Your story. (You have one to tell)

Everyone has a story to tell, a version of how you got to where you are today. What is yours? I am sure you have insights I need to hear, and they* need to hear.

woman-holding-open-book-bursting-light-two-hands-coming-out-as-concept-learning-education-knowledge-88217817These are the ways we rewrite what is ‘supposed to be.’ By telling our own story. We take our own experiences, instead of what has been taught to us by others in order to clear the path and make our way, and others’ ways easier.

I spent years reading other’s stories and listening to advice. These years only made me realize that I was confused. I had my own story to share, my own experience to apply. However, due to the influx and incredible time I had spent on someone else’s journey and advice, my own voice was fuzzy. My spirit was still available and I recognized a voice deep within me. However, it was hard to distinguish my voice from the loads of others.

It is why I studied art in undergrad. Art and artists seemed to be always pushing the limits, or at least expressing the limits and exploring those edges and boundaries. Throughout my art teaching career, I encouraged others to seek those limits and boundaries. Once again, I forgot me. My own seeking, my own boundaries and limitlessness.

As I pursue the things that feed this joy, this creativity, I am recognizing a fire in me to stay true to me and my desires. This is reminding me stay the course that I am on by continually seeking my specific truth.

Currently, it means saying no to a lot of opportunities (admittedly, not without that first FOMO reaction) in order to say yes to the better opportunities that design my future and my destiny.

*They here is referred to as the people along the way who told you the way to do things, sometimes to the detriment of your own desires and will.
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Mainstream: Yoga

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Yoga.

It has slowly become a household term. When even 5 years ago, this may not have been the case. Most people have some connection to yoga….either you practice currently, have practiced in the past or know someone who practices.

I stumbled into yoga accidentally when I was 12. Then, it was only Bikram and light stretching yoga. Now, there are so many types of yoga, that it is difficult to keep them all straight. Yet, if you’re like me, as you practice and practice yoga, you realize that there is more to yoga than just holding a Warrior 2 correctly.

This is where I stumbled into Yoga Teacher Training. Through this journey, I realized yoga is so much more than doing poses and getting a healthier body. Yes, this is part of it, but was never the intention of yoga.

The early Sutras of Patanjali state that yoga is:

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the removal of all the misconceptions of the mind. This in turn, leads you to finding your true self. Lately, my heart has been for living a life of yoga. It has been for being a part of true and lasting change in individual’s lives.

It’s fascinating, because I wanted to leave an impact on the world in some big way. But, I am realizing that teaching these principles alone can truly make that impact. Principles such as the 8 Limbs of Yoga, which guide all yogis (or hopefully they do). Principles that I am learning more and more about every day.

Animal Symbolism

This past year, I noticed in earnest, a leopard kept appearing in my daily life. I probably would not have noticed except that it was blatant. One of my students was wearing a leopard shirt every time I saw her. It was not even like it was her ‘Tuesday’ shirt ot something, because I did not see her routinely. The leopard kept arriving until I took heed. The leopard can represent:

At this time in my life, I was leaving my career of fifteen years. I had spent many evenings concerned about this change and then the leopard appeared consistently, reassuring me that my path was sure and to let go of the fear of what would happen after I left this career.

And once I left that career, the joy that followed has been unbelievable. Opportunities have arisen for me to get involved in my community that have connected me with so many wonderful souls. Each day, as I am not stressed, worried or freaking out, I feel so much connection, ease and excitement in my soul.

 

amur-leopard
the Amur Leopard, extremely endangered species, since 2016, their number has increased almost 50% due to conservation efforts

After the experience with noticing the leopard everywhere and then connecting this to my personal life, I was impressed. With my friends, we had talked about our spirit animals (mine, they decided was a Unicorn!) but I had never connected the truth and ancient wisdom that so many cultures ascribed to animal spirits.

What I want to tell you about is what happened earlier this week, on Tuesday. I was thinking of my health (the struggle it can be sometimes) and going back to a semi-conventional doctor. The last time we talked, he ordered a CT Scan of my sinuses and wants to send me to an ENT. I don’t want a second sinus surgery, so I have been avoiding going to see this doctor. On this afternoon, I was reading articles, talking with a friend about taking control of our own health and I decided to go outside and meditate on not using Western medicine (pills, surgery, etc) to deal with this situation. I walked outside, turned on some peaceful meditation music and immediately, a peregrine falcon came circling around the entirety of my backyard. Not just a fly-by, but a big, dramatic all encompassing sky fly-by.

