Books about yoga, Things my yoga teacher said, Living with intention, 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.

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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.

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.

Books about yoga, meditation, My yoga teacher said...

Not now

I learned something new today. A cue to get your mind off of something, whether you’re fixated on the seven minutes you will be late getting to a meeting, or you’re trying to meditate. Whenever you are wondering, worried, or find your mind wandering, say to yourself: “Not now.”

You are going to be late, whether you worry or not. Bring yourself back to calm. “Not now.

Often in yoga, we say to focus on your breath to clear the head. But sometimes this becomes an overthinking about the breath. Not now. Don’t think about that now.

The technique was written about in Meditations on Intention and Being, by Rolf Gates, and my mentor gets 100% of credit for introducing this to me by reading the passage at the end of class today.

My YTT, Yoga on The Farm

Starting small, planning, growing

A force that pushed me to yoga teacher training, and drives me to write about yoga, is the desire to share yoga with “non yoga people.” To clarify, yoga is for everyone! But it isn’t obvious to everyone how to find class or teacher that fits their needs and style, and booking a class in a traditional yoga studio can be intimidating. As with so many things, “fit” matters.

Within days of sharing my mission, a member of my local community offered space on their developing farm for me to teach yoga while I am in training. We have become friends, and I have been visiting the farm to get a feel for the space. There are chickens, cats, and a Labrador named Scout. There is a pond, relatively flat and clean grass, and a barn with a fridge, sink, and bathroom. It’s perfect.

Growing up in Maine, I spent my fair share of time on farms, and countless glorious hours outdoors. I treasure my connection with the land, and am thrilled to have this opportunity to teach plein air, to borrow the artist’s term.

Starting small and familiar feels right to me, because connecting to the land, to my students, matters. I am developing a five class summer series for the farm, and inviting a few friends to join me. Yoga is about practice, and I am grateful for this space and the support of my friends on this journey. Who knows where this will lead?

Books about yoga, Home yoga practice

To Tie the Strings of the Mind Together: Reading “The Heart of Yoga,” by T.K.V. Desikachar

As the calendar rolled into 2017, I got in my mind that I should start practicing yoga regularly at home. But what would that mean? What would a personal yoga practice look like?

I asked myself these questions because, after twelve years of taking yoga classes for exercise, off and on, I have come to realize that yoga is more than asanas. Asanas are the physical poses and breathing that typically come to mind when one hears the word “yoga.”

I asked my yoga-loving friends for book and/or website recommendations that would help me develop what I called a “home practice.” Most of the recommendations I received were centered on doing asana routines alone. I already have a number of books, videos, and apps to help me exercise. So I asked my yoga teacher for suggestions, and she had only one: to read the book The Heart of Yoga, Developing a Personal Practice, by T.K.V. Desikachar, which I will from now on refer to as THOY when writing, for brevity.

My local library network did not have any copies, so I ordered from the behemoth online seller we all hate to love. At first blush, I thought maybe it was a mistake for me to read a book like THOY. It begins with an interview with T.K.V. Desikachar about his father, Sri T. Krishnamacharya. I am not going to lie. The first page or two were labor intensive, with many Indian names and phrases I am unfamiliar with. To be brutally honest, I did not care at all about the author or his father… in my head I kept thinking, “OK now let’s get to the HOW to develop a personal practice for ME.”

I stuck with it, because I could see that chapter one is titled Yoga: Concept and Meaning, and I just knew I had to get there. I’m so glad I didn’t put the book down, because there… on the first page of that chapter… I found what I was looking for. Desikachar writes:

“Many different interpretations of the word yoga have been handed down over the centuries. One of these is ‘to come together,’ ‘to unite.’ Another meaning of the word yoga is ‘to tie the strands of the mind together.'”

DING DING DING! This is what I was feeling at yoga classes recently… the meeting of my physical body and the intellectual or spiritual me, the “tying together” of these things. Desikachar continues:

“While ‘coming together’ gives us a physical interpretation of the word yoga, an example of tying the strands of the mind together is the directing of our thoughts toward the yoga sessions before we take on an actual practice. Once those mental strands come together to form an intention, we are ready to begin the physical work.”

YES! YES! YES! As I read the paragraph I felt purpose vibrate through me. This. THIS is what I am striving for, “to tie the strands of the mind together.” To spend time, each day, practicing yoga with intention and purpose. THOY makes it clear that yoga does not have to be asanas, it can simply be setting the mind on the intention of yoga… reading, meditating, drawing, asanas…

I now understand. There are at least 8 zillion ways to practice yoga. And what does a home practice look like for me?  It is different every day. I am learning. I guess that is why those who really “do” yoga call it practicing.