October 29th, 2013
By Manduka Ambassador Patti Cocciolo
What kind of crazy person decides to become a yoga teacher at 42? Apparently this kind of crazy person does. But to be fair, it was years in the making.
In 2004, I was just a few months pregnant with my first son when I walked into a prenatal yoga class in Mill Valley, California. I was nervous about everything at that point – the changes to my body, my relationship, and my career. I was also completely terrified that I would do something to harm the tiny being growing inside me. As I unrolled my mat, I was immediately struck by how calm all the women were. They seemed to have none of the fear that was controlling my every move. They were grounded and peaceful. They moved about the room fluidly, seemingly unencumbered by their giant, round bellies. They were laughing quietly and smiling. They were gorgeous.
Then our teacher arrived. She looked like an angel to me, with blue eyes that met each student with love. From our first encounter, I imagined that scene from When Harry Met Sally…. “I’ll have what she’s having.” She was, like her students, grounded…yet floating. Over the course of the next hour and a half, she gently guided all of us – from first trimester newbies to full term mamas – through a series of poses designed to put us in touch with the power of our bodies, and specifically, to put is in touch with the power of the prana coursing through our veins. I was hooked.
Two trimesters flew by, and I became one of those mamas. I felt both steady and nimble. I gained more weight than I know (I stopped counting after a certain point…), and yet I felt light as a feather. But more importantly, I wasn’t freaked out anymore. As important as the benefits to my body were, the benefits to my mind and my spirit were literally life changing. What a wonderful gift that is to give someone: to teach them how to use the body to open the spirit. That is some powerful stuff. I thought to myself, what a wonderful way to make a living, to impart peace and calm and kindness into the world – one person at a time.
Many years, another son, and a move to Los Angeles later, I finally did something about that long nascent thought. Six years after donating my beaten-up old mat to Goodwill, I took a yoga class. And while the room was different, and the practice was different, I had the same wonderful feeling I had all those years ago: I’ll have what these people are having.
I immediately signed up for an intensive, four-week 200-hour teacher training. (Ok, to clarify, I am also a person who signed up for a marathon as a way to lose my last bit of baby weight…) It was the hardest, most terrifying, humbling thing I have ever done. I was the second oldest person in the room. I was a marathon runner, but I was waaaaay out of yoga shape. My ego was taking a serious beating. I was missing my children terribly. Yet as hard as it was, something kept me there. And it was this: not only was I getting back in touch with my practice, I loved teaching. I was finally living my secret dream to follow in the steps of my yoga teacher from all those years ago. I was in heaven.
It’s been two years since I finished that training, and I’m now a yoga teacher. Our family has moved back to Marin County, and I often teach in the very same rooms where my teacher first inspired me to make yoga a way of life. I am grateful to all the teachers who supported, loved and inspired me along the way. But every day, I think about you, Zoe Collier Rolland, and how you completely changed my life. Thanks for giving me some of what you were having, and allowing me to indulge. I’ll do my best to pay it forward.
October 24th, 2013
By Manduka Ambassador, Dana Damara
With this season change I am again reminded of the law of impermanence. Nothing stays the same. Nothing. As I watch the leaves turn, and feel the change in the air, I quickly remember that we are no different than the trees and we too yearn to flow with nature and its’ faith in what is.
This past summer I moved my children from the Pacific Northwest to live with me in Northern California. And while my ex-husband and I both knew that theoretically, this was for the best, it still sidelines us every now and again. The longer nights will certainly give us all an opportunity to go inward and take inventory with what just happened!
All summer we played, we hiked, met new people and enjoyed each other. Being the momma bear that I am, I strived to make things as “normal” as possible for them. But the reality was that it wasn’t normal; the minute they stepped foot on California soil, everything changed. Some days that change is like a gentle breeze that blows through our life. And on other days it’s like a tsunami and we all get pummeled to the ground.
As I watch them navigate new friends, new schedules, new sports teams, new EVERYTHING … I am proud of them. Their openness, strength, and honesty, their trust in me and in their dad, and their trust in this Universe inspires me. But even the bravest of souls cry out when things get a bit like a dust storm.
It’s change … it’s transformation… it’s NEW. Some of us thrive in it and some of us hunker down, clinging to what was because it’s familiar and feels comfortable. Now to be fair, transformation and change, letting go, doesn’t have to be a radical event. You can let go of something small … you can change your life 2 degrees and create a brand new path for yourself.
I guess the depth of your change depends on just how much you have accumulated and how much you cling to stuff… people or even ideas…
So how do you navigate through change and letting go – especially when it involves other people?
1. Just sit. Sit in the uncomfortable-ness. Sit in the grief, the pain, the fear … feel all of it. Just be with it all because it will move through you. Don’t try to fix anything and don’t try to stuff it down.
