So Many Tips for Dealing with Body Image Angst Over the Holidays! I can’t even count the tips.

So Many Tips for Dealing with Body Image Angst Over the Holidays! I can’t even count the tips.

A meal that was not fraught. What a delight. But YEAH, that’s a lot of prawn.

There are a few times of the year when our body image anxieties reach a high pitch, and the holidays is one of them.

Why? A few weighty reasons.

  1. You’re gonna see people you haven’t seen in a while, and they are gonna see you. People may have changed! (Gasp!) How will everyone react?!
  2. Food, food, so much food. And, booze. And dessert. So much: TOO MUCH!
  3. Gossip. People talking about how other people look, behind their backs, usually not in a very nice way.

Let’s take a look at each of these in succession.

How we look. It’s beyond natural to want to really make a good impression on friends and family that you’ve not seen in a long time. Perhaps you’ve gained some weight (not that I personally think that it a problem, but other people seem to still think it is). Perhaps you’ve been sick, and it shows (again–cause for compassion, not for judgement). You know you’re not at your physical best. And you worry, because, not only does that dent your self esteem when you’re already feeling down, but now on top of that, you’ve forced into a situation where you’re worried about what other people will think, and what they will say–to your face–and what they will say behind your back. It sucks.

Here are some suggestions.

IN PREPARATION:

Black gloves and an updo. Oh, yes. Go to great lengths if you must. Lessons learned from Lady Gaga.
  • Dress your best. Take the time to find something to wear that you feel really good about, shopping, borrowing. Make it fun. In-character. Fashionable. Get a sympathetic friend to help you out, if you HATE figuring out what to wear alone. Be relentless in your determination to make the holidays feel good to you, so you emerge victorious, at least knowing that you took the best care of yourself.
  • Wear a smile. You ALWAYS are well-dressed when you do.
  • Rehearse gracious, de-escalating responses to incendiary remarks, like the following:
    • “It looks like you’ve gained weight!” Haha! Maybe!–My body does what it does. By the way: You look wonderful! I love you so much, and I’m so happy to see you. What is something really terrific that has happened to you recently? 
    • “You look so great! Have you lost weight?” I’m not sure! I don’t weigh myself. I really try to not get caught up in that: it makes me crazy and ends up taking up so much of my mental space, space that I want to spend thinking about truly important things. Speaking of really important things, how is your (fill in the blank, choose something you know is really important to that person in their life) going? 

 

AT THE EVENT:

  • Take deep breaths, and feel free to spend some time alone in the bathroom to regroup.
  • Bring your compassion for yourself along. If someone says something less than kind, breathe, smile, say something that shows your own self-compassion, and encourages that in them, even complimenting them as a retort. Use your rehearsed responses. Trust yourself to be your own advocate, and to do so in a way that is gracious, and instructive, even if the people you are talking to don’t or can’t understand.
I wish all bathrooms had such helpful reminders. This is a message in the bathroom at the Blue Hills Monastery in Upstate New York.

How other people look. Basic rule: it is none of your business. If you don’t have something kind or gracious to say, then you best not say it! There is no real reason to comment on another’s appearance. You can focus on their person. After all, the body is just an aspect of the person. Say something honest, about them. Say: I love you, and I’m so happy to see you! Or if that isn’t honest: It’s been so long! We have so much to catch up on. Tell me, what has been the highlight of the last year for you? 

FOOD, FOOD, FOOD. SO MUCH FOOD! 

If part of your body image anxieties revolve around food (how could they not??!) make an honest assessment of where you are with this issue, and then make a plan.

THE PLAN. Here’s my general plan. It might not work for you, we are different people with different histories and growth trajectories, but I offer mine as a sort of guidepost. Eat “normally.” Meaning: don’t NOT eat because there’s going to me SO MUCH FOOD at dinner. No, no. That suggests a restrict/binge cycle. Have breakfast. Have lunch. Then: eat “normal” portions at dinner. Not bird portions. Not THREE helpings. Like, one plate. There will be leftovers. Plan on enjoying those in the days ahead. Or not. There will be another scrumptious meal in your near future.

THE ENERGETICS. Here’s something interesting I learned from my yoga teacher, Ana Forrest. Our energetic anatomy and our physical anatomy overlap. So, if the part of you that is busy taking in conversation, or energy from another person, the corresponding physical apparatus will be partially or fully offline. At these parties, there are often many people, and the energetic input is like a flood. Because of that, it makes it even harder for us to connect to the feelings of our actual stomach. When I can’t detect my stomach, I make the decision not to eat too much, because I can’t feel what’s happening. This is the ONLY reason I will personally accept for not eating much at such events. Often people bombard their stomachs with too much food, in order to ground, or in order to get pulled back into the reality of the situation, or to try to feel something. Pay close attention. Take a break, in the bathroom to regroup, if you loose the capability to pay attention.

THE SOCIAL ANXIETY. Recently, I’ve noticed that I eat too fast when I’m experiencing an energetic situation that I feel uncomfortable with. It’s like, somewhere deep inside I’m thinking “when the meal is over, I can leave!” because that’s the way it worked as a kid. When the plate was clean, then I might be excused from the table. I don’t like the conversation: I eat fast. I’m tired: I eat fast. I JUST WANT TO GET AWAY! GAH! Oh, my. This is very disconnected patterning.

This past Thanksgiving I commented on the “speed eating” phenomenon to my cousin, and she laughed saying at a friend’s dinner, they clocked it at fifteen minutes. FIFTEEN MINUTES! Ya spent all day cooking, and sit down to eat for FIFTEEN MINUTES?! Did anyone even CHEW?!

Tips to slow down:

  • Take one bite.
  • Put down your cutlery.
  • Chew.
  • Taste.
  • Swallow.
  • Taste.
  • Breathe.
  • Taste your food.
  • Consider how fast you want to take the next bite. Or if you even want to. Sometimes the food is not as tasty as you anticipated. You don’t have to finish it if you’re not actually enjoying it! But, if you’re not paying attention, you won’t actually KNOW if you’re enjoying it or not…
  • How much of your attention is on enjoying your food? How much of it is one the conversation? Can you pay attention to both? I have a hard time with that, actually…

Recognizing your anxieties and handling them head-on is an advanced, ADULT skill. Mostly we’ve been taught to ignore/deflect/numb, and at the holidays, we are confronted uncomfortably with so many of our boogeymen. Uncomfortable, fraught relationships with people who are unkind or judgmental. Our own unkind thoughts about other people. People’s assessments of us, and ours of them. Good grief. Of course I just want to eat fast and go home! It’s fucking exhausting! Adulting is hard. But, we can do it!

