30 Days of Yoga…days 7-12

And so it continues!

9/7:

  • Vinyasa 1-3 at Moksha Yoga West Bucktown, taught by Nina Gaglio (90 min.) That class was so good I couldn’t stand it! Definitely going to be a regular in my arsenal.

9/8:

  • Erm…today was a little light on asana, just a few sun salutations at home and a bit of reading one of my new books that I bought on Devon Street, where I had a lovely Indian buffet and bought some murtis for my home altar:

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9/9:

9/10:

9/11:

9/12:

  • Recover Faster (hatha, 30 min. with Darren Rhodes on YogaGlo) This was very helpful, as it was aimed for biking recovery, which I needed today.

Now that I’m looking over my past few days I almost feel like I’m not doing enough (see? wasn’t that what I was trying to get away from?) But, not gonna let myself fall into that trap. I’m proud that I’m committed and following through on what I intended. Plus, I’ve been biking loads. Today I did about 20 windy miles (and up a hill for part of it, yow!) I am having a great time with this little exercise in discipline, so it’s all worth it in the end.

30 Days of Yoga, 6 Days In…(Days 1-6)

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Alright, it seems that I’m hawking National Yoga Month like I’m getting paid to promote it. Sadly, this is not the case. However, what I am lacking in monetary return, I’m more than making up for in my goal of deepening my practice for the month of September. I thought it would be interesting, if to no one else except for me, to log my practices. So, on Day 6 (September 6, 2013) here’s where I am…

9/1:

9/2:

9/3:

9/4:

  • Vinyasa 2-3 at Nature Yoga Sanctuary in Chicago, taught by Wade Gotwals (105 min.)

9/5:

  • Hatha 1-2 at Moksha Yoga Riverwest, taught by Rich Logan (105 min.)

9/6:

  • Vinyasa 1-3 at Moksha Yoga W. Bucktown, taught by Kristin Urbanus (90 min.)
  • (TBD: restorative at Moksha Yoga W. Bucktown, taught by Katie Tuttle (90 min.)

I feel like I’m off to a strong start and hopefully this will give me that extra impetus to not slack off :) I’ll continue to update.

A little bit is better than nothing

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Me coming out of crow.

Apparently, September is National Yoga Month. For me, every month is yoga month, but hey, I’m down for celebrating and creating more awareness. I am, in a small way, celebrating this month by upping my home yoga practice. I admit, I tend to like going to the studio a lot more than I like practicing at home. For one thing, I love being surrounded by the collective energy of my fellow yogis. It’s nice to have the variety of different teachers who challenge me to push myself. For another, I’m ridiculously easily distracted (hello, vata) and most of my home practices are liberally punctuated by the sound of dogs barking and kids yelling and lawnmowers doing their thing. I can look at it positively and see it as an opportunity to learn to tune out distraction, or I can get annoyed that while I’m in savasana or yoga nidra, my very lovely, loving pug is trying to lick my face or jump on my stomach (not to mention when the neighbor dogs start barking, Monster happily joins in the barking frenzy.) Truth be told, I’m not yet at that point where I’m able to completely disregard distraction and the yoga studio environment is so much easier for me to stay in ‘the zone.’

For a long time, especially in my first few years, I grappled with the notion that if I didn’t practice for an hour or 90 minutes, it didn’t count. So, I didn’t until I went to my studio classes. All this really accomplished was that I missed out on a lot of really great yoga practice. I tried to establish a home practice and was fine following along with DVDs for a while, but after the 10th time of the same class, I’d lose interest and again, miss out on some great yoga time.

More and more often, I’ve read advice from other yogi(ni)s that has really resonated with me, “a bit of yoga every day is better than a) nothing or b) a lot of yoga once (or twice, or three times) per week.” So, while I may not have an extended physical asana practice every day, I try to incorporate some dedicated yoga time daily to either meditation or philosophy. And, on my meditation/philosophy days, I’ll try to throw in a sun salutation or two, or maybe just a pose I’m working on. Often, giving myself permission to practice a tiny bit leads to more practice.

That said, in the past few weeks, I’ve been working on honing and extending my daily home asana practice (distractions be damned!) My most recent useful tool is: YogaGlo. It beats the same DVDs every day by a mile and a million. I am kicking myself that I haven’t signed up earlier. I have on several occasions almost signed up, but didn’t feel like ponying up $18/month when I’ve got access to free yoga through my work/study. $18/month is actually NOTHING in Chicago, where $18 will get you approximately one class at many studios. Unfortunately, my studios are not close to my house and while I love the 10-14 mile round trip bike commute when the weather is nice, some days, I just don’t feel like it.

