Yogafolio: Blog https://www.yogafolio.com/blog en-us (C) Yogafolio tim@yogafolio (Yogafolio) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:18:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:18:00 GMT https://www.yogafolio.com/img/s/v-12/u211532630-o529025768-50.jpg Yogafolio: Blog https://www.yogafolio.com/blog 94 120 Staying in the moment. https://www.yogafolio.com/blog/2018/5/Moment          Among the many things yoga has taught me over the years, I've found that focusing on the present moment is great for my physical, mental and spiritual health.  Perhaps this is why photography has become one of my favorite passions and hobbies.  It reminds me - like my yoga practice, that there's extreme beauty and fascination to be had in the right here and now if I can just slow down long enough to appreciate it.   Life for so many of us has become exceedingly hectic, especially with the proliferation of mobile technology that's brought all the worlds' information right to our fingertips.  It's true that as a society we're progressing forward in many ways, but at the same time it means that we're having to move faster and faster just to keep up.  Does your workplace expect you to stay plugged in even after leaving at the end of the day?  Ugh. What started out years ago as a simple service - the ability to access our email from anywhere, has morphed into the expectation by coworkers and superiors that we will check our inboxes periodically when not in the office.  In that environment, it's very hard to leave behind the days projects, problems and concerns or to keep from projecting solutions into the days ahead instead of disengaging from the eight to five work routine.

       Because of this ongoing strain on my time, I need all the reminders I can get that this moment is the one to be living.  Right here and now is where my attention should be, not worrying about what happened earlier in the day or trying figure out how to resolve future issues.  A while back, I literally got to the breaking point where all of this became crystal clear.  I hadn't picked up my camera in months, depriving  myself of an activity I really enjoy because I kept putting other obligations first.  Well, forget that.  I've decided to put strict limits on how much I'm willing to give of myself to 'the organization'.  The good news is, you'll be seeing me more often at yoga events around the city with camera in hand, helping to capture and share the good times being had by our community - like this picture taken while participating at a recent Yoga + Hiking event.  I'm very excited that spring is finally here, that many yoga activities are being scheduled in cool, outdoor spaces and that for the first time in several years there's going to be a wonderful, local yoga festival taking place in June!   This would be the Heartland Yoga Festival happening out at Unity Village in Lee's Summit.  When I'm practicing my passion for photography and I'm also surrounded by so many of you in the yoga community, time seems to slow way down for me.  With that perspective, it becomes much easier to unburden all the other stuff going on in my head and instead concentrate on getting that next great shot of a particular moment in time.  Do you have any suggestions on how to slow down and concentrate on the present moment?  Please share in comments!

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tim@yogafolio (Yogafolio) heartland yoga festival unity village yoga + hiking with sedona alvarez yoga photography yogafestival yogafolio https://www.yogafolio.com/blog/2018/5/Moment Wed, 02 May 2018 19:54:15 GMT
Yoga leads the way in revitalization of Troost Avenue. https://www.yogafolio.com/blog/2018/4/a-visit-to-nella-yoga-in-downtown-kc    This week I was invited down to Nella Yoga at 5504 Troost in the University District of Kansas City, Missouri to do an in- Evening class at Nella Yoga StudioEvening class at Nella Yoga Studio class photo shoot.  Shanell Peterson - the owner and head instructor of the studio, put out a call to the yoga community a few weeks back inquiring if anyone knew of a good photographer. I was honored to learn that my name had come up as a recommendation.  She was looking to find someone that could capture some good imagery that showed off the diversity of students that generally come in to take classes at her school.  During our initial consultation we discussed the misconception that in order to start a yoga practice you have to first be slim, flexible and in great shape.  One of the goals we established for this project was to show by example that normal, everyday folks are more than capable of stepping on to the mat and participating in a yoga class.  Shanell said she wanted to help dispel the myth that yoga is only for certain body types, genders, or age groups.  Because I’m passionate about delivering the same message through my photos, I was excited and honored that the Universe had opened up and provided this opportunity to be of service to showcase a relatively new, community-driven studio that was requesting some promotional help. 

Evening class at Nella Yoga StudioEvening class at Nella Yoga Studio

 

 

 

    Walking into the studio for the first time, I was immediately impressed by how comfortable it felt.  Rich, earth tone colors adorn all the walls.  The large storefront window faces east, letting in a great deal of rich, natural light.  The space exudes positive energy and along with Shanell’s friendly personality, makes for a very welcoming environment to practice yoga.  As I worked my way through the class trying to be as unobtrusive as possible with my camera, I also got to experience what it would be like to take a class here.  It was immediately evident that Shanell’s a very talented and gifted teacher.  She gives clear, concise cues that are easy to follow in a

 

Evening class at Nella Yoga StudioEvening class at Nella Yoga Studio tone of voice that’s very soothing accentuated by the slight accent she carries from having been born and raised in the U.S Virgin Islands . I especially enjoyed listening to her guided meditation which both started and ended the class. It was hard not to set down my camera, roll out a mat and join in on the journey.  Along with leading the class, Shanell spent time individually with each student at some point, providing helpful adjustments and words of encouragement.   Evening class at Nella Yoga StudioEvening class at Nella Yoga Studio  I love watching passionate teachers practice their craft and even though I was there to take pictures, I walked out knowing that this is a studio I’ll be coming back to – with my yoga mat next time, leaving my camera behind.

