Monday, September 17, 2012

Hi Ya!

Let's face it, we live in a pretty strict society. This isn't a political post about USA and freedom and such, I'm talking in more of a peer pressure sense. We (and I include myself 100% in this "we") care so much what other people think that we often push down our own needs and wants in order to "fit in".

Last week I took Alex to karate class. It is just a beginner's class, and the instructor began by saying "any of you moms you want to join in, please feel free." I really wanted to. I love learning new things and moving around screaming "hi ya!" seemed much more enjoyable than sitting on a hard plastic chair for an hour. But none of the other moms got up, so I stayed put. The entire class, I was thinking about this - wishing I had stood up and joined the kids in the line. But not wanting to be that "weird" lady who was punching and kicking with the 6 year olds. I wasn't ready to be labelled - especially being new in town and trying to grow a local business.

When did I begin to care so much what others thought over what I wanted? If I look at kids at various ages, it is clear to see the progression of societal influence. Babies don't care - they scream, throw, poop and dance when ever and where ever they want to. As the kids grow up we as parents try to help them fit in with society by letting them know when something is appropriate and when it isn't, which is essentially laying down the idea to conform to the majority. They take this idea to school where their peers are the majority and many begin to take it to extremes - either needing to be identical to everyone else or identical to no one else. And somewhere along the line we begin to balance out our version of "fitting in" and stop thinking about it - it just becomes our way of life.

What if we challenged it? How would our lives be different if we stepped back and recognized all of the things we do and don't do because of others? What would we do differently if we really listened to ourselves - what we wanted and didn't want? I am not talking about robbing banks here. Moreso the subtle things in our lives - like eating dessert when no one else wants any, or wearing a shirt your teenage daughter rolls her eyes at. Or learning how to do karate with a bunch of 6 year olds. Hmmm....

Monday, September 10, 2012

Happy Birthday

Today is it, the day I set in motion almost 2 years ago. Back when I was signing up for yoga teacher training, I always knew I wanted my own studio. Becoming a yoga teacher was never about just teaching in an established studio for me, it was about bringing yoga to a community that had been lacking. About making that initial introduction of yoga to the chronically stressed out. 

Starting something new is scary. There is equal opportunity for acceptance and rejection. 50/50. Kinda makes me want to come up with some excuse to not go through with it. But not this time. Yoga's biggest lesson to me has been to trust. Trust that I have what it takes to make something happen. Trust that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Trust that there truly is no good/bad or acceptance/rejection - there just is what there is. If no one shows up to class today, it is what it is. If 20 people show up to class today, it is what it is. That internal labeling is what is scary, not the actual situation. Living up to expectations our Egos have fabricated for us. As long as I remember that, I know I will be fine. But sometimes knowing something with your brain isn't the same as knowing it with your heart.

The yoga community I come from is strong. Guidance for the newbies is shared between the teacher and the other yogis in the room. We work as a team to create a safe space where people can explore without feeling judged. Yet here I am, about to take on that role all alone. Yoga is just such an important part of my life, it has truly changed me. Introducing that to someone else can be intimidating, especially if there are no other yogis in the room to back me up that no one cares if you "look silly". How do I get people to let go all by myself? What if I don't get through to people and turn them off of yoga forever? What if I don't do this magnificent way of life justice? It's funny that my biggest fear is failing something that doesn't believe in failing. 

Success, failure, both, neither, whatever. Happy Birthday to Bent Yoga Studio. 


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Circle of Life? NOT.

Over and over I have heard life moves in cycles. That in everything there is high and low, commitment and leniency, push and pull. What I am realizing, though, is that the underlying lessons are constant, and just the way in which they are brought into our lives varies in cycles.

My physical yoga practice has waned lately. I went from a 6-day-a-weeker to a once-to-twice-a-weeker in the past month or so. It hasn't been a priority like it was earlier (and like I am sure it will be again). It isn't that I tired of it, just that other things have been taking center stage in my life so yoga has been placed on the back burner.

Or has it? The lesson of yoga is patience, acceptance, detachment. And maybe the reason I haven't felt the familiar urge to get to a class is because these lessons have appeared in my life in other forms as of late. 

I am in the process of buying a house. Due to many items out of my control, it has been touch and go for 6 weeks now. One day I think I am closing and the next I am digging up a birth certificate (or P&L statement, or copies of deposited checks, or DNA sample, etc). Over and over this has happened. After a break down 2 days ago, I have finally gotten to the point that it is either detach from the emotion involved or get physically sick. I can no longer afford to be invested in the outcome. It is what it is, and my health is more important.

