One World, One Whirl

This past weekend, WHIRL magazine organized its third annual One WHIRL Yoga Fest in Pittsburgh, the city I am proud to call my home. The sun was blazing, the teachers were in full force, and the students, including myself, were soaking it all in.

The vibe was communal and vibrant, which, to me, is the point of the yoga world. Aside from taking a class from one of my usual teachers, I was able to experience others. Every instructor has an abundance of different energies to offer, and I felt blessed to be around all of them. I may be sore as fuck still two days later, but I already can’t wait until next year.

Photo from WHIRL Magazine.

Photo from Bridgett Kay Photography.

Photo from my friend Melissa 😉

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In Defense of Defensiveness: I’m No More Gay Than You Are

*Excuse this post as I take a departure from the usual yoga and spiritual gaiety to tackle another type of gaiety.

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Having to explain myself to people has become a constant thing since coming out. For the most part, it’s been easy. I have a great family, a fantastic group of friends, and amazing co-workers, all who accept me for who I am and who don’t even regard my sexuality as anything different from their own. But, the reality is, there are people out there who don’t agree and who constantly force me to be on the defense.

And let me remind everyone, I am under no obligation to do so. Why is it that because I love differently than you that I have to defend that love? And, when it gets down to it, I actually don’t love differently. I love the same—wholeheartedly, without judgment. I’d like to think that is how you approach love. The only thing different is biology, but we’re all biologically unique, so once again, that difference is non-existent and only a figment of your imagination.

Many people who don’t identify as queer and who place themselves above me and other LGBTQ folks have a tendency to think they know better than us. There are straight men who think what we do in the bedroom is hot, but ultimately believe we just haven’t met the right guy yet (aka, they think they are the right guy), and there are devout, close-minded Christians who backhandedly say they accept who I am while telling me everyone can ask for forgiveness at any time and ultimately God will make the final judgment.

There are lots of things wrong with these situations. First of all, I’ve lost track of how many times guys have hit on me and once I tell them I am not interested in men, they say with a cocked-up chin, “I respect that.” On the surface, it may seem there is nothing wrong with this sentiment. However, when you are gay and you have straight men, and even some straight women, say they “respect” your “choice,” you naturally begin to feel disrespected. Did I ask for your respect or your permission? No. And I don’t respect your heterosexuality because I would never even think to disrespect something as silly and simple as who you love. It’s like telling someone you respect their brown hair or their fair skin or their Italian heritage. We are who we are and it just is what it is.

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The Evolution of Yoga (Graphic)

Ever wonder how yoga came to be what it is today?


Courtesy of: Ishausa

List of Pretty Much the 10 Worst Things That Could Ever Happen to You

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1. Realizing you ate all of the ranch dressing and it’s too late to go to the grocery store and you’re already in your pajamas so even if it wasn’t too late, you wouldn’t feel like going anyways to get some to go along with your tater tots.

2. Starbucks “runs out” of white mocha so you have to get another flavor for your frappuccino. WTF? How can they run out of a flavor?!

3. Your ex (or in my case, your “person who you were crazy about and they wanted nothing to do with you”) is a musician and way down the line, you still have one of their songs stuck in your head and even though it’s kind of a great, catchy song, you obviously can’t have that shit stuck in your head. So you force yourself to suffer by listening to something awful like Rebecca Black’s “Friday” to try to get it out of your head, but you can’t. So you think to yourself solemnly, “They’re winning.”

4. When you’re friends with people who are overly social and chatty and continuously joke that you are “such an introvert” as if it’s a bad thing, but they try to comfort you and try to convince you that they’re saying it lovingly. All the while, on the inside, you want to punch them in the face because they will not stop texting you about stupid things and they don’t understand that you just try to save your energy and words for mindful matters and I will always have resting bitch face because it’s a permanent condition and one day it will be treated and viewed as a real disability…just typing this made me exhausted. I’m going to hide in my room for a week now. Ok, thanks.

5. You get a flat tire. Pfjdfhsxefshct!!!

6. Maybe you have bronchitis. And maybe your nose is running like crazy and maybe you’re in the middle of a yoga class at a new studio with a very attractive and intelligent teacher and the whole time you’re thinking that if your snot flies out of your nose, they will never think you are cool and they will always know you as that person with problems with snot, because maybe you also almost sneezed in their face once while walking out of your usual yoga studio…or something. Basically, this number 6 is about how you are always single and you say you don’t understand why, but deep down, you know why. It’s because you can’t be out in public. Period.

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Dating, Distractions, Dogged Excuses: Sit With Your Shit

Habits provide routine, stability, familiarity. They make us feel safe and in control when other areas of our lives feel like they are out of our hands. Relationships are probably the worst of all habits or addictions because it’s more than just you who gets fucked—it’s someone else, too.

So many people I know cling to others and fall into relationships for these same reasons. They don’t want to focus on their own inner shit because guess what? It’s hard fucking work. So they launch themselves into someone else in order to have a focal point. Will they admit this? Of course not. And if they do, they go a week, or maybe several weeks, saying they need to just be single, but then they get right back into the dating game just for the sake of dating.

News flash—dating around doesn’t make you single. Having a cuddle buddy doesn’t either. And neither does employing a friend with benefits. Being alone and embracing that solitude, the shittiness of it and all, makes you single. And what’s wrong with that exactly?

