My Yoga Story & BYSJ

One of the reasons I don’t post here so often anymore is because I spend a lot of my time planning and posting for Bikram Yoga San Jose on Facebook. So, as I continue to do my best to not disappear entirely from writing about my own yoga journey, feel free to follow our posts on Facebook.

I did, however, want to share this video– it’s a short overview of my yoga story. Enjoy!

Loving your Body, Yoga, and Community

A few months ago, I had the pleasure to participate in filming this video about BYMV. I have seen my fair number of studios, but few could even attempt to rival the magic at BYMV– the loving details of the studio, the wonderful staff, our students.

They also managed to catch me talking about one of the biggest ways yoga has helped me: self-image. There’s a great quote from the spoken-word poet Andrea Gibson:

“I realized I was looking at my body like my body was my enemy, and if I didn’t learn how to be an ally to my body, I was going to feel like shit for the rest of my life.”
-Andrea Gibson

Yoga helps me be an ally to my body, and keeps me from feeling like shit. I ingested that self-loathing of the body that is all too common, especially for women. I hated how I looked, and so I hated myself. Even though I always played sports, and gained coordination and physical strength, it was only a stop-gap. It prevented me from feeling worse about myself, but it didn’t change me for the better. Only yoga has been able to do that.

Even if I never practiced yoga asana again (would not happen), the hours I have put in to so far have already irrevocably transformed my relationship to myself in ways I never could have predicted. I still have more than my share of moments of doubt and negativity, but I also have a well-worn path out of that dark place. I know what to do to help myself feel better. And now, when I practice, it is as a reminder to love myself. To be compassionate with the things I cannot yet love, and to appreciate all the rest.

Yoga for everybody: Dad edition!

 

Dad and me after his first yoga class

Dad and me after his first yoga class

Proof that my dad survived his first yoga class last weekend. Although I definitely heard him mutter “I’m going to kill you” to me during savasana after camel, he even volunteered to come to family yoga again for at least a few months. He did great, and I’m SO proud of him for trying something new and intimidating! Just goes to show…..

“You’re never too old, never too bad, never too late and never too sick to start from scratch once again.” – BC

Celebrate good times, c’mon!

Of course, after the 60 day challenge comes the 60 day challenge PARTY! We gather, we eat, we share stories, we take goofy pictures. What’s not to love?

One of several aforementioned goofy photos: group shot from the end of the night

One of several aforementioned goofy photos: group shot from the end of the night

Regardless of whether or not I did the challenge, I love going to the challenge parties. They are the rare chance for us to come together and share. As a teacher, I have the friends, the time, and the spaces to talk about and reflect on my yoga practice a lot. But for most students, this may be the only time the whole year (or ever) that they share the journey of their practice, and that, as a teacher, I get to peek inside their world from their eyes. On the podium and in the studio I see glimpses: when they have a tough day, when they can finally grab both feet in Bow Pose–but rarely will I be able to know why it happens or what it means to them.

At these parties, I finally get to hear their story. And there were SO MANY GREAT STORIES. One student shared how, having watched past challenges, this was the first time she found the courage and did it herself, and how much it has helped her running. Another made his speech, carrying his young son in one arm and with his wife and young daughter beaming with pride nearby. One student even wrote a rap song about what this yoga means for her and performed it with her daughter, with lyrics that were both hilarious and touchingly honest and vulnerable. One Challenger’s husband– not a yogi–came up and made a speech about how her yoga practice had inspired him to take better care of himself and be more active. Hilariously, one student admitted to not telling her husband when she had finished her challenge, all so that she could keep coming every day. Over and over, people shared how much better they felt– but even more, they shared how much it had affected their relationship with their family, their loved ones.

Me and one of my frequent students, Reema, who shared her new personal mantra

Me and one of my frequent students, Reema, who shared her new personal mantra

Caught up in the mundanities, it’s easy to forget sometimes how much impact we have as teachers. One student I didn’t even know mentioned me and how much my classes had helped her. Another student said that she took on a new mantra based on something I had said off-hand one day while students were really struggling in class:

LESS DRAMA, MORE PRANA. In other words, think less, breathe more. Although I had appropriated this from one time another teacher said this while I was practicing in a class over a year ago at a different studio (I did give her credit), these words were given a whole new life as they took on meaning and power for more students.

Just like the yoga: it’s a ripple effect, one drop repeating over, growing and widening. We may not know, or see, or be aware of what it’s doing– all the same, it is happening.

I did it! Fourth challenge (if BYTT counts), second time at BYSJ

I did it! Fourth challenge (if BYTT counts), second time at BYSJ

between harmony and happiness

60 days of monkeys!

60 days of monkeys!

 

I did it! I finished my daily 60 day challenge. No doubles. Just yoga, every single day. I haven’t decided how to celebrate yet…

“Keep it Light”

Yesterday was day 30 of my 60 day challenge. 30 consecutive days of yoga, and I am halfway there!

