Yoga

A Spoonful of Sutras Makes the Yoga Go Down

If you are a yoga teacher or devout student you have heard of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. If you aren’t as familiar here is a short explanation: it is a guidebook to yogic philosophy, living, and the eight limbs of yoga (ashtanga). It was written by a man named Patanjali many, many, many, many, many, many, many years ago.  The word sutra means thread, and you can think about these words as threads of wisdom that weave your yoga life into a beautiful tapestry. If you want a little bit  more then click here.

Until I went to yoga teacher training I had never heard of these sutras, even though I was a “serious” student. I had a read a few yoga books like Chakra Yoga by Alan Finger, browsed Light on Yoga, and a few other small books. The Yoga Sutras was part of our required reading list for my program and I’ll be honest–I didn’t read them. I got a copy, the wrong one, it was so confusing (as they are very difficult to understand naturally) that I just gave up. I never made it past Sutra 1.1: now is the time for yoga.  If I wanted any info on a sutra I would just read a Clif Notes version on Yoga Journal or Yoga International. Last year I decided I would try the sutras again. So I bought the copy that I was suppose to in teacher training with every intention of picking it up–I never did. It collected dust with all my other books that I don’t read, haven’t read yet, kinesology textbooks, and poetry.

 

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As I have talked about before on my social media pages my practice began to shift around last summer and hasn’t stopped. My practice grew deeper, not just physically but mentally. I was having questions about yoga all while facing my recovery and dealing with some serious anxiety. Then when I  moved to OKC I started teaching more than I have before and my physical practice became more internal, so I picked up my sutras. I made a commitment to read a sutra a week. I was good for two weeks then I took time off, because #lifehappens, but I picked it back up because I am really committed to this.

 

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My study is very simple. I have three versions of the yoga sutras (pictured below) and I read a sutra each week (or attempt to). I make stars with pink ink in the margins denoting phrases of super importance, highligting sanskrit words (always working on deepening those skills), and things that are very important I underline in black ink. I read the same sutra in each version and compare the them. Then in my own journal I write down in my own words what each sutra means. By writing them in my own language it helps to cement them into my mind and spirit to let me fully live them.

While I’m only five deep they have definitely been challenging and changing. Especially Sutra 1.3-1.4. They will be getting their own blog post at some point. I’m looking forward to where this will take me. If you have read or are reading the Yoga Sutras share your favorite resource in the comments section.

 

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Stepping into Karma

“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”-Step 12, EDA Version

karma: Sanskrit for action

 

In many different spiritual paths we are called to help and be of service to others. Through serving others we are able to show people that kindness does exist in what can be seen as a cruel world. That there is something more to life than just the everyday drudgery of Facebook scrolling, Neflixing, coffee drinking, working that 9-5, and sleeping. For those of us who have chosen a recovered life it is imperative that we serve others who were once (still) like us by sharing our story and helping them out.

Step 12 is an action step calling for us to be stewards and it reminds me of another action: karma. We are all familiar with the concept of karma, but the concept of “what goes around comes around” isn’t what karma truly is. My favorite explanation of karma is by Jack Kornfield in his book, A Path With Heart, “karma means that nothing arises by itself. Every experience is conditioned by that which precedes it. Thus our life is a series of interrelated patterns” (273). Kornfield later states, “the intention or attitude that we bring to each situation of life determines the kind of karma we want to create. Day to day, moment to  moment, we can begin to see the creation of the patterns of karma based on the intentions in our heart” (279).

 

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This is precisely what those of us in recovery are to do with our daily lives while waving our recovery flags. Our hearts are to be so devoted to recovery that everything we do is to be intentional. Our intentions for sharing our stories isn’t to be boastful and “hey, look at me” it is to be honest, real, and selfless. We are intentionally making new patterns of behavior to correct patterns of the past.  It reminds me of a quote from my EDA Book, “As we begin to realize that our world has been changed for the better through the step work we have done, we simultaneously become aware that the gift of life in recovery comes with the responsibility to share it with others. Now that we have begun to experience healing in our lives we must extend a hand to those who still suffer”.

I hadn’t really thought much about my own personal recovery lately. I have been falling short on my steps–honestly I haven’t been living a 12 Step life. I lost my mission that I sat out to do when I first began this blog. I began imageoftheheart to share my experience with others who suffer or know people who are suffering, to help them make sense of this disordered world. And what have I been doing? Nothing. I haven’t been generating any  karma, just a pool of nothing.

