Remember years ago when the saying “What part of the word ‘NO’ don’t you understand?” became the trendy thing for cool parents to say to their kids when they wouldn’t accept the word “no”? I do. I never used that one though because 1) It sounded kind of snarky, mean and condescending and 2) I was fortunate enough that when I told my kids “no”, they knew I meant business.
That’s what I feel like saying sometimes to my students when I’m teaching Yoga. Here’s the classic class scenario. I’ll get the students into a pose which may have dire consequences if done incorrectly. I’ll say, “If you’re in Shoulderstand or Plough, remember to not look side to side. Keep your neck smoothly on your mat and look at the ceiling.” That’s when I’ll usually see someone turn their head to the side. What do I do? I repeat what I said yet I’ll word it differently. I might say, “Keep focused on yourself-not what your neighbor’s doing.” Again: someone’ll inevitably turn their head.
After the third time, I might say, “If you turn your head to the side, you may possibly jack up your neck!” Believe it or not: someone usually can’t help themselves. In my Teacher Training we were taught to cue what TO do…not what NOT to do. Some adult students are like those kids who need to FEEL the consequences of their actions. ‘Sorry. You were warned. I’m not your Mommy (and if I WAS… you’d have known I meant business.)
That’s when I feel like screaming “WHAT PART OF NOT TURNING YOUR HEAD SIDE TO SIDE DON”T YOU GET?”?”
Teaching Yoga is a fabulous way to learn about oneself and test out if Yoga actually does make us more chill and accepting.
That’s right. WE get tested. You see, as I’m teaching my class- talking about this being YOUR chance for self-study, I’m also being tested and challenged to stay nonreactive and not buy into my own ego or insistence that you do everything “right” or as I say. I’m trying to conduct the class while I spy you redressing and restyling your hair every time you come up from a forward fold. I’m trying hard not to let the fact that you keep looking at the others bother me- even after I’ve explained the word “Drishti”.
Sometimes I drive home from a class and think, “Well, that was an awesome class!” Not because of the number of students or someone nailing their perceived “glory pose”, but rather for me staying nonreactive to all the fluctuations and machinations certain students are faced with. #truth
When a fellow Yoga Teacher comes to class, it’s a special challenge. Every new teacher goes through a period where their heart drops when another Yoga Teacher takes their class. My heart used to race when MY teachers would casually unroll their mats waiting for what I was about to serve up. I’d try and be uber-specific with my cues and remember to say all the “right” things and avoid saying something stupid. Those were the classes I’ll never forget! Not only because I almost soiled my Yoga tights from nervousness…but thinking back, I now wonder why I allowed myself to be so concerned with what they thought. Those were opportunities for true growth and really a rite of passage for all Yoga Teachers.
Years have passed, and a bajillion classes later I now look forward to unleashing some intricately laid-out sequences, to illicit smiles or challenge a fellow teacher, or even to entertain them with inside jokes. It’s a blast! Yet, what would you think if I told you that even teachers can present problems in class?
Here’s where the self-study comes into play. I’ve had teachers freestyle -or do their own class- within my class. That’s kind of a no-no in my circle. Beyond minor modifications it’s kind of disrespectful because students may look at said teacher and do what they’re doing over what I’m calling out. I’ve even had teachers looking at their phones during class which always challenges me to stay nonreactive.
People who know me know I’m pretty outspoken and tend to have “Yoga Tourette’s” so imagine what whirls through my head when presented with these scenarios!
Here’s another common situation: I’ll tell my students to only go deeper if they need more sensation. Then I’ll see a few students wincing and moaning in the first expression of the pose… only to keep going deeper as if deeper will be better. It doesn’t work that way, folks! If you’re crying in a lunge twist because your thigh’s burning, then lifting your back knee off of the mat because everyone else has, is NOT going to stop your thigh from burning! In fact- it’ll make your thigh feel like it’s burning OFF of your leg!
Unless you’ve won a few acting awards or are turned on by masochism, I’ll notice your face, and there we have it: another opportunity for self-study (for both of us.) Part of me wants to say, “Lifting the back knee is optional.” Another part of me wants to shout out, “Stop being an idiot! Do you realize that you’re only hurting yourself?”
