30 August 2012

I've moved!

This blog has moved to a new location. Come find me over at the new and improved YS site. And please add it to your favorites once you're there :) It was in desperate need of an upgrade! It's not completely done and I still have a lot to do but you will find more information about my teaching schedule, workshops and general deets about my life. I've left DC and now find myself in Texas. Come to the new site to find out what's up!

18 June 2012

I'm Still Here...

Oh my. How fast the time goes. Here we are. Six months into 2012. There goes my New Year's resolution to post weekly. Uh boy. Well, I did manage to find some time to write. My post entitled "The Social Action of Letting Go" was featured in Shambhala's Under 35 Project. Check it out here!

Stay tuned for more!

14 January 2012

The Dharma of Ass Beatings, Blood Loss and Random Injuries

I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That is what the scar makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived.” Chris Cleave, Little Bee

In the late summer of 2007, the SUV I was driving flipped over and skidded two hundred yards on its roof (I’m omitting surrounding details here for the sake of honoring my repression). When it was all over, I opened my eyes to discover I was dangling upside down in the passenger seat, with my head hovering over the steering wheel, inches away from a surface that resembled concrete. It was hard to tell because there were hoards of broken glass blurring my vision. I glanced over at where the passenger window used to be and saw that my left arm was covered in a granulated mixture of blood and glass that had impressed itself onto my skin.  If an evil fairy had magic dust, that bitch had just sprinkled it all over me and rubbed it into my arm’s epidermis as part of some evil fairy master plan.  As I stared at the open wound above my elbow, I remember thinking, “that’s odd, it doesn't even hurt.” Little did I know that adrenaline and shock serve as pain killers in these type of situations. Thankfully, I could move the rest of my body and cognitively process what had just happened. So, no brain damage or paralyzed limbs there. Phew. I'm not sure how many minutes passed but within a short period of time, a firefighter rescue team arrived and safely pulled me from my vehicle, secured me to a stretcher and transported me to the nearest emergency room. As I went through that scene so famously depicted in movies and evening television -- where I was pushed down that white hall, nearly blinded by bright fluorescent hospital lights, with doctors and nurses looking down at me and speaking in mysterious medical gibberish, I thought “Damn. I hope I can still start yoga teacher training next week.”

Are you still with me? I told that story just to get your attention and remind you to always wear your seat-belts! I’m a living, breathing seat-belt success story. OK, that’s not the real lesson here, but important nonetheless. I really used that story to deflect from the giant elephant in the room. You know the one. In recent days the internet has been foaming at the mouth thanks to a scandalous NYT article discussing yoga’s occasional ability to cause injuries.  It was really groundbreaking shit. Well, more shit than groundbreaking.  I've already thrown my useless 2 cents in the bucket and won't waste anymore time on it. The article did slightly steal my thunder however, because I started drafting this post (about my injuries) over the holidays, way before that article reared its ugly little head and was still in draft form.


That car accident was one of the scariest experiences of my life and probably my parents’ lives, and the lives of countless others who think I’m awesome and would naturally be devastated by my sudden death. On that night, my vehicle was completely totaled and I walked away a few hours later with no severe injuries, just a minor laceration on my left arm (the fairy dust looked worse than it really was). Thanks to an incredible support system, I could happily resume my life. There were many others before me who weren't so fortunate. The most difficult injury to overcome was the post-traumatic stress that hits after you've gone for a ride in a five thousand pound machine that decides to uncontrollably collide with the earth.  In the weeks following my accident, yoga and meditation helped me recover in ways that I can only describe as truly healing and immensely supportive.

For whatever reason, I was thinking about that accident as 2011 came to a close. Early on New Years Eve I was hanging at my parents’ house rubbing china gel on my lower back which had been feeling sore in recent days, when a powerful wave of gratitude suddenly came over me.  For once I had the time to get still, relax and exhale. I wasn't confined to an office chair and had all the freedom in the world to prop myself up on pillows, rub my muscles with smelly herbal ointments and take as many hot baths as I wanted. My slight physical discomfort had opened a golden door of liberation. Lying there in my blissful state, I glanced over at the scar that remained on my left arm and began to think about the other injuries from my past. How did they happen? And how did I handle them? Before long, I produced a mental inventory of all the injuries that had found their home with me at some point in the last nineteen years. I've listed some of the more noteworthy ones below starting with the earliest.
  • 11 yrs old: Fractured leg in Mexico by wandering onto playground eerily resembling construction site.
  • 13 yrs old: Sprained ankle in restaurant. Doc Martens were a size too big. It was the 90s.
  • 20 yrs old: Sprained ankle in Bilbao, Spain. No explanation needed. Injuries of these types expected during chupinazos where spontaneous piggy-back races are encouraged.
  • 26 yrs old to present: Torn hamstring in ashtanga yoga practice during upavishta konasa. Injury likely due to brain thinking about cupcakes or some other sugary pastry (unconfirmed).
  • 28 yrs old: Bruised knees, elbows and ego. Face met concrete in Dupont Circle while trying to walk and hold veggie wrap simultaneously.
  • 29 yrs old: Sprained/pulled/busted hand in Dupont Circle venue. Injury related to over-enthusiasm in running up flight of stairs for salsa dancing.

