Mind Over Madness 2013

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Summer. Summer. Summer.

This is my time. Like millions of others the world over, I celebrated the solstice. It’s a day that is filled with nostalgia and possibility.

On an island off the East Coast- thousands of yogis with mats on their backs trekked to an unexpected mecca- Times Sq.

Last year was my first time attending Mind Over Madness. It was an incredible experience. There’s something transcendent that occurs when you connect with your body and breath with thousands on Manhattan pavement. I knew at that point that yoga would be be how I lived my life, I just wasn’t sure how.

I returned to the 2013 Mind Over Madness as a Yoga Teacher. What a difference a year makes. Yesterday I did yoga again with thousands of people from every walk of life. And this time I was there with some of the amazing women I’ve met on my journey.

As expected the class was a-mazing. With my heels rooted I extended my arms up to the sky as Rodney Yee encouraged us to reach up taller, heart lifted. My eyes looked past the skyscrapers and into the cloudless blue. I could feel thousands of fingers stretching taller grasping and touching pieces of themselves – floating . The intention I set for my practice was set free, left to rise and be realized.

With an exhale we folded forward. I exhaled out poisonous thoughts and old useless stories in Lion’s Pose, smiling inside so much that I’m pretty sure that if I looked in a mirror an 😄would be looking back.

It was an hour that felt like a perfect eternity and like nothing at all.
Time doesn’t always seem linear. When you are able to be in a moment connected with everything as everything, that is all that counts.

In yoga we talk a lot about being blessed or feeling blessed. There is no other way to describe the immense gratitude that washed over me yesterday.

I also to continue to be humbled and filled with love by the support of my family and friends. Without them I wouldn’t have been able to keep this journey going.

I can’t wait until 2014, but for now I will live completely in this moment.

Happy summer solstice.

Namaste y’all.

me and fellow yogi Kathleen Kraft
me and fellow yogi Kathleen Kraft
Me and Mary waiting in line
Me and Mary waiting in line
Nicole smiling because she was in the front row!
Nicole smiling because she was in the front row!
Mind Over Madness Baby
Mind Over Madness Baby
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Adventures in Yoga Teaching – You Need a Blog.

YTTP

I’m a baby when it comes to new media. It’s a wild west of  words in a new world.

It seems that everyone is writing. Social media is becoming literary. I know it may make the more conservative readers cringe, but hey it’s true so get on board because the train has pulled out of the station and you better run pretty damn fast to catch up.

I love it. On NPR last week someone mentioned that if Dorothy Parker were alive in the age of Twitter she’d rock that shit. They didn’t say it like that, I did, but I think my emphasis is better. Her quips would be retweeted and favorited in an instant. It makes me giggle just thinking about it. Aside from being a cool medium, it’s a way to engage an active audience who shares the same interests!

This brings me to yoga. I know you’re thinking, what doesn’t bring me to yoga. This list is short and even then with a glass of wine I could Kevin Bacon my way there with a swallow.

Yoga- social media. Right. I still manage to digress even when I’m racing to type and be ‘ret to go’ in time to make the 6:30 Yoga to the People class.

My friend Stephen is a tech guru. His job is pretty cool, he helps companies find their voice and brand build online with unique apps that connect with their audience.

He asked me when I finished teacher training if I had set up a page that talked about my teaching schedule, rates and availability.

I did want to get hired didn’t I?

Um- yes in fact I do.

Blogs are a great way to talk, vent, muse and pontificate but they also can be your calling card and resume.

I don’t know what I was waiting for but I finally added my google calendar to Oneika’s Teaching Schedule section of the site.

Slap me.

Now when I meet someone and hand them my card- they can see that I’m not foolin’, I do actually teach classes and have clients. It’s also a great way to connect with yogis who bump into me online while on their way to some other site. I mean Oneika has got to be the most popular word searched on Google, right?

I also set up a facebook page for Oneika’s Yoga Life. Twitter and I have been friends for awhile, but I do need to remember to chat more about when I’m teaching and where.

As a new teacher I get to let folks know I’m out here and ready to teach! When my classes grow and change, so will my site.

What a great networking tool too!!!

This is yoga. Wired.

Namaste y’all.

oneika stripes

Adventures in Yoga Teaching- Back on Track

yogatraintracks

Friday was beautiful round these parts.

I was strolling home from my community class taking in the sights when I bumped into Daba Briggs, one of my yoga inspirations.

Daba is the kind of teacher the imagination conjures when you hear the words ‘yoga teacher’. She’s knowledgable, humble, talented, giving and powerful.

