Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Hari Nam, Sat Nam, Hari Nam, Hari.
Hari Nam, Sat Nam, Sat Nam, Hari.

The name of God is the True Name.















In 2008, may you all find health, happiness, and love.
And yoga, if you haven't found it already!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Teacher, Touch Me

Yoga was absolute bliss this morning. Bliss!

Why, you ask? Well, having Dolly back after a couple weeks without her is one reason. Another is that we tried a new asana today (more about that later). But the real reason? Touch, plain and simple. I got lots of "extra love" as I call it—assists, help to deepen postures, loving, stress-relieving strokes. All done professionally, meaningfully, and masterfully, as Dolly is the queen of this.

Now, there are always two sides to every story. Some students do not like to be touched (though I think it's a rarity). And for some teachers, touch is not only difficult mentally, it is difficult physically. You have to sort of know your students' bodies and abilities if you're going to assist with backbends, for example. You've got to understand the techniques of assists in order to apply the right kind of pressure in the right places, so as not to jolt or hurt your students. A lot of teachers are also unable to give of themselves in this manner, and prefer not to touch at all, and that's understandable. But let me make a case for the value of touch in yoga. Because I think it really takes the practice to the next level for students.

First, help getting hands together in a bind or a twist enables students to stretch that little bit extra, opening muscles for future possibilities. For students with a more advanced practice, assists that enable them to get deeper into certain postures provides them with more sensation, more release, and seriously...more euphoria! Touch in this instance is an enabler. As a teacher, you are the helping hands.

Second, and perhaps more important, is the feeling of a beloved teacher's warm, loving touch on the body. Think about this. We live in a world in which our children are not allowed to hug each other at school. We keep our distance from each other. Smiling at strangers is even highly questionable! Technology allows us to eliminate a lot of face-to-face interaction with other human beings. In the U.S. especially, beauty—or lack of it—also plays a large role in the amount of physical contact each of us receives.

Now think about why most people come to yoga. It's not just the physical aspect. It's the mental clarity it gives, the spiritual connection to ourselves, the earth, our classmates, something larger. People are in class because they are looking for something deeper, more meaningful, otherwise, they could just ride a bike or take a walk. Yoga is the melding of the physical, mental, and spiritual. There is no telling what is going on in a student's life outside of class, but you know that they are in class because yoga brings them a certain peace that is more than physical. I believe touch—even a simple stroke down the back of a student in a forward fold—is nurturing, neutralizing, and in a small way, answers our need for love. Love is the crux of the human condition, is it not? We all need love, spend our lives either looking for it, trying to hold onto it, giving it, or lavishing ourselves in it. Touch in yoga is love, a salve for our wearied, twenty-first century souls. For some students, a teacher's touch in yoga is the only human contact they ever have!

If you are a teacher, I hope you will think more about the tremendous gift your touch can be. Even if you aren't one to do more technically complicated assists, perhaps you will consider how much a simple touch means to the majority of your students.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Twister Yoga

Alas, there is no such thing (at least I don't think there is).

But...there is Twister. Yeah, you know, the game with the colored dots? And there are yogis to be found in every corner of the globe. So here's the recipe: add flexi yogi bodies of the male and female kind to one Twister game mat, throw in a couple cocktails, and I think there is a party in the making!

Seriously, a friend and I have been contemplating this for an upcoming soirée that will likely include many yogis. I mean, I can think of at least one person I'd like to play co-ed Twister with...can't you? While playing, there has to be potential for a Downward Dog, a Tree, an Eagle, at least? Tell you what...if we do break Twister out, I will be sure to get some photos and let you all know how it went.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Presents for Your Favorite Yogi

Thank all that's good that these days, there's more yoga stuff out there than ever. From clothes to mats, to jewelry and DVDs, there is a perfect present out there for every yogi.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Gorgeous, Indian-influenced jewelry by Rosena Sammi. Check out the Kismat Collection to see her Om Shanti Necklace, Om Necklace; the Fashion Collection for the stunning Mandala Earrings. Prices run from $110 to $320, and up.

  • Yoga clothes. For those of you not in close proximity to Asana Activewear, I'm sorry for you. BUT, if you're ever passing through Charlotte, NC, do not miss this place. Owners Gary and Leslie have the BEST selection of activewear in town if you're looking for gear more interesting than what's available at your local big box store. It's a great looking store with a selection that has been edited with a very discerning eye. You will not be disappointed.

    Lululemon Athletica also has some great looking pieces for guys and girls. Plus a cool site with gorgeous, real-people-doing-yoga photos. I like.

  • Yoga music. Give a gift certificate to Omstream.com. Yoga, meditation, and world music can be downloaded for playing on you iPod or mp3 player. Listen to samples, see suggestions, or download entire playlists.


  • Cool mats. I should practice what I preach and invest in some fun mats, but I'm still sticking by my favorite Nike mat. If you're looking, here are some ideas...be sure to check out Get Your Crow Flying with Cheeky Yoga Gear and More Unique Mats to see more.

    Circles Mat










    Prana Reversible ECO Sticky Mat

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

An om for...

me, God, someone I fancy, my future progeny?

Tonight in Melody's class, we began with three oms. Mel asked that as we om each time, we om with a particular intention, om with a person or being in mind. I loved this, because these days, I should pray more than I do, but inevitably I don't. So when I practice, and I'm breathing and om-ing, it is my prayer, my connection with the Divine. I love how Melody brings the focus in every class to a connection with something larger than ourselves. She rocks. Period.

I've spent my life as a Greek Orthodox Christian. But I'm beginning to see how I'm becoming more like many yogis I know who are deeply spiritual, without participation in organized religion, per se. I can't say that I will ever leave Orthodoxy, as it gives me a lot of other things I don't get anywhere else. Then again, having said that, at the moment, I'm a bit put off as I am researching what it will take for my church to divorce me after the state does, and I'm not liking the draconian rules that, as my sister-in-law put it, will practically require me to "wear a big red letter" on my chest. No, I did not commit adultery. Hell no. But the rules for divorce in the Greek Orthodox church are so stringent that I might as well be branded with the "A," 'cause once the state divorces me, and until the church divorces me, I'm a bit of a pariah. It's ridiculous. But that is another matter—and another blog—entirely.

Sorry for the diversion...the crux of the matter is this: yoga, when it is practiced with honorable intent and taught the same, provides such a deep spiritual connection that it is easy to begin to feel like you can forego the whole church scene. I've never been an every-Sunday churchgoer, and I'm actually only currently involved in Greek Orthodoxy because I (luckily) found a more progressive Greek church and defected to it at about the point that I was planning to bail once and for all. But I'm getting sidetracked again, so let me re-focus: yoga is good from beginning to end. A to Z. Alpha to Omega, as the Greeks would say. What you get, when it's delivered purely, is not just a physical challenge, flexibility, and centeredness. You get the feeling that you have a sort of omniscience, and a contentment that can't be pinpointed to one particular thing. It is a general goodness, an overwhelming sense of calm—equanimity—that threads itself through every aspect of your life.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Progress

Had an inspirational and challenging practice tonight with one of my favorite people: Melody. We focused on backbends to open the chest and heart—and normally, I'm not a big fan. Backbends are tough on me physically, and I've felt the emotion they can bring on—it's always a little unsettling for me to venture deep into backbends because I always wonder if I'm going to end up in tears as a result of the opening and the surge in emotion.

