Sunday, April 28, 2013

becoming a yogi

Time has passed since my last blog entry. I have questioned the quality of my thoughts and reserved myself into fully believing that "the more I learn, the less I know". It's quite beautiful really.

I realized recently that my life changed after Yoga School. It was the spiritual awakening that I could feel coming the previous year. I recall telling a friend that I felt like I was "standing on the brink of a big change", and then it happened - 9 months later.

While in Yoga School, I found and embraced a much needed Restorative Yoga practice. I resisted it for years, and thankfully the pull was stronger than my resist.
In the middle of my teacher training last July, I took a class and settled into a comfortable restorative posture and recall the teacher's voice slowly fading away...
My mind started to travel. It began with where I was at the particular time: at Yoga Teacher Training, in Austin, restoring my body. I then drifted to thoughts of why I was there: this took me much deeper. I recalled my classical ballet studies that started for me at age 5 and continue until age 18. The first time I stepped on a yoga mat, I remember being very comfortable as I was naturally flexible and loved the discipline and concentration that I felt, which reminded me of my ballet classes. I remember feeling very excited about the idea of becoming a yogi. It just seemed so right.
My body sunk deeper into my Restorative yoga pose and then, for the first time in a very long time I remembered that as a child I wanted to be a nun. I was raised Catholic. I loved attending mass and Sunday school as a child. I decided, around what must have been age 7 or 8 that I should become a nun. The idea of serving a higher power was in me, even at a young age. The idea of become a nun faded as I grew older, as did my Catholic faith.
My awareness came back to the present and I realized that I had tuned out the teacher. I began to focus on the present. I was in awe as I realized that the teacher was talking about "transformations". The same idea that was filtering through my mind at that moment. Transformation.

What leads you to your path? Where do you travel before you get there? What interests pull you to firmly stand in the place you are meant to be? How does life transform you?

There is a beautiful awareness that comes in the moments in which we allow ourselves to stand still. To connect, reflect and realize. And in that beautiful moment, I realized I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Walking the path to my true self. Yoga found me and changed everything.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Oh my!

Oh Marfa, just as dreamy as I remember it.

Last week my Sister and I decided to go on a last minute mission to Marfa. We talked about taking the trip since this Summer but could never really "find the time", so we simply "made" the time. We shuffled and cleared our schedules to travel together for a few days.

DAY 1: We drove, in the pitch black of the night, to Marfa, Texas, through the windy dark roads of the Davis Mountains to our first destination: Thunderbird Hotel!

We arrive at the Thunderbird, explored our minimal, modern, yet vintage feeling hotel room (Marci thought it was more like "a dorm room") and then drove 10 minutes outside of Marfa to find the "Mystery Lights". And find them we did! At the Marfa Lights observation point we ventured out into the cold night air along with a handful of other spectators. One person saw a light and said "look there it is!!" as we all stared in complete awe and silence at the tiny light dancing across the landscape in front of us and then it disappeared just as quickly as it appeared. Soon after, another light appeared! Then two lights! Each light appearing on the horizon, moving, and then disappearing into thin air. wow!

I have been to Marfa a few times, but can't recall ever being impacted by the visibility of the night sky in lovely West Texas until now. The sky seems larger, brighter, and closer out there. The night sky was pitch black, powerful, and absolutely gorgeous. Definitely a sight, a vision, that seems more like a dream now. 
At one point I turned to my Sister and said "I feel so small out here."

The stars spread from the horizon in the east all the way across the sky to the horizon in the west. They were bright and seemed so close, so alive. We saw 4 shooting stars.
As we drove back into town, we saw even more Marfa Mystery Lights along the way. Dancing on the horizon beside the highway.

After our Mystery Lights adventure, we found a place in town called Planet Marfa where we stopped to have a drink and sit under a teepee warmed by a fire. It was the perfect ending to a beautiful day.

DAY 2: We woke up and had a lovely breakfast at the Thunderbird Lodge. The meal was complete with organic and non-dairy milks, tea/coffee, cereal, berry fruit salad, and toast. All served family style in large bowl with recycled compostable utensils and plates.

