Hot Cacao

Confession: I'm not a "holiday" person. Being raised as a cashew (Catholic and Jewish), I've always had mixed emotions around this time of year. Couple that with the fact I worked retail for ten years and had to deal with some the worst of the worst around the holidays... it's safe to say that I haven't always looked to December with visions of sugarplums. 

However, this year, maybe it's us being married or maybe I've just grown up, but I have gotten more into the holidays. I decorated our house a bit. We talked about getting a Christmas tree. I don't cringe when Mike plays Christmas music all the time. AND I even considered sending holiday cards. Progress, right?

Santa ON A BIKE!!! Thanks Mom.

Santa ON A BIKE!!! Thanks Mom.

So anyway, I was out walking around today, wearing a sweater, feeling particularly festive, when out of the blue I started seriously wanting some hot chocolate. I was not going to stop this wave of festivity. I would get a hot cocoa. I weighed my options. Where on Miami Beach is there a decent hot chocolate? Nowhere. I needed to make my own. My memory flittered back to the hot chocolate that my Grammy used to make for me when I was little - using cocoa, sugar and evaporated milk on the stovetop.  Absolutely delicious and creamy, but not exactly the nutritional profile I was going for today. I recalled reading about putting coconut oil in chai teas to make it creamy and latte-ish, like butter coffee. You blend it all in the blender (preferably a Vitamix) until frothy.

"Perfect," I thought. "I will try this with hot chocolate." 

I walked home to my apartment, started messing around in the kitchen with some superfood coconut oil... and lo and behold - the coconut hot cacao was crafted. So easy and it totally hits the holiday spot - it's not coconutty at all, just rich, delicious and metabolism boosting. Enjoy! 

coconut oil hot cocoa

Coconut Hot Cacao

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup coconut milk (or almond, soy, hemp, cow...)
  • 1 tablespoon cacao (I like Terramazon with Maca)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon raw cane sugar or natural sweetener of choice
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Splash of vanilla (optional)

Preparation:

  1. Heat coconut milk on the stove until hot, but not boiling.

  2. Pour coconut milk into high speed blender with the other ingredients.

  3. Blend for a minute or two - until hot and frothy. Makes 1 delightful serving.
    *As a habit, I go light on sugar, so feel free to add more to taste. And if you want more festive flavors, try adding some cinnamon or mint.

hot cacao
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On the fly

I read a yoga blog yesterday where the writer (also a yoga teacher) said explicitly that "all teachers must properly prepare their class ahead of time." I bristled at that line. I really don't do well with that sweeping statement. And here's why...

When I first started teaching, I meticulously planned out my classes, my music, my message - all of it. I had a notebook where I would write out my entire class. I would try to cram everything I knew into those early classes - back in the ol' proving myself days. I was cruising along, teaching small classes, following the sequences in my notebook. Then one day, a few months after I completed my teacher training, my teacher asked me to sub for them.

Holy fuck. There would be like fifty peeps in there. It needed to be my best class ever.  

I basically freaked out for a week. I diligently wrote everything in my little notebook and then made myself a cheat sheet of my planned sequence that I brought to class with me. I placed the little cheat sheet over by the music player. I took some deep breaths.

And... I sucked. It was hands down my worst class ever. I was totally paralyzed by my cheat sheet... and the fact that I was teaching all of my teaching peers. I spent most of the class over by the music player freaking out over whether I was doing the sequence the way I had written it down. I froze during one part of the class and had everyone in wide leg forward fold for what felt like twenty minutes. I was a total mess. I wasn't myself. Somehow I finished up the class, embarrassingly packed up my things and swore I would never make a cheat sheet again.

And I haven't. For me to be myself as a teacher, I need to feel the energy of the room. Yes, I have outlines and ideas and themes but I can't design an entire class sequence beforehand and stick to it. I can't paint by numbers. There have been times when I have a series or transition in mind, but everyone is exhausted and it doesn't work for that particular class and you need to shift it on the fly. It's important as a yoga teacher to tune into your students. I'm grateful to be able to pull from a self practice and repertoire of poses and sequences from my studies with other teachers to keep things interesting.

I also can't teach the same class sequence every day. Even if I tried, I couldn't. I'd be bored. Yoga is a creative outlet for me, a way to express myself and allow people to explore their bodies and limitations. I don't want to box myself into exactly following a class I prepared beforehand, it takes away part of the fun for me and the benefit to my students.

Yoga teachers... your thoughts? Would love to hear them!

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Flux

High off a day of yoga and friends at Wanderlust, I sat down in the small booth that smelled like patchouli.

"So, to get started..." the tarot card reader pulled from her stack, "this first card will reveal information about your current relationship."

"Ok, cool."

We both watched carefully as she laid the card out on the table, alongside beautiful crystals and stones.

"Well, that's interesting" she said slowly, looking up at me. "It's the death card."

Fuck.

My yoga high came swiftly down. But it made sense. Mike and I had been fighting for the better part of six months to find common ground. We had put our engagement on hold.

We were really struggling.

I half-listened as she went on pulling cards, although I did perk up when she started talking up the guy in my next relationship. She described him as a sexy and powerful man who, from the pictures on the cards, also appeared to carry a trident.  

She told me tales of excitement and mutual respect. She sold me on adventure and deep love. She told me this man was waiting for me.

Even so, I left the small booth and walked back to my room in tears. Were we supposed to be done? I wasn't sure how I could ever not be with Mike. I cried my way through Seane Corn's class the next day. I struggled to stay present with people. 

