I Wanted to Look Bad Ass–Is that so Wrong?

As my classes have grown and new relationships begin to blossom, I’ve been asked how I came to practice (and subsequently teach) yoga. While the reasons one should practice are varied, mine was pretty simple.  I didn’t come to yoga to heal my heart or work out deeply seated issues I have with my father/mother/brother.  I wasn’t looking to find the quiet space between my thoughts, deal with major trauma, heal from disordered eating, or cope with high levels of stress.  (That isn’t judgment, by the way.  I realize that some people DO come to this practice for a number of these reasons.  And while I can’t necessarily relate to them, I do appreciate that they are real.)  

To put it plainly, I wanted to be able to put my body into some bad ass poses.  (Scorpion was top on the list.)

Perhaps that seems superficial. Honestly, it wasn’t so I could “show boat” or be a bendy braggadocio. And becoming a teacher never crossed my mind. I just knew there was something to the process. The journey. The asana adventure. I sure as hell didn’t know what that meant or would entail, but it continued to intrigue me. Keep in mind that this was back in 1999/2000. While yoga was growing, it wasn’t as mainstream then as it is now. (Can you imagine a time with no Facebook, YouTube, Instagram or abundant yoga pose selfies?) So, when a co-worker told me she went to the studio that I passed regularly and had developed a strong curiosity about, we made a date to go together. 

My first class was (in my mind) a bit of a disaster.  I felt completely out-of-my-body.  Where the hell did my balance go?  Why don’t I get this breath-movement thing?  But once I stopped trying to be good at it (Okay, so I am a Recovering Type A), *tada!* I started getting better at it!  My practice became one of dedication and devotion to Ashtanga, typically going to four classes a week but often more.  As it happens with schedules and creatures of habit, many of the same practitioners came to the same classes. While each  was wonderful in its own right, there was something special about our Tuesday night group. A dozen or so of us would roll out our mats on a regular basis, breathing and moving in unison until the entire room seemed to pulse in time with the tempo of our ujayii pranayama.  Some of us still talk about those nights and how palpable the connections were.  Summer sessions would wind down with the day as we slipped into a sunset savasana and, as the seasons changed, practice would begin at dusk and settle in as the glint of snow gathered in soft formation outside. I can clearly remember driving home with a friend after a Tuesday practice one winter’s night.  We both left it all on the mat and were sitting in virtual silence in our seats when it began to snow.  Big, fluffy, gorgeous flakes fell and were illuminated by my headlights.  We both looked at each other with awe and enormous smiles.  This was a sublime moment.  And we were utterly and completely in it.  That was when I knew yoga would be a part of my life forever. 

Within my first year of practice, I decided to start running and signed up for a marathon.  At this point, I was practicing several times a week and had the time to properly train for the 26.2 miles I’d be running in Kona.  There were some touch-go-moments when I hit the double-digit miles, and I recall one of my teachers mentioning that running 10+ miles and doing two full-primary series practices within 24 hours might be a little much. It took some adjusting, but I was able to find a good rhythm between my practice days and my training schedule and crossed the finish line feeling pretty great! To this day, I attribute my lack of injury and swift recovery from running in the Kona heat to my regular yoga practice.

As life shifted, so did my practice.  I traveled more for business.  My yoga studio moved to a new location that wasn’t 12-minutes away.  I started going to the gym more.  Running twenty-some-odd miles on a Thursday instead of rolling out my mat. Eventually, my practice down-shifted to once or twice a week.  When it did, I could feel the result in my body.  I was strong as hell, but the fluidity, ease, and presence of mind were not the same.  My body moved better when I practiced more regularly. I missed sharing those simple and profound post-practice moments. It was time to make a change. More dates with the mat. Period.

To be honest, those moments often vacillated between first-date awkwardness and an adversarial inner monologue. My body occasionally staged a coup–What? You really think supta kurmasana is still in there? Ha!  Good luck with that…

I was in my head. 

*inhale*exhale*inhale*come-on-damn-you-hand-grab-hold-and-bind*exhale*ugh*

I realized that the goal-oriented, marathon-running, strength-training mind and body were taking over the space reserved solely for my mind/body. While it was discouraging at first as it felt almost like starting anew, I went back to the basics of simply connecting my breath and movement; suspending judgment and expectations of what that 60- or 90-minutes of mat time would bring. In time, the mind chatter dissipated. And like spinning the right combination on a lock, my body released and gave way to the practice again. 

