Goodbye Tucson: Continuing The Journey

Six months ago I asked myself a question:

What will become of my life in six months if I commit to practicing each and every premise of Yoga, every day?

Well, I can honestly say that I did NOT practice each premise of yoga every day.

But, I did attempt. And consistently. In truth, I have been on the eight-fold yogic path for quite some time now.

During that time I kept something at the forefront of my mind:

The Bhagavad Gita says:

“Work alone is your privilege, never the fruits thereof. Never let the fruits of action be your motive;and never cease to work. Work in the name of the Lord, abandoning selfish desires. Be not affected by success of failure. This equipoise is called Yoga.”

“Yoga is not for him who gorges too much, nor for him who starves himself. It is not for him who sleeps too much, nor for him who stays awake. By moderation in eating and drinking and in resting, by regulation in working and by concordance in sleeping and waking, Yoga destroys all pain and sorrow.

I learned the important lesson of not expecting anything from the work. And yet, the work speaks for itself.

(Despite the fact that I didn’t live exactly like an ancient yogini) My life has changed since I started making the conscious effort to incorporate these ancient commandments into my life.

One of the overarching gifts that I have received over the last few months is TRUST.

With trust comes courage. And with that courage, I am making a life-changing decision.

I’m moving to Portland, OR.

(I know, I know. Another yoga fanatic moves to Portland. How cliché.Bear with me.)

I have been spent 6+ years living in Tucson and have been a part of the Yoga community for the majority of that time. YogaOasis is my home studio, where I began practicing as an adult and where I was trained. 4th Avenue Yoga is where I developed as a teacher. The UA Campus Rec gave me the opportunity to give back to students at UA (& to teach SUP yoga in the desert!)

There have been countless mentors along the way. Friends who I have watched go from timid teacher-trainees to empowered and inspiring teachers. My own students who have proven to be the main reason why I want to delve deeper as a yoga teacher.

I am humbled by the amount of LOVE and pure support that I have received in this city. From the bottom of my heart, thank you Tucson.

img_4398
Bamboo Room, YogaOasis in Tucson

Why Portland?

(As if it needs explanation)

I went Portland in June and fell in love. I felt like my path was illuminated. I have been many places, but this one has been calling me for a very long time.

I’ve been told that Portland is “saturated” with yoga teachers and there is so much “competition”.

I believe that every person who has chosen to teach this practice is already my friend. I look forward to being in a place filled with potential teachers. Future mentors. Gurus. I will be focusing my attention. The aim is to grow and expand as a student, as a teacher, as a citizen of this earth.

Like a journeyman does in any craft, it’s time for me to experience something new.

Connect With Me

If you have come to my classes in Tucson and have yet to connect with me, PLEASE DO.

I want to see each and every one of you again. Think of it like this: Now you have a place to stay when you visit Portland.

Also, if you know someone in Portland who you think I’d vibe with: connect us!

That’s all this life is about folks. Connection.

img_2436-1
Blake and I in Portland

My last classes in Tucson will be in the second week of November.

Love & Light,

Tatiana

Savasana… Say What?

Why We End Yoga Class in Savasana

I used to leave before savasana.

Seriously, I would roll up my yoga mat and leave while everyone was getting comfy for that last, wonderfully therapeutic pose of class.

I was under the belief that savasana was a waste of time and that I needed to skip it in order to complete higher priority items on my to-do list.

How wrong I was.

At this time in my life I was a high-strung journalism student at the University of Arizona who found solace in the rigorous postures that yoga provided, but still hadn’t mastered my distracted, monkey mind. Especially when my body was in stillness.

Not surprisingly, it was during this time that I suffered my first earth-shattering anxiety attack. Not long after that came a full-on breakdown that led me to drop out of college.

I’m writing this now, a few years later, as an Alumna of the University of Arizona Journalism School, and a yoga teacher. Needless to say much has changed between then and now, especially my priorities. Now I wouldn’t dream of walking out before savasana. Here’s why:

What is Savasana? 

Sava: corpse ; asana: pose

Savasana literally translates to “corpse pose”, and is traditionally done at the end of the yoga practice to promote conscious relaxation in order to refresh the body and mind.

