Patience

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I wanted to share a favorite poem by the late and great Mary Oliver that I have been reciting in my head on repeat for the past few weeks. Patience is something I strive for, fail at, dream about, and occasionally achieve. This poem resonates on so many levels, and I am continually drawn to it in the late summer and early autumn. The world seems to speed up with back to school, sporting events, and the hustle towards holiday season. However, all we really need to do is slow is down, look around, and notice each moment “hardly move from one eternity to another.” Let us all try to savor these last few days of summer. Autumn will come, whether we are patient or not.


Patience

By: Mary Oliver

What is the good life now? Why,
look here, consider
the moon’s white crescent

rounding, slowly, over the half month to still another
perfect circle —

the shining eye
that lightens the hills,
that lays down the shadows

of the branches of the trees,
the summons the flowers
to open their sleepy faces and look up

into the heavens.
I used to hurry everywhere,
and leaped over the running creaks.

There wasn’t
time enough for all the wonderful things
I could think of to do

in a single day.  Patience
comes to the bones
before it takes root in the heart

as another good idea.
I say this
as I stand in the woods

and study the patterns
of the moon shadows,
or stroll down into the waters

that now, late summer, have also
caught the fever, and hardly move
from one eternity to another.


 

Peace, Love, and Namaste,

Kristin (& Cora and Luna)

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Moving

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Moving is tough.

Especially with a baby.

But every fall there is a shift in the world. I can feel it in the cool air of the morning. I can feel it within my own body. Life has many seasons and I think back to past autumns: training for long distance races, preparing for dance performances, the back-to-school rush, and now, this. It feels radically different than my past several seasons, and part of me yearns for the past: the long Saturday morning runs, the anticipation of new students, and the preparation for new classes. Some of it will return, just in a different iteration. But part of me is eager for what this turns out to be.


Moving

 

The late afternoon shadows pour through the window 

of my dining room filled with boxes of memories. 

Boxes of things that we need. 

Or do we really need it all? Not the things.

The memories: new, old, and yet to be made.

 

My life is packaged and bubble wrapped

ready to be hauled off to yet another address.

Another house that I will slowly transform

into a home. A place of warmth, hope, and soft landings.

A place where my baby will learn to walk.

A place where I will learn to stand true. Be myself. 

Or at least, this transformation of myself.

All just merely human. Just desperately trying 

to grasp on to the mane of life that is galloping by. 

 

These days are begging me to slow down. Take it all in. 

These perfect afternoons of long shadows will not last.

Every box my daughter climbs up 

and every teetering step she takes

is one step closer to her walking out of our new home

and into her own. 


 

Love and light,

Kristin

 

PS I am subbing at Willow Yoga next Saturday, Sept 14th at 9:30am. I am back in my old stomping grounds, and I hope to see some familiar faces!

Inhale. Exhale.

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” Just take a deep breath. Calm down.”

“I can’t. I am trying and I can’t.”

This was the conversation with my husband on a Monday in late May. I was driving our screaming daughter back from her 6 month appointment where she had received several immunizations. He was driving himself to the ER in North Carolina because he had chest pain and difficulty breathing since his early morning flight. He sounded anxious. The mother and yogi in me could only reassure him remotely with a cue to breathe. Which, come to find out an hour later, was nearly impossible because his right lung had spontaneously collapsed.

It has been a month of learning new words and pronounciations: pneumothorax and pluerodesis. It has been long nights of wondering if  my baby is still breathing, and now wondering if my young, fit, and able bodied husband is still breathing. It seems so simple, breathing in and out. It is something I realized that I have taken for granted as it was whisked away from my husband in a matter of moments. It made me wonder: what else do I take for granted?

The sun rising and setting each day.

The two strong legs that I get out of bed to stand on each morning.

My heart as it continues to beat day in and day out.

My arms which can hold my sweet baby when she needs me.

My ears that can hear  music and laughter.

My eyes witnessing the seasons change, strangers smile, and beautiful landscapes.