Like raising children, most times the parent knows better than the kid. If the child has an open relationship with and trusts the parent, the word “no” will suffice. Same as Yoga Teacher and student: If you truly listen to your teacher (providing he or she knows what the hell they’re doing) and allow your guide to help YOU listen to your own body, you’ll have a pretty sweet Yogic experience.
You hear this all the time: “It’s YOUR practice.” I get paid whether you listen to me or not and you get out of your practice what you put into it. If you leave feeling injured-especially after fully listening to safety cues that you steamrolled over- then here’s my advice:
As you’re icing your injury, and popping your Advil… remember to think back to your class and ask yourself, “What part of (fill in the blank) didn’t I understand?”
I have a drinking problem. Yup…I do. Sometimes all it takes is someone putting an idea into your head for you to decide it’s timeto take charge and make some changes. For me, today- it’s drinking water.
People are always surprised when I admit I don’t drink much water. From my early days as a long-distance runner ’til now, I’ve never been one to drink water. I used to get impatient when my running partner would have to stop for water. I walk fast on a treadmill every day and sweat buckets and I build up a good sweat both teaching and practicing Yoga… yet I never crave water. When I worked at the hair salon, the ladies would always tell me I had nice skin and figured I must be an avid water-drinker. Nope.
When a waiter asks, “Would you like more water?” Most of the time I say, “I haven’t touched the first glass.” When my family gets their drinks, they never include one for me. My husband takes a glass of ice water upstairs for night time drinking, and I don’t. The last thing I want to do is get up to drink and/or have to use the bathroom during the night, then not be able to fall back asleep. No thanks.
I’m not a fan of drinking anything cold and I especially I don’t enjoy the taste of water… or I guess it’s lack of taste. It’s not because I don’t know all the benefits of drinking water- especially when I work out and sweat so much on a daily basis. I do know. Yet-like a smoker knows that ciggies are bad-I know that drinking water is good; I just don’t enjoy doing it.
So here’s how this went down: My good friend- who happens to be a Doctor- mentioned to me (when we were comparing our new-found facial wrinkles)-how drinking water could not only help me with the occasional muscle cramps I told her about, it could also help soften some of my wrinkles. I knew about the cramping part but never considered the wrinkle part, so of course I was all over that!
OK, water’s free and Botox is expensive so I’m going to give it another chance. This isn’t my first go-around trying to increase my water intake. I’ve gone through stages of adding sliced fruits and veggies to create my own flavored water and I’ve tried more waters than I can count. This time she suggested I add 1/3 coconut water to 2/3 water and see if that helps attract me to the drink.
Hmmm. Coconut Water. Alone I find it too thick and bland but mixing it with water might be just what I need. The Potassium, Magnesium and other electrolytes are definitely what I most likely need to keep properly hydrated.
I woke up this morning, made my concoction and downed 20 oz. by 9:00 AM, after which I hit the bathroom at the Yoga Studio where I’d just taught. Then another friend and I went to our local health food store (where I stocked up on more coconut water), and I had to use the bathroom THERE. She dropped me off to teach my next class and I used the bathroom again before my class started. About halfway into a 90 minute class… I had to go again-but I didn’t. What the WHAT? THIS is why I hate drinking all this extra liquid!
Seriously… I don’t like having to leave the conversation and use the bathroom- especially when others are waiting or when it’s a public restroom. I’m no Germaphobe, yet avoiding public rest rooms was something I was always happy to do. I really can’t envision myself using every bathroom of the private students I teach For some reason this seems like a time waster and I feel weird invading their space. (Like really… I’m not judging you or peering into your medicine cabinets… )
I teach a private at the beach where my student breaks away at least 2-3 times to use the rest room and I always hang back. I’ve used the beach’s public bathroom once or twice and have made a mental note to never do it again. (#gross)
I know I can google this info, yet I’m wondering what my friends who are fans of hydration do. Are you constantly going to the bathroom or does your body eventually get used to the added liquid and adjust? Usually I could go the entire day without ever having to pee. I know. (And no: I never have any problem staying “regular”. My Vegan diet has always aided me that way.) I always figured since I eat so many fruits and vegetables, there’s enough water in them to hydrate me.
