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Vacationing on a 30 Day Challenge September 7, 2011

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I made it through the first week of the 30 Day Challenge, but it was harder than I thought. The student who encouraged me to do this with her isn’t a long time practitioner nor does she have any kind of teacher training experience and yet she made it through the week effortlessly. She seemed a lot more energized and enthusiastic after a week of practicing and I’m supposedly an “experienced” yoga teacher.

I love to practice and I thought it would be fun to roll the mat out every day, but the commitment to practice over a  long holiday weekend was met with quite a bit of self-induced resistance. Vacations are a time for me to disconnect  from electronics, life’s daily routine, and the need to be so regimented. I typically don’t eat as healthy, I don’t get as much rest, and although I love to take classes when I’m out of town, my personal yoga practice usually falls by the wayside. The result is a self-imposed brawl of emotion, as it usually takes me several days to recuperate from being so undisciplined.

This vacation was different because I wasn’t able to disconnect. There was always an underlining sense of responsibility because no matter what I did, I knew I had to practice at some point and it forced me to make better decisions. If I was out having a good time with friends, I always had it in the back of my mind that I had to get to bed at a decent hour and if I was out laying at the pool, I knew I couldn’t have a cocktail without thinking about how it would affect my practice. I also had to be mindful of the food I ate knowing a heavy meal would just sit in my belly and cause much discomfort the first time I went in to a deep forward fold or a wholehearted twist.

In the moment it was an inconvenience, but when I got on the mat, I closed my eyes and was thankful for not being one of the ones starving to death. With hands at heart center, my intention was always to offer my practice to those I was supporting. It got me through the 90 minutes and became a beautiful invocation of my commitment to always keep an open heart.

Driving back from vacation I felt unbelievably grateful for having made the commitment to be responsible and practice every day. I have a tendency to live my life with my head in the clouds, but it’s not ideal to live or hide behind rose colored sunglasses because life eventually comes along and knocks you back down to earth so you can be more in touch with the moment, which is where life really happens.

Practicing yoga every day kept me grounded and connected without having to be catapulted there. It didn’t take a jet ski accident, or a humbling remark from a yoga student, or some other life lesson. It was simply me staying true to my commitment and doing something not because I necessarily wanted to, but because I had to.

When we take care of our bodies, our bodies take care of us and we live a more balanced fulfilling life.  It doesn’t come effortlessly and often it takes a lot of work, but that’s just like anything else. We get back what we put in and if we continue to punish ourselves or abuse our bodies and not be mindful of our thoughts and/or emotions, we eventually get a good swift kick in the butt because life is here to teach us.

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Leave the “Crap” out of the Yoga Room August 29, 2011

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I subbed a yoga class for a friend over the weekend, which always brings up a little hesitation with the students since they are expecting to see their favorite teacher, but I also know that we always get what we need, regardless of who’s teaching so I did what I do, as all teachers do … I opened my heart and allowed my own unique style of teaching to emerge.

We all have our own language and way of being in the yoga room that differentiates us from every one else. It’s one of the things I love about yoga. Every class is different and every teacher has his or her own unique style. As I guided the yogis in to prayer crescent twist, I told them to breathe deeply in to the pose, as twists have a way of wringing the “crap” out of our bodies.

It’s not like I think about every word I say. The words are unforeseeable, as they come from within and materialize in the moment. I have to trust my body and inner wisdom to know what to say and when to say it and if someone takes offense, then perhaps that’s something for them to pore over in their own time.

Even though you have no idea how a class full of strangers is going to react to your style of teaching, you have to let go of the expectations and judgments knowing that you’re doing your best. As I guided the class out of svasana, the energy felt received and I felt comforted by the sleepy eyes and the peaceful calm that permeated the sea of mats. I received a lot of heartfelt appreciation and I was feeling good until a student came up to me and said, “You know … you’re  a really good teacher, but you need to leave the “crap” out of the yoga room.” What?!?!?!?!?! “What crap?” She went on to say that there was no place for negative words in the yoga room and that I really needed to be careful about the words I use.

