I had a very interesting experience teaching today. It was my second week of teaching at a new studio. My first week went okay, but I got a bit thrown because: 1) of the intimidation of teaching to a new room, and 2) I had planned what I believed was a pretty vigorous vinyasa flow, but it ended up feeling far slower than I had intended (despite the fact that I practiced the sequence at home), which threw me a bit.
So today I went in for round two, feeling invigorated and ready to own this class. I wandered into the room about fifteen minutes before class and chatted with a couple of the students. One of the students confided in me that she had been dealing with intense anxiety (including panic attacks) and that she’d had to force herself to the studio today. I had a nice chat with her, gave her some tips for class, a few good anti-anxiety poses for home practice, and a big high-five for making it out today. By the end of our conversation, though, I realized that I had somehow “picked up” some of her anxiety through osmosis. My heart rate sped up, and my hands felt clammy and a bit shaky as I gripped my tea mug.
I fought to maintain a calm demeanor as I walked out of the studio, then high-tailed it into our private back room to take a few minutes before class to meditate and collect myself. It struck me that (for both of our sakes), I needed to switch my plan up a bit and incorporate pranayama before dipping into any asana at all. As luck would have it, one of my own teachers who happens to be masterful at breathing exercises was studio managing. I dipped out of the back room, quickly explained the situation to her, and asked if it would be appropriate to use alternate-nostril breathing as a means of encouraging balance and evening out. She suggested that, instead, I lead the class through deep, extended exhales, first having them count to 4 on an inhale, and 4 on an exhale, then extending the exhales to longer counts than the inhales. I realized she was exactly right.
Gratefully, I returned to the back room and practiced this myself for a few minutes. After the first couple of minutes, my heart rate slowed again, and I could feel the tension beginning to simmer down. I walked into the studio and had everyone come to kneel as we began breathing. It was the most beautiful sound, listening to the whole room breathe like that. I dimmed the lights, and surrendered myself to the fact that this class was going to be off-the-cuff, different than I had imagined it.
After the breathing, we moved slowly and languidly for a bit, really taking the time to nurture. I couldn’t help but notice how strong everyone’s breath was throughout the whole class. As the class went by, I moved slowly through the room, carefully monitoring where everyone’s energy seemed to be and selecting asanas accordingly.
By the end of class, I felt as relaxed and rejuvenated as if I’d done the practice myself. What had begun as a jarring situation ended up being one of the most gratifying classes I’ve taught to date. After class, one student commented that the sequence had felt very intuitive and gave her exactly what she needed. It’s one of the best compliments I could have possibly hoped to have received.
So, today was a breakthrough on many levels. I’m in the midst of a mentorship that’s all about reading people’s energy and, accordingly, what they need. Today I realized what that really means in practice. Perhaps even more than that, I feel like I found new direction as a teacher. I’ve always fancied myself as someone who would teach vigorous, challenging asana. I love taking those types of classes myself–not all the time, but often. But the truth of the matter is, I’m not a “trick” yogi. I may very well never get into a handstand off the wall and will certainly never be the most advanced yogi in class. So, I realized today, why would I really be attempting to teach that? I think that maybe I’m just built to really concentrate on students’ energy and emotional state on a given day–to lead them through a rewarding and renewing practice that encourages them to be right where they are in any given moment, and that improves their emotional, mental, and spiritual states off of the mat.
(I found this article about yoga for anxiety and panic attacks … while we’re on the subject.)
I’m so high on life right now that I probably shouldn’t be allowed to operate heavy machinery. Seriously. The past few days have been so incredibly full of awesome that there is absolutely no way I could even begin to fit it all into a single post. My brain is whirling with so much wonderful.
Despite my protests, my good ol’ buddy ol’ pal C. came into town from Portland to celebrate my birthday this Saturday. It was a simple but perfect twenty-four hours. We walked along the Charles and caught up, ate Sweetgreen and sorbet, drank some champagne, and spent the next morning wandering through the Arboretum taking pictures. It was a short visit, but truly quality time that got my birthday started off on the right note.
