On Yoga

Brass Balls

| On Yoga

Photo by Keleigh Layton

40 Days of Yoga–Day 10

Art & Soul Yoga~Sayde

It took less than 40 days. I set out to practice everyday so I could make a clear decision about my work schedule.  I knew I needed to fill the well and nurture myself.  Plus, I love a good challenge.

A challenge it has been.  Squeezing my practice into a day that is already packed with teaching and writing is tricky.  It means planning ahead and packing lots of snacks.  But at the end of each day, as I tuck myself in bed, I feel good.  I have peace of mind knowing that whatever has slipped through the cracks, yoga hasn’t.

Aside from a dewy glow and a sense of peace, what happens when you do yoga everyday?

Brass balls.  That’s what happens.

Author Benjamin Lorr quotes his friend Anna in his book, Hell Bent:

“I don’t know how the yoga works, but I do know that I started practicing and I grew a pair of brass balls.  I kicked my alcoholic husband out of my life.  I got a better job.  It’s a power tool for taking responsibility.”

This is not an uncommon experience.  Many people experience this when they give yoga a go for the first time.  They try it for the physical exercise and it ends up changing their lives.  But the funny thing is that when you return to a regular practice after a hiatus of whatever length, the brass balls come back.

I experienced this about 3 1/2 years ago.  I was tending bar and acting as manager at an Irish pub in Long Beach when I began my 200 hour yoga teacher training.  I knew I was growing in all kinds of ways but I had no idea that all the while my ability to tolerate bullshit was decreasing.  I had a hard time faking a giggle for drunk old mean and sleazy bachelors.  And then one day I up and quit.  I truly thought I’d rather shoot my own knee cap than spend one more day pouring beer and faking a smile.  No more.

It was unlike me.  I didn’t have another job lined up.  Although, I had oodles of skills I really wasn’t sure where I was going or what I was going to do next.  I just kept going back to the mat.

I eventually found my way, as I knew I would.  But growth occurs in cycles.  You find your groove, get down and get comfy.  Yet, you are not meant to stay there forever.  You will transition.  It will be uncomfortable, maybe even painful and difficult.  But you must. And then, you’ll find your groove again.

This is where yoga steps in.  I don’t think transitional phases of our lives should last years at a time.  For some they do.  That’s unnecessary.

Yoga helps expedite the process of moving from one place to another. It gives you brass balls so you can call bullshit on the things in your life that bring you down or steer you off course.

What’s really happening is this: yoga breaks down the walls separating you from yourself and your desires.  That’s when you tap in and the path that lies before you is clear.

So, my brass balls came back.  And I had to call bullshit on myself.  I really thought that I could manage 2 writing jobs, 4 yoga classes, planning a wedding, my own creative projects, and still be able to connect with the people I love, take care of my boyfriend, and nurture myself.  Yoga says, HA!

I’m still practicing everyday for forty days.  I like the challenge.  And it’s keeping me connected to me.  But it only took me four days to figure out what I need to do.  Now I have to ask the big questions that will get me to the next phase.  Brass balls and all, at least I know I’ll be there soon.


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When bhakti yoga becomes a pain in the ass

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I like to bake.  And one of the best parts of baking is sharing the fruits of my labor.  I like–no love–to watch friends and family bite into a slice of pie or a cookie and make that face.  You know the look I’m talking about, that oh-my-f*cking-God-that-is-sooooo-good face.  They begin to chew in slow motion, close their eyes, and then inarticulate moans and yummy sounds replace conversation.

I love that.  That is what compels me to bake gluten-full desserts that I can’t even taste.  (Yes, Grandpa, that means you’re still getting blueberry pie for your birthday.)

So, in a gesture of appreciation  and pure bhakti (yoga of devotion or love) I decided to bake cookies for the cast of my boyfriend’s next theatrical production.  They work hard and, like many LA artists, they seldom get paid for their time and energy.  Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies are in order!  (I just discovered that I can’t digest oatmeal anymore.  Boo!  What to do with all of this oatmeal I just bought…)

And then I remembered that one of the cast members is a glutard, like me.  (Glutard is what Jeremy, my boyfriend, likes to call all of us who are digestively challenged in the gluten department.)  No matter.  I’ve been meaning to try out a new gluten-free vegan brownie recipe.  Brownies for Alexis and me.  Cookies for the cast.

