connect to ourselves, yoga works. It cures. We get healthy and happy, and lead our best most capable lives.

Originally published on MindBodyGreen.

About Michael Taylor

Mike is a co-founder, guide, and resident healer at Strala. He’s practiced Eastern movement and healing techniques for more than two decades, including tai chi, qigong, and shiatsu. Mike studied mind-body medicine at Harvard, and alternative medicine and psychology at Oxford. After running into walls with standard medical practice in the U.S. and England, Mike left his healthcare roots. He worked at a steel mill for a while, joined a web company, and then founded a few more. He now serves on the board of Odyl, which helps people discover books on Facebook. As Strala has grown, Mike has found his way back to health care done right: helping people let go of stress in their bodies and minds, become their own best caregivers, and live happy capable lives. Mike climbs a few mountains in his spare time, and is the husband of yoga master Tara Stiles.

Twitter: @MichaelTaylor8
Facebook: mtaylor8

Healthy eating doesn’t mean giving up all your favorite food - I believe it is good to allow yourself to enjoy them every now and then. But maybe sometimes you let yourself slip, and you don’t realize until it’s too late (otherwise you wouldn’t have over-indulged in the first place, right?). So what happens next? Whatever it was that caused you to slip, it’s not worth throwing away your resolution to eat healthy. If you’ve been eating healthy, one slip isn’t likely to affect your health, or your weight. On the other hand, if you’re still on your way to figuring out how to eat healthy, remind yourself that it’s not a race, and getting side-tracked doesn’t mean that you’re back to square one. Once in a while, when I find myself slipping away from my healthy eating habits, I find these simple steps helpful to get back on track:
Keep your thoughts in check. If you feel that guilt and self-blame start rushing in, hit the brake and check yourself. They will not get you anywhere, except to more frustration and possibly overeating. Remind yourself that one slip is really not a big deal, and that tomorrow is another brand new day for you to start over.
Pay attention to how your body feels. Try observing how your body feels after you eat, and you may notice that certain foods - though they may taste good - will leave your body feeling uncomfortable. No matter how much I love my sweet treats, I have to admit that sugary, high-carb treats often only leave me feeling sluggish, tired, and sometimes even bloated (not pretty). I used to ignore all these signs, but when I actually started paying attention to them, I became less attached to my sweet treats because the effects that I get afterwards are not really worth it.
Detox. It doesn’t mean you have to go on a cleanse, but you may want to try increasing the intake of fruits and vegetables, especially alkalizing greens like kale and spinach. They will help draw out all the toxins and impurities from your body. If you find it hard to eat your greens, try to find ways to make them more appealing to you. Experiment to find ways to love your greens - I guarantee that your body will thank you for it :)
Sweat - literally, not metaphorically. You don’t have to sweat the fact that you slipped, but it’s good to sweat physically. It’s another way to detox your body and give yourself an extra boost (FYI - Stralayoga’s STRONG class is guaranteed to make you sweat, and from my experience it always makes me feel amazing afterwards). And of course, don’t forget to stay hydrated.
Relax and meditate. Just because you slipped, it doesn’t mean you need to punish yourself. Giving yourself a break and allowing yourself to relax will reduce the stress level in your body, making it easier to make progress in your healthy lifestyle (feeling rested = more motivation to eat healthy + exercise). Meditating is a great way to restore calm and to feel more centered, so that instead of panicking over your over-indulgence, you can go back to your inner peace and continue your journey to a healthier you.
Have you let yourself slip recently? Let me know if the above tips work for you! :)
Monika

Healthy eating doesn’t mean giving up all your favorite food - I believe it is good to allow yourself to enjoy them every now and then. But maybe sometimes you let yourself slip, and you don’t realize until it’s too late (otherwise you wouldn’t have over-indulged in the first place, right?). So what happens next? Whatever it was that caused you to slip, it’s not worth throwing away your resolution to eat healthy. If you’ve been eating healthy, one slip isn’t likely to affect your health, or your weight. On the other hand, if you’re still on your way to figuring out how to eat healthy, remind yourself that it’s not a race, and getting side-tracked doesn’t mean that you’re back to square one. Once in a while, when I find myself slipping away from my healthy eating habits, I find these simple steps helpful to get back on track:

Keep your thoughts in check. If you feel that guilt and self-blame start rushing in, hit the brake and check yourself. They will not get you anywhere, except to more frustration and possibly overeating. Remind yourself that one slip is really not a big deal, and that tomorrow is another brand new day for you to start over.

Pay attention to how your body feels. Try observing how your body feels after you eat, and you may notice that certain foods - though they may taste good - will leave your body feeling uncomfortable. No matter how much I love my sweet treats, I have to admit that sugary, high-carb treats often only leave me feeling sluggish, tired, and sometimes even bloated (not pretty). I used to ignore all these signs, but when I actually started paying attention to them, I became less attached to my sweet treats because the effects that I get afterwards are not really worth it.

