Take Action! Democracy only works if you participate!

Take Action!  Democracy only works if you participate!

The last two days I have been following along with the public hearings going on in Washington. What an intense 24hrs! 

I was so moved by the testimony of Dr. Ford. How hard it must have been for her to come forward and to tell her story in public like that. I couldn't take my eyes off of the live stream that I was watching. I thought she was very credible and I came away from watching her testimony with one thought - 'I believe her.'

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A win-win for everyone involved!

A win-win for everyone involved!

This has to be one of the best ‘feel good’ partner yoga poses! And it feels good for both partners too. If you are on the body in the Seated Forward Fold your partner helps you to fold deeper into flexion. If you are on top in the Upward Bow Pose variation your partner helps you lengthen your spine, open the mid and upper back, and take the shoulders deeper into flexion. It’s a win-win for everyone involved!

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A lot of stuff bubbles to the surface when you are in the fire.

A lot of stuff bubbles to the surface when you are in the fire.

This first picture is of a hip flexor stretch that I love. If your hip flexors are tight — your low back is going to suffer when you backbend. Monkey Pose and Hanuman variations are great to open the hip flexors. And variations of Lying Down Kneeling Warrior, like this one — using the block. And the Backbends themselves will open the hip flexors as well. Use your core to stabilize the low back, lengthen the spine, and help the hip flexors release.

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It's all unfolding perfectly.

It's all unfolding perfectly.

Our last day of practice together at Kula Yoga this past weekend! Shiva Yoga® Maha Sadhana — honoring our teachers and celebrating our practice. Lots of partner yoga! What a fun afternoon and way to end a long weekend of practice together. Everybody was tired and sore and still brought such a positive attitude and still practiced really hard. So grateful to this group! I find I rarely am feeling “perfect” when I get on my mat. Something is always sore and I’m often tired. Yoga has taught me to show up anyway and do my best. You can move from darkness to light. It’s just a choice. The conditions will never be perfect. Just show up anyway and do your best and don’t worry about the results. Just breathe into whatever comes your way. And have faith that it’s all unfolding perfectly.

 

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The Camel Pose.

The Camel Pose.

Backbending Workshop! The Camel Pose is a great intermediate backbend. Once your hands can slide down to the soles of your feet, you are definitely ready for the first stage of the Full King Pigeon. Don’t forget to hug your inner thighs in and push them back while you are pushing your hips forward. Engage your core while you push your heart up and try to extend your spine. And make sure not to strain your neck. The cervical spine has lots of flexibility and a huge range of motion. Think about how imbalance leads to more imbalance. We want to stabilize areas that are vulnerable and open areas where there isn’t a lot of movement or full range of motion. 

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Sun Salutations.

Sun Salutations.

The Sun Salutations are a big part of yoga. The Sun is another symbol of our inner Light. We connect the idea of the lightest and brightest thing in our world with the lightest and brightest (and most subtle) aspect of who we are.

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Experiencing suffering in order to grow.

Experiencing suffering in order to grow.

This girl had such a big weekend in my intensive at Kula Yoga this past weekend! Look at your King Pigeon — Samantha! Beautiful.  We did so many backbends in my Backbend Workshop on Saturday afternoon. My teacher — Dharma, would be proud of us. Backbends are such great teachers. They are energizing, uplifting, stimulating, and intense — taking us out of our comfort zone and deep into the fire. They teach us about surrendering in the middle of the fire. They teach us about breathing into the discomfort. They teach us to open our heart and to let go of the ego. How quickly can you get past your fear and resistance? It’s not easy being vulnerable. Let go. Let it go. Open up and let go. All of our growth lies out of our comfort zone. One of my favorite definitions of Tapas is — “experiencing suffering in order to grow.” Are you ready to let go of your ego? Are you ready to grow? A lot of people don’t like Backbends because they challenge the ego so much. We develop complicated patterns and ways to avoid being vulnerable. The ego says — I don’t like this, I’m uncomfortable. Be uncomfortable. Be vulnerable. Be authentic. Feel your feelings. Yoga is real and authentic and sometimes painful. Go towards the pain. Don’t avoid it. That pain is a part of you that is disconnected and is trying to reconnect. Pain is how we heal. And the way we sharpen our intellect is by learning the difference between pain that is leading to growth and pain that is leading to injury. So proud of where we went in this Backbend Workshop on Saturday!

