Girl talk/stillness/ramblings

 

In our society we value the ability to get over things quickly. When something bad happens we immediately say, no it’s ok, don’t worry about me. Especially women (men, I believe aren’t even asked about what is wrong or allowed to go into it. Some don’t want to. I do not understand exactly why, though I can conjecture. While I think that some of this truly is personal preference regarding the way we all deal with trauma and grief differently, there is certainly also a societal standard put on men that is well documented and noted by many.) I have had countless conversations with friends who have expressed frustration with parents and loved ones who want to find the solution so quickly that they forget to take a moment to honour the grief and pain that resides within traumatic experiences. I also like to just get through it, and get to the other side

For me, when I am PMSing, the frustration and grief can become overwhelming. It can make even the slightest imposition or snarky remark feel deeply personal and unpleasant. So, frustrating. Magnesium supplements, I have found, have helped me to chill out a bit with those feelings. I have also tried anti-depressants at times, the right does of the right medication I found did wonders for me when I needed to no longer feel like the world was coming to an end. No matter how much a cajoled myself, be still, Ego, my love, be still. I love you. It is ok, it isn’t just about you. Take a breath, we are going to be ok. Usually this time is evident because of these feelings, double check the calendar and here we are, about four days to go. These are the moments when our practice is tested and utilised, right? The moments when we call upon our strongest highest selves to surmount all the negativity and frustration. But, this week has been one where glazing over the pain and just moving on never seemed to work. Everything went wrong or felt wrong. But, maybe that is actually just right.

After an insane morning that I don’t need to describe because I am sure that you have had one of those mornings where nothing goes right: the dog eats your homework for real. I couldn’t even settle into my own practice. But,I pushed through a practice anyway, mostly floating on the edges of each asana, managed to sit still through a minute of savasana before the devoirs (must dos) pulled me away and back to “adulting.” After putting out a few domestic fires in the afternoon and deciding not to push myself to my physical or emotional limits, I made my way home and decided today I needed to have no where to be.

Finding some quiet space, I gave over to the sounds of youtube in hopes of having someone else lead me into a more fulfilling somatic experience. The barre class began well for me. I got warm, moved, found my psoas, and then about a third of the way through I paused. I had to sit. Be still. My scar tissue was aflame in my pelvis (not with pain but with feeling). Tears were welling up in my eyes. Be still. And so I was. Being in my pelvis, this juncture I have been trying to “fix” for the past two years now after an attempted robbery turned into an assault on the streets of Casablanca. Be still. And so I was. I found the rivers of connective tissue running around and across my sacrum, rolled the bowl of my pelvis across the earth, shifting its contents first north to south then east to west. Tears still pressing to my eyes. And in this moment there was a sigh, not a complete release, but a sigh. There, now. 

Perhaps this is the reason many women become so sensitive and aware of their frustrations at this time before we bleed. Perhaps this is the moment when we get to let go of all those things that are so pent up inside for so many days. The things we just let slide off our backs, the little trespasses and cruel gestures that we “didn’t let get to us”. This time when everything seems so personal and jarring is a gift. A time to turn in and release. In the same way that in autumn the trees allow their leaves to drop to the earth and are bare, vulnerable and focusing internally we prepare and shed and feel all the raw feelings that didn’t leave with a hopeful exhalation. This is our autumn as women. You are a deciduous beast, and now it is time for you to to prepare to shed what is not needed. So, this dreadful PMS or PMDD, should you be one who experiences such things, can serve you. Can be a time for you to be with you. To take care of you. To cry or rage and scream because things are not ok sometimes. This time is a tool to let go of those poisonous things that threaten you. Use it to your health instead of being fooled into thinking it is a sign of your own weakness.

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Lunar Flow with Shiva Rea

Shiva Rea is such an inspirational yoga teacher. This flow is not too rigorous. It flows with beauty and feels lovely in the hips and heart. My recommendations: make sure you take the time to enjoy the spinal articulation as you roll down to the earth. Be aware of the length of the spine and head/tail connection. Also, when you come up in cobra, it is probably best to keep your elbows slightly bent. She straightens hers at the peak of cobra, be safe. Listen to your body. 🙂 Breathe and enjoy!

 

Creating a safe space for Sadhana

I was just looking at a great website http://www.decolonizingyoga.com/  you should check it out. I am really glad media like this exist. This website and some great articles there have gotten me thinking about how welcoming the studios I work in make space for students and for teachers. Making a safe space in the yoga classroom is so very crucial to the process. So, I want to start off by voicing my “skinny girl” support of “fat yoga”. Before you start telling me how unhealthy obesity is, you can save your breath, I agree a healthy lifestyle is crucial to EVERYONE. However, being healthy does not mean being skinny.

