Wanderlust 2017- Twin Cities

If there’s one thing all my friends can agree on, it’s that my coordination on the yoga mat does not translate to the dancefloor. Regardless, I’m glued to any and all wedding dance floors, and have yet to see a shimmy that can rival my own.

So it was somewhat out of character when in Zimbabwe this January, I passed up the opportunity to join in on a large dance circle at our Boma, a traditional african dinner. It was a large circle that would alternate bringing one person into the middle, and some of these people were just amazing dancers. I worried about getting pulled to the middle and not knowing what to do, so I found a place to perch and watch with my sister.

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Place settings at the Boma

The spunky mother-daughter duo on our trip jumped in right away, and when the free-spirited daughter Wendy came back, I remember telling her with a bit of envy, “That looked so fun, it was really cool to watch.”

She replied, “Oh, yeah I wasn’t watching it- I was IN it!”

The words stung a bit, and stuck with me to become my one regret of my trip.

We could credit this to my rampant FOMO, or any cliche “I Hope You Dance” lyric, but it was something more. It was a clear moment where fear stopped me from having an experience I’ll rarely get again. Where I worried more about what strangers from the other side of the world would think more than my own desires.

I hadn’t thought about this in a while, but was reminded over the weekend while attending the Twin Cities Wanderlust event, the world’s only mindful triathlon.  After completing a 5k (part 1) on a scenic St. Paul trail, our 90 minute yoga class (part 2) was to start soon, followed by a guided meditation (part 3).
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Rather than starting the class right away, the lively emcee cued the DJ to play some party music and she was getting the crowd revved up on stage. With everyone on their mats, she was inviting everyone to start dancing- which is not something people are used to starting a yoga class with. I was bouncing around (another one of my signature moves) on my mat, when I noticed someone was invited on stage.

I mentioned to my coworker, Belinda, how fun it would be to go on stage. She encouraged me to go to the front so that if they called anyone else on, I would get to go. I think she suggested this partially to get me to dance somewhere else, but also because she likes to bring out a more carefree and bold side of others.

Thinking of the Boma, I ran to the front stage. The emcee asked who wanted to go on stage, and I fan girled hard. I was disappointed when she picked a group of three friends to come up,  but I knew me and my bad dance moves could break her down with persistence.

Once another pair was called up, I decided there was no reason I needed to wait for an invitation. If I wanted to dance on stage in front of thousands of people like a crazy person, it would be pretty pathetic to miss out just because I wasn’t called on.

So I ran up with them like we’d know each other for years.

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The view from stage, which I knew my words couldn’t do justice

It was unbelievable. I knew there was no space for overthinking like I did in Africa, or half-assed bopping like I did on my mat. So I just danced however I wanted. I was completely in my own element with thousands of faceless yogis cheering me on.

Until I recognized two of the faces, my best friends Alyx and Megan, who I also had come with moved to the front of the stage.

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A year ago, I was working up the courage to practice yoga in my sports bra. Truly. As an active meditation, I would wear a sports bra (instead of a tank top) to class and challenge myself to maintain positive self talk regardless of what was reflected in the mirrors.

Dancing on stage, in that same feared get up, in front of thousands, and being filled with the utmost joy and energy, that to me is the epitome of freedom.

In the yoga class that followed, we were reminded, “No more playing small, this is your time to live big.”

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Plank club- find best friends who also have this as their idea of fun

Wanderlust allowed me to see whether it’s a scenic 5k, a once in a lifetime dance party, a 90 minute flow with a live DJ, or an outdoor meditation, it’s all yoga. It’s a mindset. It’s saying yes, and allowing yourself to experience things as fully as you can.

Yoga is an opportunity to celebrate being alive, and express gratitude for every part of your being.

We focus so much on being smaller, fitting a certain mold, and refining the edges that aren’t perfect. There’s no need to ask permission, show up exactly as you’re meant to today- whether that’s dancing your hardest, laughing (in my case, cackling) your loudest, and daring greatly in every way.

Give yourself permission to take up space, to be seen. I promise you, there’s nothing better.

