About Yoga U: DIY Home Yoga Practice E-Course

The following post is part of a countdown series leading up to the release of my first e-course (!!!), which comes out on Friday, July 15th. You can pre-register here with a special discount rate using the code LIVELEARNER for taking the course LIVE. This excerpt comes straight out of the syllabus!

Ultimately, a home yoga practice is about your ability to personalize something general in a way that works for you. When I start off the in-person yoga classes I teach at Harlem Yoga Studio, I begin by saying, “Everything I teach is a suggestion.” You know your body, heart, + intention best. Use that knowledge to make this course work for you.

Speaking of the framework, this course is designed in a specific way so that you can take it at your own pace if you’d like, but, if you’re anything like me and thrive on structure, you can also move through it in a manageable week-by-week way. Here is what you can expect:

  • Two lessons per week (except for Week Three, where there will be 3 lessons that all go together) that include a variety of video, audio, written, and visual content. You should be able to complete each lesson (minus the hOMework) in one sitting during the span of 30 minutes or less. For example, you might choose to complete one lesson on a Tuesday and another on a Thursday. Or, if you plan to use weekends to take this course, you might want to do one lesson on Saturday and another on Sunday.
  • Look for the hOMework at the end of each lesson for you to complete in between lessons. The hOMework will often pair a prompt for a yoga practice that you will actually do on the mat with a reflection worksheet or journaling prompt.

What are you waiting for? Register for the e-course here. The discount code for registering by July 15th is LIVELEARNER.

Yoga Joy in July

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photo taken by the lovely A last year in Portland, OR with a book that inspired much

Tell me, O quickly! dream of aliveness, the flaming source of your bright breath. ~ Langston Hughes

Happy July, everyone! I hope this new month is off to a lovely start for all of you, wherever in the world you are when you read this. I am writing you from the gorgeous Aspen, Colorado, where I am soaking up the annual and oh-so-inspiring Aspen Ideas Festival. Today is the third day of the festival, and more and more, I am reminded of the transformative power of ideas, and all they are capable of when put into action.

I think I am beginning to realize that ideas, when they aren’t put into practice and shared with the world, are dreams. Dreams are wonderful because ideas can be challenging to carry out, especially when we have many of them. Yet, there is something potent in what separates the ideas that make it up to the stage at this festival, such as Bryan Stevenson’s idea that children have a right to be children, regardless of crimes committed, or the ideas that Emily Bazelon espouses in the Slate Political Gabfest. These are dreams that people have transported into reality.

Speaking of, I would love to use this blog post to put some of my ideas into action. I am thrilled to share that I have spent many, many hours working on an online course for creating a yoga practice (a massive extension of the workshop you received emails about just a week ago, and one you can do anywhere).

But, before we launch into the e-course fabulousness (this email is chock-full of details!), expect some local yoga happenings this month in NYC! I’m teaching a Community Yoga class at Harlem Yoga Studio (i.e. donation-based! no excuses!) this Sunday, July 3rd, from 3:30-4:30pm. Because I’m having a summer full of travel, I will be mainly subbing so stay tuned on my website, as well as on social media, for additional sub dates as they come up!

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If you take the course LIVE with me starting on July 15th (and you can sign up anytime until then), you will receive a full 20% OFF with the code LIVELEARNER.
Yoga U Summer School is my online course that’s been in the making for years! Through taking this course, you will learn a plethora of strategies for starting + sustaining hOMe yoga practices that will blow your minds + keep you coming back to your mats!

Over four weeks, you’ll enjoy: 

  • a detailed syllabus that will lay out exactly how to create your hOMe practice in a manageable, step-by-step fashion
  • 9 detailed + fully developed lessons in total, which you can do at your own pace (unless you love structure like me and want to do it syllabus-style)
  • plenty of video content to bring the practice to life
  • a ton of encouragement, resources, essays, hOMework, visual cues + diagrams to make your yoga practice the best that it can be
  • unlimited email contact with me + a private Facebook group so that you can get answers to all your questions!

