Sunday, February 23, 2014


Yesterday was yoga teacher training, my last workshop day. We have one full weekend left in March - the 8th and the 9th - where we will do our 2 classes in the morning, and then basically spend the rest of the time teaching each other our final 75 minute Hatha classes that we've been preparing.

Admittedly, I wasn't feeling 100% when I got down to the studio in Schroon Lake yesterday morning. I was PMSing, and my left hip was still so sore that I couldn't do a swan dive down into a forward bend without catching my breath and using my hands to sort of slide my torso down.

Everything else aside, I thought, what if I approached this first Hatha flow class without the idea that it was hard? What if I just tried to approach it with no judgements, no notions of difficulty or anything like that.

And, well, it wasn't easy - mainly because my hip was just burning - but it certainly wasn't hard.

And to my surprise, I felt STRONG. Like, really strong. Despite the hip and the PMS and everything else, I really felt my muscles working. I felt my energy drawing down through my center, I felt calm.

I noticed last night as I was drying off after a bath that I actually have little muscles on my upper arms. (I guess thousands of Chaturangas, even with yer knees bent, will do that to you.) I don't think I've ever had muscles on my upper arms.

I feel mentally stronger, too. I notice the symptoms of the anxiety for what they are, and I rarely (if ever) get carried away by them anymore. On the days when I feel like things are bad or I'm feeling sad, I can just sit with it and not fight it and not let it overwhelm me.

14 months of daily yoga practice have, indeed, made me just a little bit stronger...

Saturday, February 22, 2014

It Doesn't Mean What You Think It Means

"You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means."

Without a doubt, one of the all-time best scenes from a movie, ever. That scene in The Princess Bride where Inigo Montoya tells Vizzini that he might want to think of a different word to use for all these improbable/unlikely events that plague them during their kidnapping of Princess Buttercup...
But I digress.

One of the results of my yoga practice, as I stated in an earlier blog, is that I'm starting to re-think the way Americans live their lives. Actually, I've always questioned the way Americans live their lives, since my first job at the South Orange Shop-Rite as a cashier back in 1991. But this is the first time that I'm starting to think that maybe I'm right in my suspicions that there just might be a better way...

I was talking to a friend the other day about some troubling news they had received about their job. He was concerned that recent changes in the company for which he works might lead to him being laid off, and, as he put, the loss of the "lifestyle" that he had grown accustomed to enjoying.

Now, this lifestyle isn't lavish, by any means. Comfortable, yes - a nice car, a good school for his kids, a nice house.

But along with all those things he has this underlying fear of what would happen if he loses his job. He automatically assumes that the loss of his job means the loss of everything else that he now enjoys. He thinks that if he loses his job, it means that the first thing he has to do is start grocery shopping at the local discount supermarket. (You know the one I mean - where they were caught selling imported Chinese horsemeat labeled as beef a few years ago.)

So, I started thinking about this. Thinking about my yoga practice, about staying in the moment, because life DOES change in a second. And why can't we just enjoy things when they are pleasant without worrying about what will happen in the future?

His fears may be completely unfounded. He may not lose his job. But he may. And if he does, what's the worst that will happen? He's smart. He's resourceful. He's been laid off before, and he and his spouse survived. Things change, he may have to give up that lifestyle that he's grown so fond of, but that's life. Things change.

And then the other question I started thinking about was, why do we all feel it necessary to play this game, anyway?

You know the game I'm talking about: take out enormous loans to go to college so you can try to find a job to pay back your loans so you can take out more loans to buy a house and a car so you can take out more loans to send your kids to college and spend your whole life working at a job you don't really enjoy and stress yourself out to the point of sickness but hey at least you had a nice house and a nice car and not much else.

There has GOT to be a better way.

I've never been fond of the "work your life away and play on the weekends" kind of lifestyle that we have in the United States. There is far too little time to play and rest, and an eight (or nine or ten) hour workday means that most of us sacrifice habits that are good for us in order to earn money to do all those things I mentioned in the run-on sentence above.

We have no time to socialize with friends and family. I read FB updates from my friends with kids who spend so much time commuting to work, working, and then commuting home that they barely see their children during the week. That can't be healthy for parent OR child.

