Yoga = Art

There are a lot of themes I try to weave into my classes.

Self-love, gratitude, acceptance, living in the present moment, the list goes on and on.

Two people from different “parts” of my life (for lack of a better word) gave me some solid advice a couple weeks ago.

Yoga is an art. Treat it as such.

Art is a good way to cope, to have a safe release.

So, I asked my classes a couple weeks ago to make art. Dance in your space, paint the air with your breath, I said.

And, to add some extra art to the class, I shared three poems throughout class as well from my favorite book of poems as of late, Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur.

One being:

You

are your own

soul mate

Art takes so many forms. Paintings and sketches. Dances and plays. Musicals and film festivals. Coachella and Firefly, Bonnaroo and Merriweather Post, and Red Rocks. Red Rocks is natural art, forever changing with every crowd and artist that graces its landscape. Records and cassettes and CDs and lyrics scrawled on napkins, melodies hummed under your breath as you ride the bus to work, school, home. Books and novellas and poems and prose and novels and Kindles (yes, even Kindles have art) and old, smelly, yellowing pages from the back shelves in your local library.

Art is on our bodies. Stretch marks on hip bones and freckles in constellations across our cheekbones. Birth marks and scars, stitches and staples, bruises and band-aids. Colored hair, natural hair. Tattoos and piercings. Bright colored sneakers, black jeans, distressed denim jackets, earth toned beanies, shiny baubles on our ears, noses, wrists, fingers, resting on our collarbones. Toe rings and anklets, belts with shiny gemstones, worn belt buckles with a better story than I’ll ever be able to tell.

Art moves through us. In our minds, through our breath, off our tongues and onto another’s. Through the ripples of fingertips on keyboards, clinging to pens and pencils for dear life, against guitar strings.

Look at the way the clouds paint the sky, different every day. Art can never be replicated. You can try to recreate a Picasso, but it won’t be the same. Not that it won’t be good, but it won’t be the same. The shades of yellow and orange will be different, because you can’t mix the exact way he once did. Maybe your yellow is brighter, but the human eye can’t tell. Maybe you swirl your brush right, and he swirled it left. There’s art, the act of looking at it, analyzing it. And there’s creating art. Neither can be replicated. No one sees one song the same as another. A song might bring me joy, and bring you sadness. It could take me back to a happy time, and you to a time of heartbreak. Warrior II doesn’t feel the same in my body as it does in yours. My stance might be shorter, longer, heel to heel rather than heel to arch, but it’s still the same posture, and it’s still beautiful.

Different bodies do yoga for different reasons. Different minds, backgrounds, colors, sizes, shapes do yoga for different reasons. I don’t come to the mat for the exact same reason you do. On Monday, maybe I needed to detox from the weekend, and you needed to wake up from a weekend sick in bed. On Tuesday, I’m stressed, and you’re already zen. On Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, I want a mental practice, to meditate in my flow, and you want the physical workout. No matter the reason, no matter who you are, you’re an artist on your mat. You’re creating a masterpiece with your body, mind, and breath.

Even as you’re sitting still, perhaps in child’s pose before class begins, or easy pose with a tall spine, you’re making magic happen. And your breath, even as we breathe as a tribe, inhale, exhale, listening to your teacher’s cues, could never match your neighbors. Yours might be deeper, your neighbor’s might be louder. Yours might be ujjayi, your neighbors might be out their mouth.

Art is magical in that it is unique to the artist. Yoga is magical in that it is unique to the yogi. Art is creating something new, every time you begin to create. Yoga is creating something new, every time you step into your studio, your mat, your safe space.

Art is a safe haven, yoga is a release, art is calming, yoga is enlightening. Art is beautiful, yoga is powerful, art is a choice, yoga is a lifestyle, art is healthy, yoga takes bravery. Art takes willpower, yoga takes commitment, art is a perspective, yoga is learning new things every day.

Switch up ‘yoga’ and ‘art’ and every word, in my opinion, in those sentences are still the truth.

When I plan my classes, I journal beforehand. All the thoughts in my head pour out onto paper and then I speak these words, as best I can, to my class later on. Sometimes I journal for days before a class, trying to figure out what message I want to paint in our vision to be our guide for 60 minutes or so. Sometimes, the message doesn’t come across as clear as I’d like it to, because I myself cannot fully understand what I’m trying to speak.

I’ll speak of ancient teachings. The Yamas and Niyamas, ahimsa, svadyaya, etc. etc. etc.

And I’ve only briefly studied these, in teacher training and on my own time, in books and online and with other teachers. But I still speak to them, because they add depth to this practice.