Curriculum Preview

  • WEEK ONE: SUSTAINABILITY
    • About Me + Your Syllabus, Top 5 Tips, Journaling Prompts
  • WEEK TWO: AMBIANCE
    • Checklists for both what you need + what you might want, a tour of my own yoga room, creating a mood, + how to make a yoga playlist that fits your practice perfectly
  • WEEK THREE: ASANA
    • Finding Your Sun Salutation, videos + PDFs of practice structures, hip opening + hip closing, peak poses
  • WEEK FOUR: MOVING ON
    • Using props effectively, meditation, service, intentions

Remember, if you sign up before July 15th, the price of this course will decrease dramatically…and the content will never go away! You’ll have full access to the wide variety of lessons + home practices to do at your own pace, whenever you want!

I hope to see you on the mat or online soon!

How are you? (Really.)

Mindfulness not only makes it possible to survey our internal landscape with compassion and curiosity but can also actively steer us in the right direction for self-care.
Bessel A. van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

When I walked into yoga this afternoon, my teacher stood in front of my mat and asked, “How are you?”

“I’m okay,” I responded: the truth, after a gruelingly challenging Monday I some how made it through. “How are you?”

“Okay,” she responded as if mulling it over. “You’re like, ‘I made it. I’m here.'”

Inhale. Exhale. Exhale again.

This morning, I experienced a series of unfortunate events that I somehow made it through. My story of growing up on OM is a story colored darkly with bodily trauma, and painted over with a sheen of brightly-colored emotional recovery. This morning’s events triggered those feelings of trauma…and I made it through those moments, to a 5:15pm yoga class and more.

Today was one of those days when I realized the vitality of providing an honest response to the question, “How are you?” Like a reflex, reply, “Good,” even – and almost especially – when we’re not. But our vocabulary contains more words for a reason. We feel more things than “good.” And even though it might seem like people are asking that question as a courtesy, that question is also an opportunity. An opportunity to check in, to respond, to pause, to regulate. More than that, when we respond honestly – and this my yoga teacher from this afternoon taught me – we become the kinds of people that others feel comfortable responding honestly to.

So, how are you?

Marvelous Monday

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Image via QuotesGram

Yes, I know that is not an alliteration we hear often. But yesterday, my Monday was, quite simply, marvelous. As I walked up the hill to work this morning, I contemplated how happy the simple things can make us. I also contemplated – as I usually do before writing a blog post – what readers would get out of reading about the little things that I enjoy. I was filled with doubt; why should it matter what I did on a Monday night to readers of this blog? And then I thought of what I admire most about the blogs I read: the insights into the everyday. Increasing our own exposure to different habits that work for other people can shine a strong light on the habits that might work for us. So here you go: my Monday night, and I hope that you get something outta this!

SoulCycle

I’d been to one SoulCycle class before, and I think it just wasn’t with the teacher I needed to get hooked. While I am afraid of becoming an Upper West Side cliche, I think I kind of loved it. I was grinning ear-to-ear the whole time while the instructor, Elianna, led an amazing 45-minute class that left me hitting the pillow so hard. Also, the W92 SoulCycle staff is absolutely lovely; they made me feel so competent when it was only my second time and on the studio’s dime.

Sweetgreen

After SoulCycle I trained over to Sweetgreen Columbia before class and got the most delicious Kale Caesar (I have endless appreciation for quality ingredients and cohesive branding – something that SoulCycle and Sweetgreen have in common).

Grad School

My grad school class last night blew. my. mind. We learned about literacy and how people learn to read in the most effective ways. These are things that I am so endlessly interested by. It feels amazing to sit up, alert and ready, in a class full of intelligent people.

