I just got home from taking what I would consider a terrible yoga class. It was bad on so many different levels. I KNOW, I know, we aren’t supposed to be judgmental….but it got me thinking about what I would have told my teacher today, had she asked for input. This doesn’t come from a place of ego…there’s no “my teaching style is better than yours”….promise! This ultimately comes from a place of concern for the safety of the students in the yoga class that I took today.
SO, here is some unsolicited advice for my yoga teacher today (which may or may not include a mini-rant about the importance of savasana)…and hopefully it can help you teach your class with a little more awareness and sensitivity to those taking your class.
- Open your eyes. Not figuratively, LITERALLY. Literally open your eyes and look at the class. Are they able to do the simple warm-ups? Do they seem extra stiff? Are they young and fit? Super bendy? Or older and less flexible? My teacher today had her eyes closed…a LOT…and when they were open, she was fully engaged in her own practice at the front of the mat. How do your students look when they are in the poses? Are they getting close to blowing out a knee? Can you give them a verbal adjustment to help avoid a knee-blow-out-situation? You have to open your eyes to see.
- Teach people not poses. It’s almost a cliché among teachers, isn’t it!! It starts with that “open your eyes” step in #1. Look at your students!! And THEN determine what you are going to teach…that might mean that your super-challenging class needs to be thrown out the window. Teaching Ardha Chandra Chapasana (sugar-cane pose) to a group of mostly 55+ women who can’t hold Ardha Chandrasana (half moon), AND who can BARELY do a lunge with ease is NOT a great idea. This is what my instructor did today. Yes, I was impressed that she could go smoothly from one balance pose to the next..but her students were frustrated, and more seriously, had an increased risk of injury because they were ATTEMPTING those poses with little to no instruction, and absolutely no modifications.
- Be logical in your sequencing. Work up to your challenging poses. Working toward Bakasana (crane)? Make sure you do plenty of core so that it helps your students learn how to use their abs in a way that will increase their chance of success in this pose. If you don’t have a peak-pose, think about the progression of poses…You learned this stuff in teacher training, I hope. My teacher today had the following poses SPRINKLED in her class: ustrasana (camel), matsyasana (fish), baddha parsvakonasana (bound side-angle), virabhadrasana 3 (warrior 3), supta virasana (reclining hero), ardha chandra chapasana (sugar cane pose) and bakasana (crane). There was no logic to her sequencing…ESPECIALLY considering her class’ abilities. There should be no sprinkling of challenging poses in a yoga class.
- Watch what you say. Please can we stop the yoga-speak? Don’t just say something because it sounds “yogic”. Take the phrase “let it go”. When you say “let it go” what do you mean? What do you want us to let go? I think it would be more beneficial to cue our breath or alignment than to tell us to “let go” in Virabhadrasana 2 (warrior 2). That happened in a class this week. Soften through the shoulders? Sure! Unclench our jaws? Absolutely! Not just a generic “let it go” please. Today we were told to “inhale love…and let it go”. I’m not so sure that I wanted to let go of love today. But…maybe it motivated me to do this post…I’m feeling extra snarky.
- Let your class savasana. Come ON teachers…you KNOW this is important, don’t you?! Then shut the hell up while I’m trying to savasana, and give me more than 2 minutes. Seriously! Guide me to relaxation, and then let it be quiet…or, as quiet as it can be…I can relax to the sound of weightlifters slamming their giant weights to the floor upstairs MUCH more than I can with you reading some passage from a book you like.
It took me a while to get it. I think my first yoga-intention, at one of my very first yoga classes, was “to make it through class without looking like an idiot”. Really. I had NO idea what the woo-woo instructor was talking about.
Here’s what I know now:
- Intentions are not goals. An intention is all about what’s happening now. A goal is something you want to do in the future. So, in a yoga class…an example of an intention would be: “let me be non-judgemental”. A goal would be: “I want to nail headstand”.
