When I was 4 years old, my favorite songs were "Hot Blooded" by Foreigner and "Beth" by Kiss. My parents have the reel-to-reels (and the machine to play them) and the cassettes to prove it. Growing up with a musically-talented brother 7 years my senior, I was exposed to some sweet tunes at a very young age. He would play the guitar and I would sing (and if I didn't know the words, I would mumble and hum). Our rendition of "Crazy Train" was epic, but our biggest hit was "The Trees" by Rush. We even did an informal summer tour through Europe when I was 10 (playing at lodges and rest stops on our family vacation totally counts!).
I never learned how to play an instrument and over time, stopped practicing my singing because none of the cool kids were in chorus. But music is something that has always moved me. Move being the operative word. My bedroom (or more often my brother's) would become an elaborate set and I would create new, imaginative, spooky worlds with dance and music. In college, my dear friend Oscar and I would choreograph modern partner dances (if only So You Think You Can Dance had been around). Whether dancing, doing gymnastics, or just playing around, music is a deeply-rooted part of my life and helps me feel, express and put shape to my emotions.
Playing music in yoga classes is a bit controversial. Some people love doing yoga to music. Some people don't. It's such a personal preference and people's taste in music varies so widely. Music can be a source of so much inspiration for me and my practice, but there are also days when my breath is the most profound music I could ever want to hear. I like to mix it up in my classes, offering carefully crafted playlists some days and no music on others.
Students often ask me after class about particular songs or where they can find my playlists. I'm excited to share what music inspires me. Here's a 60 minute playlist I made back in June that I've recently returned to. You can find me on Spotify where I'll be making more of my playlists public. Until then, enjoy, and let the music move you!
100 days baby! That's right, today marks my 100th day of (almost) consecutively going upside down. A few years ago, I would have either lied or denied the parentheses, or totally given up on the challenge because I faltered. Today I celebrate the victory of doing my best in this challenge, but also not allowing the mistakes to sabotage the whole experience.
There were days I was so sick I could barely shuffle to the bathroom (creative horizontal bedstand). Days I just felt unmotivated (pjstand, ok there are lots of these). Days when I was almost too embarrassed and self-conscious (swimsuitstand). Or I just plain forgot. Regardless, I've kept trucking along.
If I had let my cruel perfectionist self win and given up on this challenge, I would have never experienced so much magic.
Not too long ago, I spent 8 days in the mountains of Colorado with my family. It's a place that speaks to all of us. We made time for hikes in spectacular nature, soaked in warm mineral springs, explored cliff dwellings, lazed around our camp and just stared into the hypnotizing fire. Doing a handstand in these places was a potent practice of not just witnessing beauty moments, but fully experiencing it.
My son, Oskar, asked me several times along the way, "Meems, why do you always like to do handstands?" I instinctively replied, "Because it makes me feel good!" His next probing question halted me in my tracks. "Does that mean that you don't feel good when you're not doing a handstand?" Nothing like the words of a 6-year old to make you feel like a junkie! But really, for me the experience of doing a handstand in these spectacular places was the difference between being an observer and being fully immersed, kinda like Dorothy going from black and white to Technicolor in the Wizard of Oz.
Watching my kids interact with their environment, they touch everything. They scream out in a cave to hear the echo of their own voice. They taste the sulfur mineral water even though it smells like egg farts. They roll like maniacs down the dunes even though they get a mouthful of sand. They don't just appreciate the beauty they are in, they fully immerse in it. Doing a handstand helped me connect to this practice. Put my hands in the warm sand. Fall down and log roll. Splash in the freezing cold river. Breathe deeply. Let out a big yelp. Feel my blood quicken. Feel. I want to fully feel the beauty that surrounds me.
Beauty with a capital B isn't perfect. It is not all soft sand and bath water mineral pools. It includes sharp rocks that cut your hands and water so hot it sears your skin. Ana Forrest teaches about Walking in Beauty, which comes from a Navajo ceremony called "Beautyway." When you walk in Beauty, you walk towards the truth of yourself. You open up to what is possible even in those ugly, painful experiences. I've created my perfectionist self (among other destructive behaviors that involve alcohol and food) as a place to hide so I don't feel these things. Like Brené Brown says in The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, “We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions."
Handstands and Forrest Yoga are helping me on my quest to un-numb and walk towards my truth. To see and taste and smell and hear it all. To touch and feel it all. The Beauty that surrounds me.
You can follow my 365 day handstand challenge on Instagram.