 

      See the full gallery of photos from this session here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Kansas City is extremely fortunate to have in its midst so many passionate and gifted teachers.  One goal I have as a photographer/writer is to get the word out on some of the great resources that are available to our yoga community. If you’d like me to spotlight what you're doing, I'm always looking for new story ideas, contact me here.

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tim@yogafolio (Yogafolio) Kansas City Yoga Community Nella Yoga Yoga https://www.yogafolio.com/blog/2018/4/a-visit-to-nella-yoga-in-downtown-kc Sun, 29 Apr 2018 18:24:00 GMT
The Art of Meditating https://www.yogafolio.com/blog/2018/1/the-art-of-meditating                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Being on hand to take photos at a recent yoga class held inside the beautiful Kansas City Union Station building allowed me to witness a magical view of many hundreds of people sitting in the quiet silence of meditation.  It got me to thinking of my long journey of discovery towards learning how to meditate.  Along the way, I’ve built upon things I learned in workshops, yoga classes, church, DVDs, the internet and books.   After years of accumulating knowledge, my head got so cluttered on the details of what I was supposed to be doing, it became even more difficult to still my mind. I’d try this or that method for a while without any noticeable results and stop.   It wasn’t until I read Erich Schiffman’s book entitled, ‘Yoga, The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness’, that all the earlier instruction became galvanized into a simple method of practice.  Here are just a  few of the insights that have helped my practice immensely.

 
  • Learning how to do something takes dedicated effort.  I may want to learn how to play an instrument, but I’m not going to see results after just a week of practice.  I adopted this same mindset and committed to making meditation a part of my life.
  • I set aside a specific period of time every day to practice.  Just like eating breakfast is part of my morning routine, I incorporated a segment of time for quiet reflection also.  It wasn’t much in the beginning, maybe ten minutes. 
  • One area in my house was dedicated to my practice and decorated accordingly to inspire a tranquil atmosphere.  A comfortable chair eventually gave way to a set of cushions on the floor.  
  • After entering my space and getting comfortable in a seated position, I close my eyes and take a few moments to get centered.  It’s funny how I can completely forget that my aim coming into the space is to practice meditation!  Sometimes I’ll realize many minutes after starting, that I’ve been planning the upcoming day, running future errands, or solving the world’s problems in my head.
  • From this, I’ve learned that it’s helpful to start by asking my thinking mind for its cooperation to take a break for a while and allow the deeper me to enjoy some time with myself. 
  • Next, I imagine what it’d feel like if I had absolutely no worries - if everything in my life was exactly as I’d like it to be.  I invoke this state of mind and it helps immensely to still my thoughts.
  • Comfortably settled and relaxed I next begin to focus on my breathing. This part is pretty much a staple of all the methods I’d tried before.  With closed eyes, I gaze slightly upward - a few feet out in front of the third eye. To help anchor my thoughts in breathe I may count down from fifty, inhale one number… exhale the next, down to zero.  Or I might repeat a simple mantra in my head.  The point here is to feel the body breathing.  I reflect with some amazement and wonder that even if I wanted to stop breathing on my own, I couldn’t.  Some greater power is causing me to breathe.
  • With the gaps in vacant thinking growing longer, I can start to see when thoughts arise.  Instead of giving these attention, I simply let them dissipate on their own through lack of focus on my part. Like a helium balloon that I release my grasp on, I’ve learned that thoughts not energized will naturally dissolve away. The more I actively try not to think though, the farther I get from stillness.
  • Finally, when I’m ready, I put forth this question to my deepest being: “Is there anything you would have me know or understand in this moment?”  Once posing the question, I focus all my attention on hearing the voice of clarity & reason respond back.  Erich Schiffman likens it to putting out a call at the edge of a canyon and then listening for the ensuing echo.
  • Sometimes I get an answer, sometimes I don’t.  Either way I give thinks for that day, a never before experienced and never to be repeated moment of time.

That’s it.  My comfort level at staying still has grown over the years, allowing for longer sessions. The real benefit doesn’t arise during the practice, 

but instead through the results that appear throughout the day.  I understand 

now that the chattering voice in my head is not who I am, that there’s something much deeper and separate is aware. Knowing this allows me to detach from many of the worries I used to have before. I’m more in tune with my surroundings and open to possibilities that are presented in the moment.  That awareness is very beneficial when my camera is in hand.  It allows me to better adapt to situations that arise and take advantage of  constantly changing variables to see and shoot better pictures.

