Yoga Journal Blog: Beginner's Mind



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A beginning yogi shares the travails and triumphs of being a newbie on the mat.

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Kristin Shepherd Kristin Shepherd
Chiropractor, actor, and public speaker and the newest yogi on the block shares her discoveries.

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Archives

Transitioning with Thanks

October 27, 2011

by Kristin Shepherd

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This is my last post with Beginner's Mind.

Change has always both scared the hell out of me and thrilled me right down to the mula bandha, to put it politely.

But with age, with experience, and I swear with yoga practice, I'm beginning to love the feeling that comes with letting go and walking through the next door.

My guess is that saying thank you is one of the keys to good transitions.

So.

Thanks, first, to Yogajournal.com and all of the lovely editors who offered me a chance to have this 18-month conversation with you. As readers, we have no idea how much work goes into such a massive and excellent website. To create and nurture such a thing, and to do it with good hearts, humor, and professionalism is off-the-mat yoga at its best.

Thanks, next, to yoga for being such a fabulous topic of conversation, not to mention a superb window through which to explore ourselves and our place in this mysterious world.

Thanks, most importantly, to you. Many, many of you have become friends. Many of you might as well have written these posts, given all the compelling and thoughtful notes you sent this way. On occasion, some of you objected to what I wrote. Thanks for caring enough to do so. All of you have been excellent teachers.

It's been a pleasure.

(And it's not like I'm dead. You can still reach me at kristin@kristinshepherd.ca or at Dr.Kristin Shepherd on Facebook. Hope you do.)

Thanks again for the conversation. 

Lots of love and joy,

kristin

Dr. Kristin Shepherd is a chiropractor, actor, and speaker (About All Things Wonderful) in North Bay, Ontario.  Join her on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on iTunes.




Simple Things

October 25, 2011

by Kristin Shepherd

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Funny, the more yoga I do, the less I have to say about it. More accurately, what comes out of my mouth and my head/heart gets simpler as my practice matures.

I am less concerned than ever about where I place my mat in class, what I'm wearing, whether or not I'll ever do a handstand without a wall (OK, I still dream about this one), and whether home practice is better than class. I have cared deeply about every one of these, but they're receding in the rear view mirror, if you know what I mean.

What I do contemplate now, on and off the mat, are things like this:

Open is better than closed. Open body, open mind, open heart. Not always easier, but always preferable.

Discomfort goes away when I don't meet it with resistance. (Tight hips are one thing. "Oh my god, these hips are killing me, why won't they let go, I'll never be able to do a stinking King Pigeon" is resistance.)

My body knows what it wants. This is more important than any outside advice.

Pushing doesn't work. Google Sisyphus.

Accepting what is grants me immediate freedom. All of a sudden my head is 90 percent quieter.

Judging me or anyone else is a colossal misuse of energy and erodes everything I love about myself and my life.

Courage and trust are the best companions ever. Feed them well.

Joy makes me healthy.

And as always, love wins.


Is it getting simpler for you? Or more complex? I'd love to hear.

Thanks to yoga for keeping it simple. Thanks very much to you for the conversation,

kristin

Dr. Kristin Shepherd is a chiropractor, actor, and speaker (About All Things Wonderful) in North Bay, Ontario.  Join her on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on iTunes.





What Matters in Class

October 20, 2011

by Kristin Shepherd

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Earlier this week a friend called and mentioned she'd convinced a group of coworkers to do an introductory yoga series. She offered to attend the classes with them, only to discover that, "there's no other way to say this, the teacher is really b*&^%y! I have to help them recover after each class!"

Another friend goes to a studio where the teachers tell you where you can and cannot place your mat according to your skill level. No kidding.

This morning I arrived early for a teaching gig and walked in on 80 women, mostly seniors, doing yoga. Sun Salutations adapted for seniors, using chairs. The entire room was laughing. I heard fart jokes. The overwhelming impression was one of relaxed happiness and no shortage of love.

It makes me realize how short life is and how important culture is to me.

I admire the teachers who amaze us with technique, strength, and flexibility. No question, I'm inspired by that.

I appreciate charisma, organizational skills, the occasional push, humor, and broad knowledge.

But I don't go back if it doesn't feel warm. I want enough love and openness in the room that I can feel good in there whether or not I feel great about myself, my body, or my day. I want so much warmth in the room that it reminds me that I have a heart and that my heart is being taken care of. (Not asking for much!)

The warm fuzzy thing isn't for everyone, though.

What do you need in the room? Intelligence? Quiet? Edge? Progress? Community? I'd love to hear. What quality is most important to you in a class?

Thanks to yoga for being so varied that we can all find our place. Thanks to the beautiful women doing Sun Salutations today.

