Food: It’s Complicated 

Food. Such a complicated topic.

At least it is when we are suddenly faced with an option that we turn into a definition of self-worth.

Tomorrow, at my yoga studio here in Fort Worth, I am launching a program called INDIGO30. A simple concept really, and created after a lot of requests for a yoga and clean eating “restart.” Now I realize I am not the first to hatch this plan and for that reason, I’ve actually avoided it for several years… there is just so much around this topic, from books to videos to programs to opinions… Every yoga studio on the planet does stuff like this. I can’t begin to imagine the hundreds of thousands of books on the topic. And everyone seems to have the solution. Or they don’t and instead, they just have a lot of anxiety about it.
When I first decided to do this, I put together some preliminary content for the program, and asked for some feedback. On the whole, it was almost like I was asking people to take a trip up to the moon and back by pogo stick. There was either so much instant resistance or very staunch, righteous opinion. People either gave me every reason in the world why they wouldn’t do it or they told me exactly how they do it and how everyone else needs to do it. 
And I forged onward …
Here was the basic concept for the participant: 30 days of yoga and follow the general rules of the Whole30TM nutrition program, which cuts out sugar, alcohol, dairy, grains and legumes.
“Oh I can’t do that…”
“What? No wine? Forget it.”

“Well I’ll do part of it, but not all of it.”

“I hate diets.”

“I already do most of it.”

“I’ve tried it. It doesn’t work.” 

“I am not going to change the way I live or lose my happy moments with my family. No.”

“FUCK NO I’M NOT DOING THAT SHIT.”

“Why can’t I have beans?”

“Isn’t wine a fruit?”

“I refuse to read labels.”

I could keep going here, but frankly, I’m getting depressed. I was so shocked at how many people instantly launched into what wasn’t possible, and what they couldn’t or weren’t willing to do. I tried hard to do my yogi-mind-tricks and not force any opinions. I tried to speak from my own experience and say, “I am doing it because my body needs a good clean out!” or, “But look at all the good stuff you CAN have!” 
It didn’t work. 
As with many things, our nature is to default to what we can’t have, what won’t work, what isn’t possible, what we are being deprived of, what we are getting screwed over about (and who is screwing us over) and what we won’t do. Why is it that we can’t pause, in any given moment, and just shoo away that debilitating, super-bummer of a thought and go, “Hey wait a minute, you mean if I eat clean right now, and choose the ____ over the ____, I will feel great later? HELL YES I’LL DO THAT!” 
But the truth is, food is one of the most emotionally sensitive topics there is. 
As a student of yoga and life, I am in constant inquiry about thought. Some people are able to see that they have choice, while others remain victims, mostly to their own internal dialogue. I too have reservations about cleaning up my diet this month. I worry that I will crave gummy bears at 9pm and that I will cheat a little here and there – maybe sneak in a latte (because one or two won’t make any difference, right?) and what do I eat at my son’s baseball games? I mean who wants to eat ALMONDS at a double header? … And also, I can’t do any of that because I am the leader of this whole idea! I worry just like anyone else. But the thing is, I am 42. I can feel that I am 42. I work hard, always more than 60 hours a week, so I don’t sleep enough. I had a very real breast cancer scare a year ago. I have a handful of injuries that consistently bother me. Could I stand to shed a few pounds? Sure. But that’s not why I’m cleaning up my diet and committing to more yoga this month.
The reason I’m doing it is that I don’t really think I can mess around with this anymore. I have one body. I have kids who need me to be healthy and strong and not lose myself in a bottle of pinot at night to “wind down,” or indulge in sugar-laden, processed food because I feel like “I deserve it.” I have staff and students and people all over who need me to be on and alert and interested and creating. I need me to be on and alert and interested and creating. 
The bottom line is, if you eat like shit, and you don’t stay physically active with yoga or whatever, you feel like shit. I don’t mean to be crass but it’s the truth. And a bigger question is how much time are we wasting thinking about and complaining about what we can’t have or can’t do? 
A lot. 
My goal for my community this month, is not just to accept and participate in the INDIGO30, but even more, to challenge and question thoughts about food and the meaning we give it. I know you all have the yoga part. (No one freaked out over doing 30 days of yoga, by the way.) Some of you workout more than a professional athlete would! But what do you do when you go home for dinner? My hope is that over the course of this month, that you practice cleaning up your body and your thoughts. And that you decide that you are not depriving yourself; you are strengthening yourself. You are doing your body the favor it has been wanting – begging – you to do all along: eat whole foods and take good physical care. It has been trying to tell you and show you! Do you think a headache isn’t a sign?? Do you think 15-year-old acne at age 38 isn’t a sign? Aches and pains and allergies and insomnia and illness and digestive problems and anxiety and and and and and… ALL SIGNS. Your body and soul are TRYING TO TELL YOU TO GET IT TOGETHER AND CLEAN IT UP.
It’s only as hard as you make it. 
I believe you can – we can – do this together. 