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tim@yogafolio (Yogafolio) Erich Schiffman Meditation https://www.yogafolio.com/blog/2018/1/the-art-of-meditating Fri, 19 Jan 2018 03:41:00 GMT
Uh-oh, the doctor says they need to take a picture! https://www.yogafolio.com/blog/2017/10/rotator-cuff-surgery      A year ago, my resolutions for 2015 included continuing to practice yoga, possibly even participate in a teacher training program.  I swam laps on my lunch break, ran on the treadmill every other day and ate healthily.  My pursuit of photography as a serious hobby was  picking up steam.  I'd upgraded to new camera equipment and took several advanced, online classes to learn the intricacies of Photoshop and Lightroom.  I launched this website so I could share pictures I took at events with others in the yoga community.

   Plans to pursue future goals came to a screeching halt when I started to notice a nagging pain in the front of my right shoulder.  No specific injury caused it that I could remember.   Initially, I treated it like all the other times something ached. I scaled back my exercise regimen, applied ice regularly, took ibuprofen and let it rest.  That course of action didn't make things better this time.  The simplest of tasks like raising my camera to snap a picture became painful.  Something was seriously amiss.  I needed a professional opinion.  

   I never had to visit a doctor for a 'not-operating-correctly' body part before.  My biggest worry wasn't the thought of having to go through an operation; no, my main concern was in having to navigate the health system for the first time.  Like anyone, I've had things scheduled for repair - cars, electronics and parts of my house.  Half the time, the thing's pronounced fixed when it hasn't really been fixed at all, which is extremely frustrating.  Could that happen with my shoulder? What if it never gets set right and I have to forego my active lifestyle?  These negative prospects were scary.  Going to the first orthopedic specialist recommended by my primary care physician didn't alleviate my fears.  Right out of the gate, several things with his manner bothered me and I knew I'd have to do some research to find a different doctor if the prognosis came to needing an operation.  After going through initial physical therapy that didn't do anything to help, my insurance company finally agreed to pay for an MRI.  

   By this time, the pain  in my shoulder was no longer constrained to just the one spot.  Severe discomfort had begun to move down my right arm when doing routine tasks like tucking in my shirt or reaching to put on a seatbelt.  The area began aching even when at rest.  With these developments, an operation was deemed necessary - the one so commonly referred to as 'rotator cuff surgery'.  Wanting a second opinion, I next had to figure out how to gather references and reviews on medical specialists.  I quickly learned that finding a good doctor isn't the easiest thing to accomplish!  I turned to friends, co-workers and the web for help and finally discovered someone I felt comfortable performing the procedure.

   That took place in September.  My new doctor was very straightforward, which I appreciated.  He explained that an MRI doesn't capture a perfect interior picture.  They wouldn't be able to tell for sure exactly what was wrong until they opened me up. He also explained that a vast majority of people my age who've been physically active show tears on an MRI, making diagnosis difficult.  Even healthy people with no shoulder soreness can show signs of degeneration.  True to my suspicions, it turned out my condition was pretty severe. Some major work was done to repair a muscle tear, inflammation and a tendon rupture.  After a couple weeks, physical therapy was scheduled to start.

   Recognizing how important this was going to be on the path to healing, I donned my researchers hat again to find an expert in this area.  The physical therapy group my first doctor referred me to was lackluster in performance to say the least.  At each appointment I went to at that location, I saw a different therapist and I received very little individual attention.  That didn't seem right. During this entire process, one thing I've learned is to follow my intuition and how to be a strong advocate for my own good care.  

   With three months of weekly physical therapy appointments in the books, I'm more aware now than ever how important yoga is to my vitality.  Many of the exercises and movements my therapist has me performing remind me of yoga postures.  In addition, the stretching and reworking of my arm to regain its full motion was greatly helped by knowing how to breath into muscle tightness to coax relaxation.  I'm starting to revisit some of the old, familiar postures and the shoulder's feeling pretty good.  I've missed the great group of yoga instructors I've been so privileged to learn from here in Kansas City.  I can't wait to roll out my mat at one of the several studios I love to visit and flow through a complete class, unencumbered by soreness, focusing instead on how grateful I am to be blessed with a healthy, fully functional body again.

 

Have a rotator cuff story to share?  Add a comment, I'd love to hear about your experience!

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tim@yogafolio (Yogafolio) Chaturanga KU Med Center MRI Physical Therapy Rotator Cuff Rotator Cuff Surgery Yoga Yogafolio https://www.yogafolio.com/blog/2017/10/rotator-cuff-surgery Fri, 06 Oct 2017 00:18:00 GMT
Relaxing into wellness https://www.yogafolio.com/blog/2017/7/relaxing-into-wellness   YRPKC Week Six with Brad Elpers guest teaching & musical guests Mount VeritasYRPKC Week Six with Brad Elpers guest teaching & musical guests Mount Veritas

   Through the practice of yoga I’ve learned many things. Among the most important is the art of listening to myself.  It’s a tricky thing though, this inward attentiveness.  For me there are actually several speakers in my head vying for attention at any given time.  There’s the voice of fear that’s constantly trying to hold me back, the one of procrastination that wants me to stay exactly where I’m at and the one of envy that incessantly makes comparisons between me and other people.  It’s funny how loud these can be considering none of them are speaking the truth.

