Building Community by Sharing More Than a Chair

Posted on: December 9th, 2016 By:
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It is Friday! I am unemployed and I have somewhere to go.  As part of building community, Sanctuary Yoga offered a free blogger’s workshop.

Building Community:

What was appealing about sharing this time?  I actually met three other bloggers that participated in the Sanctuary Yoga Austin community. That meant three more people, besides friends and family to bounce off ideas. They, like me, are in the process of building their blogger muscles.

The Presenter

Ryan Jordan, our presenter, gave the extra information we needed to move our blogs from ‘okay that’s good’  to a bit more ‘this is what may prove useful for the google seeker.’   He would know as the former education director of the Amala Foundation.

I got some snippets about his exciting trip to Africa as part of his work for Amala.

The Location

The community upstairs studio with a view.

The workshop was located at Sanctuary Yoga.  Better yet, we got to attend the workshop in  the studio space upstairs.  A lovely spot filled with enough furniture for comfort and with a lovely view of the yard and the  famous tree.

While waiting, I broused through, Live for the Soul, a book written by Vanessa Stone, the founder of Amala.   I actually wrote down some words of inspiration.  The way I am hardwired, sharing a new space takes some effort on my part.  Her words hit the right spot.


Untie the knots around your tender heart

Allow it to breathe

Offer it

Let it be seen

This is the beginning

The call of a new life

Although, not the original people, this photo shows that sharing a chair can add to the fun.

sharing a chair

Volunteers provided a community lunch in the main house and we were invited.  The community of volunteers cooked the food, set up the dishes, arranged the chairs, and washed the dishes.  Our goal was to enjoy and participate by sharing our words, feelings and thoughts with quite a diverse group (age, gender, ethnicity, hair color).

The lunch included some type of peanut butter soup, a cabbage salad, roasted cauliflour, quinoa.  I make soup every week so my main focus was the soup.  Yummy!  Reminded me of the gravy of a dish a friend from Nigeria made but with meat.

As the people outnumbered the chairs, I was invited to share a chair.  The closeness encouraged  intimacy in my talk with my fellow blogger.  We mostly discussed how pleased we were to be part of this ‘new to us’ community.  And, our new journey to redefine our work life.

My Friday was filled with gifts as our yoga community shared.


Letting go of expectations.

Posted on: December 5th, 2016 By:
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Letting go of expectations.


Letting go of expectations.

We have them. We think we should look like this, be this or have this. Sometime in our life, we have all felt that way. That little voice in your head that holds on, sticky as it may feel to the expectations we or society have for us. Let’s be real here. It hurts the most when someone you love, has these for you. The idea in their head of what “your” life should look like. Sure, I may have my own and battle with this from time to time, but I am stopped in my tracks when it is someone so close.

I have known that not everyone will nor has to understand this journey that I am on. It is mine. I am still trying to understand it. But, what spins me around and gets me into a messy battle with myself is when it is my momma. Why? Because I know her approval has been important to me for years. Her understanding and support.  Up until age forty, I asked myself before major decisions, “what will my mom say?” She is supportive in her prayerful and loving way, but not understanding where my next “job” will be at is confusing her.

It has been a few weeks, and I have thought about how and what I should say. Maybe an email, maybe really sharing with her how yoga and meditation have made such an impact on my life that I want to help others. Sharing with her that I love children and our future and I see hope for them through these teachings. She would understand, she would have to, right? Then I thought, WOW, I need to be the one letting go of expectations. I need to stop carrying that weight around. This isn’t about her.

Began to first realize this during a guided meditation with my acupuncturist. I had shared all of this and it was heavy on my chest. This bond is thick, so I knew it would take time to heal the wound I had let those words place on me. I spent the next week unbalanced and draining it all. Literally. I knew this was part of the process. It wasn’t until last night, when I was reading an expert from Eckhart Tolle’s, A New Earth. It all made sense, by letting go of my expectations of how she should feel or react, I could let go of my own. What a heavy burden released, indeed dear Eckhart!! I could have chosen to carry that for years and accumulate more and more or let it go. I woke up lighter, easier to breathe. Less congested. Not totally balanced, yet on my way.

