Monday, February 28, 2011

Follow The Yogi

Today was my first Follow The Yogi class over at CFY. During the Teacher Training interview, Jonny (Kest, the owner of Center For Yoga) had mentioned it was probably a good class to try out. However, it is at 6am, which has always made it impossible to get to seeing as my bf works nights and his 4 yr old's daycare doesn't open until 7am. That means I am playing babysitter while the class is going on.

As "luck" (quoted because I don't really believe in luck) would have it, my boyfriend finally moved to new job on a day shift the same week I start Teacher Training - meaning I can now fit this 6am practice into my daily routine.

I pretty much rolled out of bed and into my car, a bit nervous about this class I knew nothing about. I arrived at 5:58, and class had already begun! That added to my nervousness, since I had to walk into a class already in progress. I snuck in feeling a bit out of place and laid down my mat. 

The thing about this class, is you are basically following along to Jonny's personal morning practice. He calls out the asana's in Sanskrit but there is no more explanation and the room is pretty dark. Therefore, I spent most of my time squinting through the darkness to the people around me to see what we were doing next. What subtle change happened between Letter B and Letter C? Did she just point instead of flex? Because of my nervousness, it wasn't a great class for me. I couldn't actually let go into any of the poses because I was worried that I was doing the wrong thing. And it seemed like just when I would get comfortable doing something he would call out the next pose. 

The more unfamiliar names he called, the bigger the feeling of dread. What had I gotten myself into? Was I supposed to know all of these poses in Sanskrit before starting Teacher Training - everyone else in the room seemed to know them! Would 3 months be enough time to learn all of this stuff? Aaahh!

Then I pictured myself the first time I took a Hot Vinyasa class. It was a super-long flow that the teacher left us with after only running through it twice. I remember being lost and worrying so much about what came next that I didn't get anything out of the class except a lot of stress. But I went back, and the stress was maybe a tiny bit better the next time. And the next. And the next. Until it got to the point I look forward to long flows now more than anything, because it is how I can reach the deepest inside - not having to follow an instructor but instead move in my own time and make the practice my own.

In the spirit of learning, I will definitely be back to a Follow The Yogi class. I am going to attempt to make it a morning ritual in hopes I can get more and more out of it, just like my beloved Hot Vinyasas. And if I don't...well, I can always pop into one of Raina's classes to get my fix :)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Yoga vs Religion: Round 1

I was reading an article recently about how yoga "brainwashes" people into converting their religion. How Catholics are denouncing the practice by their parishioners, saying it conflicts with their beliefs. My first instinct is to laugh it off, but thinking a bit deeper, they may have a point.

I was raised Catholic and somewhere along the line, started to question this ancient book called the Bible. The more experiences I had, the less reliable this book seemed. One of my old college roommates, a caring, loving, hilarious human being, is in a beautiful committed relationship and has 1.5 kids (the .5 is still baking) with the love of her life - who just happens to be another female. The bible tells me this is a sin - wrong and evil. My experiences tell me she is an amazing person. The bible talks of right and wrong. My experience tells me more often than not there are shades of gray to most situations. 

Once I got into yoga, my confidence in myself escalated exponentially. I began to trust that I did know myself best. That true beliefs were individual and couldn't be dictated by anyone else - they had to be felt in the gut. Most importantly, I learned only I could determine what was right for me, regardless of if it was written in some book thousands of years ago. What took me years to learn is summed up nicely by Buddha:

"Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, not even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.” – Buddha

I am not saying yoga and religion cannot be practiced together. But I do think the recent popularity of yoga is scary for religious leaders, and rightfully so. The more people who question what they once "believed" so willingly, the more people who may be spending their Sunday mornings with their families, helping deserving causes, taking in nature, etc - whatever they feel is most important for them at that moment instead of what their religion dictates they must do.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Unexpected Success

I know I promised this blog is (will be) about my transitions during Yoga Teacher Training. However, since YTT doesn't start for another 6 days, just filling the time with other experiences until then. I hope you don't mind one (maybe) last food related post :)

This week I had to run to Vegas for some client meetings. I'm not really a traveler - I like my routines. In addition, I wasn't sure how this vegan thing would play out with colleagues and clients around for every meal. So I gave myself permission to cheat and kinda geared up against the mental guilt.

Getting to the airport, the girl I was travelling with suggested we grab sandwiches for the plane. I got my usual veggies-on-bread and she was like "you aren't even putting cheese on that?!?" That opened up a discussion and, to my surprise, she seemed interested in my vegan journey instead of judgmental or defensive.

