Monthly Archives: April 2011

Finished with finish lines

I was all but certain I would complete a full class last night: The only thing that could have stopped me was myself, and lately I’ve been careful to keep out of my own way.

So I wasn’t really surprised to be ringing the Tibetan singing bowl at the end of class. But I was thoroughly perplexed by my reaction: Whoop. De. Doo.

Where was my elation, my thrill, my joy? My sense of achievement and accomplishment? I did my best to summon up a sense of triumph, but really, the experience felt anticlimatic.

The thing is, as I led class last night, my mentor teacher was live coaching me. She’d beckon me to the back of the room while the class was going through a flow and give me up-to-the-moment feedback on my performance. Her guidance was spot-on, but it was unnerving to be told how to change what I was doing as I was doing it. I’m glad she didn’t just let me hack it till the end, because I think I made improvements along the way, but I nonetheless brought class to a close with a sharp awareness of how far I still have to go in my journey.

Which is to say, I may have finished teaching a class, but I’m nowhere near finished becoming a teacher.

And that is fine. That is better than fine, it is glorious! What a letdown it would be if there was nowhere to go from here, if checking the box of “class completion” meant game over. Because I love this yoga game; I want to play forever! And still, somewhere in the last ten weeks, I got caught up in the short-term pressures of meeting arbitrary deadlines–the furthest you can get from forever.

So it makes sense that I felt disillusioned last night–and thank goodness, because my goal was exactly that, an illusion. A false understanding of what I truly desire. I don’t actually care about checking boxes, I care about making connections. And while I accomplished the former, I have not yet succeeded in doing the latter. I’m still distanced from my students, still taking on the role of “yoga teacher” rather than being in the room as an equal, as a fellow explorer who just so happens to be speaking.

And that’s okay. I have faith in my future, and my next steps are clear. It’s just that it’s a little disorienting to cross the finish line of a 5K only to immediately realize you’ve started a marathon.

But I’m being kind and patient with myself, allowing my feelings to be what they are while still gently making room for a sense of pride and satisfaction. I’ve worked hard and done well, and after one more round of testing and critique, I will be a Yoga Alliance Registered Yoga Teacher–no small feat!

When I started this program, I thought getting certified was the point. My eye was on a prize that doesn’t exist. Now I’m humbled and grateful to understand that my program’s ending is just the beginning: Training was a time of planting seeds, and I have a whole lifetime left to grow and give.

So while, sure, I’ll be wholeheartedly and enthusiastically celebrating my graduation(!) on Saturday, what I’ll really be honoring is the potential of what’s to come. Hip hip hooray for that!

Fifth time’s the charm?

Graduation is in four days, and if I don’t successfully teach a complete class tomorrow, I’ll have to return my diploma after the ceremony. And it will be okay.

Take that, my Type A personality traits! I’ve chosen santosha (aka contentment) and isvara (aka surrender) over fear and anxiety, and it is a blessed relief.

The past few days have been emotionally intense, and worrying about what’s next has not been helping. In fact, worrying about what’s next is the number one reason why I have yet to successfully teach a complete class. Sunday I came closer than ever before–down to the last five minutes–but I lapsed out of the present moment, let my mind drift to the finish line, and forgot to cue the last few postures before final savasana, so the teacher stepped in and did it for me.

Such a small mistake, and yet so huge. Because, as I realized when I took the class that followed–asana allows my emotions to clear like nothing else does–the final few postures are beautiful things. Joyful, gentle, warmhearted gifts that I neglected to offer my students.

Last night I taught an imaginary class from the comfort of my bedroom, and I laughed out loud when I got to the end. I’d been testing myself as I talked, reviewing note cards I’d created for each posture to be sure I was covering the points I think are most important. It was encouraging to see how on track I was–I’d glance at a card after moving on to the next posture, and nine times out of ten what I’d just said was exactly what I’d written or something better. And then I got to the end, and realized I never created cards for the final three postures.

