Tag Archives: Yoga

Purpose And The Art Of Fearlessness

5 Feb

I woke up this morning full of fear.

Fear of what happens next, of where I’m going, of how little control I have over so many things. In my meditation today, I noticed I’m not only afraid of what might happen, but also of what might not. For the first time in a long time, I emerged from my morning sit feeling more anxious than I went into it.

I read an old piece I had written about bravery and still felt stopped. Feel the fear and do it anyway? Not today.

Rather than rush headlong into the day’s to-do list, I headed to Pete Guinosso’s Candlelight Flow class to try and give my anxiety some space to move and sweat.

At the opening of the class, Pete mentioned that today is civil rights activist Rosa Park’s birthday, which is celebrated in California as Rosa Parks Day. And he read us this quote:

Rosa Parks

As I moved through my sweaty vinyasa, twisting, balancing, I noticed how my movements had purpose. I have been practicing asana for a long time and my body knows what to do. Pete says “down dog” and without needing to think, I can move into that shape.

I know what must be done and I do it.

As we built and opened through the class, I worked through little difficulties: warming the hamstrings, noticing my resistance to one more strong abdominal hold, balancing in ardha chandrasana (half moon). These poses challenge me, but they’re possible. A little effort and I can get there.

We move into parivritta trikonasana (revolved triangle) and I remember how difficult I used to find this pose. As a new yoga teacher I was frightened to teach it,  because it required so much concentration to stay balanced myself, let alone balance and talk students through it. Almost nine years later, it’s effortless, to do and to teach.

I think I can

Our peak pose this morning was parvritta ardha chandrasana (revolved half moon). Already sweaty with exertion, I pushed myself into it. I felt that moment of wobble as I moved my eyes skyward, noticed the attention that was required to lift, extend and open. It really took something to hold the pose today. I could feel my muscles straining, my heartbeat in my ears, my breath working hard to be smooth.

But as I worked into one side and then the other, I was filled with a sense of achievement. It was hard and I did it. I didn’t fall. I kept breathing. I overcame.

I look at my life and I see how easy it would be to just keep doing the poses I know: to do things I find effortless and easy. There is a safety in doing what is right in front of you; of taking the options that are being offered. But I know choosing those options doesn’t bring as much growth. Life can be simpler, but it’s not as expansive.

I don’t want to be safe. I want to be BRILLIANT.

I want to inspire and be inspired. I want to have the kind of life that lives up to MY expectations, to do things that make ME proud. To be pulled into every day with purpose and passion.

Living from that space, there’s no room for fear.

Life a daring adventure

A New Year

3 Jan

Oh, 2014.

Last year was about risk for me. Risking my heart, my business, my relationships.

There was a moment during the retreat in Thailand that I stopped and looked around at the glowing faces of my students as they danced around the room, embracing each other, revelling in the week they had shared, and I felt possibly the greatest happiness I had ever known. First: I had caused that! I had so much pride that it had come together, that it was worth all the work and hours and preparation.

Shiny People

Mostly, I felt such a profound gratitude that I was able to share myself with these people and have it land with them in a way that made a difference in their lives. Doing this work has become about what I can give away, and it has been the most rewarding experience of my life.

And then I decided to move to the big smoke.

“Why don’t you stay in the wilderness?  Because that isn’t where it is at; it’s back in the city, back in downtown St. Louis, back in Los Angeles.  The final test is whether your experience of the sacred in nature enables you to cope more effectively with the problems of people.  If it does not enable you to cope more effectively with the problems – and sometimes it doesn’t, it sometimes sucks you right out into the wilderness and you stay there the rest of your Life – then when that happens, by my scale of value; it’s failed.  You go to nature for an experience of the sacred…to re-establish your contact with the core of things, where it’s really at, in order to enable you to come back to the world of people and operate more effectively.  Seek ye first the kingdom of nature, that the kingdom of people might be realized.”  
-Willi Unsoeld

I’m so excited about the possibilities of bringing this work to city life. It’s one thing for me to be balanced and zen in the jungle in Bali, on a beach in Thailand or Mexico. It’s quite another to bring it into fluorescent lit office buildings, to stressed workers, glued to phones and computers, panicking about mortgages, obsessed with having the latest products or thinking that life can never be any other way.