Do you remember the first time you said something awful about someone else and realised it? I must have been about ten or eleven; just beginning to care about what people thought about how I looked. I saw a girl who I thought was ugly and I said something mean about her to my mother. I didn’t ridicule her, she was several meters away, and I think it was the first time I said something like that on purpose. I was usually the kid who got teased, not the kid who teased. I don’t remember what it was exactly, but it stemmed from my own fear of not being accepted: being unattractive, uninteresting, uncool, you know, all those things pre-teen girls worry about. (Which is not to dismiss the importance of those things to a young person’s mind). My mother turned to me sternly and said:

“That was not fair, she cannot help the way she looks. How would you feel if someone said something like that about you?” When she said that, I remembered how often I heard my mother criticise herself, or saw her navigating her own feelings about her body. I knew how awfully painful it was to watch her feel so bad for absolutely no reason. I was ashamed at myself and frankly relieved that my mom told me I was under no circumstances to speak of anyone in that way, whatever mean thought might appear in my head. Her reproach felt so true. I also realised that if I had had the urge to say something awful about another girl’s appearance, she probably heard those things from a multitude of other people. I then thought about how hurtful that must be for her, to be judged based on her appearance. If it is unacceptable to judge people based on color, or height, or gender, nose prominence, finger nail length or ear lobe shape, than it most certainly MUST be unacceptable to judge people based on their weight. I relate this story because this lesson really should be something we teach our children and learn as children. Yet, somehow, the world of westernised yoga insists on clinging to exclusivity and prejudice.

Not so long ago a fellow yoga teacher and friend who was visiting me from the UK and I walked into a yoga studio where I was teaching. She and I had met in University where we were dancing together, and she was continuing her work as a dancer and choreographer in London. She is also a voluptuous woman who is in great shape. I introduced her to the studio owner as my friend who is also a yoga teacher. “Oh,” he said, “really?” as he looked her up and down. I was horrified and wanting him to realise that he was being ridiculous responded. “yes, she is amazing!” (and it’s true, she is). When we were alone in the changing room she commented about the interaction, we were both totally shocked at this rude and utterly inappropriate moment. I apologised for him. I felt responsible as she was my guest and also dismayed that one yoga teacher and owner of a space for yoga would be so quick to pass judgement on anther teacher. How can the studio be a safe space if we don’t affirm that our teachers come in all packages? How can we allow our students to be at ease if we are not tolerant of every body?

We all pass judgement on each other. We do this daily. We are all a bit racist/sexist/homophbic/agist/you name it ist/ic. Humans like to categorize and our cultural context has an impact, weather we like to think it does or not. The whole point of a yoga practice is to liberate one’s self from the shackles of “reality” in its most mundane form. It is to clear the way for wholeness, to reconnect our subtle self, our thoughts, our souls, to our bodies. How can we possibly do that if we do not examine our own issues as teachers and allow ourselves to see beyond what the web of cultural context dictates?

Here are some ways I believe we can cultivate a safe space for our students to practice and teachers to transmit and grow.

  1. Make the studio space open and warm to everyone who walks in the door, whatever their state when they arrive. Including fellow students. Including yourself. Teach and act in a way that helps students to feel better about themselves, not worse.Yoga students come in every shape, size, color, and background. Our job as teachers is to facilitate growth for all students. Sometimes yoga students become yoga teachers, therefor, yoga teachers also come in every shape, size, color, and background. Not all yoga teachers are skinny white girls, as more and more people are pointing out. Not all yoga teachers can do inversions. Not all yoga teachers have a perfect bill of health mentally or physically. We come to yoga because we are broken, and that experience of being broken makes us better teachers.
  2. Teach with love. It sounds super corny, I know. It was one of the best pieces of advice I got from a fellow teacher who was much more experienced and much wiser than I. I had just started teaching in an elementary school, and he said, you have to love them, especially the troublemakers. They can sense bull shit, so never bull shit them, but you have to teach with love. If a student is irritating you, and yes, yoga teachers can become irritated too, that student is your new teacher. This irritation is either pointing out something you must conquer in yourself or helping you to become a better teacher. Be kind to all your students.
  3.  Pay attention to signs of eating disorders and don’t feed the fire.  I do not compliment people on loosing weight, nor do I comment on gaining weight. I tell people when they seem happy, or glowing. I tell them they are beautiful and radiant. I praise them for asking questions. I am not being mean by not recognising how hard a student tries to “get healthy”, I would rather see them attain full health regardless of size.
  4. Be aware of students boundaries, some times students really don’t want to be/can’t handle being touched in adjustments or in savasana. If a student has experienced significant trauma, certain imagery or touch can trigger a host of emotions and memories. This article has some great pointers about that, but generally it is a good idea to ask before you touch, and respect a student’s right to decline physical contact. Also, encourage, but don’t force someone to go further in a pose than they are ready to attempt.
  5. Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know.” You are on a journey, just like everyone else. There will be times when you don’t know what to do, say or don’t have an answer to a question. Be honest. Use what you know to provide pertinent information, and otherwise tell the truth and then GO DO RESEARCH. It is amazing what you can learn with a simple google search. This is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign that you are willing to grow.