I’m not saying there’s a direct correlation, that if I’d made additional flash cards two weeks ago that I wouldn’t have omitted the poses the other night, but I do think there’s some kind of connection. It’s like all along I’ve been considering the wind-down section of class as a throwaway, something unworthy of study, just because the poses aren’t as hard to teach as, say, revolved-side-angle-into-a-bind. But in a yoga class, every minute is equally valuable. As a student, I know this to my core. And as a teacher, I’m glad I finally figured it out.

So tomorrow I’ll get one more shot as an official teacher trainee. If I don’t succeed, I’ll deal with the consequences then. But I’m sure not going to worry about them in the meantime. I’m busy being right where I am.

How do you live your life?

Such a simple question, and the answer means so much.

We had a quiz on the sutras today, and I didn’t have much time to study: Last night I spent ten minutes reviewing class handouts and notes while I ate dinner, this morning I looked up a couple websites while waiting for the bus, and at lunchtime some fellow trainees and I went over the info.

I am so grateful for my brain and its ability to absorb knowledge fairly quickly, if not always for the longterm. But even my spectacular mental powers could not successfully produce all ten of the yamas and niyamas and describe their value in addition to listing the other six limbs of the royal path.

However, I think I came close, and certainly close enough for the purposes of the quiz. I doubt I’ll be penalized for misspelling the Sanskrit, assuming I was even meant to write it. I think the info my teachers want me to know is the content of Patanjali’s ten suggestions for living a healthy, happy life, which I interpret as follows:

DON’Ts: Don’t harm. Don’t lie. Don’t steal. Don’t be careless. Don’t want more than you need.

DOs: Do keep clean. Do be at peace. Do be disciplined. Do get to know yourself. Do aim for awareness.

[“Don’t be careless” is commonly known as “Don’t philander (have sex)” but I think something might be lost in the translation because, as I understand it, the meaning of the Sanskrit word “brahmacarya” is more about paying attention to how and why you indulge the senses, so as to avoid sowing the seeds of suffering. This includes being chaste, but more generally means being careful and aware of your actions.]

I’ve mentioned before that yoga is a way of life but it’s only recently I’ve decided to live it. Cramming for today’s quiz furthered my resolve from last week’s lecture: There’s really something to this stuff, and I want to study it more.

Failure is relative….really.

“Take the class through a collective breath, and then I’m going to take over.”

The voice was gentle and kind, and yet I almost had to choke back tears as I did as I was told, asking everyone to take a full, rich inhale and heading toward the back of the room as I haaaaaaaahed the air out, knowing full well their next inhale would be at someone else’s instruction.

I’d hoped to finish teaching a full class last night, and was pretty crushed when it didn’t happen. For the remainder of the class I stood at the back of the room and willed myself not to cry. I didn’t understand why I’d been pulled, but watching the teacher’s beautiful, seemingly effortless guidance, I began to have an inkling: I wasn’t good enough.

Once my stinging eyes dried up at the patient request of my breath, I could clearly see how deficient I was in my teaching style. I hadn’t been speaking in a low, soothing tone, and I sure hadn’t been tossing in pearls of wisdom. I began to wish I were on the mat taking the class I’d started but failed to finish, instead of standing, awash in undulations of disappointment, shame, anger, and envy–not necessarily in that order.

I later learned that the tsunami of self judgment was uncalled for. (Surprise, surprise!) I’d been pulled not because I haven’t yet perfected my vocal nuances, but because I missed a step in the sequence I’m required to teach verbatim. In fact, if I hadn’t omitted power lunge on the second side, I might well have finished class.

But I did omit power lunge on the second side, and so I was pulled. It was fair, and I understand why it happened–I was so absorbed with getting my words right, I wasn’t fully in the present moment. If I had been, I would have noticed the handful of students who caught my mistake and came into the pose on their own, and that would have reminded me to address it. I’m not exactly sure how to improve in the aspect of staying present, since it’s not exactly something I can study, but I’m trusting that with time and effort, the ability will come.

