Monday, March 28, 2011

Sacred Journey

Spending a playful week in New York City in the AcroYoga therapeutic "love bubble" as we began to call it, was nurturing experience. I think most folks (in Texas, anyway) look at me like I've finally walked off the deep end when I say I'm into "Acrobatic" Yoga. They can't quite comprehend what it's all about or even fathom being upside down on someone's feet. I usually ask, but have you ever tried it? You get to fly airplane like a kid. Fun aside, it's absolutely amazing to fully trust the person below you and simply allow them to stretch, twist and massage you. The spine receives the traction it's been craving while it's been supporting you, sitting in front of the computer for hours on end. 

Each day, my teachers, Jenny and Adam took us through asana sequences to prepare us to give and receive a Thai massage (I know, it's a rough life.), and we ended every day with therapeutic flying flows. Adam built upon the mantra and theme of the Hindu god, Hanuman. 

Bala Budhi Vidya Dehu Mohin
Karahu Kalesa Bikaara

Grant me the strength, wit and wisdom 
and remove my sorrows and shortcomings.

I believe there is shadow and light in all of us. Having dealt with the depths of the shadow now for longer than I care to admit, I'm grateful to not only discern the light in myself but begin to appreciate both sides of me. I don't want to remove the sorrows or shortcomings. I hope that they serve to shape and mold me into that stronger, wiser person that's already inside me. 

"Everything can change in a moment; we have little control over the outer weather patterns as we make our way through the landscape of a life. But we can become masters of the inner landscape." 
Elizabeth Lesser

When I can realistically acknowledge my failings and not dwell on them but instead allow them to propel me forward to my greater purpose or dharma, I feel freedom. To grow in the midst of pain, as a friend reminded me, is like finding treasure in the most unexpected places. It's like receiving forgiveness from a long lost love or a compliment from someone who you thought didn't care for you. "We can use what happens on the outside to change the way we function on the inside." 

I will be folding my experience from New York into my life and practice for a long time. Feeling gratitude and joy toward the amazing folks who shared in my sacred journey this week. 

In joy, 


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Earth-shaking, make it happen now, kind of women.

powerful winged woman
A renegade single mom already running multiple businesses starting a print yoga magazine
A newly separated mother of 3 sprightly boys courageously going back to school to realize her dream of becoming a teacher
A self proclaimed "Ms. Nobody" learned to finally shun that way of thinking and is trailblazing in her field of expertise
A enchanting young lady fearful of leaving her hometown and is now setting off to explore the world
A friend and neighbor says "no" to things that do not serve her family and herself well and "yes" to the things that challenge her, like taking care of an ailing mother estranged in another country for years
A new business owner making sense of broken relationships and cracking the code of her Karma: a seemingly bad thing happens and then a good thing comes to take it's place 

Incredibly strong, earth-shaking, make it happen now, kind of women. That's who I have been around lately. It's magical and empowering to be associated with and a part of the lives of women that seem to breathe words into action. Say it, and it's already done. I have to admit, though, it can be a little overwhelming, even intimidating, at times if I allow my mind to dance around my insecurities. The, "I could never do what they're doing!" internal dialog that often rolls around my head. However, I learned that I can celebrate their lives and applaud their experiences without feeling like I have to do what they're doing to be great in my own odd little way. 

I tend to jump on the speeding train of new beginnings and pray I don't get derailed by the things that fall into the tracks. In a beautiful article by an Anusara teacher, she explains that "in classical yoga we make the waves calm by the cessation of our minds. However, in Aunusara yoga, the intent is to ride the wave to where the current is the strongest, stay in the middle and find a balance in the flux." 

Through the waves of changes in my life over the past 2 years and even in just the past 2 weeks, I see a divine path unfolding, but only by looking back, do I see how each turn and bump along the way has guided me to where I am. I'm literally working on my ability to cut, paste, delete and start new. Cutting the habits that don't serve me well, pasting the lessons of my life and the lives of these amazing women onto my template of inspiration and deleting the ways of thinking that are harmful to me so that I can start new. 

