Thinking Yogi

The intersection of two loves: yoga and writing.

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Posted by on in Yoga

We had such a great time at our first Teacher Training info session at Bloom last Thursday. Sharon and Sarah (or as I've come to refer to them, Sharah) joined me as we met with the fabulous crew of men and women who are interested in the program. We delved into our goals for the training, and explained how we plan to meet those goals. For those of you who weren't there, here's the very shortened summary: we want our trainees to be able to communicate their love and knowledge of the practice to students in an a clear and accessible way, and we plan to do that by providing them with the most essential information pertaining to the broader tradition of yoga, and then repeating, repeating, and repeating some more.

All the preparation for our training's September start has reminded me what I loved about my own teacher training process.

It was such a treat to dedicate space and time to deepening my knowledge of and experience with yoga, and to do so in the company of other like-minded individuals. I mean, who wouldn't want to hang around a bunch of people whose idea of good conversation includes phrases like 'internal rotation' and 'buttock flesh?' Don't kid yourself, training to become a yoga teacher requires that you put in some hard work, but it's also a whole lot of fun!

Over the past few months as we've been developing the curriculum for the program, I've had two somewhat contradictory well-known quotes about teaching stuck in my head:

'Those who can, do; those who can't, teach.'


'To teach is to learn.'

I'm going to have to go with the second one here. In order to be a good yoga teacher, you must have a dedicated practice yourself. That doesn't mean you need to be able to do all kinds of crazy arm balances or backbend variations. It simply means you must know what it means to practice consistently, to experience challenges, to work through them sometimes, to back off other times.

For me, the process of becoming a yoga teacher was a catapult into a deepened personal practice that has become an integral part of my daily life. In order to be able to share my knowledge and experience with students, I had to move beyond just kind of knowing the name of a pose in Sanskrit or having a vague understanding of the philosophy behind the poses. I had to know it so well on an intellectual and kinesthetic level that I could find a way to clearly and concisely express these complex concepts to students while also maintaining the pacing of the class, reminding them to breathe, and paying attention to their alignment in the pose. Phew, all this in 90 minutes or less. Yes you can, yoga teachers!

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Posted by on in Yoga

When I was a newly enamored yoga student, I spent many a failed morning trying to coax myself onto the mat at home. How could I create the same heightened experience I'd had at the studio when I might go into downward dog and see an overflowing laundry basket behind me? Because my yoga practice had been so influential and transformative, I felt like each time I stepped on the mat I needed to have that peak experience. I had over-exotified my practice, made it too precious, thereby ensuring that it was not my own but rather something only my yoga teacher could gift to me during a studio class.

It took time and lots of trial and error to figure out how to consistently be able to practice at home, and the most helpful thing in that process was to take away all expectations of the magic of yoga and bring the practice back down to earth. Here are a few tips that helped me when I was having trouble getting motivated:

1. Don’t change. Practice in whatever clothes you are already wearing. Pajamas, work clothes, it doesn’t really matter. You’re not going to do splits or a backbend, so there’s no need to wear fancy yoga gear. The process of changing into your ‘yoga uniform’ can put unnecessary pressure on you and gives the practice too much importance. Doing Warrior 2 in shorts and a t-shirt makes yoga feel within your grasp.

2. Keep it short. Aim to practice for 5-10 minutes at first. Pick 1 or 2 of your favorite poses, then gradually build up your practice a bit more. For most of us, a max of 20 minutes at home is plenty. You want your practice to be fun rather than feeling guilty that you didn’t do an hour and a half as you would in class. Save the long practice for your time at the studio.

3. Skip the yoga mat. Sometimes if I just sneak in a stretch or two, I find my body wanting more. That first stretch or pose is the hardest, so if you ease into it you’ll usually find the next one comes more easily.

4. Relax. Whatever poses you pick, make sure you add Savasana to the list! Lying down to relax for a few minutes after practicing will reinforce the message that yoga practice feels good and is something you want to continue. It’s a good time to observe how even your brief home practice affected your body and mind, so savor these few precious minutes of quiet and stillness in your otherwise busy day.

This concept of making yoga less intimidating, less exotic, is one of the biggest goals my husband Zach and I had when opening Bloom. I vividly remembered how as a new student and self-professed yoga fanatic, I found it difficult to reconcile the transformative experiences I had on my mat with the rest of my life. The transitions can be almost comical - one minute I'm overwhelmed with sensations of peace and wellbeing in savasana, the next I'm yelling at the kids to stop pinching each other. I love the idea of making yoga just another part of daily life. It doesn’t have to be compartmentalized, it's not some ideal state of being to aspire to only when I have time to make it to the studio.

I like to think of yoga as just another self-care routine, like brushing my teeth or eating a good breakfast. It is an ongoing process of creating health in the midst of, rather than in spite of, my daily existence. After I've done my 5 minutes I'm more aware of my posture, my breath is deeper, I chew and taste my food rather than gulping it down, and if I'm lucky I hang onto just a little of that post-savasana peace (at least until my next refereeing obligation). It may be messy, but the process of letting yoga practice filter into daily life normalizes that which I once put on a pedestal. Here's to taking it down, dusting it off, and putting it to good use.

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