Two Yoginis

A journey of yoga, friendship, and transformation

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Welcome to the New Age

Last week, Beth asked me if I would be her “student” so she could practice teaching for her upcoming community class at Yogamaya. I happily obliged, making space in my studio apartment, clearing the energy with a little sage, and setting down my mat, along with a strap, a bolster, a blanket, and two blocks (per the teacher’s request).

Beth, teacher in the Making - Photo by Ali

Beth, Yoga Teacher in the Making – Photo by Ali

At the beginning of a Yogamaya class (and most other Vinyasa classes that I have attended), the teacher gives what Bryn and Stacey call a dharma talk – a short introduction that sets the tone for the class and gives students a topic or concept to consider during their practice. To kick off my private class, Beth spoke eloquently about the idea of identity; expressing that, early in life, we can get boxed into a notion of who we are, whether it is by our parents, siblings, friends, teachers, or even ourselves.

Once a set conception of who we are has been established, it can be difficult to allow ourselves to change, even though we (inevitably) do change throughout the course of our lives. It can be especially challenging for other people to accept new aspects of our identities, when they are accustomed to putting us into certain categories or boxes (with which come certain expectations). As I was asked to close my eyes and connect with my breath, Beth read me the following poem:

Allow” by Danna Faulds
There is no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightning bolt, containing a tornado.
Dam a stream and it will create a new channel.
Resist, and the tide will sweep you off your feet.
Allow, and grace will carry you to higher ground.
The only safety lies in letting it all in –
the wild and weak –
fear, fantasies, failures, and success.
When loss rips off the doors of the heart
or sadness veils your vision with despair,
practice becomes simply bearing the truth.
In the choice to let go of your known way of being,
the whole world is revealed to your new eyes.

Beth’s dharma talk (and poem) resonated with me in that the (personal and collective) experiences of the last few years have changed me; I am no longer the same person as I was one, let alone, two or three years ago. For example, it has only been over the last couple of years that I have become (very) interested in astrology. During this time, my passion for and study of astrology has become a significant aspect of my identity, whereas before it was not. As such, there are people in my life who respect and are curious about this newfound interest (or just want a reading), and others who are skeptical and dismissive of it. Nevertheless, it has become a part of who I am (now).

Kaleidoscope eyes - photo by Ali

Kaleidoscope Eyes – Photo by Ali

While re-reading a piece about the New Moon in Leo on August 6th, entitled Transition in Identity, I realized that this lunar cycle (synchronously, as astrology always is) is all about who we are.

Leo (the lion – and my rising sign – hence, the obsession with my mane) is a sign about the unique qualities of the self. Leo’s opposite, Aquarius, is a sign about how our unique qualities, talents, and abilities, contribute to the larger group/society. With the Full Moon in Aquarius approaching on August 20th, we will be working with the energy of this Leo/Aquarius opposition, asking ourselves: who am I and what the heck am I here for? Adding emphasis to the moment, this lunation will be the rare second of two full moons along the Leo/Aquarius axis in the last 30 days (the first one was on July 22nd), and a blue moon to boot.

During this time, I have observed that many of my friends and acquaintances are experiencing change in one way or another – from relocating, to starting a new job, to going from engaged to married or from coupled to single, or, simply, to initiating a new phase of life. As we make the transition to these new beginnings (or as we are in the gestation period between the end of one situation and the beginning of another) it is normal to question our identities; to contemplate who we are as individuals, what we are really here to do, and to wonder about how others will perceive us as we allow previously dormant aspects of ourselves to manifest in our new realities. With regard to Beth, it was exciting to witness a new expression of her unique soul in action: from yoga student to yoga teacher.

Yoga teacher Beth (and bolster assistant Ali) - Photo by Missy

Yoga teacher Beth (and bolster assistant Ali) – Photo by Missy

As the Aquarius Moon waxes full tomorrow evening, we each have a unique opportunity to begin to see ourselves (and each other) with new eyes. And, if we can stand back and allow things to unfold with grace and without expectation, we might find that with our new eyes we can both envision AND create a brave new world.

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I Can See Clearly Now

Last weekend, I had my bag packed to head down the shore for some fun in the sun when I woke up with a gnarly sore throat. I was stopped in my tracks, forced to stay indoors and nurse myself back to health most of the weekend (and part of the week). As characterized by one of my Teacher Training classmates, Stefanie, this was a total “summer bummer.”

It just so happens that this summer bummer came about during Mercury Retrograde, a three-times-per-year phenomenon when Mercury appears to go backwards through the zodiac from our perspective on Earth. Mercury (the messenger) represents how we think and communicate.

In 2013, each Mercury Retrograde is happening in a water sign: first Pisces (back in February), now Cancer, and, in the fall, Scorpio. Water energy represents emotion. Water is powerful, and it is known to flow around any obstacle. Put your thoughts and words (Mercury) under water, send ’em backwards, and voila! Confusion and emotional meltdowns abound.

As many of us now understand, Mercury Retrograde actually has a purpose other than to frustrate and annoy us; it signals that it’s time to slow down and course correct. For me, this manifested, literally, in getting sick and being forced to stop what I was doing and get healthy (not to mention other technological manifestations like my icemaker going on the fritz and our office A/C breaking down in the midst of an intense NYC heatwave).

While quarantined in my apartment, I was reminded of our previous Mercury Retrograde, in Pisces, which came to life in a powerful show of nature – a nor’easter that the Weather Channel called “Nemo.” Having run out of interesting things to watch on television during my extended home confinement, I decided to pop in the Finding Nemo DVD and reread some of my own advice:

“For those of us who find the watery depths a bit unnerving, remember: just as Marlin and Nemo keep hope alive and (spoiler alert!) are eventually reunited, redemption is often right around the next coral reef (or nor’easter).

This message came up again when I was getting ready for work yesterday, and heard about the sad passing of Talia Castellano, a beautiful little girl who made a strong mark despite a short life plagued by cancer. I welled up as they ran a clip of Talia telling Ellen Degeneres “A little fishy told me to just keep swimming” (warning: tearjerker ahead):

The thing about the water is that, as necessary as it is to life, it can also be murky: the depths (Pisces) can be dark and scary (where they only way to see is to run into that creepy fish with the weird headlamp). The shoreline (Cancer) is fun for a swim, but you must be alert for a strong wave or undertoe. And the swamp (Scorpio), well, you never know what is lurking in fixed water, an ecosystem that both supports life and takes it away. Our senses are not as sharp in the water, and if we’re not careful it can knock us off our feet or pull us under.



One of my favorite astrologers, Tom Lescher, characterizes this time as being in the dark, watery womb of Cancer, the mother. I could not help but think of the royal baby, whose arrival the world is eagerly awaiting. Will the baby be a boy or a girl? What will they name him or her? Will this herald a new beginning for the royal family? (Personally, I am pulling for a girl named Alexandra.)

If you’re as weary as I am of treading water, I have good news: Mercury stations direct on Saturday, the sun will be born into its fiery home of Leo on Monday, and we will have a full moon in airy Aquarius on Tuesday. What is being born in your world? What new beginning? What fresh start?

Don’t know yet? That’s OK, too. Sometimes it takes a few minutes to dry off, get the sunscreen out of your eyes, throw on some shades, and see clearly again.

Until then – and, now that I’m healthy again, I’m thinking – dance party?