Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Yoga on the Grass

A recent YTT grad asked me about my experience teaching outside on the grass and it got me to thinking. And my getting to thinking got me to writing, and well, here we go.

Teaching yoga outside works in a lot of ways and there's also a lot that can go wrong. Context is everything...

So first of all, who are you teaching? Once, I was teaching a bunch of adolescents and they flipped out when we were on the grass because there were insects on their mats. That didn't work. However, now that I know they might react to it, I still teach outside on the grass, but I warn them about the bugs and sometimes I even add that they could pretend it's lucky to have an ant on their mat, or we can use it as an opportunity to notice our reactions, etc.

If the group knows each other, that's always going to be different than if the group doesn't. Same thing with if the group is required to do yoga, like a gym class, or wants to do yoga, like they've signed up for an 8-week class with you. Totally different groups.

Then there's the environment. Are you near traffic? Let me tell you, breathing in exhaust fumes while you're doing yoga is not so pleasant. I've been outside in a seemingly serene environment when all of a sudden a big lawn mower starts doing its thing. Stinky, loud, distracting to say the least.

Is it public? Will strangers walk by and comment or try and interact with the group? That's happened, too. I once had a guy approach my group and ask to bum a smoke. True story. And if people are standing by and watching it can feel awkward to your students, so what's the space like?

Is it wet? Is it warm? Is it windy? Yoga on the grass is best when it's not damp, when it's warm enough, and when there's not too much wind. Yelling while you're teaching will tire you right out. If it's hot, it's nice to have shade available so people don't have to worry about sunburn.

Do people have mats? Yoga straight on the grass can be challenging because of the bugs and the sticks and the potential poop and stuff. Blankets work well too.

Is the ground even? That's another dynamic that comes into play when you're teaching outside. Often the ground is not level and some people are rolling down a hill or there's a bump in the middle of the mat, so lying down isn't always comfortable.

Leading yoga classes outside is often a lot of fun. Unpredictable happenings are more likely because there's less you can control, and sometimes those classes are the most memorable. I'd love to hear from any of you who've taught or taken yoga classes outside. How'd it go?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Making Meditation Sexy

I'm not sure just how this is going to happen, but I'm pretty sure it will. And I'm sure when that happens that there will be things about it I like and things about it I don't like. But sometime soon meditation has just got to get some sex-appeal. Yoga's got it by now for sure, but as I've been ranting, there's not enough meditation going around.

What's the lululemon equivalent of meditation gear? Maybe we could come up with some cool meditation cushions with bling. Or shag carpets, not just the white Kundalini style skin, but something rainbow or sparkles? What would it take to lure people in to a mediation class and sit still? We could wear meditation caps or funky socks. I'm reaching here, I know.

Mala beads have made a comeback, I've noticed. So that could be a good tool to market meditation. "Come sit with us, we'll do japa together." Just like with yoga accessories, maybe some meditation accessories would draw people in. What if japa beads coaxed people to their seat and then they stuck around? That wouldn't be so bad.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Wish I'd Done Better/Restoring Integrity

I'm sitting in a place right now of wishing I'd done better in a recent conversation that spanned a couple of days and included a phone call with some follow up emails. I'm wishing I'd kept my cool, witnessed the sensations instead of reacting from that place. I felt the sensations coming up and I considered not acting but I chose to share what was on my mind and now I'm sort of sorry that I did. I remember one of the key lessons I got from the Landmark Forum was that being right is a very lonely place. I realize I've been spending some time being right and it serves me in that it helps me get my own thoughts straight in some cases, but it really isn't a good place to communicate from and I've been doing some communicating from that place the past couple of days.

I've seen the circles of "something happened" and "what I'm making it mean/my story about what happened" like shadows but they didn't come to the forefront in time for me to not react to the situation as though what happened is what I'm making up. And what I tend to make up is stuff about myself that doesn't feel good, like I'm too this or too that, and I go and make up stuff about other people as though they're too this or too that, and it's not a nice way to feel. On top of it, I then treat the other person as though my story is true, and even if it didn't start off that way, through my powers of making it seem that way, it sure ends up being true and then I can be right some more and the cycle continues.

