Monday, January 17, 2011

Courage in the Heart!!

Courage: to act in accordance with one's beliefs, esp. in spite of criticism.

the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc.

Origin: 1250–1300; ME corage < OF, equiv. to cuer "heart"

For some reason, celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day always brings me into reflection and back to this blog. And for some reason the passed two years during this week of celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day I have found myself teaching Muscle Energy in my yoga classes, both at North Idaho College and at Garden Street Yoga.

One little difference is that in this current session of my all levels classes at Garden Street Yoga ( , I am teaching the Universal Principles of Alignment more specifically with a focus in the upper body, and even more specifically, with a focus in arm balances (and even more specifically today with a focus in handstand!!). This week we happen to be, once again, in Muscle Energy!! One of the heart qualities of Muscle Energy is COURAGE!!

I love that the origin of this word is "cuer" meaning "heart". How appropriate for "theme building" since arm balances focus on plugging into the heart focal point with Muscle Energy! I can only speak from my own experience, but this was an important lesson to wire into my own body before actually being able to kick up into handstand.

My journey with handstand began almost 10 years ago at Garden Street Yoga with my teacher, Karen Sprute-Francovich. I can't remember the exact date that I first attempted handstand in class, but I can remember what I felt:

fear, insecurity, uncertainty, frustration and discouragement!

I think the key word here is "discouragement"! (the feeling of despair in the face of obstacles) I do believe that is the opposite of courage!! For me, it was not enough to just pause and think about not being discouraged about not being able to kick up into handstand. For me, I had to really break it down into the elements of alignment, specifically Muscle Energy, because my first handstand attempts (and mind you I'm talking about my first whole year of handstand attempts!!) were coming mostly from a flailing about in the periphery with momentum, hoping I could get my legs up to the wall, and were totally lacking a plugging into the heart!! This, from my experience, required some time wiring it into my body by learning how to plug into the heart with courage, with muscle energy! (and also a lot of encouragement from my teacher Karen, over and over and over again!)
The first part of muscle energy, after having established a strong foundation and and openmindedness in Grace, is to hug your skin to your muscle to your bone! For me, this was achieved by spreading my fingers brightly on the mat and flexing the muscles in my arms while bending my elbows slightly, which i noticed was brighter mostly in my forearms. Then, to draw to the midline, I would try to move my hands towards each other against the resistance of the mat and noticed that this brightness in my arms started to engage more into my upper arms. Finally, I would imagine drawing from my fingerpads and even the mound of my index knuckle, all the way up my arms, through the shoulders and into the bottom of my heart at the level of the sternum. Although this was awkward at first to really feel, I noticed if I tried to draw my hands towards my feet in downward facing dog, I started to actually feel the wiring connect from my hands to the bottom of my heart! This is what is known as drawing from periphery to focal point. After having established all three of these parts of muscle energy in my upper body, I felt more stable, more courageous!!! I mean I really felt connected to the courage in my heart!!
I also noticed that this didn't necessarily get rid of the fear and the insecurity and the uncertainty, but that feeling of despair in facing my obsticles was gone, that feeling of discouragement was gone!! So for a while I would practice holding steady this courage and kick my leg up without the expectation of getting to the wall. I just practiced holding steady with courage and allowed this to wire into my body, especially wire all the way to the heart, not just halfway there. Then I would practice this feeling of expanding this feeling of courage from my heart back into my hands, back into my periphery. I found that if I would do this on an exhale and really shine down from the heart and into my foundation as I kicked up, I was more successful. (This would be Organic Energy, but we will talk about that in another blog!)
So, for me it took a while to kick up into handstand (two years to be exact!). And it was much more than just wiring muscle energy to get it. It required wiring all the Universal Principles of Alignment as well as all of the secondary principles! But I had to start somewhere. Opening to Grace and setting a strong foundation in my hands was becoming willing to allow this wiring to happen over time. Learning to plug into the courage of my heart was next. And no matter how many years pass in this amazing journey of yoga, I noticed that I can always take this a little deeper in myself! Maybe so much so that someday I will kick up without the wall!!!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Expressing Original Tenderness

