Posing in Prahna and beyond…

alma_-_pranaAh, Prahna: The breath of life. The ancient Sanskrit expression of meditation leading to self-actualization and beyond.

For most athletes, breathing is something that we take for granted and is not paid much attention to while we are developing our abilities in other areas of expertise, yet, it is so crucial to every move our muscles make, every move our body explores, every three-point jumper, every penalty shot, every final volley of an hour long match. It is a critical part of developing into a well-rounded athlete but more importantly, it is a critical part of developing, period.

In the ancient Yogi world, the breath came first, then the Asanas (poses) but for most of us who attend Yoga on a regular basis, the poses come first, and soon, we feel our breath move us in and out of the poses, as we struggle at times, breath catching occasionally as we slink just another inch forward, upward, downward, our muscles intuitively elongating into each pose that our journey offers.

Lately, almost 9 years into my own Yoga journey, I have been closing my eyes for almost the entire Yoga practice (except when teaching of course!). Balancing poses prove a special case for this endeavor, but almost all other poses can now be accomplished without sight, flowing from one to the next with ease.

An interesting phenomenon occurs when sight is removed from the Yoga practice, since all that is left is how your body feels as you relish each elongated breath in and out of your body, ears in tune with each cue uttered. Exhaling into the postures, inhaling as you relinquish the pose, repeated over and over throughout an entire practice.

Thoughts float in and out of one’s mind, and I find myself searching for my Ujjayi breath – one step up on regular long breaths, by further constricting the throat aperture on the exhale; a gentle sea shell sound escaping the nostrils. This breathing technique works to completely focus one’s mind on ONLY this breath. This here. This now. There is nothing else that matters. The mind is relaxed, completely, the body is flowing beautifully, and the spirit cannot help but be lifted to the greatest of heights.

Give it a try and see how it works for you.

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Waiting to Exhale…

IMG_5763It wasn’t that long ago when a rather petite princess of a girl asked me if I wanted to FLY for the first time. If you have read any of my posts since then, a mere 10 months ago, you will know that I met that challenge with great trepidation. As though I had been asked to relax into myself for the very first time. As though all the tightness in my little ol ball of nerves could be released in one fell swoop. As though I might finally get to the place where my hands could rest upright on my knees in Sukhasana, in order to receive energy, instead of continually being palm down, grinding hard into my knees, looking ever so dutifully for a bit of grounding. Looking for tranquility. Searching the depths of my being for any, and all (which wasn’t much) relaxation. Trying to find the relaxation, and in that, knowing that the strength would follow.

Somehow throughout my life I had been hard-wired to press. To push. To persevere. And while many times these traits work for one’s strengths, the Yang can also cause a polarization of the Yin, rendering it useless. Acro Yoga, and of course, my general Yoga practice, has allowed me to delve into my Yin and resurrect it, learning ever so slowly how to bring my practice off the mat and enact calming techniques that are tested and true.

Four Step is an Acro Yoga flow that has always been a bit challenging for me, because one needs to go slow and methodical and to relax into each pose in order to best flow through the routine. It is the only flow where I have wiped out twice – both times landing on my head. Both times becoming a bit more fearful of ever doing that move again.

I think THAT has been the biggest lesson. Getting back on the horse. It’s been challenging. It’s been rewarding. It’s been HIGH energy and somehow through that high energy place, there have been tiny pieces of ‘ohm’ that I have managed somehow to work into my every day breath. Ah…..exhale. Always a work in progress. And always willing to do the work.

4 Step Raw from Kerry O. on Vimeo.

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The 365 Day Handstand Challenge

IMG_5601 I decided to put pen to paper in the documentation of my Handstand Challenge. I have been playing around with headstands and handstands for about 8 months now as part of both my Yoga and my Acro Yoga practice. While I have made progress in my handstands, I have not made the speedy progress which I would like to see.

When a news feed on the 365 Handstand Challenge flew by my screen, I decided that this was what I needed in order to really see some progress.

Today is Day 356, and in those last 9 days, I have definitely made decent progress simply by doing some handstands every day. Usually for about 5 minutes.

Einstein once quoted, ‘There is no greater force in the world than compound interest.’ While this may be very true, there is a very substantial force in each one of us, called ‘muscle memory’. It is simply in the repeating; taking the body through routines over and over that the body is able to adapt to that which it is being asked.

Dan Millman (The Way of the Peaceful Warrior) talked of this a great deal. He used the word, “Satori”, meaning that there was no thinking required. The body just innately knew what to do. It is the fluidity of a third baseman throwing to first, the quick block of a high karate chop, or just throwing your hands into the sand, and letting your feet float toward the clouds. There simply is no thought required. That is the beauty of the human body. Anyone can do it. With each day of practice, the muscle memory becomes stronger and stronger. At least…that is my hope.

