Tolerance

When we visit Bali, we stay at our friend Rob's villa, which is located on the main road in town. On the other side of the road from Rob, there is a local Balinese man named Madé, who is quite up to date on the ways of the world.

Having gotten to know Madé over the last few years, we have become friends. He has a small tour guide agency and he rents us our scooters. Each time we would visit, he would invariably ask in his Balinese accent, "so when are you moving here?" 

This past summer, Mike laughingly responded, "if Trump wins, we'll move."

We got an email yesterday from Rob. Madé was asking when we were moving.

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If you talked to me last week, I would have said Hillary was going to win by a landslide. I mean, my entire newsfeed was #withher.

I didn't even think to watch the election results since it all seemed so cut and dried. I was confused why Madonna and Jay Z were even doing these free concerts. Wasn't everyone voting for her anyway?

After the election, I hesitated on writing something because I feel like everyone had aired their opinion, but then I reflected. Me not writing would be the same as me not voting. If I'm going to live in America, I am going to take advantage of it's liberties.

Last week was a mess for the yoga community. People crying on their mats. Hugging each other. The stages of grief were palpable. And more importantly, it was revealing that our kombucha drinking, sage burning way of life is not a reflection of the collective reality. 

That doesn't mean we as yoga practitioners need to pack up and move to Bali. Which we aren't doing, by the way. If we are truly living our yoga practice, it is the acceptance of the here and now. 

Instead of holding on to belief systems and ideals, we must open our eyes and our hearts to the current reality. We ask ourselves, in this current state, how can I be of service? How can I be open to understanding, even when I don't agree with it? We find the flexibility of our minds correlates to the flexibility of our bodies. When we hold on tightly to how we believe things should be, we become stiff. Inside and out. When close our eyes and fight the current situation, we remove ourselves from being of service. When we cling to the past, we never experience the present. The more we believe our way is the only way, the more we shut down and the more we shut off. 

We don't have to agree on every issue, but I think there is one thing we can come together on, and that is being open and aware. Because beneath this flesh and bone, beneath these opinions and judgements and programming, we all still have a heart.

The highest result of education is tolerance
— Helen Keller
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Simple

It all started with breathing.

For the past few months, Mike had been attending a crazy-sounding Effiji breathing class. He would rave about it, how they laid down on their backs and breathed in a special way just in and out through their mouths for an hour, basically hyperventilating. He would come home high as a kite and tell me how much he learned about himself each time. How he saw visions. How he loved it.

So eventually, one Monday night last month, I tagged along. "Do I need to bring a mat? A blanket?" I asked, "A pillow?"

I like to be prepared. Ready for whichever one of the dozen bizarre situations might arise. Like what if I freeze to death while breathing. "What about socks? A hoodie? I should bring a hoodie." 

"Jesus, come on, you'll be fine." Mike said, "Just come."

We hopped on the scooter and rolled up to the class, which took place in a a very zen community room inside of a beautiful condo building that I hadn't been to before. People were rolling around on yoga mats and a stack of blankets were piled high in a basket for people to use. I mentally checked freezing to death off the list. I was instructed to read and sign a waiver... a waiver to breathe.

I went with it.

The nice instructor Nathalie had us all set up mats in a long row and lay on our backs. She led us through a few practice rounds of Effiji breath for those of us first-timers. We opened our mouths wide - much wider than normal and took some super deep inhales and exhales. It was not a walk in the park. "I'm supposed to do this for an hour straight?" I asked myself. And myself responded, "You're a fucking yoga instructor, Amy, I think you can breathe for an hour."

I went with it some more.

Nathalie turned the lights down, put some soothing music on and we began. The first few minutes were fine, just getting into the rhythm of breathing... and then things started to get more interesting.

The way this breath works, Nathalie explained, is that it's like a river flowing into a dry river bed. All of the water comes in and stirs up and sweeps out the debris, so channels get cleared and old feelings get awakened. About fifteen minutes in, I started to feel a tingly sensation in my hands and feet, which she said is common. Then things in my body started to unravel. I started having spontaneous movements. Something in my belly got really stirred up and it felt like that scene from Space Balls where the alien is bursting out of the dude's stomach. I was uncomfortable. Then all of a sudden, I was laughing, hard. Things released. And then it felt like I wanted to cry and curl up in a little ball and then, in a moment, it was done.

An hour had passed. 

We were quietly instructed to go back to normal breathing and rest for a while, to let our bodies reintegrate. I rolled over on to my side and went into a state somewhere between sleep and wake. As I rested in that sleep, a message came to me...

It doesn't need to be so complicated, Amy. 

In that moment, it was so perfectly clear. It doesn't need to be so complicated. This belief is the crux of many of my life choices. My motto might as well be why do simple when I can do complicated. Why wear the same outfit again when I can spend an hour creating a new one? Why teach the same yoga class again when I can stress myself out always trying to keep it fresh? Why simply drive when I can ride my bike?

Why take the easy route when I can make it super duper complicated?

The message hung in the air over my head, floating, until we were told we could slowly sit up and rejoin reality. As I opened my eyes in the dim light, it felt like I was somewhere other than Miami. Things felt different. I felt lighter. There was a piping hot cup of mint tea waiting for me at the top of my mat. I curled up with it and let the truth of that message sink into my body.

It can be simple, and that can be perfect

photo by matt roy // mattroyphotography.com

photo by matt roy // mattroyphotography.com

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Cuba!

A week ago, I was in a beachfront palapa in Tarara alongside Eduardo Pimentel, the godfather of Cuban yoga. "Thank you for coming here to Cuba," he said with a big smile to our group of American yoga practicioners. "You are brave and you coming here teaches me. I learn from you as much as you hopefully will learn from me."

educardo pimentel

He taught us an Iyengar inspired practice and made jokes as he quickly won over our group. We learned, we laughed, we loved. We connected. There was so much to love in Cuba. There is so much to love in Cuba. Over the six days we were there, we danced on rooftops, shared cigars with locals, rolled around in antique convertibles listening to Justin Bieber (true story), drank tons of cafecitos, explored back alleys of Havana, learned how to salsa dance, ate delicious food and fell hard for the immense beauty and personality of the island.

