Posts by Yogi Alexis Scott

safety, respect, and kindness

Posted on: November 30th, 2015 By:
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A wise friend said something this week that landed in that part of my heart that registers “forever advice.”  (You know it when you hear it, that thing that your brain knows will be serving your heart for years to come.)  She said that she taught preschool and often had to remind herself to obey the same rules she offered to her young students.  She knew that for the little ones, as well as herself, a list of “DON’T”s would likely be lost on the constantly active mind.   And if the brain is trying to remember all of the DON’Ts, what can it DO?

In its place, she instructs (and uses) three simple questions when making a decision:

  • Is it safe?
  • Is it respectful?
  • Is it kind?

If the decision in question violates any of the questions (as in the answer is no), then the action (or inaction) to take is more clear.

When moving my limbs around this world and attempting to keep the endorphins flowing, muscles limber, metabolism moving, and sleep steady, yoga so often answers all of these questions for me.  Where running compromises my knees, the mat keeps my joints safe.  Where dance asks me to make my body better or different in order to satisfy a certain standard, yoga respects me exactly as I arrive.  Where sports can incite competition and aggression, yoga allows me to be deeply soft in my strength-building.  I appreciate and even love those other named forms of movement, but so rarely do they answer all three of these tenets: safety, respect, and kindness.

Besides the simplicity of this equation and its immediate application to my yogic practice, I was deeply moved by the notion that what I needed to hear at three years old is what I still need to hear today.  As I take on the daily challenges both on and off the mat, the basics remain that which my youngest self might have heard from my preschool teacher.  Never will the practice of tending to my youngest self grow old, especially as I experience the adult emotions of craving, desire, and immediacy.

I offer to you at this time of colder weather, in the season of holidays which challenges the youngest and the oldest among us to examine our relationships in giving, receiving, tradition, and caring.  What do you need to feel safe?  How can you demand and practice respect?  And what, ultimately, is the most kind action, not just for others but most importantly for yourself?

 

bird wings of faith

Posted on: November 16th, 2015 By:
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Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
you’d be paralyzed.
Your deepest presence is in every small contracting
and expanding,
the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
as bird wings.
–Rumi

The last few weeks have invited me into the dance of loss and expansion.  I have been offered positions personal and professional that have allowed me to examine my needs and truths, and, in seeing a misalignment, chosen otherwise.  This has generated loss, the letting go of particular outcomes.  In their wake, I have found new freedoms, pathways, and a generative pulse of energy that has risen from advocating for my greater, longer term desires.

This is a new practice for me.  The desire to have bits and pieces, elements and particles, of what I so deeply crave has in the past led me to grasping at snippets of things, hanging on by threads and tendrils.  Precarious dances.  What I lacked was faith in the act of opening and closing, the pulse of faith that is buoyed by a greater grace.  The notion that my greatest desires in life ARE heard and SUPPORTED by a power much greater than myself if I but let go of my tidy clenched fists and allow the world’s timing to unfold.

Faith in the waxing and waning.  The breaths in and out.  The sleep and the waking.  The boredom and the excitement.  The noon and midnight.  Now and then.

Every day is an act of faith, a risk, a dare.  Every breath out dares the next breath in, trust it. Every time I clench my hands, I open them again.  And so it goes.

Dare to die a yogic death every day

Posted on: November 4th, 2015 By:
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The autumn in Austin looks so different from the one I grew up with in the northeast.  The air grows cooler more slowly, the leaves turn colors more gently, and the robust sense of ripening that shimmers in the New England air before the bare season of winter doesn’t take over the senses in Texas.  The changes here are subtle, gentle; I have time to wonder where I last folded away my sweaters, to mark the earlier sunset but not go swiftly into hibernation.

Autumn asks us to dare to face death a bit, the trees shedding all their foliage in the face of a promised spring, the darkness increasing more every day while we trust that one day they will grow longer again.  We slowly ease our grasp on the saturation of summer and get ready to turn over a new calendar year.

Every yoga class, I dare myself to face death a bit, too, in a similar fashion to autumn. I ask myself what I might shed or discard in my breath, what I might dissolve on my mat.  And while in savasana, I dare myself to really let it be a corpse pose, to reset my life at zero, to allow a rebirth when I rise and close my practice.  It isn’t always major or hugely shifting, as not every autumn illuminates entirely the seasons before and to come.  But certainly a little death goes a long way in repetition, and I am grateful for the opportunity to keep being born into the new season of myself.

Like grief, autumn takes away some of what is most precious and beautiful. Sometimes I am asked to leave behind that which I most wanted to carry into the next season.  And still I dare to surrender.