There’s a great satisfaction in knowing that we’ve made good use of our days, that we’ve lived up to our expectations of ourselves.
Gretchen Rubin, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives

Summer Online Yoga School: A Preview

In the midst of the sheer bummer of a month that is February (i.e. the ultimate threshold between a post-holidays winter and the newness of spring), I cannot help but feel extremely excited for summer. Recently, I decided to do something I’ve never done before (at least in recent memory). I decided to forgo overworking myself this summer. At least, I decided to not overwork myself for anyone but myself. So, I am blissfully anticipating a summer of travel, yoga, yoga teaching, graduate school, and adorable cafes.

Summer for a school teacher + yoga teacher feels like the perfect time to pursue my own projects…musings that come to me on the 1 train first thing in the morning that I jot down in a journal but forget as soon as the work day begins. There are two offerings that have been a long time brewing that I am very excited to bring to the interwebs world this summer: one for educators, and one for anyone. They both have one thing in common: YOGA.

Here are some quick elevator-pitch previews of these two courses. And that’s exactly what they are: elevator pitches. These courses haven’t been even close to finalized yet so if there’s anything YOU would like to see in either of them, please say so by commenting on this post.

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 E-Course Offering #1: Yoga U Summer School DIY Home Practice

Have you ever wanted to lead your own yoga practice…from the comfort of your own home…but just didn’t feel knowledgeable enough? Are you a bit mystified by all the knowledge your yoga teacher seems to know about how to sequence a practice that feels complete? Over 8 weeks, this course will explore through video, audio, writing, journaling, and outside resources, what your ideal and – more importantly – sustainable home practice looks like. We’ll break down the fundamentals of sequencing, anatomy, music choice, and inspiration. You’ll leave this course with oodles of resources to use over and over again, as well as with a full set of knowledge to feel comfortable practicing yoga on your own…wherever in the world you are!

 E-Course Offering #2: Yoga for Educators

Do you want to use mindfulness to create a more present classroom for you and for your students? Are you interested in learning manageable techniques for practicing self-care to help you better serve others? The Yoga for Educator e-course introduces the wide-reaching practices of yoga in ways that make sense for educators: society’s day-to-day warriors. This e-course is designed to empower educators with self-care tools for themselves and professional development tools on mindfulness in the classroom.

Like I said, I’m extremely excited for summer. These two offerings have been a long time coming, and they are still in the works. I look forward to hearing your feedback!

Outside In, Inside Out: Reflections from the Mat on the Mind-Body Connection

Tonight’s yoga practice was an unexpected yoga practice (the most meaningful kind). It was one where my body expressed a deep and spontaneous need for it…and I actually listened. More than that, it stirred up so many thoughts on the practice, why I practice and how I practice. Practice, practice, practice.

Tonight’s yoga practice reminded me of Cuba, of my body knowing on the deepest level, what it needed, and when, without me even needing to try. I remember that month of a home practice when I was so far away from home that blew my mind every time I stepped on the mat. I remember exhaustion from Havana heat and dirt, the way it smacked me in the face every time I left the air-conditioned residence. I remember using my practice as an internal refuge during a time of so much transition. Now, four weeks away from moving back to New York, in the middle of a Pacific Northwest heat wave, I find myself doing the same.

So often I get bogged down in formulas: the Ashtanga Primary or a class or even the extroverted fluidity of Lotus Flow. I rarely trust my body to want what it wants…except in those moments when I have no choice but to do just that and trust. Usually, those moments are those of exhaustion, of knowing there is nowhere else to turn to for comfort and that is A-OK, because the tools I am given are enough.

In the nonprofit world that I’ve been immersed in this year, we talk a lot about depth rather than breadth. In my practice this evening, I stayed in the most introverted of poses. I abandoned my wheels and fast chataranga-ed ways of releasing anxiety and surrendered myself to forward folds and Pratyahara, this sense of Drawing In. The beauty of the yoga practice is that it is intended to balance out – to complement – the rest of our lives. Usually, I think this means physical rigor. But then there are nights like tonight when the exhaustion – blissful in its own way – catches up. I spent all weekend being so present for other people and then today, I had the Gift of being present for a group of third graders. And then there is the being present with difficult feelings that working through a trauma and a breakup and struggling family members bring up.

