My life as a dog mom

About 4 months ago in early December, I had the pleasure of adopting the most perfect little fur baby into my life. After much convincing to my parents, ( who are graciously allowing me to live with them rent free as I get my teaching hours in and go back to grad school) I drove three hours to pick up a beautiful little bundle of fur who I named Luna. She is an Australian Shepherd who I hope to train to become a therapy dog. One of the most striking features about her is that she has two different colored eyes. One eye is blue, and the other is brown. An old Native American legend states that dogs with two different colored eyes can see both heaven and earth. Certainly a beautiful sentiment regardless of whether it is true or not.

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Throughout the first month of Luna’s life in her new family there were all of the typical puppy mishaps. Pee and poop on the floor. Crying in the middle of the night. Chewing on shoes and fingers and many more. Surprisingly she quickly grew out of these bad habits. Australian Shepherds are said to be one of the most intelligent dog breeds, so perhaps she caught on quickly to our exclamations of “LUNA…NOOOOO! NOT IN THE HOUSE!” Alas, whatever the reason, my family and I were all very pleased with her acquired skill. I also began working with her on how to sit, lie down, and stay. She has these all but mastered now three months later. ( Well at least with some incentives from some yummy treats.)

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It has been so rewarding to see her grow not only physically, but as her little brain has matured as well. She has been such a wonderful addition to my family, and my parents refer to themselves as her grammy and grandpa. Every time my mom exclaims “Luna come to Grammy!” I just can’t help but smile. My dad loves playing with her and squeaking her stuffed hedgehog so many times that I think the squeaker will just flat give out. She truly is a member of our family, and I am so grateful to have her in my life. She has brought our already strong family even closer.

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She is coming up on her six month birthday mark in April. I’m sure we will be celebrating with a tasty bone, and some sort of rubber animal toy. I hope to start her in obedience classes soon to help get her ready for her chance to be a therapy dog in the future. I will keep you all updated with how this journey goes.

Raising a dog is very rewarding, but it is certainly a large responsibility and has taught me a lot about that area of my life. Without the help of my parents, I would not be able to accomplish all the tasks that I do and I am extremely thankful for that. Overall, I wouldn’t change a thing and I am looking forward to seeing her grow into a beautiful adult dog one day. Hopefully, sometime soon you will see her and I walking around with her therapy dog vest and a proud dog mom smile on my face.

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Becoming a Yoga Teacher

Before I jump right into my experience of getting my yoga teacher certification, let me explain to you why I wanted to become one in the first place. I did not actually begin the practice of yoga until I entered my freshman year of college when I discovered the gym of my university offered a class. I decided to try it out, and absolutely loved the sense of peace and contentment I felt when the class was over. I had assumed yoga was just like any other fitness class.( Which even nowadays people sometimes see yoga as just another form of exercise.) However, it goes so far beyond the idea of fitness. If you go back to the roots of yoga, which go beyond when world religions were first created, you find that the physical movements of yoga were put into place to help make the body more flexible so that meditation would be less difficult. (This is where it comes in handy for those of us who tend to fidget and can’t sit still for long periods of time.) Yoga itself is meant to be a type of moving meditation helping to quiet the mind so that one can discover the inner peace within themselves.

It was this idea of finding peace and contentment that truly made me fall in love with the practice. I definitely enjoyed the movement and healing benefits of the different poses, but being able to help heal the mind, and even the spirit was so intriguing to me. To back pedal just a bit, I studied psychology as my major in college. I hoped to be able to counsel others in some way and help people work through different mental and emotional issues. I also wanted to be able to inspire others to be the best versions of themselves. I wanted to teach others to take care of themselves in all ways; including nutrition, exercise, and other various health avenues as well. It was not until I gained awareness of all the combined benefits of teaching yoga that I realized it had the possibility to allow me to help others with all of those things. Some famous yogi once said something along the lines of, “where modern psychology ends, yoga begins.” So it was after this realization, that I knew that I would become a yoga teacher, and hopefully go even beyond that point to become a yoga therapist. (They have extensive anatomy and yoga philosophy teaching beyond the average teacher and can help people with severe physical disabilities as well as mental illnesses heal.)

