Yoga Date- Convention Center Style

On Saturday I went on a “Yoga Date” with a friend of mine. We are both yoga teachers, and mothers, so usually our hang outs are with our children, and include diapers, trips to go “pee pee”, occasional tantrums, and conversations about how yoga has helped save us from complete and total mental breakdown. “I felt like I was going to pull out all my hair and then I did some  sun salutations and now I feel completely renewed.”

My friend Melissa, who teaches Paddleboard Yoga, had a couple of free tickets to an event in Fort Lauderdale called the “Yoga Expo”. I usually avoid the big festivals and events, preferring to practice alone, or outside, but free tickets and a kid free date with my friend, was something I was really looking forward to.

We met up early in the morning and after pushing through some heavy traffic and getting a little lost, we arrived at the  Fort Lauderdale Convention Center.

On the ride down, I drank both coffee and a coconut water. Not a good idea. Because when we pulled into the parking garage, my full bladder was about to explode. There was no way I could make it all the way to the crowded bathrooms!! We giggled and I nervously found a place  in the parking garage to squat down and empty my bladder. Parking garage yoga-malasana pose! My friend shielded me with a yoga mat.. I joked that we would get arrested, and all the yogis would talk about the peeing yoga teacher in the parking garage. We didn’t get arrested. And I felt so much better.

At the expo, we were surrounded by  a few thousand yoga practitioners. Everyone walking around with yoga mats, going from class to class, shopping, and eating “yoga” food. After checking it out and feeling a little overwhelmed, it was time to practice. The event was huge, offering 6 to 7 classes every hour. All day. The classes were packed. Flourescent lighting. We were doing downward facing dog to Beyonce, Pitbull, and some very weird songs about heartbreak.

To be honest, it was hard not to “judge” the experience. The place. The Yoga fashion trend.  The noise! It was so loud.  Once again, I was presented with a big lesson. Tame the mind. Yogananda  wrote that in his early training, his teacher wanted him to go  deep into meditation, but Yogananda was being swarmed by mosquitos. He kept swatting them, getting agitated, and could not meditate. His teacher sat there looking peaceful, deep in meditation, unphased by the mosquitos. His teacher told him to train his mind.

It is easy to relax the mind when in a peaceful setting. The real work is to relax the mind when we are in an uncomfortable setting. Convention center yoga. Take out the tools, and calm the mind. When I was able to get deeper into my breath and be present, the judgement melted away. Yoga always teaches us.

After a couple of flow classes, and with very exhausted legs, my friend and I drove home in the late afternoon. We talked about the good, the bad, and the ugly, of mainstream yoga culture.  And while we both agreed that there are things we don’t resonate with, we both acknowledge that the truly important thing is that more and more people are being introduced and drawn to yoga. So many people find healing through yoga.

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Post Convention Center Yoga 🙂

Yoga is a path and the wisdom of Yoga unfolds at a natural organic pace. . Even after 18 years since my introduction, I know I am still a beginner. I am still learning and being challenged everyday.

Yes, “yoga” is a huge trend.  And yes, there are problems with our mainstream yoga culture. But truth be told, beyond the expensive yoga clothes,  is the actual practice. A very personal and profound practice. A practice that can truly help heal the world. 

 

~Tiff

 

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Inspired: Bryan Kest Yoga Workshop

Last night I had the opportunity and pleasure of meeting and studying with a well known Yoga teacher, Bryan Kest. It was the first time I had ever met or studied with Bryan, and I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.

bryankesttiffandjessica
Me, Bryan Kest, and Jessica McCarrick

The room was crowded, full of yogis.  The workshop began with a lecture, or a talk rather. Bryan is funny, charismatic, and a bit of a rebel.. His words are what I will remember long after these sore arms of mine recover.

Bryan shared the story of how and why Asana practice began. He talked about the true meaning and purpose of yoga.“To still the fluctuations of the mind.”  He talked about the ultimate goal of yoga, enlightenment, Samadhi. Not pose perfection.”You are never going to heal relationships with loose hamstrings. We have to try to develop the benevolent qualities of our mind. Through awareness we can start eradicating the shit that is hurting us.”

