Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Friday, September 2, 2011
One of my favorite aspects of yoga is that it is much more than just physical exercise. In fact, the asanas (or poses) are only a small piece of the whole picture; like the earth’s process in relation to the Milky Way galaxy.
I spend a minimum of an hour a day practicing hatha yoga – 6 days, most weeks. That’s great and it makes a huge difference in my life; however, I still find myself feeling irritable, stressed, and blue sometimes. That’s part of being human. I clearly see that yoga is much more than some exercises on the mat. It is a lifetime tool that is something to practice every moment.
Forgetting to live my practice can be a wonderful opportunity to remember the benefits of authentically being at one with everything and everyone. Before I left the Valley, a neighbor came to 2 of my gentle yoga classes. She had some bad neck pain and her doctor recommended that she try yoga. After the 2 classes, she never returned to class and rarely acknowledged my presence in passing.
I felt rejected and assumed that she hated me and my work. I took her actions personally. I never walked over when she was gardening to speak my truth. In Don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements, he recommends that we do our best to speak our truth, not make assumptions, and not take things personally. When I remember this simple and elegant Toltec wisdom, everything is better.
Unfortunately, I forgot about Guru Ruiz’s guidance and went down a rather negative and superficial mental path. Deep down, I was loving myself up and doing my best to shift away from fear, but it was still there until my angelic mail man delivered a piece of mail from my alma mater to my neighbor’s house. She wasn’t sure it was for me because it had my maiden name on it and she walked over and asked if I went to Scripps. I said yes and it turned out that she and her husband attended college in the same area. She then proceeded to tell me that her neck was feeling all better. She complimented my teaching and was really sweet to my kids.
Through practicing yoga, I have learned that each and every one of us houses a miraculous light that lives in the center of our hearts. As we honor the light and goodness within ourselves, we inadvertently honor the fact that everyone has it. Even the people that we think we don’t like have super bright lights living in their hearts. As the recognition of the light of all integrates with our consciousness, we become kinder and more loving towards each other and we treat ourselves better.
Prior to dedicating my career to yoga, I constantly made assumptions, took things personally and the truth was an anomaly. I rarely did my best at anything. I was extremely disconnected and F.E.A.R. (false events appearing real) permeated my life. Since then, misunderstandings like the aforementioned are becoming rarer. I am writing about this because it’s the longest that I’ve held onto something in quite some time!
When this fear oriented thought pattern cleared, I was able to use it like rocket fuel to propel myself into union. Being in union with the inner light of divinity is bliss. It’s the ultimate panacea. Union heals our perspective which creates a better reality. Seeking union with the divine in each conscious moment creates balance and harmony in life.
The next time you are feeling triggered – or disconnected from the light in your heart, remember The Four Agreements. If you have not yet read it, it is a must to read! Chances are, whatever was triggering you will cease to be an issue. If there are an remnants of fear, authentically say “I LOVE YOU” to yourself and really mean it. Say it to the pain, say it to your friend, to your foe – even to your big toe. Find a reason to love everything despite your discomfort. I LOVE YOU. It’s simple and effective. As we come into a space of love for ourselves and everyone around us, we create peace in the world.
This is no easy feat. It may take effort to find love for the light that lives in the heart of the rude driver or robber or……I don’t want to go on with that here. Sometimes guides help us get to a space of balance and love. Even if it takes years, it’s well worth the journey.If this speaks to you and you happen to be in the greater Olympia area, please join me – on the mat – as we journey into love with the intention that it permeate and take over our lives. I’m teaching regular, intimate classes that are a fraction of the size of my classes at the Valley. The benefit to you is that you’ll receive the same personalized attention that you would in a group private at a fraction of the cost. I look forward to bringing peace into the world with you. Namaste.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
As I read the obituary, “Jennifer Wyman-Varano of Olympia lost her battle with depression on Thursday, June 2, 2011….” I became choked-up with tears. Jennifer practiced yoga with me regularly for over 2 years. When she retired from her public school teacher position this fall and stopped attending classes, I assumed that she was off to her place in Southern California for the winter. I have been energetically hitting myself over the head for not calling her and checking in. I continue to think about her and miss her tremendous light in class. My classes at the valley were big and there were so many people’s lives to keep track of. This has been a big lesson: I want to teach smaller classes and focus more on each individual. When the kula (yoga family) is about quality versus quantity, I believe it can be a safety net for all of us.
Depression runs rampant in our society. It’s like the weeds in the garden: always pressing on no matter how often you attend to them and always meddling with the robust life of the fruit/flower/vegetable. Some soil is really fertile and much more prone to weeds. Some of us carry so much light and because we live in a world of balance – those same light bearers are often burdened with heavy darkness. It is time again to bring the darkness into the light.
Most of us were taught to hide our sadness and only express happiness. Apparently, Jennifer was a master – in public. It seems that when she felt depressed, she isolated herself as though she was sick with the flu. She set-aside or dropped the things that would have helped her feel better, like yoga and being with community. Because she seemed like such a happy and upbeat person to everyone she met, when Jennifer disappeared from our lives last fall many of us assumed that she was simply enjoying a sunny retirement.
A dear friend of Jennifer’s mentioned to me that depression is commonly shunned in our society – as though it’s not a real problem. We lamented on how in the 1980’s, when AIDS was a new issue, it was a freaky thing that many people assumed only afflicted intravenous drug users and gay men. As time passed, society became educated and the common perception shifted. I hope to help shift the perception of depression. If society accepts that it’s real and common, perhaps people will feel liberated to search for assistance until they find the proper help. What we resist persists.
