Tag Archives: mindfulness

When Yoga Class is Hoppin!

pincha

Hot Yoga class last night was totally full. Yogis just kept streaming in and we kept squeezing for more space. I was so excited to teach.

This happened before with another class I taught. My last class was full and SO exciting, and then I left. It made me so sad. Its easy as a teacher to regret leaving and moving to other things. I’m feeling the same about a Saturday yoga class. I keep being tempted to say “nevermind” and keeping my same ole schedule.

But for me, hot yoga doesn’t make a lot of sense when its 100F degrees outside. Yeah, I could do it, but I don’t understand it. When it gets cool again in the Fall, I’ll try to pick it back up again. But I’ll leave the hot yoga for other teachers for now.

The energy I felt in class last night was amazing. Usually, in hot yoga, I don’t do a lot of adjustments just because I know some people are very aware of how sweaty they are and don’t like to be touched. But I went ahead and did it and received good feedback. Sometimes as a teacher, I’m hyper-aware of the class energy. When I was an Army Drill Instructor, I felt like I could see everything. If someone had a thread out of place, I could see it from across the bay. Last night was similar. I was able to spot if toes were slightly turned the wrong way. I had x-ray vision into spines that weren’t twisting properly. I saw the slightest lack of engagement in a thigh. I really love when I have that feeling as a teacher.

I think sometimes yogis want to just hide in a class. They don’t want to be seen and will drift to a far off corner. Maybe they are tired or simply unmotivated. Maybe they can do full expressions of poses, but are simply not feeling it. But what I want to do is bring up their energy and to make most of the time we have together. I want them to be changed people when they leave class. I want moods to go from dreary and lethargic to bright and energized. The truth is, the people closest to me are less obvious than those who are in the corner. I flock to the edges because I know those are who need the most help.

Yoga goes beyond poses. It goes beyond what we’re wearing and how we look. It delves into the mind. It eliminates comparison and judgment. We live on our yoga mats in the now. What happened before in the day doesn’t matter. And we aren’t commiserating about the future even one little bit. It is about being present in mind and body. Our Kundalini rises and we look down at our physical self as if we aren’t even there. That’s the essence of yoga.

Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind

Advertisements

99% Practice, 1% Theory

guruji-2

Pattabhi Jois “Guruji” often said “Practice and all is coming”. If you keep up your yoga practice, or really any skill you are developing in life, you’ll eventually find mastery and delight in what you do. You will never find accomplishment if you sit on the sidelines and never play.

The same is true when Guruji would say “99% Practice, 1% Theory”. But I’m of the opinion that this is only true as you begin your journey.  When I was a Drill Sergeant in the Army, we don’t often let trainees question why we have them do something. We just have them do things by repetition and eventually they realize why they are doing it. It may not come until years later when they are leaders themselves that they truly understand. In Rocket Yoga, we usually go to handstand after every navasana (boat pose). So I say:

Roll forward and go to handstand…don’t think about it, just do it!

A lot of times, if you are doing something skilled, it needs to flow naturally. If you overthink something difficult, you’ll often fail because your brain gets in the way. You’ve let the vritti, or chaos, enter into your mind clouding what your body should do.

This is what I think about 99% practice, 1% theory. If your body continues to practice something, the movement becomes more natural and instinctual. If you are running 3 miles a day and it is difficult, eventually the 3 miles is not enough. Your mind starts to drift to other things in life. The running becomes natural and your mind is allowed to think. At first, in Ashtanga or Rocket, you struggle just to do the pose. But with practice, you find your breath, your drishti is more focused, you find yourself more grounded in bandhas, and the real practice of yoga begins.

If you read the book “Guruji”, testimonials from students of Pattabhi Jois, you’ll find you are learning less about Ashtanga poses and more about the philosophy of Ashtanga yoga. The book becomes 95% theory and 5% practice. They’ve answered in their minds the “Why?” They’ve found mastery in their practice.

Guruji always said “You Do”. This was many years before Nike’s moniker of “Just Do It”. “You Do” and all will come to you. If you lift weights, run, read philosophy, whatever,…the more you do it, the more light bulbs of revelation go off and you find the deeper meaning in life.

It may be YOUR practice, but…

…it’s still their class!

4

Here was the progression for me:

  1. Starting yoga, I would try out a bunch of classes with the idea that more is better.
  2. Whittle down to a style I’m drawn to…notably Ashtanga yoga.
  3. Feel pressured into taking teacher training, so I do so somewhat reluctantly.
  4. Do teacher training, keep taking classes, and practice teaching for free.
  5. Become a teacher and sign up to teach anywhere and everywhere. Still take classes.
  6. Get burned out. Cut back on classes I teach. No more volunteering. Stop taking classes.