Something in him, I connected to on a deep level. Perhaps it was his honesty. He was real. He talked about his angry and wild past (which I can totally relate to).  He openly shared that he smokes pot, and he said the “F” word, more than once. He did not come across as a phoney know it all yoga purist. He came across as someone just like me, a person, a parent, who came to yoga to heal.  He talked with passion about the state of our world, and how we are all contributing, creating this world, this chaos. He also stressed that it is up to each of us to change. We have to be the change… or nothing will change. 

He also talked about how even within the yoga community, there are fights, judgments, egos, teacher bashing, blacklisting.. Each style claiming they do it correctly and other practices, styles, and teachers are wrong… I have experienced this first hand, and it is really toxic. The snobbery that can be found within the yoga community is intense. Yoga is not about designer yoga pants and a perfect body. It isn’t about memorizing the sanskrit words for poses. It isn’t even about the ability to perform a difficult pose. It is about stilling the fluctuations of the mind..

Bryan is known for teaching a strong physical practice called Power Yoga. And while I am a yoga teacher,  I do not have a very strong physical practice, and I certainly don’t have buns or abs of steel. Since my recent car accident, my practice has become even more gentle. I am very aware of my injuries, and I am very gentle with my body.

Thankfully, during the asana practice, Bryan repeatedly reminded us to listen to our bodies. He said, “No yoga teacher on earth knows where your body should be.” He instructed us to rest in childs pose whenever we needed. “There are 7 billion right ways to do a yoga pose.”  With a strong voice he told us not to look at what other people in the class were doing, but to focus on our own breath, our own body. I was dripping in sweat halfway through the practice.

We ended the practice with a long and quiet Gratitude meditation..

I feel grateful and inspired by Bryan. I feel grateful to connect with a yoga teacher who is sharing (on a much larger scale), the message that I share with my own students..

The workshop was hosted by The Cozy Yogi, a yoga studio in Lake Worth Florida. The workshop was awesome. It ended up running late, past the scheduled time. So, without a proper thank you, I had to rush off and pick up my son and breastfeed my tired daughter.

Bryan Kest, Thank you. When I do my “head touching my leg pose” I will think of you and smile.

~Tiff

 

Fisheating Creek, Stress Melting Magic

My daughter turned two last week and to celebrate, not only did we have a fun little birthday party, but we also spent two days camping and canoeing at a place called Fisheating creek.

Mother and Daughter: Nature Witches
Mother and Daughter: Nature Witches under a magical Oak Tree

Fisheating creek is about two hours northwest of where we live, and it is truly a wild and sacred place.  This time of year, the creek is high, and I mean really high. I didn’t know what to do when we arrived and the trail I usually take was completely underwater. In my mind, I had planned out that we would be camping under some oak trees way down the trail. Well, this knee-deep water covering the trail, told me that sometimes plans change.

Anyways, it took a little while to figure out what to do..I have been camping many times at fisheating creek, but never at this time of year.  This place has seasons, wet season and a dry season, and coming out at this time of year is a completely different experience.. In summer and fall, the water levels are high, sometimes extremely high, and the mosquitos, are everywhere. So are the alligators. In winter and early spring, the water level is much lower.. the mosquitos aren’t nearly as bad, and the alligators, on colder days you wont even see them.

We walked around, swatting mosquitoes, right away we saw a huge alligator and a huge black snake slither right in front of us.. My sweetheart was a little freaked out, I know he was wondering “why are we here, this wild swamp is insane.” My daughter stepped on a fire ant mound. Actually we all did. And getting bit by those tiny ants is awful. Ant bites burn and sting and hurt and itch!! It seemed like the camping trip was going to be rough..

During that time, we got a phone call from some friends who said they wanted to come and camp with us.. They were on their way.

The beauty and magic of the Cyprus Swamp
The beauty and magic of the Cypress Swamp

Then we ran into a man who has a small cabin out on the creek. I had met him a few times in the past, but this trip was the first time we really talked. He is close to my age, a real country boy with a strong southern drawl, and big pick up truck.. but he is a man full of surprises, and he loves the land. To him, the swamp is home.  The trees, the animals. He offered to show us some good places to camp, and invited us to camp right on his land… We went exploring with him, he had lots of stories and wisdom to share. He talked to us for hours about the seasons, the animals, and he invited us to go canoeing with him. AWESOME.

