Regression Rather Than Progression

I follow many, many yogis on social media.  I am inspired and encouraged by their posts, especially progress pics.  It’s amazing to see the space and skills that come with consistent practice!  Like a progress post showing a backbend that goes from looking like a broken Barbie doll to a fluid acrobat over the course months or even years.  Or a post showing the progress of Monkey Pose – also known as good ol’ fashioned splits – that begins as a kneel but becomes the stuff of ballerinas.

This is not that kind of post.

You’ve surely heard the saying, “Use it, or lose it…”

After a limited practice since last March and absolutely no practice for 6 weeks and 3 days, my yoga postures, my balance, and the space in my poses has done the opposite of progress in a very big way.

And that’s okay, because as of yesterday, I am excited to Begin Again. Again.

Like I mentioned last night, I created this class back in 2016, right after completing my Yoga Teacher Training and RYT200 Certification…at a time when I had been spending 5 hours, 5 days a week on my yoga mat.  But I want to be open and honest, so I am sharing my regression from then to now.  I am putting each picture from 2016 right next to a photo from tonight.

It ain’t pretty.

My hamstrings are screaming, my IT-bands won’t allow my feet to rest flat on the ground, my neck is crazy stiff, my hips are creaking, my shoulders are tight, my arms are shaking, there’s no bend in my back, and my core is like a bowl full of jelly.

I have a long, long way to go to get back to my better self.

But that’s okay as well.

It’s okay to digress, to stumble, to fall.  It’s the getting back up, finding your footing, and moving forward again that is most important!!

And that is exactly what I intend to do.

Last night we learned Easy Pose.

Here is the next part of my Begin Again yoga flow: Surya Namaskara A or Sun A.

Google “Sun A” and you will receive “about 2,590,000,000 in 0.48 seconds.”

It’s the first thing I teach my football boys and volleyball girls at TU, and I nag them regularly about making time to roll through a few Sun Salutations each and every day.

These 11 poses and the flow from posture to posture can change your life:

1. Samasthiti – Stand Upright with Hands at Heart Center

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2. Urdhva Vrikshasana – Upward Tree Position

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3. Uttanasana A – Forward Fold (bend knees as much as needed)

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4. Uttanasana B – 1/2 Lift

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5. Chaturanga Dandasana – Tricep Push Up Down

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6. Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana – Updog

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7.  Adho Mukha Shvanasana – Downdog

* HOLD FOR 3-5 DEEP BREATHS *

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8. Uttanasana B – 1/2 Lift

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9. Uttanasana A – Forward Fold

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10. Urdhva Vrikshasana – Upward Tree

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11. Samasthiti – Hands at Heart Center

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I hope you’ll give it a try…it’s never too late to begin!

With love and hugs,

Ashli

*  PS: please click here if you would like to support my efforts to #END ALZ –

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!  A.

Begin Again. Again.

On January 1, 2016, I wrote a post about beginning again, specifically about starting the new year with purpose and intention.  I chose the word “self-directed” as my Word of the Year.  And I began a new yoga flow with the big idea of sharing it with the world.

Today – August 26, 2018 – I find myself needing to begin again.  Again.

I am 6 weeks and 3 days post-surgery, and I am pseudo-released from my restrictions.  I am missing my yoga practice.  I am stiff and tight in all the wrong places.  I am ready to hit my mat.

I am ready to begin again.  Again.

I love my Begin Again playlist and flow from way back in 2016, so I figure it’s as good a place as any to get started.

The first posture is Easy Pose (Sukhasana)…one of my favorite ways to begin a yoga workout.

Sit in an easy position.

You might like your legs criss-cross, or you might prefer them out straight.

You should try sitting on a pillow or folded blanket if the ground is not comfortable.

You can shift your bum cheeks to root through your sits bones.

And then lift through your spine, your ribs, your heart, and your shoulders until you feel a nice, long length from crown to ground.

From here, just breathe.

And now you have mastered Sukhasana.

It’s a pretty great way to begin again.  Again.

With love and hugs,

Ashli

*  PS: please click here if you would like to support my efforts to #END ALZ –

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!  A.