My mind always get to mull over a nugget of wisdom when I talk to her. On this sunny Friday, we chatted about how my new teaching journey was progressing.

I’m not ready to pursue the next yoga education (formerly) yet. But I’ve been craving- something. So I’ve been reading a lot. I blurted out my concerns, am I moving in the right direction? I feel like I want to fill in some gaps…Am I doing the right things? 

Keep taking classes, teaching classes and exploring self-study she advised. As I meet teachers and go to studios, I’ll know when the right mentor and  teacher training will present themselves.

Daba also mentioned a few studios that offer great classes for teachers. She reminded me that I can always take her classes when I can.

I’d gotten so caught up in my hot yoga practice and trying new disciplines that I’d strayed a bit from the basics. A good practice starts with a good foundation.

Her class provided one of those building blocks. Daba’s focus is structural yoga, where alignment is queen. Her use of props and cues allow a yogi to grow in a pose even if you have been doing yoga for years.

Her prop workshop rocked my warrior world.

My Virabhadrasana I and II have never been the same. Seriously. Standing with my back foot pushing against a wall, I could feel my heel truly ‘root down.’ People have said that before, ‘root down the heel.’ In that moment, I got it.

Huz-zah.

How could I let myself slip out of those great classes? No bueno.

I committed to go to her Saturday morning class. I felt a little exhale and smile rise from inside.

Okay. Feeling more centered.

It’s important to keep reaching out when you start teaching. Shit, it’s important to keep reaching out all of the time.

I’ve never been great at this. Once again yoga is gently nudging me so I can stay on track.

Are these mini revelations yoga?

Methinks so.

Of course her Saturday class was just what I needed. The tweaks and adjustments were an ass kicker. I mean that. My ass was killing me. But more importantly, I had an aha moment as a teacher. There were great adjustments and cues that I could be using in my own classes.

Another smile and exhale.

I enjoy the notion that for every piece of knowledge I glean, the ocean of what I don’t know about yoga (and well everything) gets bigger. So big that I can’t see the horizon.

Exciting stuff.

This is yoga, and it stretches on forever. Maybe.

Namaste y’all.

Community Yoga

communityyoga

I taught my first community class last Friday.

Amazing. Newly offered a few weeks ago, I wasn’t sure how many people would show up. Two my other fellow graduates are sharing the teaching schedule.

It was a nice sized class at 10 people.

Everyone had a fairly consistent practice so we hopped in and got down with some yoga. Kicked some asana.

So. Much. Fun.

There’s something about the notion of a community class.

Pay what you can. Pay a dollar. Pay a nickel. Pay a penny. Pay with a prayer and a bow. But come yoga. Move your body. Move your mind. Move your heart.

Teaching a few donation based classes is so great for a new teacher like me. Gives me a chance to get really good and give back at the same time. The studio owner said to me, “Take classes. Teach classes.” Simple, smart powerful advice. It’s awesome to have the chance to do that.

So I take every class I can, teach every class that I can get and offer to sub for every class that I’m experienced to sub.

It’s made these first 6-8 weeks of teaching empowering. I see people smiling and sweaty after class. That’s a good sign.

This is yoga. And it’s a community.

Namaste y’all.

 

Adventures in Yoga Teacher Training – Pain Shouldn’t Be Your Friend

chat

Years ago my right shoulder used to pop out of its socket. It wasn’t pretty and hurt like hell. Like Hell.

Like Hell.

Because I didn’t rehab it properly, dislocation happened more frequently and recovery wasn’t ever complete. Even worse, I got used to both the pain and the instability of a shaky shoulder. But I kept working out, kept pushing myself.  I didn’t want to change my routine or stop my busy life to deal with it.

Not cool. (Oh boy, it also says tons about my mindset at the time. Who in her right mind walks around knowing that at any moment she can be writhing on the floor, and not in a good way?)

On most days my right shoulder would throb. I subconsciously adjusted movements to avoid actions that would result in dislocation. It also had this way of popping out in inopportune moments, the most embarrassing of which took place at the gym as I walked to the shower (just wearing one of those ridiculously small sandpaper towels).

My foot slipped. The slip didn’t cause a fall, but my shoulder popping out and dropped my now naked butt (the handkerchief, I mean towel, fell off as I fell down) to the tile in what can only be described as the most horrible pain I’ve encountered. I could entertain you with the complimentary comments from the big EMS dudes, (which actually made me laugh, resulting in more shooting pain). I won’t, because being carried out wrapped in a sheet, in the middle of December to an ambulance is really, really hilarious and humiliating. Let’s not even talk about having to describe the the ER doc how I managed to show up without clothes- because to try and put anything on would have meant me screaming and injuring myself further. My dad came to pick me up- he had to bring clothes. Ugh.