I got home from Vermont and we weren't sure what we were doing. I didn't know what to do. We hit lows and wondered if it was over. But we never wanted it to end. We realized that neither of us wanted to give up our connection and eventually, we figured out how to grow together - gaining deeper intimacy in the past year than in the seven years we have been together. More of me sharing and him listening and both of us being ok when things aren't perfect.

Now, a year and a half later, Mike is that trident carrying man. Our relationship book has had many chapters, and that particular chapter of struggle ended. There was a death and a rebirth... of ourselves. It's not to say there won't be more and different stories and struggles. Relationships are in constant flux. 

I am seeing so many friends going through tough times in and out of relationships and I can deeply relate. That delicate balance of learning to take life one day at a time while simultaneously wondering if you're going to have to freeze your eggs. That wanting to have it all because it seems like everyone else does. We all struggle. We tune deeply into our hearts and we just as easily can tune them out. The universe is in constant flux. We are always growing and creating new (and hopefully better) versions of ourselves. And growth can feel like shit sometimes. Growth can feel like you really suck at life.

KEEP GOING. This is what is written for you. You don't know the forces at play but this is the experience that you need now, so that it can serve you later. Big hugs and so much love.

trust the universe


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Feeling

Yesterday was my birthday.

32 years on this planet. And it quite possibly could have been my best birthday yet - all from one simple shift. I allowed myself to feel... and to receive. 

It may sound small but this is a big change for me. I prefer to operate in the "I can do it myself" category. It's always been tough for me to ask for help - I feel like I'm putting people out or somehow hindering them. I was never able to see birthdays as a opportunity to celebrate someone. The world just seemed to be an easier place when I would stuff down any emotions I had and operate superficially. Because, duh... when I don't feel, I don't get hurt.

This year though, I have worked on shifting my narrow (and inaccurate) masculine mindset of doing and numbing and really have allowed myself to open up to the receiving and the feeling - the feminine. Normally I would feel bad that people wanted to give me gifts - in my head this was putting them out of money or time - or I would say no to a celebration.

Not this year! Not 2014! This shit was my YEAR. This is the year I allowed myself to receive.

butterfly

This is the year that I broke out of the cocoon of numbing and allowed myself to feel. I quieted the weird and underlying guilty noise in my head and gave myself permission to feel good that people wanted to celebrate my birthday. Instead of feeling guilty, I felt grateful. I felt humbled. I felt really really good. And I received and kept receiving - hearing the "happy birthdays" from a place of gratitude instead of feeling like I was putting people out. Smiling as my yoga classes sang happy birthday to me instead of feeling guilty or uncomfortable about it. Soaking up all the incredible energy and tucking it away in a little good vibes vault so I can pull from it all year long.

And I'm still buzzing from the epic birthday singalong class on Tuesday, from my awesome day yesterday, from all the love and well-wishes and the birthday celebrations that are still to come... I'm still holding it all in my heart and really feeling it - because feeling is living.

And living is all we've got.

savasana yoga
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Social

There are two sides to every coin. After my last post, I spoke with a few yoga instructors who let me know that they don't love the idea of self-promotion and social media. That it feels uncomfortable.

I can totally vibe off this, self-promotion does correlate directly to the ego - and therefore, can be view through a yogi lens as negative. Social media = bad.

being a social yogi at panther coffee.

being a social yogi at panther coffee.

To elaborate, the majority of yoga practices are designed to kill or lessen the ego - through yoga practice, divine chanting, etc - so that you can be connected to your higher self, and eventually aligned with all things and the divine. Together as ONE. I love the concept of one-ness. I think we are all absolutely divinely connected. And I think we can be connected in lots of different ways.

So anyway, back to the ego-thing. You devote your life to being a yoga teacher and sharing yoga with people, because you love it and you want to help people. In traditional yoga fashion, you shun Facebook and Instagram as methods of communicating about yoga, and you definitely don't do the "website thing". 

Just one glaring hiccup...  No one comes to your classes.

Because you don't promote yourself and people don't know about you.

I really believe that you do yourself a disservice as a yoga teacher when you don't use social media. Think of it as a tool to let people know about your classes, where you teach, when you teach... at the minimum you can use Facebook or Insta to show people pictures of your classes so they know what they're getting into. People like to be informed. Companies hire whole marketing TEAMS to promote their businesses. Jeez, countries hire marketing agencies to promote their COUNTRY. If people don't know about a whole country, how are they going to know about your Wednesday night yoga class? 

I believe there is a balance. Yes, there are teachers out there who use social media to promote their ego. And you don't have to be them. There is a way to do it that's true to you. You probably know my stance on this already (since I say it in almost every yoga post that I do)... but the key is to check your intention

If your intention is to share yoga with people, they have to know about you. You can use social media to pass along inspiration, favorite poses, really whatever speaks to you. If you think of it as sharing your message in another way - off the mat - it will lead to more people live and in person, practicing, breathing and learning yoga on the mat with you.

yoga savasana
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Strike a Pose

This is going to be one of the more ridiculous, borderline narcissistic and probably the most useful post I will write this year...

How to look great in yoga pictures.

Before we dive in, I feel it important to first touch on the polarizing yoga selfie conversation. If you can't tell - I am a big fan of Instagram. I'm constantly inspired by the pictures out there. My piece is that as long as your intention is good, it's all gravy. People can smell fakeness or ego a mile away. Keep your shit in check. Also, remember that I'm coming at you from Miami, where whether you like it or not - books are judged by their cover. Why not give yourself a better cover if you have the ability to do so?