Detox. It doesn’t mean you have to go on a cleanse, but you may want to try increasing the intake of fruits and vegetables, especially alkalizing greens like kale and spinach. They will help draw out all the toxins and impurities from your body. If you find it hard to eat your greens, try to find ways to make them more appealing to you. Experiment to find ways to love your greens - I guarantee that your body will thank you for it :)

Sweat - literally, not metaphorically. You don’t have to sweat the fact that you slipped, but it’s good to sweat physically. It’s another way to detox your body and give yourself an extra boost (FYI - Stralayoga’s STRONG class is guaranteed to make you sweat, and from my experience it always makes me feel amazing afterwards). And of course, don’t forget to stay hydrated.

Relax and meditate. Just because you slipped, it doesn’t mean you need to punish yourself. Giving yourself a break and allowing yourself to relax will reduce the stress level in your body, making it easier to make progress in your healthy lifestyle (feeling rested = more motivation to eat healthy + exercise). Meditating is a great way to restore calm and to feel more centered, so that instead of panicking over your over-indulgence, you can go back to your inner peace and continue your journey to a healthier you.

Have you let yourself slip recently? Let me know if the above tips work for you! :)

Monika

July 4th is fast approaching, and with it come a slew of barbeques with meat, meat, more meat, and maybe a mayonnaise covered potato salad.  How can a gal or guy be vegan (or even just healthy) and keep her/his social calendar? Easy!
If the barbeque is at your place get creative: not only meat can be skewered.  Chop some good-sized chunks of all of your favorite vegetables: eggplant, peppers, tomatoes (I know that’s a fruit), zucchini, onions whatever you like, lightly season with salt and pepper (or any other seasoning that makes you happy), line them all up on skewers, and grill away.
In charge of dessert? Watermelon! I like to bring a whole melon and chop it up when it is time for a sweet treat: I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone pass that up.
If the barbeque is at a friend’s place, call your host and ask what you can bring, maybe mention that you would love to make your famous  (fill in the blank).  You can  always make or bring crudités with guacamole or hummus, or any other healthy dip you love, make a bean or pasta salad – there are so many options, my personal fave: Kale Slaw!
How to make Vegan Kale Slaw:
(Based on my friend Jordan’s recipe- thanks, Jordan!)
-1 Bunch of Kale chopped
-1/2 a Green Cabbage chopped
-1 or 2 Carrots chopped
Sauce:
-1 Cup Vegenaise (I like Follow Your Heart)
-3 Tbsp Soy Sauce
-1/3 Cup of Ginger
-Dash of Salt
-Dash of your favorite All-Natural Sweetner (Agave, etc.)
Add-ins (use any or all):
-Handful of Toasted Sesame Seeds
-1/2 Cup Raisins
-Slivered Almonds
First mix the sauce, get it to a smooth, even consistency, then use about three-quarters of it to mix into the other ingredients, and keep the rest for dipping!
What’s your favorite dish to bring to a barbeque? Please share your recipes and ideas in the comment section below! Happy 4th of July!
Xx,
Heidi

July 4th is fast approaching, and with it come a slew of barbeques with meat, meat, more meat, and maybe a mayonnaise covered potato salad.  How can a gal or guy be vegan (or even just healthy) and keep her/his social calendar? Easy!

If the barbeque is at your place get creative: not only meat can be skewered.  Chop some good-sized chunks of all of your favorite vegetables: eggplant, peppers, tomatoes (I know that’s a fruit), zucchini, onions whatever you like, lightly season with salt and pepper (or any other seasoning that makes you happy), line them all up on skewers, and grill away.

In charge of dessert? Watermelon! I like to bring a whole melon and chop it up when it is time for a sweet treat: I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone pass that up.

If the barbeque is at a friend’s place, call your host and ask what you can bring, maybe mention that you would love to make your famous  (fill in the blank).  You can  always make or bring crudités with guacamole or hummus, or any other healthy dip you love, make a bean or pasta salad – there are so many options, my personal fave: Kale Slaw!

How to make Vegan Kale Slaw:

(Based on my friend Jordan’s recipe- thanks, Jordan!)

-1 Bunch of Kale chopped

-1/2 a Green Cabbage chopped

-1 or 2 Carrots chopped

Sauce:

-1 Cup Vegenaise (I like Follow Your Heart)

-3 Tbsp Soy Sauce

-1/3 Cup of Ginger

-Dash of Salt

-Dash of your favorite All-Natural Sweetner (Agave, etc.)

Add-ins (use any or all):

-Handful of Toasted Sesame Seeds

-1/2 Cup Raisins

-Slivered Almonds

First mix the sauce, get it to a smooth, even consistency, then use about three-quarters of it to mix into the other ingredients, and keep the rest for dipping!

What’s your favorite dish to bring to a barbeque? Please share your recipes and ideas in the comment section below! Happy 4th of July!

