Handstand Workshop with beachyogagirl

I set out early last Saturday morning to attend a handstand workshop given by Kerri Verna, known in the land of instagram as beachyogagirl. I waffled back and forth on whether to go or not. It would take up most of my weekend and I really wanted to attend a friend’s bellydance recital Sunday evening. Thankfully, Jason encouraged me to go and even to attend the recital on Sunday, so I went and I’m so glad I did.

BYG Workshop

I was nervous because I had never been to the Asheville Yoga Center and I was going by myself. I don’t do well in groups. I feel socially awkward and if the structure is terrible it irritates me. Lol I’m a lot of fun! I knew going by myself would be challenging, but I had a lot I was thinking about that had been put on the back burner, so I took the time to hang by myself.

Asheville Yoga Center

They have a boutique in the workshop building and it is awesome. They have clothes, books, manduka mats and jewelry. It was really interesting to see a lot of the clothes and jewelry that are promoted on Instagram up close. I had been wanting a lighter mat and was able to pick one out and see the amazing colors in person. I chose a color I don’t think I would have picked online and I’m really happy with it.

Asheville Yoga Center

The first workshop was on building strength for handstands. Handstands are not yoga, but it seems like we’ve westernized yoga to incorporate them into our practices. Handstands are a culmination of a lot of different strengths; core to keep your alignment, hip flexors to help with the press and balance and flexibility. She gave a lot of information about building that strength including the zinger that handstands are an everyday practice. To build and keep that strength you have to work on them everyday.

BYG Workshop

The afternoon session focused on the how-to of handstands beginning with headstand. I can DO all of the inversions; supported headstand, tripod headstand, pincha, and handstand. That doesn’t mean I can do them well. She went through the stages of strength beginning with supported headstand. If you think of these poses as steps on a ladder, I am only on the first rung. The reason I’m there is because I haven’t built up the strength in my core to bring both legs straight up to headstand at the same time. That doesn’t mean I don’t practice tripod, for example, but that does mean I have some core work to do.

BYG Workshop

The last session was called strong and bendy. It focused on some intense stretching to go one step further in flexibility. I learned a few buddy exercises to increase my hamstring flexibility as well as flexibility in my back. We ended the workshop with doing a drop back to wheel, I haven’t done something like that since taking acrobatics around 12 years old. It was scary. I’m extremely cautious about my back, but as I listened to another girl share her fears about why she “can’t” do a drop back I began to understand that some of what I tell myself was untrue. I can do wheel pose. I have built up enough strength in my back not to hurt myself or compress my spine, if done correctly. I was teetering on not doing the drop back, but I knew it was something I could do and something I should try. It turns out I’m pretty badass at drop backs. Something “broke” inside me when I did my first one, a triumph of sorts and freedom. I did it a second time and plan to continue practicing it.

BYG Workshop

Kerri was a character. At first, to be honest, I didn’t really like her. She has a strong personality. While learning bakasana (crow pose) I asked if the goal was to get your feet close to your bottom. Her reply was that the “goal” was to live a joyful life. That checked and humbled me a bit. She continued to make statements that had you question your motives. Why are you doing yoga? Why do you want to do something advanced, like chin stand? She was far from a meditative teacher; more practical than zen, but in that way you could take it or leave it. I took them. I began to notice that I’m not very kind in my self talk, that I care too much of what people think of me and that I had lost the focus of my yoga practice. She gave me a lot to think about.

By the end of the weekend, I was refreshed with a new perspective and a renewed focus.

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Yoga IS About How You Look

…at yourself.

I began my yoga journey in early February about two years ago. I took yoga classes at the gym. People scoff at that, but I had the pleasure of learning from three amazingly different teachers who enabled me to have a firm foundation in the asanas. I then discovered Instagram (ig) and the awesome community of yogis on there. A lot of “instafamous” yogis post on ig and hold challenges for one week to a month at different levels of difficulty. I fell in love with this platform for pursuing my practice. It encouraged me to practice daily and helped to broaden my ideal of yoga by seeing many different people share many different poses. It most definitely is a community that is supportive and encouraging.

When I first started perusing ig looking for yogis to follow I noticed that there were two categories of posters; the showoffs and the authentics. The showoffs just did cool poses and used ig for marketing their classes, or their brand. You could eventually tell they didn’t care about anything else. The authentics cared. They explained the poses. They shared where they are coming from and their difficulties. They encouraged acceptance and peace within the yoga community. Those people I follow and the “friends” I’ve made I still follow and cheer them on as they continue to grow in their practice.

