Reflections On Becoming a Yoga Teacher

Yoga is an expansive discipline, and there are many different avenues and certifications one may choose to study it. There are many branches one may learn about and each of these has interwoven yet distinct philosophies, sacred texts, exercises. While there are a set of common postures, going about them in an Iyengar class will be different than approaching it through Vinyasa. Taking a hot sweaty core power class will engage a completely different student than a yin meditative class. As I learn more and more about yoga, sometimes it is hard to pinpoint what it is, until you go back to the first Sutras:

Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind, and with stillness of the mind you come to your own true nature.

Maybe you go about this through an intense asana practice. Or maybe asana simply keeps your limbs flexible and body strong as you go about the rest of your life. Or the physical healing aspects of yoga therapy have moved you through an injury or any type of deep healing. Maybe you love the chanting, the mantra, the kirtan. Perhaps stoking the Kundalini fire is what you love to experience. Or Tantra. Or Bhakti. Whatever it is, with all of the positive results from yoga (I’ve been reading The Science of Yoga by William J Broad lately and it’s been fascinating to be presented with a synthesis that whets the left/sciency side of my brain), both in the mind and body, whatever form someone is drawn to, it seems like a good thing.

Arriving at a place to teach yoga from the heart, from the spirit, and with a depth of knowledge requires a concrete refinement of one’s own practice, which cannot be received through a 200, 300, or 500 hour certificate alone.

When I completed my yoga teacher trainings (200-hour Prana Vinyasa with Monica Mesa and Lily Russo; 300-hour in Rishikesh, India, with a composite of teachers at Chandra Yoga Ashram), they were transformative experiences. And truly, my journey towards teaching was about wanting to deepen my own practice. I only found out that I enjoyed teaching because I was required to through the class. But then… how do I really feel like a teacher?

At what point do I transform from someone who has simply completed some requirements, to someone who can handle all of the nuances in order to competently compose a class, cater to who shows up, offer something new and/or rewarding, understand individual body nuances and guide others into their deepest asana, integrate meditation, introduce philosophy in an authentic and uncanned presentation?

Dangit I can’t even get into Pincha Mayurasana without assistance! –am I a real teacher if I can’t Instagram some fancy poses? (I joke.) I think several other classmates echoed these same questions upon finishing our coursework. What differentiates someone as a yoga teacher, from someone who completes a teacher training?

 

My immersive course in India was completed about 13 months ago. It rocked my world, in so many ways, and continues to as each day I reflect upon the world differently. It is as if now I have a roadmap for life and for navigating obstacles. The challenges still come; they are like lessons, reflections to myself of myself. I see my flaws and pick myself up to try to go at it again. Sometimes I fail – we all do – and sometimes it hurts and sometimes it sucks. But overall the perspective and mindset shift that was initiated has started to snowball into larger change.

 

In the last year my practice has transformed, too. And through that, my teaching has transformed. It has become more confident, just as my understanding of the Sutras and of asana has deepened through daily practice. It has become more healing, just as I’ve learned to heal my sometimes sad spirit and learn forgiveness and acceptance to my body and mind. It has strengthened and been challenging, just as I’ve adopted a more rigorous practice. And it has become more loving, as my own self-love has blossomed and spilled out into friendships, relationships, and the world.

 

When I first started teaching, one thing that motivated me was that it kept my own practice strong. At that point I still was working towards making it habit to do yoga every day. In my first YTT, Monica had a lot of emphasis to teach authentically and to make sure to do your own practice for self care before your offerings to students: you can’t teach if you haven’t developed what you are going to give. Life just had this way of always getting in the way of doing a morning asana practice; it was easy to put off meditation and sleep in a few extra minutes instead. When I had a class scheduled, I made sure to strengthen my practice, even spending days to put together what I thought would be a good sequence or theme.