(There's a quick video here. Click on See it in Action and then click on the woman with the white necklace.)

I know better. I know it's not a great way to exist. And yet, I'm a bit out of practice and I didn't have it in me to do it the way I could have. So I'm trying to forgive myself for falling into the trap I laid out for myself. I'm trying to return to the "what's so" so I can be present, where things are always manageable. Where I'm left right now though is quite sad and more than a bit isolated.

So what do you do when you notice there's a breakdown? You first of all acknowledge it. "I had a breakdown in my communication!" What do you do then? Restore your integrity. "It is not my intention to make other people wrong for how they are. My plan is to be open, to not collapse what happened with what I make it mean, and just stop making stories up, especially ones that don't work for me." You can also notice the impact it has on other people when you do that. "Wow, when I make up stuff about what happened, I'm not listening to you. I'm not present to you. And that creates distance when what I really want is connection." And then you continue with your commitment/integrity restored. "You can count on me to listen. And I will acknowledge when I'm not and restore my intention."

It's a lot like yoga. Notice where you feel the sensations and breathe into them. Allow them to be there.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Cops did Happy Baby

I can't believe I just wrote that title. It really happened. The group at the Police College this time seemed more receptive than ever and after Bridge Pose, when I might say something in a public class at a yoga studio like, "listen to your body and do what feels good - you might like to hug your knees into your chest or maybe even a happy baby might feel good," for the cops I tend to shy away from things like that. But today was different. I could sense it. So I said my usual thing as above and bam - a whole bunch of happy babies rolling around on the floor. Go figure.

I've been holding back. Underestimating the group. Maybe we'll even OM next time. Kidding. We won't OM. Maybe someone could sub for me and you could try leading an OM in a big, empty gym with a bunch of cops who have to do yoga for their leadership course. Then get back to me and tell me all about it.

Monday, April 19, 2010

11% Jehovah's Witness

This morning while I was surfing the net I thought I'd drop by Beliefnet and see what was shaking there, rather than reading bad news or looking at beautiful pictures of destructive volcanic ash clouds. I find Beliefnet a bit busy and agitating rather than relaxing, but it's there and I checked it out. I wasn't there for very long before I found a quiz I thought would be fun. The quiz is What religion are you?

Seeing as how I don't know what "religion" I am, I thought I'd see what they came up with. As you can see by the screen shot, I'm apparently 100% Neo-Pagan, which I guess is cool. I'm something at least. They found a place for me in the quiz! I'm only 5% Roman Catholic and I'm like 70% of a Scientologist! Also cool - that's like almost being in tight with John Travolta. Almost.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Yoga "Makes Me" Tired

I could really get going about this topic so I'll try and keep it blog-short. I think people need to rest during the day.

So yesterday this little guy comes up to me after yoga during gym class. He's 11. He tells me, "yoga makes me tired and now I have to go to soccer and I'm too tired." "Dude, yoga does not make you tired. You're tired. Can you have a nap when you get home?" "No, I've got to walk the dog and then I'm at soccer practice." "Okay, try blocking your left nostril, breathe through your right one for a bit and off you go." The guy is scheduled from the time he gets up until 10 pm when he finally gets to lie down again.

People, if you lie down and you feel tired, it's not the lying down that makes you tired. You're freaking tired. Lying down and pausing for a moment reveals to you all sorts of things. Sometimes it can alert you to the fact that you're overworked, super-scheduled, and eventually you will be stressed out and just may get sick or punch somebody or whatever other stressed-out expression people come up with.

My daughter and some friends came up with a plan that would let them have a nap after lunch. It didn't get off the ground. No support from the school. It takes too much work to find a way to kids to lie down. I realize it would be a logistical nightmare if everyone got to lie down for a bit during the day. But we're living in the alternative.