If you look at a piece of art, you’ll see a lot of things. Color, brush strokes. Word choice, syntax. Melodies, the bass, the drum beat. But then you look deeper. You analyze. Why did the artist choose to do this? Why that word over that word? Why this rhyme scheme/rhythm/shade of purple? And you, in most cases, infer, unless the artist is there beside you.

Why did we go from Warrior II to Crescent Lunge? Why did we breath out of our mouths instead of our noses this time? Why are my hips tight, shoulders rounding in, core engaged? Why are we doing what we are doing? Breathing this way or that? Flowing or meditating? Opening our eyes or closing them? Why did you choose this intention over your usual one? Why this song during this part of the flow?

I’m a bit neurotic, in a good way, when it comes to my classes. I change the playlist until it feels perfect for the message, the energy of the class, the time of day, the size of the class I’m expecting or accustom to. I’ll change the flow as I go if a particular class seems more advanced, or less so. I’ll add extra time in savasana on sleepy days, and build more heat before we start to flow on cold, snowy, I-would-rather-be-in-bed-but-I’m-here-anyways days.

When I write, it’s not too different. I take deep breaths when I’m feeling frustrated or losing focus. I step out of my space when I need to clear my head, similar to how I step into my yoga space when I need to clear my head. I find a balance between the two, and they keep me grounded. I can’t write while in bed, that’s where I rest. Rather, I write with two feet on the ground and my hands constantly moving, even if they escape the keyboard or the grasp of my pen to lift my coffee mug, clear dishes, leave a tip, put my jacket back on in a chilly coffeeshop, adjust my hair, answer the phone, doodle on a napkin. I close my eyes when needed, and keep them open to welcome in the light, color, inspiration surrounding me in every environment I take on. I switch up words. I play certain songs when I want to delve deeper into a certain mood. I turn my phone on silent and don’t answer it for an hour or so, and I dread turning it back on again. The flood of messages ruins my zen. I find solace in my safe spaces. In my journals, books, pages on my laptop, on my mat, my meditation pillow, walking to yoga class or writing class or one of my favorite writing spots.

There are two things, besides friends/family/etc.etc.etc. that got me through high school fairly unscathed. It’s not that I didn’t love high school, I did, I do, it was a blessing to me, it shaped me into who I am today. Those years gave me so much. But those years, those drastic, ever evolving, painfully full of feeling teenage years. They gave me my yoga practice and my writing. My love for art didn’t truly come about until the end of senior year, I would say. I dreaded museums, now I crave them. I enjoyed music, but I never truly felt it until more recently. I skimmed paragraphs of books I bought, but now I have too much respect for writers and musicians and artists to skim over their work. I glue my gaze onto every word on the page, off their lips, into my ears, through my eyes. I appreciate all that went into a work of art. Including a yoga class. I’m grateful for all my teachers and the flows they create, the wise words they speak, the advice they give me, the support in their presence, the life in them is art itself. The way my teachers, my fellow yogis, students, writers, friends, family choose to live their lives is my greatest inspiration.

Yoga and writing. Two things I sometimes lose track of, but they’re the foundation of who I am. I love words, sharing them, meditating on them, scratching them out and starting from zero. I love yoga, flowing and finding stillness, breathing and tuning in to the inner works of my mind, body, breath. I love the community that comes from both of these things. Yoga gave me CorePower, Yoga Love, some of my favorite people in this world. Yoga has given me experiences I’ll never forget. I crave feedback now, rather than fearing it. Writing gave me a new purpose. An internship, writing jobs, a second major I was never planning on. A community that gives me critiques and compliments, ideas and “this is a terrible idea.” Writing gave me one of my best friends, and she taught me to accept the critiques, to embrace them, to see where they take me. She taught me to be brave with my words, that they are good enough to take me farther than I thought. Writing gave me HerCampus, The Tab, Folk Rebellion. Connection and friends, kind words and encouraging feedback, building blocks and stepping stones, a foundation that began in high school has created a magical life for me now.

I spend my days writing, reading, yoga-ing, breathing, creating, finding inspiration, seeking new connections. I’m not afraid of this life anymore, I crave more of it. Deeper breaths, more meaningful words and friendships, strong connections, understanding of all that going ons in my life. Stillness, energy, love, love, love. I find all this in my work. And I’m blessed to say I work in both these areas that I love so dearly. Not all yogis and writers can say this. But if you work towards it, manifest it, build your life around these things, whatever your favorite things are, you’ll find they come to you as easy as the breeze bites your exposed cheeks in winter time.

