Tag Archives: joyful yoga practice

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

Contemplations on Happiness, Peace, and Asana

The pursuit of happiness came on like a storm, furious, powerful, and unrelenting. I was in my teens when I decided that being happy was what I wanted to do with my life. I am sure it came about as a snarky response to the big question of what I was going to do with my life. It seemed like a reasonable goal in the midst of a maelstrom of inner confusion when facing the big teenage mystery of what the picture of my life might become. And as a teenager I believed that it did not matter what kind of career I had, what kind of lifestyle I had, how much money I would make, where I would live, all of that was secondary to the first and most important goal, happiness. Diligently like the idealist and rebellious adolescent I was I pursued this goal, finding myself in many wild and delightful moments full of happiness and yet always knowing something wasn’t quite right. Just because I was seeking happiness did not mean I was happy. Just because I thought that those other aspects of life were secondary to my happiness at the time did not mean that any of them were. In fact, as a low blow to my idealist rebel teenage self I have found that many of those aspects of my life are great contributors to my  happiness as an adult. In spite of my great efforts to be happy first I have often found myself unsatisfied, unfulfilled, and in a semi-constant state of inner tumult looking for that which would scratch my itch for joy. Having an itch after all is a natural part of life. We all experience desire and longing. However, as I eventually found for myself, the pursuit of happiness can become an unrelenting oppressive force menacingly disturbing the peace.

Unlike my youthful merciless pursuit of happiness, the pursuit of peace approached more discreetly, like a great novel, the first pages drawing me in, and the further in I went the more interesting and compelling the experience. Different from the blatant and obvious benefits of pursuing happiness the benefits of pursuing peace reveal themselves more subtly, almost clandestine in their disclosure. Leaving one satisfied at a taste of the mystery, its savory and sweet flavor lingering offering room for pause, contemplation, connection and serene delight.

Everyone comes to the mat for a different reason, yet it is probably safe to say that at the heart of all of our pursuits is peace. We cloak our desire for peace in the pursuits of happiness, fulfillment, satisfaction, health, patience, generosity, strength, flexibility, resilience, our hunger for connection to others and to something bigger, the list goes on. However, we must beware that in these worthwhile pursuits is a tendency for obsession and myopia, discipline turned into obligation, and misguided attempts to better self at the expense of self acceptance. A very famous yoga sutra, and the only one of the 196 teachings to even mention asana, states:

2:46 Sthira sukham asanam.

Asana is a steady, comfortable posture.

 If it is steady and comfortable that we seek than we must stop looking for the places we can be better and contentedly accept where we are. In the practice of self-acceptance we can become more calm and peaceful, more relaxed and allowing. This does not mean complacent, but rather naturally cultivating the ripe and loving environment for transformation, rather than trying to force it. In the end everything will change, there is no question of that. So, in the meantime we have the opportunity to enjoy the transitions in peace. Practice effort and surrender. Notice how the trees effortlessly and gracefully drop their leaves, and in step with the season we are invited to drop our own leaves, whatever they may be, and settle into the steady comfortable posture known as life.

 

 

Fancy Yoga Pants

It’s not what most people think it is, Yoga. Sure the most common concept of yoga in the western world is a great way to get exercise and stretch it out.   However, getting exercise is not what yoga really is all about. Yoga is about much more. Beyond the façade of the exquisite shapes and forms of bodies posted all over the Internet yoga is about stretching it out, but in a deeper sense. Yoga is something more empowering than long hamstrings and strong hand balances beyond the conundrum of fancy yoga clothes, popular classes, and famous yoga teachers. Yoga is something profound and deeply healing beyond the feelings of worth or shame that can be tied up in the struggle of dancing on the surface of a practice thousands of years old gaining popularity in a culture of fame and glamour. Yoga as a means to get to the heart of it is incredible medicine, whatever the heart of it may be.

Irrefutably yoga is fundamentally and most importantly a spiritual practice. Yoga is a multi faceted tool that includes a physical element in order to get to something more powerful and essential to the human spirit. Through dedicated return to asana a practitioner is able to access a state of transcendence of body and ego that places all of the valueless aspects of yoga in the west out of the picture of importance. Such a state of being enhances ones ability to then arrive at solving more profound questions of spirit like how to bring more love to the experience of life, how to serve with more selflessness, and how to be more accepting of what is and less attached to ego driven desires.