Join me tomorrow. Here in Fort Worth and beyond. Let’s take a stand for our own health, instead of advocating what doesn’t work. Because so much really, truly does, and you know it.

Actions AND Words Speak Even Louder

I don’t know where I first heard the Gandhi quote, “Action expresses priorities,” but I scribbled it on the cover of a well-worn Moleskin notebook in big block letters, not wanting to forget it. I can remember how I felt when I first heard it. My first reaction was, “HELL. YES. That is AWESOME,” and I am sure I would have wanted to hashtag #truth if hashtags were a thing back then. And then I remember my emotions shifting a bit and I almost felt a little sense of embarrassment, because as noble as the quote appears, it’s also a gigantic call out. I realized in that moment something that has become a real life mission for me over the past few years – to understand the reality that every single thing we do in our lives has an impact on other people. And I really mean everything.

Take an ordinary day – the first thing you do is…

You wake up.

Well, when you wake up shows what is most important to you in that moment: if you get up to workout at 5am, it suggests a few things: maybe you are an early riser and like to get moving before dawn (that’s a priority). Or, you work during the day and for whatever reason, perhaps you go to your kids’ sporting events at night or you make dinner for your family at night, or maybe just want to veg out in front of your TV at night (all priorities) and you don’t want to work out after work. It also suggests that you are a structured, disciplined person, because most everyone will agree that getting up to exercise when it’s still dark takes a fair amount of will and dedication, and that you have a schedule you like to stick to (that’s a priority.)

People notice what you do and when you do it, whether you realize it or not. They are affected by when you wake up. The people in your house are affected because you when you wake up that early, your kids may need their breakfast made, your spouse’s sleep may be disrupted (or they may be inspired to get up with you!) The people at the gym or the yoga studio start to look forward to you being there and motivating them not to miss.

How you wake up shows what’s important to you in that moment: do you immediately hit snooze and sleep longer, potentially making yourself late for work or school (whatever it is, either sleep or the thing that’s happening that morning is your priority). Do you get out of bed even before the alarm goes off, immediately beginning your daily routine of tasks in their exact order, finding comfort in the routine and getting to your destination early or at least on time? That routine of yours? It’s a priority.

And people notice. They notice if you are grouchy, they notice if you are overly energetic, they notice if you have a scowl on your face and feel like they should make a wide circle, they notice if you are calm and welcoming and want to be around you more. They notice your interest, they notice your preoccupation. They notice your genuineness, they notice your sarcasm. They notice your inclusion, they notice your exclusion. They notice your leadership, and they notice your comparison. The action of how you are showing up, in any environment, whether it’s 5am or noon or 5pm, has an effect on others.

And why do we know that whatever you are doing in any moment is the very most important priority in your life? Simple. Because you are doing it.

It’s funny how small our worlds can really be when we don’t have a sense that all of our actions directly influence the people around us. So often, we really truly do act as if we are the center of the universe, and everything is just in our way. (I love you, David Foster Wallace.)

Now I’m not going to timeline your whole day and naively attempt to psychoanalyze your every move, I’m really just wanting to bring to light that all of our idiosyncrasies don’t go unnoticed. And if we know this and commit to not pretending it doesn’t really happen, we might function differently, perhaps in a much more selfless way. It will be a practice, changing our point of view literally on a momentary basis from “me” to “us” – and it will be a game changer.

Like a global game changer.

I opened Indigo Yoga in Fort Worth, Texas in May of 2006. In ten years I have learned a lot of things, and so when we made the decision to move and build a new facility this spring, I put pen to paper and wrote a “brand statement” around what has been and what will be. Here is an excerpt of our Ten Year Brand.

To us, simplicity and style equate to to a clean, crisp, modern, white on white studio. The design, the interior and all of the furnishings will symbolically represent a blank slate, so to speak, on which each student and teacher has the power to create their lives and futures. Our idea of how things should be will never be imposed upon those who enter; we want them to feel as though anything is possible in our studios, and we are giving them the platform to achieve their highest potential and expression of self. Yogically speaking, light colors represent “sattva,” the highest and purest Universal energy.

People feel inspired when they are surrounded by beauty. They feel even more inspired when that beauty is not intimidating or something they feel they must live up to; so in addition to the clean, crisp “blank slate,” interior design, soft touches will create a distinct element of comfort in all areas of the studio.

