Tag Archives: healthy living

Hurdling the Monkey Mind

As humans it is all to easy to get myopic in our view. The minds tends to eclipse broadened perspective with the excessive cataloging, sorting, dialoguing, and chatter of the mind. Practices such as meditation and yoga have for centuries been medicine for this, and many other challenging aspects of the human experience.

Simply being in concentrated relationship with the breath enables the faculty of the mind to do what it does best, focus. The continued focus of the mind on the breath relieves the mind of its grasp on the other stories it has latched onto. Similarly, a challenging and vigorous asana practice directs the minds attention to sorting the movements of the body in concert with the breath. In essence this distraction liberates the mind from the ceaseless chatter of monkey mind.

If we sit long enough with our breath, if we practice hard enough on our mat, there is a moment of freedom. And while this moment might be fleeting, the space experienced there expands into a subtle yet sustained spaciousness that spans the course of a lifetime. If not more.

Practice is a discipline that leads to freedom. It may require hurdling the monkey mind to get to the practice. But once arrive, the gift of the spaciousness that is your natural heart space will be revealed there. Worth the leap every time. Even when your feet get caught up on the hurdle along the way!

A simple practice for these coming weeks in the epoch of eclipse season where the mind moves fast, and then faster, is the practice of sama vritti pranayama. This is a simple breath practice of inhaling and exhaling in equal portions. The basic rhythm of this breath practice enables a calmer mind and a calmer autonomic nervous system response, naturally reducing stress hormones in the body.

To practice this simple, yet profound breath exercise, begin with a comfortable seat. Take a few moments to watch your breath rise and fall in its natural, unadulterated rhythm. When you are ready inhale for a count that does not create a feeling of anguish or anxiousness, a count that you can sustain without extra or exerted effort. At the top of the inhale pause momentarily in the feeling of fullness. Exhale for the same length of your inhale. Again, pause momentarily at the bottom of the exhale in the spaciousness of emptiness. Continue like this for as long as you are comfortable. Attempt to continue beyond the agitation of monkey mind discomfort and into the spaciousness of your heart. A general marker for a beneficial meditation practice is 20-25 minutes. However, three breathes may be enough for you. The beauty of designing a practice that enhances your life is that you get to decide.

No matter what course you choose for your journey may it be a course that brings you into the light of your own innate beauty.

With Love, always, in always, for giving,

Genevieve

Resilience and Adaptabilty

Resilience and adaptability are an intrinsic part of nature. Weeds survive, cockroaches will inherit the earth, and water will always find its way. Unfortunately, the possibility that one can become stuck in a rut of being, obdurate and unable to be fluid like water, is as great a potential as falling in love. 

Nevertheless, life invites us to be flexible. Too much fragility and we will crumble under life’s pressure. Too much rigidity and we will stubbornly refuse to adapt with changing times. Get left behind, looking out at an unfamiliar world from an inner gaze hardened by our own stubborn shortcomings.

So much of this journey of life is a dance among paradox. Dancing between stability and freedom is the dance of liberation. Freeing ourselves from our attachments to the past and desired outcomes, yet holding the gaze steady on the intent and the motive is the recipe for a vibrant life. Despite the length of that sentence, the concept is still much easier said than done.

None of us are outside the circle of loss. None of us are exempt from desire. None of us are without needs. Life, being what it is, will test our capacity to meet ourselves in the company of ourselves, during loss, overcome by desire, with needs unmet. What we do when we arrive at thes thresholds is what becomes the fluid and flexible bouncy of resilience or hard brittle bark of unfluctuating obstinacy. The most beautiful part is that we get to decide. We get to decide how to respond to life’s undulations.

The key ingredient is knowing that responding is not reacting. Life happens. Take a breath. Connect to the deeper part of you. The part that evolved with the ever evolving universe, conscious, adaptable, resilient, and remember what drives your heart. Take another deep breath, move away from the drama, exhale. Take another deep breath, choose the direction you wish to go, take one small step in that direction. Responding mindfully to life’s unsavory as well as life’s more rich and delicious circumstances is like becoming the resilient and ever buoyant material of a trampoline. Not only do you bounce back but you catalyze movement into the future.

Regularly returning to practice returns you to your capacity to connect to your breath. Regularly returning to your practice invites deeper connection to your adaptable and graceful heart. Regularly returning to your practice reminds you of your ability to skillfully spin, twirl, and jive on the paradoxical dance floor of life. Stepping gracefully between stability and freedom, acknowledging your innate ability to be simultaneously fragile and rigid, embracing your innate ability to be resilient and adaptable, will bring you ever closer to the vibrant freedom of peace you were born to enjoy. Carry on!

