La mujer de viaje, el mat de yoga y El Arco

elarco

I joined six other women in Cabo San Lucas this past weekend to celebrate my youngest sister’s bachelorette. I’ve never been to a bachelorette of any kind before — much less one in Mexico — so it was an eye-opening experience on many levels. 😉 And it was a blast. A truly special trip in which I could get closer not only to my two sisters, but to four new friends.

After a crazy long travel day/day 1 of the celebrations and, as you can expect, very little sleep, I still had to find a spot to roll out my mat for practice. That’s how practicing six days a week works, right? (Very different scene than the last time, back in May, that I went more than 24 hours without sleep!)

Even before I found a daily ashtanga practice, I enjoyed seeking out local studios to try a yoga class in the same way that runners like to see a new city by doing their daily run through the neighborhoods. I remember thinking how upscale Vancouver’s yoga scene was back in 2009, how years before that I realized Dallas had something for me despite my assumptions otherwise, and so on. I still enjoy finding studios when I can, but now I usually practice on my own when traveling.

What was most salient about rolling out my mat this weekend was that I wanted to use the practices less in a location scouting kind of way to get a feel for a town’s surface vibe, but to tap into that particular place’s deeper energy (such yogi talk, I know!). Cabo San Lucas is famously home to El Arco (“The Arch”), which is also known as Land’s End. And it happens to be where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean — so talk about juicy energetic swirls. (Here is a random gorgeous shot of El Arco that I found online.)

The wisdom of yoga and meditation masters frequently returns to the idea that we need to be fully present. In the past, I have used practicing in different locales to learn more about myself, to work through knots, to unload baggage, and all the rest. This weekend, perhaps I found another way of experiencing being present to a place rather than using the place as a tool for my inner work. Not surprisingly, it was through that wonderful piece of real estate known as the yoga mat.

Did it feel any different? I don’t know. But maybe setting that intention helped me be more receptive in general to those coordinates, to the people I was traveling with, and to the strangers I was meeting. One man in a lovely jewelry shop in San Jose del Cabo didn’t seem to roll like the rest of the shopkeepers surrounding him. He told me he was from Mexico City, went to college in at the University of Texas at Austin, and was back in Cabo to help run the family business. And still, there was something I couldn’t put my finger on. Finally, he moved his arm to show me something and I saw his om tattoo. Ah. An Iyengar practitioner, it turns out. One far away from his teachers, and faced with practicing on his own every day. We had a nice talk about that, and that was my memento from his shop. (Not that I didn’t want some of the gorgeous jewelry, mind you. 😉 )

If it hadn’t been for my sister’s bachelorette, I probably would have never visited Los Cabos — would have written off Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo as too touristy and too much of a party central kind of destination. (I mean, I loved that bars advertised their 2-for-1 happy hours: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Yes, starting at 7 a.m., you can load up on your cervezas! :-) ) And had I let my preconceptions and prejudices rule my travels, I would have missed out on meeting this shopkeeper. On meeting a sweet and fun gay couple from Seattle on their honeymoon. And on seeing and feeling this amazing part of the world.

P.S. — The pic of my Mysore rug rolled up to double as my meditation cushion is dedicated to C.G., whom I don’t get to talk to or see much, but who I think about frequently. :-)

cabosanlucaspractice

© YogaRose.net and Rose Tantraphol, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to YogaRose.net with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

My swift-footed, pranic summer

A little sleep-deprived, I’m writing this on a plane as I travel internationally again. This time I’m headed to my youngest sister’s bachelorette party in Los Cabos, Mexico, and I’m so excited to share this blast of a milestone with her a month before her wedding. It’s a wedding that’s been more than two years in the planning and years and years in the making.

This summer has moved so quickly and the energy has felt so pranic that I wonder whether Vayu, the god of wind, is in the director’s chair. There’s has been so much upward-moving energy that over the past few weeks, I try to fairly frequently spend a few minutes taking longer exhales than inhales, to make sure I am as grounded as I need to be.

