“practice and all is coming,” -Patthabi Jois

A little over 10 years ago, I stepped onto my yoga mat regularly. I was going through a time in my life that had little direction, I was quite lost. I had stepped on my mat to ‘work out’ and instead found myself healing. From that moment onward, I began to see transformation. The transformation started in my body (my upper body gained strength) and unbeknownst to me, the practice of yoga began to heal the lost parts of me as well.

Fast forward, and I teach yoga on a really regular basis. Approximately 5-8 times a week now. I have trained in the traditional 200hr program and in addition, just recently to become a Buti Yoga teacher. I have studied with Patthabi Jois’ son, Sharath, Tim Miller, and Eddie Stern. My yoga career has been short, but brave, beautiful and strong.

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Personally, I step on my mat most often and practice the Ashtanga Primary Series, or Buti. I teach the majority of my classes in the style of Ashtanga, as it is truly what I have studied most. Over the last 3-4 years, I have worked alongside of Allison Bradley in Knoxville, to develop my personal practice and to grow myself as an Instructor.

My style of teaching is a pretty hand’s off experience, as I have had several uncomfortable experiences of being unnecessarily pushed into an uncomfortable yoga pose. When I studied with Jois, Miller, and Stern, obviously this was not the case, they were gentle and kind. These poor experiences, however, have led me to keep adjustments off of my clients, unless I am familiar with them. Traditionally, I know that Ashtanga teachers work a lot with adjustments, however, it just is not where I am. I also do not spend a lot of time correcting posture, because I truly believe the quote above that says, Practice and all is coming, by Pattabhi Jois. Jois also says, Yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory. The more you practice, the more it will come to you. I do agree that if someone is super out of alignment, however, or in danger of hurting themselves, that it would be an appropriate time to step in and assist, and I often have in these cases.

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Practicing an assist, with Allison.

Wherever your yoga practice leads you, I highly recommend practicing, practicing, and practicing. Then, truly, all will come.

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The Great Forgery.

forgery-noun
  1. the action of forging or producing a copy of a document, signature, banknote, or work of art.

Throughout my career as an artist and art teacher, I have always been better at copying art. So great at it, in fact, that my family and I joked that I should become a forger (you make great money) and I was always keen on being a spy of sorts.

Yesterday, I sat down in my studio, to paint. Trying to grasp the depths of my own soul in an artwork. What I painted was utter shit. A mandala-like flower, a woman with her hands in prayer. Lame. I teach yoga, it’s my job currently, and I it was embarrassing. I let her sit. Every time I went into that room, I was frustrated. She was ugly. Yes, the meaning was glaring, but it was not me. I have painted like this for years. Stifled reproductions of crap. Mostly, my art looked a lot like the PreK-5th grade students, sometimes, I was even ashamed by my super-talented students.

Today, as I sat on the floor in my studio, a shift happened and finally I painted my soul, my heart, and out of my SELF. I found me in the painting. It was one of the most revealing times that I have had-where my art and my soul aligned.

I have always been good at copying those around me. In middle school, moving from California to Tennessee, I had to fit in or not have friends. So I tried. Even then, I knew I was selling out. I got married to a guy that EVERYONE said was perfect for me, but I knew better. I never had liked him before, but I figured I was such a sinner that THEY must know better than me. On the honeymoon, I wanted to jump ship. It was a cruise, so I should have. Divorce happened a year and a half later.

Moving to Knoxville, I knew only my brother, so I attended church with him. Right into the singles class they placed me after my divorce. I looked around the room in awe at the people around me: bitter, angry, accusatory, telling me what to listen to, read and the hobbies to have. I tried to do that. It did not work. I left. In my job as an educator in Knoxville, many teachers were cute, embroidered handbag types, I bought one of those bags. I never use it. I left.

Forgery is alive and manifest around you. It was deep in my soul. It takes so much authenticity to hold onto the part of us that is true, real and alive. You must be brave, look at your life, all its bumps, scars, and successes and hold them close to you. Then, let go and leave many parts of you to die. This death initiates the newfound life inside, a rebirth to the true self.

There have been pockets of my identity that have come to surface over the years. A wild tribal dance here or there, a trip to a foreign country alone where I made friends on every flight and every where I went, a ‘date’ night just with myself or finally landing a tricky yoga posture. I saw glimpses of the true me hidden under the forgery that I had made.