Next came drinks and appetizers with clients I had never met. The dreaded moment came when they passed a menu to me and said "what sort of appetizers should we get?" My colleague from the plane swooped in letting them know I was vegan and suggesting the hummus plate. From experience, I know when people find out I'm vegetarian sometimes they get defensive of their own lifestyle thinking I will judge them for eating meat (which I don't), and since vegan is so much more extreme I was going to try to keep it away from important clients. Instead, it was out on the table within 15 minutes of my meeting these people! I was a bit mortified. But instead of them seeming turned off, it actually opened up a great discussion. Instead of "how's the weather" conversations we all really connected on beliefs, personal life, etc. I couldn't believe the interest and support from these people I had never met as I told them my story and they shared their own.

Then came dinner with another set of clients. Not only had I never met them either, but the company they work for is in the food service industry. Definitely didn't want to offend them! As I started looking over the menu, my heart sank. Not one meatless dish, let alone dairy-less. Although I waver on the vegan thing since it is so new, I have been a vegetarian my entire life and don't compromise on that. So I was trying to think of how I was going to quietly ask for a meat-dish-hold-the-meat without coming across like a freak, when my eyes found a small line at the bottom of the menu: "Vegetarian and vegan menus available upon request". Huh?!?! An entire MENU is available for people like me?!?! I pulled the waiter aside and asked for a vegan menu. He brought me back a real menu - 2 pages of vegan appetizers, main dishes, sides, deserts. I was floored! The clients caught wind of my request and we actually had another good discussion about vegan versus vegetarian versus meat eating. They were completely open to my decision and again, very supportive. (BTW, the restaurant is Sinatra's in Wynn Encore hotel in Vegas if anyone wants to check it out - DELICIOUS food and lots of vegan choices!)

I think I have been so scared for people to label me as "weird" that I haven't realized what good could come from just being open about who I am. It's like I am a closet vegan because I am afraid people will be uncomfortable around me if they knew (especially if they are in the middle of eating a huge steak when they find out). But this trip made me realize when people hear I'm (attempting to be) a vegan, they are more curious than judgmental.

Oh, and in the airport on the way home, I stopped for a soy latte. There were 2 people in line before me, and both of them also requested soy milk instead of regular! Hearing that was a great end to a great vegan trip :)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Damn you, McDonalds!

This blog is meant mainly to help me work through whatever changes will come into my life because of my choice to live a yoga lifestyle. And change isn't always graceful or easy. Therefore, I am not always proud of the things I struggle with. But I'm going to document them anyways, in hopes of one day looking back to see how far I have come. 

Yesterday, I heard a radio commercial for a Shamrock Shake at McDonalds. You know, the green minty ice cream shake McDonald's sells around St Patrick's Day each year? I allow myself one every year and I look forward to it. I LOVE those horrible-for-you, sugar-and-dairy-abound silly things. 

Well, it got me thinking at how anti-vegan I would be going out of my way to order one. And I started to get mad. Mad that there are millions of people in the world who will be ordering them these next few weeks. Mad that my beliefs are going to either leave me feeling unsatisfied (if I don't get one) or guilty (if I do). Mad that I have this internal struggle going on when so many people don't think twice about the suffering of the animals behind their favorite snacks. Why do I have this huge weight on my shoulders when others just eat animal products without a care in the world?

I know it is selfish. And like I said, I'm not proud of these moments. But it almost makes me feel like "what's the point?" One person (me) is not going to make a difference in the food-animal industry, so why am I giving up things I look forward to and adore? Sure, I don't want to partake in the suffering of animals. But if I don't buy that shake someone else will. It makes this whole vegan effort seem futile. 

Not sure yet on what will play out with the To-Buy-Or-Not-To-Buy conundrum but I'll keep you posted. To be continued...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

You are very pretty

Today I was rushing around to get a gift for a friend's daughter. I was in my own world and speedwalking through the mall crowds to get to the store I needed. Once there, the line had about 14 people in it but just one cashier. People were moaning and groaning around me, which was making me want to join in to moan and grown at how slow the line was moving.

After I finally got what I needed I essentially sprinted through the store, trying to make up for the half hour I'd wasted in line. Partway through the store, I heard something that stopped me. A little voice that said "You are very pretty". I had no idea who it was or who they were talking to, but for some reason I slowed and turned. There in the aisle behind me was a little girl, probably 13 years old with gorgeous red hair, in a wheel chair. When I turned around, she looked straight at me and repeated it: "You are very pretty". I melted. Here I am rushing around not taking time to appreciate anything around me, and this little girl was trying to catch up with me just to pay me a compliment. I smiled and thanked her, and let her know that she, too, was very pretty. She smiled. I went on my way - in an infinitely better mood than when I was standing in line moments before.

It is amazing to me how much of our mood and emotion comes from those we come in contact with. Standing with negativity in line for a half hour translated to my mood being negative. Sharing a smile with a little girl made my whole mood change.

