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Category Archives: yoga

this is what democracy looks like | women’s march on Washington

I went to Washington D.C. I had no idea what to expect. I arrived on the day of the inauguration. I’d never seen so much red, white, and blue. People so proud of the President. Proud to be “deplorable.” And standing in the street, so many others: angry. I receive comments from time to time from people who say, “Amber, how can you practice so much meditation and yoga and still be so angry?”

To which I say: How can you *not* be?

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Anger is part of the stream of emotion. My meditation practice has taught me to *be* with all of it. My anger has morphed to compassion, mostly.

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I feel deeply in the marrow of my bones that women from all economic demographics should have access to screenings for cervical and breast cancer, that a quality free public education is important, that abortion should be an option, that Muslims – and all immigrants – are welcome in this country, that my wife deserves all of the rights that a husband would have, that clean water is important, that science is real.

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I have struggled to understand: how can you *not* believe in these fundamental rights for all beings?

And, I have realized that perhaps you feel just as righteously right in your beliefs as I do in mine: you’re as proud to be “deplorable” as I am to be “nasty.”

I think I’m starting to understand: you fear big government and/or high taxes and believe a businessman can turn our country around; you lost jobs to globalization or technology or both, and you’re angry because the American Dream you were promised has changed; you fear Islamic extremists and people who enter our country illegally; you are God fearing and do not believe babies should be aborted; somehow (though I still don’t quite understand how) you don’t believe in climate change; you can’t fathom why your health insurance premiums are so high and why you should subsidize healthcare for everyone else especially those who do not care for themselves; you served in the military where you were taught to serve and protect using semi-automatic weapons, and now the thought of some politician taking your right to arms away terrifies you; you believe marriage is between a man and a woman; you fear people who defy binary gender norms in bathrooms.

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Please write to me if I’m speaking out of turn. I can almost empathize, I think. I think I know how you feel.

And, while I can understand, I don’t agree.

I know, I know…you want us to give Trump a chance.

I’ll speak for a couple million people who marched on Saturday: we can’t. We can’t be quiet when equality and human rights are at stake. And, what we’d really like is for you to understand why your insistence that we stop talking about politics is part of the problem.

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Because, if you can afford to look the other way, your privilege is showing. And it’s hard for us to see our own privilege. (At least, I know it is for me.) When you choose to say nothing in the face of injustice, you feed it and condone it…you normalize hatred and inequality. And, it’s not normal. It’s not ok. So maybe instead of covering our ears and closing our eyes and defriending, unfollowing, and creating walls, we can build bridges with our dialogue.

It won’t be easy, I know. So much of what’s beautiful in my life today is the result of hard work, pain and suffering. This personal history as well as our nation’s history gives me hope. We are a resilient people. And progress is a slow march.

One of the most beautiful things I’ve ever witnessed was these women who formed a barricade around the women who were protesting abortion. Their voices were heard. Peacefully. Nonviolently. I hope I can hold this image in my heart for the next four years and eternally.

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One of my dear friend’s mantra this year is: the whole world is my church. May we cease to dress fear and hatred up in religous clothing. May we remember that we belong to each other.
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To purchase one of these images, click here. 25% of proceeds benefit a local refugee who was in a car accident and is trying to feed her children.

when you pursue the Path, the Path pursues you.

Most of the time, when I tell people what I do, they find it intriguing. Sometimes these same people have succumbed to a job with a stable income while their dream career haunts them as they lay sleepless on expensive mattresses and high thread count sheets at night. And they say, “that inspires me,” or “I’m trying to figure out how I can do what I love.”

Often, it seems, I have these conversations in the studio bathroom. Typically as I’m changing clothes from a yoga class to a sunset shoot. Perhaps the bathroom is safe sacred space to ask the yoga teacher / artist how she manifested her dreams. Or, at the very least, as I wash my hands and inspect my teeth, I’m a captive audience for someone who’s inevitably changing from their work to yoga clothes.

