Archive for the ‘yoga events’ Category

Malas for Haiti

The beauty of Fall is finally arriving here in Washington, DC.  Though I prefer sunny days and outdoor yoga over cold temps and snow, the reality is the chill and thrill of the holidays will be here before we know it.  Heck, the December date & hosts for my Arlington, VA neighborhood holiday progressive dinner party (that’s a mouthful!) has been set for weeks already.  So really, the “season of giving” will be here shortly.

With that in mind, I’ve decided I’m scaling back on holiday gifts and cards this year.  And what I plan to give will more than likely be related to one or a combo of the following:  gifts from local sources,  gifts promoting health & wellness or donation-based gifts.

It just so happens one of the local sources, To Haiti With Love DC, I’m purchasing gifts from is also a huge fundraising effort to help raise money for Haitian-based organizations so they can implement sustainable solutions on the ground in Haiti.  Things like community infrastructure projects to micro-credit and education programs are top priority.  These projects are designed to enable and empower the Haitian people to recover, rebuild, and create better lives for themselves and their communities.

As part of To Haiti With Love DC’s fundraising efforts, donation-based yoga classes are being offered, film-screenings are happening and beautiful malas are being sold.  Malas for Haiti is a line of gorgeous yoga-inspired jewelry featuring hand-knotted mala beads and mala-inspired bracelets.  Malas are prayer beads used traditionally in yogic meditation practices to count 108 sacred repetitions of a mantra (a spiritual sound, word, or phrase).  Each and every mala is lovingly strung and knotted (by hand!) by Kristin Adair, a dedicated yogini/yoga teacher in the Washington, DC area.

Each Mala for Haiti is made with creamy natural calcite beads (for healing energy and stress reduction) and intense red garnet beads (for vitality, strength, and courage) and features a To Haiti With Love bird charm to symbolize peace and the promise of this incredible nation.  I’ve been wearing one for the last couple of months and I’ve felt inspirational energy radiate from it whenever I see it on my wrist (obviously, I have the bracelet version).

Keep in mind when you purchase a Malas for Haiti piece of jewelry, you’re getting (or giving in the case of a gift) beauty and love.  At the same time, you’re supporting a great local cause that is working to send love and support to those in need in Haiti.  Every single penny from Malas for Haiti sold are going to the projects mentioned above.  Just buying one can make a huge difference and send more love than you know.

What’s Your Favorite Pose?

As some of you already know, I entered the Yoga Journal Talent Search contest.  The entry was two parts —submit a picture of yourself in your favorite yoga pose, and state how yoga has inspired you.  Let’s tackle part one here.

Really, who has just one favorite yoga pose?!?!?!  There are very few poses I don’t like —and usually I don’t experience them unless I take an advanced Ashtanga class.  Even then, I often experience a glimmer of goodness and sense of humility while in the pose.

So what fav pose pic did I submit?  Baddha Ardha Chandrasana (bound half-moon pose, aka sugar cane).  In fact it is just ONE of many fav asanas I adore.  And for as many favorite asanas I have,  I also have just as many ways in which yoga has inspired me —which I’ll address this in my next blog entry.

Specific to asanas/postures…one of the biggest things I love is the mystery offered as you venture into a posture.  There is always the base/root posture and the sensations you feel while you’re there.  And if you get bored there, well it’s time to venture on.  Almost every root posture offers a chance to grow and blossom into other pose variations.  Often, particularly when we are new to a pose, we seek to simply accomplish the base pose.  Our ego provides us with a nice pat on the back or a giant “I DID IT!” for perfecting what we think in that moment is the perfect pose.

Though asana, as with life, always has more to offer.  As soon as we think we’ve figured it all out, there’s a surprise around the corner.  Another view, each asana is also like Sunday.  Sunday is traditionally known as being the start of each new week and for some “the day of rest”.  For me, Sunday is the day to prep for the week ahead as Mon – Sat usually always demands more.  Another analogy…in order to reach the top of the mountain, you have to start from the bottom and move step by step (unless you own a helicopter).  And it’s in each step where a sense of discovery and awe arise, and that’s  way before you even arrive to the tip.

So when I picked bound 1/2 moon, I realized I love Warrior II, Triangle, Extended Side Angle, Ardha Chandrasana —all possible pre-postures that lead you to the bound version of half moon.  Again, I ask who has just one favorite pose?  And if you do, how is that possible?

Yoga With Your Boots On

As a yoga teacher and student, I find Alan Nett’s work in San Francisco inspiring.  He’s teaching yoga to construction workers and other “blue-collar” types.  Known as Yoga With Your Boots On, Mr. Nett leads yoga classes allowing the participants to show up and stretch just as they are – with their boots, belts and whatever else they typically wear.

Many yogis might read this and say it’s not yoga with your shoes on.  Where’s your lululemon gear?  Where’s your yoga mat?   I say let people do whatever it is that’s going to get them on the mat.  The rest will follow.  Remember yoga isn’t just about unrolling a yoga mat and doing postures.  In fact asana (aka yoga postures) is a small fraction of yoga as we are reminded in Patanjali’s yoga sutras which only mentions asana only three times, roughly.

