yoga teacher

I'm a Goddess, and I Poop Too!

Purchase  this amazing shirt here . I am not an affiliate and will receive no compensation for any purchase you make. 

Purchase this amazing shirt here. I am not an affiliate and will receive no compensation for any purchase you make. 

Have you seen these shirts? What a joy. "I pooped today!" What a celebration of the mundane. 

I love them so much. When I was in grad school, a friend and co-worker bought this shirt for his girlfriend. She was horrified and decided she would never wear it. I secretly wondered if she might give it to me. (She didn't. And then they broke up. Was it the poop shirt, I wondered?)

I love talking about poop. It's a regular household conversation in the Rader home. Pooping is an important and vital part of life, and it's important to note whether it happens - or doesn't - and if there's any changes to texture, smell, color, etc. Just ask Sarah Kucera at Sage; a woman after my own heart. In my first Ayurvedic discussion, she asked me about poop. If I was unsure about Ayurveda before, that sold me. 

Also, I'm goofy. And not easily embarrassed. I was the kid who had a lot of energy - and this was before I started drinking coffee at age 14. My extra energy comes off in the form of goofiness. I make funny faces, dance to no music (in public), and, oh, it also means I have a wild curiosity for just about anything.

I want to know how the planets move. I am interested in wildcrafting. I'd love to learn to crochet. My Bachelor's degree is in Visual Arts and for a while I thought I would be a professional glass blower. I'm currently in training to become a Priestess. Even though I am now teaching yoga and it's basically my dream life, I still ponder on going back to school to become a marriage and family therapist. Not because I want to be a therapist - but because I am fascinated by it. Life is so interesting.

When you have as much energy as I do, and need as much mental stimulation, and have such natural curiosity - well it very easily turns into goofiness. I am the girl in yoga class who is just getting started after a seventy-five minute heated flow. I am the girl who shimmies her entire body while everyone else finds stillness. I am the girl who sighs way too loud and "goes rogue" on the teacher's directions. 

For a long time I thought I had to choose: goofiness or goddess. Goddess or goofiness. 

I love sparkly things. I love getting dressed up and feeling super sensual. I love the photos of women in dresses in the water. I admire women who are so in their feminine element and I love that part of me, too.

But also - I drink water out of old peanut butter jars. I wear $12 yoga pants from TJ Maxx. My pajamas are a combination of my husband's sweatpants and old flannel shirts. 

I take yoga very seriously. It has offered me the most potent transformation and I love the idea that I might be able to share a nugget of wisdom with someone else that might drastically change their life, just like it changed mine. 

But also, I recognize that - it's just yoga. One day we will still die. 

Like Elizabeth Gilbert says in Big Magic - art (and yoga, because to me it's one and the same) is both the most important thing you will do in your life, and also it's completely, absolutely frivolous. And isn't that just wonderful? It frees you from the tyrrany of your inner critic. Because, ultimately, it is not necessary, but gosh it makes life so much better. 

So, here I stand before you. I am a Goddess. I am powerful, I am of divine power, I am strong and educated and humble and feminine and mysterious and absolutely radiant.

And, I poop too.

Isn't it great?

Sacred Spirit-Walk Sundays - A Visceral Experience

Today I went for a walk out in the trails. This is something I crave regularly, but my weekly schedule doesn’t allow for me to hit the trails in any realistic time. Even my weekends lately have been full, crammed with extra events and meetings and all of the career-building mumbo-jumbo that goes into being a self-employed breadwinner in our patriarchal society.

To be quite honest, I had had a rough morning. Actually, a rough weekend - and maybe a rough past six months, considering. Granted, I live a very blessed life, and daily I count my blessings for the roof over my head and enough money to pay my bills on time and feed myself, and even a little extra to continue my yoga journey. And yet, some pathways we journey through aren’t so hard on the physical level, but challenge our psyche and our soul and our spirit in a myriad of other ways.

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So when I stepped on the trail, I was looking for something. Connection, a sign, guidance. Fifteen minutes into my walk I remembered from my training that priestesses are trained to walk silently, so as to not disturb the nature around them and that they may assimilate easier. I made a decision to walk as silently as possible.

Just the simple act of becoming aware that nature might be happening around me - it was as if I opened myself up to signs. First, I saw a spider as big as my hand - the sure sign of the Queen of Death, the scorpio, the archetype that says live and let die. The season of the fall, the turning of the leaves - we are quite physically stripping ourselves down to our bare essence, preparing for the longest eighth of the year and stripping away our identity with it. Hello Spider, Hello Queen of Death, I see you, I muttered to myself.

