To sleep or not to sleep…

I like to sleep. I like to stay under my covers as long as possible, as often as possible, and I do not like to be awoken by the mundane sounds of alarm clocks or children arguing.

Last week, however, I dragged myself out of an early bed to take a friend to the airport and I wound up back in the Ashtanga yoga practice room. It has been a week now, and I have gone back every day since, save for the Moon Day last week which is a rest day for these yogis. The Moon Day acted as an excellent experiment for this revitalized early morning wake up: since I did not have the yoga room dangling its treasures in front of me, I slept in that Wednesday, only to feel rushed and behind and cranky the rest of the day.

I know many of you have discovered this well before me, the joyous secret that the early morning offers a person, and have maintained the practice of it while could not. I have certainly no new information on this practice of using the strange magic of the morning to inspire, to give thanks, to ask your questions, and to move your body. These practices have been offered by all religions and philosophers and plain old exercise folks throughout time. But this week, I offered it to myself again. And I offer it to you, if maybe if you need it. Wake up, even a half hour before you usually do or think you like/need to do. To feel more free with your time, make your time more free. Do nothing in that early morning even, just maybe sit even. Just for a few extra quiet breaths that can be better protected from interruption. Coffee and tea and water with lemon are great companions.

If while I am away FROM JULY 27-AUGUST 10, you DO find yourself awake and curious… Maybe check out OMKAR 108 yoga in Culver City (http://omkar108.com) . You will find yourself in good hands, generously offered by Jörgen Christiansson.

There are other great places to wake up and go to of course as well! For injuries, and /or for a slower paced practice, check out the Iyengar Yoga | Institute of Los Angeles right on La Cienega and Pico. They also have an unlimited special price of $30 for 2 weeks, so the timing should work out perfectly!

This week, our practice remains in tact, with CHILDCARE if you let me know the night before.

MONDAY 8:30

TUESDAY 9:15

THURSDAY 8:30

Wishing you courage and space to ignite your own freedom,

Michelle

present tense

I’ve been surprised by how tense I have felt in this beginning of summer. I suppose there is a lot going on. There have been lives suddenly cut short. There have been other endings, and the ironing out of questions for the new beginnings, trips towards friends who are suffering, family worries and accidents, decisions to be made, choices to ponder, and more driving in somehow worse traffic.

I decided to try listening again, rather than teaching on yoga as a way to investigate my tension.  The Shift Network aired some messages given on National Yoga Day (which yes, was June 21, but better late than never on this one). I heard H.H. Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji from Rishikesh, India say:

See less pieces, and more peace. Start living yoga and not just doing yoga.

I thought that was a pretty perfect sound bite.

Perhaps being in preparation mode for all the moving pieces was making me feel too fragmented. Once life separates itself like this, it can be difficult to see how those same pieces that come out of your experience in the first place can peace themselves together.

Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word for yoke, or union. There are 8 limbs to practicing yoga, and the asana, posture practice, is only one of them, a teeny little limb off the great yoga tree trunk. Another blog entry will be on these other limbs, but I was thinking what could we further find from this limb of posture practice that we share in our morning classes. Perhaps to find the new perspective on whatever stress you might be perceiving, we could choose a posture, any posture, and truly just be in it. Sounds far too simple. For instance, if you are in one of the warrior asanas, notice for yourself what are all the pieces to it-how does your body feel in it, how does your breath sound, and where is it located, does it change your mood at all? And of course, if you are fully present in this observation, judgement will not infiltrate, but rather, purely,  information. This would not be a magic formula, just an offering to your body and mind.

We all know by now that being in the present moment is the best advice. It helps mitigate stress, and offers perspective so that our emotions can be more easily felt and thus allow us to choose our actions rather than be trapped by our changing feelings and sometimes act unconsciously. The artful practice of truly living in the moment IS the practice of yoga itself.

I will be there to practice with you this week and next, and then I am away for several weeks. So DO come NOW, and if you are new or have not been with us for a while, I will offer these next two weeks unlimited for $36 dollars! An offer you can’t refuse…. Well, you can, but why? Worst is, you feel good!

In appreciation, Michelle

MONDAYS   8:30-9:30 am

TUESDAYS   9:15-10:15 am

THURSDAYS 8:30-9:30 am

why speak

Sometimes, for weeks, all I can manage are observations and what I think are extremely cute titles for my blog. I have always liked titles, always liked introductions but the fleshing out of story proves, of course, to be less delightful a task at times!

Not only does time management thwart the creative juices here, but confidence as well. When I first set up this blog, or when my dear husband set it up for me to be more accurate, I was hoping to use it as a place for thoughts that popped into my mind either while practicing or teaching yoga, and a more interesting way to post the weekly schedule. I promised myself I would never ask, “Are people really reading this?” Yet, I became human somewhere in this process and began to wonder…. What’s it all for, who am I reaching, and does any of it really matter anyway?

Last night, I got a lovely and unexpected answer. I was at a small dinner party for a friend’s birthday. One of the guests who I had not spent time with in years, told me he owed me a thank you. It seems he was to give the address at a large dinner for UNICEF some months ago. As he was trying to find the hook for his speech, he stumbled upon my recent blog post on Facebook, and used my simple thoughts to harness his own. This is a man who I would never have imagined would be reading the thoughts of little ole me, and yet here he was, reading and telling me it helped him.