But here's what I loved about this class tonight, other than it felt fabulous...Mel's backbends were gentle and her sequencing was excellent. We did a very challenging series of Warriors with the requisite Power Vinyasa flow, plus lots of pranayama exercises. But we started on the floor with Bridge, which was a nice departure, then Melody skillfully moved us into Flip Dogs, Camels, and modified Crescent Lunges through the rest of the practice. Thus, in effect, we were opening our hearts all along, in a very non-intimidating and subtle fashion.

And you know what? I think—no, I KNOW—I'm in a different place emotionally. Because I didn't feel any painful emotion rising. Only contentment, peace, bliss. Damn, that's an incredible feeling, to not be afraid of yourself—to be able to step outside yourself, take a good look, and know that you're in a good place. If they could bottle that feeling, I tell you, the world would be an infinitely better place.

There was also another aspect to this practice that I particularly appreciated...but before I get into it, I must give a little background info. If you don't know Melody (sorry for you), then you don't know that she is a deeply intuitive and beautiful being. She "brings it" as purely as my other favorite yogini, Dolly. There is an honesty and humility in her intention as a teacher, and it is reflected in the size of her classes. She threads connection to the spirit, to the universe, throughout her classes, and this really resonates with me. Particularly because of my predeliction for living in a BlackBerried, technlogically-centered, perfectionist existence. Getting outside of my head is a challenge, so every reminder that I am nothing but a small piece of this intricately woven universe is especially appreciated.

In the beginning of our practice, Mel asked us to breathe in and ask for that which we want from the universe. Now some may think this silly, but I am not of that ilk. Because breathing in and asking for want you want Law-of-Attraction-style is nothing more than "you get back what you put out" in a more more eloquent and concentrated manner. So I breathed in deeply and asked the universe for what I wanted, and was grateful when later in our practice, Melody brought us back to this intention, reminding us to recall that prayer and to send it out again. Essentially, that is yoga, this blending of mind, body, and spirit. But as we all know, some teachers are more gifted in marrying the three than others.

One more little side note: I missed Mel's class last week because of a scheduling issue, and ended up taking Dolly's class instead. Tonight Mel said to me that she was sorry I missed Mountain Climber and Flying Splits last week, which I love. Here's the interesting thing: as most of us know all too well, sometimes what you want and what you need are quite different. What I have learned above all else in this first year of my practice is this: being outside your comfort zone is where the real progress happens. It's good to do the backbends even when you don't particularly like them. It's good to breathe through the urge to run from an asana. It's good to try what you haven't before. Because in the end, you never know where you'll find that connection, that bliss—and you'll never know if you don't try. It takes courage, patience, tenacity, discipline, there is no doubt. But the person you can become in the midst—that...well, that could be your most stunning achievement, more profound than any yoga pose.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Geez...it's been a long time...

I didn't realize that it has been more than a month since I posted here. So let me catch you up...

Let's talk yoga. Obviously, the most important topic! Still practicing, still teaching the kids, still loving it. I think in just a few weeks, I will have officially been practicing for a year—and what a year it has been! I have learned so much, grown so much mentally, physically, and emotionally, all because of yoga. I feel like I've gotten so much more back from yoga than I've put into it, in a way.

Yoga has given me:
  • Physical flexibility that I probably haven't had since grade school. Hey, even I have to admit I've come a long way, baby! I remember when just trying to get into a split was torture. And now, I relish the opportunity—it kind of hurts so good. I'm getting there more in every practice, able to hold a little deeper, a little longer. I feel like I can twist further and am just generally more connected with my body's boundaries and capabilities. And the openings yoga has created, the physical sensation after a great practice is indescribable. You yogis know what I'm talking about. There is just nothing like that feeling.

    I recently told my friend Melody that yoga has enabled me to be the ballerina I never was. Perhaps that is why I enjoy Power Vinyasa so much. It's a beautiful, free-form dance that allows you to explore your own grace, your own control, your own movement. I love, love, love, love it.
  • A deeper connection with myself. I've changed a lot over the last year in this regard. Yoga has really helped me turn inward, look at myself, my thoughts and beliefs, and come to terms with the person I am and the person I want to be. It has helped me become more aware of my own strength, has given me encouragement and confidence. I've learned a lot about the power of the mind, the power of my being, while practicing. It's a bit difficult to explain, but somehow, yoga has both strengthened and softened me as a person.
  • Beautiful new friendships and the ability to weed out toxic ones. I have met the most fantastic, interesting, deep, captivating people through yoga. Good, good, people. Fun people. People who deep down, you know you're really pulling for, that you genuinely care about even if you don't know them that well. I remember when I used to go to class just for the practice, for the learning. Now the practice is just part of the equation—I look forward to seeing my friends on their mats around me, look forward to seeing Dolly and hearing her wisdom, and just love to see someone stoked about a small victory..mastering a roll out, or an asana that was previously unattainable. We started out a strangers in a common place...now when someone is missing from class, it is so obvious. I feel their absence.

    Yoga has also given me the equivalent of a relationship magnifying glass. I have more clarity about my relationships with people and feel like I'm able to make better decisions about relationships that feed me positively and those that don't. Now I won't say that it has helped me figure out how to evict all the negative forces in my life, but I'm getting there. I've realized that if I have a relationship that makes me feel uncomfortable, hurt, or judged, then I don't have a real connection with that person, and it's not a relationship I need to work so hard to sustain. It's a delicate situation, trying to pull out of relationships without hurting others. Sometimes it seems futile, but I think the most important thing is that yoga has enabled me to see what is really important to me, and in doing that, I have upped the possibility of attracting people with good souls, people who will teach me, encourage me, laugh with me.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Yogic References in Madonna's "Frozen" Video

So why did I post Madonna's "Frozen" video? Well, any yogi can see the more obvious yogic references. And anyone listening can hear the message, which is very yogic as well. I, frankly, am obsessed with this video, and here's why: it has all my favorite things...Madonna and her enviable musculature, mehndi, mudras, music, plus the Doberman, the black, the hair, the art. I recently told a friend that if I had to choose one video to represent me, this would be it.

But let's delve a little deeper into the symbolism of this video from a yogic perspective. There are a lot of things going on here:
  • Gyan mudra throughout (first instance at 4:14). And it appears she does variations on other mudras in which the fingertips are held in Gyan mudra as part of another mudra.

  • Madonna in Marichyasana (3:48). Not easy to see with the long skirt, but she very gracefully moves right into it. If you click Marichyasana above, you can read more, but here's an excerpt of the history behind this asana:

    "Marichi is the son of Brahma and chief of the Maruts, the warlike storm gods. He's one of the seven seers (rishis) or lords of creation (prajapatis), who intuitively "see" and declare the divine law of the universe (dharma)." An interesting choice, of all the asanas out there.

  • Madonna in Child/Balasana (at 1:49) before revealing a hennaed OM in the palm of right hand (1:36), in a semi-Varada mudra. What's interesting about this? Varada mudra is a gesture of giving, of bestowing blessings. OM symbol in the palm of the right hand...a gift to us? Say what you want about her, but she really brought yoga to the forefront, enlightened the masses about it at a time when it wasn't on every street corner.

There's probably a lot more going on than even this, but it's getting late and I'm getting sleepy. But before I go, here's a cool tidbit I learned in doing this research...you can find this info at http://hinduism.about.com/od/omaum/a/meaningofom.htm:

To type an OM symbol on your computer, open MS Word and key in backslash ( \ ) in Wingdings font. It works!