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What survived of our body paint
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Guided meditation- Wanderlust 2017 Twin Cities

Minneapolis with Mountains

Our yoga mats waiting to board, they became great friends.
Our yoga mats waiting to board, they became great friends.

It started as a “I wish we could.” Scrolling through photos of previous Yoga on the Rocks classes, imagining a city comparable to Minneapolis surrounded by mountains, and dreaming of a lifestyle that permitted guilt-free weekend travels. It’s very similar to how many of our friendships started. Being tied together by previous leadership positions, interests, and mutual friends then transitioned into seeing each other almost every day for 6 am yoga sessions, then to lunch/happy hours, life dilemma debriefs, and most significantly, for no reason at all.

Just as quickly, plans for our Denver weekend materialized and the countdown began. There’s something so powerful about travelling with like-minded people, driven by the best question “why not?” Our long weekend was filled with hiking, yoga {on paddleboards and on land}, being too enveloped in conversation to read the books we brought to the pool, shopping, brewery-runs, lots of eating, and explaining that we weren’t a bachelorette party despite the wedges and lipstick. It may not be everyone’s ideal, a sentiment I am used to, but that’s how you know you’re surrounding yourself with the right people. No complaints over here.

While there’s enough Insta’s to create a travel brochure, one of my greatest takeaways from this weekend was the concept of mental souvenirs. Some would call these memories {eye roll included} but I would call them boring.

Always one for the you-do-you mentality, I decided to go for a run after our paddleboarding adventure. Much IMG_2869to Alyx’s dismay, I left my phone behind with the defense of being able to run in Europe and not get lost prepared me for the moment. Sidebar, I actually got lost for hours during my first run in Rome, but that didn’t seem relevant at the time.

Following a paved trail close to the beach, I stumbled upon an archery range, wildlife signs, and secluded houses. Feeling the heat of the Colorado sun, I picked a stopping point in the distance, which happened to have an amazing view of the mountains, hills, prairies, valleys, and houses all leading into one another. As your classic millennial, my first thought was I wish I had my phone. But my second thought was how refreshing it was to be present. To see and savor instead of snap and share. This view is my mental souvenir.

As the weekend continued, I found connectivity wasn’t just in the scenery of Colorado. Everyone we met was warm and inviting, taking genuine interest in what brought us there. While we may pride ourselves on being products of the “Minnesota Nice” mentality, their authenticity set it apart. We also quickly learned that every CO resident who isn’t born there is considered a “transplant,” a term everyone insisted we would soon identify with.

Huge thank you to our beautiful host Becca
Huge thank you to our beautiful host Becca

By the time Friday night fell behind the peaks, we were exhausted from hiking Mount Sanitas and touring Boulder. Normally, when I suggest waking up at 5 am on vacation I get shut down very quickly, and people start to question why they went on vacation with me in the first place. Luckily, this group of yogis could agree sunrise at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre was a non-negotiable.

Once we arrived for Yoga on the Rocks {or #CPYontheRocks}, a 4-part series of guest led yoga classes in the amphitheatre, we knew all the planning and travelling {and PTO use, holla} was well worth it. Much like the 6 am classes we frequent, the venue was filled mat to mat and energy was bouncing between the peaks, despite the early start time. Our instructor for the day, the Minneapolis CPY-role model Joel, added to the unforgettable feels. From making us laugh—“Reach your arms forward like you’re seeing your favorite niece or nephew at Christmas. You don’t have a favorite, but they’re your favorite”—to creating a greater purpose for the group of 2,000 yogis—“Dedicate this practice to a friend who doesn’t know you’re thinking of them, a friend you need to tell ‘I love you,’ a friend you need to tell you’re sorry, a friend that doesn’t know they are beautiful”—which I committed to my first yoga friend, my mom.

There are too many photos to share, and even more stories to tell, and in reality I lost your attention a few IMG_2966paragraphs go, maybe got it back for the photos, but the Netflix tab at the top of the screen is going to trump sooner than later. It’s not everyday that we can plan trips and make choices that to others may seem extreme. I have had to answer the question “You went to Denver for a yoga class?” many times. On paper, yes, yes we did. But I don’t think it takes a health, yogi, or outdoor enthusiast to agree that this was so much more.

