Two Yoginis

A journey of yoga, friendship, and transformation


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A Perfect Storm

On our second-to-last night in Arizona, Beth and I decided to watch a movie in our cozy hotel room at The Saguaro after an amazing (Thai) dinner in Scottsdale. As we browsed through the in-room entertainment guide, we happened upon The Impossible, a 2012 release depicting one family’s experience of the 2004 (Thailand) tsunami.

My knowledge of the film was limited to the tidbits I had picked up during a Today Show interview with Ewan McGregor (and other assorted publicity hits). I was left with a few impressions: that the special effects were incredible, that the acting was top notch (Naomi Watts in a powerhouse performance), and that the film had received criticism for telling the (true) story of a European family rather than native Thai people. I consulted Rotten Tomatoes, and with 81% Fresh, I thought it would be worth a watch.

Within the first few minutes, Beth and I were both on edge; the opening scenes carefully setting up a picturesque family vacation, complete with nuanced moments of bliss and tension. Two of the three sons getting into an argument on the plane. Releasing balloons into the starry night sky during a beachfront Christmas Eve celebration. Poolside discussion: would the dad lose his job and the mom go back to practicing medicine? Was the son allowed to have a can of Coke? (No). We (the audience) knew these questions would soon be rendered inconsequential by forces of nature beyond human comprehension.

And then it began to unfold. A night of insomnia and the feeling that something just wasn’t quite right. The perfect, sunny pool day suddenly becoming windy, with papers flying our of the mom’s hands. Arm hairs standing up on end. Pausing and bracing for something unforeseeable. And then, the tidal wave, brutally ripping our family apart and causing mass destruction and devastation. The fear of coming to a watery end, of being alone, of being separated from one’s family. The unbearable pain of losing a child or a parent or a partner. And in this family’s case, against all odds, (spoiler alert) being miraculously reunited.

The film’s (implicit) message continued to reverberate in my mind in the days and weeks that followed:

a tsunami can hit, and, in an instant, change everything

In the wake of a tsunami, little day-to-day things that once mattered, don’t matter at all. Situations that were once stressful and difficult become totally insignificant. From this perspective, the tsunami represents a wake-up call, a loud alarm signaling it’s time to open your eyes and realize what’s truly important – things like family, friendship, love, compassion, peace, and kindness.

When I heard about the bombing in Boston, I could not help but think that this was another kind of “tsunami.” When one (or many) is able to pull off a tragic shooting, or bombing, or other despicable act of terrorism, a flurry of perfect storm-like conditions must occur for all the pieces to fall into place. It’s only after the crime that we’re able to gain hindsight into what could have been done to prevent it. In many cases, we discover that there were a multitude of factors that seamlessly came together and subtle clues that were missed along the way. Though it may be more difficult for us to comprehend, the natural tsunami is not so unlike the man-made tsunami in that it could not have been prevented (at least not with the awareness we had at the time).

Whether we are forced to endure a tsunami by way of human or nature, it can bring up intense sorrow, grief, fear, and a wide spectrum of difficult emotions. Watching other people suffer immensely, almost beyond belief, stokes our own sense of empathy and awareness. We have a visceral reaction that can make us realize that the pain of others can be felt as palpably as our own. We realize that it can happen anywhere at any time to anyone. Tsunamis know not race or age, nationality or religion.

From this place of awareness, we are compelled to honor who and what truly matters to us, making our life experiences profoundly more meaningful. We are asked to focus less on the differences between us and more on what we have in common. We can transform into little fountains of love and awareness that spiral outward in infinite ripples, a different kind of perfect storm.

I can’t tell you I’ve made sense of these tragedies, that I understand why they keep happening in our country, or that I’ve figured out what we can do to stop them. That is simply more than I can handle just being me. However, I do not need to experience a tsunami firsthand, man-made or otherwise, to realize what I can do: I can love my family and friends a little more, I can do my best, each day, to be helpful and compassionate and kind. I can be hopeful and grateful and optimistic. I can focus on all the goodness that we are capable of, even in our darkest hour. I can recognize incredible acts of heroism and bravery and truth. I can be the change I want to see in the world.