Before I got better at really noticing that large groups of people–not even necessarily family, just PEOPLE!–make me uncomfortable, I would just position myself by the cheese plate, and eat the whole thing. The only people I ended up talking to were other people who loved cheese. So, they were already pre-approved. Haha.

Before I got good at noticing that I was eating away my loneliness and my desire for other, safe, human contact, I would eat entire cheesecakes in solitude, by myself. So huge was my appetite and its need to be filled. The problem seemed so intractable, it was easier just to solve with food. At least cheesecake is reliable. And safe.

The trouble with holidays, is the seem to be referendums on our entire life for the past year. And, often, when we’re not working on ourselves, they catch us by surprise. Even if we ARE working on ourselves, and somehow feel like we’ve fallen short of our goals (always a setup for disappointment…try “setting intents” instead), they will catch us by surprise as we administer a hearty dose of flagellation.

The holidays don’t have to be a referendum. It’s just a yearly blip on the calendar. We can choose to cruise through them as such.

Or–and I’m not necessarily advocating this approach–you can use them as a yearly check-in on how you’re growing, changing, becoming more resilient. I started to know that I was getting better at it all when I could sit quietly with a glass of water and talk to people and “sort of” enjoy myself. No more cheese plate stakeouts. Huzzah!

But that progress relied on a steady, year-in-year-out self-study and examination using the tools of yoga and therapy. If you don’t have some tools, or support in place, the holidays will surely be as painful as they were last year. I think that’s a shame, and wouldn’t want that for you!

Which is why I put together a worksheet for you, to help you get started making a better relationship with your body. I call it The 5 Adoring Core Competencies. CLICK HERE to get your free copy! 

NEXT POINT.

The Gossip. UGH. We’ve all experienced it. You go into the kitchen, innocently looking for a glass of water, and there are your (fill in the blank relatives) talking about another relative. WHAT A DRAG.

“Did you see what she was wearing…?”

“Did you see how much she ate…?”

Sometimes, sometimes, people are talking about another out of true concern. But–does the talk really help them? Probably not.

A gentle reminder, again from the Blue Hills Monastery bathroom. I’m gonna start putting things like this in bathrooms. Positive vandalism! One of my favorite passtimes…

When I hear these sorts of conversations, or am involved personally in these conversations, what I’m feeling for is the place of HELP for the person. If it isn’t there, then I start to wonder what purpose this conversation is actually serving. Is it making the participants feel better about themselves by comparison? Is it creating a point of bonding for the people in the conversation, like they have something to concern themselves about together? Both of these are not good reasons to gossip, but they also show a deficit in social skills, specifically how to connect without doing it on the back of, or at the expense of others. This moment can be a teaching opportunity. A chance to elevate the awareness and basic decency in the world.

If the people try to drag me into the conversation, the only way I will get involved is if they can answer these questions: Is our conversation actually helping the situation? Does the person in question desire help in this regard? If the answer is NO to both, then the conversation is a waste of time, and I would say as much. 

Gossip does nothing but harm. 

HERE ARE SOME BASIC TIPS:

  • Pull your energy back into the present moment, with the people present
  • Insist on talking about only the people present in the room: their lives, their concerns 
  • If you are talking about another person, make sure it is used to help you have insights into your own life and experiences
  • Make it part of your ethics to only speak well of people when they are not around, particularly if they have done nothing to harm you personally
  • Combat gossip by countering with kind, generous, compassionate statements. Insist that you do not know they entire story as to why a person speaks or behaves the way they do. Never rob another person of their autonomy. Make space for them to speak for themselves.

OK. Good luck, soldiers of love! Go forth, and spread good cheer! And, remember, it’s O.K. to make holidays that YOU love, and feel good about. You don’t have to spend them with people who make you uncomfortable about yourself. In fact, that might be the healthiest thing you could choose for yourself, and your sweet, tender body.

Love to you!

Erica

 

Practicing Grace

Practicing Grace

When I started with this self-help, get better, try-to-be-less-crazy stuff, I had the impression that if I did it really, really well, my life would not only be better, but more importantly, much easier. 

Have you heard this somewhere along the way: that if you “get it right” your life will be easeful? More graceful?

I’ll wager a nickel you’ve gotten that message once or twice from the self-help establishment…

But–! Hold up now. In the Biblical sense, being endowed with God’s grace (call it what you will…Spirit, Higher Power…but, this grace idea is uniquely Judeo-Christian, I think, so not sure the mixed metaphors work here…) is inherently “underserved.” Meaning, anyone, anywhere, of any socio-economic condition, skin-color, or even gender are eligible for the grace lottery. Like being touched with a magic wand: Ping!!! Now you are graced! 

Here’s a definition: Grace is the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.

More confounding yet, maybe…maybe even people who behave badly could experience grace?

Still, it’s very hard to stop believing that there is some corollary between being “graced by God,” meaning “blessed,” or somehow kissed by angels, and being…good. This is very hard for me to wrap my head around, perhaps because humans have defiled the idea of grace. But, it really seems like somehow we’ve made modern grace about BEING good, BEING better than others, BEING more deserving. 

Grace, of course, has other meanings too. It is associated with beauty of movement. Also, with good manners, as in “being a gracious host” or “having a gracious home.” The word “grace” also names The Graces of Greek Mythology, also known of as the Three Charities. They are Aglaea (Splendor), Euphrysyne (Mirth), and Thalia (Good Cheer). In general, things that are bright, and good, and make people feel positive about themselves, and hopefully, help other people feel amazing about themselves too.

Some of these gracious blessings, come with talent and a natural-endowment. Like having a skill in the arts, or in sports. Others, can be cultivated, like good manners, or diplomacy. And, here I think, is the truly important idea about grace, and perhaps where we missed a message: there’s a difference between inherent goodness, and earned goodness. People can ALWAYS work to become better versions of themselves, and, in fact, that is what a spiritual or contemplative life is about. Growing. Evolving. Attaining a higher state of consciousness. Doing the work to get there.

So which camp do you align yourself with? The grace-will-fall-into-my-lap-even-if-I-do-nothing camp, or the maybe-I-can-create-the-circumstances-for-this-to-happen camp?

Personally, I like a both-AND approach. Like the Tao #9 says: This is the way of heaven: do your work, then quietly step back. 

If you were to WORK to practice Grace, to cultivate the conditions to invite grace into your life, what would that look like?

