Yoga At The Dentist

I didn’t care how much the laughing gas would be, I simply requested it for three fillings that had to be replaced. I’m glad I have that kind of financial freedom.

Weekly, I write for a dentist in South Florida, and in that time I’ve learned that I’m not the only person to avoid making a dentist appointment. Most people would prefer to wait in long lines or accept a jury duty invitation than subject themselves to scrutiny over their flossing habits. But every time I would write for this dentist, my teeth would start to ache, so I made an appointment. My months (fine, years) of apprehension led to some tartar, and a few weeks later, I was crossing my eyes at the ceiling and praying that the anesthesia wouldn’t wear off.

To relax, I turned to yoga. I decided to focus on a breathing technique called Krama, or “Stair Step” breathing. This cooling breath allows you to count your breath and feel where your breath is moving through your body. Krama breath was one of five breathing techniques that we went over while I was in yoga teacher training, but the Krama breath always stood out to me because it just felt right.

Breathing through my nose when I had a wide-open mouth (and, due to unfortunate orthodontic flaws, live as a natural mouth-breather) wasn’t easy, but it took my focus away from whatever thin slice of metal was heading toward my teeth.

Pranayama, the practice of breath control, is the fourth limb of yoga. It prepares us for additional limbs: dharana (concentration) and dhyana (meditation.) Asana, the physical poses that we typically associate with the practice, is the third limb. There are eight limbs total, the eighth being samadhi, a state of ecstasy and union of the mind, body, and soul. I was nowhere near samadhi while I was trying to relax my tongue and take in as much laughing gas as possible, but, hey, we’re all on a journey.

The dentist’s chair is probably the least likely place one would think to practice yoga, but using Krama during the procedure reminded me that yoga isn’t just a physical practice. I’m as guilty as anyone of posting #yogachallenge photos and going to the studio in order to get a good sweat. While I pass no judgment on anyone who strictly does yoga for the physical benefits, yoga is more than just a workout. Yoga is a lifestyle, it’s way of being, its a guide that brings you closer to yourself, closer to the god(s) you worship, and closer to infinity.

Yoga is open to everyone, at any point in their life. You don’t need a mat to do yoga. You don’t need $100 yoga pants. You don’t need washboard abs or abstain from eating meat. You don’t need to know what Firefly Pose is or be able to pronounce anything in Sanskrit. You don’t need to feel comfortable with your body or touch your toes to do yoga. You don’t need to have a cute hairdo (once you see my yoga flow, you’ll understand what I mean.)

As a yoga teacher, my goal is to make my classes accessible and communicate them through love and compassion. If you have never taken a yoga class before, if you prefer ribs to kale, if you are physically disabled, if you just want to lay in Savasana or Child’s Pose for 40 minutes, you are welcome to my classes. And I will try my best to guide you through this beautiful practice and give you something you can take with you.

We may start practicing in a studio or through online videos, but the lessons that we collect through our flows follow us as we roll up our mat, walk out the door, and enter the spaces we may be trying to escape with yoga, meditation, or mindfulness.

Below is a flow I wrote to soothe anxious minds and bodies. In the flow, I guide you through Krama and Nodi Shodhan Pranayama. The flow is gentle, all of the poses are optional, and I recommend trying it before a good night’s sleep. This is the first flow I have posted online, and I would love any and all feedback that you have for me. Leave a comment, send me a message on Facebook, or shoot me an email. I teach for the benefit of students, so your opinion is very important to me! Enjoy this flow!

Yoga Teacher Training Reflections

Warning: this post ended up being way longer than I thought.


I never take days off from my full-time job, but with the craziness of SXSW and the celebration of completing my yoga teacher training, I’m shutting my work to-do list for a whopping three days. I’m still working on a new project – the details of which will come later – but for the most part, I’m focusing on taking a little SXSW vacay.

I’m a certified yoga teacher! After 10 long weeks of reading, learning, sweating, playing tears off as sweat, and practicing, the journey inside the classroom at Black Swan has come to an end. The journey around the world, teaching and continuing to learn, has just begun.

Beat, Broke, Backpacking is going to resurrect now that I have weekends. I’ll also be uploading flows amongst my travel pictures and wanderlust-y thoughts. In the meantime, I wanted to share some reflections from teacher training. Any yogi, any level, any body type, age, gender, comfort level, etc. can benefit from yoga teacher training. It’s like going to group therapy and the gym and job training at the same time. Pretty cool. Here are some things that I learned.