We pride ourselves on quality teaching, quality programming and a quality facility. Quality, to us, is defined by experience and history, reliability and consistency, an insatiable quest for knowledge and truth, a brave and fearless ability to take risks, and a gracious acceptance of what already is and has been. And when that is a part of who you are, what exudes is confidence. The facility itself, in all materials, furnishings and amenities, will exude confidence, because we believe that what we do, in every moment of every day, has an impact on others. Every action we take shows others what is most important to us. Building this facility and planning for the future shows the people of Fort Worth and beyond that as we all walk this path together, their personal development, their wellness and ultimately their happiness are important and valued to us.

 That is why I have chosen the following quote as our “Ten Year Brand”:

“ACTION EXPRESSES PRIORITIES.” ~ Gandhi

Three words. Three impactful words.

Whenever I lecture on this quote in trainings locally and abroad, the intention is to show students that every last little thing we do has an effect on others.

Everything.

WHAT WE DO SHOWS OTHERS WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN OUR LIVES.

It’s a call-out. It’s a check-in. It’s truth. It shows others who we care about, and who we don’t. It keeps us honest. It is a mirror, making us watch ourselves with our children, our lovers, our co-workers, our friends. Whether we are spending quality time with someone who needs us, or being mindful about what we eat to nourish, or taking time to practice yoga to get our heads clear and bodies strong, what we do shows the world what we care about.

And we want people to believe that the ACTION of YOGA, which makes us stronger, calmer, more responsive and less reactive EXPRESSES the PRIORITY that we know we have an impact, and who we are for others and a bigger vision is of utmost importance.

I believe in this statement so much that I had it enormously painted on the exterior wall of our new facility. I believe that if we remind ourselves of it daily – hourly – momentarily – we have the ability to change our realities and the realities of those around us, simply by coming back to what’s real and out of our heads.

There is a scene in the movie, “As Good As It Gets” where Jack Nicholson’s character, Melvin Udall, busts into his psychiatrist’s office without warning in an emotional crisis. As he’s leaving, he stops in the middle of the waiting room (which is completely filled with patients) and says, “What if this is as good as it gets…”

I argue it’s not. But only if we wake up and take action in our lives and show each other what is truly most important.

Onward, fearless ones.

You Don’t Know What You’ve Got ‘Till It’s Gone

 

I lost my planner.

I know that probably makes some of you reading this panic and it’s not even your planner.

My “planner” is mostly my own custom-organized notebook of to-do lists. I have three sections of to-do’s – Personal, Parenting and Work, with subsections in each that include a HOT list, and a Check-in list. I use a straight-edge ruler to carefully organize these subsections. I use a pencil because I don’t like to cross things out and make a mess of my lists; I like to erase things one by one. When completed, the erased spot makes a great place to insert yet another task. My lists of things to do are lengthy and unreasonable. I will put everything on those lists that I can think of, from “review studio financial statements” to “vacuum out window sills” to “find missing long-sleeved black thermal tee from 2004.”

I haven’t been professionally diagnosed with OCD, but I’m feeling pretty confident about it.

So you can imagine how I felt without my notebook for a few days. At first I was just in raw panic. I felt like people do when they have a fear of public speaking and totally blank out in front of their group. I couldn’t remember one single thing on those lists. I comforted myself by at least starting a grocery list. I went to a couple of meetings and sheepishly just looked at my counterpart and said, “I lost my notebook, I don’t even know what I was supposed to do for this meeting.” And after a few times of doing that, I drove myself straight back to Target and bought another one and started over. Even if my other planner turned up, at least I would be in motion and could catch my old one up. I sat down to re-draw my sub-section lines and still could hardly remember what it was I had to do, what all the ever-so-important things were that filled the pages of my last notebook. So I had to leave it blank. (But at least it was organized.)

Then Thanksgiving came, and I took a few days off. As for many, it was hard for me to unplug until about day 3. By Day-Off #3 I was not so incarcerated by my phone and noticed my new planner hadn’t even left my backpack. This was definitely progress on the emotional health front. But then Day-Off #4 hit, and I could feel the oh-so-familiar squeeze of anxiety about what I wasn’t doing back at home. I could be in tropical paradise and Day-Off #4, “Delusional Anxiety Vacation Day,” just takes me out. I get all depressed and sad, and have a really hard time even communicating. My mind believes that my absence means failure. It is such a powerful force in me. Yoga and meditation help, but so does a good cry on an understanding, non-fixing, non-judgmental shoulder.

