Category Archives: Writing

The Troll You Know

The Troll You Know

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The other day I was talking to a friend. LIE! Okay fine, I was talking to my therapist because these days I have to pay someone that I do not ever need to interact with in a social setting to help me process life because 2017 has been a whole lot of things for a lot of us and most of those things have not been excellent! I was frustrated that I had made such little headway on my writing. I had the time, the ideas, and the discipline in other areas of my life but I was not where I had intended to be with my writing and if I had to answer one more well-intentioned but shame-inducing “How’s that book coming along?!” I was going to run into the nearest coffee shop and beg to be a barista again because at least then I could honestly claim to be a productive member of society.

We broke it all down. Was I afraid of success?
Hell no, I was not afraid to succeed in my writing. Bring on the book deal, the readers, the freedom to share my words, and how about a nice paycheck in there too!

Would I be happy if I wrote a book and no one read it?
I wouldn’t be happy but I would survive.

Was I afraid of online trolls? (By the way, she seemed certain that this was likely it.)
No, actually. I have written a great deal of things that are polarizing. The first thing I ever wrote and shared publicly after college was a snarky piece when I was brand new to teaching yoga that got a lot of negative attention and unfortunately with it, so did I.

She looked at me, giving me space to work it out aloud.

“It’s not the trolls I don’t know. It’s something like that though… It’s like the people I know…they’re not quite frenemies of mine, but they’re not intimate friends of mine either, it’s like they’re trolls but more personal. Ahh, it’s the trolls I do know! I’m afraid of the trolls I know!”

As the kids say, I was shook. (In my mind,one of the best things about aging is getting to say things like that. Hell, that shit isn’t a Mom or Dad joke, that’s just an old joke.) Anyway, I immediately knew that I truly was afraid of the trolls I know AND that I am one of those trolls. Or at least, I used to be. Let me explain.

For years, I was the go-to person if you wanted to share a screenshot of some annoying or embarrassing thing that someone in your social circle shared. Friends would fire off quick texts embedded with screengrabs followed by a string of emojis like 🙄😐

That person you claimed to be friends with who just shared another photo of her açaí bowl with ten hashtags? Text it to me. I’d answer back with a quickness. Who’s she kidding? Get over yourself, girl!

That yoga event that was overpriced and seemed exclusive and for cool kids only? You’d send it over to me and I’d reply even quicker That’s not yoga! Is that class any different than the one they teach every week? Why is it $35 more?!

I knew I had to look at why I was on the receiving end of so much of this. I wished it was because I was a safe person who people felt they could share their honest selves with. People would slide into my DMs with IG captures of events and snarks about other yogi’s posts. Let me be honest, I didn’t take the high road. I often snarked right back with them and it felt good for about 5 minutes. It felt like we were sharing something real. After the immediacy passed, I felt worse. I knew that I wasn’t someone that people could trust, just like I knew that the person who shared in on the snarking with me wasn’t someone who I could trust. It’s draining and petty and it definitely was saying more about us then about the people we were snarking on.

I was a troll! I was the troll you know. And I know that I’m not alone in this. We’re a nation of trolls. It permeates throughout our culture. It starts to seem normal to act like this. It doesn’t have to be the new normal.

I never actually held any malice towards the people I was secretly trolling. In most instances, I was annoyed or frustrated over a lack of communication about some other aspect of our relationship. Or I was jealous about opportunities that person had earned or frustrated with my own perceived shortcomings.

Once I realized that I was afraid of the trolls I know and that it was holding me back and once I recognized that I had been guilty of trolling people that I know, I had to figure it out. That meant that 2017 was a year of severing ties and tightening my social circle. It wasn’t easy. Or fun. The thing that I had to remind myself over and over again was that the people who shared in snarking with me weren’t the problem. They weren’t jerks. I wasn’t a jerk. The combination of us was the problem! The way that we communicated about others was the problem. If there was no genuine connection besides the trolling, than even though they seemed fun and I cared for them – we were a bad mix. End of story. We couldn’t continue to catalyze and encourage the other’s bad behavior.