 

As my growth as a teacher unfolds, I find that I teach because I really feel I do have something to offer. My daily practice has grown and is reflected in my alignment and deepening in postures; in that what feels like an advanced posture has shifted over the last couple years. By using yoga in working through my own struggles, I’ve learned a thing or two and that it can be explored or released together in asana or meditation. Not that I’m perfect, or any better than anyone else. But that by sharing what I do have, hopefully I can help someone else out of a funk in their day or their week, relax their muscles, help them come into an arm balance for the first time, share a smile or some laughter: to be in this space together that is expansive, sharing gratitude that we get to live this world through all of the different stories that create our experiences, that we get to learn whatever our journeys are presenting.

 

What a blessing it is, to be able to share yoga with people – to not be on a righteous path with it, but to be able to share guidance on getting through this world with greater ease, more joy, love that can’t be contained, and maintaining a youthful, supple body to support it all! I’m grateful to teach, and to learn from all of the other teachers I encounter – in all walks of life.

 

May all beings be happy and free.

Adventure to the Lassen

Well, big changes happening. Rather than have a complete summer in Cedar Grove, an idyllic little place deep in Kings Canyon National Park, I’ll be spending the summer botanizing in northern California in Lassen National Forest. Sequoia/Kings will always be so dear to my heart and I will be a part of it and it will be a part of me always. I’m always so sad to leave where I am, because I nearly always love it, but then almost always fall in love again wherever I arrive.

The position is one of those elusive GS-9 field-based seasonal botany jobs. It is a perfect balance of decent pay and doing what I love, packaged into 1039 hours. Unbeknownst to me when I accepted the position, the main focus is surveys for threatened/endangered, sensitive, and special interest species! Because of the volcanic and serpentine soils, and the meeting of the Sierra and Cascade ranges and the Great Basin to the east, there is a great degree of endemism and diversity in the are. This is pretty much what I’ve always wanted in terms of a professional botany position… as soon as I gave up desire for any advancement this too came to me (thank you, India).

As I’ve never been at all to the Lassen area (other than driving by on I-5), it is a brand new adventure and another nook of wild open space and nature to explore. Being based in northeastern California means that the culture will be about as conservative as Nevada and practically as remote. Upon arriving, I’ve found that the bumps they call ‘mountains’ are mostly little rolling hills in comparison to what I was accustomed to in the southern Sierra, and that just as many storefronts are closed as are running businesses. But even in the week that I’ve been here, I recognize there are gems to appreciate in being here.  

I’m exceedingly grateful to have two friends help me shuttle my car and bus along the 8-hour drive to my new home for the summer. Simon and Rob erased any stress I may have had about the journey and it was a blast. I’d been prepared to either take a train or rent a car, but the White Whale (the current temporary name for my bus, credit goes to Major, until I one day come up with a better one. My last car didn’t get a name until 6 months before I sold it, after owning it for 10 years…), well, she seems to attract fans. Since that trip up here was so fun… I’m actually on my first ever weekend getaway with the bus… brought it up to Chester for a couple days. Cheers to more bus adventures, and exploring another piece of the world.

Sinking into the Immersion

Three full days of yoga immersion program are now complete and I'm beginning to sink in to the cadence of things.

Chanting and pranayama begins at 6:30, followed by tea and then Ashtanga. I haven't done much Ashtanga before, and it is HARD! We've barely scratched the surface! I like the challenge of it but I don't see myself following that style of yoga much in the future as it is too rigid for me. For those who aren't familiar, there are 3 series, each progressively challenging, and you follow a set series of postures each time. It is unforgiving... no suggestions to 'walk out your dog' or flow into your first postures as you are warming up! I think that for now it is good training and our teacher breaks down each pose slowly, focusing on alignment and making adjustments.

After some self study time, 300 hour students have a yoga philosophy class with our teacher Siddhartha, who spent considerable time at the original ashram of Neem Karoli Baba. Coincidentally, Neem Karoli Baba is the guru of my American teacher, Monica Mesa, and at her suggestion I visited and had a very powerful experience at his other ashram here in Rishikesh on my first full day here. I'm hoping that the yoga philosophy sessions continue to be so helpful as this is where I seek to have such a better foundation of knowledge, especially from a traditional perspective.

