Where in the World

 

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I am writing this at an old wooden table, sitting on an old wooden chair, with the above lush landscape directly in front of me. Gorgeous doesn’t even begin to cut it. Breathtaking might.

I recently realized that in the midst of the working two jobs, test-taking and friends-visiting madness of July, I haven’t made it super public that I’m spending this whole month of August out of the U.S. of A doing the things that nourish my spirit: yoga, writing, and exploring new places. So I’m using this post partly to brag about being in Italy right now facing the picturesque view and also to articulate just what it is that I am doing during a full August off, and why.

The best way to explain this is also my favorite way to plan for a yoga class: through themes. Each leg of this five-week trip has a different theme. I’m sharing them below.

Italy: Pleasure

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photo via cocceto.com

I am currently in Tuscany on a yoga retreat with the talented Francesca Bove and a dozen-plus lovely yogis. It’s only day two and so far, I went on a run / walk through the hills surrounding the villa we’re staying at, dined on a breakfast of fresh-cut prosciutto, eggs and muesli, took an hour-and-a-half-long yoga class, and sat by the pool to read and nap. The theme of this trip is pleasure because too often pleasure gets misused in the work-hard, play-hard culture New York City immerses itself in. Pleasure, in a relaxed way, means (for this trip) not only drinking a glass of wine with dinner, but going on a wine tour. It means eating slowly to taste the most subtle flavors of artisan olive oil…and attending a tasting at the vineyard it’s made at. It means practicing yoga with an abundant view of the Italian countryside, and it means putting sunglasses on during savasana and letting the sensuous sensory experiences Italy is so known for marinate so that there can be space to take it all in.

England: Literary

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photo via britishtours.com

Right after this retreat, I’m going to England to take two continuing education creative writing courses at the University of Cambridge. This year, when I took Teaching of Writing as part of my graduate program, I had a lot of feelings surrounding wanting to make sure that I am a teacher-writer / writer-teacher, and not only a teacher of writing (I’m studying to be a middle school English teacher). In other words, I want my practice as an educator and as a writer to disrupt the narrative of “those who can’t do teach” and change it to “those who can do teach.” I also have an extraordinarily hard time writing in New York City, and I’m sitting on quite a few works in progress. I would say that I need to carve out the time, except for the fact that with my working-grad school schedule, the time just simply doesn’t exist, and I’m starting to think that small geographic changes to encourage creativity can be a good thing. We can do it all…just not all at once, after all. But back to my plans for the trip! While I am spending the weekdays intensively writing and attending plenary lectures, I’ll spend the first weekend in Oxford doing a tour of the medieval literature that was born there and hopefully getting enough free time to go to the Bodleian Library for the Jane Austen exhibit! That second weekend, I’ll be in London (yay!) and plan on going to the British Library, as well as both Daunt and Persephone Books!

Finland: Design

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photo via finland.fi

I’ll be spending my last 10 days of this trip in Finland with my boyf who’s moving there for the academic year. He’s moving there to study wood architecture and I’m traveling there so that we can experience Finnish culture together before his courses begin. Finland has a magnificent history and practice of design in both broad and specific ways. Finnish society seems to set itself up for success using infrastructural and architectural design. During this trip, I want to attend some art festivals going on and explore the amazing architecture throughout. I want to focus on something that I really do believe is the backbone of how society functions: design. I want to be able to carry that knowledge with me into all that I do because it can only help when we see the world through a variety of lenses including though not limited to pleasure, literature, and design.

A (Yoga) Room of My Own

When I decided to move back to New York City from Portland, OR, the last thing I expected was to find more space in my Manhattan apartment, compared to what I had in my Portland one. But Harlem was kind to me and my roommates, and we found (well, correction, they found it while I was still living in PDX) a fantastic four-bedroom apartment. One of the bedrooms just happened to be a “railroad room,” meaning it has two medium-sized rooms attached to one another. It was a no-brainer; I decided to make one of those rooms my Yoga Room.

The friends of mine who showed up for our housewarming party joked and said it was my office. But really, they weren’t joking. When yoga is at least part of your line of work, a space to practice is also a space to prepare and study. My yoga room is all of three of those things. And I would love to give you a tour of this space I am so proud of on this blog!

