the elephant flies has flown.
Yesterday was amazing amazing amazing, but I’m COMPLETELY exhausted right now. I woke up at 8, got groceries, make coffee and breakfast and then worked on my home practice (video posted earlier!) Apparently I kick my own ass pretty hard because although the video only shows a small slice of it, I did enough rounds of Surya Namaskar before starting the standing sequence that my arms were feeling it from all the Chaturangas. But NBD I thought, Sunday is usually a talking day at Lotus anyway.
Ali kicked all of our asses with a neutral/revolved standing pose heavy flow that had us all drenched in sweat. About 20 more Chaturangas there. Then we broke it down. Then we got to teach, taking turns leading the class through Surya Namaskar and open standing poses and then twisted/revolved poses. So basically another hour of Chaturangas. A lot of people were skipping them but because I’m insane and tend to push myself HARD I did every single one.
I got home around 9, made dinner and planned my sequences (next up - videotaping our BUDDIES doing our sequences, so yes I did the sequence myself but can I TEACH IT to someone else?!) and our buddy meeting is TODAY so I don’t have a lot of time to prepare. Didn’t get to sleep until midnight.
Today I’m REALLY feeling it. And it doesn’t stop. I have Arielle today, group, then my buddy meeting. Tomorrow I’m taking Justin’s level 1 class. Wednesday babysitting Ro, Thursday Ali’s level 2/3 and then mentor meeting, and then Friday training, Saturday training and Sunday training. Saturday we have to give a 10 minute oral presentation from memory about one word in the Yoga Sutras. My word is Asana. Which I was psyched about because I was like yay I already know that word, but then suddenly I was like fuck actually I think this might be the hardest one because it IS so basic this means it’s SUPER important and there’s probably the MOST information about this. Dear universe: thank you.
Also I have not filled out my diary card for DBT so I have to do this now. Having some trouble finding balance right now because yoga school has pretty much taken over my life.
So our homework this week was to video our home practice. Take pity on me, I’m only in my second week of yoga school so this is one of my first sequences.
My lil baby misses me! I’m gone so much now :(
Don’t have a lot of time to post today because I promised myself I was going to use these few hours before yoga school to actually make some sense of my disaster apartment, cook up some yummies for this week and work on my Sadhana (mantra practice and home asana practice - which I have to videotape this week soooooo yeah I’m a little scared!)
I’m currently enjoying a breakfast of lemon yogurt, fresh raspberries and Q’ia (basically SEEDS haha):
I mildly feel like a bird, but when something says “Superfood” on the packaging I’m sold.
I HAD to post about my friend Rafael who is in my mentor group because he is HILARIOUS. So far he has asked three questions during the course of this training. The questions were:
1. “It seems like when you’re having sex there’s a lot of penetration and a lot of energy being exchanged, like it’s just penetration and upward flow of energy and also downward flow of energy at the same time…”
(yes, that is not in fact a question)
2. “I have chronic pain, and my doctor prescribed me Vicodin, but I actually found that it works better if I use pot instead. But I don’t smoke it, because I know smoking is bad for you, so I usually bake it into a cookie…”
(correct, that is also not a question)
3. “When my mother was in town, we had the pleasure of taking your class together Dana, and one thing she mentioned was that she was very concerned because she had just eaten beans. I’m sure it happens sometimes that people fart in class so how do you handle that?”
(that was in fact a question, however Dana was like um? and basically just continued talking about what we were discussing before which by the way had nothing to do with farting)
I mean this man is amazing. I’m smiling like a Cheshire Cat just thinking about how hard we all laughed at that last one. Amazing.
Last night at Lotus we discussed mantras and did a lot of chanting. Lauren challenged each of us to commit to a 40 day Mantra Sadhana, which means chanting a mantra 108 times a day for 40 days straight. If you miss a day, guess what? You start over again at one. As you know my Kwan Yin Mantra didn’t make it very far so this challenge definitely made me nervous.