I relate almost everything to my yoga practice. Along the way, in my Forrest Yoga training I was exposed to the writing of Caroline Myss. She authored a book called Defy Gravity: Healing Beyond Bounds of Reason. In it, she explores what she names The 7 Graces, which stand in opposition to their shadows, The 7 Dark Passions (which are the 7 deadly sins, renamed).

The 7 Graces are, in Myss’ world: Reverence, Piety, Understanding, Fortitude, Counsel, Knowledge, and Wisdom.

Enticing concepts, indeed. I’ve found, as an extreme thinker, that shiny concepts attract me but ultimately leave me feeling undernourished, like empty calories. What I cherish about my yoga practice–and especially my Forrest Yoga practice–is the way that we weave concepts into embodied experience.

An embodied experience is one where concepts are woven into a corporeal adventure, so that you understand said concept not just with your mind, but with all of yourself, and above all, your body. The expression “I could feel it in my bones,” or “I knew it in my guts” refers to that knowledge that comes through understanding something in your mind as it lives in the rest of you. See, your mind isn’t just stuck in your brain. It lives in ALL of your body.

Writing about these grace, and embodiment, is just one way to bring your attention to their currency.  But, I believe firmly that our lives are for experience, and experience happens through living in your body. Therefore, my teachings are best experienced in person, where our bodies can occupy the same space.

Once a year, I lead a retreat called Practice Grace, Receive Gratitude, in partnership with my teaching buddy Benjamin Sears of Lux Yoga. All the words in the world will never encapsulate the teaching, learning, and transformation that occurs at this retreat. If these concepts–grace and gratitude–are part of your spiritual and transformational life, definitely bookmark us and this retreat. People come back annually to experience it, and deepen and enrich their relationship to themselves, with and through Grace.

This is the way of Heaven. Do your work. Then quietly step back.

Practice Grace. Feel the Joy of being alive. Feel Grateful. Then–all things everywhere will feel like Grace to you.

Big love,

Erica

 

 

 

What is Vinyasa?

What is Vinyasa?

Photo by Ray Tamarra
The beginning of a Sun Salutation.

I think that it might be prudent to begin with an orientation. My views and perspectives on vinyasa are in part tempered by an historical moment (2004-2017) and a region of the world: New York City. What vinyasa is here today, is probably different than it was 20 years ago, and is probably different than what it is in other regions and cities.

A brief history: Vinyasa was invented by Krishnamacharya. Among many things, he made two contributions to our understanding of “vinyasa” yoga: breath connected to movement, and “pose counter pose” theory. Pattabi Jois, who studied with Krishnamacharya went on to develop Ashtanga Yoga, which is formally named Ashtanga Vinaysa Yoga. Most modern practices generally called vinyasa have Ashtanga as a parent practice.

From The Heart of Yoga, Krishnamacharya’s son, Desikachar, writes:

“Developing a yoga practice according to the ideas expressed in the Yoga Sutra is an action referred to as vinyasa krama. Krama is the step or literally “stages,” nyasa means “to place,” and the prefix vi –translates as “in a special way.” The concept of vinyasa krama tells us that it is not enough to simply take a step; that step needs to take us in the right direction and be made in the right way.” (The Heart of Yoga, pg. 25)

These days, this definition of vinyasa floats around and is commonly cited: to place in a special way. It is sourced from this book. “To place in a special way” is partially correct. If you read carefully, in the quote, Desikachar is also very clear about two things:

  1. The step must be in the right direction
  2. It must be made in the right way
Arms overhead

Consider this. You have a candy bar, a key, and a watch. You place these things in a special way upon your dresser. Have you done vinyasa?

I jest, of course, but I do so to point out the other crucial aspects of vinyasa. You gotta know where you’re going. You gotta go in that direction. The step you make needs to be done in the right way. If you’re headed towards advanced OCD, then maybe putting your candy bar, key, and watch in a special way on your dresser is exactly correct, and then yeah, you’re doing vinyasa. Have fun!

In the interview section of The Heart of Yoga Desikachar applies these two ideas—that you need to go in the right direction, and you must take the right action—to yoga more directly. He answers an open-ended request from the interviewer to say something about “structuring your yoga practice intelligently—the concept of vinyasa karma.” Quoting at length:

“First I must ask: what do you mean by “intelligently”? You are probably familiar with the argument that doing the headstand brings more blood into the head. Somebody who has the feeling that the blood supply to the head is not good enough then comes to the conclusion that the headstand is the best asana for them. But first we should think this through. Do we all suffer from a deficient supply of the blood to the head simply because we stand and walk upright? Suppose that someone is haunted by this idea so much that he begin to practice the headstand every day, if possible first thing in the morning, perhaps as the first and only asana. Our experience in working with all kinds of people has taught us that people who do this eventually suffer from enormous problems in the neck, that then result in great tension and stiffness in that area and a decreased supply of blood to the whole musculature of the neck—precisely the opposite of what they hoped they would achieve.

An intelligent approach to yoga practice means that, before you begin, you are clear about the various aspects of the asana you wish to practice, and know how to prepare for them in such a way that you reduce or negate any undesired effects. With regard to the headstand, for example, the questions are: is my neck prepared for this? Can I breathe well in the asana? Is my back strong enough to raise the entire weight of my legs? To approach your practice intelligently means that you know the implications of what you want to do, whether that be asana or pranayama, and to make appropriate preparations and adjustments. It is not enough to jump if you want to reach the sky. Taking an intelligent approach means working toward your goal step-by-step. If you want to travel overseas, the first thing you need is a passport. Then you need visas for the countries you intend to visit, and so forth. The simple fact that you want to go there does not make the trip possible. All learning follows this pattern.” (ibid, xx)

Forward fold. Sort of. Mostly.

In modern yoga, we may at any time be working with these four basic definitions of vinyasa (I’ve ranked them from most common understanding to least-known):

  1. A type of yoga class—now-a-days sometimes even assumed to be a “flow” class.
  2. A specific sequence of breath-synchronized movements to transition between sustained postures, a shorthand for: plank, chatturanga, upward-facing dog, downward-facing dog
  3. The linking of body movement with breath
  4. Setting an intention for one’s personal yoga practice and taking the necessary steps towards reaching that goal

“Vinyasa means a gradual progression or a step-by-step approach that systematically and appropriately takes a student from one point and safely lands them at the next point. It is sometimes described as the “breathing system,” or the union of breath and movement that make up the steps.” Maty Ezraty

Styles of yoga that a commonly considered to be vinyasa based on their relationship to Ashtanga yoga include Baptiste Yoga, Jivamukti, Power Yoga, and Prana Flow. I also consider my home lineage, Forrest Yoga, to be a vinyasa practice for two main reasons:

  1. How strongly we link the breath to motions. Not always “big” movements, as are often expected, but smaller more internal actions as well.
  2. How we always set a strong intent for the practice with a specified asana goal, as well as a goal for internal work, and then set about creating an intelligent pathway towards success.

