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I ventured home to Kansas for Labor Day weekend to see my family.  I missed my roots, wild sunflowers, pinkish orange sunsets and fresh air.  With the trains, ambulances and car horns of the city it is rare to enjoy complete solitude and stillness in Chicago.  It was good to be back.

No matter where I go, I’ll always know…OM is where the heart is.

I recently took 5 days off of practicing yoga and teaching yoga (gasp).  Usually when I can’t practice for a couple of days I turn into a monster.  I’m not joking.  Yoga is my heroin.  I’m not a very nice person when I am un-yoga-ed.  However, during this vacation I made up my mind to deal with the fact that I was not going to have time to practice and it was fine.  It was better than fine, it was a good thing.  I came back to my mat after 5 days and fell more in love with my sun salutes (and fell back in love with my tight hips) and fell more in love with teaching the sun salutes.  Sometime a little break from routine can work miracles.

*This is another installment of the ‘Traveling Yogini’ series.  Written by the charming guest blogger, Erin Grotheer (my roommate and soul sister)…

Kansas City – Maya Yoga

When in Rome, do Ashtanga yoga.

Or, ya know, when in Kansas City do Ashtanga yoga. Several weeks ago I went to Kansas City for a few days to see a friend and to putter around the city. I told myself that my days would be spent working on cover letters for potential real lawyer jobs post law school. I did make it to a coffee shop. I opened my laptop and instinctively directed my mouse to the internet. I, after all, had to keep up on my tres importante emails (mostly consisting of Philly’s Best Cheesesteak coupons). While on the intertubes, I figured I’d google some yoga studios in Kansas City. Low and behold, Maya yoga.

I picked Maya yoga because from looking at the google map it was the easiest to find. Also, their website had some neat photos. Sophisticated system of discerning quality yoga, I know. What a perfect segue into my theme from Kansas City: Say “yes” to the universe, make choices with ease and let yourself be surprised with the outcome. Because let me tell you, I was thoroughly pleasantly surprised with Maya yoga, a studio I had absolutely no preconceived notions about.

I took two classes at Maya yoga, both introductory flows through the Ashtanga series. I was completely green, yet eager to get a glimpse at the series. I f’in loved it. I want more Ashtanga. That want to foster a sense of community and interconnectedness in a yoga class? Ya, that’s a given with Ashtanga. Once you get the gist of the order of poses, you just let go. You can truly go inwards and shut the mind faucet off because you’re just a wave in the Ashtanga ocean. I’m excited to read more about Ashtanga, especially the chants associated with the greeting and closing.

There’s also something to be said for the physical build up of an Ashtanga series. I know this sounds naïve, especially considering this is primarily why people get hooked to Ashtanga in the first place. But you find yourself easing into more difficult poses better than you have before in a, say, vinyasa style class. I know that in every style, you perform poses in an order to warm up your body and prepare you for difficulties to come. Something about Ashtanga, though, just makes that goal more of a reality. If you’re ever in Kansas City, go to Maya Yoga! I took a class with Samantha, who was a peach (!), and with Kathleen, who is the co-owner of the studio. Both of these women were vibrant, beautiful, and calming.

Thank you Maya Yoga for making me feel at home, for letting me bring my huge suitcase into the studio, and for discreetly whispering to me when I was doing the wrong pose.

This Week’s Playlist:

Reckoner-Radiohead

Zocalo (Featuring Gabriel & Dresden) – Armin van Buuren & Gabriel & Dresden Shivers

You Can’t Always Get What You Want – The Rolling Stones

Gypsy- Fleetwood Mac 

It Ain’t Me, Babe – Bob Dylan

The Weight – The Band 

Flight Attendant- Josh Rouse

Bairagi ( Part One )- Nadaka The Lotus of the Quiet Mind 

Whale Rider – Kamal Whale Meditation

*This is another installment of ‘The Traveling Yogini’ series.  Written by the charming guest blogger, Erin Grotheer (my roommate and soul sister)…

Farm yoga 

I happen to be fortunate enough to be from a farm. You’re not from a farm? That’s ok too. We need all different kinds of spices in the spice rack if we want to make a different dish every night. I didn’t start doing yoga until I no longer lived on said farm. That’s a shame. I would have been even more of an insufferable hippie if I was a farm kid who did yoga. Shoes? Never!

