Yoga

Asana on Demand

So this kid who attends my “home” studio kind of annoys me.

[sidenote: He’s like 23 and it is very scary to me that I am old enough to think of him as a kid. But he sometimes behaves like an overgrown 8-year-old. So I do.]

Upon my return to LY, he said, “Oh Keisha! You just finished teacher training, right? You need to practice in the front row so I can check out your skills!”

We’ve already established that I have zero tact.  I just ignored him and set my mat in my usual corner in the back row.

After class, a student who was relatively new to the studio overheard him lamenting the fact that the teacher hadn’t done Bird of Paradise.  She asked him what the pose looked like.  I was, again, in the corner, minding my business, just trying to let the effects of the practice sink into my bones.  The kid turned to me and said, “You can do Bird of Paradise, right? Can you show us?”

Without looking at him, I began to pack my things and said, “I have to get home.  But since you wanted to do it in class so badly, why don’t you do it?”

I’m not sure if he caught the annoyance in my voice, because he clapped his hands and said, “You’re right!” Then he proceeded to demonstrate the pose as I sidestepped his puddles of sweat on the bamboo floor, trying to get the hell out of there as quickly as possible, before he could make any more ludicrous requests of me.

It took me a little while to figure out why I was so annoyed, and why I’ve since avoided taking classes with him.  But here it is:

I’m not a show pony.

I didn’t go through teacher training to become some superstar yogini.

I took the course because I wanted to learn how to teach yoga.

The fact of the matter is, although I have a fairly regular physical practice, there are just certain poses that my body, at this point, is unable to do.  I don’t necessarily have the lightness and fearlessness required for arm balances and inversions. I also have tight hips, tight quads, tight hamstrings. Pretty much the only part of my body where I’m not tight is my shoulders. So the arms in Gomukhasana  are no problem…but that’s not particularly impressive. I’m working on increasing my flexibility— I’ve even begun a yin practice. But that takes time. I have learned not to push myself. Pushing myself (training for the 10k that never was) is how I ended up with this bum knee. And I certainly won’t push myself for some overzealous student’s entertainment.

I can do Bird of Paradise, for the most part. My hamstrings do not allow me to extend my leg all the way. I’m okay with that.  Some days, my leg can straighten nearly all the way. Other days, I just chill in Utthita Parsvakonasana with my arms bound,  and I don’t bother with Bird of Paradise. Honestly…the fact that I can even bind facing my right is a physical triumph for me. I have scoliosis; my spine hooks to the left (which I exacerbate, much to my mother’s exasperation, by carrying my very heavy purse on my left shoulder), so twisting to the right can be downright painful for me. Regardless of my issues with the pose, it bothered me that this kid just assumed that I would perform for him.

I don’t go to class to show off. I go because it makes me feel good.  Compliments about the “impressive” poses  I can do make me slightly uncomfortable. Is it nice to be able to do beautiful things with my body? Absolutely. But the satisfaction of those poses comes from the hard work it takes to learn them, to make them work for my body. And one thing I learned throughout my teacher training—the physical practice is the least important part of this yoga journey for me.  Asana, though challenging, is not the reason why I show up to my mat every day.

When I attend classes, I try my best not to pay attention to the yogis around me. My practice is my practice. It doesn’t serve me to steal glances at another woman’s Eka Pada Koundinyasana, and wonder why she can get her back leg so high in the air and float there like magic, while I struggle to lift off for even just a few seconds.  So the idea of this kid watching me to see my “skills” made my skin crawl. It made me want to say to him: “Are you here to practice yoga? Or do you want to do gymnastics? Because there are gyms for that.”

But his practice is his practice.  Everyone does yoga for different reasons.

I will just keep ignoring him, and keep working on my Bird of Paradise until I can straighten that leg all the way.

And don’t expect me to just bust out a forearm stand or Eka Pada Galavasana for shits and giggles. It’s not gonna happen.

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Goals, Yoga

I Did It!

