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Always a Student

I was really lucky this summer to take 6 weeks off from teaching yoga and to spend my time traveling, directing plays, teaching creative drama and movement workshops, spending time with family and friends, lots and lots of driving, and most importantly – being a yoga student again.

 

Now you may have noticed, but I have a pretty full teaching schedule.  I teach at multiple locations and I try to offer a few community events and classes each month. And it’s possible I’ve even said this phrase to you in person, but I’ve scheduled myself into a corner. I filled up my dance card and because of that, it is really hard for me to make it to yoga classes myself.
This time last year, I was teaching morning, lunch time, and evening classes 5 days a week and usually doing 2 classes on Saturdays and private lessons when I could squeeze them in. Honestly it was too much. (I even wrote a blog about it here.) It was too much on my body and my spirit and that is a big reason why I reworked my class schedule to give myself a little more space and to focus on the projects and events that I am really passionate about. But on top of that, I also wanted to make more time to attend classes and workshops myself.

 

This summer taught me quite a lot, more than I even know yet I think. It also gave me the confidence and courage to continue to look inward and listen to my intuition on what I need. I know a huge part of that was getting to spend some time focusing on self-study and tuning into my personal practice and even allowing myself to have that space held for me by someone else.

 

My retreat in Amorgos was incredible. I mean not only was I spending my time on a Greek Island, but I was taking classes everyday, diving into my personal meditation practice, and spending my time surrounded my yogis of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. That week felt like such an incredible affirmation of all the lessons that have been brewing inside me for the past few years. It allowed me to really feel myself coming into my own and embracing my life exactly as it is. I am so grateful for that time, that confirmation, and that ease of energy. But of course, it doesn’t get to be where I stop. I have to take those lessons, the strength of spirit, and that love and carry it forward.

 

In the Yogic philosophy, svadhyaya is the 4th of the Niyamas, or internal practices.
To translate svadhyaya as “self-study” is, on the surface of things, quite precise. The first part of the word—sva—means “self.” The second part—dhyaya—is derived from the verb root dhyai, which means “to contemplate, to think on, to recollect, or to call to mind.” Thus, it works to translate dhyaya as “study”.
Svadhyaya—to study one’s own self.

 

Bhavani Maki says in her book, The Yogi’s RoadmapSvadhyaya (self-study) is the necessity to review and evaluate our progress through self-observation and self-analysis. It is the effort to gain deeper understanding of our weaknesses and strengths, and to address what the fire of practice has bubbled up to the surface for our review. It empowers us to learn from ourselves, and harness our potential to gain limitless understanding. More than that, it is our ability to be independent in our self discipline, and to apply ourselves to that task. It is the awakening of the inner guru, and ultimately the awakening of pranja, the wisdom inherent within.

 

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra says: “Study thy self, discover the divine” II.44

 

Studying our habits on the yoga mat can go a long way towards recognizing our habits off the mat too. The way in which we practice yoga is actually very reflective of the way we practice life…. and a person’s physical yoga practice often reveals a lot more about them than they may think.

When we’re on the mat (and in the classroom), there’s nowhere else to hide. The daily distractions of phones, chores, emails, and TV are no longer there to take our minds away from ourselves. We actually have to pay attention. This can be a little intimidating at first, and a yoga practice can sometimes reveal more about where our problems are rather than how perfect we are – which as we know, is very good for destroying the ego and very hard to stomach at times.

 

 

Now of course a big piece of this is having a personal practice or home practice, and I whole-heartedly believe in the benefits of having a time and space that is totally your own, especially within your yoga practice.
But I also believe that yoga is about union and community. I believe that together we lift each other up and I know that the times I have felt most connected to my breath, had my deepest savasanas, or pushed myself further in asana have all been in a class.

So now that I have begun to change my schedule and make more time for myself, I hope to use it to continue on this path. To find workshops close by and to attend classes all over South East Texas. I know it will make me a better student, teacher and human. We have so many amazing teachers in this world, and I know that I can learn from each and every one of them.

 

 

 

Twisted Tykes

Twisted Tykes Opening and Closing Ritual

Ritual is so very important all the time, but especially in youth classes.

 

“Rituals provide predictability and reliability, which translates to a feeling of safety and security for young children. These routines support emotional regulation as the child navigates everyday challenging events”  – Debra Pierce

 

It’s all about repetition and structure. When a child knows what will happen at certain times, they gains a sense of control over the situation…. And in this world, there is an awful lot that is outside of our control.
Without the routine, things are wide open and without bounds- too much of the unknown for a small child to handle. A ritual provides narrower boundaries and fewer choices allowing us to stretch our minds and bodies in new ways within the safety of structure.

