Journey Yoga – Don’t Stop Believin’

dontstop

Did you know that Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ is the most downloaded song of the 20th century? And why shouldn’t it be?

It f*cking rocks.

Don’t care where you were born, your social standing, religion, job title or spiritual affiliation – when you hear those keyboards and Just a small town girlyour inner 80’s rock star emerges. Just last summer my sister and I were driving to Martha’s Vineyard, MA for the July 4th weekend.

Stuck in traffic. My sister flipped through stations on the radio. There it was, Don’t Stop Believin’…

We belted it out with our bad voices, because that’s how we roll.

Damn, it feels so good to sing that song.

Can’t forget the last episode of The Sopranos. (For the record I’m team David Chase got the finale right)

Don’t Stop Believin- Everyman’s Journey is about the search and discovery of Arnel Pineda, Journey’s new lead singer. The doc is a little thin because it tries to delve into Journey pre and post Steve Perry.

Arnel’s story is the meat of this film and for its flaws it’s still very watchable.

Stepping into Steve Perry’s shoes was a tall order but Arnel and his rags to riches story is the stuff of legends. A homeless kid singing on the streets of the Philipines for food, he’s now a rock star living the dream.

Living. The. Dream. Do you get me? Discovered on YouTube. C’mon.

Don’t Stop Believin’. 

Seriously.

In class today our teacher mentioned that a 10 year old had taken his first hot yoga class. Midway through class she checks in with him to see how he’s doing. He responds, ‘I won’t ever give up!’

Don’t Stop Believin’. 

It’s true.

That’s part of the joy of Journey songs- they are about love, triumph, being faithful and never giving up.

Another fun fact, during every minute of every day you can hear a Journey song playing somewhere in the world.

Humanity likes a happy ending.

That gives me hope for this planet.

Nobody gets out of here alive, but enlightenment for all may be on the horizon.

I’m working on an idea about how to bring a larger message of yoga to communities that need it. I’ve been struggling a bit and have felt pretty frustrated the past few weeks. It’s aggravating to plug away and feel like you’re not making any progress.

But class today and this documentary were a much needed reminder.

Don’t Stop Believin’. 

I can’t. I won’t.

This is yoga. Don’t stop.

Namaste y’all.

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When Your Yoga Brings You To Tears (aka Free to Be You & Me)

photo credit elephant journal
photo credit elephant journal

 

 

In the third grade I saw ‘Free to Be You and Me‘.

Ftobelogo

I don’t remember if it was planned or if some weather induced incident prompted the rolling in of the projector, but we gathered in the atrium.

Do you remember that feeling? The excitement of the projector? Freedom from some schoolwork and the lights turned off during the school day? It was an adventure.

Have you had the pleasure of seeing FtbYM? Have your kids seen it?

It turned 40 last year. Marlo Thomas and friends tackle gender indentity, racsism, sexism and class with songs, animation, live action and of all things- puppets.

Just thinking about it makes me smile. You get to see a teenaged Michael Jackson sing with Roberta Flack about growing up and not changing. (Sort of eerie to watch now)

FtbYM was a landmark album and film by the Ms. Foundation for Women that introduced a generation of parents and kids to a new world order that was not just tolerant, but celebrated difference.

But…the greatest part of the movie for me is Rosey Grier singing ‘It’s Alright to Cry’.

6’5 burly, intimidating Rosey Grier tells us that it’s alright to cry. He croons:

It might make you feel better.

It’s alright to feel things,

though feelings may be strange.

And they change and change and change.

To this day I can’t help but hum the song in my head when I see tears or cry myself. (Imagine, I’m hysterical and still somewhere in my head singing- I accept my weirdness and way my freak flag proudly)

In many ways it was yoga.

Have you every cried on your mat?

I have. I remember once after a particularly bad break-up I wandered to a local studio. I needed to cleanse and didn’t realize at the time that I was in the midst of huge emotion changes. Isn’t that always the way? We don’t recognize change when it’s happening.

When I lifted up to Ustrasana (Camel Pose) a dam burst. Tears streamed down my face. Whoops- who turned on the faucet? I sucked it up and let it out at home.

Knowing what I know now I would have went with it. Pushing it back down wouldn’t have been an option. This actually makes things worse. When you can let a feeling come up and just be, it’s easy to let it change and change and change (Thanks Rosey!)

Releasing emotions is one of the amazing benefits of yoga. In a world that rewards stuffing down feelings, letting go and showing emotion in class at first made me very vulnerable. I got past my urges to ‘just do the poses’. My flow changes with my emotions and sometimes it changes in spite of my emotions. Now when things come up on my mat that make me say, ‘Hmm, I didn’t even know I was thinking about that.’ I can let it go and deal with it or release it if it isn’t serving me.

Turns out when you don’t resist most things aren’t a big deal.

Imagine that shit.

