Endings and Beginnings

I may be a couple of days late, but it still feels like New Year’s over here (plus I’ve got the snow blowing outside of my apartment, telling me to get this out to all of you). New Year’s is a beginning, it offers us a chance to reflect, and of course to think of what we’d like to achieve and manifest in the year to come. I am a pretty driven person, like a lot of people I know in New York City and its surrounding areas. Often, I’m focused on where I’m going, what I want, how to get there; when I spend my time focusing so much on what’s ahead it can feel like a lot of pressure. When we are always looking so far forward there’s no sense of satisfaction, our work is never done, like a hamster on a wheel.

This year’s New Year’s Day started us off with a Full Moon. A chance to see what’s behind us as well as what’s ahead. One of the things I’ve been practicing this last month is appreciation. Appreciating myself as much as I appreciate the incredible people in my life. Appreciating my efforts and the energy I put forth. It’s been changing my neurology in the best way. Helping me slow down and giving me some new perspective. I highly recommend doing this for yourself. Be proud of your hard work. It doesn’t matter if you see now that you could have done something better or differently, or even if the whole thing turned out to be a mess. Appreciate the fact that you tried and that you worked at something and learn from it all. This is how we level up and become our best selves. A lack of mistakes is also a lack of growth.

When I look back at the year behind me, I see a lot of incredible things. In 2017 I moved back to Brooklyn, a place that had felt like home for a long time and that I missed dearly. I moved back here to be closer to my teachers and to meet new ones, and I have. My community is amazing, both in New York City and Connecticut and I’m so grateful to have found a way to stay close to the people I really love in CT while feeding my own soul in NY. To everyone that has made this transition possible for me, I am so grateful, thank you.

The year to come looks incredible. I’m offering workshops in several new places, returning to one big and exciting event, booking some awesome vendor engagements, and starting relationships with some very special new studios as well as continuing onward at the amazing Stamford Yoga Center and Tangerine Hot Power Yoga, both of these spaces have treated me incredibly well this year. I feel very lucky, and very proud at everything I’ve worked so hard to build. I am really looking forward to seeing the seeds of the last year blossom in 2018.

I hope each of you feels the same. Full of pride for yourself, it really is time for a fresh start and to stop beating yourself up for the same things all the time. (By the way, that loop of beating yourself up is probably what’s got you repeating that pattern anyway!) Know that I am grateful for you, your presence here, your eyes and your hearts and every order and every time you’ve taken a class or a workshop or anything at all. Thank you all.

Happy New Year!

E

Introducing :: The Inspired Collection

I’ve been sitting on some truly big news for MONTHS now, and I am SO happy I can finally tell you about the Inspired Collection, launching June 15!

IMG_4285
the Divine Feminine Necklace, one of the pieces available as part of the Inspired Collection

This super special collection of mala beads, wrist wraps and precious wire necklaces is in line with my usual obsession with high quality gems and beautiful things; AND, this collection has a special twist! Each of the Mala and Half Mala beads included in the collection were co-designed and inspired by the amazing yoga teachers who have played important roles in my life.

Without these women, I can ABSOLUTELY share that I would not be where or who I am today. They have each played pivotal roles in shifting my perspective and bringing me home to my own heart. These are my teachers, I can never bow to them humbly enough or express the gratitude that I have for them.

This collection is meant to honor these women and share this immense love in my heart with all of you!

In the coming weeks I’ll be writing in depth about each woman and the part they’ve played in my life (and some sneak previews of the pieces they’ve helped me create!)

For now, wondering who has filled my heart so sweetly? Here’s a list of the Goddesses who have inspired, well, Inspired:

Tiffany Cruikshank 

Chrissy Carter

Jillian Pransky

Cyndi Lee

Elena Brower

Sarah Platt Finger

Katie Braja

Jean Koerner

Erica Jago

(I TOLD you I’m so excited!)

I can not wait to share more with you, including previews and stories about how these women have helped me find myself, become myself and love myself.

Much love,

E

whisper preview!

whisper

 

Here’s a preview of what’s coming in a few weeks. Summer demands space to breathe. Sweet little beads, precious stones, lots of love and freedom in these delicate whispers.

on losing five pounds

I’ve had a hard time reconciling this post as a follow up to my last one, but my aim is to be real with you. So let’s get real.

There might be an idea out there somewhere that yoga teachers have perfected their bodies, and don’t struggle with regular body stuff, like weight. If you have that idea, please take this gently, but you are wrong. Practicing daily, exercising often in general, is not the same thing as being thin. There are thin people who are strong, thin people that run fast and far, thin people that are weak and out of shape. There are round curvy people who are strong, who can run fast and far, and who are weak and out of shape.

