All of the change that is going on in my life right now can be intense at times but to be honest, that is the easy part. In New York, I was working in a fast-paced, demanding job where typically the day would fly by. On top of that, this past Fall, I was in a 200-hr yoga teacher training program that took up most of my free time. I was working in an office for 10-11 hours a day and then would go to the yoga studio after work and on the weekends. It was busy and stressful - sometimes that stress was a good stress but not always. I enjoy being busy and I thrive from a healthy amount of stress (there are definitely different types of stresses 'good' stress and 'bad' stress - but that is for another blog post, another day). In fact, as I was searching for something earlier today in my Gmail inbox, an old Gchat conversation thread popped up between Peppe and me. Amidst conversations of who was going to be home first to walk Pablo and what we were going to eat for dinner, I noticed a lot of common phrases popping up from my end of the conversation. "I am so tired" "my stomach hurts really bad" "I am so stressed" "I don't feel well" were all sprinkled throughout multiple days worth of conversations. I had no fantasies, however, that once I left NYC I would be able to enjoy and languish in my unemployment. Quite the opposite, in fact, I knew that this total shift in my daily 'buzz' level would be immense. Forget learning a language, starting a career and a new life in a different country - it is the in-between period, that feeling of being in limbo, that is the hardest!
Having something that is your own, where you feel a part of a community and where you can contribute is what makes our society go round. While some of you are probably saying, "Um, I would LOVE to sit inside and watch TV and eat mac and cheese all day (or spaghetti and ketchup, if you're a Swede)!" you are lying to yourself and you know it. The only time that actually feels good is after you have been working your bum off and you are able to reward yourself by relaxing and letting your brain just settle for a bit. That balance has to be there - there is no yin without the yang and there is no yang without the yin. You know, those black and white crescent shapes that fit together into a circle? The yin yang symbol that was doodled all over my 3rd grade notebook (and yours too, I'm sure:)) - the idea that symbol represents is actually incredibly profound.
I knew that it would drive me bananas to sit idle so the first week I was here I visited several yoga studios all around the city and asked about work/study and volunteer opportunities. Since I don't have my work visa yet - this was really the best that I could do! I was met with a few people who looked at me like I had totally lost it (thank you, Rejection Therapy for getting me over that hump!) but there were a few amazing souls who immediately took me in. Starting to find a home and a routine in this nordic wonderland feels great and finding myself increasingly integrated in the yoga community here feels even better. Hopefully, when my Visa rolls around, I will also be teaching some classes at these beautiful studios. If you are in Stockholm, you must come and check out Atmajyoti in Vasastan, Yogayama in Östermalm, and Urban Om in Norrmalm - you might even see my smiling face there!
Learning how to balance life is just as important when you are crazy busy and you can barely find a moment to breathe as when you are in a transition period and your life is not scheduled to the minute. Again, everything in this world has elements of yin and yang and we need both to feel that balance.
Now, I am pushing myself in a whole new way and it is energizing! I am sure that there will be days (and there have been already) when I am so tired, stressed out, not feeling well but I hope that those days are fewer and further between and I am able to take the yang part of my life and balance it with the enternal yin.
I had the amazing good fortune of attending the Yoga Games in Stockholm on Sunday. I learned so much from each teacher's class/workshop I attended. My schedule looked like this:
Raghunath: Yoga Sutras
Raghunath, a native New Yorker, gave an inspirational lecture and touched on many aspects of the Yoga Sutras. The talk was not as structured as I thought it would be (which was a good thing). It was clear that he was speaking from his heart and that made the lecture that much more captivating. He focused on how the modern day yogi can apply and make sense of these ancient philosophies. Like the yoga nerd that I am, I took notes during the lectures and are here are a few of the highlights that I was able to write down (apologies, Raghunath, if I am accidently misquoting you on anything!): "Yogis never say, "you ARE a liar" but instead, "you are ACTING LIKE a liar." "Our intelligence becomes refined by how we cultivate it." "What goes in your ears/eyes/etc. will eventually start to come out of your mouth." "Don't think less of yourself, think of yourself less." "Your real potential is found in the divine will."