Our perfect campsite
Our perfect campsite

Anyways, our friends arrived and soon after, the rain began. We all ran to our cars, and took shelter as thunder roared overhead. We hung out in the safety of our cars until the thunderstorm passed.. and once safe, we made a fire. Although it was dark, it was hot outside. We didn’t need a fire to stay warm. But I needed a fire for my spirit. Feeling the energy, I danced around the fire. It was so hot, it was like a sweat lodge!

Dancing around the fire
Dancing around the fire

We sat around the fire, occasionally swatting mosquitoes, talking story, until our eyelids became heavy.

We woke up as the sun was rising and went on a walk… The land, the colors, the sounds, the smells, everything was so beautiful.

Group Photounder an Oal Tree (with a strange purple light)
Group Photo under an Oak Tree (with a strange purple light)

Then we went on a very long canoe trip out to a place called Paradise Lake. I saw some of the biggest alligators I have ever seen. And there were a few times, when they were a little too close to the canoe. Heart pounding.. but for the most part, alligators stay away from people.

Canoe trip to Paradise Lake
Canoe trip to Paradise Lake

My spirit felt happy.  And as muddy as I was, my body felt cleansed. My Energy light.

The camping trip was completely different from what I had imagined. And even better.

Fisheating Creek, Stress Melting Magic~Tiff

Earth Warriors

We have spent the past few days out of the city. We are staying and working in an Equestrian community in Wellington Florida.

We are planting hundreds of trees for close friends of mine who live out here. We are planting Indian Beech Trees, and while these trees are not native, they are beautiful trees with some really magical properties. The seeds in particular have a wide variety of uses and can be harvested a few years after planting.

Peaceful Planting
Peaceful Planting

The property we are staying on is huge, with a pond, a swimming pool, and a small Buddhist temple.

Temple
Temple

The other day we went on a long walk out here and I saw up close a large plot of land that was freshly clearcut… I felt so deeply sad and sick in my stomach.   After our walk, I worked extra hard, wondering why humans are so destructive, why we don’t see that what we do to the earth, we are actually doing to ourselves.. Then i realized, while someone was working to clear a forest, I have been working to help build one.

Balance

Lets be real, Earth is out of balance right now, and because of it we are all out of balance. And I see it. I feel it.  And it is scary and depressing. BUT we have the power to make a difference. We have to ask ourselves whether we want to be part of the problem or part of the solution. (I look at my own life and I know there is more I can do to help)… Whether it is simply picking up garbage at the beach, planting trees, buying organic, local, or planting a garden. Live mindfully. It really is up to us.

I am much calmer and relaxed in the country. I love trees, the hawks, the deer, the owls at night..The energy..

I feel good about the work we are doing. Hands covered in dirt, butterflies flying by, shoveling until my arms burn and I can’t lift the shovel anymore… It is exhausting, a real workout, but it is rewarding. Therapy at its finest.. 🙂

Earth Warriors
Earth Warriors

With Gratitude for our Mother. ~Tiff

Those Bumps in The Road

Well, we have been back in Florida for a couple of weeks now, and life has been about as weird as ever. Maybe weirder.

We started off by staying at a friend’s house, a very fancy home on Palm Beach island. This island is the complete opposite of Santa Maria!!! Palm Beach is known for its mansions, celebrities, and wealth. Donald Trump (who better not become president!!) lives on the island,and my ex-husband grew up on the island too.   Some people envy the super rich, but life has shown me that “with each new material thing we acquire, we acquire a new worry.”~Dalai Lama 

Lifestyles of the Happy Gypsy
Lifestyles of the Happy Gypsy

For me, the island is a place that is both beautiful and creepy. So much wealth and power concentrated in one tiny area, while so many people around the world struggle and live in poverty.  I have never lived anywhere where the grocery store has valet parking.  Hmmm.