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Healthy confrontation.

Healthy confrontation.

I was talking tonight in my class about healthy confrontation. This is one of the things that we are practicing on our mat that is so helpful off the mat too. Can you stay open and confront your challenges? Can you confront the people in your life in a healthy way and with an open heart? Can you sit in the discomfort of the asana and breathe. Stay soft in the heat and intensity of the fire! This is our work on and off the mat. Confrontation is healthy. The world is filled with challenges. What’s your relationship to the challenge? Can you shift your perspective. This is what yoga is asking us to do. Really fun to see you tonight — Equinox Encino! Thank you for your lovely energy and practicing hard with me but also keeping things lighthearted.

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Undo your patterns and see what is revealed.

Undo your patterns and see what is revealed.

I’m working with my student — Carolina in this video. She’s trying to stop locking her arms in the Plank Pose and in the Upward Dog. One of the things that happens when she finds the muscles in her arms and stops hyper-extending her elbows — is that it becomes very clear that she isn’t externally rotating her arms and taking her shoulders back in her Upward Dog. This is really common for students who are hyper-mobile and lock their arms in this pose. When they lock their arms in poses like Upward Dog — it looks like the shoulders are rolling back and the arms are externally rotated but they really aren’t at all. If we don’t address the elbow joint first — then we never get to work on opening her shoulders. Once we address the hyper-extended elbows, it clearly magnifies the tight shoulders and what Carolina needs to work on.

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Copy the teacher.

Copy the teacher.

“Copy the teacher, copy the teacher, copy the teacher.” — Dharma Mittra

My teacher — Sri Dharma Mittra, always talks about how we learn by copying the teacher. I love listening to him talk about when he would sit for meditation and say to himself, “I am Yogi Gupta, I am Yoga Gupta, I am Yogi Gupta.”

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Movement and Stillness.

Movement and Stillness.

I love listening to the sound of a group of students flowing together, breathing together, moving as one. One of the great things about a led class is being able to surrender to the group energy. Move, and then pause and feel it. Move, and then pause and feel it. The dance between movement and stillness. Feel this moment. Now — it’s gone. Feel this moment. Now — it’s gone. Moment to moment. Be here now. Be. Here. Now. Training ourselves to be more present. We open and we close. We open and we close — over and over again. Inhale and exhale. Inhale and exhale. Inhale. Pause. Exhale. Pause.

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Holding space.

Holding space.

Individual sharing at our Closing Ritual. Holding space. Active listening. Supporting each other. One of the most powerful things that happens in this Teacher Training program is witnessing the students allow others to see who they really are and seeing them getting more comfortable with themselves. Peel off the layers. Drop the mask. Who is in there? Trust. You’re enough. And you’re not too much. You’re perfect exactly the way you are and that’s who we want to get to know. We don’t have another you! Over and over again (in the program) I kept encouraging the students to be authentic. Spirituality is real. It’s grounded in reality. It’s intense, and challenging, and hard work. Walking a spiritual path is not filled with unicorns and rainbows and sunshine. It’s about getting to the truth and in order to do that we’ve got to peel off so many layers. Simple connection. Really listening and paying attention to someone. Seeing them and allowing yourself to be seen. Such deep connection with this group. Such beautiful communication from the heart at our Closing Ritual. Speak your truth, Yogis! Share yourself with the world.

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Closing Ritual.

Closing Ritual.

Closing Ritual on our last day of the Shiva Yoga 200hr Teacher Training in Cabo! We are back where we started but we’ve been on quite a journey. Yoga asks you to shift your perspective and change your relationship to your Self. When you shift your perspective and change your relationship to your Self, you change your relationship to everything around you. Your experience of the world changes. The world hasn’t CHANGED for you but it has changed for YOU. Your experience of the world has changed. The transformation was all within you. Everything has a beginning, middle, and end. Then, it starts all over again. Every ending is a new beginning. Time is moving very quickly. Breathe into it. Enjoy the journey. Inhale and exhale — over and over again. Enjoy the moment and then let it go. Time to move forward.

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Friends on a similar journey.