After lunch we get an anatomy class, followed by a Hatha yoga class. The first class was pretty chill (and exactly what I needed!) but yesterdays was intense and today we started advanced poses... (being sore after a bunch of chataurangas didn't help)! After studying Prana Vinyasa style yoga, I fell in love with the movement and flow, but I now have a new appreciation for the subtlety and depth of a good Hatha class and it is really exciting to think about how my practice as well as my teaching style can expand and diversify. I also think about working with people with limitations due to injury or surgery and Hatha is better suited to accommodate people with many levels of ability and flexibility, and for yoga as a therapeutic tool.

After more self study time, we have dinner, then are free to go study more. Some people are taking long breaks to go to the river or go to the city during study time. I'm sure I will too once I get restless but right now it seems so valuable to make use of my time as much as I can. This is truly one of the greatest gifts I have ever given myself. I've never had the opportunity to study without worries or obligations; in college I always supported myself working and also had a million extracurricular activities too. It feels so indulgent, and I am so grateful to each puzzle piece of life that has allowed me to Be Here Now.

Introduction to Yoga Program and Fire Ceremony

After my first introductory day of my yoga program at the Chandra Yoga  School, Inamovible moré tan happy with my decisión to come héroe, and to have chosen this school. When this school was founded, there were only 14 schools of yoga in Rishikesh; now there are a couple hundred. While the instruction has not started, I can tell from how things were conducted in the first day that there is a high degree of professionalism, a great deal of knowledge, and high expectations for how we embody and integrate this experience into our lives as students.  Also, the food is good.

 

There are 12 of us students. We are from 4 continents, and many countries. There are the two Beatrices (best friends, same age) from Sweden, a young German couple, Helena and Toby, who are studying textile design and geology, Laley, an aerial silk dancer from Mallorca, Spain. A couple who teach acroyoga in Indonesia, Julia is a lawyer by day and Alex is originally from Ukraine. Saren from Singapore who has Indian heritage, Claudia from Peru who has studied in Prague and worked three winters in Aspen, Colorado. There are two other Americans: Joseph is a music teacher in Michigan, Leslie is a body worker from Colorado. And me. The collective energy as we gathered for the first time was very positive, easygoing. It promises to be a good group. 

 

We gathered sitting cross-legged around the meal table and a a great spread of Indian lunch: rice, okra, a potato and pepper dish, yogurt, daal, some raw vegetables, chapatti, and tea. We met our hosts, and then they took us to another ashram on the other side of town which is currently under construction. 

 

After a quick tour of the building being constructed, we had a fire ceremony to initiate our time together as students and to call in the deities bless our practice. A Hindu priest led us chanting Sanskrit, reading out of pages of a torn and battered book scarred from countless ceremonies around a fire. Garlands of marigold flowers were draped around our necks by Kali, a teacher at the school. We symbolically cleansed our hands and our inner bodies with water, and then repeatedly offered a collection of earth, herbs, incense onto the marigold-ringed fire as the school's leader, Sushil, poured ghee and small portions of food offerings into the flames. This represents giving nourishment to the deities; as they have no physical bodies, the way they take in the offerings is through the smoke. While there was a lightness to the energy of the ceremony, and laughter was allowed, you could feel a definite vibrational shift from the beginning to the end of the ceremony. 

 

Afterwards, we walked around the land surrounding the ashram, which is a national park where elephants, tigers, buffalo, cows, and all sorts of other creatures roam. It is a beautiful landscape and I was more than grateful to be out of the the city bustle and surrounded by the lush greenery of the countryside. As we drove back some sort of small peacock took flight in front of is which was the most beautiful sight.

 

Snacks of samosas and sweet honey balls were served back at the main facility and that's when we got an outline of our coursework. There are just me and two others who are doing the more advanced 300-hour training, the rest are completing a 200-hour course. For everything, it was like this: "for 200 hours, you will learn 2 mantras a week, for 300 hours, you will learn 3. For 200 hours, you will do all of these uncomfortable practices like snort a string up your nostril and exit it down your throat, for 300 hours you will do all that plus stick a pipe down your throat and pump water out of your stomach." I am sure my colon will be so cleansed by the end of this (Sushil said we won't have any gas problems for the following 6 months! 😉), but these things evoke the most resistance in me. Overall though, it looks intense and I am elated to begin learning. 