What are your thoughts? And please: don’t chastise me on my lack of drinking. I just want to know what positive changes I can expect (Will it really help soften wrinkles and what do YOU do to stay hydrated?) Perhaps you share my disdain for the ever-popular elixir of life or are you-like everyone else I admit this to- going to say, “WHAT?? I thought you- of all people- would drink a lot of water!”
People get into Yoga for many reasons. My initial reason was because I lifted weights and ran 5-8 miles a day without ever stretching before or after either. I knew it’d be beneficial, yet rebelliously I opted not to- even priding myself in not “needing” it.
My mother kept telling me I was hunched over. My back was strained from carrying my kids and/or a heavy diaper bag, coupled with the repetitive motions of my workouts. It never occurred to me to find a Yoga studio as a homeschooling Mom who loved being home with my kids. I bought a book called The Idiot’s Guide to Yoga and when the kids were napping, my living room became my studio.
After about ten years of practicing on my carpet in my crummiest, baggy shorts and a tank top, I had come to appreciate many more benefits from Yoga than the initial “stretch” I was craving. I realized it was more about inner strength, being a little adventurous in trying these odd poses and focusing on the sensations created- coupled with conscientious breathing. The Savasanas- (final resting poses) I enjoyed back in those days were extremely deep and emotional.
Coming from my Personal Trainer and fitness fanatic’s standpoint, the physical part of Yoga- the poses- were mostly a breeze. The breathing part and final relaxation were by far, my biggest accomplishments.
After about 12 years, I experienced a Yoga Studio class. I bought a TJ Maxx mat and Yoga outfit to take my first-ever class at a studio which was a pretty intense class taught by guest teacher Bryan Kest. Ironically enough it turned out to be at the studio where I’d eventually be trained to become a teacher. After that, I branched out to another studio- the place I’d eventually have most of the classes where I currently teach.
My early studio experiences differed from my home practice. I started to become more aware of what others were doing in class-formulating where I “ranked” in comparison to the other students in class. I started to become more adventurous-especially with inversions. I was always very “obedient” in class and hung on every word my teacher said. I was the one who’d have a little birthday or holiday gift for my teacher- or make them a salad- since I held them on a higher plane. I was always amazed and intrigued at how they could call out the sequences- especially while fine-tuning their music or having a little exchange with a student in need.
I never in a million years thought I could or ever would become a Yoga Teacher!
Next part of my Yoga life was when I DID become certified to teach Yoga. That’s when my Yoga really changed. In my Teacher Training I learned that a good part of my practice had to be ‘fixed”. At first I was defensive and it was a little disheartening… yet when given rational explanations as to how my form could be triggering my back issues, I was cool with any changes that’d deepen my practice and keep me from being injured. This was probably one of the first times I had to shed my ego- an ego I hadn’t even realized I had. I soaked the new “insider info” in like a sponge and as my confidence grew, so did my practice.
‘Next phase were the first 3-4 years of my teaching. Coming out of teacher training, armed with enthusiasm, knowledge, a whole boatload of Yoga cues, pose set ups, assists and enough 8-limbed path’s magical benefits to wow all my friends and family… I started to unleash this newfound skill set- teaching anywhere, any time and everywhere I could.
I spent a lot of time trying to “fix” my students’ practices (the way mine had been) and defend MY kind of Yoga- thinking it was truly the most pure, most kick-ass and most relevant style of Yoga. I tried other kinds of Yoga- even taught other kinds (Yin and Gentle) yet would always come back to my comfort zone both in teaching and taking.
I’d try the most advanced poses even when I suspected that taking the final expression wasn’t great for my lower back. I’d let people with way more strength than I, push me into the shapes they expected someone of my muscularity should be able to do. I let teachers chastise me for what they perceived as my fears. As a Teacher, I’d keep pushing myself to deepen my physical practice in order to teach more advanced poses and “stay in the game”. It hadn’t yet occurred to me that not every teacher can or should do every pose and that one could still be an awesome motivator without showboating or pulling rank.
Where have I been with my practice the last year or more? Now I happily take a block or strap in case I want to deepen or modify. I don’t twist as deeply (and my back feels much better), I don’t spend more time than I should trying to come away from the wall in a handstand. It’s just not that important to me to nail- nor are ANY of the poses, really. I try to get my breathing back to where it had been on my living room floor back when it didn’t matter what I wore or what type of mat I had.
