Living Yoga

DandelionsJust breath. Stretch into the unknown. Move towards stillness. Root down through the feet. Create space. All great stuff while on your yoga mat but what happens when you leave the candle glowing, oil diffused, and Kirtan filled room? Bam!! Traffic, obligations, bills, relationships, crime, pain, debt, worry, fear, self-pity, anxiety, greed, judgement. This part of our lives we have come to accept.
How do we bring yoga to this part of life?
By practice. By waking up. By committing to yourself. Commit to yourself through the eight limbs of yoga and you will wake up through practice.
We begin with the first limb which is the Yamas.
Ahimsa – Non-harming
Asteya – Non-stealing
Satya – Non-lying
Aparigraha – Non-grasping
Brahmacharya – right use of energy also celibacy (be mindful what you create)
Dig here first. Be mindful of the Yamas only because the repercussions can be detrimental to one’s wellbeing. There is no right or wrong, just consequences. I love this concept because there is no, “Don’t lie or steal” only be mindful of these five yamas. And the yamas all relate to one another. For example, be truthful as long as it is not harmful. Have sex, whether married or not, only if the other yamas are present. Lying (thinking of someone else while in the act?) and stealing (ones innocence?) or harming (cheating?) for the act of sex will have repercussions that will affect not only your partner but YOU as well.
We begin with the Yamas in YOU through
Thought
Word
Deed
So begin with the Yamas in your thoughts. Are your thoughts harmful? “You’re so stupid”. Are you lying to yourself? “You can’t get that promotion”. Are you stealing from yourself? By wasting time in self-doubt, pity, and fear? Are you holding on to that one story? You know the one you grasp onto. Are you using your energy wisely? Are you mindful of what you create in your mind?
Dig here first. In your thoughts. Word and Deed will naturally follow. We live in harmony when thought, word, and deed are in alignment. Dig first in your thoughts.
It’s a lifelong practice. Believe me, you will fail but continue to practice just like you do on your mat. Begin with one yama at a time. Start with Satya, non-lying then move on to the others. Make that commitment to yourself and don’t worry about the end result. Live in the moment and in this moment you choose not to lie to yourself. Don’t worry about 5 hours from now. Stay in the Yamas NOW. Tomorrow will take care of itself. It always does!

Join me in this lifelong journey of YOGA

Blessings,

Michele

Waves

australia-waves-081005

I sit alone on a deserted beach and watch the waves crash onto the shore.  The sun is warm on my shoulders and the breeze from the ocean is cool and refreshing.  As the waves begin to gently reach towards my feet I realize that it is I who is drawing them towards me with my breath.  If I take small shallow breaths, the waves break early on the sand and quickly recede back to the vast ocean.  If I take a long, slow, deep breath the waves slowly comes to shore and tickles my toes.  My long exhale draws the smooth wave back gently to where it came from as the next wave begins to swell.  The more deeply I breathe, the more controlled the waves become.  As I begin to pause between the breaths, I can feel the energy from the wave swirl throughout my warm body.  The movement of energy begins to flow through places within me that are tense and frozen.  Each pause between the breaths becomes more important than the next.  I begin to settle into the pauses and soak up the energy pulsating throughout my body which has become my temple.  My awareness suddenly shifts back to the beach where the sun has set and a full moon has risen in the east and I realize that I am not alone.  Others have joined me to draw from the same energy source of this vast blue-green body of water.  The waves look different for different people.  Some waves are small and others are long and reaching.  Some people don’t even notice the ocean or the effect they have on it.  But they are here and we are all the same, seeking the same ocean to draw from, to give to.  I begin to offer my exhale to others around me as I know I will take my next inhale from them.  The ebb and flow of energy around us is a beautiful rhythmic dance of the cosmos.  My soul begins to move to the gently sway of enchanting music I hear in the distance.  The more aware I become, the louder the music is to my entire being.  Listen.  Can you hear it?