I got surgery a week later.

Did my rehab like a good girl.

Years of trauma though, had reprogrammed my body and I avoided major shoulder activity during workouts. Another bad idea. Babying myself wasn’t smart. Sharp pain and constant injury shouldn’t be your friend in any workout but especially yoga. But you must challenge the muscle (with supervision if necessary) in order to gain strength.

Reflecting, I see that it was my ego working overtime.

If you’re not careful, Ego will have you living a life in pain.

Thankfully, yoga found me.

Both breath work and my asana practice have opened up my back and shoulders. Being kind to myself has allowed for emotional and physical healing. Weight bearing poses have improved strength. I’ve finally learned the difference between pushing limits and pain.

And still with all of these tools I still managed to push a little too hard when learning the full expression of Chaturanga Dadanasana. I blame excitement and not ego. Chaturanga is a fun thing to do once you get the hang of it. While I may have been strong enough to support myself, I hadn’t consistently been engaging the muscles around my rotator cuff. A few days ago I woke up with a scary familiar throb in my left shoulder.

Uh-oh.

The good news is that I am not the woman I was 15 years ago. I immediately tended to it. I’m looking for a great shoulder doc to check it out. During practice, the plan is to focus on precise alignment. And le sigh, modifications until I’m feeling up to snuff.

I’ve learned to honor where I am at any given moment. Yoga isn’t just the asanas, it’s what happens when I’m home relaxing or surrounded by chaos. By being in the present and acting accordingly, I make the best decisions. As a yoga teacher I owe my students that. We are all worth such reverence.

You can’t guide others through practice if you aren’t taking care of yourself.

This is yoga. And I love it. My shoulders do too.

Namaste y’all!

Adventures in Yoga Teacher Training- One Half-Inch Can Change Everything (Props Workshop)

oneikasyogalife, black women yoga, yoga, yoga props
photo credit livingitupall.com

Props workshop. Whoop!

I’d been looking forward to it for a few weeks. We were going to learn about how to use props with students. Lots of people are afraid to use yoga blocks or blankets to help with a pose. Assistance means weakness, and to so many yoga means being strong. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Props can be used for the inflexible, but they can also help any yogi feel a different sensation or hold a pose for a sustained period. The workshop was also taught by one of my favorite teachers so I was extra stoked (yeah, I’m tryin’ to bring ‘stoked’ back).

I was one of those people. Props were for punks. I’ve since learned the err of my ways. Doing chatarunga on blocks is no freaking joke. It’s only a few inches more but it makes all of the difference in the world when you are trying to push up. (Chatarunga and I also have a spotted past, but that’s a story for another day.) Let’s get back to the few inches.

My real transformations are measured in inches and not feet. Change is easy when it’s huge or thrust upon you. Marriage, job change, break-up and moving are big deal things that force us to deal with monumental shifts. But it’s the little changes, the incremental steps that take real commitment. Taking yourself to the gym each day, or promising to show up and be better person at work. Drinking 8 glasses of water every day. Or being better partner/parent by being more patient.  It’s easy to fall off the wagon with the little things. But in the end, the tiny changes provide our most eye opening experiences.

Throughout my life I realize that big deal moments were really a series of little ones. Some changes happened by accident, others took work. I wanted to be happy end the end of each day. Each morning I began to take stock of where I was and what I needed to do to be happy in the moment. This led to a larger life change with yoga.  And then teacher training and a new career.

You get my drift, pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down etc…

Yoga raja kapotasana pigeon pose

Back to the workshop: 

While in pigeon pose I told D that I wasn’t feeling a stretch in front of my hips. Reluctantly, I asked for an adjustment, because it’s a pose that feels good, relaxing even.  D came behind me and reposititioned my hips one half-inch.

Oh. My. God.

‘This is why people struggle in this pose.’ I grumbled to myself.

Pigeon pose now sucks. The upside, it won’t forever. The challenge? Making sure I put my hips in that position every time I’m there. I know I will. If all of the little changes have brought me to a place where I’m happier than I’ve ever been before yoga, I can’t imagine that joy I’ll find now that yoga is in my life.

This is yoga. One half-inch at a time and I love it.

Namaste y’all.