After over 16 years of regular practice, the benefits are stunning. I no longer compare my practice to others’, nor compare my students’ practices to “the gold standard” I came out of teacher training with. I have a lot of fun teaching and taking my friend’s classes classes- emplying my “Yoga Tourette’s” for their entertainment! I’ve nailed some tougher poses, I’ve given up some that never agreed with my structure and I’m really into modifying for what I need on any given day- and encouraging my students to do the same.
Personally I’ve become way more chill than my old friends would ever imagine. My husband and children have benefited the most. Where I used to be a task master when I homeschooled them, these days I’m surrounded by so much “love and light” that nothing ever bothers me. My obsessive housecleaning days are a thing of the past. We rarely make any plans now because my private students and their shifting schedules keep me on my toes and I’m perfectly fine with that. I can wake up thinking I’m doing one thing… and end up seeing it change in a matter of minutes. I marvel at how flexible and tolerant I have become, thinking back to the “To Do” lists I’d make every morning in my 20s…happily checking off each accomplishment. Nothing ever really bothers me and honestly? I’m always in a good mood.
A goal within my practice- and I’m sure it’ll ultimately affect my teaching- is to hone that “other” part of Yoga: meditation. I have tried over the years to meditate, without success. Give me a juicy Facebook rant, phone call from a friend, my lusciously lounging Louis or a ridiculous reality show over meditation ANY day. I could lie and say I do it daily… but why bother lying? Candle-gazing and chanting at the Yoga Studio staff meetings sucks for me. Maybe someday I’ll master these things some day, maybe I won’t.
I’m not searching for any more fulfillment than my loving family, fabulous friends, career I adore and good health.
This is my Yoga today. You may have a different take on what Yoga is to you or opinion about what Yoga “should be”, and that’s fine. I’m practicing tolerance and celebrating people’s different interpretations of this beautiful, healing, ancient practice. I didn’t invent it…nor did YOU and what works for me, made not work for you but hopefully you can appreciate that Yoga – like one’s code to live by- is their personal choice. It’s not the same for everyone- hell- it may not even BE for everyone!
What does Yoga do for YOUR life? How has it changed you since you started practicing? I’m curious and would love to read your responses. Make ‘em good and detailed; give me something better to do than to meditate, ok?
You’re in the middle of a Yoga class and the teacher has you in Child’s Pose. You’re breathing and enjoying the nice stretch along your lower back when you hear the dreaded words, “Now lift your hips and measure off hand to opposite elbow…” YOU know what’s coming: perhaps headstand or forearm balance. Immediately your wheels start spinning.
A Vinyasa Yoga class moves rather swiftly and if your teacher is skilled and creative (some might say “sneaky”), chances are inversions will be an option pretty much every class. “An option”. What does that mean to you? What goes through your mind when faced with going upside down? Do you look at it as a fun way to move? A challenge? Your nemesis? Or does shear panic overcome you?
If you do handstands, headstands and forearm balances effortlessly, then perhaps you should stop reading. If you TEACH these asanas (yet easily do them yourselves) then perhaps you might want to continue and get a sense of how many students feel when it’s “that time”.
Beyond the execution and alignment of these challenging poses, I am oh-so-interested in the average student’s mindset. I watch the typical players go through their usual machinations when it’s time to turn their world upside down. Some use the time as an opportunity to face their fears-listening to the cues…maybe scurrying to the closest wall where they attempt lift off. Some figure it’s a good time to hit the bathroom or have that sip of water they were craving but were too embarrassed to take a break for. Others stay in Child’s Pose with one eye open and sneak a peek at, as one of my teacher friends calls it, “The circus coming to town” and others exert their Yogi power and do whatever THEY want- in that “You’re not the boss of me, lady” kind of way.
As a teacher, I’m trained and experienced to know when it’s available to them unless they have an injury or condition unbeknownst to me. I can also tell when they need more of a regular practice to really understand the pose and I might suggest they “Save it for another day.” Most students have regular practices and work on these postures for years, others occasionally dip into class when they’re feeling they “need a good stretch” and still others are beginners in my “all-levels” class. I never know how the adrenaline flowing in a Vinyasa class may affect my students’ decision to be adventurous.
