Friday, April 16, 2010

Closing a short chapter of a long book

It's really quite a journey to reach this place. Thursday I taught a sample class at my home studio. I first visualized this in 2008, September. That was the first time I really felt like I wanted to teach yoga. Yesterday that dream was filled for me.

Since I first imagined this day - I have had an open loop running in the background, knowing that I would eventually approach this day. I got word that I would teach the class 1 week ago. I traveled Monday and Tuesday this week. During travel I prepared a playlist, I sequenced - I imagined the scene. I fretted. I wondered who would come. I feared the worst - imagined the best. I got all up in my head!

Rolf teachers -- a little background to relate to -- Since December when I finished training I think I felt great to be free of the class narrative. I began experimenting, pulling things in from different styles and teachers. Finding my own personal expression. I was so fortunate to be able to teach at my workplace two days per week. I had a class of eager guinea pigs. They are non-judgmental, eager to learn and incredibly grateful. I am grateful for them.

In preparing for class I zigged and zagged. I zigged on music, zagged on sequence. I felt confused. In the end I went back to the source, back to Rolf's narrative, back to Rolf. I watched his 2.1 class on yogavibes. I soaked it up; saw how he had further refined what he was teaching; heard his reassuring voice. I went back to the well.

Guess what - it was the right thing to do. I got great evaluations! Glowing in some cases! Wonderful thank-yous and assurances from other teachers and students. It was a great day. I felt strong and confident. I commanded the room. I was my true self. Today I spoke to the studio director and she is looking for an opportunity to put me in her teacher rotation.

It's hard to write about this without sounding gloating. But really - I am just acknowledging my own hard work and growth. Even though I have been teaching twice a week since January, I can now say that I am a yoga teacher. I think the arc of my yoga story to date led to this climax - a moment of completion of a goal. A moment that marks a new beginning.

To my fellow Gates teachers -- we are so fortunate to have these days, these teachings, these experiences. The spirits of each of you and the group as a whole were my guidance. Rolf was at my side. What a gift!

Today I taught again at work. I breathed easier, I felt lighter - I slowed down - I took time to think. An open loop had been closed. More clock cycles were available. The Citta Vritti faded and the Purusa peeked through.
Open new chapter. Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Staying committed

Staying on task. Keeping committed. staying in the flow. For over a year now my flow has been about developing the skills to teach yoga. I wrote about finding right action a number of weeks ago when I got a message from myself in a bottle. Inside it was a task list I made the last day of teacher training. It was a mission statement or maybe better to say "vision statement" along with specific actions to take.

This week I am taking an action from the list by teaching a sample class at my home studio InnerFire Yoga in Madison. Having taught a couple of classes a week since January, I feel I am ready for this. I hope to get a lot of constructive feedback from other teachers and students and maybe a chance to teach at InnerFire. At any rate - it will give me more confidence.
I already feel more confidence after teaching my first commercial class last week at a local gym. I got good feedback from that group. Many students enjoyed the class.

I'm traveling Monday and Tuesday and then back at work Wednesday and teaching my sample class Thursday. Busy week. I will have some time to prepare while traveling and I will listen to Rolf on my Ipod.

Milestones like this give me something to work towards, a time-bound goal.

Another action item I wrote on that list of things to do was to speak to a friend about teaching a yoga class for young people in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. I wrote this specifically on my list and my vision statement relates to this action. It's an important act of service for me that I feel strongly about. Again I am on track. I start that class 1 week from tomorrow.

I am managing to balance the commercial side and the service side of my yoga teaching so far. I am on task, for today.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Going Commercial

I taught my first class for pay on Monday. What does that mean? I've gone pro?

It was fun. My dear teacher friend Ken referred me to Capitol City Fitness and I am signed up as a sub. The class was a 5pm flow class - 75 minutes. We did an extended Savassana with a metta meditation.
It went really well I think and the program coordinator said she got great feedback so that is exciting too. I will keep looking for sub opportunities there. I am also looking at local studios for more teaching opportunities.