So, eventually I got away from taking classes and mostly did my own personal practice when I could. I wanted to hone my craft and was working on MY style of yoga. I wanted my own unique brand. And, for the most part, I feel I’ve done that. But…

Unless you seek some outside influence, you stop experiencing what others feel. You stop finding intriguing ways to do what you do. You no longer integrate new words, feelings, and postures. And you grow stagnant and close minded as a teacher.

In the past few months, I’ve found a resurgence of energy. I’ve found a (non-yoga) workout routine that doesn’t completely drain my energy. And I’ve started taking yoga classes again. I went back to Yoga Fundamentals last week and thoroughly enjoyed it. The teacher is so knowledgeable and creative. And since she is adjusting such a large class, you stay in poses forever. In Ashtanga, we stay in poses for 5 breaths, which seems kind of long. But in Fundamentals, it seems like you hold for 5 minutes!!

I’ve also taken classes from newer teachers. I love hearing their perspectives and how they flow. Maybe its not always what I prefer for my body. But its THEIR CLASS. Yeah, I may be a rebel and stop early or go into the next pose too early. But I am still experiencing their breath. Honestly, when you take a yoga class, you are experiencing what yoga teachers prefer for their own bodies. So you are actually doing what they do for themselves. We don’t teach something that doesn’t feel good for our bodies. Although, sometimes I include poses that I am terrible at doing. But I usually only teach what I enjoy.

As teachers, it is good to be open-minded. It’s good to express humility and follow others. No matter who they are, we can learn from other teachers. I go to traditional Iyengar or Ashtanga trained teachers. I go to CorePower or YogaFit teachers. In the end, I learn something and challenge my body. I eliminate my own biases and strengths. And I often find inspiration for my own classes. I see what students enjoy and I can emulate that for them in my classes. Its really about them and not me anyway.

Free your Mind and your Heart will Follow!

Last Class

candlelight-yoga

I taught my last “Candlelight Yoga” class on Tuesday night. I shouldn’t say last, like forever. But it was my last class for now. I am moving to another night to teach Hot Rocket and gave Candlelight to a new teacher in our studio.

I don’t know what it is about the last class, but I always savor it. I want to make yogis know how much I care for them and will miss them in that space. Maybe I want them to miss me too.

Anyway, my perception of Tuesday night’s class was that we connected on another level. I had a full class and the atmosphere was electric. There were new yogis and some of my experienced Rocket Yogis. Its an all-levels class, but I really made it challenging. We did a progression for both 8-Angle pose and baby grasshopper. I even threw in a flying lizard for good measure. We workshopped, laughed, and even fell a few times. We experienced both success and humility. It was a class I’ll surely remember.

We closed with a twist and kumbhaka pranayama. And then I blew out the candles…

Its a Good Day!

hasta uttanasana

I always feel so good after teaching yoga. I taught Rocket Yoga last night and it left me feeling like I had practiced myself.

Patthabi Jois said “99% practice, 1% theory”. Yet, he was a Sanskrit scholar, an educator,  well respected for his knowledge of the ancient texts. He taught these other aspects tangentially through the practice of Ashtanga Yoga. What is interesting is that only with his most advanced students who he felt could go deeper, he taught Pranayama. Long after the Asana practice, they would be working on their breathing. It is the next “physical” practice that leads you to higher limbs of yoga.

No, I don’t equate myself with Guruji. But I feel Rocket is an advanced level class. I sometimes forget that and assume a lot about my students. When a beginner or intermediate yogi, or even a non-Ashtangi, attends my class, it all comes to light again how special this practice is. When someone comes in and can’t even do sun salutations on their own. When they don’t even know about Ujjayi breath, a central pillar of the Tristhana method of Ashtanga yoga. I quickly remember how unique we are.

In the closing sequence, following Yoga Mudra, we usually take some time in Padmasana for Pranayama. Last night, we did Kumbhaka Pranayama, or breath-retention practice. I was counting so I wasn’t doing it myself, but I felt the effect of it. It put me deeply into Samadhi. Usually, when I put them to rest into Savasana, I’m not super focused. I’m counting students, thinking of temperature and sounds, I’m watching the time. Last night, I got into Virasana with Dhyana Mudra, which is normal for me, and I zoned out. I lost track of time. My Pratyahara was so strong. I was inwardly focused in a meditative state. It completely changed my evening. I sensed my students were feeling similar effects.

Yogas Citta Vrtti Nirodhah. The Purpose of Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind. If you’ve done that, you’ve done Yoga.