A Leap from the Skies

Twice in one week I have thought that it was going to end for me.

The first, when the plane I was on did this big dip and for an instant we were free flying. That instant felt like forever as the sounds of screams went along with the sound of my crazy heartbeat. I had a moment of panic, adrenaline rushing, and then in the next second, I realised that there really was nothing I could do about it. Surrender.

The second time, I was crossing the street and an old man who probably wasn’t even looking at the lights kept going when he was meant to stop. Of course, this time, being on my own two feet and on the ground, I could just run out of the way. If he had been faster or me, slower the result of course would have been very different.

You go away, think about and decide on things. These moments of deep contemplation that are just so valuable. The thoughts that you keep to yourself and only share with those you hold dear your heart. From these thoughts and contemplations are born deep intentions. And then as if to seal those intentions in place, the universe sends you these little warnings, reminding you that you are not here forever and that your life can’t operate on cruise control.

It is time.

Sometimes you wish you were that person who would enter a room by breaking the door, or get close to a person by hacking off their armour. But you are not. You will knock before you enter, and allow someone to remove the layer between them and yourself when they feel ready. Sometimes, in a leap of faith, you open your door and remove your veil so they may see you first, with the knowledge that you don’t share this much of yourself lightly.  You are that who finds your passions and fires sacred, only to be shared with those of your choosing.

In a world where everything and everyone is hard, and fast, and loud, your gentle flame is different, unfamiliar and you wonder if you are even noticed. Perhaps not, not by everyone anyway, but the people who can really see, the ones who take the time to look instead of just believing a good marketing strategy, these people will find you somehow. No matter how much you cloak yourself in blackness, these people will see the deep colours hidden inside.

These are the people you will build your life with.

Sometimes you wonder if you will ever build this life, if you will ever land, if this dream you have of knowing the meaning ‘home’ in your heart instead of just in your head will ever come to pass. You’ve been here before, risking it all only to have it come crushing down. Do you even dare try again?

The time you’ve spent alone has afforded you knowledge of yourself. You know that when you act, it is not to fill a need or to pass the time. You know that if you do this, you are giving it the best that you can even though you know there is every chance it could break you.

And what if the point of taking a risk if the loss of that which you desire means nothing to you?

But you can’t make that which you desire yours unless it is meant to be yours.

So what do you do?

You take a chance. Then step away. Send it your love. Give it space.

Whichever path this fork in the road was meant to take will take you closer to where you are meant to be.

You could have closed your eyes, but to be forever living in fear, doors and windows closed is now no longer an option. The reaches of time and mortality have awakened you from your slumber. Thoughts of the end, the feeling you felt when you thought the plane was about to fall have moved you to take this leap, hoping that the earth will catch you.

Sometimes you have to leap to find your ground again.

Leap-of-Faith-leenB

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Life – A Series of Crazy Experiments

My life, as some of you know, is a series of experiments.

 

It used to be different. I used to just do what I did and go on doing that. Then, I hit a wall, or fell into a well. One or the other. Either way it was really quiet down there in that chasm, and in the silence a voice said, “well, you’ve drank and drugged yourself into this state, and it’s not really working out is it? So how bout you try something else?”

 

The first time I heard that voice was in 2009. I thought it was just my hangover speaking, so I ignored it and kept going as I was – smoking, drinking, running around the hamster wheel thinking I was getting somewhere but really I wasn’t.

 

Then 2011, the wall hit me again. Of course it was the wall’s fault. I was getting nowhere so how could I possibly hit it?

 

This time the voice rang even louder and went on for a long time. And it wasn’t that I had nothing to lose. I had everything to lose, but the voice was right, what was going on was just not working out. If I didn’t love my own life and my own heart, who else was going to?

 

Change.

 

This fucking process of change.

 

It is tough work. It hurts the head. It hurts the heart. It is time consuming and damn scary.

 

And after all that work, sometimes you end up at square one again. That’s where I’ve been this last month. Not physically. That bit is fine. It wasn’t that I had a ‘fuck it’ moment, drank a bottle of bourbon, smoked a pack of cigarettes and then inhaled a KFC bucket for good measure, but I did hit an emotional slump.

