yoga

My But Tattoo

By: Kati

Photo by:  Alizé Jireh

Photo by: Alizé Jireh

I have a but tattoo.

I show it off all the time. Almost everyone I know has seen it. I’ve shown my friends, my parents, my grandma. Even coworkers.

So I’ve been leading you on. I don’t have a tattoo on my butt. Yet. I have a tattoo just below the elbow on the inside of my left arm that reads: , but…

The forearm is actually very hard to photograph.

The forearm is actually very hard to photograph.

This tiny tat is partly a nod to grammar (the 6th yama, in my opinion), but it’s mostly a reminder to me. It faces me so I can read it whenever I need a “but,” whenever I need to reroute my thinking.

For weeks, I fruitlessly explained to my friends why I wanted this tattoo. No one quiiiiiite understood, which was fine by me. When I went in to get a different tattoo, I asked my artist if she could also tattoo “, but…” on my arm at the same time, and I had no intention of giving her an explanation. She looked at the single word I’d typed and printed out, and almost reverently spoke the words I’d been saying to my friends for weeks: “‘But’ changes everything.”

I’ve written journal entries and essays about the word “but.” I’ve tried to convince people of the importance of this tiny little conjunction and the comma that precedes it. With all the rich, punchy, flowy words in the English language, it may sound ridiculous that my absolute favorite one is “but,” but it is.

I didn’t really grasp what I was going for with my “but” until I was researching for our “Niyamas - Part 1” episode this week.

“But” is santosha (contentment), the second niyama. “But” is how we find contentment in the everyday and in the extraordinary circumstances. It’s how we keep our head above water when we have a day of shit luck or when terrible things happen in the world.

From external: I didn’t get the promotion, but I’m living comfortably on the money I make now.

To internal: I lost a family member, but that loss has brought the rest of my family together.

To global: An earthquake destroyed my town, but we have come together to rebuild.

And if you’re still at a loss, here’s a universal option to use for any situation: BUT I’m still alive. I’m still here.

We have the power to look at any dismal circumstance and say, “but…” This helps us find parts of the situation that we can be content with, and I promise you, contentedness can be had in any situation. If it’s something we can’t change, we have only two choices: Be content or be miserable. If it’s something we can change, then that’s wonderful; exert effort to do your duty, and you can be content that you are doing what needs to be done.

And if you’re sorely disappointed that this post has nothing to do with actual butts, I give you THIS.

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.

I Jumped. And the Universe Let Me SPLAT.

By: Katie

I jumped. I took a leap of faith. I put aside my skepticism and trusted the Universe. It was a long trust fall. And I kept falling. And falling.

And falling.

Until I went SPLAT.

And now I’m back where I started with the knowledge that jumping from point A to point Z didn’t work for me.

In the yoga world, there’s a belief that the Universe will provide, and I’ve seen it get more than one happy little yogi in trouble. It’s not necessarily a wrong belief, I think the common interpretation may just be a little optimistic.

The Universe WILL provide. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to provide what you want it to provide.

Nearly a year ago, I quit my corporate job and trusted that I could rock a flexible part-time gig that I wasn’t terribly enthused about, enabling me to teach more yoga and enjoy a thriving freelance writing operation.

Spoiler: That is NOT what the Universe provided.

Instead, the Universe provided me with a mighty dose of humility, a glance into dire financial straits, painful health problems, serious heartbreak within my family, an uncomfortably deep understanding of dependence, and more than a few strained relationships.

The Universe did NOT provide what I wanted. The Universe provided what I needed.

I’m now back where I started, having seen that the grass isn’t always greener, and I’m more deeply appreciative of my old/new job.

Am I saying you should always play it safe and never take risks? No.

I’m saying that the Universe will NOT always catch you. It’s wonderful if it does, and it’s wonderful to trust in it, but you need to first decide if the fall is worth it. Before you jump, ask yourself that if you hit the bottom in a giant splat, are you ready to pick yourself up and try again or revise your strategy?

Make sure it’s worth it, and then either jump or find a gentler path down the side of the mountain. Sure it’s a slower slog with harder work, but it sure is scenic.

Photo by my boo Steve!

Photo by my boo Steve!

Just a Crack: Peeking Out of the Spiritual Closet

By: Katie

Part of the reason Anna and I started this podcast together is because we have two different perspectives on all things yoga. Yeah, we agree about a lot of things, but where she dives right into the spiritual aspects, I sit back and get my skeptical face on.

I picked up Emma Mildon’s The Soul Searcher’s Handbook over a year ago and inhaled it. I love the à la carte spirituality it offers, letting me choose to keep the items lower on the “woo woo scale” and experiment with the ones higher up just for fun.

As an avid reader of fantasy novels, I’ve always been fascinated by magic and the unexplained, but I still keep my feet on the ground. I’ve watched a looooooot of Ghost Hunters episodes, but I wouldn’t say I believe in ghosts. I get really excited when they catch a crunching sound on their little Walkman and interpret a half-second blip as something like, “Well hello intruders. I am most definitely a ghost, and my name is Sir Benedict Templeton the Third, and I was killed in my own home and my soul is stuck because of unfinished business and please get out of my house or I will kill you too and you will spend eternity with me.”

But then I laugh at how big a stretch that interpretation is.

I LOVE the idea of magic, but I just can’t get my mind to believe it. Wouldn’t a pet unicorn be AMAZING? Yeah, but they don’t exist. Telekinesis would solve ALL my I-want-food-but-don’t-want-to-get-off-the-couch problems. Too bad it’s not real. Crystals are so freaking gorgeous and magical! Yeah, but I’m holding onto like 10 of them, and I’m still not levitating.

