Tag Archives: breath

Consciously Optimistic

At the beginning of the California stay-at-home mandate in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, I wrote about my choice to remain cautiously hopeful. I wrote about my acknowledgement and acceptance of this moment in history as uncertain, uncomfortable, challenging, and scary, but that I would continue on as a writer, as a teacher, as a creative, as a smiler, as a laugher, as a lover. I maintain this stance; over the past month I have continued to produce art with my written words, I have continued to teach yoga and meditation, I have continued to smile, to laugh, and to love, and I am not stopping any of this anytime soon. Yet, if I am to be honest I must express that I too, like many, have had my moments and days of doubt, dread, and darkness. I have felt anxiety tighten my chest, stress crinkle my forehead, and tears fill my eyes. And all of that is perfectly alright.

            I have been an optimist all of my life. From childhood to present, I have always been the one to find the silver lining, to look onward and upward with faith and hope, and to get right back up when knocked down. I am still very much this way; it is who I innately am. There is, however, a sizeable difference in how I play the role of optimist now. I was once a blind optimist – someone who denied the extent or even the existence of the problem, the darkness, and even the truth in favor of remaining positive. While my seemingly invincible positivity was a quality many people around me admired, my years have since taught me that there is a fundamental flaw in blind optimism.  Blind optimism does not leave space to experience the valid feelings and emotions of loss, anger, fear, and sadness that are all part of the human experience. It bypasses the necessary step of processing what we feel and experience which ultimately allows us to learn and to grow. When we are blindly optimistic, we effectively limit our life experience, hinder our own growth and evolution, and ultimately trap ourselves into storing up issues and emotions that we never fully deal with which often leads to their resurfacing and causing more problems later down the path. Furthermore, we may inadvertently invalidate other’s real and true feelings and emotions in our denial of their presence.

            Thus, I have learned to be a conscious optimist – someone who acknowledges and accepts the heavy, the hard, and the dark. Someone who sits in the discomfort and wades through the challenge. Someone who allows time to process, to understand, and to learn. Someone who fully acknowledges and holds space for the experiences of others. And someone who after all of that still makes their way back to optimism. I continue to be an optimist, a seeker of the silver lining, a believer in the best, a holder of hope for a greater world, but I also allow myself the time and the space to feel what arises from the shadows.

            In this time of quarantine, I have had to face a myriad of feelings and emotions from the shadows. I have experienced worry and anxiety revolving around my finances as 75% of my income has suddenly come to a grinding halt and the process of applying for unemployment is confusing and unstable. I have felt the fear of my older relatives and vulnerable friends contracting the virus and struggling to defeat it. I have experienced anger at our government for how they have handled this pandemic and for the structures they have built that are now failing the vast majority of us. I have felt the loss of not being able to perform my vocation of teaching at the same caliber that I once did. I have experienced frustration of being forced to remain inside when everything in me wants to be out in the world. I have felt the intense missing of my sister, my extended family, and my dearest friends whom I am uncertain about when I will see and embrace again. I have had my moments and my days of feeling overwhelmed by the present situation and an almost desperate desire to break free of it.

            For as positive as I remain, I am not invincible to these feelings and emotions; none of us are. Sometimes, they are very present with me and demand my full undivided attention for a few hours or even a few days. And again, this is perfectly okay. The days we are living now are hard; perhaps some of the hardest we will ever know in our lifetime. As these days continue, we are all going to feel an intense array of emotions and all handle them differently. The truth of the matter is there is no right or wrong way to feel or be in this time. Whatever you are feeling is valid, however much time you need to be in that feeling is more than acceptable, whatever you need to do to cope and process that feeling is fine (so long as your coping strategy does not cause harm to yourself or others). Allow yourself the space to really experience every sensation and emotion that is coming up for you in this unique circumstance. Allow yourself to sit with it and understand. And when you feel ready, move on from it with the wisdom that you have gained from processing it.