For more information on mudras, see these posts:

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Ahhhhhh...Dolly's back!

My favorite, favorite yoga teacher and guru is finally back from her well-deserved summer sabbatical. She came back looking gorgeous, as would anyone, I suppose, after spending a month in their favorite place.

Dolly never ceases to amaze me. She's like this little walking encyclopedia of sutras and yoga. This morning, her sutra was about blossoming, which I think in yoga, we can all relate to, thus it is an astute analogy. Yoga is not something anyone can jump into and rock within a month. It is a slow blossoming on the inside as well as the outside, the quiet unfurling of our souls within our limbs.

To illustrate the concept of blossoming, Dolly brought in the most fantastic Blossoming Leaf jasmine tea. The tea starts as a bud...a little ball of green tea that is hand sewn and contains a jasmine bloom in the middle. Add hot water and eventually the bud blossoms into a beautiful, drinkable work of art, right in your teacup. And as Dolly noted, like that tea, with time and patience, we too blossom into our yoga, and hopefully into authentic selves.

Related links:

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

How NOT to do Savasana

Took a hot yoga class the other day with a teacher I've not practiced with before. Hot yoga is not my cup of tea, though I must admit I don't loathe it like I used to. I guess running in 95-degree heat and practicing in at least 80, 85-degree heat has finally enabled me to acclimate. But in my heart, I'm a Power Vin girl all the way.

So why was I in hot yoga, then? My sister-in-law wanted to take a hot class (she's a Bikram girl), her first after giving birth two months ago, so who am I not to indulge her? Though I will admit at one point, as we were lying on our mats between Locust/Bow, and I (like the sweat machine that I am) literally dripped sweat in the most inelegant manner, looked over and made eye contact with my rosy-cheeked, slightly perspiring sister-in-law, and promptly, discreetly, flipped her my own little bird of paradise. Not very yogic. But she took it in stride. My altruism doesn't last long, I suppose. But I digress.

Sweat and all, the class is an enjoyable one. The teacher has a nice tone, good cadence, great music. Yes, it is hot as ****...at one point I swear the thermometer was almost 100 degrees...but still, I'm liking it. Until we get to Savasana. We have 15 minutes left and she brings us down to our mats. I'm thinking, great, some good, deep floorwork. I'm as warm as I'll ever get, so let's do it, people! I'm ready for Splits, Pigeon, whatever. She prompts us to lay down on our backs and get comfortable. I'm waiting. No more instruction is coming. So I go into Shoulderstand, Plow, the usual, thinking, why are we already doing this? Then she says something like, "It's 12:00, we have 15 minutes for a good, long rest." What?????

OK. Number one, when we're paying for 90 minutes, we expect 90 minutes in the right proportion. Number two...oh, you're going to love this. So here's what happens next:

I wrap my mind around this "freestyle" Savasana this woman has just intentionally or unintentionally presented. I get comfy. I'm flat out. She turns the fans on and sprays some herbal mist which is lovely. I'm thinking that since it's a small class and there's all this time, we're going to get extra love...a foot rub, neck rub, a chant, hell if I know. Something to justify losing floor time and having too much relaxation time.

Instead, here's what went down: the teacher starts picking up the straps she had plopped by everyone's mat, which she never mandatorily employed in the practice anyway, so why bother? Not that big a deal, except she's not quiet about it, and the straps have metal D-rings on them so they jingle. OK. This is really starting to piss me off. I've been told I have 15 minutes to relax, but teach is going to use it as clean up the studio time? All of a sudden I hear more rustling, walking, movement. I finally give up. I open my eyes and look around, and everyone has rolled up their mats and they are gone! The teacher is putzing around near the sound system and my sister-in-law is looking at me. WTF? We had no closure, no OM, no Namaste, no nothing. Her lack of commitment to seeing the class through to the end, her open-ended Savasana ended up killing an otherwise nice practice. There was absolutely no respect for us as students, with all the moving around. And I was really surprised that she didn't even say thank you or a formal goodbye.

And so the moral of the story is this: Savasana is sacred. If you can't do it right, just don't do it at all. Oh, and this: class should have a definite beginning and end, at minimum. If you aren't into sutras, chanting, and all that, fine. Just sit on your mat, smile, and say thank you for coming. Even that is better than some nebulous, freeform, leave-when-you-want, half-assed Savasana.

OK. I'm done. Don't mean to be so blatantly honest about it, but it was such a shame after a pretty good practice.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Being Present

It's taken some time, but I'm starting to not be so shocked when a concept is stuck in my head, and it shows up in yoga, or when I especially need some words of affirmation, and they come to me through yoga. For some time, I've been taken by surprise when these uncanny "coincidences" have occurred—but now I know they are not coincidental at all. Strip it all down, and it's Law of Attraction, plain and simple. That's what I think, at least.

And what's the point of all this? Well, lately I've had a very hard time focusing on the present because I have a couple dates on the calendar occupying my mind. One is short-term, the other is months away. I've been so hung up on these dates, looking forward to them, that they've begun to play with my mind to the point that I've lost clarity to a certain degree. Nothing crazy, but in a way, I'm living a half-life, kind of holding my breath in anticipation, which really is not good with months to go.

So I head out for yoga this morning. Greg is teaching for Dolly, and his sutra, though I've heard it before from Dolly (and he acknowledged that it came from her in class) is about presence, the very thin line between NOWHERE and NOW HERE. Loved it! It was what I needed to hear, even if I know this. Because that future date in my head is really still nowhere, but I am in the now, here. And I need to keep that at the forefront of my thoughts in order to maintain mental equanimity, to enjoy the here and now while still keeping my eye on the prize, as a friend recently put it.

That future date may never come to fruition (though you can bet I'll be thinking Law of Attraction, Law of Attraction, Law of Attraction, Law of Attraction from now til then). But I can count myself blessed for today, breathe in this glorious summer, and just roll with it. Be here. Enjoy now. I've been struggling with this concept quite a bit, so forgive me for revisiting it again. It's hard for a Type A girl. But I'm remembering. And when I forget, the universe gently reminds me.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Simple, Effective Sequencing

Took Greg's class today and wanted to write a couple thoughts about it. Without going into detail about Greg's sutra regarding presence (which was very good!), he designed our practice to invoke both a mental and physical challenge in order to help us stay in the present, to focus.

Greg had us do a series of five-rep Sun Sal A's, with different standing balances or deep stretches with longer holds in between. It was a very simple, but very gratifying practice. We even did one five-rep Sun Sal A set with our eyes closed...a little experiment we played with in yoga teacher training that most definitely keeps you from being anywhere but in the present moment.

For sequence-challenged teachers like me, this was an eye-opening class (thank you, Greg!). I tend to take mostly advanced classes, and often, there's a lot of complicated sequencing going on, which is extremely intimidating for a new teacher (or a chicken like me who's been sticking to kids). This class brought us back to basics, and while it wasn't the sweatfest I'm usually up for (and always in need of), it did let me explore some deep hip openings, which I just love. So on one level, as a student, it was challenging in its own way, yet from the teaching perspective, it was simple, fluster-free content.

We also had a lot of silence in class, too, which I think added to the experience. Silence really heightens the challenge of sitting with sensation in deep hip-opening holds. I feel like it forces introspection as well, because you are even more aware of your wandering mind in silence, so as soon as that happens or you begin fighting the sensation, you can come back to your breath, and hopefully, sit a little longer.

