Yoga + Halloween Pumpkin Carving

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Andrew and I got our pumpkins two weeks ago and just now found the time to carve them! I was stumped on what to do this year — normally I just go for the typical jack-o-lantern face, but this time I was feeling more ambitious. So, I looked up an image of Dancer Pose and sketched it out. What do you think?

Thanks Y is for Yogini for the inspiration!

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Learning to Let it Go

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I had this instructor a couple years ago who would always say, “Let it go, let it flow” as we’d move through our vinyasa, particularly as the “hour of power” class was really picking up steam. I always found this reminder useful, with my triceps trembling while moving through plank to chaturanga and willpower waning. But, I survived every class, and by the time we were laying in savasana, I was always glad I powered through.

Then this week Jenniferlyn Chiemingo got me thinking about the difference between just powering through an activity and surrendering to it. To illustrate, she had us sit on the backs of our heels, with toes curled to the ground and arms raised in front of us for two minutes. She warned us that we’d all hate her for this, and we all did. The first minute was fine, but then my feet started to feel like they might break, and my shoulders were aching from all of our planks and chaturangas. I was sure we’d never finish. I kept opening my eyes to make sure she was even looking at a clock and kept thinking “Just get through it! It can’t be too much longer.”

After what seemed like 10 minutes, she let us out of the pose, and we all breathed a sigh of relief and verified that our feet were still in tact. The point is that I survived, and I don’t necessarily think I needed to exhaust all of that mental energy to sit in such a simple pose. Could I instead have just surrendered into the pose, knowing that two minutes is two minutes, and no amount of negative thoughts or looking for the clock was going to change that?

I learned a lot about myself in those two minutes. I want to tackle everything head on — I want to be active in it, dig deep and power through. In other words, I don’t know how to just, “Let it go, let it flow.” Sometimes life events call for you to just experience it and move on. Not everything requires some sort of active, emotional response to it. Sometimes it just a waste of energy, and I know this first hand from many a mental fit.

Jay-Z had it right — Dirt off your shoulder.

Saturdays with Silvia: “Greenlight” your Life

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I’m so happy Silvia is back from retreat! I’m a fan of all instructors at Haute Yoga Queen Anne, but I have to admit I was missing my inspired Saturday mornings with Silvia. Today’s theme was all about changing your outlook to fit what you want to accomplish. Basically, negative thoughts can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is something I’ve always believed, but when Silvia was discussing this tendency in class, I couldn’t help but feel like a hypocrite.

I mean literally all week I have been so down on myself! In fact, this has been going on for months. I’m sure Andrew is sick of me moping around the house after a long day at work saying, “Ugh, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do this,” or “I should have known I was supposed to do it this way…how could I be so stupid?” Instead of looking at my accomplishments, I nit pick at my deficiencies. Someone recently told me, “It doesn’t do you any good to go around comparing yourself with other people because you will always compare your weakest attributes with someone’s strengths, and that’s simply not fair.”

So, when Silvia bluntly said, “If you think you’re never going to lose weight…guess what? You aren’t! If you think you’re never going to be rich…well, you’re right!,” it really hit home with me. This might be a far fetched example, but she told us to think about driving down Mercer street and recall our thoughts about hitting the green lights. If we’re moving through traffic and thinking, “There’s just no way I’m going to make it through this light!,” we really aren’t giving ourselves a chance. The moral of the story? “Greelnight your life.” Think that you will get green lights all the way through right before you hit the freeway on the way to your destination.

There is definitely a connection between positive thinking and one’s accomplishments. It’s time to start cultivating positive thoughts for those green lights!

Q&A with Leah on Owning Her Own Yoga Studio

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I’m so happy to share this Q&A with Leah Zaccaria, owner of Haute Yoga Queen Anne. When I started practicing at this studio a few years ago, Leah had just finished up her teacher training and was gearing up to start teaching classes of her own. That’s when I first heard her story of how she decided to leave her job in corporate America to start her own yoga studio — right when the recession hit. I hope you’re inspired by her story and words of wisdom below.

What is it that attracted you to yoga in the first place?

I have always been into fitness and dance.  I was going through a body transformation, changing my diet and life and I heard hot yoga was a great workout.  Little did I know that it would change my life.  It allowed me the space to be quiet in my mind.  It allowed me the space to see what my life really was and how I wanted to be.  I became awake.

When did you decide you wanted to make the career change to yoga studio owner/instructor, and how did you set that into motion?