Handstands Day 357 from Kerry O. on Vimeo.

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Clear

I have discovered something so beautiful
In just being
Just living
Just ebbing
Just flowing
So easy to wrap my arms around myself
Nourishing my soul with an empty mind
A warm heart
And the laughter of the warm sun
trickling down

~KO

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You are the Love

IMG_3950Ah, Valentine’s Day. The day dedicated to the patron saint of love. The 4 billion dollar industry that has spurred us on in passion, compassion and lust. This year was a different kind of Valentine’s Day for me.

I adopted an idea of ‘self love’ only. I worked hard on a project that I was passionate on. I went to Yoga. I closed my eyes through the entire practice. I was love. I became love. I lived love. I was so INTO me that I uterrly did not know anyone else was in the room. After the class, the instructor said to me, ‘wow, I have never seen you so calm during practice.’ She was right. For that 60 minutes there was ONLY this breath right here, right now. I embraced ME in all that I was worth.

It was February 14th. It was the day to celebrate the Heart Chakra. To find love, compassion, kindness, but for what? Maybe only for the sole purpose to give to yourself. Yes, I gave it to myself. It was fabulous. So, for all those peeps out there, that are wanting THAT very real Valentine thing, that always seem to elude us, go deep, go inside yourself. AND know that YOU are the BEST LOVE of all!

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The Healing Heart


Anahata
The Heart Chakra, Anahata: The fourth of seven Chakras, located right smack dab in the middle of the body and responsible for integrating the matter and the spirit in our lives. Those ancient Sanskrit people must have known a thing or two back in the fourth Century BCE for people are still finding wisdom in their tales foretold.

Legend goes that the Heart Chakra is responsible for integrating the 3 Chakras underneath it (Root, Sacral and Solar Plexus), with the 3 Chakras above it (Throat, Third Eye and Crown). It is a conciliator; a place where our male energy can meet with our female energy and become one. The earth meets the heaven for a little celestial celebration.

The analogy of love is not lost on it either and the Heart Chakra will be at its optimum when the giving and receiving of love, forgiveness, and tenderness is in balance. It is the only Chakra to have lateral components and it is fitting that those arms go with the giving and receiving of love. Playing alongside love, in perfect harmony, is the touch of the human experience and the interplay of that touch is a central tenet of Anahata.

The spiritual components of Yoga have always been a bit of a leap for me, just as believing in any standardized set of ‘beliefs’ have been. I am skeptical by nature and Yoga is missing a lot of the scientific method for sure, however some of the teachings, some of the ways of being, just resonate with me. They make sense, the way that eating whole foods and exercising makes sense. I don’t need to read the research to fully understand that the ancient so-called myths of balancing the Heart Chakra make my body, my mind, and my life, healthier.

The journey toward this healing began when I read an article on the Heart Chakra. It had an element of airy-fairy-ness (yes, that is a word) to it, yet I couldn’t help but think that parts of it made sense. It said in order to honor your Heart Chakra and to assist in restoring and nurturing it, there were 8 things that may help:
1. Be Green
2. See Green
3. Think Green
4. Be Love
5. Give Love
6. Gratitude
7. Practice Yoga
8. Forgive
(http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-4565/8-Ways-to-Open-Your-Heart-Chakra.html)

Every single one of these made me pause and reflect a bit, but the “Be Love”, really made me stop and think. Digging deeper into what was actually meant by number four on the list, the article went on to say, that the ‘Be Love’ piece was actually loving yourself and not accepting depletion of one’s self in exchange for some sort of perceived greater good. Not being a martyr. Not looking for validation outside of that own self-love. Wow, the ‘aha’ moment, when you realize that the love that you have been consciously surrounding yourself with – and in – all these years may have been being blocked. By. Me.

I thought about one of my favourite quotes, from Eat, Pray, Love:

“If I love you, I will carry for you all your pain, I will assume for you all your debts (in every definition of the word), I will protect you from your own insecurity, I will project upon you all sorts of good qualities that you have never actually cultivated in yourself and I will buy Christmas presents for your entire family. I will give you the sun and the rain, and if they are not available, I will give you a sun check and a rain check. I will give you all this and more, until I get so exhausted and depleted that the only way I can recover my energy is by becoming infatuated with …” (insert activity, thing or person here)
~ Elizabeth Gilbert

This is such a powerful quote for me and one that resonates to the very core of my being. It seems to provide evidence that my “Be Love” piece was highly charged with others’ energy and not so adequately filled with my own. These are hard words to say out loud. Like the main character in Eat, Pray, Love, I was becoming frenetic with other people’s energy, leaving me sapped and longing for more. “I am the planet’s most affectionate life-form (something like a cross between a golden retriever and a barnacle)” (Gilbert) and in recent years I have showered that affection on many people in my life, even when they were less than receptive to it.