Spring Break 2018

Spring Break 2018 was truly a great one!

Me and Coach and the kids enjoyed a positively perfect week of relaxing family time…

We made it to Spring Training for our Houston Astros:

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We spent some quality time on the beach, which included reading:

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And practicing a little yoga:

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And, of course, playing some catch:

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We didn’t set a morning alarm for 5 straight days, and we spent the evenings playing cards, enjoying movies, and simply slowing down for a few minutes to take a deep breath and enjoy being together as a family.

Meanwhile, the Alzheimer’s Association was having quite a week itself, both in Washington as well as in Oklahoma…

  • Oklahoma HJR 2014, a resolution presented to the House by Representative Cyndi Munson and to the Senate by Senator Ervin Yen​ was passed by both the Oklahoma House and Senate declaring Alzheimer’s a Public Health Crisis in Oklahoma.  This may seem like a small step, but in actuality it’s a big leap in the right direction!
  • Oklahoma HB 2514 has been approved by the Floor Leader, Senator Greg Treat, to move to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee for consideration. This is the bill that I was advocating to get passed when I spent a day at the capital in OKC.  That day we witnessed government in action as Representative Cyndi Munson and Senator Ervin Yen introduced the bill, and it passed the House vote with flying colors.  Now it will move to committee and from there to the state Senate for final vote…#VoteYESonHB2514

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  • On Tuesday, March 20th, the Alzheimer’s Association released their 2018 Facts and Figures.  This annual report is an update on where we stand in fighting this disease, and while the death toll and diagnosis rates have only gone up, knowledge is power; therefore, it is critically important that we read, understand, and share all we know…#Every65Seconds.
  • On Wednesday, March 21st, the U.S. Congress, in its final appropriations negotiations for fiscal year 2018, included a $414 million increase for Alzheimer’s and dementia research in its spending plan for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and today, Friday, March 23rd, it was finalized and signed into law.  Oklahomans should be very proud of Representative Tom Cole who is a major voice on our behalf, one of our very best national advocates to #endALZ, and a driving force behind this historic budget victory.  This brings annual research funding to $1.8 billion which is knocking on the door of the $2 billion per year that scientists have said is necessary to eliminate this disease.  Please, please take 30 seconds to thank your congressional representatives for supporting this critical funding bill:  Click here to send an email of thanks.
  • Last – but certainly not least – the Alzheimer’s Association is very excited to announce that another one of our priorities — Kevin and Avonte’s Law — has been signed into law. Kevin and Avonte’s Law reauthorizes the Missing Americans Alert Program to help local law enforcement officials quickly identify people with Alzheimer’s who wander and reunite them with their families.

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If you are already receiving Alzheimer’s updates and information, I am sure you’ve been grinning at your inbox just like I have this week.  If you aren’t getting the updates, please join AIM, the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement.  It involves only a $20 annual membership fee, and we need you as a member.  The greater the number who join, the clearer the message to Congress that America deserves and demands that we as a nation properly care for those living with Alzheimer’s, that we actively support their caregivers, and that we make finding treatments and then a cure a top priority.

Well, friends, I will step off my soapbox and leave you with my heartfelt hope that you, too, have had a fabulous Spring Break 2018…and maybe a few ocean outtakes 😉

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Love and hugs,

Ashli

My Home

The Montgomery crew just completed two consecutive weeks of Homecoming…the first at Angel Girl’s high school, the second at TU.

Let it be known: I LOVE HOMECOMING!!

Here is a selection of (BIG and BEAUTIFUL) mums that I have made over the years:

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Clara Belle, Uncle Shaun, and Miss K (who was crazy enough to grow up to be a [strong and amazing] football coach’s wife!)…Stephenville High School, 1996.

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Angel Girl, Bruceville-Eddy High School, 2009.

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For SonShine’s date, China Spring High School, 2012.

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We don’t leave out the boys, either…a garter for Angel Girl’s date, also 2012.

I LOVE MAKING MUMS!!

