Browsing Tag

asana

Balance

Ahhhh, balance.

I recall years ago one of my very first yoga teachers stating (adamantly) in class how our ability to balance on our mat is symbolic of how balanced we are in our life in general. When he said that I likely rolled my eyes so hard I lost my balance. I’m pretty sure this was proof enough that he was on to something, no?

Balance is a state of presence, it’s a relationship that we enter into in each moment. Balance is fleeting. It’s not something you find once and keep, it’s a perpetual dance of noticing and responding, noticing and responding, and noticing and responding ( and on and on).

On the mat and in the greater scheme of things, this comes from our ability to move from our center and to stay connected to this place as we transition and respond to all the moving parts around us, ie L I F E. You may notice in your practice that when we are standing on one leg or balancing on our hands that we must be actively engaged with each little movement or we will likely fall on our face.

Balance is a practice of wholeness, it’s one of noticing that when we enter into a relationship with life and all she has to offer we have opportunity to remember ( literally re-member or rejoin) all the disjointed or disowned parts of ourself. Connecting to our wholeness invites us to the divine flow of life.

And while balance may be a fleeting force, our ability to keep showing up and exploring is not, it’s a practice. This is yoga.

Ahimsa

Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, I was incredibly hard on myself and those around me. And while I am far from perfect I keep choosing {over and over} to come back to kindness, for myself and others.

Non-violence, ahimsa, is at the center of yogic ideals. When we think of non-violence we often think of violence in our external environment. We may picture the extremes of hurting or injuring something outside of us, however the foundations of ahimsa always start within and how we treat ourselves.

Our ability to be non-violent with others is in direct relationship to how kindly and compasionately we approach ourselves and our own struggles in life. Through this compassionate process we are invited to examine ourselves deeply. When we hold this mirror up it’s easy to judge and criticize our actions from the past, it’s easy to punish, blame and beat ourselves up. Instead of deepening these patterns we can choose a new way of being.

When we choose to reflect and observe ourselves and our actions with tenderness and kindness we are making peace with ourselves, stepping towards a relationship of wholeness instead of deepening separation. This is not easy work. It takes constant examination, reflection and the choice to try on a new way of being, it’s a practice.

Photo by Kelly T Marie & Dirty South Yoga Fest

Going Within

As the world turns and the seasons change nature is showing us how to let go. Autumn leaves start to turn colors, preparing for the cyclical process of shedding that which we no longer need. The colors of the dying leaves enrich us with their brilliant display of beauty before being released back to the earth. The catalyst for this grand display of change is the journey towards darkness. As we head towards the end of our year we turn further away from the sun, the days get shorter and the nights grow longer, symbolically we are moving into the season of darkness. During this time we are reminded to take our own journey within, exploring and bravely traversing all that lies below the surface.

The myth of the ancient Sumerian Goddess Inanna holds the power of the cycles of death and rebirth. This is the heroine’s journey into the descent of darkness, the underworld. We may only enter this place in humility. Here everything we identify with is challenged, uprooted and stripped away. Our identity is obliterated and all false masks and pretenses are annihilated upon entering.

Inanna and Ereshkigal are the two faces of the wholeness, the sister halves of our own self. Together these goddess sisters are light and dark, heavenly and horrible, enticing and repulsive, acceptance and rejection. They are symbolically poised at the gateway of love and the unloved as we undergo the initiatory stages of our descent into ourselves.

Upon the death of her husband Ereshkigal, the ruling goddess of the underworld, calls her sister Inanna to join her below the surface of the earth to attend the funeral. Though Inanna is the Queen of Heaven the rules of the underworld and The Queen of Death, must be obeyed. Inanna mindfully and vulnerably enters the underworld. She enters humbly on her knees, exposed, naked, and stripped of all her clothing and adornments, stripped of all her worldly possessions and everything that she has identified with. When she reaches her sister Inanna is met with the “eye of death”, this look from Ereshkigal instantly annihilates her. Her corpse is hung on meat hooks and left to rot in the underworld.

