April 17, 2012

On Fire for Yoga

I am on FIRE!  

(No, no, no...not like "The Girl on Fire" from The Hunger Games...Trust me, I'm no Katniss Everdeen!)  

I mean that I am on fire because this past weekend has left me so enlivened and excited about my yoga practice!

What, might you ask, about this past weekend has left me so energized?!

Well, in large part, my enthusiasm can be attributed to a beautiful yogini named Kathryn Budig.  Just so you have a idea of who I am talking about, here is a short little bio:
Kathryn was trained under the expert eye of Maty Ezraty and Chuck Miller.  She teacher regular Vinyasa Flow classes influenced by Ashtanga, arm balances, inversions, core work, and laughter, all offered in an accessible and playful way.  She is the co-founder of "Poses for Paws", an organization dedicated towards raising money for animal shelters through yoga.  Kathryn is the contributing yoga expert for Women's Health Magazine, a blogger for The Huffington Post, MindBodyGreen, Gaiam, and contributes regularly to Yoga Journal through articles, blogs, print, and postcards.  She currently travels internationally leading workshops.


And she likes dogs too (that's her dog, Ashi, by the way)!  Anyone that loves dogs must be a good person, right?  Well, that's my logic, and I'm sticking to it!

Anywho - back to what I was saying about being on fire.

This past weekend I attended a three-day workshop with Kathryn hosted by Lotus Yoga, a studio here in Jacksonville, FL.  Although I do not teach at Lotus Yoga, I have gotten to know the studio's co-owners and attend classes there on a semi-regular basis.  When one of the co-owners approached me about attending Kathryn's workshop, I was skeptical (to say the least).  Kathryn is an A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. yogini (Just check out some pics of her here)!  She can do asanas that I don't think I could even do in my dreams...much less in reality.  Regardless, all nerves and ego aside, I decided that a physical challenge might be just what I needed to push my personal practice to the next level.  And push it did!


On Friday evening (6:00-8:00PM), we spent the first 30-45 minutes discussing what it means to "aim true."  The concept of aiming true is one of Kathryn's main teaching points...you might even say that it is her personal philosophy.  During our powerful and candid discussion, Kathryn reminded all ~75+ attendees of a few important things:

  1. "Be yourself.  Everyone else is taken." - Oscar Wilde
  2. ALWAYS choose love over fear, hope over disbelief, and faith over doubt.
  3. "The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are." - J. Campbell
  4. Find the strength to be yourself, as opposed to being ruled by the expectations of others.

To conclude our discussion, Kathryn had us shout out asanas that we were afraid of (remember, always choose love over fear, she said).  She wrote them down, and then we immediately transitioned into a 75 minute flow class in which she incorporated every. single. one. of the poses that we feared.  

Go figure.

Talk about a wake-up call.


Saturday was a long, but wonderful, day.  In the morning session, from 10:30AM-1:00PM, we worked exclusively on inversions (tripod headstand, handstand, etc.) and arm balances (Flying Crow, Grasshopper, 8-Limb Pose, Forearm Balance/Scorpion, etc.).

It was hard work, but also a ton of fun!  Sometimes we forget that you can laugh in yoga...especially at yourself!  When you let go of your ego and give yourself permission to fall...and fail, suddenly yoga becomes a fun play-time. :)

I fell and failed a LOT.  But that was OK.  One thing that really stuck in my mind that Kathryn said during this session was to make a distinction between admiration and jealousy.  It is good to admire fellow practitioners abilities.  However, it is never good to be jealous of a fellow yogi's practice.

Admiration is good.  

Jealousy is bad.

There were plenty of people in the room that were more physically advanced in their hatha practice that I was/am.  However, that is one of the most powerful aspects of yoga.  The physical practice is just one of the eight limbs of yoga.  In case you didn't know, or forgot, yoga is an art and a science dedicated to creating union between body, mind, and spirit.  To seek this union, there are eight branches/arms of yoga, none higher or more important than another.  
  1. Yama - morality (i.e. non-violence, truthfulness, and non-greed)
  2. Niyama - obervances (i.e. purity, contentment, and study)
  3. Asanas - physical postures
  4. Pranayama - breathe exercises
  5. Pratyahara - control/withdrawal of the senses
  6. Dharana - concentration
  7. Dhyana - meditation
  8. Samadhi - union

As a former dancer, I find asana to be a particularly powerful branch of yoga.  I feel "unified" when I work with my body, as opposed to against it.  For me, asana is akeen to a moving meditation.  There are times when I feel as though I am in communion with God when I am practicing yoga.  And for that unity, I am so very thankful.

Enough of my musings.

Let's get back to the workshop, shall we?!


By the end of the morning I thought my arms were going to fall off.  I am not speaking hyperbolically here...my arms felt dead.  Thankfully, Bo came and rescued me and took me to an awesome lunch!  By the time I returned for the afternoon session at 2:30PM my arms and I were feeling alive again!

From 2:30-5:00PM Kathryn led us into some DEEP hip openers.  Typically I like hip openers, but doing anything that intense for over two hours will change your mind.  By the time the session came to a close, my legs felt like Jell-O.  On a brighter note, I learned a ton of new poses and modifications that I plan to introduce to my classes in the coming weeks!  Oh, my students are just going to love me. :)

Then again, they are probably going to hope that I never go to another intense workshop again...hahaha!


When I woke up on Sunday I was S.O.R.E., sore!  But after a hot shower, a good breakfast, and a few sun salutations I was feeling a little less stiff.  The final session of the weekend-long workshop was from 9:00-11:30AM on Sunday.  I arrived on time, ready to jump into two and a half hours of deep heart openers and back-bends.  Over and over again Kathryn kept instructing us to:

"Manifest physically what your heart is feeling in the pose."

Previously, I had never thought of my back-bending practice in this way.  However, when I began to lead with my heart into every back-bend I found the poses to be much easier.  Instead of just putting my body into a particular shape, I was feeling my way into the shape.  It's hard to put into words...it's just something that you feel, as opposed to something that you know.  It's a heart thing.  Not a mind thing.  Which, I suppose, is a good thing since heart openers are the most vulnerable poses in the hatha tradition.


I woke up Monday with an incredibly sore body: outer hips, upper shoulders, and middle back.  But it was a good sore.  It meant that I had grown.  I now had growing pains...which I was, and am, totally OK with.

Today, I'm committed to being myself.  
Because, as Kathryn said, everyone else is taken.

Next time - a breakfast recipe that reminds me of childhood...but is even better as an adult!

Question of the Day:

Have you ever attended a workshop in your profession that truly and deeply inspired you?  If so, I would LOVE to hear about it in the "Comments" below!

Ally and Bo

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