Great class, Greg. I liked it very much!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Update from the Dolly-Lama

Our very favorite yoga guru has checked in from her summer sabbatical...she's loving it! Here she is in Dancer...damn! Do your thing, mama! How could one not be inspired by this amazing landscape?


PS: Glad you're having fun Dolly. We miss you!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Yoga Teacher Training, Day 6, Module 3

It's official...well, after some paperwork it will be completely official...but I finally completed my 200-hour certification to become a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) with the Yoga Alliance. I really can't believe I actually did it! Crazy!

Congratulations to all my classmates in training...we did it! Woo hoo!

So today's final class was all about going over what we learned about ourselves throughout this process, what we need to let go of (we each let go by writing it down and burning the paper), and what we are committing to. Dolly also took time with each of us individually to give us her feedback on our teaching yesterday, and to share her final thoughts. As usual, it was profound, emotional, and deeply gratifying. Should anyone contemplating teacher training with Dolly Stavros / Red Stone Yoga, happen across this post, I have two words: DO IT! It's an incredible experience that will forever change your view of yourself, your yoga, and of course, your teaching.

Practice today was 90 minutes, and each of us taught for seven minutes. I am so mad because Dolly taped a segment of my teaching, but for some reason, I haven't been able to pull it off my camera. This is one of the few meaningful videos I've ever shot, and I can't retrieve it! So frustrating. Can watch it on my camera, but wanted to post it as well. But I'm afraid it is not to be. Although I am disappointed about that, I at least had another victory that was caught on film (thanks, Christina!)...my first successful attempt at Flying Splits!!! I apologize for the crotch shot, but am so glad I could see it cause when you're practicing, you never really know if you've nailed or not until you have proof. And here it is:



Christina impressed us with a crazy Locust...she has the perfect yoga body...we're all envious:

Monday, June 25, 2007

Yoga Teacher Training, Day 5, Module 3

AHHHHHHHHH! It's over with, finally!

We had to teach a full 90-minute class to another classmate today. I know my reluctance makes absolutely no sense whatsoever since I'm in yoga teacher training. It's a little silly to think that I wouldn't teach...and to not want to since this is what I signed up for is even more preposterous. So be it.

Truth is (and it's commonly known at this point, I think), I am terrified, really scared about teaching. Not that I don't think I can do it eventually. But I have horrific stage fright and nerves. I am good at sutras, talking, keeping it light, setting the scene...tunes and all that, but when it comes to stringing asanas together, I find it extraordinarily challenging. That's for two reasons:
  1. My frame of reference is Dolly. The Dolly-lama, as we were joking about today in class. She is extraordinary. There is no other way to describe her classes. She brings it all together: the sutra, the asanas, humor, sanskrit, sequencing, music, assists, attention. Anyone who has taken a class with Dolly knows exactly what I'm talking about. So in the back of my mind, I want to recreate this experience, with my own flavor and personality, of course. But she's so mind-bogglingly good, it's frightening. And she makes it look effortless, when in truth, the reason why her classes are so good is because she does put time and herself into each and every one of them. You can feel the love.

  2. My home practice isn't regular enough yet for me to be comfortable with my own sequencing. Sure, I can jump on my mat and rock it. But in the right order, to invoke the right openings? That's another thing entirely. And 90 minutes is a long time to wing it. So I need to commit to a regular home practice. I know the results will be rewarding (more about that in a second).

Overall, I was actually very pleased with my teaching today, and my student gave me good feedback. I do know teaching the kids has helped me quite a bit in this regard...the nerves haven't been as prevalent. Last night, after coming home from class, going for a walk/run with the dog, a martini, dinner, a beer, and a lovely phone conversation with an equally lovely human being, I was inspired. At midnight, I cranked up The Cult (Electric), got on my mat, and started moving and writing. The result was a pleasing sequence, I think. And even though I finished five minutes early, for me, it was a huge victory. I'm thinking, I might be able to seriously do this one day—and enjoy it. That would be so cool. I would really love to be able to report to work in yoga clothes, crank some hot music, and just flow. How cool would that be?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Yoga Teacher Training, Day 4, Module 3

Today...partner yoga. Lots of fun! View Partner Yoga Photos

We also watched ourselves on video—Dolly taped each of us teaching a 10 minute segment of class yesterday—that was not so fun, but a great learning experience.

No time to write more, as I have procrastinated sequencing the 90-minute class I am supposed to teach tomorrow to this late date. I am completely petrified. Wish me luck...I'm going to need it!



Saturday, June 23, 2007

Yoga Teacher Training, Day 3, Module 3

From today...Christina, Melody, and me playing with Scorpion...
















Friday, June 22, 2007

Yoga Teacher Training, Day 2, Module 3

Although this morning started off a little nerve wracking for me, overall class was very informative and our practice rocked. So why the rough start?

Silence. And meditation.

I'm trying to get into meditation, but it's proving to be quite a feat. This morning when we walked in the studio door, we observed a period of sacred silence. That was OK. We could still smile a hello to each other, and it didn't feel oppressive. After we all arrived, Dolly rang the tingsha, and we meditated in complete silence for 16 minutes? 20 minutes? I can't remember. It felt like an eternity. Despite the fact that it was morning and I was awake and ready to go, I couldn't quiet my mind for anything. I kept hearing the U2 song I had been listening to on the way in. I was thinking that my knee wasn't quite comfortable. I fidgeted. I thought about sex. Wondered how long we'd been meditating. Was wishing I could just hear that tingsha again already!

Eventually the tingsha did ring, and we discussed the experience. I hate sounding negative, but there was nothing positive for me about it. It's excruciating. I was telling the class that as a Greek, silence is really not possible. There's always noise, always has been noise. Someone is always yelling, complaining, laughing, watching TV, clinking dishes around or gabbing on the phone. We lead a very noisy existence. You'd think I'd appreciate the reprieve, but honestly about the only time I want semi-silence is when I'm writing. Otherwise, the silence is deafening. And maddening. And being still and silent? I've found a new way to torture a Greek.

Moving on.

Practice today was heaven again. I really enjoyed it. We did a mandala (sacred circle) style vinyasa flow, in which we turned to face different sides of the studio (creating a circle) while going through a flow of postures. I especially liked the practice not only because it was a typical sweat-inducing vinyasa class, but because we ran through poses like Warrior II, Side Angle, Triangle, Standing Splits, Half Moon, Pigeon, Sundial, and Wide-Legged Forward Folds...some of my faves. There were lots of nice twists and Chaturanga holds, which are totally my cup of tea. By the time we hit Savasana, I was drenched, whipped, and happy. THAT'S what I'm talking about. Good fun. Dolly has actually incorporated some mandala flow into her classes before, I just never knew that that's what we were doing. And that's the beauty of vinyasa yoga...it is unrestrained, and therefore the sequencing and experiences one can create are endless. It is art as yoga.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Yoga Teacher Training, Day 1, Module 3

Back in class again...really cool to see my yoga friends and Dolly. Today in class we discussed meditation, women's issues like pregnancy and menstruation (and how one's practice is affected by these states), and our greatest challenge as yoga teachers.