Then, off to the Chinati Foundation! We toured the first 2 buildings of Judd's collection: 100 aluminum works housed in two converted Fort D.A. Russell artillery sheds.
The works were minimal, modern, yet timeless -- and completely beautiful. Our tour group was 6 people so we were able to take our time in each building. The aluminum works were each different and unique in their own ways. Some straight rectangles with opening on the long or short sides, some with one side recessed back into the piece, and others with only 3 sides, inner rectangles, slanted walls, negative space, and so much more. Each piece measuring 51" x 41" was symmetrically installed between the building's columns and large floor tiles. Juxtaposed against the custom windows that Judd installed that measured 5x4'. Hmmmm..

Outside we could see Judd's cast concrete "boxes" in the distance just off Highway 67. The permanent pieces were some of Judd's first pieces in the area.

We saw Dan Flavin's work as well. (No commentary about said works.)

Then off to Fat Lyle's food trailer where we had the most delicious cucumber and tomato sandwiches!
After lunch our plan was to drive out to Cibolo Creek Ranch "just outside Marfa" and meet our guide for an afternoon of horseback riding! How exciting!

The scenery was beautiful!
We got lost. very lost. We wound up in Shafter, Texas... 20 minutes from Mexico. Eeeeek!
We followed the vehicle's GPS which basically led us to a dead-end off a dirt road. Our options were to continue past the dead end into an area with a "No Trespassing" sign or backtrack. Shafter looked like a forgotten shanty town or a scene from a very scary movie about flesh eating zombies. We decided to backtrack. Quickly!!

There was absolutely no cell service in the area until we got back to the highway and used the vehicle's On-Star service to call Cibolo Creek Ranch directly. We received directions and realized that we probably missed the turn because we were so enthralled with the scenery. aaaand the Cibolo sign was tiny!

Finally. We made it to our destination: Cibolo Creek Ranch, a "Historic Texas Legacy" founded in 1857  turned luxury resort.

We met our real cowboy guide, Dennis, for a tour of the property via horseback! The air was crisp and clean, the sky was huge, the area was vast. Absolutely perfect.

View of Cibolo Creek Ranch,  a tiny Oasis in the middle of no where.

We finished Day 2 with a communal meal served in the large common dining room where we met the 4 other resort guests. A couple from Taos and another from San Diego.
It was night by the time we finished eating and pitch black outside. We tip-toed through the property to find our room. Marci started a fire in the fireplace in our room and we snuggled up in our side by side twin beds to the sounds of the crackling fire.

DAY 3: After communal style breakfast of waffles, toast, baked potato fries, and green tea we headed out to Marfa, past Marfa!, to Valentine, past Valentine! to the tiny, strange, and quaint Prada Marfa just off Highway 90. A seemingly temporary yet permanent sculpture. The artists deemed this work "pop architectural land art project."

Our journey continued back through Marfa to Alpine where I was reunited with a few sculptures of my own. This story will be an entirely new blog entry ;) in the near future..

We mapped out our travel home as best we could with a torn map of Texas that I have owned for at least 12 years. Again, we were messmerized by the scenery and...

... got pulled over for speeding. Whoops.
The police officer was very nice and helpful as we explained that "We're from Lubbock!". He let us off with a warning and even showed us a quicker route on the map that would have us back to Lubbock in 4.5 hours!

Again, we traveled through the black of night towards our destination: Home.

This trip was an adventure filled with excitement, surprise, awe, wonder, beauty, appreciation, and left me with the sense of contentment in my heart. I absolutely love this life and feel blessed to have a wonderful traveling partner that is up for absolutely anything!

I feel inspired to travel, create, see, and remember this trip fondly forever.

Saturday, September 29, 2012


It has been a little over a month since I graduated from Yoga Yoga Teacher Training. The transition back into ordinary life has been a process. I am still reeling from the entire experience, and just as I settle back in I remember -- Oh yeah!, I went to yoga school!!

I ran into a friend recently who also went to yoga school this summer. He was able to relate to the unsettling feeling of settling back in to "normal" life, accepting that school is in the past, and looking forward to the path ahead.
I think he said it best: "Some people take a trip around the world. I just took a trip around the Universe."

