yoga

Embracing the Dark

The Dark. The Unknown.  It can be a scary place. 

Although, I am literally still afraid of the dark at 24 years old (no shame), this phrase is often meant in a more figurative way. Today, figurative met literal on my mat. I wasn’t at a studio. I didn’t have a special routine planned. I simply stepped foot on Split Pea, closed my eyes and kept them shut for (approximately) 30 minutes  as I allowed my body to flow.  It was the most beautiful practice.

While I was literally in the dark, my mind was able to get focused and lost all at the same time.  As I sat in child pose to begin my practice, I became so aware of my breath.  I found that I was surrounded by so much calm and peace that I simply wanted to stay in this safe haven I created.  So, I decided to stay in the dark.

As I continued to flow, I felt self judgement be released with each breath.  Although I practice yoga daily, I know my form has a long way to go.  When my eyes are open during a practice, it’s so easy to look around and try to get into the pose perfectly.  As my eyes stayed shut during todays practice, it just didn’t matter.  Because it felt so, so good.  The deep stretch, the calming of my breath, the lack of judgement.  I was in my safe.  I was at peace. I was embracing a dark space. A space I had created with my self, for my self.

So, although the dark can be both literally and figuratively frightening, it can also bring you to such a beautiful place. A place that may never be found if you don’t take that leap of faith in yourself.

Maybe closed-eyed yoga isn’t quite for you.  But, however you approach the darkness, approach it with trust in your self, in your breath, in your body — your temple.

Namaste. The light in me, honored the light in myself today. It also honors the light in you.

On My Mat, 365

Today, I set an intention of being present.  While I strive to find presence in each day, I was extra aware of it today.  Simply for the fact that this is my last week with my students.

As a teacher, I have many first days, first weeks, last days and last weeks in my future.  It was this time last year I had my very first last week of teaching, last day of teaching.  This year, though, is different.  This year has been special.

I swore off teaching at my first year.  After living 10 months of constant stress, an overly ambitious and eager attitude, I knew I couldn’t live the next 10, 20, 30+ years like this.  If this was teaching, I thought, I did not want to be a teacher. So, I took a leap, changed paths, and created my own happiness.

Little did I know that my journey would lead me right back into the classroom.

My second year of teaching has been completely different.  What changed exactly?  Me. I changed my attitude.  I created new habits.  I shifted my perspective.  Teaching was no longer this exhausting career because I made choices that kept me balanced.

And it all started on my mat. Yoga became my escape during my first year of teaching.  The heat, the mantras, chanting ohm. I loved it all.  What started as my escape soon became my home.  When I step foot on my mat, I become grounded.  I become reminded of the power within myself.  The power I have to create a greater balance, a greater good.

I look back and am amazed at the mental and physical transformation I’ve had on my mat.  The struggle was real when I would attempt downward dog.  My tight muscles matched perfectly with my tight mind.  But, overtime, it all lightened and loosened up.

As I reflect on my journey over the past two years, I am surrounded with gratitude for the growth and the experiences.  However, everyday is a new day.  We will always be newbies, beginners in this life of ours.  I want a part of each day, of each journey to be spent on my mat; to be grounded by Split Pea.

There’s no time like the present to practice presence.  So, join in me #onmymat365.  Get on your mat once a day, every day to find the bliss, the gratitude, the happiness in your journey.

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Shout out to my forever friend Erin who helped get me started on my yoga, soul searching journey.

Why The Best Yogis Don’t Have To Be Flexible

Hi, my name is Devin Gaynor and I’m an inflexible yogi.

I’ve pretty much always struggled with my flexibility.  I remember being in elementary school asking my gym teacher to teach me how to touch my toes.  And I’ve always epically failed the test where you sit down with your legs straight and reach for a line.  I’m pretty sure I always barely reached the box…

Well I’m proud to say that a recent accomplishment of mine was being able to touch my toes (woohoo!) A goal of mine is to take a yoga teacher training and one day own a studio.  My lack of flexibility had me wondering if I’d get baffled looks from people thinking “She’s going to teach yoga?!”

That is until I was in class the other morning and my instructor announced “I’m probably the most inflexible yoga teacher you’ll ever meet.”  I was ecstatically thinking oh my lanta I’m not alone!