By taking pictures and videos of myself to post to ig I was able to see my practice as it is and tweak alignment or my perception as needed. At first my pictures were embarrassing, but I laughed about it and knew that yoga is a journey and I would grow and learn each time I practiced. I learned to love my body. I learned to accept my limitations. I gained a confidence and courage to try new things. Sometimes I nailed a pose and sometimes I fell on my face. Literally. I learned that there are poses you just can’t do (yet). No matter how many times you try to force it and as a result, I learned to let go. All on a social media platform.

The problem a lot of people seem to have with posting yoga pictures is that it makes other’s feel bad about their body. That is part of the yoga journey, in my opinion, separating yourself from other people’s idealism and seeing yourself for who you are and what you are capable of within your yoga practice. If you catch a glimpse of yourself in a yoga pose and you don’t like what you see? Evaluate. Tweak your alignment, recognize what your body can and can’t do. Accept your limitations. Make changes; changes to the pose, changes to your practice, changes in your perception. I would go so far as to occasionally take a picture or video of your practice intentionally, just to see what’s going on and better connect your mind to your body. I know yoga is about how you feel in the pose too, but sometimes it’s hard to connect what your feeling with what you are doing in your brain. Have you ever tried to wiggle your ears? Raise one eyebrow? It’s hard to locate those muscles! It helps to look in a mirror and it’s the same concept.

Here are pictures from some of my first challenges:

This is around 8 months into learning yoga.
crow Crow has always come pretty easy to me. Some poses are like that, depending on body type and strengths.

peacock Same with peacock.

Warrior IIWarrior II

standing split Standing split

twisted chair This is one of my first twisted chairs. I look at a lot of these and I see a heaviness. My body was not used to holding poses or moving in this way.

side crow This is where I was at with extending my legs out in side crow. I could not understand how to get my leg up and out. It just hung there. Lol

my first head stand This is my very first headstand. My teacher walked me through it and I had the foundation and confidence of trying other poses and the strength from all the sun salutations I’d been doing.

bird of paradise This is what bird of paradise still looks like for me (maybe a slight straightening in my leg after two years). It’s the same in boat pose. My legs will not straighten, no amount of forcing it will help. I just have to wait, continue practicing and one day I will get there. There is a girl in my yoga class that can rock boat with straight legs and I am so jealous. She is a reminder to me of humility, acceptance and patience. I can’t rock all the poses, but I can keep coming back to my mat and continuing to devote time and energy to my practice, to myself. Instagram does not take away from that.

As a bonus, taking pictures and videos of your poses allows you to look back and see the progress you’ve made. If you’re not into posting photos of your yoga poses, that’s cool too. For some, yoga is an intensely private practice. That’s one of the great things about yoga, it’s your practice. Rock it for you, share it as you wish. Unless you’re practicing naked yoga…maybe keep that to yourself. ;-)

Find me on ig: dgreb
Some of my favorite instagram accounts: freedivegirl, catbradleyyoga, kinoyoga, beachyogagirl, yogabeyond
Our local studio: beyondbendingyoga
Mamabluebird: mamablue_bird

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Fast Shutter Speed

that view The cats sit still and I might be able to catch Chip sleeping, but when we go for a walk, Chip lets loose and looks like a Greyhound.


Chip It gave me a chance to play with my camera using a fast shutter speed and a maintained ISO.

Oreo and the kids Oreo came out from nowhere and found a spot in the shade while the kids played on an old swingset behind our house.

It was cold, but it was fun! Love learning how to use my camera.

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First of the Plants

CarnationsI couldn’t resist grabbing a few plants this week while grocery shopping. I needed some color on my porch!

Herbs I love cooking with fresh herbs. I grew from seeds last year, but just went quick and easy for now with Parsley, Oregano, Basil and Cilantro.

Pansies are so hardy and bloom big and quick, so I went that route this year. We’ll see how they do. We’re still in the process of prepping the garden, but hopefully we’ll be planting soon! I guess I need to get my seeds going, but I bet we do plants for that area as well.

Pansies I took these pics with my camera in Manual Mode. I am very much enjoying learning how to use it, finally. I think it was a Christmas present a few years ago… better late than never!

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Spring Mala

Is it Spring yet?? I feel like the hamster with his ball in Bolt, “LET IT BEGIN!!” Haha.