Nonetheless, I triumphed through Day-Off #4 to Day-Off #5, which for me is the “Wake Up and Make Shit Happen Day.” Suddenly, with new enthusiasm, I was ready to come home and have an amazing week after a few days of restoration. I thought about my notebook. And I realized I hadn’t written anything down except chocolate milk, mouthwash, vanilla chip granola bars and scotch tape. And AMAZINGLY, my life was still carrying on just fine. No one was breathing down my neck for things I had failed to accomplish. My house was still intact, my bills were paid, my animals were alive, my children were happy and thriving, my teachers and team were running my business smoothly and successfully.

When I was back home in South Dakota for the holiday, I thought so much about how complicated my life is. More accurately, how complicated I’ve made it. I’ve made all the decisions and all the plans and said yes to all the things that make it what it is. Much of that is driven by desire to create what hasn’t been created and provide opportunities that would never otherwise happen. Much is driven by my desire to succeed and help others succeed. Most of it is driven by the responsibility I feel I have to my children to blaze a trail for their journey. I think all of that is good. What I don’t think is good is all the filler. I’ve complicated my life with endless un-necessaries that show up as yet another thing to do to stay in front of the runaway train that my life feels like sometimes.

I went back to my new notebook, my clean slate, and decided to create two new sub-sections called “Stuff I Don’t Have To Do, Now or Ever,” and “Stuff That Will Make My Life Simpler, Not More Complicated.” I wanted to help my brain understand that these things didn’t need to be done all in one day or need to be included on the overflowing and never-ending main to-do list. I needed to separate all that out so that I could prioritize what was most important. I came to realize that the tasks I started to put in “Stuff I Don’t Have To Do Now, or Ever” were all things that fed my need to control and keep things as perfect as possible. Organizing the boys’ video games alphabetically was not for them, it was for me. And although I still may do it sometime because I do think I’m more productive in an organized environment, at least I could see, on paper, that it was not a priority. And then I realized that the tasks I listed in the “Stuff That Will Make My Life Simpler, Not More Complicated” column were things that created chaos, messes, omissions, time-suckers, confusion. Not taking 5 minutes to open my mail each day was adding up to many hours of stress once a month, which led to missing things, which led to that familiar feeling of overwhelmment. Scheduling an appointment in Dallas versus Fort Worth, just because a friend referred me to “the best,” was going to take a lot of time that I didn’t need to spend. And when I lumped it all into one big list, I couldn’t see the difference. I just saw a million tasks that made me feel inadequate from the moment I woke up.

IMG_8033

Because THAT was what was missing… I wasn’t really differentiating importance. I could live in the simplicity of South Dakota or the complication of Fort Worth and my list would still be miles long because I was the one creating it. The one common denominator in all the areas of my life that felt stressful was me.

Today my notebook doesn’t have a whole lot in it. I have boundaried myself with my new sections. I haven’t taken away my desire to stay organized, as this helps me in so many ways. But rather, I am making myself choose wisely what goes in that notebook. I want to create my lists now as a chronicle of what’s possible, not a documentation of inadequacy. I want them to be reflective of peacefulness, productivity and resourcefulness. So I’m glad I lost it. Maybe I need to lose it more often.

Dear Visionary, You are Invited:

I’m going to tell you a story of a small beginning. I want to tell it now, you see, because there’s an event this Saturday that brings this story full circle over the course of 16 years.

So here it is.

In 1999, I started teaching yoga at 24 Hour Fitness in Dallas. I had no training. But then hardly anyone did back then. I just taught what I had taught myself.

In 2002, I moved back to Fort Worth and started teaching at the first dedicated yoga studio to open here. I had no training. I needed some to teach there. So at the urging of the lovely owners who graciously paid for half, I scraped up $600 and took a week-long training with Doug Swenson.

In 2003, I started my own private teaching business out of my home.

In 2004, I had a baby. When that baby turned 1, I wrote the business plan, albeit rudimentary and naïve at best, for Indigo Yoga.

In 2006, I opened Indigo Yoga. I signed a lease on 1000 square feet on Camp Bowie Blvd., and I borrowed $25,000 from a friend to build it out, all of which was swindled by a super shady contractor. With no money left to finish the studio out, but with the help of friends and family, I got the doors open. My tiny little studio held, at the time, 13 mats. I had no employees and no teachers. Seven days a week I opened, closed, taught every class with private lessons in between, cleaned, organized the schedule, handled all the students’ needs, answered the phone, designed the marketing, built the website, organized a tiny bit of retail items and did this math every night before I went home to my husband and newborn: if I could just get 15 students a day, I could make rent.

I longed to get real yoga training. Deep down in my core I felt like a fraud. I had followed Baron Baptiste since I first learned of yoga. His first book, Journey Into Power, was dog-eared and memorized. But back then, a weeklong training was about $2500 and it was in Hawaii. A long-shot indeed for a new mother and a new, solo business owner.

