Thinking Yogi

The intersection of two loves: yoga and writing.

Kerry Maiorca

Kerry is the Founder & Director of Bloom Yoga Studio, voted Best Yoga Studio in the Chicago Reader, Chicago Magazine, and Citysearch. As a practicing yogi, writer, and mother of three, Kerry is all about making the principles and philosophies of yoga real and accessible for day-to-day living. You can find Kerry on Google+.

Posted by on in Family

I've got a bad case of it. Puppy love, that is.

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Meet Coco - she's 4 months old, she's sweet and playful (and sometimes mischievous), and over the past couple of months she has completely transformed our little family of five.

I was scared of dogs growing up, mostly because I never really new any. I used to get so nervous to play at my friend's house if I knew her dog would be out because I knew I'd have to navigate the jumping up, barking, and possible licking. Dogs really know when you aren't into them, and they seem to gravitate towards you even more :)

I've found that puppy training has a lot in common with yoga practice: it goes best when you can pay attention, have compassion for yourself and those around you, and adapt swiftly when you recognize a need that isn't being met.

I'll admit I'm not totally Zen when Coco has torn into a favorite slipper or blanket (she LOVES fringes), but if I've had enough sleep and my sense of humor is intact, I can usually remember that she's always communicating what she needs and only tends to act our or have slip-ups if I don't catch her message in time.

Beyond puppy training, I really see my main job as a human as paying better attention for more of my day, whether on my mat, with my kids and pup, or in my work. Yoga really helps me do that, and I'm endlessly grateful. Breathe in, breathe out, notice. Good dog.

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Posted by on in Off the Mat

Are you struggling with motivation lately?

I’ve been avoiding writing this post for the past couple of weeks. Confession time: this isn’t my only recent motivation-fail. Other tasks, emails, and projects that aren’t particularly difficult or time consuming have been piling up on my to-do list, but I can’t seem to make myself focus long enough to complete them.

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When I realized the pattern, my first instinct was to cheerlead myself out of it like I usually do. I’m a glass-half-full person and I hate to be a downer in an already rough time (enough already, 2020!). But it’s probably better to come out and say it: I’m in a bit of a slump. It’s different, draggy feeling than the procrastination I’ve known all too well at various phases of my life.

Have you experienced a COVID slump, too?

If so, I encourage you to own it. It feels better just admitting it, granting yourself permission and compassion for the experience you're having. This is a weird time, far beyond what any of us has ever experienced. Is it any wonder just getting through the day is taking the oomph out of us?

During my morning meditation practice last week I came across this lovely and helpful mantra from Kelley Carboni-Woods’ book Manifest: 30 days of Intentional Mantras

“I will take a pause.

…..Speeding through each moment is the social norm. Cramming it with activity is expected. To our detriment we use every minute we can but rarely create space for what we really need. Each of us has an underutilized power to create a pause. We question whether we deserve it. We exalt being busy ahead of it. The pause lets us catch our breath, hone our mind and guide our steps. The pause makes space for the abiding practice of love and peace over everything else. The pause reminds us to be responsible for our energy and rescues us from reactionary patterns. Reclaim your time.”

Take a moment to let those wise words soak in. Really. Full breath in, full breath out.

Are you pushing yourself to meet self-imposed deadlines that are unnecessarily aggressive? Is there something that doesn’t absolutely have to be done right now that you could gift yourself a longer timeline on? If so, give yourself permission to pause.

On the yoga mat, the practice of pausing might mean inserting a rest pose between active poses and lingering there for a while. When practicing pranayama, insert a brief pause between inhale and exhale to feel what it's like to be in that limbo state without needing to do anything. Some days, it means choosing to only practice one long-held restorative pose instead of trying to motivate to do something more vigorous and active. The pause can appear many different ways on the mat, and the more you practice in a physical way, the easier it will be for you to access the mental and emotional slow down during the rest of your day.

