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Helm of the Heart

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Category Archives: Photographs

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Holi, the festival of colors, is a celebration of winter’s end and the arrival of spring. There are many myths surrounding this tradition; stories of good conquering evil, as well as tales of Krishna mischievously applying color to his beloved Radha’s face, embodying the lively, carefree nature of this tradition.

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What I love most is that Holi transcends age, ethnicity, class, and all superficial boundaries. People come together for live music, yoga and food, partaking in merriment and reverie.

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Happy spring! Happy St. Patrick’s day, too ūüôā

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Amanda

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I’ve decided that I absolutely LOVE Super Bowl Sunday. It’s one day out of the year when there’s no traffic, the beaches are empty, and you can go out to eat and feel like you rented a private room at almost any restaurant. I’ve had such an amazing day, just spending time with Daniel and Rumo, practicing yoga on the beach and soaking up the sun in Southern California on this beautiful February day.

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I’ve been thinking about how my relationship with my body has changed through yoga. The word “yoga” means to “yoke” or “unite”. Yoga is forging a connection between your mind, body and spirit. Not only have I become more sensitive to my body- what I consume and what I expose my physical form to, but I have also developed a greater love and respect for my body.

I feel as though my physical form has changed in many positive ways since I started practicing regularly two years ago. I have developed stronger core muscles, (and muscle-tone in general), my posture has improved, my hips have widened and my waist has narrowed. I feel that yoga gifted me a woman’s body.

In terms of genetics, I am on the thinner side. I am 5’8 inches tall and I tend to be a bit lanky. When I do put on weight, it all goes to my stomach (thanks cortisol!). While yoga does help me stay healthy and trim, I feel as though I am fit and muscular, and not just “skinny”. My concept of beauty has also changed, helping me to embrace parts of myself that I would have previously been ashamed of. I feel much more comfortable in my own skin.

Our culture seems incredibly comfortable with violence, while the human form is often considered “scandalous” or “taboo”. Clearly there is a distinction between nudity and pornography, but overall I think our squeamishness with our physicality is absurd.

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A year or so ago, I’m not sure if I would have shared pictures of myself in a bikini on the internet. I even hesitated today, and I almost went back and deleted pictures that show “tummy fat” or “rolls”, but I’ve decided that I’d rather celebrate the aspects of my practice that make me feel strong and capable, rather than picking at so-called imperfections, or being overly critical. I have been practicing yoga 4-5 times a week and eating well… most of the time. Sundays are definitely my “anything goes” day. Daniel has Sundays off from work so we usually feast. Today we went to “Fortune Cookies” in Fountain Valley and ravenously devoured sushi and Chinese food (they serve both there and it is delicious!!).

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I hope everyone enjoyed their Sunday. I wholeheartedly encourage America to continue its love of football so that I will continue to have such marvelous Sundays like these ūüėČ

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Amanda

 

Pincha¬†Mayurasana¬†(feathered peacock pose or forearm stand), Vrschikasana¬†(Scorpion pose), and forearm wheel pose (not sure¬†about the sanskrit name).¬† I’m so excited for inversions tomorrow!

¬†(aka Camatkarasana or “wild thing”)

Weekend three of yoga school has left me feeling inspired, accomplished and open-hearted. Yesterday we all taught a series of five standing poses with transitions, which was wonderful practice and physically demanding. We did countless standing splits, revolved triangles, pyramids and half-moons.¬† Today was backbends, which are so invigorating! The above picture¬†is a backbend¬†called Camatkarasana¬†which translates to “the ecstatic unfolding of the enraptured heart”. I love sanskrit.

We also read more of the Bhagavad Gita.

The wise man does not unsettle

the minds of the ignorant; quietly

acting in the spirit of yoga,

he inspires them to do the same

Leading by example¬†is the most powerful way to have a positive influence on others. It is great to share your experiences¬†to help other people when they seek assistance, but¬†trying to shove an ideology down¬†a person’s throat is never the answer.

I began this week feeling energetically drained and emotionally heavy. I still managed to practiced yoga daily and I believe that really helped to keep my emotions in check. That is not to say that I repressed what I was feeling or tried to hide it. I practiced being an observer of my thoughts and feelings and by doing so I let a lot of baggage go. On Monday, when my emotions were at their most vulnerable, I allowed myself the time to really indulge those feelings. I cried like a baby and took a nap.

Throughout the week I continued to come to face with some habits that aren’t serving me, as well as some frustrations/annoyances that I needed to examine at a root level. I’m not saying that I am cured of all these maladaptive behaviors, but¬†they don’t control me any more.