Down the trail another ten minutes, I looked up to see a deer tail sweeping and galloping off the trail and away from me. I missed its face, but as I continued silently on, I got the eerie feeling that Spirit was trying to connect with me through nature, and I was hell bent on receiving the signs. Must continue silent walking.

Another ten minutes on the trail and again, a fleeting deer tail running away from me on the trail. Definitely a sign, I could tell, and just as I was thinking if I saw a third one I would know for sure, it hit me. Have you ever had the experience of a memory coming back to you so strongly, but you’re not quite sure where it comes from? It’s a visual and a sensory experience of a place that resonates so strongly in your mind, but you’re not quite sure where or when you experienced this event - or maybe it was a dream, or a memory from another lifetime. Like the deer, it was fleeting, running away from me, and I couldn’t quite catch it.

The memory is of a trail, somewhere else. In the midwest? In the States? In the astral plane? I can’t quite know for sure. But, there was a distinct line between the trail that was covered in trees and the trail that led to an open field. The trail that was covered by trees led eventually to some cabins - maybe a village, maybe camping cabins, I don’t remember for sure. It’s a slippery memory. But the trees had these potent red berries on them. They leaves green, and the trunks low to the ground, and the contrast of green and red together sticks out viscerally in my memory, almost like I can transport myself back there just by closing my eyes.

I continued walking and I tried desperately to capture the memory, and remember where and when it was, but, like the deer, it wasn’t to be caught. Again, a sign from Spirit? Hard to tell.

It’s fall, and so leaves were all over the ground, a canopy of fall colors and the memory of all that we’re losing. Behind me was a woman and her dog, and every once in a while I could hear the jangling of his collar, all the while death scenes splayed out in front of me. A rotting tree stump. Two trees fallen and crossed together on a third, making a five pointed star. Vines that had lost their essence and hung limply on trees.

My senses heightened, I walked into a more narrow part of the trail, where the forrest grew more thick on each side. Beneath me was sharp rock, patterned in ways to anchor the feet but slippery with a damp rain from the night before. I entered this cave and was immediately struck by the feeling of energetic aliveness here - in a heightened, alert way, not in the calm, yogic studio way. As I traveled down this narrow path, there was a rustling to both my right and my left. I peered into the woods, hoping to catch a glimpse of another deer, a surefire sign that Spirit was speaking to me, since three is a potent spiritual number. But, there was nothing to be seen.

And yet, the rustling continued, on each side. As I traveled down this long stretch of trail, the rustling followed me, and I had this heightened sense that I was being followed. Watched. Guarded, hunted, I’m not sure. The hair stood up on the back of my neck. The energy grew thicker to my right side, but still I couldn’t see beyond the thick stretch of trees directly covering the trail edge. 

As I watched myself become more fearful, I wondered at my hypocrisy. In tantra we are taught to run towards the dark - feel the fear and run into it. In the darkness is where your power lies. And so, although my pupils were dilated and my sensory awareness heightened to all signs of potential danger, I spread my fingers wide and opened my palms. “Spirit, I am here. I am open. I am open.” 

As soon as I had the thought, a bird shrilly screamed, and I turned a corner to see a dead tree right in my path. Sticking into the trail as a reminder of the death that was sure to come; death of what, I’m not quite sure. Death of ego, death of grasping, death of the life I had known - the message was clear, but the content still in question.

I made it out of the narrow part of the trail, and it opened up wide. The forrest became much less thick. As my vision stretched further, I saw the emptiness and the death that was taking place around me. Insects started to scream - cicadas singing their way loudly, the sound of the forrest coming alive where before it was deeply quiet. Flashes of red - berries, small trees with bright red leaves - colored the decay of the woods and haunted me. So much like this slippery memory that I couldn’t shake.

When the insects died down a bit further down the trail, the wind picked up. And birds - so many birds - started taking flight, from the forrest floor to the tops of the trees. Where were all of these birds coming from? They were everywhere I looked, and I was immeshed in an Alfred Hitchcock special being delivered right to my sensory awareness. There was no doubt now that Spirit was communicating.

After a few more windy turns, I came to a rocky cliff, where there she was. The deer, the third time. This time I saw her face, and we locked eyes - and just as soon as we did she scampered away. That’s when I saw the second deer. And as they ran, I recognized - a third, too. Three deer, on my third sighting of the day. 

