BECOMMING A YOGA TEACHER

[OCTOBER, 2017]

I was 18, and had barely lived in NYC for 3 months. At this point I was spending more time taking shots & being hungover in my dorm room bunk bed than being a productive human/ college student. (yes, I had a fake ID... rebel!) My roommate / high school BFF was always connected to the coolest people at the hottest clubs. We never waited in lines, and always drank for free. It was easy to escape. 

I didn't really know what I wanted to do. I moved to NY on a whim, chasing a boy that didn't want to be chased, setting myself up for heartbreak and drowning in toxicity. I was lost. I was unsure. I was avoiding myself at all costs. 

It was my friends mom who looked at us one day (I'm sure we we wreaked of booze) and said, "What are you girls doing to yourselves? You need to take care of your bodies. You need yoga." 

So we went to yoga. I'd done yoga in high school, purely because the thought of running a mile made me nauseous, and it was considered an easy A kind of class. But I was never, EVER, let me repeat, NEVER physically inclined. I tried to go out for different teams, but never made the cut. I didn't run, I didn't dance, I didn't surf or snowboard or play volleyball or soccer, or anything for that matter. I drew, and I sang, and I did theatre. Flexible? No. Hard no. Strong? ha! No. 

That first yoga class, I was a mess! I hated sweating and I was literally soaked, in my sweat and what felt like everyone else's sweat too. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't bear to hold my arms up in any warrior pose for more than a few seconds, and there was no way I was going to do another f'ing vinyasa. I crawled into a little ball, aka childs pose, and held back tears. I felt so useless. I wanted to roll up my mat, run out of the room, and never come back. Somehow, I made it through class. (I probably blacked out through the rest of it.)

A few months later, I was on a plane back to LA for what I believed would be my summer break, only for my dad to break the news that I would no longer be attending school in NY, or living there at all for that matter. It was too expensive, and I didn't even have a major, so why did I have to go to school there, and if I really wanted to, I could go to community college in Santa Monica. Immediately, my world collapsed. "NO, there was no way I was going to community college! All of my friends are in real schools, living in cool dorms, living college lives!!" Thats what the naive, rebellious, and lets be honest, clueless, 18 year old me was screaming (inside and outside.) 

I was devastated. I moved back into my mom's house after having lived on my own for almost a year, and I felt like a total failure. A real loser. I was no longer in that toxic relationship, but at the time it felt like it was my whole world. I hated my life and I hated myself. I had been struggling with depression and eating disorders for a couple years at that point (boy are my teenage journals dark and dismal) and honestly, all I wanted (dreamed of, hoped for) was to go to sleep, and never wake up. 

But every day, I woke up. I didn't know what to do with myself, but a small voice, somewhere inside of me whispered, "yoga." I didn't question it, I just found the closest donation studio and started practicing. 

I didn't have any money, and I remember pretending to put money in the donation box after classes and run out of the studio as quickly as possible so that no one would catch me and I could come back and practice. 

It was Dan Ward, a wonderfully kind teacher, who I connected with. I remember him trying to give me adjustments in forward folds, and my whole body rejecting the idea of my fingers ever reaching my toes. But he saw something in me and always encouraged me to come back. It didn't matter that I couldn't afford classes, he knew I needed yoga, even if I didn't know what yoga really was. 

Those classes became the only thing that pulled me out of my darkness. 

I have a distinct memory of walking out of class one afternoon, and feeling like my feet weren't even touching the ground. Like I was floating. I felt so free. I had the sudden and deep realization that happiness was not something that you can get from anyone or anything outside of yourself. Happiness is something you create within. 

I asked Dan, "So what is yoga? I mean... how can I be doing these poses, and feeling so good inside?" I was baffled, intrigued, and I needed to know more. He told me about something called a 'teacher training.' I asked where he did his, and I went straight home and signed up for the next one. 

I did my 200 hour YTT with Tamal Dodge that November, about 6 months after I started practicing regularly. I just wanted to know more. I didn't know if I wanted to be a teacher, I was barely 19 years old! But I dove in, because my intuition told me to, and I didn't question it. 

By the time I finished my training, I was fully immersed in the yoga community. I was working at the front desk of the studio, taking classes every day, and I even started teaching once a week. (Oh my gosh, I was so awful, I wore my glasses to teach and they would get all steamy and slide down my nose because I was nervously sweating / overheating... those were the days!!) 