With Love, always, in all ways, for giving,

Genevieve 

With or without distractions, you’re still just dealing with yourself. Practice in a cave, practice in traffic, practice joyfully, practice diligently, practice because you think you ought to, it’s all the same. Lest we forget that all in the yoga practice is a reflection of our deepest, and sometimes most hidden selves, this week, remember. And when distractions come up, acknowledge them, let them know they are seen, heard, and felt, for they are not separate from the practice that runs like a smooth engine.

At the height of summer, I am distracted. The days are long, and much is accomplished in each cycle of sunlight, yet I consistently feel that I can do more. Why aren’t hours for asana presenting themselves? Why haven’t I finished a book in July? Why do I put off making dinner until it is dark? The summer heat rather aggravates my body, which leads to mild, but persistent discomfort: a little extra heaviness, angry and clogged pores, dryness, heat in my feet. I do my best to remember that the remedies I know will help me feel more comfortable are a part of my work, just as it is to sit, to stretch, and to wonder. It’s a full time job tending this body in the heat, and it gobbles hours like popsicles.

I eat coconut. I sip cucumber water. I put my butt in the pond, and wait until a coolness settles from skin, to bone, into mind. The high desert summer sun is a reality of my world, and it rather messes with the balance of my body and soul. I learn much from the buzzing activity of the summertime, run screaming for the hills and the rivers, and give thanks to live in a place that is ever-shifting its temperature, and feel. The four seasons offer a perfect place to practice, and metaphor for the always needed reassessment of reality, which is only happening in this moment. For when the rains come, though all the problems of the world have not been solved, I am feeling better than before. And so, all is well.

All shall be well. All shall be well. All manner of things shall be well.” ~Saint Julian

Love and be well,

Suki

Root Down

Tomorrow begins the Root Down yoga challenge at Shree, our newest and greatest innovation in the invitation to come to the mat, again and again, in good company. Spring is a juicy time to settle into the practice and investigate what is stirring, as below the surface, tap roots are coming alive.

In yoga, the practitioner is in a steady state of spring. Recognition of promise and potential are addressed humbly, and the focus in any given moment settles on what is at hand. What humble courageousness to accept that all that has come before has only led to this moment, and that much more is waiting in the wings. The yoga embodies the great spirit choice to retain balanced attention: not too much, not too little, for all of it.

In the Upanishads (ancient scripture describing the philosophy and teachings of yoga), the concept of neti neti is introduced. Literally, neti neti means “not this, not this”, and includes a practice of finding truth by understanding what is not true. As yoga practice deepens, more and more attachments fall away. The practitioner sees that not this (one pose), nor this (rigid alignment), not this (particular breath), nor this (one teacher), nor that (stylish pair of pants), and on and on it goes, will ever completely answer the questions that burn at the heart of the practice. Each aspect has value to offer to a depth of understanding, but will not, in and of itself, solve the puzzle.

The value of learning what is not true and shining the light of the sun of your heart on what is, in fact, true for you, is an exercise in the yamas and the niyamas. Saucha (purity) is expressed in clearing away distraction. Brahmacharya (control of the senses) is displayed in avoiding the train-wreck that ensues from following the leash of the senses. Satya (truthfulness) is found, only through process. Aparigraha (non-grasping) presents in the practice of letting go of what no longer serves. Santosha (contentment) is exposed in the simple pleasure of regular practice. These are the roots of the yoga practice, and often begin to show themselves only after time.

By returning, again and again, all is slowly revealed. Might you in your month of Root Down answer all of your heart’s deepest questions? And is the challenge forsooth the answer to all of your prayers? Neti neti. Even this is just a construct, created to offer structure to the formless, but why not? How else will you find the truth? And what better way to spend the windy month of April than setting roots down into the well of radical self-care? Root down, and simply watch to see what arises from your depths.

With love and respect, Suki Ola

 

All the wild flavors of existence.

The nine rasas (flavors), wheel is a self-help tool that describes the feeling, taste, and hue of all of our experiences. Rather than flavor as just something the tongue and palate process, in yoga theory, our entire being is in the midst of savoring (or repugning), all the time. To me, this explains nicely the relatedness between the inner and outer worlds. Thanks to the incredible workings of our nervous system, we process information all day long and feel (or taste), each bit we take in. Think of the response your heart rate has to the feeling of deep love, how your skin seems to soften when in the arms of your beloved, and the way the world is brighter upon just thinking of the things that cultivate feelings of love in your heart. And conversely, what a full spectrum experience it can be to sit in deep fear with a racing heart, skin sweating bullets, eyes pinpointed to track and discern a pending threat. We are whole beings and the nine rasas speak to this healing.

