Friday, December 28, 2012

Om Humbug

Its not that I don't love Christmas. Wait, that's not true, I Don't love Christmas. But it's not what you think. I love Baby Jesus, and festive decorations, and buying gifts and family and friends. What I don't love is the drama that ensues at this particular time of year. And by drama, I mean the way I tend to show up. If it were someone else's drama I could be a bystander and maybe even find some humor or learn a lesson. But it's all me. It's as if I am this level headed grown up adult until I pass over the state line into VA, and then I morph into a 16 year old smart mouth teenager again. And to make it even worse, my 16 year old alter ego has a little more ammunition now that she lives the majority of her life as a grown up Yoga Teacher. She doesn't miss an opportunity to let you know What Your Story Is or How you could benefit from Letting It Go. Can you imagine how irritating that must be?! My poor family! And its as if I'm out of control, I know its happening but I'm powerless against it. There's something about coming home again that brings out all the things in myself that I like the least. All the things I have worked so hard to change and overcome. And, granted, it doesn't help when my parents try to give me a curfew (hello! I'm 41!). I always return from the holidays feeling like I let myself down, again. And wondering if all this Yoga is really working, how could it be if I so easily fall back into old patterns? I recently read an article that spoke to this specific phenomenon, of how our families tend to bring out our "old" selves. And there was a lot of interesting stuff, like how its hard for our families to accept that we've grown up and become different people, and its actually comforting to them when we show up as our old teenager selves. (Hmmm, I
really liked this article!)  But here's what I'm thinking. Our old selves and reactions are always going to be just below the surface, no matter how enlightened we get. It doesn't mean my Yoga isn't working just because I can't keep my smart comments to myself for 5 whole days. I'm doing better than in past years so that's something, right?! And I need to practice what I preach, drop my expectations of how I think I'm supposed to be, and just be the best grown up/16 year old I can be....And apologize when necessary. But really, according to this article I read, I actually did my family a favor by showing up as my same old bratty self. I would hate to make them think I had outgrown being the family baby after all :)
Here's to your inner 16 year old!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"Exceed Yourself to Find Your Exceeding Self"

Baron Baptiste's fourth principle for stepping up to the edge is similar to the third in that it also involves stepping outside your comfort zone.

Exceeding yourself to find your exceeding self is about pushing beyond your perceived limits.  Particularly when you are at that point where you feel like you have approached failure.  Exceeding yourself is going past what you believe to be as far as you can go.  I like to think of it as is the last 10% in giving 110%.
Whatever, math
(image via
A few months ago I started CrossFit.  In the beginning, I was uncertain about lifting and fearful of super-sized upper traps.  So what was the draw?  If you have to ask, you've clearly never seen a CrossFit guy with his shirt off.  Ok, ok, that's a joke (err, kind of)...there were other reasons.  I was seeking an out of the Charleston Power Yoga comfort zone experience to kick my workout routine up a notch to achieve measurable gains in both strength and endurance (hello, mastering new arm balances and inversions!).  When I was given the opportunity to teach yoga to the hardworking athletes of Iron Bridge CrossFit, I knew it was time to step outside (inside?) the box and give CrossFit the old college try.

I quickly grew to love the constant variation.  There are many, many lifts, movements, elements, etc. in CrossFit which means boredom is never an issue, but there is sturdy learning curve while integrating into the program.  The first few months were mainly about figuring it out how things worked.  I was working hard, but I was never hitting my max.  Part of not hitting that max had something to do with gaining the acute awareness one must develop to execute proper, safe form and alignment, but a larger part of not getting there was about my perception of what I saw as my limit and where I would only achieve failure.

In the past couple weeks, I experienced a shift as many of the movements started to land in my body.  And also when one of the coaches insulted described my efforts as dainty.  Dainty?  Pshhh.  I'm not dainty.  Feminine?  Yes.  Graceful?  I try.  Workout outfits carefully styled?  Definitely.  Fine, maybe that translates to dainty in a gym where the soundtrack is a mix of grunts and heavy metal.  So Coach CrossFit suggests that perhaps I can be a little more "gung ho."  After an eye roll and analysis of what that meant, I decided to take this as direction to be more powerful and to stop holding back.  I was giving 100%, but not 110%.  And that extra 10% is where the growth begins, my friends.  During that day's workout, I focused on maximizing my effort.  As I powered through, completing the final reps that I didn't think I had in me, I saw the possibility of where I could go.  I had exceeded myself as I moved past the point of perceived failure.
image via pinterest
I intentionally used an off-the-mat experience of this principle as a reminder that your yoga does not begin and end on your mat.  We tend to be the same on our mats as we are in our lives whether we realize it or not.  So as you take to your mat this week, commit to challenging yourself to grow in at least on posture in your practice -- maybe one that you find easy and can learn to take to the next level.  Dedicate to exceeding yourself on the mat, and the practice will naturally flow over into all areas of your life.

