The Beginner Ashtangi Mind

yoga1“Enjoy the feeling of not knowing how to do something; there will come a time when you miss that feeling.” My teacher said this to me in mysore one morning as a few students and I went back and forth about the concept of ”experience”. I found these words of wisdom a bit hard to accept when I was stuck on a plateau of Marichasana B for weeks. And yet, when I advanced to the next pose I immediately felt that this was a necessary process; through the focused repetition of the series I had developed a greater appreciation of the practice for teaching me actual presence, real patience.  Understanding this new concept of time in practice, or what the ego knows of it, has been one of the many revelations.

I have been practicing Ashtanga for the last 6 months of my 4 year journey with yoga. I began taking mysore classes in an effort to develop a more consistent daily practice. I had never even heard of this method and then Ganesha showed up and uncovered the path; information about Ashtanga kept showing up all around me. I developed this bounding curiosity, seeing yogis leaving mysore classes at my local studio- grounded/uplifted in a way I hadn’t seen before. So I started asking around and got the impression that it was a bit intense. Yogis that didn’t practice Ashtanga were intimidated by it, and yogis that did had this “get shit done” demeanor about their practice. I was equally nervous and interested.

I began mysore practice feeling as though I wasn’t a beginner, and there I was, pouring sweat 3 rounds into my Sun B’s. There was a definite moment where I literally didn’t know what was happening to me. Turns out I had quiet an attachment to external things in class; my water bottle and sweat towel, my favorite distractions! After a bit of healthy hesitation I came to understand that all I needed was that which the practice was offering me; awareness of breath, posture, gaze.  It was as if I was starting all over again. I wanted to do backbends and inversions and all these other forms that I knew I was capable of- but instead I let go of the old paradigm ways, and let primary series gradually take hold.

The roots of Ashtanga draw me in more than anything else now. The lineage of this form feels so much like a path that I have been on for some time. The more texts that I read, the more workshops I attend, the craving for knowledge grows.  My renewed sense of studentship is abundant. I recognize now how the evolution of practice greatly depends on one’s ability to tap into pure dedication.

One of the many inspirational things that Sri K. Pattabhi Jois has said brings me to my current state of beginners mind:

”Yoga is, what you don’t see. The powerful movements of ashtanga are only the exterior surface of an internal spiritual journey. Behind the strength of the body, is an energy, which is spiritual and which keeps us alive. To achieve access to the spirituality, you must first understand the physical. This body is our temple and in this temple is Atman – God.”

After years of only physical practice, I am now gaining access to spirituality as well. This is a great deal in part to the Ashtanga tradition. The evolutions of the limbs of yoga within practice continue to amaze my heart. I hope to always hold a sense of beginner’s mind, even when I am breezing through 4th series with grace and ease. ;)

The Alchemy of Intention: 108 Salutations on New Years Day to Support Yoga for Youth!

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I am so excited to share that I will be joining the Street Yoga movement to support yoga for youth through a special event; The Alchemy of Intention: A New Years Day Celebration of 108 Salutations! I invite you to back my intention to create more opportunities of healing for youth through yoga and mindfulness in 2014. On New Year’s Day I will hardwire this intention into my being by repeating it along with every sun salutation. Each sun salute supercharges my intention and raises money to give yoga to youth. Please contribute and help me achieve my goal of $108!

All funds raised go directly to Street Yoga to bring more yoga and mindfulness practices to youth who need it most – especially homeless, incarcerated, and those suffering from trauma. Donating through this website is simple, fast and totally secure. Check out the video link on the right to learn about Street Yoga’s life changing work with youth.

To make a donation please visit my page here: http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/SondraBloxam/inspired

Many thanks for your support! May your generosity return to you ten fold.

PS. If you’ll be in Portland, join me after the sun salutations at Beloved’s Alchemy of Intention celebration!

Love & Gratitude,

Sondra

5 Ways to Put Adventure Into Therapy

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(photo taken by Northwest Perspectives, Hood River, OR)

We explore our natural world everyday but more than likely just in passing. For a brief moment maybe you tune into the feeling of the sun, smell the air, filter through the sounds of your surroundings. And if you live in a big city like I do- you might breathe deeply in those moments, and then move on. Maybe the bustle of work takes you to a yoga class if only for an hour. I imagine this is similar to how many of us maintain our baseline of self-care.

