YogiPod Blog: Yoga, You Are My Hero

The alarm did not ring at the usual 5:30am. At 6:15 I woke with a startle, bolted out of bed, and dove headfirst into my to do list. By 7, I was on schedule but had missed my morning reading and meditation. At 7:30 my mind was swirling so fast and my body (as usual) was trying to keep up. Today already seemed frayed at the edges.

Then I saw my little yoga practice area all set up for reclined hero pose (sputa virasana) literally beckoning me over. Supta virasana is the hardest pose for me in all of yoga. It is no coincidence that it is the pose that my body absolutely needs to find true physical and organic balance. For me to practice this pose safely and effectively, I must be supported, usually by at least a bolster beneath sitting bones and spine and ample support for my head. Some days I need more, I rarely need less. My ego self always tries to endure the unbearable physical discomfort with a faux calm demeanor. But my Inner Teacher does not allow this to go on for too long before she reminds me that that I am wasting precious time in an unnecessary painful situation. So I take the support and immediately the pose feels like it makes sense. Even with lots of support though it is still a big challenge for me everyday

So why do I practice it you ask? Because it addresses my deepest imbalance and my tightest muscles. Because when I do not consistently stretch those tight, imbalanced muscles they just get more tight and more out of balance and I start to walk moderately stooped forward and weak in my core, which in no time at all causes back fatigue/ache. Even though it is a massive 5-10 minute daily challenge, when I finish, my body buzzes with vibrancy and my posture feels upright, light, and strong all day long.

A secondary super cool thing is that since I have been consistently visiting this absolutely humbling hero, I have had several breakthroughs in the more playful part of my asana practice, holding in new arm balances, more steadiness and balance in handstand, and wayyyy more enjoyment in super strong vinyasa flow classes.

This totally feeds into my current practice theme of the Pulsation of Work and Play. How cool is that??!! Oh Yoga, thanks for continuing to be my hero. NAMASTE.

Best Friend Yoga

Last week I spent 5 days studying Anusara Yoga with John Friend in Cambridge, MA—a 3-day teacher’s intensive and two days of observing and practicing asana classes. I arrived in Boston admittedly depleted from several months of non-stop teaching, definitely needing to ‘receive’ teachings for my own benefit and restoration as well as to further advance in my understanding of the Anusara method to continue to be a good teacher to my students. The 36 hours of training were all that I was expecting and more. Being surrounded by 150-160 yoga students every day, practicing and learning the high arts of asana, pranayama, meditation, and philosophy- mat to mat under the guidance and watchful eye of a masterful teacher is the kind of stuff I live for. John Friend is truly wonderful. In the sea of students in front of him, from 30 feet away, he gave me a verbal adjustment cue of ¼” hand placement movement which opened up an easeful channel of breath and energy in my whole body and pose. This was just one of the many of his simply amazing gestures of guidance over the week. His presentation of the teachings of the Shiva Shakti Tantra was simultaneously playful and serious. The language of which is foreign to me, but the concepts universally and intuitively insightful. I feel lit up, ultimately balanced, and so excited about living life to the fullest!

I spent the week in Boston without an internet connection (that at first caused me panic, then became a liberating situation) practicing hours of asana everyday. My body/mind loves and needed that. I do not take for granted that it was SUCH a luxury. It has been a slow re-entry back into the routine of householder and small business owner. There is a lot of ‘catch-up’ and work to tend to. And I am figuring out how to take the teachings out of the Masonic Hall in ‘The People’s Republic of Cambridge’ (home of Harvard and MIT among other brainiac institutes) and into my Yoga Birds world in Fairhope, Alabama.

I have come away from the week with heightened awareness of what is meaningful in my life—love and relationships topping the list– and how to cultivate more sensitivity in all of my friendships…at home, at work, and most importantly in myself. I reconnected with my BFF and look forward to practicing with more self-sensitivity, which will reflect in and support all of my actions off the mat. ‘Cuz that’s the way it’s always been with me and my friend, yoga.

Namaste, I mean it!

Yesterday was apparently Epiphany Tuesday. Thunderous awakenings walking the dogs in The Fruit and Nut district of Fairhope! Cracks of light in the tunnel of “What is my dharma?”

After class yesterday Teddy asked me an alignment question about the placement of the feet in Tadasana. I teach hip-width apart, his other teacher teaches big toes touching. Which is correct? My first answer is this (culled from writings of other great yoga teachers)…there are many different paths to get us to the ‘connection’ (of body, mind, spirit, heart) that is the promise of yoga. Different asana systems teach different alignment principles. Different world-views and rituals carpet the world of Yoga, yet all lead us to the same union. I personally have found that Anusara Yoga is a wonderful system for me and I am passionate about teaching its method and specific alignment principles. I also absolutely honor all other teachers’ paths and methods of teaching. I admit, I have been that student/teacher in the past who has thought that my path was superior. But as my path bends and curves, and I continue to grow and mature I understand that all of our paths are fated by our uniquely personal moment-to-moment experiences and choices. There is no hierarchy in this process.