As a teacher I keep an eye out for this, especially with new students. Tears can come up  and it’s crucial that when I see it- I gently leave a tissue and check in with a look or hand on the shoulder to make sure everything is okay. Doing this discreetly is obvious, but for the sake of clarity I’ll mention it anyway. I want to create a safe space.

The point is, it’s alright to cry.

Yoga is my grown up version of Free to Be You and Me.

This is yoga. And it’s free to be whatever I need it to be. For me.

Namsate y’all.

Hitting the Wall and Other Tales of Woe (108 Days of Yoga)

brick-wall-vintage-background

Class on Tuesday was awesome. I love the excitement that gets generated, and seeing students progress is pure joy. As soon as c lass ended and I went home to make my green juice, the tank was empty.

Emp-tee.

I was dog tired. I’ve managed to sail through these first 43 of my 108 days of yoga without any issue. This was the first day that I came up against the dreaded ‘wall’.

You know that feeling that your body can’t push forward. Everything feels and sounds like it’s happening in slow motion. Actually I was closer to that little kid kind of tired, you know when munchkins refuse to admit that their crankiness is a direct result of physical exhaustion.

Yet, I  was super productive getting a bunch of stuff done despite being dressed in my best cranky pants.

I hit my mat for an hour at home but needed to rung out, so off to hot class I went.

To say the class was a struggle was an understatement.

I slogged through half wondering if I was crazy to think I was ready to do 108 days of yoga.

Then I took a real breath. 

Unfortunately, this little moment of clarity didn’t take place until I was on my way home. I sat on the train sweat covered and achy, water bottle to my lips. (Manhattan water is amazing. This seems insane, but it’s true. The water at my studio is unimaginably cold.)

As I sipped the water on the train I smiled.

I only have to be in the moment. I was getting caught up in what I had done in the past and what I was going to keep doing in order to sail through to day 108.

What I failed to do was live in the moment and understand that my journey is about what happens right now. Right in this moment.

In this moment I breathe in. In this moment I breathe out. There is nothing else to do. Worry doesn’t exist in the now.

So, there is no wall. There are only moments when I am tired and moments that I rest. If I can remember this every day- I got this enlightenment thing locked up.

Not. Bloody. Likely.

No worries though I’ve got my mat and my breath.

This is yoga. And it happens one breath at a time.

Namaste y’all.

I Keep on Falling In and Out of Love with Bakasana

Bakasana
Bakasana (Photo credit: jetportal)

Learning how to approach failure can make the difference between taking a chance again and packing up your bat and ball.

Anything worth having is worth the work. When you’re flat on your face these words of encouragement ring hollow.

But there’s some merit in becoming good at failing and falling…

Crow pose is an arm balance posture in yoga. It’s not the hardest and it’s not the easiest. It is the foundation of lots of other arm balances.  Arm strength, core strength, balance and trust is required.

Teacher training helped break down the mechanics of arm balances, rigorous asana practice built strength and a free flowing mindset made room for joy in the falling.

But when I first approached Bakasana that wasn’t the case.

Whoo doggie…For weeks I squatted like a yogi and pushed myself up on my toes. Ready for lift-off. Nothing. I was afraid of falling forward. And then I did fall forward. A lot.

On other attempts I was convinced my arms weren’t strong enough. Time after time I’d one part right and another part of the pose needed an adjustment. So it went. Again and agin. I kept at it.

Zilch. The only thing that was getting stronger was my growing impatience. My impatience muscle is over developed.

Then things changed. Our teacher had us set up for crow. In my head I moaned (In truth, I probably moaned out loud).

You can do this, I told myself.

Hands planted. I took a slow inhale and exhale. I let go of the judgement of my other failed attempts. Turning my focus inside I was feel my forearms straighten and my toes leave the floor. I was balancing.

And balancing…And balancing.

Success. It felt like I had always been able to do it.

I still smile at the thought. I did it.

I did it!

Edison tried 1000 times before the light bulb worked (So the story goes) . With attempts that doesn’t work we’re given a opportunity to retool a thought process or abandon outdated ways of thinking.  The other side of learning from mistakes is the ability to get back up and try again.

Sam Wang a neuroscientist in Princeton co-wrote Welcome To Your Brain  and he states “The brain does well, what it does often”. So if we teach ourselves not to give up when missteps happen, we are ultimately working at becoming more successful.

The next time you find yourself with less than what you expected don’t worry. Setbacks are setups for success.

This is yoga. Fall down 99 times, get up 100.

Namaste y’all.

Adventures in Hot Yoga – Half Locust Pose

Tony Parrish has a football yoga workout. This is pretty great for a variety of reasons.

I’ve mentioned that I’m a heat junkie. Can’t lie- it does something for me. The heat makes me pliable and that pliability helps me look deeper inside. With all that is going on with Bikram and his latest stroke of idiocy, it would seem easy to dismiss the practice.

