Cathy Weiss

Yoga | Author | Spiritual Teacher

Private and small group yoga instruction for women. Professional, reliable, authentic.

Don't Judge Me

I love shiny/sparkly nail polish, pretty much all things pink with hearts or leopard print, my vast collection of pajamas that I wear anytime I'm not in public, So You Think You Can Dance, and dark chocolate every day before bed. Like most people, lately I would then utter the phrase: Don't judge me.

When asked "What do you want out of life?" most people respond that they want to be happy. Generally speaking things that bring us pleasure also bring happiness. Yet many of us have attached guilt and judgement to our pleasures so much that they often don't bring the full extent of enjoyment that they possibly could.

I have recently decided to remove that pop-culture phrase out of my vocabulary. Can you feel the weight of it sucking all pleasure out of those things that I enjoy? It's like all of the sudden my Light dims, my pleasures become "guilty" and no longer brings happiness in any way.

Each of us is a unique expression of the Divine, exploding into the world as US. Like each tree, each blade of grass, each duck, rock, mountain and ocean we are a valuable part of the Universe with an inner Light meant to shine bright. Part of our inner being is meant to find pleasure in life and to embrace our preferences wholly.

I know some women who love to watch sports, who own pink mixers, who love wear lots of jewelry, who never wear make-up, who never miss American Idol, who stay up late playing games, who would rather curl up with a book, and on and on and on. I welcome and love that each of us finds pleasure in different things. The more we allow ourselves to feel pleasure the richer, more vibrant and satisfying life becomes without needing anything more than we already have, without having to do anything differently than focusing our awareness on the deliciousness of life.

Pleasure is a very present, in the now feeling. Tasting the chocolate so that one square is enough, happy dancing in a new set of PJ's, having a set alone time each week to watch SYTYCD without interruption is what allows me to sink into pleasure and find happiness and a love of life right now even as I strive for improvement.

September's word of the month is pleasure. Try for this whole month to not use the phrases "guilty pleasure" or "don't judge me". If one month feels like too much try one week or one day or even just one hour. Sink into pleasure and notice how much fuller, satisfying and happier life can be.

I'd like to leave you with one of my favorite quotes without further comment:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

If you enjoyed or were inspired by what you read, please comment below, Like, Share, and Tweet. With Gratitude, Cathy

Compassion Part 2

Did you know that when you are practicing compassion you are practicing yoga? It's true! If you practice compassion you are a yogi. There are many ancient texts on the practice of yoga, the one I refer to most often is the Yoga Sutras. Most people consider the physical (asana) practice of yoga the only aspect of yoga, but in the Sutras only 3 of 200 refer to the physical aspect.

Yoga is a like a tapestry, with many threads woven together to create the whole practice. At any given time, it is wise to choose one thread to practice for a while before moving on to another one.

Sutra 1.33 states:

By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.

If we single out the portion of this Sutra on compassion there is a really great and simple suggestion for us all. I love that is does not say "compassion for others who are unhappy" but rather "the unhappy", which means that at times the unhappy is our self. Whether you are simply struggling with a pole move in your practice or experiencing a larger, difficult life event you can actively be compassionate and kind to your self. Or you can be actively compassionate towards others who need your love and support.

Either way, being compassionate allows your mind to remain calm, for you to remain in a place of union in your body, mind, and soul, and for you to practice yoga not only in the studio but in your life as well.

If you enjoyed or were inspired by what you read, please comment below, Like, Share, and Tweet. With Gratitude, Cathy

How You Can Flip the Switch

Positive. Negative. Which thought switch do you have turned on? Are you aware or conscious of it? Do you deliberately flip the switch to the energy you want to feel in your life? I regularly turn to the Yoga Sutras to help me feel better in my life. One of my favorites is Sutra 2.33, which states "Vitarka badhane pratispaksa bhavanam" or "When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite (positive) ones should be thought of."

I regularly catch myself stating or thinking something in the negative and as soon as I realize it say or think, "Wait, let me turn that around." For example, a negative might be don't forget your sunglasses and the positive remember your sunglasses.

I've been familiar with this practice for about 7 years now and at first I had to deliberately flip the switch in my mind. Now it comes much more naturally. I realized that when I saw this sign at the lake park last week while walking:

Park Sign
Park Sign

and in my mind immediately turned it around to:

"Thank you for leashing and cleaning up after your pet. It keeps our children healthy, our town clean, and prevents disease."

Which one feels better? Which one would motivate you to pick up after your pet?

I could list dozens and dozens of examples of turning negative thoughts into positive ones. Instead, I'd love to hear from you. Share in the comments below ways in which you flip your switch...

Namasté and xo, Cathy

PS - I love that as I added the link to my post about the Yoga Sutras, which I wrote 3 years ago, I mentioned the same Sutra I wrote about in this post. It must be a goodie!