 

YTT

 

back row, L-R: Johnny, Olga, Dana, Tiffany, me
bottom row, L-R: Veronica, Talya, Kelly

 

Y’all get a li’l  bonus post this week. I just got home from my practicum.  I did exactly what I wanted to do. I used the theme I wanted to use, I played the music I wanted to play.  And when I was done, Laurie said, “Wow. I mean…just…wow.”  After it was over, two of my classmates came over and said how good my class had been.

Yup, I did that.

Congratulations to my fellow TTs. We’re yoga teachers now!

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Music, Yoga

Finding My Voice

My practicum is on Sunday, March 17th. Early yesterday morning,  I wrote Laurie a frantic e-mail, asking a half dozen questions about the sequence she assigned to me, then spent the better part of the day worrying because she hadn’t yet responded.  Her response, when it finally arrived, some 28 hours later?

You are so funny, Keisha. You are definitely over-thinking this.
The seated twist in the manual is fine, just remember to mirror the cues. You
can keep it simple for getting out of ankle to knee and your transition from
vira[bhadrasana] I into triangle forward bend is perfection.

You have this down. You will ace the practicum, I have NO doubt.
Xo

Perhaps I am over-thinking this. In fact, I know I am. But now that I have the answers to my questions, I can focus on the fun stuff– the MUSIC.

I feel like I don’t know anyone who isn’t a music-lover. We may not all  like the same kind of music, but most of us love the way music makes us feel. When Laurie told us we could play music during the practicum if we wanted, I immediately became excited. What would I play???  I came up with a brief playlist– the sequence is only 30 minutes long– and it includes songs by DJ Drez, Fela Kuti, Bonobo, Nosaj Thing, Liquideep, and J Dilla.

When it came to Dilla, I chose “So Far to Go,” but I was torn… I didn’t know if I should use the original, instrumental version, or the version with Common rhyming and D’Angelo’s vocals?  I happen to love the second version, and there’s nothing vulgar about it– it’s pretty much a love song.  But I was hesitant. Some people just don’t like rap.  I didn’t want to play anything that would offend anyone.

Then I remembered this recent post by my favorite Twitter yogini, Jessica Lesley.

Part of yoga is finding your truth and trusting your own voice. Finding my voice as a teacher meant letting go of what I think a yoga teacher is “supposed” to be. For me that means making sure the person leading the class is the same person that you run into at the grocery store. I don’t whisper in my normal conversations, so I do not whisper when I teach (no breathy “innnhaaale now exhhaaale” either). If you get in my car you won’t hear chanting or sitar music (well maybe once in a while), so I don’t really play that in my classes. I refuse to feel like I’m leading a double life.

So, I’d say that about clears it up, no?

I listen to rap. I also listen to a ton of soca– I thought about adding it to the list but I couldn’t find anything that wasn’t too uptempo– and all sorts of random electronic dance music, jazz, bossa nova, Haitian zouk and konpa, reggaeton, some dancehall, and let’s not forget that I love me some Beyonce and Rihanna.  I’m fairly certain that songs of all these genres will find their way into my classes. And let’s be real. If you’re focused on the music playing, then you’re really not paying attention to what you should be doing– which is practicing yoga!

Guys…I’m so nervous I could scream!

p.s. I know I’m about eight hours late with this post. My bad. I usually write my posts the weekend before and schedule them to publish at 1 pm the following Tuesday. But last weekend I was studying for and taking my YTT final exam (which I’m pretty sure I knocked out of the park, BTW), so it just didn’t happen. And last night I started removing  my Senegalese twists because I want my hair to be wild and free during the practicum. Forgive me!

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Yoga

Crunch Time

chakra_wallhanger

found on Pinterest, via The Alchemy of Life

My final exam for yoga teacher training  is THIS Saturday, March 9th, and the practicum in March 16th.  I have been studying and practice teaching and trying not to freak out!  I don’t know how much it’s working.  I have to teach– and mirror– ankle-to-knee pose. Which I hate. My hips are tight, so it’s really uncomfortable.  I just want to get through this so that I can go to Spain and eat a lot of yummy food and drink a lot of delicious wine.