Here are a few homecoming goodie bags from over the years:

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2012

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2014

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2015

I LOVE CREATING GOODIE BAGS!!

Here are my babies attending homecoming dances:

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Angel Girl, Freshman Year, 2015.

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The gorgeous Miss C with SonShine, Junior Year, 2015.

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Two very good looking kiddos, Sophomore and Senior Years, 2016.

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Sweet B and my Angel Girl, Junior Year, 2017.

I LOVE MY BABIES!!

Here are some of my favorite homecoming victories:

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2013

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2014

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2016

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2017

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Yesterday!

I LOVE VICTORIES!!

And parades 🙂

This year I was honored to close out TU’s homecoming festivities with a session of “recovery” Yoga With Momma Monty on the football field.  Today was a perfect, crisp, sunny morning.  There was a crew cleaning the stands from yesterday’s game, a few folks were running bleachers, and a handful of alumni/employees came to practice with me.  It was both energized and peaceful in the same moment.

By definition, “yoga” means “calming the fluctuations of the mind.”  I find that incredibly valuable in a world that is overfilled with electronics, displays, beeps, words, sounds, music, lights, and stimuli in every shape and form.  Developing the ability to calm the mind is life-changing because it filters out the noise of life and refocuses on the right now.

This moment is the most important.  And once you let this moment pass, it will never be revisited nor regained.  Therefore, living in this moment, thinking in this moment, and loving in this moment is more important than I know how to explain or describe…so just trust me: it is!

Loving this moment, this place, and this life is my idea of being HOME.

When Coach asked me to marry him, when he asked me to be a coach’s wife, he said we might move around, he said we will experience be both adoration and hatred (often by the same people from week to week), and he said it would be tough at times.

He also said that as long we were together, it would be beautiful, rewarding, and fulfilling life work. TOGETHER.

When we chose to start a family, we reiterated our motto: as long as our children are safe, we can go anywhere, and together we will thrive.

We’ve embraced that mindset for 23 seasons now.

Coach is my home.

He is my shelter, he is my safe place, and he is my strength.

You can love him or detest him.  You can praise him or slander him.  You can support him, or you can choose to not.  But you – not anyone – can ever diminish him or cause me to doubt him.  Yes, he’s a brilliant, incredible football mind.  But even more so, he is patient, and he is kind.  He is emotional and loves big, in a whole-hearted kind of a way.  He is the epitome of a wonderful provider, the definition of a family leader.  He takes care of me, and he takes care of our family; he takes care of everyone in his world.  He supports me and all my crazy ideas and projects and aspirations.  He believes in me when often I don’t even believe in myself.

We love each other deeply and with great intention.

Yes, Coach is most certainly my home.

Which means that our kiddos are my decorations.  They make my life pretty!  They add sparkle and excitement and fun and flair.  They are joyful and funny, sweet and smart, fragile and strong, sturdy and delicate, rustic and elegant.  They are go-with-the-flow, low-maintenance, and easy-casual. They are high-end and high quality.  They are absolutely priceless.  They are the most blessed bonus of this life and the sweetest of icing on my cake!

Wherever are those three, my heart and my home will also be.

So, that’s my idea of home (as well as a photographic display of why I find homecoming so very fun).  I hope your home – not the walls and floors and ceilings and windows around you, but the people who create the foundation for your life…I hope they know that they are your home, just as I hope that Coach, and our SonShine and Angel Girl, know that they are mine.

One last thing to share…I’ve never done this so I hope it works.  I use Spotify to create my yoga playlists, and today’s Homecoming Yoga list turned out really well (if I do say so myself), so here it is:  YWMM – Home

Have fun listening, and have a wonderful week ahead 🙂

With love and hugs,

Ashli

PS:  We have also dealt with our share of homecoming defeats.  Of course, no season is rainbows and butterflies 24/7…

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2016, 43-7 Homecoming loss to Oologah.

But one needn’t question our resolve; our love never waivers.

Struggle brings this family closer; we find ways to build one another up.  And win or lose, I could not love my Coach and my kids – my life, my love, and my home – any more fervently, any more devotedly, nor any more passionately than I do right now, in THIS moment.

xoxox,

A.

