Tag Archives: Double S Quarter Horses

In Gratitude

I am overwhelmed with gratitude tonight.  We broke a world record up in the Hayloft … fifteen of us lined out our mats and squeezed into the space between hay bales above horse stalls for practice.  I saw kind new faces and dear old friends, and was completely overcome by a sweet, nourishing sense of community.

Hayloft

Sometimes when a large group gets together, it feels scattered or rambunctious, but tonight’s practice was deeply quiet.  Even the swooping, singing barn swallows calmed and came to a landing as we listened to our breath, connected inside, and began to move with awareness.  The loft felt transformed into a kind of sanctuary, lulled by the horses methodically chewing their dinner, shrouded in a beautiful sense of peace.  It was magical to be a part of.

Barn_Aisle_chickens_horseThis type of feeling takes practice.  It is not something that comes so natural or easy for many of us, although as my teacher says, “it is your natural state” — so perhaps a better way to say it is that we are simply out of practice.  Our minds are busy for much of the day (and night!), and over time we forget what it is like to have a simple, quiet awareness.  When we practice yoga, we learn how to be simple and quiet again.  We begin with our breath, using that simple awareness as a vehicle to re-discover who we really are.  When we are connected with who we really are–our true nature–we are automatically better at whatever we do, whether that is working with a nervous horse or having a challenging conversation with a family member or enjoying the beauty of a sunset.  This is why yoga helps us to become better horse people, and better people in general.  In other words, the benefits of yoga run far deeper than the physical postures.  Anyone who has practiced yoga has a sense for that.Supine-Pelvic-tilt-tuck

I am so grateful to be surrounded by a community who is willing to do this kind of work, who is committed to taking the time to practice being simple and quiet.  The world needs more of this type of feeling, of this type of community.  I hope that each of you know how powerfully your inner state–your connection to your true, radiant self–ripples out into the world.  This is how we make the most profound difference in our communities and beyond–not through great feats, but through each and every small act.  As Mahatma Ghandi–a great yogi–said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

I am so honored to be connected with each of you.  May each of you shine brightly with your radiant heart.

Namaste.

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Babies at the Barn!

This is one of the best times for babies in the Hayloft!  Come out to class tonight and get your fix!

We have baby horses, baby barn swallows, baby barn owls, baby bison …

1.baby-barn-owls

Can you spot the owls?

1.baby-horse

Cuteness alert!

An inspiring quote from last week’s practice:

“Every yoga posture involves a ‘push’ and a ‘yield.’  Pushing is an active force that moves the body further and deeper into the posture, gently exploring areas of tightness.  Yielding is a passive force with which you wait and listen to the moment-to-moment feedback from your body; it’s a letting go of resistance that allows the active force to be successful without being aggressive.  The pushing and yielding elements occur simultaneously, as in a dance.  Done properly, therefore, yoga is a matter of pushing and yielding, of ‘doing’ and ‘not-doing,’ at the same time.”

-Erich Schiffman
Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness

1.Supplies-provided

We have all the supplies you need! Just come on out!

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Yoga at the Loft

Tonight’s practice at Hayloft Yoga will be inspired by the hens … We will be attempting “Ruffle-the-Feathers-Between-Your-Front-Legs-Pose. Any takers?

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PS-drive with awareness … the fog’s rolling in!

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Is there a Chicken Pose?

Is there a Chicken Pose?

Chickens_Yoga_Hayloft

Come on over to Hayloft Yoga at Double S Quarter Horses in Bow to find out!

Every Tuesday from 6-7pm. Sure to be the most unique soundtrack in any yoga class you’ll encounter!

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Reflections: Retreat to the Hayloft

Blanchard_ViewAbove, the view of Blanchard Mountain; beyond, the sea, just outside Double S.

Last night’s class at the barn was spectacular ~ the warm summer breeze, baby swallows peeping their blue tiny heads over the edge of their nest, horses and cows grazing in the almost impossibly bright green pasture.  It was the type of night that subtly reminds us, through the way that the evening light settles into the grasses and trees, that this ~ here ~ is exactly where we are meant to be.  Not many years ago, when I lived in the beautiful tremendous bustle of Chicago, I would never have ever imagined that someday I would be teaching yoga in a gorgeous horse barn at the base of a mountain, just steps away from the salty sea.

Here, it is like a retreat, a respite full of nourishment that we can access just by opening our eyes.  Or closing them, and feeling ~ the cool breeze on our warm skin, inhaling the aroma of horse hair and hay.  By noticing.  It is simple here, easier to let go and truly be present.  The horses help, in how they “experience the simple energy of [their] emotional state of being,” as Hamilton explains (I am reading his book.  It is brilliant.  Thanks Cody!).  In the presence of the horse, we settle into our bodies, into our simple energy and re-remember how to just be.