Besides detachment, the other yoga lesson this has tested me on is faith. Faith that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I am a control freak and need to know things, like, where I will be living a week from now. I have Alex's daycare/school to take care of, my own work deadlines to plan moving around, getting a renter into my current house, etc. Living day to day is very difficult to a planner such as myself, but I am slowly learning I have to have Faith that things are unfolding how they will. That when my attention is not focused on tomorrow I can give more today. I need to release my grip on the future (easier said than done, but better at it now than a few weeks ago!).

Today I am having an exam covering everything I have been studying for the past month and a half. I showed up for a 7a flight (much needed vacation!) only to have it cancelled. I now have 10 more hours to chill in a cheap faux leather seat with locked arm rests that prevent stretching out. Looking around when the cancellation announcement was made, I realized how far I have come in my yoga lessons, even without physical practice. 

So instead of feeling guilty (like I did) for letting something "slack", recognize that if you still have more to learn on the lesson, it will find you. Might be in a different form, but it is still there. You just have to be willing to do a little homework.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Can't Forget To.......Look! A Pretty Bird!

If you're anything like me, then you have so much going on that sometimes "unimportant" thoughts have to take a back seat to something more immediate and pressing. The perfect example is my laundry. I am a horrible laundry person. I put the clothes in the washer and then I remember about them at the most inopportune times - such as sitting at a restaurant far from home, in the middle of a yoga class, or during a work meeting. The thought comes into my mind ("don't forget to switch the clothes to the dryer!") and then it goes out just as softly as it came. And there is no predicting when it will reappear (usually NOT when I am at home and able to actually accomplish the task).

I have found a system in the past year or so that has a lot of promise. So far, it has been better than setting timers and text alerts on my phone (which I still do, but don't need to rely as heavily on them now). I thought I would share it with you, just in case you have a similar issue.

So how do I remind myself of these little thoughts? I project them onto something I will see in the future directly before the task has to be accomplished. I know, it sounds strange, but hear me out.

This morning I needed to stop at CVS on the way home from yoga. The thought came into my head as I was laying on my mat before class began. I had been meaning to get to CVS for 3 days now but kept forgetting, so it was really important I remembered. Therefore, I turned to my technique. I pictured my drive home from yoga. At 12 Mile Rd there is a huge church I pass, so I mentally stamped the thought "go to CVS" onto it in my mind. I then continued on my drive and on the corner where I would usually go straight to go home but where I needed to turn to go to CVS, I again concentrated on that intersection while mantra-ing "turn and go to CVS". I did this over and over for about a minute or two. Then cleared my head and began to meditate, eventually moving into an amazing morning hot vinyasa class. By then, any thought of CVS had long since left my mind.

I get out of class and into my car and begin to drive home, the CVS thought still hidden. I drive a few miles and I see the church - boom! Into my head comes the thought "go to CVS". I just smile in wonder at how well it worked and start to go on a mental tangent on how cool that just was, letting the CVS thought slip out of my head again.

A mile later, I am at the intersection. My blinker goes on automatically. I think it is strange and then I remember "turn and go to CVS". My subconscious was a little quicker than my thinking brain, but it still worked regardless. I pulled into CVS - mission accomplished.

I use this pretty often lately and it works great. For instance, if I need to bring a few things I am likely to forget with me somewhere I will picture the door handle in my house and attach the thought "there should be 3 things in your hand" or something. Should be short and quick so it easily can be remembered. With the laundry, it will often be when I see my kitchen sink, since that is right next to the stairs to the basement. The reason I believe it works better than an external reminder, is that you are only going to trigger the thought when you are imminently close to where you need to be to do the task, so there isn't much time to forget again. For example, if I set a reminder on my phone to make Alex's lunch and I happen to be outside or in the middle of something when it goes off, I just shut it off and continue what I was doing - ultimately forgetting again. But if I picture making Alex's lunch when I see the fridge, I will already be right there in the kitchen and can quickly do it.

Now it isn't foolproof - I have often found myself driving towards a store just to forget in route and drive right past. But it is pretty amazing how well it works overall. If you need help remembering the little tasks, give it a try. Why not? Worst case, it doesn't work for you. Best case, it does :)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Invisible Reality

I think the hardest thing for people to accept about a yoga lifestyle is that most of the concepts they cannot see with their own eyes. We currently live in probably the most skeptical timeframe ever. Faith is at an all time low. Everything needs to be proven to every individual before they entertain the thought that it is real. Even then, many shrug it off as a coincidence or a trick. I am not judging, as I have been just as guilty as the rest of them on more than one occasion. Think about it - before the wireless Internet existed if someone told you information could be sent hundred of thousands of miles in microseconds through the air and arrive at the other end in tact, would you have believed them? Of course not. That's crazy talk. Information has had the ability to travel through the air since the Earth was born, but it wasn't until someone built devices that could both send and accept that information that we could see for ourselves this concept of something invisible traveling through air was, in fact, "real".

