Community Practice 2020 in Review
Practicing yoga outside has been a joy and source of support for me during this time of forced rest, mingled with uncertainty, times of fear and sadness, and a lot of missing friends, family and hugs. It's forced me to be flexible (not in the Gumby sort of way) and accept support from others. It's helped me cope with the unknown and the uncomfortable as fires and COVID ravage our communities, as we confront and fight injustices and inequalities, and as we see and attend to our own personal needs and challenges.
I can often be found outside celebrating and being grateful for my health -- gardening, being active in nature in a myriad of ways, yoga-ing, and smiling at the moon.
I am grateful for the closeness of family and friends who care and support each other. I am grateful to my fellow yoga practitioners who care about our yoga community so much that they encouraged me to share my practice with them -- outside, distanced, masked and smiling.
Following is a complication of all the Community Practice emails I sent in 2020. I hope you find some humor in them as you continue to practice the loving kindness that is part of your true self.
Community Practice & Folding In to Open
Celebrate the past. Open to the future. In this post I am sharing with you a wonderful poet, Rupi Kaur, to help fold up our year so we have space to open anew for the next year.
the year is done. i spread the past three hundred sixty-five days before me on the living room carpet.
here is the month i decided to shed everything not deeply committed to my dreams. The day i refused to be a victim to the self-pity. here is the week I slept in the garden. the spring i wrung the self-doubt by its neck. hung your kindness up. took down the calendar. the week i danced so hard my heart learned to float above water again. the summer i unscrewed all the mirrors from their walls. no longer needed to see myself to feel seen. combed the weight out of my hair.
i fold the good days up and place them in my back pocket for safekeeping. draw the match. cremate the unnecessary. the light of the fire warms my toes. i pour myself a glass of warm water to cleanse myself for january. here I go. stronger and wiser into the new.
the sun and her flowers by rupi kaur
Community Practice & Winter Solstice
We are nearing the Winter Solstice — daylight and nightlight are dancing.
The last stalwart figs and apples cling to my trees, and most flowers have closed and quieted. Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere is the shortest day and the longest night, and even though we are often greeted by sunny skies and warm weather in California at present it may seem very dark. We are again under stay at home orders and COVID-19 is spreading at an unprecedented rate. We are asked to stay home and keep not just ourselves safe but our friends, family and neighbors safe. But amidst the dark and quiet, in what looks like death and rest there is always life brimming. The fountain in my backyard is a respite for songbirds and each morning I wake to an open air aviary alive with song and dance. There are new shoots from my flower bulbs, my lavender is blooming and the bees are busy supporting life. My herbs are setting new leaves, and my vegetable garden is happily growing a variety of lettuces, spinaches and cruciferous vegetables. It’s also a time to be playful — look for your shadow. It'll be the longest noontime shadow of the year.
Winter Solstice, when the sun stands still, is an opportunity to reflect and celebrate rebirth. Traditionally a celebration of the sun’s rebirth I invite you to take time on the 21st to be still, reflect, and celebrate whatever it is that feels important to you in this moment, whatever it is that makes your heart soar and sing. It doesn’t have to be complicated, it could be the smile on your child’s face or an unexpected thank-you. For me it is many things and my list could go on but here are a few.
Smells and sounds of woods
Songbird cacophony by my water fountain
Tantalizing aroma of freshly baked cookies and freshly brewed coffee
Shared times with friends and family; walks, treats, smiles, and past hugs
Healthy body to enjoy yoga, hiking and gardening
Opportunity to give, support, and be present with others
Would I take the opportunity to pause and notice if I was bustling about with tasks?
Would I take the opportunity to reflect and celebrate if I was bustling about with tasks? Maybe.
Would I take the opportunity to think about rebirth if I was bustling about with tasks?
This Winter Solstice I encourage you to dance with daylight and nightlight. What are you celebrating? What makes your heart soar and sing? Did you find your shadow? I would love for you to share with me so feel free to post a comment or send me an email.
Community Practice in the Community of Trees
We are welcoming the rain. The weather is definitely shifting.
I often, okay pretty consistently, think of trees and how they live and survive their challenges.
They are not so different from us. They build communities, help each other survive sickness and less than perfect living conditions. They work together to withstand viruses, give and accept support from not only their own species but all things in nature from fungi to birds. They are truly amazing.
Like trees we too build communities, support each other in sickness and inequity, and work together to withstand challenges. We too are truly amazing. As we continue to shelter-in-place practice being in support of each other by maintaining your own physical and emotional health, and by offering support to those less fortunate be it in health, wealth, or community. Practice vrksasana (tree pose) and notice how strong you are when you are rooted in your support and how opening to natarajasana (dancer pose) feels uplifting and opens you to others. We continue to practice yoga to be in support for ourselves and our community. Like trees we thrive when we help others, and we flourish in healthy, diverse communities.
Community Practice - Warm Up & Honor Your Wellness
It's December. We are in the midst of the holiday season and a COVID surge, again. Mother Nature is sharing her crisp breath these mornings but her fire breath is still present, and we are welcomed by the heat during our practice.
As the days darken early and the season begins to pick up pace even as we continue to shelter-in-place it's the pleasure of sharing, of offering kindness to myself and others, and of strengthening my body and mind that makes the yoga practice my source of joy & calm.
The mini-vinyasas (moving fluidly between poses with your breath) we practice warm up our body and heart. The mini-alignment poses (holding and relaxing into your breath) we practice build a deep connection between our body and mind. Together we share, offer kindness, strengthen, and bring joy & calm to our heart center so we can stand in the whirlwind of life -- honoring our wellness.