These are all pretty powerful ideas, and I know they certainly align with how I want to live my life. Raghunath also spoke about the three things that describe the atma (spirit/true self): Sat, Chit, Ananda. First, Sat is eternal and always exists in the past, present, and the future. Following that, Chit is a voice speaking to Jiva at all times and we should in fact be listening to this voice much more instead of listening to popular culture and societal norms. Finally, Ananda is eternal bliss and joy. If you are interested in reading more about Sat, Chit, Ananda here is an interesting article I found helpful:
Also, here is Raghunath's website (he offers a 35-hour online training called Born to Fly that I am really tempted to take!) :
Patrick Beach: The Alignment of Arm Balances
After the inspirational lecture from Raghunath, I was ready to move! Luckily, my next stop was with Patrick Beach. Patrick led a really fun class and the energy in the room was palpable. He had everyone pulling themselves out of their comfort zones to get into some electric (and challenging!) arm balances. He was able to break down Bakasana (Crow Pose) and gave us several different ways to get into the pose. I know that I am guilty of following the same, well-worn path in this pose and so it was awesome to try some new techniques. Patrick also has stunning blue eyes and knows how to rock a man bun so that didn't hurt either:).
Here is Patrick's website (I believe his home base is in Oregon -- all my West coast friends should check him out!):
Michael Bartelle: Survival, Sex, and Spirit
Following Patrick's powerful class I headed upstairs to Studio 2 to meet Michael Bartelle. Again (yoga nerd), I wrote some key talking points down from Michael's lecture. He spoke about the Granthis, or knots within us. Brahma granthi is the lowest knot and coorelates to survival. Vishnu granthi is the second knot and is the navel of our sexual energy - which is said to be the most powerful energy. This is why many priests and sages take a vow of celibacy, so that this energy can instead be used to honor the divine. The third knot is Rudgra granthi, sometimes known as the Shiva granthi. This is where the ego lives and where fear of change, fear of letting go, and a fear of death can arise. Michael also spoke about the seperation of Shakti (the female) and Shiva (the male) from Brahman - where everything was the same. Tantric yoga teaches to harness that intense sexual energy in a way where you are not simply 'using' your partner as a means to an end but you are able to harness the energy to bring Shakti and Shiva together in a saatvic place. Pretty intense, right?
Following this, Michael led us through an energizing vinyasa flow and then a seated meditation using breathing techniques and pranayama to move energy through the grantis. He cautioned us against practising this at home - as it can be an overwhelming experience for many practicioners. I found a lot of benefits from the meditation and through Michael's guidance during the breath work - it really was a magical mental place. Similar to myself, Michael is an expat living in Europe (London, to be exact) and you can learn more about him on his website here:
After a break for lunch and some shopping around the Yoga Games Marketplace - it was time for my final session.
Patrick Broome: Yin Yoga
I really love me some Yin Yoga and was super excited for this class. Ranja Weis was scheduled to teach the class with Patrick but right before the session was set to begin, her name was deleted from the presentor's display. Not sure what happened to Ranja. Anyway, Patrick led a fantastic class where I was able to release my left hip in pigeon more than I ever thought possible. I knew I was going to have strange dreams that night - intense hip openers always give me strange dreams!
Perhaps my least favorite pose of all time is Toe Squat. If you are not familiar with Toe Squat, you sit on your heels with your toes tucked under. Pretty simple, right? And for some people, this pose is easy peasy. For me, it is a pretty intense sensation from the beginning. Patrick, in his no-fuss, no-muss German way, had us hold the pose for 3 minutes. And breathe through the pain. It was VERY intense for me but I held out for the whole 3 minutes and when we finally came out of the pose - I could feel my toes and my feet in a whole new way. If you have never tried Toe Squat - I definitly recommend it. Typically, the poses that are your least favorite are the ones that you learn the most from.
Have a peak at Patrick's website:
After spending all day at the Yoga Games I left feeling pretty buzzed off of all the energy and omms. Stockholm has been a bit of a yoga haven for me the past few weeks. Or, I suppose, I should say that I have created a yoga haven out of Stockholm the past few weeks. Going back to one of the pearls of wisdom from Raghunath - what you constanly see, hear, feel is what will soon start to come out of your own mouth. I envelop myself in yoga asana, philosophy, research, studios, and meditation for the better part of my days here and I am finally creating my own life how I truly want to live. And it feels really good.
Here are a few photos I snapped while at Yoga Games!