When I go home now, to Girard, Kansas, my yoga practice helps me make sense of my pseudo-city/forever land love city dwelling existence. I love that I have lived in new, scary places. I’ve met people who wouldn’t have stumbled upon the 100 or so acres in Southeast Kansas called G-5 farms. There are fundamental wants that rage against each other in the planning parts of my being. As in, a city is bustling and vibrant and it compels me to reach outside of myself and grow. But at the same time, the space and air the country life affords you makes you feel strong and loved and grounded.

I can have both though. My yoga practice reminds of this. By shedding attachments to memories I can appreciate where I am at the moment. I will love the city I live in when I am in it. I will love the farm I am from when I am there. I will cherish the two equally. Simultaneously. Lately, I’ve been completely preoccupied with where I’ll be living next year. Five years. Twenty years. Attachments to my own expectations and anxiety for my own future.

So when I am lucky enough to find time to journey back to Girard, to G-5 farms, I incorporate my physical yoga practice into the visit. It’s never a full series, anything resembling a vinyasa flow by any means. Rather, it’s my 3 year-old nephew watching me do arm balances in the living room. Then, he puts his head to the floor and I lift his feet, him mimicking my side crow. Or, I sneak away to my sisters’ old bedroom (now mainly empty) and practice standing balancing poses. Right when I fully extend dancer and make a weird face is when my sister walks in, says “that looks cool”, and I fall over.

My most prized farm yoga moments are the ones backlit by the sun setting behind the railroad tracks running North/South just next to my parents’ land. Summers in Kansas have been brutal the last few years, leaving every former green living thing a crisp variety of tan. My dad puts the halter on some of his horses, one at a time, so that he can walk them around the yard, searching for green grass. My dad will sit on the ground, right next to his harvested corn field, with a horse lazily grazing the almost alive grass. A safe distance away, still within the shadows made by my calm companions, I do clumsy handstands in the crunching grass. I topple more than I’d like, not caring a bit.

My mother reminds me that these poses are complimentary to the body. That some people are naturally better at some poses by virtue of the way they are built. For instance, my mother and I have always sat in eagle pose. Whatever leg is on top will curl and curl around the other leg. On this last visit I pointed to my mom’s legs and told her she was doing eagle. She looked proud and said, “Well, huh. Ya know this is just how I sit comfortably. I’ve always done it this way.”

My farm yoga practice is not the most consistent. It’s not the most accurate. But I concentrate on every muscle, on the weight that is being me. I do that so perfectly at my parents’ farm because I am so comfortable there, so in love with where I come from. I actively work on bringing that comfort to the city with me.

I recently escaped the city for the first time since May.  I enjoyed some fresh air whilst hiking the Indiana Sand Dunes State Park.

Did some sandy yoga…

Sandy Scorpion Pose:

Sandy Eka Pada Koundinyasana:

Sandy Bug-On-My-Finger Pose:

Today was a perfect day for meditation.  It was cool and rainy outside. I had the window open next to my ‘meditation chair,’ a slight breeze was coming through, Floyd was snoozing, my Earl Grey was at its perfect drinking temperature….

I like to keep a meditation journal next to me when I meditate.  That way when an urgent thought, idea or agenda item pops into my mind I can write it down and come back to it after my mediation session, much like a pen and paper on the nightstand for those middle-of-the- night ideas.

Today, all was right for a successful meditation.  However, here are my *very important* items I noted in my journal whilst trying to find inner peace:

1. My comforter doesn’t match my curtains.

2. I need to buy a new comforter.

3.  What am I going to do this weekend to entertain my out-of-town guest?

4. I need to use a sticky type of paint on the walls of my future yoga studio (long story).

5. This would make a good blog post.

Alas, the mind is a wandering puppy dog.

This is my ‘meditation altar’ that is next to my ‘meditation chair.’ The frog was a gift from my father from a sacred Indian store: ‘Pier One.’

Meditation chair and clashing curtains…