Everyone Can Enjoy Yoga Teacher Training – I was surprised to learn that not everyone wanted to pursue teaching after the training was over; at first, I honestly had trouble justifying the cost of training for someone who just wanted to deepen their practice. As the weeks went on, however, I was hooked on everything I was learning about yoga, its history, the body, the chakras…we obviously learned a lot about sequencing, adjusting, and the ethics of teaching, but we learned so much more about the practice in general. We went through the primary series in Ashtanga yoga every Saturday morning, eventually practicing in the Mysore style (without verbal instruction.) Learning the primary series alone, and the recommended alignment, is worth the cash. In addition, we had more time to focus on advanced poses and dive deeper into the history of yoga. As someone who is constantly working and not able to put aside much time for Svādhyāya (self-study,) yoga teacher training was a nice kick in the asana. (Get it? I’m hilarious.)  Whether you’ve mastered a headstand, full splits, or you’ve just stepped onto your yoga mat this year, you can benefit from yoga teacher training.


Though She Be Little, She Is Fierce – I was able to befriend and talk to a lot of strong women (and two men) during my training. When you’re spending 10 hours a day & two days a week with people, you get to know them pretty well and grow comfortable sharing yourself.

One day in particular sticks with me. One of my friends, a quieter, humble yogi with lots of knowledge and experience to share, told our group she was feeling small that day. One of our group members was awed at her ability to identify and express that emotion, although we’ve all felt that way in our lives. We were also taken aback at how someone with such knowledge and so many ideas to share could feel like they have a smaller presence in the room.

Yoga meetups can reach hundreds of people. Flows can be taught over booming microphones. When we practice yoga, we find ourselves connected to infinity, the whole, vast universe. But we harness this power and build this connection from the smallest beginnings. An inhale and an exhale may not look like much, but they hold power. Even though we may feel intimidated by our height, our voice, or our place in the universe, we can take comfort in the idea that we are connected to something bigger than we could ever imagine.


Burning Through Samskaras Is A Lifelong Process – When you’re in Pigeon Pose for four minutes, on each side, you’re going to face some emotions that you thought were long-gone. When we encounter these moments, we face samskaras. In short, samskaras are patterns and habits that we’ve developed since the moment our life has begun (or before that, if you’re into reincarnation.) When we practice, we aim to burn through and release ourselves from these samskaras.

I remember a particular flow (probably the one where I was in Pigeon for four minutes, on each side) that ended in a lot of anxiety. Without going into too much detail, I was bringing up past trauma and past discomfort that I just wanted (/want) to get rid of. It was an intense moment, and in that moment I decided that I was going to face the trauma head-on, get over it, and move forward. Yoga teacher training was the time to do it. I was going to get over, get through, and get rid of it.

It was probably during the next flow that I realized that things weren’t going to change that dramatically, that quickly.

I look at samskaras as a giant concrete block that we chip away at when we practice. One blaze is not going to burn and disintegrate our samskaras (I did have to check on the internet to see if concrete was flame-resistant, it is.) It takes a lot of time, and even though we’re constantly making progress, we may come back and think that we’ve done nothing at all. There is still much work to be done. The sooner we accept the task ahead of us (the past that has led us here, and the fact that our future is not going to be perfect,) the easier our job gets.

So I continue to work, even after receiving my certificate.

Definitely still working on the handstands.

I am starting to build, record, and film flows that I will put online through my blog, YouTube, and an online studio (coming soon!) If you have suggestions for flows that you would like to see, let me know in the comments or on my Facebook page! Until next time,

नमस्ते

 

 

Why Yoga and Traveling Go Hand in Hand

Hey friends! I’ve got kind of a different post for you this week…it’s a little longer, with less pictures, but I’ve always wanted to write about my experiences with yoga. I’ve been exploring yoga on and off for many years and it’s really made a great impact on my health, physically and mentally. It’s a great thing to add into daily routine, but it’s also great for traveling, when every day can be different.

There are a few basic reasons why I enjoyed practicing yoga while traveling. You can do it anywhere, it keeps you fit, and it stretches you out after being cramped up on an overnight bus or spending your days hiking/walking/backpacking. Going beyond the physical reasons, however, yoga alleviates some of the mental strain that comes with traveling. I have three little stories about three different experiences I had doing yoga on my trip and when I finally settled down in Austin. Enjoy!

Yoga Centers You (Yoga in Berlin)

By the time I had arrived in Berlin, I had visited seven cities in the span of about two weeks. My head was spinning. I was jetlagged, and an overnight bus/ferry from Copenhagen had not helped one bit. I spent my first few hours at my Couchsurfing host’s house napping.