And this list can go on and on… just as I assumed the breath of my beloved husband would go on and on until we were old and wrinkled. I have never been so grateful for modern medicine, which saved his life twice in one month. First, in North Carolina that Monday afternoon when he received his first chest tube. Then two weeks later when his lung collapsed a second time at home on a Thursday night. I was able to use my yoga skills more successfully this time to make him comfortable through the wee hours of the morning: -gentle words, restorative yoga, and all the props, We went to the ER the next day which included another chest tube, emergency surgery, and a four day hospital stay. I am happy to say that now after his follow up appointment, scheduled nearly a month to the day of his first lung collapse, he is recovering. He can take that deep breath I asked him to take when we were both driving our separate ways.

I have a new sense of reverence, awe, and gratitude for each inhale and exhale. Often I cue to my students at the end of my yoga classes to use their breathing throughout the day to bring a sense of calm and peace to challenging moments. Now. I see this as a gift that some people do not the luxury of experiencing.  To be able to behold and feel one’s own breath every moment is not just a way to regulate the nervous system, but I now consider it a way to see and feel the divine beauty that is life.

Peace, Love, and Namaste,

Kristin

 

After the Fall

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A few weeks ago, I headed out for a weekend run.  It was a damp, spring day that was slow to warm up. I was tired, but I knew how important it was to spend time by myself in the quiet solitude of the outdoors after a long week of mothering. Okay, I guess it wasn’t that quiet because I was running in the city.  And I wasn’t quite by myself as Luna was with me.  Alas, running is the time where I can reconnect with myself after I spend most of my week caring for my infant daughter. The line between self, mother, and other, child, often gets blurred in these early months of infancy.

I was shuffling down the street giving myself a pep talk that the first mile is always the hardest. I was heading to the large park across the river where I can let Luna run free. It is where I pretend we are running on a trail, in the woods, far away from the bustling Chicago streets and airplanes lining up to land at O’Hare. I was deciding where my route would take me that afternoon, when the sidewalk did a funny thing. It jumped up and grabbed me. Okay, maybe not, but that is what it felt like when I went skidding across the cement. In yoga class, I will make the cheesy metaphor that falling out of yoga poses and trying again is something that can translate into everyday life: work situations, personal goals, and relationships. Personally, I am always falling out of poses and trying again so I feel like this can ring true with my students on and off the mat. However, that afternoon, it just so happened that I was also literally falling in my everyday life.

I quickly assessed my damage. Road rash on my right leg. Right hand and elbow bleeding. Left hand fine, thanks to Luna’s leash. My ribs hurt and the wind was knocked out of me. I did the obligatory joint check. Ankles: check. Knees: check. Hips: Check. Elbow and wrists: Check. Breathing: . . . My eyes were brimming with tears, so I closed them and struggled to take a few deep yoga breaths. The yoga mat is much softer than the pavement. I was shaken and embarrassed, but luckily no one had seen me. I asked myself: Do I drag my tired body back home and nurse my wounds? Do I continue running and nurse my ego?

I looked over to Luna, who was sitting anxiously awaiting a rebuke. However, this time it was not her fault. People sometimes ask how I trained a such high energy dog to behave in an urban environment. I reply: it is the running, the walking, and the fetching. A tired dog is a good dog. Luna needed this run to be a good dog just as much I needed this run to be a good mother. So, I stood up. I kept running. I was hurting, but nothing that needed immediate attention. I slowly ran a shorter route. I quieted my ego that always wants me to run faster and further.

What I really want more than anything is to be a good mother to my daughter. I want to show her that it is okay to fall but you need to be able to stand up after you are down. It is okay to be tired, hurting, and sad, but you can also keep moving forward while feeling all those things. Resiliency is something I want her to embody and learn young. It is a skill I want her to hold close as she grows up in a world that will inevitably jump up like the sidewalk and knock her down. She is going to face more hardships than just falling during a regular weekend run. It is in the little moments that I want to teach by example.

I owe it to my mother and all the strong women who came before her. Thank you for picking me up when I was hurting, kissing my skinned knees, then putting me back on my bike. Thank you for falling off your skis, your horse, or just your own two feet and getting back up again. Thank you for teaching by example. Thank you for allowing me to join the long lineage of mothers and resilient daughters. I hope I won’t let you down.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there who are tired and falling, but are getting up again and never stop loving, loving, loving.