Teaching Yoga means we instruct, assist, inspire and motivate. Yet when is it considered “bullying”? ‘Last thing I want to do is be accused of pushing someone to do something they don’t want to do- for WHATEVER reason!
Another teacher friend of mine once called his Yoga mat the “rectangle of fear”. I LOVED that! (He was quite proud of that one too.) Your Yoga mat IS sometimes just THAT: a place where you face your fears.
Here are some common fears: Fear of not doing the poses correctly- of looking like an idiot when “everyone else” it seems knows what the heck they’re doing. Fear of falling. Literally. Fear of boobs and balls comin’ out of that damned shirt or shorts you just KNEW should have been trashed after last class but somehow wound up as your present outfit. Fear of sweating too much and slipping, fear of your stomach growling or God forbid slippin’ one out! Fact: people occasionally pass gas in class.
In the words of Joan Rivers, “Oh grow up!”
My particular fear is the fear of getting hurt. Other teachers or students say, “So what? If you fall, you just roll out like a somersault or land in a backbend.” Ok here’s my thing: I HAVE rolled out and didn’t have the quick wit to do it artfully and as for landing in a backbend? That just ain’t in my wheelhouse and I have the X rays to show you why.
I was fascinated with why some people prefer the assisted headstands (the ones where you clasp your hands and essentially bear most of your weight on your forearms) vs. tripod headstands (where your head and hands take up your weight). I felt that the tripods were much easier for me yet was determined that I had the strength to do the assisted. I set myself up in the privacy of my living room, went up, and did the very thing I didn’t want to do: fell in an awkward position on my neck causing me to be in pain every time I turned my head. I’ve since revisited it and conquered it yet some days it works, other days it doesn’t.
I don’t want to impart my issues on my students so while I can help them reach their desired Yogic achievements, I can also empathize with all the reasons they may not want to do certain poses. Balancing on your hands is scary. Backbending can be terrifying. Standing on your head is dicey- heck most Doctors and Chiropractors nix it completely. I get it.
We all bring to our mats a back story that the teacher most likely will never know. I don’t like analyzing my students and I especially don’t like being analyzed by my practice. I don’t equate everything my students confide in me after class to Yoga nor do I feel I have to to retool my entire outlook on life because I was “afraid” to bend my spine in a way my herniated discs beg me not to.
A close friend of mine who’s both a licensed Therapist and a trained Yoga Teacher told me, “I can always tell which teachers are seeing Therapists or in a 12 step program by the words they use in their class.”
*Remember: YOGA TEACHERS ARE NOT THERAPISTS! (Well… SHE is… but most of us AREN’T!)
Recently I taught a private at the beach (on a wooden pavilion) to a group of ladies- some experienced and others newbies. One woman had been to my class once – which was her only Yoga class- and while she had the very beginnings of what can grow into a nice practice, she was still a newbie. The class went fine and when it ended- as everyone was gathering their things, she asked if she could do a handstand for a picture. As I started scouting a place for her to kick up to and started explaining that there weren’t any walls there to kick up to, she was already up in a freestanding handstand while her friend took a quick pic! I was gobsmacked!
Typically when someone takes to these poses so effortlessly, you learn they were Gymnasts or Cheerleaders, yet she was neither!. She said, “I’m doing a 30 day handstand challenge I saw on Instagram. It looked like fun so I followed the steps and got it, but I know… I really need to take regular Yoga classes.”
She hadn’t been conditioned to think of handstands as the mother of all posesas something every Yogi aspires to “nail”. To her, inversions just “looked like fun”. I STILL can’t stop thinking about that!
Lately I’ve been backing further and further away from the wall and thinking how in the “handstand lady’s” case: ignorance is bliss. Yet whether I ever leave the comfort zone of a wall, my Yoga practice doesn’t define me. What I do on my “rectangle of fear” doesn’t necessarily represent how I live my life. I’ve done things in my life that many would be scared to attempt- like homeschooling or running my own salad business from home for years (without any assistance from the Internet, I might add.) I just blasted into it fearlessly!
Our “rectangle of fear” can also be our ‘rectangle of triumph” and our “rectangle of whatever-the-hell-else” we want it to be- all within one class! Yoga is a tool to face our fears and bust through some of them while maybe changing our perspective on others.