So how'd this all happen? 

I grew up to a family of wanderlusters - my mom and dad took off to China when I was three years old, so I'm always thinking about travel. About a year ago, I really wanted to visit Cuba and figured some other people would want to go too. And hell, why don't we all do some yoga while we're there. I reached out to the guys at Cultural Contrast who do these trips all the time, and with their help, our incredible Cuba yoga adventure was born.

old car havana

We took an awesome group of twenty people to do yoga in epic places and explore the country. We spent two days in Havana at Hotel Presidente, took an overnight trip to Viñales, the agricultural region, staying at La Ermita and returned to Havana for two nights at the Hotel Capri. You can't just travel to Cuba as a tourist though, so our yoga trip was designed as a people-to-people trip. Which means meaningful interaction with Cuban citizens. We met up with Miguel Coyula, former assistant city planner in Havana, to learn about Havana's rich history. We spent time with an adorable farmer at an organic farm in Viñales to learn about sustainable agriculture. We rolled cigars with a Cuban caballero. We practiced yoga with Eduardo. The people-to-people part was the best part of all! (I just found out that Miguel Coyula also educated Beyonce and Jay-Z on the history of Cuba so I think my life is now complete.)

And the yoga? We practiced on a rooftop at Hotel Presidente on the first two mornings. A beautiful sunrise flow where we soaked up the vibe of Havana. In Viñales, we practiced overlooking the valley under a thatched roof and at this point, we persuaded our Cuban tour guide and the bus driver to join us for their first ever yoga class and they both loved it. Back in Havana, we practiced in the oceanfront palapa with Eduardo and we wrapped up the trip with a gorgeous sunrise session at the Hotel Nacional overlooking the malecon. And as we departed for the airport, we left our yoga mats with Eduardo so that he could give them to his yoga students in Cuba who didn't have access to mats.

And can't forget the food! We ate all kinds of stuff. Cuba doesn't allow GMO's and almost everything is organic. We had delicious beans and rice everywhere we went, served with chicken, fish, pork. One of my favorite meals was a sushi spot in Jaimanitas (shoutout to Anthony Bourdain for the recommendation) with no menu and great ambiance. Granted all of the fish was tuna, but hey - it's Cuba. And coffee. OMG coffee everywhere. I really don't think I've ever consumed that much coffee and I loved every bit of it. When we went to the tobacco farm, they offered us white coffee (coffee with rum) at 9:30am. Rum with coffee, rum at lunch, rum at dinner. They go hard in Cuba. And our dinner at La Guarita was one of the best I've had in a while, followed by dancing on the rooftop... And the private concert at the malecon... And Fabrica Del Arte... and discovering the little coffee shop in old Havana that could have been in Brooklyn... 

So many stories, so many memories, I could write a novel about our trip. We just had great times as a group - we laughed hard, we sang loudly and we connected. Community travel is hands down the best way to experience culture. Everything is better together. A huge thank you to everyone who came with us and Jason from Cultural Contrast for making it all happen.

Drawing hearts on my hand with saffron at the organic farm in Viñales 

Drawing hearts on my hand with saffron at the organic farm in Viñales 

I'm so grateful for the chance to experience Cuba while it's still raw. There were so few tourists around that it felt like we were alone on the island. This trip left indelible memories and I know we are going back, soon. 

In the meantime, come to Bali with us! A few spots left for this once-in-a-lifetime trip - July 24 - 30, 2016. Amazing yoga with me and Mike, surf lessons, garden-fresh, organic food, adventures, great friends, and tons of new memories to be created. And if you want to find out when we're going back to Cuba, get on my mailing list below... Big love!

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Advice

Recently, I have been frequenting a little spot on Purdy Ave by the name of Barry's Bootcamp. Or better... Barry's Buttcamp. As yoga has lengthened my body and expanded my mind, it has neglected my glutes, and that lack of strength has in turn caused some of the problematic issues with my low back.

So I am on the butt train.

Not like it's a bad train to be on. And honestly, I'm not even really on the train. I go once, maybe twice a week. If you don't know about Barry's - it's an instructor led workout that alternates weightlifting and interval running and loud music and mirrors everywhere. But I like Kellie, my very fit and inspirational instructor, and my back feels better and I do glute-y things and run on the comfortable treadmills and it's extremely fun for people watching.

Which is why I am writing this blog post.

So there I am at the ol' BBC this morning, running along under the sexpot red lights. Side bar, I wish my lips looked like they do under the red lights IRL. And through the mirror in front of me, I watch as a guy a few treadmills down from me has a total freakout. A few minutes into our run, his treadmill has inexplicably stopped working. He is shaking his head and cursing. He stomps around a little bit and comes over to the nearest functioning treadmill, which happens to be the one right next to me. I watch him through the mirror as he continues to curse and shake his head about the old broken treadmill as he starts to run on this fresh, fully functioning treadmill. And as we run sprints for the next five minutes, his face reflects his internal state. I watch him stay pissed off the whole time. It's way more enjoyable than looking at my own treadmill screen or the poor people behind me doing tricep dips.

And after our sprint round is finished, when I figured he would move on, he grabs his towel and slams it down violently, cursing more loudly now that he has stopped running and he still completely freaking out over something that happened five minutes ago and has already been resolved.

And so I did it. I broke the unspoken rule of group fitness. I said something.

"What's going on, man? You're still upset about the broken treadmill?"

"Yeah" he snaps at me, "It just, I just, can't believe it. It screwed up my whole workout."

