“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.

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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.

 

 

Japan, A Cultural Story With Karma.

I am in love with this country.

As I write this, I sit up early on day 2 of our exploration of the Niseko resort area, it is 5:48 a.m. I just showered and love my morning quiet time to just be. I keep conking out around 9 p.m. and thus the early wake up.

We are staying at Moiwa Lodge at the base of the Moiwa ski/board resort.Yesterday we spent a day riding here as snow gently fell and there were zero lift lines. I took a photo of weaving in and out of the bamboo shoots and trees. 

The snow was good, not perfect powder for the pow chasers on the trip, but for a beginner freshie like me, I was happy. I put my phone in my pocket and mindlessly did not zip it back up. On the lift ride back up, I realized that I had lost it. Jess and I combed over the area but to no avail, Chad and I tried to set up finding the phone remontely, but to no avail. All the while, I just knew it would turn up.

The reason I knew my phone would turn up is that everything I have encountered in Japan is on time, has specific guidelines and runs smoothly. The people are filled with kindness and gentleness. I am a complete outsider and therefore may be off as to how an inner society is ran. However, it is quiet in restaurants, train stations, in people-filled subway stations and on crowded bus rides. They even ask you to not talk on your phone while on public transportation! I think, too, that if you did loudly someone would probably come and remind you to not. You take your shoes off at the door of many establishments and all homes and you bow and smile a lot. (I keep putting my hands up in namaste when I bow, which is not custom, but it feels natural to me as a yogi.)

After two trips down the mountain to see if I could find my phone, I realized that the lost phone ‘just is’ lost.

The concept of ‘just is’ came to me back in the spring, I even wrote about it earlier. Then, on the trip from Sapporo to Niseko, this concept was reintroduced to me through another yogi and writer, Baron Baptiste. In his book, “Perfectly Imperfect,” he talks about two views of a yoga class being full, so full that the mats are touching. He talks are out one view of the room, “it is too cramped” and another view, “spacious enough to hold many yogis.” He mentions that the room ‘just is.’ I thought about my lost phone as thus: ‘just is’ lost. As a result, I went on to enjoy my day, still believing it would show up, but knowing worrying about how much it would cost to replace it, how I was going to travel back to the states with it, and many other things would not increase my chances of finding it. Not to say, that I didn’t keep an eye out for it!wp-image-966439951jpg.jpg

This concept of ‘just is’ is something I have wrestled with throughout growing up. I have desperately wanted to feel in control. I have had tragedies happen in life that I almost could not accept because they were out of my control. Serious control issue there. I remember sharing a classroom with another teacher and he would always say “It is what it is” and I used to get so frustrated with that concept. Turns out, he was right.

As I continued to snowboard that second day at Moiwa, a sense of okay-ness, a sense of “Just is” set in to my soul. I went into Moiwa Lodge and talked with them about the situation and one of the workers said, your phone has been found! I went running over to the Ski Resort counter, and there it was, warming up and still charged. I could not believe my fortune. I talked about karma a lot that night, when I met up with friends for drinks at the Lodge 834. Chad and I kept saying that I do a lot of work to make sure that my personal karma is balanced out. As we left the lodge, I walked to the restroom. As I was leaving, I saw someone else’s phone on the back of the toilet seat.

FOR REAL.

I picked up the phone, told everyone and we were in complete awe of the day that the integrity of Japanese culture and apparently, my karma, were in perfect display.

7 Ways To Maintain the Elixir of Travel at Home

attraction-castle-tokyo-tokyo-imperial-palace-0001-0001-0001-flickrI just returned this week from Japan. The Japanese culture is cascaded with a respectful quiet, peace-filled ambiance and an awareness into daily life. I remain impressed and hope to translate some of this peacefulness and respect into my personal days. I do think it is very possible to do things such as say”thank you very much” to everyone that you meet, regardless of their state of being. I also know that by slowing down, I can learn to  be peaceful with my days. Quiet with my days. Whenever I travel, I return home and  experience reverse culture shock. I LOVE traveling, it is a huge part of my soul. I especially love to travel internationally. To date, I have been to eleven countries and all but five of the United States. Travel is my elixir, a concoction that brings me centered and home to my self.