And what a trip around the Universe it was! And it is. And it will be.

So far, Teaching yoga is a blessed experience. I remind myself daily to remain grounded and let the teachings of Yoga flow through me. Allow myself to be the medium between the teachings and the students.

Each week at the Yoga Bean (Lubbock's newest yoga studio), I teach Restorative Yoga on Friday nights, Hatha Flow on Sunday afternoons, and a private "Yoga Shala"class (from my home studio) to a couple of students on Wednesday nights.
The shift in roles between being a student and teaching the students has been good. I have been in classes with many of the other students for years and I am so thankful for the amount of encouragement I have received from them.

A few weeks ago I taught a class at the Gypsy Pow Wow, a local music and camping festival at Buffalo Springs Lake. The turn out was more than I expected! It was a wonderful way to connect the students and bring awareness to the practice of yoga. I was pleased to see a few students from the Gypsy Yoga classes that I taught this Summer and a friend (who just moved to attend Yoga Yoga Teacher Training in Austin) in the class.

I'm explaining the importance of  listening to your own body,
keeping your body safe, and "Being your own best teacher"

Gypsy Pow Wow students in Savasana (Relaxation) pose

Throughout my journey through yoga school and the path that has followed, my mind and body both changed. I was finally able to shed the excess weight that I have been working to loose for the past year and am now comfortable in my new and able bodied shape. My eating habits have been clean for the past few years so the only difference is my body's adaptability to change. If I eat foods that my body doesn't agree with -- wow, it will let me know. I also contribute this in part to my ingrained and now more exposed body awareness. My desire for mind or mood altering substances is depleting. (Which is an unexpected but welcomed change.) Caffeine has been on the way out for me for the past year or so, so this shift has not been huge. Lately, even a glass of iced tea will keep me wired all day! Alcohol and I have had a long relationship through out my life. I spent the majority of my 20's tending bar and indulging myself as well. The past year, that relationship has really subsided. And now, just as with caffeine, a glass of wine will knock me off my foundation. Which is the biggest reason that I do not desire these substances right now.
I work hard, on and off my mat to find and maintain a firm, secure, comfortable, yet gentle foundation -- so anything that shakes that foundation is not desirable.

Along with teaching, as duty to the students and myself, my own practice has grown strong. Yoga is a part of my daily life. I come to my mat everyday to connect, cultivate, and grow. Through this connection, I am able to see the changes in my body and mind.

"Yoga allows us to recognize our experience as a reflection of how the whole Universe moves -- The setting sun, the rising moon, the ebb & flow of the tides, and even the beating of our own hearts. Through awareness of our own energy we can begin to sense the greater connection."

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Human Experience

The last leg of my journey, week 3 of Yoga Teacher Training, was here and then gone -- quickly. I am reeling from the adventure.
As I expected, the end was bittersweet. I looked forward to the end through the entire journey and as I lay on my yoga mat during Savasana, during our last class at teacher trainees, an hour before graduation, I let my emotions truly sink in.
I was sad to see it end.

Yoga Teacher Training was the most transformational experience of my life. My life shifted from where it was to where my heart knew it could be.
I feel more alive, awake, and aware than ever before.

"We are spiritual beings having a human experience."

  Yoga Yoga Austin, Hatha Flow Graduation, August 18, 2012

This experience taught me to look inside, question life and the Universe and work towards my highest and best self with trust and respect. As a result, I am closer to who I am and where I want to be in life. I realize that my life is a miracle, a precious gift from the Universe.
And I intend to live each day as such.

With the knowledge I received in Teacher Training I hope to share the beautiful gift of yoga with every being that I cross. And although, I know that not everyone has an interest in yoga -- I am hopeful that through my own nature I am able to at least spark the flame in a few people along the way just as someone did for me 4 years ago.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Gypsy Yoga

Oh how strange the journey has been. As part of my "homework" for Yoga Teacher Training, I am required to practice teach 6 yoga classes.
Fortunately, my friends and close acquaintances have been so supportive and many students signed up to attend my yoga classes.

