Month 6: What happens in yoga school….

Well, you know the rest, …stays in yoga school.  There are things that just can’t be translated and other things that just are not for blogging.  You have to have the experience of being with a group who has bonded in an incredible way in order to understand.

There are some things that can be shared and that I really want to share about the experience this past weekend.  It was one of the best so far but we do keep saying that every month.  This weekend, however, really was outstanding.

A few of the highlights included an afternoon of Improv games and having my other yoga teacher, Kim Drye, with us on Sunday morning for an alignment based practice.

Yes, and….

On Saturday afternoon Pierce came and led us through Improv games. Pierce works and performs with Positively Funny in Birmingham. It took me back to a happy time when I worked with Mary Jane Pories at Fishladder in Grand Rapids and took several improv classes.   I think about the way story works with yoga and health related work all the time but I don’t always think about the work I have done in improv and how it can be beneficial.  Now I will.

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Improv teaches you to listen, pay attention, be present.  What is the other person really saying?  It’s not your interpretation.  That is often the issue – we don’t hear other people because we are too busy thinking about something else or being distracted.  Improv also teaches you that you can talk about anything, like french fries or make-up, and be passionate about what you are saying.  How much more passionate can I be about something I really care deeply about like yoga and health? It was a great afternoon.


Kim Drye was our guest teacher on Sunday morning.  I have been working with Kim since December and really appreciate her so much.  Kim teaches alignment based yoga, which is the lineage I came from.  We have had lots of discussions since I began this training about how CSV and Iyengar y11865128_10155992065835533_146739481_ooga compliment one another and where or how they blend.  The practice was slow and precise as we broke down several poses.  It was special for me to have both of my teachers in the same place.


Meanwhile in Augusta…. 


Gator time

I thought about my other tribe a lot over the weekend.  It was TriCamp weekend in Augusta, Georgia.  I have put triathlon on hold for this year but I still think about everyone and miss seeing my tri friends.  I would have pages and pages if I included all the photos of people I missed from camp.  Here are a couple.   There were also several friends competing at Lake Logan and at the USAT Nationals over the weekend. (Dionne – I can’t find your photo!)


Carrie and Katie










I probably have  more about the weekend.

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Clearing clutter: the mental kind

I’ve been cleaning again, as some of you know.  Part of my cleaning was to clear some more items out of my closet and drawers that either didn’t fit, I never wore, or that were worn out.  I managed to clear out two large bags of items that I took to TES and I stored the winter clothes in a tub in my closet.  I’m used the Project 333 method to look at my clothes, what I really wear, and added a few pieces found at a great sale at Talbots to round our my current wardrobe.

This sounds like I have cleared physical clutter, and I have.  But part of this particular project also involved clearing out some mental clutter.  The fact is that I still had these items in my closet:


These were the two items left from when I began my weight loss journey five years ago.  They were too small at the time.  I’ve come a long ways since then, even if I have re-gained some weight this year. I thought that I was holding on to them to remind me of my progress but as I looked at these two items, plus one more t-shirt that I had kept, I found that I felt the message was I might need them again.  I never plan on wearing that pair of jeans or that t-shirt again.  So I finally let them go and let go of a fear of returning to the horribly unhealthy state I was in when I wore them.  I am not claiming that I won’t feel that fear again because I am human.

For perspective here is a photo of the gray t-shirt with a current shirt over top:

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I think my story is important and that remembering how far I have come is also important. What I have realized is that I can’t and don’t need to dwell of what I used to be. I am no longer that person. My hope is that I will continue in my current healthier lifestyle for many years to come and that I can continue to learn and help others through my current practices.

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Let go and soar: Where am I headed?

So much is happening in my life – changes that I never expected, opportunities I could not imagine.  There is a lot to process and think about.  I am trying not to overplan, one of the things I often do, and just let things come and go.  I’ve let go of some things that I could not have predicted even a few months ago and I have invited other things in that I also would not have predicted.

Letting go

20140726_064308I have basically let go of triathlon training and racing for now.  I cancelled the two triathlons that I had planned on participating in this year due to other opportunities appearing which I will talk about in a bit.  Triathlon has changed my life and I have dear friends in the sport who I hope to remain in touch with and see again.  Right now I am in a different season, however, and I had to give something up. I am still training – swimming and strength training are my main focus.  I need to get out on my bike again soon but the temperatures are near 100 degrees in Alabama right now so it is not really the time to start getting back on my bike.  I had fully expected to complete a century ride this summer or at least this year but I do not foresee that happening.  Even though I am not a hard core competitor, I am grateful for a break from competition focused training.