Luckily, I get reminders that some of the most powerful "real" things are invisible. In yoga, we believe in energy. Not the "I'm pooped, I have no energy" type of energy. Moreso the "energy as a tangible thing" type of energy. We talk about directing our energy inward towards a tight hip or outwards towards world peace. We send our energy places by just focusing on the receiver.  

I know, many of you are thinking I'm about to get all new-age on you. I don't mean to. But last week I realized just how much other peoples' energy affects me. I taught the same class twice last week - once to 12 people and then the next day to 37 people. The first class was good, but the second class was electric! Having so many bodies moving and breathing and generating energy, it became a palpable thing in the room. I could feel my own endorphins running wild, and walked out of the room with the same euphoric feeling as having just participated in (instead of taught) an intense yoga class. 

Thinking about it, my favorite classes to participate in are the packed ones. I complain (like everyone else) about being crammed into a sweaty smelly room so close to my neighbor that their sweat often flings onto me. But those are the classes I get the deepest workout. I keep my eyes closed through most of my practice so it isn't that I am watching the others in the room. That isn't why I have a better practice with a more crowded class. But I can feel the energy they are creating and using it to get deeper. Something in my body actually receives the energy they are generating. 

And if I can actually receive it, if it makes a noticeable difference in me, why is it so far-fetched that others could receive it? That if I really focus on someone who is sick, that my energy might not actually make it to them and give them strength? As a society, do we believe that human energy outside of our bodies doesn't exist at all? Or just that we can't direct it with our will? Or that it exists but there is nothing on the receiving end so it just floats up to space? I am just curious why everyone dismisses the idea of human-generated energy  (no matter if it is generated by the body or the mind as thoughts) as capable of making changes to the world around them. Just because it isn't a hammer we can see and touch, doesn't make its impact any less "real". What would need to happen for people to believe that their energy can actually change the world around them?

Just curious.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Thank You, NY Times!

Yoga has taken some pretty hard hits in the press lately. Last month The New York Times published an article entitled How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body. Now today I opened my email to their newest hatchet job Yoga and Sex Scandals: No Surprise Here.

The yoga community has been rising up against these articles, ruffling their feathers, preparing to fight. But honestly, I think that is the wrong reaction. I am thrilled! Last year, my yoga RSS feeds hibernated for months at a time. 2012 has woken them up with story after story of this glorious practice.

I don't agree with the content of the above stories, but I love that they exist for a few reasons.

First, to the mainstream world, yoga has had this clouded mystical mystery surrounding it. Articles like above bring to light that yogi's are, in fact, human. They make mistakes. They, too, get drunk when given too much power, much like members of our political system. It makes yoga more accessible, that you can be flawed and still practice.

Second, yoga has been touted as a "cure all." The only articles you saw before were ones where miracles have happened. How yoga has swooped into someone's life and now they have the perfect life. They are off of their diabetes medication, they are able to walk again, they became one with the universe. But much like a 3am infomercial, when something is made to sound too good to be true, people often believe it is. Over and over yoga articles keep pushing the positives down everyone's throat, to the point they stop listening. But throwing in some humbleness, showing some cracks in the yoga armor? Well now it's a whole different story. People may start to feel less of the hard sell and more like they are getting real facts all around. Yoga may pique the interest of a whole new audience, those who started listening again ("Wait, yoga makes sex better? I need to try this for myself!").

Lastly, I think the fact The New York Times feels yoga can sell magazines is huge. Sort of like when a celebrity starts to grace the cover of tabloids it is a sign they have made it. The New York Times would not spend this much precious space if no one was interested in yoga. So to me, them publishing multiple stories in two months is a great sign that yoga is crossing over into the mainstream.

Personally, I have seen the many benefits of yoga and how amazing it can be. But if you're not open to it, it has zero benefits. Yoga is about balance, and these "negative" stories are just balancing the pot a bit so maybe more people will get inquisitive to give it a try themselves. And if that's the case, I say go for it!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Excerpt From The Invitation

Thought this was too beautiful not to share!

It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon...
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.
I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.
It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.
I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

By Oriah © Mountain Dreaming,
from the book The Invitation

Monday, January 30, 2012

1 and 2 and 3 and 4.....