Although I was completely taken off guard and dumbfounded, I heard myself say, “Thank you for being honest and for sharing with me. I appreciate you feeling safe enough to be truthful.” I wanted to mean it and I did mean it in the sense that I truly believe that human beings and life experiences are our teachers and if someone feels strongly enough to share their opinion, then we should at least listen to see if any of it resonates or stirs up any thoughts or feelings that could be used to learn something about ourselves.

That being said, I got more and more upset, as I drove home. I kept thinking I wanted to take back my words of gratitude and tell her how I really felt. Who was she and what gave her the right to judge me or tell me what I could or could not say? Yoga is about non-judgment and leaving the ego outside the classroom. I’ve spent my whole life drowning in insecurities and have done a lot of work to build my confidence and the yoga room is the one place I feel safe. Yoga is my passion and sense of security and she had no right to take that away from me.

Yes, I was a little defensive, but therein lies my challenge … to be a silent witness to my own judgements and self-justifying. Being conscious is allowing others to trigger sensitivities and insecurities so that we can grow and become better beings. Judging her for judging me was not the answer. It’s about transforming my fears in to love so that I can be a better person. Had she not triggered anything for me then we wouldn’t be having this conversation so I’m grateful to this person for being honest and giving me an opportunity to explore myself a little deeper, but it is also my opinion that nobody has the right to judge another. Teaching is an act of great service and we all have a way of doing it that makes us feel comfortable and safe and that should be held in the highest regard.

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Love Beneath the Surface May 5, 2011

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As children, love was purely physical. Unable to take care of ourselves, we grew to depend on those who did. Love was primitive and physical, as we fought for survival.  As we began to explore our individuality, love metamorphosed in to something else. As a capitalistic society, we were self-centered and fear and control and judgment created a platform of insecurities that programed an emotional void in people. In order to feel loved and accepted, we had to meet the expectations of society.

We were the first species on the planet to have the capacity to feel and every human has the intrinsic need to be loved but the heart was never seen as more than an organ. Emotions were intolerable, as people were fighting for human rights and for the very land on which we lived. Years and years of anarchy sabotaged our ability to connect to others in a more compassionate loving way.

Most of us grew up in a very self-centered society where people didn’t know the meaning of genuine love. People were used for the sole benefit of another. Happiness existed outside the body. It was conditional and fleeting and never around for very long. Happiness was found in relationships or material possessions or fancy job titles or lavish homes.

Spending the past 12 years on the mat exploring the physical body and practicing mindfulness, I began to explore something greater than the ego, which kept me small and contained. Being more conscious meant spending less time on the merry go around of incessant thought. You can’t be in the mind and conscious at the same time so you are either in the mind or you are conscious, but you can’t be both. Consciousness is bliss. I saw the me beneath the veil of illusion. I saw the pure organic joy one can only feel in the presence of something spiritually profound.

If we continue to allow ourselves to be distracted, we will never know what it’s like to be in our bodies and we will never get the chance to meet ourselves. We are always going to be seperate from one another and we will continue to judge or blame or critize that which doesn’t meet our approval  because we are living through the filter of our mind and the the mind’s of our ancestors.

We are at a critical point in our lives. People are suffering and we have to stop self medicating through distractions and addictions. Will power and forcing ourselves to be better isn’ t the answer. We must go to the source and heal that which lives in fear and we need to focus on and cultivate the loving parts of ourselves.

Once you feel the soul’s essence, you will want to go further and further in to a place of eternal joy. It’s about being authentic and living from a place of love and having mutual respect for all beings.

Through this process of awakening to my higher self, I see people differently and view relationships on a much deeper level. I’ve grown to truly love the people in my life and not because of how they make me feel or what the relationshiop  brings to me emotinally but because  I’m finally able to see the depth of who we all are at the core of our being beyond the superficial platform we stand.

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A Small Sacrifice June 17, 2010

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I left corporate a couple years ago to teach yoga because my heart was called to do something more meaningful. All I ever wanted to do as a child was save the world yet people mocked me telling me it was impossible, an implausible task. As I explored deeper aspects of myself through the art and philosophy of yoga, I realized it was possible to save the world because yoga wasn’t just a practice of strength and flexibility. It was a journey unto oneself and it allowed people to connect to their inner most selves where they could find peace and a joy from simply being.