The day I signed up, I felt like a kid in a candy store. The choice and variety of teachers is fantastic, especially since my 2 favorites, Jason Crandell and Kathryn Budig are amply represented. I love that you can filter classes by duration, which really fits in nicely with my “a bit of practice every day” goal. Yesterday, for example, my energy was way low after I found out my poor sweet pug had another mast cell tumor. However, I found a 20 minute class that was perfectly tailored to my energy level and needs. I’ve been so excited by my options, that I queued up and scheduled classes for nearly every day of September. Sometimes two or more a day (i.e. vinyasa flow in the morning and restorative/yin in the evening.)

The ultimate point of this post is that every little bit does count and that the all or nothing/studio or bust approach, especially for me, doesn’t work. The key is to make a commitment to let yourself practice for 5, 10, 20 minutes, whatever it takes, in lieu of thinking it doesn’t count if you’re not practicing for an hour or more. And, there are so many tools at our disposal these days that make even the short practices more enticing and easier to stick with.

So hey, why not join me in practicing every day in September?

200 Hours Isn’t Long Enough (for me…)

yoga

yoga (Photo credit: GO INTERACTIVE WELLNESS)

About halfway through my 200 hour yoga teacher training, I realized 200 hours was far too little time to even scratch the surface of yoga. It makes sense…how can you distill a several thousand year, multi-faceted system of mind/body integration into a mere 200 hours? You could probably spend that 200 hours just glossing over philosophy. Fortunately, I’m (occasionally) realistic and (somewhat) patient and have accepted that this learning process will be a lifetime one. I’ve also always been a little drawn to the jnana (path of knowledge) limb of the system. The more you start to learn, the more you realize there’s pretty much no end in sight. And that’s fine.

I can’t even imagine teachers that go through a week or month long intensive and that’s the only training they get. It seems like all you could cover in that ridiculously short span of time is cueing asana. And that’s fine if you’re going for a predominantly “athletic” style of teaching (i.e. gyms, etc…) But, that’s not my personal goal. So, to that end, I’m researching more education, which is really exciting. I’m almost positive I’m going to embark on a 500 hour training at Moksha Yoga in Chicago (where I currently do work/study.) I’m really impressed with their training program and I respect the opportunities they give their trainees. Beyond that, I’ve got a few more trainings in mind. Good thing I truly enjoy learning! I’ve got my work cut out for me.

To ashtanga or not to ashtanga?

Lately, I’ve been absolutely fascinated by the idea of taking up an ashtanga practice. As much as I adore my vinyasa classes (there’s a pretty decent overlap between the two, asana-wise, except vinyasa is basically a freestyle ashtanga, where as ashtanga has a very set order of poses.) I’m starting to like the idea of really honing my discipline and focus by concentrating on mindfully moving through the primary series and really working pose by pose before progressing to the next one.

I have a tendency to lose focus mid-anything and would love to learn how to harness that focus. It seems like it would also be very beneficial for exercising patience and non-attachment (aparigraha.) I’d like to learn how to stick with the pose and get it right instead of getting frustrated and moving on to something else that I find easier or more comfortable.

So, what is stopping me? Well, apparently, I’m still feeling a little resistant to the discipline of a 6 days/week practice, working on the same series. I can easily manage 6 days of vinyasa because you never know what sequence you’re going to get next. With ashtanga, I’m going to get the same.damn.series every day. I’m also hung up on the idea that maybe I’m too old? Many of these practitioners started out in their 20s, so by the time they’re my age, they’ve been at it for 20 years. It’s humbling. Yowza. I was living a life of next to zero discipline in my 20s.

Fortunately, I’ve found a few other ashtangis online that have discussed their foray into the practice in their 40s. If they can do it, I can do it. There is one fellow who was quite overweight and chronicled his journey and the difference a few years made was truly astonishing.

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Kino is amazing. I can totally do this….not.

And then there’s Kino MacGregor, ashtangi extraordinaire. I am awaiting the arrival of her book, The Power of Ashtanga Yoga, which should arrive any day now. I just adore her. She moves with such control and grace and seems really down-to-earth and straightforward in her instructional videos. She’s definitely a huge inspiration for me.