- Focus on the journey, not the destination. Sounds cliché, I know, but focusing on the JOURNEY is what you are doing with an intention. It’s not about nailing that headstand, yoga is about turning your awareness inward: noticing your breath and feeling the way your body is aligned in the poses. It’s all about how you are doing things on your way to your destination…and setting an intention helps you find a personalized focus during your practice.
- An intention on the mat can also be applied to life…off the mat. An intention of “compassion” for your yoga class, for example, is also a great life-intention. You can be compassionate to yourself in class by not pushing yourself too far, or by giving yourself a break when you topple over in tree pose. And, I’m sure you get how being more compassionate OFF the mat is a good thing, right?! Yeah. Thought so.
- To set an intention, ask yourself WHY. I think this is an easy place to start…WHY did you decide to practice yoga today? For stress relief? To look better in yoga pants? To be more flexible? To get away from the kids for an hour? We have plenty of SUPERFICIAL “why” reasons for yoga class…but take a DEEPER look at those whys, and you may find that you REALLY intend to find more ease (instead of stress), peace (getting away from the kids), more acceptance (look better in yoga pants), or more flexibility (not JUST the stretchy-touch-your-toes kind).
- Your intention is your heart’s desire. This is where I get all touchy-feely…so I might lose you on this one…but that’s ok. All these deeper WHY questions can be answered by what your heart truly desires…you just have to take a moment, and ponder what that heart of yours really wants. Chances are, it’s going to be a little more meaningful than busting out a tricky arm balance.
See? Setting an intention doesn’t HAVE to be a woo-woo-esoteric-hippie-mama thing…(ok, well, maybe a LITTLE bit)…Ask yourself why, look into your heart to find those deeper reasons, and keep your intentions with you as you go about your day. Easy peasy.
3 ways you can be truly blessed.
A friend got a holiday card she shared with me a few years ago, and it went like this: “We are so BLESSED” it said…”*Mike got a huge promotion at work, we took a 2 week family vacation to France, and bought his & hers Audis”…it went on to talk about their gifted children and all of their accomplishments ad nauseum.
Cringeworthy…am I right?!
It’s great when friends find financial success, are proud of their kids, and get to take trips and buy things. I love to hear about all the exciting stuff in their lives….but it’s NOT because they are blessed!
- Keep your #blessed about people, not things:
You are truly blessed to have people you love in your life. Your family, your friends, your spouse/partner/loved ones.
- Just be yourself!
You’ve got this. You are already blessed. Being blessed isn’t happening when there is no adversity in your life, you have all of life’s wonder and grace with you already.
- Be humble.
I’m not talking about the humble brag (like, “I can’t believe parking is $24 for my 90 min. yoga class. #cityliving”). It’s difficult to find true humbleness in the world of selfies…when we constantly share our joys and accomplishments on social media…but a humble person is helpful, conscious of others, and kind. Try it!
So, go about your day with this true feeling of being blessed…and possibly re-think that holiday card you were planning on sending out.
*not his real name!
Ok. I’m smitten. I adore these yoga accessories from Chattra: Divine Yoga Gear. Perfect gift for the yogi in your life…(hint hint)
You’ve gone out to get your drink on with your girlfriends…What’s next?!…Schedule a detoxifying yoga class after your night of debauchery!
More and more brides are seeing the value of yoga for calming their nerves before their big day. It’s a fun thing to do with your very favorite people! AND, it will help you de-stress, feel confident, and present for your special day!
Here are some ideas to make your pre-wedding yoga class extra special:
- Buy matching/personalized yoga mats for your bridesmaids! Try ClaireBella, My Custom Yoga Mat, CafePress, or Your Yoga Mat.
- If a personalized mat is too steep for your budget, make some lavender eye pillows! Here’s a great tutorial on Make It Do. Or, check out Etsy…they have a ton of different ones to choose from…I love these from Pacha Mama Body Care….or these (with removable covers…a plus!) from Heather Shawn.