I want to, I really do. The guy seems to have taken the yoga out of yoga. One thing I’ve learned though is that lessons are everywhere, the people we find distasteful can teach us the most.

I’ve learned from Bikram, beware the ego for it will take you over and take everything from you if you aren’t careful.

So hot yoga and I aren’t breaking up anytime soon. With all yoga I love when my body leads me to deconstruct a pose. It’s like learning it again, but inside out, or something like that. ,

Lately I’ve been focused on locust pose (pictured).

Before getting in it the teacher instructs, “Put your mouth to your mat”.

I always end up trying to sneak in a pucker- is that weird? Bear in mind you are already covered in sweat- this is the downhill part of class as far as I’m concerned.

After you ‘put your mouth to the mat, you roll onto your arms until they disappear underneath you. Doesn’t sound so hard- but- wait for it- your palms are facing down. If you don’t think this hurts- I’m not judging but you’re crazy. It was so painful at first I looked up at my teacher and I swear horns were sprouting from her head.

Mouth to the mat.

Roll on your arms so they disappear.

Palms down.

Lift one leg up.

Hold.

Then the other.

Hold.

Then- both. The first time I tried this it felt like my legs were glued to the floor. And I’m no punk. I can get my legs up much higher now- but one day I’d really love to look like the photo.

The Journal of American Medicine (JAMA) has an article about Carpal Tunnel treatment and yoga. This pose is mentioned. Pretty cool.

Every time my practice deepens- I discover another little nugget about the world and myself. I’m less shy than I was and engage in conversations with strangers more often. This may sound strange coming from a yoga teacher, and frankly when I tell people I’m shy I get eye rolls and ‘Oh yeah, sure Oneika, you’re really shy.’ But I am, seriously.

I guess my point is that living and teaching yoga is a daily practice both on and off the mat. I love it and I love what it has done for my mind body and spirit. I feel different, I look different, I act different.

I am different.

But I do wonder if I’m starting to replace yoga for other things, like dating. Normally I’d obsess about it. But I’m not going to worry about it right now. I’ll let my yoga take me there.

This is yoga, heated up stretched out and lifted.

Namaste y’all.

 

half locust

My Features Form with a Change in the Weather

snow city

My features form with a change in the weather

– ‘Mother’s Talk’, Tears for Fears

Two days ago a sleet storm graced the NYC area. Just lovely. I stepped outside after class and the streets were a slishy, slushy mess. It was dark and my open pores made my body feel like a sponge as I got full with cold air. I pulled my hat down over my ears and rolled my eyes at Mother Nature.

‘This is some ole bullshit.’ I grumbled to no one.

The streets were fairly empty and the snow still white, looked pretty. Sure I was cranky, but once I accepted the snow I could appreciate it the moment.

Accepting what ‘is‘ can be so hard. I think we are trained and socialized that run away from discomfort.

‘If it doesn’t feel good I don’t want to be near it’ seems to be a way of life for so many.

Imagine though, learning to stay with a feeling and see it through.

Imagine if we could learn to accept the icky parts of us without judgement or reservation?

That kind of revelation could change a life. If I can accept and then love all parts of me(warts and all), I’m ready and open to love every part of everyone.

This could come in handy especially when people I love try my patience (grrr).

We are imperfectly perfect.

If I can love Mother Nature with all her tantrums, I can certainly unconditionally love/accept myself when I have my own.

Everything we do puts us on the path to enlightenment.

This is yoga, for every season.

Namaste y’all.

Handstands – Practice, Practice, Practice

HikeYogaSplitHandstand

Have you read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell? It’s an interesting read that delves into the world of exceptional performance- what makes people like Michael Jordan, Michael Jordan and the rest of us mere mortals . Turns out genetics can be useful- but the real differentiator is practice. People who are great at something do it all of the time. They log thousands of hours making them more proficient and movements become second nature.This makes me feel good. When I like something I do it all of the time. This is not such a great thing when it comes to things like smoking or eating cheese, but turns out its pretty cool for yoga.

I’ve been itching to get into a handstand. It may be silly but for my particular yoga journey it’s one if several destinations. In a class a few months ago a teacher gave me an assignment- practice kicking up a little bit each day. I was also to try doorway handstands and handstands against the wall. It will come she told me just practice.

I did it for a week and was frustrated (I know and I’m a yoga teacher- just imagine if I didn’t have yoga- yikes). I kept at it. And I kept at it. And I kept at it.

Today I kicked up against the wall at hung for a few seconds and then realized my legs hadn’t yet touched the wall.

I. Was. In. A. Handstand.

Holy shit. My feet touched the wall and I was grinning upside down like a freaking Cheshire Cat.

I had done it!

Sure it was only a few seconds- but it was pure magic I tell ya.

There’s nothing like the joy of working hard on something and seeing progress.

This is yoga. And it progress happens after thousands of hours of practice and in the blink of an eye.

Namaste y’all.