If you enjoyed or were inspired by what you read, please comment below, Like, Share, and Tweet. With Gratitude, Cathy

Just for Fun, a Giggle, and some Inspiraiton

Several years ago in a yoga class, I farted. Yep. There it is. Not a girly, cute little toot. Big. Loud. Explosive. FART!!!

Know what happened? 2 people giggled for, like, a second. And class went on.

I didn't die. I didn't crumple in humiliation. No one pointed fingers and howled at me.

It was no. big. deal.

I'm telling you this because so many women tell me they won't do yoga in case they fart. Guess what? Farts are normal, human functions and they happen sometimes. So what?

You might fart in a yoga class. And taking a yoga class might make you feel better. You might get stronger, more flexible and calmer. You might improve your posture and your mental attitude. You might radiate health and vitality.

I encourage you to release the fear of a fart (and any other self-limiting fears) and embrace all the goodness that yoga has to offer.

If you enjoyed or were inspired by what you read, please comment below, Like, Share, and Tweet. With Gratitude, Cathy

A Really BIG One

I love BIG ones! Big, a-ha, break-though understandings that can change the direction of life. I recently had one of those types of BIG "getting it" moments, so good and juicy I just had to share with you. The moment of realization was quick to happen, but the transition I made to get there actually took some time, was gradual in coming as I slowly, subtly shifted course. I would say it was a good 15 - 18 months in the making, and all of it thanks to having an outstanding yoga teaching who pointed me on the path and then stood back to let the magic work itself.

For the last 5 years or so, I have created an annual vision board. At first by myself, then over time with my hubby. Each year we remove what was on there and put new items up, to reflect how each year we learn more about ourselves, our lives, and what we envision for our future. It lives above my desk, where I can look up, see it and remember what we're pursing and wanting.

I have never officially studied creating a vision board or what should go on one, I just knew people did it and some of the things they put on theirs would manifest for them.

I always start at the center with the most important aspect being myself, my husband and our health and relationship. Then for the first couple of years I focused on putting things that I wanted on my board such as financial goals for my business, trips I wanted to take, these really pretty trees for the yard, etc. I was very practical and everything was based on facts and objects.

I never knew something very important was missing....

visionboardblog
visionboardblog

...until this new year when we created our board. And even then it wasn't until about 2 months later when I was sharing with a friend about my board what a huge, important and life changing shift I had made.

You see this year's board isn't full of what I want to get out of life....it's full of what I want to feel out of life. All those years I was focused on achievement without emotion, and the things that were achieved were leaving me a bit flat.

Now that I have shifted to how I want to feel out of life, I AM feeling those things more and more. Things like JOY, PASSION, LOVE, WELL-BEING, PLEASURE, APPRECIATION, and COMPASSION. And the more I see, recognize and feel the way I'm wanting to, the more life delivers experiences and things that cultivate those feelings.

It was like I had it backwards, thinking that the accomplishments and things would bring me those good feelings. Instead it is the other way around, those good feelings bring with them accomplishments and things like great concert tickets, deep hugs, notes of gratitude from friends and students, financial abundance that allows me to donate to people and causes I feel compassionate resonance with, joy for a friend buying a new home and so much more.

Life is richer, more satisfying and vibrant now that I am focusing on how I want to feel out of life. I so deeply know that you too, can make this shift and find your own satisfying experiences from life. I love talking and sharing about this topic - feel free to be in touch, to comment or ask questions.

If you enjoyed or were inspired by what you read, please comment below, Like, Share, and Tweet. With Gratitude, Cathy

Why, Yoga? Why??

I've been practicing this crazy, weird stuff called yoga for 15+ years and lately I have been asking myself the question, "Why?" "Why do you do something so weird, so hard to explain to those who don't do yoga regularly, and yet so completely normal and natural nothing else makes sense?" The answer is ridiculously simple.

It makes me feel better.

ojai crib 3
ojai crib 3

That's all. Really, that's the whole answer.

To paint a clearer picture, I will give you some examples.

Sometimes I feel wonderful and amazing, I do yoga and I feel even wonderful-er and more amazing - strong, powerful, coordinated, flexible, focused, eager, excited. Sometimes I have a broken heart, I do yoga and it is like a little life raft of peace, a time to focus my thoughts away from the ache, and it soothes my body from the discomfort of sorrow. Sometimes I'm sick in bed, I do gentle, supported yoga postures and breathing and it relieves some of the symptoms of a cold or flu. Sometimes I have insomnia, I do restorative yoga or silently repeat a mantra and some yogic breathing and off to sleep I go. Sometimes I'm injured, I do whatever type I yoga I can that will support healing of the injury and keep the rest of my body strong and fit. Once I had surgery on my foot to remover a bone spur, a few days later I was in a yoga class and I felt better.

You see, one of the awesome things about yoga is it's positive focus on what you CAN do each day. It has so many aspects and variations, that to me it is like a magic pill. No matter my condition, my mood, my life circumstances practicing yoga makes me feel better.