But, regardless of my mixed feelings of Palm Beach island, I was grateful to be staying near the beach and grateful  for the quietness the island provides, and really grateful for the pool and the hot tub!

Path to the Pool
Path to the Pool

The beach on the island really is magical. We saw sharks and manta rays, schools of fish, and sea turtle nests everywhere. I will cherish those mornings and evenings on the beach, forever.

Palm Beach Island
Palm Beach Island

Anyways, we began to settle in, my son is so happy to be performing again! He started an art internship and online school. My daughter loves the beach, the warm water, and all her baby friends. I started teaching yoga, and I accepted a job at a health food store. We were really getting  into the groove of sunny South Florida living.

Super fun Playdates
Super fun Playdates

So things were flowing along nicely, until a few days ago. BUMP.

First, the car I was driving, that belongs to the woman who owns the palm beach mansion, well, it started smoking in the middle of a busy road. It was stressful to say the least, especially because it looked like the car was on fire, but even more stressful was realizing it needed major repairs and it would be impossible to live on that island without a car.There are no buses on the island and it is pretty far away from all our friends and the theatre. Time to move.

Moving off the island really was no problem.  We have a huge community of friends and we quickly made the transition back to ‘normal person’ land.  Right now, we are living with some friends, the same house where I lived when my daughter was born, the last house I lived in before leaving the country. And we are in the same bedroom. (And this house has a pool too, so, woohoo!)

The big bump in the road came a few days later.

I was in the car with a dear friend of mine, sitting in the backseat, next to my daughter. We were stopped at a stoplight, talking, and laughing, when all the sudden a large SUV slammed into us. He hit us on the right rear of the van, then scraped along the side, sped up, and quickly drove away. A hit and run.

We were absolutely in shock. Shaken up, scared, and in pain.

After the police came, we went to the Dr. We were there for many hours. After a few x-rays and exams, I was told I had severe whiplash and would need at least a few months of therapy. I was told “No yoga!” I was also told “No picking up the baby and no driving.”  UGH!

To be honest, 4 days later, I am still in a tremendous amount of pain. I literally can barely move my head, and there is fear and frustration that comes with that.  But my daughter did not get injured and for this I am extremely grateful. And I know that slowly, I will regain use of my neck.

I can look at this situation, this pain in the neck, from a place of anger and fear, which doesn’t feel good, or I can count my blessings, and look at this situation from a place of gratitude, which feels a whole lot better.

We all have unexpected bumps in the road, and some of them are scary and painful. Deep down, I see this bump as an opportunity for great spiritual growth.

To all of you in my life who have offered love and support, I am so grateful..

X~Tiff

Guided Visualization and Relaxation For Healing And Purification

A couple of weeks ago, while driving home, my daughter in a deep sleep, a strange feeling flooded through me, and I pulled to the side of the road, closed my eyes, and recorded this visualization and relaxation.

I hope it brings you healing and peace.

With love, Yogini Tiff

Healing An Eating Disorder With Yoga

I am not even sure what triggered it, but when I was 14, I developed an eating disorder. I suffered from bulimia. And for twelve years, the disorder weaved in and out my life. In high school, I was a cheerleader, and when my eating disorder first grabbed hold,  my weight went down drastically. After the gossip spread, a really sweet guy, started to refer to me and a friend of mine, as “bulimic bitches”..sometimes he threw handfuls of grass on us,and called us bulimic cows  (One can only hope he matured). 🙂

I could blame a number of things as the trigger of my eating disorder. My family was pretty dysfunctional (like most),   and my mind was always racing, full of thoughts and questions. “Why do we die? Where do we go? Why do we exisit?Why do we have war?” Why, why, why…and so on. It was exhausting.  I am also an empath, and I think that perhaps I used food to try to help me ground. 

