Why Yoga Answers Absolutely Nothing

Originally posted on Elephant Journal:
http://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/01/why-yoga-answers-absolutely-nothing/

It’s been six years and I still don’t know why my four cousins died in a plane crash.

I still don’t know why my ex-boyfriend chose her over me.

And I still don’t know why my sister’s infertility problems are diagnosed as “unexplained.”

I think society has the misconception that yoga is supposed to answer all our questions, heal all our problems and support us in a life that is harmless, meatless and free of bullsh*t.

I think we’ve got it wrong, yogis.

Yoga answers absolutely nothing.

What I do believe is that yoga cultivates infinite curiosity in our lives. Infinite possibilities. Infinite paths where we finally become courageous enough to stop, slow down and recalibrate our life’s compass.

Yoga is not meant to be a quick fix and it’s not meant to provide us with an instant overnight bag and eye pillow. We are here to be curious—we are here to do the work!

We are here to ask ourselves over and over when we walk into yoga class, and probably more importantly, when we walk out of yoga class:

Who am I? Why am I here?

These are the questions we are faced with when we practice yoga as a living, instead of as a 60-minute performance once a day on our mats.

Be consciously curious.

Who am I? Why am I here?

What answers am I spending hundreds of dollars just to find out? Because the things I’m struggling with aren’t gripping me—I am gripping them.

The things that I struggle with are merely the answers I have not yet found. So I keep asking. I keep rising. I keep doing the work. I keep believing that time is something I am not running out of, rather something I am constantly running into. And that’s okay, because this is the excitement—the work—the potential of my practice, my entire life.

Yoga is often seen as a path we take to achieve a goal.

I do my wrist exercises every day so that I may safely support myself in handstand. There is nothing wrong with this, but it is merely using yoga as a vehicle. What yoga really is, is encoded in our soul. Yoga is what makes us keep coming back for more, even when we don’t have the answers to life’s biggest questions. Yoga is what makes us not be (that much of) an a**hole if we get rear-ended, cut in line or even worse, questioned about our traumas, histories and defeats.

Yoga is the path to infinite possibilities and potential.

The more I become awakened to new possibilities, the more I find is hidden from me. Pretty silly, right?

Yet the more I find out about my life’s purpose, the more I long to seek different ways to manifest just that. I become curious and I allow this fully. I am learning each day to embrace the questions I ask myself, to embrace uncharted territory of what lies ahead and to allow the curiosity to slowly, steadily boil to a beautiful bubble every time I feel lost.

Because every time I feel lost, I come back to my yoga practice. I ask more questions, I seek more answers. I may not unfold all of my truths just yet, but the idea that infinite possible roads to my answers are out there is pretty freakin’ exciting to me.

So let us sway towards the simplicity of seeking and maybe not completely gathering all the answers, but perhaps understanding the questions, the possibilities, the compass within our soul.

The Importance of Yoga For Athletes

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I began teaching yoga for athletes while working at a local bar three years ago. At the time, I was waitressing to raise the funds needed to complete my 200hr yoga teacher training. It was there that a local college soccer coach and I began talking about the physical benefits yoga could potentially bring to his team. We both jumped at the opportunity to collaborate and this year marks my second practicing with the St. Rose Men’s Soccer team.

Most athletes initially come to yoga for the physical benefits, but it doesn’t take long for them to discover what yoga can provide mentally. No one is “just” an athlete. We are all way more than that. We are moms, dads, friends, aunts, uncles, administrators; we may be coaches or doctors, or work on a farm. Regardless of what we do or who we are, the point is, as athletes we need to be able to find our balance, just as we are. We need to be able to control our thoughts, our minds, and our breath. This can help athletes work through injuries, stress, tension on or off the field or even hard to handle coaches and teammates. Or, at the very core, ourselves! Often athletes are working with yoga to coexist with an injury. Injuries are not only a physical issue but a mental one as well. Through yoga, we learn ways to fine tune mind control – to learn the benefits of being able to relax fully in our present state. We learn that if we are constantly contracting or constantly tense, we will never fully surrender and be able to feel the support that we have beneath – or even within.

