Yoga teacher trainings create shifts in our lives. Some big, some small and all worth reflecting on. Here are the shifts I have experienced since my Level One Teacher Training w/Baptiste Yoga.
The Shift of Presence
The ability to be present and give presence. Before Teacher Training I only remember being present during exciting or fearful moments; falling in love, preforming challenging moves on the river, finishing a race, flying downhill on my mountain bike, presenting a new topic to my math students. Where I was not present was in the “ordinary” moments. I would listen to friends and family and constantly think about what I could say next. If I was with someone I felt the need to talk, sitting in silence just felt awkward. The lack of silence and stillness made it hard for me to connect with another on an energetic level. Sending love through my heart was a foreign concept to me.
Yoga has taught me how to take one breathe at a time, relax with what is and how to share love and connection through heart energy.
This past January I had the opportunity to put these lessons into action in a BIG way. Jared and I took a trip on the Colorado River with 15 friends. We were in the Grand Canyon for 21 days camping below the rim. Once we entered the canyon we had no contact with the outside world, we made all of our own food, and lived with whatever we could carry in our six boats. It was freeing to realize we could live for 21 days without a shower, bathroom, phone, TV, internet. I felt humbled and alive within the canyon walls. Each day I would take in the canyon with awe and wonder. From the Nankoweap Granaries to Elves Chasm to Deer Valley Falls to Havasu Creek I felt the soul of the canyon. I began to store memories through presence. Today I can still see the spotlight the moon created while we slept at Upper Ledges and the view I absorbed at the Unkar Peninsula while Jared took the picture below.
They say if you do something for 21 days it will become a habit. After 21 days of practicing presence I feel it in my everyday life most of the time. Through my yoga practice I know how to come back to presence when I step into past/future. Practicing presence with my friends and family has shifted my relationships. I now feel more connection, acceptance and love than ever before. For me, these tools/gifts entered my life through my yoga practice, through teacher training, and through sharing yoga with others. These gifts have given me limitless gratitude and trust for the path I am walking.
With Love and Light, Amanda
This past weekend, Power Yoga Morgantown hosted the Warrior Workshops – a three-day event designed to open you up, ground you down to the present moment, and create space for new possibilities in your lives. It might just sound like a lot of yogi buzz words, but that’s exactly what we did.
Day 1 of the workshops really set the stage for what was to come over the rest of the weekend. After a wonderful yoga practice full of open twists and core work sprinkled with laughter (no joke – there were 14 Mogis laughing during what is typically a very tense part of the practice), the discussions began. This is where we learned just how real we were about to get with ourselves, and for most of us, how uncomfortable that realness might get. With a room full of light, positive energy and journals in hand, we looked inside to see what our yoga practice brings out in us and where in our lives we may not be giving 100%. Challenged to work toward becoming more authentic in those areas of our lives, we walked out of the studio wondering what Day 2 would bring.
Day 2, we focused on tadasana – both in our physical practice and in the rest of our lives. Throughout our practice, we were reminded to start with our feet. “Ground down through your feet, then work your way up.” This was repeated through every posture – from downward facing dog to crescent lunge twist to twisted half moon. Partner work focused on maintaining tadasana, even when we lost the support of the one holding us, and our discussions once again forced us to look inside. What do we feel when we lose tadasana? What takes us out, and what brings us back? Armed with a whole arsenal of positive values, we were challenged to commit to a new way of being, and to stop telling ourselves harmful lies.
Day 3 focused on heart opening. By the last day, every woman in the room felt how safe of a space they were in. Sharing hard truths got a little easier, and partner work requiring extreme trust for some was accessible to all. After a practice full of backbending, partner work, and a little bit of silly strutting, the studio seemed to shine from within. There were tears and laughter and breakthroughs and thank yous. People lingered after class. New friends were made.
It’s taken me a few days to get my thoughts reigned in for this post. I wanted to be able to describe my experience in the Warrior Workshops in a few, succinct words. I think I speak for all of us, though, when I tell you I couldn’t narrow the list down because the experience was anything but succinct.
They were crying and laughter. Self-confrontation and breakthroughs. “I want to be perfect,” and “I don’t even want to try.” They were breaking down and building up. They were shame and vulnerability and love and truth and respect. They were “I am scared,” and “Hey, I am, too.” They were grounding down and shaking it out. They were hugs – both literally and figuratively. The Warrior Workshops were exactly what one might expect, and they were so, so much more.
For the last several months, Manduka has been running a #ThisIsMyYoga campaign on their website and all over social media. Everyone from world reknowned yoga instructors to Instagram yoga stars to a girl in Morgantown, WV, has been participating, and it’s been pretty great to see. Yoga means so many different things to so many different people, but today I’m going to tell you what it means to me.
First, let’s take a trip back in time to my freshman year of college at WVU. I made a great group of girlfriends in my dorm, and all of us were terrified of gaining the “Freshman 15.” We decided to try out the student rec center, and we tried it out in a lot of different ways. We signed up for personal trainers, took spinning classes, accidentally ended up in advanced Zumba, and signed up for a yoga class.
