We all have our pet peeves, right? Ok- ‘Time to come clean on one of my latest. It’s when I’m teaching Yoga. Now- before you start to formulate your comment reminding me that it’s MY issue…and being all, “I thought there was no judgement in Yoga”… let me remind YOU that Yoga Teachers are working through their issues while they teach in the same way we all are when practicing.
There are “student issues” and there are “Teacher issues”.
My latest “Teacher issue” which I’ll share with you is when people look around while practicing. Yes- I realize that we Teachers all tell you to “Focus on your Drishti.” A Drishti is a non-moving spot in front of you- or perhaps at the tip of your nose- to hold your concentration, which’ll keep you from getting distracted both physically (resulting in losing your balance) or mentally (resulting in your mind wandering)-both of which can take you “out of the moment”. (Forgive my Yoga-speak here. I realize these are trite phrases yet they’re birthed from actual Yogic principles.)
Some people are visual learners; I get that. They need to see someone else doing the pose to model their own form to that ideal. Even when I’m in a class, if I’m unsure what the teacher is describing, I’m not above looking at someone else occasionally just to make sure. I have no issue with my students doing that. Heck- I’ll even demo it or tell them to look at so and so if they’re unsure about something.
I know…I know… we Teachers dispense a lot of information and it’s tough to put it all together. I understand that even though we say the same things over and over, it’ takes most students a while to process the information and combine the moves with the breath- all without looking around. Some people “get” the cues more readily than others depending upon what they do and how they learn. A Personal Trainer’s first Yoga class may be a walk in the park- as far as understanding where to place what body part. Someone working at a computer all day or selling cars may not be as quick to pick it up.
It’s a habit that perhaps could be controlled on the mat to be useful off the mat. My Mom always notices everything and gets upset that I don’t. When she questions me as to why such-and-such doesn’t bother me… I always give her my pat response which is, “I didn’t notice because it doesn’t affect me so therefore I don’t care.” (Oh… how that burns her up!)
So this is how you can work on staying nonreactive. If it’s your first time in Yoga, get in the back or preferably the middle of the room thus surrounding yourself with students. Between my cues and what you see out of the corner of your eye…you’ll be fine. I made the mistake of having my brother get in the back corner of the room for his one and only class. Every time we turned to the side without students, I noticed him feeling very unsure of himself- reminding me to try and avoid another first-timer that problem. Some would argue (maybe me) that it was actually the best thing for him.
Recently I had the pleasure of meeting a newbie who wandered into my Thanksgiving Day class for his first class ever! The schedule mistakenly had an incorrect start time so he was 1/2 hour late. Not ’til the end of class did I realize it was his first time. The Thanksgiving Day class is usually a tough class by most students’ standards so this could have sent him packing. He was gobsmacked, caught the “Yoga bug” and has come to an array of classes at the studio professing his life is changing. BINGO!
So after all the “love and light” and hugs were dispensed… (seriously he brought tears to my eyes speaking to me after his second class,) last night- his third go-around with me- I had to bring out a little tough love. It’s the looking around.
Today it hit me yet again while teaching at a private community. I reminded the students that when they look at others to “mimic the pose”, many times they’re either looking at the person who is modifying for an injury or perhaps someone very new who may not know quite what they’re doing yet. I told them, “Don’t look at me. I’m modifying from side to side for my OWN issue. Just listen.”
And for Buddha’s sake: When you’re instructed to take the first expression of a pose, then given an option to go further… and even further yet: DON’T KEEP GOING BASED ON WHAT YOUR NEIGHBOR IS DOING! Nine times outta ten- they’re hyper-flexible with that particular pose, or have worked at going deeper for decades. You will be hurt! Let body wisdom prevail and if you feel bad seeing the entire full class going further when it’s not available to you that day… CLOSE YOUR EYES!
When I see one or more students looking around, competing, comparing and criticizing (mostly themselves but probably occasionally others… I’d be a genius if I could mind read at that level while teaching), my first cue would be something like, “Use your Drishti.” Then if I see it again, I’ll say, “Remember… Drishti.” Again they’re looking around like they’re finding the perfect movie seat. I may say, “Trust that you’re doing it perfectly. ” Again it happens. “Close your eyes and feel the shape you’re creating.” (Oh jeez…I’ve got a million of ‘em.) Lastly I usually just call ‘em out like I’m busting a kid nose-pickin’ in church!
Then I feel bad. Subtle- I am NOT.
So if you feel the need to catch a glimpse of your neighbor in class- just to reinforce that you’re doing the pose “right”, remember: MY Drishti when I teach is YOU and if I see your head spinning as if you’re taking inventory… you WILL be called out! (I’d like to say “in a kind and gentle way” but that probably won’t be the case.)
You work on your Drishti and I’ll work on not letting it bother me. ‘Deal? Namasté
It’s almost a week before Thanksgiving. How did the time go by so quickly, right? Every year we see Halloween decorations in September and Christmas decorations in October. We go into it strong yet as the days slide by, our calendar fills up as our energy winds down and the next thing we know, we’re looking for a New Year’s outfit that doesn’t make us feel like a stuffed sausage.
Ah… “the holidays”: when time moves at lightning speed. We’re required to fit in so many extra activities, chores and events and to figure out how it all gets done by Christmas or New Year’s. It’s decorating, baking, cooking, shopping, school concerts, family time, cookie exchanges and secret Santas at work. Surely our workouts, healthy eating and Yoga practices will understand the inevitable neglect, no?
Not really. Listen, people: We all know this is the time of year when the rich foods are being laid out and the drinks are flowing. Candies, cookies, cakes and cocktails. Long days of work and organizing everyone’s schedules paired with coordinating the family get-togethers-all while transforming our homes into winter wonderlands and finding that perfect holiday gift for our people. The stores are packed, the roads are congested and the stress levels are off the charts.
Let’s face it: after the guys set up the Christmas trees, gather the firewood and perhaps shovel the snow-depending upon where you live… the holidays can be extremely draining to women (especially Moms of small children.) It sure ain’t easy sneaking around and keeping the Santa magic sparkling when you’re tired, overworked and running on Starbucks and the broken cookies unworthy of being gifted.
This is when you truly need to be on your game! Ok- you’ve got to allow for treats and you don’t want to be that Scrooge at the Christmas party who only eats from the veggie platter. You DO deserve to indulge when the offerings are made with love. So how can you literally have your cake and eat it too?
Now more than ever you need to include some daily cardio- even if you have to wake up a little earlier. It’ll give you more energy when you need it. Put in 15 minutes of weight lifting- nothing crazy-twice a week. In the time it takes to watch an episode of Modern Family, you can bring blood to your muscles and feel fabulous knowing muscle burns more calories at rest than fat. (It’ll even out that magic bar on the cookie exchange platter- you know: the one that caught your eye the second you noticed it?)
‘Seems like I’m calling for some balance, right folks? Here’s where the Yoga comes in. What fights stress and overload better than a yummy Yoga class? Nada! Consider the extra fresh oxygen coursing through your every fiber as a little gift from Santa. You wanna feel incredible and on top of the extra tasks at hand? Practice Yoga.
Don’t wait til “after the holidays” to start! January in gyms and studios is for novices and/or the guilt-ridden. Stay elevated! Dive in NOW and watch how you float through those family gatherings with a whole new perspective! If you start now, perhaps you’ll actually relish the family photos, rather than hide behind your kids in ‘em.