Another 6 months of this passed by, and all of a sudden, the Universe was urging me to make some major life changes. The studio was going to close, among other things, and I ended up buying a one-way ticket to Costa Rica. Pure Vida!

I had reached out to a hotel and they needed staff! I couldn't have been more excited. I moved there and started teaching 2 classes every day, right away. This is where I began to find my voice as a teacher. Until that point, only teaching 1 class a week just wasn't enough for me to learn how to clearly convey my message, or even figure out what my message was. Practice. Practice. Practice. 

I learned how to teach 1 person, and I learned how to teach to a group of 20 people. All I did was teach. I read and studied philosophy and theory and anatomy, and I taught. 

I really felt like I had found my purpose. I knew I had to share this message with as many people as I could. This connection to self. This magic that is within and ready for us to tap into at any point, no matter what. This is what I aim to share. 

Now, its been almost 7 years! I've taught yoga all over the world. I've recorded classes online. I've taught yoga wearing a microphone to a hundred people. I've ever taught yoga on a yacht!

This journey, this practice, is ever evolving. Its humbling because one can never 'master' yoga, one can only embody it more and more. I have so much to learn, and so much to share, and this feels like it's only the beginning. I'm just getting started. 

Click here for my online yoga class bundle. Click here for my free youtube classes.

TRANSITIONS & HOW TO STAY CENTERED

[SEPTEMBER, 2017]

We are in a time of great transition. Late summer is a season in and of itself. At least here in LA, it is still scorching hot (hotter than its been all summer), and while I am aching to add sweaters and boots, instead I am peeling off the layers, both physically and metaphorically. 

I wonder if anyone else felt the intensity of August, of both of the eclipses, and their deep and profound effects? It was a very hard and telling month for me. It started off strong, and I was told it was a time of transformation. I was told that I would not be the same person by the end of the month. I had my doubts, but honestly, I feel like I've faced my darkest shadows and obliterated them with the brightest light I could muster. It has been hard. It has been revealing. I cried. I yelled. I cowered in a corner. I wrote, feverishly, and tore out the pages and burned them. I finally let it out of me. And I was supported. And now, I feel light. And free. And I realized I was the only one in my way all this time.

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But enough about my melo drama, (thanks for listening though) I want to talk about how YOU can move through this transition between bikinis and pumpkin spice lattes (lets be real, do you even like pumpkin spice lattes?!). 

In Chinese Medicine, there are 5 seasons, Late Summer being one of them. Its easy to feel ungrounded when things are changing, which means it is especially important to stay centered. Rooted. So as not to get caught up in the chaos. If there is movement both around you and inside of you, it can feel like there's nothing to hold on to.

Earth is the element of Late Summer. Makes perfect sense. Earth. It is our biggest constant, yet it is always changing! Just like us. So HOW can we stay centered? The first step is to stay present. Know where you are, and who you are. 

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Bring your awareness to your left side. Your feminine side. Your intuition. Now bring your attention to your right side. The part of you that is out in the world. The hand that makes the deals and signs the checks. Bring your attention to your backside, your heels, the nape of the neck. This represents your past. Your experiences. Now bring your attention to your front side. Your heart. Your eyes gazing forward. This represents your future. Your potential. Now put yourself on a central axis, right in between all 4 polarities. Here. Now. Breathe in. Breathe out. From this vantage point you can see all around you. You can practice this visualization to center yourself as often as you need to. 

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We are at a point in the year where we have had enough experiences to look back and reflect upon, and still plenty of time ahead of us to make changes and take action. At this time we are making the shift from the outward, social expression of summer to the the inward focus of fall and winter.

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- Where are you right now? Where do you envision yourself?

- Do you tend to move quickly or do you enjoy taking your time? Is it challenging to do the opposite?

- In what ways have you used your creativity & passion?

-In what ways have you cared for yourself?

-Which 'seeds' (of intention) can you tend to more carefully?

FINDING BALANCE: EFFORT & SURRENDER

ISHVARA PRANIDHANA

"Effort and surrender are like two wings of a bird. 
Both are necessary for a smooth and joyful flight."