Friends on a similar journey.

Friends on a similar journey. The power of community. We talked over and over during the past month in my Shiva Yoga 200hr Teacher Training program about holding space for each other, supporting each other, being respectful and kind, and creating a sacred space where we all could feel vulnerable and work outside of our comfort zone. This group did such a great job holding space for each other. It was incredible! And we got to go very deep and get a lot accomplished. How quickly can you move past your fear and resistance and go towards the discomfort? I learned a lot from everyone and together we created a space where everyone felt comfortable enough to take a look at the yoga mirror and all the things that were being brought to the surface. It’s not an easy journey. It’s hard to look at the things that you are doing that are holding you back and all the ways you are avoiding things. Proud of these yogis for taking the journey. Digging in and taking a closer look at themselves.

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Each of the students becomes my teacher too.

Each of the students becomes my teacher too.

Grateful for each of these students! I learn so much leading these Teacher Training programs. Each of the students becomes my teacher too. And we all grow together. It’s a wonderful connection. The teacher/student relationship is such a beautiful thing. I’ve been blessed with some incredible teachers in my life who have helped me learn about myself. I try to copy them and hold the space for my students and help them learn about themselves. We keep passing it on and we keep helping each other along. Nobody gets there on their own. There’s always so much help along the way. Gratitude.  Namaste.

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Communication is everything!

Communication is everything!

Communication is everything! I think you can solve most problems as long as you are willing to stay open and communicate. It’s hard when there’s a challenge between two people. It’s hard when there’s confrontation. Can you stay open and move towards the confrontation with an open heart and an open mind. This is yoga! If you shut down, close off, stop communicating, and run away — you’re not really practicing yoga off your mat. You have to take what you are learning on your mat off the mat. Go into the fire. Breathe into the discomfort. Stay present. And let go. Let it go. Whatever you are attached to — let it go. I know right away if someone in my life is practicing yoga, or if they are just doing yoga exercise. It’s the quality of communication. My strongest relationships are filled with healthy confrontation. Let’s not push something under the rug and deal with it later. Let’s figure it out right now. Let’s talk about it. Let’s communicate with each other. Are you living your yoga off the mat? What’s your relationship to confrontation? Are you practicing healthy communication? When things get challenging do you shut down? Close off? React emotionally?

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Look at the pose. Look at the position at each joint.

Look at the pose.  Look at the position at each joint.

Look at the pose. Look at the position at each joint. What other poses are in this family? What poses are going to have similar actions? If you learn all of the “Tug of War” actions in the Mountain Pose — these are the same actions you need in Handstand. If you are trying to work on a more advanced pose — think of a pose that is in the same family. If you’re not able to find the actions you need in the advanced pose, maybe you can find them and work on them in an easier pose that has the same actions? What are some of the other poses in the Handstand family? Mountain Pose? Head Balance? Plank Pose? Low Plank? What else? Chair Pose? Boat Pose? Tree Pose? Warrior 1? Warrior 3?

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Most of us spend most of our time living in the lower chakras.

Most of us spend most of our time living in the lower chakras.

Most of us spend most of our time living in the lower chakras. Energy is constantly flowing down, through us, and out into the world. The first chakra is all about survival, the second chakra is all about pleasure, and the third chakra is all about power. I need to survive, I want to feel good, and I want to be in control. These three chakras are governed by the ego.

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I love flowing with my students!

I love flowing with my students!

I always practice a couple of Sun Salutations with my students every class. I love practicing yoga!

I think it’s helpful to flow a little along with the class, and to demonstrate or mirror some poses for them as well. I am always so inspired when I practice with my teacher — Dharma Mittra, and he demonstrates something, or practices a pose with us. We have to be careful demonstrating too much when we teach, though. Students who are Tamasic often feel defeated when they see the teacher’s demo, and students who are Rajasic often feel competitive and resent having to watch someone else demonstrating the pose.

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Practicing and Presenting Everyday...

Practicing and Presenting Everyday...

We have been doing a lot of practice teaching this past month.

When I did my first teacher training — we only taught one pose at the very end of the training. I felt so unprepared to teach a class when the training was over. It was a great training program — but I thought we would have benefitted from a lot more practice teaching.

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