For the first many years, probably around 9 or 10, I needed to go to class and learn from an instructor. I didn't just know what to do, it took time to learn. It wasn't until I became an instructor myself that I felt confident enough to choose what type of yoga to do to feel better each day.

All of those years in class, anywhere from one to eight times a week, was worth every second of time, every penny of investment, because each and every time I practice yoga I feel better and to me that is priceless.

If you enjoyed or were inspired by what you read, please Like, Share, and Tweet. With Gratitude, Cathy

Vulnerability+Passion= A Universal Appreciation Explosion

A few days ago I watched this moving video. Take the time to watch it now, because my thoughts that follow are really all about what happens near the end. Did you watch? When I saw the audience simply explode with deep, true appreciation for Christoper I thought, "The only thing that can happen when vulnerability and passion collide is for the Universe to shower you with pure appreciation." You can see his vulnerability in his shaking, his tears, his facial expression. And you can clearly hear his passion in his voice and how connected he is with his singing.

I think for many of us, certainly myself, that which I a most passionate about is also that which can make me feel most vulnerable. I believe often our vulnerability is born from past hurts - being made fun of for the things we love and hold dear. Therefore, our deepest passions, those closest to our hearts, get guarded and protected to avoid further hurt.

What I am discovering, however, is that we are here to live our passions fully and that when we do the ONLY thing that can happen is for the Universe to shower us with appreciation. I have experienced this with teaching yoga.

I am so deeply passionate about the varied aspects of the practice, how amazing and transformational it can be and yet in the past I have hidden that passion and not let it fully come out. I was afraid of people rejecting me, having already been referred to as one of those "pot smoking hippy yoga people". So in my teaching I held back, not wanting to be labeled the crazy yoga lady or something along those lines.

The truth is though, I AM a crazy-for-yoga lady. I love a resounding OM. I love trying weird poses. I love chanting mantras. I LOVE saying namaste.

And now, like Christoper, I am learning to allow myself to be vulnerable in front of others, to lead the OMs, to explain the mantras, and sometimes even allow myself to tremble and cry as I do because I realize the trembling and crying is simply a build up of tons of long held and protected passion erupting fully into the world.

And I also know that the only response from the Universe for me allowing my passion to flow into the world is pure appreciation.

What are you passionate about? How do you express you passion with the world?

 

If you enjoyed or were inspired by what you read, please Like, Share, and Tweet. With Gratitude, Cathy

My Heart Wears a Snow Parka

My heart center, the anahata chakra, wears a dark, navy blue snow parka. It a has a hood, ringed with white fuzz. In February I took a meditation class that focused on this chakra and how to bring awareness and light to this area. I first noticed the snow parka when I began to explore my heart with a more attention than I had before. It was completely zipped up to the top and the hood drawn close, kinda of like Kenny from South Park. My heart had just one eye warily peeking out from the hood.

One of the last lingering effects of being raised in a co-dependent environment was the fact that so much sadness and anger had been poured into my heart that it really couldn't take any more. The parka was protecting my heart from any more hurt, keeping sadness, insults and at times people at arms length away.

iStock_000019978719XSmall
iStock_000019978719XSmall

From my heart's perspective it was much easier to allow others to perceive me as stand-offish and difficult to approach rather than allow people in and let them see and know my truth.

After the meditation class and with my teacher's permission and guidance, I began practicing the heart center meditation daily. I imagine a small version of myself standing next to my parka-covered heart. I lead my heart through the meditation with kindness, patience, compassion and pure love.

At first the little me inside did the meditation and my heart simply observed, without participating, still warily watching with the one eye. Gradually, the hood opened up a little and I began to rest a hand on my heart, very gently. Over time, the little me still led the way through the process and my heart would follow along and receive the love that was being offered.

After maybe 6 or 8 weeks, my heart began to lead the way as I stood by, still there, holding hands with my heart. Being my own friend and companion. By this time my heart had mostly unzipped its protective layer, keeping the bottom still hooked together and the sleeves around its wrists - ready to zip up and cover up at any moment if hurt comes in.

Some days my heart would cover back up, not yet ready to feel so exposed and open. I understood. I was kind. I told my heart it was ok to feel that way. On those days I would rest my hand on my heart's shoulder and gently lead the meditation, allowing my heart to open and unfold at its own pace. This allowing of the slowness, the natural unfolding, was new for me. I released the need to control the process, to hurry it along at my pace, trying to make it perfect and better right now.

Because I have allowed my heart to open up at its own pace, it has unfolded in great proportions over the last few months. It still has the parka ready to go - just in case. On most days now it keeps the parka unzipped, allowing goodness and kindness to flow in and out - both my own and others.

I still practice the anahata chakra meditation a few days each week. My heart is still in the process of being open and I know it will take time for the parka to come completely off. I am wholely comfortable with that fact. I feel nothing but kindness and love for my heart and how it feels each day. I have all the time in the world for it to heal and open up as it is ready, in its own time and way.

My heart has a soft, pink glow to it now. New and tender, willing and eager to learn to allow love in and out.