You can’t control much in life but you CAN tackle this yearly situation head on! Get to the gym NOW, renew your Yoga class packages… heck- go buy your loved ones memberships to gyms and Yoga studios and give the gift of health and vitality!
Don’t buy into the “Martyr syndrome”. Stop bitching that you’re freaked out and stressed to the limits! WE set the tone of our holidays. ‘Want it low key with the emphasis on family, loving gestures and meaningful interactions? Then work on being your best and be the change you want to see!
The two most important goals from now ’til the New Year should be 1) Stay vigilant-though not obsessively rigid- on your exercise, healthy eating and Yoga practice schedules and 2) Remember when/if I ask where you’ve been- don’t even THINK of saying, “It’s the holidays…” It ain’t gonna fly with me.
Namasté on track, people and remember I’m here to keep you inspired, motivated and to bust apart all your seasonal excuses. You, my friend- will feel so amazing knowing you made this holiday truly “the most wonderful time of the year”!
One of my recent Facebook posts alluded to me “cleaning house’- ‘ridding myself of Facebook friends who never comment on, message me or “like” my posts. I asked why some are cyberstalkers and declared that soon I’ll be saying “Namasté, old friend” to them.
Why am I so fascinated with Facebook- way beyond Twitter, Instagram or any other site? I guess because I look at it like opening my front door and allowing people to come into my world. But is it really our true worlds which we allow “friends” into- or rather our branded, scripted, photoshopped-to-perfection world?
When I meet someone and we discuss possible Facebook friendery, I’m always upfront with them. I ask if they log on regularly. If they don’t, then there’s really no point. If they do, then I give them fair warning that I’m not always light, love and infinite blessings, that I tend to stir the pot whenever possible, that I have a wicked sense of sarcastic, often times blue humor and that if they don’t want to see my Yoga class “come ons”… then maybe cyber friendship won’t work for us.
Those of us who post our fitness class schedules, the causes we’re championing, or just our daily life happenings are often considered “addicted”. Some people tell me “You’re ALWAYS on Facebook!” How would they deem me addicted if they weren’t on as well? I realize that people who work on a computer most likely keep FB open as a diversion – not necessarily meaning they’re “on FB” 24/7. I always have it open when writing my blogs or making playlists and Messenger always lets me know of any activity. With kids and elderly parents, I’m always checking my phone in case someone goes down. I think we ALL are, no?
My issue is with FB friends who choose not to participate on FB. I mean- those who never comment or like anything I post. WHY? One of my friends said perhaps they’re jealous of my “awesome life” so they’re “getting back at me” by not “liking” or commenting.
For REAL? If this happens…then I seriously need to reevaluate my choice of friends or maybe make a new policy of not accepting anyone who doesn’t participate. Hey: if I invite you to my house party, I don’t expect you to hide in the bathroom all night, silently peering through a sliver of an opened door. That’s creepy. I’m against cyber voyeurism.
People were quick to remind me that FB now chooses whose statuses we see regularly. Every day I’m seeing old friends’ statuses popping up, causing me to wonder where they’ve been. It reminds me where and when we met and sometimes I’ll private message them, comment or “like” their post and watch the algorithms recirculate us back into one another’s ‘feeds.
If someone posts their cause, I’ll probably “like” it in the same way I “like” kids’ school pics, awards and accomplishments. If a friend posts a photo of their sumptuous meal, I’ll probably “like” it unless it’s something like a pig on a spit, Renaissance Fair mutton leg or a crustacean. As a vegan I don’t feel the need to “like” your meat, nor will I comment what I’m truly thinking. I don’t get off on trying to ruin your meal, because- like the people you sleep with- you can eat what you want.
I “like” personal breakthroughs, epiphanies, achieved goals, promotions, apologies (because they’re so rare), homeschooling, extended breastfeeding, alternative therapies, people making fools of themselves, (I’m a big fan of self-deprecating humor), vacations… yes, that’s right: although we never take vacations, I truly love seeing photos of people relaxing on theirs and I enjoy seeing other parts of the world even via photos.
I “like” peoples’ rants as long as they aren’t ALWAYS ranting, (yes: I get it: you’re pissed that people drive like idiots and you’re stuck in traffic YET AGAIN; it’s not really that special.) I “like” original witty observations (‘can find my own inspirational quotes, thank you) and I’m even a fan of the obscure, one-worded, try-and-figure-out-wtf-I’m-alluding-to posts. I dig it all.
What I won’t comment or ‘like” is anything political, anything religiously extreme, (religion is fine though), any over the top, killer workouts- unless you’re training for a marathon, Iron Man or Woman, the Olympics or in a military boot camp. I won’t “like” any fad diet or shortcut procedure to slimness, any gay or race bashing (although none of my friends do this), or any hero worship of Yogis. (I don’t consider myself nor anyone I’VE met in the Yoga world thus far to be a guru. Maybe a mentor… but not a guru.) I’m also not a fan of tests, game invites, or pleas to “copy and paste this as your status if you love your daughter.” My daughter knows I love her and I won’t be cyber-bullied into posting it as my status to prove it.
As for the birthdays…we ALL see whose birthdays are upcoming for the week or on that day. To those playas “always on Facebook” like me (let’s just own this, ok?), I hope you take the time to wish all of your friends a Happy Birthday and possibly include something personal like… oh, I don’t know… maybe their NAME? It takes two seconds, you DO have the time and it WILL add to their day. Belated wishes are fine too. And as you know- we see it on our ‘feeds when our friends are all wishing the birthday gal a Happy Birthday.
Being in the body business, I post pictures of myself or my students practicing Yoga. I live in South Florida so there’s usually some skin involved. This is not an invite for inappropriate behavior. If I show an intricate arm balance overlooking the ocean, it’s not an invite for people to say how “hot” or “sexy” I am. Puh-lease. My husband is always quick to point out the “usual suspects”. He sometimes says, “I wouldn’t go on and say that about HIS wife or girlfriend….” It makes for some spirited bedtime banter, but yeah- he’s right. If the tables were turned I’d be all over the offender. He’s a good sport but still an Italian.
I like when people disagree, call me out on something or make fun of me. I love adult humor and will often times block a few people whom I think may misinterpret my “adulthood” on some posts. If you’ve ever taken my Yoga class or know me personally, you know I’m not above dropping a few choice words upon occasion. If you can’t handle that, then again: ‘best we not embark on the path of Facebook friendship. Don’t make me “winky face” and “lol” ad nauseam to protect your tenderhearted feelings.
People are placed in our lives for many reasons. Some delight us and others annoy us. The beauty of Facebook is that if we find ourselves more annoyed than amused with our friends, then- with the click of one key- our worlds can be restored to the perfect little cyber worlds we created.
This is what I wrestle with. Are we all looking for a bunch of Yes Men? Maybe it’s better not to “block” or “unfriend” our annoying fellow Facebookers yet rather figure out why they push our buttons and see if we can agree to disagree continuing to coexist in our little Facebook world.
Ah… who am I kidding? There’s a certain power in manning this ship and far be it from me to give up this kind of control. Facebook is freakin’ awesome! It’s turned this ordinary gal’s world into what some could consider “an awesome life” (as per my friend) and it’s allowed me a little portal into people’s worlds whom I find “awesome”!
I never actually “cleaned house” and probably won’t… but boy was it fun reading friends’ reactions when I said I was going to. If anyone took offense and swept ME out with the trash… then so be it! As one of my real life friends once said as she grandly exited a Yoga Studio upon quitting… “Namasté, NamasGO!”