Until next time,

Caroline xx

Get Connected, for free!

Okay, not for free. My classes at The CU Rec Center are $5 or require a BeFit pass. But getting connected? Yeah, I promise you’ll get that!

Tonight was my third yoga class in the Mind Body Studio on the third floor of CU’s dreamy Recreation Center. The theme: Connection

Why connection? Well, so often I don’t know my neighbor in my yoga classes. And that’s totally okay! But imagine if you knew that person’s name, the one with the on-point breath and alignment, and knew what they ate for breakfast? Or the most embarrassing part of their day? Wouldn’t that be cool? I think so!

So, this evening when the clock hand stepped to 7, I introduced myself as I usually do, and then I asked my yogi students, about 20 humans tonight, to find someone they didn’t know very well, introduce themselves, and share something, anything about their day. At first, I watched every, single yogis eyes go wide. It was like I had just told them they were going to have to read my mind to hear the cues for class. I reassured them, and then they were off. Chatting and laughing and smiling and shaking hands and moving closer together. Together. We’re all in this together! I reminded them of this as we moved forward in class. You’re never alone. Someone has your back always, right now, I have your back, your neighbor you just met has your back, the Earth has your back, you have your back. You got this.

Don’t sweat it, we’re all in this life together, let’s connect, breathe deeper, dig further, take this world by the hand and show it what we’re made of.

Here are some of my favorite poses that I threw into tonight’s flow:

  • Skandasana
  • Frog Squat
  • Supine figure-4

My favorite quote from the practice:

“The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers, and cities; but to know of someone who thinks and feels with us, & who, though distant, is close to us in spirit this makes the Earth for us an inhabited garden.” — Johann Wolfgang Van Goethe

And, lastly, the playlist I curated for the hour of flow:

 

Okay, not lastly. I tend to ramble after I teach. I’m super zen, but I just want to share everything. Share the details about how I felt, how the students who spoke with me after class were, how the energy in the room was.

And tonight, the energy was palpable and welcoming. Palms faced the sky without students even realizing it. Students spoke in soft voices after class to me with only the closet light shining on our faces. My pre-class music returned and acted as the soundtrack for the ending of tonight’s yoga party. I had asked my students to introduce themselves to me after class, since I don’t always get the chance to greet them as they enter, and most took me up on the offer. I heard from new yogis and old, some who went hiking over the weekend and others who were seniors in college, surprised that I’m a sophomore. Each hand shake was brought to me with eye contact and kind words from sweet souls. We were all in that hour of practice together, and we made it out alive. Sweaty, but alive. We spoke few words between each other, and it was mainly breath, but isn’t that the basis of all that life is? Anyways, tonight was magical, this practice is magical, and I’m so in love with what I do.

Until we see each other again–

Namaste,

Caroline

Read my last post here!

Read my last ‘yoga’ post here!

 

Wanderlust 108: I am the beginning

This past Saturday, Lizzie (my roommate here in Boulder) & I road-tripped to Fort Collins for a day of blissful yoga events & plenty of dance parties. Keep reading to find out exactly went down on the sunny mountain top with an awe-inspiring group of omies!

The ~big beats~

“Love is the only thing that is real”

“I am the beginning”

“YOU matter”

Everything you need is already within you.

Laugh when you go down on chaturanga, it makes it a lot more fun.

Dance in your down dog.

Dance breaks in the middle of your practice are a-okay. In fact, they help a lot, you’ll probably forgot about the fact that your arms are sore and your thighs are burning in chair pose.

Find your drishti vision. What’s your intention? Why do you come to the mat? Why are you living this life the way that you are?

My take-aways

The feeling of community is so, so important & incredibly magical.

Encouraging your neighbor, and allowing them to encourage you, whether it be in laughter in chaturanga or breath during flow, is uplifting & adds a lot to the practice.

Strangers are more open to love and friendship and connection than we all realize. Eye contact isn’t scaring, and it needs to be preserved.

Going out of your comfort zone is fun. Spectacularly, wonderfully, fun.

Telling yourself ‘I love you.’ is practically unheard of, but when it genuinely came across my mind, it didn’t feel self-obsessed or wrong, it felt powerful & much needed, long overdue. Self-love is one of my big intentions in this lifetime, and to have the feeling of loving myself, for my mind/body/spirit, come out of nowhere, made it feel genuine and more powerful than any other sense of self-love I’ve ever experienced before.

The events

5k: SO fun and super chilled out.

Yoga: Half the class was taught by Chelsey Korus and the second half was taught by Marybeth LaRue.