            In the age of social media, there is a big push by individuals, influencers, and brands to remain overtly positive during this pandemic. There is nobility to that sentiment. As I said, I am remaining mostly positive and continue to hope for the best, am actively looking for silver linings, and continue to practice gratitude for what I do have. The caveat is that I do not and will not remain positive at the expense of denying and belittling the real and true feelings of anxiety, worry, doubt, anger, and sadness that do at times arise in me. I cannot ignore what is present in my brain and in my heart. And I absolutely will not tell others to ignore and invalidate their own unique feelings for the sake of positivity. In truth, positivity is stronger and more potent when we have returned to it after going on an inward journey through the dark rather than taking a mental vacation in which we ignore the fact that anything other than the pleasant is present. I am often positive, but not always. I am usually grateful, but sometimes cannot find the will to be so. I am typically hopeful, but I too experience doubt. And this goes for all of us who wear the title of optimist. And in this time that is so uncertain, so challenging, so scary, I am feeling all the feels – the good and the bad, the light and the shadow, the yin and the yang. And if you are too, that’s more than okay.

Fun Yoga Transitions

One of the reasons I love teaching Power Vinyasa Yoga is the creative process of drawing up the sequences I guide my students through. Sequencing a yoga flow is in many ways like choreographing a dance routine; it is a craft that is both artistic and scientific and can end in a beautiful piece of movement. In the modern yoga world where all mindful movement is yoga, there is now more room than ever to experiment and present unique flows to your classes. I like to consider myself a pretty creative sequencer, I am always playing around with unique chains of postures and different transitions between them.

After humbly receiving positive feedback from my students about these sequences, I wanted to take the time and share some of my current favorite transitions I have been utilizing in my own sequences. All teachers are welcome to take these and try them on in your own classes. All home practitioners are welcome to take these and try them on in your own practice.

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“What to Remember When You Start to Doubt Yourself as a Yoga Teacher” on Elephant Journal!

Ciao friends! My most recent article, “What to Remember When You Start to Doubt Yourself as a Yoga Teacher” has been published on Elephant Journal! Very happy to be contributing regularly to this great publication. Please give it a read by following the link below:

https://www.elephantjournal.com/2018/04/what-to-remember-when-you-start-to-doubt-yourself-as-a-yoga-teacher/

 

Rome is Burning – A Misguided Mentality of Corporate America

Let’s talk about Corporate America for a second. Where to begin? There is a lot we could talk about; how it can serve and how it can destroy. As an employee of Corporate America, I struggle with many of its different facets all the while I am kept fed and housed by it. So yes, I serve it and it serves me, but that does not mean I will not criticize it where it needs to be criticized and I will not rest until it is changed in certain ways.

america

One of the aspects I see needs to be addressed is the mentality that many corporate workers carry with them at all times: that what they are doing is the most important task ever and when something goes wrong it is literally the end of the world.

panic

A typical corporate reaction over nothing.

Working for a large corporation and interacting with many others, I am often witness to scenes of utter panic and chaos over the most trivial of issues. I am a spectator of business peoples vehemently arguing over how impactful their strategic plan is and how it absolutely must be executed with the utmost care and importance or else. And sadly, I am bystander watching people making their work place and tasks the center of their lives while they neglect the riches they have outside of the offices – family, friends, opportunities for, you know, actually living.

It all drives me crazy.

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Crazy I tell you.

Sometimes I ignore it. Sometimes I remark sarcastically about it (because I am a prince of sarcasm). Sometimes it makes me so angry that I practice ujjayi pranayama at my desk just like I teach in my yoga classes.

Most corporations produce goods or sell services. Sure, many of these goods and services are very useful, and some may even argue important. However, when something goes wrong within one of these corporations, the level of reaction is not at all proportionate with the problem itself. Everything is not just blown out of proportion, it’s not just blown out of this world, it is blown all the way out of the Milky Way Galaxy to Andromeda  (the aliens out there probably think we are bat-shit crazy and that’s why they only come around so often).

aliens

You ridiculous humans.

In my corporate experiences, I cannot tell you how often I have watched something go “wrong”, and then witnessed the chain of reactions throughout the organizations on levels so absurdly extreme that one would think an asteroid was tumbling toward Earth and all was lost.

With every little problem that arises –

Rome is burning

rome

The zombies are among us

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And the Antichrist has risen.