Shanta = peace, Sringara = love, Hasya = joy, Karuna = compassion, Raudra = anger, Vira = courage, Bhayanaka = fear, Vibhatsa = disgust, and Adhuta = wonder. Going around the circle, each flavor begets the next. See if you can track the development by creating a story: from the peace that meditation brings, I experience love for myself and others. Love makes me joyful, and softens the edges of my being to be able to see what suffering is happening around the world, which feeds compassion. Recognizing how dire things actually are for so many people, I am angry at the injustice, muster courage, and begin to act. In the face of my work, fear rises its ugly head in challenge, and I taste disgust for the level of corruption in the world, which ultimately leads me back to the heart, to sit in surrender and contemplate paths of less violence and more wonder for what is, in fact, good. It’s a crude sketch, but it’s a start. Create your own wheel, I promise it will be an interesting exercise in untangling your process, if nothing else. Across the wheel lies the perfect foil to each sensation, for example: the cure for disgust is to cultivate joy (make light of it), and compassion (everybody poops). Cool, huh?

Love and wonder, Suki

 

Making yoga all the time.

The holiday season is upon us, within us, breathing us with the effervescent invitation to celebrate. It’s meant to be a realm of pleasure and reverence for the cycles of life, but our western world approach has become a bit distorted and less than hale. Excessive indulging and hyper schedules lead to stress, rather than ease, and expected gift giving has exorbitantly perverted generosity to gross over-spending. For those far away or separated by life and death boundaries from their loved ones, the holidays are a time of isolation and solitude. It is no surprise that the rates of suicide, violence, and accidents rise during these times of supposed pleasure.

This year, let’s not botch the party. Rather than creating dissonance according to race, religion, lifestyle choices, sexual preference, and financial means that perpetuate the illusion of separateness between us, I propose that we connect, (make yoga), rather than dissipate our forces. To begin, a practice in linking the heart to the guts. Whether the issue is a slow-burning sadness that follows the holiday blush or a heaviness in the body from too many cookies, the tonic of a supported back-bending practice can be just the ticket to freedom.

Have at the ready: a blanket, a yoga block or large book and a warm, clear space to explore your practice. To begin, rest on your back with hands folded lightly over the front of your body and follow the course of your breath in and out for three to five minutes. Just the simple exercise of watching the breath can stimulate feelings of gratitude for the gift of life, and shift perspective from the external world of chaos, within. It is no matter what the state of within is, just that you are connected to it. You’ve got to know what you’re working with to make a shift.

Next, roll your blanket up into a mini-bolster and place it across your practice space, laying the bottom tips of your shoulder-blades upon it. The blanket will loft your heart slightly and begin to stretch the front of the chest and respiratory tree, deepening your breath. Bend your knees and rest in this pose for two minutes, allowing inhalations to lengthen and flush across the front of your body. Mind that the front ribs and sternum remain gently anchored toward the back of the body to keep from over-extending your spine, particularly in the lower back.

Third, place your block underneath your sacrum with head and shoulders resting firmly on the floor and your knees bent in a bridge-style pose. Experiment with pressing more into the block to gently flex the lumbar spine, and then more into your feet to extend the lumbar spine. Then find the middle place, reaching your knees away from your heart. Two minutes here to open the hip flexors and lower torso. Keep your neck and face relaxed above all the magic happening below.

Fourth, try setu bandhasana (bridge pose), with your hands clasped behind your back and no block. Create a deep extension along the front of your body but remain calm and easy in the back (especially relax your gluteal muscles to send the weight of the pose down into your legs). This work will open the channels for deep detoxification of the digestive pathways and a clearing, enlightening, and joyful energy to flow into your heart all at the same time. May the theme of your season (and your practice), be to avoid over-extending yourself, literally. Happy holy time and be gentle with yourself. Love, Suki

Pause And Enjoy The Present.