So where do we go to deeply heal from the challenges that life brings? Does it all start as inner work? Or could it be that a physical place or practice that is the catalyst for the refuge and replenishment that our wounds crave?  Perhaps it’s through meditation, prayer, or a healer of sorts.

There are many paths to healing, one in particular seems innately powerful. This method of self-care starts at a physical place and transforms into a deeper, mindful connection with life itself.  This path of healing is accessible to everyone, and it naturally shifts the perception of humanness: Adventure Therapy.

The amazing thing is that adventure heals the spirit in many forms, and it is within your reach! The positive emotions that come from the challenges of outdoor adventures are ready to be discovered in the adventures that our mind and body yearn for. There are excursions waiting for us in our communities that will no doubt help us to discover abilities, values, and passions in situations that offer excitement and the unexpected.

Start simple:

1) Hike a new trail

2) Go cyacking, paddleboating, surfing , anything in the water!

3) Try rock climbing

4) Go horseback riding

5) Practice Yoga in nature!

In the Portland Yoga and Wellness community and beyond there are a number of wonderful resources that open the door to Adventure Therapy. Here are a few of the organizations that are a wonderful place to start:

Oregon Active

The Circuit Bouldering Gym:  Getting Started with Climbing

REI- Outdoor School

All Trails

Recreation.gov

 

 

Happy Exploring :)

Sondra

Top 5 Reasons for a Seasonal Cleanse

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With the sun giving us a good show lately and day’s to the river beginning again, I am reminded how resilient mama nature is. Just like nature our bodies are boldly resilient. So much of what I have encountered this season in the yoga and wellness world has been about renewal and revitalization. Chances are most people have been exposed to some kind of cleanse or detox as a way to kick-start spring and begin again with a new season. And yet, it seems like I didn’t know what a cleanse truly was until this year. It’s the story of my naturopath, functional nutritionist, esthetician, and various yoga teachers in my community, all planting little seeds in my brain; it’s time to detox for real.

It’s true that when I saw the May I Be Frank documentary 2 years ago, the cleanse that Frank did totally sparked my interest but cleansing didn’t really take hold in my life, until now. The crunchy, hippie, yoga mecca of Portland has gotten a hold of my mind body and soul in ways that have infiltrated the very basic decision of: what should I eat? This year past year I went from eating whatever to going vegetarian to becoming vegan and gluten free. My body just stopped wanting animal byproducts, and my mind wasn’t cool with it either. This brings me to a turning point in my lifestyle as a much more socially conscious being, a shift into my first real cleanse.

I committed myself to a 3-day Juice Cleanse from Pure Simple Juice in partnership with a series of Colonics with Alls Well Ends Well. Just like my first power yoga class, and my first wheatgrass shot, I was nervous. This time I welcomed how challenged I felt even before it all started. I sat with that feeling of hesitation, that worry of missing food even if it was just for a couple days. I had never given my inner body the time to heal so directly. There was a bounding energy leading up to Day 1, so many stories had been created in my mind about what this cleanse would do.

Just as the breath and mind work in tandem, cleansing the body through juicing and colonics work naturally together. I had dozens of ah-ha moments throughout this cleanse that will no doubt serve as foundation for my next cleanse. The holistic dynamic that develops when partnering a juice cleanse with colonics is incredibly powerful, and fully supports the longitudinal benefit of seasonal cleanses. There are some serious life changing things that this type of comprehensive mind/body cleanse will do:

1. Increase your capacity for “Letting Go”

There are so many stories that the mind creates around food, the process of eating in itself seems to be what we center most of our daily plans around. What we do for breakfast, lunch, and dinner can involve a great deal of planning. Food is central, it’s what brings us together, it’s what comforts many of us even if we don’t realize it; the morning coffee, the sweet tooth, that craving. The dangerous thing about craving is that the desire for an external substance involves a high-level of attachment, and in many cases even addiction. Just with any kind of addiction, there is a difficult process in letting go of our relationship to certain foods.

The great thing about this juice cleanse was that I was able to clean my slate, clear my mind, and focus on the cleanse. I have food addictions for sure; coffee and sugar are my biggest challenges when it come to habits. The juices were so pure and fresh that although it was difficult at times, and I wanted to just eat to fill a void, there was no real void and the juices were giving me everything that I needed. It definitely helped that the ladies of Pure Simple Juice were sending me inspirational messages each day of my cleanse that validated my feelings and helped me to constantly visualize my intention.  The support was there for me to let go, stay with my yoga practice, and observe everything along the way.