Here we are in the New Year and everyone’s making resolutions-or as the Yogis call it-”setting intentions”. We all tend to review the past year and vow to clean up our act in the most obvious of ways.
The holiday decorations have been packed away, the drinking is back to moderation, Christmas cookies are history and the nuts, crackers and fancy spreads won’t be purchased any time soon. We’ve got our goals set, our new workout clothes, renewed our gym memberships and bought another round of ten Yoga classes. Here we go!
What I’ve noticed that’s different this year though, is a new intention- or vow: to spend less time on social media. Yup- I’ve noticed the new way to detox is to “clean house” on Facebook and limit the amount of time spent scrolling.
So what about this detoxing of social media? Should I join the ranks of friends who are limiting their time spent to twice a day? Nah. I check Facebook as a way to communicate with students. I’d be a fool to take a break at the time of the year when perhaps people need my services the most.
Fortunately I’m not compelled to look at Instagram and only stay there to occasionally check on my kids or screenshot their pics-which are way better than any I take. I’m not into the challenges, can do without the ads and thousands of hashtags and-at my age- dislike that you can’t enlarge the pics for better viewing. As far as my pile of addictions go, Instagram is nowhere near it.
Curtailing my Facebook time would be akin to turning off my answering machine back in the day and that’s just not going to happen in my business. I’m in the service industry and rely on people, so to close myself off would be career suicide. I’m here for them now more than ever!
Yet what happens when Facebook becomes a source of irritation? Yes, it’s not only in the ‘secular world”- it’s a part of my “Yogic world” that I find oh-so-fascinating. Yoga Teachers- those who espouse advice and inspire their students with their new age, feel-good messages- are some of the biggest offenders when it comes to social media.
Newsflash: Yoga Teachers are people. People are flawed. We are ALL working on our own shit and if you think your Yoga Teacher, “Life Coach”, Therapist or Pastor is “above” falling prey to Facebook follies or perhaps spending too much time with cyber-voyeurism… then perhaps YOUR resolution should be to lighten up on the amount of Kool Aid you’re imbibing.
I don’t remember last year anyone telling me that their “resolution” was to spend less time on social media. THIS year, however- it’s all I hear from my fellow teacher friends. Examples:
“I’ve decided that I’m now limiting myself to checking Facebook twice a day- in the morning and the evening.”
“I’ve come to the realization that of the people who come to my classes, probably only TEN of them are even ON Facebook anyway so why should I be on it just getting annoyed by these posts?”
“My resolution is to just do what I do, post my classes and stay away from seeing what everyone else is doing. We all know most of it is BS and who really needs to see another Handstand in progress?”
“I’ve blocked her because I’m tired of her need to show off in those poses wearing her bikini.”
“If I read another, ‘You’re the best,’ ‘No-YOU’RE the BEST!’ exchange between teachers, I’m gonna puke!’
These are actual quotes from some of my teacher friends and are probably common sentiments in the world of Zumba, Pilates, Fitness Pros, Personal Trainers and even Dancing.
Yoga parodies and fitness fails are so popular because no matter how “enlightened” one is… we all have that little snarky side. We know the “playas”- who’s genuine, who’s full of crap, who is needy, angry, insecure… who’s the comedian, and who just sits back and silently takes it all in without ever adding to the mix! (Because “they’re private” ya know.)
I take it all with a grain of salt. I could certainly spend less time looking at friends lying in bed with their animals, cloud formations and passing by the hackneyed inspirational quotes… but I really enjoy learning more about my students, friends and fellow Yoga Teachers. I love a rant here and there, a personal triumph, a drunken selfie, a kid’s milestone, and even an occasional meltdown or manifesto if the comments seem to help the poster feel better.
Should spending less time on social media be my resolution? Should I “clean house” and delete those whom I’ve lost contact with or don’t even remember why we became friends in the first place? Do I really want just a bunch of milquetoast yes-men saturating my ‘feed, or is there an underlying need for those who push my buttons?
Without them, my ‘feed would be lackluster, unrealistic and I’d basically just be creating a false microcosm… so really- what’s the point? Give me the good, the bad and the ugly: the posers, the whiners, the show-boaters, sweethearts, conspiracy-theorists, one-uppers, the whistle-blowers… just like in the real world! EVERYONE adds to the mix!