This morning one of my Yoga Teacher friends called me and said, “Ok, don’t think I’m crazy, but you probably know the answer to this. I’ve been working out a lot… biking extra lately… so why does my scale say I gained a half pound?”
I was all, “I have no idea, yet I do know that muscle weighs more than fat but seriously it’s only a half pound. More importantly-do you weigh yourself every day?” She said, “Yes… I know, I know… it’s probably a dumb thing to do but I’ve done it since forever…”
I only weigh myself maybe 2-3 times a year so she was asking the wrong person. I can tell if I’m “up, down or about the same” just by looking. Now, this isn’t to say I’ve always possessed this “skill” or that I’m “better than her” because 1) I don’t need to see a number and 2) I can eyeball it. No, friend… for me this is something that has evolved over time.
I was in the numbers game for so long that I grew tired of it and moved on to the tape measuring game. Yes: decades ago I graduated from using a scale to using a seamstress-type tape measure. Like my friend, a half pound would perplex me thus determining my mood and eating regime for the day. I knew my desired numbers and would gauge my progress or defeat every week or so like a bookie checking the scores. Like Instagram, it started to bore the crap outta me so I just stopped.
My husband- of all people- was a scale watcher up until recently. We held on to this one particularly vintage scale until it rusted to the point of embarrassment should anyone but the family venture into our bathroom. It was actually something we inherited from a 100 year old woman, so we figured it was 60 years old and still giving doctor’s office-accurate reads! I bought him a fancy one a few years ago and we logged in our stats so we could check not only our weight but our body fat/muscle ratio. The first day we were giddy when the accompanying chart deemed us “elite athletes”. (I think we celebrated by eating cake!)
Many people swear by that special pair of “try on jeans”. I mean- you can always tell by how your clothes fit, right? Well…? Not always.
Last week was my birthday and one of my private clients generously gifted me some damn nice Yoga attire- the likes of which I’D never indulge in myself.
She was so excited when I opened my gift demanding I try on these Yoga tights even though my face must have revealed my thoughts when I saw the XS on the tag. “What? These look like they’ll fit a 10 year old gymnast, I thought.”
Oh crap… she really wants me to try them on. ‘No escaping now or she’ll think I’m uncomfortable in my own skin (Newsflash: most Yoga Teachers- like “civilians”- ARE). So there I was- hoisting them up, smoothing them out… and what do ya know? They were so snug and very different than my usual $14.99 Marshall’s brands but damn- these things pulled me in amazingly!! These tights are Athleta and I know Lululemon is the same sitch. They are like compression pants which smooth out any lumps or bumps, lift you up, and make you look….. THINNER!
So while she was yabbering on about not liking the boot cut and how I should exchange them for tight-ankles…. I was running from room to room, looking in all her different mirrors and actually blurted out, “Do I actually look thinner or are your mirrors effed up?” “What’s going on here?” Yeah… try as I do to hold up my Yogic demeanor, people who know me know I truly have no filters when I get excited.
So what I’m wondering is this: Do we really know what we actually look like? Beyond weight? Because with age, everyone learns that what used to be your “good numbers” no longer can be your gauge. Muscle is being lost-getting replaced by fat, hips widen and gravity takes its toll. The older I get, the more it becomes about feeling good than looking a certain way yet I will admit there are ways we can ALL look better, and heck: WHY NOT?
I’m not talking about eating right and exercising. That’s a given in 2014. I’m also not talking about surgery. That’s a given too in some circles. I’m thinking of easier ways- like these tights! Oh these magical tights. One of my students wears compression garments under her Yoga clothes sometimes and now I know why. What’s wrong with your butt being an inch or two higher or your gut being an inch or two flatter?
OK- I can just hear the “enlightened Yogis” saying, “But you practice YOGA. Have you not learned acceptance? Don’t you feel that age equals wisdom and we shouldn’t even care what we look like?” To you I say this:
Obviously age brings wisdom but if you match your clothes when you get dressed or put on a little blush or style your hair… how is that not caring about your appearance? Do you use deodorant or the ever-so- natural underarm crystal? Will you check your smile and remove a poppyseed if you catch it? If before leaving the house, you notice your top makes your stomach look like it’s protruding, do you switch to your newer, more form-flattering one? Then DON’T JUDGE!
What about mirrors, people? Has it ever occurred to you that our images look different in every reflective surface? Have you ever been to an Old Navy? Like most clothing stores, the mirrors are slightly slanted which gives the appearance of you being thinner. It’s genius. If I had a Yoga Studio with mirrors, I’d install them slightly slanted. All the students would leave thinking they look as good as they feel!
Oh and I’d make sure to pay close attention to the lighting. Natural sunlight is so…well… natural- yet it’s really unflattering.
Have you ever shopped at Limited Express? The lighting in their dressing rooms makes everyone look like their thighs are riddled with cottage cheese! How do I know? I’ve asked many women, I’ve seen it even at my lowest weight, and my own daughter had it at age 3 in that damn dressing room! I used to hate shopping there because I never liked anything I tried on. Or so I thought. It was probably that terrible lighting (coupled with that ridiculous French radio music) that dampened my mood-sending me straight to Cinnabons! (‘Funny how that works.)
How ’bout these gorgeous filters we have on our beloved cellphones? Who needs to whiten your teeth? The photos automatically whiten ‘em! When I take a photo, I scan through all the possible filters seeing which one makes me look better. “Portrait” always softens the wrinkles… “Scenery” is nice…”Mayfair” casts a nice glow…Heck- I don’t even post a pic of my DOG without giving him a filter, thus making his sable-colored coat more… sabley!
My point here being: What IS even real anymore? How do we really look- to ourselves or to others? We’ve ALL got pounds of baggage containing body image mind-f—s, yet
what is truly real and what even needs to be?
I say we throw out our scales and learn to keep the ‘ole weight in check by pure feel. No numbers. We all spring for a pair of expensive Yoga tights-mine will be worn a lot so look for them: they’re navy. We only look at ourselves in warped mirrors (I’d like to say we don’t even look but come on, people… fess UP!) and we only linger near soft, Barbra Walters interview-type lighting or candle light. And please dear people: Your phone is a virtual Olan Mills Portrait Studio (‘totally just dated myself there). Figure out which filters give you that Ellen Degeneres-when-she-modeled-for-Covergirl, age defying image- will ya?
Employ these little tricks, laugh at yourself for doing them… and then remember: It’s ALL an illusion!
Since teaching Yoga is my full time gig, I’m always trying to come up with ways to accommodate my students and appeal to new ones. I know, I know… ya can’t please everybody… yet I think I’ve figured out a way to relieve a little more stress where I can.
When I teach my regular classes on weeknights at 6:00 or 6:15 PM, many people are racing through rush-hour traffic to make it to class on time. And while it doesn’t bother ME for anyone to come in late… I know it adds to THEIR anxiety-level, thus producing the polar opposite effect of what the practice is designed for. (Let’s face it: no one likes being that one person who makes everyone else reconfigure their little piece of Yogic real estate, right?)
It never fails. Before every class I receive texts or messages from “regulars” giving me a blow by blow of their boss calling a meeting or some work or home-related catastrophe that pushes their zen to the back burner. There’s even a group of regular practitioners whose practices have fallen to the wayside due to scheduling conflicts. I mean… I GET it. Work comes first, ‘family as well. Dinner’s gotta be made, homework corrected. Shit happens.