   Whispering quietly beneath the extraneous chatter is the true light of who I am.  The pure presence is what’s left when all else fades away.  It’s counterintuitive to think that by putting less effort in to something more will be gained, but that strategy has brought better results to my meditation practice.  It’s allowed me to go deeper into many yoga postures, approaching with an attitude of relaxation as opposed to active effort to reach some point of accomplishment. I’ve learned to take stock of what my body is willing to do before stepping on my mat. This serves as a good barometer of where I should start and how far I can take it during any given session. When I don’t do that and just forge ahead with a set goal in mind, injury is much more likely to occur.  Unfortunately, I speak from experience.

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tim@yogafolio (Yogafolio) https://www.yogafolio.com/blog/2017/7/relaxing-into-wellness Thu, 06 Jul 2017 00:18:00 GMT
They have the creek, but we have the fountains. https://www.yogafolio.com/blog/2017/6/they-have-the-creek-but-we-have-the-fountains    

   It’d been awhile since I’d taken a true getaway vacation.  Three years ago I traveled over to Boulder, Colorado to serve as a volunteer to help put on the five day Hanuman (yoga & music) Festival.  As you may have seen on my Facebook page, I was there again for this years’ festival.  That first year I went, I had such a great time my heart started to ache halfway through with the thought I’d eventually have to return home to my normal life.  How neat would it be to live in such a wondrous place, surrounded by mountains, crystal clear streams, beautiful blue skies and a lifestyle totally focused on healthy living!  I was ready to move in.  But then a funny thing happened.  I started talking to some of my fellow volunteers that lived in the area and got their take on what it was like to be a resident.  Not everyone I spoke to realized they were living in paradise.  Once we got past the obvious beauty of the landscape, they shared stories relating to daily life: escalating traffic issues, unemployment, through-the-roof housing costs and difficult winters.  Tragedy has also struck the area in the way of forest fires one year, followed by massive flooding the next that nearly washed away whole towns.  By the time I left, I had a new appreciation for my hometown of Kansas City.  We have no mountains, but we’ve got some of the most beautiful parks in the country; Swope Park is one of the largest in the country.  The economy is rolling along nicely thanks to the strength of the auto industry and the arrival of Google.  My commute to work takes less than 10 minutes and although traffic can be a pain if you hit it at the wrong time, our road system is a fairly easy one to navigate.  Last but certainly not least, the choices for participating in the yoga community are colored with variety.  There are many top-notch studios available serving every part of the metro area.  Donation based classes are increasingly common at varied locations all around the city, both indoors and outdoors when the weather’s nice.

   Nope, all things considered I’ve got it pretty good living right here in the heartland.  It certainly is nice to go off from time to time and get the experience other locales have to offer, but somehow those vacations are made even better by acknowledging the many positives that await the return home. Baseball game, anyone?

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tim@yogafolio (Yogafolio) Boulder Hanuman Festival Kansas City Vacation Yoga https://www.yogafolio.com/blog/2017/6/they-have-the-creek-but-we-have-the-fountains Tue, 06 Jun 2017 00:18:00 GMT
Funny where reminders to live authentically can come from. https://www.yogafolio.com/blog/2016/9/funny-where-reminders-to-live-authentically-can-come-from

   This frog trying to fly at last weeks’ Yoga Rocks the Park reminded me of a special encounter I once had.  Fifteen years ago I went through a transition career-wise, choosing to give up the business I owned for an opportunity to get into the growing IT industry.  This involved going back to school to get retrained, passing numerous computer industry certification exams and the dreaded job hunt to land a job in my newly chosen vocation.  The whole process was fraught with uncertainty.  Day after day, week after week resumes went out – rejection letters were all I found waiting in the mailbox; if I heard anything back at all.  The nagging voice of self-doubt started to creep in.  Was I doing the right thing? Am I too old to change careers? Maybe I should  give up my dream of getting into this field and keep doing what I’m doing for a living, even though deep inside I'm not happy any longer. 

   After many months of searching, I finally landed a job to maintain the computer systems at one of the largest high schools in Kansas City.  Yeah! But to say I was nervous those first days would be an understatement.  This was my first ‘real world’ experience touching very sophisticated and important equipment that allowed many people to do their jobs successfully. Armed with just the classroom training I had up to this point, I felt pretty uncertain about my ability to actually do the job out in the field.  Fortunately my new employer partnered me up with a great guy named Tony who’d been providing support at the school for the previous two years and knew the layout front and back.  All the staff, teachers and many of the students really loved this guy. He was outgoing, funny, knowledgeable and quick to get things back to working condition when called in to help. 