 

 

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Here is a little taste of the Opening Ritual we have developed and curated in Twisted Tykes over the last year. Of course, classes are living organisms and things need to adapt and change over time. But for now, this is what we are up too.

 

 

I like to have a pre-class activity for every class, when you are dealing with toddlers and young kids, it’s pretty difficult to get everyone started on time and I think it’s good to have an activity that transitions them into class. Usually we color or play with sensory bottles, but sometimes I will have balloons or party blowers or feathers for us to practice breathing techniques. I try to keep this transition activity pretty low-key, something people can join into as they arrive and that isn’t disturbed if 3 kids need to run to the potty or don’t want to say goodbye to mom just yet.
Usually I have this set up and ready to go before anyone even walks in the door and we go on until everyone has arrived and settled in, and if that is taking a while, I wrap it up about 5 minutes after the class start time.

 

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After that we take a moment to share whatever it is we have created or practiced or noticed, then we clean up what ever messed we’ve made, get a drink of water, and head to our mats.
Again, because we’ve set up our rituals and routines, everyone is happy to transition because they know whats coming next.

Our Singing Bowl!

This is without a doubt everyone’s favorite thing. And they know they can’t get a turn until they are in Easy Seated Pose and one their mat, so it’s great for calling everyone’s attention. At this point, I don’t even have to use words, as soon as I pick it up they are quiet and still. Everyone gets a chance to ring the bowl and as they do they say their name and age and answer the question of the day. I usually have the question relate to the theme for our class to help get their little minds moving in the right direction and after they’ve all answered we use our bodies to create poses or movement based on their answers.

 

 

 

After that, we warm up, tackle our activities for the day, and then take some time for quiet rest and mindful meditation. (I’m always amazed at how much we can achieve and how much fun we can have in such a short amount of time.)

Once we have achieved all of that, we finish each class with a very similar Closing Ritual. 

I bust our Singing Bowl  back out and we go backwards around the circle taking turns ringing the bowl. This time they remember and reflect on what they liked most about class that day, what they felt really successful doing in class that day, or something they did that helped make our class better.
After we have all had a turn, we sing our Namaste Song to say goodbye and to signal that class is over. When we’ve finished singing, students are free to begin getting all of their things together while I open the door for parents. When their mat is rolled up and their shoes are on, they get a sticker and hug or high-five good bye (their choice).

 

The ritual of our singing bowl and how we start and end class each week has really helped us all have the best experience we can. It offers a safe and fun way to transitions our mind and bodies from the outside world into our space and makes sure we are ready learn and grow.

 

Of course, literally everything can become a sacred ritual to you and your family whether it is pizza on Friday nights, books before bed time, singing a special song when you get in the car, or celebrating Taco Tuesday with your girlfriends. Aside from helping create a special memories, and a safe learning environment, it also helps manage clear expectations and offers you and your little one freedom within the structure.

 

What are some of your favorite rituals and routines you’ve created in your home or classroom? I’d love to hear all about them so leave a comment or shoot me a message.

Namaste!

Read With Me

Finding Balance in the Autumn Equinox

Friday, September 22nd at precisely 4:02PM is the Autumnal Equinox.

This is the exact moment the Sun will cross the Celestial Equator and we will have a practically perfect, equal and balanced day.

“Equinox” comes from the Latin words “equi” meaning “equal” and “nox” meaning “night.”
Of course, we won’t have exactly 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night, because we do not all live exactly on the equator, but the Autumn and Spring Equinoxes are the days that we get the closest, having a difference of night and day by only a few minutes.

I always love the equinoxes and solstices. I love what they represent in our earth and how they always seem to parallel to our own lives. And mostly I love any reason to reflect. To take stock of how far we’ve come and what we still need to do to press forward.

 

With everything that has been happening the last few weeks and months, balance has been something that is on my mind quite a bit. As words like upheaval and disruption roll around in my mind, my body has been drawn to balancing postures and long holds.

 

I love when I can see so clearly how the world is influencing my personal practice.
In the week following Harvey, I wanted fire. I wanted tapas and movement and strength. I had felt so stagnant, flooded- in and stuck. I desperately needed a way to release that energy.
Then as I spent the following week working and volunteering, I graduated pretty naturally into heart openers.  Every day I felt as though my heart could explode with gratitude and awe of the love that was all around me. I think I practiced fish pose everyday– as though my body had to physically expand to make room for all of the love inside of me.
Last week was all about cleansing postures. I wanted twists and I wanted folds. I think my muscles and organs knew how badly we needed to release, and as I watched my entire street carry all of their belongings to the road, my body also needed to cleanse.