Please forgive me–  I just don’t have the energy for a real post this week. So I hope you enjoy this lovely rendering of the chakras I came across on my favorite social media site.  I’m glad I found it because it’s helped me to memorize the order of the chakras:  Mulandhara (the root chakra), Svadhisthana (the sacral chakra), Manipura (the solar plexus chakra), Anahata (the heart chakra), Visshudha (the throat chakra), Ajna (the third eye chakra), Sahasrara (the crown chakra).  I bought a few bottles of orange nail polish   (Orly Melt Your Popsicle and CND Electric Orange) as a reminder that I need to work on clearing out my Svadhisthana chakra.  I think I’m going to wear an indigo polish for the exam (I’ll search my stash for it, I know I must have one), and blue for the practicum.

Ugh, I’m queasy just thinking about it.

Send me love, guys! I need it.  I really want to do well!

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Yoga

Notes on YTT

Note: this is pretty long and includes a rant. My apologies.  It’s close to the end of my training and I’m getting slightly anxious.  Feel free to skim!

  • Since my last similarly-titled post, I have finished all 20 classes with Laurie. I’ve also completed 13 observations, so I only have two left. And I’ve taken two classes with Jennie, so I have 6 classes left to take with her or other Prana Shakti Flow teachers.  I’ve finished all but two short essays for the homework.  Our last practice teaching session was a smashing success. I definitely know the cues for  Surya A and B by heart.  Laurie said I commanded the room.  It was awesome. So I’m getting closer to fulfilling all of the requirements.  We can get an extension after the practicum on March 17th, but I don’t want one.  I want to be done with everything by then so all I have to do is wait for my registration from the Yoga Alliance to come in the mail.
  • On Sunday we had the Advanced Asana Lab.  It was hard. Fun, but hard.  I did Eka Pada Koundinyasana II  for the first time.  I also did forearm stand for the first time, though it was only at the wall.  I managed to lift myself off the ground in Bhujapidasana, but I couldn’t quite get my ankles crossed.  Arm balances and inversions teach me a lot about myself: I’m an undercover perfectionist, and I’m easily frustrated when things don’t work out the way I want them to, even on my first try. I have to wonder though…would these “flight” poses be easier if I weren’t quite so heavy?  Literally and figuratively.  Literally, because I weighed myself last week and discovered that I am back up to 144 lbs. And figuratively, because I haven’t been to therapy since August. I’m trying to find a new therapist and I haven’t had much success.  I feel like this could be another post, so I’ll stop here.
  • I need your opinion.  In case you haven’t noticed, I am very serious about completing all of my requirements by the end of the program.  A large part of my focus comes from the fact that I just like to do well in school, so I am treating yoga teacher training as if I am back in school.  Some of my fellow trainees have not been as diligent as I have.  I am not bragging; this  is just the truth.  So, two weeks ago, one woman said that she was going to both observe and take Laurie’s Saturday class.  Another trainee overheard her and told her that wouldn’t work; she explained that you have to fill out a form for the observation and it’s impossible to do so while simultaneously practicing. The woman shows up this past weekend saying that she meant to come early to take Jennie’s class so she could observe Laurie’s class (which is what I had done). She sees me sitting there with my notes and asks if I’m going to observe the class. I tell her yes. She says, “Oh okay, good.”  Then after class, she asks me if she can see my notes. I again tell her yes, mostly because I am irritated and, although I’m 30, I have not yet learned how to mask my irritation. I have no poker face and I cannot be tactful when I’m angry. If I’d said no and explained exactly WHY I was saying no, I would not have said it very nicely.  Or at least, maybe the words coming out of my mouth would have looked nice on paper,  but my tone would have said very clearly, “NAWL! DO YOUR OWN WORK!”  The whole scenario really just annoyed the living daylights out of me. For the last month, I’ve been at Bonda Yoga no less than four times a week– I observe class on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.  On Saturdays I practice first, then observe, then sit through 7+ hours of lectures/asana labs.  I’m doing what the hell I’m supposed to do. So why can’t you???  Her excuse is that she has to work. Guess what! We all have full-time jobs.  I go straight to Bonda from work. I sit in the studio, still wearing my work clothes, and take notes on those classes. Then I come home and type them up.  It’s really not that difficult; inconvenient, maybe, but difficult? No. She complained that she always wants to take the class she’s observing. Well, guess what! SO DO I! It hasn’t been easy to sit there and just watch when Laurie’s teaching side crane and handstand and eka pada galavasana  and a bunch of other cool poses. If I had it my way, I would’ve taken every single class that I observed.  But we are required to do the observations, so I’ve done them.  I don’t like the idea that this woman is basically mooching off of me, pretending that she’s observed the class when she really hasn’t. So the next time she asks for my notes, I’m going to tell her no.  But how do I explain?  Because I know myself and I know that whatever comes out of my mouth will probably be along the lines of, “NO, YOU CAN’T HAVE MY NOTES!  IF YOU WANT NOTES FOR AN OBSERVATION, SIT YOUR ASS DOWN AND OBSERVE A CLASS LIKE YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO, TRICK!” And that would not be very yogic of me. Le sigh.
  • Laurie had us do a yin-yang meditation. She asked me how it went and I told her– I’d envisioned the yang traveling up the back of my spine in purple, and the yin traveling down the front of my spine in orange. Where they met– at the tip of my tongue, and at the base of my spine, they were yellow. I told her that I’d felt a heaviness settle over my forehead.  She interpreted this in relation to the chakras.  Purple (my favorite color) reflects the seventh, crown chakra, Sahasrara; she said that I find comfort in knowledge, spiritual development, enlightenment.  I am acutely aware of a higher consciousness.  Orange represents  the second chakra, Svadhisthana, which is located between the navel and the genitals, and is the center of sexuality, emotions, pleasure, and movement.  Yellow represents the third chakra, Manipura, which is located at the solar plexus; it relates to personal power, will, and assertiveness.  Laurie said that I don’t trust myself, my creativity, or my sexuality.  The pressure I felt in my forehead was in my sixth chakra, Ajna, located at the third eye center; I don’t trust my intuition, either.   This all makes a lot of sense to me. I have so much work to do. (For further reading on the chakras, I highly recommend Chakra Therapy, by Keith Sherwood and Wheels of Life, by Anodea Judith, Ph.D.)