Last night, I read the Young Adult novel that I wrote back in November and found myself gasping with surprise at the plot twists I forgot I included. That was how I felt this evening when I discovered that yes, I can indeed breathe that deep and oh, yes, Karnapidasana was what I needed after my shoulder stand. Sometimes, we are left with no choice but to draw in. To start on the inside and move to the outside. Usually, I choose outside, in. But tonight, I let my body choose for me. Without any further adieu – and thank you, readers, for your patience with this long post – this is what my body chose.

pigeon pose ~ eka pada rajo kapotasana

proud pigeon ~ urdhva eka pada rajo kapotasana

stargazer

vinyasa

other side

seated forward fold ~ paschimotanasana

one-legged seated forward fold ~ janu sirsasana

plow pose ~ halasana

shoulder stand ~ salamba sarvangasana

knees to ears ~ karnapidasana

fish pose ~ matseyasana

meditation ~ dhyana

written from my yoga mat, in pigeon pose

P.S. To find all these poses, and more, check out my e-book Yoga U: The College Student’s Tools for Balanced Living.

Curiosity

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In my broken-legged days and because it was finally time, I watched every single episode of Friday Night LightsThis came in response to the series finale of ParenthoodWhat do FNL and Parenthood have in common? Those not well-versed in the beauty of well-done point-and-shoot television might not know the answer. Heck, I didn’t know the answer until my mom hosted their mutual creator, Brian Grazer at the 92nd St Y. And, because she knows where her loyalty lies, she swiftly mailed me a copy of Grazer’s latest book: A Curious Mind, The Secret to a Bigger Life.

A Curious Mind arrived to my Portland mailbox at just the right time. With three months left to my AmeriCorps service, I am beginning the job search. But, after reading this phenomenal book, which made bus rides oh-so-pleasurable (this is the power of reading!), I feel like I should call my job search my Curiosity Quest instead. Why? One of the ways that across the board people have suggested I look for my next endeavor is through informational interviews. I’ve been reading up on them all over the place, especially on my new fave website, The Muse. The conflation of the informational interview and what Grazer calls “curiosity conversations,” however, is mine and mine only; among Grazer’s rules for harnessing curiosity conversations, he states that they shouldn’t be about “getting something” out of the conversation. That’s a good thing for my job search process – my Curiosity Quest – because I always get the best results when I don’t go in with expectations!

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But I digress – back to this fabulous book. Reading what Grazer has to say on the subject of curiosity, which he deems as a quality, which is “so little valued, taught and cultivated today,” has made abundant sense. How else would a California man who thought he was going to be a lawyer end up creating a show about a small town Texas football team? He was curious…he found a doorway to knowledge.

Here are some gems from the book:

Curiosity itself is a form of power, and also a form of courage.

Creative thoughts didn’t have to follow a straight narrative line. You could pursue your interests, your passions, you could chase any quirky idea that came from some odd corner of your experience or your brain.

Even when you’re in charge, you are often much more effective asking questions than giving orders.

A big part of “growing up on OM” is understanding what it means to give myself an education post-college. As the next class at my alma mater graduates next weekend, I’ve started to reflect on what true growth means. It means continuously learning and engaging in the cyclical process of reflecting on what it is we are learning (praxis!). This book is an excellent foray into a quality we could all use a lot more of: curiosity.

So tell me: What is it that you want to learn today? What strikes your curiosity?

The Tapas of Radical Self-Care

This month at Unfold, the yoga therapy studio I teach at here in Portland our theme is tapas. Tapas is Sanskrit for the trifecta of heat, discipline and passion. When I think of tapas now, I think specifically about the tapas of self-care. For me, right now, tapas looks a lot different than it looked a few months ago. Now, tapas looks a lot less like one hundred chatarangas and a lot more like prioritizing physical therapy and doctor’s appointments above all else.