One of those trail-blazing, know no fear women encouraged me that if I can just release what I'm clinging to, it will open the door for something far greater to come my way. And, true to her words, within hours, litterally hours, that greater thing came barreling in into shore. I'm riding that wave. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Yoga Vibes: Leeann Carey Yoga videos for home yoga practice

Leeann Carey and I filmed videos recently for, an on-line video source for yogis that want to practice at home. It's an amazing archive of some well known and not so well known but great yoga teachers across the world. I found out about YogaVibes through my friend, Chrys Kub who know's the owner Brian Ratte who is also from Charlotte, NC. I recently listened to a Yoga Peeps audio of his vision for the company. Take a listen, it's really inspiring.
Flow Class at CuraYoga
Ready to start your home practice?

Partner Yoga Class with Melissa
Slow Flow Class with Melissa

Dynamic Restorative Class with Leeann
Slow Flow Class with Leeann

Kid's Yoga Therapy Classes with Chrys Kub

Thanks again to Curayoga for allowing us to use the beautiful space in Houston. Also, to the great local videographer with YogaVibes. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Poser, yoga that is.

I'm reading Poser, my life in 28 (or is it 23?) Yoga Poses. I'm typing this from memory and even though I just put the book down, my recollection of the title is fuzzy (a casualty of motherhood or perhaps lack of caffeine). I haven't read a book just for the fun of it since, since... shoot, I don't know.  I read but more along the lines of Starwars Lego instructions for 5-8year olds (which, unlike me, my children can do without reading instructions); a few too many yoga books; or remaining magazine subscriptions: Yoga Journal (4 issues left) and Rolling Stone (a free subscription with purchase of on-line Michael Franti concert tickets. Lucky me, since I'm currently having a love affair with music). 
The author chronicles her attempts at headstands (and 2 dozen other yoga poses) and parallels how she grapples with her beliefs of what parenthood really is compared to what other people feel it should be. I've decided I both simultaneously love and hate this book. I love that the author is funny in a self deprecating kind of way and that I relate to dozens of her antic dots. But, then, I hate that she's funny and that I can relate to her. Why is it that women (read: me) have disdain for other women who are probably just like them? 
Her chapter on Headstands struck a chord. Headstands or Salumba Sirsasana (simple translation: salumba=supported, sirsa=head, asana=pose). Why on earth would anyone want to stand on their heads in the first place? At least that's what I was thinking as I watched my petite Scottish fire-ball of a teacher in a Malaysian Teacher Training stand on her head during every break for what seemed like a long, long time. Lengthy enough for me to get a coffee down the block and when I came back, she's still up-side-down doing variations of the pose: legs in eagle, straddle, splits, twists, and with hands wide to the side of her body, fingertips to the floor.  
I was affraid of headstands. Sure enough, in the first level 2-3 sweaty flow class I attended, the beautiful Chinese teacher with a belly ring and fierce looking tattoo on her neck, asked us to stand... On our heads. In the middle. Of the room. In the middle of the room away from the safety and comfort of the wall? A non-teacher friend (and former gymnast, no less) who was with me popped right up. Voila! I, on the other hand, performed a very good "stare- asana". Eyes wide, watching as she appeared to easily float in and out of the magical pose. From that moment on, I was going to get, not just do but really get, a headstand. As if it was something to capture, then devour. it was my neimeis. 
Months after finally "conquering the pose", I moved on to tripod headstand. (Because, gee, that's what I thought yoga was about. Just like in my daily to do list, poses were to be checked off, one by one until finally, you had a huge bag of tricks or poses to pull out of my already crammed designer yoga bag. My mama always said, all things are possible with time and practice.) This time, a British male instructor in tight yoga pants and a form fitting t-shirt, told us to go into a wide straddle, prasarita podotanasana, then lift our legs to the side and up. Just like that. But, then, instead leaving me helpless and alone in the middle of the room, he grasped my hips and before I realzed it, my legs were over my head. And, then, with his guiding me, my legs came on down, softly. Later, he questioned me, was I a swimmer because my shoulders were so broad and stable. No, I assured him that my shoulders were a result of my new found commitment to a weekly practice of 108 sun salutations. (Awkward pause, as he was completely unimpressed.) I've never been a swimmer, I continued to ramble on to fill the weird silence. In fact, if you know me, you know that I actually don't like to swim. It's wet, gets in my contacts, and then you have to dry off and all that. He just smiled and said, well, then, nice headstand, Melissa. 
me & lisa in headstand for
display purposes only 
I find this memory of him haunting since he was a victim of an accidental death just a few months later while swimming in Bali. He and his friends combined (a very small amount of) alcohol with a game of who could hold their breath underwater the longest. I will never forget him, as the few classes I did take from him pushed me beyond where I was comfortable and into a place where I realized fear was simply me worrying about the result rather than just doing it.  
Like the book, Poser, I could probably weave the tale of my life into a series of yoga poses, too. Yoga uncovers my hidden fears and enables me to move through them, rather than avoid them which seems to me what the author been able to capture well. After all, standing on your head (sirsasana) allows you to see life from a whole new perspective. You simply cannot move your head, You have to see what lies in your view and face it. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