Consider the milestones of last week:

  • I finished my 200th hour of assisting in the Ashtanga Yoga: Ann Arbor Mysore room, which means I finished my 300-hour apprenticeship with Angela Jamison. So. Incredible. More on that in a bit.
  • A Pure Michigan tourism ad that my husband and I are in launched, causing a flurry of activity, with people around the country messaging us about how they saw us on the Food Network. More on that in a bit too.
  • My husband and I finally finished our side business’s new website. Whew! It’s not that it took us that much time to finish, but given everything else going on, it did feel like a sprint.

And the past couple of months generally?

  • Creatively, this spring, My husband and I made a little weekend retreat for ourselves to recommit to nurturing our creative writing energies. I am so grateful for this blog, but it’s a very specific kind of writing, and I’d like to broaden the scope of what I write about. This week, a piece I submitted to Rebelle Society was published (not quite a departure from what I’ve been writing, but it was fun), and last month, a local publication ran a story I wrote about World Cup soccer. So I’m trying…
  • I’m also trying in other ways. My husband I are back trying to get pregnant.

Pregnancy, or lack thereof

I wrote about last summer in the post “My long and apanic summer being pregnant – and miscarrying.” July 2013 was especially trying. That month, I spent about three weeks deep in the miscarriage process. I learned in the worst possible way from an ultrasound tech that rather than being 12 weeks pregnant, I had probably miscarried around seven weeks (bedside manners matter, and this person had none). I spent more than a week trying to miscarry naturally to avoid a D & C. I spent another four days or so in a fair amount of pain using misoprostol to try to get the job done (this is a ulcer drug used off-label for women trying to complete a miscarriage). Finally, I gave in and went to the hospital for the D & C. For weeks, I couldn’t even say the word “miscarriage” without taking a deep breath and tearing up; I ended up having to write about it to hasten my emotional healing process. I’ve written a lore more about it since – especially the role the miscarriage played in getting me to India.

The Mysore room

I’m not ready do The Blog Post yet about completing the 300-hour apprenticeship with Angela – too much to reflect on. The one-two spiritual punch of the meditation retreat in May with this milestone – both coming after the trip to India – is a lot to digest, and I don’t want to rush it.

(Truth be told, I wrote a draft while in India about what I had learned from the apprenticeship by that point, but it wasn’t the right time to flesh it out. So I set it aside. I’ll take another peek at that later this summer or in the fall and see how I feel about it.)

The short answer of what this means, though, is that outwardly, nothing really changes. ☺ I’ll still be assisting and I’ll still be learning. And importantly, I’ll remain so tremendously grateful for my teacher and for the students in the room who become the teachers through their presence and support of the apprentices.

How an introvert geeks out over being in a commercial

There’s a specific reason that I included in the milestone list the fact that Scott and I were cast in a national television commercial: It speaks to the process of becoming comfortable in my own skin. And how that happened has everything to do with yoga, meditation — and probably writing too.

Don’t get me wrong – it has been a total hoot to be in this commercial. We had such a fun time starring in this Pure Michigan ad in which we get to talk about how much we love visiting Traverse City, set on Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay.

But it’s also been fascinating to consider it from a more spiritual point of view. I’ve created a good many narratives about who I am – not a morning person (until I became one), not an extrovert (well, OK, still not an extrovert!), etc. I am realizing that when capable of being more in tune with the flow – however one conceptualizes that – boundaries become a lot more permeable. If my husband and I had been asked even a year ago if we wanted to be considered for a national television commercial – even if it was for something we loved – we wouldn’t have been comfortable enough to say yes – it wouldn’t be the kind of thing that we did. When this opportunity came up in May, we thought, “Sure, why not? Let’s see where this takes us.”

So . . . all this pranic energy. I’m going with the flow and interested in where it takes me. For now, it’ll need to get me through a bachelorette party (my first!) in Mexico in one piece. 😉 Good thing I’ve got my travel mat and Mysore rug (which doubles as a meditation cushion) in my suitcase to keep me grounded.

puremichigan

© YogaRose.net and Rose Tantraphol, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to YogaRose.net with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

In Rebelle Society: Does your calendar rule your life?

The_Scheduler

 

Rebelle Society has published a little piece I wrote titled “Does Your Calendar Rule Your Life: 5 Ways To Fight Serial Scheduler Syndrome.”

Do you ever daydream about a superhero alter ego?