I really enjoy teaching so the opportunity to stretch out a bit is great. Did it feel different? - nope its all the same yoga. Nothing amazing to report. The student makeup was young women - 20s and 30s. I worked them pretty hard - harder than the regular class. What worked was that i could tune in pretty good and put them in childs pose a couple of times. Class theme was Mountain pose. It's one I have been working on - the alignment of mountain pose and the strength of the pose as it comes in to our lives.

Still working on it - but it works!


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Feeling like you are in a trance . . .

Dear Teachers (you too students)

Have you or do you ever feel as though you are in a trance when teaching a class?

This past Monday we had a small group at lunchtime yoga. One of the students asked if we could go slower today. I agreed, knowing that slower is often much more challenging.

As we moved through the class I slowed down. I gave more instruction about why we were doing what we were doing. "These sun salutations will warm us up - we warm the muscles and connective tissue before we move into the more challenging standing poses." That sort of thing - which line of the body we were working on and so-on.

At one point I gave some cues, I heard the music and thought, "that is a nice song to go with what we are doing." Everything seemed to slow down and the next few minutes just flowed. It felt really smooth and natural. I guess I would have to say it was a time of spontaneous peacefulness. There was no wondering what was next or thinking ahead, just 'moment by moment spontaneous right action.' Yeah, that was it.

This has happened to me before - both while practicing and while teaching. But I guess I tune in to it more sometimes. Do you know what I mean? Just being in the flow. Being there with others. And in this case - the case of teaching yoga - being a part of creating the flow. Early on Rolf said that one job of the Vinyasa teacher is to create an experience. That was how this moment felt.

In Day 4 of Meditations from the Mat, Rolf Gates writes;
"At a Native American gathering in 1999 for the summer solstice a Hopi elder said: "There is a river flowing very fast now. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart and suffer greatly. Know that the river has its destination. The elders say we must push off to the middle of the river, keep our eyes open and our heads above the water. See who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves, for when we do our spiritual growth comes to a halt. The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves: banish the word struggle from your attitude and vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred way and in celebration. We are the ones we have been waiting for."

In that moment on Monday i felt like I wasin the middle of the river with my my eyes open and my head above water. I was celebrating with those who were in there with me. The word struggle was extinct.

It was a movement in to stillness.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"Shoulder blades down the black"

Hey teachers - do you get tongue-tied? Does a wrist suddenly become a forearm? Do you have trouble saying shin or calf even when you are looking at a shin or a calf?

The skills that I nee to learn as a teacher include calling my right leg my left leg and my left arm my right arm. Lately I've said "shoulder blades down the black" several times in a row.

In addition to refining our alignment cueing, we must relearn our right and left sides, weave a theme, watch the clock, remember what is next, make adjustments . . .

My wife says a yoga teacher is like a duck, calm and peaceful as it floats across the water, paddling wildly under the surface.


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Bryan Kest - rhyming the practice

For me there is no other way to say it. It was like taking a yoga class from a combination of Tony Soprano, Dr. Seuss and a great yoga master. Bryan Kest came and delivered one great message. Keep it simple, take the ego out. His whole approach to teaching was about being gentle to yourself and doing just what you need to do today.

I guess it was a bout 1/2 way through the practice that I realized his whole spoken narrative was rhyming. Yes - it was Seussical yoga. I can't remember a single rhyme right now. His voice is low and his delivery is simple but stern like a mobster.

If I had to guess I would say we did about 12 poses in an hour and forty five minutes. He warned us ahead of time not to expect anything fancy. This was real simple yoga, hard as hell.

I think his message is one that is needed in America today. This is spiritual practice. You may not need to go deeper in the physical poses, but you do need to go deeper in to the principles. Be gentle with yourself on the mat. Take that gentleness out in the world. Leave your ego outside.

Bryan made a big imprint on me. Now the question - is Jonny Kest his brother?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

What is the age of this yogi??

