Category Archives: yoga in a gym

#365yoga Day 90: The Wheel

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At 11:27 am CST, I locked the door to 300 Saint James Street for the last time.  I had just finished teaching my last yoga class at our temporary studio and it was a lovely class filled with committed yoga students and beautiful energy.  I got into my car and had to sit there for a little while and reflect.  

It was about 2 years ago that I decided to become a yoga teacher.  2 short years.  It’s something I always thought about, of course.  I wanted to do it for a long time, but certain things (read: feeling like I didn’t deserve to do it, wasn’t worth it, etc.) kept me from pushing through and doing it.  I’ll never forget the moments that got me to the other side of that: several yoga teachers at the gym I attended kept asking me to “finally get” my “yoga training in so” I “could sub already, dammit!”

What can I say, they were persuasive.

20 months ago, I did what I could with what I had (very tiny budget and very little time,) and took a very little basic yoga teacher training.  Within 3 days I was able to teach at my gym.  And teach I did!  It was only a few weeks later that I had my own regular class and was subbing frequently in multiple locations all over town.  My goodness, when I think back on some of those classes, well, let’s just say that most yoga students are benevolent, patient, good humored folk!  I kept teaching, though, and I kept learning and growing and asking questions.  I kept searching and trying and trusting in the process.  Yoga Sol was born and I moved my mat from the gym to a studio.

Yoga Sol lived at that studio for 14 months.  My classes grew from one student (or, at times, none) to wall to wall mats.  I met amazing people and felt amazing energy and got to witness the transformation that comes when you commit to a regular yoga practice both in my students and in myself.  I met mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters, artists and actors, poets and photographers, teachers and students, and Michael Franti and his gang.

The wheel keeps on rolling down the road, for sure!

Somewhere along that road, I realized that I DO deserve to follow my bliss, I DO deserve to have a bright future, I DO deserve a real and proper training, so in October I packed up my bags and headed out west to The White Lotus Foundation.  For many of you, this might not seem like a big deal. For me and my family, however, it was revolutionary.  I left my homeschooled children and husband (who works in an industry that is fueled by college sports,) alone for 16 days during the 3 busiest weekends of the year: homecoming and games against the 2 top rivals.  Used to be that I wouldn’t even think about scheduling lunch during those weekends, much less a trip across the country!  Yoga transforms, eh?

I sent in my final paperwork for my 200RYT last Saturday.  I DID IT!

Today I locked the door at the temporary location of Yoga Sol.  I taught the last class there and I will be teaching the first class at the new location, 210 Saint James Street, which just happens to fall on my 35th birthday.  I think it’s highly significant.  I feel it’s a rebirth, of sorts.  I will be opening the studio not just as a teacher, but as the manager, working very closely with one of the greatest gifts I have ever received, my mentor, friend, and Yoga Sol owner, Polly.  What started out as just the two of  us in a dance studio has now grown into the first indoor / outdoor yoga studio in Mid-MO, if not the entire state of Missouri.  We have a teaching staff of  8 other teachers on board now as well as our own classes filled with students who have followed us both through the trenches and into the light.

And the wheel is still rolling!

Yoga is very much like a wheel.  The more momentum it has, the further it goes, and will usually take you further than you could ever imagine if you just let it go.  I cannot wait to see where this leads, but I’ll tell you this – I hope I never stop the wheel from turning.  I will watch it with amazement and awe and joy because it is bound to be an awesome ride.

Let Them Eat Cake(asana)

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My husband gave me a membership to the best gym in my town for my birthday present several years ago.  Don’t go getting into a huff, I asked for that for my present. 😉  I spent a year or more doing weights and cardio, but never took a class. My yoga mat, at that time, only saw the light of day in my house.  I was happy to be there at the gym, but never once thought of finding tadasana amongst the treadmills.  One day, however, a friend of mine mentioned going to the same gym and trying out a yoga class. She didn’t want to go alone, so I happily joined her.

That class changed my life.  That was the class in which I first saw Polly.  I was gobsmacked.  Here was what I had been searching for: humor, spirituality, alignment, history, philosophy, empowerment, challenge, and rocking tunes.  I left that class feeling the same way I felt on certain occasions in college (minus the risk of drug charges and plus the endorphin thrill of an honest workout!)   I went home and dug out my old yoga books, my (VERY difficult to read) translation of the Bhagavad Gita, and dove in.