OK so here’s the deal. Starting this Monday night- October 6th- I’ll be adding in a one hour, all-levels Yoga class at Yoga Source in Coral Springs, FL, from 8:00 PM-9:00 PM. Since it’s closer to snooze time, it’ll naturally be a slower flow- heavy on the relaxing floor poses with a more chill vibe and lighter on the (dreaded to some) Chaturangas. The cost will be $10 at the desk and won’t be deducted from your class package. Heck- you don’t even need a class package. just bring a ten-spot and you’re IN!
So if you’re tired of breaking your booty to make a class or just want something a bit lighter for your Monday evening… this will be ideal for you. And if you’ve already carved our your weekly Yoga schedule but were hoping to add in another class, this $10 hour may be the perfect complement to your regimen.
*If you’re thinking, “Yeah… her “all-levels class” is probably a thinly-veiled description of yet another ass-kicker… you’re mistaken. Remember: I teach privates, a more “mature” group twice a week for years, as well as chair yoga at nursing homes. Contrary to what my family may tell you… I CAN be gentle and would love this opportunity to explore my softer, more nurturing side with YOU, friend. Namasté
I’m always fine-tuning my Yoga practice as well as my Yoga teaching. Question: Do you like to be assisted when practicing in a regular class? I’m not talking about a private… that’s a horse of a different color. I’m talking- in a class. Do you like when the teacher comes around and physically adjusts you or would you rather be left alone?
When we Yoga Teachers get trained, we spend umpteen hours studying anatomy, the asanas, alignment, how to adjust students in the poses and how to deepen their experience. In a class it can be tough figuring out why a student’s doing a pose incorrectly. Is it because they’re confused with the verbal cues, or rather instinctively modifying for an injury or condition? How are Yoga Teachers supposed to know what students bring into class?
Some teachers ask students to divulge their injuries prior to starting the class, yet it’s my experience that this takes way too long and turns into a depressing gripe session, so I just basically announce before we start, “If you have any injuries, ailments or conditions, please modify the poses to your degree.” I’m not sure they choose to listen and often times students trickle in late anyway.
Here’s what I do before I take a class: If I’m going through anything that may affect my practice, I either text the teacher (assuming we’re friends) or let them know quickly before we start. Maybe I’ll say, “Don’t bother adjusting me because I’m modifying for….” Since I usually take my friends’ classes, they get to know my issues so I’m kind of just reminding them.When I’m in a class and there are students in need of more assistance, I really hate for the teacher to have to work any harder… knowing what that’s like. It’s a courtesy and I’m just happy to be able to practice.After all- it’s not like I don’t know what I’m doing.
Don’t get me wrong: we teachers enjoy yummy assists, being reminded of our form and perhaps some habits we’re dipping back into. We’re ALL students and the roles shift sometimes a few times per day. There’s nothing better than having a trusted friend lie on your back in a seated forward fold and quietly sharing a joke when the other students aren’t paying attention.
Yet what about students who dislike having their personal space invaded? What if you ate garlic last night and just don’t want anyone coming close? Ladies-you know how sometimes that Yoga top you keep meaning to get rid of somehow creeps back into the rotation? It’s hard enough trying not to be distracted by your left boob rolling out during class… you don’t need a teacher’s assistance to make THAT happen- (especially in my class where you know there’s a possibility you’ll be blog material!)
OK now I’m the Teacher. It’s “show time”, I’ve given my speech, (most people are still trying to forget about their hectic day at that point to even HEAR my spiel) and it’s “go time”. As I work the crowd I wonder who will welcome my hands on them and who won’t. Class size determines much of who gets assisted and how often. If beginners are there it presents a whole new scenario. My class is an all-levels class, yet some newbies may figure out within the first 5 minutes that perhaps they’re in over their heads.
The studio where I was trained taught us some pretty intricate adjustments and assists. We weren’t able to even put down our mat when learning how to teach a class. It was all walking around, talking and adjusting. it was a bitch to learn yet I’m grateful I did. I sprung out of the box strong as a new teacher, yet over the years have softened up considerably with hands-on adjustments and… well… just about everything.
People don’t always come clean with their issues. They neglect to mention that they just finished physical therapy on their knee replacement or have been nursing a strained rotator cuff. What I may interpret as their lack of body awareness in the pose may actually be them modifying their practice. How’s one to know? We teach Yoga; we’re not mind-readers.
When I try a teacher I don’t know, I walk into a class looking strong, wearing a bandanna (to catch my sweat) and unroll my mat like I’ve been to this rodeo before. The teacher usually gives me way too much credit based on my appearance. They start walking towards me while we’re in a prayer twist. Uh oh… here it comes… as I brace myself. Judgement call: do I pretend it’s all good and allow them to take me deeper (knowing I’m going to be screwed for days), or do I say “No thanks”? That’s always dicey. I don’t want any nearby students hearing our exchange and thinking the teacher is too aggressive. I definitely don’t want other students knowing I’m a teacher. That’s way too much pressure!
Of course, I stay silent. Yeah… you read that right. Me. The one who’ll call out a newbie with, “Hey new girl! Can we get stop arranging our outfit every time we come to standing?” I shrink like a shy little school girl and just take what I have coming to me. Damn my bandannas! Curse these biceps!
When I’m teaching, I may see someone half-assing their Triangle- ‘same as they’ve done for years- and I know they have the strength to go further and haven’t mentioned an injury. What should I do? Do I gently persuade them, give a two-finger assist? A “touch correction”- as many of my friends refer to it? Do I amp up my verbal cues based upon what they’re doing and hope they know it’s them I’m truly calling out. Or do I stand behind them and physically take them deeper watching their face for signs of jaw-tightening? Answer: It’s an on-the-spot judgement call and fingers crossed… I make the right decision.
Teaching Yoga is a trip. I’m trying to motivate, inspire, demo, explain, challenge yet “give permission” to back off, while continuing to call out the correct poses, DJ and know whether my students want me touching them or not. Vinyasa Flow classes move swiftly. There’s not always much time for careful, prudent decision-making. It’s kind of a “listen to your body, push where you can, back off where you need to and just keep flowing” kind of situation. Getting the flow and knowing your body comes with dedication to your practice. You can’t dip into a class in lieu of a Xanax and know what the hell you’re doing. Sorry but it just doesn’t work like that. You will get hurt!
“Getting hurt in Yoga. Is that even possible?” you ask.
I’ve been hurt in class. Yup. I have had zealous teachers- some my close friends- push me too far not knowing I was sitting on an ice pack the night before or perhaps not believing me when I told them. (?) I’ve been twisted to the point of seeing stars and held in balance poses that- if the teacher lets go of me- I’m totally going down. I’ve even had my shoulders “smoothed down” in Savasana with such force that I swore the guy set me up for a major injury. I’ve been commanded to do poses that I knew weren’t right for me at the time and chastised for my explanations after class.