I'm sure that the pendulum was once way over on the other side and we were a bunch of lazy-bums long, long ago. We're not anymore. We're hyper-productive. Or at least we're scheduled that way. We're armies of workers ready to go. Sending ourselves off into battle everyday. We've been brainwashed or "culturally supported" let's say, in the habit of disregarding the body and the spirit, for that matter. And it starts out really young. We're not even out of elementary school before we're stretched to the limit, and not in a good way. Stretch and release is yoga. I don't see the release, the rest, that allows the circulation to return to normal. I see stretch, stretch, stretch, and then collapse.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I'm not a Graphic Designer

I'm a yoga teacher, not a graphic designer! And yet, I'm being called to at least do some draft work on the web site that will be used to help other yoga teachers create their own web sites and iPhone yoga apps! So I'm stretching into places I haven't stretched in a while.

Capital Yoga Publishing is getting off to a crawl. I've got a programmer here who's typing away furiously, doing something he calls "coding." It sounds like typing, but apparently it's not.

I'm taking care of the softer side of things like how it's going to look and feel until there's actual funding or enough revenue to hire someone who can really do the design part of the job. So if you haven't downloaded my app from iTunes yet, please click on the link at the top right of this page and buy the app! In the meantime, I'm really happy to be collaborating on something that's outside of yoga but still in line with my yoga world.

Another collaboration is happening and it is in the yoga world. Kat Mills and I are offering a Friday Night Special that will rock your world. Living Your Yoga will happen once a month on a Friday night from 7 - 9 at Rama Lotus. We'll be looking at the yamas and niyamas; find ways to incorporate them into our daily lives; do some postures; have a contemplative part; and get to connect with other people. The cost is $25 and the first one happens on April 23. So please come if you can.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sources of Suffering

There's so much going on I hardly know where to begin so I'll just cut to the part that I'm looking at this morning, which was precipitated by recent events and although the details are probably pretty juicy and interesting, they're just the externals. What I've been sitting with is internal weather and watching how even though it's bright and sunny outside, I could feel a cloud range in my belly as I was meditating. So rather than watch my breath, I chose to "unconceal" the clouds and see what was there.

So what was there was fear of rejection and its opposite, seeking approval. And this is so old, so much a part of my childhood, which I don't even write about here, and maybe one day I could brag about what I've had to overcome as a way of celebrating and acknowledging myself, but that's not what this post is about.

I have had an intense fear of rejection, but that's not really accurate because I have often found myself heading straight towards situations where I am certain rejection will be, not as way to confront it, but to be taken over by it, like indulging in it. Like Eckart Tolle's pain body idea. So it's like rejection lives in me and loves to come out and be felt once in a while so what it does is take me to situations where I can find rejection and live in that for a bit. Gross. I think it's even parasitic. So at the same time as I really, really don't like the feeling of being rejected, I find myself uncontrollably drawn to being rejected as though I'm picking a wound that could use some air to heal but I don't give it.

On the flip side of rejection lives my love and attraction for approval. It's so young, the source of this, it's me as a small kid and it's innocent and insecure, or maybe vulnerable describes it better.

During the weekend of the Landmark Forum, one of the things that comes up is how we all have these decisions we've made as children that we haven't reviewed and we are basically living out the fears of ourselves as children while we're in adult bodies. And I've known that and "get it" and still there's more to be revealed, there's internal weather patterns to be measured, and here I am.

What I've learned to do with everything that bothers me, whether it's physical stuff, like seasonal allergies, or it's emotional stuff that comes up by reviewing myself in my past relationships with men and my parents for instance, is to breathe into the sensations. That means I've got to find them first so I can breathe into them. The story with the allergies is that I used to have seasonal allergies that had sensations to them - itchy eyes, fatigue, other stuff - and I started watching them, allowing them to be there, and then one day they went away. Poof. Just like that. Every once in a while they come back and I watch the sensations, not with an intention to make them go away, but just observing them without judgement, and poof, they go away.