Thanks to you for the conversation,

kristin

Dr. Kristin Shepherd is a chiropractor, actor, and speaker (About All Things Wonderful) in North Bay, Ontario.  Join her on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on iTunes.



Happy Side Effects

October 18, 2011

by Kristin Shepherd

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We can talk for days about what the central point of meditation is. It's possible that it's different for each of us.

For me, there's no question. It's a lifelong discovery process of looking more and more deeply into who I am, what is truth, and what remains when I let go of everything. It's the digging of that well, and the absolute, flat-out joy that results from the digging.

The rest are just happy side effects.

During a daily practice, we train our focus. If we didn't, I'd spend my 30-60  minutes thinking of better ways to stop my dog from eating disgusting, rotten food off the street, or wondering what I'm going to do with the rest of my life, or being frustrated that I still can't do a headstand in the middle of the room. You know, really important stuff.

Training my focus is like using my camera.

My camera comes almost everywhere with me. It just feels better than cursing myself for not bringing it, which is what happens every time I leave it at home.

Why do I take it everywhere? Because beautiful, surprising things show up every place I go.

Here's the thing, though. I point the camera to the left, and all I see is morning traffic. I point it to the right and zoom in, and I see a gorgeous pairing of chairs, one for a kid, one for an adult, which makes my eyes well up, thinking of love and parenting and the wise words that come from kids' mouths.

Untrained focus is like a camera that just swings all over the place. No sense of purpose, no sense of direction, at the whim of whatever honks loudest in your life. Lousy pictures. Trained focus is a camera that looks where you choose to look.

Beyond photography, trained focus means that I can either see the 3,000 random realities in front of my face: dog woofing cigarette butts for all I know, my head hurting a bit, my inadequate headstand, loud traffic. Or I can decide to focus on the truths I find beautiful: dog is alive and well, I am extraordinarily healthy overall, I can do headstands and handstands against a wall and I learn more every day, and traffic means that people are going places, the world is humming, all is well.

Focus means that I fill my head and my energy with the thoughts that do me good.

Again, this is a side effect of meditation for me, but with side effects this good, isn't it worth a few minutes of your morning?

Thanks to yoga for training more than our bodies.

Thanks to you for the conversation,

kristin

Dr. Kristin Shepherd is a chiropractor, actor, and speaker (About All Things Wonderful) in North Bay, Ontario.  Join her on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on iTunes.  

Spending Time With the Whole

October 13, 2011

by Kristin Shepherd

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We talked last time about meditation being like digging a well, except that the digging is more like successive letting go, and with each letting go, we sink a little deeper until we reach the wholeness of who we are, that joy place, that place where there are no problems, there are no questions to answer. If you've been there, you know what I mean. It's who we are.

It is not, however, where most of us spend our days. Instead, we spend some part of the day with deadlines (what a horrifying word!), timelines, family-lines, walk-the-dog-lines, not to mention all the bogus insecurities and the bogus insecurity camouflages (clothes, hair, makeup, cars, houses, titles ...) that are also not who we are. 

So the benefit of spending morning time with the greater part of me, the most whole and most holy place, is this:

I know myself to be huge and loving and safe no matter what, so open and huge that the world and its vicissitudes float right through me. When I open my eyes after a dose of this, the life stuff that used to affect me--the money worries, the body worries, the driving part of achievement, the heaps of time I spend in the future and past--all of that is stripped naked and looks a bit more ridiculous than it did before I closed my eyes. 

This change of perspective from surface to roots, to core truth, makes me less reactive, more patient, braver, and more useful in the world.

That's gold for me.

Is this your experience? Does it sound worth sitting for a few minutes each morning? (My not-so-secret goal is to talk about how delicious this is until you fall in love with it too.)

Thanks to yoga for not taking my surface definition of reality too seriously.

Thanks to you for the conversation,

kristin

Dr. Kristin Shepherd is a chiropractor, actor, and speaker (About All Things Wonderful) in North Bay, Ontario.  Join her on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on iTunes.

Digging the Whole

October 11, 2011

by Kristin Shepherd

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It's like digging a well every morning. I breathe my way down through layers of restlessness, distracted focus, speedy thinking and 50 other kinds of discomfort. Sometimes this takes two minutes. Sometimes the entire practice is the digging, although the digging is more like continued letting go.

On the other end of this letting go is a huge opening which I sort of fall into (this may be different for each of us) as though I have traveled through a wormhole to some other place.

The great joke is that by the time I arrive there, I understand--no, I know--that I am actually here, that I have arrived back home. That, in fact, I never left, but was a bit distracted by my mind waving its frantic hands in front of my eyes.