I may add things to this list, maybe you can think of some that I didn’t think of. Have a great weekend.

This Saturday! AcroYoga Jam in Casablanca

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I am so excited and honored to host the first AcroYoga JAM in Casablanca, Morocco!!!!! The Jam is fully booked, but I can’t wait to share with you the outcome of our event! We are planning to hold the second Jam in November. More information on that to come. Here is the link to the event page. I want to extend a special thank you to Melinda Erickson and Nada Mehdi of Yogablanca as well as Jerome Famechon for making this event possible. Let’s continue to build the community through connection and play! The class will be in French primarily and also translated into English, hopefully in Arabic too soon. Click here for more information concerning AcroYoga! Wow this is the hyper link post of hyper link posts lol.

Also, happy Islamic New Year! Hope you folks in Casa enjoyed your day off, you deserve it.

Kayla Ankeny, SahajaSoma

To my body

which regularly travels three continents, and traverses the diverse cultural constructs found there.

To my body which has been groundlessly shamed, in spite of the protection all loved ones have placed around me.

To my body, which has endured sexual abuse, both above and under the influence, in youth and maturity.

To my body that dances through the madness and heals even as it terembles.

To my body, which has been attacked and battered without provocation, and in spite of my attempts of self defense.

To my body, which I have have abused, and occasionally still do, and hope never to do again. And again. And again.
To my body that practices, sustains, and grows with every breath and cycle.

To my body, that is so much blood and bone, fat and muscle. That is skin and other organs in and out that deal with the world and taking it in.

To my body, and your body, you deserve so much more than destruction.  I hope you know your beauty. I hope you live your strength.


As a yoga teacher and a body worker, I strive at all times to provide my students and clients with a safe space. By the time I came to yoga, at the age of 14, I had already endured sexual abuse. It was my discovery of my body through yoga and dance, and the help of a loving community, that allowed me to move forward. Capoeira was my next step along the path, and was my island of safety during an eating disorder, PTSD, and the process of recovery.

The wound is the place where the light enters you. – Rumi

This evening, I was body shamed, for being “half-naked” in some of my recent yoga pictures. I then deleted almost all of those pictures from Instagram. With the unfaltering support of my partner and husband, and after an emotional conversation with a dear friend in Australia, who pointed out to me I have nothing to be ashamed of, I wrote this and decided to show myself again… Not for pity or approbation, but because I know I’m not alone. I know there are other people who have faced greater obstacles in finding center and over come them. All I can do is bear witness in my life to my struggle and maybe, in doing so, I will affirm the struggle of others.

If my words sound familiar, no matter what your body type, history or status, please know you are not alone. Please know that agency is yours for the taking. Claim your power. Know your beauty. Release pride for a deeper awareness; you are not better because you aren’t someone else, you are amazing because of who you are.

And, now that I have shown you much of my inner self, with words that still terrify me as I submit them to public view, I am finally going to bed. And I am posting some of those pictures I took down. Thanks for reading.

May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be free from all suffering. May you share your gifts with the world, and may you know your true self in this lifetime.

Kayla Ankeny, SahajaSoma

Good Morning Vinyasa Flow (English/Français)

I head back to the states for about a month next week. This weekend, I won’t have much if any wifi, so I am posting this mini practice for folks while I am still riding the wave of inspiration.

So if miss our classes in Casa while I am away or you are away or the studio is closed because it’s Eid, or you just like yoga here you go!  I think anyone can enjoy this flow.

Please be aware of your breath, this can be done with ujai pranayama or simply with deep full breaths. If you have ever taken a class with me you know this is one my favorite ways to begin. This sequence is warming and not too rigorous. The sequence is designed to stimulate the central nervous system, bring coordination and harmony to the core and a full awareness of the body in space. Make sure you do both sides 😉 enjoy!

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Commencez dans le posture de l’enfant. Laissez le front au sol , les anches aux talons. Créez votre intention ici et respirez profondement. Lachez tous ce dont vous n’avez pas besoin. Quand vous vous resentez complete, ramenez les hanches en haut des genoux, les epaules en haut des poigners.

Begin in child’s pose, seated on the knees hips resting on your heels or a rolled up blanket if you find it uncomfortable to sit all the way down. Allow your head to drop to your knees. The spine lengthens across the thighs. Feel the gentle traction of gravity as your hips and forehead sink down to the floor in opposite directions. Become aware of your breath. Slowly allowing the inhales to deepen and the exhales to be more complete. Relax the muscles of the face and the throat, be at ease here.

