I am so honored to have been chosen as a Featured Teacher on the wonderful website Teacher Goes Back To School. (Click the link to read the interview.) If you’ve ever wondered how this wild rebel got into the Yoga game, or what my classes are really like, this is the interview to read. Thank you to Tami Hackbarth for giving me the forum to speak my truth. Much love to you, sister and, if I may say so, word to YOUR mother!
Yesterday, I posted this picture on my Facebook page. I have seen it before and I’m sure I’ll see it again. I thought twice about posting it because, well, because it’s incendiary and rather abrupt. Hmmm. Sounds kind of like me, eh? Yeah yeah yeah. Anyway, I did end up posting it and there was a brief discussion that followed and it really got me to thinking about a lot of things that go on in a yoga class as I see it as both a student and a teacher. I started listing a few things in my mind, a code of conduct, if you will, about what should and should not happen in a yoga class. Again, I refer to the Disclaimer page – my views are my own and not necessarily those of anyone else. I’m totally okay with other teachers or students (aren’t we both?) feeling differently. That said, this is my blog and here are a few of the rules as I see them.
- DO NOT LEAVE DURING SAVASANA – see notes. First of all, let me say that the idea of walking out during Savasana makes my brain bleed. It’s just not something I would ever think of doing. I mean, I’d do that just as readily as I would jump up and shout “BOB WILLS IS STILL THE KING” during a funeral or something. It’s just not something to be done! It’s disrespectful, it’s rude, and it totally throws people for a loop. Folks are just starting to get into their space, the teacher is totally trying to set a mood and hold the space, and when someone walks by your head or slams the door, or disturbs the peace, it… well, it disturbs the peace. Most importantly, however, Savasana is the most important part of the practice! It’s when the mind reaps the benefits of the body’s work. It is when the yoga becomes not just something you do, but who you are! Leaving in the middle of it hurts everyone. That said… NOTES: I get it. Sometimes you HAVE to leave. You might have a job to get to, a child who needs picked up, a doctor’s appointment … whatever. I’m not unrealistic – life happens. And honestly, I’d rather have you in class for 90% of it than none of it – your energy matters!! If you have to leave, it is a good idea to tell your teacher before class that you will be leaving. It helps if you know what time you will be leaving because she or he can then let you know when you need to go so you won’t be rushed. And here’s the thing – the teacher will tell you before Savasana because, if you have to leave, please leave before anyone closes their eyes. If you have time for a 3 minute Savasana but not a full 7 minute Savasana, perhaps consider going to the lounge or at least closer to the door for you Savasana so you don’t have to walk over / around others who are trying to bliss out. If you are using studio props, just leave them on the floor. The teacher will gladly pick them up for you after class. Please leave silently. Hold the door until it is fully closed so that it doesn’t bang upon your exit. Please keep your phone silent until you’ve reached the parking lot. Please respect what is still going on. Again, I know life happens and I’d rather students be there for part of it rather than none of it, but it is possible to leave nicely. I have a student who, because of her job, has left nearly every single class for the last 18 months early. She has never once disrupted class. She is silent, respectful, and always manages to catch my eye, bow, and mouth “Namaste” to me as she leaves. GOLD STANDARD right there. To that end ….
- BEGIN AND END ON TIME. I have been guilty of this. OH yes, I have been guilty. Sometimes the energy is just too, too good to wrap up. Sometimes a discussion gets started and time slips by. Sometimes … well, sometimes doesn’t matter. Going over is just as rude and disrespectful (to the students and to the teacher who is teaching next) as leaving before the finale. There have been times when I could tell that I was going to go over. When I have been aware of it heading that direction, I have sometimes said, “It looks like we are running a little long. If you need to be out of here by our stated ending time, I will alert you to that 10 minutes prior. If you can stay, please stay.” It goes a long way to easing that cramped, rushed feeling. Still, though, it ain’t cool, man. To all of my students, let this be my public apology: I am sorry I have taken advantage of your time. I am sorry I wasn’t respectful of your schedule and your lives away from the mat. I will make every effort to not let that happen again. Thank you for staying with me thus far. (For the record, I made a vow Sunday night to end on time. Yesterday, both my classes ended within 90 seconds of stated time. BOOM!)
