Wednesday, March 7, 2012

five days

I graduate from my yoga teacher training program in five days.

In five days, I will have a diploma that states that I have completed over 320 hours in courses, workshops, technical sessions, teaching and other trainings.

For some reason, this is a bit depressing.

This feel s like my therapist is saying, “Goodonya, Toots. I think we’re done here. No need to visit anymore. You can take it from here.”


There’s no doubt that I’ve come a long way since I started this program. But, for me, this program is one of the main drivers in this race to creating a better me. While all of the goodness and love and peace I’ve unveiled in recent months were all within all along, it’s been the training program that’s taught me how to tap into it.

I’m scared. There’s a little voice that says, “What if, when I got back to just taking yoga classes like a regular Joe and occasionally teaching, I forget all this?”

This all sounds very silly. I’ve done a big portion of the work. This happier, more aware, brighter version of me has been like soft, warm soil under a sheet of slick, rock-hard ice. Using heat, an ice pick and a whole lot of muscle, I’ve managed to uncover it. I can touch the warm soil now. It smells like spring. You know, after all the slushy-poo smell has faded and things start to smell like germination. I just have to keep this soft, lovely ground unearthed and water it. Soon, new green shoots of life will grow from this little plot of land. And then, by the time I’m old and gray (assuming I live that long), there will be a big, healthy oak tree there. Right where the ice used to be.  

The worry comes from a place of dependence. When life, as I knew it, came crashing down around my ankles eight months ago, I froze in my tracks and looked around. The things I had counted on, depended on, were all running away from me. The closest, healthiest thing I could find to hold on to was yoga (thank gawd). I have a level of dependence associated to yoga, now, as well. While some would argue that all dependence is bad dependence, I find solace because this particular thing encourages me to be independent. To look within. To just be. Dependence on independence? Huzzah! (I realize this may mean I will become an old maid.)

Now, the schedule of yoga that I’m used to is changing. It’s shifting. My training wheels are being removed. My pa isn’t going to hold onto the seat anymore.

How exciting, though.

The timing seems perfect.

I’m eager for the next chapter.

Join me?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

on love

Love is a funny thing.


When you're happy in love -- whether it's with a person, yourself, your life or all of the above -- you feel lighter.

Hold up. I'm going to switch narrative voices. I'm going to quit assuming I know what you feel like when you're in love with anything. From here on out, this is how I feel.

Lighter. That's how I feel. I feel like I could float. When I have someone to care for whom I love, a friend, a significant other, even a pet, I am determined to do anything for them. I want to give that person the world. Often times, in the process, I forget about giving to myself.

I don't lack confidence. I know my strengths and I'm very well aware of my weaknesses. So, when I find someone who may be lacking this confidence for whatever reason, I want nothing more than to show them that everything is okay. I will lay myself down in the middle of traffic just to show those I love that even that isn't so bad.

In the past, this has eventually led to a very miserable version of myself. I pull out all the bits of myself that I love, I lay them out on the table, and like clay, I form them into what I think this other person might want or need. Then I just hand it over with a big grin hoping that they'll love it and it will make everything better.

I think, ultimately, I do this so this person I love can be happy. I figure that I can regrow what I gave away and give it to the next person I meet who will be in need. This is an exhausting way to live. I am continuously depleting and regrowing myself. It's quite a lot to take on.

The rush I can get when I'm caring for someone in this way is better than any high. It's better than any great meal or any beachy vacation. But the low, after I've given all of myself away, is the worst thing ever. It is a dark feeling of panic and, worse yet, failure. It's like acing every test in college and then, on graduation day, the dean tells you, "You did great here. But it just wasn't good enough. I'm sorry, but we can't give you a diploma."

This is where I have to recognize the importance of setting energetic boundaries and being honest with myself about the intentions I set.

Am I doing this loving thing for my friend because I want something back? Am I doing it because I want to fix him/her? Am I compromising who I am to try to make someone happy (when, at the end of the day, that is not, was not, and never will be an area I can actually impact in any long-lasting way)? We are all in charge of our own happiness. Read that sentence again. Really. Go back. Re-read it. Okay? Does that resonate? The minute you start walking down the dark road of, "If I can have this, and this, and him and her and that, then I'll be happy," you've already signed yourself up for first class tickets to Hell Town. You are, even if you consider yourself an independent, strong-willed individual, limiting yourself in one of the greatest ways.

But if you're doing something for someone because it makes you feel happy to be loving, sweet and giving, then get into it. If there's that little voice that says, "If I do enough of this, then I get some of that back eventually. They'll get happy and they'll be better and then everything will be okay," just stop. Stop right there.

