I Don’t Know, But I’m Open To It

I don’t know, but I’m open to it…
In the bathroom of one of the yoga studios at which I teach, is a chalkboard where anyone can scribble something – hopefully after they have washed their hands.
A few weeks back, someone had cleaned off the board – wiped away all the usual platitudes that end up written there, like “I love yoga!” and “Namaste!” and “om mani padme hum.” This time, after the board was cleaned, someone had written a prompt of sorts: “What would love do now?”
I wrote down my answer early on, and then each time I went back to the studio, I watched the board being filled up with the latest batch of wise answers: “create equality,” “forgive,” “release,” and “hold space” showed up. And then “let grace abound” appeared.
Every time I read these, I feel like the true cynical, existential GenXer that I am. “Let grace abound?” I mean really. Who talks like this. All these people have drunk the KoolAid of the pop culture phenomenon that has become known as yoga.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that love really can do all these great things. And I am a true optimist deep down. Honest I am. But when you throw these concepts around on a chalkboard in a bathroom, it just feels like they lose all real meaning. I’m super glad that so many people have a skip in their step and a twinkle in their eye and believe that grace truly does abound. But it’s like saying the same word word out loud over and over again. After a while it begins to sound really weird and you start questioning what it really means.
One person did write “I don’t know, but I’m open to it” and I thought that was the coolest response of all. I bow down and offer that person a Sun Salutation.
Do you want to know what I added to the board?
“Buy me a sandwich.”

Chair Yoga at the retirement home
I am in the middle of receiving an additional 300 hours of yoga teacher training. Not so I can let grace abound (however if this is a natural side-effect, I’m ok with that), and not because I want everyone to do handstands. Rather, I want to learn the subtle art of assisting people in getting back in touch with themselves on a physical level. Because I believe connecting with your self on a physical level can be a gateway for connecting with many other levels of your being-ness. Hey does that sound like I should put it up on the chalkboard? Damn, I just can’t escape the platitudes when talking about yoga. But fortunately, I do know some people who can.
Part of my training is to work with a mentor, so I chose my friend Sonia. She teaches chair yoga twice a week at a local retirement home, and when she went on vacation last week, I got to teach the class for her.
There are about 6-8 regulars that come to chair yoga. They are varying ages – from early 60s to early 90s. Each of them has a different degree of ability and/or disability. It’s fascinating to see what can happen to the body as it ages. And I tell you what, these people are great. They are funny, feisty, and don’t take any shit from anyone. They know what they like, and they know what they don’t like, and they definitely don’t have time to mess with what they don’t like. One of them has a little trouble focusing and paying attention, but once you get him physically engaged, he can stay in the present moment and keep up pretty well.
At the end of class, they all lay in Savasana (final relaxation) for a few minutes, and we put a lavender-scented cloth across their eyes to help them relax. When Savasana is over, they sit up, and we bring hands to heart-center and say our Namaste. But every single time, they start tossing their eye cloths at the teacher as soon as they sit up. They aren’t going to wait around to give it back after class, they just throw it at you and get going. There is something about this that I find hilarious and life-affirming. Especially when I got hit with a few eye cloths last week.
I hope I am that awesome when I am 90.
Usually, Sonia starts the class with a quote from a well-known restorative yoga teacher. The quotes are about mindfulness, relaxing, being kind to yourself, and they are very good. But I don’t have a good book of quotes. So I started each class with a joke. This was Thursday’s joke:
What did the snail say when it was riding on top of the turtle?
“Wheeeeeee!!!”
I think they liked it. I think I’m in.

Till next time, much love to you and yours.
Andrea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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300 More Hours of Yoga Training, Part One

A year ago, I completed my RYT®200 training, which officially made me a yoga teacher. It’s been an interesting year – I’ve been surprised by how easily a “career as a yoga teacher” materialized, allowing me to do super cool things like pay my half of the mortgage, and keep gas in my car. Yay, monies!
I experienced a very short period of overwhelm, shortly after I started teaching last year. Fortunately it didn’t last long, and for the most part, I really enjoy what I do. Sometimes I work seven days a week, but that may entail only several hours of work some days. As a habitual desk hamster, it’s been a challenge to adapt to such a fluid schedule after so many years of 8-5, 5-day work weeks. But, I’m learning to make it work by taking long lunches involving cappuccinos and an episodes of Longmire on Netflix.

This year, I have an amazing opportunity to attend Everyone Yoga School’s 300 Hour Teacher Training. When I have completed it, in a year, I will be an RYT®500 teacher. Whoa!
I am doing work/trade for part of my tuition fees. I have the honor of doing the copywriting for EYS. Right now I’m working on revising their web site copy, and I am writing their blog. The latest post, which you can read HERE, went up this week. It got me thinking.
The blog post discusses some of the “Whys” behind signing up for the 300 hour training. They are all good reasons (because I wrote them, duh), but I realized that none of them are my own personal Why. Mine requires its own blog post. So, here’s my Why.

