Archive for June, 2014

3 years, 500 hours of training, 1000 hours of teaching . . .



I could not have done this without so much love, support, help, and guidance. Thank you to my teachers, Tej, Thom, Scott, Melissa, Trionne, and others. Thank you to my fellow trainees. Thank you to my yoga students. Thank you to my family, my sister Allison, my father Greg and step-mom Jody, and all my extended family. Thank you to my wonderful wife, Charlie. Thank you Divine Mother. Thank you Universe.



I Am Water

I always find comfort near bodies of water.
Sitting for meditation, I thought,
“I wish I was near the water right now.”
Then I realized,
I am water.
A body made up mostly of water.
A body of water.
Can I sit by the babbling brook of my inner monologue and watch as thoughts tumble over the rocks and roots, finding their way over and around obstacles?
Can I sit on the shores of my consciousness and observe the waves of breath gently flowing in and out, ever changing yet always the same?
Can I sit near the lake of my mind and notice the effects of each tossed pebble as it ripples the surface, patiently waiting for it to become still?
Finding comfort in myself,
I Am

Growing Pains

“This truth can be painful; can shatter many of your illusions. This is a paradox we have to accept: the extreme violence of liberation. You must be forced to be free. If you trust simply your spontaneous sense of well-being . . . you will never get free. Freedom hurts.”
–Philosopher Slavoj Zizek, from the film “The Perverts Guide to Ideology”

Yesterday, I graduated from a 500 hour yoga teacher training course. I’ve been working on this for 3 years total. I got my first 200 hours in 2011, which took about 6 months. You can think of it as sort of the yoga teacher undergrad. I taught for a year and a half before beginning school again to add the next 300 hours, which took over a year. I consider this my “yoga Master’s degree.” Not that I’ve mastered it yet; that will take at least one lifetime, maybe more. There was another graduate yesterday who completed the 1000 hour program, which I think of as the “yoga PhD.” The process of earning these certifications was of course educational. We learned anatomy, physiology, philosophy, history, asanas, sequencing, different styles of yoga, meditation, mantras, Sanskrit, the Bhagavad Gita and the yoga sutras. However the most impactful aspect of this journey has by far been my own personal and spiritual growth. The main reason I took over a year off between my 200 and 500 hour courses was that I needed an emotional breather. This training sometimes felt much like the intense therapy I went through after my mother died. It ripped me open then filled me back up. I alternately felt vulnerable, raw, and overwhelmed, then whole, calm, and confident. The happy tears were just as frequent as the sad ones. My yoga practice was sometimes confrontational, forcing me to look at the shadows within me. Somehow the same practice also comforted me and gave me strength. It taught me to breathe through the darkness and to begin to shine light into all the crevices of my ego, to see the patterns and habits that hid there. In order to release negative energy that has been suppressed, you must first bring it up. It doesn’t feel good, it’s emotionally draining and mentally exhausting. Much like a physical detox, you feel worse before you feel better. But when you come out the other side, it is amazing.

In Genesis there is a story about Jacob wrestling with a divine being:
So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

Our egos must be challenged to be overcome. When we start out on a spiritual path, the ultimate goal is liberation, freedom from the cycle of suffering. When we ask to be freed, we are given the means to do so. A friend and I recently discussed how blessed and lucky we were to have gone through some very difficult times. So much growth came from them and we can now use our past to help others with similar struggles. They say only the worthy student is tested, and when she is ready the teacher will appear. Suffering can be our greatest teacher, and you can’t learn a lesson without being tested. Our perceived demons might really be our angels, our perceived problems can turn out to be blessings, and our most difficult struggles can become our most memorable triumphs. Jacob carried the scars from his struggle his entire life, but he also obtained the blessing that he sought.