 

There was a moment of hopelessness when stuff that was happening the whole month then the alert for my late dad’s birthday came up and I was just sad, and angry. Just so angry at him for all the reasons I should have been angry at him with before but kept inside because he was my dad, and I shouldn’t have been angry at him. I was angry at the legacy he left me, the half truths and lies.

 

With that anger came all the fear that I thought I had worked through – the fear of falling down, of a broken heart, not letting anyone come too close, the fear of actually letting myself love someone I liked because that would be too much, wanting to cover up all of me with my some spray that would move focus to my sexuality because that would keep the deeper part of me safe. So much, too much and it all hit me.

 

Then five days came where I met my physical, mental and emotional edge every single morning in gruellingly beautiful yoga practices. Day four was when I hit rock bottom and had a cry. Day five my body bounced back but inside who knew what was going on, and it wasn’t until later in the day that I found out. Something had been unlocked somewhere and it was ready to come out.

 

Series of experiments right?

 

Well, sometimes, you’re taken back to an old experiment from years and years ago that you’d forgotten the result of.

 

I found myself in a dark club with about three drinks in me, which is just a good time on the dance-floor with good friends in my now emotional state, but as I was visiting an old emotional state, it was interesting. Some random started dancing with me in a suggestive fashion. It was an invitation, and for a while, I replied to that invitation. He didn’t know me so the attraction was just physical and you know what? It was damn nice that someone found me physically attractive.

 

Then what happened?

Well he danced too close and I was jolted back to now and the realisation that although easier and less scary, it was really not what I wanted. Random meetings can be a nice distraction but I want to take the road untraveled before. I want to be known, as terrifying as that is for me. I want to walk into something with my eyes open ready to give it everything that I’ve got. This disposable ‘hi, you’re hot so let’s go out for a drink or five,’ thing just won’t fly anymore.

 

This new road won’t be as quick.

 

It is one toe in followed by a deep breath, then a foot, another deep breath, sometimes running back in fear, but then moving forward again. It is working through challenges as they come one at a time, awkwardness, fear, hearts beating crazy fast that they feel like they’re leaving our chests sometimes, it will be spending time apart and then coming back again and again and again, and then one day, just finding yourself there in that place you wanted to be.

 

Perhaps being there, upside down with your feet in the air and someone else helping you stay up will be the scariest space yet. So what do you do? You can run of course, but you can stay, taking it one step at a time, knowing that every day is an experiment in trust, in love, in knowing that as scared as you are, so are they, and that in this, you are together.

 

Every experiment has the potential to blow up in your face, but I keep doing them with the hope that one day, one of my experiments works out and a garden will grow, and I wish the same for you.

Imageyoga,

The Cure to Life

The other day, someone asked me, “how come your hips are still tight even with all the yoga your practice?”  It is an interesting question that can be answered in many different ways. On a physical level, sitting down for long periods as well as activities like cycling and running can affect the hips that way.  On an energetic and emotional level, tight hips can sometimes signify a certain degree of resistance, or emotions being held, trust or any number of reasons, depending on where the individual is in life.  In my case, mine were feeling a bit tight because of a combination of physical and emotional reasons which I won’t go into.

What interested me about the question is the idea behind it that a chosen activity or spiritual path can be a cure to life.  Yoga, prayer, whatever path we choose, we sometimes think that it will protect us from life.

When I was a child, I believed so strongly in prayer. I still do.  But as a child I would pray for a specific thing, mostly for my father to come home, and when he didn’t I got angry. What I wanted, really, was to not feel the pain of it all, but of course, that never happened.  And then, I thought that God had a personal vendetta against me because of it.  As I got older, I learned of another way to deal with pain – disconnection.  Alcohol was a great tool for this method, along with a life of partying, and then sleeping it off.  It worked for a little while, and then it got old.