This summer I miraculously grew a watermelon. Last spring without too much attachment to the outcome I flippantly stuck a couple seeds in the ground. I was not so attached to the outcome because in the past I have tried to grow melons, and until this summer have met with tomato sized cantaloupe success, which I consider minimal at best. My husband who knows more about these things says growing this giant watermelon is a spectacular feat at our altitude. I based on my minimal experience largely agree. He harvested it yesterday, before whatever was chewing on it enjoyed it before we could. In my garden much is going on this week, the harvest of the watermelon, the squashes fading from absolute abundance to one or two, the corn fully grown, brown peaking out amongst what was all so green only a few weeks ago, has notified me that a transition is taking place.

One thing I really appreciate about nature is that even in it’s inconsistencies it’s pretty consistent. The nature of nature is cyclical, and in fact all things are cyclical, though it is more evident in some places than others, growing seasons, birthdays, and yearly calendars. Viewing the nature of creation in all of its forms through a cyclical journey clarifies an understanding of the ever expanding and contracting cosmology of the universe and all life. From nothing all things arise, the barren earth before a planting, the unknown before the big bang, an empty womb before conception. After the seed has been planted, the rise of manifestation is an expansion into its fullest state of being, like my watermelon. The high point of manifestation in its fullest forms is like the fullness of an inhale, alive, vibrant, mirroring qualities of our life’s journey that resonate with emotional feelings of love, satisfaction, elation, joy, and contentment. Holding to the pleasure that exists in such full-filling experiences is a natural desire, however it is as futile as holding onto our breath at its fullest point. Were we to hold our breath we would eventually pass out and our body in its own intelligence would return to breathing. The bottom of our exhale, like the top of our inhale reflects another aspect of the nature of this conscious, animate, feeling journey we call life. In the emptiness there is an echo of the lower emotional states of being such as sorrow, discomfort, distaste, grief, frustration, and other experiences of this nature. It is human nature to want to resist spending much time in these experiences, being drawn to the full and bright feelings that reside at the top of the inhale, and to not wish to pause in places that are dark and cold and scary like the basement at the bottom of an exhale. Yet life is not so stagnant, so simple, so one way, life invites us to experience the flavor of the dark and hard times so that we can have the contrasting experience of the full and bright moments of elated delight. It is in fact the harder, more challenging and difficult places in our lives that are the birthing ground for the desires, motives, and intentions that eventually become the joy-filled satisfactory moments of our content.   Exhaling metaphorically and literally therefore, is a necessary part of the bigger equation of the cycle of manifestation, from the height of a manifested expansion begins a contraction. The watermelon is harvested, eventually it will be eaten, all its life digested and composted into the energy of the barren earth or body from which something else will arise. Our Universe will continue to expand until it changes course and turns in upon itself in a black hole. Each of us who has the great opportunity to be alive, will die. Our lives, no matter how much we may try, we only have little control of, because life is a series of happenstance and circumstance. The Earth will continue to tilt on its axis and rotate in the habitual pattern it has displayed for millennia and the growing season will only be so long. Having awareness of the nature of seasonal timing and knowing that the only control I may have in my ability to grow a garden outdoors requires responding to the opportunity to grow in good timing and to harvest in good timing. Like growing a watermelon most of life is a dance with a partner who is doing their best to guide us through the steps of our lives with as much ease as possible, and like learning to train a dog, we come to see overtime that this dance partner has a language of its own.

Part of nature s language is that it is cyclical, another piece of the puzzle seen in nature it that all things that manifest into form manifest from the inside out. Seeds contain all of the information for a fully grown plant, they root in the deep dark earth from where they unfold and break out and through evolving eventually into their fullest potential before the contraction of their inward turning spiral. One common thwarting conception of us humans is to perceive ourselves from the outside in, which in many ways dims the brightness of our individual and shared journeys. This is because not unlike nature we grow and expand from the inside out, not only in our waistlines, more importantly in our mental perceptions of life and our emotional responses to it. When we are mentally small our emotional responses mirror our mental perception, therefor the journeys into the underbelly of life’s experience we see as an act of victimization rather than a seed of good fortune and joy being planted. When we allow our perception to be expansive enough to see the good, the potential of the good, and our own ability to be resilient and adaptable our emotional experience reflects this with a feeling that is brighter even if our life circumstances do not appear to be this way on the surface. When we come to understand the cyclical nature of life, the expansion and the contraction, we become less resistant to dancing with a partner we cannot see, and more comfortable witnessing the present moment which is always a transition of some form or another.