The beauty of this is that every morning, or most mornings, I spend time in the hugeness of what I really am, or Love, Truth, Heaven, Joy, Grace, Silence, Infinite, Whole. Impossible to put in words, but I keep trying for fear that leaving a blank page for you won't do the trick. Perhaps it's enough to say that these words point to what we are underneath without wrapping it up too tightly.

Again this sounds woo-woo, but it isn't. It is the palpable reality of meditation.

And what if this isn't your experience? If you haven't experienced the huge bliss place?

Then you're digging. Have a little faith, just for the short while it takes to meet your resistance on the way home. Meeting our resistance and being willing to sit with it rather than run from it is the trip of self-discovery, and we might as well enjoy the trip.

Has this been your experience? Are you digging?

Thanks to yoga for bringing us home over and over and over. Thanks to you for the conversation,

kristin

Dr. Kristin Shepherd is a chiropractor, actor, and speaker (About All Things Wonderful) in North Bay, Ontario.  Join her on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on iTunes.

Light Passing Through

October 6, 2011

by Kristin Shepherd

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"You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."

This is Steve Jobs, of course, in his now-famous 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University.

During meditation, if we're fortunate, we experience a kind of life-altering nakedness that permanently affects our perspective about what we are and what we are not.

What it feels like to me is the dissolving of my body. By the end of morning practice, my understanding is that I'm a body of energy that happens to be passing through this less significant physical body.

It's a feeling that stays through the day. On a good day, I see everyone around me as the same kind of energy, and we feel like family. 

One of the best consequences of this shift in perspective is that it makes me brave. When I know myself to be light passing through this day, I lose my fear of failure (light can't fail), of humiliation, and of rejection. I lose my small-minded need for security.

I follow my heart more easily.

I don't know whether Steve Jobs meditated. This is important, because meditation itself is not the point, any more than my physical practice of yoga is the point.

Freedom is the point. Waking up and discovering who we are is the point. Recognizing that we're part of all that is, is the point. Living bravely from that perspective is the point.

It just happens that meditation and practice on the mat are excellent signposts saying, "Hey! You beautiful smacking whack of radiant light, you! Look this way! Here you are!"

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks to Steve Jobs for the reminder that we are light passing through. Thanks to yoga for exactly the same thing.

Thanks to you, always, for the conversation,

kristin

Dr. Kristin Shepherd is a chiropractor, actor, and speaker (About All Things Wonderful) in North Bay, Ontario.  Join her on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on iTunes.


Meditation For Real Life: Love

October 4, 2011

by Kristin Shepherd

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"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other."

This quote is from Mother Teresa, apparently. I'm wary when I read things attributed to her. I often wonder whether it's really Bob at the liquor store, who, in an inspired but insecure moment, came up with something really beautiful that he wanted to share. Bob doesn't trust himself, at the deepest level, to be unique or worthy, to have quote-spreading clout, so he puts MT's name on the idea, hoping others will now enjoy it.

Bob might love meditating.

Why? Because with every sitting (or standing or lolling, whatever your method is), we sink through layers and layers of our "not enough"s: I'm not smart enough, adventurous enough, wealthy enough, young or old enough, creative enough, altruistic enough, quote-worthy enough, and on and on.

It's not as though we look these things in the face as we meditate, it's more that they soften and eventually slough off with practice. Over time we learn who we are not, and let that go.

At the same time, we sink gradually into what we are: compassion, love, peace, hugeness, trust in what is, connectedness with everything.

These sound like woo-woo lightweight absurdities. They aren't. They are the palpable realities that show up when I sit still long enough to get beneath the chatter-brain.

And when I get down there, one of the things that becomes evident is that capital-L-Love is what I'm made of, what every cell is packed to bursting with, and when I open my eyes, everyone and everything I see is made of the same stuff. The world, including the parts of it I was not thrilled with before, becomes almost unbearably beautiful. At that point I understand myself to be enormously worthy and "belonging to each other" in the most intimate way imaginable. 

In this context of Love (or whatever you call it when you get inside), two seemingly opposite things show up. The need to be unique or special disappears. The simplicity of who I am is enough. At the same time, Love moving through me, or me meeting the world with Love, matters more than ever.

That's what I want to tell Bob at the liquor store, or the grocery clerk who won't meet my eyes, or my friend who feels awkward about teaching yoga for the first time. We're gems, all of us.

Is this your experience with meditation?

Thanks to Mother Theresa or to Bob, both of whom are worthy and indispensable. Thanks to yoga for being all about union of body, mind, and spirit.

Thanks, always, to you for the conversation,

kristin

Dr. Kristin Shepherd is a chiropractor, actor, and speaker (About All Things Wonderful) in North Bay, Ontario.  Join her on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on iTunes.