To really live in a free zone to create and love, we cannot be afraid of the trolls that we know because there are far too many trolls that we don’t know. Once we get over the fear of the trolls we don’t know then it is time to do what I think is the even harder work of creating genuine relationships that don’t rely on putting other people down in order to thrive.

With sarcasm as my first dialect, this has not been an easy transition. It has been painful to let relationships that I thought were substantive melt when I realized that neither of us were getting anything long-lasting or positive in the deal. It has been lonely to realize that I often was feeding into drama without substance.

2017 has been a trying year. It remains a year that will test the strength of our convictions. I don’t want to waste one more second of snark on the small stuff because there are bigger battles to be fought here. I take strength from my friends who have done amazing things in this year despite its dumpster fire reputation. And when I catch myself about to snark to someone, I draft the text and let it sit. Later when I return to it, the message never feels so urgent. The need to take someone down in order to feel better has passed.

I welcome 2018 to be a year where I embrace reaching out to friends again sans snark. And listen, I get it, if I have been the troll you know who catalyzes your inner troll to get mean and you need to sever ties with me so that you can feel free to create and silence your inner troll, it’ll be painful, but it’ll be worth it for both of us. We may not be talking but I will be cheering you on. In time, the only emojis tied to your name in my mind will be ❤️☺️✌

LouAnn McBride

Beers and Buddha Squats – I just don’t see the connection by LouAnn McBride

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I have magical friends. Here’s just a sampling of what they have done in 2017 – sold everything and moved into an RV with their husband and 2 small children, had a fifth baby, wrote a play about not having a baby, moved to Asbury Park and re-started the career they had in their twenties, moved their family to a garlic farm to live and work.

See? Magical.

LouAnn McBride is one of those magical friends. She is a yoga teacher, creative Mama, garlic farmer, and a beautiful, loving soul. Please find her writing posted below as the first guest Creative I’ve ever been able to highlight here!

When Lou Lou was first teaching, I gave her feedback that said something to the effect of “You’re so moon and the stars! I love it but I want you to connect with everyday people. Make the guy who just got out of his shift and onto his yoga mat hear what you’re saying”.

Years and years later, she’s still “moon and the stars”. The only thing I’d change is that I wouldn’t tell her not to be. Please find her gorgeous, honest truth below.

-LA


I have experienced dark bouts of depression throughout my life and struggle with cluttering as an adult. I often feel as if I bear the depression and anxiety not only from my own journey on earth, but also that of my ancestors. It is times like these I distance myself from those around me, as I find it difficult to accurately articulate my feelings.

The darkness of depression is sometimes paralyzing for me. Other times however, this same sadness mysteriously ignites my creativity and I am grateful for it. When I feel this way, I could swear that I am being guided by an unseeable force. It is this force which has inspired my art, as well as a number of my classes and meditations. Many classes have been crafted upon needs that I had at a certain time. By teaching the class, I am also teaching myself. As I commonly express, it is mindfulness practices that have been a saving grace for me. Psychotherapy has also been extremely helpful as well, and I support the use of psychiatric medication. There is a place for it, and it helped me throughout my early 20s.

Counter to medication that may help our brain, frequent excessive alcohol use causes great harm. This is a scientific fact. It is because of this that I do not understand the newest trend to hit the American yoga scene. Is this not contradictory to what yoga stands for? When I approach a yoga studio and see a poster on the door for “Beers and Buddha Squats,” I just don’t see the connection. What message does this send to someone approaching a studio for the first time that may be suffering from alcohol addiction? Why are we, as teachers encouraging unhealthy behaviors within our classes? Yoga studios are supposed to be a safe haven in this wild world. Yoga practices open up the body and produce their own physical sensations and rewards. Why would we cloud yoga’s natural intoxicating experiences with alcohol? Alcoholism is a big problem and yoga should be part of the solution for those afflicted, not a souce of validation for harmful behavior. I rarely drink these days, it doesn’t serve my highest good and it took me years to come to this realization.

I wish to clarify, I am not here to bash drinking alcohol if it doesn’t present itself as a problem to you. Nor can I tell you how to teach or live your life. I am simply expressing that I have witnessed first-hand what addiction (a mental illness) has done to the people I love most. Something needed to be said.