But something she said really stuck with me: “You don’t choose your mantra. Your mantra chooses you.” So then I was thinking that maybe the Kwan Yin mantra just wasn’t the right mantra for me? Maybe if the right mantra found me I would be able to complete my Sadhana.
I immediately came home and started re-reading Thomas Ashley-Farrand’s book’s Healing Mantras. So the last time around I had resisted working with planetary mantras because I guess I just didn’t understand what these energies meant or what they could bring to my life. But this time I immediately honed in on Saturn.
Here’s the deal with Saturn: it takes Saturn 29 1/2 earth years to complete one orbit of the sun. Meaning that around the time you are 29 1/2 years old, Saturn has returned to the same position it was in at your birth. This means you enter a completely new phase of your life. If you look at social statistics more people get married during this time than any other time, conversely people who were married before this time get divorced around this age than any other age. It’s a time of major change. In fact there are certain chants and mantras that must be chanted one way before you are 29 and another way after you are 29. This is because your energy changes entirely. Ali was explaining this last weekend and said “Who in here has turned 30? Yeah…. so…. you get it.”
Of course I didn’t know at the time that the shift in energy is in anyway related to the orbit of Saturn but now that I’ve read about it, it definitely connects for me.
This past year was probably THE single most important year of my life in so many ways. I feel a MAJOR shift in energy, to the point where I really honestly don’t feel that I relate very much to the person I was before. Somewhere around the time I turned 30 I hit a roadblock on the path I was on and I had to divert. This was difficult and scary at times, but now I love this new path and it frightens me to think back on what would have happened if I had stayed on the path I was on before.
Before 30: unstable relationships, poor sense of self, poor boundaries, poor self-esteem, depression, grief, sadness, hopelessness, feeling out of control, obsession with material things, unhappy with my body, appearance, personality, feelings of unworthiness, jealousy, greed, pettiness, gossip, manipulation, dishonesty
And I’m not by ANY MEANS saying that these things changed for me overnight. In fact I’ve been working on all of these changes for 10 months now. But the catalyst happened in December around the time of my 30th bday. All of the negativity that I spoke about in the “Before 30” category came to a head, it built up, it became too heavy to bear. Cracks began to show in my exterior. Suddenly, with the ending of a relationship, those cracks became a GAPING hole that could not be filled. I was broken open, raw, and completely helpless to control anything that was happening to me. I went to the psychiatric ER at Beth Israel because I was afraid of what I would do to try to stop the pain.
This is when I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, started DBT, got into Buddhism (DBT is founded on principles of mindfulness that originated with Zen Buddhism); this deepened my yoga practice by bringing in a spiritual element I hadn’t previously worked with; I wanted to go deeper. As I learned more about who I was in DBT separate from my patterns, negativity, pain, insecurity, I realized that I’m a deeply spiritual person, a teacher, a healer and a leader. I began to pursue goals that would take me in that direction. Applying to yoga teacher training was a natural next step. And now here I am, two weeks away from completing DBT, eating, sleeping and breathing yoga and at home in my body, mind and spirit in a way that I never dreamed was possible for me.
However, this is not to say that there haven’t been and will continue to be obstacles. No one goes through such major changes like the ones I have and still am and doesn’t have moments of self-doubt, relationships that suffer, questions, feelings of being overwhelmed, etc.
Chanting to Saturn is a way to smooth this transition and remove obstacles from this new path. What an appropriate thing to chant right now as I am beginning this journey into the next phase of my life. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this training ends almost on the exact day last year that my life fell apart.
The Saturn Mantra: Om Sri Shanaishwaraya Swaha
This just means: “Om and Salutations to Shani, presiding spirit of the planet Saturn.”
While reciting this mantra you focus on the next phase of your life and ask for help in teaching you any lessons you may need to be taught during this time and smoothing your path into this new realm of energy.
Day one. Let’s do this, Saturn.