The Host(ess) with the Most(est)

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The countdown is on; the big day is near.
Not sure what to do? Look here, look here!

Only 30 days left – that’s all that remain.
To throw in the towel would be such a shame. 

So follow me now.
I will show you just how,

To make your mark.
Will you, too, be at the park,

Or on a bike, or in a book?
You could even use a rook.

Maybe perhaps you’ll be set at a table.
You can do it, you can…you are really quite able.

I need your help, I need your heart.
Working together, if we all do our part,

We’ll make a world without this disease:
A world so lovely, like a soft, summer breeze.

So empower your brain, that you’re blessed is so healthy,
(And feel free to invite all your friends that are wealthy).

Plan a party, start the talk…
It’s time to gear up and go fund this Walk!

Poetry skills (or lack thereof) aside, we are officially one month away from the Tulsa Walk to End Alzheimer’s.  To help us get from here to there in the most successful, most team-building, most fund-raising way possible, I (with the help of my brilliantly creative designer/assistant/niece…my precious Clara Belle) have created a 30 Day Countdown that will keep us on task to finish strong.

Day 30:  Be a host(ess) with the most(est) by planning an event to promote your Walk efforts.

This can be a quiet dinner party with a few friends or a rip-roaring backyard BBQ for everyone you know.  This can be a poker night with the guys, a Bunco night with the girls, or maybe a chess tournament for all.  This can be a Girls’ Night Out, a kids’ night in, or a guys’ trip to the ballpark.  You can organize a bike ride (bicycles and motorcycles are both a blast!)…maybe a lemonade stand with the littles, a cooking class for the moms, or a crawfish boil by the dads.  What about coffee or brunch, high tea with scones, gathering at the Botanical Gardens, your favorite museum, or a cute boutique just to browse with your besties?

The ideas are endless, and no matter what you choose, you cannot – you will not – go wrong!  Simply pick an activity that you enjoy, and invite a few [dozen?] people to join you.  Be sure to say up front that your fabulously planned, super awesome event is in support of your Walk to End ALZ efforts.  Never be shy to tell your guests that this is a fundraiser…be open and honest about your goals both financial and long-term when speaking about your passion and partnership to end ALZ.  Invite your guests to join you in every step of this Walk season:  your “pre-party” event, your fundraising campaign, and the 1.5 mile stroll that we will enjoy on September 23rd.

Dedicate yourself to being a lifelong Walker, and encourage others to do the same.

Remember…

  • People don’t know what we need or want unless we tell them.
  • Every donation – be it $5 or $5,000,000 – is a tremendous help.
  • Those we love also love to support us just as we strive to be there for them.
  • Happiness and fun are contagious, and people are happy to join in to have fun.
  • Together we can find the first survivor; we can end Alzheimer’s Disease.

Hopefully, your brain is storming, the pinballs are bouncing, and the ideas are bursting.

And you might be wondering about me, what I am doing to be a host(ess) with the most(est)…

Well, I am equally parts excited and terrified to invite you all to Yoga with Momma Monty in Centennial Park on Saturday, September 2nd from 9:30-11 am.

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This donation-based class is my first time to teach yoga publicly.  I usually lead my football boys and my coaches’ wives in practice, and as I recently shared on social media, my normal classes cause minimal anxiety as I know those people already love me (or at least they are already stuck with me).  This is much different, potentially much larger, and it is certainly a much bigger test of my skills as a yoga instructor.  But this will also be a ton of fun and is totally worth the worry.  Yoga with Momma Monty in the park is open to any level of fitness, all ages, everyone is invited, and I hope many will come!

Coach, SonShine, Angel Girl, and I will be setting up tables to help guests register for the Tulsa Walk to End Alzheimer’s, donate to TEAM SANDRA JEAN, purchase t-shirts for our 3rd Annual Alzheimer’s Awareness Game vs New Mexico, and pick up general information about services and programs offered by the Oklahoma Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association (and which are free to the more than 63,000 Oklahomans fighting ALZ and the more than 230,000 unpaid caregivers in OK who struggle and suffer alongside them).