I am also in the process of determining what else I need to let go of in my life.  This will take some time and effort.  In December I cleaned and cleared out a great deal of clutter and things in my house in order to make space for new things to come in.  And new things did come in. I have more work to do.  I have been seriously contemplating putting my house on the market but it has not seemed like the right time yet.  I am thoughtfully considering when the right time is to put up the for sale sign and see what happens next.  It is a scary thing to do.  I have a number of friends who have sold houses pretty fast since the spring and I think if I engage with the right realtor, I may as well.  It’s an unknown though.  There are a number of things holding me back and one is clearing out the rest of my stuff that I will never use or need again. And I have to replace the dishwasher.  Most of things that need to be done are minor by themselves.  They just add up to a long list to check off and I need to make the list.  I’ll get there.  I spent the weekend shredding paper which I find mentally exhausting but I can see progress.  I need to continue working away on my house.  I love my house but I am feeling ready to be in a smaller place and not worry about a yard again.  There are also places to live that would be more convenient for work and getting to the places where I go most in the area.

Yoga teacher training and more 

Yoga teacher training has been an unexpected joy.  I could never have predicted that this is where I would be at this point in my life.  I have two classes scheduled for fall (one actually begins in August) and have been leading a group of friends for a few weeks.  I love it and it combines beautifully with my health education background.

I have been working through the process of “what’s next?” and trying to figure out some of the issues I need to resolve.  It is a challenging and enlightening process.  I don’t have answers yet but I have some glimmers.  I have been working with a coach on some activities that involve visual art and creating meaning through images.  It is fascinating and also a bit difficult to explain.  The images I select are used to create my story.  I am currently sitting with a second group of images and working on seeing what kind of story I see in them. This is a process that is helping me see where and how yoga and other things I am passionate about fit into my life.

2601I am also writing again. This began in January when I joined a challenge on Facebook posted by Matt Frazier, the No Meat Athlete,  and his sister Christine Frazier.  It was a great challenge that combined writing and working out every day of the month.  The challenge continued but it wasn’t as intense as January.  I have wanted to write about my experience over the past five years and have tried to shape what has happened into a book but haven’t stuck with it.  In May I joined a mentoring group that will run six months and is helping me shape my book and ideas.  The group is fantastic so far and I am writing and working through drafts and ideas.  We’ll see what I have at the end of six months.  I think this will be a longer process than I expect but it is great to be writing and shaping stories again.

It’s all fun and keeping me pretty busy for now.


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Do what lights you up: Month 5 of yoga teacher training

Month five of yoga teacher training is finished and we have now passed the half way mark.  It doesn’t seem possible, but it is.  June and July were tough and tiring months of training.  We focused on breaking down poses in June and this month we focused on advanced arm balances and inversions, sequencing and teaching.  The work is mentally and physically tiring but I have never been happier.

A friend from my triathlon life uses the hashtag #dowhatlightsyouup for her photography business and for other posts.  This phrase just kept coming to mind all weekend.  The practice of yoga, being with this wonderful group of women, and working towards sharing what really lights me up is a joy.

I did a fair amount of observing during the advanced p2015-07-10 19.35.06oses section of training this weekend.  Inversions will never be a full part of my practice or my teaching due to issues with my eyes.  My vision is worth more than the ability to do a headstand.   Arm balances are not part of my practice yet but I am very, very close to being able to come into crow. What I observed this weekend was a combination of determination, beauty, grace and ease, and amazement at personal achievement.  There are a number of my classmates who easily go into a headstand, shoulder stand or other inversion.  Their strength, beauty, grace and ease are lovely to watch.  I know that these poses have not come to them without practice and building strength and that makes me appreciate what I see even more.

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Most of the weekend involved discussing sequencing classes and practicing teaching.  As someone who has been an educator for over 30 years, I know that it still takes a lot of work to thoughtfully plan and carry out a class.  I have to be prepared for the unexpected, for things to not work, for people to be jumping over people’s mats on the dock as happened last week when  I was leading a group through yoga.  For a teacher practice does not just consist of our own practice, perfecting a pose, or knowing the Sanskrit names.  It consists of being ready, understanding that we are all human, that it is a rare day when everything goes perfectly, and continuing to show up anyway.  Through the practice of teaching we become better teachers.  By practicing compassion with ourselves we become more compassionate with others (and I think the opposite as well).  It takes work to figure out the order and transitions of poses, how to breath and how to assist our classes so that they benefit in practice and are safe.  Aspects we may not think about as the student are of prime importance as a teacher. It’s all a process and the journey of the process is part of the overall point, I think.