In my reveries, I’m a mad scientist remixing the brain chemistry of the clinically depressed and injecting the chronically unconfident with invisible vials of self-love. I’m changing the world, in short, by sharing one Yoga or meditation practice at a time.

I recently realized I possess a truly epic skill set, but it’s hardly what I would hope for it to be. No, I have this uncanny ability to deprive myself of any free time whatsoever.

My superhero power would probably be to make like a daily-planner-wielding ninja and strike down free time anywhere I sense it lurking.

What’s that on the horizon? Is it a free Saturday afternoon I spot? Bam! Two hours unsullied one nice summer evening? Ka-Pow! Is that really what it appears to be? A free weekend morning? Let’s write some web copy for a fledgling local small business. Or clear out the inbox. Or catch a concert.

Let’s do anything but allow for that particular emptiness that comes with spaciousness of time and effort. Let’s keep moving and saying Yes and Sure and Why Not – because all those actions carry potential. They carry the potential of meeting interesting people and discovering new experiences.

I’m more stoked than Johnny Storm — the human torch — to light my fire for a new mission, however. I’m taking what I’ve learned from my daily Ashtanga Yoga practice about how it’s possible to systematically open up parts of my body — tight shoulders, office-desked hips — and applying it to my habitual pattern of closing in on any open spaces that exist in my mental and physical calendar.

Want to join me on this quest? Here are five ways I’m creating more space in my life.

>>Read the rest here.

rsjuly22

Whenever I’m not blogging here, it’s because of my schedule. Gaps between posts are rarely there because I don’t have anything to share — it’s more that my priorities have to be that juicy householder yogi’s mix of work life, home life, practice and teaching practice (not necessarily in that order).

And to be present enough for my practice and teaching practice, getting enough rest has been especially key the last few months. What used to be needing six hours of sleep has crept up to seven. I’ll chalk it up to increased wisdom rather than the fact that I turned a year older a couple months ago. 😉

Beyond that, though, my proclivities have changed a bit too — I find myself actually craving more tranquility and less intensity. Should I credit India and my first week-long meditation retreat for that? Quite possibly. It reminds me a bit of how Ayurveda taught me that spicy food was actually challenging, rather than appeasing, my digestive needs….

(Graphic credit: YogaRose.net, designed by Brittni Stefanides)

© YogaRose.net and Rose Tantraphol, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to YogaRose.net with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Are we all just Messi on the mat?

messi

World Cup 2014 ends on Sunday. When it started, I thought for sure that I’d be a soccer widow, losing my husband to a month’s worth of matches. But as I wrote in this guest column in a local publication, I decided to get into the game myself — and in short order, I’ve become quite the fan.

A year or so before the World Cup started, actually, I had decided that I would be an occasional FC Barcelona fan because of one man — Lionel Messi — who happens to be the best futbol player on the planet. (Sorry, Ronaldo fans!) Here’s a video of some of Messi’s best goals, if you’ve never seen him in action.

In any case, a piece in Slate that promised to explore how “Lionel Messi has figured out how to win matches by moving less than everyone else” recently caught my eye because — you guessed it — it reminded me of lessons learned on the mat:

FIFA’s post-match data confirmed the impression that Messi had expended less energy to exert more influence than anyone else on the field. He moved 10.7 kms in 130 minutes of game time, meaning he covered less ground than any other outfield player who completed the match. He also spent less time engaged in medium- and high-intensity activity than any other outfielder. And his 31 sprints were fewer than any other outfielder who completed the match except Federico Fernández and Fabian Schär, who are both central defenders.

No doubt Messi’s economy of effort was part of the reason why he had the strength, in the 118th minute, to accelerate beyond the exhausted challenge of Schär and roll that precise assist into the path of di María. Messi’s run to set up the goal was clocked at 27.58 km/hr, and it was the fastest he had moved in the match.

To say that Messi limits his running because he wants to save his energy for when he really needs it is probably true, but misses a larger point. Lots of players know how to pace themselves. Only Messi has figured out how to win matches by moving less than everyone else.