I would fill out the Baptiste Level One Teacher Training application weekly at least, and come to a discouraged stop at the payment screen. And then I’d hit control-Q and head to bed to get ready for another full day of teaching.

One late night in the fall of 2005, when baby Freddy was fast asleep, I filled out the application, got to the payment screen and decided to play my hand. I needed to put down a $500 deposit to hold my spot for the February 2006 Level One Training. $500 was about all I had in my checking account. Just enough. I hit “submit.” And then I sat back in my chair and thought, okay, now I am going to have to make magic happen.

Sometimes to stay realistic, I worst case situations… In other words, when I hit submit, I also thought to myself, “If I can’t earn the rest of this tuition in 3 months, then I’ll be out my deposit, which of course will stink – but – at least I will know I tried.”

Fast forward to Christmas to speed this little tale along and get to the point. A few days before Christmas day, a dear friend of mine met me at the studio and presented me with a check for $2000, the remainder of my tuition. That $2000 came from every one of my students, who had heard how much I wanted to go to Level One and who had selflessly pitched in to cover my costs. Included also was a round-trip ticket to Hawaii, donated with miles by one of my private students, who I had taught at 6AM each morning for several years.

On day 6 of Level One, I stood up and told all 100 participants the story of how I got there. That it was a collective effort and gift from my students, who believed in me and who knew that the more I learned, the more they would learn. As I told the story of how I submitted my application on sheer faith and with almost no expectation, you could see the hope restored in many who thought they were on their own. Back in 2006, teaching yoga was not taken very seriously. People would condescendingly, with a chuckle, ask my how my little yoga hobby was going. I knew if I was going to make a difference with yoga to many, much less just make a living at it, I would have to have three things: unrelenting perseverance, a steadfast belief in myself and my vision, and… the support of others.

This Saturday, September 26, I will have been teaching yoga for 16 years and will have owned my studio for nearly 10. This Saturday, September 26, Indigo Yoga will host a one-day world-wide event called bMoved that is sponsored by the Baptiste Yoga Institute, a globally recognized super-leader in the field of yoga. This event is going to be held in Baptiste studios everywhere, to raise funds for the Baptiste Foundation and local charities. The Baptiste Foundation discovers new partnerships to share the transformational power of Baptiste Yoga with everyone, everywhere. It exists to create new and support existing yoga and educational programs on a local and national level that will bring yoga to populations who need it, but might not have access to it.

What is happening this Saturday is a massive replication of what happened to me back in 2006. Everyone coming together to support a greater vision, a vision for the future of yoga and the educational needs and desires of teachers everywhere. A vision that I hatched early on but didn’t even realize would ever come to life on this grand of a scale and reach this many lives. Anytime I hear a new teacher lament that they can’t afford to go to teacher training, I tell them this story and remind them that if they want something badly enough and are fearless enough to go for it, everything and everyone will conspire to make it happen. And for all of you who come to yoga each day at Indigo, your time with us was made possible by the generous few in those early days who contributed to my education and dreams. Indigo would likely not exist anymore had those acts of contribution not occurred. This journey, my humble beginnings, the collaboration I’ve chosen to be a part of with Baptiste Yoga and the Baptiste Foundation’s mission, all coming together in celebration at bMoved … All of it embodies the mission statement and core values of Indigo Yoga:

We are a Baptiste Yoga Affiliate Studio.

We teach hot, vinyasa yoga.

We are about community, education and celebration.

We reach out and serve those in need.

We are Indigo Yoga.

I invite you to be a part of something that will change lives forever. Come and celebrate what is possible now, and the bright, vibrant future of yoga for everyone, with us. We are, you are, Indigo Yoga and Baptiste Yoga. And we are in this together.

bMoved Global Yoga Class and Scholarship Fundraising Event

Saturday, September 26

7-9 pm

Indigo Yoga

$40 suggested donation, proceeds benefit the Baptiste Foundation and the Indigo Yoga Scholarship Fund

Stellar Door Prizes for all attendees donated on behalf of Local Vendors and Retailers

Register at www.indigoyoga.net

For more information, visit www.baptistefoundation.org

Ten Reasons Why I Do Yoga

1. It helps me sleep better.
2. It relieves my back pain.
3. It helps me maintain my weight.
4. When I feel overwhelmed, it helps me manage anxiety, emotions and reactivity.
5. I like to be around like-minded, healthy, positive people who support each other and a greater good/bigger vision. I find these people at yoga.
6. The poses, especially the really fun ones, allow me to feel younger and stronger. I used to be a gymnast and I still strive to feel that accessibility in my body. Yoga does this for me and makes me feel a strong sense of vitality.
7. It decreases my cravings for sugar and other not-so-great food (and drinks).
8. It helps me see beyond myself. It opens my eyes to others and what their needs are far beyond my own.
9. I never get bored with it or dread doing it. It feels like a gift each and every time.
10. It helps me be a better, calmer, wiser, more understanding, more communicative, more available, present parent. BONUS #11. After yoga, everything is manageable and anything is possible.