After scrolling through Couchsurfing meetups, we found a free yoga class in Tempelhofer Park, once of my host’s favorite places in the city. It was perfect: a free, fun activity in a beautiful location. The class was (luckily) held in English, and our yoga instructor said it was one of the biggest free classes she had ever held. People from all over the world attended, and Berlin locals even joined in throughout the class.

It had been the first time I had practiced yoga in a few weeks, but that’s the wonderful thing about yoga. No matter how far you can stretch or how well you know the poses, you can go through a class and get back to the meditative state that yoga provides. I could have been in Berlin, I could have been in Glasgow, I could have been in Philadelphia…but what I focused on during that hour was that I was in my own body. I began to use exercises I learned through meditation as I traveled: I began focusing on my feet as they wander through cities, the feeling of my back against my backpack, or my head pressing against the seat of a bus, train, airplane, etc. No change in scenery can change how I feel within my own body, so whenever I’m feeling lost, I return to focusing on that feeling.

Templehofer Park! via huffingtonpost.com

Yoga Connects You with Others (Yoga in Kielce)

After Berlin, I spent two weeks in Poland volunteering for an English immersion camp for Polish teenagers. I volunteered with 20 other native English speakers. I hadn’t been a while since I had been surrounded by that many people my age for an extended (if you consider a week “extended”) period of time. I was so used to being by myself that when I was faced with so many people, I felt anxious. Were people judging me? Was I well-liked? I was asking the kind of questions I thought I had left behind in high school.

The second week in Poland was a change; many of the same native speakers stuck around, but we were in a new location. We stayed in a gorgeous hotel with a balcony. On the first day in this new location, I decided I would do yoga in the morning before breakfast. I always invited other native speakers to join. I played a YouTube video from one of my favorite yogis (which you can watch here) and some days I’d be by myself, some days I’d be joined by friends. One day in particular, the video wasn’t working. I basically had the video memorized, so I timidly offered to go through what I remembered. I was extremely nervous, but I tried to link together all of the vinyasas in the video the way I remembered. I even added in my favorite stretch during the practice (shout out to pigeon pose!!) By the end of the class, I was able to look at yoga from a new perspective. Paul and Angie were very relaxed as well; the session was a success!

I spent the rest of the day walking on air (even though I kept focusing on my bare feet against the ground). Yoga always provided me with a calm and peaceful energy, and that day I was able to share that with others. I was hooked. There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to pursue yoga even deeper.

view from our balcony!
view from our balcony!

Yoga Shows You Where You Need to Be (Yoga in Austin)

For the time being, I’m stationary. I’ve moved to Austin and signed a year-long lease. Besides wanting to explore this amazing city that I’ve admired from afar for a few years, I really need to save up some money before I travel again.

Within two weeks of moving, I started attending free yoga classes held at the Whole Foods on Mondays and Wednesdays. One Tuesday night, I had been venting to my best friend about my job, asking, “Am I doing enough? Am I making the right choices?”

On the bus to the class, I saw a tweet advertising that finally volunteer positions for Fun Fun Fun Fest had become live. I had been waiting on this application for a while, especially after having a blast volunteering for Austin City Limits.

I usually keep my eyes closed while I practice, but something about the flow of the class that night led me to keep them open. I remember gazing at the lights strung along the trees on the Plaza. I saw 300 Austinites practicing with me. I saw the neon glow of Waterloo Records, just a street away.

At the end of the class, in savasana (Corpse Pose, aka when you lie flat on  your back and soak in your practice), I felt the activation of my third eye. I hadn’t been focusing on that chakra, so it was kind of odd. I told myself I would figure out what this feeling meant later and continued with my meditation.

After class, I looked deeper into what the third eye chakra symbolized. I found this quote from personaltao.com: “The third eye is our ability to see what might be, to see potential.” That sentence tied my whole day together in a nice little present. When I was 15, I was determined to move to Austin. I didn’t really have that much reasoning behind it, but that type of intuition is what the third eye provides. I knew there was something for me here. The day of the class, I was gathering inspiration from Austin; the music festivals I hoped to work for, the record stores, the bookstore I had visited next to Whole Foods…even going to the class itself. When I explore Austin, I’m exploring my potential.

There are many things I hope to explore while I’m in Austin: the city itself, yoga, blogging, crafting, my next steps in life…and I’ll hopefully continue to post throughout this new journey! If you have suggestions/feedback/etc. let me know in the comments or shoot me an email! (Info is on my Contact page). Thanks again for reading!