Tag Archives: teaching yoga

30 Days of “A Year of Living Your Yoga” — Day 29: Practice Makes Better

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Welcome to Day 29 of my 30-day blog series based on Judith Hanson-Lasater’s “A Year of Living Your Yoga.”

I will try to keep these posts to about 500 words.

Here is the quote:

August 27 — A yoga class is a support group for people who can’t do yoga. Do you shrink from doing something because you judge yourself as not good enough? If so, remember that your yoga class is not full of experts; it is made up of practitioners of yoga. Go to class today, and practice from your heart.

This is possibly one of my favoritest quotes of hers. I say this all the time, “yoga practice.” We are practicing yoga we are not perfecting it or finalizing it.

Monday’s triangle pose will definitely feel different than Tuesday’s triangle pose. Does it matter that they feel different from one another? No, because YOU are different on Tuesday than you were on Monday.

This quote of course has virtually nothing to do with yoga. It’s all about life and not getting hung up in the minutiae.

I don’t care if you sing the same song the same way every day of your life. Each day you sing it, you will be a different person, a full 24-hours different (older) and that’s a fact. There is no perfection ever because we are constantly changing. So any hopes, dreams, aspirations you might’ve had about being fantastically perfect are … um … toast. The definition of perfection when you declared it has changed by even one second. Can’t catch it! Perfection and stasis are like the Gingerbread Man of life.

So count on it that your Warrior 2 will be different than the day before; it just will. And that’s a good thing.

As a yoga “teacher,” I’m really just someone who comes up with a plan for how you are invited to spend your 90 minutes with me and others in the room. You can come in and do your own thing and while it might be distracting and make me wonder why you bothered to show up if you’re just going to blow off my class plan, if you pay me, I’m good.

Teachers are guides. We don’t have all the answers. We don’t have some sacred knowledge that you don’t possess. We all use the same tools you have at your disposal: intuition, brains, insight into a situation and a response. As far as experience goes, our only experience that is different than yours is that it’s ours; our training encourages that we go deeper into ourselves and look inwardly more than the average bear. Do I have that down? Only in the yoga class, it seems. But, if I have a lesson plan ready to go, but no one is seeming to get it, or for some reason it just doesn’t ever click with the class, I’ll scrap it halfway through and just wing it.

Do you want to know The Hardest Thing for me to “do right” during a yoga class?

Ringing the bell or chimes at the end of class. No joke.

this little bowl. who would ever suspect that it could render in me vast trepidation to the point where my class would end a minute late?

this little bowl. who would ever suspect that it could render in me vast trepidation and frustration to the point where my class would end late?

 

I love my yoga teachers. Before I became a teacher, one of them would sound her chimes so loud, I’d shudder during svasana.

So I went up to her after about two years and started meekly with “Maybe it’s me, and I have sensitive ears ….” and then asked her if she could use less energy to sound the chimes at the end of meditation. (I was once accused by someone of speaking obtusely … I wonder: is saying “use less energy” obtuse? I just try to get to the essence of things politely) “Sure!” she said, happy as a clam!

Since becoming a yoga teacher: my ability to confidently sound that chime at the end of class is at zero. It’s shattered. If you could see me, in the dark (during the evening class)… I get my little brass singing bowl and mallet and I carefully bring them to my mat as silently as possible. I take the mallet in my left hand and I prepare to ring the bowl. I miss every time.

I can tell you where to put your hands, and how to position your hips, and where your eyes “should” rest in the gaze in Warrior One, or I can verbally cue you to a camel pose but when it comes to that bowl… fuhgedaboudit.

I whiff the bowl or I barely stroke it so it sounds like a muted “tink.” So then I take a breath because my face is all squinched up like an exasperated Kermit the Frog and I’m all amped up. I want to let people out on time but I can’t get the stupid stick to strike the bowl just right … and then I hit it so hard I end up hissing to myself and apologizing. Then the two more times after that, I whiff again. I feel in my heart, that I’ve blown svasana for my practitioners and that all the good stuff we did in class is ruined. But then I remember: “practice” and it’s OK. There is no perfect.