There seems to be a stigma associated with being single. I’ve never understood it, and I refuse to accept it or let others feed into it. I will call you out on your bullshit excuses and defenses because I can see right through them. I can see through them because I’ve used them before.

We whine about always getting screwed. We cry about repeating the same relationships over and over. Yet we don’t change our behavior or our thought patterns. So how exactly do we think anything will be different if we don’t do something different?
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Warrior Highlight: Hayley Norris

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How long have you been practicing yoga?
I went to my first class at Yoga Flow in Murrysville when I was 15. Dominique was the teacher, and I was blown away first by her beauty (honestly) and secondly by how I felt when I left the class. So I kept coming back. I didn’t even have my license yet. But sooner or later into my senior year of high school, I went every Monday night to her class by myself. And something started to change within me.

What prompted you to start or commit to the practice?
Well, like I said, Dominique. And my mom died of breast cancer when I was 17, and she was just shy of 40. Trying to learn living without her drove me to the studio – like it was a dose of medicine. That space became my church and a place of healing; I found a soul family there. It sounds so “hippy” and strange, but I did. They are still some of the most important people in my life, and the circle only gets bigger.

What is your favorite pose and why?
Hands down, down dog. It softens and stretches all the necessary spots at once. Before I teach a class, I always hang out in one on the “teacher mat.” It gets me together and focused, and I start to feel how I feel on that particular day, planning out some rhythm for a flow. If I’m unaware of my emotions, I will be unaware of how students feel, and for me, that’s a recipe for a shitty class. And it happens sometimes, I’m not going to lie. Sometimes you just don’t know how the hell you feel, or what exactly is bugging you. But that itself becomes a theme to teach your students.

Is there a mantra or quote that has motivated you lately?
It’s always LET GO. Let go of my worries. Let go of my fears and anxious thoughts. Let go of the rush. Let go of my grudges and faults. Let go of doubt, probably most importantly. I’d rather walk around with a book bag containing all the crap I carry, rather than 10 suitcases. So drop the baggage and go.

Is there a teacher or yogi who personally inspires you?
It will always be Dominique. Her impact on me doesn’t end at yoga-it simply started there. She has said things that have allowed me to make sense of my mom’s death. My relationships are better because of the advice she gives me, and I keep continuing forward on my particular path because of her encouragement. And come on, she’s a mom of three and the owner of five businesses—that’s pretty badass and inspiring. Continue reading

Dos and Don’ts of Yoga. Hint: There Are None.

ImageThere are no rules in yoga, no rigid guidelines, or strict manual for “success.” There is only you and your practice. There is only what we make of it and what helps us to find peace. Anyone who says otherwise probably has a bit of inner struggle they are dealing with in terms of ego, though we all do in our own ways.

However, there are a few principles I’ve set for myself and remind myself to live by daily, and maybe you share them as well. Like the Buddha taught, don’t take anything on faith. We have to honor ourselves, experiment, and follow the path that works for us.

 

Do show up.

Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t.

 

Do be gentle.

Don’t see yourself as narcissistic if you crave a challenge.

 

Do find your breath.

Don’t panic if you lose it. You’ll find it again.
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Savasana Sessions: Wash

I just got back from spending four days at the Firefly Music Festival in Delaware and, long story short, it was an incredible time, but I am now in need of insane amounts of rest. Never have I needed a good savasana more than I do today. Also, never have I needed a shower more than I do right now. I think Bon Iver’s “Wash” is as appropriate of a tune as any.

Warrior Highlight: Kiersten Schilinski

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How long have you been practicing yoga?
Nearly 7 years

What prompted you to start or commit to the practice?
I was 19, on my own in Pittsburgh, working with people older than me. This woman who was going through some pretty intense life changes started practicing yoga – she sort of inspired me. I was so poor I couldn’t afford classes, so I would rent yoga DVDs from Carnegie Library, and I read Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar.

What is your favorite pose and why?
I can’t pick favorites in anything. If I did bad things to my body the night before, my favorite pose will be child’s or some sort of twisting pose. If I’m feeling energetic and wild, then king dancer is so much fun! It depends on where, when, and why I’m on the mat.

Is there a mantra or quote that has motivated you lately?
“There is only one reality, but there are many ways that reality can be interpreted.” B.K.S. Iyengar.

Lately I’ve had to stop and remember that life is seen differently though different eyes. This quote reminds me to not be stubborn and that there are many ways to view the world and reality. And we’re all searching for that one ultimate truth.

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Outdoor Yoga Class for Cystic Fibrosis!

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For those of you living in Pittsburgh, the studio I practice at, Yoga Flow, is helping me host an outdoor, donation-based class to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation on Saturday,  July 12. This October, I will be hiking 26 miles in support of the nonprofit organization, along with 20 other hikers, and every participant has pledged to raise at least $2,500. This yoga class will be a way to raise those funds, all of which will be going towards research for finding a cure.

Join teachers Suzanne, Hayley, and Lili at Highland Park on July 12 at 6:30 pm for a great, fun, and open class. You can visit the Facebook event for more info. You can also go to my team’s page, the Buddha Broads, to donate directly to the cause.

I hope to see you Pittsburgh yogis there!

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