As I was making arrangement for students, a friend (and now student) told me of a great space that he could provide for the classes! Amazing.

The space is an old building near downtown that used to be a mailing business. My friend rents the bottom floor of the building, and the top floor stood untouched.


With the help from Jonathan and my nephew Taylor (I had to bribe him with cash and ice cream :) we were able to clear the room and clean the floor.

This is Jonathan with an oil based floor sweep that we used to collect and pick up the thick layer of dust on the floor. It worked wonderfully!

After sweeping the dust I spent a few hours moping the floor with a natural lavender scented cleaner. I burned incense and one of the students brought beautiful plants and a lamp to warm the space.

The 6 class series has been deemed "Gypsy Yoga" due to the natural and earthy feel of the space. And like gypsies, the students, will travel to this strange location to engage in shared energy and to practice yoga collectively.

I scheduled the first class for last Saturday. I attended a class of my own bright and early on Saturday morning at the Yoga Bean, Lubbock's newest yoga studio. One of my favorite instructors taught the class and afterward I was excited and inspired to teach my Gypsy Yoga class. 
Class #1 had only 3 students, none of which had ever stepped on a yoga mat. The class was wonderful! I felt like every word came out just as I planned in my head. And the students seemed to respond well to the instruction. I was even able to make a few adjustments to help the students in their poses. And I felt elated as I saw one student flowing through the class with the biggest grin on his face. I couldn't have asked for a better first time teaching experience.

Class #2 was not quite the same..
The class was scheduled for Monday evening. I worked all day at my office and somehow went home with a raging headache :(
I tried my best to collect myself before the class. I rolled out my mat at home and practiced the sequence that I was going to teach. I started feeling fatigued and tired, so  took an asprin and set myself straight.. or I thought I had.
The class started late. And 8 students came!
My throat started to ache as soon as I began to talk. None of the words in my head were actually coming out of my mouth. I totally forgot one of the most important parts of my class (and yoga for that matter) -- the explanation of BREATH & MOVEMENT! Ugh, by the time I realized my eggregious mistake the students were in full on Sun Salutations and 20 minutes into the class. For the sake of progress, I let it be. By this point I started to work up a sweat. I was frustrated with myself and realized that I was in control and I had no choice but to continue. More mistakes and missteps were made along the way, all I could do was keep going. Keep teaching. Keep the students safe.
The remaining 30 minutes, felt like an eternity. During the 5 minute relaxation, Savasana pose, I took the opportunity to set myself straight. I collected my thoughts and slowly began to awaken the students from their relaxation. I tried to finish the class strong and open the floor for feedback..

One student recommended that I talk more about breath work.. and another "green" student asked about breathing techniques. So OBVIOUSLY, the explanation of breath and movement would have helped the class!

I totally beat myself up after the class and almost cried on the way home. I felt like a failure and I was disappointed with myself.
I started to think of the number of yoga classes that I have attended and how many of the class I can remember, even if they were bad. I couldn't recall memory of very many bad classes. So I made myself feel better by just chalking up this experience as a learning lesson.

I pray that my classes will get better over time and that I can redeem myself during the 4 remaining Gypsy Yoga classes.

Yoga is the path. Practice (teaching) is the journey.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Module #2

Module #2 of Yoga Yoga Teacher training is finished and life is more beautiful than ever.

The experience of last week, Module #2, was dramatically different than that of Module #1. Thankfully.

I now know, that in June when I endured 7 days of YYTT -- physically I was prepared.. mentally I was not.

I thought that because I had a great yoga practice and was physically fit and healthy, that I was ready for Yoga Teacher training. However, in hindsight, I realized that mental preparation is just as important as physical preparation.

During Module #1, my mind was resisting the changes that were happening to my life. I didn't eat enough, I didn't sleep enough, and I went to Austin thinking that my life could resume as normal.
However, my mind traveled far ahead, and my body is just now catching up.

During Module #2, I mentally prepared myself for the worse. But was comforted within the first few days as I began to feel and inner peace and relaxation that had abandoned my body years ago.

