Monday, December 8, 2014

Inspiration is Reciprocal | Fulfilling a Calling to Serve

Confession: I recently almost walked away from teaching yoga and this blog for good. That was until a few of my students reminded me that what I do matters. And by inspiring them, they inspired me.

If you know me or have been following my blog, then you know this year has been filled with tremendous ups and downs. From the completion of my 500 hour teacher training with Sri Dharma Mittra to the unfortunate circumstances that landed me in the hospital for five days and the long road to recovery that followed, to the early arrival of my son Noah, it's been a wild year. While personally life could not be sweeter, professionally things have been a bit muddled and by the end of this summer I was found my self fed up and ready to walk away from it all.

Preparing for Noah's arrival was a good distraction. I landed a position in an office doing non-yoga related work that I admit, I rather enjoy and plan to continue to do. At that time though, I convinced myself that this was my path now and teaching yoga was a thing of the past. It was a welcome respite giving me time to reflect on myself and my feelings towards yoga practice and the industry as a whole.

I hid from the yoga world, logged off of social media and quarantined myself away from all I had grown to love, including my peers. It was easy to do being pregnant and unable to attend many classes. It's hard to accept where you belong when you cannot accept where you are at. Circumstances from my professional life left me reeling and all I wanted was to get as far away from it as I could. I grappled with fear and told myself "it's time to grow up", "what you do doesn't matter, no one will miss you." I really started to believe the crap I was telling myself.

I knew something was off when I thought I might shut down this blog forever and allow my thoughts to dissolve into the ether. Rather that act on that mind game, I reflected instead, too attached to the time I've put in over the years to hit the delete button right away.

In the weeks following Noah's arrival, I struggled with next steps. Do I teach, stick with my office work or try to do both? I kept telling myself that the practical thing to do was give up teaching for the time being; that it would be too hard to do both. Deep inside my heart was aching to serve once again, however I continued to vacillate.

Then I received an invitation from a few of my students to teach a Dharma class at a new studio. At first I hesitated. Could I really do this? I felt so far from where I'd been that I wasn't sure I had anything to offer anymore. Yet, that breaking, aching voice pushed me forward and I decided to teach the class.

I taught said class this weekend and was more nervous than I'd been in years.The last asana class I taught was months ago. Could I remember everything? Would it come back or would I be caught with a case of stage fright and run out of the room? As Sri Dharma reminds us from the Bhagavad Gita, "release any expectations from the fruit of your actions and make every action an offering." So...that is exactly what I did. That class became an offering in the highest sense.Not only to my students to but to my dharma and my purpose to serve. Although rusty, the class went well and I was happy to be in the seat of the teacher again.

I am so grateful to my students for believing in me when I had all but given up on myself. When I saw them, they both kept telling me how grateful they were for me helping them on their path, as both are now doing the work they feel called to do. Although I can't say I had a major part in this, I am grateful to have been a support for them. And now, even though they don't realize it, I am grateful to them in that same way that they gave me the space to show up and connect with my purpose once again. We truly are all mirrors of each other.

I was ready to walk away, but now I am inspired to stay the course. Inspiration comes full circle.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I Really Love My...Baby B'Gosh Surprise!

This post will not directly touch on yoga, but I will say that I'm always amazed at the abundance and surprises the Universe has in store.

If you keep on my blog, then you know that Baby Carr, now formally named Noah, arrived early at the beginning of October. It took a while to put the words together, but I finally did and shared our journey in this post.

Following the tweet of the post, I was contacted by Osh Kosh B'Gosh to congratulate me on the arrival of baby Noah. They also asked if they could send me a sweet #BabyBGosh surprise. Being new to the mama game, I'm still learning all the baby brands, but I vividly recall Osh Kosh B'Gosh from my own childhood and was excited to see what a #BabyBGosh surprise entailed.

Oh my gosh, a #BabyBGosh surprise indeed! I was expecting a something simple, like a t-shirt, but never imagined so much cuteness to show up on our doorstep. I'll definitely have to check out the Osh Kosh B'Gosh store near us to keep up the cuteness quotient. Dad and I agree this kid is already more stylish than we'll every be!

A perfectly packaged surprise

I'm in love with these baby suspenders.

Baby Suspenders, oh my!

Baby pea coat and overalls. Yes please!

Cute overalls

Stylish pea coat

And just in time for the holidays....

Grandma's Christmas Cutie

I can't wait to deck Noah out in all these cute outfits. All of the fabrics are soft and durable. He'll definitely be ready for his close up this holiday season. Thank you so much Osh Kosh B'Gosh for your generous  #BabyBGosh surprise. We truly appreciate it!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Early Bird Gets...the Baby | Baby Carr Arrives!

I've been trying to put in to the words the topsy turvy feeling I've been navigating for the past few weeks. I have rapidly realized that I cannot put everything in to one blog post, so what started out as one is now evolving into many.