Meditation And Real Life - One Minute of Peace

September 29, 2011

by Kristin Shepherd

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It's been a wonderful, crazy month: auditions, filming, workshops, a cabin in the middle of nowhere, speaking for beautiful groups of people, and heaps of yoga. It's easy for meditation to get lost in the kafuffle.

My guess is that you live a similarly kafuffle-y life.

Luckily meditation is portable and can be done anywhere you can breathe. Meaning anywhere and everywhere until you're dead. Perhaps you can do it then, too, for all I know, but I'll speak from my own experience.

This morning I practiced in bed. Yesterday, on my living room floor. On the weekend I meditated in the middle of the night while visiting my dad, whose snoring shook my molars. I can do it anywhere.

I don't have time, we say.

I can't motivate myself, we say.

I can't shut my mind up, we say.

Because I'm certain the planet becomes a healthier, more loving, peaceful place with every moment of personal peace, I'd like to suggest something to those of you who don't yet adore meditation enough to spend huge whacks of time sitting cross legged:

You can start with one breath. The closed eye thing just makes it a little easier to detach from the attention-grabbing world around you. There's no rule that says you have to close your eyes or sit cross legged or chant om. These are all options, like leather seats or the electric bum warmers that we have in our cars in Northern Ontario, but which may not suit you at all.

Pause for one minute, and focus on your breath, on the way it feels in your body, in your nose. When the thought that it's fall and you'll need those bum warmers soon enters your head, gently take your focus back to your breath. Do the same thing with the next 14 thoughts that enter your mind. No resistance at all. Thoughts are simply doing what thoughts do, but my decision for this minute is to return each time to my breath.

A one-minute meditation practice. By the end of that minute, you may not have found lasting peace, but you have turned yourself in its direction. The rest is practice, and every single one of us who owns a mat is familiar with practice.

I'd love to hear your thoughts, whether you're new at this or you're someone who has adored meditation for a lifetime.

Thanks to yoga for offering us so many ways to be present.

Thanks to you for the conversation,

kristin

Dr. Kristin Shepherd is a chiropractor, actor, and speaker (About All Things Wonderful) in North Bay, Ontario.  Join her on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on iTunes.

Meditation For Life - Training Thought

September 27, 2011

by Kristin Shepherd

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A friend called this morning, unable to tear her thoughts away from an all-consuming problem in her life. She wanted help.

Here's a reason to meditate.

Unable to tear her thoughts away? That's a bit like me going to yoga class and being unable to tear myself out of Downward Dog.

This sounds ridiculous, but it isn't. I love Downward Dog. I find it easier than almost anything that comes before or after during a class. It is a familiar place for me. I know it isn't best practice for me to stay in Downward Dog for the entire day, but I'd do it for an entire class if I had my druthers.

Similarly, my friend knows that staying with lousy thoughts is an easy, seductive rut but isn't good for her. She comes back to the painful story over and over like an obsessive-compulsive wound-picker who would love nothing better than to be free of herself.

Somehow, we expect to be able to control our bodies - time to brush my teeth (good hands!), time to open the door (good wrist action!), time to move out of Downward Dog (eyes ahead and jump forward) - but not our thoughts. "I can't help thinking about this," we say.

But we can. In fact, the moment I notice myself thinking an unwanted thought, I can make a choice to move my thoughts somewhere else, somewhere more loving, more joyous. If my thoughts return to lousy, shmucky, destructive places, I make the choice again. I make that choice 570 times a day if I need to.

This is a practice, just like our yoga on the mat is a practice. Some days I'll be a genius with it, some days I won't. Such is humanhood. But the practice works.

Meditation is this practice. It is the practice of letting go of my sticky attachment to thoughts.

Something to contemplate next time I am drawn to fear or worry, next time I judge myself, or you, or my life.

And just another reason to adore meditation.

Thanks to yoga and to meditation's central place in yoga. I'm so grateful for both.

I'm also grateful to you for being here. Thank you for the conversation,

kristin

Dr. Kristin Shepherd is a chiropractor, actor, and speaker (About All Things Wonderful) in North Bay, Ontario.  Join her on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on iTunes.

Why Meditate, Take 1

September 22, 2011

by Kristin Shepherd

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Many of you do it already. Because I'm an enormous fan of meditation, I'm going to compile a list of whys over the next week or so. Please add your own, knowing that everyone who begins meditating contributes to a more conscious, loving planet.


  1. You can do it anywhere you can breathe. Over the last month I have meditated in my car (in three cities), in bathrooms (in three cities), at our university, in a hospital, in a mall, in a hotel room, in my bed, in someone else's bed (it's not like it sounds), with my lovely man, by myself, while sitting, standing, and lying down, eyes open, and eyes closed. What else is so portable?

  2. The physical practice of yoga is more likely to become deeper than physical when we add meditation. And yoga, in my humble but opinionated opinion, is not merely a sport.

