Yoga for non-yoga people, Yoga to relieve stress

5 Reasons to not skip yoga this Super Bowl Sunday

Hey, is there something going on this Sunday. JUST KIDDING. I was born and raised in New England so you can imagine my friends and family “back home” are excited to see their team on the green (again) for the big game. I could take it or leave it, although as a family we usually have a fun dinner and watch at least the first half of the game and the halftime show. This year will be a bit different because I’ll be teaching a Hatha class in the afternoon. I’m a little worried attendance will be low, so I decided to put a list of reasons why we all should make time to get to a class this Sunday.

  1. More Nachos. Or pizza. Or wings. Pick your poison. Beer? Wine? Mountain Dew? Chubby Hubby? Generally you can expect to burn 200-500 calories in an hour of yoga, depending on your size, metabolism, and the type of yoga. According to one calorie calculator, I will burn at least 300 calories practicing this Sunday, and since I’m the teacher, I can plan some extra scorching poses (chair, anyone?) to up the burn. Whatever your caloric vice, making it to class will buy you at least a larger serving.
  2. Personal Space. A standard yoga mat is 24 inches wide and 68 inches long. If you own a deluxe mat, chances are, it is even larger than that. Add space to spread your arms wide, and it doesn’t matter how crowded the studio is that day, you will certainly have more space to yourself in class than you will on your couch when Uncle Leo and your husband’s golfing buddy show up for the game.
  3. Blood Pressure Control. Maybe you’re pulling for the Pats. Maybe you’re rooting for the Rams. Maybe you had to Google which teams are playing Super Bowl LIII (like me!). It could be a nail-biter of a game, or you might be stuck referee-ing the kids while everyone else is glued to the game. Whatever your role may be, science tells us you might be able to lower your blood pressure using tools you use in yoga class.
  4. Feel Good, Look Good. Get your sweat on, meditate a bit, and you know you’re going to feel amazing. Yoga days are good days. Whether you have a date to watch the game, or just imagine Todd Gurley or Tom Brady can see you through the TV, you probably want to feel and look good. Rock those yoga pants!
  5. It’s NOT The Game. Yoga is a reprieve from all the things. From groceries, from laundry, from the subway, from the internet… and from The Game. Football isn’t everyone’s thing. I have to admit I have only ever watched it tongue-in-cheek, though I have family, friends, and a spouse who really dig it. It’s OK to ignore or protest the sport. We all have our reasons, and they are all valid. Come to yoga. Hope to see you there!

Note: not my photo! Found it on Instagram and haven’t located original source.

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Yoga off the mat

You don’t want to do anything today that would prevent you from practicing tomorrow

I’ve been practicing with online yoga videos and tutorials recently, with teachers from all schools of yoga. Some are amazing, offering creative ways to float up to Ardha Chandrasana, or Half Moon, or unexpected flows to heat up for back bends. As with most things, not all of them are a good fit. One Yin teacher talked through entire Yin practice. Another suggested a jump-back that, in my opinion, could put a lot of YouTube Yogis in traction. (Is YouTube Yogis a known term? If not I’m coining it now).

You choose what serves you and you let go of the rest.

But tonight, I had an aha moment, where an online instructor said, “One truism I love is when they say, “You don’t want to do anything in your practice today that prevents you from practicing tomorrow.” EXACTLY.

A lot of potential students want to know what my “style” is. How do I teach. How fast. “Will I be able to take your class if I can’t do a headstand?”

Absolutely! Because my guiding principle is be safe, stay in alignment, modify, and prevent injury. I would never lead a large public class with newbies or students I don’t know through a headstand. The risks are too great. If it was a workshop with a small group, sure. A class full of experienced practitioners whom I know are up for it, AND, who know their limits and won’t push beyond their edge? Sure. Do I practice headstands regularly in my personal practice? No. Some. But I don’t want to do anything injuring, I want to practice every day until I’m 99 and older.

You do you. If you’re all about inversions and wheel, great. Who knows, maybe I’ll be doing them a lot in my personal practice somewhere down the line.

At the fitness center my daughter swims at, there was a poster outside the spin studio that read, “Ignore your limits.” There was a monochromatic of an extremely fit, muscle-bound cyclist wincing, beads of gray scale sweat clustered on his brow, dripping into his eyes. Each time I walked by that image I’d point it out to Dove and remind her that it’s good to push yourself, but one should never ignore their body’s limits or warnings. We know better than that.

Pondering, Yoga for non-yoga people, Yoga off the mat

Kids need yoga, but not like you think

This past week, I had the opportunity to teach a fourth-grade Girl Scouts troop about yoga. I received training in teaching children, but it’s not exactly my area. A lot of what I came across in researching “kid’s yoga” was for little kids, not pre-teens. Some websites recommended simple games with little to no asanas. Some books had lists of poses renamed into playful but rather silly names. I was beginning to doubt whether I’d done the right thing by agreeing to teach tweens, even as a one-time gig. I kept hearing my YTT teacher’s voice, “teach what you know.”

I know yoga, and I know tweens. I have a nine year-old daughter myself. It’s a tender period of adolescence. It finally dawned on me that kids need the concepts of yoga as much of not more than the physical activity. Honoring our bodies, honoring differences, breathing and visualization techniques to calm ourselves when stressed, “down time” when we are unplugged and not “working,” be it schoolwork or chores… sharing this with all people (all ages) is why I wanted to teach yoga in the first place!

