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Balance Yoga & Fitness
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New year, new mantra 💫

"And on this journey, please, choose love." I've ended every 2016 class with these seven words.

Like every mantra, it's made an impact on my daily life. "Choose love" is a tough mantra to let go of. It's resonated with so many people and, in many ways, it's become synonymous with the studio. And it's the foundational step to our 2017 mantra, which, like some many real things do, found me.

Back in October I went to go hear +Jon Kabat-Zinn at Hochstein. He was introduced by Mick Krasner, M.D. and, although the entire evening was incredibly impactful, it was this brief introduction that has not left my heart, or my head:

"We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one." Confucius

Damn.

That's the first word that came to my mind damn. That's just so freaking true. Dr. Krasner continued by saying that the revelation of this second life, a life all too often unlived, is what J.K.Z.'s teachings awakened him to. Awakening, indeed.

I heard each of J.K.Z.'s words. I saw the beauty of the Hochstein, felt the presence of those who surrounded me, but, if I am being totally honest, I barely emotionally moved past those opening words. It's the space I'm in - the daily practice of mindfulness meditation, the Tara Brach podcasts, the Pema Chödrön books, the yoga, the people I share my life with...

And, it's the knowing that if you get quiet enough, and courageous enough to sit in the damn discomfort, that if you keep choosing love and really listen to what it says, then, well, then you can live from that space and, yes, it might seem terrifying and it might be really uncomfortable and uncertain. It's also deeply connecting with a truth, not someone else's truth; your truth.

A truth that is based in love, not fear. A truth that you are intimately proud of and a truth that wholeheartedly says to you: this, this is the one life you have -- so, damn it -- go live it. And everyone and everything else? It will all be okay.

The part that is the most challenging, at least for me, but I believe it to be true for most is that often we have spent our first life unknowingly crafting ways to dodge the truth of the second. This second life, has most likely been quietly whispering and showing itself in soft, subtle ways -- a tinge at the heart here, a repeated inner voice there. I think it can be mistaken, at times, for excitement -- a way to escape the sometimes "good enough" life we find our self living. Maybe, we've ignored the tinges and the voices so much that we stop trusting. This transition from first to second life is uncomfortable, like so many poses and situations. It's uncomfortable like the quiet of meditation. But it's in the quiet of that mindful, present space that our second lives find us. And, in so many ways this circles back to a book, an author, who found me:

'Everyone, when they are young, knows what their destiny is. At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their destiny... It's a force that appears to be negative, but actually shows you how to realize your destiny. It prepares your spirit and you will, because there is one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it's because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It's your mission on earth.' ― +Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

On that night in October, those 15 words found me. I was open to hear them, and I needed to. I'm continuing to listen. So, every time I teach, I'll end with them, with a deep belief that, like every mantra, soon, I will live them."

"We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one." –Confucius

#LoveListenLive in 2017. Happy New Year.

-E ❤️
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Disconnecting to connect 🚫 📶

Yesterday, my boss sent me this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hER0Qp6QJNU) and it paused me. Simon Sinek speaks about how relationships are formed by small conversations, that a culture is built one person at a time. As much as he’s not speaking about mindfulness, boy is he.

So, beginning Saturday, December 31st, I'll be taking a two week phone break. I’m calling it my "Mindful Media Cleanse" but it’s more than that.

I have the privilege of teaching mindfulness to all students in the WCSD, K-12. I have the honor of owning and leading a community of people in yoga. And, yet, I can not put my phone down. I am so interested in how many likes the studio’s posts get, not to mention how many comments my personal Facebook page photos get. Retweets? Love them! What about ❤️'s on Instagram? Don’t even get me started! I have prided myself on how quickly I can reply to a text, and, just email me -- I’ll reply to you in less than five minutes.

Here’s a great story. Last night, at 11:00 p.m., I had two missed calls from somewhere in northern Virginia. I listened to the voicemails only to hear the voice of a very southern, disgruntled woman who had been the victim of a “credit card scam” via our studio. And, our, "institution," as she put it, was, well blasphemous. I knew it was incorrect- a complete misconception. But, I forwarded the voicemail to Heidi and Dom. Heidi cleared up the issue within moments (mainly because it’s what she does) but Dom didn’t see it until he woke up at 3:00 a.m. He was then up trying to figure this out until I texted him at 5:00 a.m. that all of this was over an incorrectly typed email address. I had him in a total frenzy over a very simple error.