It took me a full year to find Polly and that feeling again.  The minute I found it, however, I grasped on tight.  That grasp has taken me far.

Fast-forward to now.

I found myself teaching at the gym yesterday and again tonight.  What used to be a thrice weekly occurrence is now a very rare event, happening only when someone at the gym needs a sub.  I’m proud of myself and my growth.  I am proud of where I am. And, as odd as it sounds, I am still happy to, occasionally, teach in a gym.

I kept my eyes wide open as I taught yesterday and tonight. I wanted to see these students. I wanted to meet them where they are and see what it is that they want, need, hope for.  I went there looking to see others.  What I saw was myself.  I saw myself as i was years ago, laying a mat down in a gym, hoping for the best, expecting the worst.  I saw my own eyes staring back at me with wonder and amazement.  I saw my own heart lift out of chests, my own feet find purchase in the earth, my own arms reaching for a collective future.  I saw them looking at me as I looked at Polly years ago.

I teach yoga because I want to give.  I want to give because people want to receive.  Yes, there are people in gyms who want only to raise their heartrates and lower their waist measurements.  There are also those who want volumes more but, for lack of resources or direction, are limited to the gym.  Yoga can give them all of it.  ALL of it.  They can have their cake and eat it, too.  There are those who are thirsty for something to cling to: hope, faith, compassion, history, love, LOVE, L O V E!  Let them have it.  Let them have it all.

I will continue to occasionally go to the gym to teach.  I may occasionally go there to learn as well.  Yoga is for ALL.  It is an all you can eat buffet.  I’m so happy to be able to serve up the sweets.

Namaste

Why X + Y ≠ Yoga Teacher

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I used to have a friend who had a masters degree in early education.  She had spent years in school, thousands of dollars on education and testing and certification.  She taught 5th grade, 4th grade, Kindergarten, and, at the time, was running the preschool for her city’s public school system.  Her biggest pet peeve?  Folks who ran daycare centers saying that they had the same job as she did, that they were professional peers.

I used to be a doula. I helped many, many babies come into the world.  I spent the money and took a long training, spent a year reading a huge required reading list, did loads of practice births for free, wrote essays and took exams, and eventually became certified through the most intensive (albeit now different) organization.  My biggest teacher?  A woman who had never had any formal training at all, but had been attending births her whole life because it was the natural thing to do.

I have been teaching yoga for a little over a year.  I have taught in gyms, in birth centers, in backyards, in parks, in yoga studios, in forests, in my pajamas, in campgrounds, and in homeschooling groups.  I’ve taught classes with 1 student and classes with 51 students.  If I took the time, I could probably count the hours I have spent teaching.  Heck, since I have the time, I’ll do an educated guess: I would say that in a little over a year, I have taught 285 hours of yoga that I have been paid for (upon 2nd thought, I bet that’s a conservative number.)  I have taught for cash, for credit, for food, for photography, for haircuts, for childcare, for charity, for the love of it, for the love of others, etc.  I have been quoted on the Yoga Journal website (thanks, @Jodim, for that,) in magazines, on websites, in newspapers.  My name is starting to be known in my town and in cyperspace (not that was ever my goal.)    My “official formal” training?  An 18 hour weekend course.

< pauses while the whole world gasps and freaks out.>

No worries, it makes my skin crawl, too.

My “unofficial informal” training?  17 years of personal home practice and  group yoga classes, 2 years apprenticeship (shout, Polita!, ) closing in on 17 years of spiritual study, workshops, one on one dialogue with master yogis (thank you, Twitter,) 10 years of meditation practice, and a life-long desire to go deeper and further into the dark so that I can stand more strongly, fully into the light.  I have read more yoga / anatomy / theory / Buddhist / Hindu / spiritual / meditation / personal growth books than most libraries have.  I have listened and learned from each of my students.  I have been present.

Does that make me better?  Nope.  Does that make me different? My students say it does.