~Michele Annette

 

 

 

Self-commitment

What is a commitment?  According to the dictionary, the definition of commitment is a noun meaning, the act of committing or the state of being committed.  Dedication.  Synonyms for commitment are obligation, committal, engagement, and undertaking.   When I think of commitment, I think of a bond between two different people.  Family, marriage, friendships, our jobs, and religion to name a few, but what about a commitment to ourselves?  We enter into commitments with others all the time.  Some are broken and some are kept, but that does not stop us from committing to others.  Where is the root to this failure?  Why is it that we are unable to keep our commitments?  Why is it that we will continually commit to others and fail to see that commitments should start in us?  I would like to tell you about my first steps on the path of self-commitment.

We yogis often hear in studios about 30 day or 108 day challenges.  I’ve never embarked upon this journey because the word challenge put me off somehow. The dictionary definition of challenge is a noun meaning, a call to take part in a contest or competition especially, a duel. Synonyms for challenge are dare, defiance, and provocation.  What a difference in the feeling of the words, challenge and commitment.   I face so many challenges in my everyday life, including time on the yoga mat, why would I want to add another challenge, especially to yoga?  These challenges include working on forgiveness and humility in the outside world and finding openness and full breath on the yoga mat.  One day I was thinking about commitments and how we enter into them lightly and break them often.  I’ve had my share of participation in such activity.  And it dawned on me, I make very few commitments to myself.  Every year I break my commitment of New Year’s Resolutions.  Actually, every year but one.  In 2003 I made a resolution to stop fantasizing in my head.  Not the kind you think, you sick puppy!  The kind of fantasizing where I went in my head and fantasized about a different life, starting with my childhood.  Talk about NOT being in the present moment!  Well, this was a liberating commitment!  Whew!!  I cannot express to you this kind of liberation from my own mind!!!  That has to be experienced.  If you have experienced this, please come talk to me.  I want to hear your story too!  I cannot just sit with mine alone.  I have a few of you around me.  Let’s grow together!  Oh, by the way, I made a New Years Resolution this year to trust and be free.  If you came to Dragonfly’s New Year’s Day class, I whispered these words in your ear, “may you be trusting and be free”.     I’ll let you know how this commitment goes. 

I was inspired by Tara’s 30 day commitment in November 2012 and Jackie’s 108 day commitment in 2012.  After reading Tara’s student blog, (scroll down to read) about her commitment to her yoga practice and hearing about Jackie’s commitment on Saturday mornings, I was deeply touched.  It was at that point that I decided to make a commitment to myself to practice yoga for 108 days.  Not a challenge, but a real commitment.  I started on January 1st without any awareness of changes that were ahead for me.  I assumed my asana practice would change but thankfully I am receiving much more from my self-commitment.  As usual, yoga goes deep.  I started to keep a journal but then stopped because writing is a challenge for me and I did not need to add an additional challenge at this time, especially with my new commitment.  I have gravitated towards practicing at home and enjoy practicing alongside my friends at dragonfly a few times a week.  There were days that I could barely squeeze my practice in but those were the days the practice was most precious to me.  One night I woke up and realized I did not practice that day because I was not feeling well and feel asleep too early.  So, I broke a small part of my commitment.  I have missed one day thus far.  A wise friend of mine named Liz, you may know her, said to me, “do you know why we do 108 times?  So that hopefully we will only miss 8 and have done 100 in the end”.  It took some time but I forgave myself.  The resulting action was self-forgiveness for allowing the missed day.  Wait a minute, forgive myself?  That was the one piece of advice my dad, Luther, said to me over and over again regarding my divorce (uh…a broken commitment!) was to forgive myself.  Myself??  What about my ex-husband?  He’s the one that needs forgiveness haha!!  Well yes, but forgive yourself first, that is where it begins.  And you know what?  He was right. Hey Luther!  Fools don’t grow old, huh?   