"Expressing Original Tenderness"

~~Karen watching Nancy Shilling be supported by her son Eli and Desiree Rumbaugh~~

so I'm contemplating this process of how we human beings express our truth. Or what I recall from my very first yoga class being referred to as "Original Tenderness". I remember clearly having an awareness of it as a child......and then life just sometimes stomps on it when we are too young to know any better so we start to build the walls....and then more life happens and we build more walls around this Original Tenderness.....and then some of us rebel and shout and scream and cause chaos....some us slip into an isolated darkness.....and some of us like me become people pleasers and will do and say anything to not rock the boat or break down the very well constructed walls....even though every ounce of our intuition is dying to tell the truth of our Original Tenderness. has become one of the ways that I have learned to express the truth of Original Tenderness without words. Learning how to break down the walls of "who I thought you wanted me to be so I don't have to break down the walls" and draw into the core of my being to feel who I really am. Now who I really am at this core level has no's a feeling....a vision.....a intuition...a REMEMBERANCE. This is like drawing in that muscle energy from the periphery to the core. In yoga, I would watch my teacher, hear what she said, see what she did, and draw that from the periphery of my attention and try to find that in myself. A lot of tweeking goes on in myself to find it. A lot of wiring and rewiring. And then the fine tuning rings a song from within and in yoga I have learned to express that out through organic energy. Its hard to's no easy business.....and in a physical way it suddenly becomes and expression of the truth of Original Tenderness if I hold to my edge. No words are necessary because truth really shows in a glow in the way you "strike a pose" so to speak. It might not be the "deepest most challenging" variation of the pose, but it is mine and it's right on the edge and i know it when I'm doing it.....and it feels like strong sensation for sure....but totally free....totally truth....totally Tender.

Sometimes there are just times when expressing our Original Tenderness is just really hard to do alone. We need each other in this process. We just can't do it alone. There is so many obsticles in the way of expressing Original Tenderness once we've remembered it. Like the obsticle of expressing it during the grieving process. I was thinking about that when I was going through some of the pictures I took at Desiree's workshop. This picture above is a gem of an example of helping someone express their Original Tenderness when it is difficult to express it. It's actually a whole story in one picture and one expression. What I see is my friend amazing woman who does beautiful yoga.....always playfully looking for her edge.... and when she would teach it she would always do it with the heart of a playful child......and she smiled like this all the time.....and then my friend Nancy had a tragedy happen in her life in the loss of her son.....and when tragedy happens the truth becomes bleek and dim and we absolutely need support to remember it while we walk through the grieving process......and then the Universe sends support.....and in the case of this scene in the was the support of another woman who had a similar tragedy happen to her in the loss of her own son, the support in the watchful eye of a dear friend, and the support of that dear friend's son..........and I can't help but note the support of the sun coming through the window and bouncing off the face of Desiree and illuminating the smiling face of my friend Nancy in that moment of expression. It's an expression of the rememberance of her amazing childlike nature that right now needs support to express is without a doubt Original Tenderness.

Now here's the so have to be open to the support.....and that is hard....and it is so YOGA!!! Open to to the support when you need it.......and then draw into the rememberance of Truth within....which sometimes is your own with the added external muscle energy of a friend or two or three supporting you......and then remember that truth and shine it out with organic energy.....which means sometimes we shine it out through the open wound of a broken that is Courage......that is truly what it means to express Original Tenderness.....not just expressing it when it's easy.....but when it is truly TENDER......through the open wound of the heart.

Thank you Nancy for your Courage!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Balanced Action....a Demonstration of Freedom!!

"This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. " ...Martin Luther King Jr.

so Martin Luther King Jr. knew a thing or two about the power of Now. He did not shy away from his spiritual duty, his dharma......he even had preminitions that it would cost him his life, but he did it anyway. The cause was too great, far greater than any one man, and when any other man would have stepped back at the sheer force of resistance he received, he instead was fed by the support and the hopes of what he referred to as "our creative protest". Why was it creative? Because it was balanced action in the truest essence.