Think I need to do some flow today as I take to my mat and continue letting go of expectations. ALL of them.







Dealing with loss.

Posted on: November 17th, 2016 By:
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Dealing with loss.


Dealing with loss is difficult. Whether you felt a sense of loss in last week’s “results” or you lost someone you love, it is tough. But, truly understanding how to deal with it is part of your healing. It is easy to use shopping, food, alcohol or some other deterrent to cover the pain at first, but it will still always be there. I have done that, I have learned. All of those are just band-aids.

A month ago, we lost our beloved, sweet Staley boy. At almost fifteen, he had been my husband’s wing man. The most loyal dog I have ever witnessed. I knew he didn’t have too long left with us, but that day we weren’t ready for him to go down so quickly. His eyes told a story that he was ready to go home. They say, you should always live today as your last, but we let so much interfere with cherishing each moment . Staley did this. He was the prime example of living in the moment and taught me so much about life in the short two years I was given to love him.

Dealing with loss also means dealing with the empty space. The shift in energy. Our space, our home dynamics instantly changed. I found us walking around staring at each other and wondering how would we ever feel normal again? We had heavy hearts and a sense of confusion. I kept asking myself how would I ever make up for the pain that my husband was feeling? What can I do to make it better? The answer is, I couldn’t. And I had pain too.

We had many emotions swelling up inside and each one of us had to deal with them individually and still come together to be strong for each other. The above link really helped me when I wondered not only about the stages of grief, but tips on how to begin mending. My favorite is to “allow light in the middle of it all.” During any loss, you may be so struck with such heartache.that the last thing you want to do is go to work or go out with friends. But, that is what you need to do. Life is a celebration and being among those that love you and can support you is important. Remembering that self love is crucial and that loss is part of the big plan for us all.

Staley lived a beautiful life, but it was in those last few months that he was the greatest teacher I may ever meet. I miss him daily and my heart still aches for one last hug or to help my husband with him one more time at night. To see him cuddled on the couch, chase a squirrel or look into his big, beautiful chocolate eyes.

So, with whatever loss you may be going through, let “time and space” happen. My pain, our pain will not go away today, nor tomorrow but knowing how to deal with it when it arises is the best self care practice you could ever do for yourself.



I vote for compassion.

Posted on: November 8th, 2016 By:
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I vote for compassion.

I vote for compassion.

I vote for compassion.  On and off my mat.

Last week at yoga, I felt a sense of safety. You know, those rare moments that you belong exactly where you should be at that very moment?? In the company of those that are feeling what you are feeling?? Love and compassion for my journey, my story, and why I was there. To be able to share with total strangers what is in my heart and what I am feeling at that very moment {and they with me,} takes it to another level. Pushes me out of my comfort zone. Moments of excitement and anxiety always surface when it is my turn to share but always ending with such beautiful relief to “let it all go.” On this day (oh especially THIS day,) I vote for compassion. For myself, for others, for everyone I meet that I don’t know their story. It is the clear winner. Every time.

Our yoga instructor took such a delicate approach with us and I was genuinely thankful to have shown up for myself that day. Thirty minutes before the class, I was still talking myself out of it. Funny when you are not working, what a best friend the cozy couch can be, LOL!! {Funny, NOT funny.} Still getting used to this no job to go to thing:) It is amazing how instructors can really “feel” a room, the energy, adjust, and lead us in such healing without many words spoken. What an incredible hour of being gentle with ourselves and showing compassion even when it felt tough. Although it felt like I had stretched myself harder in those moments than before, compassion for what my body could and couldn’t do on and off my mat were in my mind. No judgement. A feeling of home and always back to child’s pose.

Last thing, I read a quote the other day that said, “The funny thing is, nobody really ever knows how much anybody else is hurting. We could be standing next to someone who is completely broken, and we wouldn’t even know.” Right??? Some people are great at putting up a front for others, me included!!! Feeling broken HURTS and is difficult. Yoga and mediation have helped me heal so many wounds and begin the process of not only “duck taping” myself back together, but feeling whole again. So much beautiful change. Going from anxiety years ago to being able to find a place of compassion on and off the mat is a continuous work in progress.