Practice was deep stretch for 90 minutes. It was heaven. And since I haven't practiced for a month-and-a-half, it was a great way to ease back in. I did pigeon on both sides for the first time since March, I think, and it felt incredible...knees have held up! Of course, I've iced and Alleved, and hopefully they won't be screaming at me tomorrow. I pray. If not, that's a great sign. But I've decided that I'm going to resume my regular practice with modifications as necessary. Knees, actually, just my left knee, is not as bad as it was, but not getting to 100% despite so much time off. So I'm going to just listen to my body and take it from there. But even if it begins to act up again, I've got to start a serious home practice. As Greg pointed out today, I've got to show up, even for just 15 minutes a day. Imagine if I had been working splits or Pincha Mayurasana or Mountain Climber for just 15 minutes a day for the last month. I'd be a hell of a lot further along than I am now. There's no reason why I can't show up for 15 or 20 minutes. Period.

I have to sit still? For 10 minutes? Oy vey.
So on to the real challenge of the day for me: meditation. We talked a lot about it and I've tried it before, but have never been a big fan. We sat this morning for seven minutes, and that went well for me. We sat again for 10 minutes before finishing up around 5:00pm, and it was a different experience. My back was tired, my legs were tired, and I kept falling asleep. I was more fidgety than in our morning meditation and my thoughts were way more pervasive. What I gathered from this is that if I decided to add this to my list of things to do, it has to be in the morning. In the past when I've meditated at home, it has always been for about 10 minutes in the morning. Honestly, I think that might be enough time for mindfulness for me. It centers me and I wouldn't dread committing to just 10 minutes. I don't know...we'll see how the rest of the week goes.

I know the point of yoga is really to get inside, to get to the meditation, but for a very active person like myself, the sitting is actually torture. Apparently I have a long way to go in this department. But why can't I sit and meditate when I'm old? (OK, I mean really old!) I almost feel too alive to do it now. I can't explain it. I know I'm probably breaking some cardinal school of thought by saying these things, but right now, it just doesn't speak to me. Though I don't think this is a permanent feeling. I could eventually see myself picking it up. But at this point in my life, I feel like a caged tiger that's just been returned to the wild. Not really ready to be still. Not yet.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I REALLY Miss Yoga

Dude, this sucks. Boy, was that eloquent for an English major or what?

Still on the bench. Still no yoga. But my last module of yoga teacher training hits next week, so I'll get back to it full-on, and I can't wait. Have to modify, of course, but that's cool. I just really need yoga. Before the hedonist in me totally takes over. And I lose my splits!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

On the Bench

Folks, it's bad knee time again. Well, not bad, but not progressing. You know what that means: no yoga. Right when I likely need it the most. So...no yoga, no yoga blogs. Unless, of course, the kids do something really profound (I am still teaching them about every other week). I have to give my knees a rest in order to be able to complete my last yoga teacher training module in late June.

The only good thing that's come out of all this knee bulls*** is I've been hardcore on the upper body/ab workouts. The result? I'm getting at least three sets of five-to-seven pull ups. This coming from the girl who couldn't do a single unassisted pull up a couple months ago. I'm hoping by the end of summer, I can get three sets of ten. You'd think I just won the Pulitzer or something. Sure, it's trivial, but when your life is blowing up and you have some little victory, some progress, you're just elated. So, I'm hoping with all this upper body/core work, when I finally do get back to yoga, I can rock forearm balances and handstands. Away from the wall. One can dream, right?

Funny: the very things I've hated upon first attempt are the very things I most look forward to trying again and again. Because I've forced myself into the challenge. And it turns out I like it. (It feels like I've written this before. If I have, forgive me. It's just so surprising, all this "forcing" myself into uncomfortable situations. So not me. Well, used to not be me.)

No yoga sucks, it really does. I miss class, I miss Rachel from Cuba (even if I hardly know her...I love to hear her talk, and she's the other person in class—unfortunately for her—with bum knees, so we keep tabs on each other), and I miss, more than anything, my precious time with Dolly.

I'm not sure why I've been benched at this particular time in my life, but I suspect it might have something to do with the need for a slower pace and introspection. I've done a lot of soul searching the last six months—no doubt yoga has had an influence there. I've learned to be more in the present, and as such, I'm having to evaluate where I am each day on that day. Not a month in advance. See, you can't plan your practice a month a time when your knees are screwed up. Just when I thought it was safe to start adding classes to my calendar for June, the knees flare up, and, well, that's why when it comes to my calendar, I write in pencil.

So, I've got no choice but to just chill. Sit back and evaluate. Take stock. Be glad for what I have right here, right now. Worry about tomorrow when tomorrow comes. Know that it will work when it is supposed to.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Yoga Moms

Subbed a kids yoga class yesterday at a new studio on a tony side of town. Here's what I learned:
  1. Teaching more than three kids at a time is a hell of a challenge (I might have had 12 in class)—I could've used a yoga class (or a martini) to soothe my nerves after that! They are fun and all over the place. Ages 4-10, I think they were, and all with different levels of attention and yoga aptitude.
  2. You can't stop demoing yoga asanas with a group this big and with so many age levels. As soon as you stop, they stop. If you want them to flow, you must demo. Makes it hard to assist.
  3. There are Moms, Soccer Moms, Stage Moms, and Yoga Moms. The Yoga Moms are a different breed from these other moms, though they share similarities with the Soccer Moms, I'm guessing. Since I'm not a mom, I don't have regular experiences with these women, but let me just say this: Yoga Moms are toned, tanned, and at least for appearances' sake, totally together. You won't see them frazzled, dragging themselves around in shorts, their husband's t-shirt, and flip flops. No, the Yoga Moms are pedicured, manicured, pressed, primed, primped and plumped to sheer and utter perfection. I've never seen anything like it. I looked at the studio owner yesterday as one mom rolled in, and while watching her and her girls make their way to the door, all I could say was, She gave birth to those kids? There was no evidence of childbirth on the woman. Amazing.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Enlightenment Card (and it ain't from Hallmark...)

I've definitely, definitely seen it all now...though I have to say, the Enlightenment Card is tempting (yeah, I need another credit card like I need another handbag). It just looks so cool!

I'm totally serious, people! This is a bona fide credit card...here's a blurb about it from the site:

"The Enlightenment Visa Reward Card was founded on the idea that money is energy and if used with positive and integrative intention, can have the power to affect change in our lives and the world. Everyone uses a credit card, so why not have one where people can earn points towards positive products and services that enhances their overall conscious life? Some of the categories of rewards you can earn points toward are: Travel, Retreats + Workshops, Yoga Classes, Organic Products, Holistic Spa Treatments, Books + DVDs, Merchandise, or use your points to donate to a charity."

Thursday, May 10, 2007

This just in...

Yogitoes is finally producing Skidless mat towels in earth tones (Moss, Stone, Sand, and Loam)! They're lovely!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

More Unique Mats

It's so nice to see more creativity going into the production of yoga mats. To me, mats are not only tools to help in one's practice, they are yet another way to express personal style.

Here are more fun mats I found online—be sure to see my post, Get Your Crow Flying with Cheeky Yoga Gear, for other unique mats as well.


Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Fusion

I believe the new trend in yoga is fusion:

  • Pilates + Yoga = Pi-Yo
  • Martial Arts + Yoga = Budokon
  • Yoga + Chocolate = Splurge Without Guilt...

