Two Yoginis

A journey of yoga, friendship, and transformation


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Happy Cooking

Part of my Dream Future Kitchen

Pinned to: Future Dream Kitchen

As I plan my staycation in the city this weekend, I have been looking at my Pinterest food board to get inspired.

Along my Yoga journey, I have found my relationship to the food I put into my body to be more deliberate and conscious (similar to my asana practice). I really enjoy cooking for myself and others, and I find that the entire process from planning, shopping, prepping and cooking the dish to be incredibly relaxing and meditative. I have also realized that I, personally, feel better when I feed myself healthy, fresh, and mostly vegetarian food. To ensure I always have an option that will make me feel good when I go to a BBQ or party, I prepare a dish I not only hope others will enjoy, but something I know I will enjoy. I have always said: one key to throwing a great party is loving the food and drinks you are serving your guests. At least, then, you know you will be enjoying yourself, and the rest has a way of working itself out.

I have been wanting to try a grilled avocado dish for some time. Enjoy the below inspiration photo and my general tips for how to prepare this. I am going to give this recipe a try over the holiday weekend.

Suggested Recipe:
• Drizzle avocado with EVOO, salt & pepper
• Cut the avocado in half, seed, peel and slice
• Gently place the avocado on the grill for 2 minutes on each side (use a grill pan if you don’t have access to a grill)
• Add fresh lemon or lime juice to the finished slices
• Prepare cous cous and use any vegetables you may have available as add ins
• Serve grilled avocado and cous cous over bed of fresh arugula
• Enjoy!

Happy Cooking and Happy Memorial Day!

Grilled Avocado

Grilled Avocado


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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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Old Coaches Can Surely Tell

There is so much to say about the lessons I learned from my Grandpa Jim. He was a vibrant, loving grandfather, who I am grateful I had the chance to know. He was the head the Chafey family, who successfully raised seven children, and was happily married to his beloved, my Grandma Joan. My grandpa passed away last September at ninety-three; peacefully, at home, and on his own terms. Saturday morning, I woke up and immediately thought of him. I have been processing his loss and allowing myself to mourn through my practice on the yoga mat.

Hiking in San Diego remembering Grandpa

Hiking in San Diego remembering Grandpa

A few weeks ago, Ali wrote about our first session with Jonathan FitzGordan. Jonathan was introduced to the group as our anatomy teacher. After getting to know Jonathan, I would also call him a “walking” expert and a role model for teaching. Last night, at teacher training, he taught us another way to open up the body and release emotional and physical pain.

Throughout this session, Jonathan repeatedly mentioned (a tactic he encouraged us to do) the psoas major muscle and its importance to all yoga poses. As we learned in our first session, the psoas major holds trauma and stress in the body. Jonathan suggested that we could feel a great release from certain psoas-focused exercises and from proper alignment when standing and walking.

Another statement Jonathan repeated (read: teaching tactic in action) was that we did not have to believe anything he was saying. With excitement, he encouraged each of us to learn by experimenting and discerning whether an idea resonated with us. Then and only then would be able to trust him and his teachings. Each time he gave us a new piece of information or asked us to try a physical pose, I would decide if I believed what he was saying. Each time, I did feel the effect, and, therefore, trust Jonathan as an expert.

We practiced a small round of a psoas release called constructive rest position. This position is meant to allow the psoas and back body muscles release and let go. Something about this experience, brought up the memory of my Grandpa Jim, another great teacher. I woke up with an overwhelming feeling of sadness and happiness mixed together. I could feel my sorrow release, physically and emotionally.

My Grandpa taught me that there is always a solution. He could fix anything, and left me with the knowing that there is always a way. He loved to travel. He loved to observe people and places. For my college graduation, he bought me a set of luggage. I think of him every time I go to check that bag and head off on an adventure. Most of all, my Grandpa taught me that family and sharing love is most important and when there are bumps in the road and you fall down, get back up and try again. What I love about repetition is that the words become ingrained in the mind. At any moment, I can close my eyes and hear my grandfathers voice: “thank you for the love we share together.”

One of Grandpa's many hat's

One of Grandpa’s many hat’s

Coaching the Ballgame by Jim Chafey, Sr., March 2011

Just keep on swinging,
No matter your age.
Life’s joys will stay with you.
You’re at the top of the gauge.