Judith Lasater has had profound influence on my journey as a yogi and teacher of asana. She states that as teachers we must have a clear understanding of our intentions of WHY we are teaching. So for a long time I have pondered, “What is my intention as a yoga teacher?” My intentions have always been good…to help people get healthier, to help people cultivate focus and concentration, to share the good news of yoga, to help people find their best self, to connect people to their breath, to remind everyone that our essence is absolute goodness, peace, joy, and love. Last weekend in Teacher Training we talked about “The Path of The Teacher” and how our teachings of yoga are an expression of our personal practices of yoga which are essentially an expression of the way we live. So maybe my intention has shifted over the years as my practice has evolved and I have grown older.

Cut-to applying yoga practice and teaching to: life, family, work, errands, finances, etc…These past few weeks I feel continually faced with situations that either ‘rub’ or have had the makings for a reaction. It is my tendency to react rather than to simply absorb the moment, process it with breath, and then respond compassionately. That tendency has, of late, been thankfully quiet. Maybe it is because fiery reactionariness (new word!) takes too much energy and I am running low, or maybe it IS all of the sitting meditation, or maybe it is simply Divinity. Whatever it is I am so thankful.

As a teacher I honor that yoga students will choose the asana path that resonates most with them. My feelings do not get hurt when a friend or student decides she likes another teacher’s style more than mine. Yoga teaching is an artistic expression of a distillation of all that we have sifted, studied, and practiced from the great ocean of yogic literature through the ages. Let us celebrate the many flavors of Hatha yoga!

The world isn’t all Yoga teachers and students either, right? But I do think everyone is on a Path that is determined by our unique experiences and choices. And I think that we simply must honor every person’s path, whether we agree with their actions, or not. We certainly should not and do not have to ‘go along’ with everything a person on a different path is doing, but we must honor the freedom of all beings and celebrate with gratitude and responsibility that freedom in ourselves. So my intention has simply become NAMASTE. I honor you. I may not agree with you, or accompany you, or promote your path, or practice your yoga, but I HONOR YOU—quietly, non-judgmentally, whole-heartedly. This is my intention. My teacher. My teaching. My practice. My path. Thank you Lord!

My second answer is stand well and with dignity. Whatever that means to you. Namaste!

Grateful Day

The past several weeks of work have been a whirlwind. The activities of covering the schedule of daily classes at the studio to presenting the whole weekend of Teacher Training to running the ‘behind the scenes’ nuts and bolts of a small business have left me admittedly a bit depleted. It is funny though, when I am in the actual moments of teaching, I feel exhilarated and excited like a deeper energy is welling up and directing the course. One of the cooler things too is that while it is happening, I am fully aware of my witness consciousness’ awareness of it. Awareness of awareness. I always heard about this phenomenon, and now I am actually experiencing it on a regular basis. I cannot help but think this insightfulness is a cause de the more frequent and consistent sitting meditation sessions.

But then there are the times lately, outside of the classroom when dealing with important responsibilities of daily life…taking care of family, dogs, house keeping, bill paying, eating healthfully, and taking care of myself. Oops. It seems that I find myself in a state of imbalance. Not enough sleep, too much coffee, an enormous pile of laundry… But I think this happens to so many of us in our go-getter, attainment-oriented, career driven culture. I am re-reading Eat Pray Love (which is hysterical, insightful, entertaining, and just plain fun) and laughed out loud at this line:

“Of course, we all inevitably work too hard, then we get burned out and have to spend the whole weekend in our pajamas, eating cereal straight out of the box and staring at the TV in a mild coma (which is the opposite of working yes, but not exactly the same thing as pleasure).”

So I found myself in this state yesterday, and got a little worried because I know that I have another 6 days of work ahead of me- lots of teaching and book keeping, and house guest coming and a yoga workshop to host, and the house, and the groceries, and blahdeblahdeblahdeblah…

And then I remembered why I am doing all of this. Hatha yoga is a system, that when practiced skillfully, heals, energizes, brings us to our best selves, is fun, and creates community. Our area needs more yoga classes and therefore needs more trained yoga teachers. When I remember that it is all in service to the people and health of our community, I am re-energized. Then I remember that in a few short days, I too will get to be a student again in a classroom with my teacher. And then a week later I travel to study with John Friend, the leader of this fantastic Anusara Yoga that I love so dearly. I will be a student with other teachers who are out there working to bring the light of yoga into their communities. Practicing alongside them, sharing stories and experiences of our paths. The predictability of the energetic benefits of being a student once again jazzes me up and makes me excited to be in the midst of doing my dharma. And then I realize what a great gift and blessing it is to be so tired from THIS work. I am so so so blessed and grateful for this moment—every facet of it. And psyched beyond belief to be going to work to teach yoga at Yoga Birds this morning. Somebody pinch me! OM.

New School Energy

I love the energy of the beginning of the academic school year. Even though I haven’t been in ‘school’ in ages, I still reminisce about the smell of a brand new Wonder Woman lunchbox and the awesomeness of freshly sharpened pencils. But mostly I like the excitement in the air. It is contagious and feels full of new possibility.