“We are human beings, not human doings.”

Pasture

It was the kind of night where you’re driving home and your heart just explodes open in the way that a flower blossoms open, gently and all at once.

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Hayloft Yoga: Compassion

Tonight was our first Fall-feeling Hayloft Yoga class of 2013, and the crisp air brought some friendly new faces!  I was struck by what a sweet community of horse- and yoga-lovers I am so fortunate to be a part of.

Horses-Grazing-Double-S

Horses and cows grazed outside in the field to the backdrop of the Olympics, and the sunset was lovely as usual.  The weather has changed and is a bit more brisk, but nothing some conscious breathing and active poses can’t warm us through.  I noticed, after having been out of state for a month, the incredible impact the horses have on our practice of yoga.  In the hayloft, we can gaze down into their stalls and watch them (and they often watch us!).  We are enveloped in the sweet smell of hay, the sounds of them breathing, chewing, the taste of the dusty air.  Most importantly for me, horses help us to be present, in the moment, in our bodies.  Their way of being in the world–whether standing in the pasture or ridden under saddle–shines a mirror to our deepest selves and helps us to access that depth in ways we wouldn’t otherwise know how to.  Simply being in the presence of a horse is healing, calming.  They patiently, persistently show us how to be our best selves.  It is an honor and privilege to share a space with these equines, the true yogis!

Tonight’s theme was compassion, and we began class in a restorative pose while I shared a quote from Jack Kornfield:

“True compassion arises from a healthy sense of self, from an awareness of who we are that honors our own capacities and fears, our own feelings and integrity, along with those of others.”

This practice of having compassion toward ourselves is one of great import in yoga and in our lives.  On the mat in asana (posture) practice, we can approach each breath, each movement, with a sweetness in our heart toward our body, its capabilities and its limitations.  With this intention of loving-kindness, we find that we avoid injury and can go deeper into our practice, learning more and more about our physical, energetic and spiritual bodies.  Cows-Chickens-Double-SAs Kornfield says, before we can be of service to others, we must first gain a healthy sense of Self.  Yoga is a system that offers us tools to develop an awareness of who we are, with honesty and patience, allowing us to purify our body/mind with continued practice.  Only then, from a space of clarity and self-awareness, can we truly serve others.

As we refine this compassion practice on the mat, it begins to seep into our lives.  We can consider: what if we awoke each morning brimming with a joyful sense of self-awareness?  What if we lived every moment of the day with a sense of compassion toward our selves?  What if we cultivated unconditional self love, so that no matter what, our hearts stayed open?  What might our day look like?

The horses we love never criticize themselves for having a lameness, or being overweight, or aging, or feeling pain.  Perhaps that is one of the gifts they can offer us: a reflection of how to stay present, how to be compassionate, without judgement or harshness.  With honesty, truthfulness, nonattachment, these equines offer us an approach to living.

I encourage you, as you move through your days, to check in with yourself and see that you are approaching your thoughts, your actions, with compassion.  With acceptance.  With a genuine sense of self love.  You may notice that honing in on this practice enables you to become more compassionate toward others.

I would love to hear about your experience.

ॐ The highest potential within me honors the highest potential within you: Namaste.  ॐ

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HB-Yoga-General-FlierHere is a smaller version:

 

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June 25, 2013 · 9:59 pm

Birdsongs, Breath and Rainbows

No, this is not the title of a cheesy love song.  These are the three words that perfectly sum up tonight’s Hayloft Yoga class at Double S!

Rainbow-trees

I was thrilled to have been joined in the hayloft by some friends from Big Lake Stables!  Sue & Tom’s exchange student from France also joined us, and in addition to a few other familiar faces, the hayloft was full!  What a sweet sense of community.

The birds were especially vocal today, and they sang to us throughout the entire practice!  The horses chewed their hay, the cows grazed outside, there was a single hang glider riding the wind off Blanchard Mountain in the distance.  As the sun began its slow descent across the summer sky, the hayloft was alive with color.  I couldn’t help but think that I have landed in the most perfect moment I could imagine as we began class.

In tonight’s class, we considered the difference between judgement and observation.  In yoga, judgement involves  the ego, like when we think our breath is “too shallow” or “not full enough,” or we how attach to what we think a pose should look because we saw a picture of a bendy person in a magazine, or when we criticize ourselves for having a busy mind and not being able to relax.  Tonight, we collectively set the intention to leg go of judgement and instead honor our power of observation.  When we observe rather than judge, we soften.  We don’t have to be so hard on ourselves.  We notice what is happening in the body, whether it is a sensation or a physical limitation, or the quality of our mind, and instead of attaching to it, we simply watch it in the pose.  If there is pain, instead of getting involved in the story about where the pain came from or how we think it should feel, we simply acknowledge it, and see if we can get into a position that is happier and healthier for the body.  If there is a busy mind, we watch the thoughts come in, acknowledge their presence, and then let them pass, like watching a leaf float down a stream.  SS-RainbowIf there is limitation in a pose, we go to the point of sensation and breathe with intention into the space that is feeling tight, consciously releasing tension on the exhale.