So when the pain surfaced this morning while I reviewed the rejection part (I got triggered by seeing my ex-boyfriend-on purpose - I should write about that too sometime - how I want to be free, including free to walk around my city and not avoid places because of people) I was able to get my arms around that old feeling and take a closer look at it. It didn't poof go away just yet. And it may not - I don't even have expectations that it will, I just intend to notice it and allow it. So it surfaced not as like the source of all my suffering, but like one of the fountains of suffering that I have in me.

When that happens, my teachers all come running to me inside. I hear Pema Chodron reminding me that I'm looking for ground when really things are groundless. I see a drawing of two circles - one with the details of what happened and one with the details of what I'm making it mean - that I got from Landmark Education. I hear myself telling me to find the places I feel and breathe into them. And it helps! It guides me through! I feel the victory that comes with me navigating myself through a dark forest that scares me - just like I want physical freedom on the outside, way more important to me is the emotional or psychic freedom to go anyplace inside myself.

So my meditation this morning was like a psychic x-ray or scan. I could see where there were areas of congestion and see how I have behaved in response. And then I felt so much compassion for myself and when that happens, it radiates out and makes me feel compassion for all of us. All of us making our way through this life with our hidden patterns and concealed desires. And noticing where I feel weak makes me feel so much stronger. Like I've got a map in my hands, a guide. It's good.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Big Build Up

Well the hair thing was really a non-event. I mean, I did get it coloured, but it wasn't that big a deal and I don't think the amount I worked myself up about it was really warranted. It looks nice, don't get me wrong, and if you look closely, you'll see there's some colour, but I didn't cover the grey bits and it's just highlights. So all my inner statements about femininity and society and my role and natural or unnatural, wow, just inner chatter. It's over. It's still a conversation we could have, but for today, I don't need to have that one.

Tonight marks the beginning of something else that's probably going to be a non-event, and that's the new yoga/meditation class. A conversation I've been having is about how there's too many posture classes and not enough classes that offer some honest-to-goodness meditation. So I'm starting one and it's beginning tonight. I'm a bit nervous because I don't want to let people down and I want it to go well so people will want to come back. It's actually replacing the Beginning Hatha Yoga class that's been on for over 8 years.

I have been recently reminded that other people don't like meditation or aren't the "kind of person" who would meditate. Huh? It's a kind of person? So I'm bracing myself a bit and hoping to tout the benefits of meditation, perhaps rattling off some stats and findings about brainwaves and blood pressure, but I'm really hoping we'll just have an amazing time, especially during the luxurious relaxation that's built in to the class, and that it will speak for itself. I know that emphasizing the benefits can actually enhance people's experiences but I don't want do a big promotion either.

I mean seriously, did you ever hear of anyone saying, "once I started yoga and meditation everything went downhill from there"? That's not how it goes. It tends to mark the beginning of something good. Let's hope the pattern continues tonight!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Hare Today, Goon Tomorrow

I think that's the punchline of a joke that one might tell around Easter.

Anyways, I'm sitting here with a whole bunch of mixed emotions. I am practising yoga. I'm breathing into the sensations and noticing the feelings and allowing them to be there. In a couple of hours, I will be sitting in a chair at my hairdresser's for a few hours. For the first time. Ever.

It's not the first time going to the hairdresser's obviously. And if there was ever a question about my preference for monogamy, it's clear, based on my relationship with my hairdresser, that I am committed to our relationship and one will do just fine. I live in hair salon paradise down in the Market, yet I drive out to a small strip mall in the west end where she works, because I've chosen to stay with her. I like how she does my hair and that's that.

It's come up over the years about whether or not I should dye my hair as the grey starts to come in. My hairdresser is a long-haired silver. All grey and beautiful. My mother has never dyed her hair. I have friends who spend as much as a car payment on their hair each month and I have scoffed.

