One of my greatest struggles as a yogi has been establishing a home practice. Sure, there have been weeks where I set a schedule and followed through, but I’ve often found myself pulled out of my tentative practice groove by fleeting things—drinks with friends, a messy room, a date with my boyfriend. Of course, just about everything I’ve read about yoga stresses the importance of a home practice—that it’s where real growth and benefits lie. Reading such things made me feel guilty about not practicing as I should, and the guilt added just another obstacle to practice.
Now I’m trying a more positive route. According to Apartment Therapy, a home should not only reflect the interests of the people who live in it, but also make it easier for them to do the things they love. Since I’ve always been sensitive to the environment, I’m making a yoga spot I like to be in. I’ve begun setting up a practice space. It is simple: a soft section of carpet in the living room by our bright bay windows. It is light and airy and I can look at the trees while I practice. I like it there, so going there is not a chore. My props sit in a corner of the room, easily within reach. I go to it, feel happy, and do asana.
Seeing bodies, literally
Kim and I have been talking about a new project that combines my loves for both drawing and yoga. The idea is to create a series of asana illustrations to promote upcoming boundless classes.
I started sketching asanas in the basic teacher training program to better understand their alignment and energy. I’m a visual person and this helps me process and learn. The act of drawing is an exploration in and of itself—a description of how individual body parts work together to create whole bodies.
Kim and I will be meeting this week to think about how to create illustrations that fit with the boundless mission. We both shy away from an anatomical approach (think Ray Long) in favor of a looser, sketchier style that conveys how asana feels.
Leaky Yoga Syndrome
Hey all you teacher trainees—I know you’re reading. Has anyone been noticing bits of yoga teacher training leaking into other areas of your life? Here’s the latest for me:
Part of my job at the American College of Nurse-Midwives is to teach new employees how to make changes to www.midwife.org. This week I was training a new employee and she stopped half way through to say, “You’re really good. Are you a teacher?” Surprised and flattered, I said, “Yes, actually. I’m about to graduate from a yoga teacher training program.”
Who knew yoga teacher training would translate into new job skills?
The Ugly Truth
This morning I got up early to share more insights about my new journey into teaching yoga. But honestly, I have nothing to share. I’m trying to finish up a 10-to-15-page paper for yoga teacher training that’s due on Saturday. Consequently, I’m in a dry spell with my asana practice and consumed with female suppression and the origins of modern yoga (the topic of my paper).
Benefits of teaching
I¹ve been worrying about the prospect of teaching yoga for months now. It was sort of unfathomable to think of myself as a teacher. I have been afraid of the exposure inherent in teaching—the sharing and the vulnerability. What if I’m not good enough? What if my students evaluate me and find me wanting?
To prepare, I recruited my boyfriend, who had never taken a yoga class in his life. During our session I wondered: is he bored? annoyed? does this make him more resistant to yoga? But when we were done and I looked into his eyes I felt a new kind of connection, a generalized sweetness between us. Yoga has the power to do that.
A coworker volunteered to be a second guinea pig. My first reaction was “no!” but sleeping on it calmed my anxiety and I agreed to teach a lunchtime class. On the day of class I had four students instead of one. But the previous night’s experience with my boyfriend made me calm.
It wasn’t the class so much as my experience after that I remember. I found myself open and happy. I saw my coworkers through new eyes, with love and compassion. I wanted to be close to them. I wanted to ask about their lives. I appreciated their chatter instead of resenting when it took me away from work. I felt radiant and loving. Who knew that teaching yoga would bring these gifts to me? I always thought it was the other way around. That teaching transferred energy from teacher to student. But these early experiences with teaching have enriched me, and brought me energy and joy.
Do I have to?
One of the things I’ve dreaded about becoming a yoga teacher is having to teach even when you don’t feel like it. You couldn’t sleep last night; you had a fight with your spouse; you have a cold—but you have to teach yoga at 9 am. Well, last Saturday it happened to me.
My wrist and ankle were sprained from a nasty tennis fall, I hadn’t slept well because I was nervous about teaching, and when I showed up to the studio 45 minutes early to savor some alone time, I couldn’t figure out how to unlock the door.
I took a deep breath and proceeded to wander up and down U street looking for a payphone to call a staff member. (In an effort to keep life simple, I’ve avoided getting a cell phone.) The one phone I found didn’t work. So, I wandered up and down W street trying to remember where Andrea, the teacher training admin, lives. I found her house. She wasn’t home.
Eventually, I walked back to the studio, greeted the first student, and invited her to try to open the door. The lock wouldn’t budge. At 8:57 am, the second student showed up and took a turn, and like magic, the door unlocked. This left all of three minutes to prepare for class.
I always thought this would be the part where I would launch into a panic attack and decide teaching isn’t worth the trouble. But instead, everything flowed just as smoothly, if not more smoothly, than the last time I taught. I enjoyed teaching an intimate class of four and had fun with the uplifting series of poses I prepared. Maybe it was my students, my mellow music, or a mix of both. But somehow, teaching when you don’t quite feel like it isn’t so bad. It’s kind of like how practicing yoga isn’t so bad even when you don’t feel like it.
