Meditation

What are we practicing for?

By Anna

Photo by Alizé Jireh Yaccino

Photo by Alizé Jireh Yaccino

If you listen to the podcast then you know that I am currently obsessed with the book The Yamas and Niyamas by Deborah Adele. I was reading the section on Tapas (self-discipline) this afternoon when the author asked the reader "What are we practicing for? When is the last time you even asked yourself this question?" pg. 138. It was one of those questions that stops you in your tracks and feels like a slap in the face. 

If you asked me this question 10 years ago I would have told you that yoga was a form of exercise I used to stay in shape. But now, where do I even begin? My practice has evolved and shifted many times over the last decade. My asana practice has almost always been fiery. I love vinyasa flow and working up a good sweat. That being said, I have also learned in the last year or so to listen to my body. What I need is not always what I want. I have really tried in this past year to go with the flow. Replace my usual vigorous pace with a yin class when I wake up sore and tired. Lie in legs up the wall for 15 minutes and reset after a full morning of teaching instead of trying to fit in a long sweaty flow when my body has already done enough that day. This is something I have struggled with for a very long time. But it's getting easier. 

I think all these years of practice have lead me to this place of being able to listen and understand the language of my physical and subtle bodies working together. This is a big part of the "why" do I practice. The 2 hours in the morning that I set aside for yoga is necessary for me. I begin with meditation and then move onto my physical practice. I find that beginning my day with yoga helps me to clear the dust of day before. I can shed the layers little by little until my brain is only concentrating on my breath and my movement. Yoga is the only practice that does this for me; removes the fog and brings me into the present moment. 

This is why I practice. To hit the reset button every single day. To be open to whatever experiences come my way on the mat and off the mat. I love watching the layers fall away as I practice. Beginning in meditation, observing where my mind wants to go that morning and then moving into the physical practice and seeing my body begin to open and respond to each breath. I really don't see myself ever giving up yoga. I have no doubt that in another year or another 10 years my practice will look completely different. And that's okay. Always remaining open to possibility. This is why I practice.

 

Reunited and It Feels So Good

By: Katie

Sir Bentley

Sir Bentley

A couple days ago, I recommitted to my practice.

Reunited and it feeeeels so goooood!

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On Sunday, I totally gutted my yoga space. It had become a repository for a whole bunch of knick knacks, laundry, garbage, and dust bunny carnage. I cleaned every corner and set up my little table to create a calm, welcoming vibe and finished it off with a new Himalayan salt lamp. The centerpiece is a lamp my Granddad made when I was a baby, and it’s the centerpiece of my li’l altar.

The warm light created a calm environment, and I felt grounded right away, at home on my mat, wondering why I’d been away so long. There was no judgment. I’m over that. I didn’t feel guilty about losing my personal practice through months of time constrictions and physical limitations. I just felt grateful for coming back.

I know that my effort clock is a little wonky when I practice on my hard. I either don’t push myself enough or I go hard and end up hurting myself, so I like to fire up a video every once in awhile, and I’ll get into yoga videos vs. class vs. personal practice in a later post!

I experimented with a couple ashtanga classes, which is way outside my wheelhouse. I enjoyed them, but I’m not sure it’s right for me. I’m not sure it’s the best practice for my particular body, but if there’s one thing I love, it’s experimenting on my own body like some sort of deranged mad scientist.

My cat, the vociferous and attention whoring Bentley, loved to weave in and out, and he found himself very close to danger on several jump backs until he made a little nest on top of my laptop sleeve.

It may not seem like much, but two days is a nice start. I feel like myself again. I feel grounded, that sense of being unmoored is starting to ebb away.

I even meditated a little.

Record scratch. What?

If you listen to the podcast, you know I struggle with meditation. I know all of the health benefits. I know it’s something that will keep the rest of my day and life in order, but for some reason I don’t do it.

It’s that monkey mind of mind. I can’t wrangle it, and there’s a reason I don’t want to. Fear? Who knows.

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I used the Insight Timer app (which is a great tool, by the way) both days set for three minutes. I love baby steps, and I know when I start the timer that three minutes is NOT going to cut into my day too severely.

Did I reach a state of enlightenment? No.

Did I attain a completely non-attached mind? No.

Was I able to sit perfectly still for only three minutes? No.

But I was successful, just because I sat down to do it.

I’m going to leave the meditation discussion at that because after six minutes, I’m not exactly a pro. I’ll keep you updated on my meditation journey in a future episode, but here’s a great article on what meditation is (it's not as easily defined as you think it is) if you’d like to learn more in the meantime.

I woke up early this morning. I’d like to say that was on purpose, but the aforementioned Bentley was sleeping on my pillow and I woke up with a head full of snot and had to get up to blow my nose. Unlike many people I know (Anna included), I’m not a morning yoga person. I like to spend my mornings reading or writing, centering myself within the waking world. Physical movements don’t feel nice in my body early in the day, either, and I’ve learned to respect that.