See you on the mat,


Friday, November 2, 2012

"Growth Is the Most Important Thing That There Is"

Principle Three is my favorite.

Growth Is the Most Important Thing That There Is.

Baron says in Journey into Power, "Growth is forward movement; anything else is stagnation or, worse, regression."  Stagnation.  Regression.  Those words just sound gross.  Nobody needs 'em.  And, you guessed it, growth does not happen in the past or future.  It happens now, now, NOW!

Before yoga, I was clueless about many of life's great lessons (but I thought I knew it all, of course).  However, this little guiding point has always rang true.  That's why it's my favorite.

For what yogic knowledge I do not innately possess, I turn to pinterest.  It tells me everything I need to know.  Like the message in the above image.  For those who have not picked up on my sarcastic sense of humor, that is sarcasm (but I do love pinterest).  Yes, I'm a yoga teacher and I'm sarcastic -- yoga teachers are people, too!  Cool, funny people sometimes.

I regress.  Back to growth.  The most important thing that there is can be found at the end of your comfort zone.  Plain and simple.  It's not like some of the other principles that make you think "huh, what....oh, that's clever!"  We grow when we step outside the comfort zone and up to the edge -- and jump right over.  Anybody ever get a six-pack by whining about hard work and skipping abs in class?

Actually, I'm all too familiar with the end of the comfort zone.  I love it there.  I thrive there.  I'm comfortable there.  I'm comfortable with being uncomfortable, yes.  If I'm not mildly nauseous from stress, I start to worry.  I have a terrible time sitting still.  I always have at least five books in my rotation.  My storage closet is exploding with sporting equipment from my many passions.  I've had ten jobs in five years and have explored at least 30 potential career paths.  I love, more than anything, to try and experience new places, activities, ideas, and people.  A friend described me as an "excitement seeker."  That is the understatement of the century.  My brain is literally spinning with excitement as I write this (and add 10 new things to my goals list)!

The thing about growth is, you can go a billion different places looking for it, but in order to fully embody it, you must first accept exactly where you are. On the mat, I see this acceptance as the point where you stop telling yourself you "can't" and see the possibility of finally catching that bind or kicking up to the wall into handstand for the first time and then actually going for it.  You'll probably miss or fall a few times until you get there, but that's you pushing past your edge, experiencing growth.  Try it sometime every time.

As I come to accept where I am right now, I understand that I must let go of the idea that growth only exists in excitement and discomfort.  That stepping outside my comfort zone means staying in a comfort zone.  Bringing it back to the mat, it's like when you hear a teacher encourage students to go to their edge during a challenging moment in class (I've said this before) and suggest that maybe that edge is child's pose.  For me, learning to take child's pose, instead of powering through pain, meant accepting myself exactly as I am.  It is the place where I stop being hard on myself, get present, and find connection.  It has become my comfort zone.

As you embark on your own personal journey of growth on your mat and in your life, please take a moment to ask yourself first if you are ok with where you are, as you can only move forward if you are honest with your current situation and drop what's holding you back.

Just never lose your sense of humor.  You'll always need that.

See you on the mat,

Liz (

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"Be in the Now and You'll Know How"

Image via Liz on pinterest
Remember when I told you I was going to start weekly posts featuring each of Baron Baptiste's Eight Principles for stepping up to the edge?  You do?  Then you fail.  You are not in the now, you are in the past!

Kidding.  The old me would say that I am the failure for not holding to my commitment.  But, sometimes life happens and you have to be present and available to other things in the moment.  Plus, I no longer believe in failure anyway -- thank God.  I do believe, however, that you can only begin exactly where you are and today, my loyal followers (I had no idea you existed until last week!), I begin (again) with addressing the principles.  Here goes #2:

Be in the Now and You'll Know How.