These past few days though, I’ve craved balance. In my classes and practices, I have been finding new ways to test my balance and strength. Almost like I want to make sure I still have hold of it or maybe I am just searching for control.
Then it hit me, the Equinox is this week. Of course I am drawn to symmetry. The earth is preparing for fall just as the sun is gliding into Libra, the astrological sign symbolized by balanced scales.

 

The Autumn Equinox invites us to turn within, to assess our state of balance between the light and the dark. It is a time to take inventory of all we have gained and that which needs releasing so that we can lay the foundation for a new life cycle to grow.

As the weeks go by I’m inclined to believe that each event that happened this summer has been pushing me forward and pressing me to let go. A little at a time, things are being shed from my life and my mind. (Though not my body, I am certainly suffering from the Harvey 15). And now, Harvey is allowing me to release even further, letting go of my car and preparing to move.

Believe me, while I am grateful to have the opportunity to cleanse, I have to admit, I am anxious to feel more stable and settled. The thought of hibernating for the winter is becoming pretty appealing.

But I know it will come.

This beautiful solar event is also here to remind me that everything is a season. We are never in a permanent state and that is lovely and sad, beautiful and frightening, and exactly what it should be. There is such beauty in change.

 

This equinox and corresponding full moon are also synonymous with the Harvest Season; a time to reap what we’ve sown, to express gratitude, to cleanse, and to reflect and prepare the ground for regrowth and new opportunities.

Around the world, autumn is a time of both anticipation and readiness. We gather with gratitude for what we have while preparing to be resilient for the colder, darker days ahead.
If my experience is indicative of the whole, we have all had our resilience tested time and time again lately. But it seems we are proving stronger each round.
I can see my loved ones and my community pushing forward in a way I haven’t noticed before (of course that doesn’t mean it was never there).
Our harvest festivals celebrate sharing, abundance, and love; and that is exactly what I’ve seen. I’ve seen us coming together in times of need and offering up when we’ve got more than enough.

 

Sharing, abundance, and love: such perfect sentiments for setting aside a day for celebrating what we’ve created, letting go of what we no longer need, and preparing for what is to come.

 

 

So if you’d like to join me, these are just a few of the ways I’ll be honoring and celebrating this week.

 

1.  Make a Gratitude List

Make a list of everything you are thankful for as a way of reaping your inner harvest. Better yet, start a gratitude journal. Gratitude brings abundance.

If you don’t know where to begin, start with the food you have to eat and the roof over your head. It will flow naturally from there. May your inner harvest be bountiful!

2.  Deep Clean your Work and Home
(This one shouldn’t be too hard after all the demo we’ve been doing)

Restore balance in the home by doing a fall deep cleaning. Get rid of anything that you no longer need to make space for the new season.

Cleanliness is next to Godliness, and the biggest transformation of an environment occurs when it is cleaned up. The healing is in the doing.

3.  Begin Something New

Solstices and equinoxes are a great time to let go of the old and begin anew. As the temperatures begin to cool and people begin to spend more time indoors it is a great time to begin a new project.

  • Make a list of everything you’ve been wanting to do.
  • Pick your top three choices.
  • Make a plan to start one and go from there.

 

 

Feel free to share your lists and projects with me here! Or let me know how you are celebrating and finding balance these days!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read With Me

How to Help

Hello my loves,

It has been a very long  2 weeks here in Southeast Texas. I know everyone knows about Hurricane Harvey (a storm that managed to be a Category 1, 2, 3, and 4 Hurricane, a Tropical Storm, and a Tropical Depression all in a week’s time).

 

Hurricane-Harvey

 

Most of you know this has been a very tumultuous summer for me and I have been learning lots of lessons along the way. While navigating personal highs and successes, I’ve also been surrounded by family and community traumas and at times it has been really difficult balance all of those emotions. I feel like the world has been doing somersaults and I admit that I have felt a little tossed around.

