Thursday Yoga – The Power of ‘I’m Sorry’

Photo adventures in grace
Photo adventures in grace

I was bad at saying I’m sorry. Sometimes, I’m still pretty shitty at it. I read that when somewhere that when we say I’m sorry we are really trying to forgive ourselves for the hurt we have inflicted upon ourselves. Yoga says that ahisma is not to be practiced. We do not practice violence against others or ourselves.

You may know that hanging feeling of knowing an I’m sorry that needs to be said. Instead of saying the words and opening up that space of healing, we squash it down with distractions. We distract ourselves with other thoughts, work, a drink, a smoke, an argument, errands…you get the picture. All of these things only prolong the suffering of not saying those two words.

So why not be free?

Live in the now.

Maybe the idea of I’m sorry to the person you’ve wrong isn’t possible. Stephen and Ondrea Levine have a page set up, that allows you apologize- anonymously. Because the act itself of being sorry can be powerful.

So go ahead. Say I’m sorry.

 

Namaste y’all.

 

 

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Tuesday Yoga – Staying Tethered

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When i’m too distracted, it”s easy to slip away from my spirit and connection with my true self.

So even when I’m confronting something uncomfortable I breathe in and exhale the thoughts that don’t serve me.

 

Namaste y’all.

Money Yoga

money and life

 

 

Money and Life is a documentary that talks about where money comes from (thin air) and how it’s been turned into the way we live our lives and what we can do about it.

 

 

 

Money & Life Extended Trailer from Katie Teague on Vimeo.

It got me thinking about my recent change in my relationship with money.  In the past two years I’ve let go of a lot of things that most think are big measures of success- my luxury condo, my car and lots of stuff that wasn’t serving me.

 

This isn’t to say that I don’t think that I should move on a commune away from society. But I have shifted my paradigm of thinking when it comes to how I measure my success and what I want to offer to the world. I’m more interested in the inter connectedness of the world rather that trying to squelch someone’s chances of success for my own gain. That kind of thinking works off a thought process that there isn’t enough. When in fact, there is enough. There is enough food, money, success, happiness for everyone.

I’m not talking about Law of Attraction woo woo stuff here. But one thing I have realized is that I used to put a lot of focus on accumulating stuff and not living life. And though my lifestyle has changed drastically from the one that I was living a few years ago- I’m more centered and more content than I have ever been.

I don’t think I’m fooling myself either, because the more I connected with the work I want to do, I created opportunities for myself.

In the beginning of the new year most of us look to cleanse our bodies. But what about cleansing for we spend and live? Life gets busy and our routines could use a shake up. When was the last time you checked in with your kids about how they understand money? Have you taken a look at how you are saving for retirement? Are you spending excess money each week without knowing it? Regardless of how tight you may think you manage, it’s a good idea to check-in.

Beth Kobliner, probably best known for her book Get a Financial Life encourages people to do a ‘money fast’ at the beginning of each year. After paying necessary expenses, can you spend the month with spending any money? It’s a great way to see what’s important and what’s not. It may also challenge your idea of what is important.

If you are serious about jump starting your financial health. Levo League has five great tips to get you started on a 30-day financial cleanse.

1. Introduce yourself to the bare necessities.

Cut out all frivolous spending, so you can get to the bottom of your relationship with money. You can spend on groceries, bills, transportation, and health expenses—nothing more.

2. Convert to cash

When we use cash, we become more aware of our spending. It might sound counterintuitive, but managing your spending habits becomes simpler without a credit or debit card. Either your wallet is full, or your wallet is empty. You see the flow of your money in real time.

3. Monitor your spending

Over the course of a week, you can begin to monitor what you really miss and what you are surprised you can easily live without. You’ll be motivated by the amount of money you’re saving in the meantime, and you’ll likely think to yourself, “This is a lot easier than I thought!”

4. Learn to forgive, in order to learn

Even with all the progress you’ve made so far, you’ll most likely slip up and purchase something you didn’t mean to. It’s very important to forgive yourself.