Noticing that things are always changing, always in transition, invites us to acknowledge that we don’t need a special moment to pause because in fact any moment can be a special moment of pause. Taking that pause invites an awareness of the present. The awareness of the present, is where the gift is, that is why they call it the present. Pausing and reflecting at the end of a growing season, a multi year cycle of life, a midday in a week of work, or any point in a round of breath is the foundation upon which we get to choose our perception and our response to life’s invitations, which most often is the only control we really have in this dance. What we may witness in that point of self reflection may invite us to enjoy a moment of satisfaction, or to plant sooner next year. Either way this awareness allows us to move like nature from the inside out, from our hearts into the world.

Like harvesting a giant watermelon in a high altitude kitchen garden, the potential to live a life of joy, meaning, value, and satisfaction is always present, no matter the appearance of the circumstances.

photo

Fat Cat, Fat Watermelon, we grew them both!

With Love, In all ways, Always in Joy,

Genevieve

What is Yoga?

What is yoga? Where did yoga come from? What is the point? What determines a “strong” or an “advanced” yoga practice?

As yoga becomes more and more popular the world over, and more and more people practice it in one form or another, an individual does not have to be a student of yoga at all, does not have to ever have set their foot on a yoga mat or into a yoga studio to have asked themselves, or another, any and or all of the questions above.

Perhaps a piqued curiosity of yoga led you to a local yoga studio like Shree and you excitedly jumped into a yoga practice without hesitation. However, most people who wish to answer these questions were probably more like me at the beginning of their yoga journey. Timid, shy, afraid to join the spandex-wearing crowd because of self imposed ideas of limitation leaving them feeling unfit to fit in.

Like most people who come to the mat I was encouraged to try it by many before I ever let my curiosity overcome my fear and allow an open minded perspective create new space in a mind that had previously been full of preconceived ideas of yoga being just about the stretching and the stretch pants. Nearly a decade ago when I began my yoga practice and I allowed myself to cross the threshold of fear into curiosity where I could begin to answer the aforementioned questions for myself the most logical place to seek out information was at a yoga studio. These days, in the age of high speed internet connections, researching and studying yoga and the variants between the many schools and philosophies of yoga has become not only more easily attained for the curious seeker, but also perhaps, even more confusing.  After all, where do you start?

At the top of the Google search page for Yoga is a link to the home page for Yoga Journal, a magazine dedicated to the culture of the practice. Yoga Journal is a wonderful product that has served the yoga community for years and is a fantastically informative print magazine, as well as online version, yet does not concisely answer any of these questions previously stated. Next on the Google search engine page is the Wikipedia link for Yoga. Like Google and the many other wonderful bits of information that are readily at ones fingertips with the advent of high-speed internet Wikipedia has become a widely used resource, and for good reason, it quickly gets to the point.  At the top of the Yoga Wikipedia page, above the brief synopsis I have come to trust and rely on as the concise and generally accurate information I seek, however, is the following disclaimer.

“This article is about the umbrella term yoga which includes both religion, philosophy, and practices. For one of the six Hindu philosophy schools, see Rāja yoga. For the popular yoga that explains and emphasizes the physical practices or disciplines, see Hatha Yoga.”

In this disclaimer alone are eleven possible avenues of information one could venture down in order to answer the simple question, “What is yoga?” The Wikipedia synopsis translates the Sanskrit “Yoga” into it’s more literal meaning of “yoking together” rather than explain briefly what is yoked in Yoga and how. Should one continue to seek the answers to these simple questions via the World Wide Web, they will most definitely have the opportunity to become more informed, yet as I mentioned before, there is a great potential they will also become more confused.

Akin to the failings of finding viable and concise answers to these simple questions on the prodigious blogs and articles published daily on the internet and in publications like Yoga Journal, one may also find these answers hard to come by in a yoga classroom setting as well. This, in my opinion, is one of the greatest failings of the rapid growth and popularity of yoga in western culture today. Yes, the health benefits of Hatha Yoga (yoga in its physical form) are many and great, however the exercise is a tool to be used as a means to the end, and not the end itself.

Yoga is to yoke, to bring into balance. As I was taught, Yoga is also another word for discipline, which is rooted in the word disciple, meaning student of. In this vein, Yoga becomes the deliberate and repeated act of bringing into relationship all aspects of oneself into a well-rounded nature; body, mind, and spirit. The practice of Yoga consists not only of the physical (Hatha Yoga) and breath exercises (Pranayama), it includes focus and meditation (Dharana and Dhyana), the practice of the withdrawal of the senses (Pratyahara), and the study of the philosophical principles through which one can create a sustainable lifestyle of ethics and morals to better ones relationships with self as well as with community (Yama and Niyama, as well as Raja, Kriya, and Bhakti Yogas), and not in this specific order. It is through the yoking of oneself and the continuous return to disciplined practice that attachment to the body and the concepts of the mind as well as the emotions of the heart fall away with ease. It is then in this place that radical freedom or the transcendence of the self (Samahdi) is obtained.