In honor of Earth Day (you know, that small blue marble we all share), maybe we can all do that a little more.

Blue Marble - Photo Credit: Nasa.gov

Blue Marble – Photo Credit: Nasa.gov


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The Yoga of Happiness

On Saturday, Ali and I were buzzing as we walked arm-in-arm down 7th Avenue. We were reflecting on the last three hours of teacher training with our guest lecturer, Harshada, on meditation and the yoga of happiness. His energy was peaceful with a mixture of vigor and humor. He laughed at himself and helped us laugh at ourselves as we probed the topic and explored our inner bodies and emotions.

We began class by answering the question as to what brought us to yoga. My answer was simple. I found the yoga mat during a dark period of my life, when I was searching to feel better. I recognized that regular practice created a positive feeling and, therefore, I returned regularly. My classmates also shared their reasons, and, as our attention returned to our teacher, he recapped what everyone was pointing at. What was it that everyone was searching for? We all described this idea differently, but inherent to each answer was a very simple point: we were all searching for a greater sense of happiness and well-being.

We were searching for ways to be deeply happy and the day would be dedicated to giving each of us the tools to manifest this happiness.

As I mentioned in my last post, our society focuses so much on a need to be busy. Beyond the constant need to remain busy, we put ourselves down regularly as to what we should do, didn’t do, or should not have done . Whether expressed verbally or as part of our internal dialogue, we look at ourselves critically every day. “I don’t make enough time to workout,” “I always lose focus,” “I eat too much.”

Where is the wiggle room in such absolute statements? Our teacher suggested that, instead of phrasing our critical thoughts in this way, we should preface each statement with the words “up until now.” These simple words create the wiggle room to allow the self to define itself how it truly wants. We stop identifying with the harsher, more critical self and, instead, leave some room to change.

The day continued with guided meditation sessions that led me on a path I never imagined. I felt as though I tapped into something deeper than ever before. I was watching my breath with my eyes closed and actually feeling emotion that was stuck inside my heart. I was starting to become ultra sensitive to what was blocking me from feeling truly happy. I was searching for my true north, a step toward finding deep, lasting happiness.

What Ali and I were ultimately buzzing about, as we walked outside (besides the fact we were both totally engaged with the lecture) was that this teacher training was affecting us on a much deeper level than just providing us with tools to teach yoga. This training was shifting and changing the way we see the world and ourselves. When we shift internally, we can start to see things show up differently around us.

Up until now, I did not know what my true north was. However, just showing up and doing the work is bringing me one step closer to knowing and refining my inner compass. My true north will likely change many times, but even going in the wrong direction is a clue to finding the right one.

Look out for happy road.

happy road


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Red Rock Restorative

With our hiking boots, yoga teacher training books and an intention to relax, Ali and I made a plan to escape the busy city and return to the red rocks of Sedona, Arizona, a place that holds a very special place in our hearts. Sedona is known as a highly energetic location due to natural rock formations called vortexes. The vortexes have concentrated energy and are known for their healing qualities.

As we drove into Boynton Canyon, I felt my shoulders move further away from my ears. I was excited to re-visit some of the vortexes that brought an immense amount of healing energy to me just one year prior. So much had changed for both of us since our last visit to the red rocks. Most notably, the fact we were now deeply immersed in yoga teacher training.

Yoga at The Bell Rock Vortex

Yoga at The Bell Rock Vortex

During our three days in Sedona, we soaked in the vortex energy, sunshine and vitamin D, rested our bodies and allowed ourselves to enter a state of true relaxation. To me, it felt almost foreign at first, not to be planning and allocating every minute of my time to specific activities each day. However, these moments of solace and rejuvenation became the vehicle for me to realize the necessity of relaxing and taking breaks.