I have been reading “Women Who Run With The Wolves,” and accredit the unearthing of this forgery to this book. I also attended a workshop this week called, “Lady Bosses” here in Knoxville, where creative souls talked about being authentic and taking care of themselves in an often predominately male dominated field. I also have been taking Buti yoga classes, prepping for my training in July. I think the combination of the study of all of these things has released the true soul inside of me.

I am grateful. The art I created today does not suck. It does not also look like a forgery.

Finally.

Can you be your authentic self, too? Are you already? What blocks you?

Explore Where You Live.

When you travel, it is not just the sights that you take in, but the sounds, smells and tastes of a place. I will forever remember the smells of the Market in Charleston, the sounds of the call to prayer in Cairo and the tastes of Italy which seem to hang permanently in the air.

It is interesting how we spend years in a town and sometimes do not explore it as we do other places when we travel. We don’t try the local recommended dive-y spots for food, or visit our local museums en masse. We tend to frequent spots we know well, find favorites and become regulars there.

The other day on a beautiful hike through the Great Smoky Mountain Park, a friend and I decided that we needed to explore where we live. We decided to pull up Trip Advisor and see the Top 10 Places to visit in Knoxville. As adventurers and long time residents of Knoxville, we had been many of the top places as suggested on Trip Advisor. However, there were a few places that we had missed.lakeshorepark

As a part of the Artist’s Way journey, I am asked by the author to take myself on an artist ‘date’ every week. It is a part of the journey of exploring creativity and being an artist. This week, I went to Lakeshore Park, a park that friends of mine go to regularly, but I had never been to until today. I circumvented the two miles of concrete trail among construction, twice. The skies were gray and the wind blew heavily, but it was a refreshing wind and a renewing wind. As I walked, I read a book the entire time. It was a little dizzying, but fun to walk and read, something that I love to do and used to do in college. It was a small new exploration, but an exploration none the less. It is a simple park, but I felt a renewal nonetheless.

I hope to attend the Museum of East Tennessee History soon and write about it, as it is a part of my current culture and where I currently dwell. For years, I only wanted to explore places in foreign countries or big cities. I loved tossing out how many places I had traveled, foods I had tried and countries I know well. While all the while, there were new places to explore right at my feet.

Yoga, Mountain Biking and Nutrition.

 

18010699_1313078538779572_5901946677605887716_nA couple of weeks ago, I was asked by my friend and fellow shredder, Lisa Gifford Mueller of ALM Photography to participate in the Trek Women’s Advocate/Cedar Bluff Cycle event, Women’s Night: Fitness, Injury Prevention and Nutrition. She asked me to sit on the panel as a resource for women mountain bikers for nutrition, injury and prevention.  The topics that were discussed were centered around the following questions:

1.What Can Riders do to Increase Strength For Riding (especially those newer to mountain biking)? As far as yoga is concerned, yoga is strength training, some of the most easily accessible yoga poses for strengthening your body are:

  • Plank, Side Plank, Boat Pose (core strength and arm strength)
  • Chair and Chair with Twists
  • Locust Pose
  • Bridge Pose, Wheel Pose

2. What Can I Do To Increase Endurance For Riding?

  • hydrate properly (it is recommended to drink 18-24oz of water per hour of activity, in addition to your normal daily amount {drink your weight, divided in half in oz. of water})
  • eat properly (I recommend whole, natural foods, limiting “treats”)
  • increase time on saddle slowly (this applies to other exercise venues as well)

3. Preparing for Longer Rides (and taking time for Recovery)

  • know your body, practice the longer distance and food/water intake before a race, event or long day

4. What Are The Benefits of A Structured Fitness Program?

  • this is where endurance and strength are built
  • conditions are not always keen to ride, but the yoga studio and gym are open
  • mentally preps you for race day-training is a commitment-as is race day

5. Why Is Stretching Important?

  • reduces injury risk and able to bounce back from injuries quicker
  • lengthens muscles
  • ease of movement
  • longevity of being able to work out as we age
  • connective tissue (fascia) is restored and aids in recovery/healing process

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There were two other panelists, Susan Finney of KyBRa Athletics and Michelle Kenick of Health First Fitness who had a wealth of knowledge and information to share with all involved. I learned so much from these ladies!

Prior to this panel, I upped my research with several articles and podcasts.