From our friend Chani Nicholas…”The only beings that come to her aid are two magical helpers who appease Ereshkigal by witnessing her pain, acknowledging it and mirroring her struggle back to her. These beings echo Ereshkigal’s cries and wails. For the first time Ereshkigal is relieved of her pain because she is related to. Accepted. Given some compassion for her struggle. In return for this kindness she gifts them Inanna’s body and the goddess is reborn. Ascending to the Great Above, Inanna is renewed, but is never the same. Now fully awakened by coming into contact with the pain of her other half, Innana is, for the first time, a Queen truly worthy of her crown.

Ereshkigal is the deep reservoirs of power that lay within the unconscious. We cannot come into contact with our full potential until we are willing to descend into our underworlds, reckoning with the truth of what has happened to us. The struggle of marrying the unconscious and the conscious, the Queen of the Great Above, and the Queen of the Great Below, is a process of transformation so intense and painful we can only do it in the underworld. We need deep caverns, incubators, and safe places to grieve and reunite with ourselves.”

In the darkness is where all life begins. It’s where seeds sprout, it’s the fertile grounds in which to truly explore and nourish ourselves. It’s the place of death, transformation and beautifully enough, of all rebirth and growth. It’s the place where all healing and integration to wholeness takes place. When we turn within to forage through our past experiences and identities, humbly stripping ourselves bare, we find endless opportunity for release and unification. Creating time to be quiet with ourselves, to sit, to breathe, to examine, invites endless opportunity to bring all these aspects of ourselves together. Here we can move closed to the acceptance of wholeness and release that which no longer serves us.

Try This:
Find a comfortable place to sit, or lay down to find comfort. Close your eyes and breathe. Tune in to your body, sense the places where your body is rooted to the earth. Keep breathing mindfully. Now imagine all the places where your body meets the earth. Imagine that through your skin roots start to sprout. Each breath in and each breath out nurtures these roots to grow deeper and deeper, spreading out just below the surface of the earth and eventually finding their way deeper down. Imagine as you breathe in you pull energy up from the earth and as you breathe out you are releasing old stories, old pain, and old trauma. Continue this process until you feel a sense of deep ease, release and relaxation. When you are ready to come back let your roots be released. Take a moment to honor all aspects of yourself, those that are light and dark, accepted and rejected, loved and unloved.

Interested to learn more about these healing practices? Our Ritual, Healing & Sacred Waters Yoga & Self Discovery Beach Retreat in Tulum, Mexico is coming up March 30-April 3, 2019. Together we will explore healing power of Pachamama (Mother Earth) with ritual, movement, mediations, soul work and so much more. Learn more here.

Photo by Thu Tran of 2TPHOTO

Letting Go

“Our journey is one of movement and continual change. Each threshold different, each letting go with its own character-every set of experiences bearing their own teachings. If transformation were as simple as weeding through your accumulated possessions, it would not be daunting. But meeting life is daunting. It is the letting go, not of books and outgrown clothing, but of a conditioned way of being that has grown immeasurably comfortable. At this threshold you ask yourself, do I really want this? Am I finally ready not to waste anymore time?”
Paula D’Arcy, Stars at Night

Yoga was my formal introduction into understanding myself better, little did I know at the time it would be the thing that saved my life.

For years and years I was showing up on my mat. Day after day I was stretching and exercising myself into a sweaty heap of emotional and physical exhaustion. In my head I thought I was a “good yogi”, I was getting stronger and becoming more flexible. I was able to make all the shapes in class but I had no idea that I was not really practicing true yoga. I would judge my own practice, getting upset if I lost my balance or needed to take a break. I would compare myself to those around me celebrating if I was “the best” in the class, feeling bad if I wasn’t. I would show up 25 minutes early to claim my spot in the room and get irritated if someone was in my spot. I was hard on myself and hard on those around me, both on and off the mat. On the outside I thought I looked like what a good yogi should look like, on the inside I was deeply struggling.