So what I am learning from self-commitment is how to stay in my current commitments.  I’m learning how to forgive myself and let go of my mess-ups, how to be kind and understanding (allowing myself to not journal without self-judgment and self-criticism), and how to trust.  The root of this transformation is that I am learning how to have a relationship with me, my little i with my big I.  I am learning to have a relationship with All That Is, to God, in other words.

 Perhaps now that I know how it feels to give and receive understanding, forgiveness, and trust, I can begin to give and receive these transformative actions to others that I commit to.  I can stay committed because I have not left me, i.e. completely turned off my light.  I am realizing that I can trust myself and that is where the real work begins.  Within me, not others.   I can trust me.  Little-girl Michele can trust big-adult Michele.  In this alone, I am finding freedom from fear.  Ohhh, that is a whole other discussion.  Fear. 

I will be rethinking some commitments that I have broken.  You know who you are.  I will be coming around.

I will continually refresh those commitments that I already have.  You know who you are, be ready!

I will mourn those commitments that are lost and practice forgiveness and trust for of all those involved, including me.

I also make a commitment to my fellow yogis at Dragonfly.  I commit to provide a safe space for transformation, for healing, and for community.  I commit to practice next to you, to read with you, to meditate with you, to listen to you, to be your friend.  Join me….let’s walk this transformative path of self-commitment together, in trust and kindness. 

Much love,

Michele Annette

P.S.

Please don’t take my word for it!  Go experience self-commitment for yourself!  Remember, be kind to yourself!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

2012.  A year not to be forgotten.  Dragonfly Yoga landed in the north valley and spread its wings with a mission to offer a space for transformation.  My desire to bring yet another yoga studio into this world stems from my passion for yoga.  Or better yet, because if I had not, I would bust!  Yoga transformed me.  Yoga saved me.  Yoga showed me another path that brought me to my higher self.  For the first time in my life, I have something to share.  Yoga is a knowing, a knowledge that comes from deep within, not because someone told me, but because someone reminded me.  Yoga is a remembering, a waking up, a deep stretch into a hidden knowledge that has always been there, from a cave within me.  I mention in my first blog that I would share my story later so here it is in a nutshell or sutra.

My twenties and the first part of my thirties I was living life with eyes closed.  John Lennon said it best, “living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see”.  In my twenties I was married, working days, and going to school at night.  I lived on diet cokes and fast food (yes, I know), late nights and little exercise.  I was also living with endometriosis, a very painful disease that brings infertility.  Advil was my drug of choice to get through most days.  I entered into my thirties with an amazing job in sales and was doing very well for myself.  I was happy because of external gain.  A hysterectomy in 2003 relieved me of my endometriosis pain forever.   My infertility was never grieved because I was too busy with life and told myself that I did not want to have children anyway.  By 34 I was working as office manager at my husband’s law firm.  However, fulfillment and true happiness was out of reach. My body was starting to cry out for help.  My knees were shot, my doctor was suggesting surgery.   I had heart palpitations, insomnia, bad skin, low back pain, to name a few.  However, success was apparent on the outside, but I was drowning on the inside.  Looking back, I imagine a very small speck of an individual with the vortex of yoga whirling around her.  Yoga had been a curiosity for years so one day I looked up “Yoga Albuquerque” online and Bikram Yoga popped up.  I called the studio and talked to the then owner, David, who told me to start drinking water and wear comfortable clothing to class.  Anyone who practices hot yoga will know why I needed to hydrate!  Something special happened in that room.  A fire was before me and I jumped in.  My body began to change.  My mind began to calm.  My breath began to deepen.  My eyes began to peel open and the light before me was bright.  Within the first year I knew I wanted to teach and by year two I knew I was going to open a studio.  The means were not there but I knew it would happen one day.  The pain in my knees went away thanks to Supta Virasana.  I slept like a baby, a deep sleep, the kind of sleep I had as a child.  One day I realized that my heart palpitations had melted away.  Gone!  What is this thing they call yoga????  It is a science and an art, Michele.  Oh yeah, I remember.