To be honest, I don’t remember a lot about that class. I don’t know what style of yoga we practiced, I don’t know who taught, and I don’t remember exactly who I went with. I do remember there was a mirror in the room. I do remember scrambling to be in the back of the room to escape said mirror. I remember feeling absolutely ridiculous in happy baby and refusing to ever go again.
Fast forward to 3 years later, and I was living with one of those girls from the dorm and a new best friend I made my sophomore year named Bekah (you guys might recognize her tall, lanky frame and dark blue Jade mat posted up beside me in the front of the room). Bekah was the next exposure I had to yoga. She practiced at home when she had time or when she was stressed. She practiced with her boyfriend at the time. She practiced in the park. She encouraged me to practice with her, and I mostly ignored her. Shortly after graduation, she jetted off to San Diego to work with Invisible Children, where she lived with a yoga instructor and got more immersed in her practice.
After Bekah got back, we sat in her living room practicing YouTube yoga from time to time, and one day we decided to check out the website for a new-ish studio in town. This was our first experience with PoYoMo. We swore we would go, and about 4 months later, we finally decided to try the Community Class.
I fell in love.
After that first class, I couldn’t wait to go back. Since that first class, I’ve been in and out of the studio and in and out of my practice, but somewhere along the line this practice I share with all of you changed me. I count to 5 before I explode on someone at work. I breathe through it when someone cuts me off in traffic (usually). I flip around in my living room trying to teach myself headstands. I do absolutely absurd things in very public places (like New York City).
Somewhere along the line, I stopped giggling at “let your toes shine!” and “the pose begins when you want to leave it.” Somewhere along the line, I learned to shut off my mind and listen to my body. Somewhere along the line, I learned to love, and even look forward to, happy baby. Somewhere along the line, I learned to draw strength from the power of a community breath. Somewhere along the line, I became a Mogi.
So what is my yoga? My yoga is strength and clarity. It is patience and quiet. It’s finally nailing it and falling out the next time I try. It is breakthroughs, both happy and sometimes not so happy. The physical benefits of my practice speak loudly – they’re the drops of sweat on my mat and the sore but happy muscles that greet me the next morning, but the benefits that yoga brings to my mind and soul speak a little more quietly. It’s connection to myself and the present moment. It’s a sense of calm. It’s an outlet that allows me to experience raw emotion in a way that nothing else can. My yoga is me. And my yoga is all of you.
Like many people today, I come from a “broken” home. It doesn’t feel broken, though – it just feels really big. When I was younger, this meant multiple holiday dinners, and multiple holiday dinners meant a whole lot of presents for days on end. Now that I’m older, my family is even more spread out, but I have just as many holiday dinners to attend. Somewhere along the line, though, I realized these dinners aren’t about presents anymore; they’re about presence.
pres·ence noun – the state or fact of existing, occurring, or being present in a place or thing
Obviously, presence means being there, in the room, with the people you love. But did you also know that presence means being there, in the room, with the people you love? I know, I know; I repeated myself, but hear me out.
For many, the best part of the holidays is being with the people you love; whether that’s friends or family or a special someone. Imagine this scene: you’re surrounded by family you haven’t seen in a year. The kids are finally walking and talking, your cousin got married, and there’s that one uncle who can only make it every other year and can’t quite remember how to spell your name correctly. The room us full of laughter and reminiscing. The best thing you can give your loved ones in your full presence.
It’s 2014. Social media is, and has been, everywhere. Our loved ones are more spread out than ever. Internet friends are as common as childhood friends. But there’s one thing to keep in mind – you aren’t spending your holidays with your Twitter followers, so why would you be giving them your undivided attention?
Our asana practice teaches us to be fully present in every moment – the good and the bad. Whether it’s a yummy stretch in half pigeon or a can-we-stop-yet struggle in Warrior II, the only way to get the most out of it is to be there, to really feel it. This holiday season, we invite you to carry that presence with you off your mat.
Here’s to wishing you a happy holiday season, mogis – one that is filled with all the best presence.
By Kelli Snedegar
A phrase heard often in a Power Yoga class, specifically when holding a long Warrior 2! This phrase whispered in my ear last weekend while kayaking with Jared on the Lower Youghiogheny in Ohiopyle. Jared and I meet seven summers ago in the quaint tourist town of Ohiopyle. We worked alongside each other while raft guiding on the Lower Youghiogheny for about three years. Since then we have rafted or kayaked together on a number of rivers. As any kayaking couple will tell you these “dates” can either be the best of times or the worst of times! Kayaking brings out a lot of my fears (if you flip upside down you can’t breathe being number one) and stories I have about myself (I would be a better kayaker if I would have started younger being my favorite story to tell myself). Kayaking has also given me the ability to conquer and face those fears. Being on or near the river is something I absolutely love. I grew up in Ohiopyle and first rafted when I was 5 years old, although I wouldn’t start kayaking till I was 25. The river is part of me; her smell, her energy, and the way she can rinse away my day in one quick second constantly draws me to her shores.