Practice doesn’t really make perfect. Practice makes better.

During my upcoming vacation, I’m going to bring my bowl and my striker and I’m going practice until I get it to the point where I’m good with it. I came very close to it the other day: I struck it on the fattest point of the bowl, the sound was more rich and less panicky if I do say so myself. But I’m still bringing it along.

Thank you.

30 Days of “A Year of Living Your Yoga” — Day 28: 21 Days to You

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Welcome to Day 28 of my 30-day blog series based on Judith Hanson Lasater’s “A Year of Living Your Yoga.”

I will try to keep these posts to about 500 words. Here is the quote:

January 26 — Without discipline there is no art. the art of yoga comes from the consistency of discipline. Today, resolve to practice for the next twenty-one days without missing a single day. Note it on your calendar.

I’ve heard and have written about the premise of forming habits: 21 consecutive days is the root of starting a habit. I agree with it heartily.

I will admit this here: I don’t think there is one thing I’ve ever done 21 days in a row at the same time in years. Last year on the retreat, it came close: we were together for 16 days but 15 mornings.

Even this series, I’ve written a few posts in one day, so that I can clear my calendar. That’s cheating. Do you read each post every day for 21 days straight? If so, thank you.

This is a great idea and one that I should expand beyond my fitness routine. Back in 2006, I would wake at 6:00 am, have a banana, get on my ergometer and “row” 5,000 meters. It usually took me about 23 minutes. My routine varied (for instance one day I would row intervals, another day I would row steady state), as will each day we do the “same” thing, but the underlying concept, the “theme” of what we do does not vary.

So I’m going to do this. I’m going to take this seriously and commit to doing one thing, the same kind of thing, every day without fail.

What’s fun about this is that doing one same thing every day will actually create more irregularity, and more freedom in our lives: I don’t think it’s good that a cup of coffee tastes the same every day. No jog with the dog is the same as it was the day before and therefore, no repeated yoga program, will feel the same each day. I’ll sleep differently and feel differently each day, so why shouldn’t my yoga practice?

I’ll just do the poses and do what my body is telling me to do — for the entire practice. I would do this (unscripted) as a teacher, but I still feel a little green. I have to remember the opposite sides and limbs to repeat it for the other side; when I’m all alone, there’s no worry of messing up a side…. Perhaps I give myself too much pressure. Anyway, do this.

If you want to break a habit, don’t think of giving up something so much as getting something new instead. You’re not quitting smoking, you’re getting fresh air instead. You’re not stopping biting your nails, you’re getting a nice manicure at the end. I can say that for the yoga — an entire practice: meditation, pranayama, asanas, balancing, inversion, reclined stretches, svasana to meditation — each day will bring me closer to myself.

Let me know you commit to … let’s meet up in three weeks…

Thank you.

There’s A Gift in this Somewhere… I Need to Be Wrapped in Caution Tape

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I don’t know where to start.

I put on make-up this morning after I dried my hair and put on a top with buttons and pants with a zipper.

About twenty minutes after that I got a call from my husband, “You can cook that chicken for dinner or something; I read that re-freezing meats won’t be unsafe, but it might affect their flavor, so we don’t need to worry about food safety.”

Wha—?

Someone left the freezer open. Suppress nausea. 

I woke this morning from a rather crazy dream, likely induced by the eight sessions of yoga I have either taught or attended in the last five days. In all of those, I’ve only had the gift of svasana, final relaxation pose, thrice. And of those three times, I’d say I truly let go …. oh, not at all.

In the dream, I stepped outside my childhood home to an evening late-season snow flurry; about four inches had accumulated and it was a collection of glorious frozen fluff. Just like the last time it snowed as such here, I was making a snow angel, in my house clothes, because I knew it would likely be the last downy fall in months, if not years.