The reason why I point this out is lately, every other article I read about yoga is about yoga combined with something else, be it another person, animal, place, or thing. Well, I recently took a new fusion-type yoga class at at a great new studio: Laughing Buddha. This particular class fuses yoga and weights, so the class is half Vinyasa, a quarter yoga moves with 3, 5, 8, or 12 pound dumbbells in hand for sculpting, and a quarter deep stretch. Now I'm sure this class will raise eyebrows amongst the purists, but I thought it ROCKED! The teacher (Dawn) was awesome, the music was uptempo, and the weights provided a great upper body workout. It was my two favorite things in one! It's nice to have this class available as an option if you're looking for more of a strength-building yoga experience.

And Laughing Buddha is lovely. Although there is only one studio, it has soaring ceilings, lots of light, floor-length mirrors, a gorgeous and spacious locker room/bathroom/shower area, and best of all recirculating, purified air. A thoroughly modern and urban yoga experience. Very cool, I think.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Ting! All About the Tingsha

Recently in yoga teacher training, I got to use Dolly's tingsha (which I so eloquently referred to in class as the "dingy things") to close out a chant before class. Lots of people in class were interested in the tingsha and where to get some. There are scores of them online—Zanzibar Trading has an interesting array.

For those who are curious, here's a little more about these lovely little cymbals...
The following text was borrowed from Wikipedia at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tibetan_tingsha_bells

History of the Tingsha
Tibetan tingsha are small cymbals used in prayer and rituals by Tibetan Buddhist practitioners. Two cymbals are joined together by a leather strap or chain. The cymbals are struck together producing a clear and high pitched tone. Typical sizes range from 2.5" - 4" diameter. Tingsha are very thick and produce a unique long ringing tone. Antiques were made from special bronze alloys that produce harmonic overtones.

In high quality tingsha, both cymbals will match—the tone is identical or nearly identical. Most tingsha, however, are not perfectly matched so each produces a distinctly different tone. This is due to modern manufacturing processes in which many tingsha are produced at the same time and then poorly matched.

Fine quality examples of antiques or the rare pair of carefully matched new tingsha will sound identical.

Antique tingsha are rare and quite expensive. Sometimes two cymbals that do not match are paired together. Single cymbals are often sold with a bone or piece of wood attached, so the instrument is still functional even though the mating cymbal has been lost.

Tingsha are unique in form and function and distinctly different from Indian, Nepali, Chinese, Turkish or other cymbals.

Today, tingsha are used along with singing bowls and other instruments in meditation, music and sound healing. Artists such as Karma Moffett and Joseph Feinstein use multiple pairs of antique tingsha together to create a sonic tapestry effect.

Traditionally, however, tingsha are used as part of specific Tibetan rituals, such as offerings to "hungry ghosts." While they are commonly found today in musical recordings and yoga classes, their real function is as a religious ritual tool.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Yoga Teacher Training, Day 6, Module 2

Today was the final day of our second module of yoga teacher training—I can't believe I made it through without completely killing my knees! That's awesome. Although I know practicing this week set me back in the progress I had made in healing my knees, at least they aren't worse.

God, what can I say about teacher training that would adequately capture the spirit of the class and the people in it? It's a profound experience to face your fears and actually feel progress in overcoming them. It feels incredible when you're able to nail two or three asanas you weren't previously able to achieve. It's awesome when you're able to remember more Sanskrit names, when you can chant in Sanskrit even when you can't hold a tune, when you can OM in a room full of people and not be afraid to hear only the sound of your voice.

And the people. The people! We come in as strangers and leave as friends. Real friends. There is safety, a bond, a camaraderie that lifts your heart and makes you feel like there's nothing you can't achieve. It's the most nurturing environment I've ever been in, and it's all because of one special, illuminated soul: Dolly. I tell you, when you have yoga, when you have the kind of atmosphere and spirit Dolly creates, you open up and find yourself more real, more raw than you have in years. I'm always so surprised when I find myself in tears in class (though I should be used to it by now)—but something about the energy in the room just sort of forces all these emotions in me to the surface and I physically cannot hold them back. Before we left today, Dolly gave each of us a huge hug and kiss on the cheek, and I just wept because, I told her, I knew I was going to have to go back to my life, and I didn't want to. After being in such a safe environment for six days, where you can do virtually no wrong, it's scary to think about going back home, dealing with reality, with bills and broken relationships and baggage.

As I come out of this cocoon, at least I know that I have done my best, that I am a little less afraid of teaching, that I have put myself out there and survived, and am stronger for it. And that I always have my yoga. When things get tough, I know I can get on my mat and flow and reconnect to the real me. And in the end, that is all I have that I can truly call my own.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Yoga Teacher Training, Day 5, Module 2

I don't know but I've been told,
I don't know but I've been told,
Yoga is good for your soul,
Yoga is good for your soul,
Sound off,
Sound off,
1,2,
1,2,
3,4,
3,4,
1,2,3,4,
1,2,3,4!

Now how does that made-up yoga marching drill fit into to our class today? I'll tell ya. I was the drill sergeant, and my classmates were the unfortunate victims of my five-minute yoga bootcamp! That was one of the "chants" we sang call-and-response style during my five minutes of ruling the world as a domineering drill sergeant. (I know, I know...for those of you that know me, it really isn't a far stretch! I've been accused of being Ms. Bossy Britches more than once.)

Anyway. I'm sure you're thinking, Yoga bootcamp? What the hell? So here's how it all went down...

To make a point about the importance of vibrancy and personality in teaching, Dolly had all of us teach a five minute segment of class as anyone but ourselves. We could be a bigger, louder version of ourselves, or some other character completely. All we had to do was focus on being the personality while teaching whatever asanas came to our heads. The sequence or screwing up didn't matter. Dolly called us up at random and we had to work with the students in whatever position they were in when the person before you finished.

It was a terrifying, wild, hysterical experience! We had an Aussie explorer and a Scotsman, a Rastafarian and a valley girl, a hippie, a girl with multiple personalities, a New Yorka, and more. Even though I am totally not an actress and not into being the center of attention, there was a certain sense of freedom in being able to teach as someone else. I was scared sh*tless, but I have to admit that it was kind of fun being able to scream at everyone and order them around like a drill sergeant! Drop and give me a chaturanga, people! It was an interesting exercise, to say the least. I think we all got a lot of insight into the "performance" aspect of teaching.

Practicing at the Wall
For our group practice, we worked at the wall for an hour and a half. Dolly showed us shoulder openers and ways to do Triangle, Half Moon, and several other asanas at the wall to allow deeper stretches, openings, and twists. It enabled us to see how with a small class, or with beginners, for example, you could leverage the wall to allow them to really feel a posture without having to focus on balancing. It was also great because I'm sure I wasn't the only one super sore in the lower back from working on Forearm Balances and Scorpion. Working at the wall was still a challenge, but at least it wasn't the typical highly active Power Vinyasa practice. I don't think I could've mustered another Up Dog even if someone paid me to do it.

Don't judge a book by its cover...will I ever learn this?
Today we read a homework assignment in which we were supposed to write a paper from our 85-year-old selves to ourselves now. Many of the papers were tear-jerkers, and I was completely taken aback by the eloquence of Melody's paper. I just never expected to hear such great writing and storytelling from her, such depth and emotion. This is not the first misinterpretation about a person I've had this week. I've gotten to know Adrienne a little bit, and the more I talked to her, the more surprised I was to find that my original impression of her was totally, completely off. But I never would have known if I hadn't taken the opportunity to get to know her, to begin to scratch the surface of who Adrienne is.