It is indeed a strange time to be alive, yet I find beauty in the strangeness enveloping us. We are all discovering our own truths and speaking out. This breaks barriers and creates real connection. My first yoga teaching mentor and friend LA Finfinger courageously speaks out about the stigma on mental illness and has given me strength and a safe place to share a piece of my story.

I hope you find my sharing helpful.

Lovingly,
LouAnn
Click here for more information about LouAnn McBride

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Note To Self: Don’t Seem Crazy

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The receptionist opens the glass partition and greets me. “I see you already have your water” she points to the Evian bottle I have brought into the office. I thank her for asking and we begin the typical small talk that I’d rather avoid but is necessary. “I just love the fall, don’t you?”

“Oh yeah, it’s wonderful. My favorite time of year, for sure.”

“How was your trip in? Did you come just for this?”

I always feel stupid when she asks that question. No Barbara, I just love driving almost 250 miles west every three months for the hell of it. Maybe I can put more miles on our Ford Focus which still has wind-up windows! Maybe Roy Rogers will be open on the turnpike and I can get a few greasy chicken legs for the drive. Of course, I have come in just for this.

• • •

I have been lucky that I have been mostly stable after finding this doctor 17 years ago after bouts with immobilizing Depression, Anxiety, and mood disorders swallowed my life from 18-21. I mention that I have come in for my 20th high school reunion as well, which happened to fall on the same weekend as my pre-planned visit. It seems that I have met the quota of small talk and the conversation winds down as I take my seat in the waiting room.

Every piece of the mental health puzzle feels like a strategic move. When my husband and I relocated east for his job three years ago, the biggest question for me was will I be able to continue seeing the same doctor? It’s not because ObamaCare has made it easier (although as I type this thankfully pre-existing conditions are still covered because of it). The future of “TrumpCare” (man I hate typing that) remains to be seen. I pay $150 out of pocket for each visit because the doctor who saved my life happens to be out of network. But really, $600 plus travel expenses is a small price to pay for getting my life back.

So there is the balance of making and keeping my appointments. On this particular visit, I am not worried. I feel put together. I look as pulled together as I can. My hair is colored an acceptable blonde shade. I’m dressed modestly and my tattoos are mostly covered. But about a year ago when Joico started making all of those fashion hair colors so accessible, I walked in with fire engine red hair and worried that I might look too much like that kid that shot the movie theatre up in Colorado a few years ago. Does that raise red flags? Will my doctor write those things down? I have no idea if he wrote that in my file but I think it’s a possibility.

I taught yoga for the last eight years full-time. It was my front hustle. It was amazing to me that I was good at it. Before the age of thirty I didn’t realize that I had an athletic bone or non-medicated nerve in my body. It turned out that my ever-present anxiety helped me to connect with my students. It certainly fueled my ability to continually show up prepared to teach and I was able to speak to the frenetic pace of life that was the reason so many people seek out their yoga mats because that “sometimes-present-for-them-anxiety” was my baseline. There is always a buzz of anxiety just below the skin for me and I have learned to live right above that line.

Teaching yoga brought new challenges in staying the course for my own mental health. Have you ever told a roomful of long-haired, boho yoga goddesses who you swear are the models from the Free People app that not only do you not eschew caffeine, meat, and gluten, but that you also mostly practice power yoga AND take the “oh-so-not-cool” western meds that you are prescribed by the patriarchy? Yeah, me neither.

Yoga is kind of a dangerous thing for someone with obsessive, hypo-manic tendencies to get swept up in. I have been gifted beautiful little bottles of “aura cleaner”. I have been “cleansed” with an eagle’s feather by a shaman before entering a sweat lodge. I’ve had my chakras “cleansed and aligned”. (Evidently, a lot of cleansing is necessary.) That shit gets in your head. One second you are certain which thoughts you have that are absurd and the next second you’re talking to a highly successful life coach about the validity of making yourself well with sacred seed sounds and about how wearing the color red will help you to feel more grounded. Logic goes right out the window.