What an amazing video showing Yoga Master Dharma Mittra. The video shows his agelessness. Seriously - might this motivate you? It does motivate me. Preserving the suppleness of the body seems to have significant payoff. Watch this just for the interesting video treatment!

Amazing Dharma Mittra video

After 6 weeks of doing yoga . . . survey says!

I surveyed my students from my classes at work again. The results make you happy to be practicing or teaching yoga. They are not surprising to those of you who have a regular yoga practice. It is very exciting to me to have these results! I started with over 40 people signed up on January 5. The "new years resolution" crowd has slipped away and we are down to a very regular group of about 22 people. They inspire me every week! read below about the changes they are noticing in themselves.


I am practicing Yoga:

On Monday


On Friday


On both days


Info to help me make the program most effective for you. I think the yoga we are doing is:

A little too hard for me to do


A little to easy for me to do


About right for me


Other (please specify)


1. I like a bit of a challenge & I get one!

2. It is difficult, however, not impossible and I feel that I am reasonably pushing my body within acceptable limits. Also, given that I can relax out of a difficult pose if needed, I wouldn't want to have the level of the class brought down.

3. Although I suck I like the harder more physical, if I can not do it I modify.

4. I modify if to easy/hard for me

Please tell me about any physical changes you have noticed since taking yoga classes at ETC.

1. My wife said she sees a difference in my shoulder muscles. I don't know if she's right, but I'll take it.

2. Flexibility, I can almost touch my toes

3. Reduced back pain. Stronger core

4. My leg, core, and arm strength is changing weekly. I can see it!

5. My overall health has improved, fewer aches and pains overall, and muscle development.

6. weight loss and more flexibility-

7. Better balance, posture and flexibility

8. Increased flexibility, increased stamina and weight loss

9. lost a little weight, generally feel more energetic

10. feeling better mentally and physically.

11. I have lost over 10 lbs and gone down a notch on the belt. More flexible, although feeling lots of body quirks and catches that I never noticed.

12. Combined with changes to diet and increased exercise I've lost a significant amount of weight and generally feel much more energetic. I do not necessarily feel more flexible but I can tell that I am during each practice.

13. the stretching is wonderful since I sit at a desk all day

14. better flexibility.

15. Just overall stronger, also experiencing some weight loss

16. Flexibility

17. Not yet. I've tried to be more conscious of my body and how I hold it (use my core when sitting) but I'm trying to be better physically as a whole since starting yoga.

Please tell me about any emotional or psychological changes you may have noticed since taking yoga at ETC.

1. I use my yoga breathing at other times. I feel very productive during afternoons after yoga. I like the prompt to be more aware of my thoughts and my body that yoga has provided.

2.can't say i've really notice

3. I think clearer after class.
I look forward to class (almost a craving)

4. When I walk out of class I am very relaxed and focused. I'm ready to get back to my desk and plow through stuff. I also would say that there is a camaraderie that has been established between those of us in class. It has brought many of us together and enriched our working relationships!
This might be as productive a meeting hour that PS8 has ever seen!

5. Stress/anxiety level way down. Actually use breath more in my normal life to help control too.

6. feel awesome!!!!

7.less irritable and anxious

8. Improved overall attitude and an increase in the desire to participate in addittional excersizes, yoga and others.

9. not too much in this side of things, but I'm generally pretty laid back :)

10. Its a good stress relief.

11. More relaxed at my desk, more invigerated in the afternoon, I find I need the me time to ground myself, where I normally will not take the time to really meditate etc.

12. I am far less stressed. In particular I find myself much more able to handle stress or conflict at home without becoming angry. I think this has a lot to do with having a larger energy reservoir.

13. I feel so relaxed after class - it's great, wish we could do this everyday :-)

14.makes the week go faster

15. I love doing yoga in the middle of the day at work! It is soooo relaxing adn rejuvenating! The deep breaths have an amazing impact on the rest of my day! is nice to get away from the desk, and does help me deal with the daily grind