Sunday, October 30, 2011

Inspiring Theme Topics 2 - Acceptance

I was talking to Laurie after I accidentally observed her Bikram class on Saturday afternoon (more about that in my observation journal entry) and I realized that I've still only been in Austin for a little less than 2 months! It feels like a lot longer, and at the same time, hardly any time at all. Anyway, with this realization came an afternoon of over-thinking my entire existence, which is usually what happens when I get to thinking.

A girl from work hosts parties at her apartment about once or twice a month, and she has always been nice enough to invite me, although I've always been working or had yoga so I haven't been able to attend. However, I finally had a night off so I was considering going. I even have a costume that I was intending to wear on the actual night of Halloween festivities. However, the closer it got to the time for me to leave, the less and less excited I was about going. What is this feeling? It's familiar because it happens to me way too often in new situations. My gut instinct. I wasn't make new friends?

Honestly, moving and transitioning is like a break-up. At least for me. I need time to heal and adjust from all of the relationships with friends that have so instantly changed since we no longer get to see each other every day. It's not that I haven't gone through this process...many times...before, but I've never been able to put my finger on what it is that was so aversive in me. I just need time. And people may say to me that I'll never make friends if I don't go to parties or whatever it is that most people do to make friends, but those people don't know me very well. And, to my relief, I talked to one of my best friends about it this afternoon, via facebook messaging of course, and she completely understood what I was saying. She's not the same way at all, she's super outgoing which is how we became friends, and eventually roommates, in the first place. But that's why we're such good friends; that is why our friendship has stood the test of time and distance that I eventually force all of my friendships to suffer through.

Anyway, the point of all of this is that I faced the realization I had come to and accepted it. Call me a lame ass for staying home on the Saturday night of Halloween, but I don't care. I feel just a little more fulfilled having accepted this truth about myself, and knowing that friendships will come with time, as they always have and they will always continue to. So: acceptance. An excellent theme for a yoga class, as it can be linked with so many different yamas and niyamas....koshes....etc. The importance of accepting where you are in your practice, and of course coming back to the all important message of being present where you are, accepting it, and letting your practice become whatever it is you need it to be for that day.

Acceptance! Excellent.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Inspiring Theme Topics 1 - Peace

So I had this theme all picked out and ready for our teaching sequence for Sunday, but when it came down to my turn to teach it didn't seem quite as appropriate as when I was daydreaming about it in my head, so I changed my mind on the spot and just went with my gut on a new theme. I was proud of myself for being able to do that, although I'm not sure how it translated to the rest of the "class". I'm excited to start getting more feedback during training because sometimes I feel like I'm doing a good job and sometimes I feel like I really have no idea what I'm doing and I'm interested in what my teaching actually looks like to other people. I feel like I'm finally starting to get used to teaching in front of our class - it took me a long time to get comfortable in that setting for some reason - but I hope that it translates during my teaching sequences! I think I'm definitely a Kafa... or however you spell it.... and I'm excited to learn more about the Aryvedas as well! But I digress....

One theme that I find coming up when I am daydreaming about themes for classes is the topic of peace, probably because it's often a topic of my daily life. This quote in particular is one that inspires me often, and then I literally just wrote down everything that came flowing out of me from there and although I maybe wasn't going to read it word for word, it felt important to have the words on the page in front of me, just in case:

"Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart."
So, in our lives, and in our practices, there are always going to be distractions. People at our workplaces who we don't get along with, or people in our classes who are like, sitting little bit lower in their uttkatasana or their backs are a little bit straighter than ours....or in our home practices - just that internal chatter constantly going going going.... But peace, silence, stillness, is sitting a little lower in your own uttkatasana, bending your front knee a little lower in Vira 2, and feeling your quads screaming at your and getting hot with energy...and just being there, being present and being still on the inside, and maybe even smiling a little bit. Peace.

It would have been a good theme, I think! I guess I'll have to save it for another time!

Voice & Language Observation w/ Ashley

On Tuesday, my co-worker Ashley who is also an instructor, was kind enough to let me sit in on a private lesson with a client. It was an outside session, just her and the person she was instructing, so it was a totally different atmosphere than what I am used to and a really awesome experience!

I work with Ashley at a busy cafe downtown, so it was cool to get to see her in a completely different environment, and how there are mannerisms about her that change while she is in "teacher mode" although a lot of things about her that just don't change much at all. I figure that's from her years of experience of teaching (I want to say she's been teach for at least 3-5 years but I honestly don't remember...). I consider her a very genuine person, and that comes out whether she is teaching or taking food orders from customers. She has a very calm and soothing voice, and gives directions without sounding demanding, but like she also sounds like she means business.