Occasionally, when I tell people what I do, however, they look at me with pity. it’s not compassion – there’s a difference. the “oh you poor thing” look. I assume – though I don’t know – it’s: “oh you poor thing, you have to teach yoga / take photographs / write / sell essential oils just to make ends meet.”

And that’s ok. Maybe I’m emitting a frequency of poverty. The first year or so, it certainly was touch and go.

Indeed, I occasionally have to pull back the reigns when my boundaries get lax and remember that I am one person with the same 40 hour work week as everyone else. I used to pride myself on working 60-80 hours per week. But, why? Is busyness in business what I seek to teach?

No.

Busyness distracts me from my Path.

But, I will say this for my friends in the bathroom who are looking for a way to pursue their passions: multiple revenue streams are helpful, if not absolutely necessary, to loving what you do in times of both busy and slow, in sickness and in health, for as long as you shall seek to work happily.

When I have felt that I *must* pick up another class / take a job I don’t want / undersell myself / forego vacation in order to make ends meet, this work – as much as I love it – ceases to be my passion. So, my point is this: seek your Path – your dharma. Your dharma might be to teach yoga. Your dharma might be to create art. But, if you’re a single parent or the primary breadwinner or would like to retire in this lifetime, your dharma might be to have a well-paying job that requires minimal brain power so you can spend the remaining waking hours pursuing whatever lights you up inside.

With my upcoming yoga teacher training, prospective students want to know, “Will I see a return on my investment?”

I’m the same way. I own $50,000 in photography equipment and would wager to guess I have spent at least that in yoga trainings over the past 5 years. and, I invested in a graduate counseling degree that I’m going to pay for monthly, for at least 5 more years. And with each course and camera, website upgrade and training trip, I’ve wanted to know “will I see a return on my investment?”

“You have a degree you don’t use,” my now wife who once helped me start my business, said to me when I was working my magic on our budget a while back. She’s kinda right and kinda wrong. If not for that decision to finish that degree, I’d not have pursued yoga teaching as a part time, temporary thing. I wouldn’t have met the friends I did – one soul brother who married us nearly a year ago. I don’t think I’d draw the private clients I do. I don’t think I’d know how to get the people I photograph to open up to me and my lens.

This I know: when you pursue your Path, your Path pursues you. So I’ve stopped asking, “Will I see a return on my investment” and I’ve started asking myself, “Will this propel me on my Path?” And then I get quiet and listen for the wisdom within. In August that wisdom led me to turn down job after job after job in favor of a foray in film where I took photos mostly of the ground and the sky and when I could catch them off guard – my Dana and Cash Diehl. And this time allowed me the space and dedication to get outside help for an eating disorder that’s plagued me off and on – mostly on – for years. I can’t pursue my Path if I’m starving myself. And, I can’t write much about this part of my journey just yet.

Seeking the Wisdom within has yet to steer me wrong. Yoga helps me tap into it. May you – all of you…those who meet me with curiosity and pity alike – have the courage to follow the Path which lights you up inside. With or without a financial return, your soul will be fuller for it. And all we take with us when we leave here is the light we garner in this life.
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light up your life retreat 2.0

prana del mar 2017 announcement

I can remember sitting in my room awaiting the shuttle to the airport and fully knowing that I would be back the next year. And then I got home. And life happened.

Illness. Bills. Work.

Don’t get me wrong, beautiful things happened, too. Even in the trenches of life, there is beauty to behold.

For a brief moment, I thought, Maybe I’ll wait a few years to book another retreat.

In all honesty though, the experience on this retreat, in many ways, prepared me for what were some of the most challenging days I’ve had in this life. I can see how one experience prepares us for another.

See the magic that occurred a few months ago here.

Packages are available for $2195 – 2995. If you sign up prior to August 1st, you receive $100 off. Email me for all the details. amber@ambershumake.com

light + laughter | Prana del Mar sunset shoot

All my favorite people laugh well. If I was to travel the world teaching yoga, I’d take this gorgeous woman with me so she’d laugh at my jokes. Her presence in class is always a gift. So 7 days with her on a fabulous yoga retreat – wow. I think God gives us people who help us along our collective and individual paths. I know she’s done that for me. She wanted to do a shoot for a big upcoming birthday.

