Finding Tr♀be

postcard-1I am beyond thrilled to announce the newest program under Mountain2Mountain, Tr♀be. Tr♀be is launching as a series of yoga/surf camps targeting middle school aged girls of different cultures and backgrounds.  The camps are about connecting young women together and empowering and inspiring young girls to find their voice and discuss social justice issues that affect them and their communities as a means of finding unique and sustainable solutions.

Tr♀be will be located in several countries with two phases of programming.  The initial camps launching in 2017 will be based out of Maui, Hawaii with the established local yoga and SUP/surf community, led by Sarah Callaham and focusing on local Hawaiian girls alongside local legends like native Hawaiian and pro surfer, Mariko Strickland Lum.  Additional camps in unique communities that tie back to our decade of work in Central Asia with girls will focus on Iran, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nicaragua, and Palestine and each camps will connect the girls with local women breaking barriers in their sport, adventure, and activism.  Mountain2Mountain sponsored Iran’s first surfer and snowboarder, Mona Seraji in the upcoming European FreeRide World Tour and she will be assisting with the camp in Iran next year.  In each case we would be establishing the initial camps with local girls as a means of connecting them into a community network of like-minded girls interested in social justice issues.

The second phase would involve camps that integrate the girls from various countries with each other for an exchange of culture and conversation that will plug them into global issues affecting women and girls.  These diverse girls will engage in a mutual social justice project together of their choosing and will meet with mentors to discuss application and logistics.

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Why surf and yoga?  The idea is to engage within a new environment in a unique way through sports to bond and build confidence. Yoga and meditation to integrate mindfulness, self-reflection, and focus on creative energy.  Each camp will include guest filmmakers, photographers, activists, and adventurers from diverse backgrounds to inspire and spark new ways of thinking.

This new program aims to tap into the power of young women at a key time in their development and show them they are not alone, they have a tribe of other girls and adult mentors.  Discussions around gender violence, diversity, racism, and sexism will introduce the girls to ways to recognize and identify these issues when faced with them as individuals, while knowing they have a tribe of other girls to lean into if needed.

This is part of my pivot out of Afghanistan.  I am not turning my back on the Afghan girls and programs I have started, but I am not expanding them further due to the security and corruption issues that I have written about extensively both on this blog and on Mountain2Mountain’s.  I will continue to support the Afghan girls that are riding bikes and hope to return there and to find ways to support the girls.

This holiday season your donations to Mountain2Mountain will help build the foundation of Tr♀be and you can watch the first generation of surfer yogis flourish as young activists and strong voices in their communities.  Believe in the power of voice and in the power of girls.

Mind-Body’s Shakespearian Tragedy

Pilates versus Yoga.  Meet the Montagues and the Capulets of mind-body exercise.  

“Two households, both alike in dignity….”  Two methods, both alike in purpose… yet instructors from both families defend their turf with zealousness that belies the inner nature inherent in both forms.   Pilates instructors swear off yoga, stating unsafe instruction, chanting, and obtuse spirituality, excessive overstretching, all as reasons to avoid this ancient training form.    Yogis find Pilates a little bit dull, more clinical, and too exclusive. 

As a Pilates instructor of over ten years, you may think I’d be siding with the Montagues and be prepared to defend my family to the death.  Sword drawn and reasoned thought thrown out the window.   Yet, when given the choice for my own alternative workout – I typically grab my mat and go down the street to mingle with the Capulet’s and ponder my downward dog.   

I found a great connection with Anusara yoga…in part due to its committment to building community and connections in and out of class.  I love the grounding at the beginning of class which brings me focus and readies me to pay attention and let go of the other thoughts filling up my head, competing for my attention.   I set an intent for that workout – compassion, focus, discipline.  I try to honor that intent and make it stick not just in class, but for the rest of the day.   The classes challenge me but its the time for play that hooked me.  Headstands, forearm balances, handstands, crow – all chances to fall on your face, all opportunities to laugh through the challenge.   

The pillow and the blanket are even welcomed at the end of class, when I let my body rest in corpse pose – the weight of the floor supporting my body…I find I now enjoy the 5-10 minutes quiet contemplation, and look forward for the opportunity to clear my head and let go before moving forward.  

The irony is that Pilates borrowed a lot from yoga.  Yoga has been around 5,000 plus years.  Pilates simply took the study of the movements and asanas themselves and applied them with a modern approach to anatomy and physical therapy emphasis – leaving the dogma and spirituality behind.

Its more clinical approach is easier to digest for many athletes and rehab patients.  Its hard enough to get people to slow down, focus on the breath, and THINK about what their muscles are doing, but add in the possibility of incense, chanting, and pretzel-like contortions associated with yoga sterotypes and you won’t get a foot in the door!   Pilates is less threatening, and typically safer.  

Before you Capulets get all up in arms, with the ‘safer’ comment.  Consider yoga in all its forms and all its pretzel like asanas.  Now consider how easy it is to call yourself a yoga instructor.  I’ve been to some truly painful classes ‘taught’ by instructors with little to no yoga experience.   I’ve coined the term ‘Bullshit Yoga’ for these classes that I’ve forced myself to endure, all the while wanting to walk out.  I’ve seen these teachers encourage beginner students to try headstands, full backbends, and plough with no knowledge of how to safely cue these for a healthy student, much less one coming in with injury issues.   These are the same instructors that encourage me to ‘shake it out’ in between asanas, and the nightmare instructor that actually counted breaths in each pose, the whole class was a series of her proving nothing but her ability to count to five. 

