The End?

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I began writing athayoganusasanam in January of 2011. I was brimming with excitement and inspiration. I had only been practicing Ashtanga for a few months and I was madly in love! I had recently moved back to my hometown with my new boyfriend. We lived in a beautiful (free!) apartment, a block away from the yoga shala. We had a tiny garden and were walking distance from just about everything we needed. My family lived close by and life was simple and easy. I didn’t have enough work at first and so I started this little blog. It kept me busy and was a wonderful outlet for creativity and for self-reflection.

I had so much to share. I felt deeply compelled to write all the time…about my love of cooking, my travels, my life, my new career in the healing arts, and of course most of all, about yoga – my practice and my teaching of it.

In the course of these three full-to-bursting years, Lila blog has chronicled the span of my early 20s into my late 20s. From a boyfriend, to a fiance to a husband. From teaching eight yoga classes a week down to only one. From a massage therapist to a florist with a huge wedding at the center of it all. From finding a teacher to losing him. From injuring myself to healing myself. From one home in Charlottesville to another in Denver, with two epic trips to India in between, plus countless weeks and weekends gallavanting all around this big old country. And that’s just the start of it!

Over these years, I have been surprised and thrilled by all the friendly support and enthusiastic readership. I’ve picked up a few blog sponsors along the way and contributed my writing to other venues as well. I also have occasionally received harsh criticisms and snarky comments, but that’s the internet, eh?

But let me be honest with you, dear readers, for months now this blog has felt like a heavy ball and chain dragging behind me. I only feel the spark of inspiration to write once every few weeks, if that. And even if I have an idea (like the nine pieces unfinished in my “drafts”), I don’t have the mental energy or time at the end of the workday to actually express my thoughts eloquently. Sigh…

I feel guilty that I don’t write as regularly as I used to and that my pieces are often lacking in pizazz. I also feel bad that the amount of yoga-related content has decreased so much. Although I never intended this to be a blog solely about yoga, it was always the topic that drew in the most readers. I am still an Ashtangi and a Kundalini yogini through and through, but my interest in writing (and reading for that matter) on yoga has diminished to nil.

More than anything, I dislike the amount of time (much of it wasted) that I spend in front of this screen and how it consumes hours that could be much better spent outside, playing with my husband, my friends, and my dog.

Writing a blog has altered the way I experience my daily life in a way that makes me a bit queasy. Instead of processing an emotional challenge brought to light by my yoga practice, or being present enjoying a fun afternoon in the mountains, or cooking spontaneously with vegetable peels thrown pell-mell all over my kitchen counter, I funnel my experiences visually and mentally through the lens of this blog and through social media. I ponder, “Should I try to write down this recipe for a post?”… “Maybe I should have Thad photograph me doing this?”…”How could I write about this personal difficulty without over-sharing too much.”… “What about my practice is inspiring/challenging right now and how can I turn this into something blog-worthy?”…. and on and on.

I want to live my life instead of blog about it. I want to just get on my mat every day and move through my practice without having to force it into being some profound teaching/learning experience. I want to spend my evenings sharing quality time with my loved ones instead of staring at a blank screen wondering what to write or how to attract more readers. I’m interested in being, living, creating, instead of documenting, analyzing and branding.

There are many wonderful bloggers out there, bloggers with so much more to share that I have right now. It’s a huge lovely interweb-world of fancy videos and sleek web design and I’m simply not up for it. Chalk it up to insecurity, but I’ve often doubted myself in this whole game of blogging. See, I am not a health coach, or a master healer, or registered nutritionist or “life coach”, I am not a celebri-yogi or a gifted photographer. I am simply a young woman on a journey.

We only have so much we can give and everything has its season. I guess you could say that I’m experiencing a predicament that all women face…I’m learning (with many bumps along the way) how to find balance in my home-work-family life. I’m discovering that difficult choices must be made in order to stay healthy and happy – questions regarding what to hold on to, what to nourish, what to simply put up with and what to release.

Managing a household, working five days a week, grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking healthy meals every day, caring for a pet, loving and supporting my husband while he is in school full-time, nurturing friendships and creative pursuits, writing this blog, dreaming up a new business to launch this year, all on top of a daily hour and a half yoga practice….well, it’s a lot to juggle!

Somedays this balancing act is harder than others, but I know, in my heart of hearts, that I will not/can not disregard my own self-care or sacrifice the activities that bring me joy in my attempts to “do it all”. And so, with this acknowledgement, I’ve had to make a choice about what can stay and what has to go.

After much deliberation and reflection, I am announcing today the closing of Lila blog. I write “The End” with a question mark because I know that nothing is permanent and I certainly do not know what the future will bring. But for now, I will not be writing any more on this platform. I plan to keep the site active online so that past posts are available for readers. The Facebook and Twitter accounts for Lila will be shut down in a few days.

I am not disappearing from the internet all together though. You can still find me on Instagram and on Pinterest. And who knows? Maybe I’ll be back at it again on Lila in a six months or a year. Or perhaps I’ll start a new blog with a whole new focus, maybe something more oriented in my field of business, floral design and styling.