In this digital era, the reality is that as a yoga teacher (or fitness professional in general), you need pictures to promote your classes and workshops. The more you promote, the more pictures you'll need and it gets pricey to have a professional photog snap a shot every time you require a new image. At the very least, you'll need a great headshot. So let's dive in.

1. Learn how to smile. Don't be shy here - have a friend help you or take a bunch (read: tens or hundreds) of selfies to find out your best smile. For your mouth smile... are you better with the mouth closed? Showing teeth? Half-smile? Find your signature smile. And then move up the cabeza to learn how to smile with your eyes - smizing as Tyra calls it - or maybe you're better with squinching (yes - this is a real thing) - where you lift up the lower lid to sort of half-squint your eyes, conveying confidence. Booyah.

Smizing and squinching selfie with a fake laugh - and showing my personality with jewelry, tattoo, etc. Good lighting helps too.

Smizing and squinching selfie with a fake laugh - and showing my personality with jewelry, tattoo, etc. Good lighting helps too.

2. Show your face! Poses are rad but we want to connect with your face. That's where we understand your personality best. Are you most photogenic at an angle, profile or straight on? I'm generally my most photogenic straight on smiling with my mouth open and my eyes looking slightly away. Yes, that's how technical this is. 

3. Fake laugh. This is my #1 secret for head shots. My friends love this one and always joke with me about it but it works! Photographers may try to make you smile or laugh but often times you're preoccupied with other stuff (like holding side plank while sucking your stomach in)... So you'll need to take matters into your own hands. Teach yourself how fake laugh. Take a deep breath in and then say ha! from your belly. Keep saying ha! and literally make yourself laugh while curling the corners of your mouth up into a smile. Fake it 'til you make it and once you make it - the result is an authentic smile, which makes for an inviting picture. Students want to come to classes where they feel welcome, accepted and their teacher is a nice person. Show them who you are in your pictures.

4. For pose pics: don't overcomplicate it. The simplest poses are usually the best. If you can do eka pada koundinyasana II, that's rad. But chances are you are going to look strained and not nearly as good as you envisioned. Bummer, right? I remember my very first yoga photo shoot, thinking I was gonna look soooo awesome in astavakrasana. HA. Lesson: an open pose is usually best, you'll look taller, longer and more elegant. Think dancer's pose, high lunges, seated with legs extended - anything with arms or legs long translates into a good photo.

Dancer's pose - open, elongated, classic. Professional photo taken by my fave Matt Roy (www.mattroyphotography.com)

Dancer's pose - open, elongated, classic. Professional photo taken by my fave Matt Roy (www.mattroyphotography.com)

5. Screenshot yoga videos. This is the life hack of the century, Can never get your inversion picture just right? Take a video and screenshot it. GAME CHANGER.

An example of a screenshot of a video. The quality isn't great but the idea gets conveyed.

An example of a screenshot of a video. The quality isn't great but the idea gets conveyed.

And finally... show your personal style. Do you wear lots of jewelry? Bright colors? Always wear your hair a certain way? Do that in your pics. A photo is a just another way to express your beliefs and your presence. People will connect with you in a more real way when you show them your real self. Don't be ashamed to be who you are. Someone out there will love it. xo, Amy

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Flexivert

I took one of those little quizzes last night on Facebook. You know, the ones that have provocative titles like "What city are you supposed to be living in?"

Mine was Capetown. Which I totally agree with - I love that place. 

capetown

The one I took last night was a "What personality type are you" quiz. It was based on the Myers Briggs test. Since it was just a zippy Facebook link, I didn't overthink my answers like I normally would. Breezing through - yes, that sounds a little like me... no, that does not describe me at all... I made it through and then at the end I was told I was an INFJ.

Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging. 

Introverted. I mulled this over. I read the description. Yep, that sounds like me. Creative but struggles to express how I'm feeling verbally. Sensitive. Insightful. Secretive. Believe I'm right. Perfectionist who is rarely at peace with myself. Yes, yes, yes. But introvert? I wasn't sold.

Today I started talking to my mom and she told me how much she loves texting. I agreed with her and she said "I really don't like talking on the phone."

"Yes!" I exclaimed emphatically. "I hate calling people on the phone! I don't even like picking it up when people call! It makes me so anxious." Introvert central.

I love people. I equally love being by myself. Maybe I'm a flexivert. But what's more compelling is why do I always feel like I need a label to feel whole and complete. 

Do I really need another reason to feel good or bad about myself? 

Maybe I'll just move to Capetown and stop taking these little quizzes.

capetown
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Retrograde

I found myself again at IKEA this week, explaining Mercury in retrograde to the older woman with kind eyes who was behind the returns/exchanges counter.

"You see, it's this phenonemon when Mercury looks like it's moving backwards in the sky. And it fucks everything up. Communication, decision making, IKEA item purchasing. Which is why I'm here for the fourth time in 11 days. To return this futon cover that is the wrong size."

She smiled at me. "Hmm, I'd never heard about Mercury in retrograde. But that does explain a lot. And I am sorry about your inconvenience." 

I nodded and laughed a little to myself. "Thank you."

Sometimes you just need to be heard... someone to receive you, to hear your struggle - no matter how insignificant.

Ikea Warrior 3

For me, I needed to share Futon-gate 2014: the great transformation of our guest bedroom into a functional office/bedroom space. First trip was the determine the IKEA futon situation in person with Mike. They were sold out of the one we wanted but there was another color option. We had to think on it. Next step was to go back and purchase the backup color option futon. Trip three was to get the parts that, once assembly commenced, I discovered were missing out of the futon box. Ugh. Trip four (and hopefully last) was to get the right size cover, after we grabbed the wrong one off the shelf in our haste to move on with our lives.