…with any cycling event over 90 minutes, aim to drink 18 to 24 ounces of liquid per hour containing 250 to 300 milligrams of sodium (with an additional 100 milligrams coming from food), says Kelli Jennings, a registered dietitian with Apex Nutrition. If you weigh more than 180 pounds, aim for 24 to 32 ounces.

As for food:

an athlete can burn 1,000 calories per hour or more, the body can’t process that much nutrition while exercising. For efforts over five hours, Jennings suggests between 300 and 400 calories per hour that includes a mix of carbohydrate sources (glucose, fructose, and maltodextrin), but experiment to see how much food your body can handle.

This is the tricky part. My body is different from the next rider. I have learned on long trail rides (and road rides) that my I need more protein and fat and that my typical grab of a bar does not always do the trick, making me sluggish immediately, as my body works  harder to process the food (there can be a lot of hidden sugars in bars, goo and electrolyte supplements).

Today on a long ride, I took an orange and gluten free crackers. I have been playing around with nutrients in my own body, using my self as a test facility. This week has been fun watching my metabolism increase in large amounts and feeling my body rejuvenate at a cellular level.

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Some of my personal perspectives:

Food is fuel.

FUEL = food uniting energy + longevity

In research for top athletes, a LOT of technology is used to calculate caloric export vs. input. Even to the cellular levels. It’s kind of like your FitBit on steroids. However, without having lots of money to pay for this type of technology that can even show your mineral bone density, we have to rely on our mental awareness and wisdom from science. This is where yoga is beautiful and perfect. Yoga is not just the poses that you do to stretch, tone and strengthen your body. The practice of yoga actually has 8 limbs-meaning 8 parts total, including the poses, they are: Poses, Breath Control, Concentration, Meditation, Keys to Living with Self and Others, Enlightenment, Removal of Senses/Distraction.

Training mentally has become one of the newest and increasingly fundamental aspects of athletic training. Perhaps your mind even has more control over your body than you think. For example, the Spartan diet/races have included mental training into their regime.

As a yogi, this is one of the 8 Limbs, or foundational cores, of yoga, as mentioned above. In dharana, we work on focusing our attention on a single point. This single-pointedness is what clears your mind, and keeps you in-tune with how your body is functioning and even noticing the lack of nutrients. What are you craving? (Besides beer, pizza and ice cream?) Once I was at work and noticed that I felt really odd, like I was vibrating. I realized my electrolytes were dangerously low. After a quick gatorade (not my favorite choice, but what was available) fix, I could feel my body sorting itself out.  How I knew that, it was intuitive to me. What I credit the intuition to: constant attention to my physical, mental and emotional body. Meditation has been increasingly prevalent in the news. This limb of yoga, dyana, is where we focus singularly on one point, then add being aware but not focused. It’s focusing on breath, something that is automatic. Or the sound of your tennis shoes hitting the trail on a run, or the rhythm of your pedaling on your bike. I truly believe the repetitive motion of cycling (or running, swimming, etc) can be a meditative practice. One where dharana and dyana (single pointed focus and awareness) combine to create a beautiful harmony for your training.

A breath practice is a huge key. It keeps your organs flowing. Keeps you grounded, cleans the mind, and body. In Ayurveda, clear breath assists in all organ functions. The lungs are the wise judge. Liver has to do with emotion of anger, but also the free flow of the body, liver is general. Spleen is mind. Finding ease in life, rest, recovery days, meditation can actually increase the longevity of your athleticism. Pause and check in, slow your breath.

Food is performance and recovery. It is meant to have function. Look at your urine: completely clear is not the best. You want your urine to look like lemonade. You can actually deplete your electrolyte supply. Look at your poop, too. Eat with the seasons, eat clean.

In Summary:

  • Learn to listen attention to your body.
  • Hydrate (one ounce per 1/2 your body weight: i.e. 150lbs = 75oz. H20 per day-without exercise. With exercise, add with any workout over 90 minutes, aim to drink 18 to 24 ounces of liquid per hour containing 250 to 300 milligrams of sodium (with an additional 100 milligrams coming from food).

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References:

  • Resource: Outside Online
  • Physical Preparation, Condition and Recovery for Elite MMA Athletes, Sigma Nutrition Podcast.
  • Sports Nutrition 237: How Much Fat Can We Absorb Per Meal?, Endurance Planet.
  • Sports Nutrition, The McCarthy Project.
  • The Mystical Powers of Your Inner Organs A Chinese Medicine Perspective, Brodie Welch. The YogaHealer Podcast.

