Yoga Taught Me That I Am Stronger Than I Thought.

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It’s not every day that you get to fly. To be held aloft by your partner who is your ground, your base, your foundation. It is extremely energizing and exciting to practice Acro Yoga. A couple of years ago I never would have even thought of trying this. But yoga taught me that I am stronger than I thought.

I remember when I first started practicing yoga….I was full of self doubt and worry. I wasn’t a very athletic or active person. I took ballet for 3 years as a kid so I knew exercise was good for me but the most exercise I got now was an occasional walk. I was overweight and unhealthy. Would I be able to practice for a whole hour?  Would I fall over? Would I feel silly?

As it turned out – not only was I able to practice for an hour – I felt even better after practice than before! I didn’t fall over (unless you count wild-thing) and there was no need to be feel silly or self conscious because yoga is not a competition – it is self improvement, self-study and growth!

Not long after I began, I noticed that I could hold down dog longer than when I started and side planking was fun! Vinyasa was full of flowing energy and movement and I wanted to challenge myself more and more! I wanted to learn more poses, attempt more difficult inversions and make myself sweat! Make myself sweat – did I just say that? Yep, you betcha! What was happening to me?

Now as a Yoga Teacher I get so excited when a student sees some kind of improvement. Maybe they stand in Tree without a toe on the floor for support for the first time. Or they sleep through the night without sciatic pain or even complete a side plank without falling out of the pose. Each and every one of these accomplishments is a cause for celebration in my mind because I have been there! I know how amazing and exciting it is to achieve a pose for the first time when I wasn’t sure I would be able!  I always hoop and holler and give them a high five for accomplishing something new – finding strength they didn’t even know they had.

That’s the amazing thing about Yoga.  It is a perfect metaphor for life. Lots of times in life we are unsure of ourselves, doubt our abilities and wonder “If……” You may be in a place right now where you are feeling some of these things. It’s ok. I know. I’ve been there. all I can say is to step out and give it a try….whatever the “it” is. You may surprise yourself. You are certainly capable of more than what you give yourself credit for. I know. I’ve seen it happen time and time again on the mats in my studio.

And you know what is amazing about the yoga and strength equation – yep, you know where I’m going with this right? The more you practice, the stronger you become! The more you practice, the more you are capable of and in life it’s just the same. The Key is to just give it a try. And you know what might happen? You might eventually feel brave enough to FLY!

Yoga Taught me to Listen to Myself.

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For a very long time I lived my life totally disconnected. I was on auto pilot. I woke up, did my “mom” job, tried to be a good wife, clean the house, and overall tried to be happy with my life – even though I was very unhappy.

I spent a lot of time worrying about the future – would my kids get in to college? Would they learn to be independent? Would they make good choices and have an easy/safe path in life? I spent a lot of time doing what I felt was expected of me, what I felt other people wanted me to be and do. I was listening to all of the messages that were being pressed upon me. My life was full of “You should be doing…..” Or “You need to……” or “A good mom would…..”

But even though I was trying and trying to do everything everyone wanted of me, inside I felt hollow and unimportant. I felt like I was drowning in the sea and no one could see or hear me. And then things got worse. I moved into depression.

I suffered with depression for about a year and half. Dark lonely days where I didn’t want to breathe anymore. Suicidal moments when I would call my husband and beg him to come home and be with me so I wouldn’t do something stupid. Evenings when I couldn’t stop crying and my teenage son and his friends would pick me up and take me to walk around walmart – or some other ginormous store – where tears would continue to roll down my face unheeded.

They hugged me a lot and told me they loved me. My daughter began cooking because I had lost the ability to make a list, or to bathe and make it to the store. My husband looked at me and shook his head not knowing what to do to help.

When things go really bad I went for help. I found a great counselor and started taking antidepressants ( I know this is controversial but they really helped me) and then……..I started taking yoga. I knew that exercise was good for depression – endorphins and all that. I also was able to do a work/study program so I could exchange my time working for them for free classes. By the end of my third class I knew I had found what I needed.

During the quiet of Savasana I heard a still, quiet voice that came from deep within. It had an answer for me – one that I had been searching for for a very long time. “WHAT DO YOU WANT?”  I could never answer this question. People asked me all the time and I never had an answer. I would hem and haw and come up with something I thought they would want to hear….but finally I listened to myself and go THE answer.

You can not imagine how boyant I felt. I had found a connection with myself! I don’t remember where and when I lost it. But once I found it I was NOT going to give it up or let it be silenced any more. Once I listenend to that voice and spoke my truth my whole world got better. My depression slowly eased up over time. After about 6 months I stopped taking meds, I practiced yoga as much as possible and practiced listening to myself.

Can you imagine? Such a small thing…..listen to yourself……not what others tell you you should be…….what you REALLY want! It’s a few years later now and I still have trouble sometimes saying what I want. I have a habit of asking for permission…..but thankfully I have people who love me enough to catch me when I do that….and remind me not to ask….to just say it…..say what you want.

Yoga taught me to Listen to Myself – honest, easy and free 🙂

There is a reason Yoga is called a Practice

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With only 6 more weeks until my BIG move I am continually trying to decide which lesson I have learned from yoga to share with my students. For this week it will be “There is a reason Yoga is called a Practice.”