This whole paragraph from her blog REALLY resonated with me and I’m going to say it’s been my strongest impetus to go ashtanga.

“The recommendation to take on a six day a week practice is often hard to accept for new students, so new students can easily build up to a full six day a week practice by starting with three days a week. Then once that level of regularity is established one additional day a week can be added every six months until the full six days a week is within reach. One other crucial shift must happen in order to facilitate the transition into full immersion in the yoga tradition. You must make the transition from a fitness oriented approach to yoga into a devotional one. By getting this subtle shift you will gain consistency and regularity in the way that you do your practice. A daily spiritual ritual where you take time to connect internally to a deep sense of yourself requires dedication. The requirement to practice six days a week is meant to develop the kind of mental, spiritual and devotional determination needed in order make progress along the internal path of yoga. If yoga is meant to be a life long commitment to inner peace it behooves yoga practitioners to practice as much as they can. If you only practice when it is convenient or when you feel good then yoga is more of a hobby then a lifestyle. But sincere spiritual practice has never been a leisurely activity if it is to produce the results of awakening. True spiritual practice is an unbroken commitment to do everything it takes to see the deepest truth there is. It is not something you can choose to look at only on Monday and Wednesday for an hour and pretend it does not exist for the rest of the week.”

Hopefully, putting it out there means it’s too late to back out now! Wish me luck and yoga on!

Pay attention to your audience

A yoga class.

A yoga class. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last week, I started a volunteer yoga teaching position at an artist community of developmentally disabled adults. And boy, do they LOVE their yoga. It’s so nice to see such enthusiasm and gratitude! I felt a little like a rock star :) While I’m dying to get my hands on a studio gig, I am pretty sure my first class in a traditional setting won’t be nearly as interactive and appreciative (on an outward level.)

I’m co-teaching this class with 2 of my other teacher friends and we alternate between teaching and assisting. Prior to the class, we met to go over our sequence, but once we got there, it was an amazing learning opportunity to realize that we really needed to be flexible in response to our audience’s abilities.

The artists can choose to join in if they want and we had about 12 students. I thought that since this was our first class, I didn’t want to go straight into a million sun salutations, but I wanted to make it interactive to see where they were in terms of comfort and ability, so we did sort of a round robin where the students could demonstrate their favorite pose for us and then we all follow along. It was great. They seemed to really get a kick out of it. It was also fantastic to see the variety of poses. One man, Dave, had a ridiculously flexible baddha konasana and when he forward folded, his forehead was all the way to the ground (he also had a mean lotus.) Another guy chose table with one leg up in the air. And of course, we had a tree. Then, as we went along and resumed more of our scheduled sequencing, it became apparent when they were losing focus and you just had to modify to keep their attention or move on to the next thing. Definitely a great opportunity to learn how to improvise!

My biggest takeaways were that:

  1. Even if you have a set sequence, you might need to just completely abandon it at times. Go with the flow.
  2. You need to tune in to how your students are responding. You can’t get too hung up on delivering elaborate alignment cues. For this group, since some had quite limited range of motion, or comfort level in certain poses, it didn’t behoove anyone to drill in that they NEEDED TO STRAIGHTEN THEIR LEG (when they couldn’t or wouldn’t.) This is their class, not yours.
  3. Whatever happens in class, it’s all good, it’s all yoga.

Gotta keep that heart open

This pose is called Wild Thing or Camatkarasana in Sanskrit. This backbend is one I really enjoy, especially as it’s a major heart opener, which I feel like I need these days. I have been feeling a little down about my yoga teaching prospects (kinda non-existent except for volunteer teaching, at the mo’.) I’m seeing some of my teacher training grad classmates getting some studio gigs and I so don’t want to admit that I’m feeling a little defeated and perhaps a touch jealous, but I am.

I guess part of the problem is that I’m letting my introverted side get to me. I haven’t actually been pursuing any jobs because I start getting a little terrified that I’m so new of a teacher that I’ll feel a little fraudulent, but that’s just so silly. Everyone’s got to start somewhere!

So, I’m gonna open that heart up to all the possibilities that may come my way and pursue ones that haven’t and get out of the way of my own fear.

I like this hand on heart version a la Kathryn Budig

I like this hand on heart version a la Kathryn Budig