Where did yoga come from? What is the point? What makes an advanced practitioner?

The origins of yoga are up for debate, however it seems to be pretty clear that no matter the “School” in which you study your yoga, “Ashtanga”, “Iyengar”, “Bikram”, “Anusara”, “Hatha”, “Vinyasa”, “Kundalini”, “Kripalu”, “Bhakti”, “Kriya”, “Raja”, and on, all modern Yoga is rooted in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The Sutras are a series of philosophical threads (Sutras) that explain in detail the many aspects of the practice dating back to 400 CE. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is in effect then, the questionable source of debate. Were they actually written by one person, or was Patanjali just the guy who decided to transcribe the teachings into a concise* format? (Using the word *concise loosely as the book is a series of four parts with 196 teachings.) The Sutras have been translated and interpreted many times and is the source for all pertinent information on yoga, if not concise, viable for any who are truly interested in being a disciple of yoga.

In The Yoga Sutras, Patanjali states;
Yoga Sutra 1:2, (Book 1, Sutra 2)
Yogas Citta Vritti Nirodhah
Yogas=Yoga; Chitta=of the mind stuff; Vritti=modifications; Nirodhah=restraint.
The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is yoga.
(Translated by Sri Swami Satchidananda)

This mind stuff being the attachments, expectations, sufferings, disappointments, resentments, hopes, fears, happiness’s, stories, and endless chains of chatter by the mind.

So, what’s the point?

I like to tell my new students “I want you to leave happy and the instructions are an invitation not a command. Please do whatever you need to do to leave happy.” Not only do I want my new students to leave the class happy, I want all of my students to leave life happy, this is why I teach yoga. In essence I feel that the teachings of yoga, and the continued practice of yoga enable any level of student of yoga to surrender their beliefs and feelings of limitations as well as their attachments with more ease, and eventually learn to set new ones down as quickly as they picked them up. Inevitably this practice leads to more happiness. The long term sustaining of this state of quiet mind stuff makes an advanced Yogi. Perhaps this Yogi can do handstand, perhaps not. Perhaps they know all of the Sutras, perhaps not. The advanced practitioner responds to life with ease, open to the invitation of enjoying being no matter how life appears beneath or beyond the surface of their skin.

So, what is yoga? Yoga is a series of precise steps of dedicated practice taken toward freedom. Yoga is a spiritual practice that uses the tools each human is born with to facilitate their personal growth on and off the mat. Yoga is multifold, and a lifetime of learning. Yoga is an invitation to enjoying life through learning to surrender with ease. Yoga is all of this and so much more, and that is why the answer to this question is hardly ever concise. If you were thinking of trying yoga but havn’t yet, please take the leap over the threshold of your fear into a wonderful exploration of you, your limitations, your freedoms, and your willingness to change those boundaries at any moment. If you are a seasoned student, thank you for spending time with yourself, your spirit, your community, your skills and your liabilities both on and off the mat, and thank you for being an ambassador to what I feel is one of the most rewarding of disciplines to undertake.

If you are still curious and the questions still feel unanswered, in asking and seeking, you are doing yoga. It is when we come to know that we have stepped out of the classroom.

With Love, Always, For Giving, In Joy,
Genevieve

Five Years of Shree

Wonderfully this weekend marks five years of Shree Yoga in Taos.  On this same hot weekend in July of 2009 we opened our doors for a weekend of free yoga to a spectacular response that continues to radiate it’s brilliant beauty in the walls of our studio to this day.

Naming our yoga studio Shree was a direct nod to our mission statement which is “To create a safe, nurturing and welcoming environment for people to gather and gain awareness through movement. Shree Yoga Taos is rooted in the celebration of intrinsic goodness, and the awakened spirit of an aware and aligned body. Shree Yoga Taos is a community space, designed to empower and uplift everyone who enters.”

Shree is the phonetic spelling of the Sanskrit word Sri which roughly translates to the sparkling goodness that is intrinsic in all things.  Sri is also used in titles, again I offer a rough translation of “Beloved Teacher or Beloved City”.  Sri is most prevelant in the season of summer and is the dominian of the Goddess Lakshmi, Goddess of abundance, prosperity, and the physical embodiment of beauty.  It was apropos that all things came together in perfect harmony so that the opening of Shree Yoga Taos was in the season of Sri, the season of the Goddess Lakshmi, and this glorious sparkling season of summer.