“When was the last time you had your portrait taken?” I asked her as we traipsed out to the beach.

“Olan Mills,” she laughed. “I wouldn’t feel comfortable with anyone else,” she said.

You are worth celebrating. Who you are…what you do – it matters. You matter. Never will there be another soul exactly like you. You, make a difference in this world.

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wind + water | sunset at Prana del Mar

This beauty turned 25 while we were on retreat in Cabo at Prana del Mar. We celebrated with a windy and whimsical photo shoot. Ahhh, that light. Maybe someone will hire me to tag along on retreats and take sunset photographs each evening. A girl can dream…

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how I’ve realized my childhood career dreams

My father sits across from me, only a gear shift away. We are outside of my grandmother’s apartment. I want to live in an apartment. Like the last complex in the bad neighborhood where she lived before. The one with the courtyard and the peacock and Myrtle. Myrtle is 90. I am just 4 years old, as this is one of my earliest childhood memories. I wonder if I’ll live to be 90. And she is tall, unlike my grandmother who’s crippled. Grandma walks with a crutch under one arm, and her fingers are tangled like tree limbs.

But, we have a house which is supposedly better somehow. We live next door to a bad man. He poisoned our puppy.  This apartment has a basketball court, and I’d like to practice, but Grandma says it’s unsafe to play by myself. She worries all the time and always locks the top lock. In the summer, she watches me and we watch The Young and the Restless by day and WWF by night. Sometimes she calls Myrtle to see if the wrestler’s blood is real or fake. “Do you think that’s ketchup?” And Nicky and Victor are getting divorced. I wonder if my parents will get divorced.

My father rewinds the cassette tape once again, and we sing, “What a Wonderful World.” And it still is. And he asks me what I want to be when I grow up. And I don’t really know. Probably not a pool man like him. (He’s hardly ever home.) “A singer!” I exclaim.

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Long ago, I cast that little girl out. At once, she is wise and innocent, confident and shy, sensitive and bold. She knows who she is and what she wants. She sees others’ fears as irrational and has not yet developed her own. She knows she’s here with a big voice and something special to share.

In many shamanic societies, if you came to a shaman or medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions:

When did you stop dancing?

When did you stop singing?

When did you stop being enchanted by stories?

When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?

Where we have stopped dancing, singing, being enchanted by stories, or finding comfort in silence is where we have experienced the loss of soul.

Dancing, singing, storytelling, and silence are the four universal healing salves.

On my recent retreat, we sang each day. Through the chakras we journeyed holding space for others’ joy and sorrow, and everything in between. And the sound moved all the emotion. Each time I’d lead the chanting, I felt so vulnerable. At one point, I admitted it – out loud. “I chant every day, but to lead chanting makes me feel vulnerable.”

Don’t.” One said.

She sings. Professionally. She’s given me voice lessons when I was losing my voice each week. Her single word of caution affirmed me.

Someone I trusted taught me to speak from somewhere deep inside of me. I’m grateful for the teaching. Yet, like so many other new things, I misunderstood. I thought deep inside me meant low and baritone. And speaking in that more “masculine” octave all of the time was causing me pain in my throat. I now understand that deep inside me is that young carefree girl who wanted to sing. And her voice was not deep nor low.

Through chanting, I’ve found a way to sing. And through chanting, I can sit afterward in the silence held by the Sacred. I am doing my best to bring the young girl inside of me home. I broke 2 malas this week. Some say this is good luck. Some say my intention has come to being. I know I cursed a phrase I’m not proud of when it happened – more vehemently the second time. Sometimes the Divine shows off.

What we say vibrates in the world. The sacred mantras vibrate at a frequency far higher than four-letter expletives.