If you enjoyed or were inspired by what you read, please Like, Share, and Tweet. With Gratitude, Cathy

To Yoga, With Love

Dear Yoga, I love you.

You are magic. You heal. You nourish. You transform.

Like the sun, you unconditionally and ceaselessly shine your light and give your warmth to any and all who choose to turn their faces to you.

You are never ending and have enough for everyone.

I am forever in awe, filled with humility and deeply appreciative of all that you have to offer.

Love and Namaste, Cathy

If you enjoyed or were inspired by what you read, please Like, Share, and Tweet. With Gratitude, Cathy

KA-BOOM! Just like that

KA-BOOM! An explosion of self-love flooded into my not-so-empty anymore bucket around the age of 28. I won't bore you with the details, but from listening to a dear, soul-mate of a friend discuss her own experiences with co-dependency and a particularly uncomfortable but eye-opening situation 2 huge things happened that shifted my life in the best way possible.

1. I readily admitted that I had been raised to be co-dependent and that it was no one's fault.

2. I decided I didn't want to be that way any more.

And KA-BOOM - just like that the change had been made and I was no longer co-dependent. You see, the moment you truly decide something and believe it to be true it already is. The internal shift has happened.

The only thing left to do is allow time for the shift to manifest in your external life.

For me that meant learning what behaviors were co-dependent and then replacing them with healthier ways of being. Codependent No More by Melodie Beattie was extremely helpful with that process. And since I had decided this new way of being was who I was, it was easy and fast. In less than 8 weeks I had shifted my thought and behavior patterns and over the next few months they became so natural I didn't have to really even think about it anymore.

The truth is this: change is possible and easy. All that is required of you is to decide. And then allow time to show you the results.

If you enjoyed or were inspired by what you read, please Like, Share, and Tweet. With Gratitude, Cathy

Drops of Intention

Had I known 15 years ago what incredible transformation was occurring through my yoga practice, I might have paid more attention to when things were going on. Ah, hindsight, always so perfect. Please excuse me for maybe not getting the exact when of these drops in my slightly-less-than-empty-bucket, I do know it was before I met my hubby in 2000. In 1997 I was 26 years old. I was done with college - twice - and really not all that into myself. You see, the only thing I was taught that I was valuable for was good grades. A's & B's earned me great praise and they were how I knew I was "good". So, no longer in school I had nothing about myself that I thought was worthy.

At that time I practiced yoga once or twice a week. One day in class, right as class was beginning, the instructor asked us to set an intention. I had no idea how to do that or what I was really supposed to do. But bubbling up from my belly, my heart and into my throat came my intention.

I want to love myself.

It felt right. I set that as my intention and then went on about class and life, not really thinking about it until the next time I was in a class where we were asked to set an intention. And then I set the intention again, I want to love myself.

I did that over and over, for around 2 years or so. Even when an instructor would ask us to set an intention for something else, say world peace or something, my mind would say, "No, I want to love myself."

Now, that might seem selfish, to want to love myself over world peace. But here's the thing, we can't have world peace or even love each other if we don't first love ourselves. I knew that one day I wanted to be in a healthy, loving relationship and I couldn't expect someone to love me without me loving me. So I kept asking. I want to love myself.

Slowly, over those next few years I began to see myself as worthy of my own love. For example, I love ice cream but back then I would have beaten myself up over having or even wanting some, because ice cream was bad/fattening/indulgent. I began to see that loving ice cream is one of the things that makes me me and that by treating myself to it from time to time was a way to show myself love.

Here's what I know now that I didn't know then. The intention worked because it came from a place of feeling rather than thinking and it was a positive. I didn't think, "I want to love myself and I'll do it when I don't have short, chubby legs." I simply felt that I wanted to love myself.

If you'd like to try setting an intention keep that in mind, for it to be a simple, positive. Say you'd like to be more patient with your children. Simply say that. Rather than "I'd like my kids to not be so wild at bed time so that then I can have more patience". Simply set your intention to yourself, I am more patient with my children. Or whatever it is your heart desires.

I'm very passionate about yoga's power of transformation, simply because I have experienced it. I am also a little shy about it because it was and still is so personal. I'm always excited to talk with you about it and answer your questions, feel free to reach out and connect!

If you enjoyed or were inspired by what you read, please Like, Share, and Tweet. With Gratitude, Cathy

The Glimmer of a Puddle

My next yoga lesson came around the age of 27.  One thing to keep in mind is that for me yoga was s-l-o-w-l-y filling my empty heart and soul. It was and still is a process of bringing me back home to myself. In the late 90's I began taking yoga classes in Pasadena, CA from Jeanne Heileman. I've taken classes with her off and over for 12 or 13 years and she is the one I call my teacher. She always seems to know when it's time for a little more learning and when it's time to just let the lessons settle in. I learned this next, big lesson from her very early on in taking her classes.

I've taken so many yoga classes over the years, they blend together a little bit so the exact when is a bit fuzzy, but the learning is bright.