When we set out to bring our mission into a tangible reality it was our primary desire to stay in alignment with that which is intrinsic to all things, to always maintain our focus on the good in all things and all people, and to offer always the highest in our services.    It is in that same current that Shree not only opened during an economic downturn but has grown, and this spring was voted the Best Yoga Studio in Taos, what a compliment!  From the beginning Suki and I have often said we do not feel like “owners” rather, we feel as though we are the stewards of the space that belongs to all who fill it with their passions, desires, pursuits, sweat, love, and sometimes tears.   It is this sparkling twinkling life-enhancing quality of ever expanding goodness that has become Shree, and it is this Sri that we intend to celebrate wholeheartedly tomorrow marking the five beautiful thriving years of the awareness of awakened spirits in alignment with their highest within and without who have a few or many times crossed through the threshold of our doors.

We invite you to join us from 5:30-7:30 p.m. for a free class taught in tandem by Suki and myself.  If your feeling fancy join us and wear a fancy hat, fancy pants, your fancy face, and come play for fun and for FREE! (No fancy necessary to play!)

Looking forward to laughing, expanding, exploring, and enjoying living on and off the mat with you tomorrow, and any time you choose to visit Shree in the future.

Love always, in all ways, for giving, in joy,

Genevieve

The End, Genevieve’s Spring Yoga Challenge, Class 21 Completed

Once upon a time I was working at World Cup on the corner of Taos Plaza and a new woman was hired, her name was Suki.  She was new to town and I had recently crossed paths with her at the Alley Cantina where she I watched her dance freely like no one was watching in the middle of an empty dance floor.  I could not take my eyes off of her, spellbound by her willingness to be so free despite having all eyes in the room on her, like my own.  The day she began working at the Cup I had been deemed the person with all of the information to fill her head in order to teach her to be the best Barista she could be.  It was July 2005, at the time I had a boyfriend who lived in Seco the day before her training my boyfriend and I enjoyed the Seco 4th of July parade, and that night I got a spider bite on my ankle.  I recall noticing the spider bite after it happened and not thinking to much of it, however by the next morning it had started to swell, and by the time Suki and I showed up at the World Cup for the afternoon training shift it was the size of a tennis ball.  During the course of our six plus hours my right ankle swelled to the size of a football and Suki insisted on mopping the floor, which in my training routine was something I generally kept until the next closing shift, however this time I could not refuse.  Being stubborn and not quick to visit a doctor when in illness I was telling her that I would probably just go home and rest after we were finished.  Suki, being the sensitive, aware, and intelligent woman she is, suggested I go to the emergency room.  We investigated the bite again and noted that it was starting to look like a volcano with big blue streaks coming down from it.  Looking at this grotesque image I knew it was time to go to the hospital.  That afternoon was the beginning of a long and beautiful relationship of teaching, and learning from each other.

Suki came to Taos to do a Yoga Teacher Training in Santa Fe, and being an avid skier she intelligently informed herself that Taos Ski Valley would fit her fancy far more than Santa Fe’s terrain.  It had been eight years since I was ejected through a windshield, suffered a severe break to my lower back, and taught myself to walk again.  Over the course of those many years yoga had been suggested to me, but as I said in my previous story I am stubborn, and I hadn’t gotten around to exploring what yoga was all about by the time Suki arrived.  Just like the night at the Alley when she was dancing, over the course of the next few months working with her I noticed Suki was so very vibrant in all she did, her sense of self was strong and secure and she shined like her pearly white teeth behind her wide and friendly smile.  It’s another story, perhaps a book of it’s own, to describe how I felt at that time in my life and why I felt that way however, I was not feeling so shiny, and I wanted to know how to feel the way Suki felt.  One thing she was doing and had done for most of her life was yoga, and now she was beginning to teach.  She invited me to attend her class, I just couldn’t say no.   No matter how insecure I was, how afraid I was of not knowing what I was doing, how stubborn I was about my limitations related to my back, I just had to go.  Something about Suki’s bright smile and the tenderness with which she treated me from that day with the spider bite said to my fear, “don’t worry, you will be safe.”