I had been in the corporate world for 15 years.  I was not happy. I knew I was meant to do something greater, with more purpose.  I always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and one day a co-worker and I dreamed up owning a yoga studio.  I was so passionate about yoga, I thought was a perfect way to marry my business expertise and love for yoga to fulfill my bigger purpose.

I kept my full time job as a CPA for the first 2 years of building my yoga studio business.  It was a huge sacrifice and I did not sleep much.  But, I was able to focus on building the community without worrying how I was going to pay my bills.  I worked really hard for over 2 years and once the studio was profitable enough, I was able to leave my job.  I am grateful every day that I made that transition.

What were some of the greatest challenges you faced in getting HYQA off the ground?

I was a bit naïve when I first opened, having the “build it and they will come” mentality.  It took some patience and extra capital (that I did not really have) to really get started.  Fortunately, I had some key team players like Jenniferlyn Chiemingo that got people in the door quickly.  And after 6 months, hyQA was doing quite well.

HYQA has such a distinct community — what people/events do you think contributed to its unique character?

hyQA is all about community.  I have always told my teachers to be themselves, to teach their own style and from the heart.  I wanted to be my own person, why would I put restrictions on them.  If people are allowed to be themselves, they feel safe.  I want everyone to walk through the doors and feel welcome, to feel like they belong.  The relationships and friendships that I have seen develop here are so amazing.  hyQA is not just a place to practice yoga, it is a home away from home, a place to build yourself and community.

It is also very important for me to reach the greater Seattle area.  Giving back through events like Yoga for Hope or sponsoring projects like Africa Yoga project stretches us greater than just Queen Anne.  I also just recently partnered with another yoga studio to bring in a national teacher.  If we can bridge the communities together, we can do more.  I don’t fear competition.  Competition just leads to greater awareness for yoga at large. We all can be successful, life is abundant.

What’s your advice to professionals who work full time and who would also like to teach yoga on the side?

Try to stay balanced. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Be present and prepared when you are teaching.  Stay the course and answers will be revealed.

Any last thoughts on your journey from corporate America to yoga studio owner/instructor?

You can do anything you set your mind to.  You just have to be willing to take the risk and put in the work.  I am so grateful I had the courage to make the huge leap that I did.  I finally feel like I am on the right path.

 

I Brought My Co-Worker to Hot Yoga

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This week, I brought my co-worker to hot yoga, making this her second class…ever. I have to admit, I felt a little weird bringing someone along to my hot yoga sanctuary. I’m so used to going solo — and apparently I have a reputation for “my spot” (front row, second spot from the mirrored wall) because Maria saved it for me and quickly realized I’d be taking a back-room seat this class, per Allison’s request.

I should clarify that Allison isn’t just any co-worker, so this makes this sweat session much less awkward. We started at our firm together as interns and quickly became friends outside of work — we even went to Cabo together and shared a parasail. True friends!

Monday night, I picked Allison up from her place in Queen Anne, and we headed over to the studio for my favorite 7:30 p.m. class with Jenniferlyn. As soon as we opened the doors, I felt the welcome tropical heat thaw my skin, and Allison just as soon remarked, “Dang, it’s so hot in here!” Yes, yes it is. And then I started to see this experience from the eyes of a newcomer.

As we entered the practice room, I ask Allison where she wants to lay our mats down, and she looks at us about two feet into the room and points to the back corner. Ok, back corner it is! We were a few minutes early, and I used the time stretching, while Allison explained to me that she can’t touch her toes but still made valiant attempts to do so.

The first 10 minutes or so of class were fairly manageable. The focus of the class was on ujjai breathing, so we laid still on our mats doing some basic stretching exercises and worked on our breathing. It wasn’t until JL instructed us to raise our feet above our head, interlace our hands behind our head and start doing some serious crunches that I got my first worried look from Allison.

The rest of the class continued just that way — Allison and her worried face. In our down dog she’d look under her arm at me and mouth “What the eff ?!” as the rest of the class was two steps ahead, jumping to the front of their mats and moving into our dancing prayer — Serie A. What seemed like this simple, intuitive move now all the sudden seemed so foreign as I watched Allison follow the steps and move through the motions.

When we moved into our balancing series, she just gave me this look like “no way in hell am I attempting to do that.” I couldn’t keep myself from laughing, and the girls next to us were visibly offended by the fact that Allison was whispering in class to begin with, not to mention using profane words.