Alright. So, maybe these injuries weren't entirely life-changing or deserving of profound reflection. But, they affected my reputation psyche in some meaningful way. I can look back and proudly laugh, cry or cringe at the various beatings my body has taken. Whether they lasted a day, a month or a year, my injuries came with a beginning and an end. Yet the equally jarring nature of injuries can skyrocket many of us into a place of fear and opposition. We expend massive amounts of fruitless energy trying to determine who or what is to blame for our injuries. How much money do we spend on doctors, painkillers, therapists, products and general crap just for the purpose of reinforcing our belief that injuries must be done away with as quickly as possible? I’m not discouraging or undermining the use of healing therapy by any means. I’m a strong advocate of numerous rehabilitative methods. But rarely do those methods ask us to welcome our injuries and give them space to just be. Seldom does the message encourage us to invite an attitude of acceptance as a healing technique.

Injuries happen.  They just do. Kinda like GOP Presidential debates. Oftentimes to our detriment.  Especially when we wholeheartedly devote a large amount of time to a specific practice, the probability for injuries increases. If we drive a car everyday for twenty-six years the likelihood of being in a car accident is higher than if we only drove a few occasions in our lifetime. If we practice yoga 6 days a week for ten years, at some point we may pull a muscle. Basic laws of statistics aren't always on our side. But the path of devotion is not paved with lavender-scented Egyptian cotton. There are tests (and evil fairies) along the way. These tests may come in the form of injuries, heartbreak, betrayal, a sense of failure or some other affliction. It doesn't mean we should give up. Otherwise, why get out of bed in the mornings? Hopefully, whatever our practice is, it will allow us to courageously come face-to-face with our own suffering. If we open ourselves up to the possibility, an injury can be the greatest teacher of all. 

07 December 2011

Noodles, yo.

I'm certainly making up for my two month vacation away from this blog. The kool kats at Recovering Yogi have been so kind to post another one of my stories rants. Read it here (click with caution).

You may be wondering why there's a picture of a bowl of noodles above. If you have to ask, then you have no business here. For those of you who get it and live in DC, I highly recommend Toki Underground over on H Street. The wait time is a little ridiculous so get there early.

I hope to visit Yogically Speaking at least once more before The Year of Laura (2012) but if not, I wish you happy holidays and a rockstar new year!

03 December 2011

Ashtanga and the Art of Being a Flake

I admit it. I’m a total flake when it comes to Ashtanga. I hate waking up early for Mysore practice. You will often find me practicing in my kitchen late in the evening with MC Yogi playing in the background and lavender incense fumes accompanying my sun salutations. But some nights, I’d rather just eat a bowl of noodles instead. In the mornings, I make all kinds of excuses as to why my bed needs me more than my mat. I say I’ll show up for practice and never do. I get bored doing the same poses every time so I make up my own flow on occasion. There is also something slightly masochistic about allowing teachers to twist my body to resemble some dead sage I know nothing about (I mean no disrespect Mr. Marichi but DAMN your poses are hard). In addition to flake, you may call me a sinner, rebel, bum, blasphemer, whatever…I can take it. I prefer Reject Ashtangi.

The origins of my flakiness date back to the days before I even knew what yoga was. Having attended parochial schools my entire life I developed quite the aversion to authority, rituals and most forms of indoctrination.  Recovering Yogi says it best, “ACHOO! I’m allergic to your dogma.” I developed major allergies to anyone on a podium with a Bible. Although, I think it was the pleated skirts and Jesus camp that did it for me. In elementary school, I started with the Baptists, then went to the Lutherans for middle school, followed by the Catholics for high school and stuck with them (voluntarily) throughout college and grad school. At the end of it all, if you were even thinking about discussing your religious and spiritual agenda with me, I would tell you exactly where to shove it.

Naturally, this left me spiritually lost, unreliable and lazy…three top characteristics of a flake. I would go to mass with my family, but also read about Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism. Harmless enough. We all go through investigative processes to discover what feels right for us. But I didn’t want to do any real spiritual work. To hell with praying, attending services, giving money or committing to anything with “tradition” written all over it.