B.K.S. Iyengar says, “By remaining motionless for some time and keeping the mind still while you are fully conscious, you learn to relax… Therefore, this apparently easy posture is one of the most difficult to master.”

Savasana is a place to integrate the balancing and reviving effects of the previous yoga postures, or asanas. Iyengar advises 15 to 20 minutes spent in stillness to reap full benefits. It can also be used as a place to begin meditative work.

How To Relax In Savasana

Iyengar wasn’t lying—final stillness can truly be one of the most difficult parts of the practice to master.  Luckily, there are a few time tested ways to focus attention and fall into conscious observation of the body.

Mantra: “a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation.”

  • The effects of mantra are much like those that come from counting sleep before we fall asleep. It’s an active technique to calm the mind. When you notice your mind wander away from the mantra, simply bring the attention back and begin again. Simple as that.
  • Many mantras are taught in sanskrit, but a mantra doesn’t have to be in sanskrit to work. My own mantra is in English and personalized to me. I often change the mantra that I come to depending on the day, how I’m feeling, and what I’m seeking to bring to fruition in my life. (More on Mantra to come).

Body Scan

  • Taking note of how the body feels—good or bad, sensation or numbness—from the tips of the toes, working up the legs, hips, stomach, to the fingertips, arms, shoulders, face, tongue, past the forehead and all the way up to the top of your head.

Conscious Release

  • This can be done in conjunction with the body scan, it is simply making the conscious effort to relax and release each muscle in the body.

Breath Work /Pranayama 

  • Keep your focused attention on the breath. Notice the place above your upper lip where you can feel your exhales. Acknowledge your chest as it rises and falls. Take these few moments to really feel the subtle effects that every new breath brings to the body.

Physical Effects Of Savasana

  • Decreases heart rate
  • Decreases blood pressure
  • Decreases respiration
  • Decreases muscle tension
  • Decreases general anxiety
  • Decreases fatigue
  • Increases  energy levels
  • Increases focus, concentration

Savasana And The Brain

When you first settle yourself onto the floor in savasana, your mind may whirl and run for a few minutes until changes begin to take place in your brain. Brain waves change from Beta Waves—or brain waves that are produced when you are conscious and thinking— to Theta and Delta waves—or those that are associated with dreaming, sleep, creativity, and the subconscious.

Savasana And The Nervous System

 

In savasana the nervous system stands to reap real benefits. While reclined and relaxed in savasana, your nervous system shifts to the parasympathetic state. This is the state in which your body can relax fully, opposite of the sympathetic state— in which anxiety levels are high and the body is alert.

During the practice your brain will be sent a host of new neuromuscular information, we take savasana as a reset, to help the brain integrate this new information to the nervous system.

 

A Final Test

 

One way to view savasana is as a final test to check if the asana practice has done its job.

Is your mind calm, quiet, and at rest?

 

… If not, that’s okay. It’s called yoga practice for a reason.  😉

 

(As always, if you have questions on savasana or on any part of this wonderful yoga practice (or anything else) feel free to message me or comment here.)

 

Love & Light,

~Tatiana

 

img_4313
Savasana Views at YogaOasis, Tucson, Ariz. 2016

The Origin Story

My Path to Yoga

IMG_9854

PC: Robert Meares

Everyone, everything, has a story. This is mine. I wrote this essay in 2013, and because of it I received the Elizabeth Blue Yoga Teacher Training Scholarship. The full-ride scholarship gave me the opportunity to get my RYT free of charge at Yoga Oasis in Tucson. It has been one of the greatest gifts in my life thus far.

***

Yoga

At 14 I took my first yoga class. At the time there wasn’t an ounce of balance, flexibility, or self-esteem within me. I was a rigid stick figure wobbling on Bambi legs — awkward and tightly constricted, not only within my own body, but also within my mind.

This unstable footing was the outcome of my youth spent in a tumultuous household. My father was not (entirely) in the picture and I found myself cast as Cinderella to the unfortunate likes of my (evil) stepfather for the first twelve years of my life. After a raging divorce ripped that not-so-happy fairytale apart, my mother went on to raise both my younger sister and I. (…) I longed for the picture perfect family, for stability, love and acceptance. In childhood I found those things in books and in other worlds created by my vast and powerful imagination. I was a dreamy, playful girl who found happiness by floating through life in a cloud of sparkling, beautiful fantasies.