Often, in my classes, students find that they are able to accomplish things that they previously had never done before. These results are the effects of skillful vinyasa—it’s the responsibility of the teacher to help guide our students towards successful outcomes, in the form of asana accomplishments and internal breakthroughs.

Half Lift

Often in my classes, students have the experience of breathing more, and more deeply than they ever have. This is the result of vinyasa—the deep union of breath with actions small and large.

The aspect of vinyasa that intrigues me the most, is the potential for teaching people about how to reach their own goals in their lives. Step by step, intelligent action towards an asana goal feels a certain way. It contains elements of making a decision about where you want to go, studying the possible routes, deciding on a course, taking deliberate action, making course corrections on the way, cultivating patience and determination together, faith in the process, surrender to the mystery, and celebration upon arrival.

If we teach our people about these things in class, and dissuade them from the things that will impede their progress—impatience, ego, lack of a plan, use of undo force, giving up, just to name a few—then we will be giving them incredible life skills. This is part of why teaching yoga can be so powerful: you have an opportunity to model for your students decisions and actions that will lead them down a path to success, and then encourage them to find similar experiences on their own.

Vinyasa is so much more than it seems on the surface. Vinyasa is a way of living life. Vinyasa is a form of critical thinking that will help people move towards their successes. Vinyasa is a about skillful teaching, learning, and the process of living feeling empowered.

Make THIS definition of vinyasa the one that comes to the fore whenever you hear the word, and it will change your perspective forever:

Setting an intention for one’s personal yoga practice and taking the necessary steps towards reaching that goal.

Downward Facing Dog

For those of you that don’t live in our fair city of New York, I hope that you’ll check out my Sound Cloud channel, where I have many, many “Forrest Inspired Vinyasa” classes up for you to take. On friendly online “stalker” made my day by writing this about me: You have teaching perfected. Seriously. Tone of voice and perfect blend of seriousness and humor. Like hanging out with a friend that will call you on your shit.  DANG GIRL! MY WORK HERE IS DONE: PERFECTION ATTAINED! haha. Click HERE to see of you agree with her! 

And, if you’re on the East Coast, I and my buddy Leslie Pearlman teach a weekend module about Forrest Yoga & Forrest Inspired Vinyasa. We’re available to teach it at your studio, or if you’re free the first weekend in March (2017), join us at her studio for what will be an incredible weekend of knowledge. Click HERE to read about the modular  300 hour training of which this weekend is a part. If you want a description of the module, just reach out in the comments, and I’ll email it to you.

Bye for now. Keep being awesome.

~E

 

Yoga Teachers: KNOW YOUR WORTH

Yoga Teachers: KNOW YOUR WORTH

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NYC requires armor of a sort: hat, headphones, backpack filled with survival gear (change of clothes, snack, book, water bottle)

Hello, fellow yoga teacher! I teach in New York City. Where do you teach?

Here in New York City, I’ve been witnessing a trend that’s been happening over the past few years. The trend has these main features:

  1. Class times have gotten shorter.
  2. Yoga is increasingly marketed as “fitness.”

Is this happening in your region too? Perhaps even these two elements walk hand-in-hand with a well-branded yoga studio that promotes the weight-loss benefits of hot power yoga. That yoga studio probably also has showers. Yay! It’s nice to shower after showering in your own sweat.

Sadly, though, these market trends have forced yoga instructors to compete with cycling, and barre, and Zumba, and whatever fun new activity that’s springing up. Because, well, if yoga is fitness, then it’s gotta stand up in the fitness market-place. And, if that’s the confine you’re working with, then your worth boils down to how good a workout can you give, and relentless physical instruction.

Let’s go back in time a bit, and take a look at your own personal history. Why did you start practicing yoga? Why did you decide to take a teacher training? Why do you continue to teach? I’m going to wager a bet that none of this has to do with a burning desire to deliver a great workout. Am I right?

So here’s the deal. Really, this is my plea to you, because I believe, that as a collective force, we yoga teachers have the potential to really do a lot of good in the world.

  • Your worth is not how well you can instruct a triangle. (Although you gotta do that well, too.)
  • Your worth is not how many calories a person can burn in hot power class. (Sweating more does not mean that you burn more calories.)
  • Your worth is not in your capacity to fit some mold of “what you think a yoga teacher should look like.” (Cute and young doesn’t last forever. At some point, everyone will realize this.)
  • Your worth does not even rest in the beauty or awe-inspiring nature of your physical practice. (Handstands are cool, yes. But 98% of the population is not that interested in yours, nor in doing one themselves.)

You are worth So. Much. More.

So, what is your worth? Your ability to influence.

That’s it. If you can figure out how to influence people to do what’s best for them, do what feels good to their heart, soul, spirit—that, my love, is a skill whose value far eclipses all those other cool things I mentioned.

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You gotta be willing to take a stand for something. Start with taking a stand for yourself, and what you believe in.

Your super power: you help people find out who they really are, and therefore live the kind of life that they really want to live.

That’s it.

Well, sort of. It’s more easily said than done. And that’s why I spend YEARS talking to my yoga business clients about this one super-important question that will guide you learning to understand your value, as it intersects with the needs and desires of other people in the world. Ready? Here’s the #1 question you have to answer.

What is the most important lesson that you want all of your students to learn from you?

If you can figure this out, you will be farther along than 99% of the yoga teachers out there in understanding what is your worth. Because when you know, without a shadow of a doubt, what you want your people to learn the people who would like to learn that from you will show up. And when those people show up, then you can really stand in your power and teach to your highest ability. No more trying to fit into that yoga fitness model. No, no. If anything, that short changes what we all have to offer the world. You have so much more to teach our people than how to get in shape (which is a good thing too). But you, my love, are destined for more…That’s why you wanted to teach yoga!

Anyway. If you want to work with me on all of the nuts and bolts of this deep question, and how to build a congruent business around that center ideal, then reach out to me. I have business programs that I would like to tell you about. And people doing amazing work in those programs, who I hope are going on to effen CHANGE THE WORLD. Bwa-ha-ha!

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Also: yoga teaches you to know yourself. So, what I’m asking is at heart of the yoga practice. I like to think I’m an earth angel. Thus: the wings. What are you?