   Soon, the two weeks of training came to a close and the following Monday I was walking into this gigantic building full of technology expected to keep it all up and running. I was so unsure of myself and abilities going in to work that morning!  I kept thinking, ‘How am I going to do this job like Tony does it!? I’m not nearly as qualified as him, don’t tell jokes like he can, don’t have the extroverted nature he does, what am I going to do if a real crisis strikes!?’ I couldn’t quite picture how I was going to BE in order to do this job successfully.  So I just took a pause out there in the parking lot on my way in and asked for guidance. I thought a quick silent ask for help might do some good.  In that precise moment I heard Divine Spirit, God, whatever you want to call it, communicate back so clear it actually startled me.  I remember looking behind me thinking someone had just whispered something in my ear.  Such a strong sense of understanding came over me in that moment based around this message: ‘Tim, just be yourself.  You don’t have to do the job like Tony does it. Do it like you know you can and you’ll be just fine.’  The message was so simple, yet so comforting.   I knew for certain in that moment I’d be okay and that nothing was going to happen that would so overwhelm me I’d launch complete catastrophe on the school district.  No need to try and be something I’m not – the world just needs my unique contribution. It's good to be reminded of that, because sometimes I forget and actually try very hard to be what I am not; which can get to feeling pretty uncomfortable, like that frog must feel with a pole stuck up its butt all day.

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tim@yogafolio (Yogafolio) Yoga Yoga Rocks the Park Yogatography https://www.yogafolio.com/blog/2016/9/funny-where-reminders-to-live-authentically-can-come-from Tue, 06 Sep 2016 00:18:00 GMT
Tales of a Vata Wanna-Be https://www.yogafolio.com/blog/2016/5/tales-from-a-vata-wanna-be

   When I take self-assessment tests, I always struggle with answering the questions honestly. It seems obvious to me what the ‘right’ answers would be to come off looking good or to get placed into a category I think will yield the most benefit. I’ve learned from experience though, it’s really best just to go ahead and get real. The last thing you want to do is get committed to a situation that ultimately becomes uncomfortable to your very nature. Even so, I still have to catch myself trying to appear as something I’m not when doing these kinds of   personal evaluation quizzes.

   So when I did my first Ayurveda-based, dosha self-analysis - here - a few years ago, I had to fight the tendency to align myself with traits I perceived as appealing just to put myself into a ‘cool category’. Astrologically, I’m a Leo whose ruling planet is the sun so my inclination right off the bat was to answer from the fiery pitta point of view. Many of the typical pitta traits were also appealing to me, so before I even got done with the test I kind of assumed that… ‘Yeah, I’m that one.’ Now, I totally realize that taking a simple online quiz does not an Ayurvedic expert make me. It’s given me something more to study though and to appreciate a bit deeper, which I’ve tried to do. As my understanding of the other doshas has grown a bit and I started to honestly look at the full spectrum of my personae as they related to Ayurveda, it was the (not-so-appealing to me) kapha category that I found myself identifying with a lot more.  For example, although I’ve actively exercised all my life on a fairly regular schedule, my free time is often spent in more sedentary activities.  If I don’t consciously expend the energy to try new things and to push myself to get up and going, my real tendency is just to sink back into very familial routines.  Oh, how I envy those happy-go-lucky vatas sometimes!

   This leads me finally to one of my favorite hobbies.  My early childhood was spent living very near the ocean. I had an uncle that took me sailing on a regular basis.  I remember what a profound influence that had on me, like I was really being challenged somehow just sitting on that boat being guided by the wind, let alone being out in the ocean with no foreseeable boundaries or edges in sight.  It was one of the first things I ever did that was both soothing and uncomfortable, at the same time. Many years later after our family moved to the Midwest, I went to a summer camp to learn how to sail myself.  Although I loved learning how to navigate the breeze and spending time on the water; in many ways the activity itself felt very discomforting once again.  I only went to this camp that one summer. The awkward, unsteady state of sailing stuck with me as a strong memory though. Then a few years ago I found myself in one of those doldroms periods and wanted to shake things up. I read somewhere a good way to get out of those times is to look back at hobbies you once enjoyed as an avenue to explore for excitement.  So, I went out and bought a small sailboat.  The couple of years I owned it turned out to be a great personal learning experience. I knew nothing about doshic tendencies – this being a few years before yoga took hold in my life. Again, I want to accentuate I’m certainly no expert on the matter of Ayurveda here, but as I look back on it now, I can see that sailing is about as vata an activity as something can get. It was a great thing to be doing to counterbalance my strong kapha tendencies without me even knowing it.  It helps to explain the strange feelings I had wrapped up in the activity and also showed me how far back in life certain inherent traits can start to take hold.  So what am I going to do more of this summer?  Well, I don’t have my sailboat any longer but the idea of launching bubbles into the wind at Yoga Rocks the Park –KC this Sunday sounds like a great idea!