The goddess Tara, who was the focus of Ali’s class last night. This is the White Tara who brings protection, long life and peace.
The Tara Mantra: Om Tare Tutare Ture Svaha
Last night Love Skool was in the house at Ali’s 2/3 and we brought it! It’s so nice practicing at Lotus right now because there’s always a fellow Love Skooler in the house and it’s nice to practice alongside friends. I posted my write up of the class separately as it was part of my homework but I wanted to talk about my mentor meeting afterwards with Amy, Cooper, Rafael and Angelina.
So I got to lead the Togetherness Mantra (from memory!) and also lead one round of Surya Namaskar which I hopefully didn’t butcher too badly. When we finished at 9, we were pretty much the last ones there and I snapped the following pic of the altar with it’s candle pretty much the only light left in the studio:
Today I got the nicest email from Amy:
You did an *amazing* job leading the Togetherness Mantra & teaching Surya Namaskar last night … Have a great second weekend!
Tonight we are doing Pranyama and Mantras with Lauren and then there’s a dance party in the dance hall so we’ll probably check that out for a bit. On the other hand I might be just way too exhausted and need a little couch time with Noah before the insanity starts again tomorrow. Another 5 hours of standing poses (neutral and revolved - oh revolved trikonasana and revolved arda chandrasana how I loathe you!) Saturday and Sunday.
Do you know that I have not have one drop of alcohol (or dinner for that matter) since starting this training? I don’t have time for ANYTHING I’m eating, sleeping and breathing yoga right now. And it feels amazing! Namaste motherf*ckers!
10/11 - 6:30
This class focused on the goddess Tara, who represents compassion and protection. Ali spoke about the fact that we need to protect ourselves in order to be able to be compassionate toward others. We chanted a mantra to the goddess Tara, and the sequencing also included asanas that related to what we spoke about in the beginning of class. One thing we did was to come onto our knees and open our arms wide, opening our heart to the sky. Then we would fold foward over ourselves, with our arms crossed over our bellies and hearts, to signify self-protection. The mudra we worked with had one hand facing up to signify protection and one hand open with the fingers toward the ground to signify compassion. After working with this mudra we brought our hands to prayer in heart center to symbolize the merging of these two ideas.
Personal Practice Summary
My personal practice since I started training has been very different from what it was before. Previously I practiced at night before bed and would do long hold yin-style poses, with relaxing music and then I would meditate to calm my mind before bed. Now, since I have been practicing Surya Namaskar, I found that it’s not helpful to do this before bed as it actually energizes me. I am trying to do this in the morning instead (but I’m not a morning person so it’s been a struggle.) I also worked on the Togetherness Mantra, chanting this a few times every time I come to my mat. My dog thinks I’m insane.
Mary Dana’s level 1 class last night was bliss. It was exactly what I needed. After a jampacked week with work, DBT, training, homework, reading, Noah, trying to be there for friends I was feeling completely overwhelmed. And even as the class started my mind was racing like, “OK, the theme is confronting fear… remember the goddess Kali… remember the opening sequence….” and then somewhere along the line I just let it all go and came into my body and was just THERE. 100% in my body, my mind and my spirit. At peace. My only thoughts were “THIS is why I’m doing this. This feeling, that I can only get from this practice, from this body, from this mindstate.” It totally melted my stress and anxiety and reinforced my intentions.
Tonight I have Ali’s 2/3 so I’m preparing to get my ass kicked and then I have a mentor meeting right afterwards. Tomorrow we’re learning Pranyama and Mantras so at least we’ll have a little break from Asana and then Saturday and Sunday it’s Neutral/Revolved poses. Pretty sure Dana is teaching!
