~ Bob Dylan
I thought I knew everything….I realized that I know nothing! Here is my latest guest piece for Ardent Pictures, “ I’m Going To Prison.”
When I enrolled in the Yoga Teacher Training Program at YogaSpace, I had never entertained the idea of having a home practice. As I entered the studio for my first day of training with Kathryn Beet and Patricia White that was what we spent the entire first day establishing. Kathryn and Patricia introduced us to a basic wall series. The postures may have been basic, simple, and easy to understand, however they were also extremely active. There was a lot of moaning and groaning sounds throughout the day along with muffled laughter at ourselves. On a personal level, it was surprising to realize how tight my body felt on all levels. Physically, emotionally, and mentally. To say the least, I definitely had my homework cut out for me. As we were wrapping up our first day, Kathryn and Patricia reinforced that establishing a home practice for self was of the utmost importance. Why? I simply like to look at that old saying, ‘Practice What You Preach.’
How can I be asking people to breathe, to scan their bodies from head to toe investigating places of stored tension when I myself am not? How do I create a safe environment for my students if I haven’t learned to establish one for myself? If I am not continuing the investigation of myself to become more open as I stretch my tight muscles, massaging my internal organs, moving blocked energy, than how is it that I have a right to be leading anyone else, if I can’t lead myself?
Establishing a home practice is hard. It is easier to be in a classroom. In a classroom you cannot escape and attack those dirty dishes or re-organize your closet. It’s easy to get distracted at home and not do your practice with the idea that you will do it later. Trust me. I am an expert at procrastinating. So what are some tips for establishing a home practice that works for you? It took me a while to find out what worked best for me. I thought I’d share my tips with you.
1. What form of Yoga do you love to practice? Restorative, Yin, Hatha, Vinyasa, or Flow? Find out by being open to attending a variety of classes with different teachers, especially if your practice is new or if you feel unsure about your favorite form of Yoga. Once you are feeling confident in your practice in a class environment, you are probably ready to begin designing your home practice. For me, Restorative Yoga is my absolute favorite. I often refer to it as magic time. I also use books for guidance sometimes. Here are a few of my favorites!
The Woman’s Book of Yoga & Health by Linda Sparrowe and Patricia Walden
Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness by Erich Schiffmann
Relax & Renew, Restful Yoga For Stressful Times by Judith Lasater
2. What works best for you? Is it morning, day, or night? When first beginning your home practice make sure that you do try practicing at different times of the day. Some days, I like to practice as soon as I get up, jumping right in to my sun salutations to wake up! Sometimes afternoons are great for a gentle practice combining both Hatha and Restorative instead of a nap. I love doing a Restorative practice right before bed at night. My mind slows down, my breath becomes steady and calm, and I am ready for a deep sleep by the time I am finished. Unless, I already passed out in Savasana. A successful practice in my books!
3. Setting up your space. What makes you feel warm, cozy, and great? My living space is sacred, as it should be for everyone. How everyone establishes that sense of sacredness, of feeling safe is dependent upon the individual. What do I do? I light a ton of candles, I role out my mat in the center of my living room and line up all of my props ( 2 Bolsters, 2 Blocks, 1 Eye Pillow, 3 Blankets). I put on whatever music it is that I feel my body is craving to listen to. To me, there is no right or wrong music. Your body knows what it needs, trust yourself that you are right.
4. Have fun! If you feel like laughing, DO! If you feel like crying, DO! If you want to make sound, stick out your tongue, stay in child’s pose for twenty minutes than DO it! Leave the idea of what you think you should be doing outside to the naked streets. My first Yoga teacher Maher Benham used to get my entire class to say, ‘I take the puppet that is of myself, and I fling it against the sky.’ – Emily Dickinson
We all thought that she was nuts! We couldn’t figure out why she would have us say that phrase repeatedly as if our lives depended on it! Until one day, I had an “aha” moment. What I realized was that she was trying to get us to realize that who we were as individuals was enough. To not try and be the person we thought we were supposed to be, but the person that we all already were.
“Today more than ever, it’s crucial that we include practices in our daily lives that promote health and spiritual growth. The state of the environment, the stresses created by the world’s ever-increasing population’s demand on dwindling resources, and political unrest are signposts of the critical state we face. If we want a world worth living in, and worth leaving to future generations, we need to take responsibility by creating well-being in our lives and by supporting others as they choose healthier lives. In other words, to transform the world, we first have to transform ourselves.”
~ Judith Hanson Lasater, Ph. D., P.T.
In December 2004 I was at my Christmas staff party. I was waiting for my then boyfriend to come who had been stuck at work. I took my phone out of my bag to see if he had texted/called. I listened to my voicemail. I did have a message from him that he was on his way, but I also had a message from a friend of ours, RJ who had recently got a golden retriever puppy. In the voicemail RJ said, ‘He had another female golden retriever puppy at his house who was in need of a home. Were we interested?’ I wasn’t sure why he had another puppy, but I got very excited and of course immediately wanted to meet her. We called them back and went over to the house right after dinner.
