Monthly Archives: March 2009

Hug a dog

I’m a person and I have flaws.

A ton of em.

But, when I’m teaching, I try to put it all aside and focus on the needs of my students. After my class yesterday, a rather good one I thought, I quickly came out of teacher mode and became frustrated because the recording of the class didn’t work. I didn’t ride the bliss of teaching a class, I catapulted myself into a place of distress because something I tried, didn’t succeed.

Has that ever happened to you?

I’m not very good with technology and I’m just getting used to recording my classes and posting them on the wonderful site, where one can download delicious classes from some of the best teachers in LA and beyond. I’m so happy to be one of the teachers on the site…if I could only get the darn classes to record.

In an instant of feeling failure I had lost my yoga, my mind and my cool. And I did it in front of some of my favorite people, my students. I didn’t start screaming and waving my arms about but I was clearly upset and breaking down cerebrally at the loss of my work.

Thank goodness my display was in front of a couple of students who know me well, but I was still unhappy with my reaction and letting those I care about ‘see me sweat’ and not in the down dog sense of the phrase.

This is something many people face as soon as they leave the yoga room and venture out into the world outside the studio. Heck, I see it in the studio if a student is struggling with a pose.
But when the practice is done, often, it’s on to the next task. How do we keep the peace we created in a room and carry into life?
Well, ask any yoga teacher and the good ones will tell you that they are still trying to figure that one out themselves. Then they might pontificate on sutras, quote the Pradipika or Gita. I wish I could retain all of the knowledge I learned in the yoga classroom when studying to be a teacher. I try, but the best thing I can use when teaching is living, the experiences I have outside of the room and bring it into the room so we can bring it into real life. I’m clearly still working on that myself. So I guess it’s ironic that I was in the room I was teaching in and challenged with an outside of the studio problem. We are all victims of the day and age where multi-tasking is necessary and advancements in technology and communication keep us engaged and oversaturated. It’s easy or gets easier once you begin a practice of yoga to start letting the little stuff go in life. It does. You should have seen me when I was in NYC, working in an office, chain smoking and drinking every night but still running marathons. I’ve come a long way but there is a long way to go.
Sometimes, the little stuff pile up.
The only thing that helps is taking things in as moments, the same moments you take to come into your breath and body, begin asana and your physical and mental meditation practice. To take that moment that can just as easily take you down the dark and dirty path to negativity is the same moment that, once acknowledged can lead you to a place of clarity and for what might just be, an inconvenient challenge of sorts, test or set back. Keep your system in a state of balance and not of reaction. Ok, so I didn’t take that moment and I went a little down the negative path.

So keep practicing. I say to you and myself.

Having said that, I arrived at Liberation Yoga an hour before class. One of the students, now teachers at Liberation was hanging the new art display on the walls lining the studio hallways. Quinn has been the curator of this ever changing and eclectic display since Liberation came into existence several years ago. She has always been an inspiring yogi, but today, her display took the cake. Upon the walls, hung worn out yoga mats, tired and touched with love, sweat, tears, joy, pain, happiness and bliss. Atop those mats were painted moving words and phrases inspired by the practice within and outside of the body in all its strong and weak glory. It represents the process of being and coming into being a yogi and more importantly, a good person who is present in the world and can shrug off the moments in which we fail and succeed.

I’ve attached one of the photos below; as it is one of the most fantastic things I’ve seen. Using our practice mats and turning it into art is a staggering idea I wish I thought of. Instead, Quinn thought of it, while watching the tube and drinkin’ some wine. I love that.

After my class, another dear student, now teacher and friend saw that I was upset. I apologized for being emotional and she told me, “It happens. You know what really helps, if you hug a dog.”

She has a couple of dogs and says; just hugging them makes everything better! I don’t have a dog but I thought of my family dog, Daisy, and how every time I go home to NY, she wags her nub of a tail, so excited to see me. She always remembers me no matter how long it’s been since I’ve been away. I grab her and fold her in my arms and she just shakes with excitement, squints her eyes, let’s her tongue hang out and her dog breath billow heavily and she even leaks a little on the hard wood floor.

When Jacquelin said this to me, I got it. Then she gave me her human hug and everything WAS better. Hugs in general are just juicy goodness. I like the human kind, her kind, but I get the dog kind too and it’s the best advice I’ve heard in a long while.