The crushing Depressions that follow the hypo-manic episodes are worth it. I always thought that and I still do. They are rare these days but every few years, even with carefully managed care, they still happen. How else can you feel when every cell of your body is on fire with the glow of energy and you are certain that every thought you are thinking is not only brilliant but also transcendent and you haven’t ingested one drop of anything illicit? Actually not even food, come to think of it, because you just haven’t had a moment to even become hungry… well come on, people pay to get this high. People live their entire life not knowing what that feels like and I just get to dwell there because the chemicals in my brain aren’t configured the same as yours.

• • •

I lean back in a textured sofa that hits me in the middle of my back and sit up a little taller. My psychiatrist, an older man who has become a little hard of hearing over the years, and who has been seeing me since I was 21 has opened my file and is going down the typical list of questions which he asks me every three months.

“Any headaches, blurred vision?”
“Sexual dysfunction?”
“Thoughts of harming yourself or others?”
“Constipation, diarrhea, upset stomach?”

I answer him “No, no, no, of course not, no, nope”. We chat some more and I leave with three months’ worth of prescriptions, an appointment in December, and a growing dread for my 20th high school reunion. In my need to fill the quiet while he writes the scripts, I made small talk about getting older and ask about reunions. My psychiatrist goes to his “every five years” and “has a wonderful time!” “Someone always brings a 1957 Chevy and parks it outside the gymnasium.” Apparently, he’s become friends with a classmate of his who was an “attractive lady who used to model for Kaufmann’s department store.” Jesus Christ, I can’t get out of here fast enough.

• • •

It’s a rare day in Baltimore in September. There’s almost no humidity, a breeze in the air, and the sun is shining. I’m going out for a walk and decide to stop and look at fall things I don’t need and drop my new prescriptions off. I’m standing at the counter when a pharmacy tech comes over and I hand her my prescriptions. She looks at the screen and she looks me up and down twice, so quickly that I could have missed it, but I don’t. “I need to talk to the pharmacist. I’ll be right back.”

I nod and try to keep my composure. I’ve let my guard down. I walked over in a tank top and leggings. I pull at the straps of my tank and realize that my chest piece and sleeves are showing. I haven’t taken the usual precautions to throw a jacket over my outfit. She thinks I look slutty and manic and crazy.

She whispers to the pharmacist and I try to play it so cool. He looks over at me and continues to watch while she whispers. My heart is beating fast and I have to remind myself that I’m not actually doing anything illicit. There is no joy and certainly no power in handing over prescriptions for a benzodiazepine and a mood stabilizer. I try not to fidget while the pharmacist strides over.

He doesn’t say hello. He doesn’t smile. He has spiky hair and wears a silver crucifix around his neck. Without looking up, he asks “When is the last time that you saw your doctor?”

“Last Thursday. The date is on the prescription. Is there a problem?”

“You know this is an out of state prescription.”

My head spins. Of course, I know that. This has never been a problem. He has my prescription card. Doesn’t my husband’s job give me validity? In my head, I know I’m leaning on my privilege but I don’t know what else to do. Mental illness is embarrassing. It’s still stigmatized. He thinks I’m crazy. He doesn’t want to give medicine to my tattooed, dirtbag ass. What the hell am I going to do?

“Yes, my psychiatrist is in Pennsylvania and we have lived in Maryland for 3 years. I have never had a problem. Is there a problem now?”

“No, it’s just that we can lose our licenses. We can be audited…” He sighs.

“You can be audited for filling a legit prescription for a patient? I don’t understand. My lifelong psychiatrist lives in another state. What would you have me do?”

The pharmacy is next to a Pizza Hut Express. I can smell the cheese and bread continuing to cook underneath the heat lamps. A line of my neighbors has formed behind me. I don’t recognize anyone but I’m also not making eye contact with any of them, either.

I’m using every yoga technique I know. Full ujjayi breathing in and out through my nose, feel the discomfort and sit with it, don’t run away. This medicine helps keep me stable. This medicine combined with my yoga practice and my writing is part of my wellness plan. The boho goddesses would call me dependent. They’d think I was weak for relying on the patriarchy. Maybe I am.

