Monday, April 30, 2007

Yoga Teacher Training, Day 5, Module 2

I don't know but I've been told,
I don't know but I've been told,
Yoga is good for your soul,
Yoga is good for your soul,
Sound off,
Sound off,

Now how does that made-up yoga marching drill fit into to our class today? I'll tell ya. I was the drill sergeant, and my classmates were the unfortunate victims of my five-minute yoga bootcamp! That was one of the "chants" we sang call-and-response style during my five minutes of ruling the world as a domineering drill sergeant. (I know, I know...for those of you that know me, it really isn't a far stretch! I've been accused of being Ms. Bossy Britches more than once.)

Anyway. I'm sure you're thinking, Yoga bootcamp? What the hell? So here's how it all went down...

To make a point about the importance of vibrancy and personality in teaching, Dolly had all of us teach a five minute segment of class as anyone but ourselves. We could be a bigger, louder version of ourselves, or some other character completely. All we had to do was focus on being the personality while teaching whatever asanas came to our heads. The sequence or screwing up didn't matter. Dolly called us up at random and we had to work with the students in whatever position they were in when the person before you finished.

It was a terrifying, wild, hysterical experience! We had an Aussie explorer and a Scotsman, a Rastafarian and a valley girl, a hippie, a girl with multiple personalities, a New Yorka, and more. Even though I am totally not an actress and not into being the center of attention, there was a certain sense of freedom in being able to teach as someone else. I was scared sh*tless, but I have to admit that it was kind of fun being able to scream at everyone and order them around like a drill sergeant! Drop and give me a chaturanga, people! It was an interesting exercise, to say the least. I think we all got a lot of insight into the "performance" aspect of teaching.

Practicing at the Wall
For our group practice, we worked at the wall for an hour and a half. Dolly showed us shoulder openers and ways to do Triangle, Half Moon, and several other asanas at the wall to allow deeper stretches, openings, and twists. It enabled us to see how with a small class, or with beginners, for example, you could leverage the wall to allow them to really feel a posture without having to focus on balancing. It was also great because I'm sure I wasn't the only one super sore in the lower back from working on Forearm Balances and Scorpion. Working at the wall was still a challenge, but at least it wasn't the typical highly active Power Vinyasa practice. I don't think I could've mustered another Up Dog even if someone paid me to do it.

Don't judge a book by its cover...will I ever learn this?
Today we read a homework assignment in which we were supposed to write a paper from our 85-year-old selves to ourselves now. Many of the papers were tear-jerkers, and I was completely taken aback by the eloquence of Melody's paper. I just never expected to hear such great writing and storytelling from her, such depth and emotion. This is not the first misinterpretation about a person I've had this week. I've gotten to know Adrienne a little bit, and the more I talked to her, the more surprised I was to find that my original impression of her was totally, completely off. But I never would have known if I hadn't taken the opportunity to get to know her, to begin to scratch the surface of who Adrienne is.

I definitely have a tendency to make snap judgements about people and based on my perception, and often dismiss the thought of even getting to know them. Now I see why I have so few friends. Instead of looking for 100% like-minded people, or basing my level of interest in a person on the way they look, I should be more open to getting to know others and appreciating their individual personalities. At minimum, I should at least work on opening myself up to the idea that so many people have something to offer. This is yoga off the mat—this soul searching, this dissection of oneself. It might take months or years, but yoga really does seep into your life in the best ways if you just let it. I think that in the long run, I'll be a less judgmental, more compassionate, connected person because of yoga.

PS: Snaps from today at lunch...we've been blessed with glorious weather so we've been lunching on the lawn outside the studio.

Marge and Rashida

Kelley and Juliana
(with an empty Camille's pastry bag after our cookie run!)