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tim@yogafolio (Yogafolio) Ayurveda Dosha Sailing Yoga https://www.yogafolio.com/blog/2016/5/tales-from-a-vata-wanna-be Fri, 06 May 2016 00:18:00 GMT
Committing to start a home practice isn't that hard once you realize this... https://www.yogafolio.com/blog/2016/4/beginning-a-self-guided-practice-at-home-isnt-that-hard-once-you-realize-this Yoga Rocks the Park - KCYoga Rocks the Park - KC

I’ve attended a few classes lately where the idea of starting a home practice has been discussed.  A couple of my fellow classmates mentioned it was something they’d like to do, but have a hard time mustering up the motivation to self-train for sixty or ninety minutes to match a typical studio class. There’s a pervasive thought in the fitness world that unless a workout period can go some minimum amount of time, it’s not much worth the bother to do anything at all.  If you’re going to travel 20 minutes each way somewhere to work out 10 minutes, I might agree with that statement; but when it comes to practicing yoga at home, I’ll argue that any amount is worth the effort. One of the first activities we all do upon waking up from a deep sleep is to launch into a full body stretch.  Whether yours resembles full-blown Vasisthasana or not, all the elements of a very short yoga practice are present in that moment: conscious body awareness, a big deep breathe and a surge of energy throughout the body. That rise-n-shine posture takes only a few seconds and we all know how wonderful that feels.  Commitment to do something more can start with that.  By recognizing there’s benefit to just that teeny bit of ‘practice’, it might be easier to lay down the mat later in the day for whatever time is available - even if it’s just a few minutes.

Your experiences with building a personal yoga practice would be much appreciated.  Extra points for sharing pictures of your dedicated workout space if you have one!

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tim@yogafolio (Yogafolio) Guidance Stretch Yoga Yogatography https://www.yogafolio.com/blog/2016/4/beginning-a-self-guided-practice-at-home-isnt-that-hard-once-you-realize-this Wed, 06 Apr 2016 00:18:00 GMT
A picture that filled my heart with gratitude. https://www.yogafolio.com/blog/2016/3/a-picture-that-filled-me-with-gratitude-and-why    

   A few years back I came to an uncomfortable realization. In many ways, my life had congealed into a predictable pattern of mundane activities.  As a kid growing up I avowed my life wouldn’t be governed by routine.  I loved trying, doing and exploring things I’d never done before.  Many summers of my childhood were spent working on the family farm steeped in the magic of the southern Missouri wilderness. We regularly played host to large groups of city-dwellers seeking to leave the familiar patterns of their lives behind in exchange for exotic adventure. They’d only stay a few days, but while at our place we’d lead them on horseback rides, woodland scouting expeditions, float trips, spelunking hikes, hayrides and many other activities that were anything but ordinary in comparison to the lifestyle they were accustomed.  It was amazing to witness the dramatic change that would sometimes occur in peoples’ demeanor during their stay.  I recall how sad I’d feel for them when their stay was over, having to leave the enchantment of our world to return back to whence they came.

   Here, decades later though – about 5 years ago, I realized that I’d become one of those people my younger self felt sorry for way back then. Life had gotten pretty stagnant, repetitive and dull. I’d been living in Kansas City over twenty years, been working at my current employer for ten, nothing really much exciting was looming on the horizon.

   The voice of discontent can be a great motivator.  In my experience though, I’ve learned it’s important to tread cautiously through these times.  It’s easy to fall into the trap of initiating some immediate, life stirring change in the hopes it’ll fix things. The purchase of a new boat or car might do the trick. Or perhaps I should quit my job, move to the ocean and live on the beach in a tent. Having done things like that before and come up just as empty after the big shake up, I’ve learned to be more patient with the process. So this time I did something different. What I did was… nothing, which is sometimes the best course of action to take. I’ve acted impulsively in the past – only to look back with regret on what I’d done. So I started going about my days looking for the joy, making note of the many things I had to be grateful for and taking positive little steps towards figuring out what the Universe was trying to show me. In order to do this, I had to turn down the volume of my rational mind that was telling me to just keep doing what I was doing and take comfort in how good I had it. I started relying on intuition more to guide some of my behavior, which immediately got me doing things and talking to people I otherwise wouldn’t have paid attention to.  One thing I began to notice was that yoga was going on all around me. It seemed for a couple weeks straight in there somewhere I heard about yoga every day from some angle or another – people talking about it at work, articles in magazines I happened to pick up, or through social media.