Redemption Song
by Kevin Young 

Finally fall.
At last the mist,
heat’s haze, we woke
these past weeks with

has lifted. We find
ourselves chill, a briskness
we hug ourselves in.
Frost greying the ground.

Grief might be easy
if there wasn’t still
such beauty — would be far
simpler if the silver

maple didn’t thrust
it’s leaves into flame,
trusting that spring
will find it again.

All this might be easier if
there wasn’t a song
still lifting us above it,
if wind didn’t trouble

my mind like water.
I half expect to see you
fill the autumn air
like breath —

At night I sleep
on clenched fists.
Days I’m like the child
who on the playground

falls, crying
not so much from pain
as surprise.
I’m tired of tide

taking you away,
then back again —
what’s worse, the forgetting
or the thing

you can’t forget.
Neither yet —
last summer’s
choir of crickets

grown quiet

everything is yoga

Posted on: October 25th, 2015 By:
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A friend of mine recently said an incredibly wise thing to me.  I was telling her about how, yet again, I was surprising myself, relearning new old things, feeling openings where I thought there were closed doors, revisiting the ways in which I define myself amidst the millions of humanly shaped identities.  We do this all the time, don’t we?Every time we’ve decided to be a “teacher” and then someone or something or some deed reminds us that we’re also a “musician,” and then the fallacy of linearity dissolves into the reality of multiplicity.  How can we be so many things at once and have them all be true?

I was asking such questions about my self, and this friend said, “I think we forget that insight is supposed to illuminate the moment, not bind us.” Immediately, the weight that those inquiries had been posing on my consciousness expanded into a thousand bursting stars.  This moment in all of its truths was the depth of itself, and it didn’t close any doors, nor did it diminish the past or its own revelatory power.

My yoga practice helps me come back to the digestion of this notion in both literal and metaphorical ways.  For example, this past Monday I came to Aliya’s lovely Monday morning Vinyasa class where my limbs were happy to move and my skin pleased to sweat.  I had been a little crunchy after an illness and then some traveling, and I was grateful to be moving in familiar and subtly rigorous vinyasa.  And then suddenly, arriving in savasana, I was overcome by deep sadness.  I had shaken up the space right below my exoskeleton, and there was grief there that I hadn’t even noticed.  So I lay there, crying and breathing and existing in exactly that moment, surprised by the emotion.

After closing my practice, the sun was bright in the sky.  The day was ahead of me. Kind faces acknowledged my departure.  I felt healthy and strong and as my tears continued for a while, I marveled at the reality of being able to be deeply present for ALL of this moment’s truths.  I invited in the entire universe of that moment in its celebration and grief, and I saw how no factor canceled out another.  I can be healthy and grateful AND sad and disconnected.  I can be a part of and far away.  I can be everything I’ve always been and everything that I may be.

All that is truly true is this moment in its entirety.  And inside that is everything.  What an astounding relief.

world_eye_wallpaper_jxhy

The yoga of not doing yoga

Posted on: October 15th, 2015 By:
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I got really sick recently, and it shook me.  It was a beautiful morning and I woke in a lovely mood, feeling tuned into my heart and gentle with the world.  Though I had a nagging ache in my head and a rumble in my stomach, I figured my moon time was approaching, and all was well.

A few hours later, I was purging and shivering and shaking and unable to keep my head up long enough to drive myself home to bed.  A kind friend rescued me from the side of the road, and drove me to safety.

As you may imagine, yoga came off the docket for the next few days as I tended to the basics of sleeping and relearning to eat.  Each day I gained a little more strength, but I remained supremely gentle, discouraging even the simplest of stretches.  Beyond the physical reality of sickness, I noticed that the emotional toll of becoming unexpectedly ill was perhaps the most lingering symptom in my consciousness.  At the end of the week, I journeyed to staff Camp Grounded, a technology free adult summer camp (and the best thing EVER), and I found that my biggest fears involved trusting my own body to carry on as I hoped it would.

One morning, when I had skipped the early yoga on the green class and done my own gentle down-dog near the lake, I found myself walking around with a weight in my chest.  Listening, I took my healing bones into a meditation tent and cried and wept and released all of the fear and shock that had accumulated during the week of being sick.  This, I realized, was also yoga.  This was me showing up on the mat of my life to feel what was happening.  This was me tending to my physical, emotional, and spiritual reality.  And as I released many tears, I knew I was moments closer to my next practice.  Heck, I was inside my practice and tending to an emotional child’s pose, holding the small self that had reawakened old fears, coaxing her to come back into the strength of my adult body.                      childs-pose-yoga-robert-p-hedden

Welcoming the Fall

Posted on: September 23rd, 2015 By:
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“You never know how far you can go until you fall,” were the aptly timed words of the lovely Laura Joy in tonight’s Intermediate Vinyasa class.  Her voice came as the sun did its gentle and relevant setting on the official first day of Autumn, an equinox partnered with Mercury’s retrograde and Libra’s arrival.