Who knew that this journey, into the painfully quiet abyss, toying with loneliness and despair at times, would actually form the catalyst for the giving and receiving of love, in nurturing and sustaining amounts? That my seemingly overflowing heart, full of gratitude and love to all of the wonderful people in my life would get stronger and more grounded by a slow and methodical withdrawal into myself?

Thus the lightness in the dark and the darkness in the light, and now, my Heart Chakra is illuminated (and as always, a work-in-progress) continually dancing between the great comfort in being surrounded with my friends, alongside the growing comfort of being totally enveloped by myself. Who better to spend time with, right?

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Run with Me (and Google)

IMG_5025

Ah, the first run of 2013. I have never considered myself a runner, although I have always ran. Life is funny that way.

This year, or maybe, actually TODAY, DARE to un-categorize yourself, let go of all the baggage that is slowing you down….and just DO IT. No excuses. Just you and your dreams. Get going. Come run with me.

Happy 2013!

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Create YOU, beautiful you!

Magic
Ah, my last blog post of 2012 and once again I will build it around the past two year-ending posts – Posts that have emphasized transitions, growth, and adventure. Narratives that have attempted to shine a special light on all the beauty within all of those people that have interwoven their magic throughout my life. They have been the people who have led me, who have carried me, and who are within me in a very deep and profound way. This last post of the year is for you.

The travel this past year seems to really have been a metaphor for my life, starting out with an all-inclusive in Mexico, then Hawaii for a Triathlon, and topping it all off with another trip to the Nevada desert and Burning Man. Pampering (more like, partying), competing, and adventuring. What a delightful way of living life, right?

This year has also been about transitions and adapting to new ways of being (Darwin would be proud). I have found a deeper and more meaningful Yoga practice with many wonderful friends within a rich and supportive community. I have worked on my breath, my poses, my practice, and it in turn has worked on me, helping me in finding many pieces of my self. The here and the now has never been more special.

From that awesome place, my mind has been blown by an expansion into an unbelievable Acro Yoga community. A playful, fun, athletically fucking challenging existence where there is no other option but to find one’s intelligent edge whilst mixing a bit of fear with its antithesis of complete relaxation; Such diametric opposable forces, completing many a new pose and in so, completing me, in many different ways.

It has been a year of humility too. I have been humbled by the people around me and the struggles that they face every day and while I may have a few here and there, I am okay, and so grateful for so many beautiful people in my life. I have found peace – fleeting at times and radiant at others. Not always the easiest of journeys for me, but so worthwhile, and very much still a work in progress.

For any of you, who know me, or have read any of my ramblings within these posts, you know that I am a huge, Elizabeth Gilbert fan. No other book, Eat, Pray, Love has so resonated with me on such a deep and meaningful level. Lately, I find myself, remembering and reciting entire quotes (with the help of google, of course) from that book:

We search for happiness everywhere, but we are like Tolstoy’s fabled beggar who spent his life sitting on a pot of gold, under him the whole time. Your treasure–your perfection–is within you already. But to claim it, you must leave the buy commotion of the mind and abandon the desires of the ego and enter into the silence of the heart.

That is my work for the New Year ahead, to find a little silence, to be at peace with myself, and to re-calibrate myself by bringing a little Yin back to my high-energy Yang.

Life simply doesn’t happen all around you, YOU happen to it. You choose, you want, you engage, you plan, you implement, and when things work out, you celebrate. When things don’t work out, you stress. This is how life works. YOU are the common denominator to ALL the good and ALL the bad in your life. That is not saying that sometimes really, really bad things occur to which we can assign no blame whatsoever, it is just saying that YOU control the majority of your own destiny!

Today is New Years Eve 2012, and my thought that goes out to each and every one of you – old and new acquaintances alike is, “Make 2013 the year that you want it to be.” Get in touch with yourself, your needs, your desires, your creativity, your moxie, your determination and create your very own year for you.

I wrote that same paragraph for 2011 and 2012 – and while it has been a bitch of a year in some respects, it has been so outstanding in many others. It is about the journey, and riding the waves as they coast up and down beneath us.