Over the years, through aging and injury and the life changes brought on by moving from bramacharya/student to grahasta/householder, my practice has certainly shape-shifted. And while I may have beaten myself up over it in the past, a conversation I had with David Swenson helped me to see that being humbled and feeling vulnerable were gifts. I had an opportunity to use this experience to “go inside,” learn and evolve. It would be several years before I made the transition to teaching, but I’m grateful for each of the little setbacks and small victories along the way. No matter what life brings, I still hold the practice and tradition with great reverence and respect all that it brings to my life.  To practice is to give oneself a gift over and over again. It’s one that I happily accept, and willingly and most humbly share.

Namaste.

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A Friendly Reminder

Rumi quote

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Thanks, Salt Room Yoga!

In a “previous life,” I traveled about every three weeks for business.  Those trips were usually jam-packed and left little time for yoga on the road.  In my “new life,” one of my own design and as a full-time yoga teacher, travel is almost exclusively for pleasure–even when it’s for my own business because my work is a pleasure!  So, when the travel bug bites, I make sure to bring my yoga mat with me whenever possible.

That said, I recently accompanied my husband on one of his work-related trips to Seattle.  I had hoped to practice with some of the teachers who I respect and are based in the Emerald City, but they were all traveling at the time.  No matter–I found a little gem of an Ashtanga studio.  Had a nice little practice in a very cool space.  Thanks, Salt Room!

View from my mat.

View from my mat.

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Ashtanga Yoga Confluence 2014

I’ve attended this event since its inception and am, once again, humbled to be in the presence of such incredible teachers.  While I may often teach a more vinyasa flow style of yoga in my classes, going back to the roots of my cherished Ashtanga practice is like mainlining inspiration and tradition.  You can’t help but feel connected to each and every Ashtangi–whether they are practicing beside you in the hundreds, or are someplace else in the world.  The thread that Sri K Pattabhi Jois started runs through each of us, and his spirit was palpable in every breath and every moment.

This year, we were joined by Manju Jois, son of Amma and Pattabhi Jois.  The tales he told about his parents and growing up in a home that was legendary to so many of us kept us rapt by his words.  It was touching to hear in his voice the love and respect he had (and still has) for his parents.  His dedication to the practice and sharing it around the world has kept him full of vim and vigor.  (It’s hard to believe he will be 70 this year!)

It was an honor to attend–thank you to so many yogis who covered my classes while I was gone.  Namaste.

YogaJolie and Manju Jois

YogaJolie and Manju Jois

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A Warm Smoothie? YES.

I’ve been on a pretty good smoothie clip lately, and the other day I wanted to blend something up, but I just wasn’t feeling the love of a chilled drink. I couldn’t shake the cold that seemed to set into my bones after a number of really frigid days, so I decided to turn up the heat and make a warm smoothie.

Before I lose you with the two words that seem incongruous to one another, let me say that you will love it! I should also say that not all blenders are created equal, so you may not get the same temperature with a standard blender as I do with my VitaMix. That said, if you prefer your smoothies unadulterated and chill, don’t blend as long!

What I threw into my blender:
1 banana
a handful of raw walnuts
~1 T coconut oil
~1 T of raw hemp seeds
~1 T of chia seeds
~1 T of maca powder (I used MacaForce in Vanilla Spice)
1-2 T of cacao powder
1 scoop protein powder (I used Vega)
~1 t cinnamon
dash of sea salt

Almond or coconut milk to desired consistency.

Turn that bad boy on and blend away! If you have a high-powered blender, you may only have to let it go for a minute or two to bring the temperature up a little. If you have a VitaMix (or the equivalent), be careful not to let it go too long–you can actually really heat your ingredients up to soup-level-hot if you aren’t paying attention!

But as you can see, my smoothie recipe isn’t a scientific, precise “recipe,” but more like a suggested list. You could use cashews or even your favorite nut butter. Leave out the maca, hemp seeds or chia seeds. Throw in more banana–maybe even a frozen one if you prefer your smoothies on the cold side.

It’s hard for me to describe what this tastes like–but it’s delicious. And if a frosty drink is like a sundress on a June day, the slightly warm temperature of this smoothie is like a cashmere blanket on a snowy Sunday.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Warm smoothie

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Eat Your Veggies – kale edition

kale-smoothie

Spring and summer bring great opportunities to hit farmers markets for fresh fruits, veg, and other items that are locally grown or produced.  It feels good to support area farmers and you can cut down on carbon footprint by not buying items at the store that are shipped and trucked in.  I realize that farmers markets aren’t in every community, so this recipe contains items that can be found pretty easily while giving you a good hit of vitamins along the way.