Furniture

When you have a lot of space, you need a lot more furniture. I decided on a mini coffee table that I’m using as a sitting desk (i.e. it enables me to sit in lotus and get sh*t – read: blogging – done). I also got a bookshelf that I use to store all my yoga texts. Having these in a separate space is actually making these books, teacher training manuals and journals so much more accessible. (All the furniture, BTW, was brought to me by the lovely and stressful Ikea – my yoga practice after that shopping trip was on point!).

Books

I have developed quite the collection of texts over the years. More important, though, this summer I had the opportunity to practice the yama (“restraint”) called aparigraha, which, in English, translates to “non-hoarding.” When I moved out of my apartment in Portland, I had a slight problem: I forgot to ship half my books in advance, and I ran out of room in my suitcases. These were books I loved and annotated. They were about the chakras, the sutras, the Gita and more. But books – and especially yoga books – are meant to be shared, not hoarded. On my last afternoon in Portland, I took those books in my arms and walked down Division St until I arrived at unfold, the yoga studio I taught at all year. I left them on the desk for other students to peruse, use, annotate and learn from. Here are the books I am currently left with in my new yoga room:

  • Myths of the Asanas by Alanna Kaivalya & Arjuna van der Kooij
  • Sacred Sound by Alanna Kaivalya
  • Love Poems from God translated by Daniel Ladinsky
  • The Red Book by Sera Beak
  • The Bhagavad Gita translated by Barbara Stoler-Miller
  • Yoga & Ayurveda (Frawley)
  • Healing Mantras by Thomas Ashley Farrand
  • Jivamukti Yoga by Sharon Gannon & David Life
  • The Tree of Yoga by B.K.S Iyengar
  • The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Edwin F. Bryant
  • The Little Book of Hindu Deities by Sanjay Patel
  • Narada’s Way of Divine Love by Swami Prabhavananda
  • be love now by ram dass
  • Tranquilista by Kimberly Wilson
  • The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
  • Babar’s Yoga for Elephants (De Brunhoff)
  • Awakening Loving-Kindness by Pema Chodron
  • OM Yoga: A Guide to Daily Practice by Cyndi Lee

Mat

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Now that I am an official “member” at Laughing Lotus, I store my big, heavy Manduka mat in a mat cubby at the studio. The one I choose to use in my yoga room is an Athleta mat that I was gifted upon completion of my 5k at the Wanderlust 108 Mindful Triathlon. I also have the tote bag that came with hanging on the wall of the room as a reminder that I DID IT, and to store my pink boxing gloves because hey, boxing is a yoga practice all its own.

Props

Next to my mat are two blocks, a balance ball, and a meditation pillow. I also have a strap and on my wish list is a bolster and blanket.

Office Supplies

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When yoga is my line of work, a lot more is involved than practice. I also have to promote what I am doing so I can better share it with the world. That is why I have a Blog Planner from Etsy (so cute!) and a Poppin’ to-do list.

Wall Decor

I have little hanging elephants (Ganeshas) hanging from a beaded string that an old roommate gave me, my bandana and number from Wanderlust 108, and what was probably the best gift I’ve ever received: my very own Laughing Lotus graffiti wall that my dear former roommate A made for me for my 23rd birthday.

Deities

Also adorning my walls are deities: Goddess Guidance Oracle Cards (Doreen Virtue) I’ve chosen and Sanjay Patel‘s big book of Hindu deities posters. Atop a storage bin, I have a mini Ganesha statue…because after last year, I need a remover of obstacles.

G.I. Yogis / Yoga Joes

When I left Portland, former roommate J gifted me the sweetest lil things she saw on This Is Collosal: yogi G.I. Joes. Different poses are hidden in nooks and crannies of this room and provide endless inspiration for the asana practice.

Bottom line, here’s what I’ve learned from creating a yoga room, after coming from being a bit…space-deprived. You don’t need a lot of space to create a room of your own, but compartmentalizing yoga can sometimes be an aid to focused practice. Take some time and carve out a room of your own.

“There is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”
Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Wanderlust 108

Leave it to me, now that there are actual readers of this blog, to take a hiatus. It’s been back-to-school season (i.e. back-to-work season for teachers) and on top of everything, I’m teaching at a new school so…I hope you, dear readers I now (think) I’ve acquired, will understand!

