Open Letter to a Yoga Teacher

Yoga to the People Standing Bow

Dear Katherine-

When I realized that you were teaching class today I got nervous first and choked up, second. Your standing bow pose looks at me every time I walk into the locker room. But taking class with the person on the poster wasn’t the reason for the lump.

It’s funny, the day before another amazing teacher asked if we adjust our expectations based on who is teaching, when instead we should look internally when it comes to our practice.

Several months have passed since I took a class with you. Since then, life has changed exponentially.

I’ve started teaching yoga.

Your classes played a big part in that decision.

A year and a half ago I walked into your 6:30 pm class. I had never been so far away from myself- emotionally or physically. That class ripped me apart. 90 minutes in the heat.

Your voice was firm, focused and freeing.

Work hard but rest when you need to.

Find limits and grow but be intelligent about choices you make.

You can be comfortable or change, but you can’t have both. 

I know it’s yoga but it is also life. I didn’t know back then that I’d end up teaching- but that night was the flicker.  It was a spark that had to light from a puddle of sweat and tears.

Class was so f*cking hard. But I’d never been more grateful.

That night, I picked up my towel and soul off the mat.

I’d wash the towel. My soul was another story. It was shaky. And tired. You are never more lost until you are found.

At home, I crumbled. Cried until my eyes were puffy. No more hiding. No more running. It was time to start my life over, again.

I’m sure you’ve heard this a thousand times. Trying to articulate this after class would have resulted in me crying- not because I was embarrassed but until being confronted with seeing you- I didn’t actually realize how much I have changed. Or changed back to who I was before the fall.

In this day and age of the over share- the whys, whats and wheres aren’t important, but thanking people is a lost art.

So thank you, Katherine.

Your class makes me tap into something deeper and lighter. I have become my own best teacher.

Namaste.

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Chalkboard Yoga, Fresh Starts and All That.

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You don’t have to wait for the New Year for a fresh start.

Amanda McDonald, yoga teacher wrote a status update that made high five my Mac.

Why are we so resistant to just solving problems, instead of procrastinating and worrying? You have the skills to fix it. Get out there!

And I thought of the clip from Vanilla Sky when Penelope Cruz says that ‘Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around.’

What are you doing this minute? Are you at peace? Do you want to be?

Don’t worry if you missed the last minute because another one is right here. And here. And here. And here.

Namaste y’all.

Here’s to the week.

Relocation Frustration aka Moving Yoga

moving truck backs

I had this plan that I would smoothly transition from my old place to my new place.

Ha. Cue raucous laugh track.

My move was more than just a new place to sleep. It was symbolic of a new life. Though I’ve been teaching yoga and working on a business plan to be a yoga entrepreneur, the new home would make it official.

At least it would feel that way. I began this blog to document my new start, and this relocation seemed like just that.

In my head everything was timed like clockwork.  The movers would come- I’d cheerfully direct them! They’d laugh. I’d laugh- we’d do a few yoga moves in my empty living room. After namastes all around they would declare that this was the most tranquil move they ever did.

Ah- but life had other plans. It was a mess.

A bloody diasaster. And not in a cute British accent way. I’m talking real f@cking horror show. At least it felt like that in the moment. I could hear people screaming out like the aliens had arrived. Flames were shooting up from manholes, the masses were running for cover declaring that this was indeed the end of the world.

Well, that’s what it felt like.

The whole delay was a few hours. It felt much longer, mostly because of me and the gravity I gave the situation.

We all do that I guess, make things more important than they are. A minor impasse is distorted to mountain-sized road block.

This happens with poses. A point of resistance becomes a place where push happens. A more effective response is to breathe. This allows for release. I can feel it now even as I type- I feel a space where it seems like I can’t get deeper and after a few deep breathes my entire body falls into place.

On my mat I know this is how it works.

Off my mat, I need reminders.

I didn’t deal as effectively as I would have liked.

As I watched my things file out of the old space, I was happy.

After every storm the sun comes out. Nothing is forever. This too shall pass etc… etc..

More importantly though, I realize now that nothing is that critical. Because in comparison with the age of the universe, we are only here for a second.

And I, just like the stress that seemed so finite and so lasting is temporary.

My next part of the chapter awaits.

 

Namaste y’all.

Free Your Mind – Yoga and Addiction

chanting -2

I used to smoke.

A lot.

I won’t go into the details of the beginning because I think the end at least in my case, was more important. Addiction will grip you so tightly you don’t think you can ever let it go. And even after the worst is over and the ‘habit’ is dead and gone, on some days out of nowhere it sneaks up on you.

It’s a gentle whisper that tells you that you are ‘better’ so one puff isn’t a big deal.

That’s the insidious side of addiction that people don’t talk about. Lots of times it doesn’t feel bad. Like Dexter’s dark passenger it shows up when you least expect it or worse, when you really think you need it. It’s a soothing voice that says you are different from all the other addicts. You had a problem in the past but now you can smoke just one.

I can’t. Not ever. This is what makes me different than the person who enjoys a cigarette or cigar once in awhile. I cannot contemplate that. I don’t have that kind of control. It’s more than just an issue of willpower. I’m addicted to cigarettes and smoking opened the door to all kinds of other self-destructive behavior.

Sometimes I would stop smoking for awhile and then bum a cigarette while out at a bar. That would lead to me buying a pack on the way home and smoking most of them that night.

I attempted to quit many times. I was blasé about failing. It was a way to deny the inevitable truth that I was letting tobacco ruin my health.  Unless I spoke that sentence out loud, smoking would always be a part of my life.

