I AM (finally) A YOGA TEACHER!!

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That’s right, totally certified. I haven’t stopped smiling since my “graduation” ceremony last night. We had a fantastic gathering at the studio where we shared our memorable moments. A lot of laughing, some tears (of joy) shed…It was just incredible that so many of us had the same pivotal moments along the way. I’m sure I mentioned several blog posts back about my crying in kundalini class. Well, that class made several people’s lists. It really was an amazing bonding moment. I am fortunate beyond words to have been brought together with a group of people who are all so wonderful and unique, yet we’re all sort of “one.” One girl requested a rolling OM and pardon my french, but that shit rocks. It was awesome. Then, we went out afterward and talked and laughed and hugged and had a few non-sattvic adult beverages and had a really wonderful time. Another girl  had brought bindis, so we were all wearing them.  Numerous people stopped us to ask what the heck we had on our foreheads. A few people even asked for some. I took some great pictures, which I was very much looking forward to posting today after I’d edited them.

I woke up this morning, still smiling. Absolutely beaming. Glowing. Floating. I walked to the bus with the biggest grin on my face, which stayed there until I got off the bus and descended the stairs to embark my train. I put my  hand in my pocket to pull out my iPhone to check the time and wouldn’t you know it? GONE. Nuts. 

I had had it just minutes before and had put it back into the pocket of my long, puffy black Chicago Winter coat and this guy bumped me and sort of blocked my way, so I had to push past him when I exited the bus, so my gut tells me it was him. I had to file a police report, a report with the Chicago Public Transit Authority and my phone network carrier along with blocking and deactivating my poor missing phone. Even though it frankly sucked in a huge way, I just let it roll off my back.

I’m still completely cool as a cucumber. The only thing I am quite sad about is the loss of the photos of me and my beautiful friends on the evening of our new beginning. I so hope my photos somehow got backed up in the cloud. I am not eligible for an iPhone 5 for 10 more days, so I have this sad little $14 pre-paid phone. But, it does the job. I showed it to a colleague who made a funny comment that I had to “re-learn an outdated technology.” Seriously, I got a text as a test from the guy at the store and I was poking the screen trying to get something to happen and then I realized, yes, this certainly is no smartphone. At least he made me laugh when he said, “NO ONE is going to steal this one…”

All that said, I’m still absolutely ecstatic! I have several new possible opportunities that I’m trying to firm up. It’s all so exciting. I can’t wait!

Teaching kinda rocks!!

ImageWell, my Saturday Teacher Training class came and went. I was a little nervous about getting up in front of class and teaching my peers. We had a 2 hour period to fill, going around the room, each teaching short sequences. I had nothing prepared except a thorough review of the notes I’ve taken on the asanas covered in class. After at least 12 of my classmates got up to teach, it was my turn. Oddly, I wasn’t nervous at all. It was actually slightly exhilarating! I ended up not even teaching anything we’ve covered in class, instead opting for a hip-opening sequence, starring my fave: baddha konasana. Then, my turn came around a second time near the end, but we were very near the end of class, so I had to rush through instructing shoulderstand.

The next day, I got together with 2 of my classmates and we met at another studio to practice teach. I finally got to do what I’ve wanted for ages: start the class with an opening meditation. For some reason, I just LOVE that part. I love the transition from the hustle and bustle of pre-class life where the external world is so heavy on your mind, to the journey inward. I love slowing down. Slowing down thoughts and breathing and just softening into the space around you. I even led my very first OM chant! This was quite a step for me because sometimes I get a little creaky in OM. In fact, one time, I was in class next to one of my fellow trainees and my voice cracked like Peter Brady’s in his “Time To Change” era (ok, this might not resonate for the younger crowd, but if you’ve seen it, you’ll know….) We both ended up laughing. I couldn’t help myself. But, in this OM, my voice remained steady. Afterward, my classmates told me they really loved the opening sequence and they thought it really set the tone for practice. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!

I am so excited to really dive into teaching. I only have TWO classes left until I “graduate.” As I’ve said before, it’s so bittersweet.

Only Three Classes Left in Teacher Training

Gyan Mudra

Gyan Mudra

Such a bittersweet feeling…

Part of me is relieved to have my Thursday nights free again and to actually have TWO days off per week instead of the one I’ve had for 7 months. The other part of me is incredibly sad to be leaving the training program. I’ve met some really remarkable individuals and couldn’t be happier with the lovely group of people I’ve spent so much time with over these past months. I know it isn’t the end of the road, but as is customary, people get busy, schedules are difficult to coordinate and eventually you slowly drift. I hope that isn’t the case. In a way, I imagine it won’t be, since we’re tied together by a stronger force than just having been thrown together for a far less personal journey.

At any rate, today we get together for class to practice teach the class. Generally, we approach our practice classes by learning the alignment cues and verbage to instruct our students how to get into the asana, then we break into small groups and practice teaching each other. Only one other class have we each taken turns standing in the front of the class, instructing all 25 of us. It was a “round robin” class where we had to make an intelligent decision about which asana would most closely complement or counter the asana taught before. Lucky for me, my turn was after my very graceful and flexible dancer classmate came up and taught ardha chandrasana on one side. I was the last student, so I’d already prepared a savasana sequence. Foiled!

Round Robin, get it??

Fortunately, I’ve made my peace with Half Moon over the years. I used to HATE it. I could never maintain my balance, half of which was caused by fear of falling, so I wouldn’t even fully try. But, I got up there and taught to the best of my ability. Once I stood in front of everyone, I wasn’t nervous, which is strange because I have a long history of being absolutely PETRIFIED of public speaking of any sort.