Then, in the great old age of 30, yoga made an appearance.  Not the gym yoga I had done before, but the kind of yoga that gave you space to be with yourself.  I looked at all the happy, healthy people and thought, that this might be it, the cure to all pain and suffering. Asana practice led to meditation and stillness, and prayer.  Slowly, I worked through my physical injuries, and then the emotional injuries, but guess what?  There are days when the hips are still tight, or the shoulder is out of whack.  Sometimes I still spend half of class crying into my mat.

Why?

Because life doesn’t end and as long as we live in the world, shit will happen.  When people claim to not feel pain or sadness anymore, I wonder if they have let the parts of themselves that can feel all that die. And yes, it is safe when you’ve learn to shut the world out, living a solitary existence, but is that really living?

The only cure to life is death.

All the yoga, prayer and meditation did not stop my father from passing away. It doesn’t stop my shoulders from being sore sometimes, and it sure as hell doesn’t stop sadness or anger from making an appearance in my life.  Instead it has taught me to stop and take some time exploring these injuries and emotions.

This is the path of surrender without giving up, knowing when to back away instead of walking away.  It is taking the labels of “good” and “bad” out of emotions and just feeling them.  Crying when you need to cry.  Being angry when you need to do that.  Taking time alone when you need that.  Or simply walking up to a friend and giving them a hug because that’s what you need.  Have you ever felt like crying but ended up laughing hysterically instead?  Well, that is the energy moving.

Sometimes the energy just needs an outlet.

A friend at work asked me how I could still breathe and hold my space even when I am angry. The answer is simple.  I have since stopped trying to push my anger down and sit on it.  If I need to, I will get up and go for a walk.  Sometimes I get into an inversion just so I can see the world in another light.  And of course, breathing techniques help.  The way I manage my anger though, might not be the same way you manage yours, and it is your journey to find your tools.

Yoga, prayer or meditation – shit will happen.

It is how you deal with it that will change.  Surrender and acceptance doesn’t stop sadness, but it allows you to feel with a certain degree of peace.  Self exploration in the silence allows you to find safe ways of letting emotions flow through you in a compassionate way.  And perhaps, you had these skills all along, but as you read more books of people telling you how it should be, you forgot your own intuition, the higher Self that guides you through the smooth and rough.  This Self which is made of equal parts shadow and light, and knows things that your brain might not.

So explore. Learn. Feel.

There is no cure to grief apart from grieving.

And there is no cure to life apart from living.

grief

Hump Day Yoga, 2013

From January 2013 I taught a yoga class in Hyde Park on Wednesday evenings.  It was a free class mostly of friends and friends of friends, affectionately named “Hump Day Yoga.”  As of last week however, due to the weather change and the dark that creeps up on us earlier, Hump Day Yoga is no longer is session.

It was bittersweet for me.

Hump Day Yogis and Yoginis

Hump Day Yogis and Yoginis

Hump Day Yogis and Yoginis

Hump Day Yogis and Yoginis

As a teacher, I get attached to my students, and a part of me wishes they could be with me for as long as I can teach.  I love seeing how they progress from week to week, and the fluidity of how my class plans change as they change.  I love the banter that goes on, and how they have become comfortable enough to bring themselves into child’s pose when they need it.  I love seeing them grow in strength and flexibility and how they brave the dark spaces in meditation.  And I love how this beautiful group of people has made a mid-week yoga session a platform to reconnect, build new connections and to have proper, honest conversations.  For some of them, this was the first step into an unknown world and I thank them for sharing the experience with me.

As a student however, I understand that this journey is a personal one.  You meet teachers that speak to you and you might travel with them for a while.  Then the time comes when you might go your separate ways.  You need the space to explore your practice, perhaps try different styles, and listen to different ways of being told things.

The space on the mat does not exist in a bubble, you come in carrying the weight of your day, your diet, the sleepless nights and injuries on a physical, mental and emotional level. When we get onto the mat, we don’t leave the rest of us behind.  My Hump Day students have become comfortable with that and know that it’s perfectly fine to take breaks, and to have a laugh when they need.