So enough with the background story… let me tell you about my experience of actually getting my yoga certification. Upon researching different training programs I was amazed to find that there was a place called Yogaville only about an hour and a half from my hometown. This quaint yoga ashram was founded by Swami Satchidinanda and is located in the blue ridge mountains of Buckingham, VA. How had I not known about this place?! But the universe works in mysterious ways, and it often places knowledge in your life at the perfect time. I researched further into the Yogaville training programs and found that they offered month long intensive teacher training courses. This means you basically lived at the ashram for a month and practiced and learned about yoga 24/7. This probably would’t necessarily be ideal for everyone, but it sounded perfect to me! A program was coming up in October and I put my application in. After anxiously waiting to hear back, I found out that I was accepted to the program!! I can’t even begin to describe my eagerness and excitement.IMG_7486

A few weeks later I made the drive out into what seemed like the middle of nowhere and arrived at Yogaville. I was nervous about exactly what to expect and hoped that I would have the skills necessary to pass the course. Upon first walking in the academy doors I was greeted by some of the kindest souls I have ever had the chance of meeting. I was instantly put at ease, only to have my picture captured by one of the staff as she explained to me that they always took a before and after photo of the teachers in training so at the end of the process we would look and back and see our own personal growth. I thought this was a really beautiful idea, and I pondered how I would change and grow along this journey. IMG_7478

Throughout the training we practiced yoga daily, meditated several times daily as well, and had several different classes a day focusing on topics such as health, anatomy, Raja yoga, the philosophy of yoga, and many more that I am probably failing to include. It was certainly a lot of work and long days. It was all made easier by the wonderful fellow teacher trainees that were going through the process along with me though. In some ways I feel like I learned more from them in this journey than anything else.  The staff were also amazing and were there to help guide us through this yoga adventure. In them as well as my fellow teachers in training I felt an intense and deep connection that I knew would go far beyond our time at the ashram.IMG_7451

After a couple weeks of studying and hard work getting through our midterm exam, and learning the art of teaching a class all the way through, it was time for us to have our teacher qualification. We had learned a tremendous amount of knowledge over the past month, but many were still nervous about passing this final test. We had to be able to teach an assigned set of different poses, explain the benefits of each one, as well as teaching a deep relaxation, and breathing practices all within an allotted amount of time. By some miracle, (and a whole lot of time studying and practicing) I passed my qualifier and officially became a teacher! I do not exaggerate that this was one of the happiest days of my life. Happier even than my college graduation I had experienced just a few months beforehand. I was also extremely happy for and proud of my now fellow teachers who had also made their way through the process.

We were now at the end of our time together and graduation was upon us all. Family and friends came to see us as we celebrated our accomplishments. It was a month full of so many beautiful people and amazing memories that the act of becoming an actual teacher was just the cherry on top of perhaps the most incredible experience of my life.IMG_0432

I absolutely love being a teacher and currently teach at an exercise therapy center as well as managing my own group classes. I encourage anyone who is thinking of possibly pursuing this goal to please try it! It is so life changing in the most positive of ways. Not only for you, but for the countless people who come to your classes that you are able to help heal in their bodies, minds, and souls.

 

Changing your world, without even getting out of bed

I have had a recurring thought for quite sometime… what if we could wake up each morning and see things as brand new? Now stay with me here, I am sure this may seem cliche, but hear me out. Each day we wake up often to the same bedroom, and daily life that has all become familiar to us. It has always been there, so we assume it will continue to always stay. However, when we truly examine this thought we know it is not true. We are aware that at some level things can change in an instant. So why is it that we fail to appreciate what we already have, and only realize how much it meant to us when it is gone? This can go into many aspects of lives including loved ones most importantly.

I have also noticed that travel is often considered an antidote for this issue. Helping people wake up and rediscover meaning in a variety of different ways. In my opinion this is true because when one travels they are experiencing new or unfamiliar things most of the time. It is not necessarily the beauty of the landscape or area that is what makes it so amazing (although it is also extremely important) but the fact that we are experiencing something fresh and new. We are seeing this moment with brand new eyes, and we are able to truly see the beauty in all that surrounds us. Now I may not be completely right about this, I am sure there are some places that amaze no matter how may times you encounter them. However, some places seem to lose their shiny new appeal over time. Perhaps we become bored or lose interest, but is it the place or person that has changed or our own perspective?

So although I have nothing against travel, ( In fact I love it. I have wanderlust written all over me) I do not necessarily think that the act of it is actually the cure to our glazed over eyes. Often many people do not have the opportunity or means to travel, but I believe they are just as easily able to overcome our own “blindness” and discover the beauty in the everyday. I think that looking at the world around us, the people, and different things we have in our lives with a fresh perspective is the real remedy. Explore your own backyard or city and find the amazing  things that exist in what is seemingly the ordinary. Our thoughts ultimately govern the way we see the world, so if we can change these… we change our world. And you don’t even have to get out of bed in the morning.