She laid her mat beside her client while they were practicing outside. I think what struck me most as far as voice and language was concerned, was how comfortable she was doing what she was doing. She loves her practice and has a lot of experience doing it, but she gave directions and encouragement like she was speaking to a friend, and then she would stop and give a correction or physical adjustment and I was snapped out of conversation mode and would realize once again that I was watching a lesson take place. It may just have been because she was doing a private session; it would be interesting to see if her voice and language and mannerisms changed at all while teaching a larger class. Honestly though, knowing what I do of Ashley, it probably wouldn't change much. She makes people feel comfortable no matter what she is doing, which is an important trait and what makes her a good teacher!

Observation 5 - Complete!

I'm excited to start assisting soon!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Yoga Journaling Assignment IV

Weeks 3 & 4 in the Rodney Yee book focus on Opening into Vulnerability and Allowing Receptivity, which really go hand in hand as far as I'm concerned.

Chapter 3, the Opening into Vulnerability chapter, is about doing backbends, which I have a love/hate relationship with. I'm pretty flexible, especially in my front body and back, but what I'm working on now is having the strength to back it up. My legs have gotten stronger to protect my knees and hips, but if my front body and back don't get stronger I'm afraid of hurting myself when I go too deep into a backbend, or get a little too overzealous trying a backbend or other pose that I can't safely bring myself back out of. Also, the more I think about and read over what I've just read, the more I notice how it closely it echoes the personal struggles I face, and once again finding myself amazed by how every facet of yoga has intertwined itself into my life.

In Chapter 4, Rodney Yee opens with a nice bit about how when we come up against a barrier, it is important to back up enough to observe, breathe and assess (rather than try to confront an obstacle head-on like a battering ram and create a struggle). This is a constant battle for me both in my life and my yoga practice because there is such a fine line between trying too hard and not trying hard enough, between hanging on and letting go, and I feel myself stumbling this line every day of my life, with every decision, big or small, that I am faced with. At least with my twists, I know my limits!

LAST Sequencing Observation w/ Omar @ BFree Yoga

I've still been mostly attending classes at the BFree Yoga studio, which I'm totally ok with because I just love it there for some reason, and each instructor is so different I learn new things every time I am there, whether it is observing or taking classes.

Omar is maybe only the 2nd male teacher I've ever been in a class of, and even that alone sets a very different tone for the class. It's an interesting dynamic, and the psychology major in me is conjuring up all kinds of theories about it.... regardless, I really enjoyed the class!

I've definitely been noticing the sequencing since getting that hand-out and talking about it so much at our last training session. This class wasn't any different... I found myself making notes in my head about variations and where we were in the sequence, and which things we skipped over because we had spent more time elsewhere. He even did the tripod headstand assist that we practiced last training session, so that was exciting!

I feel like I've come over a huge hump since the beginning of training (Antarayas, if you will) where I am beginning to feel more knowledgeable and things are starting to click for me in the ways of my abilities during my own asana practice, but also in my ability to feel confident enough to teach other. Obviously, I have a long ways to go, but I love learning so that's just all the more exciting for me!

Observation 4 - Complete!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sequencing Observation w/ Lauren @ Austin Yoga Festival

I was so excited to get the chance to go to the Austin Yoga Festival this year. I even got to meet up with my yoga instructor from Fredericksburg, which was so exciting! It was a very cool experience to get to practice beside the teacher who got me so excited about yoga in the first place!

I ended up getting to observe Lauren from Be Yoga at the main stage at 11:30. I've never taken any of her classes before, but Kara and Lindsay were excited to take her class there so I figured it would be great and it was! Her theme for the class was more or less that creative ideas have their own energy fields, and rather than us feeling like we have to invent the pose, she encouraged her students to search for what already exists inside of them. She compared asana practice to a Michaelangelo quote, where he stated that he as a sculptor wasn't making art, but rather uncovering the sculpture that was already hidden inside of the marble slab. It was a really cool theme, and something I kept thinking about the entire time I was observing her class.

I noticed that she didn't use much, or any, sanskrit while teaching her class and I wasn't sure if this was because it was a public Austin Yoga Festival class, or if that was just the way she normally teaches, but I found it interesting. I also found that she is much more the style of Vinyasa that I am not only accustomed to but more comfortable and most excited about. She makes asana a part of the entire yoga experience, rather than making the class entirely about the poses and work that the body is doing. She has a calming voice and a presence about her that drew me to yoga in the first place.