But I’m really looking forward to this evening. I can’t wait. All that separates me from my asana practice is eight hours of work that I truly enjoy and am so grateful for, a commute during which I get totally lost in an amazing podcast (currently "Bad Yogi" and “Up and Vanished”), and feeding/walking time with the animals which fills me with love.

Then I get to come home, turn on a lamp made of salt and one made of love, sit down on my mat, and begin.

What does your practice look like? What are your struggles? Let us know in the comments.

Coming Out of the Spiritual Closet

By: Anna

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Last Wednesday, Katie and I had the chance to interview author and spiritual activist Emma Mildon. If you haven't picked up a copy of the The Soul Searchers Handbook by now you are seriously missing out. This book came into my life quite recently...like I finished it last week. But I can't help but feel like the timing was damn near perfect.

This little podcast of ours has forced me to dive back into parts of my life I thought I had closed the door on forever. Especially reading Emma Mildon's book. Just so we are all clear, it's not like I wanted to shut out those things, it just kind of happened. At the end of our interview (which will be dropping this Tuesday!), we asked Emma to give our listeners some homework, and this is what she said: "Come out of the spiritual closet!" What kind of a host would I be if I didn't partake in this homework assignment with you guys? So here I go...

Let's go back about 20 years ago, when I was just a little kid and had the coolest auntie ever. Not only was she fun, hilarious, kind, supportive, and the most generous person I've known, but she was also an intuitive. Professionally. She made her living doing all sorts of amazing things like animal communication, energy work, past life work, clearing houses of unwanted guests (a.k.a. ghosts), and teaching spiritual workshops.

I had a deep connection with my Aunt Becky for as long as I can remember. I was fascinated by her work. I would ask her to tell me stories and teach me everything and anything she knew. Luckily for me, she did. Once I entered my teenage years, I took countless workshops from her. Workshops on crystals, pendulums, animal communication, Reiki, essential oils... You name it, I did it. 

In college, I took a year-long workshop led by her called Sacred Journeys. A group of about 15 women including myself would meet at her house one weekend a month. We had reading assignments, drumming circles, ceremonies honoring the seasons, and lots of meditation work. One of the main focuses of these classes was on past life work and connecting with our guides.  If this all sounds like gibberish to you, I'm totally okay with that. As Emma Mildon would say, all of this spiritual work is very high up on the "Woo-Woo scale." 

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Fast forward to me in my early 20s, fresh out of college and a 7-year relationship. I took a waitressing job at a restaurant, and my life became working hard and also playing very hard. During this strange but necessary stage in my life, my Aunt Becky became very sick. She battled cystic fibrosis all her life and had definitely had her ups and downs, but this was bad, and I knew she probably wasn't going to swing back this time.

Life happened, and instead of us hanging out and having fun or practicing anything spiritual, it became me going to her house on my days off and helping her cook, clean, shop, and just function. The only thing keeping me grounded at this point was my yoga practice which I had begun to dive deeply into. I think my subconscious must have known that her time in this life was coming to an end because I had just gotten back from spending a month in Thailand for my yoga teacher training and decided that I would spend 6 months traveling around Australia and Bali starting in January of 2015. Talk about running away from your problems... 

I booked the ticket in November for a  January departure, and she passed away peacefully on the morning of Dec 26, 2014. I lost my best friend, teacher, and guide. Twenty-four-year-old me hopped on that plane and shoved everything deep down inside. If you're ever wondering how to avoid your feelings, flying to the furthest place possible all alone is a really good way to avoid dealing with shit, by the way.

I had already stopped practicing most of the things she had taught me when life got crazy in the previous year or two, and although this trip was healing in its own way and I would do it again in a heartbeat, I shut the door on a big part of my spirituality. Well maybe not shut; the door was still cracked open because I still practiced yoga daily and meditated daily. Part of me was clinging on. 

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Let's fast forward now to February 2017 when I meet Katie in Costa Rica during our aerial yoga teacher training. We hit it off, and she contacts me over the summer about cohosting WTF!? Yoga Podcast. I say "YES!" (obviously), and during my research, I find myself digging through old notebooks from my Sacred Journeys classes and other past workshops. I'm re-reading or finally reading books that have been sitting on my shelf about yoga and spirituality. In a sense, I woke up. Then, Katie gives me The Soul Searchers Handbook, and it all comes full circle. I remember everything. Each chapter is like hey remember the time you did this? or this? I physically felt a shift with this past moon cycle. Letting go of the fear and all of the things that no longer serve me, making room for healing and growth.

