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

“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. 

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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Branching out: my first demonstration

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to participate in a demonstration for the 11th anniversary of Bikram Yoga San Jose. Trees run deep in BYSJ’s visual ideology, and I like to think of this studio as the roots of the south bay yoga community–out of this studio have come three more studios. It’s an amazing place. In every detail you can feel the attention and love of the folks at the heart of this place– particularly Michele, the studio owner, and Chris, Michele’s studio co-pilot (not his official title, but certainly the most apt).

I started teaching here on January 1, 2013, and this budding relationship was one of the most rewarding parts of my entire year. So it meant a lot to me that Cynthia (who choreographed the routine) asked me to help out for the anniversary–a way of reciprocating the love.

We dedicated this demonstration to Chris, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor in August and has had a rough time of it but has also displayed a tremendous fighting spirit throughout. We were lucky enough to have him present during the demo.

Anyways, enjoy (especially me falling out of a few, ha!).

The participants (from left to right) were: me, Dawn (a fellow teacher), Cynthia (owner of Bikram Yoga Mountain View and 2007 International Yoga Asana Champion), Jason (fellow teacher and Invitee to the upcoming Nationals), Michele (our wonderful BYSJ leader), and Michelle (manager and student at BYSJ).