Thankfully, the universe helps us when we are lost. My parents’ sacrifice for my education was not in vain. My favorite professor and mentor in college, Profesora Tomas was a complete flake. Or at least I thought so. And, for some reason I wanted to be around her all the time. Birds of a feather, I guess. She was from Argentina and would always show up to class late and unprepared. She strolled around campus with a Mona Lisa-like smile on her face, taking slow and intentional steps, looking at the trees and people around her as if she was walking into some magical forest for the first time. She seemed to have not a single care in the world. On one occasion after showing up late for class, a student sarcastically asked her if she had forgotten her watch that day and with her chin pointed toward the sky, she responded in her deep, dramatic tone, “chronological time has never interested me.” Except, she said it in Spanish so it sounded much more poetic and eloquent. At that moment, something majorly clicked inside of me. What did time matter? Why were we so attached to our own small reality in this classroom? Perhaps Profesora Tomas was unceasingly tardy, but her lectures were always profound and filled with passion. While we believed her to be unprepared because she deviated from the printed syllabus, she never failed at teaching us something new and fun. I wanted THAT - whatever “that” concept was - to be my tradition and practice. This woman knew about a higher sense of joy and peace. She had an incredible ability to let go and be in the moment. Without knowing it, she had taught me my first lesson in presence.  From her, I learned that despite the nature of inconsistency, there is a plane of equanimity and happiness--our true home--that is constantly flowing and waiting for us to meet it once again. She lived on that plane all the time and I wanted to as well.

Inconsistency has been one of my greatest teachers on the path of Ashtanga. It forces me to always return and start from scratch.  For all the times I don’t show up, make excuses and milk the shit out of my flakiness, the practice is always there waiting for me. Unchanged, patient, forgiving and unaffected by chronological time. Comfort lies in its ritual. Ashtanga is a tradition that is challenging but completely non-judgmental.  It is difficult at times for me to not carry over samskaras from parochial school into other areas of my life. I forget to wipe “screw you, and your stupid rules!” off my forehead sometimes. But, I realize that no one is going to admonish me from a podium for not showing up to the mat or make me confess in a creepy dark room for skipping a pose. When my enormous ego and aversions get in the way of my practice, I remind myself of the basics of Ashtanga. It is by no means my religion, and it has no threatening dogma. Through my dedication to it, as spotty and fleeting as it may be, I am able to find my true home and reconnect with a more aware version of myself: the part of me that deeply wants to be present and alive.   

 With Profesora Tomas (far left) in Merida, Mexico. Rest in peace. Thank you for your teachings!

29 November 2011

Top 10 Signs I'm Turning 30...

I just spent five wonderful days with my family and friends in Texas. On Thanksgiving I left my grandmother’s house with a giant tray of homemade enchiladas and enormous bowl of my favorite soup, both made especially for me. Being a long distance granddaughter who is still 12 years old in the eyes of her grandma is a rare and awesome identity. I wear that badge with pride. Leaving home is always hard, despite the fact that I’ve been doing it since 2006. Five years of arriving and leaving, fluctuating between two separate worlds. As I said goodbye to my Mom at the airport, I looked at her with tears in my eyes and cried, “the next time you see me I’ll be 30!” She laughed and gave me a big hug before handing me off to TSA. 

I wasn’t crying because of my approaching arrival to the third floor. It just always happens when I leave my Mom. Must be an only daughter thing. My journey to 30 has been a blast and I’m not taking any time here to eulogize my 20’s. From what I hear, the view is much better on the third floor anyway. But, in the last few weeks I had some pretty great “you know you’re turning 30 when” moments and I just had to share my top 10.  Enjoy and commiserate with me if you dare. 

I know I'm turning 30 when...

  1. I buy three pairs of shoes at the Naturalizer store because ensuring my feet feel like they walk on pillows is now a top priority.
  2. My holiday pre-gaming consists of a glass of sparkling light wine and a caprese salad.
  3. I'm overly excited about coming up with creative nicknames for my friends' babies.
  4. At the dinner table I tell my younger cousins stories of what it was like to party in my hometown "back in the day" (meaning the year 2000).
  5. Conversations with friends suddenly include phrases like "sciatic nerve", "high ceilings" and "property value."
  6. The hardest choice to make before a night out is which blazer and turtleneck to pair together.
  7. At social gatherings, the topic of my sprouting gray hair is in the same discussion as brain cancer and flesh-eating bacteria.
  8. My new guru is my facialist.
  9. I go to Barnes & Noble and head straight for the self-help section.
  10. A "fun" weekend is measured by purchases of decorative pillows and antique tea cups.

23 November 2011

'Tis the Season to be Flake-ish...

 Getting a little adjustment by Certified Iyengar Teacher, Terence Ollivierra (Buddha B Yoga)

Yikes! It's been 2 whole months since my last post! I think I was derailed at some point between my first Iyengar workshop (see photo above), a double whammy of Ani Difranco (see photo below) and a trip to Philly to see Feist (see my brain's force field for that one). The good news is that I did write a new blog post. The even better news is that you have to go to RecoveringYogi to read it. Only good news here today, folks. My story has been published by my favorite yoga blog! Just in time for Thanksgiving. Hope you enjoy. 

Ani Difranco put down the guitar for a little spoken word at 6th & I Synagogue (Oct. 2011)