Love and light,

Kristin (and the good dog, Luna)

Spring Yoga Practice // Grounded & Light

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Spring has finally sprung in Chicago! After a long and particularly harsh winter, it is such a sigh of relief to see the crocuses, daffodils, and irises poking their little heads out of the dirt. It feels good on my skin to feel the warm morning sun rising earlier each day. In the world there is a general energy of moving out of the earth and rising up towards the sky. Being grounded is important, but too much earth or too much lightness can throw my body and my mind out of balance. Spring is all about finding that balance of being grounded and light. Being strong and soft. Being open and safe. I have made a simple springtime practice that is suitable for any yogi—beginner or advanced, young or old, morning person or night person. The focus is to bring the elements of springtime into the physical body, and thus allowing the mind and spirit to also find more balanced and at ease with the season.

I have included a written script for the reading/writing learners and my typical, albeit silly, stick figures for the visual learners. I am not tech savvy enough for a video or recording for the kinesthetic or auditory learners, but maybe in the future! I recommend reading the script first, then looking at the stick figures as you move through your practice. Remember what resonated with you from the script, and simply let go of what did not. Most importantly, throughout this practice stay tethered to your breath.


“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh 

  • Seated Earth Meditation 

Sit on the earth crossed legged or kneeling with one hand on your heart and the other touching the eart. Close your eyes. Bring your attention to your body and your breath. Allow your breath to be a bridge. A connection to your mind and your body. Your body and the earth. As you inhale imagine your breath coming up from the earth. As you exhale settle this breath into your heart. Take 10 breaths on your own noticing how it feels to focus on your physical body’s connection to the physical earth. 

  • Cat, Cow, & Child’s Pose with balanced breathing

Gently move forward onto hands and knees. Inhale into cow pose, allowing your heart to move forward between your shoulders and lifting your tail bone. Exhale into cat pose, allowing your back to round. Look back at your thighs and lift your navel towards your spine. Allow this curling action to bring you into child’s pose and rest your tail back towards your heel. Rest your forehead on the ground. Continue this movement with your breath. Move fluidly, seeing if you can cultivate an even breath allowing your inhale and exhale to be of equal length. Repeat for several minutes until you feel a sense of balance. Rhen rest in child’s pose for 3 breaths.

  • Downward Facing Dog

From all fours, tuck your toes under, straighten your legs, and lift your hips up to the sky. Spread your fingers wide and ground down through your first finger and thumb. Firmly press into your hands, straighten your arms, and lengthen your spine. Reach your heels down towards the ground, but they do not have to touch. Legs are strong, but keep a soft bend in your knees. Find a sense of balance between lifting your hips and grounding through your arms and legs.

  • Ragdoll

Inhal,  look at your hands. Exhale, gently walk your feet up to your hands into ragdoll pose. Bend your knees generously, let your belly be soft and rest on your thighs. Grab opposite elbows. Let your head and shoulders feel heavy reaching towards the earth but keep your feet softly rooted. Take several moments here feeling stress and tension melt from your shoulders and neck into the ground. Keeping your knees bent, slowly come up to standing taking as many breaths as you need. 

  • Tree Pose 

Stand on your right foot, turn out your left leg, and bring your left foot to your inner ankle, calf, or thigh. Reach your arms skyward. Feel two opposing actions: your foot pressing down towards the ground feeling strong and stable. Your arms reaching up to the sky feeling light and tall. Take 10 breaths in tree pose. Repeat standing on the left foot.

  • 1/2 Sun Salutes feeling the earth 

Stand tall with your feet rooted into the earth. Chose a stance that feels supported and strong. Line your feet up under your hips. Inhale, reach both arms up to the sky. Exhale, fold forward over your legs bending your knees as much as you need to touch the ground. Inhale, bring your hands to your shins and flatten your spine. Exhale, fold forward again. Inhale, press into your feet and come up to standing with a flat back reaching your arms skyward. Exhale, bring your hands to your heart. Repeat 3x. Transition: Repeat another 1/2 Sun Salutation but only halfway through. Step back to a plank when you are touching the ground the second time. Gently lower to your belly. 

  • Dynamic Locust (A)

Lay down on your belly with your arms stretch out above your head like superman. Exhale your air. Inhale lift up your right arm and left leg. Exhale lower. Inhale lift up your left arm and right leg. Exhale lower. Repeat 8x. 