Like I said, our habits become very automatic and as soon as we let our guards down, we may catch ourselves swiping a credit card on something we are in the habit of buying. Take this moment to truly consider your motivations behind your spending.

5. Reassess your values

Understanding your values and what’s really important to you is the key to financial wellness. Your spending and use of your time should point to your values—meaning, you should be spending the majority of your time and money on things of utmost importance.

If you’re not, you’re unaligned with your spending and have the opportunity to use your money in much more meaningful ways. For example, if family is really important to you, but you spend no time with them and no money on spending time with them, you’re missing out on very fulfilling spending.

You may want to plan more trips with them, or even plan to visit them if they aren’t nearby. I call this putting your money where your heart is.

 

 

 

Check out the entire documentary Money & Life below.  It’s great to watch with the family.

 

 

Adventures in Teaching Yoga- Riker’s Island (Liberation Prison Yoga)

Namaste1

“Comedy is acting out optimism.”

-Robin Williams

 

By some magnificent shift of the planets I woke at 5:30 feeling refreshed. The first thing I heard in my head was the last line of the Langston Hughes poem, ‘A Dream Deferred’.

 

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

My dreams had been vivid (which isn’t unusual), on my mind was Michael Brown and the death of Robin Williams. The brain is incredible and exhausting. It didn’t help that the prior day was challenging. I’m in a learning curve with the next part of my career and I was struggling with a project. Although I had a wonderful time teaching last night by the time I hit the bed I was physically aching.

And yet…

My soul felt light as I got dressed for Riker’s. The scheduled topic this week was depression. Unfortunately, current events fit perfectly. I had a flow planned but as I biked to the PATH train I decided to change things up.

star pose

Standing star pose would be our focus. Last week in class I mentioned the Ted Talk video with Amy Cuddy and faking it till you make it. This week we used that as a foundation and talked about Robin Williams, suicide and depression. Everyone took time before class to write down a few small things that she would do to feel better if the mood was starting to darken. The list was long and everyone has great suggestions ranging from talking to counselors and friends, reaching out to family, prayer, meditation and physical activity. I think having everyone write and share before class worked for me. We then applied those ideas when we practiced.

We started at the top of our mats in star pose, chests lifted. Our inhales tried to take us off the ground and our exhales made us bold and strong. Moving right to Warriors everyone’s body was expressive. In between postures we can back to star pose. One student succinctly stated, “Star pose is…cool.”

Indeed. To spice things up we even played around with eagle. At first everyone said, “No way..” However, taking the pose one step at a time everyone was in it. Not sure who was more excited but we all laughed. I know they get a kick out of this whacky Black chick who says rock on and awesome at the end of every other sentence. I’m grateful that they humor me and trust me enough to share.

On the floor we used bolsters and did a few therapeutic poses that inspire feelings of safety. Supported Child’s pose got lots of love. Hugging the bolster helped release a lot of tension and instill a sense of security. Our seated forward folds with the bolster stretched the legs without too much tension. But there was a collective exhale of joy when we did reclined goddess pose with the bolster.

‘I want to stay here all day’ someone said. So we spent our guided mediation reclined. And the space became still. There was no yelling. No buzzing door. I kept the focus on the idea that finding peace is our choice- even in chaos we can close our eyes and look inside to be still. To be still without holding still. This can be our choice and our decision. After class there were requests for a longer guided meditation. Next week, I will happily comply.

These women are important. These women matter. I think of them daily.

They are my inspiration. They are resilient and funny and honest and true.

Until next week y’all. Namaste.

(To learn more about Liberation Prison Yoga and its programs- click here)

Adventures in Yoga – Forgive Yourself

What-does-the-Bible-say-about-Forgiveness

When I was in the third or fourth grade I discovered flavored lip gloss. Fantastic! It came in different colors, flavors and tasted faintly sweet. What’s not to love?

