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

Adventure: Maui

One of the best moments of my life: arriving in to Maui, and seeing my guy for the first time in over five months. This then grew into one of the best weeks of my life, as we took our very first vacation in our six-plus years, just us, together. We spent the week lazing about, playing in water (he tried snorkeling for the first time), roaming the island.

On the way home from Hana

They say distance makes the heart grow fonder…. It worked. Here’s us on the way home from Hana.

We spent a day doing the drive to Hana, and instead of turning around and coming back the way we had come (aka what the guidebooks recommend and 90% of visitors do), we took the long, adventurous way around. This was a somewhat harrowing experience given the road conditions–think several hours on a roller coaster, but worth it for the incredible landscapes (I felt like I had been transported to Ireland) and stunning sunset.

An inadequate representation of the beauty of this Maui sunset

An inadequate representation of the beauty of this Maui sunset

Of course, no trip is complete without yoga, and even amidst my lazing about I fit in a few classes at Bikram Yoga Kahalui. I even ended up teaching my second-to-last morning (surprise!), and had a great time with the students. Nice to flex those teaching muscles again before plunging back in to my regular teaching life at home. When you teach all the time, taking even a week-long break feels like ages. You wonder how much you’ll remember, and then 30 seconds in know that you’ll be just fine. Another time of many in which I am so thankful for our dialogue, which provides a solid (Bikram would say bulletproof) foundation to every unique class.

As a pure bonus and perfect end to my series of adventures, I had one final rendezvous with another teacher training littermate who lives and teaches in Maui. Over delicious food and even more amazing pie, Desiree and I caught up on our last two years– hers has taken her from Maui to Seattle to India and back to Maui. We talked about our lives, our partners, teaching, studio politics, getting by financially through teaching, changing trends in the Bikram yoga mini-verse, our sometimes odd but also lovable students…. basically everything. I look forward to doing it again the next time I visit Maui, because these are the connections that sustain us.

Desiree and I, BYTT'12 love forever

Desiree and I, BYTT’12 love forever

After just over a week in Maui, it was time to return home. I couldn’t wait to see all of my lovely yogis at home, to see and soak in my studios, to get back in to the routine of teaching. I was (and remain) so grateful for my time teaching in Australia and the opportunity I had to travel and experience some of the most beautiful places in the world (no exaggeration). I was (and am) also grateful to have such an amazing home to be welcomed back to after. Lucky, lucky me!

Strengthening You Inside & Out: An Interview with Yours Truly

One of my students, Ajay, interviewed me a few weeks ago for an assignment for his journalism class. We had a long conversation, a few tidbits of which are included below. Mostly, I’m always gratified to discover I do make sense when I’m talking. My favorite part of the interview: in discussing challenging situations in the room, I mentioned how yoga allows me to be patient with crazy students as well as patient with myself when I get angry or frustrated at aforementioned students’ behavior. Ajay exclaimed that he’d never seen me get angry in class, and was shocked to think sometime I was. My answer? “Good! That means I’m doing my job right!” It’s not about me. I never want to express or take out my negative feelings on my students.

In any case, here is the result. I have edited out the parts introducing Bikram Yoga, since hopefully you are all already aware of the practice.

Triangle PoseEnthusiasm

 

 

 

 

 

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT : JESSICA PERFORMING TRIANGLE POSTURE ; JESSICA WITH HER SIGNATURE SMILE.

“It requires a lot of vigilance to avoid injury-which is the nature of any physical activity–and vigilance is one of the things that is continuously being taught in the room,” was her reply when she was questioned whether somebody could hurt themselves in the hot room. After hearing her reply, I was able to gather the reason as to why so much emphasis was always laid on being alert of your body. The vigilance in class supported safe practice of yoga.

She told me that having been practicing yoga 4-5 times a week has not only made her a stronger version of herself but has also made her more patient and compassionate. “It makes me a lot kinder towards myself and other people” she adds. When pushed into revealing more benefits of Bikram Yoga other than the obvious she jokingly replies that now she has got a “crap ton” more flexibility.

When the question arose as to whether the students should try to push themselves in the hot room in order to receive more benefits from their practice, she advises that students should try to improve every single class but they should also be aware of their own capabilities. Hence as long as you were performing with proper form and not with your ego you were receiving the benefits. “You never win an ego contest. Never, ever.”