Melt Ice Cream in Fort Worth, TX

Yoga in front of this yellow wall at Melt Ice Cream in Fort Worth, TX makes me so happy!

Stop the Bullying, “Yogis.”

I can’t begin to tell you how many articles I’ve read lately on how yoga is, well, I don’t know how else to say it, so I’ll just say it plainly:

A sham. A joke. A commercial circus. Longtime practitioners are remarking, “I’m done with yoga. DONE.”

They say that there are too many teachers who don’t know what they’re doing and how we are spiritual snobs. “Judgmental, opinionated, narcissistic psychopaths with more issues than Vogue,” was one such description, which I find a bit incongruous. Another one I saw recently said, “Never fucking listen to a yoga instructor…they are full of opinions that may or may not be appropriate for you.”

Now I must clarify that I very much like and respect the author of this latter outlook and know where they were going with it – to listen to yourself above all others. Agreed. But it again forced me to deeply consider the question that has been dogging me for a long time now…

Where is this – this yoga thing – all going?

Ten years ago, when I opened my yoga studio, all I wanted to do was teach yoga. I didn’t set out to be a teacher. I didn’t have any certifications or training to teach for several years. I just loved it so much that when I would tell people about it, I guess I would get so excited that it was intriguing. Then they wanted me to tell them – teach them – more about my experience. Maybe it’s like when you tell someone about a place you’ve visited that you love and long to return to – your whole being changes when you recall the experience of the people, the food, the place you stay, the walks you take, the sights you see; and people say, “I want to go there!” That’s what yoga was like for me when I first started practicing and teaching. Now? I hardly even know what to say anymore, because it sometimes feels like that beautiful, bountiful, untouched place I loved to go has become overrun with strip malls and glossy billboards. The other day, when I was searching on Zillow for a house, in the listing I was perusing, up popped an ad for YogaGlo.

What is happening?!

It sometimes feels like yoga has lost some of its authenticity on social media the most I suppose. Everyday there are millions of photos, views, likes, comments and one-ups on our favorite social media apps that are shaping the idea of yoga today. I find many to be highly interesting and educational, which is personally what I look for. I look for a learning tip on how to alleviate back pain, or a good ratio of kale to strawberries in a smoothie. I look for an opportunity to appreciate someone by tagging them. I also look for inquiry into truth versus a pulpit discourse on how to live. I look for humor above all. All that being said, I really have no interest in dissecting the guts of social media. But I do have an interest in weighing in on all the good that yoga is doing. As a leader in the yoga community, it is my responsibility to speak up and protect the good. Liking a post or a comment that essentially judges the judger or rallies for all that has gone wrong is like looting a mom-and-pop grocery store during a social uprising, albeit safely behind a computer screen.

It’s not brave.

It’s not solving anything.

It’s not finding a new way or holding anyone up. It’s an insult to all of the people who have, over the past 15 years in this yoga explosion, blazed countless trails for careers, businesses, transformations, life changes, health improvements, healed relationships. The list of what is good about yoga is endless, and a courageous few were strong enough to lead the way, several of who were and still are my teachers. And people followed. And now, like all movements and leadership, it seems yoga and its constituents are starting to feel an almost political-like homicide.

Does that sound dramatic? Well so does the label of “judgmental, opinionated, narcissistic psychopath.”

So does the dominating communication tactic used widely in all scenarios of challenge today, of saying, “I’m done.”

To me, it sounds and feels like polished, professional bullying.

I’m a solution girl. If I were a character on TV, I’d be Olivia Pope, wearing my white hat and gladiating. Maybe in real life, I’m a Yoga Gladiator.

Yes.

So what are we going to do in this new age of New Age? Because like all things, it can’t keep spinning like this forever. For now, yoga will continue to grow – more people will practice, more studios will open, more teachers will teach, more money will be made, more trails will be blazed. And that is all good. And, all of that means more fodder for opinion, judgment and competition. And at some point, enough people will see some dirt and decide that this just isn’t for them, that it’s just not why they got into it. And that’s when it will tip, because you can’t turn the volume up on something and leave it there forever. I predict what will really happen in the yoga world if it keeps spinning around glamour and grown-up bullying, among other less than empowering things, is simply resignation and indifference. And obviously, attrition. We see it already happening as people are quietly and not-so-quietly wandering away from yoga studios and finding what they used to find in yoga in other activities and communities.