Most importantly, yoga is a journey.  How one begins doesn’t matter.  And if your boots help you find downward facing dog, by all means lace them up!

one thing @ a time

Last Saturday I participated in an all day mindfulness retreat @ the Mindfulness Practice Center in Fairfax, VA.  The morning started with a one hour mindful breathing meditation followed by another 30-45 minutes of mindful movements.  Neither one of these, though enjoyable, fully inspired me.  What was really eye-opening was the mindful walking and mindful eating.

What does mindful mean?  Being 100% present with one thing.  Really feeling my entire foot touch the earth as I step vs. just running through life and not even noticing the terrain.  As we walked mindfully outside, and I did so barefoot, I caught myself noticing the terrain ahead was shifting from a smooth surface to gravel.  Rather than enjoying the smooth bridge we were walking on surrounded by trees, my mind jumped ahead creating a worry that the gravel would hurt my feet.  I returned to my breath and as my feet hit the gravel I was pleasantly surprised by the sensations I felt as I mindfully walked on this new surface.

Mindfulness also very much means being in the experience at that very moment rather than mentally jumping ahead to “I wonder what’s next”.  For instance, chewing – really chewing until every last morsel has left my mouth to travel along the digestive path.  Mindfulness eating takes at least 15-20 chews (for  some it’s an unbelievably 30-50 bites).  It’s also about chewing and only chewing – meaning put the fork down once the food enters the mouth and simply chew.  I caught myself a few times starting the chewing process and then simultaneously scooping food on my fork as if I knew what I would want next.  How do you truly know what you want next when you haven’t even finished what is currently being chewed?  Again, rather than anticipating or assuming what I might want, I had to practice just being with the one thing going on in that very moment.

Mindfulness is truly a practice.  It’s a practice that can be done every moment if we really want it.  It’s about actively being in the experience & nowhere else.  It’s about being alive and fully being with every sensation/feeling that life has to offer.  It’s about living life one step at a time, one bite at a time and more importantly, one breath at a time.

Blessed

The Washington, D.C. yoga scene is rocking!  Within a 3 week time frame this Spring (end of March – early April) I had the privilege to be in the presence of many great yogis within minutes from my Arlington, VA home.

I took classes with Jivamukti founders Sharon Gannon and David Life when they were here the end of March.  I assisted Baron Baptiste, my primary teacher, during the MyMSYoga event hosted in Arlington, VA.  I attended an awesome 3-day advanced teacher training with Puerto Rico’s David Kyle.  And just a couple of days after that I had the chance to take a workshop with Max Strom on his recent DC visit.

I truly feel blessed to have had this many inspiring opportunities this year, and it’s only the beginning of May!  No doubt I’ve learned a lot of great techniques over the last month to help with my asana practice and teaching.  More than that though, I’ve received a lot of great energy by simply being around these yoga masters.  It might sound kooky but it’s true.  Some of them live and breathe Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras.  Some of them love to chant.  Some of them have an intense focus on the practice of breathing while another on the importance of bandhas.  Each teacher is so different in their own special way.

Fear is Funny

Fear is a funny thing.  Just when I think I’ve gotten beyond a fear, another one shows up.  And sometimes I think I’m the only one who had a particular fear.  For instance, sometimes I am fearful of standing up in front of large group, particularly an “unknown” group.

So it was refreshing to read a recent blog posting by Peggy Mulqueen, one of my favorite yoga teachers in the Washington D.C. area.  The post titled “do one thing a day that scares you” was somewhat surprising to read as well because Peg is such a gifted yoga teacher.  It appears so natural for her to be smiling in the spotlight as she leads one of her amazing yoga classes.  Who knew she had a little secret?

As a yoga teacher myself, I’ve noticed I get nervous in front of a new yoga class/new group of students.  Once I start teaching the group, the fear fades after 2-3 classes.  It’s like the fear of the unknown takes over and stirs up some uneasiness; sort of like the jitters one feels when going on a first date.

Anyway, I’m sure some of my students have never realized this about me.  I certainly never knew this as a yoga student of Peg’s.  Fear is like a little secret and we each hold on to it in some shape or form.  And we’re often fearful of sharing the secret.  What good does it do for us to hold on to it?  It’s actually a relief to share it (it’s like the first step in overcoming the fear) and in the process discover that you’re not alone.  I’m not alone 🙂  Thanks Peg!

I leave you with two things…

1)  “Our greatest fears are like dragons guarding our greatest treasure.”  -Rainier Marie Rilke.  Share your fears, face them and discover something new about you!

2)  Check out Peg’s Friday night intermediate class at Down Dog Yoga in D.C.  Please don’t let the intermediate title scare you.  If it does, let go of the fear.  You’ll be glad you showed up!

Do Yoga Today!

The abellaYoga Soles4Souls donation page is live!  A small donation is a great way to do some karma yoga today.

Karma yoga is yoga of service.  Service is helping others.  Donating helps others!

If you are attending the free class I am teaching on January 23rd (Yoga Day USA) in Alexandria VA, please make your donation in advance via www.soles4soulsfundraising.org/abellayoga.  All event details are also available here.