Meditation: Led by Dave Smith, a Buddhist meditation teacher that works with recovering addicts, prisoners, and such.

DJ: Sol Rising

Check out his music here!

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Other shops we stopped by

Wild Craft Apothecary —

Stop by my Etsy here, the new quartz necklaces will be up soon!

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Wolven Threads — SUPER fun and cool yogi gear. Bright mandalas cover their swimsuits, leggings, shorts, & bras, and the prices aren’t too terrible either.

Silver & Sage Jewelry — Gorgeous malas, bracelets, and gemstones filled this little shop!

Aveda — They have a whole line of products for chakras (my favorite topic), who knew?? AND a wonderful lady did Lizzie and I’s hair for free!

The food

Quinoa from Whole Foods vegan cafe style set-up on Pearl Street

Sunshine Bowl // Islander Bowl from Sunshine Bowls at the festival

Health-Ade Kombucha

A playlist to sum up the wonderfully sunny & life-affirming vibes from the day

 

Sending love, light, & sunshine your way, always,

Caroline

Read my last post here!

Read my last ‘yoga’ post here!

 

A Summer of Yoga

This summer was a full of firsts. My first time being home from college for an extended period of time. My first time living at home without my older brother living with us (consistently). And my first summer teaching yoga!

I learned about myself, others, and the overall practice of yoga each time I taught an hour vinyasa class on my back porch. Some weeks there would be four yogis, some weeks we would be overflowing and my mom would take her mat inside and follow my cues with the screen door between us (it actually worked pretty well). While the yogis that made their way to the mat each week varied, one major thing was consistent: My love for this practice, teaching, and the growth that grew from those two things combined.


Below, you’ll find a short summary/list I compiled of everything I gained from this summer of yoga. As I’m writing this, I’m planning my class for tomorrow, writing my final notes full of quotes & gratitude that my students will take with them, and carefully building a playlist to add a soundtrack to the class. I’m both sad and happy, and it’s odd how feelings can mix together so vividly, neither one more vibrant than the other, similar to mixing paints. The yellow and the blue both swirling onto your brush, eventually fading into a spectacular shade of green. That’s the best way to describe how I feel about saying goodbye to these sweet Saturday morning summer classes. A spectacular shade of green.

What I learned this summer comes from the yogis that I trained with in the spring, my teachers, from high school to now, and all those who came to flow with me this summer.

  • Each class really, truly would not be the same without every single yogi there.
  • Messing up is okay and rarely will anyone pick up on the minor slip-ups.
  • Practicing new sequences on your own ahead of time is incredibly helpful.
  • Making the students comfortable is one of the most important things as you are getting ready to begin class.
  • Trying new things aids in growth, both in the student and the teacher.
  • Playlists don’t have to be perfect. (I’ve had to throw a playlist together 2 minutes before class is supposed to begin when I’ve held impromptu classes or the speaker doesn’t work with my phone, but the music doesn’t really matter that much in the end)
  • My teachers and my students are my greatest inspiration.
  • This whole ‘yoga practice’ thing is so beautiful.

Thinking back on the girl who stood at the front of 15 wonderful humans on May 14th, nearly three months ago, with shaking hands and a doubtful mind, I barely recognize myself now. When my brain sends the wrong cues to my mouth or I miss a posture in the sequence that I thought up the evening before, I no longer panic. I have trust in my students, that they won’t beat me up over my mistakes, as we’re all still learning. I have trust in my own abilities, that I can think on my feet and make it all work out in the end.

The love and gratitude I have for all the yogis I’ve met & practiced with this summer is endless. From Alaska to Maryland, I’ve never loved anything as much as I love teaching. It wouldn’t be the same were it not for all the sweet souls I’ve met and practiced with all summer long!

Here’s to you, yogis, here’s to us, and here’s to those lovely Saturday mornings.

Special lil’ shoutout to my last class on Saturday morning for coming together & bringing donations to go towards Old Ellicott City, so much love for all of you & our community!

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See you on the mat real soon,

Caroline

Playlist for this post (& my last yoga class): August 6 on Spotify

Read my last post here!

Read my last post about my yoga journey here!

Peace Love Yoga Festival 2016

This past Sunday my cousin, Kristen, and I traveled into DC to attend a yoga festival in Brookland along the arts walk. Despite the wind chill and the sun consistently hiding behind the clouds, we had an amazing time.


We practiced yoga while pairing a safari sunset (artoga), we meditated, mindfully and compassionately, we practiced alternating nostril breathing. We made our own zen succulent gardens, our own journals, our own vision boards. Throughout this we were guided by wonderful people who were giving their day to give to us, to teach us, to learn from us, too.


