When am I NOT a beginner yoga student?

A student asked me a few weeks ago "When am I not considered a beginner yoga student anymore?" Good question.

In the moment, I tried to answer in a couple of logical ways but the answers kept circling back around to the original question. When does someone shift past beginner?

In my own practice, I’ve been contemplating this very dilemma. I teach 6-8 yoga classes a week, am building my own personal practice, am consistently reading about yoga, am currently in trainings to deepen my practice BUT I can’t gracefully come into crow pose so I must be considered a “beginner”…? And in this reflection, I’m definitely comparing myself to the Instagram yogis that I see in wheel pose, forearm pressing into handstands and a ton of other poses that my body isn’t ready for (and maybe never will be!).

In this moment of contemplation, I can deem myself a failure of a yoga teacher or I can consider that asana (the physical practice of yoga) is not all of yoga. There are eight limbs that make up yoga practice and no where in those eight limbs says that you have to be able to master crow pose in order to be considered an “intermediate” student (that I know of, at least).

And here, we come back to that same question - When am I not considered a beginner student anymore?

The answer that I have come to is this:

You will always be a beginner student.

Every single day, you wake up anew. You slept in a different position, you experienced different things yesterday than you did the day before, you ate differently, you spoke to different people, you experienced different thoughts and emotions, you are different today. And therefore, today, as you step on your mat, this is a completely new practice.

Baron Baptiste writes in his book Perfectly Imperfect, “The yogis say you can never step into the same river twice, because the current is always shifting and changing. You’ve never stepped into this exact river before today… Every pose is a new opportunity, each and every time.”

Reading this paragraph was the most incredible release of pressure for me. There’s no need to compare myself to yesterday’s self!? Ah!! Yes!! Freedom!

Every daily moment, every yoga practice, every breath is completely different. I know that I’ve had yoga practices where my neck or leg was definitely not going to go into that position that I’ve done 500 times before and those where I flowed in so easily that I felt like I’d been doing this since I was born (which we totally have but that’s another post). Sometimes, those practices were in the same week.

My goal from here is to embrace the beginner’s mindset in my yoga practice as well as my daily life. This is the 300th time I’ve done warrior, what can I learn today? This is the 1000th time I’ve washed the dishes, what can I learn today?

Sending big love ~ Mackenzie

Setting Intentions, Not Resolutions

Welcome 2019!

The new year is here! Everything feels like a fresh start. Maybe you cleaned your house vigorously yesterday (like I did), maybe you promised yourself to let some things go, maybe you set your goals in your pjs by a fire or maybe you celebrated with friends and stayed up all night to greet the new year. Anyway that you welcomed in this new year is awesome.

For me, there's always a huge, deep breath of release and refresh as we round the corner to the next trip around the sun. It serves as a check point to reflect on last year's intentions, think about all of the positives things that happened in the past year and dream about where I'm ready to go next. 

Although many people may be making resolutions for this next year, in the past few years, I’ve shifted my focus to intentions. What’s the difference? Let’s explore.

Resolution is defined as “a firm decision to do or not to do something.” I’ve made many resolutions in the past that sounds like, “I will eat NO bread in 2019!” and then 5 days in, that cinnamon roll looks reeaaallyyyy delicious. This firm “no” creates a perfect opportunity for judgement and very little compassion for my humanness.

Intention is defined as “a thing intended; an aim or plan”. I love the idea of aiming at something, because sometimes, 3, 6 or 9 months in, the target moves. We as humans, are constantly developing and changing (thank goodness) and in my experiences, the target continues to move. My intentions are usually short and sound like, “Dare greatly”, “Leap”, “Trust” or “Sacred”. When I set intentions, they allow me space to move, grow, explore and have compassion for myself if my expectations don’t go as planned (side note: they never do).

As you set your intentions for this next year, consider adding a little compassion and flexibility into your goals.

Instead of a concrete goal like, "I will lose __ pounds", consider shifting to, "I will move more!". Or just pick one word to explore throughout the year, like “core”, “trust”, “explore” or “reach” and think about how these can apply to all of the areas of your life.

Most importantly, even if you have a concrete goal, practice compassion and non-judgement with yourself. Your expectation may not turn out the way you imagined, but you might get something even better in return.

Big love ~ Mackenzie

Five Ways to Welcome the Winter Solstice

Happy Winter Solstice, friends!

Winter Solstice marks the shortest day and longest night of the year. On this day, we welcome the sun’s return to the northern hemisphere. “Solstice” comes from two Latin words: sol meaning "sun" and sistere meaning “to stand still”.

What’s exciting about this winter solstice? The full moon is going to peak on the 21st as well! According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, this won’t happen again until 2094.

What are some ways that we can celebrate this event? Check it out below.

Honor the Quiet

On the shortest day and longest night of the year, we have a lot of quiet coming in. Find a way to honor that today.

Take a slow, solo walk outside. Take time to meditate. Take some deep breaths outside. Write a poem. Reflect on the year by writing a list of all your favorite moments. Take a bath.

Take time to find quiet, if only for 2 minutes. Slow it down. Breathe.

Welcome the Light

The winter solstice marks a turning point in nature - the light is returning! How can you welcome in the light today?