The risk in giving in this basic and very conditional way is a recipe for disaster for two reasons. One, the work you do may not have an impact and may not be wholly appreciated, and that will leave you feeling weak and depleted. Two, if you do make an impact, there is a good chance that this person will think that this is your role in their life. This person, when you're hurting and low (because that happens to everyone), will retreat. They will think you're done giving and go back into their little hole and they may even resent you for it. Additionally, because they are so unhappy, they won't know how to handle your sadness.

Vicious cycle, no?

Love, pure love, is the act of simply letting them be. Sending them good energy and helping where you can, but don't exhaust your mental and physical resources. Be sure you're keeping a healthy reservoir of love for yourself. Create a safe space for that person to be who they are, no matter who that may be, and love them, no matter what. When you feel that pull to go too far and give too much away, check yourself before you wreck yourself.

Friday, March 2, 2012

i'm a yoga teacher.

You heard me. When people ask me what I do, I can now tell them, “I work for a large corporation by day as a marketing copywriter. When I’m not there, I teach yoga and work the desk at a yoga center.”

What? Is that real? No. Yes? Yes!

I went out after a class last night with one of my favorite yoga teachers and we sat and talked shop, sharing experiences while she gave me tips and suggestions. It wasn’t until she dropped me off at my house that I realized that, instead of that being an evening shared between a yoga teacher and a yoga practitioner, it was a hang between two yoga teachers. One, albeit with far more experience than the other, but still, I'm a teacher. She's a teacher. I’m going to type it one more time because it’s so fun: I’m a yoga teacher. 

On the last Friday of 2011, I taught my first class. It was a donation-based, yin-vinyasa class at the Yoga Center of Minneapolis. As a yoga study student, I may sign up for these classes to practice teaching. Clients are well-aware what they are getting into if they take this class. This removes a lot of the pressure to be the best yoga teacher evAR. Seven people came to this class: friends, peers and strangers. When class ended, I walked to my car thinking, “This is it. I found it. This is what I am meant to do. I have never felt more connected to something in my entire life.”

On the first Friday of 2012, I taught another class. This time, 18 people showed up. That’s seven away from the max capacity of the room in which I was teaching. It was the most overwhelming out pour of support and love from my students combined with my earnest desire to create a safe and loving space for each individual. 

Then, last week, on an impulse, as it were, I reached out to a handful of teachers and asked to be on the substitute teacher list at the yoga center. Later that day, I was scheduled to cover a hatha class. I did this four more times – subbing vinyasa and hatha classes populated by 2-5 students possessing a vast range of experience. 

Each 60 to 75 minutes of teaching is a time suck. When I leave the studio, I feel like only five minutes has transpired, while, at the same time, it seems like days have passed. I have two basic sequences I’ve written that I place next to my mat. As I guide my students through their practice, I check in from time to time with the sheets of paper. More often than not, however, I end up just letting things happen. (Nine months ago, if you would have told me this was something I was going to do before I turned 28 years old, I would have fallen to the floor laughing).

For those of you who know me, I’m a planner. I often wonder how I lived before I owned my iPhone. Each minute of every day is planned out. When I have an hour or two to myself, it’s rare, welcomed and also a bit jarring (I’m working on it, I promise). When I’m teaching yoga, however, I don’t plan. I might pick a quote or a focus for the class, physically or spiritually, but for the most part, it’s a unique, organic experience. It’s neither scary nor daunting. It just is. 

At the end of each class, when I say thank you and Namaste to my students, a small lump forms in my throat. I want to tell them everything about myself. I want to tell them how far I’ve come. I want to hug all of them as they leave, thanking them for being in my life for this short time. They have no idea what they’ve done for me just by moving their bodies and taking time for themselves. When I can watch someone moving and breathing just for the sake of doing it – just for themselves – it is the most beautiful form of self love I have ever seen. Witnessing this is like watching a humming bird drinking from a brightly-colored flower. Mystifying and beautiful.  

Tonight, I am teaching another donation-based class. It will be the last of its kind for me as I graduate from yoga study in 10 days. I’m sure I will teach more donation based classes, but it won’t be as a teacher in training, it will be as a certified yoga instructor. 

I love that I have no idea what any of this means, or what the future holds. For the first time in my life, I am okay with not having a plan, while being mindful in my day-to-day life, watching for opportunities and making choices with clear intentions. This is so much better than thinking I have it all figured out, only to find out I have no idea. Just having no idea and being okay with it is the bee’s knees. 

What an exhilarating life I live. I wouldn’t trade this lifetime for a thing.