I just looked up the definition of attrition. It’s defined as the act of wearing away or the state of being worn away; a constant wearing down to weaken or destroy.

What a shame. What a loss.

This makes me ask a bigger question: how are we contributing to the greater good of the personal development and awareness of ourselves and the people around us… What are we doing to elevate our communities and the human race, far beyond our own personal agendas.

That was a question. But I ended it with a period because I’m really fucking serious about this.

I’m so serious about this that I want to publicly declare what I have contributed to this phenomenon. I have contributed a business, a business model, taxes, and jobs. I have contributed teaching and sharing of what I have been taught. I have contributed to the Internet, social media and the advertising of yoga. I have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars. I have contributed my opinion, my support, my thoughts and the sharing of my personal and private life to the global yoga community. I have contributed mistakes, judgment, lapses in judgment, pride, fear and contraction. I have contributed unfiltered selfies and professional, Photoshopped photos and posts that all make my life look amazing, which, even when I am sitting at my desk with my head in my hands, or on the end of a phone call with someone telling me I would be facing cancer, is. It is amazing. Every moment, even the painful ones. And I have contributed that. I am accountable for my contribution to the spinning.

And so I want to contribute to the re-route.

I don’t teach in my studio so much anymore. This is bad and good for business. Bad because I own it and it’s important for me to be there to interact and teach. Bad because I miss it. Bad because people don’t know where I am and sometimes the feedback is that they feel abandoned or like I’m never around. So sometimes they – teachers and students – go elsewhere.

But it’s good – it’s great – because to me it’s of utmost importance that my teachers get a chance to shine and develop themselves over me. It’s good because where I am teaching – in addiction recovery centers, crisis respite units and community centers – I am teaching to people who might never otherwise even hear the word yoga. I do this because teaching in these environments keeps my feet on the ground. It keeps me from floating too high into the spinning social-media-yoga-fantasy-land. It keeps me real and constantly – constantly – humbled. I may still be on the Internet doing an online class or advertising a training, but in order to balance that out, I must keep myself in the daily trenches, just flat having my ass handed to me. Along with so many other reasons, this is partly what keeps me from sometimes wanting to say, “I’m DONE.” Every day that I walk out of a respite unit, I want to do it all over again. I want to work fiercely to protect the good.

The other day, I started a new class at a community center down in a really tough part of Fort Worth. I had just taught a class to a group of women in a residential crisis unit up the street, and because there was no real parking at the community center, I walked from one place to the other. As I walked past prostitutes, homeless people and addicts, I remembered what the coordinator of this center said to me a few weeks prior when I was touring the facility with the Adult Programs Director. She said, “You’re going to teach what? Yoga? Here?” Then she chuckled, not condescendingly, but almost sympathetically. “Well, nothing has ever really worked in this facility. So good luck to you.” And she turned on her heel and went back inside the office that she shared with two others that was as big as my bedroom closet.

Inside the tiny facility were no less than 30 people seeking respite from the outside world. Some were watching the Price is Right on the super-loud TV; others were playing dice games. Several were walking around in filthy socks that were full of holes and hanging off of their feet like little kids’ socks do. One long-haired, lip-glossed man was fully-clad in his/her army fatigues – complete with boots and sunglasses and honor pins. Another sock-footed man, with cerebral palsy, James, was talking with his friend, William, who had wiped-off vomit all down the front of his shirt. And there I stood with my yoga mat, thinking, “I am in way over my head.”

My fancy photos and clever captions had no place here. My $118 yoga pants and my thoughts on chakra healing meant nothing to anyone here, not even myself. My knowledge about anatomy or Sanskrit or whatever other useless facts that I used to think meant so much – meant nothing. My ability to “choose” a positive response over a negative reaction didn’t mean shit to these people. If I sat down and tried to “life coach” them – then I can’t deny that I might just deserve to be told I was a narcissistic psychopath.

So I set down my mat on a chair along with the others that the department graciously purchased from their tiny budgets, and I just walked into the crowd of people, and started to ask them how they were. I just saw and heard them. That is all.

I wasn’t always able to do that; to be with anyone and just see and hear. I learned that from my yoga teachers, because that is what they were doing as well. I learned how to take a long, hard look at myself as often as possible, and ask, “who am I am being for other people right now?” I don’t always get it right. But I know that had I not listened to them – had I blown them off as opinionated or judged them as narcissistic – I wouldn’t have learned how to be for others. It was because of my time respecting and studying with my own yoga teachers and practicing on my mat that I knew what to do in that community center, and how I got four guys, including James and William, on their mat doing yoga that day.