I’m about 2/3 of the way done with my Lotus homework now. I finished reading the article “Yoga as Self-Transformation” by Joel Kramer and Chapters 1-5 of “The Heart of Yoga” by TKV Desikachar. Here is my corresponding writing assignment:
1. What does the word yoga mean? How does its meaning come alive through Hatha Yoga practices?
Yoga is our natural state and includes our relationships with others and the world around us, our actions, our physical and spiritual bodies and the flow of life energy or prana within our bodies. In order to practice yoga, we must come to a greater awareness of who we are and how we fit into the world around us. The practice of Hatha Yoga is important to understanding our natural state because it helps us to bring awareness to our bodies, breath, mind and actions. It opens the physical body and promotes the flow of energy, keeping us healthy and cleansing our bodies of impurities, thus preparing us for the transformation that takes place when begin the process of self-study.
2. Why is it so important to consciously link the breath with the body?
Breath is the link between the inner and outer body – it is the life force that we draw in from the world around us to sustain our physical bodies. Our breath also communicates to us about our physical and mental states. By linking breath and movement we can deepen the expression of an asana, vary the focus of an asana, and dictate the speed of our movement from one asana to another. In the same way that we can use breath to influence the practice of asana we can also use asana to influence the breath. When practicing back bending we are using our physical bodies to increase the experience of the feeling of the breath along the front of the body. When forward bending we do the opposite. We use asana to concentrate the flow of breath to the back body.
Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s - Broadripple Is Burning
Love this. Especially because wolves are my spirit animal.
OK so PART of our homework for Lotus is Asana homework, where we basically go through each pose in detail and provide certain information about the pose, how to get into it, alignment, language to inspire devotion, risk factors, benefits, etc. I found BKS Iyengar’s book “Light on Yoga” to be SUPER helpful in doing this homework.
Tadasa (Mountain Pose)
Bring your feet together at the top of your mat. Pull your belly in toward your spine and elongate your neck bringing your spine into alignment. Tuck your tailbone under and root down through your feet, spreading your toes to distribute weight evenly across all four corners of the feet. Inhale and roll your shoulders back to broaden across the collarbone. Smile gently, feeling the breath radiate through your body. Stand firm and erect like a mountain. Exhale and feel the steadiness of your weight on the earth, unmovable and unwavering.
Risk Factors: None
Benefits: Improves posture, strengthens thighs, knees, and ankles
Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II)
Begin in Tadasana at the back of your mat. Inhale and step the right foot forward with the right toes pointing toward the front of your mat. Turn the left foot in slightly and as you exhale, bend the right knee deeply bringing the thigh parallel to the floor with the front knee tracking straight out over the ankle. Be careful not to extend the knee past the ankle - it should be stacked directly over the ankle to protect the knee joint. Stretch your right arm out in front of you and the left arm behind you, palms facing down. Gaze out over your right fingertips. Weight should be distributed evenly between both feet - be sure to root down strongly with the outside of the back foot while keeping the back leg straight and strong. Open the heart and pelvis to the left side of the room, while tucking the tailbone under. Roll the shoulders down away from the ears. Feel your own power and harness the strength of a warrior as your come into your deepest expression of the pose.
Risk Factors: Ankles, hips, knees, lower back
Benefits: Develops leg muscles, stretches the groin, strengthens the ankles, strengthens and stimulates abdominal organs, strengthens the arms and shoulders.
Begin in Virabhadrasana II and step the back foot in slightly. As you inhale, straighten the front leg and begin to cut your hips toward the back of your mat as you reach forward with your right hand. Exhale and hinge forward at your hips, bringing your torso directly over your front leg. Rest your right hand on your shin, a block or the floor. Extend your left hand into the sky, creating one solid unbroken line of energy between the right hand and the left hand. Activate the quad muscles in your right leg, pulling the kneecap up onto the thigh to protect the knee joint. Root down strongly through the outside of the back foot, distributing weight evenly between both feet. Rotate your chest open toward the left side of the room, while turning your gaze up toward your left hand. If this is a lot of sensation on your neck, tuck your chin to align the cervical spine and turn your gaze toward the floor. Lengthen your torso evenly on both sides. Feel strongly your connection between your feet and the earth, while reaching and gazing skyward and opening the heart and front body.