So this is me coming out of the spiritual closet. You name it, I've probably done it. And if I haven't done it, odds are I'm down to try it. I just have to say that this whole process of putting this down on paper feels really good. So do it! Come out of the spiritual closet with me! You don't have to write a giant blog post for the whole world to see, but do it in your own way and in your own time. If you run, the universe will find a way to catch up with you anyways. I'm living proof. 

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WTF is Sound Healing?! Anna Drops In on a Singing Bowl Meditation Workshop

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By: Anna

If you have been listening to our show, especially the past couple episodes, then you're an expert by now on energy, chakras, and our energy body... JUST KIDDING! But at least this might not sound like total gibberish to you. If you have not listened, then WTF???? again, kidding, but seriously get on it already.

Here's a super short simplified version of energy and how it works. Beyond our everyday physical body is an energetic body. Every living being on this planet operates and lives by the flow of energy, also known as prana. We have seven main energy centers called chakras. They begin at the base of the spine (our root chakra) and go all the way up the spine and end right above our head (the crown chakra). It is important to keep these chakras clean and balanced. Now if we experience a blockage or imbalance in our chakras the whole system is thrown off and negative things can manifest like disease, negative thoughts, depression, and all sorts of not fun stuff.

However there a billion different ways one can tune up their chakra system, and a quick google search (or listening to episode 11) can provide buckets of information. One way of clearing our chakras is sound healing, and this brings me to the point of all this rambling...

On Sunday, I attended a singing bowl meditation led by one of my absolute favorite local teachers, Jessi Rae, founder of Wild Roots Yoga and Bodywork. If you live in the Chicagoland area I highly recommend catching a class or workshop with this yoga goddess. As soon as I saw this event was taking place, it was one of those moments where my brain and heart just said "Yes. I need this right now." I have always been one to trust my intuition, otherwise known as your gut.

As a waitress, I usually work on Sundays, but at the last minute, I got the shift covered. In my opinion, this was further confirmation that this was exactly what I needed in this moment.

I walked into the yoga studio Sunday afternoon ready to chill. There were about 15 of us in a circle on our mats with all of the props (blankets, blocks, bolsters), and Jessi was in the middle of the circle with candles and her seven crystal quartz singing bowls. She gave a quick explanation of how the bowls were all tuned to different vibrations, each one connecting with a different chakra. We made ourselves as comfy as possible, closed our eyes, and for the next hour and 15 minutes, we were off!

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Now I can't speak for every person in the room, but for me, the time flew by. I'm going to say that for the first 30 minutes, it just felt good. There's no other way for me to describe it. I've done one other sound healing meditation before this, and I have to say it was a very different experience. However, that was about four years ago, and I was at a very different stage in my life. Quick picture: all alone in Bali in my final week of six months of solo adventuring around the world and feeling very confused and homesick. So it makes sense that my experience this time around was much more positive and less anxiety ridden. 

Each time Jessi switched bowls, I could literally feel it in a different part of my physical body. It would just sort of light up and start to tingle. I could feel my energetic body expanding to the edges of the very room. This might sound crazy to you, and if you've never had any sort of energy work done, I highly recommend it.

In the last 20 minutes, I started getting all this information. I felt like a computer just downloading as much information as I could take in. It started with images of all these different energetic presences in the room. Every person had one or more different beings working on them or just standing by. It was AWESOME.

Then I started getting information about the upcoming year. It was more focused and directed at me personally. For the last couple weeks, I had been asking the question, "What now? What's next?" Without getting too personal, I got the information I needed. And it was crystal clear. Also painfully obvious...like DUH I knew it all along. But for some reason, I wasn't ready to receive this information until that very moment. Or perhaps I wasn't ready to take on the commitment and the work until just now. 

When it ended, I was like WHAT? Where did the 60 minutes go? I lay there for a couple more minutes just trying to ground myself and reconnect to my physical body. When I left, I still felt like I was literally floating above myself (I've always had a problem with grounding, even though I'm a Virgo. Hello? Earth element, where are you when I need you?)

After about 15-20 minutes, I finally started to feel like I wasn't high as a kite. My chakras haven't been that balanced since probably ever. It's been almost a week since that workshop, and I still feel light, clear, and confident in my next move.

This was my experience out of 15 other people. Maybe some people fell asleep or time dragged ass for them. Perhaps some people experienced anxiety, sadness, or even anger. I can only tell you my experience.

If you've never tried sound healing before, hopefully I've answered some of your questions about what you can expect. However, your experience will be totally unique to you and absolutely perfect. Even if it doesn't feel perfect. At the risk of sounding like a total hippie, the universe will give exactly what you need in that moment. Now go out and experience the magic of sound healing and all it has to offer!

 

Photo courtesy of Alize Jireh

Photo courtesy of Alize Jireh