In the dream, a pack of marauding pubescent boys, with their straight-brim baseball hats, enormous unlaced high-top shoes that reminded me of puppy feet, skinny jeans, hoodies and tshirts emblazoned with a lá mode and self-aggrandizing slogans were pimp-rolling (apologies to Tom Wolfe) my way. I’m not sure what my issue was with this band of boys, but I wasn’t threatened. I was feeling more defiant than they thought they were. I was ready to raise the bar on their perceived bad-assness. I was ready to wait and see.

Then I woke up to the sound of my alarm, a song by a Scandinavian band called “Jonsi & Alex” which plays primarily atmospheric music. I was completely disoriented. I think the song was “Howl.”

The pack of youth is clearly one of my sons. He’s testing me and his father a lot these days. I won’t go into it because it’s his story to tell and hopefully overcome, but let’s just say that he loves expensive sneakers and doesn’t know who he is yet. I can’t blame him for the latter because I’m not sure who I am and certainly I love shoes as well, but I wondered, at times like these after I changed back into shapeless clothing and my old slippers and put my freshly washed and blown-out hair into a pony tail so I could gut from the freezer about 100 pounds of bagels, waffles, english muffins, vegetables, fruit, NO!!! NOT THE ICE CREAM SANDWICHES!!!, orange juice, pink lemonade, raviolis, tortellinis, sweet potato fries, quesadillas… you name it. I wondered about a lot of things.

The freezer looked like crime scene. I needed caution tape wrapped around me because I was unhinged. Bag after bag after bag. I missed my husband who is at his desk during this moment because I know we would’ve had a fun time; we would’ve made lemonade instead of grousing about throwing it out.

I was thinking of a post Wednesday, “Where’s My Svasana?” because I’d taught yoga four times by that point and had only had experienced my own coached “lie down” twice. I laughed at the idea of that post this morning, nay, ten minutes ago when I was wiping down the blood bath of my freezer. I am sure I was exposed to salmonella, streptococcus, botulism, ptomaine, influenza and who knows what the what all the while as I wiped down the juices blood of the meats I was discarding. There is one truth to this that I suppose is a convenience: it gave me an excuse to unload some food we’d forgotten about or had simply disliked. Probably about $250 worth. Ten sessions of therapy… or fifteen Gap t-shirts.

My cats were crying, “feed me! feed me! the juice on the carpet (yecch) is not enough but it is a huge stimulus to our digestive system. if you don’t feed us, we will go live with the neighbors again….” So I robotically said, “Namafuckingste” (that’s not Sanskrit) to the cats and let the kibble go >tink tink tink tinktinktinktinktinktink< into the shiny steel bowls.

When events like these happen, you are in a Moment of Truth. My Moment says, chides, hisses, “Was it worth it? That yoga certificate? Feeling IN THE MOMENT right now? Was it worth it? That degree in English and writing? Was it worth it? Those babies you had….?”

No one tells you this ugly secret about parenting: IT’S FUCKING HARD.

Screw the pregnancy, screw the labor, screw the body shape distortion and what the fuck happened to me moments. The lack of sleep. The issues with their health. Behaviors that creep up in yourself, parts of you you never thought were there. Screw it all. That’s the easy part. Parenting shows you your True Nature. It gloats over your weaknesses as it challenges your strengths. Kids? They’re not the culprits. They’re not to blame. It’s us… those of us who’ve never actually grown up. Who still like to blame. Who don’t like the feelings we feel when our kids neeeeeeeeeeeeeed us. Because they’re supposed to.

Currently, there’s a wash of writers who want to blame all their shit on their kids. They can’t get a moment alone, so they blame it on their kids. It’s not the kids. It’s us. It’s the parents. It’s like this: my puppy Charlie. He’s great. He’s huge now, about 40# going on a likely and final 70#. I’m good with that. But he’s a dog, number one. And he’s a dog, number two. When he goes after a sock, a shoe, a jacket, a cat, a pillow, a blanket, a towel, a piece of paper, the newspaper, the garbage, Murphy … is he to blame?