I love that we call yoga a practice. No matter my level of achievement it’s still a practice. Rod Stryker practices, Sean Corn and Shiva Rae practice. It somehow brings us all to the same level. (ok, kind of) They are able to achieve many poses that I have not found yet but still we’re all practicing right? Beginners practice, teachers practice and gurus practice. We’re all in this together. It makes us a community and I love that!

I also love it that it’s not “Practice makes Perfect.” How many of us have heard that old saying over and over?  I don’t believe the strive for perfection is healthy or even desirable. Not just in yoga but in life. Who wants to be around someone who thinks they are perfect or that everything has to be done their way?

I’ve spent many long years working on my need for perfection. I wanted to be the perfect mom, wife, housekeeper, gardener, crafter, PTA mom and church lady. The towels needed to be exactly level and folded the same way on the rod. The bedspread had to be wrinkle free and even on both sides. The kids had to be in the right programs and dress just the way I saw fit. The soup can’s were in alphabetical order! (Yes, It was exhausting!)

Then one day I realized that perfection is not possible. It was the day I forgot my son’s birthday. It was awful! I remembered the day before but, on that morning I forgot until he walked out the door on his way to school and reminded me. My heart sank low into my chest and I realized I had dropped the ball – a BIG one. I had hurt my son.  I was imperfect–big surprise!

So in Yoga, as in life I remind myself that I am not perfect, that I need to keep practicing. I know there is always room for growth, room for advancement or more awareness. Even when I feel that I’ve got Warrior One down pretty well, I ask myself, “Where is my mind? Am I present? Am I breathing?  Am I feeling competitive with the person next to me?” These little internal questions and adjustments are room for growth.

We are all on this journey of life together. We each have things to learn, ways in which we need to grow, adjustments to make. There are realizations to be had, people to love and sunsets to admire. Yoga is such a good analogy for this journey of life. So in life just like yoga remember to practice, practice, practice!

Yoga is what you make of it.

ImageThere are BIG, BIG changes in store for me! In seven weeks I will move from where I have been living for 14 years, I will leave behind my house, my pets, my garden and most of my possessions. I will also be leaving behind my studio and all of my students. Even though this is a lot of change and starting over is a bit scary I know this is the right move. My heart tells me so.

So, on the eve of leaving my students I want to share some personally meaningful things with them (and you of course). Since I have seven weeks left, I decided to pick one topic per week to share. Something I have learned from practicing Yoga.

Week 7: Yoga is what you make of it. 

I have found over the years of practicing that yoga is what I make of it, what I bring to it and how I shape it with my intention and emotions.

Yoga CAN be calisthenics. I have days when I’m not really thinking or being present but I work my muscles, stretch, sweat my butt off, try to burn calories, work hard, push myself to my limits, always reaching for more, more more! Grrrrrr!

Yoga CAN also be church. I have days when I am feeling meditative and looking inward. I flow gently through practice praying for people, focusing positive energy towards those who need love or healing. Remembering those who have gone on before me.

Yoga CAN be an Ego trip. If I am not careful it is easy to slip into a competitive mind set. Thinking about how I look in a pose, or wanting only to perform “pretty” poses for the camera.

Yoga CAN be drudgery. Many times I come to my mat tired or not wholeheartedly ready to practice. At those times practice seems to take forever or my flow is off or I’m not present.

OR Yoga can be Union. Union of the Mind, Body and Spirit makes yoga a holistic practice that works my body, settles my mind and makes my spirit soar. I am able to hear that small inner voice of truth that is usually drowned out by others telling me what I “should” be doing. My body is worked and challenged but not hurt and my spirit feels in connection with the world around me. I feel positive and happy and alive! And that is the kind of Yoga that I want to practice and share with others.

So how do I set my intention to have a Yoga (union) practice. It starts with becoming present on the mat at the very beginning of practice. I do this by focussing on the breath and listening within, I then move on listening to what my body tells me it needs. I pick poses based on how I feel, what comes to mind as helpful and even throw in a little challenge here and there. I also listen to the spirit by being aware of my surroundings – I love practicing in nature. This makes my spirit so blissful! Doing a sun salutation at sunset is awesome! I add in affirmations and encouragement for my students – sending them love from my heart. I keep the mind steady and present by practicing calming pranayama techniques. I also keep it real by laughing occasionally and interacting with my class.

Yoga is what you or I make of it. It can be drudgery, an ego trip or just calisthenics. But it can be oh so much more. It can be a union of your body, mind a spirit which creates total bliss! It can be all that you need or want it to be. All you have to do is set your intention and get on your mat!

Namaste Ya’ll

A Hike, An Exploration, An Adventure

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After my coffee this morning my body whispered to me that I needed to get out and MOVE!  The sun was shining, it looked warm and I could hardly wait to pull on my Keene’s and head out the door!  I wasn’t really sure where we would go or what we might see. That sense of being on an adventure, a small tingle of unknown, permeated the air.