I turned thirty-six this year and, to be honest, wasn’t too thrilled about it. It just seems like one of those “jump” ages–you know, closer to forty than thirty, and it’s all going so fast, blah, blah, blah. On every birthday, though, I am a big believer that you’re setting the tone for the year, so I’m always pretty intentional that what I do on that day represents where I want to go in the year ahead. So on this particular year, it was great that I had a yoga class set to teach early Monday morning. This is a new class that I’m still building, so no one showed up that day, which was actually perfect. It meant that I had a beautiful studio to practice in all to myself. I turned on some good tunes and did some inversions that I never could’ve done a year ago … let alone at twenty-six. That small thing totally flipped my mindset around and I decided it was wonderful to be exactly where I am right now.
From there, I had a beautiful bright perfect-fall-morning walk over to CR’s place, not too far away from the studio I was teaching at in Cambridge. I arrived there only to find this beautiful collection of birthday greeting signs she’d made me hanging on the wall. My heart almost burst from the utter sweetness of it. We chatted for a while, then walked along the Charles, chatting and soaking in the beautiful day.
From there, we headed over to my favorite restaurant in Cambridge where we had my favorite lunch with a couple more of my favorite gals from TT. I felt so loved and filled up with gratitude. I honestly can’t remember ever feeling as though so much was right in my life or had such a strong, deep knowledge that I was exactly where and with whom I needed to be in life. Lemme tell you, that’s a beautiful, beautiful feeling. The craziest part? I didn’t even know these people last year.
And I feel like the tone was thus set appropriately for the year because the past couple of days since my birthday have been filled in that same vein, almost as though I’m floating through a dream of exactly what I want my life to be like. On Tuesday, I went to CCY to work on their newsletter. I spent a few hours there, surrounded by my favorite yoga teachers (who are now my colleagues–what?!?) milling around as I wrote in the communal room. I took a class with T. in the middle of my “work” day. After class, she took a few minutes with me to show me how to do an inversion I told her with complete certainty there was no way I could do. I don’t know what magic she mixed up, but she taught it in such a way that I flew right up. It was such a shockingly victorious moment that I inadvertently whooped from upside down (I’m not generally a whooper). After a full day there, I headed to the new Studio J downtown for our first staff meeting. The owners talked about how they wanted us all to have the freedom to create our own workshops and events.
My friend KB also works there and we were inspired to create a duo workshop for New Year’s Day–one that is exactly the class we would want to take on New Year’s Day. Not one that’s all about twisting all of the holiday season’s sins out in one big detox but, rather, one that’s gentle yet empowering and that incorporates all of the things most of us want to bring into our lives: love, grounding, centering, flying high, and growing. We had a spur-of-the-moment brainstorming session over coffee in her cozy kitchen today. It was such a great feeling of creatively bursting and free inspiration floating all over the room. It’s awesome whenever that happens, but it’s even more awesome when you get to share it with someone you’re on the same page with.
Earlier in the morning today, I taught a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants yoga class that centered around the idea of maitri–as Pema Chodron (so beautifully) explains it “unconditional friendship with oneself.” (How profoundly beautiful and life-shifting is that concept?) After class, a girl walked up to me completely dazed and yoga-stoned and told me it was one of the best classes she’d ever taken. I have no words for what an amazing thing to hear that was. Just incredible. And then, as if all of that wasn’t enough, tonight I watched a private client who is only four classes into yoga fly into Crane for the first time. He’s a thirty-something year old guy, but he lit up like a little kid in that moment. Watching it was just absolutely (sorry to use the word again, but it’s true) incredible.
So suffice to say that so far I’m all good with thirty-six. And so deeply and completely grateful for everything good and “bad” it took to get me to this place right here, right now.