There is no formula for a great teacher.  I have all this under my belt and it still is not enough. It NEVER will be enough.  I am leaving in a few weeks for The White Lotus Foundation to get my 200hrRYT status with Yoga Alliance.  Will that be the end of my yoga education equation?  NOT. A. CHANCE.  I will FOREVER be learning, forever be growing, forever be expanding.  If I am breathing, I will be learning.  If I am learning, I will be sharing. Some folks call that sharing “teaching.”

Fair enough.

I do not believe that there is an equation that one person can follow that will make them a Yoga Teacher.  I haven’t found it yet.  Am I a yogini?  Yep.  Do I share it?  Yep.

Am I still a student? OH, yes, yes yes yes yes.  Yes.  Forever yes.

An equation seems finite.  There is no “finite” in yoga.

I am a yoga teacher.  I am more than the sum of my parts.

So are you.

Namaste

All good things must come to an end

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in order to make room for GREAT things!

Yesterday I put in my 2 weeks notice after nearly a year of teaching yoga and Hot Yoga for Wilson’s Fitness Centers.  I have enjoyed my time there and will always be grateful for the start, the confidence, and the experience I gained from Wilson’s.  I have reached the end for potential growth with the company and, honestly, my heart has been dedicated to Yoga Sol from the very beginning.

Tonight I tell my students: Starting June 6th, it’s All Sol, All the Time for me!  The journey continues to be bountiful and blissful for me and I cannot wait to see where this new venture takes me.  I sense that only good things await me.  Yoga Sol is growing and shaking things up and it’s such a delight to be a part of something so vividly real and progressive.

Everything is coming up Lotuses!

Test Out That Shirt Before You Teach and other lessons I learned in a marathon week

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I haven’t posted much to this blog in the last couple of weeks. The simple fact is that I have been too busy. Last week was Spring Break here in my town and loads of yoga teachers took off to various locations leaving a few of us behind to pick up classes. I had 7 classes in 4 days. While I know that is not a lot from many yogis, it was by for the most classes I have taught in so few days and I feel like I have run a marathon (minus the tiny shorts.) It was a challenge for me and, as we all learn through yoga, facing a challenge and persevering through said challenge can change a person. I am no exception. I learned a lot and that education changed me.

As in all professions, yoga teachers can suffer from burn out. While it seems unlikely that teaching yoga, a practice that leads to serenity and peace of both body and mind, can cause burnout, it’s more common than you think. We put a lot of thought and work into classes. We think of music, we think of sequences, we think of methodology, mythology, psychology, and physiology. It takes a lot of effort that we are grateful to exert, but it does come at a price. For me, burnout manifests as self-doubt and I had it in spades at the end of the first day. Burnout on the first day?!?!? Enter lesson #1 – STAY IN THE MOMENT. I was burned out and doubting myself like crazy at the end of the first day and felt like I couldn’t continue. How could I do 6 more classes like that? The answer is: one breath at a time. Getting all worried and stressed about the coming days wasn’t helping me relax, have faith, and allow the universe to guide me. Breathe Deep, Dive Deep, and let The Divine Light take control.

The 2nd day of my marathon found me teaching in the big room mentioned in this post. I don’t teach in that room very often, but it’s always a good experience when I do. The room is always full with no less than 24 students and the view out of those windows is always beautiful. Everywhere I teach is beautiful, really. I’m so grateful to have such amazing surroundings, but I think you’ll agree that, if you see the same things over and over again, you eventually stop seeing them at all. Enter Lesson #2 – OPEN YOUR EYES. In a room that big and with all those mirrors, there comes a time when you will inevitably end up teaching while doing on your own mat. It just happens (at least to me.) I have my mat in the front of the room so folks can see me and, at one such time during the class, I looked into the mirror and saw 4 deer in the field behind us. I mentioned it to the class and, as if on cue, all 4 looked up to the glass. I expected them to bolt, but they didn’t. They were there for a full 12 minutes, playing and grazing and doing their own yoga. I would have missed it if I hadn’t been open and aware – and I might not have been open and aware had I not gotten out into a different place. Enter lesson #3 – CHANGE YOUR YOGA STUDIO. I don’t mean go to a different studio forever, but maybe take a class somewhere else once in a while. Maybe do yoga outside. Or, if you’re not eager to leave your current place, maybe put your mat down elsewhere. Pick a different corner. Arrange your mats in a circle. Turn off the lights. Turn on the lights. Something. Anything. Change is good. Want to see the world differently? Change the way you look at it.