Finding yourself means freedom and a sense of joy you can’t find in another and the clarity and peace you get from knowing and being intimate with yourself brings you to self-realization. If every person on the planet achieved this level of love, the world would know peace for when you are in a place of calm and I am in a place of calm, we are in the same place. It was this realization that brought me to the biggest decision of my life. I knew I had to teach, that I was born to teach, that teaching would bring peace to the world because yoga brings people back to their center where the mind and heart unite as one bringing light to the dark shadows that once hampered us from the growth necessary to sustain peace on earth.

Although teaching brings me much joy, there are times I question my decision to leave corporate because I look around and see people who are making good money and can afford whatever luxury they choose. I envy their position and question why I left a job where I never worried about money or healthcare because I had benefits and a great salary.  I think how dumb of me to walk away from something that offered so much financial freedom. I think about what it would be like if I hadn’t left and where I would be in the corporate chain of command and how much money I would be making and the freedom I would have to do whatever I pleased.

It is in these fleeting moments I am reminded of my heart’s true desire because although corporate offered a financial luxury, nothing can surpass the feeling I get when I look in to the eyes of a student coming out of a deep svasana and I see a tear in the corner of her eye and I know that something profound has just occurred. A warm smile falls across my face, as I know she is feeling a deep presence of self and she is on a journey of transformation and healing. It is in these moments, I know I’m where I’m where I’m suppose to be and  doing what I was born to do. It is a gift to share in the growth of another and to see one awaken to a higher consciousness.

It is in remembering who we truly are that gets us out of our ego and makes us realize we are so much more than the cars we drive or the homes we live in or the jobs we keep so I have much gratitude and a deep profound respect to those who left their secure corporate jobs to pursue their passion. It is not without sacrifice and I truly appreciate the healers who were willing to take a blind leap of faith to make the world a better place. I commend you and encourage you to remain strong in your faith, as you continue to bring yoga to life. Love to you all and a sacred, palms together, Namaste!

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Developing a Home Yoga Practice January 14, 2010

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A home practice can empower you beyond measure, but the only way to truly understand the power behind it is to try it and see for yourself. Just make sure not to take on too much, too fast because often times we set good intentions to start something new and then never follow through with it because our goals were too too high or unrealistic.

The first hurdle I stumbled upon, as I set out to create a home practice was the time constraint. Getting up and doing yoga every morning  for 20 minutes wasn’t a realistic expectation for someone just beginning, but my ego was stuck in the more is better mentality and my unrealistic expectations made it just about impossible for me to practice every day. After years of struggling to understand why I couldn’t incorporate a daily routine in to my life, I decided to try and do it for just 5 minutes a day and not only did it work, I inevitably ended up practicing longer because once my body started to move, it didn’t want to stop and I was okay with it since it was my choice and not something I was forcing myself to do.

The second hurdle was locking myself in to a certain time frame. People say meditation and yoga practice should be done at the same time every day because our bodies demand routine and certain rest periods in between periods of activity in order to receive the full benefits of a spiritual practice. Well, it wasn’t initially realistic for me to lock down a specific time so I gave myself freedom to practice whenever I wanted.  I had to trust and listen to my own inner teacher as to what would work best for me and setting up a strict schedule in the beginning wasn’t best for my rebellious inner child.

The third hurdle I had to get past was thinking I wouldn’t get anything out of a shorter practice, as I was so conditioned to the all or nothing mentality. My ego kept creating excuses not to practice until I changed my frame of thinking. What I realized was that even 5 minutes a day was good for my body and mind and doing it a little each day was better than simply doing one long practice a week.

Good habits take time and patience to instill so be kind and gentle with yourself. Set realistic expectations, give yourself freedom and room to make mistakes, and let go of how it’s suppose to look. A home yoga practice is like brushing your teeth. It’s not something you think about or question, right? You do it because it keeps your teeth healthy and clean. It’s a minimal investment that will pay off for years to come so roll out your mat and have some fun!

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Awake AGAIN! August 22, 2009

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It was 2:30am and suddenly I was wide awake…thinking and analyzing and listening to the mind tell the same story over and over again like a broken record. It wouldn’t be so bad if the early wake-up call was a single isolated incident, but every other night for 3 weeks had me flustered. I tried the yoga postures I knew for calming, I tried eating raw honey, which is known to induce sleep, and I tried slow deep rhythmic breathing, but none of the holistic remedies worked and I was tired of tossing and turning so I finally got up at 4am. 