Jeanne moved us into some asana/pose or another and then said, "Notice how this feels."

Whoa! Hold on a second...how it feels??

At that point I had been practicing yoga for about 2 years and was just doing the poses as best I could so that they looked right on the outside. It was an external expression, full of desire to be the best in the room, to (hopefully) earn a little praise from whichever instructor I was taking class from. To do the asanas "right".

And so for the first time I felt the pose. This was an unfamiliar new awareness for me. I was totally disconnected from my body because I didn't like it. I felt so small, pudgy, and cute in a little girl way that it was easier to just not feel.

I began to feel the asanas physically. Some felt good, some felt hard and tremble-y, some felt stretchy and some felt like work, some felt comfortable - as in comfortable in my own skin (though then I'm not sure that's what I would have said, I can, however, see that now.)

Something else happened when Jeanne would ask us to feel the pose. I was feeling feelings, you know, emotions.

That was SCARY.

While some poses just felt nice and made me want to smile, some poses brought up anger, sadness, frustration, tears. Some of them would bubble up laughter, giggles, pride, and joy. And those were scary, too. As a co-dependent, my whole M.O. was to make sure other people felt happy with what I did, not myself.

I was so sad and angry from making others happy that I was completely lost to myself and knowing what made me happy. I had denied my own truth and feelings for years. My emotional heart was dead, black. It took several years of time and effort to revive my heart and bring it back to full, abundant, joyous life. Years of dying = years of recovery.

So for quite some time, like another year or so, I chose to notice the physical feelings of the asanas, not the emotional ones. The emotional feelings were too big, too unexplored, and too unfamiliar for the time being. The great news about that is I began to become aware of my body outside of class, too.

What I began to notice was how certain foods made my body feel. I had never really paid attention before. I just sort of ate what was in front of me or what I thought sounded good or what my brain thought it wanted, rather than eating for my body.

Here's an example: I knew I didn't like birthday cakes bought from a grocery store bakery, but always ate some because I thought I "had to", to make the birthday person feel happy, because it was there. I started to notice that eating those types of cakes, full of refined sugar, white flour, and chemical flavors and preservatives left me feeling just sort of icky. So I stopped eating them. And my body felt sooooo much better.

Wow! I was starting to make a connection to my physical self.

I can't say this new behavior was well received by everyone, I was still surrounding myself with mostly unhealthy people and unhealthy relationships, so sometimes I didn't express my choices very well. I still hadn't learned how to feel my emotions in a healthy manner, but I was making small steps of progress toward wholeness.

I also noticed that, really, I pretty much hated Diet Coke. And yet I drank a lot of it, every day. I never slept well when I drank it, it made me irritable, and there wasn't any joy or savoring it as I consumed it. One day I just stopped. 100%. No more diet or regular soda of any type. Another huge WOW! I started sleeping through the night. I felt less fussy in my body during the day and less like I need another caffeine hit.

And even though I drank diet soda, when I stopped I lost weight. Then I really started to feel better in my body. And, bonus!, my breasts were so much less tender during PMS which meant less irritability, phew. I just felt all around better. I wasn't 100% confident in all areas of feeling and eating yet. Just better. A little lighter. In daily life it was like I had a little more room to breathe.

There was a glimmer of a puddle at the bottom of the bucket of my soul. A little visible shift in how I interacted with myself. Yoga was slowly, patiently and lovingly doing it's work. My empty bucket wasn't quite so empty anymore.

Try this today - Notice how it feels. Whether "it" is a yoga pose, a meal, a conversation, or something else. Just notice without judgement, for yourself to know yourself.

If you enjoyed or were inspired by what you read, please Like, Share, and Tweet. With Gratitude, Cathy

Disappearing Drops In My Empty Bucket

Yesterday I gave you a brief description of myself in my mid-20's, which is where I began my yoga practice. When I look back, I don't even recognize myself! I truly am a completely different person in the best ways possible. I didn't change overnight, but rather over time. My bucket was empty, but about to soak up the healing powers locked within myself.

Once I became an adult I do believe it was my responsibility to choose healthier ways of being in relationships not just with boyfriends/men, but also with friends, family and co-workers. It would be a few years before I came to accept and then recover from co-dependency.

I began practicing yoga at the age of 25 to help reduce the stress of teaching first grade. I can confidently say I was thoroughly detached from myself. I did not love myself at all and if you asked me what I liked about myself I would have said my eyes and that's it. I didn't like my physical body for so many reasons and just about hated my internal self as well. I also had no idea what made me happy because the people I chose to spend time with back then were really good at criticizing the things I enjoyed. "You like the Cranberries? That band is lame." Get it?

I also surrounded myself with people who were good at telling me all the things I couldn't do. Like, you can't cook, you can't sing, you can't earn any grade less than a B, you can't be worth anything if you don't earn all A's, you can't be a responsible adult if you like to go out with your friends at night, you can't get a belly ring, etc, etc, etc. This was how I was raised and what I knew.