2. Make your liver super happy

I learned so much from my colonics visits, but the one fact that sticks out to me most involves the liver, the beautiful warrior liver, always in constant cleanse mode. Jill at Alls Well Ends Well told me that as our bodies are bombarded with loads of toxins every day, and the liver simply can’t process it all. So in order to protect the toxins from getting to our organs the liver send them away to live on fat cells. So toxins are just squatting in our bodies (shudder). The good news is the liver get’s to take a break from full-time defense mode when we cleanse. My liver got some serious R&R, was able to replenish, and I felt the difference almost immediately.

The juice cleanse was the perfect pairing to detox; Colonics is to Juice Cleanse, as Asana is to Meditation. The 3-Day Juice Cleanse that I did flushed my entire digestive system and eliminated food that had been taxing my liver (and other areas like the pancreas, kidneys, and thyroid). This gave me more time to repair the damage that had been done  and restore balance.

3. Increase very essential knowledge of ones body

One of the beautiful things about choosing to detox my body, took me back to Anatomy and Physiology 101, learning the basics of the digestive tract. Many parts and organs of the body are recruited through the process of digestion;  the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, pancreas, liver, and spleen. We rely on all of these organs to function well so that we can properly break down food, absorb nutrients, kill off harmful bacteria, and eliminate waste. The body really is an AMAZING thing!

Now how much attention do you give to your colon? I was talking to a yoga friend of mine after his class about releasing patterns of tension that we hold in our bodies during practice. He pointed out that most of us are engaging our colon without even realizing, and sure enough he was right! Now when I am scanning my body for where I am holding tension on or off my yoga matt, I bring attention to my colon. Sounds weird, but when you’re not relaxed it’s the first thing to tense up.

From the detox perspective: “The colon refers to the last five feet of the digestive tract and while its primary job is to eliminate waste and toxins from the body, it is also where we absorb electrolytes, vitamin k and water.” I’m definitely getting to know this part of my body as a major pillar for internal and external balance.

My hydro therapist recommended a book by Mary Roach called Gulp: Adventures of the Alimentary Canal. on getting to know the power of our colon health. I hope to get my hands on a copy soon. I really can’t sensor myself when it come to these things anymore, it is just too important!

4. Recognize personal triggers with food

As I went throughout my day drinking my juices I would have many cravings, feelings of hunger, longing for food. I enjoy eating. As a Vegan who is also gluten-free it didn’t seem like I had to eliminate much in preparation for this cleanse, so I may have gotten off a bit easy on that end. However my trigger was with the process of eating, the comfort that it brings, the ritual that it creates. All I could do was witness everyone around me eating at will, fix food for my son as normal, and sit with my triggers. I was drawn to the nut milk at the end of the day, and would drink it slowly, finding the deepest nourishment there. I kept reminding myself of my intention. Pure Simple Juice would send me daily emails creating a support throughout the cleanse as well!

5. Serve as a bear hug for your mind/body from the inside-out!

It really is that comforting feeling of: “this is good for me, this is what I need.” Like many people that have gone through a cleanse I have experienced some great benefits; increased energy, more regular eliminations, reduced sugar cravings, improved digestion, less gas and bloating, clearer skin, and what feels like a much stronger immune system. I am constantly learning from what I went through on this cleanse. So much came up, mainly a refreshed interest in what’s really healthy for my body constitution. This is the first of many cleanses to come and I am SO excited to learn more.

So what’s next?

In discussing my current diet with my hydro therapist, she mentioned Replenish PDX and Phytofoods as helpful resources in the world of nutrition. It just so happens that these two organizations are collaborating on a cleanse! I’m excited to take part in their TrulyFood Spring Cleanse this May, hosted by both Andrea Nakayama of Replenish PDX, and Andrea Livingston of Phytofoods. This 7-day food cleanse should be a rad supplement to my most recent cleanse as it will help to identify food sensitivities and further activate energy and metabolism.

A nourishment activist I have been totally connecting with lately has a plant empowered approach to food, and if you drink green juice you likely know who I am talking about, the amazing Kris Carr. Not only does this woman have a beautiful story about how she came to her own wellness revolution, she has some amazing books! I am nose deep in Crazy, Sexy, Kitchen right now and plan to cook my way through it, it’s the best way to learn right? Kris also has some extremely helpful featured videos and blogs that focus on specific areas of health like high-fiber foods, adrenal fatigue, and tips on how to stay well while traveling.