One day, when my life was falling in pieces all around me, I realized that none of the stories, criticism or judgements I was harboring was serving me, none of it was helpful. I wanted to be happy. I wanted to be liberated from reacting to the world around me. I wanted to be free from all those things that were weighing me down. At that moment I wondered what would happen if I chose a new way of being? It was at that moment that I consciously decided to make a choice to let it all go.

I wish I could say it was easy to let go of those parts that were weighing me down. I wish I could say that once you make the choice to let go then you magically achieve some sort of enlightened state. For me the choice to let go was the first step toward happiness, I immediately began to see some changes but I still had a long journey ahead of me. It took time to reprogram my habits and patterns, it took time to explore new ways of responding to the world around me without falling back into patterns. And as I grow and change I am challenged in new ways, I take on new habits and patterns (some healthy and some not-so-much). I have new challenges that I must navigate in my personal life, in business and in all my relationships. To stay on the path of growth I must be compassionately aware of my tendencies and my messy and imperfect humanness, and at the same time I must keep a keen eye and steady focus on my inner world (and not be afraid of asking myself tough questions and calling myself out on my bullshit and stories). This is my sadhana, my most meaningful daily practice.

Photo on retreat by 2TPhoto

Running Towards Your Dreams

Take a moment with me here.

Close your eyes, take a deep breath and ask yourself the following question.

Are you running towards what you want in life?

This can be a tough question. I know I spent many, many, many years afraid of going after what I wanted. Looking back I see I was afraid of failure, I was afraid of rejection, and to be frank I was secretly afraid of success too. I was afraid, very afraid. One day I realized that I was the only one that could change my life, I was the only one who could reach for my dreams. No one can do that for me.

How liberating and truly terrifying that realization was.

When was the last time you got quiet enough to ask yourself what does your heart want? When was the last time you listened to that quiet (or not so quiet) heart song? When was the last time you ran toward what you wanted with arms open wide, heart pounding with excitement and possibility? When was the last time you said YES to your dreams?

Join me and my Soul Sister from another mister, Shari L Fox, on July 21 at the Dirty South Yoga Fest to explore how to live your life to the fullest.

Magic

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” – Roald Dahl

Magic. This is the word I often use to describe the feeling of being on a Soul Nourish retreat. But really it’s not magic at all, it’s what happens when we show up with pure presence. When we soften our edges and relax into our body the world becomes a bit more magical. Our mind starts to clear and our hearts become tenderized. Magic happens when we are seen and loved for exactly who we are.

This isn’t just a space we create on retreat, with practice this is a space we learn to access over and over. We create this space with permission. The permission to relax. The permission to open your heart enough to let someone else (or many someones) in. The permission to dive deep into what yoga truly means. The permission to explore moving your beautiful body in a compassionate and powerful way. The permission to speak your truth. The permission to share your dorky (or badass) dance moves. The permission to look deeply at what holds you back in life (and CHANGE it). The permission to safely explore your patterns and try on new ways of being. The permission to sing off key. The permission to lose your balance (or even lose your shit – thanks for that one Michelle Teel) and to be loved BECAUSE of it not in spite of it.

Are you ready for magic? I am. Head here to see where we are going next.

Photo on our El Salvador Retreat by 2TPHOTO

Photo by Ross Knight

You Get To Choose

How often do you stop and take a moment to witness the extraordinary beauty around you?
How often do you dull yourself to not make others feel bad?
How often do you just close your eyes and take a big, bold, beautiful breath?
How often do you play?
How often do you question what you think of as truth?
How often do you listen to that feeling in your gut, in your heart, or in your throat?
What if the answer was everyday?
YOU get to chose.

