Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What is your path today?

Let's begin in downward dog. How many yoga classes have you taken where the teacher has said that? In a sequencing workshop by Gary Kraftsow this weekend, he began by saying, "never start a class in downward dog." His reasoning is that the body must prepare itself for this inversion. The shoulders, spine and hamstrings need more of a warm up first. The 2 and a half hour crash course in his method for stringing together a therapeutic (or "Viniyoga") yoga class did not include the typical flow (or even the other elements central to Viniyoga: asana, pranayama, chanting, mantra, meditation, prayer and study) but rather centered on asana. It was a piecing together of when to practice (time of day, season, or even season of life), which postures to do (standing, kneeling, supine, prone or seated), how the spine will move (forward, back, lateral, revolved, or in axial extension), and why certain postures are used (symmetrical postures prepare the body for asymmetrical poses). There are about 35 or fewer poses used in a typical yoga class when there are actually 100's if not closer to a 1000 different variations of asanas we could do.
His method really brought to mind how the creative process of designing a class for me works. While I love the innovativeness of sequencing a yoga class and being equipped to put it together over the course of hours (if time allows) or on the fly for a particular student's needs or injuries, I also firmly believe like my mentor, Leeann Carey and even Gary Kraftsow, that classes should have a logic to them. There is a way to formulate a class that enables the body to go into a pose that if prepared for well, can be done safely and with postural integrity.
Music and yoga to me are a marriage. Sometimes they are in discord and other times, they melt so beautifully into each other that the synergy that is palpable. There is no doubt that music draws out emotions in us that are sometimes only revealed when we hear a certain chord or word sung. I'm in love with the songs of Imogen Heap: Congratulations, Speeding Cars and First Train Home, just to name a few. I've played her music in my classes on many occasions.
I'm fascinated by a video on her own creative method of intertwining her writing with her congregation of on-line fans. She mixed a loop of the heart beat of an unborn niece and overlaid piano and lyrics. Then, taking words, art and videos from her fans she infused them into a song and video in less than 2 weeks. The path she took to achieve a musical work of art with the help of a community of listeners had a certain process to it. I love that there's not a right or a wrong way to create music. But there is a way of putting it together that can appeal to our senses and resonate with us emotionally or even physically.
The same is true of yoga, if there's an adaptation of a pose that unfolds sequentially, it can open up our bodies in an efficient and powerful way. Gary compared sequencing to traveling. We can get to the same place in a million different ways but why not go the most efficient, least resistant and elegant path possible?
What is your path today? Will it involve creativity, efficiency, community... how will you begin?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Dad

my dad with his grandson, drew
As I sit in an outdoor cafe in the city of Chicago, I see dads everywhere this morning. Babies strapped in like joeys on a kangaroo, in strollers, hand in hand and walking dogs. Most of the dads seem to be in pursuit of coffee which says something right there, I suppose.
My dad lived in Chicago briefly climbing the corporate ladder at Scott Paper Company back in the 70's. When I was 7 or 8 years old, he had a townhouse somewhere near the Lake. I have vague memories of being sea-sick out on a sailboat a few times. There's also a photo of me in a bikini in a rooftop pool, overlooking the city (too bad I can't find it to photo, as it's typical tom-boy, flat-chested, stringy black-haired Melissa.)
I recall a reversible doll Dad gave me to play with. Gifts were seemed to be the only way at that time he knew how to show his love to me in a tangible way. One half of the doll was a happy face, the other half when you flip her dress over, was a sad face. She obviously had 2 heads. What a metaphor for my growing up years. As a hormonal teen girl, I had a lot of happy and a good bit of sadness, not much in between. Bouncing around from my mom's during the school year to my dad's for holidays and summer months, divorced parents were to me, normal. I didn't know any differently. And, frankly, I can't imagine my parents ever married. What were they thinking?! They are so far from the same ideals and personalities that it's strange browse their wedding photos, smiling and so full of youth and dreamy happiness.
Looking back, I can see how hard it must have been to be a part-time dad. And, looking forward, I can see clearly now, with eyes of grace, how beautiful a relationship can be when you just accept the other for who they are. I've always had such a difficult time taking my father's advise. And, now, I covet it in spite of the fact that I don't always follow it, as my father would be the first to tell you. But, I am so grateful for the wisdom of his experiences. I truly admire the man he's become. He's living a life I'm sure he never dreamed he would going into his 70's as a caretaker of a wife of Alzheimer's. But the courage he exhibits is something that I hope to emulate in my own life. Thank you, dad for loving me, even when I was "full of beans"* and seemingly never listening to your words of wisdom. I have been listening.
I love you.
Happy Father's Day.