A grand total of 12 of my living hours spent at IKEA, most of it waiting in the return/exchange queue. It was annoying and undoubtedly, a total first world problem. But despite that, I still wanted to share and be heard, to relate to people, to know that I'm not alone. And to also quell that little bit of "you screwed up, you bought the wrong size cover" that was showing up inside me.

Because we all share in struggle. It's the human condition. And how we dance with it varies... maybe your jam is connecting over dinner with friends, time with family, a book club, an online forum. Whatever being in relationship with others feels and sounds like to you, we all deserve to be understood and connected. 

When we open up to offer our missteps and wrong turns, it unconsciously gives other people the freedom to share their own. We form deeper connections and stronger bonds to the people around us. Life starts to feel different, like we're not alone or messing up on our journey. When we are connected - vulnerably and openly - your whole universe expands.

mercury in retrograde
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Further

In my meditation this morning, a phrase popped in my head. One of those things that got backstocked into the recesses of my brain, waiting for the time to come out. Something that needed to be said, to be heard. It was something that needed to be shared.

Being right doesn't further the conversation.

Fuck. I love the feeling of being right. That instant validation and gratification is an ego boost and a half. But it's such a temporary high because there is always the flip side. Being right is kind of like eating ice cream - really awesome in the moment... and not so awesome afterwards when your jeans are tight.

Life is a balance. Every action has a cost and the cost to being right is relationship. There is no growth, no furthering the conversation. "I'm right, you're wrong, end of story."

Being right is a block - a wall that prevents anything else from happening. You may have won and proved someone else wrong, but where does that leave you? Nowhere good.

Shift the lens. Life isn't about winning. It's about expanding. 

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Life on a bike

Very few things make me happier than the simple pleasure of riding a bike. The feeling of freedom, instant connection with the outdoors and the fact that you're responsible for moving your own body. I love bikes - and I am especially passionate about biking as a form of transportation. A favorite quote of mine sums it up nicely...

Four wheels move the body, two wheels move the soul
— Anonymous

After happily going a year without a car and just getting around via bike, I'm often asked about what kind of bike to get and how I handle biking in Miami. Honestly, it can be a total clusterfuck. Miami is notoriously un-bike friendly. Rough roads... bike lanes unexpectedly ending... lots of tourists... and crazy ass drivers. Yet biking can be your most beautiful Miami experience at the same time. Whether you have a bike or want a bike, here are some things I've learned from five years of biking the streets of MIA that may help you.

1. Get a bike that suits your lifestyle. Over my lifetime I've had different types of bike - road bikes, mountain bikes, fixes, beach cruisers, hybrids. I love them all for lots of reasons. You have to consider what you need your bike for. Are you taking it to Whole Foods for groceries? Cool - get a hybrid or cruiser with a basket. Are you planning on using it as your car? Awesome - get a fixie or lightweight hybrid (you want it light so you can easily put it on a bus or in a friend's car if you need to). You don't need a lot of gears in Miami since we don't have any hills. When you're ready to get a bike, check out local bike shops or online. Most companies frequently run web promotions or free shipping so have some patience when online shopping. You can also easily buy online and bring it into your local bike shop to have it assembled.

fixie purefix bike miami

2. Once you get it... lock that shit up. While you're at it, get a really badass lock. Between us, Mike and I have had five bikes stolen from Miami Beach. That's 2.5 bikes per person! WTF, right? Invest in a lock. I love my Kryptonite Evolution Mini - I got it on amazon.com. People are ruthless so always lock your bike up to something stable. I've seen street signs ripped out of the street so people can steal the bikes locked up to them - always make sure you're locked up to something secure. And lock your bike through the rear triangle

3. Never leave your bike out overnight in this city. NEVER. I don't care how well locked up it is. 

4. Consider your attire. You want to be able to be nimble and comfortable. Girls - biking in a dress or skirt sucks. You can't go that fast and the fabric might get caught somewhere. Flip flops and sandals can be a pain too - not to mention dangerous. Your most comfortable biking outfit is flexible bottoms and sneakers of some variety. I have a single speed (fixie) that doesn't allow for a basket, hence why you see me wearing a backpack around town. That's how I get my groceries home and it's nice because it keeps the weight centered on your back. For chicks - a purse or even a cross body bag can be troublesome if the weight shifts to one side or the other. I've had scary experiences when a heavy tote bag slipped off my shoulder and almost threw me off my bike. Just good to consider.

5. Know your roads. Euclid is a great biking thoroughfare in Miami Beach - nice and wide with well marked bike lanes. West Ave is a mess right now with all overflow from the Alton construction. Biking down Lincoln Road is a nightmare on weekends but in the very early morning, it is a truly delightful experience.  Google Maps has a bike function for when you're mapping out a route that's helpful. 

6. Check out group rides. Critical Mass is one of my absolute favorite things to do in Miami. Or come ride with us during our monthly Purdy Ave rides. It's such a cool way to see the city and meet new friends. If you're riding at night, make sure you get some bike lights for safety. 

7. It's the tropics, so it's almost a given that you're going to get rained on. You might want to get a lightweight rain jacket. You'll also probably ride in the rain. And unless you have more of a cruiser bike with fenders, you'll end up with a nice wet line on your butt from the spray. You can check our the Ass-savers (yes, it's a real thing!) to keep your booty dry.