After returning from Japan, it became evident to me that it would be fun to somehow maintain this sense of luxury, adventure and wonder in my daily life, and to treat myself as if I was on vacation. So, I am making a list of things that I do on while traveling that I do not do while I am at home in hopes that I can maintain somewhat of a sense of the dreaminess of travel while in my lovely home.

  1. A fluffy comforter. I have one, I need to use it.
  2. I drink coffee slowly and read every day (sometimes several times a day) while I am traveling. It sets up my day slowly and peacefully as I enjoy one of my favorite things-good coffee.
  3. I look around my world I am in and I participate enthusiastically. I wonder where in my own city have I never been? What could I look at from the eyes of newness around me?
  4. I walk outdoors a lot. To and from places, or hiking. Walking clears the mind, the fresh air whisks any thing that was troublesome out of my soul.
  5. Self-care. I slow down and treat myself very well on vacation. I do not hurry through meals. I enjoy the conversation. I look around at what I am eating and doing. This is something that I can easily apply to my daily life.
  6. I meet strangers easily. I treat everyone on travels as if they were magical beings with so much to offer.
  7. I am spontaneous. I travel a lot with big groups and so having a set schedule does not usually happen. Usually, we stand around trying to figure out dinner until we are all starving and tired.

I picked 7 things because 7 is my favorite number.

As I am sitting in my beautiful home and grateful to be here, I recognize that I can not travel all the time. I love what I do, where I live and the life I have built around me. However, each day can have a sense of travel regardless of where you are.

So, tomorrow, I plan on grabbing that latte and reading my book before heading off to work with those magical people who have so much to offer!

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What are some habits or things that you do traveling and which you could cultivate into your day-to-day? 

mindfulness.

Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally,” says Kabat-Zinn. “It’s about knowing what is on your mind.

The founder of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Jon Kabat-Zinn, reminds us that we are not defined by the thoughts that go on in our head, which he adds are mostly centered on “Me, myself and I.” I came upon mindfulness last year in my yoga teacher training in the form of the book, The Miracle of Mindfulness, by Thich Naht Hanh. This book came at me as does the Japanese language: I recognize what is being spoken, but cannot translate it.

2016 became some of my busiest times. I continually think to myself how much I need to “just say no” to social and other engagements. If I do, I find myself feeling guilty for not participating-guilty because my friends might not like me if I don’t show up (and other silly things). I would like to say it is because I am doing so much good in the world-and that may be true-but as a result, I do suffer. I teach yoga 3-4 times a week on top of my full time visual art teaching job and work a promotion that I received in my job. I also attempt to maintain friendships and a relationship with my husband and family, all while working out and trying to plan healthy meals.

I am tired.

In the midst of the busyness, my yoga practice lessens and my meditation, although daily became an opportunity to think creatively and plan a to-do list. 

I am missing the point.

Yoga should guide one, meditatively by bringing awareness to the now. Each asana/pose should be guided by breath, thus mindfulness should be inherent in yoga. Often in our hurried world, I see myself and students rushing through a vinyasa to get to the next pose. This rush is even present in yoga! The rush to be stronger, fitter and onto the next thing-which we think might be better.

Lately, I have noticed in my teaching a desire to slow my students down. To notice the sensations they feel as they lower into chaturanga, where the shoulders go, and maybe where they should go. After doing multiple vinyasas in a class, I know I personally get sloppy. This is where mindfulness needs to be present to protect one’s self from injury. (In yoga, we call it  ahimsa-non harming.)

A dear friend gave me this mindfulness book for Christmas this year:

It is an amazing way to slowly process the gift that mindfulness can be. It is a reminder to me this busy season to 

slow 

                      down.

I read recently that it takes 40 days for a habit to stick. I find that pretty profund, as it rained for 40 days and nights on Noah and Jesus went into the desert for 40 days. Researching on the number 40, I see that it often signifies a transition or change. The number 40 in numerology is said to elevate a spiritual state.

Maybe by starting right now.

Bringing mindfulness into your days is not that difficult. It requires slowing down and paying attenion. It requires stillness of mind, body and soul. With this stillness comes pure clarity. I firmly believe the age old saying that if you look inside yourself, you will find all the answers you need.

Lower Back Yoga.

Ahhh, the sacrum and lumbar spine20121230-173252. This may be the number one area that I hear students talk about when referring to physical discomfort. Mostly, I hear the complaints from mountain bikers that I ride with, but lately, I have been hearing people in almost every area of life talk about this region of their backs. I do suggest yoga for this area of course, but I am highly cautious with students. I do not want students to overstretch their lower back and create even more trouble.