Spring Mala

This shade of green is my favorite, especially coupled with a dark brown wood in which you can see the grain. Love it! I’ve also added howlite for the guru bead to aid in calming rage and soothing anxiety. Spring is a time for new beginnings as we come out of the dormancy of winter to bright sun and a fresh start.

The new Spring mala is in the shop at Beyond Bending Yoga. Remember, all malas are 10% off this month in honor of mindfulness and meditation.

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Learn Something New

Spring Blooms I’m only a few lessons into learning how to use my dslr, but I am loving it! I’ve taken a few “classes” about taking pictures, but mostly related to blogging. I feel like this is next level, which is so exciting.

We were out in the yard on Saturday. It was such a beautiful day and we were finally giving the yard a little tlc. We cleaned out the flower beds, prepped the garden a little, picked up sticks and trash and toys galore. We raked and blew the leaves. Along the way I found these buds. I just love seeing the first bit of spring. Blooms coming from sticks!

Spring Blooms I took these pics in manual mode and I am just so proud. We’re learning how to manually focus, but ISO comes into play automatically with that. It’s amazing what creatively opens up when you venture into learning something new. Tweaking them in Lightroom is another adventure as well.

Spring Blooms I noticed this little bud that grows on the vine on our fence. It blocks the sunlight to the garden, so we were taking it out, but it is fierce! I encourage you to learn something new this Spring. Get out of your comfort zone and see the world a little differently. :)

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Journey to a Half Sleeve

I got my first tattoo at 18. It’s hidden and not my favorite. I waited almost ten years to get another and it was quite a liberating experience. I enjoy writing, so I chose a quill.

Feather tattoo

The following year I decided on another tattoo and contemplated the idea of an eventual half sleeve.

Icon tattoo Icon Tattoo in Portland, OR in the fall of 2011. I traveled to see my bestie and made an appointment there because they are amazing.

Icon tattoo

Icon tattoo This is still my favorite tattoo and what led to the name, “Mamabluebird”. I get compliments daily during the summer and this artist was just starting out and now is so booked in advance you most likely can’t even get an appointment!

Two years and a baby later I decided on another tattoo.

Geisha tattoo I held onto the image of this geisha for a couple of years. I like that she’s dancing and I imagine that she’s dancing for herself with memories of who she used to be taking with her only the things that matter. I had this tattoo done in Waynesville. It was okay, but the shading wasn’t great. I went back in 2013 to Portland and had an artist there “fix it”. I love the delicate lines, but don’t love the dark shading, though it was necessary. PSA: Don’t settle on an artist and don’t make rash decisions just after giving birth. Lol

Recently I got two new tattoos. One is a small acorn. My family (way back) is from Sweden and Norway and descended from vikings according to my aunt and uncle who are extremely into genealogy. There is a Norse myth that during a storm Thor took refuge under an oak tree and because of this people used to place acorns on their windowsills for protection against lightning. I also like that acorns only grow on mature trees (20+ years old). Imagine what that tree endures in order to produce acorns? I like the determination behind the symbol. I got it at Sacred Lotus in Asheville and set up an appointment for a few months later with the same artist.


Sacred Lotus Tattoo

20160206_141329 We probably placed the stencil ten times, to make sure it was placed with enough space between my other tattoos. I had originally thought I’d get a mandala and flowers, but a week or so before the appointment I knew I wasn’t that into sacred geometry and I knew that a deer would mean more to me as well as be more unique. Jessica worked hard on my sketch incorporating a rose and ranunculus into the sketch. (Some of the pics to follow are not really flattering, just me documenting the process for myself)

Sacred Lotus Tattoo This is the position I was in (or with my arm straight) for about 4 hours. There was a pee break or two in there. :)

Sacred Lotus TattooA break after the line work was done.

Sacred Lotus Tattoo

Sacred Lotus Tattoo

Sacred Lotus Tattoo

She did an awesome job. She is a portrait/paint artist as well, and listens to what you want and takes her time.

The tattoo was really angry for a few days, but after about a week the swelling went down and it started the itchy peeling process.
Sacred Lotus Tattoo

Sacred Lotus Tattoo

For the last year or so, since we moved further away from town, we see a lot of wild animals. My mom and I play this game or whatever about spirit animals. When you see an animal, going about your day, it is sending you a message. To see a deer is to be reminded to be gentle with yourself and with others. I like that they also are strong and protective of their children while representing nurturing and femininity. I chose the rose for my mama, being dark pink for gratitude and appreciation. The ranunculus is a flower Jason and I used in our wedding.