One day, in CVS I saw some root beer lip gloss that I had to have. We learn desire and suffering so early. I had to have it. My mother said no. So my grubby paws and racing heart palmed the lip gloss. I know, I know, I know…..

 

 

In the parking lot walking next to my mother, I pulled out the lip gloss. (I said I was desperate for root beer lips, not necessarily  the sharpest tool in the shed). Needless to say my mother went f@cking apeshit  because it became clear too her that she had given birth to a budding criminal. I was marched back inside the store and required to report my crime to the manager. She was none too pleased and if memory serves (which is tricky) I got in pretty big trouble. But like all good moms- she forgave me. I went on to do even bigger and more stupid things and she forgave me these trespasses as well.

 

It always seemed harder to forgive myself. I would let the shame or guilt coat my skin. Rather than let things go and start fresh I became a series of bad things I’d done.

 

I guess we’ve all done things that make us less than proud of ourselves. Yoga has helped me let go of my past while staying accountable so I live my best life in the now. In some cases I’ve been lucky enough to be forgiven for some of my past transgressions. I’m forever grateful for the people in my life who have loved me unconditionally.

 

In other cases I haven’t been so lucky and I’ve had to lose people because I burned a bridge. Living a life through the breath helps me feel okay with the idea of things being what they are even when they are good and bad. Because even feelings or things that are bad can end up being good. I’ve also realized that a big part of this whole process of becoming enlightened is learning to forgive yourself.

 

I am more that the bad shit I’ve done.

I am more than what I do for a living.

I am not the stuff I have.

I am not the stuff I don’t have.

 

Last week in class I lost myself. I became too connected with my breathing and missed a cue from the teacher- in a effort to catch up I rushed through my flow- completely reacting to the idea of catching up rather that truly remembering why we do the asanas- to connect to the now.

 

Eddie my teacher, gently said- ‘if you ever miss a cue, don’t worry- come back to downward dog. It’s okay no need to rush- forgive yourself.’

 

There’s no perfection.

 

I felt a flash of shame. Not because of what he said, but because I still struggle with the idea of saying to myself, ‘you’re forgiven. Let it go.’

 

And then something happened- I let it go. I actually let the shame of it all go on an exhale into a forward fold.

 

Not surprisingly, the rest of class was like opening of a flower- I wasn’t stressed- I didn’t hyper focus on technique- I went with my flow. I gave myself the ultimate gift.

 

I’m forgiven.

 

Namaste y’all.

 

Keep Your Eyes on Your Own F*#&ing Mat – Response to Jen Caron

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(There isn’t a big juicy rant ahead, so be warned. I decided to think before I wrote. Please know that the calm state of mind in which I wrote this post does not reflect the normally snarky way I chose to address uncomfortable situations) 

After reading the xo Jane article There Are No Black People in My Yoga Class and I’m Uncomfortable with It I must admit I had a typical Oneika knee-jerk response. I rolled my eyes and didn’t finish the article. I stopped reading after this paragraph:

I thought about how that must feel: to be a heavyset black woman entering for the first time a system that by all accounts seems unable to accommodate her body. What could I do to help her? If I were her, I thought, I would want as little attention to be drawn to my despair as possible—I would not want anyone to look at me or notice me. And so I tried to very deliberately avoid looking in her direction each time I was in downward dog, but I could feel her hostility just the same. Trying to ignore it only made it worse. I thought about what the instructor could or should have done to help her. Would a simple “Are you okay?” whisper have helped, or would it embarrass her? Should I tell her after class how awful I was at yoga for the first few months of my practicing and encourage her to stick with it, or would that come off as massively condescending? If I asked her to articulate her experience to me so I could just listen, would she be at all interested in telling me about it? Perhaps more importantly, what could the system do to make itself more accessible to a broader range of bodies? Is having more racially diverse instructors enough, or would it require a serious restructuring of studio’s ethos?