I hate to say it, but I’m almost ready for this to be over.

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movies, travel, Yoga

A Recent [Silly] Discovery

So, anyone who knows me knows that Teen Witch is absolutely my FAVORITE childhood movie.

The first time I saw it, I was on a family summer vacation to Cancun, Mexico. I was probably nine, going on ten.  The day had started out sunny and bright, but it began to rain early in the afternoon. So we had lunch in the hotel’s restaurant and went back to the room. My parents put the TV on and fell asleep. My sister and I looked for something to watch and I found Teen Witch on HBO.  I was instantly enthralled.

In the movie, Louise, a nerdy sixteen-year-old girl, finds out she’s actually a witch. She uses her superpowers to make herself the most popular girl at her high school– she suddenly gets a curly perm, begins rocking tiered miniskirts instead of dowdy dusters over sweaters, she gets the lead in the school play, and the captain of the football team conveniently forgets about his girlfriend, Randa, to begin dating Louise. It’s all fluff and fantasy and totally ’80s cheesy– but it’s quite hilarious to me!  There are all these random scenes when the characters burst into song and dance.  Including this one:

 

 

Allow me to explain what’s happening here.  Louise, the redhead, and her best friend, Polly, are just riding their bikes around the neighborhood after a game of tennis, as nerd girls are apparently wont to do.  Louise has only recently been informed of her status as a descendant of the witches of Salem, so she starts out practicing easy spells.  Her link to her powers is the amulet you see her reach for– it plays a key role in nearly every spell she casts.  And she makes Polly, played by Mandy Ingber, become a rapper and go toe-to-toe with her crush.  *yowls in laughter*

Moving on to the silly discovery. Little mousy Polly grew up  to be Jennifer Aniston’s YOGA INSTRUCTOR! (There’s a cool interview with Mandy at the link.)  And how did I learn this, you ask?