I worked on my book for a bit, but when the words started to blur across the screen, I went for a 2 hour bike ride and watched the sun come up over the hazy horizon. I went down to the river and meditated and then came home and made a pot of coffee. I drank a couple cups with breakfast, read some of my book and it was still only 8:30am. It felt like an entire day had passed and I still had a full day ahead of me. I was exhausted, but couldn’t sleep and my mind was still streaming with thought.

I needed some love and a nice gentle yoga class to calm the stress I was feeling in my mind, in my heart, and in my body so I took off to the studio. I was looking forward to the practice because one of my friends was teaching and I really needed to be in her energy and in the company of someone who understood me and could relate to my fragile state of mind. I knew everything would be okay once I got on the mat, but when my friend didn’t show up to teach I was a bit disenchanted.

I spent the next 90 minutes annoyed. I detested every pose and I hated having to hold them longer than my body wanted. The music did not resonate with me nor did the tone of the teacher’s voice. I was miserable all around and just wanted the class to end, but time seemed to stand still. I was irritated and grumpy and became more and more irked as the clock ticked by.

My best friend called me on the way home to see how I was doing and catch up, but she was met with petulance, as I was exasperated from the class. I apologized and told her I was just tired from getting up so early and didn’t mean to be so cranky. My tantrum and attempt to hide what was really going on didn’t deter her, as she knew full well something else was going on so she did what any best friend would do and asked me what was really going on?  

That’s all it took for the walls to fall and tears to stream down my face, as pure raw emotion poured out of my heart. We always get what we need on the mat and although it can feel painful in the moment or uncomfortable energetically, the spirit is working on an extremely deep level. It’s not our job to judge the teacher or the practice or have expectations. It’s just our job to show up and be present with whatever arises. Perhaps if the teacher I wanted was there or the class more gentle, I wouldn’t have had the chance to release the emotions I was harboring.

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Reflections on the Mat May 12, 2009

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What happens on the mat during a yoga practice is usually a reflection of what’s happening in the outer world of self so you can learn a lot just by being aware of emotions, thoughts and/or frustrations that come up during the physical practice. Students ask me all the time if they’re doing the poses correctly, but it’s not about doing it right or wrong, as there is no such thing as a perfect pose. It’s just about getting on the mat and doing it. Whatever your body is doing at the time is right and no two practices are alike, as life is dynamic and our bodies always changing.

I watched a student’s practice flourish over the first year she was with me and I could tell she was proud of herself and was more comfortable in her body than when she first started, but she approached me after class last week and told me she was frustrated because she didn’t feel like her practice was growing anymore. Her mind was telling her stories and making her feel like she wasn’t good enough because the better we feel about ourselves, the less power we give to the ego and our lower emotions. As a result, the ego tries to diminish our self confidence in order to gain some control back.   

I congratulated her for taking the practice to a new level because what she described to me was exactly what happens as a practice matures. You get more comfortable in your skin and with the poses that once seemed so foreign and you begin to move deeper in to the experience of yoga. It’s no longer just about the poses, as layers of the “proverbial” onion begin to peel away. The practice starts to work on a physiological level, which is where the real work begins.

If you’re frustrated, good! It means something wonderful is happening. It means you are growing spiritually emotionally and mentally. Pay attention to what comes up. Just being aware will give you insight to the deeper teachings of your inner self. Don’t label your practice as good or bad. Yoga is a beautiful journey that can take you deep within yourself and it’s in that place where you find peace and calm in a way you’ve never felt before.

It’s not always easy facing yourself and honoring parts of yourself you may have buried, but the clearing that happens from doing such deep work is profound and takes you to a place of beautiful serenity. It’s just about getting on the mat and practicing, as your higher self will take care of the rest.

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The Intimadated Teacher August 19, 2008

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Wow, wow, WOW!!! I’m flying high right now…blissed out of my mind!!! I just taught my first class at Peachtree Yoga Center, which is where I got certified and a highly regarded studio in the Greater Atlanta area. Peachtree offers a loving environment that supports all levels and abilities and anyone who takes a class there knows the beautiful energy that emanates from the heart of each and every teacher.