If that is all it takes - a quick smile, or compliment, or helping hand - to change those around us, why don't more of us do it? Why do we wait for others to influence how we feel, instead of taking charge and setting the mood ourselves for those around us?

Try giving out random compliments this week and see what happens. Maybe you'll change someone's whole day, like that little girl did for me.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Yoga sans mat

For you non-yogi's out there, I know some of you feel yoga is just a form of exercise. You have no clue why there is an almost cult-like following. To you, it is a toss up between going to a yoga class or a spinning class or a kickboxing class. You let the teacher's wisdom just bounce off you, and you get bored when poses are held too long. I know, I was there. 

But at some point, a change happens. You start to see how doing something on your mat can translate to your real life. How the true lessons in a yoga class are things like compassion, honesty, acceptance and non-judgementalism (totally a word). You practice on yourself in class, then you take it out into the world. 

Yesterday was one of those days I practice yoga for. I had been working all day on the computer and couldn't wait for Raina's 6p class to stretch out my severely compacted body. It was the only thing keeping me going. Around 3:30 my aunt called needing me to take her to go pick up a prescription at Walmart after work. She had just gotten released from rehab after a heart attack, can no longer drive, and lives alone. Horrible as it is, my first instinct was to say no since I knew I couldn't both take her and make it to yoga. I was trying to think of how I was going to turn her down, when I realized this was a better opportunity to practice yoga than going to class. Sure, I wouldn't get a physical practice, but how often do you get to help people who truly need you? 

So I worked on coming to terms with missing my class in exchange for helping my aunt. I thought about what it must be like for someone as severely independent as she was to be at the mercy of others for something as simple as getting to the store. What it must feel like for the highlight of your week to be getting out of the house to go grocery shopping. Slowly, the frustration I felt about missing class began to subside and began being replaced by an intense gratitude that I have the ability to go where ever I please, whenever I want to. 

Needless to say, when I took her I was at peace with the decision. Even the 4 hour wait for the prescription didn't phase me when I saw the excitement in my aunt's eyes that she would get to shop for that long. 

Removing yoga from the picture, I still would have chosen to take my aunt. But I would have resented it. I would have been snappy and huffed and puffed at the waiting time. But because of constantly practicing compassion and acceptance on myself, I was able to transfer those lessons to the real world when it was truly needed. And that is true yoga.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Compassion or inclusion?

Veganism is a way of living where you don't participate in the harm of any other living being. You don't buy leather shoes, or wear down filled jackets, or include dairy in your diet. It is often called compassionate living, which is ironic since it is causing me internal hell.

I have always been a vegetarian. I remember hearing I was about 5 years old when I made the connection between the cute wide-eyed cows I would see on the side of the road and a McDonalds hamburger. That was it for me - no more meat.

Recently, however, I have been pondering full-on veganism over merely being a vegetarian. From a compassion standpoint I feel I need to do more. But.....and here is the big what cost? I am finding my vegan attempts isolate me from otherwise beautiful bonding moments. Being a vegetarian, I can still join in on family dinners and holidays. I may forego the main course but I can still participate in the rest of the meal - veggies, breads, finger foods, dessert. But a vegan needs to worry about if those green beans were cooked with butter, or if that bread has eggs in it, etc. And forget sharing in the birthday cake and ice cream with everyone else. I have found to be truly vegan, you either need to demand others change the way they prepare stuff (I mean really, who keeps Veggie Shreds on hand instead of cheese?) or bring your own food. And both feel just as isolating. Both ways take away from the moment of just enjoying a meal together.

My internal fight is between the present moment and the big picture. Do I want to live compassionately - YES! But at the expense of feeling disconnected from those I love? Not sure yet......

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Where it all began

So, the title is a bit misleading, because "it" hasn't happened yet. This is the beginning. This is the first day. I feel like I am at a crossroads in my life and at some point in the future, I want to look back and see where it started. So here we are. The point where it all began (or rather, will be beginning from).

In two weeks, I will be starting Yoga Teacher Training. A bit of a change from the hi-tech world I live in as a computer programmer, but I need that right now. I have never quite felt I fit in anywhere as much as in the yoga community. Finally people don't look at me like I am a freak for being vegetarian since I was 5. And people share my appreciation for the tiniest thing, they too feel that we are not owed anything in this world. Most importantly the yoga community supports the belief that we create our own paths by everything we say, do and think. So this is what I am doing. I am creating. Jump on board or get out of my way :)

Since this blog is about me, why name it "Bent Yoga"? Easy, that will be the name of the yoga studio I will one day own. Yoga bends your body, your mind, your reactions - basically every facet of your life. Maybe I am getting ahead of myself naming my business before even starting teacher training...or maybe I'm just getting a head start in the Universe's queue :)