 

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Over the past month people have reached out to me. I have answered questions on how to support loved ones with EDs. I’ve shared posts with those who are new to recovery. I even helped someone seek recovery. Between the Facebook messages and emails something began to stir within me. Something that I haven’t felt in a long time. Purpose. Direction. A moving current of karma. This karma current swelled within my heart and helped me get back on track. To start the steps over, to be intentional in my recovery and not just throw it to the side like stale piece of bread.

If what Kornfield says is true, “The heart is our garden, and along with each action there is an intention that is planted like a seed. The result of the patterns of our karma is the fruit of these seeds.(277)”. I want to sow beautiful fruit-ripe, juicy, organic recovery fruit. I am tired of have OK, slightly spotty recovery fruit. Since this is a new month I am taking accountability for my actions and starting over. Tilling up my soil and ready to sow new fruit that is sweet with karma.

How is the karma in your life? Are you generating positive action while sowing sweet fruit or are you just skirting by and sowing OK fruit? Are living with intention and removing yourself out of your actions towards others? If you aren’t happy with the answers or the taste of your fruit then take some time to re-focus. Make an intention to be intentional. Lend a helping hand to someone in need, share your story, hold space for others. Generate karma.

 

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Words

As I am making a commitment to writing more I sit here wordless. Or maybe just distracted. I know I have things to say, because I always do, but for some reason I cannot access them.  Error 404.  While I may not have the right words, I know others do. You can “quote” me on that.

Who doesn’t love a good quote? Quotes are some of the best and simplest ways to find the right words when you can’t find any. They are also fun to memorize and use when you are in need of some encouragement or a little beauty. For years I have kept notebooks filled with quotes and song lyrics that resonate with me. They were inspirational, amusing, or acted as a guide through troubling times. Today I am going to share with you some of my favorite quotes. I hope you find some inspiration and beauty in these words as much as I do.

 

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On Eating Disorder Recovery

  • “To be beautiful is to be yourself. you don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.”-Thich Nhat Hanh
  • “You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress, simultaneously.”-Sophia Bush
  • “Don’t be afraid to  move out of your comfort zone. Some of your best life experiences and opportunities will transpire only after you dare to lose.”-???
  • “It’s not your fault that you developed an eating disorder, or depression, or an addiction, or whatever else is trying to steal your life away. But it is your responsibility to save yourself. And you can.”-Josie Tuttle
  • “You can’ t change until you accept where you are and who you are. You find out who you are by being honest with yourself and others…Life is never static and neither are we.”-EDA Workbook, Step 1
  • ” Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us. We ask ourselves,  who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking  so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of u; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people to permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”-Marianne Williamson

 

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On Life

  • “If you add a little to a little, and then do it again, so that little shall be much”.-Hesoid
  • “Being impeccable with your word is the correct use of your energy; it means to use your energy in the direction of truth and love for yourself. If you make an agreement with yourself to  be impeccable with your word, just with that intention, the truth will manifest through you and clean all the emotional posion that exists within you.” The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz
  • “All of humanity is searching for truth, justice, and beauty. We are on an eternal search for the truth because we only believe in the lies we have stored in our mind. We are searching for justice because in the belief system we have, there is no justice. We search for beauty because it doesn’t matter how beautiful a person is, we don’t believe that person has beauty. We keep searching and searching, when everything is already within us.”-Don Miguel Ruiz
  • “Wherever you go, go with all your heart.”-Confucius
  • “I’ll tell you what freedom is to me. No fear.”-Nina Simone
  • “I was halfway across America, at the dividing line  between the East of my youth and the West of my future.” Jack Kerouac, On the Road
  • “Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is so on the road.” -Jack Kerouac, On the Road
  • “Just living is not enough. One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”-Hans Christian Anderson
  • “It doesn’t not matter how slowly you go; as long as you don’t stop.”-Confucius
  • “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.”-Douglas Adams

 