We will also provide ice cold water, so all you need to bring is a towel or mat, your family and friends, and your checkbook 😉

I’d love to see you there, and I would especially love to hear about your special event or dinner or ride or tournament or gathering to meet my Day 30 challenge to launch your Walk season by becoming a host(ess) with the most(est)!!

With love and hugs,

Ashli

Are you there, God? It’s me, Ashli.

This week I had an opportunity to read ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET. by Judy Blume.  I read it with my Angel Girl for a mother-daughter book club meeting we wanted to attend.  I thought I had read it as a youngster, but I didn’t remember the story, and now I am sure that I had not read it before.

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The book was first published in 1970, and its accuracy and spot-on illustration of life as a preteen girl in the 2010’s says a lot about our failure to make growing up any easier!

The story resonated for me through several threads…being born to a multi-religion family, growing up as a female in this world, and the challenge of discovering who I will be when I grow up.

The lesson I loved most in the book is that no one is perfect, so we should love them in spite of that fact.  Margaret is hurt to find out that her friends are not perfect; in fact, they are just as vulnerable and desperate to protect themselves as anyone else.  Then she learns that grown ups are not perfect when her parents frustrate her and her grandparents just plain infuriate her.  And finally, Margaret realizes that she, too, is not perfect when she “unloads meanness” (that is my own phrasing) on a school mate.

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I am embarrassed to say that I have those same moments of meanness, and I had one yesterday towards the most precious, kindest hearted, sweetest soul that I know:  my Angel Girl.

Yesterday I taught my first full yoga class.  And I botched it badly.  Everything was rolling along pretty well until the final long-hold pose…Malasana (Standing Frog Pose):

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This pose is a fabulous hip, groin, and chest opener.  It is one that is pretty do-able for most people, thus a good choice for ending class on a successful note.  UNLESS God gifted you with legs that have the tightest, least flexible, most severely contracted ligaments, tendons, and muscles on the planet…just like he gave to my Angel Girl.

It is no secret that while I was blessed with natural flexibility but no muscles or strength, Angel Girl was gifted with pure muscle, lithe strength, but very little flexibility.  I have never – and I mean NEVER – watched a person work year after year to overcome an obstacle like she does.  Cheerleading is her sport, her hobby, and her true love.  She refuses to let her natural limitation hold her back from what she loves.  I’ve seen her tendons strained to the point of snapping when pushing into her splits.  I’ve seen tears streaming down her face when overstretching.  The thing that I have never seen is her giving up.

So when I made a hurtful remark that her Malasana was [and I quote] “the worst one out here” I was just like Margaret in our book:

I did an awful thing today.  Just awful!  I’m definitely the most horrible person who ever lived…

I wish I could turn back time and not say that cruel thing.  I wish I didn’t try to build some up by tearing others down.  I wish I was a better yoga leader, mom to my precious gifts, and human being:

  1. In yoga there is no measurement, no comparison, no good/better/best, so my rude comment was totally fabricated in a petty attempt to be funny.
  2. A mom is her child’s biggest fan.  PERIOD!  No qualifications, and no quantifications!  EVER.
  3. Humans should be a source of support and encouragement, never an influence that causes self-doubt or feelings of unworthiness.

In that moment yesterday, I failed at all of these in a big, miserable, un-erasable way.

But, Angel Girl (and all others who might read this confession), you go be YOU regardless of me and my mistakes.  You keep overcoming your obstacles, fighting through your struggles, and seeing the good in everything and everyone around you.

And I will work harder to be part of that good!!

I love and adore you, sweet girl, and I really am your biggest fan.

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Love and hugs to all,

Ashli

Officially Official

It’s been a while since I have written, and I have so many things I would like to write that the words are pin-balling around in head to the point that my brain is total chaos…nothing new around here, for sure!

I think I will begin today with a bit of good news:  Four and half months after completing my Yoga Teacher Training, I finally made time to finish my Yoga Alliance registration.  I am officially an official RYT200 designated yoga instructor.