Teaching assist experiences I’ve had: One student yelled “Ow!!” when I lifted his tight-hamstringed leg an extra inch.(something a Yoga Teacher never wants to hear). Students saying “Thank you, I never realized I was doing it wrong.” Students saying, “Don’t touch me.” Students saying, “Feel free to lay on me.” Students apologizing for “not being good.” Students bursting into laughter. Students collapsing out of inversions. One of my favorite guys was in a handstand and slipped on his own sweat. I tried to “save” him- resulting in me straining my hamstring pretty badly, yet pretending I was fine. (We laugh about it now.) My own husband yelling, “ASSIST PLEASE!” after falling from a high-powered ascent into his headstand with me on the other side of the room. (Domestic squabbles in those classes happen sometimes; it’s fun.) My daughter saying loudly, “Get off me,” (insert teenage mean girl tone) when I went to help her. The list goes on.
What worries me more is what I DON’T hear.
I never want to hurt anyone or push them beyond their capabilities yet I aim to motivate students to work towards their edge if possible without heading towards pain. Often times students don’t know the difference. Ego factors in, and the need to “perform”, please me, and do more than they did in their last class overshadows that stinging pain in their lower back they’ve been ignoring for weeks. They muscle through the full expression of every pose and voila! They’re toast. I sure don’t want to contribute to that.
I recently took my friend’s class and going into it knew where I’d need to modify. My back was tight and my toe was aching from cutting the nail too low-which meant no rolling over the toes for me. I didn’t mention it to her, yet as the class progressed, my back pain diminished, my toe stopped bothering me and she challenged me to back bend in a way I usually don’t. I was concerned about the aftermath but ya know what? I opened up freely and beautifully. She also assisted me into a wide-legged forearm balance I’d never tried and literally had my back- which I totally appreciate and will remember for quite some time. She took me deeper when I was ready to quit. She allowed me to stop when she knew I’d had enough. I left feeling friggin’ amazing!
This is the roller coaster which is Yoga. Had I shied away from her assist I would have left satisfied yet not gotten over my backbending plateau. Would I have taken myself there had she just verbally cued me? Probably not. Could I have gotten hurt? Possibly. Did I? Nope.
So back to my original question. I’m truly interested in getting your feedback on verbal cues vs. hands-on adjustments. Do you expect your teacher to give you a pass because they know your issues or do you want to be challenged to the max every time? Do you like the cues or the actual hands-on assists?
I vacillate between both. Sometimes I hope the teacher comes to me. Other times I pray they pass me over. Sometimes I need to physically guide my students and other times I swear I’m never laying a hand on them again. The practice of Yoga mirrors life. We explore our capabilities and learn a helluva lot about ourselves- and as a teacher… others. Like I always say… we’re all in this together.
A recurring theme in my blogs is walkin’ the talk, living a balanced life and admitting that my addiction to exercise and Yoga is something I’m not proud of. I really strive to live my life with moderation but I ain’t gonna lie…it’s HARD! These days, the words “Practice what you preach” seem to permeate my practice.
Lately I’ve noticed a kind of acceptance in my practice. I’m starting to question my motivation for wanting to master certain poses. The other day I was practicing my Handstands at the wall while waiting for a private to meet me. He walked in, saw me in a Handstand next to the wall and said, “Go girl!” As I descended, he said, “That was fantastic.” I said, “Well it’d be really fantastic if I could do it without the wall behind me.” In all innocence he asked, “What practical use in life does this pose serve?’ I laughed and said, “Well… it makes me feel strong, unafraid and gives me an adrenaline rush. Every time I invert, I stay up and off the wall for longer periods of time.”
He’s a doctor, and always looks at things both medically and philosophically. We started listing the beneficial aspects of inverting -how it’s good for ones’ circulation, stimulates the lymphatic system, helps varicose veins and produces an overall euphoric feeling. Yet in our class, we always lie side by side in the pose called Viparita Karani (Legs Up The Wall), chatting and enjoying the very same benefits with a lot less effort. ‘Made me wonder why it’s so important for me to achieve the Handstand sans wall.
The next day, the tables were turned in that Yoga Teacher/student/back to Teacher kinda way. I was the student in a workshop-style class at my friends’ new place called P.S. Yoga Studio. (See what I just did there?) The Teacher was preparing us to wrap and bind- which is a grip in various poses that deepens the sensation. I can usually do the bind she was showcasing yet as I began wriggling my wrist to meet my fingers while pulling more length into my spine, it was obvious that this time it wouldn’t be prudent. Oh yeah… my body was talkin’ to me alright- in fact it was screaming, “WHEN IS ENOUGH EVER ENOUGH?”
I suddenly realized that perhaps the ‘ole wrap and bind was exacerbating my back pain. And-although it’s common sense and I should know better-there it was: my Yogic epiphany! So much of my practice is based on ego. Not ego in the way of showing off to fellow students or Teachers… but trying to prove to myself that I’ve still “got it”!
In Yoga, we Teachers always stress the importance of shedding our ego. We say things like, “Leave your ego at the door,” and “Modify for any injury or ailment.” I’ve recited this stuff in every class- to the point where I didn’t even realize I’ve been ignoring my own advice! Binding in a pose, doing a headstand when I’ve seen cervical spine damage in my own X-rays, deep twisting in a morning class when I was laying on an ice pack the very night before due to OVER EXERTION, and not listening to my own body… is just stupid.
I should know better! Why can’t I listen to my own rhetoric? WTF is wrong with me?
I don’t want you to think Yoga has caused my injuries. It hasn’t. I cringe to think where I’d be without my practice on so many levels. I suffer from severe herniations in my upper and lower spine, bone on bone discs and now arthritis is creeping in. Arthrtitis? Isn’t that for “old people”? I suspect mine could be the beginning stages of Psoriatic arthritis since I’m a candidate, although any arthritis is not out of the question for someone over 50.
Years of pounding the pavement, training for races, fast-walking, lifting heavy and Power “Yoga-ing” without taking any days off have proven to be too much-coupled with getting rear-ended (when I braced upon seeing the car coming). That day, I remember barely being able to lift my leg up to get into the van, due to a back injury I was being treated for. Of course I didn’t allow it to heal properly, (‘story of my life).
A few months after that, we moved two households without any movers thinking we’d “use it as a workout”. I remember Peter and I didn’t even miss a day of our workouts throughout our move. (#addiction) Ignoring pains that reoccurred within the first two weeks of my Yoga Teacher Training- and not telling my Teachers I needed to back off- just added more fuel to the fire.
Newsflash: Practicing 8 hours a day of intense Yoga, interspersed with sitting for extended periods of time listening to lectures is not easy. (#ignorance is bliss).
One of the worst practices that Fitness Trainers and Yoga Teachers can adopt is teaching too many classes, jumping in and out of poses to demo (without being sufficiently warmed up) and neglecting rest. I am guilty of every one of these. Some days I have 4 students in a row because everyone’s schedule just works out that way. On the days when I have “off’ (usually only teaching one class) I find it hard to even leave my apartment anymore- rather opting to write, or lay on my bed with my Corgi.
I’m no longer going to feel guilty about it either.
While I can’t say I’ll be teaching or taking Restorative Yoga any time soon-”not that there’s anything wrong with it”-I’ll certainly be showing and practicing more modifications when my back is iffy. I’ve cut down on the amounts of weight I lift, try to stay off the pavement in lieu of a soft-bed treadmill and have started taking days off from my routine when I have a heavy teaching schedule. (OK: confession: I took 2 days off so far, ‘didn’t feel a diff. and scrapped it…but at least it’s a start!)
Like a smoker jonesin’ for a butt when they’re trying to quit… it’s easier said than done.