Today marks the end of the 100 Days of Yoga. I made it for 99 days, with one of them inadvertently missed on day 91 (I’m gonna chalk that up to Red Sox-induced brain malfunction). I started these 100 days on the first day of the second round of teacher training. I’m now three months out of training, teaching classes that are “mine” in three studios around town, and several other community class and sub list spots at a variety of studios. Today is also the night before my birthday. Last year on my birthday, I made a vision board with a list on the back. On that list, I wrote out a simple list of goals that I wanted to incorporate throughout the year–it was really basic day-to-day stuff, much of which I didn’t do (yeah, still can’t play the guitar). One of them, though, was going to a yoga class once a week. It wasn’t that I wasn’t doing yoga at that point, but I’d gotten really into practicing at home. I thought it was important to get out just to mix up the practice and also, hopefully, to meet new friends in the yoga community.
Funny how that spiraled. That one class I started going to in November of 2012 turned into two classes per week, then four. I met my favorite teacher, T., who ultimately inspired me to go to BBY for training, just like she had. A year later, she owns her own studio, CCY, which has become one of my favorite places to hang out, and also where I work as a studio manager and a teacher. All of that happened in less than 365 days. It’s pretty crazy how life works. You really never do know what’s in store. On the eve of my last birthday, I would have never guessed where I’d be today. And I didn’t even know some of the people who are big players in my life today.
This post is really supposed to be about the last 100 days, but it feels like it’s sort of a round-up of the year, too. My friend came into town for a little pre-birthday celebration this weekend and I was telling her how it suddenly hit me what a great year this has been. It’s definitely the first great year I’ve had since my brother died nearly four years ago, so it feels extra good. I mean, sure, there were some tough moments this year just as there are every year, but the only real sustained down this year was the demise of my relationship with Paul. And I can hardly even count that because it’s what initiated all of the best things this year. Without that, I just can’t imagine that I would’ve ended up in teacher training when I did. And without that, well, everything would be different right now. I would be different right now.
The past 100 days (okay, okay, 99) have been surprisingly not challenging in a physical way. At this point, I know that I really want to be on my mat at some point every day, whether that’s at a studio or at home. And I also know that the days I don’t want to be on the mat for whatever reason are the days that I most need to get my ass on a mat, pronto. Most of my yoga practice these past 100 days has taken place off the mat. It’s been being petrified at auditions; learning to work through the disappointment of auditions that don’t go well, and accepting the rejection that comes with a new career path; fighting nerves to get up in front of people and teach; dealing with my long-standing body issues in an industry that inherently makes you aware of your physique; forcing myself into social situations that scare me.
But because of all of this, I feel strong in a way that I never have before. I feel more me than I ever have before. I’ve learned to speak up for what I want, even if I’m not always the most eloquent and graceful at it. I’ve learned to find fulfillment within myself rather than from outside relationships. I’ve learned to let go, and remain open while doing so, even if that means experiencing emotions that are difficult.
I’ve got a long way to go. The truth of the matter is that every day from here on out should be a perpetual 100 Days of Yoga. It should involve risk and conquering fears and putting myself out there and being the truest version of me I can be. But I know it’s worth it because if there has been another 100 days in my life where I’ve felt as alive and content and as though the world is as full of goodness and possibility as I have for the past few months, I certainly couldn’t tell you when it was.
Thanks for coming along for this journey with me. I’m sure there’s more to come.
Until Wednesday, the 100 Days of Yoga were going strong, even though the documenting part of it has definitely tapered to a trickle. All day that day, I was working on a tough editing project, then went to bed early exhausted and watched the World Series win (go Sox!) all snuggled up from there. It wasn’t until the next morning that I realized I had somehow let the entire day go by without doing a shred of yoga. Thus blowing my 100 days straight of yoga. And on Day 91, no less! It’s funny because there have been days throughout the past three months when I’ve considered breaking my streak for legitimate reasons–not feeling well, a slammed schedule, etc. Never once did I ultimately let myself do it, though. And then, of all the stupid things, I blanked on something that has become completely habitual nine days before I was due to finish up! That’s okay, though. I’m still planning on continuing on and, while perhaps not exactly the same, 99 Days of Yoga isn’t so bad, either.