The holidays, as well as slowing down on yoga (see this post), have had an unfortunate but expected side effect: I can feel my body gaining some weight. Since middle school, my body and I have played tug-of-war with my weight. I usually stay within a 15 pound range and before I end a twenty-year tradition by busting beyond that range, I decided to take charge. Since I began my yoga lifestyle, I no longer "diet". Instead, when I need a little help, I just hold myself accountable with a calorie counter. I recently found a great one for my phone,, where you can actually just scan in the barcode on the box and it adds it to your food diary - talk about simple! I had no excuse to not use it.

If you've never done it, calorie counting is a huge eye opener. First, it forces you to think in terms of serving size. The first few days I tried to not change the way I eat so I could just see what I usually put into my body. Holy moly! That bowl of oatmeal - 3 servings! That tiny bag of veggie chips I ate in two days - 8 servings! It really makes you start to understand the disconnect between the quantity your mind *thinks* you need and what your body truly does need. 

Second, it reminds me there are no free foods. Those red and orange peppers I mixed with my Quinoa? They added 40 calories to my lunch. I always think of veggies as mainly water and that I can eat as many as I want, but even those add up. I've easily eaten 2-3 times what I put in my lunch - that added over 100 calories to my daily total without me even knowing.

The last thing using a calorie counter does, at least for me, is bring up some pretty interesting insecurities I don't even realize I have. Often (as in, every day thus far) I have wanted to cheat. I have been tempted to not mark down a quick bite of something I grabbed while my main meal was cooking. Or put down 1 serving when in reality it was more like 2.5. My brain would rationalize this by saying "I'll just save a few calories at the end of the day and know in my head they are accounted for already". Huh?!?! WTF? I am the only one viewing my calorie counter so why do I want to cheat?!?!?! I have found myself having actual arguments in my brain about whether or not to mark something down accurately. It is almost like my unconscious mind considers those extra calories at the end of the day as "success" (even though I know eating too few calories is also an issue). If I can not eat all of my calories - even through cheating the system - then I am somehow stronger and better. Whereas my conscious brain wants to help me change. It's the white angel whispering that if I don't put every little thing down correctly then why do this at all? It is really interesting being an observer to this power struggle between my two consciousnesses (consciousnessi?). That is one of those benefits of meditation and yoga - being able to view your thoughts and actions as separate from yourself. To not get so caught up in your head that you miss seeing there are other options out there. Seeing things like this so clearly is well worth the motionless hours spent not scratching that itch

Throwing in things like this, a simple calorie counter, really brought awareness to a part of my life I was letting slip. What part of your life are you currently sleepwalking through, and what can you do to shake it up a bit?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Wounded Dog

These past few weeks have been humbling.  I was in a Jonny class ("Jonny" being a synonym for "butt-kicking") and per his instruction was attempting "to float my plank". That essentially means you launch yourself into the air from a plank position so nothing is touching the ground (I know, who does that?!?!). Silly me, I tried over and over, each time feeling the impact of landing on my shoulders as my hands and toes touched down. Went home after class only to wake up that night with shooting pains. I had pulled something internally that connected from deep at the base of my neck, across my collarbone,  all the way to my right armpit/shoulder/bicep.

Yoga is often touted as a cure-all. While I do believe its benefits are immense, it is still physical activity. Sometimes we push ourselves just a bit harder than we should and don't know until it is too late. Almost every yogi I know has at some point had some sort of injury or soreness - if not from yoga than at least amplified by yoga. But the benefits (both mentally and physically) make a few battle scars totally worth it.

Since that class, I haven't been up to par. I laid off yoga for a few days after it happened and it started feeling better. So I went and after the break, yoga felt so good I really dove in. Mistake. The next day I couldn't even move my arm - it had seized up. I took a few more days off. This time when I couldn't stand it anymore I went to a class but with the intention to really listen to my body. I modified modified modified. Dropped a knee for support, put all weight into my left hand in down dog, even cut out all pushups or Chaturungas. And my shoulder, although still sore and achy, didn't seem worse. It actually felt a little better. I continued going just every 2 or 3 days (as opposed to once or twice a day) using this mindset as my guide.

And it sucked. I am about to admit something very un-yogi-like: I like competing with myself in yoga. I like trying new things, or sticking something I couldn't the day before. Instead of enjoying the fact I was in a yoga class at all, I began to resent it. I got very jealous at everyone kicking up into handstands while I took shoulderstand.  Mentally I had a hard time with dropping a knee in side plank instead of reaching for the bind. I hated that the left and right sides of my flows were completely different. Also, I was so worried about re-hurting my shoulder that my mind never got to a "yoga" state. I stopped having those amazing classes where you walk out all euphoric. Instead it felt like work.