I mean, I was still frustrated, but better.

I realized that the sweat, tears, joy and pain we leave on the yoga mat, can stain and leave marks in other places, sometimes unexpected. When we are met with the people or dogs that are open in acceptance to all of our feelings whether practicing yoga or practicing life, we are really in union. We are in Yoga.

It is my great joy to teach and teaching at Liberation Yoga has been such a gift. It is always home to me. But what I am most grateful for is all that I have learned from the practices and progress from the yogis there. I need them more than they need me.

I might have taught a great class yesterday, but it was I who learned the lesson from the students/teachers that inspire me the most.

Thank you.

Now, go find a dog and hug it!

Leave room…

My lesson for today and always is a lesson I still need to learn and perhaps it resonates with you as well...

Leave more than enough time before you get somewhere and bring a good book or book on tape or cd or phone call that you can make before your appointment.

Leave room in your ears, especially whilst in traffic. I love hip-hop and rap but I can't listen to it when I'm in bumper to bumper as it makes me uppity. Listen to smooth jazz, classical or nothing at all. I know people who listen to classical and it gets them uppity. Enjoy the silence.

Leave room between you and the car in front of you, at least one to two cars. It won't stop the flow of traffic but allow traffic to move the way it's supposed to, smoothly. When I'm cramming to the car in front of me, I use more gas and have to think harder. I'm usually listening to rap. Even if you are in a rush, use that room; it will help a great deal. Tried, true, tested and approved. This method will actually get you to where you need to go faster.

Leave room in your life. Don't sign up for every workshop and class known to man because it scares you or you will learn more and it will inform your life's work. In theory, now and then, it's a good choice. If you are me, you are always signing up for the next thing and not allowing the thing you just did to sink in and allow you the sense of accomplishment that you deserve for doing it.

Leave room for the sense of accomplishment that you deserve for doing things. If you take on a new challenge, don't be so quick for the next thing. Accomplishments should serve your soul for a long time before the longing for something else attracts you. My problem, I'm an explorer. I keep taking on things I don't have time for but because they are out of my comfort zone or new or scary or interesting, I feel I have to say YES to it and go for it. The comfort zone is underrated. It's a great space to live in especially after you've just completed something that's outside of the comfort. If you are the opposite of this and NEVER do anything outside of your comfort zone, well, get off your butt and do something!

Leave room to feel miserable. Allow yourself no more than a half an hour, tops, to vent to a friend or family member or write down what you feel crappy about and when the timer hits 30, you're done, no more feeling bad about whatever it was or however long the list of crappy instances or feelings you have, after 30 minutes, you are done for the day. Move on.
Miserable takes a lot more energy. Content takes nothing and happiness gives you energy so whatever it takes to get you to the content or happy place, make it happen.

Leave room at the end of the day, to be grateful. Make a list. No matter what challenges might occur in your day, there are always things you are super glad you have in your life. By the end of the day, when I get home after fighting traffic and feeling like I've been in a war, I can see the sea. I get home to a parking space that's marked for me, up to a beautiful albeit small studio that is zenned out to my liking, with cable I never watch but is there. I have library books waiting to be read, food in the fridge, clothes in my closet, friends and family to call or write. By the end of the day, I look around and I am grateful. Grateful that no matter what life throws at me, I still have a 'job' I can get up for and love doing. Whatever else happens, happens, I can bitch about it for 30 minutes and be done.

Leave room after dinner. Desert is a wonderful treat. Save half your dinner and enjoy it the next day for lunch. You'll remember the meal and company and get to enjoy something sweet afterwards. If it's a crazy desert, you can burn it off your next work out. It's worth it.

Leave room to breathe, enjoy, be quite, see friends, watch TV, read a book, and do NOTHING.

We're of a society that needs to keep up. The speed of life is so fast these days that it’s easy to watch life go by as we take on and conquer. It's ok, not to DO all the time.

This is my main problem and I've vowed to my friends and family and now right here on my blog that after today, for the next 365 days, that's a year, that I will not sign up for anything new. I will continue on the path that I'm on, and really like by the way and let that enjoyment steep into my comfort zone. After a year, well then maybe I can try something new, and maybe it will be something that scares the bejeezus out of me or maybe it's just a new skill. Until then, I allow all of you to slap me in the Internet if I decide to take on a new skill or task. It's that simple.