In the meantime, I’m coping with the fact that I didn’t succeed according to the standards I set for myself. I had hoped to be writing a post about how I’m good-to-go to graduate, and instead I’ve got who-knows-how-many more classes before I’m really ready. And I’ve decided that’s okay. It’s not so bad to need another chance, and I’ll have it. What’s important is that I’ve realized failure is relative, and I get to set the terms.

I had to remember that realization tonight when we did 108 sun salutations in group practice. In yoga tradition, 108 is considered an auspicious number, and I was looking forward to the challenge and the meditation. I figured a good long ritual on the mat would help me work through some of the distressing emotions I’ve been processing lately. And I guess that’s exactly what happened, though not in the way I was expecting.

Since 108 sun salutations is sort of like a yogi marathon, I started out slow and steady (so as to win the race). My movements were careful, my breath long and relaxed. I was taking my time. And then suddenly it was two and a half hours later and almost everyone was finished but me. I’d noticed when the first few people completed their cycle, because the teacher said something like, “If you’re finished, take this time to explore the sensations of your choosing.” But I mistakenly assumed those people were speed demons and that I was right on track.

Of course, I was right on track, in my own way. The teacher had gone to great lengths to emphasize that there was no way to do this wrong, that it was a personal experiment, and simply to see what came up for each of us. So it would be fine if I didn’t finish.

But I had expectations. Maybe I hadn’t gotten through teaching a full class the night before, but there was no way I was going to leave the yoga mala incomplete. For one thing, I’m stubborn, and for another, I’m a wee bit OCD/superstitious. It would have driven me crazy to have to stopped at a number below 108, both because that was the stated goal and because it’s an auspicious number, so anything less than would feel unlucky. And like failure.

Which is why, when I heard the teacher asking us to wind down our movements and transition into relaxation, I glanced at the beans I was using to keep track of my progress and burst into tears. I only had ten or so left. So close, and yet I was going to have to admit defeat. It didn’t seem fair. I was working hard, being loving to my body yet dripping with sweat all the same. I was trusting myself and taking it at my own pace, just like we were told to do. But there wasn’t going to be time for me to finish.

As I continued my salutations, I toyed with the possibility of giving in, of allowing the practice to be what it was. Hadn’t I learned just the night before that failure is relative, that my best effort equals success? But then another part of me, a small, fierce, determined part, cried out for justice. It wasn’t right that my ritual should be cut short; I’d been devoted and disciplined, and there were only a few beans left.

So I hustled, and since the room was dark and I was near the front it’s hard to tell for sure, but I suspect I was the last one standing. I’m so grateful the teacher didn’t gently ask me to stop. He could have, and I would have listened. But it felt so important for me to finish, like I would prove something valuable to myself if I succeeded. Like I wouldn’t be a failure.

But, having finished, and having heard reactions from friends who didn’t, I don’t know that I’m any better off. (Though I might be a little extra sore tomorrow.) It wasn’t like angels trumpeted as my last bean hit the bowl. And it didn’t feel awesome to rush through my final salutations, either. I suppose I got caught up in the expectation over the experience–just like last night.

I wonder what it will take for me to really believe and accept that failure is relative, that success is a state of mind. Maybe if I remind myself 108 times?

On chair pose and chest pain

I’m writing this post primarily to document two events of personal interest that transpired in the last twenty-four hours. So please forgive the lack of structure or theme. (Or don’t read any further.)

Firstly, chair pose: I have no problem doing it but have been really struggling to teach it. In the sequence I must follow in order to graduate, I have to guide the class in and out of chair pose three times in a row. Not only is it challenging to say the same thing three times differently, but also there is a widely held perception that chair pose is tortuously difficult. I disagree, but out of empathy for my students I have been trying to teach the posture as though they are in constant discomfort.

Not surprisingly, forcing enthusiasm and commiseration has not felt authentic. Though I have been communicating all the necessary instructions, I haven’t felt good about doing so. I, and presumably my students, have just wanted that part of class to be over.