But I, as usual, digress. What I really want to write about is this thing I did about ten days ago that I meant to write about nine days ago, but that now has added days of reflection and perspective to fuel this post. Ten days ago, I did something I never thought I would do – or would want to do. I did something that, just six months ago, would have made me laugh in your face – or cry out of frustration – if you told a recovering-from-a-broken-leg me I would do it.

Last Sunday, I ran a 5k.

And I did it in true yoga teacher style: as part of a “mindful triathlon” where I ran an untimed, noncompetitive 5k, took two yoga classes and meditated. I am excited to share the details of each part in this post.

I arrived in Prospect Park at 10am. While I am infamous amongst friends for having claimed that “I’m not outdoorsy enough for Brooklyn” (living in the PNW probably changed that), I had zero trouble finding my way to the event. Beginning in Manhattan, I was joined on the subway by hordes of yoga-mat-toting and sneaker-wearing participants. All I had to do was follow. It felt good to feel like one of many; this sensation was the general vibe of the day: rejoicing in multitudes doing their own thing, but together.

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The 5k itself was…hard, but great. I went at my own pace and made it feel as normal as possible. I’d been consciously training on a beginner’s training plan for six weeks. My physical therapist suggested I run to a metronome so I put on my Urban Ears just like I did when practicing on the Reservoir and Riverbank State Park and blasted Spotify Running. I also, it turned out, underestimated how long this 5k was (whoops…). Around the time I hit 3 miles, I walked for a minute…and I was in good company. I’m OK with that and that – that lack of perfectionism and an ability to be proud of effort – is major progress for me.

A dear friend met up with me as I rounded the bandshell. We took some time to explore the Wanderlust “Uncommons” together. A few summers ago, I was a volunteer at a full Wanderlust event at Squaw Valley. The fact that the Wanderlust team/corporation (I don’t mean that meanly, but they, I feel, are basically spokespeople for yogic consumerism) could make a one-day event in a park feel just as full and rich as their four-day events at ski lodges is seriously impressive. A few free tote bags, temporary tattoos and coupons later, I headed over to MC Yogi’s class on the lawn, which was followed by Dharma Mittra’s precise asana teaching.

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There is a saying that I love: “Don’t quit before the miracle.” Often, the miracle is the grounding of physical practices in meditation. This is to the masses that left once the yoga classes ended: DON’T QUIT BEFORE MEDITATION, PEOPLE. Sage Rountree, a fitness and life coach, flew to New York to teach us Metta – lovingkindness – meditation. It so happens to be my favorite kind of meditation. Running on a plethora of endorphins, practicing this kind of meditation amongst hundreds of people rather than on my own cushions, moved me deeply and offered up a different perspective on what is probably the only practice I don’t get a ton of professional guidance with. The whole day was like banging a tiny hammer on a glass. Cracks were made with each nudge. The meditation, I think, cracked me wide open.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that this year has been one heck of a journey – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. When I suffered two open fractures and major surgery in December, I seriously started to doubt my physical capabilities for the future. I had a physical therapist (who I emailed on the train back from Brooklyn that Sunday) who believed in me. Six months after my surgery, she put me on a “Return to Running” plan to eliminate my last bit of atrophy – atrophy which was once so intense I could barely look at my leg without crying. The joke at the PT office when she put me on that plan was as follows.

PT: We’re going to put you on a Return to Running plan.

ME: Um…what am I returning to?

My sister reminded me that when she flew out to Portland to take care of a post-surgery immobile me, I was so frustrated with my inability to exercise that I told her I was going to run every day after “it was all over.” I likely said that without fully believing that day would come. She reminded me of that while I was training. One day, over frozen yogurt on the Upper East Side, she asked me, “What do you think of while you’re running?”

I think, “I can RUN!” I told her. Crack. That realization always made my eyes well up just a bit.

However, on my way out of Prospect Park, my eyes welled up quite a bit. Well, let’s face it, I burst into tears and couldn’t stop crying until, like, I was halfway back to Harlem on the 2 train. My tears were a concoction of endorphins, gratitude, and relief.

So…thanks, Wanderlust 108, for making me cry a much-needed cry, and for creating the most chill event ever for my first 5k.

written from jivamuktea cafe with sheer glee after discovering the top secret spicy tempeh recipe