2. Appreciate. Look outside your box of life and see what’s waiting for you to embrace, to love, to cherish and to be grateful for. Sometimes we cling so desperately to what we thought was ours, we miss out on what’s sitting there, just waiting to be recognized.
3. Look for the lesson. And there is one… for your growth and evolution.
4. Let go of Scarcity. Subscribe to the belief that there is enough… enough money, enough time, enough love… enough of everything and when you let go, more will come. It’s a law.
5. Let go Gracefully … with love, gratitude and compassion for what was (even if it hurts), what is and then be open to the miracle of what comes next.
6. Trust. Trust that the Universe is handing you everything you need but if your hands are full you can’t receive right?
So after your tantrum of wanting something and not getting it, wishing circumstances were different or trying to change things to your liking. After the tears have subsided, take a breath and look around you. Be with what is … be in your stuff and you will witness such beauty and grace it will astound you.
October 22nd, 2013
In the past I always went through this journey of dieting like I was losing my best friend. It often began with the “taking away” of something, in my case delicious treats. I love food, I love to cook and I love to eat…but I also love being healthy. I started to find that every time I would diet or detox I went into this militant mode of “I WILL NOT EAT ANYTHING Bad” as my mantra. I would approach it almost as a punishment for “eating bad”. I thought that self-care would come naturally with dieting since it was in the best interest of your body. Right? Well, It took me a long while to figure out that was not entirely accurate. The energy we give to our food and to ourselves was a bigger culprit to your overall healthy then just eating salad.
I recently led a detox workshop, which I do four times a year seasonally. We all join together to clean and renew and find balance internally and externally. It is so much fun to do this as a group, to that the support of our sangha. I can’t stress enough how important it is during this time to be gentle and caring with our bodies and our thoughts.
A few days ago one of my students who is currently doing the detox came to my morning class, she was clearly very anxious and approached me right before we started. She was feeling terrible because she had a little sugar “slip up” during the detox. She proceeded telling me how she wanted to have a hard and sweaty class because she felt guilty. I stopped at that moment and thought, this sounds oddly familiar. So it’s not enough that she already feels guilty because of the minor slip up, but now she wants to make her body pay for it? Instantly being able to relate, we spoke about this briefly and instead decided to do some restorative asana postures instead of going into a vigorous practice. She realized how much more this benefited her body and her state of mind and she left feeling totally elated.
I’m not sure exactly what happens to us when we get into this mode of self-punishment when things go astray, especially when it comes to eating and food. I feel that with all the time that has gone by, and all the studying I have done… this is still a difficult habit break free from even for me. I have to constantly remind myself that IT IS OK to enjoy the things life has to offer, like chocolate and nut butter…in moderation of course. It isn’t the end of the world if there is a minor speed bump along the way. Self-punishment is clearly not the answer and it negates all the other work we do to make us pretty incredible human beings. Then there’s that!
Using our energy to feel good when you’re doing something great for your health like a detox. Taking care of yourself is a practice, being compassionate to yourself is a practice. Finding balance when your making a change in your life can be challenging but it does make it easier when you have the support of your community to help you. That being said, here is a truly delicious recipe for us to without feeling guilty.
Vegan Chocolate Ginger Orange Cupcakes (YUMMMM!)
Serves 12 Large Cupcakes
3 cups all purpose flour (organic unbleached if you have it)
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups natural cane sugar
1 2/3 cups water (or cold freshly brewed coffee)
1 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
4 tablespoons zested orange peel
1 tablespoon orange juice
4 tablespoons cider vinegar
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix all dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Add water, oil, vanilla, orange juice, ginger and orange peel. Stir to combine. Add vinegar and stir quickly together. Once the mix turns slightly dark then you know you've incorporated all the vinegar and you're set to pour it into muffin tins or even two cake pans. Bake for 15 minutes for a medium sized cupcake. Allow sitting in pan for 5 minutes, removing and placing on wire rack until completely cool.
Ingredients (for frosting):
6 oz. vegan cream cheese
1/4 cup vegan butter
2-3 tbsp shortening
3 tbsp limoncello
1/2 tsp lemon extract
1 tsp lemon zest
3 cups powdered sugar
crystallized ginger, to taste, minced, to top
Recipe (for frosting):
Combine all ingredients but ginger and mix well. It shouldn't have a soupy consistency. If it does, add more sugar. I like to place it in the refrigerator to firm it up before I frost.
October 17th, 2013
By Manduka Ambassador, Dana Damara
I wrote about this in my book, “OMs from the Mat” and when I re-read it this past week, it made even more sense to me.
I said something like, “If commitment is such a strong word, I wonder why we sometimes use it so loosely.” And then I went on to say, “Even if you have to just pick one thing… pick it and be committed to it! No matter what it is.. .a yoga class, a person, your word, just do it!”
Since moving to California back in November 2012, nothing has rang more true to me in my life. Nothing.
Amidst the most AMAZING opportunities of this big move…(and I mean it… magic occurs every, single day) I have also experienced mass confusion, dead-ends, fearful situations, lonely times and deep pain.