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On Yoga

  • “If I’m losing balance in a pose, I stretch higher and God reaches down to steady me. It works every time, and no just in yoga.”-T. Guillemets
  • “Yoga is possible for anybody who really wants it. Yoga is universal…But don’t approach yoga with a business mind looking for a worldly gain.”-K. Pattabhi Jois
  • “Do not stop trying just because perfection eludes you.”-BKS Iyengar
  • “Go from a human being doing yoga to a human being yoga.”-Baron Baptiste
  • “Yoga does not change the way we see things, it transforms the person who sees.”-BKS Iyengar
  • “The attitude of gratitude is the highest yoga.”- Yogi Bhajan
  • “Yoga is almost like music in a way; there’s no end to it.”-Sting
  • “Yoga is a powerful vehicle for change. As you build strength you start to believe in your own potential.”-Tiffany Cruikshank
  • “Anyone can breathe. Therefore anyone can practice yoga.”-TKV Desikachar

 

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What are some of your favorites quotes? Share below!

Back to the Mat of Things

The beauty of life and yoga is the fluidity of it. Life is always moving, forward, circular, constantly, never stagnant. Yoga is the same way. Yoga follows you wherever the current takes you. It helps you maintain the flow and keeps you from drowning in the waters of life. What else is great about yoga is that there are many limbs and facets to yoga that one can always practice it. If you follow me, take my classes, or know a little about my opinion on yoga; you know I always talk about the non asana limbs of yoga. While asana is great and much needed it shouldn’t be the only thing we focus on. Until recently, I never really understood how much asana is needed, especially in my life.

This past month has been a whirlwind. Talk about the never stagnant waters of life. May was the month of dance, dance, dance, new blog adventure (check out auminthearts.com), writing, yoga, and more dance. All this combined made for one tornadoesque month. There was so much going on that I didn’t get to practice much yoga…asana. I was trying to act mindfully, eat well, breathe, BUT, my asana practice was lacking. Which showed me how much that one limb of yoga influences the other seven limbs.

Without practicing asana it was hard for me to be still. Without practicing asana I couldn’t work out that excess and anxious energy to focus on my many tasks at hand. Without the asana I didn’t fully catch my breath or know where it was. Without asana my eating disorder thoughts began to arise because I wasn’t “working out”, “moving my body” enough to eat (even though I was dancing up a storm). Then there was myyoga-1146277_1920 physical body…it hurt. My hips were always stiff which interfered with my dancing. My knee pain was worse. The un-rounding of the shoulders I’ve been working on and opening the thoracic spine work started to go away.  My back was achy and not mobile, which again impairs dance performance. Everything sucked!

I didn’t want life to suck. I didn’t want my body suck. My dancing sure as hell couldn’t suck and neither could my new blog! So I made sure I put asana back in forefront of my day to day happenings. I woke up earlier. I did small sessions of yoga throughout the day. On the weekends I did restorative yoga. If I had five extra minutes I was in a yoga pose, be it a down dog or splaying on my new yoga wheel. And guess what? This ebbing and flowing river that was May began to be calm, or maybe I was just steadier. All because of my asana practice!

How does your asana practice influence your life? What do you notice if you don’t practice enough of the physical yoga? Can you practice too much physical yoga? Now onto June! Keep swimming in the yoga waters…

 

 

When the Yoga Works

I have been practicing yoga for sometime but have really prescribed to it over the past few years and more so lately because I am a yoga teacher! So I really have to live up to the yoga hype right? Actually, I don’t have to live up to the “yoga teacher” hype but it does help me to be more aware of yoga practices, how to live more yogiclly, and to practice what I preach (which is so much easier said than done!). My biggest challenge in the realm of yoga and recovery life is that of being meditative.

Meditation is not what most people think, thinking of nothing. Meditation is developing a mindful attention to one thing at a time and giving all your energy and focus on that one thing. My meditation practice isn’t sitting there in lotus with my malas smelling lavender essential oil and chanting Ohm. In fact, my meditation is practice is anytime I can just be still and focus on one thing, usually it is a chore/task/yoga pose. My meditation practice has stepped up since yoga teacher training, before then it was non-existent. In my teacher training we were required to establish a meditation practice and journal it. I went from zero minutes all the way to seven minutes in the course of eight months. I went from manic monkey mind to just monkey mind. I went from unmindful and hustle bustle to a more mindful hustle and bustle. Sometimes I never really notice how far I have come until someone points it out or I am in a situation where normally I’d be a walking ball of stress and anxiety and I am surprisingly clam. Like a magically fountain spring in the holler calm. Nothing showed me this more than my recent trip to the allergist.