I remember that first yoga class, it was in January of 2006.  I remember my first down dog, it felt agonizing as my arms shook, then Suki made the invitation to express the posture from the feeling of our hearts.  My heart softened immediately remembering it’s desire to be happy, and knowing the space I was in was safe.

Everyone comes to yoga for their own, unique, and personal reasons.  Everyone has their own intentions, motives, and desires of what they wish to get out of the practice.  Though eight years have now passed I think back and it is apparent to me my motives are still the same.  I wish to be happy and peace-filled while traversing this wild and crazy ride called life.  I wish to experience this happiness true to myself, in the fullness of my authentic expression without hesitation or fear of who may be watching.   I know that at the heart of sharing this experience of my Spring Yoga Challenge through this blog is this truth of my desire to be courageous while standing bare and vulnerable for the world to see.  Along my journey of the past eight years deeply devoted to this practice I have developed all of the skills I use to stand vulnerably as my authentic self with courage most deeply through this beautiful and continuing relationship with my dear teacher, friend, and student Suki. In this truth so much gratitude fills my heart and the joy of this gratitude  brings tears to my eyes.

After awaking this morning from dreams that were no where near as delightful as I would have called sweet, I awoke feeling a bit more ill than I would have liked.  Stuffy nose and slightly feverish I spent the morning quietly, took a walk with my dog, enjoyed fresh air and decided that it was the time to finish this journey I set myself upon.  If I had not challenged myself to complete the task by the 30th of April I would not have gone to class today, however, stubborn old me made my way over to Shree at noon to see my dear beloved teacher.

Suki guided us through beautiful asana of deep hip flexing and twists to sooth our nervous system and help us to drop more deeply into the quiet calm fibers of our being in order to bring us ease in the wild and voracious wind of the past couple days.  I silently acknowledged to myself that I had not felt to shaken by the wind and appreciated this inner calm was a sweet benefit of all of this yoga I have been doing.  Suki remarked on the quality of the wind being like the quality of our mind often blowing, sometimes blustering, and providing the potential to create a constant sense of unease.  The ultimate teaching she offered her students this afternoon is that yoga’s purpose is to quiet the mind stuff, to calm the winds of blustering thoughts so we may enjoy the ever present well of inner peace.  As always, I found myself returning from Savasana with the winged expression of joy, gratitude, and love for this magnificent teacher rising from the well of peace in my heart.

Being an owner of Shree Yoga limits the possibility of being rewarded in the most fabulous ways our students are rewarded materially by use for completing classes 7, 14, and 21 of the Spring Yoga Challenge.  Yet, the rewards of practicing regularly are not restricted from my experience and I have experienced many.  Through the calm diving into the well of my grieving heart, to the equanimity experienced in the ease I feel when the wind blows wild outside, and all the other resonances of my energetic and physical body and tastes of riches in my free spirit and open heart between, I have been rewarded.

Almost a decade ago this powerful relationship of friendship and studentship began, it has in itself multiplied into many aspects of my life and ever continues to bring me more joy.  I do not know if Suki knew I would be attending her class today, however, she brought me a gift, an edible treat of powerful super-foods we discovered on our journey to Maui together a few years ago, Happy Balls.  After class I delightfully devoured my happy ball and began to sing from the truest joy in my heart…If you are not familiar with Pharrell William’s new song Happy consider this your introduction…

“Clap your hands, if you feel like a room without a roof.  Clap your hands if you feel like happiness on the move…Because I’m happy happy happy happy…happy happy happy happy!”  You can check out his uber inspiring and creative video here.  http://24hoursofhappy.com/

Once upon a time I was bit by a spider feeling as grey as a cloudy day.  A wonderful yogi of luster and long fibers guided me out of the gloom and along my way.  Now I’m at home and though I’m alone I’m as happy as I could be.  Knowing inside me is all I will ever need to be willing, courageous, and free.

If you have been keeping up with me along this journey I thank you for sharing it with me.  It is my deep belief that the more we share of our experiences the narrower we bring the gap of separation between us and feeling alone in our suffering, or as I like to call it, being human.

There is still one more day to dive in and get your feet wet on your own magical Spring Yoga Challenge.  Yes it will be difficult in more ways than one.  Yes it will require commitment and tenacity.  Yes it will deepen the quality of joy in your life in all of it’s rewards.  Stop by Shree for tonight’s 5:30 class or tomorrow’s, 7:30 am, 9:30 am, Noon and 5:30pm classes to begin.

That is all for now, and this marks The End….of this story at least.

With love, all ways, for giving, in joy,

Genevieve