My resolution is to just let everyone be who they are, stop trying to figure out why I need or want them in my cyber world, continue to opt for human interaction or phone chats over glib, typed interactions…and just keep on being ME.
While a good-sized Yoga class can increase the positive energy, thus enhancing my buzz… sharing my gym experience with even one other person is something I’m really not a fan of. Truth be told, I prefer working out alone. Here’s 5 reasons why:
1) No distractions. There’s nothing that delights me more at the gym than seeing no one else there. Really. The machines look so inviting. Cable Crossovers with not a soul around? Why, hello friend. Let me adjust you to the perfectly customized setting I’ve figured out: the one calibrated with a surgeon’s precision to target that sweet spot on my front delts. Wait: what’s this? Oh yes! It’s still on all my settings from the other day. This and having everything to myself is like walking into an empty Publix that carries all my faves, has no one in line and my favorite checker at the register. Sweet.
2) No fellow gym rats ( or newbies ) equals no chit chat. I know…THIS coming from someone who’s always the last to leave. No talking means more working out and less “Are you a trainer?” Years ago I’d make it my business to guide my fellow gym-goers into the safest alignment while giving them a tutorial on how lowering their weight stack could relieve them from effing up their back. I’d see them struggling, spitting and stressing, and feel compelled to help them, yet now I just turn the other way and practice equanimity.
3) Working out solo allows me to kick my own ass or back it off if need be. ‘Last thing I wanna hear in the gym is someone yelling, “COME ON! ONE MORE REP! STOP BEING A PUSSY!” Yes. Even though I may motivate my Yoga students with similar taunts ( ok calling someone a pussy is probably not Yogic but sometimes my Yoga Tourette’s has been known to get the best of me), I like a softer, more controlled way of working out at the gym.
4) I like to practice Yoga in between sets or combine poses with weights which sometimes draws attention- prompting gawkers and/or the inevitable “How do you DO that?” To be honest… I never consider my Yoga practice to be quite worthy of drawing attention and always end up saying, ” You should see what my students, friends and colleagues can do if you think watching me kick up to handstand on the wall’s so spectacular.”
5) My last reason is actually a compilation of age-old annoyances we probably all face when we “be up at the gym just working on our fitness”. #fergalicious
People blasting music. I believe ear buds can be purchased for under $10 and when you wear them, I get entertained by your singing and gyrating as if It’s blocking out my sight with your noise. But still….
Same with the TV. I have no problem watching, listening to, or even glazing over your TV choice. You grabbed the clicker first so fair enough. But please: would you be kind enough to choose something in English? I don’t understand Spanish but I’ll bet you probably understand English.
Kids on treadmills or kids being forced to lift weights by their dumbass parents. While I appreciate your “setting a healthy example” for Junior by including him in your fitness regime, trust me: he doesn’t enjoy watching and mimicking you pump out 3 sets of 10 to get the ‘ole traps thicker. He’d much rather be doing something kid-like such as… um, I don’t know…maybe PLAYING?
Muscleheads who grunt so loudly I feel they’re either gonna pop a vein or kill me with their bare hands. Seriously: these are weights and this is fitness. Your primal screams and you jumping off the bench to circle the area after each set is comical yet disturbing.
(No judgement on either; Some of my best friends are dumbass parents and/or muscleheads.)
People clearly taking pics under the guise of checking their phones (Ew) and people using gym equipment incorrectly. Even the machines at my little complex gym have written directions and I do believe it’s a known thing that stability balls aren’t for bouncing maniacally against the wall where I’m inverting.
Oh yes… and throwing weights down. Unless you’re in a competition or maybe at Crossfit (or in a prison yard) you don’t need to throw the weights down causing me to almost fall off of the treadmill.
Lately I’ve been offering my Yoga students more opportunities to customize their practices within the studio class setting. So if it seems I’m being a hard ass here, just know that we’re all working on our own stuff. I may be joining a gym again this year so part of my “work” is to keep sharpening my nonreactivity. I’m going to work hard on this but if you read me posting, “If anyone has any gym equipment they’re looking to unload, please private message me”…you’ll figure out what happened.
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!