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The alter, covered in marigold flowers

INDIA! - my first 12 hours

Every traveler I know who has been to India has told me it is a whole other world, an assault on the senses, that it will blow your mind, no matter how many other places you have been. And it is true.

 

I don't even know how to start my first impressions because there are so many and they are constantly forming and shifting and shaping. First off, there are about 10 billion things happening in each and every moment and every side wards glance you take gives you a glimpse into a whole new world. There is culture and tradition, there is beauty. There is poverty, deep spirituality, love. The food is everywhere and amazing, the blaring horns are incessant for 12 hours a day in the cities. It is overwhelming but not too overwhelming to enjoy but so much so that it is nearly impossible to process before you are presented with something new. In the 2 days I have been here I feel I've had 2 months of experiences. As my neighbor on my flight said, if you are super Type A and need to control things, you will have a harder time enjoying yourself in India, whereas if you can go with the flow, you may just love it.

 

Let's start with my taxi ride. Hands down weirdest taxi ride ever. I'm not sure exactly at this point where the mix up happened, but the taxi driver with my name on the sign was not there at Exit Door 6 when I arrived. Typically I'm a pretty intrepid and DIY traveller but I didn't want to mess around with anything after 30+ hours of travel, terrible sleep, and landing in a massive city where I don't speak the language or know much about navigating my way around. I knew I wanted to get straight out of Delhi, and not be ripped off or have my safety in peril by a swarthy taxi driver. But, the best laid plans flew away on my flight out of LA, and I was stranded at the airport at 8:30pm, not terribly late, but after dark with no arranged accommodations in the city.

 

I remember my very first solo overseas trip when I was 22 and arrived in Frankfort and it took me an hour to get out of the airport because I didn't understand the signs that directed me to the public transit I needed, finally collapsing and crying and questioning wtf I was doing to travel solo, before I found my way. Somehow this time, amidst the chaos surrounding me with a thousand other passengers milling around reuniting with friends and family, taxis soliciting me, in my solitude I was able to stay calm. I needed the Internet, to get the phone number of my yoga program, found a man operating a pay telephone, and worked it out.

 

Nitin, the taxi driver, arrived about an hour later, and we navigated the absolutely insane streets of Delhi. I sat up front, as during the typically 5-7 hour taxi ride to Rishikesh it seemed rude to just sit in the back. This also gave me a front row seat to the most truly indescribably insane driving I have ever experienced, and I've traveled all over Latin America which has its own reputation for terrible driving. There was a little screen playing music videos to Indian pop songs that entranced me and was a good distraction when I needed to take my eyes off of the swerving and near misses left and right. We talked a little, but his English was limited. He talked loudly into his cell phone. I drifted in and out of sleep. 

 

Then, things got weird. He pulled over to the side of the road. "I have to pick up my friend, that's okay?" This is one of those things that is typically NOT ok. That is when you get kidnapped, raped, robbed, killed. These are the scams you read about. What choice did I have then though? Nitin had seemed nice, sweet, a soft kind face, young. By this time it was after 10pm and we were in who knows what part of the city. My program had hired the taxi for me so it should be a reputable service, right? I had to trust in that moment. 

 

"It's ok."

 

We drove around with this guy in the back for what seemed like forever, I was still drifting into half sleep; though in the moments I was awake, hyper aware. Then we were on some side street, backing into an alleyway. "I have to pick up something for my friend here." They got out, opened the trunk. My backpack was in there. Only possession in it I cared about was my Sony alpha camera with my literally brand new lens. Oh well. Backpack was the least I was worried about in the moment, keeping an eye on the men in the rear view mirror. They loaded in several small boxes. The friend got back in, we drove all around in the still-congested city streets until we dropped him off. "You ok?"

 

"I'm ok."