The other day a friend guiltily shared that she was grateful to have had summer travel plans cancelled this year, appreciative of the forced slower pace of life. While I still hear the echoes of a shaming internal voice that tells me I should be more productive, these days I more often shush it and ask myself what really matters right now. I'd like to think that one of our collective COVID silver linings will be a renewed appreciation of slowing down and giving ourselves permission to do a little less.

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Lately, when a certain someone pokes my shoulder at 7:01 or 6:23 or 5:45 (it’s a fun little game we like to play at my house – when will the 5 year-old get us up today?), one word pops into my head: Relentless.

 

Before you start playing the world’s tiniest violin for me and my inconsequential complaints, I’ll go on record to say that I realize I’m beyond lucky. I don’t currently have to worry about health, jobs, food, or shelter. Because of the many privileges I carry I’m not subjected to the inequities that so many individuals face. Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. Endlessly.

 

And yet, also….oh my goodness. As I look ahead to an uncertain summer and fall and get a whiff of that special soup of tween/teen moods with some 5 year-old tantrums and stagnant afternoon heat sprinkled in, the pout comes right back. Pretending it's not there isn't going to make me stop feeling it, I'll just feel more ashamed and keep shoving it down as resentment grows.

 

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Though eventually this virus will relent and over time our lives will go back to some semblance of normalcy, in the day-to-day it's hard to trust that. Some days it wears me down, especially when my reserves are low, I’ve had poor sleep the night before, the weather isn’t cooperating, and neither are my children. It's mysterious how one day I can feel optimistic and grateful and ready for anything, and the next I can barely make it until after lunchtime when I "let" my daughter watch her daily marathon of babysitting tv so I can get some work done, or time alone without being needed.

 

Here's the thing: no matter how hard or easy this time is for you, it might also feel relentless. Moreso than anything we've collectively experienced before. Whether you’re struggling to keep your sanity while simultaneously managing a very full household, or you’re feeling lost without your normal social and work structures, schedules, and friend time – this is hard.

 

What can we do?

 

We have to be more relentless.

 

We have to dig our heels in on the things that keep us healthy and safe and sane. Don’t let yourself be worn down when it comes to your personal blend of corona self-care. For me, that means spending time outside every single day, strengthening my body and getting my heart rate up at least a few times a week, making space for quiet practices of reconnecting (yoga, breath, meditation, rest) whenever I can, and carving out both uninterrupted work time and family time where I can fully listen and look into the eyes of my dear husband and kids to share a story or a laugh. It means checking on those I love and showing gratitude in small ways to those essential heroes at the grocery store, in delivery vehicles, hospitals, everyone who is brave enough to work in service of others right now.

 

If you’re feeling the weariness, you’re not alone. It’s okay to be tired from the relentlessness. Just don’t give up.

 

Get up, breathe deeply, and keep showing up for yourself and those you love. 

 

We will get through this.

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Posted by on in Off the Mat
Like so many millions around the country and around the world, I am saddened, fearful, and angry at the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and too many others before them. My heart goes out to the families of each of these individuals who died senselessly, and in such a brutal way.

I want to acknowledge that whatever I say here will be flawed, but I'm trying to move away from my fear-based default of not saying or doing anything when it comes to matters of racism, towards some sort of action, however small and imperfect.
 
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I often feel hopeless contemplating the impact one person's actions could make on the systemic racism that has been pervasive in our country for hundreds of years. And it's certainly not as easy as following some checklist or action plan - if it was that simple, racism wouldn't exist. But everything I've learned from equity trainings and the reading I've been doing suggests that we don't need to go big to begin. Rather, each of us, and especially those of us who carry the privilege of whiteness, must self-reflect. It's not comfortable to admit to biases, even if unconsciously held, but it's an essential first step before we can hope to change our interactions with others or make an impact on our broader community.