Marma Therapy this Saturday
The branch of Ayurveda known as Marma Therapy bears the closest relationship to the physical practice of hatha yoga, and yields deep insights into how the asanas work on specific pressure or ‘marma’ points on the body to address specific therapeutic issues, resolve imbalances in the doshas at the root of those issues, and provide support for one’s specific constitution or ‘Prakrti.’
— Foundation in Ayurveda: Doug will give a brief and accessible overview of the nature of the doshas, how they function in our body according to our own individual constitution, and the kinds of therapeutic issues that arise from imbalances in the doshas that hatha yoga specifically addresses. We’ll of course look at how this process of ‘imbalance’ works, and what the process is by which we restore ‘balance.’
— Overview of Marma and the Specifics of Sequencing — the influence of classes of asanas upon the doshas through Marma: — we’ll look at the ‘big picture,’ organizing our understanding of the benefits of the various kinds of poses according to their effect upon the marma points stimulated by the poses — and in turn, the effect of that upon the doshas.
— Specifics: — Then we’ll get specific about a number of therapeutic issues, including those tied to breath and emotion, and provide some specifics about the poses, practices and sequencing that can be used to address them.
- Support Materials: Doug will be providing printed materials to maximize your experience of the training, as well as to use in following up on what you’ve learned, whether in your own practice or teaching.
We still have a handful of spots open for this workshop. Click here to read more about Doug and/or to register for the workshop.
To Teach or Not To Teach?
Therefore, no one should give up his natural work, even though he does it imperfectly. For all action is involved in imperfection, like fire in smoke.
When I first signed up to be a teacher trainee, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to teach yoga. I entered the program expecting to learn more about yoga, possibly use the knowledge in my writing, and maybe—just maybe—teach yoga. Up until two Sundays ago, my teaching experience consisted of teaching my reluctant husband, who after several one-on-one sessions now claims he hates yoga, and a room full of fellow teacher trainees who willingly endured my clumsy instructions.
Two Sundays ago, I showed up at Boundless to teach my first real yoga class. The room was full. My nerves were wired. I set my notes on the floor, lit a sweet, mild incense, turned on my carefully selected playlist, and then, I began to teach.
It wasn’t perfect. I instructed child’s pose several times while I frantically skimmed my notes to remember which pose was next. Even though I gave a great deal of alignment cues, I couldn’t figure out how to get people to straighten their low backs. But, to my surprise, I had fun. And if it’s not too presumptuous of me to say so, I think the students had fun, too.
In fact, at the end of class, one student turned to me with a smile on her face and asked if I would be teaching next Sunday. I won’t be teaching next Sunday (check out another teacher trainee at 2:30pm), but I will be subbing for James on Saturday morning at 9am. So, to all you weekend warriors and early birds out there, come try out my class. It won’t be perfect, but I promise we’ll have fun.
A reason we avoid asanas we don’t like is because typically we want to avoid pain. This makes sense, as pain could be associated with death, and we have a biological imperative to live on.
Your brain is always going to go where the strongest sensation is, which during yoga class can often be–especially for beginners–the place of pain or discomfort.
This is why breathing mindfully is so radical. Who knew? This process is waiting for you, right under your nose, and yet the breath wafts in and out, sloshes through the lungs and out, every day all day, without ever being noticed.
Breathing mindfully through a strong sensation in class–the hamstrings, the shoulders, and neck as their tightness emerges–will relax the reaction to the sensation and give you more information. Am I really in danger here? Should I back away as though from a predator in the wild? Or can I stay here for a few more breaths and see what happens next?
As you breathe and contemplate these question when “pain” or a strong sensation comes up, the brain goes to that spot through the breath. This is when the practice becomes much more interesting, and harder to avoid. If we stay in the space where we let ourselves avoid the sensations we don’t like, and search only for the ones we crave, growth in yoga doesn’t happen. If we really breathe and inquire, the only thing that *can* happen is change.
Shoulders & Ribs – Deep, Clear, Intelligent
Saturday, May 9
2 – 7p
Sunday, May 10
8 – 10a
2 – 4p
The rib cage and shoulder girdle are often stretched into deeper and deeper imbalance even into forms of slight dislocation. This can be true for people who are extremely flexible, and also for people who are condidered restricted in the upper chest. JinSung will be teaching ways to strengthen and open the entire rib cage with the greatest degree of aligning and opening the shoulder joint. This will be great for people who don’t notice a challenge in the upper chest and those who consider themselves hopelessly stuck and unmoving.
JinSung has been teaching yoga and Taoist breathing for twenty years, nine of which he was a zen Buddhist monk. For six years JinSung was part of the core faculty at Piedmont Yoga Studio, and he now has his own studio in the East Bay, Oakland Yoga Studio. Studying for many years with California’s senior Iyengar teachers, he feels he owes his gratitude and inspiration to B.K.S. Iyengar. Today, JinSung is one of the leading teachers in the Bay Area. With a great eye and profound hands, he is creative in making seemingly esoteric aspects of Iyengar yoga approachable and effective in your body. He practices yoga to support a healthy environment and energy for meditation. Believing that Asana practice is a deep path that can help an infinite spectrum of people with different goals, JinSung loves to teach and share.
Saturday session: $75
Sunday morning session: $45
Sunday afternoon session: $45
Sunday morning and afternoon sessions: $75
Entire workshop: $150