Tag Archives: yoga teaching

Lose Yourself

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“Practice what you Teach, Teach what you Practice”

I took this to heart yesterday. My mind has been crowded with so much in life. I often practice yoga over lunch in my office. I lock my door, turn off the overhead lights, slide a table aside, and roll out my travel mat. I started easy into my Sun Salutation A’s since I was struggling. But before you know it, I was lost in what I was doing. I stopped analyzing my movements. While my breath lead my practice, I didn’t focus on it. I stopped counting. I went completely by instinct. When I felt it was time to come forward out of downward facing dog, I did. Sometimes I succumbed to child’s pose; not because I needed it, it just happened. We throw out the word “flow” in yoga a lot. This was truly a flow. It had no beginning or end. I didn’t even know where I was.

Ever notice how you cannot predict what an ocean wave will do? It moves where it needs to move

I wanted to badly share this experience, and that came about in my Rocket class later that evening. Without any fanfare, I had the yogis come to the top of their mats and begin. I told them we wouldn’t do Surya Namaskar B today. But we’d lose ourselves in a seemingly unending Sun A. I gave a few suggestions at times, but otherwise let them try to feel what I felt earlier. I told them to stop counting. To move when it feels right. To hold where they need to. To experiment with fingertips and closing eyes. Lifting mula bandha with lightness and ease. To gather their warmth and glow in it.

Sometimes we share hoping others will feel the deepness that we’ve felt. Even if one connected with my experience, then my sharing was a success.

Represent

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I used to take a yoga class now and then from a teacher who was “real”. I mean, she wasn’t the type of yogi you see on magazine covers. In fact, maybe she didn’t look like what a yoga teacher looks like in your mind’s eye. And she is a great yogi.

It is unfortunate that we have these stereotypes in our minds of how people should be. We should accept people as they are. If they can perform and do their jobs, then that should be enough.

Or is it enough?

I was an Army Infantry Drill Instructor in a previous life. Our duty was to “Lead by Example”. So we put up an image that went far and above what is required of a normal soldier. No wonder the divorce rate is so high among the Drill Sergeant ranks. We spent half of our time grooming, exercising, asking for extra starch on our uniforms at the cleaners, and shining boots to look like mirrors every night. Actually, most of us used two uniforms a day and at least two sets of boots. If we got scuffed or dirty or sweaty, we’d change into a new uniform so we always looked “perfect”. We were toy soldiers who taught people to be like us. And it was impossible for them to keep up. But soldiers looked at us like infallible gods. We were what they were to strive to become. It can’t work any other way.

As a yoga teacher, I represent “yoga”. I represent my studio or gym where I teach. I hope that when people look at me, they’ll think “that’s what yoga can do for me”. They say “Practice what you teach, and teach what you Practice”. I have to live by example. I can’t preach about Ahimsa and then go off honking my horn and yelling at people who drive too slowly. Everything I do hopes to meet that standard. At least that’s what my Inner Drill Sergeant tells me.

I know we need to give ourselves grace. Humility has its merits too. I often share if I’m tired or tweaked a knee or something. When I am a student in a class among my peers, sometimes I’ll take child’s pose or the easier variation of a pose. I am human…maybe more than people know.

But I still strive to be the best yogi I can be. I want to be a shining example of what yoga can do. When people say its just for the stereotypical cover girl, I like to show it can be for beefy, older guys and real people like me. Though it is still important for me to project my brand. In many ways, I’m selling a product. I’m promoting a lifestyle. I feel responsible to my diet, to my svadhyaya (self-study), to my cross-training, and to my yoga practice. Maybe it will inspire others to commit to something special themselves.

Be the best YOU that you can be. It’s always good enough!

A Daily Yoga Practice

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Can I admit something?

I don’t have a daily yoga practice. I lift weights, run, and do CrossFit on my own, which is what I’ve always done. But I’ve had the toughest time trying to do yoga on my own. Before becoming a yoga teacher, I would attend a lot of classes. And then I began to design my own classes for teaching while still attending a few classes. Then I got tired!! Really tired. I ended up only teaching classes. Every now and then I’d attend an Ashtanga or hot yoga class. But still no personal practice (other than taking Instagram selfies 🙂 ).

I just finished a 50 hour Rocket Yoga training. While I have skills to do deeper poses, I realize my lack of a personal practice made me suffer…a lot! Sure, I do tons of squats, burpees, pull-ups and such. That is what kept me in the game. But I need to practice yoga too.