Well, sometime last week, I found this article on Jezebel, which made my day. A stage show called Teen Witch: The Musical actually EXISTS!  And a commenter mentioned that Polly was a yoga teacher to the stars.  Which is how I found Mandy Ingber‘s blog.  It is totally worth reading.

Is it completely silly for me to say that I am deeply satisfied by this discovery? I just think it’s so cool that this woman, who grew up acting, just decided one day that her practice– which she’d been taught as a child by her father– was what made her whole, and that she was going  to make a living doing it.  I also think it’s cool that I grew up watching her (my parents got me Teen Witch on VHS when we got back to the States, and I bought the DVD about four years ago), and came to the same conclusion on my own– though I doubt I’ll teach yoga full time. It’s just something I love, and I want to share it.

Speaking of sharing…last weekend, my teacher training resumed and we spent all day Saturday practicing hands-on assists, and all day Sunday practice teaching.  I now have Surya Namaskar A and B completely memorized, which is amazing!  And I got to practice savasana assists on my classmates AND during Laurie’s class last night, which I was observing.  I love savasana assists. They’re so delicious.  If you ever come to my classes, be prepared for a long, lovely savasana!

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Yoga

What Does a Yoga Teacher “Look” Like?

This is something that has been on my mind for a while now.

When I first started my training in September, I encountered an older Black woman who had just begun teaching a meditation class at Bonda; let’s call her Anna. She also trained with Laurie, and we chatted for a bit one evening while waiting for Laurie to arrive for class.  She told me that she’d had an interview scheduled at a popular gym earlier that day.  But when she arrived, the woman interviewing her refused to make eye contact with her and barely asked her any questions.

Anna said, “The moment I stood up and introduced myself to her, she became disconnected.  I knew I wouldn’t get the job.  She couldn’t see me as a yoga teacher, teaching  at that fancy club.”

I asked her what she meant and she replied, “I teach at a local library.  On the first day of class, five out the seven people who showed up asked if I was the teacher. And they were totally shocked when I said yes.  No one expects a woman who looks like me to be in front of the class.  They barely expect me to be in the class.”

Anna is in her late fifties, with smooth skin the color of unshelled Brazil nuts. She  is  five feet eleven inches tall; curvy, with broad shoulders, full breasts and hips, and large hands.  She has a gravelly voice which softens to a hoarse whisper when she teaches. And she is a really great teacher.

I thought about my own teachers, and what they look like:

Rei is short like me, always tan, with thick eyebrows and a bushel of shiny black curls perpetually tied in a topknot.  She is slim, but we wear the same–very large–bra size.  She laughs loudly and jokes about having to move the flesh out of the way so that her sit bones can connect to the earth.  She is fun.

Laurie is also short, pear-shaped with impeccably dyed red hair and expressive brown eyes. She is more quiet than Rei, and softer.  She is older, too, and more self-deprecating. She is honest about her body image issues.  She says it took her a long time to accept her generous hips and bottom.

I can’t say I looked at either one of them and thought that they didn’t look like yoga teachers.  But sometimes I wonder if my future students will react to me in shock and think: What’s she doing here?

Because when I asked Anna what she thought her students had been expecting she said, “You know. Someone in their 20s. White. Thin.”

And I am none of those things.

So what do you think?  If any of you practice yoga, did you have any expectations as to what your teacher would, or should, look like?  Do you think it even matters?

I’m inclined to believe it doesn’t matter.  But I do know that lots of people are drawn into yoga by photographs like this:

eka pada koundinyasana

[source]

They want to be bendy and do cool poses like Eka Pada Koundinyasana, and they want their teachers to inspire them. So what happens if a teacher doesn’t fit a student’s physical expectations? Are they any less inspirational?

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General

An Update

I didn’t mean to leave you guys hanging in the new year.  There’s so much I that I want to write about– I’ve been bookmarking websites and taking notes and telling myself: THIS NEEDS TO GO ON THE BLOG!