“…imagine what would happen if you started feeling tremendous love for all creatures, for every plant, for every animal, and for all the beauties of nature.  Imagine if every child seemed like your own, and every person you saw looked like a beautiful flower, with its own color, its own expression, shape, and sounds.  As you went deeper and deeper, you would start noticing a phenomenal thing–you are no longer judging.  The process of judging has simply stopped.  There is just appreciating and honoring.  Where there used to be judging, there is now respecting, loving, and cherishing.  To differentiate is to judge.  To see, to experience, and to honor is to participate in life instead of standing back and judging it.”    ~Michael Singer in The Untethered Soul

 

We can go further and take this practice off our yoga mats, into the saddle.  I think of a time when I was younger, riding a horse who had a history of being terribly barn sour.  I was determined to make this horse carry me on a trail ride (ego!).  I started calmly, turning her head side to side, giving her all the rein I could, clucking, squeezing, and leaning forward.  When none of this worked, I kicked her in the sides.  This backfired and she backed up instead of moving forward.  Frustrated, I redoubled my efforts to make her do what she was supposed to.  Instead of recognizing that I had exhausted all the tools I had at the time, ego kicked in.  I am embarrassed to say I kept wailing on her, even using the ends of my reins to force her to move forward, and she just kept backing up toward the corral where her other horse friends were.  She backed up so far (with me still on her, flailing my legs and arms and at this point, even yelling at her) that her rump was touching the fence.  And me, so involved with my ego’s idea of how things should be, kept kicking and clucking and getting nowhere.  It finally took another person coming over to me and saying “maybe it’s time to get off and take this to the round pen,” for me to give up on trying to make it happen.  I was so embarrassed: it was the first time in my life I’d beet told to get off a horse.  And even then, I was reluctant to give up.  I’d thought I had failed at riding, and instead of working with the horse in the roundpen, a new tool for me at that time, I un-tacked her and put her back in the corral, frustrated that she had “won.”

If I hadn’t been so invested in the way I thought things “should” have gone, I might have created an entirely different experience.  If I’d had the mind of observation rather than judgement, I would have noticed that I was having trouble dealing with this horse on my own, and observed that I needed help.  This would have changed the experience into a learning opportunity!  I could have asked for assistance (later that summer, we realized that if someone hand walked this mare away from the barn, just about 50 yards, she was fine).  I could have engaged in a roundpen session under the guidance of the person who suggested it.  I could have gotten off and hand walked her away from the barn.  This could have been a transformative experience for both me and the horse, but because of judgement, I’d shut off that possibility.

View-from-arena

At the core of this teaching: be honest with where you are.  Balance effort (sthira) with ease (sukha).  Notice rather than judge.

I think if we all followed these guidelines, our inner lives and the world we create would be quite a bit more peaceful.  What do you think?

“The essence of bravery is being without self-deception.  However it’s not so easy to take a straight look at what we do.  Seeing ourselves clearly is initially uncomfortable and embarrassing.  As we train in clarity and steadfastness, we see things we’d prefer to deny–judgmentalness, pettiness, arrogance.  These are not sins but temporary and workable habits of mind.  The more we get to know them, the more they lose their power.”                           ~ Pema Chodoron

At the end of class, when we’d all rolled up our mats and headed down from the hayloft, the sun-setting sky greeted us with a fully formed rainbow, just outside, perfectly arcing over the barn!  With the sunset painting half the sky and storm clouds darkening the other, we celebrated joyfully under this symbol of promise.

Namaste.

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Reflections on Hayloft Yoga

We have been graced with the most beautiful weather on Tuesdays since the start of Hayloft Yoga!DSC_0405

Here’s a little news from the hayloft: the owl hutches are full … of baby owls!  Come on out and peek up to see if you might catch a glimpse!

~*~

One of the most tangible benefits of yoga in such a magnificent space is that practicing in the barn offers us the opportunity to sofetn, nurture, and strentghen all of our sense organs:

VISION: EYES
We soften the gaze out toward Blanchard Mountain to give the eyes a break from close-up computer screens, or even simply from being indoors all day, where the most distant ocular point is the wall or the window.  Some of the yoga teachings offer “eye yoga,” exercises for the eyes that can actually improve vision.  There are numerous papers & articles documenting that time outdoors also improves vision, attributed by some to the ultraviolet light, or that the eye muscles get the opportunity to focus on shapes, forms, and colors at a wide variety of distances.  In yoga, the dristi is a single point of focus.  It is most often mentioned in balancing poses (helping us to maintain balance through a point of focus through which we gaze softly).  Keeping a dristi, we see that our mind calms and we can find inner stillness.