I Am Woman

I Am Woman and I am Imperfect

For months I knew I had a photo shoot scheduled with Robert Sturman ~ Artist/Photografía and as a single mother, small business owner, yoga teacher life was full. The months and weeks leading up to the shoot I was tired, overworked and I rarely had the time or desire to unroll my mat. When I had down time the last thing I needed was MORE effort, and striving. I just needed to CHILL. As the date of the shoot drew closer I knew I had a choice to make. I could starve myself of sustenance or I could show up imperfect, soft and accepting.

I am woman and I am imperfect.

I am learning that my appearance doesn’t define my worth. I sometimes carry extra pounds draped upon my yoga body like a second skin. Sometimes I embrace that weighty suit, an old friend with a lingering hug to keep me humbled. Sometimes I don’t.

I am learning to show up in my skin, with stretch marks like a trusty map of a long life lived. The faded patterns of love and miracle traverse across my once taut and trim belly.

Robert Sturman photographyI am learning to show up in life and be courageous. Mostly I want to climb in bed and pull the covers over my head, a frightened child still as a mouse, barely breathing for fear that I’ll be seen. Be still, don’t make a move and you can’t fail.

I am learning that failures and imperfections are inevitable when you are truly living. Stumbles and missteps disguised as an invitation to help you up, dust you off and send you back into the arena to keep fighting. (Perfection is the heavy shroud to keep people from truly seeing you there under the covers, still as a mouse).

I am learning to embrace my vulnerability. Living with an open heart is exhilarating, beautiful and joyful, yet it is also guaranteed to be painful and at times heart wrenching.

I am learning that being the best version of myself has nothing to do with perfecting a pose or even unrolling my mat. Instead it has to do with giving myself permission to fuck up, to fall down and to still show up day after day with my head held high.

When I boldly show up with my imperfections I allow you to do the same. Together, hand in hand we thrive; imperfect, messy and beautiful.

Selfie Roberts

“Selfie Roberts”

Did you know some of my closest friends call me “Selfie Roberts?” I really love the nickname I see it as loving and endearing but I never really figured out why, especially since the term “selfie” in society is often attached to the idea of an oversized ego. A dear friend of mine who recently became single wrote not too long ago “I never knew that a byproduct of being single is a phone full of selfies and landscapes?” Lately I can really relate to that idea. These thoughts led me down the path of my intention when I post pics of myself, whether in yoga, with my son, being “Mandy” (ie, ridiculous and goofy) or having a great time with friends. While I don’t know a lot about life, I have learned all too well that life is too short. That we must cherish each moment life gifts us with. I have learned to celebrate life and love and to SHARE it (likers gonna like). I have learned that if you want to take a pic of yourself eating a banana upside down in a tree then do it! (Note: put taking a pic eating a banana upside down in a tree on my selfie list). This leads me to one of my favorite quotes of all time and the quote I often allude to after every class I teach.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won?t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
– Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”

As I give myself permission to shine, to mess up, to land a bad-ass pose (or not land that bad-ass pose), I give you that permission as well.

Thank you to my tribe for my selfie-stick on my birthday, I love you. And get ready selfie friends, we are gonna have fun with this!

Yoga and the F-Word

Disclaimer; I know what all you yogis are thinking out there, that with a post titled Yoga and the F-Word this has to be a blog post about Bryan Kest. Wrong. Read on.

Three years ago my life was over…or so I thought.

The world I had known and built and loved was pulled out from underneath my feet leaving me stumbling, shrieking, clawing. I was standing at the edge of darkness and staring in the face of fear. I was experiencing the terrible reality of divorce.

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At this time I was 32 years old and I had never been alone. Yes, you read that right, I had never been alone. I was with my husband from the tender age of 15, and we were married three years later after learning that we were going to be parents. My husband and I both came from impoverished homes with our parents always struggling to make ends meet and to get food on the table. We were determined to have a future for ourselves and for our children. We both worked diligently from the beginning of our relationship and made many sacrifices to overcome the struggles we both knew growing up. Over the years we succeeded. We built a booming business together through hard work and dedication. For the last 8 years of our marriage our business had grown successful enough that I had the privilege of staying at home with our children. I spent my days running our household, working behind the scenes in our business, and volunteering in our children’s school and in our neighborhood. Being a strong-willed woman who liked to be in control (to put it nicely, but that is a whole other blog post), I found certainty in my marriage. We were going to grow old together and find ourselves at age 70 on a front porch swing sipping on a glass of sweet tea in the pre-dusk warmth of sticky southern summer days while our grandchildren played in the yard. My husband was my best friend, confidant and the only person in the world that I could depend on and trust.