Things have really been coming together the past few days. In addition to my regular class at Studio J, I am now also teaching three times a week at The Breathing Room, as of next Monday. It’s funny–I feel like as soon as I had my post-audition meltdown about whether or not this could actually work, things started to come together. Slowly but surely.
I also signed up for my next phase of training, which will begin on November 16. It’s a six-month mentorship with Nicole Clark through CCY. We’ll learn all about anatomy, assists, the business of yoga–all sorts of stuff. I’m really excited about not only the mentorship, but also the people I’ll be doing this training with. A very different group from my initial TT group, but a few fellow teachers that I admittedly don’t know well, but have come to like in the past few months. The next phase awaits!
Today I got offered my first official class that’s all my own. Yee haw! I was given a Friday evening Vinyasa with Relaxation class and Saturday morning Vinyasa class at the soon-to-be-opened Studio J in Government Center. Unfortunately, the Saturday class conflicted with my regular assisting duties at CCY (which I just can’t bring myself to give up–I feel like it’s so incredibly valuable), but I will definitely be picking up the Friday class as soon as Studio J opens its doors, hopefully in the next couple of weeks. Yay!
All of a sudden, there’s a snap in the air today that definitely hasn’t been around yet this year, despite all of the glorious New England colors that have been on display for a few weeks now. It is decidedly fall. My favorite time of the year. I just love it so much, I almost want to eat it–I can’t get enough. As if right on cue, things gathered speed today, with a lot of (editorial) work leads coming in all at once. Right on time, too. I’m used to skating on the edge financially, but things are bordering on the precipice of scary right now. I know it will work out because it always does but, still, not the best feeling to skate too close to the edge. In terms of yoga, work is coming in on that front, too. I got a job with the new studio I auditioned for last Monday (Studio J, opening in Government Center next week), and Tatyana stopped me today to say there are some things she wants to talk to me about when we meet to go over this week’s round of assists on Friday (which I think is a good thing).
Today I went to a core class with Nicole at CCY and, man, it was a crazy experience. She tweaks such tiny little details–things that I’d never thought to think about before. Her cues are so intelligent and anatomically focused that it’s just mind-boggling. It reminds me a little bit of how it was when I studied journalism in college, then worked an internship at The Boston Globe later–college laid down the foundation, but you almost had to unlearn it all and start over again once you were out in a practical environment. I feel that same feeling right now. My fellow TTs and I were trained so well at BBY but … man, there’s so much left to learn (a lifetime’s worth, I’m sure), and a bevy of cues and adjustments that go way beyond the basics we all learned about to teach. Nicole is doing a 6-month mentorship program at CCY, which I’m going to do … if I can get even 3% of the knowledge stored up in her brain, I will be a damn fine yoga teacher.
After my class with Nicole, I taught a private session to my neighbor and her adorable 4-year-old son. His focus was astounding and he’s got a badass Half-Moon going on.
So … I think I’m accepting the fact that even though the 100 Days of Yoga happen every day, the journaling of the experience happens more like once a week at this point. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but I feel like the days are slipping by at an astonishingly rapid rate, and by the end of each day I’ve sort of lost the ability to put together coherent sentences, whether that applies to phone calls or blogging.
The big news about last week was that I had an audition for CCY. This was definitely the biggest audition I’ve had to date. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to control every factor, and there were certainly a few that were less than ideal, such as: 1) the fact that I woke up at 4:30 a.m. the morning before and ended up editing an annual report and 2) although I placed myself strategically so as to hopefully go toward the beginning of the round robin audition, they actually moved counter-clockwise, so I was toward the end.