I know how to connect to my lower consciousness. I can stare blindly at my phone and social media for a couple hours. That’s always a great start. Haha. Haha but it’s only funny because it’s true.

Chanting helps me access my higher consciousness. Thank you to the teachers – past and present, seen and unseen, the kind and even the unkind – who’ve helped me find this Way. And to the sweet, brave girl inside my heart, I bow. The way she sees the world – her curiosity and tenacity – continues to astound me. Sometimes life, should we choose to pay attention, is far more beautiful than we ever could have dreamed.

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photo by Susan Ross on the beach at Prana del Mar

light up your life retreat 1.0

you plan and you pray and you pray and you plan and sometimes an experience defies your wildest dreams. these women. this place. beautiful. sacred. all of it makes me weep. they showed up in the most magnificent ways  for one another. my heart is full. my life is changed. how this is my path, I’m unsure. grace. gratitude. joy beyond belief.
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Prana Del Mar

http://pranadelmar.com/

what kind of yoga I teach

I get asked often what kind of yoga I teach. I don’t teach a brand. The “masters” I once followed keep proving how human and flawed they are – like me. It’s not that I expect them to be perfect. Really, I don’t. However, sometimes their flaws (i.e., sexual misconduct, emotional abuse, narcissism, etc.) taint the brand, and I can’t, in good faith say, “I teach X Yoga” any more.

And I’ve tired of teaching fast classes. The pace of life is too fast for my taste. I’m looking for ways to slow down and stay present and savor each moment. My yoga practice seemed a fine place to start. On a 68″ mat is always where I start to try new, scary things. And the way in which I teach yoga is a reflection of the way I practice yoga. Of course, I modify the practice to suit the bodies and souls I see before me. But, mostly, I teach “deliciously slow.”

And I know there are students who need to cross their cardio off during their yoga practice – to kill two workout birds with one stone. They just don’t have enough time, so they have to get both done as quickly and efficiently as possible. And I say this without judgment because I make it a practice never to judge a path that I used to find myself upon. There’s a ton of good yoga to go around this town. You can find those classes at every studio, every hour on the hour.

In years past, I might have revolted at who I’ve become as a teacher. My ego wouldn’t have liked me much.(My ego still doesn’t). But during those years, I didn’t live inside my body. I couldn’t teach what I didn’t know. 

And, if I’m to be honest, sometimes I still don’t live inside my body. I ignore the signals. Until my body says: no. While my mind is a sophisticated wordsmith, my body speaks mostly in single syllables.

No. No. No.

And after no: Slow. Slow. Slow.

I was flattened by a Mack Truck of an illness last week. And the truth is that for about a month leading up to that illness, I’d known something needed to give. I’d been meditating on how to create some changes. I’d been talking with my new less famous spiritual “masters,” my business advisers, my wife, my parents, my therapist.

Dana and I see this really no-nonsense therapist. This is not by my choice. But, there was a dark night of the soul back in January of 2014 when we looked at each other after I’d already separated our cd’s – the same cd’s I’d merged in the hopes that mixed hers and hers cd’s might serve as a binding legal contract for our commitment. We looked at each other and realized that we didn’t want to give up. I knew that every problem we had, I’d revisit in any future relationship. I could change partners. My same character defects would still follow me.

I won’t speak for her, here. I don’t really know what changed. But, she agreed to go to therapy…under the condition that she could pick the therapist.

No airy fairy metaphysical karmic nonsense. (We’d been to therapy together before).

And this new no-nonsense cut-to-the-chase save-your-drama-for-your-momma therapist has saved our relationship. Sure, we did the work, but we couldn’t have done it alone. She translated for us when we were speaking different languages.

And a couple weeks ago, she says to me, “Amber, what would it take for you to rethink your schedule?”

The question prompts me to spend 20 minutes – the equivalent of around $75 for those of you keeping score at home – attempting to answer that question. I can rationalize anything. It’s a gift left over from childhood. Most addicts, I find, have this talent/defect. And at the end of the session, after all of my bull shit, she says, “Interesting.”