Yoga was the first place I felt free of this judgment and attack. It was the first thing in my adult life that felt like a success for me. There was no grading or evaluation. I just had to show up, breathe, and feel good. I would guess it was the first time in my adult life I actually breathed fully and freely.

And that was the first drop in my empty bucket. I imagine myself as an old wooden bucket. So empty and dry that these first few drops were merely absorbed into my being with no visible result. It would take lots and lots of drops of yoga before even the first little visible puddle of change would show up.

Here's how that first little glimmer of transformation happened. I had been practicing yoga sort of off and on for about a year when I was in a class and the instruction was to go from low push up (Chaturanga Dandasana) to high push up (Plank/Ardha Chaturanga Dandasana). I put my knees down to make the transition and the instructor asked me why.

I said, "I can't do that". Of course I did, it was all I knew of myself. She told me that when I was at yoga I wasn't allowed to say I can't. I had to choose my words, which was almost a shock to me. I had no idea I could choose my words and therefore create my reality!

Some choices were, "That is difficult for me. I may do it slowly. I haven't learned that yet. I'm working on it. I'm practicing that move. That is challenging me today and I am visualizing myself doing it."

Huh.

From that point on, I took baby steps to try taking "I can't" out of my life both on and off the mat. The first thing I did that I can recall applying this lesson to is getting a belly ring. I really wanted one for a long time but so many people in my life were telling me I couldn't do that. In the mid-90's belly rings were still pretty shocking - akin to men getting their ears pierced in the 80's.

When I finally had it done, it was the first time I felt like me. I loved it! It was cute, sassy and playful. It didn't make me less or a bad school teacher. In fact it made me more. More confident to trust my own heart. More able to express and fulfill my own desires. More able to like myself.

My belly ring was the first, tiny step on my journey toward self-healing, self-love, and radical self-acceptance. I am still on that path today, but thankfully have come miles and miles from where I started.

Over the last 15 years releasing "I can't" abundantly changed me and my life for the better. I can cook and I'm good at it, too. I can sing with joy and laugh at myself when my voices waivers. I can be a responsible adult and enjoy nights out with my friends, have a belly ring and tattoos. I can be a full expression of the soul that inhabits this body and the Universe will only be better for it.

Had I held on to "I can't" my story would not include Yoga Flirt, which has been an indescribable gift in my life. The opportunity to pass along the treasures of yoga and it's wisdom to other women each week fills my heart and soul with such gratitude for the struggles I have had, for the lessons I've learned, and the chance to inspire you in ways that will bring this same joy to your life.

If I had continued to use '"I can't" in my life, my recent path in life would have gone something like this:

I can't move hundreds of miles away from the only place I've ever lived. I can't quit my job without having a new job. I can't open a yoga studio. I can't change directions and switch from traditional yoga to Yoga Flirt. Etc, etc.

Instead, I said I can do these things. They are challenging and difficult. And I am still learning a lot about running my own business and sometimes it scares me. A LOT. AND I can do it.

I offer you this little gem. Take the words "I can't" out of your vocabulary. Choose a new reality for yourself and bask in the glorious amazement of how much you can do as it unfolds before you.

Empty Buckets Overflow

About 18 months ago several women told me that they would read a book if I wrote one. I felt excited and challenged by that idea and decided to go for it. Several months into the endeavor I was realizing that I bit off a bit more than I was ready to chew. One of my intentions for 2012 is to release fear and holding back. So even though it feels a bit daunting and scary to tell you about some aspects of my life story, I'm doing so with the intention that by sharing my experiences with you, you too may be inspired to live courageously, fully, and fearlessly.

The title of my book is Empty Buckets Overflow: One woman's journey to wholeness through yoga.

I am completely capable of writing the book, but at this point am choosing to focus my energies on other aspects of my career. So for now what I have decided to do is use my blog to give you pieces of my story. I have so much to tell you! I'll be doing it in bits and pieces and will certainly write about other things that cross my mind like I normally do. But for today, let's begin here...

Over the holiday break this year I was thinking a bit about my youth and something struck a chord with me. I was ruminating on the fact that I came from an uncommunicative family. We didn't talk about "it". The less than pretty parts of anyone's past were an enigma - sort of, kind of mentioned but not really. There was a lot of "Oh, I don't remember what happened." And I always felt like it was a disservice to me. I still can't tell you for sure certain things about my grandparents and even my parents or my sister.

There were probably plenty of life lessons I could have learned from hearing those stories, about how to overcome adversity, to be courageous, to trust and love myself, etc. I realized that I was following that same pattern when I tell you how yoga completely changed and even saved my life, but not telling you how. I've been glossing over some of the not-so-pretty parts of my past and realized I was doing you a disservice by not sharing with you where I've come from and how practicing yoga brought me to where I am today.