Build a bonfire. Build a fire in the fireplace and watch the dancing flames. Use only candles (or twinkle lights!) to light the house tonight. Ask yourself what kind of lightness you’d like to bring into your life. Create winter solstice lanterns. Go outside and look at the full moon. Wake up early to greet the sun on the 22nd.

Set Intentions and Let Go of the Old

Let the returning of the sun burn away the old and set intentions to bring in new joy and light!

Create a burning bowl - write down what you would like to let go of and burn the paper. Create a vision board for this new year. Write a “try something new” list for this winter. Journal about goals for the future. Pick a one word intention for the season or the new year like “Dare” or “Joy”.

Connect with Others

Coming together with community can be a wonderful way to celebrate anything! Get together with loved ones tonight to share the joy if the returning sun.

Have a candlelight winter solstice feast. Make crafts together. Stay up all night to welcome the sun in the morning. Have a bonfire. Take a walk outside. Reflect on the year together and new goals for next year.

Connect with Nature

Winter Solstice is all about honoring the cycles of nature, so find some time to connect today.

Go outside and take a deep breath of fresh air. Go for a walk, cross country ski or snowshoe. Create with natural objects - mandalas, dolls, fairy houses, snow angels. Watch the full moon and stars and look for constellations. Play with a furry loved one.

Whatever you do today, take some time to take some deep breaths today, eat nourishing food, and honor the place that you’re in.

Sending winter solstice blessings your way,

Mackenzie

Becoming a Lighthouse Builder

Last Saturday, I went to the Zeal Center for a Community Energy Healing Share. Local energy healing practitioners came together to offer donation-based energy work for the community. I was so happy to host.

I had forgotten my laptop at home and headed out to my car to run back and get it when I noticed something written in the dirt on the side of my car.


F U.


“Wow”, I said out loud, as I thought about what was coming up for me.

First, I felt personally hurt. Why would someone do this? Is it someone that I know?

Second, I felt sad. It’s sad that our world feels so hurt that we want to hurt others.

Third, I felt inspired. I am a lighthouse and I’m here to help others build their own lighthouse.

I have been through this exact series of emotions many times before and through this experience, I fully realized one of my strengths - When I have an awful/bad/sad experience, I turn it around to make a really great experience for someone else.

This time, I reaffirmed my mission. I want to offer the tools that I’ve learned to make others feel empowered and wonderful about themselves. But I don’t want to be the only gathering point. I want to be a lighthouse builder.

Those empowered people have brilliant and beautiful lights of their own to shine that look much different than mine. We need all the lights of every color, shape and size. I want to be the helping hand, the volunteer and the friend that helps them build their lighthouse. One lighthouse is not enough. What if we had 10? 50? 2000? Once those people know how to build the lighthouse, they can help another and another to build their lighthouses. We could have a whole world of beautiful lighthouses shining their lights out into the world.

That moment standing next to my car was a reminder that this work that we’re doing together, helping each other build lighthouses, is so incredibly important.

I’m here to be a lighthouse builder. Are you?


Big Love, Mackenzie

Reconnecting with Myself

Originally posted May 21, 2018

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It's so very easy to get caught in the under current that is comparison and let it take you deep into the ocean of self-doubt.

"I'm not doing enough." 

"I'm not doing it right" 

"Why can they do that and I can't?" 

The ego gets really caught up in this wave and fights so hard to swim against it. Flash to a scene from a scary ocean movie - a person fighting against the waves, coming up for the big inhale, only to be pulled under again. Up and back down, up and down again. Arms flailing, trying to find control in what is greater than the human body - nature.

Oh, the poor ego. Always trying to protect us. Working against the wave with fear and worry. "What will happen if I go out there? I can't do this. I won't survive."

Back to the movie - the current pulls the body into the ocean and suddenly there's a calm. The person is faced with nothing but themself, floating in the vast ocean, no one around to compare to, nothing to do but breathe.

When the ego, the comparison, the self-doubt, the worry and the fear is stripped away - what's left? What will you find when you come back to you?

***

In February, when I was feeling the deep solitude of winter lay heavily on my heart, I begin planning trips for the summer to pull me out of my winter funk. I knew that trips would give me something exciting to look forward to when the snow had melted and the sun traveled closer to our hemisphere once again.

Surprisingly, my first trip planned was one of solitude, with a little bit of visiting friends mixed in. I planned to travel through the Great Lakes Region, camping with my dog at National Forests along the way. We would eventually land in the sweet city of Minneapolis to visit a good friend for a few days and then head back out to camp until we reached warmer beds in NY.

There was no telling what my state of mind would be when planning this trip so far in advance. Now that it's a day away, I know that it is perfect timing. My ego and I have been hanging out in comparison land for a bit together and it's time to let that fall away and come back to my Self.

My ego has been nervous, worried, fearful and yet deeper in, I am so ready and needing this trip. My ego wants to swim, my Self wants to ride the wave.

Into the vast ocean I go to reconnect with myself and the inner voice that's trying to speak but is too quiet to be heard above the ego's loud speeches. My laptop will stay home, my phone time will be limited, my email will remain unopened. I'm ready and excited for this break and as it sneaks closer, my ego/fear is starting to submit, knowing that this is happening no matter what.

I'm sure that it will try to sneak a few words in during the trip but it won't be driving or touching the radio. (Thanks for the tip, Liz Gilbert.)  Come along for the ride, ego. Let's see where we end up in this ocean.

Big Love ~ Mackenzie