- NO SHOES ON THE STUDIO FLOOR, PLEASE. Again, I have been guilty of this. And I do know that, on occasion, a studio might be used for something other than yoga and it’s possible that those instances might require footwear. If you are coming to take a yoga class, however, know that taking your shoes off before you walk on the floor is about more than not tracking dirt in. We take our shoes off to be closer to the earth. We take our shoes off as a symbol of all coming from the same place. We take our shoes off as a sign of humbleness and simplicity. And, not as symbolic but equally important, many people sit in meditation before practice. Clomping across the floor sends freaky vibrations.
- IT IS OKAY TO GO TO THE BATHROOM. Yoga is about self love and self-care. This isn’t first grade. You don’t have to ask permission to get up, to get a drink of water, to go to the bathroom. Please be comfortable. Please don’t do the pee-pee dance during Utkatasana. Please get a drink of water. Please get up to get a tissue. Please – it’s your studio, too. Just try to not knock someone in Natarajasana over as you pass by.
- BRING WATER. Okay, again, there are some classes in which you wouldn’t bring water (this is unimaginable to me as leaving in Savasana, but whatever.) Water is so vital! Yoga detoxes you. It releases pent up junk locked in organs and cells and joints and tissues. It needs to be flushed out or else you just reabsorb all the goo! If you are taking a class in which you’re likely to get sweaty (Ashtanga, Ashtanga – Vinyasa, Power, Acro, and for Elvis’s sake, Bikram, etc.) you will be dehydrating as you go. This is NO GOOD! Please please please bring water. Sip it often (except in Bikram, but as I’ve said before, I just don’t get that dude.) Drink it up, please! And not only while you’re in class. Drink it all day! You’re going to need to replenish and rehydrate. Believe me, you might not notice right away, but it will catch up to you. The last thing you want is to be feeling great and going out about town 3 hours after class and then fall to your knees because you didn’t drink you water. Drink it up!
- BE GENTLE with yourselves, with your teacher, with others. Everyone has an “off” day now and then. Don’t get stymied by it. Remember, we’re all just walking each other home. We’re all going to trip now and then. Be kind. Be loving. Be gracious. Be generous. Be gentle. And most of all …
Well, dang it, this is the 2nd time I have tried to write this post. WordPress ate the first version. I shall try again!
I know it has been a long time since I have written here. It blows my mind how fast time passes. The fact that it is already the 311th day of the year boggles my mind. Where does it go? What have you been doing? I know what I have been doing – YOGA! Lots of yoga – and learning new stuff all the time.
I love Yoga Sol for many reasons. I feel deeply connected to the space and the business and the people who call it their practice home. It is beautiful. It is unique. It is accepting and open and fun. We have more than 20 classes a week and, while we are predominately a flow studio, we are by no means only a flow studio! We have Atma Jayam, Dance Flow, and Iyengar. Our teachers have multiple styles and teaching backgrounds, but they all have a passion for teaching and they all bring something wonderful and unique to the studio.
Our Iyengar teacher, Netta Sella (Google her – you’ll be blown away by her awesomness,) has taken Yoga Sol by storm. Netta brings discipline, alignment, history, anatomy, and props to our students. Lots of props. Many props. And we love her for it. As the Iyengar practice grew at Yoga Sol, more props started showing up. Pretty soon, Netta’s following spread far and wide and her classes filled beyond expectation. It became clear that we had the opportunity to add one more thing to Yoga Sol that would make us stand out amongst other yoga studios in town: a Yoga Kurunta wall of ropes.
Yesterday, most of the teachers of Yoga Sol and a couple of students gathered together to learn how to use this amazing wall safely, how to teach it safely and mindfully, and how to use it to help people reach their best alignment, modifications, and extension. Netta led us through 2 hours of training and laughing and correction. I have been practicing yoga for half of my life and I must say, the 2 hours of using those ropes yesterday opened my eyes like it was the first time I ever rolled out a mat. The length of my body, the extension, the openness of my heart and shoulder girdle, the decompression of my spine…! Incredible. Just marvelous!
I have taught the wall a bit here and there last week and again today. I will be using more often as it has the potential to transform a practice like nothing I have ever seen before. I am thrilled to say that it’s a part of Yoga Sol and am so grateful to this path I am walking that has brought me to this place. It has definitely got a hold on me – and I feel so good!
The following pictures are from yesterday’s training. Most were taken by Netta, one or two were taken by Beatriz Wallace. Many thanks to you both for allowing me to post them here.