His story to me last night of course makes me feel good, gives me a momentary answer to the WHY part of the question above, and yet, it also reminds me of the initial reason to share my thoughts. Just like with anything in life, we must work at what we love, must nurture our creativity, in whatever arena or pocket of time we have between chores and necessitates. We simply must put blinders on to who might be reading or watching or what will be the next “better” thing. This last play I did showed me that again as well. I went into it, terribly insecure about the topic, and promised myself that I was in it only to learn and stretch as an actress. I didn’t invite anyone publicly until the end when it was already sold out. I realize now that Because I was so dedicated to my creative intention, it would of course be a product that I would be proud to let others see.

Insecurity is normal, healthy maybe at times, but it can really act as a barrier toward openness. Who knows what more lies within you when you just go for it, when you find a place, public or private, to create. I felt so grateful to hear this man’s accounting of how my story sparked his own freedom to write. I hope it helps me, and you today, to step further into your quiet place of doing for yourself, for the simple act of expression, and let that be enough of a guiding force.

In peace,

Michelle

OUR SCHEDULE THIS WEEK! JUNE 16-19

MONDAY AND TUESDAY       CANCELED

THURSDAY AND FRIDAY       8:30 AM

moving music

I love to watch people dance. I love to dance myself, but to watch people as they move to music is just, well, cool. There is that first moment of recognition. Like when you are at a party, and music is playing in the background, and suddenly the strands of a song that no one else may seem to know has transported a listener to a time and place far away and long ago from this setting. Maybe he heard it as child first, in the kitchen of his grandmother’s house, in a country far away, where specific spices filled  the room and co-mingled with sounds of a language unfamiliar to the one of my home. The listener cannot control his eyes as they sort of float backwards a moment in his head, as though to bring forward that memory which may not even be his own. He reaches out, mid conversation to his partner, a woman to whom he is connected, who participates in the conversation of the here and now, but just as easily and passionately rewinds herself as well to this OTHER time and place. They move together to the dance floor, without constraint or consciousness. They find themselves in the center of the room, solo, moving in deep communication to one another, a shared past of their ancestry and culture feeding them joy, and deeply nurturing contentment.

I like watching the toddlers as they move too. Theirs is a movement more of the present moment. They without inhibition flail an arm or wag a leg to the beat of the band. Or the beat of the garbage truck outside for that matter. They have not learned social fear yet, so they move through their personal dance floors in unique joy and hope: in their movements, I see a motivated hope for the future, a future of pure freedom.

And I see the movement of a man in synagogue. During Shabbat service, he brings with his still working hand a dead left hand to his brow in a gesture of worship before the Shmah prayer. The pparalyzing effects of a stroke does not stop him from this reflective and reflexive gesture linking past, present and future.

To all these movements at one time or another, I have been connected. And so to, have you. Regardless of how loudly you hear it, or eagerly you jump in, you too have taken note of a melody which may have led you to, or wanted to lead you to, a movement from yourself or from others at some moment in your life. As we move into summer today, take note of the moving of your own music maybe. WIthout judgment, see and hear it anew this week. Who knows what it might move you to do….

OUR SCHEDULE IS SLIGHTLY ALTERED THIS WEEK:

TUESDAY JUNE 2     9AM

THURSDAY JUNE 4 CANCELED

FRIDAY    JUNE 5     8:30 AM

In appreciation,

Michelle

Michelle

OKAY

As she was falling asleep, I suddenly realized she was crying. I have learned not to make too much inquiry over bedtime tears. They often indicate a release, a shedding of the day, and most certainly a signal that sleep time is long overdue. “It’s okay, it’s all okay, ” I murmured unconsciously into her hair.

Softly, she asked, “What does that mean?” I woke up inside, knowing this was one of those important mom moments when my answer might alter our relationship forever. Or least for the next hour.

Slowly, I pieced together an answer based on one a doctor gave me a few years ago. “To me, OKAY means pause. When I hear the word OKAY, I feel better. I slow down my breathing immediately, and my thoughts loose their hold on me.”

I wanted to go on and on, to tell her how much this little word OKAY helped me when a doctor told me that no one expected more from me than just to be OKAY around them. We are truly our biggest demons as we engulf ourselves with fear of future actions and past mistakes.  Being simply OKAY reminds me that I am trying to hard to CREATE a reality other than what is, and brings me back  to the moment that I am TRULY in. It brings back the basics in its utter simplicity of state- and those basics are : breath, safety of place, and physical body. In this moment of awareness, she was breathing. She was safe in a home she knows with sturdy doors and walls, and she lay with all body parts working upon a strategically designed assortment of pillows.