And well now I’m all up in the woo.

And I am not the first person, not even the thousandth, to recognize the beautiful metaphor of the fall – the word in its many meanings and even more so in its season.  Nor will it ever stop being an interesting process to learn how to embrace the “fall”: the literal tumbling of the body in its efforts to balance as well as the time when foliage chooses to shed and tumble after its birth and blossoming.

Something I love about Laura’s classes is that she truly builds a vinyasa and then employs its practice; we move slowly and deliberately with breath through a sequence and then return to its repetition with greater speed, each breath informing the movement.  As we sequenced tonight, I thought about how I do this in my own life, how I practice something deliberately, intentionally.  And then I do it again, thinking less about what it is and rather how it feels, allowing and trusting it to be and become.

And I feel like I’m learning to do exactly this – sequence through – with falling.  With coming to fall as a season and recognizing that it is a time to reflect and atone and give thanks and put to bed.  With feeling in a falling way, allowing fullness, allowing depth and surrender.  Falling into.  Falling with.

**

I’ve had physical practices my whole life.  At a young age, it was dance, ballet in particular.  As a young adult, the gym became my practice alongside dance.  And the former certainly brought joy and release, but it also carried mirrors and measurements.  And while the gym continues to this day to bring me a certain consistency of practice, it grants me an experience of tuning OUT.  While I’ve been doing yoga for almost ten years off and on, it has become VITAL only in the last two years.  And I’ve asked myself why?

Tonight I felt myself moving into the why as I sequenced, as I practiced the movements that I don’t do in order to master but rather in order to know deeper.  To tune IN in order to TRUST.  I don’t get up in the morning in order to never have to get up again.  I keep getting up because it is my daily practice.  I don’t speak my mind or heart in order to have it off the checklist.  I do so because each time I do, I get a little bit better at it, a little closer to the truth, or a little less afraid of it.  I do everything I do so that the doing becomes more fluid.  I go into down-dog and every time I feel what THIS one is like, regardless of the one before, or the one that may follow.

That way, when I fall, I have a practice for getting up.  That way, when it’s fall, I trust that spring will come again.  That way, I am never static in the moment but rather fully embraced by the experience of what is at hand.  And I have and trust the musculature to move into the next sequence, the next season, the next sentence.

sweet new year, old vinyasa

Posted on: September 16th, 2015 By:
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It felt like no accident to be stretching my limbs in familiar fashions but for the first time in the beautiful Sanctuary Yoga studio on what happened to be Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, this week.  The air was crisp and sweet, head-shakingly appropriate for a holiday that invites us to chew on apples and honey in celebration.  As the late morning sun streamed through doors and onto our mats and the warm wooden floors, I breathed in deep renewal.

I like to measure my years from September to September; my birthday, the school year, and Rosh Hashanah has always encouraged this organic sense of reflection, release and revival.  This past year has served as one of the most pungent journeys I’ve yet taken as a human bean, with pilgrimages through dark corners of my shadow self and the kind of clearing I truly did not know was possible. Through it all, my yoga practice has served as a consistent source of truth-telling: my mat has seen my tears, laughter, moments of panic, and great glimpses of glow.

Recently, though, the literal question of where to practice my practice had become a challenge.  Austin’s yoga studios are becoming as abundant as its tacos, and just as juicy and delicious.  But my favorite spots had become linked to some of the skins I was shedding, and in order to maintain integrity in my truth-telling, I needed to explore new spots.  The end of the summer was a slow time of stretching in solitude on a mat that felt strange, somewhat foreign, on the ground of my own home.  Often, a sweaty svasana won over a true vinyasa.

And then I found Sanctuary, an oasis of green and wind in the midst of the bustling South Lamar chaos. And there I found myself on Monday, at Aliya’s 10:30 Vinyasa flow, thinking on the Hebrew translation of my teacher’s name (“ascent” or “going up”) and the way the old can become new or the past become present or how just when you think you’ve hit a dead end, there’s a corner to turn and a whole new neighborhood to explore.  And how prayers can rise from silence.

My muscles and my lungs and my heart said their thank you’s as I welcomed myself to a new space to practice and a new year in which to breathe deeply and ascendingly into sweet, old vinyasa.

rosh-hashanah-apples-and-honey-3