Yoga has really helped me to work on my mind, body and spirit. You might think “How does stretching your body help you to become a better, happier person?” and the truth is I don’t really have a definitive answer. I only know what it has done for me, and that so many others report its amazing benefits. Yoga makes you more aware of your body (its strengths and limitations), which then extends to your mind, calming your thoughts and allowing you to reflect on your own conscious state.

Once you venture down the path of awareness, you can never go back. I think this frightens many people because it means facing some not-so-pleasant aspects of themselves. But what is amazing is the fact that by just acknowledging our shadow self, not judging it, we diminish its power over us. You make room for so much more love and light and joy in your life.

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Amanda

Tonight is¬†a “super moon”, which means that¬†the moon¬†is the closest to our earth for the year 2012.¬†I went with Daniel and Rumo for a stroll around the San Jose¬†State campus, enjoyed the fresh night air and lovely luna. I felt both energized and grounded by the trees and just being in nature. We hiked to the top of the parking garage to get a nice view of the moon. It doesn’t quite¬†capture its glory on my little iPhone camera, but you get the idea ūüôā

Full moons are a time for reflection. They are also a time when our shadow self can manifest, so people tend to feel things more intensely than usual. This is a full moon in Scorpio, which brings things that are hidden out into the open. It is a time to let things go that are no longer serving us.

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Amanda

I’m definitely channeling¬†the¬†sloth spirit¬†today.

After a full day of work, I’m back to school for Family Night from 6-7pm. Usually I’d be going to a yoga class, but Family Night runs smack in the middle of my evening classes.

So I’ve sneaked in some chair/desk yoga and a few sun salutations randomly throughout my day. I even held pigeon pose for a few minutes and channeled today’s frustrating moments¬†into a nice hip opening exercise.

“Mrs. Christiansen, what’s the difference between PCP and meth?”

“Why can’t I eat hot cheetos in class? I’m hungry.” (See red grease stains all over my books)

And of course there’s always my lovely potty-mouthed student calling others “dirty twats” and telling them that he “hopes they get run over by a bus”.

Never a dull moment.

I’m choosing to take this all with the bliss and detachment of a sloth.

Namaste!

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Amanda

So begins my teacher training. I felt like a giddy school girl with my bag packed, new highlighters, pens, notebooks and yogic texts. I’ve always enjoyed school/learning, and this is the pinnacle of what education represents for me.

Not only am I physically engaged in a practice that has been life changing for me, but I’m mentally stimulated, surrounded by like-minded individuals¬†who wish to share their joy with others. Our teachers, Angie and Noell are both amazing yoginis¬†that I have so much to learn from. I immediately felt at ease with my “spirit siblings” that I will be spending my weekends with for the next six months.

One thing Noell mentioned during training that I think about constantly is the fact that all teachers learn from their students, and all students teach their teachers. I am familiar with this concept as “teach/learn” & “learn/teach“, each with the primary role¬†emphasized and the secondary role in support.

I actually discussed this with my Middle Schoolers a few weeks ago when¬†one of my students freaked out and was cursing when we couldn’t read The Hunger Games for two straight periods. I totally understood his frustration (I was actually kind of excited that he was so engaged in the book) but cussing up a storm because things aren’t going his way is not an appropriate coping method and I thought this was a teachable moment. I explained to my class that these two identities (teach/learn & learn/teach) were inextricably linked, and that as their teacher, I have to constantly be aware of what my students are teaching me through their actions and reactions. I also mentioned to them that there is only one of me and 21 of them (I teach Special Education and this number is ridiculously high) and I have to do the best for the most amount of people. Often, this means that I won’t make everyone happy, but again, these mistakes inform my instruction and ultimately make me a stronger teacher.

Just bringing this concept to their attention made a huge difference in their awareness of the class as a whole. Often we don’t take¬†the time¬†to discuss things because we get so wrapped up in how we think things should be or how we think people should act.¬†We must lead by example and be transparent in our actions and motivations. Admitting mistakes and even celebrating our struggles is an amazing tool for growth.

This carries over into my identity as a yoga teacher/learner. Currently, I am predominately in learning mode, but I am also developing my personal style and voice. I have to be true to myself, which is something I learned very early on teaching Middle Schoolers (they sniff out insecurities like no other!) and it will continue to be relevant as I begin teaching yoga.

Overall, I am exhausted but rejuvenated at the same time. I am so excited for the coming adventures ūüôā

Riding the wave like a wind-swept warrior.

love & light,

Amanda