I have also been tapping into the brilliance and wisdom of a friend and local yogi leader making big moves in the world of sprouting, growing and fermenting at home. Jean-Pierre Parent is the creator of SOMA Evolutionary Refreshment, the labor of love from his company Kitchen Sink Farming. SOMA is a living blend of awakened elixirs: Green and White Kombucha,Jun, Fresh-Pressed Crystal-Kefired Juices, Cider Vinegar, and Sprouted Grain-Fermented Water. It’s super cleansing, immunity boosting, digestive fire stoking & spirit refreshing, SOMA is vibrating with life force. I know because I have a jug of the Cherry Cacao in my fridge, it’s been there for one day, and it’s half gone. I was also allowed some boocha to supplement my juicing during my cleanse which SOMA was perfect for.

YogaGrow creator Sondra Bloxam featured in Origin Magazine!

YogaGrow creator Sondra Bloxam featured in Origin Magazine!

The 12th issue of Origin Magazine brings together 20 powerful women leaders, over 100 yogis changing the world, the top vegetarian athletes, and more! This is by far my favorite publication, ever! Fusing together art, culture, conscious lifestyle, and the movers and shakers of our time, Origin Magazine serves as the world megaphone of advocacy and awareness from the ground up.

So much gratitude for Origin editor, Maranda Pleasant, who gave me the space to share what I believe is important in this life.

To be among women that I admire so deeply is incredibly empowering! This connection of women leaders holds such abundance and great spirit.

Simon Park: A Yogi Leader with the Spirit of a Musician

Simon and IAfter Studying with Simon Park at his Liquid Flow Intensive at Yoga Pearl in Portland, OR this March we sat down to talk music, nature, inspiration, and old school teachings..

Sondra: Aside from your teachers what would you say inspires you in your practice?

Simon: I like to think that I am influenced by an open field; artists, sometimes athletes, but mostly creative artists. I think my heart is close to the spirit of a musician, improvisation, innovation, bringing something unique to the table but also connection to your personal expression and state of flow. I try to bring all of that into the field of yoga and try to keep my mind open, its good to be influenced by a not just a certain discipline.

Sondra: So what music?

Simon: Ahh, I grew up in Philly, and Philly is kind of known for a certain sound; soul and funk back in the day, hip-hop. Some people actually still claim that hip-hop came from Philly and not New York so that is that kind of the funky side. Philly is also a very eclectic multicultural place with influence from all over. I grew up playing a little jazz, I love jazz, I love the freestyle aspect of jazz. recently I have gotten into a lot of minimalist piano music. There is an artist in part named Ludovico Einaudi an Italian composer, he is extremely creative with so much feel to it. Even though it’s one person it creates a whole soundscape of ideas.

Sondra: So you’ve started this world tour- putting all of your energy out there!

Simon: Yea you know two years ago I took off on a sizable trip and I had just read Keith Richards autobiography, he was like my hero. The Stones the way they toured were like my role models. I actually bought a 1972 original tour poster from the Stones’ North American tour and it was my inspiration.

At this point I just keep rolling, it has now just become a way of life; which for the stones they were touring from 64-66 nonstop.

Sondra: What do you think is the most vulnerable part of all of that?

Simon: Oh the breakdown happens. There’s always those moments when you don’t know what you are doing or why you are doing it and you don’t know where home is, your so far away from home. That does happen, it’s inevitable. But I think that it’s part of the experience, which is the challenge, I like challenges. I think you grow stronger at the end and if you are being challenged it’s to find your purpose. You really have to search for it from within.

Sondra: When you have those moments of breakdown down, what keeps it all together?

Simon: Just practice, and connection to people, Also just keeping my mind to the task at hand and being present. One step at a time.

Sondra: What makes you feel fully alive?

Simon: I love practicing in nature; maybe an amazing beach or high up in the mountains, on a river on the rocks, sometimes on a ledge, to put all that practice into actually play. I don’t balance on ledges much anymore, it was a little selfish. Sometimes practicing in nature makes so much sense that going inside almost doesn’t make sense anymore. The little setting that we close ourselves to what we call our practice, it just seems so limiting. The practice is worldwide and vast and can be in an open space.

Sondra: Is there anything about traveling that you like most?

Simon: Definitely the people. I feel extremely fortunate to have this kind of collective. I feel like I’m visiting friends all the time.

Sondra: What are your favorite sayings?