"Did it though? Because it looked to me like you were able to finish the run."

"Yeah. But it completely messed me up to stop and switch treadmills when I was right in the middle of my run." 

Hmm... I'm just gonna go yogi on this dude.

"I get it. And isn't that life though? It's not always going to go how you want it to go."

His face starts to soften. "That's true..."

We walk away, the clock ticking on our workout. I go and get set up on my bench for the next round. I've never seen the guy before, probably won't again. I wonder if that advice I gave is for me or for him. It's all so fleeting, this time we have on Earth, in this life. It's not going to go how we want it to go. And we can hold on to the frustrating experiences and get pissed off and create a life of pain or we can flow with the ups and downs and let it all take it's course. Wearing life like a loose shirt... And remembering to be full of gratitude for the wonderful lives that we have.

photo by Matt Roy www.mattroyphotography.com

photo by Matt Roy www.mattroyphotography.com

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Breakfast cookies

I have stated this before, but chocolate chip cookies are 100% my favorite. Nothing does it for me like a warm, crispy and chewy chocolate chip cookie. They're just sooo good. But as I've reduced sugar and cut out gluten, they don't always feel as great in my belly as how they tasted in my mouth. But man, that first bite is heaven.

So since I think about food 24/7, I have often dreamed about having chocolate chip cookies for breakfast. It's well documented that nothing tastes better with coffee than some kind of delicious baked good. And to this point, I have make breakfast muffins for years, fulfilling that desire. But a few weeks ago, I decided it was time for something different. Something even more delicious and comforting. Something that used basically the same ingredients as muffins but more cookie like.

It was time for the breakfast cookie.

Breakfast Cookie

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups gluten free oats (I love Trader Joes brand)
  • 2 free range eggs
  • 1 extremely ripe banana 
  • 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 cup Enjoy Life dark chocolate chips or whatever you have laying around.

Ok so there are a couple foodie notes here. You can do 2 eggs and one banana. Or you can do 2 bananas and one egg. You can blend up some of the oats to make oat flour, or you can leave them as is. If you do this, I would recommend blending like 1/2 cup of the oats into flour. You can add more chocolate chips (duh). You can add more cinnamon (it's so good for you). You can omit the salt. You can add coconut flakes. You can sprinkle with hemp seeds. You can probably blend kale up in these bitches and bake that in. The possibilities are endless.

Preparation:

  1. Whisk eggs and then mash the banana into the eggs. I use a fork for this. Note - use the ripest banana ever. Your banana needs to have black spots all over. It should be mushy... like so ripe that it is attracting fruit flies. This will yield the best result - promise!
  2. Add the oats into your egg-banana mixture.
  3. Add chia, flax, cinnamon, vanilla, sea salt and mix until well blended.
  4. Stir in chocolate chips.
  5. Lay parchment paper over a cookie pan (makes for easy clean-up)
  6. Drop spoonfuls of the mixture on your parchment paper and then use the bottom of a glass to push the cookie down into shape - it helps to grease the bottom of the glass with coconut oil.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes. Makes like 15 cookies.
  8. Devour! And then save some for breakfast :)
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Work in progress

Lots of things have me questioning my life choices lately.

The Zika virus, the sudden loss of a friend's husband, the overwhelming feeling I have that I need to be doing more with my life but I can't put my finger on what more is.

"Let your concern be with action alone, and never with the fruits of action. Do not let the results of action be your motive, and do not be attached to inaction" - Krishna

I don't want to get into action just to get into action but that is exactly what my mind would like me to do. To be busy for the sake of being busy.

And god forbid I'm not busy. When did free time become taboo and honestly, what the hell does a balanced life even look like?

Is this how it's all supposed to be?

So I breathe, and I practice non-attachment. I keep moving forward in the dance of doing and receiving.

My mantra becomes "I love my life. I am grateful for all parts of it." The ups, the downs, the goods, the bads, the self-inflicted scrape on the side of my car, my stolen bike, my shattered kombucha bottle that left shards of glass all over the ground. The warm Miami breeze and ripe avocados and blissful people coming out of my yoga classes. It's all perfect and imperfect and perfectly imperfect.

The sun will rise again tomorrow.

photo by matt roy (mattroyphotography.com)

photo by matt roy (mattroyphotography.com)

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Energy Shifters

It must be something about beautiful, warm locales. Maybe it's tropical summer breezes or the fresh coconuts or beach walks, but every oceanfront paradise that I have loved has always come with it's share of incredible healers - people from all over who have settled in to soak up the sandy shores and salty air while sharing their unique gift. Places like Costa Rica, Bali, California.

And our sunny sanctuary of Miami is no exception. Even though Miami is known for it's debaucherous nights, there is a strong community of holistic practitioners, yoga teachers and various energy shifters who call South Florida home. These healers are typically quite intuitive, being able to read body signals and direct energy. They add a layer of mysticism to the communities they live in, as well instilling some serious devotion in their disciples.

"My back's been bothering me again. Need to make an appointment to see my guy."

And the guy could be an acupuncturist, a massage therapist, a crazy-ass personal trainer up in North Miami, a body talker, a restorative yoga teacher... the list goes on. But at the end of the day, they're all light workers. Bringing a positive energy to those who they touch. They make people feel better. They bring the light. And people eat this shit up. 

It like I always say when people ask me if it's ok to assist me in yoga... "who doesn't like to be touched?!"

And all that said, I wanted to highlight some of my favorite energy shifters in Miami - people who can fix what's ailing you and more importantly, people that I have worked with and can personally recommend.