   Then one day I was at the coffee shop and a girl walked in who seemed very affable.  She was very pretty and much younger than me. Rational mind immediately drummed up a hundred reasons why I shouldn’t reach out and talk to her.  Oddly enough though, my intuition was saying the exact opposite. She’d already sat at the counter with her drink and I was admiring her t-shirt that was from Oregon, another thing I’d been hearing an awful lot about lately.  There was such a pull towards talking to her it’s really hard to describe, but I didn’t have the courage to just go up and introduce myself – the whole beautiful girl thing, not to mention the big age difference.  So I literally threw out to the Universe… ‘Okay, if I’m supposed to meet this person, if there’s some reason for it, she’ll come sit down at the table next to me.’ Well, less than one minute later she got up, looked my way, walked over, sat down!  The hour plus conversation that ensued somehow ended up on the topic of yoga, not surprising given how much I’d been hearing about it from other sources lately.  When we parted, she left me a card with a strong recommendation of a particular studio to try that had good beginner classes.  In that moment, there was no doubt in my mind why our paths had crossed. Within the week I’d gone to my first yoga class and I haven’t looked back; even though my rational mind continues to tell me I’m too old for this activity, too sore, too male and a hundred other excuses to retreat back into my former comfort zone.

   So there I was earlier in the week, looking over the photos I’d recently taken at the latest yoga event I attended.  Something about this one caught my eye, even though it’s not that ‘artistically’ pleasing to me. Looking at it closer, the reason for its appeal became clearer.  In a lot of ways it captures the struggle I was going through when I landed on the doorstep of yoga. The old, rigid structure of my life in the background – the building, concrete and metal sculpture, gives way to the more flexible elements in the foreground.  It gave me pause to reflect on how it came to be that I was sitting there looking at this picture, grateful that I decided to change course a bit, pursue some new activities and reinvigorate my life by embracing new experiences. Om shanti, friends.

    

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tim@yogafolio (Yogafolio) Discontent Guidance Patience Yoga Yogatography https://www.yogafolio.com/blog/2016/3/a-picture-that-filled-me-with-gratitude-and-why Sun, 06 Mar 2016 01:18:00 GMT
Stillness leads to action. https://www.yogafolio.com/blog/2015/9/stillness-leads-to-action

     Yoga certainly can be a physically taxing discipline.  Taking a quick browse through some of the pictures here on my site will prove that to be true. Even greater personal challenge though, can arise from what’s revealed underneath the physical practice.   If I had to summarize what I’ve learned so far in my few years of practice, I’d say yoga is an exercise directed at discovering the authentic self.  Within the movement we’re taught to cultivate stillness. This is done by focusing on the breath, the lines of energy as they radiate through our body and how flowing through the poses feels to our bodies. This may sound simple but it definitely is not.  For a lot of people, residing in stillness and learning how to just be with oneself can be difficult.  I’m sure there are many people who go their entire lives without ever making an attempt at connecting with themselves on a deep, intuitive level.  In my case it came out of necessity, long before my feet ever hit the yoga mat.

     Years ago due to a series of bad choices I’d made up to that point in my life, I found myself at a pretty dark crossroads without much hope that things were going to get any better.  I did have options, but my limited, closed-minded self just couldn’t see what they were at the time. For all my best effort, I couldn’t sort out the situation no matter how I viewed it.  As things continued to get worse, a funny thing happened. As almost a last resort, I started listening to a calm and confident inner voice that was urging me towards an alternative course of action. This voice had tried to catch my attention before, but I’d largely ignored it.  Something was different this time. Basically, the misery of staying the same had become greater than the fear of change and miraculously a window of positive opportunity presented itself.  The decision to follow the advice I was hearing suddenly brought me to a place of tranquility I’d not experienced in a long time. Suddenly I had some hope and along with it, something different I was willing to try. Looking back on how all that unfolded, I have no idea where that new suggestion came from.  No friend, family member or anyone else had planted a seed of thought towards it.  Over the years, I’ve come to terms with what happened to me in those few days.  I count it as a very personal and profound experience.  It was a definite turning point in how I’ve come to see the world and my place in it.

     This is just one of  many reasons yoga has become such an important part of my life - especially since I’ve begun to dig deeper into its applications as a mechanism to guide my behavior, not just on the mat but off it as well. In the rhythmic stillness of the breath, meditation and pause between poses, that voice I first gave in to years ago has become clearer and more recognizable through my practice.  I’ve come to realize it’s always accessible if I just take a moment’s break to tune in. Long ago, it helped to steer me out of a desperate spot. Now I’m more likely to heed its advice for healthy decision making; to better align my actions with what I’ve been put on this earth to accomplish and to receive clarity on what that might be.  On that track, I’ve recently felt some type of transition phase approaching. Going through major changes can always be fearful, but with this inner compass leading the way and getting stronger through my practice, I’m confident that whatever happens, I’ll be okay. I’m assured of that each time I step onto my mat.  Om shanti. 

