wacky moon, wacky schedules

I am writing this under the full moon. An auspicious night to be sure. One to spend time in meditation, inside or out. One to sit in gratitude toward the universe or any divine being you align yourself with, and from that same place of thankfulness, you get an ask. In this tradition of honoring the moon, you formulate a TRUE ask of that which is bigger than us, not to win the lottery per say but the underlying roots of what it MEANS for you to win the lottery. Go ahead. Take stock and try it tonight.
Along with a 24 hour period of celibacy and a vegan diet. And lots of sleep and quiet and rest.

And if you can achieve all, or even some of that, come to class this week and tell me and all your on-your-mat cohorts! Since we are only meeting once a week right now, we will meet at 8:15 for meditation/short discussion, and then practice hard for an hour from 8:30-9:30.

But what day you ask will THESE auspicious practices take place?

Since the Jewish Holiday season is fast approaching and since we meet at a temple, might I suggest we make THURSDAY mornings our morning for at least the month of September? That way, we don’t have to cancel or reschedule. At least not Too often.

We will add a WEDNESDAY EVENING class, just as soon as possible.

If this does not work for you regulars, PLEASE let me know?

In peace, prayer, and plenty of hope,

Michelle

SO… THURSDAYS 8:15-8:30 MEDITATION
8:30-9:30 FLOW

Beginning SEPTEMBER 3 @Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills
(room is TBA)


Michelle Azar

bit(e) of Baghdad

The food truck options were plentiful and I was getting confused. Did I want to go clean and combat Portland’s famous Salt and Straw ice cream extravaganza from the night before, or continue down the comfort food road and choose some messy, burrito type paradise?

As I mulled over this choice, complicated by the precious little cash I had in my wallet, my eyes fixed on the happenings at the truck in front of me. A nice looking man, round my age, stood politely waiting his turn. He asked the rather swarthy young man running this gyro truck if there might be any food to spare. The server smiled easily and rounded up a gigantic pita stuffed with every vegetable and falafel ball I imagined were still in his truck, topped it off with some sauces, and handed it to the surprised man with a Sprite and a straw. “Wow, thanks so much,” was the genuine reply of the needy man.

I was so touched by this interchange, by the humanity the request and offering played out. There seemed to be no judgment on the part of the giver and no demand or expectation on the part of the request. I was taking all this in when the handsome worker asked me my order. Well, I thought, my choice was clear. I could not insult this nice man by choosing elsewhere now that I had spent so much time in front of his menu, and I genuinely wanted to spend my money on his stand if only to give back a bit of what he generously gave.

I actually was not crazy about his choices, so I just told him how much money I had, and asked him to make me something tasty. He liked that. And I liked his smile. I asked him suddenly where he was from. “Baghdad,” was his light reply.

And suddenly it became even more clear my attention for him. “My dad is also from Baghdad,” I smiled back. I then muttered all the Arabic phrases I knew from my childhood’s insistence on hearing my Dad speak this seemingly dangerous language, and my new friend’s face burst into a gleeful tornado of giggles and grins.

We kinda stared at each other. He looked just like the pictures of my Dad at that young age. Handsome and dark, with that look of deep confidence that is possessed by a person who just knows himself from birth. Maybe it is that kind of inner contentedness that allows certain people to be so unfailingly generous to others in need.

I took a bite of his concoction. Delicious. A perfect combination of flavors. “Five dollars,” he said. I narrowed my eyes- was it really so cheap I wondered, or did he want to leave me that one dollar in my wallet just in case. But I didn’t ask- I knew pride plays a large role for these Middle Eastern men and I did not want to question his decision. I thanked him, and walked away.

As I sat and ate, I flashed to a time and place that this interchange could NOT have happened. A Jewish woman being served by an Arabic boy. These are the boys we see on the news sometimes, the ones shown throwing rocks at Israeli cars. The ones who get beaten by Jewish fundamentalists. This relationship is fraught with confusion, and for a person like me, a deep familiarity served up with a healthy dose of distrust.

But it happened nonetheless, in this Portland, Oregon alley, and I am better for it. I hold it in my immediate memory bank of forgiveness and gratitude this full week later, and offer it up for peace to us all on this Shabbat.

In gratitude,

Michelle

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

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