- Ask your yoga teacher to have a heart-centered class. Open up your heart…and the hearts of your bridesmaids…
- Request a special reading…chances are, your instructor will have special quotes or words of inspiration that will be perfectly fitting.
- Turn the event into a brunch with your girlfriends…or a spa day…endless possibilities!
I have used this meditation at the end of class for years. It’s adapted from yogi, Shiva Rea’s, Yoga Journal post, and I think it’s a great way to help focus the mind internally. Here is a link to the original in Yoga Journal.
5-step Meditation Practice – Dwelling in the Lotus Heart.
Find a comfortable seated position. It can be in a chair, on the floor, on a yoga mat, with your back against the wall, or however you’d like for the amount of time you intend to sit. Setting a timer is a great idea…so you don’t have to worry about the time. I love using the Insight Timer app. Rest your hands comfortably in your lap, elongate your spine, and soften your shoulders. Take a few deep breaths, and soften any tension in your body with your exhale.
- Begin by reading the following passage from the Upanishads:
“Bright but hidden, the Self dwells in the heart.
Everything that moves, breathes, opens, and closes lives in the Self-the source of love.
Realize the Self hidden in the heart and cut asunder the knot of ignorance here and now.”
—The Upanishads (Translated by Eknath Easwaran, Nilgiri Press, 1987)
- Bring your attention to your breath. With your next inhale, bring your awareness to the center of your chest. When you exhale, notice any sensations that you feel in your chest. As you keep breathing, continue to notice sensations in your chest…or…as yoga teachers like to refer to it: your “heart center”. What does your heart center feel like? Heavy? Light, Warm? Whatever you sense there, just notice.
- Next, imagine a beautiful lotus flower in your heart center. Imagine it’s petals opening with every inhalation. Stay with this image of the lotus in your heart. Let your awareness rest there.
- You can stay with this image of the lotus, or imagine your heart expanding and allow the feelings of love to come up. When other sensations, feelings, or thoughts come up…just notice that they are there, and watch them pass on by. Or, you can let each one rest on the petals of the lotus. Continue to allow your heart to expand with each inhale.
- Bring your hands to Anjali Mudra (prayer hands) at your heart, and complete your meditation with a moment of gratitude or reflection. You can bring your awareness to your heart at any time during the day…it will help you to bring forth feelings of love, which is often needed in our crazy swirl of life!
One of the highlights of our trip to Morocco was visiting a school, and getting to spontaneously teach the kids a little yoga! SUCH fun!
Our family stayed in Tighdouine, a tiny town in the middle of the Atlas Mountains, and a friend of our guide, Hamid, was a teacher at a school in Talatast, about 20 minutes drive away from Tighdouine (over a river & some seriously bumpy roads):
the bridge on our way to the school…
The kids were attending an after-school program..they were kids who wanted to be there, we were told…who wanted a bit more education. This is not a touristy town…they might get a few people through who are hiking through the mountains, but most of the kids don’t see strangers too often…so, our family was definitely a different sight to see.
The kids spoke primarily Amazigh (Berber), and then possibly Arabic, and maybe a tiny bit of French. They sang us songs (kids singing ALWAYS brings a tear to my eyes…does this happen to anyone else?!), the teacher told us about the school, and wrote our names in Amazigh on the chalkboard.
They had questions…and we were thankful for interpreters! First, they wanted to know what kind of jobs we all had…and I thought for SURE they were going to ask my daughter about her hot-pink hair…but they all wanted to know more about yoga.
I know how to say hello and thank you in Arabic. I can count in French, and I don’t know a drop of Amazigh…I was worried at first about not speaking the same language. But really…they just copied the moves that I made. They had no worries about doing the pose “right”…they know how to breathe, and could watch me demonstrate. The kids were so open to learning, and excited to try something new, it was absolutely heartlifting!
We were speaking the same language…that of yoga!