Regardless, I wish you to find your value, and stand in it, and share it with the world, and feel relevant, empowered, and appreciated, for all the good that you bring to the world. Amen.

The Consequences of Being Yourself

The Consequences of Being Yourself

One of the things I learned at yoga was this:

The greatest services you can do for the world is to heal yourself. Why? Because unless you are well, you cannot help others.

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The skys in New York are always arresting…

As a girl from the Midwest, steeped in a puritan world-view, self care was basically an indulgence. Taking care of yourself made you that horrible word a person would never want to be associated with: selfish.

But at yoga, I learned that self-care was the opposite of selfish. It was a sacred duty.

I believe that this idea comes from an aspect of the yoga teachings that is blurred together with the ideas of karma and dharma. Dharma is your life’s sacred work. And, we all have things to learn. So, the work of healing our hurts and traumas so that we can be the best version of ourselves, well, that is our highest calling in life.

I learned another thing at yoga, too:

You are enough.

Have you heard this? I bet perhaps you have. It’s another, well, frankly, subversive idea, because everywhere in our lives we are taught the opposite. Never is a person smart enough, thin enough, good-looking enough, ripped enough, wealthy enough, loved enough…

So, where does this idea—you are enough—come from, you might ask?

Another mish-mash teaching, yogic, Buddhist, who knows, they all are second-cousins once removed after all, BUT! The essential teaching, as I’ve understood it, is that at your heart, you are divine. And, well, the Divine, is pure good, right? So you must be pure good, right? And, well, THAT’S enough, of course!

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I am a field of flowers…

Ah. Here’s where I get tangled.

And here’s where I think that many seekers do what we call a spiritual bypass, which is basically a feat of logical distortion to keep everything looking really pretty.

Let’s back up. I think that “you’re enough” is a very good, very effective way of getting everybody to calm the fuck down, and stop questing, and perhaps even to look at WHAT really IS.

Right? Because if you stopped trying to be something that you’re not, you could get accustomed to who and what you really are. And “you’re enough” is a way of saying “hey, you’re O.K. just the way you are, so relax a bit, and just be yourself.”

This is a good thing. If people stopped trying to be something that they are not, I think that our world would be a much more transparent place. And, people would know themselves for a change.

 

But this attending idea that everything that you’ll find when you look inside is good, and cool, and beautiful…? Well, that’s where everything goes sideways.

There’s another reason people quest to be something else. It’s because if they really did the hard work of looking inside, they might find something they didn’t like. Sometimes you already know this, even without looking too far. You look in the mirror and wince. And then put on a full face of makeup. It’s like that, but looking INSIDE, instead of outside.

So, what if you looked inside, and you discovered that you are truly an asshole. And all these years you’ve been trying to tell yourself that you’re not? Is that “divine,” or “enough” to be a jerk?

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I’m not a jerk…I’m a snaillllll….

 

I tend to think that the idea Our Creator is inherently loving is specious. I end up more on the Taoist end of things: nature is all things. It’s death AND life. It’s good AND evil. I’ve learned somewhere from someone that the original energies that formed us keep us in the dark about what we truly are, because if we knew that were are Divine, we would not have the very human experiences that we do. Creator has no body, see, and wants to experience EVERYTHING. All the good things and all the bad. And, I think, the only logical answer for why that might be, is that Creator is ALL THINGS. Not just, selectively benevolent, and good…

 

So, in truth, I think that it CAN be divine to be a jerk. The real question is, are YOU O.K. with knowing that you are a jerk, and living your life as such? Is it “enough” to be a jerk? Is your “healing” life’s work accomplished if you accept your jerk-like nature? It’s really up to you, I’d say, and this—the deciding—is part of the quest. Working to become a “better” person, if that’s your wish, or fully embracing who and what you are. JERK. After all, a scorpion never tries to be a canary. The folly is yours if you ever expect a scorpion to behave like a canary. But, if you realize that you are a scorpion…are you ready to deal the consequences of being yourself…?

 (Photo by Ray Tamarra)
Bwa-ha-ha

 

 

 

The True Power of Yoga

The True Power of Yoga

IMG_4294Every now and again, as a yoga teacher, I think to myself what in the world am I aspiring to accomplish by teaching yoga???

These sorts of questions are, I think, healthy ones.

They keep me honest. They keep me on track. They keep me on my toes…

In the end, the questions with which I torment myself benefit my students. Because the clearer I am about what I want my students to learn from me, the better I will be at conveying those lessons.

It gets muddled. Am I just teaching how to do poses?

No…that’s not it…

My longing and aspiration through teaching yoga is to teach the magic of transformation. Before you roll your eyes and stop reading because I used some fluffy language…hang on for a moment. Hear me out.

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I believe that people have a deep desire for change. We are scared of it, to be sure, but we also long for adventure, and, well, it’s hard to deny that change is adventurous.

For me, magic IS change. Change IS magic. Think about it. When was the last time that a person you knew really changed, and for the better? Did you wonder how they did it? Did you have a longing to experience something similar? Probably, even if you asked that person to describe the process they might glance away and shrug their shoulders and say something like, well, I couldn’t really describe exactly how I did it, but…

Even for the person who has experienced the change, it is a mystery. A mysterious, yet REAL change: that is magic. And “transformation” is just a fancy word for change.

Now, transformation suggests that there was a before and after. And the HOW, the thing in between “before” and “after” is part of the mystery. But, I have an answer for the question what is the magic that got you from “here” to “there”?

I know. You’ve already guessed, right?

Yoga.

And, so when I ask myself, what in the world am I aspiring to accomplish by teaching yoga??? This is it. My heartfelt answer, is:

If I can show just ONE person how to become the kind of person they MOST want to be, that would be a good deed.

And now I ask you this.

What is more difficult a task than to change a person? Think about the people around you who you wish would change, even just in little ways. Good luck. There are better ways to spend your time than to try to change people, right?

But, what if a person really WANTS to change? What would you advise them to do?

You might not think to suggest to them “go to yoga.” And, personally, I wouldn’t blame you. It’s not like yoga teachers these days are known of as change agents.

  • You wanna gain some flexibility? Go to yoga.
  • You wanna decrease your experience of stress? Go to yoga.
  • You wanna get a cute butt, and learn to handstand? Go to yoga.
  • Maybe even, someone might suggest yoga for your back pain.
  • Maybe even, someone might suggest yoga to help you lose weight.
Yoga portraits at JR Studio on December 12, 2015 in NYC. (Photo by Ray Tamarra)
Photo by Ray Tamarra

But, if you had a serious, elusive change you wanted to make? A quirk in your personality that keeps sabotaging you? A dark memory that you can’t seem to get out from under? A false belief about yourself that, no matter how many times people tell you otherwise, you cannot disabuse yourself of?