No, you are not experiencing déjà vu.  Principle I, "You are either here now or nowhere," has a slightly different twist on the "now" thing.  Yes, you are catching on that the concept of being present is pretty darn important in getting to that edge.  Baron links this "now" principle very closely to the asana (physical) practice and the significance of tuning out distractions to be 100% in-tune with your body's voice.

How can you apply this to your own practice?  Think about a pose that you can't quite get.  Maybe you feel like you are not flexible enough or strong enough or confident enough to fully execute the position.  This leads to frustration.  Which leads to loss of focus.  Which leads to going nowhere.  Better get back here.  Now.

For the longest time the transition from prasarita padottanasana (wide leg forward bend) into sirsasana II (tripod headstand) was a foreign movement to me.  Being blessed with freakishly open hamstrings, my head easily slammed into the ground in the forward fold, setting me up with a solid base upon which to make the transition.  But I would get stuck there with my feet glued to the ground.

About a year ago, I was in a class led by the fabulously funny jokester and CPY teacher Jessica Kenny.  I decided it was sarcasm speaking when she instructed us into that forward fold and let us know that if our heads reached the mat, we had to take tripod headstand.  Good one, Jess.  I'll just effortlessly find the necessary balance and weight distribution upon on my head and two hands then use my core to magically lift my feet from the earth and over my head.  Oh, and I definitely won't fall and hit the person who is six inches away from me or anything.  Then I'll levitate.  No big deal.  The thing is, the transition really was no big deal for me at that point in my practice.  I had the flexibility.  I had the strength.  I had the balance.  What I did not have was the body awareness.  In order to hear my body, I needed my mind to shut up.

I decided that day that I would practice this transition at home after every yoga class.  I highly recommend practicing postures you are determined to master at home!  A few minutes in a class gives you a limited chance to work on the pose.  Especially if you find yourself distracted by defeat, fear, or over-interpretation of instruction.  You have to feel postures in your own body.  In my case, I was also keeping the safety of fellow yogis in mind.

The day that I finally found lift off was the day that I stopped using my brain.  My body was trusting my brain's suggestion that this was impossible.  Already beat after a powerful practice, I re-rolled out my mat in my bedroom, not really feeling like working on anything else at that point, took the forward fold without much thought, set up strong, and felt my feet come off the mat and into a headstand position.  I left it up to my body and my body totally got it -- and it suddenly became effortless and natural.  Now I eagerly await the opportunity in class to go upside down.  Even in the mat-to-mat 5:45pm classes!

In your practice, look at where you need to give your mind a break and let your body do the work.  Don't over-think alignment.  Trust your body on your mat.  Base the growth of your practice on intuition -- you will go where you need to when you are ready.

See you on the mat,

Liz (

Thursday, October 4, 2012

"We Are Either Now Here or Nowhere"

Image: via Liz on pinterest
As discussed in my last post, over the next few weeks I will be introducing you to Baron Baptiste's Eight Universal Principles for Stepping Up to The Edge.  Remember, at the edge we build strength and discover serenity.  It's time to get started with Principle I:

We Are Either Now Here or Nowhere.

Have you ever been to a yoga class and heard the teacher speak to being present?  Pretty much every class, right?  It's because it's kind of a big deal.  Is anything happening in the past?  No -- it no longer exists.  Is anything happening in the future?  No -- it doesn't yet exist.  So if you are spending your time in either of those places, nothing is happening.  Other than unwelcome feelings of worry, sadness, depression, regret, anxiety, or loneliness -- all generated by stories that you are making up in your head about what happened or what is going to happen.  Peaceful memories and adventurous goals are great things, but it is only in the present moment that we truly experience growth.  Where we build strength and discover serenity.

Sounds simple.  Just be present.  Easier said than done.  I get it.  We live in a fast paced world filled with constant distraction and stimulation.  It's downright impossible to be present while perusing your facebook newsfeed!  The good news is, you can develop the ability to bring yourself back to the present when your mind starts to drift.  Achieving now here instead of nowhere does take practice, but it is not an impossible feat.