Then we have so little time at home to do the things that need to be done like cleaning and cooking and just relaxing that we buy pre-packaged overly processed foods that aren't very good for our health.

Isn't it about time that someone starts a revolution? 

Did you know that the original yogis, thousands of years ago, were believed to be the rebels? The nonconformists? They were the ones who questioned the status quo of the time. When someone is referred to as a "spiritual warrior", they are actually being described as "one who is brave". 

So I would say to my friend, if you're reading this, slow down. Breathe. The things that you think are so important right now may not be as important as you think they are. And for the things that you discover are truly important, well, your life will change so that you can make room for those things when you lose everything else. 

Be a rebel. Be brave. Do yoga, on and off the mat.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Yoga Has Ruined My Life
In response to that insane rant about yoga being a Satanic practice, a FB friend of mine wrote this stunning piece for Elephant Journal called "Yoga Ruins Your Life" In a Good Way.

And it's true. Yoga has completely ruined my life.

First off, I don't think I could ever work in a "regular" office, ever again. I hate fluorescent lighting, and unless we were doing something that involves saving the rainforests, endangered species, providing education to kids, feeding the hungry, or doing something otherwise necessary for humanity, I don't think I could align my spiritual principles to answering phones for some mega-corporation that's only out to make a buck.

I just don't believe it's healthy for any human being to be stuck in front of a computer or electronic device for 8 hours a day. I mean, for what?

Second of all, my clothes.

My clothes!

I don't want to be uncomfortable anymore in my clothes. I can remember days of squeezing myself into clothes that looked appropriate for office/professional life, and then speeding home to take them off and get into something that let me breathe. I felt stiff and sore wearing dress shirts and slacks every day. Not to mention the damn shoes - ugh!

It doesn't mean that now I want to walk around in sweatpants or pajamas all day, but I'm choosing clothes that are bright, comfortable, loose-fitting, and let me move - you know, just in case I want to drop down and do some spontaneous sun salutations or something.

I'm ruined.

I'm no longer content to walk through the aisles of the grocery store and just accept what's being thrown at me. I'm avoiding the aisles of brightly colored packages of processed foods, and just sticking to the vegetables and fruit from the produce section, boring bags of grains and legumes from the bulk foods section, and maybe the occasional can or two of organic beans (just in case I need something quick and don't have any soaked or beans already cooked).

I'm questioning EVERYTHING.

Why do some religions teach that you can't get directly to God? Why do some religions teach that people are inherently bad or sinful? Why do people spend so much time watching t.v. or playing video games?

I wonder about the "establishment" - work 8 hours a day, spend 2 hours a day in the car commuting to and from your job, rely on convenience food and television and People magazine to numb your mind to the reality that your life is slipping away without really being lived...

Yoga has ruined me.

Yoga has given me the experience of feeling like I'm part of something - part of a community of like-minded people who just want the best of the human experience.

Yoga has made me more mindful.

Yoga has made me happier with what I have - no more binge-shopping or spending money on crap that I don't really need. I'm no longer a good, mindless consumer. But I'm spending more money than I used to - at locally-owned businesses and at the CSA and farmer's markets.

Beware: yoga could ruin you, too.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Compassion Project
Last month in one of our yoga teacher training sessions, my delightful friend Margaret told us all about a friend of hers back in Davis, California, named David. David is a social activist for compassion. For the last few years, he's been at the same corner in downtown Davis, California, notebook and pen in hand, asking ordinary people to share with him their definition of compassion.

David's work has resulted in a book, and now he's taking his experiences on the road, working on another book as well as organizing a cross-country tour of the United States, looking to visit cities where there is compassion-based work going on.

You can read all about David's work on his blog, The Compassion Project, and become a part of the conversation from anywhere through his Compassion Network on Ning.

If you want to donate to help David cover the costs of his compassion tour, you can also donate - any amount - on his GoFundMe page

The work David is doing is so important. I feel like understanding the nature of compassion is essential to the human experience. There are so many different ways to feel and experience compassion, all of them important and profound. So take a few minutes to read David's blog and learn more about the project, and if you know of any cities where compassion-based work is being done that would make a good place for David to visit on his compassion tour, contact him through one of the links above!

