We recently finished our quarterly celebration of 108 sun salutations to honor spring equinox, ending with brunch together, evoking laughter, ponderings and deepening friendships. I love this expansive practice, and am always happy to see new as well as familiar faces there. The practice is entirely doable, and the next one will be even ‘awesomer’ for Summer Solstice in June. Already looking forward to it! Just do it! (You totally can!)
As to seasonal changes and the joy they bring, the sun has, in recent days, emerged lighting up our expansive Montana sky. That fresh sunshine calls us to move...to shake off the long winter. To fill our bodies with life. I’ve been seeing the enthusiasm in my classes to such an extent that I’ve decided to offer TWO classes on Saturday mornings to replace the 9:30 class that has been
jam packed--so feel free to come with confidence that there will be space for your practice. We’ll now have an 8:30 and a 10:00 class on Saturdays, with the onset of April. It’s a great opportunity for those who like to get in early, as well as for those of us who enjoy a little more snuggling under the covers on the weekend. Win Win! Either option allows for easy access to the amazing Farmers Market and Peoples Market on Saturdays—a Missoula tradition worth frequenting.
No matter the class you choose, Exploration of movements that have been dormant in the colder days warms up our muscles, and the more we flex and move and twist and reach, the more blood flow we get. That increase of blood flow we get bathes our cells with oxygen. It makes us feel...better. Much better.
Before I ever started doing yoga, I was a gym rat. I lifted weights 5 days a week, I ran 3-4 days a week, and for me, thinking about the body was all about the muscles. I wanted to be big and strong, and I was succeeding at that. Then, yoga came into my life, and I was taken with the challenge it presented to my body and drank up Savasana with delight. It was entirely different from the athletics I knew so well. My teacher would walk around and say, “We do this posture for the intestine to literally break shit up.” “We do this one for the liver.” “We do that one for the pancreas.” “We twist for the internal organs”. It caused me to pause and wonder, because that was completely off my radar to consider--- I really never thought about that stuff until I started doing yoga.
But that IS what we are doing. It’s kinda cool, right?
Yoga does a great job of working the spleen and the stomach. Twisting is so good for our internal organs, and back bending is fantastic for the kidneys. It was kind of mind blowing when I began to consider what my heart wanted from my movement. It changed everything to ask myself what the parts of my body I couldn’t see needed from my activity. I often ask my students if they would rather work in a corner office, or a cubicle. Most of us would rather have the space, the light from a window, the ability to stretch out without condemnation. So I ask my students to consider this, too. Would your heart rather work in a cubical or a corner office? Would your back rather hunch over? Do your calves like sitting still, calcifying from lack of movement? If we look at our ribs, and consider the cartilage and muscles between the bones, we see that we can move and stretch those muscles between ribs. Those spaces can create lift. How does it feel when we allow that to happen?
When I used to lift weights, the goal was to see how BIG I could get, but now that I do yoga, I’m more interested in how much I can stretch my intercostal muscles. When they are allowed to stretch out, I can BREATH bigger. My chest can expand with the freshness of pure air all around me. Which ultimately means that I can get more oxygen into the blood, into the pancreas, the heart, the liver, deep into the muscles. It gratefully floods oxygen into the brain so that I can think more clearly, and accept the feeling of energetic serenity that follows an oxygen bath. That’s kind of a cool thing, right? And so, all the twists and stretches...it’s about the body, not the just the appearance of toned muscles. The whole body. The parts you can’t see. The parts you depend upon to live. Your heart. Your liver. The metabolic communication within your cells. Your nervous system. Even our mind FEELS better, because when we are practicing feeling the body, we breathe. We feel. We connect the dots. All of it. It’s really easy to shut down and forget about the body. But, ask yourself...does that work? Does it feel good? Does the body feel...alive?
Yoga is a practice, not a perfect. It’s a practice that allows us back to a truth beyond driving from point A to point B, checking off lists, mowing the lawn. It’s a practice that asks us to listen to our bodies, from the inside out. One of the ways I’m excited to call us back into considering what yoga can mean for us all is to offer a new class that I’ve developed. It’s a practice beyond asana that includes meditation, and participation in reading one of my favorite guides, The Yogis Road Map by Bhavani Silvia Maki. We are working with breath, anatomy, meditation and questions that will deepen our understanding of Yoga beyond asana. For anyone who signs up for this beautiful Sunday evening opportunity to expand their practice, my Sunday 4:00 class will be free as a way to enter into the class with happy muscles that are ready to ask for more.
Consider it a way to have a mini yoga retreat, right here in Missoula, once a week, Starting April 7th. (As a shameless plug, Add in a massage, and your retreat experience thickens exponentially!) And, as always, our Acro community is alive and well! Adding play to your yoga practice might just set the clock back on the aging process; I’m sure of it! Joining us on Saturday afternoons at 12:30 or on Monday evenings at 7:15 is something I want to encourage, because, really, there’s nothing more fun or more strength building all at the same time. Don’t think you can? Don’t have a partner? Aren’t sure you have the gumption? Surprise yourself and do it anyway! It will make you STRONG, will deepen your flexibility, and the smile on your face will only be seconded by the smile in your heart. I’m looking forward to seeing you there.