Community Practice & Meatloaf
Meatloaf? No, not the band actual meatloaf.
Thanksgiving is a time we are encouraged to be grateful for each other and the amazing people and blessings we have in our life, and I encourage you to do this. I am going to add meatloaf and humor to my grateful list this year and here’s why.
My husband is a wonderful caretaker; he cooks and bakes and ensures I am fed everyday, 3 times a day, taking into account food preferences, yoga & exercise schedules, and time of day. On the mornings I run I will let him know when I’m ready for breakfast so coffee and food are fresh and hot (no eye rolling yet) but not today. He was in meetings and busy, and so in my gentle, well practiced, calm yogic voice I yell BREAKFAST! His Zoomed coworker heard me and said, “Is someone yelling for meatloaf?”. My husband comes to tell me this before getting my breakfast and we both begin to laugh uncontrollably. You may know where I’m going with this. Have you seen the movie Wedding Crashers with Will Ferrell and Owen Wilson? There is a scene where a grown man, still living with his mom and I would venture to say being verbally abusive, yells “Mom, the meatloaf.” to her so she can bring some meatloaf to feed him and his friends. Now, I don’t think of myself as being verbally abusive, my husband loves to caretake myself and others. Yes, you can ask him directly. But yelling for breakfast like I’m yelling for meatloaf is reproachful; however, instead of having an argument over this incident and pointing out my insanity we yelled “Mom, meatloaf.” all day and laughed out loud every time. The point I’m making is that humor can be and is a wonderful tool to address our fallible nature and gently nudge ourselves and each other in a direction of kind gratitude.
Community Practice with Nature
Last week I talked about being grateful without grasping, and practicing aparigraha (traditionally defined as non-coveting) which encourages us to let go of everything that we do not need, possessing only as much as necessary.
Continuing along this theme I’m in the “Opt Outside” camp. I do not shop, or plan my days around sales over the Thanksgiving holiday. In fact, I feel that this kind of shopping, often driven by desire not need, more than clutters my physical space it clutters my heart space. This is not to say I never buy things, I do, but I am trying more and more to be mindful of when I buy and the reasons behind my purchases. Over the holidays I spent time with nature understanding that for me being in the woods or by the water de-clutters my spiritual home making space for clarity and peace.
There are many studies and books that share the benefits of spending time in nature, and if you haven’t yet I encourage you to read a few but like coming to yoga class or listening to a yoga guru do not take their word as the final say. Go. Be with nature. That’s all the studying you will need to do. You will noticeably relax your shoulders, breathe deeply into your diaphragm, expand your heart center, and feel yourself being grateful not grasping.
Community Practice - Grateful Not Grasping
In the midst of cooler weather, the continued pandemic, and whatever else may be happening in your life I feel we still have a lot to be grateful for. I am grateful for you and your practice. Your willingness to show up and play. Your smiles and open attitudes.
Practicing aparigraha (traditionally defined as non-coveting) we are encouraged to let go of everything that we do not need, possessing only as much as necessary. In our Outside Yoga practice we are given the opportunity to look at what we are hoarding in our minds. It's an opportunity to avoid grasping for ideals in our "studio" or form, and begin to accept impermanence. It's an offering to be open and grow as we breathe, move and rest.
Community Practice - Autumn Has Arrived!
Today is day 236. What? We have been sheltering-in-place for 236 days in the Bay Area. Add to that the time change, the weather change, and the stress of elections and we can feel stuck and unwell.
It can be hard to get moving, to notice our breath and to rest our thinking brains but this is the epitome of self-care, and something we all very much need. Breath, Movement and Rest. All 3 aspects of care working together to create a healthy body, mind and spiritual state; however you define spirituality. I don't always get onto my mat in the traditional sense but I move everyday. I enjoy short runs and long walks in nature, I toss my small mat pieces onto paths and practice outside under oaks and pepper trees, and I enjoy reclined twists and quiet sits with my kitties, resting my brain. My breath is a constant companion.
Move - Breathe - Rest
Community Practice - Full Moon & Fall Back
Autumn. Full Moon (Hunter's Moon, Beaver Moon, Snow Moon). Halloween. Darkest Mornings. Mercury in Retrograde. Daylight Savings. Election.
My gratitude for our community and the practice of yoga continues to be incredibly true to me right now especially in light of all that we have going on in our lives. Give yourself time and permission to feel. Speak your truth with kindness. Celebrate what is important to you. Go play.
PS, I found this blog post very relevant to me right now so I thought I'd share it with you | A Threat or An Opportunity? on Yoga for Healthy Aging.
Community Practice - Fires, AQI and COVID
These challenging COVID times have become increasingly more challenging in the midst of our fires. My heart goes out to everyone but especially to those who are being evacuated, are losing their homes, and those who may be suffering alone. You may also be encountering other challenges as I am so I encourage you to continue to practice safety and be with yourself and each other in support -- this loving act of kindness is so important for us all.
In support of myself and others I had a wonderful meditation last night and although it doesn't change what is happening outside it better equips me to handle all the challenges and anxiety that I'm sure you are also experiencing. I encourage you to lean into your practice -- whatever that looks like for you at this time. Give support, mindful gratitude and donations if you are capable, to our amazing global fire crews whose efforts are containing our fires and keeping us safe. We have a lot to be grateful for.