Xx,

Heidi


“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything. It is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.” - Shunryu Suzuki-roshi
Lately we’ve become obsessed with labels - with degrees, certifications, levels, diets, and the [insert the latest poison]-free trend.  It’s getting to the point where we need these to reassure ourselves that we are qualified, advanced, nutritious and righteous.  Just because you are vegan, just because you are a yoga instructor, and hold an advanced degree, does really it make you a more valid human being?
The “you” I’m referring to, I’m afraid, is me.  And the answer, I’ve come to realize, is no.  Maybe you can relate.  As you can see, I too have fallen victim to this obsession, with yoga and other things.  I had always wanted to achieve, advance  and exceed the next pose and the next level, thinking that things would be better, feel better, and  maybe even get easier.  Well, actually, it’s gotten harder, now having to manage my own and other’s expectations.  It’s difficult not to feel bad  about myself because I’m not there yet.  But where exactly am I trying to get to?  The all-too-illusive, unattainable land of perfection?
I found myself in my first Basics class the other weekend, a class that I, for some reason, avoided because, I don’t know, I wanted to feel Strong?  It was Sunday morning with Heidi Kristoffer (whose ceaseless enthusiasm convinces me that I am thoroughly enjoying everything that she is instructing, even after the third set of abs).   I had run in ten minutes late, flustered and sweaty after sprinting from the West 4th Street stop after 20 minutes of train delays.  Stumbling in, I smiled nervously, frantically plopped my mat down, and joined the class in down dog.  My mind was fueled by my anxiety about my tardiness and other life-things, but Heidi didn’t seem annoyed.  She just smiled and waved me in.  I settled into the familiar movements, focusing on my breath not on what I looked like or what had happened earlier. Closing my eyes, I rooted my feet into the ground, and let my breath guide me through the movements, without thinking.  The feeling was at once both invigorating and relaxing - to not think, to not judge, to let go.
The thing I discovered, with taking and teaching Basics, is that you don’t need a Strong class to make you feel strong.  [Disclaimer: Basics is not by any means lacking in abdominal exercises, push-ups, and sweat.]  Once in a while, we need to strip ourselves of these labels and empty our minds of our thoughts and expectations, in order to truly enjoy ourselves in the heat of it, wherever that may be on or off the mat.  Maybe, that is strength.  Maybe, it takes a Basics class to help us get there, which is nowhere really in a yoga-sense.  Like reading a good book.  High School English is so much less enjoyable than just sitting and reading for the sake of reading.  We (I) need to stop analyzing.  It’s okay that we aren’t there right now, just be here. Enjoy the process.  (I hate cliches, but I really want to say it: get back to the basics.)  Start there, wherever you are. Because sometimes it’s good to just get on the mat and move.
Shine on, people.
Suzy

“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything. It is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.” - Shunryu Suzuki-roshi

Lately we’ve become obsessed with labels - with degrees, certifications, levels, diets, and the [insert the latest poison]-free trend.  It’s getting to the point where we need these to reassure ourselves that we are qualified, advanced, nutritious and righteous.  Just because you are vegan, just because you are a yoga instructor, and hold an advanced degree, does really it make you a more valid human being?

The “you” I’m referring to, I’m afraid, is me.  And the answer, I’ve come to realize, is no.  Maybe you can relate.  As you can see, I too have fallen victim to this obsession, with yoga and other things.  I had always wanted to achieve, advance  and exceed the next pose and the next level, thinking that things would be better, feel better, and  maybe even get easier.  Well, actually, it’s gotten harder, now having to manage my own and other’s expectations.  It’s difficult not to feel bad  about myself because I’m not there yet.  But where exactly am I trying to get to?  The all-too-illusive, unattainable land of perfection?

I found myself in my first Basics class the other weekend, a class that I, for some reason, avoided because, I don’t know, I wanted to feel Strong?  It was Sunday morning with Heidi Kristoffer (whose ceaseless enthusiasm convinces me that I am thoroughly enjoying everything that she is instructing, even after the third set of abs).   I had run in ten minutes late, flustered and sweaty after sprinting from the West 4th Street stop after 20 minutes of train delays.  Stumbling in, I smiled nervously, frantically plopped my mat down, and joined the class in down dog.  My mind was fueled by my anxiety about my tardiness and other life-things, but Heidi didn’t seem annoyed.  She just smiled and waved me in.  I settled into the familiar movements, focusing on my breath not on what I looked like or what had happened earlier. Closing my eyes, I rooted my feet into the ground, and let my breath guide me through the movements, without thinking.  The feeling was at once both invigorating and relaxing - to not think, to not judge, to let go.

The thing I discovered, with taking and teaching Basics, is that you don’t need a Strong class to make you feel strong.  [Disclaimer: Basics is not by any means lacking in abdominal exercises, push-ups, and sweat.]  Once in a while, we need to strip ourselves of these labels and empty our minds of our thoughts and expectations, in order to truly enjoy ourselves in the heat of it, wherever that may be on or off the mat.  Maybe, that is strength.  Maybe, it takes a Basics class to help us get there, which is nowhere really in a yoga-sense.  Like reading a good book.  High School English is so much less enjoyable than just sitting and reading for the sake of reading.  We (I) need to stop analyzing.  It’s okay that we aren’t there right now, just be here. Enjoy the process.  (I hate cliches, but I really want to say it: get back to the basics.)  Start there, wherever you are. Because sometimes it’s good to just get on the mat and move.

Shine on, people.

Suzy