But today, my dear readers, I bid adieu and offer my sincerest gratitude to you and to my gracious sponsors.

Thank you for your readership, your comments, your emails, your friendship and your presence.

The only thing that has kept this little bloggy going for so long has been you.

With oh so much love and many blessings,

Frances

 

 

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Top 13 Posts Of 2013

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Another year is drawing to a close. I am so grateful for your continued support and readership. Lila has grown and shifted over this year, just as I have. Even though I’m not posting as regularly as I once was, new readers are finding their way here and that is an exciting thing for me.

As I review the many posts from 2013, these are the top 13 that sparked commentary and heightened readership in no particular order….

 

1. This Is Why I Practice Yoga

2. Why I LOVE/HATE Pure Barre

3. Kitchari: Healthy and Nourishing Cleansing

4. Why Mysore Style Practice Is So Darn Special

5. Meditation For Prosperity and Abundance

6. I’d Rather Be Bad At Ashtanga Than Good At Something Else

7. On (Not) Losing Weight For My Wedding

8. My Magic Scar-Removing Oil Blend

9. Let’s Talk Yoga Clothes

10. Yoga Is Dangerous

11. Love Letter To My Leotard

12. How To Get Up In The AM Yogi-Style

13. Roller Coaster Of Love: Ashtanga Style

 

I hope you enjoy perusing these posts and I look forward to sharing more thoughts, reflections and photographs with you in the new year.

With Gratitude and Love,

Frances

 

 

image of me via Adonye Jaja

Those Damn Vrittis: Maneuvering On The Mat In Times Of Mental Chaos

Occasionally I forget that the whole purpose of yoga is to control the mind  – “citta-vritti-nirodha” – until I’m faced with a mind that is out of control.

This past week in practice, I caught myself a few times spacing out/psyching myself out in a pose for so long that I forgot what I was doing. You know in Ashtanga you typically only hold an asana for the length of 5 breaths. This doesn’t provide a whole lot of time for the mind to wander. The conjunction of the breath, movement, bandha and drishti lends itself to a full absorption of attention. But not always.

For no legitimate or provoked reason at the start of this week my mind was whirling with fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of catastrophe, fear of possible bodily harm, fear of the passing of time.

I’ve spoken with other Ashtangis about facing fear on the mat in regards to poses themselves – the fear that arises in deep and challenging backbends for example, or the fear that you will fall on your head, that your back will snap, that your arms won’t hold you, etc., But there are other fears we face in practice that have squat diddly to do with the physical shapes and movements.

These are the fears in the mind, the types that muddle thoughts, shorten breath and whisk you away from the here and now. How does one move past these? How does one brush aside scary visions or worst-case scenario monologues that start overtaking the head and the heart?

Personally what I’m learning, ever so slowly and stubbornly, is the importance of just keeping at it. Sometimes when I’m fraught with emotion in practice, I really want to stop and give up. I want to curl into a little ball and go deeper inside my thoughts, shutting the world out. I want to cease moving and simply lie there, self-absorbed, floating away with my jumbled breathless mind-stuff.

To keep moving is the hardest thing to do…but that movement is powerful. The process of adhering to the rhythm and the pattern of the practice has the ability to move you mentally. The dynamism of the series and the will to keep going burns through the vrittis. By continually bringing one’s attention back to the breath, back to the bandhas and the drishti and back to the flow of in and out, up and down, there is the opportunity to cut through the swirling of the mind’s chaos.

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Meditation To Heal A Broken Heart

Let’s be honest here. Sometimes life isn’t always rosy and sweet. There are so many horrible, sad things happening every single day.  With all the beauty and bliss, there is also great tragedy, inequity and injustice in our world.

Sadness, darkness, pain, broken hearts – there is no way to sidestep these aspects of the human experience, and one shouldn’t even try. It’s important to for there to be shadow and light. We need that depth of emotion and the perspective it provides.

I’ve found that when I’m in the midst of a hard place, I have to approach my spiritual practice and yoga discipline from a different angle, depending on what I feel I need most at a core/heart level. Sometimes I need to push push push and emerge victorious on the other side. But often I need to be still, self-reflective and “selfish.” Going deep within the energetics and emotions of practice can take me to a place of greater awareness of why I’m going through what I’m going through and how I can grow from it.

Taking time to grieve, and to feel, to really feel, is an essential step in healing.

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On Santosha In Light Of Nostalgia

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At the change of the season, I am flooded with waves of nostalgia. I feel a vague and persistent melancholy, a longing for a different time and place, one that might not have ever existed, yet I still dream of it and miss it deeply.

The scents of each new season evoke memories from childhood and adolescence. When the weather shifts, I recollect moments from schooldays past. Often they are sad memories, lonely ones from times of wondering and wandering. I question why I would miss such times, but nostalgia isn’t very logical. There’s nothing quite real about it. It’s a jumble of distorted fact and fiction, smiles and tears.