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Part of the joy in teaching this weekend was watching the rest of the group practice after I finished my section of teaching.  I will end this with a few photos of my lovely classmates.  Kayla’s grace, the beauty of reverse Warrior, and the grounded strength of standing on our own two feet.  This work has brought so much to my life.  It really is what lights me up.

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#noshirtnoshoesnoshame: Reflections on a Yoga challenge

I have been participating in an Instagram challenge to post a photo  in a yoga pose that shows my belly.  The challenge came from fellow Core Strength Vinyasa teachers Melissa Scott (my teacher) and Thea Pueschel.  The point is not just to expose our stomachs on social media but to promote positive body images.  It’s difficult.  And vulnerable.  But this challenge speaks to me.

feet up the wall

Even if I am not thrilled with my body right now I know that I am stronger than I was even a few months ago.  Standing poses are stronger and I feel more solid in my yoga flow even if I still can’t do everything. I know that I am carrying some extra weight that I have gained since I have not been training as hard for triathlons.  That doesn’t thrill me but I do not beat myself up about it like I have at some points in my life.  I know that I am eating well and working at taking care of myself. I know that there have been challenges over the past year that were beyond my control and I had to make some choices.  I am making different choices now and turning things around again.

Over the past few weeks I have been working on another project and have been looking back at old photographs.  I generally know about how much I weighed at different points of my life.  On Sunday I was looking for a photo for the project and came across a few photos from the late 1990s and early 2000s.  I know I weighed less than I do right now but I looked like I weighed significantly more.  And I did not look happy at all or like I was in good shape.  In fact I know that I was having some significant health problems at that point of my life that no longer exist, primarly due to my changes in exercise and diet. I was already practicing yoga at that point in my life and I was doing some exercise but was not as dedicated to my health as I have been over the past five years.  I can see the difference and I certainly feel the difference that changing my life has made.

Like many women  I learned about body image from my mother and other female relatives.  The lessons might not have been direct but I observed and heard comments.  My mother was 5 ft. 1 or 2 and round.  She was a good cook and food was important in our family. I recall hearing my grandmother’s comments about my mother’s size from the time I was very young – “there’s one bigger than Leora.”  I never understood why my grandmother thought it was necessary to point out women who were larger in size than my mother and I realized at a young age that though my mother laughed, she was hurt by the remarks.  I don’t think my grandmother meant to be mean.  She was blunt and said what she thought and saw (and was not a small woman herself).  I think it was her odd way of being concerned about my mother’s size and health.  I’m not sure if she did this to her other daughters but there was probably some variation.  My own weight and body issues started at a young age but were primarily related to issues with my vision that limited some of my activities.  I don’t really remember being terribly affected by negative remarks about my size until I was getting ready to go to college and had to have a physical for a scholarship.  The female doctor, who was not our regular physcian, viciously declared me obese at 5 ft 9 and 155 pounds.  At the time I was a runner and was in fairly good shape. I look back at that now and think, “Seriously?”  But the words struck me hard and the scar left was deep.

Years later I am more at peace with my own body.  I am not perfect.  I know that being thinner changes some things but not everything.  I am happy that I am stronger, can move without the kind of pain I had only a few years ago, am free of my sleep apnea machine and am in pretty good health. I am still learning and still changing the way I eat and care for myself.  I think I am much better at taking care of myself than I was when I was younger.

down dog no shirt

When I decided to earn my health studies degree I stated that I wanted to work with  women and girls to help them create healthier self images. I still hope to do that kind of work in some way through health education and coaching or through yoga or both. This fall Kimberly Drye and I will be co-facilitating a five week class on yoga and body image at Villager Yoga. I am excited about this opportunity and how it fits in with my desire and vision.  There will be more information about the class on my facebook page and on my website that will be up in the next few weeks.  I’ll be writing more about this about the Yoga and Body Coalition.

Body image is a complex issue.  It’s not just about size.  Gender, cultural issues, race, perception of beauty are but a few factors that play a part.  Loving your body the way it is right now can be hard work but it is really worth it.  And posting pictures with my belly showing.  Really vulnerable for me.  But I think that is worth it too because I only have this body to love and work with and it really isn’t all that bad.


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A week in California: A full heart

Earlier 2015-06-23 18.58.04this week I returned from another trip to California.  It was a wonderful week filled with exploring the Northern California coast, spending time with a dear friend, going to some wonderful yoga classes and attending the ALA conference in San Francisco.  I’m not sure when I will be back but I left with a heart full of joy and knowing that I had wonderful adventures.

I began this journey at one of my favorite places on the California coast – Goat Rock.  The wind was strong but the beach was as beautiful as ever.  It was close to sunset but I did not stay to see the sunset on the Pacific.  I will at some point in the future.