I definitely have a tendency to make snap judgements about people and based on my perception, and often dismiss the thought of even getting to know them. Now I see why I have so few friends. Instead of looking for 100% like-minded people, or basing my level of interest in a person on the way they look, I should be more open to getting to know others and appreciating their individual personalities. At minimum, I should at least work on opening myself up to the idea that so many people have something to offer. This is yoga off the mat—this soul searching, this dissection of oneself. It might take months or years, but yoga really does seep into your life in the best ways if you just let it. I think that in the long run, I'll be a less judgmental, more compassionate, connected person because of yoga.

PS: Snaps from today at lunch...we've been blessed with glorious weather so we've been lunching on the lawn outside the studio.

Marge and Rashida















Kelley and Juliana
(with an empty Camille's pastry bag after our cookie run!)















Adriennne















Marcia and me


Sunday, April 29, 2007

Yoga Teacher Training, Day 4, Module 2

Today was another totally fun day in class. We worked on inversions (see list below for links to photos) and even though I can't do any of them away from the wall at this point, I'm totally fascinated by them. I've gone from a complete lack of confidence (even lack of belief) that I could ever even muster the courage and strength to do handstand at the wall to being able to confidently flip up. For me, that's huge. I used to really hate inversions and arm balances, but for some reason now, I'm obsessed with nailing them. And I'm starting to feel a little more control, a little more knowledge about the amount of momentum I need to get my legs up over my head without going all the way over.

Today, we worked on:

Inversions are tough for most people because the not only require some decent upper body strength, they also require mental fortitude. Being upside down and off balance is a pretty scary thing, especially when your face is inches from the ground. Pincha Mayurasana is an especially difficult and frightening inversion for beginners, so Dolly showed us how to safely roll out of Pincha Mayurasana if we feel like we're about to go over. Check out how she does this in the video below. Greg also gave it a whirl, with Dolly's assistance.








Dolly Demos Forearm Balance Roll Out on Vimeo





Greg's Forearm Balance Rollout on Vimeo

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Yoga Teacher Training, Day 3, Module 2

Wooo hooo! ARM BALANCES!!!!

Damn, my knees are sore, my wrists are sore, and my elbows are sore, but focusing on arm balances today was so much fun. We worked on Crow, Mountain Climber (see video below), Firefly, a half Crow/half Firefly posture and several others as well. I managed Firefly for the first time, then Mountain Climber on my own at home after class. So cool...it just made my night!

I'm spent...but here are a couple videos of Dolly's mad skills...she's really something else:






Dolly Demos Mountain Climber on Vimeo





Dolly Demos Full Locust on Vimeo

Friday, April 27, 2007

Yoga Teacher Training, Day 2, Module 2

I have to admit that every day that I show up to teacher training and am told I'm going to have to teach, I silently wish I was anywhere else in the world but in that classroom. Not because I don't love what I get from the class and from Dolly—the classes and her teachings, guidance, examples, and ideas are phenomenal. My yoga practice is forever changed (for the better, I hope) as a result of this experience. But teaching yoga is tough for me. It really is. I have to not only get over my fear of public speaking, I have to think on my feet, sequence the class in a way that accommodates and prevents injury; I have to inspire, challenge, and relax my students; cue breath, postures, and movements; be able to demo what I am teaching; watch the timing of each segment of the class; and find music that goes with the flow of the practice. It's the ultimate multi-tasking endeavor, and I thought I was the ultimate multi-tasker! 'Til yoga, that is.

But then something wonderful happens.

Because I've paid to learn this stuff, I have to stay there and get through it. And somehow I do. And then I feel an amazing sense of accomplishment, not necessarily because I aced the exam, so-to-speak, but because I completed the exam without tears, without seizing up, without complete failure. And that feels really good! Today I taught my first 60-minute class to my class partner Kelly, and although my sequence was a bit short, I got through it with no nerves, no major screw-ups, and some pretty positive feedback. Plus, Kelly is about three-to-four months pregnant, so getting the sequencing right for her situation was even more important...there's a baby in there counting on Kelly and me for a smooth, safe practice!

Day 2 Highlights
Quick highlights because even though the time stamp on this blog is early, by the time I've cooked, written, unloaded the dishwasher, written, and did ten other things while writing, it's now 10:40pm, and I've got to get to bed.
  • Pranayama (breathing) exercises—We went through several today, but my very favorite new breathing exercise is Bumblebee Breath (Bhramari). The beauty of this exercise is the wonderful vibrations it creates when you have a big group doing it. It has the same effect as an OM, yet is less intimidating. Basically, you inhale, then while exhaling, you hum. In our practice today, we did Bhramari with a class of about 20-25 people. The sound was amazing! Then at the end of the day, we sat back-to-back with our class partner and did it again, this time feeling the vibration and connection to our partners through our backs as well. Such a cool sound and feeling. I can't wait to introduce this in my own future classes.
  • In-depth assists—There are many of us in class who are afraid of assists, afraid to put our hands on people, whether it's because we don't want to hurt anyone, don't know what to do, or just don't want to touch anyone. Dolly showed us assists for many popular asanas, and we practiced each one with our partner. It helped me immeasurably. I'm really beginning to feel my fear of being in close proximity to strange bodies starting to melt away. I feel sorry for the people who assist me in practice, however. I'm such a profuse sweater...there's just nothing I can do about it. When I'm in a room that's 85 degrees, and I'm doing my seventh vinyasa with Chaturanga, and my heart is pumping, I just drip sweat. Poor Dolly comes by to assist or deepen a stretch, and I'm slicked down like a greased pig! But I digress...
  • Christina's Yama/Niyama paper—We had to write a one-page paper about the yama and niyama that is most prevalent in our lives now. Christina wrote about how years ago, she studied yoga and really wanted to teach, so she auditioned for a teaching position, and the studio owner she auditioned for told her she should consider doing something else! After that, Christina said she quit practicing yoga for two years, and hated the thought of it. Who could blame her? Eventually, she forced herself back into a class, fear, hatred, and all, and started practicing again, and is now teaching and working on her certification. I was just stunned by her paper, by the resolve it takes to be shot down while pursuing your dream, then find the strength to believe in yourself enough to keep trying. To see Christina practice...I don't know how on earth anyone could have told her she shouldn't teach because she has a beautiful practice and a lot of grace. I know nothing about Christina, outside of what she has shared in class, but I do know this: She is my hero. What she's overcome takes a hell of a lot of courage. Bravery of the big, brass kind. Good for her!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Yoga Teacher Training, Day 1, Module 2

I made it through day one of my second yoga teacher training module...and the knees are feeling OK! Of course, I iced them in and after class, and I pulled way back in my practice, but who cares! If I can just make it through the next five days and not injure them further, I'm golden. A few more weeks off and I think they'll be back to normal.

It's so nice to be back to yoga and to practice with Dolly. Personally, I've missed her and yoga, but now that I'm teaching the kids, practicing is more important than ever—I've got to be able to bring them a fresh and interesting class every other week, and it's hard when you're a new teacher and not practicing or being exposed to new ideas in the interim.

I was thinking today while in class that I'm so glad I decided to just jump in and start teaching the kids with no experience. Even teaching my tiny classes has helped me immeasurably in teacher training exercises. I feel much more confident and teaching is just a teensy bit easier. And chanting and OMs...I could almost care less if I suck or not. Because I know life goes on with or without my shaky OM, and that is a great feeling. I really owe my progress (at least mentally) to the kids. They've given me the freedom to explore my teacher side and put myself out there without fear of judgment. I've also had to face my own fears doing inversions in yoga in order to show them asanas that channel their energy and keep them engaged. That's not to say that I've even come close to mastering handstand or Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Balance)...BUT...there was a time that I couldn't even do handstand at the wall. So I am making progress as well, and that always feels good.