I attended 2 Restorative Yoga classes while I was in Austin and left with an overall feeling of happiness. My body felt rested, peaceful, healthy, and strong.
The past 3 years, I have avoided Restorative and Yin Yoga classes simply because I thought they were boring, not "fast enough", and "not challenging enough". But that was just my ego obstructing the true path. With my ego under control, I was really able to let go and see the path.
I have a high-stress, high adrenaline, fast career and lifestyle -- so my yoga practice should be anything but that.
Now, I am not revoking my Ashtanga yoga practice by any means -- but rather adding an new element of restoration into the equation.
Restoration for my body and most importantly my mind. Yoga is beautiful path in which to connect the body and mind.

"Strong" was the word that resonated with me all week. Before the journey I prayed for "strength" and during the journey I prayed for a "strong" mind and body. The intention that I set each time I returned to my mat was "strength". And I am happy to report that my body and mind did in fact receive strength and I was able to endure the entire journey with sound body and sound mind.

During the next month, I will teach 6 beginner yoga classes as well as attend 11 public yoga classes (including Yin Yoga!) and then I will travel back to Yoga Yoga Austin for 1 final week of teacher training and GRADUATION!
And, just as those before me, I will work to spread the beautiful practice that is yoga.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

before & after

These photos were taken 10 months and 20 pounds apart.

The before and after need no explanation. I have been strength training for 10 months. Once a week with a trainer and 2 times on my own. Each session I work on either back and biceps, chest and triceps, or legs. 1 hour of muscle training and 30 minutes of cardio -- I love running!

These 3 days a week topped off with at least 2 yoga classes a week ;)

The road was tough but totally worth it. I feel physically and mentally stronger than I ever have!

I am so thankful for my health and ability to grow stronger. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Yoga Yoga Teacher Training

Last week I completed a portion of what will ultimately be one (I am sure of many) of my life's most challenging journeys -- Yoga Yoga Teacher Training (YYTT).

I made my pilgrimage to Yoga Yoga in Austin last Friday after work as my first day of class was Saturday morning! I was a ball of nerves when I arrived. The 2 weeks before I left I was anticipating the journey and when I arrived I was still feeling anxious and a bit nervous about what the week ahead of me would entail.

My anxiety subsided a few hours into our initial meeting and orientation. I began to get really excited about everything I could potentially learn. Saturday and Sunday were both 8 hour days that seemed to pass rather quickly. We were lectured on the 8 Limbs of Yoga, had around 5 asana (posture) practices and a lot of snack & yogi tea breaks throughout the day. Sunday evening we left the studio at 8pm and were to return the following day at 7am.!
Monday - Friday were 9.5 hour days with an hour for lunch and a few snack & yogi tea breaks. Monday was definitely the worst of all 7 days. I was tired, exhausted, apathetic, questioning my reason for being there, home-sick, and did I mention exhausted?? Monday was one of the hardest days of my life. I started to question everything in the world.
Why am I here? How did I come to this path? Who am I? Who will I become? Will everything feel "ok" again? Is there really a "place for me in the Universe?"

I was an emotional wreck on Monday. After a long conversation and much encouragement from Jon and my Sister I told myself to stand tall and complete this task in front of me. I knew that I had the full support from everyone in my life and it was too important to turn back now. My only choice was to move forward with an open heart. So I did. I slept and when I awoke I was ready to face yet another 9.5 hour day in Yoga Teacher Training. I quickly understood that I am much more interested in philosophy and history than anatomy. But by the 4th day I decided that I should open my mind and heart to all of the material equally. The anatomy of the respiratory system was much more interesting that the psoas and the spine.

I logged my feelings at the beginning of each day (except for Day 2, I forgot :)

Day 1: "Day 1!! nervous"
Day 2:  n/a
Day 3: "exhausted"
Day 4: "rested, hopeful, calm, interested"
Day 5: "tired, ready, excited"
Day 6: "relaxed, connected, open"
Day 7: "educated, excited, happy"

During the first 7 Days of YYTT Module #1, I was completely immersed in yoga. All I could think about was yoga, the impact of yoga on my life, and just why I have come to this path in my life.
The last day of training all I could feel was relief that I HAD MADE IT. I survived. My brain was full of new and exciting information and could not be contained -- it felt like a balloon floating over my head -- not attached to my body anymore.