After expressing my frustrations to a teacher during dialogue practice over the weekend, she suggested I go home and sit in chair pose for five minutes, in order to become intimately familiar with the nuances of the posture and how I feel about presenting them. Out loud I was like, “okie dokie, will do!” but inside I was like “SERIOUSLY?! FIVE MINUTES IN CHAIR?!” Normally chair is thirty seconds, a minute, max. I know I said I have no problem doing it, but holding it for an extremely extended period of time is another story.

Or so I thought. And really, it’s all about thought, because the very idea of a marathon chair pose brought me to tears last night as I was in self-imposed solitude, studying my sequence for a prescribed minimum of three hours. I ended up handwriting an eight-page script for the sequence I’m teaching, as I seem to process information best when I write it down. And since the pace of writing by hand is slower than the pace of speaking, I had the time and space to be very picky about which words I used, which body parts I named and how. I know I won’t ever repeat exactly what I wrote, but this type of slowly and carefully constructed foundation will fortify my subconscious so that when I’m on my feet and in the moment, the best words will find me. (Fingers crossed.)

So I dutifully penned the particulars of the first fifteen minutes of class. But when it was time to describe the details of chair pose, I realized I had to try out the five-minute thing in order to gain the knowledge I wanted to convey.

But I did not want to try the five-minute thing. So much did I not want to try it, I whimpered and moaned. Some tears joined the pity party. I scrawled a note of complaint. And then I stood up, set the timer on my phone, and sat into chair.

I focused on taking slow, deep breaths so as to avoid glancing at the timer. By the time I gave in and looked at the clock, the screen had gone black–it’d already been a minute! At least! And I wasn’t dead! I shifted my attention to my burning thighs, which, really, because of the oxygen my steady breaths were distributing, weren’t burning all that bad. I experimented with bending my knees more, with bending them less. I asked my shoulders to sink and my spine to stay straight. I asked myself not to reach over and touch my phone.

I failed on that last part, but was pleasantly shocked to discover I had less than two minutes remaining in the posture. How the heck had three minutes already passed? I hadn’t even tried closing my eyes yet! That I did do until I heard the celebratory beep of the timer, and after some some very welcome back stretching, I found I had plenty to write about.

I’ll get a chance to try out my new approach to teaching chair in a couple days, and I can’t say for sure whether my students will like my style, but I know I’m going to feel comfortable teaching because my words will carry personal meaning. And I will carry the confidence of someone who knows she can sit in chair for FIVE MINUTES! What a cool discovery to make about my own strength! And the weirdest part is I sort of want to try it again.

So that was chair pose. And then there’s the chest pain. Or, more accurately–more thrillingly–the current lack thereof.

I strained a chest muscle a few weeks ago. It was a small strain as a result of hasty effort, but the pain has persisted. Nothing unbearable, more like a twinge every time I raise my arm or do a push-up. At first I tried to take a few days off from practicing, but that proved impossible. My desire to practice was greater than the amount of pain I felt. And with frequent applications of arnica gel, the injury seemed to be getting better. In fact, by the time we had group Bikram class on Saturday, the pain was almost nonexistent.

And then it came back with a vengeance. Maybe the heat blinded me to the sensations of my injury, or maybe I just worked too hard. (It’s tough to take it easy when your teacher is powerful and persuasive.) But for most of Saturday and Sunday I experienced sharp stabs of pain anytime I moved my arm, and goodness gracious was I in for a treat if I wanted to roll back my shoulders. In fact, pretty much all of my muscles were sore by the time Monday rolled around.

But this morning, when I stretched my arms into a tentative sun salutation, there was no pain. Nowhere. I don’t know why not. I did a chakra healing meditation last Friday that seemed helpful at the time, but that was before the weekend and the re-straining. Maybe the effects of the meditation had prolonged benefits? Maybe the five-minute chair pose redistributed my energy? Maybe my body just needed a couple nights with enough sleep?

Beats me. But while I don’t understand the absence of pain, particularly in my chest muscle, which by all logic should still be hurting, I’m certainly grateful for the lack. One way or another, yoga is transforming me, inside and out. Big-time hooray for that!