 

We drive, finally leaving the city. At this point it is nearing midnight. We stop at a cafe, got some tea. My first tea in India. It was delicious. I was ready to just go, but thought that if my driver was needing caffeine and a bathroom break, I was ok with that. Surrender to the experience, I told myself. He bought some chocolate, giving it to me in the car. "It's chocolate day!" he says enthusiastically. The last thing I wanted was chocolate right then but I opened one and shared it to be cordial. We talked some more about our families and our lives with the little English he had. I began to drift in and out of sleep again as the traffic and lights and chaos of the city slipped away and we proceeded through smaller towns and countrysides. 

 

I woke as he pulled the car over next to a building (a hotel perhaps?) at 2:30 in the morning. "Sorry, I need some rest." I could tell he was tiring because the aggressiveness of his driving had slowed and the other traffic was passing us, the music was softer, he wasn't talking. "It's ok?" What were my choices? We still had a few hours to go and I didn't want him falling asleep at the wheel.

 

"It's ok."

 

He leaned his seat back and closed his eyes. I did the same, but did not feel very restful. I curled away from him facing the door. He was a little restless. In his restlessness I felt him, at first for a brief moment, and then his forearm against my back, or hand just touching my hair. Somehow at 37, even though I am more guarded, I am still naive. 'He's tall and lanky trying to get comfortable in the cramped car, doesn't mean it, it's an accident.' A million of these things I was telling myself, at the same time thinking just how weird it was to be taking a rest stop in the middle of the night with my taxi driver. As I started to feel him I was also beginning to come up with an exit strategy in case things escalated. At this point it was truly the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere. If things got weird, how would I diffuse the situation, and still stay safe and keep my belongings which were locked in the back of the trunk?

 

Sure enough, he slipped his hand a little too high on my thigh for it to be an accident and at that point I looked over, and shook my head: "no". He started shaking his head too. "Have you had enough rest? Can we go?" He covered his face with his hands, leaving them there for what felt like an eternity. "Yes, we can go." But he didn't move. Then he reached out and took my hand and told me he loved me, that he needed love. It sounds so stupid to describe but in the moment his face and his eyes were so sincere, and every vision from Shantaram and Eat, Pray, Love came to me about how India is the country of love and of heart and suddenly tears were in my eyes too. He held my hand between both of his and looked me in the eyes with such sincerity that I didn't know what to do. Really, I just wanted to go, but his words were heartfelt. "I am not a rich man, but I am a man that has so much love in my heart, I want to share it with you. You love me too?"

 

Bizarre. 

"I like you, you seem sweet. I don't love you."

"Maybe one day you will love me? You are beautiful, my feelings are so strong, you are my jaan (life)..."

 

The wrong answer felt like it could get me left on the side of the road in the darkness, but I'm not a good liar. "It takes me a long time for me to love," I told him.

 

Finally we were able to continue. He took my hand and held it much of the rest of the way and navigated the morning traffic in his stick shift toyota one handed. We stopped for tea again as the morning light dawned over my first views of India. I saw a fox, eagle, monkeys, temples, and hundreds of men and women walking in pilgrimage to Haridwar carrying water vessels attached to a decorated stick that they carry over their shoulder to collect water from the ahold Ganges River for the upcoming festival to Shiva. 

 

It was solidly morning by the time we got to Rishikesh. Our first top there was at the home of the man who we had picked up in Delhi. The boxes were dropped off there. The man invited us in for tea, but I turned him down, the taxi that should have been 5-7 hours was now a full 10 hour ride, on top of all the other travel. And the Nitin was fully convinced he loved me in those 10 hours despite lack of any depth of conversation. I was ready to decompress on my own.

 

I finally did make it to my accommodations, safe, sound, and ready to begin the next step of my adventures in India.

IN FLIGHT

 

As I write this I'm sitting solo in the Shanghai Pudong airport, wishing there was wifi but it's broken and no one really wants to help, and I don't really need it except to get the address in India where I will be going. I'll be participating in a month long 300 hour yoga teacher training immersion in Rishikesh. My layover here is 7 hours; It's mildly annoying to be unable to connect but I'm reminding myself to just be present in the moment. I thought about venturing into the city but chose the transfer line instead of the customs line and then when I asked security about going into the city I was told I couldn't leave the airport, and also I'm not feeling too adventurous, even though not too tired. 