When my kids go after each other, when they leave the freezer door ajar after making a smoothie, when they leave the back door unlocked, when they leave a brand new bike out front over night, when they don’t do their homework, when they trade the shoes you bought them for another pair with some kid at school you don’t know and whose family you’ve never met and your kid doesn’t even have a class with this child and he brings them home and says to you plain as day, “Dad bought me these….” or “Dad said I could …” whose “fault” is that? It’s not my puppy’s, I can tell you that. It’s the job of the parent and of the dog owner to make things right. To train the dog to stay away from the things he shouldn’t have. To ask first. And it’s the job of the parent to UNDERSTAND that KIDS ARE NEEDY. They can’t help it.

I’m grossed out by it all, the rash of parents who act as if they’ve figured it all out; that they deserve a trophy for staying sober or washing their kids’ hair.  I know: I’m 117 years old and I have lost my sense of humor. I need to lighten up because exploiting my children’s natural behavior for my gain and popularity is what all the cool kids are doing.

I don’t care. I was never friends with The Bloggess or anyone else who writes tripe like that. I’ll just go on, in my bubble bath of obscurity, with my arms coated in freezer detritus.

And trying to start a business? Teaching yoga, which isn’t easy, especially for all-levels classes because you have no clue as to anyone’s abilities… so you write these lesson plans that might be too aggressive or too easy and you take too long and you wonder if you’re being effective? Some students look at you with blank stares. I guess I do too with my teachers. But they write checks and they come back and they say thank you and they tell you it was great and they enjoyed it… so there’s that. People don’t pay for shit that sucks.

Somewhere along the line, I learned to doubt myself to the point where I think everything I do is not enough. Somewhere along the line, I was told or inspired or encouraged to push myself to the razor’s edge and hang on to that singular fringe, like Sandra Bullock in “Gravity” only to wonder… if I let go… I know I won’t go spinning, because I feel like I already am. But really…

(c) WarnerBros 2013.

(c) WarnerBros 2013.

I learned that my best was always beatable. Try harder. Work harder. It’s deeper than work; it’s about survival. It’s about Mom; my mom who died last year. My mom who was so hard to reach. But that’s ancient history, right? And I’m a fully actualized adult. This freezer thing and all my crap is cake. NnnnNnNNnnnnn.

So I make notes after the classes to remind myself of what I forgot. To improve for the next class. Maybe one day it will just flow out of me and I won’t need lists and yoga cards and apps and stuff; that I will intuitively know how to teach a class.

 

. . . . . .

Somewhere in the weave of that dream I had, the freezer debacle, parenting, and the yoga teaching doubts was an epiphany: these are nice problems to have. As I posted on Facebook this morning just before diving in to coat myself in Fla-vor-ice drippings, pea juice, apple-chicken sausage whatnot, stir-fry sauce and who knows, I am certain that there are a couple billion people out there who would love to have this problem: a freezer with food. A freezer. Food.

As I shoved the bag of partially frozen ground beef into the back of the freezer praying to the Hamburger Helper gods that they have a concoction and blend of preservatives and spices which will make that meat palatable and digestible, I decided I am feeling invisible. That’s a yucky feeling. It taps all sorts of stuff deeeeeeeeeeeep inside me. But instead of pushing it aside, I’m going to have to sit with it.

I’m going to do something I’ve not usually done, which is NOT be all Pollyanna about it, even though it’s the truth, I’m not going to pat myself on the back for changing my perception about this, because the truth is I’m fucking exhausted.

I get that shit like this happens. I just could’ve used a break is all. This is the first time I’ve sat down to write for writing’s sake in a while. It’s the first time I’ve sat to do something for myself in about two weeks. I hope I entertained. I hope you learned something. I know I did.

Here comes the trash truck.

Thank you.