We  need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the  friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see  the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence … we need silence to  be able to touch souls.
-Mother Teresa

HEARING : EARS
Our busy lives are filled with so much noise that we tend to shut off from the barage of sensory input in an attempt at self-preservation.  This legitimate form of pollution has wide-ranging adverse health, social, and economic effects.  Cars, jets, TV, radio … it is more important than ever that we take time to give our hearing a break from the barage.  Yoga in the hayloft gives us a beautiful opportunity to listen, really listen, without being accosted with discordant sound that takes us away from our curious awareness and into a defensive state.  In a relaxation pose, we can close the eyes and soften the ear canals toward the throat, unhinging the jaw, and sinking into the support of a blanket.  We tune to the soothing sounds of the horses stirring, eating, shifting their weight in stalls below, the sounds of the songbirds inside and outside the barn, and the voices of frogs, cows, and hawks occasionally greet us.  All of these create a gentle symphony to soothe our sense of hearing, our ability to hear.  This helps us to shift our listening inward and give our inner world our full attention.  We can often be surprised at what we can learn from this simple, gentle exercise of listening in.  It is one of the most wholesome and healthy practices we can engage in.

Silence is more musical than any song.
-Christina Rossetti

TOUCH : SKIN
The yoga postures give us the opportunity to bring our awareness to the skin, which we often take for granted.

It is through your body that you realize you are a spark of divinity.
-B.K.S Iyengar

In the hayloft, we notice the temperature of the air on our skin, we feel our bodies in contact with the floor, and we honor this organ of skin which literally holds our body into one form.  As awareness spreads across the skin, we can gain a sense of gratitude and appreciation for being in this body, alive, moving, breathing, living.  We associate the hands with touch, but we can also explore the sensations of the skin of the rest of the body, stretching in each pose, expanding: the sense of breath on the upper lip, the sense of softening the wrinkles in the face, the sense of spreading the skin of the feet to find a strong yet supple standing posture.  What a glorious organ, the skin!

~*~

I look forward to more practice in the hayloft!

Namaste.

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Reflections on the First Hayloft Yoga Practice of 2013

Hayloft

We could not have dreamed up a more springlike and lovely first day of Hayloft Yoga!  The sun was warm, the frogs were cheeping, the birds singing, and of course, the horses were peacefully munching their dinner beneath us as we practiced.

There were some new faces in the Hayloft last evening ~ welcome! ~ and with their presence a reminder that you don’t have to own horses (or even have ridden a horse before!) to enjoy and benefit from Hayloft Yoga.

THE PRACTICE
We opened practice in Supta Baddha Konasana (supported reclined bound angle pose), belly-breathing and releasing tension.  In the space of openness, I read this Barbara Marciniak quote:

“Imagine Yourself unbounded, with an opportunity at every turn, and this is what you will create.  Set up limitations, and you will find them.  Remember, you effortlessly attract the energies that support your version of life.”

In life and in asana (yoga poses), we can work toward manifesting whatever we imagine.  When we find tightness in the body, instead of pushing through it or becoming frustrated, we instead honor that this is where the body is today, and continue to breathe.  We can imagine going deeper, staying conscious of our breath.  In this way, we patiently and persistently begin to energetically move the body in the right direction, through the power of intention.  With practice (this is why Yoga is referred to as a practice and not an exercise), we begin to find that our tightness opens, the body becomes strong yet supple, and perhaps after weeks, months, or even years, we find ourselves an embodiment of what we imagined.

IT TAKES TIME
One of my teachers told me the story of a yoga master:  One of the master’s students was having difficulty sitting in sukhasana (easy seated pose).   The master instructed him: “Each day, sit in sukhasana for one hour.  Place a large phone book under each knee.  Each day, you may tear off one sheet from the phone book.”  Eventually, after many years of practice, the student was able to sit with ease in this pose.

It takes loving kindness, patience, and persistence.  If your intention is there, if your imagination is activated, the rest will follow.

TRY IT
The same goes for our lives.  If we take the time to imagine our most ideal life, full of ease and abundance, if we dedicate some time and energy toward creating a strong enough intention, we will see that eventually it becomes manifest.  There are dozens of books and teachings supporting this concept.  You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay is a great start.  Try it for yourself: click here for a simple exercise you can do on your own.  If you are uncertain where to start, try setting an intention of Becoming Whole.

As we practice yoga, we take steps toward reaching our highest potential.  I am honored to share this practice with you.

SunsetThe magnificent sunset over the San Juans was the perfect night cap.  Thank you to all who joined me in Hayloft Yoga!  I am already looking forward to next Tuesday!

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