  3. I don't know who I am until I meditate. Or I don't remember who I am. This sounds like hyperbole. It isn't. Too often, my focus is on what I'm doing today, rather than who is doing it. Why does this matter? Because who I am is far more stable, centered, and peaceful than my to-do list, which can look like an attention-deficit-stream-of-unconsciousness nightmare. I'd rather be grounded in the peaceful me.

  4. I'm homesick when I don't meditate. I've said this one before, but it's so worth repeating. What we're doing by meditating is remembering home. The truth is we are home, we are loving, peaceful, whole people. But we have these attention-grabbing rodent brains doing their best to make us forget that.


That's it for today. More next time. I'd love to hear the reasons you meditate, or the reasons you find yourself unable to start. Both will create great conversation.


Thanks to yoga for being so much more than moving on a mat.

Thanks to you for the conversation,

kristin

Dr. Kristin Shepherd is a chiropractor, actor, and speaker (About All Things Wonderful) in North Bay, Ontario.  Join her on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on iTunes.



For Those In Need of Yoga

September 15, 2011

by Kristin Shepherd

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I had dinner with some politicians on Friday. It was more fun than it sounds.

I am so unpolitical that when a man came over to our table to shake my hand and say he'd heard me speak before, I smiled blankly and said, 'hehehehhe" or something equally charming and profound. I asked, afterward, who he was. Turns out he's our mayor.

I was giving a keynote talk to celebrate a wonderful organization that offers literacy training to anyone who wants it. All kinds of politicians attended, some of whom are engaged in an election campaign right now.

One of them had his Blackberry going all through dinner. I asked him whether he ever takes a day off.  "I can't afford to at this point," he said. I asked about a typical campaigning day and he reviewed the day he'd just had: something like 12 events, many of them involving cutting cakes, wearing party hats, and making wee speeches.

I asked how he maintains his physical energy during these campaigns. He mentioned several things. He rarely eat the cake at the events. He keeps all kinds of clothes in their car, changing five or six times each day to suit the events and in order to feel fresh.

And three times a week he visits his personal trainer at a gym. He's convinced this increases his overall energy.

I wanted to weep for him. First, because I'd go mad, having to shake thousands of hands, remember hundreds of names, and incur the wrath of the unhappy while smiling for the cake-makers. I'd be in a heap in the back seat of my car, doing a month-long Savasana.

That was the other thing that made me want to weep.

I'm all for gyms, and trainers, and elliptical machines. But hearing very busy people talk about their very busy lives makes me wish I were an even better ambassador for yoga.

Because these people need Savasana, don't they? And a daily practice that looks inward, that teaches them they're beautiful, a regular hour or two that plunks them in a quiet room full of peaceful, generous, smiling yogis.

I asked whether he'd tried yoga. No time at this point, he said.

I believe I have affected friends and family (about my enthusiasm, my sister always says, thank god it isn't heroin you're into, or we'd all be doing it), but I'm no good with strangers.

It made me wonder whether any of you have developed a kind of sound bite, some wonderful description of yoga that you use to invite people like this to yoga class. I'd love to hear it.

And they could use it.

Many thanks to our politicians for caring enough to put in these enormous cake days. Thanks to the party-hat guy pictured above at the Kensington Market. Thanks to yoga for being so wonderful that we'd love to pass it along.

Thanks to you, always, for the conversation,

kristin

Dr. Kristin Shepherd is a chiropractor, actor, and speaker (About All Things Wonderful) in North Bay, Ontario.  Join her on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on iTunes.

Yoga Laughs

September 13, 2011

by Kristin Shepherd

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Things that make me laugh:

  1. The way we all think our form of yoga is the best yoga ever. I am the worst culprit that ever lived. Kundalini rules!

  2. The way I'm afraid to go back to an old class, try a new class, go to a friend's class, have a new teacher show up in my class. For god's sake, I'm anxious when I try a new DVD.

  3. The way a small part of me fantasizes that the right mat or the right yoga pants might improve my Handstand/Headstand/Crow/Forward Lunge/Camel. No luck so far.

  4. The inside voice that says, "I can't do it, I can't do it." That voice has no imagination. She's a one-liner. At least I'm laughing at her now.

  5. The way a yoga practice takes 60-90 minutes, but yoga thinking, wondering, and dreaming consumes about 50 percent of my head space some days.

  6. The way I can't wait to practice and then can't wait for each pose to end sometimes. Make up your mind, honey.

  7. The way I feel. Honestly, I feel fantastic these days, so fantastic that it makes me laugh.

    I'd love to hear your yoga laughs.