We have become programmed to think we always need to be “on” or busy. I know from experience that being busy can even become a way to mask what else is really going on. However, it was in the relaxed, stress-free moments that my mind became truly clear.

busy

Right before we left for Sedona, we had a teacher training session that was focused on restorative yoga. This day was one of the most meaningful days of teacher training for me. It illuminated to me that practicing restorative yoga and meditation is vital to survival and happiness. Tuning into the body, mind, and breath, and allowing the body to truly rest, creates space to succeed.

While in Sedona, Ali and I meditated on the vortex and tossed some local rocks in a fountain as a ritual to leave behind some intentions. While I will keep a few of my intentions for the secrecy of the vortex, I will share one:

I will allow myself to slow down and truly shut off when I feel myself hitting my edge.
I will be patient and courageous as necessary to rest, restore, and heal.

“Nobody has the TIME to take the slow route of healing or the patience (and sometimes courage) to rest and restore the body and mind after obtaining some sort of injury of the physical or emotion kind. We treat our bodies as if we are built like trucks, expecting them to work for endless stretches of time without needing to be refreshes, restored or rejuvenated.” – Yogamaya Teacher Training

If you are feeling the need to slow down and restore, check out the next restorative workshop at YOGAMAYA this coming friday with the amazing Keely!


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Every Day is a Winding Road

I love a good road trip. There’s something about driving for a few hours that puts me in a creative and happy-go-lucky mood. Maybe it’s the air flowing through open windows, or the unpredictability of what song might play next on the radio (Beth and I enjoy a good sing-along), or the exploration of unfamiliar territories, but the energy just feels fresh.

Calendar Doodle

Calendar Doodle

While driving the hundred or so miles between Phoenix and Sedona, I started rattling off some astrological babble to Beth, who declared she really didn’t get what I was talking about. Astrology has its own language, one that I am just beginning to decode. So, as we made our way to the red rocks, I gave my co-pilot some basic lessons about Astrology, refreshing my own understanding in the process. As we continued along the wildflower and cactus-lined highway, we brainstormed and chatted and and daydreamed about what we wanted to create in our lives, in the context of the energies at hand.

With regard to any elaborate philosophy or science, a high-level understanding of the basics can be just enough to get started. Patanjali’s The Yoga Sutras is considered the most prominent text in western culture for learning yogic philosophy. The Sutras are composed of 196 statements that are each deceivingly simple, yet infinitely complex. It is said that each Sutra, or connective thread, must be “unpacked” to understand the deep, esoteric knowledge contained within it.

During teacher training last weekend, we spent twelve hours filling up on knowledge from a Swami to understand the basics of The Yoga Sutras. While two days of sitting on the (hardwood) floor, giving one’s undivided attention to the teachings of an ancient, philosophical text might seem grueling, it perhaps held the most profound opportunity for expansion of the entire teacher training experience. Contained within the Sutras are universal truths about the human experience. Once we begin to understand these fundamental truths, we can look at our experience and ourselves from a completely fresh perspective.

Swami Sunday - Image Credit: the fabulous Lisa Bermudez

Kirtan with Dhanurdhara Swami – Image Credit: (the fabulous) Lisa Bermudez

Truth is transformative in the sense that, once it has been uncovered (read: it was always there to begin with), it can change everything. That is why we (sometimes) fear the truth; it often seems easier to hold onto our familiar, comfortable (or uncomfortable) circumstances than deal with the consequences associated with truth. Truth can also be deceivingly simple, yet infinitely complex in its implications.

One need not understand the basics of Astrology or the Yoga Sutras to perceive the truth that we are in the midst of a BIG shift (though they are both helpful tools to help us navigate more easily). From marriage equality to immigration reform to marijuana legalization to North Korea to Hurricane Sandy to Sandy Hook to the Pope, changes of an enormous scale are under way on our planet. With the New Moon in Aries on Wednesday, April 10th, we can begin to feel the rumblings of these changes in our individual lives.