While teaching across town, I met up with a woman who had been in one of my classes before. In our brief conversation, I mentioned to her that I would be teaching hot yoga over the lunch hour the following day. I said this off hand without much thought, but sure enough, she arrived the next day with a friend in tow and we had a delightful class! This made me think about the use of my voice. I struggle promoting myself. It feels egotistical and slimy. Had I not mentioned it, however, she and her friend would not have made it to that class I was teaching and the class would not have been the same. One of my husband’s favorite songs says, “It ain’t braggin,’ Mother (expletive,) if you back it up.” I think there is a lot of truth in that. I started thinking about Satya and realized that it’s about a lot more than just not lying. Enter lesson #4 – SPEAK THE WHOLE TRUTH. Stand in the light of your own truth. Say it like it is. Be proud of who and what you are and let yourself shine. Smile with your whole face. Promote yourself as you’d want others to promote you. Believe in yourself as you believe in your heros and tell someone about it. How did your hero get to be your hero? Chances are she or he spoke up for themselves once upon a time. You might be someone’s hero someday – maybe today! – so speak up.

Speaking up changes your life. It just does, and almost always for the better, even if it doesn’t look like it at first. Occasionally folks will not appreciate, understand, agree with, or enjoy what you have to say. That is awesome – wouldn’t it be a dull world if we all thought / felt / behaved the same way? I always tell my kids that they are free to disagree, but they are never free to disrespect. Not everyone has learned that, though, which brings me to lesson #5 – WHEN PEOPLE SHOW YOU WHO THEY REALLY ARE, BELIEVE THEM. It is not necessary to accept unacceptable behavior. Eliminating unsupportive and negative energy from your life frees you up for miracles and bliss. BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE – refuse to feed judgement and negativity. Put some good energy towards those harboring ill will against you, wish them well, and let them go.

It is impossible to deny the awe-inspiring power of positive touch. It’s not an easy thing for a new teacher to put hands on students. Some places refuse to let you do it, so it takes a while to get comfortable with it. Little by little, it’s becoming second nature to me to touch my students – alignment adjustments, massage, traction, counter pressure. I’m not all over them, but I certainly won’t shy away from laying my hands on lightly to lend a hand. Having spent years as a birth doula, I know that touching someone how and when and where they need it can make a huge physical change in a person, but I was unprepared for the changes touching a yoga student has made in me. During Savasana last week, I placed my thumbs on a student’s third eye and drew them across the forehead and down the temples. Suddenly a peaceful feeling glowed from my student, out of her skin, through my fingers, and directly to my heart. It was so powerful you could almost see it. Lesson #6 – WE ARE ONE. No doubt about it.

Finally, Lesson #7- TEST OUT THAT SHIRT BEFORE YOU TEACH. It doesn’t matter if the shirt stays in place when you do arm balances and headstands, it’s the Surya Namaskar that will get you. This goes for teachers, students, women, men and dogs. Just keep that in mind when you’re thinking of buying that extra cute strappy strap strap shirt. Do a sun salutation or two first, eh? And that’s all I’m going to say about that. 😉

Class dismissed.

Namaste

#28in28yoga wrap-up

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I cannot believe it’s the end of February already.  Seems like I was just sitting around thinking about ways to make the month pass more quickly and came up with the 28 in 28 challenge.  March starts Monday – how is that possible?

In the last 27 days, the light has come out.  It’s golden and warm(ish.)  Trees have buds on them and there are brave green heads poking up through the ground.  I awaken to the sound of birds every morning and the days are getting longer.  Spring, indeed, is coming.