I hope to do the same in 2013 – hopefully cutting myself some slack, and learning from some of my mistakes and being kind and gentle to those around me (and myself), because everyone is fighting a fucking battle of some kind. BE THE CHANGE that you want to see (Obama-ism). Each and every single day, change one little thing, and be genuinely surprised when at the end of the year that you are so much closer to being the person that you actually want to be, and there is nothing more sexy or more appealing than watching someone who has that inner swagger going-on! That person is so confident, secure and in-touch with who they really are! That is beautiful! Namaste. Peace to all with as much love, light and laughter as I can muster. Create YOU, beautiful you!

PS – “Operation Self-Esteem–Day Fucking One.”
~Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

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Congratulations Washington


While looking at all the beautiful pictures of the same sex marriages performed in Washington State, over the weekend, I couldn’t help but be inspired (and filled with love and hope). Writing ensued. 🙂

Capturing Love

If I could capture the love in your eyes
And shine it for all the world to see
It would sparkle out of my fingertips
Cascading upon all that could be.

If I could capture the rapture of that smile
A snapshot where you could feel the love
For so many it has taken a while
Climb on board the wings of my dove.

Let’s fly where we thought we would never go
Dancing around the clouds
Whispering the love in our hearts
Shouting our love out loud.

~KO

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Taking Flight

My intro to Acro Yoga began innocently enough. It was Burning Man 2011. I had been mesmerized at Center Camp by all the Bases and Fliers honing their craft for all to see. It was playful, it was fun, it was bendy, it was strength, it was melting into one another like a shot of espresso being  poured into steamed milk, circulating the cup, until it became one delicious sip of heaven, together.

I had watched entertainment and sports in the past, and never really been affected like I was here, on that hot arid desert day. I was completely and utterly captivated and when Burning Man 2012 began to approach, my body and mind began to be pulled toward Center Camp, like it were a Neodymium magnet (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neodymium_magnet ) and I, a piece of scrap metal. I started talking to that piece of scrap metal so wanting to work up the courage to participate.

It arrived. It was the morning of Tutu Tuesday, and I donned my best tutu, replete with my military-looking utility belt and was off for the day. It didn’t take long to be in the same place, where I had stood in 2011. Mesmerized, once again. This time, though, my fixed gaze came with words, “I so want to fly.” You have heard this story before (http://koblogit.com/the-magical-mystical-burn/).

That day I did, and the thrill of it, eeked out of every pore in my body for months, until I went to my first actual class this week.

We slipped into the studio as kindergartners must on their first day of school, unsure of where to hang their jacket. We filled out the necessary paperwork and soon we were amongst new friends, uncertain of really what to expect. Unlike Yoga (in general), where each person need worry only of themselves and their own bodies, Acro Yoga immediately brings in a strong sense of community, each member wanting the other to achieve their goals, however humble such goals may be.

First in partners, then in threes, we were walked through the warm-up, the hellos, the laughs, and the core work, before ending up with a new partner and preparing for our first flight! My nerves were a mess.  While I had done this before, there still was a whole lotta of unknown in this equation.

One of the instructors ended up as my first base and it was brilliant as he could coach me easily and quickly as I worked on distributing ALL of my weight through his feet and hands. Yes, I was in the air. My right side seemed much more heavy, as I attempted to compensate in any way that I could. In fact, at first, it felt like I was going to slide right off to the right, like a fried egg on Teflon, my core working hard to hold glue me to his feet.  Eventually, with a little more coaching, I felt more at ease and was able to relax a bit, which really was the mission of the whole thing.

Then, it was my turn to be the base. This was when the real worry began to take hold. While I have always been pretty strong in my legs, my cycling as of late had proved to me that I wasn’t as strong as I felt I should be (that awful word, ‘should’).  I laid on my back and put my feet up in the air to accept the flier. She positioned my feet on her abdomen, the ball of my foot just above her hip bones and parallel to each other. She leaned into my feet with all of her 130 pounds, while my knees cautiously and methodically bent in toward my chest. I felt her weight. My hands sweated in hers, as I scooped my legs under her and slowly began to straighten my legs.

She was in the air. I exhaled. She was balanced. She was flying. Such a profound sense of relief washed over my body, as I felt her weight melt into me, like soft butter on hot pancakes.  We were one.

The day continued with various little escapades here and there, while we laughed, high-fived, shared until we all came together in a circle for a few finishing cool down stretches and Savasana. We laid down in a circle, complete, bodies touching, giving thanks to a wonderful afternoon of play.

That feeling of community is still strong within me. Somewhere along the road to civilization, we misplaced the play, the fun, the laughter amongst our tribe members. Somewhere we replaced relaxation, laughter and letting go with strength only.  It was here, in this community, that I began to reclaim that critical ingredient which is necessary to be strong. Indeed, one does need to let go, in order to FLY.

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