I have a confession to make as someone who practices yoga 9 out of 10 days, who runs regularly, hikes very often, and happens to be pretty strong. I have been unhappy with my body for a little while now.

In late 2012 I got on the stress hamster wheel, there were personal difficulties in my life, I wasn’t eating well and exercise took a hiatus. I gained some weight. I think that when people are stressed and sorting through things, sometimes we do gain weight, sometimes we lose it. This fluctuation is a natural part of our lives. It truly is the Vinyasa of Life, the ebb and flow.

Last year long after the external stressors in my life had faded, and my healthy exercise routine returned, I may have changed shape a little, looked a bit better in clothes, but the extra size and extra weight that I had gained went nowhere. The difficulty comes when we look in the mirror and realize that we are not happy with how we look, that we don’t look or feel like ourselves, it can make us even more anxious, even more stressed. Once we develop this negative self-image, negative self-speak, and stress response to the mirror, we actually make change in the opposite direction we wish to. A stressed body will not happily give up it’s reserves, fat is one of the ways our bodies protect themselves against stress.

I have always been a ravenous eater, I enjoy food of all kinds and grew up in a family of seconds and deliciousness. My ethics along with my love of food have led me to eat organic and to make many meals for myself. What I mean to say is, I am a good eater. I will probably always be a good eater. But recently, I have learned to also be a mindful eater.

It may not seem like a new concept to think about eating mindfully. And especially for a yoga teacher, you would think it came with the territory. It doesn’t. Most yoga teacher trainings do not dive into the realm of food, besides perhaps in passing conversation. I started teaching when I was 19, at the time I smoked cigarettes and ate a lot of pasta. I was also teeny tiny and angry. I’ve spent the last 8 years working my stuff out, just like most people have done, or are doing now.

I have made leaps and bounds from my days of ramen noodles, but I feel like I have only just begun to address food with the same conscious attention as I have always brought to my mat.

A couple of weeks ago, when I told her I wanted to lose some weight, my teacher (Elena B) suggested I start taking pictures of everything I eat. She’d learned this from her coach and mentor, Lauren Zander, co-founder of the Handel Group, as a method used to help folks with bulimia and anorexia become friends with their food, and make their consumption a point of personal pride, rather than a source of shame or something to hide. She asked me to add a caption of intention to each photo that breathed positivity into what I was about to eat (eg. “Food is a source of nourishment and pride in my life”, “I am blessed by this delicious meal”) and to email her the pics at the end of each day.
A week later, I’d lost six pounds, which represents a huge chunk of what I’d gained and been struggling with for more than a year. Victory.
Taking just a moment to take a picture of what was on my plate, and knowing it was going to be seen by someone I truly admire, completely shifted my mindfulness around food. Of course Elena never said anything discouraging or judgemental in response to the end-of-day pictures; sometimes she’d offer a little cheer from the sidelines, sometimes there was no response at all. It was never really about her knowing what I was eating, it was about ME knowing what I was eating. The gap of awareness around my food gave me the space to mindfully make choices about what I wanted to eat, and even more importantly to feel good about my choices, and then to truly enjoy my food without rushing.

Since taking the time to really think about my food, I’ve also cut out a lot of the extra junk that was in my diet and I’m eating cleaner than ever. I have tried veganism and vegetarianism of many kinds and while I support these diets, they did not work for me and my body. I’ve found meat to be an important food for me, and I buy only the highest quality and most ethically farmed and fished proteins that I can. I’m lucky to live in an area where it’s not hard to find local organic steak. What I did feel like I could live without were grains, sugars, alcohol and dairy; at least for the most part.

I found it wasn’t hard for me to eliminate these more toxic foods from my diet. It happened pretty easily, and I’m allowing myself occasional free passes. Because life is better when you can have pasta once in a while, and I was not going to turn down the tuna macaroni salad at the Superbowl Party I attended last night. Most people who eat this way (called the Paleo diet) agree, they feel good. I can certainly say I feel good, and I am proud of what I’m eating and the changes I am making for myself.

My opinion is that health and weight can be separated from each other, and while it will be nice to drop a size, the number on the scale has never been that important to me. What drives me is how I feel. That extends to my physical body: do I have high energy? do I feel strong? can I get through my day with ease? And it extends to my mind: what do I think about myself when I look in the mirror? how do I feel in my clothes?