I thought back to the video and realized, It’s time to take a break.

Here’s what I'm doing: I'm giving my phone to Mary Judge for two weeks. I'm not going to post to, or check Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. I'm going to change my voicemail so that all calls will go to Heidi. I'm buying a flip phone to keep in my car (this was Mary’s idea and based on an article she read). A handful of people will have that number. I will answer work emails during work hours. Oh, here’s my work number: (585) 216-0028. Here’s my home landline, if you need it: (585) 969-8040, or, you can always email me. I might buy a map, but I’m pretty sure I know my way around. I have an iPod for music (or I can dig up a walkman, don't put it past me). I’ll access the internet if I need to, but I don’t plan on spending too much time on my computer. I'm going to journal about this and share my thoughts with Dom to share with you.

I'm tethered to my phone. So much, so that it's getting in the way of connecting with others. I'm teaching mindfulness, speaking about being present, and I'm not. I want to be able to speak, from experience, to my students and colleagues about this. I want to encourage them to try this. I’m scared and that’s reason enough, right? We lived without these things forever, so what’s two weeks?

I'm doing this because I need to be present to the life I'm living so that I can truly live it. This phone, is an often distracting, addictive band-aid and it’s time to see what discomfort it’s been keeping me from.

Talk with you soon. In person, of course. 😌

-E❤️
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💡 🎥 💥

"And on this journey, please, choose love." -Erica Denman, founder and owner of Balance Yoga & Fitness

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What connects us ➕

Last week, Balance won the ‘Best Yoga Studio in Rochester’ award. And, to me, it’s a win for our community and for those of us who believe in the power of connection.

Did the win give my ego a little boost? Yep. Did it make me fill with pride? Sure did. Does it make me feel better than? It could.

But that’s where I stop myself; where I drag my judgy head back into awareness. Because that’s what connects us.

Here’s the deal: we’re a great studio. We have a super knowledgable faculty. We have a dedicated, compassionate, and freaking kind community. We have a beautiful space… It’s really great. It’s not dramatic or competitive. There are lots of great studios in town with amazing teachers and beautiful communities. And to each of those teachers and each of their clients, their studio is the best, as it should be.

Our hearts, and theirs, should swell with pride. I believe a little boost to the ego should awaken us to all of the beauty and joy and dedication and love that surrounds us. We should celebrate each other- our faculties and our communities. We should share our struggles and our challenges too.

It’s that awareness of being human that connects us.

It’s what keeps me humble and grounded. It’s what has released my jealousy and helped me slowly relinquish any perceived control. It’s awareness that helps me to see myself and others so clearly- so honestly and so empathetically.

Do I struggle to keep it all in check? Yep. Do I get out of Balance? Sure do. So, I roll out my mat at our studio, or at Tru with Tisah, or at Yogavibe with Jesse, or at Bodhi Tree with Amy Jo. I can’t wait to check out Gina’s class at Flourish Yoga Project. And, I really need to get to Jenny’s class at Breathe right here in Webster.

I’m aware of where I need to reconnect, heal, forgive, let go, and celebrate. This is the work we do at Balance- we bring it all to our mats, together, and we connect breath to the poses in our lives both on and off of those mats.

At Balance, we share our lives, and on this journey, we #chooselove

-E❤️
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Mindfulness is saving me 😌

I have two amazing jobs that I completely love; it’s engaging work.

On any given day, I travel from school to school- I meet with teachers, administrators, work with students, and athletes. I plan with colleagues. I shift from a kindergarten to an AP mindset. Then, I head to the yoga studio to teach and sometimes, on weekends, I train yoga teachers. And, with very few exceptions, it never exhausts me.

Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart.

Rumi

I knew that I wanted to teach in the 7th grade. I got a job right out of college and when that district wasn’t right, I left. Then when NY wasn’t where I needed to be, I left NY for Dallas and then Dallas for NY.