But how can I operate in that world and not suffer from the same malaise?

Be Yourself
My transition to San Francisco has plugged me back into the matrix, the perfect way for me to better understand and empathize with the people I am teaching. Yet I am also experiencing a world where kindness doesn’t always feel like the best answer; where rampant honesty is not always welcomed; where bringing your heart fully can mean being battered and bruised.

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.”
– Mahatma Ghandi

Is it naive to think I can “be the change I want to see in the world”?

I know when I show up with a full heart, good intentions and an earnest approach, my life feels more full, I expect the best in people and I feel more alive. Seeing the glass half full makes me happy.

But it’s also teaching me that bringing that energy is not always the best path. Sometimes, what’s needed is both a soft heart and a sharp elbow.

The Bhagavad Gita talks about ten Yamas, what we sometimes call the Yogi Commandments for ethical living. Dhŗiti, the sixth of these, has been translated as “to act with determination”, “patience” and “perseverance”. I love to describe it as “steadfastness”. You can read more about this tenet here, but at its core, practicing Dhŗiti, you “succeed in every undertaking by having a clear purpose, a wise plan, persistence and push.”

Smooth sea Skilled Sailor

“A ship that can endure and persevere on its course even when tossed about on the waves of a turbulent sea.” – Gurudeva

 

Sometimes, life here feels impossibly difficult. I’ve stood in front of an entire aisle of unknown brands of toilet paper and felt overwhelmed. Negotiations feel unkind. Showing too much of yourself, or admitting weakness might not be admired. Sometimes it feels like the work I’ve done to become more vulnerable and to wear my heart on my sleeve is a distinct disadvantage.

And yet, my students and clients seek that same openness. They are desperately looking for connection and a way to safely express a more vulnerable heart.

Maybe, what’s actually needed is more conviction to inhabit that space.

vulnerability

So with that, I declare 2015 to be a year of courage, growth and determination. 

I will bring my heart to every aspect of my life, even though I’m scared to do it. I will fail and get back up again. Reconnect with nature and myself. Be big and bold and vulnerable.
And practice, practice, practice, with ferocity. For all is coming.

Practice all is coming

Walk Slowly 

13 Dec

Just breathe

It only takes a reminder to breathe,
a moment to be still, and just like that,
something in me settles, softens, makes
space for imperfection. The harsh voice
of judgment drops to a whisper and I
remember again that life isn’t a relay
race; that we will all cross the finish
line; that waking up to life is what we
were born for. As many times as I
forget, catch myself charging forward
without even knowing where I’m going,
that many times I can make the choice
to stop, to breathe, and be, and walk
slowly into the mystery.

– Danna Faulds

Keeping Quiet

12 Jun

Meg Meditate 2

Now we will count to twelve and we will all keep still
for once on the face of the earth, let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for a second, and not move our arms too much.
It would be an exotic moment without rush, without engines;
we would all be together in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea would not harm the whales
and the man gathering salt would not hurt his hands.
Those who prepare green wars, wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors, would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about…
If we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing, perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.

Perhaps the earth can teach us as when everything seems to be dead in winter and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count to twelve and you keep quiet and I will go.

– Pablo Neruda

Shiny Song #25

11 May

I’ve just returned from Mexico, where I taught two retreats.