I love that tattoos can just be cool pictures or they can have significant meaning. They represent a choice made at a specific time and can reflect how far you’ve come. I’ve been working on this half sleeve for about 5 years now and although it isn’t finished, I like that it is something I’m building on over many years.

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Fire Mala

Fire Mala

Most of the time my malas are planned out and coordinated, but sometimes inspiration strikes. This new mala I’ve named the Fire Mala, has multi-colored thread and three different kinds of wood beads; grey wood, rose wood and palm wood. It also has carnelian stone for the guru bead. Carnelian is one of my favorites since it helps motivate and to clarify your goals.


The Fire Mala has half of the beads a regular mala has (54 beads+1), so it is shorter, about 24 inches in length. If you’d like to meditate on your goals or need help in the motivation department, this mala is for you. Especially, if you need a spark of creativity or confidence.

You’ll notice a second mala with the rose wood beads in the picture above. I made one sans knots for those that prefer a more simpler mala. You can find both at Beyond Bending Yoga this week.

Fire Mala

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Using a Mala for Meditation

Mini MeditatorIt took some time as well as a bit of trial and error, but I have finally developed a great system for making malas that last. I really enjoy making them and the many combinations of beads and thread are fun to come up with too.

A mala is traditionally 108 beads with a guru bead (109th bead) and a tassel. They can also come in 18, 27 or 54 beads. You can have an all wood bead mala or mix in some stone or crystal beads which add additional properties to your mala. You may have heard the term japa mala used to describe the beaded necklaces. Japa is just a sanskrit word to describe the practice of meditating with a mala, so don’t let that strange word scare you away from trying this awesome tool for meditation.

Why should you meditate? Meditation gives you a period of time to refocus. If you are anything like me, you are being pulled in a thousand different directions all day long and all the issues or problems carry over into the next day until they are resolved. Meditation gives you a time to set them all down and pick them back up again refreshed and ready to make good choices. A mala is a good tool to help with that refocusing. It uses the sensation of the beads and definitive end to your time, along with counting each breath and repetition.

How do I use a mala to meditate? It’s quite simple and completely up to you. Traditionally, you would hold a 108 bead mala in your right hand only and use your middle finger and thumb to go through each bead, taking a breath between while saying a mantra for each repetition. This video is awesome (and short) for explaining the process as well as how to charge or cleanse your mala.

If you want a less rigid way of meditating with your mala, here is a fun video.

I don’t necessarily believe you have to have a 108 bead mala and the guru bead can simply be a good thought, a prayer to God or the universe, or a final, very deep breath to end your meditation time. It is up to you. There are many reasons why a japa mala uses 108 beads. I have made a handful of malas with only 90 or 100. You could give numerological meaning to those numbers if you’d like. A traditional rosary, for example, has 5 sets of 10 beads with a bead in between each decade. All that to say, it has meaning only if you give it meaning. If you are a christian, meditation can be a time of meditating on the word of God. Choose a short verse and make it your mantra. “Be still, and know” or “All things work together for good”. Whatever you are needing at the time, or whatever He brings to mind.

My personal mala has 108 beads with some of them being Carnelian and the rest Palm wood beads. Carnelian is used for clarification and motivation towards your goals. I often wear it on school days. I don’t have a dedicated mantra, but meditate on what is needed at the time. Meditating also helps get to the root of an issue in the way that you have to decide what it is you are feeling and how best to combat the negativity. Perhaps you are having a mom-guilt day, where you’ve failed a couple of times or let someone down. The mantra, “I am enough” or “I deserve love and I give love easily.” will quickly turn your thoughts positive and allow you to internalize truth. We talk to ourselves constantly, whether we realize it or not and it’s usually negative. If you make a mistake, you might beat yourself up about it for hours afterwards while you go about your day, replaying the situation and trying to come up with what you could have done better or differently. After a time of meditating consistently, you’ll start recognizing that hurtful talk, be able to take a deep breath and let it go or redirect your thoughts.

A mantra is a sound, word or phrase used in meditation. A quick search will give you a lot of different chants you can use or like in the second video, she uses, “I am healing every day”. Other ideas are; “I am light to those around me”, “I am content with what I have and need nothing more” or you may meditate on a person, perhaps someone you need to forgive. Saying the words, “I forgive you” will do wonders for letting that hurt go, even if you never speak to that person again. Taking a breath in and then out per bead will do wonders as well. You’ll come back to your breath in a stressful situation. A great quote I found by J. Donald Walters, reads, “The more regularly and the more deeply you meditate, the sooner you will find yourself acting always from a center of inner peace.” I love that quote and have found it to be true.