When we arrived at our friends’ house, we walked up the stairs full of excitement, anticipating what this puppy would be like that we were about to meet. We walked in to the kitchen and there she was. She was a beautiful golden red color with big brown eyes. As soon as she looked up at me my heart melted. After a few minutes of us gushing over her, talking in that weird baby voice that we all swear we will never do, we sat down at the kitchen table to find out some more information about this little three-month old beauty whose name was Kayla.
“RJ told us he had received a call from the breeder the day before asking him if he could go rescue Kayla. The breeder was not able to get in contact with the family and was concerned that something was wrong. RJ agreed to go get the puppy. When he arrived at the house, he went inside and found Kayla sitting alone in a corner. The woman who owned the house was a single mom with three young girls. The house was filthy. Kayla was dirty and had gum matted in her coat and was not she being fed.”
As I was listening to RJ tell the end of the story I looked over to find Kayla nestled up asleep in my then boyfriends’ lap. She came home with us that night. We also changed her name to Kaia. Over those first few weeks Kaia slowly began to reveal little bits of her personality and being a new parent, I had no idea what I was doing. On Boxing Day a group of us had gone for a big hike. It was dark by the time we began to head home. Kaia was in the back seat wrapped up in a towel, but she was cold so she walked up to the front seat and crawled in to my lap. In that moment I bonded with her in a way that I hadn’t yet. Nor did I know in the months to come how she would forever change my life, and I hers.
Over the next few months we had moved and I had begun to realize that my relationship was not working. That Spring my relationship came to a tumultuous end. A few days after the breakup, I began to notice that Kaia’s eyes looked weird. She was blinking a lot and it looked as if her eyeballs were beginning to lodge out of her eye socket. I took her to the vet right away. They couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her and sent me over to the Animal Critical Care Group. Kaia knew that something was wrong and kept hiding under my legs. I was an emotional disaster to say the least. With my relationship ending and now the possibility that I might lose her too. I couldn’t bare the idea of it. They ran a bunch of exams including an ultrasound of the eyes. They concluded that she was suffering from one of two things: Extraocular Muscle Myositis or Retrobulbar Tumors.
Extraocular Muscle Myositis is a rare inflammatory disorder of single or multiple extraocular eye muscles, but it would treatable with a drug called Prednisone. Retrobulbar Tumors are tumors that formed behind the eyes. If it was cancer there wasn’t much I could do. I did not have the money, and at that point it would also be pretty advanced so that means there wouldn’t be much that they could do either. After a few more tests results they were able to confirm that it was Extraocular Muscle Myositis. I was thankful because this disease could be cured with the treatment of a strong drug. From there, the real journey of Kaia and I began.
Within a day she had had an amazing reaction to the Prednisone. I, once again was thankful to the universe. Throughout the next couple of years we were in and out clinics. She was always puffy. She would get brown patches or rather lesions on her skin, not to mention constant diharrea, sometimes vomiting. To meet her, you would have never known. I was living in Vancouver at that point. I would take her to the beach every day sometimes twice. Regardless of what time of year it was she would be in the ocean swimming to find her bright orange ball only to be curled up by my side hours later. This dog of mine has an undeniable everlasting spirit.
After being on the Prednisone for close to three years, my vet at the time decided that it would be good to lower her dose significantly so that we could slowly move her off of the drug. I was shocked. I thought that she would have to be on this steroid for the rest of her life, and as much as I was excited, I was terrified. Once again though, Kaia responded amazingly! Over the next few months her dose was lowered until the vet decided she was good to stop taking the drug altogether. She was three years old, she is now nine, and she has never had to go back on Prednisone. She is a healthy middle-aged dame rocking it out every day!
Some of the things that I love about her daily; she smiles at people. She is extremely vocal. People have asked me over the years what is wrong with her, why does she cry like that, ect ect. I have always encouraged people to speak their truth; I guess Kaia caught on. Or, as my friend Dawn used to say when people would ask those questions, ‘Kaia can’t help it. She’s the daughter of an actress!’ It’s true, she is. I refer to her as my magic little pony. She doesn’t walk down the street but prances with her head always held up high. I love when she looks up at me with her big brown eyes. That when I put The Cure on she knows it’s go time, and as I begin to let my freak flag fly dancing like a crazy person she is right there with me. Although as I have said to her many times, she gets a little carried away. Who mosh’s to The Cure? Apparently, she does.
I love that every time I get on my yoga mat to practice she thinks this is the best idea ever and proceeds to lay directly across the mat underneath me as I am in downward dog. My dog makes me laugh. When I am sick or having a bad day she will not leave me for one second. For all of this, for her I am thankful. She is a dog. She is my dog. She is Miss Kaia always.