The role of the teacher is but to guide, and offer a safe space for people for self enquiry and self exploration. However, a teacher too brings all that they are into class. When I started teaching, I worried about bringing my personality into class, of being vulnerable and open with my students, but Hump Day Yoga allowed me to learn to relax.

We are all a work in progress, as students, as teachers, as human beings.  In our journey we will meet people who open doors for us to get to the next level of our work and we make the choice to walk through that door or not.  So I thank my Hump Day Yogis for three months of beautiful practice and for both opening the door for me, and stepping into the invitation I sent to you.  You were as much my teachers as you were my students, and may our practices continue to grow so that we can bring more into our future meetings.

Namaste.

Some of the Hump Day Yogis speak about their practice here: 

“Yoga is a great de-stressing activity for me. I am able to clear my mind of all pressures outside of the class and just focus on me, my body and my mind. This mid-week yoga session is exactly what I needed. As I lay on the ground at the end of the class staring at the tree branches and evening sky, nothing else mattered. I was relaxed, at peace and had no worries.”

–          Shady Lim, Marketing Manager , http://www.shadytravels.com/2013/03/how-i-de-stress.html

“Hump Day Yoga (HDY) is why I love my Wednesdays.
Why do I love it so much?
I get to de-stress, BREATH, and challenge myself during this 75 minute session, but it’s also about the people sharing their day, week & their life with you. It helps me achieve a level of physical exercise and a mental fulfilment.”

–          Jenny Schnell, Client Services Manager

“A few month ago, I faced one of the biggest challenges in my life and I needed to find myself again. Thats when a long time lost friend Az invited me to her yoga sessions and it was truly uplifting experience to reconnect with friends that I hadn’t seen in a while and with myself that I had been brutally tough on. Az would always bring stories and wise words for every one to think about and Id come out of the class not only physically balanced but also mentally empowered. Although it was for a short term but I personally really enjoyed the experience and am grateful that I was a part of it.”

–          Nina Jung, Marketing Manager, http://www.junglebananas.com/

‘Azra’s yoga classes are fun! A playful yoga teacher, Az’s deep knowledge of yoga generally and her own practice shine through more and more each week. I am looking forward to being guided by her for years to come. Namaste my friend.’

–          Meriana Baxter, Yoga Teacher

Sequence, Singing Bowl, Speakers and iPod... All you need for a day at the park, really

Sequence, Singing Bowl, Speakers and iPod… All you need for a day at the park, really

How the Fuck are YOU Doing?

We always know when people ask “how are you?” if they mean it or not, but nowadays it is very seldom that people ask the question as a question instead of a greeting. Really, who asks a question as a greeting? Well, a lot of people apparently. So much so, that I’ve given up on answering most of the time.  However, a few people I know are driven insane by my always asking things like, “how are you?” and “how do you feel?” Pregnant friends often get the latter. Sure nobody stops to wait for an answer anymore but call me crazy, I actually expect people to know how they are feeling. And not only do I ask, I’m quite happy to sit there and enquire not just of the big stuff, but of the tiny little changes like a niggle in a shoulder, or a slight change in appetite.

Do you know where you are right now? How are you feeling?

Honestly, ask me three years ago, and I would have had no idea how I was doing. The thing is, between greeting everyone else, and not waiting for an answer (because time is money and it’s all about how many people you can greet instead of the quality of your greeting) how many times a day do we check in and ask ourselves how we’re really doing? Is it hard? As Bryan Kest would say, “it’s simple, but it’s not necessarily easy.”  You see, sometimes checking in with yourself is the hardest thing to do.  Sometimes, you might not like what you see, or rather, that bit of you that’s known as the ego, constantly judging and raising an eyebrow, might not like it.

Les Leventhal in his classes often ask questions like, “how’s your breath?” and “how’s your life?’ Obviously in a yoga class you wouldn’t pipe up with an answer.  Well some people might, but after the fifth time when you’re sweating buckets you give up even trying.  However, in the silence, when you’ve got your foot in an unlikely place and an arm in an even more unlikely place, and you’re pretty much stuck there, you have no choice but to answer the questions to yourself.