However, I am toying with the idea of giving up coffee. I think we all agree that's best for the type A yogi.
Is that a new skill or task?
I guess I will find out.

Leave room, because as bad as it might get, there is always room for good, if you allow it.

Fly Me To The Moon…

The concept of flying through the air might scare some. For me, I always find myself flying or longing to fly.

It started when I was really young and convinced that I used to fly down the staircase of my old family home, down to the living room. I know it didn’t actually happen and I never had a banister that afforded the slide/fly opportunity, but I would always skip or hop a step and to me, that felt like flying.

I remember having dreams where I would skip over all of the steps and just land at the bottom like a bird to a branch or a gymnast with a gold metal landing off the balance beam. It made me feel powerful, even when I was a kid, ridiculed for being fat or smart or awkward. In my dreams, I would always soar.

I must like the air, the feeling of time pausing as I glide through air, refuse gravity and it’s force using the strong body God gave me and the determined mind my parents trained me to have in all my flights of fancy.

When I was a teenager, I spring-breaked in the Bahamas with my girlfriends. Tanning was what all my friends wanted to do but parasailing was what I wanted to do. Why be on the beach when you can DO on the beach? I recruited my dear friend Dara and we went in tandem over the clear aqua sea of the Caribbean, led by a rogue boat captain, he dipped us in the water and from the water launched us to the sky. We travelled the coast for a mile and back. He dropped us a couple of times like a stubborn kite lost in the wind, but we laughed and flew and got drenched with sea, salt and smiles. I still look back at that day as one of the most memorable. The rest were filled with a new drunken haze and that kind of flying is never memorable.

Being in a beautiful place floating in the air above the sea and laughing with my friend was just the right thing I would continue wanting to capture as the years kept progressing.

I was a heavy kid but I lost weight with Weight Watchers and then I discovered running.

I started running, then racing and competing with myself for time.

When I went to college in Boston, I marathoned several times and although I was on land the whole time, training and racing 26.2 miles, no matter how my mind or body would lag at moments, I felt that same flying feeling I remembered from my youth, leaping through space and time, matching the beat of my pulse to the pounding of the pavement to the finish line.

Flying to LA in a plane…

I went for a visit after college over a decade ago. It wasn’t my first time to LA and it wasn’t my first time flying. That visit kept me in LA for many years.

My first few times back and forth from LA to NY felt like time stopped. Since then, my home has always been in both places and the time above and between whilst in flight always allowed me the time to stop and reflect on the lives I had in both places, my family and friends in NY and my friends and new ‘family’ in LA. When you are above it all, time zones and daylight, you can suck yourself into entertainment, food, drinking, and conversation, to dos or reading. I would write and look at my life while time stopped and see what I was doing from above. I took the bird’s eye view and looked at what I’d been doing and tweak my ideas and dreams. I’d decide what I needed to get rid of or what my new game plan was to achieve my dreams and let them take flight in my mind, the idea, and the space. By the time I’d return back to LA, I’d be ready for the newness of it all, refreshed and invigorated by being above and being back on land.

It’s been many years of ‘flying’ coast to coast. I catch myself sometimes just wanting to ‘get there’ or back, but I always try to remember just how important it is to live in that space between the places, the space between the actual action, the space between the doing where there is no effort but just being, just flying, contemplating the time and room without, ‘the rest’. But then I’m drawn into the speed of reality and the sensation that doing and achieving has more concrete rewards and result.

When I was much older, I went to Costa Rica on a yoga retreat. Zip cabling above the dewy rain forest was the most sensual, spiritual and peaceful things I could imagine. I would think of Hanuman, the monkey god, swinging from tree to tree by his raggedy tail, getting into trouble while trying to make sense of it all. I had a harness strapped around my groin and belly and couldn’t have looked less attractive, but gliding across that forest, hundreds of feet above the soft earth made me feel closer to it and connected to all that was beneath and around me. Free from anything but the line that held me up, I was liberated. I could do anything. The strength, I had. The will, was there.

I had friends that thought it would be a good idea to jump out of an airplane.