He did not fight physical force with physical force. He met it squarely with what he referred to as "soul force". In yoga, we strive to find in our bodies, hearts and minds a balance between effort and ease, muscle energy and organic energy.........courage and steadfastness tempered with compassion and love....and that balance creates true freedom. Wouldn't you say that that balance is and expression of "soul force"?

so in my Monday night class at Garden Street Yoga, I decided to put this to the theme. I looked at the "Declaration of Independence" that Mr King referred to in his "I have a Dream" speech. He was really after this country to make good on this contract with the American People, because in 1963 when he gave this speech, all men were not treated equal. I was also playing with what is a "Demonstration of Freedom", of which Martin Luther King did so well. The difference is that one was just words written with all the best intentions but not completely put into action, and the other was a pure demonstration supplied to us in action by him. So in class, we practiced a Demonstration of True Freedom......Balanced Action.

I think True Freedom must always be tempered, or "riverbanked" with discipline. If we don't, we just have a flood of chaos. Too much discipline and Freedom dries up like a dry riverbed. So in yoga, we start with Shri....we look for the beauty in everyone...we start expansive like an ocean of Freedom. Then we temper that with Muscle Energy. We draw in the periphery of this vast ocean of freedom to the core of our soul to remember who we truly are, to tap into the True Teacher, to remember the Truth. Then, KEEPING THAT, we shine that truth back out through the periphery to be shared with all around us, without unplugging from the truth with which we found. So we played with that tonight....being a Demonstration of Freedom, being Balanced Action....and it was so beautiful to watch.....we demonstrated all the Warrior poses.....One, Two, Three, Reverse, and Apexed it off with Dying Warrior.....yeah I know....sad metaphor, but it's a great pose to really look for and find Balanced Action because most people react two ways to this is seeing the demo and going, "no way....that looks like it hurts!".......or "no problem, I'm going to get my shoulder all the way to the floor no matter what!!".....but Balanced action and True Freedom doesn't know what the pose is going to be until it gets there and then its like a vibration of Freedom that radiates through your body to let you know that you are right at the are in Balanced Action....and you need not grasp beyond that in that moment....Just BE it!!!

It takes a lot of courage to tap into that truth. And it takes a lot of courage to shine it out the way Martin Luther King did. I refer back to the quote above: "This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. " Gradualism is the the belief in or the policy of advancing toward a goal by gradual, often slow stages. The key part is "often slow stages". Martin Luther King Jr had had enough of "often slow stages". Yes, they weren't slaves anymore, but they still weren't Free. They were not treated equal. And we as a country fall into taking the tranquilizing drug of gradualism all the time....getting so caught up in our own day to day lives. And in our own day to day lives we fall prey to it too!!! I look at my own practice of yoga, and I can see that it has been often slow stages of progress!! And I know the answer to this problem that I have with my too much freedom. Discipline!!!!

So I have a dream too. I have a dream to find in myself the balance of Courage and Compassion that Martin Luther King Jr. had and nurture it in my practice everyday and BE it everyday!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Suck it up and serve!

^^Dharma Wheel^^

you know sometimes your teacher just tells you exactly what you need to hear.

I have an amazing assignment to Open to the Highest and set my feet firmly on the ground at least 20 times a day. This is really hard to remember to do sometimes in the real world off the yoga mat. This is sometimes even hard to remember to do on the mat. I am so blessed to be able to take my practice and studentship to the next level in the good company of Garden Street Yoga Kula, but as is life, I am not always in "good company".

in our first meeting of our Advanced Immersion, a subject came up about how hard it is to maintain this Opening to the Highest when we are sometimes in the company of negativity, whether it be people we work with, live with, deal with in the grocery line, on the freeway, etc. That, sometimes, it can be very lonely out there opening to the Highest. Opening to Grace in the midst of negative company. My teacher said that her teacher told her that in these instances you have to "suck it up and serve! This is your dharma!"

a common definition of dharma is:

"dharma is the doctrine of the religious and moral rights and duties of each individual"

so I guess that would mean that it is my individual duty to Open to the Highest, ESPECIALLY when surrounded by negativity. I wish I could tell you that I do that well. So I put myself to the assignment of 20 times a day on one of my more difficult days......double shift Sunday at the restaurant I work at!