People might suggest therapy. But yoga? Probably not.

I get it. It’s not well-explained, nor well-taught HOW yoga can help you become a better version of yourself.

And, this is the quest that keeps me teaching yoga. Don’t get me wrong: I LOVE teaching the physical aspects of yoga.

But THIS is a lesson of value. If you can learn to change, you now have acquired a super-power.

Shall I show you how? 🙂 

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#BeautyObsessed

#BeautyObsessed

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I hope you realize it’s ironic that I’m putting these fashion portfolio shots into my post.

Recently I lead my third annual retreat “Connect to Your Spirit,” at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. Each time I lead a retreat (I only lead two a year. The other is called “Practice Gratitude, Receive Grace, at LuxYoga) I rethink what the theme means to me and design an entirely new curriculum. It’s the only way I know how to teach. Even if I’m teaching a workshop title, I’ll pull out the class, and re-write the whole thing. I’m constantly evolving, therefore how and what I teach will too.

This past year, while thinking about what it means to connect to your Spirit, I felt inside, and realized without an open heart connection to spirit will be very difficult. Near impossible.

I know, I know. This is nothing original. Christians have been using this language for years, beseeching us to open our hearts to Jesus Christ.

But, the framing here is different.

Isn’t it enough to say a hardened heart keeps us from connecting to ourselves? A closed heart is a closed eye that cannot see the beauty all around us, and therefore prevents us from enjoying our lives? This sort of framing is so much easier for people of all faiths and persuasions to connect to. It says nothing about God. It doesn’t even strive to answer the question “what is Spirit?” This framing orients you towards appreciating your time here on earth. That’s all.

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I was wearing so much makeup that my boyfriend did not recognize me when I got home from the shoot.

The key connecting concept between opening your heart and connecting to your spirit, as I found myself articulating it at the retreat, is experiencing Beauty. The moment I uttered those words, I knew I had entered into an intellectual conundrum.

“Beauty” as we think of it in our media-obsessed culture means something that it pleasing to the eye. And from a feminist perspective “beauty” is an elusive standard that keeps women disempowered. In the body positive movement, we are spending enormous amounts of time repositioning the idea of “beauty” to include everyone. And, as Melissa A. Fabello points out, this is incredibly helpful and healing to people who have never before considered themselves beautiful (just take a look at this video to see something amazing). BUT. She goes on to say:

“…deconstructing beauty’s value – not necessarily to eradicate it, but at least to examine it – would likely serve us better in the long run.”

Amen! Why spend so much time working with an idea that was flawed from the outset? Let’s take it apart, and redefine it. Beauty itself is valuable. How we have come to define it is the problem.

What I’m aiming to write about here, is this deconstruction and redefinition with a framing that comes from my own background, Forrest Yoga, and my teacher’s grounding in Native American medicine. I am and always will be a student of this way of thinking, because I am not a First Nation individual. Thanks to Ana Forrest, I’ve been introduced to a way of viewing Sanctity in the world that doesn’t rely on deities, Gods, or even children of God. To me, the things I’ve learned about Native ways of thinking, it bears resemblance to Taoism. In Taoism, there is no God. There is only “the way.”

Tao #1 says: “The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name.”

In Native philosophy it is called The-Spirit-That-Moves-Through-All-Things. I’m no expert in the lineage of these ideas, but they strike me as similar.

What I said at the Kripalu retreat is: Beauty is a feeling. I don’t mean “I feel beautiful.” No: “beauty is a feeling” means that you can sense when something from the outside world has touched your heart, and in that moment, it has changed you. Even if it just cast a little ripple in the pond of your soul, and that ripple then quickly disperses: that’s still Beauty. It is the Spirit moving through you. It is a feeling.

At its lowest common denominator, in my own homemade understanding of it, Beauty is when there is an energetic shift, from a lower vibration, to a higher one.

Here’s some beauty that I’ve experienced in my own life.

  • The beauty of one person generously helping another
  • Experiencing loyalty
  • A person relieving the suffering of another person or living being, animal, or plant
  • Comprehension filling the space where confusion and misunderstanding previously existed
  • Epiphany, insight, and intuition
  • Experiencing a healing moment within yourself , where a difficult thought, emotion, or experience is transformed into something with clarity and spaciousness
  • Finding a creative solution to a problem: or seeing an opportunity where you previously only perceived an obstacle.
  • Being touched so deeply that it brings tears to your eyes
  • Experiencing kismet, serendipity or coincidence
  • Suddenly being struck with the speandour of our natural surroundings, and having that touch your heart
  • Spontaneous fun and laughter

Interestingly, some Beauty ties in directly with Magic. Magic, itself, I believe is Change. Think about it for a moment. How did the baby that you once were become a full-grown human. Magic. How does anyone grow in their thinking about the world, or change their own mind? Magic.

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I actually like this shot a lot.

But, back to Beauty.

In my life, I’m aiming for Big Beauty. The kind of resolution that when I’m on my deathbed, I can look back and think I made a lot of Beauty here in this world. I may have just left this place a tiny bit better than I found it.

In an interview my teacher Ana Forrest wrote:

“I first heard about Walking in Beauty from the Dine (Navajo) Native Americans. It comes from a ceremony called ‘Beautyway,’ which helps ‘the patient’ to re-establish the balance in their life when they are ill, depleted, sad.

To Walk in Beauty means to walk in harmony with all things—not only physically, but also with feelings and our inner wilderness. Also with people, objects, animals…with life!”

Her brief discussion provides many more questions about Beauty than it does answers. What is harmony? How do we come into it with our feelings? What is “inner wilderness?” After spending time with her, listening and doing my best to learn from her, I’ve developed the hypothesis that I’ve elaborated above. It’s about opening your heart, transmuting energy from lower vibrations to higher ones, seeing with your own eyes that can see beyond the physical The-Spirit-That-Moves-In-All-Things everywhere.

Ana talks about Beauty Reports, which is, in her words “when we see or experience something that dances in our heart.” Many of her Beauty Reports include what she also calls “Sweet Medicine,” (a topic worthy of its own, full-length article), which, in brief, is where a challenging or difficult experience reveals a silver lining, or is midwifed through by assistance from the spirit or animal world, or shows its own vision of Beauty that you otherwise would not had the opportunity to see.