Set your intention before you begin, weather you wish to cultivate a healing quality in your life, or there is someone on your heart. Dedicate your practice to this intention.

When you are ready inhale and come to a table top position. The shoulders are over the writs and knees are under the hips joints. Feel the length of the spine between the crown of the head to the tail. Allow the energy of the central channel to continue in both directions beyond the physical body.

Cat/Cow

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Expirez, arrondissez le dos, nombril ver les lombaires. Inspirez regardez vers l’avant la queue derriere le dos en extension.

Exhale, round the spine, gaze towards the navel curling the tail into the center as well. With your inhale, gaze forward, opening the spine with the sits bones opening upwards (happy butts 😉 ). Continue with this cycle 5 more times.

Cat/Cow Variation

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Avec votre inspiration, ramenez le pied droit derrière, et la main gauche devant. Cherchez loin avec ces deux points opposés. Trouvez le connexion entre haut, bas, droit et gauche du corps, lié vers le nombril. Expirez puis ramenez le coude et le genou en bas. Activez les ab-dos et poussez le nombril vers le bas du dos. Continuez avec ce cycle 5 fois.

Inhale the right heel back and the left hand forward, creating oppositional energy between the top and bottom halves of the body and the right and the left side. Connect these two energies through the belly button. As you exhale, draw the left elbow and the right knee to center. Exhale and Inhale deeply as you continue with 5 more cycles of this cat/cow variation.

In this pict, my hand is a little forward of my shoulder, please make sure your hand is under the shoulder.

Three Legged Downward Facing Dog

Expirez et remplacez la main gauche au sol, maintenez le talon droit loin. En inspirant, poussez avec les mains contre le sol et poussez la jambe droite dans l’air, la tête en bas. Avec votre expiration, activez les abdos et ramenez le genou droit vers le poitrine, les épaules en haut des poigners et placez le pied entre les mains pour la fente.

Exhale the left hand to the floor, right leg still extended. Inhale , press both hands to the floor and send the right foot up to the sky for one legged down dog. On your next exhale, engage your center, bring your right knee to your chest and place the foot between the hands for a lunge.

Lunge

Inhale and lengthen through the spine, finding energy from the crown to the tail and the length of the left leg. Anchor the right foot into the earth.

À la fente, activez la longue de la jambe gauche, ancre le pied droite au sol. Mettez plus d'espace entre les arrachis, activez l'enérgie entre la crâne et la cueue.

À la fente, activez la longue de la jambe gauche, ancre le pied droite au sol. Mettez plus d’espace entre les arrachis, activez l’enérgie entre la crâne et la cueue.

Anjaneyasana 

Inhale and bring the arms overhead, lengthen the spine out of the pelvis. Bring the belly to the lower back to support the spine. If you wish, you can reach back and open the heart for a spinal extension.

Inspirez, ramenez le bras en haut de la tête, montez la colonne vertebrale du basin. Mettez le nombril ver les lombaires pour soutenir le dos. Si vous voulez vous pouvez aussi ouvrir le coeur et mettez le dos en extension. Respirez ici deux fois.

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Expirez, ramenez la main gauche à côté du pied droit. Levez la main droite vers le ciel et regardez vers les doigts. Grandissez toujours le longue du colonne vertebral. Gardez aussi l’énergie dans le talon gauche. Ouvrez le frontière de la poitrine et ramenez les omoplates vers le centre du dos. Restez ici trois bons respirations. Déposez la main droite au sol, et vinyasa.

Twisted lunge

Exhale, bring the left hand down to the the inside of the right foot, lift the right arm to the sky and gaze towards the right finger tips. Create space across the chest. Breath from the crown of the head to the tail. Knit the shoulder blades together. After 3 breath cycles here, bring the right hand down to the outside of the right foot, replace the right foot next to the left and Vinyasa.

inspirez chien tête en haut, expirez chien tête en bas. Restez ici pendant cinq respirations. Déposez les genoux au sol et recommencez dès le début. To end, return to child’s pose, take some deep breaths here. Have a great day!!!!! Namaste.\

Plank or knees, chest and chin to the floor, inhale, rise to up dog, exhale downward facing dog. Repeat the whole cycle to the other side ending in down dog. From here you can continue your practice, or go about your day. Savasana is always a good idea after practice. It is the most crucial yoga pose. Take a moment, lie on your back, close your eyes and rest.

Have a great rest of you day!!!!!!

May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be free from all suffering. May you share your gifts with the world, and may you know your true self in this lifetime.

Kayla Ankeny, SahajaSoma

*Vinyasa Yoga * Aerial Yoga * Acro Yoga JAMbassador * Dance * Therapeutic Massage* World Music * Capoeira*