Now I'm not even going to mention the name of the restaurant because it is my experience that this is the reality of most restaurants, not just this one. Restaurants are like sleeping Kulas, fast moving, loud, distracting, busy and always right at the edge of chaos. A perfect place really to test the waters of Opening to the Highest First.....looking for Shri (beauty) first.....see Shri and then be Shri! Easier said than done!

I have on purpose and strategically placed my just barely awake self (kind of like one eye just barely open first thing in the morning and there is a lot of goop around that barely open eye and it really wants to go back to sleep, lol) in this environment because it pays the bills and quite honestly I like to serve people. For every 10 tables I serve, I might get one table to break the routine a bit and have a little fun with them. I don't interupt people that are obviously there to catch up or in a meeting or in a hurry. But with some I have an opportunity to connect in some way, and I really do have to open to the Highest to be able to see that opportunity. I pay attention to that.....that I seem to have a knack for.

However, some people....for whatever to go out to eat and look for things wrong to complain about. I don't understand this at all. They don't want to spend money, they know they are not going to like the food, they love to tell you about the bad experience they had last time and don't think I will do much better (i like to call this contempt prior to investigation, lol), they are going to want 10 free refils on their bottomless beverage, they are going to try to figure out the best way to get their meal for free or at least discounted, they are looking at their watch for sure, they see that you have a tray of food for another table in your hand as you walk by, but they somehow would like you to put that down and go fill their water and get more napkins right now because that is way more important than the hot food for the next table........oh....and the bathrooms are terrible.....and the music is too is the next table full of kids. I could go really I could, lol. This kind of table deflects Shri and Light like you were offering it to them just to annoy them, lol. They know without a doubt you are literally trying to kill them with kindness! And they are definitely are not going to tip you....they knew that before they even walked in the door! to the highest....set my four corners of my feet and begin again.

I recover and honestly.....I have lowered my expectations for my guest to be well behaved so then I'm really more surprised and happy when I get the happy family table that responds well to my smile and outpouring of Shri and automatically give it back. That one table out of every 10 is worth it all, it's all I need.

But double shift Sunday was not going down like that!! It was particularly negative for whatever reason and the one in 10 table was having a hard time showing up to help me keep going. So.......I paused and opened to the Highest and planted my four corners 50 times on Sunday!! No really I did!!

Two cool things did happen as a result of this. Another waitress I work with is also a former yoga student of mine from North Idaho College and knows what the for corners of the feet are and knows what it means to Open to Grace. She's another Light of Shri running around in this world and a joy to work with. She was having a hard time with the "rude guests" that she was serving (nope it wasn't just me that day, it really was just one of those days) I passed on to her my own assignment of the 20 times a day, and told her about the "suck it up and's your Dharma".....and she smiled at me....looked at me in the eyes.....and said, "your right...thanks Terri.....that really helps!"....and went back to being her Shri serving self! After that, I finally got the happy table....a table of women who were just dying for a good belly laugh, and I found the groove to joke around with them and have fun with them.....we had a good time, I was laughing with them and it was a nice little Shri fest with complete strangers. So maybe it was only one table that day....but it was a really good one!

Suck it up and Serve!!!!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Amazing Grace.....

***Karen Sprute-Francovich in Parsavakonasana***

sunday morning sitting here listening to Krishna Das Pilgrim Heart.....I so love this cd...the whole thing....current song playing is Jaya Jagatambe and I find myself singing my heart out in this wonderful kirtan with him......."Jaya Jagatambe...Jagatambe Ma Durga"
I woke up on my "sleep in day" at 7 am with an aching to do an asana practice to this cd and make some steel cut oats and quinoa with some stewed apples and sit down and journal about my gratitude for the practice of yoga in my life and for Karen Sprute-Francovich and the Kula of Garden Street Yoga.

something has happened to me!

before yoga entered my life over 8 years ago in September of 2001, I was not kind to myself. I did have a wonderful job as a preschool teacher and I had two amazing kids that got to come be with me at this preschool while I worked. It was our sanctuary from the not so kind life I had created for myself and my children at home. I was an almost lost soul had it not been for that amazing job at that amazing building that eventually led Karen Sprute-Francovich to the same place to teach yoga.