Thanks to yoga for the humor. Thanks to my brother Adam, a yogi with a flexible face. Thanks to you for the conversation,

kristin

Dr. Kristin Shepherd is a chiropractor, actor, and speaker (About All Things Wonderful) in North Bay, Ontario.  Join her on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on iTunes.

I Am More Than This

September 8, 2011

by Kristin Shepherd

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Warning: We are all actors.


Acting in theatre is like growing a yoga practice. You do it with wonderful people. Some of it is challenging, most of it is fun. There are a lot of laughs. All the while, a character and a life story grow. Try it. You'd love it.

If you come from theatre, acting for film is crazy.

My agent, who calls me Christian (this is not encouraging), sent me to a film audition this week. He prefaced the event by telling me how unlikely it was that I'd get the role of Lawyer in the movie. Bizillions of other actors auditioning for a one-paragraph part, he said.

Here's how it goes. I take half a day to do hair, makeup, and what I hope are lawyerlike jeans and a jacket. By noon I don't recognize myself. I memorize the lines and do my best to feel like a lawyer.

I arrive at the hotel where the screen tests are being done. I see 10 other women, all 15 years younger and beautiful, all dressed in navy suits and stilettos, all of whom make me feel older than my grandmother (who's been dead for 25 years) and profoundly un-lawyerly.

I do a two-minute screen test on camera during which no one in the room makes eye contact, and I go home, laughing nervously, saying, that's the end of the big film career.

Here's the thing: I'll bet we all have days when we're doing things that are beyond comfortable. New things, difficult things, potentially humiliating or embarrassing things. We take risks, all of us, following persistent, tickly instincts that say, "Try this. Come on, just try."

I'm a huge fan of risk, of trying new things. It keeps me alive and I want to be ALIVE while I'm alive, if you know what I mean.

What I need, in order to take risks, is something to go home to that pats me on the back. Something that says, "Good for you, good for you." Something that assures me that I am more than the risks I take, more than my successes and failures.

That something at home is yoga. As soon as I walk in the door, I change clothes, and in full fake lawyer makeup and hair, begin a good, thorough practice that brings me home to the real me.

So. I'm grateful for yoga for creating a comfort place from which I can leap a little higher and a little more often. (This time, miraculously, I got the part. I'll let you know how it goes.)

Has yoga changed your approach to confidence, risk-taking, and comfort?

Thanks to you for the conversation,

kristin

Dr. Kristin Shepherd is a chiropractor, actor, and speaker (About All Things Wonderful) in North Bay, Ontario.  Join her on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on iTunes.

Yoga Challenges

September 6, 2011

by Kristin Shepherd

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During one of this summer's visits to a friend's cottage, I brought a stack of yoga DVDs. We did two classes each day for four days. One of my friends--I'll keep her anonymous for reasons that will become obvious before the end of this sentence--happily reported that she began pooping four to five times a day by the time we hit day two. This pooping continued through to the end of day four. She was thrilled and radiant.

This makes me wonder about yoga challenges. When I Google "yoga challenge," I see 21-day, 30-day, 35-day, and 40-day versions, all of which promise fabulous benefits, particularly if you throw in meditation, a vegetarian or vegan or raw diet, gallons of water, and throw out caffeine, sugar, and chips, I suppose. (Kill me now, why don't you, says a significant chunk of my ego.)

I can't speak for the dietary changes, but it occurs to me that I've been doing yoga daily for the last 90 days or so, since the onset of my Kundalini infatuation. Here are some observations:

1. I'm glad it happened without me labeling it a challenge at the onset. There's a chance that a formal commitment would have whipped up my resistance. I'd like get beyond this kind of resistance.

2. I adore it every day, often twice each day.

3. No extra pooping for me, perhaps because my GI tract was happy already.

4. There are days when I begin with less energy than I'm used to. On these days I learn something about how my sleep is affected by my lovely man's snoring and the smacking of my dog's lips all night long. I learn about what food depletes my energy and what food restores me. I learn about the effect of my attitude and mood on my energy levels. Mostly, I learn that I still feel far better within minutes of beginning practice. This learning has been invaluable.

5. Practice has become a solid habit. I don't question whether I'll practice, only when.

6. I think daily practice is increasing my enjoyment of meditation. This one was unexpected. My meditation feels deeper and more blissful most days.

That's it for me. I'd love to know whether you've done one of these challenges and how you felt it changed you or your practice. Was it significantly different than doing three days a week? Did it help you establish a home practice? Did you lose your taste for chips altogether? So many questions. 

By the way, Yoga Journal has a 7-day Ayurvedic Fall Detox challenge beginning Sept. 12th. Good timing?

Thanks to yoga for presenting all kinds of challenges. Thanks to you for the conversation,

kristin

Dr. Kristin Shepherd is a chiropractor, actor, and speaker (About All Things Wonderful) in North Bay, Ontario.  Join her on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on iTunes.