Betcha didn’t know that did you? Well, it’s true.
What I have found through all of this is that I have one strong commitment that’s kept me going. There have been times when I have wanted to give up, run back to Portland and cuddle next to a fire with a friend…claiming “safe”.
That would be easy to do any day of the week, given that I have amazing friends in the Northwest. But I haven’t. I’ve been committed and dedicated to my practice. And I’m not talking about my practice on the mat. I’m not talking about my sequencing or playlists, although they do play an important role.
And oddly, I’m not talking about the commitment I made to my two amazing daughters either. No, that’s not the commitment I am talking about. I am talking about the commitment I made to myself to live my truth. Because I know, as well as you do that truth=freedom=love.
When we make a commitment to ourselves, we may THINK it’s about: making money for our family, showing up our best for our students, helping the planet, serving our employer… but it’s not any of that. It’s about YOU.
The evolution of YOU and how YOU grow and elevate your spiritual being.
It’s super easy to give up just before that breakthrough. You know what I am talking about right? It’s that last straw, that final argument, the repeating dead-end. It’s that moment when you scream and say, “Screw it! I give! That’s it! I’m done!”
Have you ever done that? My suggestion to you from personal experience, having said those words in my life more than I care to admit, is to instead… breathe and keep going. You are almost there.
Now I’m not saying keep on taking what isn’t working. What I am saying is notice. Observe what is happening in as many exchanges as possible.
When you feel that recurring uncomfortable knot in your stomach, or tightness in your throat, breathe. Maybe you just feel “off”. Use the element of the heart and breathe into the belly. Root into your feet and feel it all…if only for 5 breaths. Then ask, what can I do differently in this situation, instead of walking away. What can I commit to right now that will keep me on the path of self-evolution?
Is it patience? Compassion? Trust? Love? Self-love? Knowing what it is that YOU, your soul, is working on to grow is key here. Once you get that, oh my, you will see so many circumstances coming up for you that will assist in your dedication and commitment to moving past it. It might feel like you are getting a bit bombarded to be honest, but you will be okay…once you know it’s all there to help you.
We all have recurring issues or stories. Before you keep telling the same story over and over again, keep quiet and observe. Commit to rolling out your mat, look at yourself and really see what is happening off your mat. Commit to hanging with that challenging pose, that perplexing relationship, that “tough time” and roll through it differently… it’s showing up for a reason.
October 15th, 2013
By Manduka Ambassador Caleb Asch
I’ve been privileged to be teaching yoga since 1995. I do it because I love it. I love almost everything about it; everything except the numbers. Let’s face it, the numbers game is the bottom line for a yoga studio. If you don’t have the numbers then they get someone who can.
The student base determines a studio’s life. So how do you face your numbers and yet maintain your focus on what you’re teaching? I’ve been engaged in this paradox for a long time. I’ve seen what I thought to be really good teachers have really bad numbers, and give it up. I mean, at a certain point you have to self assess and look out into the world to see if what you’re doing (or being) has value for people. One way to determine that is to look to see who and how many are in your classes. Are the numbers growing? Is the feedback you’re getting positive? What adjustments could you make? All of these criteria are important but what do they mean?
I have wrestled with this for almost 20 years, and the truth for me wasn’t the truth at all! For me, the fewer people I had in my room meant the more I sucked at being a teacher. It didn’t matter that my feedback was brilliant and wonderful. I would get lavish praise, smile and say thank you while thinking; “if you REALLY liked my class then why don’t you come more often and even bring your friends.” The truth for me was that I sucked as a teacher, “I don’t deserve to have a following and I should just give up (what’s become my life’s work) and go back to post-production”.
Finally, during a conversation with an old friend, (who goes way back with me to the earlier days of the “EST” consciousness movements) who asked me; “Let me get this straight; who you are as a teacher, with all these 20 years of experience, is TOTALLY dependent on the number of people in your room?”
At this point we both burst into laughter because my answer was a resounding “YES! That is EXACTLY what I’m saying!”
Finally it was funny. Finally, I could see how I had made it all up in my head. I had made up a belief that some outside, physical result determines who I am. That, if I had a certain amount of people show up then I am a winner, if not then I am a loser! They say that awareness is, in itself, curative, and in this case, hilarious. I could finally see and laugh at the corner I had painted myself into.
Since that conversation I have observed in myself an un-attachment to my numbers, and therefore freedom from them. Gone is the stress of measuring up. Gone is the anxiety of new schedules! Gone is the anger and frustration of helpless victimhood to the numbers! Gone is the desperate struggle to control what I have absolutely no control over.
What remains is my love for the work. What remains is the confidence I have in what I do and, and for the first time, the way that I do it! I am back to being in love with what I do, how I do it, and the people who come to share in that with me.
Oh yeah, and my numbers are thriving…
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