When I didn’t love teaching english any more, I became an instructional coach. And when that wasn’t speaking to me, I shifted to another building.

And then, and then, and then. I have never been afraid to move.

I stopped teaching dance and shifted to yoga. I left one studio for another and then, and then…

…I am in my hometown district as an instructional specialist exploring mindfulness and, I have a beautiful yoga studio down the street from my parents house. I have an incredible support system in my family, friends, staff and colleagues….

When I start to get overwhelmed, it can’t last long because the topic of each conversation and lesson is about being mindful. Each time I speak, I get to explore mindful bodies & mindful breath. I am in constant discussion about inner awareness and finding the language to explain those sensations. Then, I get to talk about how we navigate through all of those feelings how we can be uncomfortable and breath into it… How it’s okay. This work is my greatest passion because it’s the work of my life- it’s the work that is saving me.

"The work is awareness. And, I believe that awareness saves us. Inner awareness helps us to know ourselves so deeply that we can respond rather than react. It continues to save our relationships because we’re listening, and I mean really listening, without judgement or an agenda. It saves us from an inner dialogue of fear and gets us in touch with who we really are. Sometimes the process is scary. But it’s also calming and spiritual and grounding. It goes beyond and gets behind the shoulds to unearth the absolute truth in our hearts.You will never be able to escape from your heart. So it’s better to listen to what it has to say."

+Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

(If you haven’t read The Alchemist, read it… And then, read it again.)

Do the work of awareness, and then be the work. Rest in it. Be present and listen; my guess is, that after time, mindfulness will save you too.

-E ❤️
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Holding space for shades 🔷

I’m currently 42, and over the last several months I’ve observed some really incredible sunsets.

I’ve also been awed by the clouds, which I’m certain have always been in the sky and near that same sun I’ve recently and keenly noticed. There’s just been something about the vibrant and meshing colors of the sun and the clouds — I swear they are in 3D — with a backdrop of denim, deep sky and bondi blue.

Maybe it’s my eyes, you know, the lasik. Or, possibly my age… I’ve heard that the older we get the more simplicity matters. I suppose it could be being out on a boat and “closer” to all of it. Or, maybe it’s the polarized sunglasses…

I’m sitting on a chair overlooking Oneida Lake, I’m being quiet and listening to my breath. This lake is the most breathtaking Carolina blue — NOT Baby blue, definitely Carolina. And the clouds, they’re faint, simple outlines, like an artist wanted to whisper them onto their canvas.

I’m holding space for the sky and the clouds and, tonight, for the setting sun and all of their associated shades. It’s a beautiful place to practice because it brings me to a natural state of observation, as well as a foundational and known capacity to non-judgmentally be.

People are just as wonderful as sunsets if you let them be. When I look at a sunset, I don’t find myself saying, “Soften the orange a bit on the right hand corner.” I don’t try to control a sunset. I watch with awe as it unfolds. ―Carl R. Rogers, ‘A Way of Being’

If I can hold space for the differing shades of the sky, the lake, the clouds and the sun, then I can hold space for another’s fear based and love based responses, for they are simply shades of expression that I can be still with, open my heart to and not judge.

…So it’s not the lasik, or my age, or the boat or the sunglasses. It’s being, breathing, witnessing and loving. It’s sitting in discomfort and understanding impermanence.

It’s yoga and mindfulness and heartfulness. And, I’m so grateful.

-E❤️
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One more time 👌🏼

I’ve got the whole sell-out-a-stadium, triple-platinum, grammy-award-winning singer’s soul without a lick of talent to support it, but, man, when I’m cleaning our studio with Bonnie Raitt or The Eagles, I am astounding.

One of my favorite — on repeat — songs is The Eagles classic, ‘Take it to the Limit,’ and the lyrics that have always resonated the most with me are, “One more time.” To, take it to the limit one more time.

It’s not a striving to be or do more. Rather, a passion to live, and to
[insert action] one more time.

What does it look like, what does it sound like to take life to the limit, one more time? I think it looks wildly different depending on the person and on their day. Sometimes, it looks like a sweaty yoga class; while other days it looks like a seated meditation. It might be not cleaning the mess in the kitchen so that you can read a book to your child. It might sound like, “no, I’m sorry; not right now,” or, “Yes! I’m on my way.” It could look like a run on a trail, or a picnic by the water.