The hardest part of jumping out of a plane was not only putting on yet another unattractive harness, forcing the fat you wish was not yours out of the tight canvas grips. The hardest part was getting on the plane and making your way into the air. It’s quiet and the trip is long although just minutes. And even though your instructors are most probably high and hippies, even they are silenced, meditatively so, preparing for the peace balanced with excitement when you 1,2, 3 GO!
When you go in tandem the first few times before you are a ‘skydiver’, you really don’t have the time to think about anything. You have to put your trust in the person that you are clipped on to to take you on the ride. I don’t remember anything other then the terror and ear popping that happened as we got higher and higher. Higher than parasailing. Higher than zip cabling. Ok, that’s enough. Nope, we’re going higher. And I’m always the first to go. 1, 2, 3, GO!! There is one or 2 seconds where you feel the fright. Then there is the free fall. It’s fast and invigorating, like wind in your face with the window open on a long stretch of road. Someone videotaped it and I wished I were thinner in hindsight ‘cause all you could see was the flaps in the wind, face, belly and all. I only thought of that when I watched it, not when I was in it. Cause in it, vanity doesn’t exist. Just doing. Just absolutely and completely taking the machete to any feelings that preceded the JUMP!
Then, the parachute let’s loose and everything is slow. All you can see are your feet below and earth further below and air, so much air all around you that you can barely fill your lungs with it all. And you are full, with air, and physical chemicals that I can’t describe and words that come out of your mouth that sound religious even though you might not be and screams of absolute release and the support of someone you don’t know that says just trust me, everything will be ok.
I didn’t care if he was high or that his buddy was in the hospital because his parachute didn’t open last week. He had done this a thousand times and loved seeing the fright of people melt into the bliss of just being above it all. As a teacher I think of how proud I am watching someone effortlessly move their way into crow pose or headstand as I watch and support. They tell me later, that was the first time and I think, really, well, I’m glad I was here, but it was you that did it.
In pause, above the ground, I fight God’s gravity and use man made materials to explore the air between earth and space and sunshine. Touchdown was effortless and the rush wasn’t like running a marathon. It was much easier to complete or compete with. I felt full of life and all of the elements. I felt the earth and the sky and goodness knows I was looking forward to the water I could drink after the trip. Is it too soon to go again?

I’ve never loved going upside down in yoga. So I do it because it challenges me. Going through a flow of balances and holding postures, being still and solid makes me feel that same feeling of flight. I can feel it while being grounded and still as opposed to turning myself upside down in uncertainty. Yoga always makes me feel like I’m flying, when I’m in my body and in the moment.

When I started personal training, I started playing with physical exercise in a way that went outside my textbooks and workshops. I learned what I needed to learn for now and wanted to go out in the world, practice and explore fitness in the way I wanted to and bring it to my students. Living in Santa Monica has been the best inspiration for that. When I come back home to Santa Monica, I can feel that flying feeling in my lungs. The air is cleaner. There’s more of it. I strap on my ipod mini and supportive running shoes and walk towards the edge of the California Incline. I skip steps and fly down flights, living the same dream from when I was young. Now I can actually leap over several steps and know it’s not a dream. I get to the path that meets the sand and I jump over parking bumps, curbs and sand dunes. I leap and play like it was yesterday and the beach becomes my fitness and yoga laboratory. It’s the place I feel the freest, flying through the sand and concrete, coming up with new and fun ways to bring fitness and stretches and bliss to my clients.

It’s the closest I feel to being a kid.

When my dad got sick again before the holidays and after I had spent some weeks at home, I returned back to LA only to find and move to a new place. It was stressful but my mom gave me the ‘Sex And The City’ series to watch when. She said it always made her feel better when she would literally put the shows on in the background of what she was doing listen to the music and dialog. Being that I was newly single, now at the age of these gals when the show was hot, had to find a new place to live and a new life while my dad was sick at home, I found the same solace in keeping ‘Sex And The City’ on the background as my mom does, while I packed up boxes, looked for apartments on Craig’s List and tried to figure out what I was doing with my new adult life.

When I got to the episode where Carrie was newly single, on a new path and decided to do the flying Trapeze at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan, I knew I had to do something new. Not something grave, but daring and crazy and new. I needed feel that feeling of doing…something…and flying.