When we put on the river last Sunday I could feel the fearful Amanda sitting in my boat. The river was higher than the State Park gauge and as we put on Jared threw me a lot of love by saying “I don’t have to stop here and surf, let’s go through Entrance Rapid”. He did this because he knew I was nervous and sitting and waiting would have only made me more nervous. Great I thought, once I get through Entrance everything will be ok (how you do anything is how you do everything, Amanda). In the middle of the rapid I notice Jared floating through the waves like a duck, looking around and enjoying the view, trusting his boat not to flip upside down. His carefree mood was soon extinguished by me saying “Get going babe, you are in my way”. Here I am paddling with everything I have thinking the faster I paddle the more control I have and the less likely I am to flip upside down (how you do anything is how you do everything). Jared simply laughed and paddled faster and at the bottom of the rapid we laughed about my Speedy Gonzales paddle strokes. On my drive to school the next day I realized there I was paddling so fast to get through the rapid, why? to get to the next rapid and get through that one? And there’s Jared; floating, smiling, trusting. Even when I snapped at him to get moving, he wasn’t mad, he laughed! Wow, what a wake up call for me
Part of my inspiration in writing this to say thank you Jared! Thanks for loving me in spite of my need to control and rush the process. More importantly thank you for reminding me that it is okay to go with the flow of life! You Inspire Me Every Single Day.
The first change I noticed was awareness. After a Warrior Weekend at Amazing Yoga in Pittsburgh I became aware of how I was holding onto anger, resentment and guilt. I started to accept the choices I made in my life and let go of always wanting to be like someone else.
A couple of months after that weekend I ran the Pittsburgh half-marathon and I was shocked at the focus and presence I had during the 2 hour race. The only thing I changed in my training was adding in Baptiste Yoga three times a week.
A couple of months after the half-marathon I attended Level 1 training in Sedona. The community I became a part of was like none I had known before. The Baptiste community does not shy away or become jealous of others living out their dreams; instead we encourage each other’s growth and shine our own lights brighter in response. After Level 1, Level 2, and Art of Assisting I have a group of friends and family from all over the world that believe in this practice.
Then came the biggest step of all, opening my own studio and creating an extension of the Baptiste community in Morgantown, Wv. The opening of the studio was where the foundation of the Baptiste practice became a constant in my life. Through the joy, exhilaration, fear and “I don’t know what I am doing phases” the practice has been there whenever I wanted or needed to flow. There have been practices where I did not take a full ujjayi breath until bridge pose and those practices have been the most important to clearing out my “let’s think about a million things at once” head.
Through all of the ups and downs Baptiste Yoga grounds me to my physical being, humbles me and takes me out of the constant chatter in my mind. I am forever grateful for the solid foundation the Baptiste practice has made available to me.
Spring brings a rebirth to everything. The leaves, grass, and flowers have another shot of showing their beauty to the world. The same can be true for us. We can start with a fresh mind and show up with something new. Maybe you want to bring attention to something small; diet, exercise, your attitude about work or school. Maybe you want to create a healthy habit.
For me I want to put focus on removing a bad habit from my life. That bad habit is fear. Fear of failure, fear of judgement, fear of loss. When fear begins to creep into my head I begin to question everything. Should I say this? Should I do that? Fear was present when we opened the studio. I was questioning whether we could do this and/or if we were doing everything “right”. These questions affected how I made decisions and how I communicated with people around me. When I look back on that time I find that my mind was a complete fog. I didn’t take the time to treat myself well. My diet and exercise routines feel off. I kept to myself and forgot the importance of connection to my support group and loved ones. It took me months to realize how my fear had evolved into a sort of depression and was limiting my life. I remember the day I woke up, February 4th. Jared and I went skiing and I remembered the importance of having fun!
Since then I have realized yoga gives me the ability to recognize when fear is showing up. Sometimes I repeat the quote “Where energy goes, attention flows.” by Baron Baptiste. This helps me remember to remove whatever I am worrying about from my mind because I could inadvertently create what I am afraid of happening. If this does not work I will try to practice, go for a run, or another activity to release the worry and anxiety. Once I do this I have a clear head and a stable foundation. Unfortunately these “tools” don’t always work. In those cases I still end up in a bad mood, creating stories in my head or attacking those closest to me. I also have the ability to sabotage my day by not exercising or eating poorly. Damn those girl scout cookies, peanut butter eggs, and cadbury eggs!
This is my goal for spring, to let go of fear and worry. None of us know what the future will bring. We do know that fear brings poor decisions, anxiety, and thus creates larger problems. With the absence of fear who knows how big we can be in our own lives.
Where is fear showing up in your life?
This fun edit is SUPER COOL! Click the link below to check it out.
Team PoYoMo kids love yoga! The first class was a huge success. Each child lit up when they walked into the studio and saw a circle of yoga mats and a trail of blocks that made for a challenging balance course. They felt as if the studio was a club house that was built just for them.
We had such a good time with all the kids. They were so excited for yoga and well behaved. Our hearts melted after class as we heard remarks such as….”Can we come back tomorrow?” “This was the best day ever!” Our favorite, “WOW This place is MAJICAL!”
We look forward to our next kids class on Saturday, March 23rd from 2:00-2:45.
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info provided by http://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-food/kale-health-benefits-tips-and-recipes/