Monday, February 17, 2014

What Kind of Yoga Teacher Are You?

I'm not talking about Bikram or Hatha or Vinyasa or Viniyoga or Anusara or Kripalu or Ashtanga or Iyenger or any of the dozens of styles of yoga asana practice out there. I'm talking about what do you bring of yourself to your students when you teach?

One of the problems I see now that I've nearly completed my own teacher training course is that there are an awful lot of "become a yoga teacher in two weeks" courses out there.

No matter what they want you to believe, you simply cannot become a yoga teacher in two weeks. Hell, I've been studying intensely to become a yoga teacher over the last 5+ months, and one of the most important things that I've learned is that...I've got a hell of a lot more to learn about being a yoga teacher!

The most basic of foundations for becoming a yoga teacher is the practice of asana. That's what all 200-hour teacher trainings teach. But even then, I feel like there is so much to learn!

In the yoga teacher training I've been doing, we've been learning a lot about asana. We've written hundreds of index cards with details on how to talk students in and out of the poses, safely.

But we've also spent a great deal of time talking about the other seven limbs of yoga - because there's waaaaaaaay more to yoga than just the asanas, or poses, or postures.

There's the yamas and the niyamas; there's the practice of pranayama (breath control, which I talked about before); there's the practice of meditation, which is intimidating for a lot of students; there are the great ancient texts like Patanjali's yoga sutras and the Bhagavad Gita and all the Vedic texts. There's kirtan, the yoga of sound. There are things like karma yoga, and the chakras, the subtle energy systems in the body, the koshas; mudras, or hand gestures, that are used to enhance the practice of asana and meditation...

Do you see what I'm trying to get at here? That's a lot of material to be covered, and I can't see how someone can absorb it all in a 2-week "teacher training".

One of the things I've particularly enjoyed about this teacher training is that we only meet twice a month - once for a full weekend, and then again for one weekend day. In between sessions, I get the opportunity to really digest what I've learned, to find ways to integrate it into my daily life as well as my asana practice. I've had time to really sit with the material and think about it, write about it, analyze, explore it... And this is how I will bring it into my classes when I start leading yoga classes.

Unless you're going to take the time and really find a way to integrate the yoga teachings into your life, you may as well end up like this gal, who forked out a ton of money for a teacher training, and then discovered that the yoga life was not for her.

Lots of people probably find yoga relaxing and energizing. But that doesn't mean that they should be teachers.

Because next we come to the whole question of whether or not you are truly a teacher. Some people are natural teachers - it's just what comes easy for them. Being passionate about sharing what you know and being able to impart that information is a skill that not everyone has a talent for, let's face it. I've had some truly astoundingly bad teachers in my life (like the organic chemistry professor in college who left the entire class scratching their heads at how she came to her final numbers when working oxidation/reduction equations, because she decided to just do the calculations "in her head" and didn't think it was worth sharing with the rest of the class), and I've had some amazingly inspiring experiences under the guidance of a teacher (like my current yoga teacher at The Yoga Tree, who has a  profound gift for sharing her extensive knowledge of yoga practice and philosophy).

You can learn, to some degree, how to be a teacher. But if it's not in your blood, if it doesn't come naturally to you, you can actually do a lot more harm than good when teaching yoga. It takes a lot of practice to learn how to get students safely in AND out of a yoga pose. You want to minimize any risk of injury, and make sure that you stress that to your class. Remember, it's not YOUR journey - it's theirs.

So, as I'm nearing the end of my own teacher training and I start to plan out things like workshops and classes and think about ways to offer what I've learned to a whole new batch of yogis, I'm asking myself the question, every single day:

What kind of yoga teacher am I?

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Vigilant Christian: Yoga Is a Satanic Practice

Yes, you read that title correctly: the Monday following my in-depth weekend with the Gita, I came across a link to a YouTube video posted by a yoga friend.

The YouTube video was posted by a user calling himself The Vigilant Christian, and as soon as I saw the title of the video (Yoga Is a Satanic Practice), I felt deflated at the idea of yet another Christian giving Christianity a bad rap.