When I walked out of that center, right in the middle of the hood, I cried. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, I knew that I was fulfilling my purpose, and that all the other craziness that we can sometimes see in in the yoga world – somehow, that stuff contributed to me being there in that moment. It all matters. You thought I was going to say, “none of it matters,” didn’t you? Wrong. It all matters. It all contributes. Everything people say and do matters. I decided to turn what felt like a cyber yoga bullying into something great. An opportunity to prove those conjectures false and hold this practice up to its highest. That moment of being for someone else far above myself was what will keep yoga alive for decades to come.

I got into my car and checked my phone, and saw an Instagram post with a girl doing a very advanced arm balance and it read, “I had one of my classes filmed last week for an upcoming project…I was terrified…and a friend told me to stand IN LOVE, not fear!” I sat my phone down and I looked around at the trash and the people sleeping on benches. I looked with a new sensitivity at all of the things in my immediate environment that could definitely induce fear, and I closed my eyes and was grateful that I was being shown both sides of life, and that we all go through the same stuff, just in different ways.

It’s all good. All of it.

Let’s stop tearing each other down.

I'm so NOT DONE with yoga!

A solution? How about we just keep sharing what we love. You don’t need a certification to share. You don’t need three years in an ashram to share. You don’t need to know how to stand on your hands to share what you love or ask someone how they are, or show them how to put their hands together at their heart. Committing to this, moment after moment, will just naturally force us to dig deeper, uncovering new moments where we see who we really are. We will learn our lessons as we need to, whether it’s from a social media post or at a homeless shelter. We will get humbled in ways only the deepest parts of our souls will know, that no one publicly will ever see or witness, and frankly, that’s nobody’s business to weigh in on, much less diagnose, but our own.

Angst on the Beach

I took a 5-day vacation this week. The first, real, no-work vacation I’ve taken in over three years. Every step of this vacation was marked with the same amount of anxiety about doing something non-work-related as it was giddy, unbridled excitement about the upcoming respite. I’d waffle between the idea of defiantly leaving my phone at home for 5 days and then suffocating that thought with panic about my children having a 911 or in my mind – at worst – my staff thinking I was so careless and selfish to not be available and lead.

I’ve looked in the mirror lately: the dark circles under my eyes are not badges of honor. They are not marks of achievement. I have found myself riding waves of intense creativity and motivation, and descending into the chasms of lack of focus. Yoga helps. Meditation helps. Sleep really helps. But my brain can still run amuck in all of these things. Inherently I think my value-keeper says, “You can’t afford to stop. You can’t afford to take the time off or the cost. Keep going.”

In some ways this inner coach has served me well. This resilience and grit and sometimes even sheer defiance has been what I have needed – a fuel – to persevere and even challenge my creativity. But when does it become a detriment, this race to the finish?

A few times, as I was supposed to be relaxing on the beach, “recharging,” or “restoring,” I felt that inherent, panicky need to check in with life back home. I literally felt, like in my gut, a negative experience of slacking off. Also known to my ego as laziness. Because there was relatively little that I could fix at home even if I wanted to, I forced myself to sit with this visceral anxiety to reach for the phone and make sure I wasn’t letting anyone down.

All on a beach chair.

It’s absurd.

The truth was, it was all fine. No one was missing me, or needing me, or even thinking about me and what I wasn’t doing for them. I mean, how arrogant to even think that was a reality! But I was wound that tightly. And until I was on vacation, being forced to relax, I couldn’t even see how tightly I was wound. And the question I must continue to ask myself over and over again is… to what end?

Self-inquiry is a rebellion. A rebellion against becoming a rat in the race. It’s embarrassing, quite frankly. I could use powerful phrases like, “Self inquiry is brave,” but screw that. It’s embarrassing. Taking a hard look at who we are being in any moment shines light in the dark, moldy corners. What is brave, I think, is owning up, seeing that the world does not revolve around us alone, and changing our behavior in any given moment. We can do it if we are mindful, I just know it. The anxiety course is an overrun, bumper-to-bumper road of rage. And I don’t want that. I don’t want to be that person on that road, adding to the chaos, under the veil of yoga or coolness or perfection or whatever fits the trend.

If we can discern fact from fiction – if we can dial in that closely to what is often sheer irrationality and extract the reality, we can set a new course.

Anyway, I’m not here to preach or say I have any of the answers. It’s just something I thought about this week. I managed to unplug, oh, about 70% I’d say. Not bad. I came home fresh and motivated, and my world at home didn’t seem as big as I thought it was when I left, because I got out onto the rest of the globe for a few days, and saw that there were many other people on this planet, who are all journeying.

Maybe if I don’t wait so long next time I’ll improve my unplug rate. In the meantime, I’ll continue the rebellion.

#rebelLION

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