But I’ve also been scrambling, trying to wrap up my requirements for my yoga teacher training, which ends in just two months. It sounds like I have a lot of time left, but I don’t!  This morning, I finished my final class with Laurie– which means I’ve attended 20 classes with her since October 18, 2012.  Next week, I’ll resume observing classes; I have to observe fourteen, which I should be able to finish in a little over a month if I observe three classes a week (let’s pray for good weather!!).  And let’s not forget that I have to take eight classes with other teachers, finish my homework, memorize the scripts for Sun Breaths, Sun Breaths with a Lunge, Surya Namaskar A, and Surya Namaskar B.  I still have nine hours left of practice teaching family and friends to complete. Oh, and there’s also the  final exam to study for. It’s a lot, right?

I have no intention of abandoning this space, however. So here’s what you can expect:

I will post at least once a week– every Tuesday by 1 pm, from now until the end of March.

Wish me luck, dear readers!  And please know that I appreciate each and every one of you.

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Books, Goals, Personal, Yoga

Notes on YTT

Today,  I’m celebrating the slow return of longer days simply by resting.

This week has been interesting.  It was fairly slow at work, which gave me a lot of time to think about my yoga teacher training.

I realized:

the first three months have flown by. and I’m nowhere near close to finishing my requirements.

I freaked out and bought a 2013 planner, then color-coordinated my class schedule from this week until March 17, which is the day of our final practicum.  Purple indicates a Vinyasa Flow class with Laurie.  Green indicates a Vinyasa Flow class with one of Laurie’s Prana Shakti Flow  trained teachers. Blue indicates a Vinyasa Flow class observation.  My planner is a flurry of all my favorite colors.

Between now and March 17, 2013, I must complete 8 more classes with Laurie. I must also take 8 classes with PSF teachers– I’ve decided that Lauren’s Friday open level Vinyasa and Jennie’s Saturday level 1/2  Warm Vinyasa best fit my schedule.  And after I finish up my classes with Laurie, I can begin my observations of her classes.  I’ll also observe some prenatal classes, since I am definitely interested in teaching prenatal yoga. I need to complete 14 more observations; at least five of them will be prenatal.  I’ll probably change that to include more prenatal classes, but for now,  I’m tired of fiddling with my planner.

I went to Laurie’s Vinyasa and Meditation classes last night, as has become my Thursday after-work ritual.  And after we meditated, she reassured me that I’m on the right track; she’s noticed that I’ve been in her classes consistently over the last few months.  She overhead me telling a classmate how tired I’ve been lately, and said, “Keisha. You are much too hard on yourself.  You need to get some rest. Stop thinking. Just rest.”

I took her advice. I’ve been in bed all day, snuggled up with cup after cup of green tea, the latest issue of Poets & Writers, and a few good books, including “nomad of salt and hard water” by fellow VONA alum, Cynthia Dewi Oka.  I probably won’t leave the house at all today or tomorrow.

I’m okay with that.

Have a beautiful weekend, my loves.

 

 

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News, Personal

Prayers

I had my day all planned out.  I was going to:

  • wake up early.
  • detangle/shampoo/deep condition my hair.
  • work on my homework for yoga teacher training.
  • cook a white bean and kale stew.
  • write a post here, about last night’s meditation class. Laurie read our energy again. This time my energy presented itself to her as a tiny, trickling waterfall. She surmised that it meant my mantra work is beginning to take effect.  That little cascade is divine love,  making its way into my life.
  • take Lauren’s Vinyasa class tonight.

Instead, I woke up late, at 9:45.  I suppose my body needed the rest.

I languished in bed, reading The Path to Love and scrolling through my twitter timeline intermittently. I got out of bed around 10:15,  parted my hair into eight sections to begin the process of detangling.  Checked the mail, made myself some lime-flavored water with my Citrus Zinger. Then I returned to my room to see a breaking news bulletin interrupting a daytime talk show. Shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, CT.

At first it seemed that the situation was under control, that most of the children were lead from the school unscathed.

Now we know better.  Twenty-seven people are dead. Most of them were students.  Babies.

And now all I can do is pray.

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