Friday, July 31, 2015

You know what? You're really aggravatin' me.

Last week we hosted our three nieces (Lauren: 18, Nicole: 16 and Kaye:10 years old) plus one nephew, Will, age 7 from New Orleans. Our household isn't quiet-- Nancy and Lucia are big hip-hop fans and, unlike me, they love loud music-- but our household is generally calm. We're all big readers, we like to take baths, eat home-cooked, sit-down meals, play Scrabble.

Having five kids really takes parenting to a new level, even for one short week. I have all new respect for you parents of the masses. You are the shit. The grocery bill alone could bankrupt us. Besides the fact that the shopping selection has to accommodate all the different palate and dietary needs, there are so many mouths to feed.

On the flip-side, having an almost complete soccer team all the time is super fun. We went white water rafting, to a soccer game, took light rail, jumped off the magic tree in Seward Park, paddle boarded, played 1014 games of Bullshit and, when we weren't cooking huge vats of things to feed the masses, we ate dinner and lunch and breakfast all over Seattle. By the end of the seven days, we were all exhausted, in the very best way.

A few days before the nieces and nephew left, we had a big party to celebrate. The party went late and little Will lost his mojo. We put him to bed while the other kids and grown-ups were still raging. As I rubbed Will's back, talking him through a guided relaxation that I have done for years with Lucia, he seemed like he was drifting off. I started to rub his back more slowly and more lightly, employing my well-honed technique that allows me to leave the sleeping child without them knowing. Just as I thought he was asleep, Will turned to me and said, in a tone similar to something you might hear Danny DeVito's character Louie DePalma from Taxi say, "Y'know what? You're really aggravatin' me." I kept rubbing his back, and within minutes, Will was fast asleep.

The morning everyone left, I took Frani's class. Besides one home practice, I hadn't done Yoga in a week and I was really in need. We've been doing significant of changes in The SweatBox infrastructure and the details associated with this in conjunction with parenting five kids, had rendered me a little bit psychotic and a little bit catatonic. Finding my peace in the Yoga room was going to be tough. As Frani talked us into our first Savasana, I had a flash of Will's proclamation, "Y'know what? You're really aggravatin' me." And I could relate. I could totally relate. The voice in my head that was coaxing me to relax, to let go, to find peace was incredibly aggravating!  In that moment of trying to relax, I had literally hundreds of ideas, decisions, negotiations, that occupied every cell of my body.  Trying to disengage from that web was going to take more than a few encouraging words.

And then, like I often tell you guys when I'm the teacher, I told myself, "Laura, just keep trying." I did. And I got there. I found it. My peace. My breath. Myself.  Remember: the aggravation, frustration, irritation that often accompany Savasana are all part of the process. If your path was always direct, if you could always easily get to a place of relaxation, you wouldn't need Yoga. When you have those days, when you think you'll never get to relaxation, just keep trying. When you finally get there, it's a good, good feeling.

Thursday, July 9, 2015


When I teach Yoga my experience is always unique. Depending on the size, composition, intensity of the class, different things happen every time. A few weeks ago when I was teaching, I had this image, right at the end of class, of confetti floating around the room.

As a student of Yoga, I am familiar with the feeling of stirring things up in different postures. Oftentimes in Yoga, my mind is like a slide show. I'm thinking, then taking myself back to my quiet breath. I'm overheating and taking myself back to my calm focus. Sometimes thoughts I have in Yoga come back to me hours or days later. Some of them I never think about again. It's all part of what makes Yoga Yoga. We quietly let go of some things, and we become shockingly conscious of other things.

When we practice Yoga of any kind, there are releases happening all the time. It's what makes it feel so different, so good, so satisfying. We move our bodies into new and different positions and this also affects our brains, our hearts, our souls. By the end of the class, it's anyone's guess what's really going on inside. The mystery is part of the beauty.

And so that day when I was teaching, I envisioned confetti. The eighteen hard-working students were lying in Savasana, seemingly quiet, still, and calm. Through their hard work, they had used, and also released a lot of energy. It was whirring around the room, like a windy ticker tape parade. These newly cleansed bodies stayed in their quietude as I prepared to leave the Yoga room.  I could see it in my mind's eye so clearly, like confetti, the energy in the room moving. It would settle somewhere, at some point, but none of us knew exactly where. It was so beautiful to watch everyone, perfect in their stillness, open and ready to find out what would come from this festival of energy. Yoga, it's always a party.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Embrace the glory!