  • Locust (B)

Reach your arms by your side, fingers pointing back towards toes. Exhale into the ground, inhale lift up head, neck shoulders, arms, and legs. Focus on lengthening fingers back towards toes and toes back to space behind you. Breath into your belly for 5 breaths. Lower on an exhale. Repeat 2x. 

  • Child’s pose. 

Push your hips backs to your heels. Rest your forehead on the floor and feel your hands connected to the ground. Allow your belly to be soft. Feel supported by the earth. Take 5 breaths softening and settling.

  • Seated Earth Meditation 

Return to the position you began in seated on the earth crossed leg or kneeling with one hand on your heart and the other touching the earth. Close your eyes and bring your attention to your body and your breath. As you inhale imagine your breath coming up from the earth. As you exhale settle this breath into your heart, your body. Notice what has shifted since you were here earlier. What has changed during your practice? What has not changed? What do you still wish to change? Feel a deeper connection between your body and the earth. Your body and your mind. Your mind and your spirit. Take as many moments here noticing a deeper awareness and more balance. My wish is you can take these sensations with you as you move into the rest of your day feeling more rooted, rested, and rejuvenated. Namaste. 

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Love & Light,

Kristin

 

Home Practice Always Counts

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Back in 2017, I wrote a post about home practice and growth. Two yoga trainings, a pregnancy, and baby later, I can honestly say my home practice has helped me more mentally than physically. My body ached from carrying a child in my womb for nine months and from my long and strenuous labor. Delivering a baby is truly one of humanity’s most amazing physical feats. I listened to the advice of my midwife and rested when we got home, but my body was craving movement. I did not know what exactly to do for it. I did know that I could start simple. I could start by listening. I could start by breathing. After a few days, I went for a short, slow walk with my daughter in a carrier and my husband walking the dog. My mood elevated as I breathed the crisp, late fall air with my new family. I later attempted a downward facing dog. I could almost hear my muscles sigh with relief as I started to gently move again. One week after having my daughter, I rolled out my mat.

Needless to say, my home practice these last few months has been in transition. My life has been in transition.  What used to be a peaceful practice between me, my mat, and usually my coffee has changed to a patient practice between me, my mat, my dog, and my baby—who if awake is wiggling, cooing, and getting very close to rolling over. But if I time it right and she is napping, I will sometimes get fifteen, forty, even sixty minutes of solo yoga. Some days I creep out of bed in the wee hours of the morning while she is still sleeping and practice until she starts to stir. I never know how much time I will have to practice. However long it is, I am grateful to have a practice. I used to be upset if I couldn’t get “enough” yoga in. If it wasn’t a “full practice” it didn’t count. I had to do so many chaturangas. So many minutes of meditation. Now, I wonder what that even meant. Any practice is enough. Any yoga is fulfilling if done with the right intention.

Motherhood is a meditation, but it also is the highest form of yoga I have yet to experience. I really have learned to turn in, let go of my ego, and surrender to something greater than myself. In yoga it is called ishvara pranidhana or surrender to the divine. It was amazing to feel my body heal and return to its non-pregnancy state. It was as if my body and soul  knew what to do. I just needed to stepped aside and let it happen. At the beginning of my postpartum journey, I wanted it to change quicker. My ego wanted my early 20s dancer body and clothes to fit again. Wanted my mind to understand the whole new task of taking care of a helpless baby who did not come with a user manual.  Other days, I moved in awe as this temple not only created a full fledged human, but also nourishes the tiny human everyday through breastfeeding. What is more divine than that? Why rush the process? Patiently, my body shifted back to its center and relearned to be a house for just one soul. Slowly, my muscles reawakened. In some ways I feel stronger. In other ways I am softer, gentler. Eventually, my yoga started to resemble the practice I had grown to rely on, but more balanced and full.

I rely on my practice physically and even more so mentally. Those five  or forty minutes a day make me a better mother. I am able to find gratitude for the moments with an infant that seem to span a lifetime. When it is  only just the morning and my child has been crying for what seems like forever. It has turned into an embodied prayer. My favorite part of my yoga practice are the sun salutations. I try to practice 12 Sun Salutation A when I have time and energy. Each salutation I either say a prayer of gratitude “I am grateful for my family” or an affirmation “I am patient and positive.” Sometimes I jump with vigor. Other days I move slowly with tenderness. And on particularly trying days, I go through my prayers in whatever position I can manage following my breath as my only movement. Ella Wheeler Wilcox sums it up nicely in her poem The Things That Count.

