2018 60 Day Challenge


I feel compelled to begin this challenge with the word, BREATHE….Build your practice on and off your mat upon the breath. Yoga means union. This evening I’m defining yoga as the union of the body, the mind, and the breath. We all know how much time lost in thought. If we pay attention, we realize that the content of most of our thoughts relate to the past or the future. Without realizing it, we can spend much of lives missing the present moment, literally missing our lives.

One central aspect of the practice is dedicated to developing awareness of our mind, body, and our BREATH. Our breath can be both our best friend and our teacher. It is with us from the moment we are born until the moment we die. And it has a great deal to tell us when we listen. And yes, all of this is behind why the studio is called “Breathe” (we will get to the “together” part some day soon). While we’re on our mat, we can also use the awareness of the breath as a means of rooting our attention. How many moments of the day do we spent aware of our breath? Why is this important? Because it speaks to our capacity to be present to the consecutive moments otherwise known as “life.” This afternoon we had a short break during a long day of teaching. I turned myself upside down and when I came down, immediately felt the benefits. The breath was longer and more calm and I had more energy. See you tomorrow! 

Day 2 - How Lucky We Are to Move in This Way Together

Every yoga practice looks different – and should. While we have the advantage of practicing together which is motivating and fun, especially because after a short time, we can call the people we practice with real friends, the real practice of yoga is an inside job. These feet belong to 300 hour teacher trainees. We just spent our first of twelve weekends together. Eachperson’s practice in this group is unique. We all have been graciously given a body, a tiny eco-system to get to know, to become intimate with, to care for as it changes. And in fact, it’s changing moment to moment. There is so much that the mind takes for granted, probably because it can be completely overwhelming to experience the magnitude of howmuch we’ve been given. But yoga is the act of attempting to fully participate in life. That means in relation to our mat, we attempt to take nothing for granted. Every time we approach the mat, we have the chance to discover what our body and mind is like today, as though we have walked into the laboratory open to learning, discovering, experiencing. After the training was finished, I took a class with the great Alex Sempel. Back in the corner, having my own little yoga experience in the company of others, I thought, “how lucky we are to move in this way together.”

Day 3 - And So We Practice...

One of the fundamental guidelines of the practice of yoga is Ahimsa or non-violence. Within the Sanskrit word “Ahimsa,” the letter “a” means “not.” Therefore, “himsa” means “harming, injuring, killing or doing violence.” As Hippocrates said, “Above all else, do no harm.” “Ahimsa is not merely a negative state of harmlessness. It a positive state of being kind — or compassionate. Treating others the way we wish to be treated can be found in the guidelines of virtually all major spiritual traditions.

When we are on the mat and practicing compassion towards ourselves, we engage force without violence. Very soon and with practice, we find that kindness begins to come even more naturally in all circumstances. We become like a tree standing firmly rooted and yet supple against the force of heavy winds.

When we find ourselves failing miserably — which happens to all of us — we notice, let go, and return to the practice. As a student in class today, I felt what I imagine many students feel in a packed yoga class in January, the tendency to want to be sure I had enough room for myself, and a feeling of being bashful when it was time to make contact with the people I didn’t know next to me who I’d inevitably bump into sometime during the class. I appreciated so much that the people who have been around BTY for a while were warm to the new people and when navigating tight spaces, people found their way very gracefully. Thank you! When we can habitually be kind with ourselves, we’re more likely able to make a habit out of being kind with others. One of my favorite phrases by the Dalai Lama goes like this: “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” And so we practice…….. 

Day 4 - Rob

This afternoon a student from BTY called to ask about what it’s like to run a yoga studio because she has aspirations to do the same someday. While I was fully elucidating the complexities of the yoga business, business partnerships, and the kinds of relationships and issues that have emerged over the years, many of which have been well beyond my initial understanding of what would be involved in owning a studio (basically I was telling her about the hard bits), I was turning the pages of the new Sundance Catalog. My eyes fell on this “woman’s necklace.” Hmmm, ROB. Rob is the name of my business partner who made Breathe Together possible. You probably know that he died five months ago. The necklace next to it not pictured says “follow your heart.” It is because of the fact that Rob followed his heart that we are able to practice every day – or challenge ourselves in this way, together. Hours later I realized that this necklace was probably named after Robert Redford, but in that moment on the phone this afternoon, I felt like Rob was talking to me. Business relationships are often complicated. Ours was. While the last seven years have been fraught with challenges, I sure hope he knew what he has done for so many. In turn, many people support us in exploring our potential, some obvious, some quietly. So, day 4 is a tiny “shout out” to Rob and all those who love and support our efforts, and especially during the next 56 days.

Day 5 - Standing in One’s Truth

When we step on our mat each day, check in with the body. We customize the practice to how we are feel emotionally, physically and mentally. Each day is different. Each moment is unique (each foot is unique). We are an individual “body/mind complex” with the ability to observe, and explore simultaneously. I have found curiosity as a key to being willing to be honest with what I find inside. Today I gave myself the option to go fifty percent inside each posture instead of with the “foot on the gas” 80% (which is what I’ve been saying for some time now). I hung out with this discovery of my Puritan ethic that often runs the show from sunrise to sunset, curious as to whether I could live inside the valuable phrase, “less is more.” Our yoga practice is primarily concerned with developing awareness. If we are making our way into a posture in the spirit of observation and exploration, we are being both authentic and kind to ourselves. This is true with life as well. The more capable we are of inhabiting any inner experience, whatever it may be, the more able we are to fully comfortably inhabit any given moment, no matter what life gives us. I call this capacity “standing in one’s truth.”