Simon: Jimmy Hendrix said “The earth is my home.”

It’s not a quote but I loved Keith Richards’ devotion to his band mates and his devotion to his art form above all even amongst his addictions. That work ethic and those principals literally carried up all through those crazy years. It’s a good example because there are those times where I’m traveling and teaching, traveling and teaching and it’s just nonstop. You have to have something that keeps you going. I don’t know if you could call Keith Richards a role model but for touring he’s a good one!’

Sondra: Yes! Within the community of band mates.

Simon: Yea for sure. My teacher Shiva Rea, I’ve known her for 18 years. She is still my teacher. People say: “You could kind of go out on your own and teach”. I do a little of that but I think people these days are too quick to search for the lifelong connect with people. It’s more of a convenient connection for time, and then they just move on. I like the old school, lifelong teacher-student relationship. I have band mates, it’s Shiva and her crew,. Some of her assistants I am lifelong friends with, those are my band mates. I still work within Shiva’s umbrella of training’s and workshops with everyone.

Sondra: Was there a calling or moment where it was like: That’s my teacher!

Simon: She was my teacher from day 1. Literally I walked into yoga class and there she was. I signed up for a class at UCLA and she was the teacher. After a few classes and a few months with her when I realized she was my teacher I thought I would never have another teacher again. I felt like what’s the point? I had found the best teacher possible in the world, we fit perfect right from the beginning. I didn’t connect to the yoga right away- it was really difficult and challenging, I was really disorientated. But as a teacher there was nobody else. Eventually I did find other teachers, moved away and lived in different places.

But I remember practicing with Shiva years ago, watching her practice and thinking- I just couldn’t figure out why she wasn’t world famous? I could see this very special quality in her being; the way she approached the practice, it was an aura you could just see it. It was very special.

Sondra: You’re offering 3-day long Prana Flow training’s as a part of your World Tour. Is that a precursor to training’s with Shiva or your spin on Prana Flow?

Simon: Ah that’s a good question. Her system is an open Vinyasa system where you can incorporate your previous experience from other styles. She herself was a student of many styles; Ashtanga, Iyengar and some more esoteric teachers like Shandor Remete that teaches shadow yoga. She was able to incorporate it within Krishnamacharya’s original teachings which was the first real Vinyasa teacher.

As a mentor, she encourages open exploration for those that teach under her. There is a clear methodology, practiced for over 25 years. Shiva is quite an academic she loves to clarify her thesis and present it. There are four primary modules that make up a 200 hour training. There are advanced modules hat you can put toward the 500 hours training At some point my goals is to do a 200 hour training somewhere.

Sondra: Portland…?

Simon: Portland, maybe Surf Beach in Nicaragua.

Sondra: Within this extended family of friends that you meet, how can people come to study with you more?

Simon: I am like: Catch me if you can! I don’t think it’s by design but it has always just been my personality. I remember Shiva saying after workshop; “see ya down the road”. In ten plus years of traveling, I’ve sent out one email. I want people to find me. It’s kind of that old school. I heard this story about these sadhus in the cave, these yogi masters in a cave and students would go up and tried to study with them. Once the sadhus saw that people were coming they would start to throw furniture out the door and throw rocks at them; it’s like what are you doing here? Make it challenging. Because I float around and my publicity isn’t highly organized I’m hard to find. I’ve been doing this for 10 years and you would think at some point you would get a localized following but they are just everywhere. We will meet up when we meet up.

Sondra: What would be your advice on what to work on after a Prana Flow intensive?

Simon: Constant practice. We are exposed to enough information to be able to practice it. We tend to sell ourselves short with how much we know already, so just putting that into practice is the biggest thing. Self practice is really rewarding I think. Develop a regular self practice, just a little desire, a little passion. That goes a long way.

As Simon said he is rather elusive, buuuut if you want catch up with him on his tour check out his event’s throughout the rest of the year at his Liquid Flow Yoga website.

Yogathon 2013

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I’m so thrilled to be a part of the Yoga Pearl team for this years Yogathon; a campaign to raise funds for Living Yoga, a nonprofit outreach organization teaching yoga as a tool for personal change in prisons, drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, transitional facilities, and to populations who would otherwise not have access to it.

Join me in support this amazing cause by joining a Yogathon team. No time to join a team? You can totally give love by donating to help me reach my goal :)

Give Yogathon love here: http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/SondraBloxam/yogathon-challenge-2013