Another change happened, I was very aware of lying.  Everything around me was a lie.  My life was a lie.  I told so many lies during a day and I was very aware of each and every one of them.  That was painful!  I couldn’t do it anymore.  This fiery practice of Bikram yoga was starting to refine me on the subtle levels and I was letting it happen.  With this refinement brought change and this change brought something very painful, separation from my husband of 15 years and two years later, divorce.  I did not attend another Bikrams class after my separation.  I did not need the fire anymore.  I collapsed on my mat at High Desert Yoga and entered teacher training.  It was there that I began to understand why I was so aware of lying.  Non-lying is one of the yamas which is the first of eight limbs of yoga.  As the yamas, Niyamas, klesas,vrittis, pranayama, and asana were presented to me, it was more of a remembering than learning.  I had moments of, “oh yeah, how did I forget that?”   Satya (non-lying) became about no longer lying to myself.  This is the hardest thing to do.  You can no longer be the victim if you cannot lie to yourself.   Ahimsa (non-harming) at the thought level is liberating because I could no longer judge myself.  Aparigraha (non-grasping) at the thought level is a life-long lesson or letting go.  The study of Ayurveda was a lesson of self-acceptance.  I am a vata girl and when vata is out of balance, I can expect anxiety, worry, insomnia, forgetfulness, and fatigue. Believe me, I lived here for many years.   When in balance I can expect to be lively, enthusiastic, creative, and energetic!  No more do I have to wonder, “what is wrong with me?”  I am either in balance with myself or out of balance and there is no more judgement!  How liberating!

As I practiced asana, I began to grieve my infertility. The refinement of yoga was going deep and going after emotional pain I thought was not there.  Thankfully through salamba sarvangasana (shoulder stand) I could no longer ignore it.  As I inverted into this pose, it was as if my empty womb was falling into my heart.  That was very painful emotionally. I avoided this pose for months and to this day, I only practice it with a chair.  Asana brought to light that I had to deal with this and I could no longer lie to myself that I did not want children.  Every day is a journey toward healing!  One day, I will not use a chair in sarvangasana…today I do and I am okay with that.

Yoga is a seed of life within me that was dormant and the hard shell around it finally cracked and was receiving oxygen and water.  I couldn’t help but sprout and grow!!  Yoga has brought transformation and vibrancy to my life. I wish I would have found yoga earlier but I trust that I stumbled into my first yoga class at the exact time and exact place I was supposed to.   My purpose on this earth is to share yoga with my community.  My desire for Drangonfly is to provide a space for those who are seeking, for those who know they need to make a change but don’t quite know how, for those who are ready for yoga.  Yoga is always there….it is there for you when you are ready for it.  Are you ready?

Thank you for reading my story.  I hope to connect with you on this journey we call yoga.

Here is to a transformative year!  I’m excited to be on this path of change!  See you on the mat!

Blessings,

Michele

THE YOGA CHALLENGE by Tara Ford

THE YOGA CHALLENGE

My family teases me because every week I search out the Alibi so that I can read my horoscope.  I like the notion that the stars can give me a little guidance, although I admit to only a pop culture understanding of astrology.  My horoscope for the first week of November urged a focused exploration of a new opportunity, pointing out that November is the month that thousands of people challenge themselves to write every day.  I remembered watching a great Tedtalk about the potential for sustainable life changes just based on committing to something for thirty days. [1]

 

So what does this have to do with yoga?  I decided that my November challenge would be to commit to practicing yoga everyday for 30 days.    Why?  Because Dragonfly Yoga – the teachers and my fellow students — is a space where I can be simultaneously alone on my mat and surrounded by an incredible community.   I wanted to deepen my understanding of yoga and what it might hold for me.  These are the kinds of moments I cherish:

Angelle’s gentle reminder “what a friend we have in yoga.”

Cypresse doing a shoulder-stand, holding herself up between two chairs, and with a little encouragement, I found that I could do it too.

