Be stronger

You can count on me to completely lose my shit twice a year; once in September and once in January. I call it, taking a ride on the crazy train. I know I have arrived at Breakdown Station when every little thing starts to piss me off. When my perspective turns bitter because it seems there is always something more to do and it is all my responsibility. When my usually positive and sunny outlook goes dark.

I mention this now because it is nearly September and that means the Crazy Train is approaching the station.

The September freakout occurs when summer exhaustion meets a new school year and then combines with the fact that my company is about to enter the fourth quarter of our fiscal year and I’m not sure how I’ll accomplish all the goals I set for myself by 12/31/–. These three factors converge to create a complete derailment featuring anxiety induced frustration and rage.

The January derailment occurs when holiday exhaustion meets the second half of the school year and then combines with the fact that my company just entered the first quarter of our fiscal year and I only have 12 months to accomplish all the projects we scoped.

Looking at them now, September and January seem to be two very dangerous and obvious kinks in the the railroad track. However, for the first time since embarking on my career and becoming a parent, I see and understand this pattern. More and more, I see that keeping the trains running on time, for me, is about two things:

#1–Recognizing when I need to calm the fuck down

#2–Knowing what it takes to calm the fuck down

During practice this morning, my yoga teacher said

“Notice if every little thing is pissing you off; then get stronger.”–Anna McLawhorn, Three Dog Yoga

Granted, she said this within the context of Warrior 2 (Virabhadra) which we had been holding for what felt like 3 hours, and we were all a little pissed off. But I heard it within the context of my own life and my own mental state.

“Every little thing IS pissing me off and I DO need to get stronger.” I need to get my shit together and take back the things that make my life work, like yoga and writing and sleep. Those are always the first things to go when schedules fall apart and life gets hectic. I need to calm the fuck down. I need to get grounded. I need to stay on track.

 

 

This article originally published on www.groundingup.com

 

Advertisements

Instagram and the Yoga Selfie

I don’t know very many people who are willing to admit that they love social media; even as people are scrolling their social media feeds, they are talking about how they never go to their social feeds because it is an obscene waste of time and completely contrived.

And to that argument, I will say “oh for sure, that shit is a complete time suck and much of it is a fabricated representation of everyday life.”

But I will also tell you that I absolutely love social media and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

Social media helps me feel connected to friends and family who live far away or that I don’t see on a regular basis because I don’t have much free time and I use it to keep current on local and worldwide news.

Also, most of my yoga education comes from my studio or from the Internet; social media is how I find those resources. Which brings me to the point of this post and it is this:

My social media streams (mostly Instagram) are full of pictures of professional yogis doing complicated yoga poses perfectly. Where is the stream for the 40-something working mother of two who might have time to take a picture of herself if her kids take a nap? How do I get that person in my social media feed? Where are HER pictures?

So this morning, I decided I would post a picture of whatever pose popped up in my Instagram feed first and it was this one:

Screen Shot 2017-07-01 at 2.55.56 PM.png

Camel Pose, Ustrasana, if you care about sanskrit. This is what mine looks like and I’ve been doing yoga for 7 years:

DSC_1684
I took this while my toddler napped. I didn’t have time to shower or change out of my jeans. I am pretty excited about the backdrop though as I have been looking for a good use for the shipping crates that our speakers came in. 

From time to time, I think I will do this as a public service to anyone out there who thinks they can’t do yoga because they aren’t fit or flexible enough or might be worried about looking like an ass.

Most real life yoga looks like mine, not what you see on social media and yes, I could spend my social media time meditating or calling my mom, but, first, let me take a selfie.

This article originally published on www.groundingup.com

 

How To “Do” Yoga On The Rocks

I don’t remember how I first heard about Yoga On The Rocks. Maybe my sister, who lives in Denver told me or maybe I read about it in Yoga Journal; that seems like something they would cover.  Regardless, once I learned about the outdoor yoga event, held in the spectacularly beautiful Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado, it went directly to the top of my ever-growing “Yoga Bucket List.”

Yoga Bucket List (a sampling)
Start a yoga blog ✅
Write a kids yoga book
Attend international yoga retreat ✅
Yoga at Giants Stadium
. . .