Take a few minutes to watch this video for yourself, and then see what I have to say about it:

Here's the thing: Most of the organized hierarchical religions (cults) will tell you that THIS way is the ONLY way, and that everyone else is lying to you. (Fox News, anyone?) It seems to me that there are lots of Christians out there who don't know anything about Christianity, including how the current version of the Bible was written, and the history of the Christian belief system. (Yes, these things all have roots in socio-political history, they're not just handed down by that God they talk about in the Bible.)

Back in the day (the Medieval Day, mostly), the dogma of the Christian church was developed in order to give power to the priests. The ordained clergy were the ones through which the ordinary person could get to God - and that was important. Since life on Earth was so damn hard for humans, people wanted some kind of assurance that when they died, things would be better. The priests conveniently positioned themselves as that gateway to the Divine - God was portrayed as being separate from humans, and the only way to get God to listen to you was through the priests.

The priests were sort of like insurance brokers. They were the "middle man" that you needed to ensure that you got to Heaven in the afterlife. But Hinduism and many other ancient religions teach that in fact, we are ALL incarnations of the Divine, and it exists right within each of us. We are, in fact, all divine! (Not to mention the fact that the King James Bible, the current book used by Christians to outline their beliefs, was actually written between 1604 and 1611 for political reasons, to allow the Church to hold on to power through their ordained clergy, the same clergy that worked closely with the King and other political leaders of the day.)

There were big bucks involved with the church hierarchy back then, just like today, and no doubt the priests and the political leaders of the day wanted to hang on to all that money. Sadly, that's how most organized religions work: there's just no room for questions that might disprove any of the dogma. In addition to that, practicing yoga doesn't mean that you are now a Hindu, any more than going to church makes you a Christian, or parking yourself in a garage makes you a car.

In case you're now terrified that your asana practice has cunningly turned you into a devout Hindu, never fear: yes, asana practice can be a form of Bhakti - the yoga of devotion to the divine - but the yoga asanas are meant to help someone go inwards, and seek the Divine that exists within themselves. The asanas aren't meant to worship any one particular deity like Lakshmi or Tara or Ganesha - they are meant to strengthen the body and mind to allow one to go deeper within themselves and gently reveal that divine spark that exists within us.

Oh, and in case you were worried that the whole Kundalini serpent was going to allow those demons to sneak into your soul and torture you, you should know that in pretty much every other culture, snakes are regarded as important spiritual symbols, representing transformation, the cycle of death and rebirth, and freedom. Those Kundalini texts that he so conveniently leaves out that talk about Kundalini yoga being a path to compassion, service, and awareness of the Divine were also written at about the same time as the King James version of the Bible he's probably using. But if he can't be bothered to learn the origins of his own belief system, then why should we expect him to do any research at all into other "false religions"?

Did anyone else see the big letters at the top of that book, "The Yoga of Jesus"? If this guy actually read his Bible, he would have found this verse in Luke, chapter 17, verse 21: "Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you." But this, apparently, is just another sneaky way that Satan is out to get you, but presenting you with "false" Christs. This guy seems to believe that our entire existence as human beings is positively fraught with horrible things that will cause our spiritual undoing and eternal torture.

Then, I just started to get sad. When this guy started talking about how we can't trust our heart, can't trust our feelings of great love, even and especially when they occur in a spiritual setting, I just felt really bad for the guy. Why would anyone want to subscribe to a belief system that denies any pleasure at all in this life? Why would you want to believe in a system where God wants you to feel bad? Doesn't Jesus spend, oh, like the entire New Testament talking about how important it is to love? Why would you want to subscribe to a belief system that makes you fearful of love and compassion? Again, it all goes back to the beliefs that were prescribed by the Church hierarchy - you're simply not allowed to feel God's love without the help of a priest, because you, as a human being, are not worthy.

Now, this guy isn't bashing all forms of stretching and strengthening exercise. Apparently, pilates is perfectly okay to do, even though it's all developed from yoga asanas. So, maybe that extra level of dilution makes pilates okay? The illustration at 11:31 in the video is clearly a side plank pose - but because he's got the word "pilates" splashed across it, that makes it compatible with Christianity.