For massage, my favorite therapist is the incredible Michael Orkin. This guy seriously works magic. A session with Michael can transport you to another dimension. In a fun twist of tropical paradise fate, we met Michael while in Bali and found out we lived minutes away from each other in Miami. Beyond having intuitive hands, Michael is also an expert in essential oils, which he sources from a distillation center in Maui. He can make personalized concoctions and incorporates them into your bodywork. He doesn't do social media. He doesn't have a website. He just delivers a stellar session every time. Send him a text and the good vibes roll.

my back after my clavitherapy session. it's kind of like the new cupping.

my back after my clavitherapy session. it's kind of like the new cupping.

So let's say you're good on massage and want to try something a little more interesting, to up-level your healing game. Well then, Gabriella Piccirilli is your woman. A renowned reflexologist, Gaby also is a practictioner of clavitherapy. Clavi-what, you ask? Clavitherapy. It's a Polish modality that believes the body can be understood through the skin. So they assess your spine and use stainless steel instruments to stimulate your nervous system and bring everything back into alignment. It's kinda like acupuncture but not. And cooler. It also helps that Gaby is the only clavitherapy practicioner on this continent. Her clavi sessions wrap up with some delicious expert level reflexology - at the same time both stimulating and relaxing - while she recommends herbs and tonics to help your healing. She spents half her year in Toronto, so try to catch her when she is in Miami for the winter. Again, another under the radar body worker. Text her for session: (647) 272-5734

And finally, if you want the weirdest of the weird, there's Gary. 

Gary the Mechanic is a legend. He's blunt. He can be crude. He loves to impersonate Chinese women. And he knows his shit. He's in his 60's and looks nothing like you would expect. He's a trainer, an intuitive and if you have anything going wrong in your body, he can help you. He will probably forget your appointment. And he won't really want to hear from you what's going on. Instead he'll take your body for a test drive and let it tell him. He's got a little table inside a fitness studio in a strip mall in North Miami. But he has helped my back, my headaches, my ankle and he will personal train you to boot. No website. No social media. But somehow, it all works.

There are so many more awesome light workers, healers and practitioners around Miami - too many to name, these are just a few of my top choices. Would love to hear your favorites and suggestions!

 

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Fly

Yikes.

It's been a minute since I've logged on here. My friend asked me the other day why I hadn't blogged in a while.

"I haven't had time."

"Bullshit."

It's true. It is bullshit. I have had time and I've done other things with it. And as I reflected more, I realized something else. I was hesitant to blog because I wanted it to be perfect. I wanted every post to be meaningful and evocative and just, well... perfect. It's an interesting thing to think back on, because for a while there, I didn't care so much if shit got messy. But then, when I wasn't looking, I went back to what's comfortable - that very familiar "keep it together" place.

And honestly, that desire for perfection holds me back from quite a few things. So I'm into to blogging even when it's not perfect. I'm committed to continuously step into that vulnerable place. I can't say it will all be great. I might write about random stuff - like my new water bottle that I'm obsessed with, but hey, it's honest and it's sharing.

Growth is a constant dance. You gotta keep moving though. Sometimes you take a step back. Sometimes you take two months off. Sometimes you fail. And sometimes... you fly.

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Self-expression

Lately I've been totally jamming on self-expression. Mike and I have been binge watching Friday Night Lights on NetFlix and it's transported us both back to high school. As I watch these kids, I remember being a freshman and feeling the need to self-express all the time. I cut my hair short to be different, rocked a Doc Marten collection that I wish I still had, and decorated basically everything I owned to make it "mine". I would cut out magazine pictures and glue them all over my day planner. I would draw on my shoes and decorate barrettes. I was obsessed with expression because it felt so good and so authentic to put my mark on everything in my ninth grade solar system.

But then high school ends and we grow up a little and gain responsibilities and make more challenging choices. We go through times when we feel like we need to fit in more than stand out. Expectations get put on us about what we should do or be, from family, society, from ourselves. We need to go to college, we need to get a job and for sure, we should not eat dairy. Bad news. And deeper than that, the truth is that there are lots of people who are threatened by full self-expression. You can't say that. You can't do that. You definitely can't post that.

Finding your flow. Be yourself. Be authentic. I hear (and use) these phrases day in and day out. And I swear, they're powerful. But such a contradictory message to what society says. So I need to fit in but I am secretly dying to stand out? How do you reconcile it? I think you can find your flow no matter what situation you are in. It doesn’t mean you have to turn your whole life upside down and move to Timbuktu. But it does mean making some choices to direct you towards a path that feels more honest to you. Maybe it’s spending your Sunday morning at a painting class instead of at brunch. Maybe it’s finally buying the fishing rod and soccer cleats or whatever your jam is. It’s taking a step in the direction of you. And if you’re not sure what your flow is… here are questions to ask yourself that are great starting points. What would you love to do if you could do anything? What type of books do you gravitate towards? What were you known for as a little kid? What activities excite you? What would get you up at 6am on a Sunday? If you were given a trip to anywhere – where would you go and what would you do?

These questions get the internal wheels in motion towards leading your most authentic life. And I can tell you, there is not much out there that is better than being yourself. Talk about liberating. Freedom in a bottle. When you are self-expressed, it feels so good. Everything is more pure and more honest. Truth be told, I spend way too much time in the mornings figuring out what I want to wear - but the days when I don't like what I'm wearing negatively influence my mood and well-being. I’d always rather feel like myself. That way I can be nicer, gentler and hold more space for the people around me. When you get to do the things that make you you on a regular basis, when you're comfortable in your skin, everything goes more smoothly.  And when you're in that “you” flow and you love how your life feels… it's magic.

photo cred matt roy

photo cred matt roy

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Community

The weather was lovely this morning, so I walked to wework, the co-working space where I have a desk. As I was strolling, I had a flashback to a conversation that took place almost six years ago. I was starting my new job at lululemon and had an on onboarding meeting with my new boss. We reviewed all of the job expectations for a manager role - training and developing the team, managing product, running operations, working with guests, and putting on community events. 

"Well, I feel good about everything except the community events part. I've never done that before and I really have no idea where to even start" I said. 