Its time to put aside the age old feud and recognize that the two methods benefit each other.  Pilates’ focus on abdominal strength and stabilization makes one’s yoga practice stronger.  Yoga’s focus on breathing and, uh, focus, improve Pilates.   Whether you be Montague or Capulet  – its the melding of the two families that makes you stronger in the long run.  Inbreeding only weakens it, and creates two headed babies…but I digress.

December 29th, 2008|Categories: Uncategorized, yoga|Tags: , |2 Comments

Happiness in a Headstand

Maybe its the rush of blood to my brain, but my yoga practice has never been as much fun as this year, thanks to serious practice on my headstands, handstands, and forearm balances.  Turn me upside down and a smile breaks through the concentration.   What use to freak me out a bit, is now my favorite part of class… and like any good knock-on effect, the more I attempt to balance upside down, the stronger I get, the more confident I become, and the more balance and grace I can infuse into my practice….the latter being extremely important after kicking a fellow student smack in the forehead (luckily he was a friend, although he may be rethinking that friendship now that his concussion has worn off).

There is something playful in finding the strength and balance needed in inversion balances.  Its like the difference in running between a track workout and a trail run.  One is work and one is play.  I have a enough work in my life, I want my free time to be playful and bring a smile to my face.  As a former dancer (ballet and modern, not pole) my ‘sport’ was expressive and playful – when I turned to trail running and mountain biking (and racing) I found the playfulness was still there just in a different, slightly more painful, form.  Yoga gives me a chance to slow down, turn my thoughts inwards, and yet still play, all while hanging out upside down.

Every Monday night one of my instructors asks us at the beginning of class if there is something we’d like to focus on – my answer is always the same.  Balance.  Standing, arm balances, or inversions – doesn’t matter.  I just love the practice of balancing and the strength that builds out of it.  Which, of course, relates back to balance I strive for in my daily life.  Big surprise.

As a former Pilates instructor, I always tell my clients, the exercises or movement patterns that they tend to avoid or don’t like to do, are usually the ones they need most.  Being aware of that, my body asks to do the opposite.  I crave the movements that are somehow reflected as lacking in my work and home.  In my case lack of balance.  It takes courage to go into inversions, strength and balance to stay there, and perseverance to keep trying after the concussion incident.  All traits I need in abundance outside of the studio.

Amazingly, my improvement in my headstands have coincided with new found strength and balance in my life.  Which came first, the chicken or the egg?  I’m not sure.  Nor am I sure it really matters.  What matters is I am evolving along with my yoga practice.  With a big grin across my face.

October 6th, 2008|Categories: Uncategorized, yoga|Tags: , , |0 Comments

My Heart is Connected to My What?

Legs quivering, I breathed deeply in an effort to distract my brain from the aching building in my thighs.   Fighting the internal pleading in my head to relax, instead I inhaled and lunged more deeply.  Body twisting with palms pressing together, my heart spun open towards the sky.  Just hold on a minute longer.

The past year has been spent contemplating such conundrums.  Relax or persevere?  Give up or suffer through?

I have rediscovered yoga and am giving it more consideration that my dabbles of the past.  Coming to the practice as not just a way to strengthen my body, but to open my heart, my compassion, and contemplate the inner workings of my mind, such as they are.

One branch of the yoga tree that I have become drawn to is Anusara.  The concept of Ansuara yoga is to work within specific principles of alignment in order allow energy, chi, prana, your choice, to flow more freely.  The heart center must soften in this system of movement and much of the cuing speaks of the opening the heart and softening the heart.  Perhaps its just a matter of timing that I am drawn to this method of practice at this point of my life.  Instilling thoughtful introspection, inspiration, playfulness, and compassion while developing a strong, flexible body helps to create the balance I desperately crave in my body, my heart, and in my daily life.

In my little mountain town there is a handful of talented, educated, and inspiring teachers to study with.   My fellow students are athletes, mixed with retirees (although most retirees in the mountains are athletes to be reckoned with).  It was on a chilly fall morning that I found myself in the above lunge, breathing heavily, and contemplating a desire for a natural disaster to end class.  The instructor asked us all tuck our tailbones a little more in order to deepen the twist, allowing our hearts to open more fully towards the ceiling.  Instead of crumpling into a sweaty, broken heap on my mat, I felt myself lift out of the pose and a smile creep across my face.   “Aha!” Chris exclaimed as my body responded to his cue.  “You didn’t know your heart was connected to your ass did you?”

Indeed I did not!

Its these ‘aha’ moments, that make the practice so much fun.  Open yourself up to change and it tiptoes into your practice.  I was no longer waiting for a cartoon anvil to drop out of the sky and crush my teacher as a means to end my suffering.   Instead I was joyful.  Strong and light, and full of energy coursing through my bones.

As in yoga, such is life.  Instead of the black and white idea of ‘relax or persevere’, ‘give up or suffer’, there is a gradient between the two where one can soften into the strength, opening the heart to the joy of the practice so that the ‘suffering’ becomes a welcome challenge to grow.  In mind, body, and spirit.

To my yoga instructors, my heart, and my ass, thank you.

 

September 11th, 2008|Categories: Uncategorized, yoga|Tags: , , , |2 Comments
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