You see, with yoga, it’s all about your state of mind.  Sure, you’re challenging your body in multiple physical ways, but, at the end of your practice, it’s all about having mental freedom.

Here’s how you can be a fabulous yogi without being flexible:

1. Modify: Your body is different from my body.  There are some things that come easy to me, there are some things that are crazy hard for me.  When you modify in any workout, your body is still doing work.  The difference is, when you modify, your body is doing work the right way.  Form is the foundation of building strength or conquering a skill.  I happily sit on my mat with two blocks by my side. If I’m going to treat my body to yoga, I’m going to treat it right by modifying when needed.

2. Film Poses: I’m a very visual learner.  I need to see something in order to understand  it.  When I’m in yoga, I can see how the instructor and other people are doing the poses, but I have no idea how I’m doing them.  So, I go home and film myself doing those poses.  It’s the best way to see if I need to raise my hips, lower my shoulders, or push down my heels.  Once I know what the correct way feels like, I’m able to repeat the movement on my own.

3. Just Breathe: A woman named Kylie came into lululemon yesterday.  We got to talking and I learned she was a yoga instructor in Brevard.  I was telling her all about my goals in wanting to teach yoga one day and that I’m working on being more into my own practice and working on my flexibility first.  Then she shared literally one of the best ideas ever: If you can breathe, you can do yoga.  Yes, yoga has helped me become stronger physically, but at the end of a practice, I feel best because yoga has strengthened me mentally.  And it did that by teaching me how to breathe.  At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about: breathing.

So, if you’re going into a yoga class with the mentality of getting a kick ass workout, being the strongest and most flexible…you’re doing it wrong.

You want to be a better yogi?

Just breathe.

My First Time With Bikram

Incase you are unfamiliar with the yoga term, Bikram is not a person.  But if it was one, it would be a hot, sweaty, strong person.

Let’s rewind for a minute.  I’ve been steering away from Bikram yoga for a couple of reasons.

1. I was petrified of hot yoga.  I have a fear of sauna’s.  I slightly blame my mother (love you mom!) for this fear.  Growing up watching horror movie after horror movie, you can’t help but fear getting locked in a sauna by some crazy serial killer. Obviously this fear carried over into a hot yoga room…

2. I am so not flexible.  And, yes, this is exactly why I go to yoga.  But Bikram has a reputation for being strict with it’s poses.  I will be the first to admit I don’t know my poses.

This being said, I was slightly fearful to meet Bikram.  I knew this fear would only turn into a series of unfortunate events: uncontrolled breath, panicked thoughts, (extra hot) hot flashes, running out of the room…you know, everything that could go wrong with a yoga class.

So, instead, I committed to being present. I committed to my breath.  I committed to listening to my body.

And, oh my lanta, I am obsessed.

Basically, this class covered every pose I love to do.  (When I’m a really good yogi…I can tell you the names of those poses…)  We held the pose for x number of seconds, relaxed, and repeated.  I could feel myself loosening up as the sweat dripped poured off my body.

Luckily, the instructor I was practicing with was not your typical, strict instructor.  He was encouraging during each pose, giving the perfect cues letting everyone know how to adjust their body.

Okay, here’s the cheesy part.  My favorite thing was the mirror.  The instructor, Ross, was always reminding us to look at ourselves in the mirror.  Watch yourself move.  Focus on yourself and how your body looks.  Of course there were moments where I did just the opposite.  It wasn’t for comparison, though.  It allowed me to see all the diversity in the room; diversity among 10+ half naked people. It was beautiful.

Last, but not least, here are some tips on how to survive your first time with Bikram

1. Commit to being present.

2. Remember to breathe…especially during those moments of panic

3. Bring a towel…or you’ll be slipping and sliding like I was!

4. Embrace your half nakedness.  It’s going to be hot as hell in there…you’ll want minimal clothing.

5. You may or may not get a little delirious towards the end.  It’s fine, really.  Just listen to your body and rock the heck out of child’s pose or shavasana if needed.

Oh, and check out Bikram Yoga Asheville. I will without a doubt be sweating (profusely) there again.