I admit, there are days where as soon as I arrive at my mat, I'm ready to walk out the door.  A couple months ago, I started doing CrossFit and the intensity of the workouts can leave me feeling a little wilted.  To the point where just unrolling my seven pound Manduka mat is a feat.  Before I've even settled into Child's pose, I'm already in the process of psyching myself out, "how am I ever going to make it through 75 minutes of vigorous flow in a 90 degree room when my shoulders are so sore I can barely lift my arms above my head??"

By breathing.  That's how.

Image: via Liz on pinterest
When you focus on nothing but breath, it's downright impossible not to be present.  You may have noticed that every class at CPY starts off with a few minutes in a resting posture where attention to the breath begins.  This is not by accident.  When we start class by honing in on our breathing, we immediately start to shut out the crazy thoughts and stories running through our heads and find our happy place.  Have you ever been boiling-over angry or panic-attack stressed and encouraged by a friend or loved one to "just take a few deep breaths?"  That's good advice.  This simple action calms the nervous system, allowing us to regain composure and get back to the now -- where the magic happens.

Even on my most worn-out days, when I shift my thinking to my breath (instead of the intense burning sensation in my quads, for example), I am able to remain in postures until the teacher guides us out, not just until my brain says "get me out."  Focusing on the breath can take work.  I suggest starting by simply saying in your head "inhale" and "exhale" as you breathe in and out to get into a rhythm of linking movement with breath.  Another great option is to utilize a mantra that you can repeat when your mind starts to get distracted.  I personally like "here" (inhale) "now" (exhale).  This method keeps me from thinking about what is coming next and how tired I am.  Before I know it, I've powered through class and am basking in the glory of both serenity and strength.

As you go about your day or your yoga practice, if you find your mind starts to wander to a far away place, try using your breath as a tool that allows you to enjoy the present.  Hmmm.  It actually is that simple, right?

See you on the mat,

Liz (

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Living on the Edge

I will never forget my first yoga class.  I didn't really want to go.  I thought yoga was for wimps and weirdos.  I saw no need to relax when intense physical activities could reduce my stress and OM-ing seemed just a little too...out there.  You know, like the girl in this video:

While visiting my dear friend in Boston during the frigid month of January, my arm was twisted.  She had been going to the Baptiste Studio in Cambridge and was obsessed.  So much so, she had even purchased several books by this dude Baron who created this style of power vinyasa yoga.  She claimed it was changing her life, so I was intrigued.  She also mentioned it was in a 90 degree room -- sounded delightful on that cold day, but also a little scary.  Extreme heat can make me irritable and claustrophobic (so naturally, I chose Charleston to call home).  I like to live on the edge, so I put on my running clothes and took the mat towel she insisted I would need and pushed all fears and doubts aside.

The next thing I know, I'm in a room mat-to-mat with strangers, swapping sweat, movin' and grovin', and having the time of my life.  I can't recall a thing the teacher said, but if it was anything about experiencing detoxing, opening, centering or freedom during the practice, she was spot-on.  I walked out of that room feeling lighter, happier, and ALIVE.  Plus, that class kicked my booty.  I worked muscles I didn't even know I had.  Turns out, yoga can be physically intense.  Good thing I was open-minded (yoga would teach me about that later) too lazy to run that day.  The high I was on could not even be stopped by the extreme shock of sweat-drenched clothes and hair meeting the harsh bite of the Boston winter winds.

Immediately upon returning home, before considering a much needed shower or electrolyte replenishment beverage, I was online looking up yoga studios in NYC (where I lived at the time) and ordering a green yogitoes towel that represented the heart chakra in honor of my new love interest.  Turns out, I'm a weirdo.  After showering and chugging a gallon of water, in my new-found zen state I got cozy with one of those books: Journey Into Power by Baron Baptiste.  I flipped through the pages reading an excerpt here and there, but then threw it aside in favor of wine and cheese.  
My yoga practice never stopped after that first class, but I was not reacquainted with the book that would truly inspire transformation my life until I participated in Yoga Teacher Training at Baptiste Affiliate Studio Charleston Power Yoga (an amazing experience I can't wait rave about another day).

In the book, Baron discusses his "Eight Universal Principles for Stepping Up to the Edge."  He says these principles will "do for your mind what a map does when you are lost on a road."  You may be wondering what the big deal is about living on the edge or think that sounds dangerous.  Personally, it's my favorite place.  It's staying in a pose when your legs are screaming at you to come out of it.  At the edge, we build strength.  It's showing up to a yoga class for the first time, even if you don't think you want to be there, and falling in love.  At the edge, we find serenity.