And finally... once you're out there on the road, take time to enjoy your scenery and have so much fun! You are treading lightly on this earth when you're on a bike and that's a really good thing. You can discover so much more than you could in a car! Soak in the beauty and art that surrounds you - life just feels a little more magical when you're cruising around this planet on two wheels.

bike wedding
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Bleeding soul

It's been a lot easier for me to write about food lately than it is to share my share my soul. I always think about this Hemingway quote...

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed
— Ernest Hemingway

And I sit down with so many thoughts - millions of thoughts - and then BOOM. The inner voice shows up. The blocker between my bleeding soul and my keyboard. "Don't write about that!" it says. "That's too controversial, too harsh, too much."

And I start to question myself.  Fuck. Bad move. Once you give that voice any attention, it snowballs out of control. For me it says "What is my purpose"... "Am I on the right path"...

"What am I even doing???"

AHHH.

You're overwhelmed before you've even begun. Or at least I am.

But - thankfully - there is a very subtle pause between my thoughts and the reality. There is space in there for conscious awareness. When I'm present, I can tap into that pause and differentiate myself from the voice. I can also grow that pause through yoga, meditation, mindfulness. The more connected I am to myself - my true self - the less I hear the inner voice. The more time I spend attuning myself to my body, listening to subtle body cues and inner sensations, the more self awareness I have and the less attention I give the voice.

When I trust myself, I can move from my true self - not my self-doubting inner voice - and take the leap to share myself freely.

leap

The inner voice only has as much power as you give it. We all experience doubt, especially when we are being vulnerable. We are human. Yes, it's uncomfortable. But to get truly connected to each other, vulnerability is imperative. We have to move past the feelings of self-doubt so that we can share our struggles, our own inner voices, our baggage - baring our own bleeding souls so that we can heal and grow together. Because what's the alternative? Being locked up, hard and frustrated? 

Doesn't sound so appealing to me.

/

Satya

The theme that keeps coming up loud and clear for me this week is communication. Struggles with misunderstandings, feeling unheard, and just being so over hearing people talk shit about other people. 

At the end of the day, all we have is our word. Yet that can get so misaligned. 

In-person verbal communication is complicated enough on it's own. "What did she mean when she said this?" or "Do you think this means he likes me?" Layer in texting and emojis and communication becomes a clusterfuck. It has become very easy for things to get misconstrued, feelings to get hurt and for us to veil what we are really trying to say.

In my own messy conversations this week, the word satya keeps coming to mind.

Satya is one of the yamas - the yogi moral code - and it means truthfulness in speech. It stands for conscious communication - considering how what you say, how you say it and how it will  come across the others. I love that line: conscious communication.

Seen in Vancouver.... exhibit by Douglas Coupland: everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything

Seen in Vancouver.... exhibit by Douglas Coupland: everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything

If we all just took the extra moment to think about how our words reverberated on this planet, myself included, I have a strong feeling our conversations would sound a lot different. Take a moment to consider the impact of the words you are speaking. Own everything that is coming out of your pie-hole. If you have a tendency to dish on other people, consider going on a shit-talking diet. It's like eating clean... except it's talking clean.

Satya: speak your truth. Say what you need to say to the right people. Be a conscious communicator. It's your word, and ultimately - it's all you've got.

/

Slow down

The rain stopped. "Yes!" I said to Mike. "We can still go for a bike ride." I had chosen the Nita Lake Lodge for their great reviews and their complimentary use of 'toys' - bikes, canoes, paddle boards, etc. Although today's forecast was 90% chance of precipitation, the skies had cleared momentarily and I was eager to take a spin through the mountains. 

whistler

We got set up on mountain bikes and actually wore helmets on for a change. As we rounded the first curve, I turned to Mike with a big smile, "I've never regretted a bike ride." 

"Dude!" He replied. "You totally just jinxed us." 

"No way. Don't say that."

We rode through Whistler - around lakes, over bridges, through scenery we would never see in Miami. We switched gears to ride up hills. We waved to people and said hello as we breezed by. It was lovely. 

whistler sky

After a steady uphill climb, we approached the top of a curving steep descent with a warning sign. I immediately thought back to Bali. That island been on my mind frequently. I remembered Mike cruising down giant hills on our scooter while I cowered in the back. I reminisced working through that fear and by the end of the trip, I was successfully navigating my way on the scooter up and down big hills. I came back to the present moment and smiled to myself as I started to cruise down the hill, gaining speed quickly. In hindsight, it was weird - Mike would normally be in front in these kind of situations, yet I was the first one going down. As I plowed ahead, I saw a bend in the road ahead and quickly braked to slow down.

The trail was still wet from the rain and with the combination of fast braking and wet ground, my tire slipped, swerving the bike underneath me and throwing me off. My hip and thigh hit - hard - and I tumbled forward - all in slow motion. I watched from outside my body as my chin finally hit the pavement, the impact enough to rattle my brain. 

Fuck.

Am I alive? There's blood. There's Mike. Teeth in check? Yes. Fuck. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.

My tape played out. Frustrated at myself for getting hurt. For ruining our plans. For being human. Fuck, I really like it when I can be perfect and keep my shit together. 

Mike got me up. My shoe was ripped from the force of the fall. We slowly walked back to the hotel, him walking both bikes, me with a leaf over my chin to apply pressure. Blood. "It's not so bad," Mike kept telling me. It was bad. Stitches. He just didn't want me to pass out. Love.

"Slow down," the universe tells me. "You can't always control the journey."

I guess it's time for me to listen. 