 

It is so foreign, so weird, to feel so barely able to communicate here and now. If there weren't English subtitles underneath the written Chinese symbols I would be so lost! Looking outside the window from the airport it looks likes any other big airport with vast flat land, jumbo jets, traffic mixing on overpasses; it is drab and grey outside. This end of the terminal is not busy and I'm thinking about doing some yoga if I can find a nook where I won't look like too much of a freak. 

 

My road trip concluded with a flight in a small little plane over Sequoia national park. An exhilarating end to a perfect adventure. The pilot was a man I had met out in Saline Valley, he and his pilot friends had flown out to Chicken Strip (the name of the backcountry airstrip out there) for the new year and my friends and I had been running all around the airfield, chide toy creating safety hazards. Despite all of that, we made a good impression and I got an invite to fly over all the lands I have explored so extensively on foot. I've gotten a couple of chopper rides in the past but they were always on search and rescue missions, so this opportunity to go wherever my little heart desired was truly awe-inspiring. 

[Unfortunately, as I post this internet is dinosaur turtle and I am having trouble posting pics so you'll have to look at my Facebook or insta posts... lame, I know, but I've been struggling to post just this text for 2 hours...!]

We flew from Woodlake up and over to Three Rivers, circling the north fork twice so that I could find my farm and my bus. I didn't realize the orchard next door was so extensive! The first thing I keyed into from the air was the Roping Arena and was able to trace my way around via the rivers and roads from there. Mandy was waving at me from the farm but I couldn't see her. In my photo you can see all the sheep and pigs and Charlie the donkey though!

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Then we went up towards and over Shepherds saddle and then up to lodge pole, Moro rock, flew over broccoli sequoia trees and the meadows and en up towards Alta Peak, views towards Valhalla and Hamilton Lakes. Then north towards the tablelands, one of the few places covered in snow...

 

The Kaweah range is my most favorite in the world, my beloved, so elusive, so majestic. We flew right in front of it, close enough so I could not capture them all in my camera lens, Black Kaweah so astounding, tears to my eyes, this was the closest I've come to its summit. And then around to the north and peer down the Kern, no snow in the entire canyon, as we approach the monsters of mountains along the Sierra Crest: Russell, Tyndall, Langley, Whitney, flying at 15,000 feet in this tiny little plane that held the two of us and not much more. And over Whitney, down amongst the ruggedness on the eastside, overlooking the snow-covered Siberian Outpost, and south to tunnel and monache meadows, as he told me the story of the airstrip there. 

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We began heading west again and I recognized the forest service land that I've hiked in on the approach to the Kern via Coyote pass, and then suddenly we were. Over the Hockett. First I saw Mitchell Meadow and then recognize Sand Meadow by the circular sand formation I knew from my first backcountry trip in the Sierra. And the Hockett Meadow and the ranger station, barely with any snow cover.

 

I directed us towards Mineral King and up over Columbine Lake, then down upper Lost Canyon, and up the Big Arroyo towards Kaweah Gap. I think this was when he put on the music, music which would've been cheesy at any other time but in that moment it felt like I was in the most heart-opening part of any movie ever made that touches you. We stopped talking much and I just absorbed how beautiful everything was. Just. Breathe. Just be.

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And we began to head back... We circled Dinley this time because I wanted to see the Ranch. Here I didn't realize that the pond next door was so big! She later told me saw me and waved but I didn't see her. And we went on down through the valley haze descending back to Woodlake. Even though my feet were on the ground, I was soaring for the rest of the day.

 

Looking at my photos later though, the lack of snow really became apparent. Although I noticed it in the sky and we made some comments, it didn't sink in until I was later processing the photos to publish, and compounded by seeing my friends comments about them. Aside from having an amazing experience, it was pretty special to be able to capture in photos showing the state of the drought. This winter is currently the lowest (or pretty close to it) year of recoded precipitation on record. 