This is svadyaya, self-study. I'm reading books recommended by those who know so much more than I do (see the list of resources below). I'm seeking out knowledgeable and compassionate leaders in the movement and listening. And then my practice is to take baby steps speaking up in small ways rather than staying silent.
What can you do now, right from your own home?

I encourage you to start with educating yourself, as I am.

1. Listen and join the Conversation
Yoga Alliance is hosting a free Community Conversation on Yoga and Race Relations led by Tyrone Beverly (who is amazing) this Friday, June 5th from 2-3:30pm ET. I will be tuning in to listen and learn, and I encourage you to attend. And please spread the word! Register here

2. Talk with your Kids (or explore this great resource yourself)
Chicago Public Schools recently put out a guide to having conversations around race and civil disobedience, but it's not only for children. It contains a ton of links to articles and resources that help facilitate thinking and conversation around key questions surrounding racism, the trauma caused by racial violence, and the impact of media.

3. Explore these Educational Resources & Ways to take Action and Donate

As we teachers like to say, yoga is about self-care. But it can be more than that. Let's use our practice not only to care for ourselves, but also to do the hard work of honestly looking at our own beliefs and actions so that we may first act more consciously and compassionately in our everyday interactions. Only then can any of us hope to contribute to a change in the systemic racism that has taken the lives and liberties of too many.

This starts with each of us as individuals. I encourage you to begin that reflection for yourself, in your own home, right now. More importantly, continue that work once time passes and the media attention surrounding George Floyd's murder fades. My books are stacked up and I'll be joining you - reading, listening, and learning.
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Posted by on in Off the Mat

Anyone else feeling a teensy bit of pressure to be quarantine fabulous these days?

Think: baking photogenic bread, creating cute craft projects, sewing adorable masks, learning the ukelele / spanish / how to ride a unicycle / and on and on and on....

I'm as competitive as anyone. No, MORE competitive.

Despite my 20+ year yoga and meditation practice I've still been known to taunt my kids with a "YESSSS!" and a fist pump when I beat them at a board game. All in good fun, of course. At least for me. Not sure what the losers think :)

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Asmita alert! In yoga philosophy, asmita is one of the kleshas, or afflictions of the mind. It's often referred to as "I-Am-Ness," the ego asserting itself for fear that if it doesn't we will not be good enough, liked, or valued by the outside world.

My competitive, comparing spirit follows me everywhere I go if I let it. This is the #1 reason I got off social media a few years ago: it consistently made me feel sad and less-than any time I got a glimpse of someone's beautifully filtered life and compared it with my own present circumstances that usually included children arguing and on at least one occasion involved a smoke alarm going off because the new plant-forward recipe I was making had burned while I scrolled my way to a Facebook jealousy stupor.

But right now my professional self is necessarily in research mode. I'm on webinar after webinar learning the best ways to offer online yoga. To get a sense of the landscape I quickly drain 30 minutes bopping from one online yoga site to another, and afterwards I feel something not unlike that post social media depression that used to plague me.

This is the thing that always bugged me in yoga philosophy class: in theory it sounds nice to not compete or compare. But how can I be a responsible, relevant business owner without doing that research? How can you find fun ways to occupy yourself during quarantine without looking at what everyone else is doing?

The answer is subtle, as it usually is in yoga. That's what I love about it.

Yes, do the research and planning (abhyasa, practice). Just don't latch onto that info to compare or judge yourself against what you find (vairagya, non-attachment).

My other tips? Pick a day (or even just an hour) when you can turn off email, work, social media, all of it. Then show yourself some compassion and head to the mat for simplicity practices - not fancy, Instagram-worthy asanas, but something that changes how you feel on a nervous system level. Today I enjoyed a lying-down practice of sama vrtti (even inhale, even exhale) that was nothing to brag about, but I felt so balanced, smooth, and connected afterwards.

No matter how competitive you are, you get to decide how you play the game.

You don't need to impress, compare, or judge yourself, especially right now. Here's to showing yourself a little more love, and to leaving the spirit of competition to the Monopoly board.

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