 

Then I decided, hey- why not finish it? So I did. I’d like to tell you that the article got better.

Nope.

Here’s the quick and dirty…A woman felt suddenly uncomfortable because her vision of what yoga should look like was challenged when an overweight Black woman showed up to her yoga class. I’m not over simplifying here. By the end of the post Caron says that yoga should be more inclusive. Still not sure that I get the whole point of what she was trying to say.

While most of the article could be written off to youth and inexperience (and a good idea gone bad by xo Jane), I had three big problems with Caron’s words.

1. What’s troubling is that a Black woman caused such upheaval for Caron that she went home and cried. When is the last time that Caron talked to a Black person? She lives in Brooklyn. Instead of challenging her own perceptions Caron went home and blamed the practice of yoga. At no point did Caron ask herself (in the piece) if her response was a bit over-the-top, out of touch and worth exploring because it… Is. Utterly. Self-absorbed.  Caron writes:

Because I was directly in front of her, I had no choice but to look straight at her every time my head was upside down (roughly once a minute). I’ve seen people freeze or give up in yoga classes many times, and it’s a sad thing, but as a student there’s nothing you can do about it. At that moment, though, I found it impossible to stop thinking about this woman. Even when I wasn’t positioned to stare directly at her, I knew she was still staring directly at me. Over the course of the next hour, I watched as her despair turned into resentment and then contempt. I felt it all directed toward me and my body.

 

I was completely unable to focus on my practice, instead feeling hyper-aware of my high-waisted bike shorts, my tastefully tacky sports bra, my well-versedness in these poses that I have been in hundreds of times. My skinny white girl body. Surely this woman was noticing all of these things and judging me for them, stereotyping me, resenting me—or so I imagined.

 

2. There’s this idea, this thought both in Caron’s mind and in society that women who aren’t White dream of nothing else but trying to be white. And while I could go off on a tangent here and talk a bit about that (and some notable exceptions)- I’m going to hold steady.

Not all Black women dream of being a size two. And how did she know that this particular woman was in despair? Did she ask? I hoped that the story would end with Caron chatting with the woman after class, but instead Caron went home and cried.

I wonder what would have happened if Caron had decided to give the woman a genuine smile when she put down her mat- or smiled at her when it appeared that the woman (according to Caron) may have needed some non-verbal support. What would have happened if Caron had used this as a chance to open up her own heart and worldview rather than make it an attack on her status as a thin white woman? Of course these are just curious musings from a bystander (yoga teacher, yoga student and Black woman).

I can’t assume what would have happened if she had done these things. I’m going to take a leap though and assume that Caron’s world is not filled with a ton of friends who do not look like her. I think there was a missed opportunity for an experienced student to welcome a newer student to yoga. In the studios where I teach and practice the sense of collective community is strong- it’s what I love about yoga.

We are all in this together.

3. Caron talks about her asana practice and the “well-versedness in these poses that I have been in hundreds of times.” One of my favorite books is The Heart of Yoga by T.V.S. Desikachar. T.V.S. is the son of the man who is considered to be the modern father of yoga, Kirshnamacharya. Yoga means ‘to yoke’; to bring together forming a union. To get to this place we empty our minds of chatter (chitta vritti), unnecessary thoughts that can get in the way of uniting our body and breathing. Caron’s article is a series of seemingly incessant internal thoughts from start of class to finish. Granted, this happens to all of us. But our yoga is to inwardly direct the self-talk so we can minimize it. Yoga is more than a series of poses done in expert fashion. It’s working through a physical practice to begin the real practice of living in the now, without judgement, fear or violence.

I think the article was an attempt to talk about diversity. Was it mired down in a bunch of stuff that was crappy- yup. Caron wrote the article and put it out there- so feedback is going to come. But how do we move forward from here?

It’s my hope that this article doesn’t discourage Black women from trying yoga. While there are a lot of women like this- there are also so many more people who are warm, loving and generous. There are more and more Black yoga teachers (and other teachers of color). This matters- it opens the dialogue and discussion.