The list goes on, but you get the idea. So this was finally my summer for Yoga On The Rocks. The event is just as amazing as Yoga Journal (or my sister) said it was. And, as a public service to all the yogi’s out there, I’m going to offer you my unsolicited advice (my specialty) for having the best Yoga On The Rocks experience.

Unsolicited Advice Starts Here:

Arrive early

The Red Rocks Amphitheater seats 9,525 people; however, to accommodate space for yoga mats, the venue sells out at about 2,000 yogis for this event. You’ll buy your tickets online but if you want to have the best mat placement, plan to arrive at your seats at least 30 minutes before the instruction starts.

Parking is no problem as the venue is designed for far more people than can be ticketed for this yoga event.

Wear layers

Colorado mornings are chilly, even in the summer. Wear warm layers. The venue seating faces east, so once the sun warms you, you won’t need the extra clothes.

DSC_1506

Pack snacks

There are event sponsors in attendance at the top of the amphitheater; however, don’t plan on much in the way of food vending. Caribou Coffee was there with a cart and Silk was there with a yogurt station for the vegans or the really hungry carnivores. Propel was there with water. And randomly, Chipotle was there with chips and guacamole (this just made me sad I couldn’t get a breakfast burrito).

Remember your sun protection

Like I said earlier, the sun hits you from the east, which happens to be the direction you’ll need to face the stage and the instructor, so sunscreen and sunglasses are highly recommended.

Print your ticket

They were’t set up to check your cellphones for your ticket, so print it out so they can scan it with their scanner guns. Also, I’m not sure what the Will Call situation is, but it is removed from the venue by a decent distance and it seems like a major pain to try to go that route if you even can.

Bring your “festival” yoga mat–

The smell of stale beer that hit me as I approached the amphitheater served as a not so gentle reminder that this is a concert venue at 6:30 AM and that just a few hours before I placed my mat in row 50, an inebriated Widespread Panic fan was dancing and spilling his or her drink, food, and who knows what else in the exact same spot. Actually, a few of those fans were still in the parking lot, grilling their breakfast, nursing their hangovers, and gearing up for another show that night. They had breakfast burritos.

The venue has obviously been cleaned since the concert, but still, bring that old mat you haven’t gotten around to recycling yet instead of your brand new Manduka. This can its practice.

IMG_0410

Prepare for instructor du jour

Ironically, yogis can be extremely inflexible when it comes to accepting different teaching styles and philosophies. It is unlikely that you will have received instruction from the instructor teaching at Red Rocks the day you attend as they rotate through the summer. Our practice was lead by Samy Mattei, who is a teacher at The River yoga studio in Denver.

The sequence was an easy 60 minute vinyasa flow appropriate for all levels. There is a big screen showing demo yogis working their way through the practice, so if you need a point of reference, you can look there.

The River yoga studio seems to subscribe to a “you are beautiful” philosophy and I found the fluffy “we are all just really really beautiful and special on the inside” pep talk a bit much. I know I’m not alone in that and I wish that instructors would consider their audience before they roll out the woo woo.

The other thing I noticed was the fact that we didn’t OM anywhere in the practice. I’m not sure if this was an intentional omission or if the instructor just forgot, but if ever there was a time for an OM it would be with 2000 people on a beautiful summer morning in one of the world’s greatest acoustical venues. I feel robbed. I want my OM dammit.

Plan a post-practice hike or picnic

While finding a parking spot is easy enough, traffic leaving the event venue is a little slow. I recommend taking a hike in the stunning red rocks near the vicinity. There are several great hiking trails and loops that start and end right at Red Rocks. So, take a hike rather than sitting in traffic.

Relax and have fun–

Attending this event is incredibly easy. It is essentially hassle-free. And even if you don’t have a great time, the price of entry is only $14. It’s not like you just paid $500 to see Widespread Panic or something.

 

This article originally published on www.groundingup.com.

