Summertime Sadness....A Call for Tapas

It’s true summer time as a student is ROUGH. Folks travel and stay out late. It is arguably the easiest season to fall off the wagon. I too haven’t had as much time to practice in the morning because I love sitting on the deck! Who wants to go to bed early when you’re being called outside by the warm sun? If you’re in need of some yoga inspiration, perhaps rethinking your time on the mat can help...
I'm almost finished with David Garrigues’ “Yoga Sutras Book 1 Summer Course” and fireworks have been exploding in my brain. He demystifies the connection between the physical asana practice and the guidelines in the Sutras' text. He discusses the recipes for stopping thought, realizing one’s true nature and discovering our unique purpose in this life. WHOA. I could discuss this for hours and with some of you I have. Some of you have walked right in as I am processing this information and I blurt out an unpacked phrase, perhaps sounding even a little crazy.
I used to hear the phrase “The mat is a mirror of your life.” I would think….hmm interesting. Yeah, okay…makes sense. I’m being lazy during X and so therefore I’m probably not paying attention somewhere in my life blah blah..
I am here to tell you that I am now ENRAGED by this phrase (thank you DG.) As David puts it, the mat is a laboratory or a training ground to learn how to use your body and your mind. You have dedicated time each day to practice higher levels of thoughts such as meditation on the breath or arranging your body along the imaginary central axis so that you can dispel all thought. Thoughts that are often fueled by desire and suffering (among others.) Your mat is a training ground to practice positive thought patterns that directly influence your thought patterns the rest of the day. THIS IS HUGE! This is not a passive practice. This is not simply exercise.

Yoga and in our case the Ashtanga practice assumes that we all have these problems, desires and pitfalls in our nature that cause us to think that we are only our body and our memories. Instead, the Ashtanga practice is intelligently designed to awaken your awareness to the one unchanging piece in you, your true self. To separate what changes from what doesn’t.  And we can realize this through the simplest series of postures. You don’t have to do your whole freaking practice every day. This is training so you can get out of the illusion that you are your body or your suffering. This practice has the potential to elevate your thinking and bring about wellness in your body too.

This is YOUR practice. The work is up to YOU. You have to face suffering and look at what is real and true. You are not doing a pose because ahhhhh this feels so good or this music really jives with this flip-dog. This is your life right here in every moment and there is no time to waste. When you practice, each jump out or inhale is an opportunity to align yourself to the truth, to the awakened unchanging self. So, no. No mirror. No mere reflection. Train yourself to elevate your understanding. With that, you are RESPONSIBLE for taking that into your life and applying it. To be an example around others and to react with compassion and joy, which the sutras say are finer thoughts than anger.  You are encouraged to find your purpose. I’m stating this to you but I am even more so writing this for me too. I needed to hear this through this summer course. To remind myself that I am lucky to have found this lineage that is designed for me to discover my truth.
Thank you David Garrigues for always expanding my understanding. I sure am looking forward to his visit in April :)


Why Ashtanga?

I’ve been really curious about WHY you all are practicing Ashtanga these days. I’ll admit that I came to Ashtanga because I got bored with power yoga. It was no longer challenging or exciting for me and I wanted to do handstands! And then of course only to find out that you don’t really get into handstands much much later (but really THANK GOODNESS because there is so much other fun to be had.)

My current reason is that I feel like I have a capacity to FEEL MORE; experience more emotions more fully and often. This is both thrilling and sometimes exhausting. It's as if more than before, I can explicitly list what I love and enjoy but at the same time fully experience anxiety and gloom. It’s no longer buried as deep, and there is the room for all of it to be felt. I also sense that I have so much further to go. As if there is a direct correlation between connecting with deeper parts of my anatomy and realizing that they are there and that there is MORE SPACE, a greater capacity for SOMETHING; yes, strength and flexibility but something beyond that. It’s so thrilling really.

There is never an end! That the same postures still have possibilities and expansiveness. This for me personally is NOW why I practice. I had to really think about that when I had hurt my back a couple years ago and had to scale back practice. Well if I can’t do all the cool shit then WHY?! Because even with so very little there is so much possibility. My perspective is constantly challenged and what I was so very positive and “right” about is often turned upside-down. How exciting that is! To never actually know anything for sure and to question what I believe in or why I do certain things. This used to TERRIFY me so I can only attribute daily practice to this change. 
I’m really so curious to hear from you all on this because I promise there is no wrong answer. There can’t be, because whatever reason it is, you are showing up and working on SOMETHING. That is so much better then nothing :)
And who knows, it might completely change on you and throw your "perfectly made for TV" reason into a spin like it has mine.  


All Practice Counts

March 2017 is going down in history as one of the hardest practice months for this girl. I’m wracking my brain. Stiff. Unmotivated. ZERO concentration.  
Mary asked, “dips?”
Sure. Just so you can see how stiff I am.  
If I were to also describe my mood this past month in all honestly I would say the sammeeee thing. I even found myself shopping in the Amazon “New and Interesting Finds” section titled “MEH.” I considered purchasing prime a graphic-t featuring “Meh” but then I realized I needed to take a harder look at what was really going on.
Is it the flip-flops to boots in a day weather changes? The new puppy potty breaks at 2am? My Lady Holiday sugar cravings that spilled over well past the holiday? These could ALL be reasons why. So I’m taking a step back. My practice this month is a wake up call that changes are happening and it’s OKAY! No one is going to care if I didn’t get my full practice in. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen. I need this reminder or else I will force myself to go through the whole thing. As if it’s not an honest practice if I only did a little. And GUESS WHAT? Those days are so crappy. Those are the days I tweak my knee or lay on my mat in despair looking at the high high high ceilings WHYYY MEEE!  
I find myself fighting the common battle with myself:

Patient Practioner: “Oh did I miss something? Today is yesterday?"