I can’t reliably speculate on the Black woman discussed because of the projection of feelings of the author onto a total stranger- so who’s to say she had a bad class at all. But if she did I hope she doesn’t feel discouraged and finds a yoga home where she can feel nurtured and flourish. And if she can’t she can call me and I’ll practice with her.

T.V.S. Desikachar writes:

“The success of Yoga does not lie in the ability to perform postures but in how it positively changes the way we live our life and our relationships.”

There’s some food for thought for all of us. And if that doesn’t work we can listen to Bryan Kest, a teacher who has a no bs approach to yoga and meditation.  He often says ‘Keep you eyes on your own fcuking mat.’

Good plan.

Namaste y’all.

Stand Here, in This Place – Adventures in Yoga

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I wasn’t able to get out of my own way this week.

Out of sync.

And because I like nothing more than making matters worse, I tried to rush each day along.

Futile and insane. We’ve all done it, tried to rush past the shittiness so we can get back to the good stuff.

The easy stuff.

It didn’t work. I slugged through it both frustrated and sleepy. A brief respite came Friday during a local teacher’s practice. This week’s focus was Yin yoga and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Being with nothing but a pose and pranayama was a great first step back in the direction of balance. After a long hot shower and a glass of pinot I was ever so grateful to climb into my bed at 9:30. I needed my day off.

After a morning visit to Brian the Chiropractor, I raced on my bike to class. Frustrated again because I left the house ten minutes later than I should have so I walked into the studio at 12pm for a 12pm class. Grrr.

And then…a shift. The previous class was running late. I saw bodies under blankets with eye pillows. Yes!

I am not sure if things come up because I need them, if I attract situations that I think about or if I notice things because they are on my mind. Who knows, it could be a combination of all three.

A chance to catch up.

I smiled at my luck. When I went to check in- I was offered a complimentary class because of a mix-up on the snow day.

A do over.

Class started in Virasana, my least favorite pose but I was relaxed and went with the sensation. The warm- up consisted of a wave of movements that slowly churned energy and gently brought quiet heat to my muscles. Kevin, the teacher tenderly urged that we let go of judgment. Instead, we should release the notion of good and bad around actions and feelings. And lastly look at ourselves from a place of observation whether nothing and everything just- is.

My spirit fascia loosened up.

A chance to breathe.

And then, we moved into Tadasana.

His next words put the past week in perspective and were the safe harbor in what turned out to be bear of a f*cking class.

‘Stand here, in this place.”

His words made me rise from my ribs and lift my heart.

‘Stand here, in this place.’

So I did. I stood feeling rooted, shaky and  suddenly without reason, very vulnerable.

But I stood there, in that place.

A mountain. Breathing. Never moving despite storms and clouds and the pounding sun.

‘Stand here, in this place.’

Because if I can stand when it hits the fan I can rise in the sunlight. If I can stand without judgement of myself and others, I am open to infinite possibilities.

So I stood. Without expectation.

I missed opportunities all week to stop and stand in the place that I was, but it was okay because I was doing it now.

I am doing it now. Standing here in this place without judgement but with observation.

Namaste y’all.

Open Letter to a Yoga Teacher

Yoga to the People Standing Bow

Dear Katherine-

When I realized that you were teaching class today I got nervous first and choked up, second. Your standing bow pose looks at me every time I walk into the locker room. But taking class with the person on the poster wasn’t the reason for the lump.

It’s funny, the day before another amazing teacher asked if we adjust our expectations based on who is teaching, when instead we should look internally when it comes to our practice.

Several months have passed since I took a class with you. Since then, life has changed exponentially.

I’ve started teaching yoga.

Your classes played a big part in that decision.

A year and a half ago I walked into your 6:30 pm class. I had never been so far away from myself- emotionally or physically. That class ripped me apart. 90 minutes in the heat.

Your voice was firm, focused and freeing.