Something you should know about me is that hills are really hard for me. I don’t like them. I’m in pretty good shape but hills just kick my butt. So very soon as we headed south along the Redondo boardwalk  and then up the hill on 1st Ave., I began huffing and puffing and trying to remember why was I out here sweating?

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My boyfriend suggested that we try to find Powell’s Wood Garden on Dash Point Road. A garden? Sure! That means I can stop and rest right? I was all for that and luckily we walked right to it!  As we looked longingly through the wrought iron gate, feeling like victorian street urchins looking in on the wealthy, some caretakers saw us and opened the gate! I was worried that we (sweaty, disheveled and uninvited) shouldn’t be there or that someone might yell at us for our unannounced visit but as soon as I stepped over the threshold I became enthralled by the views around me!

As I stepped inside, I saw the most magical garden rooms, each one leading into the next! Stone steps, a creek with a bridge, lush green grass and the most beautiful plants! Each one labeled and lovingly pruned or staked! This place was like a fairy tale!

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I love gardening and being outdoors so this place was like heaven to me – and I didn’t have to do the weeding! LOL We wandered through the garden marveling at the flowers and foliage, feeling the wetness of the grass under our feet  and wondering what types of events must they have here? (And how could we finagle an invitation?) It would be great for weddings, garden tours (of course) and yes even a yoga class! We felt so honored and privledged to be walking through this lovely paradise all alone – how did we rate? It was almost as though the gardens belonged just to us for the few minutes that we enjoyed them.

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I was able to see and experience all of this beauty because I listened to that little voice in my mind that said to get out and MOVE today. You never know what you might see: like the squirrel eating blueberries off the bush, or feel: the awe of a private tour of the most beautiful garden, or hear: children splashing in a nearby pool. It’s all unknown when you set foot outside your door.

Be open to the possibility. Be open to exploring someplace new. Be open to adventure. Even if it’s just on your morning walk. Hugs ya’ll. Hope you had a lovely Friday.

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Wanderlust in Whistler/Gypsy Style

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I have just returned from Wanderlust in Whistler, Canada and my head and heart are reeling! I had so many wonderful experiences there that I have not yet been able to absorb them all. I still feel as though I’m floating as I did on the slack line above. Ok….maybe I’m not floating….yet….maybe precariously balanced? Yep, that’s more like it!

There were world-class teachers with whom I would never otherwise have had the chance to practice such as Rod Stryker and Sean Corn. There were concerts every night, great food and since we were in the Olympic Village we could walk to everything we needed!  The place itself was gorgeous! Mountains, lakes, rivers, woods – it was all so serene and welcoming. It truly felt like home. I wonder if Wanderlust feels like home no matter the location? Hmmmm that would be fitting for a yoga gypsy like me huh? A nomadic wandering tribe of yogis, practicing, dancing, learning, creating where ever they go…….What a great life!

I promise to post again in a few days and go into more detail about this weekend. I just need a little time to sleep, dream and make my thoughts make sense.  Namaste Ya’ll

My Gypsy Heritage

Just the other day I was driving in rural Oregon through towns named Yoder, Molalla and Estacada and memories flooded my mind of times when I visited this part of the state when I was much younger. I had visions of Mennonite women in plain dresses and black, sensible shoes, long hair drawn up under a cap. I remembered sitting under a quilt stretched tight while women pushed and pulled needles through the cotton fabric.

I was raised by my grandparents and my grandfather grew up in a Mennonite household. The people I remembered were his family, my family, my heritage. My grandfather was the best person I have every known.  He taught me all the best things in life: to tell people that you love and appreciate them because you never know if you’ll get another chance, to appreciate the earth and all it offers and last but not least to get out away from town and into nature as often as possible!

When I was growing up, my grandfather would routinely take our family somewhere on an adventure. We might go rock hounding, or to the beach to gather driftwood, or cherry picking in an orchard.  One time we camped in a field and dug geodes out of the mud! Where ever we went grandpa always made it fun and he always made me feel capable and smart.

Following my grandfather’s advice, on this day I was off to find Bagby Hot Springs in the Mount Hood National Forest. I had been battling with myself for the preceding day as to whether or not I should attempt this solo adventure. Negative thoughts plagued me: Would I be able to find the place? Would the hike/walking part be difficult? (I had only brought flip flops) Would I be safe?

Luckily I was able to push all of the worries and negative thoughts aside and as soon as I started driving out of town a feeling of lightness overtook me. I wasn’t afraid anymore…..I was excited! There is a feeling that accompanies a new adventure….a slight tingly freeness, a feeling of possibility that is enchanting, exhilirating and addicting!

I drove through small towns, over metal bridges and rivers, through sun dappled shady roads, past tractors and walls of rocks, up into the hills and forest finally reaching my destination. As I walked the last 45 minutes to the site I felt proud of myself for making it here.  I thought about how I got here. I thought about my aloneness on the path and about how very comfortable I felt there.

I also realized that my gypsy nature – my love for travel and seeing new places, my love for adventure came from a man now gone. A man I love very much who always told me, “I’m not sure what you will choose to do, but I am sure it will be the right choice!” He would have loved seeing this place.

Dawn Jex/Yoga Gypsy

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