Friday, June 17, 2016

It's just a few rocks

I have a tendency to jump ahead. Maybe it's why yoga has been such a pivotal force in my life. I struggle to stay in the present and fully be in the moment. I've had several "companies" that emerged out of hobbies. I had a fleece hat business, a baby t-shirt business, a blackberry jam business, an ebay business, even a fabric brooch business. In my great enjoyment of doing something-- usually a craft-- I made the assumption many times that I should take that enjoyment to another level.

The only business that actually stuck for me was yoga. After several years of practicing, I moved into teaching and running a studio. It's been 15 years and I still love it. When I was with Tony Sanchez a few weeks ago studying a new style of yoga, he said, "When Neil Armstrong went to the moon, all he got was a few rocks." Tony shared this in the context of how we practice yoga.

Since I studied with Tony, I've been thinking about how to take what I learned to the next level. What should I call this new class? How will I market it? Who will like it? Who will teach it? And then I remember what Tony said. Getting the rocks from the moon was easy (relatively). I don't know for sure, but I'm assuming Neil and his guys just grabbed them and put them on the ship. But getting to the moon-- planning, studying, practicing, and failing and failing again---that's where the real experience was.

Practicing yoga, even one single posture, can be looked at through the same lens. It's not about finally getting into toe stand or crow pose. It's about building the strength, the focus, the balance to get there. It's easy to focus on the end point but really practicing yoga teaches us that an end point truly does not exist.

Yoga has taught me to be in a process, on a path. Perhaps the reason I keep practicing, continue trying, is because I have so much learning. I don't regret any of my past cottage industries; they were each short-lived and fun for the stints they existed. I have no intentions of giving up yoga as a practice or as my "business." It's a great life, a challenging, interesting, sometimes scary path and, as far as I can tell, there's no end in sight.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Your body is an extension of your breath

Right now I am in Bristol, England at a workshop with Tony Sanchez learning a series called Ghosh Vinyasa Flow. The series/practice is still new to me and I will continue to study and learn and slowly unveil all that I've learned over the next several months when I am back in my studio in Seattle. The one thread though, the phrase that has passed from Tony's lips through my ears into my brain maybe 100 times already, is "your body is an extension of your breath."

Tony has said to us many, many times this week, "your spirit is your breath" or "your breath is your spirit." If you no longer have breath, your spirit dies. You die. Breath, when I look at it this way, takes on a wholly different meaning. It is not just a physical process; it is all that we are; all that I am.

This six word phrase that Tony has offered again and again, "Your body is an extension of your breath," has been amazingly inspiring for me. I've been practicing yoga since 1994 and my own practice, my own teaching, has evolved in many ways. I know I've written before about other inspirations that have moved me, but this might be the most significant.

Standing in a pose, Balancing Stick, for example, when my shoulders feel heavy and tired and hopeless, my standing leg feels wobbly, my hips uncooperative, I scan my mind for solutions-- "drop your left hip", "relax your shoulders", "bring your weight forward", but this week, hearing Tony say in his calm, melodic voice, "remember, your body is just an extension of your breath" at times when I've felt like I had nowhere else to go in the posture, has brought a new ease to my practice that I am grateful for.

Using my breath is not a new concept for me. I think about it all the time-- to take a deep breath when I feel anxious, to try to slow down my breath when I'm struggling to fall asleep. When I teach, I guide my students to rest using their breath. But now, thinking about my body as an extension of my breath has created an new lightness for me. If my heavy arms, my tight hips, my furrowed brow, are all just extensions of my breath, then I can find ease in these parts by being consciously aware of and engaged with my breath.

I am grateful for all of the teachers in my life-- my parents, my partner, my daughter, my yoga teachers, my friends, the people I meet on the street. All offer me different lessons through the unique experiences I share with them.  I hope that this new enlightenment, that my body is an extension of my breath, will bring me a deeper sense of connection and ease, not just with my yoga practice, but with all of these relationships. Thank you Tony for being a most inspiring teacher.