I did not pontificate further, having learned from past discussions that shorter is always better. Sleep thankfully took over. A few days passed, and I checked in, with praise for her questioning such a familiar word. She googled the definition. Words like satisfactory, acceptable, safe, adequate but unremarkable, and dependable endorsement came up. We liked these definitions. Not words to hold maybe for life goals, but as mitigating factors perhaps to the daily drive that can overwhelm us. To accomplish. To live up to our full potential in every moment. Strivings are good, but returning within the process to OKAY also has value when it is used not as a cop out but as a return to center. Maybe we can think of it as High Involvement, Low Attachment. Being OKAY as you strive and then… let go. This might just be more than enough.

May this feeling of OKAY surround you this weekend as we observe a longer pause in our practices:

no class MONDAY MAY 25th for Memorial Day. Our schedule returns TUESDAY the 26th.

Please let me know your summer plans and desires as we can add afternoon and some evening classes.

In appreciation,

Michelle

accidental enlightenment

I had to get to class. I wasn’t sure why, but I just knew I had to get there that day. I suddenly excused myself to my forgiving coffee partner, and in a most UN- yogic way, floored it the 10 or so blocks to the nest that Andrea Marcum lovingly called U Studio. The room was jam-packed and I snuggled in between the warm bodies for sun salutations. I quickly but cautiously welcomed the melting pot of movement and music to my newly sore muscles which are getting quite a beating from my nightly foray as loner-turned-eco-terrorist in the play I am doing,  Suddenly, I heard her say it. I knew the closing of this lovely studio had been in the works for months, but I had no idea this was indeed the last day. I thought I had mis-heard her, and silently asked Andrea, who confirmed with an audible laugh. “You didn’t know? Yup. This is it.”

With the slow but necessary decline of my near daily ashtanga practice, I have had to find a new studio. Though most of my practice is at home, there is nothing like loosing yourself in the room of fellow practitioners with a wise teacher. Andrea’s Thursday class, however, had rested comfortably in my calendar for months without me, so what made it today? Why now, in this moment, did the need to be there overwhelm all other possible needs?

I have no idea. Tuned in? Message from the universe? Dumb luck? For whatever reason, I am more than grateful. She is a wonderful teacher, with humor and great knowledge that she imparts with ease and confidence, but judgment free. It was a gift to be introduced to her as a student years ago, then to go on and teach for her, and now, to be part of this flow on her last day at U. She played a beautiful version of  LET IT BE for the closing savasana, as is her ability to find rare covers to popular songs, and I let the tears come. I cried: for all the change that I have seen and felt this year, for all the good things that come when doors close, and for the ache attached to wanting those same doors to remain open, now and forever. There stood Andrea though, with a laugh and a gong for sale, and when I opened my eyes, I knew we would all be ok.

As I left, I was struck by a different thought. This day, arguably most monumental in the life of Andrea, was an accidental part of my own. She could not believe that I did not know it was her final day, and I could not believe I did not know either. But then, I could not believe she knew nothing of the last few months of my life. The changes. The work. The miles I have put on my car… I felt all this without a shred of judgment, not only because she is more of a figure in my life, not a direct friend or family member by any means, but also, and mostly, because I realized this is the same for EVERYONE. For the people we encounter on the street or even the ones we see at the breakfast table every day (does anyone eat breakfast with other people anymore??) I can know my husband’s schedule, and I forget the events too, but the depth of an experience might remain a mystery to me. I am my stuff and you are your stuff. I can reach out an ear and you can stretch out an arm, but the rest is up to us to fill in. Either through attempted communication with an other, or through a loving kindness attempt to be the  needed acknowledgment for yourself. I feel joy and liberation in this realization, and I hope when I slip and judge others for not knowing my “stuff” or berate myself for not knowing my neighbor’s, I can remind myself of this accidental enlightenment.

waking up

The alarm clock is a weird thing. It sends a signal, most often loud and unwelcome, that jars the body into a state of being it is not necessarily looking to be in. The shift from sleep into wakefulness is profound I think, and one we don’t often investigate. When I go to sleep, I try to imagine what I will need to make that shift with as little disturbance to my psyche as possible. Sometimes though I turn off phones and turn on humidifiers, the disturbance cannot be avoided- like on the mornings when I my husband’s trusted white alarm clock from college independently decides to move its dial from our classical station to an in between station, a mixture of  Spanish news casting and static. The volume too changes, and this loud, crazy loud, noise breaks through the delicate walls of my fairy tale dreams.

Sometimes these jolts into the day make me sad, or leave me feeling a sort of woe is me quality, as if the quality of my life is impossible and isolating. In those mornings, even in the rush of lunch preparations or lost shoes or auditions, I now try to get into the warm sun, if even for a moment. The calm nourishment that warms me also connects me to all things, wild and tame, of my world and beyond. We are all being jarred in some way from state to state to state in this daily life of ours. I feel grateful to put down the potential weapons of my smaller view as I gain this wider perspective.

Here’s to hoping I will see you all in the coming weeks. Our schedule is in tact, as far as I can see, no more holidays in sight for some time, so come, find transition time with us, from one state to your mat and back in again. I will be here.

MONDAYS     8:30 (NOTE NEW START TIME)

TUESDAYS    9:00

THURSDAYS 8:30

All classes right no at Temple Emanuel, 300 N. Clark Drive.

In peace,

Michelle

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