And it has been a challenge, emotionally most of all. I was deeply reluctant about signing up. My practice hasn’t been the same since I came home from Australia (never take breaks, kids, that’s the lesson… just kidding). Over the holidays I struggled and suffered and dragged myself through every single class. My hip flexors were chronically, painfully tight and class only seemed to make them ache worse. Standing Bow almost always sent me into a physiological and psychological nosedive. Any corrections, and my faith in myself and my abilities crumbled. Teaching was fine, but practicing was a nightmare. I started to wonder whether I would ever be able to handle the heat again, and my mind quickly devolved into an identity crisis.

The idea of having to go through that every day…… Shudder. BUT, inspired by my friend Chris, who has brain cancer and is currently undergoing radiation and chemotherapy yet again, I mustered up my determination and committed to the challenge.

And it definitely has not been easy. My hip flexors feel better (thanks actually to keeping up a regular advanced practice and being diligent about my after-class hip-stretching homework). I still have had some really rough days–for instance, one where my teacher-friend hugged me when I burst into tears after class, or another where a different teacher-friend hugged me because I cried through the last half an hour of class (I love my teacher-friends). And every Standing Bow still feels like a psychological roller coaster. I have also had some anxiety flare-ups, and while practicing helps, the difficulty breathing also makes practicing even more challenging and even less fun.

This time around, I do not push. Right now, for me, pushing only leads to failure and frustration.

Cynthia taught my class yesterday afternoon, and during party time she reminded us to “keep it light.” To let go of the struggle, the suffering, the resistance that only makes what we fight against stronger. My practice has felt heavy, I have felt heavy. This was the perfect time, and the perfect reminder: I become preoccupied during Standing Head to Knee that Standing Bow is just around the corner, and I fear it coming. Keep it light. And for now, that’s the best I can do. In Standing Bow, I pour all of my energy into changing the pattern, all of my focus into remembering that I can feel strong and good in the posture. And when I waver, I remind myself that how I might feel now is not how I will feel forever or even tomorrow. Keep it light. This stayed with me for the rest of my class.

At BYSJ, we begin the year with a pack of Angel cards which have themes for meditation written on them. We invite everyone to choose a card to act as a guide or intention for the year. Mine? Exactly what I needed.

My 2015 Angel Card

My 2015 Angel Card

Release
1. allow or enable to escape from confinement; set free.
2. allow (something) to move, act, or flow freely.

Yes, please. 

Adventure: Brisbane & Noosa

In visiting Brisbane, I was lucky enough to be welcomed to teaching by both Nundah and the Gabba for my few days in town. The students were disciplined and a joy to teach. Every time I return from a break in teaching, no matter how long or short, I experience this odd swirl of trepidation mixed with relief and gratitude to be back where I belong. It’s the latter that’s truly incredible–any studio in the world, and I can feel at least a little like I’m coming home. So although my teaching schedule did not allow me to do much sight-seeing while in Brisbane, I am still glad and appreciative of my time there. Brisbane grows some excellent Bikram yoga studios.

Behold, the perfect work-life balance: Absorbing the sun at Southbank, Brisbane's manmade lagoon, AND refreshing my dialogue for my afternoon classes

Behold, the perfect work-life balance: Absorbing the sun at Southbank, Brisbane’s manmade lagoon, while refreshing my dialogue for my afternoon classes

Most rewarding (or at the very least heart-warming), being in Brisbane meant I got to see two of my group-mates from my Teacher Training. For those of you who have never been to Teacher Training, your group-mates are like your family. You sweat and suffer and struggle together, and you support each other. Two and a half years later, it’s fascinating to see the diverging paths each person has taken since Training, and lucky when we get to converge for even a few short hours.  I adore both James and Julie, and I am really proud of them– both have dealt with some serious stuff since I last saw them, but they are tenacious. It meant quite a lot to me to see them again, and introduced a theme into my travels: they were the first of several Spring 2012 BYTT reunions.

Julie and James (and me), sweetly, briefly reunited!

Julie and James (and me), sweetly, briefly reunited!

Then, it was onwards to Noosa, where I got to reunite with another good friend from Teacher Training, Nzinza–originally from Detroit but in the middle of a global teaching adventure (I love how this happens!). We got to take each other’s class, eat Tim Tams, share teaching philosophies, wander on the beautiful beaches of Noosa, and eat some delicious seafood.

Nzinza's powerful Standing Bow

Nzinza’s powerful Standing Bow

(Apologies: between my travelling schedule and my (lack of) internet access, I am now updating well after the fact…. but chronicle I will!)