I think a lot of times, the best decisions do not make sense. Your bank account may not remember agreeing to it, your calendar may feel abused, but opportunities like these are driven by that “gut” feeling. For you, maybe it’s not a yoga class at Red Rocks, but whatever it is, stop consulting external factors and just say yes. Why not?

The Cleanse to Clarity

cleanse quoteI never understood doing a cleanse. I tried various juice cleanses—usually a loose interpretation of a recipe combined with what I had immediate access to—always with the subconscious knowledge that it would last less than 24 hours.

So a few months ago, right at the end of the semester, when I was faced with the opportunity to do a juice cleanse, I was surprised to hear myself say yes.  The difference, however, from the previous attempts and my 3-day Juice So Good cleanse was the intention. I had just completed the most difficult semester of my college career, and only had finals between me and graduation. I was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and more than anything, wanted to leave that emotionally and mentally draining tunnel behind me in my path. Previously, everything about a cleanse sounded miserable; but suddenly, everything about it made sense.

I headed over to the Apple Valley CorePower studio, where the cleanse was kicking off with a detoxifying C2 vinyasa class. We started the practice by writing on a post-it the reverse of the negative track that plays in your head. If you’re one to think I’m not enough, a mantra could instead be I am loved. We then slid the post-its under our mats and let that mantra guide our practice and set the tone for our cleanse.

The next three days and eighteen juices still stand out in my mind. I found cleansing isn’t about deprivation. IMG_1831It’s the conscious process of giving yourself exactly what you need without the sugars, vices, additives, stress, people, thoughts, and stories that are no longer serving you. It’s taking the power away from every external factor and bringing it back to yourself. It’s diminishing those tracks that inspired the mantras on our post-its, and recognizing that negative thoughts only exist because we allow them to.

Sure, it’s only juice—mind you, a main ingredient is love—and it’s only three days of our luckily long lives. But the intention behind this process made it memorable and impactful enough to still inspire a blog post three months later.

Speaking as someone who rarely does this, it’s usually the experiences where we actively put ourselves first that stay with us the longest. I am fascinated by the way our bodies and minds communicate; how reaching new intensity or mindfulness in a workout can lead to similar breakthroughs the next day at work. How going on regular walks can help calm our thoughts when we’re stuck in traffic. And as a result of this cleanse, how bringing only good into our bodies can inspire, motivate, and strengthen us to oust the bad from our daily lives.

So what’s your story? The track that plays over and over that only positivity and self-love is strong enough to silence? What is your vice? What is no longer serving you? And most importantly, what is the reverse? What do you wish you could remind yourself of on a regular basis? What would you infiltrate your body and mind with if given the chance? Do it today.

p.s. the post-it that reads “you deserve life-giving love and support” stills sits on my dashboard. 

Give Not Get

At some point in the holiday season, despite all the decorations and upbeat music, it’s not uncommon for many to think I hate this. 

The crowded stores, searching for that perfect gift, and the stress of planning can set in for even the most spirited souls. Although there aren’t too many ways to fix this, we can avoid it.

Focusing on gifts that stray away from the material may be the key to putting the happy back in the holidays-

Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 6.03.42 PM1. Fair Enough- Make your purchases count with sites like Ten Thousand Villages, which celebrate community arts and handmade goods while being completely Fair Trade. Items like this Mosaic Menorah ensure that every gift will be one of a kind and one to remember.

2. Wear it on your sleeve- Although Alex and Ani bracelets may be all the rage, Bead for Life allows you to support Ugandan women that make jewelry in their community. If sustainable jobs aren’t enough, the beads are easy on the environment as well!

3. Make it an experience– Skip the box and say it with a dayyoga coupon on the calendar. In an age of busy and busier, taking time of out your schedule is much more meaningful than taking your card out of your wallet. I’ve done this with special yoga classes with my mom, sushi dinners with my sister, and concert tickets for my parents’ 30th anniversary.

4. Cheers to that- turn beer to food, and food to good. Yes, with Finnegans beer you can support the Finnegans Community Fund, which purchases fresh produce from local farms. They then donate the produce to food shelves, giving meals to those who need it most. College kids, rejoice!