On a physical level, yoga for athletes provides a safe foundation to prevent injuries. When I work with athletes I tend to focus on major muscle groups and areas – hips, hamstrings and the shoulder girdle. It is not unusual to walk into my class and halfway through hear grunting and f-bombs being shouted left and right. These athletes are doing the work! They are going deep into each move, stepping way out of their comfort zones to be able to open up the tightest parts of their body. Often as an athlete, whether in the gym or running on dirt paths, we tend to cultivate a lot of energy in very specific body parts which translates into incredible tightness in other areas of the body. Yoga integrates the entire body, and although it may feel as if we have spent the entire class moving through tight hamstrings, there are other major muscle groups opening up at the same time.

One major aspect I have learned from teaching athletes is not only the decreased rate of injury but also incredibly faster recovery time. I teach a lot about the idea behind being in a deep sensation – and being in pain. Understanding the biology behind sore muscles has also allowed my students to work with yoga to allow their bodies to train on a more consistent basis. Often athletes are worried about how they are going to feel after they train… but you will quickly realize that it is the complete opposite with yoga. One cannot simply wait for the feelings you achieve after class. Yoga is truly seen as one of the greatest gifts for an athlete. The ability to enhance concentration through relaxation, the ability to train on a more consistent basis and the encouragement of knowing you are preventing the chances of injury are all positive impacts of yoga on athletes that ultimately allow for more time doing what you love. It can be intimidating! And I completely understand, but it is so incredibly rewarding and an incredible way to aspire to be a more dynamic, well rounded athlete.

Original Article: http://gtsclothing.com/the-importance-of-yoga-for-athletes/

Yoga Is To be Lived, Not Performed

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Four years ago, I felt my calling from the mountaintops of Wanderlust Vermont. It was there that I knew I wanted to become a yoga teacher.

I wasn’t drawn to the one-armed handstands or the yoga on top of picnic tables; I was drawn to the quality of the people, to the authenticity of their smiles and to hugging a stranger just because she shared the same first name as me. It was magic. It was, in my mind, yoga.

Now yogis are called to do 30-day challenges, persuaded to take a picture of our “practice” every day in hopes of winning yoga pants and then asked to take another picture in a different pose in the yoga pants we just won. Yoga is so silly.

That said, social media has been an incredible tool for me, though I post pictures of myself all the time. But in essence, none of my pictures are of my practice—my practice is continuous.

And there’s so much story behind most of my pictures. I couldn’t possible get it all into in. It isn’t just learning to use the dharma wheel this week; it’s learning to use the dharma wheel and then taking time to be of service to the person who gave me the opportunity to practice with the wheel. It’s not just about the handstand; it’s the story behind the tradition of the inversion that requires us to put our hearts above our heads instead of leading through the world with our heads above our hearts, our minds completely controlling us along with our thoughts and emotions.

I’ll promise you this: realizing that there’s so much more to yoga than postures is an incredible gift. These people you see on social media—we have stories to share, philosophies to be spoken of, songs to be chanted and prayers to be said.

It was incredibly freeing to realize that the most “advanced” yogis are the ones with the purest hearts, the ones who would drop it all to listen, to give advice and to be supportive of my wildest dreams. And it was incredibly freeing to realize that in the end, a rat is still a rat—and a man or woman who can press up on his or her fingertips may just be a trapped soul waiting to learn and be guided on along the path, or he or she may in fact be the purest of souls.

Practice living yoga. Practice the path that makes you feel like you’re more than a tight hamstring, a headstand, or the perfect shavasana. Practice serving yourself in such a way that you can’t help but to serve those around you. Fall in love with this life. It’s so sweet… and it’s so much more than a performance. It’s a freaking life dance!

 

Original Article: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2015/10/yoga-is-to-be-lived-not-performed/

List for a Mindful Summer

Set sweet summertime intentions, beginning with number one:

  1. Make a list.

  2. Be grateful.
  3. Start a journal. This is where we will keep our gratitude.
  4. Smile with the rising sun. Contemplate.
  5. Wake up early, unless you don’t.
  6. Take your practice outside the mat. The grass, the water, the slack line.
  7. Serve yourself a slice of humble pie weekly.
  8. Say yes to travel. Experience long car rides.