Meditation Tools

You can also incorporate other tools into your meditation time. A small singing bowl or some Tingshas are wonderful sound therapy. They can be used to cleanse energy in yourself or your home. If my family gets in a funk, I’ll take the tingshas to the corners of the room, much like with sage.

Finally, If you are having a hard time in Savasana after yoga, an eye pillow is a wonderful tool. It works much like the beads do on a mala. The eye pillow resting over your eyes brings attention to that sensation allowing you to then focus on your breath.

I enjoy using all of these things in my practice and it wasn’t until I started meditating that I really started to see a change in myself for the better. I encourage you to try it.

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Gluten Free Holidays

Thanksgiving 2015

I’ve had to adjust some recipes for our holiday meals, but thankfully not too much.

If you can have gluten, any flour recipe calls for a scoop and a dump and you’re on your way, but if you want gluten free, there seems to be 100 different flours you can use and 100 different ways to mess up the recipe. A lot of gf cooking is trial and error, really expensive trial and error. It’s also personal preference. Coconut flour is amazing to some people, but I cannot stand it. It’s too dense for me. You can buy premade gluten free flours, but they’re, again, expensive and I hate to buy premade when I can make my own. Bob’s is supposedly a good one (I didn’t love his pancakes, so I’m hesitant to try it), but it’ll do in a pinch.

I’ve found this site to be a great source of information when trying new flours. She explains the differences giving a system to it which allows you to create your own blend. I highly recommend it! I used Gluten-Free Girl’s recipe and had to grind the flour and then everything tasted like dirt. :/ That’s not to say that all of her recipes are bad. She’s got a great chorizo breakfast recipe in her book Gluten Free Girl Every Day. I’ve used other recipes with coconut flour that came out so dense I could have knocked someone out if I threw them. The last blend I tried turned out well and worked for all the recipes that need just regular flour, like homemade mac n cheese. I used one part Sorghum, one part Brown Rice and one part Potato Starch. I loved it. It definitely mimicked wheat flour without getting weird. Petite Allergy Treats has another flour recipe that was a good starter. I’m not a fan of a brown rice/white rice combo which is probably why I don’t care for Bob’s mix. I do use his individual flours however. Anyway! Pick your poison! ;)

On to the recipes! Substituting gf flour is the first way to make a holiday gf. What about gravy? They have gf gravy packets, it’s gonna come with all the rest of the junk, but that is an option if that’s what you like. There is also a really easy homemade version that I found to be awesome. If you want brown gravy, just use beef broth instead along with your gf flour and you’re good to go. It’s a great basic recipe, but I added some spices like garlic and onion powder.

My all time favorite mac n cheese recipe is Fanny Farmer’s. Other mac n cheese recipes I’ve tried are really complicated and the timing has to be perfect. This one is simple. The kids love it. I just use Barilla Gluten Free elbows and my gf flour. I’ve found that a mix of corn and rice flour pasta is the key. Single flour pasta like brown rice pasta is gross. Don’t do it! No taste and the pasta is mushy. :( I’d love to make my own pasta one day, but that is far into the future.

My aunt has a cornbread dressing recipe that we’ve used for years. This year I substituted gf cornbread instead of the usual jiffy. It turned out well!

Here’s the original recipe:

Aunt Carrie's Cornbread Dressing

Aunt Carrie's Cornbread Dressing


  • 1 (16 oz) package dry corn bread mix. (2 boxes of Jiffy – I make muffins)
  • 2 Tablespoons of butter
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • ½ cup chopped carrots
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 2 Tablespoons dried sage
  • 2 cans vegetarian or chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Prepare the dry corn mix according to package directions. Cool and crumble.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease one 9x13 baking dish.
  3. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and sauté the celery, carrots and onion until soft.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the celery, carrots, the crumbled corn bread, veggie stock, orange juice, sage and salt and pepper to taste; mix well. (It should be a little soupy.)
  5. Place into prepared baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
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(I’ll update the recipe with a better picture after Christmas because we will definitely be making some)

It’s not always easy to accommodate gluten free, vegetarian or otherwise, but it’s nice when you’ve got some basic recipes to swap out that taste good! Hope you have a lovely holiday! Let me know if you use any of the recipes and how they turn out. :)

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