However, by my teens I had spent years listening to others constantly tell me to get my head out of the clouds. My protective cloak of daydreams was wearing thin, and I began to believe that to get the love I longed for, I needed to be anything but who I was. I needed to conform to norms, to fit squarely into a premade box, and color within all the lines.

Initially I went to that first class because it was the “in” thing to do. And though I quivered and trembled during my downward dogs, struggled to touch my toes, and giggled when the teacher bowed and whispered the word Namasté (which back then sounded like nothing more than gibberish to me), I remember leaving the class with a distinct bodily sense of contentment, peace, and even wonder. Watching the teacher in her wildly colored outfit and hair down her back as she twisted into playful contortions, smiling all the while, revived my hope that happiness could be achieved for those of us that didn’t fit so nicely into the box. For those of us who didn’t look so picture perfect on the outside.

Yoga became the means of travel for which I used to revisit the peaceful safe haven that I had found happiness in as a child. Through my practice and meditation I was, and am still able to, find refuge there. The trust I built with myself, not only physically, but also mentally, allowed me to gain infinitely more self-esteem and self-worth than I had ever experienced before shaking out my first yoga mat. I have accepted that I am the girl who never colored within the lines, who likes to dance and twirl wherever the breeze may blow, and who yearns to cut the ropes of any social norm that ties her down. A girl whose family would never be “perfect”, and it is for that very reason that I love them so much. Yoga allowed me to accept life as it is and awoke me to the beauty of that.

Through self-discovery I have found that as a vata dosha, it is natural for me to float within the clouds. Like a fairy or a butterfly, I have wings and a belief that I can do any magical thing that my imagination comes up with. In my mind I am always racing towards places that I may not physically be able to go yet. Yoga grounds me. It provides a space for me to slow down, to align my constant thoughts with the actuality of reality. It connects me back to the earth while clearing my mind and body of negativity. It clarifies and focuses my heart’s intention when daily life has blurred my vision. It provides the stable and fertile ground for me to sink my roots into. A place where I connect with myself, find peace in my body, and align myself with the earth. With what is, rather than what my mind conjures. For me, the practice of yoga is coming home.

***

Darkness

While my imagination has the capacity to be beautiful, like all beings, it can also conjure up darkness.

As a sophomore in college, I let that darkness ensue. My heart was split open into a thousand chards after ending a relationship with my first love. I was feeling lonely and isolated away at school, here in Tucson, far from my safe, forested, mountain hometown of Flagstaff. I had yet to find Yoga Oasis and my practice was at a halt. Emotion from childhood that I had locked away in Pandora’s box had suddenly reared its ugly head.

Villainous fear saw that I was vulnerable and began to wrap its spindly fingers around every aspect of my life. Inner peace became a distant memory as my trust in the divine diminished. I began to question everything I had known to be true in my life, anxiously peering around every corner, unsure of my every step, and yet positive that the ground underneath my feet was cracking and I was headed towards an abyss. My premonition proved true. The clouds that I often find my head in had darkened and I fell deeply sick with depression. Nights were spent wide-eyed, contemplating my purpose, wondering if I had anything original at all to offer this world.

Then, after sleepwalking through many days, my greatest fears appeared true to me- No, I had nothing to offer. A raging inner hatred burned within me and began to deny myself of anything pleasurable- my writing, food, friends, and family all fell to the wayside. My physical body became anorexic and fragile but I hadn’t completely lost who I was within.

Through the darkness, I kept a flicker of my passion for life alive. Following this light, I found Yoga Oasis. I began going to Stephani Lindsey’s class almost religiously, despite my physical state, because it was my only form of solace. During those days, Yoga Oasis became a haven where I could escape the nightmare of my daily life. It was one hour where my mind was quieted and I could feel some relief. I hung onto every word that Stephani said, and though we had never met, she was the only person who I felt connected to, who could lift my loneliness. Without those hours to carry me through the darkest days of my depression, I do not know what would have become of me.