And so, I have a call-to-action. In 2016 I would like to disrupt the common idea of “beauty.” Join me this year in a hunt for Beauty. Find our what “dances in your heart.” When you see it, when you feel it, when you have and experience of Beauty, share it. Tell us about it. And be sure to tag it. We’ll redefine the hashtags #beautyobsessed and #beautyobsession.

I think that this practice is crucial. An open heart is key to so very many things. In closing, here is a powerful quote from one of our modern writers about the experience of yoga, Stephen Cope:

A true contemplative is one who lives with a broken heart. A heart that is open to the world must be willing to be broken at any time. This brokenness produces the kind of grief that expands the heart so that it can love more and more.

Her’s to living with a heart wide open. To being touched, and broken, so that our hearts are broken bigger. I am Beauty Obsessed. Will you join me in my #beautyobsession?

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Nothing can match the Beauty of a sunset. And a ship in the sky.

 

That which is sacred in you…

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A sacred place in Hong Kong

At the end of every class we say “namaste.” My teacher Ana Forrest translates the word to mean “that which is sacred within me salutes that which is sacred within you.”

More popular translations say something more like “the light in me sees the light in you.” (As an aside, I think it’s worth noting “namaste” literally means “I bow to you.”)
And yet, with either of the more florid translations, there are some givens that I think deserve deeper consideration.

Those givens, or “assumptions” are:

1. There is something sacred in me
2. I might have an inkling of what it is
3. There is something sacred in you
4. Perhaps you know what it is
5. Either way, this sacred thing in me is cognizant of that sacred thing in you and acknowledges it

If you think about that, it’s a lot and merits some unpacking!

At the very least, I think the place to begin is to consider what does this word “sacred” mean to you? Are there things outside of yourself that you consider sacred? A place, a thing, an ideology, a person?

And if it is sacred, what does that mean about our attitudes towards it? How to we think about it, treat it, talk about it?

I’m not entirely sure how to answer these questions in times when everything seems desecrated. Privacy. The planet. Lives of plants, animals, and people. Honor. Loyalty. Commitment to ideals.

And maybe it’s exactly because we’re living in such times our relationship with “sacred” is increasingly important. 

Over the weekend, I lead a retreat I do each year, called “Connect to Your Spirit.” For a moment, let’s assume that Your Spirit is something sacred within you. One of my retreat participants offered up her top three tips for connecting to that sanctity within. Here are Allison’s tips.

  1. Lift your arms up and take a breath in at the same time (like the first part of a Sun Salute! Suyra Namaskar!)
  2. Sing a happy song, or as the very least, chant an OM.
  3. Light a candle.

Try one of these things as you contemplate that which is sacred within you…

Many blessings, (on this “sacred” day that was co-opted by the church to encourage the assimilation of “pagan” people and their Solstice rites into Christianity. Ha.)

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Again, in Hong Kong, incense that you can purchase and burn to honor the sacred dead

 

Body Positive WHAT?!? Musings + 8 Tips for teaching Body Positivity in the Yoga Classroom

Body Positive WHAT?!? Musings + 8 Tips for teaching Body Positivity in the Yoga Classroom

A few months ago, I went to a networking/promotional event in the fitness and body image field. A woman introduced herself to me and stated, “I’m a body positive fitness instructor.”

Now, disclaimer here: I’ve never considered myself a person who is in sync with the times. I’ve come to understand who and what I am, in that regard, and view myself with respect.

So, when she said this thing, “I’m a body positive fitness instructor” I found myself thrown into a little cognitive disarray, like, wait! What did I miss?

And then I realized…ohhhhh: this is the new hip and trendy thing to say.

And then I thought: what the hell does that mean “body positive fitness instructor,” anyway!?

My own investment in body positivity spans the entire length of my yoga practice and career. It is steeped in concern for understanding my own body, other people’s bodies, injuries, how we suffer, and HELPING myself, and my students.

These core concerns are entirely natural to me, as they are at the heart of Forrest Yoga, and my recovery from distorted body image, compulsive over-exercising, and emotional eating. It’s been startling to realize that now “body positive” exercise/movement/yoga is a “thing.”

I’ve found myself wondering:

What’s the overlap between the body positive movement (whatever that means) and the fat activist movement?

Do I have to be a fat yogi in order to be able to talk about body positivity?

Will anyone take me seriously when I talk about body positivity, seeing as, for the most part, people seem to think my body looks pretty good, and I’m by most standards “thin-ish”?

 If you now have to state you’re “a body positive (fill-in-the-blank fitness instructor)” does that mean that everyone else is “body negative?”images-4

 I myself have a body positive program called “Adore Your Body” and in the context of these questions, I’ve even felt called to address the question, what does it mean to “adore your body?”

First off, let me say, I think that the space of body positive yoga or fitness is nebulous at the moment, and that’s part of why I’m asking these questions. Secondly, as a student of pedagogy, for me it’s just not enough to claim that you are a body positive teacher. I want to know how you are teaching body positive principles in your classes, and what are those principles anyway? It’s not enough to say I teach my students to love themselves. Oh, really? How exactly do you do that, and are you sure that they all learn to love themselves in your classes? If you don’t have solid answers for these questions, I won’t believe that your classes are as-advertised.

I DO think that saying you are a “body positive” instructor is a backhanded diss to the rest of the world, in a slightly passive aggressive manner. It’s the same bone I have to pick with the people who call their style “Intelligent Vinyasa.” REALLY? Are you so very sure that the rest of the world is unintelligent? And if you have to prove that you are smart by saying it, are you really that smart?

I digress.

And, I’ll get to everything.

O.K. does one have to be something other than stick thin to talk about body positivity? Here’s what I think: while it is easy for people to understand a fat person might have experienced a dearth of body positive messages in their lives, I also believe that, to follow the line of reasoning that you must “look the part” negates a fundamental truth of the topic.

That truth is: everyone experiences some body negativity of some degree or another, at some point life, some more than others because of circumstances. Even remarkably good-looking people experience body anxiety. Spend some time with some models, and you’ll discover this. And, even people who think that they ought to gotten over body negativity years ago are still plagued by this pesky problem.

Body dissatisfaction is so prevalent as to be achingly, annoyingly, boring. Older people are like why are we still talking about this? while younger people are just starting with the whole messed up journey. Blergh.

And yet, it still is a foundational problem for many people.

I believe that anyone has a right to talk about body image challenges, and also to stand up for the message of healing and awareness. Moreover, we need many voices to understand how this affects so many people. That’s why I founded the Adore Your Body Telesummit.