 

 

Walking a mile(or 500) in someone else’s shoes

My senior year of college I decided I needed to explore after graduation. I wanted to get a feel for the world around me, and experience a bit of adventure. So I decided that I would sign up to take part in a study abroad trip. This would not be a typical study abroad however. Instead of sitting in a classroom, this class would take part as a true test of mental and physical endurance on a hike across Spain. This hike is known as the Camino De Santiago which is an over 500 mile journey beginning in the Pyrenees mountains of western France and continuing across the length of Northern Spain. IMG_6342Pilgrims (a term used for hikers on the Camino) have made this trek for thousands of years and for many different reasons. Most prominently people hike the Camino for religious and spiritual undertakings. There are many other reasons someone may partake in this great trek, and all are important in their own way. The end goal is to reach the city of Santiago and arrive at the cathedral of Saint James. There many pilgrims will stand in awe of the journey they have undertaken, and the many obstacles they have faced along the way.

For myself, this journey was a test of the limits I was able to endure, and in other ways it was the chance to prove to myself that I was capable of incredible things. I wanted to test the abilities of my body and mind, and force myself to endure the pain of walking ten plus miles everyday. Some people may say this is a bit extreme, but at the end of every long day I was so astounded by the fact that my own two feet had carried me and my twenty pound backpack to where I was supposed to be.

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It was no easy task. I do not exaggerate that I asked myself what I could have possibly been thinking by signing up for this trip a hundred times. My feet hurt, I was homesick, I didn’t like the food. But despite the many complaints I may have had, each day I got up before the sun to carry on and journey to the next destination point along they way. Why did I keep going you ask? Well, I didn’t want to fail myself. I didn’t want to give up on me. I had faith that I could get through it and make it to the end.

I didn’t make it through this journey all by myself though. I had the support of my classmates and the various other friends I made along the way. One of the things that stood out most for me on the Camino was the kindness I received from strangers. On the second day of my Camino I awoke to find that my hiking shoes had been stolen. I was very distraught at the occurrence and was trying to figure out a solution to my situation when a kind woman offered to let me have her hiking sandals. I was in awe of her generosity. Without her help I would not have been able to continue my journey that day. This was the first of many generous acts of kindness I received on the Camino and is a true testament to the pilgrim heart. I decided from that day forward until the end of my journey I would wear these sandals.IMG_7107

Most of us have heard the cliche saying, “Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.” This phrase is meant to express that we should attempt to feel empathy for others or allow ourselves to feel what someone else may be going through. I had assumed that throughout my life I tried to do this phrase justice, self-proclaiming myself as empathetic. However, it was not until I had the literal opportunity to take a quite a few steps in another’s shoes that I came to realize what it actually takes to accomplish this task. I was tempted many times to invest in a new pair of my own, but felt the Camino had given me this test for a reason. I wanted to know what it felt like to put myself in this woman’s shoes and walk her journey as part of my own. In her shoes I experienced different obstacles than I would have faced if wearing mine. I actually came to find out that I had a stress fracture in my right foot from wearing shoes that did not support my feet properly. I also ended up with quite a few rocks and blisters on my worn out feet. Although these physical issues were encountered, I believe this is a metaphor for the problems we face in life.

Often we are so caught up in our own issues, and think that our problems are enormous, but If we were asked to throw our difficulties in a pile most of us would grab our own back in an instant. Perhaps because we are better equipped to handle the problems we know, or maybe there is another reason I have not discovered yet. Whatever the case may be; it is important to take a risk in life and see what its like to face other’s problems. Only then can we have true empathy for those around us, as well as gain a new perspective on our own issues.

Now that I have returned home from my Camino and have had time to reflect on my time there I have an even deeper appreciation for the journey. While there it is easy to get caught up in the moment; which is important to the entire learning experience. I have learned many things from my time on the Camino, including knowledge that we truly do not need much to survive, we are capable of much more than we could imagine, and perhaps most of all that traveling and experiencing things first hand is the most intense and best form of learning. The lessons a pilgrim finds along the Camino are what they will carry back into their lives after the journey ends. Those lessons will not only benefit the pilgrim herself, but all those she touches in life. In this way one can see that the Camino has an immeasurable impact upon this world. The Camino is a small version of the big picture of life. In it we can see what is truly important and take those gifts with us afterwards so we can share them with all those we encounter.IMG_7128

I hope that by sharing this story my experience will help others learn. If life gives you the opportunity to figuratively or even literally take a walk in another’s shoes I suggest you try it. You’ll be surprised not only what you discover about the other person, but also about yourself.