Now that I'm back in yoga after having been off for the first time since I got into it last year, it has become more obvious than ever that I found yoga at exactly the time in my life when I would need it most, when its effects could be most profoundly realized. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder—and it does—I've missed the cathartic feeling of a good practice like crazy. But absence from yoga also makes the heart grow colder. I've noticed (and I'm sure the people closest to me have noticed) that these weeks away from my practice have yielded a bitter, complaining, self-absorbed person. The attitude change certainly isn't without reason, for there are myriad. However, now that I've practiced a few times in the last week, I can see that yoga is a gift that has arrived at my doorstep just in time, as I am preparing to act upon some pretty damn big decisions in my life, and the one thing I know will keep me sane through all of it is yoga. It levels me out physically, and the ethical guidelines of yoga make me a more spiritual, more conscientious person. I can see now that finding yoga when I did has opened up a new path in my life that I never, ever foresaw—and definitely wasn't making plans for. Now if I can just continue going with the flow, not cowering in the face of fear, I know I will find myself in a new place brimming with contentment and possibility.

It takes courage to change a routine, to evaluate, to question, to do the thing that is not the norm. I've been going with the motions for years. I think I'm finally finding the courage I need to look at my life and make it what I really want it to be. It's scary and exciting at the same time—the thought of taking a huge risk is utterly terrifying to me. But you know what? It's my life. And it's high time I lived it.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Yoga + Wine

Yesterday afternoon was the second weekend of David Romanelli's "Yoga + Chocolate" weekend—but we did a yoga + wine session (which I loved...Dave offers separate Yoga + Chocolate and Yoga + Wine workshops, so getting a little of both in one weekend is a deal in my opinion!)

Much like his Yoga+ Chocolate workshop, Dave teamed up with Angela Gargano, a yoga instructor and wine connoisseur, to create a multi-sensory experience that features carefully selected wines, Vinyasa flow yoga, and music. A lot of people have asked (er, b*tched): Yoga and wine? Isn't that a philosophical contradiction? Dave started our class by recounting the backlash his new idea generated in the hardcore yoga world. You can get a sense of what both camps had to say about in the 2006 article, "The Days of Wine and Yoga," by Cindy Price of The New York Times.

Old-School Devotees vs. Modern Yogis
So let me make a little sidebar commentary here. Yoga people, I've discovered, generally fall into two categories: The Old-School Devotees and The Modern Yogis. The irony of the division between these two ideologies is that The Old-School Devotees, who are supposed to be practicing ahimsa and all that, are the first to sling insults and cast judgments when The Modern Yogis stay true to themselves, whether that means NOT being vegetarian, indulging in wine, or enjoying food and leather and fashion, etc. I find it very interesting that The Modern Yogis' mantra tends to be "it's all good," and, present company included, tend to commend The Old-School Devotees for their ability to commit 100% to yogic principles and tradition. But I've yet to feel like Modern Yogis are respected in the same fashion by their Old-School counterparts. It's an interesting dichotomy.

Block Party
So back to yoga and wine...like the night before, we sampled a lovely Ravenswood Zinfandel at the beginning of class, did a heart-pounding 90-minute Vinyasa practice, then sampled another wine at the end of class—a fabulous Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir (my fave) by Block 13. With each tasting, Dave told us a little about the type of grape, weather, and process required to create the wines we were drinking. It was excellent for wine newbies, and interesting even for those who have some knowledge of wines.

Dave also touched again on the importance of enjoying each moment in life, and that when you want to "etch a moment in your memory," you have to experience it with all your senses. He's right...we all know that many of our most vibrant memories are conjured up by a visual connected to a sound, scent, or taste. The smell of basil always makes me think of my grandmother—she always had it growing outside the front of her home.

After class, those who wanted to stay for a full glass of either the Zin or Pinot Noir were invited to do so. I did have a full glass of the Pinot and met some new friends in the class—who were actually totally new to yoga as well. I tend to stick to myself unless someone engages me in conversation, but this environment makes it easy to get to know a stranger, as there are already two things you know you have in common with the person on the mat next to you: yoga and wine. Pretty cool, I think.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Yoga + Chocolate = Mmmmmmmm...

Attended the first session of David Romanelli's "Yoga + Chocolate" weekend last night. David and friend Katrina Markoff, of Vosges Haut Chocolat, combined their loves to create a multi-sensory experience featuring exotic chocolates, Vinyasa flow yoga, music, and fun. Judging from the first night, it's an experience I highly recommend.

So how does David bring this all together?
He started class with everyone lying down on their backs and began with a story about how he came to yoga and how yoga + chocolate was born. He talked about how important it is to be in the moment, how being in the moment allows you to fully experience life using all your senses.

Then we sat up, sampled a Oaxaca truffle, which he described, and we began our 90-minute practice. This is the first time I've practiced in a month because of my knees (left knee STILL isn't right, right knee seems to be OK). It felt so good to finally practice again, and even though I really modified on my left side, I still got a lot out of it. David's mix of music was extremely interesting, and I enjoyed it even if I wouldn't necessarily have picked some of the songs myself. As a teacher, he has a very calm presence...an excellent pace. He gave us a chance to get into each posture and fully feel it before moving on to the next one. We worked up a hell of a serious sweat doing a pretty straightforward Vinyasa practice. Nothing complex, no arm balances or anything more advanced. It's amazing how even the simple stuff can be so gratifying and challenging when fully explored. He did do some very interesting adjustments that I've never seen and can't really explain. As a teacher-in-training, I got a lot out of seeing that too.

Midway through our practice, while in a standing position, we sampled actual cocoa bean chips while holding our arms straight out to the side. As we experienced the flavor of the cocoa beans, David told us about how in the past, they were so precious they were actually used as currency. In the meantime, we're still holding our arms straight out, so we're still working, even while resting some and experiencing the sensation of cocoa chips on our tongues.

Chocolate is good. Yoga is good. Feelings are good.
Throughout class, David also spoke about love—a message which is uncannily timely for me at the moment. I can't remember the details of everything he said, but he mentioned a quote about people who take serotonin-balancing or boosting drugs like Prozac. Something about they are less likely to find and keep love because the drug evens them out, but then they never really feel all the highs and lows of love, the connection. I'm really paraphrasing, and David did not quote this with any bad intent, so I hope no one will take it that way. His whole point was that IF you want to experience love, you have to experience the pain that goes with it. Love isn't a straight path or a smooth ride, so to really get all the benefits of it, you have to fasten your seatbelt and ride it out. It's an interesting observation I think most of us forget. Love hurts, yes. Love is great too. Shutting yourself off from the depth of love to avoid the pain is just that: shutting yourself off from love.

After the rest of practice and a long savasana in which David treated all of us to a neck rub with lavender oil, we sat up and sampled a Naga truffle. By this point we were all pretty much drenched and in a bliss state, so the Naga truffle was just the icing on the cake. It was a wonderful night that fulfilled each of our five senses—which is why I think Dave's little yoga + chocolate road show has been a smashing success. Good for him and Katrina...I love innovation, and this is creativity at its finest.

PS: Can't make a future Yoga + Chocoalte weekend? Order the Yoga + Chocolate Chakra Gift Box...it's almost as good!