5. Share your light- As a candle-enthusiast, these are some of my favorites. Man-Cans are candles that are made in soup cans, after the soup is donated to a local food bank. The scents are targeted towards men, but don’t worry, they also have a line of SheCans. These add inspirational words below the label, like She Can Be fearless, which you can match to the receiver of this wonderful gift.

Wishing you the happiest of holidays!

Give Thanks

Dark early mornings, crowded stores, and frantic (to say the least) shoppers come to mind when we think of the unofficial holiday that sits at the heels of Thanksgiving. However, the rising sun, a warm room with zen music, and yogis on their mats made up my Black Friday this year.

Teaching yoga while I am home for holidays breaks is more than “convenient” or “a great set up,” it’syoga rejuvenating, grounding, and incredibly rewarding.

Although I have the opportunity to teach yoga at school as well, there’s a comforting nostalgia when I am able to come back to the studios where I gained so much experience early on in my yoga career. I remember the summer days I taught on the outdoor deck, telling my students about my first year away from home, and working on remembering my sequences without looking at my written out plan for the class.

Remembering these classes reminds me how much has changed in the last four years. As college students, we don’t always realize how much we change and grow. I think it’s because we forget that we are growing- we forget we’re young- so we can’t imagine ourselves much differently than who we are today.

Regardless of age or stage in life, I think we all forget to take a moment to recognize how far we have come. We are always thinking about what’s left on the to-do list, what title we haven’t accomplished, and the places we haven’t seen. However, it’s what we have done, who we’ve become and where we’ve been that set the stage for everything that is to come. Without recognizing this, we lose the opportunity to learn from and appreciate each and every experience.

In an age of new not being new enough, there’s something to be said for going back to the basics.

gratitudeThanksgiving wins year after year as my favorite holiday, I find so much charm in its simplicity and values-based celebration.  We spend time, rather than money; celebrate the gift of life, rather than new possessions; and fill our plates, rather than our greed.

However, with the holiday shopping season starting earlier and earlier every year, we run the risk of this holiday- and this grounding mindset- being lost in the shuffle. Regardless of stores’ opening hours, I believe expressing gratitude, whether its to others or to yourself, preserves the essence of Thanksgiving.

No, we may not be able to avoid the consumer-crazy season. However, remembering the value in what you already have may be even more intriguing than shiny and sleek items. Who knows, maybe you’ll even put down the to-do list down and cross a few items of your wish list instead.

3 Years, 5 Lessons, Countless Downdogs

Passion has been a bit of a buzzword for me lately. It could be from creating inspiration boards with kindergarten-3rd grade students, the Greek Awards recommendation letters I’ve been writing, or from the Tazo tea called Passion that I drink daily.

More than anything though, I think it’s credited to the recent Downdogs for Diabetes event. If you aren’t familiar, this is my sorority’s annual fall philanthropy event; a yoga class, led by yours truly, that benefits the Alpha Gamma Delta Foundation. I’m simply unable to explain my involvement and energy surrounding this event, without touching on passion.

DSC_56The Alpha Gamma Delta Foundation benefits diabetes education, research and awareness; along with many other initiatives to support Alpha Gam alumnae in need. The University of Minnesota Alpha Gamma Delta chapter (Delta) holds 2-3 fundraising events each year to support the Foundation. Downdogs began three years ago, and I’m thrilled to see that it’s had staying power.

Even for those not studying public relations and/or with a love for events, Downdogs has taught me a few things over the years, all of which I couldn’t have learned if it weren’t driven by passion. As graduation approaches, and people of all stages in life continue to stress about the future, I think tapping into passion may be just as calming as a downward facing dog-

1. Stay on brand– Downdogs for Diabetes has been successful as a fall philanthropy because it stayed true to Alpha Gam. Our Purpose, which is like a values based mission statement, outlines the importance of health and wellness. Focusing on what you value- and what you don’t- can put things into perspective. This along with the yoga classes held in our living room, Alpha Gam and yoga go hand in hand. Although it had not been done before, this event wasn’t a huge stretch (no pun intended).

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The first Downdogs for Diabetes, 2012.