“No, it’s like, fine I guess. I can make a note that you’re a special case and I can fill it for you.”

“Special case? How am I a special case? But what about next month and the month after that? What was the red flag? If I would’ve come in here in a suit would you have asked me all of this? Why would I feel comfortable coming in here anymore? I feel shamed by you in my neighborhood store, in front of all of the techs, and the people behind me in line. I’m sure you can imagine that bringing prescriptions in for medication for mental illness is already uncomfortable. This visit has validated every one of my worst fears. Couldn’t you have just called my doctor if there was a question?”

“Ma’am, I didn’t want it to get that far, I guess.”

“That far?! That’s what he’s there for! I’d welcome you to call him!”

You know that stereotype about the manic-pixie dream girls? Like most characters Drew Barrymore played in the late nineties? Like most characters Angelina Jolie played in the late nineties? I’ve never been those girls. I don’t convince people to do things because I’m so whimsical and fun crazy. I’m not the sexy and fun kind of crazy. I’m the “it’s in my genes, obsess all night about the dead bodies in a plane crash a mile from my house when I was a kid, paralyzed with fear so I’ll just hang out in last night’s pajamas all day kind of crazy.” If I was the sexy kind of crazy then I would just swagger and flirt my way through this whole ordeal.

“I don’t think you understand. Now that we’ve cleared this up, I’m willing to fill these.”

“You’re willing to fill these? Do you police prescriptions or provide care? I just don’t understand what the red flag was. Was it because they’re out of state or because of what I look like, or what?”

“No, of course not. Not technically. It’s just… It’s just, we have to be careful about how often and who we fill these prescription for, you know? Our licenses…”

He won’t give me his last name. I’m left with his first name and last initial. In my hot embarrassment, I look around for the typical school day photos of the pharmacists mounted on the walls of the pharmacy and I don’t see any. While glancing up from the screen with all of my private information on it, he tells me that he doesn’t have to give me any identifying information. He hands me a business card with a number that reaches the phone behind him and tells me to call tomorrow to talk to his supervisor. I take my prescriptions back and walk back out into the sun. You know, truthfully, the high school reunion wasn’t that bad. I don’t know that I’d ever go to another but I’d advise anyone to at least go to one and make an appearance. It’s cathartic and silly and a little like visiting yourself 20 years ago.

It’s not even about me. It’s not about this shaming experience that was ultimately embarrassing and resolvable. It’s about the culture around all of the conversations that we’re still not having surrounding mental health care. I’m lucky, I have a support system in place, and I’ve become strong enough to know that I can leave a situation like that, find a different pharmacist, and then follow up to advocate on my behalf. Many people receiving treatment for a mental health issue do not have the luxury of living in that space. It’s up to those of us who can speak clearly and loudly of our own experiences to share our stories and to let people in positions of power know that their power does not come unchecked. We begin to advocate for those without a voice when we stand for ourselves.

And listen, I don’t want to be the woman who’s always writing about mental illness. I’ve got stories about teaching yoga at noon on a Tuesday to a man in a yellow thong, I watched a pretty well-known yoga teacher have a meltdown when a coffee shop was out of almond milk, and you wouldn’t believe the passive aggressive bullshit that people believe they can get away with when they end an email with “Namaste” but those stories are put on hold when I turn into the ”may I speak to your supervisor” woman, I want a full-gluten, cow-cheese covered pizza, and I’m out of anxiety medicine.

Yoga and Politics - I'm With Her

Yoga and Politics: I’m With Her

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Every few years during the election cycle, my yoga-teaching friends and I found ourselves in a unique and rare place. We spoke freely on almost every topic most months of the year and around election time; we started clamming up. It was sort of an unofficial and unspoken agreement we had that in order to hold space for all of our students, it was necessary to keep quiet when it came to issues surrounding politics. To be frank, we are a mix of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents and it just always worked the best when we didn’t mix politics and yoga. For the last seven years, that has just been the way that it went.

I’m breaking that unspoken rule today. Last week I watched most evenings of the Republican National Convention. As an Independent voter turned Democrat raised in a Democrat/ Republican household and married to a Democrat raised by two very liberal parents, I was open to hearing the arguments. If I’m being honest, in the past, I enjoyed gleaning observations from the Republicans that I could use in a discussion with my husband when I thought he was too left-leaning.