As an important part of the culture at lululemon, the concept of "community" was daunting to me. I had no idea what to do or how to do it. I just meet people? And do fun stuff with them? I terrifyingly put together my first event, a get-together where I had to email leaders in the fitness world (who were then complete strangers to me) and invite them to a focus group style meeting.

I nervously crafted the email invitations and sent them out into cyberspace. The day of the event, I was sweating and my internal chatter was raging. "Will anyone show up? Did I do this right? I suck at this, I wish someone else would do this part of the job and let me just run the store." I was totally ready to step away from this experience in fear - even before it happened!

Thankfully, people came. And they kept coming. And events kept happening and community started building and there were tons of missteps along the way, but eventually I realized that hell, I liked this. I really liked it.

Putting on community events allowed me to be creative in a new way - coming up with an idea, designing a vibe and bringing it to life through a curated experience, graphic design and social media. It was fun and dynamic. I realized also that, even though I initially fought it, this was natural to me - planning and organizing and meeting people and doing creative things while also being slightly neurotic on the details was all part of the fabric of my being. It's just that when we put a label on it like "community" it somehow felt separate and somehow harder. When really, it was already within me. And community, for most of us, is all we ever all want - to be a part of something bigger than us.

So fast forward six years and I'm now doing "community" pretty much full time. Teaching in the yoga community, putting on yoga and community events, creating a vibe, helping people develop their brands, running social media accounts. Mike and I also have organically expanded Purdy Ave to include community consulting and social media, since that's basically what I have been doing the whole time anyway. And now I have a little office where I can work on community and get to be creative all day long. It's a total dream that came to life in a way I would have never expected.

By no means am I saying that I have it all figured out, or that I know what I'm doing anymore than anyone else. But what I do believe is that the truth of who you are is already inside of you. The beautiful seeds of you were planted long before you even had awareness - and it's up to you to water them and trust them and let them grow and flourish. 

I saw Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) speak this week  on her new book Big Magic, and her message was so on point, "Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you? . . . The hunt to uncover those jewels, that’s creative living."

It takes courage to step into your true self and do shit that seems scary. It takes courage to face fear and overcome it. But I can tell you from experience, in your head it all seems like a lot scarier than it is. Go forth and discover, go forth and nourish your truth... go forth and create. It's awesome.

photo cred @matt_roy

photo cred @matt_roy

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Journal

A week or so ago, I posted of photo of a journal for one of the practices in my #beyondtheasana challenge. I thought it was a cool little shot, but it didn't get a lot of chatter on social media. Then slowly, over the next few days, people started texting and coming up to me asking "Ok. I saw your post. I bought a journal... Now what do I do?!"

how to journal

YAY! Journaling is a rad hobby. Writing is cathartic. It goes hand in hand with yoga as a template for self-discovery. And as with most of these practices, there really is no right answer for "how" to journal - but I wanted to share some of what has worked for me that can hopefully help you to crack open that beautiful blank book and use it to unlock what you're truly feeling.

One of my favorite quotes is from Hemingway..."There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed." When I journal, it is personal. It is not my blog. It is not sharing. It is raw, it is primal and it usually is the shit I don't want to say out loud. Most of the time I don't make sense, I'll just write words over and over and over until something calls out to my subconscious and it gets up-leveled into a full thought. It is a processing tool, so let the words pour onto the paper. Don't stop them and try to make them pretty or make sense. Let them spill out and see what shape they create. Usually I am journaling about things I am feeling - I will almost always write when I'm frustrated so that I can make sense of things. The short journey from my mind to my notebook gives a much-needed sacred pause to situations, some space for reflection. Typically I'll pour everything out - not picking the pen up from the paper - and write for 5 - 10 minutes. Then I'll go back and have a read, asking myself is this real? Is this true? Is this HONEST? Our minds have a funny way of shaping our reality. When you journal, you're able to take the noise in your head outside of you and look at it more clearly, from a third party perspective.

But let's say you're not heated. That you just want to write to get to know yourself better. A lot of people like the idea of morning pages - keeping a journal by your bed and writing a few pages upon waking so that you capture that golden hour of mind magic. I've attempted this countless times and have ultimately come to the conclusion that I need some caffeine before I have any ability to pick up a pen. I prefer the idea of writing whenever you feel called to do so. Maybe over a cup of coffee, maybe before bed. And you can play with prompts for your journaling so that you have something to sink your teeth into. Some great cues might be "what do I really want?" or "what's true for me?" I also like "who am I really?" "I am inspired by..." and "I'm grateful for..."

The key for any of these is to write down whatever comes up for you and let the responses flow on the paper without judging your own answers. This is for no one else but you! If you're inspired by Kim Kardashian, write that shit down! Let it run free! Respect your journal as safe space to get to know yourself - your beautiful and perfect TRUE SELF. This is all for you, unadulterated by shame or doubt. This is your truth and it is awesome.

As with any personal development stuff, the biggest hurdle is fear. Fear of being judged, fear of someone reading it, or even bigger - fear of who you really might be. This is the work. This is the work we are all in all the time. Overcoming the fear. And maybe, instead of focusing on the fear, can you imagine a world where we are all truly self-expressed? Where we are all happy and free?

One of my favorite yoga chants is lokah samastah sukihno bhavantu. Remember what it means? May all beings everywhere be happy and free. You deserve all of this. You deserve freedom, happiness and access to your truest, deepest self. We all deserve it. This is where the magic is. So go write a little, go bleed a little, go FEEL something new! There is gold inside you and it's time to go digging.

Journal on, my loves.

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Human

I love community, and I love technology, so it's no surprise that I love social media.

