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Down Dog Log 5

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Blog by Riley Missel (Student Athlete, Dedicated Yogi, and Finisher of Invoke's 30 Day Challenge)

7 Things I Learned Doing Yoga 7 Days a Week at Invoke Studio:
  1. Some days, yoga is hard and your muscles are tight and you feel like a mess compared to the flexible fairy beside you, and it will be such a relief to get into your car after class…because you can finally fart. You will have those days, and that’s okay.
  2.  Daily yoga helps you become better friends with yourself. The things you learn (like that you have chronically tight quads or are overly talkative to people on the mats around you) are things you eventually learn to love about yourself. You learn to celebrate flaws along with your beauty, and treat yourself the way you would a good friend.
  3.  "Turbo Dog" is an actual pose.
  4.  Barre Effect classes are hard! But it gets easier if you pretend you’re in the New York Ballet.
  5.  Practicing something every day teaches you how to learn, fail, and continue to practice. When you learn patience and a playful attitude by practicing arm balances, you can use that mindset to practice generosity, kindness, or mad skateboard skills. It’s freeing to be okay with the learning process and step outside your comfort zone.
  6.  The instructors at Invoke are really passionate about what they do. By gently planting the seeds of self-acceptance, contentment, joy, and gratitude, they spread little bits of world peace and happiness, student by student.
  7. We’re all in this together- and we’re all just looking for a little peace and love in this crazy world.

For me, this challenge was the beginning of a wonderful (and more dedicated!) practice and a calmer way of being. To the instructors, friends, fellow students, and Otis the Dog at Invoke: thank you so much for making these past 30 days meaningful and memorable days of growth, exploration, and fun. Namaste.


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Down Dog Log 4

Finding My Expression.

Blog by Riley Missel (Student Athlete, Spradic Yogi, To-Do List Enthusiast, Cat Mom)

I hate kombucha. I hadn’t tried it until recently, but danggg. It tastes like spiked vinegar and apple juice. No thank you. As much as the yoga blogs and Pinterest posts rave about its benefits… I can’t. On top of this aversion, I also don’t have long skinny legs, a calm demeanor, or cool tattoos.

But the good news is: I’m still a yogi.

But Riley! They exclaim. We can’t even tell by your Instagram photos. Are you sure?

Here’s how I started to see that deepening my yoga practice does not involve drinking bitter liquid or shopping at Lululemon.

On day 21 of my challenge, I toted my mat up to 86th and Ditch to check out the studio up there and take a class with Yvonne. In the middle of a flow, she said something that hit me right in the heart. We tipped forward onto one foot for a half-moon pose and she said “breathe, and find your expression of this pose.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa. My expression? Isn’t there a correct expression? Didn’t you have something in mind here Yvonne? I didn’t even know what to do with that freedom, so I just took a regular old half-moon. But as we flowed on, I continued to tumble that thought around in my mind.

My expression…my expression…

On the next side, I bent my knee and took my foot into my outstretched hand. I’d seen someone do it once, and it felt fun. Was it my expression? What did that even mean?

My half-moon didn’t look exactly like the woman’s on the mat beside me. It was mine. My half-moon balanced on a leg made strong by miles and miles of riding a bicycle, and stretched shoulders stiff from a past snowboard wipe-outs and a broken collarbone. And it wiggled and wobbled in a new shape, because I was feeling brave that day.

Finding my expression means I can be me as I practice. I can move like me and breathe like me. It means I don’t need long legs or perfect standing splits to experience yoga the way I was meant to.

Everyone’s body has been through different things: broken bones, dance training, having children, working construction… things that alter the body, which in turn affect your practice. Some of us have tempers, eat junk food, and go weeks without practicing (hi!). But these are the things to be embraced. Because when we find our expression in our practice, we are honoring the wonderful body we’ve been given and the wonderful things it’s given us. That is the yoga I want to practice.

And I won’t even have to drink kombucha.


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Down Dog Log 3

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Blog by Riley Missel (Student Athlete, Sporadic Yogi, Do-To List Enthusiast, Cat Mom)

My orange Toms padded down Lafayette. Shattered glass and fallen mulberries crunch on the sidewalk beneath my shoes. My car broke down on Day 13 of my challenge (hmmm…fishy!) so I spent a good hour and a half using my feet as transportation until I could get where I needed to go.

