I’ve found my way to Santa Barbara for the day. We came in last night & took an incredible yoga class at a local studio called Yoga Soup. I’ve been to quite a few yoga studios all across the United States, but this space had by far the coolest entry/community area I’d ever experienced. I will highlight the studio and then talk about my personal experience of how yoga changed my life and opened me up to community and communion with the divine.
Like many places, Yoga Soup offers some donation-based classes, which basically means you pay what you can. From my experience his usually works our beneficially for everyone. I really like packed yoga classes, and when you’re offering people a chance to pay what they can (and the calibur of the class is high) it seems to work out that more people will come, which means the classes are more intense and energetic for all involved, and while each person individually doesn’t have to pay as much there is more money to go around as a collective offering.
I dug the comfortable couches, wi-fi, and free refreshments – Yogi Tea (one of my favorite brands because it comes with different inspirational sayings on the tea bags, haha) Tecchino, and snacks like raisins, fresh tomatoes, nuts, whole wheat breads, etc.
The particular class I took last night was transformative. The yoga instructor was Eddie, and he talks off and on throughout the class offering a chance for the students to get “out of our heads and into the shape.” When we forget about being tense, or the sense of struggling and pushing to get into a certain shape we lose the beauty of being completely present in the shape our bodies are creating. It’s not about “being perfect” it’s about “being present.” Anyone who has done yoga knows that it can be frustrating falling out of postures or feeling like your flexibility isn’t “up to par” or seeing people who are “better than you.” But the truth is, yoga is simply not a competitive sport. It’s about so much more than that. In India, yoga is taught as a series of poses to mentally and physically prepare the body for meditation and a state of tranquility and enLIGHTenment.
I took my first yoga class four years ago at Shakti Yoga in Buffalo. I remember thinking about it as a workout, something like pilates. I had no idea what I was really opening myself up to. The first couple classes I took I had a lot of emotional releases. I was going through a breakup and was at a big turning point in my life. I was 22 and working in the service industry which in my case meant a lot of partying, drinking, and smoking. I took a couple of classes here and there, but that year I hit rock bottom – it might have had something to do with winter in Buffalo, haha, but it was much deeper than that. I was completely depressed. I was working a lot and staring a new business and I knew I needed to begin changing my lifestyle in order to accomplish what I dreamed of. There had to be more than feeling so elated and high, then depleted, emotional, depressed, and consistently overwhelmed.
I reached out to the universe for help, and I found my way to the Snyder Holistic Center. There I began seeing an acupuncturist named Ben who offered Chinese herbal medicine and healing. (I’ll have to do another post on the power of acupuncture, which I highly recommend for anyone looking for deeper alignment.) But it was at Snyder Holistic that they taught me some simple yoga poses I could do at home, and I began developing my own daily routine of time for yoga stretches and I eventually added meditation. This not only gave me a reason to get up out of bed, but it allowed me to begin my day in a positive FORWARD manner. They guys at Snyder taught me about the importance of balanced health in all areas of my life. The effects of acupuncture combined with my own personal motivation allowed me to begin taking charge of my life again. I slowly moved from all the various anti-depressants I had been on and off of for the last 4 years, and I learned breathing practices and techniques to help me deal with my anxiety naturally.
Over the next year I made my way to the Buffalo Yoga (BY) in the Tri-Main Building and I found a place where I could come out of the so called “spiritual closet” and was turned onto a whole community of incredible teachers, students, and new friends who I really resonated with. I felt accepted, nurtured, and challenged. I still take classes all over Buffalo (and across the country when I can) which I recommend that for everyone, but you’ll most likely find one studio that just feels like a home for you.
I did a yoga cleanse hosted by my (now) good friends Megan Callahan, Morgen Love & Turiya Mistretta. These women offered a week long cleanse at BY. I was introduced to a whole new world with daily (6am!) yoga, raw foods, fresh juices, breath work, netti-pots, skin brushing, and chakras. Each day of the week focused on a different chakra, or energy center, in the body. So we started from the root and worked our way up to the crown. This week changed my life. I had never felt so in charge of my life, vital, aware, awake, alive. I began to get more in tune with the messages my body was sending me. I took lots of restful and nourishing naps that week, but I also felt for the first time like I was truly pushing forward and challenging my self. And the rewards were plentiful. I lost weight, felt calm, clear, peaceful all day, and discovered a support system of new friends.
I began to face my fears and anxiety as something I wasn’t “dis-eased with” but something I could respond to and learn to balance. I also found that I wasn’t alone – that this was a pretty common reaction to the over-stimulated, caffeinated, fast-paced world that we live in.
I can proudly say now that I got the opportunity to HOST the last cleanse at Buffalo Yoga and now I’m loving offering that gift to others. I am inspired again and again on this trip to share the blessings I have experienced up to on the West coast. merge and Buffalo Yoga are offering a special cleanse coming up again November 13-19th of this year for anyone out there who is looking to make changes in their lives. During that week I’ll be offering an additional “raw pick-up” through merge that will include a raw dinner and a dessert for each night of the week for anyone who may not have the time or is new to preparing raw food. This is a great way to get introduced to raw foods and I’m psyched to be sharing this experience with what I know will be an incredible group of people.
I am so grateful this opportunity to travel and fuel my passion for this spiritual lifestyle. I feel like all I can do is give back, and keep sharing this overflowing abundance that I have uncovered. I am still learning and growing and unfolding everyday. I am definitely not claiming to be anything but a student of life, but there comes a point when although we each have much to learn, we realize we also have a plentitude to offer.
I want to share a couple of videos that I saw over the last weekend at the Leaders Causing Leaders Conference. Shore & Raven spoke about two of the inherent qualities of ANY leader.
#1 – You must tap into being authentically YOU. No matter how “weird” or “different” that is, THAT is exactly what makes you great, your unique, awesomeness.
Check this out for inspiration. These guys are completely 100% genuine and lovable:
#2 – You can use your pain, your “garbage” your history as your greatest gift.
As Rumi, a great spiritual poet from the 8th/9th century said “Out of our wound comes our greatest light”
Check out this amazingly talented child’s voice AND her story.
After a yoga class, to conclude our practice we say “namaste,” which translates as “the spirit in me acknowledges the spirit in you.” With blessings to all, NAMASTE.