I have backtracked to my favorite song on cd now......Mountain Hare's my favorite because at the end he takes a break from the sanscrit kirtan and breaks into Amazing Grace to the same beat and tune that he was singing before. He makes one change....instead of singing "that saved a wretch like me" he sings "that saved a soul like me".....and tears enter my eyes everytime I hear this song....this morning it happened while i was in a pretty heart opening variation of Trikonasana during my practice, and I had to break my Ujiyia breath to sing with him while I was moving from Trikonasana to Ardha Chandrasana......and in harmony because that's what came out of my heart. Amazing Grace sprung from the heart of my very patient and compassionate teacher Karen and this amazing Kula she has nurtured all these years...and it has saved a soul like me.

and home practice has been something I have had to do to try to create the has not been easy.....99% of the time I have just done it.....don't get me wrong though....I'm always glad that I have done it......and like I've mentioned before, a lot of it has been restorative in nature because my life almost demanded it. But this morning I ACHED for a strong heart opening practice that actually woke me up on my sleep in day.....and I LONGED for a nurturing Ayurvedic breakfast of steel-cut oats, quinoa and stewed apples.....and on my break from my double shift at work today I am looking forward to a nice 20 minute meditation and a nice cup of spice tea. This was not something that happened to me in the past. This is a groove established, and for once in my life, I am establishing grooves that are nurturing and loving and compassionate to myself. And this gives me the capasity to actually pass this on to others and have more to give. I am overwhelmed with gratitude. It has been a slow process and I have so far to go, but I am sitting in the sunlight of the spirit of Grace this wonderful Sunday morning and I'm right where I need to be. I have so much more I could write about how I got here, but this is enough for now.

I am HERE!

Thank you Karen and the Garden Street Kula!

Thank you Amazing Grace!

off for shower and then work!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

the Heart of the Matter of gift giving.....

good morning.....sitting here with my cup of coffee at the computer and this morning is nice because a beam of sunlight is warming me as I type, and it's warming my grumpy holiday heart right now, lol. It's no secret to those that know me well that Christmas is not my favorite holiday, mostly because I feel like I can never celebrate it in a way that feels like who I am. Maybe that's because I'm still figuring out who I am. I do know one thing. NOT a big fan of shopping in holiday chaos, not a big fan of buying stuff because everybody is buying stuff in holiday hoopla. sighhhhhhh.......

so what about the "heart" of the matter of gift giving? These pictures above were taken at Christina Sell's workshop. The second one is Cami Cote from Missoula, Montana who was kind enough to demo her shining heart in a demo with Christina. I guess I wanted to share this picture because here sitting in the sunlight beam coming through the window, and here pondering the whole gift giving thing during Christmas, this picture reminds me of the best gifts I've ever received in my life, and they are gifts that can't be never know when you are going to receive them.

They are when teachers or fellow students help you open your heart like this. This is such a great thing about yoga demos. Christina called it "come-n-watch-asana"......and I love that because I know it's a cue that someone is going to get a gift that could potentially give them an "ah-ha" moment in their body and ultimately in their heart. Now this gift is usually not something that is easy to receive either, lol. Sometimes its downright challenging your edge's edge!! And then there is that wrapping paper of this gift, and that is the loving energy of everyone watching....also not easy to receive!! But there is somthing about this gift of come-n-watch-asana that makes any wrapped up gift under the tree just pale in comparison. And the cool thing is, everyone benefits. I get "ah-ha" moments watching someone receive this gift. I get ah-ha moments giving these gifts as a teacher. i get "ah-ha" moments being the lucky demo yogi. It's like the gift that keeps on giving, and I mean really!!

Funny, as I'm typing this, I am realizing that I sometimes shy away from giving them sometimes because I don't want to make someone uncomfortable. But that's the whole point. We need to get out of our comfort zone to really be able to open the heart. My fear is that the discomfort will make someone not want to come back to yoga ever again. But if it weren't for that "discomfort", I wouldn't be who I am today, and I'm so grateful for every "ah-ha" gift of out of my comfort zone I've ever received in yoga. It has changed my life!