It’s been a long time since I’ve written. I didn’t forget, I just have have been busy remembering other things.
Life is a funny, strange, wonderful, painful, confusing, joyful, amazing, bewildering, whirling dervish of lessons to be learned. They continue to surface time and time again until they are learned, often in multiple ways. Figuring out how to live and learn again and again and again is what life is all about, I guess, but it sure does have a tendency to make me stop and say, “Holy shit!”
Some of what I have learned (or am learning… or learning again) :
When someone shows you who they are, believe them. We all want to believe the best of people. We want to believe that everyone is good and loving and honest and straight forward with their intentions and motivations. The truth of the matter, however, is that this desire to believe in the goodness of people (that really *does* exist,) and the desire to ignore the bad parts (which also do exist) can cloud our understanding of reality. Reality: Actions speak louder than words. Believe what you see, not what you hear.
To thine own self be true. Almost everyone has something they do. Almost everyone has something to which they belong. Almost everyone has something in which they believe. Almost everyone has groups of friends, family, associates, and acquaintances. I am no different – I have all of those things, just as you do, too. Here’s the deal, though: I am NOT those things. I am more than that and so are you. If you find yourself constantly talking only about your job or your organization, it’s likely that you have lost (or lost touch with) the part of you that lives and breathes and shines without titles, without affiliations, without labels and connections. It’s really easy to lose that. Believe me, I know. Be who you are, not what you do.
Keep a little for yourself. Oh we yogi(ni)s are generous people. We give our time, our love, our ideas, our knowledge, our spirit, our philosophy, our energy, and almost anything else folks ask for / look at / need. There is beauty and grace in giving and giving selflessly, but no one ever said that giving it all away is a good idea. Probably because it isn’t a good idea at all! Ganga White talks about the heart pumping the best, most oxygen rich blood back to itself first before pumping it to the other parts of the body. Pretty damn smart, eh? Keep a little of what you have for yourself. You deserve it, you need it, and really, you’re probably the only one who will truly appreciate it. Folks can’t drink from an empty well.
We teach what we most need to learn. While it might seem a little contradictory to the above lesson, you have to teach from where you are. There are times I return from teaching a class and have that feeling of Oh holy hell, that was a horrible class. I wonder if the students thought I was phoning it in? Was I phoning it in? Where am I? What am I doing? Don’t get all worried -every teacher who teaches anything anywhere has had those feelings from time to time. We feel that way because we honestly care about what we’re doing and who we are teaching. It matters to us. That doesn’t mean, however, that we’re always deeply rooted in what we are trying to teach. Usually when I feel that way, however, it’s because I’m not in tune with myself. I’m not drawing from where I am but instead trying to be and teach from somewhere else. In the last few weeks, I have taught some good classes and a few extraordinary classes. 3 guesses as to which classes came from my deepest truths? Regardless if you are experiencing joy, confusion, pain, or fear, there is a yoga for that! Find it, live it, and teach it (you don’t have to explain your situation, though. In fact, please don’t.) Everyone will learn and heal together.
While this isn’t an exhaustive list, it is some of what has been going on in my little world on and off the mat. I have been keeping a lot of things to myself and not writing as much. While it’s helpful for me to have time to think and process, the truth is that I have missed writing here very much. I hope to be back to writing regularly, although I’m not forcing solutions or making any promises. I’m just continuing on the long and winding road, one step at a time.
There’s controversy about when yoga was born. Some say it is 5000 years old, others say it is only about 250 years old, and others say yoga always was. I’m not sure who is right. Maybe they all are. Maybe none of them are. It’s one of those things you just cannot prove or disprove and yet folks still get all up in arms over it insisting that they know the truth.
I don’t get it.
Yoga Sol opens tomorrow. It has been a very long process and what the community will see tomorrow is different than what was originally planned. I spent a bit of time there over the last few days and was overwhelmed by the transformation that this once storage space has endured and how it turned into a breathtakingly beautiful yoga studio. Today the new website launched. It is much different than our former site and I cannot stop looking at it – I love everything about it. That said, it, too, went through many transformations.