There’s nothing wrong with giving up some of my contortionistic poses especially if they are causing me pain. Like 80s mullets and shoulder pads, maybe it’s time to- like the poster my friend Jen shared on Facebook- “Chill out homie and let that shit go.”
Less time pushing the physical part of Yoga means more time pushing the spiritual aspect-which is meditation (future blog topic). Yes… surprise of surprises: I find it extremely tough to meditate! I’m guessing you knew that. Obviously someone like me would find meditation challenging. My mind is in such overdrive that if I’m not having 5 conversations with friends/students simultaneously or involved with something at home… I’m probably concocting a new business opportunity, stirring the pot on Facebook or… watching some ridiculous reality show on Bravo. Get it? It’s not that I’m hyper or always need to keep busy, I’m not repressing any deep-rooted trauma either…I just find it hard not to “ruminate” as my “Legs Up The Wall-guy” always points out.
The most positive lesson I am learning from my pain is EMPATHY towards my students. It’s actually a gift. Lightening up on myself has enabled me to lighten up on them, offer more modifications and has sharpened my ability to tune into people’s psyches in a more intuitive way.
As a student it’s helped me hone the poses I used to take for granted and look at them with a fresh perspective, since some days- even Balasana (Child’s pose)-hurts like a mother. Many teachers use Ashtanga Guru Pattabhi Jois’ line- “Practice and all is coming.” I never use this line although it’s probably true for most students in terms of learning the asanas. I find there are just some poses I could practice ’til the cows come home and-like I tell my students who push too hard- there’s nothing to be gained but an Advil and an ice pack.
Who cares if my Yoga practice ain’t what I think it should be or what it used to be? I’ve still got a pretty damn good practice. Everything else changes so why shouldn’t our practice evolve? Why shouldn’t I experience pain and learn how to manage it? Most of my students have successfully battled diseases and healed from major injuries. Others endure chronic conditions and have learned to just go with the flow. One of my students has suffered three strokes- each of which could have ended her life. She struggles with WALKING yet comes to my class and never complains! Isn’t it true that “into each life a little rain must fall”?
Who knows? Maybe one day I’LL be saying, “Practice and all is coming.” I have a feeling that the “all” has nothing to do with the asanas and everything to do with a deeper level of enlightenment.
My new mantra: So much to learn, so much to teach. Yet now it’s time to practice what I preach.
For those of you who don’t know, I’m 51. My husband just turned 52 which means soon I’ll be there too. We’ve been playing the “work out, eat right, practice Yoga game” for decades. Maybe you have as well. Are we cool with aging? Am I- as a Yoga Teacher- accepting of what’s happening with my body as I get older? Well……
We’re all facing the inevitable signs of aging and I’m curious about how this process affects people who have been working out, practicing Yoga and eating clean for decades- like I have. OK before some of you get all “It’s not what’s on the outside that matters, Sandee”, and start throwing Yogic Sutras at me… whether I teach Yoga, work at a Hair Salon, am a Nurse, Nun or Neurosurgeon…I am just like you. I still see and feel the effects of aging and as much as I’d like to be in denial-the music is gettin’ louder and it’s time I face it!
The only anti-aging beauty regimen I performed until I was 40ish was applying sunscreen to my face. I lived a healthy lifestyle because it felt good. Back in my late teens, my friends thought I was a total idiot because I’d say “I have to work out” before we hit up the clubs.
Relatives laughed when Peter and I toted Boca Burgers to barbecues and passed on the ice cream cakes at kids’ parties. Fellow vacationers couldn’t understand why we’d get up extra early to work out before breakfast. Any of our work schedules had our workouts before or after them or sometimes both. Our choices have kept us feeling and looking healthy and out of the doctor’s office yet when it comes to visible aging, lately it seems like Father Time is gaining on us no matter which running shoes we switch to.
When I worked as the Receptionist at a local Hair Salon I was immersed in the beauty regimes of the clients. I remember secretly thinking “Really?” when women in their early 50s would squint and pull back their credit card slips to see them before signing. Then six weeks later at the end of their next appointment, they’d fish around for their “new readers”, and whip out these hot pink, leopard, ugly ass, oldies specks- almost with pride. I used to say to myself, “Ugh… that’s such an old fart thing to do; I’ll never wear them!” (I bought a pair but Peter’s stolen them. Me? I just ask someone else to read what I need or squint harder- adding more furrows to my forehead.)
Thinning hair discussions, pancake makeup, wigs and hair extensions-coupled with constant talk of anti-aging serums, creams and surgeries permeated the salon floor but I just stayed in my Yogic Bubble and listened, feigning interest yet secretly thinking “That’s never gonna happen to me. All my years of working out and practicing Yoga…I doubt I’ll worry about such a silly think as aging.”
Once- I believe I was around 45- while swiping someone’s credit card, I swatted away what felt like a bug under my arm. Nope- ‘nothing there. It happened the next day and the day after that until I finally turned to see what was on my arm every time I swiped a credit card. I’ll never forget the moment I realized it was my arm flapping! Seriously. I was crestfallen. Could this be happening?
The changes were coming maybe every year. I’d notice a new birthmark, my feet seemed crustier, teeth seemed to dull more easily, back was stiffer if I sat too long. “Word on the street” was that the REAL changes would be seen/felt after hitting 50.
Well, here we are; It’s all happening now- to me and to Peter. ‘Perks of marrying someone your own age is that we’re truly in this together. I think the biggest changes for us began at 51. We’ve got wrinkles that have morphed into furrows regardless of sunscreen, teeth that dull with every glass of Merlot, spots that one could play connect-the-dots with for fun, thinning hair, sprouting hair where you don’t expect to, failing eyesight and aches and pains we have no idea how originated.
I joke with my students about my eyesight- that I can barely recognize who’s in my class until I’m about 6 inches away from them. Once my own daughter was in class and I didn’t even know it ’til halfway in. My friend Pam and I are known in our Yogic community to dim the lights when we teach- joking that by the time we reach 60, we’ll be teaching with flashlights in the dark.
I asked my daughter to find me a mascara that didn’t leave marks under my brows and she told me it’s not the mascara. She said, “Your eyelids are drooping now so your lashes are hitting the skin.” Why thank you young, bright-eyed beauty whose eye shadow looks model-perfect even after a Hot Yoga sesh.
They say Karma is a bitch? No…GRAVITY IS! Years of weight training had taught us how to maintain our musculature yet no amount of knowledge or training can chase this dragon. I can squat til the cows come home and my old butt will not return. Mine now resides on my daughter’s backside. Round derrieres seem to be in vogue these days so I proudly pass the torch.
Our 18 year old son can go to the gym 3 days in a row and keep visibly adding to his 6 pack, eating anything his heart desires… yet we could break sit up records or skip a few meals and not much is gonna change.
“But you look great for your age!” The first time I heard that-around 42- I was completely insulted. Today? That’s high praise and I’ll gladly gush like a teenager and say, “Awe…why thank you!” or do that thing we women do: start alerting you to my flaws.
A topic we ladies of a certain age discuss is Menopause. The hot flashes I hear my friends describing sound dreadful and-like death and paying taxes-are inevitable. Hot Yoga aficionados going through Menopause often times end up switching to Yoga in A/C or huddling around the one lone fan. I get it. And no: wearing teeny tiny shorts ain’t happening for the most of us. That ship has sailed if it ever was in port.
