Tuesday, July 31, 2012

a new perspective

Prepare yourself friends, I am about to become that yogini. I'm about to quote Guruji Iyengar. I've heard other instructors do it, I didn't love it when they did it. I am now one of them. And I get why they do it, this man is a genius. I mean he's not called Guruji for no reason right?
handstand prep

Today we worked on salamba sirsasana (headstand) for a long long long time. Salamba sirsanana is a pose people love, its pretty easy against a wall and you feel awesome doing it right? You think to yourself, I rock at yoga look at me on my head. You have a new perspective on life. You tell all your friends nonchalantly that you did a headstand today, what did they do?

On the other hand (stand, badum bum) headstand can be scary. Like really really scary. You're upside down. You could fall. In front of a room of people. And it would be really loud in the really quiet yoga studio.
half handstand (adho mukha vrkasana) on the wall (I know I'm taking about headstand and showing you pictures of headstand, just seeing if you're paying attention!)

Guruji Iyengar says, "The best way to overcome a fear is to face with equanimity the situation of which one is afraid. Then one gets the correct perspective, and one is not frightened anymore." 

Read that again. It's revolutionary. At least in my exhausted little head it is.
Going upside down the first time is scary, but if you go into it calm, prepared, ready to rock, its amazing. I can now tell you about 500 preps for headstand and handstand, just ask and I will be happy to share.

headstand prep against the wall
Upside down might not be the "correct perspective" but it sure is a different and interesting one. Certainly situation, however foreign, when approached in the way Iyengar suggests becomes easy. Scary things in life seem a little less so.


Monday, July 30, 2012

and I'm back

I disappeared. Which is exactly what I said I would not do. I said I would have a 7 day a week practice and I haven't, I also said I would blog every day and I haven't. So I apologize to all of you and to myself for not keeping up my promises.
In any case I'm back. Well, I've been back on the mat for a while, but I haven't been blogging. You'll all be happy to know that I've been keeping up with the yoga, the sweating, and the exhaustion.
I've moved on to part two of the teacher training, on from Power Yoga, aka sweating constantly to Gentle Therapeutics Yoga with Allaine Stricklen, which is just a HUGE change. Much more personalized, more about alignment and healing through yoga.

laughing at all the props i need

It is intense in a completely different way. I am no longer sweating my asana off but I am juggling yoga props like you would not believe. Whats that? You thought yoga was just you and your mat? So did I. We were wrong.

dominatrix down dog with a strap

Its a joke watching me walk around with all of my stuff. Schlepping it up and down the stairs and in and out of my car every day.  But the reality is that it helps. All these extra things that sometimes feel like a weight on me, but a little help from a  block, a strap, a mat, or a bolster can really help sometimes.

down dog head on a block hands on the wall

I so frequently see people in a yoga class who look like they are in pain and they force themselves into an asana that looks cool. Clearly your life will be better if you can bind in side angle right? You aren't any good at yoga if your heels aren't on the ground in down dog.

We hear instructors say everyday that we should leave our ego at the door, but its hard to do sometimes Well, most of the time we see other people doing cool stuff and we think, "if she can do that I can definitely do that" or "I'm better at yoga than she is." What does that even mean? Kind of a crazy idea when you think about it.

I have a new view on the people in class using the props, plus I'm now one of them. Where I might have once thought that it was "beginner" to use a block, I now realize that it is the people in the room using a block that are truly advanced, they have checked their egos at the door in order to further their practice. Can you check your ego at the door? Are you game? 



Saturday, July 14, 2012

Day Eight: Yoga Means Union

Today was a LOOOOOONG day. I stared at 9am with a gentle yoga with Allaine then 10:30am power hot yoga with Pablo then four hours of teacher training. I was not into it today.  When your body has gotten used to one series of actions, taking a different route is really hard.  I'm used to biking to yoga and biking home. I have things I like to do after yoga class. Showering is one of those things. After hot yoga its a requirement.

That doesn't happen for me any more. I do yoga and then I sit through a teacher training for four hours. Its exhausting. Its also a little gross. Don't get me wrong I rinse off but I'm not getting the full scrub down I really need. Spending 8 hours a day at the yoga studio also means that I essentially don't do anything else in my life but yoga.

In fact I am officially getting burnt out. I haven't spoken to anyone in my family for more than 5 minutes and I haven't seen my boyfriend for more than a consecutive hour since teacher training started. That is why I made a bold move tonight.

I'm ignoring my homework, I didn't come home and roll out my mat and start practicing what I learned today in class. Maybe tomorrow I'll decide this was a bad choice but right now I'm watching a documentary, sitting on my couch, drinking an awesome bottle of champagne and cuddling with my two faves: my boyfriend and my dog.