Knowing the difference between what yoga is and the common western cultural experience of yoga enables enough clarity of mind that permits a yogi to attend to their practice with or without fancy yoga pants, long hamstrings, the ability to do strong hand balances, and thousands of followers on instagram. Such knowledge is in itself power and can, like a viral video on YouTube, become common enough to change a cultural phenomena that has for the time being replaced ancient and beautiful teachings with vanity and ignorance. In the meantime, there is no need for condemning anyone for their journey, rather there is an opportunity to dive more deeply into the well of silent and expansive consciousness and invite others to gently and comfortably come along. And along the way may we not forget to do our yoga and to enjoy our fun and fancy yoga pants, our favorite teachers, practitioners who inspire us, and our gains in our asana practice as well as in our personal lives.

With Love, Always, In All Ways, For Giving,

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

 

Just One More, Class 20

In the old days class twenty would have marked the moment of crossing the finish line of the Spring or Autumn Yoga Challenge at Shree Yoga Taos.  However in 2014, we decided twenty wasn’t enough and twenty-one would be an appropriate upping of the ante for those like me who fervently take the plunge regularly.  In the old days I would have experienced an elated delight toward the end of class, just like the experience I had this evening when my body made an inner exclamation of and undying love of yoga and being in my body.  Unlike challenges past, as I finished class this evening there would not have been just one more class looming in the distance.

Many times in my life I have been asked, “What is it you love about yoga, what brings you back to the mat?”  My answer to the question has always been true and despite the many years that have gone by it continues to be the same.  “There is always more room”,  I answer with confidence and ease.  The longer I practice the more often I experience more room in my body even if it is limited in its movement.  I experience more room in the energetic body followed by more room in the relaxed quality of my muscles.  No matter the spaciousness or limitations of my physical body I find there is always more room in my mind after I practice, less judgement, less criticism, less running around in circles on the same thought, any thought, be it expansive or limiting, dissipates like vapors off a hot cup of tea.  Mostly however, the thing I find most appealing is that there is always more room in my heart to love and be loved, to experience joy no matter my physical surroundings, freedoms, or limitations.  This spaciousness in my heart translates directly to my spirit which always feels after a yoga practice unlimited in its expansion, unlimited in its knowing, unlimited in awareness of time and space, unlimited in it’s eternal presence and connection with the eternal heart of all hearts.  Even if my awareness of this radical unlimited spaciousness of my spirit is only for just a tenth of a second, I have the great joy of experiencing it every time I come to my mat.

When I was doing my yoga teacher training my teacher Bea Doyle so brilliantly said, “It does not matter what type of yoga you practice, it is ultimately a spiritual practice.  A student may say that’s not for me and align them self to a rigorous physical practice with a teacher who never touches on the spiritual aspect of the yoga.  However, it is inevitable they will find themselves asking “does this serve me?”, and no matter the answer, the question itself is spiritually based.”  Bea calls this “the back door approach.”  Bea is a remarkable teacher who has a subtle way of including the spiritual qualities of the practice without ever sounding dogmatic or off putting.  Perhaps that is because she was a math teacher for twenty years?  I feel so fortunate to honor her as my teacher and I often hear her wise and intelligent voice in my head, as well as in other teachers at Shree who have also studied with her.  Like Bea, I do my best to bring the spiritual aspects to the classes I teach, however I know I am not as subtle about it as she is, being that subtle wouldn’t suit me as it would not be authentic.  Authenticity is another valuable teaching I learned in her spacious and beautiful studio Bhava Yoga on Central in Albuquerque, authenticity, spirituality, asana, spaciousness, how to string instructions together, and so much more.

Now it’s been five years since I finished that teacher training, five years since Shree opened it’s doors, five years of regular teaching which amounts to thousands of hours, maybe seven yoga challenges including autumn and spring, and countless hours of time on my mat at home, in class, and elsewhere.  Tonight as I was rising into locust pose (Salabasana), a pose that for all these years of practice has not only alluded me, but also brought that discomforted “why am I doing this?” question to mind, I felt surprisingly and amazingly good.  “Ah, I love yoga!” exclaimed my body as we repeated the pose and an old mystery became clear.  “Ah, I love that there is always more room.”  I reminded myself to mark that moment as an important one on my path of always learning, and like the invitations of my teacher suggested, I moved on.