Yes, it can be a huge time suck - no need for me to go on about those midnight hashtag spirals, we've all been there. But to it's credit, it can provide incredible opportunities to learn, connect and share. Currently, Dawn B and I are hosting a yoga challenge on instagram called #beyondtheasana and I am totally inspired by everyone participating. Watching people share their pictures, thoughts and yoga practice with us is magic. The little glimpses into life are making me smile every morning. 

This connection is what strengthens our bonds as humans. This is why we love instagram or Humans of New York or people watching. Having a human experience - simply being human - is fascinating and frustrating at the same time.

Instagram, like the world at large - and like being human, can be disheartening and not always a truthful place, but when you do find those little snippets of honest expression, savor them.

And when we can be truthful with ourselves and the world around us - both on the inside and the outside - then savor that even more. Vulnerable expression is a step closer to true connection. And true connection is what makes this whole being human thing worth it.

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Structure

I remember sometime around middle school, I sat in my room and wrote up two different career paths for myself, both having specific timelines and expectations. I looked out the window and daydreamed about the perceived journeys and eventual successes. If I chose the lawyer path, I would need to do this. If I chose the doctor path, I would need to do this. I marched out to the kitchen to show my parents, who commended my foresight and planning. I think I even put a checkbox next to each option.

And clearly, neither path was chosen. But that love of structure, that desire to know what my "plan is" lives on, deeply rooted in my way of being. And both by choice and through necessity, I've spent the few years learning how to be okay without structure. 

For some, this sounds like heaven. But for me, this has not been an easy lesson. Throughout our American lives, or at least until college ends, we have a plan laid out for us. We have our next steps lined up and built-in friendships. And once that time ends, it's scary and many of us jump into the first job that comes along that makes us feel comfortable. I was that way.

And then when I took the leap and left my comfortable job, spent extended time traveling without an agenda, worked for myself without any set schedule, and wondered what to do next, I found myself saying how much I liked having a "purpose".

And I realized that somewhere along the line, I've mixed up purpose and structure. My previous understanding of purpose was moving towards some meaning in life by way of a set path. You start a foundation and raise money. You go to school and use what you've learned to give back. You have a plan!!!

And this is not necessarily true. Yes, a plan helps to deliver your purpose, but a true purpose - your purpose - is in you all along. You don't need a straight and narrow for your message to be heard. Let it show up in everything you do. Let your life be a reflection of what you love. Your purpose will shine no matter what path you've chosen.

I just spent the last week in Costa Rica with an amazing retreat group and one of the girls told me how she didn't know what to do with herself without every minute of her life planned out. I smiled and agreed, because I intimately know the feeling.

And I also smiled because now I know there's a whole lot waiting for you when you finally decide step outside that box.

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Bali faves 2.0

I've been a little swept up in the tides and forgot to share my favorites from last month's trip to Bali! We love Canggu, a surf town with great coffee shops and yoga vibes, so we spend most of our time cruising the Batu Bolong strip - which I refer to as the Bali equivalent of Purdy Ave. In the year since we last visited, there has been a surge of development (sad) but some great new spots have sprouted up (score). So if you're planning a trip in real life or just taking notes for your future adventures, here are my most recent recommendations:

Milk and Madu: this place rocks. It's by the same peeps who run Watercress, another great resto. Bali has an excellent coffee shop slash breakfast thing going on, which I'm pretty sure is drawn from the strong Australian influence. And man, do they nail it. Avocado toast, coconut milk chia puddings, incredible cappuccinos with Revolver coffee and gorgeous presentation. Mike and I loved to hit this spot up for brekkie after our respective yoga and surf sessions.

milk and madu

Dandelion: I don't even know how to describe this adorable warung, so I'll just tell you what it offers. Great food, cheap prices, a balinese mariachi band and bunny rabbits that run free around the backyard. Go for dinner, stay a while, tell all of your friends. It's just too cute not to share.

Alchemy: This Ubud joint is famous and I don't know why I didn't make it here last time. This place sets the standard for raw vegan food. High vibration food, great atmosphere, delicious smoothies and cold pressed juice. We loved our lunch up here - it's about an hour from Canggu.

The Chillhouse: This hotel also has some solid yoga teachers, a nice breakfast and offers cool adventurous activities like surfing, biking and more. I loved my morning practice with Octavio.

Deus Ex Machina: Motorcycles, surfboards, music, restaurant... this place is epic. Their revered Temple of Enthusiasm flagship in Canggu is popular for their Tuesday night tradition - tacos and free tattoos. I was very close to getting one... but instead I opted to get inked at a proper place later that week! Surprise! Here I am getting a fresh tat at Mason's Ink Tattoo in Seminyak.

bali tattoo

My little Bali souvenir! A reminder to love through all things - always lots of challenges and times of growth on trips like these.

Mike and I are also planning a super duper dope Bali yoga retreat for 2016 so you can come explore all of these places with us and do some amazing yoga and personal discovery! Stay tuned, info coming soon :) xox

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Travel muffins 2.0

Jet lag is a bitch. Back in Miami and wide awake at 4:30am yesterday, I scrolled through instagram for way too long before I finally got out of bed. In my semi-conscious state, I wandered into the kitchen  - where it seemed like a good idea to make another batch of travel muffins. The same ones I made before we went to Bali. People had been asking for the recipe and I really couldn't remember what I had put into them so I needed to make them again. As I was cracking eggs into the mixing bowl at 5am, I wondered if I was perhaps a baker in a past life. 

travel muffins

I love to bring homemade food on a trip, much more nourishing than airplane junk. Although I did have some decent food on my flights to and from Bali. I request the Hindu Vegetarian option when I fly - which means Indian food and veggies... I even got a pretty yummy saag paneer for one meal. 

namaste muffin mix

Back to the muffins - they are super easy because a) they come from a mix! and b) they don't require a vitamix or anything fancy. I stumbled up this mix in Whole Foods a few months ago and was instantly drawn to it by the brand name - Namaste Foods. Excellent marketing to this yogi. 