Marcia and me

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Yoga Teacher Training, Day 4, Module 2

Today was another totally fun day in class. We worked on inversions (see list below for links to photos) and even though I can't do any of them away from the wall at this point, I'm totally fascinated by them. I've gone from a complete lack of confidence (even lack of belief) that I could ever even muster the courage and strength to do handstand at the wall to being able to confidently flip up. For me, that's huge. I used to really hate inversions and arm balances, but for some reason now, I'm obsessed with nailing them. And I'm starting to feel a little more control, a little more knowledge about the amount of momentum I need to get my legs up over my head without going all the way over.

Today, we worked on:

Inversions are tough for most people because the not only require some decent upper body strength, they also require mental fortitude. Being upside down and off balance is a pretty scary thing, especially when your face is inches from the ground. Pincha Mayurasana is an especially difficult and frightening inversion for beginners, so Dolly showed us how to safely roll out of Pincha Mayurasana if we feel like we're about to go over. Check out how she does this in the video below. Greg also gave it a whirl, with Dolly's assistance.

Dolly Demos Forearm Balance Roll Out on Vimeo

Greg's Forearm Balance Rollout on Vimeo

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Yoga Teacher Training, Day 3, Module 2

Wooo hooo! ARM BALANCES!!!!

Damn, my knees are sore, my wrists are sore, and my elbows are sore, but focusing on arm balances today was so much fun. We worked on Crow, Mountain Climber (see video below), Firefly, a half Crow/half Firefly posture and several others as well. I managed Firefly for the first time, then Mountain Climber on my own at home after class. So just made my night!

I'm spent...but here are a couple videos of Dolly's mad skills...she's really something else:

Dolly Demos Mountain Climber on Vimeo

Dolly Demos Full Locust on Vimeo

Friday, April 27, 2007

Yoga Teacher Training, Day 2, Module 2

I have to admit that every day that I show up to teacher training and am told I'm going to have to teach, I silently wish I was anywhere else in the world but in that classroom. Not because I don't love what I get from the class and from Dolly—the classes and her teachings, guidance, examples, and ideas are phenomenal. My yoga practice is forever changed (for the better, I hope) as a result of this experience. But teaching yoga is tough for me. It really is. I have to not only get over my fear of public speaking, I have to think on my feet, sequence the class in a way that accommodates and prevents injury; I have to inspire, challenge, and relax my students; cue breath, postures, and movements; be able to demo what I am teaching; watch the timing of each segment of the class; and find music that goes with the flow of the practice. It's the ultimate multi-tasking endeavor, and I thought I was the ultimate multi-tasker! 'Til yoga, that is.

But then something wonderful happens.

Because I've paid to learn this stuff, I have to stay there and get through it. And somehow I do. And then I feel an amazing sense of accomplishment, not necessarily because I aced the exam, so-to-speak, but because I completed the exam without tears, without seizing up, without complete failure. And that feels really good! Today I taught my first 60-minute class to my class partner Kelly, and although my sequence was a bit short, I got through it with no nerves, no major screw-ups, and some pretty positive feedback. Plus, Kelly is about three-to-four months pregnant, so getting the sequencing right for her situation was even more important...there's a baby in there counting on Kelly and me for a smooth, safe practice!

