Ahhh home. Smoked salmon, yoga classes that I get to go to daily, farmer’s markets, chai tea…ahhh the good stuff. Culture shock? Only if you consider my surprise at the abundance of skinny hipsters on bikes in Portland. I’m slowly acclimating to my old but new life. Hibernating a bit in the warm confines of local yoga studios working on those hammies and hips. I treated myself to a wonderful weekend workshop with the ever lovely Kathryn Budig where I got to reconnect with some old friends, favorite teachers and met some new friendlies.

The theme of the workshop was “all is full of love” and provided me a great space in which to think about what it means to be back in my “regular” life, how I want that life to be different, what I want to be the same and where I want to see this life going. Day one was a great flow including Kathryn’s signature Aim True sequence. Day two was all inversions and arm balances. I thought my arms would fall off by hour two but powered through and felt great. Day three, however, was backbends and heart opening and this is where our story takes us.

An entire day of backbends?! Seriously, I know I signed up for this and at the time I think it sounded like a good idea but I really dislike backbends. I love the idea of heart opening but my upper back isn’t that flexible and I always feel claustrophobic or like I’m about to have a panic attack when I’m in backbends. Yes I know, this means that I should practice them even more and, more importantly, this means that I could use some serious heart opening but for 3 hours straight in one day?! It’s like deciding to go to therapy and start dealing with all that gross stuff you’ve been carrying around with you. Just breathe. This is what I told myself over and over yesterday. See, backbends are so much more than just a physical practice. In a backbend we put ourselves out there, exposing everything. We purposefully open our hearts and surrender to life.

Think about what you do when you’re feeling vulnerable, stressed out, sad, self-conscious. We physically collapse inward. Our shoulders turn inward, we cross our arms, and shield our hearts. In a backbend we take all of these things and present them to the world, exposing our center, the very essence of where we came from to the elements, the things that surround us including the scariest thing of all…ourselves. Backbends are this incredibly powerful tool to explore and potentially conquer your own fears physically and emotionally. We learn to love what we are, all that we have and put it out there. We embrace what is in our hearts and let it shine upward and outward.

Shit comes up when you’re present in your backbends and yesterday was no exception. I’d say it was a level 5 shit storm. I’ve been in a place of transition since before I left Mexico. My priorities are shifting and many seeds of change have been planted. I know where I’m at and have a general sense of where it is I’m going but this is a general sense. How am I supposed to expose myself when I don’t even know what that self is right now? Savasana, a few tears and a great conversation later I was gently reminded that sometimes not knowing is a perfectly acceptable answer and I remembered that this is why we practice yoga. On our mat we can allow ourselves to be vulnerable so that we might see what it is that really makes us up and what it is that we want or need to work on. Through our practice we constantly discover little nuggets of awesomeness about ourselves. We find things that might make us frustrated or cry but then we find the things that make us smile and shine.

I’m working on a setup to start doing short videos for you and a little heart opening backbend sequence is at the top of the list. For now you can check out Yogaglo, they have some free classes with awesome teachers over there.