Have you ever done something you thought you could never do? Was it so out of your personal realm of possibility that you surprised yourself when it happened?

Since watching the Women's World Cup Soccer game last Sunday, I have been thinking about Carli Lloyd. Did she surprise herself with that hat trick? I read an article after that amazing show of talent and grace that Carli Lloyd actually visualized that she would score four goals at the finals against Japan on Sunday. She made three of those four goals--- in the first sixteen minutes of the game!

For me, the mother of a ten-year-old soccer player and fan who wears her hair now exactly like Alex Morgan, the young, highly endorsed star of the U.S. team (pony tail and stretchy pink headband), I am thrilled at the results of this year's World Cup. The are so many lessons to learn in watching those women play, for adults and kids alike.

When Carli Lloyd scored her third goal from mid-field, I felt my heart stop for a moment. For real. The shot alone was miraculous, but the third one, by the same player, in the first sixteen minutes of the game. It was almost too much to bear. How did Carli feel? How did her teammates and her coach feel? How does one process that amount of glory?

For most of us in our lifetimes, we won't have that degree of triumph in such a short window of time. But we can all have small moments and we owe it to ourselves to revel in those snippets of time, to embrace the glory that comes with surprising ourselves when we show up in new and different ways.

It happens for me in Yoga when I'm in a period of being well-rested, injury free, and full of clear intentions for my practice. In these times, I surprise myself and it feels great. I've written about this before-- about how Nancy and other students smile when they have unexpected moments in their Yoga practice. There's nothing better than witnessing those moments; I wish them upon all of my students, at least one time during every practice.

Oftentimes I invite my students to set their intention for what they want from their Yoga class and I usually set an intention for myself when I practice. The invitation to myself since watching the Women's World Cup is to explore new territory for where I can set my intentions-- to think about all of the places I can visualize and be open to thrilling surprises. It is, of course, in my Yoga practice, but it's also everywhere in the world-- in my work, my relationship, my role as parent, friend, sister, daughter, aunt and neighbor. Thank you Carli and all of the players on the U.S. World Cup team for the inspiration!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Panic first. Breathe later.

It's ten degrees hotter right now in Portland than it is in Seattle. Isn't that weird? I always imagine that Seattle and Portland have the same weather. When I was driving down here yesterday, I watched the outside temperature gauge on my car go from 85 to 93 to 97.  When I stopped for gas in Chehalis, I noticed that there was something dripping from the engine. A natural born panicker, I immediately popped the hood and poked around to find the radiator. Having no idea what I was looking for, I went around to my passenger door to dig out the manual from my glove box.

As I pulled out emergency energy bars and spare tampons from the glove compartment to dig out the instructions, a nice woman from Chehalis peeked her face around and kindly asked, "Something dripping?"

"Do you know anything about cars?" I whined.  Visions of being stranded with a broken car had already started infiltrating my headspace.

"It's the air conditioning," she said frankly. "I freaked out the first time I saw this too. It's just condensation."

"You saved me!" I smiled at her, thanking her profusely for taking me off the cliff with her mechanical expertise. I felt my heart rate slow down and my breathing return to normal.

That's when I realized that I have, in my four years of owning this car, never used my air conditioning for any sustained period of time. Now I know that there will be condensation under my engine when I use the air conditioning and I won't panic in the future. Why do I always go to panic first, before gathering full information? I think it is partly nature and partly nurture, and at this point, being almost fifty years old, I don't really care why, I just want to alter my future path so my heart doesn't do somersaults with every unknown that crosses my path.

I've been teaching Bikram Yoga for close to fifteen years, practicing for over twenty. I love teaching. I love my students. I love practicing. And, I want to keep growing. So, over the last several months, in an effort to improve my own teaching and practicing, I have been on an expedition to take many different kinds of Yoga classes with teachers I've never had.  I recognize, before every new class, every new teacher, that I get that panicky feeling of entering into the unknown. I feel my heart rate speed up, my breath get a little shallow.  Then, after class, I am pleasantly rewarded with the feeling of having successfully traversed my resistant path. I am breathing again and can experience that good feeling that comes after a Yoga class.

I could write twenty pages about this. My "panic first, breathe later" approach to life is exhausting and demoralizing at times; I feel like I've been trying to "solve" this problem for my whole adult life. But, as much as I hate the fact that panic takes up so much of my energy, I can appreciate that it is the entranceway to another really important road that I must travel. It is from the point of panic that I find my way to calm. And there's no better feeling than that.

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