The thing that I found most interesting about observing her class was that as she kept reverting back to the theme, she kept saying things like "Serving the idea of down dog that already exists" or "Serve the pose like it wants to come into creation. Simply remove what is extraneous." While I like the idea of yoga being an ancient practice that we don't need to invent and can, instead, let it come into it's own creation through our bodies, I think it's really easy to get caught up in what yoga already is, and what other people are doing as far as yoga lingo, etc. and lose sight of what we can each individually bring to the practice. Especially as teachers, I think it is not only our privilege but our duty in a way to bring our own unique and personal interpretation to our practice and to our students in order to keep it growing and changing and alive. What an exciting idea!

Observation 3 - complete!

Sequencing Observation w/ Gioconda @ BFree Yoga

This observation was another exciting event for me this past week. Since I've been taking training with Gioconda, I thought that I would be accustomed to her teaching style and classes and just being in general....but I was so wrong. I am continuously impressed by her ease at leading a class of 35+ students in a tiny heated room where everyone is so clearly just so inspired by her presence that they feel empowered to do things like handstands in the middle of their sun salutations! This was new to me, so I was impressed to say this least. The thing that I kept writing in my notes was that no matter what the sequence actually consisted of, whether it was the smallest motion of lifting the leg into dog dog splits, or handstands in between tic tocs in between shoulder stands....seriously my mind was blown watching this class....but every students was just so clearly inspired and empowered to reach to a new level of asana and yoga with every movement (I'm not kidding....and I confirmed this notion with students of hers afterwards as well!).

As far as actual sequencing goes, I noticed a few key things, that we've been talking about in training. One of them is continuing to refer back to the theme, whether it be directly talking about it, an anecdote, or somehow incorporating it into a transition between poses. "No situation in life is worth leaving yourself behind." I liked that quote.

Another thing I noticed was the forward thinking - which is something we talking about in training as well. Being ahead of the movement of the class, so that the instructor is the one leading and not being drug along behind the movements of their own class. I noticed that a good time to give students who seem to be struggling a bit extra help is while the class is holding a pose for longer - like pigeon, and their heads are down so the struggling studets doesn't feel isolated or picked on. The same goes for students who are maybe more advanced and can be given extra direction, but doing it in a way that doesn't interfere with or undermine the rest of the class.

Encouragement is important throughout sequencing as well, to keep spirits lifted. Especially toward the end of class when the energy level is clearly dwindling and students are clearly no long to hold themselves up in downdog for as long or push through an entire vinyasa. I could tell that the students when getting tired when they stopped sporadically pushing up into handstands! Seriously, that blew my mind!

Talking about where you should feel the work and where you should feel the stretch in any particular pose is also as important part of sequencing, especially with poses that not everybody may be as familiar with, or in a pose where incorrect alignment or posture could be especially harmful to the body.

All in all, it was a completely different experience being the observer of Gioconda's class, after taking so much instruction from her in the past couple of months. It was inspiring and motivating and I feel truly privileged and honored to be getting so much one-on-one training and instruction from her!

Observation 2 - complete!

Building Trust Observation w/ Georgette @ BFree Yoga

I had a very interesting experience observing Georgette's BNew class for beginners. It was the first class she had taught in the series of beginner classes, which focused on breathing and alignment. I emailed Shelby at BFree and asked if there was any sort of protocol for observing classes, and she said that she was pretty sure any of the instructors would be fine with me observing, and to just show up a few minutes early to ask the instructor when I got there. So, that's exactly what I did.

I had taken one of Georgette's BFlow classes already and really enjoyed it, so I thought a beginner's class would be the perfect place to start my observations. I introduced myself and could tell she was hesitant to let me observe, as she had never had anyone observe any of her classes before. However, she obliged and I was grateful and set up in the corner of the room opposite as to where the majority of the students had laid out their mats. She introduced me to the small class, explained the situation and then continued on as planned. Having taken one of her classes before, I didn't really think that she acted much different having an observer in the class, but I could tell after a few minutes, once she realized that I was there to watch and learn and not judge and critique, that she relaxed and was enjoying teaching her class.

A couple of key things I noticed with her in particular was that she smiles a lot and uses a lot of body language to communicate with her students. I think that this is probably pretty important when building a rapport with a new class, or with anyone new in the class, because you want them to feel comfortable and you want them to find you approachable.