I am not a dietician, a nutritionist, or a doctor. I can’t tell you what will be best for you (and maybe those professionals can’t either.) But in this yogini’s experience, living a life of grace means exploring possibilities and finding your own path. Don’t run on the hamster wheel of stress and insecurity. Pause, listen, and make change.

If you have your own story of mindfulness, eating and weight I would love to hear it.

habitually

This is Formidable Pose:

*an aptly named pose, formidable means “inspiring fear or respect through being impressively large, powerful, intense, or capable”

I’m talking about formidable pose because, for a time I was completely and utterly obsessed with this posture (in Sanskrit, Ganda Bherundasana). It was about 2 years ago that I first met the pose and fell in total awe. Perhaps three months later I had found the pose myself. For about six months I had a daily practice of formidable, I wanted badly to master the pose and it was actually the first inversion that I felt totally comfortable with.

After a few months of this, I started toppling over in formidable. First about a year ago, I was taking my feet towards my head and I just completely collapsed, I bit my lip terribly. I bled on my mat. I had a swollen sad lip for several weeks. I did not stop the pose. Then, I began toppling over all the time in this pose. I burned my throat on the carpet practicing this pose at home. Suddenly, I was terrified of this posture that I had been in such deep worship of.

In the end, the experience really made me step back and re-evaluate the way I had begun approaching my physical practice. Even after telling my students that they didn’t need to meet any level to be “good” at yoga, that any variation of any pose was welcome and we had no goals for asana, I had allowed myself to become completely goal oriented in my own practice and as a result had put my body in harm’s way. But then again, it is often times easier to offer compassion to other’s than it is to offer compassion to ourselves.

When I realized I had wandered so far off-balance, and had literally opened my back bending practice to a place where my body could no longer balance, I completely changed my approach. I started running as a way to re-establish my own physical boundaries (running makes you tighter in virtually all of the places that a backbend is opening you). I had always hated running, I am not sure I had ever run more than one mile straight in my lifetime until last year. But I thought this was  a good experiment in getting me out of my back bending bad habit. I found out that running gave my practice new power, strength and stability, and felt amazing.

Now, I balance my practice in a much more even way. I work with equal vigor on moving in all directions, forwards, backwards, twists, arm balances and inversions. It doesn’t mean I enjoy all parts the same, but I respect them all as equally valuable to our own well-being. And I am miraculously still running, being careful about my alignment as a runner and incorporating more bodywork into my schedule to keep me running injury free. So far, so good!

This week I am teaching about preference in my classes. And it has given me an opportunity to think about all of the ways that I show my own preference in my practice and in my body. We prefer one leg to another, one shape to the next. On some level, we will always have favorites, but we should be mindful of how our preferences affect our actions. Just as we learn to stand evenly on both feet, not favoring our right to our left, we can learn to move through our life with more balance and stability by examining our own habits.

As for Formidable, it remains my favorite pose, but for completely new reasons. My experience through this pose has completely redefined the way I practice. I still love its appearance, it seems to me we are prostrating and showing gratitude, but my own gratitude for this pose has come from the incredible lessons it has taught me.

rainy day poses

April’s showers seem to have been delayed into May. We’ve had a lot of puddles, thick wet air and worms on the sidewalks this month. This kind of weather shrinks up your muscles and connective tissues, making your tight places feel tighter. For me, and maybe for you, that means my hips and hamstrings start talking to me a little more than usual.

Try this yummy seated pose for a little rainy relief!

Marichyasana B Variation (Seated Hip Opener)

Marichyasana D
a juicy forward bend that releases hips, groins and low back named for a sage.

To come into this pose, sit on your sitting bones, as tall as possible. cross your right leg in front of you as if you were sitting cross legged in Sukhasana.

draw your left leg in so that your knee points straight up and your heel lines up with your left sitting bone.

your left foot is crossing in front of your right leg, traditionally this pose is done with the right leg in lotus but this position puts a lot more pressure on the knee and is only appropriate if you are warmed up and should not be tried without a teacher.

the left side of your seat might lift a little off the floor as if you were squatting, this is okay but stay aware of your lower back on this side and keep the back long and open by reaching your sit bone straight down.

now you are ready to fold over the right leg, on the inside of your left thigh. keep your spine long and reach your chest forward as if you were going to lay it down beyond your right shin.

if you’d like to wrap the arms around the left thigh and the right side of your low back and bind your hands behind your back this is an option if a bind is a regular part of your practice. another variation would be reaching your hands forward to release the upper back.

hold about 10 breaths, release slowly and do the other side!

enjoy, and happy monday!