This too shall pass

I’ve been unusually aware of the fleeting present, lately. This past weekend of yoga training was painful and sad, in the best of ways–if that makes any sense.

Early a.m. Bikram led by one of Bikram’s longtime colleagues was definitely one source of sorrow and sweet, sweet release. Plenty of students in my training are not hot yoga devotees, but all of us had to practice yesterday, and speaking as a veteran I felt it was a tough but not excessively tough experience. However, also speaking as a veteran, I confess that my experience is completely subjective and I promise you others felt differently.

But even as my classmates and I suffered, I relished the sensations, reminding myself that “this too shall pass.” Bikram class always ends, and I always survive, every time. And I knew what a rare opportunity it was to be in the room with so many senior teachers and management VIPs.

After a break, when we reunited back at the vinyasa studio, the skies were gray and wind twisted tree branches outside the window. Our anatomy instructor-turned-guidance counselor talked with us about our experiences in the hot room, and as I watched cool raindrops drip I felt a gentle melancholy.

The group of people who share my Fridays and Saturdays and Sundays is going to dissipate. I’ve learned from previous social experience what to expect….For better or worse, some of us will stay in touch, will split into clusters. The listserve will remain intact. But communication will be unreliable and sporadic. All these lives I’m just beginning to know, and it seems I’m about to lose everyone in that room, as well as the comfort of lingering in it and learning about love.

This morning, again in the training studio, I was nursing similar sentiments–and then I was given the framework to overcome my concerns. Our a.m. lecture was by a revered master, one of a couple who we’ve been privileged enough to meet.

[Side note: These guys don’t necessarily seem super special at first glance (no offense to them) but the wisdom they hold is tremendous and the energy they give off is amazing. Because the are amazing. If I believed in having gurus, they’d be my gurus. They are old enough to be grandfathers and they trained and learned firsthand from a superrevered master who founded an entire institute, he loved yoga so much. Basically, their teacher was extraordinary and so are they.]

One of the pair had given his farewell speech the afternoon before, on the heels of the debriefing session/pep talk. I found myself writing down nearly every word he said, and intend to continue learning from him. This morning, his friend discussed with us the yoga sutras.

And so it is that on week eight of a ten-week program, I have finally felt the heartbeat of yoga. I’d already been briefly introduced to the ethical foundations of the practice–I read the beginning of Light on Yoga just before the start of training, and I was aware and mostly convinced that yoga belongs off the mat as well as on. That, like it or not, yoga is a way of life. But today I realized I’m ready to make yoga my way of life.

I fret about the stigma of yoga as a lifestyle. I worry that if I claim to be on a spiritual path, I will be misunderstood, held to an unrealistic standard. And I fear that people will not try yoga if the practice sounds too serious. But I can’t get caught up in the judgments of others, and anyway, to a certain degree yoga is serious, because it creates joy. And the playfulness of joy is worth taking seriously.

The sutras of the yamas and niyamas are basically the Ten Commandments of Yoga, except they’re more like suggestions because yoga isn’t pushy. But yoga is honest, and it is a means of living a good life. And now that I understand the basic tenets of yoga’s philosophical foundation, I know I can trust myself to explore what it offers. As I was recently told, “all we have is the grave somewhere in the distance.” Closer, further out…it doesn’t matter. What matters is what we do in the meantime.

My program is ending. The grave of my training, my incubation, is just a couple of weeks away. I am still not exactly sure what I’m doing next, but in the meantime I have enough clues to inform my actions. I know what to do (or not do) in order to move in my intended direction(s). I can commit to my choices of focus with honest attention, and I am confident I will move forward. I have made beautiful gains, and the inner knowledge will remain.

And just like this edifying experience was an anticipated event, so will it become memory, and that is all right. This too shall pass, everything does, and thank goodness for this or something better!

Time to perform

I saw a play tonight that I really enjoyed. The theater was small, and I gained renewed appreciation for the bravery of an actor: making the choice to expose your soul, if you are any good. To share your heart and voice with a group of strangers and friends.

Communicating takes courage.