Practice what you Teach. Teach what you Practice!

So as a measure of accountability, I’m telling my peeps here and now that I will have a daily practice. Rocket Yoga advocates a 6-day program beginning Sunday. My Sabbath will be Sunday, so I am shifting forward a day. Here it is:

Monday – Ashtanga Primary series (or Modified Primary Series, rocket-style)
Tuesday – Rocket 1 with focus on building strong legs
Wednesday – Rocket 2 focusing on backbends, upper body, and core
Thursday – Rocket 2 but with deeper backbend emphasis
Friday – Rocket 1 with a healing emphasis
Saturday – Rocket 3 “Happy Hour” which is a faster paced mix of 1 & 2
Sunday – day of rest and reflection

I plan to do this over my lunch hour. I hope to tell you of my progress soon! I’ll be a real Rocket Man before you know it. I’m changing things up to grow.

If you Always do the Same Things, you will Always get the Same Effect!

So it begins – Rocket Yoga training

larry schultz epk

I will be attending a 5-day Rocket Yoga training soon. A minor hiccup in the process is that (on a whim) I signed up for the CrossFit Games Open as well. So I’ll need to submit my video Friday morning after the announcement of the workout before I begin my travels. What’s life without a challenge? 🙂

So, being an older yogi…and despite being relatively fit….you can’t overlook one thing. This is gonna sting…possibly badly. I packed Epsom salts for nightly and morning baths. I have a Rumble Roller, massage stick, back buddy, and lacrosse ball packed for self-therapy. I tried to find a place for a massage, but most don’t have weekend hours. And I understand my training schedule may be fluid, so I couldn’t cancel if I needed to.

Regardless of the uphill climb I describe, I am very excited for this opportunity. I’ve been teaching Rocket Yoga classes for 1.5 years and attended Ashtanga and Rocket classes over several years. I have many limitations flexibility-wise. But I teach many who have similar or greater limitations. I emphasize doing what you can and having fun. So teacher do likewise. I keep my mind open and my body fresh.

Namaste!

Yoga Variability

I used to teach a morning class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It was my proving ground for everything creative and unique. I think it is where I developed the most as a teacher. It was a small class of 4 or 5 yogis, all about my age and equal ability. They were game for anything. But they also had the maturity to know what they wanted and you could tell if something wasn’t right. So I had to be meticulous about how I taught that class.

My style has gravitated most closely toward Ashtanga yoga. And if you know the Primary Series, it involves a lot of forward folding. I teach Rocket yoga now, a mish-mash of the primary and higher series. There is a lot of variability in my teaching, but still not what I had from my morning classes.

I just saw a picture on social media of someone doing Wild Thing (Camatkarasana). I thought to myself “how long has it been since I’ve done that?” There are a host of poses that aren’t done in Ashtanga that I don’t do regularly. I need to be open to subbing other classes and taking classes from different teachers. That is the way to keep me in the groove of creativity. And maybe staying involved with crazy yoga challenges on social media. They think up some outrageous things on there.

We always explore and learn new skills. But if we are caught in the ditch, we need to claw our way out and breathe the fresh air. Its what keeps us alive.

Where are my yogis?

There are many reasons why yogis don’t come to class:

 

  1. the time slot is not opportune (like 6am or during work hours)
  2. class description is not attractive, maybe too hard, too easy, or just plain weird (cold-nude yoga anyone?)
  3. reputation as a teacher is not known (or poor)
  4. too costly or in a package where you can’t attend all sessions
  5. location isn’t attractive or difficult media to connect with (website difficulties)
  6. and to point #1, holidays, SuperBowl, kids out of school, Valentine’s Day,…
  7. there is a sickness going around

I was recently involved with a 6am class that I really loved. I had a group of about 5 yogis who were faithful to coming and game for anything. We really pushed each other and I often demonstrated and practiced along with them. We were all the same age and connected on many levels. But you never knew who would show up. I’ve often had only 2 people in class. A few times, one person showed up. And while it can be fun to have a personal yoga session with someone, its not cost-effective nor a wise use of your time.

