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.

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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.

Living with intention, My YTT, Yoga off the mat

Teacher Training Completed. What’s next?

I passed my final yoga teacher training exam this past Saturday. I studied my sit bones off and that showed in my grade. I’ve become a more calm teacher with experience, and I’m ready to register with Yoga Alliance.

Just about every person I’ve encountered since graduating from my YTT program has greeted me the same way: “Congratulations! What’s next?”

Well isn’t that the million dollar, or perhaps I should say, two hundred hour question.

I have a lot of thoughts and ideas, lined up like the birds on the wires here in this photo I took this morning. But who knows when the ideas will lift and take flight, which will flourish, which will stick.

My best answer today, merely hours out of the program, is as follows.

I will continue to practice. I will teach when I can, as much as I can. I will live yoga. There isn’t a set path, it isn’t a linear process. We shall see! I promise I will continue to share yoga forever. And I know. I sound like a certified hippie. But this is where I’m at today.

Thank you to everyone has helped me get here. For now, stay tuned! Let’s put our legs up the wall, tune into our breath, and see where that takes us.

About Breathing, Mothering, Yoga off the mat

About breathing, pt 2: It will click when you least expect it

In and out. Those are the basics. Fresh and clean in, used and finished out.

There are a multitude of breaths, or pranayama, in yoga. Tools to calm us, OR, to speed things up, to cool or heat the body, with the ultimate end goal of stilling the mind. Some call this zen, but I’m not clear on the differences between Buddhism and Yoga yet, so I will plainly call it stillness.

This past Sunday, my son (who will be three in November) fell on our brick hearth. I was not there to see it, but my daughter ran in to me, pleading “come now, please, Strider* hit his head and there’s a lot of blood.” Her panic was palpable. I immediately kicked into stoic mode.

What is stoic mode? Probably not a real thing, but for me, it is when I shuck off my emotions and shut down whatever I’m doing to focus on what is happening at that precise moment.

Stop what you’re doing. Go with her. How is Strider (son)? Crying, Dad has a paper towel and is holding it on Strider’s head. There is blood.

“Everyone needs shoes,” I say. “Let me finish brushing my teeth.” Dad is sitting in the backseat with Strider. Dove (daughter) in the front with me.

“He didn’t pass out,” I think/say. I call Bluetooth calling Urgent Care. Didn’t pass out, no vomiting, bleeding stopped. Ok put us on the list. “He’s not even crying anymore.”

Dove is close to hyperventilating. I turn off the music. I start paying attention to my breath.

“We’re lucky the doctor can see us today, we’ll be there in ten minutes.” Just now I begin to pay attention to how I breathe. In slowly, three, four. Hold. Out, two, three, four. My right hand is on my daughter’s knee. She rarely gets to sit shotgun, but she needs to be here today.

Upon arrival, the staff at Urgent Care takes a look at him and tells us he’ll probably have to go to the hospital because you can see his skull and they aren’t capable of MRI. Please wait and the doctor will see us.

We sure did get transferred. Three hours and ten stitches later we were home. We set an early bedtime.

“Mom, how did you stay so calm?” Dove asked me at bedtime. I am not always even and calm. It takes awareness, focus, and patience… also time.

“I’m not always that way,” I admitted. “As you know. But I can really turn it on when I need to.”

“How?” She asked.

“It takes a lot of practice.” We both laughed.

I would not say that practicing yoga will make you immune to stress or the dramas of life. But with practice, you might at least be able to turn it on and glide through.

AND! Strider got his stitches out today!

Mothering, Pondering, Yoga off the mat

Lessons from the Atlantic

Our family is vacationing on the sandy shores of southern Maine, aka Back Home for me. Our first beach day, coordinating boogie boards and SPFs proved to take a little longer than expected, so we arrived towards the end of the low tide coming in.

Man did we get thrashed. The waves were deceptively rough, making for lots of giggles in the beginning but resulting in bathing suits full of sand, goggles and hair-ties being swept from our possession, and extra salty tears.

My 8 year-old, an accomplished swimmer and aspiring marine biologist, took the brunt of Mother Ocean’s teachings. There is always another wave coming. Sometimes the shiny are revealed to be trash when you’ve finally got them in hand. If a great force takes your goggles, you will never see them again… let go and commit to holding more tightly next time. Sometimes you have to submit to the sand and accept it as part of the experience.

We all got beat up pretty well on that first beach day. I was worried that the kids wouldn’t want to go back. But we did! Before low tide. The tide was calmer, the surf gentle. We collected shells and whole crab carcasses, marveling at how clear and warm the tide pools were. “It’s nice to have a relaxed beach day,” my 8 year-old commented, “but the waves are too gentle to (body) board. So I guess it’s good we can have it both ways.”

Truth, baby. That’s the truth.

Pondering, Yoga off the mat

Flexibility, fostering growth

I was talking to a friend about her knee pain, suggesting she stretch because sometimes knee pain means tight hamstrings, quads, or even the hips, the back…

“A little every day is better than a lot one day. Build up to longer holds and deeper stretches…” quoting myself here.

It occurred to me this is a good mantra for most days. A little every day is better than too much. Don’t expect too much right away. Learn to pause, be still, take time, be now.