 

Studio Review: This yoga is so hot

I know I’m not alone in liking my yoga warm, hot even by some people’s standards, but believe me when I tell you that some yoga can indeed be too hot. Unfortunately, is seems impossible for the yoga industry to agree on what constitutes “too hot”.

Heat is used in yoga as a tool for creating change, both physically and intellectually.  It also softens tissues and muscles, and is thought to release toxins through sweat. Science says you are really just sweating out water and salt, but if you want to believe that you are sweating out vodka tonics and champagne, that’s fine. I certainly do.

Many modern yoga styles call for practice temperatures between 85 and 94 degrees Fahrenheit with Bikram Yoga being the exception, prescribing a temperature of 105 degrees F and 40% humidity.

So if being warm is the ideal, why in the HELL is it so hot in here??

  • To some extent, yoga instructors are at the mercy of the heating system in place at the studios where they teach. Certain heating systems can be hard to control and ventilation, or a lack of it, can be the difference between an excellent yoga experience and a horrific one.
  • Some teachers seem to forget about the temperature all together once they get rolling and only notice when the bodies start dropping.
  • Some instructors are weirdly competitive about how hot they like their yoga to be; however, there are no trophies in yoga, so cool it.
  • And then there is the personal climate preference of each and every yoga student in the room, which largely must be ignored or the yoga will never happen.

I bring all this up because I recently visited Dancing Dogs Yoga Greensboro for a power vinyasa class. I was in town for a leadership workshop and needed a yoga field trip. Dancing Dogs Yoga Greensboro is one of four Baptiste Affiliate Yoga Studios in the southeast part of the US. The other three are in Savannah, GA, Atlanta, GA, and Bluffton, SC.

But anyway, back to my yoga field trip to the Greensboro studio. Here is my Review.

The Class and Instructor

I consider myself fortunate to have visited Dancing Dogs Yoga on a day when Earl Wheeler was teaching. He is an obvious studio favorite and his class was at maximum capacity. He taught a creative and challenging power vinyasa class in the Baptiste style. Heat seems to be Earl’s “thing”; he likes it hot and humid. So, if that is a concern for you, I recommend checking with the studio before choosing your class.

earlwheelerheadshot_213x319
Earl Wheeler

The Studio Space

This is a beautiful studio featuring two practice rooms, showers, water filtration, and retail (but not too much retail if ya know what I mean). The staff is welcoming, knowledgable, and everyone has a great attitude.

But about the heat. In my opinion, their heating system is overwhelming for the size of the practice room and the number of students in it. I realize that infrared studio heat is popular because it is thought to be healthier and more environmentally friendly, but in this case, it may need some fine tuning.

Baptiste Yoga prescribes a room temperature between 90 and 95 degrees F, but we were easily at 105-110 by the middle of the practice. I was praying for the amazing ceiling fan to come on and stay on, but it never did.

The Savanna, GA Dancing Dogs Yoga studio has a juice bar and I have to suggest that the Greensboro studio add one. A smoothie was all I could think about during the last half of Earl’s class.

The Take Away

I love to visit other yoga studios because variation in your practice is essential and it always feels so good to get back home to your studio.

 

This article originally published on www.groundingup.com

 

 

And the yoga nerds rejoice

Leslie Kaminoff, co-author of Yoga Anatomy and founder of The Breathing Project NYC is coming to ThreeDogYoga in Santa Rosa, CA this weekend for a yoga anatomy and breathing immersion workshop. And the yoga nerds rejoice.

Obviously, yoga nerds are excited and the workshop is sold out. However, if you are like me and you have waited until the last minute to prepare for the workshop, a quick review of the resources below should be enough to get you in the door.

How to prepare for a Leslie Kaminoff Workshop

yogaanatomybylesliekaminoff
Read (or at least be familiar with) Chapters 1-5 in Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews. Those chapters break down the foundational theory and the remainder of the book gets into the specifics around the asanas

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 11.59.52 AM
Check out the information available on his website and read the article on Anna McLawhorn and Three Dog Yoga.
Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 11.58.09 AM
Watch some or all of the videos available on his YogaAnatomy YouTube Channel. 
Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 12.20.18 PM.png
Watch “The Enlightenment of the Dumpster” by Leslie Kaminoff on YouTube because it will make your day.

