I’m learning that NO yoga class will ever go as expected. EVER. ever! Don’t plan too harshly, just let it flow, and let it go.
This past weekend I was given a great opportunity to participate in Yoga Outreach’s Core Training. Yoga Outreach works to provide yoga services to underserved populations, such as correctional facilities, harm-reduction sites, women’s shelters, at-risk youth programs and others. They offer the skills developed in yoga, such as meditation, responsibility for your own body and breathing, as an alternative option to more dangerous behavior. Yoga for clients who have experience trauma has been proven beneficial in many many studies, and through multiple personal accounts of success stories. (see this article from Yoga Journal) They work through all volunteer teachers, who have all undertaken the core training that I got to experience. I had the added benefit of being able to tweet throughout the whole training. (aka: I brought my phone to yoga…so strange)
This weekend reminded me why I do yoga. To sit on a mat, and remind myself that “right now, right here, I am okay.” And then in the next pose, “right now, right here, I am okay.” The experience of safety and security is something that a lot of the clients from Yoga Outreach lack. To the point that if a client is falling asleep in class, we should celebrate that as a success, because at least we’ve created a space that feels safe enough to sleep in.
I also got a chance to slow things down a bit. WAY down. Sarah, one of the facilitators, lead us through a chair yoga class. Totally different from anything I’ve experience before, but the discussion around it convinced me of the benefit of this type of class for many people.
For me, some takeaways from the weekend is firstly, a change in language. I’m going to try and use language that doesn’t push students farther than their body is ready for. I’ll be working at giving more options so that everyone is feeling strong and capable. Secondly, I’ll try to cultivate more respect for individuals past histories. As we went through talking about Strengths Based Approach, I realized that I was completely neglecting to consider the amazing strengths people facing difficult circumstances have developed or perhaps had all along. From this, it is possible to look at dangerous behaviors as coping strategies that may have been necessary for someone to survive. Finally, I was incredibly inspired by the 17 other participants in the training, and the five different facilitators we met over the weekend. I really hope I can manifest this energy into something amazing and awesome over the next few months.
Have you ever had something happen in your life that shook your being to the very core?
I moved into a new apartment last August. It’s on the second floor-ish, and points out into a back alley, so I started keeping the window open most of the time, for some nice end of summer air. One warm night before I had to open the next day at Starbucks (read=4:30am start time), I opened the window a little higher than usual. I wanted to make sure that it was cool enough to get to sleep. Fortunately, I managed to get to Slumberville quite quickly.
But not for long.
Around 2am I was awoken by the gentle padding of a cat at my feet. Aww…I thought to myself…so cuddly. Unfortunately…I have never owned a cat. I bolted upright, completely awake. Seeing the big, fat ginger cat at the end of my bed I did what any rational barista woken up by a strange animal on the end of her bed two hours before her shift would do: I screamed. Fluffy flew out the window and I slammed it down after him. My heart was beating faster than I possibly thought it could. I live on the second floor for heaven’s sake! How did he possibly get up here? Two sleepless hours later I opened my Starbucks. Wide awake.
I had kinda forgotten about this event (thankfully!) until a couple of weeks ago. Lately I’d been feeling lost and floaty and a could-care-less attitude towards life. I was unhappy in almost every single way. Compared to the driven, serial challenge-taker I was in university I was a mess. Working at a retail store was an exercise in dragging my ass to the torture chamber day after day. I would stand on the sales floor (in the same spot for 8 hours) and have panic attacks about the fact that I couldn’t find an escape route until 8 hours later. I made my sales goals, I was pleasant towards customers, and I was always on time for my shift. But so miserable.
Until one day, the DM called me into her office and told me to look for a new job. “You shouldn’t consider this long term,” she said.
“It’s not a good fit.”
At first, I got angry. I was literally asked to QUIT. Told I didn’t belong. At a job that, honestly, a monkey could have done better than me. I texted someone who used to know me (the driven me) really well. “Well, you always told me you’d never stay at a job you hated.” Huh. I’d forgotten about that. WHY. Why would I be angry about getting the best wake-up call of my life (fat cat cuddling excluded). I was just finished yoga teacher training, I had literally no obligations. I COULD DO ANYTHING.
I’ve ended up applying to a ton of jobs. Everyone in Vancouver’s seen my resume at this point in time. Whoops. But I also got to apply to my dream company. It’s an entry level position, but I’m really hoping to stay here for awhile. My second interview is next week, so wish me luck!
And watch for your wake-up call. cat, firing, or tidal wave.
On Monday I taught my first official yoga class, to 4 amazing friends who came out to support me. I’d been planning this class for daaaaaays, the sequence was perfect, and the playlist was complete. I couldn’t wait to share what I’d been learning, and something I felt so passionate about.
It went really really well. It felt so natural to be guiding a practice, giving little adjustments and reminding people to breathe. My boyfriend was front and center (NOT a yogi…) and I felt so worried about him, he looked like he was really struggling. I ended up cutting out one Sun Salutation B series that I had planned. At the end he told me he was totally fine, so lesson learned: just keep teaching.
About halfway through the class my savasana song came on. Either I was going way way over time or … I had left my playlist on shuffle. Lesson learned: check your playlist settings.
The class was held at Kits Beach Semperviva Studio:
This is a BIG BIG space. There’s a fan that blows LOUDLY. There’s traffic outside the window. To fill this space with your voice is difficult to say the least. To say calming things while shouting is even harder. Lesson learned.