There were days during the planning and development of the site and the studio where it felt as though we scrapped everything we had been working on and went back to square one. No one tells you that you’re going to end up reconfiguring the class price 47 times, that you will write and re-write your own bio so many times it begins to feel as though you’re writing about someone else, that it takes approximately 13 different colors of paint to get to the right feel of a yoga studio wall – and let’s not even get started on ceilings. I felt every single one of those labor pains even though honestly, compared to Polly, I was barely a part of the process. It was a struggle, it was hard work, there were long moments when it felt impossible, insurmountable, wildly overwhelming. There were also times of triumph, of energy, of pride, of excitement, and exaltation!
Just like giving birth, is what I’m saying.
I’ve been thinking about the process for quite a while now. Where did it all start? When was it born? Is it born in the mind? In the city’s zoning office? On the designer’s blue prints? I don’t know. I kind of think it was always there. I think steps were taken each day that brought it a little closer to reality, but the feeling, the image, the spirit of it was always there, living in the hearts and minds and souls and mats and roots of those who wanted it, believed in it, and eventually manifested it.
Yoga is much the same way. For me, it’s something that is born every single day and, at the same time, was never born and never will be born because it always has been and always will be. It’s a beginner’s mind kind of thing. It meets me where I am every single day, in every single moment. Some days it looks different than others. Some days it is upside down and sweaty. Some days it is silent and still and horizontal. Some days it doesn’t even have anything to do with my body. It’s an evolution, a labor, a practice that evolves and grows and is born and reborn and it almost never looks the same way as it did the day before. It is a process, ever changing, ever growing, ever revolutionizing the practitioner. It is ageless and timeless and exactly as it should be.
The debate about the origins of yoga will rage on, I’m sure. I don’t imagine that there will ever be a universally agreed upon answer. That’s fine with me because I know the truth: yoga was born a minute ago. And this exact minute. And it’s due to be born tomorrow, as well. How will you celebrate?
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.
A couple of days ago, I asked Yoga Sol’s newest teacher, Melissa Menard, if she would like to do a guest post here at Sarahsana to introduce herself to the community, What follows are her words. Love and Light, S…
something lovely about people who practice, isn’t there? Once I recognized it, I even see it in people out and about, living their lives off the mat; it’s in their eyes, their gait, their patience and compassion… and tucking myself in to a whole community of fellow explorers on the
journey just invigorates me to my toes!
If I may introduce myself, I am Melissa Menard, and I have recently joined the lovely and passionate women, Polly and Sarah, as a teacher serving the vibrant community at Yoga Sol. Yoga is something I’ve studied as a philosophy and practice since 1998, and have been
teaching to students of every age and ilk since 2002. I have always been of the philosophical sort. Growing up in the wide open middle of the Nebraska prairie, philosophy and introspection were the best scenery to be had apart from the sky, and a girl can’t lie in the grass forever! And, also having grown up dancing, the language of the body as a
teacher was something that made sense to me instantly.
The two major influences on me as a child were church which, for me, was still the healthy and nurturing kind of church that centered around scripture and lives well-lived, and dance. Dance was introduced to me as a way of fixing my flat feet and swayed back, so these two disciplines were both, in my mind, approaches to whole-being wellness. So, when I found yoga in college, in the life and body of this beautiful, 70-year-old dancer who moved like a young woman and lived like a playful sage, it was this perfect complement to the mental and physical landscapes of my childhood. Mantra and motion, philosophy and practice, compassion and exertion, blended in a way that perfectly married my two loves!
As I’ve continued to explore the opulent hallways of yogic philosophy, it has been its ability to be a healing balm to every layer of a person’s being that has continued to captivate me. We learn on the mat to meet our bodies with grace, forgiveness, acceptance and the determination to nurture our bodies to health with gentleness and respect. And it is the effect that process has on our hearts that teaches us to extend the same grace and compassion to ourselves as emotional beings, as intellectual beings, as individuals in relationship with the world around us. (It is also this process that teaches us to find bliss in the details, and maintain our bliss even in the midst of struggle, but that’s a conversation for another time!). Then, knowing how to live compassionately with ourselves, we find we have this personalized
template for how we can best extend compassion to the people who surround us.
And this, ladies and gentleman, is how yoga changes the world! I believe that we are all lovers before we are anything else as humans. We exist in close enough proximity to each other that everything we do makes ripples that touch someone else. So, wherever there is a philosophy that teaches people to love better, to live gentler and more beautifully, and to be well and vibrant in our bodies, hearts and minds, I want to hear and share every last morsel of what it has to say! I couldn’t be more excited to be embarking on the part of the journey that will find me at Yoga Sol!! See you there!