Finally, after months living like this- coming up from my abyss only during those classes- I returned home. Not only literally, back to Flagstaff, but also metaphorically back to my practice and myself. I returned to the same class where my yoga practice had begun six years before, to the same teacher who had initially reignited my childlike playfulness. This woman became my mentor, my therapist, and now one of my idols. In her yoga classes I regained peace within my body. On her couch, through hours of talking and other techniques, I regained that peace within my mind. I later found out that she was one of Stephani’s teachers in Flagstaff as well.

Life is a circle, and when your awareness is open, it all seems to make sense.

 

***

Light

A quote comes to mind.

“The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace.

With each step, the wind blows.

With each step, a flower blooms.”

― Thich Nhat Hanh

Yes, the wind will attempt to knock you down and, as the Buddhists believe, life is suffering. But when you are on a righteous path, leaving positivity in the wake of your steps, you can help a flower to bloom.

Becoming a yoga teacher is the next step on the path towards leaving a positivity in my wake. It is one of the platforms that I hope to use to reach out and help people blossom into the vivacious flowers that they have the capacity to become. I see so many living in total disconnect from their bodies, their minds constricted by the confines conjured up by wretched Fear, whom I know so well. I see him preying especially on vulnerable, young girls. It is so common to find them rejecting their bodies, believing that they aren’t sufficient just as they are, and that they need to change to receive love. Because there was a time when I harbored these same beliefs, I know that I am best fit to teach them that is NOT true.

Being a yoga teacher, I would be able to help guide them to becoming in tune with their inner selves and comfortable in their skin. I know that struggles can bubble up and surface during the practice and that working through these difficulties results in empowerment. I want to help them realize that as soon as they begin to trust themselves, then a trust in something greater is bound to occur.  With trust comes love and with love, fear has no chance. I know from experience that the practice of yoga is a path to self-love and I want nothing more than to share that every person that I can.

I have reassured myself for the past few years that I’m young, and there will be time. That I can wait and put it off a few years until I save up the money. I wonder if Elizabeth was waiting too. I’m turning 21 next week, the same age that Elizabeth was when she received the news that she was sick. Can I even imagine such news gracing my own life?

Elizabeth’s story resonates with me in an almost uncanny way. Serving as a spark that has lit a fire beneath me. The slight push I needed towards diving into the journey through to the oceans of my dreams.

I do not want to risk the wait. Drawing from every yoga philosophy, Buddhist teaching, and yoga instructor that I have ever encountered- I want to encompass this moment, live in the now, and pursue today what I know will bring not only me happiness, but also happiness to many others in moments to come.

***

Words

As a born writer, and now a journalism student, words are already sacred to me. One of my favorite aspects of YogaHour is the tradition of starting the practice with a word of the day. Each day and even each hour have different reverberations and the need for different words…

Today, inspired by Elizabeth’s poem My Wish for You, my word would be to flourish.

The practice of yoga provides a space where we can go beyond mindless living and move into a place of thriving. A place where we can blossom and bloom into our most luminous selves. Yet the practice also serves as a reminder that progression takes time. Like a flower, one must start simple. No one can grow or flourish without the stability of foundation or without the sturdy stem of alignment. First one must have alignment within oneself, like the basics of aligning the spine, and secondly one also needs alignment with others, which is attained in yoga through the Om.

To flourish in life is to find one’s “joie de vivre”, my favorite French saying, which means to find one’s highest pleasure, full self-acceptance, and a gentle happiness within the moment. In yoga, this is not just getting into a strained dancer pose. It’s getting into dancer pose, moving your gaze towards the heavens and smiling. Like a flower moving its delicate face towards the sun, relishing the rays and exuding its own beautiful vibrancy. In that moment of reaching, the flower is flourishing. Just as we do when we take a pose into that place.

My Wish for You,

May revelation  flourish in your mind.

May joy spread through your every being.

May life occur in your soul.

May you know who you are.

May you love yourself and others in the world.

May you cherish your mother,

may you love your father.

May you cry,

May you be angry,

May you laugh with your soul singing along.

May you dance and be beautiful,

May you be adored and loved.

May you be full of yourself and who you are.

May you live life,

may you be life.

And someday may you lie down and die.

Elizabeth Blue, August 29, 2004 age 14