That is, until yesterday. Last night, I hit up one of my favorite teacher's classes. Something about the familiarity of her voice began to open that place in my head that had shut down two weeks ago. I stopped worrying about my shoulder and trusted my body to do what it needed to to protect it. I concentrated on each posture as an island - not worrying what came before or what was coming next. Not comparing it to the other side. I worked with what I had, and reconnected with the true lessons in yoga. It wasn't about the bind. It was about breathing and moving. Feeling. It had taken two weeks before I could truly step back and observe my brain, to recognize that competitive mindset I hadn't even realized I had fallen into. I walked out of that class with my endorphins kicking like the good old days.

Do I miss Jonny's classes? Heck yeah. But I also have a new appreciation for making the most of my present situation. For probably the next month, this is my new reality. I will do the yoga my body needs right now, not the yoga my competitive mind wants. I will modify. I will hold back. And I will heal.

I am right where I am supposed to be.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Lessons From a Garbage Can

With Christmas approaching, I had to get my house ready for having people over. Hosting gatherings is always a good reason to take a look at what has accumulated since last time and dispose, store or rearrange things. One of the things I rearranged was my bathroom - just moving a garbage can. I didn't put it anywhere crazy, just from one side of the toilet to the other.

That 2 foot movement has changed my life! Ok, maybe that is a bit dramatic, but it definitely woke me up to how often I am not present. How often my brain takes over a task without me knowing. It has been 3 weeks and my brain still thinks the garbage can is in the old spot. I now routinely drop Kleenex and Q-Tips onto the floor because the garbage is no longer there. It is amazing to me that I don't even notice the thought about throwing something away come into my brain to reroute it. It has become instinct to just toss garbage in a certain location. Then I remember, pick it up, and place it in the correct spot.

It is crazy how much we auto-pilot in our every day lives. Who would have guessed it would be this difficult to re-map the garbage can's location in my mind?! If you want to challenge your brain, try moving something simple yet well used like that. Trust me, it's harder than it sounds!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Life, Chapter 2

Most of you have seen me through this yoga journey from pretty much the beginning. 2011 was an amazing transition year. I transitioned from cubicle-dweller to my own boss; from clueless vegetarian to educated vegan; from fair-weather exerciser to dedicated yogi; and from drone to student to teacher. 2012 will be the year to settle into these transitions and cement them into a lifestyle.

I recently began teaching over in Ann Arbor. I am teaching for the studio I took teacher training through, which is a little intimidating. The main studio (not the one I am teaching at) is packed full daily. In a room that can comfortably hold 50, 100 people squeeze in on a regular basis. I haven't been able to open my arms to a T without fear of smacking someone in the face since I began. The interesting part is that there are probably 10+ other yoga studios within a 10 mile radius. Heck, within a 5 mile radius. Yet people flock to "my" studio, even though it almost always means getting meat-smelling sweat flung on you from the shirtless guy 3 inches away.

When I was asked to teach a few classes at a different branch of my studio, I readily accepted. I was warned it was not nearly as busy, but I didn't think much about it. In fact, I didn't think about it at all - it was my first teaching job! The first day I taught was two days before Christmas, and the second was two days before New Year's Eve. All of the classes had about 10 people in them. A far cry from what I was used to at "my" studio. But I figured it was due to the holidays.

Then I taught yesterday. I had assumed with the holidays over and New Year's Resolutions in full effect, the classes would grow. Even just slightly. But instead, each class shrunk to between 5-7 people!

During Teacher Training, Jonny Kest told us we had to check the ego at the door. That the number of students in the class was not how to judge your success, but instead your success should be judged on how open your heart is. Really connecting with 1 person is worth much more than playing Simon Says with 100 people just going through the motions. He said for many many years he would schedule classes and no one would show up. He would call people before class just to remind them and then not understand when people who had assured him they would be there, didn't show. This is the same guy who, last year, taught 600+ people in one class at the Wanderlust Festival in Squaw Valley.

I feel good when I teach, and am getting good feedback on my teaching, but that black cloud of doubt is still there. If I was any good, wouldn't the students appear? Teaching has made me realize how invested my ego is in everything I do. I have only taught 3 days - 6 total paid classes. No one in their right mind would expect a following after that. So why am I beating myself up over the size of the class? Instead of focusing on the connections I am making, on the students who are there, why do I keep going back to who is not? My eyes have really been opened to how I define success and how my definition may actually keep me from obtaining it. If I keep stressing about who is not there, I may miss opportunities with the ones that are. Starting today, I am making a Life Resolution (screw just for the New Year, this is for Life) to focus on the positive. On what I DO have and what is there. Not on what is missing.

Is there anything in your life that you are missing out on because you had different expectations? Where you can't allow yourself to enjoy the true reality because it didn't match what was in your head?