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Until now, I’ve been too scared to teach, so the certificate was not of huge concern.  See, I came away from teacher training feeling very knowledgable, very well-practiced, and very unsure about my abilities to lead a class.  So much so that I have been stuck in a self-inflicted “yoga paralysis” that not only kept me from feeling qualified to teach, but also made me feel inadequate to do any of the yoga practicing and/or sharing in which I used to find so much joy and pleasure.

I tried to “fake it ’til you make it” at the beginning of the year.  I had grand plans of teaching my friends online via blog posts and Instagram pictures:

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It lasted 6 days before the self-doubts took over.  I figured, Who am I to be teaching anyone else when I am so clueless myself?

So I quit.

I also stopped participating in online yoga challenges.  These are uber-popular ways for yoga teachers across the globe to build their following, promote their craft, and round up business for their workshops.  These “yogalebrities” are firmly frowned upon in many yoga circles.  They are viewed as attention-seeking, exhibitionists who wow the masses with crazy physical contortions but never lead those masses to their personal path of enlightenment, which is “supposed” to be the purpose of yoga practice.  These are considered to be bad, bad people.

Except that I like them.  In fact, following a few of these “yogalebrities” and their daily challenges was a tremendous motivation to me when I began attending yoga classes and attempting to practice at home on my own.  I can see how flouncing into an advanced posture without knowledge, warm up, nor a plan for getting out of it is quite dangerous.  It is also dumb, and while I am certainly ignorant and unknowledgeable about many, many things in this world, I am not by definition DUMB.

Each day these “yogalebritites” share a new pose for their monthly challenge.  I, being the information-hound-slash-know-it-all that I am, would google the pose, read the entry for that pose in Yoga Journal’s online posture dictionary, and even watch videos and scroll through images to better learn how to do it safely and with maximum benefit.  This would lead to my mat where I would warm up with my reliable and steady old standby – Sun Salutation A – and spend a few minutes stretching (that is also no-no terminology in some yoga circles).  Some days this took 5 minutes while other days it took 50 minutes, just depending upon what felt good and what my body seemed to need in that space and time…I learned to let the moment be my guide, and it was pretty fabulous.  Next I would work on that day’s prescribed yoga challenge pose, and when I got it mastered as much as was going to happen, I would grab a family member to snap a photo for me to share online.

It never felt like I was putting on a show, craving attention, or committing yoga sin, but after being so entrenched in the yoga community during my teacher training, I really began to doubt these activities.  I did not want to cause harm or injury, and I definitely did not want to appear phony or fake.

So I quit.

To further muddy the waters, I woke up to find myself a yogi with no studio in which to feel at home.  I had just spent 4 months attending yoga teacher training about 30 minutes south of where we live; it is an incredible facility with amazing yoga classes and extremely talented teachers, but the reality is that I don’t want to drive that far.  I know that a 60 minute class becomes a three hour day-swallowing adventure by the time I drive there, allow time to set up my space and use the restroom, complete the class, clean up my spot, visit with classmates on the way to my car, and drive back home.  Sadly, I can’t get my “To Do List” done as is, so I sure can’t afford to lose three hours per day driving around Tulsa County.  On top of that, my annual membership to a yoga studio just minutes from our home expired, and while I find it a good studio, there were little things that seemed to keep me from going regularly.  Those “little things” are my own hang ups, and thus, my problem, but ultimately that type of membership is too expensive to NOT use.  I felt very displaced.

So I quit.

One of the main reasons I wanted to receive yoga teacher training was to feel qualified to lead myself in home practice.  So, now that I had quit sharing and quit attending classes, I turned to my home practice…

Except that I didn’t.

Instead, I spent these last two months going from a school fundraising auction project to fighting the flu to planning our annual football family dinner after the Spring Football Game to helping throw and enjoy an absolutely delightful 5-Bride Bridal Shower, back to the auction project to a small relapse of flu to more auction project (which was – thankfully – a big success!) to a National Charity League project to work for my membership with the Junior League of Tulsa to Alzheimer’s Association AWARE board, back to NCL project to a craft project to another craft project, and now on to hosting an AWARE event.  I thoroughly enjoy my volunteer work, and I DO believe that my service makes a difference, admittedly not for the masses, but at least for a few.  There is not a single one of those involvements that I want to – or am willing to – give up, and yet over the past 9 weeks I have managed to put all of my most precious and important priorities on the back burner, including my family, my home, and myself.