 Yoga is a sanskrit word that means union. The fact is that my life has not felt very cohesive for the last week or so. I feel like I have a yoga life and a real life. My real life has ended. So tonight is the comeback of my real life.
 Starting right this second I'm going to make an effort to have a little more union, a little more yoga in my life. You know what that might mean? A little less yoga homework might get done. But I think thats worthwhile if I get to talk to my sister and maybe see a little daylight.
How does this relate you you? You're sane, you didn't take too much on to your plate right? Pardon my language but BULLS*$%T! We all have too much on our plates. We all take on too many responsibilities. We all ignore people and things that deserve more attention. We all need a little yoga. A little union.

Try it. It feels really good to say, "I'm going to say no to something in order to give the people I love a little more time."

In the meantime I'm going to finish my bottle of champs with my little family.
Namaste and Bubbles,

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Day Six: DON'T Check Your Ego at the Door

We've all heard the same thing in various yoga classes: "yoga isn't about ego", "focus on your own practice", "look inward not to others", "take a child's pose if your body asks for it". But what if a little ego is good? What if looking over at the guy next to you makes you push yourself a little farther than you would other wise.

I once heard a teacher speak about the balance between ahimsa (non-violence) and satyam (truth).  The idea of "check your ego at the door" speaks to the first principle, ahimsa, being non-violent to your own body. The problem with this concept is that it can also be complacency. Lazyness and compassion are a breath apart on your yoga mat. Satyam on the other hand is the trueness of your practice. When you say to yourself "I'm taking a child's pose because this is what my body is asking for today" it feels very zen goddess yogini doesn't it? But get real, you're a badass, you can do one more breath. And it's gonna hurt and thats awesome. The trueness of your practice is that you can take one more breath.

Let's be clear I'm not saying you should be in pain to the point that you hurt yourself. I'm saying when your muscles burn and you want to cry and quit and take a child's pose, instead take a breath, sink deeper, open your heart brighter, sweat a little more.

Now for those who are kind enough to read this and don't do yoga you make have checked out a few sentences ago (likely when I mentioned sanskrit). How do these principles apply to the world off the mat you ask? Why thanks for asking! I have an answer. Or at least an attempt at an answer.

Today at work someone said something a little rude to me about leaving early to go to my yoga teacher training. They essentially implied I was being lazy by leaving early. My initial reaction was to just ignore the comment, ahimsa right?  I was being compassionate to that person. I'm a zen loving, mala bead wearing, incense burning yogini so I'm not going to lower myself and make a rude comment back. They weren't really upset with me their snarky comment was really about themselves not me.

Then I thought about truth. The truth was I would think about this comment all day. Here we are 12 hours later and I'm writing about it. So instead I said something. I just expressed my gratitude that I get to be in court every morning and on my mat in the afternoon. How lucky am I? Very. And I know it. And so I told them how lucky and blessed and grateful I am.

how can you feel anything but grateful when this is right outside your window?

So I've created a new road. The "high road" or not reacting to a rude comment is being diverted to a little path called satyam street.  I'm gonna walk on that road for a while and see how it feels, I'm betting its going to feel as good as holding a yoga pose for an extra breath does.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Day Five: The only thing your body hates is a day off

Have you heard the one about the dyslexic overachiever? She misunderstood the homework from her yoga teacher training and instead of doing 200 breaths of navasana (boat pose) she did 200 boat poses... for 5 breaths each. 

For my mathematically challenged law school friends that is 1,000 breaths in boat pose. And that is what I attempted to do last night. Now get off your couch for a minute and try boat pose for 5 breaths, forget 1,000. Balance on your sits bones, bring your knees up, don't even worry about straightening the legs, and bring your arms up. And enjoy that for a moment.  Now imagine me 300 breaths in. I was almost in tears.  Obviously this did not happen for 1,000 breaths. In fact at the end of my night I ended at about 500 because I couldn't take it any more. And lets be clear, it wasn't 500 straight I took breaks. And I did it while listening to Kanye. 

I arrived at class today and asked the other girls how they did. No one seemed phased. So I mentioned to Fred how hard 1,000 breaths had been and that I had only been able to do 500. "Oh, yea, you were only supposed to do 200 breaths, not 200 boat poses." Oh. Then I made the mistake of asking if that was homework for every night. "No, only if you want to improve your practice. But you're welcome to just stay where you are in your practice if you don't want to improve." Double Oh. 

guess which shoes at the studio belong to me
I've heard many teachers say, what you don't like to do is what you need. I used to hate pigeon, its really really really really hard for me. And then one day I decided obviously it must be good for me because I hated it and I just decided to love it instead. Navasana is my new favorite.  To the credit of navasana and my increasingly strong core I did my first jump back from bakasana (crow) to chaturanga (push up). Without face planting.

not me, but just so y'all can get an idea 

Fred said something today that resonated with me "the only thing your body hates is a day off."  Your body might ask you to do something differently today, maybe your injured and you need to honor your body with a little ahimsa (non-violence/ compassion). More than likely though you're fine. You, like me, are just lazy and that is why you aren't practicing.