It was definitely a dream of mine to teach there, but I never thought in a million years it would happen so quickly. I mean seriously…me…working at Peachtree? No way! I’m not nearly experienced enough to teach at PEACHTREE…maybe someday after I’ve been teaching for a while, right? No, how ridiculous! I need to change these old self-defeating thought patterns. They do not serve me!!!

I was scared to death to sub the class and I came close to bailing out, but I knew the only reason I was even thinking about it was because of fear and I wasn’t about to let fear hold me back. I knew if I wanted to do this for a living I had to jump in head first and go for it, which meant not turning down any opportunities…Peachtree or otherwise. 

My stomach was in knots all day and my head was buzzing with ridiculous thoughts like, “What if I forget everything I was ever taught or come up blank when I go to speak? What if I can’t think of enough poses to do?” What if, what if, what if??? You should have heard me driving myself crazy. It was absolutely ridiculous, but it was just my ego trying to gain some momentum. 

You can imagine how elated I was to not only finish the entire class with ease, but to get positive feedback from the students. I couldn’t believe it. I did it…I really did it!!! I taught my first class at Peachtree and it was an absolute honor!!! I’ve never been more proud of myself in my entire life and I’ve never been happier as I sat there on the mat watching the last person walk out of class. I looked around the empty space feeling the beautiful energy circulating throughout the room and then nodded my head with a great big smile across my face.

I drove home singing my little heart out and giggling like a little girl. I felt overwhelmed with gratitude and not just for the class, but for everything that was happening around me. My dream was unfolding right before my eyes. Although I dreamed it, there was a small part of me that didn’t think it was ever going to be possible and here I was no longer dreaming it, but living it. I was doing it…teaching yoga full time…working a flexible schedule…having independence and freedom…doing what I loved and loving what I was doing…it was everything I manifested and more.

Life just keeps getting better and better and my heart keeps feeling more and more joy. There is so much love in my heart and there is such gratitude for all the blessings in my life. I don’t think I’ve ever been this happy in my entire life. I feel so blessed and I wish this for the world…this happiness…this peace…this absolute sheer joy. Namaste!

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Trust the Inner Teacher August 16, 2008

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Before I sent out information to companies interested in yoga, I set an intention for my business to attract those who would most connect with my teaching style. Anyone who practices yoga knows the importance of finding the right teacher in order to get the most out of their practice. There are many styles and varieties of yoga and each teacher adds his or her own creative personal touch based upon his own life experiences.  

I think its important people find the right teacher, as they will not get as much out of a class if there isn’t a connection with the instructor. I left the corporate world to teach yoga to businesses because yoga is a healing art and I wanted to open myself up to be a channel of the sacred yogic teachings. Knowing how the Law of Attraction works, I set an intention to attract students who would get the most out of my class both physically and emotionally. Once I set the intention, I knew it was important to stay open because the Universal Law of Attraction doesn’t work if we are not open to receive. The universe will guide you and show you the way, but you have to be fully present, which demands conscious awareness. 

One of my students approached me after class one day and asked if I knew about Plum Tree Yoga, which I found interesting because Plum Tree was a place I had heard wonderful things about and always wanted to try, but never got around to it. Long story short, my student said the studio was looking for a new teacher and told me to call and speak to the owner because my teaching style was very similar and she thought my energy would fit right in. I didn’t say anything, but I thought she was crazy because Plum Tree was one of those places you dreamed of working. To imagine actually working there didn’t seem realistic, as most of the teachers there have been teaching for years and much more senior than me. I thanked my student for being so sweet and thinking of me, but then brushed it aside knowing Plum Tree would never hire someone like “me”.

A couple weeks later my student asked if I called the studio, but of course I didn’t so she asked if she could pass my name and number along to the owner. What was I going to say, ”no?” Not even a week later the owner called and asked if I could come in and meet with her and whether or not I would be open to teach a class. I was nervous and there was a part of me that just wanted to make some lame excuse and bail, but then I remembered my intention and how important it was to stay open so I faced my fear and went to meet her.