When the fast-balls come at you,
Don’t step out of the box.
Just swing even harder,
Hit the ball right over the rocks.

Sometimes the game may be very easy,
Sometimes it may be hard, that is true,
But, just keep right on swinging,
And the win may come to you.

There is joy to be found in every game,
And each player can search for that joy.
All the coaches cannot do it for you,
Then, you self-learn that your game is quite real, not a toy.

In time, the coaching grows silent,
For your games are playing quite well,
And now there are new young games,
The formerly coached are now coaching young winners.
Old coaches can surely tell.


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Clear the Cache

There are days I feel like a Beth-bot. Like a computer program automatically set to reply all. I imagine Beth-bot like that rotisserie infomercial where you “set it and forget it.” This past week, on more than one occasion, I found myself answering people with one word answers: “yes,” “cool,” and “yeah.” I knew I had entered bot land, and needed to find a way out.

Set it and Forget it

Set it and Forget it

Without fail, Ali will cause me to LOL when she exclaims: “Is this a bot? Where is the real Beth?” I know exactly what she is referring to when she asks me this question. I can feel myself drift away into Beth-bot land as the one word answers take over. This usually happens when I am doing too many tasks at one time, and begin to feel overwhelmed by the amount of things on my plate. It becomes my way of partaking in the conversation without really being involved.

Tonight in yoga class, my teacher, Christina, began the class with a message to “clear the cache.” She reminded me how often we become computer-like and need to clear the cache or fully re-boot in order to function properly.

The poses quite literally twisted and cleared our bodies. With every sun salutation I could feel the cache empty. I felt as though the stress was falling away and clearing space to be present again. Each breath created a bit more space for full sentences to form. My computer screen was no long freezing with e-mails in my outbox, I hit re-boot and Beth-bot was slowly disappearing.

We all need to clear the cache, sometimes, even if it seems like a scary idea to lose all the saved history. Sometimes we become attached to the operating system we are most familiar with, even if we know it is not working optimally. I know from experience that I become attached to the “stuff” and sometimes need an extra push to actually clear it out.

However, clearing out means there is room to be present and to let go of whatever was taking up so much space in the first place. A simple child’s pose or seated meditation is a really easy way to clear the mind. We ended our class in a cross-legged meditation with our eyes closed and our breath deep. I realized this was the ultimate way to clear the cache.

Namaste

Namaste


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It Takes a Lifetime

“Yoga is a lifetime practice,” proclaimed Frank, one of the teachers at Yogamaya. I let his words soak into my thoughts. Something in these words resonated more than any of the words my teachers had expressed before on this topic. He continued: “It’s a lifetime practice, be soft in the poses, be aware, be present, and be grateful for wherever you are today.”

These may sound like simple enough tasks, but they are easier said than done. As a society, many of us feel pressured – perhaps by the media, by entertainment, by our parents or friends – to push ourselves and our bodies. To be perfect. To check one more pose off the yoga list.

I, too, have struggled with these pressures and with learning to SLOW down and find balance. Ask anyone that knows me well, and they will tell you that I like to push the limits, test boundaries, and challenge my body. At times in my life this has manifested in a struggle with my weight, pushing myself to both extremes of the spectrum. At both ends, I have had to learn the hard way back, until, finally, the balance became my reality. At some point along my journey, I made a decision to stop listening to all the external influences and pressures and start taking care of me. This was also the same time I found yoga.

Yoga became not only a physical practice that made me feel strong and powerful, but also a mental practice of loving myself and learning what it meant to listen to my body. I learned to back off when something didn’t feel good instead of “pushing through.” I learned to use yoga props (blocks, blankets, straps) to ease my body into a more difficult pose. I stopped wondering what anyone else was thinking about my practice or my body and started practicing for me.

In yoga, there is an appreciation of beauty in all shapes and sizes of the body. The body is celebrated, loved and respected. Beyond accepting the body, there are poses for which it’s literally NOT ideal to have washboard abs. This is not to say that yoga discourages students from engaging and working their abdominals; in fact, yoga requires tons of core strength. However, the energy in the yoga studio is not geared toward who has the “best” body, a unique characteristic in a cosmopolitan city where much of our value is determined by how we look.