In our modern, fast-paced world, we have spent the majority of our lives cultivating the skill of rapidly moving from place to place, or task to task. We are taught to view stillness as laziness, and surrender as giving up. But surrender does not mean weakness or powerlessness – instead it means meeting life where it is, without trying to change or manipulate it. Accepting the moment as is. One of the best ways to learn this is by cultivating stillness of both the body & mind. 

How many times have you been swept up in the drama of the past, replaying events that have already happened and cannot be changed? How many times have you found yourself filled with anxiety, short of breath, worried about future events that may never even take place? Often times it is the ego, or the sense of ‘I’ that wants to take us out of the present moment, the only place where life truly exists. We are taught from an early age for the need to control our surroundings, to control outcomes of situations, to even control one another. How wonderful would it be if we could begin to let go of this ‘need’ for control, this false idea that having control brings happiness or power? Your highest power lies in the ability to let go.

In Sanskrit there is a term, “Ishvara Pranidhana” which translates to surrendering to a higher source. For Patanjali, Ishvara pranidhana is an infallible practice for dissolving the endless agitations of the mind, and in turn a means to experiencing the ultimate unified state of yoga: samadhi. How? Because Ishvara pranidhana shifts our perspective from the obsession with the ego, with “I”—with our narrow individual concerns and perspective—that causes so much of the mind’s distraction and creates a sense of separation from our Source. Much like anything else, applying this practice is easier said than done, especially if one has never had much experience with something like this before. This sensation of surrendering your control can be experienced in simple exercises such as learning to listen internally to the sound of your breath, becoming an observer to the processes of the body rather than controlling the outcomes with the mind. 

For many people, the idea of effort is easy to accept. “No pain, no gain” is a familiar saying. But too much effort can cause implosion. Think again of the flight of a bird. How could it make its journey south for the winter without surrendering itself to the directions and power of the wind? It would never make it. Surrender is often defined as giving up completely to the power of another. But in yoga we find the “sweet” in the surrender. It is more of a softening to the moment, a release of tension, a belief in the idea that we are truly supported and cared for, an acceptance and love of our truest selves. We can’t fly without surrender. Effort without softening is over-effort. We need to accept that we cannot control everything.

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         When effort and surrender combine the result is pure ecstasy. If we approach our yoga with a playful attitude the balance of effort and surrender becomes second nature. The ego may want to perform a particular pose for show but the body or mind may not be ready. If we try to force the pose with our will, we may cause injury. It is easy to cling to physical ideals, but our bodies are all different. So instead of forcing your way into a pose, ease and explore your way into it with gentleness and compassion supported with a strong foundation of the awareness of your breath.Working from your center gives your pose its power. Playing the edges helps to rediscover your center. Yoga is dynamic. It pulses with the breath and with the beat of nature.

There is always a new discovery, an awakening if you remain open to it. Bring this energy and attitude into your practice and feel your whole life blossom.

HOW TO: WAKE UP EARLY

While I definitely enjoy the luxury of (occasionally) sleeping in, I've found my most productive and successful days are those when I am up with the sun. Just like any habit, it takes practice and awareness and a willingness to create it or break it. But this is something you can get excited about... it is a blessing to wake up every day, with endless opportunities to create magic! 

Here are a few tips on how to get up early!

1. AIRPLANE MODE!!! - Cant stress this one enough. Mindlessly scrolling through your feeds not only stimulates the mind, but the blue light that almost every device gives off tricks our circadian rhythm, or natural body clock, into thinking that it’s daytime. It also boosts attention and reaction times, and interferes with our bodies’ production of melatonin, the hormone that induces sleep, making it difficult to nod off. So don't give yourself any excuses to reach over for your phone, airplane mode dat shiz!! Extra challenge: put your phone on airplane more at LEAST 30 minutes before going to bed. 

2. Schedule your Most Exciting and Important Plans for the Morning- This way you are motivated to get it done and then you don't even have to think or worry about it the rest of the day! Reduce as much stress as possible, as early as possible. Doesn't that sound nice? (my most exciting plans often include breakfast, so here is a smoothie bowl recipe you can recreate in the AM!)

3. Put your Alarm Clock on the Other Side of the Room - Makes it much more difficult to hit snooze, and gets you up and on your feet. 

4. Open all the blinds right away - Let the light in so that your brain registers that it is time to turn on and start the day. I also like to put on some music (Bob Marley Radio on Spotify usually, but you can check out some of my playlists here!)