IMG_7372

This track was one of my favourite playlist additions…

Take it back or let me go
It’s better if I tell you so
I’ve hurt you once before and I will do it again

Everyone I know is gone
And I don’t even know myself
I’m saving up
To take a trip to Mexico
I heard it’s the place to go
I want to see the colours of another sky

Carry me home on your shoulders
Lower me on to my bed
Show me the night that I dreamed about before

Lover, you may cause me tears
Drag me through the best of years
You’ll never know any of the songs I wrote
Older than a year or two,
But I love you so

Oh, carry me home on your shoulders
Lower me on to my bed
Show me the night that I dreamed about before

Carry me home on your shoulders
Lower me on to my bed
Show me the night that I dreamed about before

Lover, you may cause me tears
Drag me through the best of years,
But I love you so

On Retreat in Mexico

21 Apr

I’m off the grid for a couple of weeks, teaching two retreats in Sayulita in Mexico.

This week..?
Haramara Retreat Centre.

(Yes. I am pinching myself.)
Haramara Pool

Haramara 4Haramara 1haramaraIMG_7301IMG_7292

“If  you have a true relationship with nature, then you have a relationship with mankind.”

-J. Krishnamurti

How to Yoga Festival: Reflections on the Bali Spirit Festival, 2014

20 Apr

I was so lucky to be involved in this year’s Bali Spirit Festival.

Mandala

In the past few days, I’ve been reflecting on what made this festival so enjoyable – aside from the incredible people and program, of course. Like most things, I can see how much my attitude is the key.

1. Let It Go

Bali is one of those places that will give you what you need – and for all you sticklers for time and control freaks, this festival is an exercise in surrendering. Yup, it might rain. You might get muddy. Motorbikes won’t observe the road rules you know from home. Meals might not come out at the same time. Roosters will wake you. Gamelan will play. But the Balinese will smile hugely at you, the hot weather will help your body open and you’ll learn more about who you are in life than you ever thought possible.
And don’t worry, we’re all sweaty. Gimme a hug.

2. Patience

Those crazy paths wending through the festival are the bane of my life when I’m rushing. People stop at any given moment to chat, hug, think about whether they’re in the right place…When I’m in a hurry, I feel my jaw clench, my elbows set and my feet stomp. All it takes to get around that is a little sideways step. Yes, sometimes into mud, but that’s also going to slow you down and make you walk mindfully.

bruce-lee-water
3. Be Adaptable

You can’t be in two places at once. (Unless you’re one of those astral travelling yogis, in which case you should definitely run sessions at next year’s festival. Simultaneously.) Sometimes the class you desperately wanted to join is full. Being able to let that go and try something you would never have tried otherwise could open you up to a new style of yoga or a teacher who could change your life. FOMO doesn’t serve anyone.

4. The More You Give, The More You Get

If you’re working with a partner in a class, give them your everything. Pay careful attention to your teachers. If you see trash on the ground, pick it up! If you see someone frowning, give them a smile. There was a woman in Jamie Catto’s workshop who shared something that touched me deeply. I stopped her and let her know. It made her day. Minutes later, I was being fed delicious Sacred Scoops icecream by a generous friend. I don’t usually think Karma works that quickly, but it certainly seems to here!

Ferris Bueller Life Quote

5. Stop. Appreciate.

Take (at least!) a few minutes each day to stop and drink in the delicious madness that is the Bali Spirit Festival. Look where you are! Drink in the green! Curl your toes into the grass and stretch your hands to the sky. You’re in Bali! You’re surrounded by conscious, amazing humans who are as interested in yoga, dance, music and connection as you are. Drink it all in.

bali-spirit-festival8

 

Thailand Retreat: Love Explosion

19 Apr

I am overwhelmed…

I’m sitting in a cafe in Berkeley, California, thinking about the retreat we’ve just finished at The Sanctuary in Thailand.

The Sanctuary Beach
This group of humans blew me away with their willingness to dive deeply into the process, their love of dancing and their huge hearts.

IMG_7104
This retreat taught me how much I need to trust myself: that when I follow my heart and my intuition, amazing things can happen.