The trail split and I headed back towards the trail head. Spirit messages were becoming less intense as the forrest grew less thick, and I started to walk the more traveled trails, but still I was alert. 

Right as I passed by a trail marker, just fifty feet away or so, was the biggest stag I have ever been so close to. His antler’s marked his dominance and he stood so secure and confident. It was a marvel to witness. When he heard me nearby, he ran.

Two more times, I saw this stag on my walk back to the trailhead. And, on the third time again, I saw the family. The mama deer that followed the stag’s every move, and the baby that was lightyears ahead.

When I finally exited the trail, I left knowing that I had been in deep communication with Spirit, and although the context of the messages are still unclear, the messages themselves have never been louder. 

When you enter the woods, do you hear messages from Spirit? How do you open yourself up to receive guidance - is it through meditation, through communion with nature - what portal is most potent for your spiritual awakening? 

While I meditate daily, there’s something about the nature connection that feeds a part of my spirit that isn’t accessed otherwise. 

I think Sacred Spirit-walk Sundays will become a weekly excursion. 

Dear Friends Who Think They Need to Lose Weight Before Yoga

A friend and student wrote me an email this week. She said she wants to be "one of those people whose lives are radically changed by yoga," but she can't commit, because first she must lose weight and yoga doesn't burn as many calories as P90X and running.

I wrote her a response, and I thought it was worth sharing. Many of you have heard my story before, but if you haven't, read on, and find out how to be one of those people. I eliminated some of the more personal details relevant to her to protect her, but otherwise the email is intact. 

Loves of love and happy Samhain.

 

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Dear Friends Who Think They Need To Lose Weight Before Committing to Yoga,

Thank you for sharing your story. 

I'd like to share a little bit of my story, too, because I think you might relate to parts of it. I found yoga when I was 18 years old. Instantly, I knew that yoga held the answers I was seeking - it was physical, emotional, spiritual - and I could feel its wisdom, but I was too afraid to dive in. Beyond the cultural shock, I was in the depths of an eating disorder. While the idea of yoga sounded wonderful, the fear part of me was pushing me to do more. I already carried so much shame about my anorexia that morphed into bulimia, and the thought of doing something gentle and calm for my body seemed too "nice" - like I needed to be punished instead.

Over the next seven years, I got better, but only from the outside. Mentally, I was still a wreck. I felt incredibly hypocritical, because, since age 19, I have been teaching exercise classes, acting as a personal trainer, and teaching yoga. 

I hit rock bottom when I moved to Kansas City five years ago. Alienated from my family and friends, injured and ill after pushing myself to complete another marathon that my body wasn't prepared for, and adjusting to life as an unemployed full-time stepmother was too much. Fed up with everything, I decided that, since everything else in my life was a complete mess, I may as well give this "yoga" thing a full time shot and commit myself for thirty days to just yoga, and nothing else. If I gained a couple of pounds - so what - it was only thirty days, and I could swear off yoga forever after that and go back to my current routine.

Thankfully, this thirty days transformed me. I didn't lose weight, but I didn't gain weight. But beyond my outside physical form - I felt better. I was more calm. I was a better stepmother. I was a better partner. I could look at my body in the mirror and not cringe - even though my body was a little less muscular. My body softened, and so did my heart. My suspicions as an 18-year-old were finally confirmed, but I think I needed to go through all of that self damage to really appreciate yoga in the way I appreciate it now.

 

So, I'd like to ask you a question, if you don't mind. What will happen 5, 10, or 25 pounds from now? Will you be any happier? Will your life be so radically different that you can finally give yourself permission to care for your self?

My suspicion is no. I've fluctuated fifty pounds over the past 15 years (which is quite a lot on a 5'2" frame), and I can tell you that at my thinnest, my biggest concerns were not gaining it back - I felt no more freedom in my mind even though my body was thinner.

The fifth yama from Patanjali is aparigraha - non-attachment. Non-attachment to what our bodies look like in their physical form, to what the pose looks like, to how things appear on the outside. The trigger is expectation - we expect that at a particular weight, or at a particular moment in our life, things will radically shift. The practice is letting go - of expectations, of desires. And when we perfect it, we get an experience that is incredibly profound - more profound than any physical change of form can ever deliver.

So, if you want to be one of those people whose lives are radically changed by yoga - I would say you are well on your path. :) My Yoga 101 course is a perfect start. In the back of the packet that comes with the course, there's resources and book recommendations - I would highly recommend A Life Worth Breathing by Max Strom. But, more than anything else, I would recommend that you practice. Regularly. Every day.