Learning What I'm Not

September 1, 2011

by Kristin Shepherd

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"Don't pretend yourself beyond your evolution." Byron Katie

I thought by now I'd be calling all poses by their Sanskrit names. I thought I'd be vegan, dressed in earthy-bushy-leafy colors and hemp cloth, sprouting sprouts, and drinking water from my own well.

I've been at this yoga practice for almost two years, and my current thought is that it ain't gonna happen.

Sometimes you approach what you are by learning what you aren't.

As far as I can tell, I am not a disciple, one of the solemnly eight-branch earnest. I do not see yoga as the one and only path for all. I'm not interested in quoting the sutras the way others quote the Bible or any other religious text as an ultimate authority. Although I'm impressed by yoga's longevity, I feel no obligation to do it the way it was done 2,000 years ago.

Nor am I one of the Lululemon movement, on a modern marketing train, doing some miraculous hybrid of the old and the capitalist/activist new. Kudos to them for being the reason so many people my kids' age will love yoga. And for making so many bums look good in yoga pants. Not my thing, so far.

Where am I, then? So far, it's all about feeling great. I like yoga because it feels deliriously good, inside and out. My greatest belief is that we should all pursue whatever makes us feel this good.

I love what makes me feel at home in my body and on the planet. I love feeling strong and increasingly peaceful. I love meeting myself during practice every day. I love following the kind of practice that makes me feel most alive.

I suspect, bottom line, that yoga is the best vehicle for taking me where I've been headed all my life anyway.

This is not to disparage yoga in any way. Rather, I'm wary of setting yoga up as the be-all and end-all, the great savior. I'm not interested in worshiping yoga. I'm interested in questioning her, learning from her, spending time hanging out with her. I'm interested in her companionship.

So that's where I am. Yoga as friend.

I'd love to hear your thoughts about what you are and what you aren't. About where yoga fits in your life at this point.

Thanks to yoga for being so roomy, so multifaceted, and so generous.

Thanks to you for the conversation,

kristin

Dr. Kristin Shepherd is a chiropractor, actor, and speaker (About All Things Wonderful) in North Bay, Ontario.  Join her on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on iTunes.






Missing Emma

August 30, 2011

by Kristin Shepherd

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Two friends of mine said goodbye to their 16-year-old dog last week.

Emma, a golden lab, arrived sometime after Kevin and Sue met but before they married. She shed blond hair the way the sun shines: prolifically and without pause. She was the most stubborn dog in Ontario, if not all of Canada. Three weeks before her exit, she was still bashing her head into any closed door that she wanted open, and she wanted all closed doors open.

She was a beloved friend and family member, something that non-animal people sometimes find hard to understand and animal people understand fully.

Rosie, my dog, and I joined Kevin and Sue and Sophie (Emma's little sister) at the cottage this weekend. Everywhere you look, Emma looks back. Her hair is everywhere, naturally. She was a voracious morning eater. Crazy lab, used to drive us mad. Now, early morning feels empty. Someone should be tearing through a huge bowl of kibble at the speed of sound.

Sophie is lonely, and knows something has changed. Even Rosie gets up every morning and sniffs her way around the beach, looking for Emma.

If you've been through it, you know this story.

We spent long, dusky evenings over good meals and wine, talking about how wonderful she was, and how hard it is to believe she's gone from here.

And twice a day, we rolled out yoga mats and flung our bodies and hearts into vigorous practice. It was the best answer, ever, to grief.

We worked hard, we chanted with full voices, we sank during Savasana into everything there was to feel.

You know how it is with yoga. You move your beautiful body and all kinds of feelings move through your body. Some you're expecting, some you're not. It's wonderful to be with people you love so that the unexpected feelings can have their say without embarrassment or regret.

This week I'm grateful for yoga's power to help us move through grief.

And I'll bet you have gazillions of stories on this one. I'd love to hear.

Thanks to yoga for being a part of celebrating Emma's fine, fine life. Thanks to you for being here, and for the conversation,

kristin

Dr. Kristin Shepherd is a chiropractor, actor, and speaker (About All Things Wonderful) in North Bay, Ontario.  Join her on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on iTunes.

Fantasy Yoga Class

August 25, 2011

by Kristin Shepherd

15354_24.jpgThis morning I'm dreaming about a fantasy yoga class. Here's what mine looks like:

First, it's Kundalini yoga. I'm smitten. What can I say.

The class includes the following people:

1. Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, the great whirling dervish Kundalini yogini. (She can teach the class.)

2. My grandfather. He's been gone for 25 years, but he taught me to stand on my head when he was 65, so my guess is he'd love to be included.