I vote for compassion. This is not a place of rest but a true dance, on and off my mat.


Checking in with my space.

Posted on: November 2nd, 2016 By:
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Checking in with my space, my heart. We don’t give ourselves this opportunity too often in life. This is new for me to have the time to feel again, discover, create and let go. To check in every moment with myself. Mostly, I was rushing into life instead of savoring it. I spent years with a “to do” list and it is a hard habit to break. Actually, the other day I grabbed a new calendar just to feel like I had appointments on my schedule again, LOL!!! Classic me, list maker. Really, they never end. The struggle is real.

Starting fresh and checking in with my space can take me DEEP. At times, I just sit with myself for hours. Sometimes forgetting who I am and succumbing to that same old thought pattern. Taught (like most of us,) at such a young age that we are our name, our race, our religion, where we are from and who we should grow up to be. Falling into this category for much of my life but never feeling like I quite fit into the “right” mold. I was always too “this” or not enough of “that.” Constantly giving up my power to be me, listening to societies rules. After years of trying to follow them, I am confident that I am in a better space. Always looking for creative outlets to express who I truly was. Used to have those stuck feelings tangled up inside. Oh yes, major tummy issues but that is another blog post! Coming to realize that I don’t need a new work schedule quite yet, but I do need a routine or daily ritual.

Here are the three ways I will be checking in with my space:

Be gentle.

This is a BIG one for me. So many times, my own personal expectations are HUGE. Wanting to perfect things for no reason. Going with the flow and making peace with my new pace is important to me. Connecting with myself instead of thinking I should be “doing” at every moment isn’t as easy as it sounds. Enjoying my lemon water reverently, staying in bed five more minutes, meditating when I am ready. Just being.

Self love instead of self judge.

Secondly, THIS! It is true that I love myself but it is also true that there are days that I make myself feel guilty for sitting on the couch. Literally, I jump up when my husband comes home unexpectedly just looking for a “chore” to get myself into, hahahaha! Going through moments that I feel guilty for not working. Less of this is necessary. Less judging. Knowing I am on the right path and that it will all unfold when it is time.

Listen to my body.

Telling myself that I NEED to go to yoga or run daily is tons of pressure. Plan on listening more to my body. Not only with what it is called to do each moment, but why it is. Listening to how I feel when I eat or don’t eat something. Taking this time to truly nourish myself inside and out. This includes what I put on my skin too. And if I need a nap or a day off, enjoy it and thank my body.


Yoga pants: Putting them on one leg at a time.

Posted on: October 25th, 2016 By:
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My name is Cynthia. Three weeks ago, I chose a new magical journey. One that will bring me closer to my mat and in turn to myself. After 20+ years of working for corporate America with endless amounts of travel, I moved on. I let IT go. All that did not serve me anymore, I sent it packing. The Universe has sent me beautiful signs to let me know that it has my back. Time to get comfortable in my new space as I learn to put my yoga pants on one leg at a time. Easy, right?

Suddenly, it hit me. I DON’T HAVE A JOB. Ha, ha, ha, ha, I knew that was coming! I really don’t have a job?! Breathe. Deep breath in and exhale. I am starting over. First of all, I will { in this new life I envision for myself,} be the “new” one again. After years with my company, I was a leader. Yes, I was always learning but a “veteran.” Confident. Therefore, doing it in my sleep almost perfectly. Letting that “ego” lift will happen, but it will take time. Excited to dedicate my life to passions that have me leaping inside!! Teaching children and adults yoga/meditation while helping to take us all back to the place we came from, LOVE.

Consequently, after months of travel this year, my personal yoga practice suffered and I feel it. As a result, I am not as flexible, I am forgetting my posture and FORGET about any inversions, ha! Last Monday’s class I was extremely focused on trying to “perfect” my poses vs. breathing. I needed some time. Time to understand the loss of moving on from what I have known for more than half of my life. Just be. Needless to say, it was a LONG week.