Tomorrow night’s training is all about the voice–an NYU acting instructor is going to teach us about inflection, among other things. I am predictably thrilled for this experience, and curious to learn. I’ve taught two classes now, enough to know I am going to be just fine and also enough to discover exactly what needs improvement.

Most importantly, my posture. I’m standing right now as I type this because I need to practice. As in, I actually need to rehearse standing up straight, because if I do not pay due diligence I will inevitably shift my weight to one foot or the other and let a hip sink. It feels fine but it looks lazy, and that’s not how I want to appear in the yoga room.

The thing is, I am a little lazy. I’m not surprised to learn my posture reflects my personality, but I wouldn’t mind changing both for the better. And so I pay attention to my stance; I hold my elbows behind my back at the office and even at parties, relishing the subtle liberation of my shoulders settling down into my back, shifting gently in their sockets.

I stand tall and I speak my truth: Those are two actions that seem simple, but require comprehensive effort and continued awareness. And as if to prove my point, in the course of typing the last sentence, my weight shifted to my left leg, my left hip dipping down and forward as my right leg straightened to the point that my heel lifted and my toes flexed like a dancer’s.* It feels good, twirling the ankle and crinkling the toes at my leisure. It’s funny I never thought to do this before on my own, but now that I ask others to do so in the studio I realize I should follow my own instructions as much as possible. I don’t have to be on a yoga mat in stretchy pants in order to bend my knee and gently twirl my flexed foot at the ankle, wriggling the toes. Anytime I stand up I have an opportunity to explore the curve of the spine, lifting and leaning as necessary to discover a sweet spot, a tender edge, and to linger for a breath before moving on.

I love the language of yoga; I want to increase my vocabulary, my knowledge, my favorite words and phrases. (“Squaring” is my currently my most satisfying action verb. If you’re interested let me know and I’ll tell you why.) And I love channeling the strength and confidence to present what I have to offer, to forge a connection with my audience and to gain their trust. Easy, natural–but stand on two feet! Shoulders back, heart lifted, smiling never hurts, and don’t forget to focus on your words. If you lose your words, you lose your power.

I learned a lot from my second time leading in a classroom, and I really liked it. I got further in the sequence than I’ve ever taught and felt sure I could have made it to the end, though, as with before, I was not sorry to surrender control when the time came. I’m hoping to land a scheduling slot for a 9 p.m. class next week so maybe some friends can attend. On the one hand their presence might make me nervous, but on the other hand I might make it to the end of a full class and I would be so proud for that to happen with my pals present. And anyway, if I want to teach private lessons I need to be comfortable engaging on a personal level in addition to consciously guiding a group.

But in between now and my next spin on the dance floor, I have a few hours of vocal coaching tomorrow night followed by a jam-packed training weekend that begins on Saturday with an early a.m. Bikram class. (I almost feel badly for my fellow trainees who have never been in the hot room, but only almost, because they’ll be okay and I’m also excited for them to get a taste of a practice that changed my life. Personally, I’m going to prepare very carefully and hope to enjoy myself; it’s also a rare opportunity to be taught by the head honcho of the training program.)

At the end of the weekend I’ll find out when I’m teaching next, and I’ll take things from there. Till then it’s one breath at a time as rehearsals continue!

[*FWIW: My weight unconsciously shifted three more times from foot to foot during the composition of this post. Three more times I noticed and reminded myself to stand on both feet. I have my work cut out for me.]

Take two

So I’m teaching again in a couple of days, and I’m taking tonight to study. Some time to reflect, refresh, and restore. Because for a practicing yogi, I haven’t felt very relaxed recently.

But, thankfully, tonight I’ve reached a turning point.

I knew it would come; they always do. But being patient isn’t always easy. It’s ironic that yoga was becoming overwhelming and I’m glad I feel better now. I credit my change of pace, the tune-up of my frequency, to meditation and asana, to getting clear.

It’s not like it’s a miracle cure. I still have chest tenderness and twinges from a slightly strained pectoral muscle, and I still have a cough and a stuffy nose thanks to allergies. But I’m no longer bothered or in despair. I’m still too tired, but I’m no longer grouchy. And that’s because I reconnected with my guidance and I believe I am cared for.