So why wait til Jan 23rd, Yoga Day USA, to do something good?  Do some karma yoga now!

Why do you keep doing Yoga Teacher Trainings?

If you’re already certified to teach yoga, why do you keep doing more teacher trainings?  Do you learn more advanced poses at these trainings?  Are the other attendees more or less advanced than you?  These are the types of questions I am often confronted with upon returning from a yoga teacher training.

My most recent answer took me even by surprise, let alone inspired my friend to question her career path.  Sure a few new postures are learned but yoga teacher trainings are really about learning more about one’s self, connecting with other teachers and gaining inspiration.  All of this happens by being challenged to answer hard questions, hold postures longer than I ever would want to and take a good look at my life and what’s holding me back from being bigger and better.  As I told my friend, if I’m not challenged, how can I challenge my students?  If I live in fear, I teach in fear.  If I don’t live from an authentic space –truly being who I am and capable of being –how can I expect my students to discover themselves?

Yoga is so much more than the physical postures.  My new definition of yoga:  Yoga is an adventurous process of self-discovery in which faith and curiosity rule vs. fear and status quo.  Whether it is riding my mountain bike down rock-covered hills and up tree-rooted dirt, skiing downhill, speaking in front of a large group or falling flat on my face in the middle of yoga class as I attempt a challenging arm balance, “keep the faith” and “I can do it” are now my new way of being.  With faith, grace inevitably shows up and soon enough fear is no longer a concern.  With faith and passion bursting from within, the “fear” ghost from my past is now fearful of the new me.

So how was Level II?  Why do I keep doing these trainings?  If you need more, let me know.  The simple answer is, Baron Baptiste’s Journey Into Power Level 2 Teacher Training in Montana ROCKED!  I can’t wait to go back for more.  In the meantime, I will live life and teach yoga like a ROCKSTAR!

How was Montana?

I have now been back for over a month from my 8-day yoga teacher training in Montana and continued to be ask “How was Montana?”  While others ask “Why do you keep doing more teacher trainings?”  Though it feels like so long ago, it was such an amazing experience that I still light up like a bright star when speaking about it.

As some of you may know from a previous blog post, I went to Montana the beginning of July for a Baron Baptiste Level II yoga teacher training.  One word wraps up the mountain-view & ranch (Feathered Pipe Ranch), training, my fellow attendees, Baron and his staff — AWESOME!  It was an experience I will never forget, from start to finish.  And the best part is I left D.C. (my home) with a bag full of fear and anxiety, and returned home with courage, passion and a new curiosity for life.

The thing I feared the most going into it was getting up in front of the group, teaching (in front of 50+ teachers) and receiving feedback.  It turned out to be nothing to fear.  In fact, my teaching stint lasted less than 1-2 minutes – for the entire week!  The fear I had was a tsunami was going to swallow me up (in the words of Naimi) and the reality is it simply felt like an 8-foot wave knocked me a round a tad.  Coming from a Delaware girl who has always had a huge fear of ocean waves, it really wasn’t much.  In fact, I need to plunge into those DE waves – minus the jelly-fish.  Hmmm…sounds like another fear is creeping in : )

The fear and story I created in my head around “doing it” was so much more nerve-racking than actually being in the moment and living it.  That’s how fear works; it’s like an ugly shadow that never leaves you until you have the confidence to turn around and face it.  In fact one of my new mantras from Level II is “have more faith than fear”.

To see the answer to the question about “why do you continue to do yoga teacher trainings”, you’ll have to read my next blog post.

Why Prenatal Yoga?

Yoga is an ideal form of fitness to alleviate the well-known discomforts of pregnancy including back pain, swelling, constipation and fatigue. Yoga asana is also a great way to strengthen and build stamina in the muscles used during childbirth as well as explore how to use the power of breath to enhance your ability to relax.

As your body changes and your baby grows, yoga can give you confidence and ease enabling you to connect with the inner workings of your body. Yoga can help you develop a greater sense of self-acceptance and heighten your intuition. On an emotional level, yoga can enhance your ability to readjust to continuous hormonal and other internal changes as well as give you a greater sense of mental peace.

Whether you’re pregnant and new to yoga, or an expectant experienced power vinyasa yogini, prenatal yoga classes can help ease anxiety about how to safely practice yoga throughout all stages of your pregnancy. Group prenatal yoga classes can give you the opportunity to learn yoga in a supportive environment and meet other expectant yoginis. If you already have a strong yoga practice, you might consider taking just one or two prenatal classes to learn the asana modifications you’ll need to continue with your existing practice safely.

Another option is private prenatal yoga sessions. Private sessions are an excellent way to learn modifications that best suit you based on your yoga experience. Plus private sessions allow you to freely ask questions along the way, such as “what can I do for my swelling feet?”

Regardless of which route you choose, private or group classes, prenatal yoga is an excellent way to learn how to connect with your body in a new way and bond with your bundle of joy!

If you live in the DC/Northern Virginia area and want to experience prenatal yoga, please join me at Dancing Mind Yoga in Falls Church, VA on June 7th (1-3:30pm) for a prenatal power vinyasa workshop.