Did I mention this was immediate?

I am was in awe. Life, when given the chance to be noticed, is responding directly to you.

Normally, I would have noticed the falcon, and been like, “wow, we live in a beautiful place.” Since my experience with the leopard, I pay attention a little closer. Plus, it was pretty clear this message was for me. I sat for a few moments with this, wanting to miss nothing of this moment then went to research what a falcon means.

The falcon is a solar emblem for success, victory and rising above a situation. Further evidence of its solar influence, the falcon was symbolic of the rising sun in Egypt. It is also the king of all birds where many gods were shown with the head or body of the Falcon (including Ra).

An emblem for success, victory and rising above a situation.

Hello God, Earth, spirits, you have my attention!

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Horus, the falcon god in Ancient Egypt. Horus is said to be one of the supreme deities in Egypt

After this, I went on an afternoon spree of researching the symbolism behind falcons and it lead me to the representation of Horus, the falcon god of Ancient Egypt. Horus was the creator, and the circle above his head is said to be representative of the Sun God, Ra. This also solidified the importance of these symbols, as I have always joked that I was Egyptian in a former life. Maybe that joke was closer to the truth than I could ever have imagined. From the research on Horus, I was led to studying the obelisk of Queen Hatshepsut in Karnak and remembering all of my time spent there at her temple and in Karnak. I remember hearing about how she was one of the most successful Pharaohs, “…the first great woman in history of whom we are informed.”

There could not have been a more blatant call for me to pay attention. And for now, where I am at, this symbol represents my path towards holistic healing is the right path and that I will indeed rise above this situation with success.

May your path be illuminated and your journey be ever wholehearted!

politeness.

politeness:

adjective, politer, politest.

1.showing good manners toward others, as inbehavior, speech, etc.; courteous; civil:

a polite reply.

2.refined or cultured:

polite society.

3.of a refined or elegant kind:

polite learning.
I grew up being told that being polite is more important than anything else. Being polite is good and I do see the occurrence of “Please, thank you, yes ma’m” disappearing. I also teach my students to say these things, as do several other educators in my building.
However.
There comes a point when politeness can kill.
I recognized this when I was saying things to be polite instead of setting healthy boundaries or speaking up for justice. I was getting run over consistently at work and in relationships and frankly, I had no idea what I wanted in life (to do, to be, even to eat sometimes!) I had a discussion last year with a very wise lady about this very situation. She was raised the same way. We commented on how much we did not accomplish by being polite.
In the midst of being too polite, we forget to be real. Honesty takes a back burner, even honesty within our own souls. There is a friendship that I might have been able to rekindle, had I not been focused on being polite and just sat down with this person and got real. There are many work situations that would have gone differently, had I not allowed politeness to be the backdrop of my life. There are even dating situations that would have been WAY different had I just told the guy to take a hike instead of worrying about HIS feelings and being polite.
The adventure in this becomes setting boundaries and learning to speak freely without being unkind to others. Speak the truth in love, is even mentioned in the Bible. I find that the more one invests in and talks openly with others, the more you learn their perspective on life, and knowing where a person comes from certainly heals and gives insight.
Two articles that I found concerning this situation state:

Politeness insists that we keep our mouth shut, nursing feelings, and letting time elapse until the next major event. Justice, however, demands that we learn how to heal those wounds, and prevent those from happening. It also means, to the chagrin of warmongers everywhere, we approach others with love for one another.

Justice takes serious reflection, a deep soul-searching, and a hard look at the image we project when it comes to the word “peace.”

Politeness can even hurt us in our personal relationships, too. These days, people love ranting on social media, jumping on high horses, and hoping to get as many likes, retweets, and memes as possible, never truly resolving the original matter, but trying to show a tough exterior in the name of “honesty.” They love claiming independence, judge others readily, and act like the “enemies” they seek to vanquish.

Honesty becomes so diluted that integrity falls by the wayside. Real honesty, and justice, asks us to speak to the truth to heal, not to disband, to build, not to distort histories, to change understandings, not cement positions. Real honesty is hard.

And, in another article,
You may be surprised to hear that politeness and kindness often inhibit creativity. In fact, researchers have shown that when groups adopt a “no-criticism/no-argument” ground rule, they produce far fewer creative solutions to problems. A culture that values debate, criticism, and quarrelsome discussions will be more productive, creative—and ironically—harmonious.
A culture that values debate, criticism, and quarrelsome discussions will be more productive, creative—and ironically—harmonious. 

“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.

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.