When asked if there was any secret behind having a great class, she replies, “If you can smile in here (in class) you can smile anywhere.” Now I could figure out as to why she always had on her 1000-volt smile. I was sure that everyone who did hot yoga could completely relate to what she was saying because if a person who was trying to do a yoga posture against odds such as heat, humidity, sweat, mind-boggling thoughts etc. and still could smile, then it could be made damn sure that person could smile on the face of any challenges that faced in the outside world. After this our conversation ended and her words of wisdom kept ringing in my ears even after a few days literally (well not that literally but you should get the meaning by now).

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:

IMG_8181

Saturday Snapshot: Family yoga

kidsyogatriangle

Teaching Triangle Pose: Undoubtedly, I am talking about stretching the left arm up in this moment.

On Saturday, I had the privilege and pleasure to teach the first family yoga class at BYMV. And what an experience it was! We had seven kids and seven parents, which I consider quite a reasonable turnout for the first one. One hour, unheated, one set of all the postures.

Lessons for the next go-around:

  •  Teaching Pranayama and Triangle to kids is hard! So many technical, alignment details that make such a big difference.
  • Definitely give them a visual for the trickier postures: I had grown-ups demonstrate Standing Bow and Triangle, but I wish I had done it for Standing Head-to-Knee, too.
  • It’s hard NOT to say the dialogue! I kept finding myself slipping into that wonderfully familiar rhythm, even when it wasn’t appropriate to do so. I needed to continuously translate the dialogue into kid-speak, which required quite a lot of mental energy.

Highlights:

  • Having the kids demonstrate postures they were really good at: my bonus nephew does an awesome Scorpion pose so I had him show everyone after Locust, and one of the little girls had an absolutely beautiful Camel pose that I asked her to demonstrate. When she lay back down on her mat for Dead Body pose, she gave me a thumbs-up and a proud little smile. It was heart-meltingly adorable.
  • One of the older boys got stuck in Fixed Firm so I got to help him out. 🙂
  • Seeing everybody lie still in Dead Body pose at the end of class, actually still…. except A, who had rolled himself up in his mat sideways. It was surprisingly peaceful.

All in all, it was the awesome kind of chaos you’d exactly expect!

Australia, Here I Come!

A quick announcement of exciting things to come. One month from now, I begin a new adventure: teaching Bikram Yoga in Melbourne, Australia for the next four months. Yes, Australia. Specifically, Bikram Yoga Werribee & Yarraville.

I am currently preemptively missing all of my students and fellow teachers (I hate goodbyes, even temporary ones), but also really looking forward to this opportunity to expand and explore. I love my yoga peeps, yet I also feel strongly that it is the time to push my boundaries more. In addition to quelling my wanderlust, I know that this will help me become a better teacher.
adventurehurt
So stay tuned. Things are going to get more interesting!

a self-care memorial

Seven years ago today, my mom died. So much of who I am and my life now has been shaped by her, both in living and in dying. Her love overwhelms me still.

This morning, at the end of teaching class #2, I mentioned what today meant for me and how it contributed to me becoming a teacher. What I said wasn’t thought out or particularly well articulated, but it was heartfelt. And in yet another demonstration that we never know how our words affects others, one of my students, Tracy, came to me afterwards and asked if she could share it on her own page. Here is what she said (I think she said it better than me):

Tracy and Me

Completely unexpected….this morning’s yoga practice lead by one of my favorite instructors, Jessica, ended with her sharing something very personal. Today was the 7th anniversary of her mother’s passing, and that event in Jessica’s life was a strong motivating factor to why she wanted to teach. Helping people become stronger, healthier, and stay that way is THE best way for all of us to take care of the people that we love. Always “doing” for others doesn’t mean neglecting ourselves….in fact it may be just the opposite.

Putting others first is not an excuse to neglect your own health and happiness….and it may be counter productive anyway.

You can check out Tracy’s incredible fitness story here. I am so, so lucky to have the opportunity to get to know my students.

Please, remember take care of your health and well-being. I believe that yoga (and particularly Bikram yoga) is a great way of doing that–but if I can’t convince you of that, than please, at least do something.

mastering the mind

Using my vacation to artistically add to my teaching journal

Using my vacation to artistically add to my teaching journal… Happy new year from Colorado!

namaste indeed

A student left me this note after I'd hopped in the room to take class after teaching. Moments like this remind me how powerful and rewarding my job is... This made me day, and quite probably my week!

A student left me this note after I’d hopped in the room to take class after teaching this morning. Moments like this remind me how powerful and rewarding my job is… This made my day, and quite probably my week!