IMG_6988

 

I’m in tears reading the feedback forms:

Megan is such an inspiration. I love the way she teaches! She makes of yoga something modern because she’s gentle and warm but also so much fun! She really has a truly magical presence. I’m so grateful for having been able to join the retreat and just amazed how seven days can change the way you see/feel things for much more time!
Shiny Happy Healthy is now my own mantra!
I feel so thankful for Megan for sharing her happiness, her life lessons, and shininess!
Merci!

– Noémie, Paris

IMG_6987

Thank you to beautiful and shiny Megan for lighting up the way to an amazing new purchase on life. Words really cannot express how grateful I am to you for sharing your knowledge, spirit and intelligence with us. Your retreat is, without a doubt, one of the best things a person could give themselves. I cannot speak more highly of you and the Shiny Happy Healthy retreat experience; nor can I speak more highly of the amazing souls I shared my journey with.

With lots of love,
– Jenny, Melbourne

You can read more testimonials about the retreat and my workshops on the Praise page.

I just adored this space and process – and all of the super Shiny, Happy participants with their enormous smiles have meant I’ve had a dozen inquiries already about when the next one will be held! So, I’m super excited to announce that I will run another Thailand retreat this year!

From September 14th until the 20th, we’re going to infect The Sanctuary with our massive smiles and shiny behaviour.

Don’t miss out!

Sign up by emailing me at shinyhealthy@gmail.com

 

Bali Spirit Festival: Pete Guinosso’s Happy Hour

30 Mar

I’m three classes in and I have nothing left in the tank, but I’ve been dying to experience Pete Guinosso’s teaching, so there is no way I’m missing his Happy Hour Yoga class.

meet-pete

Two hours later, as I bounce off my mat, drenched in sweat and smiling, I’m so glad I did.

Pete has been coming to Bali teaching retreats, but this is his first ever Bali Spirit Festival.

“Bali is something special,” he smiles. “It’s a whole culture of ceremony and offering and that fits into what my offering is, which is creating sacred space in every moment, creating ceremony in every moment.”

That ceremony involves loads of upbeat, punchy pop music: when I arrive to the workshop, Macklemore’s Thrift Shop is bouncing around the Main Pavillion. From there it ranges from Nina Simone to Lorde; Supertramp to Alanis Morrissette.

Pete opens the class with a quote from US poet Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself:

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)”

These multitudes are what he brings to the practice. Who says yoga practice and fun are mutually exclusive? That popular music can’t support meditative movement? Can I be joyful and focussed? Dancing within a pose? Singing along? 

Pete believes exploring these boundaries fits perfectly with the Festival:

“Bali Spirit Festival takes it up a notch. We bring all these people and there’s such a strong community and there’s all this music and all these different offerings. It’s really a nice event that I think has an offering for everybody. That’s why there’s such an inspiration about it.
I love it because Ubud is a beacon for all these people to come and practice yoga.” 

Pete Guinosso’s  teaching is inspired by Forrest Yoga and his primary teacher Ana Forrest, something made very obvious by his encouragement into strong bound poses (revolved bound moon pose, anyone? How about lifting one arm and one leg in dolphin to create a dorsal fin knee pointed to the sky?) and intense one sided vinyasa sequences.

Presenter: Pete Guinnoso, Class: Cup of Morning Vinyasa

“Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we cry, but no matter what, we always work on building strength and flexibility. And we always sweat!” 

Pete’s multilayered approach really speaks to me. After class, he tells me about his Buddhist work (“Buddha and I are tight, we go way back,” he laughs) and how he draws inspiration from all aspects of life. It’s a good reminder to take life in it’s totality, rather than resist the bits we don’t like.

As I sink into a grateful savasana, accompanied by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ One Love, I almost feel teary. It’s surprising, when I had been laughing a moment before. Pete’s practice seems to encourage a rawness, where emotions are expressed.

“It’s nice to offer playfulness and serious yoga as well, depending on what is there in the moment.” he says.

His amazing assistant Amy Beley gives me a fantastic head massage that beautifully aligns my neck.