Urdhva Dhanurasana- pose having a six pack is NOT ideal for

Urdhva Dhanurasana – pose for which having a six pack is NOT ideal

I would love to end my story by saying I never have days that I feel uncomfortable in my body, but that would not be true. I am a woman. I feel insecure some days, and even look around the room and compare myself to other people. We all have our moments.

However, more days than not, I feel awesome because I am cultivating inner strength and power through my practice. It doesn’t matter how many yoga poses I have mastered, because it takes a lifetime of practicing to actually master anything. This allows me to come to my mat, each day, without judgment. When I practice without judgment, I am actually more free to celebrate my body and my strength.

Ask anyone that knows me well NOW, and they will say I walk taller, carry myself with an open heart and treat my body in a way that brings me closer to balance. On this path, there is no need to aim for perfection, settle, or get discouraged, today; I have my lifetime to practice and explore.


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Healing on the Mat

As my mind quiets, and emotion begins to pulse through my body, I can feel the tears well. I am sitting cross-legged on my yoga mat, and I can hear the sounds of the harmonium filling the room. The voice of one my favorite teachers cracks open my heart and yet in this space I feel a boundless shield of protection. I am both vulnerable and safe, as I allow myself to grieve.

On My Mat at Yogamaya

On My Mat at Yogamaya

While studying at The University of Vermont, I had the opportunity to learn from experts in death and dying. We learned about the five stages of grief, as hypothesized by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. The five stages (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance) explain how individuals deal with significant loss.

In the past year, I experienced multiple losses. While mourning the loss of my grandfather, our family also had to say goodbye to our nine year-old family dog, George. I found myself returning to the mat again and again to manage and process my overwhelming grief. Yogamaya became my place to release these difficult emotions and work through the five stages. I became aware of the duality inherent in grieving – some stages being incredibly painful, while others beautifully awake and invigorating.

I experienced these emotions, consciously, within the confines of my practice, which created space in my physical body that allowed emotions to flow. Sometimes it would happen standing folded over my legs, while other days as I relaxed into Savasana (final resting pose). The energy of sadness would arise and tears would stream quietly onto my mat.

This week, my family unveiled a bench near the dog run in Madison Square Park, with a plaque reading: “In Memory of Our Beloved Dog George.” A few days later we brought home our new 8-week-old puppy, Lucy.

The Bench at Madison Square Park

The Bench at Madison Square Park

Even as we welcome our new puppy, I know I am still in the acceptance stage with regard to George. There are days it seems impossible that he is no longer waiting for me when I walk into my parent’s apartment. Other days, I feel a sense of peace, because I know he’s still with us (helping Lucy learn the ropes of being a Belkin).

Lucy Belkin

Lucy Belkin

Whether on your yoga mat or someplace else, it’s important to honor the complex emotional process of grieving. Be open, find an outlet, and allow yourself the space and time to heal.

Do you have a story you would like to share? Email us or leave a comment.

Lucy loves to hear a story

Lucy loves to hear a story


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Riding The Wave of Breath

During our third weekend of teacher training, our knowledgeable teacher, Stacey, introduced us to Pranayama, the fourth limb of yoga. Stacey is very passionate about Pranayama, and was excited to share her knowledge with the class.

Many people do not realize that Yoga is composed of eight “limbs,” each a practice unto itself. Asana (the physical poses) is the third limb. Pranayama, the formal art of controlling the breath, is known as the fourth limb, and that which connects the physical body with the more unseen and mystical realms. Therefore, Pranayama may also be known as the breath of life. If practiced correctly, Pranayama is an art to control the mind by learning to control the breath, and to control the breath by controlling the mind.

Eight Limbs of Yoga

Eight Limbs of Yoga

Stacey characterized this complex breathing practice as akin to “playing with magic”. It certainly sounded like magic when it was explained that Pranayama techniques can both relieve stress and improve one’s overall physical health, while forging a deeper connection with one’s higher self or soul.

One of the books we are reading as part of our training is called Yoga and The Quest for the True Self, by Stephen Cope. In the book, Cope discusses the benefits and magic of Pranayama:

“Inhibition of full abdominal-diaphragmatic breath immediately cuts us off from feelings. But it also cuts us off from prana and deeply depletes the life force in the body. An increased reliance on chest breathing to supply the body’s oxygen requirements produces chronic muscle tension in the chest and abdomen, but that’s only the beginning. It also increases cardio-pulmonary stress, increases blood sugar and lactate levels, increases our perception of pain, decreases oxygen to the heart and brain, inhibits transfer of oxygen from hemoglobin to tissues, and increases our sense of fatigue.”

