Boss Up with Bevin Your dream life is at the end of your comfort zone

2015-03-10

Florida Keys: Paddleboard Yoga as a Paddleboard Novice Fatty

To escape the brutalities of New York City Winter and Seasonal Depression, I asked my mom to give me cash instead of a present for Christmas and my birthday this year. I parlayed that into a pretty cheap vacation to the Florida Keys (her gift was enough to cover my $180 round trip flight, share of our $130 car rental and 3 nights at our cabin). Part of the way this gift helped me combat seasonal depression was putting a lot of time into researching our vacation. I went down the internet and you tube rabbit holes about things to do in the Florida Keys many Winter nights. (The FloridaKeysTV you tube channel is a treasure trove, btw.)

IMG957561All photos in this post are by Tara McCabe, who lets the class send themselves the photos she takes during the class from her phone when you return to the marina!

It was a you tube video that brought me to Paddleboard Yoga! As soon as we saw it, Dara and I decided this was a top priority vacation activity.

I’ve been doing yoga off and on for six years but I’ve never been on a paddleboard. If I want to scoot around on water I prefer a kayak, where I can sit and enjoy the water while paddling. The idea of doing yoga on a paddleboard seemed scary in a fun way–I have a hard enough time with balance in the studio! Dara had never been paddleboarding, either, and she is not a huge fan of yoga but was totally sold on the adventure.

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We made a reservation with Lazy Dog Paddle Yoga (the studio? paddleboard rental place? featured in the video) and drove down to Key West from our cabin on Big Pine Key. The marina is not in the main tourist part of Key West and is right off the only highway through the Keys, the Overseas Highway, a 2 lane affair with breathtaking views.

We arrived 10 minutes before the class just in time for our instructor Tara McCabe, who founded the Paddleboard Yoga classes with Lazy Dog owner Sue Cooper, to give a paddleboarding basics class to those of us who are new to paddleboarding. A lot of the paddle mechanics were similar to kayaking but the positioning of the arms was different and I felt like I needed to have a lot more control over the paddle given that I was going to be standing up for travel. Tara mentioned we could kneel on the paddleboard while we were first getting used to how the paddle worked to navigate, which was really helpful.

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Since we were traveling from the marina to a little inlet off the canal nearby, where the yoga class would be held, we launched in groups of 3 or so from the boat ramp. As the rest of the class was getting outfitted with their boards and paddles Dara and I signed extensive waivers and paid the $30 each for the 9:30-11AM class. We could bring a towel and a water bottle with us strapped by a bungee to our board. I did some last-minute additional sunscreen application and left the rest of our bags inside the Lazy Dog shack.

We were handed one paddle each, sized to our height, and got on our knees to be shoved off into the marina. Dara went much faster than I did and I slogged along, getting used to the way the board moved. I followed Tara’s advice and waited until we were out in the canal and had made our hard right turn before I stood up on the paddleboard and began using the paddle in the correct holding from the top form.

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Being among last to arrive in the group, and the slowest paddleboarder, I felt okay about it. One of the lessons I learned early on in my yoga practice is that there is no way to “suck” at yoga, you just got at your own pace, paying attention to your own body and where your limit is. Running my own race instead of worrying about where my skills, physical ability and flexibility fits into the rubric of the class helps me just enjoy and settle in. I am often the least bendy yogi in a class but it doesn’t make me any less capable of getting all the benefits of the class and the practice. So when I was solidly holding up the rear of the paddleboard group coming into the alcove I was already fine with it.

Once in the alcove everyone dropped their anchors (these little heavy circles of some kind of metal that were clipped to the bungees on our boards) where Tara told us. She had a good sense of where the boards would drift and where folks would be best placed so as not to bump into one another. A couple of people chose to hug the mangroves for more access to shade. Mangroves are trees that line virtually every shore in the keys, with spindly roots that poke out of the water like stilts holding up the trees–mangroves are essential to the Florida Keys as they help secure land and prevent erosion. Dara was next to them during the class and said that sometimes the mangroves tickled her as she drifted into them on her board but it felt really nice.

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I intentionally wore a fatkini to the class. I sometimes am fat in public in a political way and sometimes I think showing skin is important to be like, I’m fat, I love my body and this is how I feel comfortable. But lots of people in the class, including some guys, were wearing clothes over their suits or wearing water clothing or something that you would buy in a surf shop.

Tara (pronounced with a long A) was an incredible instructor from start to finish. I loved learning paddleboarding from her, as she delivered the lesson with the patience and sweetness of a good yoga instructor. She made sure at the beginning of the class, when we all settled into our spots, that folks were reminded that yoga is not a competition and to run their own race. I know this already, but it is always nice to have a new-to-me instructor reinforce it as a class culture.