“Someone I loved gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift.” –Mary Oliver

Everywhere Looking, Only God Seeing

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 6 Verse 29: “With the soul united to Spirit by yoga, with a vision of equality for all things, the yogi beholds his Self (Spirit-united) in all creatures and all creatures in the Spirit”

Growing up, I had a vague idea of what being “gay” meant. There were several people in my life who I later found out were gay, one a friend of my mom’s and the other a cousin of my dad’s. I don’t remember how or when I realized their sexual orientation, but I do remember that they were loved and treated equally by my parents and that was enough for me. As I got older and learned more about gay rights, equality, and the LGBTQ movement, I was immediately drawn to the cause. It just felt right that all people were treated well and given the same rights and opportunities, no matter who they loved. Then I found out one of my best friends was gay, which only solidified my stance. Later my sister came out and made the issue even more personal. And two years ago I fell in love with a beautiful soul who would bring it even closer to home, as close as you can get.

Charlie was still presenting and living as a male when we met. Our connection was deep and intense. We enjoyed each other’s company, had fun together, and connected on so many levels. Then after three months of the blissful early stages of dating, Charlie tried to break up with me, saying there was something that would prevent us from continuing our relationship. I was so shocked and confused and came up with a million crazy reasons in my head–a history of drug running, bodies buried in the desert, connections to the mob–none of which turned out to be the truth. Finally Charlie revealed the big secret: she had always felt like a woman and wanted to transition from male to female. After having worked myself up about what it could be, this actually came as a relief. We joke now that after she told me I said, “Oh is that all?” and continued to read my book. While it wasn’t quite that anti-climactic, I never once doubted that I would stay with her. Don’t get me wrong, I did think about it. I did some soul searching, read up on the topic. I had never had a relationship with a woman before and considered myself “straight,” although we know from Kinsey and others that it isn’t that simple. There’s a spectrum when it comes to sexual orientation, as well as gender. I feel that I was more to the middle of the scale, and had previously dated only men because it was easier, more socially acceptable, or maybe I just hadn’t met the right woman yet.

When the gay rights movement began to gain momentum, a big part of people learning to accept homosexuality was simply realizing that they did know gay people. As more individuals took the brave step of “coming out,” the issue was brought closer to home for many who had previously thought being gay was something strange and foreign. Suddenly the nameless “gay man” was your co-worker who always brings donuts on Friday. The faceless “lesbian” was your cousin who helped plan funeral arrangements when your grandfather passed away. When Ohio Senator Rob Portman found out his son was gay, he reversed his stance on marriage equality. He said, “I’ve come to the conclusion that for me, personally, I think this is something that we should allow people to do, to get married, and to have the joy and stability of marriage that I’ve had for over 26 years. That I want all of my children to have, including our son, who is gay.” It’s much easier to discriminate against an unknown group of people, much harder to look someone in the eyes, especially someone you know and love, and tell them they don’t deserve the same rights that you do. Charlie told me a story about a job she had once working for a mold remediation/flood damage repair company. The boss asked Charlie to dump some chemical waste into a city sewer instead of going through the proper protocol to dispose of it. Charlie balked and questioned the ethics of doing that and the man replied, “Can’t see it from my house.” He didn’t care that he was hurting people who were nameless and faceless to him, but if he could see it from his house, it might be a different story.

Ash Beckham gave a great speech at TEDx Boulder about how everyone has a closet, and encouraged us all to “come out.” She said, “All a closet is, is a hard conversation.” Although I understand why many would avoid going public with their personal life, I also believe it is important to do so anyway. Whether it’s that you’re a person who is gay, transgender, struggles with depression, been abused, in recovery from drugs or alcohol, or anything else that we often hide out of fear of judgment, by being open about our human experience we begin to see that we aren’t alone. We begin to see that there are others like us. We begin to look past the differences and see the similarities. We begin to see the Spirit within, and that Spirit is pure love.

Toddler Yoga at North Park!

Tomorrow, Thursday June 5, from 11:15 – 11:45 AM, I will be teaching  Toddler Yoga at the Lululemon store in North Park Center. All kids are welcome and the class is FREE!  Come breathe, stretch, move, and have some fun with your little ones.

Erin Marie Yoga



Helping people who are ready for better