Today I'm just going to paint a picture of how I was when I first encountered yoga at the age of 25 and then over the next few weeks and months show you how by practicing yoga over a long time, without break, and in all earnestness helped make me who I choose to be now.

You see, I was raised to be co-dependent. I didn't know at that time and wouldn't know for a few more years that I was co-dependent. Co dependency is a behavioral disorder in the realm of relationships.

Co-dependency is a learned behavior that can be passed down from one generation to another. It is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive. ..Co-dependent behavior is learned by watching and imitating other family members who display this type of behavior.

Often the trait of someone who is living with an alcoholic or other type of addict, for me it was a result of my upbringing. As stated above, it was a learned trait. There was a deep lack of honest communication in my family, so the roots of this trait are not fully clear to me. I feel it is possible that both of my grandfathers were alcoholics. I only surmise this from bits of stories I have been told. I didn't know my paternal grandfather, he died when I was an infant and I didn't know my maternal grandfather very well. If this is the case, then both of my parents are adult children of alcoholics and thus co-dependent. I don't blame or hold a grudge about this fact. It is just a fact of my childhood and upbringing that resulted in who and how I was as a young adult.

In my late teens and early 20's, being in college was the only thing I had going for me. Earning good grades was the only positive re-enforcement I received and I craved so deeply to feel validated in any way that I continued with school for the grades and the financial reward my parents placed upon those grades. As long as I was doing well in school they paid for tuition, books, rent, food, gas, insurance. You name it, it was paid for. I even received a weekly paycheck from their business. At that point in my life if it weren't for the conditions of school I'm sure my life would have headed in a direction of quiet desperation that would have been so profound and consuming I'm not sure I would have been able to crawl my way out.

I was dedicated to school and good grades, but in all other areas of my life I was just trying to make others happy and make them like me. I occasionally smoked marijuana so that my boyfriend and his friends would think I was cool, that I fit in. I never liked it, faked it a lot, and always wished I had never done it. I would say this is my biggest regret in life. I knew in my core being that I was not interested in drugs, I knew the effect they have on the physical body and I completely blew it and let myself down in order to please someone else. There is nothing in my life I have done that I feel worse about than that.

I also lied a lot. When I did have a part time job I called in sick a lot, I would hand my background pay voucher to another extra to turn in and would leave the set mid way through the day. I had no work ethic, no appreciation or consideration for others. All of these traits only compounded how terrible I felt on the inside. I knew what I was doing was wrong but yet didn't really have access to or role models of right living.

With no role model or guide, no idea or clue about how to be spiritual, how to love and trust myself, how to have a healthy relationship with anyone, I gave up. It was lurking there in my heart and soul, right inside me, but I had no access to it. I had a great big hole inside.

I was empty.

Tomorrow I'll tell you about how yoga became the first few refreshing and hydrating drops in the empty bucket of my soul and the first glimmers of my transformation from fearful to Flirt-astic.

If you are interested in learning more about co-dependency, this web site is a great place to start: http://www.nmha.org/go/codependency

Waiter, this isn't the soup I ordered...

My very wise, experienced and occasionally goofy yoga teacher Jeanne Heileman recently posted the following quote as her Facebook status:

When life sends you things that are not what you planned - surrender. Again and again and again. And again. The difficulty is your gift and teacher. Joy is through the difficulty, not around it. - just saying, and practicing.

Me, too. Life has sent me not what I wanted, but what I needed over and over. And over again. She is so very right, the joy has been in the difficulty. So has fulfillment, wonder, surprise, excitement, and a sense of "I can't believe I just did that!".

I'm going to back track just for a moment to help you understand the present "I didn't get what I wanted" situation and why I am thrilled, relieved, and excited about what is going to happen in 2012. 2007: Want - to obtain an elementary school teaching job on the Central Coast. Needed and got - to open my own yoga studio in Atascadero! 2009: Want - to have a thriving, vibrant one room traditional yoga studio modeled after what I was used to and comfortable with from my experiences in Southern California. Needed and got - to create a completely new form of yoga experience, Yoga Flirt!

Yoga Flirt has been an incredible experience, I have done things I never expected both physically and emotionally. And this blog would go waaaaaay off topic if I got into that here, but trust me I agree more than 100% with Jeanne, the joy has been through the difficulty.

2011: Want - to expand Yoga Flirt into Southern California. We were so delighted that one of our staff members agreed to move and help us open and run a location in Pasadena. We (Happy Hubby and I) began in earnest to find a fabulous studio in August. And we did! And then that spot fell through. We weren't worried, we knew that it just meant we were being guided to the perfect location. Which we found shortly thereafter. Our intention was to be open in late October or early November for the Fall Session.

And then, life sent us not what we wanted as we couldn't reach an agreement on the lease. So, we knew that meant we were going to open for the New Year session and found an amazing space that would be built out exactly how we wanted.

And again.

We met road blocks and couldn't agree on the lease.

By mid-Novemeber I was completely a mess. Frustrated. Unsure what to do next. Crying. Lost. And being given the opportunity to practice surrender.