She provided great modifications to all of the poses and reminded everyone it was an all levels class. I tried to put myself into harder poses and would sense my limit and settle into wherever that was. Being in the middle of the board by the handle was the most helpful spot for balance. When preparing for this class Dara and I anticipated that one of us would fall into the water, and it turned out to be me while getting into modified Warrior 2. I don’t even know what happened or how but suddenly I was in the water. I was the first in the class to fall. (The only other person who fell toppled during a handstand and I think that was pretty badass.) Since where we were was very shallow it was really easy for me to hop back onto my board. And it did cool me off!

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I loved the sway of being on the board during poses. I loved the moments where she had us do a pose and stick a foot or a hand or arm into the water. I actually really enjoyed doing it on the board versus a mat, because I felt like there was more cushion on my board than a traditional mat (I think this was because of the type of board I happened to be on). I also found downward facing dog much easier on the board for that reason–I was most worried about falling

Tara’s meditations were great, too! At the beginning of the class she called out the full moon we were experiencing, letting go of the junk from the Winter and opening up to the coming Spring. What she was saying was definitely right-on for me. During our shavasana/end of class corpse pose, she suggested we put a towel over our head if we wanted to (which I did, it helped with shade) and put our hands out into the water. While floating there she said, “Bevin, I need you to pull your hand up,” so I did, very used to surrender during yoga to an instructor. I kind of thought she was paddling by me as she floated among the class a bit while teaching.

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It turned out there was a tiny snake that was slithering by and heading for my hand. The raise gave him enough startle that he headed in a different direction, into the mangroves. Tara said she was glad I didn’t ask why so that she didn’t startle the class with news of the snake during the shavasana.

And then before we opened our eyes she serenaded us with a ukelele version of “I Can See Clearly Now,” which was so profound, being in that beautiful, warm place with no clouds in the sky and melting away the agita of a long, cold Winter.

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My sunscreen game was NOT on point for this adventure. Next time I am going to load up on sport sunblock SPF 80+ and reapply right before shavasana. (I was using Neutrogena dry touch waterproof SPF 55.) I got a really odd burn in parts of my body (especially my knees, which from being on the board rubbed off the sunblock and then got burnt during shavasana).

After we all grabbed our anchors and delivered them to Tara’s board before we headed back to the marina, we stood up and paddled back. I was in the back of the pack, again this time on purpose to visit with Tara. She would warn us when boats passed about what kind of wake we were in for. Unfortunately, in a deep part of the channel one of the wake waves really got me and I kind of toppled to the side and fell from my standing position. It took a lot of work for me to get back on my board. Being a fatty, it can be hard to pull yourself back up onto a board or into a floating vessel, depending on your upper body strength. (I have some but not a lot.) Tara was ready with another modification for me, this time having me try to get back on the board not from the side but from the back. That part worked, with some patience and some wiggling like a seal on a surfboard. I made it back to the marina by staying mostly sitting on my board. It was faster when I was standing but I wasn’t ready to chance it again. Also, standing required a lot of tension in my thighs to hold myself balanced and they were kind of exhausted by the end of all of that paddleboarding and yoga.

Paddleboard yoga was a total trip highlight! Dara and I had so much fun and felt so peaceful afterwards. I was super achy later, mostly my arms because I hadn’t done any serious paddling like that in a long time. I would highly recommend Lazy Dog for all of your paddleboard and paddleboard yoga needs, and Tara for yoga! She teaches at Shakti in Key West, leads guided paddleboard meditations through Lazy Dog, runs Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga training and founded the Paddleboard Yoga at Lazy Dog!

Next time we go to the Florida Keys, Dara and I intend to try doing it twice during our trip as well as a meditation!

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2013-03-27

Blue Bottle Ritual With Spunky: Letting Go of the Old and Womanifesting the New

Nearly fifteen years ago I was working as a camp counselor at a Girl Scout Camp and met this blonde girl who annoyed me. I perceived her to be totally cliquish, shallow and ridiculous. A couple of weeks into camp (and in camp time that’s a lifetime) something shifted and suddenly we bonded over a candy necklace and became close friends. It was years before we realized we were soul mates* but we were certainly BFF right away. Spunky is the closest thing to a sister I have and, these days, through the magic of google video chat, I spend more time with her than 90% of the people I know in New York City.

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This is what Spunky and I look like now.

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This is what we looked like at 19 on “twin day” where either we dressed like twins on purpose or it was a dress your counselor dinner and we let our girls dress us like twins.

Part of being camp counselors is participating in a lot of non-consensual woo. I totally didn’t identify it as woo at the time (and balked at all forms of religion and spirituality), but having been a lifelong Girl Scout, I really knew how to plan rituals and ceremonies chock full of meaning for our girls.

Spunky and I used our current spirituality and past Girl Scout training to design a ritual recently that I thought might help some of my blog readers who are interested in getting energy unstuck.

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This was the first place I ever felt at “home” on a stage. Now being on stage is part of how I pursue my mission in life. Camp really gives kids and young adults life long learnables.