Nostalgia sounds like Neko Case’s strong plaintive voice and the crying of a pedal steel guitar. It is carried on the breeze and the nip of frost. It hits you with a wave of solitude even amongst a crowd. It transports me to a place of terrifying vulnerability, like being a waifish 14 year old girl in full head-to-toe DvF at a new school, in a Yankee state miles away from family or any sense of belonging. It takes me to dark evenings from my college years, on back steps of ramshackled Victorians, waiting, wishing, sitting quietly with a Spirit and a sense of expectancy.

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Introduction To Ashtanga Yoga in Denver

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Hello Colorado readers!

I want to let you know about an awesome yoga opportunity here in the lovely Mile High City.

If you’ve been thinking about dipping your toe into the profoundly powerful ocean that is Ashtanga Yoga, here is your chance.

Eric and Joan, the only KPJAYI authorized teachers in the city, and the founders ofAshtanga Yoga Denver, are offering an 8-class course as an introduction to this practice.This will be a great way to get a taste of the practice and start learning the Primary Series of Ashtanga Yoga as it was taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.

Taking this course will give you a level of familiarity with the series that will allow you to feel more comfortable entering the traditional environment of learning in the Mysore room.  I highly recommend it.

It’s only $90 for all 8 classes too, which is a slamming good deal if you ask me.

Mark your calendars!

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Ashtanga Practice Thoughts: Having It Work For You

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The other day after Mysore, Thaddeus and I were chatting with our teacher here about the role that practice plays in our lives. The point that we were all focused around was the way that practice can offer support and strength when we need it most.

It’s such a wonderful thing to have the stability and steadiness that only a regular practice can provide. It keeps my body healthy, but more than anything, it keeps my mind under control. The pervasive sense of ease and openness that I feel after my evening meditation practice in Bound Lotus creates one of the purest and most blissful moments of my day. It is such a gift.

In this year of transition, my husband and I have maintained our consistent yoga practice, but not made it the sole focus of our lives. His energy is directed towards school, mine to my new career, and together, we are investing a lot into our new home and our marriage. Our yoga practice is foundational and incredibly important, but its manifestation has changed, just as we have.

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Oh Hello Old Friend

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These past 3+ weeks, my dropbacks simply have not been working. I’ve had this sticky stuck achy feeling all through my mid-back that prohibits me from arching past a certain point. It literally feels like a road block.

Let’s not even talk kapotasana, which I dread on a daily basis. With the combination of my back and shoulder inflammation issues, this pose just makes me want to throw in the towel…. so, moving on…

This pain in my mid-back. I’ve been ignoring it, since it wasn’t too bothersome or restrictive and instead have just been sitting out on dropbacks for awhile. Until this Sunday, during afternoon practice when I was all loose and warmed up and decided that after a solid half-primary and half-second, I should give ’em a go.

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Yoga + Blood Sugar Levels

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One of the more entertaining aspects of having a blog for me is that I can see what phrases people Google to find Lila in the first place. Somedays I get some super random and funny ones. For example, a few of my recent favorites “ashtanga kicks my ass sometimes and sometimes not”, and, “hope for lila blog”, and “support patanjali dream through facebook.”

One phrase, or version of it, that often appears is “how does ashtanga yoga change my body.”

When we talk about how yoga changes our physical bodies we often talk about how it makes us more flexible or stronger and that is all good and true. I love that my Ashtanga practice has given my arms definition and made my big ol’ bootay round. But, one of the most awesome results of my consistent yoga practice is not something you can see by looking at me.

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How To Get Up In The A.M. Yogi-Style

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Mornings can be rough. Although I’ve never been a very late riser, I still enjoy taking my sweet time in the morning.

Making it to Mysore on time can be a bit of a challenge some days. To be fully honest, I’m not sure I would have stuck with Ashtanga Yoga this long if I didn’t have a partner in crime coming in to check on me after I’ve hit the snooze button (my husband is much more disciplined than I, waking up at least half an hour earlier so he has time to chant his rounds. Goody yoga two shoes!).

When my alarm crickets and chirps at what feels like the crack of dawn I feel more like this….

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Ashtanga Thoughts: Moving From Center

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There’s a lot going on in the practice of Ashtanga Yoga. Breath, bandhas, drishti, movement, focus, alignment, jumpbacks, jumpthroughs and more fill the long and rather complicated sequence.

Because of this, sometimes I find it is helpful to set one particular point of focus for my asana practice. This doesn’t rule out the other factors of course, because they are all in relationship with one another as I move through the sequence. In fact, in seems to enhance the quality of my practice because having one thing to focus on gives me a better chance of finding any focus at all in my crazy monkey-mind.

I remember when I first started practicing I often chose just to think about drishti. This encouraged me in finding a sense of centered calmness within all the movement. My natural orientation is to become completely engrossed in the postures and their alignment (I’ve spent enough time in Iyengar studios to be a bit obsessive in this regard). It’s more important for me these days to focus on the more subtle aspects of the practice – in particular, the energetic movements and the orientation given by the bandhas. Just focusing on the alignment puts me too much in my head, and then I lose touch with my breath.

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