There were times, when I was angry with myself, and I would stop eating. I would get thin. Very thin. Very quickly. There were other times, where it seemed food was the only way to relax, to get out of my “mind”. My body would quickly balloon. My thoughts. My judgements. My confusion. My feelings of being inadequate and ugly.  I could quickly scarf down a box of Tiger Milk bars. A bag of chips. Half a cake. I would try to feed my soul, my worries, my fears, with food.  Then of course, stomach full and hurting, feelings of disgust would rise up, fear of getting fat, and it was off to the bathroom. Or 3 hours of exercise.  Or swearing to myself that i would not eat for an entire week (I never lasted)!! During those 12 years, sometimes I would go long periods without any bouts of bingeing or starving myself. But sometimes, particularly when I was stressed, the disorder took hold and ravaged my body and soul. My weight easily yo-yo´d  up and down a good thirty pounds.

From the time I was 15-18, I also started experimenting quite heavily with drugs. I was unbalanced, reckless, and I had no idea about self-care, or how to process stress.  

I feel no shame in sharing this. It is a part of my story. I have no desire to come across as a perfect person, I am far from it. Many people suffer from eating disorders, and they feel deep shame.  But we shouldn´t. Life is hard. Confusing. Sometimes very painful. We all look for ways to cope. Recently a friend opened up and shared that she was suffering from bulimia. I guess in a way, I feel compelled to write, so she can understand my story. How I healed.

I healed through YOGA.

beautiful trees, beach yoga, mother daughter yoga
Teaching My Daughter Young. 🙂 Self Care. Healthy Choices. YOGA

Learning to breathe through my nose, those nice deep mindful breaths, helped me cultivate an inner-peace I had never felt. Learning to quiet the mind in meditation, helped me tap into my higher wisdom. When we tame the mind, truth, wisdom, and compassion emerge.Even if we just feel it for 30 seconds, it changes everything.

Practicing Asana, taught me about my body. I learned to observe where I was holding tension, I could feel how the breath helped relax the muscles, and the mind. I learned to move my body in harmony with my breath. I started tapping into more subtle energies. Awareness.  I started to observe how different I felt after eating certain foods. I felt heavy and gross after eating greasy french fries, or a candy bar. But after a large carrot, kale, and ginger juice, or a large avocado smoothie, I felt light, healthy, peaceful, beautiful. Naturally I prefer feeling healthy, and as my awareness increased, my food choices changed.

I started to notice even more subtle cues from my body. How my body felt when I was thirsty, When I was stressed, When I was tired. Simply put,  I started to get to know me. And I realized my body was counting on me to make healthy loving choices.

Our energy changes drastically based on our food choices. This is talked about often in Yoga. Food can be divided into three categories. 

Tamasic Foods: Red Meat, Alcohol, Refined sugar, soda, fast food, and overly processed foods. Foods that are tamsic, lead to overeating, promote negative emotions, build up of toxins, dull heavy energy, and blocks the flow of PRANA.

Rajasic Foods:coffee, salt, chicken, fried foods, overly spicy. (some say chocolate too, but i disagree STRONGLY) 🙂  Foods that are rajasic create an overstimulated mind, make us feel restless, and keep us very attached to our ego desires.

Sattvic Foods:Fruits, vegetables, honey, herbal tea, grains, nuts, beans, seeds, ghee. Sattvic foods promote the flow of pure and positive energy, and lead to peace, intelligence and wisdom.

Next time you eat something  really observe how you feel, and then, think about these three categories, and what you ate. 

Yoga, leads to increased awareness. Body, mind, and Spirit. And the straight up truth is that when I eat a Sattvic based diet, I feel good.

I honor my yoga body. I am not anywhere near being “skinny”. And I don’t care. But I do feel strong. And I know I am taking active steps, and breaths, everyday to live as healthy as I can. I don’t count calories. I don’t limit food. I eat when I want, I eat what I want.. But the difference is, that through yoga, I learned about self-care. I started to love myself, flaws and all. I found healing by going within. I eat food that nourishes me. Fruits, vegetables, lentils, seeds, nuts.. Sattvic foods. I eat Ice cream nearly everyday, but I make it RAW with avocados, coconut, cacau, and honey.  And it is good. Nourishing, filling.  My whole family loves it.

I know with absolute certainty, that my yoga practice put my life and my body on a completely different path. I know with absolute certainty, that yoga heals.

Yoga. Open the door. Take a deep breath. You will be amazed.

Happy Healing-Tiff