And it stinks.

But today I am beginning again.

Today is Day 1 of “May I Begin Yoga 2016” on Instagram, and I am doing it!

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This is a sequel to the very first challenge that I completed two years ago when I was just starting to discovered my passion for yoga:

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I had so much fun back then…learning new postures, trying the poses, and having my family by my side as my professional photography troupe:

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Day 1 for both years is Downward Dog, or called Adho Mukha Svanasana in Sanskrit:

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2014 Yoga Challenge

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Fast-Forward to 2016

So, it’s officially official…I am back in the saddle, again 🙂

With hugs and love,

Ashli

PS:  Here are a few outtakes (sporting the Yoga Teacher tee!) that my photographer (Coach) caught on camera 😉

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Friend-spiration

I struggle.  With lots of random things, but especially with my voice in the world.  The last two days I have been going back and forth in my mind on the #followmeyoga format that I’ve been doing this week and posting online.

The idea was to share a different yoga pose everyday, January 1st through 30th, and then on the last day of the month, put them all together to create a full class that my readers can do at home.

On the one hand, I love my yoga practice and enjoy sharing anything that I love with everyone that I love.  When I began a yoga practice almost two years, I learned a ton from the teachers at the studio where I took classes, but I also learned quite a bit and found a lot of motivation from online “yogalebrities” who perform crazy, other-wordly poses and host monthly pose challenges for prizes and fame.

And there you have the other hand of my conundrum.  I want to be an inspiration and teacher and light for others.  I do not want to be a 41-year-old, selfie-obsessed, embarrassing mom who needs to LOG OFF.

So, I talked myself out of posting yesterday’s pose.  I convinced myself that for the few of you out there reading these daily posts, there are a myriad of online resources for you to learn yoga.  I told myself that my little addition to the yoga world will never be missed.  I decided to remove myself from the wide world of yoga.

And then I enjoyed sitting next to a new – yet precious and fabulous – friend at a lunch meeting today.  She asked about my yoga teacher training and my yoga teaching plans, and then she went on to say how much she (who is a fitness instructor and amazing athlete herself) enjoys my yoga posts.

WHAT?!?  This incredible runner, Zumba instructor, and former gymnast finds value in ME??  It was mind boggling, really.  So I told her all about my internal “angel/devil on the shoulder” argument that I had with myself yesterday.  She was wonderfully supportive, and as there was no need for her to make that stuff up out of thin air, I believed her.

So here I am, posting yesterday’s pose as well as today’s: Urdhva Mukha Svanasana or Upward-Facing Dog.

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Inhale while lifting heart and gaze upwards, rest on the tops of the feet, and straighten the arms.  Try not to sink or settle into the shoulders which might cause them to “shrug” but rather think of rolling them back, facing the sun above and allowing the shoulder blades to reach towards the gentle backbend created from opening of hips.

Take a moment to enjoy the multitude of stretches and opportunities for release in Up Dog.  Explore how it feels to look over each shoulder, shift your hips around, roll side to side a little.  Just like I mentioned a couple of days ago, the posture should push you but not hurt you.  See where you are today, and when we put the whole class together in a few weeks, see if you feel stronger in the pose.

I can tell you that yoga is a dance…like a Texas 2 Step…or the Hokie-Pokie…a few steps forward, then a few steps back, and a few steps this way and that way and every which way.  Some days I feel great in a pose, and the very next day I will struggle with that exact same movement.

Give yourself grace.  Enjoy wherever you find yourself TODAY.

And please know that my goal and my purpose here is to provide friend-spiration in whatever ways you need me.

With love and hugs,

Ashli

Today’s scripture:  Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: 10 If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!