And that should do it. Have fun!

This article originally published on GroundingUp. 

 

 

 

 

Daddy’s Handstands

My dad was a competitive swimmer and diver until the early 1970s when he became a coach. This is known. What is not known, not even to him, is that he is the most influential yogi in my life. Unintentionally, he gave me the gift of the mind body connection.

Power yoga, particularly Baptiste power yoga, is full of arm balances and inversions, none of which are possible without sufficient arm and core strength. Hence, the handstand prep, which is designed to build said arm and core strength. If you haven’t seen it (and there are several by the way), it looks like this:

It may not look like much is happening, but that is because you aren’t doing one right now.

In 2010, at my first power yoga class, I did an “official” handstand prep. I say official because I had been doing them my entire life, not because of yoga, but because my dad did them constantly throughout my childhood and I inherited his “quirk”.

His handstand preps showed up in seemingly odd places; conversations in the kitchen with my mom, at the office, out on his job sites (after he retired from coaching he started a construction company).

But years later, looking back at that strange behavior, I finally saw it for what it was; a holdover from the diving platform, a release of negative energy, a clearing out, a centering. Somewhere in his swimming days, he had made the mind body connection. And, I was completely blown away. 

Now, as I exhale my hands to the floor and rock forward onto my toes with my weight in my hands, balancing with my fingertips, I see my dad’s hands, not mine. Tan, veiny, well used hands.

He is nearly 70 now and has a total spinal fusion, so handstand preps are a distant memory for him. I need to ask him if he misses them. He would likely be surprised to know that I consider them his trademark.

I think about this now, as I handstand prep my way through my day. I worry less about the frequent impulse I have always had to put my hands on the ground and get upside down. I understand it now as a completely acceptable need to get grounded and release excess energy rather than some weird compulsive behavior I shouldn’t tell people about.

And I see it in my daughter. She clearly feels better when she is moving and it is my job to make her feel okay with that need rather than bad about her lack of self control. I will not tell her to hold still. I will teach her to use her energy for good instead of evil–to channel it.

We will start with handstand preps.

dad
Dad

This article originally published on www.groundingup.com

Ways in which real life is NOT like a yoga retreat

This is my seventh full day in the real world since returning from the Haramara Yoga Retreat in Sayulita, Mexico. I have spent the last week acclimating to my surroundings and reflecting on just how much my actual life is not at all like a yoga retreat.

I did yoga everyday, all day.

DSC_8414.jpg
Because yoga went all day; 8:30 am-9:00pm

I slept through the night, every night.

DSC_8393.jpg
I got a solid 9 hours of sleep every night; no 2:30 am negotiations with a toddler about the circumstances under which he will agree to go back to bed.

I walked.

DSC_8379.jpg
This was the walkway down to the beach from the upper trail and it is a great example of the walking you do at this retreat center. In real life, I spend 2 hours a day commuting by car; not here. Haramara is set on a 12 acre mountainside parcel with a beach at the bottom. Hike uphill you will if you want to eat, get to the pool, or do yoga.

I peed alone.

DSC_8376.jpg
My casita did indeed have a beautiful bathroom just for me as well as some strategically placed restrooms throughout the property. I used those bathrooms without a toddler accompanying me or my 10-year-old chatting me up through the bathroom door.

I ate in peace.

DSC_8571.jpg
I should do a BLOG post solely about the cuisine at Haramara. Not only was it world class, but I ate it without getting up to cut someone’s food in to tinier pieces, clean up spilled milk, or to do the dishes.

I socialized.

group-champagne
In general, if I’m not working, I’m wrangling kids, which doesn’t leave much time for actual adult socialization. Our retreat group consisted of people from the ThreeDogYoga studio in Santa Rosa, CA so we were starting with familiar faces rather than complete strangers. It took me a day or two to remember what people talked about if it wasn’t kid or work related.

I watched an entire sunset.

DSC_8514.jpg
Start to finish.