Yoga + Art Huddle

img_7081-800x600Not going to lie, I am grateful to Leslie and her work at Aum in the Arts. I have been lucky enough to have been featured in several of her articles. Wanted to send another shout out to her for this lovely feature. Our Yoga + Art Huddle is THIS Sunday. Let me know if you want to make it. (Space reserved to 50 people).

We will start our day with a yoga session led by Tracy (all levels welcome); please bring a yoga mat. We will then have a chance to create postcards with a variety of art materials and have a chance to write and prep them for mailing! During this time we will have a chance for conversations and ideas of what to do next.

Date: February 26th, 2017

Time:2-6 pm

Location: Center for Creative Minds, Knoxville

Check out: Aum in the Arts for more information!dsc_0085-685x1024

Bind:

From Dictionary.com

bīnd

verb

  1. tie or fasten (something) tightly.

    “floating bundles of logs bound together with ropes”

    synonyms: tie (up), fasten (together), hold together, secure, make fast, attach

    2. cohere or cause to cohere in a single mass.

    “mix the flour with the coconut and enough egg white to bind them”

    noun

    1.a problematical situation.

    “he is in a political bind over the welfare issue”

    synonyms: predicament, awkward situation, difficult situation, quandary, dilemma, plight, spot, tight spot

    2.formal

    a statutory constraint.

    “the moral bind of the law”

At class on Thursday night, we worked on binds. Binds add an extra element to a yoga session by adding additional challenge, perspective and/or strength and balance. My plan was to teach Compass Pose | Parivrtta Surya Yantrasana towards the end of class, so I developed a sequence to prepare students to enter the pose as safely as possible. Each student was given a strap, to assist in each bound pose.As always, the binds were given assists options.

We worked on binds in: Uttanasana, Triangle, Extended Side Angle, Standing Half Lotus Forward Bend, and Marichyasana. From Bound Angle Pose, we worked into Heron Pose, and then gently easing into Compass, by bringing the arm around the inside of the extended leg and gently lifting and twisting the torso to the opposite direction.

The class looked somewhat dismayed, but by the second side, students were easing into the idea of the pose.

It worked a lot better than when I taught Bird of Paradise, to which the class mostly stopped to watch me. I am pretty sure that someone even said, “Nope” outloud.

Teaching these postures, which very few ofhave tried or even seen, has been rewarding and super challenging for me. I question my ability to explain them. Then, I notice students modifying without my guidance even-teaching ME!

What a rad experience.

I am continually amazed by my need and thirst for knowledge, as I am for my desire to teach safely and accurately. I am continually humbled by my students and their hard work and tenacity.

“You Forgot to be an Artist”

“You forgot to be an artist” was uttered to me today by my mom. I affectionately refer to her as MoMA (like the Museum of Modern Art). She said this in reference to the painting I did for her of a Blue Heron.

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And it resonated deep into my core. So deep that I decided to change that.

Immediately.

Today, I took a small hike with my paintings. Recent and of a few years past. I hung them in trees, leaned them against nature. As the freezing wind blew through my bones, I felt alive as artist again.

These artworks are not “epic” (well, a few are to me). However, this symbolism of walking with art, hanging art in nature (that I love) opened a fire in my soul. As I write the term “not epic” I feel a catch in the heavens. Who am I to say whether the work, where I poured out time, planning and care (also the depths of my soul) are not epic. #shameonme (Promptly I forgave myself, so that I could embrace the realization that art has been buried in my soul and it needs to be created).

Tonight, I attended an art show at a local gallery. It was a Pop Up show, no entry fee, no winners, it was arranged this week. It was about current politics (of which I am mostly avoiding) and the director of the gallery is a mother of students that I teach art to on a weekly basis. It felt great. Chad came, too. He thanked me for the trip, as we left. I also said to him, “it feels so good to get culture into your soul, even if a little bit.

artinjapaneseAs for my mom, she knows me so well, it almost frightens me sometimes. I did forget to be an artist. Tonight, my heart is grateful to her, the heavens and the sketch I drew for my next painting.

on Community Yoga.