However, it was brought to my attention by a friend a few months ago that I "could dye my hair." I spoke to my hairdresser about it back then and she said I could dye it but that would be the beginning of the end. I'd need to keep dying it. "What about highlights?" I asked. She said it takes three hours and it's well over a hundred dollars. As if I'm going to sit for three hours and pay that kind of money! Ha!

And then I started looking around. The people that got to me the most were my students at CHEO. They almost all dye their hair. And they're not doing it to look younger. Most of them tell me it just is fun and it feels good. I remember Elizabeth Lesser telling me about 15 years ago that nothing made her feel better in the winter than getting some good highlights put in. Elizabeth? Unnatural hair? You bet. "Feels great," came the answer.

One my clients who's just a couple of years older than me and who's a shade or two darker said, "look at it this way. I've been dying my hair since my 20s. I'd say you've done pretty well."

When I called Francine to discuss this, she said "if we're doing highlights to cover the grey, you'll need to dye it first and then add highlights." I said, "what if I just want highlights to have fun and mix it up a bit?" And she said we could do that. I don't want to look stripey. She said not to worry, she does "foils." Apparently most people know what that is. It'll look "natural."

I feel like a freak when I get my eyebrows done, which is like every other year. This is not going to look "natural" to me one little bit.

I've had big conversations with Kat, who used to dye her hair and who has given it up. I'm thinking, well, I do other things for my appearance. I used to not shave my legs or armpits but becoming a yoga teacher for work encouraged me to just do it - I decided I didn't want to educate people about body hair and I could go either way. I work out. If I stopped working out I'd be overweight so fast. So that's artificial. I participate in my culture in many ways; drive a car, heat my house, all kinds of things that aren't natural, so surely, I could get over having my hair done.

It's not that I think I look that old. I'm just noticing that there's an opportunity to play as a woman that I haven't taken. Like trying high heels last year. Turns out it was fun and I'll do it again! I still don't know what I'm supposed to wear with those shoes, but I think that finding out could be an area for me to stretch and grow in.

So anyways, I've made the appointment and am leaving shortly. Then the same friend who suggested it'd be okay to dye my hair points out this morning that Cyndi Lee recently let her grey out and looks lots older, but that was the point, to be authentic.

I feel like I should lead the way towards natural grey and hold my head up and say it's okay but there's a part of me that feels like I didn't take the chance to play with what I was given, so I'm going to do that first. There's lots of time left to go naturally grey afterwards.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Spring Has Sprung and Easter Eggs

If you blink in Ottawa you'll miss spring. It goes from winter to summer so quickly here. Spring will come back next week, I'm sure but it's been an interesting few days!

Earlier this week I did my first Ukrainian easter egg (pysanky) and I loved it. Remi got into it as well and even though it was really nice out yesterday, we were inside using candles and dye and making easter eggs.

I've always found this time of year interesting as it seems everybody's got some holiday around now, which has got to be a way to honour the new weather or the return of the son, I mean the sun, it's easy to get them mixed up. It just has to. I'm no scholar and there's loads to know about the Comparative Religion side of this time. I'm really just happy it's not freezing out. I'm celebrating, too.

On another note, I heard from my Ukrainian friend that one of their traditions is that around easter a boy brings a girl a whip (like pussy willows) and whips her until she gives him an egg (that she's decorated). Hmm. He pokes her with as stick until she gives him an egg. A sign of the fertility of spring perhaps?

I've made changes to my schedule and I'm nervous about Tuesday, which has been a certain way for over 8 years. It is going ahead as a yoga/meditation class and people are speaking out already - I've got some thumbs up, some thumbs down - and I'm not going to be rigid about it, if you really don't want to do it, we can go back to the old way. It just seemed like a good time to bring in something new. Or make something old new again. We could just resurrect the tradition, which seems to have been hidden in a cave behind a rock for a bit.