As for the overlap of fat activism and body positivity, the fat ladies are really leading the charge on dissembling our buy-in to diet culture, a move that we all stand to gain from. So, I think that we all should pay close attention to what those smart and sassy gals are saying.

And even if you’re an unhappy thin person, you should know their message is for you, although it may not seem like it is because you’re not fat. Yes, we need to put a stop to fat shaming. Yes, we need to see the bias towards thin privilege. But we can also include every person in the circle of ideologies that confine, shame, and otherwise maintain the obedience of the populace. Diet culture and the beauty myth are key components to this, and they affect everyone, whether you’re fat or not.

Finally, I realize that my own use of the phrase “Adore Your Body” can cause recoil for some people, for a number of reasons. Some people now feel pressured by the body positive movement to love themselves, like achievement in this area is some measure of their success as a human. Others would like to just stop hating their bodies, and doing that would be a major accomplishment. Adoring is an idea that is beyond reach, and therefore discouraging. Yet, I stand by these words, because they point to an idea about our existence. Body positivity extends far beyond ideas of fat and thin. Globally, it has to do with how we consider our presence and purpose in the world.

At the beginning of my blog “Stuff I Learned at Yoga” I shot videos entitled, “You Are Not Your Body,” and “Your Body is Your Ally,” and “Embodied Knowledge vs. Intellectual Knowledge.” You can go see these new “vintage” videos, which are at the heart of my orientation towards adoring the body.

It’s summed up like this.images-5

The body is something other than YOU. It is it’s own entity. It is part of nature. Would you hate your body any more than you would hate a tree, a mountain, or a river? I hope not. Instead, I hope that you can generate understanding and compassion for the body, this innocent thing born of the natural world, and as such, treat it with the kind of care—adoration even—that you would your favorite living being that walks this planet.

That’s it. That’s adoring.

So, what does it mean to be a body positive yoga instructor?

I hope it’s clear by now: it’s not enough to say that you are a body positive yoga instructor, or any other kind of health, wellness or fitness professional, for that matter. This question (which I’m putting together a conference around, so stay tuned!) is important:

How can we teach yoga in a way that promotes body positivity?

  1. Adhere to the basic definition of body positive: Accepting your body as it is and attempting to make everyone else feel comfortable in their own skin as well.
  2. Teach people to Feel. Their. Bodies. Start by feeling the breath. Do this yourself. Model it.
  3. Teach the value of the pose lies in the journey of learning it, not in any outcome, or perfect form. Do this yourself. Model it.
  4. Teach people that their bodies are a source of wisdom. They posses their own intelligence, which reaches far beyond what we can understand. Find ways to help them feel their bodies, and talk to them, and listen for its wisdom. Do this yourself. Model it.
  5. Teach poses in stages. Actually teach. Don’t just show what the pose could look like once they’re advanced like you; break it down. What’s stage one? Stage two? Stage three? Someone can’t do stage one? Find something that they CAN do that will help them to get going. Find the states yourself. Do them. Model them.
  6. Teach people to pull apart their internal dialogue that tells them they can’t because they’re too old, or young, or fat, or thin, or tall, or weak or whatever. There’s one thing we want to explore in yoga: what CAN you do. Let’s find it, maybe together, and then DO it. Do this yourself. Model it.
  7. Teach people to respect their bodies by touching them with respect, courtesy, and care when you give hands-on assists. Make sure that when you demo poses, you take care of your own body, and if you touch it, you do so in a respectful way. Speak about your own body with care and concern when you demo.
  8. Learn about the bodies of people who are not like you. Learn about injuries, and illnesses, different sexes and genders, sizes, shapes, and ethnicities. Be curious. You don’t need to be an expert on everything, you just need to demonstrate interest and concern for another’s well-being.

If you need to find teachers who tend to do this well, I suggest you find a Forrest Yoga teacher. As I mentioned at the outset, the whole “body positive is a trend now thing” was startling to me, because I feel so steeped in it through Forrest Yoga, a practice of deep embodiment. Yes, Forrest Yoga is also a very vigorous practice, and often one of strong and advanced practice, and for some people this is off-putting. Where’s the ease? they ask. But, at its core is a deep concern with the practice being physiologically friendly, made-for-you, healing, struggle-free (that’s where the ease is) and above all, bringing you into your body, and into feeling.

One of the reasons in almost every step listed above I said “Do this yourself. Model it” is because the most important way that we can teach yoga in a way that promotes body positivity is by working on it ourselves, figuring out what we’re doing, and then teaching it to our people through embodiment. See, it’s about body positivity, which means, everything must be embodied. Just thinking good thoughts and saying nice words like “I’m a body positive yoga instructor” isn’t enough. It’s a good start. But change happens through action. If being body positive is a goal of yours, ask yourself, every time you step into a classroom “how do I teach in a way that promotes this core value of mine?” Then, do it.imgres-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

16 Easy Things You Can Do Today to Improve Our World NOW

16 Easy Things You Can Do Today to Improve Our World NOW

1. Pick up a piece of trashimages

2. Smile at a stranger

3. Give a small amount of money ($5?) to an organization/cause you believe in. What I learned through fundraising is that no amount is too small. Many drops will fill a bucket to overflowing

4. Stop watering your lawn and eventually replace it with indigenous plant species

5. Buy water barrels to catch rainwater. Use it to water your plants in times of drought

6. Flush your toilet only once a day, per person in the house (each flush is 8 gallons of potable water!). Sounds gross, I know, but I swear, in the future humans will look back at the folly of pooping into water that you could drink

7. Tip your barista

8. Bring a mug to your coffee shop. Carry a water bottle

9. Never again buy bottled water

10. Put decals on your windows to prevent songbirds from inadvertently flying into them

11. Compost your organic waste

12. Don’t buy foods with palm oil in it (destruction of the forests to plant palm is killing orangutans at record pace)

13. Pick up a piece of trash. Put in the nearest waste can (Really! Bend over in the street and pick it up instead of walking around it and ignoring it!)

14. Learn about the experience of a person who is nothing like you (fear and hatred exist in the absence of understanding and it’s sibling, compassion)

15. Buy and use ToGoWare–stop using disposable utensils

16. Leave your leaves on your lawn. That’s why they’re called “leaves.” 🙂 No seriously–return the nutrients of the tree to it’s own roots. This is part of the natural cycle of plants. Over the winter, the leaves will mulch. In the spring, use a lawnmower to grind them up. They are fertilizer for your lawn and all the plants in your yard.