Hunter patiently leading us through Ashtanga poses every Monday and Friday, the very routine unveiling the newness of each moment on the mat.

Lori nurturing the community through book club, candle light mediation and, of course, asana practice.

Allegra explaining the story of Hanuman flying across the ocean and encouraging us to embody that loyalty and action in our pose.

Emily explaining how to breathe wide and expand out.

Liz making all poses seem possible, even if a little crazy.

Michele taking the great leap of opening her heart and this space, encouraging us all through practice by asking gently “yes?” after demonstrating how to ease into a pose.

 

And then there are my fellow practitioners, who have supported me through handstands, backbends, and camel.  People who have been next to me as I sweat buckets, touch my toes, fall on my face, balance, straighten, open, fold, and rest.

 

Has this changed me? Starting Saturday with a yoga class with Cypresse is a very different space than starting Saturday with errands.  My weekend starts with movement and introspection and that difference has holding power.  Yoga after work helps me let go of work and come home open to my family, wanting to tune in to them, for real. My husband and daughter made space for me to set this goal and reach it, and I hope this experience creates space for them to make new choices in their lives too.

 

Angelle is right, what a friend we have in yoga.



 

Bhagavad Gita for December

Hello everyone,

We will have one more discussion on the Yoga Sutras, to be held on November 16th at 6:30 pm at the studio.  From there, we will begin reading the Bhagavad Gita as translated by Eknath Easwaran.  This is a wonderful read, focused on the discovery and fulfillment of our purpose, or dharma, in life.  Easwaran’s commentary illuminates this classic of Indian spirituality, making the teachings accessible and applicable.  I hope you can join us as we close out 2012 and begin to look toward the new year.  Our first discussion on the Bhagavad Gita will be held Friday December 14th at 6:30 pm, at Dragonfly.  Hope to see you all soon!

New Yogi

I have wanted to write this blog for over a month now. As a fairly new yogi, I’ve struggled with what I could possibly contribute.  I sometimes feel overjoyed with what yoga has brought into my life; I have found it difficult to put into words.  Each class I take I leave with a new found feeling of peace, calm, and gratitude that stays with me throughout the rest of my day. Although I have dabbled in yoga through my home workouts and at my local community center for about a year, it wasn’t until I tried DragonFly this past spring on a Living Social Special that I fell in love with it.  Last week I had the pleasure of taking a flow class with Cypress and she started the class with an emphasis of thinking of yoga as your home.  And there it was–DragonFly has become my new home, my new sanctuary!

Michele, the studio owner is extremely down- to-earth; she has the most gentle, warm, and kind spirit. That energy is present the moment you walk into the studio.  All the instructors are simply wonderful, I think I’ve now practiced in just about all the classes that are offered, there is something for everyone.  What is beautiful about this studio is that there is an emphasis on more than just the physical workout; there are constant reminders of what yoga is truly about. Regardless if you are new to yoga or have been practicing for years, the instructors at DragonFly are nonjudgmental and enthusiastic about sharing their practice with others.  Yoga, has helped  me to tap into my inner spirit, it continues to be an awakening experience.

I find myself not only planning my day around when I can work a class in but also really looking forward to seeing my new yoga family, my new home.  I have met so many wonderful women (and men) who are doing awesome work in our community.  It is inspiring to be surrounded by other yogi’s who care as much as I do about not only their own physical and emotional wellbeing, but also about the wellbeing of our community and the much larger world that we live in.  I hope that if you are reading this contemplating whether or not to try a class at DragonFly that you choose to do so! Namaste.

An invitation to a Fall Cleanse

Hello!

As the first signs of Fall approach I am reminded that all things change.  As the weather starts to shift and trees begin to brighten we get excited for the transformation.  As we prepare for this time of year by cleaning out our closets to make room for our fluffy sweaters and put away sandals and bring out our boots (awwww boots!), we need to be aware of clearing out our bodies as well.  The transformation of weather brings about external transformation as well as internal transformation. So friends, it is time to cleanse!