Image via Liz on Pinterest

Over the next eight posts, I will be discussing each principle in detail to help guide you on a journey to your own personal edge.  Whether you are a beginner or experienced yogi, these principles will speak to you.  Even if you've read them a thousand times before, as you grow in your life and practice, they will find new meaning.  In the same way that every time you show up for a yoga class, you get something different out of the experience.  If you've never done yoga before, you'll just have to trust me on that one and get to Charleston Power Yoga downtown on King Street to believe it for yourself.

See you on the mat,

Liz (

Friday, September 14, 2012

Turn Your Fear Upside Down!


When I was in college, a friend of mine had the amazing opportunity to study for a semester abroad in Ireland.  Lucky, right?  Well, she didn't think so and emailed me a sob-story about the terrible time she was having sitting in her apartment alone most evenings spending energy missing friends and family back in the states.  She was missing a lot more than that -- new experiences, new friends, new drinking games -- all being missed!  She was dropped outside her cozy little comfort zone and didn't know what to do.  She was scared.

This was back in a time when people sent snail mail, not facebook messages, so I went searching for a card to carry some cheer and encouragement to her across the pond.  I found the magnet pictured above and purchased two immediately.  One for me, one for her.  She finally tried her first Guinness and "do one thing every day that scares you" became my permanent motto for life.

All week, I have been endlessly discussing this weekend's super exciting inversion and arm balance workshops with Briohny and Dice with fellow my teachers and students.  There is a common theme going on with those who have not yet secured a spot: FEAR.

I can't send you all a magnet, or I will not be able to afford to attend any of the workshops myself, but I can tell you that if you are resisting signing up out of fear, you are missing out!  There is a workshop for everyone and there is still space available in all sessions.  What is holding YOU back?  These are the most common excuses in circulation:

"I'm afraid I can't do arm balances or inversions." or "I'm afraid of going upside down."
Spend your Saturday morning (10am - 12pm) learning the steps to saying "I can."  Intro to Flight is perfect for those resistant to flying and balancing on their hands and those who have just started to play with the idea.  In this workshop, basic postures will be broken down and made accessible for all by laying a strong foundation that starts with proper alignment and how to enter and exit postures safely.

"I'm afraid I'm not strong or flexible enough to do these fancy postures."
Bend Your Inversions on Saturday afternoon (1pm - 3pm) will focus on building strength and opening in the chest, back, abs, quads, and hamstrings.  If you love backbends and balancing, this is the workshop for you.  Even if you are new to inversions, you will benefit from this (or any) workshop from the powerful instruction, energy and support from fellow students, and my #1 supporter that will not let you fall: the wall.  You do not need to be able to invert in the middle of the room!!  The wall is a great tool for building confidence while learning.

"I'm afraid of going alone."
Yoga = community.  If you are new in town or have been practicing at CPY for awhile and have never said hello to a fellow yogi at the studio, now is your chance to build your network and make new friends with like-minded interests!  Sign up for Partner/Acro Yoga and you'll automatically be given a new BFF for Sunday morning (9am - 11am) and beyond.

"I want to be able to do this (watch video) but I'm afraid because I can't nail and hold my handstand away from the wall every single time.  Maybe in 10 years I'll be there."
Ok, so that is my own personal excuse.  Maybe it will take me 10 years to flow effortlessly on my hands.  I'm not putting a deadline on it, but I am going to take action steps to achieving this goal and the first of many steps is attending The ABC's of the Inverted Yoga Practice on Sunday (12pm - 2pm) to deepen my understanding of where every bone and muscle in my body is and needs to be while upside down.  Not being able to do XYZ right now is exactly why you and I both need to attend a workshop.  If you do not try (and fall down and try again and again), how will you ever know where you can go and how will you ever get there?  Exactly.

You may not master your first or an advanced posture during the workshop, but you will be given all of the tools you need to successfully make them a regular part of your practice and, even if it requires assistance, you WILL get into some postures!  This inspiring duo will help you develop enhanced body awareness, build strength, and move past mental blocks and fear.   

Still scared?  Good.  Now you don't have to come up with something to do that scares you this Saturday or Sunday.  Give up excuses, step out of your comfort zone, and turn your fear upside down by signing up now!

See you on the mat,

Liz (