2. Shake it up– From the lines outside Mesa at bar close, to the club meetings that advertise with only two words- free food-we’ve all seen (and experienced) how people are motivated by food. As a result, this event was pretty unconventional compared to other fundraisers for our chapter and for the community. However, risk taking is essential for innovation and allowed our chapter to discover a new tradition.

3. Authenticity is key– This ties in with numero uno, and is probably the most important of them all. Downdogs wouldn’t have started or succeeded had I not had genuine enthusiasm and trust that it could. If your vision is authentic, you’ll be able to get others to envision it as well.

4. Details can come later– When I originally planned Downdogs for Diabetes, I wasn’t sure exactly where it would take place, if people would like it, or what impact it would have. I just knew there was only one way to find out, which rings true for professional and personal life scenarios. You won’t make any strides forward or try anything new if you’re waiting for guaranteed success.

5. Gophers can’t be tamed– Okay but actually. Goldy attended this year’s event, and was a bit more rambunctious than mygoldy average yoga student. Rather than letting his surprises (i.e. pretending to change the music, bringing a ladder to his yoga mat, and spraying people with their water bottles) throw me off, I rolled with the punches. As much of a planner as I am, there can be a point where preparation no longer serves you. 5 year plans are great- especially for when someone asks you what’s your 5 year plan– but it needs to be able to adapt to the new experiences and growth you will be fortunate to have.

One of the greatest things yoga has taught me is to keep my mind as flexible as my hamstrings. Whether it’s planning events or planning your future, letting go of certainty in order to embrace and appreciate surprises makes life a bit more zen, and a lot more enjoyable.

Begin Again

85a85f7d2bf5d923ae05494459b02fb1There’s something about the end of summer that gets everyone in a back-to-school mode, regardless of if they have use for new notebooks and sharpened pencils. It’s a futuristic mind-set, whether you’re shopping for the biggest box of crayons, moving out of apartments, or trying on all your fall sweaters, the last days of summer are rarely spent as summer.

In terms of school and work, the end of an era also brings the end of a title. When someone asks what you do, that’s rarely our response. Most say their job title, without any implication that they experience more in their life. I am completely guilty of this; in fact, when someone went against the grain and told me he “said his opinions, wrote and argued” for a living, rather than saying “lawyer,” I responded with a blank stare.

So, even as September marks the last year of using “student” as the what I do is who I am answer, I know this will not be the end of my learning journey. Case in point, I have learned multitudes more since becoming a yoga instructor than when I only considered myself a student. I may be a yoga teacher, but I learn more from my students than they probably do from me. Had I taken that title completely to heart, I would’ve missed out on the lessons all around me.

Some think of yoga as an hour on the mat, for some it’s an hour they never want to experience. The purpose, though, is for yoga to be present in every part of your life. In my opinion, it’s the exception to not letting what you do define who you are. The epitome of the exception is the visionary, inspiring, and dedicated teacher BKS Iyengar that sadly passed away this week, at age 95.

Graduating from my Vinyasa Flow Yoga teacher training, 2011.
Graduating from my Vinyasa Flow Yoga teacher training, June 2011.

It’s not just yogis that are taking notice, it’s the world. He impacted every element of how we think of yoga in the West, revolutionizing how people integrate the practice into their lives and whom it is accessible to. He’s the reason why I secretly sit in lotus at my desk and can use the word “teacher” to describe not only what I do, but also who I am. He’s even the reason Lululemon’s horseshoe logo sits on the calves of so many people, even those who don’t have a yoga practice.

It’s this type of impact one person can have on the world that shows the value of remaining present. It’s easy to spend any “last”-whether it’s your last two weeks in a position, or your last year in school- as if it is already complete. However, this lack of presence is what allows us to miss out on benefiting from one last connection or experience that we won’t have access to again. It keeps us from realizing the new opportunities for growth, whether it’s trying something new or finding new value in what already exists. Presence has an irreplaceable importance that transcends titles and transitions. Regardless of one’s stage in life, presence is essential for enjoying each stage of life. 

“Illuminated emancipation, freedom, unalloyed and untainted bliss await you, but you have to choose to embark on the Inward Journey to discover it.” BKS Iyengar