Did I miss something? Pilates has its roots in yoga - and yoga has its roots in the tradition of seeking the Divine in yourself. He says that the word "yoga" means "to yoke to the Hindu gods". So he's getting hung up on a WORD. Four little letters - that actually don't refer to the yoking of oneself to the Hindu gods. It's a yoking of the physical and the spiritual through the practice of meditation. But if this guy can't be bothered to understand his own Christian faith, I guess he can't be bothered to really understand another belief system that differs from his own.

Thinking about the human experience through something like the Bhagavad Gita tells us that while our views and perceptions of the Divine may be skewed because they are limited by our human senses (and the Divine is something much greater that our human brains may have a problem processing in its true form), they are still a part of the greatness. It just reinforces that idea that human beings are not worthy of experiencing spiritual love - and that just makes me sad.
In fact, the more I watched this video, and the more I thought about it, the sadder it made me. This is someone who obviously has a great deal of spiritual passion, but he is denying himself one of the truly most remarkable of the human experiences: that of spiritual love. He is apparently so afraid of reading differing opinions that he has not enabled comments on his video.

What he apparently missed throughout his own yoga teacher training is that even the Hindus recognize just one God. The Hindu deities and incarnations are similar to the incarnation of God as Jesus Christ, or as Muhammad or the Buddha. The difference is that these ancient texts recognize that our human nature is a part of nature - and nature, as we know, is part of the Divine, not set apart from it.

Even the name - "The Vigilant Christian" - is enough to make me feel exhausted. The idea that the whole world is filled with "bad guys" that are out to getcha is full of fear and paranoia. At the beginning of the video, he talks about how he developed depression and anxiety - well, yeah! If I walked around all the time thinking that Satan was lurking around every corner, just waiting to lead me into the destruction of my spirit, I'd probably be pretty damned depressed and anxious, too.

And here's my big thing: when we finally reach that state of enlightenment, that union with the Divine, it is not going to be in a manner that we can perceive with our human senses. Even the Christian belief system understands this. God, Goddess, the Divine - they are all simply manifestations and incarnations of a bigger power that human beings are ill-equipped to comprehend. But we have to start somewhere, right? So Christians have the incarnation of Jesus. Muslims have Muhammad. The Buddha was an incarnation of the Divine, as well. These incarnations give us a starting point, something that we can recognize and that we can  use to develop our own spiritual nature.

Human beings are indeed dual in nature - we are both spiritual and physical. We should be embracing the idea that we, as human beings, as spiritual beings, are all really part of the same great universe. No matter who we are, no matter where we are, we are all the same.

Through the Lens of the Gita
During the February full weekend of yoga teacher training, we had some incredibly deep dialogue about the Bhagavad Gita.

The Bhagavad Gita is an ancient text, part of the Mahabharata, an ancient Sanskrit epic along the lines of Gilgamesh. It's basically like a "how to" guide for someone seeking enlightenment, or how to follow the path that will led to an experience of the divine.

The story goes something like this: two royal families of ancient India are locked in a power struggle. The first family engages in somewhat dubious practices of deceit and dishonesty in their reign. The other family is pure in nature and actions.

During a game of dice, the family that is pure of actions loses power to the other family. They say, "Okay, you lost power, tell you what: go into the jungle for 13 years, and when you come out, you can have your kingdom back."

Being trustworthy and honest, the family that is pure of heart goes into the forest and survives for 13 years. They come back, but of course, the dishonest rulers tell them that they cannot have their kingdom back.

Two princes, one from each family, are designated to lead each family in an epic battle. The princes decide to call upon Krishna, an incarnation of God or the Divine, seeking help for their side.

Krishna tells the princes that they have a choice: he will offer one side an army of the finest swordsmen and archers, and the other side can have only him - Krishna.

The prince from the family that is pure of heart, Arjuna, chooses to have Krishna for the battle, leaving the other side with a formidable cadre of fighters.

Both sides gather on the battlefield. They are ready to fight.