Wow...January was a long year, but we made it and are now starting March! (Wipes brow...) I ended 2018 with a bang, participating in the festivities of First Night Missoula in a fun acro piece. I choreographed and performed for First Night onlookers with an acquaintance of mine and also go to lead some fun acro workshopping to help inspire others to join in on the activity
that has become such a wonderful part of my life. Acro is one of those things that people love to watch, but they typically say, “Oh, I could never...”.
I’m here to challenge that hesitation.
When you see something that others are doing, and you wish you could do it, but “could never”, ask yourself a question. Is it true that you “could never” do it, or is it true that you “will never” do it UNLESS you decide to take that step. You see, acro will make you strong. It will push you. It will change you, inside and out. And, you will laugh. You will make friends. You will look in the mirror after a year and see someone who not only can do acro, but who DOES acro.
You can do acro. You can do yoga. You can do the, “I could never”. You can.
The next question, one only you can answer is...when will you begin? The sooner, the better, because there is that pesky learning curve that only time transforms. This is what it looks like: First, you step into the studio at Inner Harmony on Monday evening at 7:15. You’ll see other people, and we’ll smile at you and welcome you. We’ll do some kick-butt handstand conditioning designed to strengthen your body, juicen the joints, and warm your muscles so that we can play. It will be hard. It’s supposed to be hard, so that it can make us strong. The body speaks to us and gives the feedback that it is working by noting the awesomeness we are feeling. BIG awesomeness. We get comfortable with balance and safe touch. We get familiar with trust. And we laugh. And we sweat. And we get STRONG together. They say time flies when you’re having fun. With acro, I blink and hours have passed. It’s beautiful. The mind lets go, and the body gives in and then gives back.
At home, you sink into a bath of warm water, mineral salts and your favorite essential oil, and you feel excited to do it again. Your muscles start to crave it. You start noticing that you are practicing those hard conditioning skills at home, just so you can get better at holding your shape, and the shape of others. Acro is the coolest thing to get addicted to.
Maybe 2019 will be the year you stop wishing you would/or could, and will turn acro or even yoga and acro into the most funnest activity you do every week. It’s the most fun ever. To be honest, the fact that I get to do this as a grown up makes the corners of my mouth turn up into the most amazing thing ever. Smiles like that are awesome.
It’s also right in line with our needs in this season of aligning with the practice of Svadhyaya--the practice of self study. Let me explain; I believe that we are affected by our environments. The science is behind me on this, by the way. From behavioral sciences to cellular research, our environments affect our mood, our appetites, our outcomes. The temperature around us, the quality of the light spectrum, the interactions we have with our surroundings, all of it affects how we feel. How we behave.
In the winter, our tendency is to pull inward, melding into the routine of warm covers and sluggish mornings. Our metabolisms slows in order to resist losing our holiday layer of warmth. We may feel tired. Absent minded. And, sadly, one of the reasons our “holiday resolutions” tend to go awry is that we fail to pay heed to the power of a sluggish environment. It’s hard to venture out into the cold when you are already...cold. So, sometime in February or March, the packed gyms of January have lost their resolution hype, and only the people who maintain a devoted steady pace, a warming pace, remain. So, because there is a high rate of reconsidering that goes along with resolutions as environment and reality set in, I prefer to think of my resolutions in July...when we have warmth on our side.
In the winter, I like to align with my meditation and my yoga, and look in the mirror for the practice of self study, Svadhyaya. It’s good to look in the mirror and really notice ourselves. When I do that, I actually like to feed myself a, “Nice Thing Sandwich”. That’s when you tell yourself a nice thing on each end, and then give yourself something to chew on in the middle. So, I always start with, “What am I doing well?” and, “What am I hitting out of the park?” I want to notice where I am succeeding. I want to pay attention to what I’m doing well. We all like positive reinforcement...but we also need attention. If we don’t pay attention to what is being done well, our egos will find other ways to get attention, right? We need to be seen. We deserve to be seen.
Then, I give myself the substance. The opportunity for growth and permission for change. I ask, “What is something I can work on? To be a better human? What is something I can do to be a better partner, to be a better father/mother, a better son/daughter? A better sibling? A better team player? A better friend?”
“What can I work on, to be a better, happier human?”
And then what is something else you are hitting out of the park? Where are you succeeding? How are you a good friend? A good mother or father? How are you good at what you are already doing? How are you already rocking your life?
That’s it, a “Nice Thing Sandwich”.
They are delicious. I highly recommend feeding yourself one at least quarterly. I hope one of the things you explore, if you’ve been wistfully wondering if you could ever do acro, is to know that it is right here waiting for you. You can do it. We will help you as you learn, grow, and expand. It’s just another wonderful way Inner Harmony is supporting your journey to make this life your best. Fly. Be strong. Be the Breath.