Next Up: Teaching yoga on Fraser Island ….at sunset ….on the beach

September: A Retrospective

Recipe for Inspiration
Lucas Miles, an American-but-Auckland-based senior teacher, visited Melbourne and did a posture clinic & class at Bikram Yoga Preston. This was my first opportunity to meet him, and I’d heard quite a lot and was looking forward to meeting him. I really enjoyed his master class—his approach is both laid back and highly practical, and he has a lot of insight into the postures and practice. I particularly enjoyed his discussion of balancing action, relaxation, attention, respiration, and duration when practicing: each mutually influencing and necessarily in proportion with the others.

Luke having me demonstrate the Spine Strengthening series. Here, clearly pointing out our area of focus for Locust posture. My favorite (not)!

Here, clearly pointing out our area of focus for Locust posture. My favorite (not)!

Me in Cobra. Luke: "Contract HERE, guys."

Luke having me demonstrate the Spine Strengthening series. Me in Cobra. Luke: “Contract HERE, guys.”

 


Hot Stuff

I completed our studio’s September consistency “challenge”: practice four times a week for four weeks. I say “challenge” because I normally do five to six times a week normally. Still, I dutifully tracked my classes (6, 5, 5, 4), and fit in class whenever I could so long as I wasn’t teaching. For the most part, however, I have been teaching quite a lot in order to save for my upcoming adventures. All in all, I was in the room for 76 classes this month.

Out of the Box (into another box)
In a break from our normal, hectic schedules, Claire and I took a field trip out so I could see and practice at Bikram Yoga Tullamarine (another local Melbourne studio I’d yet to visit). Such a beautiful studio—you could see the love and thought that had gone into the planning of the space. Succulents everywhere, natural light streaming in, comfortable couches and chairs, lots of reclaimed wood and secondhand furniture. After, Claire and I enjoyed lunch.

Claire (fellow teacher), Annemarie (teacher and BYT owner), and me after class

Claire (fellow teacher), Annemarie (teacher and BYT owner), and me after class


Yoga Playdate

After much organizing, a few of us Bikram teachers tried Anti-Gravity yoga together. I loved it as much as, or perhaps more, than last time. This time I was surrounded by friends who would laugh with me. It made for great photos.

Bikram Yogis do Anti-Gravity Yoga

Bikram Yogis do Anti-Gravity Yoga

Claire and her husband Tim-- don't they make a nice couple, hanging out?

Claire & Tim– couples that hang together, stay together?

Why do you do yoga?

When I got here, I used the chalkboard just outside the door to the yoga room to ask this question. We've got some cheeky students, and I love it!

When I got here, I used the chalkboard just outside the door to the yoga room to ask this question. We’ve got some cheeky students! (In case you can’t tell, the bottom line reads: “I don’t know. It hurts. It is difficult. It’s bloody hot. But I do like to be told what to do by sexy women.”)  Whatever gets you in the door? 😉 We’ll work on self-realization one step at a time…

The Countdown

"To A Great Aussie Adventure"

“To A Great Aussie Adventure”

 

This week marks my last week of teaching before I jet off (literally), and Sunday was the beginning of the end.

I’ve been teaching every Sunday at BYSC for the last two years–vacations excepted. I’ve been teaching the Sunday morning doubles for the last 15 months. I had to say a temporary farewell to all of my students, many of whom I’ve known for about five years now since that is also my sponsoring studio prior to teacher training. There were lots of hugs and lingering goodbyes. At least one is threatening to come visit, and I have my fingers crossed that she does!

Sunday afternoons I’ve taught 4:30 at BYSJ for the last five or so months. It’s a BIG class (we’ve regularly hit the 75 person limit, and I think the biggest I experienced was 86), so naturally it’s a totally different energy from my smaller, more intimate mornings. Nonetheless, I’ve definitely come to recognize and adore the regular crew: the ones who show up at the same time week after week, and I get to learn the shape of their lives and their practice.

The specialness of this class was compounded by it being both (1) Mother’s day and (2) (Surprise!) the birthday of one of my most avid students. Because it was Mother’s day, the class was smaller than usual (47 people), but everyone there had a good attitude. Towards the end, I shared my story of my mom’s (lack of) health, and thanked everyone for coming to take care of themselves. After, the one new student came up to me, crying, and he told me how much that had touched him.

Despite it being HIS birthday, D brought ME a lovely AND delicious cake. Starting in January, D has done a 4:30/6:30 double every Sunday. Inspired by his ability to do the back-to-back undermined my occasional excuses about being too tired to practice at 6:30, and so I have been teaching and then practicing with him for the past few months. Having to be accountable to him if I feel like getting lazy has encouraged me to look forward to that end of the day unwinding, and it’s clear we’re both going to miss this tradition while I’m away.

For 6:30 PM, I got to take Teresa’s class, whom I adore. She is a newer teacher (less than six months), but she’s already shaping up to be amazing. Her mother AND her daughter were with us yesterday: perfect! So for a bonus, here’s an extra shot of the two of us goofing around after class:

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