But as Arjuna surveys the faces of the people against whom he is to fight, he starts to recognize them: they are his cousins, his uncles, his friends, his relatives. He starts to empathize with them, he starts to feel the pain of their loss, of their wounds not yet inflicted.

It's all too much for Arjuna. He falls at the feet of Krishna and cries out, "I can't do this! I can't kill my own kin! What am I to do?"

And that's where the story begins. Arjuna and Krishna out on the battlefield, ready to fight for the vast kingdom of ancient India, and Krishna begins to outline for Arjuna how to live a virtuous life.

When I started reading this particular interpretation of the Gita, I was feeling very low. I was settled in a hot lavender bath to try to calm my nerves, and I started to read... At the point in the story where Arjuna collapses at the feet of Krishna, I started to cry. Right after I started to cry, I picked up my pen and started making furious scribbles in the margins and between paragraphs, jotting down my thoughts as they came.

After the discussion this weekend, I took away a couple of key things for me that I feel like will help carry me forward from now on:

Maybe it's because I'm still recovering from years of Catholic school and being brought up Episcopalian, but for many years now, I've scoffed at the idea of God. The idea that there's some giant man-like deity that decides my fate and sets down strict rules has never sat well with me. There's always been an element of fear involved in the Christian depiction of God: don't break a commandment, we were told in Sunday school, or ELSE.

But reading the Gita gave me an entirely new understanding of God, or the Divine, as I like to call it. God or Goddess, Nature, or simply the Divine, there is a little spark of that love and purity in all things and in all beings, including ourselves.

After years spent studying the Christian Bible in various classes through Catholic school and Sunday school, I was left with the feeling that we had to deny our very humanity in order to become "good" in God's eyes. I was left feeling that so many of the good things about being human were exactly the things that God would condemn us for.

But the Gita isn't like that. The Gita acknowledges our humanity, with all its flaws and our biases that are created through the senses, and tells us that it's okay to be human. That it's perfect to be human, just the way we are, and because we are all Divine, even what we perceive to be flaws are actually beautiful.

The Gita encourages us to view everyone - especially those who are different from us in every way - as being part of the Divine nature of the Universe. Through the lens of the Gita, everyone we meet is to be recognized as having that part of the Divine within them. Everyone we meet is a teacher, everyone has something to share with us, and everything that happens to us can be seen as a positive experience, not as a punishment.

It's this embracing of the wholeness of everything that appeals to me. I especially need to be reminded that there's something of the Divine Spark within all of us, and that we don't need to hide it or be ashamed of it. We are, truly, all connected, with each other, and with everything around us.

Funny, how things like this come up, because scrolling through my Facebook feed the other morning, I saw a link to a YouTube video that was shared by a yoga friend. Almost like my reading the Gita had set me up perfectly to see it.

Tune it for tomorrow's blog to find out about this YouTube video, and see my reaction, all through the lens of the Gita...

Teacher Training: Month 5

I finished my next-to-last weekend of yoga teacher training this weekend, and it was a duzy. One of the other students in the class said on Saturday morning that she could hardly believe that we were five months in, but, yes, we have just one more workshop day in February, and then one more weekend - March 8 and 9 - and I'll have my 200 hour teaching certificate!

I was feeling pretty good when I started the 75 minute flow class on Saturday morning. I knew it was going to be intense, and I paced myself, watching my breath, taking a few child's poses when I needed them, and I felt energized at the end. Then we had the community class, another 75 minute class, which was even better than the flow class - I was really "in the zone" for that one, feeling relaxed, feeling happy while I watched my breath flow in and out...

We had our lunch break, and then went over some basic sun salutations. I love sun salutations - in the summer time, when I can chuck my mat out on the back porch first thing in the morning, I love to welcome the day with a dozen of these flowing movements.

Next we dove into the Bhagavad Gita, and it was INTENSE. I'll go more into that later - it seems that the timing was just right for me for something, apparently - but safe to say the entire discussion left me feeling like a giant hand had just come down and patted me on the back, as if to say, "I love you."

At four o clock, Debbie had us each randomly choose a slip of paper on which she had written a scenario for a yoga class. We had thirty minutes to design a 10-pose sequence of yoga poses that fit the scenario we had drawn, and then we each had a turn teaching it to the class.