  9. Do not complain about the hot weather. Especially if living in Albany, New York.
  10. Identify with things that are bigger than you: the water, the sun, the grass.
  11. Never pass up a farmers market.
  12. Eat as close to this earth as possible, especially eating plenty of in-season fruits and vegetables.
  13. Cut out all the processed crap. It’s summer time, think local watermelon, peaches and zucchini.
  14. Stay hydrated. Sweat in the sun. If we’re not sweating, we are dehydrated and we will burn.
  15. Stay hydrated with water. Pure. From local springs if possible. Go plastic-free.
  16. Coconut oil. For everything. Skin, hair, coffee.

  17. This summer, see if you can avoid the pharmaceutical companies. Create your own medicine from herbs, aloes, oils, and salts.
  18. Live music. Listen to all of the live music. My favorites: Trevor Hall, Edward Sharpe, The Avett Brothers.
  19. Give back. Volunteer.
  20. Smile…because this life is pretty damn amazing, and if we’re too busy to make time to smile, it’s going to pass us right on by.

A Misconception Some Men Have About Women Who Teach Yoga

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Yes I’m a 24 year old single Yoga instructor, no, I will not have sex with you.

I walk into a local bar. Should I play the “yoga teacher card” or the “nursing student” card, tonight?

Am I looking for a one-night stand or a possible relationship? Because it always amazes me, the polar opposite reactions I get:

So Katie, what do you do for a living? “Well, I’m primarily a yoga instructor.”

Guy’s eyes open wide, sudden not-so-subtle look up and down at my body.

“Wow, so you must be good in bed.” Seriously? Got that one once, meant to be a joke I’m sure.

The end. Next bar.

So, Katie what do you do for a living? “Well, right now I’m a full-time nursing student.”

“Wow, I have a lot of respect for you. You must work really hard and care about people.” That’s the gist of it.

Correct. Keep going, kind sir.

I lead a fortunate life. I am healthy, happy and yes, single.

But I’m not going to sit here and tell you it’s all roses to be in your mid 20s and be a single yoga instructor looking for “the one.”

First off, I lost my boyfriend the weekend before my last yoga teacher training immersion. It just got to be too much. He said I was “changing.” And I was, but for the better.

My yoga training taught me to love all souls—everybody, whatever our differences. And to be the most beautiful soul you know. I learned that there was no way I could be of service to someone else if I wasn’t first going to serve myself.

And that didn’t have to mean to start being selfish; it just meant to start being me. I learned to stop pretending that I liked sleeping in until 11am. The real me wants to get up, get my practice in, and work hard strive to be a better being. For now, yes, I am doing this for myself, but only because I want to offer others the best version of myself, and to be attractive to those who…”get it.” If you want to serve others, love others with all your heart and entire being, we must serve ourselves—we must look within and ask, “What makes me truly happy?” and “What can I do today that’s going to reflect who I truly am?” And: what is going to allow me to aspire to be the best wife, the best mother, the best teacher?

So why is it so hard to find a partner? Simple. Respect. I don’t need to go on and on. That’s it.

When I go out to meet new people, I feel an immediate, sad disconnect with the guys I tell I’m a yoga instructor because, apparently, their mind goes into the bedroom…”…Hmmm I bet she can put her legs behind her head..!” (News flash, not every yogi can!)

I work hard as a yogi—I don’t chataraunga for strong arms so I can throw men onto a bed.

I have a daily practice that allows me to explore, to create, to release anxiety and stress so that when I do step into a bar, a studio or classroom, I am attracted to those who seek a mindful journey.

The journey is the reward. At first I was caught up looking for the one, but now my perspective has changed. Now, and everyday, I just aim to be a better Katie and to enjoy the journey that will ultimately find me my true love.

I encourage you to do the same. If you are one of the thousands of single humans out there, aim to create your own journey to love. Strive to be the best version of yourself.

If you build it, the love will come.

Original Article: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2014/02/a-misconception-that-some-men-have-about-those-women-who-teach-yoga/