I felt an urgency to leave Austin. I couldn't have left quicker. I thought about leaving on Friday after class ended but decided that was a terrible idea since my brain felt unattached to my body. So after a crazy night of dreams and light sleeping I woke up at 7am and decided that it was time to go home!

Upon my arrival home, I hit the Lubbock city limits and my heart sank back down to where it came from (my throat) and I felt calm. Jonathan went to the local farmer's market that morning and bought fresh local veggies and honey as well as a beautiful new succulent. He gave me the gigantic hug that I had missed so much while I was away. He felt warm, strong, and like mine. I immediately started crying. My emotions and strength were finally broken down as I felt myself let go and accept my own vulnerability. I have never been so thankful for my partner in my entire life.

I feel lucky to have this past, present, and future life.

The first few days after my return were hard. I felt like a different person that was just going through a life that used to be mine. But, as all things do -- those feelings past. I feel different in general this week. Problems do not seem to be nearly as large as they would have before. And I can feel what can only be described as patience growing stronger. I am so very thankful to be at this point in my life. I am open to new ideas, exploring my mind and capabilities as well as learning how to spread the knowledge and teach others the practice that helped me find my true self.

In 3 weeks I will head back to Austin for Module #2 of YYTT. I feel more excited this time around because I know what to expect. And I know that as much as I feel like my brain or body has escaped   -- it will come back to me and all will be well.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

20 Under 40

Last Thursday, I was awarded an amazing honor of being named one of Lubbock's Top 20 Under 40 by the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce and the Young Professionals of Greater Lubbock. As in, the top 20 individuals under the age of 40 who are actively involved in community engagement, volunteer efforts, and who are projected to continue the positive professional growth of Lubbock, Texas.

I am truly honored and feel so very fortunate that my path in life has brought me here.

This is the new award proudly displayed on my bookshelf!

Aaaand, me with the 20 Under 40 Award (wearing my amazing $20 vintage dress that I found at Culture Clothing!)

I <3 LBB

Friday, May 4, 2012

love of language

Three months ago, I begin attending Sanskrit classes at the Lubbock Yoga Shala.

After my first class, the familiar and delightful feeling of being a student and learning came back to me. And I realized that I forgot what it felt like. It is a sense of learning what you did not previously know and an excitement for the knowledge that is to come.

The next few classes progressed at a very slow pace. I never knew how complex a language could be!

"The language of Saṃskṛtam is put together, constructed, well or completely formed; refined, adorned, and highly elaborated."

So, as with any language, there is a lot of material to absorb.
I found one of the most interesting aspects of Sanskrit to be the different identified areas of the mouth that letters forming words can come from. The English language is a very Dental spoken language - which is why lip-reading in English is easily distinguishable. However, the Sanskrit language consists of letters from varying mouth positions: Gutteral, Palatal, Cerebral, Dental, Labial, Semi-Vowel, Silibant, and Aspirate. So the difficulty, in fact, comes from the lack of known association. There are literally few comparisons in the English language and the Sanskrit language. Fascinating!!

The past few months our Sanskrit class has progressed at the speed of a (very slow) Kindergarten class. At one point last month, we begged our instructor for a SONG. A simple song that we could sing to remember the letters... you know, like the Alphabet Song..
Sadly, no such song exists for the Sanskrit language.

But somehow last week - everything finally started making sense to me. We have covered the 46 characters of the Devanagari (written Sanskrit) alphabet. And we are now learning how to abbreviate the characters together to form actual words.

Our big accomplishment at the end of last month was learning to spell "ghetto"!
This week we learned many many more (pictured in my sketchbook below): "Time, Neat, Water, Sangha" (Community), aaaaand "Val" "Brown"!

I absolutely love the challenge that learning a new language has brought to my life. I am thankful for the opportunity to be a student again.