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Men and mats

Let's have a little chat about relationships. They seem to be a common conversation theme lately - but really, when aren't we talking about relationships. Everything in life is a relationship. And those relationships are constantly evolving. For us to say something is NEVER going to happen is such a fallacy because things change every second of every day. The only constant is change.

Anyway. I digress. Where I was going with the relationship thing... Ah, yes. Mike. My loving, wonderful, hilarious husband. Who also happens to be a kick-ass yogi. 

Yoga girls ask me frequently, "How cool that you guys do yoga together! Did you guys meet in class??" knowing that if I answer yes, it will give hope to all of the single vinyasa-ing beauties of Miami that they too will meet a man on the mat. 

And the unfortunate truth is no - Mike and I didn't meet in yoga. How we met is another blog post. And in fact, neither of us did yoga when we met. We ran, rode bikes, went to the gym - Mike did meditate but ardha chandrasana was not yet in our vocabulary. 

So then I'll hear from girls... "My boyfriend will NEVER do yoga with me - how did Mike get into it?" This is where we apply what I call the "create space" principle of relationships. Men do not like to be controlled or pushed. Hell, women don't either. 

Back in the beginning, I tried to get Mike to come to classes. I would pay for him, get him a nice little spot, and he would semi-begrudgingly come but it never was really a "wow" experience for him. And maybe that's cool for you, if you just want him to go with you every once in a while. But if you want them fully involved, not just coming with you to make you happy, but coming to yoga because they want to come... you have to play a different game. Men have to choose to come to yoga. Unless they have a guy friend who goes to yoga, in which case, let them do the work for you and have them get your man on the mat.

A few years into my yoga life, I started practicing a crazy hot vinyasa and skanda fusion with lots of handstands against the wall. Like hundreds of handstands. And the next day my arms would be sore. Mike would look at me incredulously - "you're sore from yoga?!"

"Yep."

And I loved what I was learning in this class, so I'd come home and show him my side-crow moves and other little tidbits I'd picked up. All the while keeping it MY THING and not asking Mike to go or trying to get him to come with me. This went on for a few months and finally one day, he decided that he needed to see this crazy yoga class for himself. One sweaty handstand in, he was hooked.

That was probably 5 years ago and he hasn't looked back since. I didn't get Mike into yoga. I opened some channels. Mike got Mike into yoga. And even better, at this very moment, he is in Vancouver for a month getting his Blissology Yoga Teacher certification. I couldn't be more excited for him. He loves yoga because he chose it and he is totally passionate about sharing it with others. I can't wait to take his class when he comes home! This might work for you and your guy, might not. But giving people space to choose is never a bad idea. It always wins over pushing.

Make your relationship easier. Create space. Allow people to walk into that space. That way we all grow together.

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Significance

A few years back I took a test called the Strength Finder 2.0. It's an online quiz with a book that comes with it. After you answer a series of questions, it tells you what your top 5 strengths are. It does this according to some very special algorithms - more advanced than the 1.0 version, of course. The idea is that you should always work in your strengths, instead of in your weaknesses, because it's a much straighter shot to success.

One of my strengths was Significance. The description reads: You want to be very significant in the eyes of other people. In the truest sense of the word, you want to be recognized. You want to be heard. You want to stand out. You want to be known." It goes on, but in a nutshell, this strength will keep you reaching. Reaching from the mediocre towards the exceptional.

I read this and was immediately like - how is this a strength?! I don't want this. It's pure ego. Does everything I do come across as ego?! People will hate me! AHHHHH.

After I processed it, I realized it was completely accurate. In truth, I love to be recognized. I mean, really, who doesn't? There probably are lots of people who don't, but my mind is so into being recognized, it's hard to imagine another way of being.

In case it's not clear, empathy is not one of my strengths ;)

Thinking back over my life, I began to see where this significance theme has been present through all of my choices. One of these was my college major. I had always loved to write and naturally, in my significant state, I loved being in front of the camera so it seemed appropriate to major in Broadcast Journalism. Or as it was called at UF… Telecommunication News. Towards the end of my last year, I decided I didn't love doing it  (probably because I wasn't as good as it as I'd like to be) and decided to pursue other things I was passionate about that were totally outside my major. Like yoga and clothing. 

Even though I changed my course, the Significance theme was still there. I still wanted to be heard, to be known, to share something with the world. That feeling lives deep within me. But I was scared. Teaching yoga allowed that theme to live out somewhat, but I've never been as good with spoken word as I was with written. I knew I wasn't conveying in my classes everything I had to offer. I needed another platform.

I had wanted to blog for a few years but I felt like it was too much about myself, that people would think I was so egotistical. I was also worried that I didn't have anything worthwhile to share. There was lots of noise in my head that kept me small for a while, a few years at least.

And then one day, I just said fuck it. I was tired of playing small. The stars aligned and Significance broke through. I started writing again. I didn't even know what I wanted to write about when I started this thing. But I knew there was power in sharing. Do I feel scared when I post a particularly personal blog post? Yes. I totally get vulnerability hangovers. Sometimes I'll wake up in the morning and think… "Shit. Did I really post that?" But the feeling I get when someone tells me that they love my blog or how a post affected them is so much more powerful than that. Vulnerability is strength.

We all have so much to share, and we put up barriers to keep ourselves small. What is in you to explore, to nuture, that you're worried you will be judged for? Please share it. This is your chance. Shine your light… you have so much to contribute to the world.

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Own your happy

How's your happiness lately? Mine has been a little hit or miss. It's so easy to get caught up in the ins and outs of our lives and forget that true spark that makes us really light up.