Let me start at the beginning and announce that we gave birth to our beautiful baby boy Noah this October. Although he arrived early, a month from his due date to be exact, he's happy and healthy. With all the excitement I've done my best to breathe, stay as present as possible, be forgiving to myself, and allow myself to become an observer as new life unfolds before our very eyes.

Baby Carr Arrives! 

Baby Noah
All along, I had a strong feeling that Noah would arrive prior to his prescribed due date of November 11. Though my intuition was right, I had no idea he would come a full month ahead of schedule. Not to mention that he arrived on the actual day of his baby shower. No, we did not make it to the shower, but my amazing friends were in town and helped get our house set up for our homecoming. We are so grateful for their help!

I meandered through a haze of shock for the first few weeks and spent much of my time in "process mode." It's taken some time getting used to our new routine, the emotional ups and downs as my hormones and our family adjusts to Noah's arrival, and the crazy way having a baby flip flops your priorities. I believe that having a strong spiritual practice over the years helped me to stay grounded and move with as much grace as I can through it all. Additionally, my practice has also given me the courage to admit when I'm overwhelmed by being honest with myself and trust that even though I feel like I don't know what I'm doing, I'm doing my best.

Our Birth Story

The day I went in to labor started out as any other, with the only exception being I was having some new symptoms which I thought were related to pregnancy, not preterm labor. Keep in mind, I was only 35 weeks along at this point. I had been carrying the baby really low and working a little too hard, so it was easy to make that correlation. I got home from work and took the dog for a walk when low and behold, my bag of water released (although at the time I didn't believe that was what was happening).

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Universe is Wildly Abundant

Fact: the Universe is wildly abundant

Forget what you think you know (and your problems and your worries) and trust that the Universe (or God/Energy Force/Divinity, etc.) is always conspiring to give you what you need. The truth is most of us are too stubborn to sit back and let someone else do the driving. Be quiet, pay attention, and you'll see what I mean.  

I don't know about you, but I go through times where I'm down right confused about what the Universe has in store for me. I spend my time and energy fumbling for answers, whining and complaining, when really I should shut up and notice the gifts I'm given each and every day.

Upon recommendation from my yoga cowgirl friend Kathy Judd, I started reading Pam Grout's book E-Squared: Nine Do-it-Yourself Energy Experiments That Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality. The concepts of the book are not new, but she does a good job of making them tangible. In fact, the idea that your thoughts create your reality can be found in...wait for it...The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Yep, that's right. Master Patanjali spoke of these same concepts thousands of years ago. In truth, these ideas appeared in sacred texts way before Master Patanjali wrote them down. Pam Grout's version is a modern take on the power of your thoughts with valuable energy exercises you can do to see the results for yourself. Give it a try and you'll be a believer before you get through the first chapter. 

Basic premise: Ask and ye shall receive. 
Basic roadblock: We don't believe, so we don't receive. 
Basic fix: Be receptive and trust that everything is perfect. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

I'm Done with Fear | Getting Back to Me

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about fear. Not because I feel that I need to reflect on this concept, but rather, I've caught myself living in it. This is a topic I visited when I first started my blog in 2009 and discussed Pema Chodron's book The Places that Scare You in my post Facing Fear and again in 2012 with my post The Trouble With Fear Is | Working With and Growing From Fear.

It's hard to admit, but it's true and if there's anything I aim to be, it's honest.

You may be wondering what I'm so afraid of. Perhaps the birth of my baby or becoming a new parent? While those things certainly bring up a lot of emotions, I don't find much fear there. No, that's not it at all.

The past few months have been tough. To be honest, I'm tired of bringing it up, but when you go through something so heart wrenching, it lingers. Never one to stay down too long, I've finally managed to pull myself up by the bootstraps, put one foot in front of the other, and regain some ground. But there's still a lingering fear that has brought me to a place where, at times, I feel I no longer recognize myself.

It's scary to look in the mirror and see a version of yourself that you never imagined would show. Unfortunately, I spent a lot of time allowing other people opinions of me shake me down. Instead of finding my voice and speaking with conviction, I found myself acting from a place of fear, which is never productive and not something I normally subscribe to. I wake up in the middle of the night scared of the uncertainty swirling around me. When I reflected, I found that I shrunk.

I don't like shrinking. It's not really my m.o., but somehow I've allowed my fear to keep me from doing the things that I love the most--teaching and writing.

That's right, I've held back and even said "no" on occasion to opportunities that have presented themselves since I regained my health. While I'm still not 100%, there are plenty of things I can do. Why hold back? Because when I teach and write it comes from a place of authenticity, which leaves me vulnerable. Somehow I allowed myself to stay so wide open that the cuts were deep. Let's face it, I don't want to hurt anymore.