As far as I’m concerned, there were a lot of really amazing teachers in that room. When my turn finally came around, I knew the competition was stiff. I got up to began teaching and (not surprisingly) got hit with that first rush of nervous adrenaline. I’ve learned to expect that and ride through it, though. What got me this time is that one of the “judges” was mouthing information to me for the five minutes I was teaching. I couldn’t make out what she was saying and, as a result, was very unfocused. After my five minutes were up I returned to my mat feeling like a complete failure. To the point where I was thinking, “I’ve made a horrible error in judgement. I should not be trying to do this as a profession.” As soon as the audition was finished, I rushed out (very unlike me), and called C., before trying to get myself together for a class I was teaching later that afternoon. A couple of hours later, I got an email from CCY telling me that I’d been added to their sub list.
The next morning, I returned to CCY to assist (which, I have to say, is getting more and more fun every time). After class ended, I went up to T. to apologize for bombing the day before. She looked legitimately confused, and told me she had no idea what I was talking about. She said that, of everyone in the room, three people had made the cut, and I was one of them. This was obviously a great relief (and shocking) to hear. But I have to say that, even at that, I’m amazed by how far off my gauge is for this stuff. With writing, my instincts are refined enough and its natural enough to me that I can generally tell when something is good or bad. With yoga, that’s just not there. I have no idea.
On a more positive note, I had a great time teaching this week. I really, really am growing to love that part of it all. I had to say good-bye to BBY as it was a bit of a conflict to work both there and at CCY. Sad to let it go, but I do feel it was the right choice.
Wow. I’ve really let the writing go for the past few days. The 100 Days of Yoga is still going strong. However, long hours and general exhaustion have just sort of made me too overwhelmed to write at the end of the past several days. But, a lot has happened. A lot of really great stuff, a couple of difficult things.
I’m participating in this research study with a local hospital. As part of it, they’ve been giving me this really minor topical medication. I’ve taken the medication before without it having the effect it’s having now, which is this: Really vivid dreams. Not scary dreams–in fact, just the opposite. They’ve been unbelievably mundane. And beautiful. For four or five nights straight, I dreamed that I was hanging out with my brother. And it was really, really incredible because it just felt so real and natural–like, in the dreams he would be annoyed with me for being bossy, and I’d be annoyed with him for being messy. All those things that I completely took for granted for twenty-seven years were magical to get a taste of again, even if it was in an unconscious state. I woke up every morning feeling like I had actually hung out with him. So wonderful.
I subbed a restorative yoga class for my friend last Friday (Day 71) since it was her birthday. I was trained in restorative, but it’s not really my bag and I don’t have any real intention of teaching it so, needless to say, this was the first restorative class I’d ever taught. It was a small class–just three people, two of whom were a brother and sister. I thought it was really cute and sweet that they’d come together, but quickly grew wary of the entire situation. Turns out the sister has been a yoga teacher since 1998, and sort of took it upon herself to pick-up teach, adjust her brother, etc. This is just sort of an awkward situation to be in, and it really made teaching not very fun for the duration of the class (which was quite a bit since this happened toward the beginning of the class). Finally, the class ended and everyone was getting ready to leave. The brother came up to me and told me he’d really liked the class. Then he told me that he had mouth and throat cancer five years ago. Since then, he hadn’t been able to produce saliva … that is, until this class, when it had all of a sudden come back. Hearing that was such an incredible feeling, and it really snapped my whole world back into perspective. I actually really wish my friend had taught her own class that night because what an incredible birthday present to be able to witness that!
I assisted at CCY on Saturday again and, while it’s still a little scary, it was much better this time. Tatyana taught me four specific assists on Friday afternoon, which I put into practice on Saturday. We’re going to keep incorporating four new ones every week. It’s kind of a genius idea on her part, if you ask me.
Bright and early on Monday morning, I had another group audition. It was definitely far, far more manageable than the first and I think I did a pretty solid job. BUT, I still can’t get rid of that shake in my voice for the first thirty seconds. My friend C. pointed out, though, that the shaking voice used to last for a full couple of minutes, so at least I’m going in the right direction. She has a good point about that.