“How?” I want to know. Sure, I love everything I do. It’s interesting work. But my schedule? Demanding, unmanageable, unsustainable. Insane. These are the words others have used to describe my schedule.

“Interesting that you’re in a career where you teach people to connect to themselves and you’re so disconnected from your own needs.”

All of this for $150 I give her. $160, actually. She doesn’t have change.

Thank you. See you next month, we say.

For a couple weeks, I brood over her comment. The truth in it. The irony. And meanwhile, I journal. I reflect. I realize that I’m exhausted, which is not news to anyone who lives with me. A few good naps might cure all that ails me.

I don’t think anyone, including me, was surprised when I lost my voice and began coughing up colors of the rainbow and aching with pain and sleeping for days at a time.

In his book Divine Therapy & Addiction, Thomas Keating writes about how in aviation history, planes had an automatic pilot which would signal with a beep into the pilot’s headphones when he was off course. To the right was one beep. To the left, two beeps. When he was dead center, no beeps. Silence.

I’ve found the same to be true in my own body. When I’m connected to my highest Self and wisdom, when I’m acting within what my intuition deems to be God’s will, I feel at peace. And, when I’m not, my body gives me signals. The sound starts as a series of intermittent beeps. And soon, my ears are ringing and I know something is not right.

How intelligent the body is, to notify us when something is amiss.

I’m grateful for the time I spent on the couch last week. A forced landing of sorts. A divinely ordained change of course.

And, now I’m back, and I’m realizing, yet again, that I don’t have to teach any sort of way. How liberating. How frightening.

A couple weeks ago, I asked a few regular students for a testimonial about my ability to teach inversions. I teach inversions every day. Slowly. Progressively. I’m not sure what I was looking for other than something to put on a flyer. And one replied with something that’s stuck with me:

“As you probably know, I still can’t kick up into handstand. It’s happened maybe 2 or 3 times in the last year.  This is more of a reflection of my fear than your teaching skills. However, if I’m being honest, the allure of a handstand pales in comparison to what you have taught me about love, forgiveness, compassion, peace, balance, strength, and patience. <3

Sorry if this wasn’t what you were looking for, but it’s the truth.”

Of all the testimonials I received, hers is ironically the only one I’ve used. Though handstand hasn’t quite happened in the physical form yet, she’s nailed it as far as I’m concerned.  

Spiritual principles are what I hope I embody and emit and, in some way, transmit through osmosis to the beautiful people whose mats find my classes.  I’m going to teach what I need to learn. And right now, I need to learn a second speed: slow. Ergo, my classes: deliciously slow. 

Headshot below captured by my beloved after she told me to think of the time when Cash Diehl photobombed my camel pose (also pictured below).

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SoulSpace Yoga Community | Fort Worth Yoga

Somehow with the help of my two amazing assistants, I got to be both behind the camera and in front of the camera for this shoot, which was (I think) a first for me. I was nervous. Being nervous is part of my process, as is neurotic overplanning and tragically rehearsing everything that could possibly go wrong. The fact that we pulled this off together gives me hope for my sister’s wedding that I’ll photograph in November.

I love these images because they’re clean and modern + edgy and fashion inspired + sweet and strong – with some sun flare. And SoulSpace Yoga Community, as I was telling a student at the car wash during a chance encounter the other day, has a little bit of everything. Yin + Restore, Hatha Flow, Power…what’s your pleasure? You can find a style of yoga to suit you under a single roof. There’s a beginners class every single Tuesday at 6 pm. The growing community of students is warm and welcoming. And these people, pictured, are professionals. Each shows up in his or her own unique way. Together we are stronger. Many of them, I’ve photographed numerous times through the years. And each time they get a little more comfortable, which translates artistically. I’m blessed to call them friends. True friends will tell you when you’ve got lipstick on your teeth. I love the outtakes perhaps more than the ones that were on the posed portrait list.

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