The paper I chose read, "Design a 10-pose cool down sequence, ending with Savasana. You want the class to be so relaxed at the end of the sequence that they don't move a muscle during Savasana."

Easy peasy! I know what my current favorite cool down sequence is, so I just used that - started with a nice reclined pigeon pose, went into square pose for some meditation, staff pose to work your entire body a little bit, a nice seated forward fold, a gentle twist, some gentle full-leg stretches, a reclined twist, and then full-on savasana.

I felt *so* comfortable up at the front of the room, and trying to keep my voice in a soothing tone made me feel just as relaxed as they were. I felt like I could have left them in savasana for much longer, but it was almost 6 o clock (quitting time), and there was still one more person to go after me!

The other sequences were not as relaxing, I'll say. Between the two classes in the morning, the sun salutations, and then the five practice scenarios, I don't think I've ever done so many downward dogs in a single day. (My shoulders sure felt like that the next day.)

As I drove home on Saturday, I started to feel the effects of the day's practice in my shoulders, and in my hips and my legs. Owie.

After dinner, I got into a hot shower with a few drops of lavender oil in the bottom of the tub, and then went to bed.

Sunday morning, I wasn't nearly as sore as I had thought I would be, but I was still feeling a little tired. I made it through about 3/4 of the gentle yoga class, and then plopped down into a restorative/supported child's pose with my blankie over my back. And it worked, I felt pretty good for the 75 minute Hatha class right after that.

Started the afternoon discussing anatomy, which I find fascinating. We spent a couple of hours talking about muscle movement, planes of movement, and then took turns getting into poses while the rest of the class dissected what muscles and joints were doing what movements. Something else to think about during my own practice, and when I'm teaching Tom yoga in the evenings now...

Then we went back into the Gita for another couple of hours. I'll save that discussion for my next post, but safe to say it was along the lines of a life-changing read for me.

What's up next? One more practice teach, then trying to set up some free classes so I can get some more experience teaching. And I have lots and lots and lots to think about for my own practice now. Layers, so many layers...

Friday, February 7, 2014

Fighting The Tofu

One of my favorite authors, Natalie Goldberg, talked about "fighting the tofu" in her own Zen meditation practice. I love the analogy - tofu is this white, bland, foul bean curd. (Well, other people don't think it's foul, but I certainly do.) Tofu doesn't do anything but just sort of sit there. So why fight it? It's like you're fighting imaginary tofu, because the tofu isn't doing anything to harm you.

So lately, I'm having this kind of internal fight between my brain and my body. When I get up in the morning, there's a part of my brain that says, "YES! It's early - let's go do some sun salutations!"

But then the remaining part of my brain reaches for my phone or the iPad and says, "No, it's cold in the house. You won't be comfortable. Stay under the blankies a little longer and play with your phone. Besides, Tom will have to get to the wood stove to start a fire, so you can't do yoga in the living room, anyway."

And then I get on with my day. I drop Colden off at school, and I get home, and that first part of my brain says, "HEY! Let's just take half an hour and do some hip stretches!"

That other annoying part of my brain says, "Nah, you've got this and this and this to do. You've got a big to-do list. Forget the yoga."

And so on.

It goes like this for a good part of the day, until finally, Colden is in bed, and then that annoying part of my brain tells me that it's too late to do yoga, and I should just go to bed.

[Insert big sigh.]

I need to start listening to that part of my brain that tells me to take a few minutes to do yoga, whenever it may be. Doing more yoga would be a good thing.

If I listen to the annoying part of my brain long enough, I start to think, nah, I don't need yoga. I fight the urge to drop down into a few sun salutations because I think, "What good is the yoga doing me, anyway?"

Silly, right?

I'm starting to think that the resistance I'm hearing in my head might mean that I'm on to something good here. Just when the desire to quit gets strong, it usually means that I'm on the right track.

I've got teacher training this weekend, but I'm going to try to start listening to that part of my brain that tells me to do more yoga when I first wake up in the morning. What's the worst that can happen? I get healthier? I get happier? I get stronger and more relaxed?