When teaching yoga (especially small groups of people) and giving Thai yoga therapy, I have witnessed a lot of stuff come up for people over the years. I feel blessed when someone feels comfortable to share their process with me. I do my best to hold a space and use the wisdom that comes to me to help. I have managed my own depression and helped many people with it. It’s a real challenge to be human: part divine, part ego – all in the body. The yogis wrote about the Kosha system which Wikipedia says “…in Yogic philosophy, the nature of being human encompasses physical and psychological aspects that function as one holistic system. The Kosha system refers to these different aspects as layers of subjective experience. Layers range from the dense physical body to the more subtle levels of emotions, mind and spirit. Psychology refers to the emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of our being. Together, all aspects make up our subjective experience of being alive.”
In other words, some of us are more prone towards misalignment in the Koshas which can create all sorts of ailments such as depression. Yoga is a tool to help manage depression and Jennifer knew that. Many of us remember long, heart centered conversations with her before and after classes. For years, Jennifer allowed yoga to feed her light and it was evident in her beautiful practice. When the Valley asked me to help find a new yoga teacher, Jennifer immediately came to mind because she was a great teacher for me.
The day after I learned of Jennifer’s death, I was listening on the phone to a live interview with one of my teachers, Ana Forrest. She is painfully blunt and speaks 100% truth with no fluff included. The interviewer was at a loss for words and after a few minutes opened the call up to questions from the audience. I was puzzled with how to cope with the grief I felt around Jennifer’s suicide and thought I would see if I could get Ana’s thoughts. Serendipitously, my call was immediately answered and the rest of the interview was spent on this situation.
The first thing that Ana said was “Yes, people die. The longer you teach, the more students you’ll have that will die. That’s life. However, this death sounds particularly challenging and in order to promote healing on all ends, have a ceremony for her.” I took her advice and since then, I’ve been in search of the right opportunity to honor her spirit and therefore my own because we are all connected.
On August 10, 2011, Eric Romano and I will be guiding people through a noon time garden yoga class in honor and memory of Jennifer Varano. Jennifer was a regular attendee to Eric’s garden yoga – it’s a sweet and gentle class that is appropriate for just about everyone who can sit down and stand up. Feel free to contact me with any questions. For the address, scroll to the top of this blog. Please come and practice yoga in her memory. This class is on a contribution basis and we are donating all proceeds to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in Lacey.
Jennifer was a great teacher in life and in passing. I was blessed to know her and learned a lot from her. I learned that even people I think have it all together, may not. I learned that we all suffer and although we’re not responsible to take on other people’s stuff, we must reach out and be there for each other….especially if the same person repeatedly pops into our head. I learned the power of community because I believe that her connections to it kept her with us as long as she was. I learned that one of my missions in this life is to talk about this issue and help lift the veil of darkness on this all too common affliction. Please join me. Namaste.
Friday, July 15, 2011
Time seems to be moving faster and activities like writing on this blog have inadvertently fallen by the wayside. I’ve thought of many topics to write about over the last 3 years but have been rather busy caring for my 3 and 5 year old children. I am finally taking the time to transform some of my thoughts into “blissful banter”. About 3 years ago, I began teaching at the Valley Athletic Club. I was hesitant to be employed by them because I was quite sure that our values would not be in alignment. It is a health club and not a yoga studio. I thought my days of teaching outside the yoga community were over – until I started at The Valley. To my delight and surprise, I had a great space to build thriving classes that became larger than I wished. The club members soaked up my love of yoga and many sweet connections were made.
In the beginning, I was really happy teaching at the valley. There were a lot of perks and it felt like a blessing to simply show up and teach. In time, there were different things that came up which made me realize that I could not be 100% authentic to the teachings of yoga and continue to work in a “zero tolerance environment". My family appreciated the reliability of a paycheck so I went with the flow and did my best to teach authentic classes.
One day, the management made it clear that I was working at a place that did not trust my judgment and honor my healthy lifestyle. I felt offended and knew that my husband would support me in just saying “No thank you”. My employment was immediately terminated and they had someone there to teach the class that I had built. It was shocking to my family. We built our lives around the club: swim lessons, soccer classes – Dorothy was about to start ballet classes too. All of that stopped abruptly.
Fortunately, I tend to land on my feet….most of the time. There was about a week filled with deep sadness, anger, resentment, fear, etc. When I finally got an email together and sent it to the kula (yoga group or family), I was overwhelmed with blessings from our community which warmed my heart and brought deep healing. Luckily, Nathan at Living Spirit Yoga warmly opened his space for Yin and an All Levels class on Saturday mornings. The Heart Room is also a lovely space for my Tuesday 10:30 am basics class. Eric Romano has generously asked me to teach Garden Yoga with him on Wednesdays at noon. The support for my new classes is amazing and it’s clear that getting fired is a huge blessing in disguise. Everyone who has attended, comments on the benefits of smaller classes in spaces filled with yogic energy. The props are superb, I have full control over the temperature and there is never an unwanted gust of annoying air. I am feeling deep gratitude.
As we enjoy the summer light, my prayer for all of us is to simply be present – with all that is. Take time to breathe deeply, see the beauty that is all around and lengthen the body. May we all use any negativity as rocket fuel to take us exactly where we are meant to be. You are worthy of that.
If you are in Olympia, please join me at any of the classes on my schedule. I am also available for private and semi-private lessons.
Namaste – The light within me salutes the light within you.