Day 2 Highlights
Quick highlights because even though the time stamp on this blog is early, by the time I've cooked, written, unloaded the dishwasher, written, and did ten other things while writing, it's now 10:40pm, and I've got to get to bed.
  • Pranayama (breathing) exercises—We went through several today, but my very favorite new breathing exercise is Bumblebee Breath (Bhramari). The beauty of this exercise is the wonderful vibrations it creates when you have a big group doing it. It has the same effect as an OM, yet is less intimidating. Basically, you inhale, then while exhaling, you hum. In our practice today, we did Bhramari with a class of about 20-25 people. The sound was amazing! Then at the end of the day, we sat back-to-back with our class partner and did it again, this time feeling the vibration and connection to our partners through our backs as well. Such a cool sound and feeling. I can't wait to introduce this in my own future classes.
  • In-depth assists—There are many of us in class who are afraid of assists, afraid to put our hands on people, whether it's because we don't want to hurt anyone, don't know what to do, or just don't want to touch anyone. Dolly showed us assists for many popular asanas, and we practiced each one with our partner. It helped me immeasurably. I'm really beginning to feel my fear of being in close proximity to strange bodies starting to melt away. I feel sorry for the people who assist me in practice, however. I'm such a profuse sweater...there's just nothing I can do about it. When I'm in a room that's 85 degrees, and I'm doing my seventh vinyasa with Chaturanga, and my heart is pumping, I just drip sweat. Poor Dolly comes by to assist or deepen a stretch, and I'm slicked down like a greased pig! But I digress...
  • Christina's Yama/Niyama paper—We had to write a one-page paper about the yama and niyama that is most prevalent in our lives now. Christina wrote about how years ago, she studied yoga and really wanted to teach, so she auditioned for a teaching position, and the studio owner she auditioned for told her she should consider doing something else! After that, Christina said she quit practicing yoga for two years, and hated the thought of it. Who could blame her? Eventually, she forced herself back into a class, fear, hatred, and all, and started practicing again, and is now teaching and working on her certification. I was just stunned by her paper, by the resolve it takes to be shot down while pursuing your dream, then find the strength to believe in yourself enough to keep trying. To see Christina practice...I don't know how on earth anyone could have told her she shouldn't teach because she has a beautiful practice and a lot of grace. I know nothing about Christina, outside of what she has shared in class, but I do know this: She is my hero. What she's overcome takes a hell of a lot of courage. Bravery of the big, brass kind. Good for her!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Yoga Teacher Training, Day 1, Module 2

I made it through day one of my second yoga teacher training module...and the knees are feeling OK! Of course, I iced them in and after class, and I pulled way back in my practice, but who cares! If I can just make it through the next five days and not injure them further, I'm golden. A few more weeks off and I think they'll be back to normal.

It's so nice to be back to yoga and to practice with Dolly. Personally, I've missed her and yoga, but now that I'm teaching the kids, practicing is more important than ever—I've got to be able to bring them a fresh and interesting class every other week, and it's hard when you're a new teacher and not practicing or being exposed to new ideas in the interim.

I was thinking today while in class that I'm so glad I decided to just jump in and start teaching the kids with no experience. Even teaching my tiny classes has helped me immeasurably in teacher training exercises. I feel much more confident and teaching is just a teensy bit easier. And chanting and OMs...I could almost care less if I suck or not. Because I know life goes on with or without my shaky OM, and that is a great feeling. I really owe my progress (at least mentally) to the kids. They've given me the freedom to explore my teacher side and put myself out there without fear of judgment. I've also had to face my own fears doing inversions in yoga in order to show them asanas that channel their energy and keep them engaged. That's not to say that I've even come close to mastering handstand or Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Balance)...BUT...there was a time that I couldn't even do handstand at the wall. So I am making progress as well, and that always feels good.

Now that I'm back in yoga after having been off for the first time since I got into it last year, it has become more obvious than ever that I found yoga at exactly the time in my life when I would need it most, when its effects could be most profoundly realized. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder—and it does—I've missed the cathartic feeling of a good practice like crazy. But absence from yoga also makes the heart grow colder. I've noticed (and I'm sure the people closest to me have noticed) that these weeks away from my practice have yielded a bitter, complaining, self-absorbed person. The attitude change certainly isn't without reason, for there are myriad. However, now that I've practiced a few times in the last week, I can see that yoga is a gift that has arrived at my doorstep just in time, as I am preparing to act upon some pretty damn big decisions in my life, and the one thing I know will keep me sane through all of it is yoga. It levels me out physically, and the ethical guidelines of yoga make me a more spiritual, more conscientious person. I can see now that finding yoga when I did has opened up a new path in my life that I never, ever foresaw—and definitely wasn't making plans for. Now if I can just continue going with the flow, not cowering in the face of fear, I know I will find myself in a new place brimming with contentment and possibility.