I guess that my point is that the word “limit” often becomes coupled with an extreme action, but that’s not always the case. I often reach my limit for stillness when I meditate. It’s that conscious choosing of one more time that brings me back to my mat.

Over the last month I have been reading and messaging in yoga about the 37 Principles of the Bodhisattva, and during this time, I have been in deep relationship and dialogue with my limits. At its core, the principles teach that freedom is not a state rather,

…think of freedom as a way of experiencing life itself- a continuous flow in which you meet what arises in your experience, open to it, do what needs to be done to be the best of your ability and then receive the result. –Ken Mcleod

Apparently, The Eagles knew this, because finding the proverbial door to freedom isn’t the way — ‘And when you’re looking for your freedom / Nobody seems to care and you can’t find the door / Can’t find it anywhere.’

So what’s the path? — ’Put me on a highway and show me a sign / And take it to the limit one more time.’

Isn’t it amazing that perhaps the songs we’ve been belting out for years and years might just contain the lyrics and message we really need to listen to and process in order to live?

-E ❤️
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What does it mean to 'choose love'? 🤔

For the last several months, I have been ending my yoga classes with-- “…and on this journey, please, choose love.”

Just like many of the words I say, it takes a transition period for them to live, and I don’t believe it’s hypocritical. I believe that there is sometimes a gestation period between what we say and how we live and often this period of time is seen as passive.

It’s a necessary time frame. It’s a place of reflection and, many times, fear.

Fear of the unknown, of beliefs and all to often a fear to take action. It often looks like and feels like a wavering, a slow rocking back and forth between the world where words and actions dance in a subtle and safe sway. It’s a space of knowing and doing, of feeling and questioning and of loving and fearing. Until that moment…

It’s a moment both David Whyte and Mary Oliver speak of. In Whyte’s poem 'The True Love' he writes:

Because finally after all this struggle and all these years you don’t want to anymore you’ve simply had enough of drowning and you want to live and you want to love and you will walk across any territory and any darkness however fluid and however dangerous to take the one hand you know belongs in yours. And, in the journey oliver writes about the courage it takes to love ourself-- there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own, that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world, determined to do the only thing you could do — determined to save the only life you could save.

…What does it mean to choose love?

It means to be still enough, patient enough to listen to the voice of your heart; to heed its whispering words. To compassionately breathe through the uncomfortable moments of transition and fear. To walk across darkness and save ourselves with a fierce and actionable love we can only find from within.

To land in the knowing that love isn’t what we do-- it’s who we are.

-E ❤️
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What it means to stay 🙆🏻

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it. –Oriah MD

When I first read Oriah’s The Invitation, these are the words that I couldn’t get past. It was over 10 years ago, and I remember how these words landed in my chest. 25 simple words that piece together into the deepest commitment of love.

In summary they state, “I’m not going anywhere.” I usually despise summaries. I am much more verbose. It sounds passionate, doesn’t it? Verbose; it’s even a little sexy. While summary is clinical, it’s too simple to be meaningful, right?

I mean, if you are going to profess love, you write a prolix composition with extended metaphors, and similes and carefully structured syntactically sound sentences (with alliteration) and careful word choice. You don’t cut it to the least common denominator and make love analogous to math — it’s too logical, and what the Hell is logical about love?

Even Oriah’s words which are, in her heart, an attempt at defining love don’t make logical sense. Who stays when things are uncomfortable? Who commits to that? Who doesn’t try to fix discomfort? It’s logical to leave — to remove the thorn, or at least ignore it — but stay with it? Where’s the logic in that?

And yet, if I can stay in the discomfort of pain without leaving then I must be in love.

What else would it be? And so love becomes the coordinate where logic and emotion mesh — that summary of a prolix composition where the lines of lovers cross and create a haven of total paradoxical ambiguity — that balance of staying in discomfort, all the while comforted by the illogical fact that we are vulnerably strong enough to dwell in its house, sleep in its bed and become who we were meant to be as it raises us in the only way that a committed love can…

-Erica
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