About 1/3 of the way through class is when things starting getting interesting. As with any teacher instructing beginners or any new students, Georgette asked the class if there were any injuries or any other ailments she should know about before beginning. No one stated anything out of the ordinary, but after talking with her at the end of the class, she said that she could tell with one particular student that there was something not quite right going on with this woman's body. Georgette tried to give some simple direction and special attention to this student, as well as gentle adjustments. She even got up in front of the class numerous times to demonstrate what she was talking about.

It's been a little while since I've been in a beginner class, but it her simple flow series was not unlike how I remember my first classes as a new student. I thought she did an excellent job. However, this particular student who was having so much difficulty left about 1/3 of the way through the class. It was a strange feeling because I could tell that Georgette was uncomfortable, as she confirmed with me later, and felt bad because there was really nothing else she could do. In the simplest movements, this woman was having such an incredibly difficult time that she was slowing down the flow of the rest of the class. And although it was disappointing for Georgette, I'm sure, that this woman left, the mood in the class changed almost instantly as the rest of the students and the instructor felt as though it was a burden lifted off of the rest of flow class.

After class, the friend/co-worker of the woman who left explained to Georgette that this woman had suffered a stroke at some point in her life, and had almost no feeling and limited mobility and an entire side of her body. She explained that she was self conscious about it, and that was the reason that she hadn't told Georgette in front of the class. They had a short discussion about why this was unsafe and unfortunate for the woman who had left, and it was only after she and the rest of the students left that I finally got to talk to Georgette about my experience observing her class.

She told me that she felt really comfortable teaching with me observing, that she didn't feel judged or criticized, which I was happy to hear. We talked about her sequencing and the class I took, etc. and she invited me to come and observe or assist any time with her, which I will be happy to do! She also explained that in a situation like the one with the woman who left the class, it is best to report back to the owner of the studio and have her do any emailing or further contacting about concerns that either one of them may have, which I appreciated.

Then she asked me what size pants I wore, which I thought was kind of a funny question, and explained the lululemon pants she was wearing didn't really fit her quite right and she had tried them out a few times, but if I didn't mind washing them, I was welcome to have them! The funny thing about this is that I have been coveting lululemon yoga gear since I first heard about them and went into the store to get my mat. However, everything there is just way too out of my price range at this point and I have been left admiring from afar. And then, there was a pair of free pants just being offered right up to me! It was so exciting and one of those affirming moments when you feel like you're making the right choices by being in the places you're being at the times that you are there. It was one of the moments I've had in the last couple of weeks that make me feel so grateful to be part of the yoga community, and especially this one in particular.

First observation - complete!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Yoga Journaling Assignment III

I'm not exactly sure if I'm supposed to be reflecting on Week 3 or Weeks 6&7 for this next journal entry, so I'm just going to get spontaneous and crazy and talk about whatever is on my heart and in my mind at the time being.

Yoga has been such a blessing to me this past month, and especially in these past 2 weeks. The transition to living in this city by myself has been so much more difficult than I expected. I've moved a lot and don't really have roots or a place to call "home", but everywhere that I've gone I've don't ever remember feeling this unsettled or agitated for this long. I'm sure there are a lot of reasons for that, but it's not what's pertinent to this particular journal entry.

I arrived at training this past Friday after having a particularly hard day, and I was running a little late. However, as soon as I walked in those doors my mood was instantly lifted. The entire vibe of this group of people I am sharing something so intimate with, in my opinion, is so positive and so supportive and just so everything that I need right now in my life. I've been seeking this relationship in so many other places, when it was there right in front of me this whole time; yoga.

We talked about how our home practices were changing and we are molding them to fit what is right for our lives. The truth is, where I feel most comfortable isn't my apartment right now. I'm renting out a room in a townhouse until December, and it doesn't feel like my home to me, which I think is part of the reason my home practice just hasn't been happening. On the other hand, I've been taking classes at studios and observing at studios where I know virtually no one, and yet I feel more at peace than I do in my own "home" when I'm there. So for now, that's the only home practice that can happen for me, and once I accepted that it felt like I had still taken my home practice to a new level.

I've been amazed by all of the things I've learned just by taking classes and observing classes, both from teachers and other students and myself. I'll talk more about the observation classes in their respective reflection papers, but it is safe to say that I am finally starting to find myself and where I fit in to my own yoga practice, and it is both an empowering and freeing feeling, indeed.