Monday, January 10, 2011

Gratitude, Ego Free Yoga, and Scheduling

First off, gratitude....many thanks to the showering of lovely gifts from all my students over the Holiday Season. I must say, I am truly blessed to work with a variety of people all over NYC, and everyone of them is so generous of heart. Your love is the most amazing gift, that I cherish, your dedication to the practice no matter how challenging is what I admire, and your gifts are truly an honor to receive. I love you all, and I am grateful for all that you teach me as well. It's really a blessing to be part of your Mind-Body-Spirit transformation.

Second, Ego Free Yoga. I have touched upon this subject many times before, and I realize that this is my challenge as a Yoga Instructor to detach from this reality. The reason this ego based practice, bothers me, is because it is not safe for every one's body, and it is not embracing a Mind-Body-Spirit connection. In order to join the Mind-Body-Spirit, one must deepen pranayama (breathing exercises), these deep breaths allow us to go inward, this breath is meant to initiate the movement, so we flow through the poses. No pushing, no straining, just floating with peace and ease. Nonetheless, it is evident that here in the Western part of the world, we embrace the concept of challenging the body with the Asana practice. If you have taken my classes, you know, I LOVE A CHALLENGE. But, there is sometimes what I call, "the race to headstand" in yoga classes. As an instructor, we should all respect the anatomy of the body. If a student is practicing headstand on the wall, and unable to perform headstand in the center of their mat....shouldn't this tell us that they may need to improve core strength? Or maybe they need to shift their shoulders higher into their back? And maybe they need to stabilize the muscles surrounding the spine before attempting more challenging variations on Sirsasana (headstand)? Variations in Headstand can risk injury to the cervical spine, two seconds of saying "I did Headstand with my legs in Eagle" compared to a life time of neck pain is not worth it. This was a scenario that some students of mine told me they experienced at a popular studio here in NYC, and the reason for this post. If you are teaching a group class and want to inspire a challenging class, here are some tips:
  • Get to know your students, if you have a new student be attentive to their needs.
  • Demonstrate variations of the pose so people can learn a step by step process of getting into advanced asana.
  • Make sure students body's are warmed up, and ready to go into deeper variations.
  • Be ready to do hands on adjustments for students who need.
  • When you see that a student is unable to do certain poses, please do not cue them to do a more intense variation....cue "watch-asana" or have them practice the beginner variation.
In the linage of Astanga yoga, students are required to master certain sequences before they progress to the next. This is done for a reason, so that the body flows naturally into the sequence. Yoga is meant to be a practice, and not a perfect, so enjoy the challenge to the body and practice but without the ego. We have a responsibility to our students to make them experience a Mind-Body-Spirit connection, embrace that connection and come back for more. We can still challenge the body, make them sweat, and have fun, but be safe and good to the body at the same time!

Finally, scheduling.....Last year I was blessed to be teaching nearly 30 classes a week and taking yoga classes with some of my favorite teachers at the same time. Some would not find such a schedule a blessing, but for me I enjoyed every minute of this labor of love. A fellow yoga Instructor/friend of mine met me early this year with the similar scenario. We both love what we do, and see how dedicated our students are. We are also both artists, so our passion is deep. While it is awesome to be able to affect change in so many people's lives, to do what you love for a living we have to make sure that we are being good to our body, mind and spirit too. I noticed how I missed my music, I missed out on being social aside from with students, and I chose to make a change. This year, I decided to cut back on some yoga classes. While it was so hard to come to that decision, I knew I needed to do it, for me. In order for me to make time to be social, to possibly travel, to do more work with Special Needs Yoga, to promote and share my books, to work on and perform music, to volunteer more, I need to free up some space in my schedule. With any job that you do, make sure you schedule time to do the things that you love. Luckily for me, I love yoga, so work is more like play for me.....but in order to maintain love for the other things I enjoy, scheduling it is important. Tony Robbins talks about scheduling your life, your success, and I agree. It is wonderful to be a free spirit, and go with the flow. However, when you write down what you want from life, your mind/body drives towards it, and when you schedule it, you have a definite date with your destiny!

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