So what can be done? Hair color, extensions, eye lifts, Botox, fillers, veneers, implants, tummy tucks, Lipo, rejuvenation, spray tans, fillers, expensive facials, serums, anti-aging creams… all viable solutions with various costs and risks to be considered. But it’s like decorating your home. ‘Buy new drapes and your carpets will look old. Where does it end? It’s like chasing something you can never catch.
Must I add “No judgement”? Puh-lease! Like Joan Rivers says, “Grow UP!” I could give a rat’s ass what anyone- even Joan Rivers- does to help alleviate looking or feeling the effects of age, so seriously: don’t bore me the inevitable “Beauty comes from within.”
For me, now’s the time to pull out the big guns and dig even deeper into Yoga-which teaches us acceptance, awareness and appreciation of one’s blessings- rather than blemishes. Yes: I will buy more heavy-duty tights that compress my over-50, saggy skin more efficiently, Crest White Strip my teeth, maybe get some hair-thickening shampoo and apply more sunscreen… but unless someone wants to fund my treatments, there’s not much I can do besides shift my perspective.
I write a lot about perspective and this topic requires a very positive one. Sometimes I’m strong enough to face it, sometimes… not so much. This morning before class, I was talking to one of my students about why I was wearing bangs. (The ladies at the salon taught me “bangs before Botox”) and as the students trickled in, each of us added something to the mix. No matter how Yogic we are, we all have mirrors, and eyes, that- when used with corrective lenses- see the changes occurring.
Yesterday after class I was chatting with my student Molly. She’s also in the fitness biz as the owner of a Karate Dojo. I was telling her how I’d just seen my old high school friend after years and how fascinating it was seeing how well my friend is aging when she never works out at all. Molly’s in her early 40s and she and her husband enjoy a lifestyle that reminds me much of mine with Peter. I advised her to maybe lighten up on her routine- how Peter and I have most likely overdone it and how we all need to give our bodies a break. She agreed and said she was probably taking the rest of the day off.
When I got home, I texted Molly asking how she felt after my class and she admitted she was going for a run with her hubby. I laughed because I was heading to the gym for a big blast of a workout myself! Oh well… “Take more days off” sounded good but who were we kidding? Old habits die hard and I guess in the long run- even if we’re putting more mileage on our bodies, getting more sun than we should and experiencing aches and pains where and when we hadn’t in the past, we’ll probably be this way well into our golden years.
When I teach, I say “It’s not a competition, comparison or critique….” and in Yoga- it certainly isn’t. So now I am mustering up all my words to remind myself when it comes to this crazy part of the journey called aging. I am vowing to give myself a break, laugh at these changes rather than loathe them and know that my body is truly only my shell- the best stuff is on the inside. (Oh yeah… and bangs…’definitely gonna be rockin’ the bangs!)
One of my students shared something with a few other students after class the other day. We were discussing binding in a Yoga pose and she said, “Once Sandee told me (in a private session) that I may be able to bind if I lost 10 pounds.” At first I said, “No way! Did I say THAT?” We were all giggling and then I explained that I probably said, “Binds could be easier for us all if we lost ten pounds.”
In MY defense, I was including myself and my point was that for me, I find a little less weight makes it easier to slide under my thigh and clasp my other hand. A bind (and there are different types) is a grip on hands, ankles, toes- when in a Yoga pose- that’ll take you deeper, yet is never the AIM of the pose. Regardless of ones’ weight, it’s not always possible or even necessary. I’ve also told my students, “I’m a cupcake away from binding”. I never meant that this gal (who also happens to be my friend), should lose weight and I’ve made sure she knows that.
Clearly this statement had an effect on her for her to remember it. What other flippant things have I said that maybe didn’t “land right”? I’m trying to be careful with my words yet as a no-filtered, smartass from way back… it’s not always easy. This lead me to dredging up some key moments in my life when what someone said to me was taken a certain way- not always adversely- just in a way that I’ve never forgotten it.
Here are a few of MY life-changers: random things people have said to me that have stuck:
My 8th grade Catholic School Teacher sure laid one on me. She was one of the “lay Teachers”: meaning not one of the nuns (Oh I remember much of what THEY used to say to me- all of which was more amusing than anything.) Since as far back as I can remember, I questioned what we were being taught. Much of it fascinated me and as I got older confused me even more. After 8 years of Catholic School, mandatory church attendance on Holy days, the 40 days of Lent, all of our religious instruction, plays, choral performances… Mrs. Davies said, “You all know that everything we taught you throughout these 8 years were all just STORIES, right? Adam and Eve, the loaves and fishes, water into wine… they were all made-up stories from the Bible we used for teaching you lessons.”
I remember feeling betrayed since I seemed to be the only one asking for scientific proof, only to be told “Have more faith and don’t question.” That day I decided I no longer wanted to be part of something that was based on lies. (That’s how my mind worked at 13.)
Fast forward to me graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology in my early 20s. Armed and ready to take on Manhattan and trade my internship at Calvin Klein into a full-time gig, there I was in my interview, at the point when salary is brought up. “Don’t accept anything under $15,000/year,” we were advised, so I went in and plead my case to which my boss stated the annual starting salary was what she thought a generous $12,000. When I told her it wasn’t enough, she stood up from behind her desk, slammed her hands down and yelled, “Oh yeah? Well…WAR IS HELL AND LIFE IS ROUGH, SISTER!” What the WHAT? To this day I have no idea what she meant yet have replayed that scene in my head so many times- something right out of The Devil Wears Prada. Cut to me standing in a payphone on Broadway crying to my Dad. I moved out of Manhattan and said good-bye to the rag biz forever. (MY 20 year old brain hadn’t evolved much from my 13 year old brain, in retrospect.)
Once when I was selling a family membership at the Health Club where I worked-when filling out the contract-I said to the woman, “…and if you put your son’s birth date back a year- making him 11- he’ll get a free membership for a year.” This was our standard way of “throwing the customer a bone” since we didn’t offer much for kids under 12 anyway. It was a sales tool that made us look like we were giving them a freebie when we needed to close the deal. I’ll never forget how she looked me in the eye and said so sincerely, “Oh thank you, Sandee, but I can’t do that. I’m a Jehovah’s Witness; I don’t lie.” I was flabbergasted! I mean- what could I say? “Yeah… well I went to Catholic School where we were lied to on a daily… now I’m a Salesperson and I lie…” #awkward
Here’s another line that’s emblazoned in my skull. My ex-husband (yes: I-like many of you- have an ex) once turned to me and said in a casual way, “Gee. For someone who runs 50 miles a week, I can’t figure out how you still have cellulite.” Tears streaming down my eyes, I’ll never forget exactly how that remark hit me like a ton of bricks. From that second on I hated him. That’s right. (And did I mention he’s my ex?) Of course that’s not the only thing he did or dumbass thing he said, yet that one insensitive comment- which clearly hit the nerve of that century- epitomized the metaphor for everything I didn’t want in a life partner. See ya, dude!
Another memorable moment in my life which I’ve written about before is the time when- after going through mega hours of trying to push my daughter out only to have a C-section- (8 hours of pushing to be exact but who’s counting?)- the doctor came to see me the next day, listened to me talk about the experience and how I had “trained hard to have a perfect birth”. He laughed, shook his head and he said, “The most beautiful, easy and effortless births are from women who are usually extremely out of shape. They just lay there and the baby slides right out.” Words can’t describe how THAT made me feel. It was like, “Oh thanks for telling me NOW!” (In retrospect I couldn’t have had it any other way but hormone-scattered, post-partum mothers shouldn’t be messed with like that, right?)