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tim@yogafolio (Yogafolio) Breath Guidance Meditation Yoga https://www.yogafolio.com/blog/2015/9/stillness-leads-to-action Sun, 06 Sep 2015 00:18:00 GMT
How this picture I recently took, deepened my humility. https://www.yogafolio.com/blog/2015/7/how-this-picture-i-took-deepened-my-humility   

 The days of waiting for film to be developed are long gone, but the anticipation of viewing a collection of full scale images on my computer screen after a photo taking session is every bit as exciting as when I used to thumb through a package of prints for the first time; usually picked up from the local drug store. There are always shots I can’t wait to see in large format, certain that when I took the photo I captured the scene exactly as my eye saw it - in all its full glory.  Of course, that’s rarely the case and many times I’m disappointed at how the ‘perfect shot’ actually comes out.  A slight mis-focus can ruin an otherwise beautiful picture that can’t be saved by even the most skilled Photoshopper.   

    Countering this disappointment however, are always the one or two shots I notice I’ve taken for some haphazard reason that turn out to be gems.  It’s humbling to say, but many times these images appear out of a complete mistake in conventional practice on my part. What I actually tried to capture’s been completely lost and in its place some other wondrous scene has been substituted.  These are typically pictures I don’t even remember taking.  It’s as if a Divine Force took over my camera for a moment or two and took the real picture that was hidden right there in front of me.  The picture above struck me that way when I first saw it.  I don’t remember taking it, but I know it was in there with all the rest so it had to be my finger on the shutter.

     I’ve thought about this picture all week and I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s a real lesson in this for me as a student of photography, of yoga and Life in general.  Many episodes in my life are just like these unexpected pictures.  I start my day with things all planned out, a clear idea of what’s going to transpire throughout the day right up to the time my head hits the pillow.  I get agitated sometimes when things don’t go as I’ve got them charted out. Days that go just like I planned however, are typically mundane and fairly forgettable.  It’s the unforeseen circumstances that mark a day as memorable - the chance encounter with a friendly stranger, a call out of the blue from an old friend,  a rainbow that appears out of nowhere.  Photography has reminded me to slow down, let go the expectations of how I think things should go and have faith that beauty is ever present if I just slow down long enough to notice it.

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tim@yogafolio (Yogafolio) Humility Photography Pop-Up Yoga KC Yoga Yogatography https://www.yogafolio.com/blog/2015/7/how-this-picture-i-took-deepened-my-humility Mon, 06 Jul 2015 00:18:00 GMT
First visit to a multi-day yoga festival. https://www.yogafolio.com/blog/2015/4/first-visit-to-a-mega-yoga-festival

     The Hanuman Festival was rapidly approaching and several of my yoga studio classmates were talking about making the journey out to Boulder, Colorado to attend.  It certainly sounded like fun, spending four days practicing yoga on the edge of the majestic Rocky Mountains. This group consisted of all women however and they already had a strong friendship bond between them, so I felt uncomfortable asking to be included in their plans.  I really wanted to go though, because the teacher lineup was incredible. Richard Freeman, Tiffany Cruikshank, Amy Ippoliti and Kathryn Budig were just some of the names I recognized.  The chance to take classes from such a diverse group of great instructors, all concentrated in one spot was very appealing.  The idea of traveling out to this massive happening as a yoga newbie on my own though, and spending four days surrounded by a large group of people I didn't know, seemed a bit daunting.  So I did some research and discovered another option – attending as a volunteer! In exchange for ‘working’ just 15 hours over the course of 5 days, I’d have the opportunity to attend nearly any of the classes offered during my ‘off’ times for free. Of course, this decision carried with it a number of commitments on my part, such as arriving at the Festival a day early, promising to show up for assigned shifts on time and generally just being a good steward for the festival.  There were many other benefits besides the obvious one of free class access.  Participating in behind the scenes operations of the festival and serving alongside teams of other shining people allowed me to feel a lot more comfortable with the experience, as opposed to just going as a participant. By the time the actual festival started, I already knew a bunch of people that I’d worked alongside getting the preliminary setup done. The structured team assignments made it easier for me to make new friends and initiate dialogue with new people.  I also didn’t have to commit to specific classes in advance. Instead, I could flex the ones I wanted to attend, based on information I heard at the festival about specific teachers I’d never heard of before.  Since going to that first Hanuman event several years ago, I’ve volunteered at Yoga Journal Conferences, Wanderlust and local activities like Yoga Rocks the Park in Kansas City.  All offer various benefits as a part of their various work-exchange programs.  If you have your eye on a particular festival or event you’d like to attend but don’t know anyone else going, or feel a little intimidated at the thought of showing up to something like this on your own, I’d definitely recommend checking out volunteer options.  It’s a great way to give a little of your time and receive big rewards in return.

Look for Tim at the registration table of Hanuman 2015 in Boulder, coming up in June!

 

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tim@yogafolio (Yogafolio) Boulder Hanuman Festival Seva Service Volunteer Yogafolio Yogatography https://www.yogafolio.com/blog/2015/4/first-visit-to-a-mega-yoga-festival Sat, 18 Apr 2015 02:14:46 GMT