It takes courage to change a routine, to evaluate, to question, to do the thing that is not the norm. I've been going with the motions for years. I think I'm finally finding the courage I need to look at my life and make it what I really want it to be. It's scary and exciting at the same time—the thought of taking a huge risk is utterly terrifying to me. But you know what? It's my life. And it's high time I lived it.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Yoga + Wine

Yesterday afternoon was the second weekend of David Romanelli's "Yoga + Chocolate" weekend—but we did a yoga + wine session (which I loved...Dave offers separate Yoga + Chocolate and Yoga + Wine workshops, so getting a little of both in one weekend is a deal in my opinion!)

Much like his Yoga+ Chocolate workshop, Dave teamed up with Angela Gargano, a yoga instructor and wine connoisseur, to create a multi-sensory experience that features carefully selected wines, Vinyasa flow yoga, and music. A lot of people have asked (er, b*tched): Yoga and wine? Isn't that a philosophical contradiction? Dave started our class by recounting the backlash his new idea generated in the hardcore yoga world. You can get a sense of what both camps had to say about in the 2006 article, "The Days of Wine and Yoga," by Cindy Price of The New York Times.

Old-School Devotees vs. Modern Yogis
So let me make a little sidebar commentary here. Yoga people, I've discovered, generally fall into two categories: The Old-School Devotees and The Modern Yogis. The irony of the division between these two ideologies is that The Old-School Devotees, who are supposed to be practicing ahimsa and all that, are the first to sling insults and cast judgments when The Modern Yogis stay true to themselves, whether that means NOT being vegetarian, indulging in wine, or enjoying food and leather and fashion, etc. I find it very interesting that The Modern Yogis' mantra tends to be "it's all good," and, present company included, tend to commend The Old-School Devotees for their ability to commit 100% to yogic principles and tradition. But I've yet to feel like Modern Yogis are respected in the same fashion by their Old-School counterparts. It's an interesting dichotomy.

Block Party
So back to yoga and the night before, we sampled a lovely Ravenswood Zinfandel at the beginning of class, did a heart-pounding 90-minute Vinyasa practice, then sampled another wine at the end of class—a fabulous Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir (my fave) by Block 13. With each tasting, Dave told us a little about the type of grape, weather, and process required to create the wines we were drinking. It was excellent for wine newbies, and interesting even for those who have some knowledge of wines.

Dave also touched again on the importance of enjoying each moment in life, and that when you want to "etch a moment in your memory," you have to experience it with all your senses. He's right...we all know that many of our most vibrant memories are conjured up by a visual connected to a sound, scent, or taste. The smell of basil always makes me think of my grandmother—she always had it growing outside the front of her home.

After class, those who wanted to stay for a full glass of either the Zin or Pinot Noir were invited to do so. I did have a full glass of the Pinot and met some new friends in the class—who were actually totally new to yoga as well. I tend to stick to myself unless someone engages me in conversation, but this environment makes it easy to get to know a stranger, as there are already two things you know you have in common with the person on the mat next to you: yoga and wine. Pretty cool, I think.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Yoga + Chocolate = Mmmmmmmm...

Attended the first session of David Romanelli's "Yoga + Chocolate" weekend last night. David and friend Katrina Markoff, of Vosges Haut Chocolat, combined their loves to create a multi-sensory experience featuring exotic chocolates, Vinyasa flow yoga, music, and fun. Judging from the first night, it's an experience I highly recommend.

So how does David bring this all together?
He started class with everyone lying down on their backs and began with a story about how he came to yoga and how yoga + chocolate was born. He talked about how important it is to be in the moment, how being in the moment allows you to fully experience life using all your senses.