Her spirit was so sweet and genuine and the energy of the studio was warm and inviting. I connected immediately. It was obvious I was brought to Plum Tree for a reason so I told the owner I would teach the class and that was that. Thursday was the first class and I wasn’t that nervous until the students walked in. You could tell they had been coming to this class for a long time and were use to the other teacher and were skeptical about a new person coming in, but we all get that way, right? We walk in to our favorite class looking forward to the practice and then we see some stranger there to sub and we immediately feel grim and want to leave.

It was intimidating sitting in front of 12 women who were expecting someone else and who were use to a certain style of teaching, but I just said a little prayer and asked the universe to make me a channel of love and light and then I let go. I was convinced everyone hated the class and they were all going to tell the owner I was terrible and ask for someone else. Right? NO! Why are we so hard on ourselves and why do we not give ourselves enough credit?  It’s amazing the grief we put ourselves through and for no reason. It turns out the students actually liked my class and the owner asked me to come back and teach the following week so I wasted all that energy on silly self-defeating thoughts.

It’s not easy teaching a class to a room full of strangers all coming in with expectations, but you have to trust your ability as a teacher, as you are simply a vessel of divine love and light. Being a teacher is a gift. You are giving your students joy, inner peace, and an opportunity to get to know themselves better. Yoga is so much more than a physical practice of poses. It connects the mind and body and offers many physical, emotional, and mental benefits. Open yourself up to give and to honor the practice that brings people back again and again. Stay centered and let go of any nervousness knowing your spirit attracts students for reasons you may never know. Trust in yourself and allow the teaching to move through you…not from you.  

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A Home Practice July 30, 2008

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Two weeks and my neck injury continues to offer new insights about myself and my practice. I went to a couple yoga classes after my teacher convinced me to get back on the mat, but I felt restricted as to what I could do. I pushed myself a little too hard because I was in a class setting where I was use to moving through the asanas with strength and vigor.

I spend a lot of time telling my students to be gentle with their body…honoring wherever they’re at…allowing the breath to take them deeper. I tell them yoga isn’t a performance-based practice. It’s not about being perfect or competitive. It’s not about pushing beyond the edge. It’s about compassion, understanding, and honoring the body.

I hear myself telling my students this yet here I am in class trying to push myself farther than I need to go. I’m just so use to working my body hard that sometimes I forget what first pulled me to yoga and the benefits I’ve seen from moving slower and more consciously. Yoga provides so many more benefits than most exercise regimens because it incorporates all the major muscle groups providing strength and balance for the body in a way other workouts can’t provide. I, like so many other people, are conditioned to think we need to sweat and be out of breath before our bodies get a workout, but that is not the case. I’ve actually seen my body transform more through yoga than any other workout I’ve ever done…kickboxing, taekwondo, aerobics, running…you name it.

I practice here and there on my own and it always feels good, but never like it does going to a class. I know it’s because I don’t give it a chance. I never treat it like a real class. I just sit and stretch without tuning in to my body and allowing my intuition to move me through a full practice. I’ve been telling myself for months to roll out the mat, but for some reason I was resisting. I fell in to a habit of going to classes taught by other teachers because I felt like I couldn’t get the same experience at home. I wanted a work out and if I didn’t get a work out then I wasn’t going to do it. Right? Have you ever told yourself the very same thing? That’s the ego and how silly. I knew better than that yet I still couldn’t get myself on the mat so the Universe gave me a little push.

I went to sub a class for a friend of mine and ironically nobody showed up so there I was in this big open room sitting on my yoga mat with nothing to do, but practice yoga. That’s what I call cosmic humor! Since I had  to be there the entire time, I decided to treat it like a real class. I moved slowly…mindfully…in a place of silence…just me, my breath, and my body moving rhythmically from one pose to the next. I practiced for over an hour and it felt amazing. I left feeling high and I realized something very beautiful. The yoga high we get from practicing yoga doesn’t come from the teacher…it comes from the place of stillness that rests just beneath the busy mind. It comes from being fully present in the body and being mindful of the breath.   

Attending class is great, but there needs to be a home practice to fully appreciate the teacher within. It’s about balance and bringing both in to your life. You are the one who comes to the mat…whether the mat is at home, in a studio, or out in nature somewhere. You need to be able to intuitively know what your body needs and move from a place of knowing instead of a place of doing. Honor yourself by getting on the mat and listening to the place within you. A good teacher knows her body and what her body needs so delve in and listen to the greatest master of all…you!

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