Last night I was beautifully reminded how much I love to sing and dance - Mike and I were at our friend's house, he brought out his guitar and we sang along loudly to Bob Marley and Sublime. It immediately brought me closer to me, music and self expression are some delicious soul food. A serious happiness boost.

Exactly! I'm not Mike, I'm Amy. And the things that make me happy are totally unique to me. 

Exactly! I'm not Mike, I'm Amy. And the things that make me happy are totally unique to me. 

For me, happiness is also waking up early, going on adventures with Mike, great coffee (and lots of it), grocery shopping and cooking a fresh and colorful dinner, yoga, being creative, riding my bike, being near the ocean, coming together with friends to do big things in our community… the list goes on.

When I consistently do those things, I am definitely happier. Do I feel like I'm walking on a cloud every second of the day? No. But all in all, life is pretty good. 

The more I can fill my own cup with the things that make me happy, the less the little things annoy me. Last week I only was able to practice yoga one time. I saw in my interactions with other people that I was edgier, less compassionate, less loving and definitely taking shit more personally. I had an ugly melt-down on Mike. I felt heavier, in spirit and body. I wasn't doing the things that I know make me happy, the things that I know that are true to me. And I'm totally responsible for that. It's a conscious choice we have to make every day. We can't expect other people to create happiness for us. We are a by-product of our choices.

Some thoughts to ponder… what does your perfect day look like? What makes you happy? What if you made choices every day based on what makes you happy? What would your life feel like?

The better we know ourselves, the more we can make choices that move us in a positive direction, the healthier we become both for ourselves and the people around us. Maybe you take a new route to work, or start that little herb garden that you have always talked about. It's easier than you think. 

Do yourself a favor, stop waiting for other people to do it for you… own your own happy.  

Biking, adventure and waking up early… three things in one experience that made me happy :)

Biking, adventure and waking up early… three things in one experience that made me happy :)

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Just start

I've had quite a few first time yogis in my classes lately. It seems like new people are really getting on the yoga train. And they're inquisitive. There’s a curiosity that comes before people start practicing yoga. I've had people in my building stop me in the elevator, "Hey, I heard you're a yoga teacher. I'm thinking of starting yoga… how do I begin?" I can dutifully recommend classes or teachers, yet at the end of the day, it's like anything. You can try to control the circumstances as much as you want, but ultimately, you just need to take that first step. Just start. And you'll begin where you begin

Just start… photo credit Matt Roy Photography

Just start… photo credit Matt Roy Photography

Let me tell you the sordid story of my first "real" yoga class. It was a complete shitshow. Seven years ago. Working too much. Working out too little. Living pretty unconsciously. To give you a snapshot of my health at this particular time, I exercised maybe 2 days a week and ate Lean Cuisine every day for lunch. I was living in Atlantic Beach, FL and there was yoga studio in a strip mall that I drove by all the time. Back when I drove.

Anyway, one day after work, I decided to try a class. Not having any clue what I was doing (or that there was a fashion component to the yoga world), I rolled up in legitimate full length sweat pants and a t-shirt. Not sweat-wicking, mind you, but sweat-inducing pants. The kind with fleece on the inside. In my hand was a bottle of Diet Lipton Iced Green Tea. I was chewing gum. In short, I was a total disaster.

I walked into the yoga room and was immediately hit by a curtain of sheer heat and humidity. I assumed that yoga was just yoga and has unknowingly had just signed my ass up for a Bikram yoga class. I looked around to see nymph-like creatures in short shorts doing ridiculous things before the class even started. 

I just sort of wedged my lotus flower yoga mat from Marshall's in the back corner and did what I could to keep up. Within minutes, I was drenched with sweat. I had no water, just green tea with aspartame. It was torture. 

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90 minutes later, I stumbled out of the room in a dehydrated daze and drove to the convenience store to get the largest bottle of water that I could find. I sat in my car and chugged the entire thing. Once I had the strength to drive home, I laid on the couch downstairs (I honestly couldn't even make it upstairs) and realized that despite it all, I felt really good. I remember thinking to myself… "damn, what if I could do that every day?" I would feel incredible.

Was that Bikram class perfect? Did I love the teacher? Was there even music? No. But that bliss that came from that first savasana was strong enough to hook me and get me started on a beautiful yoga journey. That little sneak peek inside myself got me searching for the right yoga class and style for me. Seven years later, on the other side of the fence, as a teacher, I can absolutely relate to you first time yogis when you walk into class looking to find a dark space in the corner to hide out. I know you because I am you. And maybe you dig my class, maybe you don't. I don't mind either way - I'm just so happy for you that you're taking the first step and showing up. Begin where you begin.

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On boredom...

I was asked the other day… "Do you ever get bored of teaching yoga?" And my initial thought was "Damn. Did I sound bored when I was teaching my class? Was I super monotone? I need to record myself teaching so I can properly assess this."

Once I got over taking it personally, I started to think about it. I've never felt boredom when I'm teaching, per se. It's totally awesome and exhilarating when you're in the zone of teaching a yoga class. It's life-affirming to think you're guiding people through poses that are going to help them on and off the mat. So never bored… but what we can sometimes feel as a yoga instructor is stale. Stale or stuck. Uninspired.