It doesn't have to be an hour. It can be five minutes of conscious breathing. It can be three sun salutations to start the day. It can be becoming aware of your posture and your sensory awareness while you're standing in line at the grocery store, and not looking at your phone. 

And having a teacher is really helpful. If you can get to a class even twice a month, being around other people who are consciously breathing and paying attention to their bodies is really powerful - it helps you drop into the practice even if you're not "feeling it" on a particular day. 

More than anything else, I think, is patience and trust in the process. That, if you put in the work and dedicate yourself - even five minutes per day, consistently - shifts will happen if you're patient and you approach with no expectation. 

I hope this email helps. Think of your yoga immersion as a marathon and not a sprint, because it will truly become a life-long practice if you allow it to. You will have your entire life ahead of you to grow, to change your life, and to transition to where you want to be - and it's a really beautiful, gradual unfolding if you allow it.

Lots of love,

Amie

The Power of DANCE and Balancing the Masculine/Feminine

Wednesday was my husband and I’s three year wedding anniversary. He surprised me with private dance lessons. One of the grudges I have held against him since this date was that he didn’t dance with me at our wedding, and so he surprised me with this gift. (Yes, I cried.)

Keith and I at our wedding reception. There's definitely a whole lot of Shiva/Shakti going on here. 

Keith and I at our wedding reception. There's definitely a whole lot of Shiva/Shakti going on here. 

The dance lesson was so fun. The instructor was incredible, and, as it turns out, Keith has quite a bit of rhythm, just not a lot of confidence. And I have a lot of rhythm, but my posture sucks and it means I’m easily thrown off balance. (Umm, hello metaphors for life?)

Actually, the entire thing was metaphorical. Hello Keith lacking confidence. Hello me being thrown in many directions and easily getting off balance. Keith needs more ooomph; I need more steadiness.

But the metaphors went deeper than that. The man - the lead - needs to provide direction. His job is to push and pull and create constant tension as a means of communication. His body is his communication tool, and he needs to do so with confidence, fluidity, and without planning too far ahead of time. He uses his intuition and makes split second decisions without second guessing.

It is the job of the woman to be lead with grace and ease. It is her job to not be pushed over, pulled too far in - she needs to maintain her composure, or her “diva stance,” as our instructor called it. And it is also imperative that she trusts his direction, and when he throws her into a dip she needs to not fight it or get scared, but just relax into it.

What does this have to do with yoga, you ask?

Lately, I’ve been studying the divine masculine and divine feminine, as a part of my yoga practice and as a part of my personal healing process. One of the things I have uncovered through many sources is that my masculine energy is overly dominant. 

We all each of us have masculine and feminine energies within us. Estrogen and testosterone, intuition and logic, receptivity and directionality. The male energy - called Shiva - is the steadiness, the ground, the direction. It is the right side of the body, the left hemisphere of the brain, and it controls our logic and our ability to actively progress towards a goal. Our education system and our corporate world (for the most part) are masculine dominated systems. (And not just because the men make the money - because of the structure of how it’s set up.)

The feminine energy - the Shakti - is the wild, creative powers. It’s the intuition and the excitement and focuses primarily on the state of being, not doing. The feminine is unconcerned with progression - the feminine just wants to enjoy. (“Girls Just Want to Have Fun” had it right.) She is the left side of our bodies, the right hemisphere of our brain, and she is fun.

Both of these things work together to make us independent individuals - and it is imperative that we have both within us. Shiva without Shakti - the masculine without the feminine - is but a corpse. There’s no dynamism, no activity, no power. Shakti without Shiva is out of control. My teacher explains it like this: Shiva is the container that holds Shakti, so that she can dance her wild dance without straying too far from center.

Growing up in a patriarchal society, it’s so easy to allow the masculine tendencies to take over. Couple that with shame about the body that we’ve been taught to have as women, the determination for success, and our culture that values goal crushing over being any day, and I think probably most women have some sort of complex going on. 

In my marriage, this means I’ve been overly controlling. In my work, it means I’m overly ambitious. In my heart, it means I have some serious walls to hack down.

Dancing is a good therapy. It’s a way to embody the characteristics of the divine masculine and feminine and put them into practice. It’s a way to learn to communicate without words but with action - and isn’t that what we’re all seeking? 

So, tell me about you. What qualities are more prevalent? Which do you let shine, and which do you hide? How can you invite yourself into greater balance this month?

