Gather round now: getting it together with the help of others.

Lying in a puddle of my own sweat atop a thin mat at the conclusion of a challenging 90-minute hot yoga class yesterday, I wondered for a moment just how it was I could be enjoying this. Sure there’s the relativity of the moment – compared to the countless thigh-torching Warrior poses and low push up transitions just prior – this felt like bliss. But yesterday I experienced something else. Beyond physical. I’ve taken hundreds (thousands perhaps) hot vinyasa classes over the past several years and know that final rest-in-your-own-sweat is a bizarre sort of reward we power yogis chase after. But this particular morning, my rest wasn’t self-centered, as it often is. Free of self-gloating (I nailed that handstand!) Or resignation (where was my focus??), I basked instead in the quiet harmony enveloping the room. Surrounded by 25 or so human souls saturated in their own sweat, I felt connected to every one of them. Didn’t know their names, what brought them to this practice, or where they came from. And it didn’t matter.

Because right now, in a time of monumental division in this country, I need to gather. Whether it’s in a puddle of sweat surrounded by others, on a video conference call with fellow yoga teachers from around the world, allowing the woman sitting two tables over at my favorite coffee shop to peer at my book and share that she loved that author too.

Gathering with yogis. Baptiste L2, Oct. 2014.

Gathering with yogis. Baptiste L2, Oct. 2014

Gather round the fire. The table. The yoga room. The coffee shop WITHOUT your laptop and headphones. The fill in the blank, wherever you like, so long as it’s congregating with others. This is what I’m discovering for myself is required when alienating, fear-inducing political shit keeps hitting the fan. I’m not writing a political piece here – just to be clear – rather a plea to gather round and connect with others regardless of where you’re leaning on the he’s awesome/he’s a f***ing disaster spectrum. Gathering round with others has proven especially comforting to me of late. It’s also kept me rooted in the now. The now of, for example, a fantastic sharing amongst peers of how to accommodate both an advanced yogi and absolute beginner in an all levels class, as we did on our group video call last week. In contrast, a walk alone earlier in the day left me with tunnel vision lost in thoughts of what to make of the morning headlines. Who knows how many dogs I failed to notice and pat along the way.

As yoga teachers, we gather. It’s what we do.”

Saturday nights are schedule-free zones when the man is in town. A typical evening could be warming a couple of bar stools and losing ourselves in french fries and micro beers, or allowing the cat to wedge between us on the sofa as we watch another episode of Breaking Bad. But me moseying off to a yoga teacher’s study group for 3+ hours is definitely breaking the don’t-touch-our-date-night rules. But with his encouragement I went. Because I needed to gather amongst a group of trusted teachers who too are teaching in really weird times. Our facilitator (Coeli Marsh) drove home the privilege, and all the responsibility that goes with it, of what we do by reminding us that as yoga teachers, we gather people. As I haven’t been teaching regularly since December, I left with a stronger resolve to get back to it.

Remember no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Many friends marched last week and shared their experiences gathering round amongst tens of thousands to support women. I’m not a marcher (and have a phobia of mass gatherings and parades of any kind), but appreciated the solidarity shown. Other friends shared experiences celebrating the Inauguration. Updos, gorgeous gowns and exclamation points embedded in their Facebook posts made me smile too. I love all my friends. Even those I don’t agree with. Whether in protest or celebration, gathering with others is powerful, and essential in making our world better.

Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” – Michael Jordan

Home gym, 2017.

Home gym, 2017.

A resolute intention to build more physical strength in 2017 has resulted in an amped home gym (and an excited husband who can now justify some hefty – pun intended – purchases from Rogue Fitness) and a twice-weekly date with a crew of rabid Crossfit 6:30 AMers. So unlike my yoga class comfort zone, most days I have no idea what the hell I’m doing ahead of time in Crossfit. Every drill requires additional instruction (just drop the barbell at the end of the set Shannon, you don’t have to make it look graceful), and a lot of encouragement from the new circle of friends I’m gathering round with. High fives, ‘you got this’, ‘we’ll see you Thursday, yes?’ are constant affirmations that I’m not alone, and that I can put all the political discord on the shelf and simply bathe in the support and hard physical/mental effort of the group.

Where do you gather and how has it helped? I’d love to know.





WOD the hell am I doing – why this yogi added Crossfit to the mix

The ripped girl with a pixie cut and sweet disposition beautifully masked any sign of shock as a never-seen-before variation of a standard exercise began to perilously emerge: “um, you might want to bend your knees, and please open your chest. ” Not every day a Crossfit coach lands a yoga teacher/barbell newbie attempting to turn a deadlift into a hamstring-lengthening Uttanasana (standing forward fold) pose.

handstand check, now working to complete a pull-up.

handstand check, now working to complete a pull-up.

And so it went like that from start to finish through my first Crossfit class. Accustomed to hauling my own  body weight around through poses, I found it comically difficult five minutes in to secure plates at each end of the barbell. Leave it to me to struggle with assembling the equipment before even using it. “Just pinch and snap, Shannon. You’ll get the hang of it!”

Later in, as I hung pathetically from a pull up bar that my body had no intention of cresting, I reached for my internal mental bat to slug away at all forthcoming negative thoughts: I’m not cut out for this; my limbs are too long; that dude next to me thinks I’m a sissy; oh God how the hell am I going to jump on that box without falling on my ass? Or get smacked in the head as this odd-shaped Wall ball rebounds?

“Awesome job, Shannon!” my ripped coach kept encouraging. And gradually, gradually, I began to believe her. Here’s why:

  1. I chose to show up and suck. I prattle this off to my newbie yogis all the time, but I’ve been practicing yoga for so long I’d forgotten what it’s like to show up for something new and give myself permission to suck at it.
  2. I chose this change. Last month, change chose me, in the form of my beloved yoga studio closing and being left without a routine of classes I loved teaching. But rather than crawl into a too-much-time-with-nowhere-to-teach trap, I opened myself up to new goals: guest teaching on vacation (recently at Baptiste Yoga SF), writing and blogging more, cooking instead of pre-heating last night’s doggie bag, and Crossfit.
  3. I chose to knock it off. To stop knocking it before trying it. Too much yoga at the expense of every other physical activity was bringing the snob out in me. I had a yoga answer to everything – spinning isn’t mindful, running isn’t balanced, Crossfit isn’t safe. Now I’m pedaling to phat beats on my home spin bike or alongside SoulCyle dynamos; running when my hip tolerates it; jumping on a wood block in front of a “you’re awesome!” supportive Crossfit coach. Can’t wait to discover what else is available by knocking it off with the yoga or nothing at all approach. Maybe boxing…
  4. I chose to believe. That I will get over that bar. That I will complete a deadlift correctly. That the dude next to me doesn’t think I’m a sissy – he high-fived me big time after class.

I’m off to a great 2017 thanks to choosing a few new beginnings. It’s that simple. And that hard, but worth it completely. How about you?