Self-care in and of itself is radical because it forces us to pause. Pausing is against most social norms (especially if you’re a born-and-raised New Yorker) and it holds us accountable for how we are of service to others. My excuse for not taking care of myself in the past was that I had to be of greater service – show up for other people before I could show up for myself. Going to PT first thing in the morning and bearing witness to students that tend to their yoga practice at sunrise during the 7:30am classes I teach reinforces a deep-down knowledge that too few of us access: self-care enables us to be of service, not the other way around. And if we do it right and truly gauge the kind and amount of discipline or heat we need in any given moment the tapas of self-care sets us up to be radical givers of care in the rest of our day.

The Injury

I did not think I would blog about this. When I think of myself on the internet, versus myself in reality, I tend to reserve the internet for expressing the broad positives of my life, as they would apply to others. I am wary of narcissism while blogging, of thinking that my life ultimately applies to everyone else’s. I am also an intensely private person…which is odd at times seeing as I am selectively private as well, sharing liberally about that which I deem can be public knowledge.

But enough jargon or preface. This post is about the decision I am making to share with you some private information.

Last Monday, I got hit by a car while biking home from the elementary school I am doing my AmeriCorps service at. I took a bike route I do not normally take and while I stayed in the bike lane the whole time, there was a dangerous intersection involved and the next thing I knew I was lying on the ground in the middle of the street, police officers on one side, the fire department on the other and an ambulance pulling up within sight.

photo courtesy of saint amy, my roommate

photo courtesy of saint amy, my roommate

When I came to, I was a whole lot of emotions (as my sister and I say, all of the feels), but the sentiment that overwhelms me the most while going through a complicated trauma with an outcome that is challenging, but by far the best one possible is this:

I AM GRATEFUL.

I am grateful for years of chataranga. My recovery involves a lot of physical therapy. A lot of moving around on one leg on a walker and lifting my whole body up through isolating muscles. The doctors at the hospital assured me that I would’ve been there a whole lot longer had my arms – specifically my triceps – not been as strong. When I inform my physical and occupational therapists hat I am a yoga teacher, understanding dawns on their faces and I am grateful for the ways in which learning to move my able body has prepared me for these moments when my body is less able.

I am grateful for friends and housemates and the families we choose. This is an understatement. No matter how I write this gratitude, it will always be an understatement. I currently live with my best friend from college; we decided to move to Portland together to pursue our passions (me in education and her in architecture). She is my rock, my North Star, the person who reminds me of who I was the last four years, a touchstone for who I am now, in a new city, across the country, without the stability of a college identity and with all the adventure to forge an identity of my own. She is also my emergency contact and the person the police called as the paramedics wheeled me into the ambulance and shot me up with pain medicine. She was at the hospital before I arrived there, withstood the gore of my dislocated leg more than I did, and did not leave until our other housemate – another AmeriCorps member – arrived with a packed hospital bag and stayed the night. Both got less than three hours of sleep that night. Both were there the following morning as the surgical team prepped me for the operating room, holding each of my hands, as I braced myself (pun intended) to have a metal rod inserted inside my bone). When you live in a new city and the closest family is three hours away minimum, the families we choose become hOMe, the ones that are there for us in the most unconditional way possible. All these gratitudes lead me back to them, to you J and A. Thank you.

saints j & a keeping me company in the hospital

saints j & a keeping me company in the hospital

I am grateful for that packed hospital bag. Speaking of the amazing-ness of my housemates (my dad now prefaces their names with “Saint” every time I tell them a new act of kindness they perform), the hospital bag that A made for me included the following:

  • my spiritual gangster yoga top – In order to leave the hospital, I had to pass lots of “tests” for my physical and occupational therapists, to show that I could take care of my basic needs without putting weight on the injured leg. The first test was my “dressing test;” could I dress myself? A packed my Spiritual Gangster tank top, which made me feel at once sexy and strong. Putting that on after wearing a hospital gown for four days that made me feel anything but was nothing short of a sheer miracle. I felt the blood rush to my face again. I felt like myself. Empowered. Like I could do thisThis being recover from a traumatic incident, provide space and loving time and patience for my body to heal. It takes strength – it takes being a spiritual gangster – to ask for help, sometimes.
  • snacks – Not gonna lie, I was in a great Level One Trauma Center hospital where the food was actually delicious. But there is nothing like one’s own food…especially during a time when pain medicines are high and cravings are particular. She packed my favorites: Bear Naked granola protein packs. a NuGo Dark bar, roasted seaweed and much more goodness all in my Craft Coffee box from the subscription service’s last delivery, a good reminder of how much I love coffee during a time when the narcotics outweighed any desire for extra stimulants or depressants.
  • magazines
  • a book – Word to the wise: there is no better book to read while lying in a hospital bed than Amy Poehler’s Yes Please. First off, holding that book in my hands as I lay horizontal reminded me to say “yes, please” to the nurses repeatedly; when in pain, it can be all-too-easy to forget simple manners and positive etiquette, but never is there a more crucial time than when so many people team up on your behalf. I felt like myself when I was polite with my recovery team and like an unfamiliar person when my pain overshadowed my ability to be so. It also does not hurt to read a book by one of the best comedians and empowering feminists while lying in a hospital bed after surviving a trauma.

It was perfect.

I am also grateful for my family of originWhile my family I choose was there for me pre-op, my aunt and mother (from different sides of a divorced family, which, for some reason, makes my heart swell even more at the anesthetized memory) were there wiping my forehead and handing me water. They were there each time I woke up during a day of confused recurrent sleep. My mom was on the first flight out of New York City and my aunt started driving to PDX from Seattle at five in the morning.

I am grateful for nurses. I am also grateful for my surgical team, but it is easier to be grateful for the faces I saw often, the faces who comforted me and told me that everything was healing on the right timeline, the faces who had unbounded patience in the face of my impatience.

I am grateful for my job and life in Portland, for all the people I’ve met these short few months. Outside of my families of choice and origin, my supervisors were the first to visit me after surgery (literally the night after I was operated on). The amount of care and thoughtfulness and appreciation that my AmeriCorps service has offered me is truly amazing. I am beginning to think that they – my supervisors, my fellow AmeriCorps members, the parents and students I work with at the elementary school – are part of my families of choice as well.

I am grateful my broken leg and for my helmet. Thank you for breaking my fall. Thank you for saving my life. Thank you for giving me the chance to heal fully. Thank you for protecting my back and neck. Thank you thank you thank you.

When it comes down to it, I know that injuries are great teachers. I know that I am lucky. Years ago, before yoga, before embracing a lifestyle rich with spirituality, I would have reacted by getting caught up in my own victimization. Instead, as the I woke up from the anesthesia and loved ones came in one by one, I cried out of gratitude for my life. I am sure that this recovery process will be long and challenging. So I wanted to write this post as a reminder when I am still in the thick of the drama of it. A reminder to myself and to all those who have helped and are helping, thank you.

Ayurveda in the Garden

Last weekend, I completed a School Garden Coordinator Certificate Training with the fabulous organization Growing Gardens (I know, I’m all about these Portland nonprofits nowadays!). In order to receive our certificates, we were each responsible for giving a 3-7 minute presentation on a garden-related subject of our choice. Ever since I started this thing called higher education, I have also been doing various yoga teacher trainings. I am constantly looking for ways to weave the two together, to make it feel less like I am living a double life and more like I am living a complementary one. So, for my final presentation, I did a presentation of Ayurveda in the school garden and how learning about Ayurveda can provide a more holistic way to teach kids about nutrition. But enough preface; I will let the presentation speak for itself in hopes that it can be a resource. (To see theses like a slideshow, simply click on the individual photo to make it full-screen and scroll through!)

Further Resources/Photo Cred

Pinterest

The Six Tastes – Chopra Center

Knowledge is power – enjoy!

Namaste,
Shira