This evening I attended Liz’s 5:30-7:00 pm class knowing it would be subbed by Doug Gilnet.  In this challenge I have made a concerted effort to get to all the wonderful teachers at Shree’s classes.  With the exception of Kelly who is out of town, I have been successful.  Class was a perfectly paced slow flow of back bends and forward bends.  With my new awareness of the high point of my hip, and the ever changing strength and flexibility of my muscles through this winding yoga journey I felt really really great through tonight’s entire practice.  Music is my favorite drug and in my world always makes life more delightful, for his class Doug offered his students a really gentle mix of beautiful music to support our time on the mat.  Traditionally yoga was taught by men, I find the quality of a mans voice while teaching yoga to be inspiring, steadfast, secure, and supportive, and Doug’s voice fits this description.  Doug generally teaches at Shree on Monday afternoon’s from 3:30-5:00 pm, he also heads the yoga program at Ojo Caliente, where he can be found Tuesday through Friday should you desire to take yourself on a really nice personal yoga and soak retreat.  However you find your way I highly recommend attending Doug’s class, I am confident you will leave like everyone left class tonight, calm with a peaceful serenity across your face.

Now, as darkness begins to blanket this magical town I so fortunately call home and I contemplate the solar eclipse taking place with tonight’s full moon, thinking this must be the dark side of the moon Pink Floyd spoke of, I restfully reside in my inner light, ever-growing like the expanding universe and the spaciousness of my heart.

One more to go, yet so many more to come.

When a new galaxy comes into creation do you think perhaps the conscious intelligence that breaths us all ever states “just one more”?  Who knows?  I know, I don’t know the answer to that question, yet the universe continues to expand, as does my heart.

With love from my big spacious heart,  and the ever expanding curiosity of my spirit and mind, good night, sweet dreams, in joy,

Genevieve

Class 19, A Fine Close to a Full Saturday

Today I had the good pleasure of spending six and a half hours with Prisca Winslow Brady and a small classroom of students at her Move Into Balance Studio on Gusdorf Rd.   We were there for an all day workshop of Feldenkrais Method focused on the high point of the hips.  Not only was the workshop informative, I found myself as excited as a child on a first time trip to the zoo while I learned new ways of being in my body.  Prisca is a fantastic teacher, she is aware of her students reception of what is being taught and in that awareness the teachings become more palpable.  As a child she was my first ballet teacher and I have admired not only the grace with which she moves in her body but also the skill with which she teaches my whole life.  Over the past few months many people have suggested the Feldenkrais method to me as an aid in finding more comfort in this body and this evening I can see today as the stepping off point of a fantastic journey ahead.

After this full day of learning new ways of being in my body I walked on my new hips over to Shree to attend Megan’s Yin Yoga class from 5:30-7:00 pm.  Yin Yoga involves a good amount of not doing and just being in the body which was a nice addition to the subtle doing of un-doing and re-doing I did for the majority of the day.   Yin Yoga consists of long holds which open up fascia and the subtle energy body, in the pause is an awareness of what one feels, often increased sensation, which essentially becomes a playground of sorts where we can learn to be in our discomfort with more ease.   Megan has a very kind and gentle voice that I find soothing as I have worked my way through real discomfort in her classes and the sweetness with which she coaxes me deeper is delicately enjoyable.  Megan’s class went by so quickly I had a hard time believing it was time to go, so I layed around a bit longer and enjoyed a long and well earned Savasana.

Yin Yoga and Feldenkrais are not my usual modes of bodily movement, nor is Burlesque dance which I have also recently added to my routine.  However, as I desire to re-pattern the muscle memory of my body in order to move out of discomfort I know it is valuable to do new things, so along with a Yoga Challenge I have added the challenge of being a new student in many ways.   I am having so much fun running into students of Shree in these other studios and other modalities of being in the body.  I think they would agree with me when I say it all translates.

This Saturday was a long day at the office…in my body.

If you are interested in knowing more about Feldenkrais yourself, or what Prisca offers you can check out her website at http://www.movintobalance.com. You can also begin taking adult dance classes at Taos Youth Ballet http://www.taosdance.com, Dalinda Vanne Brightyn’s Sundance Studio http://www.dv-taos.com, and Taos Academy of Dance Arts http://www.dancetaos.com, and of course Shree Yoga’s Schedule can always be found at  http://www.shreeyogataos.com.

However you choose to be in it, being in your body is an invaluable way to experience this short and fantastic life.   It also helps you live longer just ask Bette Winslow, Prisca’s mom, who was the founder of Bette Winslow Dance Studio and an irreplaceable figure in the journey of many young and old into their bodies in our community.  Bette was at class today and she is a spry young 94.  May we all be so lucky to live on our own, get up and down off the floor, and enjoy moving in our bodies like Betty, for as long as we get to be around.