No caption needed.

No caption needed.

So yeah, I’m a skeptic through and through. Anna throws open the closet door and launches across the threshold like the proud little magic pixie she is, but I’m just gonna crack the door and peek out through last season’s sweaters for now. My relationship with all things spiritual is that of a creepily rapt voyeur.

All the same, I do realize there’s a lot of shit going on in this universe that we can’t explain. Is that magic? Maybe. But there are many things that I believe have a scientific explanation -- we just haven’t figured it out just yet. And maybe we don’t need to. Maybe magic isn’t the existence of unexplained phenomena. Maybe magic is the state of mind when we accept what we can’t yet explain.

And I can start to get on board with that kind of magic.

Like Reiki. I took a Reiki workshop and got attuned last year. For those of you who don’t know, once you’re attuned, you can channel the Universe’s energy through your body to heal disease, gain psychic abilities, open your third eye, relive past lives, and see ghosts.

I think you can guess my mental state going in.

But I’m a good sport about things like this. Even if I don’t 100% (or 10%) buy into it, I still want to see what it’s all about, so hell yeah I bought a ticket to that show.

Bentley's still not sold on Reiki.

Bentley's still not sold on Reiki.

After our attunement, we each lined up to do Reiki one at a time on our teacher. The room was quiet, the concentration written on each person’s face. When my turn came, I placed my hands over my teacher’s head and felt nothing. I expected to feel her body heat (and figured that’s what everyone felt and misinterpreted as Reiki), but I didn’t even feel that. Until my hands drifted above her heart. My skeptical little paws felt like they were being pushed upward, and my fingers started tingling intensely. As I hovered my hands over the rest of her body, the sensations subsided, and I stepped out of line when I was done. Playing it cool. Naturally.

Once everybody had gone and we were standing silent and solemn, the instructor asked how it went, and I exploded: “Holy crap, I wasn’t expecting to feel anything BUT I DID!”

Sure, you could say it was the power of suggestion, but you have to be a willing rube for that, and I really wasn’t.

So here I am. With the closet door cracked. I’m still sitting on a pile of smelly shoes, and shirt buttons are getting tangled in my hair, but I’m closer to the door than ever, and the fresh air coming in feels pretty nice.

Still waiting to levitate.

Still waiting to levitate.

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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Costa Rican Dream

By: Katie

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I was playing in the surf, kicking the little waves as they washed up on sand. I was with my friend Anna (a different Anna), and she said that because of the buoyant salt water, the shells on the beach were always different, always changing.

Anna turned away to swim, and I went back up to the beach to move our belongings to a better spot. They were in front of a little shop that would be opening soon now that the sun was above the horizon, and I didn’t want people kicking it around.

I found a sunnier patch and looked to where the cliffs jutted out to the south and saw snow on the top. It wasn’t a high elevation, but I had surely never seen snow on those Costa Rican cliffs. I’m also pretty sure I saw an airplane depositing more snow. I didn’t bother trying to rationalize it.

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After setting down our items, I walked back to the water and saw a smooth patch below the waves in the sand. When the water ran back into the ocean, I reached down and picked up some kind of gold promotional Starbucks card. It was all in Spanish, but I could tell that I had one 14 points.

I woke up from that dream, saw the snow outside, and was supremely pissed off.

I won’t analyze it too much, but you can feel free to in the comments. I’m more impressed than anything that my subconscious brain was able to translate that Starbucks card into Spanish, although it’s more likely that my brain just convinced me that a bunch of gibberish was correct Spanish.

Even though I woke up to another blisteringly cold day in Illinois, I’m grateful for where my brain sent me last night. It’s been almost a year since the Costa Rican yoga retreat last year, and I’ve been geeking out on Instagram watching everyone taking a retreat there now. Every picture pulls me back. Every video lets me inhabit a body still in that place.

For an hour (probably just a few seconds IRL), I was transported back there, and I could feel the water and heat, I could smell the wind and salt. I could bask in the company of a friend who is currently half a country away, proudly living her own adventure.

I don’t know what the airplane distributing faux snow on the cliffs meant. Something about artifice maybe?

I don’t know what the Starbucks card meant. That I may be coming into the incredible value of 14 Starbucks points?

But what I woke with ringing in my ears were Anna’s words about the seashells. “Don’t worry. Because of the salt water, they’re always changing. It’s different shells every day.”

I’m giving real-life Anna full credit for my subconscious’ Anna’s words.

We’re different every day. We’re forced to be because of the way life constantly washes into us. Sometimes it comes in a gentle lapping wave, and sometimes it slams into us with the force of a tsunami. Either way, it brings new shells and sloughs away the old ones.

It’s also fascinating that even when we think we don’t know what we need, something deeper in us knows. I imagine my brain screaming at me every time I’m like, “Ugh! I don’t know what I’m doing with my life!” My brain’s in there going, “OMG just LISTEN to me!” Finally, it generated a dream just to be heard and told me exactly what I needed to hear.

The last year has been tough. I’m not alone in that. 2017 was a trying year for most of the people I know. Despite it being a hard year, it was also very transformational, the changes coming on in rapidfire succession. I’ve been unable to figure out which Katie is the correct Katie in a year of discovering new pieces of myself around every corner, and it’s left me feeling ungrounded and floaty.

But this message of renewal, of the inevitability and ok-ness of constant change is exactly what I needed to hear. This sensation of ceaseless transformation is not an alien state -- it’s what life is, so get used to it and accept it with passion.

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