So, today I felt ready. The yoga and meditation class was calling me. Due to me going more inward, I was in a better energy space. Before I dressed, I reminded myself of one crucial element. You are just like everyone else there, they are just like you. You all put your yoga pants on one leg at a time. Hence, this is about my own personal practice and where I am IN this very moment.

Starting Over – Again

Posted on: July 24th, 2016 By:
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Hello, old friends! It’s been a while. I’ve been on a hiatus from yoga for a couple of months (mostly due to severely overloading my calendar), but I managed to squeeze in a class earlier this week. Finding that my body had been positively craving being in the studio was a bit of a surprise. The truth of the matter is, I know how I feel when I do yoga. And I know that I need that feeling in my life, no matter how hectic my day-to-day may get. And so, I am starting over!

I would like to publicly set myself some goals for the next few months, because I seem to be better at holding myself accountable for things when I know I’ve put my aspirations out into the world, for anyone to see. So, without further ado, my goals:

  • Go to class at Sanctuary twice per week
  • Go on the Saturday yoga hike at least once per month
  • On days I can’t go to class, I will practice at home – even if just for 15 minutes!
  • Meditate before bed
  • Research yoga history, science, theory, etc. to write useful blog posts

starting over

Life is only going to get more crammed as this year goes on: I’ve decided to sign up for statistics courses at the local college, I’ve been given more projects at work, I have a big trip to Europe coming up, and I am trying to lose a few pounds before my good friends’ wedding in October. Whew. But what I have consistently found is that the higher my stress level / more busy my calendar, the more useful yoga is to me. These past couple of months have burned me out a little, and stepping back into the studio made me feel like I was washing away some of the tension I’d built up. Let’s see if I can go even further! Here’s to starting over — again.


Becoming Aware Of Your Breath

Posted on: June 21st, 2016 By:
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Take a deep breath in through the nose. All your anxieties, doubts, and frustrations that may be clutching your mind, exhale them away.

Welcome to a yoga class at Sanctuary Yoga, where becoming aware of your breath is the center of the experience. Of course, you may also find tighter glutes and enhanced back muscles to be a byproduct of these classes. But the root of the experience is the breath and the peace of one’s mind. When you drift too far from your base, and unwanted thoughts pervade your mental space, you may hear a gentle voice reminding you to stay connected and aware of your breath.

becoming aware of your breath


Before becoming aware of your breath, you have the opportunity to engage in a small communal exercise of sharing your name and how your body is feeling. Community and tranquility flow within the studio, throughout the peaceful garden, around the 600-year-old oak tree, and right into the little house that serves as the base for Amala Foundation. There is a sense of grounding, connecting, and love.

It is evident in the slow and careful way the yoga teacher guides the session. You won’t feel overwhelmed with technical terms to where you find yourself peeking to your neighbors and trying to understand what you should be doing. Sessions are fluid and not rushed. You won’t feel yourself falling too far behind when you simply want to follow your breath and cater to the needs of your own body.

There is the feeling of being apart of something special. You are allowed to become aware of your breath flowing throughout the room while moving at your own pace. With each practice you learn something new about yourself and experience self-love.

becoming aware of your breath

The Amala Foundation serves youth all over the world, engaging them with activities and resources that help cultivate self-love, artistic craft, leadership skills, and a strong sense of community. It is so pleasing to find that same loving energy in the classes at Sanctuary Yoga.

Breath is the foundation of yoga. Breath strings together mind and body which activates the soul. Mindfulness and becoming aware of the breath is a beautiful tool to go deeper in a pose, to let go, and to calm the nervous system. I’m relieved to finally find more than a studio, but a community at Sanctuary Yoga.



Vulnerability in Yoga

Posted on: June 6th, 2016 By:
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One of the greatest, and sometimes most difficult, parts of yoga practice is allowing yourself to be completely open and vulnerable. We grow accustomed to holding in the parts of us that are hurting, or stressed, or angry, and it takes a certain strength to be able to open up and take those things off your shoulders, even if only for an hour-long class. But believe me – vulnerability in yoga is completely worth it.