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With every decision that must be made, these corporate slaves discuss the possibilities so seriously that you would think they were deciding whether or not to invade a neighboring country or drop a nuke on another nation, but they are really just trying to figure out what their next commercial should say.

really

PEOPLE! Is any of this really that important? In the scheme of things, does it really make a difference? Are you saving lives? Are you solving world hunger? Are you figuring out how to fix this often broken world? NO! YOU’RE NOT! So take a deep breath, light a candle, have a cookie (or better yet, an apple with some almond butter) and please chill the F*** out.

breathe

Let us breathe.

Now, please don’t let me be misunderstood, this is not to say that people’s jobs and interests are unimportant. I am sure whatever you and your friends do has its worth. I am simply saying that in American businesses, we take ourselves WAY too seriously.

We no longer look at the big picture; if we did, we would see that even when there is a big business problem, the sun will rise tomorrow and life will go on. If we could shift our mental perspectives to “Oh dear, yes this is an issue, but it’s not the end of the world,” then we would probably be able to face said issues with clearer, calmer minds which would make us feel better overall and wouldn’t affect the people around us negatively.

cool it

Corporate America has to stop making itself sick with worry and stress. It has to stop taking a minute problem and morphing it into a monster to use and terrorize all those within email-distance. It has to stop creating such negative energies over issues that in the scheme of the world don’t actually make a lasting impact.  It has to stop taking itself so seriously that its people can no longer actually live their lives and enjoy them.

So please my soldiers of the corporate world, work well and work hard, but remember what is really important in life and don’t let your work and its problems overshadow it. Please take a breath. Please chill the F*** out.

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Adapt and Embrace Yoga Class

If you have read any of my previous yoga posts on this blog, then you will know that I am a firm believer that yoga is a great way to exercise not only the body, but also the mind and the spirit to strengthen and prepare for what goes on in life off of the mat. In yoga classes, or at least the ones I teach and take, we often theme the class – the sequence of postures, the music, the spoken words, and the energetic intention – to correspond with other aspects of life and the self.

Recently, I was meant to travel to Denver to visit with my good friends for the weekend. I was all packed and ready to go when just a few hours before my flight, I learned that an unusual snow storm had begun to blanket the Denver area and that because of it I would not be able to make the trip. Now, my first reaction was one of deep disappointment and even a bit of anger. I had been looking forward to the visit for months and now it was all off! Understandably, the circumstances darkened my mood.

I remembered, however, that life flows like water and you never know when the current is going to shift. Sometimes, you simply have to adapt, go with that flow, embrace it and see where it takes you while keeping an open mind. I decided to practice what I preach and shift my perspective about the Denver trip cancellation. Firstly, I was able to rearrange the trip for just two weeks later so it wasn’t like all my hopes for Denver and seeing my friends were ruined; they were merely delayed. Secondly, I decided to look at my now free weekend as a blessing; I could now go to lunch with my cousin whose schedule and mine hadn’t been lining up for a get together, I could now work on writing projects I hadn’t had as much time to dedicate to as I would like, and I could simply relax. Once I took this mindset – once I adapted, embraced and went with the flow that the universe was pushing at me – all was well; it ended up being a great weekend in its own way with lots to be grateful for.

I took the experience as inspiration for the below yoga class. In this class, I talked to my students about adapting to the present, accepting and embracing what is, and going with it with a light sense of peace for it all. On the mat, this can mean adapting to how your body is feeling during the yoga practice, accepting how the body is doing without judgement or resistance, and simply continuing forward through the class as best as you can and with a sense of peace with where you are at that day. No solid plans to come in and nail a handstand or get that cool new posture you’ve been working on; simply coming in with an open mind to the practice and going with what comes. I then encouraged my students to take this off the mat as well by exploring where that adaptability and ability to go with the flow could be applied in their everyday lives.

The sequence is meant to representative of all of this and provide challenges that you must adapt to as they come; strange and unexpected transitions like Tibetan rolls, Baby Birds of Paradise as a peak posture – a rare but equally challenging and fun variant of the classic Birds of Paradise Pose, and a literal change in the direction of the class as this class was a Mandala flow – where you begin facing the front of the room but eventually end up facing the back of the room. From the feedback I received, my students really enjoyed the class for the sequence and the theme.