I went to the allergist to get my food allergy panel retested because it’s been a while and it needed a check up. If you haven’t experienced an allergy than you a lucky duck. Allergy panels suck. You  lay on your belly and they prick your skin. If that isn’t bad enough they begin to fill the little pricks with possible allergens. Right as those allergens hit the pricks your skin goes on fire if an allergen is present. Then you have to lay there for fifteen to twenty minutes. No music, no TV, no human interaction. Just you and the burning, itching, kerosene soaked fueled fire, that is on your back. You can’t scratch it. You can’t move. All you can do is lay there and breathe. Breathe. All I did was breathe. I practiced my breath counting exercise (my favorite pranayama, count inhales and make the exhales the same length). 1,2,3,4,5,6, in and out 1,2,3,4,5,6. I began to feel the groundedness of laying on my belly. I began to close the eyes and imagine my breath filling up my body, just like I tell my students. I kept counting. 1,2,3,4,5,6, in and  out 1,2,3,4,5,6. When my mind would wonder or think of something else I would acknowledge it and go back to counting. 1,2,3,4,5,6, in and out 1,2,3,4,5,6. I didn’t feel my back burn. I didn’t feel the itching. I lost track of time. I almost feel asleep (but that could’ve been because it was 8 am). Before I knew it the alarm went off and it was over. They counted my results and we discussed my test. After I left the allergist office I realized that yoga works. I was in a situation where I normally am unhappy, irritated, and dread. But I didn’t really notice much of anything. I barely felt any itching. I just accepted the moment.

Yoga works when you want it to. All you have to do is surrender to it and just do it! Just do yoga. Breathe in. Breathe out. 1,2,3,4,5,6.

Ms. Magenta

So each month I have a newsletter and I write an intention. My intentions are similar to a meditation, just a little nugget of wisdom and something to think about for the month. It is such a joy and pleasure to write these intentions. While I hope people are inspired by them, it is not the reason I write them. I write them from my own experience and from the heart. I feel as if I need to write and share a part of me with them, it is like a way I blog when I am not blogging. My blog is the same way. I don’t do this for the praise and comments (though it is nice), I do it because it is a way for me to heal and show others that a new life is possible. I like to view intention/meditation writing and blogging as another aspect of my yoga practice (asana/posture is only one of 8 limbs). I wrote this for my October  newsletter and it is a favorite of mine. Why? Because it involves a quote from The Golden Girls and I have always wanted to write something based on the quote. So here we go…thank you Blanche Deveroux.

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Do you ever have days that you are so overwhelmed that it is a miracle that you were able to just take a shower or even eat? How about days that are so chaotic that all you can do is breathe and not know what to do? What about days where you aren’t sad/blue, or angry/red, or scared…you don’t know how you feel. You just have something over you. Maybe it is a cloud. Maybe it is something else. Who knows? Blanche Devereaux does, she calls it Magenta. In one episode she says, “Magenta, that’s what I call it when I get that way – all kinds of feelings tumbling all over themselves. Well, you know you are not quite blue, because you’re not really sad. And although you are a little bit jealous, you wouldn’t say you are green with envy. Every now and then you realize you are kinda scared, but you’d hardly call yourself yellow. I hate that feeling. I just hate it. And I hate the color magenta. That’s why I named it that.”

I have lots of magenta days (but I happen to love the color magenta actually). There are days where just getting out of bed and eating is great. Then there are days where I am having a great day but something lingers, I can’t get fully happy. Hello, there Ms. Magenta. When Ms. Magenta appears in my life, I know I have two options: 1) Let Ms. Magenta in for tea and cakes, have a party or 2) Acknowledge her, and keep pushing on with a positive attitude. These two choices can have the following results 1) Ms. Magenta takes over, and suddenly I am blue and black or 2) She eventually goes away and I can see all that today has to offer.

Our yoga practice can help us keep Ms. Magenta away or politely tell her we are not home/busy/not taking appointments. How? by continually practicing two elements of yoga:  santosa (contentment) and svadhyaya (self study). By practicing contentment, we are always telling ourselves that what we have is enough. We are enough. Our life is enough. Everything we have is enough and that there is joy and peace within that. When we practice self study, we go within. I like to compare it to taking inventory. We are always in touch with our faults and how to make them better. We continually learn more about ourselves and the world around us. When we are more content with our life and learn about others, or things that will make us better, our days are brighter. Maybe even white. Seeing life as a gift. Joy, peace and love gives us a rainbow of colors that can give us hope. It may give someone else hope who sees you from afar.
So can you tell Ms. Magenta that you aren’t taking appointments this month?

