Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Week of Lasts and Goodbyes

On Friday, I taught my final class at Yoga North. Dave and I are leaving for France on Tuesday to lead canal boat tours again, and in addition, we have decided to pursue our dream of traveling more (after France), and as such, I cannot commit to a weekly schedule. I'm not really feeling the reality of the situation yet I don't think. I just feel like I am about to go on a trip and when I come back everything will be as it was. But really, it won't be. And my students recognize the truth of the situation even if I do not fully admit it to myself.

In each of my classes last week (final Minnesota Power class; final Maurices class; final iRest class; final Yin class) I heard from so many of my students who wanted to express how much my classes have meant to them and how much yoga has helped them. I also received and gave tons of hugs! The outpouring of heartfelt goodbyes and the thoughtful gifts mean so much to me. I plan to carry all of my students, my co-teachers, and the Yoga North community in my heart as I make way on a new path.

Goodbye cards & gifts. :)

As I've been saying my goodbyes, I've been giving (and taking) solace in two mantras:
1) Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo  ~  I bow to the teacher within; and 2) Sara Thomsen's song, "By Breath": By breath, by blood, by body, by spirit, we are all one.

I know my students will continue to grow and enjoy yoga and life because we are each our own best teacher. We just have to train ourselves to look inside and listen. And, as "By Breath" says, we are all one. We are still connected by shared experience and mutual admiration even we are not physically in the same place.

May we all find peace and ease, and bring it out with us into the world.  Namaste, Sara

Monday, June 20, 2016

Letting go of what no longer serves

For the past three years I have been both contemplating this idea and living this practice: letting go of what no longer serves. Ever since we  moved from our duplex (occupied both units) to our condo (1/2 the livable space, limited garage storage, and no basement) I have been in the practice of letting things go.

The hardest of course was realizing that our beloved dog was in too much pain and just too sick to make the move with us. Having to let go of her was the most emotionally traumatizing. Of course it's a no-brainer that having her put to sleep was horrible and hard. But it's surprising that what shouldn't be hard to let go often can be.
  • The pull-out couch: No, it doesn't fit in our new space but what will we do if we have company?
  • Tools: No, I don't need a table saw, extension ladder, snow blower, etc. anymore. But what if I need them in the future?
  • My yoga room: I don't have my private space any more. Where will I practice? And where will I put all my props?
  • The yard and garden: What will I do if I can't garden? What will I do if I can't spend lots of time outside?

Thinking about all these things that I have let go, I am reminded of Deborah Adele's book, The Yamas and Niyamas: Exploring Yoga's Ethical Practice. In particular, the message on Aparigraha (non-possessiveness): what you posses, possesses you. I do not want to end up as a little old lady who keeps all the things that ever meant something, piled up and tucked away, creating clutter and the feeling of grasping the past, or maybe being buried by the past as things pile up around me. I want to keep fresh in my life, my ideas, my practice.

I recently read Marie Kondo's books, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing and her follow up book, Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up. I was amazed at her methodology. The practice of tidying up and decluttering for her means the practice of letting go of what no longer serves. She does this by holding each item to see if it still sparks joy. If it does, keep it; if it doesn't, let it go with thanks and gratitude.

Although I have already let go of so many things these past three years, after reading her books I was inspired to renew my efforts. There were some things I always skipped over when reducing: old ballet outfits, old swing dancing clothes, my stash of fabric, family mementos and hand-me-downs that had no use to me but which had a guilty hold over me, etc.

When I took the time to honestly look at these things, to hold them, remember the memories, realize this was no longer relevant to me any more, and give thanks to these items for the part they played in my life at the time I used them, I found a joy in remembering and in letting go. I was able to set aside the things that no longer served and I was able to reappreciate the things that still did spark joy.

Even though I have made an effort to have a gratitude practice in my yoga practice, it had not carried over into my decluttering practice. Reduce-and-reuse efforts in the past held more of a "Oh gosh, I really don't want to let this go" feeling, versus a "Thank you for being part of my life and providing joy and meaning" feeling. This change of attitude in decluttering really felt good. It feels so good to lighten my load and to do it with gratitude for the things that served me in the past.

In Marie Kondo's second book she says, "Tiding is the act of confronting yourself; cleaning is the act of confronting nature." Ms. Kondo only refers to yoga and meditation in passing but I am strongly reminded of Aparigraha by this practice of tidying. Especially since she insists that you must hold each thing to learn to hone your skill at what sparks joy for you. What this means is that you are honing your skill in what is true and relevant for you now. This enable us to let go of what no longer serves. If that's not yoga, I don't know what is.

Interested in lightening your load? I invite you to ask yourself, "What am I holding onto that no longer serves?"

Here's a few of my favorite quotes from the Aparigraha chapter in Ms. Adele's book, The Yamas and Niyamas, to help you along:
Like the breath when it is held too long, the things that nourish us can become toxic.

Anything we cling to creates a maintenance problem for us.

Our expectations keep us captive and often disgruntled, and yet we choose our attachments rather than our freedoms.

Best wishes to you in your practice of developing your "letting go" muscle and lightening your load.
Namaste ~ Sara

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Happy Anniversary (and St. Patrick's Day) to Me

St. Patrick's Day is my teaching anniversary. Thank goodness for that. I doubt I would remember such a thing if it weren't for the predesignated holiday.

I started teacher training in fall of 2007, graduated Sunday, March 16th, 2008, and started teaching the very next day at the Duluth YMCA. I took on two classes right away. Monday and Tuesday nights. Isn't it funny how some things are so clear in your memory?

I was such a dreamer. I wanted to tell everything I knew, to impart all the knowledge of yoga to each one of my students, in every class. And to have every class be the most perfect yoga class ever. What high expectations!

In June of 2008 my teacher asked me to long-term sub one of her classes at Yoga North. I was so honored and so terrified. How do you take over your teacher's class??? Well, you just show up and let the teachings flow through you. It worked out.

While in teacher training I found that Restorative Yoga is what I really loved (hence this blog). I began my own Restorative practice at home, learning all the poses and trying props every which way. Restorative Yoga led me down the rabbit hole of relaxation. I learned Yin, Yoga Nidra/iRest, Therapeutic techniques, and finally Somatics & Soma Yoga in my 500 hour teacher training.

I am blessed to be able to teach these techniques to my students and to teachers in training. My hope is that more and more people will carry these teachings forward. I figure the more relaxation and ease we have in this world, the better.

May we all be filled with peace and ease and take these feelings with us into the world. Namaste. ~Sara