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health and wellness

Living Yoga...Possible in a Modern World?

Holy shit it's been too long. Too long since I sat in front of my computer and held space for writing. Too long since I tapped into that creative center and let myself purge. I've let too many excuses rule the why: my baby (who's almost 2?!?!), time (I have the same 24 hours as Beyonce), energy (suck it up, bitch), work, moving, life, etc. While some of those excuses may be valid some of the time, it's really up to me to curate my life, to create a routine/practice/discipline (in Yoga we call this a Sadhana) that brings out the best in me and therefore enriches my life in the way I need. 

I recently returned from a 5 day Living Yoga retreat in Santa Ynez, California, through my beloved Mukti Yoga School. During this time I participated in rituals I'd never experienced before. The first was an ancient Bihar school salt water cleanse called Shankhaprakshalan. I had some trepidation as I'd always heard salt water could kill you and I'm fairly hell bent on living. But with the appropriate dosage, following up with red lentils + rice + ghee, and then nourishing the body with kitchari, you'll feel fucking fantastic. In addition to the commonly practiced yogic rituals of neti pot, hot lemon water, 5 Tibetan exercises, pranayama and meditation; we also spent those several days eating clean, drinking only water and tea. No caffeine. No booze. No herb. Yikes. 

I can honestly report even after 5 days of clean living, I felt clearer. Calmer. More fierce. Motivated. Transformed. I was the same but you could argue I shit out much of the unnecessary excess. The puja ceremony (another new ritual for me) burned old memories, painful conditioned thoughts, and bullshit doubts. The following day of creating vision boards, painting large rocks gathered at the beach, and threading friendship bracelets -3 activities I admittedly suck at- had me feeling so charged and excited. 

Almost immediately post-partum I lost much of myself and have since been gathering the pieces like sorting through debris after a hurricane. What was salvageable? It's taken me 2 years to recognize that I'm not worse and my life is not worse. I am a thousand times better. Even amidst my crankiest, most exhausted days, the hours I clung to my old life like a badly attached yogi, I still took fucking phenomenal care of my son. I showed up for him. Sure, I've had impatient moments or days. Frustrated. Irritated. Haven't wore make-up or dried my hair since his birth. What the fuck am I saying, I never did that before him. Point is, during the physical cleanse, the emotional cleanse, the mental cleanse derived from so much yoga and so few substances, I came clear. I am a badass. 

I started reading a book called You Are A Badass. If I had the guts, wisdom, and fortitude to write my own book it would be so similar (if I was lucky) to this brilliantly funny, and shockingly helpful self-help book. The book echoed so beautifully the work and inspiration from the retreat. And now I sit nearby my favorite studio home here in Los Angeles contemplating how we might all find our own unique definition of Living Yoga in our real lives. 

In the past few years I've come to accept and even love that I am a rebellious yogi. I am not a vegetarian (not against it either, just too into food and feel better on some animal protein). I do not believe in astrology (if one more person -almost always a girl- mentions mercury in retrograde...). I curse like a fucking sailor (luckily I know several other yogis who do, too). I openly smoke marijuana, drink a little booze, ceremonially engage in psychedelics (more mushrooms, please). I have a bizarre sense of humor (even when I get crickets, I still love myself somehow). Perhaps it's being in my 30's, having a kiddo which is truly hard fucking work, or perhaps it's yoga finally sinking in, but I genuinely like and love me. And now I am unafraid to admit it and share it. 

SO here it risk of sounding a bit self righteous (I admit I know very little, but I know some valuable things), I'd like to encourage both myself and you, dear reader(s), to live yoga in your own wackadoodle way. Let's break it down and see if we can make a few small shifts in order to cultivate actual positive change. 

For Your Health: 

   Can you eliminate or cut down one unhealthy habit (soda, sweets, cigarettes, booze, processed food) and add a healthy one (more water, more veggies and whole foods, more time allotted for sleep, a form of exercise you can stand for 30 minutes) ?

For Your Mind: 

   As adults we get lost in the grind of work and responsibility and routine, and often we forget to stimulate our minds in new, enriching ways. Can you make time, save money, store some energy to learn something new? Doing the activities on the retreat made me remember I can still enjoy things I suck at. Learning a new language, instrument, art form, dance, etc., gets us out of our comfort zones and stimulates the brain in ways our routine simply cannot. Maybe 30 minutes less TV and 30 minutes more reading? Marinate on it and figure out what your sweet little brain needs. 

For Your Heart:

   Who in your life elevates you? Boosts you, inspires you, encourages you? More of them. Even if it's Skype or actual phone calls (our smart phones can make real calls!), better yet in person, but bring more of the good in and weed out some of the riff-raff. If you're hankering for a new relationship, be open and socialize a bit more, invite people over and have them bring a friend you've never met. Be open. 

For Your Loins:

  You could blend the heart and loins categories, of course, but sometimes you just wanna roll around nakey with someone who seems fun. It's a scary world, I get it, I can't imagine trying to navigate Tinder and Bumble and Scruff and who the fuck knows what else is out there, but perhaps you put on your sexy underpants, doll up in whatever way feels authentic to you, and then go make eyes with someone. Could be exhilarating. Could also lead to an orgasm. And when all else fails, explore your own body and enjoy it! No shame, no embarrassment. Nothing more natural or wonderful. DO IT. 

For Your Soul:

  What brings you joy? I love dance (Side note excitement: I put a pic from Dancing with the Stars on my vision board and just this week the opportunity to see a live taping of the show in a VIP section was presented by a dear student! Thank you, Universe!). I love to watch it, get lost in it, absorb all things movement. I also love hiking, eating, all types of yoga, seeing live comedy, enjoying live music, sports. I'm finally starting to do more of these things, little by little, and it truly spills into the days after! What fills your cup? If you're currently broke as a joke perhaps you use the cheap to free option of the internet and in-home entertainment while you save for a trip out to enjoy what you love, but the point is, make time. You're dying. I'm dying. This ain't a joke. Fucking enjoy yourself and don't apologize. You won't miss that 50 bucks. 

Here's what Living Yoga is looking like for me right now:

   I wake up and neti, drink hot lemon water (I add turmeric and ginger too! and sea salt), throw my legs up my hallway (I don't have much space) and breathe for 7-10 minutes every morning. I dance with my son at least once a day. I have nearly eliminated my latte habit so I now drink mostly water and afternoon tea. I walk a lot (in LA this means I'm not afraid to park far away). I stretch. I eat a lot of vegetables (luckily, this one isn't new). I make boozing/indulging a treat, a conscious choice to elevate or alter my mind/taste buds in a stretch of time that makes sense, not simply out of habit or escape. I carve out 20 extra minutes to read (some days, most days, it's all I get) and 15 to write. I look at the ridiculous vision board I made and put myself in the mindset of believing and accepting I am worthy not only of the life I have, but also the life I'm striving for. Mindset matters. These little habits each contribute positively to my overall well-being and to growth. 

How can you live Yoga in your life? No actual Yoga required (but why the hell not?).