What is Yoga?

My mentor, Leeann Carey shared with me this weekend what yoga means to her:

"Yoga is a strategy for reconciling the differences in the body and mind."  

For me, what my mind tells me is often illuminated in what my body will or will not do. My mind tells my body to elongate or hold a pose or do a complicated arm balance and often my body will disobey. Revealing to me that perhaps it's not ready yet. But most days, perhaps by moving more harmoniously with my body and "yielding" to the pose, it happens. Quiet with the constant stirring inside me. Wait, wait, waiting and feeling what my body and mind is truly capable of. 
Where I find yoga is no longer just on the mat. It's applying principle of reconciliation of my body and mind in all that I am.
A closer look 

What is is yoga to you?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

down dog for dinner, the new "Yogan"

if we have down dogs for dinner
how about some backbends for breakfast? 

The idea for this post started with a brainstorming session on slogans for covetable, wearable yoga t-shirts. There's just something so weird about needing a slogan for YOGA apparel. But, that's where yoga is today. Isn't it all about the t-shirt? If someone has an experience at a studio, conference or workshop, they want to not only capture the experience and take it home with them, they want to wear or infuse a piece of that event into their life. And, a t-shirt is the cheapest way to do that.
When I registered for the Texas Yoga Conference this weekend, there were only a few of the "cool" shirts left and a ton of the, well, busy-looking ones (with all the sponsor logos on it.) Who wants to be a walking advertisement? You won't catch me in a Nike t-shirt with a giant swoosh. Unless, of course, it's uber cool with a catchy slogan.
Leeann & Mateo poppin
Leeann Carey Yoga had a booth at the Texas Yoga Conference, and we thought, hum... if our logo shirts had a powerful or funny statement printed on it, other than we're Leeann Carey Yoga... then, perhaps, perhaps... someone might want to stop at our table. Please, please, stop, linger, and see us at our table! It's all about the merchandise... and back to the t-shirts. It's all how we want others to perceive us. What we wear, somehow (fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it) does matter. After all, we purchased a soft, feminine cut tank top that said "yoga dealer" on it. That's the new yoga, baby. We're now dealers. Instead of poppin drugs, we're literaly poppin the poses.
My new favorite yoga slogan or "yogan": Down Dog for Dinner. Now that's catchy. Darn, I can't take credit for it. (Inspired by Leeann and Mateo.)

Here's the yogans we're digging into:
"Backbends for Breakfast"
"Lunges for Lunch"
"Down Dogs for Dinner"

Who's buyin?