Not that I wanted to even a little bit.

My above mentioned awesome yoga teacher was in Europe at the time and she was teaching a really fabulous workshop for yoga teachers there. It sounded like something I wanted to learn, so I asked if she would be offering the same classes when she returned to Los Angeles. Her response was that she teaches those concepts during the Yoga Works 300 Hour Professional Yoga Teacher Training* and that she was taking apprentices beginning in Feb. 2012.

It was a Monday afternoon when I read that. Immediately my heart cried out, "Pick me! Pick me!"

Really?

That was not the soup I ordered. I didn't even know I wanted that kind of soup. I wanted more of what I know I like, a Yoga Flirt studio. Didn't I?

When Hubby got home around 6 that night, we had a long, thoughtful conversation. And really, the decision had been made the moment my heart sang.

On Tuesday I filled out the application and on Wednesday I was accepted into the program!

2011/2012: Need and get - to put opening Yoga Flirt in Southern California on hold while I complete my 300 hour training, which lasts 6 months.

Surprisingly, I feel relieved. Life has given me not what I wanted, but what I need. Again.

I absolutely know without any doubt what so ever that this training is exactly what I'm supposed to be doing and that excites and thrills me to no end. And yes, there will be difficulty. The training is in Los Angeles, 4 hours away, several days a week. I still have no idea where I'm going to stay. I know there will be plenty of work and study added to my already full schedule of running Yoga Flirt. And I'm a little bit scared, right now so much of what is actually going to happen is unknown. Which gives me the opportunity to practice surrender. Slowly, I'm getting better at it.

I also know that by surrendering to not what I want but what I need will only have glorious results. If Yoga Flirt is the result of me surrendering to not getting a school teaching job, what even more amazing, incredible, life changing goodies will come in 2012 and beyond??

*The minimum training required to teach yoga is 200 hours, which I completed in 2006. The 300 hour program is the next "level" of training, for those who are pursing teaching yoga as a career. Which, by the way, I never planned on. Again with life sending me what I need!

The Biggest Yoga Mistake

Imagine brushing, flossing, and rinsing your teeth twice a day every day for a year. At the end of that year you visit the dentist and get a glowing report of no cavities, hardly any plaque, a beautiful radiant smile. Since all your hard work and dedication provided such wonderful results you decide you no longer need to take care of your teeth. You completely quit brushing, flossing, and rinsing. The following year the trip to the dentist is not so wonderful...cavities, lots of plaque build up, and a dull, flat smile. Would that leave you wondering what happened?

This is exactly the biggest mistake anyone can make with a yoga practice. Over some time of doing a regular yoga practice, of once a week or more, they notice things like a back that no longer aches each morning when they wake up, shoulders no longer live up by their ears, they can touch their toes or do a handstand or some other physical act that is new to their body, the doctor informs them their blood pressure is down. And so they decide yoga has done its work, "I'm all better so now I can quit."

Just like quitting brushing your teeth would have some pretty unpleasant results, so does quitting a yoga practice. The benefits of both are cumulative, they add up over time to produce greater and greater results, many of which are preventative. Brushing your teeth today means hopefully no root canal next year. Practicing yoga today means being able to do a push up or not need blood pressure meds next year.

A yoga practice is different than brushing your teeth, though, as your need for the type of yoga you practice may change over time. When you are at your best physically and emotionally a vigorous, challenging style can be perfect. But sometimes our bodies a need a different type of yoga. Injury, illness or surgery may require you to practice gentle or restorative yoga for a few months. Pregnancy or recent delivery can make pre-or post-natal yoga the perfect practice for your body for a while. Emotional states like grief, depression, and anxiety are often best met with a therapeutic style of yoga.

A yoga practice can take at times a great deal of dedication. Fear that we aren't doing it right, that others are judging us, that our practice isn't good enough can easily prevent us from staying with our practice when it becomes challenging or when we are new to a certain style. Boredom, frustration, dislike of certain poses or instructors, feeling the class is too easy or irrelevant, feeling you don't need a qualified instructor, cost, etc. can make it easy to abandon your practice. However, if instead you pay attention to yourself and your reactions to these feeling your practice can bring even more quality to your life.

We all experience these and other emotions when we practice. The goal of yoga is not to make those feelings go away, but rather to teach us how to acknowledge them, accept them as part of the human condition, and learn how to be comfortable in our different emotional states. Plus, yoga has the bonus of giving us a healthier, more balanced physical body that is both strong and supple, ideal for the aging process.

If you have abandoned your yoga practice I encourage you to start again, to give yourself the gift of a healthier and happier, more smiley you. If you need some direction or guidance on how to do this, I'm happy to offer suggestions. If you are a regular practitioner applaud yourself for your courage to stick with it.

Just like it doesn't make sense to make the mistake of not brushing your teeth, it doesn't make sense to quit practicing yoga. Give yourself permission and practice the courage it takes to be dedicated to all aspects of your health.