It's sugar free and gluten free as well, so that's awesome. A forewarning - when they say it's sugar free, they really mean it's sugar free. No sweet taste AT ALL... so if you like a little sweetness, give it some chopped banana on top, or you can mix some banana into the batter. Older bananas are sweeter but younger ones hold up better as a topping. Your call. It's a brown rice flour based mix and super versatile. You could do all kinds of things with it. 

They're perfect for a long trip because they're quick to make (who has time when you're packing for a big voyage), they hold up super well in your carry-on luggage, they're light and munchy and you can put some chocolate in them which just feels like vacation. Enjoy!

Travel muffins 2.0

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag of Namaste Muffin Mix (buy online here or at Whole Foods)
  • 1/2 cup alternative milk (cashew, almond, coconut)
  • 1/2 cup filtered water
  • 2 free range eggs
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped low sugar dark chocolate bar (or if you don't care about sure, use enjoy life mini chips - they're the best) 
  • 1/2 banana
  • hemp seeds for topping

Preparation:

  1. Mix muffin mix with water and milk - make sure you break up all the lumps. 

  2. Mix in eggs (if you're using mashed banana, add this in here as well) Let this sit for a few minutes to so that the mixture warms.

  3. Melt coconut oil and add it to mixture. If your mixture is too cold, it will cause the coconut oil to harden into little chunks. If that's the case, let it hang out on the counter until everything warms up to make sure it blends properly.  

  4. Add cinnamon, vanilla, sea salt and mix until well blended.

  5. Stir in chopped chocolate.

  6. Lightly grease a muffin pan with coconut oil and drop mixture into the individual muffin shapes. Makes 12 large or 24 mini muffins. I prefer mini ;)

  7. Top with cinnamon and hemp seeds and sliced banana if you're using. Make sure to push the banana chunks down to ensure they stick into the mixture.

  8. Bake at 400 degrees for 13 - 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool and then pack up a ziploc bag full of muffins for your trip and freeze the rest for when you come home!

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High vibration

I'm back in Bali. We're back in Bali. There wasn't even much conversation about it between me and Mike - it was more of an understanding. That we needed to get back and plug in. That we needed to experience it. I don't know how to describe it beyond saying that, at least for me, there is incredible transformation and beauty on this island. High vibration. Things shift for me here. 

There is spirit in the DNA of the Balinese culture. It hits you the second you walk out of the airport. The smell of incense rising above the cacophony of taxis and motorbikes. There are temples, offerings, prayer... devotion everywhere. Spirit energy. And we are here during the ten days of Galungan, the Hindu holiday when ancestral spirits come down from heaven to visit the island. Ironically - and unintentionally - we were here during Galungan last year. I swear there are spirits everywhere.

desa seni

Last year's trip to Bali screwed me up, in a good way. I came with expectations for this perfect experience and it was so much different than I wanted it to be. I had to give up my expectations, I had to surrender, believe and trust. I had to let go of a bunch of bullshit and get closer to the truth. Once I did, incredible channels opened up. This past year has been a practice of being open for everything, and I feel like this trip once again is widening those channels.

We've been here two weeks and things are changing. I'm changing. Things are getting shaken up, I'm uncomfortable but this time I'm better at recognizing that it's a sign of growth. The vibrations are getting higher... and I'm feeling that Bali magic hitting me again. 

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Detox

If there's something worse than Jewish guilt, it's yoga guilt. 

I have started eating meat again. Red meat, even. Given some of the looks I've gotten from people when I say this, you would think I'm a leper in the yoga world. But let me tell you, it's delicious. And I feel a lot better. 

How did this happen, you ask? I'll just go ahead and start from the top.

I've pretty vocal that I'm not a fan of sugar. Even if you say "oh, but it's honey" (or coconut nectar or agave or fructose) the truth is that your body doesn't know the difference and still processes it all as sugar - one of the most addictive substances on earth. So when my friend Vanessa asked me and Mike to join a group of friends for a two-week anti-inflammatory cleanse, we were all in. No sugar, no gluten, no starch, no alcohol. The vibe was all whole foods - veggies, little fruit, and lots of protein. Think chicken in lettuce cups or fish with broccoli. Or burgers with no bun. Pretty much the paleo diet meets the Tim Ferriss' The 4-hour Body... detox central.

Ok, easy enough. 

On day one, I was nauseous and by day two, I was vomiting. My sugar and grain addiction was so strong that I might as well have been quitting heroin. My body craved quinoa. I daydreamed about Ezekiel Bread. Warm chocolate chip cookies danced in my subsconscious brain. Before we started this cleanse, I thought I was good, that my sugar addiction wasn't so bad. Man, was I wrong. 

sample dinner - chicken and egg bok choy stir fry set-up

sample dinner - chicken and egg bok choy stir fry set-up

Day three got better and by days four and five, better still. I eventually got into a rhythm and developed a very sincere appreciation for a good grass-fed burger (no bun, of course). And after the requisite two weeks, I felt great. My brain was super clear, my blood sugar was stable and there was no 4pm coffee craving. It felt so good that we kept on going with the cleanse rules after the two weeks were up. 

And then I was offered some fresh challah bread. Damn, was it good. Warm and deliciously carby. But I woke up the next morning feeling like I had been hit by a truck and developed an overnight brain fog. It was clear - no more gluten. It hijacked my mental clarity. Sugar, on the other hand, is a little more insidious. My body loves it and doesn't want to rest at one sugary thing. It just wants more. And that's a slippery slope that I don't want to be sliding down. 

So, a month after starting this thing, we're jamming on lots of veggies and protein. Breakfast is eggs or chia pudding made from homemade no-sugar cashew milk (just cashews and water). Lunch is a salad or soup with veggies. Dinner is either a veggie medley or a meat + veggie situation. There is red meat. There is chicken. There are lots of greens. There is experimentation and refinement. Ultimately, it's all to get to peak performance, peak mental clarity and no inflammation. 