On Thursday night, I drove home from Baltimore to Pittsburgh for a quick work trip which put my drive situated squarely in the middle of Donald Trump’s acceptance of the GOP’s nomination. I drove alone in the dark and listened to his speech. It felt Orwellian and terrifying and at times, like science fiction. I listened to him describe the continued need for separation. Alongside angry group chants of “build a wall, build a wall”, he continued to speak of his plan for closing off countries until we could vet the religions and intentions of those seeking to live in the United States. He called himself the “law and order” candidate and made promises no politician can keep regarding the “reform” of inner cities and education. And again this notion of “Make America great again”.

I just don’t know of which time period anyone is referring. Do you mean when slavery existed? Do you mean when women couldn’t vote? Do you mean when Carnegie and Frick waged class warfare against the labor unions? And you can blame Kennedy or Reagan or both, but was America great when mental health care “shifted” and as a country we dumped the mentally ill onto the streets with zero resources?

I believe we can find hate and we can find love in almost every moment of American history. I’m not interested in continuing to divide the country alongside the lines of hate. I’m not going to be stockpiling resources and food in the hopes that I’ll keep my loved ones safer than yours. I want us all to be safe. I want us all to make it. I don’t want to divide my neighbors into armed and unarmed.

My family was gifted several guns years ago and I asked the giver, very politely, to keep them. As someone who suffered through a decade of suicidal thoughts, I know better than to keep any guns in my home. I also know that in the event of some catastrophic war on the streets of the U.S., I’m not going to use any violence to keep myself alive and fed while you and your family suffer. We all make it or none of us makes it.

Call me naïve or idealistic. I run a free yoga program so it won’t be the first time that I’ve heard it.

None of us can afford to be quiet about the upcoming election in November. I love Bernie Sanders and I hope that we can take his message and energy and genuine care for the welfare of all Americans and include it in the Democratic Party. While I don’t agree with her on everything, I do think Hillary Clinton is brave and overly-qualified for the highest office in the land. I’m also aware that she’s made major mistakes with casualties. I’d challenge anyone to find someone working at her level who hasn’t made mistakes and bad choices. I believe that with Sanders’ historic run, the Clinton campaign has been forced into listening to issues that would’ve otherwise fallen by the wayside.

I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t excited about the upcoming historic acceptance speech by Clinton as the first female Presidential nominee for the Democratic Party. When I was a kid, my Barbies were Rockstar/Astronaut/Presidents and now for the first time, the President part doesn’t seem like the most far-fetched career choice.

I still believe that political opinions have no place inside a yoga class. You can wear a “Trump 4 Prez” tank top and I’ll continue to welcome you to class. My job is to hold safe space for all of my students and that remains un-changed. But, this time for the first year ever, I get to tell you; I’m with her.

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Glow Stick Meditation

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Eric Rosse said about Tori Amos – “Everyone goes through a phase where you want to be something you’re not.”

I’ve spent a larger portion of my life than I care to admit trying to be somebody else. It was no one specific. It was often “let me be anyone other than who I am”. It’s only within the last five years that I have begun to know who I am and not only accept it but also embrace it.

I have spent decades as a cynic. I have hidden for years in sarcasm and I have used it as a coping mechanism and a deflection. Being logical is, what I have told myself, adults do.

Slowly I’ve been shuffling off the sarcasm. It’s not easy and I definitely find my way back. More often than not, though, if I stay aware and in the joy of the moment, I can let sarcasm be. I can choose to be joyful. I can choose to be open. I can choose to embrace things that are light, silly, and not always logical.

I’ve been writing my first book of essays and meditations. I’ll be focusing on my book rather than my regular blog posts through the end of 2015. If I can’t find a publisher, I’ll self-publish it and promote it with some incredible yoga classes and events in and out of the country. (Friends in Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Switzerland, and Denmark – I’ll be in touch!)