That utterance would have to lead to action. That action would mean that I could never go back. I’m ambitious and driven by nature- this consistent inability to quit was impossible for me to understand. Because I couldn’t understand it, I couldn’t share it with anyone else.  Those who haven’t had a struggle with addiction may not understand, but it’s scary. Loss of control for a Type A is not familiar nor comfy ground.

Enter yoga.

Yoga is increasingly used in conjunction with many addiction treatment programs. Whether it’s an addiction to sex, tobacco, drugs, gambling, shopping, food, toxic relationships or control, yoga is one of many tools that helps you when a critical moment arises.

For me it’s more than that, it’s a new way of being. And though I have embraced yoga with a zeal that might make you raise an eyebrow in suspicion, yoga isn’t a replacement for smoking. Rather it’s a way to deal with stress, a way to be happy and embrace the present.

There are certain poses in yoga that can get us through a rough patch. Here are 3 that work for me.

photo credit nuonsros.com

1. Ustrasana (Camel Pose) – This pose is a heart opener and it can release a surprising amount of emotions. This may seems like a bad thing, it’s not. When you push feelings down, it can lead to acting out. Letting go can bring about the sense of calm you need to stay on track.

2. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) – Sometimes a new perspective is just what we need to get through a stressful moment. One day at a time is sometimes one hour at a time or one minute at a time or even one second at a time. A different view can paint a different picture. New pictures can be what is necessary to stay present.

photo credit redbubble.net

3. Dandayamana-Dhanurasana (Standing Bow Pose) – This pose helps with circulation and  patience. It takes times to master this pose. And until you do master it, you fall out of position again and again.

It’s this practice of of coming back that helps me be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Sometimes that’s what being free from addiction is all about learning to be okay with what feels icky or frustrating. The act of feeling a feeling helps it pass and helps you move on. It’s what I love most about this pose. Every motion of this pose even when it doesn’t work move us forward.

Of course if you have serious problems with addiction you should seek professional help. But for those of us who need a boost, these poses can help remind us the joys of being free.

This is yoga. And it can help you maintain peace during the storm.

Namaste y’all.

I Stopped Telling Myself Lies and Found Joy (And a New Life)

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Yoga Teacher Training is finished next week. It feels like the ‘official’ start to a new career and life. Embarking on a second act career was something I secretly thought of doing over 10 years ago, but it’s hard to think of walking away from something that you and everyone around you thought was your identity. With that trapped mindset I spent 10 more years convincing myself that I wanted to be someplace where I didn’t. You can tell yourself a series of lies so the story makes sense. If you’re lucky (or get pushed) you can make a break for it. It won’t be easy, but anything you love is worth fighting for. When I got swift kick to take a long hard look at my life I decided to stop lying and get busy making changes. What did I have to lose except a life that wasn’t bringing me joy?

  1. You’re too old to do what you love.  I thought that at 40 I might be crazy to embark on a second career. The truth is I’ve never been happier and it shows. I just saw a story on Rodriguez, an unknown American rock icon who wasn’t rediscovered until he was 70. Or Tim and Nina Zagat who launched Zagat guides when they were 51.  I stopped telling myself this lie and it set me free.
  2. I have to wait for the perfect time. There is no perfect time for anything. And the truth is I needed an uncomfortable push to realize that I was more ready than I thought to start my own business.
  3. Everyone will be supportive. The truth is some people think that what I’m doing is risky or indulgent. One of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned is that I have to rely on my own instincts and pleasing everyone can’t be on the list of things that concern me. I have a great support system of friends and some family members that truly understand what it means to be an entrepreneur. You can’t be your own boss if you can’t bet on yourself and trust yourself in the face of doubt.
  4. I need stuff. I thought that I’d have to sacrifice a lot to start over. But guess what? I didn’t need half of what I was able to let go. My old life was was unsatisfying. I didn’t realize how much I was using stuff to fill a void. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not living like a monk. Things don’t have the same weight that they did. I’m enjoying being in my own skin more so there’s no hole to fill.

Now there’s nothing in my way. Life has never been more terrifying and thrilling, but most of all it’s all mine and the truth. How can I not be doing the right thing?

This is yoga. And I love it.

Namaste.

Adventures in Yoga Teacher Training – Blissed Out

Thai Yoga Massage

Over the weekend we did a Thai Yoga massage workshop. It was an introduction to Thai yoga as well as a basic exploration of energy and its affect on the body and mind. This kind of massage relies on a trusting partnership between the giver and receiver. It also leaves both parties exposed and vulnerable as this exchange takes place. We pressed and twisted each other until we were loosey goosey. I mention this because someone described us as looking blissed out after it was all over.

Bliss was not a word I used very often. And I love to wear a word out.

I don’t think I used the word bliss because it was something that I didn’t think was attainable. Bliss was more a location than a state of mind.

Bliss was a beach in St. Martin. And now that I’m thinking about it, if I visualized my blissful place I wasn’t even in the picture.

Yoga teacher training has rearranged all that nonsense. Yoga is an exercise in addition by subtraction. Removing attachments adds love to my life and makes it more peaceful. Eliminating negative thinking leaves room for acceptance of the impossible.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the first Yoga Sutra lately, which loosely translates to ‘and now the discourse on yoga begins’. My practice is the jumping off point for me to begin meditation.

I used to shy away from this aspect of yoga, it felt too uncomfortable. This is embarrassing to admit, but I didn’t want to be accountable to the spiritual. I wanted the physical benefits without having to look deeper. So much of my life before yoga was this way.

Shedding that person has been easy in private and difficult in public. I still have work to do regarding attachment to ego and public expectations. But I’m hoping because I see this, there’s a chance I’m headed in the right direction. These revelations leave me feeling naked.

Previous thinking whispers that I should be wiser than I am at this age.

This is yoga. Is this bliss? I don’t know, but I do love it.

Namaste.