Do you remember first learning sun salutations? For most of us, they seemed hard — total work. Over time, though, through consistent practice, we start to learn the energetic dance. We are given tristhana, the three places of attention, which includes a sequence stunningly choreographed to work with our nervous system. We learn how our bodies and our minds move. And we start to flow. We start to find movement with less effort, less resistance and more focus.

In short, what Messi makes look so natural on the field with the ball, we start to find as well in the form of flickers of flowing with our physical body, our energy body, and maybe even other sheaths.

If I’m sounding awfully poetic about this, I would have to admit that it’s not necessarily my practice that inspired this feeling. It’s been the honor and privilege of watching the progression of students’ practice by serving as an Ashtanga Yoga: Ann Arbor apprentice for the past two years and teaching led ashtanga classes at Hilltop Yoga in Lansing for four years now.

When I see someone like Messi on the field, as inspiring as his brilliance and athleticism are, an undercurrent of what strikes me is how that aspect of being at one with something — a soccer ball, a field of players, whatever — can be achieved each time we’re on the mat. Unlike sports, of course, ashtanga is not about competition and winning — and certainly, no cheering crowds or titles await. The progress might not even be evident on the outside.

But the achievement? Who’s to say it’s any less magnificent to witness?

(Photo credit: Via BBC.com)

© YogaRose.net and Rose Tantraphol, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to YogaRose.net with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Location scouting

I was in Marquette, Michigan, for the Fourth of July holiday this past weekend. It was less scheduled than most of my getaways, which gave me the opportunity to spend time checking out potentially interesting practice spaces.

What I realized during my location scouting in Marquette was how much my attitude had changed toward practicing while traveling. Next month will mark three years since I began practicing six days a week. During my first winter of daily practice, I wanted to plan everything in advance when traveling: What type of space will I have? Will there be heaters? What if there aren’t heaters? Will I have any moon days or rest days during the trip? I wanted conditions as close to ideal as possible.

Now I just take my mat and usually, I find the most conducive, workaday spot. Hotel room, crash space, state park cabin — there’s always a spot with enough room. This weekend, though, having time and the warmth of summer on my side allowed me to have a little fun. Such a treat!

This was where I wanted to practice — a little slab in Marquette’s Lower Harbor, with just enough space for a mat. It actually looked to me like it was designed for a mat. Maybe I’m a little biased, though.

slab

But the morning I could have practiced there, it rained. Even though I’m less into ideal conditions, I wasn’t about to practice in cold rain. :-)

One day, I was hiding in plain site in the courtyard next to the town’s oldest hotel. It was a great spot, made even greater by the incredibly loud noise coming out of the hotel’s generator (or whatever the huge contraption hiding behind that fence was). Pratyhara seemed to arise easily with that wall of sound.

courtyard

My second day of practice, I found the same hotel’s Sky Room, where weddings and other functions are held. It’s a beautiful space on the top floor of the six-floor Landmark Inn, and it overlooks the water.

skyroomfloor

The best part of this space was the ceiling — which, of course, if drishti — our passive gaze that is maintained during practice — is properly kicked on, you’re not supposed to pay attention to. I must admit that I got a kick out of the cherubs, though.

skyroom

I don’t have a photo of what has to be the single most unusual place I’ve ever practiced: the inner sanctum of the one of the Masonic temples in Vancouver, Canada. I went to a David Swenson workshop in 2009 and I’ll never get over the fact that on the final day of the training, we were moved from the normal room that they usual rent out to groups to a room with thrones and portraits. We all knew this was the room where Important and Secretive Matters Are Discussed. And were practicing ashtanga yoga in it. It was — just so damn cool.

How about you? Any particularly interesting or unusual practice spots?

While we’re on this topic — earlier this year, did you catch the inspiring Runways poster from Small Blue Pearls? It features one of my photos, of my mat and rug next to a hotel swimming pool. (Preferences aside, heat does matter, and if heat is an issue — especially in hotels with a proclivity for blasting the A/C — I have found that if there’s a pool room, the extra heat and humid helps.) And have you ever caught what inspired this poster project in the first place? On occasion, you’ll find practice photos — Runways — on the Ashtanga Yoga: Ann Arbor Facebook page.

© YogaRose.net and Rose Tantraphol, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to YogaRose.net with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.