I am going to say right here and now that I may have failed my own challenge.  I say, “May” because, to be honest, I’m not sure it was ever possible to fail at all.  I did not get on my mat every single day, although that was never part of the deal.  I teach several classes a week  and sometimes that means teaching as many as 3 a day. There are times when my body needs a rest.  So, on those days, I didn’t practice… asana.  I made it very clear that I didn’t expect everyone to practice asana every day, but somehow, I had that expectation of myself.  This is just one of the many lessons I learned this month (more on that later.)  While I didn’t always practice physical yoga, I look back on the month and realize that I did something yogic every day.  I sat.  I read.  I learned.  I listened.  I loved.  I laughed.  I explored myself and challenged long held beliefs that were, often, held for a long time simply because they’d been there forever.  An unexamined life and all that. 😉

Big things happened for me this month.  Yoga Sol opened (shout, Polly!)  I faced Sirsasana 1 head on.  I found a really cool way to bind balancing half-moon.  I finally “mastered” Dancer.  And maybe most surprisingly, I discovered that I hadn’t mastered Tadasana after all these years and then finally found my way to my perfect Mountain (although I have to work very hard every day to get  into an active Mountain and not fall back into my lazy standing there looking like a goober Mountain.)  I got a massive tattoo of my favorite mantra on my arm.  Big things.

HUGE things happened in the space between my ears.  Once I managed to get the hang of Sirsa 1, I started doing them every day.  LOVE Sirsa 1 now.  The day I got the key to Yoga Sol, however, I did my practice at home and had a full blown panic attack while preparing for Sirsa.  My heart raced, I felt like running away, I started to cry.  What the hell was going on?  I stayed with it, pushed through the fear (FEAR = False Evidence Appearing Real) and made it up.  I held it for 2 minutes and then spent 15 minutes in Balasana crying my eyes out.  WTH?   I eventually started to talking to some of my yogi friends about it and they helped me to see that I was fearful of seeing things in a new way.  I was struggling with seeing myself as a successful yogini (Polly mentioned Yoga as my career which is everything I want, and yet also so real and grownup and … possible!)  Realizing that, talking about it, and working through it has made me stronger.  I still get a little shaky, but I get through it and I get up.  With that strength behind me, I had two classes at Yoga Sol on the schedule last week and will teach 3 this week.  I love it.  It’s beautiful, it’s sacred, it’s peaceful, it’s home.

Part of taking part in Yoga Sol meant that I had to quit teaching a class at the gym.  It was the Monday morning class that I never felt a connection with.  The room is challenging and the students had various levels of commitment.  It was hard to teach. Not nearly as hard, however, as quitting it.  I don’t do terribly well with confrontations and speaking up for my self worth and desires.  I had to continually remind myself that I wasn’t happy with that class and that I will be so much happier at Yoga Sol and, most importantly, I’m responsible for my own happiness.  Deciding to quit that class was the easy part.  Telling my boss was not so simple.  I wrote and rewrote several drafts and never felt comfortable with anything.  Eventually I ran a draft by my mentor and was told, “You don’t have to explain yourself.  Just say that you need to drop that class.  PERIOD.”  Gobsmacked, I was. I realized that 1) I have been looking to others for validation. 2) I placed other peoples’ opinions and needs above my own. 3) I don’t need to explain myself.  4) My needs are valid.  5) So are my wants.  WHO KNEW?

While I was riding that revolutionary train, my PC bit it.  A month or so ago I replaced the hard drive and, while it worked for a bit, the fact is that the sucker was doomed.  I broke the news to my husband: we’d need a new computer.   I have wanted a MacBook for years.  YEARS.  All of my computers have been PCs and they’ve all been desktops.  The idea of getting a laptop of any variety thrilled me to no end, but something was gnawing at my gut.  I’ve been saying, “next year” for a Mac for the last 5 years. All the “ah ha!” moments that came to me during 28in28 came all together in one BIG Ah ha! moment: every time I said, “Next year” I was really saying, “I’m not worth it.” :oo:  I was putting myself last if I was even considering myself at all!  What the hell?  The realization was nauseating and I admit to taking to my bed for awhile while processing that one.  When I got out from under the covers, I took a breath and ordered what I have wanted for years and years.  I’m happy to say that this post is being typed out on my own MacBook. (please excuse the editing – I am just now learning how to use the darling thing!)

Validation comes from SELF.  Check.

I am deserving.  Check.

I can work through fear.  Check.

I can do Sirsa 1.  Check.

I can rock Dancer. Check.

I am whole.  CHECK CHECK CHECK.

Om Namah Shivaya.

It has been an incredible journey and I’m so glad to have gone on it.  I didn’t fail.  I succeeded. Hell, I did more than succeed: I SOARED.  Thanks for coming on the journey with me. I am worthy.  I am valid.  I am capable. I am becoming.

Namaste