It's like anything. You have to keep filling your cup. In order to grow, we need to be challenged. If I taught the same sequence with same music day in, day out, I'd probably be pretty bored. And possibly start to hate it. So we have to keep things fresh. Whatever our profession, however our lives look... we all need inspiration. We can't flourish in a vacuum. That inspiration can come from anywhere. Yes, taking a world-class yoga class would be my ideal daily inspiration, and the reality is that life doesn't always work like that. So the practice is finding inspiration in everything.

if you shift your perspective, lots of things open up.

if you shift your perspective, lots of things open up.

lovely lilies in bloom

lovely lilies in bloom

Traveling is always source of spiritual inspiration for me, as are blogs or books. For cooking ideas, I love Instagram… for inspiring quotes, Pinterest. Nature also provides incredible divine inspiration - a gorgeous sunrise or sunset is such a gift. A fun dinner with friends can give you the humor you need to clear whatever is blocking you. Or it doesn't even have to be so big. We can be inspired by a smile, a kind gesture. I bought a lily this week that had lots of buds on it but no flowers, and it has been my pleasure to see it bloom a little more each day. I am grateful to be a witness to it's beauty, completely outside of my control. 

As I ponder more, I don't even know if I believe there is such a thing as boredom. I personally think it's a lack of motivation combined with a lack of inspiration... and the shift is simple. If we want it. Through gratitude for the things that we already have and living consciously - observing the world around us for what it is - we don't have to look very far to be inspired.

It's already right here.

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Inspiration

Mike's in New Jersey for the weekend and he sent me a text this morning telling me that I inspire him. Heart melting. It made me feel so good. You see, this is a big deal because being inspiring is something I've been working on for a while.

back in the uninspired olden days. when i wore things like navy striped sweaters.

back in the uninspired olden days. when i wore things like navy striped sweaters.

Back in the pre-yoga days, I worked as a manager for Abercrombie & Fitch (this like 10+ years ago - don't judge me). I knew a lot but I didn't really feel like I could make an impact or round up the troops like some of the other people I worked with. I remember one day asking my boss "how can I be a more inspiring leader?" And I got some nebulous answer like "know your stuff more." But knowing my stuff hadn't made me inspiring thus far and so I walked away feeling like some people were just born "inspiring" and the other people, like me, weren't. I went along with my MO of 'be good at your job and know your stuff' and for the time being, I was pretty uninspiring.

Fast forward a few years later to my time at lululemon. Immersed in the yoga and fitness world and surrounded by cool people who were doing amazing things - starting charities, leading giant yoga retreats, changing lives - I revisited this thought and began to connect the inspiration dots. I started to notice that the people who inspired me were the ones who were pursuing their passions. They were the ones actually living their dreams. It's not like they set out to be inspiring, they were simply excited about life and that in turn inspired other people… since other people craved the guidance and insight of someone who had been on that journey before. 

I realized that inspiration wasn't some genetic trait, it was a by-product of you doing what you love. How radical... I had the ability to inspire! For a leader, or for anyone really, this is an important and powerful quality. Influenced by so many inspiring people, I started setting bigger goals and achieving bigger goals. I started doing things I'd always wanted to do. Some of them worked, some didn't. But I was trying. And slowly but surely, I started to inspire.

You don't have to be a master, you don't have to be perfect, you don't even have to succeed - but you do have to try. Because when you're on your journey, discovering and pursuing whatever is meaningful to you, and you take it a step further and you go after what you want - that is so awesome and INSPIRING.

chase down your dreams! go for it! life is for living. 

chase down your dreams! go for it! life is for living. 

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… and contraction

I got some much appreciated feedback that my last post about expansion and contraction felt like it "stopped short". It contracted! Teehee. 

I established last post that expansion and contraction is part of nature and part of the human condition. Life can't always be an upward trajectory. Even the hottest, most perfect guy has a fatal flaw. We aren't and can't be perfect. So how does that apply to yoga? 

Yoga means union - the uniting of body and mind, inward and outward energy. When we are able to slow down and control our breath, we can start to identify patterns - in particular the patterns where our ego directs our lives. When we are able to step outside of the autopilot of how we normally operate, we can start to see ourselves as we really are. Now - this self inquiry is totally possible in other things than yoga - but yoga is a really great fast track. Let's say a teacher calls out a new pose and our ego says yes - do that pose. But the pose isn't something we normally practice and then we hurt ourselves. That's a perfect mirror for other experiences in our lives. We can ask ourselves… where else am I trying to prove myself? Where else am I not listening to my body? This form of self inquiry informs us of where we are in our current cycle. Yoga is a template for self-discovery. The above example of listening to our ego and hurting ourselves would be a contraction - but that's awesome. Because that realization gives you space for an expansion. Through awareness, you embark on the journey of letting go of the belief that you have to prove yourself and you give something else permission to move in and expand you. I use this example because I'm currently in the work of not having to prove myself.

there is so much beauty in freedom.

there is so much beauty in freedom.

Nature abhors a vacuum

I never used to understand this quote but recently it made sense to me. Basically, any time we are able to make space, something else moves in. And if you're doing your work (whatever self-awareness looks like to you, it could be self inquiry, meditation, etc.) then the hope is that new clearer, cleaner energy will move into your space. 

This is a more esoteric post that what I typically write so I hope it makes sense. In summary, our work in yoga, whether it's physical asana or breath work or meditation or whatever form of yoga you practice, is to move beyond the ego and cultivate the self awareness to identify our cycles of expansion and contraction. We can use that awareness to let go of limiting beliefs to create space for fresh beliefs to come in that help us move to higher states of consciousness, which eventually will lead us to understanding that we are all one, we are all connected. And maybe we get there, but the journey is the really important part because it means we are connecting more deeply to ourselves - venturing into that space between the ebb and the flow, between the tides, that magic moment between the inhale and the exhale, where the heart of consciousness resides. 

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