Chaturanga

Chaturanga Dandasana.  Also known as simply Chaturanga, 4-Limbed Staff Pose, and Tricep Push Up.  And Hell. And Heaven. And everything in between…

Chaturanga is the pose that I both abhor and adore because it is so dang tough to do with any semblance of control, and yet, it is the one pose that strengthens my arms, legs, and core faster than any other.

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Essentially, Chaturanga is the bottom half of a good old fashioned push up.  My goal is always to do Chaturanga slowly, controlled, and while keeping  my body in a tight, straight, plank position.  I exhale as I lower down, attempting to create a 90 degree angle with my elbows, upper arms parallel to the ground while planting the balls of my feet firmly on the ground.

It took me a year and a half before I accomplished one that I felt proud of doing.  Yes, for 18 months I modified, tried, fell, and failed at my goal.  But Chaturanga is one of the most commonly used poses in a practice (YEA!!), so I just kept at it, and eventually I lowered down without putting down a knee – or both – and without collapsing on my belly and without arching or sinking into my back.

I still struggle to do every Chaturanga every day in every practice, but I can do a few to my level of expectation each time I hit the mat.  And in a few more days or weeks or months, I will be able to more than a few.  Maybe several.  And someday, I will be able to them all the way I envision.

The moral of the story today:  NEVER GIVE UP!

With love and hugs,

Ashli

Scripture for today: Psalm 31:24

Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
    all you who wait for the Lord!

 

The Air I Breath

Have you heard AIR I BREATHE by Mat Kearney?

 

So beautiful!!

Just hearing the word breathe brings that song to mind…You are the air I breathe. You are the song I bleed.  You are the war that I can’t win.  This is my white flag in the wind.  Every word you speak is the air I breathe.

In yoga practice, much attention, time, and focus is given to breathing and breaths, inhales and exhales.  And just like the song above, at the root of all this oxygenation one finds surrender.

Surrendering is so very tough for me to do well at all.  I like to know it all, control it all, and succeed at it all.  My yoga practice has taught me that through breath and breathing I can reign in my energy, I can release discomforts and anxieties, I can slow down a moment, and I can harness power and strength.

I still need a lot of practice in utilizing my breath.  In fact, in a full lifetime I may not get it mastered!  But I have found a few tricks that help me:

  • Inhale and exhale through the nose during yoga practice to fully filter the air breathed in and out; deep breaths fully utilize postures, poses, and transitions.
  • Imagine a soft ribbon floating through the torso and lungs and out through the fingers and toes to visualize air being breathed or pushed to every cell of the body.
  • Silently count the beats it takes to inhale/exhale.  Try to increase the length or number of beats with each breath when slowing the moment, relaxing anxiety, or struggling to fall asleep.
  • Remember to take intentional breaths throughout the day, and refocus the mind by coming back to conscious breath when stressed, scared, or overwhelmed.

We will talk much more about breathing as our practice progresses.  For now, just enjoy the gift of a deep, cleansing, “feel good” breath!

Day 3 of our “follow me” practice is Uttanasana A, also called Standing Forward Bend or Forward Fold.

Begin from yesterday’s Urdhva Vrikshasana (Upward Tree).  Exhale and swan dive hands toward the mat, folding at the hips.  Look through legs or up at navel.  Don’t worry about straight legs.  It is absolutely okay to bend the knees as much as is needed…you might even rest the chest on the thighs first and then lengthen the legs.

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Did you find room to release the hamstrings?  No room today?  No problem.

While in the posture, take a few breaths, try out a few hand placements.  Maybe rest hands or fists on the floor.  Maybe grab the big toes with the first two fingers of each hand and bend the elbow to deepen the pose.  Maybe stand on your palms.  Maybe shake the head “no” and shake the head “yes” to relax the neck.  Maybe hang like a rag doll.  Maybe hold opposite elbows and swing like an elephant.  You can do whatever you like, and you should explore and discover what makes this practice your own.

When you’ve had enough, inhale deeply and come back to a standing position.  Congratulations!!  We’ve completed 3 days…only 363 to go 😉

Now go read 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

May you find surrender in the air you breathe.

With love and hugs,

Ashli