I was always an incredibly open person emotionally, and a few years ago, it caught up with me. For a while, I would swing between talking about my life and personal experiences to everyone I met (and I do mean everyone), to being a complete shut-in and having walls up around every corner of myself. I’ve mostly found a nice balance now, and a good part of that balance has come from practicing yoga.

vulnerability in yoga

One of the things that has truly stood out to me at Sanctuary Yoga is the fact that at the beginning of almost every class I’ve attended, the teacher will ask each person in the room to mention any pain or tension they’re experiencing in their bodies. Many people say they’re fine (although, some say so through clenched teeth!), but most will mention a sore back, work stress, tight quads, overwhelmed brains, cramped hips, or any other thing they’re experiencing. This honesty within the soft, sweet, safe bubble that is Sanctuary has been the main quality that brings me to that mat over and over again.

So maybe you’re not going through an existential crisis, but I do think that anyone can benefit from opening up a little bit in yoga. The physicality of literally opening your chest or your back or shoulders in certain poses can and will directly impact your mentality. I encourage you all to leave your egos and shyness at the door, and allow yourself to feel whatever it is you need to feel – I had my first “angry” yoga experience a few weeks ago, and as luck would have it (or, more likely, a very intuitive instructor), we were encouraged to just yell and let it all out over a few breaths in Downward-Facing Dog.

Trust yourself. Trust your teachers. Trust the practice. Now, go out there and feel.

Yoga Practice Beyond the Mat

Posted on: June 3rd, 2016 By:
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there is a voice that doesn't use words. Listen

When we practice yoga, we often hear, “listen to your body and what it needs” or “be gentle on yourself”. It is implied early on in our practice that the yoga mat is a judgement-free zone. However, sometimes we have a hard time believing that ourselves.

Be it a racing mind that cannot easily find stillness, or lack of personal motivation for whatever reason, sometimes our yoga practice isn’t calling to us, and it’s important that even in those moments we continue to listen to our body to meet our needs. If we don’t, we could face discomfort or injury, and that doesn’t benefit anyone.

I had become a little restless being almost 2 weeks off of my yoga mat, but the summer weather has been so warm and inviting (I certainly don’t mind the rainy weather we have been having), so catching up with old friends took precedence over yoga. One, after my plans for the evening were pushed back to a very late dinner with a friend, I decided to take a much needed yoga class. I looked at the times and thought the 9:15-10:15 PM restorative yoga would do the trick. I wanted to move around and stretch my muscles, but I figured this would be a way to gently get my body moving without an intense vinyasa practice.

The class ended up being too gentle for what my body wanted. The poses were, as described perfectly by our wonderful instructor Melody, ‘yummy’. The poses were fully supportive as we were cradled by bolsters, blocks, and the earth, and able to melt into each pose sinking deeply to relax the body and mind. My only problem was that neither my body nor my mind wanted wind down, so I found a way to push my body and feel a nice stretch, while I’m sure the rest of my fellow yogis were deliciously relaxing the day away. My mind was thinking about everything but restorative yoga.

When I woke up the next day, it hurt to move and sometimes even breathe. I attributed it to not using my body properly and rushing into certain stretches, but then a good friend of mine who studies and teaches yoga said, “Heart opening poses don’t just open the ribcage and stretch the back muscles; they open our hearts so we can release any emotions we hold on to”.

Her simple theory was a hard truth that hit me on the head. I wasn’t ready for restorative yoga and I forced myself to do it anyway. There’s a difference between motivating yourself into something and doing it with an open heart, versus going through the motions because it’s ‘the right thing to do’.

I took a yoga and meditation class a few days later, but my mentality completely changed. I was as present as I could be on my mat. I silenced my mind and welcomed any thoughts that entered without paying them much attention. I honored my practice and listened to my body—something I neglected to do a few nights ago.

We hear people tell us to go out there, even when we don’t want to, and seize the day! Do things that are going to benefit you! Move around, step out of your comfort zone, take risks, etc.! While there are benefits to all of those suggestions (I’m a firm believer in doing ‘one thing every day that scares you’), there is a gentle wisdom in meeting your body where it’s at. Let your intuition is your guide.

As Katrina told us in her Yoga and Meditation class, “Sometimes the pain of holding on is less intense than the sensation of letting go”.