Ayurveda is the sister science to Yoga and is a wonderful way to get to know yourself.  There are three constitutions or doshas and we are all a combination of all three.  There are specific diets for the different constitutions and specific cleanses to balance the body.  My main dosha is VATA (3) which is governed by space & air.  PITTA (3) is my second dosha which is governed by fire & water, while KAPHA (1) is governed by water and earth.  For those of you who know me well, you can see that I am Vata in appearance as well as in behavior.  Once I started studying Ayurveda, I began to accept myself and understand myself a bit more.  If my doshas are out of balance I behave and feel a certain way. However, if I live a lifestyle and eat a diet that keeps my doshas in balance then I feel great!  The same is true for my yoga practice as my practice can throw my doshas out of balance.  As this Saturday is the Fall Equinox where there are equal day and equal night, lets embark on an Ayurveda cleanse to bring balance to our lives.  I invite you to join me in a fall cleanse!  Let’s support each other as we journey towards balance together!

Do you know your dosha?  Have you seen a Ayurveda practitioner?  Are you interested in joining me for a fall cleanse?  Well, since we are all different in our doshas (pitta/vata/kapha, vata/pitta/ kapha, kapha/pitta/vata, and so on) and will need different diets and herbs to cleanse, I have invited an Ayurveda practitioner, Carmen, to come to the studio on Sunday, October 21 at 11:30 am to give a talk about Ayurveda and offer specific cleanses for each of us.  There will be more information at the studio and website soon.  So as you begin to clean out your closets to make room for fall clothing, think about how you may begin to clean out your body to prevent build up of toxicity during the winter months.

Shanti, shanti, shanti,

Michele

First Discussion on the Sutras

So, by now perhaps you have journeyed into the first bit of the Yoga Sutras.  Maybe it is your first reading, or maybe you have read them many times.  The beautiful thing about such a text is that they always seem to provide some subtle tidbit of information, no matter how often we have seen it before, that will take hold in our minds and serve to support our paths.  Please share if this is true for you…which Sutra(s) stand out to you?

 

 

 

The Practice of Letting Go

I am feeling immense gratitude this morning for the opportunity the practice of yoga affords each of us to willingly surrender each time we arrive on the mat.  Whether it be surrendering worries and troubles by turning the palms up in offering, nestling into the stable embrace of the earth in child’s pose, maintaining equanimity in a difficult posture, or submitting to the breath and body’s demands rather than the needs of the ego, yoga offers us many ways to practice letting go, surrendering to a greater will than our own.   In choosing to practice this we perhaps find that this space of surrender becomes a welcome space; a familiar ground for change where we are no longer victims of circumstance, but rather are resolved to embracing life’s way of transforming us.  Maybe then when we find our knees have buckled in fear of the unknown or that which we cannot control, or we find ourselves prostrate on the floor in grief, life having whittled us down to a pile of rubble, we can proceed to exist in this space without it feeling like a threat or so uncomfortable that we try to escape.  From there, we can trust the process, sit this not-so-comfortable seat with minimal wiggling and writhing, and simply be, knowing what it is to truly let go, to submit to the path and what it has to offer, and to breathe.  While the circumstances that drive us into this space of surrender are often painful, they are worthy of our gratitude, for we never leave the space of complete surrender unaltered.   May we each find the ability to experience ease and peace in even the most trying situations, and may we be comforted in the knowledge that the tools we need to carry on will always be available to us.

“Surrender is a beautiful movement in which you gracefully, willingly, languidly fall, only to find midway that you have been gathered into some unimaginable embrace. Surrender is letting go, whether or not you believe the embrace will occur. It is trust to the hundredth power–not sticking to your idea of the outcome, but letting go in the faith that even the absence of an outcome will be the perfect solution.”
~Daphne Rose Kingma

 

Many blessings to each and every one of you,

Lori