Here is the sequence that you are more than welcome to try and/or borrow!

IntegrationSun ASun BCore and Strength Part 1Strength Part 2Cool Down

Build, Hold, and Flow Yoga Class

The pace of our lives constantly changes; in one season of your life you are moving quickly as you flow from day to day, and then suddenly you find yourself frozen in a position that you may or may not enjoy. The truth is that we cannot always control the pace of our lives; at times it will be too fast, at times too slow giving you a sensation of being stuck, and at other times it will be just right. No matter what, we must learn to adapt, we must learn to be able to go with the flow as well as be able to remain still with a sense of peace.

To reflect this, I have a yoga sequence that I teach in my advanced power vinyasa classes when I feel like myself and those around me might need to practice stillness contrasted by flow and vice versa. I call it my Build, Hold, and Flow Yoga Class.

In this challenging class, we build the main section – the Sun B – one posture at time: one posture for 5-8 breaths, then a chaturanga, then the first posture again for 1 breath, then we add another posture and hold for 5-8 breaths again really highlighting the new posture, and so on and so on. In this way, we must pause in each posture that we add and hold still for a challenging amount of time. I encourage the students to find their best expression of the posture and then focus on their breath and just be okay holding still with where they are at in their practice. Finally, we flow the entire Sun B to contrast the slow build of the sequence. The strength series later on in class is also slowly built, but constantly moving forward with little to no breaks. Overall, the class alternates from very slow to quick flow and mirrors the paces we experience and different times in our own lives.

This sequence has helped me when struggling to adapt to the changes in pace of my own life and my students seem to like it too, plus it is a killer work out! I hope you enjoy my Build, Hold, and Flow Yoga Class!

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Build, Hold, and Flow Yoga Class

*Start with Right Side first always

*Practice at your own risk

Integration:

  • Child’s Pose – Balasana – (several breaths)
  • Table Top – Inhale- (1 breath)
  • Cat & Cow Flow – Inhale for Cow and Exhale for Cat -(3 rounds of breath)
  • Down Dog – Adho Muka Svanasana -Exhale – (hold for several breaths, walk out your dog, etc.)
  • Rag Doll – Exhale – (3-5 breaths)
  • Roll up to standing – Inhale
  • Equal on All Sides Pose – Samastitahi – (3-5 breaths, set intention here)

Sun A:

  • Mountain Pose – Tadasana – Inhale – (several breaths)
  • Quarter Moon Right then Left – Exhale – (1 breath each side)
  • Mountain Pose – Tadasana – Inhale – (1 breath)
  • Back Bend – Exhale – (1 breath)
  • Mountain Pose – Tadasana – Inhale (1 breath)
  • Forward Fold – Uttanasana –Exhale – (1 breath)
  • Halfway Lift – Ardha Uttanasana – Inhale – (1 breath)
  • Squat and Curl – Exhale (1 breath)
  • Repeat Twice more flowing breath to movement

Sun B:

  • Chair Pose – Utkatasna – Inhale – (3-5 breaths)
  • Forward Fold – Uttanasana – Exhale – (1 breath)
  • Halfway Lift – Ardha Uttanasana – Inhale – (1 breath)
  • Chaturanga – Exhale – (1 breath)
  • Upward Facing Dog – Urdhva Mukah Svanasana – Inhale – (1 breath)
  • Downward Facing Dog – Adho Mukah Svanasana – Exhale – (1 breath)
  • Low Lunge – Exhale – (1 breath)
  • Low Lunge Twist – Inhale – (Hold 5-8 breaths)
  • Chaturanga – Up Dog – Down Dog with breath cues above, repeat other side
  • Chaturanga – Up Dog – Down Dog with breath cues above
  • Low Lunge – Exhale – (1 breath)
  • Low Lunge Twist – Inhale – (1 breath)
  • Low Lunge – Exhale – (1 breath)
  • Warrior 2 – Virabhadrasana 2 – Inhale – (Hold 5-8 breaths)
  • Chaturanga – Up Dog – Down Dog with breath cues above, repeat other side
  • Chaturanga – Up Dog – Down Dog with breath cues above
  • Low Lunge – Exhale – (1 breath)
  • Low Lunge Twist – Inhale – (1 breath)
  • Low Lunge – Exhale – (1 breath)
  • Warrior 2 – Inhale – ( 1 breath)
  • Extended Side Angle – Exhale – (Hold 5-8 breaths)
  • Chaturanga – Up Dog – Down Dog with breath cues above, repeat other side
  • Chaturanga – Up Dog – Down Dog with breath cues above
  • Low Lunge – Exhale – (1 breath)
  • Low Lunge Twist – Inhale – (1 breath)
  • Low Lunge – Exhale – (1 breath)
  • Warrior 2 – Inhale – ( 1 breath)
  • Extended Side Angle – Exhale – (1 breath)
  • Reverse Warrior – Inhale – ( Hold 3-5 breaths)
  • Chaturanga – Up Dog – Down Dog with breath cues above, repeat other side
  • Now the sequence is built, flow through Twice more moving breath to movement!

Core:

  • Boat Pose – Navasana – Lowers and Lifts – (30 seconds)
  • Bicycle Sit Ups – (1 minute)
  • High Plank – ( 1 minute)

Strength:

  • Chair Pose – Utkatasna – Inhale – (3 breaths)
  • Prayer Twist – Right Side 1st – Exhale – (3-5 breaths)
  • From Prayer Twist
    • Shift weight into right foot
    • Bring left heel to glute
    • Extend left foot to back of the room, parallel to mat
    • Step into Revolved Crescent Lunge
  • Revolved Crescent Lunge – Inhale – (3-5 breaths)
  • From Revolved Crescent Lunge
    • Open arms to fly – Inhale – (1 breath)
    • Rise up into Crescent Lunge Vertical Twist
  • Crescent Lunge Vertical Twist – Exhale – (3 breaths)
  • Exalted Warrior – Inhale – (3 breaths)
  • Crescent Lunge – Anjaneyasana – Inhale – ( 3 breaths)
  • Airplane Crescent Lunge – Exhale – (1-2 breaths)
  • Warrior 2 – Inhale – (1 round of breath)
  • Straighten Front Leg – Inhale – (1 breath)
  • Triangle Pose – Trikonasana -Exhale – (3 breaths)
  • Triangle Pose with Uttitha – Inhale – (1 breath)
  • Standing Separate Leg Stretch – Proserita – Exhale – (3 breaths)
  • Halfway Lift Proserita – Inhale – (1 breath)
  • Forward Fold Proserita – Exhale – (1 breath)
  • Rise up with arms at a T and flat back – Inhale – (1 breath)
  • Warrior 2 – Exhale – (1 breath)
  • Reverse Warrior – Inhale – (1 breath)
  • Chaturanga – Up Dog – Down Dog
  • Repeat on the other side

Hips/Cool Down:

*Right leg then left

  • Half Pigeon – Eka Pada Rajakapotasana – Exhale- (1-3 breaths)
  • Sleeping Pigeon – Exhale – (10 breaths or a little over a minute)
  • Repeat on other side

Spine:

  • Cobra Pose – Bhujangasana – Inhale – (3 breaths)
  • Bound Locust Pose – Inhale – (3 breaths)
  • Bridge Pose – Setu Bandhasana – Inhale  (3 breaths)
  • Reclined Angle Pose – Supta Baddha Konasana – (rest, easy breath)

Folds/Rounds:

  • Legs up the wall – Inhale (3-5 breaths)
  • Plow Pose – Inhale- (3-5 breaths)
  • Shoulder Stand – Inhale – (3-5 breaths)

Finals:

  • Happy Baby Pose – Ananda Balasana – Inhale – (3-5 breaths)
  • Supine Twists right side then left – Exhale – (3-5 breaths per side)
  • Final Savasana – Exhale – (rest for 2-5 minutes)

NAMASTE FRIENDS!