Once in this Unitarian Universalist Church I was taking the kids to, I was describing someone to my friend and fellow Unitarian Judith. The woman I was describing was probably in her 60s and had some really deep wrinkles on her face. She was a hip, California-type, ex-Hippie and I was trying to remember her name. Before saying “She’s got a lot of wrinkles” my friend said, “Oh I know… it’s the woman with the really interesting face!” At the time, I hadn’t thought of them as “interesting”- only wrinkles. Looking back, my friend Judith was so spot on. They WERE interesting and SHE was interesting. I always remember Judith’s perspective when I see my own new wrinkles now and try to see them as “interesting”.
Which brings me to the next mind-blower: the day my Mom looked at my forehead when I was speaking (a few years ago), stopped me mid-sentence and blurted out, “Oh Sandee. You have to stop using so much expression! Your forehead is loaded with wrinkles! Can’t you just be a little less animated?’ Um… no, Mom, I can’t. Thanks though. Couldn’t you just consider your daughter’s face “interesting”?
I like to remind my students that we can’t control everything in life- or actually anything. We can, however, control our reactions and shift our perspectives. Before we react unfavorably to something someone says to us, it’s probably best to decipher the context in which it was said. When I realized that my “10 pounds comment” was innocent, meaningless, and I was including myself in it- yet my friend may have taken it to heart… I took a look back at some of the game changing phrases I think of often and for what reasons they had an affect on me.
Getting older is rather freeing, yet for someone who has always spoken her mind my “work” is knowing when to temper my words. We’re all a work in progress and never know how our words will affect the people we speak to. My aim is for someone to remember something I’ve said or written and remember it as honest, positive and hopefully inspiring!
I know you may envision your teacher sitting in meditation for a half hour prior to class-(and this is not to say some don’t)-speaking for myself and my teacher friends, we’re pretty much doing the same thing you’re doing prior to the music starting. I’m usually texting my son to “Please take Lou out before he explodes” or chatting up a student prior to class asking if her daughter’s still being a shithead that day. (And commiserating with her if MINE is…) Even if you have one of those teachers who purposely arrives late to every class in that “I’ve arrived. My time is more valuable than yours so we start when I make my entrance” kind of way, teachers are just like you.
Yoga Teachers have Yoga skills that you pay for and benefit from, yet we’re not in any way elevated from you. In my teacher training, the topic was brought up: Should we socialize with our students? The consensus was that we should remain kind of “elevated” … be private. That’s not who I am. If I like you and I’m seeing you a couple of times a week for years, then I’m interested in you and feel it’s ok to share should you be interested in me. I’m teaching you Yoga-not curing cancer, solving world conflict or feeding hungry people. It’s Yoga.
You never need to be ashamed or embarrassed by your behavior. I see you on Facebook. You go out, party, rant about what irks you and basically be human. While I may not post the things I do so much…believe me- I’ve got stories too. I occasionally overeat, drink, party, stay up too late watching trash TV and wonder if my ass is getting fat in my tights and if you can tell. I’m like you.
In the same way you cringe when I come over to adjust you, hoping you’re not sweating too much and stinkin’ up the studio… I, too, wonder if you’ll possibly object to my sweaty hands touching YOU.
I like to espouse the benefits of meditation yet struggle-like you perhaps-to successfully carve out the time to sit silently, watching my thoughts come and go like I’m watching a movie. (What the hell does that mean, anyway?) My mind moves as fast as the next gal’s- flitting from one kids’ schedule, to parents’ wishes and hubby’s needs all in a New York minute. Meditation is no easier for a me than it is for you but I do try. Sometimes I’m successful and manage to gain a little inner peace, then my washer stops and I run to retrieve my tights before Peter puts them in the dryer. Meditation interrupted. Next!
Do you think I’m talking to YOU during class when I say, “Practice the art of nonreactivity”? I’m actually speaking to myself. When you wonder if I have some sort of sixth sense because I’m saying “Let that crap from your day GO.” Nope. I’m reminding myself out loud to just forget about the fact that my son keeps reminding me, “You’ve never looked older.” Well, DUH! You haven’t either, manboy and just you WAIT…! (See? ‘Just like you.)
Do you think I’m Superwoman because I can do some fancy pants Yoga moves that elude you? For every one I CAN do, there are three I CAN’T! How can I balance so well while talking you ask? (I could probably send my hubby a sexy text simultaneously at this point.) It’s called REPETITION! I do these moves several times every day. I mean… it’d be sad if I couldn’t, at this point.
When I’m the student in a class- when the tables are turned- I’m exactly like you are! I recently took a class where all the other students were not only jumping their feet between their hands, landing at the top of their mats… no- THESE rock stars were all piking up into Handstands with soft landings! Shouldn’t I be doing that? I complimented myself on having no ego or jealousy because I do what I can. ‘Ain’t gonna lie though: I was giddy like a school girl when the teacher unknowingly snuck in one of my faves- YOU know-the one where we sit in seated staff pose and press our hands to the mat to lift our lower bodies? Yay ME: I NAILED that shit and the other gals didn’t! #playingfieldleveled
‘Impressed with my Sanskrit or how I can remember it all? Put me at your job for one day and- unless it’s at a retail store, gym or hair salon- I’m pretty inept. And don’t expect to teach me quickly: it took me 6 months to figure out how to close out the register at the hair salon where I worked and I almost got an ulcer in the process.
Oh and about that Sanskrit. Again: studying and repetition. I remember once when I put my students into reverse tabletop and proudly called it by its Sanskrit name: Chatus Pada Pitham. Then I took my friend Tamara’s class (who had taken the class and heard my pronunciation), heard The way SHE said it and felt like a Yogic dumbass because hers made mine sound ridiculous! I now stay away from that one, because try as I do… my New York accent totally annihilates it.
Now if it’s eloquent Sanskrit, stories from the Bhagavad Gita or lofty explanations of every asana, you’d have to take my friend Philip’s class. With his sexy South African accent and bombastic delivery, his class reminds me of a High Holy day in my old church where the priest seemed to be speaking in tongues (minus the sexy part). If you want hands-on adjustments that’ll send you into the next stratosphere, that’d be my friend James. One of his his hands spread open is the size of most men’s two hands. He’s a magnet for the sweet spot. You like listening to the voice of an angel? That’d be my friend Michelle. She’s got a voice that could lull you to sleep. Juliana’s classes are for those in need of healing in her creative way and her Venezuelan accent is to die for. (Especially the time she called Instagram “Instant Gram” repeatedly. So. Classic.) Me? I can probably make you laugh so hard you’ll forget what was bothering you when you got to class. Yet are we “Gurus”? Nah.
If you’re looking for a Guru, ask yourself why. YOU are your best teacher. If you’re just looking to figure out your shit and learn some tools to help you deal with it, then connect to someone you like and realize that we’re all in this together. We teachers are students as well. It’s actually amazing how Yoga Teachers can lead a big class then turn around, unroll our mats, and switch to BEING lead.
So next time you read a Yoga Teacher’s class post using inspirational words of wisdom and you wonder if it’s tailor-made for YOU… remember we speak to ourselves while we’re teaching you. Yoga teachers, Yoga students, Yoga Studio owners and Yoga Studio cleaning people… we’re ALL just trying to find our way sharing the common bond called YOGA. There’s no hierarchy, trust me.