I spent my few days in Northern California back at Riversea, the little cottage where I st2015-06-24 13.30.34ayed during spring break.  It is just the right size and I enjoy talking to the owners, Jim and Kathy.  I did not get to see Kathy this time because she was on the road but I talked to Jim a few times.

There were several woodpeckers in the trees this time as well as several other birds. I loved watching the birds out the kitchen window and while sitting on the porch.  It has been a joy to observe the differences in seasons over the past year.  I visited Armstrong Woods again as well and got lost in the woods, following the sound of two trumpeters who were playing deep in the woods.  I never found them but the music surrounded me as I walked the trails and didn’t worry about time or where I was headed.


I went to two of Anna’s wonderful classes at three dog yoga, one of my favorite places to practice yoga.  One class was a power class and one was a flow class.  This was my first opportunity to take classes with Anna and I look foward to more when I return.  Her humor and wisdom add much to the classes and I came away with so much that will help my practice and teaching.

My yoga plans in San Francisco didn’t work as I had hoped due to scheduling.  I did go to Integral Yoga on Sunday afternoon for a two hour restorative cl20150628_160310ass, however.  It was exactly what I needed as I often find when going to yoga classes.  Claudia led us through a restful and restorative session that included time in yoga nidra.  Any tension I was holding from running around the exhibit floor and to sessions melted into the floor and mat.

A20150628_103434LA held some nice surprises.  I didn’t have committee meetings this time as I thought I would so I was able to attend sessions and events that I don’t usually have time for.  I made it to the Alexander Street Press breakfast for the first time in many years and heard Cynthia Sandberg from Love Apple Farms in Santa Cruz.  She talked about biodynamics and the way they grow food on the farm. This is a step beyond organic and was fascinating.  I have a list of books that I want to read and I would love to visit the farm when I am out again.  I also heard Haifaa Al-Mansour talk about her book and film, The Green Bicycle.  In the exhibits I picked up a number of uncorrected proofs and pre-published books.  I also met Miriam Gates and received a signed copy of her children’s book, Good Night Yoga. Of course I attended my regular round of meetings with my vendors as well.

I flew home on a red eye Monday night but I had a chance to see the Golden Gate Bridge one more time before I left. I know that I will return to California.  I’m looking forward to new adventures whenever they may be.

Golden Gate Bridge




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Laughter, Singing and Asana: Weekend 4 of Yoga Teacher Training

Approach both your life and your postures with an eye to the process, and let go of the results. Stand easy in all the postures of your life, firm but relaxed. (Rolf Gates, Meditations from the Mat)

This past weekend we r11638877_10155769502060533_1974383651_oeached weekend four of Yoga Teacher Training.  The focus of the weekend was on Asana, or poses, and breaking them down to learn how to cue students into and out of a pose. The emphasis for the weekend was on how to be clear, concise and consistent when providing instruction.  We also discussed how to be effective – to cue from the ground or foundation up.  What touches the earth?  What is the foundation of the pose? The weekend included breaking down 40+ poses.

The weekend was far more than just breaking down poses, cue by cue, however.  Over the time that I have written this blog I have written about community several times.  This weekend really clarified the community that we have formed as a group of yoga teachers in training. There was more laughter than I think we have experienced so far. This is a very special group of women, each with her own story and reason for being in training, each with her own gift for what she will offer the yoga community and the larger community of her own life. I feel honored to be part of this journey with them.

We had an opportunity to teach one another this weekend.  It was fun and challenging.  We support one another as we learn how to lead one another and our future students.  Learning to teach is a process and each one of us needs to trust where we are on the road. The quote that begins this post was in my personal readings this weekend. It captures what we discussed and learned.  We must let go of what we anticipate will happen because there is always the unexpected and often the unexpected is far better than what we can imagine.  I read standing “firm but relaxed” as knowing what I need to do, studying and understanding the postures as well as the applications, and seeing where it leads.









On Sunday morning Shannon Andrews Skipper came as the guest teacher.  It was a wonderful and creative morning of celebration.  Shannon incorporates dance, play and music in her classes.  She gave us the opportunity to explore an energetic and joyful practice through chanting, dancing and flowing.  The practice encouraged me to pull out my bag of musical instruments that I used when I was teaching and telling stories.  I think I will find a way to incorporate music into my practice and teaching.




Each weekend is more amazing than the previous weekend.  In the next few weeks the focus is on cultivating my home practice and reflecting on what that means for my practice and teaching. I am looking forward to seeing what comes up and how I continue in this process.

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