So, let's practice a little more satyam (truth/ trueness). When we're being a little more truthful the reality is that you might hate rolling out your mat, but you also hate rolling it back up. Because once you start your practice, your workout, your homework, your family dinner. Once you work out those kinks, you shake out the aches and pains the truth come out. It feels good. Really good.

Today was my first day teaching to the whole group of 9 people including Fred, which is kiiiiinda intimidating, its something that doesn't necessarily feel good for me right away. Its like pigeon pose, it takes a few times to get good for me. You also have to remember that everyone is two days ahead of me now because they are going to class seven days a week and I am only going four. No one died during my part of the class. No one fell over. No seriously bodily injuries.  I'm counting today as a win.

One thing you have to love about Fred is he doesn't mince words. When you miss something or cue it wrong he IMMEDIATELY informs you. And its not like a "hey next time you might try..." its like, "don't ever do it that way. ever."

So thats something that I don't like so much, but I definitely need it. After some tough love from Fred I'm feeling mighty fine and ready to go to 1000 200 breaths in boat pose. While watching trashy TV. Its all about balance right?


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Day Four: Who you are in Yoga is who you are in the world.

Today I practiced at Green Monkey again, and was thrilled to see some old and new friends I hadn't seen in a while. I was in an awesome mood today and it totally reflected in my practice, I had one of the easiest practices I've had in a long time. Maybe this whole no days off thing really is a good idea. Maybe I was high on a guilty verdict. Either way I bounced my tush onto my mat and found myself taking extra chaturangas and vinyasas.

Jason Lawner led an incredible class. His theme tonight, and theres always a theme in a Jason class, was taking notice of your tendencies. Umm Hi Jason, thats a suuuuuuuper uncomfortable thing to do. I like prancing through life pretending to be perfect and here you are kind of ruining that for me.

post yoga bliss with the gang

OK, so its a pretty valid point he's bringing up. If you cheat at yoga, its something that only you really know. Let's be honest no one is hurt by this. The guy next to you doesn't have his practice effected in any way by your cheating. What do I mean by cheating you ask? We've all done it. The instructor says, firm up, brighten, melt and we.... do nothing. We chill right where we are.

In life those who share our lives aren't quite so lucky, if we cheat, they probably get cheated. Of our time, our love, our attention. Maybe of something more important, we might actually harm someone by cheating. I am notorious about lying about how far away I am from somewhere, I always say I'm closer than I am because, truthfully, I'm embarrassed to be running late. I think being late is a sign of disrespect and I don't want to be disrespectful.

Jason's point today was just to take notice of our tendencies, not necessarily to change them. But the challenge I extend to you is when you notice you are cheating to not only take note of it but maybe to shift. Now I'm not asking you to change your life, but maybe a little bump as I would call it in my spin class. Take a little bump of a change, just enough so you notice it. I'm going to be a little more conscious of my time and the time of others.

Also going to actually engage my legs in forward bends. Yea, I've totally been cheating there.

Yours in sweatyness,


Monday, July 9, 2012

On My Own

Today was my first day on my own. My 8 fellow teacher training yoginis headed back to the studio and I went... to court. I spent my morning sending people to jail for traffic infractions (yay! thrilling! justice in the works!) and my afternoon prepping for my day tomorrow (bench trials! suspended licenses! south dade courthouse!).

Now, many of you may take my exclamation marks sarcastically. In fact I am serious, seriously happy. I am seemingly permanently happy. On the phone with Larry tonight he asked if I was OK. Because I sound shockingly happy for getting home at 10pm.  I don't even seem stressed. For those of you who know me well, sarcastic and stressed is sort of my M.O.

Yoga teacher training seems to be doing me well. In any case, I came home, I did work for school (bleh) and I got dressed to go to yoga! Back to my home studio, Green Monkey, with my favorite new teacher, Thomas Taulbee!

I have had the honor of practicing near Thomas for over a year now and he was my first yogi friend at GM. Over the last few months he has moved from the front row of the class next to me to the very front of the room leading me.  I had the best one on one class with Thomas last week and an equally amazing class packed into the small branch room with about 20 other yogis tonight.
Sweaty after class with Thomas

Twenty people in a tiny room = mucho sweat.  You may be catching onto a theme here, I'm essentially planning on sweating my asana off for the next six months. Or possibly the rest of my life.


Teacher Training Day One: Welcome to Teacher Training, Now You're a Vegan

I arrived on my first day of yoga teacher training bright eyed and clad in lululemon- ready to dive into the depths of yoga knowledge in front of me.

Maybe I should back up, "how did I end up here?" you may ask. Aren't you in law school and doing a million other activities? Uh, yes, I just like to overwhelm myself with activities.