I’m not saying I know what’s right for anyone else but I find it both comforting and useful to believe the universe has things under control, that I have guidance. I can trust that as long as I’m trying, I’m on the right track; that living honestly I can’t go wrong.

Teaching yoga feels honest; a reward worth the challenge. Seven weeks ago I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to work at my studio, to guide others in a practice that has changed my life. So I gave myself the open opportunity to choose not to educate; to settle for self-improvement. But as time’s passed my passion has expanded, to the point where there’s no point not pursuing this further. Time won’t wait and I can only choose forward or backward, so I pick the former. Onward and upward, let’s see where this goes.

As you might imagine, having this sort of upbeat, secure perspective is much more grounding than the shakiness of uncertainty. Ever since last week I’d been feeling low and run-down, initially because I gave too much energy in the process of teaching, but then the allergies kicked in and general malaise presided. Over the weekend of training, I absorbed information to the point of overflowing, desiring every drop but physically unable to soak it all in. Saturday night all I wanted to do was sleep, and Sunday morning I broke down and had a pity party because missing the bus and having to walk to class pushed me over the edge.

But then Sunday night I went to the launch event for IMeditateNY. It was at Lincoln Center and 2,700 people meditated at the same time. At least, I assume we were all meditating; I sort of suspect some of us were napping. Because we were told we were going to meditate for ten minutes–which is a pretty long time, if you ask me, especially for beginners–but by the time the leader told us to open our eyes, it had been twenty-one minutes.

I’m not even sure whether I fell asleep; I don’t remember losing consciousness but I definitely drifted into the realm of yoga nidra, a sort of daydream-like place where your thoughts take visual form as they run through your head. At least, that’s how I experience my consciousness when I listen to my yoga nidra recording, and that’s how things seemed to go during last night’s meditation. It felt like only a few minutes before I was overcome with an irrepressible urge to cough. The itch of my throat jolted me out of my meandering reverie and into a state of subdued alarm. I distracted myself as best I could but finally I could withhold no longer and I unleashed my ratchety, repetitive cough onto 2,700 people in a symphony hall of silence.

I didn’t have tissues and then I spilled my water onto my most expensive yoga textbook, so I guess the meditation didn’t have the immediate effect of bettering my temperament. But it was almost like I’d been hypnotized; I was already so exhausted that the twenty-minute trance–which concluded shortly after my coughing episode–had put me into a state of relaxation so deep I could only stagger toward bed and surrender to sleep.

And today I felt better. Able to take on the day with patience and perspective, and even to feel some good humor. After work I fell in love with vinyasa again, this time in a hot room. The sweat felt good, the effort revitalizing. Near the end, I was amused rather than frustrated when I slipped on the mat. In happy baby pose, I giggled–always a good sign. And my final savasana turned into a brief, deep, and meditative snooze.

I keep hearing that the universe wants the best for me, that if I ask, I can earn what I desire. I still don’t know what the heck I’m going to do three weeks from now, when I have my certification. (Wait. That calls for all caps: MY CERTIFICATION!!) But three weeks is a long enough time when I pay attention to every day, so I’m not worrying right now. Instead I’m taking actions that are in line with my goals; I am practicing what I love. And in two days, I will teach what I believe (again)!

One down, forevermore to go!

I.   LOVE.   YOGA!

That sentiment should be beyond evident if you’ve ever read a word of my blog, but it’s never felt truer than tonight.

I taught a full (half) class! All by myself!

I’m actually glad I didn’t get through the whole thing–I knew I wouldn’t, such is the structure of tandem teaching–because now I still have that accomplishment to look forward to. I also get to look forward to improving my posture and my intonation at certain points. And I know there are a few things I missed in my dialogue, but there always will be and that’s what excites me: It seems impossible that I could ever tire of this, that I could ever run out of discoveries and improvements.