As the reality of our divorce set in the many faces of grief and loss were swirling within my body and bubbling to the surface. Anger. Fear. Denial. Desperation. I was utterly TERRIFIED. I struggled to get out of bed. I struggled to eat. I struggled to sleep. When I was out of sight of my children I spent most of my day crying, locked inside my house. When I did go out in public I put on my warrior suit and held my head high, but inside I was screaming. I lost faith that I would ever be okay again. I was not even striving for happy, I was merely just wanting to be okay. Needless to say, it was bad.

There it is, the f word...FAITH.

Researcher and storyteller Brené Brown defines faith as “a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.” Faith. Much scarier than the other f-word right?

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Over the past couple of years I have found faith again (that journey will come in another blog, another time). In fact faith and I are very dear friends now. And just like with any other relationship, at times we struggle. Sometimes I push faith away because she is just too damn hard to have in my life. She constantly requires me to be present. She demands that I be vulnerable and open. She insists that I lead from my heart and not to make decisions based on fear. Sounds exhausting, right?

As a yoga teacher I strive to teach my students the concept of faith as I understand it. Through a yoga practice faith can be found when we let go of our limiting beliefs. For many of us this is not easy. As we breathe and move through postures on the mat we find ourselves challenged physically and emotionally. Just like in life, it is easy to give up when we are faced with discomfort. But when we are struggling( on the mat or out in the world) we have an amazing opportunity to explore ourselves, our patterns, our reactions. It is EASY to pull out of that utkatasana 10 breaths in when the mind yells “Abort mission!”. The hard part is learning to sit within the storm and to have faith that the discomfort shall pass.

Resolving to accept uncertainty and to choose faith not an easy place to live from, in fact it is very challenging at times. But I know now that no matter how hard it is to live within faith, it is much harder to live without it.

Within the depths of my sorrows and in the gloom of my divorce my yoga teacher Mitchel Bleier passed along this poem to me. Over time these words have carried me toward the shores of uncertainty while holding the hands of my long forgotten friends; courage and fearlessness.

THE TRUE LOVE
by David Whyte

There is a faith in loving fiercely
the one who is rightfully yours,
especially if you have
waited years and especially
if part of you never believed
you could deserve this
loved and beckoning hand
held out to you this way.

I am thinking of faith now
and the testaments of loneliness
and what we feel we are
worthy of in this world.

Years ago in the Hebrides
I remember an old man
who walked every morning
on the grey stones
to the shore of the baying seals,

who would press his hat
to his chest in the blustering
salt wind and say his prayer
to the turbulent Jesus
hidden in the water,

and I think of the story
of the storm and everyone
waking and seeing
the distant
yet familiar figure
far across the water
calling to them,

and how we are all
preparing for that
abrupt waking,
and that calling,
and that moment
we have to say yes,
except it will
not come so grandly,
so Biblically,
but more subtly
and intimately in the face
of the one you know
you have to love,

so that when we finally step out of the boat
toward them, we find
everything holds
us, and confirms
our courage, and if you wanted
to drown you could,
but you don’t

because finally
after all the struggle
and all the years,
you don’t want to any more,
you’ve simply had enough
of drowning
and you want to live and you
want to love and you will
walk across any territory
and any darkness,
however fluid and however
dangerous, to take the
one hand you know
belongs in yours.

 

You can find Mandy at FORM yoga in Decatur, Georgia and out in the world leading retreat with Soul Nourish Retreats. Connect with her worldwide on Facebook here and on Instagram here.