The most magical part of it all was the last real workshop we stumbled into. On the schedule it was called “Conscious Dialogue” and we didn’t know what to expect, but it was better than anything I could have imagined.

We had three discussion leaders, and the theme of the discussion was authenticity. What did it mean to us to be authentic? What challenges came up in our own lives when it came to staying true to ourselves? What was meant to be an hour talk ended up going over because everyone in the room, strangers to us, was willing to open up their heart space and speak the raw truth. We brainstormed and shared stories, there was laughter, but mostly there was an energy that made it so special.

This energy felt palpable, like you could cut the air with a knife. Some late arrivals said when they entered they could feel it too, how grounded we all were for that hour or so. We held hands at the end and closed with three oms, and then no one moved. No one wanted to leave. How could you when the good vibrations in the room were so high? It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in any yoga class or meditation.

The love in the room was incredible. The safe space of that art gallery where we all sat was amazing. And truly worthy of that word, amazing.


The main things I took away from yesterday:

Be authentic. Be true to who you are, even when you feel the need to put up masks around some individuals, a variation of your authentic self.

Be compassionate. Hold your loved ones in your heart and send them love, do this for those who you sometimes find it difficult to extend compassion and love towards.

Remember everyone is being the best they can be, even if that is being rude and cutting you off, they’re doing their best in this life.

Children are the new elders, in a way. We have so much to learn from them. We forgot as we grow into adulthood the magic of being a child, but it’s not something you have to entirely let go off. Let go of caring what others think of you, you have as much right as anyone to be who you are take up your space on this earth. We’re all just guiding each other home.

Overall, it was a wonderfully windy day, and I’m so happy I got to spend it with Kristen, who also recently completed her yoga teacher training. It was an experience unlike any other, and I’m better for it.

If you’re interested in hearing more about the discussion as I only briefly skimmed over it I’d be happy to share more! Or if you’re interested in Artoga in DC I can share their information with you, definitely one of the most fun yoga classes I’ve ever been to!

Happy Monday friends! May your week be filled with mindfulness, compassion, and authenticity.

A Look Back on My Yoga Journey: October to May

I graduated from 200 hour PYT training just a couple weeks ago. I found myself a little lost after I walked away from all my omies and realized I would no longer be spending every hour of my Saturday and three hours of my Wednesday evening in the studio, on our mats, together.

It was the epitome of bittersweet. My wildest dream came true, and I was left with all good things. Opportunity for the future, and the wonderful memories and growth that came with my training were overflowing in my heart.

For me, yoga teacher training was not at all what I expected. It was more difficult than I could have ever imagined, but in the best way possible. We started as a group of total strangers, and ended as a little family of yogis. I never imagined to learn as much as I did in such a short amount of time. 8 weeks is a long time, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s just a blink of the eye.

Through teacher training, I learned more about myself than I ever had before. I learned to push my limits, to love with a full, open heart, to trust, to laugh, to be comfortable in my mat and with students and teachers. I learned what resonated with me, and I left behind what didn’t click with me.

I found teachers I adored, friends I’ll forever cherish, and skills I’ll continue to hone. The studio I trained at, CorePower Yoga, was the best place I ever could have asked to step into. Within the first few days of living in Boulder, countless people suggested I check out CorePower on The Hill, but I was skeptical. I began as a self-taught yogi, watching youtube videos and making it up as I went along. The first studio I ever went to was in my hometown in Maryland during my senior year of high school, and I couldn’t imagine finding anywhere close to the love and joy in that small, home-y studio. CorePower blew me away from the start. I was hooked after the first class, and it was there, above a pizza place on The Hill, where I fell deeper in love with my practice.

I met teachers who inspired me, found yogis I admired from afar, and realized I wanted to take the next step with teacher training in January of this year.

Now it’s May 2016, and I teach my first yoga class to family and friends this Saturday on the back porch of the house I grew up in. Which is unbelievably awesome and nerve-wracking all at once. Being a yoga teacher was one of those dreams that I never thought would happen. The one you keep in the back of your mind, like “yeah, that’d be cool, but I don’t know if I’ll ever get there.” And now I’m there. I can’t hold arm balances forever, I’m still working on my handstand, and I have my bad days on my mat still, but I’m a yoga teacher now. And I can’t wait to see where my practice goes from here.

If you take away anything from this little bit of story time, I hope it might be this: That dream in the back of your mind, whatever it is you might be cultivating in your own life, that idea itching at your brain, give it a chance, and see where it might take you. Don’t ever be afraid to dream big.