And, if you want to get a dose of this in a physical embodied form, I’m teaching hanumanasana, or the splits pose, in all of my yoga classes for the month of September. Right leg forward, our masculine leads - left leg forward, our feminine leads. Check my schedule and come join me in class soon. 

Going Corporate, Yoga Fear, and Oh Hi, Welcome.

First off, let me welcome you to my new website.

It took me a little time to create, and a lot of deliberation, but I am proud of the result and so happy to continue sharing pieces of my life, my story, and connect with you here. If you followed me from amyisahuman.com - welcome! All of my blogs are still up on that website, which you can visit anytime. One day, I'd like to figure out how to fuse the two blogs together so they're in one big interweb space, but my web knowledge is limited and my patience thin. 

If you're a subscriber to my newsletter, you will have heard about the change of my name from Amy to Amie. (Read about it here if you haven't.) Along with that, I've turned 30, debuted my first international retreat (hellllooooo Thailand), did a cleanse, and have begun some major de-cluttering and space clearing in my house. 

None of this, however, is really what I want to talk to you about today. Today I want to talk to you about my decision to join a new yoga studio, Yoga Six, as a teacher.

For those of you who are not inundated into the Kansas City yoga scene, let me explain. Since I began teaching yoga in 2014, three separate chain yoga studios have arrived in Kansas City - Core Power Yoga, Power Life Yoga, and Yoga Six.

When they arrived, this caused a slight uproar in the yoga teaching communities. Yoga had been, to this point, a local service, from Kansas Citians to the people. As with anytime there's a WalMart placed next to a local mom-and-pop shop, competition is fierce and fear runs rampant.

Fear that business would be lost. Fear that yoga was changing. Fear that these new fads of yoga with weights and pop songs and beer would damage the practice and giving yoga a bad rep.

It's not just in our local Kansas City yoga community, either. It's in master teachers - on their websites, on their podcasts, in magazine articles. And when our foremost teachers have fear, it is only natural that we, too, will find it. 

What does fear breed but judgment? Separation? This is the opposite of yoga. Yoga is union.

There is a huge resistance to change - in everything, but particularly in yoga or any spiritual practices. There's a belief that pop music or goats somehow makes light of yoga. And to a certain extent, I can understand this. What yoga offers is beyond a fun, light-hearted experience - it offers deep, potent, powerful transformation, not for the faint of heart.

However, I would venture to say that most of us who have drunk the yoga Kool-Aid became interested in yoga because there was a super hot guy in class. Or we wanted to move super gracefully. Or we wanted to nail a handstand for our wedding photos. (Guilty - and no, I didn't accomplish this by my wedding date.) Most people in America come to yoga, not for a deep spiritual practice, but for some other reason that would be superficial in comparison.

But sometimes, after we've drunk the Kool-Aid, we forget what it felt like to not give a shit about enlightenment, but to just want to do a handstand.

And who are we to judge?

As a yoga teacher, my primary job is to meet people where they're at. That means sometimes I chant and do mudras and speak of connection to the divine. And sometimes I make jokes and I giggle and talk about drinking beer.

For the longest time, I have avoided the corporate yoga studios, lest other yoga teachers judge me. But finally, I've realized that it doesn't matter what other people think of me. It matters that what I offer is from my heart. 

I do good work and deep spiritual practices in retreats and some yoga classes I offer. I also do good work making those who are brand new to yoga feel comfortable, safe, and welcomed. I know that each day, I bring my best, and it comes from a place of passion and deeply rooted practice.

When my friend Brad Elpers - the studio manager at Yoga Six - asked me to join the tribe, I was at first hesitant. 

I had been calling in a Saturday yoga class for some time, and here one came, piling into my own lap. Here was my chance to put into practice what I believe - and what I believe is that all yoga is good yoga

And as it turns out, Yoga Six is incredible. Brad is incredible - I've known him for three years, but he continues to amaze me with his passion, integrity, and enthusiasm. It was incredible all along, yet I had allowed the fear of others to sink into me that nearly blocked me from experiencing such a wonderful community. 

Two books I have just read have both mentioned the importance of adaptability to change. In one book, the woman describes the spiritual culture of Bali, and how it has survived the test of time because of it's adaptability to change, and not it's push against it. The same concept was presented in The Mists of Avalon, where the pagan cultures so strongly resisted the incoming Christianity that they eventually receded into the mists. 

I encourage you - think outside the box. How can you work with what's happening instead of fighting against it? How can you adapt to the changes rather than complain about them? When we bend, we don't break.

I'd love to see you at Yoga Six, Saturday morning vinyasa practices at 9 am. <3