I honestly love almost everything about yoga, and it feels amazing to be so consistently enthusiastic, so earnestly eager to share my passion and knowledge.  I am still overwhelmed by all the variations and interpretations of yoga, all the sects and personalities that populate the field. But the heart of all of it is the same, just like we’re all the same at heart.

And so I am teaching what I know and learning all I can. And it feels GOOD.

I’ll never teach my first class again, and nothing will ever be the same. Each experience will be a new creation. I’ll never talk to that exact group of people  again, and our shared energy will never be entirely replicated.

In fact, I don’t think I could repeat myself if I tried–I confessed to the teacher who team-taught with me that I didn’t remember too much of what I’d said. He told me that either meant I’d been immersed in the present moment or that I was way too distracted with worrying–and he said he could tell I wasn’t worried.

Which, I wasn’t. I did my fair share of freaking out beforehand, but by the time I showed up at the studio I was ready to go, comfortable and almost surreally carefree. I wouldn’t go so far as to say confident, but, most definitely getting there. So! I succeeded as far as I’m concerned, and it’s no small relief that my instructor agreed. Yay for honest effort well rewarded, and more to come, no doubt!

Time to teach

I woke up today like a kid on Christmas morning, eagerly checking the training calendar to see if I’d been scheduled to teach. And I squealed just like a child when I saw I was on the roster: As of 10 p.m. tomorrow, I’ll have made the transition from trainee to teacher!!!

Well, technically I’ll still be a trainee, but a trainee who has TAUGHT, to a CLASS. An entire roomful of people are going to listen to what comes out of my mouth and hopefully have some amazing personal experiences as a result.

It’s very tempting to want to take responsibility for my students, to think that if I do my job well, they will be happy. But not only is it not possible for me to make anyone else happy, thinking I have that sort of control puts a lot of pressure on me that I really don’t need.

My job is to speak my truth; to share an opportunity for transformation. The way I do that is to issue clear and safe instructions, and to invite students to let go of what they can and to comfortably explore their bodies. Beyond being honest and expressing myself with care, there is not much I can do.

I have done my homework. I have rehearsed my lines. I have talked to myself aloud so much that it’s starting to feel normal, that the people who cast me looks on the street are the crazy ones. I have settled into myself and faced my fears: I am afraid I will suck. I am afraid I will fail. I am afraid I am not good enough.

But I am! I am enough. It’s not always easy for me to believe this, but lately it’s been less of a challenge. The more I open my heart, the more I feel the universe supporting me; the more I realize that with a loving intent, it’s impossible for me to fail, that I could never suck.

Does that mean I’m not nervous as hell? No. I’m definitely nervous as hell. But I’m trusting in my foundation and excited and grateful for the opportunity to progress my education by beginning to professionally share it with others.

So please send some good energy my way if you read this before tomorrow night, and I’ll see you on the flip side!

Good morning sun

I just did my very first set of at-home sun salutations and I sincerely hope I have the discipline to make it a daily practice.

For one thing, it only took about five minutes. And for another thing, I feel amazing!

Equally amazing is that in all my years of yoga, it was not until Friday night that I actually learned how to salute the sun. Sun salutations are some of the most common vinyasa sequences and have been around for thousands of years. That, or they were developed by the British military in the late 19th century. (I have been taught two completely different things about the origins. I plan to do some research of my own to get a better sense of the history; I’m sure both teachers are right, somehow.)

Regardless of how they came into use, sun salutations are about as succinct as a yoga sequence can be. They string together a combination of poses and counterposes that efficiently stretch your entire spine and all the major muscle groups as well. The one I learned is also extremely easy–it doesn’t even involve a lower push-up (also called chaturanga). So not only does this exercise not require a warm-up, it IS a warm-up. I can roll out of bed, roll out my mat, and get moving. And even if I go creaky and slow during my first set, by the third round, I’m feeling smooth and alive.

Everyone should stretch every morning. I really believe this, and yet I almost never do it. But the sun salutation provides a structured, concise practice that has benefits far beyond what I currently understand, and I look forward to exploring it further and making it a part of my daily life.

Rise and shine, indeed!