set yourself free.

So humbled.


One of my students today shared with me after my chair yoga class that she cries in closing meditation every time. She lost her son to a car accident in January and she takes care of her sick husband at home. She has nowhere to cry. She hasn't been able to grieve.


I could see her pain. I could see her confusion. She almost wanted to stop coming so that she wouldn't cry.


Two other women noticed her crying and came over to comfort her. These are the two self appointed "chairmen" of the class (it's chair yoga, get it?). And it just made me realize what an amazing little tribe I have. They support each other, they laugh together, and for many of them that class is the highlight of their week. And the three of us just talked with her about what was going on and reminded her that it's okay to cry, and why it's healthy to cry.


We release things when we cry. When we bottle up emotions they cause tension in the body, and sometimes they can cause some very real harm.


Crying sets your pain free.


Human beings are not meant to carry the heaviness of emotions with us. We're meant to feel them. Process them. And then, let them go.


And in doing so, we set ourselves free.

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root chakra & ganesha.

In honor of the #SevenDays7Chakras instagram challenge I thought I'd post a blog about my own personal experience with each chakra and I plan to let this be sort of stream of consciousness-y, rather than informational or planned out. 

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Starting with the Muladhara chakra, or root chakra. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of the root chakra is Ganesha. Ganesha is the Hindu god with the body of a man and the head of an elephant. The very first chant I ever learned was the chant to Ganesha. I cried that very first time, without quite knowing why. It opened up something in me. That same night I found my spirit animal. Ganesha is also the lord of beginnings. It seems fitting that the chant to Ganesha would be my first chanting experience. 

I've chanted to Ganesha countless times since then. Sometimes joyfully, sometimes choking on tears every other syllable. The reason I think of Ganesha when I think of this chakra is because he is the ruler of the Muladhara chakra. "He guards the gate to the pelvic floor" as MC Yogi puts it. He is the remover of obstacles, depicted with an axe to cut through the delusions/illusions or maya of this world. He has a big belly, able to digest all of life's problems. He's also a child god, created by Shakti. I love the story of the birth of Ganesha. Hinduism is rich with elaborate and magical stories. 

To understand the birth of Ganesha, it's important to first understand Shiva & Parvati.  

Shiva&Parvati

Shiva is the great creator. He dances universes into existence. And Parvati is the mother of the universe.  Shiva would often leave for months at a time, dancing in the forests as Nataraja. One day while Shiva was away, Parvati created a statue of a boy out of some clay. He was so lifelike that she decided to give him life. She named him Ganesha. She grew quite fond of him and treated him like her own son. One day she asked Ganesha to stand guard at the door of the palace while she went to take a bath. While Parvati was in the bath, Shiva came back home. Ganesha, following orders and not having met Shiva, wouldn't allow Shiva to come in. Shiva was enraged, and asked his soldiers, the Gunas, to move him out of the way so that he could enter his own home. Each of the Gunas tried, but Ganesha stood his ground. He would not allow Shiva to pass. Shiva grew so angry that he lost his temper and killed the boy, chopping off his head. Parvati heard the fighting and came back to see her now lifeless son. Her rage was greater than Shiva had ever witnessed. She threatened to destroy everything in creation. Brahma, the Creator, took issue with this and pleaded with her to stop. She agreed not to destroy the universe on two conditions; one, that her son be brought back to life, and two, that he become a god worshiped forever above all other gods. Shiva agreed and quickly found a replacement head, the head of an elephant. Ganesha received the name Ganapati which means leader of the Gunas.

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The chant to Ganesha is simple, Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha. Om is the universal sound. Gum is the bija mantra, or seed sound of the root chakra. Ganapataye is the formal name given to Ganesha. And Namaha means I invoke you. 

Click this link to hear Wah's version of the Ganesha mantra on Spotify. 

This chant not only taps into root chakra energy, but it also expresses a willingness to release attachment and a little prayer to help remove obstacles. Happy chanting!

 

how yoga teacher training changed my life.

One summer I started a journey that would change my life completely. I was 24, freshly divorced, and I had no clue what I was doing. I planned to go away for three months. I grossly over packed.

This was my first solo trip overseas. In fact it was my first solo trip anywhere. I wouldn't be alone the entire trip though, my sister was meeting me halfway through the trip in London.

 La Rambla, Barcelona 2014

La Rambla, Barcelona 2014

The first three days I spent wandering Barcelona in search of my soul. Enjoying this new freedom I'd never felt before. I walked the familiar streets I'd visited before, and some new streets I'd missed in previous trips. Streets where my grandfather grew up, where my mother spent so much of her youth, where I would put my pieces back together and learn to feel whole in solitude. And just as I had started to get my bearings and feel at home again in Barcelona, I flew off to Sevilla.

It was very hot waiting outside at the airport in Sevilla. The heat was dry, just like my home in the desert. I was sitting on a bench waiting to be picked up, listening to pieces of conversations in Spanish. I saw a girl in yoga pants, with a yoga mat. She looked like a hippie and was clearly doing the training with me. We started talking and became fast friends. We'd later discover we were roommates and our nickname throughout training would become "the twins".

 Kayaking in Tajo del Aguila  

Kayaking in Tajo del Aguila  

Each morning was spent in silence. We were up before the sun and silently we would make our way to the yoga shala for morning meditation. Meditation was difficult for me. I hadn't yet developed a sitting practice. I learned to listen. I would listen to the animals outside, the chickens, the cats, the dogs, the peacocks, the horses. I heard them all. I could hear sounds in the kitchen and the occasional buzzing of bees. The silence was never truly silent.  After meditation we would take a short break  and then come back to the room for an energizing yoga practice. Sometimes practice was an hour and a half, sometimes longer. Each day I grew stronger. Each day I learned a new pose I had never before attempted. Each day I was surprised.

 Suryalila Retreat Centre, Villamartin, Spain  

Suryalila Retreat Centre, Villamartin, Spain  

Finally we broke the silence in our breakfast groups. At first these groups felt like just a fun way to get to know people. But as training went on I understood that truly these groups were a form of therapy. Within a week I was sharing pieces of my soul with complete strangers over tea each morning. It was with this group of new friends that repressed memories from my youth came back to me. I pieced together a part of my story that I didn't understand with people who I had only just met. I know it sounds cheesy, but I found myself again. It was such a relief to finally understand why I had so much pain in my heart, why I had acted out and rebelled so much as a teenager. It all made sense. I gained a renewed sense of purpose and I finally began my healing journey. A journey that I am still on.

 Ruins near Suryalila  

Ruins near Suryalila  

I remember walking through the hills, hiking to the tallest peaks, climbing through untouched ruins overgrown with tall grass and wildflowers without ever knowing what used to stand there. I remember roaming through endless fields of sunflowers, exploring the countryside, and making connections that I still hold close in my heart. I remember cool mornings walking barefoot across the property in the dark. I remember the sweat that dripped onto my mat, and the feeling of tears streaming up my face into my hair in wheel pose.

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This training didn't just teach me the names of poses in Sanskrit, or the history of yoga, or anatomy, or how to meditate. I learned the truth of who I am. Parts of myself that had been hidden finally came to the surface. I discovered my own path. I began a healing process that I didn't quite know I needed. This was my beginning. This was my rebirth.

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