Then we sat up, sampled a Oaxaca truffle, which he described, and we began our 90-minute practice. This is the first time I've practiced in a month because of my knees (left knee STILL isn't right, right knee seems to be OK). It felt so good to finally practice again, and even though I really modified on my left side, I still got a lot out of it. David's mix of music was extremely interesting, and I enjoyed it even if I wouldn't necessarily have picked some of the songs myself. As a teacher, he has a very calm excellent pace. He gave us a chance to get into each posture and fully feel it before moving on to the next one. We worked up a hell of a serious sweat doing a pretty straightforward Vinyasa practice. Nothing complex, no arm balances or anything more advanced. It's amazing how even the simple stuff can be so gratifying and challenging when fully explored. He did do some very interesting adjustments that I've never seen and can't really explain. As a teacher-in-training, I got a lot out of seeing that too.

Midway through our practice, while in a standing position, we sampled actual cocoa bean chips while holding our arms straight out to the side. As we experienced the flavor of the cocoa beans, David told us about how in the past, they were so precious they were actually used as currency. In the meantime, we're still holding our arms straight out, so we're still working, even while resting some and experiencing the sensation of cocoa chips on our tongues.

Chocolate is good. Yoga is good. Feelings are good.
Throughout class, David also spoke about love—a message which is uncannily timely for me at the moment. I can't remember the details of everything he said, but he mentioned a quote about people who take serotonin-balancing or boosting drugs like Prozac. Something about they are less likely to find and keep love because the drug evens them out, but then they never really feel all the highs and lows of love, the connection. I'm really paraphrasing, and David did not quote this with any bad intent, so I hope no one will take it that way. His whole point was that IF you want to experience love, you have to experience the pain that goes with it. Love isn't a straight path or a smooth ride, so to really get all the benefits of it, you have to fasten your seatbelt and ride it out. It's an interesting observation I think most of us forget. Love hurts, yes. Love is great too. Shutting yourself off from the depth of love to avoid the pain is just that: shutting yourself off from love.

After the rest of practice and a long savasana in which David treated all of us to a neck rub with lavender oil, we sat up and sampled a Naga truffle. By this point we were all pretty much drenched and in a bliss state, so the Naga truffle was just the icing on the cake. It was a wonderful night that fulfilled each of our five senses—which is why I think Dave's little yoga + chocolate road show has been a smashing success. Good for him and Katrina...I love innovation, and this is creativity at its finest.

PS: Can't make a future Yoga + Chocoalte weekend? Order the Yoga + Chocolate Chakra Gift's almost as good!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

No Yoga, No News

I've got nothing to report on the yoga front since I'm not practicing. I think one more week off will get me through my knee issues. I hope.

I am looking forward to the Yoga + Chocolate/Yoga + Wine weekend seminar I have coming up with David Romanelli. David features Vosges Haut Chocolat, which I've had before, and it is dynamite (love the Oaxaca and Naga bars—if you eat on the edge, you will like). I'll definitely blog about the seminar, so check back in a week or so. I doubt I'll be posting anything on The Yogaphile until then.

Monday, April 9, 2007

I Miss Yoga

Going on week three of no yoga. I taught the kids last Saturday...the boys again...and that's all the yoga I've done. It felt really good, just the little bit of demoing I did. I really miss my yoga.

I can't decide if I should go to class in the morning or not. My body and soul need it, for sure. My legs are losing muscle with no yoga, no weights, and no cardio, and that sucks. I know what will tweak my knees further—what to avoid—but I'm wondering if another week off given that I've got hardcore yoga coming up at the end of the month is what I need.

Damn knees. Left one is still popping when I bend, but the aching has dissipated significantly. I just don't know if I can trust myself to go to class and not stress them. AHHHH! I'm so tired of sitting around doing practically nothing. Maybe I'll go to class, practice like I'm 95, and see how I feel after. Of course, that means no Pigeon (wah...I love Pigeon!), no deep Warriors or Side Angles, possibly no Utkatasana as well. What the heck do I do while everyone else is doing their thing?