With love, long muscles and happy bones,

Genevieve

 

 

Nearer to the End, Class 18

There are so many things that I love about yoga it would be impossible for me to pick just one and call it my favorite.  Every time I return to my mat more things of joy are revealed by my practice.  Even if I am experiencing discomfort or agitation the overall experience returns me to joy or even better, peace.  I am a positive person, an optimist, and I am practiced at looking for the good, this does not mean I am always experiencing the more uplifting qualities of being, I am human after all.

As I journey through this Spring Yoga Challenge and reveal my experience through this blog I am making a concerted effort to share the highlights and the good stuff.  However, being human, having a body that has been through deep injury, and a critical mind, I also find myself along the way in contracted states of unrest, discomfort, and judgement.  Not that I have just returned home from a class that I did not  enjoy, as a mater of fact I have enjoyed all of my classes on this journey so far, which I continue to mark as a testament to the excellence of teachings being offered at Shree.  This is not a post about discontent, rather as I was walking home from class and thinking of what I wanted to share tonight it occurred to me that I wanted to speak on one of the most valuable things about this practice in my life, perhaps the thing that I might pick as a favorite if I had to.

For me taking a yoga class is like living life.  You show up, you have ideas of what you might experience, you are lead on an adventure that you haven’t much control of, and all you can do is respond. Even if you are a person who does the same practice every day, the body is constantly changing, what once was will eventually become different, sometimes better sometimes the other way.  All you have on the mat is what you bring with you, the quality of your intention, attitude and willingness, the power of your courage and your strength, the steadfast hold of your mindfulness and the awareness of how you feel and how you respond to that.  In the end, often in Savasana (corpse pose) the experience is what you make of it.  Fortunately in yoga you get to walk away from the experience, and like in life, you leave with the quality of being you allowed in your mind and heart.  Needless to say, along the way you may traverse tricky footing, challenging poses, shortness of breath and fear, or the words of your teacher that push your eject button, yet what you do with the cumulative experience is up to you.   I believe that a common trapping for a devoted student of yoga is the “way I like it” philosophy, and if the teacher or the class does not fit into that philosophy then class becomes an experience of forced getting through.  As I see it, the opportunity to gain is always there, and often times the experiences we perceive as those we have enjoyed the least are our greatest teachers.   I have come to learn the more experience I have, the more opportunity I have to bring with me to the mat what I know will support my ability to leave happy no matter what the teacher is offering, and this in my mind is a direct reflection of this wild journey we call life.  Experience teaches us, be it good or bad, easy or hard, happy or sorrowful, it teaches us who we are, what we want, what we are made of, and most of all what thoughts and self expressions bring us happiness, joy, and peace.

For myself the experience of being in my body brings me great joy.  The experience of generously loving with an open and courageous heart brings me even greater joy.  The ability to let go of the thoughts that drag down the joy and love in my body and heart brings me peace.

Tonight I truly enjoyed Ashleigh’s Slow Jams class from 5:30 -7:00 pm. Class was a sweet journey through movement and standing poses and into even more divine restorative postures that comforted my body deeply.  Though the style of yoga Ashleigh and I teach are different, I always find myself happy I attended her class.  Ashleigh closed class with an invitation to us all to bow our heads to all of our teachers, I bowed to her and the lineage of yoga teachers that hold us all, with a full and reverent heart.

Again I wish to say as I near the end of my Spring Challenge all of the teachers at Shree are fantastic and have wonderful offerings for all levels and types of students.  I am not the only person who thinks this as Shree has won first place in the Taos New’s Best of Taos 2014.  I offer gratitude to all of our teachers and students for such a beautiful honor.

Humbled, Grateful, In Joy, and Truest Love,

Genevieve

 

 

Reaching The Mountain Top, Class 17

Living in Taos most of my life has taught me many things including being in rhythm with the seasons of nature.  All four seasons happen in this high mountain desert climate allowing the awareness of that rhythm to be more clear than if I were to have grown up closer to the equator or the poles.  Currently it is April, windy season,or as I like to call the sporadic change of weather at this time of year as schizophrenic spring weather.  In the morning the skies are blue and clear, in the afternoon perhaps snow, by dusk rolling clouds and a light breeze.  Growing up in Taos I knew that March meant sunscreen and layers, May meant lilacs, presuming we didn’t get a late freeze, July meant possible flash floods at my friends house on the mesa, and Halloween meant long sleeves, jackets with our costumes and snow.