Work hard but rest when you need to.

Find limits and grow but be intelligent about choices you make.

You can be comfortable or change, but you can’t have both. 

I know it’s yoga but it is also life. I didn’t know back then that I’d end up teaching- but that night was the flicker.  It was a spark that had to light from a puddle of sweat and tears.

Class was so f*cking hard. But I’d never been more grateful.

That night, I picked up my towel and soul off the mat.

I’d wash the towel. My soul was another story. It was shaky. And tired. You are never more lost until you are found.

At home, I crumbled. Cried until my eyes were puffy. No more hiding. No more running. It was time to start my life over, again.

I’m sure you’ve heard this a thousand times. Trying to articulate this after class would have resulted in me crying- not because I was embarrassed but until being confronted with seeing you- I didn’t actually realize how much I have changed. Or changed back to who I was before the fall.

In this day and age of the over share- the whys, whats and wheres aren’t important, but thanking people is a lost art.

So thank you, Katherine.

Your class makes me tap into something deeper and lighter. I have become my own best teacher.

Namaste.

Kayak Yoga – Fall Seven Times, Stand Up Eight

free kayak

Maybe it’s the yoga, maybe it’s because I’m getting older, maybe it’s because I have a newfound sense of freedom since I got my bike- but I’ve been up for trying new things.

This was not always so.

I wasn’t a fan of change and in fact- I didn’t like it. Not one bit. Round peg, round hole is how things should fit.

At least that’s the way the Dr. Seuss version of me thought of things.

But I caught up with a friend last Sunday and took a dive into the unknown.

Don’t get too excited. I didn’t climb a mountain.

I went out on a kayak.

Hey- baby steps, people. Baby steps.

We rode our bikes to Hoboken from Jersey City and parked at the Hoboken Cove Boathouse. We signed a sheet of paper and got to kayak for free. Right? Free. No strings. Just free. How did I not know about this? They had free kayaking all summer long? This is what happens when you don’t explore, you miss out on good shit.

So- I hopped in my kayak and had a blast. It’s also quite an arm workout.

And because once I dip my toe,  I tend to go whole hog I decided to try a stand-up paddle board.

‘Just keep paddling,’ I was told after a brief lesson.

Off I went.

Look Ma! I’m doing it! Yoga was great prep for this- using the core and feeling the movement of the water to stay steady was a lot less difficult than I thought.

And then, a wave.

Things slow down before the body takes a tumble. I could feel the entire thing. The space-time continuum halted like in an episode of Fringe. I half expected to see bizarro Oneika rise from the water (She better not have a better ass than me, and I do not want her hair longer). But she never showed up and I was snapped my to my merely average  ass swaying to and fro on a paddle board.

The wave came and I could feel the balance shift. I didn’t even fight it, because there was nothing to fight. I was going in the water and that was that. I should say that I love the water and love to swim etc..etc… so this wasn’t a huge thing, but it wasn’t exactly warm and I was hoping to keep my clothes dry.

Ah well. In I went. All the way under. Completely soaked. My head popped the surface and I  exclaimed, ‘THIS IS AWESOME!’ Maybe I was bizarro Oneika? An interesting twist. I glanced at my butt- still the same. No matter. I felt freaking awesome.

I got on the board and fell off again. And again I giggled. I kept thinking I wish I had known about this during the  heat wave because I would have ‘slipped’ over and over.

Eventually I got back in the groove and headed back in. Once back on shore the guy asked if I was okay and I said I was great, it’s about getting back up.

I had to give a mental fistbump to  Dandayamana Dhanurasana- aka Standing Bow Pulling Pose in the Bikram series.

The pose is about falling, in the sense that once you fall can you pick yourself back up and try again- without judgement, maybe even with joy.

There’s one last weekend of free kayaking next Saturday. You can bet I’m going to be back on that stand up paddle board.

Fall seven times, stand up eight.

Paddle board yoga. Namaste y’all.