I set out to spend just an hour or so of my day off baking before I’d be on to other adventures.  I made sure I had all of the ingredients I’d need and then I got started measuring and humming to myself, happy in my heart to create on a sunny Friday afternoon until–Crap!  The applesauce I needed for the brownies had developed a very colorful pink ooze.  Crappity crap!

OK, no problem.  Off I went to the market to get some more only grumbling slightly to myself.  After all, it was a lovely day in Downtown.  I found applesauce.  Of course, it was Motts and packed with high fructose corn syrup.  Um, no thank you.  Surely, I thought, they’ll have something suitable at the organic market across the street.  Nope.

Damn it!

I considered scrapping the whole idea but I’m really not a quitter by nature.  So I went home and made some applesauce.  Yep, that’s right, I decided to peel some apples and cook them only so I could mix them into my brownie batter.  And then I’d start the oatmeal cookies.

When I got home something strange began to happen.  I started moving around the kitchen at warp speed.  Bowls clanged and utencils banged as I threw them into the sink.  I wasn’t feeling so happy in my heart anymore.  On a subconscious level I understood that the afternoon was running away from me.  Time–oh precious time!–was slipping through my fingers.  Without being fully aware, I was grasping to gain back minutes of my day.

And as I whipped around the kitchen measuring and mixing and banging and clanging my heart rate soared until my conscious mind caught on to what was happening.

I’m guessing this has happened to many of us.  We want to support our loved ones or a cause and donate our time, energy or talent.  We want to show love and appreciation without any reward or even an expectation of thanks.  We want to practice bhakti yoga.  And yet, somewhere along the way the whole thing becomes a royal pain in the ass.  We end up feeling put out and whatever we’ve decided to give, we do begrudgingly.

When this happens, we need to reframe our thought process.  Bhakti yoga should never feel like a chore.  Did Martin Luther King Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi (perfect examples of bhakti yogis) complain because there was freakin’ mold on the applesauce and now they wouldn’t have time to paint their fingernails?  No, I think not.

So, here it is:

Three Questions to Bring You Back to the Happy-in-My-Heart Feeling of Giving

1.  Why am I doing this?  It’s a simple question but it should bring you back to your original intentions.  For me the answer is usually love.  “I’m wearing this stupid bridesmaid dress because I love my friend…”  OK, maybe that’s not the best example but you get what I’m saying.

2.  What am I really sacrificing?  Chances are, not much.  Usually it’s just time.  Sometimes it’s money (but that’s usually nominal).  If you’re sacrificing something substantial like missing work or your grandma’s 80th birthday, well, that’s probably time to reconsider what you are doing.  Then again maybe it’s worth it.  Only you can weigh your devotion against the cost.  But reminding yourself and keeping it in perspective will bring you back to the true purpose of your bhakti.

3.  What would happen if I stopped?  Feeling like you would be letting others down turns the selfless art of bhakti yoga into an obligation.  When this happens it might be time to step away.  Bhakti is love for love’s sake.  It is something you do without anyone expecting of you.  Of course, from time to time we do favors for friends and family.  And there are plenty of tasks that need doing and we just don’t want to do them.  This is not to be confused with bhakti.  If you’re not doing anyone a favor or letting anyone down and you’ve lost that loving feeling, then step away.  No one will think less of you.  No one was expecting it.  You’re probably depleted and need to show yourself some love and kindness.  So, take care of you.  Paint your fingernails if you need to.  When you are all filled up and feeling whole again, bhakti it up!  And for God’s sake, don’t tell anyone of your unfulfilled intentions.  “I was going to _____ (fill in the blank) but…”  That just makes you look like an asshole.

I really do love baking and when I reframed my thought process, I realized there would be plenty of the afternoon left for me.  I continued baking and set about infusing my baked goods with love and devotion.  Once I tapped back into my original intention I slowed down and let myself enjoy the process.

And the brownies made with homemade applesauce?  They were just alright.  But hey, it’s the bhakti that counts, right?

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