Day 6 - Saucha

A key ethical guideline of yoga is “Saucha,” the Sanskrit word for “purity, in thought, speech and action.

A way to traditionally purify the body and the mind was to develop heat that comes from the practice of discipline. Using movement and breath exercises coupled with holding the gaze and the mind in a posture for a period of time (in early yoga, the time to hold a posture amounted to many years), the level of focus and determination would force a shedding that which was not useful to the moment. Practitioners would experience deeper connection to the present, but they would also become stronger, and ultimately surrender their small concerns in the process, thereby re-connecting themselves to, for lack of a better term, “the flow of life,” or the “god of their own understanding.” It was that spirit that was behind my interest in developing the four seasonal Tapas series in 2010; longer holds in postures (12 breaths each), less flow, a chance to really bring mind, body and breath together, and a series that rotated through the year, informed by Ayurveda and Chinese medicine, in order to bring awareness to the vulnerabilities that come with each season (in fall, it tends to get cold and windy and the lungs become more vulnerable/cold season, for example). The fine teachers who teach it now have evolved it in such a way that each teacher’s own voice shines through. Larry taught it tonight, accompanied by music. At the end, he brought around scented cold wash cloths for our foreheads. Lovely! Saucha: key in the practice of yoga. Purity in thought, speech and action.

Day 7 - Free Meditation

“Thoughts, sounds, sensations, breath, emotions are all passing phenomena, like leaves drifting down a river.”

Those words came from Claudia who teaches meditation on Friday afternoons. We wanted to offer free meditation so that anyone would feel that they had a place to come and check in with themselves, whether or not they practiced yoga-asana. Thank you Claudia Fountain!

Day 8 - Ha/Tha

Sun and Moon the “Ha” and “tha” of Hatha Yoga. One idea behind the practice of yoga is that we are looking to balance that which is dynamic with that which is receptive inside us. And why the studios are named Sola and Luna. In almost all cases, the dynamic vinyasa, Tapas and flow-based classes are in Sola, while the restorative, yin and therapeutic classes are in Luna. We urge those playing the sixty day challenge to balance their practice by alternating warmer with cooler practice. This morning I took Taoist Yoga with Kate Miller. We have the more fluid Taoist, Chi Gong and Tai Chi classes from Chinese systems to balance the long lines and static holds found in the Indian system. We repeated movements that eventually made the movement of the Phoenix, the mythical bird that rises from the ashes. Taoist yoga is kind to the joints but is also deceptively strength building. At the end, we used our imagination (as strange as this may sound) to bathe ourselves in the light of the moon to cool the body. Yoga practitioners, Taoist yoga is fascinating! Anyway, for equanimity and to take good care of yourself, a balanced practice is our friend!

Day 9 - Yoga for Athletes

What seems like a long time ago, Lonnell Graham took my JOY200 hour teacher training. Now he is on the tail end of the JOY300 and teaching Yoga for Athletes on Sunday mornings. We wanted to have a class on the schedule that was all about developing strength. The advantage of this class, other than clear instruction and Lonnell’s friendly and quite frankly, inspirational disposition, is many men show up because this straight forward class emphasizes core integration. Today, day 9 of sixty, I appreciated the pace very much! We offer it Wednesday night as well with Robin Lyons.

Day 10 - Mondays at BTY

Day 10 (already) of the 60 day challenge and and I took the noon class with Giselle Mari has been at BTY since we opened, and who is a mentor to many of our teachers simply by example. Her teaching practice blends captivating sequencing with great music, humor, a deep understanding and ability to convey yoga philosophy in an accessible way, chanting, inspirational leadership, astute timing and assists and years of experience that makes teaching yoga look so easy. She reminded us that every moment and every person in our lives is a teacher. I’m quite grateful to this teacher for bringing so much of herself to Mondays and to all of us.

Day 11 - "And since the teacher of teachers lives within all of us..."

Day 11 of the 60 day challenge and I took Alice Kennedy who was subbing for her good friend and colleague Kenny Graham. She did this really interesting thing with a strap in a supine position that I’ve never tried before. I was reminded why each of our teachers have at a very minimum, of 500 hours of training (most have several thousand hours because teachers who love teaching yoga are passionate about continually learning) and why this yoga studio celebrates diversity in teaching approaches. It’s because we as students are practically guaranteed to learn something new (about yoga, asana or ourselves) each and every time we take a class. Also, many studios put their teachers on a script now so the language is always the same. That can work for many people. However, as an educator for many years, I’ve come to appreciate that people learn differently. Alice may mean the same thing I’m saying, but her choice of words, timing and nuance may get the message across more effectively than had I said it. And this is good. We want to appeal to different learning styles. Also, It can be difficult as a teacher to sub another teacher’s class because the people in the class are there for the other teacher. But more often than not, the level of expertise is so high at BTY, students have reported that they can find something great in every teacher. That is music to my ears. And since the teacher of teachers lives within all of us, each of BTY’s teachers helps to cultivate that relationship by offering what they’ve learned and we as students learn to take what is offered, test it out for ourselves, take what is useful and leave the rest, so we can ultimately develop discernment. In the end, the practice of yoga is ours. And all of our teachers are guides along your way. And thank you Alice!!