I’m glad to have had that experience early on, because I’m a little nervous today. I have faith that when I stand in front of class this afternoon, it’s all going to fall into place. As one of my trainee friends said the other day, “think about it. We’re all in the same place.” True dat. It’s not as if ALL of us are even close to being expert teachers. I’m among a safe group of peers. No one’s going to laugh behind my back  if I forget a cue or say “right foot” when I mean left. It’s all good. Until then, I will just take a deep breath and when I get to the front of class, I’ll teach what I know, from intuition and my own personal practice, instead of sticking to a script.

Light in mind, light in body

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fly little elephant, fly!

Due to what I now identify as my vata nature,  I tend to have a very active mind when I’m out of balance. Not always in a good way, either. Sometimes I feel like I have so many thoughts in my head that it’s like a hamster on a wheel, constantly rotating, going nowhere. I can think about things so much that the line between truth and fiction get a little blurry. The past few months, I’ve been dealing with some internal and external issues in my life that I felt needed to be resolved, but I wasn’t sure how or when. I hoped that the teacher training process would give me some tools to deal with these situations. And boy have they!

For one thing, practicing being present has been incredibly grounding. It’s not healthy to spend too much time in the past or the future. When you’re stuck on either end of the spectrum, you’re taking energy away from dealing with the now, and the now is when you make the decisions that affect your future.

Breathing, the practice of pranayama, has helped calm me down in so many instances, that I now unconsciously “return to my breath” (in yoga speak :). It hasn’t always been easy, but the more you practice something, the more it becomes part of you without having to work so hard. I’ve had to continually consciously redirect my thoughts from ping-ponging back and forth from past to future. This process is almost second nature now.

After my last teacher training class (the one with the good ol’ yoga cry), I have been not-so-slowly moving toward this amazing sense of clarity. My two biggest worries required that I make a decision in order to move forward. One, I was working toward, but without a plan. The other, I was sort of trying to ignore, hoping that I’d know what to do eventually.

Since that class, I have had an entire mental shift that is leading me down the path of resolution. I took a step toward freeing myself from the burden of one of the things that was keeping me tethered and as soon as I took that step, almost immediately, I felt like an enormous weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Once that weight was lifted, I made a decision. Two actually, concerning both of the issues.

That was two days ago and today, as I have walked around from the train to the office, or just down the hall, I feel physically light. Almost like I’m floating. I’ve never experienced this sort of lightness before and it’s incredible! And I know with all the certainty in the world that this yoga journey has been the catalyst.

Kundalini’s killin’ me

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I’m finally back to my teacher training after a short holiday break. It’s so great to be back! On Saturday, we had a workshop on Psychology and Yoga and it’s truly interesting to see how closely related they are. As it happens, I came to yoga from a psychological perspective (I earned my bachelor’s in psychology and while I don’t work in that field, I am still very interested.) Through my years of practice, I can’t deny the psychological implications yoga embodies. It’s been such an integral part of my life in terms of giving me the tools to deal with life’s frustrations, stresses and anxieties. I kid you not, if the me that I was 10 years ago met the me I am now, we wouldn’t even recognize each other. And that is a good thing. To that end, I plan to focus my teaching energy toward yoga’s healing properties instead of how to get a perfect yoga booty. Not saying that an asana-based practice is a bad thing, but there is SO much more to yoga than the physical aspects.

One of my teachers (the little pixie sprite), in addition to being a yoga teacher, also works as a psychotherapist. It was great to have her discuss psychology with us. First, we did a 45 minute kundalini practice with a lot of focus on the 3rd eye chakra. I think I mentioned in another post that I’ve got a strange relationship with kundalini. I don’t necessarily love it and often I find it frustrating, but somehow, it never fails to evoke a really powerful response (even if it is anger.)

We did a kriya on our backs where we scissored our legs back and forth for about 5 minutes. That is an incredibly long time and it was so uncomfortable (and then we repeated it again.) I’d already done an intense 2 hour practice before training and was feeling a little cranky about having to go through a kundalini practice. Long story short, we did several uncomfortable kriyas. Two with our arms over our heads, employing kapalabhati breath (breath of fire.) It almost seems comical to me when I look at the words I’m typing, how it doesn’t seem like these exercises should be very difficult, but when you’re doing them for five minutes each and then repeating after a short rest, it’s seriously intense. During the last arms over-the-head kriya, I actually lost feeling in both arms. It’s challenging to focus on your breath, your third eye, AND to try to block out pins and needles in your limbs.

Finally, we ended with a meditation set to music. We sat, legs crossed, one palm facing up in guyan mudra, the other arm fully extended in the air. Our teacher invited us to listen to the mantra and join in if we felt like it. The song was “Bountiful, Blissful, Beautiful” by Bachan Kaur. It repeats variations of “I am bountiful, I am blissful, I am beautiful, I am.” Cue tears. I was trying so hard to keep it together because I am NOT a fan of crying in public. At. All. When I heard the words, I just had this feeling that the words were true, but I so very seldom apply those adjectives to myself, which just made me deeply sad. By the end, I just had rivulets of water streaming down my face. My poor friend sitting next to me was triggered by the sound of me sniffling, so post class, we just sat together crying a bit. Part of me was deeply embarrassed and part of me realized I needed this natural release and was grateful to have experienced something that moved me so deeply. Humans are feeling creatures and so often we’re prone to extinguishing our feelings. 

My biggest takeaway however, was the message of the mantra and really believing that about myself and others. And, again, ahimsa in the form of self-love/acceptance. That’s my goal for 2013.