She took frequent water breaks and sometimes just sat in child’s pose, but soon the 75 minutes were over, and class was finished. From the moment we entered the door, to our closing Om, I felt like we were in a different country just seeing it all through Allison’s eyes. I thought she’d never attempt hot yoga again, but the next morning she sent me an IM saying how great she felt from last night’s class and how she wants to go again this week. Maybe I have a yogi in the making!

Turnoffs to Trying Yoga

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Ever since I started yoga a little more than two years ago, I’ve noticed three camps emerge among my friends: the “regular yogis,” “the sometimes yogis” and the “never yogis.”

With the “regular yogis,” I find it easy to slip into discussion about my latest classes, yoga musings and long-term goal to go on retreat one day. With the “sometimes yogis,” I can get away with mentioning class every now and then, but I usually get responses about preference for pilates or barre method, and we move on. With the “never yogis,” I’m used to getting blank stares while explaining my latest arm balance feat. Once when I explained hot yoga to a “never yogi,” she looked me straight in the eyes and said, “It sounds like doing yoga in hell.” Fair point.

What I’m curious about today are the “never yogis.”  I read an article over the weekend in the Huffington Post titled “Yoga’s Dark Side” that really resonated with me about the less welcoming side of yoga. I recently just got one of these “nevers” to commit to trying a hot yoga class with me, and I’m not quite sure what did the trick — not that I’m going around preaching the benefits of yoga or anything. This article seemed to have some hidden truths about what could have been holding her back.

The author kicks off the article with a blunt question, “How come when I go to any new-to-me yoga studio, or hang out with a group of ‘yoga people,’ I feel more judged there than anywhere else? At least half the time these yogi cliques are way too cool and I feel more like I just crashed the party at the Mean Girls lunch table, not like I’m about to spend a relaxing hour in stretch and meditation.”

I can totally relate. Before I committed to paying a regular monthly fee at a studio, I hopped around with Groupons and new student deals to 1) extend the cheap paying period and 2) figure out which studio fit me best (and close to snob-free as possible). Each studio had little cliques of mats with groups of 3-4 people talking about their kids or their classes or spreading neighborhood gossip. I did feel like the un-cool kid in the cafeteria at lunch time.

The author goes on to discuss the yoga stereotype, “friendly, inclusive, open-minded, and warm. They had a little bit of the ‘hippie’ spirit in them, wanting to ensure everyone felt good in the space they practiced in.” She concludes that, “we’ve introduced a lot of frivolous stuff into the picture and it’s clouding what the real meaning of yoga is: union of body, mind, and spirit.”

I wonder, do the “never yogis” sense this yoga snobbery as slim women walk around Saturday mornings in their Lulu Lemon gear post yoga sweat sesh? Or is it just the intimidation of the physical practice itself? Or both? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Detox to Retox: Hungover Yoga and the Goddess Durga

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This morning I went to yoga hungover. There, I said it. Last night we had a friend come in from Portland and decided to hit the town — something we rarely do in our perpetually busy and scheduled lives (hangovers really put a damper on productivity).

But somehow, I managed to set an 8:30 a.m. alarm last night, hit snooze twice this morning, roll out of bed and at least get myself into the studio. As I sat on my mat with my mind spinning, I kept thinking to myself “why, why why?!?” Then our instructor Puja initiated the start of class asking us what we’d like to work on today, and someone blurted “twists, please.” Thank. Goodness!

Twists are known to be rejuvenating to the body by pushing out blood filled with metabolic by-products and toxins. I thought to myself, “Perfect, I have plenty of margarita toxins to expel.” 

I’ll be honest. I wasn’t able to pay that much attention to today’s theme, as much of my mind and willpower was strategically channeled to keep me balanced on one foot, but I do know that Puja was discussing the yoga goddess Durga, a.k.a the Supreme Being that preserves moral order and righteousness in the creation.

I’ve never been one to attend church or worship deities, but I have to admit that Durga is pretty B.A. First of all, she has 8 arms and rides a tiger. Secondly, she spends her days destroying evil and protecting mankind from negative forces and wickedness. Lastly, she wields a variety of weapons because different circumstances of evil and wickedness require different tools to get rid of them.

While my battle today is simply fighting off the wickedness of last night’s tequila, I can identify with Durga on a day-to-day basis. She’s a strong woman who is looking out for her people and helping them shed the bad habits that hold them back so they can move forward. I like to think that I had a little Durga in me as a fierce young lady growing up with her dad and brother, trying to make sure brother did his homework and stayed on the right track, and dad fulfilled his fatherly obligations.

Put simply, Durga is the sh**.