Now, dear, it isn’t the bold things,

Great deeds of valour and might,

That count the most in the summing up of life at the end of the day.

But it is the doing of old things,

Small acts that are just and right;

And doing them over and over again, no matter what others say;

In smiling at fate, when you want to cry, and in keeping at work when

you want to play—

Dear, those are the things that count.

 

And, dear, it isn’t the new ways

Where the wonder-seekers crowd

That lead us into the land of content, or help us to find our own.

But it is keeping to true ways,

Though the music is not so loud,

And there may be many a shadowed spot where we journey along

alone;

In flinging a prayer at the face of fear, and in changing into a song a

groan—

Dear, these are the things that count.

 

My dear, it isn’t the loud part

Of creeds that are pleasing to God,

Not the chant of a prayer, or the hum of a hymn, or a jubilant shout or

song.

But it is the beautiful proud part

Of walking with feet faith-shod;

And in loving, loving, loving through all, no matter how things go

wrong;

In trusting ever, though dark the day, and in keeping your hope when

the way seems long—

Dear, these are the things that count.

 

Yoga practice isn’t about the flashy moves, the amount of time spent, or how it looks. It isn’t about conquering that handstand or fitting back into my flashy red pants. It is about rolling out my mat or just laying down on the floor. Taking a moment to simply lean in. To listen. To breathe. To be alive in my body. To show up day after day. It is about loving, loving through it all. Through the late nights. The fussy infant stages. The ever fluctuating mother’s body. Finding ways to love myself. All my light parts. All my shadows. To love others. To love the world. It is not always easy. It is always worth it. Whatever the practice looks like, it always counts.

Love and light,

Kristin

The Courage to Teach

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When I cannot find the words to say what I am feeling, I often can find that someone else has already said them. I found what I was looking for after several days of digging around in poetry books, newsletters, and yoga teacher training readings. In his book The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life Parker Palmer says,

“The courage to teach is the courage to keep one’s heart open in those very moments when the heart is asked to hold more than its able, so that teacher and students and subjects can be woven into the fabric of community that learning and living, require.”

As any mother can attest, my experience with my first child has changed my perspective on many things. From how many hours of sleep a human needs to effectively function (less than you think).  How success is not determined by productivity (slow down). How leaning in to the littlest moments of life that bring the richest contentment (her first smile, the sound of her breath as she sleeps, her tiny hand clasped around my finger). My heart has never been so full. It feels like it can not possibly hold anymore. I know that this is exactly where I am meant to be: caring for and watching my daughter grow each and everyday. I will be honest, there were several times this winter I was not sure I wanted to return to teach, but I know that my heart is calling me to do more. 

The warm, sunny studio at Coconut Yoga will be my home base this year. You can catch me on Tuesdays at 9:30am for a Sunrise Flow starting March 19th. We will move through a full body practice that is centered on the seasonal, lunar, and daily shifts in the world around us. All levels welcome! The first class is near the Spring Equinox. It is perfect time to start new routines as it is a time of new growth and increasing light. We will be focusing on balance and equilibrium. Light and dark. Softening and strengthening. Holding on and letting go. Yin and yang. Chocolate and vanilla (Ok, maybe not the last one…). 

After living and experiencing the prenatal and postnatal body this past year, I think that this population of women need some extra love and care. I will be turning my attention to creating workshops, events, and courses that will focus specifically on journey into motherhood. It is a new passion of mine, as yoga has empowered me to feel embodied, balanced, and nourished during my pregnancy, birth, and postnatal journey.  I will also be available for perinatal individual sessions, as I can attest, this journey is very personal and each woman’s experience is unique. More on this, embodiment, and the art of paying attention in future blog posts (and baby yoga pictures).

Mark your calendars for my first prenatal workshop on April 27th at Coconut Yoga with the brilliant Rachelle Malik, The Food Therapist. We will focus on cultivating a balanced, healthy body and mind throughout pregnancy with yoga and nutrition. 

I am still on the sub list all over town, so keep an eye on my IG and FB for cameo appearances at other times and at other studios.

Love & light, 

Kristin