I used to wonder why yoga instructors asked these questions, and to tell you the truth, it used to annoy me. I mean, how the hell was I supposed to know what I was feeling? Why the hell are we holding this lunge for so long? What rubbish is this hippy talking about? Converse with my body? How in fuck’s name would I do that? How the fuck would I know if my breath is speaking to me? Bodies don’t speak! Oh yes, a lot of pretty dialogue was going on in my head back then.  There was a lot of shit that I carried with me on to the yoga mat.  To be honest, I still carry some shit into my yoga with me today, but I think I’m conscious of the shit now so it’s manageable.

It takes a while (and occasionally your instructors go blue from repeating the same thing over and over again) but at one point, you get it. Nobody knows how you’re feeling apart from you (duh!).  Your instructor can tell you to put your hip somewhere and your arm somewhere else, but they don’t know how you’re feeling.  When do you start speaking to your body? When you pull back instead of pull out.  When you stop pushing yourself so hard that your heart is falling out of your chest.  When you know that line between pain and discomfort, and you just dance within discomfort. When you can actually smile instead of wanting to punch your instructor. When you start feeling instead of thinking.  When your ego decides to shut the fuck up.

Now that I’ve started trying to teach, I am always asking how this feels and that feels, where they feel the stretch, how their breath is doing.  Yes, I am the one instructing and teaching, but the best teacher is your own body.  Your body knows where it can go, and where it can stay.  It’s not your brain going, “yes, go deeper in the pose.” Stop. Feel. Muz would say that it’s like stepping into a hot bath. You don’t just jump in and scald yourself. You test the temperature slowly, and feel if it’s a comfortable before you lay back.  Sometimes it’s a smidgen too hot, but slowly your body temperature adjusts to it.  It’s all a habit of starting a dialogue with your body and with your emotions. At some point, you get used to asking yourself these questions, and you continue asking yourself through the day.  So please, stop, breathe, feel and consider – how’s your breath? How’s your life? How’s your heart? How the bloody fuck are you doing?

Versatile Blogger Award – Thank You

Dear Bloggers,

I have been nominated for the VERSATILE BLOGGER AWARD by http://lscotthoughts.com/.

As I didn’t expect this at all, all I can do is accept this nomination and thank Lauren for nominating me.

The rules are as follows:

  1. Thank the award-giver and link back to them in your post
  2. Share 7 things about yourself
  3. Pass this award along to 15 recently discovered blogs you enjoy reading
  4. Contact your chosen bloggers to let them know about the award

Seven things about myself:

  1. I’m generally a very practical person but there’s a part of me who always has and always will see the world with childlike wonder – and I am in no hurry to change this
  2. Yoga is a huge part of my life (surprise, surprise) and I love getting into a vinyasa
  3. Being hurt hasn’t stopped me from seeing a lot of beauty everywhere
  4. There is a small part of me that wants a fairy tale (or chick flick) inspired thing to happen in my life at least once
  5. I love being under a wide expanse of sky, barefoot, without makeup with my hair loose and tangled
  6. I have to start and end every day with about an hour to half an hour of complete silence or I get really edgy
  7. As I grow older, I have discovered that being strong means showing your vulnerability once in a while and so I have lost some inhibitions and learned to cry in public

Nominations are:

  1. http://yogawithnadine.com/
  2. http://behindtheveilbook.com/
  3. http://madsilence.wordpress.com/
  4. http://harleysmusings.wordpress.com/
  5. http://fridaysfivecents.wordpress.com/
  6. http://nissiknows.wordpress.com/
  7. http://bcommanderinchic.com/
  8. http://passionfortruths.wordpress.com/
  9. http://jininvan.wordpress.com/
  10. http://sultrysoliloquy.wordpress.com/
  11. http://lmoblog.wordpress.com/
  12. http://adamsdaughter.wordpress.com/
  13. http://themysticcall.wordpress.com/
  14. http://walkinghug.wordpress.com/
  15. http://themunchingmushroom.wordpress.com/

Thank you and namaste.

Azra