16409937_10208197834892665_577689761_o 2.jpgThis week, a friend and fellow yogi, Leslie Ann Ellingburg, wrote an article about the community yoga that I have been working with in Knoxville. Her site is aptly named Aum in the Arts, as she works to bring yoga, artists and community together in our small area of Tennessee. You can find the article on her blog.

On Wednesdays, at Norwood Elementary School, three teachers and I alternate teaching free yoga to the community. As instructors, we are different in personality and style of teaching, and I think the blend is a great way to introduce yoga to the area. The concept started by the Norwood Community Schools Director, Jordan Frye. She and I met early this year and talked about the idea of having a place in Knoxville where people could attend yoga classes who could not afford them. Our collective idea was to create a space and home similar to the vision of the Asheville Yoga Center, where teachers from all over Asheville come together to teach and learn. Jordan says, “an important piece of achieving a healthy community is creating spaces within the community that promote wellness.”

After this initial conversation, we started the weekly classes. Things have been going well, but our numbers are very small. This week, we were written in two local venues, the Aum in the Arts and the local Shopper magazine.

The local Shopper magazine article can be found here. The article features yoga instructor, Jessica Dalton-Carringer, who teaches locally at The Birdhouse and has been pursuing her PhD in Anthropology. She believes that yoga “…offers many health benefits, including stress relief and building lean muscle.” Another instructor, Nikki Lambent-Nitzband, is “dedicated to bringing yoga off the mat and into daily life.” Veronica Carmazzi, a certified Athletic Trainer who works with clients all over the Knoxville area. She provides wisdom and careful alignment to each student as she leads classes. Veronica also teaches yoga at Glowing Body and Alliance Brewery. Tracy Riggs (the writer of this blog) of Zephyra Yoga has felt the stress relief and calm that yoga offers daily. She started practicing yoga daily after a very difficult time in her life. The difference in her life was extraordinary. Tracyd88b908701885c501e9fc85ff7251d09 teaches at Glowing Body on Thursday evenings, and at Alliance Brewery.

If you are in the Knoxville area on Wednesdays, join us at Norwood Elementary School from 6-7 pm, as we assist in bringing peace, calm, stress reduction and strength to the community.

 

 

 

when the coffee has gone cold

when the coffee has gone cold

for a moment, there is quiet and stillness. for a moment, serenity lays her fingers on your tight shoulders.

all WILL be okay.

the sunlight cascades through large panes of glass promising warmth and promising future.

rest comes natural, when your soul is in tune

faitd88b908701885c501e9fc85ff7251d09h restores, hope lifts it’s wings and takes you onto new heights

you stand, knowing what is next

knowing that your effort is not in vain and that you have given your best

arise

warm the coffee or go grab another fresh pot

today IS your day

 

Mindfulness.

Tonight I taught a community yoga class. Before and during this class, I felt completely unworthy and inadequate to teach yoga tonight. Negative energy flowed through my work place today and although I had kept the negativity at bay in days prior, today, I could not. I was weak, tired and my patience had left somewhere.

I wanted to run away. I should have taken the day off.

My game has been pretty high lately, I have felt a renewed sense of positivity and happiness. I have been teaching with patience, energy and wisdom and reaping the rewards. So today felt like a huge blow. When I had a student say, “This is my first time to yoga, ever” it threw me for a complete loop. I had not taught beginners in a long time. The poses that had become my plan started to slip from my grasp and my teaching of the class felt disjointed.

This evening, I taught a definition of mindfulness to the class as a friendly, non-reactive attention focused on experiencing the here and now without judgement. I taught this in relationship to how our bodies are and what they can/cannot do for us. Yet, as I repeated this mantra during class, I realized it was applicable to me. I needed to not-judge, be friendly and pay attention to the here and now, on my mat, in the space. I needed to not-judge and be friendly toward myself, practicing self-compassion. As this shift took place, I  recod88b908701885c501e9fc85ff7251d09gnized another facet of yoga that I love.

It meets you where you are.

My class was diverse-ranging from a yoga instructor to a brand new student of yoga. It was a beautiful opportunity to break through my preconceived ideas of how a class should go, and to play attention to the room and the students in front of me.

I learned mindfulness in the midst of teaching tonight.

A friendly, non-reactive attention focused on experiencing the here and now without judgement.

And I shall take this mindfulness into my evening and day tomorrow.