I'm so grateful to have a strong spiritual practice in place. While the dark side of all I've been living has made some days downright depressing, the light of knowledge gained over years of study and practice has aided in keeping some of those shadows at bay for long enough that the sun is starting to peer through again.

Here's my action plan for getting away from fear and back to my Self. 

1) Choose not to be afraid. I can't take credit for this idea. A few years ago, when telling my friend Brittanie about a personal issue I was having, she looked me straight in the eye and said "what if you chose not to worry?" I've used it ever since.That's right. Being afraid and worried is a choice. Certainly one should be aware if there are issues to handle, but to allow those issues to slip in to a place a fear does more harm than good.

I choose not to be afraid and trust that everything will work out. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Take a Deep Breath | Dirga Breathing or Three Part Breath (with a FREE audio download)

I'm telling you right now that it if it wasn't for Dirga Breathing (a.k.a three part breath), I'd never make it through this pregnancy. Thank goodness for pranayama!

Having gone through my prenatal certification in 2012 and then, of course, watching many of my friends carry and have babies of their own, I thought I was prepared enough for the changes about to occur in my own body when I became pregnant. Logically I knew that my body would need to stretch and expand to make room for the little one, but having never experienced that particular sensation before, I wasn't really ready for that moment when the stretching and expanding actually began.

No one ever tells you about the stretching in the way that you need to know about the stretching. At least no one told me. Everyone tells you that certain postures or movements make it more comfortable for you and for baby, but it wasn't until I experienced it myself did I really understand what that meant.

Enter my daily practice of Dirga Breathing. This breathing practice is great done on its own or in postures like Balasana (Child's Pose), side stretches or yummy restoratives like Supta Badha Konasana. And you don't have to be pregnant to get the benefit of this practice. Anyone can reap the rewards. In fact, this breathing is this foundation for many other techniques.

Balasana, Child's Pose

Among many down sides, shallow breathing (or chest breathing) leads to anxiety, asthma, low oxygen in the blood stream, tension in the chest and shoulders, and a bevy of other health related issues.  The most natural way to breathe is by bringing fresh air in to our entire torso. Ever seen a baby breathing? Notice that their belly moves up and down. As we grow up our environments and experiences make us unlearn our natural, healthy breath pace. However, with practice (and a little help from me) you can learn to breathe easy like a baby again. 

Dirga Breathing is really simple. In fact, if you've gone to any yoga classes at all, then you're probably familiar. New to yoga? Here's your daily how-to. 

  • Begin lying or sitting in a comfortable position with your hands resting on your abdomen. Take a slow deep inhalation and feel the abdomen expand. When you exhale, feel the abdomen relax. Repeat two times, focusing on the expansion and contraction of the abdomen. 
  • Next move your hands to the ribs. When you inhale feel the abdomen stretch and the ribs expand into your hands. When you exhale, release and allow the ribs to come back towards one another and the abdomen to relax. Repeat two times. 
  • Finally, inhale to feel the abdomen expand, the ribs stretch and the chest rise up. Exhale and release starting from the chest, then the ribs, then the belly. Continue with a slow and steady pace for 5-10 rounds. 
  • Remember: inhale abdomen-ribs-chest, exhale chest-ribs-belly

Like to listen and follow along? Check out my prerecorded session made especially for you! 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

5 Steps to a Simple Home Practice Space

My mat during Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training

We are currently converting the yoga room in our house to a nursery in anticipation of Baby Carr's arrival. When we first made the decision I thought, "where will I practice now?" Our office is sort of cramped and the basement ceiling is low enough that even at 5'4" my fingertips graze the ceiling when doing sun salutations. Additionally, I have few a props or two, including my much beloved harmonium and a bookcase dedicated solely to yoga books and study.

Clearly, making space for baby is much more important at this time, and I'm having tons of fun planning out the nursery, but as I seek to find balance in what is sure to be a new-crazy-amazing-time in my life, I had to stop wonder, what will my new practice space look like?

My beloved harmonium

Let's stop right there. If I took away all the yoga accouterments, what would I be left with? My mat? Okay, I'll give you that, but then, why am I letting my mat define my yoga practice space? The answer-I shouldn't. I've had plenty of amazing practices sans yoga mat, what's different now? My goal with practice is beyond the rectangular mat space as I aim to incorporate the basic yogic principles, or ethical rules of yama and niyama, in my day-to-day and live the life of a yogi to best of my ability. Who needs a mat for that?

Since I do need a place to store said accumulated yoga paraphernalia, I decided that my new practice space will be shared with my office. I'm always inspired there--it's where I do my best writing and thinking. When I'm feeling like I need more space, I'll find some!

Here are my top five tips for creating a simple home practice space.

1) Size doesn't matter. Can you sit, breathe and move comfortably?  You do not need an entire studio space for your personal practice. That being said, you want to be able to move around without injuring yourself and without being distracted by the stack of books or pile of papers on your desk. Find a space that fits your needs without taking over the whole house.