I’m going to offer a sample of one of the meditations from my book on how to let go of these traits that you have taken on as your own that are not actually you. I call it a “glow stick meditation” as a reminder that you have your own light. You don’t need to compare or compete. You are enough. You glow.

 

 

Glow Stick Meditation

This is one of my favorites. When you’re feeling blah or uninspired, try this exercise and see if you can raise your energy level! Put on an upbeat song. Don’t think about it too much, just play something fun!
Stand up! Interlace your fingers at the base of your spine. (If this is not comfortable, hold onto the ends of a small towel or tee shirt with each hand.)
As you press your palms together, imagine that you are snapping a glow stick and feel that opening across the front of your chest. Close your eyes and visualize that initial crack of the glow stick as the opening of your energy. Now just like we need to shake a glow stick to make the chemicals mix and glow – you need to get all of the light and energy glowing and moving all across your body!
Release the interlacing of your fingers and reach your arms into the sky. Close your eyes and quickly shake your wrists from side to side (as if you are quickly screwing and unscrewing a lightbulb).
At the same time turn your head from side to side (as if you are shaking your head to indicate no).
Bend your knees one at a time to transfer weight quickly from one foot to the other.
Continue for the duration of the song and as you move picture your body filling up with bright, neon light. Choose any color you like! Let this light grow stronger as it infuses your limbs. Try to picture every atom of every cell in your body growing and buzzing with light and energy. Continue buzzing and moving throughout the duration of the song!
When the song is finished, come back to stillness while standing and press your hands together at your heart. Continue to let that buzzing energy move around your body. Find deep breaths in and out through your nose (your mouth can be slightly open if you have any congestion). Let these breaths ground you as you remember that this electric glow stick energy is yours to tap into at any time!

 

*The author does not present any exercises on this site as a treatment for any medical condition.  Please consult your wellness professional before using this or any other exercise.

baltimore-month-three-consider-this-my-dissent

Baltimore Month Three: Consider This My Dissent

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For the past three months I have written a piece every time a new month passes in our new home in Baltimore. Today is the three-month mark of making Baltimore our new home. Today is five days after 25 year old Freddie Gray died after suffering a severe spinal injury while in police custody on April 12th. Freddie Gray is a black man who was arrested by Baltimore police after a foot chase. All that I have been able to find is that he was “arrested without force or incident” and that police claim he was carrying a knife which we haven’t seen and there are no claims that I’ve heard that he attempted to use it in any way.

I keep going over the published facts. I keep re-watching the video of his arrest. I keep looking for a reason why this man was even arrested, let alone taken down, and is now dead. I want to find a reason to look the other way, to stay distracted, to stay safe and isolated in Canton (which is the super-gentrified part of the city where we live). Here’s the truth: I can’t.

If white silence equals white consent, consider this my dissent. I didn’t feel like I had any license to write about Baltimore because I didn’t grow up here. What right does a white woman from Pittsburgh who lives in an affluent part of town have to write about a city from which she is mostly isolated? And then I remembered the events of Ferguson. And then I remembered that if we’re really all in this together like we keep saying that we are – then we all have to stand up and be counted.

We have to stand up and go to the places physically and mentally that are uncomfortable to say that we won’t stand for continued police brutality. We have to examine the way that we are approaching the work we do for our communities. Are we only doing in a way that is isolated? Are we doing more than writing checks and sending people to third world countries to teach yoga and build schools? That work is important for sure AND there is work of equal importance here that we don’t need to travel so far to find.

I want to write about this city in the future and tell you that it’s not divided into the Haves and the Have-Nots. I want to write about this city and tell you that things changed across America because people, all people, stopped distracting themselves and stood up to say that what happened to Freddie Gray in Baltimore in April of 2015 will no longer be tolerated.

I stand for peaceful protesting and I stand for the end of police brutality. I stand for accountability. I stand for all that is love and light in this world and in order for that to happen then I also stand for the end of violence, the end of intimidation, and the end of suspicion because of skin color.

rainsoaked

Learning to Flow

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To say I’m fiery is an understatement. I’m a hot-headed, anxious, impulsive, passionate, get-shit-done-yesterday Aries. It was never a shock to me that the style of yoga I first fell in love with was heated power yoga. Of course it was.