*Full of beans=  tall tales and slight exaggerations in stories told

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

OHMazing Choices

Meredith celebrates
teaching Yogiños class
The Yogiños for Youth training focuses on teaching children interdisciplinary skills through yoga and interactive themes to teach more than just the poses (asana). The method also creatively uses the Patanjali's Yoga Sutras 8-limbed (Ashtang) approach to integrate mind, body and spirit for the child. I was just blown away by the simplicity of designing a kid's class and how aplicabile it's going to be in my adult classes. Some days it feels like it's all about the flow or sequencing, and I have to remind myself that teaching elements and themes for a great class can be simple, direct and seriously fun.

The concept that resinated with me most from this training was: How do can I teach kids to make "OHMazing choices" in their lives? I think as a mom and teacher, this is one of the greatest challenges I face. I can't of anything that I desire more than for my kids to become joyful, healthy, well functioning adults. (I also want them to love God and cultivate a life of service and million other things... but for them to find joy in life, that would put the icing on my cake.) When I can start by helping them to get out of their own little sphere and see that there is a big-wide-astonishing world out there and while taking good care of themselves is vital, the universe does not just revolve around their own needs... ah, then, then I think I've taught them a little something.

Often when I ask son #2 who's 5 to help put groceries away or clean the kitchen, he's suddenly too tired and needs to lie down. (Geez, me too!) So when a neighbor asked him to take care of his plants and collect his mail while he's away, I was surprised at the consideration and attention he's giving to this project. It's helpful that my neighbor put his mail key on a cool flashlight keychain (he's memorized with it as if it's the greatest toy invented). He's so eager that I have to tell him, "nope, we cannot water the plants again today, we can't even water them until a few more days. You see, little man, too much water will actually be harmful... you have to balance just the right amount of water to keep it not only alive but thriving."And then another theme for a kids' yoga class begins out of real life... just like plants need the right amount of nourishment, so do we. 

I asked son #2 what Yoga means, he said it "yoga makes my body feel good." Wow, not what I was expecting. I thought he'd say, yoga keeps my mommy too busy, yoga (i.e. stretching) hurts.... but that it makes him feel good, that was such a sweet reward for me as a mom and teacher. I hope to equip my boys to make those "OHMazing choices" so that they really can feel good in their bodies, hearts, and minds. Isn't that what we desire to give our children? Things that are best for them and things that make them ultimately feel good about themselves and those they are able to serve.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Everything is subject to Change

Do you think she thinks the tomato will
always be on her head?
or will that change?
Her perspective must be so interesting
having to balance
on her head.
Gratitude today for so many things. Today, grateful for knowing that what I'm currently facing in my life will imminently change. The next day will bring more changes, and the next. The only thing that is absolutely certain is that I should not only expect but learn to accept graciously these life revisions and not be surprised by them. (Why am I always surprised by change?!)
A sign of "growing up" (not comfortable with the word wisdom, as that's reserved for even more grey hair than I want to own up to), is being able to accept: "everything is subject to change".

Knowing that, I can have a different perspective on life.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Plan A

"There is a redemptive power to making a choice...just decide who you're going to be and how you're doing to do it. Just decide..."

An awakening conversation with a friend this week who expressed that he wants to share his talents as a photographer to show people how to live their best life ever by helping them tell their unique stories through the eye of the camera.  He's found his life's path, in declaring it, he is just simply going for it.
I love that I've been challenged lately to think about... who do I desire to be? Who says I'm not already that person? Take a step in that direction and claim it. Who's to tell me, I can't, except other people who can't themselves. Whatever is holding them back, shouldn't hold me. As independent as I seem to be in the past and even to this day, I've often let the wishes and hopes of others influence me. For the most part, I don't seek to people please but when it comes to certain people close to me, that's another story. In their view, there are things that can and can't be done. Things I should or should not BE. To release the need for that validation has been a life-long process and liberating.
"I can create whatever I want to create...."

Another friend shared with me a video of clips of inspiration from Will Smith. I know, I thought the same thing, inspired by Will Smith, the rapper/ actor, really?  But just watch it, then tell me if you're not completely inspired to go out there and grab your passions by the reins and make it happen? I'm kicking my plan A into gear.

"No reason to have a plan B because it distracts from plan A...."- Will Smith

Friday, June 3, 2011

morning meditation

What am I choosing in this moment today?

Stand outside in the morning air, gaze soft
Begin to shift side to side, forward and back, circle one way and then another
As you sway, match movement with a breath in, breath out
Settle evenly through feet, toes spread wide
Inhale, extend arms overhead and backbend slightly
Exhale, arms return to side

Begin again, shifting weight and swaying, reaching arms up and back down
Repeat several times until the breath melts easily into this pattern
Move into stillness, imagining the feet having roots diving into the earth
Absorb all sounds, until all you hear is your own gentle breath 
Bathe in a sensation of renewed confidence and resilience
Feel any doubt or uncertainty dissolve into the wind
Take 5 more cycles of breath, with the exhale complete yet not forced
As you walk away to set about the day, feel every step as firmly grounded as if you were still rooted

Today let your choices be firm, coming from this centered unwavering feeling. Apply this credence with vibrant confidence: Let your yes's be yes. And, no's be no.