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My other favorite quote…Us Southern Belles do know a thing or two about battin’ eyelashes and making men drool.

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InstaED

I have recently became a part of the Instagram world. At first I joined reluctantly, I am not a big social media fan. I am content with a Facebook (sometimes) and an email. When I made the decision to become a “big girl” and more business oriented I made an Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. I actually enjoy Instagram. Who would have thought? It is nice to just post pictures. No drama, no political opinions, just people posting pictures of their dogs, dancing, yoga, and other oddities of their/your daily life. Fantastic! I got down with that. It then occurred to me that as a yoga professional, while not a rule but it seems to be understated, “yoga selfies” are to be part of your account….really? I thought I was doing good just to post fun yoga philosophy and positivity quotes with my kombucha.

The whole “yoga selfie” movement is one I struggle with daily. I look over my Insta feed and I see all these amazing poses. These thin, toned, beautiful yogini’s-wearing next to nothing- or strong, muscular, yogi’s doing insane arm balances (hello eight-angle pose, and pincha on your elbows, and other poses that make me scratch my head). I begin to feel inadequate. I can’t do some of those poses. I don’t practice certain poses (if it feels bad I don’t do it). I don’t wear the fancy expensive yoga clothes, and I definitely don’t pose half clothed. On the flip side, I also follow lots of bigger yogini’s and I am amazed at what they do too. They can do postures I can’t do. Most of them are so confident with their bodies they don’t wear much clothing either. And again here I am just stuck in the middle like WTF?

I see the thin girls and feel bad about myself. I see the bigger women and feel bad about myself. The thin toned girls make me not want to eat. They make me want to work out more, maybe even push myself into those crazy poses that hurt me. The bigger women make me think “why can’t I feel that good about myself? They wear bathing suits why can’t I?”. Or I am little and I have no place because being naturally petite lumps me into the thin privilege realm. I CAN’T WIN. Can we also talk about how ALL their selfies look amazing. Perfectly timed, gorgeous sunsets and sunrises, hair in all the right places, perfect angles. They even have the perfect yoga space in their house.

Melvin ( my ED for the new readers), speaks to me all the time. Even subconsciously. It all starts with the long gaze and intense study of the pictures. Then the thoughts come. Then comes his greatest tool, self-pity and self-loathing. His words of “you aren’t worthy”, “you are not gonna inspire anyone”, “how can you teach yoga when you don’t look like that?”, “you can’t do that posture or look good on Instagram and that is why no one comes to your studio” etc…I begin to believe. I begin to contemplate not eating. I begin to contemplate over exercising. My depression and anxiety kick in. The out of control feeling begins sets in like when I am doing Pilates Roll-Overs on the Reformer. So what do I do? I continue with my yoga selfies because that is what I am suppose to do as a yoga professional…

My pictures and videos are all wonky. You can definitely tell I can take my own pictures and that I try really hard to get in the frame. Most of the time I make a fun yoga quip about the horrendousness that is my yoga selfie. I have said on more than one occasion, “taking yoga selfies is just like yoga practice, you got to practice it”. I try to present myself as real as possible. My videos always have my dog, I wear gym shorts, I am open about how I practice and what I don’t practice. I am known to use props (which I LOVE them, #propitup), that I don’t do much asana, and I spend more time on the other seven limbs. My flows aren’t perfect. I stumble. I am me. As much as I try to make them perfect, I always present them imperfectly. Why? Because it goes against Melvin. I think about those people who want imperfection, a yoga teacher who is like them. A teacher who doesn’t wear $100 yoga pants and parade around half naked (Even though I am overtly critical about what I look like *cough do I look thin enough cough*). A teacher who openly shares her yoga struggle because yoga reveals her pain and anger. A teacher who isn’t afraid to say “I don’t know” or recommend another teacher.  A teacher who doesn’t do hot yoga (even though all my classes are hot because you are in it), and loves teaching beginners. A teacher who lets you talk in class and makes jokes. A teacher who lets you be you because she is learning how to be herself.

*if you do want to follow me on Instagram and see not only my yoga selfie fails, but my incredibly cute puppy, #dogiwinston, follow me @downtownyogaknox. *