Living abroad is hard. Living abroad without a job is really hard. Living abroad, without a job, and without knowing the language is even harder. BUT (and it is a big but) it is worth it. I think that a lot of the time we fantasize about living another life. I remember when I was a child and I was at my babysitter's house who I loved dearly. For whatever reason one day, I got upset and wanted to go home so my mom came and picked me up and as requested, took me home. Once I was home, I started crying. I came whining to my mom that I wanted to go back to my babysitter's house. Please!! Please I want to go back! Wisely, she said no. I asked to come home so I came home. I cannot go back and forth just on a whim!
I have no idea how old I was when that happened - maybe 5 or 6? That event has always stuck with me though. It is a feeling that I have actually struggled with ever since as well. I want to see what it is like so badly somewhere else, I want to go, leave, arrive somewhere else! But when I get there, I realize that the feeling I had was not about the physical place where I was but about the mental and emotional space I was in. That emotional tug of dissatisfaction, of fear that there is something else that I am missing, is something that has always driven me and that continues to drive me.
I take this as a positive and a negative attribute of my personality. The positive side is that I have developed a fearlessness that allows me to say, move to Sweden! Before leaving the states, people would say that I was brave, and say they could never do something like moving to another country. I don't feel brave and I don't think that I am. Fearlessness and braveness are two very different things. You have to actually feel afraid to then be brave. Since I have had the good fortune to live abroad in the past, I knew what I was getting myself into. I knew that there would be moments of excitement, a spark of awe in exploring a new place, surges of frustration, stretches of boredom, and everything in between. But those are not really things that I feared. I knew they would be there and I let them be there because they are all part of the process. I also know that eventually I will settle in, get a job, learn the language, and life abroad will just be...life. So this leads me to the negative side that this emotional ping of dissatisfaction brings up in my personality. As soon as I get settled in a place, I want to leave. I moved to New York City, one of the most action-packed cities in the world, and after years of the daily commute on the 6 train I was tired of New York. I was anxious to move and to get on with another chapter in my life. This scares me, and for obvious reasons I think. I thrive off of the challenge and the extremeness of moving to a new place, starting a new job, learning a new skill and I get bored quickly when the dust settles.
So, as I am sure some of you can guess, this brings me back to my yoga practice. I haven't gotten bored of yoga. Not even a little bit. Yoga does two things for me really, it gives me some consistency when I am almost constantly throwing myself into an inconsistent life and it gives me the opportunity to feel grounded and grateful for all that I have. When I am feeling melancholy, yoga gives the push to my psyche that I need to get over that hump. When I am feeling anxious and out of my element, my yoga mat is my home.
As I grow in my yoga practice, I am able to bring what I learn on the mat into my life more and more. I have a wonderful relationship with an amazing man, I am living in a beautiful city, and I am pursuing a dream career as a yoga teacher. I have a loving and beautiful family, I am healthy, and I have the coolest dog in the world. My yoga helps me to realize this, give thanks for it, and be content in all of it.
Have you ever heard of Rejection Therapy? I hadn't until I listened to a podcast with Jason Comely a few weeks ago. Jason was going through a rough patch in his life and was having a hard time coping with every day life. He barely wanted to leave his apartment let alone date, go on a job interview, or the like. So, in order to continue functioning in society, Jason played this game with himself called Rejection Therapy. Every day he would do something to face rejection - he would actually put himself into really uncomfortable situations just for the sake of reaching his rejection quota for the day. It might sound crazy at first but when you think about it, it is pretty empowering because...what do you have to lose? You can go to Jason's site (http://rejectiontherapy.com) and buy a set of cards that give you a rejection to embark on each day. For example, say 'hello' to 3 strangers in a grocery store. The number one rule is: you must be rejected by at least one person every single day.
But instead of buying the cards, I got creative (and thrifty!) and am playing my own game of rejection therapy. Not so much following any hard and fast rule but using the thought process to just put myself out there in different situations. Going to talk to a Swedish real estate broker? Walking into a random yoga studio and asking about potential jobs or volunteer opportunities? Going solo to an expat meet up? Just the simple awkwardness of having no idea what someone is saying and then responding in a different language just hoping they won't stare at you like you have gone mad? What is the worst that could happen? You got it - being rejected. If that fear instead becomes a goal well then, the fear just vanishes. It is a pretty interesting concept and has given me confidence in situations where I would have otherwise been squeamish. Try it -- go ahead and get rejected. It's really not so bad.
And now for a couple of photos from this beautiful city I love being rejected in...
It has been 4 days since our plane landed in Stockholm, Sweden and 4 days of exploring my new city, jet lag, eating out, eating in, meeting up with friends, yoga, and did I mention jet lag?