I subscribe to a gorgeous and whimsical magazine called Flow. It’s a Dutch publication, which is self-proclaimed as a magazine for paper lovers with a focus on creativity, mindfulness, and taking it slow. (Stay with me, I’m getting to the point. Promise.) I happened upon my first copy in a bookstore in December. I immediately back-ordered all of the issues and promptly subscribed to all future issues. I was really excited to put my new address on the subscription. Life was changing. We were moving and I had the new address to prove it.

After two weeks had passed and I had not received anything, I reached out via email. A kind and presumably Dutch man wrote to me in broken English that they had received my order and that it was processing. I waited and waited. Every day when I went to check the mail, I just knew it was going to be the day that all of my issues arrived. That day never came. The days were long and cold and I was uninspired and I was waiting for something that was going to change that.

After another two weeks, I reached out via email again. This time, a little less polite and a little more annoyed that I hadn’t received any of my magazines. After about 48 hours, a polite and again presumably Dutch woman told me that I should not be concerned unless I don’t receive my parcels within 2 months. 2 months! I ordered these magazine in January – was it really going to be March before I had these issues in my hand?

The weeks dragged on. I went to yoga. I accepted a job teaching yoga! I wrote a little. I cleaned often. I met a few people. I walked the city. I showed visitors around the city. I continued to bemoan that Baltimore wasn’t home and that it seemed like everything at home was going on without me.

Slowly, at the beginning of March, Flow began appearing in my mailbox. None of the issues were shipped together. Many arrived with a price tag on their covers and it seemed as though each back issue was hunted down from various bookstores and magazine shops in Holland.

One particular issue arrived soaking wet and many of the pages were unreadable. True to form, I fired off a polite but ultimately short-tempered email including a photo of the “ruined” copy and a sincerely sweet, possibly saintly woman responded that they would of course replace it. She gently suggested that I mention it to my postman to see that he takes more care when delivering the mail.

It’s been two months and I have received (and devoured and passed along) each copy of the magazine already. When I was home last week, I saw the latest issue for sale and true to form, even though it will be arriving in my mailbox sometime this coming month, I grabbed it and bought it.

I’ve had the magazine for 5 days now (including 2 hours at the airport) and I have only cracked open one page (upon which I scrawled the names of every arm balance that I taught to my yoga students on Sunday so that I could post it to all forms of social media) and then promptly threw the magazine back in my backpack to read later.

When I sat down to write about my two-month mark in Baltimore, I realized that I was late. The two-month mark happened while I was in Pittsburgh cramming as much teaching and socializing as possible into 5 days. Clearly, I didn’t need to wait two months to get my “issues”. I’m quick to anger, impatient, and driven to the point of seemingly competitive over-ambition. Upon returning home, people asked how it was to be home and I told them the truth. It was wonderful to see everyone and I also remembered why I was ready to leave as I was completely exhausted from the last 5 days.

A funny and really quite obvious thing has happened after years and years of practicing an intensely physical yoga practice – I’ve gotten strong. It takes way more work than it used to take to fatigue myself so that I can begin to drop into a place of mindfulness, to a place of slowing down. As I often remind anyone within earshot, I didn’t get into this practice to be an athlete. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t keep practicing like one, using my physical practice to burn away my over-analytical thoughts and fiery anxiety.

I had built my lifestyle in Pittsburgh into a “can’t-stop-won’t-stop” schedule. No one made me do it. I loved teaching there and so I piled on more and more yoga classes and events and got in the habit of saying yes to everything that fell under the umbrella of work.

After about 2 solid hours of physically and verbally breaking down arm balances on Sunday, I started to teach from a calmer place. My thoughts were slower and clear and I remembered why I had started practicing and teaching power yoga in the first place.

It’s probably going to be the end of summer by the time my next issue of Flow arrives and since it ships sloooooowly from Holland, it’ll probably arrive more than a little tattered. I hope by then that I have actually taken time to slow down. I hope that I haven’t over-scheduled my days just because I can. I have a feeling that I have a lot to learn from a magazine written by terrifically patient Dutch people.