As the class transitioned down on to the floor I quickly checked the time: half an hour left. Shoot. How do I fill up all this time? I ended up adding on a Breath of Fire at the end, and hopefully a nice long savasana, with lots of adjustments. Lesson learned: time management.
I got some feedback from my class at the end, and they seemed to really like it! Especially my adjustments…a little massage love for everyone. This is something I admire Christa from Semperviva for, and it’s something I want to keep incorporating into my classes. They mentioned that the transition between standing series and the floor was a little quick…so I will work on incorporating more balancing/in-between postures.
My next class is April 17th, 1:30 at Kits Beach. Come play!
This was read to my teacher training class last week, and I love it. The reader was an Occupational Therapist working with acute mental health patients, and it makes it all the more meaningful.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
What guests are you currently entertaining in your human-ness? Are you barring the door? Or greeting them with a smile?
I’m…not sure why I blog. I don’t particularly enjoy it. I’m not particularly good at it. I don’t have much to say. But it feels important for some reason, and so I try to keep it up.
I don’t know why I’m at the job I have now. It’s not fulfilling, challenging, leading to anything in particular or well paying. Each day is torturous and I can’t foresee an ending to the horror that is my work life.
I’m not sure if I’ll ever end up teaching yoga or have any particular skill at it. I want to, but doesn’t seem likely at this point in time.
I don’t know where I’ll be living in 5 years time. With no current action plan, maybe I’ll be in Vancouver still by default. Is never making the choice to move the same as making the choice to stay?
I don’t know how to organize my life better. There’s food on the counter, but none in the fridge. Clothes everywhere, but none of them are clean. Unpaid bills are stacked up on the bookshelf. Surely adulthood is more than this. I don’t even want to consider taxes.
But. I know, without doubt, that I am loved, unconditionally. That I have shoulders to lean on, and couches to sleep on. That there is something or someone looking out for me, setting a path that I haven’t seen the map to yet. That I will create something special one day. And that this never-ending effing hill, will crest one day, and I will look back and see all of the good, and look forward and see all of the adventures yet to come. I’m hoping that day is soon. Because this traveler is tired. So very tired.
This weekend at teacher training was a workshop with Michael Stone called Awake in the World: Using Yoga Postures, Meditation and Study to Wake Up! We walked through postures, stopping for demonstrations (STOP, that looks awful, come up close and watch), working with getting to the end of the exhale and the very top of the inhale, staying present with the sensations, good or bad. We also talked a lot about death. We wrote death poems (5 lines and they CANT be beautiful, Michael writes one every year on his birthday, I will not be…). We talked about the never-ending search for bliss, and that humans are always looking for this ‘bliss’ and ignoring all other sensations…we don’t want to feel anything but good. Maybe I’ll rethink the name of my blog.
However, one of the most interesting tangents Michael went on for me was a teaching about The Hungry Ghosts. This teaching exists in many spiritual paths, but this particular version comes from the perspective of the Buddhist philosophy. The Hungry Ghosts are portrayed as having massive stomachs and tiny tiny necks. They are always hungry and never satisfied. Even trying to force the tiniest sunflower seed (the object that brought Michael into this tangent) into the gaping stomach is a painful experience, and only comparable to a drop of rain in a 5 gallon bucket.
A story of the Hungry Ghosts tells a tale of many ghosts sitting around a long buffet table, filled with the richest, most delicious looking food. And each ghost is equipped with a beautiful, four foot long golden utensil with which to eat. They dig into a dish, bring the food towards their mouth…and end up throwing it over their shoulder. A four foot long fork is impossible to feed yourself with. It is…however, the perfect length to feed others with. But their never ending hunger distracts each ghost from any thoughts other than getting the food on the table into their empty, aching stomach.
Each of us have a tiny hungry ghost living in us. A part of us that will never be satisfied. A hole that no matter how much chocolate we nom, how nice of car we have, how meaningful our career is, how deep our forward fold gets, will never be filled. There’s no puzzle piece to fit that gap, and the more focused we get on it, the more food we fling over our shoulder with our four foot long fork. What a mess.
This story has been appropriated for the study of addictions, but each of us can relate in a less drastic way. By recognizing that this ache will never be satisfied, the moremoremore voice will never be silenced we can start to focus on our true needs, and the needs of others. So pick up a big forkful of mashed potatoes and help your neighbor to it. We can all use a little more satisfaction.
I’m giving myself exactly 10 minutes to write as much about teacher training as I can. I’m long long long overdue for a post, life has been hectic between new jobs, new paths and lots and lots of yoga!
Things you’ll probably want to know about training:
Yes, I’m more bendy. Bendy Bendy Bendy.
But holy cow am I ever strong. All those push-up chaturangas are taking their toll on my shoulders and biceps. Whew.
I still want to teach after. More than ever probably.
I’m scared I’ll never get the chance to teach. There are SO MANY talented teachers in Vancouver I can’t imagine ever getting my foot in the door somewhere.
THE PEOPLE. The other 41 women taking the training are amazing. SO much love and SO much fun. I can’t wait until I can take their classes.
Things you probably don’t want to know about training:
We chant. Often. Om-ing happens several times a day. And I like it.
A lot of us are injured. We upped the amount of yoga we do dramatically. And real life is a factor too. A lot of us have to take it easy in some classes to make sure we can walk after. (My knee has been bothering me in lunges)
My chakras are….so aligned.
Ho-kay. That’s 10 minutes. I’m a slow typer apparently. I’ll be back soon, I promise!