By learning how to breathe properly, we would further tune into our bodies, look at feeling through the breath, and cultivate powerful breathing techniques that we could use throughout our lives.

In the chapter called Riding the Wave of Breath, Cope explains a technique to help manage feelings that may arise through Pranayama (and, trust me, they can be vast). His technique called “riding the wave” has five parts: “Breathe, relax, feel, watch, allow.” This is Cope’s way to help others become witness to the wisdom of Pranayama.

Ali and I have both begun a daily Pranayama practice, and, as part of our homework for the next two weeks, will be recording a few observations after each practice.

With the technique of “riding the wave” and our lessons from class over the weekend, I feel prepared to begin my own exploration. Can I surrender to the freedom that comes with being present and to simply allow the process to happen without understanding every aspect of it? I am excited to find out.

“This kind of surrender requires a willingness to be changed. It involves, too, a willingness to trust life, to keep the focus of our awareness on energy in motion instead of on trying to understand what is happening. Prana is intelligent, after all.” – Stephen Cope on “riding the wave of breath”


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Beyond the Crux and Toward the Light

During a night out two weeks ago, I was asked a question about a recent blog post in which I discussed a metaphor about the light at the top of the mountain.

“What is the light at the top of the mountain for you?”

I struggled to articulate the answer to the question that evening. The words came out of my mouth: “the light represents the notion that anything is possible.” The question had caught me off guard and I was not prepared to answer it thoughtfully. However, it got my wheels spinning, and when I reflected on it afterward, I realized that the light at the top of the mountain is the guide to push forward when faced with a crux, whether literally or metaphorically.

According to Wikipedia, a crux is the most difficult portion of a climb. The metaphor of “climbing a mountain” is something Ali and I have discussed at length. This past summer, as we walked along the beach in Montauk, escaping our busy lives for a few days of sun, family and ocean, we realized we were both staring directly in the face of another crux. In this moment, I wondered what would help guide me get beyond this difficult stretch.

At each crux, there are decision points that determine the path forward. In the course of training to run a half marathon, Ali and I would hit difficult stretches, both physically and mentally. Each time, we made choices that would allow us to meet our goal of completing the race and living up to our commitment. Other times, I have hit a crux, and in order to move forward and reach the light, I have had to dig really deeply, sometimes looking at the very thing that was causing the difficulty in the first place. At times, it has been as simple (yet profound) as forgiving someone or myself.

Each person is a unique individual, and within each individual are certain parameters that make a crux easier or harder to get beyond it. That said, each person does have the ability to use their unique experiences and learning’s to get to the other side of a crux.

As one of our teachers, Bryn, was talking this past weekend, she said something that made me want to yell: I TOTALLY AGREE (I didn’t do that). She spoke about the “mountain” and that we learn to keep climbing the mountain even though we cannot see the light. WE KNOW from past experiences when it appeared there was no light, that if you keep going, the light will shine again.

We have each experienced moments when things have felt very dark, but that despite this darkness, we have found our way toward the light or past the crux. The knowing and past experience that things will change can help you get past the most difficult portion of the climb.

For me, the cruxes along the way become a part of the journey. You make the decision to look straight ahead and keep going because you know there is a light atop the mountain.

A Crux on a Mountain

A Crux on a Mountain


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Let Us All Be Thankful

Some days there really is not much more to say than – “I am thankful.”

Certainly, some days it is not easy to feel or be thankful, but, hopefully, even on those days, there is a way to find something to cling on to that makes one feel even a molecule of thankfulness.

The start of yoga teacher training has made me incredibly thankful for a multitude of things. An immediate reaction to the start of this journey is that my time has become precious. What is important has become more clear and what is not important is not even in my line of sight. I am thankful for this clear vision.

The start of yoga teacher training has also made me even more aware of my body. I am aware of what I am and am not physically capable of doing. Being physically able to practice and to learn makes me thankful.

Being thankful makes me feel good. It makes me feel hopeful and excited and encouraged that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

Be thankful for one or many things today. It’s infectious.

Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful. – Buddha

Butterfly in Montauk

Butterfly in Montauk