The heavy hitter in this recipe is the kale.  Kale is high in beta carotene, VitK, VitC, and is calcium-rich.  It also contains sulforaphane, which is a naturally occurring chemical with potent anti-cancer properties.  It also is a source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical that boosts DNA repair and appears to block the growth of cancer cells.

Blueberries contain abundant phytonutrients called polyphenols, which can decrease age-related neurological diseases.  This powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory fruit may help decrease chronic conditions like heart disease, cancer, etc. which can be caused by inflammation.  They are also packed with VitC, fiber, manganese and have a low glycemic index.  Sounds pretty good, huh?  Put ’em together with a few other ingredients and you have one hell of a healthy smoothie!

4-6 kale leaves (remove stems if thick)

1 c blueberries (fresh or frozen)

1 1/2 c liquid (soy/coconut/almond milk)

1/4 c water

1 T flax

1 banana

I typically blend the kale, flax, and blueberries with a little liquid so that the drink is smooth before adding the other ingredients.  If you have a kick ass blender like a VitaMix or Blendtec, it won’t take long.  Other blenders might need a little time to break the kale apart.  When you have a good consistency, add remaining ingredients, blend, and enjoy!

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Some of My Favorite Go-To Pieces for Fitness

As a yoga teacher/practitioner and long distance runner, I spend at least five days a week in spandex, lycra, luon and power luxtreme, so people often ask me for advice on where to get quality gear for a decent price.  This weekend, after attending a class at my local lululemon showroom, someone asked me what my “go to” pieces were.  Well, I can’t lie.  I do love me some lululemon.  And if we are talking about my favorites, I can name two in particular that I have multiples of in my closet right now.

I do that often–buy multiples of my favorites.  It could be running pants, a tank, or even my running shoes.  Manufacturers often change the color range with the season/year to freshen it up, and sometimes they will make other adjustments to the item as well.  If I know that this year’s running shoe fits me well, I’m buying at least two pairs of ’em because I’ll put the miles on them and I don’t want to risk next year’s model having a tweaked toe box or modified arch support.  But I digress.

My two favorite lululemon items (though my collection is certainly not limited to these!) are the Power Y tank and the Run: Inspire Crop.  And here’s why: I can pretty much wear both of them for yoga and running.  I love the back of the Power Y tank because it’s minimal and the straps don’t get in the way during some of the crazier yoga postures. Plus, this tank is a little longer, so it won’t ride up during forward folds.  (Wear this outside on a sunny run and the tan lines will be super minimal.)  Added bonus: if you strength train, your back is guaranteed to look hot in one of these.  Hello, muscles!

Power Y Run: Inspire

The Run: Inspire crops are awesome because I can wear them on training runs in the spring, summer and fall (I tend to wear longer tights in the winter), and there is a small zip pocket on the back that can hold a key, cards/money, etc.  I’m partial to black tights, but they have a bunch of different colors available.  Like most of their stuff, it isn’t cheap–$52 for the tank and $86 for the tights–but if you wear it as often as I do, it’s worth the investment.

If you want to add a little sass to your ass while running, this Pace Setter skirt is adorable!  (Are you kidding me with those ruffles?!  LOVE.)  I’m a big fan and plan to get another color to wear when the weather breaks.  (I already own the black, of course.) There are built-in bloomers–so no need for modesty–and I love the elastic on the hems to keep the shorts from riding up.  $58.

Pace Setter skirtI’ve owned gear from a lot of different companies over the years, and have found some pretty good stuff out there.  Prior to my love affair with lulu, Nike dominated my clothing range because the fit and design were always pretty great and you can find their stuff in just about any sports-related store.  Now, I realize that not everyone wants to spend a ton of coin on clothes that are just going to get sweaty.  For you, check out the Active line at Old Navy.  Seriously.  I was in there the other day and the tanks looked mighty cute, but what really caught my eye were these awesome boot cut yoga pants!  Regularly priced at $19.50, they are a total steal, but they are on sale right now for $11.50!  What?!  Yes…  I own several pair as of yesterday.  They have interesting stitching/seams, wash and wear well, and they make my butt look cute–that’s kind of important, no?  Plus, since they have a fun boot cut, they are perfect to wear while running errands after class.

boot cut yoga pantsProbably the key thing to do no matter how much you spend on your fitness gear is to care for it properly.  Don’t wash it with your jeans or towels, don’t use fabric softener, make sure zippers are closed, and (if you can) air dry that stuff!  I use a special fabric wash on all our active wear and my pieces look good no matter how old they are.  Of course, check the care label for specific manufacturer instructions, but this has been my routine since the dawn of time, and it’s not failed me yet!

I’d love to hear what some of YOUR favorites are–let me know!

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