This was my Groundhogs Day 2018. If there is a day that I get to live and repeat forever, I would love it to be this one.

WINDING UP ONE JOURNEY TO PREPARE FOR ANOTHER

The last month on the road has been amazing. It is hard to think back to my first day out, meeting Sierra and David at Remington Hot Springs, and realize I have not been 'home' since then. I miss my bus! I started missing it about 10 days into this trip. Triplet lamb babies were born at Double Gum Tree Farm today. I can't wait to see them.

Thankfully, Missoula has been amazing just as everything else. The backcountry ski day with Abigail and Jeremy was... an experience... type II fun (the kind that is fun in retrospect). Heavy and deep snow made what would have been great terrain into a challenging situation and we made it out of the Lolo pass area at the border of Idaho and Montana after dark with headlamps, punch-holing to our thighs when we finally took our skis off for safety reasons. As a still-novice backcountry skier, I felt very humbled several times throughout the afternoon. 

While this entire trip has been meaningful, I'm ready to go home. I'm ready to lay my head in my own little space, see the pups and the pigs and the sheepsies and laze around for a couple days. I'm so grateful for hospitality that has been offered to me, and to the myriad of adventures I've been on. So genuinely happy for every connection I have had, whether reuniting with dear old friends, running into unexpected acquaintances, or the new souls I have had the pleasure to meet. 

YOGA PHOTOGRAPHY INTENSIVE

My goals this winter were to develop the creative aspect part of my life, ski, live/work on a farm, and attend an ashram or yoga program. As disparate as all of these may seem, somehow this is all going to work out.

Yoga photography was something I was able to offer many of my yoga sisters in Durango, Colorado, and what gorgeous results emerged. Many of these sweet souls also participated in my YTT-200 hour Prana Vinyasa training with Monica Mesa and Lily Russo. It was such a joy and honor to work with them to create beautiful images that I am already seeing posted on social media and their promotional materials. I love so much to be able to create something beautiful that someone is happy with. As it turned out, I did about 8 shoots over the course of 10 days and have a ton of new material I'm working through: will hopefully get through all of it before I take off next week to India. A huge thank you to everyone who supported me!

Having so many shoots in a week was amazing: I learned so much about working with each individual. My upcoming focus will be to arrange some spring and summer photo tours to gorgeous places throughout the west. If you have a studio or want me to come to your area, please contact me! Here's a few shots I really like from the last few weeks:

 

Disappearing and Re-emerging into 2018: Hot Springs, Bristlecones, Salt Flats, and Skiing

What started out a few years ago as an adventure with friends into Saline Valley for the new year has now become almost a pilgrimage for me. As I drove the distance around mountain passes and down long dirt roads, I realized I had no other idea of what I'd want to do for the New Year than leave the daily-humdrum, soak in some springs, and be ready for the next step, wherever 2018 decides to direct me. Saline Valley is always magical, and always provides what my soul needs to soak up, as I look backward, forward, and inward.

I took time to reflect on the changes in the past year. So much had changed over the course of 2017. Everything felt right. 

Moving rocks in the Racetrack, Death Valley.

Moving rocks in the Racetrack, Death Valley.

This road trip so far has been full of amazing experiences: hours of soaking in the most beautiful pools, with the super moon rising over wide desert expanses, small engine planes landing right next to us as we approached the airstrip, with the opportunity to explore them; the harrowing and formidable 4wd Lippincott road up to the Racetrack (a geological feature in Death Valley); the loss and finding of my good friend's much-loved pup; more hot springs, cool springs, and unexpected encounters in Bishop; skiing in June Lake, and a surreal 12.5 hour drive in a day to Colorado. 

But the truth is, aside from all of the natural wonders, the things that touch me most are all of my friends' individual truths and stories that I hear along the way. Everyone encounters such different challenges, and yet we are all connected by common threads. We all live these different parts of a massive collective story, and fill these roles, and make choices that propel our lives further down the paths we walk. I genuinely value each opportunity to connect and learn from the people who I encounter at all of these junctions.