Summer weather in Taos is generally more consistent than spring, it’s either dry or wet, drought or monsoon.  Of course we pray for monsoons in the desert yet, if you are like me and you enjoy hiking, monsoon weather does not only put a dampness in the dirt but may also put a damper on your hiking schedule.  For instance if you wish to hike Mt. Wheeler it is advisable to leave early in the morning, six or so, so that you do not get caught on the way up the mountain in a thunder storm.  If you are like me, often times living beyond what is “advisable”  than you may find yourself as I have, on your way up the mountain watching the ominous clouds rolling in.  Ambition to get to the top to enjoy the beyond amazing feeling and view may impede your opportunity to experience the hike with a sense of pleasure sending yourself full blown into the unease of stress.   Being driven you may continue upward despite the warning of crackling thunder and drops of rain.  Perhaps, you pause in a moment of conscientious mindfulness, reflecting on the circumstance, attending to the rewards of your yoga practice, and in this awareness it becomes apparent that surrendering the desire to summit may not only prevent you from being struck by lighting above the tree line but it may also leave your spirit with more room for the fullest form of your inner expression of joy, which in effect is the reason to hike the mountain in the first place.Hiking a mountain in Taos during the monsoons is not too different from taking the Spring Yoga Challenge or any yoga class for that matter.

Today at noon I attended Suki’s Yoga Hour class, after a morning of working in the yard, and now three weeks of yoga challenge my body is admittedly tired.  To tell the truth I would have preferred to attend Gentle/Restorative Yoga this evening however I am teaching that class for Liz as she is in South America and well, that makes it almost impossible for me to also attend.  After so many years of being in this fantastic, feeling, healing body, I know it’s limits.  Sometimes I can push the boundaries and summit the mountain before the storm rolls in, rock the three and a half hour advanced yoga practice and smile all the way through, do eight hours of yoga two days in a row for the sake of learning more, and other times I just want to take a hot bath and get in bed.   This afternoon I had very little tenacity and vigor in me.  However, as the days roll by I now have only a few short days to complete this challenge I took on for myself.  I made my way to class knowing that in class instructions are an invitation as on a hike making it to the summit is not a necessary ingredient in the recipe of enjoying the great outdoors.  All that was really required of me today was to just show up.

Suki’s class was an invitation to find the place between excited and stressed out, how very appropriate I thought to myself.  She taught us a sequence of poses that built on one another leading to bigger and bigger poses incorporating twists and weight bearing, all of which required our physical effort.  Most asana requires effort and in that is the invitation to balance the effort, as yoga is a practice of balancing, with a softness in the effort, softness under the tone of the muscle, softness in the breath and mind, softness in the heart and spirit.  To carry the rhythm of our asana was a delightful breath practice specific to the softening of the quality of mind as well as the energy body beneath the effort of the physical form.  It was a wonderful and masterful practice, and minding my own needs I also managed to take good care of myself modifying where necessary, listening to the thunder in my body, in order for myself to leave happy and not hurt.

From my perspective leaving happy is ultimately the point.  Why stress oneself out in the pursuit of more joy and excitement?  Why stress oneself out on the journey of reaching the summit?  Why stress oneself out in the short years of our one and only miraculous life?  As far as I can see, I see no good reasons to do live in stress.  On my journey of life I continue to learn, up and down mountains, through joy and greif and all stages between, through this Spring Yoga Challenge, the gift comes in being present in the moment.  Showing up and being aware of your experience and how you feel, and if you don’t like how you feel choose to do somehting that will allow you to feel somehting you prefer, perhaps that is better, perhaps it’s just more peaceful or comfortable.  Feeling, being present with the feeling of the feeling, and knowing you can choose your mental response to that feeling as good as standing on the tallest mountain in the world.  I have learned that in the awarenss is great spaciousness and an opportunity to see the easiest route back home, literally, figuartively, metaphysically, esoterically, and intrinscly.

Now at home I sit calmly and happily without to much physical effort at my computer exercising another feature of my being tired from this self imposed challenge, my mental muscles and I share with you these many thoughts knowing I am approaching the end.  As I begin to see the descent off the mountain top of the Spring Yoga Challenge I am aware that rather than stress myself out about getting home it will better serve me to continue to do my best to be present with every step along the way, every breath, every down dog, every moment of frustration and delight, present in the yoga on and off the mat.  It’s like Suki said at the end of class “Thank you for showing up.”  Yep, showing up is enough.

With love, all ways in joy, for giving,

Genevieve