Practicing and teaching yoga are a huge part of my life – there is no denying the billions of ways they’ve positively impacted my life. But I would not necessarily say that teaching yoga is my main purpose in life, nor is it my huge burning desire/life passion. I don’t eat, breathe, and sleep yoga (well actually I do end up teaching yoga in my sleep, after particularly long days). OMG, does that make me a bad yoga instructor to admit that?? No, it makes me human.
Yoga has helped me listen better. I’m better at listening to my own body, and I’m better at listening to my own thoughts. Studying the teachings of Abraham Hicks has also helped immensely. And I’ve come to realize and accept and admit and say out loud that my main passion in life is not yoga, it is to write.
More specifically, my desire is to connect thoughts in interesting ways – looking at things, understanding, processing, relating, expressing. Writing all of it down is the easiest way for me to get it all together.
I can’t help but feel/know/think that there is a connection between my writing, and practicing and teaching yoga. To be able to deepen one’s knowledge, even if it’s just knowledge of one’s own experience, leads to fuller expression. So as I begin another 300 hours of study, I know this will make me a better writer.
Part of the 300 hour training is a “final project.” For mine, I have received permission to blog about my training over the next year, documenting my experiences and how I am incorporating them into my life. So this is the first one in that series. I’m so happy to be writing for my yoga training.

Every path we are led to, each person we are attracted to, each choice that we make, connects to everything else. And it all comes together to create our experience. Here’s to the next chapter.

photo i took during the 200 hour training, 2016
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Creating and Holding Space – Why I Teach Yoga

Creating and Holding Space

why i teach yoga

Why I Teach Yoga

So on Monday, I teach my very first studio yoga class.

I am super nervous, which, I realize, doesn’t really seem in line with what I have learned from yoga. Everyone gets something different out of the experience of yoga – some experience physical challenge, others experience emotional release… I have experienced both of these things, plus so much more. Like learning to relax, both mentally and physically. I have learned to be more aware of my body, and have become more accepting of myself on sooooo many levels. It’s been pretty amazing, and I learned it all through practicing yoga. But getting up in front of a room full of people to help them do the same? That is still a scary prospect.

I have this feeling, though, that the only way to get over it is to go DO it. So next week I’m not only teaching my first studio yoga class, I’m teaching 3 or 4 studio yoga classes. In my first week. May as well get it over with.
I had to pick a name for my weekly class that I’ll be teaching. Since the name of the Studio is Be Love, the owner has us use the word “be” at the beginning of the class names. I chose “Be Light.”

This could mean:
Be the light (Namaste, y’all)
Feel lighter from doing yoga
Keep things light, because all too often life is so damn heavy.

It means all these things. And more! Because everything in yoga seems to have layers. Layers of meaning, and of physical movement, and self-discovery, and…

I’m very aware of trying not to sound like a Crazy Person when I talk about yoga and what it’s done for me. All too often we come across people who have found something new and can’t understand WHY EVERYONE ELSE ISN’T AS EXCITED ABOUT THIS AS I AM. But at the same time, I do want to share how it’s helped me, and how it’s made me want to help others.

For about a month or two, I’ve been teaching yoga to friends and family in my living room – and sometimes in Marcus’ shop (you’d be surprised how awesome it is to do yoga in the fresh air, while looking out at some greenery – even if you are standing in an auto shop). Oh, and I’ve even taught yoga in a fire station twice!
Everyone I’ve taught has pretty much been a complete beginner to yoga. Maybe they started coming to do me a favor… but I’d like to think they keep coming back because they’re getting something out of it. When I watch someone who is trying to learn the alignment and subtleties of a certain pose, and they have a look on their face that tells me they’re waaaaay inside themselves, investigating something, finding some new sense of themselves… well that, my friends, is priceless. THAT is why I want to teach yoga.

Everyone can do yoga. NOT everyone will be able to look like those super hot girls who can do the splits before they’ve had their morning chia seed smoothie bowl (but after they put on their $90 yoga pants). There’s tons of things I can’t do, and I’m almost certified to teach. But I should say – there’s tons of things that I don’t need to do. I don’t need to do the splits or Eka Pada Koundiyanasana I to get a hell of a lot of benefit from yoga. That said, I do plan to master Crow Pose very soon… because we all need a challenge.

why i teach yoga
yeah, this is not me. (photo from yogajournal.com)

And all of us have different levels that we consider “challenging.” That’s what’s so brilliant about yoga. It can be modified to suit your abilities. Some of us have injuries, others of us have restricted movement, and still others don’t really have a good relationship or understanding of our own bodies. This was my case. I’m still working on understanding where my body is in the space around me, and how things feel and how I move. Because I really had no idea until I started doing yoga. Don’t ask me how I got to that point in my life… but I don’t think I’m the only one who ended up there. I’m getting better at it – but I’ve also broken two toes since last October. Just be mindful of where you are in space, people… (or at the very least, where your feet are in relation to your yoga mat…)

So, you are very welcome to come to my yoga classes. Especially if you are a beginner, especially if you don’t think you can do yoga. My purpose in teaching is to bring you back to your body, to help you be a little bit lighter inside.
But if you want to master one-armed handstands, you might need to look for another class…

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