So that feeling great and being your best possible self isn't something that you have to think about or strive for, it's something that you already are every day.

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Transformation

I'm not usually a fire-starter but I was happy to get some responses on my last post. Good, bad and in between. Reactive and supportive. I'll take it. The more comfortable I get in my skin, the more comfortable I am rocking the proverbial boat. 

My current vibe is transformation. It feels like lots of things are shifting - people are moving, things are happening, doors are opening up and closing. These times of perceived chaos are powerful. We have to have extremes for transformation. Not much changes at room temperature. Gold is not melted into beautiful shapes without heat. Plants don't grow without light. And so are we. Typically, life needs some fire in order for things to shift.

So these potentially uncomfortable times - when relationships, jobs, life isn't working - are really important. It is these times when we are able to change, shift and ultimately GROW.

Sure, you can stay in your situation and hope or pray that it changes, but there's very important dance between waiting for the universe to make it happen and getting into action yourself. If we don't want to put in effort and just want to avoid discomfort, then we are shying away from the possibility of our growth and expansion. It's taken me a long time to lean into the discomfort. Into the feeling of not being in total control. I'm still not always comfortable and my first instinct is typically wanting to keep things the way the are because it's safe. But that just gives me more of the same, and keeps me mediocre. 

Give in, trust and allow yourself to let go of the steering wheel. Sometimes you have to break down to break through. 

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When yoga's not yoga

I'm going to light a match here and open up a real conversation about teaching yoga. I play both sides of the fence in the yoga game - I am a teacher and I often produce events for other teachers. I see a lot. Something that has become very evident to me over the past few years is that although yoga isn't a sport technically, it does have one major characteristic that is shared among all other sports.... competition.

Except the competition that you see in yoga isn't played on the field. It's an inside game. It's insidious. It's sneaky, it's silent and unfortunately, it is the nature of the our current yoga culture. 

Being a yoga teacher is a hustle. I say this to every single person who asks me about getting their certification. Until you make it "big" - you have to keep your day job. And even when you make it "big", you have to do everything you can to stay on your toes. It's a crowded marketplace. There are dozens of teacher trainings going on at all time, each churning out hungry fresh teachers who will teach for cheap, in addition to the myriad teachers already out there.

photo cred: matt roy

photo cred: matt roy

So these nuevo teachers hit the ground running, wanting to cut their teeth in the yoga world in any way that they can. They build relationships, teach free yoga classes to get their name out, create Facebook pages, start blogs and they are hungry. And the seasoned teachers, the ones who have been around a while, get anxious. They see someone else got a gig or is teaching a shiny, new event and they get worried. There is basically zero job security in the yoga world. Someone comes out with some fresh twist and BOOM - it's the next big thing.

Remember, this isn't corporate America. There are no salaries, no insurance - just a bunch of freelance work and w9's cobbled together that maybe will cover the rent. Teachers get paid per class, and often paid per student, so the unfortunate reality is that teachers are incentivized to get as many students as possible in your class. Their eyes are peeled to see what is happening in other classes and other studios. And all of these free community classes just drive down the demand to pay all teachers what they're worth. 

I've been both the new teacher and the seasoned teacher. Neither situation is awesome. You're either struggling to get relevant or to stay relevant.  It might not be a teacher's natural state, but the current situation is a culture that breeds competition. Absolutely, there are exceptions - this is not the case with every teacher, but it's definitely common. The majority of yoga teachers are constantly working to stay in the game, to get you to go on their retreat, to come to their classes, to pick their event. It's a silent rat race from the people you'd least expect it from. There is jealousy. There is some serious ego. There is more focus on the teacher than the student. There's a shitty system in place.

And as a result we lose sight of what yoga really means... union, connection, respect and ONE love.

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Channels

There are a few things I've been vibrating on lately. But the biggest one is feeling the need to prove oneself. 

I took a yoga class from a freshly minted teacher a few weeks ago and immediately after savasana, she came over and asked me what I thought of her class, what feedback did I have for her. I was instantly transported back to when I had just finished teacher training. Wide eyed and wanting to show the yoga world everything that I knew, I overfilled my classes with challenging sequencing, spent hours on my music and worked really hard to figure out my "message."

Hell, five years later, I still haven't figured out my message. It's something like be real and shine your light. And have fun doing it.

So anyway, my advice to this beautiful new teacher was basically the same advice I give every time - be yourself, go easy on the quotes and spirituality unless it's truly truly authentic to you, move to the sides of the room when you demonstrate left and right and finally, don't play songs with words during savasana. 

Get that under control and you are golden. The sequencing comes, the students come, the message (maybe) comes. But what stops so many of us - in teaching and in life - is this need to prove ourselves.

I saw it in class tonight. I started the class with a pose that often make people feel uncomfortable - a clockwise rotation of the torso while seated in sukhasana (cross-legged position). You basically move your upper body in a huge circle. It always goes down like this - I demonstrate it and then ask the students to close their eyes (because I know it brings up feelings of comparison)  and instead of closing their eyes the dudes look at me as if to say "no fucking way" and then they look around to see what everyone else is doing - thus cementing their feelings of "no way" - and then begrudgingly they move very rigidly in very small circles.

If you let yourself go and close your eyes and do this pose, it's transformative. Your whole upper body opens up and you are fluid, it's a dance. But when you go to a place of "no way, I am going to be judged - I need to come off as cool and not weird" then nothing happens. You don't open up any channels - you stay stagnant. An old dog with old tricks.

The weird, the different, the unique, that's the stuff that makes waves. The stuffy and stale is not getting any attention. So be yourself, be open, allow for fuck-ups, for opportunities, for anything really. Because you never know which channels are opening up for you right this very second... and which direction you're going to head in next.

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