Tonight, I am supposed to teach a fee-based hot yoga class at a “member’s only” gym. I really love this place and the people involved. They do physical therapy, massage, and lots of gym-style classes. The yoga is more gym-style too, which I find counter to my traditional ways at times. I’m not one to see yoga as fitness, but that’s basically all most of them want from it. I just found out that the timing wasn’t good for this class, the marketing got out late, and I am likely to have few in attendance. And this saddens me.

If I had my druthers, I’d have 25 yogis in a class with all the breath and energy they can muster. It is the most exciting time as a yoga teacher. We feed off of each other and it is amazing. But you don’t know what you’ll get out of a class with 2 or 3 people. I will make the most of it. I can always be hopeful. However, I still can’t overcome this sense of dread.

 

7 Basics Yogis Must Know

I’ve had a lot more private yoga lessons lately, mostly with people who have never tried yoga before. It really makes you think deeply about what yoga is and the fundamentals that they need to know. Here are a few things that I find myself reinforcing over and over:

Bone stacking – head balanced over shoulders, shoulders over hips, hips over feet. It sounds obvious, but you don’t know how many times this needs to be corrected. In downward facing dog, you see deviations from a straight line from wrists to shoulders to hips. In Warrior II, people always lean forward.

External rotation of shoulders and arms – Elbows back or eyes of the elbows forward. It happens everywhere in yoga. In Tadasana, forward folds, chaturanga, and planks. Everywhere.

Internal rotation of thighs – Again, everywhere! It is the key to forward folds. It is the key to everything. I have the student place a block between their thighs and then rotate thighs so the block moves backward. It is crucial in so much of yoga.

Engage the balls of your feet – I’m trying to think of when this is not true. It is actually a part of the internal thigh rotation. You especially see this in Marichyasanas. Shoulder stands, standing poses, all forward folds …everywhere. No floppy feet!

Drishti – Every pose has a drishti, or focal point. You usually see beginners looking around during classes. Drishti is so important in finding focus and the direction of energy.

Breathe!!! – It sounds obvious, right? Not so obvious. I come from a powerlifting/Olympic weightlifting background. We hold our breath when we lock in a heavy lift. Not so with yoga. And when we are stressed, we inhale and then breathe shallowly. It is a good way to stay stressed. Instead, breathe deeply and evenly into your belly…always!! Learn to breathe better. Pranayama is a practice unto itself.

Tadasana in every pose – Yes, mountain pose. All that I’ve said so far are expressed in tadasana. Learning tadasana and thinking about it happens in every pose. It may be the simplest and most important pose in yoga. We must have talked about it for hours in teacher training and then hours after in all the other poses. It sounds so simple. I can talk people into the position but they take it for granted. After the first sun salutation, they go back to just standing there. What happened to Tadasana? Learn it; live it!

Glass Half Full

I really enjoy teaching a large yoga class, especially advanced classes that are thick with the sound of Ujjayi breath. You can feel the tapas radiating off their bodies and their drishtis bore into the walls like lasers. I honestly get this feeling in those classes. I walk around matching their breath as I adjust postures. I had a similar feeling when I was a Drill Sergeant in the Army. But instead of a sense of fear, yogis feel a sense of accountability. They are focusing hard on their entire experience. And I’m there to see what they cannot see. I am their mirror.

Patthabi Jois, the founder of Ashtanga yoga, had a very bold way of making adjustments. I just watched a video last night of him adjusting in Second Series Ashtanga. It was apparent how forceful he was. What is so interesting is that our teacher trainings in the U.S. are focused on our knowledge of human anatomy. We break down muscles, bone impingements, and a host of other body functions. In India, they didn’t have this awareness since their knowledge is based more on energy lines. The shushumna, id, pingala, seven chakras, and other nadis. Patthabi Jois would adjust on these energy lines. Bodies are different and he could clearly see when energy was broken. He had a very intuitive and experienced awareness of his students. I have teachers who often see this brokenness in me.

Since the holidays are upon us, I know that class attendance will be less than usual. I know that the energy I feel in larger classes won’t be there. This morning was one of those days. I had two people in class. So we gathered and talked about what we’d like to accomplish. You can negotiate with a smaller class and give them exactly what they want. We did a harder class and I had my hands on them the entire time. We were able to work on binds and body placement individually. It turned out to be an amazing class. They said the time flew by as if it were only a few minutes. And they likely grew more in one class than weeks or months before. It is the value of a Mysore-style Ashtanga class; when the teacher can adjust and modify to help you grow individually. Some days, your glass is half full; or even brimming over the edges.