3. Patanjali, the guy who wrote the Yoga Sutra. I'd love to ask him what he thinks about modern yoga.

4. Sting. He can lead the chanting. 

5. All right, his wife Trudie Styler can come. She's a pretty fabulous yogini, too.

I'm getting nervous about having too many yoga gods in the class, so next is:

6. Javier Bardem, the best actor in the world. When I Google Javier and yoga, the only thing that comes up is my own infatuation with him, so my guess is he is not a yogin, at least in public. His presence would, of course, challenge my sustained focus on my own practice. This, I figure, would be awful and wonderful at the same time.

7. My kids. They are spread all over Canada and I miss them.

8. My lovely man, provided he's all right with Javier Bardem. I want this class to be harmonious.

That's it. That's my fantasy class.

Who's in yours? I'd love to hear.


Thanks to yoga for feeding my imagination. Thanks to you for the conversation,

kristin

Dr. Kristin Shepherd is a chiropractor, actor, and speaker (About All Things Wonderful) in North Bay, Ontario.  Join her on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on iTunes.


I Am Not This Body

August 23, 2011

by Kristin Shepherd

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It's a tricky business combining meditation and asana practices in a life.

There's the obvious problem of time when you decide to do sitting meditation twice a day and you happen to be so head-over-heels with kundalini yoga that you're doing full practices twice a day. Let's leave that one alone and just be grateful I'm on sabbatical.

The tricky business I'm thinking of this morning is this:

When meditating, I become more and more aware that I am not this chatty mind. I also--and this is today's niggly topic--am not this body.

We've all heard the car analogy. My body is the car. I am the driver of the car. I take care of the car, but I am not the car.

My meditation practice helps me understand profoundly that I am not my body: not my solid thighs, not my hormonal headaches, not my stressed eating, not my restlessness, not my tight hips, not even my breathing or my relaxing.

I love this deep diving into who I am and who I am not. I love remembering that I am not the car. It makes me sane to remember this.

Then there is my physical yoga practice. And with yoga on the mat, I can go either way.

I have been in classes in which I become fully identified with my body and its inflexibility, its self-consciousness, its lack of grace. Is it the type of yoga? The teacher? My own state going into the class? I don't know (though I suspect the latter).

And I've been in classes in which my radiance, the truth of me, just happens to be dancing with this bod at the moment, in a room with a lot of other radiant beings, all of us beautiful, transient beams of light. We could just as easily be birds as humans.

Here's the thing. I have to watch myself and be careful that my physical practice doesn't draw me into stronger identification with my body. I know it's happening when I don't love the way I look or feel during practice. I start to measure my inflexibility and be frustrated by it. I become a jealous observer of the woman over there whose wheel looks like a wheel instead of a broken crab. I might as well be in front of a bank of mirrors in a monster gym on these days.

What it amounts to is that my practice can be good for me or not depending on who I understand myself to be today.

The challenge for me, every day, is to begin by remembering who I am underneath it all.

Do you feel that challenge, or is it easier than all that for you?

Thanks to yoga for inviting us to look deeply. Thanks to you for the conversation,

kristin

Dr. Kristin Shepherd is a chiropractor, actor, and speaker (About All Things Wonderful) in North Bay, Ontario.  Join her on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on iTunes.



Summer Highlights

August 18, 2011

by Kristin Shepherd

yjrose.jpgSometime during the last hour, I touched my heels in Camel Pose. First time ever. There should be fireworks going off somewhere. This is absolutely one of the finest moments of the summer for me.

Here are others:
 
2.Two of my brothers traveled huge distances (one from Kuwait, one from the other side of the country) to join a family reunion this weekend. One said that yoga prevented what had looked like inevitable back surgery. He credits a version of Crow Pose. The other said that he and his wife have done yoga for months together in Kuwait. I'm not sure why these things thrill me, but they do.

3. Over the last two years, my practice has become more and more my own, and less like trying to fit myself into someone else's definition of yoga. This summer, each day's practice feels like 90 minutes of becoming more myself than ever. Again, where are the fireworks?

4. It's becoming easier to take my practice with me when I travel. I credit laptops and DVDs. When overwhelmed at, say, family reunions, I know that quality time on my mat is as close as the room I'm sleeping in. Occasionally I can even convince a few others to join me. Last weekend, four of us lined up in front of my laptop.

5. Even in Northern Ontario, we can still practice outside at this point. This may not be the case in September, so I revel in every side twist up to a blue sky. Thanks, thanks, thanks for the blue sky.

Those are my summer yoga highlights. I'd love to hear yours.
Thanks to yoga for moving with us through all seasons. Thanks to you for the conversation,
kristin

Dr. Kristin Shepherd is a chiropractor, actor, and speaker (About All Things Wonderful) in North Bay, Ontario.  Join her on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on iTunes.



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