A very basic level of understanding allows us to harness the overwhelmingly positive potential of this particular New Moon:

  • New Moons represent a powerful window of opportunity to seed a new intention
  • Intention is defined by Merriam Webster as what one intends to do or bring about
  • Aries energy is associated with my wants and needs, as an individual, often characterized by the phrase “my way or the highway

With the energy of the New Moon in Aries at hand, now is the time to identify your truth. Your truth might be about what you want to do in the world, or who you love, or expressing who you truly are. Once you know what is true for you (and you only) and, thus, determine what it is you truly want, you need only chart a course to get there. Luckily, we have a highly-accurate, built-in GPS known as Following Your Heart (an app that comes standard on this operating system and has recently undergone a series of upgrades).

To that end, start to imagine your next road trip. Where are you going? Who are you driving with? What stuff will you pack? What sights do you want to pull over and see along the way? Will you take the highway or the scenic route? What kind of snacks will you bring along? What songs are on your playlist?

With the arrival of this New Moon in Aries, we’re all getting ready for a fresh, fun road trip. So far, I know I’ll be bringing my yoga practice, my astrology, my essential oils, and some phenomenal company. As for the rest, that is still TBD (and I am OK with that).

While we’re on the dark side of the moon, it’s a good idea to fill up your tank, get your things together, and have your GPS programmed and ready to go. And buckle up, cause it’s going to be a wild ride.

Here’s a Sheryl Crow tune to get you in the mood:

Happy road tripping, yogis!


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What’s Mine is Yours

As long as I can remember, my great Aunt Shirley (and Uncle Seymour) lived in a three-bedroom apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Whenever we went into the city to visit Aunt Shirley, I knew I could count on two special treats: selecting a piece of jewelry from her eclectic collection and snacking on the world’s best granola. When she passed away, I was given the opportunity to choose one more item to keep in my own home: a small, hand-carved wooden table that I still keep next to my bed.

Aunt Shirley's Table

Aunt Shirley’s Table

In the last few years, I realized I have been channeling Aunt Shirley, taking on a “what’s mine is yours” philosophy. When my (girl)friends come over, they have full access to my closet, my eclectic jewelry collection, and an assortment (or mezze, as Beth likes to call it) of tasty snacks.

In honor of Aunt Shirley, and in anticipation of the arrival of my long-dist bestie, Kelli (one day after her birthday), I decided to make some delicious, crunchy, heart-healthy granola to share with the birthday girl. It went perfectly with fresh fruit and almond milk, and gave us the energy we needed for the first activity of our day together: yoga class (of course).

Fresh fruit goes perfectly with crunchy, savory granola!

Fresh fruit goes perfectly with crunchy, savory granola!

Shout out to my colleague and fellow blogger, Allie (Too), for recipe inspiration!

Aunt Shirley’s Granola

Ingredients (Feel free to modify items and quantities to your taste or dietary needs! (Granola is not an exact science.)

  • 1 cup oats (old fashioned, not the instant kind)
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 pinches salt
  • cinnamon/ginger/all-spice/nutmeg (to taste)
  • 1-2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil (or other vegetable oil)

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Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to approximately 350 degrees (that’s the magic number for my oven).
  • I like to mix up the dry ingredients in a bowl first, after which I stir in the maple syrup and olive oil.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (optional) and drop the mixture on to the baking sheet in spoonfuls (so there are lots of edges to crisp up in the oven).
  • Pop the baking sheet in the oven and allow the granola to get toasty and brown. If you like your granola more “clumpy,” I recommend *not* stirring it while it’s baking.
  • I find that 25 minutes at 350 usually does the trick – remove and set on the stove to cool.
  • Remember to wait until the granola cools to begin snacking (this is when the clumping magic happens).
  • Add your favorite fixins and enjoy!
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The finished product – delicious

Kelli's first yoga class - fueled by granola :)

Kelli’s first yoga class – fueled by granola 🙂