Strangely, I felt a strong connection to the area I was walking. I’d driven down this street plenty of times before, but something was different as I shuffled along the patchy sidewalk. Most of the signs were not in English, and I’d never been in any of the shops I’d passed. But walking along the worn concrete I felt I was in solidarity with the area around me; the exhaling busses, the old man walking the other way, the strong wind, the woman and her child waiting at the bus stop. It’s funny the difference it made- being on foot versus being in a car.

Later, my bare toes spread onto my green mat in Ahna’s class. Everyone moved for themselves, by themselves, but in unison. Like a dance. Ahna focused the class on our root chakra. She described it as the energy that lets us feel grounded, safe, and steady. I imagined, like she suggested, my feet and legs tinted red as they formed my foundation as we flowed through class. I thought back to my walk down Lafayette, when my feet connected me to that neighborhood.

I lift my eyes to a studio filled with trees- tall trees, short trees, solid trees, waving trees. We were all standing in tree pose, our strong steady roots connecting us to the ground. I realized I was very fortunate and thankful for being able to plant my roots where I have, even if only briefly. I’m so grateful to be a part of a class rooted in tree pose, but also rooted in self-love and kindness.

Part of yoga is coming to be with yourself, sure, but I think another part of it is connecting with a community. And the more I focused on my feet, the more that feeling of connectivity returned. As much as it’s healthy to keep our eyes on our own mat, yoga is also about connection and solidarity with the community around us. We’re standing (or in my case, wobbling) there in tree pose, rooting down, and I felt connected to that class. Which is honestly a little funny, since we don’t have a whole lot of interaction with each other. We smile sometimes, scoot mats over to make space, and occasionally stretch out and touch their toes behind our mat. That’s about it. But rooting down in that forest, I was a piece of something bigger. Something accepting and loving and real- a room full of people on a journey inward and outward, people yearning to find light and be light, people just wanting to laugh and not be serious for a while.

I think we feel a strong connection to the place we connect our roots (aka our feet) to, whether intentional or not. I don’t know these people, but we walk the same streets and we plant our roots in the same studio. Different people, different intentions, different bodies, different lives. But similar pursuits. We’re all human, and what a great place to be human. Thanks Invoke, for giving us a place to root down and find a community.


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Down Dog Log 2

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Blog by Riley Missel (Student Athlete, Sporadic Yogi, To-Do List Enthusiast, Cat Mom)

7 days in! Wow. What a week. My bottom is sore and my wrists are creaky… but on the bright side I think all those chaturangas are starting to show (flexing emoji).

More awesome things have been happening, too. Previously, when I came to yoga to ‘practice’ I was really coming to give myself a performance. Since I didn’t make it to the mat (publicly) very often, I wanted to make the most of it (as in, take all the advanced options and showing off my headstand). But on Monday in class, Erin offered that we take side angle pose further into a bind, or bird of paradise. A woman to my right stood slowly, her left leg wrapped up in her arms and pointed at the ceiling. You can do that, my brain reminded me. So I wrapped my arms around my lunging knee, and tried to stand. I wobbled, and fell out of it. I re-bound, and fell again before I even stood up. My brain stalled for a minute. I decided not to give myself the usual runaround about being lame today. Instead of continuing to wrangle my body into something it wasn’t interested in, I settled back onto both feet. Welp! Not today.

In Andrea’s class, she suggested we try an arm balance from a seated twist (If you had to reread that don’t worry- my reaction exactly). It seemed as wonky as it sounds. But instead of guessing ahead of time what my body could or couldn’t do, I placed my palms on the floor and lifted my bottom off the ground…I did it! I had it!

Then I teeter-tottered my face into the floor.

As I peeled my cheek off the hardwood, I smiled –it was funny! And I knew I could try again, and practice more tomorrow. Practicing every day takes all the pressure away. Daily practice has been allowing me to be who I am that day, and present with my body as it is in that moment. I can play around with what I’ve got that day and let go of how I thought I should be, because there’s always tomorrow.

Some days your legs feel like flying in bird of paradise, and some days they don’t. When I can make it more frequently to practice, it feels much more like that- a practice. But I think I’m learning that this practice will never make perfect, not permanently. I can do the straightest handstand on Friday, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be able to pop right back up into it on Monday. I’m always going to have some off days, some tired days, and that’s absolutely okay. In the same way, the more I practice being kind to myself or being grateful or patient or strong, the better at it I will be, but I’ll never out-practice my off days. I’ll never be perfectly perfect. And isn’t that the fun part anyway?


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