I was reading on Cami's facebook page about the gift she received at a Desiree' Rumbaugh workshop in 2008. She was definitely taken out of her comfort zone at the thought of doing inversions and arm balances, and then doing them the best she could. She said she was so inspired that she made some pretty big changes in her life. Since then, she has taken an Anusara Immersion with Karen at Garden Street Yoga, changed her diet and lost 100 pounds (wow!) and is now teaching Gentle Yoga in Missoula. Desiree' is going to be here for a workshop on January 8th and 9th, and I bet this will be a full circle feeling of the real Heart of the Matter for Cami because of the spark of inspiration she received from her to begin with. I love that about Anusara Yoga. This is a great gift giving story to me. And it reminds me that we shouldn't be afraid to give it, or recieve it, and we absolutely should participate in it at all levels of it. Because looks how it's affected Cami!! I don't even know her that well, and yet I really know her because I recognize the gifts received on this journey of Anusara Yoga. I feel like I really know her heart, and the many other hearts that have been transformed by the gifts of yoga.
Anyway, that's my gift giving thoughts for today. It's pulled me out of my funk a bit. I know when I'm in one, I need to journal and get to the Heart of the Matter, and I'm so glad for the gifts I have received that bring me there when I need to!!

Merry Gift Giving every day of your life!!!!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Inspiring yoga couples

So this is Carol Carpenter and Robert Golden at Christina Sell's workshop. I have had the pleasure of doing a couple weekend workshops with these two beautiful shri filled yogis and just wanted to take a moment to thank them and all the other yogi couples I've ever done yoga with. Now let me clarify so it doesn't seem like I'm codependent, lol....because I don't believe that a couple needs to do yoga together to be happy or healthy, but lemme tell doesn't hurt.
Without going into a long disertation of my unhappy relationship history, I can tell you that the participation and willingness of certain yoga students showing up to class and workshops with their partners who also do yoga has been a great inspiration to me. There are so many, and what I've noticed about all of them is that they are individually so different from each other, and yet so supportive of each other, and it just really shows on the mat. The dedication to their own practice just enables their partner to do the same. I had no idea I was going to get these great relationship models in a yoga class, but I did over the course of the last eight years and I was able to cultivate it in myself and have something then to offer the relationship that I am in now. It blows me away. I am still learning, still adjusting, but for the first time in my life, my yoga practice, and the practice of cultivating healthy relationship has found it's way into my love life. I am experiencing a healthy partnership, supportive, compassionate, understanding and full of shri, and I've been experiencing it for a year now and it continues to grow the more I take the fruits of my practice off my mat and into my relationship. It really helps that he meets me in the middle and gives back so willingly. I really attribute that to yoga actually. I know that when you cultivate it in yourself, you attract it to you from others and you in turn inspire in back and forth when two are willing to do the work. I'm just barely scratching the surface, but I'm HERE! and it's a big deal to me. So I wanted to thank a few partnerships that have helped me heal.
First and foremost of all.....Karen and Chris......OMG......thank you so much! Ed and Olive (who also helped me with my gardening skills, lol) Nancy and Nick, Jim and Linda, Teresa and Barry, Gerry and John, Teri and Steve, Carrie and myself (she was like my practice partner during One Heart Dialogue group, I will always love her for that!!), Dale and Maxien and of course that beautiful couple in the pictures above....Carol and Robert. and I know I'm forgetting some and I will see them sometime and think in my mind, "oh yeah, I forgot to put their names down too"...and I will come back here and add them. I would also like to thank all those partners who don't come to yoga class, but make it possible for your partner who does by watching kids and telling your yogi partner to have a good day as they venture out the door to spend 8 hours at a yoga workshop, or even better......out the door to spend a week at a retreat, or EVEN BETTER.....out the door to spend two months in India. Wow!!!
And thank you Woody....for being that parnter that smiles as I go out the door to yoga and tells me I'm beautiful and tells me to have a good time and listens to all my yoga contemplations and meets me in the middle. Wow!!!
That's all for now.