Risk Factors: Knees, neck, ankles
Benefits: Tones legs, strengthens ankles and develops chest, opens the heart, stimulates abdominal organs
Ardo Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
Start in Tadasana. Exhale and dive forward over your legs. Inhale and plant the palms on the floor, while stepping first the right foot and then the left foot toward the back of the mat. Exhale and pull the hips back, straightening the legs, arms and back. The foot should be hips width distance apart, with the hands placed a bit wider than the shoulders. The heels reach toward the floor while the heart reaches toward the knees. Gaze is soft and can be at the knees or up toward the belly button, whichever feels best for the neck. Spread your fingers and distribute some of the weight into your finger pads, reducing strain on the wrists. Pull your shoulder blades onto your back and lift up out of the arms, yearning the head toward the floor and the pelvis toward the sky. Breathe and feel the flow of blood from the heart to the head, rejuvenating the mind and spirit.
Risks: Wrists, hamstrings, ankles, lower back
Benefits: Energizes the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression, stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands, tones the arms and legs.
DISCLAIMER: THESE MIGHT ALL BE TOTALLY WRONG! This my way of saying don’t try this at home! At least until I’m certified, then I will take full responsibility for everything yoga-related that I post here.
DISCLAIMER TWO: All these pics are not mine and I got them from Yoga Journal!
I’m drowning in homework. First things first: my DBT homework. Yes, it’s not due until Monday but as you can imagine my week and weekend are PACKED with Lotus action so I figured I might as well get it out of the way. The homework this week was to put together a Distress Tolerance Kit, which is an actual physical kit that you can bring with you wherever you go and that contains things that pertain to the distress tolerance skills that you personally find to be helpful.
Here’s what I have in mine:
- A handout I got when I took Erin’s workshop “Somatic Psychology and the Chakras.” It has exercises that you can do to release blockages in your chakras and promote the flow of prana to the various energy centers. Doing these exercises when in distress would be an activity under the ACCEPTS skill set.
- Crossword puzzles - another activity.
- Instant ice pack. This would fit into sensations, also an ACCEPTS skill. Break it open, hold it on my wrist. I use ice for extreme distress only, as it’s really a TIP skill.
- My crystal! This would be a five senses thing, distracting with touch and sight. I guess also Prayer which is an IMPROVE skill. I do feel that crystals provide energy and I make a point to hold my crystal when I’m feeling positive and happy so that is absorbs and stores positivity, which I can later draw on when I need it.
- Dove’s Heart scent from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. So I LOVE this place and all of their scents and pretty much spend hours on their website reading about all of the amazing blends they’ve put together. This is what they say about Dove’s Heart: “DOVE’S HEART:A gentle, healing love blend, often used to help mend a broken heart. Brings peace of mind, soothes the sting of loss, and aids in finding closure.” So this is both self-soothing with smell and also appealing to a higher power, which I guess is my belief in the power of scents to heal (also this blend is supposedly taken from an old New Orleans Voodoo recipe!) You can read more about the other scents Black Phoenix offers here: http://www.blackphoenixalchemylab.com/
- Nail polish - this is another activity (nice to have variety, like sometimes when you’re distressed the LAST thing you want to do is do a crossword puzzle, so painting your nails might work, but other times you might just want to get out of your own head for a bit.)
- Lotion - self-soothing with touch and smell. I cleaned out the lotion that was in there and replaced it with another lotion that I put on before bed and after yoga, so I associate it with healing and relaxation.
- Solomon’s Seal Tea - this is a Korean tea that my yoga buddy Angelina gave me last night! It has a lot of healing properties, one of which is: “Mild Sedative (tea, tincture) soothes and reduces nervousness, distress, excitement, or irritation.” You can read more about the other benefits here: http://www.solomonsseal.net/tea.html
All of these things fit nicely in this little pouch that I can easily take with me wherever I go!
Homework self-score: A+.