I thought deep thoughts.

dsc_8748
While not a “silent” retreat, the immersion program included some strategically placed times of noble silence. This is the thing I miss most now that I’m back in the fray–time to process without the background noise or competition for my attention.

I appreciated.

ron-jess-sept-5th-2015-128
Being away from my people made me appreciate my people. For a parent, it is really hard to pursue personal interests or maintain a level of sanity without solid support. I was able to escape to Mexico only because my sweet husband was willing to keep the trains running on time while I was gone. A week without the chaos of everyday life gave me time to reflect on just what an amazing partner he is and how much I truly love the life we have together–but next time, I’m bringing him with me, because I mean, just look at him;-)

I do what I want (sometimes).

On Sunday, my friends from ThreeDogYoga and I are leaving for a yoga retreat at Haramara in Sayulita, Mexico.

Unlike a standard vacation, it seems a yogi needs to have “reasons” for going on a yoga retreat. And for every reason there is for going, there are at least three reasons for not going on a yoga retreat; believe me, I have been talking myself out of yoga retreats for YEARS.

Here is a sampling of some of my reasons for NOT going on a yoga retreat sooner
1–It seems like way too much yoga
2–I get incredibly homesick (yes, I know that I am a grown woman)
3–My work and family schedule just can’t accommodate it. How will everyone live without me for 5 whole days?
4–Yoga retreats are expensive and a luxury. It’s not fiscally responsible.
5–My husband can’t go with me and if I’m going on vacation I should probably go with him.

The Internet of Yoga is more than happy to provide lists and lists and lists of reasons for attending a yoga retreat. And while most of those reasons seem fairly legitimate, I have to say that none of those reasons are really MY reason for going. 

Some reasons the Internet says you should go on a yoga retreat
1–Take your yoga practice to the next level
2–Expand your meditation practice
3–Digitally & nutritionally detox
4–It is part of your yoga teacher certification
5–Because you really need a break

If you are a human being, it has probably been a really long time since you felt like you could do what you wanted to do when you wanted to do it.

If you honor your responsibilities and value your livelihood and relationships than there is an endless list of things that come before you and what you want to do. A yoga retreat in Mexico is probably not on that list.

That is life and it is the life we love and willingly created, blessed with rewarding careers, happy homes, sweet and loving spouses and kids, pets, friends and neighbors, and extended family. But, these blessings don’t maintain and nurture themselves. You have to be there to water all that green grass day in and day out. Who will water that grass if you are in Mexico?

Yes, I’m heading to Haramara to expand my yoga practice and to explore yoga teacher training, to detox, and do whatever else the Internet says goes on there.

But if I’m really being honest, I would have to say that going on this retreat is a way of proving to myself that I can still do what I want sometimes. Work will still be there, my husband will forgive me for leaving him alone for 5 days, and the kids will survive.

P.S.–I’m already homesick.

This article was originally published on www.groundingup.com

 

 

Sell the Goat!

Settle in everyone, I’m going to tell you a story.


A villager lived in a small house with his wife, mother-in-law, six children, a cow, and some chickens. The chaos was driving him crazy. So he went to the village rabbi for help. The rabbi said he could solve the problem: he advised the man to buy a goat. The man immediately went out and bought a goat. 

Now he had a wife, a mother-in-law, six children, a cow, some chickens, and a goat. The house was even more chaotic than before. The villager returned to the rabbi and described the increased confusion. Once again, the rabbi said he could solve the problem and he told the man to sell the goat. The villager went home and sold the goat. 

Suddenly, all he had in his small house were his wife, his mother-in-law, his six kids, a cow, and some chickens. Things were positively peaceful without the goat!

*Hanson Lasater, Judith, Ph.D., PT.Living Your Yoga. 2000. Print


I share this story with you because I like good stories about perspective and when Anna at ThreeDogYoga shared it with me, I knew that I was going to need to pass it along. It also gave me a great excuse to look at goat pictures (thank you, internet).

Most of the work we do in yoga really just boils down to shaping our own perspectives. Life is going to be what it is going to be; how we see that life is the part that we control. That is enlightenment and it is a life’s work.

So go out there and sell some goats.

 

This article originally published on www.groundingup.com.