We finish class sitting campfire style, belting out Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing. Everyone was beaming at each other and making eye contact while they sang. (I’m not gonna lie. I did a couple of power ballad fist pumps.)

“It made me stretch into my boyish smile,” said Rodolfo

Megan was equally effusive: “Even after a long day, Pete’s class was a breath of fresh air . Yoga for the soul.”

I thought back to another quote Pete shared at the start of class, from Five Rhythms founder, Gabrielle Roth:

“In many shamanic societies, if you came to a shaman or medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions. When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence? Where we have stopped dancing, singing, being enchanted by stories, or finding comfort in silence is where we have experience the loss of soul. Dancing, singing, storytelling, and silence are the four universal healing salves.”

Yup. It’s definitely happy hour.

Bali Spirit Festival: Learning to Fly

28 Mar

Acro Yoga.

It sounds so fun, doesn’t it? Wheeee! Let’s lift each other up! Let’s fly! Drape all over each other!

Presenter: Alexander Ruis & Pau Castellsague, Class: Acro Yoga

When I heard my friends gushing about Mexican AcroYogi Alexandra Ruis, I made her session with Pau Castellsague one of my must-attends for the festival.

Full confession: I’m only doing this session because I’m terrified. Even as a child, I was easily injured in falls and while I have scarred knees and wonky joints, I’m most afraid of further damaging my fragile spine. I’m also 5’10” and not exactly small. I’ve been in Acro classes before and feel reasonably comfortable being a base, but today I’m going to stop weaseling out of flying and get off the ground more than once.

The beauty of Acro yoga is the safety and control that’s possible. Pau and Alexandra assure us at the outset that proper alignment and using the architecture of the bones removes the need for any great strength. They show us how to stack our feet over our hips; wrists over shoulders and how to give and receive pressure to help our partners fly.

Alexandra and Pau are adorable presenters, switching from English with us to rapid fire Spanish between each other. They definitely make it look fun and easy but I guess physical comedy comes easily to folks who are used to flying and falling and throwing each other around.

Presenter: Alexander Ruis & Pau Castellsague, Class: Acro Yoga

After some basic warm ups and getting to know our fellow participants a little better (hand holding and booty shaking, what else?!) we break into groups of three: a base, a flyer and a spotter.

We switch between the three roles, working up into the Acro basic, Front Bird. With your base’s feet on your hip bones, you push up, look up and extend your legs behind you. The base also has straight legs and arms, and with the right alignment, it can be super comfortable for both yogis. I fly for a few seconds, but feel pretty good when we run out of time and I have to come down.

“Our highest aim is to bring individuals into a state of union with themselves, with each other, and with the divine. From this place of mutual support the true self can be realized, celebrated and shared for the benefit of all.”

Next we work into a chair position, which feels easy to me as a base, but frighteningly out of control as the flyer. But then something interesting happens once I’m up: I start to feel ok. Then my spotter encourages me to close my eyes. I momentarily panic: I’m going to fall! But they have me. I’m steady. It’s such a small thing, but for me, it’s a massive release of control and a huge rush of trust.

Presenter: Alexander Ruiz & Pau Castellsague

For our final pose, we move into a therapeutic flying pose, the folded leaf. This requires the flyer to really let go and relax their body over the base, even to the point of letting the arms flop to the floor. Watching Alexandra demonstrate, I can feel my heart rate rising. How am I going to relax enough to do that?

 As I move from Front Bird forward into my Leaf, I have my spotter, Matt, and another experienced Acro Yogi, Bex, both there. While I’m shaking and scared, I start to relax and when it comes time to push back to Front Bird, I feel the strength of my base beneath me and WOOP!
I’m up! I’m flying! I feel teary with relief and pride.

We manage another transition and this time, I really let go. I notice how much easier the transition is when I let go of control and just allow it to happen.

Absolutely a metaphor for my life off the mat.