One thing that counselors had done for me in the past that I loved was giving the gift of a blue bottle. There’s a song about it. It’s a little blue bottle that you keep to remind you of summer’s energy, it’s a great gift at a Scout’s Own or a CIT graduation ceremony. I was CIT Director the summer Spunky and I met, and I gave her a blue bottle of her own during one of the ceremonies advancing my girls. I still have the blue bottle I received and it lives on my altar. Whenever Spunky and I do tarot readings over video chat we each grab ours to help us connect.

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One of my friends killed a rattlesnake under that platform tent!

It’s kind of eerie how much energy we mirror back to one another. Often we’ll have the same kind of action going on in our love lives at the same time, though she’s straight and I’m queer and our relationships look different than one another they are still often similar lessons and emotional journeys.

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This is the spot where we shared that candy necklace and became friends!

When I was coming to California for Thanksgiving a few months ago, we decided to create a ritual to womanifest some new direction for us in our thirties. The blue bottles we had were about who we were in our late adolescence and foolish twenties. Now we wanted something to redirect our energy towards what we wanted in our adult post-Saturn Return lives. We also decided to go to the most magical spot we could think of, which happened to be the waterfall on a trail just past the buildings of the camp where we first met.

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Maybe we sweet talked a caretaker in letting us wander the trail through camp.

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My spirituality is pretty grab bag, based on the premise that there is good orderly direction in the universe, a feminine divine that is inclusive of all genders, and deep connection and appreciation for the natural world. Rituals are great and I use them a lot in small ways to help me connect to the Goddess.

Rituals are a way to bind the magic of a particular event. They are a way of ordering your thoughts and pointing you in a particular direction. There are prescribed spells and rituals out in books and on the internet, which can be a helpful framework to start. I much prefer to hear about them first hand from people who have used them before. I find I am pretty good at making meaning out of things and it works more intensely if I just put intention into what I’m doing, regardless if it is a prescribed ritual or I’m just making it up. When designing my ritual with Spunky, I just set about making meaning.

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I totally said a prayer of protection for all the fat and/or awkward kids that will have to participate in this ropes course! Adolescent nightmare!

It was Spunky’s idea to get blue bottles again. We looked all over the Haight (I was staying in the Castro) thinking there would be a head shop or something with tiny bottles but nothing in our price range. We ended up finding them at the exact same Cost Plus in Marin County I used to buy blue bottles for my CITs. We got these great jars intended for spices that actually had blue lids in them.

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We created an altar space with all of the elements of our ritual.

We also bought some things that were symbolic of what we wanted to womanifest to put into the bottle. I got us some purple fluorite, which helps enhance third eye vision, balance and seeing truth behind illusion. We bought these shark teeth for strength. We put in these flowers I found on the ground when we were wandering the Haight at a particularly magical moment “in the flow,” to remind us to keep seeking the natural flow of life. (We both struggle with patience.) When we got onto the camp grounds we each grabbed an acorn (symbolizing kids), a tiny rock from the waterfall and some lichen because I’ve always thought lichen was really rad and it’s a good symbol of light and dark and working together with opposing elements to find balance.

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In the flow on the Haight.

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We also went to a fabric store to buy ribbon to do a binding for the handle of the bottle. I had read about doing magic with braiding–just by braiding something together and meditating on it you are able to infuse that thing with energy. So we each bought three strands of ribbon that symbolized things that we wanted in a life partnership. Mine are a purple fuzzy ribbon (spiritual connection and warmth), a green piece of lace (growing together and openness), and a black studded patent leather ribbon (for hot sex and good style). We each bought a piece of black netting to put around the bottle.

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During our ritual, which was using our energy together in a space that had a lot of meaning to us. We opened it by burning some mugwort for dream/manifesting energy and playing music on Spunky’s iphone. If this were a Scout’s Own I would have had everyone singing some song but we had a lot of Indigo Girls on her iPhone so that’s what we used. We cleansed our stones, put them in the bottle, said some meaningful things, wrote out things we wanted to let go of from our twenties that no longer served us, burned those pieces of paper and let the ashes flow down the waterfall, wrote out womanifestation prayers about our lives and our future life partners, put everything in the bottles, braided our ribbons and tied everything up.

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Spunky wrote this prayer a couple of weeks before in a text message to me and transcribed it to her bathroom mirror and we bound it into our bottles.

It was really special to do this with Spunky at the place where we first met in this lifetime.** Katie, from Empowering Astrology, has suggested to use the power of the Uranus/Pluto square to co-create, and the time is especially auspicious now with this full moon to do use our energy to shift things and clear out emotional clutter.

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*I believe that soul mates come in all kinds, both romantic and non, and sometimes they start out romantic and become not romantic. One of my closest soul mates is more than a friend to me but there really isn’t a word in the English language to describe what we mean to each other.
**Spunky’s energy healer says we’ve been connected since Atlantis. A past life reader I had a session with told me Spunky and I exist to mirror unconditional love to one another on our journeys.

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