This is a time of movement and change and progression. My husband teases me about my fetish of moving furniture around. But really, why not adhere to the energetic currents and change up a room every so often? This past week we re-vamped the design of the boutique and created a sweet little sitting area. It feels welcoming and comfortable and I foresee great conversations happening there. The studio has always felt like an extension of my home. It really is an expression of part of me. If you want to know me on a deeper level, and you think I seem ‘un-accessible’ (I have been called that and worse J ), next time you are in the studio, take a deeper look around at the details. And this is me! It is in my genetic code to entertain. Everyday at the studio feels like having guests at the house to practice yoga. I love keeping such great company at the little studio. Thanks for coming over so often!

So if you haven’t been to Yoga Birds in a while, get on the ‘back to school train’ and re-organize your schedule and body to prepare for a whole new world of possibilities in the coming season. Namaste Peace Love Joy and WonderWoman!

I Heart Everywhere

Coming down from a week in SoHo. New York has everything. One would think Point Clear might feel quiet and sleepy compared to the City.  The cacophony of birds chirping here is gloriously loud. Do you ever wonder sometimes that your life could have been completely different had you but made the ‘other’ choice that ‘one’ time? Do you ever wonder if you’re missing out by being where you are? Last night I recharged my nerves and senses with a restorative inversions practice. On the iPod… Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks by Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois. Please listen to this beautiful music. I can’t remember a more ethereal yoga practice – a priceless experience. A floating sensation, high and light, bones settle into the support of the earth holding me. Stepping into the current of grace through a practice of yoga is deeply satisfying. Purna, or fullness is here and now and ordinary because everyday I take the journey to the inner landscape of my heart where Everything resides.

Below, you can sample and purchase the MP3’s of this music mentioned above.

Yoga Off The Mat or Tantra Latte Factor

It is the eve of my graduation from Yoga Teacher Training at a big studio in Austin, TX. I love yoga and I love to teach yoga and tomorrow after a nine month program, I will, in the eyes of the Alliance that deems us qualified, be certified to teach my art. Certification vs. qualification– another day’s blog.

So we talk alot about yoga off the mat. I am, in this moment, having a truly ecstatic yogic experience–yes– right this second. I don’t normally do it, but since I am on the road, and cruising on foot, I went to the nearest coffee shop –you know the one. It’s on every street corner and 4- lane highway in America.

So I went in for a decaf. I got swayed into buying some dark chocolate covered graham cracker cookies. Not on the ‘yogic diet’. But the pierced, tattooed, cool-chunky- dyed-hair girl barrista was SO Austinite-nice and convincing about how totally awesome dipping the dark chocolate covered graham cracker cookies in the hot coffee is. I was easily sold. Because really, how can chocolate get any better? How can coffee get any better?

I walked back to the apartment where I am staying alone. And I sat down at this computer. I dipped the cookie into the coffee as instructed, took the first bite and OMG–it’s like the union of Shiva and Shakti. The graham cracker softens and dissolves within the chocolate while on your tongue. Then the chocolate slithers all melty-like covering the entire cavern of the mouth. It is a simultaneous textural experience and taste bud explosion. This yoking, or union of cookie, chocolate, and coffee is simple in theory yet multifaceted in experience. This is tantra man! Pure delight in my heart, the free choice of a pleasurable foray (in an area usually ‘disciplined’), and it’s ALL intrinsically good. This is one of the most profound lessons from my yoga teacher training here in Austin. Oh, if the course had only cost $4.71…I would certainly be investing more into my latte factor.

Yoga-ing The Situation

Melanie Buffett in New Orleans

Greetings from Point Clear, AL. I am talking about Lower Alabama (the other LA), on Mobile Bay way down in the Gulf Coast Deep South. This is home and it is beautiful. Breathtaking sunsets, chirping birdies, golf carts as transpo. It’s super nice and quiet. Yoga is nearly non-existent here. Not a single yoga studio for many many miles. But definitely the socio-economic market for it.

I have been practicing yoga for over 10 years. I cut my teeth on yoga in Los Angeles at Yoga Works and The Iyengar Institute in 1996 – 2000. For the past several years I have lived in New Orleans where I was an active yogi all over town. Last week I finished 2/3 Aunsara Immersions. It was 36 hours of intense asana, enlightening philosophy, and delightful kula. I am WAY into it. My experience of yoga here in the other LA has been different. Some people might call me a yoga snob. I just seriously value my time– especially the precious time I devote to asana, meditation, and pranayama practices. I practice alot solo in a home-studio space. I do miss the intimacy of kula. Its the good stuff of life man.

Tomorrow I head to Texas to graduate from a 9-month-long yoga teacher training program at Yoga Yoga in Austin. I have been commuting there from Point Clear. Finally after many years of teaching, I can put the little RYT after my name. Official Yoga Teacher Status. Sounds funny. But I am psyched about it.

I am on a mission to start a yoga community here. I envision a nice room with white walls and a wood floor. A group of good folks navigating their interior space. I know its gonna happen here. Its BOUND to. I’m gonna yoga a yoga community. ICCHA. JNANA. KRIYA. PeacePeacePeace