It seems a little unexpected, but the 2 emotions I’ve been feeling the most are guilt and gratitude. I feel guilt and shame for being spared. Because my losses were so minor, because the people I love and care for are all safe and sound, and because I am surrounded by such support and have had so many reach out to take care of me and offer their homes and time and shoulders. Of course I feel thankful for all of these things as well, but there are so many who have lost so much. My heart has been broken by this storm and by seeing the devastation, watching people be airlifted out of their homes and knowing they will never return to them, talking to people who are being evacuated to far away cities where they don’t know anyone and have nothing, and feeling all of the stress and tension all around me. It has all taken a toll on my spirit.

BUT through all of that I also feel such gratitude and such love. It’s actually been kind of overwhelming and in all the times I’ve cried over the last 2 weeks, I would say every single tear has been shed  in admiration for the world and the people all around me. I feel like these events and disasters can bring out the worst in people, but I haven’t witnessed any of that. I’ve seen the people around me and in our community and our country rise up. Everyone is doing their best to take care of each other and to open their hearts and their homes.

I catch myself just repeating “Thank You” all day long. Thank you to the universe for keeping me and my family safe. To my friends and loved ones who have extended their time, energy, talents, and pockets to help and support. To complete strangers who have risked their own safety for those in need. To every single soul who opened their hearts and decided to embrace love instead of hate.
I know it seems unlikely, but my heart is filled with so much hope, the beauty in this world seems too much to feel otherwise.

Of course, I am also so floored by the charity and kindness of my friends and strangers. One of my best of the best created a GoFundMe for me and the responses and donations that poured in have been the most incredible reminder of all the beauty, joy, and love that I am so lucky to have in my life.
I will never be able to say “Thank you” enough to every single person who donated, texted, called, took me in, offered me rides, and shared drinks with me. You all have made not just the storm, but the entire summer so much easier. You have lessened my stress and lifted my spirits and pulled me through.

Thank you.

 

 

Now onto what this blog was actually intended to be.

How to help.

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I’ve had lots of people ask how they can continue to help and support in the aftermath of Harvey. There was such a large amount of devastation spanning such a large amount of the Gulf Coast, I’m still not even sure I can wrap my mind around it. But there are numerous organizations and people that are effecting real and beautiful change in Texas. So if you are inclined and curious, here are some of the charities and organizations that I recommend.
I’m sure there are even more that I am not even aware of, so if there is anything you feel like I left off, let me know about it in the comments.

 