Eager EGO: “This was starting to come so easily and feel SO GOOD.”

Patient Practioner: "Did you honestly think that once you do something once or even regularly that it’s going to remain THE SAME?!” Has this been true in any other aspect of your life? Shit changes, Mary-Margaret."
So it could all be entirely out of my control! Either way, it’s time to hit the reboot button. I’m doing a spring detox cleanse (Derek too mwhaha) to redirect my digestive system, sleeping patterns and over all habits toward the new season.  Pay attention to my daily decisions and mood swings. I’ve been here before of course. It’s just easier for me to recollect the good feelings and practices. The effortless speed or the floaty mcfloatness. Nope, not this month. I could easily stop practicing. But now is the time for Tapas (HEY BOOK CLUB YOGIS YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS!) to invest my energy (however much is there into my practice.) Short. Long. More sirsansana. Less backbends? It all counts.
Enjoying practice for me means not feeling anxious about the amount of time or postures. This is my motive for April. April showers bring May flowers, April detox brings May tick-tocks? Perhaps. Perhaps NOT. Meh.


Another Kind of Holiday ;)

ARE YOU OKAY?! WHY aren’t you practicing?!
It’s okay everyone! No need to sound the alarm. I’m just on my period, or as Ashtangi’s call it “Lady’s Holiday.” I can usually tell when it’s getting close to a “moon day” or couple days leading up to it when practice gets SO slow and I give Jeb Bush a run for his low energy title. This month I knew it was on it’s way when I cried about the laundry.
I didn’t always respect these three days of glory. I would persist through practice OR I would try and do something else extreme like a HIIT workout because I am a STRONG DETERMINED WOMAN. Ummm calm down Mary-Margaret! You can be both. Stira, Sukha, what? Oh yes yes. Strength and ease. Opposing forces. #Respecttheforce
Why isn’t it suggested that you practice these three heaviest days of your cycle? Well, there is the natural fact that there is a downward flow of blood and energy that the body is expelling. In the asana practice we try to redirect energy with bandhas, and physically challenging postures. It is not recommended to invert during your period because don’t we want to have a shorter period? There’s only one exit…
For me, it comes down to the fact that I need to trust my body’s natural process and not get so worked up every time it happens. In “Yoga Sadhana for Mothers” there are many women who write about their cycle and how to use that time for rejuvenation. Many also talk about the ability to give up attachment to the practice during lady’s holiday as a preparatory practice to motherhood and the body’s natural fluctuating process. (Note: Mom, if you are reading this, just because I read a book that has “Mother” in the title does NOT mean I plan on becoming one yet! I know you’ve seen that Rocking Chair in the studio!)
What is something positive that I can do with the extra time I would normally have for practice? I can take more time to read, bake something, sleep more, eat more, write, shop etc. Oh I also like to watch something that makes me cry solely because it feels so damn good to. Like tears are pent up and hormones are waiting for the slightest chance to unleash the waterworks. Have you seen the t.v. series “This is Us” with Mandy Moore? I really didn’t like Mandy Moore before but now I have to say, she’s prettttyyyy wonderful. Tissues are a must!
IF YOU ARE A DUDE: Maybe you just support your partner or mat-mates during their holiday. You might think to yourself, how would I know? Oh, keep practicing and listening. You’ll pick up on it. Derek folded the laundry I cried about. (He’s a keeper.)
So unfortunately, we don’t get the whole three days to take a full vacation somewhere. What are some small things you can do for yourself that can embrace your femininity? You may find a well rested and respected body appreciates the practice more, like I have. Try it! I dare you :)


On the Move!

Change is rarely seamless. The move to the new studio space at Faith Lutheran was DEFINITELY sudden. On Monday we ekam inhaled on Wilson Boulevard and Tuesday we dve exhaled on Arlington Boulevard. Typical Ashtangis (myself included) can exhibit a strong distaste for change. After all, we do the same postures, at the same time. We have a routine prior to practice that involves some fasting, coffee and bathroom time. Some of us even balk at the idea of setting up your mat on the other side of the room. Quelle Horreur!
You know though, that somehow within these same postures, practice is never identical. One humid Wednesday morning, those index fingers latch onto each other for a precious moment in Supta Kurmasana. You start gasping, sweating and wondering, “What changed?!” Well, YOU did somewhere along the way.  One day you smile at the person next to you whose dusty foot extends onto your tank top instead of panicking that you now have foot sweat up in your business.
Hey! I have news for you. The more pro-change you are the less suffering. Adapt or Cry! (I hope my husband doesn’t read this or he’s going to make me recite this every time we go camping.) Really though, even if you don’t like change you somehow knew it was the leafy greens for your mood because otherwise you wouldn’t be committed to this practice. Every time you inhale you have an opportunity to experience bliss (or suffering.)
Lucky for us, the space is the only big change. It is filled with the same warm group of crazy people that I love and recognize (even from upside down and in a twist.) We will continue to adapt as individuals in our behavior and develop as a troop.
This first month we have exciting events in our midst! First off is our Grand Opening Soiree next Friday, the 3rd at my house. Interact with your mat-mates and meet people from the morning and evening that you don’t know yet! Second, is that I am so tickled to host Jeff Lichty in the new space next month. I am rarely going to offer workshops and I am a little star-struck that this Canadian is coming to the nation. He has been to India over fifteen times and offers a practical approach to teaching. He will guide us through KEY topics like samastitihi in foundations, intermediate series highlights and sutra and pranayama discovery. Talk about learning some extra tools to change your practice! I hope you can join us for one or all of his workshops and take advantage of his time and experience.
I have never been happier, more energized (or caffeinated.) It is my utmost pleasure to see you every morning and evening in this new space changing alongside you.