The truth is I've been thinking about getting certified for years. Recently I've felt a greater push towards getting certified. So, I went to Wanderlust in Vermont with my lovely girls Lara and Molly and when I came back I knew the time had come to finally get certified.

Then like magic Fred Busch's website appeared on my iPhone beckoning me to come and sweat my asana off. I skipped out of work early and strutted in stilettos into Fred's studio clad in a suit, I did not appear to be yoga ready. But, I was and I am, and so days later I arrived at my first day of teacher training.

I took two classes taught by other instructors before training even began. Now, this is hot yoga. My first yoga class I ever took at age 15 was Bikram. I've done hot yoga. I ran a studio that had hot yoga. I have never been this hot in my life. I sweated my asana off to say the least.

Day one of training was a flood of information. Asanas to learn. IN SANSKRIT. Homework. Every day. So much yoga to do. And now I'm a vegan.

You ask: Rachel, when did you decide to do that!?!

Answer: I reference October 2010 for 6 weeks while living in Alaska I was a vegan. I also had time there. Like, tons of time. I cooked. Lots. I made incredible gourmet vegan meals three times a day. I actually made my own salad dressing and bottled it. I made kick ass vegan cupcakes. Now flash forward to July 2012. I work 50 hours a week, as an intern, an unpaid intern. Then I teach spin. And I practice yoga. Plus yoga teacher training. Aaaaand I occasionally try to see my boyfriend.  Allegedly I have a family, I don't see them very frequently, they may or may not live down the street. So time to cook vegan meals- not so much. I'm essentially a vegetarian, but I have a confession. I love cheese. A lot. Veganism is hard for me. Thus, you can imagine my shock when I was informed that I am now a vegan. At least for the foreseeable future.

A new pintrest board was immediately created. Recipes are being pinned furiously, feel free to make suggestions.

Other important life changes from day one, I was also informed that I have officially had my last day off of yoga. For the rest of my life. I'm obviously happier about doing the yoga everyday than being a vegan.

And lastly- I'm not allowed to complain. For the rest of training. Sooooo my sarcastic jewyness is not appreciated.

So, none of the above was complaining. The reality is I am so grateful that I have this opportunity. I am the luckiest girl in the world and I know it. I have a loooooong road ahead of me, and you're all coming along with me :)

Keeping it sweaty,

Day Two Teacher Training: Talk Less, Say More

I started on my mat at 10:30am. Not an unbearable time by any means. I actually had a great morning, work up with my puppy and my boyfriend. Had a little family breakfast. Picked up my new yogini friend Tara, and headed to class.

And then we started our practice with Gaby. Gaby looks like a nice girl. She has a sweet smile and a hug to greet you with. She has an awesome yoga voice. She doesn't annoy you with fake soothing, she's genuine in every word she says.

She was out to kill yesterday. I have LITERALLY never sweated so much in my life. I had to walk out at one point, just to breathe some not hot air. I took that as an opportunity to look in the mirror (p.s. never look in the mirror in the middle of a hot yoga class, you will not be happy with what is looking back at you). I looked like a drowned rat.

You see friends, I set mat up right in front of the heater, a mistake I will never make again. It was sweltering. I sweat buckets. And you know what, so did everyone in the room. I was a little miserable. In my head I complained (Fred, if you're reading this, don't kill me).

Then I surrendered, I was so exhausted I just stopped being able to resist. It's something I'm not particularly good at, but it's part of my mantra and I'm working on it. And when I surrendered, when I stopped fighting the heat and the pain and fatigue, I got strong. It wasn't so hard anymore. I went back and finished the last 20 minutes, still sweating my asana off, but feeling pretty kick ass.

Then after sweating for 90 minutes I got to start the real deal- I had 4 hours of teacher training ahead of me.

No one will be surprised by my next admission. I talk too much. In general, in specific, just always, I talk way too much. It's like a genetic disease, everyone in my family talks. Or perhaps it's a gift. Certainly it's lead to a career path that allows me to speak exorbitant amounts in front of a captured captive group of defendants audience.

I learned on day two of training that my propensity for verbosity isn't always a blessing. One of our tasks was to teach portions of a class to each other. This is something I feel super comfortable doing, I taught yoga for almost 2 years in college to 6th grade boys in and I teach spin every week now. On top of that I was an elementary school teacher for a year. I spend all day talking in court! On the record! In front of scary people that I'm trying to impress!

And therein lies the lesson: I talk too much. Pablo taught our teacher training yesterday, and as he came around to observe us, he gave me some much needed correction. I needed to use fewer words to explain more information.

"When someone only has three breaths in a pose you can't be saying all that crazy shit," he explained, "get to the point, just tell them where they're going." Harsh? Yea. Correct? Hell yea.

So it's a lesson I'm taking off the mat and into the world with me. Less filler words, less mindless jabbering, more meaning.