So I let go of “planning” a sequence for the class and brought my yoga toolkit with me. I had three IKEA bags full of mats (mine and borrowed), blocks, and blankets. I brought my 3D printed moonlamp, as I knew the sun would be setting during the class. And I brought my knowledge of yoga, the yamas and niyamas, the sutras, and my general practice in my head.

When we arrived at our reserved room at the library, Dove helped me arrange the mats and blocks in a circle. As the rest of the girls arrived, I made it a point to connect with each of them. I let their energy and spirits lead me. I answered the question, “Is this a yoga pose?” with “It might be!” at least seven times. I also dispelled the rumor that the moon lamp was a “fortune-telling ball.” Nope. Just a lamp!

We had fun with a few partner poses. I led them through asanas with breath, like cat and cow. We did puppy pose with our tails in the air, then stretched and grew into downward facing dogs. I led them through a short guided meditation (“like a story”) in savasana. They LOVED it. The first thing out of one girl’s mouth after “Namaste” was “Can we do this again?” That particular student used her own money to buy two yoga mats the following day, so she could “teach her mom yoga.”

My goal = achieved.

Now my yoga teacher friends are asking, “Did you like teaching that age group?” YES. I did! “Will you be doing it again?” Yes. I’m not sure who, when, or where, but yes. If you have any leads, let me know!


Books about yoga, Living with intention, Things my yoga teacher said, Yoga off the mat

Truth in yoga

Almost three years ago, I started taking yoga classes with my (now) mentor. On occasion she would speak of truth when closing the practice. Something along the lines of living truth. I was perplexed by this. What was this truth she spoke of? Was it some secret I was not privy to? Was it a Hindu concept? This particular class is at a Christian community health center, so I wondered, is this truth she mentions God? Jesus? Something about it made me uncomfortable, because generally I am a secular person. I have my own connection to the universe and spirituality, and kind of avoid the whole organized religion thing.

I think it took me a year to even talk to my teacher about yoga at all, and months beyond that before I gained the courage to ask, what is this truth you speak of? What if I don’t agree with it?

She recommended a book by Deborah Adele. I will forever be grateful that this was my introduction to the the ethics of yoga, known as the Yamas and Niyamas. Adele’s book is a perfect laymen’s guide… had I been pointed to Patanjali’s Sutras at that point, I may have run the other way.

One of the Yamas can be summarized as Truthfulness, as a code to live by. Adele explains this as being truthful in all affairs of life, but also to one’s self. Imagine living in such a way where we all could say and do as we wish, without judging each other or ourselves. To live our truth is to live fully. To work against our truth generates misconceptions and negative energy. And who wants either of those things?

This definition of truth is taking me a long time to embody. Years! It’s not like I walk around lying, it is more that I am (we all are!) so conditioned to act against our truth to maintain whatever reputation we believe we are supposed to have.

Example: as a parent of an elementary school aged child, I feel like I’m supposed to be up to my neck in PTA duties. But my truth is, I don’t wanna. I like showing up when I can, when there is an event that supports Dove, or the teachers, or the school… but do I want to organize that event? I could do it! But I don’t truly want to. Do I want to sell wrapping paper, or fundraiser for whatever this year’s “a-thon” is? Nope. I am being 100% honest with myself (and you!) here. So. The ethical thing to do is to NOT do these things. This is soooo far from what I used to think I should be doing. But now, living my truth, I know it is better for me and all those involved to decline these pressures and send twenty bucks directly to the PTA instead, for them to do as they see fit.

See what I’m getting at here? It’s ok to say no if you want to. It’s ok to wear sweatpants to Target if you want to. It’s ok to take a knee for anjaneasana if your body needs that. You do you! Be true. Live your truth. I know I’m trying.

Namaste.

Advanced Yoga, Living with intention, My YTT

Endings as beginnings

I completed my teacher training last month, and have since been hired by the local YMCA (my “yoga home”) to substitute teach yoga. This past weekend I taught two classes back-to-back, and it felt significant. Sure, physically it was demanding, and I loved that part. But beyond that, teaching beyond a peer group, beyond a beginner class, felt like I had finally graduated to Teacher. Funny, though. You’d think this would mean my journey as Student has ended, my 200 hour training HAS ended… but this is just a start. The first page in a new chapter on this journey. Sunrise/sunset, inhale/exhale, open/close… there is no end. It’s humbling and inspiring at the same time.

Home yoga practice

Sometimes we need to be led

I’m a yoga teacher now, but I still want to go to other teacher’s classes. Now more than ever I dare say. In my personal yoga practice, I have a tendency to end up in my favorite postures or flows. Or I might get a little too comfortable, a little lazy. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Today I attended an all-levels class taught by my mentor and friend. Attendance was on the low side (not a bad thing on an Election Day if you ask me) so she led us into some reverse binds. It was a challenging class. The kind where cues to downward facing dog were met with sighs and groans of relief.

I like binding. Completing that circle, however it can be done, feels good. But I tend overlook binds in my personal practice. Not for any reason other than I don’t often consider them. But that might have changed today.

Challenge can be good. Reaching outside your comfort zone and finding that other hand is so rewarding. In many cases being a follower isn’t the best thing. (Ahem. Election Day). But as a committed student and practitioner of yoga, it can be good to be led.