Maryjaryasana/Cat Pose is a most excellent warm up, especially when attached to the famous Bitilasana/Cow pose. My two favorite, which relieve pressure on the lumbar are Downdog and Puppy Pose. An entire list of these poses with examples can be found at here at yoga journal.

Some of the poses that work for me when my lower back is tight and even in pain, which occurs only while I am mountain biking are the twists: Bharadvaja’s Twist, Half Lord of the Fishes and Marichi’s Pose. I highly recommend Supta Padangusthasana/Reclining Hand to Big Toe for lower back and IT Band issues (I also recommend a strap with this series of poses, as outlined here).

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An entire sequence for lower back can be found here. The poses are highly recommended to loosen your fascia (Fascia, which means “band” or “bundle” in Latin, surrounds, connects and supports our muscles, organs, bones, tendons, ligaments and other structures of the body. Similar to the membrane around each section of an orange, fascia both separates and connects body parts at the same time. Containing nerves, these tissues also serve as a layer of protection and body awareness.)

 

A yoga sequence I created for a student to work with the lower back:

Lower Back Sequence.

Recommended hold time is one minute-one minute and 12 seconds. This holding/slower pace is conducive to opening the tight spots. I recommend once a day or every other day for noticeable improvement.

Great reference for specifics on poses in this sequence: http://www.yogajournal.com/category/poses/anatomy/lower-back/

Easy Pose/Sukhasana

Cat Pose

Cow Pose (these two poses in sequence are a warm up for the back)

Uttkatasana/Chair Pose (for strengthening lower back)

Utthita Trikonasana/Extended Triangle Pose.

Virabhadrasana 2/Warrior 2.

 Padangusthasana/Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose.

Malasana/Garland Pose.

Bakasana/Crane Pose. (pillow on floor in front of face )

Uttana Shishosana/Extended Puppy Pose.

I find the twists help me most when I am IN pain to alleviate pain in the lower back area, especially due to mountain biking.

Marichi’s Pose/Marichiasana 3.

Bharadvaja’s Twist/Bharadvajasana.

Ardha Matseyandrasana/Half Lord of the Fishes.

To finish, bring both knees into the chest, squeeze and gently rock from side to side. Finally, come into Savasana/Corpse Pose.

((**I also highly recommend doing abdominal strengthening poses as well to increase strength in back:  Navasana/Boat Pose)) 

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Inner Thigh Yoga.

Right before Thanksgiving, a student asked me about poses to open the inner thighs. This student commented that this area was very tight. I did some research and am posting my notes here.

This video helped me to find these poses, which the instructor recommends staying in each pose in for one minute. During yoga teacher training, a guest lecturer recommended holding the pose for 72 seconds.The first pose is the yogi squat pictured here:

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The second pose is an extended leg squat, which I have been incorporating into my daily yoga classes:

extended-leg-squat3

This entire visual contains poses that are useful for opening the inner thighs and the remaining information can be found on this page:

The three poses that I personally recommend are Upavista Konasana/Wide-Angle Forward Fold, Bhekasana/Frog Pose Agnistambhasana/Firelog Pose. With these poses any additional modifications can ease you into and out of the poses. Over time, you will notice an opening of your inner thighs. I personally recommend practicing at least two of these poses on a regular (daily or every other day) basis.

A sequence to loosen the inner thighs and increase mobility:

Inner Thigh Sequence.

Recommended hold time is one minute-one minute and 12 seconds. This holding/slower pace is conducive to opening the tight spots. Do these poses and your inner thighs will begin to loosen. I recommend once a day or every other day for noticeable improvement. 

Baddha Konasana/Bound Angle Pose.

Yogi Squat.

Extended Leg Squat (right and left sides)

Upavistha Konasana/Wide Angle Forward Bend.

Bhekasana/Frog Pose.

Instruction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBb65G6NuYo

Supta Baddha Konasana/Supine Bound Angle Pose.

Bound Angle with a support (bolster or folded towel/blanket)

Bound Angle Pose without a bolster

legs up the wall Bound Angle Pose

Upavistha Konasana/Wide Angle Pose at wall

Finish in Legs up the Wall, or in Savasana/Corpse Pose.

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