  • Undies for Everyone – Undies for Everyone provides new underwear to disadvantaged school children in the greater Houston area. They are singularly committed to the self-esteem, dignity, hygiene, and success of Houston area disadvantaged students by providing them underwear at the beginning of each school year.
  • Heart to Heart International – Heart to Heart International strengthens communities through improving health access, providing humanitarian development and administering crisis relief worldwide.
    They engage volunteers, collaborate with partners and deploy resources to achieve this mission.
  • PBA (Professional Beauty Association) Disaster Relief Fund – Established in 1995 by the National Cosmetology Association, the Disaster Relief Fund assists salon professionals in rebuilding their lives; following the devastation of a natural disaster. Over five decades, the Fund has provided to professionals in times of dire need. The Funds provided are intended to offer quick cash for short-term, immediate needs; such as clothing, food, bills and more. The Fund is not intended for long-term rebuilding of salons.
  • Portlight Inclusive Disaster Strategies – Portlight Strategies, Inc. facilitates a variety of projects involving people with disabilities, including post-disaster relief work. Through ongoing programs like their Getting It Right conferences, they are working to promote self-determination of needs and issues with respect to disaster preparedness and response. They foster community relationships with these agencies to promote inclusiveness in disaster preparedness and response plans and to demand provisions for transportation and shelter accessibility.
  • SPCA – The SPCA of Texas is dedicated to providing every animal exceptional care and a loving home. They are putting every available resource behind assisting pets and people who have evacuated the Gulf Coast to the North Texas area right here in North Texas and beyond. In the meantime, we continue to rescue, heal and find homes for the pets right here in our backyard.
  • South East Texas Food Bank – The SETX Food Bank works to eliminate hunger and inadequate nutrition in Southeast Texas. In the State of Texas, 1 in every 4 children lives in poverty and about 15% of the elderly in Southeast Texas live in poverty. Nationally, about 15 percent of the population is deemed food insecure, meaning they do not have guaranteed access to three meals per day. Locally, that number is even higher in the eight counties they serve.
  • Feeding Texas – Feeding Texas’s mission is to lead a unified effort for a hunger-free Texas. We move millions of hungry Texans toward food security through a statewide network of food banks. They also strengthen the collective response to hunger through collaboration and scaling success and lead the public conversation needed to solve hunger in Texas.
  • Texas Diaper Bank – Every year, the Texas Diaper Bank helps change the lives of 15,600 babies, seniors, and the disabled. We are able to distribute over 1.1 Million diapers every year through the generosity of you, our donors.
  • The State of Texas Agriculture Relief Fund – Many of our fellow Texans are in need of a helping hand. Texas Agriculture Farmers, Rancher, producers and agribusiness owners are rebuilding and working towards picking up the pieces after all of these natural disasters. As natural disasters continue to impact Texas farmers and ranchers, the need for donations continues
  • Houston Undocumented Communities Flood Relief Fund – An estimated 575,000 undocumented immigrant families live in Houston and its surrounding suburbs. Many have lost it all. Undocumented immigrants may be eligible for Crisis Counseling or Disaster Legal Services, and other short-term emergency aid from FEMA. However without a social security number they don’t qualify for cash assistance.The rebuilding process is estimated to take years and cost billions. At this time it is imperative that we come together and collectively help rebuild and assist those most vulnerable.
  • Teachers of Tomorrow – Through quality instruction and unparalleled support and guidance, Teachers of Tomorrow provides the most effective preparation for educators to make a meaningful difference in the lives of their students. Now that recovery efforts have begun, they’d like to lend a hand in helping teachers rebuild their classrooms.
  • The Montrose Center Hurricane Harvey LGBTQ Disaster Relief Fund – The LGBTQ Disaster Relief Fund will be used to help individuals and families begin to rebuild their lives through counseling, case management, direct assistance with shelf stable food, furniture, housing and more. The Center’s dedicated case management team is on call to help homeless youth, seniors, people living with HIV, hate crime survivors, and those devastated by the storm.
  • Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund –  Mayor Sylvester Turner and County Judge Ed Emmett have established the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund that will accept tax-deductible flood relief donations for victims affected by the recent floods.The fund will be housed at the Greater Houston Community Foundation
  • Southeast Texas Strong – Southeast Texas Strong is launching in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey to help interested individuals sponsor families in need in the Golden Triangle area of Texas. (Chambers, Hardin, Jefferson, Newton, Orange, and Tyler counties) These areas are more rural and often poorer than Houston and immediately surrounding areas which are receiving much higher amounts of national media attention. Countless individuals have lost their homes so far.
    (This is my county and community!)
  • Wastebits, a waste management technology company, is enabling free access to its software platform to help with the coordination of recovery and cleanup efforts in areas affected by Harvey.
  • The State Bar of Texas has a legal hotline to help people — specifically low-income Texans — with issues such as replacing lost documents and answering insurance questions. They also started a disaster relief volunteer form, which attorneys licensed in Texas can fill out here.

 

  • You can even open your home to disaster victims through AirBNB. During and directly after a disaster, temporary housing for those who are displaced and for relief workers can be hard to find. Airbnb activates its community to support local and national efforts in addressing this need.

 

 

Again, thank you to each and every one of you. Your kindness knows no bounds.

PitsLookinFly
Texas Strong

 

Read With Me

New Class Schedule

Hi Guys!

I’m adapting and updating my class schedule a bit and I wanted to share it with you all right away!
I’m excited to have more time to offer community and donation based classes as well as workshops and private/small group lessons.
So if there is somewhere you want to see yoga classes pop up, if there is an area of your practice you want to dive a little deeper, or if you are looking for some one on one instruction, shoot me a message or comment here and let me know whatever it is you need!

 

Tuesdays
8:00AM Beginner Yoga at the YMCA
7:00PM Vinyasa Flow at Exygon Nederland

 

Wednesdays
5:00AM Stretch and Recovery at Ternion Athletics
6:00AM Stretch and Recovery at Ternion Athletics
8:00AM Beginner Yoga at the YMCA
12:15PM 30 Minute Power Yoga at Exygon Nederland
6:30PM Vinyasa Flow at Exygon Beaumont

 

Thursdays
8:00AM Beginner Yoga at the YMCA
10:30AM Twisted Tots – Mommy&Me Yoga at the Groves Activity Building
4:00PM Twisted Tykes – Youth Yoga at the Groves Activity Building
7:00PM Vinyasa Flow at Exygon Nederland

 

Saturdays
10:00AM Stretch and Recovery at Ternion Athletics

 

Weekends will be filled with Special Events and Community Classes like
Yoga at the BreweryBeach Yoga, Twisted Tykes Parties, and specialty workshops at Sacred Space.

 

I hope I get to see you all in class soon!

Namaste,
-Melody