My sister had done the trapeze in NYC as well, with the desire to conquer her fear of heights. She told me that they had a school in Santa Monica. I looked it up and it was a quarter mile from my apartment at the Santa Monica Pier. I enlisted some of my friends. Too scared, too expensive. I went with the ex.

I was giddy every step of the way to get there. We took a very small lesson with a very small group and then they put on our waist harness (way more attractive then the zip and sky diving, in fact, more flattering as it was corset style, pinching in the waistline) and we were ready to go. Of course I was first. I don’t think we got enough instruction. Perhaps that’s the point. Don’t ask, don’t tell, and don’t know. I’m a visual learner and would have preferred seeing someone go up before me, but alas, I was first and had to just go for it.

I walked up the steep ladder and that was enough to know I was going to be very high. I got to the platform and Randy, nice guy, started saying stuff to me that I know was English, but all of a sudden, fear was my first language and English was a far second. The hardest part was being told to put my ten toes off the ledge. As soon as he told me he ‘had’ me, I knew, all I had to do was trust. Grab the bar with your right hand and hold on tight to the platform bar with your left. Lift your chest, lean all the way forward. I have you. Hold on with your right hand. Hold on tight.

I put myself in his hands and it was written. The cues came to me like words on a page, cues in a class.

Bend your knees and hop. Wait, does hop mean jump? Does that mean go? Stop thinking, just go.

Hop! Both hands gripped tight but not scared and I went, toes pointed toward the earth and there was nothing, but you and the momentum of your body that makes it so, the breath that makes your legs go forward and strength of will. Shoulders strong and still attached! I could feel my body, a body I work hard to keep strong. I know this body. Knees up! And in a moment they were on the bar. Reach! My hands let go and I reached. I reached my hands, my heart and my gaze. I reached to the sky, reached to the possibility. There is nothing like trusting your own strength against gravity to hold you up. Unlike the zip or sky diving, it is up to you to hold the fuck on. Listen. ‘Look to the ocean!’ That’s easy! I arched my back and looked to the sea, my home. I’m flying. For real!!

Backwards and forwards I go. Circus here I come.

Legs go down, hands go up.

I swing my legs back and forth and feel my hamstrings and calf muscles and belly hard at work while my mind is being controlled by the trapeasies.

In a moment I will be told to let go. This is my hardest instruction.

Let go.

I hold on to the bar and let my legs swing back and forth.

Let go.

What you need isn’t in your hands. It’s not what you can see or feel.

Let go. There is nothing left to do, you just have to be and the net will be there to catch you.

Let go….

Let go…

Let go…

Let go…

And fly.

Really fly. For the first time, just let yourself be free.

There is nothing left to do.

Let go.

My life is filled with doing, achieving.

I’m here now, so what did you say?

I got myself here. So stop doing and just be. Let go and let yourself be free.

I let go and with grace and a few little giggles, I fell to the net. Gravity called me.

The earth called me. I was back to it…and ready to go again.

I went again, several times. We did the ‘catch’ at the end where you let go and reach for another person.

The hardest part never became easy. It never did. The part where I had to let go and let it be. The physical strength, the momentum, the swing, the ebb and flow, the fear, no problem, the peace in it all just plummeting to stillness, I could swing all day.

It was a great day. I think I’ve done the ‘fear’ thing.

What I need to do next is get out of the comfort zone of uncomfortability and allow myself to live free in the zone that just is…life.

Being for me is the scariest thing. The doing is easy. The leaping is easy.

The letting go is the hard part.

I’m happy I have the thrill nature in me. Perhaps now it’s time to let the stillness of being inspire me.

I can get there and do, scare myself and leap, but it’s the letting go, the space and air where there is nothing but nothing around you that is the hardest thing for me to, pun intended, grasp.

If I can let go of the grasp, the need to do, that is really letting go. That is really what flying, being in flight and feeling that release is really all about. That is conquering the fear.

Doing is half the battle, letting go is the conquering.

They told me that I would feel muscles I never felt before aching. I thought, really, I’ve taken every class and boot camp known to man and I haven’t been sore for years. When I woke up the next day, I felt those muscles I haven’t felt before. I felt alive and strong. Then I went about my day, letting it all-go.